Sunday, 10 June 2012

2000ad 35 Years of Thrill Power

Saturday morning is an exciting time in Robert’s Towers, yes it’s the first morning of the weekend, and yes I’m up early with kids BUT it’s also when I get my weekly subscribers fix of 2000ad ‘Thrill Power Overloaded’ to quote the green skinned, dome headed editor The Mighty Tharg.

Seeing as 2000ad is celebrating 35 years of printed awesomeness I thought I take a little time out to pay my own small tribute to Britain’s greatest weekly anthology comic and just because it may be one of the last of its kind doesn’t detract from how brilliant it is.

I vividly remember racing to the newsagents on that fateful Saturday afternoon in Llandaff North, pocket money burning a hole in my Rupert Bear trousers (yes I was a style icon even back then). There nestled amongst the other comics proudly proclaiming it’s other worldliness and giving us all a glimpse into our futures Prog 1 of 2000ad – and it had a free space spinner with it – what more could a young boy want? 

I can still remember the strange feelings it invoked, a feeling of reading something that I wasn’t quite used to, there was something very different about 2000ad, its futuristic premise was just right for the time and I was well and truly hooked after that first Prog.
Now how long that obsession lasted for I’m not quite sure, time plays tricks with my memories but I clearly remember it being a large part of my childhood, well that and Star Wars Weekly.
Then queue what I like to term my wilderness years BMXing, comprehensive school, girls, YTS, job, car and lager took over my inherent geekiness and smothered it. I’m sad to say that 2000ad lost its place in my life and my heart – stop sobbing at the back the best bit is yet to come.
Jump forward too many years later and I’m married with three kids and I’ve started to listen to a lone voice in my head. No I’m not going mad, it’s just my inner geek trying to persuade me to let it out of its cage. And I do.
Now about this time a fortuitous event takes place in a corner of Wales and with a little bit of help from America - a podcast that literally changes my life (well perhaps that’s over egging it slightly but hey), Everything Comes Back to 2000ad is launched. The podcast reignites my long dormant enthusiasm for 2000ad and I hunt down my first Prog, which turns out to be 1640, June 2009. All the old feelings come rushing back and I’m back in almost straight away and a subscription to a better life is just around the corner.

Three years later and nothing much has changed my love for 2000ad continues to grow, along the way I’ve read some brilliant stories and been able to admire some truly stunning artwork. I’ve gone back and picked up the Dredd Case Files (I’m up to number 10) and have had the pleasure of being introduced to one of the best characters in any comic - Dirty Frank of the Low Life. In tribute to Frank I’ve posted up this stunning cover to Prog 1752.

So as 2000ad celebrates its 35 years in print why not join in the fun. If you’re a lapsed reader - go on - just pop around the newsagents and pick up a copy of the latest Prog it’s never too late to refill your life with Thrill Power. If you’ve never read 2000ad why not wait till a jumping on point – this is when there a Prog full of new Thrills (stories) it’s a perfect starting point for newbie.
If I’ve whetted your appetite for more 2000ad thrills why not check out the following sites they’re all filled with true Thrill Power just watch you don’t overload……

The Official 2000ad web site
Does what it says on the tin

 Everything Comes Back to 2000ad
Reviews, news and social comment from the ever entertaining Rich McAuliffe

2000ad Covers Uncovered
Run by Pete Wells this site is simply brilliant the site gives a glimpse behind the magic and is home to the hotly contested Cover of the Year competition.

The Cellar of Dredd
Run by John Burdis The Cellar of Dredd is a tale of one man’s obsession with the law man of the future Judge Dredd.


Also did I mention Judge Dredd? well that’s going to have to wait for another day.
Splundig Vur Thrigg

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

52.143 A year in Books – Books 6–10

Better late than never here’s a run down of books 6-10 in my trying to read 52 books in a year extravaganza.

As always there may be some slight spoilers (I have tried to be careful), so if you’ve not read any of the books tread carefully curious reader.

6 Susan Hill – The Woman in Black 

I’m on a self imposed cinema embargo this year (with the exception of super hero films - naturally) so instead of seeing this at the cinema I read the book. This is a very creepy novel; I confess that I don’t scare easily when reading books, a lack of imagination? But I found this book to be very persuasive. The house dominates proceedings and the chills build steadily as Arthur camps out at Eel Marsh House. The ending is brilliantly downbeat and stayed with me for a good while after I finished reading.

7 Terry Brooks - Magic Kingdom for Sale Sold!

Terry Brooks is a funny one for me, The Sword of Shannara was one of the first ‘proper’ fantasy books I read so I tend to give him a fair bit of leeway. I tried and failed with this book about 20 years ago, so whilst going through my pile of unread books I decided to take another bash at it. The book won’t win any awards for doing things differently and the twist is pretty easy to work out but despite its flaws I found myself enjoying the book. I think there was just enough there to bring me back to the series at a later time. As a new sub genre of fantasy I would class this as MA (Middle Age) Fantasy.  

8 Phil Rickman – A Crown of Lights (Merrily Watkins Book 3)

I am sure that there are some of you who are not familiar with Phil Rickman’s excellent Merrily Watkins books. Merrily Watkins is the main protagonist in Rickman’s run of 11 novels and is to quote Wikipidea  “a down-to-earth female priest of the Church of England employed as an exorcist “.
Now I’m going to say it – don’t let that put you off, these books are very good indeed. Rickman creates a brilliant sense of place (the books play out on the Wales/England Boarder), Merrily is a vivid, likeable character and the God/Church stuff doesn’t ever take over proceedings.

If you’ve not read any of these why not give the first book a go, The Wine of Angels, especially if you’re a fan of A) cider and B) Nick Drake or C) Female Vicars – highly recommended.

9 Dan Simmons – Hyperion

Sci-fi is not a genre I am particularly well read in so as part of my challenge I thought I’d throw in some of the books regarded as sci-fi classics into the mix. This is a real highlight of the list so far for me, the book itself is made up of six short stories held together under the premise that the main characters are on a pilgrimage to Hyperion (planet) and the Shrike (the mysterious spiky alien). I enjoyed all of the pilgrim’s tales, in particular The Priest’s Tale and The Consul’s Tale but for me the standout story is The Scholar’s Tale which is a truly heartbreaking tale of parents love for their daughter – simply stunning, a story that I’m sure I will come back to and read again.

10 David Gemmell – Wolf in Shadow (Jon Shannow Book 1)

As a Gemmell fan (that’s me) you know exactly what you’re going to get when you pick up one of his books, great characters, loads of kick ass action and bucket loads of heroics and the Jon Shannow books deliver these is spades.
It is three hundred years since the world toppled on its axis, and civilisation was destroyed. In this savagely reshaped world ruled by brigands and war-makers, a rider seeks a lost city. Pursuing a dream to calm the violence in his soul, Jon Shannow, the brigand slayer, desires only peace. But from the Plague Lands emerges a fresh terror. The Lord of the Pit and his hellborn army seek to plunge mankind into a new satanic era. Seemingly invincible, they make a fatal mistake. They take Shannow's woman for blood sacrifice. And find themselves facing the deadliest warrior of the new age. Jon Shannow - The Jerusalem Man

Yes I know it’s lazy to cut in the cover blurb but it sums up the book perfectly and if you’re not swayed by that then frankly you’re dead inside.
If you’re not a fan of Gemmell or haven’t read any of his books finish reading this and go and get a copy of his debut novel Legend – I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.


Sunday, 27 May 2012

I am Writing

Lately I’ve been bitten by the writing bug thanks in no small part to the excellent Predication run by Lily Childs, which after its untimely demise has been picked up by Phil Ambler over on his blog. The Prediction is devastatingly simple in its idea but fiendish in its addictiveness. Quite simply each Friday you get given three random words chosen by the host and a maximum of one hundred words to tell a story, be it in the genre of horror, sci fi, fantasy or day to day tales of everyday life which need to be posted on the site by the following Thursday. You get lovely feed back from the other entrants and you can also leave your own comments on the other stories. Then on Friday the winner is announced. There’s no prize on offer for the winner just a hell of a lot of satisfaction from taking part.
I’ve been joining in with the Prediction for about three months and I have found it a brilliant way of firing up my enthusiasm and it’s also an excellent motivator for actually sitting down and writing. As the months have slipped by I have found that the actual process of writing has become incredibly important to me. I relish each Friday when the new words appear so I can unleash my imagination and see where the words take me.

For me there’s always an ‘in’ word which gives me with the hook into the story and tells me where to go. Then it’s just down to me and the laptop left to wrestle out the story. This is the fun part for me, the one hundred word limit means you have to be concise with your story telling but you also need to be able to get over what the story is trying to say, which is not always easy.
I wont post any of my entries here as I think that’s knd of a bit self-serving, I’m happy with what I’ve written and I get some truly kind words as feedback.

If you want to check out any of the stories that have been written for the Prediction you can check out Lily’s site here

Or alternatively why not join in with the Prediction at its new home here

 I can assure you of a warm welcome and some great fun along the way.   

Sunday, 13 May 2012

52.143 A Year in Books Part 1

Last July I turned the big 4-0 and was lucky enough to be bought a Kindle. As a result of this my book reading exploded to the detriment of everything else if I’m quite honest, this is probably the main reason for not having updated this blog. I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on download and was amazed (and continue to be amazed) just how easy and quick it is to read on a Kindle. So in light of my new found enthusiasm for reading and thinking of something to do to challenge myself in 2012 I came up with the idea of 52.143 A Year in Books, which is basically reading a book a week throughout the coming year.


Hopefully – yes, we are now in mid May and five months in to the challenge and I remain pretty much on track. Obviously I need to be mindful of what I’m reading one thick book (500 plus pages) means that the follow on book needs to be a little thinner to give me a fighting chance but so far I’ve been able to read what I want. I’m also reading my weekly dose of 2000ad and graphic novels along the way which also needs to be taken in consideration.

I’m not planning on doing in depth reviews of any of the books but I thought I’d share with you what I’ve read and some of my thoughts on each of the books (Yes I keep a spread sheet to keep track of what I read – it’s the accountant in me).
There may be slight spoilers ahead so reader beware.

Here are numbers 1-5

1 Philip Reeve – Infernal Devices (Book 3 Mortal Engines Quartet)

Another great instalment in the Mortal Engines Quartet that introduces Wren, Tom and Hester’s daughter. The book moves the story along nicely and I'm looking forward to the last part.

2 Philip Reeve – A Darkling Plain (Book 4 Mortal Engines Quartet)

Picks up a year after the last book and Hester has turned all Terminator, with Shrike striking the moral balance between the two of them, in all honesty this book takes a while to get going. Reeve takes up half the book trying to get his characters into position to gear up for the finale. Tom and Hester’s reunion is very bitter sweet and very sad at the end.

3 Suzzane Collins – The Hunger Games Book 1

A nice little amoral adventure tale, I'd imagine that if you are a sulky, the worlds against me teenager this book would be the best thing you've ever read, not sure if it lives up to the hype but then I am way outside the target market for this. Twin 2 read it (she’s 12) and still raves about it.

4 Jim Butcher – Blood Rites (Dresden Files Book 6)

Yet another excellent instalment of The Dresden Files, some big family secrets come to light and Harry’s face off with the big bad at the end it genuinely thrilling. 

5 Jim Butcher – Dead Beat (Dresden Files Book 7)

More Dresden awesomeness with a giant T-rex rampaging through downtown Chicago. On a serious note though Butchers world building is flipping brilliant.

Hopefully this will be the kick I need to update the blog more often, thanks for taking the time to read and part 2 should be posted within the next week.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Shut Up and Eat Your Awesome

Ok so we all know that fan boys can be notoriously difficult to please, just look at the mauling the Green Lantern film has received, but as an antidote to all the nay saying and criticism comes this brilliant fan trailer for Transformers Dark Side of the Moon Master Class which pretty much sums up everything that is right and wrong in the world of fandom. So shut up and eat your awesome (can I have that on a T-shirt please).

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Mezolith Trailer

I reviewed Mezolith a while ago and found this trailer through a Twitter post earlier this week and it’s brilliant, it perfectly captures the look and feel of the book. If you haven’t checked out Mezolith yet I can heartily recommend it, here’s the trailer

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Review – Daredevil The Man Without Fear! The Devil Inside and Out Volume 1

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano
Colour by Frank D’Armata
Published by Marvel

For the past few years, Matt Murdock’s life has been teetering on the edge of destruction. Now, pushed beyond the limit, Matt finds himself behind the eight ball with no clear way out, the people he calls friends slowly deserting him, and Hell’s Kitchen gradually slipping out of control. The question is just how far will Daredevil go to get back what is his?

My Daredevil knowledge to date is limited and consists of the following
I have watched the movie (both the theatrical release and the Directors cut)
I have read Frank Miller’s The Man without Fear.
I own a copy of Daredevil #184 purely for the cover – it’s bloody awesome and is present here in all its gloriousness

And that’s it.
So I approached Brubaker and Lark’s The Devil Inside and Out with slight amount of trepidation, to be honest it’s been in my reading pile for a while, filed under ‘impenetrable’ But what a fool I’ve been, forget any of my worries about continuity or not being able to follow the story – it honesty doesn’t matter, when a comic is written and executed this well, it should be able to and it does, stand up on it’s own merits.
For me I think of Daredevil as one of Marvels prestige titles only entrusted to the best of the best and so in 2006 the writing baton was handed over  to a certain Mr Ed Brubaker, Bendis’s run had finished with Matt Murdock incarcerated on Ryker’s Island held on suspicion of being The Man Without Fear, Daredevil.
So how the hell do you get out of that?
Easy (says me), you craft a story that will push Matt Murdock to the very edge of his sanity, you lock him away in the same jail as his most hated enemies then kill the one person in his life who has stuck with him through thick and thin, and then finally when he can’t get any lower you make him evaluate and question his very existence as Daredevil.
So in other words you take him and kick him in the balls repeatedly till he begs for mercy and then you kick him some more just for the hell of it.
Brubaker writes like a man possessed and his story is a lesson on how to write about the brutality and the depravity of the human soul. You know the situation is bad when the Punisher gets involved to add a little sanity and level headedness to proceedings – yes things really do get that bad.
There are a few lines at the beginning that perfectly sum up the book and have stuck with me after I finished reading
‘They think they know who I am….
But they don’t.
Daredevil has always been me held in check.
They’ve never met the real Matt Murdock’
This all said whilst talking to his dead father and using his cell wall as punch bag – grim doesn’t even begin to cover it.
The artwork by Michael Lark is also pretty spectacular, at first I wasn’t really sure if I was going to like it or not. But as you progress further into the book the art dovetails with the writing perfectly and it captures the feel and claustrophobic ness of Ryker’s Island perfectly and all but drips off the page, stunning.
Also while I’m gushing I thought I’d mention Lark and D’Armata’s Hell’s Kitchen which they somehow manage to turn into a living and breathing character. There is a sequence of panels in the fist issue of the collection when Foggy is out looking for the fake Daredevil (nice reveal at the end of the book by the way). His search takes him to the roof tops of Hell’s Kitchen, it’s dark, it’s grimy, it’s raining and it’s absolutely beautiful to look at. Time and time again my eyes were drawn to backgrounds to the details of the buildings, architecture and the lighting. Who knew that a water tower could look so good! 
Final thoughts
So if you hadn’t guessed I loved this book all I want to do now is skip over to Amazon and order the rest of Brubaker’s run and devour it all and I’ve still not read any of the Bendis Daredevil run, oh life is good.