Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Holding Out For A Heroes Season 2

Well, while my TV's still---resting shall we say, I managed too get caught up on the first two new episodes of Heroes this weekend, thanks to Slugger McGee. So far it seems as great as the first series...intrigue with the company, the shadow of a mysterious villain and more fun with Hiro (lovely underplayed humour when he puts his glasses back on to get a proper look at his hero).

However, while season one liberally lifted from Watchmen and Days of Future Past, this season seems to have picked The Shadow King, The Twelve and the Legacy Virus from the X-Men, as well as throwing in a touch of Cloak and Dagger and the oil from the X-Files. Still, great entertainment all round and I'm eagerly awaiting the rest of the series.

Anyway, below is the inked version of the Heroes pic...Hiro is changed from the pencils, I've added Ando and the Haitian and changed Claire's cheerleading outfit to her season two one as I was having trouble figuring out the right texture for her original jumper but can hopefully blag the new one!

With the pencil construction erased, some of the likenesses are now a bit weak (although some-like Nathan below) have turned out ok. Hopefully when I shade in the detail, the likenesses will fill back in...

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Whatever happened to all the Shakespearoes?

Well, with my TV reception still as dead as Jean Grey (hoping to make a triumphant return to life next week when the Sky engineer arrives next Thursday---probably to unearth another ton of problems), I've managed to clear all my outstanding Steve Rude issues and have started on the Wood/Williamson sci-fi ECs. Once these are done, I should have no real obstacle to becoming more productive. In fact, I've taken this opportunity to get back to some drawing and have found myself enjoying it again (rather than rushing through stuff like the Smallville attempt).

Attached below is the work in progress, a Heroes pic. Originally I'd intended to just draw my favourite characters (Hiro, Ando, Claire, Parkman, Sylar and HRG) but that's half the cast already so I bunged the whole lot in (even though that means I have to draw DL, who I have an irrational hatred for, and Micah, who I don't hate but suffers from a gimpy face). I've already drawn HRG twice here, and the eyes still need looking at, and Hiro will be replaced by a head shot as it's too awkward to get a decent figure in the space available. Ando will also be added (as will possibly the Haitian) and Claire's jumper needs detailing. Once all that's done, it's inks, shading and PC colouring. I'm gonna try not to rush this and hopefully get a nice result, but we shall see...

Monday, 21 April 2008

I Want My (ANY) TV...

So, was out yesterday and came in to watch Swordfish...now, ever since I've moved in, I've had problems with my TV reception (whereas it was flawless previously). The internal communal aerial didn't seem to work and I had to get a new external aerial and loop it through my window vent to get it in the TV!. Terrestrial reception was ever so slightly snowy but not enough to distract you from whatever you were watching, but digital has been temperamental at best: I can only get half the channels and at night most of those fizz and pop enough that they're largely unwatchable.

So imagine my consternation when I woke up this morning to find that for some reason, I had lost all reception whatsoever. My aerial connection had inexplicably worked loose from the digi box and I couldn't receive any channel at all, terrestrial or digital. My TV works fine and so does the digi box, as the digi logo comes up and proudly proclaims "No signal."

Now I had already toyed with the idea of Sky but hated it for various reasons, so I remained calm and made a lunchtime trip to Dixons to get some new aerial sockets---still no joy. So, I'm currently without a TV but I'm gonna have to return to Dixons tomorrow to spend MORE cash I don't really have on an internal aerial and a double male lead to try a few things tomorrow. If that fails, then I'm gonna have to give in and get the dreaded Sky: again, more cash I can't afford to flutter away.

The ironic thing is, I don't even watch much TV but right now Dr Who and My Name is Earl are back on, Pushing Daisies is till a worthwhile diversion and joy upon joy, Heroes is back...but if I miss this, I WILL be agitated! I can't even ask anybody to tape it for me as that's a whole OTHER issue...

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Wot I've bin up ta..

...well, not alot as usual.

I've managed to clear most of my backlog of reading material, with the new recoloured Killing Joke being the last thing I read. Wow, what a gorgeous book! Slightly oversized with Bolland now colouring each glorious page (and removing the yellow circle around Bats' chest emblem) and also featuring another short newly-coloured Batman strip by Bolland, this isn't the most essential Batman story but is probably the most beautiful you'll ever lay eyes on. Gorgeous.

Benn slowly dipping back in to drawing, with a few face drawings (Clark Kent from Smallville attached below--full versions available online at: http://www.comicspace.com/conflictedartist/comics.php?action=gallery&comic_id=20035 ). I'm not yet happy with my results yet so it'll be a while yet. It's been nearly seven months since I had more than a few days off work and I'm generally feeling knackered now so really need time off to recover. I'm hoping to get some art done then but my plans often jump out the window and run away with the fairies with even the slightest distraction.

I'm trying to assess my plans now I have my own space. Time's getting on so is it worth me still pursuing comic art? It's a colossal job to factor in with everything else in life (well, with the amount of work I try to put in anyway!) so, apart from returning to the Jock #2, I'm hoping to get some pages done to show at the comic show this year to see if it's something worth striving for. I still enjoy drawing but sequential stuff takes so long to do, I need a goal at the end of it, be it simply self-publishing or approaching publishers. Giving up on it will be hard but perhaps it's time to take stock and decide it's do or die.

I'll probably try to draw some stuff this afternoon while the light's still good as this morning's been lost too washing, shopping, colouring a pic, etc. If nothing else, I'll have some good tunes to listen to: I'm currently listening to Funplex, the new B-52s CD and loving it. They're one of those bands who always sound the same but there's an energy in their music that lifts it beyond being repetitious like most other bands (for me anyway). Cindy Wilson is also back after two or three albums away from the band and while I prefer Kate Pierson, her return adds another sound to the band's stuff, which seems more rockier than their more whimsical last few releases.

I also need to do the final tinkering for the comics on film book and art gallery things I want to put out, so that's another task for this afternnoon that'll probably cut into drawing time!

There's never hours in the day---except at work, there's too many there...

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Another lost weekend

My weekend didn't actually start until about midday Saturday as I went straight out for a few drinks on Friday and crashed over. When I got in, I had a few menial chores to do (ie washing, etc) and decided to try and sort out my broadband again as my dial up connection was playing up--what a nightmare THAT was...

First up, I had a hell of a time with BT before when they pushed me into accepting broadband when it wasn't actually ready in my area. Cue numerous phone calls when the inevitable problems arrived (ie 7 hours on the phone one day!) and months of billing problems...even though I wanted broadband and wanted BT as I don't trust any alternative suppliers much, this put me off dealing with them. However, broadband would radically reduce my time online so it's time to jump back in but already it doesn't look good...

I ordered my package on 27th March and was told I'd have a confirmation within 48 hours...2 weeks later still nothing so I phoned them up and had to reorder it but was told there's a one-off charge of £30 for the hub. I said "Hang on, it was free when I ordered this, YOU lost the order so I shouldn't be charged for this" but the drone wouldn't have it. He then gave me a new e-mail address and I said "I only want BT as I was told I can keep my current e-mail address" and was told I can still keep it but have a new one too. I can see this causing trouble.

When it came to setting up the direct debit, I got pushed from pillar to post and was put through to someone and had to admit "Look, I don't know why I was put through to you. I was talking to an African guy and I didn't understand a word he was saying--I had to ask him to repeat himself FOUR times at one point". I think BT should be sued under the trade descriptions act as none of the people I spoke to there were British. I don't care what nationality people are but over the phone, you need clear communication skills as you can't make yourself understood as easily as in person. I think for a nationally branded communications company to employ primarily foreign staff with poor communication skills is to shoot themselves in the foot: they look unprofessional for ANY call centre (notice how many companies now advertise the fact that they have UK-based call centres?), let alone a communications company!

Anyway, job sorted (with added problems to follow, I'm sure), I managed to get in a quick headshot to ease me back in to drawing (coloured today and pictured below) before Dr Who started. I hate historical episodes so this was better than expected but I still can't see why they bothered with two days of filming in Rome when it all looks like a set anyway. Something in this episode reminded me of the end of the last series and I wonder if this series will lead to the return of the Rani---never having seen any episode with her in it, all I know is she's another rogue Time Lord ( I think) but a female one.

Managed to get in a few comics before the start of Pushing Daisies, which I enjoyed but am curious to see how it fares on a mainstream traditionally dumbwit channel. The show isn't very demanding but is light, entertaining and quirky, and Anna Friel (always attractive but never spectacularly so) was simply radiant and adds so much charm to the show. I got a desperate Housewives kind of ambiance from the show, due it's quirky nature and narrated storyline (narrated by Jim-I'm every bloody where,me-Robinson off Neighbours). I'll watch future episodes but don't know how avidly I'll follow it. I was looking forward to Reaper and kind of liked it but it was already becoming a chore to have to remember to watch.

After Daisies, somebody (for unknown reasons) lent me a pirate copy of 10000BC. I didn't want to see it anyway but gave up after five minutes of grainy footage that distracted me so much that I lost what was happening after about five lines of narration (seriously!). Something about prophecy and that's always a bad sign...no play on words intended.

I also started reading The Black Dossier, which has been sitting on my shelf for months waiting for me to find enough time to dive in to it. I'm still only a quarter of the way in and it's taken me ages so it's at least bang for your buck! Already the gags are funny, especially the tube mp with stops like Colouring Inn, Arson Elbow and Tooting Bottom. This book firmly establishes the League in an alternate earth (something hinted at before but never really clarified) and has already taken in Tarzan, John Carter, James Bond, Danger Man and the Prisoner, Jerry Cornelius, 1984, Giles, Conan, Elric, the Tempest, Last of the Mohicans and numerous other sources that I've recognised, let alone ones that I don't! Definitely worth a few hours of anyone's attention (though it is more lewd and foulmouthed than the first two stories)

Thursday, 10 April 2008

It figures...

Well, with a new place comes new storage and display challenges. Already I'm weeding out a few tpbs as I search for that pesky Killing Joke to pass on (but it seems to have vanished!) but also it's time to reassess another recent habit: the action figure.

I'm not a huge toy fan and when comic-related action figures began reappearing in the 90s, they were pretty awful. Somewhere along the way though, I picked up an action figure (probably the movie or X-Men: Evolution Cyclops) and slowly but surely others joined until I had a legion of the buggers. Set up for display not play, I figure they're just acceptable as ornaments, just as other people have knick knacks lying around.

Generally I'd pick up figures of characters I liked (unless they were truly awful) or bargain figures or figures that just plain appealed to me. DC Direct vastly outnumbers the awful Marvel figures except on the Minimate front, having picked up a ton on eBay as I figured it was a cheaper and more manageable way to build a cast of characters.

Until I figure a place to put a glass display case, my figs are currently boxed up and I vowed not to pick up any more due to space and monetary reasons. Then I saw the movie Iron Man fig and had to get it (he now stands alongside the New Frontier Dr Fate by my PC--the only other similar item is an animated JLU Flash paperweight/bust thing).

I'm hoping not to be tempted by anymore figures...but there are some nice Marvel Minimates, the Nova figure a JLI wave from DC Direct and a batch of Crisis figures including Reverse Flash (GOT to have him, one of comics' coolest costumes) so already I can see my plan going out of the window...

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Brave and the Bloody Awful

I've never been the hugest Batman fan--I've never bought any of his titles regularly (except the Brave and the Bold when I was about 8, although I preferred DC Comics Presents, especially a great Superman/Superboy clash as I hated the senior but loved the junior Kal-El) and have only bought the most seminal of special projects (Dark Knight Returns, Year One, Killing Joke, etc). However, I've always been a fan of the Bruce Timm animated show and last night I cracked open the final DVD set to watch the first of the revamped later episodes. While the same talent was involved behind the voice booth and production offices, what a step up in quality the animation was! Crisp, clear animation that jumped off the screen, easily dovetailing into the recent Justice League episodes, easily the greatest comic cartoon of all time (in terms of characters, characterisation, art, stories, practically everything!).

So, I'd been waiting with interest to see the first glimpses of the new Batman: Brave and the Bold animated team-up show, set to feature Aquaman, Green Arrow and Blue Beetle in early episodes. The recent The Batman show was nicely animated but a little oddly designed so I was hoping for a return to something like the Timm heyday, especially as some (undisclosed) voice talent from that show will be returning.

Then I saw this:

A picture really does say a thousand words, doesn't it? I'll choose but two: dog and shite.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Chuck RIP

He may have been a right wing gun toting loon in his later days but it's still sad news that Charlton Heston has died aged 84. Personal politics aside, he was always a memorable screen presence and for his portrayal of Taylor in Planet of the Apes alone, one of the finest movies ever made (an entertaining adventure with a lot of allegorical issues), we salute you, Chuck.

Now take your stinking paws off of me, you damn dirty ape!

Mundane reasons why nothing gets done

It's the weekend! 48 hours to do with as you please! More than enough time to squeeze in a quick pic or two to get back into the swing of drawing, right (I had settled on a Captain Kirk and Barbarella--don't ask!)? Oh-ho-ho-no!

SATURDAY: Not too bad of a day but I had a lamp and a cabinet delivered. Lamp was no prob but constructing the cabinet, a 1-hour job maybe strung out to a few hours due to the door hinges being absolute buggers to attach (plus I was half-watching a creaky old Disney film called Watcher In The Woods). I got blisters forcing the screws in!

I then spent a few hours sorting out all the files, clipped art and ref material as I put them into the cabinet. By this time I had time to get some sketching in before Dr Who (and THAT cameo was certainly a WTF moment) but my sister called to ask if I could order a WWE T-shirt for her boyfriend's birthday from the states. By the time I'd logged on, found the product and created an account, it was Who time and then I got on to watching the original Dr Who Dalek stories, which are creaky but creepy due to the B&W ambiance.

I was also reading the ClanDestine HC as I was watching the electric pepper pots on Evil Edna, and unfortunately it's not as good as I remembered. Great premise and distinct characters but the early computer colouring is pretty awful (the X-Men crossover issues being even worse as Marvel lagged behind in the colouring stakes for much of the 90s) and it's a minor thing but the poor punctuation irritated me! Things like "You should, shouldn't you" without a question mark bug me--the Dark Tower comics are also littered with this prob and it's jarring, like people writing "should of" instead of "should have". Surely this is a basic editorial task?

SUNDAY: Was woken up to find not only a dusting of snow outside but a copper at my door in response to my continued problem with the kids outside at night. After he went, I hovered up, surfed online, finished the ClanDestine and prepared to read the third Walking Dead HC after a bath---only to find a leak in my bathroom ceiling from the flat above. This was about 5.30 and he didn't come home until after midnight, so despite the involvement of the council and the police, nobody could gain access to his property to check the leak. This meant that six more leaks sprung in the ceiling, plus streams of water sprouting through the walls, one of which has soaked into my bedroom, peeling off wallpaper and soaking the carpet. I was aware the ceiling had previously caved in before I moved in so I had to move two bookcases full of books and the incessant tapping of the water meant I had to take my mattress and sleep in the living room! Luckily, this also meant I had somewhere to put my comic boxes on to avoid the encroaching water.

MONDAY (today): Woke up expecting to find a disaster but the leak had stopped. Council were able to contact the above flat while my sister sat in my flat while I had to get back to work as I'm on my own this week (added joy). Turns out the repairmen fitted round fittings for upstairs' bath taps into square holes with no washers, resulting in flooding of the backpipes, apparently made worse because the above occupant is a Muslim and presumably washes in flowing water instead of still bathwater.

Considering all of the above, dodgy TV reception, the kids outside, an infection that may be a water infection or the result of food poisoning due to the surface coming off of a new frying pan bought from ASDA as they have the intelligence to glue the label directly onto the cooking surface but making the glue impossible to properly remove, the delay of my sofa by another month, BT having to sort out my phone but ignoring my broadband order and everything else, I'm not having the best of times at the minute.

I can see them cans of Bud in my fridge getting caned tonight :)

Friday, 4 April 2008

This week I have mostly been reading...

I'm feeling a little tender and nauseous at the minute after being sent home from work with a flare up of a recent condition leaving me taking a course of antibiotics. As there's nothing on tv and I'm not ready to draw again yet, I've been attacking my backlog of graphic novels. It's been ages since I did any reviews, but here's my thoughts on what I've been reading this week...

Age of Bronze Vol 3a Sacrifice: I started reading Eric Shanower's retelling of the Trojan war in monthly issue but soon gave up as despite having distinct features, the cast is sprawling and it's difficult to remember who everybody is in monthly chunks. The collected volumes are far easier to navigate and what wondrous waters they are. The art of course is stunning but the complexity of the story is allowed to unfold naturally at its own pace, with the story researched so well that this feels like the most realistic depiction of an ancient society you'll ever find on the comics page. 26 issues in and the story is only 3 years into the 10-year conflict (with battle finally on the horizon), letting the story unfold far more accurately than the two or three day skirmish of the Brad Pitt Troy movie (which was pretty dull but did have an impressive introduction of Achilles' character!)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born: This was another series I picked up on monthly basis but is so beautiful to look at, I had to have the hardcover. Isanove's the real artistic power her though: compare any other recent Jae Lee project to this to see the difference. Lee's work here is definitely his best but suffers from a distinct lack of facial expressions. Everyone's glaring all the time and as a result, there's no sense of joy in Roland's affair with Susan. The story however is a treat for DT fans, retelling chronologically events depicted in various episodes of the book series (mainly Wizard and Glass, my favourite). I loved #1 but began to feel disappointed by the end due to Lee's lack of emotions but the collection reads alot better as a whole.

Ultimate Power: The crossover between the Ultimate and Supreme Powers universes. For something promising to reveal a traitor and a character moving from one universe to the other, I wondered why there wasn't much of a fuss about this but know I know why: it's pretty forgettable. There's next to no plot and too many double page spreads: but what would you expect with decompression masters Bendis and Loeb involved? At least Bendis gets in some good dialogue with Spidey. I bought this mainly for Greg Land's work: I know he has his detractors but I enjoyed his Sojourn work, although less so his Ultimate FF. This though was pretty awful. For an artist so reliant on photo reference, it's hard to see how Land went SO wrong with some of his figures. The women frequently have overextended torsos or ultra-thin legs, while the guys (Hyperion in particular) just look distorted for the most part. I'd avoid this if I were you, although the unexpected reappearance of the real, original Squadron Supreme was a nice surprise.

The last volumes on my bookshelf waiting to be read are The Walking Dead HC 3, the ClanDestine HC, the Black Dossier (which I've had since its release but still haven't even cracked open the polythene cover!) and Cannon, an oversized Wally Wood collection.

And after that, still the stack of Steve Rude and Wood/Williamson sci-fi EC issues.

And after THAT, a small pile of books and graphic novels picked up from a second hand bookshop about six months ago...

This is why I'm almost never bored...

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The Honeymoon Is Over

Currently I'm sitting at home in a state of anxiety due to the proliferation of chav bastards. Every night around 10.30, a bunch of the hooded wankers descend to loiter mere feet away from bedroom until around midnight, drinking, smashing bottles, laughing, screaming, swearing and last night saw a new addition, chasing each other around my property with wooden fencing as weapons. I visited the police station and called them TWICE yesterday.

Needless to say, this has left me now worrying all day about their next return. Their proximity and noise prevents me from going to sleep or being at ease in my own home, leaving me tired and on edge. For a diabetic using diet to balance blood sugar levels and already avoiding anger management classes/courses, the resultant stress is not doing me any good.

I'm thinking scary thoughts and either they go or I do, but it's not easy. I love this flat but I'm effectively trapped here with no options to move and this adds to my frustrated anxiety.

Sorry, this is a really depressing post and there's nothing anybody can do to help but like Eugene Tooms, I felt the need to vent...