Thursday, 6 August 2015

What Do Music Journalists Listen To?

As a music journalist, I do seem to get asked quite often exactly what I listen to. I always struggle with that question, as the answer changes so often. I usually answer with something like “Stuff” or “Anything that appeals.” I would wager that music journalists who say they only listen to the most underground stuff and nothing else are absolute liars. If we only ever listened to one type of music, we wouldn't be able to be objective about any of it when we write about it.

Music isn't one thing. Genres are good things to have when trying to describe what we listen to or what category a band is when reviewing their work, but beyond that, music should just be music. As a guitarist for the past 25 years, I am primarily drawn to guitar based music, and in that arena my particular poison is hard rock and old-school heavy metal. Those are my roots. The thing to remember is that roots grow, and once they have grown tall they will bear fruit.

Crap analogies aside, you should always respect your musical roots, but never be afraid to build on those foundations and develop your tastes. Writing for Powerplay Rock and Metal Magazine, I'm known primarily as a rocker and metalhead, and that's fine. That's my meat and potatoes. That's the lifeblood for me. However, that's not the be all and end all of my music library. Not by a long way. I believe you can't appreciate music properly unless your aural diet is well-balanced.

The blues were a big part of my musical youth, and my love for the blues continues to this day. Then there's classical music and film scores. Rockabilly and 50s pop music. Industrial and old-school EBM. Trippy electronica. Contemporary pop music. Nerdcore. A lot of 80s chart stuff. A few country songs. Some hip-hop. A lot of soundtracks. The list goes on.

At the other end of it there's the extreme metal, the black and death and thrash and grindcore. That's offset by my deep and abiding love for AOR and symphonic metal. Then there are the thousands of individual songs I own from different artists which I bought just because I liked those songs even if I wasn't that keen on exploring those artists further.

As I write about music, I get sent a lot of it from bands and record companies and PR companies, but
I still buy music. I prefer physical copies, but I'm not averse to purchasing downloads. I just like to have something I can look at, read the liner notes to while listening. That's not to say physical media is a better thing. I just grew up with physical media, so that's what brings me reassurance alongside the tunes. Music isn't a throwaway thing. Music is the soundtrack to lives, and in many of those lives it becomes an integral part of every day.

Music should be delved into, lest the good stuff be lost amidst the massive amount of other material out there. The influences of your influences should be given a chance. After all, the musicians you loved adored them for a reason. On another track, it's very easy to dismiss things as being crap, but at least listen to them before making that decision. Give things a chance.

Music for every mood is an essential in my life, as well. Music has the capacity to sooth and inspire as well as energise. Building a music library which offers me something for every quirk of my fluctuating emotional state has been a beautiful experience throughout my life, and long may it be thus. Music has been there for me in my darkest times as well as my very best times.

It has seen me through nights I never thought would end, heartache, elation, worry and joy. For almost eight years now, music has been a part of my professional life and continues to do everything that it always did. Music has always been there for me, and I couldn't cope without it. What do music journalists listen to?

Music. We listen to music.

Saturday, 11 July 2015


Secret Wars #4 
Marvel Comics 
Writer: Jonathan Hickman 
Art: Esad Ribic

I'm really not a big fan of massive event stories like Secret Wars, Convergence and the like, as I feel they sometimes take the focus away from great stories and instead overloads the reader with continuity, not to mention very quickly draining the wallet of the reader very quickly.

That said, there have been some very strong comics coming out of Marvel's current Secret Wars event, such as A-Force, X-Men 92 and the main title itself.

I've started checking Secret Wars out at the recommendation of a good friend and I haven't been disappointed. The idea of a patchwork world ruled by an omnipotent Doom is intriguing, and the main title is being handled well.

This issue deals mainly with the relationship between Doom and Strange, with another very familiar face arriving in the latter half of the book. This is a good approach for this stage of the story, as it stops things becoming overly confusing with the countless realities mashed together into one world.

The script and art are solid, and while it's part of an event story which rebuilds a universe from chunks of other realities, it's surprisingly low-key. Now at the halfway point, it'll be interesting to see how this epic story is brought to a suitable close. A good issue, but not one which rocked my world.


Friday, 10 July 2015


Harley Quinn & Power Girl #1 
DC Comics 
Writers: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray 
Art: Stephane Roux 

According to DC, this miniseries tells the story of what happened between two panels in HARLEY QUINN #12, and why not? This is a ton of fun from writers Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, who specialise in this kind of screwball but affectionate romp, and they're on good form here.

Harley Quinn and Power Girl find themselves flung through a teleportation portal and into a bizarre landscape of small creatures and giant monsters, which provides both a lot of comedy and a fair bit of action for the price of admission.

The story is a little bit silly in places, but that works well with the characters. The interplay between the hyperactive Harley and the superhero bluster of Power Girl is a delight throughout, and lifts what could have been a muddle of an issue right up.

Ending with nice cliffhanger for the next issue, it's an entertaining sci-fi yarn with lashings of the comedy we've come to expect from the characters and the creators. The script is tight and paced well, and the art of Stephane Roux is exquisite. There's so much going on in the facial expressions that the characters really come to life on the page. A raucous and fun read.


BLOODSTRIKE #1 - Image Comics

Image Comics 
Story and art: Rob Liefeld 
Colours: Jeremy Colwell 

I picked this up mainly due to nostalgia. I'd read bunch of BLOODSTRIKE comics in their original 1990s guise, and figured it would be fun to revisit those overly muscular purveyors of violence and one-liners again. Written and drawn by the much maligned yet actually pretty solid Rob Liefeld, this is an M rated version of Bloodstrike rather than the initial version I remember.

Thus there's a hell of a lot of gratuitous gore (including Cabbot chewing his own arm off in an early scene), nudity and swearing, which took me right out of the issue and ultimately soured the title for me. The art is exactly how it was in the nineties, which was cool to see and my favourite thing about the issue.

The story is decent, as are the panels of stylised action, but the giant penises and severed heads on display weren't really what I wanted to lay money down for. I still have a lot of love for Liefeld (he drew a ton of the comics which grabbed my attention back in the day), but I won't be following this series further. Sorry fella!


STARFIRE #2 - DC Comics

Starfire issue 2
DC Comics 
Script: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Pencils: Emanuela Lupacchino
Inks: Ray McCarthy

I'd heard good things about this title on the iFanboy podcast, that it was quirky and good natured and fun. They weren't wrong. This is a really nice, fun comic title with a pleasingly straightforward story which isn't bogged down with continuity or forced involvement in a crossover or anything.

Starfire is drawn in a typically sexy superheroine manner, but it's never gratuitous, instead having an edge of Cheesecake. The story of the issue is essentially Starfire rescuing people from a storm, but there are some sweet little character moments which give the action some depth.

The human characters are well realised and add some grounding to the tale. I would expect nothing less from Conner and Palmiotti. Lupacchino's pencils are kinetic and stylish, refined further by McCarthy's inks. A proper comic book. Marvellous.


Service is resumed

Hey all. I haven't been having a great time lately with one thing and another, hence the lack of regular posts. I've had some health issues and other stuff to deal with, and while those are ongoing, I want to get back in action. So here I am. There'll be some reviews and some pieces on the writing life to come. I love you all. Even you.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

FEMFORCE 172 - Full Solicitation info for my comics debut!

Here's the full solicitation information for issue 172 of FEMFORCE from AC COMICS, which will contain my first ever published comics work. I am hugely excited about this, and I really hope those of you who check it out will enjoy it. Massive thanks to Mark G. Heike at AC Comics for this amazing opportunity. 

You can order the issue from all good comic book stores and through the June issue of PREVIEWS. Here's the full rundown of the issue, along with info on the GIANTESS incentive! 


Femforce #172
Company Name: AC Comics
Title: Femforce
Frequency: Quarterly
Issue/Number 172
UPC Code: 799475804861-17211
Retail Price: $9.95
Discount: Maximum Discount 50%
Format: Standard comic book size, saddle-stitched
Dimensions: 10" X 6.50"
Page Count: 80 pages
Color: Black and White (with color covers)
Intended Audience: All ages
Genre: Action/adventure/superhero/glamor
Country of Origin: USA
Ship Date: August 25th, 2015
Writers: Stephanie Heike, Mark G. Heike, Andrew Hawnt and Mark Holmes
Artists: Rock Baker,  Jeff Austin,  Scott Shriver , Mark Dail, Paolo Bodini, Jacob Bear, Alejandro Alvarez and Juliano Sousa
Cover Artist: Dell Barras


While the FEMFORCE team struggles with internal problems and SHE-CAT's personal life gets MORE muddled, a mysterious threat stalks. On Dhagor, NIGHTVEIL faces both her mentor AZAGOTH and the villainous VIVARNA. STARDUST remembers more dark secrets from her past, The BLUE BULLETEER risks a haunted house and TARA races to victory.

Special Notes:  For every 3 copies of FemForce #172 purchased, retailers will receive 1 copy of Giantess Comics #1 free. Recent events at FFHQ have left security there compromised, and even as our intrepid heroines try to decide what to do about the situation, a sinister entity plots to take advantage of it.

SHE-CAT seems determined to pick up the threads of her ill-fated relationship with Jack Hughes, but three obstacles stand in the way- former beau Mike(The SCARLET SCORPION) McCluskey, a strange group of freakish misfits- AND Hughes himself.

 NIGHTVEIL, still without her Cloak of Darkness and alone on Dark Dhagor, must deal with her mentor AZAGOTH's disappointment at her loss of the powerful mystic artifact while helping the Dhagorians throw off the oppressive yolk of the evil VIVARNA.

In a pensive moment, STARDUST once again thinks back on the shameful incident from her formative years that led to her abandonment of her Rurian roots.

Also out of the past, Laura(The BLUE BULLETEER) Wiight has a brush with supernatural forces long before her days as NIGHTVEIL, in a haunted house story set in the late 1940's, and a young TARA wins a key prize while upending the malignant forces working against her.

AND in a second, BONUS Stardust story, Dusty faces the mysterious menace of TRAXXIS!!  

As always, this issue of FEMFORCE is 80 pages of great ''good girl" art action and adventure featuring the FF team in both group and solo action. No staunch FF fan can possibly be disappointed. If you LOVE your FEMFORCE book just the way it is, order your copy and you'll get just that.  B

UT- for fans looking for something a little bit DIFFERENT, we're trying something NEW for AC in conjunction with FEMFORCE #172.  
Recently, we put out some "test feelers" online about the possibility of a new FREESTANDING title devoted to GIANT-SIZED females; to be called (appropriately enough)  GIANTESS COMICS.

The response from interested readers was impressive enough that we are going to try out the title. In the past, we've done experiments like this in a "flip-book" format, basically sharing space in an issue of FEMFORCE.  
This didn't always make hardcore FF readers happy, with the perception being that such "guest-features" could be cutting into the total number of actual FEMFORCE pages in the given issue they might appear in.

Well, not THIS time; we are debuting GIANTESS COMICS #1 as a separate, complete, freestanding 24-page black and white full-sized comic book (with it's own spectacular full-color painted cover by Paolo Bodini)- NOT in any way a part of FF #172.

If THAT'S not enough, to promote this new title and concept, we are offering the book ABSOLUTELY FREE, one copy available with every THREE copies of FEMFORCE #172 purchased. If you HAVE to get a copy of GIANTESS COMICS #1, just make sure that your smiling local comic book retailer orders you three copies of FF #172- and tell him you WANT the FREE GIANTESS COMICS #1 that comes with them.

It'll be wall-to-wall giantees action, written by genre specialists including Eric Johnson and Eric Lindberg, with superb art by the same AC regulars that illustrate FEMFORCE every issue. If this special promotion is well-received, we will consider making GIANTESS COMICS an ongoing title in future.  So- anybody out there that remembers our late, lamented GARANTARAMA-THE COMIC BOOK feature- or just wants to see AC do more giant woman stories in general, make sure your retailer orders enough copies of FF #172 to make this free offer a success.

So order FEMFORCE #172 for August through the June 2015 Previews catalog with your local comics retailer to get 80 pages of great GGA action, AND a chance to get a FREE GIANTESS COMICS #1!!


Company Name: AC Comics
Title: Giantess Comics
Frequency: Unknown at this time Issue/Number 1
UPC Code: 44268377266700111 (revised/corrected 4/23/15)
Retail Price: free with the purchase of three copies of FEMFORCE  #172
Discount: N/A
Format: Standard comic book size, saddle-stitched
Dimensions: 10" X 6.50"
Page Count: 24 pages
Color: Black and White (with color covers)
Intended Audience: All ages Genre: Action/adventure/GTS/glamor
Country of Origin: USA
Ship Date: August 25, 2015
Writers: Eric Johnson, Eric Lindberg and Mark Heike
Artists:   Dan Gorman, Rock Baker and others
Cover Artist: Paiolo Bodini


A brand new story  featuring ALL the AC giantess characters -THUNDERSTEP, MARLA  ALLISON, TARA, GARGANTA, DINOSAUR GIRL, ROWENA, FANTASIA, SHAKIRBUTI and THREETA as QUEEN DRUSILLA  goes on a "Multi-World Tour!! Plus, Eric Lindberg's medevil gentle giantess ROWENA  is back with "Rise of the Dark Lady!" Wall to wall giantess action!

Special Notes:  This book is FREE with every THREE copies of FEMFORCE #172 ordered

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Making My Comics Debut

It's a wonderful moment for me right now. After being a comics fan for most of my life, I'm finally crossing over to the other side of the panels and becoming a comics writer. Well, the writer of one story right now, but I am now looking for other comics gigs too as this was so much fun.

The title? FEMFORCE! AC Comics picked up a script of mine for a solo story featuring their popular character STARDUST, and by all accounts it will be arriving in Femforce 172, out in August! 

Pencilled by Scott Shriver and inked by Jeff Austin, the seven page backup story sees Stardust face off against a new villainess linked to her origins.

With this, I feel like I've come full circle. It was Femforce issue 68 in the nineties which was the first place I saw my name in print. They published a fan letter of mine when I was 15 and I've treasured that ever since.

During all of my years as a writer, from the early days as a comic shop blogger, through my years as a music journalist, pop culture columnist and author, there was always the wish that one day I could be part of a comic book.

In a frenzy of random pitch emails and brainstorming a little while ago, I got in touch with AC about the possibility of writing something, and suddenly it's on it's way! Well, not suddenly, but after plot discussions and a fevered evening writing the script.

It was a great learning experience for me as a writer, as it was my first experience at writing for a character I didn't create and also working in some nods to continuity and the character's history, and I'm grateful for it. It was a challenge, but a challenge that I found energising.

I want more.

I'm looking for more comics gigs in the near future, as quite frankly, this was too much fun not to follow up on. It uses a different set of writing skills when writing a comic script, the style sitting somewhere between a screenplay and prose.

 So I've done it now. I'm going to have my work in a comic. Even if I never get to do another comic script ever again, I've made it into the medium I always dreamed of, and I am thrilled.

To be continued?

(I'll post the full solicitation info for the issue this week!)