Reality is the playground of the unimaginative
Home Of Superheroes, the Supernatural, Swords, Sorcery, and Star Stuff

Sunday, 31 July 2016

I'm Batman, Britain's Favourite Superhero...

Favourite hero, villain, and costume in one picture...

Britain's favourite superhero is... Batman.

That is, according to the 90-minute compilation of clips and interviews on Channel 4 last night (entitled Britain's Favourite Superhero).

I wasn't expecting a particularly erudite examination of the the superhero phenomenon, but was pleasantly surprised.

The public opinion polls, even the final countdown of the top five heroes chosen by viewers of Channel 4, were a very small part of a reasonably well researched primer to modern superhero movies.

Sure, they skipped over some films (e.g Ang Lee's Hulk, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Ant-Man, Age of Ultron, Winter Soldier, and the Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man flicks, for example) and also forgot about Hawkeye when talking about the characters in Avengers Assemble, but they had a lot to cover in a short span of time.

I'd feared the usual parade of comedians and random Z-list celebrities spouting vacuous put-downs and general snark that these "countdown" shows are often padded out with, but instead the documentary featured a handful of film critics (most knew their stuff, although one was really irritating) and a veritable cavalcade of genre-specific personalities from Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, and Stan Lee (on the comic book side) through to Margot Kidder, Richard Donner, Mark Hamill, Christopher Nolan, David S Goyer, Michael Caine, and Burt Ward (on the cinematic side).

The only "everyman" who popped up was comedienne-of-the-moment Katherine Ryan, who admirably made up for her appearance on last week's appalling Grease Night debacle with Alan Carr.

From the first Christopher Reeve Superman via Sam Raimi's Spider-Man and the original Batman movies, right up to Deadpool and the (nearly) current Marvel and DC slate (with mentions of the upcoming Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman films), this show was a pretty decent overview of the genre.

It emphasised British involvement, where applicable, and homegrown box office numbers, and didn't shy away from mentioning films that didn't do so well (e.g. Ed Norton's Incredible Hulk) or the divided reaction to Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice.

In the opinion polls, that were dotted throughout, viewers chose "flight" as their favourite superpower; their favourite film was The Dark Knight, favourite villain was The Joker, and favourite costume was Batman's (you can see why he was voted the country's favourite superhero).

In second place, behind Batman, came Superman, third favourite was Spider-Man, fourth favourite was Iron Man, and in fifth place was Wonder Woman.

Hell Is Coming As Things Get Bloodier In The New Season Of From Dusk Till Dawn...

Season three of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series will premiere [in the States] on Tuesday, September 6, 2016, at 9PM ET. The 10 new action-packed, horror-filled episodes follow the Gecko brothers into the vortex of the culebra underworld, as they are forced to assemble an unlikely crew to battle new enemies determined to take them down.

Season three features a returning ensemble cast including D.J. Cotrona, Zane Holtz, Eiza González, Jesse Garcia, Madison Davenport, Brandon Soo Hoo, Emily Rios, and Jake Busey. New cast joining the third season are: Ana de la Reguera (Jane the Virgin, Narcos), who will have a recurring role as Lord Venganza Verdugo, one of the seven remaining culebra Lords; Marko Zaror (Machete Kills) as Zolo, an Aztec warrior trained in hell; Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn) as Burt, a retired demon hunter who smokes more medical marijuana than he sells; Maurice Compte (Breaking Bad, Narcos) as Brasa, a mysterious Rasputin-like figure who takes on the Gecko brothers; and Nicky Whelan (House of Lies,The Wedding Ringer), whose character will be revealed during the season.

Robert Rodriguez, El Rey Network’s founder and chairman and the creator of the 1995 cult-classic film of the same name, directs the season’s second episode; additional returning directors include Dwight Little, Alejandro Brugués, Eduardo Sanchez, and Joe Menendez, and the newcomers are Eagle Egilsson, Rebecca Rodriguez, and Diego Gutierrez.

Season three continues the Gecko Brothers’ saga, as they fight their way through the world of culebras, the vampire-snake hybrids that control hidden empires in Texas and Mexico. Once the baddest outlaws in the land, Seth and Richie made a run for the border two years ago, to save their lives – and their fortune. They ran headlong into a bar full of bloodsuckers and bandits, facing off with the vampire goddess, Santánico. The Geckos joined her cause and settled an old score. It won them a place in the culebra world. Now, that world is about to explode, and new enemies are gathering – dark forces, hell-bent on destruction and domination. It’s up to the Geckos to stop them – but they can’t do it alone.

We Share The Same Postcode...

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Third Edition Villains & Vigilantes Is Coming To Kickstarter Very Soon...

A mock-up of the Mighty Protectors cover art, from Jeff Dee

On August 20, Monkey House Games will be launch the eagerly-awaited Kickstarter to fund the completion of the third edition of Jeff Dee and Jack Herman’s superhero role-playing game Villains and Vigilantes.

Villains and Vigilantes was the world’s first complete superhero role-playing game. Originally published in 1979, V&V was revised in 1982 but has not had a major update since.

Jeff and Jack founded Monkey House Games in 2010 to publish a re-release V&V (known as V&V 2.1), and to begin work on a full third edition. That work now nears completion!

The new edition has a name, and not just a number: it’s called Mighty Protectors after the super group from the very first V&V campaign in the official setting – the Mighty Protectors Multiverse.

Mighty Protectors features a new streamlined and expanded revision of the V&V rules, an introduction to the Mighty Protectors Multiverse, and all-new artwork.

You can learn more about the new rules mechanics on the Monkey House Games' Forum.

It's The Small Things...


Although she purchased a number of them for me, Rachel has never been too impressed with the growing number of Funko Pop! Vinyls appearing on my bedside cabinet.

With the arrival this week of the new Doctor Strange Vinyl bobble-head, I finally got round to relocating the bedside collection upstairs to one of the display cabinets in the gamesroom.

They (Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D., Howard The Duck, Venkman and Slimer from Ghostbusters, The Flash, and a Sharknado) have joined my collection of old Game Of Thrones Pop! Vinyls.

It was the Thrones' figures that first got me hooked on the cutsie crack that is Funko's Pop! Vinyls.

Back On The Beat With Erik Tenkar's Saturday Knight Special...


My favourite blog is back with a vengeance. I first wrote enthusiastically about Erik Tenkar's Saturday Knight Special back in 2011, shortly after he launched it.

A leading light in the OSR gaming community and host of the ever-popular Tenkar's Tavern, Erik has recently retired from the New York City Police Department.

Thus, he is now able to devote more time to updating Saturday Knight Special, in which he chronicles his "experiences as a young cop in the South Bronx in the mid to late '90s"

The blog had lain fallow for a long time, but since Erik's retirement, it has burst back into life, with a mix of commentary on current policing as well as stories from his past.

He has even included a living lexicon of police jargon, which will be constantly updated, for those of us who enjoy that kind of minutiae.

As a fellow gamer, I'm sure Erik won't mind that a lot of his vintage anecdotal material (such as personalities, locales etc) I hope to mine for my future superhero campaign.

As a Brit, I am woefully ignorant of American policing beyond what I see on television or in the cinema, yet am keen to set our campaign in a fictitious American city because the bulk of my comic book influences are American.

And, of course, New York inspired both Batman's Gotham and Superman's Metropolis, as well as serving as a mainstay of the Marvel Universe.

Golden Anniversary Glory: They Think It's All Over... It Is Now, Fifty Years Later!


Today is the day, 50 years ago, when we beat West Germany 4-2 and won the World Cup.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Fleamarket Friday: Telling Heroic Stories Of Knights Of Yore...


Prince Valiant is one of the all-time great comic strips; a beautiful, sprawling, Arthurian adventure romp full of knights and chivalry, published continuously since 1937.

Originally written and illustrated by the incredible Hal Foster, the strip has lived on thanks to other great talents in the field, since Foster's death in 1982.

In 1989 Chaosium published the Prince Valiant Storytelling Game, written by the legendary Greg Stafford (of Runequest and King Arthur Pendragon fame).

With a d2 (coin toss) resolution mechanic and only two statistics for each character, it's a simple and elegant game, perfect for introducing youngsters to the eternal joy of roleplaying games.

Now a second edition of the game is being brought to life through Kickstarter and a new publisher (Nocturnal), with updated text and full-colour Hal Foster artwork throughout.

The game is already funded and is racing into stretch goal territory, with the investment window staying open until August 26.

Check out the Prince Valiant Storytelling Game Kickstarter page to learn more about the game, its simple mechanics, the various investment incentives, stretch goals, and available add-ons.


Fleamarket Friday: Return To Twin Peaks...


You're excited for the new season of Twin Peaks, right? You're only human.

The cult show returns next year, but ahead of that its co-creator Mark Frost has a novel coming out in October, The Secret History Of Twin Peaks, which offers a "vastly layered, wide-ranging history that deepens the mysteries of that iconic town in ways that not only enrich the original series but readies fans for the upcoming Showtime episodes".

Just to get you in the mood for release of the book (and fired up even more for the show), here's a tantalising trailer and synopsis:


Twenty-five years [after Dale Cooper’s investigation of the murder of Laura Palmer,] the FBI gets a hold of a box it won’t divulge the provenance of. In the box, a huge dossier…

A female FBI agent is tasked to analyse all the documents inside, and everything related to the strange town of Twin Peaks. She also has to determine the identity of the person who compiled the dossier. Along the way, she discovers secrets about the lives of the town’s residents, but also investigative reports from Dale Cooper who has since vanished, newspaper clippings, an autopsy report, and other classified information.

What happened since the death of the young woman? And why did an anonymous 'archivist' compile such a thorough dossier on Twin Peaks and its origins?

Fleamarket Friday: Ash Faces Martian Invaders... What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


The latest in the series of Evil Dead 2: Revenge one-shots from Space Goat Publishing has been announced.

After facing Hitler, then Dracula, Ash is now getting tangled up with the Martians from HG Wells' War Of The Worlds in Evil Dead 2: Revenge Of The Martians.
In a world where War Of The Worlds actually happened and Ash is now an Uber driver, he gets in over his head when a Deadite invasion revives the long-dormant Martians.

Re-animated corpses of kill-happy Martians! Secret government conspiracies! Bureaucrats with their mitts on the Necronomicon! Destruction on an epic scale! Ash in space! Wait, what?!

After a century laying dormant in a government facility, the terrifying attack tripods of the Martian invasion force come back to life to menace mankind once again.

The Martians who once commanded these engines of destruction are long dead, but their bodies were preserved for study…and a body is all a Deadite needs, right baby?

Can Ash stop the Second War of the Worlds from destroying all life on Earth?
Written by the great Ty Templeton, who also provides layouts (and the variant cover), this 32-page comic is due to hit shelves in September.

Will We Ever Get To See The Animated Vixen Over Here In The UK?


Vixen looks like a great cartoon - and it features the voice talents of the Berlanti-verse supers bringing their characters to life.

It ties in to the live-action shows, and was even referenced last season on Arrow when the lead character crossed over into live-action.

But, for whatever reason, we still can't see this cartoon (or its first season) in the UK.

A straight-to-DVD release would suffice if Sky doesn't plan on screening it with all its other superhero shows.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Cousins Of Steel: Meet The New Superman...


The first official look at Tyler Hoechlin suited up as Superman, alongside his cousin, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), as the Man of Steel joins the Maid of Might on her show in October.

Supernatural: Beyond The Mat


Seeking a break from seemingly fruitless research, the Winchesters attend the funeral of a wrestler their father idolised, and soon find themselves drawn into a new case.

At a tribute match that evening another death occurs and the brothers discover that there has been a similar occurrence at every stop made by this travelling troupe of wrestlers.

Meanwhile, in Hell, Lucifer is getting his troops to search for other "hand of god" artefacts. While this is going on, a demon called Simmons (Bethany Brown) helps Crowley slip his leash and escape. However, we've all seen Game Of Thrones and have a pretty good idea of how that's going to end.

Beyond The Mat was rather an erratic episode, with the antagonist of the main plotline having a pretty ill-defined plan and the secondary plot (Crowley's adventures) being the more interesting part of the episode, even though it was (to a large degree) quite predictable.

As well as facilitating Crowley's escape back into the world, the main point of his storyline was to reinforce the major limitation of the "hand of god" artefacts, rather suggesting that - ultimately - one of these will be playing a role in the Winchesters' inevitable final triumph over Amara.

While there was a solid theme of "good people making bad decisions" to the central story, it really didn't sell itself convincingly. I think it was designed, as much as anything, to reinforce the "change in management" in Hell, but that kind of got lost in a rather jumbled story.

On the other hand, it was great to see the Winchesters really enjoying themselves, at least for a while, doing something not directly related to their family business, but instead reliving some of the - rare - good times from their childhood (that is, going to wrestling matches with their dad).

Next Time:

The Next Instalment Of The Greatest Film Franchise About Sharks In Tornadoes...


Rev up your chainsaws! Having crash-landed in the States this weekend, Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens makes landfall in the UK on Tuesday. You have been warned!

Throwback Thursday: Saviours Of The Multiplex Generation...


This week's release of the first teaser for Danny Boyle's T2, the sequel to seminal '90s flick Trainspotting, sparked an entertaining conversation on Facebook with several of my old university friends.

As part of the first year of our Scriptwriting For Film & TV course we each had to give a 20-minute presentation on the "Theory and Analysis of Broadcast Texts".

Mine was entitled "Shallow Grave & Trainspotting or How Danny Boyle, John Hodge and Andrew Macdonald were The Saviours Of The Multiplex Generation".

Hence the reminisces. I won't go on about the subject matter as that's not what made the presentations so memorable. 

Several of the finest presentations were made by people who didn't stick with the course beyond the first year.

One young girl - who was, to put it euphemistically, quite flighty - did a talk on A Room With A View (that she'd clearly done no preparation for), which primarily consisted of her finding different ways to say "I just really love it".

But the most glorious part was the purple dye running down her face and neck throughout, where she had hurriedly dyed her hair that morning and not counted on getting caught in the rain on her way to the presentation.

However, the presentation we all remember more than any of the others, as much for the reaction from Paul and I as anything else, was from one of the older students on our course.

This gentleman was using slides to illustrate his talk, about "the importance of character".

Unfortunately, he was clearly nervous and mumbling, and gradually the slides got out of sync with his script.

Paul and I were both trying to control our giggling fits, but then suddenly a slide of sheep in the back of a lorry appeared - and, to this day, I have no idea why - and we just lost it.

Paul - facing down glares from a couple of our female friends - had to excuse himself and leave the room, as I wiped the tears from my eyes and bit my lip as my face turned redder.

It was definitely a "you had to be there" moment, but it's one of those memories that all of our group still holds dear, a touchstone for the laughs we all shared during those three years.

After chatting online with my old friends the other day, I dug out the faded notes for my presentation, and as you can see from the pictures below, they included overhead projection sheets (both photocopied and handwritten). That's how high-tech things were back in the Dark Ages of the 20th Century.

Torn From The Headlines: Beatrix Potter's Anniversary...


Today is the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter's birth.

Perhaps to celebrate you could send your time and space-travelling superheroic player-characters to a world of man-sized anthropomorphic animals?

Or if you are looking for a less obvious angle to include Beatrix Potter as a character herself in a Doctor Who RPG-style game, or a steampunky Leagues of Adventure tale, then perhaps take a look at her eclectic scientific interests, particularly her well-regarded work in the field of mycology (despite the heavy gender-bias of the Victorian scientific community)

July's Picture Parade...

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

OVC's Wonder Woman Wednesday Wit...


As the end of the brilliant Our Valued Customers' web comic draws ever closer (and we await the publication of the jumbo Kickstarter-funded anthology), creator Tim Chamberlain shows no sign of slowing down.

Today's single-panel comic perfectly captures the mood of many returning DC Comics fans, ecstatic that both the company's movie line and comics have seemingly - finally - hit upon a winning formula... that of giving the fans what they actually want, rather than trying to force feed them something antithetical to what has always made the genre great.

Make the movies reflect the traditonally inspirational tone of the comics, instead of making grim movies and twisting the comics to reflect that tone.

The Cosmic Book News article is a great summary of this change in DC's attitude and fortunes, with Jim Lee - artist and co-publisher - explaining that their comics are now going to return to being the inspiration for other media, rather than the other way round.

[RPG] Early Jeff Dee Art For The New Villains & Vigilantes...

Stormblade, initial pencils by Jeff Dee

Ahead of the (hopefully) imminent Kickstarter to fund Villains & Vigilantes: Mighty Protectors (the long-awaited Third Edition of the great superhero RPG), co-creator Jeff Dee has shared a couple of early pieces of artwork from the upcoming game, via Facebook.

These are the initial pencils for Gauntlet and Stormblade, founding members of the titular Mighty Protectors.

Except for Dan Houser's work with Icons, I can't think of another setting where a single artist's design aesthetic is so integrally linked with an enduring game as Jeff Dee's is with Villains & Vigilantes.

Gauntlet, initial pencils by Jeff Dee

Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Panel At San Diego Comic Con...

Retro Comic Book Cover Gallery...

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Five Minute Review Of What Has Been And What Is To Come In Gotham...

Torn From The Headlines: America's Most Haunted Graveyards...


With the brilliant old Ghostbusters RPG getting a slight bump in attention because of the new movie, where better to dig up some plot ideas than Blumhouse's list of America's 10 Most Haunted Graveyards?

Obviously, these would also work for Call of Cthulhu, the Supernatural RPG, Chill etc.

A Pair Of Kings...


Initially, I was unsure about the contemporary setting for Kong: Skull Island, but as the trailer unfolded I was very quickly convinced that this is going to be great.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, which comes across as the uncomfortable love-child of Warcraft and Lord Of The Rings, raised by Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels.

Specs Appeal, Please Give Generously!


My eyesight has been getting worse this past year, not dangerously, but annoyingly. I think I might have mentioned this. I put it down to the cataracts I was told about the last time I had an eye test and feared that I might be needing to get the pesky buggers zapped.

My doctor said I needed to go to the opticians, as these days they refer you to the eye hospital, when surgery is required.

So, the other day, I went for an eye exam and explained everything to the optician.

No, no, she said, it's way too early for your cataracts to possibly be causing problems.

After a very thorough eye exam, it turns out that my right eye - always the stronger of the pair - had gone more short-sighted, and I just needed a new pair of spectacles.

On the plus side, my prescription has now crossed a threshold (only just) that qualifies me for free eye tests and an NHS 'voucher' for a small amount of money off my new lenses.

I think I've settled on the design shown below (Rachel likes them) and will go back later in the week for a fitting and to place the order.

With the lenses that vanity dictates (ultra thin, anti-scratch, bifocal etc), it's not going to be cheap, even with my voucher discount.

But this is my eyes we're talking about, rather crucial tools in pretty much all my geeky interests (and my life in general), so I always look at this as an important investment.

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