The Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition is BEAUTIFUL…but not for me

It’s hard to remember when exactly the trend started for boxing extra trinkets in with upcoming video games and releasing them as pre-order exclusives, but the Collector’s Edition trend shows no sign of slowing down – especially not when we’re gearing up for one of the most anticipated sequels since OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE VALVE, JUST ANNOUNCE HALF-LIFE 3 WILL YOU!!!

Ahem.

Now I’m never one for fanboy drooling over possessions, particularly the expensive ones – but look at this. Just LOOK at it.

fallout 4 pip boy collectors edition

According to GAME, the Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition Includes:

  • Fallout 4 Game Disc
  • Wearable Pip-Boy
  • Robco Industries Stand
  • Capsule Case
  • Pip-Boy Pocket Guide
  • Vault-Tec Perk Poster
  • Collectible Metal Case

You can actually put your smartphone inside the wearable Pip-Boy and, along with the official app, pretend you’ve got your own fully functional device. Never have I wanted to play dress-up so badly since…well, since I went to a fancy dress thing as Shaun of the Dead.

shaun of the dead cosplay

I had red on me.

 

As I see it, there are but four problems standing between me and this piece of geek heaven:

It says ‘out of stock’

Which could be fair enough as this is, obviously, a pre-order. But on the other hand, it may actually have all gone already, which would be very upsetting.

It costs £100

And no matter how shiny a shiny thing may be, sometimes it’s difficult to justify spending that much money on things that would only end up sitting over the fireplace.

It’s only available from GAME

And we haven’t had the best relationship.

I don’t own a PS4 or XBone

And again, no matter how shiny a shiny thing it may be, that’s an even steeper investment considering that no game has actually swayed me into buying one yet – you’d think the raft of launch titles would have convinced me that XBox One or PlayStation 4 was the way to go, but no.

There’s plenty of time left between now and the game’s release (apparently November) to twist my own arm into buying one of the latest consoles and getting myself another slice of wasteland mayhem, but at the moment spending at least £300 only to buy one game is rather a ridiculous concept. And before you ask – there’s no way my PC can handle those graphics.

So what’s it to be?

‘Tap Titans’ mobile game is no fun for people with big hands

Put simply, Tap Titans is fast-moving and exciting – but only for a limited period.

tap titans mobile game

While counting down the months and weeks until the release of Fallout 4 (and buying a PS4 to play it on), I was very excited to learn of the existence of the Fallout Shelter mobile game, and immediately went to the App Store to check it out.

Since I got my Galaxy S5 about two months ago I’ve been impressed with it, and have been wanting to try different games out on it. So imagine my disappointment to find that Fallout Shelter hasn’t even been released for Android – and apparently won’t be for ‘a few months’.

As far as mobile gaming goes, I don’t have that many apps installed on my phone, and am quite discerning when it comes to trying them out. AdVenture Capitalist obviously made the cut. I saw Tap Titans during one of the bonus-giving ad breaks, and decided to give it a go too.

A couple of days later and I’m pretty much ready to cut it loose – partly because I quite like my S5 and am no longer prepared to risk damaging it by thrashing away at it with my sausage-like fingers.

big train fat handed twat

The aim of Tap Titans is pretty simple; defeat monsters, level up and recruit new fighters to aid you in your quest. The action is barely broken up at all as you move on to the next battle instantly, with the difficulty climbing only by the amount of damage you need to go, multiplying accordingly with the level of you and your fellow fighters.

Of course, this being a freemium game, there’s the chance to progress further in the game by making real-money purchases; in this case Diamonds which are available in bulk for prices between $1.99 and $99.99. I am honestly amazed that the option exists for people to spend 100 dollars (more than £60) on a mobile game, but there you have it; some people must be really keen to progress in the game and…

…I’m not even sure there is an endgame here. All I know is my heroes keep being killed by bosses, and that I can’t see a damn thing onscreen when I’m battling because all I’m really doing is hitting my screen and my giant hand is blocking the view.

 

simpsons jokes about my giant hand gif

 

Just tapping the screen to take part is all very well and good, but in terms of a game mechanic there isn’t really much skill involved – of course, a more rhythmically gifted player will do better than me on this, but there just isn’t much fun to be had by tapping the screen to knock HP off my enemies – especially when the damage they’re returning seems fairly arbitrary in response.

Of course, it could well be that I’m just a complete noob at Tap Titans, but just a couple of days after installing it I’m not seeing any real argument to hold onto the game.

Five For Friday: Self-Titled Albums

In the continuing series of weekend-opening list posts, this week I tackle the thorny issue of lazy musicians. Well, not lazy per se, just uncreative – with some examples proving my case even further than others.

five for friday self-titled albums

Self-titled albums; usually the masterstroke of a band keen to add some brand equity to their breakout debut albums. Sometimes the last resort of bands who are really struggling for some inspiration and so are forced to fall back on something familiar-sounding – maybe just to make it easier to ask for in shops.

Whether it’s an act of genius or an act of madness, today I’ll be writing about five of my favourite eponymous albums.

Rage Against the Machine (1992)

Back again with the Rage boys; and theirs is by far the best example on this list of a band’s sound summed up within its name – and so the most acceptable use of a self-titled debut album. Because when your album contains such impassioned musicianship and lyrical messages, anything else than your equally incendiary name (and album cover to boot) seems pretty redundant.

rage against the machine debut album

I’ll mention later on a band that possesses a conviction; a need to be heard, but there are no bands out there that demand your attention, and are so vital as this one. Especially in the songs where the political rhetoric and awesome riffing go neatly together – ‘Wake Up’ would be my favourite example of this. Their debut album is, for me, the band’s boldest political statement – albeit not my favourite collection of songs.

 

Rancid (1993)

A typical Tuesday night round about the turn of the millennium involved going out for a bit of the old underage drinking; we’d get our pre-drinks at my friend Ben’s house, where before booting up the PS2 for some Grand Theft Auto 3, he would play this album…specifically track nine. On repeat.

Whether it was his heavy-handed way of mocking someone during various girl dramas, or just because he really liked the song, I can’t be sure. However, what did annoy me was the fact he took ages getting around to playing the rest of the album, because it’s just bloody brilliant. The debut album from Rancid is very…let’s say, spiky. Not just because of the haircuts that the band sported, but because of the brilliant realisation of their spiky attitude through Donnell Cameron’s spiky production, and the youthful but desperate songs they play. They needed this.

 

Weezer (1994)

Weezer’s (first) self-titled album is one of those where just scanning your way down the tracklisting would make you go “holy crap, there’s ‘Jonas’ and ‘No One Else’ and…” but while with most albums you’d be skipping a couple, on Blue you’d just end up reading back every single song because they’re ALL gold. I assume that it’s the mark of producer Ric ‘Cars’ Ocasek that sheer pop shines through on every track; the fuzzy guitars are there, as are the thumping drums, but all through the album there’s the catchy, catchy melodies, the amazing vocal harmonies and glossy production.

Example:

The fact that this isn’t even the best song on Blue tells you exactly how good Blue really is.

Weezer would go on to take the piss slightly with (to date) two more self-titled albums, but while both are distinctly lacking compared to their first, there is a band that can just about get away with releasing a second eponymous album in 2000.

 

Rancid (2000)

And that’s because it’s equally as vital as their first, seven years later. Over 22 tracks but under forty minutes, Rancid found that the best way to come back from an ambitious dose of ska on Life Won’t Wait was to take it back to basics; self-titled, fast and furious – the latter no more evident than on ‘Rattlesnake’, a snarling ditty reportedly squarely aimed at a former manager of the band. “You’re a rattlesnake / and you’re full of shit”. Indeed.

My personal favourite track on this song was written by the bass-vocals god that is Matt Freeman; it still baffles me to this day how live footage of the band can exist on YouTube using any other angle than staring at his bass-playing, slackjawed with wonder.

A love song to life on the road and the girl he’s giving up on for it. Beautiful stuff, tenderly sung by the gruffest man in punk rock. Don’t worry; this is by far the mellowest moment on an otherwise very intense album.

 

LCD Soundsystem (2005)

It starts off with that annoying brag about Daft Punk (see my witty reply here) and ends with a hauntingly beautiful piece of music called ‘Great Release’ – more than six minutes of atmospheric synth built atop two piano chords and a distant vocal from music’s biggest fan, James Murphy.

And that’s why I love this first album; LCD Soundsystem were the world’s best tribute act to music. Combining influences as far-reaching as The Beatles (‘Never as Tired as When I’m Waking Up’) and Brian Eno (‘Great Release’), Murphy’s group wore their influences on their sleeve – no, above their heads on giant placards – and managed to blend them through this post-everything tight group of talented musicians to put new spins on all kinds of generic works.

You can tell Murphy’s something of an experimental type outside of LCD – his latest project apparently involves turning data from a tennis tournament into music – and this album is their most eclectic statement of all three.

Five For Friday: Strange Video Game Product Placements

Five For Friday continues with a look at some of video gaming’s most corporate moments. Ever wondered why Lara Croft only drinks Lucozade? Well, that’s probably not true but she got paid to pretend otherwise in the late 90s.

five for friday video games product placement

As you read these words I’ll be staring at paintings in Le Louvre. Or maybe fretting at the price of the lift up the Eiffel Tower. Or maybe my legs hurt from too much walking and I’m watching TV in my hotel room. Any way you slice it, I’ll be in Paris, so enjoy this brand spanking new Five For Friday while I’m gone.

Video games: for so many people an escapist dream. A chance to live vicariously through space marines, archaeologists and…erm, skateboarders. Probably the last thing you want to see when booting up a game is to be bombarded by advertising, but product placement has been an issue for decades now. Whether it’s the chance to add some brand realism to proceedings, or just a company trying to make up the shortfall of whatever budgetary black hole their game production has climbed into, we see it happening all the time.

While in some games, the ads make some semblance of sense, in others they’re out of place and altogether weird. Here are five games which went firmly latterways.

Pushover (1992)

This didn’t happen if you played it on the SNES, but us Amiga players were treated to a weird enough prelude to this classic domino puzzler; a cartoon crisps mascot known as Colin Curly dropping his treasured packet of Quavers down into an ant hill, and enlisting the help of the game’s main character to help him out.

pushover quavers video game

There he is, the clumsy fool. Fortunately this bizarre intro doesn’t have too much bearing on the rest of the game, as presumably it would’ve been too difficult to remove for the SNES port. Pushover was actually a fiendishly difficult but fun game – and to be fair, I still bloody love Quavers, always have.

Cool Spot (1993)

When your soft drink starts losing ground on its competitors, what do you do? Make it taste nicer? No, just bin off the humanistic mascot and replace him with a red dot with arms and legs. Poor Fido Dido, and poor us for being subjected to a Mega Drive platformer starring a red dot as the mascot for an inferior lemon/lime drink.

Long before the days when junk food was banned during children’s TV ad breaks, they were able to create video games to promote their brand! Cool Spot was first released on the Mega Drive, which leads me to believe that they weren’t always pushing for that mature audience which Mortal Kombat would deliver them.

McDonaldLand (1992)

For beleaguered parents and their fast food-craving kids, this for me was pretty much a low.

“As a licensed product for the McDonald’s fast food franchise, the game occasionally features the various logos and characters from McDonald’s restaurant signage and television advertisements, for the purposes of plot advancement and power-ups.”

mcdonaldland video game product placement

I’m unsure if we actually owned a copy of this atrocity on our Amiga during the 1990s, but I definitely played enough of it to know that…they should’ve stuck to the burgers. I’m fairly outraged that they could even get away with this stuff, but as long as it’s all happy happy nicey nicey EAT MCDONALDS jolly jolly, then nobody will have been too concerned. Why is it that the moral majority was so up in arms about violent video games being illegally sold to underage customers, but nobody bats an eyelid about selling this shit?

Zool (1992)

As another blatant product placement, Zool is fairly indefensible, with very, VERY prominent signs for Chupa Chups lollies clogging up every single screen in the game. However, at the tender age of eight I was prepared to overlook this because it was bloody fun to play.

zool chupa chups product placement

Despite this, The Ninja From The nth Dimension was a very tough game to play. Looking back now, it appears that 1992 had a lot to answer for with three of the four games listed so far responsible for polluting my tiny mind with in-game advertising. Hell, I feel silly enough now just pressing to watch the ads on AdVenture Capitalist to gain a 2x bonus, let alone expose my much more vulnerable seven-year old mind with this filth.

Enter The Matrix (2003)

This is the only one off the list I haven’t actually played, and with good reason: you’ve seen those last two Matrix films, right? Nuff said.

But the choice of tie-in product is especially strange for the video game adaptation of the Most Unwatchable 66% Of A Trilogy Ever. When you’ve had a hard day running through virtual world and trying to stay alive against virulent agents, what do you do?

the matrix video game powerade product placement

…drink Powerade? Really??? This kind of thing works much better inside the cartoonish worlds of Pushover and Zool; hell, even McDonaldLand is a feel good fun time in spirit, but this particular endorsement in this particular tone of game really just brings you out of it, doesn’t it?

Backward Compatible: A Geek Love Story

Aside from shovelling back copies of my Calling Spots subscription onto my Kobo, I really needed something breezy to read while soaking up the sun (and a few beers) on holiday last month. So when I stumbled across a geeky love story written from the viewpoints of both its main characters, I thought it would do very nicely.

And it did, quite nicely. Backward Compatible is the story of two college geeks, Kate and George, and their blossoming relationship over a winter break in their small-town home town.

 Backward Compatible a geek love story book

 

Geek Love

From the minute they lock eyes (and angry words) over the last copy of Fatal Destiny X at the midnight opening, Kate and George float in and out of each other’s lives; she while fending off the advances of rival gamer and blogger Seynar (whose 12 followers await his review of The Hobbit with bated breath….kinda reminds me of writing here), while George hangs out with his friend Lanyon and they while away the hours with ball-punching competitions and video gaming.

They drift from mall to restaurant to movies in a fairly resigned manner, waiting until term starts again so they can go back to being grown-ups…until Fatal Destiny X drags them kicking and screaming into late night sessions and an obsession with winning the ultimate geeky prize.

What I liked about this book was the magnifying glass put over the minutiae of everyday life, and the ever-expanding cast’s attempts to geek things up in order to feel normal, and wanted, and comfortable. My favourite books all contain a completely disparate group of people drawn together by common goals and forming the bonds to achieve them. It’s so cool to see that loosely-defined family come together, just as it was to see George and Kate overcome their own overblown neuroses to…well, I won’t spoil things, but it is pitched as a romance novel so you can connect the dots.

What I didn’t really care for though, in a fair few scenes, was the sheer amount of references to geek culture being dropped casually into conversation. I know it’s exactly how I talk to some of the people I’m closest to, but as material used in a novel it feels like there’s a test on every page just waiting for me to feel inadequate and distant from the characters in case I don’t get it. (The very worst offender here is one of the very final ‘clues’ to the relationship – I’ve just Googled it and I don’t feel as if knowing the reference allows me to say “AH HA! Story complete!” It’s not needed either way.)

For some light holiday reading, Backward Compatible: A Geek Love Story did just the job; with a semi-ambling plot that’s more about getting to know and feel for the characters as it is to root them on. Next time you’re packing a suitcase, pack this onto your e-reader too.

 

The Week in Geek: MITB 2015, Kickstarter’s Revenge and Kaboom Comics

Welcome to this week’s geek culture news, featuring the build to the next WWE PPV event and an interesting follow-up on a previously-covered Kickstarter campaign.

week in geek culture news

The Doom That Came To Erik Chevalier

When designer Erik Chevalier cancelled his Kickstarter project for The Doom That Came To Atlantic City about two years ago, backers were sceptical as to what had been done with the £80,000 they’d raised to fund it.

And yesterday those suspicions were confirmed, as the BBC reported on a finding by The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that Chevalier spent much of the money he’d raised on relocating and rent – not to mention commencing work on an entirely different project.

The FTC also found that Chevalier had not yet refunded any of his backers, despite promising to do so in the Kickstarter page’s final update.

In a settlement reached between the parties, Chevalier is banned from misrepresenting himself in any future crowd-funded campaigns – including pledging rewards that he doesn’t deliver on and how he intends to spend the money.

In return, an order that Chevalier must repay all of the money he was awarded has been suspended on the grounds that…he can’t afford it. However, if this turns out to be untrue then the order will be reinforced.

The lesson here, kids, is make sure you know what you’re getting into the next time you’re looking to back something.

 

WWE Money In The Bank 2015

Just two weeks after the last WWE event, Sunday night sees the return of the most valuable briefcase in sports entertainment with the annual Money In The Bank pay-per-view.

As always, the marquee match is the Ladder Match for the Money In The Bank briefcase; I would list the seven competitors involved but recent form suggests that I’ll name Roman Reigns as the sole favourite and leave it at that.

Other big matches slated for the event include a rematch from Elimination Chamber between John Cena and Kevin Owens, and the WWE World Heavyweight Title match; another prize to be hung above the ring and contested by champion Seth Rollins and his former Shield brother Dean Ambrose.

Ambrose isn’t going through the best booking right now – when was the last time he did? – but fans sadly can’t quite get behind the antics of the belt-stealing, mad-looking Lunatic Fringe. (And that one bounce-through the ropes spot is getting a bit old if I’m honest.)

There’s a very interesting theory doing the rounds, but for me the timing wouldn’t quite be there to be pulled off convincingly. Word is, once Reigns has (obviously) won the briefcase, he’ll cash in on the very same night…by turning heel on a victorious Dean Ambrose. WWE writers have done a pretty good job of buddying the two men up, so imagine how shocking this turn of events would be!

Except, it wouldn’t. As much as he’s improved since Wrestlemania (and even during; that main event match was spectacular), I still don’t buy Reigns as a credible threat whether with the fans or against them. There’s still too much to the Shield breakup that hasn’t been straightened out, and this isn’t the time to get into it.

Nor do I buy Ambrose as WWE Champion to lose it, sadly, and that’s partly down to the Dusty Finish (RIP) we got at Elimination Chamber which gave and took away that credibility in a matter of seconds.

 

Kaboom Comics

And just in case you missed it, I did an interview with Dave from Kaboom Comics earlier this week – go give it a read!

Five For Friday: Worst Wrestling Gimmicks

This week’s Five For Friday examines five very interesting career moves by wrestlers and mythical beasts alike. You can find previous entries in the Five For Friday series here.

Worst Wrestling Gimmicks 

To make it in the world of pro wrestling you need three things: the athletic talent, the charisma, and a unique look. Tie all these together and you’re a guaranteed star.

The Rock. Triple H. Dare I say it, John Cena. These men have it – that special combination which makes them superstars. Even two out of three ain’t bad: Mick Foley certainly had the look and the charisma, even if he was never gonna win any races. Much as it pains me to admit it, Bret Hart was an absolute god in the ring and was devoted to his character, even if he was lacking on the mic.

Whether you’ve got it or you haven’t, some people are able to use what they get to try and make it to the top of the wrestling tree.

And then there are these poor sods. Ladies and gentlemen, the Worst Wrestling Gimmicks.

 

Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese

dukedroese 

[image: GaryColemanFan]

As Stewart from the New Generation Podcast laid out for us in a recent interview, Vince McMahon certainly loved his ‘double gimmicks’ in the WWF – wrestlers who were seen to be moonlighting in the ring because they, in kayfabe, had another job to be getting back for.

Whether it’s a comment on the number of 80s wrestlers who had to combine their real love with something that actually paid the bills, or just a weird creative genre that never really went away (The Miz, anyone? Brock Lesnar? Oh no wait, that really was a different job) – the absolute bottom of the trashcan came in the form of Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese.

From what I remember he was a decent enough competitor, but then again I’ve since been proved wrong about most of my childhood wrestling memories from listening to that afore-mentioned podcast and watching the relevant matches. Droese wrestled in the WWF for two years – most notably gaining some upset victories over a young Hunter Hearst Helmsley – before agreeing on a release from his contract in 1996.

 

Mantaur

MOO. Enough said? No? Fair enough. This might do it.

(To be fair, that’s a hell of a belly-to-belly suplex he hits.)

Mike Halac counts ECW and WWE among his career highlights, but in this guise he was pretty much doomed from the get-go. Even with all-time great booker and manager Jim Cornette in his corner, Mantaur failed to grasp gold, and only lasted about six months. It must have been the exact six months that I watched WWF because I remember this guy very clearly. If only for the make-up and the mooing.

 

Dean Douglas

Right guy, wrong gimmick: you might know Shane Douglas as the man who threw down the NWA World Title after winning it in a tournament, in favour of declaring himself the first ECW World Champion and spitting on wrestling tradition in one fell swoop. He was instrumental in establishing ECW as the third main player in the business…so when he turned up in the WWF dressed like this:

Dean_Douglas_at_RAH2

[Dean Douglas at RAH2 by Mandy Coombes – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mandycoombes/6921270651. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

We knew there’d be a problem.

Douglas was a pretty talented bloke, no question, but Vince’s obsession with a double gimmick didn’t endear the education-loving snob to fans one bit, and not even in the heel heat way. Sadly he fell foul of the Kliq in 1995 and made a pretty hasty exit, but not before winning and losing the Intercontinental Title in the space of about 15 minutes thanks to some particularly dickish politicking from Shawn and Razor.

Just Joe

If you watched Sunday Night Heat during its time on Channel 4 in about 2000, you might remember ‘Joe. Just Joe’, a man whose sole purpose in the WWF was to go backstage and inform Wrestler 1 that he’d just overheard Wrestler 2 saying he was going to kick Wrestler 1’s ass, or that Diva 1 was spotted getting close with Wrestler 1’s manager, much to the annoyance of Wrestler 2. On and on this went without any real, actual point to the man. Plus, as Kevin points out in a recent episode of The Attitude Era Podcast, he wasn’t even billed correctly – going from “Joe” to “Just Joe” and back again in a matter of seconds.

 

JustJoe

Sadly for Joe, his ideas outlived his own short time in the backstage area; he’s said to have been the man who first pitched the idea of a group of wrestlers who were out to censor the WWF – which one Steven Richards would actually head up instead.

The Yeh-TAAAAAY (Yeti)

Yeti

Why does this so-called Yeti look more like a mummy? If you’ve never had the misfortune of watching WCW Halloween Havoc 1995, you may be very surprised to know that this was not THE question everyone was asking that night.

No, that honour referred to the onscreen Monster Truck Match which took place atop the stadium between a debuting Giant (Paul ‘Big Show’ Wight) and the Immortal(ly lame) Hulk Hogan. At the conclusion of their epic rooftop battle, The Giant would attack Hogan and appear to fall off the roof of the stadium, to his death.

Just a few minutes later though, the Giant would show up for his World Title match against Hogan as if absolutely nothing had happened.

As for this gimmick…well, apparently he would go on to become a ninja. You know, those stealthy dudes? Yep. This bumbling shambles of a man would soon become a ninja.

Because WCW. Oh, and the reason he’s dubbed the Yeh-TAAAAAY is that the commentator couldn’t pronounce the word ‘yeti’. Simple as.

Interview: Kaboom Comics

There’s this bloke I used to work with called Dave. (Actually, there are two, but the other one doesn’t warrant a mention right now because he’s not into comics. Plus I hate him. (That was a joke, Dave. You git.))

Anyway. The Dave in question recently launched a service called Kaboom Comics; an online comic store which stocks the latest releases from the big and small comic publishers. Given that I’m now branching out into this interviewing lark I decided to have a quick chat with the man and see what’s cracking down at Kaboom HQ.

 

Kaboom Comics online store

 

Who are Kaboom Comics?

We’re two ordinary guys who love comics and all manner of other geeky things. We were sick and tired of being given little to no choice when buying comic books online. Our closest comic book shop was in Leeds, which was a bit of a pain to go to. Other than that, we could order off Forbidden Planet online but the experience wasn’t great when simply browsing.

How did you get started?

Coming from an online marketing background, we thought we could do things better than what is currently out there. So we’ve put our money where our mouth is and went ahead and set up Kaboom Comics. We like to think that our site is crisp, clean and easy to use, and laid out in such a way that no matter what you’re looking for, you can always find something else.

We think our customers agree, as we’ve had loads of people ordering a wide array of comics from different publishers! We also wanted a place for a community to flourish. We love hearing about the latest news from the comic book and wider film and TV worlds, and we want to bring this to Kaboom and generate discussions with our customers. We’ve got big plans on how we aim to expand this side of Kaboom, but more on that later!

What do you love about working at Kaboom Comics?

I love seeing all the great comic book artwork as it comes through the doors at Kaboom HQ. I’m a bit of a sucker for design so it’s great when we open those boxes and see fresh comic books laid there. It’s also pretty cool getting to sell something you love.

I also really enjoy everyone’s passion for comic books. Everyone thought they were going out of fashion, but they’re really making a comeback. But everyone who gets into them has a real passion, and to know that we’re helping people enjoy something they love is a really great feeling.

You stock a diverse mix of comics across different titles, genres and publishers. Do you find customers tend to gravitate towards books by the Big Two or is there a wider range of customer tastes?

This one shocked me quite a bit, because we see a real mix. Some of our best sellers have been from publishers such as IDW Publishing and Dark Horse, and that was always important for me from the outset. We want to give people the choice to read what they want. So we stock a wide range of comics across a lot of publishers, but we also allow people to request comics from us if they can’t find what they want. We want to help our customers as much as we can so it’s not just a buyer/ seller relationship.

What are the biggest challenges facing an online comic book store and how do you overcome them?

I think it’s difficult for online comic retailers sometimes because they are such a visual, tangible thing, and of course you can’t convey that online.  That’s why we aim to put nice big pictures of covers on our product pages, so that you can really see the detail and get a feel for what it looks like. We’d also like to start putting previews of comics on our blog, as we think it would be great to give people that sneak peek.

Delivery can also be an issue, but we like to think we are competitively priced on delivery and we give people enough choice when it comes to type of delivery. All of our comics are sent in plastic protective sleeves to minimise damage in transit, and again this was something that was really important to us from the outset – to offer the best all-round service possible.

The comic book industry has never been so popular than right now. To what do you attribute this (ka)boom in demand? Are there any particular books or films which you think caused the explosion?

Nice pun, Vincent! I think comic books tell really great stories, despite what some people may say. They also cater for every demographic, which I think adds to their popularity. Maybe it started with the Batman films, but we can probably all forget about the early ones (*cough* George Clooney *cough* Bat Nipples *cough*). I think we owe Christopher Nolan a lot for the rise in popularity of comic books. Batman Begins really set the bar high in terms of the standard of superhero movies, and he carries that on in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

They’re pretty serious films though, so I think The Avengers has helped, and Guardians of the Galaxy really ramped it up. Man that film was great. There’s something for everyone in those films. It also went to show you don’t have to just make a film about the really famous guys. I bet a lot of people hadn’t heard of Guardians before the film, but we see a lot of Guardians comics go out the door now, and I’d expect that to continue this June with the release of Groot #1.

And its success shows, with DC rolling out films about some of their maybe lesser known characters in the next few years.

Where does comic book culture go from here? Can we really expect to see an Avengers film every four years for the next 25 or 30 years?

Again, this is a tough one. I’d like to think film makes won’t get complacent and roll out Avengers 53 – Thor’s Sex Change in 30 years’ time. That would be a crying shame because there are loads of great characters to explore. I think it would be great to see the girls kick a bit more ass as well, with comics like A-Force #1 being released I think we’re seeing a shift towards more female orientated books, and there’s some fantastic series such as Ms Marvel, Spider-Woman and Wonder Woman all being produced.

Personally I’d love more TV shows such as Daredevil to be released exploring more back stories. It was a great series and lets you get deeper into the story than a film. Finally I think we need some fresh blood when it comes to characters. We have these really talented people creating comics, so I think it’s time we came up with some new heroes!

What’s the future for Kaboom Comics?

We’ve got loads of exciting things planned. We really want to make the most of our blog, with previews, opinons and reviews all planned, as well as feature artists and bloggers to try and give something back to the community.

We’re going to have some competitions running as well to give away some cool clobber, and if you’re at some of the upcoming MCM ComicCons (we’ll be in Manchester first) then we’ll be milling about outside, so come say hello! There may even be a special offer in it for you. Some awesome Kaboom t-shirts will be coming soon as well!

Cheers Dave. You can visit Kaboom Comics at www.kaboomcomics.co.uk, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Five For Friday: Workplace Films

Five For Friday is an ongoing weekly series in which I pick five of my favourite things along the same theme. Last week we took a page from High Fidelity in examining Side One, Track Ones. This week, a salute to the 9 to 5 ratrace.

Top Five Workplace Films 

There are a lot of people out there who actually do like their jobs. I’m one of them. But in the entertainment world you don’t get far by making stuff about what people find satisfying. Even in the most secure and stable of personalities, there has to be an itch to scratch.

Many people don’t like their jobs. And they are the ones who get films made about them. From record shops to offices, here are my favourite workplace films; starring quirky characters and with scripts that manage to turn the humdrum and mundane working existence into an existential crisis.

In order of release:

Clerks (1994)

Clerks was made for under $30,000 and launched the film career of its writer and director, Kevin Smith. It’s a pretty amazing story captured in full on the Clerks X DVD extras, and it inspired me to start writing many a film script before jacking it in a full ten pages later. The film itself is, of course, a fantastic comedy highlighting the plight of full-time shop monkey Dante, struggling between getting a real job and the comfortable existence he enjoys at the convenience store alongside best friend and primo antagoniser Randal.

clerks kevin smith

That’s Kevin Smith. Originally he wasn’t even supposed to be (here today) in the film, but if I remember correctly he had to take this line from Jay because Jay kept messing it up and they were running out of film. That’s indie filmmaking for you, and this film in particular helped bring about a huge resurgence in low-budget straight-talking films…

Empire Records (1995)

…kind of like this one. Released just a year later for what I imagine is also not much money, Empire Records is just one of those very, VERY quotable films that anyone who’s seen it can incorporate into their daily geek language.

empire records review

It starts with what appears to be an employee stealing company money and frittering it away at the casino, but ‘bad apple’ Lucas is just misunderstood for reasons that become clear later. In contrast to what I said earlier, most of the people here at Empire Records do like their jobs, but it’s very much a stopgap for some who are trying to work out what to do with their lives, too.

Oh, and also the events of the film take place on Rex Manning Day – the greatest made-up holiday ever.

It’s surprising how many of the cast are, while let’s not go mad and say they’re all A-listers, still knocking around on TV. Aside from Mizzes Tyler and Zellweger, Anthony LaPaglia (Joe) and Rory Cochrane (Lucas) went on to long-term gigs in Jerry Bruckheimer crime dramas, while Johnny Whitworth was quite recently seen in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – the less said about that though, the better. (He does follow me on Twitter though – if only because I tweeted about Rex Manning Day a while back.)

Joe is a superb manager though, let’s not forget that.

Office Space (1999)

Office Space is the absolute go-to film for anyone who has a begrudging indifference towards their job – not so resentful of it that they are encouraged to seek alternative employment, but not so buoyed by it that they can throw themselves into the working week with wild enthusiasm.

office space gif

Not unless they’re destroying office equipment, anyway; but writer-director Mike Judge has done very well in drawing from his own history in soul-destroying office jobs to come up with not only this fantastic film, but also in creating Silicon Valley, which takes a similar approach in magnifying the cracks which appear in California tech culture.

High Fidelity (2000)

I remember being unsure that this would work as a film. How wrong I was. At one point in my life, working at Championship Vinyl would’ve been my dream job, despite even its owner Rob’s near-despair at how he’d merely rattled along all those years without embracing his lot in life. His own business, a regular crowd of hip young gunslingers and the love of a good woman…who he’d managed to drive away partly because of his own reluctance to cling onto something.

high fidelity review

Man, I love John Cusack. Between Rob Gordon, Lloyd Dobler and Martin Blank he ran the entire length of the emotional spectrum – all amazing characters and all somewhere in my own Top 5 of pretty much anything. These characters are at the same time so relatable and so distant – while I’m most inclined to identify with Rob’s love of music and Lloyd’s romantic naivety, even hitman Martin Blank offers that coldness which all of us must wish we could sometimes have to get out of a bad way of feeling.

Waiting… (2005)

Finally, this one took me a bit by surprise when I first watched it at university. I liked Ryan Reynolds well enough from Two Guys & A Girl but wasn’t too struck by the rest of the cast so gave this a miss first time around. Then when I realised the film had been misrepresented by the UK press and was, in fact, a bloody funny film, I became a big fan.

waiting john francis daley

It reminds me a lot of Empire Records in that whole ensemble-cast-of-wacky-kids way, but the humour is much too filthy to draw further comparisons. I especially like John Francis Daley’s character, Mitch, who draws comparisons to Silent Bob by barely getting a word in edgeways throughout the film – though this is more due to his rude colleagues than out of habit.

I’ll be giving all of these films another watch in the near future I think, if only to remind me that even when work’s getting me down, it could be worse – I could have Milton for a colleague.

The Week In Geek: WWE Elimination Chamber, women in FIFA 16 and more

Welcome to your (surprisingly hangover-free) Week in Geek round-up.

week in geek culture news

One of the WWE’s banner matches has returned to its own PPV – and tonight it will air exclusively on the WWE Network.

The Elimination Chamber sees two competitors begin in the foreboding steel structure, to be joined by four more at timed intervals, eliminating each other through pins and submissions until only one remains.

Since the match debuted in 2002 it’s typically been placed between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania on the calendar to either award a World title or determine a challenger for a World title match at Wrestlemania.

However, at tonight’s Network-exclusive event two other titles will be contested.

Intercontinental Title – Sheamus vs. Ryback vs. R-Truth vs. King Barrett vs. Rusev vs. Dolph Ziggler

At the moment Rusev is doubtful for the match, so whoever replaces him will have a good opportunity to win the vacant Intercontinental Championship following Daniel Bryan’s second successive surrender of a major title. Sad as I am for Bryan, it was the beginning of legitimising the belt, and there’ll finally hopefully be good things in store for the winner.

I’m a Wade Barrett guy.

There’s also a three-team, six man Chamber match for the Tag Team Titles, which should create a lot of drama if wrestlers are released in a certain order.

Oh, and then there’s the small matter of US Champion John Cena vs NXT Champion Kevin Owens…

 

FIFA 16 to feature women’s national teams

A feature that should’ve been included long, long ago, the new instalment of EA’s annual glorified roster update will include 12 women’s national teams.

It’s a shame that it’s just national teams for now, considering how long overdue it is and the ever-increasing popularity of club leagues, but it’s nonetheless a great way to boost the great game in a new and exciting way.

Considering the ramifications of what’s happened to plunge FIFA into crisis over the past few days, a PR boost like this is pretty exciting, no matter how positive a relative drop in the ocean of negativity it may seem.

 

Grumpy Cat – The Comic

The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat and Pokey  was announced by Dynamite Entertainment this week. I really don’t know why.

“One of the most important responsibilities for today’s comic publishers is creating content that will attract fresh new audiences to experience the wonders of the medium, and Grumpy Cat is the perfect combination of unbearable cuteness, instant fan appeal, and established multimedia presence to make just such a thing happen,” said a Dynamite rep in a statement.

Not content with a line of merch, guest-hosting Monday Night Raw and even starring in a Christmas TV movie, there’ll now be a comic about a cat that’s internet-famous for making a grumpy face. I thought Garfield had this market cornered but apparently not.