Thursday, December 29, 2005

More things I've learned

Christmas is over, New Year is just around the corner, let’s have a look at what I learned this year.
1. Work doesn’t have to suck, but it quite often does.
2. Not everybody is out for themselves but when push comes to shove they’ll always put themselves first.
3. Just because I’ll get over ‘Oz’ ending doesn’t mean I have to like it.
4. Sleep is my friend, we should spend more time together.
5. I’m ready to be a dad, fortunately my wife’s ready to be a mam so that’s pretty good timing.
6. Saturday’s are greatly improved with the simple addition of Doctor Who.
7. There should be a Ghost Story for Christmas every year, and maybe more often than just Christmas.
8. It’s nice to have blogpals.
9. Putting off failure by doing nothing (or coming up with ways to not complete stuff) is poor compensation for actually attempting something.
10. Being an open book isn’t neccesarily a bad thing, forcing people to read every single page is a bit annoying though.
11. Mmmm, soup.
12. Time spent doing nothing is not always time spent relaxing.
13. I’ve been missed out on Bonnie Prince Billy and it took me ages to get round to reading Ramsey Campbell, what else am I missing out because I’m not making the effort (or wasting my time with filler)?
14. Ipod Shuffle’s are cool.
15. I usually get there in the end.
16. Lancaster is lovely.
17. It’s not easy doing the right thing but doing the wrong thing will always create a bigger longer lasting headache.
18. Lost is no Carnivale, it’s also no Strangehaven and it might even be no good and it’s okay to not care about it.
19. There’s a lot of good books, films and comics coming out but I can’t buy all of them and shouldn’t even try.
20. You can’t beat fresh food and home cooking.
There’s probably loads more things I learned this year but this is starting to sound like that dopey ‘Wear Sunscreen’ thing. The more observant folk will see some pretty obvious things in my list, all I can say is I sort of knew some of these things before, but I’ve had them driven home to me this year.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Hope Santa brings you everything you want. I've got a glass of port, enough cheese to kill a rhino, a Sherlock Holmes adaptation on the telly, and my wife by my side, so Santa'll have to work pretty hard to top that!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's that time of year..... Christmas.

Christmas is almost here and I can’t believe how quickly it’s come round and how unfestive it all feels. Wish that wasn’t the case but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to get into the Christmas spirit. Also knowing that I get to spend a couple of hours on Christmas Eve and only the morning and a bit of Christmas day afternoon with Rebecca sort of takes the shine off things.
We’ve done half of our family visiting now by spending a couple of days in the North East, visiting the place of my birth and seeing how much of it has been bulldozed to make way for new houses that the people from the area can’t afford. Actually some of the regeneration is nice and long over due, but it’s still feels strange seeing it all looking so different and knowing that the people who live there are not necessarily the ones who’ll benefit.
In a weeks time we’ll be doing the over half of the visiting and then maybe we can spend some time together.
I’ve emailed my comic script to the editor of the Manga-ish project, so I’ll find out how that goes down soon. Kind words from Danny have made me feel a bit more confident about it and I’m looking forward to drawing it knowing how much it’ll change when it’s drawn - at the moment I don’t think it shows the manic edge I hope my artwork’ll bring. Anyway, it’s a quirky throwaway little story that features a preocupation I finally get to exorcise as my other attempts to do so didn’t seem to go anywhere.
As well as my comic strip I also plan to finish all my writing projects throughout the coming year. They all seem to have all stalled for one reason or another and I’d really like to get some, gulp, *closure* on them as I think they could be good and I want to move on. So with a bit of work and luck you might all get to read samples of, ‘Indian Ink’ (or ‘Ink on Paper’ - an ‘no-prize’ for anyone who get’s the reference, and another one if you know what a ‘no-prize’ is), ‘Green and Pleasant Land’ (or ‘A Green World’), ‘Runt’s Tale’ and an untitled kid’s book about punk and zombies. I wouldn’t mind writing another Simian Smith story either, but it’s early days and I’ve only got a vague idea that involves a big family of high class pampered rich scum - hopefully Chandler would approve!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Things I've learnt since my last post

1. League Of Gentlemen are brilliant and their panto was excellent.
2. It’s nice seeing family.
3. I like nice people and am fed up of not nice people.
4. I don’t think I like getting drunk anymore and I don’t like drunks - whiskey’s still nice though.
5. Depressed people can be very selfish people.
6. Knowing my own mind doesn’t mean I don’t change my mind.
7. I miss writing and drawing.
8. E. L. Konigsburg really is a very good writer.
9. Odo Hirsch is pretty nifty writer too.
10. I wish I was spending more time with my wife - particularly at Christmas.
11. I’m very tired.
12. I’m fed up moaning.
13. Mean and moody is all very well but funny silly is far more endearing.
14. David Tenant is going to be a brilliant Doctor Who and looks aces fighting aliens in his jimjams.

I’ve probably learnt many other things, but they’ll do for now.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Quick late night posting

Just come back from the work/Christmas party (typically for these things there’s still a while to go til Christmas) and yet the only thing I really want to mention (other than I got to wear my brown suit again!) is that last night Rebecca and I watched BlueBeard (our first time) and Carnival of Souls (Rebecca’s first) and they rocked. Dear oh dear, I should get out more.
On the other hand I did have a good night out and drank a White Russian and thought of Danny. Cheers everyone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Day of the Hungry Ducks

With two loaves of bread and no desire to eat through one of them quick Rebecca and I decided to have a walk along the nearby canal and give the ducks a feast. What we hadn’t expected was who much ice thee’d be on the canal. After walking a ways the ice began to thin and, it seemed, all the ducks in Lancaster had gathered. As soon as we stopped walking the ducks knew what was coming next, stopped floating about, turned all at once and started swimming towards us and hopping out of the water as if directed by George Romero. Surround by dozens of quacking ducks all without fear in the face of some easy food.
Ridiculously cheered by the duck frenzy we carried on walking and marvelled at the thinkness of the ice as we broke it with peebles or, more frequently sent the scittering across the surface of the ice.
A walk back and on into town, a good cup of coffee and a big bag of jelly beans rounded off a fine day of pleasant aimlessness.
Pleasantly aimless, a fine addition to whisky, pastry, cheese and nonsense.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pastry, cheese, whisky and nonsense

Just in case anyone’s wondering. yes, I did finish up my script. it does need a little work however, so I’ll try and polish it up on Monday evening and then send it off.
Not a very interesting weekend, much of it spent at work which meant I missed a big chunk of the French market that visited. I did manage to buy some delicious pastries but it was mostly just looking and oohing and ahing.
One high point was finally sampling the famous (in this neck of the woods at least) cheese board as supplied by the Water Witch ( our nearest pub, famous for having good cheese, whisky and, like so many places in Lancaster, hanging witches). The cheese was fantastic, the whisky perfect, and the witches were spared.
Due to the difficulties in getting to a decent cinema I finally managed to watch ‘The Decent’, a review will be appearing of danny’s review blog soon, but basically I loved it.
I’ll be breaking out my pinstriped suit for the work’s Christmas do on Wednesday, not sure how it’ll go but I’m looking forward to in anyway. I went out for a drink tonight and bumped into a someone from work and realised that nobody really seems to have a clue what I’m like. Not that I’m some enigma, just that they have certain expectations of me that they believe I’m actually fulfilling but in actual fact are far from what I should be doing or what I’m about.
Oh hell, it was an interesting weekend really, I’m just not telling you all why. Not everything’s for blogging consumption!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Late Night Shopping Spree

I did manage to curb myself a little though what with Christmas presents to buy.
Within a few days I should be recieving 'Hatchet For a Honeymoon', an early Mario Bava film. It was a toss up between that, 'Danger Diabolik' and 'Planet of the Vampires', a tough choice but I went for the one that I could get quickest as it was on region 2. No such concerns on the other DVDs
The others were tough to narrow down, but as they were all region 1 (meaning I'll have to wait a little longer for them) and I didn't fancy getting hit by an extra import charge from the postman I had to - another reason to go for 'Hatchet'. In the end I chose, 'God Told Me To', a film by Larry Cohen who cheered up my youth with 'Q The Winged Serpent' (and you can bet I ran out and bought the recent rerelease of that on DVD), 'The Stuff' and 'It's Alive'. I've never seen GTMT (and a few other Cohen films) but as it seems to be about mass murders done at the behest of Jesus as well as something to do with flying saucers I figure it's worth a look.
I decided to go for 2 fond remembered films from my childhood to round out the package. Death Line (or 'Raw Meat' as it'll say on the US edition) is a British classic (making it a bit galling to have to order it from overseas) featuring cannibals hidden deep in the London underground. It's a darkly humourous and ultimately sad and moving story, and after Anchor Bay rereleased the director, Gary Sherman's later film 'Dead and Buried' (another great, sort of 'The Fog' meets Nigel Kneale meets Bodysnatchers meets Romero.... maybe) I've been wanting to see this again.
Finally there's 'Psychomania' to look forward to. It really has been a while since I last saw this, maybe 18-20 years, but quite a bit of it has stayed with me. Mainly I remember it being about a gang of hells angels who, inspired by the leaders black magic worshipping mother (played by the brilliant Beryl Reid), kill themselves in order to be reborn as, well, living dead hells angels I guess. One scene that sticks in my mind is over one of the recently buried bursting out of his grave riding his motorbike (might have inspired the cover for Bat Out Of Hell by the great Richard Corben - we won't mention MeatLoaf).
The ones that didn't quite make it onto my list, and not for reasons of quality, just what I fancied now and what I could put off for a little longer were - 'The Final Programme', 'Six String Samurai', Spiderbaby', the Pete Walker boxset, 'Blood on Satan's Claw', 'Hell is a City' and a double bill featuring Ealing's 'Dead of Night'. The last one I decided to wait as I think it might be getting a R2 release, although I'm not sure if it's the Bob Clark ('Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things') one (which I also wouldn't mind).
In my travels on internet land for theses goodies I also came across 'I Drink Your Blood' which I might have to add to my list, it has a great cover and sounds suitably funny, lame and horrible (hippies terrorise a small town, an angered old guy chases after them, they make him take LSD so his grandson trickes them into eating meat pies infected with blood from a rabid dog causing them to go on a kill/infecting spree.... the 70's really did produce some classics.
Night everyone!

Friday, November 25, 2005


Following on from my gush about L’Association a couple of posts ago I just finished reading the latest in what will hopefully be a long line of translations of the 'Donjon' (that’s ‘Dungeon’ to monolingual folk like myself) series. Instead of reviewing the latest book I’ll attempt to explain ‘Donjon’.
If creators Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar (anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while will know of my deep love for those two creators) actually carry out their plan for ‘Donjon’ then it’ll be the biggest comic ever written. ‘Dunjon’ is a dungeons and dragons fantasy story. As it happens I’m not that big a fan of the genre, but what Sfar and Trondheim (henceforth known as S&T) have done is to parody it whilst playing it totally straight, a pretty difficult trick to pull off yet seemingly effortless for them, the review on amazon put’s it very nicely, ‘the parody actually reinforces the adventure’, to my mind it refreshes the cliched aspects of the genre (Jeff Smith also managed this with 'Bone', although in an different way, which I suppose proves that there’s no such thing as a bad genre just bad creators). The dialogue is funny, the characters play against type at the right moments (Marvin the dragon is a great character) and the quests are nicely ridiculous. All well and good, except S&T are not just fine genre practitioners, they are also experimental comic formalists (Trondheim’s first comic featured only three panels repeated through out several pages) and this extends to ‘Donjon’. So here’s how they have a bit of fun with ‘Donjon’.
(Coeur de Canard) ‘Duck Heart’ was the first in the ongoing series ‘Zenith’ (featuring Marvin) where we are introduced to the Dungeon it’s keeper and all the strange creatures it holds (if you’re thinking ‘Trapdoor’ then it’s not a bad starting point) ‘Duck Heart’ is in the fairly well known European comic format (like Tintin and Asterix, 48 full colour A4-ish pages). Zenith concerns the Dungeon at it’s peak. After ‘Zenith’ vol. 2 S&T started another ‘Donjon’ series ‘Crepuscule’ showing the end of the Dungeon. A couple of books later to keep a sense of balance we get the ‘Potron-Minet’ which shows, you guessed it, the beginning of the dungeon. The numbering of Zenith starts at ‘1’, ‘Crepuscule’l starts at 101 (there’ll be 99 of them too) and ‘Potron-Minet’ starts at ‘-99’ with one series ending to lead into the next, a little bit of maths should tell you that S&T intend ‘Donjon’ to be at least 297 (if my maths is any good!)volumes. Except I didn’t mention the ‘Monstres’ series which features the adventures of various supporting characters from Dunjon either did I? Well there’s already been a fair few of them. Oh, yes, there’s the ‘Parade’ series featuring funny stories about Marvin and DUCK, there’s been a few of those too. This kind of insane work load requires a degree of dedication that boggles the mind, so it’s no surprise that S&T have roped in help. S&T both write all the ‘Donjon’ stories with Trondheim producing the artwork for the ‘Zenith’ and ‘Parade’ series, Sfar art for ‘Downfall’, the excellent Christophe Blain (with a style quite similar to Sfar’s) provides art for ‘Early Years’ and various artists work on the individual ‘Monstres’ series.
With the sheer volume of work will the ‘Donjon’ story ever be told in it’s entirety? A quick look at the bibliographic section on Trondheim’s website shows far better than I could explain just how incredibly prolific the man is, he seems to be able to turn out a 48 page album every 2 months amongst other things. Sfar manages to match Trondheim in terms of speed and quality so between the 2 of them and their friends anything’s possible. But maybe it’s all a big joke, maybe they don’t care whether they do all the ‘Donjon’ stories or run out of steam part way through. Maybe the epic size and strange numbering system is just another parody of the nature of the genre. Who knows? And who cares. NBM have published three volumes of ‘Dungeon’ (although each book features two of the original volumes so six have actually been translated) and they’re are charming, witty, smart, lovely to look at and great fun to read, I don’t care how many books are eventually published (and translated) I just want to get as many as possible.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Must. Work. Harder!

Think I’m in danger of scuppering my atempt to get back to comics before I’ve barely begun. A busy, and frankly strange, few weeks has meant that I’ve not finished the script or sent it off for approval, and that’s just way to slow. So, I hearby swear, in front of all the people who read this blog (yes, each and every one of you) that I will finish the script by Saturday (I’m off Thursday and Friday, but I’m spending Friday with Rebecca where I insist it will be fun and frolics with no talk of work, lack of money, lack of time or doom and gloom in general. Friday will be hard graft day)..... and it will rock!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

An (over)appreciation

The 70’s is famous for producing a broad range of excellent films. The Godfather, Jaws, Clockwork Orange, Badlands, Harold & Maude, Wickerman, Taxi Driver, The French Connection, Close Encounters and on and on. It’s a very long list. I firmly believe the Superman The Movie deserves to be placed highly on that list.
Superman as a character is seriously limited, the comic is not usually that good (there’s been exceptions, the early newspaper strips, Alan Moore’s masterful ‘The Man Who Was Tomorrow) and he’s so dated it’s doubtful he’s really worked in any decade since the 50’s. And yet.....
As an icon Superman has very few equals. As an ideal. As something positive, something to believe in. I don’t know why he appeals to me in that way, maybe as an atheist I need a Jesus substitute. Maybe it’s the typical geek dream of being secretly all powerful beneath the meek and mild mannered exterior. Either by design or sheer luck Seigel and Schuster tapped into something powerful and on the rare moments when Superman’s done right it’s just perfect.
When Richard Donner did Superman The Movie it was done right. Yes, has it’s cheesier moments, but the carefully constructed sense of fairy tale about the film, from the opening of it being in a comic, then a theatre and then becoming ‘real’ to it’s flight through a space that has more in common with what’s seen under a microscope than a telescope to a planet that very clearly represents Heaven just before it turns in to Hell. That sense of fairy tale sets it in realm where I never had any trouble swallowing anything that happened. It’s not just that sense of magical fantasy that carries Superman The Movie, it’s the little touches, it’s the performance that probably killed Christopher Reeve’s career. When an actor becomes something as absurd as a Superman and does it as believably as Reeve it becomes impossible to see him as something else. So in a film that sees the destruction of a planet, villains encased in a huge mirror and sent hurtling into space and a (super)man make the Earth spin backwards I vividly remember the moment when Clark Kent suddenly straightens up, takes a breath, stops talking in pinched voice and nearly tells Lois who he is and we actually see how such a flimsy disguise might just work; the moment when Superman gently lays the lifeless body of Lois down on the ground and lets out a little whimpered gasp as her head falls to the side. Those moments, that performance and the grand opera of Superman make it a very memorable movie for me.
And now there’s going to be a new one. Normally remakes and sequels, especially when the originals were doing just fine on their own, fill me with dread. But Superman’s already had his bad sequels and now he’s got Bryan Singer taking care of him. And I’ve just seen the teaser trailer, and I’m seven again and I’m not embarrassed at writing a gushing review about silly movies based on silly comics.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Paul talks comics.... again.

In an article in The Guardian (which does seem to be a bit of a graphic novel (or as I like to call them, comics) champion) it seems the Royal Society of Literature is recognising comics, very nice to hear, but more important later in the article seems that a UK publisher is releasing Ozamu Tezuka’s 6 (I think) Volume biography of Buddha which is good news indeed. It’s been available in the US in a nicely designed (by Chip Kidd) buy pricey hardback, think I’ll have to add them to my new year purchases list.
Even more excitingly is the news that another member of the damn fine L’Association (of who my fave Lewis Trondheim is a member of) has English translation due out. The only work I’ve seen by Killoffer was in the SPX EXPO 2000 book (and possibly a Bart Beaty article in The Comic Journal), but it was a great little story and he’s certainly a worthy member of L’Association - pretty high praise considering the company. Anyway, Six Hundred and Seventy Six Apparitions of Killoffer is out soon and I’ll be buying it.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A 200th post, am mystery revealed

Why was I so down last night? What was the weird occurance mentioned in the post before that?
The manager at the shop I work at as assistant manager quit a couple of days ago and yesterday was his last day complete with leaving do. Less than 5 minutes after head office type people got his signature on the leaving forms they asked me if I would consider replacing him for at least the Christmas period. I've not been an AM for a long time and still need training with that, but I took the job anyway voicing my concerns.
It's not really for me to go into the circumstances of why my boss went, and why so soon, but it's been a tough year at work and I totally understand why he felt he had to go, and truth be told he looked better over the last couple of days than he has in a while, so good for him. But to be told your a man down and it's the bossman just at the start of a seriously busy shopping season can take the wind out of your sails,to have to replace him felt like being beaten by those sails. I'm glad to be trusted with the task, and could do with the extra money, but it did feel a little bit like climbing over someone's corpse to get a job. Silly to feel like that, circumstance has got me the job and it I had nothing to do with that, but my ex is a nice guy, who was pleased for me, and I felt a little bittersweet about it all.
But now it's a bright new crisp cold day and I'm just about to post my 200th post (let's party!) put a top on (still only in my jama bottoms - a truly horrible sight) go out and have a coffee.

drunk maudlin and sad

It’s been a tough few days. I’m a bit teary.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Post 200 gets ever closer

It’s been a strange couple of days for reasons I’ll mention in a later post and I’m feeling a bit shell shocked. Looks like the end of 2005 is going to be a hectic one for me.
End of 2005.... it’s not far away. I’m sort of glad it’ll be a struggle as I can’t wait to see 2005 end and I want to sweat it out of my system with some solid toil. It’s not been a bad year, but the main thing is that during it I’ve (and that should really be ‘we’ve’) come to realise that it’s time for some serious changes. As I’m a bit of New Years Resolution type person it seems pretty appropriate that I try and instigate them in the new year after work has, hopefully, calmed down a little.
So, what are these changes? Well, that woud be telling:)
Oh, okay, they’re just a bit dull that’s all. I’m not going to get a sports car (although if we can sort the money out a motor bike is a serious possibility) or find me a young blonde trophey wife. No, the changes are a bit more fundamental than that, character changes really, rethinking the way I look at things. I really don’t fancy waiting til I’m forty to change the life I’ll grow to hate, it seems to make more sense to try and figure that out as soon as you realise the life you’re living’s not going in the direction you want it. And I’m just not the person I want to be, which seems a bit rubbish really. I’d like to be a bit more comfortable with me and get over all my own nonsense.
Gosh, that all sounds very grand and yet incredibly vague. Oh well, makes it the perfect post for a self indulgent blog then :)

Monday, November 14, 2005

post number 197!!!

Posted my manuscript for Simian Smith today, everything going to plan someone from Orion should be holding it in their trembling hands by Wednesday. First thing that I’ve submitted in a long time, and the last thing didn’t even get looked at because unlike Simian it didn’t go through a ‘known source’. Scary scary.
Danny’s got a new blog, pressumably because three just wasn’t enough eh Danny? :) It’s for film/tv reviews and I’ve become part of it with my review for Saw2 (there really is limited choice at the local cinema) How could I miss an opportunity to spout opinionated nonsense?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bad Hair Day

What is it about holding a pair of scissors that makes someone become a cloth eared twat lacking the basic understanding of units of measurement? Oh yes, I got my hair cut today, can you tell?
All I wanted is half an inch (at the most) taken off my fringe and even less taken of the sides (leaving the hair over my ears), fairly specific, easy direction and surely nothing to offend the delicate sensibilities of your average hairdresser. So why did he take about an inch and a half off the fringe, top and sides!?! The length I had been cultivating gone in the blink of a cack handed idiots eye. Yeah, it looks okay and it’s still longish, and in a months time it’ll probably be back to the length I was liking but with a bit more sense and shape, but why must I wait a month after the jobs been done for it to look like it should have when I paid for the fucking thing?! Why do I have to look like a geek who’s atempting a trendy haircut just because the person who cut it thought they knew who I was better than me? When asking ‘are you going clubing tonight’ and hearing the reply ‘Nah, I’ll watch some Doctor Who videos and read some comics” you’d think Edward Fucking Scissorhands would realise I didn’t want some semi mod/punk McFly atempt at coolness. Where’s my Dave Grohl meets Jeremy Dyson hair gone!?
It’s no good, I’ll just have read some newspapers to track down the days worth of death, destruction and disaster to put my own woes into perspective - ie some people nearly have it as bad as me.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The music continues

Thanks to Danny's recommendation I bought Nine Black Alps today and enjoyed if very muchly. However this fine CD was overshadowed by the staggeringly good 'All The Stuff and More' by 'The Vaselines'. The CD was cheap, Curt Cobain was a fan and I'd recently found out that far from being some Seattle grunge band or a New York post punk new wave act they were in fact a jangly indie Scottish '80's garage band and what with me being a bit of Jesus and Mary Chain fan (I still remember first hearing 'Some Candy Talking' in my Nana and Granda's kitchen when I was about thirteen or fourteen. Bliss.) I figured I'd give them a go. Utterly fucking amazing. Funny, folky and punky, and lovely.

Get thee to a hair cuttery

It’s about time I had a hair cut. But I don’t like getting my hair cut, especially when I’m growing it. It’s the fear that it’ll just look stupid, that the hairdresser will botch the job or that I won’t like it as much as I liked it before it was cut. Still, at the moment my fringe is hanging down to the tip of my nose even when it’s gone a bit curly so I should just get it sorted out, just a trim, a light trim, a little bit off here and there, nothing too drastic..... gulp.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Oh, my hero! *swoon*

If Alan Moore speaks I must listen. Follow this here link to read the words of the man himself (read it aloud in deep rumbling Brummie tones for the full effect). I’m looking forward to finally reading the complete 'Lost Girls' after reading the first two issues way back when. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is fun (please ignore the appalling film version) but Lost Girls was clearly where this kind of story first took root and seems far more interesting.

No Banjo?

Rebbeca’s dropping hints that she might be getting me something else for Christmas as she want’s whatever she gets me to be a surprise. This is all well and good, but I WANT MY BANJO! Actually, I said fine, if I don’t get a banjo off her then I’ll just put any Christmas money I get with my own cash and buy it myself, easy peasy lemony squeezy.
I’m actually looking forward to making music (or just noise, I’m not fussy). For some reason I’ve been getting into music again over the last month after not really bothering for, uh, about 12 years - wopnder what brought that on?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

My Saturday

Soup first. Yesterday was Red Thai veg, today I had Tomato Barley and Basil and Rebecca had Parsnip, Apple and Ginger. Every one of these soups were delicious, with the added perfection of it being cold and wet outside plus we were facing the Subway over the road and got to laugh at the idiots who actually eat the muck Subway claims to be sandwiches.
On a food note we went out for pizza last night and mine had stilton on, stilton is very good on pizza, give it ago if you haven’t already.
Looks like I’m doing that manga-esque comic I mentioned a while ago. I finally sent a synopsis for a story along with some recent art samples (including the one’s I posted on this very blog) and the editor liked it all enough to give me the go ahead. So now I’ve just got to do it and make it good enough to appear in print. Daunting, scary and exciting all wrapped in one package.
Picked up an amazing graphic novel yesterday. The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar is excellent, comic lovers, cat lovers or people just interested in charming debate should buy this immediately. I’ve added it to the book pile on the right and observant follows of my blog will already be aware of the link to Sfar’s website. The book link I chose was to the US amazon site simply because it already has quite a few reviews (one bad one, not because the author didn’t like the book but because it was a moronic review!) but the book is also available in the UK.... obviously, that’s how I got a copy.
Finally got round to picking up Laura Veirs latest CD, very good indeed, I’m sure I got the chance to see her a year or so ago and didn’t bother (think that’s the gig Paul went to?), which makes me an idiot.
I bought a jumper and a couple of t-shirts today, when I tried them on I was surprised to see my reflection not looking as fat as I thought it would, infact I may not have a six pack at the moment but I’ve managed to keep a flat stomach and there’s nary a sign of bitch titage or bingo wing on me. Don’t know how I’ve got away with this as I’ve been regularly eating cake, jelly beans (especially the cinnamon, root bear and peanut butter flavoured ones.... mmmm) and the odd packet of biscuits. Anyway, the pleasures of sugar will have to be curtailed for a while to prepare myself for the fine food overload that is the Christmas season.
Lancaster puts on a fabulous fireworks display and this year we got to see it, what with living here now. I’m a bit funny about fireworks, partly because I’m not big on crowds and partly because I’m not big on fireworks. When I was a kid the smell made me feel sick and I wasn’t always terribly comfortable with the noise - I was a bit of a nervous child I think. Anyway, the display was held near the church and castle (not a pub name, that’s a spot we’re there is actually a church and a castle - it’s well known for being a favourite spot for hanging witches, but then I don’t think there’s a spot in Lancaster where witches haven’t been hung) and was fantastic. Seeing the fireworks exploding next to the church was amazing, and the accompaniment of various classical music was perfect.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Seems that my sort of reoccuring eye infection/allergy has returned. Will I wake up tomorrow looking like someone's hit me in the eye with cricket bat....


A soup place has opened up in town (or it's been there for ages and I missed it) so I gave it a try today. I love pumkin soup, especially when it's home made and comes with fresh home made cheese and onion bread. I think I'll become a regular.

Monday, October 31, 2005

What I've been reading part II

Finally got round to adding some book reviews. Of course I only did it as a way to get out of doing something proper on my day off, but as all I could think of doing was wandering round town sighing and drinking coffeen this seems a little more productive and less pathetic.
There's’ zero information available on L.S. Matthew's ‘A Dog is For Life’ so I’ve just linked to the amazon page telling you it’s not out for a couple months. You’ll have probably forgotten about it my the time it comes out, that’d be a shame though as it’s warm smart and shocked me by making me cry at the end (although I’m a sucker for stories with dog’s in them, ‘Last Family in England’‘Last Family in England’ by Matt Haig being a recent one of note)
Finding something decent about ‘A Brief History of the Dead’ by Kevin Brockmeier was a bit easier. I’m still reading it but the prose is beautiful and it’s a compelling story. It’s famous for having it’s first chapter published in the New Yorker and then being snapped up by Hollywood, must of the info on the net mentioned this more than the actual book, but as the director attached is the hack Chris Columbus I’m not particularly excited by the prospect. On the other hand you can read that impressive first chapter, which is what I’ve decided to link to.
The proof of ‘Firecracker’ by Sean Stewart came my way a while ago and it took me a while to get round to reading it, so long in fact that it’s been out for about a month. It’s an easy enough read and nothing to rave about but some of it made me smile and some of it gave me pause for thought and you can’t say fairer than that.
Hideshi Hino is a creator of gruesome personal manga, I first read ‘Hell Baby’ and was freaked out and enthralled, he’s most famous for doing a film that Charlie Sheen believed to be a genuine snuff movie so he contacted the police. Needless to say Sheen is a drug addled loser who pissed away whatever talent he had, Hino is brilliant and ‘Living Corpse; is a fine addition to his catalogue.
David Almond is in the unenviable position of having an written ‘Skellig’ early on in his career. ‘Skellig’ is an amazing book and therefore everything he’s written since has been compared to it. ‘Clay’ is excellent, it’s beautifully written and personally I loved it just for evoking memories of the North East of England. Almond is a fantastic writer and when ‘Clay’ comes out it’s going to win him another award - or at the very least be nominated for a few.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

We Are Scientists

A write up in The Guardian yesterday prompted me to take a chance on a band I hadn't heard of. So instead of using my lunch break for productive purposes I nipped into HMV and ran home with my new CD. What do you know 'We Are Scientists' rock my world. Sort of Franz Ferdinand meets The Strokes I guess. Recommended.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Old UK Comic characters

These are some pin ups I mentioned a while ago. Hopefully they'll appear in a fanzine, in the meantime...
Hookjaw, was 'inspired' by Jaws and was pretty damn cool because they made the shark the hero.
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Doomlord was from a plant of alien judges who decided Earth was bad news and decided to wipe us all out. He failed so another Doomlord was sent who also decided we were bad news but thought we were worth saving. The important thing was that he looked weird and had special ring that disintigrated people he didn't like..... where can I get one of those?
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The Gravedigger told stories of how folk died, it was usually in pretty grisley circumstances.
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Some more Simian

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Simian Smith illustration

Not sure if this'll turn our right, if not I'll resize it in a bit.
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Gurning for the camera

Got the scanner, still trying to figure out how to use it. As soon as I get something passable I'll post up some artwork, in the meantime here's a pic of me and my nephew Sam. We're both a year older now but only one of us is a year wiser.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Perfect Circle

I have a REM itch I must scratch, tomorrow I need to go out and buy 'Murmur'. REM see me at my most embarressing (well, they tie with a lot of other incidents of major embarressment actually) Back when I was a bit of a muso I really liked REM, then they got popular, and they got popular (particularly in the UK) with stuff that really wasn't as good as the stuff that I liked back when no one knew about them damnit! And that's why it's embarressing, nothiong worse than some kid throwing a strop because 'their' band became popular. But I found an old compilation tape I made for Rebecca before we got married (which makes it over 9 years old!) and there was a couple of early REM tracks on and I can't get them out of my head. It also had 'Lets Lynch The Landlord' by the Dead Kennedys making me regret getting rid of 'Fresh Fruit From Rotting Vegetables'. Could I be getting into music again?
In other news I saw an affordable scanner a couple of days ago and might even buy it on Friday (day off) which means I could post some artwork, I might even change my avatar if I can dig out a decent pic. I will definitely show off my brown pinstripe suit on here too!
Haven't updated the book list on the right since I started it which is bad (even worse I never sorted out that dodgy link Gopher spotted), I'll get round to it a day or too. One problem is because I get advance copies there's not always something to link to, I guess I could just find something general on the authors though so that's a bit of weak excuse. Not started 'Night at the Circus' yet but I might read 'The Brief History of the Dead' by Kevin Brockmeier as I've had the proof for a month now and there's a bit of a buzz about it, apparently it's very good. Don't worry though Danny, I won't forget Angela.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Don't get too close to the fox

Sitting through the entire series of Nathan Barley last night I was struck by several thoughts - Nathan Barley is genius, I must watch The Mighty Boosh again and why isn’t Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place out on DVD?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Would my nice day still exist if I didn't blog about it?

Yeah, probably, but sounds a bit philosphical doesn't it?
So, this nice day. Just looking around town with Rebecca and buying bit of stuff (I got a nice amount of swag; volume 2 of Paradise Kiss, Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter (this is me trying magic realism Paul!), Daemon by Herman Hesse, Batman Begins, Company of Wolves, Nathan Barley, Escape From New York, League of Gentlemans Apocalypse and the new Franz Ferdinand CD - some of this was to share and it means no more DVDs for the month which is why there was so much) I convinced Rebecca to buy this really nice coat which made quite a dent in our savings but she needed one and I like seeing her look nice. Had a nice sandwich is a fancy cafe, drank coffee, checked out a scanner and just generally enjoyed being together for a full day for the first time in a couple of weeks. Tonight we shall have an indian take away from a very nice place we discovered last month and watch some telly and then tomorrow I'm on my own while she goes to work until Monday. Sigh. Still, it gives me a clear day to do some work with out feeling antisocial. I really needed this weekend off as yesterday I felt dangerously close to collapsing from exhaustion after running around like an idiot all day, putting in about three and half hours unpaid over time (and doing the same over the previous few days) and having to deal with frustration after frustration (along with some very heavy lifting) Not a pleasant experience, it's hard to feel like an assitant manager of a bookshop when you have to wear t-shirts all the time because you spend most of the working day drenching sweat.
Weird part of the day has been being stalked by Led Zepplin. They were on telly and they were in a shop, with the same song! Okay if it was Robbie (cunt/cock, take your pick) Williams it wouldn't be that crazy, but Led Zeppelin, what're the odds? Anyway, it was Communication Breakdown and very nice to hear it, twice. Actually on the same show on the telly Jane's Addiction were playing an excellent live version of the excellent 'Jane Says', it had a strange calipso feel to and, excellent. Forgot how much I used to love that song.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Setting myself up for a fall?

Over on his blog Gopher's posted up a chunk of something he's working on asking for opinions. Thought I'd do the same (especially as I attempted to critique - it was supposed to be helpful!) and it seems fair to allow him to do the same to me.... if you want to that is Gopher!
Before I pasted the following in I thought I'd give it a quick read through to make sure I don't utterly shame myself, but after deleting a bit of the 2nd line I decided to just post it warts and all as maybe that'd be more interesting. Okay, enough excuses, here's a bit of 'Green and Pleasant Land' uncut and raw -
Oh yeah, just to set the scene in the previous chapter a tree has grown in a school car park over night.....

Chapter 2

Awkwardly Dylan pressed the numbers on the keypad of the small mobile phone his inexperience making him clumsy. The phone rang and rang until Dylan gave up took the phone away from his ear and looked down at it as if it were an alien artifact and pressed the end button to make it stop.
“No answer?”
“No, he’s not in,” said Dylan to his school friend. “Still at the allotment,” he added.
“There’s a surprise.”
“Yeah,” said Dylan as he handed back the mobile phone to Gareth. ‘Thanks for that.”
“No problem.” Gareth put the phone into a pouch on his bag strap, ‘You going to get a phone then?”
It was not the first time Gareth had asked this question, Dylan had hoped his friend would have realised by now that it was very unlikely he was going to get a mobile phone, but Gareth wasn’t noted for being smart or sensitive.
“Maybe sometime.”
“You should, I can’t imagine how you can do anything without one.”
Trying not to make it sound like a sigh Dylan made a noncommittal sort of sound and carried on walking. As handy as a mobile phone might be he couldn’t afford one and neither could his dad. Anyway, as far as Dylan could tell all a mobile phone did was allow you to send pointless text messages or waste time saying nothing very important to someone you saw all the time anyway.
“Are you going to meet your dad at the allotment then?” asked Gareth tiring of advertising the merits of mobile phones.
“No, if I’m still going to get home before him I’ll start making dinner.”
Gareth and Dylan were late because they had stayed to see what was happening around the tree in the car park. Clegg, the school janitor, had cordoned off the tree with some of the ‘caution wet surface’ signs. Three of them had fallen over in the wind and the fourth looked equally incapable of the task of protecting the tree from observers. A few other school children had decided wait until Mr Wales had left so they could have a closer look at the tree.
Something about the tree drew Dylan to it. Stepping over one of the fallen yellow signs he reached out touching the rough bark with the tips of his fingers before placing both his hands flat on the trunk. It felt warm and seemed to pulse beneath him. A girl Dylan recognised from the year above followed his lead. Then another girl, and then a boy, and another. Of the sixteen children who had decided to hang around the car park after the school had closed twelve of them had felt the need to touch the tree.
Gareth had not been so impressed, “What do they look like, eh?” he chuckled to Alex Stebbs, a well built boy good at running, hockey and beating up other children if he felt like it. “Shut up Barnacle,” he replied as he stepped through the crowd to touch the tree himself.
By the time he and the others left Dylan thought he should see if his dad was home incase he was wondering where his son was. Luckily Gareth never missed a chance to get into anyone’s good graces and happily loaned Dylan his mobile phone.

Monday, October 17, 2005

A man of thought

If anyone had told me I had an analytical mind I’d have laguhed at them. Actually, if I told anyone I had an analytical mind they’d probably laugh at me. But I guess I do. This insight has been revealed to me as I try to come up with some ideas for comics and I realised it’s pretty much how I always try and come up with ideas for any story, or illustration. Instead of being struck by inspiration, or just letting my mind wander (although I have done that) I tend to think things through more methodically. So with the comic stuff I’m trying to come up with the process goes like this -
It’s meant to be manga-esque so I look at some manga + the very excellent Manga book by Paul Gravett I got last Christmas.
I think about what happens in a lot of manga, what ideas, etc keep cropping up.
I think about how that could translate into western ideas.
I list random names, things, creatures, events that are suggested by looking at these things, or just because I like them.
I then try and put these things together and see if any of them fit together comfortably or in a pleasingly uncomfortable manner.
I look at what I’ve got and vow never to waste my time ever again.
I’m not sure I mind this method of working (apart from the last bit, but at least I’m learning to ignore that niggly small minded little voice that tells me I’m no good - he’s talking to me now) but romantically I like the idea of bolt out of the blue blinding flashes of inspiration. Sometimes the kind of ideas that just come seemingly out of nowhere are just better somehow, they have a freewheeling sense of fun and their own logic that allows anything to happen. I guess one way of working seems cold and mechanic and the other way seems magical and human. The truth is that it’s the end result that’s important not the process, but I just wish it was all a bit easier.

Who news

I'm sure Danny's aready seen it but anyone who enjoyed the new version of Doctor Who (which should be everyone who saw it) should follow this.
A quick look at some of my manga books in reference for the posibilities mentioned in the previous post has reminded me of the joys of Junko Muzuno,I've got her version of Cinderalla but might have to treat myself to some more of her stuff (might throw in Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freakshow in for too as I've been promising it for myself for ages now). Anyone who likes weird quirky macabre manga (Hideshi 'Hellbaby' Hino or Junji 'Uzamaki' Ito being excellent examples) should check her out. I also found out that manga horror God Kazuo Umezu's getting a decent english language release in a few months time which is great news - Japanese horror lovers will be wetting themselves with excitement.

When brilliant things are bad

A friend I haven’t heard from in ages sent me an email yesterday. I’ve got the opportunity to come up with a short comic story for (a very little) bit of cash, yay! I’ve got to come up with a comi, shiiit! The only brief is that it needs to be manga-ish, but it’s meant in the broadest sense (ie not just girls in gym-slips, demons, robots, space ships, but absolutely anything!) It’s been a while since I attempted anything like this but it’s come at a good time as I’ve all finished with Simian for now and I’m only tinkering away on some pin-ups and a new story.

Friday, October 14, 2005

More Music

Seeing as I'm in a music mode I think it's time to replace some vinyl. Since my record player gave up the ghost I've not been able to listen to my Gaye Bykers on Acid stuff and as Nosedive Karma, Drill Your Own Hole and Stewed to the Gills were highlights of the '80s I have to have them again. But what do I find? Barely anything on CD that's what. Terrible thing for a band so ahead of their time that they disappeared into another dimension all together, I mean they created Grebo for crying out loud!

Top of MY Pops

You won't find many posts on here about music, the reason being I don't really follow it and am very picky about what I listen to (you might spot who one of those things leads into the other) Having a look on Amazon a couple of days ago I decided to check if the excellent 'Blanche' had a follow up to 'If We Can't Trust The Doctor's' (they don't) and I ended up stumbling through the 'people who bought 'x' also bought 'x' and found something of interest. Bonnie Prince Billy is the band (although it's a band in the same way that Iron and Wine is a band, ie one guy, in the case of BPB it's someone called Will Oldham) and I managed to pick something up in the local HMV. Superwolf is a collaboration between BPB and Matt Sweeny (who I'll have to check into) and it's pretty damn special. My ability to review music ranks with my ability to nail jelly to a wall so I suggest everyone goes to amazon and search for BPB, it's worth it. Oh yeah, if Danny hasn't already heard of the guy then he's on the PBP is one the Domino label which should be of interest to you Danny.

Monday, October 10, 2005

What to read, what to read?

Right, I’ve finished the books I had on my little pile over the week off (The Little Gentlemen was fantastic) and now I’m stuck as to what to read next. My usual technique is to pull out a stack of books from my unread bit of the bookcase try a few pages and see if any of them grab me. This time is no exception. I could pick one of a bunch of kids proofs (A Dog for Life, A Suspicion of Toads, A Single Shard (Philip Pullman likes this one), or Malvolio’s Revenge) that I could read nice and quickly or maybe one of classics I’ve been eyeing up recently (hard Times and Pride and Prejudice). Or maybe I should read Framed as Frank Cottrell Boyce’s last book was so good or maybe, perhaps, possibly.... Ah, I suppose I could read some comics whilst I make up my mind.
Hulk Comic, a blast from the past. Back in the 70’s Marvel UK decided to cash in on the Hulk TV show and released a tie in comic that was rather unique for Marvel UK, it had all new material. Up till then us Brits had mostly had to settle for US reprints, but now we had something new, and very good it was too. Nightraven was a gem of a strip set in 30’s (I think) America and featuring a very pulp-ish vigilante who branded villains on the head when he caught them. The Black Night was an interesting reworking of myths and superheroes (it featured the return of Captain Britain who up till that point was a best forgotten embarrassment) And of course there was the Hulk stories which took there cue from the kind of tales told in the TV show making them far superior to a lot of the US stuff at the time (who doesn’t get misty eyed when they hear that closing music on the TV show) The original stories didn’t last unfortunately and within a few months it was mostly reprints (The Black Night managed to last a lot longer) due to the lack of budget afforded Marvel UK, but almost all the names involved in Hulk Comic went on to become incredible well known, names like Steve Dillon (Preacher, beloved by students everywhere), Dave Gibbons and David Lloyd (both working on seminal comics Watchmen and V For Vendetta (one the best comics ever written IMHO) to mention a few. End of another comic history lesson.
Of course I really should be reading ‘proper’ books shouldn’t I? There was a very good article in The Comics Journal about this, whenever faced with a crisis, depression or a problem the average comic reader will start to trawl through their old comics and breath in the musty smell of safe warm nostalgia. And I’m supposed to getting over that depression stuff aren’t I? Hmmm.

Back at work and it's like I was never off

So after a week off how am I feeling about being depressed and all that? Better really. I think I know why I get depressed and although it’s not original and nothing I didn’t already know I do feel like I’ve finally accepted the obvious, and with that I can try and move on, which is what I plan to do. Hurrah for me!
I started writing again this evening too.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


On the subject of music I’ve been dropping major hints that I’d like a banjo for Christmas, y’know, saying things like ‘Get me a banjo for Christmas. Over on Garen’s blog you might hear him talk about his banjo and I’m sure I downloaded some of his banjo playing, which sounded really good. As well as Garen there’s a link to Joel Stewart’s blog (Joel Stewart illustrates children’s books, his latest book, Me and My Mammoth,is excellent and all his books are well worth a look - I’m looking forward to the novel he talks about working on in his blog) who also happens to play the banjo. It’s not just Garen and Joel, I’ve always been slightly mesmorised by the banjo since Steve Martin played his during one of his old stand up performances. It’s been a while since I tried my hand at a musical instrument (mainly because I’m rubbish), so, a banjo, why not?
Oh yeah, I finished Secret of the Crocodiles (doesn't that sound like a TinTin adventure?) and quite enjoyed it. It felt like the set up for more books rather than being a story in it's own right but it was still nicely written.
Okay, no more posting for a bit, it's a nice bright blustery (I love that word, makes me think of Winnie The Pooh) day and we're off to get a cooked breakfast at The Whale Tail, Lancaster's very fine vegetarian cafe, and then have a walk round the park.

Down with the kids

Having Freeview allows us the opportunity to occassionally watch naff no where near VH1 never mind MTV music channels, you know, the kind where you can text for your favourite songs and turn you home into a PARTY! Anyway inbetween the adverts for mobile phone ring tones I got to hear the new Franz Ferdinand song, which I quite liked (is that okay, will I not be allowed in the cool club, are they so last week?) but could not help notice that it seemed to steal a riff from ‘We Close Our Eyes’ by Go West. Bit distracting.
As I type this Russ Abbott is singing ‘What An Atmosphere’, was it ever right to dance in nightclubs wearing jumpers tucked into your jeans or rolling the sleaves up on your ‘blous-on’ jacket? I suppose it must have been.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Blackcurrent lemsip at hand, the gentle patter of rain outside, my wife making a white chocolate mousse torte (fancy word for 'tart' I suspect) in the kitchen, a book and a pile of old comics by my side, I'm wearing pjamas and the beautiful sounds of Richard Hawley's CD 'Coles Corner' are coming from the laptop. It's going to be a great day.

Too much thinking

In his book ‘They F*** You Up’ Oliver james describes a childhood incident where he throws a bit of a tantrum due to not being happy about becoming a brother. The tantrum ends with him falling of the foot of a bed. For a few weeks after the young (18 months) James sulked scowled and pushed away anyone who tried to touch him. His parent, both trained psychoanalysts, put this behaviour down to, as many parents would, sibling rivalry. A trip to the doctors revealed that James actually had a cracked collar bone from his fall off the bed. James concludes this tale stating that his parent, one a medical doctor, had ‘confused the psychological with the physical’.
The last couple of days I’ve been feeling a little fed up and really worn out. I put it down to not being to come up with any writing, the impending end of my week off and my getting into exercising again after so long doing nothing. Until last night when I noticed my nose was running and I was actually getting a cold. Consequently I feel a lot better knowing I’m just a little under the weather (it’s more of a sniffle than a cold) and not sinking into some foppish artisitic strop. Psychological and the pysical. I wonder how many times I’ve confused them before?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Uh uh

Had a bit of a half hearted atempt at writing today. No idea why it's not happening lately, the story I want to work on still seems worthwhile to me but everytime I sit down to work on it I freeze. What I've done (apart from the first chapter, it's basically sound) just doesn't inspire me at all and I just don't know what to write next. Words just seem dead on the page. Very curious.

Simian Smith Update

Not a very interesting one though. My mam read it and really liked it. Always nice to have a bit of support from your mam.... even if she has been a complete idiot recently.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My holiday

It’s been a good week off so far. Getting up at a descent time for a change and actually filling the day with stuff rather than just lyting around has been a good move, I actually feel less of a useless lump. So far I’ve done no writing which is annoying but I have been drawing which makes up for it. With a bit of luck my illustrations will be appearing a fanzine in a month or so. Coming up with pin ups has been fun and plan to do a few more. I will post them when I get my scanner sorted.
I’ve decided to do a little redecorating with the blog and have run upaginst my lack of programming knowledge. The templates available are nice enough but I’d like to do a little more and none of them let me do what I want. Things might change as I try and figure out how I can mess with things. Actually I’d really like to sort myself out a proper website, somewhere I can fill with links, artwork, writing and my feeble musings. Another ‘project’ to add to the list.
I forgot to give Spiral Bound a bit of blurb, so here it is - wonderful, charming and made me feel like a kid again. Dav Pilkey and Lemony Snickett gave it good reviews which is all the recommendation you should need.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Paradise Kiss is a shojo manga title and quite a sweet one, following the trials and tribulations of a group of fashion designers and the square (but pretty) girl who falls in with them. Any comic that quotes Velevet Goldmine is tops in my book.
A while ago I talked about my love of creepy stuff and mentioned Charles Burns, well, the collection of Black Hole is out and I finally get to read the full story. Burns work is disturbing, but in a good way.
Secret of the Crocodiles is the first in a series of books starring Lady Violet Winters written by the excellent Karen Wallace, I reckon Danny would like this one.
The Little Gentleman is by Philippa ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ Pearce and I only bought it yesterday after reading a right up as part of The Guardian children’s book awards. It’s about life and death and a talking mole, so I just had to buy it. The winner of the Guardian award was The New Policeman by Kate Thompson but I couldn’t get hold of it, I’ll get it in in a week or so and add it properly.
The story of Action is as fascinating as the comic itself, the best place to find out about it on the net is as Sevenpenny Nightmare Sevenpenny takes a lot of it’s information from the Martin Barker book I’ve linked to (nice to find out it's worth so much! Not that I'll be parting with my copy) and is a great resource to a comic with an important history. Action was brilliant and much missed.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

On my own

Saturday night, the start of my holiday and I'm in an empty house eating a packet of biscuits and listening to the wind howl through the trees and rain beat on the doors and windows. It should be miserable but I'm actually quite happy, there's pens, pencils, paper, books and comics on the floor and I'm safe indoors with no responsibilities and no one to tell me what to do.

Friday, September 30, 2005

It's based on a very good comic you know

I want to see History of Violence tonight. But it’s not going to happen, I won’t see it tomorrow either, or all of next week because it’s not on at the local cinema. Yes the great city (not a town, oh no) of Lancaster has one cinema with 2 screens and doesn’t concider HOV with it’s masses of excellent reviews and star of LOTR to be worth putting on, lets have Pride & Prejudice for a 3 week running. Okay, I’m glad land of the Dead (excellent) is still on but the usualy spread 3 films across their 2 screens. The local arthouse cinema is pretty rubbish too, everything comes out about 2 months late and it’s either the same big budget bollocks the main cinema had on or it’s as left field alternative as possible to prove the places arthouse credentials.
There is actually a huge multiplex in town, but the funding was pulled after it was built and it now stands empty - does this make sense to anyone?


Coming home for lunch from work today I have the distinct pleasure of not having to go back for the rest of the day. How did I manage to wangle this half day treat? Simple, I went in on my day off for half a day. Back before I entered the haloed halls of management I could never understand why they would stay back at work when they weren’t paid overtime. Now I know, because work needs doing and once you signed the contract saying you’re an idiot you’ve got to unhold your part of the bargin.
The management ethos is becoming so ingrained that I actually feel bad about having a week off (I’m still having the week off, but at least I feel bad) because I know there’s a lot to be done and not many people (oh, okay, there’s no one else - yes I run things single handed, I have the power, I rule the kingdom and all bow down before me) to do it.
So, one more day at work (tomorrow) and then I’ll just have to put it out of my mind and hope that I don’t go back to a smoking crater a week later.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Linky linky

There's another link on the right. I've been following Andi Watson's work for a long time now, and am a huge fan of his artwork (and writing) The elegance and simlicity of it is it's power and something I aim for myself. If none of you have seen Watson's work click on the new link.
A really cool thing about Watson's site is the blog which has plenty of lovely pinups, and more importantly some samples from his new up coming comic, 'Paris' which he's only writing. Why am I so excited about this comic when Watson's not doing the art? Easy, Simon Gane's doing the artwork and he is a cartooning giant. Gane's incredible work is hard to describe, but that's okay because you can go and look at it on Watson's site.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Finally got round to updating the bit on the right to add a few new names. Garen made a good point that the links are something he uses to go checking friends stuff and that seems like a good idea, I already do it with Danny, Liam and Paul so putting up the new regular visitors seems like a good idea, hope you all don't mind. Garen's probably new to the rest of you as he doesn't use blogger, so here's a little info on him. His blog is mainly, but not exclusively, a news site for his excellent comic Rainbow Orchid, which is easiest described as H Rider Haggard meets TinTin but there's more to it than that. The webcomic version of Rainbow Orchid is designed and executed with Garen's customary care and skill, so take a look.

A sign from the Dandy

Still mopping around somewhat, but I think I figured it. Work is definitely a main cause, but it's the usual thing of not getting any of my own stuff done. When I can't write or draw I get miserable, so the trick is to just start working again. I'm at work for the rest of this week and then I've got a week off which I plan to use productively. The other thing I'm going to do is to do some overtime (which I don't get paid for) when I get back, which might sound a bit weird but I reckon it might be the only way to get a lot of stuff sorted, which'll be best for me.
One of the stories I want to try and write next has been an idea I've been kicking around for years now and one of the things that inspired it was a dopey barely remembered story from the Dandy. Yesterday at work I had a look at the new 'Best of' the Dandy and Beano annual and there's a little sample of the old story. I've decided this is a sign to actually write the thing for myself.
Oh yeah, if you get a chance go see Land of the Dead, I heard a few grumblings that it wasn't all it could be. Bollocks to that! Maybe it isn't as good his other films, but that doesn't mean it isn't excellent. There's something more than a little annoying about fans who prove their credentials by running down the most recent offerings of their heroes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I’m in a rut. It’s still warm from the last time I was there actually. Work’s probably the main reason, it’s hectic, it’s exhausting and it’s frustrating. When I get home there’s no energy left in me for the things I usually enjoy. Writing and drawing are the first things to go when I get like this but then I don’t exactly enjoy them as such, I mean I enjoy what the need to write and draw makes me do sometimes but it’s a struggle so they’re the first things to suffer. I stopped reading halfway through a book I was enjoying, the comics I’ve been rereading are really good but I’m only rereading them because I’m familiar with them. I’m not making choices about what I eat, in other words I’m eating a fair bit of crap but mainly what I eat is uninspiring and it’s boring eating it and I’m eating more of it because I’m bored. Am I exercising? Am I hell. I like exercising. Still not doing any though.
Blaming work is probably only part of the story of course, but I can’t put my finger on the rest of it, other than habit, or stupidity.
The most annoying thing about all this is that it’s pathetic. I just want to slap myself and snap out of it. Of course the only thing that gets me doing stuff again is just getting on and doing stuff, but that’s really really hard. It’s hard until I do it, then I become unbearable going on about how it’s really easy and I should have done it earlier.
Sorry for the self pity, normal self obsession will be resumed as soon as I get over myself.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Off again

Yes I just can't get enough of Oldham. This time it's for a wedding though so it should be much better than last weekend.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Danny finally pulls me in


What Amazing Woman Are You Most Like?
brought to you by Quizilla

Apparently this is the famous woman I'm most like. No idea who she is, but I must find out more, I mean look at that picture, I think I fancy me.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hello face

I shaved my beard off. Okay you didn't know I had one, but I did, and now it's gone. The great thing about shaving a beard is when you do it in stages and get to experiment, strangely enough I don't suit a handlebar mustache. The other great thing is that you look all fresh and new.
In other news I was in Oldham this weekend. As no one who visits this blog is from Oldham, at least not that I'm aware of, can I just say how much I hate it. If you enjoy getting angry at drink culture please pay the place a visit.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Yet even more special stuff

Okay, the Village Person below probably needs a bit of explaination. About a year or so ago there was a competition to do a redesign of Judge Dredd (70's punk icon from 2000ad and iffy Stallone film adaptation) as if he came out now. I decided to do it for a laugh and send up the mean leather biker tough guy thing. Needless to say no one was impressed.

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This one was from back when I was posting some of my sketchbook stuff, still quite like it.

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As was this, but I don't like it as much - sorry, not much to pick from!

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Finally my most up to date art (about 2 months old?) that's online was an attempt at doing comics again after ages. I quite like the drawings but the 'story' doesn't really make sense. Sorry about the lame scans to, doesn't capture the look of the originals I'm afraid - it was inked with a brush on watercolour paper and had a really nice texture that my crappy scanner didn't pick up very well.
..... and that's it. Simian art will folllow as soon as I get paid and can afford a new scanner.

Special stuff

This will be a special moment in your lives, for you will be about to read an excerpt of Simian Smith! Unless you decide to look at another site, in which case I never liked you anyway.
Simian's now in the hands of people who might actually make things happen (unless they think it sucks) so who knows what'll happen with that.
BTW for anyone not aware, Simian Smith is aimed at somewhere around the 9 year old market but hopefully can be enjoyed by older folk.

PAUL HARRISON-DAVIES (and totally copyrighted to him, okay!)


There was nothing on my desk that day, other than a pair of feet, my feet. I was taking it easy. I’m a Private Detective, people come to me when they want something or someone found, but lately no one was coming to me for anything. Which was fine by me, there was money in my bank account from my last case, there was food in my fridge and I like the easy life. Although more money would mean better surroundings to relax in. My office is not what anyone would call fancy, hovel is a much better description. It was in a building called ‘The Cahuenga’ on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. The building was in better condition than my office, but that’s not really a compliment. Wallpaper peeled off the walls here and there, little bare patches showed through the carpet and the office furniture had been second hand before I’d even bought it. But the couch in the corner was more comfortable than it looked and you could maybe get three people in here as long as everyone breathed in and no one moved around too much. But I’ve put up with worse and I like being my own boss.
I reached into the top drawer of my desk where I keep my bananas. Anytime is a right time for a banana, but somehow they taste better when you’ve got absolutely nothing to do. I’m crazy for bananas, but then most apes are. That’s right, I’m an ape, a talking one. Trust me there’s stranger things, maybe I’ll tell you about them sometime. It says Simian Smith Private Detective on my office door, ‘Simian’ means ‘ape’ and some folk call me ‘Primate Detective’ which I kind of like. Occasionally people have a problem with me being an ape, I always tell them same thing, ‘Tough!’ I like to growl and show some teeth when I do it just to show them I mean business. Back to my bananas. I took one out of the big drawer, which wasn’t quite as full as I’d like it be, and slowly peeled it - a good banana should never, ever, be rushed. As the banana peel came away revealing the beautiful pale yellow fruit inside the smell hit me, I can’t get enough of that smell. I closed my eyes, opened my mouth and was about to take a bite when there was a knock at the door. Through the frosted glass window section with my name on it I could make out a peculiar silhouette. Most decent offices have receptions and receptionists who say things like, “I’m sorry Mr. Smith is seeing an important client at the moment and cannot be disturbed. He’s not eating a banana or anything like that, please come back later.” But I can’t afford all that so clients get to come straight to me. Maybe more money would be helpful. The silhouette knocked again, whoever wanted me wasn’t giving up. With a deep sigh I carefully put the banana down on my desk and covered it with a newspaper. Then I fished around in the desk drawers and found a small mirror to see if I was presentable. My hair was sticking up in tufts, I had a bit of banana inspired drool on my chin and my clothes looked like I’d slept in them - I had, but it was only a nap. I tucked my shirt in, rolled down the sleeves, wiped my chin, flattened my hair and straightened my tie. “Looking good,” I said giving myself a little wink.
The silhouette had no patience, it was knocking again, “The door’s open, come in,” I called.
Kind of funny looking is the best way to describe the man who stepped cautiously into my office. He looked like a clown, with his big curly hair and silly clothes. His shoes were brown suede and his feet were long and flat. Dark green baggy corduroy trousers, a brown waistcoat with a pattern made up of lighter and darker brown diamonds, a reddish jacket and a deep purple shirt with yellow spots made me think my visitor was colour blind. But the best bit was the tie, which instead of being in the shape of a tie was in the shape of a fish. This turned out to be important, it also made me think my visitor wasn’t colour blind, just tasteless. Wearing this carefully selected outfit was a short skinny man with a long chin, large ears, big eyes and a big nose. All together the result was a little amusing, you could even say he had a certain goofy charm, if you wanted to be generous.
“Good afternoon Mr. Smith. My name is Cetera, Lionel Cetera and I desperately need your, er... help.”
I assumed Cetera didn’t mean help with his wardrobe, which I would have gladly given him, free of charge.
“Typical,” I said, “people only ever come to see me when they want something.”
Cetera’s prominent brow wrinkled in alarm making his fuzzy mousey hair wobble. He blushed and stuttered, “M.... Mr. S... Sm... Smith I assure y.... y.... you I... I.... I....”
Deciding not to wait for him to finish his sentence, I raised my hand in a calming gesture, “Don’t worry Mr. Cetera, it was a joke. Please take a seat.”
“Oh, ha, a joke. Yes, yes I see. Oh. Ha ha!”
Cetera pulled a chair up to my desk and sat down, he was still giggling with relief. My banana still sat patiently waiting for me, wanting me to eat it. I tried my best to ignore it, “Tell me, Mr Cetera, what can I do for you?”
“Yes, um, well,” said Cetera, “my passion…. or, ha…. poisson, if you prefer, ha ha, is fish.”
There wasn’t much to say to that, so I didn’t bother. Cetera carried on chuckling to himself until he realised I wasn’t laughing with him.
“Ahem,” said Cetera clearing his throat, “It was a joke. Poisson, it’s, um, French. For fish.”
“Is it?” I said. We sat in silence for a few uncomfortable seconds as I wondered if I should have let Cetera into my office.
“Please Mr. Cetera,” I said figuring it couldn’t hurt to hear him out, “continue.”
“Oh, well, um, I am a collector of rare fish. Fish, the most beautiful of God’s creatures, sublime in their elegance,” Cetera was on his favourite subject now, and it showed, he was all beaming smiles and gesticulating hands. “Oh beautiful lovely fish, God’s gift to the sea and mankind. Fish, Mr. Smith, fish are very much my passion. Now, once a year my fellow fish enthusiasts and I meet at the Annual Fish Enthusiasts Convention where we attend talks, look at the latest in fish collecting equipment and memorabilia. But the highlight of the day is the Fish Show where, from a shortlist of ten, one fish is judged Fish of the Year. It’s a great honour, and can be quite, ah, lucrative, if I may be so vulgar to bring up money. But it really isn’t about the money Mr. Smith, it is about man and fish taking part in the show in perfect harmony”
“I see,” I said, which was a little bit of an exaggeration. I was wrong, it had hurt to hear him out, “and why is it you need me? Worried the fish are taking bribes or on steroids?”
“Oh no Mr. Smith, no, no of course not,” replied Mr. Cetera, oblivious to the sarcasm, “I believe someone is trying to kidnap my fish!”
“Shouldn’t that be fish-nap?”
Jumping out of the chair Cetera slammed his hands on the table and shouted, “Mr. Smith I don’t think you fully appreciate the seriousness of the situation!”
He was wrong, I appreciated it fully. There was a lunatic in my office.
“Well,” I said, slowly getting up from his chair so not to excite the possible psychotic opposite me, “that certainly is a problem.”
“Yes, it is Mr....”
“A very serious problem,” I interrupted, walking over to Cetera and putting an arm around his shoulder.
“Very serious Mr. Smith, which is why…”
Gently guiding Cetera out of the chair and towards the door I talked over him again, “Kidnapping is very serious. Very serious indeed. Hope things work out for you. Sorry I can’t help. Too busy you see. Very busy. Busy busy.” I said, and with a quick push Cetera was out of the door.
Putting all my weight against the door I waited for Cetera to stop knocking on it and leave the building and my life.
Feet back on the table and back side once again on my chair I put Mr. Lionel Cetera and his crazy talk out of my head and picked up the banana that had been patiently waiting to be eaten. I didn’t even get to open my mouth when I was interrupted by another knock at the door.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Arrested Development

The episode on BBC2 last Sunday was great but I loved the repeated used of Christmas Time is Here everytime a character got let down. Genius. Schulz would have been happy I'm sure. Just had to acknowledge that.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The weekend (nearly) starts here

In a few hours I’ll be getting the train to York for the weekend. I love York and it’s been years since I last went. Its’ going to be nice meeting up with a few friends too.
Bad news on the artwork front is that my scanner’s died (and the PC it was attached to, thankfully Ihave my lovely iBook - sound like a real computer whizz don’t I? I’m not) so I’ll not be able to put anything up on the blog for a while, hopefully I’ll get a new scanner soon, in the meanwhile I’ll just pretend the artworks amazing and you’ll have to believe me.

Monday, August 29, 2005


I finished it! Yes! The final draft of Simian Smith is finished. I am sooooo happy. Got a fair bit of artwork done too, I might even post some up if I can kick my scanner into touch.

My day off

Ah sweet Bank Holiday Monday! My week off has had a last minute extension and I’m going to try and pack in a load of work I should have done but was too busy doing nothing. Ok, I’m not going to pack in too much. One thing I’d like to do it finish Simian Smith (and then I never have to type the words ‘Simian’s nearly finished’ again) and will be setting aside a couple of hours later to do just that - amazing how little little time I actually need as long as it’s spent focusing on one thing. Artwise I’ve been a good boy lately and have two illustrations all pencilled and ready to be inked (this is the second go at these as I wasn’t happy with the first try). And that’s all I’d like to do today, finish writing and get those pix inked...... easy.... maybe.
Off course the really distraction is the little pile of books and comics I’ve got crying and whimpering to be read. The book I’m reading’s not even that good but I have to finish it - it’s not a bad idea I’m just not convinced by the execution, anyway, I’ve got to know how it ends.
And then back to my humdrum life tomorrow. Bugger. I really should work harder at the writing and drawing so I can get paid for something I enjoy.
In other news my sister is going to be moving much closer to me... gulp. I’ve not seen much of her in about 12 years (shocking isn’t it) so even though we get on okay I find it really difficult to have anything to say. Can’t believe I can’t find any common ground with my own sister, hopefully some proximity will help improve things.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Lazy recommendation

No detailed reviews on this blog, no sir.
What’s the deal with manga? No idea. Over the last few years the amount of manga being published has exploded and frankly it baffles me. See, back when there were less I could look at what was available and make what I hoped were decent choices, now I just haven’t got a clue, the tidle wave of titles just makes it too hard to look at the stuff, which is a real shame. Anyway I spotted something on the new title shelf in Travelling Man on my monthly trip to a big city and decided to give it a go. Sexy Voice and Robo by Iou Kuroda is a very nice book, storywise it’s fun and interesting but the artwork is what really caught my eye, its’ a very european type of manga with thick lush brushwork putting me in mind of the stunning work of Blutch and Edmond Baudoin, or US artists like Brian Lee O’Malley and Craig Thompson. Looks like Iou Kuroda is a name to add to Rumiko Takahashi, Hideshi Hino, Taiyo Matsumoto, Junko Mizuno and Junji Ito as part of my list of creators to look out for.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


3 spam comments within half an hour of posting earlier today. Some people have no shame. Is blogger doing anything about this?


When I got up this morning it was something of a surprise to see a river outside our backdoor and another at the front. Thankfully it didn't quite make it indoors (although the water in the downstairs loo looked dangerously close to overflowing). Amazingly it stopped raining and dried out within hours. A quick look on the news and I see it's not just local weather. Weird.

Back again

Oh man, a few posts and a couple of weeks ago I promised I was going to list my 'influences', as a far wiser man than I once said, "Wha' happen?" Well, it'd just be tedious wouldn't it. I did start writing something, then I stopped because it was full of justiciations, caveats, asides and general nonsense. So I tried to do a list, but part way through it I realised I wasn't telling myself anything I didn't know and couldn't for the life of me think why anyone else would care. Talking about your influences is what you do when you're famous and being interviewed. So I just kept quiet for a bit.
But now I'm back.
With nothing to say.
Okay, how about I tell you that Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things has got a R2 release and it's a hell of a lot of fun. After suffering a few really bad big budget slick movies I'm getting really fed up with them. There was an article in the Guardian about a week ago talking about the latest death of the blockbuster and I'm inclined to agree. Of course there's a scare in Hollywoodland every few years and it usually works out, but this summer has been pretty sucky for decent popcorn fodder, which is saying something considering some of the naff stuff we've had before. Thank heavens then for films like CSPWDT (hate to anachronym-ise such a great title) reminding me why I like films. Smart, dumb, fun and just a delight to watch folk make a film for the love of it and not for the money or out of habit or just cos they can. Of course horror movies are suffering lately thanks to them becoming popular due to the likes of Scream. I miss the days when horror was rated 18 or just turned up on video unannounced outside of Fangoria. I guess that stuff's still out there but like so many things it's harder to find because it's buried under the uninspiring hack churned out by hack directors with too much money and the left over cast of the last not so popular anymore teen TV show. I don't like these new hacks, give me the old ones anyday.
The only other thing worth reporting is that Simian Smith is almost finished (again!) and I've decided to write a zombie book. Amazingly there's not many zombie novels out there (although there's some pretty good Zombie comics, 'Walking Dead' being a fine example), and the ones that are seem to be pretty poor affairs cobbled together by writers who've overdosed on bad 80's metal. Actually far too many modern horror novels read like that, it's amazing Garth Marenghi was ever recognised as a comedy creation when he was barely any different from far to many real life authors. Anyway, will my zombie tale be any different from the others? Will I actually complete it? Ah dunno!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fiery Biscuits

When I was little I used to love the Beatles films and The Monkees, as well as all those slightly insane kids shows that seemed to be cranked out so much in the 70's. That's why
, 'When it comes to the crunch', I love The Mighty Boosh.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Too lazy for links, use google like I had to!

Having needlessly padded out an email to Danny I thought I should put this where it belonged, on a poorly thought out self indulgent blog.... and it just so happens I have one of those!
‘The Iron Dream’ by Norman Spinrad
I’m sure those in the know are well aware of this, but ‘Johnny Come Lately’ are my middle names (and whilst you snobs out there sneer at my not on the ball tendencies, I simply chuckle and enjoy picking the wheat from the chaff and letting you do all the hard work) I recently discovered than Michael Moorcock is actually a very good writer, for some reason his image (and more importantly, self image, man does he like to talk about himself, I think it was his introduction to Luther Arkwright that put me off) really bugged me even though I knew he was well respected by those I, well, respected. A 2nd hand bookshop supplied me with a Moorcock book that a few friends independently recommended and many months later I finally read the thing. And loved it. Being slightly obsessive I proceeded to pick up some more Moorcock on the cheap and then prowled the internet looking for information, trivia and nonsense. Wikipedia is a great resource so inevitably I ended up there and as well as finding out a bit more about Moorcock I notice something else. Back when Moorcock edited the ‘New Worlds’ anthology he ran something called Bug Jack Barron which caused a bit of a stir. No real idea why but this caught my interest so I checked out it’s author. Norman Spinrad seems to be a bit of a dated sci-fi writer, but at least he’s one of the ones who doesn’t write sci-fi because he enjoys it’s trappings (have I ever mentioned my dislike for sci-fi and fantasy novels? Probably, but in the context of this post I guess that’s a bit odd), he does it to allow him to do other things, in the way Wells and Dick did I suppose. Anyway, Spinrad causes a bit of a stir with Bug Jack Barron (as far as I can tell it’s about a shock jock type tv host who finds that the powerful are up to something - I’m trying to remain spoiler free in reading about it) and then writes another ‘controversial’ oddity with Iron Dream. And what do you know, a couple of weeks later I’m back in the 2nd hand shop I got my Moorcock book from and sat on a shelf is Spinrad’s Iron Dream (couldn’t spot Bug Jack Baron though)
Iron Dream is actually a book called ‘Lord of the Swastika’ by Adolf Hitler (who left Germany in 1919 for America where he became a pulp illustrator and eventually writer) with an afterward by ‘Homer Whipple’. Lord of the Swastika is, as Whipple unneccasarily points out (because Spinrad is not subtle, I’m not even sure he’s trying to be), the cheesy pulp wish fulfilment fantasy absolutely brimming with military fetishism, barely suppressed homoerotisim, outrageous phallic objects, and who knows what else. Of course WE know what else, and so does Spinrad as he writes as Whipple - just what are these disease carrying filthy ‘mutant’ characters that the strong genetically pure ‘true human’ hero Feric Jagger (blonde and blue eyed of course) meant to represent. Oh, I wonder?! As an added bonus Whipple informs us that before Hitler died (shortly after completing Lord of the Swastika) he was probably suffering the tertiary stages of syphilis.
And so The Iron Dream is simply an exercise in reducing Adolf Hitler to a pathetic, albeit scary, joke. The whole thing manages to be cliched, inspired, ridiculous, chilling, funny and cringeworthy all at once. I’m sure it was seen as being dodgy back when it came out (‘72, I think) with a few people proclaiming it as powerful serious literature and a few more calling a crass sick joke, with the benefit of living in our ever so clever modern world it’s terribly cheesy, which is what gives it a very peculiar charm.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The art of obsession

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was blogging about my need to draw and write and make things. I can’t say I’ve done much in the time since then. It’s not just the usual reason of desire turning into apathy or self doubt chipping away at enthusiasm. One of the key factors has been time and my job at the moment has eaten into a lot of my time, and to be honest it’s also left me feeling worn out and unable to concentrate. But I’d still like to be doing my own work and I think I’m about ready to try again. But here’s what I’ve been thinking about recently. What do I want to do? After reading an interview with Richard Sala recently and having a conversation with Danny about it what I’d really like to do before I start planning 5 new books, a series of diorama’s, models, puppets, comics and a range of clothes is try and figure out what kind of stories I want to tell.
It goes something like this.....
In this interview Sala is asked about why he essentially does the same thing all the time and he responds by explaining that he has no choice and why would he want it any other way. This is what Sala does, if you like it, fine, if you don’t, buy something else. He make the point that artists follow and are enslaved by their obsessions and when they deviate from them the final results are rarely as good (he uses Hitchcock as an example claiming, fairly accurately I’d say, that Hitch’s best films are the ones that feature his usual obsessions) Later in the interview he talks about a cartoonist having a go at doing the kind of work Sala does and producing something less than good. The point for Sala is that there are artists who don’t have obsessions, they like everything and try their hand at it all without every tackling these things with any real depth.
All this got me thinking. I’m that depthless guy. Sort of. I do have favourite kinds of things I keep coming back to. But the problem is that I tend to be easily distracted by other stuff, if it’s a brilliant piece of work I want to emulate it, if it’s just a new shiny novelty I want to emulate it too. Maybe I’ll try and work this new kink into my usual interests no matter how uncomfortable (Oh, I just read a really great slice of historical life dealing with really down to earth events, I must do that, but how can I introduce a zombie into and have it be a funny too!!??) or maybe I’ll forget about my usual interests for a while until I realise I may have liked this new thing but that doesn’t mean I actually have any facility with it.
In my conversation with Danny I deleted (our conversations are held in ‘cyberspace’ dont’cha know) an analogy I made that my interests are like my bookshelves. If I didn’t have regular ‘spring cleans’ and take my books to charity shops or give them to friends my shelves would look dreadful. There may have been a great range of titles but most of them would’ve been rubbish. Working in a bookshelf gives you an amazing amount of access to all sorts of stuff, damaged books are distributed among the staff, advance copies and the handy discount available to staff. The problem is that it’s incredibly easy to pick up any old tat, and I have. Things that really are crap, or things that looked interesting for all of five minutes have all spent time on the shelf before I sent them to a more deserving home. You see it’s one thing to have broad tastes, to enjoy looking at something you wouldn’t normally look at, but when it comes to doing your own thing you can’t afford those kind of distractions, they muddy the waters. Danny called it a wood for the trees kind of thing and as that was exactly the same as what I had been trying to say and a less rambling than what you’ve just read I saved him the trouble of reading it (except you probably just did read it didn’t you Danny? There is no escape!)
It’s funny that part of what I want to do is mix up my interests into something else, such as I wrote about in my post about Sala, or the way in which Daniel Clowes did in his fantastic Lloyd Lewelyn strips (amazing) and Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron and Charles Burns does (keep an eye out in the bookshops for Black Hole as Random House/Pantheon have nabbed another creator from Fantagraphics) in his work. But when it comes to adding extra stuff to the mixing pot of genres, images, things, trends etc the stew tastes like someone took a dump in it.
Expect a post about what I REALLY like soon.


Harry Stephen Keeler. Trust me, you have never imagined anyone like this ever existed. Follow the link and be amazed.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Why I love Richard Sala

Obviously I like him because his artwork’s brilliant and his stories are ace. But it's more than that.
One of the things that has frustrated and thwarted my writing and drawing career (aside from my dubious abilities) has been my inability to genuinely look at myself to fully see what I like and why I like things and then mix all those influences together in a way that allows me to express myself rather than simply being an awkward stilted piece of genre nonsense. This is where Sala shines. What inspires Sala is horror and comedy, two different genres that nonetheless use similar methods (ie the shock of the unexpected and a need for careful structure to be effective), not the first nor I doubt trhe last, but certainly one of the best. If there is a ‘unholy trinity’ of gothic comedy cartoonists then it is Edward Gorey, Charles Addams and Richard Sala. The interesting thing is how different these three are, Addams produced a certain macabre humour that is still grounded in a familiar setting (a loving family), Gorey’s work manages to be decadent, funny, whimsical, sinsister and anachronistic without it being always obvious why, and Sala also has his own path. What Sala brings is a love of ‘b’ movies, cheap thriller, 1920’s melodrama, German expressionism (his quirky angular wood cut style art nearly always brings to mind Cabinet of Dr. Caligari whenever anyone sees it), cheesecake, camp gothics and crazed serial killers. If Russ Meyer had decided he liked classics such as Cat People, Bluebeard, Murders in the Zoo and Eyes Without a Face as much as big bosoms he’d have been making ‘The Chuckling Whatsit’ and ‘The Fellowship of the Creeping Cat’ and had Lemony Snicket offering to write comics for him (as seen in ‘It Was a Dark and Silly Night’)
Sala mixes it all his influences together in a way that makes sense, it manages to embrace it’s genre and campy origins without ever seeming like it’s knocking them or suffering under their limitations, he turns genre into personal expression. Why can he do it and I can’t?!!
And that’s why I love his work, he does something that I’d love to do. It’s why I hate him too!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Appreciating the funnies

One major ‘project’ of the last few weeks has been the reading of certain comics and comic strips. I’ve been looking at a lot of classic work by some of the best the medium has produced and trying to figure out why I like them and why they work. It’s a wonderful ‘job’ reading the work of Robert Crumb (scary that he was an early influence on Simian, but I love Crumb’s Fritz the Cat and his artwork of that (and any) period), Charles Schulz, Winsor McCay, Harold Gray, E.C Segar, George Herriman, Lyonel Feininger, Otto Messmer, Walt Kelly, Patrick McDonnell, Bill Watterson, Frank King, Crockett Johnson, Lewis Trondheim, Carl Barks, Cliff Sterrett, Chester Gould, Dr Suess and many many more. I’ve been particularly enjoying old comic strips, it’s intimidating looking at such astonishing work but also incredibly enlightening and inspiring. The comics that graced the newspapers of the the early 20th century are staggering in their beauty, originality, wit and invention, that they have been reduced to the tiny crudely drawn little things that are tucked discretely out of the way is a terrible crime. Once upon a time the comic strips were a real draw (no pun intended) for newspapers and the publishers and editors knew it using them to increase circulation. Huge full colour pages containing the elegant mastery of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland no longer exist but they used to be the reason people would choose one newspaper over another (although Nemo lasted a long time it’s popularity came more after the fact, back then slapstick comic strips were the most popular). Now the small space allowed creators has meant they have often become visually bland or have had to fight tooth and nail to allow their work to be showcased in a deserving manner (Bill Watterson is the best example, but Patrick McDonnell is another good one and thankfully McDonnell hasn’t deserted the medium) Even with the reduced space there are still some great strips coming out, but not that many. Once a medium has been so severely restrained and restricted a lot of the greater talent has to go elsewhere, so apart from creators so in love with the medium that they just have to work in it and try their hardest to produce something worthy, what the medium tends to get is hacks (Jim Davis) who churn out dross (Garfield)
If this sounds like the whining of someone unable to realise that something’s day has done then consider the amount of people who still appreciate Peanuts (I am still amazed (but grateful) that a comic strip based on loneliness, losers, depression, pain, whistfullness and failure can be as popular as Peanuts was) three years after the strip ended and it’s creator died. Doonesbury is an institution. Dilbert whilst being nobody's idea of a beautiful looking comic strip is nonetheless smartly written and incredibly popular. Mutt’s has a huge and strong following thanks to McDonnell's understanding of comic history love fine art, poetry and whimsy. Calvin and Hobbes has been over for something like 10 years and is still remembered fondly and appearing regularly in reprints with the books collections still selling, the same can be said of the Far Side.
Chester Gould noted that newspapers struggled to compete against the rise of TV journalism yet the only thing newspapers could do that TV news couldn’t was the comic strip. Comics strips could offer readers something extra, something different and special, instead shortsighted editors gave the comic space over to advertising and forgot that people had grown to see Charlie Brown et al as part of their family. It’s doubtful that the comic strip will ever recover it’s former glory, most people are unaware of the rich history and have no idea what comics strips can be, but thankfully there are people out there who remember and reprint and the internet is perfect for allowing material to be cheaply archived waiting for someone to stumble across it and be transported somewhere magical.