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Sylvester Stallone Talks Expendables 2 ... and 3?

Archery - Are the movies on target?



Greg Rucka on his web comic, Lady Sabre


What Happened to British War Comics? FEBRUARY 2013

Issue 005 - Credits Cover Art: JL Straw Cover Design: Antony McGarry-Thickitt Designer: Antony McGarry-Thickitt Editors: Barry Nugent Antony McGarry-Thickitt Contribuors: Brogan Hayes Casey Douglass Christophe Montoya Cy Dethan Dave Williams David Monteith Ian J Simpson Leo Johnson Luke Halsall Matt Farr Nic Wilkinson Phil Hobden Ronald Singh Wendy Sims Whatotherway Geek Syndicate Comic: Harold Jennett III

Typesetting: GS Banner - Copperplate Bold Cover Text - Century Gothic Main Text - Nobile (Open Font Licence)

Editorial 2012 is dead long live 2013! So the year did not end in fire and brimstone with the end of the Mayan calendar (there’s goes the tenner I had on the end of all things) but it did herald the end of the behemoth that was Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise. Marvel’s Phase one of films also came to a close with the fantastic Avengers Assemble. As a reward for surviving the apocalypse that never came, Peter Jackson welcomed us back to the world of Hobbits, Orcs, Wizards and dwarves...lots of dwarves. Comics were not idle with another year of fantastic titles both from the mainstream and indie scenes. Thief of Thieves, Rainbow Orchid, Grandville Bete Noir, Saga, Atomic Robo, Batman: Court of the Owls storyline, Spandex and ninety nine percent of Cinebooks output: I salute you all. So what can we expect from 2013? Well despite the sad news that the Kapow! comic convention has been cancelled there are more than enough new and returning conventions around the UK and beyond to keep us busy. On the film front, the world’s biggest boy scout flies back onto the big screen, without his red pants and with more angst than you can shake a shard of kryptonite at. Marvel refuses to rest on its laurels as it kicks off its Phase two film campaign with Thor 2 and Iron Man 3. Also Del Toro offers us

Giant Robots vs Giant Monsters in Pacific Rim. In the world of gaming we get to see the return/reboot of Tomb Raider and the long awaited Bioshock Infinite. Indie comics were kicking it big time last year and there is no sign of that train slowing. The mainstream comics fans will no doubt be making their to-buy tie-ins for the annual comic events that will change the [insert DC or Marvel here] Universe forever... again (I do like the look of the Marvel event, though). Oh and some TV show about a bloke with a multiple personality disorder from some place called Gallifrey has some more episodes and turns fifty or something. In short it’s a great time to be a geek and as always the Geek Syndicate team will be here to take you by the hand and lead you through the murky streets of Geekdom.


y r r a


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Geek Syndicate

Features Thirteen Things To Look Forward To in 2013 ......................................................................................................................................... 4

THE BLUFFER’S GUIDE TO ... Anime ...................................................................................................................................................... 10

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ... Webcomics ............................................................................................................................................... 19 GEEK SYNDICATE At The Utopia Preview Screening ......................................................................................................................... 25 WAR COMICS - Britain’s Lost Genre? ................................................................................................................................................... 36

Archery On Screen ..................................................................................................................................................................................... 42

Interviews Greg Rucka Talks Lady Sabre .................................................................................................................................................................. 13

Sylvester Stalone Talks Expendables 2 ..................................................................................................................................................... 16 Steve Niles Talks to Geek Syndicate .................................................................................................................................................... 23

Geek Syndicate Catch Up With Cinebook ............................................................................................................................................ 28

Comic Writer, Paul Allor ........................................................................................................................................................................... 40 Neil Gibson – Businessman turned Storyteller ...............................................................................................................................  46

Reviews Orc Girl ......................................................................................................................................................................................................... 52

Batman Automobilia #001 ....................................................................................................................................................................... 55 Buffy The Vampire Slayer – The Making of a Slayer ......................................................................................................................... 56

Hoax Hunters Vol 1: Murder, Death, And The Devil ........................................................................................................................... 57

Star Trek Catan ........................................................................................................................................................................................... 62 Mockingbird, By Chuck Wendig ............................................................................................................................................................. 64 Lobster Johnson Vol.2 - The Burning Hand ......................................................................................................................................... 65

Guild Wars 2: 250 Hours In ... ................................................................................................................................................................. 72 Porcelain and Butterfly Gate .................................................................................................................................................................. 79 The President’s Vampire, By Christopher Farnsworth ..................................................................................................................... 89

A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (2nd Edition) .......................................................................................................................... 91 Atomic Robo and yhe Flying She-Devils of the Pacific ................................................................................................................... 94 Daughter Of Fu-Manchu, By Sax Rohmer ........................................................................................................................................... 98

The League of Volunteers, Vol. 1 .......................................................................................................................................................... 100

Lo’Life Book 1: Romeo Spikes, By Joanne Reay ................................................................................................................................ 101 Time Samplers Issue 1 ............................................................................................................................................................................ 102 Deadlight ................................................................................................................................................................................................... 107

X-Wing Miniatures Game ....................................................................................................................................................................... 109

Previews FILM PREVIEW - Man Of Steel .............................................................................................................................................................. 112 Day of Chaos: The Fourth Faction ........................................................................................................................................................ 113

FILM PREVIEW - Star Trek: Into Darkness ........................................................................................................................................ 114

LIL Elevator Pitch ..................................................................................................................................................................................... 116 The Samurai Chef Elevator Pitch .......................................................................................................................................................... 121


Geek Syndicate Having survived the Mayan apocalypse, digested Nan’s mince pies, and recovered from that New Year’s Day hangover in time to stumble back to work, things must seem slightly dull. On top of that, you’re probably worrying that there won’t be anything to look forward to in 2013, after the epic year that was 2012. Well, fear not as the Geeks list thirteen things (because it’s 2013 … see what we did there?) to look forward to in the year ahead!

Image © BBC Enterprises, 2012

Thirteen Things To Look Forward To in 2013

1 - Doctor Who 50th Anniversary (BBC - November) The Doctor (Matt Smith) returns to our screens this year with a new companion, Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) as the second half of the latest series launches sometime this year. However there is far more to look forward to in 2013 than just more episodes of the television series. The British institution turns fifty in November and show-runner Steven Moffat is promising big things – although he remains characteristically tight lipped about what they might be. In a recent press preview of the 2012 Christmas Special, Moffat had this to say: “I promise you, we’re going to take over television. Trust me.”


On top of that, a whole heap of merchandise, including Royal Mail Stamps, re-prints of classic novels – one for each Doctor and also a range of monthly-released short stories by classic children’s authors is being produced. The stories are available individually on Amazon (beginning with Eoin Colfer’s First Doctor adventure, A Big Hand for the Doctor) and will be published together at the end of the year. There will also be a veritable barrage of other merchandise available throughout the year as well! Check out this page on which aims to keep track of all the fiftieth anniversary items.

2 - Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2 begins (Iron Man 3 Thor: The Dark World) Having been blown away by last year’s Avengers movie (Titled Avengers Assemble in the UK), Marvel’s Cinematic Universe moves forward with the opening salvos of Phase Two, setting the stage for 2015’s Avengers sequel whilst continuing the individual stories of two of its major players. Iron Man 3 will be the first to hit the silver screen in late April/early May. Shane Black takes over directing duties from Jon Favreau, whilst returning players Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man) and company prepare to butt heads with Ben Kingsley’s mega-baddie The Mandarin.

en the universe in the wake of the events of the Avengers film. Thor’s budding romance with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster is also on the cards in this Alan Taylor directed sequel to 2011’s Thor.

3 - Blockbuster Comics Events (Age of Ultron, Marvel Comics Trinity War, DC Comics) Annual comic book blockbuster events from the two titans of superhero comics have

become the norm – and 2013 is no exception. But this time things are slightly different. With Marvel Comics, Brian Michael Bendis brings the true finale to his near decade long Avengers run with the return of the villainously unstoppable artificial intelligence known as Ultron. He gets stronger after each encounter with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and this blockbuster has been in the pipeline since the words “Ultron War” were hinted in an issue of Avengers way back in 2010. On the other side of the street, DC Comics prepares to launch its first epic storyline since the New 52 line-wide reboot in 2011. Elements and mysteries have been teased at since the launch of the New 52 with a big lip-smacking teaser emerging in last year’s DC’s Free Comic Book Day special issue. DC Comics has remained pretty hush-hush over the exact details of the event – including who is involved.

Image © Marvel Comics, 2012

Image © Marvel Pictures, 2012

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Later in the year comes Thor: The Dark World (November), where Chris Hemsworth returns as the Norse God of Thunder and prepares to battle a race of Dark Elves that threat-


Image © Rockstar Games, 2012

Image © Paramount, 2012

Image © Warner Brothers, 2012

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4 - Man of Steel (Warner Brothers - June) Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) brings his vision of Superman to the big screen in June, with the super-hero’s first film appearance in seven years. Acting as a reboot of the Superman franchise following 2006’s Superman Returns, expect a post-Dark Knight murkier take on the Man of Tomorrow’s origins and some mind-boggling special effects. Starring Henry Cavill in the title role, Amy Adams as Lois Lane, and Michael Shannon as the film’s big bad, General Zod. This could be fun.

5 - Star Trek into Darkness

(Paramount - May)

J.J. Abrams finally brings the sequel to 2009’s Star Trek reboot and the film that made 6

many of us non-Trekkies suddenly pay attention. Chris Pine (James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock) and the rest of the cast of the previous film reprise their roles as the leading crewmembers of the Starship Enterprise. Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch will be stepping into the role of the villain of the piece – currently referred to as John Harrison, but there are rumours abound about whether he is in fact a new version of a classic Star Trek villain. The first film was a fun ride, even for those not normally considered trekkies (or sci-fi buffs), and there is a fair amount of excitement to see what comes in this hotly awaited sequel.

6 - Grand Theft Auto V

(Rockstar Games - TBC)

Rockstar’s notorious but glorious open-world action adventure game series returns in 2013 with GTA V. The first major GTA title since 2008, the game is set to take place in the fictionalised locale of Los Santas, San Andreas. Rockstar has claimed the sandbox game world will be even bigger than before – larger in fact than the worlds of GTA 4 and their popular Western game Red Dead Redemption combined. No official release date has yet been announced, but it is expected to hit sometime around summer.

Geek Syndicate 7 - Next generation games console announcements (Sony “PlayStation 4” Microsoft “Xbox 720”) Nintendo initiated the next generation of home console gaming late last year with the release of the Wii U console, but the other major players – Sony and Microsoft – have yet to unveil the details of their latest evolutions to their signature gaming hardware. With both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles entering maturity in their product life cycles and Nintendo being first out of the gate, the major competitors’ are surely not far behind.

8 - Superior Spider-man

(Marvel Comics - January)

After seven-hundred Amazing issues, the Peter Parker we all know and love is gone. In his place is a Spider-Man that promises to be ‘superior’ in every way to what came before. Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman initiated the next era of Spider-man in January with the first issue of Superior Spider-Man, replacing Amazing Spider-Man as flagship title of the Marvel Comics’ Spidey family. Who is this new Spiderman? Will he really be superior to his predecessor? Is the Pete we know and love truly gone? Pick up Superior Spider-Man. Image © DC Comics, 2012

2013 could be the year that these new consoles, currently dubbed the “PlayStation 4” and the “Xbox 720” by the gaming press, may be announced at the swathe of videogames conferences over the year although a consumer market release may be unlikely before 2014.

Image © Marvel Comics, 2012

relatively untouched.

9 - Threshold

(DC Comics - January)

A new space-based DC comic will be launching this year. DC Comics may have numerous Green Lantern books but the wider DC cosmos, especially in the wake of the New 52, is still

What makes Threshold particularly interesting is that it will be helmed by Keith Giffen, the man who reinvigorated the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe way back in 2006 with the first Annihilation saga – which eventually led to the return of Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy to the Marvel pantheon (the latter of which is now being translated to the big screen as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Expect exciting things as Threshold #1 lands, spinning out of events featured in the Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual.

10 - Buffy Season 9 Concludes

(Dark Horse Comics)

2013 will mark the conclusion of Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 as the Buffy comics (including spinoff series Spike, Willow, and Angel & Faith) converge and reach their respective conclusions in time for the Scoobies to face the next apocalypse. The major theme that has been hanging over the entire line: “Will magic return to the Buffy-verse?” Fans needn’t worry about Season 9 being the end of the Dark Horse Buffy comic series; expect Season 10 to follow before long.


Image © Orbit Books, 2012

Geek Syndicate 11 - Young Avengers returns!

(Marvel Comics - January)

Fan favourite Marvel Comics’ series Young Avengers returns with an all-new ongoing in time for Marvel NOW! Originally launched in 2005 by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung it became a fast critical and commercial hit, marred only by scheduling delays.

Image © Marvel Comics, 2012

With Heinberg and Cheung having finally completed their story (with 2010-2012’s bimonthly shipping Avengers: The Children’s Crusade) its time for some new blood to take over and bring our favourite teen superheroes back to the comic shelves – enter the dynamic duo of Phonogram fame: Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Set to kick off in January, expect some fun times ahead.


12 - Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time epic book series finally concludes

(Orbit - January)

January marks the release of the concluding part in Robert Jordan’s expansive Wheel of Time book series, entitled A Memory of Light. Begun in 1990, predating George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones by six years, The Wheel of Time has spread across fourteen bricksized tomes and caught fantasy readers’ imaginations with its sprawling mythology and rich characters. A bestseller and fan-favourite series, its

fate was put into doubt when author Robert Jordan died in 2007 whilst working on the final book in the series. Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal, picked rising star author Brandon Sanderson to bring the series to an end, based on Jordan’s rigorous and detailed notes. These notes were so detailed that the final book was split into three separate novels – A Memory of Light being the last part. Sanderson has proven his writing chops well with his own Mistborn and Stormlight Archive series’ and he promises to bring the series to an epic and satisfying end.

Geek Syndicate 13 - Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman epic begins.

Scott Snyder reinvigorated the Batman comic book series, turning it into a frequent topseller following the DC Comics New 52 re-launch. With major Batman story arcs “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family” topping the charts alongside critical acclaim, the hotshot DC scribe will bring his Midas touch to the Man from Krypton, alongside fan favourite artist Jim Lee. Little is properly known about the project other than it will be an additional Superman book but it will likely launch around the time the new Superman movie (Man of Steel) hits in June.

Image © DC Comics, 2012

(DC Comics - June)

So there we have it – my picks of what to look forward to this year. As always, this isn’t everything but it should certainly give some good starting points and whet your appetite for the coming year. As it stands, 2013 is shaping up to be another great one for Geeks and geekstuff.

Dean Simons


Geek Syndicate THE BLUFFER’S GUIDE TO ... Anime

Have you been watching the Pacific Rim Trailer again? Yes. It’s got Giant Robots fighting Godzilla in it. It does. With any luck it will be live-action Anime, which would be pretty cool. Anime? Thats the Japanese Cartoons with tentacle monsters chasing semi-naked schoolgirls, right? No. Well, yes. Sometimes. But not exclusively. It’s complicated.

1970s and 1980s? Yep. Most histories of anime look to the 1960s, when Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy, an animated adaptation of a popular boys Manga (Japanese comic book) was released. It looks pretty dated now, but was wildly popular and established a style that was copied into other genres. By the 1970s, shows like Starblazers (a Bowdlerised version of a show called Space Battleship Yamato) and Battle of the Planets (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman), which was so cut up they had to introduce clumsily drawn additional characters) were cropping up on television in the United States. Before long, the first “Giant Robot” shows started to emerge and it was a combination of these - actually three series, mashed together and dubbed - that came over to the US as Robotech in 1985.

Complicated how? Well anime is a somewhat catch-all term that refers to Japanese animation that broke through into the West in the 1970s and 1980s and is still pretty popular today. It’s actually quite a broad category; covering a lot of different genres rather than being a genre in its own right. So, yes, 10

And the attraction was? Well, it was just so different. Anime had been shown on US (and UK) TV before, but Robotech was an epic space-

opera saga with transforming fighters, rapidly paced combat scenes and a clean, dynamic animation style that contrasted hugely with the sort of mass-production techniques used by American animators like Hanna Barbera. If you watch an old episode of say, Scooby-Doo and compare it to space dogfights against invading aliens, then you can see how this quickly got hold of the imagination of a whole generation of geeks. Image © Studio DEEN

Giant Robots! Wheee!

tentacle monsters are a thing. But not the thing.

Image © wildstorm

Image © Shawn Logan

Ever wondered what all those geeks in the corner were talking about? Sick of missing out of the sly references and obscure injokes? Never Fear! The Bluffers Guide is here to help!

This is still a long time ago, old man. Well the thing is, that generation grew up, and some of them learned Japanese and by the 1990s you started to see “fansubs” - videos and later DVDs of the original unedited series with fan-added subtitles. And of course official translations soon followed. The success of films like Akira and Ghost in the Shell meant there was a growing market for the more grown-up end of Anime, series with more blood, violence and, of course, sex, but also more thoughtful films as well. The point is that you have a hugely diverse animation industry in Japan that is putting out modern childrens classics

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I’m very pleased for you. There is also an attraction to the exoticism of anime. If you watch enough of it, you’ll quickly see that it has its archetypes and cliches as much as western outputs, but they’re different archetypes and cliches, often rooted in a Japanese history and culture that goes back thousands of years in different directions to our own. And of course these get fused with western influences coming back across the Pacific, just as anime has influenced western animation in return. Has it? It totally has. For example, every time you see a robot or tank or plane firing 10 missiles when it could be firing one, that’s an anime influence. Animation giant Pixar acknowledges the Japanese influence in interviews all the time. It may have come over to the west as a cult-following, but now it’s pretty mainstream, as any time watching kids TV will tell you, because there is still a lot of it about, and I’m not just talking Pokemon. So, I’m sold. Where do we start? Well a lot of the more popular anime available today is longrunning adaptations of Manga series like Bleach, Full Metal

On the Mecha (Giant Robots controlled by pilots) front, probably the most influential is Neon Genesis Evangelion, which is so popular even my spell-check recognised it without prompting. It’s wordy, and riddled with teenage angst from its space-mecha-flying protagonists, and a lot of other Mecha series like (for example) Martian Successor Nadesico end up being in part a commentary and part homage to it. And of course there is the wildly variable Macross series, part of which formed one of the series of Robotech. Right. But not very diverse?

Image © Studio Ghibli

I knew it!

Alchemist and Naruto. There is a lot of them, and they’re very involved. Further back there are more complete limited run series - Space Opera series Cowboy Bebop is rightly hailed as one of the classics of the form, following a bunch of down-on-their luck bounty hunters jobbing around the solar system.

Image © Destination Films, 2012

like Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro (and pretty much everything else they make) to technothrillers, to horror and yes, pornography.

Not yet. Anything by Studio Ghibli is worth a look; I’ve mentioned My Neighbour Totoro but there is also the delightful Spirited Away available with a high-quality english dub, and the traumatic and disturbing eco-fable Princess Mononoke. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a twenty-six part cyberpunk television series that deals with Artificial Intelligence, Cyber-Terrorism and Transhumanity. Tokyo Godfathers is an animated remake of the John Wayne western Three Godfathers featuring homeless Toyko bums. Love Hina is a teenaged rom-com set in a Traditional Bathhouse. The only thing they have in common is the animation style. Diverse enough for you? You missed off the tentacle monsters again. Sigh...

Matt Farr


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Geek Syndicate Greg Rucka Talks Lady Sabre

Lady Sabre is a collaboration between Rucka and artist Rick Burchett (Batman: The Brave and the Bold, She Hulk). The two have worked together on various titles (Huntress: Cry for Blood, this made us a huntress fan) and built up a friendship over the years. They decided to work on a creator-owned project that brings the fun back into sequential storytelling. It’s a roaring romp featuring pirates, soldiers, adventurers, cowboys, Indians plus FLYING SHIPS,AIRPLANES AND BLIMPS! The band of characters are varied and really well rounded. Particularly Lady Sabre and her band of pirates, it’s so refreshing to have a sassy sexy heroine WEARING CLOTHES! And also fighting on an equal par with the men. Most importantly it’s great fun to read. It made us feel

Image © Linnea Osterberg

Image © Rick Burchett


like a kid again. We don’t want to give too much of the story away but it centres around Lady Sabre and her hunt for a mysterious key. It has a wonderful pulpy and old school adventure books feel to it. Anyway…let’s get on with the questions!

GS: Was Lady Sabre always going to be a webcomic? GR: Yep! From the start, Rick and I conceived of it as a webseries, as opposed to a printed comic, and we tried to make our design decisions and the like with that in mind. We’ve been, frankly, incredibly uninnovative, I think, in the use of the web and our execution with that specifically in mind, but the main thrust of what we set out to do has been very much as we envisioned it. GS: Where did the idea for the comic come from? Did you and Rick work on it together? GR: Rick and I have known each other for over fifteen years, now, and despite all that, the number of collaborations we’ve shared can be counted on one hand, maybe - maybe - two. And I think we were both frustrated with


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Once we resolved that we were going to have to do it ourselves, the conversation turned to what we would do, and that, in short order, led to Lady Sabre. We wanted something pulpy, that would indulge our fondness for comics like Terry and the Pirates and the like, and steampunk was something that both Rick and I had been fascinated by and fans of for years, though - if you ask Rick - he’d tell you he’d never actually called it that before. It sort of rolled forward from there. GS: Sci-Fi, Steampunk, Western’s and PIRATES! Lots of genres in one comic. What were your influences when creating Lady Sabre? GR: Uhm... sci-fi, steampunk, westerns, and pirates? I mean, we love adventure serials, adventure stories, and when we settled on steampunk as the genre we wanted to play in, it opened the door to all the others. Technically, steampunk and the western share the same moment historically, even if the history is twisted to suit steampunk. So that was a no-brainer, really. Sci-fi I’d actually rather shy away from, as I’ve never really thought of the comic as sci-fi, per se. GS: What is the attraction of the pulp genre for you? GR: It’s interesting, because a 14

lot of what attracts me to the pulps isn’t that evident in Lady Sabre, I don’t think. Our pacing - due to the posting schedule - can be rather drawn out, which is a no-no in the pulps. The flip side is that it allows for more character moments, more examination of who our players are, and that’s something I’ll always run towards. But the sense of adventure and energy in the pulps, of the disregard for convention of both genre and even, in some cases, narrative, both appeal to Rick and I. You can go over the top, and then keep going, and the genre not only allows for it, it encourages it. GS: If you could revive any pulp character who would it be? GR: I’m not sure if there are any I would revive, per se, and I’m not even sure she counts, but off the top of my head, I’d say Modesty Blaise. I always

loved Operator No. 5, and, of course, there’s The Shadow. GS: We love the fact you also post the scripts up with lots of the strips. Is this meant as a how to guide for fans who want to step into the world of comics?? GR: I imagine that people can use the scripts as a tutorial, of sorts, but that wasn’t the primary motive, honestly. Initially, I wanted the scripts present so people would see - at least in part - how the collaboration of comics works. You can read my scripts, and see where Rick deviated, and sometimes even see why he did, where the flaws were in my scripting, for instance. There was an added benefit, which I hadn’t realized at the start, but which I was grateful to know when it was explained to me; for blind followers of the comic, the scripts allow them to experience the story, and anything

Image © Rick Burchett

that, with the inability to find a publisher who would allow us to tell the stories we wanted to tell together. Hence the decision to make a web comic, frankly - we could publish it ourselves.

Geek Syndicate GS: And finally...Do you get fed up of people asking you why you write strong female characters? GR: Less fed-up than depressed, frankly. After the tenth time, it was annoying, but now it just makes me sad. Joss Whedon said it far better than I did, you know? And the question itself is far more complex and deceptive than it appears at first blush. It demands an examination of why the question needs even be asked, and that, in turn, begs deeper examination, I think.

I used to wrestle with it more than I do now, but I long ago realized that - for whatever the reasons - I enjoy writing stories about women, and the kinds of stories I tend to write means some people will call those same women “strong.” I don’t think of them like that. These characters are people to me, and in that, they’re more than just strong or weak or female or gay or whatever. GS: Are you doing any UK conventions this year?

tions if I’m invited, and sadly, I’ve never been invited to any shows in the UK. Which is a pity, because it’s been three years since I was over there, and I miss it. Would love to come back soon! You can read the adventures of Lady Sabre online. Of interest is that beneath each page of the story is the script, an invaluable resource for budding comic-artists.

Sara Westrop

GR: Not at present. I’m at a point with work and family that I tend only to do convenImage © Rick Burchett

that makes the comic more inclusive is, to me, better.


Geek Syndicate Sylvester Stalone Talks Expendables 2 Image © WENN, 2012


and Chuck Norris as well as considerably larger parts for Arnie and Bruce. Expendables 2 is bigger and better than ever and we sat down with the big man himself to talk raising the bar, on set competition and Expendables 3. GS: In what ways has the bar, been significantly raised in The Expendables 2? SS: On the sequel you’ve lost the element of surprise…. Usually the first one you may not go very, very deep into character; second one you start to explore the character a bit more. But the odds that you can’t surprise them become, like I said, a lot heavier. So you have to work more and more to come up with some creative devices to keep the action flowing. GS: This is a physically demanding role. I understand that you suffered quite a bad injury when you were making the original Expendables movie. A couple of questions. Did that put you off doing a sequel? Did you suffer any injuries? Is there anybody in your life whose opinion you value who said “Don’t do this, Sly, because you’re taking too much of a risk”?

The first Expendables movie was for many, the dream of dreams. The biggest action stars from the eighties and nineties finally coming together in one film. Few people thought that it would be possible to top that cast.


But then most people aren’t series creator and writer Sylvester Stallone. Two years later, the original cast are back and this time they have added legends like Jean Claude Van Damme

SS: Yes, the doctors… I had my neck fused in the last one, with the stunt that went real bad. I had two back operations, a shoulder operation, Achilles operation. The last movie took its toll. The doctor said “Don’t take any rough falls. Let a stunt

Geek Syndicate fellow do it.” But sometimes you just have to do it. I don’t know why, I guess throw common sense out the window. So yes, there were some injuries; there were some tough ones in this one. But I can’t help myself. It’s a fool’s paradise for me. GS: In the old days there used to be quite a bit of competition between you guys as action legends. How was it working on a project together? Was there competition on the set?

GS: Obviously I think for action fans, the finest moment of many action films is the one-liners. There’s so many great ones in this film. But I wondered, looking back over your illustrious career, if you could perhaps share with us what you think in your opinion have been some of the best and perhaps worst that you’ve ever had the privilege to utter on-screen. SS: I guess my best is “Yo Adrian…” It’s one thing you just can’t criticise. Some of the worst would have to be perhaps all my dialogue in ‘Stop!

GS: You did mention the stunt guys and the film does carry quite a poignant dedication to the stunt performer who sadly lost his life during the course of the film. How hard was that for the cast and crew to deal with and to bounce back from? SS: It was incredibly hard. Especially the members of the stunt team, they took it very, very hard and shut down for quite a while. It’s still something they’re going through. It’s happened twice before in films I’ve been on and it’s never easy. It’s ongoing, I’m sorry.

Image © Lionsgate, 2012

SS: Very competitive. Very. No-one wants to be second, so that’s why everyone pushes very hard, and why these people have established the reputation they have. Because they want to be the best, and they usually are.

to do with their job. The key with men like us is very, very simple. If you give out respect, you get respect. If you disrespect then you’re going to get that too. It’s very, very simple. But what it is – and I have to give credit to – not many people would do a film like this. This is a very risky film taking people – he said “I don’t know if this would work anymore. He went around, and it’s very, very important where the producer and the financer has a personal relationship with everybody. So everyone – they don’t feel like they’re just hired hands, they’re like their friends. So there was no ego clash whatsoever.

Or My Mom Will Shoot’. Probably every line would be immortally bad. GS: Almost all of you are used to being top of the bill when a movie comes out, so were there any clashes of egos at all on the movie? How did you handle it if there were? It seemed like you used humour a lot. SS: Well, I’d like to say there was, because it makes for a more interesting story. But no, there was ultimate respect. I think everyone just knew what

GS: Firstly can I ask are there plans going ahead for an Expendables 3? If so, judging at the timing of year, are you inspired by the Olympics? Would you consider any guest stars from any Olympian gold medallists this year? One suggestion I would say would be maybe Ireland’s Katie Taylor, the lightweight women’s champion. SS: Yes, see that would be an interesting choice. Really I think as we spread out, we are thinking about different concepts. Because the third one’s the hardest, by far. The second is the natural progression. Third one, that’s when the air gets rare. We’re thinking pretty ambitiously about it. So she would fit right in there, 17

Geek Syndicate because we’re going for odd choices – you have to. Now you have to give the audience something they don’t expect at all. Maybe even go into a different sort of genre, if you read between the lines, get out there a little bit. Maybe rip off one of your other films. Something like that. Yes, why not? GS: Obviously training now, you probably have to approach it slightly differently to how you would earlier in your career. How have you adapted how you train to meet those demands?

SS: Yes, growing up I of course admired physically, the first time I saw Hercules Unchained, just something snapped in my brain. Because I was very, very thin and I had no direction, the usual adolescent insecurities. From that point on I had a real male role model. Of course modelling yourself after Hercules is kind of a difficult thing when you’re skinny, but that was it. Then of course the actors at the time, I was just drawn to heroes like Kirk Douglas in The Vikings. That primarily was it.

But when Arnold and I got into the action genre, there really wasn’t an action genre. There’d be car chases and there’d be maybe a fist fight, but the actual genre is something that just grew up around us. We were pretty instrumental in it, but unwearyingly so, it just happened. The Expendables 2 was out on Blu-ray, DVD and Download on December 10, courtesy of Lions Gate Home Entertainment.

Phil Hobden

Image © Lionsgate, 2012

SS: Mine is obviously going lighter and more scientific, and using the equipment that they are actually using with Olympians today, and plyometrics. It just seems to be… Actually, it’s more fun than just a regular iron game.

GS: You guys practically invented this kind of action movie genre. But I just wondered, when you were younger, did you have a kind of role model for this kind of genre? I’m thinking about Kirk Douglas maybe or…


Geek Syndicate A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ... Webcomics

For the purpose of ease in this article, I’ll break the webcomics into three categories: • Strips - comics structured much like a newspaper strip and consisting of just a few panels; • Full Page - comics that

• Other - comics that don’t really fit into the other categories, like photo-comics.

Other First up, I’ll start with what is possibly my favourite webcomic on the internet: Surviving the World.

ly a “comic” in the traditional sense, this is the internet and it deserves your attention, and with about four and half years of daily updates in the archives, you can expect to enjoy the backlog for quite a while.

Full Page Next is one of my more recent discoveries: Picture of You. Image © Gibson Twist

As a comic reader, nothing on the internet fascinates me more than webcomics. It is a media that produces sequential art based stories in many forms. They can range from nothing but photos and text through three-panel strips to full coloured pages. Since there are so many webcomics on the vast place that is the internet, I thought I might share some of my favorites, and maybe a few words from some of their creators. Some you may have heard of, some you may have not, but either way, they’re worth a look.

are done much like a comic book with a full page of artwork;

Image © Dante Shepherd

It’s a fact of modern life that the advent of the internet has meant that anyone can be a creator. All you need is an idea, the gumption to start something new, thick enough skin to brave possible criticism, and the ability to not worry about failure. The internet is the home of uncountable examples of fan-fiction stories, original stories, poetry, artworks. More recently, podcasting and video-creation has become a creative outlet for individuals. And of course, there are webcomics.

Surviving The World by Dante Shepherd

Pictures of You by Gibson Twist

This is a photo-comic run by Dante Shepherd (@danteshepherd on twitter), a former government scientist and current college professor. The comic is set up much like a classroom where every day you, the reader, are treated to a new lesson on life/love/philosophy/science/politics or so much more. The original idea for Surviving The World started as a script that Shepherd had written. He eventually turned it into its current form.

Creator Gibson Twist was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, and sums the comic up much better than I could:

Everyone has had that cool professor or teaching assistant, and Dante is that person times ten. While not technical-

GS: Where did the original idea for the comic come from?

GS: Pretend we’ve never heard of Pictures of You. What’s your elevator pitch? GT: Archie, with booze, drugs, sex, and plot. Real life the way you wish you remembered it. The best friends you’ll ever lose.

GT: Pictures of You was in19

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GS: You’ve been working on Pictures of You for about five years now. What has made this project such a lasting one? GT: Actually, I’ve been working on Pictures of You on and off since 2000, and have been producing the comic actively since late 2006. What makes it lasting for me as a writer is that it’s very personal, because it’s drawn from my own reality, and I find a lot of emotion in it. The characters are deep and compelling, and the dynamic of such a large and diverse cast keeps me interested, keeps me digging to define them, to get to know them. Plus, the length of the story, though at times daunting, is a challenge I’ve given myself, and I’m not willing to admit defeat. The readers have also kept me going, to hear from people who become so invested in the story themselves, who grow to love and despise the characters, to see themselves 20

there on each page, some of whose lives have been literally changed by reading. We’ve got a diverse audience as well, women and men, young and old, from all over the world, many of whom are not traditional comic readers, which is a great honour to bring them into the world of sequential art. Plus, there’s the occasional message from other aspiring comickers who are inspired by the series, and who would want that to go away?

the things that keep me coming back to Pictures of You. You come for the pictures and stay for the story. At just shy of a thousand full, comic-style pages, as I write this, you can easily kill a weekend looking through all the past updates. Another full page comic that I only recently discovered (I’m talking Christmas Eve, 2012 recently), is Space-Mullet. Image © Daniel Warren Johnson

spired by the events of my misspent youth, my circle of friends and all the terrible things we did to each other. The characters and events and most of the locations were fictionalized, by which I mean changed entirely, so it’s not a biography, but an homage to beautifully illadvised time in my life.

GS: What would you say is the best reason for someone to start reading Pictures of You? GT: Pictures of You is a comic for people who love to read, not just for people who love comics, with appeal that pushes beyond geek circles without alienating them. Our readers get involved in the story, talk about it with friends and share it with family. They get addicted to it, identify with the characters, debate the issues, and over and over try to guess what happens next. The best reason for someone to start reading Pictures of You is that it’s about you. With pictures. The idea of the creator putting so much of themselves into the comic, and thus making it both personal and instantly relatable to readers is one of

Space Mullet by Daniel Warren Johnson

It’s a cool and bit unorthodox sci-fi space opera created by Daniel Warren Johnson (@ danielwarrent on twitter). He updates bi-weekly, sometimes more regularly, with the adventures of Jonah, a washed up, ex-Space Marine turned space trucker and his co-pilot Alphius, a member of the alien Zozobian race. The duo try their best to do good throughout the galaxy, but often meet a bit of trouble. There are roughly sixty pages out as I write this, each done in won-

Geek Syndicate derful black, white, and blue artwork. The simplicity of the colours add a great depth to the pages and Daniel uses it to full advantage. Jonah and Alphius have one of the best bromances on the internet and make for great and often hilarious heroes in this comic. I blew through the story in one night and I think anyone who’s a fan of science fiction comics or even of comics in general will love this one.


Image © Alex Sapountzis

Another recent find of mine is the webcomic Damn Heroes, created by Mark Frankel (@PantherPitt) and Alex Sapountzis (@asapuntzis).

Damn Heroes by Mark Frenkel & Alex Sapountzis

Mark does the primary writing of each strip and Alex does the art. Mark answered some questions for me to give a little bit of background on the strip: GS: Pretend we’ve never heard of Damn Heroes. What’s your elevator pitch? MF: In a spur of the moment decision, a young

man named Sebastian decides to take the “short cut” through Hero City. He is stopped by the city’s top superhero, Captain Righteous, for going five miles over the speed limit and subsequently sentenced to five years of community service, one for each mile he was going over the limit. What ensues is a series of high jinks when reality attempts to collide with the surreal and overly zealous world of law abiding superheroes. Damn Heroes is a parody of not just our favorite comics, but also pop culture, seen through the eyes of one poor, hapless schlub. GS: Where did the original idea for the comic come from? MF: Damn Heroes was born out of many conversations about comics, pop culture and the other media that we both consume. Our twisted minds had been throwing funny ideas back and forth until I finally sat down and started to write them (and the other sick thoughts that are in my head) down in a form that Alex could bring to life. Most of the time I write on my commute into New York City on the train, so I’m is already in a grumpy mood from waking up and sprinting to work. After that, torturing a character like Sebastian is just a

bonus. GS: Damn Heroes is fairly new. What can we expect to see from the strip in the future? MF: Muh hah hah hah *rubs hands together in delight with evil grin* <cough, cough> Ahem, sorry, you weren’t supposed to see that. With all the world of comics and pop culture at our dispense, the question might be what can’t we expect to see. We have another twenty or thirty strips written at this point, but so many more ideas that will be made into strips as we go along. We have several new characters that we will be debuting in the coming months, especially one of my favorites, a villian named Dr. Entropy. Ideas seem to come to both of us easily at this point, the trick is really refining them. I’m sure we may run out at some point, but I’d bet that won’t happen for many years. GS: What would you say is the best reason for someone to start reading Damn Heroes? MF: I can only pick one? Geez, there are so many reasons. Like a giant green chicken named Cluck. Or all the community service assignments that Sebastian will (quite 21

literally) suffer through. Or watching Captain Righteous fight a giant squid of his own making. Even the wonderful mad science world of Dr. Entropy. All though reasons aside, however, we hope you’ll join us and have a good laugh. Thanks for checking us out! A strip poking fun at comics and superheroes created by two guys who both love them. I like the idea and if what’s coming in the future weeks is as fun as what I’ve already seen, I’m sure it’ll be a great comic. Make sure to check in every week to see what sort of terrible task Sebastian is faced with.

Edmund Finney’s Quest ... by Dan Long

With each update, creator Dan Long (@EQcomics) chronicles the journey of titular character Edmund Finney as he searches for the meaning of line. Whether it’s aliens with a love of muffins and not-sogreat grasp of the English language or violent nomads, Edmund meets a strange, motley group of individuals on his journey. At roughly four years of updates, there is a bit of a backlog to work through, with many little “arcs” in Edmund’s journey. And with such a lofty

goal for his journey, Edmund may be questing for quite a while, which means tons more strips for all the readers. There you have it. This was nowhere near an exhaustive list of the webcomics available, nor even of all my favourites, but enough to guide and direct anyone who may be wanting to check out a few new webcomics. Check them out and let me know what you thought. Did you like them? Hate them? Want more just like them? If you do want more, be sure to check out the “link buddies” on the side of most webcomics. They’re usually comics that the creators like, so they’re bound to be good.

Leo Johnson Starting in February, 2013, comes the Fangirls webcomic which will ponder life’s little conundrums from the perspecitves of its creators. Check out the preview below. Image © Sara Westrop & JL Straw, 2012

Another strip comic, and one of my favorites, is Edmund Finney’s Quest to Find the Meaning of Life.

Image © Dan Long

Geek Syndicate


Geek Syndicate INTERVIEW

Steve Niles Talks to Geek Syndicate

Image © IDW / Dark Horse, 2012

one or two people make all the decisions I like that. I work fast and move from project to project. That would be hard to do in other mediums outside maybe music. I know I’m stating the obvious, but it’s words and pictures combined. You can do anything you want. I feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface of what can be done.

In conjunction with the upcoming 30 Days of Night/Criminal Macabre crossover event, we chatted with Steve Niles, writer and creator of both series, on the meeting of two of his creations, his work in comics, and more. GS: Hi Steve and welcome to Geek Syndicate. You’ve been involved with many creative efforts other than comics. (music, movies, novels, etc.) What has made you stick with comics for so long? SN: I ask myself that a lot. I’ve always loved comics but it wasn’t until I tried all those other things I realized how much I love them as a medium. For me it’s the perfect level of collaboration You still have lots of input but really 23

Geek Syndicate GS: You’re generally credited with helping to bring horror comics back into prominence. How do you feel about this statement? What has made horror comics such an attractive genre for you? SN: I know the success of original series triggered a lot of horror comics, but there were others doing horror at the time. It’s nice that people say that but I don’t really take credit. It was group, hive-mind moment. Horror has been around a long time in comics but it got stuck in a sort of EC Tribute rut. Most horror comics seemed to have become two things; EC-like comics following the revenge and retribution formula and horrorthemed superhero books. EC stuff is classic. Some of the tribute books like Twisted Tales were amazingly great. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run is maybe the best use of a horror-themed hero character. All we did, really was go at horror like horror is done in films and novels -even Creepy and Eerie to some extent- We told complete, sometimes highconcept, stories which stood on their own. To me, that was the big shift. Now horror has it’s own section in some comic stores. I love that. GS: You’ve done mostly creatorowned work, but also worked with some well-established characters, such as Batman. Do you feel as if creator-owned work is more fulfilling than working with an established character? SN: Both are fulfilling as a


writer but creator-owned offers creators a stake in what they create. I think creatorowned offers us more in range and different types of comics that can be done, but whenever you write something and people respond, it’s fulfilling. GS: How does it feel to have two of your most well-known creations meet in this 30 Days of Night/ Criminal Macabre crossover? SN: It’s a really cool opportunity. I think it’s so awesome that IDW and Dark Horse are making this happen. These are two series that have been in my life for a long time and each have had lives of their own. Now I get to write them into the same universe which is actually happening pretty naturally. I’m very excited about the series. Nervous about the outcome but excited. GS: Was there ever any intention for the worlds of 30 Days of Night and Criminal Macabre to meet, or has that been something that has happened more recently? SN: It was kind of a happy accident. In Criminal Macabre and Cal McDonald stories since the very beginning there’s always been a threat of a War of the Monsters. Cal has never paid much attention to it before but recently things have been getting worse and worse, monster attacks are getting more brazen. A war seems to be on the horizon. Now, in the new 30 Days of Night ongoing Eben has becoming more and more evil. He now wants to wage war against humans. I saw a great

chance to have a crossover and not have to force a story. With a few tweaks the two series could collide. I mentioned it to IDW and Dark Horse and they both loved the idea and now here we are. GS: Though I imagine it can be like picking a favorite child, who do you like more, Eben or Cal? SN: Due to recent events, mainly Eben becoming a homicidal maniac, I’d say Cal is the easy pick. GS: What can fans expect from you in the future? SN: Right now I’m doing a lot of different stuff. There’s Creator-owned Heroes and Transfusion and Frankenstein Alive Alive currently hitting stands. I’m working on a project with Templesmith and Menton3 called Lust. There’s a lot. GS: Thanks for your time, Steve! Criminal Macabre/30 Days of Night Crossover #1 went on sale 12th December, 2012.

Leo Johnson

Geek Syndicate Image © Kudos Films, 2012

GEEK SYNDICATE At The Utopia Preview Screening

The Utopia Experiments is a legendary graphic novel shrouded in mystery. But when a small group of previously unconnected people – Ian, Becky, Grant and Wilson – find themselves in possession of an original manuscript, their lives suddenly and brutally implode. Here’s the official low-down on the show: When five online strangers are drawn together by the legendary manuscript of a cult graphic novel, they find themselves pursued by a secret and deadly organisation known only as The Network. The online comic book forum agree to meet after gaining possession of the original manuscript for the cult graphic novel ‘The

Utopia Experiments’. Unbeknown to them however, a shadowy organisation known as The Network is in pursuit of the manuscript – and they are prepared to kill to track it down. While three of the forum members – Ian (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), an I.T. dropout; Becky (Alexandra Roach), a student; and Wilson (Adeel Akhtar), a conspiracy theorist – meet in the pub, another is confronted and killed by two Network henchmen. The only witness to the murder is 11year-old Grant (Oliver Woollford) – the fifth forum member – and when he flees with the manuscript, the henchmen give chase.

Ian and Becky soon find they’ve been set-up for crimes they haven’t committed, while Wilson’s hacking skills attract the attention of Network henchmen Arby (Neil Maskill) and Lee (Paul Ready). As the trio’s lives begin to fracture, the world of civil servant Michael Dugdale (Paul Higgins) is also torn apart as he is blackmailed by The Network over his affair with a prostitute. Just as things are looking increasingly desperate for Ian, Becky and Wilson, they come face to face with an enigmatic stranger who claims to offer them a way out. Writer: Dennis Kelly; Prod: Rebekah Wray-Roper; Dir: Marc Mun25

Geek Syndicate den; Exec Prods: Karen Wilson, Jane Featherstone, Dennis Kelly; Prod Co: Kudos Film and Television. Sounds good? Well Geek Syndicate was lucky enough to be at the press screening of the first episode (which aired on 15th January 2013) and here’s what we thought.

The series is about a small group of people who meet up on an internet forum about a graphic novel called The Utopia Experiments. The novel is about a scientist who has made a deal with the devil and it is supposed to have predicted the worst disasters of the last century. However the group are not the only ones interested in the manuscript, as “The Network” are also after it. The Network are a little like the Men in Black, government operatives who are happy to murder anyone who has knowledge of Utopia in order to keep it a secret. The strangers must therefore stand together to find out the truth about the Utopia manuscript and prevent themselves being next on The Network’s hit list.Initially Utopia seemed to take a little while to get into the story, even with a hum-dinger of an opening, but once the group eventually meet then it really seemed to come into its own. Image © Kudos Films, 2012

It is a cold Thursday afternoon and I’m here at the Soho Hotel with fellow Geek Syndicate reporter Montoya to see the screening of a new Channel 4 series called Utopia due out next year. Produced by Kudos Films (Law & Order: UK, Spooks, Life on Mars), Utopia is a six part new series written by Dennis Kelly (BBC 3’s Pulling and the Co-Creator of Matilda the musical). The series stars Nathan Stewart-Jarret (Misfits), Alexandra Roach (The Iron Lady), Oliver Woolford (Blackout) and Adeel Akhtar (Four Lions), Neil Maskell (Kill List), Paul Higgins (In The Loop), James Fox (A Passage to India), Geraldine James (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Simon MuBurney (Tink-

er, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Fiona O’Shaughnessy (Outcast) and Michael Smilley (Kill List).

With the series only being six parts, questions should be answered quickly with no drawing out the story. After the screening we were then treated to a Q&A session with Alexandra Roach, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Dennis Kelly, and Director Marc Munden whose credits include The Crimson Petal and The White. Alexandra and Nathan explained what drew them to the roles – both saying that they read all six scripts and decided that they had to do it! Dennis advised that Kudos initially came up with the idea of a conspiracy in a graphic novel, he added a “thriller element”, then wrote a story that focused on the “normal person” and how they deal with the situation that they are thrown into. Exploring what the characters are prepared to do and how far they are willing to go. When asked if there was any room to go past six parts, Dennis advised that whilst the initial series is a self contained story, they do have more to tell and have ideas about how to explore that further. Utopia is airing in the UK at the moment (Tuesdays at 22:00 on Channel 4) and I beg you to give it a try. This looks to be a new and intelligent series with no supernatural beings anywhere to be seen and is sure to keep us glued to our TV sets week after week.

Wendy Sims Christophe Montoya 26

Geek Syndicate


Geek Syndicate Geek Syndicate Catch Up With Cinebook Image © Cinebook, 2012


Here at Geek Syndicate, we are big fans of the company’s output - particularly as they always have the best convention deals of any publisher going. But who exactly are Cinebook? Here’s some info from their site: Cinebook is the Publisher of the best-selling European comic books for all ages. For many English-speaking readers, knowledge of European comic books is limited to the popular characters Tintin and Asterix. Since the end of 2005, Cinebook has worked to become the premier publisher of the Franco-Belgian Ninth Art in English in markets dominated by American superhero comics and Japanese manga. Given the opportunity, we couldn’t help but catch up with some key members of the team to find out what makes them tick...


Geek Syndicate GS: Hello to everyone at Cinebook, and thank you.

Aldous: proofreader and convention man.

You’ve been magnificent hosts over this last year, and I feel like I’ve ‘feasted’ very well at your table. Cherry-picking my way through your catalogue has been a real eye-opener for me. I confess the courses have come so thick and fast that I can barely keep up, but the overall quality has been such that – whilst not every dish has been to my taste – I’ve always looked ahead at the next serving with hungry eyes. The Gallic palate for comics may be very different from that of the average British or American consumer, but by gum it’s nice to have something different to the same old Spandex salad.

GS: What is Cinebook, at heart?

Now, before I confuse our readers too much with all this culinary codswallop, perhaps you could chip in and save me from my horrendously over-egged metaphors. Why don’t you tell the good folks a little bit about yourselves? Jerome: translator and PR officer. Erica: translator. Olivier: founder. Valerie: supervisor.

Image © Cinebook, 2012

Jerome: Cinebook is, first, a labour of love. A company created by someone who wanted

a “market.” He looked at it as something that needed to be cracked open so that all the wonderful works of art that France and Belgium had produced could be known to millions of readers who’d been deprived of them for so long.

to work with comic books, someone who loves French culture, and has at heart the desire to spread that aspect of it abroad where it’s still undeservedly unknown. That person is Olivier Cadic. He’s a French expatriate living in Great Britain, and he didn’t approach the Englishspeaking world of comics as

Erica: In France, one out of every eight books sold is a comic book. Olivier knew there was a lot of scope for encouraging the same kind of appreciation for comic books and graphic novels in the Anglophone world. Another important piece of the puzzle is that comic books promote literacy. Olivier chose to offer a range of titles for both children and adults, knowing that reluctant readers are often enticed to start reading when the words are accompanied by colourful images.

Jerome: He set Cinebook up, he built the team, he made our goals and methods clear. The idea for us is to select quality series in French, do our absolute best to provide translations of equal quality, and then put them out there for people to experience. And to keep the series going until our readers have the whole thing available.


Geek Syndicate can get to work on it!

Jerome: I think the absolute champion has been Lucky Luke, followed by Blake & Mortimer and XIII. Why do they sell so well? Quality, really–pure geniuses at the helm: Goscinny for Lucky Luke, Van Hamme for XIII, Jacobs for B&M... and the artists are no slouches either. They’re just fantastic series, and the readers in the Englishspeaking world have seen that. Same reason they worked in France and Belgium, I guess!

Olivier: The Bluecoats as well, ever since I was little.

On a more personal level, what are your favourite books and why? Jerome: Yoko Tsuno has been my favourite since childhood, for tons of reasons. Valerian comes in at a close second–I discovered it a bit later. For both of them, finding myself working on series I revere has been an absolute dream. Series I discovered since childhood, though... Orbital has really captured my imagination, and I look forward to the continuation of the story. My biggest and best surprise has been Long John Silver. For a fan of pirates and tall ships like me, it had all the right ingredients, but the truth is, it’s so good that you don’t need to be a fan of such things. Dorison’s Silver and Lady Vivian are such incredibly realised characters... And Lauffray’s art blows me away every time I see it. I cannot wait for the fourth and last volume to come out so I 30

Erica: The Bluecoats!

Valerie: The Worlds of Aldebaran

Selection GS: So, in all important respects, you’re a publication business, not a comics company. The books already exist, simply not in the English language. I’m interested in how books come to your attention: how they cross the ocean to reach your door, and from there out into the English-speaking world. Do you have people who actively seek new titles and talents to publish, or do the continental agents petition you on behalf of their clients? Jerome: I’m not entirely privy to the whole process, but I’ve accompanied Olivier on his rounds during the Angoulême Comics Festival (the largest comics festival in Europe, second largest in the world after Comiket in Tokyo) and I’ve seen part of it. We team members keep an eye out for good series–old and new–and if we think they have potential, we bring them to Olivier’s attention. After that, he talks to the publishers to assess the feasibility. By now, we have a comfortable working relationship with Mediatoon, who oversee foreign rights for Dupuis, Dargaud, Le Lombard and Lucky Comics, and they also put

some series forward. So far we’ve done most of the work, but our name is getting to be known, so people are coming to us now. You have an incredibly wide variety of books – what is the connecting factor? Do you seek specific genres, fill quotas on type and age of readership, or is it based purely on the taste of the scout? Are there bidding wars between yourselves and the like of Fantagraphics? Jerome: Again, I’m not privy to bidding wars or the absence thereof! As for the way we choose, well... Part of it is taste, of course—that’s unavoidable. But we do try to pick series than can sell–and avoid those that just can’t. Some series are just too French; others have subject matter that simply won’t fly in some countries. We’ve noticed, however, that series dealing with other countries (without making terrible fun of them, at least!) Image © Cinebook, 2012

GS: What have been your biggest commercial successes so far, and to what do you attribute them?

tend to do well in that country–Blake & Mortimer in Great Britain, for example. It’s an art rather than a science, of course. We have the benefit of knowing whether a series sold well in France, but that doesn’t necessarily translate directly to another country. Olivier, who has the last word on selections, seems to have the knack for picking them. As far as “quotas,” we’ve always tried to keep as broad a selection as we could: several age brackets, different genres, a balance of male and female protagonists, different styles. XIII is coming to an end this trimester, for example, and we’re bringing another modern adventure series with spy overtones to replace it in our line-up: Wayne Shelton, also by Jean Van Hamme. We try to keep a balance. Translation GS: I’ve always held a passion for language and the delicate webs of meaning it contains. The notion that somebody can take a manuscript and translate it into another language: contending all the while with cultural nuance, linguistic humour and variable modes of speech is both horrifying and exhilarating to me. How do you approach translation in terms of practical method and thought process? For you, what defines a ‘good’ translation? Jerome: A good translation is one you can’t tell is a transla-

Image © Cinebook, 2012

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tion. Seems obvious, I know! A good translation is one where I can read the finished product and not wince at my own work–and not feel obligated to translate back in my head to get the original text! Translation is as much an art form as a science. And translating comics is different from translating novels. Everything is more concentrated–even physically, as things have to fit inside the bubbles. When I begin a translation, I have to read the original text through a couple of times. It helps get a feel for the character’s voices and personalities, lets me see the situation, the pictures... After that, I start the work, with a first draft that ignores questions and uncertainties, just leaves tags for later. Once the first draft is over, I begin again from the start, controlling grammar, tone, vocabulary, facts (we do a LOT of historical and technical research in this job!)... and reviewing the tags. Usu-

ally, whatever word didn’t want to come on the first draft presents itself at that point. If not, maybe the day after... After that, the text goes to a first controller who looks for typos, obvious mistakes, forgotten lines, etc... then to a professional proofreader–an English major from the USA to balance my own Frenchness. She corrects my mistakes, sends suggestions or advice for review, and the text comes back to me. And back and forth until everyone’s happy. After which it is reviewed again by the controller, AND further proofread by Aldous and Goon Aldous: to view the text with fresh eyes and check for slang or common usage differences. Jerome: It’s a long, involved and very thorough process, very much a team effort. When Erica is the primary translator, I’m the proofreader, making sure that there’s always one native speaker of each language involved. It’s the one thing I’m most happy with about Cinebook: Olivier’s decision, right from the start, that the translation job would not be half-baked. Aldous: I don’t think it’s possible to check the work too often – whatever happens, some mistakes will inevitably slip through, but I like to think that our error-rate is very low. Some things don’t translate. How do you handle humour, 31

words or concepts which simply do not have a direct English equivalent? How big of a cultural divide is there between us? Jerome: The cultural divide is, fortunately, not that wide. Yes, there are differences between France and the UK, or the US, but in the end, we’re still all Western civilisations, with common roots and common history. Even things that are different usually have a more or less direct equivalent. Obviously, we have readers throughout the world, since English is a lingua franca, but it’s the target language that determines the changes.

I hope I did good. :) I can tell you one thing: having lived abroad helps tremendously. I spent about two years in the USA, and 10 living in Ireland. I’ve spent time in the UK, in Australia... Without that first-hand experience of the people, the culture and the language, I shudder to think of the mistakes I could make. Colloquialisms and pop culture references are the worst! Humour is extremely difficult, and you can’t learn it at school, either. You have to experience it first, so you can recognise it and reshape it for a different audience.

And on occasion, terrifying.

As I said: Fun, challenging... and terrifying.

Image © Cinebook, 2012

Cultural equivalents are not the same as lexical or grammatical ones, though! Sometimes, you have to work around a sentence, twist it, break it, pad it... to make it work. Split it between two bubbles, for example. It’s a fun exercise, to be honest. Challenging and fun.

I just took over translation of Iznogoud, for example, which is chock-full of puns, and since the original translators were Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge (the legends behind the English version of Asterix)... It was a daunting prospect. How do you take over after such a team??

The Continental nations are perceived as being more liberal in their attitudes to sex and sexuality. Several of your books have had minor alterations made to the art with relation to this aspect of life. Is this thoughtful sensitivity or simple censorship? Is this itself a kind of cultural translation? Jerome: That’s actually a pretty good way to put it, yes... Cultural translation. I like that!


Image © Cinebook, 2012

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We’ve taken a bit of flak over those alterations, from readers who hate the idea of censorship for various reasons. Personally, I dislike it too, on principle, but it’s not that simple. I’m a product of French culture, in which nudity and mentions of sexuality are common and no big deal. It’s easy when you’ve been raised that way to smirk when other people get offended by the occasional exposed nipple. But that’s a grave mistake. You don’t wave your culture around and shove it into somebody’s face. That’s rude, and stupid, and counterproductive in the extreme. When you... invite yourself into somebody’s home, so to speak, you have to show respect for THEIR culture. And if that means covering up someone’s exposed body here and there, then so be it. When the alternative is to be labelled with an adult rating and relegated to the in-

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Image © Cinebook, 2012

Erica: It would be a pity for individual readers to miss out on the quality of a book, for themselves of their children, because of some small point that’s objectionable to them– such as incidental nudity in a children’s title. That’s another reason to modify the books for readers from cultures other than the French.

Jerome: That being said, let’s make something very, very clear: None of those alterations have any impact on the stories. And ALL of them are done with the full consent and knowledge of the authors! In fact, most of them are done BY the original artists themselves. Aldous: As a new reader of

these stories (not having read any of them in French), I usually can’t tell when the dialogue or art has been altered (I might be able to guess!) and, in my opinion, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment. I can understand the pointof-view of the purists (being a supporter of freedom of expression), but, equally, I’m just happy to be able to read the books. To what degree is a translated comic the work of the original writer, and how much should rightfully be attributed to the translator? Jerome: We try, when we translate, to keep the overall tone of a text. Is it formal or street language? Is it full of accents and regional colloquialisms, or is it very neutral and universal? That’s not always easy to do, but we strive towards faithfulness. Beyond that, though... As I said, translation’s an art form. All those changes, all that tweaking... Even easy things can usually be translated in four or five different ways. The resulting text is going to be very different from one translator to another. When you read a title I’ve translated, you’re reading my words (with adjustments from Erica’s corrections, of course!). The meaning, the story, the personalities... they’re the author’s (or at least, they should be if I did my job properly), but the words are mine. And that means that the mistakes or weaknesses in the text are

mine too. Some translators like to really make a text theirs completely. They almost rewrite the original material, with varying degrees of success. When it’s done well, it’s fantastic. Sometimes I think I should lean more towards that end of the spectrum. But doing that can be seen as a betrayal of the original text, almost. And you need to be darn good to pull it off. Striking a balance is not easy. Maybe in 20 or 30 years, I’ll be seasoned enough that I’ll be fully happy with my choices! ^_^

Production GS: European comic albums are taller, deeper and thinner than their US and UK counterparts. In producing your translations you have stuck to the same ratios – understandable in terms of preserving the artwork, but perhaps less so in the number of pages per book. I’ve really appreciated it Image © Cinebook, 2012

accessible top shelves–or not being sold at all–then the decision’s an easy one to make. Both from a financial point of view, and a cultural one: we’re not going to make much of anything available to anyone if we don’t sell titles.


deal. So we switched to single volumes, and sales got better. Hard to argue with that, really!

Marketing and Distribution GS: Despite a huge increase in public awareness of comics, (in large part courtesy of comic-book films) most high-street retailers seem woefully poor at displaying and selling them. Large scale publishers spend an awful lot of money on in-your-face marketing, but such ploys are not available to everyone.

when you’ve produced double-volumes such as Green Manor 1 and 2 and The Scorpion 1 and 2 but these seem to be the exceptions, rather than the rule. What is the business rationale behind this, and what kind of feedback have you had from your readers? Jerome: The length and width of the books has been kept larger than the traditional UK/ US comic book format, as you said, to preserve the artwork. French/Belgian artwork is designed for bigger pages, and shrinking or cropping it to make it fit a different format is both a crime and a mistake. Probably one reason so many attempts to publish translated works failed before we came around. As for thickness, it’s a financial reason. Plain and simple, the double volumes didn’t sell as well. People were put off by the price tag, even though, technically, it was a better 34

How do you meet the challenge of getting your products in front of people’s faces? Jerome: We count a lot on reviewers, bloggers, websites such as yourselves to sample our products and get the word out there about what’s available from us. It’s been a vital part of our growing success, and we cannot thank you and all the other reviewers enough who’ve taken a chance on our books. Our other method is literally “in your face”: conventions and festivals. Aldous and Goon have been our convention gremlins (sorry, just watched NCIS!) almost from the start, and they’ve done a stellar job of manning the tables, making them look good, communicating with the fans, and following up with all the people they’ve met during the cons. They’ve invested so much of their time I’m constantly impressed by their dedication.

And it’s paid off, big time! Anyone who’s ever mentioned seeing us at a convention usually talks about the friendliness of the staff, the cool display of beautiful material... and our fantastic convention specials of buy five, get five free! It’s usually accompanied by good-natured grumbling about being tempted into spending too much and having to eat pot noodles for a while, but hey. On a more global level, we’ve recently been included in Diamond Comic Distributor’s catalogue (Diamond Previews), which instantly made us available in a lot more comic book shops across North America. This ought to help tremendously in being seen by the public. Aldous: Another large part of our marketing is the support of our readers. It’s always encouraging to see people coming back and being really enthusiastic about what we do. Often, at conventions, Image © Cinebook, 2012

Image © Cinebook, 2012

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Geek Syndicate familiar customers will bring their friends over to our stall and point out books to them that they enjoyed. Several of our customers have helped highlight our work to schools, libraries and comic stores – this support is invaluable and a great encouragement to us. As a middle-sized company, we like to support the work of other middle-sized and small companies and we always offer independent comic stores the same deals that larger chains can get from distributors (our UK distributors, Turnaround, are extremely helpful and accommodating!). At heart, our marketing strategy is to try to be nice people! GS: Digital distribution is radically altering the publishing industry. When will we see Cinebook translations on tablet computers? Aldous: Many of our titles are already available for Apple and Android devices (as well as desktop browsers) through Izneo. As the only Englishlanguage publisher on that platform (they operate primarily in France), it may not be that visible to British and American readers. I think our

emphasis remains on print editions, however. What are the greatest challenges you face at the moment, and what excites you most about the future of Cinebook? Jerome: Challenges... Aside from the overall state of the economy in general, I’m not sure. As for the future? There are titles coming up in series I love that are... Golden Age ones (Valerian and Yoko Tsuno, for example). There are new series signed up that I’m excited about. Possibilities for other series, maybe even other publishers, that have me shivering with hope. There are markets that are finally starting to open, countries where we find ourselves unexpectedly popular (a trip to India’s in the making). I’m a geek, and a comic book fan, and I translate comic books for a living. There’s precious little in the future of Cinebook I’m not excited about! Aldous: With our catalogue rapidly becoming more widely available and visible in the US (thanks to the support of Dia-

mond), I’m looking forward to the potential for attending some conventions across the pond. This is both an excitement and a challenge! In the more immediate future, most of us are about to depart on our annual pilgrimage to Angoulême. This is always an exciting event and also a rare opportunity for us to be in the same place at the same time - providing the opportunity to discuss plans for the coming year. Also, it’s fantastic to meet some of the authors and artists who produce the books we love! Naturally, we will do some work while we’re there – meeting with publishers to discuss potential new series, for instance – but this is work we all love doing. GS: Thank you for your time. Be sure to check out Cinebook’s range on their website and if you’re ever at a comic convention where they have a stand, be sure to pick up some of their fabulous deals!

Dion Winton-Polak


Geek Syndicate WAR COMICS - Britain’s Lost Genre?

Because back in seventies Britain, it seemed the War Comic for boys was king. Yet there is scant trace of it today. War stories have always played a big part in fiction, and it is fairly easy to see the attraction. Conflict narratives make for easy definition of “goodies” and “baddies” even if we wince a little at is as adults. Heroism and life and death tension are natural and unforced when your setting is a battlefield. You can dial it up to tell gritty, almost horrific stories of survival in the face of certain death and dial it down to tell action/adventure stories where no-one really gets hurt apart from an easily “othered” set of uniforms 36

Commando & Starblazer

Probably the natural place to start when examining the War Comic genre is Commando. First published by DC Thompson in 1961, Commando was produced as a series of pocket-sized black and white story books and is still in print today, al-

though with a circulation well shy of its peak of a staggering 750,000 issues sold. There always seemed to be a new Commando on the shelves, with a painted front cover and dramatic title. Each story was a one-shot with new characters and new situations, which meant a certain amount of jeopardy for any given character. Its rapid publishing schedule, and one-shot nature did lead to a certain amount of plot repetition, but also meant that in the drive to keep things diverse it covered a lot more than the “usual” Second World War stories of North Africa, DDay and the Battle of Britain, so young minds got stories set in Burma, or the Atlantic Convoys, which were often overlooked in sweeping popular narratives of the war. The comic also featured stories from other wars, including the Napoleonic, Boer and the RoImage © DC Thompson

Back then, I didn’t buy comics from a comic store, I bought them from my local newsagent. They had a whole shelf of them, between the stacks of newspapers on the bottom and glossy magazines in the middle shelves and they featured very different heroes from the ones we are familiar with today.

on the other side. War Comics pretty much had the whole spread covered.

Image © DC Thompson

When I was a kid, the comics I read didn’t feature superheroes, racing around in costumes fighting crime and super-villainy. I wasn’t even that aware of them. They were occasionally on television and of course Superman was a big fixture after the success of the films, but in terms of comic books they didn’t really get a look in.

The Victor DC Thomson also published The Victor in 1961. This book featured a recurring roster of wartime heroes. Its front cover always featured a story of valour, usually a true story of a medal being won in combat by British or Commonwealth forces. Other stories featured included tales of “Joe Bones the Human Fly”: a working class lad who could climb anything and was sent on commando raids and the adventures of “Cadman”, a cowardly officer saved constantly by his long suffering batman. As you can probably tell The Victor’s tales were heavily on the “pulp” side of war stories and certainly held strong to that good old-fashioned British obsession with class-based stereotypes. Image © DC Thompson

Image © DC Thompson

man era amongst others. Even rarer were stories from fictitious wars, and a purely Science Fiction sister magazine entitled “Starblazer” was published as a spin-off. This magazine ran for two-hundred and sixteen issues.

Warlord & Battle Probably the prime era for British War Comics is the nineteen-seventies and early nineteeneighties (during which Commando reached those huge circulation figures). Commando and The Victor were joined on the newsstands by another DC Thomson publication, Warlord, and it’s IPC rival Battle. The fact that this is when my generation - children for whom the war was a story told by their grandparents

Image © DC Thompson, 1977

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- started buying comics probably isn’t a co-incidence. War was something exciting yet distant, a narrative easily broken into good guys and bad guys, and a world away from the struggling, recession-hit Britain of the age. Whereas Victor included some non-war stories such as “Tough of the Track” (working class lad runs fast) , Warlord, launched in 1974, was a pure war-story comic. It further distinguished itself from its stable mate with a wider scope of conflicts (although most strips were still World War Two based) including a German-character led strip and a couple set around British soldiers attached to American-led theatres such as the Pacific Island campaigns. Battle, launched in response in 1975, was helmed by Pat Mills and John Wagner, and went onto produce one of the greatest british comic series ever written - Charley’s War.


Geek Syndicate Charley’s War Starting in 1979, Pat Mills (writer) and Joe Colquhoun (artist) produced Charley’s War, detailing World War One through the eyes of sixteen year old infantryman Charley Bourne. The first story arc is the buildup to, and experience of, the notorious First Battle of the Somme and it is striking in its brutal depiction of the horrors of war. Readers will have been used to characters dying in war comics - they are about war, after all - but the scale and senselessness depicted throughout the series gives it a powerful anti-war message that isn’t always reflected in its more “gung-ho” contemporaries.

Hard Times By the nineteen-eighties, home grown British comics were on the decline. Warlord and Victor amalgamated in 1986 and Battle merged with the re-launched Eagle in 1988. Both struggled on into the early nineteen-nineties, but

Image © I{C, 1985

What Charley’s War does share though is a keen eye for detail. The series cuts away several times to focus on Charley’s friends or relatives engaged in other parts of the conflict, including the Battle of the

Falklands and the early Royal Flying Corps. It has a keen eye for British social division of the period (yes, we’re back to Class again!), as well as a good sense of the wry, dark humour of trench life. Charley Bourne served his country right through the Great War, then spent time in the Russian Civil War before heading back to Blighty to get on with life outside the army. Mills left the comic in 1985, following which the story briefly took in the Battle of France in 1940, and eventually Colquhoun’s ill health (he died in 1987) led the strip being finished for good.


as shadows of their former selves. Their contents became increasingly dominated by reprints of previous stories. Today, only Commando survives. The only comic book of my youth I can find in a local newsagents is that battlehardened survivor of the British Comics scene, 2000AD, which had its own SF war story, Rogue Trooper, published in 1981, at the height of the genre’s popularity.

The Present I’d like to think that at least in part the decline of the war comic, with its obsession with the perceived heroics of the Second World War, mirrors a change in Britain from a country looking back at a faltering Imperial Past to a country more at ease with itself than it was in the turbulence of the seventies and eighties. In addition, the nineties were a fascinating time for superheroes, with the genre being torn down and reconstructed. New imprints like DC’s Vertigo soaked up British talent to tell tales of all sorts of avant-garde weirdness. In terms of capturing the imagination of the British youth, the United States was suddenly where it was at and the same old stories from the same old titles just didn’t seem like it was enough. However, In 2001 and 2003, Vertigo printed War Stories, from Garth Ennis, a British Writer of my generation, someone who must have grown up with the same sort of reading material that I did.

Image © 2000AD

Geek Syndicate Looking back it’s odd to think that such a dominant genre could vanish nearly without a trace, a victim of changing reading habits, and it’s own stagnation. It is not so much that War Stories themselves have gone - fashions change, after all - but they seem to have taken with them a mass comics industry in the UK that hangs on only in places. Too often we think of comics as an American form and look at the current vibrant UK indie scene as something creatively exciting (which it is) but rarely do we question why home grown comics aren’t commercially bigger. Well once they were; giant lumbering dinosaurs of steel, petrol and cordite, and like the dinosaurs, they are all now extinct.

Image © I{C, 1981


Commando Comics can still be purchased in collected editions in book stores and also online at http://www. The site is nicely divided into different eras and the comics can also be searched by the nationality of the protagonists or by the type of service featured in the service. For anyone interested in comics, war or the combination there-of, it is highly recommended that Commando be looked into.

Image © DC Thompson

Matt Farr


Geek Syndicate Comic Writer, Paul Allor Image © Paul Allor, 2012


Comic writer Paul Allor has written the Fugitoid micro series for IDW Publishing’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic line, Clockwork and Orc Girl (reviewed this issue). Geek Syndicate caught up with the writer to chat about being an independent comic writer. GS: Tell us a little about yourself, if you would. PA: Sure. My name is Paul Allor, and I’m a comic-book writer based out of beautiful Kokomo, Indiana. I’ve been reading comics for about five years now, and writing them for a few years less than that. I’ve really fallen in love with the medium, and it’s been a lot of fun. GS: Most of your stuff that I’ve read prior to Orc Girl has been the five-page short comics in Clockwork. What made you pick that length to write with? PA: It mainly sprung from a writing class I took through Comics Experience, taught by former Marvel and IDW edi-


tor Andy Schmidt. Everyone in the class had to write a fivepage comic story; Andy’s philosophy is that if you can write a complete and compelling story in five pages, you can also do it in 22. After the class I started writing more and more five-pagers, to sharpen my skills, and Clockwork sprung from that. GS: Pretend we’ve never heard of Orc Girl. What’s your elevator pitch? PA: It’s probably not what you’re expecting, based on the name. It’s a fantasy, but it’s also a coming-of-age story, about the way our priorities shift as we transition into adulthood. It’s a tragedy, it’s a romance, it’s an adventure story, it’s a fantasy. It’s a cool little story, and I’m very proud of it. Plus the artwork, by Thomas Boatwright, is just absolutely gorgeous. Oh, here’s my floor. Nice talking to you, Miss Kubelik. GS: Where did the idea for Orc Girl come from? PA: Man, this is an idea that’s been kicking around in my head for a while. I kind of had a general idea of what I wanted to do… there was this Orc Girl, and there was a river. And I had this image of her… hmm, how do I say this for people who haven’t read the issue? I had this image of her doing something to something at the

river, that she does near the end of this issue. But I didn’t know why. So I just let it sort of knock around in my mind for a long, long time, slowly developing into the story it eventually became. And because I’d spent so much time mulling it over, the scripting phase was incredibly easy. Ha! No, I kid. It was as torturous as always. GS: What has been the best part about working outside the Big 2 and other large comic companies? PA: I’ve never worked for the Big Two, so I can’t really compare. But on my self-published work, I do enjoy the level of control I have over the design, lettering, packaging and presentation. I’m only limited by, uh… my very limited skills. And money. GS: What’s been the worst part? PA: See above re: money. This may just be a filthy rumor, but I’ve heard that working for the Big Two pays slightly better than self-publishing a book and selling it to a few hundred people. I may be wrong. I will say, the idea of having the change to craft awesome stories about iconic characters in a shared universe is very appealing. It’s not the only thing I want to do in my writing life, but it’s definitely something I’d like to have as part of my career.

Geek Syndicate ries out there to tell, and those are the ones I’ve gravitated towards.

GS: I don’t think I’ve read a story from you yet that has involved a superhero. Have you made a conscious decision to stay away from them, or has it just been something that’s happened?

Also, I think that’s probably fairly normal at this point in my career. You look at most of the top superhero comics writers today – people like Brian Bendis, Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, Jeff Lemire and Jonathan Hickman, just to name a few – and you’ll see that very little of their first, creator-owned work was super-hero based.

PA: A little of column A, a little of column B. In Clockwork I made a conscious decision to not do any superhero or zombie stories. And as it turned out, “The Things I See” is a bit of a superpowers story, and “Dead Man,” which will be in volume two, could be viewed as a very offbeat zombie story.

GS: What can people expect from you in the future?

I definitely don’t have anything against superhero stories, but I’ve never thought of comics as a medium that’s tied down to any one genre or type of storytelling. Their potential is endless; that’s part of what makes them so damned wonderful. So I guess the short answer is, I’ve never written a superhero story because there are endless other types of sto-

PA: More comics. Hopefully better comics, as I continue to work on my craft. My first creator-owned mini will be coming out in 2013, and I have a few incredibly cool work-forhire prospects that may come together.

GS: Is there anything else you want the readers to know or check out? PA: If people would like to check out Clockwork, you can do so at You can also order Orc Girl at My web-site is www.paulallor. com, and you can follow me on Twitter at @paulallor, or e-mail me at I love hearing from people. And that includes you. Yes, you! End pitch. Back to writing.

Leo Johnson

2012 © IDW Pubils hing, Image


ge ©

com govt



Looking further down the road than that, I just hope to be

able to build my career piece by piece, working on things that are bigger and bigger in scope. At this point, my ambitions greatly outstrip my resources (and probably my talent, if I’m being honest), so it definitely feels like my best days are still ahead of me.


Geek Syndicate Archery On Screen Over the past few years the world has slowly been let into the secret that Bow and Arrows are cool. Being a qualified archery instructor I have known for a while about this little secret but am now very happy that the rest of the world is now embracing what is very much the coolest weapon out there. In 2012 the London Olympics had people mesmerised watching the talents of the worlds greatest archers competing for that elusive Gold medal. Whether it is in books, comics, TV shows, video games or on the big screen you can see the Bow and Arrow being used more and more, but why now and what has changed? The earliest evidence of a bow and arrow dates back about 64,000 years ago in South Africa and through the ages has been used in a variety of ways from hunting to warfare. It is also one of the few weapons that can be created from natural resources. Nowadays we get to see the bow used by superheroes, teenage gladiators, vampire hunters and Elves.

The Hunger Games In 2012 we saw three big movies that featured a Bow. The first was The Hunger Games, based on the best selling trilogy of books. Having read the books I have to say that


Image © Lionsgate, 2012

Bows are cool!

although Katniss does have a bow in the books, it is really the visuals from the film that make the weapon stand out. Katniss Everdeen at first uses the bow to hunt using its speed and stealth to kill animals for food for her family and to use for trade. During the early scenes we see how good Katniss is with the Bow and how confident she is by the number of kills she has made. As the film progresses and she is chosen to participate in The Hunger Games where she has to rely on her skills with the bow at first to impress the sponsors and then in the arena to hunt and also as an offensive weapon against the other participants. In the later books, her bow is also used as part of her image and a sign of the warrior that she is to become. Actress Jennifer Lawrence trained with Khatuna Lorig

(four-time archery Olympian) to ensure she was competent with the weapon and it really shows on screen with how she handles the Bow. The Hunger Games has also had a direct impact on the number of girls who have signed up to archery lessons which has increased by about thirty per-cent throughout the UK.

Brave While in the past it has generally been male heroes to wield the bow, with Katniss things are changing. This is also evidenced in last year’s other female strong Bow wielding heroine: Merida in Disney’s Brave. Before the film came out it was clear that here was a female who could stand toe to toe with the men. Her weapon of choice? why the bow of course and the trail-

ers also should just how skilled she is with it. The shame of it was the actual film had no more archery than what was in the trailer so a real lost opportunity there because the bits she is doing the sport the animators’ got her form spot on every time.

Avengers Assemble The other main film of 2012 that featured an archer was what some people called the best comic book movie ever. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble is now the third grossing film of all time behind Avatar and Titanic. It featured a host of super powered heroes and some with no super powers apart from keen fighting skills. One of these “lesser” heroes was Clint Barton also known as Hawkeye, Marvel’s answer to Robin Hood as played by Jeremy Renner. Hawkeye is known as a master marksman and S.H.I.E.L.D’s right hand man to their master assassin the Black Widow. In the movie Hawkeye uses a type of recurve bow and his ability to track targets all around him. A typical archer

will always allow for wind and distance to allow for the arrow to drop in the air. One of the coolest things he does in the movie is his various arrow heads he selects from his bow which then sends a signal to his quiver that then attaches the required effect for that arrow. This was something I never saw in the comic-book Hawkeye. The archer in the comic books was always seen as an outsider with many people dismissing him as a nonsuper powered member of the

team. However Hawkeye the archer will always been seen as a key part of the team and I really look forward to seeing what he can do in Avengers 2 when he is not being controlled by a crazy god. Point to note though is that Renner’s Hawkeye is by far the worst archer on the screen discussed so far, mainly due to his really bad form and stance, but he is an Avenger so we will let him off this time.

DC’s Green Arrow The other well known archer in comics is Green Arrow, the Emerald Archer who has been seen on screen in both Smallville, played by Justin Hartley, and in his own series, Arrow, this time portrayed by Stephen Amell. In my opinion the comic GA was always a bit of an arrogant grumpy hothead who I could never relate to. However in Smallville we got see how good an archer could be on a small scale. Sure, he can’t stop Image © Warner Bros, 2012

Image © Marvel, 2012

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Other Comic Archers on Screen Other notable mentions of Bows in comic book movies go out first to Thomas Jane in the second Punisher movie (after Dolph Lundgren’s) who uses the weapon for long range stealth attacks and then Jessica Biel as Abigail Whistler in Blade Trinity. Here Abigail uses a compound bow which also doubles as a kind of ultra violet sword where the strings go. If you think about it, the bow is an excellent weapon of choice for killing vampires as they are really quick to fire, are accurate, have excellent range and the arrows can be made entirely from wood: instant stake through the heart. Another example of killing the undead is in The Walking dead where we have Daryl using his trusty crossbow to quietly get the, erm, kill shot through the brain of the “walkers”.


Fantasy Films

aim straight. Through the film you see her become more and more confident with the weapon and actress Anna Popplewell shows off her excellent archery skills by displaying perfect form in nearly all cases. Then we get Natalie Portman in the supposedly funny action fantasy Your Highness playing a strong female warrior out for vengeance using her bow to battle her enemies. Once again we see that the female actors are much better at actual archery than the men with all of the above ladies displaying better skills than Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Renner and Justin Hartley from Smallville. Image © Disney, 2005

an alien invasion by himself but he can help those who really need it and he is stealthier than your average vigilante. The latest show, Arrow, is much more dark and is about one man’s crusade to right the wrongs of his father and restore his city to its former glory. One of the key difference between the two is the actual bows. Smallville had GA using all types of technical Marvels. where Arrow goes with a very basic bow using various arrow heads. In my opinion Arrow really shows off the skills of an archer in the real world and is much more believable.

The bow has also been seen plenty of times in the fantasy genre with probably the most widely seen example being Legolas in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The wise and youthful looking Elf uses the bow as his primary weapon of choice with a rather sloppy approach to his actual archery skills and supernatural speed of firing an arrow although with his never ending supply of arrows, I would think he would need a larger quiver. The bow’s proudest moment in the films though were by far the Elven archers firing their arrows on masse towards the army of the enemy. Other Fantasy films with archers include the Chronicles of Narnia series. A certain large man on a sleigh gives Susan a present of a Bow and Arrow set that he promises will always

So what does this tell us? Well that it seems the female actress want to encourage the sport and respect it by training hard and putting their learning on screen.

Robin Hood For most people living in the British Isles the most famous archer has been Robin Hood who robbed from the rich to give to the poor and for those that remember the song feel free to sing it now. Robin Hood has been represented many times on the big and small screen with the most recent be-

ing Russell Crowe in the movie and Jonas Armstrong in the BBC TV show. In both of these Robin uses a Long Bow and a type of Recurve bow which was very common in those days as it was mainly used for long range attacks. Not much use for Robin in close quarters mind you. In the 1980s, Robin of Sherwood television series, the two main leads Michael Praed and Jason Connery seemed to at least be fairly proficient in archery showcasing their skills in the more supernatural and spiritual Robin Hood series.

Image Š Goldcrest TV, 1984

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Video Games Even in video games it seems people are catching on with Skyrim, Far Cry 3 and the latest Tomb Raider game all showcasing the Bow as a weapon of choice. So this truly shows that in the last 64,000 years the bow has finally taken its place as a true genre weapon worthy of true warriors.

Christophe Montoya

Archery is a fun and relaxing sport that can be enjoyed year-round across the UK and the wider world. To find an archery club near you, try checking out Archerygb.

Image Š Square Enix, 2012

Now go out and find a club and have a go yourself.


Geek Syndicate INTERVIEW

Neil Gibson – Businessman turned Storyteller Image © GT Publications, 2011

He speaks rapid-fire, eager to get each of his incalculable ideas out. A one-time globetrotting management consultant, last year he decided to quit his job and throw his time, his life savings, his skills, and his creativity at the one thing that inspires him most of all: making comics. Neil Gibson comes across as a man with many masks, always changing and jumping from one to another in the space of a few minutes - from canny businessman, to creative genius, to rabid comic book fan. It’s astonishing to meet such a man working in the British Small Press comics scene; it’s quite something else to discover he started his own Small Press publishing company to bring his own works to market. Needless to say, it is a lot to take in. For a man that lives and breathes comic books, you’d think he was a lifelong fan of the medium. Not so: “I’d read comics a little bit when I was younger but I grew out of them,” Neil admits before explaining, “Marvel [Comics] aimed at fourteen year olds. It was always so formulaic for me. Some bad guy gets a new power that is stronger than the good guy, gets beaten up, but somehow at the last moment manages to just win. Then you wash, rinse, repeat. I thought this was boring.” Neil Gibson - Doomed to Write Comics! 46

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Alan Moore’s Watchmen ignited something in Neil and started him on the road to eventually becoming a comics creator himself, as he explains: “I realised it doesn’t have to be superheroes – it’s just a medium. You can tell any story you like. It can be really thought provoking and clever. That’s what Watchmen did for me. It blew away my preconceptions.” That was in 2000, but it wasn’t until ten years later that Neil finally put pen to paper and drafted his first ever story that eventually culminated in his first Twisted Dark anthology.

“In 2010 I started [working on] a project in Qatar. It was actually a fairly easy project so I was home by seven in the evening - to a consultant that is very early. My friends and family were all back in the UK so I thought I should try something productive. So I tried writing stories.”

really liked the stories so I got them made.” With scripts in hand the next job for Neil was to find an artist. “The very first time I tried to find an artist I didn’t know what I was doing.” He recalls trying several different comic shops in London, seeking a professional artist, during a break in his travels, all with limited to little success. “I still couldn’t find an artist. I wrote to the Royal College of Art, I looked for people on the Internet… eventually you find people you want to work with.” Admittedly it wasn’t all smooth sailing, “I had quite a bad hit rate at the start in terms of quality but you learn how to do the business as you do it. I’d never done this before but no one who is going into comics has done this before.” By April 2011 his first book of Twisted Dark came out. Image © GT Publications, 2011

It wasn’t until a fateful visit to Canada in late 2000 that brought Neil back into the fold. “I was living in Vancouver at the time,” he says, “the film XMen had just come out. I had this joke with a friend of mine that he was like Wolverine. The next day I walk past this shop on Granville Street. They had this little Wolverine doll in the window and I thought I would buy it as a joke present. I went in, the shop assistants heard my British accent and started talking to me as if I personally knew Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis. I had to explain to them that not only did I not know them - I didn’t know who they were. I didn’t read comics. They looked at me with big eyes, went to the back of the shop, brought back Watchmen, and told me with such passion “BUY THIS”. I bought it feeling vaguely stupid about buying something I didn’t even want…but it changed my life.”

The inspiration for his first story came from his own observations while working in Qatar. “I was looking out of this gleaming brand new skyscraper. I was in my suit and looking out the window. It’s so hot and humid there. You would walk across the room and you’d be sweating. It’s nasty. In my air-conditioned office I was looking down at these Indian labourers who were working really hard in ridiculously hot conditions. I know they are treated really badly. I thought I should write a story about that. So that’s where my first story came from. Which is in Twisted Dark volume one.” He didn’t just stop there, and he penned a few more stories – at first only showing them to friends and family. “People

The formation of his own company, T Publications, sprang up out of his efforts to get his work more widely distributed. “I showed a few publishers [Twisted Dark]. One said ‘yes’ but the terms they were offering I didn’t like.” The terms he described involve the publisher taking 50% of the profits when the writers and artists do most of the work. “I happen to know just from the business side of things, they don’t take any of the risk – so why should they take so much of 47

Geek Syndicate the profit?” Disagreeing with these unfair terms he decided to go solo with his work, forming his own little publisher and setting up printing and distribution himself.

His creative process doesn’t stick to the traditional scripting norm either. “I have a very specific script that no one else apparently uses,” he confesses. “I use Microsoft Excel. I use three columns. The first column tells [the artist] which panel and page it is, the second column is directions for the artist, the third column is the dialogue being spoken or the captions. That way it is very easy for me to go back afterwards and see if there are too many panels on one page or if there is not enough for the pacing. Originally I tried to do it how other people would make it but it wasn’t as logical

for me or as efficient. So I invented my own system.” The feedback for his Twisted Dark series, as well as his other projects like Tortured Life or the more recent Tabitha have been incredibly positive and further work on his stories comes quite easily for Neil. The decision last year to make it his full-time occupation, however, was a difficult one. “I actually really liked consulting,” he says. “I still get emails to this day from previous clients who are still using the things I taught them and that’s very rewarding. The problem was you travel [a lot] and my wife was sick of me travelling so much. She actually quit her job to move with me to Oman Image © Neil Gibson

Neil in many ways defies convention with his work. “I offer royalties to everyone that we work with because I believe that’s the right thing to do,” he says. “My lawyer said this is not the industry norm but [I feel] this is the right thing to do in a creative industry based on collaboration. They deserve it.” He continues, “A lot of people send in scripts and want artists to work for free. That’s crap. You should not expect someone to work for free. You should respect them and pay them. I’m not paying Marvel or

DC rates but I am paying a fair amount and I think that is the right thing to do.”

Twisted Collaborators: Neil Gibson and Luke Apps


Image © GT Publications, 2011

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for my last project. Long term I didn’t think it was a good thing to be [doing] because you keep travelling so much. It also coincided with the fact that the comics’ responses were great. “ He continues, “Even though I liked my job – I love comics. I was luckier than most in that I liked [my consulting job] but I thought: ‘if I took a gamble – and it is a big gamble – if it pays off, every single day of my life is a holiday. Every single day. That’s worth taking a risk.’ I’m putting my life savings into this and it’s going very well but I was terrified before I made the decision to actually do it. But I decided to do this and I’m going for it. If it pays off its totally worth the gamble, and even if it doesn’t its worth it all. Because I get so many fan mails

from this. If I have to go back to consulting, that’s fine. But I’ll have never wondered ‘what if’. And I think I’ll still keep making comics because there is demand for it.” How does Neil’s wife feel about his new career path? “My wife is incredibly supportive,” he says. “She has complete faith in me that its gonna be successful because she sees the fan reaction every day and how it is growing.”

Now with three volumes of Twisted Dark, and the first issues of Tortured Life and Tabitha under his belt with more work to come, where next for Mr Gibson and T Publications? The first job: balancing the books and getting the company properly on its feet. “I don’t expect to break even for the next two years but the number of followers we have is growing exponentially,” says Neil. “The reviews we have are fantastic. We’ve got celebrity endorsements. I don’t anticipate making a profit for another year or year-and-a-half. But I’m fully convinced it’s going to happen. Our sales figures are just increasing. We sell more at conventions than anyone else in the world. At New York and Toronto we sell more than anyone else, not just at the London conventions.”

After that Neil has more ideas of his own to unleash, including diversifying into other genres under the ‘Twisted’ anthology banner - throwing around possible future titles like Twisted Sci-Fi, Twisted Fantasy, and the forthcoming Twisted Light. Cynics might say that this is a very business perspective but Neil disagrees. “Ultimately I only write stories that I think are interesting and I like lots of different genres.” He also plans to one day be able to take on other writers and make T Publications into a full on publisher of comics that aren’t just his own work. “In the short term it’s [probably] going to be Twisted Dark Presents. We’ll be looking at doing this in about a year and a half. It will be an expanded universe where stories have to tie in with other stories but its written by other people.” Speaking of expanded universes, you wouldn’t believe how much thought Neil has put into linking all of the stories in his Twisted Dark series together, even going so far as compiling a massive spiderdiagram to keep it all in check. “All the stories [in Twisted Dark] connect. Some are so subtle and some are very obvious. The different art styles confuse it as well because you don’t necessarily realise that character is the same person. Every single story has multiple connections. Even when you reread [the series], even after the third volume, you will be amazed at how many connections you didn’t get, and when you get to volume eight you 49

Geek Syndicate will be shocked at how many connections there are.” With so much going on for Neil Gibson and T Publishing, it’s a wonder he gets any writing done. He seems to have boundless energy and be doing three things at once. “Of the time I spend working on comics,” he confides, “less than five percent is spent writing. The rest is the marketing, doing inter-


views, trying to promote the business. I’d much rather do more writing but that’s not where it is right now.” To accomplish this Neil relies on the work practises of some of the greats: “Roald Dahl used to do two hours of writing a day and that was all he needed. John Cleese did an hour and a half, and that’s a maximum. That’s quite a good

model to have. If you can do an hour and a half every day, keep at a consistent, specific, time, that’s all you need, because you have other stuff to work on.” Neil Gibson and his work can be found on

Dean Simons

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Geek Syndicate Orc Girl

Writer: Paul Allor Art: Thomas Boatwright, Ben Dewey, Jesse Hamm & Koong Koong Publisher: Challenger Comics

Orc Girl is a fantasy comingof-age story... with orcs. Writer Gail Simone called it “one of the best comics I’ve read in ages” and “Funny, charming, bittersweet and moving...Absolutely lovely in story and art.” When a comic can get an endorsement from Gail Simone stating that it’s “… a perfect little comic, realized brilliantly,” then there has to be something special about it. One such comic is Paul Allor’s Orc Girl. Orc Girl, as the name may suggest, involves some orcs. As the first panel states: “The world is as large as you want it to be. And for the Orc people, it was a small, small place indeed. No one crossed the river, nor ventured too deeply


into the woods. The elders forbade it.” Fern, the titular Orc Girl, is not satisfied by the smallness of the world she’s been born into. She wants to explore, adventure, and discover new things. Her brother Bogar, though not the adventurous type, often finds himself pulled into her adventures just so he can protect his sister. It is on one such adventure that Fern and Bogar become separated when the brother is taken away by the humans. Fern is left to live a life without her brother. As time passes, Fern lives her life, almost forgetting about Bogar until she makes the decision to one day cross the river that separates them. What she sees on the other side upsets her and makes her makes her question herself, Bogar, and much more. I absolutely loved this comic. Paul Allor writes such a poignant story about an Orc and her brother. The emotion that he gives these non-human characters and the emotion that he imbues the story with are just fantastic. You feel such sadness for Fern as she deals with confusion and loss. As the story ends, just like Fern, you’re unsure of how to feel. You find both happiness and sadness in the story and much, much more that could’ve been. It’s because the story contains so much in so few pages that Allor’s writing really strikes a chord. Thomas Boatwright’s art, while

a bit simple, is absolutely perfect for Orc Girl. You could see perfectly the betrayal that Fern feels in the comic. All her emotions were perfectly on display and added so much depth to the overall story. Fern’s completely content grin, her anguished screams, and her determined stride give Orc Girl much more life than I would’ve imagined, and these images are because of Boatwright. Image © Challenger Comics, 2012

Image © Challenger Comics, 2012


As you can tell, I kinda sorta loved Orc Girl a lot. I’m hoping you will too. As far as indie comics go, this is a hidden gem that much deserves to see the light of day. If you’re interested in purchasing Orc Girl, there are digital copies available for just $1 and print copies for $3. Check them out on the publisher’s site. While you’re at it, follow the comic’s writer, Paul Allor, on Twitter (@PaulAllor).

Leo Johnson Rating:


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Geek Syndicate Batman Automobilia #001

Publisher: Eagle Moss

Eaglemoss Publications release a much-needed Definitive Collection of The Batman’s Vehicles. In my opinion there are only two genre characters that are at least, partially defined by the variety and complexity of their bespoke modes of transport: One is James Bond, who has had his back-catalogue of vehicles detailed on several occasions in books, television documentaries and so on. The other, is The Batman. I was more than happy to get the opportunity to review “Batman Automobilia” Issue One, which launched on the third of January in the UK. With fortnightly issues to follow, each issue ships with a free die-cast model – in the case of #1, it’s the Batmobile from the 1989 Tim Burton movie.

from the Dark Knight reboot. The fourth issue includes the car from Batman Forever and Issue five details an old-style batmobile from DC Comics Issue 400. If you opt for the subscription (which I am doing), there’s a bunch of freebies thrown in, including an extra scale model of the 1989 Batmobile in armourclad mode and a 1989 Batwing model. The actual magazine is a brief, but very detailed and concise dossier on each vehicle, including cut-away drawings and schematics, specifications, history and context. There is also a separate guide which pretty much covers most of the vehicles that you can expect to see in future issues – my guesses include: the Batmobile from Batman & Robin, the Bat-Pod, the Bat-Ski (from Batman Returns)

and various other vehicles from the comics or animated TV shows. The bottom line is that you are paying for the vehicles so if you haven’t got a collection already, then this is the fastest way to get one!

Ronald Singh Rating:


Image © Eagle Moss, 2012

Image © Eagle Moss, 2012


The models are 1:43 scale, very detailed, and set on a labelled plinth. I can tell you that issues 2 and 3 will feature the 1960s TV Batmobile and The Tumbler


Geek Syndicate Buffy The Vampire Slayer – The Making of a Slayer Image © Titan Books, 2012


Author: Nancy Holder Publisher: Titan Books

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon and featuring an ass-kicking heroine and her “Scooby Gang” of friends as they fight vampires and other supernatural horrors in their home town of Sunnydale, which just happens to sit over a Hellmouth, celebrates its 15th birthday in 2012. This fullcolour, lavishly illustrated book is the perfect birthday present, with quotes from the cast and crew and behind the scenes tidbits from all seven seasons of the show and beyond.

It is hard to believe that it has been fifteen years since Buffy The Vampire Slayer first graced our TV screens, and a full nine years since the Scooby Gang saved the world for the last time. To celebrate this milestone, Titan Books and Twentieth Century Fox bring us Buffy The Vampire Slayer – The Making of a Slayer, a hardback book that takes a look 56

back at the iconic TV series.

benefited from.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer – The Making of a Slayer explores the origins and history of Buffy The Vampire Slayer – or BTVS for those in the know – and examines the story arcs created throughout the seven seasons of the TV show. AS well as this, the book briefly touches on the continuation of Buffy’s story through graphic novels published since the show’s end.

That being said, Buffy The Vampire Slayer – The Making of a Slayer is a book that will definitely make those who have seen the show in the past want to watch it again – nostalgia is a powerful tool – but it is too in-depth and spoiler filled for someone who has never seen the show to benefit from it. There are detailed sections on Hush and Once More With Feeling – arguably the two best known episodes of BTVS – which feels as though it is taking advantage of critical acclaim to win over newcomers to the show. The book treads a fine line that does not always work and will leave the reader wanting to return to the show for more detailed answers.

This is a book that is made for either the hardcore fan of the show, who wants to collect anything and everything BTVS related, or those who may need an introduction to the world of Sunnydale. As someone whose interest in the show falls somewhere in between, I found the book to be slightly superficial. Yes, there is plenty within the book to make us feel old – I was nearing the end of secondary school when Buffy died for the second time – but there has been so much examination and exploration of the themes and issues within the show in other books and online and this book barely scratches the surface. Yes, the book is specifically about the making of the show, but the facts and information within it are available on IMD, and more in depth analysis can easily be found with a quick online search. On top of this, there is a sad lack of cast and crew interviews from which a book about the show’s creation would definitely have

In all, Buffy The Vampire Slayer – The Making of a Slayer is a light and superficial look at one of the best loved TV shows of the past twenty years. It is beautifully bound and has tons of fantastic images, but it simultaneously leaves too much unsaid.

Brogan Hayes Rating:


Geek Syndicate Hoax Hunters Vol 1: Murder, Death, And The Devil Image © Image Comics, 2012


Story by: Michael Moreci & Steve Seeley Art By: JM Ringuet, Axel Medellin & Emilio Laiso Cover By: Steve Seeley Publisher: Image Comics

In this first collection of the critically acclaimed series, the Hoax Hunters travel to Russia, the Louisiana Bayou, and 1984 New Jersey to seek out the truth behind supernatural events - and cover them up! The Hoax Hunters demonstrate the truth isn’t out there. Includes the much sought after issue 0. There’s a piece of art in the covers gallery at the back of this collected edition of Hoax Hunters which sums up the premise neatly – the strap line is “The truth is out there, but we make sure you never find it,” while one of the lead characters attempts to cover up a giant Bigfoot-style footprint. It’s quite a cool idea. Instead of the rogue agents trying to uncover the truth (take a bow, Mulder), this is an agency keeping the truth out of the public eye, and perpet-

uating the myth that the world is full of crazy folks who aren’t really seeing UFOs and Bigfoot. Our story starts with a prelude, explaining the origin of the character called Murder, who appears to be a NASA space-suit full of crows. Nicely original. This balances all the cryptids found within the pages of Book One: Murder, Death and the Devil. Famous creatures featured include the Jersey Devil and Chupacabra. The team are introduced as TV stars, debunking the very real events which are occurring surrounding Murder’s appearance in Russia. Issue 1 then takes us to the Bayou in Louisiana where something has been killing the sentient monsters, monsters who know of our heroes’ existence. The team of inversigators include Jack, whose father introduced him to the world of the paranormal; Regan, the telekinetic who was rescued by Jack after being exposed on TV as a child; and Ken Cadaver who, as his name suggests, is dead (and psychic). Lauren is back at the team’s headquarters, manning the computers and carrying out research. They all have interesting back stories that are fleshed out throughout the series. So, who is the bad guy? What is going on? Why are people in a church revival dousing themselves with fuel and setting fire to themselves? What’s going on at the circus? And who is the guy with the goat’s head? This adventure is neatly wrapped up long before the collected edition finishes, which gives us time to examine Lauren’s story in the final installment and her rather touching encounter with the “devil”. This series gives the impression that it was a lot of fun to write;

almost like a greatest hits of cryptid hoaxes and conspiracies. For once, there’s nothing wrong with this idea because it’s written with an obvious zeal and a knowing wink. There’s even a warehouse scene which could be out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Writers Moreci and Seeley have come up with an interesting twist, although there’s nothing earth-shattering about the writing or story (with the character of Murder the possible exception). They both worked on various one-shots in the horror comic Hack/Slash. Hoax Hunters is more of a fantasy adventure romp with some interesting ideas and depth of back-story. The art in Issue 0 (the prelude) is by JM Ringuet, who has previously worked on Transhuman and some Warhammer comics. His drawing has a muted, rough and ready feel to it which sets the introduction apart from the rest of the edition, which has a more modern and clean comic book style to it, from Alex Medellin (Elephantmen) and Emilio Laiso (Hack/Slash). What is becoming more and more interesting in new comics is the panelling is often rectangular, as if panel-per-panel viewing digitally is part of the design. Nothing wrong with this of course. It makes the regular comic experience less confused. Although the final issue by Laiso is slightly less traditional in panel placement. Hoax Hunters is great fun without being groundbreaking. If you enjoy a dip in the paranormal pool, jump in.

Ian J Simpson Rating:

G G G GG 57

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Geek Syndicate Star Trek Catan

Publisher: Mayfair Games

SPACE... ...the Final Frontier. The many resource rich planets within the limits of Federation territory await exploration and settlement. Build outposts and star bases to extract the resources. Using your fleet of starships, establish supply routes that enable you to boldly go further into deep space. Avoid resource shortages by trading with your opponents and Federation neighbors. If your opponents venture too far into your space, though, you might need to divert the Klingons to drive them away... because in the end, only one can be the Federation’s greatest hero! Take up the challenge! STAR TREK CATAN® transports the timeless game concept of the world’s most acclaimed board game—THE SETTLERS OF CATAN—into the exciting Star Trek universe. The popular characters of the Starship Enterprise come into play through novel new “support cards.” Build, trade and settle where no one has gone before!


Since 1966, millions of Star Trek® fans all over the world have watched the adventures of the Starship Enterprise, Captain Kirk, and Mr. Spock. And since 1995, millions of enthusiastic players all over the world have played Klaus Teuber’s The Settlers of Catan®—a board game classic. It’s time to bring them all together on the Final Frontier!

On opening up Star Trek: Catan, two questions immediately leap to mind. The first is the obvious one: “Is this a good game?” and the second: “is this a good version of Settlers of Catan?” They’re very different things, and I suspect that they are applicable to very different audiences. Settlers of Catan is one of the unquestioned classics of the board gaming scene, but at the same time many people will pick up its Star Trek iteration with little prior knowledge of the game it is based on. So this, as they say, will be a review of two halves.

So first, how does Star Trek: Catan actually work? Well, you open the box and you’ve a nice tray inside with storage for all your parts, cards and game tiles. As you’d expect, it’s a physically good looking product; the printing is clear and crisp, the miniatures are cleanly molded and it looks like it’s robust enough to survive a good few games without getting too tatty. The Rulebook looks pretty thin, but Catan is a game that is quick to learn, with simple rules that interact in complex ways, so you spend time learning how to win, not learning which piece goes where or moves in what way. The Board is assembled from hexagonal tiles that are shuffled and then laid out into the hexagonal board, and then six “sea” pieces are put around them in a ring to hold them altogether. Each tile represents a planet that produces a certain type of raw material, and once they’re all down they are each assigned a number in a set pattern, this mechanic helps to ensure that each board is different, but is not totally at the whim of random chance. To play the game, during each player’s turn they roll two dice, and the total on the dice Image © Mayfair Games, 2012

Image © Mayfair Games, 2012


(between 2 and 12) represents which planet “produces” and the player who has a Starbase on that planet gets the resources (whether it’s their turn or not). Resources can be traded to other players, to the “bank” via ports on the edge of the board, or spent to build supply routes and more starbases. The aim of the game, simply put, is to accumulate resources, build starbases and supply routes. Points are scored based on how many bases and routes that you have. There are a few additional wrinkles; a marauding Klingon counter can block planets from producing and make you discard cards and points can be scored from special cards, by having the longest supply route and a couple of other ways as well. Finally, each player gets a special action card based on one of the Original Star Trek Characters featuring a minor, but possibly game-winning, change to the rules (often a free resource swap). These latter items are the only major change from “Classic” Settlers of Catan and seem a fun and not significantly game-breaking addition to the rules. That may sound complicated, but I have in essence just explained the entire rules of the game in two paragraphs and that is part of Catan’s great beauty. Within a full turn around all the players you’ll have a grasp of most of the game’s mechanics and within a couple of games you’ll have most of the tactics fully under-

stood. It’s a simple game with enormous depth and replayability. Best of all it is not intimidating or difficult to learn. I’ve played this with a six year old, and they needed a bit of help with the tactics but certainly had little problem understanding the game itself.

So, back to the two big questions we started with. First, is this a good game? Yes. It’s a great game. It may be mostly a “reskin” of Settlers of Catan but if you don’t own Settlers of Catan you could do a lot worse than owning this version. It’s well produced, good to look at and easy to play.

Image © Mayfair Games, 2012

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Onto the second question of how it compares to “Classic” Settlers.

This latter point is key: Catan is an entry point to the sort of board games that are beyond Monopoly or Mousetrap and one of things that makes it so is that you are not directly competing with other players. You can’t attack them or take things off them, you can’t destroy their Starbases and Supply Lanes. The worst you can do is place the Klingons on one of the worlds they have a Base on, but even that isn’t that bad and it can be moved on pretty easily. If you were feeling really aggressive you could build a Supply Route where they wanted to, but this is a game of building your own network faster than everyone else, not a game of slowing other people down. It makes it friendly and fun, and in most games you end up helping each other to make the best decisions you can with your resources. Which is pretty much in the spirit of Star Trek, when you think about it.

This is a bit harder. Obviously, there are some minor changes but they don’t seem to majorly affect the game play, so I’m forced to conclude that if you already own Settlers of Catan, it would be a lot of money to pay for a new version because aside from all the tiny plastic spaceships you could ever want it’s not bringing a lot to the table. In some ways, I’m pleased about that though because I think that destroying with change what makes Settlers great would be a very foolish thing to do. So in conclusion – whilst this may be a superfluous purchase if you already own Settlers of Catan, this is a fun and wellproduced version of a classic modern board game, and if you don’t own a copy, this is certainly a version worth getting.

Matt Farr Rating:


Geek Syndicate Mockingbird, By Chuck Wendig Image © Angry Robot Books, 2012


Author: Chuck Wendig Publisher: Angry Robot Books

Miriam is trying to keep her ability – her curse – in check. But when Miriam touches a woman in line at the supermarket, she sees that the woman will be killed here, now. She reacts, and begins a new chapter in her life – one which can never be expected to go well. Blackbirds take many forms and have many relatives. Ravens, Crows and Rooks are traditionally associated with death, memory and knowledge and are often highly regarded in creation myths. Blackbirds were considered spirit guides. The Mockingbird is mostly noted for its song and ability to mimic other birds’ songs and sounds we humans create, but they are closely related to the dark-


er birds, and some attribute to them a darker side. Spoiler Alert! In Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig, we rejoin Miriam, who we met in Wendig’s previous novel, Blackbirds (see review on the Geek Syndicate site). Miriam has tried to conform to society’s dictates. She and Louis live together in a trailer park in a seaside community, when he is not on the road delivering goods in his eighteen wheeler. Miriam has tried to dismiss her ability to forsee the method, date and time of another person’s death by and covering her skin and wearing gloves to prevent the accidental first touches with people. She even has a job, scanning purchases in a small supermarket. She tries to fit in, but her gift (or curse depending on your view) coupled with her acerbic personality means she is a time bomb waiting to go off. In the first volume, Miriam learnt that people didn’t have to die as shown in her vision when she saved Louis, but it cost her much blood and pain. When we join her in Mockingbird, she repeats the process, saving her manager from a madman. Getting shot in the process makes her question her current life style. Further, she is haunted by her past, with visions of what had been and who she has touched interacting with her present situations. Fed up with her lot in life, she decides to leave Louis and re-

turn to the wandering lifestyle she had before she saved his life. Before she can get away, she runs into him again and at his request, goes to visit a woman named Katey who believes she is dying. Everyone thinks she is a hypochondriac and Louis wants Miriam to read the woman and determine the reason and time of her death. Katey works in a girls’ school, and during the visit Miriam accidentally touches a young girl and learns of a horrible conspiracy involving the death and dismemberment of many young women. In the process of trying to save the girls, she discovers another with a similar affliction to her own, as well as learning more about her own visions and dreams. Louis is drawn into her visions, making them both wonder if there isn’t yet another agent involved in her condition. With all this happening, can Miriam save the girls as well as herself? End Spoilers This is an earthy book, descriptive and dark, with black comedy at the oddest places. Miriam is a hardboiled heroine, who doesn’t pull her punches or her speech. For fans of horror and paranormal, this is well worth the read.

Whatotherway & Christophe Montoya Rating:


Geek Syndicate Lobster Johnson Vol.2 - The Burning Hand Image © Dark Horse Comics, 2012


Writer: Mike Mignolia & John Arcudi Artist: Tonci Zonjic Colourist: Dave Stewart Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

When a tribe of dead Indians start scalping the policemen in the city, Hellboy’s crime-fighting hero Lobster Johnson and his allies arrive to take on these foes and their gangster cronies! Collects Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1-#5.

Guns, girls, mobsters, monsters and a bloke with a giant crustacean claw on his clobber…what’s not to love in this collection from Dark Horse? For the uninitiated the titular character of the series is a pulp-era action hero from the Hellboy and BPRD universe who first span out of those books into his own story in Iron Prometheus. Whilst in that series he tackled the Nazi menace (naturally), here he takes on

the mob in prohibition-era New York, ably assisted by spunky newspaper reporter Cindy Tynan. The plot itself is pretty straightforward. Cindy becomes embroiled in mobster Arnie Wald’s property scam. In doing so she crosses paths first with some of Lobster Johnson’s crew and then with the man himself. Wald is being manipulated into making use of some shady supernatural characters and soon the two groups come head-tohead and battle commences. Things move along at some pace and at times I could have done with dwelling on some of the plot elements for longer, particularly to strengthen the emotional engagement with the characters. Speaking of characters and this might sound like a backhanded compliment, which it’s not meant to be, but the characters of this series are straight out of central casting. The spunky reporter, afraid of nothing, the grasping mob boss, the supernatural femme fatale, they’re all here and really don’t deviate from expectation. That doesn’t detract from the enjoyment though, in fact I find it a little like sitting down to an episode of a TV show five or six seasons in. Everything has a sense of comfortable familiarity and achieving this with characters we’ve just met is a nice upside of the lack of ingenuity.

Lobster himself makes a great entrance, his cry of “Taste justice, impostors!” is amongst a number of smile-inducing lines he has throughout the series. It’s insanely cheesy but I love it. I first became aware of artist Tonci Zonjic when he drew the Marvel Divas series, which utterly confounded my expectations and I’d highly recommend. His work here has evolved considerably and suits the 1930s setting to a tee. There’s an effect he and colourist Dave Stewart use for one of the supernatural powers in use (which I won’t spoil) which is really well rendered and quite unexpected. My main criticism would be that the book feels like only a small part of a story, it’s presented as being a selfcontained arc but there’s just too much left hanging for my taste. However, that means I’ll definitely be onboard for the third collected edition of Lobster Johnson tales!

Dave Williams Rating:



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Geek Syndicate Guild Wars 2: 250 Hours In ... Image © NCSoft, 2012


Publisher: NC Soft

Enter a living, breathing fantasy world Guild Wars 2 defines the future of online roleplaying games with action-oriented combat, customized personal storylines, epic dynamic events, world-class PvP, and no subscription fees!

As of the end of 2012 I’ve racked up around two-hundred and fifty hours of gameplay on it and have one character to the

maximum level of eighty.

Backstory Guild Wars 2 is set in the world of Tyria, two and a half centuries after the defeat of the Great Destroyer, which happens in Eye of the North, the final expansion of the original Guild Wars games. The five Elder Dragons have awoken and caused chaos and destruction and new races have migrated into the one human dominated Tyria. (I’ll tell you more about them later) Cantha and Elona (continents from the Factions and Nightfall expansions) are now cut off from Tyria and the fallen kingdom of Orr has re-emerged with the awakening of the undead Elder Dragon, Zhaitan. Your character is tasked with reuniting the members of an adventuring guild called Destiny’s Edge and the destruction of Zhaitan. Image © NCSoft, 2012

I don’t “play” many Massive-

ly Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs): I’ve dabbled with a lot of them but never really seem to stick at them. Star Wars Galaxies was fun but by the time I got there everyone had left. I spent most of my time in World of Warcraft getting killed by others, DC Universe got very repetitive very quickly, Vanguard and Age of Conan never really got me hooked and one day I’ll go back to Star Wars: The Old Republic now it is free to play. The only MMO I have stuck with is Guild Wars, it was my first and I’ve always loved the world it is in and the general feel of the game, so naturally I was excited when in 2007 NCSoft announced there would be a sequel. Five years later it finally arrived but was it worth the wait? and more importantly is worth the money?


Geek Syndicate Character Creation Race Unlike the original game and it’s expansions, Guild Wars 2 gives you a choice of races; Human, Norn, Charr, Asura and Sylvari. All of the races except the Sylvari were introduced in Eye of the North as heroes which could join your party. Conveniently, the game allows you to create characters - one for each race, if you wish. From left to right on the image on the previous page: Asura, Sylvaria, Human, Norn and Charr. Each race has a different home city, starting mission and a few race specific skills. During the beta I had a go at each race and my favourite was the Norn, a human like race which are significantly larger and can have the ability to morph into a creature. Once you get away from your starting area, there isn’t much difference between what each race can do but seeing the different races is fun, my favourite game as a tall Norn is to run around and jump over all the smaller races, much to the annoyance of my friends who play as Asura chraracters. Profession The professions in Guild Wars 2 are largely similar to every other fantasy MMO RPG. There’s two heavy armoured soldier style professions, the

guardian (predominately used for protection) and the warrior (your standard heavy hitter). Then there are three adventurer professions, the engineer (able to build turrets and other devices), the ranger (which is able to have a pet) and the thief (the stealthy one). Finally there are the scholar professions, the elementalist (who has spells linked with the elements), the necromancer (able to create undead creatures) and the mesmer (who deals with spells on the mind).

fits; it can take a while to get enough money for a new costume and some of the female outfits aren’t really what I want to be running around in. The Human character in the previous image is in the starting costume for a necromancer and let’s face it if you were dealing with the undead you’d want as little skin on show as possible so they don’t get tempted and decide just to eat you!

None of the professions are restricted to any race or gender.

Personal Story

Overall the professions are nothing new compared to other MMOs however all of them seem to work in the world. I have had a couple of heated discussions with other players about the engineer profession and the inclusion of pistols in the game, which is the weapon of choice for that profession. Even though I tried out all the professions I went with Ranger for my main character as I enjoy having a pet and using a bow. Character Customisation The customisation of the look of your character is limited with set body types, faces and hair styles, however some facial features can be tweeked to create a more unique character. My biggest bug-bear with the creation is the starting out-


As a (generally) solo gamer, the personal story is important to me as it usually gives me something to do and keeps me involved in a game. I’m not a fan of the grind principle of going to a town, being told to kill X number of beasties, doing it, only to return to the town and do it again to a different sort of beast. So far after 250 hours I don’t think I’m half way through my personal story, not because it’s long but because there is so much else to do. The personal story, as interesting as it is, is such a small part; I’ve kind of left it so I can do everything else the game has to offer. Questing A major difference of this MMO compared to the other ones I have played is how the quests are handed out. You don’t go and ask for them, they find you - appearing on your quest 73

Image © NCSoft, 2012

Geek Syndicate starting out I can help out in the lower level areas and not just one-hit kill everything in sight. To the left is an image of my character being ambushed by a group of toy soldiers during the Wintersday Festival, in a level 11 area, it wasn’t going to well, but I managed to fend them out. My scaled down level is shown in the green text in the bottom left corner. Combat, Skills and Traits

list in the top corner of the screen. The game does this in several ways. The first is that NPCs will run up to you and ask for your help. The next is the “heart quests”. Located throughout the game marked on the map, most of these involved the usual killing a number of beasts but you don’t have to collect them, they just appear when you are in the area the quest pertains to. The final is that an event happening locally appears on your screen, these are usually started by someone talking to an NPC, however these quests then open to everyone in the area and everyone gets the reward depending on how much they helped and the success of the mission. This is how I have spent most of my time, running around doing world missions, while


exploring the massive map. The great thing about this is that you don’t have to find a party to kill something big. I first realised I would really enjoy this game when during the beta I came across about 30 people all battling a massive ice wizard and I just joined in. Players worked as a team, helping and reviving those around them - people they’d probably never met before. It was fun and because everyone got the reward there was no fighting over loot. I still go back to that event spawn point because it is a fun quest to do, which leads me nicely on to another feature: level scaling. Even though I am a level 80 character, the game scales you down to the recommended level of an area which means the beasts can still be a challenge to kill. I love this feature as it means that when I play with people that are just

Combat is largely the same as most MMOs, however rather than having hundreds of skills to mix and match you are limited to five weapon skills which are pre-set with no customisation allowed and five slot skills which are customisable and determined by your profession, race and level. Your slot skills are changeable when out of combat, and range from healing skills (always in slot 6) to summoning extra creatures, such as 7, 9 and 0 in mine (see image at top of next page). As a ranger I also have a secondary smaller set of options for my pet, which I can switch between two different ones in combat and as many as I have collected out of combat. The key to combat in this game is to plan your attacks and use your skills wisely to get maximum effect; button bashing won’t get you very far. There is no status bar telling you

Geek Syndicate perience points, especially if you experiment to find new recipes.

I enjoy the combat as it’s simple to get the hang of but there’s lots you can do with it to suit your style of fighting. Another aspect is the traits, these are skills linked to your profession which you can set to buff your skills in different areas, below is an image of mine, set out to improve my archery skills and my creatures skills. Each number represents a boost of some sort which is either permanently active or

automatically activates after an event such as a kill. With both the slot skills and the traits you can get quite a bit of customisation out of your character without feeling overwhelmed at the amount of choice which I found happened with the original Guild Wars by the time the final expansion came out. Crafting and Economics Like many MMOs, Guild Wars 2 has a crafting system in which you can choose two skills to be proficient in and the use or sell your wares in the trading post. You can in theory level up purely by crafting as it gives you quite a bit of exImage © NCSoft, 2012

what skill your enemy is doing either which means you have to watch the actual characters to get in those useful interrupt attacks.

The crafting system is nothing new and requires no actual skills: just the gathering of the ingredients. I did become a bit obsessed getting my crafts up to level 400 so I could just create anything in my skill set. Almost every item in the game can be made by someone this has meant that as the game has gone on certain items have been removed from vendors as to create an economy through the trading post. The trading post is the way players can sell their goods and also how NCsoft can take advantage of micro-payments to make their money. In the game there are two currencies, your standard copper, silver and gold and then there are gems. Gems are used in the in game shop to purchase generally rare items. You can buy gems from NCsoft, similar to Xbox Live points or you can trade in game gold for them. Like a real currency markets it fluctuates based on trade and time of day. I like the fact that you don’t actually have to spend real money to get gems and when the game first started I horded a lot very cheaply as now it’s quite expensive to trade gold for gems. Overall the economy is slowly taking shape which is nice to see as it provides an extra lev75

Geek Syndicate Playing with Others (The MMO part of this RPG) Guilds As the name suggests Guild Wars does have guilds, however there are no wars between them, the name is a reference to Tyria’s history in the first game. Guilds are easy to set up and influence points are given to your guild for taking part in events. These points can them be spent on boosts for the whole guild to take advantage of. The trouble is that as it stands, there’s no way of finding a guild, you have to wait to be invited and hope it all works out. Currently my guild is just me and a few friends who are on the same server so it’s taking a long time to get the boosts we want. Dungeons Unlike the general world events dungeons are set instances which can only be accessed by those in your party. Currently there are nine, as well as the Fractals of the Mists: which works like a “horde” or survival mode with a number of dungeon events each harder than the last. Each dungeon has its own mini storyline which does add to your understanding of the world and in some cases 76

links events between the two games. So far I’ve only done a couple of dungeons and they are pretty much impossible to do by yourself but there is always people lurking around the entrances looking for groups and so far I haven’t been in one bad party. Structured PvP and WvW There are two forms of fighting against other players, PvP (Player versus Player) and WvW (World versus World). PvP has two modes; tournament and hot join. All characters retain their profession but not race specific skills and given a fixed maximum level. Scores are then tracked depending on how well the player does in each given match. The awards in PvP are only usable in PvP which means that it kind of sits by itself from the game. World v World however is different, rather than playing against individual players your server is pitted against two other servers in an area and the goal is to capture as many bases as possible with points awarded for each 15-20 match over a week. So far this is one of my favourite modes

as the rewards you get can be used in the normal game and rather than being on my own against other players I have a team of up to five-hundred other players to work with.

Longevity of the Game The problem with a lot of games is what do you do after you’ve hit the maximum level, completed your personal story and explored the whole map? Well first of all exploring the whole map is hard. After twohundred and fifty hours, I’m at 90% - and that’s providing they don’t release any new areas with the new updates coming sometime in January or February. The game also has an achievement point system which awards points for various things such as killing a certain number of creatures. A number of these achievements also provide you with titles for Image © NCSoft, 2012

el of gameplay.

your character. Then there are the special events which happen at various holidays and festivals throughout the year, so far there has been a week long Halloween event and now a two week long Christmas event, each one having new quests, dungeons and achievements. The current event, the Wintersday Festival, has me running around looking for presents to open. There are also jumping puzzles which when completed allow you to access rare weapons and items. Currently there are forty-onw as well as the two seasonal ones.

there were some glitches at the start, the trading post not being up and running, problems accessing the server at peak periods, these bugs are long in the past.

Graphically the game looks wonderful even if you reduce the graphics down and there is a nice mix of environments, from snowy mountains to lush green forests. There is still a lot NCsoft can do with the game and they have made it clear that they intend to do a lot more to the game. I like the way that I can go online and play with a level 1 or level 80 and not be bored as I can one-shot kill everything and the dynamic events means that I don’t notice when I am

grinding. Currently the communities are thriving without crowding the servers which means there’s always someone to play with and I’ve not encountered any flaming or poor behaviour. Overall I would say that this is a good MMO which in mine opinion is worth the money as it is just a one off cost for the full game. You only spend extra money if you want to buy extra gems.

Amy-Jayne McGarry-Thickitt Rating:


Image © NCSoft, 2012

Image © NCSoft, 2012

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On top of all of this NCsoft has not stopped releasing content. In November launched a new event which opened up a new island, Southsun Cove and are due to release further content in either January or February.

Overall So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed this game, it has lived up to all the hype and though 77

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Geek Syndicate Image © Improper Books, 2012

Porcelain and Butterfly Gate Image © Improper Books, 2012


Butterfly Gate follows the story of two siblings who, after throwing themselves headlong into another world, must face the brutal reality that lies beyond and find their place amidst an empire built after a revolution against the Gods. An ongoing, episodic, SF odyssey, Butterfly Gate is also a silent comic, conveying the story purely through its imagery.

Story: Benjamin Read Art: Chris Wildgoose Colours: Andre May Letters: Jim Campbell Publisher: Improper Books

Story: Benjamin Read Art: Chris Wildgoose Colours: Derek Dow Flatting: Alexa Rosa Publisher: Improper Books

Porcelain: Child’s journey over the wall changes her life forever when she meets the Porcelain Maker. Set within a world that’s a magical echo of our own, Porcelain is the story of Child, an urchin, who leaves behind the cold streets of a snowy city when she climbs the high wall into the Porcelain Maker’s garden. A lonely man, kept company by his amazing, alchemicallypowered automata, the Porcelain Maker offers Child the chance to stay with him, and the unlikely pair come to an understanding. Shut off from the world beyond the wall, Child wants or needs for nothing as the Porcelain Maker heaps affection and

luxury upon her, indulging her like a daughter. In return, she can do as she pleases, except for one command, one rule that mustn’t be broken, she must never look behind the workshop door. Porcelain is a Gothic fairy tale that explores the nature of trust, love and obsession, and whether in truth some secrets are best left unknown.

Butterfly Gate: A Brother and Sister leave our world and its rules behind, journeying into legend through the Butterfly Gate, where every step they take will come at a price.

Suggested for Mature Readers. The Review: I thought I would review these titles for together for two reasons. First, they have the same writer and artist team of Benjamim Read and Chris Wildgoose respectively and two: I can sum them up with the same word. Beautiful. Both titles are beautiful in every way. The poetry of the writing, the gorgeous and intricate wrap-around full-colour cover, the grandeur of the interior art, it’s all beautiful. Improper Books market themselves as a small comic and graphic novel imprint focusing on stories that have a touch of the fairy tale, the Gothic or the macabre. These two stories show that Improper Books know who they are and fill their niche with panache. In Porcelain we follow a young 79

Geek Syndicate girl, a nameless street urchin whose crew have forced her to break into the grounds of a mighty evil wizard. She is of course caught by the evil wizard who is actually not a wizard but a creator of artificial life from porcelain (think of a steam punk version of an artificially intelligent robot). The artificer in question is a desperately lonely man with a haunted past and a dark secret to which we are not party. The relationship between him and the girl is fascinating to watch as they realise they can bring something new to each other’s lives. The girls’ street smart dialogue is hilarious, while not disguising her great need. Read also does an amazing job of capturing the artificers great loneliness. In perfect companionship to Reads writing, Wildgoose’s art


is simplistic yet his characters have such evident emotion that like every good comic artist, his work is as much part of the storytelling as the words. The version I read was black & white but the little I have seen of the colours by Andre May tell me that Improper Books know exactly what they are looking for in an artistic team. This reads as an ongoing story and this slow burning gothic fairytale has completely drawn me in. In Butterfly Gate, Benjamin Read has written a story without words. It follows the story of two children who discover a mysterious portal while hunting Butterflies in the woods. This story moves from charming to macabre with a truly disturbing conclusion. An

ongoing story, consisting of three arcs and I am anxious to see what awaits the children on the other side of the portal. To write such a truly engrossing story without words is an amazing feat and Read and Wildgoose show the magic of their partnership here. Once again the colours added by Derek Dow this time and flatting by Alexa Rosa are a perfect match. Suffice it to say, I am a fan of Improper Books, a company that makes the macabre beautiful.

David Monteith Rating:


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Geek Syndicate The President’s Vampire, By Christopher Farnsworth Image © Hodder Paperbacks, 2012


Author: Christopher Farnsworth Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks

“If Dan Brown wrote a vampire thriller, this would be it.” Mitch Horowitz on BLOOD OATH The Ultimate Secret. The Ultimate Agent. Nathaniel Cade returns. For 140 years, Nathaniel Cade has been the President’s Vampire, sworn by a blood oath to protect the President and America from their supernatural enemies. Cade’s existence is the most closely guarded of White House secrets: a superhuman covert agent who is the last line of defense against nightmare scenarios that ordinary citizens can only dream of. When a new outbreak of an ancient evil - one that Cade has seen before - comes to light, he and his human handler, Zach

Barrows, must track down its source. To ‘protect and serve’ often means settling old scores and confronting new betrayals . . . as only a century-old predator can.. One of the things I enjoy most about writing for Geek Syndicate is the pick ‘n’ mix nature of the books I am sent to review. It can take me out of my wellworn comfort zone and introduce me to styles and authors I would never have encountered otherwise. The President’s Vampire is not the best example to affirm this as a good thing, but it is a case in point. It’s an airport thriller; a fast paced piece of fluff filled with spy shenanigans, political intrigue, sex and violence. The fact that the lead character is a vampire puts it more in my ballpark, but it’s still a very different read than I’m used to. Is it any good though? That rather depends on what you’re looking for. The briefest description I can come up with to sum it up is “Action trash with a geek veneer” Back in the day, Tom Clancy had a steam-roller of a success with his character Jack Ryan, a Can-Do guy cutting a swathe through red-tape, politics and villains alike to Get The Job Done. It’s a simple wish in a complex world and whilst it would be incredibly damaging in real life, it’s a fantasy that is easy to relate to. Christopher Farnsworth seems to be going for the same vibe here, leaning more towards Bond-style ac-

tion with an overlay of Horror. The President’s Vampire is the second book in his series, following on from 2010′s Blood Oath. Nathaniel Cade is America’s biggest secret: a vampire super-agent sworn to protect his country’s interests and bound to do so by the blood of Abraham Lincoln. Cade is a one-man army, taking down (and covering up) the more supernatural threats facing Mankind. In the first book, he saved the world and got himself a new handler, Zachary Barrows. Zach is a fresh-faced politico who took a wrong turn in the West Wing and found himself in a very different kind of job. He’s the character we’re supposed to relate to and, by and large, he’s a decent guy. By this second volume, Zach has grown more comfortable in his role and forged a solid working relationship with Cade. Neither of them exactly have a life outside of work (more on that later) and the restlessness that this causes him forms the backbone to Zach’s story here. Meanwhile, Nathaniel has bigger fish to fry – fresh out of Innsmouth. Abner Marsh’s genes have gone viral. Now the clock is ticking to prevent a major outbreak which could spell the end of Humanity. As a fan of the works of HP Lovecraft, the first hint of his world appearing in the book put a smile firmly on my face. Handled well, a modern-day Mythos tale packed with action could be brilliant. I’m sad to say that my smile didn’t last long. If you’re only interested


Geek Syndicate in whether or not I recommend this book, you can move along. I give it 1/5. If you want to know why I rate it so low, read on. Now, I’m not going to rake over everything I disliked about the book. It would be boring for you and way too time-consuming for me. There are some elements I appreciated (the Shadow Men, the “wiggle-room” Cade finds in his Oath when faced with corruption, one or two of the action sequences) but they are severely outweighed by the rest. My main issues come under the headings of Taste, Consistency and Quality. Taste – There are true horrors in the world, perpetrated by real people. Taking a real atrocity and giving it a secret history is exploitative and crass. It demeans the victims and reduces the web of events behind it to simplistic rubbish. In the first few pages, Osama Bin Laden is revealed to be a lizard-man , who didn’t even believe in God (gasp). It’s childish in conception and jingoistic in implication. Stick it in a subversive comedy like Team America: World Police and you might just get away with it, but there’s no self mockery here. To be clear, this is an action scene in the prologue, not a major plot twist, but it’s indicative of the level and taste of exploitation throughout.


Consistency – There are so many ways this book doesn’t add up: the monsters are more reptile than Deep One, character motivations seem stitched together to serve the plot and science isn’t even considered. Throughout the text there are many throwaway references to other works of fiction (and films), scattered throughout to give this world a greater sense of scale. It was quite a nice touch to link The Thing with At The Mountains Of Madness – both of which contain shape-shifting aliens, but including such oblique things as The Shadow and A Nightmare On Elm Street (along with innumerable Lovecraftian nods) adds nothing to the book. If anything it just reminds the reader of other, better stories. In a bizarre choice, Lovecraft’s Cthulhu is dismissed in the text as a work of fiction, whilst the reader is made to infer that most of his other stories are historical fact within this world… Quality – This is not a well written book. The characters have a paucity of internal life and fundamentally do nothing but their jobs. Fragments of personality are thrown out there, but the focus is always on plot momentum and jabbing those adrenaline buttons. There’s no flare in imagination or prose, though. Farnsworth favours short, clipped sentences to lend urgency to his situations. Used

sparingly, these flashes of action and emotion can really drive a passage along but overuse leads to a simplistic tone and an ugly read. Uglier still is the novel’s portrayal of women (as untrustworthy sexual objects) and the general lack of regard for normal people (as a mindless herd.) It is clear that Cade and Barrows credit Humanity with having some redeeming value, but neither they or Farnsworth seem quite able to articulate why. It comes to something when you reach the end a book and you’re actively disappointed that they managed to stop Armageddon. Look, I can’t go on with this. You get the point. If the entertainment system is broken and you’ll grab just about anything to distract you on a frazzling long-haul flight, consider this one for its brevity and pace. But seriously, you have better books on your shelves. Pack them.

Dion Winton-Polak Rating:


Geek Syndicate A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (2nd Edition)

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Based on the best-selling novel series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Second Edition lets 3-6 players take control of the great houses of Westeros in an epic struggle to claim the Iron Throne. The updated second edition brings a host of enhancements to your A Game of Thrones experience. It incorporates elements from previous expansions, including ports, garrisons, Wildling cards, and Siege engines, while introducing welcome new innovations. Convenient player screens will hide your underhanded dealings from prying eyes, while new Tides of Battle cards convey the uncertainty of war. This, along with updated graphics and a clarified ruleset, means the time has never been better to claim the Iron Throne.

Board games are a rare pleasure for me. I always see them through the prism of nostalgia: as artifacts from a distant time when the only other fam-

ily entertainments were three channels of TV, a ramshackle back garden and a box full of plastic toys. They have never been cheap things, so households around us would only ever have a few each, purchased around Christmas time every few years. It was always a treat to go round someone’s house and discover something new in their games cupboard. Fast forward thirty years, and home entertainment is an allyou-can-eat buffet. Tastes vary for everyone (as you’ll have seen in the pages of Geek Syndicate) but it gives me joy to discover that there’s a segment of Geekdom who have continued to develop, produce and play board games in spite of the dominant force of digital entertainment. I’m a huge fan of George R.R. Martin’s “Song Of Ice & Fire” books (televised by HBO as Game Of Thrones) so I waved my hand like a lunatic and

put on my biggest puppy-dog eyes when the chance came up to review the Fantasy Flight board game. There’s a variety of such games out at the moment, of varying complexity and quality, so be careful when you make your purchases. Fantasy Flight are a company renowned for their high production values and treasured for the variety and depth of the games they put out. I’ve had a little experience with them before, having played their Mansions Of Madness board game and their Elder Sign app. A Game Of Thrones is true to their previous form – which is both a good and bad thing. Part of the glory of a good board game is the physical design and the tactile qualities it has. The weight of the box promises much, and the contents truly deliver. The board is a map of Westeros, a Risklike playing zone filled with gorgeous detail. It’s enorImage © Dion Winton-Polak, 2012

Image ©Fantasy Flight Games, 2012



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It’s at this point that you see the size of the rule book and begin to panic a little. Here is my critical piece of advice – get to know the game well in advance of inviting your friends around. I had several play tests on my own and latterly with my wife, just to get the feel of play, begin to digest the rules and figure out how best to communicate them to my friends. This is a subtle, complicated and extremely difficult game to just pick up and play on the fly. You will find your time well rewarded if you persevere, though.

Game Overview Westeros is a continent in strife. The old king has been deposed and the feuding factions are in bitter conflict over who will succeed to the Iron Throne. This takes the form of both physical and politi-


cal wrangling, which are both represented in this game. Each player takes control of a “House” – a leading family, with supporters (or ‘Bannermen’) they can call upon for aid. The game is primarily a military one, moving small armies across the map to try to take control of key locations, whilst protecting their own interests.

Political wrangling is represented in two ways. Directly – by bidding against each other on the Influence tracks, and more subtly – by players advising and cutting deals with each other. A wild card is ever-present; the threat of the Wildings. They are a barbaric force that threatens the whole continent. Every so often they invade and have to

be beaten back. For that the players must join forces, bidding their mutual support at the possible cost of their own campaigns. This balance between in-fighting and working together makes for a thrilling and unique experience. Ultimately, the players have a set time (ten rounds) to win the game – by gaining control of seven key locations, or getting the closest to that level of power.

view may lack the immediacy of individual combat, but it gives a great sense of the ebb and flow of a large-scale land war.

Image © Fantasy Flight Games, 2012

mous, so you’ll need a decent sized table to lay it out on. You could use the floor, but that will get uncomfortable very quickly. Aside from the map area there are various ‘tracks,’ used to illustrate how the balance of power in the game is shifting (more on that later), to monitor the supply lines and to keep an eye on the time. There is also a “Wildings” section at the top which adds an extra twist to the game (again, more on this later.) There are innumerable tokens to press out, playing cards to admire and playing pieces which are easily identifiable, simple and pretty.

Positives This game captures the complexities of a medieval-style campaign beautifully. Everything from political wrangling, neutral forces and external threats are represented, along with the rigors of military logistics. The god’s-eye

It’s a game which broadens and deepens as the players come to understand the subtler possibilities available to them, in disrupting their opponents’ plans, betrayal and the use of ships to transport troops. Whilst every game begins the same, the variation in strategy between players and the different Houses give longevity to the game – an essential quality for any potential purchaser who finds themselves concerned by the price-tag. It truly is a labour of love, with real thought gone in to

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Negatives The best games combine simplicity of design and play with many possibilities of strategy. The game takes a long time to set up and put away, which adds to the perceived value, but is a bit of a bind for the host. The sheer complexity of play makes this a very tricky game for beginners to learn, and when you couple this with a pretty opaque rule-book (see below) it becomes a hard sell to anyone not in a dedicated gaming group. Don’t be too put off though. Much of this is negated by dint of a little perseverance. Get your head

round it, get properly prepared and you’ll be fine (see my pre-game advice later on in this review). For all the painstaking work and artistry that has gone into creating the game, it is rather let down by the rule-book. It looks great, but the contents lack finesse. The book attempts to take the player through the game in chronological order, but continually trips over itself and pauses in order to explain every odd little wrinkle. Have a brilliant brain for wrapping around rules? Add another 0.5 to my rating. For my money it would be far better if the objective and the basics were given first, then descriptions of the various tactics you can use to bolster yourself / undermine your opponent, then finally how to deal with special circumstances such as the Wilding Threat. To be fair, Fantasy Flight do include Quick Reference Guides with the game, but they do not contain the particular information that I would have found most useful. Image © Fantasy Flight Games, 2012

how to effectively transfer the complex web of intrigue and violence across from Martin’s superb books into a playable game form. The attention to detail is admirable and, as previously mentioned, the artwork on the box, board and cards are simply stunning.

Suggestions & Pre-Game Advice Get the board set up before your friends arrive. They may be a little intimidated the first time

they see it, but it saves one hell of a lot of time. At the end of a game separate and bag up the starting pieces and tokens for each individual player to make future set-ups quicker and easier. (Cloth bags would look splendid, but I just use money bags from the bank at the moment.) It is not made that obvious in the rulebook, but there are certain factors that are utterly crucial to the game. Firstly, Action Tokens. They are a precious resource, required for holding land in the early stages, bidding on the Influence tracks and also against the Wilding threat. Make sure your players understand this. Secondly, the size and reach of your armies are completely dependent on your Supply Lines. This forces you all to shape your strategies accordingly to maximise your supplies. Finally, make sure you all understand what the benefits of the various Influence tracks are.

Conclusion All in all, I’m very pleased with the game, which has immense replayability due to its, admittedly initially daunting, strategic element.

Dion Winton-Polak Rating:

G G G GG 93

Geek Syndicate Atomic Robo and yhe Flying She-Devils of the Pacific Image © Red 5 Comics, 2013


Writer: Brian Clevinger Pencils: Scott Wegener Colourist: Nick Filardi Letterer: Jeff Powell Publisher: Red 5 Comics

Invented by Nikola Tesla in 1923, Atomic Robo went on to be a soldier, a scientist, an entrepreneur, and an explorer whose adventures span the globe. This one begins, if you couldn’t guess from the title, in the vast expanse of the south Pacific. The year is 1951. World War II concluded just six years ago, but it’s mark is still felt in this remote part of the world in ways that one could have ever predicted! Girls, gadgets, guns and a sentient robot from the mind of Nikola Tesla…yes, it’s back to the world of Atomic Robo! This latest volume of Atomic Robo, just finishing in single issues with #5 and shortly to be released as a collected edition, is yet another fantastic adventure for a series


which prides itself in its fantastic adventuring! As we open, it’s 1951 in the South Pacific and Robo is testing out a prototype jet, into which he’s invested all of the money left to him by Nikola Tesla. He’s quickly drawn into a battle with strange-looking aircraft and finds it even stranger when he’s saved by a group of female mercenaries operating out of a secret island base nearby. Captained by May Carter, an eyepatched disciplinarian, these scavengers have been plying their trade throughout the region, taking advantage of all the abandoned military equipment in order to make a living. They’re all women who didn’t want to return to their “ordinary” lives back in the States once WWII was over. I couldn’t quite work out what Robo was more incredulous about, his being rescued by women or the fact they’re wearing jetpacks (did I mentioned the jetpacks?). His astonishment at the gender of his rescuers is played pretty strongly, and seemed a little out of character, Robo has never seemed to me like he carries any particular prejudices. His attackers are a cult of Japanese soldiers who have continued scheming since the end of the war and have managed to create technically wondrous machines of war, from strange flying battleships to futuristic fighters. They have plans afoot to seek their revenge on America for their defeat in the war.

This idea of a pocket of soldiers fighting beyond the end of the war isn’t necessarily new but it’s supremely well handled. Just as I thought I’d found the slightest crack in the plot line Clevinger provided an answer, it was uncannily like he’d planted that seed only to crush it…in fact he pulled this on me twice! Their plot is suitably grand and of course Robo and the She-Devils get dragged into it. This is probably the most expansive that I’ve seen Scott Wegener’s art, he renders wonderful battle sequences and I was particularly impressed with scenes of the She-Devils with jetpacks and grappling hooks fighting the Japanese fighters. The designs of the ships and jerryrigged technology are fantastic and there are great touches like the design of Captain Carter’s goggles. My only gripe is the reference to flying saucers for ships which aren’t at all saucer-shaped. There’s a real sense of speed and energy in the art which I would love to see on the big screen. I’d highly recommend this series, Atomic Robo continues to be one of the best independent comic series available.

Dave Williams Rating:


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Geek Syndicate Daughter Of Fu-Manchu, By Sax Rohmer Image © Titan Books, 2012


Author: Sax Rohmer Publisher: Titan Books

Across the sands of Egypt, Nayland Smith pursued Fah Lo Suee, the deadly daughter of Fu-Manchu. She was possessed of all her father’s subversive secrets and driven by his unquenchable thirst for power. She had pillaged the tomb of the Black Ape for the key to its ancient mysteries –and therefore leadership over all the evil cults of the East. No one could stop her – unless it was Fu Manchu himself! Originally published in 1931 and now re-released with new covers by Titan Books, this is the fourth in the Dr. Fu-Manchu series written by Sax Rohmer. His earlier books being: The Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu (US Title: The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu), The Devil Doctor (The Return of Dr Fu-Manchu) and The Si-Fan Mys-


teries (The Hand of Fu-Manchu). Spolier Alert! This book is set around five or so years after the events of The Hand of Fu-Manchu, with Dr Fu-Manchu believed dead. The protagonists, Dr. Petrie and Nayland Smith, journey to Cairo, where events lead them to speculate that Dr. Fu-Manchu may still be alive. They soon discover, however, that it is actually his daughter Fah Lo Suee who is behind the suspicion arousing events and the supposed death of an old friend of theirs. With her father believed gone, they deduce that Fah Lo Suee has taken his place as president of the Si-Fan – The Council of Seven whose sole purpose is world domination. Smith and Petrie along with Superintendent Weymouth and Mr Shan Grenville must determine what Fah Lo Suee took from the Tomb of the Black Ape, how it fits into her plan and how to stop her. End Spoiler Being a book that was written back in the nineteen-thirties, there were some phrases that I was unaccustomed to such as ‘Dacoit.’ Thanks to Google, however, I didn’t let that dampen my enthusiasm for this novel (Indian Outlaw Bandit, for those who are interested!). The plot is wellwritten, with clues throughout

and explanations that are ingenious rather that ridiculous. I really loved how the action jumps from exotic old Cairo to London. I was gripped from the first page and read the novel in a single sitting. Sax Rohmer wrote nine more novels after this, so if after reading this you want more like I did, then you will be kept busy for a while. I had not read any of these books before, but downloaded the three previous ones and read them in a couple of days. They were so easy and enjoyable to read, with each story dragging me in until I suddenly realised that I was on the last page again. They may be old, and they may not be fashionable like say ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ (Don’t bother, trust me!!), but that is a good thing. Dr Fu-Manchu takes you back to a time when novels were intelligent and beautifully written, with the sequels do not lose anything along the way. Pick up a Dr Fu-Manchu novel and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Wendy Sims Rating:


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Geek Syndicate The League of Volunteers, Vol. 1 Image © Atomic Diner, 2012


Writer: Robert Curley Artist: Barry Keegan Publisher: Atomic Diner

By 1940 the second world war had cast its shadow over the entire world. Men and women from all walks of life fought for what they thought to be right. America had yet to enter the battle field but when she did her might was a great relief to a broken continent. Ireland had chosen to remain neutral from the start having only recently become a republic. This was a definite way of showing the world just how truly independent she now was. But there were many in the republic who felt this decision was wrong and like their ancestors before them fought for what they believed to be true and just. Among them an elite league of meta humans brought together by their belief in a better world and a better Ireland. A league of volunteers. This is a story of Irish heroes in the second world war fighting


against an even greater threat than the Axis powers…the dark god Bochanach! I’m no historian and had utterly forgotten (or as a child of very early GCSEs never been taught) Irish neutrality in World War II. As such reading these issues, published by Atomic Diner comics, was quite the educational experience. Set in the Republic of Ireland in 1941, this story focuses less on the battle between the Axis and Allied forces and more on the eternal struggle of Good vs Evil. Whilst the Nazis provide the kickstart to our story, rending the barrier between dimensions and allowing the dark god Bochanach to return to Earth after millennia of entrapment, they soon fade into the background and our story follows an assortment of mystery men (and women) operating under the auspices of Ireland’s G2 Covert Division. As one lacking in Celtic context there were some elements of the story which I feel passed me by, such as the importance of the Fianna, however a bout of Wikipedia searching afterwards soon filled me in. I don’t think this context is necessary to enjoy the story, the character reactions on the page tell you everything you need to know. I also liked that the various languages in the book go without subtitles, once again you don’t actually need to know all the spoken words in order to understand the story. With only three issues to tell the tale, the plot moves at a fairly fast clip throughout. This frenetic pacing works both for and against the book. The reader is

pulled through the issues very quickly, with little time to lose interest but at the same time those scenes which don’t actively carry the plot forward stick out like a sore thumb. This is particularly noticeable in the last issue as about half of the book takes place after the climax of events and has a far more leisurely pace. The issues are artistically solid, I found the pencils and grey tone colouring of issue one to be a little more rounded than the later issues. The tones felt more integral to the page, whereas in issues two and three it felt like the greys were flatter. The art change in issue three is unfortunate, whilst it certainly doesn’t lack quality it pulled me out of the story a little. The weapons and armour of the mythical characters are particularly well rendered and Keegan resists the temptation to be completely over-blown with them. This grounded design seems to highlight their mythical nature rather than diminish it. As with a number of indie titles, the issues could do with a good sweep through with the editor’s broom as there are a few typos. Generally though, the feeling is one of a degree of quality that whilst not matching big publishers definitely does no harm to the story at hand. I particularly enjoyed the back story threads that we’re left with at the end of issue three, which tip a cap firmly in the direction in another “League of…” title.

Dave Williams Rating:


Geek Syndicate Lo’Life Book 1: Romeo Spikes, By Joanne Reay Image © Titan Books, 2012


Author: Joanne Reay Publisher: Titan Books

Working the Homicide squad, Alexis Bianco thinks shes seen every way a life can be taken. Then she meets the mysterious Lola. More weapon than woman, Lola pursues a predator with a method of murder like no other. The Tormenta. We call it a suicide. Tormenta call it a score, their demonic powers allowing them to siphon off the unspent lifespan of their victims. Nobody is safe. Lo’Life Book 1: Romeo Spikes is the first novel by Joanne Reay, who started out as a documentary maker for the Discovery Channel before she became a film writer and producer. Spoiler Alert! Romeo Spikes follows homicide detective Alexis Bianco,

who one night runs into the strange Lola at the latest in a line of suicides that she is investigating. During the meeting, she learns of The Tormenta.

original and fresh premise for a novel. The initial characters are introduced almost immediately with their full stories being fleshed out throughout the rest of the novel.

The Tormenta are demons that are closely related to humankind whose sole purpose is to torment humans into committing suicide so that they can steal the victims’ life span and use it to stay alive. The more life-span they can steal, the longer they can live for – however, the life must be given up freely and can’t be taken. If a Tormenta is impatient and takes the life-span whilst a person is still alive, then their victim will be delivered to Lo’World and returned to earth as a hunter of The Tormenta.

The novel immediately gripped me, yet I did find that the story dragged in places. The constant going back and forth between characters and places (the narrative never stayed with one character for very long) didn’t help either. However, I found that once I was about halfway through the novel, the pace picked up and I really started to get into the book. It was then quite fast paced until the end.

Lola, it turns out, is just that – a hunter from The Sinestra, a security section of the Lo’ World whose only purpose is to protect humanity from all the demons who seek to suck away the life-span of humans. To make matters worse, the rise of The Mosca has been foretold - a king amongst Tormentas who will draw all Tormentas to him. It is up to Alexis and Lola to work together and find him before he unites all Tormentas and drives humanity into mass suicide. End Spoiler

It is obvious that the author has previous writing experience (albeit for television and films), as this is a solid first novel. It is well written, and the author has taken time to set out how the story all links together and the background lore that goes with it. The novel ends well, ready to be continued in the sequel Lo’Life Book Two: Black Antlers which is due out later in 2013.

Wendy Sims Rating:


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Geek Syndicate Time Samplers Issue 1 Image © Paranoid Android, 2012


Writer: David Pinckney, Erik Koconis & Thomas Gorence Art & Letters: Nicolas Colacitti Publisher: Paranoid American

Lex and Cal take the W.I.L.D. machine on a test run, using an antique tuning fork to travel back to 1913, where Alexander Graham Bell is presenting his latest research to the Jekyll Island Hunt Club (JP Morgan, William Rockefeller, and other Jekyll Island elites). Giving well known historical figures a story that the world is not aware of seems all the rage at the moment with such books as The Manhattan Projects. Time Samplers follows this thread by creating something that feels like The Invisibles and The Manhattan Projects’ love child. It works on so many levels, yet falls down at the final hurdle. The story follows two underground musicians who look into real life conspiracy theories through psychedelic time travel. On their first adventure they test


run their machine to go back to visit Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, but Bell seems to be doing more than just making phone calls. The idea is a great one and has the potential to work really well. The idea borrows from The Manhattan Projects and The Invisibles to create something that feels fresh and different from the competition. The creative team cleverly builds a universe by explaining to the reader how their form of time travel works. It is nice to see that it’s not just a case of flicking a switch and away they go. The idea that time can be photocopied is ingenious and makes the reader think of all the different stories that could evolve out of this. By spending this time developing the world we really get a sense of how the machine works. There are many threads that are left unexplained. This makes sense, because the team wants the reader buy more issues - but is there enough here to bring the reader back? The issue starts with a mysterious man watching over the world as they go shopping on Black Friday. This is an intriguing idea as he seems to be pulling the strings somehow. Furthermore, the two travelers go on their first journey because they need to test the machine. The issue does not have that killer blow of a cliffhanger that is often essential to a first issue, though. It feels more like the opening chapter to a graphic novel rather than a comic book, with the subtle difference being that the reader has the entire story in their hands with a graphic

novel, so can find out what happens automatically. I worry that there is not enough to come back to for the majority of comic buyers in Time Samplers issue one. Writers Thomas Gorence, David Pickney and Erik Koconis create believable dialogue that will draw the reader in. Further Nicolas Colacitti does a stellar job with the art. Colacitti’s artwork is glorious. His characters stand out. The way he depicts time travel looks completely unique and adds to the feeling. His lettering looks the part and his colours are bright, bringing extra depth to his work. There are other clever features to the book such as biographies for each of the famous inventors mentioned in the story. Time Samplers is a comic book created for the graphic novel medium. It is a book that has a lot going for it, with more innovative ideas in one page than most books have in an entire issue. However issue one is lacking the killer blow to maintain the comic formula, with it suited more to the graphic novel approach. As a single issue this is where Time Samplers falls down but I am sure that this comic is just going to get better and better. Try it and stick with it: awaiting the slow burn. Hopefully the start of something clever and different. Find out more about Time Samplers on their website, follow them on Twitter or like their Facebook page

Luke Halsall Rating:


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Geek Syndicate Deadlight Image Š Tequila Works, 2012


Publisher: Tequila Works

The world has ended. There is no hope. No new beginning. Only the survivors. DEADLIGHT follows the journey of Randall Wayne, a man searching for his family across Seattle during the aftermath of a 1980s event that has decimated life on earth. This visually stunning Cinematic Survival Platformer will challenge you to run, jump, climb, and struggle for your life as you look for answers and the ones you love.

Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sprinting along a debris strewn corridor, trying to jump over the obstacles that conspire to tangle my feet and bring me crashing to the ground. Three shambling Shadows rush at me with a gurgle as I fail to leap over some boxes and tumble to the floor. Stumbling to my feet with a second to spare, I see a cracked wooden door ahead and shoulder barge it open, the wood disintegrat-

ing into sharp splinters as the door slams back on its hinges. Seeing a large metal shelving unit nearby, I heave against it, toppling it across the open doorway, blocking my pursuers and buying me time to restore some stamina and regain my bearings once more. Welcome to the world of Deadlight. It is the mid 1980s, and a virus has broken out that reanimates the dead and brings them back to some semblance of life. Survivors of the outbreak call these creatures Shadows, but I will refer to them as zombies from this point on, as that is a more telling description of how they behave. You play a struggling survivor who is trying to rejoin his wife and daughter after becoming separated from them. To do this, he has to navigate the hostile streets and abandoned buildings of Seattle; always keeping a wary eye over his shoulder for the shuffling death that has now claimed his world. The trouble is, the walking undead are only one aspect of the hazards that face him and you. Your path will occasionally cross that of other humans, and not all of them are concerned for your own personal well being. The environment also plays a large role in how your journey proceeds, sometimes aiding you with handy barricades or safe rooftops to rest on, sometimes hindering you with electrified puddles, deep water and

crumbling ledges that begin to creak ominously once they sense your weight. Speaking of the environment, it is gorgeous! Well as gorgeous as a post-apocalyptic world can be. The visual style is eye catching for a number of reasons. The first is that the foreground, where you are and where the things that you can interact with reside, is in the darkest area of the screen. It tends to get lighter and more detailed as you look further into the distance. This is also used to great effect when zombies in the background rush to the foreground, usually giving you a few seconds to decide what to do. It is a pleasing 2.5D effect that is executed in gloomy style. Added to this is the graphic novel style cut scenes that are used every now and then to move the story along. If the game Limbo and The Walking Dead graphic novels ever have a love-child, Deadlight could well be what it turns out like. Added to the visuals is a suitably atmospheric and satisfying sound palette, the rumbling of decaying buildings and the whup-whupping of helicopters all beautifully presented, making it feel like a truly living world, albeit one mostly populated by the undead. To be chased by gurgling zombies as debris falls around you and creaking girders vibrate above you is one of the true pleasures of the game.


Geek Syndicate The game isn’t the longest in the world, taking me just over three hours to play through, but it felt just long enough. I must admit that I find myself tempted to have another play through, which is not something that I often find myself wanting to do after finishing a game. If nothing else, returning to the game in search of some of the hidden items I missed, that are scattered around the world could add a few more hours of fun to proceedings. These include lost diary pages, maps, newspaper clippings and other things which might give insight into the background of the events leading up to the outbreak. You will also find IDs on some of the dead bodies which relate to infamous people in real life, but I won’t ruin the puzzle for you. Some collectibles will also boost your character’s health or stamina, which make them some of the most valuable to find. The only real flaw I found with the game was that sometimes, the layout of the scenery in the Image © Tequila Works, 2012

Although I played the PC version of the game, I opted to play the game with an Xbox 360 controller, and couldn’t find any fault with the controls. It slowly introduces new moves and interactions like any competent modern game does. Guns are aimed with your right analogue stick in a radial fashion, but it’s very easy to get used to and you will soon find yourself headshotting with glee. Your other combat option is often an axe, but every swing depletes your stamina bar, and after three or four, your vision goes shaky, your swings become slower and you have to consider your next move, which is usually to just run! The stamina bar makes it more favourable to simply knock the zombies over and escape to the next safe area as quickly as possible, rather than trying to immobilise a large group of them. Your stamina also depletes while you run and when you hang from ledges or wires, so again, speed is often necessary.


game wasn’t always obvious, due to the unique viewpoint the game provides. I became stuck for a couple of minutes in one small room, some debris seemingly blocking the open door which I promptly tried to move or destroy. It turned out that the blockage was at such an angle that I could crouch and move under it, but this was less than obvious at the time. A few instances like this occurred throughout the game but I could count them on the fingers of one hand, and they didn’t cost me much time or many deaths. The plot of the game seems to follow the usual route of teaming up with people, separation and loss; the ending is not a happy one, but it is the one that the story needed. If you like your zombie horror to be more action based with the odd panicky moment, a few deaths that teach you something and a well realised world and story, this is an all too brief taste of something you just might fancy.

Casey Douglass Rating:


Geek Syndicate X-Wing Miniatures Game

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

With its pivotal role at the Battle of Yavin, the Incom Corporation T-65 X-wing fighter claimed its place in history. Boasting highpowered laser cannons, proton torpedo launchers, and a reinforced titanium-alloy hull, this solid and dependable craft has earned its reputation as a staple in the Rebel Alliance’s arsenal against the Galactic Empire. The Sienar Fleet Systems TIE fighter, a lightweight and nimble starfighter designed with efficiency and affordability in mind, is the X-wing’s opposite in nearly every conceivable way. But what the TIE fighter lacks in defensive capabilities, it more than makes up for in numbers. While one TIE fighter seldom presents a real threat to a skilled Rebel pilot, two or more working in concert can quickly overwhelm ships several times their size. Control the most advanced starfighters and outstanding pilots in the galaxy! In X-Wing Miniatures Game, you take the role

of squad leader and command a group of merciless Imperial or daring Rebel pilots in furious ship-to-ship space combat. Featuring stunningly detailed and painted miniatures, X-Wing recreates exciting Star Wars space battles from small engagements of only a couple of crafts, to large conflicts where multiple squadrons clash. Select and equip your ships, pick your crew, plan your attack, and complete your mission.

A long time ago (1987) in a galaxy far, far away, West End Games published a tiny, polished gem entitled Star Warriors. A younger, smaller version of Cy Dethan bought a copy via mail order from Esdevium Games and played it non-stop for about twelve years. While it could be fiddly at times, with tiny counters and rudimentary artwork, Star Warriors was a well produced and fairly dynamic adaptation of Star Wars universe dogfighting to the tabletop. Fantasy Flight Games’ X-Wing Miniatures Game is something else entirely. So much so, in fact, that the shock of it is still settling in on us. Our history with Fantasy Flight goes back a few years now, so we thought we knew pretty much exactly what to expect from one of their licensed

games. We own half a dozen or so of their boxed games already, and have always been impressed by their production quality and general playability. X-Wing follows their general design philosophy of high-end playing pieces but has apparently tossed out their customary sprawling, jumbled mess of a rulebook in favour of something a lot more tightly written and designed. Here’s what you get in the box: • Three pre-painted starfighter miniatures (one XWing and two TIE Fighters) • Quick-start mini-rulebook • Full rulebook • Range and manoeuvre rulers • Custom dice • Enough counters, cards, pilot tokens and sundries to choke a Gundark Image © Fantasy Flight Games, 2012

Image © Fantasy Flight Games, 2012


The miniatures deserve a little more discussion here. Despite the large number of miniatures games we’ve owned and played over the years, both Nic and I are very reluctant model painters. The fact that X-Wing


Geek Syndicate The game’s other components are also nicely turned out. The range rulers have both a Rebel (red) and an Imperial (green) side, which has precisely zero effect in-game but is somehow unspeakably awesome anyway. Damage cards and the various counters needed for play are all functional and distinct and everything seems to have been calculated for the greatest ease and enjoyment of use. The idea appears to have been to remove as many barriers to that enjoyment as possible right out of the gate and it’s very hard to fault Fantasy Flight’s execution here. Looking at the actual mechanics of the game, this is even more apparent. Where Star Warriors was a game of hurlImage © Fantasy Flight Games, 2012

provides pre-painted minitatures alone was enough to get our attention but, given the horrendous pre-painting jobs we’d seen from other companies, the work on these models is considerably better than we’d expected. “High-end tabletop quality” probably best describes it. Committed painters will probably want to give them a once-over for customisation purposes, but for most gamers they’ll be good to go straight out of the box. Over and above the paintwork, the models themselves are gorgeous. It’s obvious that a great deal of time and attention has been put into nailing the scale and details of the pieces – a practical necessity when dealing with a much loved and well established licence.


ing dice, scribbling notes and crunching numbers, X-Wing pares all of this down to something surprisingly elegant and impressively streamlined. It’s a game without charts or tables, and with virtually no ingame mathematics. You don’t even have to track the speed of your ships, thanks to the brilliantly conceived manoeuvre dial mechanism. Squadron creation is mediated entirely through the selection of cards, so there’s no book-keeping and even ship damage is handled through the physical components of the game. Basically, anything the designers felt could kick a player out of the essential “Star Wars” atmosphere was either eliminated entirely or transformed into something fitting and fun. The move/action/shoot turn structure is easy to grasp and works well in play and, along with the simultaneous secret planning system (again, we have to give credit for those deeply cool manoeuvre dials), prevents any sense of “you-go-I-go”. Given the relative simplicity of the game, the designers could have got away without the additional quick-start rule-set, but it was impressive to see it included. There are only three missions included in the book, with varying objectives and challenges (asteroids to avoid, satellites to scan, etc.), but the internet is already flooding itself with new material from players and there’s a lot of fun to be had from just flat-out dogfighting as well.

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With the rules nailed down, success in the game now becomes a question of anticipating your opponent in an environment where the balance of power shifts with each manoeuvre. Dice rolls, with very few exceptions, are reserved for firing weapons,

and even then are susceptible to modification based on pilot actions. X-Wing is very much a game of forcing your opponent’s ships into leaving themselves vulnerable, while optimising your own positioning. The whole thing feels fluid and dynamic, even with large numbers of ships in play. That last comment brings up an important issue. X-Wing is very much an expandable game. In fact, a single box set wouldn’t even come close to allowing players to explore the scope of it. After only a few playthroughs, you’ll very quickly feel yourself straining against the limitations of the included ships and components. For players used to board game prices for expansions, there may be a pretty unpleasant sticker shock in store. Essentially, X-Wing is priced as a table-top war game. Single-ship expansions (which include additional counters, pilot cards, upgrades and, occasionally, whole new rules) cost about a third as much as the main box set each, with the upcoming larger ships being about twice that much. Building two 100point forces can easily bump the cost of the game into three figures in UK money. Experienced players of games like Warhammer 40,000 will wonder what the fuss is about, but more casual gamers are likely to wince a little. That said, it would be unfair to call the expansion prices a

massive deterrent, given our own investment level in the game. Since receiving our review copy (courtesy of Esdevium Games, still awesome after all these years), we’ve bought ourselves another two copies of the starter box and a further eight expansions for a total of seventeen ships. With the second wave of expansion packs about to drop, we’re already eyeing our next purchases. In terms of the quality of the components and the enjoyability of the game, it’s hard to claim that you don’t get what you pay for. It looks like Star Wars, it feels like Star Wars and (to date, at least) it remains uncontaminated by prequel trilogy ugliness. Only the expansion pricing prevents us from giving it the maximum possible score. Our ancient copy of Star Warriors glares silently down at us from its shelf.

Cy Dethan Nic Wilkinson Rating:

GGGGG Image © Fantasy Flight Games, 2012

A player’s first game or two are likely to run into a fundamental, probably unavoidable stumbling block inherent in the use of miniatures for this type of game. By turn two or three, you’ll probably be faced with a cluster of ships piled up in the centre of the table, all prevented from taking actions or shooting at any enemies they are touching base-to-base (although it’s perfectly permissible to fly entirely “through” other models, as we’re representing three-dimensional movement here). With ships in close quarters, range and manoeuvre templates can be hard to position accurately and the game becomes an exercise in best-guess positioning. After a few experiments, however, players learn to anticipate the movements of ships (both their own and their opponent’s) more effectively and the rules for denying targets and forfeiting actions suddenly become weapons to wield. That shift actually marks the point at which X-Wing suddenly elevates itself to a bestof-class game, in our opinion. All our games have been tense and finely balanced regardless of which side we were playing, which suggests a system that has been extensively tested and carefully honed.


Geek Syndicate FILM PREVIEW


Synopsis: The Superman origin story of the infant who is sent to earth from a dying planet. The child is raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent who discover their adopted son has powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Release (UK): 14 June 2012 Director: Zack Snyder Writers: David S Goyer, Christopher Nolan Stars: Henry Cavil, Amy Adam, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon & Kevin Costner Geek Syndicate Says: “By now most of us will have seen the full trailer for Zack Snyder’s vision of the Last Son of Krypton first adventure. It looks great with supes sporting a nice billowy cape and some epic moments. My worry at the moment is the somber tone of the trailers .”


Geek Syndicate COMIC PREVIEW

Day of Chaos: The Fourth Faction

Synopsis: Dredd’s actions 30 years ago in the Apocalypse War come back to haunt him as the Judges race against time to prevent a terrifying ‘day of chaos’, predicted by their psychic division, that will engulf the city. But where will the threat come from? And what form will it take? And will even Dredd himself succumb to the horrors that will be unleashed?. Release (UK): : 15 Feb 2013, with more collections on the way. Writer: : John Wagner Art: Ben Willsher, Staz Johnson, Colin MacNeil, Henry Flint Geek Syndicate Says: “It’s been a while since I read 200AD but I will definitely be picking this collection up. I remember reading the Apocalypse War storyline when it first came out and had my mind well and truly blown. The cover, which just has Dredd’s badge with a bullet hole in it and a trickle of blood running down it, is still one of my all time fave comic covers and fave cliffhangers. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Day of Chaos so hopefully I won’t be disappointed.”


Geek Syndicate FILM PREVIEW

FILM PREVIEW - Star Trek: Into Darkness

Synopsis: After being called back home, the crew of the Enterprise find a seemingly unstoppable force which has attacked Starfleet and left the planet in chaos. Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are tasked with leading the deadly manhunt to capture the party responsible and settle an old score. Release (UK): 17 May 2012 Director: J.J.Abrams Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch & Zoe Saldana Geek Syndicate Says: “Cumberbatch is shaping up to look like quite the bad guy in this sequel. Speculation abound as to whether he is a certain well know trek villain but either way he’s set to give Kirk and Co a few sleepless nights. This is at the top of my films to watch in 2013.”


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Geek Syndicate ELEVATOR PITCHES What’s an Elevator Pitch? Imagine you have a comic that you’ve put a lot of work, life and soul into. You love it.You know others would to. You get into an elevator, maybe in a hotel at a convention. At the same time, in walks a wellknown editor. The doors close and you are alone. This is your chance - but you only have a short time to get your work noticed ... That’s the concept of Elevator Pitches. Provide us with a single sentence summarising your comic and another explaining why we should pick it up. Follow this up with a five page preview and the pitch is done - let the work sell itself. If you would like to submit a comic for this section, email:

LIL Writers: Michael Young & Marc Crane Artists: Marc Crane & Michael Young Publisher: LILCOMICS Buy It From: bi-monthly Issues online for FREE at . Hardback copies of Issues 1-5 available soon – Please contact for details

What is LIL? “Lil is about to turn thirty five years old, but she has not one damn thing to celebrate. A lousy waitress working her lousy days in a lousy diner, her only escape is the smokes, the bottle, and the needle. All she wants is to be left alone. But now someone is out to get her... Deliciously dark and unashamedly sinful, LIL tells the tale of twisted love, a twisted life and some seriously twisted attitude. “Most people end up a version of what they oughta be...Damn near everybody’s a story of what they hope they’re not.”

Why should we pick this up? “Steeped in the traditions of classic Noir storytelling, this gritty Graphic Novel Series is soaked from head to foot in tension and terror that you just won’t be able to turn away from. Luckily then, there is a hell of a lot more to come… “This realistically-styled mature noir comic would fit right into Vertigo’s catalogue!” http://www. “Art, script and premise just DRIP with noir personality. You.Must.Read!” A Frank Willis Jr http:// “Awesome style, really cool! You don’t see many people taking a noir style approach in their work, and love to see it out there. It feels like I’m reading a good black & white movie””


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The Samurai Chef Writer: Mayamada Artist: Pinali Publisher: Self Published Buy It From: The Samurai Chef will be available on in March and will also be available at bookshops and comic book shops in London including Orbital Comics, The Big Green Bookshop and Mega City Comics.

What is The Samurai Chef? “The Samurai Chef is the first printed manga title from mayamada; An original anime inspired brand based in London. We’re putting together the 50 page, perfect bound book which tells the first part of the Samurai Chef: a cooking show where the chef judges food by attacking dishes with his sword! Contesting teams begin to figure out ways to defend their meals against tough judgement and the situation quickly become very competitive between the contestants and the Samurai Chef!” Why should we pick this up? “Mayamada characters come from their own fantasy television world of shows. Think Looney Tunes meets Shonen Jump meets Japanese TV. This means every character has a story that fits into one of the fantasy shows on the network. The Samurai Chef is a fantastic manga title with a lot of humor and plenty food based action suitable for all ages. Fans of anthropomorphic characters in chef uniforms will also be well served.”


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See You Next Issue

Out in the First Week of May, 2013!

Profile for Geek Syndicate

Geek Syndicate Issue 5  

Happy Birthday to the Geek Syndicate Magazine which celebrates its first year with issue five which bring you over 100 pages of of news, in...

Geek Syndicate Issue 5  

Happy Birthday to the Geek Syndicate Magazine which celebrates its first year with issue five which bring you over 100 pages of of news, in...