Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Cher Report - Brumcon 2006 - version 1.0 (written with photographs)

Oh, and by the way, I included some random personal notes, especially to annoy you. They are in Italic.

Another note: this is my clean version... I could SO have done soooo many bad, bad things with some of these photographs... Which I probably will when I'm not in such a hurry to get these photos up for people to see, the Entry for which will be Friends Only (just... 'Cause).


FRIDAY

Me and Ian were in Birmingham at around 3pm on Friday afternoon, and proceeded to get very, very lost, when Derek sent us to the wrong train station.
On the way to the hotel, we found a rather interesting road sign, which taught us a very, very important lesson about not cheating on your significant other.


The hotel itself was a four star establishment, and although rather comfortable (we made it look rather homey, don't you think?), the view from our room left much to be desired... But it is Birmingham, after all.


After settling down, we proceeded to venture towards the Radison Hotel, the official temporary residence for attendees.
On the way to we met up with Derek, who bares a striking resemblance to Kyle Gass from Tenacious D, and James Reddington, who seemed convinced that he belonged in the Full Monty movie.

The bar was absolutely full of people, but they were so full of alchohol that they were running around at the speed of blurs.

The guests of honour for the evening, were Dan Boultwood and the ghost of Tony Lee.

The prices for our nourishment were not cheap, so Ian thought that he would do the worst impression of Clark Kent known to man to lighten the mood.

SATURDAY

We awaken at the crack of dawn (if by dawn you mean 10ish), and head straight for the venue. Surprisingly we didn't get lost, but that may be something to do with the fact that we had a map that the hotel gave us, with a nice big arrow pointing us towards it, instead of our (now fired) PS, Derek.

We walk around a corner to find ourselves confused, feeling drunk and/or stoned, surrounded by multicoloured, candy covered buildings, and were then quite shocked to find the Custard Factory being attacked by a giant (the Green Man, technically, but bare with me, I'm attempting comedy, here), and dragons!
Some people, however, just didn't seem at all amused, and slept through the entire thing. Either that, or he was dead*... We didn't quite check. ... Our bad.

There were, quite surprisingly, comic creators present at the event... We couldn't quite figure out why.
Some examples of this rare, and annoying (I'm jealous, so I'm aloud to say that) breed were the Brodie's Law guys, and a few blokes who were so convinced of their self importance, and their superhuman abilities, that they made a comic about themselves (yes, I know that it is a long link, but I thought that you might be blind :-p). The resemblance, however, is quite uncanny, don't you think? Minus the facial hair. This same member of their tribe was so utterly enveloped within this fantasy that he insisted he audition for the new remake of The Matrix... But instead seemed more suited to the live action adaptation of Watership Down.

After conversing with fellow fans, and creators, we were informed that there was an unmissible Panel. So we decieded to miss it.
Or not.
The panel was a strange, but rather genious mix of Never Mind The Buzzcocks/Have I Got News For You/QI-styled humour. But with geeks. Lots and lots of geeks. Two of these geeks were Tony Lee on The Writers Team and Budgie who was a (rather brilliant) Presenter.
Here are the Presenters, Batman and Robin, hard at work, The Writers Team, and The Artists Team. ... Although apparently there was some confusion, because then these were the Writers, these were the Artists... Who we don't have a photograph of... And these were the Presenters... Or rather Presenter.
Highlights of the Panel, entitled The Kryptonite Factor, were, (and this one is quite ironic) Keiron revealing his true identity and then teaching Tony how to swim, Budgie growing extra limbs, and Tony's impression of... Something. Whatever it was, it amused us.

The event then ended for the evening, and we went for Pizza with the guys from Brodie's Law, James from Portent Comics, and various geeks, including Derek and his minion, Lloyd, where I created yet another masterpiece, in record time of seven minutes. I was, by the way, the only female (nothing new there, then) in a group of eleven hungry dudes.
We then ventured to our Hotel to dump all our random crud (formally known as comics, and in Ian's case, posters of X-23 in a school uniform), after which came a Party which Tony discovered was run by the Birmingham University Goth Society. I gothed-up as much as I could (which isn't actually that difficult for me, since virtually all of my clothes are black), but Ian was unfortunately lacking in that department, so I insisted that he wear my Dog Collar (it glew in the dark and everything - lolz). The result was him being leashed, and attached to a rather excitable Tony Lee, and being his b*tch for a little of the evening. The most disturbing part of this, however, was what now seems to be Tony offering Ian to Dan Boultwood.**
After a night of fundome, we headed back for some much needed rest.

SUNDAY

It rained, and it poured... And I decide now is a good time to come in costume (I was in civvies the previous day, and felt very un-Cher-like)... Er... Whoops? Lolz.
Anyway, that random fact asside, today was quiet... Almost silent. Nothing much to do but spend more money. ... So we did.
Ian also felt the need to pretend to be important, and had a "Signing" (the witness has chosen to remain enonemous, and must therefore be blurred to pretect their identity)... If by that you mean grab a book, sign it, and run away - lolz. He also took a souvineer.
Most of the Dealers packed up early, but it was still a good day, with amusing socialising with the rather hungover Dan, forgetful Tony, and cheerful Budgie.
The event itself ended on a good note, in reflection, considering the lack of attendees during the day because of the weather. The final Panel was based around the topic of making comics out of television and film, with Tony Lee providing the comedy value, and others following in his footsteps, dealving into the world of Star Trek and Star Wars, even considering that noone present on the Panel was related to either.*** The organisers of the event then went on stage and thanked everyone for coming, which was very nice of them.
Oh, and did I mention that Tony asked the audience what me and Ian percieved to be the easiest Doctor Who question in history in order to win an Inflattable Dalek, which apparently cannot be used as a life saving device (I should certainly think not; it's a Dalek, it would rather exterminate you - lol), and although I kept quiet for fear of winning (and admittedly, embarrassment), Ian did not.
Low and behold, the Inflattable Dalek! And Ian... Who seemed a little TOO cosey with it...
I then spent the next two hours battling its evil! I finally defeated it, and bocked it... And then we gave it to Budgie for his children, since Ian's would probably break it - lolz, who we then spent most of the rest of the evening with, hanging out in the cafe at the venue, and then grabbing some grub after.
Then we said our goodbyes and went our seperate ways, parting with Budgie and Derek, crashing at the Hotel.

MONDAY

Monday comes around, and there is no Convention to attend, and everyone that we could bother *cough* visit is at work, so we thought, instead, that we might take a pilgrimage to Geeksville, formally known as Forbidden Planet.
We checked a public map to show us where the local cinema was, but were quite surprised, instead, to find out where Derek's friend Lloyd was really hiding for most of the weekend.
Walking in the direction of Someplace Else, we found that the Tozzers, who pretended that they couldn't make it this weekend, were actually here all along! We also found out how James funds his comics, how polite 'Birminghamites' can be, why the children are always so hyper (they're drunk!), and that the coffee is revolting!
We never actually found Forbidden Planet. We did venture into Nostalgia and Comics, however, and, quite ironically, bought some more comics.
We then went to the station and caught the train, heading home.
We hope to come back to Birmingham soon!

P.S.

Birmingham is actually a lot smaller than it looks, you know.

Video Report coming soon.




*Ps. Yeah, I made that part up. He was sleeping. I personally didn't check, but others did.
**We unfortunately had to leave early, around 2ish, because I was suffering from Stalker Symdrome, with a rather creepy Party-goer continuously hitting on me. Harrah - lolz.
***Oh, and I would also like to point out, for those that attended, that the subject refferenced in the Star Trek debate, of the timeline in Enterprise where "the crew go into the past and find the ship from the original series", is a little, shall we say, off... It was an alternative universe where Captain Archer and the rest of the crew are nasty gits, and they came across a time-space-dimensional portal which contained the ship from the original series, from the version of the future that we know.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Brumcon - Ian's Report

Well, it's been a week since the first ever Birmingham International Comic Show and it's way past time that I put up a report on the weekend.

Cher and I set out from Medway fairly early on the Friday morning as we had to catch a train from Marylebone to Birmingham at around mid-day. We left with what we thought would be plenty of time to get there, but as we hit London the traffic slowed to a crawl and our driver for the morning (thanks Dad!) announced that there was no way that we could catch our train if we continued by road. So, when we reached the Oval, we jumped out of the car and embarked upon a mad dash across London by tube, making it to Marylebone with scant minutes to spare before the train left.

As we neared Birmingham it became apparent that we had a choice of two stations that we could disembark from the train at. Not wanting to just randomly guess, I hit upon the cunning plan of texting native Birminghamite and good chum, Derek Hartley, and asking him which of the two stations would be nearest our ultimate destination, The Thistle Hotel. In a classic move, perhaps on a par with his telling Alan Davis that Alan Davis wouldn't be attending a certain panel at the Bristol Comic Expo, Derek did, in fact, advise us to leave the train at the wrong station. Thus, rather then leaving the train at the station which is almost directly next to the Thistle Hotel, we instead left the train at the station which is, indeed, on the other side of Birmingham. Still, my fault for not looking at a map before we left, I guess.


Still, what's a convention trip without a little adventure on the way, eh? So, after a short hike across the centre of Birmingham (familiarising ourselves with the various sights, sounds and smells of Brum) we finally arrived at our luxury four star hotel, threw open the bedroom curtains and were greeted by the truly impiring view of a multi-storey car park. Welcome to Birmingham! Okay, sure, we did get a great deal on the room, and, really, I wasn't expecting a breathtaking vista in the centre of what is generally regarded as one of the grimmest cities on earth...but....really....a car park? Add to this the main lights deciding not to work on the second night, and the loud music to the wee small hours due to it being Christmas Party season and...well...let's just say I don't think we'll be enjoying the hospitality of the Thistle Hotel again.

Once we'd settled into the hotel and asked at recpetion for a map of the city centre (so we were no longer reliant on Derek's oh-so-accurate directions) we headed towards the Radisson Hotel, home of the "official hotel bar" of the Birmingham International Comics Show. With enough space to seat four underweight midgets, and Coke at £3 a glass, one has to assume that the convention organisers had never set foot inside the Radisson Bar before the event. Suddenly I found myself appreciating the wide open spaces and morely unreasonably high priced drinks of the Ramada bar at Bristol. Nevertheless, we were joined for the evening by a host of charming and delightful people, and Dan Boultwood. Seriosuly, though, we met up with James Reddington of Portent Comics fame and were shortly thereafter joined by the dodgy-direction-giving Derek Hartley while we drooled over the goodies in the window of Nostalgia and Comics which was pretty much next to the hotel. Upon entering the bar we found a rather lost and lonely looking Budgie, whose finely honed accounting instincts were clearly rebelling at the bar's innovative pricing structure. We didn't have to wait long for the dapper Mr Tony Lee to appear and amuse us all by reading out the increasingly nonsensical texts he was receiving from artistic genius and general cad and bounder, Dan Boultwood, who was slowly making his way towards London in the company of a bottle of something sweet and evil, and an increasingly large retinue of elves, pixies and gnomes. Oh, and Alan Davis was sitting directly behind Derek at one point...and he didn't notice...which caused us all much amusement...hee hee....

And so to Saturday morning, and the convention itself! As you can see from the accompanying picture, some people were so overwhelmed by the smallest convention dealer's room on earth that they could do nothing but dose gently on the convention floor, while the "madness" resolutely failed to happen around them. To be fair, that's a little harsh. There was a genuine buzz about the room all day, but attendance was poor and at times it felt like the creators and dealers outnumbered the general punters two to one. As such, the weekend had a really nice "get together" kind of vibe. People were just generally hanging out and chatting, and I got to meet up with several people that, so far, I've only encountered online. Great folk like Mick Trimble and Jim Bott. Hi guys! It was also great to catch up with the guys from Markosia!

The highlight of the day and, indeed, the entire convention, was The Kyptonite Factor. Hosted by the legendary Budgie, The Kryptonite factor was a comic book quiz in the style of Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Have I Got News For You. No obvious joke was left uncracked with such howlers as "Rob Liefeld really can't draw very well" and "Alan Moore's a bit of an odd hairy bloke, isn't he?" keeping the audience laughing throughout. Just like the TV shows that inspired it, however, The Kryptonite Factor didn't shy away from such controversial and potentially inflammatory joeks as "John Byrne really can't draw very well." It's funny because it's true...

Saturday evening saw more fun and frolics as we went out for pizza with the Brodie's Law guys, James Reddington, Jim Bott, Derek and his friend Lloyd, and an assortment of hangers on and fanboys (just kidding, guys!). Cher took the opportunity to create one of her innovative pieces of salad art, something which is becoming a bit of a convention tradition for us. I wouldn't have mentioned it, but it gives me an excuse to post this fairly random picture of her salad, which I thought might amuse people. Personally, I'm always slightly confused by her inclusion of apple in these salads as, quite frankly, I feel that apple has no business being in a salad, but I digress.

After a short trip back to our hotel room to dump the hoards a swag that we'd had thrust upon us during the day's activities, we headed towards a local bar where the enigmatic Mr Tony Lee had learned the Birmingham University Goth Society were hosting a bash. Ironically, just two weeks before, I'd been in Birmingham for Memorabilia, dressed from head to toe in black PVC...with not a Goth club in site. Now I found myself in baggy beige trousers and a very, very white Slam Ridley T-shirt, talk about feeling like a pork sausage at a bar mitvah! However, Cher came to the rescue with her handy dog-collar-with-blue-spikes, which, oddly enough, made me feel slightly less stupid...which is probably a first. As you can see from the picture, the mischievous Mr Tony Lee couldn't resist fashioning a makeshift lead for me out of his tie. The fact that he appears to be offering the lead to the pixie hallucinating Dan Boutlwood is, frankly, mildly disturbing. All in all, it was a great evening. The highlights being singing "Sweet Transvestite" with Cher, Budgie and Tony, and just generally dancing 'till 2am with the delightful Miss Cher.

Sunday saw the heavens open and the already fairly poorly attended convention became almost entirely devoid of people. Although...it's possible that they were actually all eaten by this dragon. I suppose I should say a little about the Custard Factory, the venue for the weekend's events. The Custard Factory is undoubtedly a nice place. That said, it was entirely unsuited to the needs of a comic book convention. There being no central large hall, the dealer's room was split into two tiny rooms. This created the effect of people entiring the convention, going to the first room and thinking "Oh, is this it?"...discovering the second room...getting their hopes up...and then thinking "Oh, is this it?" And this time, yes, that was it. It was possible to see everything in about 30 minutes. That's assuming you paused to talk to a couple of people on the way. All this for the same price as Bristol? Ummm...ok... I can't complain to much as I got in for free, but had I been paying, I think that I would have felt slightly ripped off. I'd love to see the event return next year, but for it to work, I think that the organisers need to seriously consider an alternative venue. They also need to promote the event more in the city centre too.

One of the high points of the convention for me was getting to meet Phonogram creators Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. I may not have mentioned it on this site before but Phonogram is, quite simply, the best comic you will ever read. I'm afraid I probably gushed like a rabid fanboy, and to add insult to injury, it turns out that Cher had chatted to Kieron for ages at the Bristol Expo and she'd had absolutely no idea who he was. Of course, I wonder how many people would be sad like me and get excited about meeting their favourite PC Gamer columnist? Nevertheless, I guess I must have managed to remain a modicum of self respect as I did get to take this rather nifty pic' of Keiron modelling his very own Slam Ridley badge. Although, as Cher has pointed out, he's not so much pointing towards the Slam badge here as his own nipple, but I guess you can't have everything...

And, that was Brumcon...two days of fun and frolics...

All there was left to do after all that was...

...this...









By the way, I've just realised that I forgot to draw attention to the fact that we've reached 3000 hits! Woohoo!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Comics review - Ellis in the New Universe


New Universal #1 (Marvel) - Warren Ellis and Salvador Larroca join forces to present a revamping of the 80s New Universe line. I haven't read any of the New Universe books so came to this completely cold, but with Ellis' name on the cover I knew it would be a good read. As an opener this book works perfectly, giving you enough information to make you interested but not so much that you are spoonfed he story. Larocca's art is beautiful and teamed with Ellis' writing you get a comic of cinematic propositions which still manages to present a small and personal tale. Ellis has always created excellent work regardless of the publisher, genre or audience involved and this is no exception. Yet another chance to wish I was Warren Ellis.

Comics Review - Festive Punishment




Punisher Xmas Special one shot (Marvel)- Wolverine #41 writer Stuart Moore and artist C.P Smith are reunited for this bumper festive one shot. Personally I love one-shots, especially as a sporadic comic buyer, a creator and someone who is not a slave to continuity. At first the central conceit behind this book felt rather contrived. The prospect of Frank Castle making a naughty and nice list at Christmas did not ring true for me and it made the book lose credibility. But as the book continued, with it's moody artwork, taut scripting and exceptional colouring I found myself being really drawn in. This is the kind of one off book that stays with you after you have read it, the story really grips you and you feel like you are living every moment with Frank. It is also a textbook example of pacing as Moore and Smith manage to slow the book down without losing any of the drama. One of the best comics I've read this year, highly recommended.

9/10

Pete (Black King)

DVD Review - My Super Ex-Girlfriend

The idea behind this movie had me intrigued, what would it be like to try and break up with someone with super powers? Sadly the finished film is a major let down. Rather than starting at the point of the break up the movie takes you from the meeting all the way to the split. This makes it a long, drawn out process that really does not work. The main problem with My Super Ex-Girlfriend is that it doesn't know what kind of film it really wants to be. Is it a superhero movie, a rom com, a sex comedy? In the end it is a melting pot of various influences that combine to make a mess of a movie. Luke Wilson does ok in a thankless lead role, and Uma Thurman looks the part but is essentially a neurotic female Clark Kent that you can't connect to. The best performances are from the support, and both Eddie Izzard and Anna Faris come out of it with their reputations in tact. Director Ivan Reitman should really know better. File this one with that other Uma Thurman movie where Eddie Izzard made an appearance "The Avengers". An interesting idea is let down in the execution, a film with no direction and with no idea who is supposed to like it. A comedy that makes you cringe rather than laugh, this really was a missed opportunity. 2/10

Pete (Black King.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Film Review - The Holiday



While other members of the Royal Family are enjoying the wonders of Brumcon it falls to me to keep things moving on here. And seeing as I went to see "The Holiday" yesterday I thought I'd review it here.

If the opening titles to "The Holiday" were removed, most people would assume this romantic comedy was written by English stalwart Richard Curtis. Writer/Director Nancy Meyers (What Women Wants, Something's gotta give) does seem to be borrowing heavily from Notting Hill and Love Actually, especially for the scenes based in the UK. What lifts this above the average romantic comedy is the performances and the casting. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet swaps homes for Christmas, leaving the quintissentially English Winslet (she would have made a perfect Bridget Jones) and the very L.A Diaz as two heartbroken fish out of water. Jude Law and Jack Black (playing a musician yet again) are the men who take the respective women under their wing, and it is clear from the onset where the story is going. The supporting cast is exemplary too with Eli Wallach stealing all his scenes and Ed Burn and Rufus Sewell making the most of pretty small parts. Where Curtis tends to have world poverty, politics, or social commentary as his secondary story Meyers instead explores the changes in Hollywood. There are some unexpected turns along the way, some relatively funny moments, a few tearjerking scenes and some very sharply written dialogue which makes it far better than the average rom com. The only drawback, much like Curtis' own work, is that everyone looks perfect, they all have highly paid media jobs and England is portrayed as something from the top of a fudge box. This gives a story with a heart an uneccessary sheen that makes it a little too pristine. All this considered, if you like Richard Curtis' films then you will love this too.

7/10

Pete - Black King.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Expansion!


As you may have noticed, this week has been one of expansion at the Cyber Hellfire Club.

Not only did we welcome Cher, the new Red Queen of the Cyber Hellfire Club as a contibutor to this web site, but as you can see, Peter Rogers has also joined us as the new Black King of the Cyber Hellfire Club. He'll be adding his wit and wisdom to the site on a regular basis.

(The titles are fairly meaningless, just a bit of fun, and a tradition held over from the early days of the Cyber Hellfire Club on AOL's Comics and Anime Forum).

Rounding out the new team is Rivka Jacobs, a fellow founding member and the wise and all-knowing Oracle of the Cyber Hellfire Club.

So, say hello to our new members and enjoy their contributions over the coming months and years!

Ian - The Red King

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Comics Review - Red Menace


Red Menace #1 (Wildstorm) I heard about this book when writers Bilson and DeMeo were interviewed by Word Balloon. Set around the McCarthy witch hunts and featuring a costumed hero having to reveal his identity, the concept really appealed to me. The story is well written and interesting and as expected Jerry Ordway's art is exemplary. The 50s setting is very executed ans Al Vey's inking and Johnny Rench's colouring add to the period feel. The muted tones do make it a slightly repetitive book visually but the story is enough to make reading the rest of the mini series worthwhile.

6/10

Pete

Comics Review - Fraction's first punishment


Punisher War Journal #1 (Marvel) On the one hand this is a Civil War tie in, on the other it's written by Matt Fraction so I was not sure what to expect. At first the mix of painted art with photo realism courtesy of Ariel Olivetti did not feel right. Frank Castle took on Hulkesque proportions and everything felt off kilter. But once I got into the swing of the book I realised the art really did compliment Fraction's writing. By the close of this super sized book I was loving Olivetti's artistic approach (look out for an iconic full moon shot) and really getting into Fraction's way of approaching the character. Looking forward to the next ish.

8/10

Pete

Comics Review -Wisdom



Wisdom #1 (Marvel/Max) I have been looking forward to this book for some time, mainly because Dr Who writer Paul Cornell is involved. I don't know the Pete Wisdom character all that well, so I am coming to this series with no baggage of expectation. The concept and characters work well, Trevor Hairsine's art is superb and Cornell's plotting and playful dialogue make you think he's been a comics regular for decades. Well worth picking up.

8/10

Pete .

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Brumcon and The Cyber Hellfire Club Grows!

Well, as it says in the good book (that being the Bible, folks, not The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy), the first shall be last and the last shall be first. As such, I'll be dealing with the second topic in this post's title first.

As the eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed, my happy little face has disappeared from the top right hand corner of this blog to be replaced by an intriguing new feature - a list of contributors. Yes, the Cyber Hellfire Club has grown, we now have a "team" of contibutors. You see, I've missed the movie reviews that I used to post waaay back in the dim and distant past when I had more time and less comic related goodness to waffle on about. Thus I have invited the delightful Miss Cher to join us in the happy world of blog-dom and bestow upon us her mighty reviewing skills.

Right then, time for first things to be last - to Brumcon!

For those of you who are unaware, Brumcon is the "nick name" for the first ever Brimingham International Comics Show, to be held at the Custard Factory in Birmingham this weekend (8th-9th December). I'll resist mis-quoting Groucho Marx and saying that I wouldn't want to attend any convention that would have me as a guest (okay, so, technically I didn't resist it)...and instead encourage any and all of you that will be in the area this weekend to pop in and say "Hi." You should be able to find me in and around the Markosia booth for much of the weekend, where I will be signing copies of Smoke & Mirror #1 for anyone fool enough to covet the signature of a lowly colourist.

I've been looking forward to this convention for months now, and, after a long and, at times, very rough year, I'm using it as the perfect excuse to unwind and making a long weekend of it. Thus, the entire Cyber Hellfire Club team (see what I did there?) will be boarding a train to Birmingham around lunchtime on Friday and we should be checking into our four star accommodation in Brum in the early afternoon. This leaves Friday evening free to relax and unwind with our celebrity, showbiz comic book creator pals (or, to put it another way, to seek out Tony Lee and force him to drink vast quantities of alcohol for our amusement). Saturday and Sunday will be chock full of conventiony goodness, and hopefully meeting up with all those many, many people who've promised to buy me a drink since the Bristol Expo. We then have Monday morning to unwind and explore Brum before taking a relatively late train back to civilisation (the South) and grabbing a few hours kip before it's time for work on Tuesday morning.

Ian.