Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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Sunday, 30 November 2014

[OPINION POLL] The Flash Wins The Race, Leaving Gotham In The Shadows...

The polls have closed on the latest HeroPress reader survey and the results are in. By a clear margin, The Flash has been chosen as the current superhero/comic book TV show that 41 per cent of people are enjoying most of all.

A couple of weeks ago, I posed two questions to readers of this blog - asking them to select the show they're enjoying the most and the show that has been the biggest disappointment out of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arrow, Constantine, The Flash and Gotham.

From the moment the polls opened it was clear that The Flash was going to be the runaway success, however, at the other end of the spectrum, things weren't so clear cut.

Ultimately, Gotham grabbed 33 per cent of the votes for the most disappointing show, just a single percentile ahead of the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

However, proving that it will always be a divisive show, while 32 per cent of HeroPress readers might have rated S.H.I.E.L.D. the biggest disappointment, 28 per cent also voted it as the second-most impressive show.

Most Enjoyable Show Poll Results

Gotham came in third of the 'most enjoyable' poll, with 14 per cent, ahead of the third season Arrow on 12 per cent and Constantine on six per cent.

Most Disappointing Show Poll Results

Meanwhile, on the disappointment front, Constantine came in third, with 24 per cent, ahead of The Flash on eight per cent and the third season Arrow on four per cent.

Factoring both polls together, HeroPress readers ranked this season's current crop of comic book/superhero TV shows as follows:
  1. The Flash
  2. Arrow (season three)
  3. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (season two)
  4. Constantine
  5. Gotham
Given that Constantine was chosen as the show most HeroPress readers were looking forward to back in mid-2014 (21 per cent in that poll), there does seem to be palpable disappointment that this show has not lived up to expectations.

On the other hand, Gotham wasn't a show many people were looking forward to in the first place (just eight per cent), so it's not surprising that it's failing to connect with a large swathe of its audience.

While it looks as though Gotham will probably get a second season (let's hope they learn from the mistakes of this first season), Constantine is sending out mixed messages with its first season being abruptly capped at 13 episodes but with no hints about the show's future as yet.

Given that Constantine is an NBC show - the network that gives us the incredible, surreal Hannibal - it's a shame they seem unwilling to allow the showrunners to really push the envelope and truly capture the spirit of the source material.

I suspect it was a love of the original Vertigo comics that fuelled the excitement of so many fans when they heard that John Constantine was coming to television.

Excuse Me...

Saturday, 29 November 2014

The Week In Superhero TV...

Felicity and her college boyfriend (Nolan Funk) get down to some heavy hacking...

This was a banner week for superhero TV shows with Constantine and Gotham both delivering their best episodes to date (although neither was perfect, both really hammered home the potential of their shows) and while The Flash may not have been up to its usual standard storywise it showed the writers' willingness to keep expanding what he can actually do with his speed powers (as in the comics).

1) Arrow - The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak: A major hack a attack on the systems and services of Starling City threatened to bring the Arrow's home to its kness. However, this was a good excuse for a series of flashbacks to five years ago, when Felicity was a Girl-With-The Dragon-Tattoo-lite, proto-hacktivist (who also does a passable cosplay of Death from DC's Sandman).

It turns out the hackers were using a virus that Felicity had written in college and then, as if she didn't have enough problems, her mum (Charlotte Ross) turned up, out of the blue, throwing our heroine off her game.

Of course, it so happens that this new arrival is no coincidence, but part of a sinister scheme...

The Secret Origin Of Felicity Smoak had a nice, straight-forward plot, with some subtle foreshadowing elements, resulting in a solid hour of fun and jeopardy.

The episode also boasted a number of engaging sub-plots from Laurel's training regime with Ted 'Wildcat' Grant and Roy's nightmares to the patching-up of the Thea/Oliver relationship.

Probably the most far-fetched part of the story was Laurel's sudden promotion to acting District Attorney.

2) Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - A Fractured House: The world turns against S.H.I.E.L.D. when Hydra impersonates them to attack The United Nations, and an unexpected enemy leads the charge to bring about their downfall.

3) The Flash - Plastique: Despite some classic moments, that I'll get to in a moment, this was the weakest episode of The Flash to date, hampered by a very mundane 'freak-of-the-week' main plot and some quite cavalier liberties taken with Barry's secret identity - from the casual way Team Flash let Bette Sans Souci aka Plastique (Kelly Frye) in to their 'secret HQ' and her using Barry's name (and then him unmasking) within sight of the 'evil' General Wade Eiling (Clancy Brown).

On the plus side, this episode saw Barry expand his portfolio of powers from minor gimmicks like blurring his features and changing his voice to eye-candy like running on water and up the side of buildings.

We found out more about Iris's motivation for writing her blog about 'the streak', but Barry's attempts to talk her out of publishing it were less than impressive and you can understand her confusion that a person previously dedicated to proving that the impossible was possible would now be so opposed to her striving to do the same.

As ever, Wells was on top form, working his whole manipulation shtick to wind up Plastique and send her after General Eiling, and the best Easter Egg was saved for the denouement, a flashback explaining - in part - the presence of the 'Grodd' sign in the pilot.

4) Constantine - Danse Vaudou: For all those complaining that the lack of smoking by the lead character, the makers of Constantine seem to be circumventing that network edict as he was puffing away on a cigarette in his first appearance in this episode and later he uses a cigarette to cremate some crucial corpses.

While the map of blood spots and Zed's visions remain very cheesy tools for moving the plot forward, this episode was the first that didn't come off as a low-rent rip-off of Supernatural, helped in a part by the arrival of the excellent Emmett Scanlan (known for his cameo in Guardians Of The Galaxy, but best remembered as the terrifying and complex Hollyoaks villain Brendan Brady) as Detective Jim Corrigan, who comic book fans will know is the human face of the occasionally omnipotent Spectre.

Let's hope Corrigan sticks around long enough that we get to see his transformation into this legendary character. In fact, it was Zed's prophetic final vision of Corrigan that made the whole episode worthwhile, sending gleeful geeky shivers down my spine.

Constantine was drawn to New Orleans where vengeful spirits were returning, years after their death. It turned out they all had guilt-ridden survivors who had turned to Papa Midnite for some medium-sized forgiveness. However, something was possibly wrong with Midnite's magic and Constantine claimed it was "the rising darkness" (the show's nebulous overarching big bad).

The actual resolution of the plot wasn't that strong, but the episode stood on its character work, making this the best episode of the show to date. Outside of the Corrigan material, we had Papa Midnite calling Constantine a "jackass of all trades" and then later, during a heated argument, summing up Constantine's dilettante character superbly for the audience.

5) Gotham - Penguin's Umbrella: Like Constantine, Gotham really upped its game this week by concentrating on the gang politics of the city, dumping its "murder-of-the-week" format and bringing Victor Zsasz (Anthony Carrigan) into play (although won't he now be middle-aged by the time Batman arrives?)

It was all going so well until Alfred and Bruce entered the picture for no real reason except to remind the viewer that they existed.

The handing-over of the Wayne murder case details to the Major Crimes Unit (who changed their minds about Gordon very quickly) could have been covered in a single line of dialogue between Gordon and Montoya, if the episode needed it at all, given how Gordon's arc worked out. Once again, time spent with Bruce and Alfred was needless filler.

Ultimately, this programme should be renamed The Penguin Show as Robin Lord Taylor's manipulative Oswald Cobblepot is really the only reason I can imagine people coming back week-on-week, just to see whose strings he is pulling now in his climb up the underworld totem pole.

Goofy's Grandma...

Friday, 28 November 2014

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: A Fractured House

As Talbot is addressing a meeting of the United Nations about the dangers posed by S.H.I.E.L.D. (the Battle of New York, The Avengers and the alien invasion are referenced), a group of Hydra mercenaries - disguised as S.H.I.E.L.D. - attack, using high-tech, victim-dissolving weaponry.

In an effort to clear S.H.I.E.L.D.'s name, as political moves are afoot for the establishment of a multinational anti-S.H.I.E.L.D. taskforce, Coulson finds himself horsetrading with Senator Christian Ward (Tim DeKay), brother of imprisoned ex-agent Grant Ward.

Meanwhile, Agents May, Morse and Hunter track the Hydra weaponry ('splinter bombs') to Japan, picking up some information about The Obelisk along the way.

Unfortunately for S.H.I.E.L.D. Hydra seems to be one-step ahead of them most of the way and May's team follow the trail of breadcrumbs to a safehouse in Belgium, only to find they've walked into the aftermath of a Hydra ambush and a half-dozen S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have already been killed.

Back in America, Coulson strikes a deal with the Senator to hand over Agent Ward to be tried as a traitor. But has Coulson made a deal with the Devil?

The elder Ward brother is an interesting character, as his allegiances and motivations are even more ambiguous than his loathsome sibling.

A Fractured House was heavy on strong character moments, such as the interplay between Bobbie Morse and her ex-husband Lance Hunter.

As well as keeping up the regular visits to new locations (to emphasise the global nature of the S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Hydra "war"), it's also nice to see Coulson's team growing organically, week-on-week, rather than just suddenly introducing a crop of new characters. This expands the pool of available agents for any particular mission, but avoids the risk of creating obvious 'red shirts' (the new face in the group that you know will be the first to bite the bullet).

Next Time (beware spoilers if you haven't seen this week's episode yet):

Star Wars: The Force Awakens...

And then this happened today...

Perhaps I'm getting a bit gun-shy of blockbuster trailers (it took me three trailers to really get excited about Age Of Ultron, for instance), but when the dude first pops up into shot at the opening of The Force Awakens trailer I honestly thought I'd clicked on a spoof or fan-made trailer.

It was only as events progressed (and we were treated to stormtroopers, X-Wings and the Falcon)  that I accepted that this was the Real McCoy.

So, yes, it's Star Wars, and it's pretty, and I'm sure I'll be watching it multiple times, but my head's not exploding quite yet.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Just Another Day At The Office With Agent Carter...

[HOW] Chapter Ten: The Hunt For Margesh Blackblood, The Conclusion...

Captured: Margesh Blackblood

With the ogres dead, our heroes quickly found the hidden room where their quarry - the elusive bandit leader Margesh Blackblood - was hiding.

The charming outlaw endeavoured to open negotiations, but the fiery-tempered dwarf Davian Battlebeard was having none of it and attacked, backed up by the magical webs of young wizard-in-training Marigold Weaver. Blackblood shrugged off a couple of Marigold's treacherous webs and gave a dazzling demonstration of his swordsmanship, landing a powerful blow on Davian while almost simultaneously disarming the sneaky Imogen (whose twin daggers of death had come into play).

Harry the halfling bard provided musical support, his tune bolstering the party's morale.

He was, however, soon overpowered and bound in ropes by our canny heroes. Marigold used her staff to bludgeon Margesh unconscious. He was then stripped of his possessions and secured across the back of the group's mule, Charles.

Kirchin, the only skilled swordsman in the group, took possession of Margesh's fabled Sword Of Aquin (for safekeeping), before the group headed off back through the forest towards Horst, a village they planned to avoid because it was a hideout for Margesh's band of ruffians, on their route back to Bendwyn.

As they approached the tree with the word Croatoan carved on it, that marked the start of the narrow trail back towards the "hellmouth" crypt they had explored days earlier, they discovered three corpses across the path - two men (no good ruffians, by the look of it) and a bound-and-gagged peasant woman.

A trail of blood led away from the site along the same path the party was taking, so they investigated only to find themselves back at the murder site. Although this time the woman's corpse had disappeared.

Perplexed, they carried on and again found themselves back at the murder site, although this time the woman's corpse had returned and one of the dead thugs now looked suspiciously like Kirchin!

Pressing on, our heroes found themselves once more approaching the murder site - only this time the murder seemed to be in progress and the path was blocked by a gigantic bear of a man, with bulging eyes and a frothing mouth, swinging an enormous axe.

Kirchin fired an arrow at the berserker, alerting him to the party's presence and he charged them. Marigold zapped him with a magical web, but he kept charging, head-down, like a bull and went crashing into the party.

Kirchin had dropped his bow and drawn the Sword of Aquin and in the ensuing tussle he decapitated the insane murderer.

Davian recognised the dead man as one of the shady folk he had seen the other week in Skarg's bar, back in Bendwyn, and Imogen realised that's where she knew the other two dead men from. The woman's identity remained a mystery.

Harry and Marigold went through the dead man's backpack, finding a stash of adventuring equipment, which the group divvied up, and a coin purse that contained - as well as cash - a crumpled note that Marigold read out aloud:

"to those of you who have killed Garig, thank you. I extend my offer to you as I did to him, bring me a woman of virtue and I will reward you with magic"
Although the party had already suspected there was some powerful magic at work here, this confirmed it and Margesh identified the mark at the end of the note as the sign of the legendary "witch of the forest", although he thought she operated in the far south of the Huldre Forest, beyond the Bright River.

It took the group some time, and a diversion to the tomb of Viktor Volkov, to realise they had somehow broken the magic spell - although it wasn't until they got home to Bendwyn and were telling the tale of their adventures that someone recognised Garig as the berserker from his description.

The party made their way out of the forest, heading to Dundraville, where they were warmly welcomed and put up for the night, before finally making it home to Bendwyn.

Sir Browyrd, the duke's agent, had left a message that a runner should be spent to Dranning upon our heroes return with the captured bandit.

Margesh was taken into custody by guard-sergeant Max Beerfoam and locked up in the village watch house, leaving our heroes to catch their breaths, celebrate their triumph and try to return to their normal lives.

  • Kirchin (Pete)
  • Davian (Kevin)
  • Harry (Simon)
  • Imogen (Meredith)
  • Marigold (Clare)

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

[SPACE 1889] Welcome To The Temple...

Although I've put the brakes on my roleplaying - and wargaming - purchases, certain items still sneak under the radar with a special dispensation. Especially anything connected with Space 1889 that I don't already have in my collection.

One item in particular that I've been after for a while was a nice, boxed copy of the Space 1889 boardgame Temple Of The Beastmen.

It popped up on eBay the other day as a a 'buy-it-now' and so I nabbed it (after checking the pictures and description of its condition, of course) and when it arrived a few days later I was not disappointed.

Now need to settle down, read the rules, sort out all the cards etc There's a distinct Sorcerer's Cave feel to it, which is no bad thing as that was the game Gublin and I used to play regularly before we discovered Dungeons & Dragons.

BoardGameGeek has this to say about Temple Of The Beastmen:
A boardgame of 19th-Century Mars, set in the Space 1889 RPG universe, players take the role of one of 10 adventurers leading an expedition into the mines of the sinister Martian King Gnaashriik in an attempt to rescue slaves and gather up loot.
Each player's character has a special ability useful throughout the game plus an special way to score extra points (For example, if Sir Colton-Haynes recovers the Ancient Tablets, he scores 10 points instead of the normal 4).
The board is made of tiles which are shuffled and placed face-down to form a mine shaft 5 levels deep.
Each turn players move through the mines, turning over tiles to create a series of passages and rooms, discovering and fighting off Martian baddies, and grabbing whatever goodies they can find.
There is a deck of cards that drives discoveries and can allow characters to find hidden passages, set off a trap, or wander upon an extra nasty combat.
The deck is also the endgame timer. Once it is depleted, players rush to the surface to end the game.

Latest Addition To My Flash Wardrobe...

The latest addition to my collection of Flash-themed T-shirts is this fine STAR Labs shirt (via an Amazon retailer for a very reasonable price), as worn by Barry and the gang in The Flash TV show.

Rachel despairs at my t-shirt addiction (admittedly my t-shirt drawer is now overflowing in to one of her clothes' drawers!)

Welcome To Riverdale - Episode Three...

Shhhh! Don't Tell Anyone, But It's Games' Night Tonight...

Target: Margesh Blackblood

Now I don't want to jinx things but, all being well, The Tuesday Knights will gather this evening for what should be the final chapter of The Hunt For Margesh Blackblood (a wonderful little micro-adventure from Tim Shorts, that has been spun out over four months with the addition of sub-plots/side stories from some of Tim's other Patreon-financed adventures).

Of course, there's every possibility that something unexpected will occur and the adventure could rocket off on another tangent...

Monday, 24 November 2014

Musical Monday: Three Tracks From Abney Park's Nomad...

Pity The Free Man, Two Elixirs and Special all appear on Abney Park's new album, Nomad, which is released this week (November 28).

Sunday, 23 November 2014

[OPINION POLL] Which Comic Book Shows Have Found Their Legs And Which Have Stumbled?

As a follow-up to the hugely popular HeroPress survey from earlier this year, in which Constantine was voted the programme readers were most looking forward to, I'm now sounding you out on how you feel things are going.

Bear in mind, in the original survey, people said the show they were most looking forward to was Constantine, while The Flash and the second season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. tied as the next most eagerly-anticipated programmes.

All five of the current superhero/comic book shows have aired enough episodes for you to have an opinion on how they're shaping up, so which is the best show in your opinion ... and which has been the biggest disappointment?

This survey has been running for a week and while I don't want to influence anyone, I'll say that so far one show in particular has been very divisive (being almost equally lauded as the best of the bunch and the worst) and there are distinct leaders in both categories.
Is The Flash the show you most look forward to every week? Is Arrow still on target or are you hungry for clues about Gotham's dark past? Does John Constantine have you under his spell or has Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D won you round?
Have your say in the survey below (or click through via the image on the right-hand side of the blog).

I'll keep the survey open until next Sunday (November 30), or until we get 100 unique responses, then I'll let you know how things turn out!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Second Spider-Verse Course Of Three Course Comics...

Watch the Football! (That Mitchell and Webb Look)

It's an old BBC clip (hence the low quality), but perfectly nails the way football is (over)hyped on our TV.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Week In Superhero TV...

Captain Cold - A Really Cool Villain...

1) The Flash - Going Rogue: Four episodes in and The Flash has yet to put a foot wrong. Going Rogue was another squeefest for comic book fans as it not only introduced Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) but also laid the groundwork for the formation of The Rogues, The Flash's primary foils in the comics.

This episode also featured a guest crossover from Arrow with an appearance by Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) and there is no escaping the cute chemistry of Felicity and Barry, even though both are besotted by others.

As the show develops, the speed effects are getting better and better, such as the intercepting of the armoured car hijacking and the saving of passengers from the crashing train. Although, if I was nit-picking I'd point out that the table tennis scene at the start wasn't as impressive as Quicksilver's in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. I do think they missed a trick there.

Character-wise, the dynamic between Eddie, Joe and Iris is fantastic and can't see what happens when (if?) Barry throws his hat into that ring as well.

But the star of the episode was the villainous Leonard Snart aka Captain Cold who was - pun intended - a truly cool nemesis for The Flash, capturing not only the personality of his comic book inspiration, but also the look. When he first got his hands on his ice gun, I thought 'now, he just needs to get himself a blue parka'. And what do you know? Next scene, voilà! Captain Cold had stepped out of the pages of the comic and onto the small screen.

2) Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D - A Hen In The Wolf House: Raina threatens to expose Simmons to Hydra unless Coulson hands Skye over to her father.

3) Arrow - The Magician: Although there was the expected level of martial arts violence, The Magician was a low-key, getting-your-ducks-in-a-row episode laying the groundwork for the Next Big Thing in Arrow: namely, Ra's Al Ghul (probably my favourite Batman villain).

Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) - known to The League Of Assassins as The Magician - was back in Starling City, claiming to only be there for Thea. He told Oliver in no uncertain terms that he did not kill Sara.

However Sara's lover from the League, Nyssa Al Ghul (Katrina Law), refused to believe him and was determined to exact revenge - putting her at cross-purposes with Oliver.

While a couple of mentions of Ferris Air (also seen in The Flash) were nice Easter Eggs, opening up the possibility of a future Green Lantern storyline, the highlight of the episode was, of course, our first glimpse of Nyssa's father, Ra's (Matt Nable).

4) Constantine - A Feast Of Friends: Despite its best efforts Constantine is still coming off as Supernatural-lite with its "monster-of-the-week" format.

This week, JC was tackling a body-hopping hunger demon that an old acquaintance had brought into the country.

It was only really in the episode's final act that we got to see a hint of the real bastard that fans know and love from the old Vertigo comics, and even that was slightly undermined by programme makers not wanting to go that dark on a mainstream TV show.

That said there was some surprising gore (the eye-popping trip and various other acts of mutilation) to dress up a very by-the-numbers storyline.

There's a really well-argued essay over on Comics Alliance about where this show, despite Matt Ryan's stirling performance in the lead role, is currently going wrong.

5) Gotham - Spirit Of The Goat: This show is a true parson's egg, a potentially solid programme ruined by daft editorial decisions, with a split personality worthy of Two-Face.

The main plot of Spirit Of The Goat had Bullock investigating the apparent return of a serial killer he capped ten years earlier, culminating in a fantastic climax that is completely undermined by the earlier high camp of oh-so-clever "foreshadowing" of  infamous Batman villains.

"Eh, Nygma," says Bullock at one point to the forensics officer, Edward Nygma. Don't they hear what they're saying? And soon after that Nygma himself mocks a woman for her surname Kringle.

Oh my god! He has a mug with a question mark on!!! Just how ham-fisted can this show get?

And, again, what was the point of the couple of scenes with young Bruce? It's as though he and Alfred are in their own little self-contained show.

Captain Donald...

Friday, 21 November 2014

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: A Hen In The Wolf House

A Hen In The Wolf House - relating to Agent Simmons working undercover in Hydra - was a wonderful slow boiler that built to an impressive, and informative, climax.

Under pressure from Hydra to get The Obelisk back from "The Doctor" (Kyle MacLachlan) - aka Skye's father - Raina tried to blackmail Phil Coulson into handing Skye over to her, so father and daughter could be reunited and The Doctor would then allow her to pass the alien artefact over to Hydra.

Raina uses her knowledge of Simmons' undercover position as her leverage, but Coulson calls her bluff... as he already has an extraction plan in place for the young agent.

It was a bit of a shame that I already knew that Adrianne Palicki was playing Bobbi Morse, aka Mockingbird, so her rescue of Simmons wasn't quite the surprise it should have been and neither was Coulson's casual mention to Skye that there was a theory she might be, at least, part alien.

This, of course, is a major plot point in the show as the whole hubbub about the blue alien corpse from season one has really blown up on the internet this week (as we're several weeks behind the States) and it's been impossible to avoid major spoilers (some news sites posting the nature of the alien in their headlines, which is majorly annoying).

However, that grumble aside (and it's not a reflection on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. but rather the information-hungry age we live in, where being 'first' to discover a plot revelation is seen as more important than just letting people enjoy a show on its own merits), this was another winner.

Not only did we get to learn more about Skye's father - a brilliantly awkward performance by Kyle MacLachlan, like a man still not comfortable in his own skin - but Coulson finally let Skye in on the secret of the alien writing he has been channelling ... and she almost immediately knew what it was.

And I have to confess, possibly because they are characters I'm very invested in, I did get a little choked up when Simmons and Fitz were finally reunited after her spell undercover came to an end and she returned to S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ.

Next Time:

DVD Of The Week: Star Wars - The Clone Wars: Lost Missions (2014)

If I've got this right, Disney struck an exclusive deal with Netflix (in the States) to air the sixth, and final, season of The Clone Wars (also known as The Lost Missions), however somewhere along the way nobody thought to license Netflix UK to show the cartoon. Because, of course, you know, Star Wars, it's only an American thing, right?

However, the wait is finally over with the release of The Lost Missions, the final 13 episodes of The Clone Wars, on DVD.

These episodes encapsulate a number of story arcs, but don't expect them to lead directly into the love-action of Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith as the original Clone Wars cartoon, from Genndy Tartakovsky, did (is this earlier iteration considered canon still? Was it ever?).

Although there is a Jar Jar story (he has a girlfriend! Don't ask!), for the most part these are solid tales of the final months of the Clone Wars, wrapping up this part of the saga thematically if not narratively.

We get a lot more detail (well, clues anyway) about the mystery of Syfo-Dyas, the jedi who ordered the creation of the clone army, the Emperor's programming of the clones (in respect to Order 66) and some more bizarrely-trippy material about the nature of The Force.

What you won't get is any insight into the fate of Ahsoka Tano. Perhaps this means there's a chance that an older Ahsoka will turn up in Rebels?

Speaking of Rebels, watching The Lost Missions reminded me how gorgeous the animation became as The Clone Wars progressed and in comparison the art of Rebels, while it's generally of a high calibre, feels like a bit of s step backwards.

The Clone Wars, and especially this final season, feels more grown-up than Rebels. While I get that Rebels is seeking to recapture the innocent, swashbuckling naivety of Star Wars: Episode IV there's no escaping the feeling that the baby got thrown out with the bathwater in the move from Clone Wars to Rebels.

The Making Of Mythica: Gods & Magic...

This five-minute featurette is a first look behind-the-scenes at Mythica: A Quest for Heroes, the latest production from Arrowstorm, who have been bringing roleplaying games to live-action cinema better than anyone for years.

The Force Will Be With You In Anaheim...

With Star Wars Episode VII just around the corner, I rather suspect Anaheim will be the place to be in April next year for those exclusive insights into the eagerly-awaited The Force Awakens.

Fleamarket Friday: Hero Kids ... In SPAAAAAAAACCCE!

Hero Kids, the great fantasy roleplaying game aimed at the junior members of our fraternity, is heading off into a whole new environment with the release of a series of outer space adventures and character cards.

You can read more about the Space Adventures expansion to the game over on author Justin Halliday's Hero Kids blog 

You can also learn more about the three adventures: Trouble At Threshold Station, Tyranny's Shadow and Secret of the Crystal Cave, which feature new monsters and equipment.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Good Grief, It's The Peanuts Movie...

Getting Under The Blue Devil's Skin...

Reading the old Blue Devil annual I'd picked up the other day from the TW Comic Café, I was pleasantly surprised to come across this illustration of the inner-workings of Dan Cassidy's Blue Devil suit.

This is the kind of background detail that I usually associate with Marvel (thanks to its brilliant Handbooks) rather than DC, who were always less inclined to explain how things work.

Banshee - Season Three Trailer...

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

[OPINION POLL] Vote For The Best - And Worst - Of The Current Comic Book TV Shows...

As a follow-up to the hugely popular HeroPress survey from earlier this year, in which Constantine was voted the programme readers were most looking forward to, I'm now sounding you out on how you feel things are shaping up.

We've had four episodes of Constantine, and the other 'superhero' TV shows have all aired enough episodes for you to have an opinion on how they're shaping up, so which is the best show in your opinion ... and which has been the biggest disappointment.

Is John Constantine still your main man or has Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D won you round? Is The Flash the show you most look forward to every week? Is Arrow still on target or are you hungry for clues about Gotham's dark past?

Have your say in the survey below (or click through via the image on the right-hand side of the blog).

I'll keep the survey going until Sunday, November 30 (or until we get 100 unique responses), then let you know how things turn out!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Comic Book TV Survey: Still Standing By Your Man?

In the hugely popular HeroPress survey earlier this year about upcoming comic book TV shows Constantine was voted the programme readers were most looking forward to.

But now we're a month into that show, and the current healthy crop of 'superhero' TV shows are well embedded in our weekly schedules, is Constantine the show you're still most excited about?

Or has Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D won you round? Is The Flash the show you most look forward to every week? Is Arrow still on target or are you hungry for clues about Gotham's dark past?

Have your say in the survey below - vote for the show, from this group, that you are enjoying the most, then vote for the biggest disappointment.

I'll keep the survey going for a couple of weeks (or until we get 100 unique responses), then let you know how things turn out!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Musical Monday: All About That Base!

Team Unicorn's Star Wars parody of Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Yes, It's My Birthday!

Alice helping me celebrate my 48th birthday...

Another year older!

This year my birthday celebrations were comparatively low-key for a couple of reasons: our original plans to go to Father Christmas World were scuppered when the event failed to get planning permission and then I didn't want to do anything that would take us away from Alice for too long as she's going to the vets' tomorrow for a certain operation and I didn't want her thinking we didn't love her any more.

Rachel's parents came over for lunch, which featured these wonderful Alice-style cup cakes (see picture below) that Rachel had had made for the occasion.

Presents-wise I got a nice collection of books (a couple of beautiful Star Wars ones and a hefty omnibus of the Infinity Gauntlet comic book series), both seasons of Hannibal on Blu-Ray, some Star Wars pyjama trousers and a Darth Vader onesie (complete with cape)!

Rachel and I will now be snuggling down with Alice to watch Brave on Blu-Ray, which I got when it first came out ages ago and just haven't gotten round to watching.

Alice-shaped cup cakes...
Alice was very keen to help Rachel with the party decorations...

Wednesday On A Sunday - Now That's A Birthday Present!

I've spoken before about my lifelong love of The Addams Family (I'd always thought that if I had a daughter I'd name her Wednesday Knight, but Rachel crushed that dream quite quickly and decisively), yet somehow I missed the launch last Halloween of a web show called Adult Wednesday Addams.

Starring Melissa Hunter in the title role, the six-episode show is a series of comic vignettes about Wednesday's life after she has grown up and moved out of the family home.

The show was such a success that now Melissa is seeking funds to make a second season.

Thanks to Tim Brannan for pointing this campaign out
, which has shredded my resolve not to invest in any more crowdfunding campaigns.

Although it's another IndieGoGo campaign, the funding target has already been hit and sailed past. Given that there's a $5 buy-in, it's worth checking out and if you want an indication of the show quality watch season one below.

Forty-Eight Years Old Today!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Week In TV...

Ripper Street has risen from the dead! Thanks to the intervention of Amazon, the BBC's premier Victorian crime thriller returns - after its ridiculous axing - courtesy of Amazon's Streaming Video service.

Two episodes are currently available, but I didn't want to race through the series too quickly, so have only watched the first so far. Every Friday a new episode will be released for the next six weeks, leading to the season finale on Boxing Day.

Events pick up four years after the end of season two with the main characters all having gone their separate ways, but they drawn back to Leman Street in Whitechapel by a fatal train crash, the result of an earlier train hijacking that set a London Necropolis train on the wrong tracks.

The show has lost none of its verisimilitude, with the same high calibre of writing and performances and is a very welcome return to the small screen.

However, as we say 'hello' to an old friend, next week we bid farewell - at least to the current seasons - of a couple of favourites.

The Leftovers, the totally batshit crazy, we-ain't-explaining-anything, post-Rapture(?) show about a community coming to terms with the sudden, unexplained global disappearance of thousands of people, is wrapping up its first season.

Rachel and I are fascinated by the mystery, but have little idea of what's going on. Luckily the show is replete with strong characters to hold our interest.

Meanwhile, Wentworth Prison, the gritty Australian reimagining of the camp classic Prisoner Cell Block H is reaching the end of its second season.

I have to take a moment here to mention this week's episode. There was a knife-fight between two prisoners with an aftermath as shocking and disturbing - in its way - as a certain sequence in the most recent run of Game Of Thrones.

But what made it that much more powerful was that it wasn't just another brutal fight scene, but it turned out to be an integral part in the main character's scheme - which she has been hatching for months - to exact revenge on the thug that killed her daughter.

We find out this week if she succeeds...

Alice Goes Comic Book Shopping...

This morning, before the heavens opened and after we'd taken Alice for her monthly weigh-in and anti-lungworm medication at the vets, we came into Tunbridge Wells to visit the TW Comic Cafe in Camden Road.

Alice and Rachel sat outside while I scoped out the wonderful artwork (which sadly I have no room for at present) and the multiple long boxes of back issues before selecting four old comics to add to my collection.

I came away with:
  • The Official Handbook Of The Ultimate Marvel Universe: Ultimate Spider-Man/Ultimate Fantastic Four (I love the Marvel "handbooks", but don't have any of the Ultimate Universe ones)
  • Marvel Team-Up #93 - Spider-Man & Werewolf
  • Strange Westerns #1
  • Blue Devil Annual #1, from 1985 (I haven't thought about the Blue Devil for years, although I read the title when it was originally published, but the sly Easter Egg in the latest episode of The Flash reminded me what a fun character it was).

A tenner well-spent for a good mix of titles, all nicely bagged and boarded.

The Week In Superhero TV...

The Flash Vs The Mist...

1) The Flash: Things You Can't Outrun - Another fine example of how to make a good comic book superhero show, mixing a light touch with solid storytelling, tweaking aspects to translate them from the page to the screen without urinating on the source material, The Flash continues its winning streak.

This episode, which pitted The Flash against The Mist (Anthony Carrigan), a villain able to morph into poisonous gas, featured some telling flashbacks to the day of the particle accelerator accident as well as the usual plethora of Easter Eggs for fans.

These ranged from Caitlin referring to her relationship with her fiancé Ronnie as "ice and fire", which foreshadows her eventual change into the villainous Killer Frost and Ronnie's rumoured return as Firestorm, to a passing reference to the idea of a "Flash museum" (a staple from the old comics that I'd love to see become a reality in later seasons of this show).

Visual Easter Eggs included the marquee of cinema that Barry and Iris walk out of promoting films about Blue Devil and Rita Farr, both classic DC comic book characters with cinematic backstories, and the STAR Labs particle accelerator being located in Section 52 (a very important number in the DC Universe).

It also made a change for the story to end with the villain incarcerated rather than killed - although, as we all know, death isn't the end in the worlds of superheroes anyway.

Meanwhile, Dr Wells' comments ("I feel like I've waited centuries for this day") and actions continue to support my not-particularly insightful theory that I spelled out last week about him being Professor Zoom.

2) Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D: Face My Enemy - When May gets kidnapped, Hydra sends out an impersonator to lure Coulson into a trap. Fitz tries to find the confidence to join the rest of the team in their social activities.

3) Constantine: The Devil's Vinyl - Now this is more like it. Perhaps it's my penchant for films and stories about cursed objects, but I really loved the central story of this episode which set Constantine on a hunt for a dangerous old recording of a blues musician who'd sold his soul to the devil.

Another familiar horror-story trope, but handled with a fair amount of panache. Initially, I'd expected a predictably linear story, but The Devil's Vinyl quickly threw in some curve balls and nice extrapolations of its core theme.

My main issue with Constantine now is the presence of Zed (Angélica Celaya), a dull, two-dimensional companion for the lead character, to give him someone to talk to and whose 'visions' can help create convenient plot short cuts.

4) Arrow: Corto Maltese -While the main plot (about a traitorous A.R.G.U.S. agent on the island of Corto Maltese) was rather contrived, relying heavily on co-incidence, the episode's sub-plots were what made this story enjoyable.

It was great to see Laurel striving to take up Sara's mantle, which resulted in her turning to Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez), aka comic book hero Wildcat, to start her training (to become the new Black Canary).

Meanwhile Felicity was adjusting to working for Ray Palmer, and these two are always good value. Nice Easter Egg there of Felicty reading a blog about sightings of The Flash (which, ultimately, led to her heading to Central City for next week's Flash story).

And finally we had Thea's brutal training regime with her father and her eventual return to Oliver and Roy. Suddenly a character I was never that bothered about before has become very interesting and I look forward to seeing where the show goes with Thea.

5) Gotham: Viper - Focussing on a dangerous new drug that's hitting the streets of Gotham, the titular Venom, this could have been such a great mythology-building episode (for instance, the sneeze-and-you'll-miss-it reference to Venom, the drug that creates Batman's nemesis, Bane), but despite the show's best efforts to be gritty-and-realistic, there's no escaping the verisimilitude-challenging campness of having a key character whose name is E. Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) that the police talk about with a straight face or the rapid rise of Bruce Wayne, Boy Detective. I inwardly groan every time the action cuts away to a scene with Young Master Bruce (David Mazouz) or he and Alfred are shoehorned into the main plot.

Then you have the canny crime boss, Carmine Falcone (John Doman), one of the show's strongest characters, not being in the slightest bit suspicious when a young girl - who just happens to look a bit like this late mother - just wanders up to him while he's feeding pigeons (where was his security detail, by the way?) humming what just happens to be his favourite aria, that his dear departed mother used to sing to him? Puh-leeze!


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