Heroic Origins:
Getting Started With Comics

comic guyComics are cool these days. Well, they were always cool, but more and more people are waking up to this fact. As someone who wears his geek colours proudly, I often find myself being asked by people what I recommend for their first foray into the comic world.

Of course, it’s not a simple question. Just as nobody likes every movie they see, not every comic will appeal to everyone. So to lend a helping hand here is a list of my comic newbie recommendations divided by genre. Don’t read this as a list of ‘the absolute greatest comics ever’ (although in my opinion some of them are), this is a selection of thoroughly enjoyable titles that are easily accessible for the uninitiated. Enjoy!

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Old Blood – Part 3

creepy forest redHe spent the rest of the afternoon waiting. He sat on a log bench in the camp, quiet and brooding while a hungry madness began to rise and rise within him. The anger was intoxicating. Adrenaline soaked his blood, heightening every sensation to a bright point. As it began to get dark he scented the pack members coming in from work long before they got near the camp. He could feel his own body heat as it radiated into the air and the tumbling point where it mingled with the evening humidity.

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Old Blood – Part 2

creepy forest bronze

The wake began even before it got dark. The great pile of wood in the centre of the camp had been built up to the point that it was taller than a man and somebody, there was some argument over who, had got impatient and lit it. The dry wood quickly became a pillar of flame spewing smoke up into the darkening sky. The young people with instruments, who had been idly tuning and ad-libbing for hours, took this as a sign they could begin. At first they started with some old blues covers, but soon began to up the tempo into more vigorous songs that people could dance to. Food was dished out freely from the barbecues and cooking fires, so that by the time the sun died into the tree line the entire pack seemed to be either eating or dancing.

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Old Blood – Part 1

creepy forest blue

“Please don’t go.”

He looked up at her from the bed, trying to control his ragged breathing. She said nothing and continued to pull on her clothes. As she slipped her white dress over her head he caught her glance at him nervously. Her eyes were wide and fearful. It made him feel sick, to be looked at like that.

Cole sat up in the bed, keeping his movements slow so as not to scare her. His hot back leaned against the cool wall, his sweat making him stick to it. The tiny room was sweltering in the rare summer heat. The sound of London sirens and late-night clubbers invaded through the one open window.

“If I could please explain” he tried. She ignored him, scrabbling through his discarded clothes on the floor to find her other shoe. “I just got carried away, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

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Designing Catwoman

Catwoman wide“She’d have to be ridiculously strong to do that” was the thought that started it all off.

I was watching the animated short Catwoman – Year One, in which Catwoman performs a number of very impressive physical stunts, including manoeuvring around a pole using only her legs, pressing her feet against it and then launching herself at her foe.

It’s a great short film and I recommend you watch it. What I especially like about it is the way she moves, a powerful combination of strength, agility and grace. Catwoman moves like a weaponised ballerina, elegant and forceful. However I also found this jarred with Catwoman’s physique. In typical form the film portrays her with a curvaceous, hourglass figure. She didn’t have the look of an athlete that I would expect to see from someone pulling off that kind of acrobatic kickassery.

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Writing Update

typing girl

Several friends have been prodding me lately, asking me when I’m going to publish some more stories on the website. I’m pleased to say that the answer to that is quite soon, and I thought I’d make a brief post to let people know what I’m up to at the moment with my writing.

Firstly, Codex Machina, my Aztecs-in-space graphic novel is still in the works but is now sitting on the backburner for a while. I almost completed a first draft, but found that while I loved the characters and the world, the story wasn’t what I wanted it to be. So I’ve decided to leave it for a while and come back for a re-write at a later date.

I’m pleased to say that I’m writing short stories again, but I’ve also had another idea for a short, self-contained graphic novel, so at the moment I’m jumping between the two tasks. This new graphic novel is called Unimportant Choices, which is a surreal, time-travelling romp about an ex-soldier and an eccentric storyteller fleeing for their lives across human history. It will be four chapters in length when it’s done.

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Relative Dimensions in Gender

DoctorsThe recent news that Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who has raised the old question that’s haunted the Doctor’s regenerations since the original series: ‘should the next Doctor be a woman?’. While some polls indicate most viewers still lean toward ‘no‘, a number of people have been quite vocal on arguing that it’s about time we did have that elusive female incarnation of The Doctor. Arguments range from the fact that the show should get with the times, to the fact it would be a great inspiration for women to have the most recognisable show on television have a female lead, to the simple and often used ‘Why the hell not?’.

As someone who spends a lot of time arguing for strong, intelligent female heroes, this has caused to me to be arguing in quite an unfamiliar corner. For the first time I can remember, I am strongly against the idea of a female lead in a sci-fi show. I really don’t believe that any incarnation of the Doctor should be female. Following several online debates on the issue, I thought I’d try and spell out my reasons why here.

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Two Tales of Healthcare

save the nhs

Britain’s National Health Service weighs heavily on my mind today for two reasons. The first, as is being widely discussed, is that today marks the point that the NHS starts to become privatised, portions of its budget handed over to companies and its services forced to open up to competitive bids. The second reason is that I had to go an NHS hospital today for a rather important scan, and it reminds me of an incident that happened to me when I was in the United States and found myself dealing with their private healthcare system. So this post is a matter of two stories, today’s story with a free public healthcare system and the story of my experience with privatised, paid-for healthcare. One of these stories has a happy ending.

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Lessons From Everquest

everquest login2These days it is a MMO legend, alternatively praised and hated for it’s high difficulty and grindy, community-dependent approach to levelling. As with many people, Everquest was my first MMO experience. Playing it brought me unexpected joy, frustration, addiction, friendship and the occasional emotional breakdown. So when I heard that SOE were launching a ‘progression server’, a server which would make the game available in it’s original version, I came running like a good little addict.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Everquest is widely regarded as the MMO that defined the genre in it’s current form, popularising the idea of dungeon runs made by groups balanced around the key roles of tank, healer and DPS (and back then, the crowd controller). However these days it is often discussed in a negative light, not because it wasn’t a good game but because of how far we’ve come since. Everquest was a long-term commitment, a challenge focused around grinding experience by killing packs of monsters over and over. Rewards were hard-earned and mistakes were severely punished. There were few quests, no mounts and no instanced content. To those who started their MMO experience in the World of Warcraft era, Everquest seems like a cave painting next to the Mona Lisa.

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Geek Knowledge:
Armoured Women

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains minor spoilers for Half-Life 2 and Babylon 5.

It started with the above image. A couple of weeks ago I caught this article on Kotaku about how a set of new skins for the game Batman: Arkham City changed Catwoman’s outfit from a cleavage-revealing latex suit to the armoured costume you see above. I was surprised by the impact such a simple redesign made, not just in terms of scoring cool points but in how it shifted my perspective of the character from the fetishised love interest of Batman (thanks Dark Knight Rises) to a competent street-fighter. The Catwoman above is strong, confident, and just a bit cocky. She can clearly take some damage and doesn’t mind getting stuck into a fight. Admittedly it’s very figure-hugging armour and the high heels retain an element of sexualisation, but it is Catwoman, she would look rather wrong without them. The point is that all it took was some tougher clothing to make me do a 180 on how I viewed Selina Kyle.

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