Saturday, 24 August 2013
Friday, 23 August 2013
She brings these things on herself, she really does. The other day I walked into work for an opening shift dog tired and my co-worker Camilla asks me if I had a fun night.
“Not really,” I say, rubbing my eyes, “my upstairs neighbours were moving furniture late at night and I couldn't get to sleep.”
“Oh,” she says in her naughty voice, “is that what they call it?”
She brings these things on herself. She asks these things because she thinks it will shock me, she should know better by now.
“Oh, they weren't having sex,” I told her, too tired to stop myself though in all honesty I probably wouldn't have, “that sounds completely different.” I'll admit I put the cherry on it only after seeing her look of horror: “Not enough spanking noises, for a start.”
Well, if she will insist on this combination of naughty but easily shocked...
Thursday, 22 August 2013
|The defence of the story I'm about to offer had to be read in the full |
knowledge that THIS is a moment of drama and tension in the story.
I never claimed to have taste.
I don't deny any of this, it's all perfectly fair. The simple fact is, though, that when I was nine years old this was the first Doctor Who story I ever saw. Planet Of The Daleks is comfort viewing for me, it gives me a nostalgia buzz less to do with the actual story and more to do with remembering sitting on the floor in my grandmother's living room watching it. It does have some genuine merits, however:
The plot might be simple but Nation knows how to pack action into his scripts. The story rattles along with the minimum of padding (there is some, this is a six-parter). Jo gets to play the hero for the first episode, going out and exploring whilst the Doctor is trapped in the TARDIS. Jo is one of the all-time great companions and this is a fantastic introduction to her. It has invisible friendly aliens who wear purple fur coats which is just fun.
Wednesday, 21 August 2013
I cannot allow myself, completist bastard that I am, to cross this finish line with K9 And Company: A Girl's Best Friend still unwatched. I know it isn't “proper” Doctor Who, I know it isn't very good and that Philip Sandifer described it as “a murder mystery without a murder” from an author who later wrote a murder mystery without a mystery for Doctor Who itself whose scripts always pause for a quick lunch. I know all this because I am a fan and so going into these things totally fresh isn't really possible.
Tuesday, 20 August 2013
My internet service provider has started doing a new thing to annoy me and protect my identity. You see, I have 02 pay-as-you-go internet which on the one level is conveniently contract-free and gives me double data every third time I top-up. On the other hand, over the last year they have been doing their level best to stop me from topping up.
The debit card password I could understand and appreciate, simple enough back-up in case someone is using a stolen card to pay, but their newest idea is just awful.
Okay, so I put in my name, my card number, card type and security number. So far, so standard. Then the new thing comes in: I have to provide my card billing address. At this point I do not simply write my billing address in a convenient field provided, oh no, that's too simple. Instead, I have to write in my house number and post code and then click a button marked “Find Address” and then it gives me a list of all the flats in my building.
Where the fun comes in is that my particular flat number is not one of the seven addresses displayed on the first page but is several pages along. I click to the right page and most times find my address and I can go happily on my way to provide my card password.
Today, however, was one of those other days where, after the first page, the programming completely karks it and throws out addresses in Aberdeenshire, Hay-on-Wye, Glasgow and, most hilariously, a Tattoo Shop in Northampton.
Still, it gives me something to post about on an inspiration-free Tuesday. I suppose.
Monday, 19 August 2013
Sunday, 18 August 2013
As the Post Office is holding my comics hostage I don't have anything to review this week. However, since DC are determined to make September bloody complicated it might be time to address some issues I have with this Villains Month.
The first anniversary of the New 52 was simple: zero issues, one for all fifty-two series including some to launch new series. This year it's Villains Month (which makes them two for two in recycling old gimmicks for these September events) and they're not doing it the simple way. Instead of publishing Dial H #15.1 it'll be Justice League #23.3 (just doing .1s might seem too much like ripping off Marvel). All the big series are getting multiple decimal point issues in the month, which isn't cynical at all.
Justice League #23.3: Dial E will be one of the ones I get, it's by China Meiville with twenty different artists so that sounds nice and interesting. Aside from that the Justice League issues can sod off, just like Justice League itself (I got bored an issue into Trinity War). Similarly, the two Aquaman issues, Black Manta and Ocean Master, written by Geoff Johns and seem actually relevant to the ongoing storyline so they go on the list. This is rather the exception, it must be said. For instance, I like The Flash but I don't think I can shell out for three issues in one month so perhaps just the Reverse-Flash issue...
… and so it goes on.
The height of cynicism is probably the fact that all four core Batman titles are getting four issues each, that's sixteen issues in one month. I usually don't object to companies like this doing things that will make them money but there is such a thing as taking the piss, which I feel is another lesson that DC needs to learn.
Not that I think this villains month will fail in any way. Weighting the issues towards the Batman rogues gallery makes eminent sense: it's the most famous rogues gallery in comics and has some truly compelling characters in it. I'm tempted by more than one of them myself (I've missed my Harley Quinn fix since dropping Suicide Squad from my pull list).
To be honest my main objection is having to comb through the solicits to work out which titles correspond to the series I'm currently reading, it seems strangely like DC is trying to hide things from me. I suppose the idea is to market the other series by tying them into more popular titles: Batgirl's Ventriloquist issue being Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1, for instance.
Or perhaps I'm just being overly peevish about DC recently, that's always a possibility.
Saturday, 17 August 2013
Having bought my box of Finecast Sternguard before they go out of production (just watch, now I've bought them the rumours of plastic Sternguard will turn out to be utter lies) I have to decide what to paint them as. Enter a friend of mine who suggested that my inability to finish a Space Marine army might be because I always try to theme it around an existing Chapter rather than creating my own. He's got a point, the only Space Marine army I've ever finished were my own Guardian Pilgrims back when I first got into the hobby.
Which brings us to Rites Of Battle, a sourcebook for the Deathwatch RPG that includes rules for creating your own Chapter. These rules provide you with information on homeworlds, gene-seed, mutations and all sorts of other things. You can order from the menu or use a D10 to randomly generate attributes.
Just for fun, let's see what random results I can get through dice rolling:
Trials of the Aspirant: This has no chart to roll on so I'm going to decide my chapter uses the Exposure Trial to test its Aspirants. What sort of exposure will have to wait until I have more details of their homeworld, which I'll roll through later.
Why was the Chapter founded? I rolled a 7: Standing Force. The chapter was created to operate within a specific region of the galaxy.
When was the Chapter founded? Rolled 38, placing the Founding in the 36th Millennium of the Ur-Council of Nova-Terra, also known as the Nova Terra Interregnum according to the 40k rulebook: a period of nine centuries in which the breakaway Ur-Council denounces the High Lords of Terra and claims rule of the Segmentum Pacificus for itself. A time of ongoing civil war. Well, that gives me a pretty good idea of what was going on to cause this particular Founding.
Progenitor: 90: White Scars. Yes! Fantastic result! I bloody love the White Scars!
Gene-Stock Purity: 4: Pure. The Chapter is directly descended from their progenitor Legion rather than from one of the later successors.
Codex Demeanour: 2: Cleanse And Purify. This basically characterises the chapter as zealots who want not only to kill their enemies but wipe them from history, destroy all their works and any mark they ever left on the galaxy. It also gives them a predilection for flamers, meltaguns and plasma weapons: the sort of weapons that burn away any taint the enemy might leave (as well as any trace of the enemy themselves).
(Since I rolled for Pure gene-seed and the Chance Of Gene-Seed Mutation chart allows only a 20% chance for mutation in White Scars successors I've chosen to skip the Gene-Seed Deficiencies and Missing Or Inactive Zygotes tables.)
Chapter Flaw: 6: Faith In Suspicion. Basically the Chapter is suspicious of other Imperial agencies with one such institution (chosen by the player) to be held in particular contempt. Since the Codex Demeanour entry for Cleanse And Purify singles out the Ordo Xenos for studying alien tech instead of destroying it that seems a good place to start.
Chapter Characteristic Modifiers: Okay, this is an RPG stat modifier and so not terribly relevant to me. I was hoping to get something characterful to build the Chapter's background but instead rolled a very unhelpful 05 on the D100 which reads: “The Chapter steadfastly practices daily Bolter drills combined with prayers to the God-Emperor. Space Marines of this Chapter gain +5 Ballistic Skill and +5 Willpower.”
Which is just plain dull and something you would imagine every Space Marine Chapter does.
Figures Of Legend: I rolled 10 which meant the revered figure was a Battle-Brother seconded from the White Scars. I rolled again to find out what rank he was and got 27 which pegged him as a Chapter-Master. Makes sense therefore that this would be their first Chapter Master, the Khan who led them at their Founding.
For his legendary deed I rolled 26 in which he was a stalwart enemy of Chaos and slew a Daemon Prince.
Chapter Homeworld Category: 68: Medieval World. Hmm, pretty typical Space Marine recruiting world, really.
Chapter Home World Terrain: 60: Ice. Now that's interesting: a medieval world covered in ice.
Relationship to Home World: 3: Stewardship. The planet is ruled by the human inhabitants with the Space Marines only directing broad policy.
Successor Chapter Organisation: 8: Divergent Chapter, which is convenient since making them a staunchly Codex Chapter might rob me of the fun of making them a White Scars successor.
Combat Doctrine: 4: Stealth. Well that complicates things. Stealth is not the main attribute of a White Scars chapter so that's going to take some working to fit in.
(I'm skipping the Solo and Squad Mode tables, as they're very focussed on RPG rules I won't be using, and the Speciality Restrictions Table, since I don't want to limit what models I can buy for this project.)
Special Equipment: 90: Preferred Fighting Style. In brief this means the chapter has a preferred weapons load out, a signature weapon for its characters or a common weapon in use in all or most of its squads.
Chapter Beliefs: 56: The Emperor Above All. They centre their worship on the Emperor Himself rather than their Primarch or heroes of legend.
Current Status: 2: Under Strength.
Chapter Friends: 22: One Other Adeptus Astartes Chapter of my choice.
Chapter Enemies: 64: Chaos Space Marines: a warband, Chapter or Traitor Legion of my own choosing.
(I'm going to come up with my own name for the Chapter because what I rolled on these two tables was “Black Valedictors” which sounds bloody awful).
Now I just have to forge this into some sort of coherent narrative and see if it inspires me to coming up with a paint scheme and applying it to those Sternguard.
Friday, 16 August 2013
It's all a lot more varied and fun than the New 52 which is why I'm dropping their print comics at a rate of knots. Justice League: dropped. Goodbye, Action Comics. Farewell, Superman. Teen Titans and Supergirl are skating on thin ice as well, come to think of it. Legion Of Super-Heroes was good but that's being cancelled anyway. Pretty soon I'll be down to Wonder Woman and the Batman books.
Thursday, 15 August 2013
Doctor Who DVD box sets are an exercise in compensation. This was released in the almost theme-free box set Earth Story alongside the Gunfighters, the logic going something like this: neither story is a classic, one of them has a particularly poor reputation (The Gunfighters, undeservingly) so slap them together on some pretext and release them together, offering fans a nice discount on the pair. Earth Story is an extreme example but most of the themed box sets work like this.
Thoroughly Modern Who
I watched this DVD one evening straight after the new series episode The Bells Of Saint John and it struck me that, adjusting for the production values of the era, this story would sit pretty well in modern Doctor Who. The most obvious point of comparison is that an old two-parter, minus the credits and titles in the middle, runs to roughly 45 minutes. The comparisons to New Who goes rather deeper than that.
For a start the explanation behind the supernatural Malus is that it's an alien probe that crashed in the village in the 1640s whose purpose was to psychically stir up violence to soften up the population for invasion. The consequence of this was that the village was levelled in the Civil War and the probe somehow damaged so it stopped functioning until Sir George Hutchinson decides to re-enact the battle in 1984. For those playing along at home this is the stereotype Steven Moffat plot of “alien computer pursues its original programming causing dire unintended consequences”.
Our entry point into the story is that Tegan's grandfather lives in the village of Little Hodcombe and she wants to visit. This is, of course, an utterly typical plot device nowadays with whole episodes having been written about Rose's mum, Rory's dad and Martha's whole family amongst others. True, Andrew Verney's disappearance is a minor plot element in the story and is used pretty much just to provide an info-dump at the beginning of the second episode but by classic series standards this gives unusual depth to the life of a companion.
The emotional through-line of the story comes not from Tegan and her grandfather but from a supporting character: Colonel Ben Wolsey. Wolsey is basically a henchman for Sir George Hutchinson. He's played as a reasonable man in counterpoint to Sir George's increasing mania but, crucially, he continues to go along with the games. He voices muted protests now and again in the first episode but takes no action until Sir George orders Tegan burnt at the stake as Queen Of The May.
In the second episode he changes: admits his misgivings, joins the Doctor's side, frees Tegan and in the end takes responsibility for his complicity in the games and confronts Sir George. Crucially, it is this confrontation that puts Sir George in a position to be defeated. Again, we're looking at unusual levels of emotional content here, especially for a supporting character.
The final point of comparison is that there are continuity errors you don't notice because the story moves so fast as Turlough and Jane both comment on conversations they couldn't possibly have overheard (see also the disappearing pirate in The Curse Of The Black Spot).
Who on Earth is Vislor Turlough?
Okay, so next to all this praise for the writing I should mention the one point where the script (and script editing) falls down: Turlough. This is Turlough's seventh story and the first one to be set on contemporary Earth since his introduction in Mawdryn Undead. Turlough is an alien exiled to Earth from an unknown planet for unknown reasons and reacts not at all to being back on the world of his imprisonment, let alone that the agent who used to keep an eye on him might find him. In fact, in the final scene he joins in the chorus of wanting to stay in Little Hodcombe for a while.
It's a small failing in an otherwise very good script, speaking of which...
A Lady of a Certain Age (and a Young Man from Another One)
Mention should be made of two other supporting characters: Jane Hampden and Will Chandler. Jane is the local school teacher and Peter Davison's effective companion for much of the story. She's played as a sceptic in the first episode: she's the only opposition we see to Sir George's war games and she disbelieves the Doctor until she's confronted by the appearance of the Malus. Just as with Todd in Kinda we see how well Peter Davison plays off a more mature female character better than he does with the younger women usually playing his companions. There's an absolutely wonderful scene where the Doctor reaches for the TARDIS door control and Jane casually beats him to it with a smug smile.
Wednesday, 14 August 2013
|Apparently he tried to watch Arc Of Infinity in one sitting|
Season 21, however, is too good an example of one problem to let it pass without comment. You see, the structure of the season is absolute crap.
We dealt with the season opener, Warriors Of The Deep, in depth last Friday but the quick version is this: it brings back monsters no one would remember, forgets what made them interesting to start with and had to be made with a massive cut in production time due to a general election. The middle of the season features three stories in which at least one main cast member enters or leaves and then is capped off by the infamously cheap and abysmal The Twin Dilemma that rebrands the Doctor as a physically abusive, selfish coward.
Structure is not the strong point of JNT's years in charge. It should be said in his defence that his first season had a good opener and finale but since it began with a bold new look and ended in Tom Baker's regeneration I don't know how much we can credit the production team with actually thinking about it so much as circumstances conspiring to make those stories memorable. Even in Season 18, though, we have the E-Space Trilogy whose middle story was an unused script from the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era that had sod all to do with the overarching theme.
Season finales seem to be the worst affected with duds like Time-Flight and The Ultimate Foe, low-key fare like The King's Demons and even Revelation Of The Daleks which looks like an event story on spec but gives the Doctor and Peri practically nothing to do and resolves almost without their involvement in the main plot.
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Question 1: What do they think this demographic wants to read?
Question 3: Why don't they want to pursue other demographics?
What it actually creates is a dire lack of variety. The approach works in some cases such as Batman and Animal Man but applied to the likes of Teen Titans or Blue Beetle it robs those books of their original selling points (fun, in the case of those two examples).
So, Question 2: Why do they want this demographic? Men aged 18 to 35 are the old “Cult TV” demographic beloved of such shows as the X-Files and Sliders. The point of this demographic was that it could support a programme that didn't get good ratings on transmission (and therefore didn't generate advertising revenue) because they had copious disposable income to spend on merchandising.
In either approach we see that TV has got over its tunnel vision to bring sci-fi to the masses.
As Sally quite rightly points out, what DC are basically modelling themselves on is Marvel in the '90s. Marvel in the '90s almost went bankrupt (in fact, I think they briefly were before being bought out) and the era is rightly remembered as being a creative wasteland of repetitive stories that went nowhere.
Which brings us to Question 3 and my complete lack of an answer to it because the idea that any entertainment company doesn't want to expand its audience is completely beyond me. Males age eighteen to thirty-five have been the traditional audience for comics since they became too complex and interlinked to be adequately followed on pocket money (18 – 35 can be most easily defined as “old enough to earn a wage, young enough not to have to spend it on a mortgage”).
Monday, 12 August 2013
It seems the Sternguard and Vanguard Veterans are being remade in plastic for this edition. Unfortunately, GW haven't leaked pics onto the internet yet.
(As an aside, yes I do think these leaks are made by GW itself otherwise the pictures would be of far better quality. The usual story is that some random hobbyist in, say, Poland, got their copy a week or so in advance. It doesn't half seem odd that, a: this happens every month and, b: it never happens to someone with a decent scanner)
I have high hopes for the kit. Yes, I found the Centurions absolutely dire but it is significantly easier to muck up a new concept than it is to muck up a Space Marine, one of the most defined images in the game. So this rumour has inspired me to purchase...
Sunday, 11 August 2013
He and Bobby Drake use their powers to stop a car thief the police are pursuing at high speed. They do it casually, with affected nonchalance, as if this is a doddle and somehow beneath them. They don't do it because of high-minded morals or in accordance with Xavier's dream but because they want to impress some girls they've only just met.
Actually all the scenes with the random girls (who I hope turn up later) absolutely shine, especially when Scott hears one of the girls say she wishes she was a mutant. This absolutely bemuses Cyclops:
“... we're just so used to people hating us […] that it's - - it's just odd that anybody would romanticize our situation.”
Yet in spite of all this the best scene of the issue is Jean Grey meeting her future daughter Rachel for the first time. This has to be a heavily-anticipated meeting, I admit I've been looking forward to it for a while. Bendis, genius tease that he is, reduces it to a perfectly executed sight gag where neither woman can figure out how to handle this incredibly bizarre situation.
Dial H #15
Was this the end? I don't remember the series being announced as ending but it seems a pretty conclusive close to the story.
Unfortunately it was so good I can't bear risking the spoilers that doing an It's The End, But... post would entail.
I just hope that someday we see Open Window Man in a comic of his own.
And talking of series I'm going to miss...
This issue was Polaris getting drunk and then having a punch-up with her half-brother Pietro, former semi-regular X-Factor pseudo-villain. It was worth it just for scenes of Polaris drunkenly explaining the crap she's been through since joining X-Factor to a bemused and slightly frightened bartender. The superhero fight with Quicksilver was just icing on the plate.
The end did leave me curious as Polaris was offered a place with another X-Factor. Peter David is going to be a hard act to follow but I'll give a chance so see if I like it. Upon which subject:
Superior Spider-Man #15
I cannot, for the life of me, work out whether I like this series or not.
I also like that people are starting to catch on that something is up, not least of them Peter's ex (and CSI) Carlie Cooper. This unfortunately brings us to the part of the story I am not enjoying: the way Doc Ock's arrogance plays off the supporting cast. Whilst I can see that the angle is firmly on Ock frittering away his second chance at life the cringe comedy of his interactions with others (most especially the Horizon Labs cast) grates on my nerves.
Friday, 9 August 2013
In spite of what this post might lead you to believe, I am not usually in he habit of moaning about Games Workshop. Usually I quite like what they bring out and when I don't I'm not too fussed. Every once in a while there's a facepalm moment that just has to addressed and this is one of them.
You see, this post started life as just me picking up on some Space Marine rumours and realising how spectacularly unfussed I was about the whole thing.
After all, we know how this goes: Space Marines are so well-established and so well-explored that each new Codex amounts to the same basic structure with a couple of new entries that take an aspect of an existing unit and make it a speciality (Sternguard and Vanguard Veterans, Ironclad Dreadnoughts) and maybe a new weapons load out on one of the tanks (probably a Land Raider), add a few new special character and off you go, bish bash bosh. Simple release, come back next month for something inventive.
Aside from that was the strong rumour that Black Templars were being folded back into the basic Codex, which struck me as pretty sensible pretty much for the above reasons. There's not much more to explore with the Black Templars, who amount to Codex Marines with a single unique Troops choice and a lot less stuff overall. It all boils down to the fact that there's really not much GW can plausibly release for them in the future. They are a concept that is out of ideas.
Not that the Templars are seemingly alone in this, as these abominations recently surfaced on the interwebs:
The thing is, less powerful units that have come out recently just throw this attitude into sharp relief. The Deathwing Terminators and Ravenwing Knights were wonderful sculpts covered in detail, the Dark Vengeance starter set was spectacular and the plastic Eldar Farseer was brilliant. Foot troops and starter sets aren't designed for the power gamer, though, but a more general audience whilst the big centrepieces find their audience in the deep pockets and competitive instincts of power gamers.
Fantasy. Which I play almost exclusively. So thank you, 40k power gamers, for buying these inferior models and bankrolling the Tomb Kings Necrosphinx, Lizardmen Carnosaur, High Elf Phoenix and Empire Griffon, most generous of you.
Thank you, Mary, and good night.
So, which version is better?
Just Like Old Times (Only Different)
Here in 2013 I have shiny DVDs of both original stories. I know full bloody well that Ichtar doesn't appear in The Silurians and nor did “the Silurian Triad” of which he is apparently the last survivor. This is not a problem, I'd like to make that clear. This is how monsters come back now: the central concept is dusted off and retooled with new ideas grafted on. Sontarans might gain football chants but they still have the potato head design and clone warrior background, in short all the iconic cues everyone remembers spruced up with modern technology.
The Silurians in this story are plotting genocide, will not listen to any of the Doctor's peacenik claptrap and the Sea Devils are portrayed as identical soldier drones like any other monstrous minions.
The base has a pretty good crew: well-cast, well-realised characters. There's some odd dialogue, not least in the self-consciously apolitical decision not to name either of the parties in this war, but by and large the base scenes work very well. Unfortunately this isn't what the story is about. The base and the conspiracy are window dressing. Notably the conspiracy goes nowhere and the conspirators are amongst the first casualties in the early stages of the climatic slaughter.
A bijou adventurette in which Lovecraftian weirdness brings the English Civil War to rural England in 1984.
Thursday, 8 August 2013
Liche Priest, Level 1 Wizard using the Lore of Nehekhara. 70 points
Tomb Herald armed with hand weapon, wearing light armour and riding a Skeletal Steed. Battle Standard Bearer carrying the Razor Standard. 140 points
30 Skeleton Warriors armed with spears and shields and wearing light armour with full command. 210 points
30 Skeleton Warriors armed with spears and shields and wearing light armour with full command. 210 points
5 Skeleton Horse Archers armed with hand weapons and bows with Master of Scouts. 80 points
3 Skeleton Chariots armed with spears and bows with full command. 195 points
Total: 2396 points
If there's one guiding principle I can take from my Vampire Counts it's that Undead can never have too many wizards. Three wizards with four spells between them should be enough and I'll use the third to experiment with some of the other Lores available to the army.