Category Archives: Comics

Batman Live review–a great experience


OK, so as many people have sniggered as looked on enviously at me for going to Batman Live at the O2 with Arvind on Friday. An early birthday present – Arvind was due to be in LA for my birthday this year – it was my first trip to the Dome in the 11 years its been open for business and the first time I’ve been to any kind of live show in a while.

It was fantastic.

I really didn’t expect it to be that good, and indeed, elements of it were oddly done. The combat sequences – particularly the wire-fighting ones – were slow and laboured, the accents felt vaguely forced (and Bruce Wayne had a bit of a lisp), and the costumes were accentuated with fake muscles to the point that Batman looked ridiculous on the few occasions he had to run.

But the staging was inventive and immersive, the acrobatics were suitably impressive, the story actually worked – despite a proliferation of rogues endemic to the franchise – the pacing was perfect and the humour appropriate. It was quite child-oriented – and indeed, that lent to its charm – a kid sat around us somewhere provided an amusing commentary on the content: On Batman kissing Catwoman: "Eww, that’s disgusting." On Robin’s entrance: "WOW LOOK AT ROBIN HE’S GOING TO GET THEM!" On the Batsignal: "Mummy mummy it’s the Batsignal!!!"

The Batmobile, btw, is a real highlight. Very, very cool on stage.

Anyway, I think its left London as it continues on its Arena Tour – if you get the opportunity, go and see it! But avoid the Bat-merchandise, it is a massive rip-off!

Here’s a clip:

The O2 – Batman Live Performance on MUZU.TV

Taunting the SEO and social media people with the undead

Black Lantern Captain AmericaWorking at a PR agency and consulting on how people can interact with bloggers and their ilk has always given me a bit more patience, and occasionally respect for the people that pitch me for one product or another. Because I am a bit interested in most things, more often than not I do write about the stuff that people send me or write to me about, from yoghurt to clothing to technology and back again, on the basis that the pitch demonstrates evidence that they’re targeting me on the basis of anything I’ve actually written in the past.

I’m also more than open to offering people a guest blog spot, for what its worth, if they want to write about something that aligns in more or less anything I’m interested in, and as long as its not totally shameless self-promotion.

However, I have virtually no patience with people that don’t even slightly think through why they’re in touch with me, and, like the old scam of old (h/t to Will S on that one) I’ve taking to taunting them.

Personal details redacted, but here’s this week’s fun:

@division6 morning :) was wondering if you’re still accepting guest posts on your blog at all?
@[redacted] depends who from, what for and what about!
@division6 it’ll be from me (my employer), on whatever you’d like it on. What for, you tell me :)
@[redacted] how about a comparative analysis between the undead universes of DC and Marvel comics? Marvel Zombies vs DCU ‘Black Lanterns’?
@division6 lol
@[redacted] No? Ok then.
@division6 don’t think I’ve ever, ever read a comic, nor seen a movie based on a comic.. Maybe The Crow, if that’s classed as one..

I’m hoping someone does take me up on that blog post request. I think a DCU/Marvel undead crossover (maybe with some Walking Dead zombies thrown in for good measure) could be ftw.

Kyle Rayner vs. Hal Jordan and the DCU reboot

Green lanternsAfter the (largely woeful) Green Lantern film, I’ve been reading through some old issues of the comic. I’ve not been one for geeky discussions on minute points of detail in the various comic-verses but every now I read a bit of something and think "hang on one minute there…"

The specific case in point here was the Hal Jordan resurrection sequence following his ‘death’ as Parallax. And it wasn’t particularly the fact of the resurrection – they’ve done those things before for Superman (and I think now for Batman too), but the fact that the return of Hal Jordan diminishes the role of Kyle Rayner from the series.

Hal Jordan – the test pilot man-without-fear – was duly heroic and made sense for the era in which he was created – but Kyle felt much more current. An artist, a man with more flaws than Hal’s misogyny, and a more versatile personality, I thought, made for much more interesting reading.

With that in mind, Topless Robot (my new favourite geek blog) points me at news that the DC Universe is rebooting. The comicverse does this every now and then – realising that their stories have grown to an unsustainably complex place, the reset normally involves a ridiculously complex story-arc in which history is changed and the world as we know it takes new form. I don’t know if that’ll happen this time, but we’ll see… It looks like Hal will be Green Lantern once again, but at this stage – all I can say is – nice costumes, and I’ll miss Kyle if they write him out completely.

Like Topless Robot – I’m not bothered about the continuity reset. Some of these series have been running for so long they occasionally reference events up to a decade in the comics real-world past. When you do that, all but the most ardent of fans lose track…

Internal consistency in a world full of zombies

The Walking Dead - Comic Artwork 10I was talking to a former colleague about ‘trash fiction’ and he was lamenting that he didn’t enjoy it as much as he used to when he was younger. By ‘trash’ fiction we both meant slightly different things – popular action/thriller novels for Dazzla, my staple of tier 2 sci-fi and fantasy for me.

My comment was – as long as the stories are internally coherent and the worlds interesting, I still enjoy them. That’s part of the joy of being a sci-fi/fantasy fan – you get to suspend your disbelief and take some time off to dwell in a totally different universe.

Sometimes, what’s compelling is the similarity with our own universe. This is the case with the Walking Dead – there’s very little supernatural mysticism in the way the tale is told. Something – indeterminate but presumably natural – has caused the dead to walk, but it relates to the brain stem and you have to stop it with a physical intervention (i.e. destroy the brainstem). You can’t banish it, or exorcise it, or cast a spell and make it go away.

Unfortunately one of the things rooting stories in the real world does is allow for semi-rational analysis. For example…. the zombies are moving, movement takes energy. The zombies might draw on latent energy stores in their own bodies, but beyond that they need nourishment to replenish energy stocks. Nourishment for zombies comes from humans. The humans are (mostly) dead – ergo no food for zombies. Therefore in time, zombies must surely run out of energy and stop moving (as indeed happens in 28 Days Later)… And yet, in the comics, nearly two years has passed since the Zombie apocalypse and there’s still herds of them moving around. So that jars, slightly.

The second issue seems to be that whenever someone falls victim to a zombie or two, they get eaten alive. That being the premise – humans are food. So the question emerges – where do new zombies come from? If a new zombie is only spawned when an old zombie gets full, then the apocalypse would likely be less complete and have been more controllable.

Perhaps this is overanalysing the situation. Or perhaps it all feeds into the inexorably drawn out exposition plan for the authors of the Walking Dead, who’ve spent 7 years telling the story and never given a hint away as to the cause of Zombie-ism…

Comic-con, someday

Comic-Con LogoI don’t have a long list of places I’m itching to visit. I’m not one of those people that has 40 things to do by the time I’m 40. But there are a few things I’d like to experience at some stage, and, foremost amongst the ‘selfish’ desires would be to hit the San Diego Comic-con one year.

I’ve been following the news more closely than normal, thanks to Topless Robot and Geekologie, and hearing the inside track on things ranging from the new ‘Avatar’ series to rumours of Dr Horrible 2, seeing Andrew Garfield deliver his heartfelt geek speech on the wonders of Spidey, seeing the posters of the Avengers movie appear, knowing that the people making these things happen are wandering a giant exhibition stall with thousands of like minded people… well, it sounds intriguing, if faintly sweaty.

My brother and I have a non-specific plan to make it out one year. I’ve never had a lot of friends into the whole comic/fantasy/sci-fi/animation thing with me, but it is something my brother and I have always shared, and a select few other fellow geeks. Thanks to my brother’s career (he makes movies) I’ve met one of my favourite contemporary comic book writers virtually, Mike Carey, and that is a pretty heady feeling. Geek star struck, natch.

Anyway, if you’ve ever gone I’d love to know what you think and if you think I’d enjoy it. I’m not sure how I’d find the crowds – have always found that aspect of exhibitions unspeakably tedious…

The Walking Dead comics

The Family is Back together

I’ve just finished blitzing my way through hundreds of pages of the Walking Dead comic. It has been amazing, so far, not something I expected to say about anything involving zombies.

Unlike the movie/zombie convention, the comic serial has enough time to explore some fascinating issues. The nature of what it is to be human; to have humanity, of what you’d do to protect family, to survive in extreme circumstances. On the source of strength; on leadership, on psychological trauma and mental instability; on social dynamics and societal constraints.

It’s a rich, rich vein of possibility that is amazingly well executed, and which I think perhaps could only have worked in this specific medium (I’m not sure how well this will translate to TV unless they can miraculously stay on the air for 3-4 years).

I am looking forward to the introduction of Michone on the TV series, if that happens anytime soon. Simply fantastic.

The Walking Dead graphic novel–light bedtime reading

Walking Dead compendium vol 1The Walking Dead compendium arrived yesterday – a chunky tome, as you can see. On reflection, it perhaps wasn’t the best choice for bedtime reading – it’s both scary and hard to put down – but I think on the whole, that’s a better option than trying to lug it on the commute.

So far, I’m more or less caught up with the first season of the AMC drama. It’s amazing how the TV show has borrowed from the visual stylings of the graphic novel in such incredible detail, and yet picked its own plot points to expand upon and create for the purposes of a televisual interpretation.

Patrick tells me that they’re struggling to get the second season made, as managing zombie mayhem at that scale is just expensive by way of SFX and make-up. I hope it does get through.

Origin stories

Nice poster of Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern.I’ve been a comic book fan since forever. Most of my friends know this – the Superhero t-shirts, key-chain, icons, etc. are a persistent reminder – so people are always surprised if I haven’t rushed to see Thor, or Green Lantern, or whatever the latest comic book hero movie is.

There is a reason for this, in addition to being a busy dad. As a comic book fan, it takes a very specific kind of comic-book movie to cut through the endless hours of mediocrity that Hollywood churns out on this front. Scalzi has it nailed in a recent column:

…it’s not so much super heroes that I’m bored with, than it is origin stories — which is to say, the whole set-up of how said super hero got his powers, how he fumbled a bit with them before he figured them out, how he felt alienated from the world, blah blah blah blah blah, man, I get tired just thinking about them at this point. You know, one of the very salient reasons why Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight are considered better than their predecessors is that they didn’t have to spend any time setting up the super hero; they could just focus on the story they wanted to tell. But of course it’s difficult to get to those films without doing the set-up exercises. It’s a catch-22, it is.

Of course, now that there’s a wave of origin stories been told… perhaps we can get to proper movie-making. If there was some really good storytellers with ambition and studios with courage they’d pick up a story mid-flow… Superman Returns, whilst not a perfect piece of film-making, at least had the courage not to completely reboot the series. But then, Superman as a character is significantly better understood than Hal Jordan…

The Unwritten – an @ArvD recommendation #comic genius


I’ve just finished reading the first three graphic novels in the Unwritten compendium. The series is the latest output of genius British comic book writer, Mike Carey, whose Lucifer and Constantine comics series are favourites of mine, and whose Felix Castor novel series is one of the only bits of dark urban fantasy I’ve read (and loved).

The Unwritten follows Tom Taylor, son of a writer whose works span 13 novels of children-friendly-fantasy starring a ‘Tommy Taylor. The stories are reminiscent of a hybrid version of Philip Pullman’s ‘Dark Materials’ stories and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. Mike – at the point I’m at – hasn’t revealed enough of what’s going on for us to fully understand the scope of his universe, but the underpinning premise is – our stories define our culture, and become real. In Carey’s universe, literally so, but the metaphor is a fascinating one.

I’m not going to write too much as its almost impossible to tell too much of this story without giving away spoilers. The essence of the story is one of Tom’s journey of self-discovery as he comes to understand his father’s role in defining the culture of an era in a psycho-cultural battle against a shadowy cabal of evil storytellers and manipulators of history.

I will tell you it is an absolutely spectacular bit of storytelling. Carey’s pacing, characterisation and careful and rigorous creation of story structure makes every story in the series an absolute delight. I hope he’s slightly more cheery in real life, though, as despite the occasional, well-executed bit of humour – these books are bleak. Hint of silver lining to be sure, but a lot of cloudy sky.

Disclaimer: I’ve not met him or have any particular bias to say that he’s awesome, so I can assure you these views are my own, but my brother is working with Mike on a movie. Don’t think I can say more than that for now…