Archive for the ‘Simon’ Category

Simon’s Marvel Unlimited Read List… In big pic form!

August 29, 2014

As regular listeners of our humble podcast may be aware, Marvel isn’t exactly my home turf. I’ve read a decent amount of Marvel and adore many of the characters that live in the House of Ideas, but I’d be fooling myself to think that I appreciated it as much as I do DC. I recently landed a new job, with this influx of fresh cash, the relaunch of the podcast and me catching the Marvel bug thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy and The Winter Soldier, I decided to invest in the Marvel Unlimited subscription service.

NOTE: For those that do not know, Marvel Unlimited is a subscription service which gives you access to thousands of comics from Marvel’s back catalogue dated anywhere up to 6 months ago. Want to read Frank Miller’s seminal run on Daredevil? Go for it. How about Lee/Kirby’s historic lengthy run on Fantastic Four? It’s there. You can read on your computer or on a tablet/smartphone. There are, sadly, technical glitches galore and for many comics published prior to mid-2000s the guided view is disastrous. It may put you off, but my advice is try! The app is free to download and there are a couple of free issues available on there.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, so I decided to subscribe and began a journey to read all of the Marvel comics I’ve wanted to read for a long time. You can see in the fun (and large if clicked) image what I’ve read, but I have to say, I’ve been blown away by Jim Starlin’s cosmic work running through the 70s and onwards. I’ve stated before that I don’t get on well with comics from the 70s or 80s, but this could not be more different. Starlin’s work felt fun, fresh, interesting, inventive and succeeded in avoiding so many of the pitfalls that make older comics either stale, dated or laughable… Although, I have to say, what the hell is up with Magus’s afro?!

 

starlin-warlock-magus

 

If I were to pick a piece of standout work of what I’ve read it would either be The Life and Death of Captain Marvel, Thanos Quest (beautifully illustrated books) or Jason Aaron’s opening arcs on Thor: God of Thunder, before it was needlessly derailed by an unfortunate The Dark World tie-in arc (no matter what anyone says, it was a tie-in).

So, here’s my image of my read so far, and if there’s anything you think I should be reading, tweet us @thwippingboys or email us thwippingboys@gmail.com!!

fullsize

Simon’s Birthday Swag Bag! (note: does not include bag)

June 19, 2014

So, today was my birthday, I’ve turned the tender age of 27 and thought I’d show off my haul for the day… Now, admittedly, the PS4 and games are more of a present to myself but hey ho, got to treat yourself on your birthday too!

Birthday Swag!

 

 

Game of Thrones on Blu-RayThose of you who have been listening to our Game of Thrones-cast know that I regularly dazzle Jon with my significantly large gaps in knowledge about storylines, characters and places. To be clear, I LOVE Game of Thrones, probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, but it was also something I’ve never gone back and re-watched, always waiting until I had the time buy the blu-ray and watch on a player that didn’t sound like a jet engine (like my PS3 does). Well, that day is here with this lovely box set combining Seasons 1-3! In 9 months time when Game of Thrones returns for Season 5 expect me to layeth the proverbial smacketh down on Jon’s Game of Thrones loving candy ass with a knowledge bomb.

Andre the Giant: Life and LegendWithout meaning to, that last line has provided a perfect transition in to my next present, this one from my other half (in the podcasting sense), Jon. As some may know, both Jon and I are huge fans of wrestling, he’s a lapsed fan and I’m very much still in to it, which is why I was very happy to receive this little number through the post! This is “Andre The Giant – Life and Legend” by Box Brown, a graphical biography of the late Andre The Giant, one of the most popular personalities in and out of the squared circle. I’ve never been one to read the more traditional type of “cartoonist” comic strips with it’s limited dialogue, simple art style and focus on character and humour over the more bombastic nature of superhero comics. I have nothing against the genre, it’s just not been something to match my tastes. Having said that, I am looking forward to digging in to this book, the artwork looks to be steeped in personality and with only 2 pages read, the story has already tugged on my heart strings. Not only that, but dis guy appears, BROTHER.

Andre and Hulk

 

Watch Dogs BundleFinally, I’m a bit of a gamer and would probably talk about them more on the podcast if Jon kept up to date with the happenings… The irony being that Jon was a games journalist for what must have been close to a decade but now only dips his fingers every so often. I recently landed a new job and with it being my birthday as well I decided there was no better time to go “next-gen”. I picked up the Watch_Dogs PS4 bundle which also came with The Wolverine and Man of Steel on blu-ray for free, as well as cheapo copies of Killzone: Shadows Fall and FIFA 14. Onwards and upwards, let the games begin!

Birthday Blu-Rays and GamesTa ta for now!

PS – Cake

 Turtle Cake

WWE EXTREME RULES PREDICTIONS

April 29, 2012

In only a few hours time WWE goes EXTREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEME with its EXTREME RULES pay per view, there will be tables, there will be chairs and there will be an amazing Chicago crowd. So what do I think is going to happen? Let’s get down to it and find out.

 

YOUTUBE PRESHOW

UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP

SANTINO MARELLA vs THE MIZ

I’ve been a big fan of Santino for a while now, outside of the ring he is definitely the funniest superstar on the roster, and inside the ring he is incredibly entertaining, what certainly helps with that is that unlike a lot of other comedy characters, the crowd is behind him in a huge huge way, lets not forget his amazing performance in the Elimination Chamber when considering what he could do. The WWE saw to reward that performance by putting the US Title on him, and it isn’t a move I disagree with, however, there is a real lack of legitimacy to the title due to non-title bouts and generally Santino only feuding with people who wouldn’t be seen to be suitable for the belt (I am looking at you Mr. Otunga) and so WWE need to decide if they want to get behind him in a big way, or pass the title on to someone who can make it mean something.

I’m also a big fan of The Miz, his gimmick needs some fine tuning and revamping, but he has the look and the ring style to be amazing, he is a former US and WWE champion and can undoubtedly bring some relevance back to the title. Sadly The Miz has been in no mans land for 11 months now, doing absolutely nothing of note, even to the point where it was a surprise he found himself on the card for WrestleMania. The guy hasn’t even appeared on TV since then, and now finds himself in the Youtube Exclusive Pre-Show match (much easier when they would be called dark matches.)

The Miz HAS to win this title, if he loses to Santino (as much as I love him) it will destroy all the credibility he has, and with an already packed main event roster (on both shows, should he switch to Smackdown) I cant see any way back, which will be an absolute travesty for someone with his potential.

PREDICTION – THE MIZ

DIVAS TITLE MATCH

NIKKI BELLA vs BETH PHOENIX 

Beth Phoenix is the best WWE diva in 10 years and in my opinion, Nikki and Brie Bella are pretty high up there too (I wonder why), but lets face it, for years now, Divas matches have been considered toilet breaks and the only way I can see this being worth a damn is if Kharma returns or the following happens – Nikki defeats Beth due to interference from Brie, Kharma returns on RAW tomorrow night, completely dominates the twins to the point they are written out (and leave, if the rumours are true) the title is vacated leading to a match between Phoenix and Kharma in a months time.

PREDICTION – NIKKI BELLA

 

INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH

THE BIG SHOW vs CODY RHODES

I’ll come straight out and say it, as much as I respect the guy for being able to do what he can at the size he is, I am not a fan of The Big Show, I don’t like how he has become such an out and out good guy and it annoys the hell out of me. On the flip side I am a HUGE fan of Cody Rhodes, I honestly believe he and Ziggler are the stars of the shows, and in 5 years time better be on top of the company. When Rhodes lost the Intercontinental title at WrestleMania I think everyone saw that it was his time to move in to main eventing, but things haven’t QUITE gone the way it was expected, yes, it will take some time to establish him as a star, but since WM I don’t think he has won a single match, and was even beaten clean by The Great Khali on this weeks Smackdown, that kind of booking, combined with the already discussed packed main event roster gets me worried for Cody.

So does Cody need the title? Yes, by beating Big Show tonight, clean (well, as clean as a heel can nowadays) it will help to further establish him as someone who can defeat the legends, it will also bring some more legitimacy to the title (since Big Show has barely mentioned it since winning) and a process of pushing Rhodes to the main event while holding the title would be incredibly beneficial, as he would become more and more established, but not be lost in the mix since he is a champion. I’d even like to see Rhodes become a dual Champion along with the World Heavyweight Championship, and in order to advance his heel status, simply discard the Intercontinental title since he has no use for it. The title means nothing around Big Shows waist (or shoulder in his case), as he will compete against main event talent 90% of the time in non-title matches, and the Intercontinental title is quite simply mid-card level.

Will Cody win? It is a toss up, it is generally believed The Big Show is retiring within the next 18 months, and in his 13 year run with WWE he had won every title he was eligible for with the exception of the Intercontinental title, a piece of the puzzle missing to make him a grand slam champion, so was this why they gave it to him? Maybe. Does this mean that now that it has been accomplished, he will drop the title? I hope so. Cody to win, purely because he needs it more.

PREDICTION – CODY RHODES

RANDY ORTON vs KANE

FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE

Lets face facts, both of these guys are two amazing workers, Kane is someone who has been underutilized for 13 years now, and Randy Orton is an intense worker (even if I don’t like his clotheslines) but, this feud has been a piece of crap, no build up, no reason, why should I care? Their WM match was ok, it wasn’t great, just ok, and I was happy Kane got the win that night, but this feud needs to end here and now with this match and it is obvious Orton is going to get the win. This match is going to be absolutely brutal, it needs to be to justify the stipulation, lets just hope that brutality masks the lack of interest in the feud itself.

PREDICTION – RANDY ORTON

WWE CHAMPIONSHIP

CM PUNK vs JERICHO

CHICAGO STREET FIGHT

Chris Jericho has been my favourite star since I saw him at 11 years old on WCW, and to see that he was returning to feud with Punk was EXTREMEly exciting. The two best mic & ring workers in the business facing off against each other, but while their WrestleMania match was all kinds of awesome, the feud has fizzled out due to the boring and tedious nature of this whole “alcoholism” storyline, it isn’t interesting, it isn’t new, and the mic work both Jericho and Punk have been doing for it pretty much sucks. But which way is the match going to go? Jericho has been getting the upper hand since WrestleMania, and if he doesn’t win the WWE title he wouldn’t have accomplished anything since returning and would have lost at 4 straight PPV’s, but on the flip side, Punk is the new generation, he is the reigning WWE champion and I think a lengthy reign (without the name Cena on the belt) is doing the world of good.

There are two extenuating factors though that must be considered, the returning Albert/A-Train/Giant Bernard/Lord Tensai is being pushed in to a feud with Punk, this has already been hinted at by Big Johnny. That knowledge, coinciding with the fact that Jericho is expected to leave the WWE around July to tour with Fozzy means he could win the title, have a decent enough (by todays standards) length reign before going, means that we could see some interference by Tensai tonight, costing Punk the match and the title.

There have also been a number of people stating that Punk will win because it is in home town of Chicago, I wouldn’t be so sure, just because he won his Money in the Bank match last year in his home town, it doesn’t mean he should be undefeated when returning there, a loss in his home town would be far more interesting (and gain a much better crowd reaction) than a win.

PREDICTION – CHRIS JERICHO

WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP

SHEAMUS vs DANIEL BRYAN

2 OUT OF 3 FALLS MATCH

How nice it is to see the return of this stipulation, I love the concept for this and it really builds the intensity as the match goes on, and boy does it need it since the shambles of WrestleMania. I predict that Sheamus will gain the first fall in a repeat of the 18 seconds WM match, but that the next two falls will be a longer affair, Daniel Bryan will obviously cause Sheamus to tap out to the YES LOCK for the second fall, leading in to the decider.

Daniel Bryan has been on a hot stream since before WrestleMania and has turned in to the most entertaining man in the company at this point, his wrestling is always top notch, and his mic work is improving in leaps and bounds week in week out, but it is plain as a day to see WWE want Sheamus to be the future of the company, and so due to interference from AJ, Daniel Bryan will succumb once again to The Great White.

PREDICTION – SHEAMUS

BROCK LESNAR vs JOHN CENA

EXTREME RULES MATCH

The big one, the one that will really sell this card as EXTREME, the return of THE NEXT BIG THING. Brocks return came hand in hand with the best edition of Raw in years, and since he has been back I have been loving him, even his overly long promo last week on Raw, which everyone else seems to be moaning about. Now, I was never the biggest fan of Brock in the past, there was nothing wrong with him, I just had other people I cared for more, nor did I really care when he left, a mans got to do what a mans got to do, but I did follow his UFC career and knew what he was capable of, so I was happy to see him return and spice things up a little.

John Cena, conversely, is exactly where he should be, I don’t like him… At all, but I cannot deny he can draw big, big enough that he doesn’t need the title to be the most important man in the company, which is why I’ve been loving the position he has found himself in lately, staying well away from the title scene (and in truth, barely wrestling) and bringing in insane business for the company while letting other people have a bite of the cake.

Like I said, this match is going to be EXTREME, and with the bit of edge the WWE have been adding lately, a bit of blood on this most EXTREME of nights would not shock me in the slightest. In the end, Brock is going to come out on top, a loss straight after his return would absolutely demolish everything WWE have been doing with him and severely affect the impact he is going to have in the coming months.

PREDICTION – BROCK LESNAR

Additional Thoughts – GET DOLPH ZIGGLER ON THE CARD YOU ABSOLUTE FREAKING MANIACS.

Simon’s Movie Review – Justice League: DOOM

March 10, 2012

Justice League: Doom is the latest release in the DC Animated Universe, and the final curtain for its writer, the late Dwayne McDuffie with a story very loosely based on Mark Waid’s fantastic JLA Tower of Babel storyline. Due to either paranoia or a desire for preparedness (depending on your point of view) Batman has covertly developed contingency plans for incapacitating earths mightiest heroes (not THOSE earths mightiest heroes) should they ever be compromised. As is fully expected, it is only a matter of time before these plans fall in to the hands of the dastardly villains of the piece, in the form of Vandal Savage and his LEGION OF DOOM (oooooouuuugh what a rush!)

The first thing I have to say about this piece is that it was a real joy to get such a stellar voice acting cast for this move, The DCAU titles have been incredibly hit and miss with their casting in the past, and so it was a pleasure to hear all the major players of the Timmverse return including the legendary Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly as Batman and Superman respectively. Filling out the heroes voice cast is everyone’s favourite maverick space cowboy Harrison Fo… No seriously, it’s Nathan Fillion, reprising the role of Hal Jordan that he was born to play, and Bumper Robinson as Cyborg, which unfortunately leads me to my first negative, as I felt Cyborg was horribly miscast here, and couldn’t mesh with the voice. Still, to make up for that, we got Alexis Denisof as Mirror Master!! YAY!

As a big fan of anime since my early childhood, I’ve always been attracted to animation that has a real sense of fluidity and energy coursing through it, and so it is more often than not how I tend to judge Western style animation as well, many animations have fallen at this hurdle, but I am happy to say that Justice League Doom passed with flying colours. The animation is smooth and crisp, the colours are bright and poppy without being distracting, and the action scenes have a real sense of energy and power to them, with one particular standout being an all-out brawl between the Martian Manhunter and his LoD counterpart (because we all need evil counterparts right?) in which they seamlessly mutate in to a variety of weird and wonderful creatures.

So what did I think of the story? This was something that I found very difficult to think about, as there are vast changes to a source material that is one of my favourite JLA stories. Overall I felt that once it entered the crux of the story it was a pretty strong adaptation, the change of the motivation behind the villains was; as expected, a ridiculously elaborate bad guy plan, but it worked within its context. The first of two big disappointments for me here was the opening scene, in which the Justice League do battle with The Royal Flush Gang (a villainous team I have always hated) which seems to serve as nothing more than to introduce a deus ex machina of sorts, as well as a rather trite explanation for why Cyborg deserved to be on the team. The second was that there is no real resolution to Batman’s actions, it could have paved the way for a rather intelligent discussion to cap off the movie, thus giving us older fans a secondary layer to enjoy the movie, but instead it was dispatched with rather quickly.

Overall this movie was a fun and entertaining slice of time, the animation was as good as it was ever going to be, as was the voice acting, but I felt some of the more interesting questions that could have been addressed were not. I was also rather unhappy with the inclusion of Cyborg in the story, he had little purpose, and was more than likely in there for no other reason than for DC to try and convince us that HE IS A JUSTICE LEAGUER DAMMIT, especially when other members of the DCU (I’m looking at you and your giant seahorse Aquaman) have been getting the short straw when it comes to animated adaptations for years.

If you’ve been a fan of DC’s other AU output, I’d recommend checking this out, whether this will win over any fans who have been disappointed with the past quality is another question, but what have you got to lose?

To sign off I must point to the funniest (unintentionally) moment of the movie – The Flash is floating in the sea unconscious when the Batplane flies overhead, and Cyborgs robotic hand on a cable swoops down, plucking The Flash out of the water… It was at this moment I shouted “GO GO GADGET ARM!”

8 out of 10 THWIPS!

Simon’s Comic Art Colouring – A Time Lapse Video

January 12, 2012

So, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, I love to colour comic art, it’s just a hobby, and so just use photoshop, I am by no means some crazy pro who does it with watercolours or something, but I thought it might be pretty fun to create a time lapse video of my latest colouring, 3 hours of comic colouring condensed in to 6 minutes. So sit back, enjoy, once watched check out the final piece just below! And most importantly of all, let us know what you think on @ThwippingBoys

Pencils – Paulo Siqueira

Music – @Chris_Thwipping

 

Simon’s Best of 2011 Awards Finale – Comics

January 5, 2012

Best of 2011 Awards

Part 1 – Television

Part 2 – Wrestling

Part 3 – Movies

Now is the time for the final part of my Thwipping Boys Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence, and I am on to that which we love the most… Comics. Unfortunately I must admit, this is very DC-centric, there are a number of books I have wanted to read this year but found myself without the funds or time, but I hope any non-DC fans enjoy this as well.

Comics

Best Writer

Scott Snyder (DC – Batman/Swamp Thing)

Swamp Thing CoverI’ll be the first to admit, I have not read all that much of Snyder’s work, I have heard so much positivity regarding both his work on Detective Comics and his creator-owned American Vampire that they are on the top of my wish-list, but before the DC relaunch I had only minimal exposure to him. All of what I have just said goes a long way to prove just how brilliant a writer he is when I say that with just eight issues (his DC books combined) he is incredibly high up on my list of favourite writers. With Batman, Snyder (and his partner in crime, the exceptional Greg Capullo) is undoubtedly crafting one of the most intriguing plots in recent history, intricately weaving the history of Gotham, of the Waynes and the current status of Batman and the city itself in to a rich tapestry brimming with murder, conspiracy and possible deception (yeaah we’re looking at you Alfred!). I haven’t even covered Swamp Thing, a character I only really knew from being a comics fan, but have read nothing starring him, despite this lack of knowledge Scott Snyder has been able to tell a story knee-deep in Swampy mythology that is easy to follow and most of all, enthralling and entertaining. I do not know what 2012 holds for DC’s comics, but what I do know is, I’d follow Snyder in to the gates of hell, and on to any books he decides to write.

Best Artist

Francis Manapul (DC – The Flash)

The Flash Panel Francis Manapul

The winner of this award would be a surprise to nobody who listens to our podcast. Consistently for 4 months now I have sung Manapul’s praises on The Flash, almost as hysterically as a Justin Bieber fangirl. I was quite worried when I heard Manapul would be co-writing the book, not because of his lack of writing experience, but because I feared it would impact on the quality of his work, I shouldn’t have been worried for a micro-second, his artwork noticeably improved in its creativity undoubtedly due to the fact that no one knows how he works better than himself, so who better to write for him? He has one of the most unique styles in mainstream comics, instantly recognizable for his fluid panel layouts, kinetic penciling and integration of external comic tropes (such as sound effects) in to the very actions of the comic themselves, possibly only bettered in this endeavor by Will Eisner and Frank Quitely. Manapul has developed a strong working relationship with Brian Buccellato since Adventure Comics and that is showcased here with possibly the strongest creative team in terms of internal production – Manapul and Buccellato co-writing, Manapul providing pencils and Buccellato colours.

I have said time and again, due to the sheer beauty of the book, and the need to see it on gloss paper, I will definitely be purchasing the trade paper back of this, and I only hope they release an oversized, wishful thinking I know.

Best Creative Team

Jeff Lemire/Travel Foreman (DC – Animal Man)

Animal Man Issue 4 CoverIn my previous award I stated Manapul and Buccellato on The Flash was one of the strongest creative partnerships in comics at the moment, however, as much as I love them, they are not the best, that goes to Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman on Animal Man. Jeff Lemire has some pretty crazy concepts and ideas inside that head of his, and the sole reason for this team being the recipient of this award is that it would be incredibly easy for those ideas to lose impact or feel ridiculous if they were not executed properly and Travel succeeds. From men with chicken hands, mutating animals, bodies being twisted and turned inside out, and cat skeletons drinking milk, Foreman has managed to convey Lemire’s (frankly sick) ideas in to gross-out moments that shock and surprise, but still feel understated and lack the gratuitous nature of a number of other books in the DCU at this point. I’ve said it before and I’m pretty sure I will say it again, but Animal Man would be adversely affected if either of these two great creators left the book, so I pray to god they are on this forever.

Best Panel

Batman #1 (DC – Greg Capullo)

The panel that, to me, put Capullo square in my mind as one of the coolest artists working at the moment, look at the bat symbol on the boot!!

Best Cover

Daredevil #4 (Marvel – Marcos Martin)

Daredevil 4 CoverGasp Yes yes I know, there’s actually something on here that is non-DC, and while I haven’t read Mark Waid and Marcos Martin’s run on Daredevil I cannot deny that #4’s cover, is an absolutely fantastic cover, and in my opinion the coolest of 2011.  I am a huge fan of the use of stark colours in imagery, so the image of the lone, red Daredevil flipping through the air, his cable coiling through the blank white sky is certainly a powerful one, combine that with the visual metaphor on gun barrels taking the place of skyscrapers, billowing smoke as if chimneys, and you have a clear representation of who Daredevil is and the dangers he faces.

Biggest Disappointment

Action Comics (DC – Grant Morrison, Rags Morales and other cohorts)

Action Comics Issue 1 DC New 52What on earth is going on with Action Comics? This book was THE birth of superhero comics, and it looked as though it was ready to reclaim the mantle of the flagship DC title at the relaunch with Grant Morrison writing, but what we’re left with is a book that doesn’t seem to convince in any area. Morrison’s writing, especially his dialogue, has been shoddy at best, he has failed to capture my attention through his interpretation of the retooled characters, especially what little we have seen of Steel and Metallo and his plot and action is mediocre. Let’s not even start on Rags Morales, he may have proven himself a more than capable artist on Identity Crisis, but for whatever reason quality is sorely lacking in the artwork for this book, it is wildly inconsistent, with characters looking vastly different from panel to panel and it just not having the bite necessary for Action Comics. We have spoken about this point a lot of times before in the podcast, and I think Jonnyjon may have a point that Morales is simply not built for a monthly comic, he works best on mini-series or in short runs in which he can build up a nice amount of completed work before the first issue is even released. Morrison has kept us on this book by the sheer power of his name alone, but how much longer can we read a book just in case it improves? I for one am questioning whether I want to read each month, and sadly, in 15 years of reading Morrison’s work, this is the first time I have thought it simply isn’t good enough to warrant my money.

The One I Missed

Daredevil (Marvel – Mark Waid and Marcos Martin)

daredevil 01 coverFor this additional award I just wanted to highlight one book from 2011 I wish I had read but simply haven’t got round to it, and I have already talked about that book in these awards and that is Marvel’s Daredevil. The reason I failed to pick up this books is because I am YEARS behind in terms of Daredevil lore, having last read the book not long in to Bendis’ seminal run, and I wished to atleast try and catch up before moving on to Waid’s new volume. I feel I may have to detour the past material and Wikipedia it or something, as numerous Best Of lists have it listed as the best comic of the year, and with it being only a few issues in, it may be quite easy to jump in to quite quickly, which is a good thing for us Thwipping Boys as we are always looking for non-DC books, but it is usually quite a struggle!

Best Comic

Animal Man (DC – Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman)

Animal Man Issue 1 CoverI’ve already rabbited on for hours on the podcast and earlier in this post about just how much I love Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman, so I will not keep you long. Every month I seem to repeat myself by stating each issue is one of the best single issues of a comic I have ever read. Lemire and Foreman had big shoes to fill when they took over this book, as the only previous run on Animal Man anyone gives thought to is Grant Morrison’s, and it would be easy to have feared they would tread similar ground because of their link as “mature” comics,  but this team are crafting a dark and gruesome tale of such quality that if the trend continues, could make their run just as legendary as Morrison’s. This book will be a definite purchase for me when the trades are released, and I will continue to funnel money in to the pockets of Lemire and Foreman for as long as they make my first Wednesday of each month enjoyable.

So, there we have it! The end of 2011 and the end of my awards! DC ruled the roost this year, but who knows, we seem to be dropping books quite frequently at the moment, so maybe just maybe, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, or hell… IDW will get a look in next year! Hope you enjoyed, and be sure to either get back to us with your thoughts and choices on Twitter @thwippingboys or in this here comments section!

Simon’s Best of 2011 Awards Day 3 – Movies

January 4, 2012

Part 1 of the Thwipping Boys Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence Awards saw me cover TV, with Part 2 I covered Wrestling. Now, after a technical delay (ie. me forgetting to save my word document and my computer crashing) I present my Movie awards! It has been an interesting year for me when it comes to movies, as I have not seen many of the films that could be considered the best of the year, so no… No Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy on the list.

Best Comedy

Horrible Bosses

 This was a film that I had little to no awareness of previous to actually seeing it, I had seen the trailer and thought it looked alright, but was shocked when I watched it to discover I couldn’t stop laughing. The film follows three honest hardworking guys; driven to the brink of despair by their bosses, fed up with their treatment they enact a plan to off their superiors. The main stars of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis acquit themselves well, with Bateman providing the kind of sterling everyman comedy performance we have come to expect from him, and Sudeikis announcing himself as one of the funniest new comedy stars in Hollywood.  What really makes this film shine though are the surprising comedic turns from Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. Spacey is perfect as a power hungry, arrogant and oppressive CEO, crushing Bateman’s spirit under his boot. Farrell subverts his pretty boy image by piling on the makeup, playing a drug addicted, careless and obnoxious heir to a company Sudeikis has dedicated his life to. It is Aniston who is most shocking, destroying years family friendly rom-com tosh by playing a sex-crazed dentist, intent of jumping the bones of Charlie Day’s assistant at any cost.

I suggest anyone who has not seen this film as yet, go and see it, if only because Jason Bateman is pretty much awesome in everything he does.

Best Action

Fast Five

Fast and Furious was crap, 2 Fast 2 Furious was even worse, Tokyo Drift was a pointless addition and The Fast & The Furious was mediocre at best, which really may seem shocking for me to announce that, to my knowledge, no action film gave me more enjoyment than Fast Five in 2011 and here is why. The FF (as I call it) franchise was born out of a short fad of mainstream interest in street races, when the world moved on, the franchise didn’t, it was only when they realised the possibilities of a genuine heist franchise that the concept began working. All of the major players from the previous films are back, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Ludacris are all on fine form as their respective characters, buoyed by a few other inclusions that take the film to a new level. Yes… I am talking about The Rock, who is superb as a US Marshal/manhunter on the trail of Diesel and his crew, every moment in which The Rock’s mountainous form (larger in this film than undoubtedly ever before) was on screen was filled with a level of power missing from the previous films. While the bank vault chase that provided the climax of the film is undoubtedly the action set-piece, the one on one punch up between The Rock and Diesel is one of the most exhilarating fights in recent memory, it is brutal, powerful, and sorry but what more do you want in an action film than two 6ft plus hulking bald men (with only a beard to distinguish between them, and what a beard!) absolutely kicking the crap out of each other? And while I may not agree with how the fight ended (The Rock would lay the smackdown on Diesels candyass) I certainly enjoyed the ride!

With news that there are plans for a Fast 6 & 7 to end the series, and that EVERYONE will be back for them, there seems to be enough momentum to carry an otherwise dismal franchise to an exciting conclusion. Lets just hope the engine doesn’t blow just as it is getting up to speed.

Best Comic Book Adaptation

Thor

 Since we are largely a comics blog and podcast, I felt it was only right to dedicate an award to the best comic adaptation of the year, and it was a lot easier than I thought. The year has had a number of adaptations, from Green Hornet, to Cowboys & Aliens and Tintin, but it has also been a year of mixed responses, almost every film was met with either mild cheers or soft groans, no outwardly bad films, just a whole slew of missed opportunities. The only film that was an exception to this was Thor, based on the Marvel comic and directed by Kenneth Branagh (one of England’s finest thespians), which was met with consistently high praise, maybe not as an outstanding film, but certainly as a good fun one, there are so many reasons you could attribute to the success of Thor, but I wish to pinpoint just a few. The first was Tom Hiddlestone as Loki, it is incredibly refreshing to see the portrayal of a villain that is not one-dimensional, especially in a comic book movie, Hiddlestone’s Loki is flawed yet relatable, his motives, while unclear, have a humanity to them which make you sympathise with him, it is very rarely you find yourself wanting to learn more of the villain’s story than the hero’s.  Speaking of hero, Chris Hemsworth, Thor himself, had a lot resting on his shoulders as we entered the summer season, here was an actor who 99% of audiences would have had minimal exposure to, carrying what was undoubtedly the biggest risk of Marvel Studio’s small catagloue. Luckily Hemsworth pulled it off with aplomb, his Thor was certainly very different from the God of Thunder from the comics, but what differences there were mattered not in the end, much like Loki, Thor was an incredibly humanised character, he was arrogant, hot and hotheaded, but at the same time incredibly passionate, through all of this he felt incredibly grounded, and so instantly relatable. The final piece of the puzzle for me was the comedy element, not only in the writing but also in the delivery, the Marvel films have mostly been successful in integrating a light hearted sense of comedy through their films, and this was no different, every time I watch I find myself laughing at different things, the most important thing about this is that there was very little slapstick comedy (in fact, only one moment springs to mind) but plenty of witty dialogue to give a chuckle, Heimdall, The Warriors Three and Dr. Selvig all had some hilarious moments, but to me, this tops them all –

Best Film

Black Swan

I was intending to have a Best Drama category included in these awards, but that became pointless when I finally decided which film would win each category, and they were one and the same. Darren Aronofsky is one of my favourite directors, capable of blending captivating tales with beautiful storytelling and art direction, while The Fountain is one of the most confusing films I have seen in years, it is undoubtedly one of my favourite due to its sheer beauty. With Black Swan Aronofsky once again managed do that which I have expected of him; no other film this year has been so beautifully dramatic, so psychologically intense, and as disturbing as the tale told within Black Swan. The film seamlessly blends delusion and reality, to the point where it is questionable whether Nina (Natalie Portman) is truly transforming in to a devilish looking black swan, or whether this is merely a visual manifestation of her decaying mental state, as she spirals in to madness.  Aronofsky is always capable of producing films that end with despair, leaving the viewer incredibly uncomfortable as the credits roll, yet despite that, we cannot turn our backs and say the films were anything less than magnificent. Black Swan was released in early January here in the UK, and when I first saw it I instantly said to my friend “It’ll be hard to beat that this year”, it was an off the cuff remark, one I didn’t really felt, how wrong I was, because the 11 months that followed provided nothing better.

So there we go, what a year for film, lets hope next year is a knock out year as well! Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, Avengers, MIB 3 and many many more. The last section will be up soon, so make sure to check back and keep an eye out, thanks!

Simon’s Best of 2011 Awards Day 2 – Wrestling

December 30, 2011

In Part 1 of the Thwipping Boys Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence Awards, I gave my thoughts on the best TV of the year, in Part 2, I now intend to look at another of my loves… WRASSLIN. So sit back, enjoy the body slams, and reflect on the past 12 months.

Rising Star Award

Dolph Ziggler

Truth is, I’ve been out of wrestling for a long time, my last regular viewing of the WWE product was 7 or 8 years ago. I kept ‘in the know’ through friends and the Internet, but nothing about the stars or the product interested me. It wasn’t until I began reading about a number of wrestlers called the most exciting of their generation that my interest was piqued again, and so for the past 3 months, I have been on wrestling like a fly on… You know.

So who would I choose as 2011’s rising star award? I could choose current World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan, or maybe WWWYKI Internet and US Champion Zack Ryder, or even ‘Best in the World’ WWE Champion CM Punk, but no, my choice is the #Heel Dolph Ziggler.

It is my prediction that Ziggler (despite a decidedly b-movie porn star name) will become an established main-eventer and WWE Title holder in 2012, in my mind he has everything he needs to be the top heel in the company, especially since WWE seem to have lost faith in The Miz and Alberto Del Rio. He has the look, with an awesome pair of boots, and slick back bleach blond hair. He has an awesome move-set, including the return of the Sleeper Hold and the Fame-Asser. Finally, he has the much needed mic skills to portray his confidence and arrogance. Every match I have seen involving Ziggler since I have been back (including a number I have gone back and looked at from earlier in the year) has been fantastic, the guy can sell like no one else, making every move look epic.

Despite Ziggler technically already being a former Heavyweight Champ (a reign of 11 minutes during his feud with Edge) he now has a REAL chance to prove he belongs on the main event, with a title shot against CM Punk this coming Monday on Raw. Will he win? No, Jericho will return and attack Punk, setting off their feud that would last until Wrestlemania, but following that, expect to see Ziggler as Champ.

Game Changer Award

Retirement of Edge

There were two major turning points for WWE this past year, and it was difficult to choose between the two, my runner-up is CM Punk’s shoot speech and eventual storyline. The winner of the award is Edge and his retirement. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Edge in singles competition, I cannot deny his popularity with the crowd, week on week he would receive one of the biggest, if not the biggest, crowd reactions upon his music playing. After defeating Alberto Del Rio at Wrestlemania, Edge was told he should never wrestle again, due to neck injuries sustained throughout his career.

The next night on Raw was an impassioned farewell speech in which he announced immediate retirement, but why was this a game changer? For the first time in 16 years of watching wrestling I witnessed a man at the peak of his career, and an incredibly young age, forced to retire, there was no build up, no “I don’t know how much longer I can do this” he was there, and then gone. Not only that but Edge was the World Heavyweight Champion, he was the top guy on the Smackdown brand, whether he was heel or face, his retirement not only vacated the title, but also left a void in the company that WWE have tried to fill over the last 8 months and failed.

You will be missed Edge, more than I realised.

Superstar of the Year

CM Punk

Who else could this be given to but CM Punk? He is the hottest star on the planet right now, Cena may be the biggest, but Punk has the excitement factor. So why don’t we take a look back at Punk’s year?

Punk’s year started inauspiciously enough, he was the heel leader of ‘New Nexus’ a ragtag bunch of crappy rookies who graduated from WWE’s abysmal NXT programming. Using the stable, he proceeded to wage a war against Randy Orton, running through Wrestlemania and culminating at Extreme Rules. It was during the Elimination Chamber match in March that the first awesome Punk moment occurred.

Following the culmination of this feud we got the now infamous shoot promo, where Punk was given pretty much free rein by the WWE to say whatever he wanted about what he hates about WWE (with a hint of storyline exaggeration), and boy did he. This was an important moment in the year for many reasons, one it was the first real time WWE had allowed the blurring of reality and fantasy as a storyline, and the other was that Punk started the shoot as a heel, but ended it as a face, purely based on his charisma, go on, take a look.

Fast forward to 3 weeks later, Money in the Bank, John Cena vs. CM Punk for the WWE Title in Punk’s hometown of Chicago. Now, what made this special, was that CM Punk’s WWE contract was expiring at the end of this night, a huge portion of this was not storyline, yes, Punk’s contract was originally ending that night, and had he not been able to strike a deal for serious changes to the company and his character, he would have been gone. But luckily McMahon and Punk came to an agreement, and the contract expiration was written in to a storyline which involved Punk leaving the WWE having just won the championship.

Punk returned to WWE a short time later to reignite his feud with Cena (who had won the WWE Championship back after it was apparently vacated by Punk leaving WWE) in a Champion vs. Champion showdown to determine the undisputed champion at Summerslam. Punk beat Cena, but lost the title to Alberto Del Rio (with some help from Kevin Nash) when Del Rio cashed in his money in the bank title shot. The next few months were a trying time for Punk’s character, he was still gaining in popularity, but it was obvious WWE had dropped the ball on his return, having lost the WWE championship a mere month after winning it. After 2 months of languishing in a stupid feud with HHH, Punk regained the title at Survivor Series, leading us to our two final videos for your pleasure.

And finally, at the TLC pay per view just a few short weeks ago, The Miz, Del Rio and Punk took part in a TLC match for Punk’s title. This was a pretty standard fare until a frankly awesome ending (follow the link to watch, 3 minutes in) that saw Punk retain his title.

TLC Title Match Last 8 Minutes

And there we have it, a recap of the major points of Punk’s year, combined with the moments that helped him win the award for Superstar of the Year, here’s hoping you have enjoyed the read, and will be back later tonight for my next part…. MOVIES!

Simon’s Best of 2011 Awards Day 1 – Television

December 28, 2011

With 2011 coming to a close, I wanted to wrap up my thoughts on my various interests by producing the Inaugural Thwipping Boys Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence Awards. This feature will run for the next 4 days, with a different category each day, so be sure to check back this time tomorrow for part 2!! I must warn you, throughout this series there will be spoilers, so with that over and done with… GET ON WITH THE CEREMONY!!

Best TV Actor

Bryan Cranston – Walter White, Breaking Bad

Bryan CranstonIt would be very easy to attribute this win to the ole bandwagon, Cranston wins these awards left, right and center, he has to be a shoe in for all of them right? Well… No, to be honest, in Breaking Bad alone this year Aaron Paul was breathing right down Cranston’s neck for his blistering portrayal of Jesse Pinkman, Bob Odenkirk was suitably slimy as Saul Goodman and Giancarlo Esposito gave us the best TV villain in years in Gustavo ‘Gus’ Fring. Despite a tour de force of supporting cast, or perhaps because of it, Cranston was able to stay one step ahead, delivering mind-blowing moments capable of elevating him above the pack, making us love and hate dear old Walter White in equal parts.

Most Shocking TV moment

The Demise of Ned Stark – Game of Thrones

Fans of George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ saga would have been well aware of the events that transpired throughout the first Season of the books television adaptation, those new to the series were a different story entirely. Leading up to the Series Premiere, advertising had leaned in one direction in particular, pushing Ned Stark (portrayed by Sean Bean) as the main character, of which the series would revolve around. With all of this, expectations that had been previously established were shattered in one fell swoop when the dastardly little bitch King Joffrey executed Ned just because he could… Not that I am still bitter. This moment had viewers baying for the heads of everyone involved, vowing never to watch the show again, until the next week.

The following scene is so well shot, so beautiful, that even after the deed is done, there is a moment spent questioning whether it really happened. With the director of this episode  (Alan Taylor) recently confirmed as the director of Thor 2, Mjolnir looks to be in sturdy hands.

Best Show

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

 

What can I say about Breaking Bad that hasn’t already been said; in 4 short seasons this show has garnered unanimous praise and constant plaudits. It has truly been the most uncomfortable joy watching Walter White’s family life unravel as he is consumed more and more by the greed and power of the Crystal Meth industry. Season 4 ended with the confirmation that Walter’s actions have not been motivated by protection of his family or through uncertainty, but that, of all of the villains showcased on Breaking Bad, Walter is one of the most devious. With one season left it will be interesting to see just how the cards fall, what will be the fate of Walter, Jesse, Skylar and Hank? In my opinion, Jesse will get out alive, while Walter will be buried in a grave of his own making.

 

And there we are, part 1 is over and done with, I hope you have enjoyed the show, and check back tomorrow for part 2… WRESTLING!


Why DC? A Superman Perspective

September 23, 2011

I am a self confessed DC fan, anyone who has taken the time to listen to our podcasts would know that for sure. Well, I just stumbled upon something I wrote last year, mainly for myself, and decided that with the DC new 52 and discussions on changes to characters I felt now would be as good a time as any to release it on to the world. I am not a scholar, a journalist or author, so I apologise profusely if this reads like it is written by a 4 year old, but I hope you enjoy!

Ok, so here I am, sitting in my room, it is 1.15am and I’m flicking through issue 2 of “The Man of Steel” the fantastic 1986 reboot of the Superman character, just reading the words, looking at the pictures, it makes me appreciate the importance of the character.

It reminded me of a discussion I had with Jon (now Jonny Thwipping) not long ago about comics, it was the standard Marvel vs. DC fare that usually crops up at one point or another between comic fans… See, I’m a DC fan, I read pretty much anything from any company, but DC is my home, I just love the characters and the stories. My brother disagreed, he said that outside the big 4 or 5 (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash and maybe Green Lantern) there was nothing even remotely interesting about DC, and that even then those characters were so powerful that no problem would be too big.

It got me thinking about why I love the characters so much, what they provide that characters like Spider-Man, the X-Men etc. lack, sure I enjoy reading their comics, but they lack the passion of DC. After a hell of a lot of rambling, that is the purpose of this entry… Just what is it I love so much?

At his highest

If you went out on the street, people would know the name Superman, he is a cultural icon, recognised the world over as perfection, the perennial Übermensch, this, sadly, is his biggest strength, but also his weakness, because he is all-powerful people just lose interest, say he is boring, which is reflected in the writing. Lazy and unoriginal, some of these apparent pros just seem to fall in to a rut when writing him “Oh Superman, well he is so powerful nothing can be done, so lets just have him smacking a big bastard around a little bit”, which, frankly, is pretty piss poor reading… Pay a couple of quid to see Supes brawl with someone for 20-odd pages, no thanks! But man, when some writers actually pull their fingers out and think about what they’re writing, he can go from stale to intriguing in the blink of an eye.

I’ve always seen Superman as more of a tragic character than he has generally been portrayed, maybe it is my pessimism, my cynicism, and general outlook on life but I’ve always seen the reliance of a world’s population on one man as a burden, one to bear in unfortunate silence. Here is a god, rising above not only every citizen on the planet, but also the superhero community also, he catches people, stops bad guys, saves the world… Hell saves the universe… But sometimes, just sometimes, he fails and people die. Were he true to his alien origins (to tie back to The Man of Steel) he would be cold, emotionless, but this is a man, a farm boy, raised to know compassion and love. A fireman failing to save a girl from a burning building will feel the weight of that death on his shoulders for the rest of his life, imagine that feeling, that guilt, only amplified by hundreds, thousands, and in some cases millions, and you, a man who can fly across the world in seconds were powerless.

Never has this been more apparent than in the seminal work ‘Kingdom Come’, written by Mark Waid. Following an attack on the Daily Planet which resulted in the deaths of Perry White, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, the man responsible, The Joker is unlawfully executed before he can be properly charged by the leading light of a new radical and anarchic group of Superheroes, named Magog. Superman, despite being distraught by the death of his wife and closest friends, still strives for correct justice to be enacted, only to find the public rallying behind Magog’s actions.

Disillusioned by what he see’s society becoming, and seeing his only human connections stolen from him, he retreats to his Fortress of Solitude where he stays for over a decade.
When Wonder Woman seeks him out after these 10 years he is a changed man, he has re-embraced his farm life, created a fictitious world around him, a reflection of his simple and safe childhood. Wonder Woman is there for a purpose, there to coax him back in to the role of protector following a tragic accident that cost millions of people their lives and wiped out his home of Kansas, caused by the rash actions of this new wave of violent heroes, eventually she succeeds, and the Man of Steel is back… Or is he? No, what we are instead given is a flawed character, a man fallen from grace, his physical strength remains, but his belief shattered, this is summed up brilliantly in the painted interiors by Alex Ross, single panels showing a morose man, a drawn face, hope lost.

And alternatively his lowest.

This is when I love DC, when they take a character so steadfast in his beliefs, and test them, when it shows you their failings, their humanity. With this version of Superman they have taken the status quo opinion of the character and haven’t changed it a bit, all they have done is approach it from different angles. Superman was still portrayed as the beacon of hope, the strongest of everyone, the moral compass of the DC universe, they took a classic idea of who Superman is and simply asked the question “What happens to a god when they fail”.

Some would question this as a reason for why I love DC so much, they would say “Yeah but Marvel have been creating and writing about flawed characters since the beginning. Tony Stark an alcoholic, Spider-Man going through the trials of a normal life, Hulk struggling with the monster inside”, but these characters do not resonate with me because these flawed characteristics are so ingrained that it is standard to have them face these issues.

In short, DC’s characters are just fine the way they are, in a time when über-violence is not only common but praised, there is such a wish for these characters to change to ‘get with the times’. You need look no further than with opinion on the new Man of Steel film directed by Zack Snyder, in which people say Superman should be as dark and gritty as Batman was in Begins and The Dark Knight. No Superman and Batman represent two sides of the coin; Superman should be as bright and hopeful, as Batman is dark and hopeless, it is how the character is and always will be.

You do not need to change a character, or compromise the core ideals they represent in order to make a character interesting, you just need a damn good writer who wants to push himself and the character to the limits of what they represent.

Signing off.