Solicitation for The Boys #71 (Dynamite, 2012)

THE BOYS #71Covers: Darick Robertson
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Russ Braun
Colorist: Tony Aviña
High above the streets of New York City, Hughie and Butcher reach the end of the line. There’s blood to be spilled and truth to be heard. The last Boys storyline reaches its conclusion, in the sixth and final part of The Bloody Doors Off.
1 issue till the end!!!

Hmmm…..Hughie on this cover smiling wistfully. Knowing Ennis, this is a portent of bad news for Hughie……

Solicitation for The Walking Dead #103 (Image/Skybound, 2012)

“It is a new beginning for THE WALKING DEAD. Rick Grimes is no longer in charge, and nothing will ever be the same again. It’s such a perfect jumping on point, it could easily have been a new first issue – but instead, the world’s best selling creator-owned comic just keeps moving forward, with #103 and counting!”

courtesy of http://www.archonia.com/comicshop/en/article/134800/walking+dead+%23103+(mr)

My Gaming Timeline Part 6 – Amstrad CPC 464 Games (1985 – 1989)

In this part of My Gaming Timeline, TWLB takes you back to the mid-80s. This time round we look at the Alan Sugar-rific (yes he did do things before The Apprentice kids) Amstrad CPC464. This was the third piece of the UK Home Computing Trinity, that also comprised of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. Here is the Monochrome monitor version (the one I owned), but there was also an option for a Colour monitor;

But first of all, we need to take a sidestep and visit the humble, almost defunct, audio cassette;

30 years ago games piracy existed. And on that bombshell, and for the benefit of younger readers, let me elaborate further.Times were simpler, and games for ‘home computers’ came on ‘audio cassettes’. Blank, recordable audio cassettes could be purchased from the likes of WH Smith, and were the essential tool if you were planning to do a spot of Radio 1 Top 40 taping on a Sunday night. They came in C30, C60 and C90 flavours. C90 were the best, as they were 45 minutes on each side. To put it in modern context, they were the 64gb usb stick, or maybe the 2TB external hard drive, of the early to mid 80’s. They came in covers that looked like this and this;

Blank cassettes were fantastic inventions, and entrepreneurial souls would – and could – tape their U2 collection on several C90’s and charge you a quid per tape to cover ‘costs’. But mainly, as I recall, blank audio cassettes were not a way to get rich quick. They were a bartering tool, and as good a model of the barter system I will probably ever see, despite the fact it always seem to be the next big thing on the internet. So, for example, I would do a mix of, say, Northern Soul and Jesus & Mary Chain tracks (1 side each!) and give that tape to my friend, who would oblige me with a tape of tracks from happy go lucky 80s black jeans wearing Dub Sex and New Model Army. And so on. You put a bit of creativity and thought into the product, maybe illustrating the cover, ALWAYS providing track details, and what you had was something a little bit personal, a piece of you in a way, your tastes, your interests – and you were giving it to a friend and they would most likely reciprocate.
But audio cassettes were so versatile during that period, that they were also the medium by which games could be shared as well. If only you could have put movies and porn on them then the internet (or the world wide web at least) would probably not have been invented.

I had an Amstrad CPC464. (Black & White monitor, as you ask, although it was actually more Green and White). Amstrad home computers were a distant 3rd place behind the all conquering Spectrum and C64, but distant 3rd still meant there was a decent platform choice of games, and by late 1985 most major games came out for all platforms. So there was a variety of games.  And with that variety came the opportunity of using your tape to tape device and recording the game on the audio cassette onto one of your blank c30/c60/c90’s;

some examples of dual cassette decks – a Gateway to Gaming Gorging and Greed

My memory of home computing in the 80’s is only of the Amstrad CPC464. My memory of having an Amstrad CPC464 is buying lots of games – like Mastertronic and Firebird games for 2 or 3 quid in the vain hope they would be good (and some were  – like Chiller and The Wild Bunch). My first football manager game (the legendary ‘Football Manager by Kevin Toms’) cost a tenner, but proved to be good value after it claimed its first 500 hours of my time.

 I bought Elite for a princely sum and would regularly spend my mum and dads money on games at around 10 quid a throw (Alligata’s ‘Defend or Die’, Gargoyle Games’ ‘Dun Darach’). 


I even.won a game – ‘Hacker’ – through a competition run by Boots. But I also used to swap a lot of games collections with friends on tapes. I used to borrow games and make a copy. I used to loan games out to mates who did the same. Without that loaning and passing on of games, I would never have got to play a Steam Train simulation (Southern Belle), and may well have by-passed the addictiveness of Chuckie Egg and Highway Encounter. 



I am glad I got to test-drive Technician Ted, because that would have been a purchase regretted. Beach Head never seemed to work on the cassettes my mates gave to me, and Daley Thompson’s Decathlon likewise. When I did eventually get to play them they were well worth the wait.

Likewise, my friends would have benefited from my collection that ranged from The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Dark Star, Into The Eagles Nest, Who Dares Wins II and Alien 8. If not for me passing out cassette compilations, they may well have passed up on the sweaty, claustrophobic Aliens, the superior Batman, the wonderful Starion, and the Kevin Toms sequel to Football Manager, ‘Software Star‘. They may never have experienced the ERE informatique games. And if not for me, it is highly likely many of them would have had the dubious pleasures of the game of the Kids TV hit ‘Supergran’.


Some games had their own encryption / anti-piracy measures, so whoever wanted to play the thing simply had to go and buy it or forget about it. One of those was the Adventure Game creator utility, Graphic Adventure Creator. I wrote more about that here.


The Amstrad CPC464 had more than enough great games. It also had a great sister magazine to Crash and Zzap!64, called Amtix!, and it had lots of great Oliver Frey Covers;

It sustained my sporadic gaming sprees from the mid to late 80’s, until the Sega Megadrive put me firmly back in love with Consoles.Thanks to that community of Amstrad users, we all got to experience many great games. And it also meant that when we had run out of our own games to play, we did not have to resort to typing pages of code to try and play a buggy Pac-Man rip off.

Links!!!

All about CPC464 Games
http://retroactionmagazine.com/retroactionextra/amstrad-action-all-time-top-10-games/
http://cpcwiki.eu/index.php/Top_games
http://www.cpcgamereviews.com/
http://www.game-shrine.com/site/games/index.php?platform=25
http://www.cpcwiki.eu/forum/games/retrogamer-top-25-amstrad-games/
http://www.cpcgamereviews.com/amtix/index.html

All about Piracy & The 80’s
http://www.gamesradar.com/a-brief-history-of-video-game-piracy/
http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2009/08/09/there-was-piracy-in-the-80s/
http://www.dealspwn.com/daily-bite-software-piracy-80s-75506
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/9110-1988-The-Golden-Age-of-Game-Piracy.2
http://blogs.ocweekly.com/heardmentality/2010/07/ten_hilarious_anti-piracy_meth.php


images courtesy of;
Daley Thompsons Decathlon image – http://cpcwiki.eu/index.php/Daley_Thompson’s_Decathlon
Highway Encounter image – http://www.retrogamingworld.co.uk/product-expand.php?section=61&product=6296
Defend or Die image – http://www.cpc-power.com/index.php?page=detail&onglet=jaquette&num=698 
Football Manager image – http://www.mobygames.com/game/cpc/football-manager/cover-art/gameCoverId,52025/ 
WH Smith cassette cover image –  http://underdesign.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/european-compact-cassette-covers-j-cards-from-the-1980s/
Amtix! issue 16 cover –  http://magazinesfromthepast.wikia.com/wiki/Computer_Scrabble_Deluxe

Review – The Walking Dead #100 (Image / Skybound, 2012)

“Issue #100 is going to easily be the most gruesome, most violent, disturbing issue of “The Walking Dead” yet”  Robert Kirkman

At last.

After a few weeks of feverish hype and speculation, and expectations that issue 100 was going to be a comicbook revelation only matched by the release of The Bible, watching the Brazilian football team of 1970 or the invention of Ice Cream, issue #100 of The Walking Dead is here.

Hyperbole sells. Kirkman, a comic creator-owner, knows too well that fact. He has to put food on the table. He gives his (probably) best-written and (undeniably) most popular property the hype it deserves. And it has worked, with the nultiple variant covers of #100 expected to propel it past six-figure sales. Now, I am no hardcore comic-fan, but I understand enough to know that six figure comicbook sales are not to be sniffed at. Kirkman and co. have done their job, the issue is a success regardless of the content. Its staggering, and also quite wonderful, that the creative team of such a fine comic are in this position. I am sure not all of them could have imagined they would be in such a position of strength 3 or 4 years ago.

So, regardless of the content, #100 is an absolute success, no doubt. The ‘Something to Fear’ arc has had its moments of shock and surprise, and after the low-key #99, hopes are high that #100 is going to produce something suitably mind-blowing to mark an important milestone in the titles history.

We have had the teasers;

We have had the drip feed of the multitude of covers (my favourite is the Frank Quitely one, bottom centre);

but now, inevitably, we have to move away from the excitement and the anticipation, and actually read the comic. It’s 40 pages! Almost a DOUBLE SIZED ISSUE, as they used to proclaim on the front covers of comics in the distant past. Does 40 pages mean double the carnage? Double the mind-blowingness? Double the Charlie Adlard splash pages? Well, the answer to one of those questions is a yes. There are some big pictures from Mr Adlard.


But is it any good?


I think the important thing to bear in mind, to offset the inevitable disappointment (yes, sorry, it will disappoint to some degree to some people), is that issue 100 could never live up to the hype. How many deaths did you expect? 3? 4? 10? I predicted (yesterday) that there would be 4. Glenn, Maggie, Sophia and Heath. That high body count does not come to pass. That may occur in issue 101 or 102 (we are still only at part 4 of 6 of ‘Something to Fear’). In this issue we only get 1 death. But don’t worry!Its a horrible death! A horrible death of an established character! But in terms of ‘game changing’, forget it. The Walking Dead has a hierarchy, and the status quo remains. There are no cash cows killed off to celebrate the centenary.


But is it any good??


I think so, overall. I didn’t really feel the extra pages, to be honest it read just like a standard size issue. The plot is straightforward, and goes like this (SPOILERS) – our survivors do not make it to Hilltop before nightfall, so they decide to stop, and that is when Negan and The Saviours turn up. Negan is quite intriguing, as he has the confidence and swagger of Leadership and the knowledge he has absolute power, but he also retains an intelligence to ensure he retains and builds his power base. However, he swears way too much. If swearing that much is a shorthand way of saying to the audience ‘Look how tough this guy is! He can put 3 ‘fucks’ in the same sentence motherfucker!’, then its just lazy. We get the idea – Negan is a bad-ass. He is surrounded by a huge contingent of bad-ass bikers and Mad Max 2 extras. We do not doubt his bad-assness. The swearing overload just makes him sound like a bit of a twat, and detracts from what is otherwise a solid introduction for the new villain of the piece (if you don’t include Rick and Carl). You believe that he commands respect and fear, and you believe he can control so many men (and there are loads and loads of them – check out the double page spread from Charlie Adlard!)


The rest of the issue is teaching Rick a lesson. Its a bloody hard lesson to take in. So when Kirkman gave us that quote (see top of the page), he was right. Issue #100 is gruesome, and disturbing, The murder scene is particularly unpleasant, almost pornographic in its imagery. The death scenes are also upsetting because of the emotion displayed from the characters, including the one who is dying. I found it powerful and upsetting.


Issue 100 will not live up to the hype and expectation for many, because what The Walking Dead does is let you believe that anything is possible. That is not strictly true, because Kirkman, for all his posturing that ‘no-one is safe’, knows exactly what side his bread his buttered on. That is to say, where this title is concerned, he takes a safety first approach to character mortality. Or to put it another way, imagine the most surprising death in issue 100. It doesn’t happen.




The Walking Dead #100 Preview / Review / Prediction

The preview is here;

http://www.thewalkingdeadnewsfeed.com/2012/07/walking-dead-100-real-preview.html

The review is here;

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/07/09/review-the-walking-dead-100-by-robert-kirkman-and-charlie-adlard/

and the prediction? Well, I think the following will happen (SPOILERS!!!!!!!!)

This is my predicted body count for issue #100 of The Walking Dead (purely speculative)

Glenn and Maggie are going to die. I think something horrible is going to happen to Maggie, something to do with the fact she is pregnant…..

I think Sophia is going to die.

I think Heath is going to die.

I think Carl is going to die.