Author Archives: ArcaneHalloween

Comic Cover(s) Of The Week

A Dynamic Duo Of Delightfully Dazzling And Delectable Drawings…

“Well hey there fellow fans of fantastic fiction and welcome once again to another enticing episode of Comic Cover Of The Week. And this week we have some rather resplendent renderings for your discerning delectation!”

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DC Comics’ recent imprint – Black Label is a line of limited series aimed at a mature audience that began with the somewhat controversial (though, not in my opinion) Batman: Damned in September of 2018. Building upon the success of that first mini-series, DC subsequently launched several new Black Label series which include – Batman: Last Knight On Earth, Superman: Year One, and most recently  ‘Harleen’. Their newest recent entry to this distinctly adult line is the Kami Garcia penned – Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity, and the variant cover by marvellous Mike Mayhew is an absolute corker, it has to be said.

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Stunning Photo-realistic Variant Cover By Marvellous Mike Mayhew

Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity charts the first meeting of one Dr Harleen Quinzel and the Jester of GenocideKami Garcia offers up an interesting twist on the titular troublesome twosome by re-imagining Harley as forensic psychologist and criminal profiler tasked with helping to hunt down a prolific serial killer with a penchant for murderous theatrics known only as The Joker. Joker/Harley; Criminal Insanity is scheduled for a nine issue run and is available from your local comic-book emporium right now, and in our opinion is well worth investing your time in if you’re in any way, shape, or form a fan of Ms Quinzel and Mr J.

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And next on our cosmically cool and collectable comic cover countdown is this really rather rapturous rendering from wonderful Warren Louw of the pernicious plant powered eco-terrorist Poison Ivy.

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Poison Ivy Perfection By Warren Louw!

Continuing on from last month’s premiere issue, we find our lovable (yet highly dangerous) duo, Harley and Ivy on the run from the fractious felon Floronic Man, who is determined to force Ivy to accept her place in connection to the green. With Gotham City even more unstable and treacherous than ever thanks to its recent overthrow and internment by SuperVillain Bane, Harley and Ivy literally dive into a rabbit hole by seeking sanctuary with none other than former Arkham patient Jervis Tetch, more infamously known as The Mad Hatter. Yet what they’re about to experience couldn’t be further removed from a Wonderland!

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The Week In Geek… With Precinct1313 – Harley Quinn And The Birds Of Prey Special

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Welcome fellow agents of Precinct1313 to another exhilarating 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…

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The Girls Are Back In Town – The Birds Of Prey Are Here To Chew Gum And Kick Arse… And They’re All Out Of Gum (but they do have baseball bats, crossbows and a penchant for ass-kickery!)

Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn

Well what can I say, but, how excited am I right now… really, really excited! I just finished watching the first trailer for DC’s newest upcoming blockbuster movie ‘Birds Of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn’ and after viewing it for the umpteenth time I must say… I absolutely love this movie already.

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I Can ‘Harley’ Wait For This To Come Out!

That’s right fellow fans of fantastic fiction, the hellacious hellcat of hi-jinks is back, once again brilliantly brought to life by magnetic Margot Robbie cementing her hold on DC’s wild child villain/anti-hero with what looks like another priceless performance as Ms Harleen Quinzel. This time though she isn’t in the corruptible company of the Suicide Squad or her former lover Mr J, but is striking out with the feisty, fiery, femme fatale’s and all round arse kicking bodacious baroness’ of broody brawls -The Birds of Prey.

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Based upon DC’s top rated comic-book series, The Birds of Prey weaves the tale of Gotham’s favourite female fighting furies, and the costumed crime-fighters from this popular series being brought to the silver screen include two of my absolute fave female Superheroes – Black Canary as portrayed by Jurnee Smollet-Bell and The Huntress, ably brought to crossbow wielding life by the marvellous Mary Elizabeth Winstead. And if that wasn’t enough of a geek overload, brilliant British thesp – Ewan McGregor is cast as big, bad Batman villain – Black Mask! Revel in the trailer below, and whilst you do I’m off to invent a time machine ’cause I’m not sure I can wait until February 2020 for this to appear…

 

Comics’ Greatest Love Stories: The Bat Loves The Cat…

Grim, gritty, surly, sullen, stern, morose, brusque… all these terms define the infamous vengeance driven creature of the night known as The Batman, and why wouldn’t they? I mean, he’s not exactly had a great time of it overall, let’s be honest. He lives in the cesspool of a city known as Gotham, watched his parents gunned down before his innocent eyes at the tender age of 12, and has spent the past eight decades abusing both his mind, spirit and body as he seeks redemption for his parents death by dressing as a giant bat and pulping bad guys to within an inch of their miserable lives… where’s his silver bat- lining, huh? Well, that’s embodied by an equally traumatised, but resolutely more positive minded costumed creation who goes by the name of Selina Kyle, better known as Catwoman.

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The Bat and The Cat have been dancing around (probably to the Batusi!) each other emotionally since their first ever encounter in Batman #1 in March of 1940. That’s close to eighty exquisite years of puurfect passion procrastination, though the Dark Knight Detective has had other fleeting love interests over the decades (the most significant obviously being that of Talia Al Ghul, R’as Al Ghul’s daughter) none have had the emotive impact on his melancholic life more than one Selina Kyle.

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Their lives have been irrevocably romantically intertwined since that first meeting in 1940 and their devotion has continued throughout their many dalliances to this very day, even culminating with a recent wedding proposal from The Bat himself, though in typical Batman fashion, it definitely did not go as planned as Batman’s notorious rogues gallery stepped in to ruin the one shining light that could of led Bruce into new and unfamiliar territory… happiness!

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I love Batman and Catwoman, have done since I first discovered the characters from the tender age of six, and have always rooted for their eventual sanguine intimacy. But have always understood that any kind of inherent contentment would ultimately end the crime fighting career of Batman… it’s the pain and loss that life has served him that ultimately makes him the Batman, yet, even the sullen stern alter ego of the masked manhunter deserves some relief from his disconsolate existence and fortunately there is Selina Kyle. So, why not join us as we embark on a visual tour through their long and (mostly) loving courtship that has had Batfans the world over holding their Bat-breaths for almost eighty years. The Bat (most definitely) loves The Cat…

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The Bat/Cat affection has stood the test of time for almost eight decades… is this the longest courtship in fictional history?

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Batman: Hush was a compelling treatise of Bruce and Selina’s long and storied entangled relationship, and is a must read to all.

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Michael Keaton’s Dark Knight got to grips with Michelle Pfeiffer’s puuurfect Selina Kyle in Tim Burton’s classic ‘Batman Returns’

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As did Adam West with Julie Newmar in the sixties camp show and Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises.

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Long Live The Bat And The Cat, And May They One Day Finally Find The Time To Truly Be Together… Forever.

 

Batman and Catwoman are copyright: DC Comics.

Happy 130th Birthday To Nintendo!

1566899686873.png“Otanjoubi Omedetou” to the big ‘N’ themselves – Nintendo! Initially founded in September of 1889 as ‘Nintendo Koppai’ by Fusajiro Yamauchi, they began their long and successful run as a playing card company making ‘Hanafuda’ cards (translation: flower cards) which are used to play a number of different card games in Japan.

In 1947, Fusajiro stepped down to be replaced by his grandson Hiroshi Yamauchi who successfully moved the company’s (now many) products into the international market. In 1963, they changed their name to Nintendo Co. ltd and began to diversify from their playing card heritage with such unusual and somewhat outlandish things as – taxi services, television networks, and (yep, really) love hotels!!

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It wasn’t until the 1970’s that Ninty became the company we now know and love – the family friendly video game giant that has given us such wonderful gaming delights as the Legend of Zelda series, Metroid, and of course the Super Mario Bros games. They have successfully held their head up over the decades through stiff competition from major console manufacturing companies – Sega, Microsoft and Sony, and their current hybrid console – the Nintendo Switch is resolutely outselling the competition on a month to month basis. Happy Birthday Nintendo.

 

Mario, Zelda and Metroid are copyright: Nintendo.

 

Happy Batman Day!

That’s right Batfans, today charts a crucial chapter in everyone’s life… Batman Day! Join DC Comics and millions of fans worldwide in celebrating the world’s most popular and significant cowled crimefighter. From the printed page through cinematic excursions and video game adaptations, toys, collectables and onward, the dark and surly one has been a major part of many peoples lives for eight exquisite decades. 

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My first encounter with the Caped Crusader was when my Mum purchased me an old issue of Detective Comics from a local car boot sale when I was a mere six years old, this was not only the first time I had ever read a Batman comic, but was in fact the first time I had ever read a comic.

I remember reading the issue a dozen times over in one sitting and was eager to divert more of my attention to this amazing hitherto unseen world that contained fantastical characters who really captured my young burgeoning imagination in a way nothing else previously had, I have been fanatical of the Dark Knight since that time.

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Detective Comics #466 marked my initial encounter with the masked manhunter, and told the tale of Batman’s clash with villain Signalman, not exactly an iconic member of Batman’s notorious rogues gallery it has to be said, but it was my very first brush with a Supervillain. This wonderfully nostalgic comic issue also introduced me to the fact that Batman shared a universe with other Superheroes, thanks to a very enjoyable back up story, that regaled the young me with the daring adventures of the Emerald Archer – Green Arrow

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So, a very happy Batman Day to you, my bodacious Bat brethren, and why not sound off in the comments below about your very first encounter with the Dark Knight, and what you will be doing to celebrate another year in the company of Gotham’s greatest grim and gritty guardian angel.  

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Batman is copyright: DC Comics

Ten Years Of The Watchmen

“Rorschach’s journal – 2019, ten years ago I starred in one of the greatest cinematic triumphs of all time. In it the streets were extended gutters, and the gutters were full of critics, and when the drains finally scabbed over, the fans looked up and shouted save us… and Zack Snyder whispered “Yes”

A decade ago, the greatest piece of comic book fiction ever wrought was finally released on film by visual auteur Zack Snyder. His triumphant cinematic reworking of the supposedly un-filmable comic series from the eighties was hailed by the fans as a masterpiece of modern dystopian Superhero cinema, but received tepid reviews from critics (Mmmm, now this seems familiar)

(Warning: Spoilers ahoy)

w2 (1)The Watchmen limited comic series was released by DC Comics in 1986, it was a collaborative effort of three superstar British comic book creators, Writer Alan Moore, Artist Dave Gibbons and Artist/Colourist John Higgins. Moore originally posited to DC that he wanted to use their acquired Charlton Comics characters as the basis for the story (Blue Beetle, The Question, amongst others), but DC’s managing editor of the time Dick Giordano, persuaded Moore to create new characters instead, as the usage of DC’s now integrated (into the DC universe) Charlton heroes would have rendered them almost unusable in future timelines because of the direction they would have taken as a result of Moore’s suggested storyline. 

Alan Moore is widely regarded as one of the greatest comic book authors of all time, aside from Watchmen, Moore has also introduced us to V for Vendetta, Batman: The Killing Joke and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but it is Watchmen that propelled Moore to the rank of numero uno in the highly competitive comic book market

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Protagonist – Rorschach narrates throughout the movie (and original comic book – inset) with regular diary entries and monologues

Alan Moore’s writing often takes a dark and dystopian route through pre-existing tropes, subverting and twisting characters to fit into his alternate timelines. Watchmen is a satirical look at superheroes, that reflects the era it was written, be it through the politics of the time (80’s Britain was a particularly political hot-bed) or emerging trends and people’s apprehension of the future.

Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985, and follows masked vigilante Rorschach as he and other retired members of the Superteam – The Crimebusters, investigate the murder of one of their former colleagues – The Comedian. In Moore’s universe, costumed heroes first appeared in the 1940’s, and were a collection of former Police officers and disgruntled citizens who ‘masked up’ to take down an increasing number of criminals who had taken to wearing costumes to disguise themselves from recognition.

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In the early eighties with the world on the brink of a nuclear holocaust, and with an outcry by the general populace against masked vigilantes, costumed heroes were outlawed, and most faded into retirement or (in the case of the Comedian and Dr Manhattan) went to work covertly for the Government. Rorschach though continued to fight crime unsanctioned, wanted by the Police he refused to abandon his principles and castigated his former team-mates for their cowardice in the face of the costumed vigilante ban.

After the murder of The Comedian, Rorschach manages to convince former team-mates, Nite-Owl II and Silk Spectre II to come out of retirement and help investigate what he believes is a conspiracy to kill masked heroes. Moore’s take on Superheroes is not for the faint of heart, it is a mature and sometimes shocking take on a popular medium, set in a totalitarian, regressive society consumed with fear and anxiety

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Unto this premise comes visual mastermind director Zack Snyder, riding high on his successful conversion of Frank Miller’s “300” graphic novel, he set his sights on DC’s Watchmen, and in 2009 presented us with perfection in comic book to film form. His film mirrored its source material beautifully, condensing the story somewhat, but still supplying every nuance and important depth of plot that the original comic series conveyed.

His choice of actors were astonishingly close to their fictional selves, especially the casting of Jackie Earle-Haley as titular protagonist Rorschach. This film has ultimately become the cornerstone of Zack Snyder’s career, only equalled (in our humble opinion) by his take on DC’s Trinity in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, which shares many similarities to Watchmen in both tone and visual style.

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Ten years on and Watchmen is now more highly regarded amongst its former critics, still loved by the fans and is one of the first ‘R’ rated (18 rated here in the UK) Superhero movies, long before characters like Deadpool were ever conceived for the big screen. Snyder’s film is visually enthralling, deep and concise in its portrayal of the original classic series, as much a must watch now as it ever was, not only one of the greatest comic book movies of all time… but literally one of the greatest movies of all time! 

watchmen emoWho Watches The Watchmen?… You Should!

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And with DC’s current take on the characters with Geoff Johns fantastic Doomsday Clock limited series, and HBO’s upcoming TV series… there’s plenty more minutemen to come!

The Astonishing Art Of Amanda Conner…

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I’ve been actively reading and collecting comic-books since I was a mere six years of age, my first ever encounter with a Superhero was through the dark and surly one himself – The Batman. From there I became a superfan of the Themysciran Titan – Wonder Woman, and eventually over the decades became a devoted stalwart of DC Comics and their menagerie of costume clad heroes and villains.

Not being content to just absorb the wonderfully fantastic stories wrought from the fevered minds of the various comic creators over the years, like most things I love in life, I was also heavily into the creative process behind the formation of the thrilling and titanic tales brought forth by said tomes… especially the diverse styles of the sundry artists who have regaled us with their wondrous takes on classic characters.

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From an early age my favourite artists included such talented individuals as Neal Adams, George Perez, Brian Bolland, Norm Breyfogle, Adam Hughes, Phil Jimenez, Nicola Scott, Emanuel Luppachino and many, many too numerous to mention. Picking a favourite from these would always prove to be an insurmountable challenge… that was until I discovered the astonishing art of one Amanda Conner, from that point on anybody enquiring as to who my fave artist was, would not be able to shut me up as I enthused and rhapsodised over her awesome artwork. Quirky, zany, fun, and instantly recognisable… for me personally, Amanda will always be numero uno!

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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. 

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On May of this year at the Comic-Con Revolution event in California, Amanda was honoured as the recipient of the Joe Kubert Distinguished Storyteller award, a prestigious achievement given only to the most outstanding comic-book creators, who exemplify both Joe Kubert’s artistic talent and commitment to the nurturing of the comic-book community. And long may she reign…

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DC Women Of Action

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DC Comics have a long and storied history of female characters, be that hero or villain, DC have been regaling their fans with fantastic tales of inspirational women overcoming adversity and empowering their readership for decades. Though the most obvious comes to mind, that of feminist icon and groundbreaking creation that is Wonder Woman, DC have, probably, the largest roster of super-females in their progressive catalogue than any other company… most of which have been in continuous publication, within their very own monthly series, for over seventy years.

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Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Catwoman, and Shea Fontana = MUST BUY!

Shea Fontana, the author behind DC Superhero Girls, Wonder Woman: Heart of the Amazon, and Batman Overdrive took to Twitter recently to announce her newest project for DC Comics – DC: Women Of Action. This hardcover, 176 page book celebrates the greatest female creations that have emerged from the Superhero publishing giant over the past eighty years. The beautifully illustrated tome profiles the most independent and popular female heroes and villains and the real life female authors and artists who have proven a fundamental and intrinsic reason behind their continued success.

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The book will feature such paradigmatic characters as Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Power Girl, Black Canary, Starfire, Hawkgirl, Amanda Waller and many, many more exemplary creations that have graced us with their empowering presence over the decades, all wrapped up in a must buy volume which is available from your local comic book emporium from October 22nd. 

Well, I know I’ll be purchasing this titanic tome when it releases in October, who else is with me, fellow fans of fantastic female fiction…

Hellboy – 2019 Movie Review (And Minor Rant!)

You know, we live in a world now so utterly dominated by social media and online critical presence, that nothing is really given a fair shake of the proverbial stick anymore. There used to be a time when the general populace at large would actually, actively make up their own minds on whether they liked or loathed something… by actually experiencing said thing! Now, well they just read and/or parrot what some random critic or stranger on the other end of  this magical digital conveyance known as the internet is spouting. Critics and online meta-data collecting sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are (in my eyes at least) doing a huge disservice to both the the hard work put in by film directors and the film industry itself, critics tend to now have the power of whether a movie succeeds or fails, not through how objectively good or bad it is, but often according to their own set criteria.

(May I just say, right off the bat, that even though I do review both comic-books and occasionally movies, I never, ever review things I have not enjoyed… can’t quite see the point in it, heaping negativity onto something that clearly wasn’t aimed at me but might have given other people pleasure seems, pointless.)

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Neil Marshall’s most recent celluloid outing – Hellboy immediately springs to mind as a really rather splendid conversion of it’s original source material (a classic indie comic-series by artist/writer Mike Mignola)but one that is apparently, according to online film critics an uninspired remake of Guillermo Del Toro’s original Hellboy twosome (which admittedly were a fun time, mostly due to Ron Perlman’s presence) They are (in my humble opinion) incorrect, Marshall’s Hellboy take is fantastic, and in a lot of ways better (yep) than Del Toro’s own variant!

Director: Neil Marshall  Writers: Mike Mignola and Andrew Cosby (screenplay)  Actors: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim, Sasha Lane, and Thomas Haden Church.

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Critics, Meet Flaming Sword!

British film director Neil Marshall has given the world such delicious delights as Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Centurion and Doomsday. He has also directed and produced a number of episodes of HBO’s televisual success – Game of Thrones. He is a huge fan of horror, fantasy and comic-books which made him the perfect choice as replacement for Del Toro. Marshall’s Hellboy is a gory, uber violent, and zany take on Mignola’s much beloved character, and a lot closer in tone and style to the original comic creation, with Mignola himself on-board as co-writer.

England 517 AD, and Blood Queen – Nimue (Milla Jovovich) has unleashed a cataclysmic plague upon the populace. Legendary King, Arthur and his faithful magician, Merlin thwart her nefarious plans by severing her limb from limb utilising the mythical blade Excalibur, and secrete her dismembered (yet still very much alive!) body across the British Isles.

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Hellboy, Alice and Ben Daimio track down the dreaded and dastardly… Film Critics!!

Back in the present day, Hellboy (David Harbour) is mourning the accidental death of fellow BPRD agent and friend, Esteban Ruiz, who, dispatched to investigate a suspected vampire cult is bitten and himself becomes a creature of the night.  Hellboy accidentally impales Ruiz, who with his dying breath informs Big Red that a prophesied end of days is close. Almost immediately after returning to BPRD headquarters, Hellboy is sent to England by his adopted human father, Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) to help an arcane Demon hunting group known as The Osiris Club in tracking down and killing three giants who are gleefully on a murderous and hungry rampage across jolly ol’ England. Elsewhere a hog faced faerie named Gruagach seeks the help of witch, Baba Yaga, in seeking out the arcane (de-limbed!) sorceress Nimue and once more unleash a dark plague of epidemic proportion upon the world.

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Milla Jovovich’s Nimue Unleashing A Plague Upon… (yep, you guessed it) Critics!!

Marshall’s Hellboy is a fun and fantastic rollick, a hyper stylised, gory, violent romp with one of comicdom’s most entertaining indie characters. As mentioned previously, I thoroughly enjoyed Ron Perlman as the titular character in Del Toro’s original duo of movies, but actor David Harbour (Stranger Things) is a damn fine replacement as Big Red. With a standout back up cast that includes Milla Jovovich hamming it up (in the best possible way) as Blood Queen Nimue, the always reliable Ian McShane as Hellboy’s adopted father and decent performances from Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim… not to mention a surprise appearance from (and yes, I was fanboying hard on this one) one Lobster Johnson, brilliantly brought to life by Thomas Haden Church. Hellboy is silly fun from gory beginning through to overtly violent conclusion, yet throughout has it’s tongue firmly embedded in it’s (red, right) cheek! Recommended.

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Precinct1313 Recommends: Wonder Woman – Come Back To Me

By the golden girdle of Gaea, how in Tartarus did this one slip by me, my astounding Amazonian associates. ‘Wonder Woman: Come Back To Me’ has been sitting on my local comic-book emporium’s shelves for the past month and yours truly (quite possibly… the World’s biggest Wondy fan) failed to notice it’s resplendent release! So, I hereby revoke my honorary Amazon status and hang my head in shame… but before I do that, let us visit the golden shores of the paradise island known as Themyscira, and catch up with the wondrous one’s odyssey once more…

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‘Wonder Woman: Come Back To Me’ was originally published in DC Comic’s – Justice League Giants #3 and 4, oversized volumes that were exclusive to the Walmart chain (which means they were never available here in the UK… boo!) These terrific tales of the Themysciran Titan are now available as an ongoing mini-series courtesy of the astonishing Amanda Conner (my fave artist) who co-writes Diana’s chronicles alongside her hubby, jaunty Jimmy Palmiotti… Amanda also takes on duty as cover artist, delivering her always astoundingly accomplished artwork, and as usual each and every cover image is a joy to behold.

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Military pilot and Wonder Woman’s beau – Captain Steve Trevor is called in to test fly an experimental new aircraft, but his mission goes awry and he winds up lost in the infamous Bermuda Triangle. Diana, and best friend Etta Candy manage to track his perilous path to a mysterious and most certainly dangerous island, can they manage to liberate Steve from the clutches of this malefic, mythic Isle before it’s too late…

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As always Conner and Palmiotti deliver an absorbing and amusing tale, they really are  marvellous masters of mystery and mirth. Conner’s covers are beautifully rendered works of art, bright, colourful and full of emotion. Interior art duties are handled by Chad Hardin and Alex Sinclair, two wonderful mainstays of the comic-book universe and as ever their renderings are exquisite. Highly Recommended.

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Comic Cover(s) Of The Week

One Cover To Rule Them All…

Well hey there fellow fans of fantastic fiction, and welcome to another exhilarating episode of Comic Cover Of The Week. And this week we have a cornucopia of cool and collectively creative covers for your decidedly discerning delectation”

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Before we begin, picture this scene… yours truly hasn’t darkened the doorsteps of my local comic book emporium for just over a month due to circumstances beyond my control (look, someone had to stop that rampaging horde of evil ninjas, right!?) So, there I am crossing the treasured threshold of my favourite purveyor of superheroic saga’s, when the proprietor looks me grimly in the eye – “been awhile Bruce” he proffers ” you may want to sit down, the shock of your pull list may take you back a bit” he continued with a wry glint in his eye, as he realises that he may be able to shut early even if I only buy a modicum of my haul. From my back pocket I could hear my, near sentient, wallet groan and sigh when the inevitable mountain of comics slammed down on the shop’s counter with such force, that the planet almost tipped off it’s axis and hurtled into the sun! There were quite a few, that’s for sure…

So let us begin by careening into a chasm containing a cavalcade of cleavage clad comic-covers starring the delightfully delectable and exquisitely enchanting – Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. 

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I buy as many variants of the voluptuous vixen vamp’s monthly adventures as I can possibly seize my hands upon… I am a massive fan of the charming Cassandra Peterson alter ego… I mean, you can never have too much Elvira in your life!

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Next up is this captivating Catwoman variant (actually based upon a golden age original – Batman#42 from 1947) by the  stunning Stanley (Artgerm) Lau. Lau has become one of my absolute favourite cover artists over the years (joining other greats such as Amanda Conner, Jenny Frisson and Adam Hughes) Stanley is one of the best artists working in comics today as you can see for yourself with this rousing rendition of the classically costumed Selina Kyle (an extra bonus, as this is my personal most beloved costume of the calculatingly cool and capricious cat-burglar)

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All these covers and more (oh so many more…) are available at your local comic-book emporium right now! best get there quick before my meddling with the Earth’s axis plummets us into the abyss!!

Tears In Rain – Legendary Actor Rutger Hauer Passes Away At 75

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Rutger Hauer, legendary Dutch actor passed away on 24 July at the age of 75. Upon reading the news on the BBC website, I was genuinely upset, Rutger was one of my favourite actors of all time.

I was an 80’s kid, that phenomenal decade encompassed my formative years, all the greatest cult and horror movies emanated from the eighties, as well as some of the greatest action stars in history – Arnie, Sly, Wesley but most affirmably Rutger, who was very, very much different to his peers as an actor, yet walked along a similar cinematic line… of the names mentioned (all of whom I adore, especially Wesley Snipes) Rutger was, without a doubt, streets ahead in both acting talent and charisma.

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From the seventies, throughout the eighties and beyond, Rutger starred in a plethora of cult and blockbuster movies, with personal favourites including – The Hitcher, Blind Fury, Split Second, Wanted: Dead Or Alive, Ladyhawke and Salute Of The Jugger. Though he was most fondly remembered for his astonishing turn as Roy Batty, the replicant antagonist from Ridley Scott’s Sci-Fi opus ‘Blade Runner’. Though titular star of that seminal movie – Harrison Ford was billed as leading actor, it was Rutger who stole the movie as the tragic antagonist Batty. Rutger brought much needed pathos to the role and ended up not only eclipsing Ford’s performance but also had the best lines, especially his famous “Time to die” monologue (actually written by Rutger himself!) which cemented his status as the celluloid legend he will always be…

R.I.P Rutger Hauer, we shall miss you sir.

 

Modern British Cult Cinema: HOWL

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Director: Paul Hyett.  Writers: Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler. Cast: Ed Speelers, Holly Weston, Shauna McDonald, Sean Pertwee, Rosie Day.

Werewolves are awesome aren’t they? howling at the moon, voraciously stalking their prey, fighting vampires (but mostly losing, ’cause Kate Beckinsale kicks arse… obviously!) Over the decades there have been a fair few great movies based upon the shape shifting lycanthropes, dating back as far as 1935 with ‘Werewolf of London’ through classic Lon Chaney’s ‘The Wolf Man’ from 1941, and beyond with such deliciously depraved delights as The Howling, An American Werewolf In London (my personal fave), The Company Of Wolves, Ginger Snaps and the aforementioned bad-arse Beckinsale movie series ‘Underworld’ , this particular horror sub-genre has been well served over the years.

In 2002, British director Neil Marshall (Descent, Centurion, Hellboy) gave us his own vision of the classic genre with the stupendous ‘Dog Soldiers’ an absolute gem of a movie that followed a small group of British soldiers on a training mission against the S.A.S in the Scottish Highlands, but the Special Air Service turns out to be the least of their worries as they are assailed by an even deadlier force (yep, deadlier than the SAS!) a pack of ravenous lycos! The low budget horror/comedy was a huge smash hit not just in the UK but worldwide, and helped propel the career of it’s helm Neil Marshall to international stardom.

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Train guard Joe and colleague Ellen discover there are worse things than British Rail pre-packed sandwiches!

‘Howl’ is the most recent Anglo entry into this lycanthropic category, and feels very much like it’s embedded in the same universe as Dog Soldiers, in fact there’s even a cameo by brilliant British thesp – Sean Pertwee (this time with entrails intact!) though in the popular tradition of English actors named ‘Sean’ he doesn’t last too long! (seriously, English actors bearing that titular name have about the same amount of movie survivability as a red shirted Star Trek security officer!)

Train guard Joe, winding down after a long shift, is pushed into taking on a red eye journey by his new (sneery and unpleasant) supervisor. Tired but unwilling to rock the boat (train?) Joe agrees, and boards the non-stop train from Waterloo, yet his resolve and that of his fellow commuters will be tested to the utmost when the train seemingly breaks down in a dark and ominous stretch of forest miles from anywhere. With communications down and the train driver inexplicably missing, Joe attempts to keep the passengers calm, which ultimately proves futile as the train is assailed by an unknown animal, large of stature and with a blood lust for the occupants of the stricken carriages.

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“He’s, uh, behind me isn’t he?”

Howl is a tense, fun and rollickingly wild Werewolf siege movie, in the style of the aforementioned Dog Soldiers. Some decent acting from a great cast (which includes Ed Speelers of Downtown Abbey, Shauna McDonald of The Descent, and of course the legendary Sean Pertwee ) a superbly creepy setting, but most importantly of all, the gore and werewolves themselves are top notch, though the film isn’t quite up to the standards of Dog Soldiers, the creature effects in HOWL far outstrip those in Marshall’s earlier lyco opus, in fact the practical effects are some of the best I’ve seen in a UK horror for years especially considering the rather low budget nature of the film (a measly £1,000,000) Highly Recommended!

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The Black Rose Gallery

Now, if you were with us last week when we took a tantalising trip through a prescient preternatural portal that lay deep within the bowels of this malefic mansion of mystery known as Precinct1313, then you may recount that I, my colleague Pete and our psychic carrion crow of woe – Eldritch are currently being held within a small padded room in a Sanitarium, watched over by the beguiling yet utterly bewildering Dr Rose Black. Luckily I managed to smuggle in (don’t ask me where I hid it!) my trusty laptop, so in preparation for our upcoming odyssey through the ‘Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala’  a visual novel we shall be presenting right here in the Precinct, we thought we’d share a few more images of the story’s main antagonist – Black Rose.

The Cassandra Vala idea, world and characters are something that I have been living and ruminating for the past decade. The tale has gone through many, many revisions, I have experimented with different styles of writing for the narrative – comic-book, visual novel, even a choose your own adventure setting akin to the classic Fighting Fantasy books of yore.

The finished product (it’s never really finished though…) actually combines all of the above narrative divergence (yep, the choose your own adventure portions will also be present!) the one constant of all the different takes on storyline and characters though was the antagonist Black Rose. I’ve been on/off drawing this character for longer than the actual novel itself, I love the character and enjoy drawing her at every opportunity (consequently the titular star of the novel – Cassandra Vala herself, I have much fewer pieces of!) 

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Just ahead of the upcoming novels debut I thought it would be fun to share some of said images of Rose with you, fellow agents. Some of these pieces I drew over a decade ago, others… just last week! and it’s interesting how little visually the character hasn’t changed… “Shhhhh, I must go now, it sounds like Dr Black is back,  making her rounds, we’ll sneak another post out real soon… enjoy ”

br sketch 2This was one of the first sketches I did of the character from way back when. There were a myriad influences for Rose’s look, but absolutely the two biggest were James O’Barr’s undead vigilante – ‘The Crow’ and the creepy character Sadako from the original Japanese movie ‘Ring’.

br sketch 1.jpgAnother earlier piece, I’ve always enjoyed sitting in a coffee shop reading comics and sketching pics of Rose and her extended family… I have produced some of my best pieces at the local Caffe Nero.

br sk 3As the years passed, technology and easier usage art software became a lot more affordable, which subsequently opened up a whole new world of computer aided inking and colouring, helping my lowly sketches emerge into a explosion of almost artistic professionalism!!

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br sk 7The above piece is one of my most recent and portrays Rose and her sisters, aka – The Trinity of Thorns. At this point I had finally come to grips with the art software to the point that only the barest minimum of physical sketching is needed.

Black Rose pop art 2 - Edited.jpgAnd last, but most certainly not least, this is my most recent piece, through which I set out to pay homage to my favourite Warhol painting – his classic Marilyn Monroe pop art pic. (it also turned out to be my personal fave drawing of the rambunctious Rose!)

Thanks for stopping by fellow fans of fantastic fiction…

 

All images are copyright: Precinct1313. I am more than happy for people to share my art as long as credit is given – to Bruce @ Precinct1313.

5 Years In The Precinct – An Anniversary Special…

Hey there fellow agents of Precinct1313 and a warm welcome to our fifth anniversary celebrations! That’s right the majestic mansion of mystery is celebrating five years of random musings on the world of DC Comics and general geekery!

It’s fantastic that you’ve all been able to join us down here in the Precinct’s celebrated comic crypts, for today we not only share the third annual episode of our ongoing scintillating saga – ‘In Pursuit Of Precinct1313’  but this titular tale has been woven so that it also serves as a prescient prologue to our (loooooooong in gestation) visual novel – ‘The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala’  That’s right fellow fans of fantastic fiction , our ten year in the writing (ten… TEN!) odyssey begins right here, and from this humble introduction, it will then spill it’s masterfully malefic mystery on a monthly basis, right here, in Precinct1313!

To our followers, readers, and fellow bloggers may I just say many, many thanks for the continuing support of the Precinct over the past half decade with your comments and likes, it’s really, really appreciated, it is YOU that makes this entire blogging endeavour worthwhile… and so, on with the show…

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Welcome fellow agents of Precinct1313 to the latest chilling chapter of  ‘In Pursuit Of Precinct1313‘  if this is your first encounter with the thrilling tale of how we first discovered this Malefic Mansion of Mystery – then why not regale yourselves with the previous chapters right here – “Three Years In The Precinct”

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In Pursuit Of Precinct1313 – Chapter III: The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala

Darkness engulfed me as I entered the inky black void residing within the mysterious vault door, the nihility was all encompassing – no light, no sound, just vacuum. I wheeled on the spot, looking to return back through the perplexing vault egress, my heart was racing and cold beads of sweat formed on my brow, this interstice was, just, wrong… the doorway had disappeared, eaten up by the stygian dark. I was beginning to panic now, a disquieting anxiety pervaded through my fragile mind… where the hell was Pete? I moved cautiously forward, hands outstretched in front of me, scrabbling for something tangible.

My head started to spin, and nausea began to surge through me, taking to one knee I attempted to halt the gagging queasiness, whilst striving to calm my rising anxiety and slow my thunderous heartbeat. To no avail, I felt light-headed and could feel the cold embrace of the oncoming stupor… I cascaded head first into an unconscious abyss…

“Are you okay?” – a voice greeted me through the murk that had encroached upon my mind. “Can you stand?” the disembodied voice continued. Bright light began to penetrate my latent mind, the nausea had subsided, shaking my head vigorously I glanced up to see a woman standing over me, immaculately dressed, porcelain white skin and fiery red hair were my take from this unexpected, though hopefully serendipitous encounter. “I’m not sure” I replied Where the hell am I?”

The woman took me by the arm and lifted me from my knees, surprisingly strong, her hand curled, rather painfully, in a vice like grip around my forearm  “The more pressing question is where did you come from? I mean, you’re the second person we’ve found semi-conscious in this part of the building this morning, you’re not a patient here and you certainly should not have been able to get past security and into this wing without them noticing”

“I’m sorry but… who are you, what is this place?” I could feel the wave of anxious nausea returning as I eventually stood eye to eye with my apparent liberator. She was, quite literally, a vision to behold, flawless skin, her hair an almost impossibly vermilion red, viridescent green eyes that felt as though they were boring into my inner being, my anima seemingly laid bare for her to scrutinise.

“Oh, do forgive me, my name is Black, Doctor Rose Black, I’m the chief psychologist of this esteemed institute, hmm, you still look rather unsteady, follow me, let’s get you checked over”  she took my arm, this time more gently, leading me slowly down the stark white corridor “It’s not far, how are you feeling now?”

“Confused, but not quite as queasy thankfully, you mentioned that you found someone else here earlier, it wasn’t another male, dark hair, name of Peter by any chance was it?” I glanced across at the Doctor, still hopelessly beguiled by her transcendent beauty.

“Yes, that’s right, Peter… perplexingly, he had a crow with him, it was dutifully perched on his shoulder, like some kind of pet, it really was a rather surreal sight”

Eldritch” I replied “the crow’s name is Eldritch, though to be honest, we’re more likely his pets than vice versa”  the statement felt ridiculous even as I said it, though, it was probably more than likely true. “You mentioned something about patients, an institute?”

“Yes, you have, somehow, found yourself inside Raven’s Reach Sanitarium, an institute dedicated to helping what some have deemed lost causes, mostly deeply disturbed and psychologically unbalanced individuals”  Doctor Black turned her head towards me and smiled “here they find some semblance of peace and tranquillity, as we hopefully work our way towards rehabilitation and, perhaps, reintegration”

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“We’ve arrived, if you’ll just make your way through that door on your right and wait a few moments, I’ll send one of our medical interns along to check you over” the Doctor beamed yet another impossibly radiant smile towards me before promptly guiding me through a robust steel door… then swiftly slamming it shut as I entered. I whirled on the spot, peering through the oval shaped hatch embedded within the steel barrier  “what the hell? wh-what do you think you’re doing?” I stuttered, nausea once again began to bubble up and I pressed my hands against the cold metallic door frame, to steady against the rise of the unsolicited vertigo.

“You honestly didn’t think I’d just believe you when you said you had no idea where you are, or how you got here did you? I mean come on now” Dr Black’s former radiance disappeared in an instant, replaced by a humourless, grave expression  “but not to worry, I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of things fairly soon, in the meantime, I have done you the courtesy of allowing you to share this room with your companions”

I turned to see Pete sitting on a small bed lodged in the corner of what now appeared to be a padded room, his face bore an expression of morose acceptance… ” got you too huh?” he said, “was kinda hoping you’d not get caught as well and maybe, I dunno, break me out of here?”  Pete’s shoulders slumped as he realised that, unfortunately, we were now both in the same predicament. Just to the left of Pete, perched on the bed’s headboard was Eldritch, his onyx eyes fixed upon me, a mocking look for my own ineptitude at extricating them from this peculiar predicament.

“Hello?”  a voice punctuated through the disquieting malaise  “are you new here?” the disembodied voice appeared to be emanating from the room to the left of our padded cell. “Uuh hey… anyway you can possibly tell us what in the hell is going on?” I furrowed my ear into the soft padding of the cell’s wall “who are you, why has that Doctor detained us in here… in fact where in the hell is here?” my voice rose and fractured in frantic agitation at the situation at hand.  “Here?” the female voice replied softly  “well currently, at least for me, here, is Raven’s Reach Sanitarium, though what ‘here’ will be as the day goes on, well, who can tell… oh, and my name’s Cassandra by the by, and as far as the Doctor is concerned…” the voice paused, as if unsure how to continue “well, uh, at this time I’m not sure who or what she is, it changes you see”

“Changes?” I queried at the disincarnate voice “what does that even mean, look, uh, Cassandra, I could really use some answers right now, I feel like I’m losing my mind” I turned to look wearily back at Pete, who sullenly shrugged and retorted – “sorry Bruce but you expected to get a straight answer from an incorporeal voice in the adjacent padded cell of a sanitarium! I mean, really!?”  I stared at Pete, succumbing to what little rationale still persisted in my mind “You’re right, I know, I just… ” huffing the air from my lungs, shoulders slumped in aquiescence, I walked to the corner of the stark white room, dropped to my knees and burrowed my face into my palms.

“Maybe you’ve always been here Bruce” Cassandra responded cryptically “and maybe, just maybe, I have too, at least, this version of me”  I peered at Pete through my fingers, who quietly mouthed  “uh huh… sanitarium”  Eldritch cocked his head towards me and nodded in conjunction with Pete. Burying my face back into the comforting darkness of my hands I wondered whether what Cassandra was saying bore some semblance of truth, I mean, here I was in a padded room, in a sanitarium no less, after walking through a mysterious portal contained within the crypts of a preternatural mansion known as Precinct1313, where I have apparently resided for the past five years, alongside my closest friend and… get this, a psychic crow, I mused that last thought over again, a psychic crow… yep, there’s a damn fine chance that I am actually, bat-shit crazy!

“She’s here” Cassandra uttered I have to go, please don’t mention that we spoke, she doesn’t like it when patients converse with one another, maybe we can talk again later, if I’m still me of course…”  I gazed anew at Pete, who just shook his head “Sanitarium dude, Sanitarium… “

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Hey there fellow agents, and if you’ve managed to stay the course of this strange tale then, thanks… ’tis much appreciated. This prologue will evolve into the monthly fable we have entitled – The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala – below I have included a small art gallery of my early concept designs for the lead characters from the visual novel, enjoy, and whilst you’re here, why not make your way down to the Precinct’s hallowed Halls Of Quaffing to help celebrate our fifth year in existence… I would join you, but I appear to be confined within a small padded room somewhere, else! Ah well, means more booze for the rest of you huh? silver linings and all that.

The Chronicles Of Cassandra Vala – Character Concept Art –

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All text and imagery are copyright – Precinct1313.