Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative
Home Of Superheroes, Swords, Sorcery, Star Stuff, Sci-fi, Scares, Silliness, Sauciness, Smeg, and the Supernatural

Monday, 31 August 2020

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARVEL COMICS!!!

Anniversary commemorative cover art by Ron Lim and colourist Israel Silva for Miles Morales: Spider-Man #18

Although the game-changing first issue of the Fantastic Four didn't arrive until 1961, Marvel chooses to mark the anniversary of the publication of the first issue of Marvel Comics on this day in 1939 as its birthday.

This title gave us Namor The Submariner, The Human Torch (the android iteration, not Johnny Storm), Ka-Zar etc and laid the groundwork for the Marvel superhero universe.

Where it all began...

Friday, 28 August 2020

Review Round-Up: Stargirl; Kingdom; Batman - Year One

Stargirl, Season One: In the beginning, when The CW started bringing real superhero shows to television, The Flash was my favourite show right out of the gate, but recent seasons have seen Supergirl take the top spot.

However, hitting the ground running, way better than any of the other CW shows did, the new girl on the block, Stargirl, has taken the crown and shows no sign of letting it go.

Proper superheroes, proper superpowers, proper costumes, and proper villains - this show proudly wears its geek cred on its sleeve.

However, unlike the other CW superhero shows, it benefited from a tight, 13-episode season, which meant no filler plotlines or episodes.

In a broad sweep, Stargirl is Buffy The Vampire Slayer crossed with Marvel's Runaways.

You have legacy characters and a town, riddled with secret lairs and tunnels, that's home to a coterie of supervillains and their families.

This isn't a comic book superhero show that's embarrassed to be a comic book superhero show.

In fact, it fully embraces comic book zaniness (but lovingly, not in a piss-take, post-modern ironic way) as well as its source material's history, diving deep into the world of Stargirl, the Justice Society of America, the Injustice Society of America, and the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

I can't wait to see where creator Geoff Johns (who created Stargirl on the comic book page as well, as an homage to his late sister) and his team take the show next.

The first season, which is now available in the UK on Amazon's Prime Video streaming service, is close to being a perfect.

But the seemingly hurried finale left the ultimate fate of too many of the villains undisclosed.

And whatever happened to Cameron (Hunter Sansone), the son of the main villain, who was clearly being set up as a potential love interest for Stargirl herself, Courtney (Brec Bassinger)?

He just disappeared from the story about two-thirds the way through the season and was never mentioned again.

And what about his creepy grandparents, who were clearly in on the bad guys plot?

Given the sweet denouement at the end of the season, to skip over the fate of these key supporting characters seems a disappointing oversight.

Unless, they're all coming back next season?

Kingdom, Season Two: Continuing the amazing story established in season one, the new season of the Medieval Korean zombie series, Kingdom, managed to achieve in its six episodes more than both The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.

The main characters managed to discover not only a wholly convincing scientific explanation for - and ways to combat - the plague, but all against the backdrop of some serious Westerosi-level court politics.

The totally evil and bonkers Queen Consort Cho (Hye-Jun Kim) could give Cersei Lannister a run for her money as the queen of badasses.

The cause of the zombie plague is brilliant in its simplicity and totally fits the established verisimilitude of the show.

However, the biggest twist was the season's wrap-up, that initially gives you the impression that everything is over.

Only for the story to reinvent itself and head off in a new direction.

Batman - Year One (2011): In preparation for the eagerly-awaited - but more than a year away - The Batman, I thought it was time to check out the animated adaptation of Frank Miller's classic Batman: Year One storyline.

To be honest, we don't need any more origin films (and the upcoming The Batman most definitely isn't that) because this hour-long animated movie has given us a definitive take on that story.

Telling the parallel stories of billionaire Bruce Wayne's (voiced by Ben McKenzie, Gotham's Jim Gordon) return to the city of his birth, years after the murder of his parents, and downtrodden police lieutenant Jim Gordon's (voiced by Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston) relocation to the city, with his pregnant wife.

Both men are horrified by the rampant crime and corruption in the city.

Gordon battles daily with his brutal and bent colleagues in the GCPD, a stain of corruption that runs all the way up to Police Commissioner Loeb (Jon Polito).

Bruce, as we all know, instead opts to don a cape and cowl and take to the streets and rooftops as the vigilante Batman.

It is inevitable that their stories will eventually collide.

The film, directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery doesn't slavishly copy Frank Miller's distinctive art style, but certainly embraces it.

While Batman: Year One concerns itself primarily with Gordon and Batman trying to root out police corruption, we get to meet one of the city's most famous gangsters, Carmine Falcone (Alex Rocco), and Selina Kyle (Buffy's Eliza Dushku) suits up as Catwoman, it isn't really concened about introducing Batman's tradional rogue's gallery.

As the final moments hint, that treat is to come in "year two".

Batman: Year One is currently available to stream on Sky Cinema in the UK.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Weird Wednesday...

JEFF DEE DRAWS THE ACROBATIC FLEA


I know I'm supposed to be on a "blogging break", but this was too exciting not to share.

Dreams do come true.

Over the years many amazing artist friends (and DC artist Des Taylor) have kindly turned my signature Villains & Vigilantes character into works of art.

However, I never could have imagined - when I was sketching out the character back in the early '80s for Steve's original campaign - that one day I'd be able to see him drawn by the definitive V&V artist (and the game's co-creator): Jeff Dee.

This came about as one of the rewards for backing the Villains & Vigilantes Third Edition Kickstarter a few years ago.

The reward includes a new edition character write-up for the Flea as well, which Jeff is working on, but I couldn't sit on this illustration for longer than a second without wanting to share it with the world.

My character.. drawn by Jeff Dee... world-renowned Dungeons & Dragons artist from the golden age of TSR modules, comic book artist, and co-creator of the game that Steve, Pete, Nick, and I played endlessly in our youth.

I still can't quite believe it.

The Third Edition (or, more correctly, Mighty Protectors) version of the Flea will be based on the recent iteration of the character that I created for my Knight City setting which, sadly, the Tuesday Knights rejected as an option for the next campaign that I run for them.

But that won't stop me from continuing to fiddle around with the setting as a pure thought experiment, expanding its multiverse with different iterations of The Acrobatic Flea.

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Torn From The Headlines: "Now, I Ain't Sayin' She A Gold Digger..."


Two recent news stories - one good, one not so good - about real life golden treasure hauls... like something from a Dungeons & Dragons player's dreams.

Both these stories come from the BBC's online news service.

On the positive side we have the story of young Isreali archaeological dig volunteers unearthing a clay jar rammed with 425 gold coins.

For all you encumbrance fanatics: the coins weighed 845g (30oz), which is roughly 2g (0.07oz) per gold piece.

On a darker note, we have the story of rogue gold hunters destroying a 2,000-year-old archaeological site in the Sudan, in pursuit of their ill-gotten loot.

Have dungeoneers in your campaigns ever been persecuted for the damage they do to a nation's monuments, mausoleums, tomb complexes etc in pursuit of gold and magic?

Comics Without Context...

Monday, 24 August 2020

Today's The Day Everything Goes Kablooie! So Long And Thanks For All The Fish...


Today's the day that Blogger said it would be binning it's old, faithful, user interface - taking it out into the back yard and putting a bullet in the back of its head - and replacing it with a funky, slower, non-intuitive "upgrade".

While it hasn't happened yet, I got fed of waiting for the inevitable and decided it was best to get ahead of things and shutter HeroPress for a while.

As I said the other week, I'm not sure yet what this means for HeroPress.

The bare minimum is that I'll probably be taking a short break, to keep trying to get my head around this unnecessary new development and see if I can tweak it to my liking.

Originally Blogger said it would change by the end of July, but then that slid back to August and they put a definitive date on "termination day" (although I've heard "September" from some quarters... so who knows?).

Like I've already said, posts (primarily picture posts) will continue to appear (and I'll try and remember to crosspost them to Facebook, and elsewhere, while I'm "away").

I shall be using this break to not only fiddle around with whatever state the user interface is now in, but also accelerating work on my exciting Frankengame RPG that I'm committed to run for the Tuesday Knights.

So, I wont't be resting on my laurels...

Armageddon outta here...

Musical Monday: I'm A Fraud (Klaus - The Umbrella Academy)


We teamed up with Schmoyoho, a channel from The Gregory Brothers (Michael, Andrew, Sarah and Evan) to Songify one of our favorite storylines from Umbrella Academy season two, featuring one of our favorite characters, Klaus. He already dresses like a rockstar, so we thought it only fitting he get his own smash dance hit.

Musical Monday: Macavity (Taylor Swift) - This Is From Cats, You Have Been Warned!


Taylor Swift crashes the Jellicle Ball as Bombalurina to sing Macavity in Tom Hooper's 2019 adaptation of Cats, the musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

As she drugs the Jellicles with catnip, only Macavity (Idris Elba) is left in the running to become Old Deuteronomy's (Judi Dench) Jellicle choice.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Did You Know Sinbad Was Japanese?


One of the great things I love about the Internet, and Blogging in particular, is when online acquaintances - who very often share similar tastes to my own - introduce me to something that I've never heard of before, but am pretty much guaranteed to love.

A recent discovery along these lines was from pulp author Davide Mana's Karavansara blog where, in an article headed Bandit, Samurai, Pirate he introduced me to The Lost World Of Sinbad, a cinematic Sinbad yarn I had previously been oblivious to.

But the peculiar - and awesome - thing about this Sinbad movie is that it appears to be a Japanese samurai-era story, starring the legendary Toshiro Mifune, that has been redubbed and 'rewritten' to make it a Sinbad story.

The original movie, The Great Bandit, was about the semi-mythical 16th Century Japanese merchant and pirate Sukezaemon Luzon.

So, it's easy to see how the film could become a Sinbad story by merely tweaking the names.

I also sense the hand of shlockmieister Roger Corman in this transformation, The Lost World Of Sinbad being distributed by American International Pictures, and just check out the promises that poster makes - that I'm pretty certain will be not fulfilled as shown!

I have now, of course, tracked down a cheap DVD of The Lost World Of Sinbad, so expect a critique of this quality production in due course.

Way back in 2011 I ran a Sinbad Week of reviews of various iterations of the character on film, some with the added bonus of gaming content drawn from their particular stories, and I'm thinking of doing the same when HeroPress returns from its holidays later in the year.

Will Anyone Go To See This In Cinemas?


Black Widow (2021) + The Batman (2022)

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