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Crisis on Earth X

This month we have been presented with the latest DC crossover, Crisis on Earth X, which features all four of the current CW show line up, starting with Supergirl. The beginning of this massive crossover series begins with all the usual heroes from the CW-verse preparing for the DC event of the year – the wedding of Barry Allen (aka The Flash) to Iris West.

Things are all going strangely smoothly, until the proceedings are interrupted by weird nazi-type soldiers under the command of three nazi doppelgängers of Oliver Queen, Supergirl and a reverse flash who looks like Harrison Wells. As the story progresses, they try to take Supergirl and harvest her heart to transplant it into the evil Supergirl to save her life.

This epic event is spread over all four flagship CW shows – Supergirl, Arrow, Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. It features all the favourite characters, both good and evil, and was a very well thought-out story. The only thing it lacked was originality, as this story has been done before by Philip K Dick with the wonderful Man in the High Castle (which was even referenced in the crossover show). Crisis had a lot of good jokes and tongue-in-cheek remarks, such as Supergirl being told to fly “up, up & away…”.

The action scenes are somewhat confusing, though, as there are too many characters fighting the hordes of nazi soldiers and doppelgängers. It does feel that the fight scenes are used as a filler to pad out the four-show spectacular. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed them as a good bit of mindless action.

The story, on the whole, is very well thought-out and executed, and really draws in the viewer. I even shed a tear at a particularly sad and poignant point near the end. Compared to the last CW crossover show, this one felt bigger, more professional and better paced. It even made me want to start watching two of the shows that I had stopped caring about. The bar has been well and truly raised for the next crossover event.

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Recommended Read – December

As the year draws to a close and we start to gear up for the holiday season, I want to choose a recommended read that is in keeping with this time of year. So, with that in mind, I am suggesting a very festive recommended read – Batman: Noel. This was the obvious choice with Batman starring in an amazing holiday-styled graphic novel. I know – it’s hard to imagine that today’s dark, gritty Batman could be the star of a Christmas-themed story, but writer and illustrator Lee Bermejo realized that Batman could be cast as one of the most iconic Christmas characters: Ebenezer Scrooge. Along the way, Batman has to come to terms with his past, present and future as he battles villains – from the campy 1960s to dark and brooding menaces of today. Meanwhile he is exploring what it means to be the hero that he is. Members of Batman’s supporting cast enact characters analogous to those from A Christmas Carol, with Robin, Catwoman, Superman and The Joker taking key roles.

You heard me correctly. Batman: Noel is the DC Universe’s take on the classic story, A Christmas Carol. The writer really knows how to make this story of Batman and his beloved Gotham work. He understands that this Batman is not someone to respect or fear, but to feel bad for. He goes the extra mile by casting Jason Todd as the Jacob Marley character of the story, as a result of this casting, we are given an empathetic reason as to why Batman would act like this.

The selection of the ‘ghosts’ are all DC Universe characters, which really builds on this story’s theme perfectly. Catwoman, being one of Batman’s few ‘sane’ villains becomes the Ghost of Christmas Past, and also serves as the lost love that Scrooge-Man could have had.

The next selection comes in the shape of Superman as the Ghost of Christmas Present. If there is one character in the entire world of comics who best captures the jolly, vibrant spirit of the ghost, it would be Superman. This story works on the fact that the Batman/Superman dynamic works, due to Superman being a constant force of good; a reminder that he is above bitterness and anger. Also, Superman’s powers of x-ray vision and super-hearing allow him to show the story of the crook who Batman chases throughout the novel.

Then for the finale, Joker appears as the Ghost of Christmas Future, and literally buries Batman alive in perhaps one of the comic’s most extraordinary moments: the vision of the future. Instead of Batman being disgraced and forgotten for his cruelty, people take the wrong lessons from how he fights crime. Batman sees instead a world turned monstrous, the average citizens violently dealing with even the most petty of criminals.

Bermejo does a great job of writing here. His story blends so much of the original Dickens classic that the reader is always asking themselves if this is the actual text from the original Dickens story. What’s a comic book without the art? This one is gorgeous. Bermejo really brought his A game on the previous book he illustrated, the amazingly dark and disturbing Joker, which was written by Brian Azzarello. But Batman: Noel really knocks that one out of the ballpark. With Gotham City at night and covered in snow, he throws in some Christmas lights, painting a beautiful picture – nobody does that like Bermejo.

So, just in time before Christmas, skip all the classics and read this book to the family by the fireplace. It’s a great twist on a classic, and the pictures are like none you’ve ever seen before.

Recommended Read: November

This month’s recommended read follows on from the last month’s suggestion.  It is another fine indie comic, brought to us by writer Russell Hillman and illustrated by Ron Joseph and C J Camba – Slashermania.

Some time back, I was approached by the creator with a rough copy of this story for me to review for our website. I must admit that I was very excited by what I read and I was very keen to read the extended story. This is quite unusual, as I’m not usually a big fan of horror comics.

This was very different; imagine the old slasher flicks of the 80s combined with the big-brother-style reality TV of today.  A group of teenagers is taken to a remote campsite under some innocent premise or another. The reality is something much, much worse – they are going to be the unsuspecting victims of SLASHERMANIA an annual event that sees a number of serial killers from all over the world competing to take the top prize. There are awards given in a number of categories, including: Best Solo Male and Female Kill, Best Coitus Interruptus, Most Creative Kill, etc.  The killer with the most points will win the Slasher of the Year award.

Apart from the campers and serial killers, the hosts Todd Morton and Sanquine Slaughter provide both commentary and consulting with various experts.  It is very similar to a modern-day live sports event, with play-by-play and killers, stats, etc, giving it a Super Bowl feel.  A select group of people form the TV audience, and are the super-rich and elite who have paid big money to witness this brutal event.

The artwork, by Ron Joseph and C J Camba, is fairly intense and even though it tries to soften the seemingly relentless blood-soaked violence and gore and occasional nudity, it still adds to the fact that this is ultimately an homage to the slasher flicks of the 80s.  In my opinion, it not only hits that mark, it repeatedly stabs it while it tries to get away…

If you’re interested in checking this out for yourself, there are a number of ways to get hold of a copy.

Please check out the links below to get your copy of Slashermania.

Freaktown Comics site

Comixology Website

The Neothera Saga Interview

Q: So, firstly, for those that don’t know, what is LARP and what does it entail?

Live Action Role Playing (LARP) is the term for games that see their participants physically act out their character’s actions. Players, similar to the stars in a movie or novel, pursue goals designed by the game referees within a fictional setting represented by the real world while interacting with each other as their characters. The crew, similar to the supporting cast in a movie, help to deliver the story, rewards and challenges to the players by acting as other inhabitants of the game world, be they friends or foes of the players. The first LARPs began in the late 1970s, where fans of tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons decided to don costumes and take their games outside of their homes and into the wilderness.

All participants in LARP wear appropriately themed costume to physically portray characters created for the fictional setting. They will improvise their characters’ speech and movements somewhat like actors in improvisational theatre. The outcome of player and crew actions are mediated by game rules or determined by consensus among the players and crew, and overseen by the game staff.

Q: What does The Neothera Saga do, and how long has it been running?

The Neothera Saga is a non-profit, High Fantasy/Steampunk LARP group based in Exeter, Devon. We specialise in plot-driven, emotive and extremely immersive events. We offer you the chance to step into a vast and lore-rich world of mystical creatures and epic battles, where magic and technology compete for dominance. If you are unsure of the theme, imagine Lord of the Rings with a Steampunk undertone!

We formed the club in 2014 and our experienced and creative team of staff includes dedicated and knowledgeable members of the southwest (UK) LARP scene as well as professional games designers. We strive to create an inspiring, immersive and welcoming environment where all of our participants can get involved, regardless of their prior LARP experience.

Our games, governed by simple rules, see participants act out impromptu scenarios whilst wearing medieval or steampunk-themed fantasy costumes. Combat is physically acted out with padded weapons, spells are cast by calling key phrases, and firearms are represented by foam dart or cap guns. Become a denizen of this fantastical world, adopt a persona of your choice and carve your mark in the legends of Neothera.

The world of Neothera has a varied and rich lore; you will meet or be able to play as a variety of fantastical creatures, ranging from half-demons, animal/human hybrids, to Urka (orcs), Faeries or mischievous Piskies, to mention but a few. The fictional world of Neothera is vast and full of places to explore, history to learn and fantastical creatures and people to encounter. The actions you take as your character will alter the outcome of the games, for better or worse.

Q: How long does each session last, on average?

We run two types of events with varying adventure lengths, these are as follows:

SINGLE DAY ADVENTURES

These are usually run once a month on a Saturday. The location is Woodbury Common, near Exeter. We meet at Tesco Exeter Vale cafe at 9am for breakfast and to check-in all players and crew, and then travel to the event site at 10am, ready to begin the game at 11am. The event usually finishes around 5:30pm.

LONG WEEKEND EVENTS

We run two or three long events each year, which are held at a private site on the outskirts of Exeter with five fields and woodland to explore. These events run from Friday to Sunday. You can access the site from 1pm on the Friday to set up your tent, with the game starting around 6pm. The game runs through the entirety of Saturday and finishes at 3pm the following day (Sunday). These events are regarded as being extremely immersive and we pull out all the stops with plot and costumes. Whilst the game can continue into the early hours of the mornings there is always time to get some rest in a field reserved for non-character or LARP related activities.

Q: Are there any upper or lower age limits for anyone that wants to take part?  Do you need to be physically fit?

Our games attract people from a variety of age ranges and various walks of life. A good level of physical fitness is not essential, yet you should be aware that our games are often physically and sometimes mentally demanding. Our single-day adventures will often see participants walk approximately three miles around a pre-designated track of wood/scrubland on Woodbury Common.

Our weekend events are based at a private site on the outskirts of Exeter and a base camp is established for both players and crew, so walking long distances is not really required. That said, our games regularly contain simulated combat with padded weapons, which can becoming physically tiring over a three-day event. However, depending on the theme of an event, it may be the plot denotes that a large amount of combat does not occur. We always advise contacting us in advance if you wish to attend a game and do not want to get involved in combat or have any special requirements. We will always be happy to make roles for non-combatants or advise how physically demanding the event will be.

It should be noted that Neothera Saga UK LARP is not aimed at a young audience, and as such, we do not alter or censor plot, language or potentially disturbing occurrences that are acted out (such as gore, bad language, simulated violence and adult subject matter, etc) with a view that minors will be attending a game. There is no minimum age requirement for our events, although participants of 14 years and younger must always be accompanied and supervised by an adult (18+) who is also playing or crewing the event.

Q: What sort of experience & equipment do players need to be able to take part?

In terms of experience… none! Have you ever read a book, watched a movie, played computer-based RPGs, even imagined yourself as the hero(ine)? Congratulations, you have an imagination, and that is the main thing needed for LARP!

As for what else you might need, the very minimum a participant requires is a set of dark clothing that is not overtly modern (black or brown t-shirt and trousers without logos for example). You should also bring decent footwear; walking boots are ideal. We cover this in detail in a short manual you can download from our website called ‘Prepare for Adventure’.

Costume-wise, it takes a lot less than you may expect to get involved but many players find themselves choosing to invest more and to continually improve their kit with better weapons or clothing between events. A great place to start is by checking out our website and looking at the photo galleries. This will give you an idea of the standard of costume that is required. We also list reputable suppliers of LARP equipment, weapons and costume. If you want to discuss your character’s look we are happy to arrange a chat or email conversation; just get in touch!

Q: If someone fancied taking part in or observing one of your sessions, what would they need to do?

If you want to take part we would suggest stopping by our website to check out photos from past events and having a brief read of the game rules. It is not essential to know the rules inside-out. In fact, you can crew your first game with us and we’ll explain the basics on the day. You can buy tickets and officially put in your character application from the website, and we can discuss this with you via personal messages on Facebook or email.

We would also recommend finding us on Facebook, where you will soon discover that many of the players and staff would be happy to offer encouragement to new and existing participants.

Our YouTube channel is another good place to find an introduction to what is involved in the sessions. It is also possible to volunteer to crew before making a character, this allows you to be involved and try your hand at LARPing before having to create a costume or character.

We do not allow spectators at our games because this detracts from the immersive atmosphere we strive to create. However, we do allow photographers or filmmakers to attend, providing this has been cleared with the staff in advance and is deemed not to be intrusive on the game.

Q: We see that you have been shortlisted for a couple of awards this year; can you tell us about that, and where you see the group being in 2018?

The Neothera Saga’s goals are not to seek fortune and fame, simply to create a friendly community, to write and run events the participants have great fun playing. Our nominations for the two categories we were shortlisted for in the 2017 UK LARP awards are testament to this. It was our participants that voted for us and gained us the recognition they thought we deserved.

Our nomination for best grassroots system was based upon introducing people that have never tried LARP before, to the hobby. This is something we are passionate about; without new blood in the hobby it cannot continue, or even evolve and improve. We actively promote our games to LARP novices. Often these people have better ideas and a fresh way of thinking compared to gnarled old veterans who dislike changes in the way the hobby is evolving. The Neothera Saga system is simple enough to start off in, and scales to ensure there is enough depth for seasoned LARPers to get their teeth into. If you are new to LARP, our helpful team is always on hand to provide information and answer questions, regardless of how silly you think they might be!

LARP is a social hobby, and since the system began we have made many lovely friends along the way, many of which have stayed loyal to the game since our early days. Running a LARP system should be fun; moreso for the participants that attend the games. It has been amazing to see the overwhelming responses from some of our participants stating how their lives outside of LARP have improved since gaining confidence in dealing with roleplay-based situations at our game – experiences that have helped them in the real world.

We are often told by potential attendees that they are unsure if they will like LARP. To that we say, come along. Try it. Many people in your shoes have said the same, and they haven’t looked back since they first set foot into the world of the Neothera Saga.

Further information can be found at the following.

The Neothera Saga Website

The Neothera Saga Facebook Page

The Neothera Saga Twitter

The Neothera Saga YouTube

Moon #1 Review

We were fortunate enough to catch up with artist Steve Penfold from Beyond the Bunker Comics at the Film & ComicCon in Exeter earlier this month. We chatted with him about the comic called “Moon”.

What’s the idea behind the story? “Well, its very simple”, explained Steve.  “Basically, the moon drops out of the sky in the early hours of the morning, puts on a suit, takes out a gun and fights ridiculous crimes”.

Let’s take you back to the beginning.  It’s 12AD, and a group of drunken druid-type characters are attempting to summon the moon spirit. As with most alcohol induced things, though, it doesn’t go according to plan and we end up seeing the comical results as the story continues when we return to the present day.  Moon is now working for the Secretive Agency.  He does not have the ability to talk, so he must convey everything by using body language.

The Moon himself is truly unique, and dare I say that this character could possibly become iconic and have a great longevity, series-wise. I’m hoping this is the case, as I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.

Steven has really used his skills as an artist to bring the story (by Dan Thompson) to life, starting from the first scenes in 12AD right through to the present day, ‘Men in Black-esque’ style, contemporary feel as the story continues. This is a great partnership between writer and artist and I urge you to give it a read, you won’t regret it.
Buy Moon Here

Film & Comic Con Exete

We were at the Exeter Film and ComicCon this weekend, to see what is arguably one of the biggest names in convention organisers in the UK had in store for us this year at Exeter’s Westpoint arena.

Upon entering the arena, it was apparent that it would be a very different story to last year. The celebrity guests were no longer in the centre of the room – instead, they were along the left wall, near the cafe and toilets. The centre was taken up with stalls, and the majority of the of the booths were the usual vendors selling everything from comic books to t-shirts and even knives and swords. I may be in the minority when I say this, but in my opinion, I’m not sure that these kind of items should be on sale at this type of convention.

There was a group of stalls that really stood out to me. One was an exceptionally talented artist by the name of Chris Barker whose astounding artwork is so detailed, it resembles a photograph.  His dad explained to me that Chris,  like me, has Aspergers (a form of autism) and is a self taught artist. His website (CJB Art) is really worth checking out.

The other stall that impressed me was the only indie comic book there, called Moon. We are going to be reviewing at a later date, but if you’re keen to read it, it can be found here (Beyond the Bunker Comics)

There was also a retro gaming area and a group that does LARP (Live Action Role Play) there. It  was great fun to chat to some of the guys that take part in this, about what it entails, before settling down to play a round of Sonic the Hedgehog!

This year I managed to catch one of the cosplay talks given by Jinxy Dragon Cosplay.  This was informative with lots of hints and tips, including latex buffing. This was followed by a great Q&A covering some very hot topics and, of course, the do’s and don’ts of convention cosplay.

All in all, it was a great little convention with some fantastic guests including K-9 and Colin Baker.  The one thing I felt that was missing from this year’s line up was comic book artists. Last year, we had the likes of Jock and Lee Garbett, but this year it felt this side of things was sadly missing and would have been a welcome addition to the guests.

Also a big shout out to all the wonderful guys and girls who came dressed as their favourite characters, there was a great deal of time and effort spent on costumes as you can see with our rogues gallery bellow.

We want you…… !

Do you have a comic book, graphic novel artwork or similar? Maybe it’s published maybe it’s a Kickstarter project or just an idea. Why not let us review and or promote your new project to our readers through the website and social media channels. We want to hear from you.

e mail SouthDevonGeeks@gmail.com