Weekend Top Ten #126

Top Ten Alternative Costumes I’d Like to See in Batman: Arkham Knight

Dressing up Batman in a variety of outfits isn’t just a fun past time in the Arkham games, it’s pretty much a cornerstone of the entire Batman franchise. To that end, here are ten costumes that I’d like to see available either as an unlockable achievement or downloadable content in next year’s Arkham Knight.

  1. The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh
  2. Batman Reborn suit (Dick Grayson)
  3. Zero Year suit
  4. The Dark Knight Returns armoured suit
  5. Batman 1989 suit (Michael Keaton)
  6. Batman 666 suit (Damian Wayne)
  7. Caveman Batman from The Return of Bruce Wayne #1
  8. Thomas Wayne’s masquerade ball bat costume (AKA Dr Hurt)
  9. Batman’s Zebra suit
  10. Superman (it could be Batman in disguise as Superman!)


This may seem a little bit irreverent in light of what is going on in Ferguson, I mention it because it seems to be a little bit indicative of a toxic mindset.

A while back, after seeing peaceful protests all over the world ignored by the supposedly leftist media, I wrote a comic book called the…

After 9/11, I thought of writing a story about a very young boy whose dreams are crushed because he realises Spider-Man isn’t real, because if Spider-Man was real, he’d have stopped this from happening.

Superheroes are escapism. But they’re also mythologies, and myths reflect the times in which they’re created.

Superman can’t stand up for Ferguson, for several reasons. But we can all make our own heroes, every one of us, and those heroes can fight villains far more real and dangerous than any Luthor or Doom.

Robin Williams, RIP

I feel like my childhood rests in a room lit by many candles, and the brightest of these are being snuffed out one by one, so that the contents of this room are now indistinct and shrouded in darkness.

Which is a very elaborate way of saying Robin Williams was my hero.

I came to him either through Mork or Popeye, and instantly fell in love. I don’t know anyone who didn’t love him: every kid I met, every grown-up who watched with me. He was adored. He was funny in a way I’d never seen before: silly but smart, child-like but grown-up, adorable but edgy. He was just good to be around, even though I’d never met him.

As I grew older, I discovered not only his films – dramatic roles such as Good Morning Vietnam and, later, Good Will Hunting – and also his stand-up, such as the superlative Live at the Met, which pretty much remains the finest piece of comedy performance I’ve ever seen. His speed and invention, his wit and delivery, were almost beyond endurance. The man was a force of nature that we were bearing witness to.

He made me laugh.

For me, everything coalesced with his role as the Genie in Aladdin. A tour-de-force vocal performance and a perfect marriage of form and technique: animation allowing his anarchic words to become awesome visuals. It happened at the beginning of the nineties, when his star was probably at its height: it was a decade that saw him achieve immense comedic success with Mrs Doubtfire, and also win an Oscar for his warm, touching performance in Good Will Hunting. He was a nuanced, subtle actor, if he had to be, often playing kind characters nursing a secret darkness or masked pain.

He made me cry.

That his demons lived below the surface was never in doubt; I knew he’d struggled with substance abuse, and in interviews I often wondered if the desire to entertain everybody – even his interviewer – maksed some secret lonliness. But it’s wrong – dangerous, damaging even – to speculate. All I know is, the man had his troubles, and his death is a tragedy.

But he won’t be remembered for that. He’ll be remembered as an acerbic radio host, an inspiring teacher, a cross-dressing father. A genie, an alien, and Peter frickin’ Pan.

Of all the icons and heroes whose time has sadly come in the past few months, it’s Williams whose loss has hit hardest, and whose end has felt least timely. But despite this, the urge to seek out his roles I’ve not yet experienced, and above all to relive his greatest hits – the big, riotous belly laughs, the tender emotional chords – has never been greater.

Na-nu na-nu.


I’ve been meaning to write this all up for a while. Our contribution to the world of children’s comics, www.moosekidcomics.com, launched on 20th June this year. A 36 page, full colour, all-ages comic, featuring original characters by nearly 40 artists, all online to read or download, and all…

I’ve been a fan of Jamie Smart for a while now, and Moose Kid Comics is just a brilliant venture. It’s incredible how much they’ve managed to accomplish for free, and it’s well worth checking out whether you’ve got kids or not.

Weekend Top Ten #125

Top Ten Marvel Movies 

So I finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy this week, and I adored it. It’s not only a great adventure flick or an hilarious comedy, but it’s also got nuance and heart and tons of character, and it earns every emotional beat, and it’s got a bit where a tree stabs a dude.

Anyway, I think overall, the tone, structure, script, cast, direction, effects and humour have combined to make it my favourite film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So this weekend’s Top Ten is a bit different, as it’s basically a ranking of all ten Marvel movies thus far.

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  2. Iron Man 3 (2013)
  3. Avengers Assemble (2012)
  4. Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014)
  5. Iron Man (2008)
  6. Thor (2011)
  7. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  8. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  9. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  10. Iron Man 2 (2010)

That’s not including the shorts, of course, otherwise All Hail the King would be quite high up there. And, to be fair, I probably need to watch the top four again to really cement their positions.

But, seriously, Guardians of the Galaxy is my favourite Marvel movie right now.

More Foolish Predictions: Warners’ DC Movies

So Batman V Superman has shifted out of the way of Captain America’s shield, and scooted forward a little bit into March 2016. And according to Deadline, Warners have now released the dates of a slew of DC-based movies stretching to 2020 (as well as a couple of tentpole animations and “event movies”. 

So, just like I did with Marvel, I’m going to totally and ridiculously predict what these movies just might be. Find out how wrong I am between now and then!

March 25th 2016: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (confirmed!)
August 5th 2016: Shazam (starring Dwayne Johnson)
June 23rd 2017: Justice League
November 17th 2017: Guillermo del Toro’s Justice League Dark movie
March 23rd 2018: Wonder Woman
July 27th 2018: Aquaman (starring Jason Momoa)
April 5th 2019: Batman solo movie
June 14th 2019: space-set Green Lantern movie 
April 3rd 2020: Man of Steel sequel
June 19th 2020: Justice League sequel

So there we go. I guess del Toro is ridonkulously busy, so maybe I’m being optimistic with his Swamp Thing/Zatanna/Constantine monster mash. Perhaps that’ll be Wonder Woman’s bow.

As for the untitled animations - in May of 2018 and 2019 - I’ve got no idea. But I do think the two “Event Films” in November of 2018 and 2020 will be sequels to JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie.

We shall see…!

Nerdy Star Wars question, sorry. You've said how Darth Vader's big arc happens between Star Wars & Empire - discovering who Luke is, etc - and this is your book’s focus. Sounds very exciting, really looking forward to it. But I re-watched the Empire special edition last night, and in it, Palpatine explicitly tells Vader who Luke is, as if this is new info for Vader. Is this being retconned? Are you acknowledging it? Are the “original” versions of the movies now official canon? Said it was nerdy!


I’m going to be quiet on the answer here, as I don’t want to show too much of my hand before the comic comes out, but your reading of the scene isn’t the only reading of the scene. There’s other stuff going on there.

One hefty bit of counter-evidence outside is actually the opening Theatrical Crawl of Empire. I quote: “The Evil Lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding Young Skywalker…”

If you assume Vader knows before the Emperor tells him, that scene plays very differently.

Thanks very much for answering my question, Kieron! I’m normally an apologist for the special editions and even the prequels, but I do think the new Emperor/Vader scene is a bit rubbish, so I’m glad to hear there are alternate readings.

Really looking forward to the comic next year (and, of course, the new film)!

Weekend Top Ten #124

Top Ten Moments from SDCC 2014

Okay, so my predictions were way off. And I confess to being a little disappointed that we weren’t shown any new Marvel, DC, or Star Wars movies. And, as exciting as the Age of Ultron or Dawn of Justice footage sounded, it’s not much cop if we can’t see it ourselves, is it?

Anyway. There was still plenty to enjoy vis-a-vis San Diego Comic Con news. These were my favourite bits.

  1. Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham: you had me at “Cyborg turns into a washing machine”, but then you went and added Adam West, Batman ‘66, and Bat-Cow. BAT-COW. There is literally nothing about this game that I don’t adore.
  2. The Multiversity: I’ve been waiting for this one for years, but - finally! - we have more concrete details of Grant Morrison’s multiverse-defining DC epic. The comic I’m most excited to read.
  3. Kieron Gillen writing Darth Vader: I’ve been a fan of Gillen’s since his early days at PC Gamer (some of his reviews are works of art), so the news that he’s tackling the (in-canon!) history of cinema’s greatest-ever villain is super exciting.
  4. Agent CarterHayley Atwell’s Agent Carter is one of the coolest characters to come out of the MCU, and I’m really excited to see the new show (even if it doesn’t sound like it has Bradley Whitford in it). But the news about Dominic Cooper and Paul Bettany playing Howard Stark and his butler Jarvis is the icing on the cake.
  5. Transformers: Combiner WarsI’ve been a sucker for combining Transformers all my life, and very chuffed about my Menasor; I’d love to be able to buy a brand-new Superion toy. But the prospect of more Transformers comics is what really excites me.
  6. Evil Dead TV Series: hold on, what? Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are making an Evil Dead TV series? Starring Ash? Shut the front door!
  7. Skull Island: on the face of it, a new film telling the origins of King Kong isn’t mega-ultra-super-exciting to me, but the prospect of a larger Kong universe, and suspected tie-ins to a new theme park ride, plus the rumour that this is going to lead to a King Kong versus Godzilla movie… yeah, sign me up for that.
  8. Halo: Nightfall: I’ve wanted a Halo movie since forever, and whilst I remain incredibly excited about Spielberg’s TV series, from the looks of it, the Ridley Scott-produced Nightfall movie is going to be worth the price of The Master Chief Collection all on its very own.
  9. Stunning Trailers: I can’t decide if Mad Max: Fury Road or Interstellar had the best trailer to come out of Comic Con… I’m gonna go with Max, because even though I found Interstellar incredibly moving, I always expected that to be good, whereas I kinda had my doubts about a Gibbo-less Max. But it looks insane.
  10. Superhero Sequels: yeah, so I didn’t get to see Doctor Strange or Aquaman. But still: the clips from Avengers and Batman V Superman sounded amazing, and the sheer fact that we had Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman on stage together was electric.
…In Which I Talk About Transformers

I like Transformers a fair bit, and in honour of their thirtieth anniversary (thirty years since I got that comic where Jazz meets the British boy and there’s an Autobot underneath a castle!) I’ve blogged about how awesome it is, and how the franchise has had a great big fat impact on my life.

When I was a little kid, I drew Transformers comics; as a teenager I wrote a detailed plan and story outline for a live-action Transformers movie (that I genuinely thought I’d get to write and direct); and now, as an adult and prospective writer, I cling to the hope that one day - one day! - I might just get to write official Transformers fiction for IDW. Transformers has inspired me, entertained me, and influenced me in ways that are hard to quantify. 

But anyway. You want to read about the progress of the franchise and how I thought (almost) all of it was great? Just point your clicker this-a-way…

More Than Meets the Eye: My Life With The Transformers

Part I: A Giant, Predatory Bird

Part II: Better to Fight and Die

Part III: It Never Ends…!

…and I never even got round to talking about Regeneration One!

More Than Meets the Eye: My Life With The Transformers (Part III: It Never Ends…!)

I remember being told that maybe, just maybe, Marvel would be getting the licence again. That excited me, although I was also disappointed, because I thought that story had ended, and a new one was still ongoing. In the end, of course, it wasn’t Marvel, it was IDW. Who the hell were IDW?

When Dreamwave lost the licence to create Transformers comics, I was unaware of their, ahem, controversial behaviour. All I knew is, once again, the Transformers I loved had stopped, and that was rubbish. And yet, here we were, the comic back from the dead - again - with a brand new publisher I’d never of - again - and the storyline being rebooted from scratch - again. My disappointment of never knowing how the Dreamwave run was supposed to end was mitigated, however, by the news that Marvel-era mastermind Simon Furman was once again taking the reins. Clearly, this was not going to be your daddy’s Autobot.
When the first issue of Infiltration hit the stands in 2005, it took me completely by surprise. Not only was it a brand new continuity, it threw away all the conventions of old Transformers that I had taken for granted over the last twenty years. There was no Ark crash, no four million year sleep; in fact, at first, there was no Megatron or Optimus Prime. A low-key, cloak-and-dagger approach to the franchise, mixing up characters and giving us, in essence, a whole new mythology. The characters looked different - the artwork, by EJ Su, was fantastic, full of chunky metal limbs, visible joints and rivets, exposed piping and recognisable transformations. It’s been called “Ultimate Transformers" in the past, echoing Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics that offered more contemporary stories with a slightly more real-world edge. It was a revelation.

Furman layered a dense and intricate web of stories across several mini-series and one-shot Spotlight issues, telling a tale of a twisted and corrupt former Prime, venturing from a paranormal Dead Universe to conquer our own. It was simultaneously grounded and serious, yet also other-worldly, fantastical, and melodramatic. Furman’s writing remained as bombastic as it used to, but was shorn of his trademark “Furmanisms”; his prose was slightly less purple, and it suited the new setting, leading to some of the greatest writing of his Transformers career.

Furman’s run in the IDW-verse produced some of the greatest Transformers stories ever, and - in my humble opinion - the ultimate Optimus-Megatron smackdown in Escalation issue 5 (an enhanced Megatron nearly kills Prime - go read it, it’s a cracker). This run defined the entire IDW-verse, creating a slightly more serious, deeper, broader, and richer world - a world were the Transformers themselves weren’t defined solely by Cybertron, were free to explore the galaxy and battle threats other than each other. Coupled with Eric Holmes’ flawed but compelling early-years tale Megatron Origin, the stage was set for a brand new galaxy-spanning conflict, with far more nuanced and three-dimensional characters than we’d ever seen before. This was a world in which Prime was willing to abandon Earth - just another planet in an intergalactic battlefield - in order to return to Cybertron and face a threat he perceived as more dangerous. It was a darker, grittier ‘verse, but at the same time, one that maintained a sense of fun and adventure. It also had, in the shapes of Verity Carlo, Hunter O’Nion, and Jimmy Pink, the best human cast ever to grace a Transformers story.

Despite all this, I guess Furman’s stories didn’t sell as well as IDW hoped, because the universe was given a soft reboot in the All Hail Megatron maxi-series by Shane McCarthy, which was followed by a new ongoing Transformers series by Mike Costa. This particular era of IDW was not to my taste, and I shan’t dwell on it too much - too many of the concepts that I had fallen in love with (to say nothing of the characters) were marginalised or outright discarded, and that left a bad taste in the mouth. But this period did produce some of the greatest Transformers comics of all time, primarily by Nick Roche and James Roberts: Everything in its Right Place carried on from Roche’s Spotlight: Kup, bringing the old Autobot warhorse bang up to date, and creating a fascinating, multi-faceted, conniving version of Prowl; and the team paired up again to produce Last Stand of the Wreckers, a violent, chaotic, and genuinely moving comic in which several loveable characters died vicious and pointless deaths, and which also introduced one of IDW’s breakout stars in the sublimely evil Overlord. Roberts, who had written a fan-fiction Transformers novel before becoming an official TF writer, took hold of the franchise and didn’t let go. Following on from his work with Roche, he wrote a two-part story in the ongoing, set in Cybertron’s past and detailing the early interactions of Optimus (then known as Orion Pax) and Megatron. Chaos Theory - as the story was called - was rich with intrigue and drama, offering us a whole new take on the characters’ origins, and showed us a Cybertronian society that reflected our own. This was the moment when Transformers took a quantum leap, shifting from space opera into something much deeper: allegorical science fiction.

Bringing us bang up to date, we have two ongoings now, More than Meets the Eye by Roberts (primarily with Alex Milne on art) and Robots in Disguise by John Barber (also the franchise’s editor; art primarily by Andrew Griffith). Running the risk of hyperbole, these are the two best books ever to sport the Transfomers name. Scratch that: in the entire history of Transformers, they represent a high-water mark. Simply put, nothing in Transformers history has ever been as good as the books IDW is putting out right now. 

This is coming from someone who went to see Transformers: The Movie when he was four, remember. 

The books deal with political intrigue and human drama; personal relationships and high-stakes action; subtle tragedy and bombastic emotion. More Than Meets the Eye in particular is a revelation: combining the twisty-turny plot machinations of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who with the bickering team dynamic of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and the inter-office drama, comedy and pathos of Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing, along with a smattering of British wit and wordplay worthy of Blackadder or Spaced, and yes I have just compared a Transformers book with pretty much the best TV shows ever produced. Rich in word-building, comic and tragic often within the same word bubble, bursting at the seams with memorable and adorable characters, and - frankly - bloody pretty too, it’s quite simply the best comic book I’ve ever read that doesn’t have Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne double-punching the devil. Massively expanding the scope of Transformers fiction, it offers compelling metaphors for our own world: Functionism, the Militant Monoform Movement, the Decepticon Justice Division, the origins of the Decepticons and the Autobots, Megatron’s autobiography, the concepts of conjunx endurae, the fact that the first season culminates in a battle with corrupt representatives of religion, medicine, and the law, the subtle dig at tuition fees and academy schools in the most recent issue… in fact, forget all that. That’s all icing on the cake. It’s good because it’s good: believable, relatable characters, who love each other and hate each other, sharing bon mots and barbed insults; a very human drama played out in space among giant robots that are also cars. I didn’t cry over Optimus Prime, but I felt a little speck of sentiment in my eye for Rewind.

Now, I’ve gone on and on about MTMTE because it’s my favourite comic - and really is something else - but that’s not to take anything away from RiD, which offers political intrigue, dramatic changes to the status quo, a long-form mystery filled with deception, giant stompy robots, and Jazz playing bass guitar whilst a floating robot shark recites poetry. In and of itself, it’s still a classic.

I feel a tiny bit ridiculous, singing the praises of IDW’s Transformers like this. Not because I’m embarrassed, God no: just because I feel I’m being so effusive as to come like I’m on the take or something. Let me be clear: as a life-long Transformers fan, I may be inclined to like Transformers a bit more than the next bloke, but this is really the best Transformers has ever been. No one’s paying me to say that, it’s just how I see it. I don’t care how good the current cartoons are, how cool the latest toy is, or how orange and sweaty the actors look in the latest movie; the Transformers comic is awesome. It’s the culmination of the franchise up to this point, and I feel incredibly lucky to be experiencing it right here, right now, in the franchise’s thirtieth year. It bodes well for the future, and suggests that we have decades of beautiful Transformers fiction ahead of us. So let’s raise a glass of engex to More Than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise, and to the next thirty years of Transformers.

And - hey - if you want more, I’ll talk your ear off about how my two-year-old daughter absolutely adores Rescue Bots. Say, James - how’s about Boulder joining the Lost Light?!