Sunday, 15 May 2016

Infinity & Beyond, and comic book ramblings

  (DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model. )

 I live with the comforting insane logic that regardless of how catastrophically stupid my decisions may appear, until someone from the future comes back in time to stop me then they can't possibly be that bad.

Some people say rooftopping, and exploring abandoned buildings are dangerous. Well, they're a walk in the park compared to demolition sites. Make no mistake, venturing into a building that is being torn down is a very very silly thing to do. I'm a danger only to myself, you understand. And I'm comfortable with that.
Infinity & Beyond has major sentimental value to me. But I'd hate myself if anyone else went in and got hurt so this post won't see the light of day until the demolition is complete because I don't want people to follow my horrendous example.

But because this place is comic book themed, I'm probably going to prattle about comics a bit!

(picture stolen from Google)

Infinity & Beyond was the local comic book shop and has been facilitating my addiction to comics for longer than I've even lived in Shrewsbury. The shop was at the bottom of Wyle Cop, where it moved after being on Castle Street at what is now a jewelry shop. The Wyle Cop store was significantly larger than the Castle Street store, which I first visited in 2006. At the time I was collecting reprints of the classic 1990s Deadpool comic, and I was so immersed I didn't know what Deadpool had been up to in recent years. So my trip to Infinity & Beyond that day was very useful, because it was then that I discovered the Cable & Deadpool series that came after the 1990s run. Well, Agent X technically came after the 1990s run but it was short and I havent read enough of it to have an opinion.

In terms of Deadpool I was waaaay ahead of the curve. When I was in college, nobody knew who Deadpool was! It was horrifying! Comic book fans would say they like Spider-Man or Wolverine, or the Punisher. But Deadpool? If I mentioned Deadpool, they didn't have a clue! By the end of college I'd converted a bunch of people, and we were all praying for a Deadpool movie.

Deadpool has been my favourite character since I was young because, and this will raise a few eyebrows, I find him relatable.

A lot of people just think Deadpools about the comedy but in the early comics he had a lot more depth. Sure, he was still hilarious, but beneath that we had this deeply troubled individual, who had suffered a lot in his life and emerged as a not-so-nice character. But prevalent through the early comics was his desire to improve and change for the better. And also prevalent were events and people that continuously dragged him back into the toxic environments that were detrimental to his development, and he also fell for the classic pitfall of becoming dependant on somebody else to provide him with the positivity crutch. The series focused a lot on his struggles with his demons, along with the coming to terms with bad things he had done, and it was very well written. The Cable & Deadpool run had him team up with the super serious time traveler, Cable, and the two worked surprisingly well together. In fact the series deserved a much longer run than it got. It ended on a high note for Deadpool. He fought alongside a bunch of other Marvel characters to stop a rampage of Venom-symbiote controlled dinosaurs (Yeah, I couldn't make this stuff up), and when the usual Marvel Superheroes criticised him with their holier-than-thou attitude, he put them in their place beautifully. Something we've all wanted to do to holier-than-thou types.

And having helped save the day, Deadpool ended the series on a high note, thinking maybe he could in fact be on the right track.

The Deadpool series that followed after that wasn't that spectacular. It was still enjoyable, but by then Deadpool had made his cinematic debut in that awful Wolverine movie, complete with post-credit scene that hinted that it wasn't the last we'd see of him. And Marvel seemed to take to this by putting Deadpool everywhere, bigging up the character but also dumbing down some of the depth as if to make him more kid-friendly. And what we got was Deadpool blundering from one misadventure to the next without much direction, and the majority of the comedy angle being provided by voices in his head criticising his decisions. I do get slightly irritated when people expressed annoyance that the Deadpool movie wasn't going to have these voices in his head. When he was at his best, he never had them. They came from nowhere, and went back to nowhere. At least not until they were explained retroactively.

But now, in the comics, and in the recent movie, Deadpool has a lot of his depth back and some direction. If these new comics took place after Cable & Deadpool, and we could ignore the run from 2008 til 2013, we'd have consistent character development.

What can one say about the Deadpool movie? Well it's not current news! Civil War is out now and everyone is talking about how adorable Spider-Man is. And he really, really is! I want to dip him in my tea like a biscuit. Ant Man too, why not? But people have asked me specifically to review Deadpool, and it was very fitting that I do so on my blog post of my explore of the old comic book shop. Unfortunately the place has only just become non-explorable and so the review is late. I'll share my thoughts anyway. If you havent seen it, skip to the end of the italic font.

Having been not just disapointed but flat-out offended when they unveiled their idea of  Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I have to say, this new film really hit the spot. It's no epic tale, it's no Avengers-scale superhero extravaganza. It's just Deadpool being Deadpool. And that's all fans have wanted since they first saw the monstrosity in Wolverine. And I'm glad that they mocked that version in the new Deadpool. But for X-Men fans in general, we also have for the first time Colossus being Colossus too. The X-Men films have in the past seemed almost afraid of being accurate to the source material as if that won't work in a movie, and as a result we've had some disapointing films. Okay, so they're not as bad to watch as Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen, but neither is beastiality. So it was refreshing to the X-Men franchise to have accuracy to the source material.
Granted,  Negasonic Teenage Warhead wasn't comic book accurate, but in the comics she literally existed for a couple pages before dying, so that isn't a problem. It still would have been nice to have an X-Man there relevant to Deadpools history, like Siryn or Domino, but that's a nitpick. 
Of the X-Men we actually see three. Yes, three. Colossus and Negasonic are the main two, but what a few people don't realise is that the girl at the Weapon X facility with all the protruding spikes also briefly joined the X-Men in the 1990s. Her name was Marrow, and she was amazing. Her story was one of coming to terms with the fact that she had uncontrolable bone growths protruding from her skeleton through her skin. Marrow was feral and disfigured, and she had to deal with this in a world of Storms and Jean Greys. But back to Deadpool, what we had was a simple revenge and get-the-girl story. Deadpool was portrayed flawlessly by Ryan Reynolds, who has been among the fans raging to have Deadpool be Deadpool. Oddly enough, and nobody has pointed this out yet, there is very little in the movie storyline that wasn't obvious from the trailer. You can pretty much put the story together from the trailer alone. But nobody noticed and nobody complained, and that is a sign of genius writing. Of course, for anyone who is geeking out over continuity in the X-Men cinematic universe, this film still makes sense, since it's come out after X-Men: Days of Future Past, which was a time travel movie that creatively rebooted the X-Men movie franchise by erasing the events of the less popular movies and therefore unmaking the Deadpool that was in the Wolverine movie. The Deadpool movie is also well timed, as it's happened in an era when we are basically being swarmed by superhero movies, and if I'm honest, a lot of people I know have expressed that they're getting slightly bored. Particularly after Age of Ultron. Deadpool has come along and provided a well done parody of the genre at a time when it will go down well. 

I will admit, I did worry that they'd mess up again, but I'm glad to be proven wrong. I loved it. If I really had to nitpick, like I said, I would have preferred more Deadpool-relevant X-Men. I also felt that the dynamic between Deadpool and Blind Al wasn't quite right. But then, to make Blind Al comic-book accurate, you'd have a whole new complicated sub-plot, and the same goes for if Vanessa was comic-book accurate too. But this movie didn't need these kind of complicated subplots. It just needed Deadpool to be Deadpool, and that's exactly what we got. I'd rather have Blind Al present but inaccurate, than completely absent, because she's awesome. 

But most importantly the Deadpool movie represents the power people have to make positive change if they think things are poopy. The original Deadpool movie idea angered fans to the point that the movie folks realised that they had no choice but to either make a Deadpool movie that was comic book accurate or just not make one at all. And leading the fanrage was Ryan Reynolds himself. Really we have him to thank for all this. But as far as superhero movies go, Deadpool proves that the fans have a voice, and that is why it needs our support. It was a major strike against cinematic mediocrity.
And that's my fangasm.

Back to why we're all really reading my blog- Infinity & Beyond. But how hard is it to not digress on a subject I could blather on all day about?

Infinity & Beyond is also where I pick up The Walking Dead, and since the artist Charlie Adlard lives here in Shrewsbury, the Wyle Cop store was featured on a variant cover of Issue 106, which was the 100th issue drawn by him.

The cover is a reference to Issue 1's cover, and I'm pretty sure the stuff on the floor is a reference to the artists drumming and lego collection, but I'm not 100% sure on that.

The staff of Infinity & Beyond were also featured in zombie form on a variant cover of Issue 85 for the stores birthday.

I tend to point out a lot that Shrewsbury is the home of the Walking Deads artist, mainly because a lot of people (and I'll probably be struck by divine lightning for this blasphemous statement) seem to think that Charles Darwin is Shrewsbury's best claim to fame. He was born here, true, but he didn't live here. And he still has that shrine outside the library. Where's Charlie Adlards statue??? The guys drawn Spider-Man too! And that's just looking through my comic collection. I don't know what else he's done. I'm not his biographer, or stalker, although he's signed a bunch of my Walking Dead collection in store and one time I waved at him on Pride Hill. Still, I'm fairly certain there's a connection between him and the Adlards Tobaconist on Shoplatch but again, I could be wrong. So yeah, where's Charlie Adlards statue?

Hang on? While we're on the topic...

WHERE'S MY STATUE??? I want one too!

Infinity & Beyond has since moved their business to the Darwin Shopping Centre. (See, there's really no escaping our Lord and Master Charlie D here in the town of flowers.) But the Wyle Cop store still has its sentimental value. Not only was it a place for comics, it was a place for coffee and cake, and events. I've come here in cosplay, and taken part in their raffles. I was among those referencing Monty Python when "Brian" won the raffle and the entire store started shouting "I'm Brian!!!" in a beautiful unplanned moment of crowd mind synchronicity.

As a final claim to fame before we get onto the actual adventure, Infinity & Beyond is also where I met a certain artist. Now this artist has gone onto many, many things, but he also happened to have drawn the old Transformer pocketbooks published by Ladybird. On this particular day I was already getting some Walking Dead signed by Charlie Adlard, but being oportunistic I had a rummage around the cupboards in my flat. You see, as a child I was a massive fan of Transformers. I still have a cabinet full of the old vintage toys, staring out at me, being collectively worth more than everything else I own. Of course I had the little books when I was a child. I just had to find out where I stuck them. Eventually, having torn open and emptied a formerly sealed cardboard box all over the floor, I found one of the old picture books and rushed over to the comic shop. The artist was visibly shocked. He said "This was the first paid work I ever did, and the last thing I ever expected someone to want signed." But it's an awesome tidbit, and probably makes those little books the most unique of their kind.

And so, in spite of the shop itself moving to the town centre, this building had sentimental value to me, and as the towns eccentric adventurer, it would be more surprising if I didn't sneak in!

But I have to repeat, demolition sites are freakin' dangerous. You'd be silly to just stroll on in willy nilly. I'm somewhat professional. And I don't steal, vandalise, disrespect, damage or disclose means of entry. Although I don't think it's that much of a secret given that the entirety of the upper floor was lacking in a ceiling.

 Recently your lovely donations have enabled me to get a gorilla-pod which has greatly raised the number of places I can take long exposures from, and I love it, and I love my readers for donating the money. But the initial adventure took place before I had the gorilla-pod, and as such I had to lug a big clunky tripod onto this roof for long exposures.

But there have been a few Gorilla-pod photos put on this blog and on Instagram, so the blog is ever-growing, and all money put into the adventure fund will go towards making it even better.

Meanwhile, my long exposures on the exposed upper floor of this building are what you'd expect from a building going through demolition.

 Now, this building wasn't just a comic book shop. It was divided into a bunch of stuff. But I'm not sure what else it was used for. It had a big old fashioned elevator shaft that I don't think was part of the comic book store.

 There was no petroleum in the petroleum room, just lots of old shelves.

I have no idea what any of this was. Judging by the signs, it was something to do with the carpark outside.

The upper floors of Infinity & Beyond were still intact, although there wasn't much left, and consisted largely of blank, featureless offices. Were these used by Infinity & Beyond though? 

Just above the wheelbarrow, a sign reads "Enquiries." 

Here's an old telephone exchange.

Nearby were the stairs that led down into the comic shop. From what I remember, these were concealed from view when the place was open to the public.

Curiously, and quite sadly, the demolition crew have removed these stairs but left the old offices and presumably everything inside them where they are. If you walk down Wyle Cop in Shrewsbury, the car park on the left just after Tanners is where this building used to be, and the big grey offices are the only part that remains, facing the street, but there's no way up into them now. They're sealed off. To me that's really kinda awesome. Years from now, someone might find their way in through a window or something, maybe from scaffolding, maybe from the rooftops, and find these offices, telephone exchanges, builder graffiti and enquiries sign, and be completely baffled by the fact that there's no actual legitimate way into these offices.

At the time of the adventure, the stairs were quite exposed and led to what's left of the store interior. In the window, we can see the silhouettes of various superheroes, who were visible on the outside of the store.

 If my memories right, where the chair is were where the staff kept their boxes of back issues, although in later years the area was occupied by t-shirt racks. As a youngling, I spent ages pouring through the back issues to see if I could find any gems from the past. Now I'm very much up to date on everything I want to be up to date on, but one can never have too many Deadpool t-shirts! To the direct left of the main door, as one was coming in, there was a fridge full of drinks, and then along the window were numerous seats for the cafe portion of the store.

It's so strange to see these doors now. How many times have I walked through them completely legitimately to buy comics? I never guessed I'd someday be on the other side of these doors in this capacity.

 The cafes logo reading "Heroes Coffee" was still on the window. I tended to use the cafe portion more when there were events. It was guaranteed someone would inevitably end up sat at the same table as me purely because all the other seats were taken, and we'd end up chatting comics because it's dead easy to make new friends when you're in an environment where you know automatically that you're into the same things.

At the far wall, The Flash is the only interior superhero decoration remaining.

The deeper parts of the store were occupied by a skip and piles of rubble. The place where the comic isles and counter once stood were not worth photographing. However, I was determined to get rooftop access. After all, once the demolition was finished, the view would be one I'd never have a chance of getting again. And here it is, the view from Infinity & Beyond.

I did get a shot facing towards the English Bridge, but the wind blew the tripod and it came out horrible. So here's another one slightly further towards Wyle Copp to make up for it.

As an interesting tidbit, the building in the distance with the circular rooftop is covered in little metal birds. There are two attached to lower railings which are clearly visible, but if one looks up at the building from ground level, there are more sat on ledges and also wired to the building in flight. And loads of people don't notice, but it's a great little detail. Seriously, next time you stroll past, look up at the building and check it out.

But back to Infinity & Beyond, I did eventually nip up to the roof during the day. Daytime rooftopping does have the disadvantage of exposure and potential capture, but it also has the advantage of being able to see further, to expand further along the rooftops of Wyle Cop, and not being limited to long exposure photography. It was a great day and I totally loved it up there.

 Protruding from the trees in the distance is Laura's Tower.

 And just poking up between the two trees in this one is Lord Hill Column.

In this picture is the Wakeman college, plus the abbey in the background. And if we zoom, one can just make out the Abbey Forgate brothel in front of the abbey.

One thing I love about Wyle Cop is that because it's a steep-sloped street, all of the buildings have gardens that are on different levels to each other. At the bottom of the above picture one can see the tables in the beer garden of the Nags Head, but on higher levels there are other gardens and yards. The cool thing is from street level, one can't see this. The road is just a smooth slope. But for any tunnel enthusiasts out there, even though I can't see any evidence of underground tunnels in this particular shot, this sort of architecture totally lends credibility to the theory of underground tunnels in the centre of town being evacuation points to the outer parts back when the place was a fortress. I could totally see it being possible in other parts of town, even if it's not here.

Shrewsbury's just a gorgeous town, and this is only made more obvious from the rooftops.

But sadly that's all I've got. At the time of writing, Infinity & Beyonds rooftop is no longer accessible but the shop front, full of inaccessible offices, still stands. But for comics, Infinity & Beyond still exists in the Darwin Shopping Centre! It's a unique shop in a very easy-to-find spot, and as far as I'm aware it's the largest local source of comics, graphic novels, collectables and related stuff in Shropshire.

But to apologise for not posting this blog sooner, I've been busy scripting a webcomic that my friend up in Edinburgh is drawing for me. It's going to be an amazing colaboration purely because the characters and story arcs have been rattling around my imagination for years now and I know them as well as I know real people- a situation any creative person will understand. Sooner or later, one has to let them have their say. It was just a case of finding the right format.
Anyway, as it happens all of the characters have actual real-world character models. My face is going to be in this book. My best friend is also there. The girl from my recent photoshoot at Vanity House is there too. The genre is superhero but with villains as the protagonists, and there are a lot of steampunk / cyberpunk / dieselpunk themes, dark humour but also enough cheese to stop anyone taking it too seriously. It's going to be awesome.

 But the stories cast will be wide and if anyone wants to appear in this webcomic, feel free to spam me with selfies or give me permission to raid your photo albums and send them off to the artist up north. Just let me know and I'll see that it happens. Just, if that does happen, don't get upset if your character dies or anything. This is a tale told from the bad guys perspective. Unpleasant things will happen to people. Nothing pornographic though. I have absolutely no interest in scripting my readers and friends into porn. Sorry.

But yes, this project is what has been taking up a lot of my spare time. Everyone on the creative team is really excited for it.

But anyway, thank you for reading this blog. As always feel free to follow me on Instagram and Twitter, although I really need to get better at Twitter. I fear that if I allowed myself to indulge I'd probably spam it with every random thought I have.

If you want to donate money to this blog, the button is at the top in the corner, and all proceeds are currently going to my friend, Zena, who is raising money to improve the quality of life for her young neice with cystic fibrosis. My last blog post had over 28,000 views! Thats huge! And if each viewer had donated just £1 to Zena's fundraiser, that little kids life would be unfathomably better. It's a cause I really support and want to help with so please click donate if you can. But no pressure. What's also important is that you go out and make someone smile. Today. Turn someones life around. I'm massively into the so-called butterfly effect, where the smallest of actions can trigger significant changes, the extent of which is never actually known. I mean you don't know what shit people are facing, and just being friendly can lift someone up and turn a day around. Positivity is totally contagious.

Anyway, I sure have waffled on today. Thank you for reading! Stay awesome!


  1. Great post! My earliest memories of this comic book shop was when it was on FIsh Street many years ago. I used to go in there and buy a sealed paper bag of mystery comics for a few quid.

  2. Great article. I love these. And you're totally right about the drums and lego.

  3. This building was previously occupied by Kennings as a petrol station and car dealership and known as Morris House.

  4. Great article. I actually designed that Heroes Coffee logo, so great to see it one last time. :-)

  5. Yes Kennings car garage was here so the offices related to them I have heard lots of stories about this place having worked with people who worked there during that time .