Saturday, 24 May 2008

From My Collection Part 2

Following from the previous post, here's a look at some of my original art...

Above is a great page of art from Starman, another favourite series of mine. This is by Gary Erskine, a nice guy and great artist: I also have a Scalphunter sketch by him as well.

This piece is by Sean Phillips, inked by Duncan Fegredo. Now can anyone guess what made me pick up this page? While it's not in continuity, this is still a cool Cyclops-heavy page...

Finally, a page from one of the old Vertigo Jam specials as drawn by Duncan Fegredo (who I also have a sketch of Cyclops by!). This page is certainly of value if considering characters as it has practically the entire cast of Vertigo A-list characters from the 90s, including my favourites Shade, Cliff Steele and Buddy baker, as well as Constantine, Phantom Stranger and even King Mob!

From My Collection Part 1

Started pencilling some Jock stuff today (completed two pages of pencils and could easily have done a third but had other things that needed doing) and had to refer back to earlier pages to maintain continuity and accidentally pulled out my folder of original art and sketches, so I thought I'd share a few pieces here...

First up above is Dr Strange by Kevin Nowlan, probably my favourite sketch (just as well for the amount of time I had to queue for it!). At first I asked for Cyclops but when he couldn't recall how to do the visor, we settled on Dr Strange instead.

Next up is Captain Britain by Alan Davis. A close contender for favourite spot, I was tempted to submit this to Back Issue for inclusion in the CB article (out in July, folks!). Got a chance to thank the man in person for his help with the afore-mentioned article...Herb Trimpe was also great but Chris Claremont failed to respond to any attempts at contact after agreeing to answer some questions before...

This is Nova by Adi Granov...I love his style and his tutorials have been of great help to me. I was going to ask for Iron Man, obviously his key character, but everybody was asking for him so I asked for Nova instead, a favourite character of mine that Granov was providing covers for at the time. I was the last person to get a sketch due to Granov's commitments elsewhere so feel really fortunate to have this...though having seen the Iron Man film, kinda wish I asked for him after all!

The Saint of Killers, another fave of mine. Not only is it a great piece of a cool character from one of my favourite series ever (Preacher), this also has fond feelings as I opened my post one day to find a note from good pal and hard drinking lady killer Ralph Kidson basically saying "I went to this local comic event and picked something up for you". I opened the pack behind and my jaw dropped when I saw this piece. Great pic but I appreciate Ralphie's thoughts even more..

Thursday, 22 May 2008


Well, been weird lately as a few things, such as TV, replacement doors and problematic windows have dug into my time, but I'm slowly getting back to drawing. Above is the initial stage of an experiment in a more clean line style using a brushpen. I still don't have enough control over this tool and don't really like the results, although Suzy looks better after the blacks have been filled in. I discovered some new pens in WHSmiths this week so will give them a try as I like the clean line style but really need heavier lines if I'm to try it with pens.

I've drawn the panel borders and started pencilling the first of the last batch of pages for The Jock #2 but will really get started this weekend hopefully, pencilling up a few pages ready for inking. After these are done, I'll be doing very slight art touch ups to #2, although there is one major panel I'll completely redraw...

I was never entirely happy with the establishing shot of the park featured in the story, as it was drawn from imagination. As a result, it's identifiable but generic and bland. This week has seen me on three one day courses (today featured a corporate video with the bizarre scene of Trevor Phillips playing a vicar marrying Dawn French to the Janitor from Scrubs!) only 20 minutes walk away from my regular workplace on a park called the Rye. At one end is a stretch of water called the Dyke, surrounded by lovely woodland and a small waterfall. I took the opportunity to take along a pad and walked along the Dyke, not just relaxing in the natural surrounding (surprisingly soothing), but to sketch some trees and shrubs. The results are really indistinct but hopefully enough to use as inspiration/reference to redraw that one panel and maybe jazz up a few others.

As with anything, that little extra bit should hopefully result in a much better result...

Thursday, 15 May 2008

General Gurblings

I woke up this morning to news of a flying man. A FLYING MAN! Good God, I want that jetpack---that bloke'll make a fortune if the Japanese revolutionise his tech. A real, honest to God FLYING! MAN! Good God...

Then the rain poured down and wiped out my TV reception completely but I'm hoping it'll be clear for Heroes tonight...Bruce Boxleitner will be in the next season but following the departure of Lex (boo!), looks like Chloe will be leaving Smallville following a breakdown in contract negotiations. Great take away, the most interesting two characters in the show---at least the lovely Erica Durance will still be around, with at least one gratuitous outfit each season...

Typically, now that my TV is back again, I've struggled to find anything on at all. Last night I watched an excellent episode of the Prisoner, involving people-sized chess games and an escape attempt by boat, but have been marvelling at how cheesy Tales From The Crypt and Ray Bradbury Theatre are now. The latter I used to love (especially a creepy story featuring Jeff Goldblum being pursued by a stalker in some random small town) but god, it's cheesy cheesy stuff now. Interestingly, the first episode I saw featured an adaptation of a story I recently read in an EC comic with Wally Wood art.

Having now cleared all the EC sci-fi stuff and the few other issues I had, I progressed to Wally Wood's great Cannon series (with completely hysterical dialogue at points: when confronted with the news that he may have a sprog on the way by a girl he's been shagging, Cannon says: "I'm sorry about earlier, I overreacted--you can have an abortion!"). With that clear, I tried a few experiments in clean line art using a brush...not the best results so I tried with a pen as usual with better results, but losing the softer touch of a brush as a result. I also tried a Mucha-inspired piece...I love his style but not his podgy faced women so I did a modern women just using his thick outline/thin inner line style. I deliberately did not look at any of his stuff before knocking that one out, trying to keep in line with the spirit of his work, and it was quite interesting. Clean line seems to be the way for me to go as I enjoy using it alot.

Hopefully back to the Jock now this weekend: I've got three pages set in the station to do, always fun as there's less reliance on real life clutter. Quite looking forward to this sequence...although that'll then be finished off by a less fun bandstand-in-the-dark bit. This is only daunting as the first sequence featuring the same setup did not go as well as I'd hoped.

In the meantime, it's straight back to work as my lunchbreak is now over...

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Tip Top TV

Well, after thinking and thinking about it, I just can't find it within me to form even a Top Ten of my favourite TV shows ever, let alone genre ones. Comedy dates really fast and while I love hows like Black Adder ( and IV especially), Bottom, Cheers, Frasier, My Name Is Earl, Lead Balloon, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Friday/Saturday Night Live, etc, I just can't settle on any one that really REALLY deserves essential viewing, not even Brass Eye or The Day Today.

Similarly, there have been shows I loved in the past that I've fallen out of love with (X-Files, I'm thinking you: kept on going long after you should have stopped and fouled up the whole memory of that show---even though Fox Mulder remains one of my favourite fictional characters) or have not dated well (Quantum Leap seems more moralistic than it did originally and we won't even go near Babylon 5).

And what about half-remembered shows from your childhood? Given the opportunity to view them again, it's usually a mistake as they're never as good. This goes double for cartoons. So, before I reveal my shortlist of shows I can still stand, here are the almost made its:

LOST: It's always dangerous listing contemporary shows as they have yet to prove their longevity but I really loved the first season and a half but when Sky nicked it off C4, my enthusiasm dampened. Season three picked up but to be honest, and I know it's a stupid reason, but it's Jack's beard that loses Lost its place...

NATURAL HISTORY SHOWS: If it's got Attenborough, snakes, sharks or big cats, I'm usually watching it...but as enjoyable and informative as these shows are, they're non-essential.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: The first three seasons are practically perfect but watching them again, they don't resonate so much. Maybe its because I'm older now (cos the dialogue and acting is still pretty much spot on) but the vital spark just isn't there's a slog watching many episodes now.

MONKEY: One of the few childhood shows that's as entertainingly bonkers now, what lets this down is the quality of the second season when a new actor played Pigsy and the dragon turned from a horse into a moronic bloke. Still, just gotta see that title sequence and I'm grinning...

So, what makes it into my list of favourite shows? Well, only four really...

#5: A bit of a cheat this, but the Comics Brittannia season on BBC4. I'm not a huge fan of British comics but I love documentaries on things that interest me, and this featured an interesting array of docs. Some, like the ones about the Broons, Beano and Dandy, appealed less to me but the Ditko one was bloody impressive. It's rare to find shows on such a minority interest (hence my DVD rack full of the ones I can find), so this goes in on the basis of intent if not quality (and the Ditko thing was definitely the best of the bunch).

#4: Spaced. The funny thing about Spaced is when i think about it, it's always "Yeah, it's good but it's not classic..." but when I watch it, I get so absorbed into it. The mix of the mundane and the bizarre, the pop culture references and a genuine warmth for the characters (the lack of a laughter track helps give the show an element of verisimilitude it needs to pull off the odd goings on). Still a shame they never did a final ending, although the second series ended perfectly.

#3: Star Trek The Original Series I like sci-fi and adventure shows and this still stands as the best space show ever. Kirk is a hero from the classic tradition, the Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationship was great, the tech entertaining and the episodes featured dramatic lighting and mood that blasts all the anodyne later Treks out of the sky. Yeah, some of the episodes were awful and some of the fashions and plots do date it somewhat---but where else can you find blokes fighting lizard men, ladies running around in the sexiest of uniforms and stories that actually pack a punch?

#2: The Justice League animated series. Again, I love comics and artwork and this faithful but inventive show brings the DC characters to life in such a great way. Crisp designs and animation, great casting, strong characterisation and the distillation of everything Bruce Timm learned on the earlier Batman and Superman shows, these are what I'd hold up as great examples of TV animation.

#1: Heroes. As mentioned above, listing current shows is a bit dubious---however, I was told before seeing the show that I'd love it (as I had no real interest in it when it was first announced) and boy, did I. The first season is virtually flawless---no filler episodes, a building sense of urgency, varied characters and a great villain combine to bring the superheroic world to fully formed life. It may yet go off the boil, and Sky will probably nick season three, but so far Heroes pushes all my televisual buttons and I love it. I've missed one episode now but my TV is hopefully going to be sorted out on Tuesday so I can probably still find that missed show on one of the BBC digital channels.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Random Roundup!

While I slowly toil away colouring this Heroes pic that has become UNfun and not very good now either, a few random updates...

A young Scott Summers is to appear in the upcoming Wolverine movie, making a certain person around here a bit happy...(hmm, four movie appearances and countless animated appearances, wonder where that robot bounty hunter is now, yes?)

While my pocket is currently hurting, I groaned when I saw my quarterly gas bill arrive..then cheered when it was for only £9.15!! No chance the lecky will be as low but here's hoping it'll still be low!

Been catching up on the EC comics and MAN, can they be hard work! Lovely artwork (the reason I bought them, so no complaints really) but the samey, hokey-twist ended repetitiveness is soon apparent. I have about five sci-fi issues to sit through and then a handful of random other titles, including Valor, Piracy and Frontline Combat (which I'm quite looking forward to).

Been slowly mulling over a top TV post but am finding it quite hard to fill any kinda list. If I make ten of anything, it'll be a miracle. In the meantime, enjoy these shots of Charlie from Lost...

After feeling bad about my friend who was homeless a few days back, I've since noticed her facebook page has been updated with pics of her new pets (labelled as "our" new pets)...this kind of contrary behaviour is what made me not offer help when I could, so while I feel bad about feeling bad, I'm glad I had a lucky escape!

Getting used to Broadband, which is great but the BT Yahoo browser is slow SLOW! Just finishing up transferring my online accounts to my new e-address (a pain, so thanks for your incompetency, BT) then so long, dial up!

Right now, it's so long, me..

Friday, 2 May 2008

Iron Brew

Well, toddled off to see the Iron Man movie last night, so what are my (spoiler-free) thoughts on it?

Put simply, it's one of the best comic movies ever. The film draws you in immediately, with Downey Jr winning you over within two minutes. His Stark is primarily based on the attention deficit-afflicted Ultimate Tony Stark, although his post-reformation scenes are morr like the more glarey and stern traditional MU Stark. Smooth and likable, Stark is a joy to watch (and I'd like to fly with HIS airline, please!).

The film is built on Stark/Downey Jr's character and is one of the more rewarding comic movies, siting somewhere between Spidey and Batman Begins in tone. There is action, but not a huge amount but it's never a problem as Stark is so entertaining to watch (especially when testing his armour) but the plot is fairly lightweight (being more of a spiritual rediscovery rather than a physical ordeal. The second half (after the well-played out origin) suffers as a result but is still fun. The armour is impressive, Jeff Bridges couldn't fail as Stane and Professor Yinsen is transformed into a fully rounded character---there's even a reference to Iron Man's arch enemy for those in the know.

One weak spot is Rhodey...though likable and well acted, Terence Howard just doesn't have the grit Rhodey needs. Jamie Foxx would have been better. Gwyneth Paltrow on the other hand is a revelation---although as wet and limp as boiled cabbage in real life, on screen she is radiant without ever being overtly pinup material. She makes Pepper Potts shine and one of the film's strong points.

Last the end of the film approached, I grew restless as a promised scene did not appear, even most of the way into the credits. If you are so inclined, stay until AFTER the credits to watch a certain one-eyed spymaster approach Stark from out of the shadows...

Thursday, 1 May 2008

All Aboard The Sky Lark AMENDED

Well, the Sky man (and no, he wasn't Sylvester Pemberton) came out today, who at least confirmed that there is no digital signal in my area as we receive TV from the Crystal Palace transmitter, which is too weak to achieve much here really as we're on the cusp before people start receiving from Oxford instead. So, Sky it is for me.

Reluctantly, I've chosen the Sky digibox which receives 200 channels and is more outright but at the cost of £150 plus just under another fifty for installation. The other alternative was a free Sky box for a higher installation fee (so £60 odd seems cheaper than £200) but the catch was you have to then pay for the packages and the minimum was one package (£14) for a minimum of 13 months (£168), which is more expensive than the other option. However, £200 is a lot of money to me now at a time when I'm having to subsidise myself with my saving, but will better on my pocket in the long run.

The downside is that it'll be about 5 days before I receive my card and a few days after that when they can install it so I'll still be minus any TV (in real terms, minus Heroes, Dr Who, Pushing Daisies and My Name is Earl really) for maybe another two weeks. I'm gonna take this opportunity to install my broadband this weekend, finish that Heroes pic (detail of the shading above...only Claire, Hiro, Ando and the Haitian to do now) and quite possibly see Iron Man tonight...

4.5.08: Just finished the shading so have now attached that above instead---colouring to be done soon...

Joker Sarder

Well, I unearthed my original copy of the Killing Joke recently and while not bothering to compare it with the new one for the alleged art tweaks here and there (though the removal of the oval around the Bat symbol is pretty hard to miss), I did compare the colouring jobs. While never bothering me before, John Higgins' original colours had always bothered Bolland, who has gone in and recoloured all the pages himself.

My god, what a difference! While it could be argued that Higgin's palette was more indicative of the mood and Bolland's more restrained realistic colour choices are not as emphatic, the original job just seems lurid and crude in comparison. A whole page where Batman is purple? A TV panel looking like a Zap fudge-flavoured ice lolly has melted all over the art? These are just a few of the original colour choices (examples below of the original vs the new version) that I just can't get past after seeing the new version. If you want a gorgeous looking comic, this new edition is one for your shelf.

Of course, Bolland's version is created via Photoshop, a programme so stuffed with features, tools and functions, it can be a nightmare to learn. Once mastered however, it is a godsend. I only have the most basic command of the system, mostly using tips from Tone, and it's been a real boon to me. While never the greatest colourist, I never mastered the hang of paint but can now adequately (if unspectacularly) create decent colouring with this handy dandy tool. I still need WAY more practice but I'm at an OK starting place, and just look at people like Bolland and Hughes (who's richness of colours is dimply amazing!) can achieve...

Like A Hurricane

Sat in a tedious new IT demo for two hours today (though I had to literally hide my smirk for about two minutes during a discussion about "logging jobs"--heehee, sounds like poo), my mind wandered back to a call I received yesterday from a friend/former workmate who has found herself homeless after her mum remarried and threw her out after then falling pregnant, leaving Cat to move in with her boyfriend who subsequently began beating her. Nice life, huh?

I always got on with Cat and I hate seeing mates down and wanted to help: I wanted to offer her the chance to crash at my place for a few days but past experience stopped me before I made that offer. I made a similar gesture before: the first time was when another mate went through a divorce and he crashed over before. I was working nights and not the best place mentally as a result and by the time he left, he was still grateful and friendly towards me but he had driven me and my sister up the wall to the point where we couldn't bear the thought of talking to him. Some time after, another friend was also facing hassle from her landlord so she stayed with me for a few months. Lovely girl but turns out she was a bit of a nut job too: the breaking point with us came after an argument over her TV not working (ironic, considering my current similar TV deprivation) and money not paid back to me as agreed, which I needed as she had also ran up the phone bill. I still regret the end of that friendship as we got on famously until then: she even posed for a sketch (I love drawing people but rarely get the chance to work from life). Although the likeness was never spot on, I later changed the hair completely to divorce the drawing from the model: looking at the drawing would always make me remember and kinda irritated me as a result.

Anyway, as a result of the above, I opted not to extend the offer of help to Catrina: I feel guilty about not doing so and have texted and e-mailed her with an offer to meet up to discuss her problems...but I know the problems of extending that offer of a place to crash could be calamitous.

Sometimes I suppose the right thing for one person is just not right for another...