American comic-books over the past decade have most assuredly become a much more mainstream field of interest, mostly due to the popularity of celluloid and small screen adaptations, bringing a larger audience to their outrageous spandex clad antics. Though established characters such as Batman and Wonder Woman have been with us now for well over eighty years, and are as readily recognised by even non comic-book fans by their symbolism and deeds, their popularity before said live action adaptations were nowhere near the stratospheric levels they have now reached through their various cinematic endeavours.
Superheroes and their villainous nemeses are now en-vogue, and comic-books as a medium are now more widely accepted as as a legitimate and serious form of storytelling. It wasn’t always this way of course. I have been collecting and reading comics since I was a mere six years of age, and have lost count over the years of the amount of times I have had to defend my choice of escapist literature to the non fan. Even with the rise in prevalence of the celluloid Superhero in recent years , I do tend, even now, to to get a stereotypical – “but comics are for kids” reaction when I profess my adoration for the medium. This situation though has improved in more recent times, again, mainly thanks to the introduction of these beloved characters through their filmic personae. Now more people than ever are buying and reading comics, and actively sharing their own passion for this new found hobby unashamedly with their friends and families. Geeks and Nerds are now de-rigeur.
With both the DC Extended Universe and the MCU going great guns at the box office, the American Superhero has firmly established itself in the public consciousness… But what of it’s British counterparts?
British comics differ greatly from their American brethren, though have endured since their introduction way back in 1937 with – The Dandy. Dandy is a long running children’s publication (in fact, the third longest running comic-book series in history after Action Comics and Detective Comics!) and introduced classic characters – Desperate Dan, and Korky the Kat. Following shortly after, in 1938, The Beano emerged, and presented the British buying public with the arguably more famous (than their Dandy counterparts at least) Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx and Billy Whizz.
These early comics were invariably aimed at the younger market and followed a format that is still primarily used in the UK comic scene today – the anthology. Several stories were contained in each individual issue, introducing the young fan to a plethora of cool characters in quick two or three page adventures, perfect at the time for the attention span of the younger readership. The Superhero archetype was still very much the domain of the American market at this time, and it wasn’t until 1950 that the UK conjured up their own equivalent with the classic sci-fi hero – Dan Dare.
In April of 1950 a new breed of comic-book hit the British news-stands – EAGLE, differing appreciably from from Dandy and Beano it focused on more sophisticated storylines and considerably more intricate artwork. It was the inaugural issue that introduced one of the UK’s most popular and enduring heroes in Dan Dare, though the stories themselves were set in the distant future, the dialog and mannerisms were very reminiscent of old Brit war movies, in fact Dare himself was described as “Biggles in space” (Biggles was a popular series of post WW1 novels starring an ace British pilot, which first published in 1932)
It was the quality of art that really set Dare’s iconic adventures apart from his competitors at this time, and was the first UK comic to use the centrefold ‘splash-page’ style approach to represent its galactic action sequences. Dan Dare endured in EAGLE throughout its initial seventeen year run until 1967. Though he has returned, like the proverbial phoenix, several times, not just in the later relaunched variant of Eagle Comics in 1982, but also Virgin Comics (founded by English entrepreneur – Richard Branson) where he was penned by fan favourite writer – Garth Ennis, and of course, his legendary run in the UK’s most popular comic – 2000 A.D.
2000 A.D. continued the long held tradition of the anthology that was evergreen in the UK, its first issue (known as Progs in the UK) was released in February of 1977, and introduced the Brit comic-book fan to brand new and exciting heroes, and villains hitherto unexplored in a UK publication. The initial line up of strips included – Harlem Heroes – a series that was heavily inspired by the 1970’s explosion of Kung-Fu movies, American basketball stars (specifically – The Harlem Globetrotters) and violent future sports movie – Rollerball. M.A.C.H – 1, told the tale of of a super powered British secret service agent, with obvious nods to both James Bond and The Six Million Dollar Man, and FLESH – an ultra-violent tale about time travelling cowboys heading to the Jurassic era to harvest dinosaurs for their meat, a story that presented a very young me personally, with one of my all time favourite non human protagonists – Old One Eye.
2000 A.D. has gone on to become the most widely read and circulated comic-book series in British history and has delivered some of the most archetypal and fascinating characters ever conceived in the world of the Superhero. As the publication became more in demand, new characters were added to the fold, with likes of Johnny Alpha – Strontium Dog, who found fame after transferring to 2000 A.D. when his original home publication – Starlord – was cancelled. Other terrific tales include – Rogue Trooper – the blue skinned genetically engineered soldier of the future, and the A.B.C Warriors – a team of battling bots who are able to withstand atomic, bacterial and chemical warfare.
Many other heroes and villains have since been presented in the pages of this hallowed publication, some of whom we have already covered in previous posts (of which I will link below for anyone who is interested in this particularly Brit rabbit hole) Of course, conspicuous by his absence is the UK’s biggest and most popular character of all time, the grimly determined lawman of the future – Judge Dredd – For a multitude of reasons Dredd didn’t make an appearance in the first Prog of 2000 A.D. his debut though, came a mere one week later in Prog #2, which cemented his well deserved place in comic-book history!
Has this wet your appetite for other classic Brit characters, then why not check out some of my earlier profile pieces –
Joye Hummel Murchison – The First Woman Commissioned To Write Wonder Woman Comics In The 1940’s, Passes Away At 97.
It is with great sadness that we pass on the news that Wonder Woman and Comic-Book author, Joye Hummel Murchison passed away at the age of 97 years old on April 5th. Joye was the ghost writer of many classic golden age Wonder Woman tales between the years of 1944 and 1947, with her first ever script appearing in the spring 1945 issue of Wonder Woman #12, after the Wondy creator and mainstay writer – William Moulton Marston fell terminally ill.
Joye was first offered the role of authoring the ongoing adventures of the wondrous one in March of 1944 by Professor Marston himself, who was a tutor of psychology at the Katharine Gibbs school in Manhattan, where Joye was a pupil. Professor Marston, over dinner, invited Joye to co-author the further adventures of the Themysciran Titan. At this point, Joye had not only never read Wonder Woman, but indeed any comic-books whatsoever, though she accepted the position through her respect and admiration of Marston and his varying works that included not just comic-book writing but also psychology, invention (he co-invented the lie detector, which gave way in the comics to Wondy’s Lasso of Truth) and unyielding support of women’s rights and the Suffragist movement.
Joye worked on Wonder Woman’s continuing adventures for three years as a ghost-writer, yet was never accredited much attention until the Jill Lepore penned – The Secret History Of Wonder Woman – was released in 2014. Four years after historian Lepore’s book was released, Joye was awarded one of the most prestigious comic-book awards – The Bill Finger Award – primarily given to oft underappreciated and overlooked comic creators.
Our thought go out to her family and friends at this time, and our eternal thanks to Joye for the many wonderful tales of Diana’s golden age adventures she regaled her many fans with.
Comic Cover Of The Week proudly presents another sublime entry into DC’s – The Other History Of The DC Universe, the limited run mini-series that shines its diversity spotlight on Superheroes from marginalised and disenfranchised minorities. Written by sensational scribe John Ridley, the screenwriter and novelist behind the superlative period drama – 12 Years A Slave – with this insightful issue focusing on Tatsu Yamashiro, aka – Katana.
It’s 1983, Japan, and Tatsu finds her life ripped asunder, her home, children and husband are all gone, taken forcibly, and all she is left with is a burning pain and the accursed sword that stole her loved ones. This sets Tatsu on a lengthy and emotional journey of healing, self discovery and ultimately rebirth. This is the tale of Tatsu Yamashiro, the woman behind the mask of Katana, the hero who, alongside other Outsiders of similar disposition, rally together to fight oppression and xenophobia.
As with the previous two issues in this sensational series, this newest entry follows Tatsu throughout her long and varied history in the DC Universe, with both the art style and costumes reflecting the time periods involved exquisitely. The format for this series varies greatly to the average comic book, with its visual prose approach to story telling, compact narration spread across beautiful splash pages by astounding artists Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrea Cucchi. This Ridley penned opus is a must buy for comic book fans, a fascinating insight into the lives of heroes who have dealt with issues of marginalisation and racism and yet even through this continue to empower themselves and others to fight for liberation, emancipation and equality.
The Other History Of The DC Universe Is Available At Your Local Comic-Book Emporium Right Now!
When the legendary Roman Ninth Legion are ambushed and their numbers decimated by the elusive Picts, Centurion – Quintus Dias, and a small band of Ninth Legion survivors attempt to mount a rescue of their captured General – Virilus, and escape before the wrath of their opponent destroys them all.
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko, Dominic West, David Morrisey, Ulrich Thomsen, Imogen Poots, Noel Clarke. Director:Neil Marshall. Writer: Neil Marshall.
Modern British Cult Cinema presents another fantastic film from one of our very favourite English directors – Neil Marshall, best known for earlier entertaining epics such as – Dog Soldiers, Doomsday and The Descent. Contrasting to his previous action/horror hybrids, Marshall this time tackles the ancient past with the Roman occupation of Britain in 117 AD, though his trusted trademark of copious amounts of action, violence and gore are thankfully still in full effect here.
Based upon the infamous tale of the curious disappearance of Rome’s legendary Ninth Legion, 3,000 elite Roman troops who mysteriously vanished whilst marching from York to Scotland in 117 AD. Though historians dispute the facts behind their strange vanishing, director – Marshall gives his own account of this classic fable, and one hell of a great medieval period action extravaganza. Shot in the UK, specifically the highlands of Scotland and the English forests of Surrey and Hampshire, the movie is spectacular to behold, lavish sweeping shots of the gorgeous yet notoriously harsh Scottish highlands intercut with the tranquil but sumptuous English countryside, this movie is a feast for the eyes.
Accomplished actor – Michael Fassbender plays Centurion Quintus Dias, a lone survivor of a midnight raid on his remote Roman outpost by a Pict warband. Eventually freed from his captors by General Virilus (Dominic West) and his Ninth Legion, Quintus chooses to stay with the legendary legion on their march into the wilds to capture or kill the Pict Commander – Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen) Recruiting a Pict scout – Etain (Olga Kurylenko) to guide them through the severe Scottish landscape, the Ninth Legion begin their march into eventual ruination and defeat.
Marshall presents us an epic and ambitious movie replete with large scale battles, and smaller bloodier skirmishes. As with all of Marshall’s previous films, he revels in portraying the ultimate aftermath of violent action, Centurion has it all – decapitation and impalement are rife – throats are cut, arrows embedded and in one particularly excruciating scene, a Legionnaire is interrupted by a spear, in a none too pleasant manner, whilst urinating, such was the era though and Centurion capture the brutal and bloody past ferociously.
Shot on relatively small budget considering the vast scale of the story (around 14 million pounds) the film has the genuine look and scope of a production that cost at least five times that amount, the size and complexity of the film is on a grand scale, from the aforementioned cinematography, the fantastic actors and wardrobe comprising hundreds of Roman and Pict costumes and sundry weaponry. The acting turns themselves are outstanding, Fassbender is excellent as ever, embracing his role as the titular Centurion in the title brilliantly, though for me personally, the film is stolen by Olga Kurylenko’s – Etain, a strong, disquieting, dangerous but ultimately tragic character, and Olga pitch perfectly captures these emotions, even though Etain herself is mute, a sublime performance. Backing them up in great supporting roles are Dominic West as General Virilus and Ulrich Thomsen as the Pict Commander Gorlacon, amongst many others.
The dichotomy of the film though, is that throughout you are rooting for Quintus and the surviving Ninth legionnaires whilst they are hunted down by the Pict warriors, when in reality the Picts themselves were defending their homeland from the invading force that was the Roman Empire. Though Marshall does touch on this several times in a number of scenes including a sequence where Gorlacon tells captured General Virilus of Etain’s tragic past due to the Roman occupation and their ensuing brutality on the indigenous population, giving the Picts and their cause some much needed pathos.
Very much a Brit answer to films like Gladiator, but made on about one tenth of the budget of that particular classic, Centurion is an impressive achievement. The first half of the film is an epic in every sense of the word with its massive battle scenes, the second half of the movie though is more intimate in its story as the Roman survivors are slowly hunted down one by one by their Pict pursuers. Another fantastic movie by Neil Marshall, and worth the admission price alone just for Olga Kurylenko’s acting prowess. Highly recommended.
Welcome fellow agents of Precinct1313 to another enticing episode of – The Week In Geek – where we love to share our favourite Comic-Book, Video-Game, and Cult Movie news for your perusal and pleasure. And so, once more unto the geek, dear agents, once more…
DC Celebrate 80 Years Of Wonder…
Merciful Minerva! can you believe it’s been almost eight decades since the Themysciran Titan was first ushered into existence! That’s right fellow fans of fantastic female fiction, the wondrous one will shortly be celebrating her astounding amazonian anniversary, and DC Comics are inviting you along to partake in this astonishing achievement by releasing a cavalcade of cool comic-book collectables.
First and foremost, a 100 page super spectacular will be released on October 21, which marks the date of Wondy’s first ever appearance in All Star Comics #8. This terrific tribute tome will feature all new stories and artwork by some of Diana’s most accomplished artists and sensational scribes, with a cover by the Eisner award winning artist Yanick Paquette.
Plus if you’re still craving even more of the Amazon Princess’ astonishing adventures (and let’s be honest, who isn’t) then you’re going to want to head on down to your local comic-book emporium in June to pick up the new six issue anthology series – Wonder Woman: Black And Gold. This limited series forms a major part of Diana’s eightieth celebration, and will include titanic tales of not just our favourite fictional female but also her friends, allies and enemies including Cheetah, Amethyst, and, of course, the ever entertaining Etta Candy.
Wonder Woman: Black and Gold #1 will have various writers and artists lending their formidable talents to the legend of Themyscira’s favourite daughter including the likes of Amy Reeder, Ryan Sook Becky Cloonan, Ming Doyle and many, many more. There will also be a veritable virtuoso of variant cover to delect and delight in from Joshua Middleton, Yanick Paquette, and the amazing Ramona Fradon!
Green Arrow Also Celebrates 80 Years Of Bombastic Bowmanship…
Hot on the heels of Diana’s celebrated creation comes the Emerald Archer himself, Green Arrow! Ostentatious Oliver Queen made his dynamic debut in – More Fun Comics #73, in November 1941, created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp. To commemorate the battling bowman’s octogenarian outings, DC will release a 100 page emerald extravaganza to pay tribute to continuing legacy of GA, his allies, and arch-enemies. Similar to Wonder Woman’s own anniversary anthology, Green Arrow’s very own 100 page super spectacular will bring together some of the marvellous mainstays of Oliver’s past and present. Artists and writers include – the marvellous Mike Grell, Tom Taylor, Jeff Lemire, Nicola Scott, Laura Braga, Mariko Tamaki and many more.
The main cover itself will be by Detective Comics’ artist – Dan Mora, plus there will be an entire quiver of valiant variants depicting the vaunted vigilante throughout his formidable reign as the worlds greatest bowman – from a 1940’s style illustration by Michael Cho, a 50’s one by Daniel Warren Johnson, with the 1960’s version by the amazing Neal Adams, 70’s by Derrick Chew, 80’s from Gary Frank, 90’s variation by Howard Peter, 2000’s by Jen Bartel, rounding off with a 2010 cover by Simone Di Meo… phew! The Green Arrow Anthology celebrations begin on June 29.
Why Not Join Us Again Next Time, For More Week In Geek!
DC Comics To Release An 80 Page Pride Anthology And Themed Variant Covers In June.
DC Comics that bodacious bastion of superlative Superheroics have announced an 80 page anthology comic celebrating it’s LGBTQIA characters will be released during World Pride Month on June 8th 2021. DC have a burgeoning cast of characters that identify as LGBT, with the most recent being that of Alan Scott – the golden age Green Lantern, who confided to his daughter and son that he was gay during an emotional segment in DC’s Infinite Frontier #0.
DC have a long standing in the LGBT community with their first ever gay character – Extrano, the magical based superhero who was created by Joe Staton and Steve Englehart, and made his first appearance in the 1987 series Millenium and The New Guardians. Of course, leading the charge for inclusionary heroes in the DC Universe is the bombastic Batwoman, Kate Kane is probably one of the most recognised LGBT superheroes on the planet, with the recent CW TV series helping to cement her fame and popularity in the Pride community.
With Pride month only a few weeks away DC have released images of their 80 page Pride spectacular, which will feature classic characters such as – Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Batwoman, Extrano, Alan Scott, Midnighter and Apollo and The Question. Also of interest is that the trans hero – Nia Nal aka Dreamer, who first made an appearance in the CW’s Supergirl series, will make her inaugural entry into comic-book history in the highly anticipated anthology special.
And if that isn’t cool enough, then DC have also announced 9 tie in variant covers for that very same month with fantastic artists – Yoshi Yoshitani, Jen Bartel, Kris Anka, Travis G. Moore David Talaski, Stephen Byrne, Kevin Wada, and Paulina Ganucheau bringing their astounding artistic skills to the table for these inclusive issues. Oh, and a brand new DC rainbow logo to complete this captivating celebration.
DC Pride #01, And All Nine Variants Will Be Available At Your Local Comic-Book Emporium From The 8th June. Will You Be Adding Any Of These To Your Pull List? Why Not Comment Below…
Superheroes are awesome aren’t they… leaping tall buildings in a single bound, scowling atop shadowy gargoyles, extracting the truth with their golden lariats, ka-powing criminals, crushing crime and fighting hatred and oppression, yes indeedy, Superheroes are awesome! That said, for many, without their extensive network of sidekicks and allies would they really be as effective? Batman has Robin and his extended Bat-Family, Superman has Supergirl and Superboy, Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl, Green Arrow and Speedy, et al. Though it could be said (probably only by me) that the real power behind their thrones comes from the less heralded, yet equally as important… Super-Pets!
Now then, if you’re not a comic-book fanatic, you may feel I’m barking mad, or that this post could end up being a cat-astrophe (sorry, I had to!) and yet, Batman, Superman, Supergirl and yes even Wonder Woman have an extensive history with their fearless furry friends that dates back decades, plus, believe it or not, said pets also don colourful costumes (y’know, just in case SuperVillain pets recognise them!), exhibit powers and, yep, fight crime! So why not join us as we peruse (and pet) our all time favourite super powered animals, from Krazy Kangaroos, through Soaring Cats and even a Bat-Cow!
The origin of the Super-Pet dates way back to the 1940’s, specifically the 1942 release of Sensation Comics #6, which introduced us to Wonder Woman’s very own faithful furry friend. Now, you’d think with Diana’s extensive history and standing in Greek Mythology, that Pegasus would be the perfect equine entity to accompany her on her ongoing odyssey, failing that how about the mighty Minotaur, maybe three headed demonic dog Cerberus, or Zeus’ nurturing goat – Amalthea? Ha, well you’d be wrong oh fellow fans of fantastic fluffy fearless friends, for it was none other than… Jumpa, the Kangaroo!! (Uh, well, of course it was!)
I mean, you really have to wonder why Wondy’s incredibly talented creator, William Moulton Marston went with a Kangaroo over the suggestions I threw out there, but, that said, have you ever seen a Kangaroo up close before? those things are terrifying! One of these mammoth marsupials chasing you down with Wonder Woman on it’s back no less, would be the epitome of the good cop/bad cop trope!!
Now, I know that this might put me in the dog house with the other Super-Pets, but Ace the Bat-hound has always been my personal favourite of this formidable furry force, I mean look at him, he wears a mask, and sometimes a cape and utility belt style collar (how on earth does he get the bat gadgets out of there without fingers? questions like this keep me up at night!) and his master is The Batman! so case closed.
Ace’s doggy debut was in the 1955 issue of Batman #92, and this canine crime-fighting conundrum has been a stalwart admission to the Bat mythos ever since. Originally a German Shepherd, Ace has been through many different Bat-breeds since his initial inception including an English Mastiff and Great Dane, though you’d think, with Batman being heralded as The World’s Greatest Detective that a Bloodhound would make the perfect canine companion for the Caped Crusader… Suffering Sappho, maybe DC should hire me to write their comics! (only joking, uuh, unless DC want to, then I’m not!) But, if you thought caped and cowled crime-fighting canines was the quintessence of strange, you ain’t seen nothing yet…
Yep, it’s a cow! though not just any old cow of course, but a bodacious and bombastic Bat-bovine!
The legen-dairy ( the puns, they’re gonna get worse!) Bat-Cow made her first astonishing appearance in Batman Inc (vol 2) #1, whilst another version of the headstrong heifer appeared for a short while in Tiny Titans, after stealing Batman’s cape and cowl to fight crime and form the the League Of Just Us Cows, this variant was eventually put out to pasture after DC Comics rebooted her with a brand new origin story. During a raid on a slaughterhouse (which was a front for Talia Al Ghul’s Leviathan) Batman and Robin saved their bovine buddy and adopted her into their burgeoning Bat-Family, this also led to Robin embracing a vegetarian lifestyle. Of course, the idea of a crime-fighting cow is udderly ridiculous, but it has also made for some rather amoo-sing tales, still, as to not milk this segment any longer we shall be moo-ving on to…
The canine crime-fighting capers continue with the Man of Steel’s very own good boy – Krypto the Superdog! Krypto has been lending a paw to Supes since his cuspid creation in Adventure Comics #210 in March 1955.
Superman’s best friend also hails from Kal-El’s home planet of Krypton and as such shares a very similar power set to that of his master including flight, super strength and super-breath (gross, I mean dogs and super-breath should never, ever go together!) this four legged wonder’s power set marks him out as the ulti-mutt crime-fighting canine in the Legion of Superpets, which finds him constantly harassed by the pup-arazzi! (ok, ok, that one was fairly bad, just please don’t hound me over it!)
Just when you are feline that the you’ve had enough of the bad animal puns along comes Supergirl’s favourite furry friend, the paw-some Streaky the Supercat! I’m not kitten around you know, Kara’s fur-midable feline made his debut in Action Comics #261 in February 1960.
Unlike his doggy buddy Krypto, Streaky hailed from Earth and gained his claw-some gifts after exposure to X-Kryptonite, which enabled him with purr-fect powers such as – flight, super-speed and enhanced visual abilities. Though DC contains a plethora of cats in its canon, including Power Girl’s Stinky the cat, and of course Catwoman’s clowder, Streaky though will go down in hiss-tory as a personal favourite of mine, as he has such a meow-tain of purr-sonality!
All Hail The Legion Of Super-Pets Fur-ever!
Welcome fellow agents of Precinct1313 to another exciting episode of – The Week In Geek – where we love to share our favourite Comic-Book, Video-Game, and Cult Movie News for your perusal and pleasure. And so, once more unto the geek, dear agents, once more…
HBO Max Green Lantern TV Series To Start Filming April 2021
I have to admit, I’m one of the very few people that actually really liked the 2011 Ryan Reynolds starring live action Green Lantern movie (especially Mark Strong’s perfect performance as Sinestro) that said, I can acknowledge its faults, and because of its relative box office failure, Green Lantern fans have since been starved of Brightest Days and Blackest Nights… until now. HBO have announced that an initial ten episode series will start filming in April this year, and will include emerald avengers such as – Alan Scott, Jessica Cruz, Guy Gardener (yay!) Simon Baz, and Hal Jordan’s eternal enemy, Sinestro.
No news as of yet whether Hal Jordan himself will be featured, but it’s fantastic to see the original GL – Alan Scott being included in the line up alongside my personal fave Lantern, Guy Gardener.
Sasha Calle Is Our New DCU Supergirl…
Emmy nominee actress – Sasha Calle has been cast as the DC Cinematic Universe’s Girl of Steel, for Andy Muschietti’s highly anticipated Flash movie. The more I hear of Scarlet Speedster – The Flash’s new cinematic endeavour the more excited I’m becoming. Not only will Ezra Miller return to the role of the world’s fastest man, but the film has also cast the dynamic duo of Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton as the Batman (time travelling shenanigans and dimension meddling allow for various versions of characters to be displayed!) and now director Muschietti has confirmed that Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El will also be joining the burgeoning cast portrayed by The Young and the Restless actor – Sasha.
Muschietti apparently had over 400 actresses audition for the Supergirl role, but was “blown away by Sasha’s strength but also vulnerability” which eventually secured her the part. Up, up and away! we look forward to seeing Sasha jump tall buildings in a single bound when the movie releases in November 2022.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League Releases Final Trailer, And It’s Amazing!
Zack Snyder’s long awaited epic four hour long Justice League movie is tantalisingly close to release, there’s now less than a month before we can revel in the superior version of the world’s greatest superheroes, with the entire four hour variant arriving in homes across the planet on March 18. With over three and a half hours of new footage (none of Joss Whedon’s original footage is to be included… thankfully) and a return of Jared Leto’s Joker (who will finally meet up with his caped crusading nemesis) and more screen time for Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke, Zack’s upcoming opus has us DC fanatics chomping at the proverbial bit! Indulge in the newest trailer below fellow JLA fans.
Why not join us again next time, for more Week In Geek.
“I swear to devote my life to the destruction of all forms of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice, and my sons and their sons shall follow me”
Wonder Woman and Batman have been the cornerstones of Precinct1313 since this website sprang into existence over six years ago. They are as vital to this blog as oxygen is to a drowning man… though, there is another masked man who didn’t originate from the same wellspring as Bruce and Diana, and yet is almost as popular as the titanic two. In fact, it was the ‘Guardian of the Eastern Dark’ that held the starring role in our very first ever blog post here in the hallowed halls of Precinct1313.
February 17, 2021 marks the astonishing 85th anniversary of Lee Falk’s ground-breaking character – The Phantom. Phantom was the first of what later became a barrage of Superheroes, preceding DC’s Superman by a full two years, and the character was also crucial in the development of The Batman, with the Dark Knight’s co-creator – Bill Finger, citing The Phantom as a major influence on the Caped Crusader’s creation.
It was ‘The Ghost Who Walks’ who originally donned a colourful costume and domino mask and fought an eternal and ceaseless war on crime, injustice, and evil men with just his quick wits, martial skills and a courageous wolf companion named Devil. The Phantom truly is ‘He Who Came First’ in the mega popular world of the Superhero, the template for all the costume clad heroes who arose in his stead.
The Phantom was created by Lee Falk in 1936, and made his auspicious debut almost to this very day (I meant to get this posted yesterday, Phantom’s actual birthday, unfortunately the internet gods shouted “Nay!”) in a newspaper serial strip. Falk was an american writer and artist who had previously created the majestic mage – Mandrake the Magician, in 1934 before going on to usher into existence The Phantom a mere two years later. Lee Falk was born in Missouri in 1911, and spent the majority of his youth there, he was a gifted writer and pitched his idea for Mandrake to King Features Syndicate, Falk was a huge fan of stage magicians and illusionists, and actually based the look of Mandrake on his very own visage. The Phantom sprang from Falk’s love of myths and legends such as King Arthur, and popular fictional creations Tarzan and Robin Hood.
Kit Walker is The Phantom, 21st in a lineage of costumed crime-fighters that first began in 1536, when the father of British sailor Christopher Walker was killed by the treacherous pirate clan – The Singh Brotherhood. Swearing an oath on the skull of his father’s now slain murderer, he became the first Phantom, beginning a legacy that would pass on from father to son for generations. The outside world though, believed it to be the same man, an immortal, a Ghost Who Walks, fighting injustice from his secret Skull Cave deep in the heart of the Bangalla jungle. Fighting alongside his wolf Devil, and white steed Ghost, the Man Who Cannot Die instils fear into the corrupt and hope amongst the innocent, in his never ending pursuit against the evil that men do.
The Ghost Still Walks… Happy 85th Kit Walker!
The Phantom is copyright – King Features Syndicate.
I’ve been a gamer for well over thirty years now, in which time I have watched the respective technology of this immersive medium grow exponentially more complex over the decades, not just the relevant console tech itself but also the inherent maturation of gameplay, graphics and storylines contained within these entrancing virtual worlds. One of the things that defined games of previous generations, such as Sega’s Megadrive, and Nintendo’s SNES, weren’t the less complicated pixel form graphics but the relative difficulty of the actual games themselves, modern games, in stark contrast to their ’80s classic counterparts are rather easy in comparison… until Dark Souls.
Dark Souls released in 2011 from Japanese gaming guru’s From Software, an outstanding action role-play game set in the perilous lands of the ancients, known as Lordran. Technically the second game in the Souls series, a spiritual successor to From’s former sensation – Demons Souls.
‘Prepare To Die’ are the ominous words that greet the beleaguered player on the box art, and die you shall, again and again, once, twice or thrice more… now, if you’re thinking to yourself at this moment that this doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, I say au contraire, my fellow gaming buddies, it’s the difficulty itself that makes Souls the glorious gem it is. A tangible sense of achievement and progress is gained from defeating that impossible boss character that has managed to annihilate your anxious avatar fifteen times on the trot, memorising their strategies, or just purely surviving make for a seriously satisfying sense of accomplishment when you finally do manage to best your cyber-space nemesis.
Difficulty aside, the world and lore of Dark Souls is really rather fascinating, but unlike its peers in the RPG genre, does very little through direct exposition to the player bar the initial (and still rather vague) introductory cut-scene. Dark Souls lore is embedded in its characters, architecture, and items, all vital knowledge and exegesis is derived from multiple conversations with the NPC’s (even then, the ambiguity of their replies require you to dig even further to interpret) or the descriptions that accompany the various weapons, armour and items acquired as you traverse through the treacherous land that is Lordran.
In fact, the narrative is so well embedded that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the creators had decided to not even add one, yet if you’re willing to dig deep and immerse yourself in its perfidious prose you will be rewarded with one of the most cerebral and emotional chronicles that gaming has wrought. But, if plot is of no interest to you, and your only reasoning for venturing into this precarious predicament is for the conflict, then that’s fine, because the combat system in Dark Souls is superlative.
Dark Souls combat absolutely is its defining feature, weighty, precise and intricate. Though it can initially feel a somewhat shallow fighting system, it slowly forms into one of the greatest combat engines to ever grace an RPG. The substantial weaponry open to your prostate protagonist begins with the player’s choice of class, do you prefer to tread the duplicitous world of Lordran as a steel clad knight, maybe a leather bound assassin, or perhaps sorcery is more your style, whichever role you decide upon, you are guaranteed an expansive choice of weaponry, armour, spells and shields (which are your absolute best friends in Souls) for your perpetually pained paladin.
Of course, all the entrancing exposition, crazy combat and awesome armour count for naught if there are no memorable antagonists to pit your plucky (though usually plucked!) hero against, and the adversaries in Souls are some of the largest and most unforgiving any persistent paladin has ever faced. From the humble undead, to the terrifying half arachnid- half witch Queelag, the foes you face down are some of the most remorseless and unrelenting you have ever had the ill will to encounter.
The bosses are unyielding in their pursuit of your demise, from the aforementioned Queelag, through gilded knights – Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough (the dynamic duo of video-game hell!) your gaming skills and cred will be tested to their utmost limits, but each and every time (many, many times!) you will assimilate a little more of their inherent patterns and weaknesses, until you finally revel in their eventual expiration.
There is also an extremely popular online PvP mode, where Souls aficionados can test their mettle against other players, whilst invading their worlds or duelling one on one, though this substantive mode rarely interested me personally, though I did enjoy the ability of being able to call upon one of my Dark Souls brethren (hi Dan!) to join me in jolly co-op, and sanguinely slay a boss or two, or to at least share in my torment!
This game has so much depth, intrinsic lore, customisation and complexity that this review could easily become an epic of encyclopedic extravagance, so I will just say this… do you love – Videogames, , fantasy, bloody huge swords, labyrinthine lore and are a little bit of a masochist at heart? then you’ll fall absolutely head over heels with the world that is Dark Souls, just be prepared to die again, and again, and again…
Antiope crept past the slumbering monstrosities, their noxious breath filled the air, stinging her nostrils. Fortunately, that sleazy merchant Belethor had actually come through for her this time, Antiope’s alchemy skills were virtually non-existent, her life had been devoted to the sword and bow, no time or desire for the mixing of ungodly potions and salves, it was beyond luck then, that just before setting out on this perilous pursuit that she’d run into the shady shopkeeper Belethor in Whiterun, who happened to mention a certain philter of invisibility was readily available for a mere 400 gold. Yet, even though the imbibed decoction had rendered her all but invisible to the undead Draugr wretches, it did nothing to prevent the virulent stench that arose from their slowly decaying bodies.
Her shield sister, Aela, had warned her not to take the quest, this was Mannimarco after all, the first and most powerful of the Liches, a founder of the Psijic order, but as daunting as the task seemed to Aela, Antiope gently reminded her that only months earlier she had already achieved what everyone thought was impossible, she had killed the black dragon Alduin, The World Eater had fallen to her bow, so in comparison, Mannimarco should be a cake walk, should be…
Welcome, fellow agents of Precinct1313, to my virtual life, the above prose is a but a tiny glimpse into my alternate reality, my heady escape into another dimension, away from the rigours of our current reality. Like the majority of the planet, the past year and a bit have been tough and draining, here in the UK we are still in a nationwide lockdown (which is looking like it might last until early April) after we recorded the worst percentage death rate in the world with over 100,000 people sadly passing away from this awful pandemic. I’d rather not get into the politics of this crisis in Britain, but what I will say is that if we’d had a competent Government in charge, rather than the circus that is currently running things, then, I believe things would be very different, but I digress, I’m here to share my love of living a virtual life in a distant dimension, far, far away from the bleakness we’re currently experiencing.
I love Video-games with almost as much reverence as I do Comic-Books, I’ve been gaming since I was around eight years old, and in that time have delved into hundreds of realities far removed from anything I could ever do in the real world. Want to be a Formula One driver? you got it, or how about a Samurai in ancient Japan, yep you can be that too, blast off into the uncharted void of space, fight ninjas, and even bring down the great black dragon Alduin, all these things are possible in the wonderful world of gaming.
The above character Antiope, is my personally created avatar from video-game classic, Skyrim, the open world fantasy epic that lets you be, whatever you want to be, I mean where else could I take on the role of a female Nordic assassin who hunts vampires, hates giant spiders, and loves putting arrows into the side of colossal black dragon noggins, why only in video-games my friends. I have been playing this game religiously since it first came out way back in 2011, and am currently experiencing its fantasy delights through my wondrous Nintendo switch, which hosts a beautiful remastered version of the game, and the ability to un-dock my Switch from the TV so I can continue questing on the go, or even on the loo!
Immersion is a word that perfectly encapsulates not just the world of gaming, but also other popular media such as comics and movies, the ability to engage with something that is technically intangible to the point where your actual reality dissolves around you, so that only the medium in front of you exists for that time you spend with it, is astounding, and gaming is the ultimate embodiment of immersion.
I have played and enjoyed virtually every genre that gaming has thrown at me over the decades – racing games, beat-em ups, simulations, rhythm action, et al (though not sports, I hate sports… I’m a geek!) but my most beloved medium has always been the role playing category, as previously mentioned the capacity to play as someone, or something that would be impossible in the “real world” I can do in games like Skyrim, or Dragon’s Dogma. It’s thanks to this reality sapping pastime, that I and many others have managed to retain at least a sliver of sanity during this horrendously pervasive pandemic, whenever life starts to take its toll, I head on off to the cyber-space province of Skyrim, and fight dragons, hunt vampires and play happy families with my virtual wife and kids (yep, you can marry and have kids in Skyrim… how’s that for immersion)
Alongside my life as a female Nord in Skyrim, the other significant game that has helped soothe my senses during this traumatic time is the lovely life sim – Animal Crossing: New Horizons, this was my first dalliance with this series, and I love it! Like the other 31 million (31,000,000!!) people who are currently experiencing their very own tropical island getaway, I picked up this Nintendo spawned gem in April last year just as the lockdown commenced, and like Skyrim, this game has salved my sanity. As things began to look bleak in the really real world, I would engross my self in my own created island of Themyscira, little virtual Bruce (my in game avatar) would spend his days landscaping, digging rivers and tributaries, building the town, relaxing on the beach, but most importantly (because this privilege was lost during the pandemic) hanging out with my anthropomorphic animal island friends. It helped give a structure to each day that was slowly eroding from the norm.
With what will probably be another two months of lockdown here in the UK, I am grateful for the ability to leave this mad materiality and abscond to other planes of existence – fight dragons, trounce ninjas and generally escape, if even for only a few hours. I must go now, as I have left poor ol’ Antiope in the middle of a Draugr infested dungeon, and she’s not looking best pleased…
After a lifetime of murder and mayhem, remorseless mercenary, Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) renounces violence after discovering that his immoral crusade has condemned his soul to hell. Yet when he returns back to his home in Devonshire, England he discovers that an even worse evil has taken reign in his lands, but will fighting back against this malefic threat ultimately result in his redemption or infernal suffering.
Cast: James Purefoy, Max Von Sydow, Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook. Director: Michael J. Basset. Writers: Robert E. Howard (creator) Michael J. Basset (screenplay)
Solomon Kane was ushered into existence by early 1900’s novelist Robert E. Howard, who is probably most noted for his creation of sword swinging, kingdom usurping – Conan The Barbarian. Kane’s inaugural introduction was in a 1928 issue of Weird Tales, Howard described his character as a – “sombre, gloomy man with a pale complexion and cold eyes” dressed head to toe in black, carrying two pistols and a rapier, Kane wandered the world fighting witchcraft, black magic and evil men.
The films opening takes place during Kane’s murderous past as he and his cut-throat army of brigands invade and pillage a large fortress in Africa in 1600 AD. Whilst fighting their way to the riches and glory contained within the fortress throne room, Kane becomes separated from his heinous henchmen and confronted by the Devil’s Reaper, who discloses that Kane’s nefarious lifestyle has forfeit his soul, and the Reaper is there to deliver it unto his master, Kane refusing to yield to the demand leaps from the throne room balcony into the tempestuous seas below.
A year passes, and we catch up with Solomon in an Abbey in England where he has taken refuge to recant his former murderous ways and live a life of peace in a desperate attempt to save his soul from damnation. However, a prophetic vision of Solomon’s future by the lead Abbot, leads to Solomon being told to immediately leave the sanctity of the Abbey, as his ensuing fate does not reside within it’s sacred grounds. Deciding to return to his land of noble birth in Devonshire, Solomon is set upon by a trio of vicious mercenaries, who leave him for dead after he refuses to break his vow of peace and fight back. Found and nursed back to health by Meredith Crowthorn (Rachel Hurd-Wood) daughter of a travelling puritan family, he ends up temporarily joining them on their pilgrimage.
But when an encounter with a strange masked warrior and his band of zombie like minions ends with the death of the Crowthorns and kidnapping of Meredith for their necromancer master – Malachi (Jason Flemyng) Solomon breaks his vow of peace and sets out to rescue Meredith and end Malachi’s demonic reign. Thus ensues a bloody path of vengeance and retribution that will either condemn Solomon’s soul to hell or redeem it for all eternity.
British director, Michael J. Basset’s cinematic interpretation of Howard’s classic evil smiting, puritanical warrior is as close to its original source material as any fan could hope to get, it really is as if Solomon had leapt onto the silver screen from the very pages of the novels and comic-books themselves. Basset’s reverence for Howard’s original books is tangible, and the casting of native Devonshire actor James Purefoy is the icing on the proverbial cake. Purefoy is an amazing and rather underrated Brit actor, and gives his all in this superb adaptation, going from an evil, detestable character to one you actively feel pity towards, and eventually end up rooting for as the film unfolds, plus being a native of Devon, of course, his accent is spot on (trust me, I live in Devon!) Backed up by a supporting stable of excellent actors including the late Max Von Sydow, Pete Postlethwaite, and the ever entertaining Mackenzie Crook.
The films myriad fight scenes choreographed by sword master – Richard Ryan are superbly put together, savage and brutal, akin to the era, with limbs hacked off at an alarming rate and Kane’s notoriety as a peerless warrior shine through in these stunning sequence,with Purefoy himself doing the majority of his own sword and stunt work.
Beautifully shot by Dan Lausten in England and Prague, the film is a dark and foreboding cinematic delight, and like it’s filmic counterpart, the fantastic – Black Death, retains a classic Hammer movie feel. The English landscape is littered with broken down churches, soulless graveyards and eerie hanging corpses, replete with carrion crows and a constant deluge of rain and mud (much like the UK still is!) The film’s original soundtrack by Klaus Badelt is also outstanding, rousing and haunting in equal measure and has become one of my very favourite movie compositions.
Though mostly receiving positive reviews when released, amongst both fans and critics, it unfortunately, initially only recouped about a third of its original budget (such is the case with a large swathe of films emanating from the UK) though thankfully it has gone on since its initial launch in 2009 to surpass its £33,000,000 budget through Blu-Ray and DVD sales, deservedly so as Solomon Kane is one of the greatest sword and sorcery movies ever made, and comes highly recommended.
Precinct1313’s Top Ten Favourite Comic-Book Covers Of All Time: No.01 – Wonder Woman #72 – Brian Bolland
Welcome once again, fellow fans of fantastic fiction, as our classic comic cover crusade reaches its culminating crescendo! In our previous post we introduced you to the astounding artistic antics of Amanda Conner and her stunning and sassy Starfire cover, this iconic instalment we present the superior skills of the bodacious Brian Bolland and his tantalising tribute to the Themysciran Titan with Wonder Woman #72.
The bombastic Brian Bolland was one of a wave of UK comic creators that during the pinnacle of the popular British comic-book scene in the ’80s was snapped up by larger American comic publishers, such as DC Comics, for their alternate and even irreverent approach to the comic-book medium. Bolland along with other British greats, the likes of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, had impacted the popular caped crusading format by adding a darker edge to characterisation, and a satirical approach to storytelling underlined with a scorn for politics and a strong anti-authoritarian vibe.
Brian Bolland is probably best known in the UK for his stellar work on Britain’s biggest selling anthology comic 2000AD, especially his authoritative take on Judge Dredd, for whom his work on said character, for me, will always be the definitive take visually. Inspired at a young age by artistic greats like Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane, Brian would go on to be one of the most widely sought after artists in the USA, with classics under his utility belt such as Batman: The Killing Joke and Camelot 3000 for DC Comics. It was, however, his run as comic cover artist for DC in the ’80s and ’90s that he is most fondly remembered, especially his phenomenal run on Wonder Woman, in fact, like the previous post on Starfire, Brian’s cover illustration for Wonder Woman #72 proved so popular with the fans that a limited edition statue was produced in celebration of his vicarious vision!
Thanks For Sticking With Us Throughout This Capacious Comic Cover Cavalcade, Fellow Agents Of Precinct1313, Which Of Our Posted Ten Is Your Favourite, Why Not Sound Off In The Comments Below…
Salutations my charming comic collecting cohorts, and welcome once more to our continuing countdown of cherished comic cover classics. In our previous post we presented to you the decidedly dazzling drawing dynamics of the delightful Darwyn Cooke and his tremendous take on Teen Titans #5. This impeccable instalment illuminates the absolutely astounding art of Amanda Conner and her sassy and sumptuous Starfire #1 cover.
We have written in length about the astonishing artistic auteur that is Amanda Conner, and over the many, many years that I’ve been an avid comic collector I have encountered hundreds of fantastic artists that have regaled my geeky self with some utterly sublime scribblings, and though I am indebted to all these iconic illustrators for their glorious work, a number have really stood out as favourites – talented individuals such as the great George Perez, Neal Adams, Brian Bolland, Norm Breyfogle, Phil Jimenez and Nicola Scott, picking a fave amongst these would would always prove to be an insurmountable challenge. That was until I discovered the amazing art of Amanda Conner, from that point anybody enquiring as to whom my favourite artist was, would not be able to shut me up as I enthused and rhapsodised over her dreamy drawing delectations… quirky, zany, and instantly recognisable, for me personally Amanda will always be the greatest!
Amanda’s creative career began in the late 1980’s working for companies such as Archie Comics, Marvel and Harris’ Comics on their Vampirella series (which is where I first discovered her phenomenal oeuvre) But it was her work on the sundry female DC characters that led me to fall in love with her adroit artistic endeavours, especially her work with Starfire, Harley Quinn and Power Girl, which all remain (and always will) my absolute favourite versions of those iconic characters.
I love the character of Starfire, have been a huge fan since her inaugural introduction by her colossal creators, George Perez and Marv Wolfman in DC Comics Presents #26 in 1980. Since then I have rallied to read every one of her exciting escapades, with my favourite take on the character being the 2015, 12 issue maxi-series by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, with this post’s feature cover being my most treasured. In fact, I love it so much, I have three copies of it (one framed, one in the collection and one to read… yeah I know – GEEK!) Not only that though, I also purchased the extremely limited (and rather expensive) DC Collectables statue based upon this iconic illustration, and even did my first ever YouTube unboxing video on said stunning sculpture, which you may partake in right below (yep, that’s my disembodied hands of unrivalled unboxing!!)