Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2000AD Prog 1772 - A medical review

Spoiler alert! Possible spoilers for the Judge Dredd story from Prog 1772 ahead. You have been warned.

The Judge Dredd story Day of Chaos continues and the tension and pace are unrelenting. This is part 8 of the Eve of Destruction, written by John Wagner, art by Ben Wilsher, colours by Chris Blythe, and lettered by Annie Parkhouse.

Dredd and his fellow Judges are struggling to prevent the East-Meg agents from delivering the Chaos organism and infecting the inhabitants of Mega-City one. However they have captured Borisenko, the leader of the rogue Sov-Judges and they are interrogating him for information about a possible antidote.

There's no further details about the organism in this prog so let's talk about airways management. Borisenko tries to commit suicide by swallowing his own tongue and asphyxiating himself. (This is also how Hannibal Lector supposedly persuades Multiple Miggs to kill himself in The Silence of the Lambs). In this scene the medics struggle to establish an airway in order to keep Borisenko alive for further questioning. Meanwhile Dredd is interrogating another suspect.

The tongue is a huge muscle, the part we can see in our mouths is only the tip of the iceberg as it were. Contrary to popular belief it is not possible to "swallow your tongue", and certainly you can't consciously decide to do this. What can happen is that if you are unconscious the thick muscle can flop backwards and over the top of the trachea or windpipe. That is how people who are drugged or drunk can die from a blocked airway. You can see the problem in this cross-section diagram.

However this only happens to people who are unconscious. You can't consciously do this, the tongue muscle won't let you. Borisenko seems to be conscious because, although he is restrained, he is resisting the medics' attempts to open his mouth. Using something to "prise his jaws open" as the Judges are trying in the above panel is a good way to damage teeth and gums but it won't establish a safe airway. Presumably the medics here are not too bothered about damaging Borisenko's mouth, they just want him alive. Prying someones' teeth apart is also a good way to get yourself bitten but I suppose the Mega-City Judges are wearing fairly hefty looking gloves.

After failing to insert a Naso-Pharyngeal airway the medics resort to an emergency Tracheostomy. The anatomy and technique shown here by Ben Wilsher is fairly accurate, and a tracheostomy is a reliable method of  establishing an emergency airway if all else fails. One of the Judges notes that Borsisenko is breathing again although it appears the breathing tube is hooked up to a ventilator in which case the machine is breathing for him.

Interestingly, there are already versions of tracheostomy tubes which allow the patient to speak. I assume they will be perfected by 2132, or thereabouts, when this story is set.

There is some confusion about airways management in this Prog, however the Mega-City medics save themselves and their patient by establishing a successful and accurate tracheostomy so I'm going to give this a medical rating of 3.5 out of a possible 5 medic-droids.

London Super Comic-Con - day 2 - more signings

The rest of the Sunday at LSCC was spent happily browsing through the back issue boxes and completing my collections of both the 1972 Swamp Thing series and the 1974 Man-Thing. I also got a chance to meet the writer Tony Lee who wrote a fantastic Doctor Who comic called The Forgotten. He signed my first issue and pointed out that the cover artist Nick Roche was also at the IDW booth, and he signed my cover as well.

The last queue of the weekend was to meet the great artist, George Pérez. I wanted to get him to sign my copy of Crisis on Infinite Earths #1. After the problems with the Brian Bolland queue on Saturday I was pleased to see that the convention staff had things better organised. They closed off the line shortly after I joined it and and announced that everybody in the line would get up to two books signed by George. They turned a lot of people away which was obviously disappointing for them, but better than having to queue for an hour only to be sent away empty handed.

Mr Perez himself was thoroughly charming, with a friendly word for everybody and handshakes and photos all round. Here he is signing my book.

And here is the book itself.

I had a fantastic time at the London Super Comic-Convention. If you get the chance to go next year you should. I'll certainly be back for more.

London Super Comic-Con Day 2 - More Stan Lee!

So day 2 of the LSCC and I had another ticket to see Stan Lee again. My brother was supposed to have come down from Darlington for the day and bring his copy of Fantastic Four #25 for Stan to sign. Unfortunately he was not able to come so I went to one of the dealers and bought a cheap copy of the FF annual #3 from 1965 and joined the Stan queue again. Once again things moved pretty quickly although I did have time for another good comics conversation with the chap I was standing next to in the queue. This time I was better prepared and got a slightly blurry photo of Stan signing the actual book.

My Sunday word for Stan was "Excelsior!" and he said it straight back at me. I read that so many times in Stan's Soap-Box articles from the comics of my childhood that it gave me an incredible thrill to hear him actually say it to me.

Here is the cover of the book Stan signed for my brother.

Well done to the organisers of LSCC for getting Stan over. It was a once in a lifetime chance to meet one of my childhood heroes and I had a great time.

Next up my final creator signings from day 2.

Monday, February 27, 2012

London Super Comic-Con Day 1 - other signings

In amongst the excitement of meeting Stan Lee and some 2000AD thrill power I also met some other creators. Paul Cornell wrote a fantastic run on Captain Britain and MI-13. He has also written for Doctor Who and is currently going great guns on Demon Knights and Stormwatch, as well as having an interesting new book called Saucer Country coming up. I met him at the Big Finish day but didn't have anything for him to sign then. This time I was prepared and he kindly signed my variant cover of Cap and MI-13 #1, as well as my rather battered copy of Human Nature. And I've only just found out that he co-wrote my favourite book about the X-Files, X-Treme Possibilities. I'll have to get that one signed next time.

I managed to get Howard Chaykin, the writer and artist of American Flagg, to sign the first issue in-between him doing sketches and having a discussion about musical theatre with another guest. Somehow I found that rather incongruous for the creator of Reuben Flagg and Black Kiss but he is clearly an enthusiast about several subjects.

I missed the Bernie Wrightson signing while I was in the Brian Bolland queue but fortunately he was happy to sign books at his table in Artists' Alley. This is the first issue of the original Len Wein and Wrightson Swamp Thing from 1972. Swamp Thing was the character that got me back into American comics so getting this key issue signed was very important to me. And Mr Wrightson was absolutely charming. It's fantastic to meet these great creators and kudos to the organisers of the convention for getting so many of them to come over.

Next up is day 2 and more Stan Lee!

London Super Comic-Con - Day 1 - 20000AD

After the thrill of meeting Stan Lee I got my bearings in the huge convention hall. First up was a visit to the guys from the Comic Geek Speak podcast who had helped to organise the convention. I've been listening to their show since I first discovered podcasts about 5 years ago and it was great to finally meet them.

There were a few specific comic creators I wanted to meet, and I had brought along several books to get signatures. Again there were some set signing sessions that attracted fairly large queues. I was in a pretty long line to see Brian Bolland which moved very slowly, especially as the next queue to see George Pérez seemed to be moving so fast. Bolland is by his own admission a rather slow artist, and it seems that the same applies to his signatures. Unfortunately several people went away disappointed as they closed the session just after I got to the front of the queue. Phew!

Here is Mr Bolland signing my 2000AD prog 225.

And here is the cover with signature:

And the double page spread inside:

The writer John Wagner (aka T.B.Grover) signed it for me at the SFX weekender earlier this month. Brian Bolland was rather taken with Wagner writing the 2012 AD date and followed suit.

I also went to the 2000AD panel where Brian Bolland, Duncan Fegredo and Jock discussed 35 years of Zarjaz covers and picked out some of their favourites. It was pretty interesting stuff, but sadly marred by rather terrible acoustics and thumping Zumba music coming from the next exhibition hall. I got to ask a question about what cover they would like to see on a British stamp. Interestingly Jock chose the image of Kraken administering his own lethal injection on Prog 669, although he admitted that it would never be approved by the Royal Mail.

Next up some more creator signings to round out the day.

London Super Comic-Con - Day 1 Stan Lee!

This weekend I went to the inaugural London Super Comic-Con at the Excel centre in London Docklands. And, of course the main attraction was the presence of Stan Lee making his first trip to the UK in 40 years. I had paid the extra for a Stan VIP ticket which got me early entry to the convention, and his signature on one of my books. There was a huge queue just to get into the convention hall and I was delighted that my VIP ticket allowed me to bypass this. Once inside I joined the line for Stan's first signing of the day, so I didn't completely escape the traditional British pastime of queueing politely. However I had a pleasant time chatting with other people in the line about what they had brought to be signed.

As the 10am start time for the convention approached there was a palpable buzz in the hall as a small figure, who was dwarfed by his huge bodyguards, made his way behind the check-in area to his signing booth. Stan the Man had arrived! After that things moved pretty quickly, Stan's people kept the line moving and they were strict about the just one item rule and getting it out of the bag and ready for Stan.

So suddenly I was there across the table from the greatest comic book creator there has ever been. He signed my issue of Amazing Spider-Man #33 and passed it across the table to me as I said the only word that popped into my head:


Here he is signing someone else's book, I missed the shot of him signing mine.

And here is the book itself.

My ticket also got me a seat on the Stan Lee panel at the end of the day. The room was packed with standing room only as the sprightly 89 year old regaled us with great stories from his 70 year comics career. He was entertaining, energetic and enthusiastic in true alliterative fashion. The story of how he created Spider-Man was great, as was his criticism of the recent blockbuster Marvel movies for not giving him bigger acting roles! All in all a great end to a grand day out. Excelsior!

Next up: some 2000AD thrill-power

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Big Finish - Destination Nerva

Big Finish The Fourth Doctor adventures number 1 - Destination Nerva, with Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor and Louise Jameson as Leela. Written and directed by Nick Briggs.

They're back! The Doctor and Leela depart from Jago and Lightfoot at the end of the Talons of Weng-Chiang and find themselves on the new space dock Nerva long before it becomes the Ark in Space. But, as ever, there  is something evil lurking in the shadows and it is a new, and quite monstrous threat for the Doctor.

At Big Finish day all the talk of the new Fourth Doctor adventures was about how Baker and Jameson just seemed to pick up where they left off about thirty years ago, and it's certainly the case in this story. Tom Baker sounds almost exactly the same as he did in the 1970s and Louise Jameson does some clever tricks with her voice to recreate her intelligent savage Leela. As ever the sound design and production are great with some particularly weird sound effects for the creatures. And the story is an interesting metaphor about British Imperialism.

The only down side is that these new adventures are only two parters. I'm going to give Destination Nerva  4 out of 5 ridiculously long, woollen scarves. Next up I'm back to the regular monthly releases and Sawbones Hex encounters the Curse of Davros!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Big Finish - Army of Death

Big Finish release 155 - Army of Death with Paul McGann as the Doctor and Julie Cox as Mary Shelley. Written by Jason Arnopp and directed by Barnaby Edwards.

Army of Death! What a great title, doesn't that make you want to start humming the woo-oooh theme tune? (Or maybe that's just me). In the city-state of Stronghaven there are political intrigues afoot. Meanwhile the city's guard are trying to repel attacks from wave after wave of marching skeletons. All is set up perfectly for the arrival of the Eighth Doctor, and for Mary Shelley to confront yet more examples of reanimated corpses.

This was a great story with plenty of twists and turns along the way and nobody is quite what they seem to be. All the cast turn in lovely performances and it was nice to hear Mitch Benn from the Now Show turn up as the Commander of the Guard. The advantage of jumping back into the regular monthly releases meant that I felt right at home with the Doctor and his current companion. Really, it's all rather splendid and I'm going to start singing the theme song again.

Army of Death gets an almost perfect 4.5 out of 5 long, flowing frock coats. Next up it's the Fourth Doctor. He's back and his Destination is Nerva!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Big Finish - Memory Lane

Big Finish release 88 - Memory Lane, with Paul McGann as the Doctor, India Fisher as Charley Pollard and Conrad Westmaas as C'rizz. Written by Eddie Robson and directed by Gary Russell.

You shouldn't judge a book by a cover and I shouldn't have judged this CD by the above picture. I was expecting a weird ghost story with a spacesuit in there somewhere. Instead the Doctor and his companions find themselves on a strange street where everything seems the same but something is not quite right.

I guess my problem is that I have been listening to stories where the Eighth Doctor's companion is Mary Shelley, so jumping into the middle of a set of stories with two different characters is a bit strange. This is a perfectly good story but somehow it didn't quite grab me like some of the Big Finish releases I have been listening to recently. I'll give it a middling 2.5 out of 5 central control consoles.

However, Big Finish in general is getting a solid 5 stars from me. I had a great time at the Big Finish day and I enjoyed my six release subscription. So much so that I have renewed it for the next six releases. Next up is the Eighth back with Shelley for Army of Death. Great title!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Big Finish - The Juggernauts

Big Finish release number 65 - The Juggernauts with Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, Bonnie Langford as Mel, and Terry Molloy as Davros. Written by Scott Alan Woodard and directed by Gary Russell. This was one of a bundle of Big Finish CDs that I picked up cheaply on eBay, and yes I did get it signed at Big Finish day.

The Doctor and Mel are separated on a mining colony, there's some strange new machines, and there is Davros. But it's a strange version of Davros who seems to have charmed everyone except for the Doctor.

I love a Davros story. There's something about his repeated battle of wills with the Doctor that is fascinating. All the monsters are great, but for many of them it's just about marching in and destroying everything in their paths. With Davros and the Doctor it's a clash of ideologies, two great minds that are destined to keep encountering each other and fight it out with words as their weapons.

Terry Molloy is fantastic, and Bonnie Langford is very good. I have no previous experience with her character Mel but she was fine here. And there's Colin Baker as the Sixth. So here is the thing, I still have not seen any of the Sixth Doctor stories from the television series. And yes, I am going to have to correct that soon. But I'm really learning to enjoy his character in these Big Finish stories.

Anyway, this is a great story and I haven't even mentioned Nick Briggs as the mechonoid voices. This gets a smooth rolling 4 out of 5 evil, robotic arms. Next up is another Eighth Doctor story: Memory Lane.

The Doctor Who Experience - a review

So the final event for Brian from Canada's trip was a visit to the Doctor Who Experience at the Olympia exhibition centre in London. This is an interactive walk through adventure similar to some of the rides that I remember from Disneyland. After a brief bit of queuing and ticket checking we were ushered into a large room where a video screen showed clips from Doctor Who before splitting down a central "crack in time" to lead us into the next room where more stuff happened, and so on. Matt Smith has filmed some special sequences as the Eleventh Doctor to set up the story of the experience and then there are various lighting, sound, animated monsters and other special effects to give you that full interactive feeling.

It was mostly based on the new Doctor Who and was clearly aimed at families with children of which there were several present. But for a Who fan of any age it was pretty entertaining. At one stage a clever lighting and sound effect reveals the Tardis "materialising" in the corner of the room. Then the door swings open and you walk inside, down a short corridor and into the Tardis control room itself. It's impossible not to find that exciting!

After the interactive experience which lasts about 25 minutes you emerge into the Doctor Who exhibition which includes lots of stuff from the classic series. So there are all the Doctor's costumes, lots of monsters, replicas of previous Tardis control rooms, and various bits of hands-on stuff to keep the children entertained. It was great to see the kids being introduced to some of the older Doctors and learn that the series existed long before they were born. Another form of time travel.

At one point in the exhibition there is a Dalek with the back half removed so that children could step inside it and operate the gun and the manipulator arm. I watched one boy try to operate the controls while his parents took a photo. Then as I walked on past the front of the Dalek he must have pulled a lever and the suction cup suddenly swung and grabbed my elbow. His mother tried to apologise but I told her it was fantastic and how for a spilt-second I had found it genuinely terrifying!

The Doctor Who Experience has finished its run in London and now moves to a permanent home in Cardiff. While it is primarily for families it is a great trip for any Doctor Who fan and I would heartily recommend it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Big Finish day review

So last weekend Brian from British Invaders and I met up again and travelled to Barking Abbey school for Big Finish day 2. This convention was a co-production between Big Finish and a convention company called Tenth Planet. The impressive guest list for the day was headed by Tom Baker who was right up there on the Brian Blessed scale of eccentricity and anecdote. He started the day off with a panel with Louise Jameson who played the companion Leela to his Doctor in the 1970s. Once again there were plenty of questions but they were mostly just prompts for Tom to tell stories about the fun he had while playing the Doctor, and the enjoyment he was getting out of reprising the role for the new Big Finish stories. I got a chance to ask him about the scariest monster in the series and he launched into a discussion about how many of his fellow actors thought it was him!

Along with Tom Baker and Louise Jameson there were several other big name actors doing panels and signing autographs. From Doctor Who there were Anneke Wills (who played Polly), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Terry Molloy (Davros) and Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield). Then there was Paul Darrow who played Avon in Blake's 7 and David Warner who has played bad guys in Star Trek, Time Bandits and Tron as well as taking on the role of Steel in the Big Finish Sapphire & Steel stories. Brian had been to a performance of Taming of the Shrew at the RSC during his trip and had fun discussing the theatre with David Warner who had started his career there.

However my own personal highlight was meeting Shane Rimmer who was in Doctor Who with William Hartnell back in the 1960s, appeared in several James Bond films and was in one of our British Invaders gems, Alternative 3. But for me he will always be the voice of Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds. He was there with his wife promoting his autobiography From Thunderbirds to Pterodactyls which I bought. He signed the book and a picture of Scott Tracy for me. He also recorded a voice memo on my phone which you can download and listen to here. It was fantastic to meet him.

After lunch Brian and I joined the only big queue of the day which was to meet Tom Baker and get our Big Finish CD covers signed. Once again he was on great form, it turned out that the reason that the queue was moving slowly was that everyone was getting a Tom story. Brian got a discussion about Canada and also persuaded Tom to record a British Invaders bumper on Brian's pocket audio recorder. Because people find it difficult to spell my first name I had written it on a card for Tom to dedicate his autograph for me, however Tom couldn't read my writing. When I explained that it was a doctor's handwriting he asked if I was a medical doctor. I said that I was but that I was just A doctor while he was THE Doctor. He then started to tell me all about his GP who sounds like he has his hands full with his famous patient, and then after signing my CD he said "Well goodbye, Doctor." Awesome.

Finally, we finished off the day by recording a brief interview with Nick Briggs who is an executive producer, director, writer and actor with Big Finish as well as providing the voices for the Daleks, Cyberman and several other monsters in the new Doctor Who. We'll probably put the interview in an upcoming bonus episode.

Big Finish day was great fun and if you get the chance to go next year you should go for it. Next up is the Doctor Who Experience.

SFX Weekender review

I don't normally got to conventions, but by the end of February I will have been to three cons this month. First up was the SFX weekender held at Pontins holiday camp in Prestatyn, North Wales. It was weird going back to Pontins which was the scene of a daring escape from my childhood, but that's another story.

SFX is a two day convention organised by the science fiction magazine of the same name. Brian my co-host from British Invaders was over from Canada and went to both days and I joined him for the Saturday. Although it is small in comparison with American conventions this was considerably bigger than the single room Brumcon I went to last year. Thousands of people were there, with many in costumes and several professional models in rather more revealing outfits.

Brian and I went to some of the panels including Q&A sessions with Eve Myles from Torchwood, and the Sixth Doctor Colin Baker. Then while Brian went off to get Baker's autograph I listened to the Judge Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra answer questions about the comic, and then I queued up to get their signatures on one of my Dredd books.

And like Dave Gibbons at Brumcon who was doing quick head sketches of Rorschach, Carlos was doing Dredd or Johnny Alpha doodles in peoples' books. Here is mine. Gracias, Carlos!

In the afternoon we went to another Q&A with the larger than life Brian Blessed who raised the roof with the power of his voice. There was a moderator on stage to ask questions but he never got a word in as Blessed told anecdote after anecdote for an hour, pausing every now and then to bellow "Gordon's alive!".

Finally in the evening we went to the SFX awards ceremony where author Robert Rankin and his wife gave out various awards for 2011. Obviously several of the award-winners were not there to accept their gongs and several had sent video acceptance speeches. It is worth checking out the videos at the SFX site to watch Neil Gaiman's amusing video about his best writer award for The Doctor's wife. However, Stan "The Man" Lee probably stole the show with his video to accept the "Biggest Disappointment" award for not doing a cameo in the X-Men: First Class movie. It's great, watch it.

On the Sunday Brian set off on the rest of his travels around the UK, while I returned home for work on the Monday. One week later we got back together for Big Finish Day. Review coming up next.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Big Finish - Zagreus

Time to kick-start this blog. This is Big Finish's 50th release Zagreus, written by Alan Barnes and Gary Russell, and starring, well everybody.

The eight Doctor may, or may not, have become the mythical monster Zagreus. It will take all the resources of the Tardis and several of his companions to help him. There are at least twelve companions in there, and four previous incarnations of the Doctor spread over three CDs of confused mayhem.

The good points about Zagreus are its huge scope and ambition, plus the delight of using recordings of the late, great Jon Pertwee as one of the Tardis voices trying to help the Doctor. On the down side it is all rather confusing and it does seem strange to have Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy playing characters other than the Doctor.

Overall, I was slightly disappointed, mainly because I had heard such great things about it. However, you have to admire the mammoth story it tells. It gets a solid 2.5 out of 5 mythical Gallifreyan monsters. Next up is the return of Davros in The Juggernauts. But first some convention reports.