Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas everyone

Tomorrow morning, all things willing, I shall be opening presents with my wife and daughter and crying while Jimmy Stewart runs through town shouting Merry Christmas to all and sundry. A sentiment I can only echo.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Comics economics

the collecting obsession has grown weaker as I've gotten older. Once upon a time I would follow any superhero I liked through whatever came along, feast or famine, fair or foul, just for the sake of a complete run. I read the Pittsburg JLA for god's sake and, nostalgia aside, they were crap characters in crap stories!

These days I read what I like and if I don't like what the creator are doing I don't read it. I love Daredevil but didn't like Bendis' writing so I didn't read it. Love Batman but psycho Batman did nothing for me and so I've read little of it since Post Dark Knight grim and gritty transformed into unstable psychopath.

Further, sheer economics stopped me picking up the Brubaker Captain America, Morrisons Batman and various others. £2+ a pop was outside my budget. Many times have i seen suggestions that, six months or so later, Marvel and DC should reprint each months output in an essentials style collection for the reader, perhaps by family, rather than the collector so that cheap colour or black and white reprints were available to draw people in to the world of Batman or Superman or The Avengers. In this country we already have something similar, Panini/Titan monthly collections 3 issues for £2.50/£2.60 of top us titles. Titan have just released first issues of Marvel Legends, with Captain America, Thor and Iron Man and Batman Legends, reprinting All Star, Morrison's Batman and Batman/Superman (World's Finest?)I've not read them yet. Brubaker's Captain America is the main reason for buying either but I'm intrigued to see what's happening with these old friends. I'll let you know what I think.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My daughter's art

This was an unexpected gift from my daughter, she tells me it's a chicken but not a real one. (She knows I get confused easily)

No Fear of white space there.

Joe Barbera

So Joseph Barbera Died. Until I was about 14 and developed a massive fascination with animation I thought Hannah/Barbera were two women who made cartoons. I was never a big fan of their television work although like anyone growing up in the 70's I watched it because it was all pervading. It was virtually impossible to turn on the TV to any of the three channels available without finding a Hannah Barbera cartoon on at least one of them, be it the Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, Maggilla Gorrila, Topcat (Bosscat), Touche Away, Scooby Doo or any of the hundreds of other's their studio turned out. What tends to be forgotten though is that these two men were behind many of the best Tom and Jerry cinema cartoons of the 40's before TV all but wiped them out and, love them or loath them, these two men were in many ways responsible for the survival of animation outside of Disney Studios. You can see their influence in the work of many TV animators, illustrators and cartoonists today from Samurai Jack and Kim Possible to Les MacClaine's Highway 13. Hannah Barbera cartoons are so much a part of the fabric of popular culture they're referenced everywhere, like Disney, like Elvis and the Beatles and that's one hell of a legacy.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The cobbler and the thief

Watched the Richard Williams Movie, The Thief and The Cobbleron youtube last night. It's in a cobbled together version, (so it is titled)made up from pencil tests, completed footage and storyboards. It's apparently the truest to the creators intentions, unlike the Warner Brothers version which was released over a decade ago. (I'm not sure it was released through Warner in the end as I think the bond completion company eventually took control as Williams failed to meet his contractual obligations). There are interesting lessons to be learned from the eventual fate of this movie. Williams had an artistic vision for the movie so strong that he worked on it for over 25 years, largely in his own time and at his own expense. He believed in what he was doing and the cobbled together version suggests it would have been a true classic of animation. Williams appears to have taken the animation style that best suited each set piece and blended the whole together in what looks like it would have been a fairly seamless work. The early parts of the film, set in an arabic city, blend a series of backgrounds cobining the look of a Gustav klimt painting with character animation design reminiscient of Gilliams "Python" work. Later parts, set in a clockwork mechanised mountain have a dark horror to them reminiscient of "Akira", and the wrapping of the whole has an artistic integrity that put me in mind of those wonderful cartoons from the Filmboard of Canada, flowing on glass. Williams however appears to have eventually bought into the promise of corporate money and in essence, unwittingly perhaps, sold his soul. He failed to meet his contractual obligations and lost control of a work that had taken more than two decades of his life. The lesson I guess is be careful who you sell your soul to.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Our Hamster, Rex, just died. The foolish beast tried to hibernate, not a natural act for such a creature. We revived him but it seems the damage was done and Rex is no more. Rex was only the third pet I've owned (jointly this time) of any character and I'll really miss him. Rex was probably more my hamster than anyone elses, I handled him most and fed him most (and occasionaly held long boring conversations with him while sat at the PC late at night). More heart breaking still was telling Molly he was gone. Watching your daughter cry and not being able to make it all better is possibly the worst feeling in the world so far.

comfort Zones

Every year for the past 24 years I have produced a Christmas card. Even in years when I have drawn nothing else, and there've been a few years like that, I've always done the card.

Each card I've done has been within my comfort zone. Early on I loved pen and ink so they'd inevitably be black and white and often animal themed. Later I took to watercolour and inks and cheap colour copying. Still in the comfort zone though. This year I decided it was time to give acrylics a go. I haven't painted in acrylics for over 20 years, not since college, and was extremely nervous. It was hard work, it all felt so unnatural, no line work visible, trying to paint properly. I know I could have taken a more illustrative approach with flat colours and outlines but this was what I wanted to try as it was something new for me. I'm quite pleased with the result, inspired by Studio Ghibli's The Cat Returns.

"The Christmas Fox"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Look and Learn

When I was a nipper there were comics you wanted, like Valiant and Tiger and Mighty World of Marvel, and there were the books your parents wanted you to have, the prime example of that group being look and learn. I saw very few issues of look and learn, my parents understood the importance of Johnny Cougar and Captain Hurricane over the Indsutrial Revolution and the history of pantomime, and must admit to being greatly bored by the issues I saw. Even The Trigun Empire seemed somewhat staid next to seminole wrestlers and California Highway Patrolmen (Zip Nolan?). yesterday the Guardian included a free copy of the best of Look and Learn and, even from the position of my now advanced years, I cannot imagine a 7 to 14 year old kid who would be interested in it. Even on newsprint the magazine is a thing of beauty with a classic layout and design and quality illustration that truely deserves the glossy paper printing promised for the regular magazine and I was fascinated by many of the articles, but I'm 42 not 14 and the original target for this magazine was that spotty preteen nerd that answered all the science questions on "Ask the Family". The producers have sensibly aimed this at the nostalgia market though so who knows, it could be successful. Any 7 to 14 year old who wants the info in the magazine will find it better and faster on the internet however and look strangely at the parents and grandparents trying to push this antique on them.

An interesting aside however. The much lauded Trigun Empire is apparently now owned by DC comics. Maybe they should consider archive editions of that, they'd be the firt Archives I'd be prepared to buy.