Nam 10I don’t generally care for war stories. Maybe it’s because my parents were never able to pass up any random war film showing on TV when I was growing up, but I have next to no interest in war films, TV programmes, games and comics. Except, over the last few years, Vietnam ones. I’m not sure what I find so interesting about the conflict – perhaps the moral complexity of what was a largely futile and pointless war, possibly the almost wholesale rejection of typical jingoistic military story tropes.

One of the first comics to deal with Vietnam in any series way was, well, actually, GI Joe, which had it as part of Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and Stalker’s backstory. GI Joe under Larry Hama always had a very no-nonsense approach to the military. Sure, these were people fighting guys in steel masks and snake costumes, but the Joes always felt like real people and real soldiers. Fairly cynical ones, admittedly, but real. Flashbacks scenes to Vietnam in GI Joe never trivialised the conflict, treating it with more dignity than you’d expect from a comic existing to hock toys.

It was this directly that led to the launch of The Nam in 1987, a series designed to take Hama’s down-to-earth, no heroes style from GI Joe and apply it to a real conflict. With Hama as editor and Vietnam vet Doug Murray writing, The Nam was a monthly series that followed one squad in the ‘Nam in real time (every issue was set a month after the last), from January 1966 onwards. It promised to follow the war from the perspective of a typical soldier, or lots of them over time, giving a clear look at the conflict as it was on the ground. Read the rest of this entry »

Spoilers through The Flash season 1 and Arrow season 3.

While the film department of DC Warner Bros continues to stagger blindly through the sepia murk of Zack Snyder’s directorial ‘vision’, quickly trying to cobble together a shared universe to rival Marvel’s, its TV department has been steadily doing much better work.

No-one is more surprised by this than me. When Arrow started a few years back, I immediately dismissed it. The Green Arrow has never, in my opinion, been a particularly compelling character and I couldn’t see how a TV show of it would work. Eventually, I got over myself and gave the show a go, finding it surprisingly enjoyable. It makes no qualms about essentially being TV’s Batman, which is fine, as the Green Arrow has always been a bit of a Batman rip-off.

There's also this, which is probably a better indicator of who's coming. Picture from

There’s also this, which is probably a better indicator of who’s coming. Picture from

Similarly, I’ve been pleasantly proved wrong about the quality of Arrow’s companion show The Flash. The Flash is another character I don’t have much time for. As an ensemble member of the Justice League, he’s fine, but his solo stories have always struck me as nonsensically ludicrous, even by super-hero standards, relying on inane pseudo-science born of the 50s. The TV show however, has been great; a lighter, brighter counter-point to Arrow. It’s also, in a looser way, the Superman to Arrow’s Batman. It’s got more of a science-fiction bent, largely takes place in daylight, has bright, colourful villains and the Flash has a bevy of (slightly more plausibly executed here on TV) super-powers.

Both shows have done well to organically grow a shared universe. The Flash was set up in season 2 of Arrow, the first season of The Flash introduced a pretty good version of Firestorm (though he seems to be absent his elemental powers and just have fiery body parts) and Arrow season 3 introduced The Atom, who, while endearingly portrayed by Brandon Routh, has thus far been too much of a third rate Iron Man (though that’s due to change).

That’s four-sevenths of a traditional, if fairly B-List, Justice League already, even if you ignore fringe/sidekick characters like Huntress, Wildcat, Arsenal and Black Canary, who, yes, is technically a Justice Leaguer, but does anyone really like Laurel in Arrow? No. No they don’t. (#NotMyCanary)

So who’s next? Who else can and will the CW (henceforth DCWB) bring into the DCTVU? Read the rest of this entry »

Spider Verse Cover

Spider-Verse, by the Spider First XI.

Considering how closed off the concept of Spider-Man is (loner orphan Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider, gets powers, most people he loves die horribly – you may be familiar with it), it’s amazing how much franchising there’s been over the years. There’s Spider-Man, his two clones, about four Spider-Women, some Spider-Girls (including his daughter from an alternate future), the Spider-Man of 2099, a team of teenagers using his four temporary IDs from when he was wanted for murder, foreign adaptations like Spider-Man: India and, of course, Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham (aka comic’s greatest literary achievement).

Plenty of characters already, then, with which to make a big multiversal cross-over. Spider-Verse goes not just one better, but dozens better, by throwing in loads of new Spider-Men, Spider-Women and even Spider-Monkeys all teaming up to stop a dimension hopping family of villains who feed off the special ‘spider totems’ imbued within them all. But with that many Spider-People, surely Spider-Verse runs the risk of being very confusing? Yes. Yes it does. Read the rest of this entry »

Genuinely one of the best costume designs of the 90s.

Genuinely one of the best costume designs of the 90s. Cover by Brian Stelfreeze.

For years, DC’s collections department was considered the crème de la crème of the comics as books market. It’s not a reputation that was particularly well earned though, just sort of given as default. 15-20 years ago, Marvel and Image were just putting out the odd collection, with no particular rhyme or reason. DC at least regularly put out trade paperbacks, some even in series and with matching trade dress.

The thing is, they weren’t particularly great collections. Issues would often be arbitrarily missed, covers stripped and shoved at the back if you were lucky, issues would often be trimmed to the bare minimum necessary, random parts of series would be released with no follow up and the paper stock would tan as easily as a vampire in Ibiza. They were serviceable, if nothing else.

In the intervening years, all comics publishers have upped their games, including DC, to a degree. Beyond their gargantuan Absolutes, they’ve hardly been the gold standard, with many of their early problems not going away. Lately, DC have decided to delve into their previously lightly mined back catalogue and sort out some of the poorly collected titles of yesteryear. Yesteryear being the 90s. Read the rest of this entry »

Perhaps the only good cover to come from DC's Big Head Month (apart from the Deadpool one).

Perhaps the only good cover to come from DC’s Big Head Month (apart from the Deadpool one).

When you buy a collected edition of a comic, you kind of assume you’re buying, if not the definitive version of the material, at least a superior version than the original monthly issues. That’s not an unfair assumption, right? Just like you’d expect a DVD boxset of your favourite TV show to be of better quality than your aging off-air VHS recordings, a comic book tpb should be better than back issues.

DC Comics don’t quite seem to have grasped this notion.

When the New 52 was announced, its surprise inclusion of a new Resurrection Man series made me very pleased. I love Resurrection Man. An under-rated gem of the 90s, it’s the only ongoing comic series I’ve ever owned entirely in floppies. And given that I greatly dislike monthly comics (and now no longer even buy anything in that format) that’s saying a lot.

With the (ultimately disappointing) new series of Resurrection Man came the news that the original series would be reprinted in tpb form. Thrilled, I quickly eBayed my complete run while it still held some value and then just a mere three years* after it was released, I bought this trade, collecting #1-14.

*I’m terrible at buying things promptly when they come out, even if I love them. I’ve still got barely any of Community on DVD.

This, it turns out, was a mistake. Read the rest of this entry »

In talking about SNL’s 19th season, I lamented that the show was unable to fully enter the era of its 90s stars, for better or worse, because it was still lingering to some of the stars of its late 80s heyday. Season 20 initially gives the impression of continuing this. Kevin Nealon and Mike Myers represent the last traces of the 80s cast, but it’s quickly clear that for its 20th season SNL has embraced its current crop of homegrown stars like David Spade, Chris Farley and Adam Sandler.

This is not a good thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

In this age of console apps and services, the good old physical peripheral is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Back in the 80s and 90s, barely a console on the market didn’t have a raft of premium add-ons available for it. Nintendo were the master of this (because Nintendo like money) and have created some truly iconic pieces of plastic tat accessories to go with their consoles, from the NES Zapper to the GameBoy Camera.

Not all of Nintendo’s consoles peripherals are as well remembered though, whether they were successful or not. Here is a look at some of them.


Primer: the Nintendo Family Computer (the Japanese NES). Photo from National Videogame Archive

Primer: the Nintendo Family Computer (the Japanese NES).
Photo from National Videogame Archive

Famicom Disk System Read the rest of this entry »

As I watch through the entire history of Saturday Night Live, every time I get to the end of a season of Saturday Night Live, I feel the desire to write up my thoughts on it. This is the first time I’ve actually got around to doing so, if you’re wondering why the first of these is about the show’s 19th season. So here are some highly subjective thoughts on the 1993/94 season of Saturday Night Live, an ocean and two decades removed. Read the rest of this entry »

Guardians of the Galaxy is out next month and is shaping up to be Marvel’s most inventive and exciting film yet. Yes, more exciting than Avengers. I would join in the chorus of saying it’s risky, but as a die-hard fan of Abnett and Lanning’s Guardians of the Galaxy, I have faith that, if it’s adapted the source material well, this film will be just as fun. (Although I still have great reservations about Dave Bautista as Drax and am rueing that Jason Momoa wasn’t won over for the role).

Inevitably, the film has had to pare down the comic’s sprawling team line-up, so there are a lot of Guardians that won’t be showing up. Here then is a guide to those cut Guardians, so you can brush up on them and impress your friends* with your obscure knowledge.

* Bore the internet Read the rest of this entry »

Looney Tunes Golden CompleteBack in the days of VHS, the idea of releasing an entire TV series on home video was ludicrous, the kind of thing saved only for shows with dedicated, hardcore audiences (Star Trek for instance) or that were insanely popular (such as Friends). Even when DVD came along, with its bigger volume of storage at a smaller size, it took a while for studios to get the idea that releasing everything was feasible. Many shows, like The Simpsons, made their first foray into DVD by still doing the ‘Best Of’ sets they’d done on VHS. It was a relatively slow process, as packaging became more efficient and DVDs cheaper to produce, that saw shows being fully collected across single disc volumes, half-seasons, full season boxsets and now even full series boxsets. Just the other week I bought all of Stargate SG-1 for less than £40 in a box barely bigger than the season 2 boxset that came out 15 years ago.

(Which isn’t even as impressive as the bookcase that used to be entirely filled by VHS copies of Friends seasons 1-6 now holding all ten season plus a hell of a lot more). Read the rest of this entry »