Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

Home Of Superheroes, Swords, Sorcery, Snowy, Sonic Screwdrivers, Supernatural Scares, Star Stuff, Simians, and Silliness

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Top Of The Pile: Afterlife With Archie #2

Variant cover by Tim Seeley for Afterlife With Archie, issue two

Two issues in and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has yet to put a foot wrong in Afterlife With Archie.

Zombie Jughead has rolled up at the Riverdale High Halloween dance and the apocalypse has begun in earnest.

Zombie Jughead from issue one of Afterlife With Archie

Complemented by Francesco Francavilla's evocative artwork, Aguirre-Sacasa paints us a picture of a darker Riverdale than we are used to yet still evoking the touchstones of its current, modern incarnation - it remains a hotbed of simmering same-sex relationship anxieties, barely suppressed incest and a volcano of reality television-style bitchiness and gossip. That's Archie comics, right?

I'm not a regular visitor to Riverdale so a number of the supporting characters were new to me, but the script fleshes them out with minimalist ease... before letting the flesh-eating zombies loose on them.

As I said in my review of the first issue "this zombies-in-Riverdale horrorfest wouldn't work as well without the context brought to the story by decades of Happy Days-esque escapades from Archie Andrews and his chums."

But outside of that key ingredient, the pacing of the piece is perfect, interweaving character development (Aguirre-Sacasa has struck an incredible balance between the old school Archie caricatures and 'realistic' modern portrayals) with slowly escalating horror as the number of the zombies grows exponentially.

On the strength of these first two issues, Afterlife With Archie is destined to become a true classic of both the comic book medium and the zombie genre. It's certainly - beyond a shadow of a doubt - my favourite new title of the year.

No, I Don't Know What's Going On Here...

...but I'd love to find out!

The Simon's Cat Story...

Friday, 29 November 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Repairs

After the brilliance of The Well, it would appear that - with Repairs - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has finally found its winning formula: getting the agents doing things that suit the verisimilitude of the Marvel Universe.

The Well was about containing dangerous alien artefacts, while Repairs saw Coulson and his team dispatched to investigate a woman believed to have telekinetic powers.

I must warn you my review, from here on in, may get a tad spoilerific, although I shall attempt to be as vague as possible (for the best possible reasons).

Safety inspector Hannah Hutchins (Laura Seay) has been blamed for an explosion that killed four technicians at StatiCorp's Particle Acceleration Complex, but - coming from a religious background - she believes she is being punished by God and what others view as telekinesis is actually malicious demons.

As the story unfolds, and Coulson's team find themselves facing a dimension-hopping "ghost", the script - by showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon - also manages to tie itself to the incidents in Thor: The Dark World again (but not heavy handedly).

This particular angle, that Repairs picks up on, opens up a vast new canvas for stories going forward and I sincerely hope it is revisited. Often.

There's also some good character development and growth along the way as FitzSimmons decide that Skye deserves some S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy-style pranking, we discover that May and Ward are having a "thing" and - possibly most crucially - we learn more about May's background, why she earned the nickname of The Cavalry and why Coulson wanted her on the team.

The story's middle third is very much a "base-under-siege", Doctor Who kind of adventure, with the agents trapped inside their downed plane, which was forced to crash-land by the mysterious entity that has followed Hannah.

There's at least one moment in this otherwise tense act where you can't help but think "less talking, more fixing the situation", but overall this is another brilliant episode.

And, of course, now the show has got into a winning rhythm it has to take an annoying two-week break.

Fleamarket Friday: There's Zo Business Like Zo-Business...

One of the most eagerly sought-after roleplaying games, The Zantabulous Zorcerer of Zo, is finally back in print.

Chad Underkoffler's folk tale roleplaying game is now available as a print-on-demand book from DriveThruRPG.

Visit the game's page on DriveThruRPG to learn more about the game, which has been rereleased ahead of the publication of first collection of Zo-based fairy tales, coming from Uncanny Books.

If Clare hadn't already offered me her copy of Zorcerer Of Zo I would be all over this.

Looks Like The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Have Found Their First Telekinetic...

Promising clip from tonight's episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. entitled Repairs.

Fleamarket Friday: Relive The Doctor's Anniversary At Your Table...

Cubicle 7, publishers of the Doctor Who: Adventures In Time And Space RPG, are offering up for pre-order a special, limited edition of game's core rules in a single hardback volume - which will ship next April.

This 256-page edition of the game will include material from The Day Of The Doctor (such as statistics for The War Doctor, John Hurt's character) as well as all the rules needed to play the game.

For more information, or to reserve your own copy, visit Cubicle 7's online store here.

The First Anniversary Of The Storm Is Approaching...

Fleamarket Friday: The Manor Opens Its Doors Once More...

The prodigious Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor has released the fifth issue of his old school fanzine, The Manor.

Tim describes the contents thus: "Inside you'll find villains to populate your game.  A batch of nasty concoctions to throw in a treasure chest for your players to find.  They'll never assume what's inside a potion bottle ever again.  There is a tavern name generator.  A consumer report about dungeon doors.  And lastly a table of random city encounters that can be used for adventure seeds, making a boring errand a lot less boring or to give your city a little flavor.  So go ahead, knock on the Manor's door, we'll be right with you.  Maybe with a special cocktail.

Print editions of the 'zine cost $4 in the US, $4.50 in Canada and $5 in Europe and Australia.

The $2.50 PDF is also available.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

[EBAY] Get Your Hands On Some Vintage Space 1889...

Clearing up my gamesroom the other night I unexpectedly discovered I had duplicate copies of several Space 1889 books - including the original core rules and the collected volumes of the brilliant fanzine Transactions Of The Royal Martian Geographical Society.

All these spare editions (reprints by Heliograph Incorporated from the turn of the millennium) were unread and so I thought I'd put them up on eBay and see if there was any interest.

I still have a number of other items listed for sale, including some rare Greyhawk modules for Dungeons & Dragons and a treasure trove of Lamentations Of The Flame Princess supplements.

If you are a UK reader of HeroPress, please take a look. Any questions, contact me through eBay and I'll try to answer them ASAP. All the items listed (except for a very heavy book) come with free shipping.

[SPACE 1889] Mission To Mercury...

Angus Abranson, of Chronicle City, has just released this sneak peak at the cover of next year's Mercury sourcebook for the revitalised Space 1889 roleplaying game.

Pandora's Box Opens This Saturday...

This Saturday's episode of Atlantis is entitled Pandora's Box and actually looks - especially by this show's low standards - pretty decent.
"Romance is at last in the air for Hercules and Medusa until she is kidnapped by a cruel moneylender, Kyros. In exchange for her life, Kyros demands that Hercules retrieves a precious and powerful artefact from the Underworld - a task which can only mean certain death.

With only one day to fulfil the ransom, Hercules and his loyal friends face a race against time. Will they find another way to descend to Hades and return with the artefact, or be forced to walk among the dead forever? Whatever the outcome, the Gods have spoken and someone, somewhere is about to pay a terrible price.
I didn't say "great", but perhaps "pretty decent".

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Lifting The Lid On The News Stories Others Fear To Investigate...

There are times when I think Brother Cal over at Calvin's Canadian Cave Of Cool is single-handedly keeping the Internet going with the amount he posts on a daily basis. While his posts are always fascinating, the other day he ran one which really resonated with me: about Weekly World News.

It's not a newspaper you see on this side of The Pond very often. In truth I don't think I've seen a copy in the wild for over a decade (as I know I would have snapped it up if I had), but back in my early days as a cub reporter - and then sub-editor - for the Kent & Sussex Courier, in staid old Tunbridge Wells, it was my inspiration.

It's why I was always the one chasing up ghost stories and UFO reports, going to interview the people in the tin foil hats worried about messages being beamed into their heads from anonymous vans touring their estate. This was exactly the sort of news I was interested in and exactly what I thought a local paper should be publishing.

Forget the council's latest campaign to eliminate dog dirt from our pavements, I wanted to write about the bright lights someone saw moving erratically in the sky when they were coming home from the pub.

Did I believe these wild tales? Did it matter?

The world needs more newspapers like The Weekly World News (and fewer like The Daily Mail).


And the fact that these tales just happen to be wonderful inspiration for possible short stories or roleplaying game scenarios? Just a coincidence...

Random Thoughts On Netiquette...

I've only been blogging for around seven years so by no means consider myself an expert on anything to do with online protocols, but I've recently been inspired to mentally compile a short list of my pet peeves revolving about commentating on blogs.

Like all bloggers I welcome comments and feel honoured when someone takes the time to leave even a short comment and I like to think that my comments are equally welcome on the blogs where I leave them.

All my points below revolve around the issue of stimulating a free flow of polite conversation in the comment sections of blogs.
  • I understand why some bloggers use CAPTCHA or "comment moderation" - to filter out the spammers - but both at the same time? Really? Isn't that overkill? It's immensely frustrating, after you've had to tackle the CAPTCHA three or four times to get a combination of letters and numbers that are actually readable, to then be told "your comment will be visible after moderation" (or words to that effect). Let's be honest, with Blogger, at least, it's very simple - with no CAPTCHA or moderation - to retrospectively remove any spurious spam comments anyway. If you make it too arduous to post a comment on your blog eventually the commentators will give up trying. My main gripe with "comment moderation" is it delays the publication of comments and thus disrupts any potential flow of conversation. However it's still preferable to the frustration of CAPTCHA.
  • I respond to about 90 per cent of the comments left on HeroPress. I think it's only polite. The 10 per cent I don't respond to are the ones that don't need a reply, simple posts like "LOL" or "very funny". While I don't expect a reply to every comment I leave (as occasionally they are of the "LOL" variety) I do think it's polite to acknowledge a comment, especially if it is of a conversational nature. Again, if I post repeatedly to a blog and get no feedback, eventually I'm going to lose interest and take my attentions elsewhere. If you are lucky enough to get a stream of comments on a particular post, a blanket "thank you all very much for your comments" acknowledgement would be acceptable, of course.
  • Speaking of responding to comments: if you leave a comment on a blog make sure you click the "notify me" button as sometimes the blog owner's response will, in turn, require a response from you. For instance, he might ask you a question about your comment or challenge its veracity.

I Want To Play In A Campaign Set Here...

Portals_7th Heaven

This is exactly why I rejoined Tumblr the other month: for inspirational artwork like this stunning piece by Russian artist ivany86 (from deviantart).

The endless possibilities just make me want to grab some dice, roll up a character and jump right in - without even looking where I'm going!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

DVD Of The Week: The World's End (2013)

Inveterate drinker and habitual loser Gary King (Simon Pegg) cajoles his old school friends to return to their home town and attempt to complete the epic pub crawl they failed to finish a couple of decades earlier.

The goal is 12 pubs along the "Golden Mile" of Newton Haven in Hertfordshire - having a pint in each and wrapping things up at The World's End public house.

Gary's friends all have successful lives and careers and are less than enthusiastic, but his joie-de-vivre (and persistence) wins them round.

Unfortunately, soon after starting their celebratory pub crawl, the friends discover things are a bit off in Newton Haven - in fact it has become a staging ground for an alien invasion (well, more of a merger, really) by robotic duplicates (who aren't really robots).

The World's End is the final part of the Cornetto Trilogy by director Edgar Wright and featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost - and shares many similarities with its stable-mate, Shaun Of The Dead (robots instead of zombies though). There are also thematic elements of Hot Fuzz in here as well,  (people not being who appear to be).

The comedy - both verbal and physical - is top notch and, while the film runs for an hour and 50 minutes, the escalating weirdness never lets up. Even the climax - which is largely Pegg and Frost standing around, arguing with the invader's spokesman (Bill Nighy) - is hilarious, while the film's denouement takes the action off in a wonderfully unexpected direction.

There are some moments of powerful pathos along the way, that often fill in the backstory of the central characters, but these are quickly juxtaposed with equally clever comedy.

If you loved Shaun Of The Dead (and who didn't?) and enjoy Invasion Of The Body Snatchers-style sci-fi horror then you're going to get a great kick out of The World's End.

This is one of those movies that you'll find yourself largely grinning throughout and then unexpectedly bursting out into raucous laughter when the film hits one out of the park.

Also, rather pleasingly, The World's End is leagues better than Pegg and Frost's previous sci-fi outing, the limp alien tale Paul, which suggest that maybe Edgar Wright is the secret ingredient - a good omen for 2015's Ant-Man.

Better Living Through Chemistry...

Since my extended spell in hospital seven or eight years ago, I now take a lot of pills and tablets every day (mainly to control my blood pressure).

It has become so routine, especially in the evenings when I shovel down a handful of drugs just before going to bed, that I had begun to question if they were actually making any large amount of difference.

During this period, I have also suffered from occasional dizzy spells - losing my sight to a growing field of stars and feeling a bit wobbly - which I'd accepted as a necessary side effect of keeping my blood pressure artificially low.

I'm not telling you this story to bang on (again) about my health or how hard done by I am, but as a little demonstration of the wonders of modern medicine.

In the latter part of this year the dizzy spells had started to increase in frequency. From once every couple of months, they were now happing three or four times a week, sometimes even twice a day, and naturally I was concerned by this.

I described my symptoms to my brilliant GP and she immediately diagnosed it as a form of migraine and suggested I increase one of my evening meds - simply increase the dose from a single 10mg tablet to two. She told me to keep a log of my attacks and come back a month later.

Almost immediately I noticed a decrease in dizzy spells and a month later I was down to seven in four weeks.

Since then, and that was almost a month ago now, I haven't had a single migraine. Sure, I still get mild dizzy spells (but no loss of sight) and am sometimes not that steady on my feet, but it's such an incredible improvement on how I was earlier this year... and all down to a single 10mg pill.

Did Magneto Kill JFK?

Half a century ago, Magneto was implicated in the mutant plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. The events of that fateful day in November have been a point of contention between humans and the mutants ever since.
This is the controversial claim addressed at The Bent Bullet (actually a very clever viral marketing site for X-Men: Days Of Future Past).

The Pirates Are Coming! The Pirates Are Coming!

1715. The Golden Age of Piracy. New Providence is a lawless island, controlled by history's most notorious pirate captains. The most feared - Captain Flint.

And so the stage is set for Black Sails, the new STARZ original series sailing into American waters on January 25, at 9pm. Let's hope it doesn't take them too long to cross The Pond!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Whovians, The Grand Moff Wants To Mess With Your Head...

"Science fiction is all about rules, you can't just casually break them," says Steven Moffat in a new Radio Times interview about the "twelve regenerations" limit in Whoniverse mythology... then proceeds to tease fans with hints of what's to come in the Christmas Special.

He has decreed that Matt Smith is the 13th and final regeneration (explaining that John Hurt's War Doctor counts towards the total and David Tennant's Doctor used up two regenerations). So where does this leave Peter Capaldi's incoming Doctor?

Forget the Time War - read the full interview and let the fan wars begin...

[EBAY] Christmas Presents For That 'Special' Gamer In Your Life...

Continuing my eBay selling from the other week, I'm currently offering up a bundle of all my Lamentations Of The Flame Princess books - not that there is anything wrong with them, but I simply can't see myself ever using them and I need to clear space in my gamesroom.

There are some magnificent books here and if I owned a castle or a mansion with miles of shelving  I'd be holding on to these simply to treasure them as artifacts in their own right.

But as it is, with a month to Christmas, I'm looking to send them to a good home... and bring in some shekels to help pay for Christmas presents.

If you are a UK reader of HeroPress, please take a look. Any questions, contact me through eBay and I'll try to answer them ASAP. All the items listed (except for a very heavy book) come with free shipping.

Concept Art For The Wolverine... showcases five pieces of concept art, by Michele Moen, for The Wolverine - certainly my favourite superhero flick of the year and quite possibly my favourite film of the year.

George Lucas Talks About Writing The Saga...

In this recently recovered interview from Lucasfilm vault, George Lucas talks about the writing of the original Star Wars trilogy and the backstory to the saga, which became the Prequels.

Map-A-Monday: The Trigan Empire

The Trigan Empire - via From The Sorcerer's Skull

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Meanwhile At Your Friendly Local Comic Book Store...

Via Facebook

The Historically Accurate Tale Of The 47 Ronin...

One of the most famous (true) samurai stories from 18th Century Japan gets a Hollywood makeover through a 300/Lord Of The Rings filter:
After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of Kai (Keanu Reeves) - a half-breed they once rejected - as they fight their way across a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witchcraft and wondrous terrors.

The Grease Flowchart...

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Doctor Who: The Day Of The Doctor

Well, that was truly event television! Packed with beautiful fan moments, The Day Of The Doctor was a love letter to both Doctor Who and its loyal followers.

While the main plot revolved around "The Moment" (the sentient WMD The War Doctor - John Hurt - was to use to end The Time War, that manifested itself as an image of Rose Tyler) as the daleks and Time Lords battled it out on Gallifrey, there was a brilliantly interwoven sub-plot about a zygon scheme to take over the Earth (from the 16th Century).

This was Steven Moffat's crowning glory, by a fan for the fans; peppered with clever nods to old stories, without slowing down the constant kinetic energy of the central teaming of The Ninth and Tenth Doctors with their suppressed forebear.

All the past faces of The Doctor got a look in and we were even treated to a glimpse of the face to come.

At the moment The Day Of The Doctor stands review-proof. It's been too long since I've come away from an episode of Doctor Who grinning so broadly and so fired up with fan-boy glee.

To be honest I can't wait to see it again, to pick up on moments I might have missed, and I'd love to see it in 3D to see if the Gallifreyan art - and the Time War sequences - look as spectacular as I imagined they would.

However, not only was the episode superb in its own right, but the major new arc it opens for The Doctor to pursue, going forward, will hopefully herald a new burst of positivity in the show's creators as he embarks on this new quest.

Coming At Christmas:

Happy 50th, Old Friend!

Splendid fellows, all of you!

A Trip To The Moon (Le Voyage Dans La Lune)

A Trip To The Moon (Le Voyage Dans La Lune) - Georges Méliès 1902

Friday, 22 November 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Well

There may been been name checks for Clint Barton and Natasha Romanov last week, but ultimately The Hub just didn't feel as though anyone was trying.

In contrast, The Well started big - with a voice-over from Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) explaining about alien Asgardians being mistaken for gods etc - and Coulson's crew cleaning up the mess left behind in the wake of the climactic battle of Thor: The Dark World.

Here we saw S.H.I.E.L.D. doing its "thing" - cleaning up after an alien conflict and ensuring that dangerous, otherworldly technology doesn't fall into the wrong hands (where were the rest of The Avengers, by the way?)

Then once we were all comfortable with the idea of Asgardians the plot jumped sideways to Norway where a couple of hikers come upon an ancient Asgardian artifact buried inside a tree more than a thousand years earlier... and Thor: The Dark World wasn't directly referenced again.

The hikers (one of whom is Alpha's Erin Way) are members of a neo-pagan hate group and have been hunting this "berserker staff" (which myth says has been broken into three parts and hidden around the globe) to give them superhuman strength to further their vague, anarchic aims.

Coulson takes his crew to Spain to meet the expert on Norse mythology he consulted when S.H.I.E.L.D. first found Thor's hammer on Earth - Professor Elliot Randolph (Peter MacNicol aka John Cage from Ally McBeal). As well as being a bit of a horny history professor, Elliot has a rather large secret and his own reason for wanting to get his hands on the staff fragments.

Things get complicated when Agent Ward comes into contact with a fragment and starts to suffer the berserker effects - which include painfully flashbacks to suppressed childhood memories (involving The Well of the episode's title).

This was another cracking episode. I'm pleased to see that the show is settling down into a Man From UNCLE meets Warehouse 13 format. We were also given some nice character nuggets here - such as Simmons dodging calls from her parents as she doesn't want to tell them about near-death experience and Skye and Ward bonding (in a non-sexual way). There was also, towards the end of the episode, a suggestion of some romantic liaison between Agent May and one of her colleagues (possibly Ward, possibly Coulson).

While the neo-pagan antagonists were quite generic as villains, their role in the story was more as a plot device for the various revelations along the way. The episode's only real black mark was the heavy promotion before-hand of its ties to Thor: The Dark World. Really the aftermath of the Battle Of Greenwich served only to (a) show us this side of S.H.I.E.L.D's job in the Marvel Universe and (b) to get us into an Asgardian frame of mind.

Some people may have been put off watching this episode for fear of spoilers for the movie or that, if they hadn't seen the movie, they might not grok some key element of the plot - but that was not the case at all. The Well stands on its own as another excellent example of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is capable of achieving.

Fleamarket Friday: A Fistful Of Kung Fu...

Osprey is on a bit of a roll at the moment with its ever-increasing range of wargames rules. The next one due out, in February, is A Fistful Of Kung Fu - inspired by high-octane Hong Kong cinema.
A Fistful of Kung Fu is set in a modern world walking a precarious line between the advances of next-generation technology and the tradition and mysticism of ancient cultures. Kung Fu schools face off in no-holds barred martial arts tournaments. Evil corporations hire hitmen and infiltrators to steal each other's secrets. Overworked SWAT teams respond to street-level gunfights between feuding Triad and Yakuza clans. Ancient artefacts are sought by hopping vampires and cyborgs alike, each seeking to harness the power of the Four Dragon Kings and control the world. Bullets, punches, kicks and throwing stars fly in slow motion as martial arts heroes and gun-wielding cops defeat enemy after enemy in the pursuit of evil masterminds.

Possible factions range from Chinese Triads and the Japanese Yakuza to Ninja clans, martial arts schools, the men and women of the Hong Kong Police Department, demons, secret societies and almost anything else you can imagine! All struggle for supremacy - destroying the city in the process.

Mooks and supporting cast are swatted like flies, but can still be dangerous when given the advantage of numbers or automatic weaponry. Based on the popular Ganesha Games rules system, A Fistful of Kung Fu introduces martial arts combat with manoeuvres that have different outcomes depending on the degree of success, and which allow for counter-attacks when they fail, giving a flowing, appropriate combat system. The game also includes rules for challenges and "gun-fu" stunts.
As always, Osprey has been working in tandem with North Star Military Figures to produce a range of 28mm miniatures suitable for bringing these battles to life on your tabletop.

There are currently ready-made squads for four factions available for pre-order as box sets: the cops, Japanese yakusa gangsters, the demons and martial arts heroes. These will also be available next February.

It's A Frame Up!

I have long wanted to have some framed comic books on the walls of my gamesroom, but have only recently started to investigate the options.

I spoke to a local picture framer and was quoted more than £40 for a single frame to my specifications (with a 10 per cent discount if I ordered four or more). That was a bit more than I hoped to spend, so I turned to eBay and found several different designs, but only one matched my vision.

At £12.99 (plus shipping), per frame, it was still expensive, but I ordered one as a 'test' and it arrived today (incredibly securely packaged).

It's a bit fiddly for a thumb-fingered klutz like me to get the comic positioned just right, but patience and perseverance (not two traits normally associated with me) paid off and I'm very pleased with the result.

As you can see in the picture above I managed to acquire a copy of Black Magic issue one, for a reasonable price (there's a fold in the bottom right-hand corner of the cover - it's not a crack/scratch on the acrylic), and so it seemed only fitting that such a key comic in my development as a comic book geek should be the first I framed.

Now to save up for some more frames and decide what other issues I'd like mounted on my wall.

Fleamarket Friday: Sample Village Life Beyond The Wall...

This week has seen the latest free PDF release from Flatland Games supporting their innovative OSR retroclone Beyond The Wall And Other Adventures.

The 28-page Village Life includes six new character Playbooks, including the Assistant Beast Keeper and the Fae Foundling, as well as a selection of NPCs who might inhabit your village and a dangerous artifact whose presence could alter the very course of your heroes' lives.

The PDF can be downloaded from DriveThruRPG here.

Four Minutes Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Goodness From Tonight's Episode...

Tonight's episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. picks up after the events of Thor: The Dark World, but as the clip suggests you neither have to have seen the movie to get the story or worry about spoilers: this is simply S.H.I.E.L.D. cleaning up alien/advanced technology after a large-scale battle - before dangerous weapons or knowledge can fall into the "wrong" hands.

Look out also for Alpha's lovely Erin Way returning to the world of supers.

Should I Be Worried?

Just received an email alert saying: "RoboCop (@RoboCop) is now following you on Twitter!" And there I was thinking I was just being paranoid!

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na - Bedtime!

The famous Batman suite of the Eden Hotel in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan,

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Doctor Who?

Another clip from tonight's An Adventure In Space And Time about the origins of Doctor Who (BBC2, 9pm). Plus an introduction to the show from writer Mark Gatiss:

A Second Smaug-åsbord Of Trailers...

... because I never let a good pun go quietly into the dark night without getting as much use out of it as possible.

Torn From The Headlines: Before They Pass Away...

The Nenets of Russia

Photographer Jimmy Nelson has been touring the globe cataloguing secluded and vanishing tribes before they fade into memory.

To learn more about his Before They Pass Away project and to see a selection of his breath-taking shots, visit

"No Bug-Eyed Monsters!"

Journey back to the birth of Doctor Who in this clip from An Adventure in Space and Time, which airs tonight at 9pm on BBC2.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Meanwhile At Your Friendly Local Comic Book Store...

Via Facebook

"Dead Or Alive, You're Coming With Me!"

A new action-packed Robocop trailer for the re-imagined franchise.

B-Movie Of The Week: Slashers (2001)

Paul and I have long had a tradition of gifting each other dodgy DVDs and so this year, seeking inspiration, he went into his local branch of CeX and asked for their "best worst movie".

Minutes later, he walked out clutching Slashers.

So when he came down for a birthday visit this week, to complement the Roger Corman tickets and a fantastic hardback book about Mr Corman's life and movies, he presented me with this DVD - which we promptly put on.

Set in the near future, Slashers is Japan's number one extreme reality TV show where contestants are released into a maze and pursued by psychopathic "slashers". Those who survive the duration of the show get to split a massive financial reward between them.

The movie follows the show's first team of all-American contestants - six strangers selected from thousands of applicants - who just need to stay alive for 90 minutes to secure the multi-million dollar prize.

However, between them and the cash are three mass murderers - Chainsaw Charlie (Neil Napier), Preacherman (also Neil Napier) and Doctor Ripper (Christopher Piggins).

From low-budget horror auteur Maurice Devereaux, Slashers is a surprisingly smart and clever movie if you can look past the fair-to-middling performances from the cast of amateurs, the ninety-nine cents special effects budget and the El Cheapo set decorations.

Filmed as a real time experience, with a single cameraman (also part of the show), giving the impression of one-long take thanks to some seamless cutting, it simultaneously subverts the slasher genre tropes in a very Scream-like way and celebrates them, while posing questions about the blurred lines between entertainment and exploitation. It challenges the audience's tacit support and complicity in the horrendous fates the contestants face.

The 99-minute piece is full of knowing touches, like making the requisite horror movie non-diegetic mood music audible to the contestants and having both the players and killers fitted with control devices so they can't attack the show's crew or move during ad breaks - instead they have to stay in position and can only talk.

The 'Final Girl', Megan Lowry (Sarah Crowder), is easy to identify from the first moment the contestants are introduced and then she spends about 90 per cent of the film on-screen; the contestants realise early on that if the cameraman stays with them when the group has separated then they are probably the ones who will be targeted by the killers.

Coming out in 2001, Slashers was a long-time before such torture porn epics as Saw and Hostel, yet it had already undermined their conceits with its dark Grand Guignol.

Twelve years later, this is a movie deserved of a big budget remake to present its smart ideas to a broader audience, without the distraction of its unfortunate cheapness.

If you are not someone inordinately bothered by a film's physical shortcomings, can appreciate broad humour and like a bit of intelligence served up with blood and guts, then Slashers is well worth tracking down.

The End Is Nigh...

The best show on television about people with superpowers is coming to an end. Only a handful of episodes of Misfits left.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Leave No Witnesses...

Following on from the hugely popular Stop All The Dungeon Robbing here's another slice of inspired Dungeons & Dragons humour from Shane Hosea's Book Of Hosea.

Also to be found on Tumblr.

The Day Of The Doctor: Preview Clip...

DVD Of The Week: The Wolverine - Unleashed Extended Edition (2013)

Haunted by dreams of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Logan aka The Wolverine (Hugh Jackson) has retreated from human society and is trying to live a life of seclusion in the far reaches of Canada.

However, he is tracked down by Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a punky, elfin Japanese spitfire who works for Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a soldier Logan saved from the bombing of Nagasaki at the tail-end of World War Two.

Yashida, who now runs Asia's largest tech company, is on his death-bed and supposedly wants to say a final farewell to his old friend.

However, there are machinations aplenty. As well as Yashida's true reason for wanting to see Logan again, there are complications over who will succeed him as the head of his company, which pits his son Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada) against his granddaughter, the gorgeous Mariko (Tao Okamoto).

As a reader of the X-Men comics from the Claremont era, just the mention of the name Mariko sent a fannish frisson of excitement down my spine as I already knew of her importance in Logan's life.

However there is another element at work in this brilliantly complex plot - a clan of ninjas working with a well-known Marvel Universe villainess (no spoilers) - whose motivation we don't discover until the big reveal in the final act.

But nothing is ever easy for Logan as he realises - when he steps in to save Mariko from yakuza kidnappers - his healing mutation has stopped working. He's still one tough son-of-a-bitch, but the lack of rapid healing is a major hiccup in his plans.

The Wolverine is a brilliant mix of comic book action and character-driven plotting, with everything being set up perfectly thanks to expert foreshadowing and well-rounded character development.

This truly feels like a run of X-Men comics brought to life thanks to the tight script by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank and the intelligent direction of James Mangold that make this 132-minute cut of the movie a thrill to watch. Logan's time in Japan was always a key element of his character in the comics and this film does that thread great justice.

My only slight regret is - because of all the licensing issues etc - that this isn't part of the same Cinemtaic Marvel Universe as The Avengers movies, as I'd love to see Hugh Jackman's Wolverine rubbing shoulders with Captain America (great potential for flashbacks to the war there), Iron Man etc.

Let's hope when the rights eventually revert to Marvel they have the good sense to keep the X-Men movie continuity.

Sure, Hugh Jackson may be considerably taller than the Logan depicted in the comic books but now it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing the role.

Unsurprisingly The Wolverine is a very violent flick, even if the gore quotient is quite low, and there are a couple of f-bombs if you're thinking of watching this with impressionable children around.

The action set-pieces are phenomenal, with the stand-out moments being the fight on top of the 300mph bullet train and Logan and Yukio facing off against a village full of ninjas.

The Wolverine is a slick palate cleanser for getting rid of the bad taste left by the klunker that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine and bodes well for the sequel that Hugh Jackman has been teasing in the press recently.

However, before that, thanks to a geekgasmic mid-credit scene (and a couple of unexpected cameos by familiar faces), The Wolverine serves as a fantastic prequel to next year's X-Men: Days Of Future Past (which, of course, Logan plays a key role in).

Wolverine and his bodyguard, Yukio


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