Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I can’t remember when I was first aware of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but as a big comic book reader in the 1980s it was kind of inevitable that we’d cross paths.  Cleverly playing with some popular comic tropes, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created a pop culture phenomenon almost by accident.

I do remember the Ninja Turtles and their creators getting a shout out in the “thank you” list of the “Among the Living” album by thrash metal kings Anthrax.  The book seemed quirky and original, it’s popularity boosted with a reputation for genuinely great writing and art.

Next came the cartoon, a couple of years later.  This was the turtles tidied up for a younger audience and it became a massive hit.  I was about 17 at the time (!), but enjoyed watching the cartoon occasionally as a bit of tongue in cheek fun.  I was being ironic, honest.

The toys that were made at the time were very cool; for the era they seemed very well designed and super detailed.  I was far too old for the action figures, but secretly coveted them from afar.

Eventually I picked up the figure of my favourite turtle, Michaelangelo.  He must have been on sale somewhere post turtles craze,’cos this would’ve been in my student days and thus, extremely poor.  He was a perfect ironic, “look how wacky I am” student possession.

Sadly, Mikey disappeared – I know not where – and once again, I was completely turtle-less.

Until a couple of years ago, when taking my daughter on one of her last trips to Toys R Us, before it closed for good.  They had on sale re-issued turtles, exactly like the old versions I loved, and they were cheap (ish).

I replaced Michaelangelo there and then, and over the next few days was so eager to complete a collection of all four turtles that I returned to buy others.  With a little bit of toy spotting help from my old pal Adam, I was soon in business with a full team of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

At the moment, I only have the full group of Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael.  It would be great to have Splinter, Shredder and more one day, but I doubt they’ll turn up cheap.

The four turtles are great figures, nicely stylised and featuring great detail.  And awesome weapons.

All four are still Mint in Box.  How long can I resist the urge to release the guys from their blister pack prisons?  Surely one night I’ll have had a little bit too much to drink, and decide to tear that plastic from the backing card…

What do you think readers?  Should the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stay in their boxes, or should I open them up?

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub

Regular readers will be aware of my love for vinyl records: beautiful, spinning discs revealing a world of aural pleasure.  Most of my attention is devoted to albums, though I’ve also amassed a fair collection of 7 inch singles over time.

Back in my younger days, I would pick up singles to embellish my album collection with b-side tracks excluded from the main release.  I’d also pick up some interesting, groovy records that were within my budget and offered something different to my music library.

Over the last couple of years, I originally ignored the 45 rpm singles, but gradually I’ve started picking a few up.  One of the main influences for this was my friend Greeny’s jukebox, installed in his home, which I though was really cool.  It inspired me to pick up a few classics, in order to compile a wider range of musical genres on 7″.

You never, know, I may just get my own jukebox one day.

And so I’ve bought singles from record fairs, charity shops and car boot sales to complete gaps in my collection.  This has left me with a stack of 45s that I haven’t got round to playing yet.

So I had the idea for Singles Night:  I would play the records, both sides (A then B) from the top of the pile down, oldest to newest.  Regardless of genre, or what ever mood I was in.  Almost like the random playlists I’ve posted here before, but analogue.

The reader will notice that there are some cheesy, if not disgusting, purchases included amongst the gems in this list.  Everyone has some guilty pleasures; in the land of the 7″ single, my love of the truly awful can be fully exposed.

Here’s the list of what I played.  May the gods of music forgive me…

  1. Dave Edmunds – “Queen of Hearts” / “Creature from the Black Lagoon”
  2. Lipps, Inc – “Funkytown” / “All Night Dancing”
  3. Depeche Mode – “New Life” / “Shout”
  4. Carrie – “The Birds” / “Sugar Fan (Demo Version)”
  5. Deborah Harry – “I Want That Man” / “Bike Boy”
  6. Lovebug Starski – “Amityville (The House on the Hill)” / “Amityville (The House on the Hill) (Dub Mix)”
  7. Sinitta – “So Macho!” / “Cruising”
  8. Sinitta – “GTO (Radiomix)” / “GTO (Instrumental)”
  9. The Firm – “Star Trekkin'” / “Dub Trek”
  10. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – “Mame” / “Our Day Will Come”
  11. Dannii Minogue – “Show You the Way to Go” / “Show You the Way to Go (Dub)”
  12. Partners in Kryme – “Turtle Power” / “Splinter’s Tale 1” + “Splinter’s Tale 2”
  13. MC Hammer – “U Can’t Touch This (LP Version)” / “U Can’t Touch This (Instrumental)”
  14. Selena – “Shotgun” / “Shotgun (Instrumental Version)”
  15. Roxy Music – “Jealous Guy” / “To Turn You On”
  16. Senseless Things – “Hold It Down” / “Crucial Juvenalia”
  17. The Silent Underdog – “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pig Bag” / Pigbag – “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pig Bag”
  18. The Beach Boys – “Breakaway” / “Celebrate the News”
  19. Black Box – “Ride On Time Massive Mix (Remix)” / “Ride On Time Epsom Mix (Remix)”
  20. Genesis – “Invisible Touch” / “The Last Domino”
  21. Quincy Jones – “Razzamatazz (Edit)” / “Velas”
  22. Hawkwind – “Silver Machine” / “Silver Machine (Full Version)” + “Psychedelic Warlords”
  23. David Bowie – “Sorrow” / “Amsterdam”

I could write notes about pretty much every one of those songs to elaborate on why they’re in my collection.  Some are classics – Bowie, Hawkwind, Beach Boys etc. and need no introduction.

But as a means of explanation for some of the really ripe songs, let me say this: Sinitta and Dannii are in my collection ‘cos they’re well fit.

Oh, and “Turtle Power” is an awesome song and needs to be heard again!

I hope you enjoyed that playlist, reader.  I certainly did, and there will be more of this in the future.

Wales Comic Con Strikes Back – part 2

Wales Comic Con

Saturday 23rd April to Sunday 24th April 2016

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

OK – so as I mentioned last time, I ended up with quite a few photos from Wales Comic Con.  Far too many for just one blog post.  So here’s part 2, featuring the remainder of pictures that I took.

Not much in the way of text this time – most of it was covered in the previous instalment.  Scroll down if you want to check that out.

So here you go – the second part of our adventures at Wales Comic Con in Wrexham…  IMG_20160424_134905083 IMG_20160424_134951100

At last November’s Wales Comic Con, my trusty Canon camera suffered a sudden, unexpected demise.  As a result, my recent photos have been taken on a little digital snappy camera and my phone.  Not ideal.  Now I don’t claim to be a great photographer, but a good camera has helped cover much of my inexperience.  I hope you can forgive some of these less than awesome pics and enjoy some of the fun of the day.

My thanks again to anyone who allowed me to take their photo at Wales Comic Con.  It’s really appreciated, and I hope you like the results.

Wales Comic Con was a real success yet again, in my opinion.  An enjoyable welcoming atmosphere, with very friendly guests.  I shared my last post on social media and the feedback was resoundingly positive, which was great.

So thanks again to all I encountered at Comic Con.  Your warmth and positivity made this event a fantastic experience!

The Wales Comic Con website is here.

Sci Fi Weekender 2016 – part 2

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Phoenix

Sci Fi Weekender 17th – 20th March 2016

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Day 2 at SFW, and again it’s all a blur.  I recall it was a lazy start to the day for me, breakfast and chilling in the caravan.  Kurt was feeling better, but Greeny was starting to suffer with the illness.  It would be mostly be another day of watching Star Trek, Big Bang Theory and Top Gear for those two.

Adam had got up early and made it to see a showing of a new independent film called Pandorica.  Classed as an action-horror, reports about the film were very enthusiastic.  The Q&A with Director and cast was my first event of the day – it was interesting although I’d not seen the film!  Definitely one to keep and eye out for: word of mouth was very positive.

The highlight of the afternoon was, undoubtedly, an appearance by the incomparable Brian Blessed.  Larger than life and twice as loud, Blessed’s sci-fi credentials are suitably top notch.  A life long fan of science fiction, as well in starring in numerous genre pieces – you may have heard of Flash Gordon – his enthusiasm was both apparent and infectious.

Professor Elemental hosted the Q&A with Brian Blessed, who wisely let the great man get on and tell his tales!  A solid job from the Professor – a daunting task well executed.

Blessed’s talk ranged from his acting work to his many explorations and mountaineering adventures.  His recollections of the Flash Gordon movie, and it’s well deserved appreciation by audiences the world over, were affectionately told.  An unmissable audience with a real living legend.

In the afternoon I took some photos and looked around the stalls again.  Unfortunately, this years SFW again clashed with MCM Memorabilia in Birmingham, so genre based merchandise was thin on the ground.  I picked up some cool Elvira cocktail glasses though!

A good feature this year was the retro gaming section, where numerous old consoles could be played for free.  This was very popular, and although I don’t play video games it meant I always knew where to find my crew if we split up.  They were always playing games…

Every year at SFW, the Cosplay final is something to behold.  There’s always a sense of excitement in the air, as the costumed competitors take the stage.  And every year, the audience and competitors are enthusiastic and good natured.  Everyone cheers for each other, and there’s a real sense of community.  It’s nice to witness all the attendees rooting for each other; even though there will always be favourites, there is no bitterness.

The costumes were exceptional, as you can see (hopefully) from the photos here.  Not everyone entered the competition, but there were so many great costumes whether they were entering or just dressing up for fun.  Massive respect to everyone.

I find it great fun spotting and naming the characters.  The variety and imagination on show is consistently astounding, not to mention the talent that goes into making the costumes.  So again, thanks to all the Cosplayers for letting me take your photos.  Too many of my pics didn’t work out.  I also missed far too may opportunities.  But I hope that the photos here capture some of the creativity I witnessed.

And I sincerely apologise for not dressing up!  I lost count of the number of people who chastised me (with good humour, of course) for not dressing as Tony Stark…

Anyway, there can only be one winner of the Cosplay final, and that was the Robot Overlord fellow.  I can’t remember the character’s name, but I swear it was truly incredible!

Later on in the evening, I zoomed over to the Prog Rock area to catch some music.  I was very happy to catch the Focus set; the song “Hocus Pocus” was an obvious highlight.  I only saw a couple of songs by Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame) – though they were impressive – before heading back to the spaceport.

For the rest of the evening, my compadre, Ste and myself had a few beers and hung around with various SFW attendees.  We saw some old pals and met a few new ones.  I took more photos – including the now traditional “no photos” social media-proof shades pics.  And we managed to stay up partying till after 2 in the morning!

Not such a good thing going home Sunday…

Still, another great time at Sci Fi Weekender.  And yes, Greeny and Kurt got better, thanks for asking.

If you were there, it was good to see you.  Hopefully we’ll see you next year.

And big thanks to Adam, who organised the whole thing for us!

The Sci Fi Weekender site is here.

The HRH Prog site is here.

PS: There are photos left unpublished, so there will be Bonus Scenes in a few weeks.  Be warned!

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Cosplay winner!

Sci-Fi Weekender 2015 – part 2

Sci-fi Weekender 19th – 22nd March 2015

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Welcome back to part 2 of my Sci-fi Weekender 2015 update!

Saturday began in the usual manner for for my intergalactic crew mates and I – fairly lazy hanging around the caravan.  The home comforts were pretty good t be fair; with a fridge stocked with beer, decent TV and plenty of space we had a good base for our weekend.

To be honest there was less of interest to me personally on this day.  The highlight though was a Q&A with Judge Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra.  The two were escorted on to the stage by a squad of mean looking Judges, and proceeded to tell the audience about their many years working in comics.  All good stuff, though a bit less about the Dredd movies and more about the actual comics would’ve been preferable.  But I guess that serves me right for not asking my own questions.

One Man Lord of the Rings was next, and not being a Hobbit geek (unlike Star Wars) I was off.  I heard it was good though.  Time to mill about round the various merchandise stalls, though there less of a science fiction theme to this year’s traders.  With MCM Comic Con on the same weekend at Birmingham NEC, I guess most traders opted for that instead.

Another strange tweak to the event this year was that Hafan Y Mor was also hosting a Prog Rock event on the same weekend.  Hence the large number of music related items on sale, perhaps.  Though having these two events at the same time appeared to be a strange mutation at first, I decided to check a few bands out over the weekend and found some that were certainly worth hearing. IMG_4015

Back on Friday I witnessed the strange jazz prog of Knifeworld, which I enjoyed after my ears got used to it.  “I want this music out of my head!” was the view of one of my gang.

On Saturday afternoon, I witnessed Landskap.  They had an almost doom/stoner rock sound, with slow heavy guitar riffs – augmented by an almost Doors-like keyboard.  Very, very good – saw the whole set and loved it.

Next it was back to the Sci-Fi Arena to see the Cosplay preliminaries.  As ever there were some amazing entries – well made, authentic, but also incredibly original.  The best part was spotting characters from film and television that you just weren’t expecting to see.  The Guardians of the Galaxy and Mad Max ensembles were both awesome.  Lego movie Batman, Futurama robots and more were just amazing.

You can see some of the photos here, but there were also dozens of fans who were dressed up, and hadn’t even entered the competition.  Plenty of people had obviously put a lot of thought and effort into their costumes, but were happy just to be part of the fun.

I did feel bad for one group, though – they were all in monochrome outfits (complete with make-up) to look like the old black & white Flash Gordon serial.  However, they’d missed registration through no fault of their own.

The Cosplay was again a real highlight od Sci-Fi Weekender this year.  So many fabulous and imaginative outfits, I couldn’t pick a favourite.  My thanks to all who agreed to me to take a photo – you’re all superstars!

In the late evening, I popped over to the Prog Rock arena to see Rick Wakeman.  Rick was performing on his own, with just a grand piano.  Instrumental versions didn’t really appeal at first, though it turned out to be a fantastic set of lush, almost Classical songs.  There was a Sci-Fi tie in with an absolutely wonderful recital of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars”, which Rick had preformed on originally.  Plus the between song banter was hilarious! IMG_4068

Back to the Sci-Fi arena for the Cosplay finals – which saw a hard fought contest eventually won by the young Tim Burton character family!  We ll done!  Then it was party time, with characters from all conceivable franchises across the genre seeing the weekend out in style.

It was a long trip back to the real world.  We met some awesome people, saw a few familiar faces from last year, and had a great time.  Here’s to next year.  If only I had a Tardis, I could do it all again…

I have dozens of photos left.  I’ll do a bonus section as per last year in the coming weeks.

The Sci-Fi Weekender website is here.

You can find Sci-Fi Weekender on Facebook or follow on Twitter: @scifiweekender

The Prog Rock website is here.