First Trailer for NBC’s Constantine TV Show

Okay, I was fairly excited about the new Constantine TV show before, especially when I learnt the pilot was to be directed by Neil Marshall. But now having seen the trailer that excitement has reached nigh-fever pitch. Are there a few things, tonally speaking, that I’d have done differently? Sure. Does the story draw some pretty clear lines to the middling efforts of Keanu-stine? Sure.

But this is a valiant effort, and by the looks of things a very watchable one. And in terms of tone and theme, much closer to Vertigo Comics’ cancelled, yet much-loved, Hellblazer series, than that tone-deaf reboot Constantine.

I recently gave the collected edition of the new comic another go, thinking that at first I might have not given it a sufficient chance, that I had pre-damned it with expectation and hope. Hope that a DC Universe all-ages superhero universe version of Constantine could deliver the same power that Hellblazer did. That hope was futile.

As it turns out, David Goyer understands the character of John Constantine much better than Ray Fawkes does.

Comixology and Frictionless Digital Consumption

I’ve long maintained that one of the things that increases consumption of digital entertainment is the reduction in friction. I don’t just mean the convenience of accessing digital media anytime and anywhere, but actually making it increasingly easy to keep consuming it; encouraging you to stay and consume more. Netflix does this very well. When you’ve finished watching an episode of a TV show, you don’t have to hunt down the next one. In fact, if you pause to consider for more than 15 seconds, the next episode will start to play automatically. Frictionless.

Breaking Bad Netflix Continue

I mention this because Comixology, the market-leading digital comics source, used to have the same thing, you’d get to the end of a comic and you’d be shown a screen with an option to read the next issue if you had it already, buy it if you didn’t, and if it was the end of a series you’d be shown similar comics. Again, frictionless. It was made easy to keep reading and keep buying.

The latter was the sticking point though. When Amazon bought Comixology, they decided to move to the same model as for Kindle books: Buying them as In-App Purchases cuts into Amazon’s profits as they’d have to give 30% to Apple or Google. So, as with Kindle books, Comixology purchases can now only occur on their website.

I understand their reasoning for this, nobody likes the idea of giving away 30% of profits, not when there’s another option. And there’s a strong argument for the fact that creators will get a bigger cut of profits. However, in my view it’s a bigger cut of a smaller pie. Because it’s no longer frictionless.

Now, if I want to read the next comic in a series, I have to put my tablet down, load up my computer, browse to the Comixology website, search for the comic, check out, enter my PayPal details… When previously, all I had to do was press the button marked Buy, then OK then start reading. Frictionless.

Time will tell whether Comixology really does take this predicted hit in sales, whether people will adapt to putting their tablets down, shift to buying Kindle Fire HDs or whether Amazon will cave in. But however you spin it, by adding friction Amazon and Comixology have fumbled this and lost a lot of goodwill.

Twenty Dollars Worth of Comics

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.

To commemorate the recommencement of work on Broken Gears, it’s time to do a list for comics, similar to my £50 Worth of Movies. Perfect for those in possession of a shiny tablet, a ComiXology account, a desire to get back into comics and 20 digital dollars burning a hole in their Paypal account.

Just like the movie list, where TV show box sets were prohibitively priced for the restriction, graphic novels and collected editions aren’t going to be able to make the cut here. So I’m going to focus on individual issues that I think are good samplers or otherwise worthy of note.

And the final caveat: This list is going to be contentious, but it’s my wholly unsophisticated and personal opinion. There’s not a person in the world who would agree with every single option on this list. I hope the list is at least interesting, even if it’s not good.

Saga #1  $-  Image Possibly one of the best new comics in the last years; inventive, touching and exciting, a space opera with a difference
Young Avengers Volume 2 #1  $1.99  Marvel What happens when YA doesn’t mean toned down, but turned up? Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie at the height of their powers.
Phonogram  Volume 2 #1  $-  Image By the same team as Young Avengers, these series is wonderful, unless you hate music and comics.
Hellblazer #143  $1.99  DC A one-shot by Warren Ellis and a decent introduction to the character of John Constantine.
All Star Superman #1  $1.99  DC In my view, All Star Superman is the only Superman comic anyone needs to read.
The Sandman #1  $1.99  DC Launching the career of a young Neil Gaiman, this masterpiece is required reading
The Mire   $0.99  Indie A beautiful and heartbreaking indie comic.
Detective Comics #871  $1.99  DC The start of the Batman: Black Mirror storyline
The Walking Dead #1  $-  Image Thanks to the TV show, The Walking Dead now has worldwide renown. It started here.
Planetary #1  $-  DC Warren Ellis again, this time a high-octane meta-comic, unearthing the archaeology of comics while mocking the Fantastic Four.
Sex Criminals #1  $-  Image Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky is a strangely sweet tale, and my current favourite comic.
Mouse Guard: Fall #1  $-  Archaia Bravery! Adventure! Tiny Mouse Warriors! Written and laboriously illustrated by the talented David Petersen.
Civil War #1  $1.99  Marvel I think they wimped out at the end of the series, but Civil War is important in Marvel comics lore.
Immortal Iron Fist #1  $1.99  Marvel A sideline character, barely worthy of note. But nobody told Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, who spun an epic tale.
American Vampire #1  $0.99  Image Gunslingers and vampires and lots and lots of blood!
30 Days of Night #1  $-  IDW Source material for the film, this showcases Ben Templesmith’s beautiful art.
Nightly News #1  $-  Image Can you trust what you read? What you hear? It’s time to take the messengers to account
Fables #1  $1.99  DC Fairy tale characters escape to New York, to flee a war that has robbed them of their homelands.
Nextwave #1  $1.99  Marvel Warren Ellis yet again, who somehow convinced Marvel to let him spend a comic mocking The Avengers and all things Marvel.
Chew #1  $-  Image A Cibopath can take a bite from anything and get a  sensation of what has happened to that object. Which can get gross if you’re a detective.
The Invisibles #1  $0.99  DC Magic and rebellion, this is Grant Morrison’s magnum opus and grimoire.

Top Ten List of Things 2013

It’s the end of the year and everyone is doing best of year lists; books, films, music, footwear, memes, you name it, it’s on a list somewhere. So, I’ve decided to do one of my own, a list of the top 10 favourite things of 2013. (It was either this or a top 10 list of top 10 lists)

  1. Gravity in the Imax – I’ll start, not just with a movie, but with a cinema experience. I cannot remember being more thrilled, of experiencing a more fulfilling cinema experience than this. I have no idea whether Gravity will work anywhere near as well in 2D on my TV, I doubt it, but that moment will be unforgettable.
  2. Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories – 2013 had a lot of great music released, but it’s no great shock to anyone who has ever perused my Last.FM account that I was going to decide on RAM as my favourite album of the year.
  3. The Hour – I’d been recommended The Hour for a long time by a friend, but it was always a TV show that I’d eventually, maybe get around to. Well, I did get around to it, it was amazing and I’m gutted there won’t be a third season.
  4. London Screenwriters’ Festival – This was a game changer for me; the lessons I learnt, experiences I had and people I met have had a hugely positive effect on my writing, my confidence and, dare I say it, my life.
  5. Chic at Glastonbury – Oh, how they laughed. ‘Chic?’ they sniggered. ‘Well, they were okay back in the day I suppose, but they’re no Arctic Monkeys’. Indeed. Chic’s set was the best party at the best festival and I danced for an hour and a half solid.
  6. Saga – In a standout year for comics, this was nearly a close call. But the art, writing, excitement and emotional power of Saga easily dominates the field.
  7. The Sexy Lamp Test – Both in terms of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s alternative to the Bechdel Test, but also the fact that it was far and away the top post on my blog in 2013, with 5,854 views.
  8. Gizmo Love – After a less-than-stellar theatre experience, I sought out recommendations for theatre. I ended up in the wonderful New Diorama Theatre for Gizmo Love, a dark tale of obsession and writing. I’ll definitely be back to the New Diorama, currently in the shortlist for Fringe Theatre of the Year.
  9. London’s Southbank – You’d think I’d be tired of it by now, but I still have so many amazing memories of that stretch just south of the river, from Waterloo station to London Bridge.
  10. Friends – Yes, yes, I know this one is cheesy. But this year has been a year for friends being there for me, people becoming friends and spending time with friends. And that will never not be important to me.

Comics: October 2013 Pull List

Savage Wolverine #9 – I’m not generally a Wolverine reader, but I picked this up entirely on the strength of the cover. Artist Jock also handles the writing duties on this brand new arc that see Logan on an alien planet and having to survive there while trying to figure out where ‘there’ is. I think this first issue could have done with some more pages, to really establish the premise and showcase Jock’s art, but it’s an interesting start. I’ll likely pick up the next one just to see where it goes.

Young Avengers #11 – Still fun, still enjoyable, but I’m starting to worry that it’s becoming increasingly less about the story and more about the set pieces and fan service. By which I mean Less-Young Loki.

Lazarus #4 – Sadly an unsatisfying conclusion to the first arc. A brawl, an early reveal of a further conspiracy and the rest was all mop-up. It just didn’t make much of an impact.

Sex Criminals – Fun, bold, funny and unique. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky tell a tale of a girl who can stop time when she has sex. And what better use to put this ability to than robbing banks? Issue 1 is all backstory, but with lovely art and clever narration and witty dialogue. I was really looking forward to issue 2, but imagine my surprise when once again in the history of Comixology, a comic wasn’t available in the Apple store due to sexual content. I don’t know whether this is due to Apple or Comixology or some twisted combination of them both, like when Saga was pulled from the store, nor do I care. I’m an adult and I’d quite like to read what I want to read. Anyway, rant over. Anyway, finally I managed to get to it, and you know what? It was totally worth it. And I have no idea why issue two should be ‘banned’ over and above issue 1.

Three #1 – You know what makes Kieron Gillen sigh? Having his comic about Sparta compared to Frank Miller’s 300. You know what Three’s a lot better than? Yeah…

Saga #15 – Continued excellence and those criminally amazing last-page cliffhangers. I just want this to run and run and run. Only complaint: Needs more Lying Cat, especially after last issue.

The Sandman: Overture #1: It’s so good to be reading Gaiman writing Sandman again, and this is as wonderful as the original volumes. However, beware: Much like so many modern prequels, this only works if you are familiar with the original material, not as a standalone introduction to the series.