Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WGTB goes to the British Museum!

Regular WGTB readers will notice there hasn't been as many postings this month as there was in February. Well, March has been a very busy month and I’m afraid it will only get worse in April and May. However, during this busy month your humble blogger manged to visit the British Museum, and if the guidebooks, tourist maps and bus tours haven’t already convinced you, let me add a voice to the chorus -- If you're ever in London YOU SHOULD GO.

Like comic books; museums are laden with archetypes and manifestations of humanity's collective unconscious. And in lieu of a proper comic review, I thought I would simply post some museum photos alongside their corresponding comic heroes.

Let's start with the reconstructed mask from the Sutton Hoo treasure. They think an early Anglo-Saxon owned this amazing helmet.

You might say this was an early IRON MAN!

For the Golden Age fans out there -- this winged helmet on this bust of the Roman god, Mercury should strike you as familiar.

It's the first FLASH, Jay Garrick!

Finally, let's look at a little something from Easter Island.

Well, that one was easy: The THING! It wouldn't be a WGTB posting without a little Jack Kirby!

I hope you enjoyed that. Archetypes are one of the reasons comic books continue to appeal to people accross time and space. It truly is an amazing medium.

And in the unlikely event you visit the British Museum and get bored, there are some great comic and film related shops well within walking distance. The Cartoon Museum is right around the corner (I’m planning a seperate review in the near future) and shops of note include Forbidden Planet, which is a museum in its own right. The Cinema Store is another nearby gem, but my personal favourite was Orbital Comics. The merchant I spoke with there assured me that they have the best selection of back issues in London. Good see for yourself when next in London!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

April 2011 Comics-related Events (London)

Attention WGTB readers in London, UK!

This past week WGTB discovered two April events that might be of interest to those looking for comic-related activities in this great city. On Thursday April 7th (from 7-11 pm) the Resistance Gallery (near Bethal Green tube station) is hosting a tribute art auction to Jack "The King" Kirby. As I'm a huge Kirby fan, this isn't something I'd miss. Below is the promotional flier and I've attached the link above. My apologies for the photo reflections.

Also, prospective comic artists and creators in the UK should have some material ready and pay a visit to the
Cartoon Museum (near the British Museum and Tottenham Court Road station) on Friday April 8th. The museum is hosting Marvel Comics writer and editor C.D. Cebulski who has crossed the pond to scout for talent. Who knows, this might be your big break? The flyer is posted below and if you see a handsome fellow walking with an aluminum cane, at the event, that's your humble blogger so please say 'hello'. I hope Marvel needs new writers too!

If you know of any comic or science-fiction-related events or locations and would like to promote them, please contact WGTB or post them on the comments space below.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Random Reviews: Fantastic Four #111 "The Thing Runs Amok!"

In 1970 after an amazing 101 issue run on the Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby left Marvel for what he hoped would be greener pastures at DC, leaving responsibilities for the Fantastic Four (among other titles) to other talents at Marvel. Suffice it to say, this couldn't have been an easy task. Lee and Kirby (Or Kirby and Lee -- depending on the courts) gave us a stable of immortal characters -- Dr. Doom, Galactus, the Skrulls, the Silver Surfer -- not to mention the namesake team itself. Responsibilities for the FF were handed over to Steve Romita, and after a brief seven issue run, it ended up on the table of the late, great John Buscema.

And this brings us to my review of Fantastic Four #111 (June 1971). It was Buscema’s third in the run and I think you’ll enjoy it. The art is noticeably different, with Buscema’s Bronze Age pencils gently pushing the FF away from Kirby’s Silver Age magic. But that's not a problem -- it still maintains the fantastical and nostalgic element that characterizes early Bronze ages comics. The story involves The Thing running amok with the fault lying squarely in the lap of another Reed Richards experiment gone awry.

But the plot isn't the strength of this issue -- it's the cameos. They are BIG. Most obviously, the Hulk at the end, who decides to fight the Thing leading to the classic cover of #112. Here is the last page:

But there’s also these guys:

Yes, that's Peter Parker! Not Spider-Man, in some cover-killing “With a Special Guest Star!” but the photographer and his nasty editor. I’ve long been a sceptic when it comes to gratuitous cover-making cameos. You know, the type that adorn the cover of a dying title like ROM or Darkhawk; 5 to 7 issues away from cancellation? But here, it really works! It integrates Peter and the Daily Bugle into the story and gives us what we've always loved about Marvel -- multi-hero interaction!

Other interesting items of note include an advertisement featuring a very young Arnold Schwarznegger using his Mr. Universe bona fides to sell something. Also, in the Mighty Marvel Checklist there’s further evidence of the X-Men’s decline, before their triumphant return and ultimate apotheosis in the early 1990s. I know I’ve mentioned this item on WGTB before, but I’ll always find the early 70s decline of the X-Men interesting.

So that is it. Enjoy FF#111 if you can find it -- it's another fun, early-Bronze Age read. Oh, and here's a link to some Thor movie photos if you're interested. I just saw them on Twitter this evening.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dues Ex Machina: A Review of Raiders of the Lost Ark

How do you write a review about a movie that's the first ever you remember seeing? It was on your sixth birthday and you still remember that day fondly because your parents rented a VCR for you and your friends, and basically turned that day into the highlight of your school year? How can this be done with even a modicum of objectivity?

Well, in short, it can’t. So expect a gushing, ‘awesome first date’ review coming up...

This past Saturday I went and saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was showing a great little cinema here in Islington called Screen on the Green, which itself is part of a family of independent movie houses around London called Everyman Cinemas. If you’re ever in London and looking for something to do, consider checking out an Everyman Cinema. It’s a great old fashioned place that, unlike what I’m used to back in Canada, serves alcohol! Obviously, you can’t keep running up to the bar once the curtains go up, but it was very nice to enjoy a Guinness with my popcorn.

Here are a couple thoughts about Raiders I’d like to share with the readers of WGTB. Firstly, Raiders, like its cousin (and my all-time favourite film) Empire Strikes Back, really goes to show that good movies stand the test of time. It is still is a GREAT story. The villains are nasty; Indy and his friends are loyal, strong and true; and the McGuffin is both awe-inspiring and something to get excited about. How could you not? I mean, it's probably the most literal case of Dues Ex Machina you can find in modern film!

It also goes to show that old fashioned special effects still work when combined with great writing. I still get a chill when the Ark is opened and the Nazi’s look inside. The harrowing screams and melting faces, sound and look a little more dated each time I watch, but that’s not important. They make the point that those sorry souls did something B-A-D. And, well, the music. What can be said? Of my favourite John Williams’ themes -- Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Superman – Indy’s still has the best theme and gives me a chill each and every time I hear it.

So all in all, it was a great night for entertainment. If you have a favourite old fashioned movie-house you like to visit please share it with WGTB below. Be sure to pass on an internet link too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

WGTB goes to Camden Market!

This past Sunday, WGTB blogger Mark, continued his quest for "buy-low/sell-high" comic-related collectibles. This time it was to Camden Market in London, UK!

Camden Market is one of the busiest tourist destinations in London, and this crisp Sunday in March was no exception. From Camden Town high street stores, to small kiosks nestled in what were once horse stables, surprises abound in this amazing place.

The market is also a centre of London counter-culture and there is a wide assortment of merchants who cater to this type of customer. C-C focused stores include bomber jacket-filled surplus depots, cd/vinyl booths, vintage and retro clothing stores, and book/poster/print places too. There also seems to be a competition to see who has the coolest artwork on the store-front facades. Here are some notable examples, including a major Doc Martens retailer.

Unfortunately, the only pile of comics I found didn't have anything exceptional. I bought four cheap 70s era British war comics, but the market didn't have any hidden gold, silver or bronze age gems that had somehow slipped through the cracks (who was I kidding?!?). Indeed, most American comics were horribly overpriced, and have probably been sitting there since the mid 90s when people would buy DC Zero Hour #3 for £6. The photo below is of the only pile I found. Notice the Marvel Secret Wars playset in the lower right-hand corner. Pretty cool, albeit overpriced.

That brief negativity aside, it was a great day and the art and atmosphere of the place was well worth the bus trip. If you're ever in London and looking for something neat to see, check out the Camden Market. You probably won't find an Action Comics #1, but you'll enjoy yourself and see some cool stuff none-the-less.