BPREVIEW: Free Comic Book Day @ Nostalgia & Comics, Forbidden Planet 07.05.16

Free Comic Book Day - land

Words By Olly MacNamee

Main with web colour bcg - lrWhether this event brings new readers into comic shops when the combined might of Marvel and DC’s films has failed, is up for debate. But Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) celebrates it’s fifteen year anniversary in comic book shops across the world this Saturday 7th May – as they give away comics free to anyone who comes into their shops.

But FCBD was never just about trying to get new readers into stores and into comics. It was also designed as a ‘thank you’ to existing customers, as well as an attempt to entice back fans who may have drifted away from the spandex crowd.

Funnily enough, the very first FCBD was scheduled to coincide with the release of Spider-man back in 2002. So the thought must have been that the film would boost sales of comics in some way, whether in the short or long term.

Free Comic Book DayAs each year has passed the offerings from many a comic book company have increased. But, with demand always high, us hardcore fans have known for months which titles will be hitting the stores this coming Saturday; it’s best to get there as early as possible.

Even then there are no guarantees. Nostalgia & Comics, for instance, will once again reward their loyal, long-standing customers with an earlier opening time (8.30am) – with a ticket only event that allows us to get in, scoop up the booty, and make for the high seas. Or to hang out at a shop that has become something more than just another retailer for many of us, having built up a community of comic book guys and gals thanks to regular nights out, once a month at The Victoria (such as this Wednesday’s Star Wars themes quiz night).

nostalgia-comics-store-birmingham 50%In fact, the odd comic book creator can often be seen in Nostalgia & Comics getting their regular fix too. Apple stores may have their Genius Bar (which to me, always conjures up the image of Einstein and Sheldon Cooper getting riotously and gloriously drunk) but comic shops have their fanatics. The people serving you have built up their knowledge and understanding for years, if not decades, from immersing themselves in the hobby we all share and love. You can’t learn that from a staff manual.

FCBD is an excuse, then, to bring an arguable carnival atmosphere into these specialist shops. What it once was (a marketing ploy, let’s be honest) has evolved into something very different – a celebration of comics, creators and, most importantly, community.

For a list of all the titles on offer at both Nostalgia & Comics and Forbidden Planet in Birmingham, visit http://www.freecomicbookday.com/Home/1/1/27/981

For more on Free Comic Book Day, visit http://www.freecomicbookday.com/


For more from Nostalgia & Comics, visit https://www.facebook.com/NostalgiaComics/

For more from Forbidden Planet (B’ham), visit https://forbiddenplanet.com/events/for-location/birmingham-store/

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BREVIEW: Broken Witt Rebels @ The Sunflower Lounge 15.04.16

Broken Witt Rebels @ Sunflower 15.04.16 - Eric Duvet #2

Words by Olly MacNamee / Pics by Eric Duvet 

Broken Witt Rebels @ Sunflower 15.04.16 - Eric Duvet #2Currently on a whistle-stop tour of this scepter’d isle of ours, Birmingham’s Broken Witt Rebels are back on home turf tonight. And with a sell-out crowd of family, friends and new fans awaiting, they need to bring their ‘A’ game.

Playing a taught, thirty minute set and offering up tracks from their two EP’s (the recently released Georgia Pine and previous offering, Howlin’) alongside new songs, this quartet from Castle Vale did not disappoint.

First and foremost, I was amazed at the rich, smoky, sensual, “Down South” strains of frontman, Danny Core. Core offers a voice that sounds as though it’s done some living; a wise Broken Witt Rebels @ Sunflower 15.04.16 - Eric Duvet #2old singer-songwriter reincarnated into a young man from Brum. Maybe the stork got his Birmingham cities mixed up and somewhere in the Deep South of America there’s a guy with the Brummie brogue Core was supposed to have.

Opening up their set with the punchy, sexy ‘Low’, Core and company – childhood friend and bassist Luke Davis, guitarist James Tranter and drummer James Dudley – were clearly enjoying themselves. It was infectious, with many of the crowd singing along, bringing a sense of taciturn camaraderie between the rockers and the room.Broken Witt Rebels @ Sunflower 15.04.16 - Eric Duvet #2

Broken Witt Rebels‘ sound is a blues-infused, country-twanged brand of rock and roll, reminiscent of early Kings of Leon, before they lost their beards and their soulfulness. Whizzing through a set of ciggie-soaked vocals and Mississippi moonshine-marinated melodies, Broken Witt Rebels played tracks including ‘Getaway Man’, ‘Guns’ and the set’s closer ‘Shake Me Down’.

I was left with the feeling that this is a band on the up. And I suspect Broken Witt Rebels may not be returning to such small venues in the future, given how developed and ready for rock success they already are, and at such a tender age.

For more on Broken Witt Rebels, visit http://www.brokenwittrebels.com/

For more from The Sunflower Lounge, visit http://thesunflowerlounge.com/

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BREVIEW: Hans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16

Hans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16 / By Michelle Martin - Birmingham Review

For the full Flickr of pics, click here

Words by Olly MacNamee / Pics by Michelle Martin 

If anyone was still wondering how we can break boundaries and encourage people from all walks of life to embrace classical music, then Hans Zimmer’s concert  at The Barclaycard Arena provided the answer. Hoodies and Hooray Henries, and all stratum of society in-between, were in attendance.

Hans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16 / By Michelle Martin - Birmingham Review All were there to lap up the soundtrack of our lives, the original scores and complex compositions of Zimmer and his impressively large entourage of musicians. Musical numbers that date back through three thrilling decades of orchestral originality evoked some fond memories over an immense two and a half hours.

Starting promptly at 8pm on the dot, Zimmer introduced each track with humorous anecdotes – as we were transported through an autobiographical autobahn of his back catalogue.

The last time he’d played Birmingham, over thirty years ago, Hans Zimmer travelled in a Ford Transit van and played to a crowd of three in a pub. Humble beginnings indeed, but as I watched him command the stage, his love for music, for what he does, became apparent. It struck me that here is a man who, even if he were busking at New Street Station, would be equally as happy.

Hans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16 / By Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewSurrounding yourself with friends and long-term collaborators helps too, especially if you’re on the road as much as he is over the coming months. The energy on stage was palatable and infectious. We were won over almost instantaneously as we witnessed the man behind the majestic, soaring music he has penned.

The first half was dominated by past achievements, the score to Crimson Tide kicking off the set before segueing into the original score for the film Angels and Demons – reminding the audience that sometimes, Zimmer’s music is the most memorable part of a film.

Playing through scores from Gladiator (both haunting and bombastic in equal amounts) there was also room for the much more elegant, subtle sound of The Da Vinci Code. Music from The Lion King was thrown into the mix, and proved to be an instant crowd-pleaser, immediately recognisable from the opening bars alone.

With many tracks lasting epic lengths of time, the first hour was over in the blink of an eye. We had been enthralled and entertained. A man who showed he could be both a musical maestro as well as a humorous raconteur. And, justHans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16 / By Michelle Martin - Birmingham Review like the Man City match on the same night, this was a show of two halves, with a second half that had a superhero and sci-fi theme.

Focusing on his more recent work with Christopher Nolan and the like, Zimmer – swapping instruments as he went along – brought the electricity to the Electro Suite from The Amazing Spider-man 2 and the darkness to The Dark Knight. His heavier, gothic music grabbed you around the throat, hanging you threateningly over the edge of a precipice. Just like Batman himself would.

He informed us that after hearing of Heath Ledger’s tragic death, he was tempted to change the score, but rightly decided that it should stand as a tribute to the chaos and anarchy Ledger brought to his Oscar winning (albeit, posthumously) performance.

Hans Zimmer @ Barclaycard Arena 12.04.16 / By Michelle Martin - Birmingham ReviewFor me, this tight, brutal Dark Knight medley was the highlight of the evening, accompanied as it was by stark lights and visuals, blinking black and white, black and white in ever quicker succession and drowning the stage with appropriate Expressionist aesthetics not too far removed from the director Franz Lang (Metropolis); a fellow German émigré.

With an encore focused firmly on his music for Inception, Zimmer played out the night, as one by one, each musician and the spotlight receded to leave him on stage, bathed in light. Zimmer is a composer and performer who has made a career out of what he loves and it showed, through every minute. Truly an enjoyable, exuberant evening for all in attendance.

Just don’t leave it another 30 years to return, hey Hans.

For more on Hans Zimmer, visit http://www.hans-zimmer.com/

For more from the Barclaycard Arena, visit http://www.barclaycardarena.co.uk/

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BPREVIEW: Drink and Draw @ Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (Edwardian Tea Rooms) 22.04.16

Drink and Draw @ Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 22.04.16Words by Olly MacNamee

Simon Myers and Nigel Hopkins’ doodliscious Drink and Draw returns to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) on Friday 22nd April – in conjunction with the wider Birmingham Comics Festival, which runs throughout April.Main with web colour bcg - lr

And, as such, it will be taking on a superhero theme that asks attendants (nearly 500 pencil-wielding patrons last time) to imagine they’re superheroes and to depict how they received their powers. A great idea with the potential for both serious and stoopid secret origin stories to spill forth onto the page.

Oh, and as always, it’s free.

Pencils and paper are provided in large amounts – at an event that encourages all and everyone, no matter how limited an artist you may be, to get involved, get merry and get sketching.

I attended the last one (somewhat more squiffy than initially planned) and couldn’t help noticing a wide section of Birmingham’s art communities were in attendance, from comic book artists to graffiti greats.

Indeed, both Drink and Draw organisers are artists in their own rights, with Simon Myers having recently created some great album cover parodies for several Dr Who comics. Some of Myers’ work is still available from Nostalgia & Comics and Birmingham’s own branch of Forbidden Planet.

Drink and Draw starts at 6.30pm and runs through to 10pm, with snacks and drinks available from the Edwardian Tea Room – the part of BMAG where the event is being hosted. And judging from last time, I’d get there early to find a seat.Edwardian Tea Rooms - Birmingham Musuem & Art Gallery

And if you’re still stuck for an idea, following the event’s superhero theme, soak in Birmingham Review’s handy guide to secret origin stories:

Step One: Have your hero lose a loved one (or two)
The loss of a loved one is a solid backstory for many a superhero. Spidey lost Uncle Ben to an ungrateful thief, the Hulk’s mother was killed by his father, whilst Superman was even more unlucky – losing both his Kryptonian parents and his adoptive parents, the Kents. And yet, Supes never went all mean and moody. Unlike Bruce Wayne, who only lost one set of parents but was scarred for life. If only he’d had the child therapy he so clearly needed.

Step Two: The costume
The costume should reflect your character’s powers. Whether it’s the wings on Flash’s mask, reminiscent of the winged helmet of Hermes – the messenger of the gods, or the funky webbing of Spider-man’s outfit; let the bad guys know what they’re up against.

Drink and Draw characters - web coloursStep Three: The arch-enemy
The arch-enemy is usually, in some ways, the dual opposite of the hero, as best summed up in the weird, twisted relationship Batman and The Joker have always had. Two mad men in suits, with at least one of them recognising their madness. But then, as a billionaire, who would dare tell Batman that he’s, well, bat-shit crazy.

Step Four: Anything is possible
Let your imagination (and a few beers) take the driving seat and have fun with your ideas. The history of comics has shown us that even the daftest of ideas can be long lasting. Look at superhero names such as Bouncing Boy (who can inflate his body up to beach ball proportions), Matter Eating Lad (who can eat all matter) and Sun Boy – all members of the goofiest super team I’ve even had the privilege of reading, The Legion of Super-Heroes.

Drink and Draw takes place at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (Edwardian Tea Rooms) on 22nd April, between 6.30pm-10pm. Entry to the event is free.

For direct information, visit http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/whats-on/edwardian-tea-rooms-late-drink-and-draw

For more from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, visit http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag

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INTERVIEW: Mike Carey / M R Carey

Words by Olly MacNamee / Pic of Mike Carey @ Charlie Hopkinson

Warning: This interview contains some spoilers for M R Carey’s book The Girl With All The Gifts.

With an impressive writing career in comics, as well as a growing sideline as a novelist and screenwriter, Birmingham Review caught up with Mike Carey at Waterstone’s in Birmingham City Centre – talking about his new novel, Fellside, his previous novel and soon-to-be film, The Girl With All The Gifts, his comics, heaven, hell, and how ‘we think we live in the real world’.

Olly MacNamee (OM): I like the multiple perspectives you present in The Girl With All The Gifts. Is this a narrative technique you adopt in your new novel, Fellside?

Mike Carey (MC): It is, although in the first draft it was a single point of view.

OM: Was that Jess, the prisoner at Fellside?

MC: No. Actually it was Sylvia Stark, a very minor character in the novel; an evil, obsessive nurse who tries to kill Jess right from the outset. I chose her because she’s tangential to the story, someone who is looking onto the tragedy that unfolds and a tragedy she doesn’t understand, or her own part in it. But it didn’t really work because it forced me to talk around Fellside by M R Careycertain things, and delay certain reveals, so I recast it with multiple points of view. Yes, it’s the same kind of storytelling device as The Girl With All The Gifts, but it isn’t in the present tense, like Girl.

I was very concerned not to do a follow up to Girl; the same kind of flavour, the same kind of storytelling. I wanted to branch out a bit and it is a very, very different book. Fellside is a ghost story and, as such, the balance between the real world elements and the fantastical elements is different in Fellside. If you take away Alex, the ghost, Fellside is a prison narrative – in some ways reflective of other classic prison based narratives, with familiar character types such as Harriet Grace, the woman who runs all the rackets in the prison, and Dennis Devlin, the corrupt warder…  What I wanted to do, also, was to say something about the present state of British prisons.

Private prisons, sadly, are the future because they are so cheap compared to the public alternative; it takes it off the government’s books and places it into the hands of corporations who pick up the tab. The cost of such as system is that you then get the perverse incentives of Capitalism kicking in. You are talking about companies whose product are prisoners, and so they can only increase their profit if they either have more prisoners or if they keep their prisoners for longer. So these companies will be lobbying the government to change the law, to put more people in prison and for longer time too.

OM: Were you aware of these issues before researching for Fellside?

MC: It’s part of the reason why I chose a prison setting, although there were lots of other reasons too. For example, claustrophobic settings, I love them. I love settings where a small cast of characters are forced to interact with each other. The military base in The Girl With All The Gifts is another such place, Fellside even more so. From a dramatic point of view it’s irresistible.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M R CareyOM: Fellside is a thought-provoking novel. Is this something we could do with more of in comics? After all, your work on the Vertigo comic Lucifer looked at the notions of free will, whilt your other Vertigo comics’ series, The Unwritten, looked at the very nature of reality itself.

MC: Well, when I come up with an idea, it’s always characters and a setting first, and then I build the story. I’ve learnt the hard way over thirty years, for me it’s the only way that works. If you start with the story you end up with two-dimensional characters, you build the story around the characters. So I’m never consciously thinking of themes that my story will address.

Having said that, I don’t think you can write without it coming from your perspective, from how you look at the world around you. In The Unwritten that is an exception, as we definitely set out to write a story about stories and the extent to which stories are the only things that really matter. Ambrosio says in the first issue that stories are the only thing worth dying for. We have a more radical position even than that: stories are the only thing there is. We think we live in a real world, we don’t. We live in stories about ourselves in the story of the real world. There is a lot of psychological research to suggest that the self, our sense of self, is a narrative.

OM: Of course, our first lessons in morality come from fairy tales and folklore when we’re just toddlers. Your Lucifer is based on concepts explored by Milton in his epic narrative poem, Paradise Lost. And whether William Blake wanted to create a hero out of the Devil in his book, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he did. What is it about character of Lucifer that draws writers to him?

MC: I think Lucifer is powerful figure because he’s got such a wide range of possible meanings. I think that all myths that survive do so because you can apply them in so many different ways to life and your own life.Lucifer by Mike Carey

Lucifer starts off as the adversary to God, the embodiment of the darker impulses in our nature. The moment you do embody him the more he becomes attractive and glamorous. You are thinking, ‘actually, he’s pretty cool.’ Milton does not set out to make a hero out of Lucifer in Paradise Lost. He’s supposed to be the bad guy but he’s the most interesting character in the story. In Books 6 and 7, the War in Heaven, it’s basically heroic fantasy with Lucifer the big guy holding the biggest sword, like Conan. You end up rooting for him.

OM: Finally, it was announced recently that the TV series of Lucifer will be renewed for a second season. You’ve written the screenplay for the film adaption of your novel, The Girl With All The Gifts – would you be interested to write the odd episode of Lucifer?

MC: Damn straight. I would totally do that and do my damndest to sneak in a story from the comic book series. I think American networks will go with known American writers with proven track records, but you never know.

M R Carey’s Fellside is available now in hardback, whilst his previous novel, The Girl With All The Gifts is available in paperback. Mike Carey’s comic book work is also available as trade paperbacks.

For more on Mike Carey / M R Carey, visit http://mikeandpeter.com