Monday, 24 July 2017

Frank Miller's Superman: Year One?

I'm not going to say it won't be interesting. One thing that can be said for Frank Miller is that his work is never uninteresting.

Don't get me wrong, my first instinct was to wonder which prominent supporting female character will end up as a prostitute. I doubt DC would let him do that to Lois Lane, so I guess that Cat Grant will be the one on the game. Maybe Kara if DC really let him off the leash because, well, any chance to be creepy about dubiously legal women, right?

Miller has always insisted that he does like Superman and the impression that he doesn't is because of he's only written Superman from Batman's perspective and his man crush on Bruce Wayne got in the way. I'll be honest, most modern Miller project are more interesting as thought experiments than an actual stories. Plus, there is the fact this might be heavily co-authored like Dark Knight III was.

Maybe Jimmy Olsen will have taken up whoring. 

Sunday, 23 July 2017

In Defense of Victoria Waterfield

Earlier this week, the news broke that veteran Doctor Who actress Deborah Watling had passed away following a brief illness.

Watling played Victoria Waterfield in seven serials from 1967 to 1968, including the majority of Season Five which is widely considered one of the most classic seasons of the classic run, the (in)famous Monster Season. Now, whilst the early generations of fandom considered that year's stories to be absolute classics and the cast to be one of the definitive TARDIS teams, neither the season nor Victoria has done well that well when put under the microscope by the fans of later years.

Or, to put it another way, by fans who can go back and review the stories.

You see, even once home video became a thing there was the problem that huge swathes of Watling's appearances no longer existed in the archive. Until 2013 her only complete story was The Tomb of the Cybermen with four out of six episodes of The Ice Warriors and single episodes The Evil of the Daleks, The Abominable Snowmen, The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear representing the rest of her time with the series. It didn't help that the vast majority of these stories were practically interchangeable “classic base under siege” stories, a formula the series didn't deviate much from in Season Five because of severe budgetary and time management issues. Bases under siege needed only a small number of sets and, to be frank, not so much imagination as to require a lot of editing time.

And then, of course, there's the fact that character just wasn't something that era of the show did. Between the formulaic storytelling and the time constraints any sort of character work was basically abandoned in favour of treating characters purely as plot function.

Watling's plot function was damsel in distress. Not unsurprisingly, this fact aged badly. You can't really watch any of her stories without getting a masterclass in the Male Gaze: she's cute, she's in danger all the time and the camera can't keep away from close-ups of her terrified yet photogenic face.

Here's the thing, though: the scripts were pretty bad, the series was somehow formulaic in spite of having the whole of time and space to play with; and the characters had no character. Yet this is one of the most fondly remembered eras of the show. Received wisdom has it that this is because of the “classic base under siege” format and, naturally, the monsters.

I'm not entirely convinced. Not that the monsters are that bad or even that the formula is all that bad, even if it repetitive as hell.

I think it was the cast. Troughton was a fantastic actor, an absolute genius at wrestling the material he was given into something with depth. Whilst Watling wasn't quite that good what she had in spades was charisma and that was her way of polishing her part in the script until it shone. Victoria might not have had many character traits beyond “prim” and “marginally smarter than Jamie” but she was extremely likable and that's an important quality in an adventure serial lead.

That's what I get from the Season Five TARDIS crew: three fantastically likable actors having the time of their lives, both in and out of character. Watching them together, now more possible than ever with the recovery of The Enemy of the World and the lion's share of The Web of Fear, you can see why this era is so fondly remembered by the fans who were there at the time...

and it wasn't the monsters.

Rest in peace, Deborah Watling, you were amazing. 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Reading Tea Leaves: the new Young Justice line-up


I put my hands up, I did rather sleep on the original two seasons of Young Justice. In my defence I don't know if there was any way for me to actually support it since it never seems to have come out on DVD out here. I've seen a couple of episodes on Youtube and it seems interesting enough and definitely something that someday, eventually I'd get around to watching.

Well, someday is right now because DC just announced the team line-up for season three and it is glorious:
I mean, its a line-up of some of my very favourite of DC's teen superheroes (plus Arsenal and Beast Boy). Its got Tim (I presume that's Tim in Red Robin mode, I guess it could be Damian but looks too old), Bart, Cass and Arrowette. That's four of the six foundational members of Peter David's Young Justice. I mean, I doubted Secret would ever turn up, though I am curious about Superboy's absence.

That having been said, whoever thought we'd see Arrowette on television? She's hardly a famous face, long eclipsed by Mia Dearden as Speedy.

(I miss Mia. Come on, DC, rebirth that girl...)

Then there's Jaime standing next to a character that the write-ups inform me is called Thirteen. I can only hope that means Traci 13, who was an amazing character in the original Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle ongoing and I am constantly annoyed by her demotion to walk-in cameos in Superwoman.

Static is always nice to see in these things, especially after how shortchanged the character got in the comics last time he was prominent. I think his title was one of the first cancellations of the New 52 and I don't think he's been seen since. I like the redesign, I've always prefered the versions of Static that lean more towards street clothes than a traditional costume.

And Spoiler! Oh, if there's one DC pairing I ship more than Jaime and Traci its Tim and Steph. And her new design is so damn cool. I can't wait for a wider audience to experience this character. This character has meant so much so deeply to a certain generation of comics fans (of which I am, unshamedly, a part) and having her break into the big time here warms the heart.

And Arsenal and Beast Boy are... there, I guess. Still, I shan't complain, as an Outsiders live-up this is pretty much perfect as far as I'm concerned.

Now, to find halfway decent copies of the first two seasons ro be caught up before this debuts...

Friday, 21 July 2017

I am so tired of pissbaby men right now

I say this as someone who is only 50/50 on the idea of the new Doctor Who. Not Jodie Whittaker, to be clear, I still haven't seen her in anything. My ambivalence is purely down to being rather so-so on Chibnall's Doctor Who work to date.

Its not because I believe “no one wants a TARDIS full of bras”. Yes, that is an actual thing an actual person put in a comment on one of the announcement news stories.

And its not like this is some sort of isolated case, either. There was that whole bollocks with guys going mad over the Alamo Drafthouse cinemas in the US doing ladies' only viewings of Wonder Woman. There was even one guy who went out of his way to acquire a ticket to one of those women only viewings.

Why? I mean, what is the damn point? What this guy did was go out of his way to buy a ticket just so he could sit in a dark room watching a movie whilst surrounded by women who didn't want him there just to prove that he could. I mean, I'm just guessing here but I imagine the only novel experience for him in this scenario is the darkened room and the movie.

I am so fucking tired of this. I am so fucking tired of the loud idiots whose masculinity can be threatened by Ghostbusters of all damn things getting an average remake starring female comedians. I am tired of this being what men are in the public consciousness: fragile babies incapable of empathising with any character who is not like them.

I just don't get it. I mean, there but for the grace of God go I, I know that. I was raised mostly by women. My father had to travel for work a lot because he was an engineer in a recession started by the government-sponsored destruction of primary industry in this country so, for the most part, I was raised by my mother and two grandmothers. A lot of my friends growing up were girls and for most of my professional life the majority of my co-workers have been women.

So I just don't get this idea that I, as a man, cannot invest in female characters. The Doctor is a woman now, the Ghostbusters are women now, the lead Jedi character in Star Wars is a woman. Okay. I'm aware that there are people who think it odd that I don't feel threatened by this and that is pathetic.

It is pathetic that anyone could have their fragile damn masculinity threatened by a series moving from a male to a female protagonist. It is pathetically sad that this can turn someone off from the series, that all other content of the series is less important than the gender of the main character. It is pathetic that the existence of a remake can so threaten someone's enjoyment of the original that they will go out of their way to protest its existence. It is pathetic that there are people so invested in the critical reception of DC movies that they couldn't stand the idea that Patty Jenkins might get more praise than Zack Snyder and went through mental gymnastics to try and prove tat Snyder was the one “really “ responsible for Wonder Woman's success.

It is pathetic that this the mainstream understanding of my gender. It is pathetic that this is how we're seen and that even women who know me, who know my past and my politics will assume I'm one of these pathetic pissbabies just because I also happen to be a man.

And I am so tired of being lumped in with these losers. 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Thoughts and Feelings on Game Of Thrones 7.1: Dragonstone


This is a SPOILER post since there are a lot of things I want to talk about both from the episode and how it relates back to the novels. If you haven't seen Dragonstone yet, proceed no further than this image of Tormund Giantsbane giving Brienne of Tarth the eye.
Let's start with Sam in Oldtown because in A Feast For Crows that is the most benighted, boring, time-wasting plot. Sam spends most of the novel on his way to Oldtown and when he gets there he meets an old maester who has a mysteriously burning glass candle. The candle-owning maester than sods off to Essos, leaving Sam behind, never to be heard of again.

The whole glass candle plot has been jettisoned in favour of giving us some background on the Citadel (courtesy a fabulously cast Jim Broadbent) and Sam actually using his skills to find out information relevant to the plot. The production team also discover a whole new way of disgusting the audience on HBO's dime in this plot, which is an achievement of its own on this show.

Then there's Arya, rescued from the second most benighted, boring, time-wasting plot of the novels to finally pursue her revenge across Westeros and what a fantastic revenge it is! David Bradley gives a fantastic performance as Walder Frey who is secretly Arya which forms a great showcase to cap off his involvement with the show.

Lyanna Mormont is still the best person in the North.

Nikolai Coster-Waldau puts in some great work continuing Jamie's face turn with a performance that makes it more and more clear the unspoken realisation that he is probably going to have to kill his sister.

(By the way, am I the only one who found Tommen's suicide hilarious last season? Just me? Okay.)

Said sister has gone full-on power mad, by the way, as she tries to form an alliance with the last possible ally she has left: Euron Greyjoy. Its a great way to impress just how bad a position the Lannisters are in even before the entire Frey bloodline goes down with a terminal case of Maisie Williams. They're broke; the North is in rebellion; the Sand Snakes declared war against them on behalf of Dorne; their own bloodline is effectively over with the death of all Cersei's children; and Cersei definitively broke all ties with the Tyrells who currently own all the food; and, of course, winter is coming and she's Seven damned pissed off!

Lena Headey does something fantastic with Cersei, something that isn't new but that I imagine will become central to the character in these last two seasons: she puts on a good front where Cersei's confidence never wavers whilst also making it very clear to the audience that Cersei isn't as good at this as she thinks she is. Jamie, meanwhile, is finally getting a clue and tries his best to get her to climb down from her position of insanity literally walking across a map of Westeros like she's cosplaying God (such a good scene...).

Up in the North, Sansa is finally back to being the character who was beginning to emerge after the death of Lysa Arryn before that unfortunate and incredibly tasteless version of the Ramsay Bolton storyline. I don't doubt there's some sort of reckoning coming between her and Littlefinger but now I have hope that she'll come out on top, a hope that I felt not a glimmer of when Ramsay was alive and she was being written as a cringing doormat again.

And, finally, a tiny snatch of a scene that proves my ship is still sailing: an almost wordless exchange between Tormund and Brienne as Pod watches on uncomfortably.

Don't judge me, this is probably the most psychologically healthy pairing this show has ever hinted at. 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Well, I'm an idiot (Easy Build Death Guard and basic maths)

It really should have occurred to me why this box exists. I mean, you get seven Plague Marines in Dark Imperium and the Index entry allows you to take them in fives so, of course, this box exists to allow you to bulk out the DI unit to two five-man squads.

Also an easy way to bulk out to get two of the three compulsory Troops choices for the new standard force org which is about 50% of the reason I'll be picking up a set (that and they really are nice sculpts I want to paint).

Oh, and I want that blight launcher: Assault 2, Strength 6 for -2 AP and D3 Damage re-rolling ones to wound? Yes, please.

I'm still not sure what the three model Intercessor and Reiver boxes are for since you get ten of the first in Dark Imperium and a ten model box of the latter is being released imminently but that realisation will probably strike about fifteen seconds after I press “publish” on this post. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Trevor Baxter, 18 November 1932 - 16 July 2017

Trevor Baxter was one of those actors I only knew through Doctor Who. He was, of course, one half of the definitive Robert Holmes double act as Professor George Litefoot in (the sadly rather racist) The Talons of Weng-Chiang and its (markedly less racist) later aiduo spin-off Jago & Litefoot.
Jago & Litefoot is, without a doubt, my favourite series Big Finish makes and, naturally, Baxter was a big part of that. He and Christopher Benjamin (as music hall impresario Henry Gordon Jago) shared such a natural chemistry both on screen in the 70s and in studio for the audios. It seemed effortless. I know it wasn't, good acting never is, but the two men played off each other so wellit really is no wonder that a spin-off was on most fan's wish lists from the day the two appeared together in Talons.

I even recall there being mention once in a DWM article that there were plans for a Jago & Litefoot series back in the 70s, though I can't find any mention of it on the internet to confirm.

The Jao & Litefoot audios are comfort food to me, a warm and comfortable series to listen to after a stressful day and Trevor Baxter was a huge part of that formula.

Its a small tribute but, I think, a proper one to give for an actor whose work made more than one evening extremely pleasant. 

Monday, 17 July 2017

Jodie Whittaker IS the Doctor!

I have to admit, I don't know her work. I'm told she was in Broadchurch and that's yet more motivation to check out that show and see what Chibnall is like as a showrunner. Also, casting a reliable star the showrunner knows from a previous way worked with RTD and Ecclestone (for a bit, at least).

I'm really going to have to remember there are two Ts in her name. You watch as much Classic Who as I do you get used to spelling it “Whitaker”, usually with the word “genius” somewhere close to it.

Anyway, the Doctor is going to be a woman and the internet is losing its mind in all directions. On my side of things its party time! The relentless groundwork of the Corsair, the General, River, Clara and Missy has finally paid off. Incidentally, I don't blame Moffat at all for not casting a woman himself for the simple reason that this is the sort of thing where the BBC was always going to need a lot of proof of concept spadework aka all those characters I just mentioned. Also, it seems pretty clear going back through old DWMs from Smith's casting that Capaldi is very much the sort of Doctor Moffat imagined before Smith walked through the door and blew his mind.

On the other side, of course, things are hilariously bitter. Its the death of Doctor Who for like the hundredth time! The SJWs are ruining everything! First they came for our Ghostbusters and now this! No one wants a TARDIS full of bras!

(That last one straight from a Dail Mail Online comment section, as if you couldn't guess).

Some rag has already found pictures from a role where Whittaker did a nude scene, of course, because for some reason visible evidence that a woman has breasts is always the best way to discredit their work. Fandom at large has, of course, responded with Seventies Porn Colin:
Hey, I had to see that so you do, too.

So, am I excited? A bit. Reservedly. I really need to watch Broadchurch because as much as I like that this has finally happened I still don't know much about Chibnall as a showrunner. I mean, he basically ran the second season of Torchwood aka the only one I liked but that was a decade ago. His Doctor Who episodes run the gamut from great fun (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship) to meh (42) stopping at all stations in between.

So, cautious optimism has been restored, roll on Christmas. 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

It won't be Tennant... it just won't


This is going to be every time now, isn't it?

Its the last day, the final frantic hours of speculation before we find out who the Thirteenth Doctor is going to be and I thought I was going to get through it without seeing that rumour come up again. You know the one: the “David Tennant is coming back” rumour. Its not such a mainstream thing as it was when Smith was leaving but there do seem to be convinced that not only is the only thing that can “save” the show being the return of Tennant but that it is actually going to happen.

It... won't.

And I don't mean that in some way that involves a complicated in-universe explanation about regeneration. The process of regeneration is pure plot fairy dust, it works however the production team want it to work. Hell, it wasn't even until the third time it happened that the series even decided it was a thing Time Lords naturally did.

It has nothing to do with that.

It has everything to do with the fact that David Tennant is an actual guy with an actual career and he isn't going to take the massive backwards step (and massive pay cut) of returning to a role he left eight years ago. Generally speaking that's something actors only do when they've got nothing else on, with apologies to the cast of Girl Meets World. Yes, he's reprised the role for Big Finish but a) that's ultimately a week or so's work at a time and, b) probably not something the BBC would have signed off on if he were going to be the “current” Doctor again.

And think what it would mean for Chibnall to come in to the showrunner role and his first announcement is that no one he could cast would be as good as just bringing back the series' former star. He'd basically be declaring that his own vision of the show is to be nothing more than a tribute act to a previous version of the show. No showrunner in their right mind would do that.

But I bet we'll be doing this same thing in three or four years when Thirteen is on his (or her, fingers crossed) time comes.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Who would I cast as the Doctor?


Tomorrow is the day we find out who the Thirteenth Doctor will be and so that means today is the last chance to get in some frivolous and self-indulgent fantasy casting done.

So, who would my pick be? Well, I think its time we had a bit of an upgrade, as Missy would say, and go from Time Lord...
to queen. Yes, in my fantasy cast, Lena Headey IS the Doctor.

Why? Well, if there's one thing we know Headey can do its play a queen. She plays a queen in everything. She plays a queen in things where queens should not exist like Dredd. She has an aura of effortless authority that I imagine would be well-deployed with a properly Doctor-y speech. Just imagine her standing in the middle of Stone Henge delivering Matt Smith's “no plan, no back up, no weapons worth a damn” speech from The Pandorica Opens.

As to personality: I imagine her playing a rather more outwardly serious version of the Doctor akin to Capaldi's first season or later McCoy. Its all an act, of course, and once she's comfortable around someone that huge, wide open smile comes out.

I consciously chose a picture of Headey in a suit because... do I need a reason to appreciate Lena Headey in a suit? Anyway, I imagine the Doctor pretty much continuing with their previous fashion sense and coming to experiment with more feminine fashion over time, starting with some undercover business when they have to be inconspicuous at a fashionable party or such (and failing, obviously). On a practical level, keeping with “men's” fashion allows more of a visual through-line to their previous incarnations whilst on a self-indulgent level Lena Headey looks absolutely gorgeous in a suit (as the vast majority of women do, let's be honest).

It'll be another white guy, I just know it, but for one last moment I can imagine it. I can imagine Lena Headey in a suit dancing around the TARDIS console offering some young woman the choice of where to do (the companion should continue to be female even with a female Doctor, I just feel that should be said): the Roman Empire, the first Jovian colony; the Boston Tea Party; the Rolling Stones' first tour.

I imagine, for some reason, the Thirteenth Doctor being really into their classic rock and pop. I rather like that throwaway mention that the Tenth Doctor is a bit of a punk in Tooth and Claw and I'd like to revisit that idea.

But its going to be another white guy and we'll find that out after Wimbledon tomorrow.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Expectations vs. Supergirl


I follow the Arrowverse shows on DVD. As far as I know they're not on any of the free channels here and even with three of us in the house we don't watch enough television to justify shelling out for a larger package. What this means is that through spoilers, people grumbling or celebrating online and just plain cultural osmosis, I tend to know a fair bit about these shows before I see them.

That's not usually much of a problem for me but it does mean that I tend to have a lot of expectations going into a new season.

So, anyway, my favourite Arrowverse show is Supergirl. I loved the first season and I dread the second without having seen any of it yet.

Its Mon-El, okay? I've heard too much about Mon-El. Its not that I particularly ship Kara and James Olsen, though it does baffle me that after all that build-up in season one they're just going to let that drop, but every single word I have seen written about Mon-El makes him seem like exactly the sort of toxic, controlling masculinist dickhead that season one spent so much damn time calling out.

Also, I know there's going to be a severe shortage of Callista Flockheart.

All hope lies in me liking Maggie Sawyer, I think.

Obviously, this is all speculation and maybe Mon-El isn't as bad as I've been told, maybe (impossibly) I won't miss Cat and her undeniable sexual tension/mentorship with Kara and all will be well? If nothing else it'll be interesting to see how impressions I've had so long to form match up to the reality.

Eh, there's the crossover to look forward to, at least.

I'm really certain I'm going to hate Mon-El.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Building A Better Seth pt.2: The Build


I am glad that the body I originally bought to make Gabriel Seth (the power armoured Legion Praetor) turned out not to fit the chainsword I was using because my second choice for the body has worked out so much better:
The twist in the body, on the original model meant to facilitate a pose where the Captain is drawing his sword from a scabbard, gives a real sense of motion that matches the way the chainsword is held and how the cape hangs. The title in the torso also meant I had to pose the head looking upwards, which works as I imagine I'll be charging Seth in towards the biggest, scariest thing on the battlefield.

It also retains the sense I wanted to convey of a more controlled and commanding Seth but with more dynamism than the Praetor body would have got me. I still don't know what I'm going to do with the Praetor but this has come out better than I imagined, the cape component even fit perfectly to the back without any remodelling to either component.

So, down to parts:

The main body (torso and legs are one component) come from the Forge World MkIII Command set via eBay; the Eviscerator chainsword and arms from the Space Marines Assault Squad, the head from the plastic Horus Heresy MkIV Maximus Armour set; the Flesh Tearers shoulder pad from the Deathwatch Kill Team kit (its why its on the “wrong” shoulder); the other shoulder pad a spare from the Sternguard Veterans kit; and, finally, the backpack and cape from the original Gabriel Seth model leftover from one of the several irretrievably damaged Seths that drove me to make this conversion in the first place.

I'm not usually one for special characters but Seth really inspires me as a character. I like that his attitude towards the inevitable tragedy of the Blood Angels geneseed is to pick up his sword and declare that by the time insanity and genetic degradation destroy his chapter there will be nothing left alive to challenge the Emperor's dominion. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

An impressive torso going spare


I had a plan. I was going to convert my own version of Gabriel Seth using the Forge World Legion Praetor body and the two-handed chainsword from the Space Marine Assault Squad kit. It was a good plan that would have looked awesome if only the two components of said plan actually fit together.

You see, when I came to dryfit them together they didn't fit. The Praetor's torso is not designed like every other Space Marine ever with perfectly flat, perfectly parallel surfaces on either side for flat arm connections to fit on. Instead, I end up with a situation where gluing one arm has the other hanging wildly away and forward of the other shoulder.

Luckily, the random eBay purchase that netted me this torso also got me the Captain's body from the MkIII Legion Command set whose body does fit the arms. He'll be a little smaller but on reflection the twist in his body combined with the chainsword does give me a more dynamic pose as if Seth is bracing to received a blow.

This leaves me with the impressive, finely sculpted and suddenly useless Praetor body on hand. So here I dither, wondering what project to slot it into.

The knightly appearance of MkIII suits itself to making a Black Templars Marshall, of course. There's also the unit of Fallen I'm currently converting to accompany my Death Guard using Iron armour and a Dark Angels Veteran Squad who could develop a sudden Fallen Lord. The Death Guard themselves are already overflowing with characters and I don't want to do any heavy conversion work to the body itself, so that's out.

Then there's the project the MkIII Command body was meant for in the first place: an Alpha Legion officer to lead the Headhunters squad that will accompany (and be the only Astartes unit in) my resurrected Lost and the Damned army. That said, the Praetor body is a little too glorious to be Alpha Legion. I am not a fan of the Armillus Dynat concept, if you were wondering.

I definitely don't want to use it for another Flesh Tearers character, I don't want a random Captain going around looking more glorious than the Chapter Master.

So right now the options are Black Templars or Fallen, either way another excuse to fail to learn how to highlight black. Just depends on which character I can come up with the best design for. 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Sasha Banks/Alexa Bliss for Hell In A Cell 2017!


[SPOILERS ahead for the Raw Women's Championship match at... *groans* Great Balls Of Fire. Do not proceed further if you haven't seen it)
I know their storyline will probably resolve at Summerslam because that's the next biggie but hear me out. Given the count out resolution to their match at Great Balls Of Fire the rematch will definitely be no DQs. So why not put a pin in it for a while, let Alexa get a few more screwy finishes and then, sometime early October, Sasha comes out on Raw with a mic and declares that the Boss will not let this shit stand!
No more champion's advantage! No more running away! No more retaining by count out and disqualification! In two weeks, Alexa: you and me!

Hell... in a Cell!”

Why? Well, for one, I want the women's Hell in a Cell match (and Money In The Bank and Survivor Series matches, for that matter) to continue and not be one off things. Second, the Sasha/Charlotte Hell In A Cell was apparently re-booked at the last minute with Sasha originally booked to win. It was a belter, regardless, even if the finish was a little sudden but I do think Sasha should have broken Charlotte's streak there and then.

My bitching aside, I do think this current feud (and Alexa's chickenshit heel storyline in general) is getting to a point where Hell In A Cell is the only appropriate resolution.

It should either be used to prove that Alexa can hold the title against a top flight opponent on her own account or prove that she can't, drop the title to Sasha (please please please) and then start a storyline where Alexa resolves to improve her skills until she can hold her own, maybe as a lead in to a Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania match against another top flight opponent.

Just a thought. 

Monday, 10 July 2017

Death Guard and...?


Don't worry, this isn't me second guessing my army selection for Konor. Since starting to paint the Death Guard I've found them to be both user friendly and rather interesting to work with. Rather, this is about expanding the army beyond the contents of Dark Imperium and the odds and ends I had lying around (like the Helbrute).

For one thing, of course, there's the new tank that's been doing the rounds on the rumours sites, the Plagueburst Crawler.
courtesy Mini Wars
To the look of it, its essentially a Bombard with what looks like the same guns as the Feotid Bloat-Drone as sponson weapons. It fits very well with the idea of the Death Guard as footslogging attrition specialists in a way I don't feel the Predator does. And I don't just say this because I hate the Predator and the way its sponsons snap off if you so much as brush your hand against them reaching for a dice.  

Of course, we live in the world of Keywords now so there are so many posibilities for expansion in the future, probably after Konor since I already have more than a 75 power army on hand in various states of half-painted. So, the candidates:

Daemons of Nurgle

I have never used Daemons. I don't particularly like them as their own army and my previous Chaos armies have been focussed more on mortal characters.

The big benefit of having them as a small addition to the larger army is I can get pretty much everything I want for them out of the Start Collecting set. The set includes a Herald, ten Plaguebearers, three bases of Nurglings (so cute...) and three Plague Drones. That 19 power levels, which is more than enough to be getting on with though I might get another little box of Nurglings because a) adorable af, and b) I used to have a massive ten base unit of “Gibbering Hordes” aka Nurglings in my Lost and the Damned back in the day and nostalgia is a powerful motivator.

Green Vanilla Chaos Marines

As it happens, I already have one unit from the Heretic Astartes list as Death Guard don't have the option for Terminators at this time. That'll probably change when their Codex comes out but until then that's where we are. There are also numerous Daemon Engines I like the look of, which are horrible and mutated enough that it won't matter that they're not strictly Death Guard.

There are other units in the Heretic Astartes, though, that don't fit the Death Guard theme as well as Terminators. Things like Raptors, who just aren't something they ever had, the Death Guard Legion not maintaining dedicated assault squads. I also have a Terminator Lord because I got the Lord and Terminators box set before I knew the Lord of Contagion existed.

My solution, should I go this route, would be to paint the more vanilla Chaos Marine units as The Purge. The Purge have a colour scheme that is both similar enough to the Death Guard to not clash and different enough that they'll be easily distinguishable. I also like the idea of having some random, post-Heresy Space Marine hanging around who absolutely worship the Death Guard as Nurgle's chosen whilst the Death Guard themselves think of them as cannon fodder, unworthy of particular attention.

The Lost and the Damned

My beloved Renegades & Heretics list is dead, sadly, but if I didn't have infinite hope for the future I wouldn't still be a Lost and the Damned player, would I? Regardless, the Astra Militarum list remains as a dependable back-up. I likely won't be painting them as Nurglesques, simply because I have a longstanding LatD force I've been meaning to revisit for a long time. Happily, their colour scheme is black fatigues with flak armour drybrushed to look like polished bone, which is more than morbid enough to fit the theme.
I painted a few test models a while back using the Forge World Chaos Renegades upgrade torsos and they came out rather well.

Not something I could use in store but for friendly games at home amongst the group they'll be fine. We've already come to the agreement that I (and Matt, who also has a Traitor Guard force) will simply count all Imperium keywords and Chaos keywords. On the plus side, when I can use them they give me tons of boots on the ground as well as a choice of tanks that both look better than Rhino variants and don't have crappy, snappy sponsons.

*****

Those are my thoughts for the moment and hopefully the next time I talk about the Death Guard I will have some finished models to show off. 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Trying out some alternative miniatures companies


Whilst trawling eBay for cheap Death Guard stuff, I stumbled on two interesting miniatures companies with innovative attitudes towards trademark law. Still, morality aside, they had things I wanted so I decided to order a miniature from each to see how they stood up. My last experience with such things, a Russian maker who did superb BFG ships, worked out well enough so here we go.
First up, “W” Artel's “Inquisitor Gregor”, a 28mm version of Not Eisenhorn Honest Guv. In my case, he'll be getting a head swap and some alternative weapons to become my Xenos Inquisitor Laurento Hex (appropriately enough). The detail on the miniature looks amazing. What's more, I checked their Facebook page and they had a long post apologising for delaying a much-anticipated model from sale because of casting flaws on the first production run, flaws that didn't even seem that pronounced.

And then there's the fact that they have in the works this:
Yes, superbly detailed models for Commissar Cain and Gunner (first class, sort of) Ferik Jurgen. They will, apparently, go on sale later this month or early next and I am absolutely getting them, the Cain novels being my favourite series Black Library has ever put out (yes, I know they're repetitive but they're fun!).

The other company I'm giving a try is Warex Miniatures and the test model will also be for my Inquisition: the Inquisitor Dominator With Power Sword:
That's a fantastic henchman model. Its so over the top with the giant sword and all the augmetics on the figure itself. My concept for this fellow is that he's a duellist who's aged past his prime and the Inquisition have layered more and more augmetics on him to keep him combat effective.

Warex also make a Not Death Guard conversion kit for the Rhino APC which just has to be seen to be believed.
I love all the detail that has gone into this. I mean, between the cost of this set and the Rhino that I won't actually be using much of it will make the thing cost about £60 but since I only intend to have one mounted unit of Death Guard that's a price I'm willing to pay for that much coolness.

Now, hopefully, both test miniatures will arrive in decent condition. 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Events, nostalgic numerology and accessibility


Ugh, this...
Marvel, for the love of God, just tell good stories and sell them in accessible places. Its not that a difficult idea. Enough with the events, already. And what is all this renumbering about? I just can't see how this is a selling point at all. I'm not fond of the way series get a new #1 every time they change creative team or direction but I understand the argument that it provides easily recognisable jumping on points (if they were sold in places people could see them to recognise the opportunity...).

And just... we're only halfway through the Secret Empire Nazipalooza (because you keep adding issues to it), that terrifying dead weight on your audience's wallets, what do you want to be hyping another event for?

I would really like this medium I love to continue. Considering its the source material for the biggest thing in mass market entertainment right now, that shouldn't be too tall an order. However, if your best attempt at attracting readers is an event based on pandering to old-time fans, slapping bigger numbers on the covers, that requires a chart then, to be frank, I'm not laying down serious money on the bet.

The crux of the issue is Ultimates, a really good comic that keeps being interrupted. The first twelve issue run dribbled off into a Civil War II tie-in and now the ongoing narrative of the second is being sandbagged by Secret Empire filler.

The title gets twelve installments a year. Its main story is clearly driving to a point but it keeps having to pause to make room for whatever wank Marvel has decided is so good for us it can interrupt the series we want to read for months on end.

Ugh... 

Friday, 7 July 2017

More Jessica Cruz and Guy Gardner, please

Now, I've warmed to Simon over the last year. I never hated the character but it has to be said DC didn't do the best job of selling him during the New 52. He was introduced and after Geoff Johns left the series he was just sort of... there. Jessica Cruz, however, I instantly loved when Green Lanterns launched. I didn't follow Forever Evil (which I think is where she was introduced) so she was a new character to me. I love her, I love how she's used as a vehicle for psychological issues not usually dealt with in superhero comics, I love her design (the cool eye thingy especially)...

I love her and Guy Gardner together. I've been catching up on the GL titles and just finished the Lost In Space arc of Green Lanterns where Jessica and Simon are summoned to Mogo for a training day. Simon gets to work on his creativity with Kyle, which ties back to his issues with giving up his gun, and Jessica gets Guy as her drill instructor.

Naturally, Guy has to be Guy about things and goes all drill sergeant from hell on her, pushes her to her breaking point and she lamps him.
And, my goodness, but it works. For all the progress he's made since the early JLI days, Guy is still no the best at emotions. I mean, this is man went to confront the former second-in-command of the Sinestro Corps in his shirtsleeves and when he's confronted with a Lantern who has to get past her anxiety to earn her badge, of course he pushes way harder than he should and she thumps him.

After which, of course, he starts complimenting her after spending a day tearing her down. Guy has a very direct an not entirely healthy approach to people earning his respect.
Guy's a mess of issues, that's not news, but so is Jessica. When the two fight for real, the fight that has Guy declare Jess fit for duty (because, again, Guy), he explains to her how he used to get in his own way. He does it in the most cocky, self-aggrandising way imaginable (again...) but he is making a genuine effort to connect with her.

And, I wonder, does he see something of Ice in her? Because with most of the other human Lanterns, there's a lot said of the people they lost: Hal's father, Katma Tui, Alex deWitt, Nazir's coma, Kilowog's family if we want to extend the point. These events define a lot of those Lantern's relationships.

Guy lost Tora who, truth be told, had more than a little anxiety of her own and it was only after her death that Guy really examined his behaviour. A lot of his actions since have been about being the better man he believes she deserved.

Not that I want Guy and Jessica to hook up, good grief no! That wouldn't be good for either of them, but one thing this arc does point out is that Jessica is seriously missing out on mentoring. Simon is not much more experienced than she is, really, and Guy as a teacher (which is, legitimately, his civilian profession) is something I feel we could do with seeing more of. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Fate pf Konor I: The Dark Muster begins

My initial plan, of course, was to enter the local store's Fate Of Konor league with my Flesh Tearers. However, standing there with my sign-up slip in front of a wall filled with names attached to Primaris Marine armies, I changed my mind. Death Guard it is, which I'm glad of because the Dark Imperium models and Grave Wardens are proving so much fun to paint.

I also just enjoy being the villain, if I'm honest. Villains are just so much fun to write, I love developing background for them. My Lord of Contagion, Scrofulous Bezoar, will be leading his Vectorum into Ultramar come the end of the month.

So, what do I have? Finished: nothing. Aside from a couple of models I'm reconditioning (some old Plague Marines and a Helbrute), this army started with Dark Imperium.

So, at various stages of just started I have the Dark Imperium set; those old Plague Marines and Helbrute; a unit of Grave Wardens; and, a unit of Terminators built with old Forge World Plague Terminator torsos. Unbuilt I have twenty more Poxwalkers and a second Bloat Drone straight from eBay. Meanwhile, in the post I have the parts necessary to make both a unit of Fallen and a unit of Possessed (the latter hybridising MkIII armour and the actual Possessed kit).

All together that's well on its way to the “standard” 75 power level the local GW is treating as the new average size game, probably beyond it but I can't be bothered with mathematics right now. Most of the models I've started have their main colours done and it won't take me long to get the extra Drone and Poxwalkers built and up to the same stage.

Now, to get painting...

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The only problem I will ever have with singular they pronouns

To be clear, this is an admission of personal failing and something I'm trying to correct, I just think there's something mildly interesting (very mildly, white-person-spicy-mildly) to be said about this as I think about language and how my brain interacts with it.

Point one: I have never had any problem, philosophical or practical, with the individual they or them. Nothing. I can say it, I can think it, I can write it and it doesn't feel strange to me. Long before I was aware this was a way of defining gender I was using the individual the way we all, no matter how vehemently people deny it, all use the individual they: to refer to an unknown person the details of whose identity are unknown to us.

So I used it in one context, easy enough to port it over to another.

Then I read an article about Missy and, for pretty obvious reasons, discussions of the larger character of the Master were couched in terms of the they pronoun. Simple enough.

Then I saw it. The problem. The stumbling block. The social terror of embarrassment yet to come.

Themself”.

I can't say it. I want to say it but I can't. The tongue just defaults to “themselves”, an obvious and socially embarrassing plural.

So, yes, folks, here it is. I have discovered that there is a side of retraining oneself (see, I can even say that but “themself” is beyond me? Good grief!) to use language differently.

Will I, though?

Of course I bloody will, don't be stupid. The idea that inconsequential personal inconvenience is going to stop me from trying to make someone feel socially welcome is inconceivable. I know it isn't to some people and that's a constant thorn in my side and my newsfeed but I'll bloody try. I'll screw up and it will be mortifying but I'll try.

If I didn't try I'd be a dick. 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

eBay: the only way to buy Forge World miniatures

My grudges against Forge World, specifically their quality control, are neither unique nor something I've ever been quiet about but this past week something happened to throw it all into sharp relief.

Yesterday, I received a package in the post. It was some Death Guard Grave Warden Terminators I'd ordered from a seller on eBay. I bought them from a seller of second hand wargames miniatures called Recycled-Marine.
Now, here's the thing about the models I received: they were de-flashed; built; primed; they had no mismoulds (or if there were any, they were filled in prior to priming); I saved £19 on the RRP; and, there was even a slip included in the packaging with contact details if I had any problems with my purchase quite.

It struck me as pretty bad, practically indefensible, that a random eBay store had better quality control than the original makers. That's not how capitalism is meant to work. Forge World should be incentivising purchasing from them directly but they simply don't offer anywhere near the assured quality of being able to see a photograph of the models on eBay.

Think about it: effectively, because of packaging, any model I buy is sight unseen. I have a box of Custodes on my desk right now that I haven't opened because I'm saving building them for when I get a big audio box set later in the month. The thing is, I can feel pretty much assured that the sprues inside are properly moulded and if they aren't I can easily get a refund or replacement by wandering down town to the local GW store.

Forge World has none of that. Being an internet business their returns policy is a bugger and their resin is terrily fragile and prone to distortion with no way for me to inspect them before purchase.

There are a lot of things I like about Forge World. Since they get to budget for a niche audience within the hobby they can greenlight projects that Citadel Miniatures can't guaratee a return on. There's a Lost And The Damned range of miniatures because of this, there are Legion-specific units because of this, there are Chaos Dwarfs because of this.

I just wish I could buy more of it without worrying it'll come to me in a completely unuseable condition. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Black Orchid: a Black Archive experiment

I've not read three of the Black Archive series: The Massacre, The Evil of the Daleks and Ghost Light. So far they've all offered interesting perspectives on their given stories and I'm more than sold on the series. However, with my next purchase I decided to change things up a bit in order to present the series with a bit of a challenge.

You see, those first three books were all on stories with, shall we say, interesting pre-existing debates. The Massacre is a story we know to have been rewritten several times so the actual facts of the narrative are a bit fuzzy. The Evil of the Daleks is largely missing from the archives so there's a lot of mileage to be gained from the book's angle of trying to reconstruct the most authentic version of the story (though, interesting as that was, I fear the angle might become rather trying if replicated for other missing stories). Ghost Light, whilst the only complete story of the three, nevertheless has a story traditionally thought of as hard to follow, at least in received fan wisdom. Plus, all three are set at interesting points in history with two of the three dealing with political debates of those times (the Catholic/Huguenot schism in The Massacre, evolution in Ghost Light).

As you can imagine, I was quite confident all those purchases would get me a riveting read.

So what, I wondered, would this series produce on a less contentious subject? Of the available titles perhaps none offer a less controversial subject matter than Black Orchid.

Now, it isn't that Black Orchid is dull. Its not the most exciting two episodes Doctor Who ever produced but it passes the time pleasantly enough. Its just that I'm not sure what there is to say about it. It exists in its entirety, its from perhaps the most analysed portion of the classic series which is also the era least interested in being “about” anything. Its a simple murder story (not, in any real sense, a mystery) set in an Agatha Christie-esque stately home. There's some crass casual racism, some equally crass casual ableism and a rather dull attempt to give one of the companion actresses something to do by having her play one of the guest roles as well.

There's no great debate about what the story is about, the story is pretty simple. There's no debate about its quality, its neither particularly loved or particularly hated (except, in the latter case, by Peter Davison), its just a one-week filler story between The Visitation and the big Cybermen return of Earthshock.

So I eagerly look foeward to finding out what Ian Millsted will think of to fill his hundred-odd pages.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Why Nikki Cross and Asuka's Last Woman Standing match gives me hope


(no spoilers for the match result, I am genuinely recommending it and I don't want to give away the ending).
This might seem an odd moment of feminism but this was an absolutely brutal match and that's important. After the chronic botching of the women's Money In The Bank match, I for one needed a sign that the women's division wasn't just going to go off the rails.

Boy, did I get it.

This was a great match. I honestly mean that. My gold standard for Last Man/Woman Standing is Triple H versus Ric Flair which is one of my favourite matches ever. I have a lot of thoughts on how Flair hung on too long but the man has my eternal respect for how well he did in that match at his age (and, good grief, that spot with the screwdriver is just plain hard to watch).

But enough about old men brutalising each other for our entertainment, let's talk about two young women brutalising each other for our entertainment!

In all seriousness, this match was treated with all the seriousness that I felt the booking of Money In The Bank lacked with one exception... can we please stop putting adverts in the middle of main events? There were two ad breaks. Now, I like Roderick Strong and I am looking forward to him facing Bobby Roode for the title but, to be frank, its not what I was there for at that moment.

No, I was there for both women at various times going head first into the steel steps; Asuka drop kicking Nikki whilst Nikki was trapped inside a dustbin; Asuka taking an absolutely hair-raising DDT on the very edge of the ring apron and selling like a champ; Asuka being powerbombed onto a pile of chairs.

And, though I won't spell it out, the final spot. The winning moment. It was sheer brutality and a truly rare occasion when I was with the crowd when they started chanting “Holt shit!”. I do feel that chant has been devalued somewhat but it was truly deserved.

As I say, it might seem odd that I'm complimenting this as a return to form for the women's division but here we are. These two women were booked in a long, grueling match which they turned into an absolute belter. They were presented as fantastic athletes and unstoppable forces that could only clash in a match where winning involves beating the other person to exhaustion.

This is a definite step up from having a weak heel get a win off the back of her bloody boyfriend's interference.

Just, next time, let is see the match uninterrupted, please? 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Fate Of Konor: Flesh Tearers 75 power list

On July 27th the Fate Of Konor campaign begins in earnest and I need an army up and ready for the date. I am determined to have a fully painted force to put down on the table. According to our local GW manager, the “average” size game will be 75 power (I absolutely love the power system, so much better than points) and so my aim, over the next twenty six days, is to finish the following;

Captain in power armour (5 power)
Librarian in power armour (6 power)

5 Death Company (9 power)
Death Company Dreadnought (11 power)

10-man Tactical Squad (9 power)
5-man Scout Squad with bolters (6 power)

5-man Vanguard Veteran Squad with jump packs (8 power)
Land Speeder with multi-melta (6 power)

Baal Predator (8 power)
Vindicator (8 power)

Total: 76 power

Of this, the Librarian, Tactical Squad and Death Company Dreadnought are painted already. The Death Company and Vanguard are half-painted. The Predator and Vindicator need building, which shouldn't take long and I'll probably get it done this evening. I might also paint up a Chaplain to give me some character variety (and because their buffs are awesome if you stand them next to your Death Company).

It seems more than doable, since there are only 9 models I have to start painting from scratch (albeit that three of them are rather large).