Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Silver Age

While I feel guilty for not steaming right on into The Jock #3, since I've been drawing again, I've not really done any sequential stuff for myself and I want to get some pages done so I can take a decent selection to the Brumcon this year. As I'm currently stuck for ideas (although I could do a chapter of the female character glimpsed in my Odds and Ends collection), I thought I'd return to my old standby character Silver. Rather than finish off the story begun in #1 years ago, I thought I'd go back and rework an older strip.

I had to dig out my old issues (after a nostalgic root through my old small press issues--an era which could be a post in itself--that unearthed other forgotten projects such as Wolf Who Thunders, a five issue supernatural Western that I had completely plotted out page by page but threw out when a movie nicked my twist a few years ago) and despite dodgy art, I was quite impressed with the storytelling. I was drawing regularly then and was obviously firing on all cylinders as the layouts were pretty vibrant. I've been so worried about getting the finishing stage of my stuff lately that I think I need to get a bit creative with some layouts , so I'm gonna work on some Silver before moving on to some other samples.

I'm gonna return to an old strip that stalled TWICE (the original version being the second one above) and hopefully have some fun with this. Maybe third time's the charm and I can get my mojo back. Silver, despite seeming like a comedic knock off of Hellboy (both having semi-anthropomorphic sidekicks doesn't help dispel those suspicions either!), was originally created as an idea to submit to 2000Ad but I decided to keep him for myself, especially when his dialogue tends to write itself. Coming up with a beginning can take some time but once it occurs, I'm usually off and running and the high density of panels and dialogue per page prove that I have more than enough material to get into a small space.

Silver debuted back in 1994 (!) in a series of occasional strips in Stephen Prestwood and Jason Falkiner's Flipside/Otherside flip comic before jumping over to their followup title, Dark Zone. Silver also crossed over with Darren Powell and Chris Askham's Sin and Davey Metcalfe's (blogspot spellcheck suggests Montgolfier as the correct spelling, y'know!) Debasers for a couple of strips, which is why both Darren and Dave turn up in cameos at the start of the A4-sized Silver #1 in 1999. This was a vast improvement over the earlier shorts (which were collected with a new short for a one-shot that sold out at 1995's UKCAC event).

I still have the resolution to that issue's cliff hanger in my head but I think that ship has sailed, but as I never completed the tale of Silver and Marv's trip into the heart of Texas to save a mythological figure, I think that's ripe for revisiting instead.

I need new light bulbs for my lamp (my living room light being OK to ink by but a bit dim to pencil by) so once I do, maybe a pic or two next week (fancy doing a Lois Lane and a Barbarella) then on to the Silver stuff. Here's hoping this is a better shot for the gobby spook fighter...

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Wassup Weekend!

Well, completing two pages of inks for Lonely Boy this weekend means I've now completed the art for the 8-pager and the quality is variable but nothing too irksome (panel featured below). Also posted is the completed Ms Marvel...I kinda gave up on this so it's not that impressive but again is serviceable. I now find myself ready to do samples but have yet to decide what yet so want to try doing a head shot on an A5 watercolour pad to see how compatible my pens and pencils are with the rougher paper stock.
Last night I had great delight watching My Name Is Bruce, which is immense cheesy fun that looks great for its eensyweensy budget. This made me laugh out loud more than many a big budget comedy has done, so I'd heartily recommend a viewing but as humour is subjective and I like Bruce Campbell anyway, I'd be reluctant to suggest it as an immediate buy. Having said that, the Making Of feature is pretty funny in its own right too and I'll be looking forward to the commentary...

Also taking the opportunity to catch up on my reading whilst in between projects. Read the final colour Bone collection today (I have the black and white run and was considering the One Volume collection but thought the coloured version made a nice alternative, as it works better read in chunks) and the second The Sword collection by the Luna Brothers, now have just All Star Superman Vol 2 and the Perry Bible Almanack to read. Excited by the news that DC has announced plans to publish Adam Hughes: Covers To Covers next year...good thing my bookshelves have a lot of space now! (Well, SOME space...)

I picked up My Name Is Bruce from Amazon, who I mainly use for books and DVDs now but was disappointed to see that they were unable to supply The Jungle Book...this was an IDW translation of a Eurocomic version and it was only the cover art that intrigued me. I could find no interior art online and have seen no copies in the shop so reluctantly bought it blind, taking advantage of Amazon's considerable discount. I then checked and saw it was now listed in stock again but with a higher cover, I e-mailed Amazon to basically ask woddafug and so I've just reordered it as they offered to charge me the original price (just over £2 less).


Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Long Live The Legion

While everybody's attention has been on the Watchmen movie, I've also been keeping an eye on the TV schedules for the Legion of Superheroes' debut on the rejuvenated Smallville, which still isn't essential but is a lot more enjoyable than the largely routine last two or thee seasons. As a major fan of the Giffen eras (the only DC titles I bought regularly in the early/mid 80s were New Teen Titans and the Legion, abandoning the former when Perez left and the the latter when Greg LaRoque replaced Steve Lightle). Last night saw the long awaited episode in question and --given the compromised versions of Aquaman, Flash, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary and Supergirl on the show (I think Green Arrow is a decent mix of the 40s and 70s GA) - what did I think of the show?

Well, the fact that I was grinning for a large part of the show is a pretty good indicator that I really enjoyed it. I wasn't expecting a whole lot but it was possibly the most pleasing episode of Smallville I've seen, yes even better than each season's "Sexy Lois" episodes. Okay, three members isn't exactly a Legion but it follows the comic history (which Geoff Johns has just reintroduced into official DC continuity and plays with again for his debut Smallville script here) by featuring the three founding members and they were all spot on to how I imagined them...except for Garth (Lightning Lad). When I started reading the Legion, Garth was already married so was calmer and had matured beyond the impetuous Silver Age version that the TV version is loosely based on. Still, he was likable enough and I liked Johns' novel usage of his and Rokk's powers. (BTW, I've just changed how I draw rocks, thought I'd just mention it).

It's a pity the Persuader was barely used as he was every inch the hardass he is in the comic and looked bloody excellent (with Doomsday, the Legion and Zatanna all being surprisingly good executions, looking forward to the possible introduction of more heroes into the show). While the plot was decent enough and Alison Mack turned in a great performance as Chloiac, it was the shout out to all the Legion history that I loved. From the flight rings, the Legion code (and the forming of it's first rule) and references to Light(ning) Lass through to a logical evolution for a featured character (won't spoil it for anybody watching it next week), I loved loved loved it.

Favourite line? "Garth, you're acting like a Sub" Made me laugh out loud...

Saturday, 14 March 2009

English or British?

Yesterday at work I was feeling particularly uninspired. Normally I'm pretty constantly and chug on pretty well but yesterday for no particular reason (though later I realised it was perhaps due to having a restless night previously), I had no energy to keep working by midday...which is when I got a call that normally I'd let wash over me as a loony but decided to argue the point just to relieve the tedium (I literally went up to one of our officers and said "Jacqui, I've got a problem...", "What's that?", "I can't be arsed...")

Anyway a woman (maybe in her 40s, hard to tell over the phone) called in to clarify a point in some documentation then said she wanted to make a complaint. I said OK then she went on to explain how she (and plenty of others) found it offensive that when asked for her ethnicity, she was given the options of White British, White Irish or White Other. When I explained that she needs to select White British, she went into a rage and proclaimed "But I'm not British, I'm English!". When I said that is covered under White British, she denied the fact and still claimed she was English and not British. From that point, the conversation went a bit like this:

"Yes, but England is part of Britain..."
"GREAT Britain!"
"Yes, GREAT Britain, so that makes you British."
"No, I'm ENGLISH! I was born and raised in ENGLAND!"
"...which is part of Britain..."
"Listen, if you told a Scottish person they were British, they'd be very offended! They're Scottish!!"

Nice of her to speak for all Scots and I'm sure if you called a Scot English (or Welsh), they would be offended. I'm not convinced they'd be offended by being called British, although I'm sure there's a few Scots who would like to gain independence from the UK...

Anyway, the debate raged until she said:

"I am from England, NOT Britain!"
"Well as England is PART of Britain, under that logic if you come from London, you can't claim to be English..."

And this is the part where I just gave up arguing....

"Now you're just splitting hairs!"

Pot, meet black kettle...

So, what ethnicity would you classify yourself as?

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Whoops, schedule's thrown out!

Okay, I had planned to get another page of inks done tonight and tomorrow and pencil two pages over the weekend, which I would ink next week, thus completing Lonely Boy. However, it's my mum's birthday next week and I decided to get her some tickets for a local music show but had to get the tickets to her TONIGHT due to my plans, her plans and the required time frame. Hence, no inking tonight (maybe catch up still at the weekend) but no great disaster. (Things like these often derail my drawing time but are so minor in real terms, it's not worth mentioning).

Anyway, just thought I'd post a panel from the latest page---this is the best of the page so the quality won't get much better, but I did use a brushpen for some of the waves so give me that at least!

Just read that Smallville's been renewed for a 9th season with all the current major cast set to return, although apparently two characters are set to die in this season's finale, one a longtime character and one not---Lana and Doomsday? The latter was actually quite impressive last night, a hell of a lot better executed than expected, even draped in shadows. This season shows how dull Gough and Millar were as the show has a whole new lease of life (although it's never the most essential thing on TV), despite the loss of Lex. Even Lana's not so whiney and coma-inducing now, plus Lois was back at last and that's always a plus for me. Apparently either the JLA or LSH are set for a fairly big return too. In the mean time, here's another pic of Zatanna, cos why not?

Monday, 9 March 2009

Back Into The Swing

Well, this weekend saw me getting back into the swing of drawing again after a break during that nasty bug. Between 10.00 and 4.00, I'd pencilled two pages and managed to crack the pose I'd been tackling for awhile---third time seems to be the charm. I decided to use the pose for 70s style Ms Marvel and while the figure is not much bigger than I usually draw (these were meant to be exercises in drawing larger scale) and I'm still not sure about all the proportions, I'm fairly happy with the line art. (This isn't finished, just thought I'd colour the line art for this post, I'll pencil shade and colour this as with Supergirl). I was going to put Warbird and/or Captain Marvel in as a backdrop but I'll have to see.

Had a break from drawing yesterday while I got round to catching up on a few chores (and watching a bunch of Lost Season 4 episodes!) but inked three quarters of a page today: two panels to ink tomorrow and that's another one done. However, I cocked up the final panel pretty badly in the inks (I made a change that I should have pencilled first) so I'll lightbox it to correct it as much as I can. Hopefully I'll have this strip completed by the end of next week and then it's on to the samples at long last.

However...with the state of the industry tightening up and more artists clamouring for work, it'll be even harder to break in. I'm starting to doubt if I should still focus my energies on samples instead of self publishing something of my own, or maybe submit samples to 2000AD, something I don't feel I'm really suitable for...

Friday, 6 March 2009

Who Watches The Watchmen? (Spoiler free)

Well, the long awaited answer to the question in the header above turns out to be "Me, actually"---funny old life, innit? I managed to sneak in a 5.00pm viewing of Watchmen today as it was pretty convenient, so what were my thoughts?

Well, I should start with the graphic novel, which I love. I've read it a few times so while I'm not obsessive about it, I'm pretty familiar with it but was also not bothered if it was never filmed. As Moore says himself, the story itself wasn't particularly exceptional, it's the telling of it that makes Watchmen so impressive. I also realised that I'd seen NO clips from the film, only the trailer, so I went in with an absolutely open mind. So:

Trailers: while cinema ads drive me up the wall, I love the trailers and was treated to brand new Star trek and Wolverine trailers. Wolverine looks pretty sure to be enjoyable (despite Cyclops not being in this trailer, boo!!) and I'm more confident about enjoying Star Trek now. One bit of dialogue, "James T Kirk was a great man---but that was in a different lifetime" makes me think this is either a time-travelling reboot or an alternate timeline.

The opening credits: Unusually silent credits before smoothly expanding out into the memorable first scene. After a little reference surreptitiously slipped in, Snyder soon proves himself an able director and I actually think this is perhaps the ultimate comic movie. "Why so?" you may ask but this benefits from adapting (and adapting is different from translating--I'd say 300 was a translation as it was essentially an image by image version of the comic) a finite story rather than cherry picking various elements from years of stories to create a solid plot. (This isn't all good though, as while the film is good, I don't know how absorbing the plot will be to non-fans as like the comic, it takes the necessary time to tell its story and isn't another testosterone-laced action flick). The other thing that elevates this film above its brethren is that it truly feels like a superhero comic because it features characters in costume but in a realistic setting.

This means that it's more satisfying than the ponderous Batman films, which take pains to set itself in reality. Well, Watchmen is realistic but isn't so po-faced and is all the better for it. The plot is pretty faithful to the original and there are plenty of familiar images, although less slavish to the original than 300. Yes, the squid is gone but the new finale is actually an improvement over that maguffin as the new ending ties things up more tightly. While you know you're looking at prosthetics much of the time (check out Nixon's conk!), it's mostly pretty good and the digital effects are also pretty well done. The film looks pretty good overall. While the choices of tracks played are a bit literal, they're all pretty decent tracks and add up to an interesting soundtrack.

Does it deserve the 18 certificate? Yes yes yes. While it's not relentlessly grim and brutal, it doesn't shy away when it is. However, balancing that out is the great prison break scene, washing away all memory of Nolan's anemic action scenes in the Batman films.

So, how do the characters fare:

The Comedian: One of the most accurate screen depictions of a comic character ever, this is exactly like I imagined the character.

Ozymandias: Y'know, I still can't figure out Ozymandias' Charlton analogue, but I'd suggest Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt over Judomaster. As with the GN, this character receives much less attention than his teammates but the actor plays him with an icy aloofness just this side of ponciness.

Silk Spectre: She could have been played as a bitch but she comes across as strong rather than cold and is pretty decent. Watch the scene during the prison riots where she and NiteOwl have just kicked major arse for a subtle but real spark off sexual energy between them.

Dr Manhattan: Everybody's gonna be focusing on his knob and at first, it's pretty indistinct but then there are clear shots and you can't help but look. Thankfully you soon take no notice and just accept it as you do with the GN. Generally the below the waist sections of Dr Manhattan are not as good as the upper body (and the rear shot of him when he's building his doohickey on Mars is pretty atrocious--- a shame as the rest of the shot is great) but overall he's pretty good, helped by his light effect and inner glow. His face, initially a little stiff, soon becomes quite expressive, particularly through the eyes and the sensitive voice characterisation by Crudup add alot too.

NiteOwl: When I first saw head shots of the actor and shots of the costume, I thought this looked too heroic and good-looking for NiteOwl. While the costume is pretty spiffy, the actor is actually the spitting image of Dan Dreiberg and is great in the role. As the book's everyman, NiteOwl becomes the emotional centre of the film...

Rorschach: Everybody's favourite sociopath played to perfection. While I think the mask is a little bulky, the moving inkblots are great and this is another unsurpassable performance. Some of the scenes of him just walking are great (particularly like him and dan trudging through the snow to Ozymandias' lair)

Overall, a great satisfying experience: despite the narrative's weakness showing up slightly on film, the film progresses steadily, features great performances, characters and imagery and is well worth checking out at the cinema rather than just at home.

Also, check out the link below:

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Random Roundup Returns

'Cor, it's not every day you get free beer at work is it? Yep, payment for yet another office art project means I now have a nice four pack chilling off in the fridge, almost makes all the crap at work worth it!

Anyway, posted above is the coloured and pencil shaded Supergirl, worked at at A4 rather than full size. I've saved a copy as a Photoshop file as this is one of the few pieces I've done that I'm fairly happy with (a few niggles but overall about 85% happy) and I might want to go back and do "proper" colouring rather than just these flat colours.

Went rooting through my old art the other day to organise it a bit and not alot of old stuff really exists anymore. When I was working nights, it sent me a bit funny for a while and at one point I vowed never to draw again and threw out tons of art, including most of my Jock issues. However, I unearthed a few other bits and realised how much work I've done with Rol. As well as over 25 issues of the Jock, there's been covers for Pjang, a Spider-Man illo for Vicious, a spot illo for his website, short stories like "Trust" and "Lonely Boy" and various character designs: we're almost like the small press Moench & Gulacy! :)

Random newsbites:

October sees the publication of The Complete Rocketeer from IDW, completely recoloured by Laura Martin, Dave Stevens' personal choice for the project. This means I can finally give up looking for a collected edition of Cliff's New York Adventure. For those of you who've never tried this, now's the chance to own a gorgeous looking collection with a great sense of fun.

The Birmingham Comics show also looks interesting this October if rumours of the big name guest of honour are accurate. I would say who it is, but it'd be rude. Picked up a couple of Wally Wood and Al Williamson items dirt cheap at a Brum comic fair this weekend, as well as Charles Vess' Spidey graphic novel, also dirt cheap--bonus! Still, it was better seeing unexpected faces Sarah and Phil at the pub again, felt like old times.

Three episodes in on the new Heroes episodes and it's treading water a bit. It definitely needs a firmer direction but I have the sad feeling this season will be the last. I think principal filming has ended but there's a familiar TV face joining the show for a bit (won't say who in case of spoilers but it could b a good piece of casting).

Let's hope the returning Smallville is still good. The reason I worked on the Supergirl piece is I know time is short for me on Heroes and Smallville days so I thought I'd ease into drawing after being ill by doing that. Hopefully get back to Lonely Boy tomorrow (now that I've made some necessary alterations via the lightbox in the pencil stage) and get some serious pencilling done at the weekend...luckily the backgrounds should be fairly easy for the final pages.