Monday, 28 July 2008

Random Roundup--Requests Required!

Just got back from a bumper weekend in Birmingham and Jean Claude Van DAMME it was hot! Fortunately , alcohol and water was at hand to alleviate it but I'm now in a state of recovery before returning to work tomorrow. So what's up in the world of me?

Well, saw The Dark Knight, which gets the general thumbs up. It's well directed and acted, never really sags (even with that colossal running time!), looks great and has great villains (I liked the surprise appearance of the third villain). Two-Face was great and far better than the previous screen versions, and surprisingly gory (which was great!) and the Joker was actually pretty damn cool. While I still say Jim Carrey's gurning Riddler was the closest thing to the comic Joker yet seen on screen, Ledger's had the required air of menace, unpredictability and above all the sense of duality with Batman so often hinted at in the comics. And that scene with the hospital was amazing! was intellectually satisfying but emotionally uninvolving and at three hours long, not a quick watch on DVD. As a result this well made and intelligent (and probably superior) comic book film loses points with me as quite frankly it didn't entertain as much as Iron Man or the Hulk (the former still being my favourite film of the year). Still have the animated tie-in to watch while pondering which villains they could use for the third Bat film. The Penguin is a natural as he's a mobster but PLEASE GOD NO!! He's crap! Catwoman would work but most of Batman's classic Rogue's gallery gets a bit too fantastic for the realistic Bat films (Poison Ivy, Mr Freeze, Man-Bat, Clayface, Killer Croc etc are all too far fetched). The Riddler remains viable but please not the Ventriloquist!

Checking out the latest news, saw the trailer for BET's new Black Panther cartoon. Pants. It's flash-animated John Romita Jr work that looks like nothing more than the 1960s Marvel Superheroes cartoons...but who cares with the news that Geoff Johns is writing an episode of Smallville that introduces the frickin' Legion of Superheroes?! I am SO looking forward to this; OK, they won't be in costume but they are the characters we'd expect (so Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad at least then, all fairly easy to translate on screen) and feature the flight rings. Wa-hey!!

After considering ripping off the idea from Garen Ewing (see here for his excellent work: ), Tone mentioned the same thoughts as well so sometime soon I'll be doing a comic characters A-Z. Don't know how regularly I'll be able to do these but I'll be needing suggestions starting with A-F (don't bother with Beano/Dandy type characters as I never read those). I'm not looking to do on-model depictions, just my versions, so all suggestions welcome.

One of the reasons these won't be done really fast is I'm still working on samples. Managed to ink three pages of The Jock #2, and have only a further two to ink and a third to pencil and the issue is done. I'll probably tinker slightly with #1 before going on to #3 but I agree with Tone, you have to move on or things will never get done. However, if this is going to be shopped around, there are a few tweaks here and there that need to be made in #1---not as many as I originally wanted to do as I can redraw elements rather than whole panels for the most part. There are things that will need redrawing but not too much: good, as I've kept Rol waiting too long with this and I want to get it done myself.

Once these are done, I'd like to do a few things for myself, nothing set in stone yet but a few ideas swilling about. I also have another pitch under consideration for a future issue of Back Issue (so crossing me fingers!) while Dave tinkers with some PDFs for me.

I can see me taking a few days to rest and then cracking back on asap...

But gimme an A!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Sing Da Feem Toon....

I've really got to stop watching Family Guy.

When this originally began airing on Channel Four, I gave up on it within one episode as a dull Simpsons wannabe but I've got into it recently via the regular airings on BBC3. there's usually at least one laugh out gag per episode and the episodes currently aren't same the five episodes recycled over and over by the broadcaster. Stewie and Brian are natural faves but the paedo is usually funny (and occasionally disturbing, as in his 1950s trannie fantasy) and there are loads of other throwaway gags that keep the episodes lively.

It's just that...I've been watching the late night double bills before heading to bed for a while and I've noticed an unfortunate side effect...the mornings now find that bloody terrible theme tune running around my head all the time! Unwanted snippets pop in at any absentminded moment! I only know a few bits of lyrics thankfully but this also means I hear Stewie chanting "Laugh and CRYYY" all the time.

I've got to stop watching Family Guy (until 11.00pm tonight)...

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Creative Pause

Well, other than the movie meme below, I've been back to the drawing board this weekend. I still haven't settled on the setting/idea for the action sequence I want to draw next so I decided not to just sit on my laurels and get some inking done while I considered what to draw.

Saturday saw me ink a page and a half of the Jock and I finished the second page today but my Sunday morning lie in and various chores that still need doing mean I won't get much more done today.

Anyway, above is a panel from the Spidey Loves Mary Jane samples I recently completed. For these pages, I'm practically inking myself with a pencil. The layouts loosely put all the basic details in, which I then clarify by going over and filing in the details. This would be a finished page if I were pencilling for somebody else to ink, whereas my layouts can be vague and too loose (nothing is ever ruled or detailed!) for anybody else to decipher really. Having said that, I'm crap at cars so that was worked out pretty much in the layouts as I didn't trust myself to tighten up in the pencilling stage, even using reference!

This week will see me hopefully inking a bit if not starting the new sequence..

Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Movie Meme!

Well, following on from Rol, Tone and Kelvin, here is my life in movies---I used Wikipedia as the IMDB list would be too long to trawl through and picked the movie I'd soonest watch again, not the one that I think is actually the best:

1971: The Omega Man. I'm not a huge fan of it but I love the book, don't mind this adaptation and well, everything Wikipedia lists for 1971 was a bit pants.

1972: God this was a crappy year! I prefer Godfather II over the original, so Deliverance probably ranks as my favourite film of the year, which ain't saying much...

1973: High Plains Drifter, hands down. More overtly supernatural than Eastwood's later Pale Rider, this Western is quite chilling at times and I love the imagery. Lodge in the back of my mind is a story inspired by this.

1974: Young Frankenstein: another terrible film spotted with a few classics I'm not overly interested in so this wins by process of elimination.

1975: Jaws: again there's no competition but it's till a classic, even with Bruce...

1976: Another dull year so I'd probably only rewatch Silent Movie, so this IS a duff year...and Rocky's dull too, I only like the one where he fights He-Man...

1977: I don't even have to search, it's Star Wars, greatest film of a generation and a guiding force in my childhood.

1978: It was nearly Dawn of the Dead (as Halloween is a slasher film and they are endlessly dull) but of course it's Superman, which is flawless until that first shot of Otis walking down the Metropolis sidewalk, leading to a likable but misportrayed Lex Luthor (for my money, only Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville has nailed Luthor spot on).

1979: Alien, closely followed by Apocalypse Now and Zombie Flesh Eaters (only because I still can't believe they got a man to dress as a zombie and fight a real shark!)

1980: Probably Flash Gordon, followed by the Blues Brothers. There is so much spot on with the Flash movie, I can forgive some of the shoddiness...

1981: Another one that needs no searching for, Raiders of the Lost Ark stands as a true classic. Great great great film.

1982: Blade Runner, with Star Trek 2 and Poltergeist trailing behind...

1983: Some good films but none outstanding so I'll fall back on Return of the Jedi, only because I'd sooner review it than any other from this year..

1984: Quite a few decent films but I'd probably go with Starman, which is a stunning film.

1985: Back To The Future, followed by Breakfast Club and Fright Night.

1986 It was nearly Ferris Beuller's Day Off with Big Trouble In Little China, Aliens and Star trek IV trailing but it has to be Stand By Me, one of my favourite all time movies.

1987 Some classics this year but my favourite of the year remain Lost Boys: I still love this film, full of character with some great moments. Lowbrow to be sure but fun.

1988 Die Hard, although it was very nearly the complete opposite choice of My Neighbour Totoro...

1989 This will always be the year of Batman to me but that's aged poorly so if I had to watch something from this year, I'd choose Indian a Jones and the Last Crusade.

1990 Another ropey year but Tremors is another all time favourite film. Fun, great characters and highly enjoyable throughout---but don't go near the sequels or TV show!

1991 Another dodgy year with a few classics I'm not overly fond of so my pick would be Star Trek 6, the last outing for the original and best crew, with a decent allegorical plot line too.

1992 Reservoir Dogs: not my favourite Tarantino film but this was another poor year with a few films I like, but not as much as this.

1993 Despite the Fugitive and Groundhog Day (and even Kalifornia), this year belongs to Jurassic Park, still a great adventure romp.

1994 Pulp Fiction, probably my favourite film of all time, and piss and shit all over Forrest Gump!! Clerks is a very very close second and Shawshank Redemption is another all time fave...

1995 Toy Story, with Twelve Monkeys close behind.

1996 From Dusk Till Dawn, another great favourite of mine---and that sequence with Salma Hayek is certainly memorable!

1997 Despite enjoying Con Air and Austin powers, I have to go with Chasing Amy.

1998 Another poor selection, so my pick of the bunch is The Faculty.

1999 The Matrix: forget the sequels and the original is still ace.

2000 X-Men!

2001 Lord of the Rings:FOTR It has it's detractors but it's the most accessible of the trilogy and is superbly crafted.

2002 Spider-Man: If not for (shudder) Macy Gray and the fixed fave of the Goblin looking more like the witch out of Chorlton and the Wheelies, this would be a perfect film, as it is though, Spidey 2 kicks its bum.

2003 Very nearly Kill Bill Volume 1 but another top comic adap wins out with X2.

2004 Mentioned above, Spidey 2 wins this year.

2005 Batman! Batman Begins, alright?! Jeez, I missed it while trying to pay attention to a bunch a lists...

2006 Probably Clerks II but I'm also one of the few people who like X-Men 3.

2007 Hmmm...I want to say No Country For Old Men, which is the better film by far but if I had to pick one to watch again, Spidey 3 is more to my tastes, even though it's overlong and wastes Venom but still has Aunt May as the voice of gibberish...actually, sod it, it's no Country...

2008 So far it's Iron Man all the way...

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Cheese Upon Cheese: The Zone Horror Zone!

Well, day two of the strike and while I managed to start and complete a whole page of pencils yesterday (finishing up a 3-page Mary Jane sequence), I've not bee able to get anything done today due to a) wanting to start an action sequence but not being able to settle on what exactly to draw but mainly b) sorting out two huge boxes of books, comics and odds and ends, the last stuff I had left at my mum's. By the time that was all sorted, half the day was gone.

Anyway, as I can't listen to music while I draw---well I can, I just get annoyed having to stop drawing to fiddle with the CD player every time a CD ends (it's a minor quibble I know, but if you get into a groove, you either interrupt it or sit in silence until you finish up what you're working on!)--I have the TV on as background. Most channels are full of crap so what's my default channel? Perhaps one of the shoddiest, Zone Horror, as I've grown to quite like this cheesy channel after the initial disappointment of realising it's quite crap.

The definition of horror is stretched out quite tenuously to enable the channel to fill it's schedule--despite starting each day with the (apparently) world's longest-running call-in spiritual show, Good Morning Psychic---but you knew that, right? Still, there's no rationale for the inclusion of The Visitor, the dull sf starring always-reliable John Corbett. Then there's the godawful crap that should never ever have been made let alone screened, such as Dark Knight (a grumpy version of Ivanhoe fighting what looks like the creatures from Chewbacca's chess game in Star Wars) and the blatant Buffy bandwagon riding Vampire High, a Canadian series with some shockingly ludicrous acting, dialogue, plots and characters. Generally of more interest is The Collector, another Canadian series about somebody--I think he was a monk, I don't really care--who tries to redeem and save people's souls before the devil collects their souls after the end of their ten year contracts. While the central premise of condemning yourself to eternal burning in order to have ten years of whatever it is you bargained for is pretty stupid (if somebody said to you "I'll give you whatever you want for a decade, then you burn in hell forever", I think most folks would tend to say "Actually thanks for the offer but I think I'll pass---oh, and thanks for confirming the existence of Hell and therefore a Heaven and ultimately my path to eternal peace"), it's a decently produced show (especially one set in a concentration camp) but remains fairly uninvolving and dull.

I still watch the frequent Ray Bradbury Theatre double-bills with the hope of eventually catching the adaptation of the classic A Sound Of Thunder but usually catch some really cheaply produced episodes that occasionally feature some well known actors. The series was an internationally produced one and had involvement from Granada TV but the only time I ever saw the show terrestrially was late at night when the local TV station used to show stuff like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Night Gallery and the 80s Twilight Zone, which I also tend to watch on ZH. These video-filmed episodes are now in a poor condition but they have generally better effects than RBT, although that ain't saying much. Again, it's fun spotting familiar faces, such as Bruce Willis acting against himself in the Harlan Ellison-written "Shatterday" and another story featuring a foxy-looking Helen Mirren.

The face-spotting continues with a godawful Wes Craven show called Nightmare Cafe that features a young Mr Bennett from Heroes (but not as young as he was in Dynasty) but the real thing that made me like ZH was it's cheesy movies: most of their films are dire direct-to-DVD clag but occasionally the odd film comes along that is quite enjoyable. Recently the Hulk and Swamp Thing movies have been screened, along with sequels to the Re-Animator and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and it's the palpable sense of fun in these films make them enjoyable. They're not great--the Re-Animator sequel ended with a rat fighting a reanimated disembodied penis--but they are fun. I was shocked last night to switch over to a film I vaguely remembered when Stephen King turns up! Turns out it was Creepshow 2, which I saw at the cinema and I was the only one in there---quite probably I was the only one at ANY cinematic screening of it and deservedly so if the animated sequence at the end is an indication of the rest of the film.

Today saw Empire of the Ants, a cheap HG Wells "adaptation" pitching Joan Collins and co against giant ants in the swamp (and also completely ripping off the Jaws theme--how they were never sued, I can't imagine) and currently Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing (with support from Peter Sallis!) are thesping away in Scream And Scream Again, which seems to be some nonsense about a neo-Nazi type going around chopping off people's limb in 1970 London, so you can imagine the humour value.

I missed Snakes On A Train but do want to catch the shameless Richard Matheson ripoff I Am Omega this weekend: when there's never ending Friends, Big Brother, home renovation, home buying, tat selling or chav-starring episodes on all the main channels, thank god for ZH!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Oooh, me piles!

Well, apart from struggling to draw pages, trying to keep sane during the average working day and your usual every day chores, what comics do I actually read now? Well, for somebody interested in the medium, there's not much I actually follow on a regular basis now...

The sad fact is that with the increased revenue adulthood brings, this period in your life also robs you of the voracious appetite of your younger self. Comics are more expensive now, space is a consideration and finding time to read an issue once is enough of a hassle, let alone rereading them over and over like you did as a kid. Still, I still love the medium, a mix of art and words that has its own strengths and weaknesses. So what WAS in this month's comic parcel (always a mixed bag!)

Well, quite a hefty month this one, so in addition to the regular Wizard, Previews and Marvel Previews combo, I received only the following issues:

Clan Destine #5 (completing the Alan Davis sequel to the original 90s series)
Hellboy: The Crooked man #1: It's not Mignola but I'll still pick up any Hellboy (but have had to shy away from some interesting spin offs like BPRD and Lobster Johnson as the art was pretty nasty...)
Number of the Beast #5 & 6: solely for the Chris Sprouse artwork
Dark Tower: Long Road Home #5 & End-World Almanac: think I'll just get the collections in future.

The rest of the pile was mainly collections:

Y The Last Man Vol 10: The final one, I'm not flicking ahead to the end as I want this to be a surprise like Preacher and Starman were
Astonishing X-Men Vol 4: Whedon's last issues and Cassaday's already working on the final issue of Planetary at last.
Walking Dead Volume 8: Talky but good
The Sword #1: I like the Luna Bros' stuff so far (even though I still have no bloody idea what Girls was all about).
Jack of Fables Vol 3: Not as great as the home title but still enjoyable.
Coraline: A surprisingly thick (186 pages for an OGN) P Craig Russell showcase.

And finally Titans Companion 2, as I enjoyed the first one so much.

And I've still got a few other books on the go and the Suburban Glamour collection to read (which I'm avoiding until I finish these clean line samples as it'll possibly influence or intimidate me!)...

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Strike! Strike!

Well, next Wednesday and Thursday sees local council Unison members across the country going on strike for a higher pay rise that is closer in line with the rate of inflation. As a member of Unison myself---that means two days off work!! Yay!! Yayy!!

I'll need it to catch up with some drawing...I just finished a page today using a clean line style for a sequence featuring Mary Jane ad Liz Allen (above) from Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane. I don't mind the art but the page itself is pretty boring so I'll probably continue without using this first page or just start a new set. I want to have at least four sets of samples to take to the Brumcon: the Spidey pages, a clean line sequence, a hi-octane action sequence and a DC sequence, plus a colour illo and some inked pages of the Jock and maybe a Silver short. That's a lot to get in and I don't know if I'll get it all done...I can get it done if I don't pressure myself...but I also know how picky I am with my art...

...mind you, I was reading the first story in the Ennis/Erskine Dan Dare collection last night, and while it generally looks great, there was some WEIRD stuff going on with some leg proportions in there, so sometimes you have to let things go but when you're submitting some art to be looked at, you need the art to be as free of clag as it can be...

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Random Roundup Revisited

Well, nothing major going on but lots of little bits and bobs so what's been going on?
Firstly, I've been toiling away slowly but surely on some samples to take up to this year's Birmingham comic con, just to see if it's worth me pursuing it or if I should just focus on my own work. I intended to finish The Jock #2 first (and could have done it by now) but wanted to get started on this. Feeling bad for again temporarily abandoning Rol while struggling for something to draw, I struck upon the idea of returning to the old Spider-Man strip we were planning. I've always had problems with drawing Spidey (keeping him skinny, muscled and agile all at once without becoming exaggerated) but have always managed to pull him off when working for Rol (having done a couple of illos in the past) and so far I'm happy with the results so far (which can be seen at

Rather than force the pages and cock them up, I'm going to rest the sequence and work on a few different ones. I want to do a cleaner line style and have a Spidey Loves MaryJane type bit in mind for that. I also want to do a MORE detailed style and started with a Thor vs Iron Man sequence, inspired by visions of Thor just pummelling the crap out of someone after rocking to Immigrant Song on my iPod). This is abandoned at present due to the pain in the rectum that is Iron Man's current armour, cool though it is. I'll probably send some pages to Bob McLeod at Rough Stuff for a critique, and I'm already looking at three points he'll no doubt pick out.

Talking of Twomorrows titles, my cheque for the Captain Britain article turned up the other week and was more substantial than expected, which is just as well considering the bank charges it'll incur...I thought this would be out now but a quick look at the Twomorrows website shows that this is due in about two weeks

Speaking of work, my Ka-Blam order turned up recently and today Rol's PJANG (available at rocked up, featuring a cover by me and art by Tone, who's own comic Outcastes also turned up this week (which can be obtained at Davey (also logging new art of his own at his blog, linked to the side here) also sent me the PDfs of the book on comic movies I wrote this week so that is, if not right now, only one step away from being placed on Lulu for printing. This little buzz of activity plus some goals to work towards and the fact that I AM actually drawing again has made me feel pretty positive and enjoying the scene again, feels like the 90s again --- but with better production values!
Reading three books at the minute: starting Evanier's book on Kirby, and I still can't fathom why I was drawn to this but a chapter in and it seems ok so far. I'm nearly done with Studio Space, the not-at-all-what-I-was-expecting-but-is-kinda-ok-despite-the-wads-of-typos book SUPPOSEDLY but actually not at all about artists' studios (merely touching on working methods instead) and have started Smoke and Mirrors, the first Gaiman anthology. The stories are OK so far but there's poetry. POETRY. Can't be doing with that poncey stuff...
...more my cuppa tea was Wanted, the undemanding but enjoyable movie based on Mark Millar and J.G.Jones's comic of the same names. Although changing certain elements, some scenes from the comic remain almost word for word and while there probably isn't enough here for tons of repeat viewing, the insane action, snappy dialogue in places, foxy Angelina Jolie and ever-re;iable Morgan Freeman mean I'll probably pick this up when it's sold off at a lower price---although I could pick it up sooner if the DVD extras are particularly enticing...