Thursday, December 16, 2004

Number 6, where it's important to note that these are in no particular order

Rebecca, my wife. Is that too corny, too schmaltzy, too, dare I say it, obvious? If so I don't care, I can't do a top 10 of things that have meant something to me this last year and not include Rebecca. She's my wife and I love her.
Alan Moore gets a larger post than she does though;)
But then some things shouldn't need that much explaining should they.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

At number 7, Alan Moore

If I was doing this chart for 2003, 2002 or all the way back to 1981 then it's likely that somewhere in there would be the name Alan Moore. Let me explain.
Back in the early 80's if you read comics, and a lot of kid's still did, you couldn't avoid the name Alan Moore, he was everywhere. Not like some money crazed hack, but more like a creative dam that had burst. Alan Moore forced his way into the comic industry by bombarding publishers with scripts, some of the first published ones were in 2000ad as 'Future Shocks' (little twist in the tale type stories that ran from 2 pages to 5 pages) He also got work in a new comic starting up called Warrior creating the legends (in the comic world at least) V For Vendetta and Marvelman (Later changed to Miracleman when playground bully Marvel decided to throw it's weight around) Also around that time Moore was working for MarvelUK (oh the irony) doing text stories about a character named Nightraven, reviews and comic strips including the revamped Captain Britain.
Along with V For Vendetta, it was the future shocks that I particularly liked, I still reread them now and they still impress. They show the kind of mind Moore possesses, they're funny, scary, strange, clever and never dull. Later 2000ad replaced Future Shocks with Time Twisters, same format but this time the stories had to be about.... time, of course. Again Alan Moore wrote amazing stories some of which still amaze me today 20 years later (Reversible Man where we follow the life of a man who has just died of a stroke is a work of genius, there's also the story of a man's failed atempt to build a time machine so he can relive happier times that still manages to choke me up) As all this was going on Moore created 2 more titles that I can never forget. Swamp Thing was his first time producing an ongoing comic for the American market, he took a title that was dead in the water and with in a year turned it into the most talked about comic of it's time. Swampthing is where he showed a bigger audience his talent and displayed his remarkable ability for reinventing comic characters. But as much as I love Swamp Thing it was his other title that left it's mark on me, Halo Jones appeared in 2000ad in '84 and blew me away. Sometimes it's hard to know why some effects you so much, it's the same with Halo Jones. The story of a very average girl set in the future we follow her from unemployement to work as a waitress on a space ship to burnt out alcoholic to soldier to freedom. It's an amazing journey and yet I don't know why that first instalment (Halo as an unemployed kid) effected me so much, perhaps it's because it was so terribly human, who knows.
Alan Moore went on to write Watchmen which shook the comic industry to an incredible degree (not all positively), later he wrote From Hell which staggered everyone again (if you've only seen the film you have no idea what From Hell is) and a few years ago he created a line of comics called ABC featuring the excellent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which may be forever sullied in the minds of many thanks to the dreadful film) Like David Bowie he's never stood still, every new work is a surprise and like Bowie he's sometimes made the odd mistake and not always been appreciated, taken for granted. We seem to value artists who do the same thing over and over again and then complain when they become dull. But it's not every creator who's willing to take a chance, to risk their success by doing something different, Moore (like Bowie) needs to take that chance, over and over again.
Now Alan Moore is quiting comics, but not really. He'll do what he wants when he feels like it from now on. No doubt he'll do more performance art, a novel, practice magik (he does that too) and maybe if we're lucky he'll do the odd comic.
This rambling trip down memory lane is to illustrate how long I've felt that Moore has been by my side. The thing about comics back then and children's books is that they give the creators the opportunity to influence the minds of the readers to a far greater degree than the creators of adult literature. For better or worst Alan Moore has directly shaped who I am today. He arrived when I needed him and he's never been far away, I've read everything that he's put out and he's rarely let me down. I have to show my thanks somehow don't I? Putting him in my top 10 is the least I can do.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

And at number 8

My lovely new iBook. After having a big clunky looking old PC for ages I finally took the plunge and got into debt for a a much more compact and better grown up toy. However I won't turn this into a Mac advert, I just happen to like it and it's proved very handy indeed. Hurrah for my laptop.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


What's the deal with quirky? I dunno, I just like it. 'I 'Heart' Huckabees' is the latest, not the greatest, but still pretty good. 'The Royal Tenenbaums' is the greatest and in good company with 'American Splendour', 'Lost in Translation' and 'Arrested Development'. That's the films (and a tv show), but there's also been some great quirky comics, anything by James Kochalka and Tom Hart and Scott Pilgrim by Brian O'Malley. So, really, what is it about quirky? What I like is something which feels personal and unique, I like something that has sense of humour but isn't just about the laughs. All these quirky stories have great characters that seem real and interesting and not just constructs to further a plot. The plots seem to be there to entertain and push the creator instead of 'making a point'. Interestingly all the examples I've come up with are American (except Scott Pilgrim, Brian O'Malley's Canadian I believe) but I think of quirky as a very British state thanks to classics like Winnie the Pooh and Monty Python, 'Little Britain', 'League of Gentlemen' and 'Black Books' are more modern examples. These all just tickle me in a way 'straight' comedy or drama doesn't always manage. Some of these things have been called 'wilfully quirky', as if that's somehow wrong, should we criticise horror movies for being wilfully scary? Of course not, quirky seems to rub some people up the wrong way, but that's okay, it just means there's a test to find out if someone's got no sense of humour or not.
Next in the top ten..... dunno but you'll all be the first to know.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Number Ten

The outright plagarism continues, sorry Danny. In at number ten is ZOMBIES. What a great time for the zombie. 28 Days Later set the ball rolling in fine style, it owed much to Wyndham (not a bad thing as far as I'm concerned), had a great raw energy to it and like Near Dark was a nice little reinvention. Apart from a few niggles Shaun of the Dead rocked, the Dawn of the Dead remake was excellent (nowhere near as good as the original, but a smart stripped down horror film) and The Walking Dead comics are a wonderful Romero-esque take on zombies.
Some people moaned about fast zombies, but I say when hell is full all sorts of zombies will walk the earth, embrace them all. Anyway, the zombies in Return of the Living Dead had a few moves and it's brilliant.
Next time for number nine, why I like quirky.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Beating myself up for the end of the year

The beginning of a new year is fast approaching and it's time for me to start looking back over this one. There's no need for me to look back over this blog to see what I did or didn't do, I just have to look around me.
A few things were begun but very few of them amounted to anything. The sketch book has laid untouched for a couple of months, the idea of painting didn't get any further than two barely started picture, drawing in general was a wash out. As far as 2004 goes art wise I can't look back on it with pride.
I had hoped to have my own website up and running but after laying it out on paper I got distracted by other things and it ended up being forgotten.
One of my interests of the past six or seven years has been keeping fit and this year saw me at my worst. The main reason for this was a torn muscle which it seems will be a constant source of irritation and occassional pain for a long time. But a fair chunk of the blame rests on my ever weakening shoulders. I'm not in terrible shape at the moment but I've flucuated quite a bit during 04, putting on and losing weight every couple of months. One problem was that once I stopped exercising I stopped eating carefully, when I give up I like to give up all the way.
Saving money has not gone well, some things needed to be bought, a lot of the stuff I could have done without.
Being fairly untidy and scruffy I had hoped I could smarten up a little, only now and again it seems.
Talking too much is a bit of vice too, once I start I can ramble on for ages without ever coming close to saying anything worthwhile. It's not just quantity it's quality, what I lack in one I overcompensate with the other. That's not improved.
That was the bad, but what about the good. Well, there was some.
Good was that even though I got more out of shape I had the sense to keep it under control.
Drawing may not have gone well but I completed my outside responsibilities even when it wasn't in my best interests. I also did manage to keep a sketchbook for a while, something which I've never really done before and not only did I enjoy it but I thought I did some good work.
For all the unfinished and never started projects I did manage to complete the one big one, Simian Smith the first draft, got done and I'm already working my way through the second draft. This one was a real struggle but in doing it I learned a lot.
Balancing it all up I don't think I did great this year, there's more in the minus column than the plus, but the plus column does have one big tick whereas the minuses are mainly small crosses. A lot of my resolutions will be repeats of last years but that was the same as the year before and the one before that, that may sound bad, like I've failed every year, but the truth is that each year has seen me improve a little and in some cases a lot and you can't say fairer than that.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


At just short of 16,000 words the first draft of Simian Smith is complete.
There were times I thought I'd never get to this point and no I'm here I can't tell you how chuffed I am. Whether it ends up being published or not I don't care, I'm happy.

Friday, November 26, 2004

more opinions

I haven't check but I'm guessing there's a lot of folk in computer land who've been having their say about The Incredibles, well I want my say too. It's brilliant. Beautifully designed with more than a nod to 50's and early 60's design. The superheroing aspect is surprisingly, and smartly, kept to a minimum, oh there's fighting and big outrageous peril and flying and so on, but a lot of the action reminded me of spy movies, the kind that have big sets, the early Bond and Flint, even the music seemed to reflect that. CGI is my least favourite animation and I'd like to see less CGI in films in general but the better CG films seem to emulate claymation instead of desperately trying to look 'real' (Polar Express being the latest example of this pointless endeavour), a move that seems to work very well. It's not how it's animated that makes a film great though, it's the script (in animation the scripts have to be in place to a much greater degree than in live action so it's rock solid by the time 'camera's roll' - the lack of respect Hollywood seems to afford the scriptwriter is unbelievable) and it's here that The Incredibles really shines. Pixar create films of wit, inteligence and the creators clearly love what they do. I get the impression that that the people in Pixar are a bunch of smart geeks who can't believe their good luck in getting to do exactly what they want. More me it was the little details that elevate The Incredibles but I won't tell you what they are, go see for yourself.
Sadly the whole thing was nearly spoilt by the trailer for The Magic Roundabout movie. The inclusion of Robbie Williams was enough to break my heart but it looks awful, the makers clearly want to poke my childhood with sharp sticks and permanently tarnish the memory of the original. Shame on them.
My own work has beening coming on very well, the first draft of Simian Smith is almost finished, in fact it's only a couple of thousand words away. With the end so close my big concerns have finally come to the fore. I'm pretty much happy with the story, it needs work but it's all in place and I like it, but the truth is it's going to be a hard sell, a very hard sell. Pick up a kid's book and there's more than a fair chance that it'll have a kid in it, there might only be one child character in it, but s/he'll be there. The only exception occurring in books where the cast are all animals. There isn't a single kid in my story. As well as it being an obvious homage/pastiche/rip off of old hard boiled crime books it's got a talking ape with no reason given to why he can talk or how he came to exist, he's also the character the reader's got to identify with and he's not a kid. I'm not sure a prospective agent or publisher will get past the synopsis. But I wrote this for me and I honestly believe that kids will like it so what the hell, here's hoping I can change the industry! Failing that I could always try and write some thing about a child magician, wizardor witch, you can't have to many kid's fantasy books.

Monday, November 22, 2004

My pen shines bright as I write my shite

There's a competition to submit a short story that I'm thinking about entering. Obviously the story would be the one I'm working on at the moment as it's my latest one and pressumably when it's all finished up it'll be my best because of it's newness. I've not entered a writing competition before but for reason's not worth going into I've decided this one might be worth a go. Perfect Christmas Present still needs a loot of work but the submition deadline isn't until mid January so it's not a problem. As I'm on a bit of a roll with Simian Smith at the moment (you heard right, the ape is back) it's slowed Pefect Present down but I still think the 1st draft will be done by this week. So as well as putting a story online for criticism I'll actually be send it 'out there', two very good reasons to work hard polishing it up in the 2nd or even 3rd draft.
Christmas at work is beginning to tire me out even more and the job hunting has stalled slightly simply because it's not the best time of year to leave an old job and start a new one.
Rebecca is once again entertaining thoughts of buying a house and has even seen a couple of fairly nice looking ones in our price range, but she's failed to take into consideration my lack of desire to stay where in Nottingham. So out thoughts go back to trying to move ASAP. Anyone who knows us or has been faithfully reading this blog (a number some where in the thousands I would imagine) will know that we have to stay for two years because of my wife's course and job. To move sooner we'll have to pay off the course fees ourselves, it'll mean we can leave a year early but it might cost a bit. Confusion and no easy answers reign again.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Just beautiful

Outside it's snowing, big white flakes of snow are floating past my lounge window illuminated by the streetlamp. Snow is lying on the grass in the garden and on the trees and bushes and the rooftops. It's cold and beautiful, I love it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

An oh so special treat!

Seeing as the original point of this blog was to be about my atempts at writing and drawing and as I teased with the news that Simian was briefly posted here I thought I'd post a short story I'm working on.
Reader beware! This is not only unfinished it is also a first draft so don't judge it too harshly just yet, rather read it and wait until the next update. Hopefully it'll prove interesting seeing how a story changes from first to second draft, you never know, what seems duff now might prove to be slightly better later.

The Perfect Christmas Present
Paul Harrison-Davies

With nowhere else to go and very little to do Raymond Gaines circumstances allowed him ample opportunity to think. Naturally enough Gaines thoughts turned towards his son. The irony was neither appreciated by Gaines nor was it noticed, the truth was that up until recently he had never really thought about his son; if he had perhaps he would not be in his current predicament.
Thoughts of his son led Gaines back to the previous week, to the start of his story.
It was Christmas Eve and Raymond Gaines was cursing loudly in the safety of his car at a young woman trying to vacate her parking space. Slowly slowly the woman tried to manoeuvre her car out of the tight space. It never occurred to Gaines that it was the close proximity of his car to the woman’s car that was makings things so difficult, just as it never occurred to him to move. Impatient and demanding to a fault Gaines saw no reason to move car back out of the way thereby, in his mind, relinquishing his claim on the vacant spot to be.
Scowling in reply to the young woman’s apologetic and embarrassed smile as she finally escaped from her parking prison Gaines pressed firmly down on the accelerator and his car lurched forward into the parking place with an angry growl from the engine and an angry scream from the car bumper.
Taking no responsibility for damaging his own car Gaines stormed away from the car park regretting that he had not had time to get the registration number of the young woman who made him bash his car bumper.
Last minute shoppers filled the city centre to a surprising degree and Gaines marvelled that people could leave their Christmas shopping so late. Of course Gaines himself was doing his own last minute shopping and had no call to criticise the shopping habits of anyone else. Raymond Gaines was the head of a successful business, a business that he had taken over from his father when it was left to him. This was not the case of a spoilt child inheriting an easy ride, this was the case of a spoilt child inheriting a small dying business. Hard work, and an ability to crush anyone in his path with the ease of the truly amoral had seen the business grow into a big business and had seen not grow as a person at all. Normally a member of staff, an elderly woman who had been in his employ as a personal assistant for more years than Gaines could remember, would buy presents for Gaines’ wife, mother or son, unfortunately he had fired the member of staff in question two weeks previous and had neglected to check that the Christmas shopping had been done. Earlier on Christmas Eve Gaines had realised that he had no presents to give his family.
Buying present for his wife and mother was relatively easy, Gaines simply went into the first clothes shop he saw and bought several items of their most expensive clothes guessing the sizes (being careful to err on the small size imagining that if the clothes did not fit then at least it was a flattering mistake) He had no idea if they were good choices but felt sure that if they were not then his wife or Mother would simply exchange the clothes feeling flattered by the size and happy about the price.
Looking at his watch Gaines began to feel frustration, time was short and his son’s present would have to be a little more thoughtful than the purchases he had made for his wife and mother. Gaines had no idea what kind of gift he should get his son because he knew very little about about nine year old boys in general and his son in particular. That the chosen gift had to be the right gift was of great importance, and it was here that Gaines was stabbed with a slight pang of regret at his hasty firing of the old woman. With a mental shrug the pang regret was cast aside, the woman was far to old and her recent bout of ill health made it necessary to get rid of her, simple nostalgia was no reason to keep the failing assistant in his employ and if the fabrication of missing reports and files had to used to allow him to legally fire her then he felt no guilt in fabricating them. No guilt at all. But the problem was that the woman, who clearly had no son of her own, had paid particular attention to the presents bought for Gaines' young boy. Every Christmas and every birthday the boy unwrapped a present that gave great joy and delight, at the time it had been greatly appreciated by Gaines as the boy was normally sullen and uncommunicative, although this behaviour was only in evidence to his father, everyone else found the boy to be bright attentive and just a little melancholy, as benefits one who is in need of fatherly support but who receives nothing but cold disinterest. Gaines’ son hung on to the hope that his father did indeed love him as evidenced by the gifts he sometimes received, for the gifts were not just expensive they were thoughtful and interesting. That these gifts seemed to undo the damage, however briefly, that Gaines was thoughtlessly causing was apparent even to Gaines himself.
Shoppers did there best to walk past Gaines as he stood in the middle of the pavement waiting for inspiration, inevitably the would bump into him and he would curse loudly at them. Some apologised, most ignored the man and a select few surprised themselves by not hitting him, something about Gaines high handed arrogant manner seemed to cause even the most aggressive man to shrink back. raymond Gaines had long been a master of intimidation.
Time was running out so Gaines fell back upon one of his usual techniques, the exploitation of others. A brisk walk further up the street and over a zebra crossing led him into one of the city’s shopping centres. Grey and ugly with scant regard for aesthetic pleasure the centre looked like any other. Inside the shopping centre was a large department store it was here that Gaines hoped to find some sort of acceptable gift for his son.
Moving swiftly through the several floors of clothing, kitchen utensils and appliances, televisions, stereos, garden furniture and equipment, household furniture and ornaments,stationary, jewellery and perfumes Gaines finally found an area given over to children’s toys.
Alarmingly short of customers Gaines knew time was short and the store would soon be closing, he needed to find a shop assistant someone who he could transfer the responsibility of choosing his son’s present onto. Seeing the red polo shirted uniform of the store assistant Gaines made haste.
“You there,” bellowed Gaines unnecessarily, “I need assistance.”
The short hunched figure turned round revealing himself to be a man well past middle age with a full head of hair which had grown thin and wispy so that in it’s length it floated in the slightest breeze undulating as if it was some strange exotic underwater plant swaying with the ebb and flow of the sea. Beneath the almost hypnotic hair shone a pair of eyes that held Gaines with a piercing clarity that they gave him the impression that he was being appraised in such a complete and total manner that he felt a dread wave of nausea and a weakening of the knees. Shaking off the alien and invasive feeling Gaines once again attempted to gain the upper hand.
“I am short of time and must have a suitable gift for my son.”
“Of course Sir,” replied the elderly assistant, “and what can you tell me of your son?”
It was an simple question, and given the circumstances more than appropriate, it was also spoken with polite courtesy yet it seemed to Gaines that the man was mocking him, it seemed that implicit with every carefully chosen word the man was slapping Gaines whom he saw as so much dirt to be scraped from his shoe.
‘I.... He is, is a normal average young boy of nine.”
Once again the frank stare of the old man seemed to appraising Gaines’ words and once again it seem that as the man spoke he was judging Gaines and that once again that judgement was damning.
“An average normal boy?”

......and there we take our leave of this 'macabre' tale, if you want to find out how it ends keep dropping by.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Blink and you missed it

If you happened to be looking at my blog last night or ealy this morning you would have been able to see the first draft of the unfinished Simian Smith story. My Ibook is proving a bit difficult in terms of setting up a new email account and reacieving emails so as I can get online with it I posted up my story online and then copied it onto the Mac. Not exactly the most secure way of doing things but it was quick easy and I doubt anyopne was looking anyway.
Blogging's becoming a bit tiresome as I struggle to do other things as well as struggle to have an interesting life or at least an interesting take on life. I still like the idea of blogging and will continue to do it but the entries will be more, like the title suggests, infrequent and random.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Retail therapy

Bought an IBook today with new printer and I'm quite chuffed. Not really being able to afford it takes the shine off things but what the hell.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A couple of things

Over the past couple of days I've seen some truly interesting TV which is quite a novelty as rarely watch it.
The first was a documentary on John Peel. Many people felt he was a one off, he had a deep love of music that allowed him to listen to a broad range of music and appreciate it on it's own merits and to not be swayed by popular opinion. They talked about his honesty, his lack of ego and good mannered desire to not let people, whether they were listeners or musicians, down. And they talked again about how he was a one off. I'm not so sure. Certainly I have a lot of respect for John Peel, the way he behaved and what he did, but one off? It just didn't seem right somehow, and then it struck me, in the industry John Peel worked he probably was a one off. In the short time I've been alive I have met some pretty horrible people as well as those who were sometimes nice sometimes not so nice, I've also met some honest genuine people with firm ideals that they've stood by. In rightly mourning the passing of John Peel it seems the entertainment industry has admitted that it's heavily populated by the kind of people I wouldn't want to know.
Tonight on TV I saw Men Who Stare at Goats, a documentary by Jon Ronson who also did Them, both available as books. It seems that members of the US military believe that man can walk through walls, kill with a look and control the minds of other men. Like Louis Theroux (where are you Louis?) Ronson lets the subject talk and rarely undermines them, the theory presumably being to either get them to open up and talk more honestly rather than making them close up in the face of skepticism, it also gives them enough rope to hang themselves. Seeing as I have a slight interest in things unusual but no great belief in them I am reasonably open minded to the oddness that the people on documentary came out with. In the end what was so bizarre was that these strange ideas were coming from the minds of men who are seen to be incredibly rational by the general public. Because of the military mindset it seemed that these people, once they had accepted the possibility of supernatural powers, were intent on pursuing it with an astonishing lack of skepticism and sanity. I think I'll have to buy the book.
Not all was enjoyable in the land of popular entertainment. Last night my wife and I saw Bad Santa, and though I can recommend the film (hard viewing in places and rather upsetting, the inspired choice of director turned what could have been a schmaltzy corny 'gross out comedy' into a dark and surprisingly human bitter comedy) I was appalled by the trailer for 'taxi' due to it's reliance on stick thin women in very little clothing doing their best to look like low class prostitutes. It's not just women, men in the entertainment industry don't need much convincing to get undressed or to appeal to the more base aspects of the audience and frankly it's not only dull but it's not even arousing, let's face it there's nothing genuine about the cynical displays of flesh adorning the average 'lads' mag, music video or film. It's pathetic and I hate it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Well done America

The world's a scarier depressing place today, thanks.

Monday, November 01, 2004

back from my travels

After a nice little holiday in Amsterdam I'm back again. Amsterdam was lovely and even if you are hopelessly square like I am there's still plenty to see that doesn't involve sex and drugs. The hotel we stayed had internet access but I only went online once to delete the dozens of spam emails I knew were waiting for me and to quickly see what Danny and Paul, my blogging buddies, were up to. Apart from that I kept away as I spend too much time online anyway and I just didn't feel like blogging.
As well as no blogging there's been no writing and no drawing, and no guilt about it either. It was nice to not bother doing any of the usual things I do, that's what holidays are about aren't they?
All good things come to an end though and it's been a fairly long break and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about writing and drawing all the time I wasn't doing it.
Christmas is coming and already I feel the tightening around my chest that comes with the thought, 'What presents shall I buy?' The question 'What do you want?' also brings about the same stressful grip. I really do like Christmas, it's dulled slightly by decorations being put up too early, shops forcing it down my throat since September, and so on. I don't believe it's a time when mankind puts aside it's differences and joins hands for one great big sing song either. But I do like being outside at night and feeling the crisp almost electric charge in the air that makes my skin tingle and reminds me how I felt when I was a little kid and knew utterly that Christmas was a magical time, the best time.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

those were the days my friend

No news on Simian, he's having a breather. The new improved relaxed approach to writing is incredibly relaxed, so much so that I haven't written in nearly a week. Breaks like this can be pretty foolish as they really break my momentum, but I figure that I've no real momentum in the last month anyway. Also I've been doing a bit of reading, taking a look at a few things that seemed to have a similar tone to what I have in mind for Simian. You see, whilst I've been taking a break from writing I've been thinking about what I've done and I've realised it's not what I originally intended. One of the initial thoughts for Simian Smith was that the stories would be odd, they would be silly and stupid, strange and absurd, after all, we are talking about a private investigating ape. For some reason in my efforts to try and write properly I forgot to be silly (I also forgot to enjoy myself) Down time from writing and using this blog to not forget about Simian is helping me look at the story afresh.
Thanks to a Danny and Paul I'm going ahead with working on a website, hopefully I'll have something ready in a couple of months.
Finally got 'promoted' at work, it seemed like it was 'begrudged' by management which was a annoying but the important thing is that i got it, the pay rise is pretty laughable but will help our finances.
Walker's Crisps have a new advert that uses 'One Step Beyond' by Madness as it's theme as well as the 'group walk', I just saw it as I was typing the bit above. Seeing it makes me nostalgic. Comics do it to me too. Recently I got a few issues of a comic called Blue Devil (dopey comic but it was fun and had a lot of charm) from the 80's on Ebay, one of the issues brought a very specific moment flooding back. When I say specific I'm not refering to events but feelings. It was from october 1986 which makes it 19 years old and would have meant I was 14 when I bought it. My dad had decided to take us all out for a drive, something which didn't happen often. We went to Sunderland and ended up going to a place on the coast which I forget the name of, the thing I most remember about it was that there was a pub built into the cliff by the beach, there was a huge huge rock on the beach and we had ice cream and fish and chips. And I bought the afformentioned Blue Devil, the first Blue Devil I bought. I remember really liking it and it seemed to perfectly compliment a smashing (genuine old fashioned hyperbole!) day out. There a few issues of 2000ad and Warrior that give me similar feelings and of course there's Madness and their video's, they bring back feelings and memories of a different time..... don't worry I'll spare you the gory details of my nostalgia for days gone by. Basically as much as I hated being a kid in the late 70's and most of the 80's there was so much about that time that I miss and when something reminds me of the good times, like a transitional item like a comic or a photograph or hearing an old song it gives me a sad but cosy feeling. Honestly, I'll be telling you how much a loaf of bread and a packet of crisps cost in my day next.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

where's the sketches

The more aware visiters to this blog will have noticed the lack of sketches of late. There's about 10 sketches that were scanned in a few weeks ago that are just languishing in my harddrive. They weren't meant to stay secret this long I just didn't get round to posting them, but then I thought about it and just didn't wat to do it. They don't look so good on this site (well, they look ok, but they aren't presented in the best way) so I just kept putting it off. What I need is a proper website to put stuff on, unfortunately I now nothing about programming sites. I have a domain which came free with my email account and has a long clumsy title because of that (it's also full of bad old drawings) it's also rubbish because of the incredibly basic limited design package (honestly, it's like a bad joke) I got free with my PC. Last week I downloaded a free design program that I have no idea how to use that also looks a bit rubbish. As soon as I sort out a decent site I'll post links to sketches and put up some other artwork and the odd bit of writing that I've done.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Hitchcock was wrong

A flurry of finches descended on the back garden as I was writing that last meandering post. Who would have thought that an attack from birds could be so beautiful.

Getting my head together

After a couple of miserable posts trying to express some of my frustration and trying to figure out what I want from being 'creative' (quotation marks hopefully stopping me sounding pretentious but probably exaggerating it) I think I'm getting somewhere.
Danny provided the breakthrough; I need to be self-indulgent. The worry hampering my work comes from the responsibilities I'm placing on it - it has to be good, it has to be published, it has to save me from what I hate about my life. That's no way to produce decent work, it's also not a very good environment to have fun writing and drawing and more than anything else I want my words and pictures to be about fun. Being a naturally negative grumpy bloke is one thing, but that's never been my intention and not something I want to be remembered for. It doesn't mean that I want my work to be devoid of depth or to not tackle difficult subjects but (and I've mentioned this before on this blog) as much as I'm easily impressed by works which are a bit grim and dark, when I see something that manages to express truth and/or beauty in a positive way, something which embraces the joy of life I end up grinning like an idiot puppy.
Self-indulgence can be a risky thing, it allows people to create stuff that is utterly inaccessible to anyone but themselves, but in this instance it means just doing something for yourself and enjoying it. At least that's what its means to me and I'll just have to rely on my natural commercial instincts (the ones that make me get annoyed at films that run over an hour and a half to two hours, that wonder why an editor didn't do anything with an authors book, etc) to keep me on the right track.
So Simian is not going to be done next month, it’ll be done when it’s done. Simian Smith suffers ups and downs along with my moods of late, and as such I've recently become unhappy with the story and stuck as to where it's going and what's meant to happen next. Last night I realised what was wrong with it but don't know exactly how to correct it. Making myself write 1000 words a week is helpful in making me concentrate regularly but it’s sapping the fun in the process making it harder, more stressful and making me less inclined to bother. Philip Pullman may be able to write a certain amount daily but I think he's far more an accomplished writer than I am.
Work will continue on Simian, as it will on the various picture books and pictures I'd like to do, this isn’t an excuse to do less, I still intend to get a decent amount done on a regular basis, it’ll just continue in a more easy going less stressful manner.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Long miserable post warning

Over on his blog Paul has written a long post about why he's decided to do a PHD, the post has quite a bit of relevance for me, except for the PHD bit. The main similarity comes from dissatisfaction at work being a deciding factor in going back to college. I don't intend to go back to college myself even though I 'd like to, sadly the courses I'd like to do I would have to pay for instead of being paid to do them, education being something only people with money should have. But the dissatisfaction with work is very familiar.
Like Paul I've been caught on the merry-go-round of promotion. At the moment I'm on the merry-go-round despite myself simply because I had to take over from the person above me when he left as I was pretty much the only person who knew how the section he had worked, it was a big section and so it was a lot of responsibility. This means that I'm a grade 3 doing the work of a grade 4 and have been doing this for a year (sorry Paul, no matter what grade you are you are expected to do the work of a grade above you, even if, like me you never planned to) To add insult to injury for the last couple of months I've also had to help someone who's already a grade 4 become my boss and although I have no problems with her and think she's hard working and committed I can't help but notice that I'm doing most of the work. Money isn’t an issue as the company has a specially piggy bank put aside for people who should be promoted, they just don’t like to break it open.
Deep sigh. On to other things.
This is not what I want to do. Not only is it not what I want to do but it is one of the factors that stops me doing what I want to do. What I'd like to do is write and draw. One of the problems I face is my own limited ability and also (let's be honest here) my lack of drive. The amount of commitment needed to become a paid author or illustrator is a hell of a lot, we're talking about labour intensive work where you have to produce just as much work as the people who get paid for it, maybe be better than them (how else do you impress a publisher) and not actually have a vacancy to apply for. Look in the job section of a paper, there's no ads say publisher requires author/illustrator, you just have to do the stuff and keep your fingers crossed. That's a lot of commitment (and, just as importantly, faith, you really need to believe in yourself) and although I have a fair bit of commitment I can't honestly say that every bit of free time I have is spent on working on a project or improving my craft, unfortunately all my spare time is what is required. Which leads us back to my job. The time I spend at work eats into my writing/drawing time in a major way and it also leaves me in no mood to do anything but lie on the couch when I get in. I take my share of the blame for not using my time in the best way possible but I can't help but be frustrated by how much a job I don't care for, doesn't pay well (as Paul says bookselling is appallingly paid especially for the work required) and holds me in low regard is taking of my time.
In a nutshell, I do this job for money to allow me to do the work I'd rather do but the money isn't great and the time on the job holds me back from doing the work I want to do. It would be nice to find a new job (and I have started looking) but I'm not terribly well qualified or experience in much of anything - which is why I'd like to go to college but can't afford to because the pay from my present job is so low.
Last night I had to help in a 'change over' (when we take out one promotion and replace it with a new one), generally they aren't too bad other than the fact that we have to work late, but last night's was the worst I've ever done and I'm kind of glad that I'm not in today to see the reaction to it. After finishing it a few of us went out for a drink and I was amazed at the degree of unhappiness for the job we all had. There was little anger or outrage, just a strong sense of unhappiness because noon of us really knew what we were doing there. This kind of conversation is not exactly rare but it struck me most because of the mix of staff there - it included management.
Paul's post has far more merit because he's doing something about it, he's got a plan. All I'm doing is whinging. I'm putting this up here because it's how I feel, and have felt for a long time, and I think it gives some background to what's going on as I try and write and draw. I've been talking about the 'creative impulse' recently with a few other people on here and one of things I believe is that when you stop worrying about something and just enjoy it for what it is then you produce better work. The irony is that I nearly always worry about my work and none of it's being done for itself, it's being done to earn me money, it's commercial art, I'm hoping it'll mean I can leave my job. Sure I'd do it if I wasn't getting paid (that's what I'm doing now isn't it), but that is still the final goal for most of the stuff I do. Writing and drawing in the hope that it'll save me from my present job puts quite a lot of unhelpful pressure on me, it may be pressure of my own making but it still exists and it has a detrimental effect on my writing and drawing.
So I just keep on plugging away like the steady drip of water on a stone slab waiting until I finally make some mark.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

the artistic impulse

In an interview today in the Observer the excellent Philip Pullman said "I became passionate about transmiting and enthusiasm, and telling stories" This is fairly close to summing up my own feelings and reasons for trying to write and draw, particularly the enthusiasm. When I'm really taken by something I feel the need to pass it on, usually in the form of recommending it to someone else, but it also makes me want to do something myself. Danny and I have been emailing each other recently about the creative impulse (Danny, do you see how I make us both sound really smart) and Danny talked about a kind of debt we owe from experiencing something (book, picture, film, whatever) that effects us, the kind of debt that is repaid by trying to create something youself. This totally hit's the nail on the head for me. I knew a guy who was interested in writing children's books yet he never managed to really finish anything because each time he read something new that impressed him he would start another book or rewrite one he was working on and it would inevitably show this new influence. At the time I thought this showed some serious lack of... well, a few things, ability, commitment, character, etc. But I've experienced similar impulses myself (and probably shown the same lack ability, etc), when I read something that effects me I feel the need to do something myself. Fortunately I try not to stoop to plagarism. But we were both effected and both needed to express that effect somehow. We both had to pay our debt. No idea if the other guy is still trying to do this or not, I'll keep plugging away though.

arty nonsense

Looking around a few websites yesterday I stumbled across a couple of great artists. As 'art' goes they are probably closer to illustration, but I guess that's why I like them. First off is the work of Esao Andrews. It's pointless describing artwork when you can just look at it, but to give you a rough idea think Victorian macabre. This site might take a while to open (unless it's just my steam powered PC) but it's worth it for a very nicely animated site. Jumping from that site via the pixelsurgeon interview I discover a review of an artist called John Currin whose work I really liked probably for the same reasons I like Lucien Freud's artwork. Currin doesn't seem to have a website of his own that I could find but a quick google search for 'John Currin artist' turns up quite a lot of articles on him. Andrews namechecks an artist called Ray Caesar but I didn't care for his work as much. Unlike Andrews and Currin, Caesar's work is digitally produced which I'm not a fan of (although I'd be lying if I said it was immediately noticeable), but the really problem is that Caeser's work seems to stray too far into Goth/Geiger territory for my liking.
Back to art styles that mirror my own preferences I should mention Simone Lia's work. I discovered her work over a year ago now when I picked up a children's picture book called 'Follow The Line' and was instantly jealous of someone doing similar paintings to me but doing them incredibly well. My artwork is not that similar but it's obviously in the same area. Lia's work is beautiful, I managed to get another picture book by her called Billy Bean's Dream. I was very pleased to find out that she also did comic work. About a year ago Bloomsbury packaged some of her comics with Tom Gauld into a book called Both. Recently Lia has been working on a comic called 'Fluffy' which is available from her site and also from a few comic shops as well as the trendy design book shop 'Magma' in London and Manchester and the ICA.
I’m still thinking about painting something myself. I suppose I should just pick up some brushes and start painting, but I really have no idea what to paint. This is what stops me so often and was always a sticking point when I was younger. Although I do have a pretty good imagination (as you’d hope, what with me wanting to do creative stuff) it doesn’t seem to work in the way I’d like it to – I rarely have those sudden flashes of ideas of what to do that you imagine artists get. The way my imagination works is that it just wonders of on it’s own (I often get very lucid daydreams to the point where even though I know the daydream didn’t actually happen I still feel as though it did) If I’m lucky I’ll see something that I think looks interesting and it’ll react with something else I’ve though in my head and suddenly I’ve got the beginnings of an idea that I try and wrestle into something workable. Simian Smith came about as just those two words. It’s amazing how many comic folk have this sort of obsession with monkeys, they crop up all over the place in comics since the 60’s (Superman or the Flash or Jimmy Olsen were always turning into an ape or fighting one or falling in love with one…. No, really) One day I’d been reading some monkey related story and the name Simian Smith popped into my head, I liked it, I kept coming back to it. Eventually my interest in crime stories (much stronger back then than now) led me to giving him the job of Private Detective, the pun on primate was pretty obvious, I had a character. That was about seven years ago, it’s taken all this time for me to finally do something with him.
Whilst I was thinking about a couple of picture book ideas (one was based on the fact that I was trying to think of an animal I’d like to draw in a picture book – frog, I thought, I like them. How a bout I give a bowler hat to make it interesting, yeah okay, but why? I dunno, maybe he goes traveling in it. Oh, that makes sense, he must be leaving his pond…. And so on until the story is ready to draw) and suddenly I thought of a really filthy dirty house, why was it so dirty? Eventually I had a new idea. Where did it come from? I have no idea.
I get terribly jealous of people who have fertile imaginations and turn out picture after picture. Keeping a sketchbook was supposed to get me drawing stuff in the hope that I’d exercise my brain and imagination until it was strong enough to produce stuff. It sort of works, but since I’ve started thinking about painting I’ve had no ideas. Doing a portrait of Rebecca seems like a pretty obvious choice but then I wonder how she should sit, what kind of pose should I go for, etc.
Ok, I’ll take it easy for the rest of the day and then I’m going to start working on something, sitting around blogging may not get work done but it does sometimes galvanize me into doing something.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Not a rant

Ok, maybe it’s a bit of a rant, but I’ve tried to exert some restraint. Think of it as a compassioned complaint.
Hey, it’s my blog, I do wha’ I like!
AVP. First let’s laugh at the ridiculous abbreviated title. Do I blame T2 or ID4 (or Independence Day)? Yes, I do. But that doesn’t let the makers of AVP of the hook. The rest of the film seems to be a bad computer game with some poorly written characters and dialogue. I did actually like Predator, as far as undemanding popcorn nonsense goes it’s fun. Alien – excellent. Aliens – very good. Alien 3 – I was one of those people on the ‘but it’s brilliant’ side of the fence. Alien Resurrection – well, I liked the new improved Ripley….. everything else pretty much stank, particularly the Alien/turd hybrid. I think the point here is that there is some serious sense of diminishing returns at work here. As nice as it would be to see Alien somehow returned to it’s former glory I have 2 problems.
Alien and Predator are only being brought out because the idiots who care about the crap games and comics think it’s worth wringing some last drop of money out of these once worthy endeavours.
Why do they need ‘restoring’ to their former glory? Just watch the originals again. The need to remake or do sequels is akin to digging up the peaceful resting corpses of the good and decent and molesting them.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

laa-de-da I'm doing a little bit of writing

The synopsis for Simian Smith is coming on, I should finish it tomorrow which will give me some sort of plan to follow. All told I think the story is going to be bit shorter than I originally intended, part of this is because of the brevity of the narrative. With artwork the finished book (if it was published!) would probably be about 125 pages which is okay for a book in the age range I'm aiming for. Once the synopsis is finished I think it's best I crack on and try and get it finished asap, my provisional deadline is for mid November which means that the 1000 a week isn't enough, more like 2500, assuming it's going to come in at my guessed word count. Once the first draft is done I might do some artwork for the story before I get on with the second draft.
As well as Simian I've started working on the scripts for a few picture book ideas. So far the ideas are vague and need work but my desire to paint is making me push forward with them. Two of the ideas are animal based and one involves humans, I'd rather it didn't but it's the only way the story (such as it is at the moment) work. I've also got a little note scribbled that might be made into another story but I'm not sure how just yet - it involves animals again.
I'm beginning to wonder if the updates about my writing aren't a bit on the tedious side. There's little in the way of insight in them and they're just a bit of a log book entry at the best of times. Maybe for people who already know me they might be of interest but if not I doubt anyone would tell me. The lack of real news as far as writing goes is also making this a bit dull. I suppose I could liven things up by ranting a bit, ranting is something that comes fairly naturally to me but as I said in the last entry I don't want to rant as everyone does and it's a bit tiresome. I'm planning to look for a new job so maybe I'll have something more to post about then. In the meantime I'll try and be more interesting, or at least post some more sketches.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Well this is the longest I've left it between posts. The reasons for this are not particularly interesting I'm afraid. Mainly it boils down to the fact that I didn't want to use this blog to rant about things. I may tend to moan about things but not about work, people or the World, there's plently other blogs that do that and I couldn't imagine what I would add other than more whinging. As I've had a fairly shitty time of it lately I just decided not to write about it but because I've been thinking about very little else I've ended up not posting. Also I didn't see my wife for a week and now she's back I don't feel like sneaking off to spend time on the computer. My need for the tiny tiny amount of 'fame' that blogging gives me has finally dragged me back though.
Although I did art at 'A' level and a Foundation course I know very little about 'fine art' My dislike of modern art as well as not having much free time has kept me well away from the art world even though I inhabit its council estate area known as illustration. Recently I've been looking at some really nice paintings and feeling like I should be doing some myself. I particularly like artists like Modigliani, Matisse, Picasso, Manet, Gauguin that kind of thing. No really point to this other than I keep thinking of the great feeling you can get when you're pushing and spread big blobs of thick paint around a canvas with. Perhaps this is a reaction to the feelings of constriction and frustration I'm getting from work.
Writing is faltering, I'm not sure how well I've stuck to my 1000 words a week target, it feels about right but I'm doing it in such a patchy manner. No writing for a few days then a sudden blast of 600 words and then nothing for days again. At the moment I'm trying to do a synopsis of the entire story which is what I usually do when I hit that wall of frustration where I don't know what to next. Generally there are two ways to write, there's planning the whole thing out before you write and there's making it up as you go along. I like to make it up as I go, I like the freedom of it and I lack the kind of mind that plans, but I do often get stuck and wonder what happens next. I think it often leads me to cut stories short or to give up. As I have no intention of giving up on this one and don't want it to end just yet I'll just have to work a bit harder to figure out where it needs to go, but thinking time cuts into doing time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Joey Pigza Swallowed The Key by Jack Gantos is a book you probably haven't heard of, and that's a shame. Chances are that you've heards of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by mark Haddon though, you might even have read it. Curious Incident is a good book, no doubt about that but I'm not really sure why it's done so well, in the same way I don't know why Harry Potter did or A Gathering Light. Why has there been such a fuss over Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell? No idea. All these books are well written but (actually as much as I like Curious Incident I don't think it's as good as many have claimed and I don't care for Harry Potter much at all) I don't think that's what's gave them great sales. About ten minutes before I began typing this I finished reading Joey Pigza Swallowed The Key (or JPSTK) and I was still teary-eyed when I started. JPSTK is about 5 years old and about a boy with ADHD, it's written from his point of view and is so successful in putting you in Joey's position that I felt I had ADHD every time I put it down. Joey's bright open manner, desire to be a 'good kid' and inability to control himself is the heart of this book, there's no realy plot to speak of just Joey's life and that's the power of the book. In a quirky natural and unsentimental way it punch you in the stomach with it's strong mix of sadness, humour and joy.
Jack Gantos' autobiography Hole in my Life is coming out in a few months, it talks about how he was sent to prison at the age of 20 for his part in a get rich quick drug scam and wrote his own thoughts between the lines of The Brothers the book that inspired him. It sounds excellent and I'll be buying a copy.
No writing today, noe yesterday and none the day before. Everytime I have a good day I follow it up with a few bad ones which is annoying. It's proving insanely difficult to build up any momentum, life and my inability to deal with it just gets in the way. Sometimes I wonder what I could achieve if I just focused on writing and drawing. The idea of doing nothing else but writing and drawing, is really attractive but I don't have the heart or the will power to do it. Also I'm scared I'll find out I'm not that good. The only thing I want to do with my work is to let go and just apreciate the moment but it seems to be beyond me. Perhaps one day I'll stop creating problems for myself but that seems typical of so many people of my generation.
Our new matress should be getting delivered tomorrow and I'm so looking forward to sleeping on it. Our present matress feels like a layer of rocks covered with cheap white bread which I don't think has improved my back much. Hopefully it'll encourage me to sleep, for some reason even though I love sleep and can easily sleep for 10 or 11 hours solid I tend to go to bed as late as possible and usually get about 4 or 6 hours sleep. Since I cut down to one cup of coffee a day I'm felling more tired (although not as tired as I did the first week I cut down) but still making myself stay awake. I just can't get the idea out of my head that the sooner I sleep the sooner I'll wake and be back at work with nothing to show for myself. Bad habit, must have more early nights.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Is a post really bad if you can't think of a name for it?

After a slow week of writing I seem to have stepped up a gear managing to write over 500 words today. As a bonus I'm also quite pleased with the scene I wrote, it seems to capture the right blend of pulp noir and silliness I have in my head as I write but usually fail to put down on paper, or PC. I'm going out tomorrow as a friend is taking pity on my lonliness and has invited me round for feeding and company so I'll probably not get anything done, but other than that maybe I'll actually be productive this week.
As well as writing I also managed to read a couple of short books, The Red Judge by Pauline Fisk was good, the prose and plot started awkwardly but eventually settled down into a strange tale that went from odd happening to odd happening with a dreamlike quality totally suited to the story. The other book was less good with a lame plot Rod Sterling would have rejected, irritating characters and a dreadful finale (or finally you might say) Demon's Rock like Red Judge was a kid's book but decided to be patronising and shallow instead of honest and interesting.
I'm going to read Freak the Mighty next which has been well reviewed and looks pretty decent. I've a stack of unread books on my bookcase, maybe that's something else I can do this week.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

What time is it!?!

Oh man I have wasted my morning and a big chunk of the afternoon online. You know how it is, you see one article read it maybe follow it up on comments/forums and before you know it you've found a few more things of interest, you follow them and then you suddenly realise that you've lost a few hours that could have been better spent than reading idiots argue on line.
The big news for me at the moment is that I'm on my own. My wife has to sometimes support people on holiday and that's what she went to do this morning, for a eight days. I'll see her next sunday when I get in from work. Great. Of course this is why I ended up wasting half of the day online. I'm going out in a couple of hours to meet up with a friend who's visiting, I'll only see him for an hour of so but it's been a while sinse I last saw him so I'll be going. I might waste time at the cinema watching a crappy film (I'll wait until Rebecca get back to see decent films), anything to make the time pass until Sunday when I can get back to taking Rebecca for granted.
Unless I suddenly get hit with inspiriation soon my 1000 words for Simian this week will fall a few hundred short. It's been a bit busy and I've wanted to spend time with Rebecca instead of writing. Also I'm a bit stuck with what comes next. Being on my own next week should mean I'll get more done though so hopefully I'll make up for the shortcoming this week.

more 'reviews'

Entirely by coincidence I ended up buying mainly manga on my weekly visit to my local comic shop. Fortunately for me my local shop is Page45 and fails to meet the usual expectations of comic shops. Unlike Forbidden Planet and many other larger comic shops it's not a toy shop pretended to be a comic shop, it's clean, tidy and well laid out. The big difference between Page45 and most other comic shops is that it doesn't just pay lip service to independent or alternative comics, it puts them up front and displays them proudly. Of course the superhero stuff is still there, just not in the usual quantities or prominence. It would be dull of me to drone on about the superhero/alternative divide, or the notion that what comic fans consider alternative is what non-comic fans would consider mainstream (Maus, Jimmy Corrigan, Palestine for instance), or even to talk of the slow death of the comic industry. They're self evident to anyone who has taken even the slightest bit of notice. This isn't an advert for Page45 either, I do have a few problems with them and the standard of many other comic shops has risen in the last 5 years or so, but it's still a damn good shop.
So, back to those comics. The only non-manga I bought was two zines, King Cat, totally impossible to describe but utterly irresistible and unique, John Porcilleno is creating something utterly personal and has been doing it himself, his way, for years. Fantastic work. I bought two to send one on to Danny, I've always thought he'd like it.
Manga is not something I'm amazingly familiar with but I still have quite a few books, Uzamaki (scary and weird in a way that I've rarely seen), Lone Wolf and Cub (Kill Bill 2 name checks the film adaptation Shogun Assassin), Ranma 1/2 (and a few other Rumiko Takahashi books, she does character based comedy and drama better than anyone, whether it's realistic such as Maison Ikkoku or genre based such as Lum or Ranma), Hellbaby (brrrr.....), Miyazaki's Nausicaa (the excellent director creates an epic comic using his favourite themes of nature and love) and a fair few more. But still, I know very little about manga beyond the big stuff and the odd quirky little title, the recent massive expansion thanks to publishers like Tokyopop and the huge leap in sales in the US, and presumably the UK, has meant that there's just too much out there. Also I suspect that in an effort to keep up with the demand a lot of filler stuff is being translated. A quick look at the bulging shelves in Page45 reveals the same stuff being repeated over and over again, the skill on display is undeniable but the thing I've always loved about comics is that they are a great medium to produce something unique and personal. Unlike the big US comic though though manga publishers at least have more strings to the bow it's repeatedly plucking with Sci-fi, horror, fantasy, crime, romance and comedy the popular staples of manga genres, as opposed to superheroes and the odd horror and crime title.
But not all manga follows the usual blueprint, there's quite a lot of interesting 'underground' style manga out there (Fantagraphics did an excellent collection that had me wishing for more translations) and many other more personal tales, which finally leads me to the point of all this rambling. Jiro Taniguchi's The Walking Man is a wonderfully sweet life affirming book that manages to avoid being trite or manipulative. Imagine the excitement of... taking a walk. Because that's all that happens. No day dreaming flights of fancy to spice things up, just a guy who likes to walk. What makes this so special is the very ordinariness of it all and the walking man's openness. He might stop to help some children get a toy plane from down a tree, take a look at the view from the top of the tree, find the toy plane broken lying in the gutter on the way home and take the time to fix it and send it flying once more. Or he'll get over taken by a gentlemen walking faster than him so he'll catch up, be over taken, catch up, be over taken and so on until a silent understanding is met and the two men walk together sharing the moment. The slow pace, sparing dialogue and exacting artwork make this a pleasure to read and an inspiration to go outside and enjoy the world. Sadly I couldn't find this on amazon, just mention of Ibooks translation of Taniguchi and Moebius' collaboration which didn't terribly impress me when I saw it, lovely artwork from Taniguchi but Moebius' writing is not half as interesting as his drawing. I haven't looked at it yet but the publisher does have a website though ponentmon.
The other book I picked up is also by the same publisher, Fanfare/Ponent Mon, and is a book I've been wait for for a while now. I haven't had a chance to read it yet so you'll have to wait for my long winded opinion (!), but I've got seriously high hopes for Kazuichi Hanawa's Doing Time. It's about the author's time in jail for possession of a gun. The reason for having a gun is fairly innocuous and the three year sentence seems to have been unnecessary. The book looks to be slow moving, lacking in melodrama and beautifully illustrated in a style that reminds me of Yoshihiro Tassumi (who's work is sort of Raymond Carver-esque and is apparently getting a new translation through Drawn and Quarterly) Hopefully Doing Time will live up to my expectations.
And that's it.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Deer are breeding during Sept-Nov, do not approach

There's a wide path in the park that's lined with really big trees adn on the way to draw deer I decided I'd have a go at drawing some of them. Trees are beautiful things, no matter what season. I realised I wouldn't be doing them justice, I didn't have the best tools for the job and my ability is just too limited at the moment but as I stared at the thick textured trunk twisting up and become utterly choked with branches and leaves I figured it would be fun to try my best. I managed to draw two trees before giving up, the first try wasn't very good but I'm quite pleased with the second one, the leaves caused the most problems for me as I just didn't have the time to spend drawing every leaf and the loose scribbles I went for failed to capture the dense foilage. One thing that struck me about the trees was the branches, obviously no one had pruned them and they looked amazing. Some of the branches climbed skywards so elegantly it was hypnotic, others spead out towards the groung under their own weight and some of the branches looked like ink on paper that's been blown on (remember the way you drew trees at school when you were little, a big wet blob of watery paint and a straw to blow it in the right direction?), it's hard to believe that these branches didn't just explode out suddenly but instead slowly extended over months and years.
Sadly the deer were too busy having sex somewhere for me to draw them. I suppose I could have hunted around for them but I'm not sure I want to draw copulating deer and I don't think they'd want to be drawn.
A few people came up to me as I drew which turned out to be quite a pleasant experience. An old American guy came up to me and politely asked if he could look over my shoulder, I told him it was fine but I'd just started and there wasn't much to look, he looked for a while and told me it was very good. I guess he might have just felt obliged but it seemed genuine and made me feel quite proud which seemed ridiculous but nice all the same. A little later as I was drawing the same scene three kids came over and watched for a while and asked a couple of questions, one of the kids (the eldest I think, he seemed to be about thirteen or fourteen) kept saying 'cool' in a fairly awstruck voice, the others also seemed incredibly impressed. I'd forgotten how fascinated people can be about drawing and how magical it can seem to kids; my work wasn't great but the fact that I was doing it and it looked like the scene in front of me was enough to make these kids stop, particularly impressive considering how grungy I look today.
As I was drawing today I found that I wanted to draw more and there seemed to be so many things worth drawing, I realised that even though the pictures aren't coming out how I want them that it's just not that important.
I'll post some of the sketches up later.
On the way back I saw another fox, this one looked a bit thinner than the one I saw in the back garden, it was dashing across the road into some bushes. As Danny points out on his blog foxes seem to combine the features of cats and dogs which explains why I find them so amazing. That people are protesting the banning of foxhunting at the moment saddens and angers me, I'm not sure what makes people think they're justified in chasing such beautiful creatures until they are too tired to run and then watching them be torn apart by dogs.

Need coffee.... must.... resist

There's a guy playing in town tonight called Jeffery Lewis who I might go and see. He does the kind of acoustic stuff I like (and my wife calls 'dringy dringy music', which seems like a fair comment), I'm not too familiar with him though and I'm not sure I want to go into town so I've not made my mind up yet. I think I will go to the park in a bit to draw the deer though, it's dry and Rebecca's gone to work so I might as well do something. Hope I do the deer justice.
Talking of sketching, the image hosting site I use is working again so here's some pictures from my sketch book.

This was a guy waiting for his girlfriend (or wife) in the hairdressers I was in waiting for Rebecca. I don't know if he knew he was being sketched but he stayed still for a remarkable length of time which is why this sketch is fairly accurate.... although not necessarily good!

I'm still trying to do a decent picture of my wife and still failing. This one. as the not suggests, is at least getting somewhere, I think it's going to take a lot more practice before I get better at capturing likenesses

Rebecca again, this time in the garden. No attempt made at getting the face done here I'm ashamed to say, the garden looks very little like the one I've drawn. I quite like the way this one looks but the plants are very sketchily done, this can sometimes be a good thing as it gives the impression of something enough for the mind to fill in the blanks, I don't think I quite succeeded here but I still quite like the picture.

Final picture and Rebecca is once again my 'muse'. Drawing people reading is almost as good as drawing them sleeping - very little movement. The attempts at shading spoil this one but it's pretty decent. Still not happy with any of the sketches I've been doing, the drawing is getting a little better and it's sloooowly getting easier (ever so slightly) to capture what I see, but the final results aren't terribly pleasing and there's still very little interpretation going on, I'm just recording images which is not my preferred kind of work. As I've said before though I need more confidence and to get better at drawing before I can free my self up to simple put down something on paper the way I see it and the way I want to come out. In the mean time I am quite pleased with these - and I'm picking the best out of sketchbook as I go!
Had a bit of a rubbish day yesterday, work's getting harder and I'm back to feeling slightly unfulfilled by it. I need to find a different job but it's such a scary prospect that I keep putting it off for various (usually manufactured) reasons. At the moment I figure I'll see Christmas through, see if I actually get the promotion I've deserved for the last few months and then I can try and get work as a classroom assistant in the new year.
It's getting on, I'd better finish this up and make my way to the park.

Friday, September 17, 2004

I drank a lava lamp, It wasn't lava.

Lost an earlier post for technical reasons that utterly escape me. The gist of the post was -
Rainy grey weather makes a welcome return, hot sunny weather (when we had it) is mine, but I like blustery winds, clouds rushing across the sky and wrapping up warm.
Mama Cass has a great voice.
Anchorman is amazingly silly fun.
No deer sketching because of weather.
Moans about my writing in notes books meaning that when it comes to typing it up the natural editing that happens is making the end word count suffer.
Charity shop couch buying didn't work out but we found a good couch from a fairly cheap place and will hopefully be taking possesion of a very large squashy olive green couch next week.
I bought a hat that my wife thinks make me look like a cute pixie.
And that was it.
I'd like to add that the Daniel Johnston CD I managed to pick up was excellent, to call his singing heartfelt doesn't do his voice justice.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Stuck on the 6th level on Manic Miner

Saw Supersize me tonight. It may be an easy taget the basic message may be pretty obvious but I can't remember the last time I felt so depressed anxious and entertained..... maybe one of the more grim episodes of Six Feet Under.
Even though I don't eat at McDonalds (or BurgerKing, KFC etc)and haven't in about eight years it's still given me plenty to think about, but nothing worth posting up!
I'm still writing but I'm not getting round to typing it up, I think I've managed about 600 hundred words so far this week, but I'm not sure, tomorrow I'll type it all up.
Only one picture in the sketch book today and it's rubbish, mostly due to the incredibly unispiring choice of material, but if was any good I'd manage to transform the mundane into pure gold in much the same way as Bob Carolges (spelling?) and Hellmans mayonaise used to do. Off to the park on friday to draw deer.
Hopefully we'll be buying a new (to us) couch tomorrow, I discovered a furniture charity shop that has some really nice stuff in it at excellent prices. I like supporting charities and I like not spending much money so that works out pretty well.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Wasted time is never time wasted

Too much time wasted tonight after downloading a PC version of Manic Miner last night. What a great game, better than the stuff out nowadays. I mean GTA 3 is great and all that but I prefer simple direct games especially when they are as dopily charming as the kind of things teenagers were creating in their bedrooms while there mums were shouting them downstairs for tea.

This is a legible version of the previous post

Back from Basingstoke. My back's still a bit sore. About four months ago I tore a muscle but I'd had a bad back for years before that, the kind of sore stiffness that's usually just about bearable. After tearing the muscle I was on heavy-duty painkillers and anti-inflammatory pills for a while and it seemed to settle down. No idea what set it off, could be the cold I briefly had, our rubbish mattress or I might've over done some exercising.
Basingstoke itself was fine, or rather Hook. My brother in law his wife and two year old son seemed in fine health and all ready for the arrival of another family member very soon. The presence of child and pregnant woman did nothing to cause my wife and I to plan our first child, we just don't have the urge and doubt we ever will.
Only 100 words typed up so far out of the 300 or so I reckon I did in my trusty notepad over the weekend. That should see me nicely over the 1000 for the week.
My sketchbook also saw a little action, I'll post something from it in a couple of days. The quality of the actual pictures is still lacking but I think that my observing ability is coming along a bit and that seems to be the main purpose of sketching.
One smart thing I managed to do on the train was to leave one of my bags. Nothing important in it so it’s not too much of a problem, I wouldn’t mind a couple of tops back, but other than that there’s nothing that I’ll miss. The new upcoming Carl Hiaasen was in the bag though which is a shame as I quite enjoyed it having not read anything by him for ages. His books are all remarkably similar but good fun and well written. Fortunately I managed to finish it before I left it on the train.
There’s a book coming out soon called Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, it’s set to be pretty big and I’ve had a proof copy for a couple of months. I’ve promised someone I’d let him read my copy but foolishly decided to start reading it myself.

Friday, September 10, 2004


We're heading down to Basingstoke in an hour or so to visit my brother in law and his family, I don't care for visiting people for seem reason, but it should be nice. Unfortunately my back is hurting quite a bit at the moment (it just came on yesterday and I've no idea what set it off), it's been worse, but I'd still rather not be spending time on a train. Typical.
So far I've only managed about 850 words this week. It's been a busy week, I stayed back at work because I was organising a book event a couple of days ago and last night was a friends birthday drink.

Monday, September 06, 2004

But what about the writing?

Up until today, since I started writing Simian Smith I had managed to write 2240 words. I’m not sure how long I’ve been writing, but even knocking off the time spent working on ‘The Hitcher’ comic strip I guess it’s been almost two months. Which means I’ve only managed 250 words a week, not even 50 words a day.
At the present rate it’ll take about 2 years to finish what will amount to about a 200 page book tops.
It’s fear and laziness. Fear that I’ll never get anywhere because I’m not good enough and my own half-arsed sluggishness. At the moment I’m doing enough to say that I’m working, but not enough to actually get anywhere. Well no more.
Today was my day off and after spending a pleasant afternoon with Rebecca, who was also off, I wrote about 500 hundred words, pretty good ones too. My goal is to write about 1000 words a week, some days are going to be better than others but 1000 seems achievable and it’ll add up to more than 2200 every two months.

A few days ago there was a fox in our back garden

We live in a smallish bungalow in an okay part of Nottingham, it's a bit pricey for a couple with our meagre earning but after renting a few rubbish homes we decided that we'd had enough and a nice place to live was worth the extra money. One of the great things about the area is that it's next door to descent size park. There's not an awful lot to the park but it's nice and does have one special feature; a deer reserve. It's nice being able to look at the deer, and I intend to go over and draw a few soon now that I'm sketching again. The other great thing about being near a park is that we do get to see the odd fox, Rebecca once even saw a badger in our front garden, which I'm incredibly jealous of. Foxes aren't exactly rare and you don't just need to live near a park to see them, but it does mean we see them a bit more regularly. Anyway, the fox in our back garden was different, it was in our back garden during the day and I've never seen a fox in the day time. It was a bright sunny morning and Rebecca spotted it as she was making coffee. If you have a dog or a cat you've probably seen that beautiful serene expression on their faces when they're in that incredibly relaxed not quite asleep or awake state brought upon simply by lying in sunlight. It's an expression that looks just as good on a fox. It must have stayed in the long grass (we don't mow regularly) for ten minutes before finally leaving. For those ten minutes we barely spoke and I didn't even think to draw it. For some reason I only just remembered it today. There's scene in Stand By Me (the film and The Body the book it's based on) where a young boy and a deer look at each other, it lasts seconds but it's a beautiful moment, and when it's over it's gone, not forgotten, just a moment that doesn't quite exist in the regular world. That's how it felt with the fox in the back garden.

Friday, September 03, 2004

As promised

All these should show as just a tiny bit smaller than actual size which is A5.
First up is the view from the kitchen window, well, not really the view from the window, more a view of the window.... anyway, this is the first sketch I did in the book and in many ways I think it's the best so far.

but that doesn't mean the others totally suck. Next up is an unflattering picture of my wife. I'm not particularly good at likenesses, especially if I have to do them quickly with no planning. That's why it doesn't look like Bec, or much like a woman for that matter. Other than the face I'm quite pleased with it though.

Finally we have our TV, there was something showing on it at the time but I can't draw fast enough to capture that. I think the atempts at shading spoil it (and the other pictures where I shade) but I still sometimes do it. Silly really.

That's it for now, there are more in my book but that's for later.

Thursday, September 02, 2004


Not the band of course. It was my day off and Bec and I went into town, she had an appointment at the hairdressers and we decided to go to the cinema later (Hellboy, good fun, pretty close to the comic but not quite as good), this meant we had about 3 hours to kill so we had a wander around town. There was a book I meant to buy yesterday but forgot so I thought I'd buy it today and we could steal a look at a cookbook to buy some ingredients for food tonight; that’s the problem. Going into work on my day off, it is a sad thing to do. It started when I used to cycle into town to go to the gym, I'd take my bike into the shop because I didn't trust it to be safe chained up outside. Also I used to meet up with a friend for a drink or to go to the cinema occasionally. All these visits built up and there was a bit of mickey taking. I've barely gone into the shop on my days off in months now, the guy I met up with most has left and I don't go to the gym in town any more. Still, when I'm in town I might pop in to buy a book, I could wait until I'm back at work but when I want something I usually like to pick it up then and there. It's lame going into your place of work, I deserve the mocking. I'm sorry. ------------------ Last night I spent far to long writing a post that my computer objected to so it shut down. Frustrating. Rather than try and conjure it up from my memory I'll just give you the abbreviated version. The
  • other Paul
  • wrote an interesting
  • essay
  • on his site about blogging and after telling Jon, who I work with (who, with Ali, another reader of this blog, so cruelly mocked me today), about my blog I'd been thinking about this whole blogging thing myself. Paul pretty much covers it in his article, but there were a couple of things I'd like to add.
    Why I don't just do this in a diary. This blog started and mainly exists as a way to get me working. Over the last year I've drawn and written very little and I thought I'd use a blog as a way of prompting me and also to allow me some sort of writing practice. It's hard to tell if it’s helped but I think might have, mainly because it not a diary. You see, if I wrote in my diary something stunningly offensive no one would know. If I wrote in a diary tonight that I intend to write an novel a week it doesn't mean I'll do a damn thing tomorrow, but if I posted up my novel a week intentions here I'd be open to whatever ridicule and scorn I'd rightly deserve. My rambling innocuous carry a bit more weight because there’s the possibility of people reading them. I like that, it helps me focus.
    What's so great about blogs? Nothing necessarily, but it's like
  • James Kochalka's sketchbook diaries
  • , an individual entry means nothing, read one a day and they still don't mean that much, but read 10 or 20 or 100 in a sitting and they become an amazing representation of living breathing life. Blogs are like that, they can be dull, banal, and mundane but over the course of time they can become fascinating portraits. As Paul says, it's probably more interesting if you already know the person, but there has been the odd blog that's made me feel like I already do know the person. It's not a modern obsession though, reading blogs is just a high tech way of nosing through people’s windows.
    As I mentioned in the previous post I've finally started sketching again. So far I'm enjoying it, the work's not great and a bit derivative at the moment, but I'm hoping that it'll improve and I'll find a more natural 'voice'. Anyway, I thought I might post some of the sketches, so stay tuned.

    Tuesday, August 31, 2004

    Back again

    Not the most productive of bank holidays I'm afraid. I had quite a nice run of days off too, Friday to Monday. I did do a few bits and bobs though. A couple of sketches (not for anything in particular, just for fun), a bit of writing and I typed all my notes up. It was nice to do nothing though so I'm not going to worry about it too much. The easy going lifestyle does have to end soon though, the lack of drawing inparticular is a bit bothersome as I am getting the urge to do something, anything. Sketching was fun though and if I just do more of that I think I'll at least be scratching an important itch.
    Started rewriting today and I feel very positive, which is much nicer than the usual feeling of vague horror. I'd forgotten how much the first rewrite is closer to the end result - for me at least. When I first start writing something it's muddled stilted and just plain wrong, but, and this is the important bit I keep forgetting, it's just the first fumbling steps. It's like the big ugly blob of clay a modeller might start with or the crappy rushed gestural blocking in a painter might begin with. Half arsed metaphores aside what I'm trying to say is that the initial writing is just the base to start with, it gives me a direction, something to work against as well as with. Obviously it's not the only rewrite I'll do, at the very least I'll polish everything up correcting grammar and various mistakes, but for now I'm pleased with what I've done, and more importantly it gives me a more hope for what's to come.
    Bought a pretty good graphic novel (oh, I hate that term, comic sounds much better, but it has about 200 pages so it doesn't properly get the point across) today, Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Bargin at 7 quid (sorry for the slang, my pound sign key doesn't work) and not just pretty good but very good. Fluid artwork that seems to combine James Kochalka and manga with loose lush brush work and a fun silly, smart story that I won't spoil by trying to pigeon hole like I did with the artwork. It's published by Oni Press who are a bit hit and miss but do publish quite a few nice books.

    Monday, August 23, 2004

    Simian strikes back

    Still got more notes to type up for Simian Smith, I didn't realise I'd handwritten as much as I had..... not that it's 1000's of words, but it's still a fair bit. I had a bit of a reread of the first chapter and a rewrite is definitely required, but that's okay, I didn't expect to get it right the first, second or even third time. Narration wise it's a bit clunky and the opening paragraph just didn't 'grab'. My usual method of fixing problems like this is to drastically cut the word count down, and it seemed to work this time. 50% less words and two paragraphs became one and I like it much better. Looking over it I think brevity and fun are my two keywords to remember for the rest of the writing (maybe I should tape them to the PC screen?), there's a tendency for my prose to be a bit flat and dry, not the best tone for a 5-8 kid's book really.
    What's better, a laptop, and Apple laptop or an EMac? If I get an Emac I can afford a dvd-r aswell as cd rewriter, but I'd like to have a computer that takes up as little space as possible. An Apple laptop will save space but my budget means I'd have to do without the DVD-R which would be a shame. A laptop would mean I could keep in budget and have DVD-R and CD-R, but I've been told over and over how much better Macs are, particluarly for artwork. Hmmmm.

    Sunday, August 22, 2004

    All the things in my head

    Feeling better today, after much needed sleep. Migraines are new to me, they only started a couple of months ago but I've had two since then as well as a fair few headaches. Rebecca and my parents think I should go to the Doctor's but I'd feel like some silly time waster. A few more migraines and I bet I change my mind though.
    So what happened to Cornwall? In many ways it went well, Rebecca felt positive about her interview, I walked into a bookshop told them my experience and got an impromptu interview. Cornwall itself was beautiful (although driving through Devon I think I preferred the Devon countryside) so no complaints there. But aside from all that it didn't feel right. The bookshop job would probably only be for about three months as the shop couldn't guarantee any vacancies after Christmas even though they'd like me to stay. Although we'd seen a couple of places to live where my wife would be working that were in an okay price range we discovered that they were definitely not the norm and the norm was a couple hundred more. Also, the area we would have to live was not as nice as I'd hoped, the nice parts were beautiful but the majority of the place was actually quite run down and grim, although it would be close to a lot of nice scenery we wouldn't see a hell of a lot of it due to being unable to drive and not often having that much time. It just all felt less than ideal. We've moved before and taken a risk and although it worked out going to London it didn't totally work out coming to Nottingham, and I can't help but worry that our circumstances of leaving Nottingham would be too similar to the circumstances of coming to Nottingham. Basically we'd be running away in a hurry without thinking carefully about what we're heading into. What we need to do is be a little more patient (and infact we had initially planned not to move for another year, Cornwall was a spur of the moment thing), save some more money, learn to drive and I need to capable of more than bookselling.
    Yes, reading this it's pretty obvious that I'm trying to convince myself that we made the right choice but I do think it's the right choice, I feel like a bit of a coward and I can't help but wonder how easier this would be to do if I'd done more before hand, but moving to the right place is important to us and I want to do it right, I’d hate to screw this up.
    I was told last night that I'm miserable, a comment which I'd like to disagree with, but can't, even my wife once told me that in all the time she's known me (eleven years), she's seen me happy occasionally but she's never thought I was a happy person. Coming not long after a post about how easy it is for me to like books etc that are depressing I'd have trouble convincing you I'm some happy go lucky elf spreading joy to all I meet. I don't mean to be miserable though! I have been happy, not long after writing about liking depressing stuff I realised I also like silly whimsical stuff, thinks that are joyful, but I guess I find it easier to be down than up. The last few years I’ve not just been depressed, I also concentrated on it. Why should I perk myself up and get on with things when I'm feeling so bad about everything? According to some article I read years ago being depressed is like running for long distances, your body releases endorphins to help get you through, but you can become addicted. In other words feeling depressed can actually feel good. I certainly have this problem, also when I'm not being miserable I have a tendency to just be some silly twerp - which must be fantastically endearing, miserable or stupid, what would you prefer?
    Well, with things not working out with Cornwall and realising that I haven't taken full advantage of the last couple of years because I was too intent on having an awful time in Nottingham, I think I should make an effort to buck up. I'll give it my best shot.
    Yesterday I said I'd tell you what's happening with Simian Smith. I've still got a few pages of hand written notes to type up, which I'll do today, I'll also try and better plan out the actual story. One thing I need to do is take a look at more books for 5-8 year olds, I've read a few but not that many and not with the kind of close scrutiny required to understand the medium. Whatever, I start working on Simian again today.

    Saturday, August 21, 2004

    Bad head

    I had meant to tell all about the visit to Cornwall, but it seems more important to have a bit of a migraine. It's not a really bad one, but I do feel queasy and my heads throbbing. All I'll say is that the trip went pretty well but we've decided not to go just yet, we need to sort out a few things first, more details tomorrow when I also start writing Simian Smith again

    Thursday, August 19, 2004

    feel the pain

    2 books, 1 tv show, all incredible, all depressing as hell. How I live Now by Meg Rosoff is causing a bit of a stir and for good reason, who knows if it will become the next Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time but I hope so, it deserves it It's a powerful uncompromising read. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi came out a while ago and is one of those oddities - a graphic novel that becomes accepted by the real world, like Jimmy Corrigan, Maus, Ghost World or Joe Sacco's books. I've no idea why I waited so long to buy it, it was originally published by the excellent French small press publishers L'Association which comprises some phenominal talent such as Lewis Trondhein, Johann Sfar and, this one's important David B. (I'm not sure if Christophe Blaine is part of L'Association, but if he isn't I bet he's an honourary member) Over a year ago Fantagraphics translated and released the incredible Epileptic part 1, beautiful artwork in service to a touching autobiography. Epileptic managed to get a few excellent reviews, but sales wise didn't set the world on fire (I guess the price didn't help, at $25 (can't remember the English price) it was a bit steep, even if the design and presentation justified it), since then Fantagraphics and L'Association have amicably parted ways so Pantheon can reissue Epileptic complete with the second final part in a similar format to Persepolis (small sized hardback) at about $25. Putting aside the annoyance at having to buy something twice (or half of something) I think I suffered the 'but I was there first' syndrome, y'know, like when your fave band suddenly becomes successful and you decide they aren't that good anymore and anyway, you were into them WAY BEFORE ANYONE ELSE! Pathetic, but we've all done it (at least I hope so, or I just outed myself as a complete loser) Persepolis does actually owe a debt (that Satrapi acknowledges) to Epileptic and I guess I was a little bit dismissive of it because I felt Epileptic had been ignored. Dumb. Anyway, I've read it now and it's a hell of a good book, the predictable comparisons to Maus are understandable, but do diminish Satrapi's achievements. Anyway, I loved it. Both books involved the difficult lives of two young women during war times and although are positive in many ways they don't exactly cheer.
    And on the subject of cheer, one of my favourite TV shows returned this week (to bog standard terrestrial viewers) Six Feet Under is one of the few programmes I watch (that's right I'm one of those irritating people who don't watch much TV and tell everyone to prove how 'smart' I am) It's not really worth me 'reviewing' it, I'm sure everyone who reads this is aware of it. Anyway I love it, but it depresses the hell out of me. I like to think I'm not someone who thinks dark and miserable equals good (really, I'm not, I got into trouble once with a small press publisher years ago - he did a comic called Slices, which was supposed to be 'slice of life' stories. What they were was dull, poorly written and always bleak. The publisher didn't like my observation that life doesn't always suck and maybe he could try his hand at publishing a story that was happy and uplifting. He didn't agree. So you see, I'm not just about the grim, honest), but I do think misery doesn't have to try so hard to get my approval. Is it shallow and immature of me to think, 'wow, and they all die/live unhappily ever after - so real, so true'? Yeah, it probably is. Damn. Okay, I'm just gonna blame the creators.
    Nip and Tuck also depressed me, but that's just because it was bad. I gave it another chance and it burned me, well not again.
    Cornwall tomorrow, lucky for us it's not the flooded bit. Who knows what's going to happen? Will my wife (her name's Rebecca for all those people reading this who don't already know me) get the job, will we take it, will I be unemployed? If life was TV I'd by cable or something so I could watch next weeks episode.

    Monday, August 16, 2004

    Reality comes crashing in

    I'm referring to the possible move.... but first, the comic!Yes, it's finished. I only managed to photocopy 3 pages at work, time was short and the copier was playing up. The other 5 pages should be done tomorrow. The question is, how do I feel about completing this Herculean task? All right I suppose. It’s always a bit anticlimactic really. I'm actually pretty happy with the photocopied pages (once the artwork is reduced it often looks better, lines and composition seem that much tighter and clearer and I find it less painful to look at) and although they aren't great they aren't as awful as I'd originally thought. I guess it's also fair to say a lot of my ill feeling towards doing the story has been as much a result of my inability to produce good work as it has with the actual content of the story. Still, it's hard not to look at the end result and wonder what all the effort was for. Again, not the scripts fault, I just wasn't the man for the job - and not just because my work is 'cartoony'. The comics I genuinely like are the fancy, arty, 'literate', pretentious ones, and as much as I have a soft spot for genre material, it's a guilty pleasure, or at least one I like to see with a bit more in the way of personal expression than the usual stuff - think Shirley Jackson instead of James Herbert, or Jim Thompson rather than John Grisham, hell Robert E. Howard is a fine honest read compared to, say, Robert Jordan. Anyway, the point is that it's not enough for me to just draw any old thing, it may be well written, but if it's not for me I just can't do it any more, the thrill of getting a chance to be involved in a COMIC just isn't enough. Maybe I'm just an egotistical snob, but I don't care, there's things I want from, and would like to bring to, books, comics and illustration (wish I could have a crack at films somehow too) and the one thing that has kept me going through all the feelings of hopeless talentless frustration as I've done this comic strip is the fact that I care about this stuff. It's pretty obvious really. I moan and whine about not being any good, about whether I'll give up, but I wouldn't be going through it all if I didn't care, if the need to try and do this stuff didn't outweigh the suspicion that I can't do it. I like to think I'm honest with myself, but maybe my self-doubt is just a luxury I can't afford or a crutch I use to get out of doing anything. So maybe this hasn’t been a waste of time at all.

    Cornwall. It seems like such a nice place, and yet it’s causing me nothing but headaches. I told my manager today that I’d need to look into transferring, he reminded me that there is no such thing as transferring where we work, just applying for vacancies and told me how to go about it. One phone call later and I’m in trouble. The nearest branch has no vacancies, and according to the guy on the phone there’s nothing coming up, he didn’t even think there’d be any Christmas vacancies, which was pretty surprising. Which leaves us in a difficult position, if my wife is offered the job she really would like to go for it, yet it’ll mean I’m out of work and I might be out of work for a while as I’ve little skill and work experience outside of working in a bookshop and doing the odd bit of writing and drawing. It’d be easier if rent wasn’t so high nowadays or my wife had a decent paying job, but her wage is pretty poor and wishing house prices, whether to rent or buy, were lower is utterly pointless. So what do we do? Staying in Nottingham is difficult and not desirable but it may not be practical to move. Who knows what’ll happen, I guess we’ll find out soon, but I can’t say I felt very good when I saw the look on my wife’s face when I said she might have to turn the job down if she’s offered it. We'll still go down, it's a chance to see the are, but it doesn't have the same sense of hope.