Monday, 29 August 2011

Books that I will be miss in the DC re-boot

As we say goodbye to the old DC universe, and hold our breaths as we prepair to embrace the new one. I took time to reflect on the books I have enjoyed that will not be featuring in the new universe, at least in the first few months that we know of. 

So in no particular order,

Power Girl: Now there are two reasons I love this book, and they are not the ones that jumped into your mind as you read the first sentence. They are that this is a fun book to read as it doesn't take its self too seriously, the other is simply Power Girl is a fantastic character and when written and drawn well you inevitably get a good story.

Superman & Batman:  This book has been one of the first ones I read when my monthly order arrives, we have had story's from the past, future, alternate universes as well as tie in to present day story lines. This book showed that a Superman / Batman story is never boring if it is done well, and it was consistently done well in this book.

Secret Six: Now I have to be honest in that I have been reading this book in trade, as I find it the best way to read these story's. The book is full of the most unlikeable villains you could ever meet, not that you would ever want to meet them, but here's the strange thing you actual find yourself routing for these guys week in week out, or month in month out in my case. It is a testament to the brilliant writing of Gail Simone, that you actually want these people to survive.

Zatanna: Now there are two reasons why I love this book sorry done that one already. In truth Zatanna is a much under used character, and when she was given her own book you saw the true potential of this character shine through. I truly hope we see her been used correctly in the new universe.

JSA: I am a big fan of team books and this was the best one of the lot, not much more I can say on that one except they will be missed.

R.E.B.E.L.S:  Now I know this was cancelled a few months back but in reality it was to make was for the changes to come, this book was space opera at it best and was praised by everyone who read it. Unfortunately there were not enough people reading it, which is a pity as this was a fantastic book.

Red Robin: Tim Drake / Wayne has been one of the best additions to the Batman universe, and I have read his progression from Robin to Red Robin and not missed a single issue. I am hoping he will get his own book once the re-boot settles down.

Batman Beyond:  Enjoyed the animation series, the book took the story of Bruce Wayne and his new protegee Terry McGinnis a step further.

So that's it the books I shall miss, i am sure there are many more that other people will miss that I haven't touched on, but these are the ones that are relevant to me.

So its out with the old and in with the new, lets hope its a good journey.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1969

This is a follow on book to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1910, in that events that happened in that book are also playing out to a conclusion of sorts in this book. So if you haven’t read the 1910 book it would be advisable to read it first, however in saying that I have read the first book and still had trouble following what was going on in this one, but that could be just me?

The story is set in London at the end of the swinging sixties hence the title 1969, where the dead magician Oliver Haddo is attempting to find a host body that is both suitable and long lasting. So far not too complicated, however when you throw in Haddo’s followers who are attempting to create a Moonchild who could also be the antichrist, add London gangsters, a Rolling Stone type rock band, and the Leagues attempts to stop all of this happening as they travel around London, and you have the plot of the book I think.

To be fair I may be over simplifying the plot to say the least, and I would not want to upset Mr Moore in any way, by being glib on what is truly a fantastic body of work. Just by looking at the book you can see the love of the subject, that the great man obviously has.

However what intrigues me most with this book more so than the previous ones in the series is the cameo appearances that seem to spill out of every page, some you will know some you will miss on your first read through. I would encourage every one who reads this book just to go back and look at the panels to see who you can spot, I have done this several times and I am still finding people.
It is important to note that not all the characters in a panel are there to drive the story forward in any way, I think they have just been put there because the writer or artist wanted to.
Edward Woodwoods Callan is hired by a London gangster who owned a rock star to find out what happened to him (read the book to find out), you are never actually told it is Callen he is called Mr. C. However in a later scene when he meets Lonely for information I took it as him, I have read on other blogs that it could be Carter from The Get Carter movie, or an amalgamation of both characters, I will leave it up for you to decide. Steptoe & son appear in a busy street, The Ruttles are shown on posters, I also spotted Reg from On the buses, along with the carry on gang in a London night club, maybe a reference to Barbara Winsor’s links to London gangsters in her early years, even the Patrick Troughton Doctor pops up along with far too many more to mention.

For any long time followers of the books, there is a references to the 2nd book which featured the War of the Worlds. A Martian tripod is shown rusting away with children using it as a swing, in a later panel a statue of Mr. Hyde with the inscription Henry Edward Jekyll – Edward Hyde 1851 – 1898 Monstrous he died for Mankind is shown.

Well those days are long gone and this League is now reduced to just 3 people, Mina Harker of Dracula fame, Allan Quatermain a Victorian Indiana Jones and Orlando who appears to be multi-gender and has lived for several thousand years if his stories are to be believed. Mina has become almost unrecognisable from the first League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book, and has changed from a repressed Victorian woman, to a modern mini skirted free loving spirit, who is not out of place in this drug taking swinging London of 1969. At one point when trying to extract information from a young woman, she resorts to an interrogation technique (off panel) that would not have been out of place in Tipping the Velvet. So that’s what a bite from Dracula and immortality can do for you, who would have guessed.


         Victorian Mina                                                60's Mina
As usual artist Kevin O’Neill visuals are spot on for the book, and they do give you a feel that this is what the 1960’s could have looked like, I was only 9 at the end of the 60’s so it kind of past me by. Kevin O’Neill is to be congratulated as throughout all this series of books his art has matched the mood of each era perfectly, which includes the jump forward to 1977 at the end of the book. Now I am only presuming here but the jump forward may have been done to lead us into the next installment of the book, which is rumored to be League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 2009, and may well be the last in the series.

On reflection is this book as good as the previous ones personally I don't think so, I found it a little over complicated, and it tied into plot lines from the previous books a bit too much for me.
 I am a big fan of the first two books, but that maybe down to my love of the classic characters from literature, that populates those books.
But having said that I did enjoy the book, and I would recommend it to any one who asked me. The only side bar I would add would be to read the previous books first, so that you get the full flavour of what leads these characters to this point in their lives.

On the whole League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1969, is a good addition to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books.

For anyone who wants to have a total breakdown of the book panel by panel then go to Jeesse Nevins’ annotations, it’s fantastic; I take my hat off to you.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Real life superheroes in the UK?

From left to right: The Dark Spartan, Noir and Black Void

 As a fan of superhero comics I wondered what it must be like to be a real life superhero, the truth at least with the people on film was stranger than any fiction I had read. The programme centred around 3 people who were or believed they were superheroes, their story was told in segments throughout the programme. For the purposes of this blog I have split out each person and written their part of the story, or at least as I saw it.

We were first introduced to The Dark Spartan – real name Will a 27-year-old accountant living in Torbay, Spartan lived with his wife and two young children and was happily sat around in full costume eating his tea before going on patrol.
Will's costume was made up of police riot armour which he had bought off ebay, and he was happy to pose outside his home in full costume for all to see, no secret Bat cave or Fortress of Solitude for Will.
While been interview Will wore a mask that looked like it had been drawn on with marker pen, this was presumably to hide his identity. What I found worrying was despite wearing his drawn on mask, he was happy for his wife and children to appear on camera for the world to see. Well at least all those who watched the programme.

Spartan is filmed as he walks the streets or Torbay at night hoping to help any one in distress or in trouble, he seemed genuinely put out when the police intervened in a drunken street brawl before he managed to get there, and just stands in the crowd as the police do their job.
At the end of the night Spartan is reduced to trying to help drunks find there way home safely, but even they seemed to ignore him, “That one should be safely on his way home” says Spartan as the drunken man zig zags passed him, perhaps thinking to himself did I drink that much tonight.

In the end and under pressure from his wife to stay safe Will is reduced to looking for a sidekick, and where would you look to find a sidekick, yes you've guessed it Facebook. He eventually settles after an interview on the Black Void, a man wearing a basic lycra Spiderman type costume and carrying a cane. Black Void was happy to admit that his main weakness is his irritable bowel syndrome, which on reflection could be a problem if things turned nasty, this is also not a weakness you would ever hear Superman admit to.

Black Void & Dark Spartan

At the end of Dark Spartan's story, It’s revealed that he or his sidekick is yet to stop any actual crime.

Next up was Noir – a 17 year old comic book fan Kieran from my home county of Yorkshire. Kieran explained to us that he was called Noir because he dressed in black apart from a poorly made red mask, and the word for black in French was noir simple really. Kieran suffered from panic attacks which is not the ideal condition to have for a would be superhero, however he had an optimistic view on life and just wanted to help people, and you couldn't help but like the young man. In his first interview he excitedly told the interviewer “I saved a baby from a burning building, I stopped a car thief and I brought down a drugs ring,” when asked if this was true he admitted that it wasn't but this is the sort of headline he would like to have soon.
Kieran is later shown in the local park on the swings where he talks about a girl who has been mugged, and tells us how he would like to help her, now you cannot knock him for that. Unfortunately for Kieran he didn't knew where the girl lived, or had any idea on how to find her.
In the end he is reduced to knocking on doors and showing his newspaper clipping to locals asking if they know her, unfortunately for him after find out where she lives the girl is too traumatised from the mugging to meet him or appear on TV.
Undeterred Kieran writes her a letter and buys the girl a box of Maltesers, which he anomalously leaves on her door step. When asked how he feels about doing something good to help a stranger Kieran firstly says that he is ok “but its not the same feeling Spiderman has when beating Venom,” but then adds “You don’t need a mask or a costume to be a superhero, It’s what you do, not what you look like or what you wear that counts,” the phrase out of the mouths of babes comes to mind. At the end of Kieran's story it does seem a little sad to see him walking off alone, and I couldn't help thinking that if he had a few more friends he wouldn't be trying to be a superhero.

Lastly we meet The Shadow – real name Ken from Somerset who we first meet disguised as a bin bag in a back street, I must say he did look impressive as he jumped out and I will admit I rewound my recording to see it again (I am easily fooled). Ken AKA The Shadow models him self on the legendary Ninja warriors of old, and like Dark Spartan & Noir wants to help anyone in need. Unfortunately that's where the similarity ends with Ken, as he comes over as some one who is one step away from doing someone real harm if given the chance or is pushed too far. At one point while talking about dealing with a gang of boy racers, who have been terrorising a local car park for years despite complaints to the police from residents. He shows us his array of weapons that he keeps locked up in his back garden shed, as well as all the usual ninja weapons pointed stars, swords etc., there were a few guns hung on the wall. It was a armoury that the Punisher would have been envious of, and while I suspect most of them were only replicas, it was a worrying sight and I would encourage Kens local police to give him a visit just to check it out.

Ken planned his strategy for getting rid of the boy racers in his back yard using model cars and an action man toy, while watching this I could not shake the feeling, that any second his mum would come out and shout “your tea is ready.”
We were then shown scenes of The Shadow creeping around in the dark at the far side of the car park which was unfortunately for him empty, undeterred he decided the best course of action was to hide in the bushes. Which would be a good strategy if you did not have a film crew with you, The Shadow then treated us to more information than I actually wanted to know. As he explained how he could silently wait for hours undetected, and that he would even pee himself rather than move and give his position away. This is something I have never read of Batman doing, and I will add I don't want too.
The night ended with a voice from the film crew saying “Ken I'm going to bed,” to which Ken broke cove hopefully still dry and went along with them. However he did throw a smoke bomb to the ground, to hide his rather unsuccessful unnoticed getaway.

So that was it and to be honest although their intentions are good, the fact is superheroes don't work in the real world. In this week of riots across the country how many of us have wished there could be a superhero to deal with them all, I know I did, do I after watching this, not any more.

Superheroes of Suburbia, which was first shown on Friday 5th August at 7.35pm.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Friday Si-fi and Film News

A first look at the new "Man of Steel," showing Tudor’s star Henry Cavill as Superman. This is the first showing of Cavill in the costume which shows significant changes to the one worn by Brandon Roth when he played Superman in Superman Returns.
The film will also star Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor, Perry White. Martha and Jonathan Kent are played by Diane Lane & Kevin Costner; with Superman’s Kryptonian parents played by Julia Ormond & Russell Crowe.
Villains for the film are General Zod & his partner Faora played by Michael Shannon & Antje Traue, the film is scheduled for release on the 14th June 2013.
The change to a darker costume is already causing a lot of noise across the net not all of it good, personally I am happy to see how the suit looks during film sequences before passing any judgement on it (but it does look good)

The BBC has announced that the final 6 episodes of Doctor Who will begin on Saturday the 27th of August both here in the UK and in the USA, and not in September as many fans had believed it would. That’s a big sigh of relief for me as I had concerns it would start in early September when I was on holiday, meaning I would miss setting my V+ box to record it. Rumours that I petitioned the BBC on a daily basis to start the second part of the series in August are untrue.

Photos of Batman from the Dark Knight Rises have also been released this week, they show Batman fighting a rather puny looking Bane, I can only assume that Bane hasn't had his weetabix or he has not yet pumped up on the muscle enhancing steroid Venom.
 A first glimpse of the Catwoman costume was also released, the first photo shows Anne Hathaway's in full Catwoman mode and can be found on the films official website, the second photos shows Anne Hathaway's stunt double in costume.

And finally my wife and I spent a enjoyable few days in the wonderful city of York, and while doing so came across the filming of a new ITV supernatural drama. 
Eternal Law is in six part drama by the team behind Spooks and Life On Mars, the story focuses on two lawyers Zac & Tom who are Angels who have been sent to earth to try to understand the human condition. The series stars Samuel West as Zac & Ukweli Roach as Tom, Tobias Menzie of Rome fame plays the fallen Angel Richard Penbroke whilst Orla Brady plays the enigmatic Mrs  Sheringham, Fringe fans would recognise Orla as she played Elizabeth Bishop in that series.

The slightly out of focus shots (we couldn't get too close) were taken at York train station, and show Orla Brady, Tobias Menzie with a 3rd actor relaxing between shots. I have no idea who the the 3rd actor in the photos is, but apologise to him for not knowing on the off chance he ever reads this blog.


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

My DC 52 Comic order

After days / hours of deliberation I have finally completed my pre-order for the new 52 DC comics line, having done so I thought I would share my reasons on why I have gone with the comics I have.
JLA – Having Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on this book is a major draw for me; add into the mix that I have been reading JLA in all its forms as long as I can remember, picking this book was a no brainer.
Justice League International - As I said I have read all forms of JLA books which included JLI or JLE as they became known at one pint, add to that my resent enjoyment of the JLI Generation Lost book and this was always going to make the list.
Justice League Dark – The one main draw for me on this book is John Constantine and Zatanna, so that’s two main draws for on this book me.
Batman, Nightwing, Batman & Robin, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight – I am a Batman nut so I will always buy Batman books, add writers with the quality of Scott Snyder, Peter Tomasi and Tony Daniel and I am Bat happy. I can even live with the fact that Dick Grayson is going back to been Nightwing, come on guys you didn’t think it would be forever did you?
Catwoman – I wasn’t sure on this one but with Judd Winick on board I thought I would give it a try.
Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lanterns: New Guardians, Red Lanterns – put the name Lantern on a book and you have me hooked it’s as simple as that for me, however, I my draw the line if they bring out a Cosmopolitan Lantern magazine.
All-Star Western – No one does Hex better than Jimmy Palmiotti, and when you put Hex in Gotham it’s got to be a winner.
DC Universe Presents – Now I have been shouting out for more anthology comics in every forum and website that will listen, so if I don’t buy this one the comic goods will hunt me down.
Aquaman – Its Geoff Johns so need I say more.
Swamp Thing – This is not a book I would normally buy but with Scott Snyder at the helm, it’s another one to try.
Legion of Superheroes – Heard good things about this book, so I thought the re-launch was a good jumping on point to try it out.
I, Vampire - I’m a big fan of vampire books, comics and films apart from Twilight, so this one has me interested.
Action Comics – I am not a Superman fan I normally find him a very boring character, he has super strength, he can fly and he is virtually invulnerable. So I don’t usually find myself been gripped on what will happen to him as he will always survive (I know they all usually survive) however when I read the blurb about this book it had me hooked. If I'm totally honest they had me at Grant.
On the bench or possible digital download -Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Batgirl, Savage Hawkman.
So that’s it my list is in and to be honest its more comics than I, my bank manager or more importantly my wife originally thought it would be, I’m not sure how many titles will survive past 3 issues only time and the quality of the story’s will tell. The one thing I do know is that it’s an exciting time to be a comics fan.