Plus, prepare to be fanzoned.
All in my look at ISSUE 13!
|The Solar Pool||
This week, it's the massive end of the first year of the comic. Prime Vs Megatron. Bonecrusher Vs Ironhide. Sector 7's McGuffin Vs Credibility.
Plus, prepare to be fanzoned.
All in my look at ISSUE 13!
The James Bond comics of Warren Ellis. Dynamite Comics, 2015/2016.
This is the latest in my series of sponsored KO-FI blogs, which I’ve opened up again till the end of the week, so if you wan me to write about something, feel free to go for it.
For a pop culture phenomenon that is approaching its 70th birthday, the history of James Bond in comics has not been a great one.
It does have one iconic series, in the Daily Express newspaper strip that ran from the 1950’s till the early 80’s (after jumping around a few other papers) that stands out for being the first visual representation of the character and for being the first exposure many of the people who worked on the films had to Bond. It’s especially notable for artist John McLusky ignoring Ian Fleming’s suggestion for the look of the Bond and coming up with something that looks exactly like a non-copyright infringing take on Sean Connery, a decade before he played the part. It’s entirely possible this was a major influence on his casting by shaping the public perception of what Bond looks like.
Otherwise though, it has been slim pickings. There have been a few film adaptations, starting with Dr. No, though the unfinished Goldeneye is the most infamous, and a series of very 90’s miniseries from Dark Horse comics. But that was about it.
There is also one particular curio of the Bond licence. Unless it is specifically a film adaptation, the licence comes from Ian Fleming publications rather than EON, and is very specifically in relation to the books rather than films. For which EON are very protective despite having an ownership stake in the literary Bond.
And the films are of course the major influence on writers.
This stands out in the non-Fleming Bond books as though, through the fact that though Major Boothroyd appeared in the book of Dr. No, the idea of him being called Q is an invention of the films. So you will often get what is clearly a Q scene with what is clearly Desmond Llewellyn, where the character is repeatedly and carefully called “The Armorour Major Boothroyd, Head of Q Branch”.
This week, Frenzy chills, Megatron boasts about how he's the Sting of Transformers and Ratchet shows the secret of how he gets ripped.
It's all in my look at Twilight's Last Gleaming Part 4!
Target 1986. By James Roberts. TF-25: A Celebration fanzine, 2009.
This is the third in the sequence of Ko-Fi sponsored posts, this time from Charles Murphey, who asked me to write a piece on any convention fiction of my choice. And though I have many fine examples (and I will no doubt be touching on the TFNation conclusion to Animated when I cover that series), I have picked a particular favourite from a very familiar name.
2009, ten years ago now, was the quarter century anniversary of the franchise. To celebrate, the TMUK group put out a fanzine at that year’s Auto Assembly convention that had a simple central gimmick. One piece for every year. Some were behind the scenes analysis, some quick comics and a few gag pieces. Plus fan fiction. All by people still recognisable from fandom like Andy Turnbull and even a post-IDW fame Nick Roche on the back cover.
The biggest section was given over to 2006. Which was clearly a year where nothing happened that anyone could think of something to write about. So instead, we got a combined prequel and sequel to the defining comic story of 1986, Target: 2006, written by James Roberts.
James is about a year away from his first professional credit as a consultant on Everything in the Right Place, but within fan circles this was still a fairly big deal. Eugenesis had not been read by a massive amount of people, but everyone in the community knew about the person who was insane enough to have self-published a door stop novel and there was a fascination about both it and him. And, considering this was his first return to fan fiction since (at the time he considered Eugenesis his final statement on Transformers), that gives a very good reason for him to have the most space in the special.
As we would expect from Roberts, the story is very smartly structured, switching first person narratives between Megatron in December 2005 (the story is set in TMUK continuity and keeps to the idea that the film starts over the new year to try and reconcile the two dates. The means the part of the fanzine celebrating 2006 is not only a tie-in to something from the wrong year, but only the last half page is actually set in 2006) as he muses on his destiny and Galvatron and tries to perfect a time machine, and January 1989 and Ravage wonders just why Galvatron seems more like a convincing Megatron than the actual Megatron.
I’m not going to go in-depth on the plot here, the story isn’t currently widely available, but as with Eugenesis there’s always a chance it might show up online at some point and I’d rather not ruin the whole thing.
Safe to say though, we do get a very carefully thought through time paradox about the creation of the time machine (this rather ignores the implication of the original comics that both Autobots and Decepticons had their own and instead makes it a bespoke invention of an Omega Supreme sized Decepticon called Bolt) and Megatron wondering if the Galvatron he met briefly in 1986 was really the future him and what is his actual destiny.
In 1986 Ravage also gets lots of good work. In particular the opening of his first person narration is lovely, in theory just being a rather breathless recap of the history of Galvatron as told to him by Scourge after waking up, but which still have some deft character moments to it to stop the whole thing being exposition.
Being James Roberts, there’s also some continuity patching, most notably explaining what happened to Omega Supreme during Target: 2006. Which is clearly a thing of Roberts as it was also going to be covered by a time and dimension hopping subplot that we would have seen in Lost Light if its run hadn’t been curtailed. I think I prefer the more throwaway nature of the gag here that takes a few seconds to sink in.
But it is the work on Megatron that stands out. This is not quite the take we would come to know from his IDW work, I don’t think More Than Meets the Eye Megatron would casually kill a lackey once they’ve outlived their usefulness, but there is a similar weariness and uncertainty about his place in the world and his legacy that is extremely well done and shows neatly why Roberts was able to take the extremely dubious idea of Autobot Megatron and make it work.
Coming back to this a decade later, its remarkable how fully formed Roberts writing seems, even more so than Eugenesis this fits comfortably in style alongside his professional work, especially the couple of short prose stories that were included in More Than Meets the Eye. There’s huge amounts of good and great fan fiction and art, but such a smooth transition from that to pro work is fairly unusual. He was and is clearly a major talent we’ll probably not quite realise how lucky we were to have on the franchise until a few years down the line when looking back on his overall work.
Is this fanzine worth tracking down for just this story? Well, that depends how rare it really is. I do know there were plentiful copies at the next couple of Auto Assemblies, but I suspect most of those have gone to people unwilling to part with them. But if you’re lucky enough to get hold of one, even beyond this centrepiece it’s a tremendously fun magazine with plenty of good material in it. And the story itself is a remarkable piece of work by any standard.
This week, it's a series of reunions. Megatron and Bumblebee. Frenzy and Mikaela. Starscream and his ego.
Plus, Bonecrusher is enough of a tactical genius to outsmart Ironhide.
It's all in my look at Twlight's Last Gleaming Part 3!
The Thing. 1982.
The second in series of requested by Ko-FI blogs comes from Kevin McCluskey, who asked me to write something on my favourite John Carpenter film.
Which is quite a challenge. Though the final choice will be kind of obvious from the title, John Carpenter is second only to Hitchcock as my favourite director of all time. That’s despite a career that has had some sever ups and down.
From a completely objective viewpoint, I think Halloween (no, not that Halloween. Or that one. The original) would probably be his masterpiece. But there’s one that, personally, does a lot more things for me.
As a kid growing up in the 80’s, the John Carpenter film I saw a lot was of course Big Trouble in Little China (I think Starman was on a fair bit as well, but that’s one I can’t remember anything about at this point), which is a tremendously fun film, but, isn’t in quite the top tier of his work. So it was the 90’s and late night screenings of various classics that really got me into his work. Especially around the time of Escape From L.A. and Halloween H20 when there was a bit of a push for video releases and channel 4 screenings. I still particularly remember the next day at school after seeing Halloween (no, not that one. Or that one) for the first time, walking through the surprisingly American style avenue behind the school with my best mate, “DA-DA-DA-DAing” the theme at full volume.
My first exposure to The Thing though didn’t come from the film. But from the first season X-Files episode Ice. Which is a completely and utterly shameless rip-off, and equally brilliant and the moment I became a massive fan of the series.
And of course, Deep Space Nine did it as well for its third season finale. As have a lot of series. Which I think is down to a combination of the film’s status having increased so much over the years to full on influential classic, and it being quite a cheap episode of TV to make (none of them go for the big monster aspect of the film) that lets often easily bored actors go all out at shouting at one another.
This week, things get dark and serious and just a little bit All Hail Megatron.
Plus Stascream scans a jet and your faviourite Dinobot takes a nap.
It's all in my look at Bay ISSUE 10!
Plus, if you've not seen it, check the first in a new series of request blogs, starting with N64 Goldeneye.
Goldeneye for the N64. 1997.
This is the first in an occasional series born out of me offering up the chance to get me to write a blog on any subject in exchange for a KO-FI donation (as a result of me coming very close to losing a big chunk of money I’d pumped into LFCC when the trains became a disaster. Though luckily in the end I did get there in time for about half what I’d paid for, and met Bernard Cribbins). Keep an eye on my TWITTER and I may open this up again if it goes well.
The first person to pick a subject was someone I’ve talked about in Transformation the last couple of weeks, comic colourist Kris Carter. Who asked me to talk about the Goldeneye game for the N64.
Now, cards on the table. When it comes to computers, I’m no Dominic Diamond. I’m barely a Dexter Fletcher. So sort of digging up the corpse of Sir Patrick Moore for advice, this is not going to be an in-depth hardcore analysis of the game, more a personal reminiscence of that heady Summer in 1997.
The amazing thing is, we actually had an N64. Considering we’d generally had older, hand me down consoles (first the Master System, then the Mega Drive. You can’t beat Alex the Kid), the real game playing was done at my Grandad’s, where over the years he had everything from a Commodore 64 to a Mega CD. And as we would only visit once a week, it’s fair to say we were not massive computer players.
But for some reason I can’t remember now, my brother, sister and I ended up with the soon to be soundly trounced by the Playstation Nintendo system. The three particular games that I remember us having and playing end to end in the dinning room over a couple of years were Mario 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (one for Nick Roche there) and... Goldeneye.
Which has a strange place in the history of not just Bond games (of which there had been several before. Timothy Dalton’s last “Current” appearance as Bond was on the cover of one. Something that would also happen to Pierce Brosnan, though by 2003 technology had advanced to him actually playing Bond in the game), but licensed movie tie-in titles in general. In that most are quickly thrown together shit that are regarded as an embarrassment.
Goldeneye on the other hand is seen as iconic, one of the greatest computer games of all times and an influential game changer. In terms of its medium, it is better regarded and more important than the film it’s based on.
And Goldeneye is an incredibly well regarded and important film.
The difference between this and every other movie game seems to have been the time taken over it. For a cash-in to come out two years later, just as the next in the series was about to be released, is pretty unusual. Coupled with it being the first FPS to really take advantage of the new 64 bit advances of the then state of the art console and the game was lucky enough to land at a major evolutionary moment in consoles.
Reading up on it, it also seems that most of the people involved were new to game design and had no idea what they were doing, meaning they kept accidentally coming up with innovations due to not knowing what the rules were.
For me the game came out at the cusp of my Bond fandom. Tomorrow Never Dies would be my first Bond at the cinema and made an indelible impact on my. Especially Terri Hatcher (who I’m actually meeting this coming weekend!). Soon after, ITV would, rather than their usual scattershot approach of occasional back holiday screenings, have a dedicated Bond season, showing the films one a week. In reverse order. For some reason.
But this was my first chance to see the entire series (as did everyone in my Sixth Form, it was often the talking point on a Monday morning), including the rarely repeated at that point Dr. No and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And as the Brosnan renascence elevated the profile of Bond to levels not seen since Roger Moore rode a hover gondola, there were video releases with matching spines (soon replaced by DVDs with matching spines. Then Ultimate DVDs. Then Blu Rays...) and books covering every aspect of the history of the character. By the time The World Is Not Enough came out two years later, my fandom was perfectly rounded.
And during this time, we played Goldeneye to death.
Now, the one player mode is a perfectly good expansion of the film, with you getting to be someone who looks vaguely like the actor Pierce Brosnan going around the sets from the film, shooting Russian goons and interacting with people who looked reasonably like other famous actors.
But lets face it, the real fun was the multiplayer mode. Where you could pick characters not just from Goldeneye (and getting to run around as Robbie Coltrane shooting people was worth the price alone), but characters from the entire history of the franchise. And you bet your ass I was always Baron Samedi. Who has abandoned his near nudity from the film for what looks suspiciously like a Gobots Tux cosplay.
And the result was hours of fun. Running around the Moonraker temple. Finding the Golden Gun and gleefully taking advantage of its God mode powers. Even occasionally playing the single player mode.
Its at this point I really wish I could go into a level by level analysis in the sort of depth I could with the film (did you know it was first of a couple of Bond films where the villain was written for Anthony Hopkins? Which is why Sean Bean clearly isn’t old enough for Alec’s backstory), but that really is my overriding memory of the game. That it was fun.
It was also really the last computer game I ever played in any depth. Unless you count Snake. Thanks to its multiplayer giving it more of an afterlife than Mario or Dash Rendar. All of which added to the sense of it having been a very special time.
Indeed, I was so into the game, and so good at it by the end, you might even say that I was INVINCIBLE.
It's the one you've all been waiting for.
Or at least that two of you have been waiting for.
Or at least two of you have been waiting for since I started on the Titan comic.
It's the start of the definitive storyline of the series, its Target: 2006. Megatron has won and Prime is on ice, but the biggest shock of all is Bumblebee talking.
All in my look at Twilight's Last Gleaming Part 1!
Stuart Webb. Who knows everything about nothing and not a lot about that.