Thursday, 28 February 2008

GEORGE TAKEI TO APPEAR IN STAR TREK PREQUEL?



Word is getting around that George ‘Sulu’ Takei may show up in JJ Abram’s new STAR TREK movie. Oh come on, seriously. The film already concerns the old Spock communicating with the young Spock. We don’t need any more faces from the classic series/films. The thing is, people are asking if William Shatner is going to show up in it too. Now, if you remember, Kirk died in the seventh movie, and even though he was resurrected in the billion novels Shatner put his name on, I doubt the moviegoing public would know this. Spock being in the new movie can be forgiven- he’s a Vulcan after all, but putting other classic characters in there for the sake of it would do little other than steal the show from the new cast.


Now, these Sulu rumours are largely being circulated due to Takei saying ‘No comment’ when asked about any involvement in the new film. Naturally, the net went insane with ‘Sulu is in the new movie!’ claims.


I could well be wrong and Abrams will handle it perfectly, with the original cast providing something of a bookend for the film. Granted, Hollywood STILL CANNOT THINK OF ANYTHING NEW, which is seriously ticking me off, but at least this is looking promising. Just don’t mess it up, okay? Make sure that if it isn’t another Khan, its at least another Undiscovered Country. Pretty please? At least it has Simon Pegg in it, which is a brilliant idea.


Personally I think the remake/prequel/redux/whatever shouldn’t have been made, and that a whole new, Abrams-led era of Star Trek could begin, taking place after the era of TNG/DS9/Voyager. That said, I am looking forward to seeing Kirk and Spock reborn onscreen for a new generation, even if this re-imagining of the franchise only lasts for one film.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play the teaser trailer again. Mmmm… spaceships…

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

PRODUCT REVIEW- THE GODFATHER FIGURE

THE GODFATHER

Don Vito Corleone Action Figure

McFarlane Toys


A great likeness, but not a great figure overall.


Mcfarlane Toys continue expanding their range of movie licenses with this, a 7 inch action figure of Marlon Brando in his iconic Don Vito Corleone role from the Godfather movies. Well, I say ‘Action’, it is more just a ‘Figure’ as it isn’t articulated at all. The Sculpt is of a high standard, resembling the late star rather well, but its bland diorama base and lack of accessories (not even a cat for him to stroke!) smacks of a rush release. The packaging, a fiddly clamshell, is smaller than the usual McFarlane releases, and I hope it doesn’t hint of things to come as it is a rather unattractive package, and the weak hook on the top of the packaging and will break off easily, so take note if you want to hang it in its package.


Granted, anyone that wants a Godfather figure probably isn’t going to want to use it for much other than a display piece, but that in itself should have made McFarlane throw in some interesting accessories. A rare dud for the usually reliable McF. How about re-releasing it as a box set with a cat and desk? Just a thought.


STARS OUT OF 5: **


FOR FANS OF: The Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface

Monday, 25 February 2008

X-FILES 2 FOOTAGE LEAKED


The exclusive X-Files 2 teaser that was screened at Wondercon has, surprise surprise, leaked all over the internet. How does it look? Well from the grainy, tiny, phone-cam shot version I saw, it probably isn’t an actual teaser. I’m guessing this is just a selection of completed scenes, cut together into a teaser trailer. Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin- it teases.


From the intriguing shots of Billy Connolly flanked by FBI agents as he strides across a snowy wasteland crying out ‘It’s here, it’s here!’, to the tantalising glimpses of action scenes, and of course our first look at Mulder and Scully in years, it looks, well, like the X-Files. I am very happy about this. It only runs to about 35 seconds, but it looks very interesting indeed. Who is the man with the scratches on his face? Why are Billy Connolly’s eye bleeding? Who (or what) is being dragged across the ice?


Where the first film (Fight The Future- remember that?) may have been close to the series in spirit, it lost a little something by giving the story such a massive scale onscreen. This new X-Files movie is billed a standalone story, and is rumoured to be of a supernatural nature. Chris Carter has gone record at Wondercon to say that while the mythos of the show- i.e. the conspiracy aspect- will be mentioned and dealt with, it isn’t the crux of the story. This is a very good sign. The show got too boged down with its own continuity and lost a bunch of viewers along the way. The standalone stories were generally superb, and also the most memorable (Tooms!).


It is wonderful to know there’s a new story on the way, and great to see Mulder and Scully on the big screen again. Early word is that the chemistry between the two main characters is as good as ever, just the right side of flirtatious, and the interplay is back how it was in the early years of the show.


Judging from the reaction at Wondercon in the video (the screams an applause are deafening) it would seem that all the old X-Philes are hungry for more. Just you wait and see come this summer- the X-Files are open again, and by the look of it, all hell is about to break loose.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Cloverfield: The Starstore review


The ingenious viral marketing campaign for Cloverfield, great as it was, really doesn’t prepare you for the assault on the senses you get when watching the movie. The film itself is a superb reimagining of the monster movie genre, and while its detractors may describe it as little more than ‘The Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla’, but it is so much more. It is an excellent piece of modern film terror, and more than aptly fits the ‘Godzilla for the Youtube generation’ moniker its producer, JJ Abrams, gave it.


The basic premise, that of a monster invading Manhattan, told from the viewpoint of a handheld digital camcorder, is a great way of keeping the story at a very human level, as opposed to the usual predictable spectacle of the monster movie genre. Cloverfield is a film that takes hold of the standard elements of the genre and rips them to pieces. The monster, when you see it, is absolutely horrific, and is thankfully far from the usual ‘Giant Dinosaur’ design these kind of films tend to lean towards. I won’t describe it here, you really should see it for yourself.


I loved the fact that the main characters don’t just get the odd cut and bruise- these people really do suffer in their fight for survival, and what a fight it is. The military are terrified, the public even more so. What the monster does to the city is chilling and has you on the edge of your seat for its duration. The set up may feel like it goes on too long, but there is a reason, and the inclusion of what was originally on the tape between the attack footage is a stroke of genius and plays out a plot point to a perfect conclusion. Watch it and see what I mean. The editing, while intended to look like it hasn’t been edited at all, is also incredibly effective.


The fact that you don’t actually see the monster that much adds so much by way of drama and intensity. The glimpses are tantalizing, and its trail of destruction is insane.


There are some shots that echo the 9/11 footage in tone and content, but that was to be expected really. One scene in particular, once the monster attacks, is a frame for frame recreation of a certain piece of 9/11 footage. It may sound a little crass, but it fits with the film. The tension is through the roof.


While there is the odd ‘Hollywood’ moment in there, it comes across as gritty, frightening and utterly compelling. It isn’t a film for the faint of heart, and the shaky camera work may make your eyes ache a little, but I implore you to see this on the big screen. The sound design is inspired, the script mostly comes across as natural, and the use of editing and background to fill in the plot is a great thing to see. Far from being another dumb big monster movie, this is an incredibly intelligent and, scarily, believable film.


10/10


Incidentally, there is a large scale action figure of the monster on the way, and it looks incredible. The promo photos looks superb, and give you a great look at the monster that you never really see all of in the movie itself.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

GAMBIT CAST IN WOLVERINE MOVIE

Sam and Rich have already shouted their opinions over my shoulder regarding the breaking news of taylor Kitsch being cast as Gambit in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (hey guys, can you think of an even clunkier title please? jeez...), but I'm undecided yet- mainly because I have no idea who the guy is. Maybe he'll be great. Who knows? Now, he was in teen warlock cheapie THE COVENANT, so at least he's somewhat familiar with making genre films, but I'm yet to see if he can bring anything to the part other than a sculpted chin.

Here's his IMDB page.

Gambit has been a fan favourite character ever since his first appearence in the comics and subsequently the 1990s cartoons. With his wisecracking personality and constant flirting, it was his character more than his mutant abilities that made him star, even if the charged-up playing cards were cool. This Wolverine movie is a strange thing though- it is being billed as an origin tale, and features a young Sabretooth, the Blob, Gambit and apparently Deadpool as well. There's a distinct risk that the thing could become too overcrowded, but I'm hoping for the best. What I would really like is for the title to be changed, as it just sounds like a TV movie with the current monicker, which, of course, will be repeated with X-Men Origins: Magneto.

Once we have some pics and maybe a scene or two, I maight get excited. For now I'm sceptical.

Monday, 18 February 2008

DOCTOR WHO: Series four is coming...


The trailer currently playing in cinemas across the country for series four of Doctor Who's new era is a beautiful thing. Edited just like a movie trailer, it teases, tantalises and raises all manner fo questions. The biggest thing in the trailer, naturally, is the single shot of Billie Piper, back in the role of Rose Tyler. This may well only be for one episode, but it is something the fans are goiung to lap up. Also, what the hell is Martha covered in at the end of the trailer? The goo makes her looks like she's just come out of the Matrix! A clone maybe? Even Donna (Catherine Tate) looks okay- she doesn't seem anywhere near as annoying as in The Runaway Bride, which can only be a good thing. I'm yet to be sold on season four really... The three big villains are all back now, Daleks, Cybermen and The Master have all come and gone, which leaves... Davros. Think about it. Dalek Caan escaped at the End of S3's Evolution of the Daleks. He is the last surviuving Dalek in existence, and where else would he go but back to their creator? I do hope this happens, as a new-era version of Davros would be an awesome thing to see on the screen. Davros was always one of the more convincing villains of the classic era, and also a good old fashioned bad guy in that he was absolutely and totaly evil in every way. Newer fans may not be familiar with stories such as 'Revelation of the Daleks', but that stands as a great example of the nastiness he is capable of. In one of the most unnerving scenes of 80s Doctor Who, we are privy to a severed human head, trapped inside a clear Dalek casing, begging to be killed by its own daughter. Davros was harvesting humans and building Daleks from the parts. This was supposedly kids TV! I do feel a new incarnation of him would go down a treat.

Then there are the Sontarans, which do pop up a couple of times in the new series. I'm not convinced yet that the new audience won't think of them as a knock-off Judoon, and their short stature and modified (almost cute) makeup doesn't help much either.

Something that did strike me when watching the trailer (check it out on Youtube while it lasts!) is the overwhelmingly bleak atmosphere. The music and Donna's monologue are rather downbeat, and the way it is edited suggests that this series is going to be quite harrowing in tone. Could this be the tenth Doctor's swansong? Will the wisecracking Time Lord finally be bettered by an enemy and be forced into regenerating into his eleventh incarnation? personally I'm looking foirward to finding out. Bring on series four, and lets hope the BBC continue to trounce everyone else in the originality stakes.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

WGA WRITER'S STRIKE ENDS!

Hey all, I'm in the middle of a bunch of deliveries and stuff right now so I'll keep this brief. The writer's strike is over! This was announced officially last night, with 3,492 votes to 283 in favour of ending it. All the WGA workers can officially get back to their keybords now. All good news, but bear in mind the Screen Actor's Guild contract expires in June. More trouble on the way?

Quick, make stuff!!!

Monday, 11 February 2008

The WGA strike… Words are indeed a powerful thing.

I’m going to talk about something a bit different today. I’m going to take a step back from checking out the latest merchandise and whatnot, and talk about an issue that affects all of us here in fandom, and which holds a special significance to me, for reasons which will become apparent in the next paragraph. We’re here to prove we are an authority on what we talk about, and thus I am fully qualified to write a few words on the Writer’s strike in the US.


Today, the WGA (Writers Guild of America) have finally been in talks to hopefully come to an agreement with studio bosses and bring the strike to an end. The strike itself has affected shows such as LOST, 24, and many, many other favourites. Not just that, movie studios have suffered too, with schedules being thrown into chaos across the board. Now, I have worked as a screenwriter (albeit on zero-budget horror/vampire movies). That is what I am trained to do, and as such I have been keeping a keen eye on developments with the strike. I have also kept an eye on the endless, repetitive, tiresome tirades from seething fans all over the internet. Thankfully, there have also been a large amount of actual intelligent comments on the matter from other areas of online geekdom.


My tuppence worth? Chill out, all of you. Mainly the flamers. While the common opinion is ‘I could write better than that’, the simple fact is, most of you really couldn’t. Create a coherent story with believable, fully rounded characters with convincing progression and perpetually interesting situations. Go on. Add to this insane deadlines, immeasurably annoying rewrites and tinkering (from people with little or no idea of plot or construction), and the pressure of delivering 120 pages that will become the basis of a multimillion dollar feature film with ridiculous amounts of backing at stake.


Can’t really blame the writers for wanting a fair share of the obscene amount of cash involved in these things, can you? After all, it is the writer that gives the flavour-of-the-week celebrities the actual lines to spout, and also to give the demented warblings of directors and producers some form and direction.


There have been some interesting developments such as regular talk shows resorting to other means of getting scripts written, and thus coming out with their most original stuff in a long time. A little shake-up couldn’t hurt. It does pay to remember that you have to make the effort to make things worth watching in the first place, otherwise stop complaining about a decline in ratings for your beloved shows that never seem to go anywhere, or even end in a satisfactory manner.


There have been various reports of progress being made of late, either from execs desperate to reassure their audience or misinformed outsiders. After many, many drafts of the deal there does appear to be something emerging. What concerns me is whether or not the rest of the WGA members will agree to abide by the deal, should it come about, and return to their keyboards. I do hope so. In an age where we place so much value on the people who go in and preen in front of the cameras for a while, we neglect those that give us the stories in the first place.


The moral of this sorry tale? Respect the writers, for they are the ones that provide the plate that the stars and executives feast from. A little appreciation wouldn’t go amiss.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

KOTOBUKIYA TO PRODUCE IRON MAN AND HULK GOODIES!

Oh yes indeedy. As if the Iron man stuff wasn't looking cool enough as it is, it has now been revealed that none less than Kotobukiya are to be producing items based on the movie. Hell yes! Not only that, they'll also be doing some stuff for THE INCREDIBLE HULK. There's seven categories of merchandise that are going to be made for the new projects, including, oh sweet mama, the ARTFX statues, aka Kotobukiya's revered signature line. This is very good news indeed, as Kotobukiya are masters at what they do.

As an aside, a snap of a toy package from the INCREDIBLE HULK movie has given fans their first glimpse of the ABOMINATION's new look in the anticipated sequel. I'll not post a pic here as that just wouldn;t be cricket (or fair). The thing looks fantastic, even from a simple little picture on the back of a blister pack. Everything is pointing to a much more satisfying film than the Ang Lee misfire. We can but hope!

Friday, 8 February 2008

James Bond teaser poster uncovered?

My hero harry Knowles ran a story over on AICN about the supposed new James Bond movie poster for Quantum of Solace (I'm still not used to that title- how about you?). Apparently spotted in a European paper, the new poster, while minimalist in the extreme, does do its job quite nicely...

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Like the title of the film itself, it may well be a grower. Thankfully the image chosen for this alleged poster is tasteful enough not to date very quickly, if much at all. Hopefully there'll be some cool teasers available soon, but as the movie is in the very early stages of production, and as such there's still probably Boom shadows in each shot and whatnot. Ah well, hoepfully this poster will turn out to be the real thing as I think it'd have a good chance of becoming a favourite with the fans. Mind you, that leg looks a bit wonky doesn't it? Maybe they had John Cleese stand in for the shot and he couldn't help himself...

Thursday, 7 February 2008

IRON MAN: S(L)EEK AND DESTROY!

IRON MAN SIDESHOW ‘STEALTH’ STATUE

Sideshow Collectibles seriously don’t want me to breathe right, do they? These images of the ‘Stealth’ version of their Iron man Movie statue surfaced a while back, and I cannot wait to get the thing in one of our display cabinets, as it is going to look incredible with the lights bouncing off that finish. Plus, the thing comes with built in lights, and while that looks incredibly cheesy on many statues, on this one it is an absolute plus. Check this baby out;

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I’m so pleased the decision was made to recreate one of the teaser poster poses instead of just having old Shellhead stood looking morose. He may have a letterbox for a mouth, but he does look stunning in these preliminary photos. Granted, the final product may well differ from these initial snaps, but Sideshow rarely, if ever, let anything substandrard out of their doors. Actually, this piece has the potential to be one of the coolest things they have produced in a while.

There have been people asking whether or not we will actually see Iron Man in this guise onscreen once the movie is out, and the answer is…sort of. If you check out the recent TV spot that premiered at the Superbowl, you do catch a glimpse of the MKII armour before it gets the red and gold finish. Onscreen it looked more chrome than the blue tint in these images, but its certainly close.

Excitement continues to grow here amongst the denizens of TLPS and Starstore.com as this movie has been a long time coming, and at last the technology is available to do it justice. The movie is shaping up to be something of a huge event, which isn’t bad seeing as it is being directed by the guy that played Foggy in Daredevil!

-Andy

LIVING DEAD DOLLS... BACK FROM THE DEAD

Once more from the mouth of hell itself (well, okay, MEZCO), the fifteenth set of the chilling LIVING DEAD DOLLS will be unleashed soon, and personally I'm stoked. For the tenth anniversary (ten years of terror!!! A decade of deviance! A very long time in toys!) of the hugely popular range of pint-sized terrors, the makers over at MEZCO have outdone themselves once more with an even darker menagerie of tiny evildoers than the previous one! Y'know, it must be getting pretty damn hard to come up with set after set of malevolent miscreants in infant form, but they do keep on rolling them out (digging them up? Jeez, I have my pun head on today), and why the hell(mouth) not? People love the demonic sprogs, and the items themselves are consistently ghoulish, gruesome and great.

Reportedly being unleashed upon the public in April 2008, the latest line of coffin-bound kiddies contains: Judas, Countess Bathory, Death, Flamingo, and Gypsy. Death and Bathory? Someone likes their old-school death metal don’t they? That aside, the inclusion of little Death and Countess Bathory is just the coup the LDD creators needed to make this set special. Granted, the dolls are all excellent, but there did have to be something unique about this set, and it doesn’t get much better than a little reaper and Erzibet in miniature form. Blood and virgins not included. Still packed with their own death certificates in their individual coffin boxes, these are cute and chaotic in equal measure. I mean, could you seriously picture getting much sleep with one of these beasts staring at you from your shelf?

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Also, if you get all five dolls, you’ll find a special little extra in there with them… No, not festering entrails or maggot-ridden slabs of necrotic flesh, you strange, twisted creatures. You can put all five extra pieces together to form the ‘Talking board’ accessory. Now, pictures of this completed accessory are proving a tad elusive, but I would imagine it will be a Living Dead Dolls themed Ouija Board of some description. That sounds like the perfect thing to go alongside this awesome latest set of dolls. Just be careful not to contact too many other demonic children while you're at it, otherwise the world will end up overrun by rotting, zombified youngsters, without the aid of a games console!

As ever, the workmanship on these things is immaculate. The sculpts are excellent, especially on Death, and the fabric costumes boast a high standard that has been noticeably improving over the last few sets of dolls. All in all, this is an exciting release, and a little different to the usual Living Dead Dolls set, which is just the right thing to celebrate the tenth anniversary. Here’s to the next ten years of scaring the wits out of friends and family members all over the (under)world! Aah, (after)life is good.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Shellhead (Almost) Unleashed!

The IRON MAN spot that was premiered at the Superbowl has gone live online, and my sweet God it looks pretty sweet. It is shaping up to be quyite an exciting prospect. At first I was kind of so-so about the whole thing. Y’know, ANOTHER origin story on the big screen, but it does look as they’ve nailed it. Robert Downey Jnr was born to play Tony Stark, wasn’t he? He’s certainly been living the part for long enough (read some Twisted Toyfare Theatre for the full story).


It seemed that the ad campaign for the movie was getting a bit stale of late, with image after image released that were essentially the same shot, but now this tv spot is available, it really is time to get excited about the first movie outing for the red-and-gold Avenger. The suits look amazing, and the effects are seamless. Stark comes across every bit at arrogant and brilliant as you would want him to be, and the story sounds pretty cool too.


One thing I’m still intrigued about is the much-rumoured crossover scene between the Iron Man movie and the new INCREDIBLE HULK movie. Apparently both crews and some of both casts were present for the shooting of one scene that spans both films. Okay, so me and every other geek on the face of the planet immediately went ‘AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!’ (well we did in the shop anyway), and what else could it be? Personally I think the Iron man movie would end on a massively high note if it ended thusly…


(DISCLAIMER- Pure fanboy speculation!)


INT. STARK’S OFFICE- DAY


STARK is at the huge window, staring out at the city beyond his office. The scorched MKII helmet resides on his desk, facing us. O/S, The door opens. We hear footsteps. STARK doesn’t turn around yet.


STARK

Better make this quick, fella. I have brooding to do.


VOICE

I won’t keep you long, mister Stark. I have something of a
proposition.


Stark turns and faces the tall, blonde military man before him, and takes in the various medals upon the crisp uniform his visitor wears. A blue folder is under his arm.


STARK

My my, what a hero. Mr?


The soldier lays the folder on Stark’s desk and offers a strong handshake. CLOSE on the folder, which bears an oversized letter A, partially sticking out of the circle that surrounds it.


MILITARY MAN

Rogers. Steve Rogers.

(Beat)

Are you a patriotic man, Mr Stark?


…and off Stark’s reaction, we go to;


LOGO AND END TITLES


Yeeeeaaaah. That’d be nice. Pretty Please?


Sunday, 3 February 2008

*Insert Marvel Pun here*

Well the goodies (no, not Bill Oddie and Co...) keep on coming thick and fast from the House of Ideas. Their domination of the comic book movie genre continues with the news of the latest IRON MAN trailer, that is going to hit at the Superbowl and then online. I'm looking forward top that movie with interest- Mr Stark and his shiny suit aren't really the biggest name on Marvel's roster, and thus it'll be cool to see how the public at large takes a shine to him. Hopefully they'll find him more palatable than they did with Johnny Blaze...

Oh, and have any of you spotted the 25 LOST references in current Marvel books? No, me neither...

The big news in comics this week is the (inevitable) return of Captain America. Well, we all knew it would happen sooner or later. The thing is, despite my cynicism about the whole thing, I'm really quite pleased that Marvel chose to go with Bucky as the new Cap. It's a brave move to put a bit of a psycopath in the role instead of resurrecting Steve Rogers somehow. Mind you, we may have a bit of a KNIGHTFALL thing on our hands here- Bucky is looking very violent as the new Cap and Steve may well be brough back in to clean up Cap's name. We shall see.

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As you can see, the new Captain America doesn't look quite so wholesome as the original...

Friday, 1 February 2008

LIFE IN THE GEEK LANE 2

This isn’t easy, really it isn’t. While the archetypal, stereotypical, clich├ęd view of people in our line of work is that of Tim and Bilbo from SPACED, stood behind a counter reading comics, the reality is a very different thing. I’m saying this because my back is killing me and my eyes ache from rearranging our back issue shelves (literally moving the shelves elsewhere and then refilling them), and I wanted to say a bit about how hard we work behind the scenes here, both in the store and online.


We’re a small team, but we’re a team nonetheless, and we all have our roles to play in the tragicomedy that is life. Sorry, I got a bit too pretentious there, even for me. It is a fascinating thing to observe, in that we all know each other’s quirks and strengths, and we work hard to make sure things run smoothly. They don’t always run as smooth as we’d like, and aside from the odd mishap I think we do pretty damn well. With us being situated in a shopping centre, we’re open til 9pm on weekdays and 10pm in the festive period, and the place is a hive of activity during those ours. Come and see for yourself.


But that’s not all. Outside of the store there’s the web stuff, which is going on pretty much 24 hours a day, ALL YEAR. There’s always something going on here. I mean, just speaking from my own side of things as head blog bod here, I spend a great deal of time checking out cool stuff to tell you and checking up on the facts about it. I trawl through endless sites, newsletters and lots of virtual nooks and crannies in my daily search to keep myself, my colleagues and you guys up to date with stuff going on. It is my duty as a good little geek to do this for ya. We live and breathe this stuff and that’s why we share it with you and want to help get it into your homes.


We’re always keeping an eye out for new things to offer and talk about, always looking for the next item people are going to love, and I can tell you, it takes it out of you, but we love it. The internet is a great tool for us to keep up to speed with what you guys are after, and also for us to find out about the latest developments ourselves. My inbox is bursting with info from the hottest toy, film and comics companies on a daily basis, which is great but there just isn’t enough time in the day or energy in my fingers to tell you about it all. We do try though.


I guess what I’m trying to get across is that there’s a bunch of people working very hard behind the cool exterior of our website or the chatty blogs we offer all over the net. This ain’t a machine you’re ordering from- we do it all for you at every stage, and every one of us is grateful that you took the time to visit us.


Thanks folks, you (and you, and you and YOU) make it all worthwhile.


Your friendly neighbourhood geek,



THE ESSENTIAL ESSENTIALS


It's obvious that Comic collecting can be a very daunting thing to get involved in. Everyone knows the basics about the big heroes, Spidey, the X-men, Daredevil and so on, but what of their early exploits? The newcomer can be more than a little flabbergasted by it all. The Secret Wars? Modok? Maximum Carnage? Weapon X? Huh? Also, it would cost an absolute fortune to get hold of the actual classic issues, themselves, not to mention the hassle of tracking down the key stories and the must-read issues that helped define these legendary characters. Thankfully, Marvel listened to the fans long ago and began publishing the near comprehensive ESSENTIALS volumes, which are great value for the amount of content offered. Essentially (pun intended), they are big thick books containing 25-or-so comic book issues in black and white, printed on value stock to keep the price of the books reasonable.


What you get for the money is really quite substantial, though, These books are generally a minimum of an inch thick, and are often a good deal thicker. While they don’t offer colour reproductions of the original comics, they do allow fans both old and new to appreciate and enjoy the classic stories they may have missed and would miss out on due to the lack of availability or cash. Being able to flick through these chunky tomes and enjoy Jack Kirby’s early Marvel work, for example, is an absolute joy.


I’ll talk you through a few good examples of the range and what they contain, if I may. I’ve picked a bunch at random off the shelves, so lets see what they offer.


First up I picked off a copy of DOCTOR STRANGE Volume 1. Now, in this you get Strange Tales 110, 111 and a run of issues 114 to 168. That’s a hell of a lot of comics for the same price as a current release Trade Paperback. There’s classic work in this volume by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, no less, not to mention some of the most famous stories in the Dr Strange pantheon.


WOLVERINE volume 1 is next on my pile, Bub. This really does live up to its ESSENTIAL status, containing issues 1-23 inclusive of the original WOLVERINE series. The roll call? Chris Claremont, John Buscema, Peter David, Archie Goodwin and John Byrne. Heavy hitters or what? The content of this book alone would easily set you back a couple of hundred quid, and we’ve got it for just over a tenner. Not bad at all.


What else have I got here? Let’s try ESSENTIAL X-MEN volume 7. Jeez, there’s Uncanny X-Men 214-228, Annuals 10 and 11, and FANTASTIC FOUR Vs The X-MEN 1-4, with work by Claremont, Barry Windsor-Smith and even Marc Silvestri. Now this is a sizeable chunk of X tales from a great period in the team’s history.


Likewise with ESSENTIAL CAPTAIN AMERICA volume 4, which is the last one I grabbed to tell you about. This is very nearly 2 inches thick (I measured, yes I’m that sad), and contains issues 157-186 of the original run of Cap’s own title, and features some awesome work, not to mention appearances by Falcon and Black Panther along the way.


The whole range is massive, and well worth checking out if you want to check out the classics without breaking the bank. It’s a really, really good idea, and the uniformity of these volumes makes them look superb on a bookshelf.


DC have had a go at something similar over the past couple of years, which has seen them bring about the DC SHOWCASE range. Now, that range has got off to a bit of a slow start, and in a couple of cases, some blatant misfires. They’ve gone for the big obvious names like Superman and Green lantern to get things up and running, but then they’ve gone and brought out things like The haunted Tank, y’know, really obscure titles with limited demand, which are only going to dampen interest in the line until the next big title comes along.


The early volumes are of great quality, black and white like the ESSENTIALS from Marvel, but printed on a slightly higher quality stock, enabling the art to stand out more. It’ll be interesting to see how the DC range pans out, but I’m not sure how they’ll pull it off, mainly because of the sheer amount of material they have released in their long, LONG existence. The stuff they’ve released so far is enjoyable, but with such a rich history to pull from, it’s going to be hard to pick the stuff people will scramble for.