Sunday, 22 August 2010

Shelf Porn Expired

Well, as stated, I've removed the shelf porn posts as I don't want them lingering online forever. There's very little rhyme or reason to the items pick up and I've not been picking much up over the past few years. However, there are a few things I'm keeping an eye out on...

While Cyclops remains my favourite comic character, the Blue Beetle and Booster Gold partnership still rates as my favourite comic reading experiences so I'm chomping at the bit for the animated style Blue Beetle to match the Booster Gold I already have, as well as the JSA 3-pack: I'm not that bothered by Hawkman but an Alan Scott would be cool and I love the GA Flash too (nostalgic stuff having to do with seeing him in comic ads in the 70s before I could actually read myself).

Also, while I know I won't pick it up due to sheer expense, it'd still be cool to pick up the impending 12 (yes, 12!) pack Legion of Superheroes set. Featuring the classic Giffen era team, this features a decent Superboy at last and cool versions of Lightning Lad and Cosmic Boy. Can't wait to see the Wildfire!

I'm still getting some plastic for my shelves though, as will be discussed in my next post...

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Shelf Porn Is Coming!!

Due to something to be eventually covered in the final post of this short thread, I've been looking at shelf space and the items I have lying about on display...which isn't much. I'm usually both in awe and fear of those collectors who get featured in books or online revealing their humongous collections of whatever their thing may be. Some of the US collectors have museum quality displays set up, sometimes taking over whole rooms.

I don't have the space so most of the knickknacks I've accrued over the years, including some great Bowen Designs busts (started when I walked into the Sheffield Space Centre and just HAD to have the Cyclops mini bust!), are boxed away in my storage cupboard. I felt it was a shame not to be able to see all that stuff so I thought I'd dig it all out and take some photographic evidence.

The statues and the few Marvel figurines I have from the partwork series were too awkward to hook out, but I pulled out a few boxes and started snapping away, putting a few things aside to hand on to my niece and nephews. (Though for the most part, I couldn't be arsed to go rooting about for all the accessories, stands and so on).

So, above is the preview of this upcoming strand of maybe four or five posts...the only figures I have on display are the Mattel Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, who are joined next to my PC by the DC Direct Dr Fate from the New Frontier wave. I love all these figures (I've discovered that I have less than 10 figures that I really really like!), even though they're hardly unique. I have DC Direct's earlier Blue Beetle figure, a rarity (hence why it is still unopened) I picked up on Ebay when DC Direct released their Booster Gold figure in the 52 wave. Available in both modern and classic variations, I of course went for the classic original look. I'd picked up a few Dr Fate items but have stopped with the New Frontiers figure, which is perfect in almost every way (I'm a bit disappointed there are bare hands instead of gloves but the fig is so cool overall, I can forgive the decision).

So, coming soon then, a plethora of plastic characters!

The Little Things...

When I began this blog, I wanted to use it as the place to waffle on about anything that I felt like, only I realised most of what I thought about would make for dull reading so usually just post about what I've been reading, watching, etc. For instance, I could rant about the problems I'm having with my washing machine and the service people, but it'd hardly make sparkling prose, would it?


Had a bit of a poor birthday as I was quite ill but when we went bowling this week, I was presented with a balloon-festooned bag of gifts and a box of toffee apple cakes (thankfully there was no singing of Happy Birthday!). (Remnants pictured above, face of the baker chopped off to protect their identity :) ) I think this was my first ever real birthday surprise and it's amazing what just such a little thing can mean. I was having a bad, BAD week and this gesture completely turned my mood around...

...till the washing machine packed up and then, the m*&^%)+@~~??s....!!!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Random Reviews

Well, I'm obviously still not settled enough to create, dahlinks, so what's been catching my interest lately? (And I dunno why the start of this post comes up as a link!)

First up is the Norwegian Nazi zombie movie Dead Snow. The concept alone is great but this is the most fun I've had from a movie in a while. In an Evil Dead-style setup, some Norwegian medical students head up to the mountains for a break and run straight into an army of Nazi zombies. There's no excuse for how the Nazis became zombified, but they are swiftmoving and silent under the command of their imposing leader. Funny, gory, original and lean, this is a great film that I'd recommend to everyone.

Next up is Heavy Metal: oh dear. I'm tipping my toe into Eurocomics and have been intrigued by the Heavy Metal magazine for some time (as well as a lovely painted scifi strip run by Marvel UK in Strip, Havoc, Meltdown or a similar early 90s mature-readers anthology that I can find no reference to whatsoever online). I saw the DVD of the 1981 animated feature dirt cheap online so thought I'd give it a try. Oh dear. Oh deary deary dear. The animation is pretty ropey, the acting dodgy and the scripts pretty poor: here is proof that boobs and decapitations may be for an adult audience but it definitely isn't mature.

The first story foreshadows Blade Runner's city design (understandable as Ridley Scott was using the HM mag as a visual starting point anyway) and is echoed in Fifth Element, the second story is an adaptation of a dull Corben graphic novel, the Bernie Wrightson-derived Captain Sternn segment is actually quite fun before zipping in to a brief but effective EC-style story featuring World War II zombies (them again!) and the last is quite clearly based on Moebius' Arzach. Getting the rights to the original European strips was harder than expected so while emulating Moebius style, this sequence substitutes a silent warrior princess astride a flying plucked chicken thing for Moebius' character. Actually, this sequence is probably the most involving, probably due to the fact that the rotoscoped animation for the female warrior is so naturalistic that is stands head and shoulder above the rest of the animation. Held aloft by soundtrack contributions from classic rock acts like Black Sabbath, Nazareth and Blue Oyster Cult, probably only 10-year old boys could really enjoy this...

So, moving on, I managed to finally lock down a (surprisingly cheap) English adaptation of the first volume of the Dutch comic series Storm, featuring fully painted art by British artist Don Lawrence. Published in 1982 by a crossword/puzzlebook publisher of all people, I'm glad I didn't shell out much for this: the art is fine but the plot is fairly generic and uninspired, again highlighting the European preference for plot over characterisation.
More successful is the second volume of Garen Ewing's The Rainbow Orchid trilogy. It's been ages since I've seen any new stuff from Garen but it's as clearly meticulous as ever. His visual research results in authentic locales and details, all presented in lovely full colour. Written, drawn, coloured and lettered by Garen, this is a creative tour de force and I hope the Adventures of Julius Chancer continue after The Rainbow Orchid concludes.
It's been years since Garen and I first crossed paths in the small press scene but really the only stuff I still read seems to be by mates such as Rol and Ralph. However, the most prolific output remains with Tony McGee, who has the first collection of his fun Martian sci-fi Eva Nova strips out in between issues of the nearly complete Outcastes series. #8 starts bringing background details to the fore as the plot threads start to twine together to lead to a rocketing final few issues. This is probably Tone's most ssured writing and is well worth a look.
Finally, Booster Gold #32 is the start of a story finding BG back in the past alongside Ted Kord once again. Written by Giffen & DeMatteis, this feels more like the classic JLI than either the current Generation Lost or the last Formerly Known As JLI series (maybe it was me, but Ted in that darkened Beetle costume just felt odd and kind of spoiled the fun a bit). I would have picked up the previous Blue & Gold arc but, y'know...Jurgens art...but Batista's art is pretty decent and it's always cool to see comics' greatest buddy relationship together again, supported by third stooge Mr Miracle.
I've been slowly reading Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 on the train for months now...I have to admit that although on one level, it's an easy read, on another the florid prose and snail pace plot has been leeching me of any enthusiasm for completing the book, so when I saw the graphic novel in The Works, I snapped it up as I can read the whole story before deciding if it's worth continuing with the book. I don't think I'll bother. The graphic novel is stylishly done and is a solid adaptation but overall, the plot is poetic and deep but also slight and uninvolving.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Darryl Not Richie: Psychiatric Tales

When I started getting involved with small press comics in the early 90s, I always felt I was an outsider. Only a few of us seemed to be creating mainstream style comic stories while the majority of the small press seemed to focus on alternative, avante garde and more personal fare. As a member of the latter group, Darryl Cunningham was a frequent contributor and I was aware of him rather than his work. Recently, Previews solicited a book he had drawn called Psychiatric Tales, a graphic novel informed by Cunningham's own experiences as both a mental health professional and sufferer. I managed to pick up a copy from FP in Wolverhampton last weekend and read it on my train trip home.

Usually, I buy comics for the artwork and while Cunningham's cartoony art is not the sort of thing I'd pick up, it services the subject matter very well. Following a line through from the art of Scott McCloud, Cunningham's simply rendered art is open and inviting and easily accessible to non-comic readers, easing them into the book's subject matter, which is what I was really interested in.

Split into various chapters covering subjects such as suicide, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the book sounds heavy going but is actually very uplifting. By explaining a few simple facts illustrated with a few examples, Cunningham relieves the stigma from various mental afflictions without downplaying their serious effects. Having read this book now, I think I know one or two psychopaths: Cunningham makes it clear without ever belabouring the point that there are many psychopaths in our society and far from all devolving into murderers (though still remaining people you'd sooner not hang out with), some have attributes actively valued by certain professions.

Illuminating and humanising, Psychiatric Tales is well worth your attention...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Golden Age Nugget

Well, it's taken nine months since I first posted about it but finally the Justice Society episodes of Smallville have arrived...

I watch next to no TV but Smallville conflicts with two shows I do like, Shooting Stars and Mitchell & Webb (and The Deep airs at the same time on BBC1 and I wanted to give that a try). As a result, I planned to watch the comedies then catch Smallville on E4+1. Then I saw the trailer, and that was it, I was watching Smallville asap!

To be fair, Smallville's never been great: debuting in the wake of Buffy's success, it was kinda like Buffy with superheroes instead of monsters, but there were usually enough redeeming moments that made it worth following. The last few series have dragged a bit but last year's was a lot better than the show's been in years. What a shame it's returned to its fairly pedestrian ways: other than habit (and Lois), I can't really see why I watch it anymore. Maybe it's becuae it's winding down so I'd like to stay with it through to the end.

So anyway, last night's episode was a BELTER for a JSA fan. I knew there would be allusions to other JSAers but I literally swore at the TV within a few seconds: "Fucking Jack Knight!!" Only it wasn't, it was the Star Spangled Kid with Jack's cosmic rod (in the comics, the Kid inherited a cosmic rod and belt from Jack's father Ted). Obviously done on the cheap, the unseen fight between the Kid and the Icicle (surely played by Rhydion off the X-Factor?) was still effective and JSAers were gradually incorporated.

Sandman was handled better than the somewhat vapid Stargirl, but surprisingly Michael Shanks played Hawkman to perfection, playing the character's barely restrained aggression without resorting to caricature: his conflict with Green Arrow was a nice holdover from the JLA issues where the diametrically opposing heroes frequently butted heads. I didn't like how Kent Nelson was portrayed as unhinged but it made the character interesting and Dr Fate was AWESOME: loved the ankh energy effect and how the helmet melts itself over its wearer's head.

I wasn't expecting as many as were included: references to Dr Fate's wife Inza, Stargirl's stepfather Stripsey (former partner of the Kid) and the Star Rocket Racer were subtle than the display cases featuring items belonging to Hourman, Mr Terrific and Hawkwoman. However, nothing prepared me for the flashbacks featuring a whole bunch of other JSAers: they were uncostumed but it was still cool to see Green Lantern, Wildcat, The Atom and the Flash on screen: less sure about Ma Hunkel as it was funny to see her but I always hated her (as she wasn't a proper superhero so didn't belong on the team!).

Which got me thinking...outside of the Justice League animated series, I think Smallville has featured more comic book characters than any other show. I put my thinking head on and arrived at 28 characters from the Superman mythos alone (though I don't know if Lionel Luthor has been retconned into the DCU as Jimmy, Perry, Mercy were and Chloe is about to be) and another 30 characters from the wider DCU.

Not bad for a show everybody thought would tank within a few episodes!