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I’ve been reading a lot of Greek myths and legends, which you could argue contain the precursors to Marvel’s  Universe. Gods and heroes like Achilles and Hercules, Hector and Odysseus. Great stories that have lasted for thousands of years. Only last year, the BBC retold the Illiad (with varying degrees of success).

Acting on the advice of various websites about which films are essential to watch before Endgame, my kids and I recently re-watched the first two Avengers films and watched for the first time Captain Marvel, Spiderman Homecoming, Ant Man, Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange.

I enjoyed most of Captain Marvel until she became so super-powerful she could destroy entire starships. You start wondering at that point what villains can possibly challenge such might. Certainly not Jude Law, as a sub-Loki.

The Avengers films are good, but there’s too many characters in them. Joss Whedon did a good job of keeping us emotionally invested in the different arcs, but he might have done better to focus more on three or four only. Game of Thrones showed how to do that with great effectiveness in The Battle of Winterfell. They also made me wonder what Marvel would have done without Robert Downey JR, because Chris Evans’s Captain America does not have the charisma to hold all those superheroes plot threads together.

Ant Man was our least favourite, and we promptly cancelled our plan to watch Ant Man and the Wasp on the same night. Paul Rudd underwhelmed, and for some reason the film’s shrinking premise stretched my credibility too much. Strangely, in Civil War, Rudd’s performance was much stronger even though he had a much – ahem – smaller part. The other surprisingly good performance in Civil War was Tom Hollander’s, so we watched Spiderman, and I found myself begrudgingly enjoying the teenage angst of it. While Tony Stark’s appearances in the Marvel Universe are always enlivening, Homecoming was so good the film might even have been stronger without him.

Doctor Strange was the stand alone film. Benedict Cumberbatch was very good, an arrogant, less likable Tony Stark.  I’m intrigued to see how those two characters will get on in Infinity War and End Game. The film itself, with it’s unusual imagery and effects and slightly more subtle humour than normal, was one of my favourite Marvel films.

Out of all seven films, my favourite set piece was the battle at the airfield in Civil War, combining action and terrific humour. My favourite superhero? Iron Man, without a doubt. My least favourite? Captain America, also without a doubt. But whichever your favourites, there is no denying that Marvel has created something extraordinary with this universe of superheroes.

Will it be as long lasting as the Iliad? Probably not, but who knows, maybe one day future archaeologists and historians will speculate on the location of Stark Tower in the same way they speculate today on the location of Troy.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


Transported to a fantasy land of castles,  battles and never-ending winter, I must have read the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe five or six times as a child. As a student teacher,  I reread it to a class, and the Christian allusions seemed heavily signposted and somewhat ponderous.

This time, twenty-five years on, I  enjoyed it enough to finish it in one day, despite the way Peter, like Julian in the Famous Five, comes across as an insufferable, self-impressed bore. Edmund’s story arc is by far the most interesting element of the book, but it is glossed over with a very English, “that’s alright.”

Excitement is created with the race to escape Maugram and the White Witch, but once Aslan appears there is never any real sense of danger. The scene at the stone table is rendered free of tension because of the Christian allusion, although I must admit I’d forgotten how much he is humiliated.

Even the battle is not so bad that Lucy and Susan are allowed to fight, for “battles are ugly when women fight.” This is not the only gender stereotyping that takes place (look at Mrs Beaver’s concern for her sewing machine!), but it is somewhat glaring. Harking back to the Famous Five again, Anne used to do all the cooking and cleaning, so C.S Lewis is not alone among children’s authors of the time in gender stereotyping. Nor among fantasy authors, for that matter, even those who came much later, such as David Eddings, whose Polgara is a mighty sorceress, but still does all the cooking. I can’t imagine Jadis cooking for anyone.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is obviously a children’s book, but Narnia is well-realised, and the portal element is a clever hook that has probably had generations of children vainly tapping away at the back of their wardrobes. Perhaps the book’s greatest success lies in how quickly the story rattles along, from the opening “Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy,” all the way to the end, which promises more adventures, and more escapes to Narnia.


David Eddings once said he never read fantasy books for fear of contamination. Other writers, Stephen King included, say to read all the time, as much as you can, whenever you can.

I’ve decided to take the Stephen King route and am going to read fantasy books I’ve never read before and reread ones I have for the next few weeks. First up, many people’s (mine included) gateway into fantasy, the Chronicles of Narnia.

Any suggestions for series or standalone fantasy novels would be gratefully received!


My short story Rebirth will appear in the final volume in Transtaafl’s Enter The Apocalypse trilogy of anthologies.


Rebirth is set in a Japan that never surrendered to the Allies in 1945. One hundred years after Hiroshima, Suzu has been conditioned to want to help Japan’s rebirth. But Suzu is very different from other teenagers. Different in ways even she never understood.

The three volumes feature stories set during or after apocalyptic events. The third volume, entitled Enter the Rebirth will “share stories of what the world will look like after the end of days.”

Find out more information about Enter the Rebirth.


What a great film, and coming in at around 90 minutes – no Peter Jackson, multiple endings here – it feels tight and taut, like the tethers that link the two astronauts together. I watched it in 3D at the IMAX and can’t imagine watching it on a smaller screen.

Even if you don’t like the two leading actors, watch it for the views and for the sensation you’re up there in the thermosphere with them. Unless you plan to make use of Richard Branson’s Space Tourism service, Gravity is probably the closest you’ll ever come to orbiting Earth.

Location:Cairo, Egypt