Tuesday, 20 June 2017

AN EVENING OF MEDIUMSHIP - Review



I've long been a skeptic when it comes to those who purport to talk to the dead. I have read extensively on the subject and like many have also watched numerous videos on YouTube. My guiding light in my non belief is the legendary James Randi, whose one million dollar prize for anyone showing true paranormal abilities remains unclaimed. The thing is, I'd never actually been to a night of mediumship so when the opportunity arose to attend one a hundred metres from my house I couldn't say no.

It was held at a local LGBT bar called Cameo, a thoroughly nice place. All 120 tickets had been snapped up for a tenner each – as a result it was hot and rammed. Due to perform were three mediums, and thankfully all the money was to line the pockets of the Bristol Royal Infirmary rather than the performers. The crowd was at least 95% female, and of that at least 95% over 30. It seems the young aren't so interested in this sort of thing. The headlining act, who didn't give her name, instructed us not to 'feed the mediums', and to only give 'yes' and ;no' answers. She also informed us that we shouldn't be too serious, as 'no one in the other world is serious or unhappy'.

First up was Gary, a tall man in his 30s. His first attempt didn't go too well, as his suggestion that he was channelling a woman's grand parents was rebuffed, until she helped him by saying 'I wonder if it's my Mum'. This gave him a good hit on an initial comment about a red scarf, which he pounced on. Thing is he was determined to paint the spirit as eccentric still, which was a total miss, as was his suggestion that the lady worked with her mum. He tried to deflect in onto anyone sitting near her but they weren't biting either. He reinforced the red scarf to get back on track, and scored a hit with the medium's favourite – lower back pain! Still convinced the woman's mother was some sort of hilarity machine he again missed with the suggestion she was really funny, and threw bad after shite with a suggestion she was a 'practical joker''. This guy just didn't know when to let a bad guess go. He tried to rescue it by hitting on the fact the woman had lost her sense of humour, and finished by saying that dear old Mum just wanted her to 'cheer up'. A staggeringly bad performance by a staggeringly bad medium, it seemed. 



His second go was just as bad, suggesting that the dead person loved clothes and fashion, and rescuing it by saying she liked shoes (a woman who likes shoes! Whatever next!) - as did the mark. Confident, he used a trick that I was to see a few more times – the old 'you need to make a decision' gambit. Despite getting a hit he ruined it by suggesting it was about college (nope) or something 'up north' (nope). Oh well, never mind – it will all be sorted by September. I noticed this was another of his tricks used a few times – pick a future month and say things will be better then. This was asimilar to when a date was fixated on, the mark was told to go home and check with family if they didn't recognize it as significant. It's a case of out of sight out of mind, as the rest of the audience will not remember it as a miss.

More misses followed, and the lady admitted she didn't know of a joke involving glasses, didn't know any significance of the dates 21st June and 21st July, had no memories involving giraffes (!) or helping decorate a christmas tree (surely usually an easy hit). The third reading was, if anything, worse. Gary had to change targets when he was getting nothing but No, with the new target missing on everything of any significance. He rescued his evening with a young man who seemed very keen to agree to most things about his granddad (nothing out of the ordinary though), and finished up with a catastrophic final act where he batted almost zero and I had to stop myself pissing my pants with laughter.

Straight after Gary was Sharon, who did not introduce herself. She had more of the look associated with her profession, and was immediately more confident than he had been. She did okay with her first mark, missing with guesses about kids (she had none), back pain (ditto) a dog (no small dog) and the month of April. Her hits were nothing unusual, and another pattern emerged – that of woman coming through that were strong and too no nonsense. Thing is, the ages of the women would have made them war survivors – a generation that were almost all that way. She pounced on the young barman next, with a bizarre conversation about driving. It started with total misses about a car accident, and when she hit that he had an older brother insisted that the person in question must be a friend of his brothers. A common theme for the night was scoring zero on names, and she struck out with both Tom and Peter, the proceeded to completely miss on him having passed his driving test or even be taking lessons. She tried to rescue it with accusations that he drives illegally, and even though he obviously (from his replies) hadn't done so for a while, she overpowered him by basically calling him a liar. She was extremely bossy, this one. If a mark disagreed with her she would often insist they were wrong, making it seem she was accurate and not missing all the time. 



Sharon made a prime error with her next mark, a lively man who was obviously gay. When she found out he was single she said “'Single man over there ladies!', and to make things worse he admitted he was the owner of the bar and another one in Bristol, something the voices didn't think important to mention. Once she knew that she tried an easy hit with the names Michael and Charles, and lets be honest you own two bars you know a lot of people. Hilariously, even then he didn't have anyone close by those names. When she threw the name Liz at him as someone in the spirit world he said he didn't know anyone of that name and she said “Yes you do!”. Oh, that must be a hit, then...

Sharon continued to have more misses than a serial adulterer, then when she was told to do one more she suddenly turned into the world's best medium! An old lady was told about her dead son , with hit after hit rolling in. About half way through the woman let it slip that she had contacted him before through mediums and everything got a little clearer. The likely explanation is that Sharon knew her, or of her, and therefore did not have to fish – either that or she was suddenly able to talk to the dead, despite not having been able to do so up til then. You decide.

There was another medium on after, one who has worked all over the world, but by then I was fed up of the horribly obvious fishing and fakery. I was not the only one. I'm glad I got to see this first hand, and all it has done is reinforce my certainty that it's all a load of bollocks. The only successful reading was a woman with a history of visiting mediums (and obviously a lot of grief over outliving her son) , and it is a well known fact that mediums and the like swap information on regular customers.

Further reading: Psychic Blues: Confessions Of A Conflicted Medium by Mark Edward

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

LAWLESS by ABNETT/WINSLADE - GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW



I keep hearing about Lawless, you know. Every time someone mentions it, it's accompanied by a reccommendation to read it, because it's so freakin' great. Naturally, I resisted, because no drokker tells me what to read lessen I tells em to, or something like that. Well, Rebellion have released the first book in the Lawless saga so that You, too, can bang on about how good it is to people, because it's a corker.



Lawless is, in Abnett's words, " a kind of sequel to Insurrection", featuring as it does a frontier planet poplulated by humans, uplifts (smart monkeys) and free robots (who have their own church). the setting is the mining town of Badrock, where the law is enforced by the town Judge Marshal. thing is, the last Marshall (a psi judge no less) went totally hatstand after three months and now lives in the cells. Enter Judge Marshal Metta Lawson, who is kind of a badass. She's helped by her deputy, the paperwork loving Nerys Pettifer, and naturally picks up a couple more strays as the story moves along.



At heart, lawless is a traditional Western tale - a new sherriff comes to town and tries to clean it up. It's very much a part of the Dreddverse, with the Judge removed from her normal setting and given a totally new playground with new rules. There's a constant mystery surrounding Lawson, who may not be who she says she is, but even if she isn't she certainly does a good, honest job. The supporting characters are pretty well rounded in the main, and the speech patterns throughout mirror the overy wordy old west much more than Mega City 1.


Special mention must go to Phil Winslade for his black and white artwork. The detail in character and settings is phenomenal, giving real heft to the frontier world and mixing old west and future tech marvellously. At times it almost seems like he's handed in unfinished pages, but it only serves to give greater effect, and this is a book you can pour over, taking in every detail rather than skimming. If Winslade is given a crowd scene (artists kryptonite) he steps up to the plate every time, creating a town full of characters who are un named but still very real.

Lawless is, as you may have guessed, highly reccommended. A gripping, action filled yet still amusing tale that is beutifully illustrated throughout. Metta Lawson is a lady not to be messed with, yet has a charm and empathy Anderson never quite managed. Dan Abnett and Phil Winslade have created a title that will go down in 2000AD and Judge Dredd history as one of those rare times when everything just went right.

Order From AD Online

Thursday, 1 June 2017

THE LEOPARD FROM LIME ST VOLUME 1 - BOOK REVIEW



Okay... before we kick this one off I have to have a little fun with the similarities between this and a certain ol' web slinger. See if any of this rings a bell: A weedy schoolboy gets attacked by a radioactive animal and subsequently gains the attributes of said animal, including a sixth sense that warns him of danger. The boy, who lives with his aunt, dresses up in a costume resembling the animal and fights crime, making extra money by taking photographs for a local paper, for an editor who thinks his alter ego is a menace! Yes, it's the Leopard From Lime Street of course, and any similarities between superheroes from accross the pond were entirely, um, got away with.




Starring young Billy Farmer as the boy scratched by a radioactive leopard (really), The Leopard From Lime Street ran for nine years in UK kids comic Buster, a drama strip breaking up the humour. When I heard Rebellion (gawd bless 'em) were reprinting what must be about a years worth of the strip, I was concerned that it mighgt be, to be frank, a load of old shit. I mean, once you read the above it really doesn't suggest that this will be a well written, beautifully illustrated tale that will keep readers gripped throughout. Great news, readers - it blummen well is!



First up, you have to understand that this was a strip written by Tom Tully, an absolute master of the two and three page drama strip. Tully wrote so many at the same time that he once boasted of earning more money than the Prime Minister, and he had a knack of having readers gagging for the next issue so they could see what happens next. If that's not enough, the artwork is a collaborative effort from Mike Western and Eric Bradbury, two men rightly famed for their solo work. Together, they create sterling work throughout, giving the strip a real vigour and energy as well as humour when needed. It's a great example of great art complimenting great scripts throughout.



Storywise the strip is reasonably light - after all, the comic itself was aimed at younger kids. The bullying Billy experiences can be quite nasty, and the villains he combats are a vicious lot in the main, but a sense of humour is kept throughout, and you're never really worried that Billy might lose a leg or something. In this volume one story has him trying to get a picture of a famous starlet, another rescuing a kidnapped scoolmate. Throughout he tries his best to avoid his workshy, violent uncle, whilst saving to get his lovely aunt a colour TV (luxury!). To do this he has to put up with his editor's insistence that the 'leopard man' is a menace and his habit of paying as little as he can for Billy's exclusive photos.



Compared to Rebellion's other recent volume "One Eyed Jack", The Leopard From Lime Street is definitely a kids story, but for some reason I simply couldn't put it down, and would happily have read another 150 pages straight after. If you have fond memories of this strip, then you really have to buy this, as I guarantee (note: not a legally binding guarantee) you will fall back in love with it. If you're a newcomer to the leopard's antics it's well worth a look, a fine example of 1970's British storytelling at it's finest. Now when's volume 2 out...

Out 12th July, available to pre order in softcover or hardcover from the 2000AD shop

Pre order it HERE




Thursday, 25 May 2017

ONE EYED JACK, THE COMPETE REPRINTS - COMIC REVIEW



In the UK comics scene of the 70's it was a bit of a thing to watch what Hollywood was doing and rip it off. Not so blatently that you got sued, of course, but taking a successful film and adapting it's themes worked rather well, notably with Jaws and the shark strip Hookjaw in Action. One Eyed Jack was basically John Wagner's take on Dirty Harry, with the strip set in 70s New York - unusual for a UK strip in those days.


One Eyes Jack is detective Jack McBane, who earns the 'One Eyed' bit in the first episode. Of copurse, he's such a badass that he's back on the street as soon as possible dealing the kind of justice only a man with no depth perception can deal! This isn't subtle stuff, with the violence matter of factly plastered over the page and the good guys winning in the end. Jack likes to speak in soundbites, and astute readers will certainly see parallels between him and a certain Judge that Wagner would go on to co create a few years down the line. I couldn't help but grin when the villain in an early story says "Izzat so?", later to be a staple phrase of Dredd villain Mean Machine.



The artwork is very much of the time, and luckily it's by one of the most enduring British comic aritsts, John Cooper. Black and white throughout, the action leaps out of the page, with all the villains having nasty, sneery faces and the good guys radiating bravery. Great stuff, really, and although he wasn't the best of the time, Cooper was always a solid storyteller who could take a script and get the best out of it.

As far as the stories go there's nothing too surprising here. McBane goes through criminals like a knife through butter, and of course at one point he gets framed for a crime he didn't commit. We get soundbites at the top of the page like "Sensation! One Eyed Jack goes to jail!" and plenty of hackneyed dialogue, but it all manages to hold together and you end up with 150 or so entertaining pages of pure seventies action.



One Eyed Jack is a slice of comic history, and certainly of it's time, but I can see youngsters of today enjoying it, due to the immediate nature of the storytelling and the uncomporomisibg action throughout.  2000AD publisher Rebellion have bought an absolute shedload of similar gems (Leopard Of Lime Street anyone?), and with their track record there's a lot more quality reprints to look forward to. Definitely worth a look, the only downside is no cover mounted gift.

Pre Order Here


Monday, 15 May 2017

ROK OF THE REDS - Comics Review




It would be wrong to say that I used to love Roy Of The Rovers. Not because it's untrue, but because I never stopped loving it. I've still got the annuals and a few compendiums, and there's a real pleasure in following Roy's exploits, especially when it was decided he wasn't going to win every time like in the old days. It's soap opera comics, for sure, but if I'm honest most comics these days fall into that bracket anyway.


2000AD legend John Wagner also likes football comics, and being John Wagner decided to write one. Not for him, though, a simple tale of soccer success – he's lobbed an alien into the mix, the titular Rok. Rok comes from Arkady, on the run for reasons that become clear, and takes over the body of football waster Kyle Dixon, a great player whose personality and bad habits have seen him plummet through the divisions, landing in the Radford Reds. 


It's no surprise to discover that Rok learns to love both football and our planet, finding an affection for humans not a million miles away from the old Eagle character Doomlord. With his help the Radford Reds go on a cup run, whilst his past sins catch up with him. Will the Reds win the cup? Will Rok survive the wrath of Arkady? Continued next month etc etc



I have to say I've bloody loved reading this comic. It's six issues of fun, football and final whistles, expertly plotted by Wagner and sitting just on the right side of silly. Artist Dan Cornwell really comes into his own with clear, clever visualization, and colourist Abby Bulmer brings his pictures to life. It's been a while since I waited anxiously for the postman to bring me a new issue of a comic, but Rok Of The Reds reduced me to that teenager desperate to find out What Happens Next. 



So this comes with a full recommendation from me, and you can now get all six issues from the creators themselves through the link below, and because it's all done in house, as it were, you get signed issues to boot! There should be a collected edition later in the year, but for now treat yourself to a set of the originals, because you won't be disappointed. UP THE REDS!




Wednesday, 22 March 2017

"Serial Killer" by Pat Mills & Kevin O'Neil



For anyone who recognizes the names at the top of the page, it wouldn't be unusual to expect this to be a review of a graphic novel of some kind, known as they are in the comics community as a first class writer and artist respectively. I picked this up at 2000AD's 40th birthday celebration, and it's quite obviously a bit of a labour of love for the veteran creators.

The story is set in the seedy world of 1970s comic publishing. Not the merry Marvel bullpen or anything like that, but instead the British humour machines that would crank out the likes of Buster, Whizzer & Chips and The Beano. Mills himself was a big cog in the UK comics machines, from kids comics to girls comics to war comics and beyond, so is well placed to satirize the industry.

Our hero, if he can be called that, is Dave. He works on a kids comic and hates every minute, loathing the stupid little imbeciles who get pleasure out of what he sees as a rubbish, unfunny comic. The most popular strip is the 'Caning Commando', a bizarre wartime tale that sees a headmaster behind enemy lines beating the Hun on the bum, basically. It's quite mental, and great fun to read Mill's episode descriptions. the strip is scripted by a bumbling old fool known as 'The Major', and Dave doctors those scripts so that they contain plenty of ways for kids to kill themselves, such as swimming at night in a disused quarry, making a pipe bomb or trying to breathe through a plughole to stop from drowning in a bath.

So we have Dave trying to kill kids from a distance, which is all well and good (and funny), plus his smarmy colleague Greg, a handsome Yin to Dave's hopeless Yang, and their shared love interest Joy, a rather strict girls comic editor. Add to this Dave's sexual interest in fur and the fact his dead mum wants her to solve her murder and you have a very bizarre story indeed.

What you should know about 'Serial Killer' is that it's funny. Many I time I found myself sniggering at the ridiculous characters, occasionally at the real life anecdotes such as the writer who claimed to make 'More money than the Prime Minister', such was his prolific output (names are obviously changed to protect the talentless). Dave works for a Fleetway type company, all the time envying the superior output of Angus, Angus & Angus, themselves a parody of DC Thompson, the legendarily miserly company behind The Beano and The Dandy. Aficionados of British comics will find much to love here, but the knowledge of such things is not essential to enjoyment of the tale told.

'Serial Killer' is the first in a series (with a cliffhanger finale), and after finishing it I hope Mills and O'Neil get a wriggle on with the next one, as it's tremendous fun to read. The whole thing comes across as similar in feel to Robert Rankin's 'Brentford Trilogy', set in an all to real 70s London, populated by characters who are all quite mad in their own way. If you have an interest in comics, laughing or having sex with a fur coat, this is the book for you, you dirty, dirty sod.

Millsverse Homepage (buy the book here)





Tuesday, 7 March 2017

LOGAN - Film Review




Saying that this film has been highly anticipated is certainly an understatement, but if I'm honest all superhero films are highly anticipated. It doesn't change the fact that whilst Marvel continue to pump out quality films everyone else is still lagging behind, and fingers have been desperately crossed that this would be the film to finally do cinematic justice to the character of Wolverine.

When the bods behind 'Logan' started going on about being inspired by Mark Millar's superb 'Old man Logan' story, my own ears pricked up, but cynicism stopped any real excitement because that particular story would be a nightmare to bring to the screen, not least because of various character copyright issues. Sure enough, all that is left is the fact that Logan is an Old Man, and that's it. Still, at least it's a try at something different, so kudos for that.



The film is set about 13 years in the future, although there's nothing to show that in the technology, it's more a way of distancing it from other films. Logan himself seems to have given up, working as a limo driver and looking worn down by the years and the asshole customers he has to ferry round. the adamantium that covers his bones has been slowly poisoning him over time, and his healing factor isn't what it used to be. This is a Wolverine with scars both mental and physical, one of the last mutants left alive as none have been born for thirty years. With the help of the mutant Caliban (Steven Merchant) he looks after an ailing Charles Xavier (now in his 90s) and dreams of living on a boat away from everything.


The plot revolves around :Laura (Dafne Keen - excellent), a young girl who rivals Wolverine for surly attitude, pointy claws and murdering abilities. It's a simple 'take the girl on a long but important trip' type of plot, with chasing bad guys to avoid/kill and new people to interact with along the way. So far, so standard, but 'Logan' isn't the film that it could have easily been, instead it's so much better.


Writer/Director James Mangold has really gone for it here, defying certain film conventions and reveling in several scenes of extreme stabby violence that finally shows audiences just how dangerous a man with metal coated claws can really be, even going so far as to introduce the comics legendary Berzerker Rage at one point. He's not afraid to have bad things happen to good characters, or even to allow mortal coils to be shuffled off, reflecting the real violence that the film's world is smothered in.


Suffice to say, 'Logan' is the Wolverine film fans have waited for. It's brutal, but compassionate, violent, yet empathetic. This is not just about good guys winning the day, this is about living with the consequences of what you are and what you have done. The only mis-step, for me, is the casting of Steven Merchant as Caliban. Whilst he looks the part, his broad West Country accent does not fit the character in any way. Perhaps some actual acting may have helped. Aside from that, this is a belter of a film, a fitting send off for Hugh Jackman, who has said this is his last rodeo as the character. Go see it, Bub.