Saturday, 29 January 2011

Winter Raffle - The Results

OK, fifteen prizes and fifteen lucky winning tickets to announce.

Together we raised £75.00 for Winston's Wish! Based locally, Winston's Wish are a national charity who help bereaved children, young people and families struggling with the death of a family member or loved one. I'm proud to be able to support them, even in this small way.

So without further a do, here are the prize winning tickets in the order they were drawn starting with the runners up prizes.

a comic book pack from the box
The winning tickets are: 13, 126, 87, 2, 125, 14, 71, 91, 80 and 81

The Dark Knight poker set
The winning ticket is 31

Black Butler artbook
The winning ticket is 49

two Blackest Night figures
(Nekron and Black Lantern Batman)
The winning ticket is 134

set of four Blackest Night figures
(Nekron, Black Lantern Batman, Black Lantern Deadman and Black Lantern Hawkman)
The winning ticket is 106

And finally, the grand prize taken from my own personal collection...

the silver Iron Man helmet
The winning ticket is 96

Congratulations to everyone who won and commiserations to everyone else. Thank you for supporting Proud Lion in our efforts to raise money and awareness for this local charity.

Please come in and collect your prizes over the course of the next few weeks. You will ideally need to bring your ticket for proof, but I do have a record of the surnames of each of the winning tickets so I can help to match them up if you have lost your ticket.

Any prizes unclaimed by Free Comic Book Day on Saturday 7th May will be entered in to a redraw using all the remaining tickets so hang on to your tickets till then, you never know!

Thanks again everyone, have a great weekend.

The Reluctant Geek - Here Be Dragons

So if you are one of the three faithful readers who has waded through my modest blog offerings thus far, then you might be forgiven for assuming that there is nothing particularly ‘reluctant’ about my geekdom at all. Passionate defences of comic books and computer games probably don’t scream “I am cool and urban and mainstream innit.” But bear with me, because this week things are going to get geekier still. I’m going to talk about (hushed tones) RPGs.

It still feels slightly like something that should remain a dirty little secret, but a few years ago I began playing Dungeons and Dragons regularly with a group of friends. It was an introduction to a strange world of 20-sided dice, wizards and stats for everything from ambidexterity to fortitude to who-can-make-the-most-cups-of-tea-ability. (OK, I made the last one up.)

The reams of complicated data involved in creating, developing and modifying a character would make a devilishly sneaky way of tricking children into doing Maths. But as a grown-up, I was both skeptical and slightly bewildered. Luckily, my friends showed real life fortitude in nudging me in the right direction, and shaking their heads indulgently when I insisted on referring to some of our early monsters as “baby lizard dragon things”. (Apparently, the technical term is “Kobolds”!)

I know this is the point where I am supposed to reveal my gradual conversion to the wonders of the game, but honestly, D&D never gripped me. The tedium of the constant dice throwing and adding up of points can be rather trying when you’re a control freak, and I was tempted more than once to throw a diva-style strop when the rolls didn’t go my way. It was equally tempting to try to wipe the smiles off the faces of those little plastic figures with their mindless adherence to the goddess of chance.

Anger management issues aside, what D&D did do for me was open my eyes to how much fun the more freeform elements of role playing can be. I was never that interested in choosing which specialist skill to use to squish the latest troll with, but I did like talking through how to convince the pretty bar wench to tell us the village gossip, or tricking an elderly wizard into helping us kill some goblins.

So from the supremely geeky, stat-driven world of D&D, I began to roleplay in some other games. Games that were driven by story and player decisions. Games where your actions had greater consequences than your dice rolls. And games where an ability to talk your way out of a situation mattered more than arbitrary points on a sheet.

And honestly, I kinda liked it. Creating a character and then being given by your GM a context for that character to exist is the best kind of collaborative storytelling, and as far as ways to spend an evening go, it’s got to be more creatively rich than watching Hollyoaks. Another of Proud Lion’s wise bloggers pointed out recently that immersion is, quite literally, the aim of the game. And the wonderful thing about immersion is that by its very definition, it takes you out of the humdrum of real life for a while and presents you with a whole new world. A world that might be dangerous, or beautiful, or morally equivocal. But always a world that makes you think.

On a less lofty note though I would, if confronted, also argue that RPGs actually make for a pretty sociable hobby. Not perhaps the best environment for dieting since it seems to be some unwritten rule that playing an elf, or exploring space, or ghost hunting in London are all activities best undertaken whilst jacked up on sugar. But a rather lovely way to find out more about your friends, or to get to know acquaintances better.

And on that warm and fuzzy note, I’m off to dig out my D20…

Kate Townshend is patient zero all over again.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

New Beginnings - Daredevil Reborn #1

If you read my review of Shadowland then you know I valued it, a title that brought back my love of Daredevil. It makes sense that I would be looking forward to Daredevil Reborn.

Once again written by Andy Diggle, it really is opening up to be the “Whatever Happened to Matt Murdock?” of the Marvel Universe. As a continuation of his fall from grace it works well as we now see the broken Murdock quite literally searching for himself in the desert. There is a real feeling that he has tried to shed his old skin and is trying to shape his own redemption plan without even knowing what it looks like. In this respect I especially liked the cover art because although it has no direct relevance to the story, I felt it’s symbolism was almost iconic in itself. Daredevil IS dead and let us not forget that his successor, the Black Panther, has already draped himself with the 'Man Without Fear” mantle.

This opens the playing field for Diggle to roam wherever he wants and I’m expecting big things from the creative freedom it leaves him.

The story - as the first part of the mini series - is a tad basic, but instead of weighing it down with intricate plot details it explores the underlying tone that WE all know who this lone wanderer is. We all know he could easily fight his way out of the mid-issue situations he finds himself in, but the key point is he didn’t. His inner struggle continues until finally his sense of justice snaps him back by the end of the issue. A fantastic hook for readers and a great teaser to lead you into the next issue. Bizarrely I found myself thinking of Judge Dredd and justice out in the wasteland.

As said before the story is a new beginning point for everyone - reader, writer and in particular artist. The linework and colouring is completely different to the dark shadowy depths of Shadowland. The general page has a lighter muted tone surrounds Murdoch, giving the sense of vagueness that he is feeling now that he has become - in essence - a drifter. The linework itself is bolder with less detail outside of your focus meaning you are drawn specifically to characters and items that you need to see.

Most important is the actual use of shadow. In the sunny desert where shade is a luxury it would be easy to use this as a scenic prop. Instead it has been used as a fantastic tool to give the reader a great sense of apprehension towards the locals of this close knit town. Through the use of shadow, you lose their eye contact. Ironically this is something that the blind Matt Murdock wouldn’t even bat an eyelid at.

This is a great issue for anyone to pick up as it has a multitude of layers. New readers may be put off by its apparent basic persona but read it again and there is more depth to be found. Seasoned readers should see a lot more too and the hook for future issues is there, giving great promise to the next step of what Daredevil could be.

Matt Puddy was in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden he looked down and saw a tortoise...

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Big Game Hunting - Arsenic, Writing and Gaming - It All Equals Immersion

There’s one universal truth when it comes to writing, gaming or designing games. Unless the setting and the elements in the setting are believable, people are going to ask too many questions, ruin their immersion and ultimately dislike what you've done. If you've encountered gamers like me, you’ll know that the first thing they do is jump - from a great height - onto something that’s probably not a plot point and run with it like it was a big juicy bone.

What’s worse is I know that people do it, so I deliberately build my games so that if there happens to be someone interested in doing that, there’s plenty to keep them amused. It’s not exactly the ‘Black Book of Making Sure Your Players are Immersed’ but like many other game designers, I spend my time writing to ensure that the people playing have fun.

Recently, NASA announced that they’d discovered a bacterial life form that could grow in arsenic. Phosphorous is chemically very close in structure to arsenic and it is one of the six ‘building blocks’ of life as we know it: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur. A key part in the chains of DNA and RNA is made up of phosphorous. The most amazing part of all of this is despite the fact that arsenic is poisonous to life forms, that there are actually life forms growing out of it, changing the biological perspective of how the ‘building blocks’ of life can be formed.

No more silicone based life forms for us, oh no.

In writing, gaming and probably design, it’s crucial to understand how things work in your environment. In writing, you don’t need to let people discover it themselves – as the story unfolds you can introduce and explain as much as you need for your readers to gain immersion. In gaming, having ‘rules’ to explain what you’re talking about or aiming at is enough to give people immersion - in the case of anyone designing and setting up a world, as long as you've got rules for it, then anything goes.

But I’ll be honest – had someone wandered in and said, "I’ve evaluated the alien, it seems he’s made of arsenic," my first thought would be, "OMG! Aliens! Acid blood!" and my second thought would be, "Man, even being around him - if he sweats - we’re dead!"

And that leads to – does he have a space suit? Can we bodge one for him? What do we do with him?

And suddenly we’re immersed in the game - the story, and it’s all good.

Next week, D Kai Wilson-Viola will talk about planning an RPG campaign from a writer's perspective.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Reluctant Geek - Wandering off the Path

So after last week’s revelations, I thought I’d continue the confessions theme, and ‘fess up this time around to being a bit of a girly cliché when it comes to computer games. I was addicted to the point of mania to The Sims whilst studying for my finals and my housemates were practically forced to stage a group intervention in order to save my degree.

To this day, I imagine myself ‘plusing’ when I meet someone new and find out we have things in common. Much as I hate the kind of lazy marketing that leads companies to fall prey to the ‘paint it pink and girls will like it’ school of thought, if it’s cute, quirky or pretty to look at I’m probably pretty excited about it.

It’s not just computer games either. Board games set on complex and not very beautiful mining ships three thousand years in the future don’t really do it for me. Whereas, trolls, dwarves and elves (Hello Small World!) kind of do.

Before any hardcore gamers stop reading in absolute disgust, let me attempt to redeem myself by pointing out I also used to be a bit of a dab hand with an Arctic in Counter-Strike and its various spin offs. But more importantly, despite a bit of a predilection for the cutesy, what I really care about is narrative. A compelling story with something to say. And this is as true when it comes to gaming as it is when it comes to great comics, or movies, or TV.

At the risk of returning to controversial territory then, I want to talk about a game called The Path. Although I’m really only using the word ‘game’ for the sake of a convenient label here. The Path is a beautiful, puzzling, compelling experience that stays with you like the fragments of a dream. I know this must sound unnecessarily artsy, but that’s kind of the point. The Path is a computer game. But it is also unapologetically, passionately and assuredly a piece of art.

The Path is loosely based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood, which instantly grants it a licence to deal with all of the darkness, nastiness and suppressed sexuality that are mandatory components of all of the best fairytales. Tale of Tales, the independent company behind The Path, describe it as a horror game and despite an absence of any obvious visceral gore, it really is. There is something deeply unsettling about guiding the female protagonists through the gorgeous forest setting of the game, through sunlit meadows, past forgotten childhood haunts, and finally amongst the tall trees in the unyielding battering rain en route to Grandma’s house.

I want to say more but to do so might spoil it; if you haven’t played or even heard of it then I urge you to do so immediately! Don’t try to find out any more about it. The experience itself is kind of the point and all of the best experiences should be enjoyed first and analysed afterwards. Especially when the experience is as atmospherically dense as this one.

The thing is though, like The Sims before it but with much more potential loss to the world, The Path is in danger of being labelled a "game for girls". And as such, of somehow limited appeal. Female gamers are largely aberrations, right? Everybody knows that your average gamer is male, white and geeky. Aside from the obvious and dreadful stereotyping inherent in this, it does men a disservice to assume that they only play games to shoot stuff, blow things up and pretend to be heroes. Like comics, computer games are an under-used but incredibly rich medium for cultural expression, and it seems crazy to narrow down the audiences for the brave ones that really push the boundaries even more.

So maybe I *am* a girly cliché when it comes to gaming. But actually this idea that girls like pink and baby animals and proper stories, whereas boys like guns and explosions and women with authentically bouncy cleavage (I’m looking at you Mortal Kombat) is limiting us all. So go on, I’ll give Call of Duty Black Ops a go, if you’ll just try The Path.

Kate Townshend is plus-ing all over the place. (Not a euphemism!)

Thursday, 20 January 2011

An Indie 2010 Retrospective - Artifacts (Top Cow)

Taking a look back at all the independent comics that pricked my interest in 2010, there is a whole raft of titles I could use. The morbidly curiously and intriguing Abattoir for instance, which revolved around a mysterious albeit creepy man who was insistent on purchasing houses which had recently been the site of gruesome and gory murders - it certainly raised an eyebrow.

Instead I have chosen a favourite of mine, which has been for some time as well, to fly the flag.

Through 2010 Top Cow has been working feverishly hard. Not only have we seen new titles such as “Broken Trinity: Pandora’s Box” and long established series like “The Darkness” and “Witchblade” getting stronger but we have what I would call a culmination title – “Artifacts”.

Whilst only four issues were published last year, they form the first chapter of this thirteen issue series. Bringing together all the obvious and well known protagonists like Sara Pezzini (current Witchblade bearer) and Jackie Estacado (wielder of the Darkness) with characters from the whole Top Cow universe; Artifacts has done extremely well to take a brand and forge forward without overloading the reading of making the story too heavy.

The basic premise is that throughout the world there are 13 artifacts. Individually they bear huge amounts of power, but if you were to bring them together then you would be able to change and reshape the world or alternatively bring it to an end. The proposition brings good and evil to an impasse once more and the race is on to find, and persuade, the holder of the 13th artifact to choose a side and ultimately decide the world’s fate.

It sounds like an age old story but Ron Marz has managed to tell it in a way that intertwines the stories of all those involved too. The gravitas of the plot is always there but lightened by the interpersonal relationships of all of those involved - something that TC has worked great lengths on to achieve. They’ve also worked hard to ensure that the casual or new reader is not lost by adding two pages at the end of each issue to give succinct and meaningful character points as well.

The artwork is, as always, fantastic. I was first attracted to The Darkness because of Marc Silvestri’s linework and artistry and this has carried on through all of the titles and into Artifacts. The interesting tack that they have used as well is that each character has retained its original artist when they are the main focus. This means that the reader gets exposed to not only who they are but how they are drawn - a great way to introduce the individual titles separately.

Overall this is a cracking title to follow and an easy one to pick up. It is well worth taking a look at this or indeed any individual part of the Top Cow Universe. This is a great comic, title and series made by a company that truly lives and feels for the art, story and fans.

Matt Puddy wields a powerful artifact, but modesty prevents him from telling you about it.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Big Game Hunting - Enjoying Writing If You’re A Gamer

Most people, from the outside, think it’s the best job in the world. You can pad downstairs in your PJ’s, curl up with a nice cup of tea, and enter a world of your own making. Or use all those English lessons that you daydreamed through to make a good living.

It gets a bit vague after that – most people seem to focus on the bliss of working from home than the actual work of writing though, and don’t realise that doing it day in, day out kind of takes the shine off it.

While writing is a dream gig, it’s also one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, not because it’s technically difficult (it is, but so are other jobs); not because it’s hard to motivate yourself (it is, but if you’re self-employed, that can be true anyway); and certainly not because people ‘don’t get’ writers (most don’t, but I can’t get my head around regular jobs either). It’s because being ‘always on’ is harder than any other career.

For a start, writing isn’t just a job. It’s not just a vocation. It’s a calling. And I don’t mean that in the poseur way – I mean quite literally, once you begin writing, it’s something you’ll often never stop. Not for long anyway.

It changes your perspective of the world. It’s not all dramatic and angst ridden though – writing is fulfilling, rewarding and to be honest, I kind of get a thrill knowing that I’ve got as much power in the world I’m writing in, as worlds I game in. And honestly, where else can you plan setting fire to a merry-go-round full of bodies without getting arrested?

Megalomania and serial killer tendencies aside, it’s difficult to keep things entirely fresh and separate sometimes – I write horror and sci fi, so playing in grim-dark-sci-fi sometimes feels like I’m back in the world I was writing – it was worse for us when I was playing a Mage in World of Darkness.

The always on thing comes back to bite me lots of the time – and unlike a regular gaming schedule, I can’t predict when my muse is going to hop up and down and sucker punch me with the new ‘thing’ I need to be writing – in fact, she normally gets me either in game, or just before it. And I’ve yet to find a stat line that gives me the opportunity to play a slightly scatter-brained, distracted type in game with any regularity.

What I have found though, is the more I role-play, the more I like designing games - I can see where games work, and where they don’t – and I really quite enjoy designing something that might work better. Keeping it fresh and interesting might be hard, but you know what, I’d never change my job for the rest of the world, and I still love exploring other worlds, whether it’s of my making – or that of someone else’s.

If you have any requests regarding gaming and writing, D Kai Wilson-Viola would love to hear them.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Reluctant Geek - Waking up with the Sandman

So I think it’s best to get this out of the way up front. I used to be one of ‘those’ people. You know the ones. The type who dismiss superhero movies as the indulgences of overgrown children with a penchant for tights. The type who recoil in something akin to horror when anyone mentions D&D stats openly, as if it’s not a shameful secret best saved for behind closed doors. The type who roll their eyes when anyone even references Star Wars. (Actually, to be honest, I’m not so sure this one is a bad thing). And worst of all, the type who sneer at comic books as a form of ‘literature’ best reserved for eight year olds, Americans and 40 year old men who still live with their parents.

Picture the scene. It’s the end of the nineties and I’m a fresh faced undergraduate, reading books by Satre and De Beauvoir and waving my English Literature studies around as proof of my wise and profound nature. In spite of this, I seem to have somehow ended up surrounded by Mathematicians and Computer Scientists and people who say things like ‘hypertext transfer protocol’ without even a trace of irony.

One enlightened individual in particular simply refused to stop banging on about how comics, or ‘graphic novels’ as he more frequently called them in what I assumed was a futile re-branding exercise, were an art-form in themselves. And as such, full of limitless, exciting possibilities. No matter how many times I tried to hold up my freshly bought copy of War and Peace as some kind of defense against this nonsense, he insisted in particular, that I give some series called the Sandman a whirl.

So reluctantly, practicing my scathing and witty criticism before I’d even opened the first book, I took some time out from my heavy, 5 hour a week schedule (it’s tough being an arts student) and gave it a try.

Neil Gaiman’s iconic series was first published between 1989 and 1996, so it’s fair to say I was late to the party even back in ‘99. But late or not, and despite my valiant efforts to dismiss it, from the very first reading it was pretty evident that only an idiot would be declaring this kids' stuff. The series focus on Dream, one of the Endless, and his troublesome siblings, Delirium, Despair, Desire, Destiny, and the surprisingly un-emo Death, with her cute goth girl guise.

I was instantly transfixed, more than anything else because of how smart it was. Gaiman is an intellectual, no doubt about it, and as such not above a little showing off. The series encompass references to everything from classical mythology and Christian theology to Shakespeare, as well as all of the really big ideas that writers and philosophers have struggled with since time immemorial. The words and pictures that make up Sandman allow Gaiman to perform a kind of alchemy, and there really is something a little bit uncanny about the scope of the universe he creates and manipulates. But more than any of this, the format of the storytelling, the comic book or graphic novel or whatever the currently trendy moniker is, enhanced it. It wasn’t great in spite of being a comic book. It was great because of it.

And just like that, any of my pretentions that comic books somehow couldn’t be art simply fell away. Even a language fetishist like me could see that there was something pleasingly thrilling about a story telling medium that didn’t have to follow the sentence after sentence conventions of the literature I was used to. And the more I opened my mind to the possibilities, the more I realized that the liminal state that comics occupied, gave them the scope to be more subversive, more creative, and dammit, even more intellectually worthy, not less. Like anything, there are good examples of the form and bad examples, but the more willing I was to look, the more I began to find the amazing, thought provoking, and deeply enjoyable stuff that was out there.

So, yes, I am no longer one of ‘those’ people. And these days, I’m happy to denounce anyone who dismisses comics out of hand as an ill-informed snob. I do still roll my eyes when people mention Star Wars though…

Kate Townshend has that Friday feeling. Even now.

Friday, 14 January 2011


Clear the decks! Prowling The Savannah is back after festive hibernations. Tomorrow we bring you the first in our new weekend column series from new contributor Kate Townshend. Then on Tuesday the long awaited Big Game Hunting gaming column begins with another new contributor. All very shiny!

But first, the news from this week has basically been eclipsed by the release yesterday of these two pictures...

Your thoughts?

Ben Fardon is loving the Oscar baiting films coming out right now, but is really looking forward to the 2011 blockbuster season!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

This Week's Delivery

Folks, we're going to be short many titles this week. Diamond sent me an email yesterday to explain the situation. This is really disappointing. Hopefully the situation will approve in the coming weeks.

Dear Retailer,

Please be aware that due to weather-related freight congestion, the following titles have not made it into this week’s deliveries , Diamond is doing everything possible to ensure as many of these titles as possible appear in next week’s delivery, and will confirm the contents of next week’s entire shipment on Thursday Jan 13th.

Diamond Comic Distributors.

OCT101087E SIXTH GUN TP VOL 01 (C: 0-0-1)

Saturday, 8 January 2011

A DC 2010 Retrospective - Flash

Over the course of this year DC has gone from strength to strength. Without a doubt I know that if I had not been a fan back in January not a fan, I would be one by now.

Of note I have found a love for Green Arrow which has really grown on me and given a new perspective for me. It's become a great title and it was incredibly hard to not pick it for this!

But instead I felt the limelight needed to shine in a different direction.

The Flash is back and getting better by the issue, culminating in my favourite so far in The Reverse Flash Rebirth.

Starting out with Flash Rebirth - a cracking miniseries in itself - the Flash was reborn into the DCU. A fantastic start point (or place to go back to) for fans new and old alike. The art was smooth, the colours bright and bold and the actual comics themselves felt sleek yet full.

The Flash is now back on the scene was thrown headlong into a fight for justice. Not only in his work life, but the combination of his super life and personal one too, spanning four centuries and an initially confusing return of villains as futuristic cops!

There have been crossovers into Green Lantern including a slightly lacklustre possession by Parallax. We've also followed a Flash villain through Brightest Day, Captain Boomerang - a man who is struggling to understand his new place in the world since back from the dead.

Ultimately everything leads back to one fact. Barry Allen is the fastest man on the planet but he cannot outrun destiny.

Newton said that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and issue #8 of the Flash explains this beautifully. The who, the how and the why behind Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash.

Released by Captain Boomerang in the previous issue, Geoff Johns has taken the time to write a finely tuned story about possibly the strongest villain the Flash has ever faced. It may only be a single issue but it is so well done that I am now eagerly anticipating 2011. The story almost drips the seething hate and rage that drives Thawne - much more than any Red Lantern - and yet at the same time you feel the desperation behind the man.

It’s a short, sharp history of the man who would be and all the possibilities that made him. Inciteful, informative and delving this was the issue that brought the title back for me. It’s not a point to jump on as it's not part of anything, but it is worth seeing and reading.

You can see why Johns was 2010 Spike TV Scream award winner and I hope that his work continues to grow to uphold that accolade in next years work.

Matt Puddy is the fastest cyclist alive. Apparently!

Friday, 7 January 2011

A Marvel 2010 Retrospective - Shadowland

This week I have the torturous task of picking my 2010 Marvel favourite.

This year has seen many memorable new starts, restarts and rebrands. We learnt who Red Hulk is and what happens when you cross Bruce Banner too (which produced my favourite revelation of the year “What if Bruce Banner is the monster and not the Hulk?”).

We have seen the birth of a new generation in Hope and we have also seen Wolverine literally going to hell. The rise and fall of Osborn - villains becoming heroes and vice versa whether they like it or not (Dark Avengers/Thunderbolts). We’ve even seen the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. in possibly the most innovative series in a long while.

But it was the breaking of a man that caught me the most.

That man was Matt Murdock... Daredevil.

Sporting an impressive resume Andy Diggle has helmed Shadowland, after taking over from Ed Brubaker in 2009 with Daredevil #500. Getting settled with other titles such as Thunderbolts and then Dark Reign (including the Daredevil Dark Reign: The List one shot) he is now exclusively Daredevil’s writer and has really flexed his muscles.

Shadowland follows Daredevil's decent after finally taking over as the leader of the Hand. For those who don’t know, The Hand is an organisation built from ninjas, assassins and thieves which on numerous occasions has tried to rid themselves of Daredevil but then approached him to lead them.

Confusing? Possibly, but through reading Shadowland you can see there is a much deeper goal from the Hand and DD’s fall is an integral part of it.

Instigated by Bullseye’s destruction of a housing block, killing over 100 innocents in the process, Matt strives to turn the Hand into a protectorate of Hell's Kitchen. Unbeknownst to him, each turn he makes and each choice taken drives him deeper into the clutches of the Hand and in doing so making him the vessel they seek.

Utilising a cast including Luke Cage, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Iron Fist, Elektra and many more it would be fair to say that maybe there were too many big hitters from the Marvel world thrown into this mini series. It can occasionally get hard to follow the interactions and motivations of everyone in comparison to Daredevil. I was also a little let down by a convenient double agent at the end.

The series spawned a number of accompanying titles and also a variety of one-shots. Of which Ghost Rider was both fantastically written and drawn. This gave me a feel that not only was this Diggle stamping his name on the series but also had the forethought to use this as a conduit. You meet a lot of new characters including a new Power Man and the rebirth of Heroes for Hire after the conclusion.

Whether you agree with the possession angle or not Shadowland explores a dark and enticing corner of the Marvel Universe and veers away from the happy ending culture a lot of stories seem to chase. This is further hit home by Johnston’s “After The Fall” one shot. This is a mass of jump on points. It presents you with a gateway to a multitude of stories to follow in a way anyone can pick up, without being too complicated, and should do too! Plenty of new starts including more to come such as Black Panther: Man Without Fear and Diggle forging on with Daredevil Reborn.

The Shadowland Premiere HC is out February 9th. Selected images taken from The Other Murdoch Papers.

Matt Puddy is the Man Without Beer. Bad times.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

40 Albion Street, First Floor License Available

Stuffed Nonsense have decided to refocus their business and I wish them all the best for the future. For more information on their decision, read their blog post here.

It's a tough time to open a business, so licensing a floor from an existing (and dare I say it, moderately successful!) business is a great start. Together with an ongoing marketing strategy, consistent opening hours and a focused commitment, a small business could really thrive above Proud Lion. It's also a great way for an existing business to downsize during this ongoing economic hardship.

If you or anyone you know is interested, please drop me a line. The first floor will be available from April 1st 2011.

Winter Raffle - update

The date for the raffle draw is being extended till Saturday 29th January.

I said when we started that I aimed to sell around 150 tickets. We're about two thirds of the way there, so I hope with one more push we can reach our target.

To sweeten the deal we have two new prizes going into the pot!

The first is a hardcover art book from the Japanese anime and manga series, Kuroshitsuji (also known as Black Butler). This book was a kind donation from Robert Barton-Ancliffe. Thanks Rob!

The other prizes comes courtesy of Diamond Comic Distributors and is a DC Direct Dark Knight Poker Set (RRP £15).

Both are pretty cool, don't you think?

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)

Black Butler artbook

The Dark Knight poker set

a comic book pack from the box

There's plenty of time to get down and grab a few tickets. You can always score a few more and increase your chances of winning.

Good luck!

Happy New Year!

Now that the dust has settled from the festive season, I wanted to take a moment to say a belated Happy New Year to you all!

This year brings some fantastic comic stories including the War Of The Green Lanterns and Marvel's Fear Itself. We also have some great movies to look forward to including Green Hornet, Thor, Green Lantern and Captain America: The First Avenger!

VAT Increases to 20%
We're all going to be feeling the effects of the recent rise in VAT, but thankfully comics and graphic novels are not affected as they are considered literature! Which is worth remembering. Sadly, action figures, clothing, board games and CCGs are among the things that are affected. For now however, Proud Lion will absorb the additional 2.5% so you won't may any more for any stock we currently have in.

Proud Lion Webstore
Our webstore is currently down and will hopefully be going back up later this month. More news soon.

Winter Raffle
The raffle draw will now take place at the end of January, so plenty of time to get a ticket. We have some new prizes too. Again more details coming soon.

New Opening Times & New Delivery Day
For 2011, our comic delivery day is moving to a fixed Wednesday every week! Started next week, the UK will have comics on sale the same day as the USA. This will mean that most weeks you can walk in from the minute we open on a Wednesday and pick up your new comics! No more waiting around till the delivery arrives. Except on weeks where the Monday is a Bank Holiday.

Because of this, our opening times are changing to:

TUESDAY - 10am - 5:30pm
WEDNESDAY - 10am - 6:30pm
THURSDAY - 10am - 5:30pm
FRIDAY - 10am - 5:30pm
SATURDAY - 10am - 5pm

First Floor Available
Finally, the first floor of Proud Lion is available for licensing again from April 1st 2011. Stuffed Nonsense have sadly decided to refocus their business and I wish them all the best in the future.

A lengthier post will go up later this week outlining the basic details of this opportunity, but if you or anyone you know fancies a low cost way of starting a shop, an art gallery or needs an artist studio please drop me a line at or pop in store for more details.

This Week on Prowling The Savannah
Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of this week, as Matt Puddy takes a look back at some of his favourite comics from 2010.