Month: November 2014

Mike Wolfer’s The Curse Of Ragdoll

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The Curse of Ragdoll first appeared 15 years ago serialised in the adults only anthology Raw Media Quarterly published by the then fledgling AvatarRAGDOLLpreview-5 Press.

Over a decade later creator, writer and illustrator Mike Wolfer decided he wanted to return to the character he’d created years earlier. This version of The Curse of Ragdoll is different though unnecessary explicit scenes ,which got in the way of the narrative, have been excised and the story has been reworked to incorporate 17 all new pages and a brand new ending. The cost of producing this new edition was covered by a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The Curse of Ragdoll is heavily influenced by classic pulp horror comics like Tales From The Crypt and The Vault Of Horror and it isn’t for the squeamish or the easily offended. The story itself has a framing narrative, which features geologist Peter Wyndham on an expedition in the mountains of 18th century Romania. Trapped by a vicious storm and abandoned by his guides he makes shelter in an icy cave. Whilst sheltering from the raging storm he finds the pages of an old journal, it’s the words written on the pages of this journal that form the basis for much of the story.

Ragdoll, the protagonist of the story, is a mix of avenging spirit and Frankenstein’s Monster. She is made from a patch work of body parts, body parts which belonged to murdered women and it’s the story of these women that makes up the bulk of the narrative via flashbacks. Ragdoll then seeks out the transgressors punishing them for their crimes.

The trail of bodies left in Ragdoll’s wake are being investigated by Inspector Pike and Sergeant Claus, the pair obviously inspired by the classic literary team up of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson with Pike being the more deductive of the two and also sporting some classic one liners.

comicpageThe anthology origins of the story are indicated by the episodic nature of the narrative which is split into 7 chapters. Whilst the explicit material has been jettisoned this still very much an adults only story not only does it feature several classic monsters with werewolves and vampires appearing it also packs in some nunsploitation for good measure along with plenty of entrails and viscera. This approach gives the whole thing a cult B movie tone. Wolfer’s grey toned black & white art adds to the Hammer/ B movie vibe of the story as events unfold.

The Curse of Ragdoll is the first book to feature the character with Wolfer planning on a follow up with the distinctly Hammer style name of “Orgy of the Vampires”. As a precursor to that book though Wolfer is currently crowdfunding a one shot comic featuring notorious vampire Countess Bathory.

Street Fighter Assassin’s Fist

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When it comes to video games making the transition into live action the results are seldom good. There have been numerous attempts at translating popular game franchises to the big screen and with very few exceptions they have all failed miserably. From Super Mario Bros to Tomb Raider and more they’ve left viewers, and fans especially, nonplussed or genuinely bewildered at exactly what they’ve just seen.

Taking what is an interactive experience and changing it into what is a hopefully an immersive passive experience is not easy by any means and the few exceptions are seen as a guilty pleasure, Mortal Kombat , or well intentioned but flawed curios like Resident Evil, Silent Hill . Street Fighter Assassin’s Fist might conjure up the phrase Danger, Will Robinson! given that the idea of live action Street Fighter is associated with one of the worst examples of game to film ever to materialise but ‘Assassin’s Fist is a labour of love by director/writer/actor/fight choreographer Joey Ansah and fellow actor/writer Christian Howard.

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Born of a desire to produce a live action take on the story of some of the characters from one of the most popular game franchises ever ‘Assassin’s Fist appeared as a web series on Youtube hosted by Machinima and proved so popular it’s now available on DVD/Blu-ray. The web series has now been edited into a feature length film. The story is based around two of the most iconic characters from the games, Ryu and Ken, played by Mike Moh and Howard.

The mild mannered Ryu has been raised in the secluded dojo since he was a child whilst the American Ken is more impulsive and rebellious . The pairs time learning the ways of martial arts style Ansatsuken from their sensei  Gôken ,played by Akira Koieyama, in a secluded Japanese dojo makes up just part of the story. The other part of the narrative is the past of Gôken himself as the young sensei, played by Shogen Itokazu, trains alongside his brother Goki, played by Gaku Space, under the tutelage of master Gôtetsu played by Togo Igawa.

The term web series might make you think poor quality or low budget but the crew behind ‘Assassin’s Fist make things look just as good as big budget feature. One of the appealing aspects is this isn’t aimed purely at hardcore Streetfighter fans, you don’t have to be well versed in the mythology that has built up over years to become engrossed in the unfolding narrative although there are several nods that fans will pick up on, especially music cues.

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Whatever the budget was it’s well utilised, Assassin’s Fist looks great and has some great locations. One of the perhaps surprising aspects is just how well FX are both integrated and executed in the story. Special FX are often the downfall of many a well intentioned film, even those with vast budgets can be hampered with poor digital FX which completely take the viewer out of the story.

The cast is great all ’round Howard and Moh not only look the part but are believable as life long friends that have grown up together. Koieyama makes for a good master too. Whilst there’s plenty of well choreographed action to be found more than anything the story of ‘Assassin’s Fist is one of brotherhood and the seductive appeal of power, with the bond between Ken and Ryu contrasting with the relationship between Gôken and Goki. Sayaka played by Hyunri Lee and Igawa’s Gôtetsu are fundamental to the pairs relationship. Writing, directing and doing the fight choreography wasn’t enough for Joey Ansah who also makes a memorable appearance as Akuma the antagonist of the story.

One of the impressive facets about ‘Assassin’s Fist though was that a good deal of it is actually in Japanese with subtitles, which is exactly how it should be for a story set in rural Japan. That subtitles make people avoid things is an inherently sad state of affairs and it’s great that Ansah and Howard did it anyway even if it risked alienating some viewers.

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