Operation Lightning 2015

Operation Lightning 2015

That right there is a blank corkboard. Take it in. Breathe, relax. This is going to grow, it’s going to become something far bigger, far better.

For many years now I have had a concept called Lightning. It started life as pure pulp science fiction, became something more superheroic and is now… different. Now it’s a superheroic romantic comedy and a love letter to the popular culture. A race of aliens hiding on Earth, brought together by a tragedy and now split apart with the miraculous return of their leader. He was once a war hero and now he’s a father, a husband and a golf caddy. Then we have the adventures of his invincible, untouchable daughter and the invisible boy who loves her. Throw in golf club sword flights, drink-boating, a car turned into a rhino, a 1950’s dance and a very special Christmas episode… Lightning is a sprawling mosaic of drama and comedy, of powers and punching.

I believe in Lightning, and in my previous draft it didn’t quite all fit into a novel. I have been expanding on the ‘mosaic’ concept of the story and it’s sprawled out into something glorious and daunting. So here’s my plan…

In April 2015 I will launch Lightning as the first of eight novellas making up a “Season” of prose, effectively one long story over eight self-contained “episodes”. The first hit will be free, because let’s face it, I’m no one right now. From there, I’ll be pricing each part fairly low because each novella is just one episode of the greater story. But I have other plans. Lightning is going to be a little larger than simple a handful of episodes. I won’t go into all of the details here, but this board will be covered in them soon enough. I’ll be crossing them off as they come.

Now why is this April 2015? I have written the first half of the prose, but still have half of it to go. I haven’t edited anything yet, and have the side projects which are also in progress. Lightning isn’t my only baby either. I tend to get myopic to the point of letting the rest of my life go. It happens in NaNoWriMo each year and while I love it, I can’t have my whole year become that. I am still a games journalist for D+Pad Magazine. I still have my own vanity journalism in writing weekly comic reviews on Google Plus’ Comic Book Community, and tabletop game reports and reviews on Hooting Into The Abyss. I have another novel which I’ll be shopping round to agents in March. I have a webcomic to properly launch.

So Operation: Lightning 2015 will go into action on April 2015. This gives me time to finish the content, to find cover artists, people for one-off strips. It gives me time to try and hype it from my position of absolute nobody. It also means that April to July will be the first half of the story. I’ll have a gap in August to recover and make sure everything’s running (also because of a cliffhanger) and then September to December which will have the horror episode hit Halloween and the Christmas episode will be released in time for Christmas. Perfect timing.

This is something big, something fairly ambitious, completely in the, “potential crash and burn” zone, but I think it could work. I think it could be an adventure, and something worth trying out. Oh, and I’m sorry in advance to all my friends who will be dragged into the creation of Lightning.

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Comic Reviews for 15 January 2014

Not to announce out loud that I don’t know what I’m doing, but I now know how to link to my comic reviews on Google Plus, so now I can do that rather than copy, paste and reformat them for this site. I love Google Plus, but it’s a little fiddly in some places like linking to posts, and it’s so desperate to get people subscribing to it that it’s becoming annoying now.

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Twenty Percent More Awesome?

At the end of 2012 I set myself a goal instead of a resolution; Make my life 20% more awesome. Sure, it’s not technically quantifiable that way, but that was the idea. A fixed resolution is stupid and bound to break. Turning your life into a statistic like, “20% more awesome” isn’t really doable, but in general if I could make my life approximately one fifth better than it was then I would have achieved my goal.

I wanted to look back now and see if I accomplished my goal and what to do in the new year, starting with my original goals.


I will lose weight

This was a goal which I did absolutely nothing towards for half of the year. Late in July I finally decided to try out a diet. Normally they seem too permanently-limiting and people drop them constantly. I’m someone fairly time-poor and money-poor, as well as forgetful and easily distracted. This meant I needed to find something fitting. My mum suggested the 5:2 diet. I decided to try it out as it preys on my laziness, poverty and forgetfulness.

I eat normally for five days (as normally as I already did) and then fast for the other two, consuming a small amount of calories. The main thing I needed to know going into this diet was whether or not coffee would be allowed. It would, although this has meant switching to black coffee for fasting days. I’ve missed three fasting days since late July. I weighed myself in September (late compared to the diet, but I was scared of the scales), I was seventeen stone. As of last week I’m sixteen stone exactly. That’s pretty awesome, and it’s a start, it’s not something I’m dropping any time soon.


I will be more sociable, hopefully arranging some kind of event, no matter how small, each month

Gah, I’ve had to look back through my calendar for this. Almost every month is accounted for.

There were a handful of film nights, with Sharknado and Detention as highs. House of Wax was a low point, especially as the moment Paris Hilton was murdered skipped on the DVD.

I attended the screening of a film I was an extra in; Darkest Day. You can see my feet, a few seconds of me as a zombie and varied zombie sounds.

I had the flu in February, confirming that no, I hadn’t had proper flu before, and cancelling my plans to go to the Guardian Gamesblog 2012 Awards. A damn shame, as they’re great people. Although I was well enough to attend the London Super Comic Con later in the same month.

There must have been about three Rock Band parties round at mine, not including small gatherings of people to rock out. A pair of my closest friends were married, so there was the groom’s stag night and the wedding itself.

I met The League of Evil Boardgamers, was crucified on my 33rd birthday and went to a few Bookmachine social events around Brighton.

Sure, a lot of the events I went to this year involved writing or gaming in some capacity, but it’s still a start.


I will find a better job

Ah, the big one. I hated my old job, even though I loved the people I was working with. In January I was phoned by Sophie at the Brighton branch of Hays Recruitment. She wanted to know if I still wanted to find a job and I explained that my goal was to get a new job in the first six months of the year. Within three months I had an interview and a new job. I left the bank just before Good Friday and started my new job after Easter Monday, a resurrection into a new form.

This has been the largest change in my life. Although I am no longer one of the smartest people in the room, I’m in an interesting and challenging job. I’m paid more, which turned out to be a big factor when I took in the scope of my money problems, and is weird as I’ve gone from the private to the public sector. My former workplace had no promotion, no way forward, and now there are challenges, but there’s also hope. I no longer commute, I no longer move rich people’s money around on their whims, but I actually do things which occasionally help people. A couple of times things have felt really rewarding as I’ve done good-aligned actions.


I will have my comic and webcomic published

It’s not all been positive though.

Sadly, my partnership with Simeon Aston and Metal Made Flesh ended at the start of 2013. It’s a shame, but Simeon has published his comic and he is a spectacular artist. I urge you all to read it.

My webcomic is on its way. I found an artist in Mike Armstrong, who has met the challenge of my horrible imagination and one-upped it each time. His art has been spectacular and his own web-design skills have provided a website which you can visit with three strips as placeholders until the comic starts. You can find it at www.explosionhigh.com.

Explosion High! Isn’t ready yet, but for good reasons. Mike has had an eventful year with a wedding and the birth of his daughter, Genevieve. Hopefully in the new year we’ll be able to get this show on the road.


I will start dating again

Yeah… This hasn’t happened yet.


I will be more than the attic-dwelling hermit that 2012’s version of me was

See the above sociability thing. I’ve spent more time out and about, with a multitude of writing groups now supplementing my attic-dwelling tendencies. I have also written a thing about the boneless, faceless man living in our attic.


I might get a top hat

I do not have a top hat. Thanks to the Jesus party I do have an abundance of Jesus wigs.


Any other business

I’m massively phobic of needles, ever since my tumour years. My new workplace were offering free flu jabs and I found myself ranting about my fear. Then I realised something, I was trying to validate an irrational fear. I was shaking at the concept of it. I took a step back, realised exactly what was going on and that from that reaction alone I had to get a flu jab. Stupid logical brain.

Even though I didn’t have an appointment I turned up during my lunch break, waited and had my flu jab. It pinched… “it pinched” is what everyone says. It hurt, not too much, not as much as when I stapled my thumb in Junior school, but it still hurt a little. I walked back to my desk so I could write a little, banging into doors unintentionally as an absent-minded Dyspraxic is wont to do. Then when I sat down I realised that the one door collision I noticed at the time hurt more than the injection.

It’s a good frame of reference, and it’s a good start.


I copy-edited a novel and have it almost ready to send to agents. All I need to do is draft a synopsis which doesn’t make me hate everything. I had a massive re-imagining of a previous book that I’ve written and it’s blossomed into something which will hopefully be eight novellas, several short stories and varied pieces of ‘augmented reality’ content.


At the same time as I was dropped from Metal Made Flesh, the editor of D+Pad Magazine left his role. I wondered if the magazine may stop and I’d be neither a comic person or a games journalist. Fortunately the wonderful Chris Braithwaite and Dave Stuart stepped into place and not only is my role there intact, but I attended my first PR event, I took part in a few collaborative articles and Google Hangouts as we dissected the state of the industry.


So was I 20% more awesome this year?

Yes. I reckon I was. I conquered a few, got a new job and have a lot of writing projects either advanced or nearing publication. I’ve lost some weight and am feeling far less of a hermit.


And will 2014 be 20% more awesome?

Yes. The goal is the same, although the priorities have changed. Not just that, but if my life is one-fifth better now than it was before, then it’ll be harder to improve that much again.


I will continue to lose weight. 5:2 has been working, and I still walk a little, but more walking and some exercise for a man with a bad back will be needed to keep this going.

I will date. Even if it’s a disaster, especially if it’s a disaster. It’s all stimulus, it’s all learning, it’s all stories in the making.

I will get SOMETHING published. It might be Play Dead either through an agent, publisher or self-published if it comes to it. It might be Lightning which has a tentative release date of May 2014 if I can edit Episode One and get the AR content made. It might be Explosion High! if we can find a status quo which will allow Mike and I to make strips regularly.

I will learn to cook, at least a little better than I can currently. I’m too used to the “Mr Sad Single Bastard’s Meals For One” so I need to do more than that.

I will get better with my money. My crippling financial negligence during my bank years kept me safe from the knowledge of how badly I was doing. I’m almost on the road to recovery with everything, and I need to get used to not having a panic attack when a bill turns up.

I will socialise as much if not more than I was before. I love writing more than anything else in the world, but I can’t neglect the rest of life because of it.

I will get a top hat, and maybe a tricorn hat. Because hats are awesome and I’m losing my hair.

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Videogames of the Year

This has been an interesting year for me as a gamer. I’ve gone from heavy use of my Xbox 360 to pretty much solely a Nintendo & PC gamer. The 3DS is definitely my machine of the year, although thanks to my brother I have a working gaming PC now and have fallen in love with Steam.


As one of the writers for D+Pad Magazine, I took part in an article where we all shared our games of the year, so you can see what I thought was my game of 2013 over there.


Other noteworthy games which I feel are worth mentioning in 2013 are the following:

Rogue Legacy (PC)

I’ve been growing to enjoy roguelikes, and one which combines Metroidvania gameplay and a progression system as you die, then get to play your descendant, build up a castle and get better as time goes on. Make a dynasty on a doomed quest to conquer an ever-changing castle. It’s amazingly compulsive, short to play and unlike a lot of roguelikes, rewarding. My review is here.


Papers, Please (PC)

People could be fooled into thinking that games are only about a half-dozen ideas, or at least that only shooting, driving and sports make for good games. This is a fascinating bureaucracy-em-up with so much to think about, so many compelling aspects and about 20 endings. Prepare to think about your own morality. My review is here. Glory to Arstotzka!


The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)

The first Zelda game I played was A Link To The Past, so seeing the basic world and mechanics vastly improved was amazing. A stunning game with some great mechanics. You play an adventurer who can turn into a living painting as he quests around a small world looking to fre seven sages who were all turned into paintings. A perfect homage without being slavish to the original or casting it aside. My review is here.

Pokémon X (3DS)

A deeper Pokémon game than its predecessors despite sticking to the tried, tested and slightly tired formula. I’ve not been able to give it as much time as I’d like, but seeing my flatmate discover The Nintendo Magic for the first time has been a joy.


Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)

This was an illness. I love it, but I can’t go back. Not yet. I still own it just in case I give up on life.


Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)

Joy. Pure joy.


The Stanley Parable (PC)

I’ll talk about this soon in the slowest/hardest review I’ve ever made.


Spin The Bottle: Bumpie’s Party (Wii U)

Also to be explored in a review for D+Pad soon, but this is the kind of thing that’s easier to show than tell, so I’ll be enlisting friends to help demonstrate it in a video.

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Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review

My latest review is up at D+Pad, one of the few games to get me away from Pokémon X and even further away from my crippling Animal Crossing experience.

Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a great journey back to the setting and style of Zelda: A Link to the Past. You can find my review here.

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Dungeon World: Session One


I’ve been roleplaying for twenty years as of this month. I’ve loved it and some amazing stories have broken out of my brain and those of all of the many, many players who have joined me over the years.

I recently started a campaign of Dungeon World, a game which sounded fascinating as soon as I heard of it and after one session has become a massive hit with my group. My players have been roleplaying for between five and twelve years themselves and picked a lot of systems apart.

On Hooting Into The Abyss, I’m posting a review/actual play report. My plan is that for the length of this campaign I’ll post a report up about the action that happens and the strange story we’re all banding together to make.

Session One is up right now, and a little longer than the other posts will be as I introduce the players, their characters and some details about the rules. From Session Two onwards I’ll only break out of the actual play when something needs to be mentioned about the rules, or something fun that happened out of the game.

There’s also an Obsidian Portal page for the campaign. It may spoil events, but it’s where any stats and any reactions from my players will go.

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Comic Reviews 16 October 2013


Comics 16 October 2013

A + X #13

The first of a six-part A+X story starts in this issue. The skrulls, the universe’s punching bag since Secret Invasion, have a secret group of superpowered zealot skrulls who are posing a potential threat to Earth’s metahumans. The skrull leader is either unaware of recent events (or just the only ones paying attention to the ‘this isn’t all in continuity’ warning at the start of the issue) so he decides that Cyclops and Captain America would be the best help in hunting undercover the skrull zealots. At the moment in Marvel continuity, Cyclops is a wanted man and Captain America is the leader of the most popular heroes on the planet. The mass of exposition is given to us and the abducted enemy team leaders, but they don’t bother to listen and instead attack each other, wrecking their hope of detecting the skrulls. It’s entertaining to see Cyclops hitting Captain America with a trying pan, but as they ignore the main plot, it feels like we’re fine to do so. I had to read back to remember what the deal with the skrulls was. This is part one of six, so it’ll be interesting to see how long the hate propels the pair through the story.

Then the second story is… well, it feels like bits of an Adam Warren story, but made clumsier. Howard Chaykin writes and draws a story of Black Widow helping out Emma Frost in finding a sex tape. Chaykin makes a good seedy story work in Satellite Sam, but at the same time his work here feels a quite unnecessary. While not entirely out of character, it still feels distant enough from who both Emma and Natasha are, and comes off as a jarring story for it.


I like the idea of Archie, but the execution’s not often all that good. I have the Archie app on my iPad and have even bought a couple of digests. It’s a world I’d like to experience a little of, but there’s so much and it’s a little too flavourless. And that’s where Afterlife With Archie comes into play. When I first heard about the comic on War Rocket Ajax, I knew I had to check it out.

Hot Dog, Jughead’s faithful pet, is hit by a car, so he takes the body to Sabrina the Teenage Witch to try and resurrect him. Necronomicon in hand, she attempts to raise the mutt, is punished by her aunts who look way more demonic than they did in the old Nickelodeon show of my youth. The dog returns as a zombie, and his master is bitten just in time for the Halloween dance. The story is fairly simple, even for zombie horror, but the execution is perfect. The art is slightly more realistic than the normal series, but the tone is pitch-perfect for the normal Archie series. Zombies and evil witches and Necronomicon aside. The horror isn’t made silly or unnecessarily gory, it slots into the story perfectly. With the zombie zeitgeist played out for at least three years and so many bad attempts at zombie mashup fiction, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the always fantastic Francesco Francavilla have dome an amazing job.


This issue is a direct continuation from Infinity #4, starting with the repercussions of Thor murdering a Builder. The Accusers recognise that Thor’s a fellow lover of hammers and pretty awesome, so they ignore the pessimism of the Supreme Intelligence and go forth to smash in the Builders. Maybe he’s just upset that his fish tank got smashed in. The victory cry of the Accusers is met with several Pyhrric victories and a failed attempt to use their big last resort. Captain Universe wakes up and having been a pivotal part of the recent cosmic concepts, it’s interesting seeing things at her level. We find out a few fun facts like that this is a multiversal threat, and after Captain Universe kills several builders, they decide to destroy everything, instead of conquering it. This isn’t going to go well…


We’ve had two issues of Angela fighting Gamora on the moon, and now we get a few explanations, so fairly standard superhero meet-up protocol. The majority of the issue is Angela in a prison while the Guardians interrogate her, but this is Brian Michael Bendis so he manages to make it engaging. In fact, now the action’s slowed a bit and the characters are all together, we get to see some growth in the interactions of the cast. Peter Quill and Tony Stark have some great banter, as chatty Earth heroes who no one else gets the jokes of. Angela is almost Klingon in her weird sense of honour, and as it turns out they’re not going to refer to/gloss over her coming from the Image Universe, they’ll just make their own thing. Whichever universe Angela comes from, she’s from an alien world called Heven, who have angel-like creatures and treat Earth as a myth. Sara Pichelli brings out the acting in all the cast in this mostly-static issue. The only negative that I can see from it is the use of the overdone, “There’s literally nothing in our universe like this new character, not until the next time we need to state that this is a big new thing and then that’ll be the only unique thing in the universe”. Great art, great banter and it feels like as Bendis is getting more comfortable with the cast, they’re becoming much more fun to read.


Ahh… I was waiting for this issue. I’m so pleased I didn’t miss anything. I didn’t mind the delay, really, and would almost rather have delayed comics than the double-shipping which makes some stories whizz by so quickly that you can’t digest (or store) them easily.

Hawkeye’s tenant, Grills, was murdered a few issues ago, but Fraction’s been playing fast and loose with the order of events. We’ve still only really seen these events through the eyes of Pizza Dog during his issue, so now we have the funeral for Grills, the wake and Kate Bishop leaving. Hawkeye’s at his lowest point, and his deadbeat former Dark Avenger brother has turned up just to make things worse. Kaziu, the deadly mime, is still stalking Hawkeye, waiting to make a move. This issue is all pathos and all build, with no action yet. We see a little of Hawkeye at his ‘day job’ with his ex-girlfriends and ex-wife at the Avengers, and then the personal horror he’s going through. He has no one to help him at this point, and the final page shows him alone on the roof of his apartment building, the darkness creeping in. For a book which can be really fun and light-hearted at times, it fits the mood of the show so far and I can’t wait to see how Clint grows from this point.


The issue starts with a brilliant method of defusing The Hulk which I’m surprised SHIELD agreed to given how horrible it could have gone; showing him with puppies. The puppy solution luckily works and Bruce Banner is sent to Empire State University where part one left the Young X-Men and Spider-Man (still Otto Octavius in Peter’s mind). A radioactive retro version of Dr Octopus attacked the X-Men last issue, and in this issue The Abomination threatens the group. The art is different from the style the All-New X-Men had, but James Wyatt’s versions are still interesting. The colour scheme looks the same, with faux-ziptone added in for good measure. Maybe it’s having lived through the 90’s comics that has me impressed when Bruice Banner is skinny and Hank McCoy is shaped more like a barrel than a bodybuilder, but the variety in body shapes and postures works well to establish who is doing what. Bruce is flattered to be needed for being Bruce instead of the Hulk, but the Abomination puts a stop to it, and there’s a revelation which will bring the crossover to its endgame in Spectacular Spider-Man Special #1. As one of these multi-annual crossover events, normally it feels like a really long, insubstantial version of A+X, but the first two parts have been fun mixes of characters and while we won’t see long-term repercussions, the character work alone is fun enough.


The original glimpses of the Marvel Illuminati showed the secrets of what the Marvel brain trust were doing during the big events, and now we’re getting a quite interesting glimpse into that phenomenon as the event happens. Captain America would not entertain negotiations with the enemy mid-war like the Illuminati are doing. They sit down for a chat with the Builders, and one of their red versions of the strange antler-people pulls the mind control bug out of Dr Strange’s head. That means we know now that Thanos is definitely nothing to do with the Builder forces. The Cull Obsidian are smashing in Wakanda, using Namor’s dodgy intelligence, and the multiversal focus for the third act of Infinity pops up here much like in Avengers this week. The Illuminati have been blowing up realities for a while now, and it looks like we’ll finally get some payoff to that soon…


Carlie and Wraith are following the money over the world, looking for how Spider-Man gets his funding in case there are clues as to why Spider-Man’s acting weird. Meanwhile Spider-Mans of the present and future are still fighting all the chronal chaos. Science knowledge Peter Parker had would have helped, but as Otto’s ‘killed’ the Peter in his brain, he doesn’t have access to any memories he hadn’t already accessed. That and passing out trying to relive those memories shows that something bad’s going on in the mind of the Superior Spider-Man. Horizon Labs are wrecked and bought up by Max Modell, the villainous nerd. He ends up winning the day, taking over the Oscorp building and already looking to become the new Norman Osborn. Spider-Man 2099 has saved his future, but is stranded in the present, meaning that this is probably a backdoor pilot for a Spider-Man 2099 series, and more time-lost people are wandering the modern Marvel universe. If time’s broken, I wonder how long it can last with this many incursions.


Everything hits the fans for each side of the time-spanning conflict in this issue. Sure, Wolverine was gutted last issue without his healing factor to save him, but he’s not a focus of this issue at all. Cyclops’ team have approached the Jean Grey school having lost their only advantage thanks to Raze, Wolverine’s shapeshifting son. The evil Future X-Men’s boost doesn’t last too long as Cyclops’ team comes looking for blood. Present Magik and Future Colossus gut most of the evil X-Men on their way to rescue the Young X-Men. It’s a bit too late though, but as they’re looking like they are about to win, there’s a spanner in the works. With two issues left, some time travel horrors to work out and very few enemies left standing, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

There are some tidbits amongst the fracas, like apparently Magik killed herself in the future and Future Wiccan is the hooded sorcerer supreme.


I love the latest issue of Uncanny X-Men, of course. It’s still a good issue and I love it when Cyclops manages to still be awesome despite being… well, Cyclops. My book for this week is Afterlife With Archie #1, managing to perfectly reflect an Archie comic but adding zombies in a way which doesn’t feel too camp or unnecessarily gory.

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