Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Webstore now closed till 2011

Folks, the Proud Lion webstore is now closed till the New Year.

Any current orders will be completed as soon as possible.

Thank you for your custom in 2010.

The shop will remain open till Christmas Eve at 4pm. Between Christmas and New Year's, we are open on Wednesday 29h and Thursday 30th.

We will then re-open for 2011 on Tuesday 4th January.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

New Beginnings - Lady Mechanika #1

Lady Mechanika is the comic offspring of Sleepy Hollow wining and dining Steamboy then embarking on an illicit affair.

Set in the turn of the century, Lady Mechanika is Joe Benitez’s newest creation to fill the appetites of steampunk fans everywhere. Not only created, but written and drawn by Benitez; you can feel the heart and organs in the issue, not just the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the pages.

The story opens with an unknown character on the run from well armed assailants who have only one thing on their minds - capture, dead or alive. All the way through there is an internal monologue, adding to the tense nature and state of confusion being suffered. Her pursuit leads us to the city of Mechanika much to the annoyance of a somewhat stereotyped Nazi-esque bad girl.

Our strangers’ arrival in the city sparks a lot of interest, including that of our heroine, who all want to know more. Lady Mechanika's own past appears to echo this new situation, though sadly I missed the zero issue that elaborated on this.

Mechanika herself was apparently found in an amnesiac state amongst a plethora of bodies, parts and corpses having also had her limbs removed and replaced with mechanical ones. Understandably she wants to find out more about this new stray and potentially her own background as well - and thus begins “Lady Mechanika in the Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse”, almost like the opening of a blockbuster film. Did I mention that she’s a private detective too?

There are plenty of clichés and casual conveniences throughout, but the occasional cheese is so easily forgotten because it is simply beautiful, new and different. As an indy comic it doesn’t need to conform to the conventions of Marvel or DC and I’m glad it hasn’t even tried. Not being part of the norm means that it can appeal to its own specific audience and not simply the masses, or have to be 'appropriate' for all comers.

The art work is pin up and risqué, with some great line work and the colouring is suitably muted creating a fantastic mood. In fact the only the only brightness is used to highlight the innocence of youth in one character. A lovely touch in itself.

My advice is forget the need for mainstream. Go out, visit Proud Lion, smile and ask Ben nicely to let you buy this (and order issue zero at the same time). Then smile childishly all the way home and treat yourself to this comic. It is and will be worth it and not just for the recipes in the back! Yes, you read that correctly - recipes!

Matt Puddy is risqué baker. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Watcher - Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy opens with an introduction to a loving father telling a story to his son about his time in "the Grid". I enjoyed the ‘real’ world aspects of the movie like Sam’s family life with his grandparents and a constantly working father. Kevin Flynn then disappears, never to return, leaving poor Sam alone. Sam grows up but is still running away from the reality of his father leaving him.

Sam has fun with Encom, trying to keep his father’s beliefs alive while the company is being run in his absence. There are a couple of nods to the original film, including revisiting some classic lines and the son of Ed Dillinger - a cameo appearance by Cillian Murphy, apparently setting up a third film.

Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) returns to visit Sam and inform him of a page which originated from Flynn's Arcade. This leads Sam curiously back to the place where his father used to reside.

Once Sam is digitized into his father’s world, we hit the 3D action. This is where things come alive as we see brilliantly vibrant colours against a dark world. Starting with the disc battles and then moving onto the lightcycles, both of which are amazing to watch and have been updated from the original. I would also like to mention Daft Punk's soundtrack as it greatly enhances the beats of the action sequences.

The story then tries to take shape; Flynn’s digital world is changing, he is in seclusion and we meet Quorra who is the last of a unique set of programs. Clu - who was Flynn’s prime creation - is now in control and has a clichéd master plan to rule the world! I never quite get sucked into the story, but somehow I feel like that’s not what Disney were aiming for.

That said I do like the opaque style during the story flashbacks and Jeff Bridges' performance is excellent in his dual roles (just don’t mention the annoyingly odd CG on Clu). Micheal Sheen is entertaining as the flamboyant and extravagant Caster; Garett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde also do a reasonable job in their respective roles. I particularly like the fact that Quorra is rather naive and wide eyed but at the same time sexy and can kick butt!

There were a few things in the movie which irritated me slightly; plot points which were ether blatantly obvious or completely mystifying. For instance a custom lightcycle made by Flynn, fastest on the grid? Yeah, Sam’s going to be using that! Also why didn’t Flynn use his powers earlier and what is with Tron’s story? Oh and "biodigital jazz".

A feeling of nostalgia washes over me, I did enjoy the movie but overall I think it lacks the soul of the original and did not live up to my own hype. Ultimately watch the movie for its stunning visual style and some truly brilliant action sequences but don't go for a clear and deep story.

Stefan Harkins is working on composing some biodigital rap metal. Scared? You will be.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

New Beginnings - Heroes for Hire #1

Fresh from the final issue of Shadowland, we have issue #1 of the latest incarnation of Heroes for Hire.

Originally published in the late 70’s when Luke Cage and Iron Fist teamed up, Heroes for Hire has gone through various team rosters. The newest cohort is virtually straight from the pages of Shadowland. For those who haven’t been following that story, this gives you: Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, The Punisher, Moon Knight, Black Widow, Misty Knight, Paladin, Falcon, Silver Sable and Elektra.

Two things immediately spring to mind for me. Firstly, can you have a Heroes for Hire without the Luke Cage? Secondly, this is a massive roster for a relatively small offering, especially considering that at least two of the “squad” are doubling up with the Secret Avengers and others are notorious for working solo.

The former is answered very quickly as Abnett and Lanning have stamped their own mark on it to ensure you don’t need Cage in there, however I wouldn’t be surprised if he showed his face at some point regardless of Thunderbolts and/or Avenger commitments.

The latter however I am still very conflicted over. The cover was beautifully aggressive and vibrant featuring Iron Fist, Ghost Rider, Elektra, Moon Knight and Punisher all champing at the bit for action, only half of the full roster. Imagine my disappointment when the first issue betrayed my excitement by not having all the cover stars inside.

The other predicament was that the issue just had too much by the way of hero. The premise of a new narcotic and greed is an oldie but a goody. Sadly the constant chopping and changing from the handler to the different heroes became dull as if they had simply been used and discarded. There was no emotional attachment to characters I wasn’t overly familiar with. A couple of points did pique my interest, such as the silent Paladin, but this was my interest in the person and not really the story.

A saving grace is that amongst all the action and direction shifts, the artwork behind it is great. Full of colour - even the lettering for extra emphasis - it’s a credit to inker Jay David Ramos’s good work. If the art hadn’t been strong enough I don’t think the story would have held up. It is only the final pages of the story that had the extra save for me, as the twist was one that gave me a head tilt.

The extra inclusion of the Heroes For Hire history was interesting but not enough. It is frustrating to see a title with so much potentially that failed to deliver for me. I may pick it up again in the future but it will be cautiously and when the dust has finally settled leaving the group to establish their own roots.

Matt Puddy likes his heroes to be team players and not agency temps. True story.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Watcher - Monsters

Monsters is a film shot, directed and written by Gareth Edwards. Created on a shoestring budget with a small crew, but it doesn’t show at all!

A fresh face on the Hollywood scene, Edwards started off as a CG visual FX technician and always wanted to make a ‘monster’ movie of his own. He won the Sci-Fi London’s 48-Hour Film Challenge in 2008, which already shows the building blocks of his style and his first steps towards making Monsters.

The basis of the movie is that a NASA space probe has crash landed in America bringing with it alien life forms. Six years later there is a massive section of land between the United States and Mexico sectioned off as ‘infected’. We have giant squid-like creatures roaming the land and the armed forces trying to stop them doing damage, but as always causing some themselves.

Right from the start of the movie (which has a slight Cloverfield feel), we get glimpses of the monsters in the midst of army grunts and gunfire all displayed in night vision. This changes quickly when morning comes; we are hit with the after effects all this is having on Mexico and its citizens.

The two main players of the movie are unwittingly thrown together. One is a journalist who just wants to get some good shots and get paid. The other is the boss’s daughter who he has been assigned to collect and look after.

Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy who play the leads do so brilliantly; they are really the only actors in the movie, Edwards decided to cast all other roles with extras that he met during travels across the country. This gives the movie and its characters’ journey a more natural feel. Adding to this is the fact that Able and McNairy were actually a couple during filming and are now married!

The movie focuses more on these characters and what happens to them, their relationship and keeps the science fiction to the background. The monsters themselves just feel like new wildlife learning and stumbling through our lives. I found their use of light very interesting. I was not sure whether they used it for feeding or communicating - or were they just attracted to it?

Watch out for some brilliantly shot scenes involving the appearance of a fin in the water and later the shocking aftermath of a real hurricane as our characters enter the US.

“I tell you what I've learned on this film: you can make a movie for nothing. You can make a film for 10 grand, 10 million, whatever you want.” Gareth Edwards

I wish more directors/producers would learn from this. We would then have fewer movies like Transformers 2 and more like Monsters! When it comes to Gareth Edwards, definitely watch this space in the future!

Stefan Harkins would like to thank Cineworld, Cheltenham for making review possible..

Monday, 6 December 2010

Bite Sized Morsels - The Prowling The Savannah Digest

Here's what you might have missed last week:

We kicked off the week with a look at the recent preview event for the forthcoming Tron: Legacy, which opens in cinema on 17th December 2010.

On Thursday, Matt took a look at two other titles from the Bat-family with new beginnings - the now sold out detective Comics #871 (second printings coming soon) and Batwoman #0, the teaser issue for the new ongoing series launching next year.

More news on Friday, including the controversy surrounding The Walking Dead, series two and the initial batch of titles announced for Free Comic Book Day.

We also unveiled our opening times for the festive season...

...and announced the awesome Christmas raffle we're running this year! Stop by and grab a few tickets. Be lucky!

Stick around folks, we're just getting warmed up.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Christmas Raffle!

Those of you who follow Proud Lion's Facebook page, you may have seen my recent attempt to sell my silver Iron Man helmet on eBay for charity. 50% of the proceeds would have gone to Winston's Wish. Sadly, it didn't sell - perhaps due to the high starting price. Frankly though, we need to raise a certain amount to cover costs. After all, the helmet has an RRP $349 (plus sales tax) or £300 including VAT.

So rather than relist it on eBay, I have decided to raffle the helmet instead!

Tickets go on sale today. They are £1.00 each. 50 pence of the proceeds will go to Winston's Wish. And with every ticket purchased you get a free comic of your choice from the 50p box! You can of course increase your chances of winning by buying multiple tickets!

The aim is to sell 150 tickets or more. If we manage this by Saturday 8th January 2011, then I will do the draw at the close of business for the following superb prizes.

the silver Iron Man helmet

set of four Blackest Night figures
(Nekron, Black Lantern Batman, Black Lantern Deadman and Black Lantern Hawkman)

two Blackest Night figures
(Nekron and Black Lantern Batman)

a comic book pack from the box

If we don't sell 150 or more by this point, I'll either extend the deadline (if we're nearly at our target) or do a single draw for the prize fund collected thus far (ie - if we sell only 75 tickets, that's a prize fund of 75 x 50p = £37.50).

Tickets are on sale today. You can enter multiple times and each £1 ticket includes a donation to Winston's Wish and a 50p comic. Not too shabby.

Friday, 3 December 2010


A little later than planned but here it is, the best in TV, film, gaming and comic book news from across sci-fi, fantasy and more.

Following on from our preview of the new Family Guy Star Wars spoof a few week ago, here's a new and somewhat funnier trailer.

I have been reading comic since the Eighties, but it really kicked in to high gear in the Nineties when I found an American comic shop and some friends who also read US comics. One of the first storyarcs I read was the sprawling Onslaught saga that engulfed the entire Marvel Universe. You may complain about recent crossovers, but they have been a bargain compared to the financial commitment required to read the whole Onslaught story.

Despite that, I still have a misplaced sense of affection towards Onslaught. A few years back, Marvel released Onslaught Reborn, which was a crushing disappointment. Now they're bringing the super villain back once again in the forthcoming Onslaught Unleashed. I have to hope this is better than the last one! The miniseries writer, Sean McKeever, spoke to Newsarama this week.

In other news, Marvel announced that the video game tie-in to the new Thor will be voiced by Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki respectively.

Series one of AMC's The Walking Dead comes to an end this weekend but this week has been dogged by petty drama behind the scenes.

Deadline.com ran a story earlier this week saying that Frank Darabont has basically fired all of the writers from the first season and is planning to use only freelancers for season two.

Talking to TVGuide.com today, Robert Kirkman tried to clarify the situation, "It's kind of unfortunate that it's being reported that our writing staff has been fired because that's not the case. It makes Frank look bad. I don't think Frank wants it out there that he's just firing people off of a successful show seemingly for no reason."

Among the writers apparently let go is Chic Eglee, who was set to be the showrunner for series two if Darabont had left as originally planned. Eglee's previous credits include Dexter, Dark Angel and The Shield. "Chic didn't want to be second-in-command on a show when he's used to being a top dog," explained Kirkman. "And so he decided to go off and do something else, which is something that happens and is not a big deal."

AMC would only confirm that there will be some changes behind the scenes before pre-production begins on the second season.

Another production causing controversy was The Dark Knight Rises. Earlier this week it was reported that Chris Nolan would be using cutting room floor footage of Heath Ledger and CGI to put a Joker cameo into the third film. Today Hollywood Reporter carried a story quashing those rumours, after they spoke to Nolan and his wife/producer Emma Thomas at an awards season party for Inception. Which is a bit of a shame really, I think that's something I would've liked to see.

Finally this week, Diamond have announced the Gold Sponsor Books for next year's Free Comic Book Day. Titles from Dark Horse, DC, Marvel, Image and others have been revealed - or in the case of DC, teased over at the Free Comic Book Day website. Free Comic Book Day 2011 will be on Saturday 7th May.

Ben Fardon loves Free Comic Book Day, but is struggling to find his Christmas spirit.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

New Beginnings Double Bill - Detective Comics #871 & Batwoman #0

This week, following on from the last review of Batman Inc. and Batman: The Return, Batwoman and Detective Comics #871 take a turn.

Batwoman is a zero issue preparing the way for the new series as written by Williams and Blackman. Whilst it is not branded as a Batman Incorporated title, it quite clearly is part of the bigger picture, or at least will be.

Interestingly the issue presents both a live and retrospective view at the same time, with the care and effort having been taken to make the look and feel of both aspects different. The use of different artists and inkers is an obvious example of this.

The issue is also unique, as it portrays an intelligent and well-trained main character who in this issue does not utter a single word. This is all about learning who Batwoman is from a third party with the luxury of being given the full narrative too. It is of course Bruce’s take on all of this that helps the reader along the way. It also demonstrates the lengths he’s willing to go.

All of this helps to make it a good introduction into the new beginning.

Now I’m not a Batwoman fan myself, but having come across her in the pages of 52 I knew who she was and where she came from, however I can honestly say that this was handy but not a necessary insight to have. Through Bruce’s deductions, this issue explores what has moulded Kate Kane into the masked crusader she is and - if you read between the lines - also shares some more of his mindset.

My criticism of it all though is the length. I felt a little cheated when reading through it that I got literally half way through the comic, the staples were a dead giveaway here, to find it was over. To be continued. The remainder of the issue was simply adverts and teasers. Somewhat unfair on the reader no matter how much of a fan.

Detective Comics #871 is also another new beginning, welcoming up-and-coming writer Scott Snyder. Retaining the mantle of Batman, we see Dick Grayson now having to live up to more of Bruce’s expectations as well as that of the surrounding world. Alfred was also a scene stealer with his insightful and poignant observations of Dick’s limitations and how he should acclimatise to his new position.

One of the other things I have really liked about the issue is the inking by David Baron. Each different section is given an inherent feeling simply by the wash of colour the background has. This has been enabled Jock’s artwork. Its backgrounds are non-descript and even empty, leaving the canvas free for Baron to work his magic. To the contrary the artistry in the foreground is full of fine tight linework but only to the extent of what is needed and not simply artwork for its own sake. The combination works very well together and gives a strange feeling of quiet, almost whispered interactions throughout the story.

The story itself opens with a mystery, as any good detective plot should and therefore holds the underlying theme of the title itself. Having never read Detective Comics before, it was nice that I was given a mystery and led through the initial steps of solving it too. I even found myself taking guesses at the possible culprits, only to then be left counter-guessing myself again later. A good story touch I felt. Even when it provides you with only the name of the possible villain behind this all, you are still questioning the evidence.

Something that I liked further was the way in which it didn’t have any involvement from Bruce. The occasional reference was the only indication but apart from that this title is all about Grayson, a chance for him to really strike out on his own again, reminiscent of his time as Nightwing. It also allowed his relationship with Commissioner Gordon to grow which is bound to prove invaluable in the future. I especially liked the nod towards change in Gordon’s comment about having to get used to Batman now being there, “...when I look back up.”

Without wishing to rave too much about it, Detective Comics #851 is a good strong entry for Snyder as his first foray into the series. I would hope that for long term readers it is on par with his predecessors, but as I have no knowledge of them all I can say is that this was a great start and well worth a read.

Matt Puddy will be pleased to know that he'll get a chance to review something from Marvel next week!

Christmas Opening Times 2010

Subject to change, here are the opening times for the festive period. If you like the artwork, it comes from the Larfleeze Christmas Special, on sale Thursday 23rd December in the UK.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Watcher - Tron: Legacy, 23 Minute Preview

Being a sucker for spoilers, I was quite happy to travel to a different city for a free 23 minute preview of the new Tron movie. Even friends scoffing at me couldn’t dampen my mood. Upon arrival at screening we went straight for the VIP seats - what the hell, it was a free screening and we were going to take advantage!

We start with a very Eighties-style text introduction along with a short premise; Kevin Flynn has turned his experiences inside the Grid into a popular videogame – Tron. But at the height of his fame and power as head of Encom, he disappears which leaves his son Sam to grow up all alone.

Our first scene starts with Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) visiting Sam to inform him of a page which seemed to originate from Flynn's Arcade. This leads Sam curiously back to the place where his father used to reside.

The arcade has a nostalgic feel - anyone who has a love of classic arcade games will be delighted when Sam restores the power and all the machines jump to life, filling the room with their sound effects. Upon further exploration Sam discovers a secret room which is hiding some very strange looking equipment.

Sam is then digitised into the world of Tron where he is captured and provided with his own in game suit and data disc. The new black suits with bright coloured lines, definitely feel respectful of the original but at the same time futuristically updated.

Next we are treated to an updated disc battle. No longer are the players standing on giant rings, instead they’re within a glass room where sections vanish when hit. The 3D is spectacular, especially the derezzed opponent exploding into a mass of multi-coloured cubes.

We get a glimpse of the brilliant new Lightcycles, now fatter and open-topped, reminding me of the Batpod from The Dark Knight. A rebel program Quorra (Olivia Wilde) helps Sam get off-grid and leads him to an older, wiser-looking Kevin Flynn. He seems to be living in an iPod-styled mountain hideout which allows him to watch over the world he created.

There are large hints towards Clu 2.0 (the program version of Flynn) being the movie's main antagonist. I did find the CGI manifestation of Bridge's face somewhat creepy, but I imagine that will add to my dislike of the character.

As things draw to a close, the pace is amplified and we see shots of the silver-haired and flamboyant Michael Sheen, new vehicles and an upside down disc battle! This is brought together perfectly by the synthetic sounds of Daft Punk (along with a nice cameo).

I enjoyed the composure of the preview because they selected five scenes which are in order but not sequential. This gave a feel for the story without giving too much of it away. December 17th cannot come soon enough.

Stefan Harkins still hopes that sitting on a computer scanner will transport him into the digital world. So far, all he has is photocopies of his own bottom.