Sunday, 28 September 2014

Batgirl Futures End #1

Gail Simone ends her run on Batgirl with this Futures End issue, and in typical Gail Simone style she puts our heroine through the wringer.
The issue starts 2 years in the future and Barbara Gordon is in the middle of her wedding celebrations, unfortunately her deranged brother decides to crash the party and puts a bit of a dampener on the day. We then skip forward a further 3 years bringing the issue in line with the other Futures End books, and Batgirl is now known as the Black Beast who works in the shadows leading a team of Batgirls. The Batgirl team is made up of Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and Tiffany Fox who is only 12 years old and looks to be more of a hindrance to the team than a help. In the missing 3 years since her wedding Barbara has infiltrated and removed the crime lords of Gotham, and spent time learning at the hand (quite literally) of Bane before returning back to Gotham. There is plenty of action in the book as we see the Batgirl team take down a group of gun runners, and witness the inevitable showdown between Bane and Black Beast also known as Bete Noire (French must be in vogue 5 years from now).
Writer Gail Simone has put together some very interesting concepts in this book, the Darker more focused Barbara Gordon who has clearly been effected by the events of her wedding and the League of Batgirls is simply brilliant. I also like the idea she has taken out most of Gotham's crime lords, something Batman's failed to do on a permanent basis during his time in Gotham I wasn’t total sold on Barbara’s new costume a Batgirl Bane crossover combo, but it does give the artist a chance to show off her pumped up physique think Arnie with a little less testosterone.
I loved the league of Batgirls and it was great to see Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain back in costumes again, something the so called new 52 is sadly lacking at present. What I’m not so sure about is the inclusion of Tiffany Fox as a Batgirl, even for a comic book it’s stretching it to have a 12 year old on the team. Yes I know Damien Wayne was only 10 but he was a trained assassin from birth, he also ended up getting killed so not a good argument for anyone wanting to go down that route
The art by Javier Garron’s art is excellent with strong character designs and action panels that flowed seamlessly, the lenticular cover for this is OK but like most of the covers for the Futures End tie-ins they are just a sales gimmick, I know because they hooked me.
There were also a few little Easter eggs splashed around throughout the story, its hinted that Commissioner Gordon is no longer around and Dick Grayson is also mentioned in the now tense rather than the past one. Given that in present continuity he is officially dead it’s interesting that he is mentioned that way, we may never get to know the back story of any of these tip bits but it made me as a reader want to know more.
Like all of the Futures End books I have read so far if you treat it as an Elseword or Multiverse story you will enjoy it, if you think that this is how the DC universe will be in 5 years time then you are heading for disappointment.
On a Final Note
The book is a fitting end to Gail’s run and you can tell she had fun putting together this 5 years later tale, personally I would prefer her to remain with the book as for me she has made Batgirl one of the must read monthly comics.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sheffield Si-Fi and Film Convention

It’s a slightly cold Saturday morning as my wife (Helen) and I set off to the S-Fi and Film convention in Sheffield, all previous conventions we have been to have been comic themed so this is a totally new experience for me and one I was looking forward too. One train and a short tram journey later and we were at the Motor Point Centre where the convention was been held, a short walk to the green section and we were in the queue and within ten minutes we were in. We noticed a few signing tables with people sat on them as we stood on the arena concourse but it was no one I recognised, as I had booked to have photos with both Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann we headed for the phots area of the convention. Along the way we stopped at a few stalls to get a handle on prices been charged for various bits of memorabilia, what we noticed was prices varied by quite a margin the 10th Doctors sonic screwdriver was £14 on one stall and £8 on a stall across the hall. The other thing we noticed was there was a large number of stalls selling autographed photos and pictures, some of which were guests at the event and were priced higher than the guests were charging something I couldn’t get my head around. 


After stopping for photos by the A-Team van and the Knight Rider car Kitt which was thankfully Hasselhoff free, we found our way to the photo area and were given the times Sylvester and Paul would be there which was 13:40 & 14:10. Happy with this information and having a few hours spare before photos commenced, we now wandered back through the main hall and up to the arena concourse, as we had been told Sylvester McCoy was signing up there.

 Well it just wasn’t Sylvester just about everyone who was advertised each had their own signing table and were scattered around the concourse, we made our way to Sylvester’s table and joined what seemed to have the biggest queue of any of the tables. It was then that I noticed Paul McGann signing at a table a few feet away, so been the ever so gallant husband I left Helen in the queue and joined the shorter one at Paul’s table. Before long it was my turn and I shook Pauls hand and asked him to sign the photo I had picked from the vast array he had, I briefly chatted with Paul about his work on the Doctor Who Big Finish audios saying how much I enjoyed them. He did say that he would be doing more of them and asked what my favourite audio to which I replied ‘’Dark Eyes both one and two’’, he then told me they were releasing a third box set of that story and that he was pleased I enjoyed them, I shock Paul’s hand and left his table with my signed photo and a big grin on my face. Meeting back up with Helen I took my place back in the queue for Sylvester McCoy and within a few minutes was having my photo signed him, as he signed the photo he spoke out load ‘’to Rob’’ rolling the R as he did when he played the Doctor the fan boy in me was way beyond happy. We spoke briefly about his time as the Doctor and about Big Finish and then I move on as the queue for him was getting big, I have to say both Paul and Sylvester were excellent and made me feel like I was the first person I had seen that day which cannot be easy.

It was then off to see Frazer Hines who signed a black & white photo of himself as Jamie stood alongside Patrick Troughton, he asked why I had picked that one and I told him it was because Patrick was my Doctor and I only remember seeing them together in black and white. We chatted about the recently found lost episodes with Frazer saying he had hopes that all the lost ones would be found eventually, next to Frazer was Sophie Aldred who played Ace to Sylvester McCoys Doctor and as there was no one with her at that time I took advantage and bagged another signed photo. I talked to Sophie about Big Finnish with Sophie saying that she loved doing them, and it is great that they can be set anywhere in any time at no real extra cost, with everything left to the listeners imagination. Having got all the autographs I wanted we sat down in the seats to have something to eat while we listened to the Doctor Who talk, then it was off to wander round the main hall to pick up a few pieces I had noticed on our previous walk round. After that it was time for my photo shoot with Sylvester McCoy, when we got to the photo area the queue was starting to grow and I said to Helen it will take ages to photo all these people. How wrong could I be the photo session was extremely well organised and before I knew it I was stood alongside Sylvester and smiling at the camera, the same again applied when we went to Paul McGann’s photo shoot and I take my hat off to the organisation of the shoots I was involved in as they both went seamlessly.

We then wandered round taking and having our photo taken with various cos players we came across, my favorite was the old gentleman dressed as the War Doctor with Helen’s been the Captain Picard look alike. Time was moving on so we went back to the concourse where I picked up a signed photo of Eve Myles who played Gwen Cooper in Torchwood, I asked Eve if Torchwood would be coming back and she answered ‘’you will have to ask the BBC’’, I mentioned that I had read that once the rights for Torchwood had reverted back to the BBC from Starz that it would be coming back. She just smiled and said ‘’ you will have to ask the BBC’’ but then added ‘’if they do make any more then I would be happy to be in it’’, Helen told Eve that she loved the chemistry in the show between herself and her onscreen boyfriend Rhys. Eve told her that Rhys played by Kai Owen was her best friend and she loved working with him, Helen said it showed then we both thanked Eve for her time and moved on. Again like all the people doing signings we meet and talked with, Eve made us feel like we were the first people she had talked to that day. Other guests we saw were Burn Gorman who played Owen Harper in Torchwood, Armin Shimerman who played Quark in Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Dirk Benedict Face from the A-Team and more importantly Starbuck in Battle Star Galactica, Dave Prowse Darth Vader and the Red Dwarf Team of Chris Barrie (Arnold Judas Rimmer) and Robert Llewellyn (Kryten). Helen also spoke with Anthony Head of Buffy fame telling him he was sexy when he used to appear in the coffee ads in the early 90’s, he shook his head then smiled and said thank you to her taking it as the complement it was meant to be.

My final thoughts on the convention are that it was extremely well organised both with the signing and photos, the talks could have been better as they were open to noise from the rest of the convention but that’s just a small niggle. All the guests we meet were fantastic and made our time with them feel special, as were all the cos players who were more than willing to pose for photos when asked.

My better half Helen said she enjoyed the convention more than the comic conventions she had been to, but this I think is down to the fact that she knew more of the guests at this one as she is not a comic fan. What I did notice was that there was a real family friendly feel to the whole day, with everyone just out to enjoy themselves and have a great day.

For me it was a great convention and I enjoyed myself a lot more than I thought I would, and I am already looking forward to next year’s convention.