So I finally saw the Fantastic Four trailer this week. Or should I say “Fant4stic”? Because yes, they actually included that at the end of the trailer. Like Disney with “Tr2n” (which they eventually had the good sense to ditch), they insist on attempting something clever, which really isn’t clever. I blame Se7en.
Anyway, back to the trailer. In short, it sucks. Somehow they’ve made Marvel’s First Family boring. I think the film is going to be about depression in young astronauts who could also be hackers? I know the previous Fantastic Four movies are a little cheesy and universally hated, but there must be a middle ground between over-the-top camp and stifling dullness? Maybe a few more superheroic acts in the trailer, and a few less serious looks and dark atmospheres? This is never going to be the Dark Knight, people…
Overall, a less than fantastic start…
Spidey Rumours Continue
The Internet continues to speculate on Spider-Man’s identity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I laid my case out for Miles Morales here, and now it’s being reported that the actor playing Spidey might not be white after all. It’s all still unconfirmed, but fun to speculate!
This week’s big news for me was Neill Blomkamp confirming on Twitter (or Instagram, I can't remember which) that he’s directing the next Alien film. I’m a big fan of Alien and Aliens, but Alien3 and Alien Resurrection can go die on LV-426 with the colonists for all I care. And no, I don’t think the Director’s Cuts are worth watching either.
Over the years I’ve watched the first two films a lot, and it pleases me to hear that the new Alien film is set to take place after Aliens, and basically ignores the fact that the third and fourth movies ever happened. To me, this is great news. I never got over the lazy writing that killed off Newt and Hicks at the start of Alien3. All that emotional investment you had in those characters fighting to the end of Aliens and surviving? Wiped out in one fell swoop for the sake of some writers or producers deciding to go in another direction. And don’t get me started on the overall crappiness of Resurrection. I literally wouldn’t know where to start.
So when concept art like this showed up online, the Internets got (understandably) a little excited…
Obviously, Ripley and Hicks look older than when we saw them in Aliens, and Hicks has the scars he got in that film, meaning cloning can’t be an explanation. So the rumours flew for a few days and now it’s been confirmed that they are either ignoring or retconning the last two sequels in the franchise. Kind of like how Superman Returns ignored Superman 3 and 4, and just said that after Superman 2, he went away for six years and now he’s back (in the present day). I’m not condoning aping Superman Returns (that film turned out to be an overly sentimental remake/tribute to the original), but I do like the idea of wiping out or somehow explaining away the two worst films in the franchise (not counting the terrible Alien Vs Predator films). Hopefully they can pull it off in the same way that X-Men Days of Future Past wiped clean the messy slate left by X-Men The Last Stand.
In Neill Blomkamp’s hands, it could be good. District 9 is the only film of his that I’ve seen, and I love it. I hope he can take the Alien franchise back to greatness, without just attempting to copy the first two films.
I was recently asked how many consoles I own. I've had to answer this a few times in my life, and each time I have to stop and methodically work out the answer. So let's go through it now...
The pictures above show the consoles hooked up to two televisions in my games room. Yes, I know they need tidying, I've just been really busy for the past 18 months. Anyway, I've got 10 consoles here:
In the living room I've got a Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3 and an Ouya. On the handheld front I've got an original fat Nintendo Gameboy, a Nintendo 3DS and two Sony PSP's. Why two, I hear you ask? Well I bought one second hand with the custom firmware loaded (so I could play emulators), then the shoulder buttons stopped working, so I got another one to play PSP games on. I also have a Megadrive clone that got relegated to the loft when I got my hands on an original. So that's 17 games consoles in my possession.
My favourite console? That's a tough question, but thanks for asking. I love my PS3, for all the re-releases and remakes of classic games that have been released on the Playstation Store. I love my Ouya and XBox for giving me the chance to play games I couldn't find/afford through the use of emulators. There are so many games on MAME that I would have had no way of ever playing without this. I love my Saturn, for being able to play all those brilliant Japanese shmups that never reached the West. I also love that it cost me £7 at a car boot sale! And despite the fact that my NES isn't an original toaster, I love the fact that it plays just as well as an original model, and doesn't suffer from the blinking red light issue. I love my Megadrive for being a Mk 1 and just looking awesome. The games are pretty sweet too. I love my SNES for somehow not going yellow in its old age. And no, I've not gotten it treated or anything, I only bought it from eBay a couple of years ago. My Playstations 1 & 2 have a wealth of great games, so I would never get rid of them.
The Gameboy is a nice piece of gaming history, but I have no games for it, it just came with the SNES bundle from eBay. I used to love my childhood Gameboy, but I can't see myself playing one these days. I guess I could take or leave my Dreamcast. The controllers are bulky and it asks me the date every time I power it up. And I don't have many good games for it, which is probably the main downside. The Atari has some good games on it, but most of them are turd. Asteroids is always fun though. I rarely play either PSP these days, although I had some good times playing GTA with colleagues. The multiplayer was great, especially as they couldn't look at your screen to figure out where you were. And lastly, my 3DS. It's a great console, but I feel like I don't want to waste any more time playing it until I get one of the new editions with the jazzed up 3D and controls. And mine has an annoying dead pixel which taunts me every time I play.
I don't have the biggest collection of games, but I've got enough that I've always got plenty to choose from, and still have many that I've not gotten round to playing yet. Here's a little view of some of the games in my games room:
There are more games downstairs, but this is the lion's share. I've really slowed down on the game buying in recent times. While I can't resist a bargain from a car boot sale or charity shop, I rarely pay full price for a new game these days. I just can't justify it with all these others waiting to be played.
Games rooms fascinate me, I love to see what people have done with theirs. Mine is a constant work in progress, only limited by space constraints. One day I'll have a bigger, better one, but until then I'll do what I can with what I've got. It has given me an idea for future blog entries though...
A couple of weeks ago, I uploaded a pic of my latest bead portrait to Instagram:
Katy Perry proved to be very popular, and she currently sits at over 150 "likes". I like to think it's due to my workmanship (she did take a lot of altering and tidying up from the original design), but I'm realistic enough to know that it's probably due to the boobs. It's always the boobs.
Anyway, as the praise poured in I started to notice a trend forming in the comments section. Here's a pic of the most recent comments posted:
It appears there is a new spam syndicate in town. That's a lot of suns, a lot of extremely similar messages, and a random model claiming to have gone to school with me. Not one genuine comment in the last eight. And these are just the comments that fit on one phone screen, there were more before too. Notice how they're all female, easy on the eye, and most of them have the same username format: word-number-word. If you look at their profiles it becomes clear they're spammers, with generic selfies and claims of being able to get you more followers.
The #katyperry hashtag seems to be the magnet for this bullshit, as I've never had it on any of my other photos. Instagram recently had a mass profile clearout too, where they deleted loads of inactive and spam accounts. Seems like the spammers fought back. This is the annoying thing about social media - sorting out the real people from the spammers.
And for the record, it's hard to figure out if you went to school with someone based on a black & white photo of their stomach 15 years later.
Just recently it occurred to me that the highlight of my (admittedly short) artistic career has never been mentioned on my website. It's an anomaly among my work, as everything up to and since the piece in question has been made of beads.
When I first began speaking to my representative at Turner Fine Arts last year, he was keen for me to try working in other mediums. My bead pictures are essentially mosaics, and he was interested in seeing if I could apply my experience to larger materials. With an open mind, I agreed, and got to work! I made a black and white design of John Lennon's face and used 1cmx1cm glass tiles for the mosaic. John Lennon wouldn't have been my first choice of subject personally, but we decided on him for his marketable face, and I didn't really mind as it was my first foray into a new field.
This was easily the biggest artwork I'd ever made, and dominated the floor of my games room for a few months.
With a finished size of about 5 feet high, after 26 hours of work the finished result was this:
After framing, the mosaic was put on display in Artifex gallery in Birmingham. Seeing it on display amongst other impressive works of art was really fulfilling, and I have to say, all the repetitive work involved in making it was worth it in the end!
The good people at Showmasters - who run conventions such as the London Film & Comic Con - have created an event to celebrate the year 2015 (a significant time for Back To The Future fans) while raising money for Team Fox, Michael J. Fox's charity for Parkinson's Research. The aim of ‘Up To 88!’ is to channel the ‘fan-force’ of the Back to the Future movies and the attendee following of Showmasters’ events into fundraising for a good cause. ‘Up To 88!’ will run from 1st February 2015 to 21st October 2015 – Back to the Future Day! The target is to raise $88,000 through direct donations and fan fundraisers to the ‘Up To 88!’ team page on the Team Fox website.
Keen eyes will note the plethora of Back To The Future stars attending the London Film & Comic Con in July - Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Claudia Wells, James Tolkan, Mark McClure, Harry Waters Jr, Donald Fullilove and Frances Lee McCain are the confirmed cast members so far.
I've decided to join the 'Up To 88!' effort by joining the team and setting myself a goal of $500. My plan for fundraising is to make Back To The Future pixel bead art and put it up for sale, with all the proceeds going directly to Team Fox.
The one sprite I've made so far is Marty on his hoverboard from BTTF 2:
Once my next few projects are complete, expect DeLoreans aplenty, with some portraits of Doc and Marty too.
If any kind souls wish to donate to this great cause, regardless of pixel art incentives, the link to the donation page is here. Any donations will be greatly appreciated!!
This week I’ve been looking into which games and comics conventions are scheduled to take place in the UK this year. I’m a big fan of these conventions, having been to a few over the years. It’s fun to meet comic writers and artists, and get them to sign their work for you, as most of the time they sign for free. The bigger name guests charge for autographs, and while I wasn’t able to get Stan Lee’s last year, I did come away with George A. Romero’s, which was a pretty big deal for me. Having John Wagner sign my Judge Dredd bead portrait was pretty amazing too!
So I’ve been scouring the Internets for info of upcoming conventions, and have come up with the following list.
March: MCM Comic Con - Birmingham Mar 21-22
April: Insomina Gaming Festival - Coventry Apr 3-6
The Comic Festival - Birmingham Apr 18
May: Play Blackpool - Blackpool May 2-4
MCM Comic Con - London May 22-24
June: Collectormania - Milton Keynes, Jun 13-14
North East Retro Gaming (NERG) - Gateshead Jun 20-21
July: London Film & Comic Con - London Jul 17-19
MCM Comic Con - Manchester Jul 25-26
September: International Comics Expo - Birmingham Sep 5
EGX - Birmingham Sep 24-27
October: MCM Comic Con - London Oct 23-25
November: MCM Comic Con - Birmingham Nov 21-22
There are conventions in Scotland and Ireland, but I’ve been selfish and only researched the ones I’m likely to be able to attend, as a resident of the South of England! Unfortunately for me, most of the cons seem to be in the Midlands, or further North. The London conventions tend to be much bigger, and as a result the cost of a stall there is very high. I would have to sell a lot to make it worthwhile, and I don’t think I’m at that level yet. Especially as I need to build up my stock again after the Leeds Game Market!
At the weekend I had a little go on my Megadrive purchases from the Video Game Market. Here are my thoughts on them.
The controls can be a little clunky though, and often you’ll spend so long trying to line up with an enemy in order to make contact, that you’ll take a lot of damage in the process. And your weapon range seems very short – you almost have to be stood on top of an alien in order to hit it. My biggest problem was that your weapon relies on a finite energy source, and if you run out, your character resorts to fists. Unfortunately this isn’t street fighting on the level of Streets of Rage, and any time this happened, I died shortly after.
Overall though, it’s not a bad game. The repetitiveness of it is broken up by stages of first person shooting, and high speed running-and-gunning. And as with all games of this nature, they’re best enjoyed with a friend in 2 player mode. Unfortunately my wife is intimidated by my gaming skills and refuses to play with me. I assume that’s the reason anyway. To be honest, when I bought this game, I thought it was Alien Soldier, which I have played (and loved), so my disappointment probably stemmed from the moment I fired the game up and realised I’m an actual idiot. But the game’s not actually bad!
Super Thunder Blade
This got 96% in Mean Machines, according to the box. I give it 40% tops. Clunky controls, and a general feeling of flying around without a purpose are my thoughts on this one. It took me an age to find someone I was meant to blow up, but it’s so hard to line up your gunfire and rockets with them, that by the time you’ve manoeuvred into position, they’ve destroyed your chopper. Of the helicopter games here, steer clear of this turd. 96%... what were they thinking?!
So my Megadrive purchases were a little hit and miss, but for £10 I’m not complaining. The other game I played this weekend was a Zelda game I’d previously dabbled in briefly, but had never returned to, since I had a couple more Zelda games on the go at the time and didn’t want to confuse myself too much. I was playing Twilight Princess for a long time before I realised that I had somehow managed to get near the end of the game without getting the shield, and I couldn’t figure out how to return to get it. So I moved on, and now I’m into Skyward Sword!
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
This is a Wii game that came out a few years ago and seemed to divide gamers, based solely on its controls. It uses Motion Plus, for a more accurate representation of swordplay. Basically, you can swing the sword up or across, depending on how you move the controller. Some people love it, others can’t get it to work properly. I find it a bit hit and miss. Not bad enough to make me want to stop playing though. Once you get past the inevitable intro and finally get to be the hero (something bad happens, then someone gives you a green outfit and a sword and sends you off to battle), it gets good. Flying that big bird around is fun, and the rest is standard Zelda fare really. Help people out to get items you need to continue your quest. I’ve been playing a few hours and have only scratched the surface, but I like it so far. The visuals are more along the lines of Twilight Princess than Wind Waker, and as usual the music is brilliant too. I’ll be revisiting this one regularly, and will probably finish it sometime in 2018.
My Games List
Speaking of which, my list of games I’m partway through is big, and I’m trying to stop it from growing. I finished The Last of Us the other week and was mega-proud of myself for ticking one off the list. Here’s how it looks now:
SNES: Yoshi’s Island
Gamecube: Zelda The Wind Waker
Wii: Zelda Skyward Sword, Silent Hill Shattered Memories, Epic Mickey, Super Mario Galaxy
PS3: ICO/Shadow of The Colossus, The Walking Dead, Castle of Illusion, Strider
Games I own but haven’t played yet:
Xbox: Indiana Jones & The Emperor’s Tomb
Gamecube: Eternal Darkness
Wii: Metroid Prime Trilogy, Metroid Other M, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Punch-Out!!, Goldeneye, Sonic Colours
PS3: Alien Isolation
Games I want:
PS3: Resident Evil REmaster
Wii: House of The Dead Overkill
There are probably more, but these are just off the top of my head.
As you can see, that’s a hell of a lot of games to get through. I refuse to upgrade to the current generation of consoles until I run out of decent games to play in the last generation. By the time I make it to PS4/XBONE/WiiU level, they will probably be considered retro, and hopefully be a little cheaper than they are now!
Putting together my last blog entry, about the Video Game Market in Leeds, I realised it had been a long time since I last blogged. In fact, the previous time was to announce that I had secured a stall at the market, some 6 months prior. Obviously this is unacceptable, and I am resolving to try and write at least one post per week, reflecting on the things that have caught my attention. Mostly comics, games, movies and pixels of course! So here goes…
Video Game Market
This week I have been riding high from the Video Game Market. I shifted nearly half of the stock I took with me, and the day was definitely worthwhile from a monetary point of view, but it meant more than that to me. For me, seeing peoples’ reactions to my work and hearing their feedback first hand was incredibly rewarding. For over a year now I’ve been reading comments about my work on Instagram and Twitter, but to hear it in real life is great final confirmation that I’m on the right track. All too often I will become obsessed with the things I’m not happy with in my work, and I won’t be able to stop tweaking it until it is as perfect as I can get it. I’ve come to realise that most of these flaws are things that only I see, through hours of concentrated work on a piece up close. The market gave me a nice chance to set up my stall, make it as appealing as possible, and then step back and see what others thought.
While some of the artwork (like the framed Ninja Turtles sprites) may not have sold, they consistently drew comments and praise from people who were tempted by them, but for whatever reason couldn’t justify the extra expenditure on the day. It’s funny how some items I thought would be really popular, didn’t sell (the Lemmings canvas, the framed Duck Hunt sprite), while others I didn’t think would sell, did (like the framed Robocop sprite or the Pyramid Head frame that I thought was just a little too big). I guess it just goes to show that you never know who’s going to attend, or what they’re going to be looking for. I definitely came away with the impression that the cheaper items (framed sprites priced up to £10 each) were the most popular. These items sold out, while anything more expensive turned out to be more of a decision for the buyer, so not as many sold. I’m already looking forward to doing another stall somewhere, I’d love to be able to have two tables side by side – one for Sega, one for Nintendo, and see which stuff fares better!
However, there is still a little debate over whether to have Peter Parker as Spider-Man now. Let me explain! There is a big push from fans for Miles Morales to be the protagonist in these movies. He’s Spider-Man in the Ultimate comics, and he got his powers from some spider experimentation by Norman Osborn. After witnessing Peter Parker’s death, he realises he could have helped him, and decides to take on the role of Spider-Man. The slight controversy is in the fact that Miles is half African American, half Puerto Rican, which means there will probably be sceptics claiming that Marvel are just diversifying one of their characters for the sake of political correctness. Personally, I think there’s nothing wrong with having a non-white Spider-Man. Far too many of the mainstream superheroes are white, so why not make a character more relatable to others? At the end of the day, the colour of his skin is irrelevant, as the character is what makes him Spider-Man.
From the studio’s point of view, Parker is definitely the safer choice, and will allow the character to come into the movie, hopefully as an already-formed Spider-Man. Personally I hope they skip the origin and just have him as the new guy in town showing up on SHIELD's radar. I think they should ignore the "Amazing" movies and start again. They could do what Superman Returns did and ignore the 3rd and 4th movies, and just pretend that only the first two happened. This would kind of work, but they’ve stated that Spidey will be of high school age, and by the second Raimi Spider-Man film he had finished school. And modelling your film on Superman Returns probably isn’t a great idea anyway. No matter what they do, I just hope they get the basics right - I like the idea of Spider-Man being just a kid with powers and loads of problems who gets in way over his head with SHIELD and the big boys.
It works well with either Morales or Parker, but going with Morales would mean the risk of alienating those who won't accept a different Spider-Man, and also possibly bogging the story down with another origin tale. So I'd also be surprised if they go with Morales, but I'd just like to see a fresh take on Spidey, personally. There was never a need for the "Amazing" reboot, so I have a feeling the new Spider-Man films will ignore them and rewrite the character's history.
So yeah, big news for Marvel fans! I didn’t realise how strongly I felt about it until I started typing…
Oh, and one last thing about Marvel – did they HAVE to publicise their release schedule for the next 5 years or so?? Doesn’t that just spoil everything? Instead of looking forward to the next film, people are already looking at how it will fit in with and affect the next film, and the ones after that. Where’s the fun in that? What happened to the excitement of the teaser scenes at the end of Marvel films? Tony Stark turning up at the end of Incredible Hulk and hinting at The Avengers? Finding Thor’s hammer in the desert? In the early Marvel films, those of us who stayed to the end of the credits felt like we were in a special club, where we would get snippets of information and try to figure out where the MCU was going. Now we know exactly which year each character is getting a film, and when they will be in each others’ films. Like we already know Iron Man and Spider-Man will be in Captain America’s next film, and that it will be based on the Civil War storyline from the comics about 10 years ago. While I can’t resist speculating, I do miss the surprise of not knowing what’s going to happen in a movie. For this reason I’ve managed to stay relatively spoiler-free with regards to the new Star Wars film, but we’ll see how long that lasts. All it will take is one wrong click over the next year and I’ll know something I shouldn’t.
This isn’t exactly up-to-the-minute new, but I only got around to watching the trailer for Netflix’s Daredevil show this week. I have to say, I was pretty impressed. The tone is very dark and moody, which is a nice difference from the brighter movies Marvel is known for (not that they’re bad). The trailer didn’t reveal a lot, just brief clips and images, but there are no signs of ridiculousness just yet. The fact that Stick will be in it, and they haven’t gone straight for the Elektra Saga is a good sign that they’re going to take the time to build the character and story. And the classic Daredevil logo at the end of the trailer filled me with fanboy joy!
I’m something of an Affleck-Daredevil sympathiser. People love to shit on that movie, but I honestly don’t think it’s as bad as it’s made out to be. There are some great dark moments in the film, and I liked how he starts the film as a Punisher-type of anti-hero, dealing death to those who escape the justice system. There is plenty to make fun of though, so I understand the bad reviews. The costume wasn’t great, the CGI was worse, and a lot of the other characters were a bit cringeworthy (Bullseye, Elektra, Kingpin…). I thought the Director’s Cut improved the film slightly by getting rid of the sickeningly clichéd fireplace love scene, although it did add Coolio to the mix, which didn’t help at all.
New Nintendo 3DS
I had one of these bad boys on pre-order from the day they became available, and just last week I was forced to cancel, due to getting saddled with an unexpected debt at work. Expenditure on luxuries has to be limited for the time being, and unfortunately, my new 3DS was a victim. Not only that, but the Majora’s Mask Special Edition I had on order from Nintendo had to get canned too. It was not a good time in my household for gaming… To rub salt in the wound, this week I’ve had to endure countless pictures on social media of people receiving their shiny new consoles and games, while I’m left looking at my little release day aqua blue 3DS with nothing but resent. The dead pixel in the corner doesn’t help it endear itself to me either. I had even put off getting any further in Smash Bros, because I was looking forward to playing with the bigger screen and better 3D. One day…
Speaking of Nintendo, I want to voice my displeasure at the whole Amiibo thing. I started off buying the odd character I like, as they were cheap and looked good in my display cabinet, but it’s just gotten ridiculous lately. It seems Nintendo didn’t predict their popularity, so didn’t make as many of the “less popular” characters. Obviously, these became most desirable, and things soon got out of hand, with rare ones disappearing off shelves and reappearing at inflated prices on eBay. I have Zelda, Link and Samus, but have lost interest in hunting them down and paying through the nose. I don’t want the Wii Fit Trainer, regardless of how rare she gets. The only ones that interest me are the retro characters, and of those I only want characters who don’t already appear on my games shelf in some form or another. I did have Sonic and MegaMan on order, but cancelled them along with the 3DS. The only others that interest me are Pac Man (sold out), Duck Hunt Dog (not yet available), Zero Suit Samus (not yet available), Little Mac (sold out and priced ridiculously on eBay). But they’re not essential, and I can wait. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
Latest Bead Art
Excellent organisation and communication was provided by Steve the organiser, and my stall was set up and ready to go – with some valuable help from my helper wife - by 9pm on Friday. I had brought plenty of stock, so it was tough deciding which artwork to display first. I ended up going with the pieces I thought would be most popular. I figured I could trust my own opinions, as this event was aimed at people like me!
Saturday morning rolled around and we got to the venue about half an hour before opening time. The queue to get in went round the side of the building, which was an encouraging sign!
It was great to meet the other sellers setting up their stalls, and the temptation to go on a pre-doors bargain hunt was huge, but I stayed strong and concentrated on my own stall. After pricing up my work and rolling out the banners, my stall was ready to go.
The roller banner to the side was provided by Turner Fine Arts, who represent me, and really added a slice of professionalism to my stall. In my room were various games vendors, a painter and my favourite – Paul’s Arcade Machines. I was right next to Paul and his beautifully crafted bartop arcades all day, and somehow resisted throwing cash at him in exchange for one.
Just look at them. Shiny and bright and packed with hundreds of classic arcade games, one of these is really the only thing my games room is missing. However, I was attending the market to make money, not spend it, so I concentrated on selling my wares when the doors finally did open at 11am.
After a short interview for Replay Retro’s Youtube channel, I made my first sale of the day to Matt, who runs the channel and couldn’t resist Sonic & Tails for a birthday present.
Many hours and sales later, the wife returned from her day out in Leeds to feed me and help me pack up. Thankfully, nearly half my stock had sold, and feedback about my work had been all positive. I met many colourful characters and had many interesting discussions, from the merits of the tape method (see my Beading Guide for more) to the history of the Ninja Turtles. Just before closing I managed to nip around and bag 3 Megadrive games for a tenner too, which was a nice bonus.
Looking forward to next year’s event, which I’ll definitely try and attend, and also on the lookout for any similar events inbetween.
I can’t explain this photo, but thought it would be wrong of me not to share it.
And here is the full video of the event, by Replay Retro:
My name is Iain and my addiction is making pixel bead art. My main inspirations are comics, video games and movies.