Friday, 16 February 2018

X-Wing The Game Just Turned 25!

X-Wing the game just turned 25, how old does that make you feel, let that sink in for a bit  - February 1993 Star Wars: X-Wing launched on PC.Remember Gouraud shading, no?, okay, I'll move on then.
1993 was a stellar year in videogames actually, Star Fox using the new Super FX chip was launched on SNES, also launched in 1993 was Syndicate from EA and Myst not to mention Legend of Zelda: Links Awakeneing on Gameboy and of course the daddy of them all Doom which was launched on PC in December 1993.
1993 was the same year that Loaded Weapon, Army of Darkness and Bill Murray's Groundhog Day were out. That's right old timer, a looong time ago. A quarter of a century.

Graphically speaking 25 years is a long time ago when you compare X-Wing to more recent fare, Star Wars Battlefronts X-Wing VR mission add-on being probably the best example.

Above: Check out the comparison between the 1993 Version of X-Wing and the latest X-Wing VR mission in Star Wars Battlefront.

Packaged in a distinctive purple box with equally pronounced silver logo and marketed as a space combat simulator it proved to be one of the most popular games of the time. Space Combat Simulator was perhaps a little far fetched since much of the combat appears to be wave based rather than seeking out imperial enemy craft in a random free flight kind of affair but that didn't detract from the fact that you could dogfight imperial Tie Fighters.

Released in 1993 the current version available on COG gives you the option to jump between the classic 1993 version or the slightly upgraded 1998 Collectors series version which featured better graphics. Star Wars X-Wing was of course followed up by the equally impressive Tie Fighter and spawned other spinoff titles within the brand, Imperial Assault was the add on in the same year (1993) followed by B-Wing another expansion also in 1993 Star Wars X-Wing Alliance being the last in the series.

25 years ago I took out the first mortgage on my house, holy crap, time flies when you're having fun.

BSA R10 S.E Black Pepper .22 Air Rifle

After what can only be described as the longest time I think I have ever saved money for anything, and after much difficult contemplation and discussion I finally took the plunge in becoming an Air Rifle owner.
The device of choice, again, after much deliberation and contemplation was a BSA R10 S.E in Black Pepper in .22 calibre, I'd looked at the options from Daystate and Weirach, looked at various reviews for and against a small number of rifles and decided that the BSA was the one I'd like to marry.
Why?, well I have to admit that for starters I fell in love with the finish, the Black Pepper BSA is just a sight to behold and I wanted something that was different to the standard wood and composite rifle stocks that are typical with most rifles. Performance and reputation were important don't get me wrong and despite some early reliability niggles with product quality these appear to have been ironed out at BSA due to customer feedback.Aside from all that I see Air Gun Shooter Magazine guru Matt Manning uses one in some of his YouTube videos and if its good enough for him, its good enough for me.

For UK based shooters like myself and to stay within the legally required power output, air rifles are restricted to a power output of 12ft fpe (16 Joules). Unlike the USA where the majority of air weapons have an unrestricted power output except for city limits in some states. Our closest neighbors across the stream in France have a 20 fpe and sunny Spain has an 18 fpe power limit. Germany however is restricted to 6 fpe.

At 48 years of age I guess I've come into air rifle ownership and shooting a little bit later than I probably should have, the joints aren't as limber as they used to be, a niggling back injury and eyesight on the wrong side of 40 are challenges I'll have to adapt the shooting to. My father in law does clay pigeon with a guy who's pulls around an oxygen tank behind him from stand to stand with a golfing trolley, he's 76 and still knocks out a 38 out of 50 so maybe all isn't lost yet. Besides, 48 is a whole lot better than starting at 58 or 68 so I shouldn't complain that I'm entering a new sport at my age.

The BSA R10 SE Black Pepper is a laminate wood design, a process by which layers of wood are bonded together through adhesives and immense pressure. Rumor has it this process actually makes 'engineered wood' 50% stiffer than traditional sawn cut timber primarily because the adhesives and resins are pressed deep into the wood fibers.
The gun is a PCP powered bolt action 10 shot rifle fed by a small rotary magazine, both .177 and .22 versions have this mag fed system, blue for .177 and red mags for the .22. I'd contemplated a springer powered rifle but wasn't a huge fan of breaking the rifle after every shot to fumble around with a single shot reload, that's me probably being a bit lazy though more than a conscious design decision if I'm brutally honest.
The beauty with springers is you don't ever need to refill an air bottle but who knows, maybe someone will come up with some kind of Winchester reload function that can cock a springer with some sort of built in tech that works like a compound bow does and has a magazine capacity of 10+ shots.

I decided to opt for one of the rifle and scope package deals on offer from the Airgun Centre, an airgun specialist local to me, I didn't want the interest payment options on the gun, just an outright purchase and ownership. The process was pretty painless, a driving licence for I.D and a fist full of cash and twenty minutes later I was an air rifle owner.The rifle and scope package provides the gun in either .177 or .22 with a choice of stock options including traditional wood, composite and the Black Pepper variant. In with that you get a Debden sling and QD swivels, carry case, spare 10 shot mag, pack of targets, bipod and a choice of scopes which gives you either the Hawke Eclipse 3-12X50 AO IR Mil Dot or the Hawke Eclipse 4-16X50 AO IR Mil Dot, not to mention the Hawke Mounts for whichever scope you decide upon. Add to that free servicing for life and a lifetime guarantee and you're all set.

Two more additional purchases were made, I purchased a Hills hand Pump for refilling the air bottle on the rifle and air rifle membership and insurance through BASC ( done online through BASC online) which set me back 159.00 and 53.00 respectively. I figured the insurance was a good idea for joining a club as well as covering me if I do by chance get an opportunity to shoot on private land anywhere for rats or woodies.

All in, this little purchase spree came to just over a grand.
I had looked at BASA insurance but there were too many people on shooting forums telling anyone who would listen to avoid at all costs due to shoddy or late paperwork and lack of customer service.Overall I knew BASC more than any of the others and the work they do for shooting enthusiasts and conservation so it seemed like a better and more sound choice.

Some of you are probably asking why I chose .22 instead of .177 since my main hobby will be target, again, this was just personal choice, although the primary function for the gun will be target shooting I wanted something that would increase the element of  a challenge, the .177 has a flatter trajectory than the .22 does and is perfect for target shooting, being a heavier round the .22 drops sooner than the .177 so the amount of hold over on longer distance targets will be different.

Overall I'm blown away at the fit and finish of the gun, in the sunlight the BSA R10 Black Pepper literally shimmers as the sun reflects of the ash grey and silver tones of the laminate stock.BSA has a long history in terms of firearms dating all the way back to 1861, founded by a group of 14 gunsmith members of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association, it was BSA that manufactured the famed Lewis Gun used by allied troops in World War 1 as well as engine parts and motorcycles, BSA went on to play an integral part in manufacturing parts, weapon components and transport related materials during World War 2 despite being bombed by the German Luffwaffte when its factory and barrel mill at Small Heath were damaged in one of many air raids that targeted production. Gun rights to BSA are now owned by Spanish gun maker GAMO.

The BSA R10 Black Pepper is shown here with the scope,mounts,sling,pidod and hard carry case which is a package deal from the Airgun Centre.

Friday, 19 January 2018

John Wick: Franchise Building for 2018

John Wick probably flew under many peoples radar when it initially came out in September 2014, marketing wasn't massive but specifically targeted, developed from an original screenplay originally titled Scorn by Derek Kolstad the movie was shot with a relatively small budget of $29.7 Million. Upon release,word of mouth quickly took hold and the film went on to enjoy a cult following not to mention a comfortable box office run and recouped a satisfying $88.8 Million.
John Wick for the uneducated is the story of a legendary hitman that comes out of retirement to enact revenge on a mobsters son who has done him wrong, not to mention stolen his gorgeously death black vintage Mach 1 Mustang. John Wick the character is revered and feared by everyone in the criminal underworld in almost mythical like respect, a man not to be messed with on any level no matter how many men you send to kill him. Even the police leave him well alone. John Wick killed two men in a bar with a pencil...a reference that is retold and retold again in the films.

The films sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2 was developed for a budget of $40 Million and went on to recoup $171 Million and was set four days after the events of the first film.
This time John is visited by Italian crime lord Santino D'Antonio. It is revealed that to complete his "impossible task" (which was mentioned in the first film) —which allowed him to retire and marry Helen—John asked Santino for help. As a form of contract, Santino swore John to a "Marker," an unbreakable promise symbolized by a "blood oath" medallion, it's when John breaks the unbreakable promise where things take a turn for the worse and Santino convinces John to undertake a contract he really doesn't want any part of involving Santino's sister.

Reeves physical performance in the John Wick films is nothing short of stunning, the actor is after all, knocking on 53 years of age, I groan bending down just to put my damn shoes on and I'm 47. Looking at the sheer speed and choreography within the two films its not surprising that Keanu delivered such a convincing action movie though when you take into consideration the massive amounts of prep he did for the role. Keanu was devoted to the role and the character of John Wick and his months of training involved advanced firearms training as well as hours and hours of hand to hand combat training and martial arts with the Machado brothers pays off in spades. Weapons training was conducted by Taran Tactical which you can see below as Reeves totally shreds the course in record time with live ammo.

Training with the Machado Brothers.

Derek Kolstad is currently writing John Wick: Chapter 3, and is also currently working on the John Wick spinoff for TV, The Continental, based around the world of the assassins that frequent the Continental Hotel. if you've seen John Wick you'll know that this is as a place where contract killers get to chill, get more work or just take a time out while they're killing on the job, the Continental is unique in that its governed by a strict code of honor among its guests in that there is no killing within the confines of the Continental, contract killer or not. The dynamic works really well since there is a wealth of possibilities and characters to explore within the John Wick universe and the focus on the Continental as a central hub is a superb idea for TV, I can see this working perfectly with the right kind of respect paid to the source material, I just wish Netflix had snapped this one up considering how well Daredevil and The Punisher have done as Netflix shows.

The Continental will be shown via Lionsgates streaming TV service Starz which is also available to Amazon subscribers. The themes and timeline to The Continental will run in sync with that of the movies which will connect the flow of the storyline in way that the films and tv share a mutual universe. Planned for a potential 8 episode run, each episode will have a running time of 60 mins.

John Wick 2 introduced some really formidable characters for Keanu to go up  against and these look set to return for John Wick 3. Common will return as Cassian despite injuries he sustained in the train fight with Wick, Laurence Fishburne  who previously worked with Keanu in the Matrix films will be back as the Bowery King, the pigeon loving kingpin - mute assassin Ruby Rose is also set to return as  Ares despite coming off a lot worse than Wick in the 'hall of mirrors' fight in John Wick 2.Ian McShane will almost certainly return as Winston, owner of the Continental as well, a character central to the Wick universe. Winston exudes the right amount of charm, wit and quiet menace to run the Continental with such ruthless efficiency. After Wick breaks the cardinal rule of killing within the walls of the Continental by shooting villain Santino D'Antonio in the face, Wick is excommunicated from all Continental locations and benefits and essentially his membership and privileges to the Continental are now revoked making it open season for every contract killer on the planet to take him down for the $14 Million bounty now on his head.

 Mute Assassin Ruby Rose is back for John Wick: Chapter 3

Director Chad Stahelski had this to say about the third installment of John Wick “The whole purpose of John Wick: Chapter 2 was to get us into John Wick 3—the bridge, but do an interesting bridge. All the cool stuff we showed you in 1 and 2—we call it the service industries [for assassins]—we wanted to take that away.
John Wick was about showing you and giving; John Wick 2 was about taking everything away from him. So at the end, literally, I got the vibe from Donald Sutherland in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. You don’t know who’s who. We want to show how
big the world goes.Whenever you deal with hidden worlds, it’s: Who’s the vampire? Who’s the immortal? Who’s the assassin? It’s the Cold War thing, and I miss that. We wanted to instill a little of that."

Building further on the franchise Dynamite Entertainment and Lionsgate Entertainment. partnered up to bring us the John Wick comic book series which was announced in September 2017, written by Greg Pak with art by Giovanni Valetta. When a young John Wick emerges from prison and embarks upon his first epic vendetta, he comes up against a strange, powerful community of assassins and must learn how to master the Book of Rules that guides their lethal business. What are the Three Bills? Who is Calamity? And who was John Wick before he became the Baba Yaga?

John Wick: Chapter 3 hits cinemas on May 17 2019

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Combat Art of Ian Kennedy

If you read my previous post about Commando Comics artist Jordi Penalva I mentioned that i'd probably feature another artist on my blog. This time I've decided to profile some of Ian Kennedy's amazing artwork. Kennedy is perhaps one of the most popular artists of the Commando comic series and has illustrated over 1200 covers.
Kennedy resides in a small cottage in Dundee where he paints in his studio, he started work for D.C Thompson as a staff artist in 1949 but went freelance in 1954. Kennedy provided artwork duties on 200AD for IPC, he also provided work for Battle Picture Weekly and Eagle on the Dan Dare series. Kennedy has been a Commando artist since 1971.

Kennedy prefers to work in acrylic which he says is a lot more forgiving as a medium, his art has a more detailed, highly finished look to it accented by the use of light. Kennedy relies on a vast array of reference material to stay true to his painted subjects which feature accurate depictions of military weapons, aircraft and uniforms. It is perhaps his incredible attention to detail and dramatic artwork that has made him a hot favorite with Commando readers over the decades.

As of 1997 he is semi retired but was still painting Commando covers in 2016.

Below is a small sample of his incredible work.

SAS Blades, one of my favorite Ian Kennedy pieces

Falklands combat piece

His last new comic strip to be published in a British comic, “Bombs On Target” in Commando issue 3072 published in 1996, featured Lancaster bombers

Ian Kennedy in his Cottage studio

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Commando Comic Art of Jordi Penalva

Aside from my love of comic collecting which hit its peak between 1988 and 1991 I had previously grown fond of the small pocket sized 'Commando' graphic novels, I collected these from the time I was 12 to about the time I turned 15 - these  smaller, square formatted black and white graphic novels were normally set during World War 2 and depicted Allied soldiers on daring missions featuring land sea and air divisions of the military. The Commando comic was published by D.C Thompson and every issue featured a very dramatic, danger filled scenario on its cover which was in full colour and produced by the very talented contracted artists in traditional oil or acrylic paint.

The covers themselves almost always told a story in their own way, killer visuals, eye popping colour and composition that really amped up the comics impact on shelf.
I'll probably profile a couple of these artists in detail on this blog for anyone interested but the first artist I wanted to draw attention to was Jordi Penalva.

Penalva who was born in 1927 and learnt his illustrative craft at the Escola d'Arts Aplicades i d'Ofocos Artostocs de Barcelona (School of Arts and Artistic Trades),he further honed these skills at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de Sant Jordi (School of Fine Arts).

His illustrative cover career really took off when he painted the covers for Cowboy Picture Library in 1958 where he painted 146 covers depicting the high adventure life of cowboys and gunslingers, his early career also saw him paint covers for Thriller Picture Library and Lone Rider Picture Library. However, it was Jordis dramatic composition and artistic flair that saw him deliver his best work as a Fleetway artist for the War and Battle picture libraries in the 1960's. It was in the mid 1960's where Penalva also worked for D.C Thompson's Commando pocket library, over a period of 10 years he painted 180 covers for the Commando series. Jordis high demand also saw him provide illustrations for other publications such as Playboy Press and the horror series for Eerie and in particular he provided art for Semic's newspaper strips of James Bond, Modesty Blaise and The Saint.

Below is a small sampling of his work and composition skills that celebrate his talents as one of the best cover artists for the picture library press. 

Be sure to check out my blog post which covers Ian Kennnedy's combat art here

 Jordi's style varied between more softer highly detailed work to a more gritty and textured style of painting.

Anatomy and attention to detail were important for cover art, note how the sten gun here is shown unloaded as the Commando scales the rock face.

 High action and drama were key in selling the covers to eager readers, notice how the German soldier in this art is practically framing the entire image and focal point for the viewer.

 Some of Penalva's work featured some strong textures further adding to the dramatic presentation of the artwork.

 The high tension covers set the tone of the interior and art either depicted full on action combat or the 'calm before the storm'.
 Penalva's Sean Connery piece for the work he did on the James Bond strip for Semic Newspapers.(below)

Jordi Penalvas original artwork can be bought here

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Best of Cosplay - Go Big or Stay at Home.

Lets face it, there is at least one time in your life that you dressed up as someone else, be that when you were a kid or maybe for a fancy dress party at a New Years party. Fancy dress parties are a good excuse to either great a bloody awesome outfit, or if you're aiming for laughs to get one that looks like your kid made it in pre-school. With Fancy dress you pop down to the party rental shop, pick out something that kind of resembles the character, tv show or movie hero personality, you get kitted out, turn up and then freak out for the remainder of the night praying to god you don't lose your deposit because someone either threw up vodka punch and tortillas all over it or burnt a hole in it with a stray cigarette.

Then there's the other kind of dressing, the more serious kind where creators spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on becoming their fictional idol or favorite character for expos and other video game or comic con related appearances. Cosplay as the Cambridge Dictionary more accurately describes it " is the hobby of dressing as and pretending to be a character from a film, TV program, comic book etc. Cosplay has been a way for people to express themselves in a way that their everyday life prevents them from doing so, they use the opportunity to transform into a fictional hero or personality attending trade events to mingle with other like-minded fans and aficionados. The great thing about cosplay though is you can be as casual or as serious about it as you like, be that a costume you made yourself with some household bits and bobs or you can pay someone else to build you something that you'll wear every single time you hit an event or conference effectively becoming that hero for the day. Cosplay is a great way to meet new people, its also a great way to stand out,especially if you've got a great costume, ideally you want something that's going to turn heads, that is to say you create an outfit or costume that is so unbelievably awesome that you actually create your own fan base or following, effectively though you'll need to go big...or stay at home. 

This years New York Comic Con saw 32 year old interior designer Mike Cameron pick up the win in the armor category and also a runner up prize for best in show. 

Mike Cameron in his NYCC Cosplay winning mech suit.

if you really want to see how awesome people can be check out these truly amazing cosplayers and their outfits which show a huge variety of film and video game related characters.

 Mercy character  - Overwatch video game Cosplay by  Oshley Cosplay - Photo credit Michael Ocampo

Halo 4 Recruit suit by Hyperballistik taken at Dragoncon 2013 with Needler created by Volpin Props

 Super Joker Cosplay by the team at the Cinema Makeup School

 Check out this incredible Thanos Cosplay also from the guys at the Cinema Makeup School

Passionate Cosplayer and stuntman Ben aka Maul Cosplay has an amazing series of photos featuring various characters but its his Solid Snake from MGSV which really cranks it up a notch.

Return of the Jedi Gamorrean Guard, the head detailing on this cosplay is incredible.

Warhammer 40K cosplay when done right can really astound, this 40K Terminator armor is incredible
Lineage II: Yaya Han absolutely wows in this amazing gown of Banshee Queen Enira
Some of best Star Wars cosplay includes outfits from The Empire Strikes Back, Imperial Snowtroopers are no exception and show some incredible attention to detail.

Sisters of Battle by Okkido Cosplay from the Warhammer 40K universe.

Robocop from the 1980's movie version at the MCM expo back in 2013 - photo by masimage

The 501st Star Wars Cosplay group have strict outfit rules for cosplayers to abide by in keeping with the standards of representing the Star Wars universe.

This Orc costume with its stunning array of horns and armor is superb. Photo by NGO Photography.
 Spartan Sniper by Paradoxdj - photo byKL Media photography - the various Halo games provide a massive wealth of characters and armor classes for cosplayers to choose from.

 Armored up Batman from Batman: Arkham Origins by Julian Checkley who also has a Bane (Tom Hardy version) outfit he sometimes dons.

Batman: Dark Knight version by Thad Laskowski

Iron Man Hulkbuster suit by Thomas De Petrillo from Extreme Costumes wowed the crowds at the NYCC with this 9 feet tall Hulbuster suit.

 Boba Fett Cosplay by Widen 15


Cinema makeup School

Extreme Costumes Instagram

Maul Cosplay