Saturday, April 30, 2011

A few pseudo random thoughts

A couple of things just before the second episode of this series of Doctor Who ("Day of the Moon").

Wouldn't it be interesting if River Song turned out to be an evil villain?

In her past (the Doctor's, and our, future), she worked out that the both she and the Doctor were meeting in opposite temporal directions. And so now, before the Doctor finds out she's evil, she's playing all nice and flirting with him. And when we find out she is a villain, that's when it all changes.

Also, how did that spaceman appear and then disappear from that lake in America? No one had seen him beforehand and then he/she was just standing there. Did he, maybe, have a vortex manipulator? Who do we know with one of those?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Aviator #0: Background


Robert Tomlin had not had an easy life. When he was younger, he hadn't seen much of his father, who worked for a secretive branch of the military and therefore was often away for long periods. His mother, who ruled their home with an iron hand, had to look after Rob and his younger sister Julie whilst also holding down various part-time jobs. Still, they managed - at least until Rob's father was pronounced "missing in action" when Rob was 10 years old.

His mother didn't take the loss of her husband well and Rob was often left to look after things at home. In spite of this, he managed to do well at high school, pass his exams and get a place at Miskatonic University where he studied chemical engineering.

Eventually, Rob got a job at Knight City Pharmaceuticals as a lab assistant. The pay was reasonable and everything seemed to be going alright for once. That was until around 4 months ago.

Whilst working on some experimental chemicals for his new boss, Dr Stein, Rob happened to stumble across some information implying that the chemicals were not actually being sent to the expected manufacturing company across town. Instead, they had been diverted to something - or somebody - called "KRAKEN". Unfortunately, Rob was caught in his little act of espionage, and whilst trying to quickly get away and cover up his snooping he stumbled into the new batch of the chemicals, spilling them all over himself.

The next day, Rob Tomlin was fired from his job under incompetence charges. After a month or so, any money he'd managed to save began to run out. In order to keep himself afloat, he sold his apartment in Arkdale and moved into a smaller place in Devil Heights, one of the rougher parts of the city. Still, even then, the money wasn't going to last long. With no references and no one wanting to offer him a job, Rob became depressed, feeling that there was no point in going on. So, he decided to end it all by jumping off the top of his apartment building.

However, that's when Rob's life changed. Because Rob found he couldn't fall.

Instead, from that point on, Rob began to fly...


The strange chemicals that soaked into Rob's skin somehow reacted with his DNA to give Rob the superhuman power of flight. He can soar into the air travelling at speeds of Mach 1 or more if he pushed himself. He can also hover in place, almost instantly accelerate, and is incredibly manoeuvrable whilst flying.

In addition, the chemical reaction has made Rob much stronger and more resilient. He can lift over one ton without too much trouble and has incredible willpower. This helps him survive at high altitudes and resist the potentially damaging effects of high-speed travel.

Rob himself is an talented chemistry and biology student and an accomplished engineer. He's bright and agile, though unfortunately is a little plain looking and can be slightly introverted.

Aviator's Character Sheet

Fishy Friday

Abe Sapien

Strength: 3
Toughness: 5
Special Powers: 5
Status: 6

Time to start fishing for aquatic heroes from outside the Marvel and DC universes. Member of the BPRD and associate of Hellboy, Abe Sapien was a scientist transformed into an icthyo sapien during a magical ritual in Mike Mignola's excellent comicbooks.

Happy Geeky Wedding

Apparently, there's some sort of wedding on today...?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X-Men: First Class

A first class trailer for the X-Men prequel due out in just over a months time.

Aviator #2: "Flame On!"

(Another short piece of fiction set in the Acrobatic Flea's Knight City Chronicles Universe)

Jack Hollis
"That's all I know, Rob", Detective Jack Hollis' gravely voice replied over the line. Barely a moment later, the voice continued, in a slightly more questioning tone. "Why're you so interested in this?"

For a moment Rob stumbled, trying to think of a decent answer. He didn't really have one so went for what came first into his head.

"Well, ya know, I was there and saw the place burn down. And you know I'm interested about chemicals and things like that. I mean, if it hadn't been for those agents that... Well, I mean, I just..."

"Look, Rob, I know you ain't been busy lately what with your job situation and everything but I don't think you want to get involved with those sorts of chemicals. As for those COMPASS agent guys, they didn't do so great a job on that collapsed building. Thank the Lord Law Industries is clearing the check for the rebuild".

"Yeah, I guess", Rob Tomlin replied. "Anyway, thanks for the info, Jack. Much appreciated".

"Hey, no sweat. I'm still keeping an eye out for anything going in forensics or elsewhere around here. I'll let you know if anything turns up. And you still on for that drink on Friday with me and Greg?"

"Sure, Jack. Wouldn't miss it for anything. Thanks. See you Friday", Rob replied, smiling, and put the phone down.

Jack Hollis was a detective in the Knight City police department and also one of Rob's few friends he still knew from high school. Every few weeks they would go out for a beer and Jack and Greg Manson would try to cheer him up whilst Rob moaned about his life and the world in general. Standing there next to his old phone, Rob felt a little guilty about using his friend like that.

And about not telling him he had superpowers.

Still, now he knew that the fire in that apartment building he'd seen the other day had been started due to some sort of meth lab in the basement. It seemed that the police and fire department thought the lab to be a little unusual; partly this was due to its large size and partly due to the antiquated tech recovered from the site. According to Jack, after a bit of detective work, the latest rumour at police headquarters was that a warehouse in the Selebourne district might have been linked to this lab in some way. Details were sketchy but, once the police had gathered a little more evidence, they were going to to hit it later that day. Or so Jack thought.

Rob knew that someone else was going to investigate it first though - Aviator.

The ex-chemical engineer stepped over to his wardrobe and pulled out a bullet-proof vest he'd acquired from Jack some years ago, the brown leather flying jacket he'd worn the other day, and some sturdy black boots. Lastly, from a drawer inside the wardrobe, he pulled out one of those old World War II leather flying hats - complete with goggles - that he'd discovered just yesterday in an old junk store. The helmet was a bit worn but otherwise intact and, although it looked a bit dorky, it was a lot more comfortable than the ski-mask he'd worn saving that bag lady. The goggles and hat would help to protect his identity and stop his eyes from streaming as he flew through the cool afternoon air. Also, thought Rob, it seemed appropriate given his new alias.

Suited up, Rob stepped towards the window of his rundown apartment, opened it and stepped onto the window ledge. Just then, his old phone began to ring. He looked over his shoulder at the phone, considered answering it, but then shrugged and let the machine take the call. Instead, he pushed himself up and leapt outside.

*beep* "Oh, erm, Hi Rob. I hoped to catch you in as I don't know where else to go. Don't know whether you remember me, but it's Kath - Kathleen Pendergast..."

Soaring way from the apartment, Aviator, Knight City's newest hero, flew high over the seedy streets of Devil Heights. The warehouse near the docks was over the other side of the district, but at the speed he could travel in the air, it would only take a few minutes to get there. And it wasn't like he had to worry about rush hour traffic!

Alighting on a window ledge high up on one side of the gloomy-looking warehouse, Aviator peered through the filthy window. Inside was almost empty, although there were a couple of crates towards the far end of the building. He could make out a few uniformed men carrying some similar-looking crates to an exit at the back of the warehouse. Near the middle of the empty area, what looked to be a very large man was shouting orders at those in uniform. Aviator couldn't hear what the man was shouting - and it didn't sound English either - but it was obvious the large man was in a rush to be finished.

As he watched all the men begin to file out of the back of the warehouse, Aviator noticed that the light streaming in from the other windows glinted brightly off the large man. He appeared to be wearing some sort of metallic armour!

Realising that these villains were going to escape before the police arrived, Aviator tried pushing open the nearby window in order to confront them. Not quite used to his newfound strength, the shoddy brickwork around the frame crumbled and the window fell to the ground below - with Aviator flying in behind it.

"Was! Was geschieht...!" the armoured man yelled, turning. Aviator now recognised the language the man used - German.

As Aviator flew down, he could see that the man was wearing a large armoured suit made of what looked like polished brass. Other than his eyes, all of the rest of his body was encased in the battlesuit. On his back were a couple of large canisters and, from these, long flexible coils snaked down to his golden gauntlets. The air seemed to shimmer in front of the armoured man.

What the hell is a German in a battlesuit doing in Knight City? Aviator thought to himself. Obviously nothing legal. And I wonder what are in those crates?

"Stop where you are, Tin Man, and tell me what you're doing here!" Aviator called out, as he floated about five feet above the ground and towards one end of the warehouse.

"Zis does not involve you, Amerikan. Und my name ist Feuerkraft!" the armoured man replied with a obvious German accent. He then turned to one of his uniformed man near the back door and barked out some orders. "Geht hinaus und nehmen die Waren! Schnell! Reise zurück zum."

Once finished with the orders, the man known as Feuerkraft turned back, his gleaming fists raised towards Aviator.

"I told you to leave, Amerikan! Othervise you vill feel ze heat of Feuerkraft!"

"The name's Aviator and I asked you to tell me what you were doing first," answered the flying hero. "So why don't you... Yow!!"

A blast of flame suddenly erupted from the villain's gauntlets and blazed across the space between him and Aviator. Aviator dodged to one side in mid-air and the jet of flaming liquid narrowly missed him and instead slammed into the wall behind him, turning the brickwork to molten slag. The guy had in-built flamethrowers!

"Scheisse!" the armoured man spat. "Stay still Flieger". He stepped forward, pistons hissing, and again raised the fists on his battlesuit. Another jet of scorching fire leapt out.

Aviator wasn't going to comply in the least and so kept zipping left and right, up and down, dodging the scorching blasts in the air. His aerial acrobatics brought him close to one of the remaining crates, which he picked up with little trouble. Flying over Feuerkraft, Aviator called out, "Catch this, Clanky" and dropped the box on top of the German.


The crate crashed onto Feuerkraft, spilling out packaging and bottles of liquid ,which smashed onto the floor. The armoured man cursed in rage and stepped forward, ready to blast at the annoying hero again. But as his armoured foot came down, it slipped on some of the spilled liquid and the man had to take a moment to stabilise himself. Aviator saw his chance.

With blinding speed, the flying hero rose into the air and then arced around and down, gathering speed as he went. Arms stretched out in front of him, his blurred form flew straight at Feuerkraft. The villain had no time to retaliate as Aviator smashed into the armoured man, lifting him slightly and then slamming him into the brick wall behind him.

There was a sharp crack and the eyes of the man within the suit opened wide.

"Nein!! Du dummer Dummkopf! You vill pay for zat!"

And with a mighty sweep, Feuerkraft backhanded Aviator with one of his metallic gauntlets sending the hero flying back to smack into the opposite wall.

Aviator groaned and shook his head. One of his ribs was cracked, he had a few cuts and bruises and he was seeing stars but, on the bright side, he wasn't dead. The crafty criminal was strong and a blow like that could have done serious damage. Perhaps his own power of flight had helped to slow him?

Wincing as he struggled to stand up, Aviator looked across at Feuerkraft and noticed that a hissing gas was escaping from one of the canisters on the armoured man's back. As he took a tentative step forward, the villain raised his powerful fists to launch another jet of fire.

"No! Don't...!" called out Aviator, but it was too late!

A spark of flame started from Feuerkraft's fist but then, unexpectedly, raced along the chemical soaked armour and coils and towards the back of the villain. Instead of blasting Aviator, there was a whoosh from behind Feuerkraft, and the man was suddenly encompassed in a bright sheath of blistering fire.

"Nein. Die hitze...! Arghhh!!" screamed the man, stumbling around in obvious pain.

Without waiting another moment to think or consider his actions, Aviator shot forward. Swooping down at the flaming villain, he grabbed the man around the shoulders, lifted him and then flew directly upwards. Smashing through the roof of the warehouse, he gritted his teeth and continued his vertical ascent whilst holding Feuerkraft, taking him higher and higher and higher. As the thinning air rushed by, the flames around the villain's armour flickered and, eventually, went out. The lack of oxygen had extinguishing the fire and, Aviator noticed, also rendered the supervillain unconscious.

Returning back down to the ground, the aerial avenger carefully dropped Feuerkraft in the middle of the warehouse. Ripping the brass-lined cables and coils from the battlesuit, he used them to tie up the comatose criminal before zipping off out of the back door. However, it looked like the villain's flunkies had got away; there was no sign of any uniformed men nor the equipment they had been hastily removing.

Re-entering the warehouse, Aviator walked over to the remains of the crate he'd dropped on Feuerkraft earlier and bent down, picking up a single bottle of liquid that was still intact. He began to peer at the colourless liquid inside when the scream of sirens pierced the early evening air. The local police department were on their way to bust up whatever had been going on in the warehouse. Although he had probably messed up any evidence from the crime scene, Aviator considered the capture of the villainous ringleader to be a reasonable trade.

Leaving Feuerkraft to the authorities, he pocketed the bottle and lifted off into the cool evening air.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Winsome Wasp's Wardrobe #14

art by Gene Colan and Sam Grainger (from Avengers #65 1969)

Create Your Own Superheroes

In trying to come up with an original image for Aviator, my newly created character whose adventures take place in Knight City, I had a quick look around at what was on the 'net and found a few superhero creators. Below are a couple of examples showing Aviator.

The first one on the left is from the Fabrica de Herois blog, a Portugese site and probably one of the best superhero designers around. The picture was created using the FH 2009 version - there's also an FH Animated version, which produces DC-animated style characters more in profile, and a FH 2011 version, which I think is still under construction (it didn't work for me). The only problems with this is that there was no WWII flying hat option (though there are plenty of other hats available) and that a lot of it is in Portugese (although you can select English in the 2009 version via the small American flag button!).

The one on the right is from an old favourite - Hero Machine. I think this was the first of these superhero graphical designers ever created - certainly it's the only one that's lasted. Currently it's on version 2.5, and a version 3.0 is in alpha phase. The old original is also available, as is a number of non-superhero variants. Hero Machine is the work of Jeff Hebert, who I've had the pleasure of gaming with in some Uberworld PBeMs. He also drew one of my characters for me - The Beast.

Although I have a fondness for Hero Machine, I have to say that - being a fan of the DC animated style - I prefer the Fabrica de Herois look and design. However both have a lot of options and can produce some great, original results.

I also found a couple of other superhero designers, but these have far less options - although the results can still be quite impressive. They are:

I tried using them to get more pictures of Aviator, but their limitations meant the results weren't as good as the above.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut

I waited months for that?!? Really? All that build up, for what...?!

Nah, I'm just kidding.

The first episode of Series 6 of new Doctor Who was actually quite wonderful (though perhaps not as great as I'd built it up to be in my head beforehand). Some fantastic performances from everyone - and Karen Gillen has improved immensely as Amy Pond - for this funny, scary mystery.

Steven Moffat is a master of the one-liners and amusing little situations and he's also probably the best current Who writer at bringing the scares. His Weeping Angels from Blink and gasmask-wearing little boy from The Empty Child were wonderfully creepy and here he introduces us to the Silence (or are they the Silents?). They're similar, in a way, to the Angels in that you only remember them whilst you're looking at them. It's a fascinating idea and one that leads to the possibility that the Silence have been around for ages - long enough it seems that they've invaded us and burrowed under the Earth - it's just that we don't remember them ever coming here. Funnily though, they're strangely not as silent as they're name suggests, as one stretched its mouth (looking a bit like Edvard Munch's 'The Scream') to talk to Amy.

Loved that scene with Amy and the Silent as the alien blasted Joy in slow motion, btw.

Mystery-wise, we're left with loads of questions. Who was the spaceman who killed the future Doctor? Why did he kill him? Why did the Doctor go calmly to his end? Who/what are the Silence and what do they want? Why have they got a makeshift Tardis like the one seen in The Lodger underground? Who's the little girl calling the President? Who is River Song and which 'good man' did she kill? What bearing will Amy's pregancy have on things? And how will Amy, Rory and River stop the Doctor from being killed?

Regarding the future Doctor, it's surprising that he's still the Matt Smith version in 200 years (what years are these? Earth years? Gallifreyan years? It must be tricky to measure these things as a time traveller!). And, are we to assume in all that time, the only people he's met and trusts are Amy, Rory, River and an older Canton Everett Delaware? Surely he'll have met other companions in that time?

At first sight it also screws up the TV programme in that now the Doctor can't regenerate. So that means Matt has to stay on for the rest of the lifetime of the show. Of course, I suspect the Moff will come up with some clever cheat around this. Or have the Doctor regenerate numerous times but then, in just under 200 years time, decide to regenerate back into the shape of Matt Smith. We know Time Lords can choose what they look like when they regenerate - Romana did it - it's just that the Doctor has (up until now) preferred a more random approach.

So who shot the Doctor? A part of me was reminded of the recent death of Captain America when we saw the Doctor getting shot by the spaceman. The gun was some sort of hi-tech affair which made me wonder whether it was storing the Doctor's soul - or regeneration energy - to be used on another body. Perhaps then it was the Doctor inside the spacesuit? Or, considering that River has killed someone in her past (our future), perhaps it's her?

Talking of River, she seemed to act rather strangely after climbing down the manhole into the Silence's tunnels. After coming back up and saying everything was clear (because she had forgotten seeing the aliens, I guess), she decided she needed to check again with Rory. Not sure why. But then, when we see Rory coming down the ladder River is feeling a little unwell in the tunnel. Why was this? Was it merely a diversion from Amy's morning sickness or was there something else going on here?

And how does River travel around in time and space so much? Does she have her own Tardis?

Anyway, the fact that I'm analysing this, considering ideas and postulating theories, is very encouraging. It means it was an extremely intriguing episode, and hopefully one that everyone else found interesting and not confusing (I do wonder if younger kids were left baffled by it all). Together with sensationalist hyperbole to grab headlines and attentions, it'll hopefully continue to secure Doctor Who's place at the top of Auntie Beeb's output.

Only four days left to go until the second part...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fishy Friday

Lori Lemaris

Strength: 2
Toughness: 3
Special Powers: 4
Status: 5

Superman's mermaid girlfriend - he obviously has a thing for women with initials LL - who, again, is technically just a supporting character and not really an independent hero (but that little detail hasn't stopped me before). Initially, she had a fishy tail permanently but latter gained the ability to transform her bottom half into legs.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Aviator #0: Character Sheet

Thanks to Acrobatic Flea, I now have a "rolled up" version of my Aviator character from my little story based in his Knight City V&V game world.

So here is the Aviator.

Name: Rob Tomlin
Identity: Aviator
Age: 35
Height: 5' 9"
Weight: 165lb
Basic Hits: 4

Heightened Strength B (+24)
Heightened Endurance A (+9)
Flight - max speed 680mph (in vacuum can shift to 'hyper-flight', where max speed is 68 x speed of sound). PR = 1/hour either normal or hyper-flight.
Willpower A (heightened resistance to hostile environments, torture, pain etc). PR = 1/turn or 1/defence.

Strength: 34
Endurance: 20
Agility: 13
Intelligence: 15
Charisma: 9

Hit Points: 36
Power Points: 82
Ground Movement: 67"
Healing Rate: 2
Damage Modifier: +2
Accuracy: +1
Carry Capacity: 3,408lb
Basic HTH Damage: 1d12
Detect Hidden: 12%
Detect Danger: 16%

There's a little backstory for Aviator to come and look out for more adventures about the fearless flying hero (the next story is entitled "Flame On!").

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Winsome Wasp's Wardrobe #13

art by John Buscema and Mickey Demeo (from Avengers #60 1969)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Goodbye Sarah Jane

Just found out that Elisabeth Sladen, who played one of my favourite ever companions to the Doctor - Sarah Jane Smith - has died today after battling with cancer.

That really is sad sad news. RIP Lis.


Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming

Via the magic of YouTube, I've now seen (most of) the first episode of Games of Thrones, HBO's new fantasy drama based on the Song of Fire and Ice books by George R. R. Martin. And yeah, it was very good.

Though I don't think I did myself any favours watching it on a small iPod Touch screen in 12 minute chunks. I'm sure this thing would've looked pretty spectacular in hi-def on a big screen.

Also, having seen a lot of preview clips - including all of the first 10 minutes or so - and "making of" documentaries, I felt somewhat spoiled before seeing this show. I already knew that the sets and locations looked pretty amazing and that it was obvious a great deal of money had been spent. I'd seen most of the characters and knew the actors playing them were, for the most part, top notch. Together with the fact that I've read the first three books this show is based on, meant that it all felt very familiar whilst I watching this yesterday - including the "shocking" ending. It was almost as if I'd seen most of it before!

As I've seen someone mention elsewhere, the episode itself seemed somewhat bleak. Probably because a lot of it was set in and around the brilliantly-realised Winterfell, which is supposed to be bleak. The mysterious and gruesome pre-credits opener beyond the frosty Wall also added to the cold and depressing nature. Still, you could see it was meant to be this way and accurately reflects the books.

I found the periods of quietness, and lack of a rousing (and, some might say, intrusive) score an unusual choice. Other than for those chilling scenes beyond the Wall, I'm not sure it entirely worked. I think I wanted a little more noise. Perhaps I've watched too much Doctor Who?

There were some slightly dodgy effects with Brandon climbing across the tops of Winterfell - and also the scenes of him clambering up walls seemed to go on a little too long. But otherwise, it looked pretty impressive. And the time watching it went quite quickly I felt.

So, overall, it was a solid start and great to hear that HBO have already renewed it for a second series after these first 10 episodes. Though whether I'll get to watch the next episode next week will be up to Youtube!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Aquaman to Zorro

I can't say I got Y (and L isn't very comic-booky) but otherwise alphabrilliant!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Look, Up In The Sky!

(A short piece of fiction set in the Acrobatic Flea's Knight City Chronicles Universe)

"Why the hell am I doing this?" Rob Tomlin muttered to no one in particular because he was on his own and no one else was nearby.

He was stood in the shadows on top of a building looking out along an empty street in the rough part of Knight City known to locals as Devil Heights. He'd been there a few minutes, taking a moment to catch his breath and to "survey his surroundings" or whatever they called it. Glancing down at his watch, Rob noted that it was almost 10pm at night. He'd give it another half an hour and then "retire back to base" and into his comfortable bed.

It had seemed like such a good idea at the time. It's what they did in all the comic books. With great power came great responsibility and all that trash.

So here he was.

On patrol.

And he'd seen nothing.

Of course, if he'd been Superman he'd be able to use his telescopic vision to look down on the streets as he flew high overhead. But the only power he seemed to have was the ability to fly and when you flew high enough not to be spotted it also meant you couldn't spot anything going on down below.

"Note to self: bring binoculars next time", he murmured and shook his head.

It had meant that, every now and again, he had to stop on a low rooftop to look around at the supposed mean streets of Knight City for anything suspicious whilst hoping he didn't set off any building alarms. Still, it also gave him a chance to warm up a little. Flying around was chilly work.

Ever since he'd been on the outskirts of Devil Heights and seen the Agents of C.O.M.P.A.S.S (as the news networks were calling them) tackle that burning tenement building, Rob had known what he had to do with his new power. He'd been there earlier watching as they helped the fire department rescue residents from the blazing inferno and seeing their heroism, right there in the flesh, had galvanised him. A week ago he'd been a nobody with nothing to live for but now he knew he needed to stop messing around and use his power of flight for good whilst helping his fellow men (and women, of course. Don't forget the women, especially those who had cheered, and almost swooned, at the sight of the Agents). So, he'd decided to put on a costume and go out on his first patrol.

Costume? Hah. He'd slipped on an old brown leather flying jacket over a nondescript blue t-shirt, worn a pair of standard-issue blue jeans and sneakers and - as the final pièce de résistance - dug out a moth-eaten ski-mask he’d kept at the bottom of his wardrobe to hide his identity. Together with the clothes he wouldn't normally wear (well, other than the jeans) he reckoned no one would be able to identify him if they got a decent look at him.

Rob scratched at the mask. The problem was it wasn't very comfortable though. The ski-mask made him itch like hell and the leather jacket and t-shirt were a little too small.

Plus, after two hours of soaring around, he hadn't found anything worth tackling. He'd hoped to see - and stop - some action by the Shamrock Diaries or one of those other gangs he'd heard about. But all he'd seen were a couple of drunken bums making a lot of noise and a cat that had nearly been run over by some idiots in souped-up supercar. That was about as exciting as it got. Did all heroes have this problem? Did those COMPASS guys drive around all night hoping to come across some sort of trouble to tackle?

Rob sighed and shook his head.

Turning, feeling a little stupid, he stepped down from the edge of the building and, taking a deep breath, lifted himself up into the air. He rose slowly, the ground and sounds of the street below him receding as flew vertically upwards. As had happened every time since that first time he'd unexpectedly flown around a week ago, his feeling of nervous vertigo abated as he rose higher. When he was around a hundred feet above the buildings below him, he began to relax and a slow smile appeared upon his weather-beaten face.

The smile began to turn into a frown when a moment later he heard a strange rumbling and then a frantic scream coming from below. It came from just over a block away. Then he heard another cry followed by an enormous booming noise. What the hell was happening?

He pushed himself forwards and zoomed towards the scream, the cool air whipping around him. Diving between two derelict buildings, he flew around a corner before coming to a halt. Hanging there in the air, around three stories above ground level, he noticed an old homeless bag lady backing away from a half-constructed building. And as he watched, the scaffolding surrounding the construction site began to tremble violently as something thudded underground.

His mouth wide open, Rob watched fascinated as the shell of the building began to crumble and fall apart. Something was pushing up from beneath it causing the nearest wall of the half-built block to topple outwards. And, he suddenly realised, the huge wall would fall right on top of the old woman who now stood cowering and quivering, panic-stricken into immobility.

Without thinking a moment longer, he accelerated away, zipping down towards the woman. Beyond her, he could see the wall crashing towards them, bricks tumbling down almost, it seemed, in slow motion. Pushing himself, he gritted his teeth and flew faster and faster. The destructive collapse of half the building was just a few feet away as he opened his arms, wrapped them around the woman and pulled up.

An almighty boom echoed from the neighbouring buildings as a figure wearing a creaking leather jacket and holding a grubby old woman about her chest rose out of the mushrooming dust. The dusty figure continued to fly a few dozen feet away from the destruction before slowing his speed and, finally, landing on the sidewalk. He put down the bag lady who, shock clearly evident on her face, stumbled and fell against a nearby lamppost.

Rubbing her eyes from the dust and debris, she looked up at her strangely attired saviour.

"Wha...? Who are...?" she stuttered, her words somewhat slurred - perhaps from shock but more likely from alcohol, judging from the smell of her breath, Rob thought.

"Me? I'm... well, I'm your friendly neighborhood Aviator," he explained, and then winced inwardly at his choice of words. "And, erm, don't worry ma'am. You're safe now".

"Safe?!?" the woman exclaimed. "Y' made me drop ma bag, ya idjut! Now it's unda tha' buildin', the one wit' da big guy unda it". She pointed towards the scene of destruction with a dirty, shaking finger.

The newly christened Aviator turned and saw a couple of men running towards the collapsed building. And now that the thunderous rumbling had stopped, he could hear the sound of sirens as approaching police cars and fire trucks came to investigate. He knew there was nothing more he could do here to help - the authorities would be better placed to determine how this disaster had all happened. So he turned back to woman who, he discovered, had now pushed herself away from the lamppost and was glaring at him angrily.

"Git 'way from me, ya crazy man!" she shouted. "Help. Help me!" she began to call out to an approaching newsvan.

"Crazy? Me!? You're..." He stopped and shrugged. "Well, if you're okay then, erm, I guess I'll be going", he continued in a lower voice, whilst the bag lady backed away, pointing at him and continuing to shout nonsense.

Sighing, his feet lifted off the sidewalk and then he quickly rose into the air, that strange sense of vertigo soon dropping away to be replaced by an inner calmness. A second later, he shot off high into the night sky and away from Devil Heights. As the air rushed passed him, he thought to himself, "Well, it's a start I suppose", before quickly scratching his head and adding, "but this ski-mask has got to go!"

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fishy Friday


Strength: 5
Toughness: 3
Special Powers: 3
Status: 5

Not only was Tempest romantically linked to Dolphin, he also once dated Aquagirl (well, I guess Aqualad with Aquagirl makes sense). Of course, that was the version of Aquagirl called Tula, who's now dead (though she came back as a zombie). It seems there've been a number of Aquagirls during DC's history. For some reason, the name seems popular.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Super Power Point Chart

(hopefully clicking on the above will make it bigger)

The Illustrious Omnibus of Superpowers courtesy of the Pop Chart Lab via Comics Alliance.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Winsome Wasp's Wardrobe #12

art by John Buscema and George Klein (from Avengers #56 1968)

Building the Tardis

Ooooh... Building a MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) console inside a TARDIS. Wow. I want one.

And there are also some new Doctor Who images released.

Considering we see the Doctor, Rory and Amy in the pirate-y third episode of Series 6 and River is supposed to return in the cliffhanging seventh episode, I wonder who the heck dies in the series opener as teased by Steven Moffat!?!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


It was finished.

“He is perfect!” the Professor proclaimed, standing at the side of the impressive figure that lay on metal table in front of him. Behind the prone figure, thousands of similar bodies swam in large embryonic tanks, ready and waiting. The Professor checked the dials and lights above the single extracted body before activating the awakening procedure.

“They called me prodigy but I am so much more than that”, he called out to the large laboratory. “I have solved their energy concerns, eradicated diseases, eliminated hunger and unravelled mysteries. Now I shall bring them perfection and save this world!”

Even as a child the Professor was gifted. Through school he had trained his body and mind, becoming the captain of a multitude of sports and achieving degrees in every sciences possible. He had travelled the world, uncovering eastern wonders, solving dark mysteries and recovering undersea treasures. Then he’d returned to civilisation to share his knowledge and save the world as its hero.

His latest gift would be the ideal Man. Applying his vast understanding of human biology, he had studied the human cell, split its nuclei, manipulated its microscopic contents. He had grown another human being and here he lay, slowly achieving consciousness. Soon, this being and all the others would be sent out to enlighten the world and, eventually, to reproduce their perfection.

Applied electricity completed its energizing revitalisation. The perfect figure opened his eyes and sat up. He looked around, taking in his surroundings before turning towards the Professor, bowing his head.

“Hello Professor”, he said, his voice flawless, his manners impeccable.

“Hello to you too, Professor”, the Professor replied to his exact replica, bowing his head in return before looking up towards the tanks beyond his double.

This was only the beginning. Soon, the whole world would be saved from its ignorance and chaos.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Fishy Friday


Strength: 5
Toughness: 4
Special Powers: 2
Status: 6

Member of the Inhumans' royal family and one of the more fishy-looking superheroes on this list. Triton only seems to have the usual list of underwater powers plus the limitation of not being able to live out of water for long. So, a bit useless really.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Top Five Book Series - #1

#1 - Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett

My love of fantasy rekindled after reading the Dragons of Autumn Twilight, I began looking around for what else was out there and stumbled across The Colour of Magic. This 'comedy' seemed to be the latest thing in fantasy so I bought it, read it, chuckled at the jokes (especially when the camera imp ran out of pink paint) and then bought The Light Fantastic, the next in the series, to read the rest of this two part story. I also lent the books to a couple of my friends who also enjoyed it, which helped to build my interest in these books.

However, to be honest, the first two Discworld novels are probably the worst of the series. Since then they have steadily improved and the recent novels are far different beasts to those earlier works. Now the books skip along, telling exciting stories but still with Pratchett's wit and thinly-veiled comments on modern society.

It has become something of a ritual where, every Christmas, I will gratefully receive a new Terry Pratchett novel from my in-laws. I think I have all his Discworld books and love them all to bits. They are the books that I do not hesitate to buy - or request as a present - and the books I'm most likely to reread. As such, they are probably my favourite series of books (at least at the moment!).

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Winsome Wasp's Wardrobe #11

art by John Buscema and George Klein (from Avengers #55 1968)

Top Five Book Series - #2

#2 - Dragonlance Series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Whilst at high school I wasn't particularly interested in reading. The books we had to read for English Literature class were boring (To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, etc) and the school library's collection was lacking. Then, when I was around 15 years old or so, whilst in the local computer game shop I spotted a book that caught my eye. The shop had a small corner devoted to RPGs and board games and the book I saw was the Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Weis and Hickman. I'd seen ads for this in magazines saying it was a fantasy book based on AD&D gaming sessions (which turned out to be something of an urban myth). It sounded interesting - and the wonderful cover art by Larry Elmore didn't hurt either - so I bought it.

And my love of fantasy books and reading in general was shocked back into life.

Sure, I'd read the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and perhaps one or two other fantasy books before then, but I never really found them that interesting. LotR has always been a tough read for me. Conversely, Dragons of Autumn Twilight was wonderfully fresh and easy to read. It's full of adventure, magic, combat, dragons (etc) and reads like a dramatised account of an actual gaming campaign (even if it wasn't). It was like a breath of fresh air amongst the stuffy, cloying atmosphere of the other novels I was reading.

Since then I've read the Chronicles, Legends, War of Souls, and Lost Chronicles trilogies (ah, fantasy novels and their trilogies!). I've read some of the short story collections and other bits and pieces. But, it should be stressed, only the stuff by Weis and Hickman; the other Dragonlance authors never seemed to do much for me.

I've also read some of the others non-DL works by Weis and Hickman like the Deaths Gate Cycle, Rose of the Prophet, and Darksword series but they were never quite as good as Dragonlance. Tanis, Sturm, Caramon, Flint, Tasslehoff, Goldmoon, Riverwind, Raistlin and the rest will always be my favourite group of typical fantasy characters - and it's amazing how they got us to 'care' for an evil character like Raistlin!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Death and the Silence in Doctor Who

Bleeding Cool have posted the covers of the latest Doctor Who Magazine which lets slip a little twist. Namely, one of the characters - either the Doctor, Amy, Rory or River - is going to die.

Head writer Steven Moffat has said that it isn't a trick and whoever it is is definitely going to die. Now, if that was really true it would pretty much mean that the Doctor himself was out of the running. I mean, you can't have Doctor Who without the Doctor (well, maybe for an episode or two but no more). I'd also say that Amy was out of the running as well. She's still the Doctor's assistant/companion and I don't think they'd just replace her at the beginning of a new series.

So that leaves Rory and River, both of whom have died before. Of course, if River died then it would sort of ruin her ending in the Silence in the Library. Which, finally, leaves Rory...

Now, this all assumes the death will not be, in some clever way, undone. As with other previous deaths, I suspect that won't be the case. Generally speculation, based in part on the Doctor's words in the trailer ("Amy Pond. My life is in your hands" or something similar), is that it is the Doctor who dies (killed by River, perhaps, to fulfill her destiny in ending the life of a good man, as mentioned in the last series?) and Amy and Rory have to go back and change time to stop it from happening. Which, if true, means the death is a bit of a cheat, after all. I guess we'll find out when the new series starts on April 23rd.

Whilst I'm here, another thing to note is that people have been wondering what "The Silence" is that will apparently 'fall' in this series (and predicted to fall way back at the beginning of the last series). The BBC's recently released press pack contains a sort of Q&A section with Steven Moffat in which it says:

"Will there be new monsters? They're ... scary. Very scary. And, ohh, I don't want to say more – there's the Silence in episodes one and two, the Siren, in episode three, the Gangers in five and six, all these are more than just freaky costumes and masks; there are SCARY ideas here".

And later, Matt Smith says,

"I think The Silence are one of the greatest monsters of recent years and certainly one of the scariest. They're also very clever and I love the fact they've been silently working since the dawn of time to make The Doctor come unstuck."

Which all seems to indicate that, yes, the Silence are the Grey-like race of 'monsters' or aliens we've seen hiding in the background in the trailers. So, I wonder what's so bad about them 'falling'?

And then there's the cliffhanger that'll come at the end of episode 7 (before the series takes a break and comes back in autumn):

"Normally our cliff-hangers are lives being threatened; with this one, three live are changed FOREVER".

I wonder which three lives these will be? Probably those of the Doctor, Rory and Amy when they finally discover who River Song actually is, I guess!

Finally, here's the synopsis to the first episode - The Impossible Astronaut:
"Four envelopes, numbered 2, 3 and 4, each containing a date, time and map reference, unsigned, but TARDIS blue. Who sent them? And who received the missing number one? This strange summons reunites the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song in the middle of the Utah desert and unveils a terrible secret the Doctor's friends must never reveal to him.

Placing his life entirely in their hands, the Doctor agrees to search for the recipient of the fourth envelope - just who is Canton Everett Delaware the Third? And what is the relevance of their only other clue: 'Space 1969'? Their quest lands them - quite literally - in the Oval Office, where they are enlisted by President Nixon himself to assist enigmatic former-FBI agent Canton, in saving a terrified little girl from a mysterious spaceman

Top Five Book Series - #3

#3 - Wild Cards by George R. R. Martin et al

Superhero novels not based on existing comicbook properties (owned by companies such as Marvel and DC) are unfortunately quite rare. And, actually, the Wild Card mosaic novels - collections of short stories by a group of authors set in a shared world and interleaved together - aren't really superhero novels. Although they feature a version of our world which includes superpowered people, these "aces" as they are called are not generally heroes and don't wear brightly-coloured spandex costumes.

Inspired by a Superworld RPG campaign, the stories are generally grim and gritty, and reflect a certain degree of realism in dealing with superpowered aces and hideous jokers afflicted by the DNA-altering "Wild Card" virus. In certain ways, the stories are quite adult, involving a degree of sex and violence that was something of an eye-opener (especially for a series of superhero novels) when I first read them towards the end of the 1980s.

I can't seem to remember right now how I came to buy the UK version of Wild Cards, the first book in the series, with its wonderful cover by Brian Bolland. This book is perhaps not the strongest as it covers about 40 years of altered American history, jumping from one event, and one set of characters to another slightly haphazardly. Still, it sets up a fantastic background and a number of interesting, varied characters for the next umpteen books.

The series has undergone a few changes and is still being produced; the next book Fort Freak is due out later this year. Many of the books between the first 6 and the last 3 are very difficult to get hold of and I don't actually have many of them. Tracking these down at a decent price is something I still occasionally pursue.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Top Five Book Series - #4

4. Mordant's Need series by Stephen Donaldson

By now it should be obvious that I'm a big user of my local library. One of the many books I once borrowed was The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen Donaldson (his best known fantasy series being the Thomas Covenant books). It was one of the few books where, once I'd read it, I had to read the second - and final part - of the series straight away. The library didn't have the second book yet and the paperback wouldn't be out for months, so I bought the hardback version of A Man Rides Through. Of course, that meant for a while I only had the second half to the series on my bookshelf (I eventually bought The Mirror of Her Dreams - probably the only time I've bought a book I've already read).

Of course, consisting of only two books this isn't really much of a 'series'. But I wanted to include it anyway because of its fantastic characterisation and its marvellous fantasy thriller-like story. I also love the unique "imagery" magic system used within the book. You see, on the world of Mordant magic is all done with mirrors - literally. Mages have to construct large, warped mirrors which then act as magic doorways allowing them to conjure items, elements or monsters from other realms or transport objects or people to these other places. It's a fascinatingly limiting method of conjuration put to great use in summoning monsters, fiery lava and unusual champions - such as Teresa, the passive protagonist of the book.

I remember really getting caught up in the story - a lighter, easier-to-read offering than Donaldson's other books (I found his Thomas Covenant books a bit dark and difficult to get into) - wishing that Teresa would stop falling for the manipulative Master Eremis' charms and become the hero she was meant to be. It was a thoroughly gripping read and one I still fondly remember.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Top Five Book Series - #5

I thought I'd do a new, occasional feature here at PRN looking at my top five things in certain categories that just come to mind. For the first list, I'm going to look at my favourite series of novels (single books would make it too difficult to limit to just 5, or even 15). I should point out that the order is somewhat fluid depending on my feelings at the time.

Anyway, let's start with...

5. Felix Castor series by Mike Carey

I almost went with Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books as my fifth choice. Both those and Mike Carey's Felix Castor books are similar, in that they both concern investigators of the supernatural, are written in the first person and feel like pulpy detective novels. And, of course, both are highly entertaining and most definitely recommended.

However, the first Felix Castor novel - The Devil You Know - was my introduction into the modern urban fantasy genre of books, is set in England (specifically London) and is by a writer of X-Men comics. Hence, it makes the list ahead of the Dresden Files! Admittedly, I only read Carey's book first because Storm Front (the first Dresden book) wasn't available at the library but hey, it's my list.

In a way, these books blend bits of the horror genre - ghosts, zombies, werewolves and demons feature - with a little bit of magic regarding exorcists abilities to control and banish these creatures and sets them in the modern day world. What I like about the Felix Castor books is that the existence of the supernatural are known by everyone. They're not common, and most people tend to want to ignore the existence of ghosts and the like, but they're not hidden, secretive phenomena known only to a very small number of people. There's even mention of the government bringing about laws concerning the returned souls.

Overall, the Felix Castor books are a fantastic read, as I stated in my review of the first book. They certainly rank up there at the top of the urban fantasy books.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Go Green Lantern

The first Green Lantern trailer didn't do much for me but this extended clip from Wondercon is so much better. Lots of spacey stuff on Oa. It looks pretty amazing!

Roll on June!

(hope that link works)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Fishy Friday


Strength: 4
Toughness: 5
Special Powers: 4
Status: 4

One of the few other alieny waterbased superheroes, the quiet Dolphin was once the adulterous Aquaman's lover but then married Tempest ("like mentor, like sidekick" I guess). At least, it wasn't as bad as Namor's and Namora's relationship.

The Writer's Tale: The Final Chapter

Although I already have the hardback version of The Writer's Tale, this paperback version - which I happened to stumble across whilst at my local library - isn't just a straight reprint. This edition is broken into two halves; the first half is a copy of the hardback version (minus the reprinted scripts which are now online) whereas the second half contains all new material from Russell T Davies' last days on New Who. There's over 300 pages of new stuff included - so, in a way, it's like two books in one, one old and one new.

The new material mostly covers the last year of David Tennant's (and RTD's) tenure on the show during a sort of "quiet" period, when only four specials - The Next Doctor, Planet of the Dead, Waters of Mars, End of Time - were produced. Well, and Torchwood: Children of Earth and various Sarah Jane Adventures episodes, of course! It's done in the same style as the first book, with emails between Russell and Benjamin Cook discussing the shows, although this time there's perhaps slightly more emphasis on Russell himself and less on writing Dr Who in general.

Because this essentially consists of emails, it often feels like reading someone's blog or a forum inhabited only by two posters. Being someone who reads blogs and forums daily, this means it's quite a easy and entralling read. Of course, it's also fascinating to discover the behind-the-scenes process that goes into putting out Doctor Who.

So, as with the hardback version, this is highly recommended if you're a fan of New Who or want to know the creative process behind writing for a successful TV show.

Now, if only Steven Moffat would write a similar book...