Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Coraline trailer

It's possibly something to do with my age but as much as I love all story based media, I find it impossible to keep up with allthe things that could be of interest to me. Which is why I was unaware that the wonderful Mr Henry Selick was making a stop motion movie of Neil Gaiman's "Coraline". This Youtube teaser trailer looks absolutely wonderful and, if nothing else, guarantees I'll buy the film on DVD when it's available. Selick worked on two of my three favourite stop motion movies of the last 25 years, the wonderful but underrated "James and the Giant Peach" and the equally wonderful but slightly over rated "Nightmare before Christmas". ( my third favourite is the recent and absolutely stunning version of "Peter and The Wolf"). Before computers took over, stop motion was the best way to create special effects monsters and the like and masters of stop motion like Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien are still rightfully considered genius's in the Realm of special effects. In the world of feature films Selick is probably the only heir to these two men.

If you only check out one of Selick's films I'd recommend James and the Giant Peach, because his
rendition of Roald Dahl's world is very true, darker, more sinister and yet more positive than Tim Burton's very American Halloween/Christmas tale.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Fanfic is about wish fulfillment for folks who become very submerged in a fictional world, Buffy and Star Trek being, apparently, the foremost example. A lot of fanfic appears to have grown out of sexual fantasies about characters, fans wanted to imagine sexual or romantic scenes between, for instance, Kirk and Spock. There is nothing inherently wrong in the concept of fan fiction except that there is often a dichotomy between the fantasies of fans and professional writing where characters remain true to themselves. With fan fiction the characters often behave out of character.
By now you're probably wondering what this is about. Well I was thinking about the amount of "professional" fanfic writers now working in my favourite medium, comics. Up until the end of the 60's comics were written by writers. Good or bad, they were writers first and many in fact despised the medium. At the end of the 60's, with the arrival of people like Roy Thomas, you had the arrival of fans turning professional and a mammoth change in the nature of Marvel and DC comics. As a fan you often wonder, who's stronger Hulk or the Thing?, what would happen if Robin left Batman and so on. The first generation of fans turned pro were still firstly writers but with succesive generations these ideas have become primary over writing professionally until you're faced with Mark Millar, the confused Superman reboot (more of the stuff that was written out is written back in again) and Spider-man; one last day. Each of these, as placed within the Marvel and DC universes, is about fan wish fulfillment. Millar will happily twist a character's nature to serve a plot point, Superman was last coherently dealt with in the John Byrne reboot, which like it or not, stayed true to the character even as it played fast and loose with the story dressing and One Last Day is the ultimate wish fulfillment of one particular fan and sadly there is one major cause. The age of the toys everyone is playing with. Millar, the writers who've worked on Superman and Joe Quesada have all created interesting, well written and well told stories that are true to their characters, away from the Marvel and DC sandbox. Yet Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the Avengers and more have been central to the childhood or youth of many of these writers and they feel they have a right to warp and twist them to their hearts content. There is nothing wrong with rewriting the cluttered history of a character, over 40 to 60 years a character collects an awful lot of dross, but the best work remains true to the character and accepts that, after a period of time, the character takes on a life of it's own. I read "One Last Day" and it was a travesty, an abortion, but I also read "Brand New Day" and despite incorporating things I hated, it was a fine Spiderman comic, true to the core of the character.
I love this medium but I find it harder and harder to read the characters of my childhood because the writers writing them are trying to answer all the questions the fascinated me as a fan but I knew should never be answered. I still dip a toe occassionally but in truth I haven't bought an extended run of a Marvel or DC comic for over 10 years apart from the odd event comic. The money I would have spent on these companies is still spent on comics but on much younger characters or independent comics, graphic novels and collections from Image and Dark Horse and Fantagraphics, Top Shelf and others. I'm lucky in that something that was such an integral part of my childhood has grown with me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My blog is like a cyberman

Upgraded that is. I love Firefox and the scribefire add on that makes blogging so easy. No need to log in to Dashboard,i just click on an icon on the bottom of my browser. Now in the right hand column I've added a soundtrack courtesy of Finetune. Pick 45 tracks and embed them in your blog with a simple piece of code. The music is all jazz so if you don't like jazz, don't click on it. The other nice thing about the player is the autoplay code is optional. I hate visiting a site and being met with music I dislike and having to disable the player before I can continue to browse. I like choice. A playlist on a site can enhance your understanding of the site or it's contributors but if the music isn't as much to your taste as their written postings you may not want to listen. It's about choice.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Playing with fire

just installed firefox as default browser on my laptop and it comes with a lot of very neat plug ins and add-ons including one called scribefire. Scribefire gives you an easy link to publish to your blog or edit recent posts. Some working out to do but looks promising.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Indy's Back

and millions of men in their 30's and 40's are wondering, "Is George Lucas about to piss over their childhoods again"?

Hopefully the answer is no. Lucas wrote the story but not the screenplay so the dialogue shouldn't make me cringe. David Koepp, who did write the screenplay has a good deal of experience having written Zathura, Carlito's Way, Spider-Man, the under appreciated War of the Worlds, which was very true to the source material, and my personal favourite, the first Mission Impossible movie so there's a lot of promise there. Ford looks wonderful and it's great to see a real grown up heading an action movie. I know Shea LeBeouf is in it but from the trailer at least it promises to be an Indy movie with added brat value rather than yet another heroic teen movie.

I've got my fingers crossed and my place booked in the queue to see it as soon as it's released.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Goodbye Steve

Steve Gerber is dead.

First time I've cried over a person I only knew through their work.

Steve Gerber was a mere 60 years old. Waiting for a lung transplant. He was writing more comics and now he's gone. Sometimes life stinks.

God rest Steve.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Gus Ariola

Yet another great cartoonist, that far too few people know, is dead. I Discovered Gus Arriola through an article by R C Harvey in the Comics Journal and immediately fell in love with his clean artwork and funny jokes. Funny jokes are still a rarity among newspaper cartoon strips and the handful of Arriola's cartoons I saw always raised a chuckle at the very least. Gus Arriola was a man with a mission, he wanted his primarily white audience to learn about his home country of Mexico and, building on 40's racial stereotypes of the fat and lazy Mexican, Ariola exceeded all expectations and, once established, proceeded to tell tales that involved all aspects of Mexican culture and history.

Arriola was a classic cartoonist in the style, I suppose, of a Disney storyboard man, he could have compared favourably with any of Disneys nine old men. He wasn't afraid to experiment though and when he did so he was in a rare class indeed, approaching the work of Cliff Sterret and Frank King in design.

Take the time to seek out examples of Arriola's work, it's going to be worth your while.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


I can't swim but each week, along with a number of other mostly non-swimming parents, I take my for her swimming lesson. Molly's an interesting mix of fearless and timid when it comes to anything physical. One moment she's braver than any of her boy mates and the next she's choking back tears rather than do something seemingly simple. Swimming though has been a real eye opener. She takes lessons in a small, 5 meter, private pool with no more than 3 other kids. Julia, the teacher, is an absolute bloody marvel and really makes all the difference. Like all great teachers she has an inate knack for knowing how far she can push a child, when to encourage, when to be tough and when to back off. This week Molly was the only child there for the session and Julia decided she was going to tech her to swim underwater and pick things up off the bottom of the pool.

Molly looked a little nervous, mostly because one of her friends was due to come and check the lesson out, but followed Julia's instructions and, on her first dive, picked a large plastic starfish up off the bottom of the pool. Great form on her first go but the next couple were a bit wobbly. Then Aedan turns up, whole family in tow, and Molly moves into overdrive. She keeps giving me the starfish and getting me to throw it for her then diving and bringing it back. On the fourth or fifth go I dropit too close to the edge of the pool. My daughter walks away through the pool to the laddder and climbs out. I figure I've put her off by making it too difficult and am busy kicking myself inwardly. She stops in front of me facing the pool, points her hands downwards and dives head first into the water, surfacing moments later with the starfish and a very triumphant smile. Julia's jaw drops and hits the water, mine hits the poolside then we both start cheering and high fiving. Molly calmly flips the starfish over her shoulder, duckdives and does an unexpected forward roll in the water. Again she comes up smiling and this time Julia's on it. "Wow, you did a forward roll under the water. That's amazing. Do you think you could do two?"

Molly looks at her nervously and shakes her head, holding on to Julia's arm, and then lets go and proceeds to do a double forward roll under the water. By this time both Julia and I are calling her a show-off jokingly. Molly thinks it's great and spends the rest of the day telling everyone she's a show off.

There's something incredible about seeing your child do something for the first time, but when it's something you can't do yourself the feeling of pride is so strong you feel you could bust.