Pseudopod Halloween Parade 2012: The Answers

(Still from the excellent These Glory Days)

Here are the answers to the parade I posted over the weekend. This post is utterly crammed with links so if you don’t recognize a character click on their name, or if a book looks interesting click on the title for an Amazon page.

-Jack is of course, the Jack from the story.

-The irradiated teenagers are from The Chernobyl Diaries, as are the creatures hunting them.

-The astronauts are the crew of the Prometheus. Holloway is the one who’s on fire, Fifield is surrounded by his hounds (And wouldn’t his life have been much easier if he’d actually followed the map? He’d MADE?). The vast shadow is the Engineer ship that crashes towards the end of the movie and the small, stocky woman leading them is of course, Liz Shaw. One of the things that I really liked about Prometheus was its exploration of her faith and how she refuses to lose it even in the face of the endless horrors she suffers. I don’t agree with it, at all, but I do find it interesting.

-The presidential convoy is Abraham Lincoln from Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. It’s a patchy as hell movie but it’s a lot of fun and Dominic Cooper as Henry the English vampire is excellent. Hence his deserved cameo appearance here.

-The girl behind them is Elizabeth Olsen’s character from Silent House, the real time found footage movie based on the 2010 Urguayan movie La Casa Muda, made in 2010.

-The polite Edwardian couple are the lead in The Woman in Black and his wife, both very dead and both so relieved to be reunited at last that they don’t really care about anyone or anything else,not quite yet anyway.

-Hadley and Sitterson, ladies and gentlemen! Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with blood all over their hands. I loved The Cabin in the Woods and these two are a very big reason why, Likewise, Amy Acker as Lin who’s following behind them with the rest of the cast stalking along behind her, delighted that the Cabin staff suffered as much as they did on the way out.

-Sigourney Weaver’s character cannot possibly be human in The Cabin in the Woods. Look at the sequence she appears in, there’s only one entrance to the sacrificial chamber and it’s behind Dana and Marty when they come in. The Director, when we first see her, steps UP onto the platform from the other side. She’s an avatar of the things that sleep beneath the Cabin and the gloves she’s always wearing are another indicator that she’s less, or more, than human.

-Alec Holland and the Swamp Thing come next, their newly separate status reflecting how the new Swamp Thing series starts. Following them is Buddy Baker and family from Animal Man, another one of the best new DC titles and closely connected to Swamp Thing.

-The Edwardian police officer is Chief Inspector George Suttle from the excellent Vertigo mini-series The New Deadwardians. The trade’s out shortly and I highly recommend it and everything else Dan Abnett has done. He’s talking to Governor Arcadia Alvarado, the lead in Saucer Country, Paul Cornell’s excellent UFOlogy/political thriller.

-Her bodyguards, the two identical twins, are from Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips’ excellent series Fatale.

-The tall brawny woman is Amelia Cole, the lead in Monkeybrain Comics excellent series Amelia Cole and The Unknown World. Her friend is Autumn Ackermann, the lead in one of their other, also excellent series The October Girl.

-John Constantine comes next, along with his wife, Epiphany, a new addition to the family.

-Behind them, the cast of The Stuff of Legend, a superb and horrible comic about toys battling to rescue their child from the boogeyman.

-The Winchester boys come next, of course, and as always they make an entrance. Their passengers this year are Castiel, still looking startled to be there and the legendary Mr Bobby Singer. Following them are, of course, everything they’ve ever hunted and Lillith, front and centre. Where she always wanted to be.

-The bare chested man is Fornicus, Lord of Pain and Desire, the Pinhead analogue from The Cabin in the Woods. The sphere is definitely Fornicus’ but I like to think Pinhead sent some Cenobites to walk with him this year, as a sign of solidarity.

-The giant irradiated ants are from every giant irradiated ant movie ever made, although I like to think of them as survivors of Them! Their handlers are the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Frankenstein’s monster.

-The slaughtered kings are just that, the Shakespearean kings, the Jacobean kings and all the rest. They’re accompanied by the movie versions of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, played by Tim Roth and Gary Oldman.

-The Director again, walking with her people this time.

So there you go, that was the Halloween parade for this year. Hope you had fun guessing and do try the Churros, they’re great.

 

Want to talk to me about the article? Come see me on Twitter at @alasdairstuart or email me.

DC Day 1:Fighting The Next War Early-Blackhawks

Blackhawks is one of the more eccentric of The New 52, reviving a set of characters created by Will Eisner, Chuck Cuidera and Bob Powell in 1941. The Blackhawks were a squadron of fighter pilots, each a different nationality and united to fight in World War II. The concept was immensely successful, although as World War II ended and more time passed, it became increasingly difficult to sell the idea without plugging it into more conventional superhero trappings. The characters were revived twice, made several appearances elsewhere but the concept as a whole began to fade into DC history.

 

This version, written by Mike Costa, manages to not only honour that concept but nest it inside two separate, but complimentary, modern tropes. The first is the re-imagining of the squadron as a much larger unit,with ground forces, logistical staff and UN backing. This places them, interestingly, in almost exactly the position the original version of Stormwatch occupied, and also allows for a larger cast and scope. There are echoes of the classic Larry Hama run on GI Joe here, with the team’s secret headquarters, vast array of aircraft and concealed headquarters, along with their code names and differing specialities all elements that echo Hama’s work whilst still honouring the original cconcept. They’re still an elite unit of international misfits but by placing them in a deliberately contemporary, grounded setting, Costa is able to expand the focus of the series but not lose sight of it.

The second is the inevitable engagement of pop culture with the War on Terror. Pop culture, by its very nature, reflects the time in which it was produced, as shown by the original series using World War II as a backdrop. That engagement has, over the space of the last ten years run the gamut of responses, from gutpunch emotional reaction to cynicism to it becoming a backdrop rather than an active element of fiction. Geopolitical chaos has become a fact of life, and, at its best, pop culture has explored both the human consequences of that and the ways in which society has reacted.

Which all seems like a colossally over intellectual approach to a comic involving fighter planes, power armour and a Russian who is called the Irishman but this is the background that Costa plays with and he plays with it well. He neatly sketches out the idea of the Blackhawks as an elite special forces unit who are tied to the United Nations but not as tied as some might think. It’s another standard trope, one which Ellis used to great effect in his run on Stormwatch and which was later explored by Greg Rucka in Checkmate and it works well here, once again. The end result is the sensation that the Blackhawks are essentially this universe’s attack dogs, the unit that the UN unleash when something difficult and unpleasant needs doing. He does a good job of sketching out the characters too, with the unflappable Canada and Kunoichi, the team’s resident pointwoman and seeming adrenalin junkie the two standouts. Again, none of these characters are unique or revolutionary but none of them need to be. This is high tech pulp, and as a result the more familiar the characters the better.

 

Blackhawks is a known quantity but a welcome one. Costa’s script has some nice action beats to it and the art, by Graham Nolan on layouts and Ken Lashley on finishing and cover is brawny but expressive, giving the characters and the tech room to shine. All in all, this is certainly one of the more left of centre of the DC New 52 but it’s also one of the best put together. It’s a smart, ideas-heavy fast paced modern thriller and it deserves to be given a chance to shine.

 

DC Day 1-Stormwatch

The Warren Ellis run on Stormwatch was the first long term run on a series that I genuinely connected with. The idea of a UN-controlled superhuman crisis intervention team was always an attractive one but under Ellis the book became something tighter, more mature than it had been before. Ellis wrote Stormwatch officers as humans, people with ideals and agendas and flaws all struggling against a job which often seemed designed to stop them doing any real good in the world. That constant struggle, between what was right and what was necessary ultimately spawned the sequel book, The Authority, and indirectly changed the visual and intellectual grammar of Western superhero comics for most of the following decade.

 

For me though, Stormwatch was always a more attractive concept than The Authority. Stormwatch were mortals, normal people with abnormal abilities trying to do their best and often failing. They were human as well as superhuman and that humanity was one of the book’s most important elements. It’s also one of the elements that Paul Cornell’s relaunch of the book keeps in place.

 

Cornell reimagines Stormwatch as something closer to the Knights Templar, an organisation that has existed for centuries and which has tasked itself with protecting the Earth from superhuman and supernatural threats. Cornell cleverly weaves his other book, Demon Knights, into the background, establishing them as an early iteration of Stormwatch and in doing so neatly moving the book into territory closer to Jonathan Hickman’s excellent Marvel series SHIELD, than Ellis’ previous run on Stormwatch.

 

This historical context also provides a broader canvas for Cornell, and he clearly relishes exploring the idea of Stormwatch being something closer to a monastic order than a small fire team of soldiers. Adam One, one of the new characters is a good example of this. An immortal strategic advisor, Adam is equal parts priest and general, a man who has advised world leaders but can’t quite remember some of their names. History but with the corners knocked off, superhumans who were suits to work instead of capes. Stormwatch was always a curiously English type of superhuman comic and under Cornell’s reign that only looks like it’s increasing. He’s aided no end by Miguel Sepulveda’s clean, rounded, expressive art.

 

The first issue does a neat job of exploring what Stormwatch does in this new iteration, as one team is sent to Moscow to try and recruit a new member, a second is dispatched to investigate a mysterious artifact and, alone on the moon, Harry Tanner discovers something impossible just as something impossible discovers him. If the book has a weakness it’s that it tries to do too much in one issue as Cornell introduces established characters, a modified status quo and newcomers at the same time as moving three linked plotlines along. They all work, and will no doubt all dovetail but all three could benefit from a little bit of extra space. Harry Tanner, the splendidly named Eminence of Blades, in particular is a fascinating character in a difficult situation and I could have stood to read a lot more of him. I suspect, as the series goes on, we will.

 

Interestingly, this minor reservation actually gives the book a different feel. There’s a real sense of Stormwatch being a global organisation dealing with global threats and the fact that each of the missions presented here is equally important drives home how impossible their job is. Stormwatch are the line between us and chaos and the line as it’s presented here, is stretched pretty thinly, even with the addition of DC mainstay the Martian Manhunter and newcomers like Harry and Adam One.

 

Stormwatch feels idfferent to every other book in the launch. There’s a cautious altruism to the way the characters are presented, a desire to do the right thing even though they may not be thanked for it, that’s tempered with the pragmatism of working in the military. That’s ultimately the glue that holds the book together, through three plot lines, moments of gleeful pop culture invention and the combination of two universes’ worth of characters; the greater good. Stormwatch have been reimagined as the guardians of humanity and I can’t think of anyone better suited to the job.

 

DC Day 1-Demon Knights Issue 1

 

It’s not often that you get to sit in on the start of a universe. This month, DC Comics have relaunched their entire line, scrapping every book and restarting most with new first issues and a new status quo established by Flashpoint, the last massive, universe spanning crossover. It’s a standard narrative model with comics and one which I both encountered and learned to fear time and time again during my time as a retailer. Crossovers killed momentum in individual series, they rarely had lasting consequences and a lot of the time they turned people off buying the extra issues until, due to a vagary of the comic industry too tedious to explain, it was far too late for us to get them.

 

The New 52, as they’re being called, looks to be a little different. The central titles are all there, of course, but there’s another wave of books which are odder, more eccentric, deliberately experimental. I’ve read most of the flagship books so far and all the odder ones and it’s a fascinating, not to say remarkably consistent, piece of world building from the ground up. Whether it’ll stick, or indeed if any of the most interesting books are still alive in seven months time, I have no idea. I do know it’s been a fascinating ride so far, especially with those outer edge,more eccentric books.

 

Demon Knights is one half of a pair of linked books, both written by Paul Cornell. Set four centuries in the past it opens with the fall of Camelot and neatly explores what several of the DC Universe’s more supernatural characters were doing on that day. Cornell uses the fall of Camelot as a backdrop, a fulcrum around which several characters seize opportunities or find opportunities seized from them. The most interesting of these is Jason Blood, reimagined as a hapless apprentice of Merlin who not only sees the long game but happens to have a demon, Etrigan, caged for just such an occasion. Jason and Etrigan are fused and Merlin disappears, muttering about how this will all become clear centuries from now. It’s an obvious point to make given his pedigree with the show but there’s something of Doctor Who to Cornell’s portrayal of Merlin, particularly the 7th Doctor and his combination of polite, quiet, erratic charm and terrifying strategic mind. Camelot has fallen, Camelot will rise again and Merlin may have just ensured that it does. It’s an interesting take, simultaneously echoing the Nicol Williamson and Joseph Fiennes takes on the character and producing something which, although glimpsed briefly, is fascinating. It’s a nice approach to Blood’s origin too, explaining his longevity and showing how he evolves over time, coming to terms with the monster he shares space with.

 

Cornell really comes into his own over the next few pages though, as Madame Xanadu, another supernatural DC mainstay, opts to stay in England rather than sail off to Avalon. The portrayal of Arthur’s heroic death is typically impressive but Xanadu’s ‘Oh SOD this’ as she jumps overboard not only grounds it but honours it. The King is dead but everyone else isn’t, and Xanadu’s decision to stay looks to be an important part of the book’s overall plot.

 

In a gutsy move, that plot then picks up some time later with Jason and Xan on the outskirts of the village of Little Spring. Some time has clearly passed and the two have an easy, comfortable banter that walks the reader through the introductions of the rest of the cast. The splendidly named Vandal Savage, a villain in modern DC continuity is a large and charmingly up front barbarian whilst Sir Ystin, last seen in Grant Morrison’s 7 Soldiers of Victory series,is neatly repositioned here as a slightly andogynous drunk, pining after the fall of his version of Camelot. They’re joined by Exoristos, an Amazon and Al Jabr, an Arabian craftsman in a sequence which not only sets up the group status quo elegantly but also sets them in the gloriously traditional setting of an inn. Here, Cornell plays with the traditions of the tabletop roleplaying group and modules that started with ‘You all meet up in a bar’ and turns it into something easy to follow, but still complex and nuanced. By using this traditional setting, Cornell marries his cast of established characters and newcomers to create something that feels organic straight , even before the arrival of the central villainess and the two big surprises concealed in this issue. The first is that Xanadu is in a relationship with Etrigan, not Jason Blood, and Jason remains unaware of it whilst the second is that the villainess may not be so villainous at all. The Questing Queen is a glorious idea, a monarch who strides across the land with an army of slaves on dinosaur mounts and gives every impression of being evil. Yet, she talks about repairing the world, rather than conquering it. There are early hints this is a book as much about clashing ideologies as it is about a medieval demon punching dinosaurs in the face and I honestly can’t think of a writer better able to balance the two than Cornell. Only time, and sales, will tell if he’s going to be given the opportunity to do it.

 

Demon Knights is easily one of the strangest books to be launched in The New 52, but it’s also one of the best. Cornell’s script is tight, funny and incident and idea heavy whilst Diogenes Neves’ pencils, backed up by Oclair Albert’s inks ground the book in a believable medieval context, even if that context is heavily fictionalised and involves dinosaurs. This is smart, tightly paced and designed pop culture storytelling and all involved should be very proud. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you’re curious about the new DC Universe, or if you like the idea of knights fighting dinosaurs, start here, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Demon Knights Issue 1 is available now