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.