Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Thor Point

Just been to see Thor, so how does it hold up? Spoiler-free details below...(and BTW, saw it with NO adverts but trailers for X-Men and an extended Captain America trailer explicitly featuring Howard Stark)...

There's not too much to stimulate the brain as it's a fairly straightforward story but thankfully the characters and acting, even Hemsworth, carry the film along. The film is less of a hero vs villain piece and more a faltering step for Thor towards herohood. While there is some flirting with Jane Foster, the real meat of the story lies in the relationship between Thor, Odin and Loki.

I can see why Branagh was approached as he manages to squeeze Shakespearean style acting while keeping it accessible to the average moviegoer. How does he handle the battles and effects?

Well, firstly, DON'T waste any money on the 3D version: its a poor conversion and really only the scenes set on Bifrost really pop, most of the time you can't really notice the 3D. Having said that, Marvel have been holding back: I hadn't expected the film to be so spectacular. Most of the film is set in or around Asgard, which is stunning. The battles are savage, the Destroyer is incredible and the effects are overall stunning.

Once again, sit through the end credits for another secret scene that sets up the next Marvel movie. I predict it will follow the comics template of Loki manipulating the Hulk, thus effecting the creation of the Avengers, but we shall see.

Finally, what I didn't like and what I did:

Would have liked to have seen Balder
Thor's helmet is only in one scene! C'mon, that's an iconic part of his ensemble!

The first time Thor spun his hammer made me grin
When Thor is reunited with Mjolnir after being separated leads to a great hero moment
Stan Lee's cameo (and did I glimpse Walt Simonson at the end?)
Ooh, introduction of one of the Avengers!
A handful of Marvel references
The Destroyer kicks WAY more arse than in the comic
The Odinsleep: every other 70s issue of Thor seemed to end with everyone stressing as Odin had a nap so I liked the inclusion

Roll on Captain America....

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Just time for two quickies: the completed Mucha piece and an ever so slightly tweaked Judge Anderson that makes the pic just that bit better (though still not perfect). Mucha would have spent ages drawing his pieces, I'm sure: I spent about an hour with the background, hence the shoddy results, but not too bad a pic if you forgive that...

Sunday, 24 April 2011


Dave Sim's Glamourpuss is the only ongoing title I currently buy and while that's mainly due to his history of comic art, I've also greatly enjoyed his illustrations, lifted from fashion mags. I saw a video that showed how little basic drawing was done as Sim basically lightboxes (traces) each image. As he's mainly interested in technique, this is not as questionable as it may well otherwise be.

I liked the results so felt like experimenting with aping Sim's style/approach. I'd only ever used my lightbox for corrections so this would be something new. I raided a friend's stash of fashion mags at work in order to select a few nice full figure and headshots (and discovered why so many women detest size 0 models: it's not jealousy on their behalf, it's that the skeletal models look like zombies, ugh!)

Anyhow, here are some of the results...

First up, a headshot of Natalie Portman: I'm not sure if it's recognisable as her (I wasn't really going for a likeness but if I'd added more lines, it would become an ugly drawing) and I never even noticed the bow until I started lightboxing, but I'm pretty happy with the results actually.

I had lightboxed another face that I wanted to inky in my "style" as a comparison to the Portman piece when I received an e-mail that Judge Anderson would be the subject for this week on Chris Askham's Weekly Art Blog. Alongside Dredd, Johnny Alpha and Luke Kirby, Anderson is about the only 2000AD character I have any affinity for so I took advantage of the time babysitting yesterday to get cracking adapting the lightboxed pencils into an Anderson backdrop. Anderson feels like an 80s creation and was inspired by Debbie Harry (apparently), so I wanted to do an 80s style homage. Eventually I thought the better of it but kept the backdrop as part of the image: I drew Anderson and her psi-rings on two separate sheets, combining all three together in Photoshop. It's not perfect, but it's passable.

Back to Sim, here's a full figure I picked out...I was unsure whether to shade the legs with lines but went ahead and then immediately regretted it. I removed them all in Photoshop as I like the contrast between the detailed dress and the less rendered limbs.

After the above, I went online to find a pic more to my liking: the fashion mags have some normal models but they're usually pretty hard to find. I forget what I searched for but I sound found some galleries and printed off a couple of pics to lightbox (getting an e-frame was supposed to eliminate this process but I guess this is an exception to the rule!). Like the faces, I wanted to contrast my style with Sim's so inked this one in my own style. I'm quite happy with this, despite being disconcerted by how similar the model looked like Mallory off the West Wing!

Finally, another WIP: another Mucha-inspired piece. As a with all the pieces above, this is only done at A4 and isn't how I'd draw a "proper" illustration piece but are handy sized palettes to experiment with. I love Mucha's art but I'm not generally a fan of the evening gowns seen in his work so I hoped to approximate his line work but with a modern sense of dress. If I'd drawn at A3ish, I think the thicker outline effect would have worked better as the figure would have been twice the size. Still have the ornate backgrounds and colours to do before this is finished so it may still come together...

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Well Well Wellman

For stories for the longest time, I've wanted to read some stories featuring Silver John aka John the Balladeer by writer Manly Wade Wellman (I'm not sure if Manly was a given name or a nickname!). I don't know why, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I've always been aware of John but dunno why. Wellman was a prolific writer of novels, short stories and even comics: although the primary Aquaman writer throughout the 1940s and a collaborator with Will Eisner on the Spirit, Wellman's most notable contribution to the comic field was the creation of the Phantom Stranger, even though he never wrote the character himself.

After I read Mike Mignola and Richard Corben's Hellboy: The Crooked Man, a direct homage to the Silver John stories, I thought it time to track down some Silver John material. There were five St John novels but the character originated in and most frequently appeared in short stories. Luckily, a new collection of the short stories had been released under the title Who Fears The Devil? This wasn't the first collection to use the title but was the first comprehensive John collection, featuring every short story in one volume.

Inspired by a young Johnny Cash, John is a Korean War veteran who has returned to his home region of the Appalachian mountains. Similar to a wandering minstrel, John is a simple man who basically travels searching for new songs to learn. He owns only the clothes he wears, his camping pack and his prized possession, a guitar strung with silver strings. This small supply of silver, allied with John's inherent decent nature, come in handy for in John's search for the truth behind the songs he learns, he often comes into conflict with ancient and evil forces. These are sometimes from Appalachian folklore, sometimes new creations of Wellman's but the distinction is never clear.

The stories are short but drip with atmosphere, narrated by John in his Good Ol' Boy twang and bringing the most fantastic events down to earth and making them feel totally believable. I've not read much fiction in the past few years, as time and lack of concentration has limited my attention, but this book was a very comfortable read.

I'm left with a fondness for the character and actually plan to adapt some of the stories into comics. Some of the stories are short enough that I've laid them out and can fit them into one or two page strips. I hope to draw. The short strips will be enough to ease me back into sequentials before adapting longer stories and moving on to other stuff I want to draw. There was a (reputedly awful) 70s movie adaptation of the Silver John material but I have settled on Nathan Fillion as the model for my John: he has the look and tone of John so I'll visualise him when I hit the drawing board...

Monday, 18 April 2011

My Very Last Nerve

I saw an on TV advert yesterday for a new DOUBLE (!) CD from granny's fave, James Last. Despite an obvious trick of laying the new tracks over brief clips of concerts probably held a few years ago, that in itself is no big problem...Last has his audience, presumably the elderly, slightly retarted and purveyors of telephone hold music, but an audience nonetheless. No, what got me was the last two tracks: first, a brief medley of "old favourites"(i.e. stuff the average person has never heard of) and new "hits" such as "I Got A Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas and "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga. Really?? How the hell does that work? The BEP and Lady Gaga aren't the most extreeeeme!!! of artists, but they do possess some level of vitality. I can't believe anybody who ever heard either song went "Y'know, I really liked that track but y'know what would make it better? If you sucked all the energy out of it and reduced it to a nice chinwigging song instead of a stomping dancefloor hit". Do you think a Lady Gaga fan, no matter how rabid, will pick this up? Do you think any 80 year old duffer sat festering in a nursing home has any idea who the BEP are? Is anybody, no matter how neurotic, really desperate for a tuned out song just in case it incites a panic attack from them? Can anybody explain the above choices without stifling a snigger? Or is this really the start of Yourent's muzak hell?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Now For Something Somewhat Different...

Although I've been too busy to do regular comic art lately (though I thumbnailed out a few pages today, yay!!), I have kept my hand in with various other requested art jobs. These are usually personal gifts and so won't be of interest to most folks, but I featured one or two in Odds And Ends II and thought I'd just post a few others here to show what else I've been up to .

Again, this isn't a complete collection of these requests but my favourite pieces (except the crap ducks and building, which I only added to vary things a bit more) from the completed work I've scanned. I've actually decorated two cakes too, but they're harder to scan :)

Friday, 8 April 2011

Pucker Sunch

As soon as I saw the trailer for Sucker Punch, I thought "I'm seeing that"...I knew not to expect the greatest story but I was still surprised by the negative reaction, even though I hadn't read any actual review. This kind of put me off but still, I decided to take the plunge...

And was glad I did.

I'm not going to say this was a great movie or even a good one but what it WAS, was absorbing. Many films I've watched recently haven't been bad but have failed to engage my interest or empathy. It's possible the fault is mine but I doubt it: I always hope to be entertained at the cinema. Seeing a film in a darkened theatre can be utterly absorbing and quite therapeutic: more than once I've sat down to watch a film in a low or bad mood only to leave the theatre far less stressed as I've been transported somewhere else.

Let's start with Sucker Punch's flaws: I knew the story would be sleight but there's almost no plot, just excuses for the spectacle. There's no great performances and some of the dialogue is a bit ropey, the while many of the effects resemble a computer game more than real life.

However, the flip side to that is....

There's no faffing about as the film opens with a stylish flashback for the lead character before cracking on with the set up that she is about to be lobotomised and sets up fantasy scenarios within her mind to try and escape her fate. The mix of effects and music, often edgy covers of classic songs, creates a wonderful alternate reality. Yes, it's style over substance and it's not always convincing...but what Sucker Punch is about is pure unbridled visual imagination.

Knights storming a castle as a dragon chases a Second World War plane? Shiny sleek robots defending a bomb on a train set to destroy a futuristic cityscape? Steampunk zombie German soldiers fighting in the trenches? Giant sword wielding samurai? This has all of that and more, and it's unapologetic: it's not about plot, it's about visual spectacle, the joy of the imagination, COOL SHIT without the need for justification.

This is unadulterated pulp fun.

And then the end...most of the film washes over you (and if any of you are ever going to see it, it HAS to be at the cinema, watching at home will kill the immersive effectiveness of the film) but the end...well, I won't spoil it.

But out of nowhere, the film shows that all the time, it DID have a point and more than just as an allegorical context. Fir the first time in ages, I wanted to punch the air with the sense of invigoration that literally came from nowhere.

I can't say it's great but if you watch with your critical faculties in reverse and your fun gills open, hopefully you'll be left with the genuine thrill I had at the end of the film, and THAT was the real Sucker Punch....

Monday, 4 April 2011

Jive Talkin'

I've been meaning to post about this ever since the event a few weeks again, but as usual, my time's constantly been eaten up. Nevertheless, better late than pregnant...

Some of you may have been affronted with a copy of my self-published book, Comics On Film And Television (I have about thirty updates to do plus an index and appendix before I hopefully push out a second edition later this year). While the book was at the printers at Fallen Angel Media, I received an e-mail asking if I'd like to develop the book into a talk for two small press expos.

My immediate reaction was "Waaaahhhhhh!!!" Talk in public? To people? People I don't KNOW? Me?? I felt nothing but panic and fear at the whole thought of it...yet...yet there was still a sensible part of me that realised that this was a cool opportunity, something different that not everybody gets to do.

I was undecided but eventually trusted friends and colleagues convinced me that I should do it and so I thought "Faggit, what the hell" and accepted the challenge.Add Video

I had nothing to gain other than the experience really: I only had two copies of the book left and they weren't priced to sell anyway, they were done as a way of exorcising a project (that was alot more involved than I expected) out of my system and not letting months of work go to waste.

I struggled with an angle until Tone suggested a Comics Adaptations Through The Ages Approach, which quickly started fizzing things together. I focused on American adaptations as time and brevity wouldn't enable me to cover EVERYthing in the allocated hour. I pulled out my book and started collating a timeline of comic adaptations, double checking details online to verify my already verified (but possibly still erroneous) research.

Pretty soon I had a year by year time frame (with the occasional hop back and forth through time) and started creating montage "stills" of the source comic and the screen versions, along with a ton of downloaded clips of various adaptations (seriously, you have to see some of Legends of the Superheroes to be truly horrified by such sights as Ghetto Man and Hawkman's papier mache wings, helmet and chest emblem, which peels off during an argument with Solomon Grundy attempting a disguise as a petrol pump attendant).

I figured that nearer the time, I'd start to panic and even though I was distracted by compiling the visual aids up until the day before the talk, I still felt pretty calm.

So, the day rolls around and Tone had travelled down via Brum and I met my pal Martin in Amersham: originally I had two more friends attending but they had to drop out at the last minute. Being girls with no real affinity for comics, I was disappointed they couldn't make it but felt that I could unwind a bit and not repress my Inner Geek. The trains and tubes were running amok but I carefully planned our route, which was time consuming but thankfully smooth and pleasant.

We finally rocked up at Goldsmith College and I asked for Mallory, who was to help me with the talk. I was told I couldn't miss her but I wasn't unsure, but sure enough, a tall tattooed Amazon with red hair tied in bunches was pretty easy to find amid a (remarkably comfortably well laid out) small press dealer hall.

I confessed that I had no idea if the talk would run long or shorten and that I had no experience talking in public. Mallory said not to worry as she had plenty of experience and would intro the talk but said to stay calm and keep the speech fairly slow: this simple trick helped me incredibly.

While Mallory guided us up to the talk room and tried to sort out the technical problems with the visual support (the projector seemed to miss images and we had to switch to a laptop that was crystal sharp but was Mac-based and caused some delays), I set out my drink on my table at the front of the room and leafed through my 30-odd pages of notes. I was expecting to use this as a reference point but ultimately never actually referred to it (though I glanced at it once).

As I'd created the visual files to accompany the adaptations, they ran in the correct order and I just talked about each project as they came on screen, with Mallory scrolling through at my prompt.

Finally, time turned against us: the delays in setting up and the sheer number of topics meant that I had to steamroll through the late 90s into the 200s, finally having to be cut short around 2004 (I had planned up till 2008).

Amazingly, I never did develop that final flush of fear and seemed to cope okay. Afterwards, Martin or Tone asked me how I felt it went and I couldn't really answer. I gave the talk but it wasn't for me to say: it was a good turn out, only one person left when we overran, there were a few laughs and some audience interaction so I THINK it went well, but it's not my place to say.

However, I've just had an invite to repeat the talk at the Bristol Comic show in May so it can't have been a total disaster. Public transport willing, looks like I'll get to do an encore in a few short weeks...