Wednesday, 29 April 2009

X-Men Oranges: The Unspoilered Wolverine Review

Well, before commenting on the new film, I feel I should state my thoughts on the previous films to set a context. I grew up being blown away by the Byrne/Claremont X-men run and was a huge X-fan until the line became so diluted and anemic, I finally dropped the whole thing, only occasionally dipping back (Whedon & Cassaday's run kicked major bum though).

I thought the first X-Men film was good but very restrained, it made these characters acceptable to a mainstream audience while remaining faithful to the characters but it never felt quite right. The second film was a lot better, more confident and with an easier atmosphere and unlike some, I actually didn't mind the action-packed third instalment, despite the odd concern here and there.

For me then, the new film pretty much blows them out of the water. By featuring a narrative based around a single character rather than having to juggle a number of teams, the film has a stronger emotional narrative as it ties together elements of the Wolverine: Origin (proving Quesada's decision to provide an origin for Logan before the movies did to be right), Larry Hama's Wolverine and Morrison's X-Men issues into a linear plot. Much of the period scenes are over with the adrenalin-charged title sequence but lead into a much better photographed film than the earlier trilogy. Gone is the sterile leather and shiny steel look, replaced with a richer palette and some stunning scenery. The majority of the effects are great (except for The Blob) and while the climax descends into CGI a tad too blatantly, you forgive this as you are so invested in the title character by then.

While remaining largely bloodless, we finally get to see Wolverine in all his rage-fuelled berserker fights and Jackman's pretty impressive in these scenes. Sabretooth is a much better threat than expected (the dodgy animalistic pouncing seen in the trailer recut to be less goofy, and pretty impressive in the Scott Summers chase), Gambit is great (no dodgy accent but as cool as the ragin' Cajun should be), Silver Fox is surprisingly sympathetic (she seemed a bitch in the comics) and there's a ton of mutant cameos (and Storm was dropped, hoorah!!). I have to admit, I had to wikipedia some of the characters when I got home but it's largely irrelevant as you go along with the flow. Danny Huston was also a revelation as the younger William Stryker.

On the other hand, I was quite shocked to see a character obviously intended as a Heather Hudson substitute actually WAS Heather, yet no Mac? I was even more disturbed to see a former Neighbours cast member starring as Wolverine's dad!

Overall, a pretty good action-packed action movie with a strong emotional core...there are two post credit scenes, neither really adding anything. The first is a few seconds into the credits and the last one is right at the end and believe me, it's so pointless as to not be worth the wait (no twist, cameo or plot development).

Roll on the Japanese-based sequel!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Book 'Em, Danno!!

Shamefacedly nicked from Rol's blog (in turn a strand taken from Chev's thread, IIRC), here's the amazing fantabulous book post!

1) Which author do you own the most books by?

Stephen King

2) Which book do you own the most copies of?

I only own one copy of any book but have the original and updated Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. I discarded my old copy of The Stand when I bought the expanded version and would consider the Salem's Lot update except I have sentimental reasons for holding on to my original copy (from 1987!!)...

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

Not as much as the fact that you had to point out that it was a preposition in the first place...besides, nobody ever has the exact grammar to say something like "Of which book do you own the most copies?" in real life, do they?

4) Which fictional character are you secretly in love with?

I could say Barbarella, Wonder Woman or Lois Lane but I think it's less to do with the character and more today with the actresses portraying them (and I mean Erica Durance's Lois, BTW).

Don't think there's an answer on this one...

5) What book have you read the most times in your life? (Excluding picture books read to children.)

I've never said the same novel twice (amended editions aside), so it's probably a comic/graphic novel---Watchmen or The Rocketeer maybe...

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?

I never read books as a kid, so I'll have to say Rampage magazine with the Claremont/Byrne/Austin X-Men reprints...

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?

I don't really have the necessary time to concentrate on fiction at the moment, so it'd be The Blue Beetle Companion.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?

I've only read one novel in the past year so I'll say the most enjoyable READ I had this year was the collection of Locke & Key by Joe Hill---wasn't expecting much and it quietly sneaked up on me and blew me away.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?


11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?

Again, I Am Legend, done right this time! Failing that, the Dark Tower books (which are truly unfilmable really!)

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?


13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.

Don't think I've ever had any.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?

I'm usually mid-brow so don't go near cheap, trashy 'n' dumb...having said that, maybe a movie or TV tie-in, such as Alan dean Foster's swearing-edited Aliens novelisation, which features Ripley facing off with the Alien Queen in her power loader with the really threatening "Get away from her, you!" Cos, Ripley's like, 8, int she?

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?

Probably The X-Men: the Characters and Their Universe: that was frigging huge and weighed a ton, I could barely hold it!

Oh, wait...

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?

I run from Shakespeare like children from Jackson...

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

French probably, you racist inciter!

18) Roth or Updike?

Roth, he was great as the Abomination...

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

Do you mean the Clooney Sedaris or the original Russian?

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

Milton, if only because the plot of Paradise Lost interests me...

21) Austen or Eliot?


22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading??

Well, I don't venture anywhere near "the Classics" so I'd say that at some point I really need to sample some respected "genre" writers like Bradbury...

23) What is your favorite novel?

Not sure...probably The Stand or I Am Legend, with It a possible third contender...

24) Play?

Don't read plays either: they should be watched, not read but then again I generally find even the idea of theatre pompous, dull and irritating. That's why when I go to the theatre, I watch Evil Dead: the Musical instead of an RSC production of Ling Lear or summat...

(25) Poem?

Oh, how much do I hate poetry? My answer's probably "Diarrhea, Diarrhea"...

26) Essay?


27) Short Story?

Um...none spring to mind, but it's probably something by Stephen King or maybe Bubba-Hotep by Joe R Lansdale...

28) Work of nonfiction?

Technically, probably one of my big art books devoted to Bolland, Frazetta, Williamson or Stevens but if you mean "proper" writing, then maybe My Boring Ass Life by Kevin Smith...not as a whole but specifically for the 70-odd page sequence detailing Jason Mewes' struggle with addiction, powerful reading without needing to know the people involved...

29) Who is your favorite writer?

By number of appearances on my bookshelf, probably Stephen King

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

I don't read modern/contemporary fiction so dunno...

31) What is your desert island book?

It'd have to be The Stand, purely for practical reasons: I like it and it takes ages to read!

32) And... what are you reading right now?

Funnily enough, the first collection of comic version of The Stand and I'm slowly flicking through the Hawkman Companion during my lunch breaks..

Monday, 13 April 2009

Easter Java

Well, while I didn't get any Easter treats, I've still enjoyed the long weekend off. Managed to ink another page, pencil two more and thumbnailed and drew the panel borders today for a third...but I figured I should enjoy some of this time off as welt as just being productive, so I kicked back and caught up with some time in front of the TV and reading.

Was a bit annoyed to have missed the Johnny Depp Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and was too tired to make it through more than half an hour of Persepolis, which I was enjoying (and also annoyingly, the Host is on Film Four tonight at 11.10pm ish, way too late for me to watch if I'm up at 6.45!) but I did catch Tales of Earthsea, a dull entry from Studio Ghibli. Even the animation mostly looked like it was done in the 80s. Better was the new Wonder Woman animated feature. DC's animated DVD projects have been far more successful than Marvel's shonky output and as I loved the New Frontier so much and eagerly await Green Lantern: First Flight, I wasn't expecting too much of the Wonder Woman feature, especially as the character's never really had an outstanding tale to adapt. However, I was pleasantly surprised: they managed to polish up the origin tale pretty well with excellent visual design and animation, decent acting and some great special features.

I also read the first Largo Winch album today (a Belgian series that has inspired a live action movie and TV show), and found myself poring over the background art. So much attention is paid to the locales in a lot of Euro fare that it adds so much to the ambiance. After reading an article on Tom Yeates in Rough Stuff #11, I also sampled three graphic novels he drew for the scholastic publisher Lerner. These cost just over £3 each on Amazon and I'm glad I didn't pay more for them as they're fairly lightweight (obviously aimed at primary school readers) and take no time to read. I quite enjoyed Odysseus and Perseus, less so King Arthur, but I don't know if I'm interested enough to hang on to them forever.

While I initially I passed over the first issue, I picked up the first Rasl collection while looking for something different (my last few months advance comics orders have averaged about six items, so I'm struggling to find interesting stuff worth shelling out for!) and actually really enjoyed it. Totally different to Bone, but very cinematic and quite intriguing: I'll be looking forward to the next collection. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's work first on Superman and the Legion and now Superman: Brainiac makes me look forward to the eventual collected edition of their new Superman origin (Birthright never sat right with me, despite a nice moment with Jor-El and Lara t the book's climax). A tiny element of S: Brainiac also ended up in the Legion episode of Smallville, nice blending there.

In fact, it was Johns' work on both the aforementioned Superman and the Legion and Smallville Legion episode, as well as my anticipating the collected edition of his Legion Of 3 Worlds series, that has renewed my interest in the Legion again. After picking up two editions collecting the first two thirds of Steve Lightle's run on the books, I spent a while online comparing prices and have ordered a bunch of back issues. While I'm looking forward to the first Giffen run (which is the definitive Legion to me), I'm also looking forward to rereading the much-maligned Five Years later run.

This was an unusually brave direction and while alienating to a lot of Legion readers because it completely trashed the bright and optimistic future the Legion always lived in, Giffen's bold ideas led to some interesting stories. Set after the Legion has disbanded and interplanetary relations are tense following a harsh war, Giffen stripped the Legionnaires of their codenames, costumes (and powers in some cases) in order to focus on the characters themselves as the far-flung team slowly reform to face off an invasion of Earth.

Using a 9-panel grid to cram in more story and create a sense of claustrophobia, Legionnaires returned, died and were mutilated/transformed into unrecognisable versions of themselves, creating a stir among the readership. In a series where two long-standing Legionnaires embarked on a non-sensationalistic lesbian relationship (as did a long-standing reformed villain), a supporting character was revealed as a transsexual, the original 1950/60s era Legion mysteriously returned to become regular characters alongside their adult counterparts, the Earth itself was destroyed and the team were forced to assume new identities and go on the run, literally anything could happen.

Things went a little off towards the end of the (coincidentally) five-year run as Zero Hour neared to reboot the whole continuity (DC editorial control meant that Superboy had already been eliminated from the team's history with an Infinite Crisis-preceding continuity punch from Mon-El), but there was at least nice art from Start Immonen. Still, the franchise may not have been the powerhouse it was in the mid-80s when only The New Teen Titans exceeded it in sales at DC, but it still inspired three other ongoing titles (Legionnaires, Valor and L.E.G.I.O.N.) and the Timber Wolf mini-series. I'll be interested in what's in store for the Legion when they return to Adventure Comics, as long as it's not the threeboot version...

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Cross My Palm With Silver

As threatened, here's a look at the story behind the return of my character Silver....

In preparation for doing some pencil samples and after not doing any sequential stuff of my own for some time, I decided to return to Silver, who always pretty much writes himself, especially when paired with Marv. Still, I had trouble coming up with a new plot at short notice so returned to a twice abandoned older strip.

The first version was quickly abandoned in favour of what became Silver #1 (which I still think has some nice storytelling) but was printed in the back of that issue (basically as filler). At some point, I went back in and began doing a revised, improved version and I completed more pages than the first incarnation but still abandoned it after a few pages were completed.

In deciding to return to the story, I wanted to avoid lettering and try to keep to a less cluttered finishing style than Mark 2. Therefore, I chose to redraw the opening pages by using the lightbox to save the work I still liked from Mk 2. A slight rejiggering of panels (leading to a much more altered page 2 before going on to all-new work from then on), a tweak here and there and voila, new page. I'm not entirely convinced that Mark 3 is any better than its predecessor but it's more consistent with how my finishes are now. All the versions (newest at the top, oldest at the bottom) are posted here for your comparative scrutiny.

Silver started as a number of short episodes so I was used to cramming a lot into each page...Silver #1's main strip was a lot more open so I'm guessing this story predated it. As a result, I moved a panel from page 1 to 2 and from page 3, I'll be using a more open layout with less panels per page. The visuals need to breathe a bit rather than struggle to share panel space with the lettering. Anyway, if page 2 and 3 go wrong--bearing in mind I'm still unhappy with page 1--I can see me dropping this again and going straight on to more pencilled work...

Random Roundup Reduction

Five minutes left of my lunchbreak, so quick roundup:

Financial hiccup last week means I'll be looking forward to the upcoming 4-day weekend, especially the Dr Who remake of Pitch Black...

Less impressed that somebody's adapting the song Camouflage into a comic strip as this notion had occured to me previously when I was considering a collection of short strips adapting songs (inspired by Charles Vess' Book of Ballads). Gave up when the only other song I could think of adapting was Ghost Riders In The Sky. Incidentally, I was also pissed off when Underworld nicked my idea of a werewolf/vampire hybrid, which I planned to feature at the climax of the barely started Wolf Who Thunders series of comics.

Heroes and Smallville picking up recently, also enjoying the return of the Inbetweeners and surprisingly Reno 911...reminds me a bit of Bakersfield PD, which I loved but nobody else ever watched...

Getting back into the Legion again, possible post recommending the Five Years Later in the works, with a Silver post to also appear soon..

Right, back to the grindstone...

Thursday, 2 April 2009


Been a bit sidetracked recently but after watching the Legion episode of Smallville, I picked up two Legion tpbs last weekend and really enjoyed them. This reawakened interest in the Legion has made me return to a long held notion of doing a team shot of the entire Legion.

I wanted Superboy and the original three as the focal point with all the others fanning out behind them, with possibly hints of the better Five Years Later and post-Zero Hour characters looking down. I thought I'd start pencilling it out tonight, intending to use a clean line partly inspired by Chris Sprouse's Legion work but also knowing the illo will be dense as it is. However, I got stuck fairly quickly...

Superboy and Cosmic Boy came out OK but I had trouble positioning Saturn Girl, and this shoved Lightning Lad to the rear (that sentence sounds sordid...). Too much dead space below this group and not enough room for the entire Legion behind them (unless I do cheat flying shots). How do Alex Ross and George Perez make these assemblies look so easy? This was intended to be worked on a few figures at a time but I can't see me returning to this anytime soon as I'll be focusing on Silver this weekend...