I’m Back

I started this blog in 2008. I’m not the same man today that I was then.

I’ve written reviews about comics and films, both mainstream and independent. I’ve interviewed over 120 writers, artists and creative people across a variety of websites, plus the Extra Sequential magazine and podcast. It was fun, and exciting and eventually it became less so.

Then last year, I stopped. I stopped because the joy in doing those things stopped. I was no longer motivated to spend hours at home on my keyboard every week showcasing the artistic and diverse forms of expression that gave me pleasure. A number of quiet yet powerful events occurred to bring this shift in my focus.

Some health hiccups, tremendous travel opportunities, a new job. All these things exploded in my life in and they’ve opened my eyes to see things anew.

That’s given me a renewed sense of purpose, refined by God and some beautiful people I’m blessed to call my friends.

And that’s why I want to start blogging about stuff that matters to me, and I’m sure you’ll find it interesting. I have new priorities now. The last three years have seen a dramatic turn in the way I eat, dress, and generally live. I’m twenty kilos lighter. I read and watch more diverse media. There’s an incredibly exciting opportunity within the theatre world, plus I’m starting to write again. You can catch my stories on Wattpad.

I’ve also just had a short story published in the latest issue of the new digital magazine, Phantasmagoria (such a cool name).

Have a read of my fanciful tales, and let me know what you think. There will be more. Oh yes.

Farewell 2011, Hello 2012

I wrote this for my church bulletin and thought I’d share it here too….

Many people around the world welcome the New Year with enthusiasm, and even make New Year’s resolutions – things they’d like to accomplish over the next 12 months. These may include losing weight, taking up a hobby, getting out of debt and other tasks to aid their self improvement. Even though many of these people may have good intentions, studies have shown that usually less than 12% achieve those goals, as the excitement of a new year gives way to the humdrum of daily life.

James 5:12 states, “Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.” Having goals in life is important, but the Word warns us to not do so quickly, especially if we hope to achieve them by our own strength, but with God’s strength, we can do mighty things. Psalm 18:29 encourages us by saying, “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”

We can also be thankful that God is not One to let His promises remain unfulfilled as Psalm 145: 13 reminds us, “The Lord is faithful toward all his promises.” God may surprise us, but He’ll never disappoint us.

I’m In Empire Magazine

The film mag Empire is the only monthly mag I buy regularly. Filled with good reviews, interviews and just excellent writing, it’s always entertaining. I’ve written them two letters, or rather emails, recently to correct their comics info, and my most recent one has now been published, complete with a sarcastic response! Having read it again, I laughed at how nerdy I sound, but I’m right! Us fanboys have to educate the greater public, or else, who will?

Yes, the scan on the left is hard to read, so here’s my original, unedited, geeky letter:

Hi there
Without a doubt Empire is the best mag on the stands, but unfortunately you occasionally fall into the frustrating trap of the mainstream press when covering anything related to comic books, and get the facts wrong.
The current issue is filled with great comics stuff, such as the Captain America feature and articles on The Crow and the DC Universe Online game. However, with the single page look at the new Spider-Man film costume you assume that due to the mechanical webshooters there will be, “no radioactive spider bites for this web-slinger.” That’s incorrect, as any look at Wiki or a query to a dedicated fanboy would tell you. Spider-Man’s powers also include great speed, strength, agility and the very handy Spider Sense. Shooting webs is merely one trick in his arsenal. I should also fulfill my nerdy duties by stating that in the comics, apart from the aformentioned abilities, Peter Parker has always had mechanical web shooters. It was Sam Raimi who internalised them, and although Marvel briefly adopted the concept in its comics after the first film, Parker now has, and will continue to have them, as they are unrelated to his “radiocative spider bite” and show Parker’s scientific ingenuity.
Your informative geek,
Kris Bather

Best Fictional Sports

With the Winter Olympics now over, here’s a quick look at some awesome sports from the halls of pop culture to distract us.

Jugger

Introduced in Salute of the Jugger by writer/director David Webb Peoples (screenwriter of Blade Runner and Unforgiven) this 1989 action pic starring Rutger Hauer is known as The Blood of Heroes in the U.S. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, people eat dogs and barter with whatever trinkets they discover just to survive. In this harsh realm Sallow (Hauer) is accompanied by his assorted team-mates (including characters played by Joan Chen, Delroy Lindo and Vincent D’Onofrio)  who play the nation’s favourite past-time, simply known as The Game (no, not the Michael Douglas movie). The players, known as juggers, manage to meke out an existence by travelling to different settlements and challenging the locals. The premise of The Game is a simple, yet brutal one. Two teams of four armoured players attempt to place a fancy dog skull on the enemy’s goalpost. Every player is armed with an assortment of wild and whacky weapons, except the person playing the role of the Quick. It’s their job to live up to their name, and run as fast as possible, being protected by their 3 team-mates and attempting to dodge a fatal bludgeoning or impalement along the way, while holding the aformentioned canine brain case. In fact, this sport is so well loved it has now become a reality, originating in Germany. The first international tournament took place in 2007 in Hamburg. A latex dog skull was used.

Deathball

As seen in the second direct to DVD Futurama film, The Beast With A Billion Backs, this game involves bare legs, spandex suits and fleeing from a giant ball, in the best Indiana Jones tradition. Old-timer scientific rivals Professor Farnsworth and the pony-tailed Dr Wernstrom form teams and compete in Deathball for the right to launch an expedition to discover the cause of a recent space anomaly. Players of Super Monkey Ball or the Wii’s Kororinpa will be somewhat familiar with the mechanics of the game, which is a life-sized version of the classic Labyrinth. Players run around a huge maze-like course, avoiding falling into holes, and the rolling steel marble, while the opposing team controls both the horizontal and vertical axis from an elevated viewing area. Hilarity ensues. So do crushed vertebrae of the slow runners.

Car Soccer

Now I’m not a fan of cars, but I am a fan of Top Gear and sure, this sport isn’t fictional exactly, but it’s not appearing on the Sports Channel anytime soon either. The crazy British trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have so much fun every week with motor vehicle shenanigans that the BBC series never fails to induce giggles. Some of their amusing stunts such as using a Volvo to jump over a line of caravans, or turning average cars into boats, or even a space shuttle can’t be considered sports, but they’ve covered those too. Hammond and May once captained opposing sides, ably assisted by stunt car drivers in red and blue teams driving Toyota Aygos and the biggest football you’ll ever see. In their Winter Olympics Special, the duo revisited the concept, using Suzuki Swifts in an ice hockey match.

Rollerball

This is more than director John McTiernan’s worst film.  It’s also a fast paced full contact sport, as seen in the 1975 original of the same name, starring James Caan, and based on a short story by William Harrison. Cann plays Jonathan E, the legendary Rollerball player for the Energy Corporation. The ruling conglomerates of this 2018 future want Jonathan to retire at the height of his fame, while simultaneously altering the rules of the sport to make it appeal to the public’s bloodlust while hiding their own agendas. The film has certainly influenced many other fictional sports, and movies based around them, while itself being influenced by the popular Roller Derby game which rose to prominence in the 1970s and has seen a recent revival thanks to athletic female players with a goth/punk fashion sense, as seen in the new film, Whip It. Similar to Derby, Rollerball also uses two teams on roller skates on a circular track, but Ball incorporates only one ball, a cannon, three motorcyclists (which can tow team-mates), two catchers per side, and a magnetic goal on the track’s outer rim. It also incorporates orange jump suits, but those aren’t mandatory.

Holochess

George Lucas has given the world many great treasures, but he well knows, that no future world is complete without a made up sport. Sure, holochess is more of a hobby than a sport but any excuse to mention Star Wars is a good one. As seen on the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope, this game is a hi-tech version of chess, complete with interactive holographic aliens as pieces and a round table, rather than a square one. Also known as dejarik, the pieces resemble real and imaginary species in the Star Wars universe and act accordingly during play, becoming aggressive when used, or acting bored during times of inactivity. There are variations including multi-tiered boards and armies of characters, and a gruesome version created by Yuzzhan Vong warmaster Tsavong Lah involving living creatures as pieces.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson we can learn comes from Han Solo. As he reminds C-3PO while playing against sore loser Chewbacca, Wookie’s can rip their opponents arms off so it’s always a good strategy to, “let the Wookie win.”

Quidditch

Time for a less violent game, and one which the whole family can enjoy, as long as they’re not afraid of heights. The high-flying game, was developed by author J.K. Rowling and has been featured in every Harry Potter novel except the final one. Like Rollerball, but with flying broomsticks replacing skates, the aim of Quidditch is to um…throw a ball into one of three hoops. Or something. With names like bludgers, keepers, chasers, beaters, keepers, quaffles and goldens snitches, it’s probably easier to just read Quidditch Through The Ages. Published in 2001 and written by Rowling (under the pseudonym of fictional Quidditch expert Kennilworthy Whisp) it tells you all you need to know about the game, which is probably the most realized fictional sport ever produced. But if you really want to get the authentic experience, or as close to it, you could play any of the video games, or find a local Muggle Quidditch league. Sadly, it’s played on the ground.

Thunderdome

Think of it as the steel cage match of the future – the post-apocalyptic future, naturally. In the last outing of Mad Max, 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome, we follow Max (Mel Gibson) across the desert landscape, where he eventually lands in Bartertown, becoming a pawn in a power play between Aunty Entity (Tina Turner) and the vicious double act known as Master Blaster. The pair derives their name from the midget Master who rules from atop the hulking shoulders of the masked mute Blaster. Max faces the lone Blaster in the spherical cage, as a swarm of grubby onlookers cling to it’s frame and begin to chant the only rule – “Two men enter, one man leaves.” Hoping to be that one man, Max combats Blaster in a swinging harness, and then finally on the ground, using weapons placed inside the dome, as well as those handed to him by the bloodthirsty patrons. After a hard earned victory, Max uncovers Blaster’s true face and is shocked (as are we) to discover that it’s a mentally disabled man staring back at him. Max swims against the harsh tide of Bartertown and lets his opponent live.

The Running Man

Similar to Rollerball and Death Race, The Running Man is a televised sport in which the competitors fight for their lives. Based on a 1982 novel by Stephen King, under his sometimes-pen name, Richard Bachman, it became a film 5 years later. In it, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ben Richards, a military pilot who refuses to fire on unarmed civilians, and is then imprisoned for it. Managing to escape with two friends, he is recruited by the show’s sleazy producer. Richards is told that if he doesn’t participate his fellow escapees will compete in his place. Richards reluctantly agrees, but soon learns that he’s been lied to. Running for his life through an earthquake ravaged L.A, he attempts survival against gimmick-laden stalkers, such as the ice-skating Subzero, lightning wielding Dynamo, chainsaw revving Buzzsaw and Fireball, who uses a jetpack and flamethrower. With each grisly death caught live on TV, Richards becomes more popular than the men created by the network. The obligatory resistance fighters soon recruit Richards and a happy ending ensues, one that couldn’t be further from King’s original novel.

This Week’s Ramblings

comiXology is giving away over 30 free comics for use of your iPhone, as part of its new comics by comiXology application. Go here to see what’s available.

The new Batman and Robin team continue to entertain in the DCU. Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen are also a great pair on their Streets of Gotham series. The third issue focuses on the man known as The Broker and his shady acquisitions of properties to be used as hideouts for Gotham’s criminals. This is a mature issue, as The Broker questions his morals and  mentions that the Mad Hatter is, “aside from the little girl thing, a prince.” He also shows a place to the new look Mr. Zsasz who buys the abandoned property and promptly wheels in tiny cages holding kidnapped children. All that, plus the Manhunter co-feature starring a skinless woman make this one gruesome issue. It also has a cameo by The Great White Shark bad guy seen in the excellent Batman: Arkham Asylum game.

Justice League of America #38 AdImage’s tale of eternal brothers Olympus series is finished, with #4 now out. I picked up the finally released TPB of Pax Romana this week, and the comparisons between Jonathan Hickman’s design sense and Olympus’ artist Christian Ward seem obvious to me. Go here to see some Olympus pages to know what I mean. Both men use the page as their own template for a new kind of approach to visual storytelling. They’re not afraid to be bold and use negative space to great effect. The last ish of Olympus is probably the best looking and I hope Ward has another outlet soon. Writer Nathan Edmondson is sure to be going places too.

So the new Justice League has been announced, as seen in this week’s DC releases. The roster has had more changes than ever in the last few years. Writer of the current mini-series Cry For Justice, James Robinson is teaming up with artist Mark Bagley (Trinity) but the character selection isn’t doing a lot for me. I miss the days of Grant Morrison and the Big Seven. At least, there’s still DC’s Trinity, or at least stand-ins for Superman (Mon-El while Supes is on New Krypton), Batman (Dick Grayson replacing the dead Bruce Wayne) and Wonder Woman (one-time Wonder Girl Donna Troy). Check out this informative Newsarama post that examines if the new members are worthy of being in the JLA.

The new 3 ish mini Anti-Venom: New Ways to Live is off to a rollicking start. Pure, hard-core entertainment with another ending 6 pages after the one you think it is. Focusing on the original Spider-Man foe Venom, Eddie Brock is now a good guy as the Anti-Venom and is dedicated to cleaning up the streets and the people in it. Writer Zeb Wells showed in the recent Dark Reign Elektra mini that he knows how to write full throttle action and does so again here. I’ve never seen anything by artist Paulo Siqueira but man, I’m very impressed. With superb pacing, fluid action and scenes of horror oozing darkness onto the pages I’m definitely picking up the next 2 issues.

This Week’s Ramblings

Dellec #1Beast Boy from the Teen Titans appears in Batman: The Brave and The Bold #7, the series based on the amusing cartoon. This issue centres on the original Doom Patrol and gives succinct origins for each member, and Beast Boy, or Changeling as he’s sometimes known, is along for the ride. However, why does he wear a mask? Odd.

Dellec #1 is the kick-off for this new series from Aspen Comics. They’ve wisely branched out their properties lately, so their books aren’t all about Fathom and Soulfire. The teaser Dellec #0 didn’t offer any answers to the direction of this new series, and we are not given any more clues here. What we do know is that Dellec is a tough guy who fights evil, with elements of faith thrown in for good measure. This issue opens splendidly with the hero’s fight against a gang calling themselves the Kongs, because they dress up as primates. The art by Micah Gunnell is awesome, and a perfect fit for this action packed book. Writers Frank Mastromauro and Vince Hernandez really need to start revealing more though, especially considering there’s only 7 more issues to go. So far it’s all noise and blood, but with very little substance, but it does have plenty of room to move and is graphically designed very well.

The best line this week would have to come from Dynamite’s Sherlock Holmes #3 written by John Reppion and Leah Moore. Ready? Here it is.

“Oh my giddy Aunt! Will you look at that?”

Classic. I’m going to slip that into my conversations from now on.

Comic-Con Farewell

Well, it’s been a week since I arrived for San Diego Comic-Con,which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. I’ve seen some of my favourite writers, such as Mark Waid and Alan Burnett. I chatted to people I’ve interviewed for Broken Frontier and Extra Sequential and handed out about 200 business cards. I talked to cover artist Greg Horn about the dangers of kangaroos. I caught a bus with the wife of Doug Murray, who created The ‘Nam for Marvel and now writes Red Sonja for Dynamite. I mentioned to artist David Mack how he’s a gateway drug, and I got mistaken for an Englishman twice. I finally bought the gorgeous Elephantmen Trades and designer JG Roshell let me know that there’s a film in the works, with possible assistance from WETA Workshop. It will be a combination of live action and CGI. I saw a few Hollywood players and I bought  a ton of new comics. Really 4 days isn’t enough for it all, as it is a spectacle. 125 000 people transform the city each year and radio shows, TV news and newspapers all focused on the Con. It’s a mammoth endeavour.

I also managed to talk to a publisher about the exciting future of Extra Sequential, and generally had a blast. It’s tiring, but hopefully I can sleep for my 20 hour flight home.

Darth Busts

Tron/Condorman

Green Lanterns

Ghostbusters

Master Chief

Con Farewell

Empty Con