Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Random Roundup -- Reborn!!

Man, I'm gonna run out of those alliterative "R"s pretty soon...

Above is a dilution of a plot thread in Wally Wood's Cannon strip that is so bad it's kinda funny. Running a page at a time in an army magazine, Cannon was a gung-ho American version of 007 and the above is a page composed of panels from a few weeks of continuity. For those interested, Cannon is "saved" when Elena is blown up at the alter on their wedding day. Dubious material but lovely art, which is why I want to track down the Sally Forth collection by Wood but it's a bit pricey (and even more nudey!)

Tone's recent post about Halo Jones piqued my interest as I've always wanted to read this but the art--the ART!! Ohmigod, the goofy weird Ian Gibson art throws me right out, although it improves by the end of the collection. Still, Tone offered to lend my his spiffy hardcover so I don't have to shell out for a collection that each time I've picked up, has made me put it straight back down because of the visuals. Even though I'm trying to clear my reading pile, I'm looking forward to this. Also on my reading pile is Locke & Key, another collection with art not to my taste but it's supposed to be good, written by the increasingly popular Joe Hill. The first issue of House of M was a giveaway at BICS this year and I quite enjoyed it, so I also picked up the House of M tpb, so my pile swells yet again.

Slowly getting into drawing again, having just completed a Rogue figure: I want to do a backdrop and have some practice with layers in Photoshop--NOT going well at the moment. I also want to do an Elle from Heroes pic but am most looking forward to the cover of Pjang #2, Rol's idea being simple but enjoyable so hopefully I'll pull it off. After those, some practice with drawing anatomy and on to new pages. Feeling a bit down on my art again at the minute so need to get back to it pretty soon.

That won't be until the New Year probably as there's an upcoming holiday to sort out and then Christmas too, plus a few social gatherings in December probably.

Dead Set started and was OK but not as satirical as I expected and not as involving as the cast are a bit vague. Maybe tonight will improve empathy for the characters. Watched Burn After Reading at the weekend, which is great fun and the arrival of Iron man and Hulk on DVD

sees my range of comic movies spread even further.

My Christmas list:

* A new bookshelf

* An electronic picture frame

* Frames to fit the US-dimensioned prints picked up from BICS this year.

* Blue Beetle and Booster Gold figures

As you were...

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Drawn Out

Well, most of my backlog of reading material is cleared (outside of three books and the Cinebook collections) so I'm slowly gearing up for proper drawing again. I've managed to get two things done this weekend, both things I've been wanting to get around to for some time. It's good to tick them off my list and get closer to some real stuff again.

Monkey's pretty crap but I just wanted him out of the way. I was fairly happy with Nico (other than the top of the staff, which I had to squeeze in as I had no room on the paper!) until I inked it and noticed the legs were too long. A quick use of the transform tool enabled me to simply shift and adjust the boots further up and hey presto, job saved. I'm fairly happy with this one now, although I wish I could have been bothered to shade the skirt better. I tried to use the colour burn effect Tone uses but despite him showing me in person, me making notes and also using his tutorials, I still couldn't figure out how the bloody layering works so this is bog standard flat colour ring instead.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Star Trek The Next Regeneration

Well, the first new Star Trek pics are starting the rounds and I'm---indifferent. I like the bridge but it's lost the compressed feeling of the original that added such tension. The uniforms just look odd now, especially after the more interesting ones from the movies and Next generation shows.

I'm looking forward to the film but can't escape the feeling that the cast just won't be able to shake the ghosts of the original cast, except for maybe Simon Pegg---dunno why but his pic here looks more authentic than Doohan (who of course was not an authentic Scot).

Still needs Shatner...

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Hey, Kids--Comics!!

Following Rol's 13 question comic meme, here are my additions to the thread...

Favourite Current Title

I'm not actually buying anything regularly, the closest being occasional titles like Hellboy and Castle Waiting (which is kind of pissing me off right now as it's blatantly being just hacked out) or trades like Fable and Walking Dead. I'd have to say that Ex Machina is probably the trade I look forward to the most. Tone's Outcastes is the closest I have to enjoying a title on a regular basis.

Comicbook Character Only Recently Discovered or Started Reading

I'm always on the lookout for something new but rarely find anything so took a chance with some stuff from Eurocomic publisher, Cinebook so I'd have to list Alpha, IR$ and Aldebaran.

Which one character would you write or draw?

Well, it's the obvious thing to say your favourite character so even though he's tied into the X-line so much, I'd still say Cyclops as there's enough there to go into new directions.

Are You A Fan Of Big Multi-Issue Crossover Extravaganzas?

Definitely not. You should be able to read the core title without following the satellite titles, which is becoming increasingly impossible. Read Civil War as a collection and it jumps all over the place. The only crossover that has really ever worked was Crisis On Infinite Earths, which is currently being reversed as much as possible, resulting in confusing, dull, ill-judged projects such as Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis--three issues since May and nobody's clamouring for the next issue!

Last Comic You Dropped And Why?

Peter David's X-Factor--too many artists (although I liked Sook and Raimondi) led to an inconsistent look but this was just terribly DULL!! Nothing ever happened, tedious beyond belief and my like for the characters was not enough to keep my interested in a series going nowhere...

Favourite Character?

Cyclops, still an archetypal superhero for me..

Are You A DC or Marvel Fan?

I try not to fall into this divide and just pick up the titles I like, but historically I'm way more of a Marvel reader than DC: although at times the pendulum has swung in DC's favour, the vast majority of my stuff has been Marvel.

Do you remember your first comic/series?

Well, I remember comics always being around for as far as I can recall and always had Mighty World of Marvel as a kid before even being able to read (even then I loved to draw and loved the art)...I distinctly recall this issue shown as I was learning to read and could make out "HU" but got stuck with "LK". However, probably my first real memory was an issue of JLA that I remember my dad buying for me when I was off school ill. All I distinctly remember is the banner with all the heroes' heads going along the top of the cover and a scene where the Atom falls from the sky and the Elongated Man catches him in his hand. Dunno which issue that was, but it was from 1976 or so, around the time of the above issue...

Is Watchmen The Movie Going To Be As Good As The Comic?

Of course not. It's very rare for an adaptation to improve the source material and it's always a bad thing to read the source before seeing the adaptation as you are always comparing it against your own ideas. Having said that, I love the darker look of the Watchmen movie to the primary-coloured comics so I am looking forward to the film...

Favourite Comic Book Movie?

Well, the first Superman movie is flawless until the introduction of Otis sends it all goofy and I loved X-Men 2---but Spider-Man 2 was a more emotionally satisfying film than X2 and stronger overall than Superman.

Worst Comic Book Movie?

Catwoman was terrible but at least it was entertainingly bad. For absolute dross, check out Steel--I was never a fan of the character but this made me hate him even more. Shocking.

Character You'd Like To See In A Movie?

Well, Green Lantern, Thor and Captain America are all in development so I'll suggest Iron Fist: great back story, great potential action sequences, that bloody great dragon and all the mystical stuff and a cool visual design. Iron Fist'd be cool...

Series That You'd Like To See On TV?

Well, Preacher has halted again but I was always really disappointed that Starman never made it to the screen after a significant development period. I'd still love to see James Robinson's Jack Knight Starman take to the TV channels...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Post Convention Observations

The ghost of this weekend's convention is finally starting to move on, leaving behind a number of thoughts...

What is it with cosplayers? What compels people to dress up like fictional characters (in public, I mean)? It'd be a surreal trip to work one week when Batman or Sonic the Hedgehog sit next to you on the bus. Saw some fine costumes this weekend (Green Arrow was great) but nobody really looks the part. Only Lara Croft looked the part this weekend, winning many a gaze I'm sure...

The goody bags are appreciated but usually full of crap. Last year saw the updated Slings and Arrows book, which I really like, but generally it's tat all the way. Mind you, I quite enjoyed the inclusion of House of M #1 this year...despite not previously caring about the mini, I quite liked the first issue so will definitely be looking out for the tpb next month...

Most people are fine at cons---but there are some tits. Genuine snippet of conversation from some oik to a girl he'd never met before as we waited for folio reviews: "And there was a goblin...and I killed it...and then I was on a spaceship...and I escaped...and then.." Twat.

But the real joy of conventions is just milling about with your mates, taking in something that you enjoy, bitching about minor problems but really appreciating the opportunity to just muck about for however long you are in attendance...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Brumcon!! Part The Second

Well, I rocked up with the intention of getting feedback on my work (taking four sequences and some pinup stuff) to basically find out if it's worth me pursuing this whole comic art thing as a profession or if I should be doing it as a hobby. There was some momentary panic as I only found out recently that you needed to register for portfolio reviews, something only indicated recently. Still, apart from missing out on the chance to speak to Garry Leach again and Mark Chiarello (DC's art director effectively), I managed to get what I came for.

First up, I had a portfolio review with Harry Markos, MD of Markosia, an independent British publisher with the licence for properties such as King Kong and Starship Trooper. After a flick through and a chat about the industry and how Markosia works, he gave me his card and asked me to drop him a line and we'll discuss things. Excellent! It's not definite work, but it's at least an indicator that I'm not completely rubbish.

Next up, I approached Mike Collins and asked if he'd be able to give some tips. He was very helpful, pointing out examples of things he was discussing by using his own pages and thumbnails. He said there's very little wrong with the basic with the basic drawing but that I should watch my storytelling. That was something that I'd always worked on, trying to ease panels into each other but he said that pages should be a series of jumpcuts as the reader will fill in the gaps. He advised the use of thumbnails (as the skrull and MaryJane I drew sequences were devised entirely on the pages, while the Spidey pages were only loosely laid out) and showed me the differences between Marvel and DC art styles. He also pointed out a few compositional tips that were really useful so overall this was one of the best reviews as it actually pointed out a few quick things that are simple but effective tools.

I then got to talking to the reprint editor at Panini when this guy came up to us and asked if he could show his samples. Not only were they good, they were REALLY good, imagine a slightly less cluttered David Finch. The editor pointed out that he doesn't really solicit much material but that he would forward the guy's details to editors that may do, although he advised the artist to skew his work to a slightly younger audience. I took the opportunity to show my stuff and was also given the editor's card, who added that occasionally he gets the chance to solicit new covers and that if I sent him some stuff he would pass them on to the relevant editors as well as possibly keeping me in mind for cover work. No promises there and to be honest, it's unlikely but I'm gonna work up a Captain Britain cover to accompany the samples I send off. (Good news: the next Cap Britain reprint volume will start the Black Knight reprints, with the next volume composed entirely of the remainder of the Black Knight strip).

My final feedback came from DC editor Michael Wright, who remembered me from last year. He said I need to work on my anatomy a bit (there are some wonky shots so that's good advice) but that my layouts were exciting and dynamic and everything he'd want to see in layouts. He said he thinks I'm certainly good enough to approach 2000Ad (I'm doubtful there, if only because I don't really have the craggy style usually associated with them) or some of the indies but if I want to work for the majors, I still have some way to go as you don't just have to be good, you have to be better than artists they already employ. He didn't like my inking (I've always hated inking so I'm not cut up about that, although it's something I'm looking to improve on) but advising to keep my hand in it as it gives you another set of eyes to draw through. He left me with the words "I'll be back here next year, so I want you to come back and dazzle me".

So where has this left me? Well, enthused for one: there's always a buzz after a con. I'm a bit intimidated by the quality of some of the other art I saw from aspiring artists but all you can do is focus on your own work and try to make it as good as you can. I think after getting back into the swing of drawing over the last 18 months and locking up recently over what to draw, now I just want to loosen up, knuckle down and try and get some killer art done over the upcoming months to show in my samples.

Brumcon!! Part The First

Well, recovering from the Birmingham show now and I went for a few basic reasons:

1. To get some feedback on my artwork.
2. To get a few sketches (primarily a John Cassaday Cyclops)
3. Maybe get a few things signed
4. Find Nexus God Con #2 (the last Steve Rude issue I need)
5. The social aspect

So how'd it go?

Well, it started on Friday night at Bennetts, a bar converted from an old bank so it looks quite impressive. Nice pub and it was packed as it was booked solely for the con launch but the music became a bit of an issue. Hunt Emerson's band started off with a selection of classic rock/blues tracks (Elvis, John Lee Hooker, etc) and they were pretty good but so loud any conversation was all but impossible. Next up was DC editor Michael Wright's band, a more comfortable guitar rock sound followed by Liam Sharp and Charlie Adlard's punky group whacking up the decibels again. If you wanted to hear music, it was great, if you wanted to chill with mates, less so. Joining myself and Tone were Beano and DFC cartoonist Laura Howell, her partner Tim and Jason Dennis, one of our mates currently supplying layouts for John MaCrea on the 99.

We took it easy that night as we knew we'd have to be up early for the next morning. We knew from last year that the queue was unholy so we arrived around 9.30 for a 10.30 opening. With only a few people in front of us, Tone and I were straight through as we had pre-booked while it took pals Mark and Lisa another twenty minutes or so to get through, by which time, Tone and I had separated, I'd got two things signed by Michael Golden after a complete circuit of the two event halls and reunited with everyone else. It was a bit heartbreaking watching Golden with barely a soul at his stand all weekend as he rarely does cons and came all this way. However, he was taking commissions for £90 and was busy all weekend (I'd have loved one except I'm planning a trip away in December so couldn't really afford it). Things looked up for him when his panel talk was so rammed with people, we couldn't even get in the door!

I became smitten with a Power Girl print by Golden, which I picked up to join the Alex Ross JLA and Adam Hughes Wonder Woman and Black Canary prints. They looked quite classy framed and my walls are currently unadorned so this was a nice opportunity to decorate them with something a little less basic than basic posters. I was unable to find the Nexus issue (small press stalls far exceeding traders, who mainly carried Marvel and DC with very few additional publishers) but picked up the second Dark Tower hardcover cheap (like the Stand, I'm switching to hardcovers instead of individual issues) and three European graphic novels from Cinebooks. I'm always on the lookout for something new and gambled a chance on three. The Cinebook rep was really great and very enthusiastic and evangelical about his product, all of which have sold a minimum of a million copies across seven territories across the world. I asked about the chances of reprinting Valerian (Tone's a big fan) and he said that they often listen to reader suggestion and enquiries at the Bristol con had led to them acquiring the rights to the series, which will start an estimated 10-year publishing schedule from 2010. I then asked about Don Lawrence's esteemed Storm series but he had not heard of it, so he asked me to drop him a line and he'd look into it (which I did earlier).

In terms of sketches, I walked away with the sketches above: the desired Cyclops head sketch by John Cassaday (who is halfway through the final Planetary issue before taking a break from comics for a while), Astrid from Suburban Glamour by Jamie McKelvie (I really love his graphic style so really like this headshot, one of my favourite con sketches), Shade by Duncan Fegredo (Mark, Lisa and I had a great 40 minutes or so chatting with him about tons of stuff as he worked on sketches for us--later I saw him finishing off a £20 Hellboy sketch, which was STUNNING!!) and Fin Fang Foom by Roger Langridge. I don't really like cartoony art but I've always liked Roger's art (even though it's a genre I'd never usually read) and I love his Fin Fang Foom--I'm actually really looking forward to the impending collection of his FFF strips as how cool is this sketch? Again, another favourite from my collection now.

The weekend involved the usual wandering around, chatting, bemusement (primarily at cosplayers), perusing and sweltering (this event really suffers from the lack of a decent alcohol, drink and munchery venue) and we were also graced with the surprise appearance of Mr Thomas Lennon. He was going to join us for a post-con drink until he realised it was miles away and would involve much trudging back through the rain to his car. At least he was willing, unlike a certain Mr A who wouldn't even come and say hello at the pub as he wanted to stay away from "comics people". Still, Dave pulled himself out of his deathbed and made it on the Sunday, grabbing a sketch of some woman from Criminal by Sean Phillips and an almost identical Fegredo Shade to mine (leading to a playful argument about which was the best--I still say the inclusion of a fish means mine won!). Jason apparently had a near heart attack when Mark Chiarello asked him to provide a Flash stock cover to be use in a "Not actual cover" capacity in Previews. If Jason plays his cards right, I'm assuming this could lead to good things for him!

So what about my artistic endeavours, I hear you. Hold your horses, that's all in Part 2, coming right atcha as this would be too humongous a post in one go.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Heroes Reborn (Spoiler Free)

Well, after a hiccup meant I might not have been able to have my "portfolio" reviewed this weekend as I was unaware you had to register for reviews (a situation now hopefully resolved), I settled in to watch the first two episodes of Heroes Season Three.

Judging from these two episodes, the series is definitely back on track. There isn't the shock of the new as with the first season, but there's enough WTF moments and questions that drag you right in, as do snippets from the future. The villains seen so far look pretty evil but the producers know how to get the audience really going now, setting Sylar at the heart of the action again. There's some good humour there too, and still a few characters waiting to reappear from last season (and I think one has been written out judging from early dialogue). However, there's still the interminable Mohinderlogues. He waffled on and I realised I automatically tune it out as when I started listening, he was going on about the baby Jesus or something.

Looking forward to the next 12 weeks now (Heroes Unmasked let slip that little fact, so at least we should have a solid run before the show goes on hiatus until the second half returns).

Save the cheerleader...

TV Changes

Well, Smallville's seventh season ended last night, just as the eighth season is kicking off in the US. Somewhat of a muted ending but I liked Lana's Dear John video to Clark...not becuae of her, but Clark actually gets to show some emotion (other than his annoyance with Lois, which I find funny) and Lois is there for him. I like the way these two are growing together, which will carry over into the net season. As I like Erica Durance, I'm looking forward to increased screentime next season.

I knew Lex would disappear but I never really thought about him having a final showdown with Clark and that scene was electric. Without any histrionics or action sequences (as Lex could never match Clark), this was the scene that everybody was waiting for, the final showdown between Clark and Lex, who finally confirms his suspicions about Clark. Rosenbaum proves himself the best Luthor yet in this scene, which mirrors any number of face to face confrontations from the comics. All the resentment comes out as Lex explains his POV to Clark. It's a shame that he's gone now as this could have led to some great future confrontations.

Whether the eighth season is the final one or not (ratings will decide), the CW have ordered a pilot for Smallville's replacement (which could run as companion show if Smallville goes to a tenth season). This series? The Graysons--Dick Grayson in the circus before he becomes Robin. I like Dick (called DJ--Dick John Grayson--in the show to avoid inevitable sniggers like that one!) but I'm a bit underwhelmed by this. They're going for an older (late teens) Dick Grayson and I suppose the mobile nature of a circus could open up alot of story possibilities but I can't see much scope here. They should have done the Starman show they were developing years back, if they didn't get cold feet after the bombing of Birds of Prey.

Tonight--new Heroes, yay! Paul Ross, what a twat---he was plugging Heroes the other day, saying it was his favourite superhero show. Apart from the fact that there aren't many other, he introduced a clip by saying "Let's look at my favourite character--Hyro--in action". Has he ever actually SEEN the show?