Thursday, 12 October 2017

100 BEST VIDEO GAMES (THAT NEVER EXISTED) - Book Review




Well this could have been a pile of rubbish, really. Author and possible twisted genius Nate Crowley offered to dream up an imaginary video game for every like he got on twitter and found himself doing over a thousand. From that came this book, which has been lovingly put together with glorious fake box art and screenshots to illustrate some of the funniest video game ideas around, many of which you can imagine being made by money grabbing gits with no idea about video games.

 

The bar is set straight away with "Look, Are You Coming In or Not", a 1980 game for the Coomodore PET (it sez here) in which you play a cosmonaut on a rather leaky space station trying to stop all the air leahing out. The problem is that there's also a cat on the station who constantly wants you to open the closed doors to let it out, then of course wants to come back in again. It's a brilliantly silly idea. and this level of inspired lunacy carries on through the book. How about "Beastenders" (Mega Drive 1992), where an alien carrier ship full of bioweapons crashes in Walford and it's down to Phil Mitchell to clean things up armed only with a claw hammer and a 'face like a cross thumb'. If either of these made you chuckle then this is the book for you. 


Each game is given a detailed, and funny, description on one page, with the opposite one presenting some cool box art or a screenshot. The amount of bonkers detail Crowley goes into with some games is quite staggering, and it's quite clear this is a man who delights in the details. Fake software houses are invented, new genre mash ups explored, and cliches stood on their heads, like the fact that the game "First Person Shooter" (PC, XBox One, PS4 - 2014) is about a time traveller who goes back to shoot the first ever person. If you think that's mad, then "Dance Dance Industrial Revolution" (Arcade, PS2 - 2010) will blow your mind.


"100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed)" really is a joy to read, best consumed in small doses, ideally on the bog. Obviously aimed at video game fans, the more you know about the industry the funnier you will find it, although Nobby Noobpants will still find plenty to chuckle about. It's not all gold, as a few barely raise a smile, but considering the sheer volume contained within, Crowley's hit rate is extremely impressive. The biggest problem is that I now REALLY want to play "Judge Dredd's Windy Day" (NES, C64 - 1986), but I can't. Boo!

AMAZON LINK

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

THE DRACULA FILE - Graphic Novel Review



Mwah ha ha haaaa.... and words to that effect. 'The Dracula File' came at us poor innocent souls back in the 1980's courtesy of Britain's first home grown horror comic 'Scream'. Not as nasty as those EC comics that caused all they hysteria in America (and ruined comics for a while), Scream was a brave attempt to try something new, so of course it didn't last nearly as long as it should have. In actual fact it only lasted a measly 15 issues, delivering macabre fun from a wet, windy March through to a no doubt just as wet and windy June of 1984.



We've already have the Alan Moore initiated 'Monster' in collected form, and once again Rebellion have used admirable judgement to bring another cracker kicking and SCREAM-ing (ahem) onto our bookshelves. The Dracula Files is not, as I thought, one off stories about vampires and other mythical munchers, rather it' a continuous saga featuring the bloodsucker of all bloodsuckers himself. Set during World War 2, we find Dracula being taken in by the British (dur) as a defector, and of course they bring him back to Blighty. Dracula isn't that grateful (who'da thunk it) and proceeds to create mayhem as he feeds. He does the old turning-into-a-bat trick as well as using puny humans as brainwashed servants, and as he gains a foothold a KGB vampire hunter gets ever closer until...



And that's it, gentle readers. You see, because Scream only pasted 15 issues the story was never finished. There's a few bonus strips from specials included, but we will never know just how long Gerry Finley-Day and Simon Furman intended to drag (drac?) out the story. My guess is 'as long as we can get away with', and I think it's safe to assume that Dracula would not get killed but would go into hiding and come back after a suitable rest of ten issues or so. Such is the way of comics.



The Dracula File is a blast, really, even if it was never finished. The glorious art by Eric Bradbury still impresses, and Finley-Day masterminds a rollicking yarn that manages not to repeat itself as Dracula is thrown into a world that, although unfamiliar, doesn't seem to faze him one bit. It's nothing ground breaking but instead a nice twist on a familiar tale delivered by talented people. Hats off to Rebellion (yet again) for buying up the rights to all these old classics and giving old and new fans the chance to discover or rediscover them. Fangs a lot guys (grone).

Released 18th October

Buy It HERE


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

MARNEY THE FOX - Graphic Novel Review


Blimey, this is an old 'un allright. Way back in 1974, Buster ran a dramatic nature serial for a couple of years, hidden amongst the silliness of the likes of Faceache and the title charater. 'Marney The Fox', however, was anything but filler, making a lasting impression on thousand of readers, many of whom will be delighted at this chance to revisit it.


 A collaboration between writer M Scott Goodall and artist John Stokes (who never met once whilst working on it), the strip takes the reader down to ground level as it follows the life of an orphaned fox cub named Marney. The first thing that anyone notices about it is always Stokes' art, which is pretty breathtaking for a weekly serial in those days. He admits that he took longer to do it than other projects even though the money was no better, and boy does it show. Marney's woodland world is brought to us in beautiful detail, helping bring the story literally to life.


Goodalls scripting is also of a high quality, but those expecting a fluffy nature romp will be sorely disappointed, as young Marney is shat on from a great height with alarming regularity. Orphaned in the very first episode, the poor little bleeder staggers from one near death experience to the next, only to escape and get another good kicking from life immediately after. It can genuinely be quite daunting to read, and as an animal lover I had to take breaks from Marney's almost unrepenting misery. Think more "Watership Down" than "Wind In The Willows".

 

That's not to say, however, that it's not a good read. Obviously Marney gets out of his many scrapes, as there wouldn't be a strip without him, and Goodall's inventiveness in not repeating himself is admirable indeed. Mankind naturally comes accross as mainly evil bastards, but it's good to see that Marney also encounters his fair share of kindly humans (and animals) to try and balance out the gits. There's not a lot of laughs here, and it's not as much of a page turner as "The Leopard From Lime Street" (also a Buster strip), but it's very hard not to reccommend "Marney The Fox" as it is a fine example of quality British comics that deserves to reach a wide audience.

Released on 5th October 2017

Buy It Here


2000AD Thrill Cast About The Book HERE



Thursday, 3 August 2017

PAT MILLS - 'Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave! - Book Reiew



Partrick Mills is a legend. I don't mean that he's a mythical beast talked about in hushed tones that no one is quite sure actually exists, more that he's, well, legendary. the simple truth is that his contributions to British comics, from girls & war comics to creating 2000AD, are immesurable. Not that Pat doesn't mind giving it a go, as in this autobiography he details as much as he can remember (and print without getting sued), focussing on the Galaxy's Greatest Comic in particular.
 


The book promises the 'Secret History' of 2000AD and Judge Dredd, but if you've read other, official, books there isn't a great deal here that will come as a surprise. the value here is in reading such a personal account of a man who has been a constant presence in the comic since it's inception. Anyone who knows Pat will know he can be an opinionated, tetchy sort, and to be honest that's the only way I'd have him. Throughout the book he rails against bad editorial decisions, bad company policies, bad artists, and bad everything else (although he does leave the strip Bad Company alone). This could just be the rantings of a bitter man, but it's patently obvious Pat's gripes are authentic and with very good reason. It's a miracle there was such a massive Britsih comic scene, and no surprise that it collapsed in on itself.


There are plenty of plugs for his 'Serial Thriller' book (see review elsewhere) thoughout, although in fairness it does deal with British comics in the 70s. There's also a lot of repetition and some awkward subject jumps, not to mention a few words that don't actually exist. I have to say that Mrs Lisa Mills could have been a bit stricter in her editing! Nothing gets too annoying (unless you are wound up by new paragraphs instead of paragraph breaks), and the whole thing kept me up late at night to see what would come next (hint: someone annoys Pat). As a bonus, readers are offered an unpublished account of a staff party if they subscribe to Mills website, a smart move if ever I saw one. The frustrating thing is the times when he tells you about something then says something like 'it's too long to go into here'. Pat - we love your stories, and are happy to read any length accounts, so please don't hold back on our account!! I think we can be safe in assuming a further volume will be forthcoming to fill in some of the gaps.



So the Godfather of 2000AD may not be the cheeriest soul in the world, but neither would you be if you'd battled 'through a minefield of imbeciles and chimps' for over forty years. Pat has delivered the expected frank account of his time in the British comics system, and it's a wonderful companion piece to the likes of ewditor Steve MacManus' book, or even the official '40 Years Of Thrill Power'.

Art by Andy Lambert

Buy the book HERE



Tuesday, 25 July 2017

NEW TRAILER TIME!


1 - READY, PLAYER ONE



Now this is the big one for me, as it sometimes seems the world is split into people who have read Ernest Cline's phenomenal pop culture novel and people who need to read it. Set in the not too distant future, Ready, Player One paints a pciture of a pretty shitty society where the only real escape is the Oasis, a free virtual reality immersive experience. Our young hero, Wade, even goes to school there. There's a full review of the book elsewhere on this blog if you are interested.

What we have to accept is that this is a teaser trailer, and as such it is designed to make us go "wow". Well, I certainly went "wow", and maybe "gosh" as well, although I drew the line at "golly". The ball that we see is a perfect recreation of a key book scene, as are the "stacks" where Wade lives in the real world.  The race sequence, although not in the book, seems like it may replace sections where old videogames are played, which would be very dull on the big screen. At the end we get a crystal key, one of the objects of the hunt. In my eyes, this looks awesome, and as Cline is co scripting I'm not worried about the plot going too far off track. this may be the film Spielberg was born to direct, and it can't come soon enough.


2 - THOR- RAGNAROK


Okay, this new trailer fills in a few plot points, and gives us more of The Hulk. Thor is still a bit too surfer dude for my liking, but Chris Hemsworth won't let us down. Loki is back, and fighting for good, but if he doesn't double cross Thor at some point I'll be disappointed. It seems Asgard has been invaded by the Goddess of Death, and Thor and his merry chums have to save it. Hulk was turned into a gladiator somehow, and many a Marvel fan has squeed when they first saw his armour, a direct copy from the awesome Planet Hulk series. It all looks very exciting with the tongue in cheek humour that made the last Thor movie such an improvement on the first. Perhaps the most interesting development is the fact that Hulk can now speak proper sentences, so it seems that Banner is more comfortable with his mean green alter ego, and the two are sharing more than a physical space.

It all looks wonderfully colourful and action filled, like a big budget Flash Gordon, a fact accentuated by the shiny logo Marvel have gone for. Adding the Hulk seems to be the genius move that could elevate this into the most fun Marvel movie since Guardians... verily, it looketh fab.

3-JUSTICE LEAGUE


Now this one's got many DC fans peeing in their pants, and that's because it's full of great stuff that actually hints that Wonder Woman may not have been a one off. It's no accident that the trailer leads with the recent blockbuster star, and she immediately takes control of the screen. We get introduced to new guys Aquaman (who is now a total badass), Cyborg (it's metal, dude) and the Flash. It's quite blatant that poor old Flash is the main comedy element of the film, though Alfred gets a cracking line in the trailer. Marvel have consistently balanced action and humour better in their movies, and I don't hold high hopes for this being the DC movie to change the status quo. That said, it certainly looks like it could be a bloody good movie, and here's hoping that DC's heroes finally get the film they deserve.


4 - THE ORVILLE (TV)


After super beings and VR worlds, it's nice to have something that looks like it's solid, unadulterated Sci Fi silliness. The Orville is Fox's rival to the new Star Trek (yawn), taking more of a Galaxy Quest approach to space exploration. Headlined by Sewth Mcfarlane, the trailers released have been smart, funny and on the nose, genre wise. Whether it can stretch to a full season and stillbe funny remains to be seen, but McFarlane's pedigree is undenliable so here's hoping.


SURVIVAL GEEKS - GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW (Gordon Rennie/Emma Beeby/Neil Googe)



I've got a bit of a Marmite relationship with long time 2000AD scribe Gordon Rennie. Whilst he impressed with the likes of Cursed Earth Koburn and Absalom, I was left cold my most of his other work, or initially interested and soon bored. In this instance, though, he pairs up with Emma Beeby, a relative newcomer to the comic, for a mad dash through fandom that will have you grinning from page one.

Starting off as a tentative three parter (part of the horrendously named "Thrill3r" series) the first story introduces us to Sam, a girl who unwisely shags a geek lad on a drunken night out (poor thing). Unfortunately, when she tries to leave his house in the morning she finds it is a dimension hopping dwelling and she's sort of stuck with Simon and his nerdy flatmates as they try to find a dimension full of zombies (because that would be AWESOME), or even one where Firefly wan't cancelled. It's not quite Quantum Leap, as these guys don't want to go home - they're having to much fun.



What follows is 100 pages of nerd heaven, as the geeky script is bolstered by some wonderful art by Neil Googe, who shoehorns in as much as he can so that rescanning many panels is a joy of discovery. His style is remeniscent of Jamie Hewlett and Phillip Bond, in that it's cartoony but vibrant and detailed with it, with a penchant for geeky in jokes that is only matched by that of the writers.



As we follow the geeks through a steampunk dimension (we are made painfully aware that steampunk sort of, well, sucks), they even pick up a new housemate - a baby Cthulhu called Howard (the name being yet another geeky reference). They even meet up alternate dimension versions of themselves, also dimension hopping in their house, the twist being that the sexes are reversed. The girly led universe even has - gasp! - a FEMALE DOCTOR WHO! Come on guys, sometimes you can push this shit too far, ya know.



In all seriousness, I had forgotten how absolutely chucklesome Survival Geeks was. Well rounded characters, excellent art and laughs aplenty, it nails the tricky task of making a successful sci fi humour strip. If you haven't read it this is the perfect time to allow your inner nerd out to play.

Available fro Sept 11th at the 2000AD Shop

Thursday, 20 July 2017

DREDD/ANDERSON "THE DEEP END" - GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW



There was a little film a few years back, simply titled 'Dredd'. An updating of a poorly received Stallone effort, it concerned a future cop who shot a lot of people, including that mad bird from Game Of Thrones. Well, something like that, anyway. Of course, I am taking the piss, as 'Dredd' was a very decent attempt to bring 2000AD legend Judge Dredd to the screen, and this volume of stories carries on the legend, set in the same era as the film, with the same two lead characters, albeit in separate stories.



First up we get 'Dust', a Dredd story by Arthur Wyatt with very nice art from the ever reliable Ben Willsher. It's nice to see the movie uniforms in comic form, and it has the benefit of not having to know anything more than what you learned in the film and so doesn't bog down newbies with 40 years (gulp) of continuity. Basically it seems some sort of sand monster is murdering specifically targeted scumbags, and Dredd and co have to stop it. Standard day in Mega City One then. It moves at a nice pace, keeping enough surprises back so as not to blow it's load too early. In the end, it;'s fifty pages well worth reading.



Anderson finishes off the collection with two stories. There's the 20 page 'The Deep End' plus ten pager 'Judgement Call'. Both are by Alec Worley, with art from Paul Davidson, and Davidson's art has a more gritty feel than Willsher's, bringing a grubbier realism to the Meg. To be fair, I adore both styles, and it's good to have two effective but different artists in the one volume. Storywise, 'The Deep End' is a pretty basic tale, with nods to the events in the film when Anderson was captured by the gang. It asks more questions than it answers, though, and ultimately is fun but feels unfinished. Hopefully the seeds of the story will bear fruit in another tale. 'Judgement Call' nails it, however. In ten pages it shows us the seedy hole Mega city has become, the desperation of the populace, and the thoughts and feelings of Anderson that haven't been hit this well since Alan Grant in his heyday with the character. After reading it I wanted to read more, to see what happened to the character next, to see where she would go. Yeah... I liked it.



There's a pretty solid 100 pages here for fans of the characters both old and new. When I went into it I expected the main story to be the highlight, but came out at the end linking the shortest story best. If you have friends who have enjoyed the film but not bothered with the comics this is a perfect present, or if not just buy it for yourself - it's the law!

Available Now At The 2000AD Shop