Friday 15 March 2013


'EastEnders' is a British soap but last Monday's episode produced one of those 'magic moments' when the mundane storylines were interupted by a nice touch of brilliance.
Tamwar Masood is a geeky, insecure young man (late teens/ just turned twenty - if you get the gist). Out of the blue this young market inspector announces that he is a fan of westerns - people, he believes, think that it is an outdated genre but he doesn't think so. Mind you it is the first that I have heard that Tamwar is interested in westerns which may explain why his impassioned speech made me prick up my ears.

The story didn't end there for our timid, intrepid market inspector in the tradition of James Stewart (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence) and Gary Cooper (High Noon) faces down a bunch of teenage vandals who back down and leave.

Then real life kicks back.

Tamwar's speech and storyline came from scriptwriter Michael Begley.

Friday 8 March 2013


It is no co-incidence that artist Brian Boland drew John Wagner's creation to resemble Debbie Harry (Blondie).

Judge Cassandra Anderson first appeared in the 2000 A.D. comic in 1980 - and then only as a back up in the Judge Dredd story 'Judge Death'. At the time Anderson was the only psychic Judge and her abilities played a vital part in containing Judge Death - that was until the Dark Judges rose to engineer Death's release.

From about 1985 writer Alan Grant took over the storylines with the art coming from Arthur Ranson.

Although Judge Anderson shares Dredd's dedication to the law she is not afraid to see the weaknesses in the system and voice them. She also has humanity and a sense of humour - but is a forminable foe to those who break the rules. Maybe, that is why she and Dredd make such a good team.

Although Judge Anderson has appeared as Cadet Anderson in two stories and as Judge in 'My Name Is Death', her stint in the 2000 A.D. comic ended in 2001 - only to resurface in the 'Judge Dredd Megazine'. She has also 'guest appeared' in 'Judge Dredd and Batman'.

Having faced so many trials and tribulations in the fight against the forces of the Dark Judges and saving Mega-City One Cassandra Anderson became disillusioned and quit. However, as is often the case something wicked would come along that would draw her back.

The story 'Something Wicked' contains some more insight into her character. She wears a uniform that cages her in and, with the combination of the gun, also gives her power. That people fear and respect her but do not know anything of the person behind the uniform.
Up for assessment she finds that her assessor is to be Judge Dredd who is critical. She quips that she and Joe (Dredd) had known each other for twenty years - he tells her that she is quite delusional if she thinks that there is anything between them and that he is her senior officer. Oh, well, someone's in denial there.

In 2006 and 2007 saw the publication by Black Flame of three Judge Anderson novels written by Mitchel Scanlon and appeared in the Judge Dredd novels 'Dredd Dominion' and 'Dredd vs Death' (and as a playable character in the videogame of the same name).

Olivia Thirlby plays Anderson in the 2012 movie version of 'Dredd'.

The character of Judge Anderson has also won two Eagle Awards.

The 2000 A.D. comic was written for boys - or a predominently male audience - and a difficult market to crack. Somehow, Judge Cassandra Anderson managed to break through that barrier and, over the last thirty odd years, has made her mark.

Wednesday 6 March 2013


She's back.

Lara Croft was conceived back in 1993 and emerged on the gaming scene wearing a green tank top, brown shorts, brown knee length boots and a pair of pistols tied down on the the thighs of her tanned long legs. With a long pigtail flying out from the back of her head she climbed and swung her way into action as she solved puzzles to find hidden artefacts in a global tour of architectural sites.

Tomb Raider changed the way that women were portrayed. The first genuine heroine of gaming that became a household name - and became the subject of 'serious' debate. In one respect she brought girl power to gaming in another (the feminist view) was that men were able to act out some sort sexual fantasy.

Over the years she has been developed, re-imagined and re-mastered. Eidos the original creator gave way to Core who actually 'killed' her off in 'Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation'. But was brought back to life by Square Enix with an Anniversary edition that re-created scenes from the past. This was followed by 'Legend' and 'Underworld'.

'Legend' gives more of the back story to Lara. Her mother is killed following a plane crash in the Himalayas leaving a young nine year old Lara fighting for her own survival. Rescued by her father who never leaves her side until he disappears in the wilds of Cambodia when she is fifteen.
The story picks up with Lara's search for the legendary sword of King Arthur - a story that continues into 'Underworld'.

During these games Lara Croft evolved. The tank tops and shorts remained but were of different colours. Camouflage trousers and evening gowns were added to a growing wardrobe.

The legend of Lara Croft has grown - publicity wise the actress Rhona Mitra and the model Nell McAndrew have given her a physical form. Shelley Blond was the first voice actress and Keeley Hawes voiced Lara in the last three games. While Angelina Jolie brought Lara to life on the big screen in two movies (a third is being planned).

Add to the statistics the Tomb Raider comics that ran for 50 editions and three novels - then Lara Croft: Tomb Raider has been an icon in many ways.

Now she is back.

The image has changed - a darker Lara Croft has emerged.

This is billed as a prequel to a time when Lara was 19 years old and had joined a party aboard the ship Endurance who are searching for the lost kingdom of the Yamatai. As the ships enters the notorious Devil's Triangle a freak storm occurs leaving Lara shipwrecked. Frightened and alone she must find other survivors and unravel the island's dark secrets.

The clean cut Ms Croft is replaced by someone closer to reality. She gets cut, bruised and dirty and has to learn new survival skills. But, then, this is a kid who survived the everything that the Himalayas could throw at her ten years before. But then she hadn't faced anything that was as life-threatening as another human being.

I like this re-imagining but that doesn't mean that others will - Lara Croft will always be the heroine who broke the mould and led the way for other heroines to emerge.

Sunday 3 March 2013

VIXEN by Ken Bruen

Ken Bruen is one of those names that appears in blogs and often recommended by various authors.

Vixen is one of those rare novels that hauls the reader into the narrative and pins them into the chair until that reader reaches the end.

The plot is simple - Angie James with the help of Ray and Jimmy Cross has an explosive plan to extort a modest six figure sum from the local cops. The first that Sergeant Doyle hears about it is when a man rings the police station and advises the copper that a bomb is likely to go off at the local cinema - which it does during the conversation that creates an 'oops' moment. Still, if the cops don't want more of the same they had better pay up.

And so the fun begins as D.I. Roberts and Brant get on with the detecting while Porter Nash has a heart attack; WPC Falls tries to mentor a new WPC; and the Superintendent goes down in a blaze of not so glory as, in a wave of publicity, arrests the wrong man.

The strongest member of the cast is Angie James - devious and manipultive she plays both her partners and the police. Clever enough to get one police officer in the frame as her alibi.

Something did niggle as I struggled with the Nash, Brant and Falls characters - then it clicked - the movie 'Blitz' with Jason Statham is a previous story in the series. Also another Ken Bruen book turned into a movie is 'London Boulevard'.

Vixen was a great read - and I loved it even better for the political incorrectness.