Monday, 30 April 2012

Post Avengers: Other Comic Movies I've Seen Recently

So the Avengers is the big superhero movie of the year, and I'm glad it kicks such arse...but how about a few other comic movies?

Jonah Hex came out a while back and word of mouth was so bad, I didn't bother seeing it (much as I probably won't the unwanted MIB3) and even at £5, wouldn't pick up the DVD...but gladly paid £1.50 via Amazon for it. It still wasn't worth the money.

I can't say why the film is such a failure...yes, there's some unnecessary supernatural talking to the dead crap slapped onto Hex, who appears to have pizza for a face...but the film doesn't outright stink. Well photographed, decent production values, uncalled for but interesting visual effects and a capable but forgettable cast...yet at even at 70 minutes, at no point does the film engage or interest the viewer. Hex should be incendiary to watch, this is lukewarm at best.

For a decent screen Hex, best watch the DC Showcase animated episode starring Thomas Jane on the Superman/Shazam animated DVD. Adapted from a Phil Noto-illustrated issue of Hex's last comic, the story is tight, tense, well animated and beautifully voiced: best screen Hex yet.

Unfortunately, much as I love the DC animated movies (far better than the generally lack lustre Marvel ones), I watched Justice League: Doom at the weekend and already struggle to remember much of it. Again adapted from a comic story where Batman's contingency plans against the JLA stolen and used by a bunch of villains, again it was fairly uninvolving. Decent character designs and the return of the Justice League animated TV cast (strangely, Michael Rosenbaum now voices Barry Allen, who's clearly wearing the Wally West Flash outfit) can't save a mundane, one note story that fails to sing at any point. The tribute feature to writer Dwayne MacDuffie is far more affecting and memorable.

 If you want to sample the Dc animated movies at their best, plump for Justice League: new Frontier, Green Lantern: First Flight or All Star Superman (Batman Year One is gorgeous to watch but rather slight)...

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Avengers Assemble: Spoiler Free Review

I was always predisposed to liking this movie: loved the comics as a kid, loved the Marvel movies and enjoy Joss Whedon's stuff too. So what did I think?

First off stupid title: no, not Avengers Assemble it's officially (in the title and everything) Marvel Avengers Assemble, stupidest title ever?

The film kicks off and the plot zips along pretty quickly and embarks on the first arc of the movie, introducing the story premise and slowly bringing the characters together. 20 minutes in, I was thinking "Well, this is fine but not as great as I hoped or expected after early reviews" but as soon as the heroes started meeting each other, things really picked up.

Iron Man's relationship with Pepper has evolved and instantly adds zing, Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner is immensely likable (watch for a really soulful look in his eye as he transforms into the Hulk the first time) and the interaction between all the main heroes is great to watch. Of particular note is Johanssen's Black Widow: slightly cold but actually really convincing as Natasha, a far cry from her role in Iron man 2. Jeremy Renner does well with the little he has to do as Hawkeye and all the heroes bicker and argue (real Marvel style!) through the slightly claustrophobic and enclosed mid section.

Then the film opens out dramatically for the prolonged final scenes, featuring without doubt the best superhero action you have ever seen. One battle scene featuring the entire cast in combat throughout the city is obviously cobbled together digitally but stunning in its breadth of scope. The Hulk here is a real joy: while not quite as plausible as the Ang Lee version, its still by far the best movie version: muscled like the comic version but without far greater skin than the Ed Norton version, any scene with the Hulk is a pleasure to watch...and frequently hilarious.

We expect humour from Whedon but it really zings and adds so much to this movie. This movie will be huge as it was a full cinema on a Thursday, all laughing frequently at the writing.

Spoilers prevent me from revealing much but watch for the Hulk vs Loki scene, Iron Man's first words to Thor and the mid-end credits scene left me thinking "What the hell are they building to?" before letting out an audible "Ooh..."

Takes a while to get going but somebody once said your remember a movie by it's last scenes and this left me very excited and wanting to watch it again...

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Recent Reads

Way back though the mists of time, mere months or weeks before I began working on the Jock, I had the chance to visit the 2000AD office and get some feedback on my work. I'm bloody embarrassed to think what shite I took up there but I'll always be thankful for the time Steve macManus took to sit and talk with me and show me the office.

I mention that as recently I picked up ThrillPower Overloa, the history of 2000Ad (up til about 5 years ago). The books not perfect: a few typos, lack of details about what some series' premises were and ignorant ways of introducing artists in the text. You get lines like "The strip was drawn by Ewins and Dillon", but their first names aren't always included. matters are made worse when Colin McNeil receives a brief write up where some people don't even get full name checks.

However, the book remains on of the most fascinating books on comics that I've ever read. This charts more than just the history of the comic but the editorial, publishing and management issues that have cropped up along the way. Numerous editors, creators and mangement staff all contribute, illuminating the back stage struggles, triumphs, peaks and troughs of the comic. It actually made me want to pick up an issue of 2000Ad again, and as the new Dark Tower book is out this week, maybe I will do just that at the same time...

Talking of literary returns, I sampled the first issue of Brian K Vaughan's new series saga. I was a big fan of Y: The Last man and Ex Machina (still not sure about the finale to that though) and really enjoyed Vaughan's work on Dr Strange and Pride of Baghdad (though surprisingly, I detested everything about his Cyclops mini series drawn by Mark Texeira). Saga is kind of but not quite Romeo and Juliet in space: two people from different planets fall in love amidst a sprawling interplanetary and struggle to raise their newborn child, who narrates the story from years later.

As expected, the dialogue immediately sucks you in and brings the characters alive befire introducing the other elements in the story. There are a few conceptual mistakes: a credit card and a scene where a character is complaining about an app for his PDA phone thingie reflect the current world too much and thow you out of the setting but generally the story cracks along, is unpredictable, intriguing anf portentous.

The art...hmmm. Fiona Staples' cover is gorgeous but I'm less convinced by the interiors: great faces, some stunning pages...but also some slapdash linework that show up the shortcomings of drawing digitally, even though the colours are great. I initially wasn't keen on the art on Y and came to appreciate it by the end so hopefully, something similar will happen here. I rarely buy monthly comics now as I tend to follow artists now rather than characters or series (as they've pretty much been cocked up by marketing/editorial -led distates rather than allowing any creators to have any personal voice) but I will definitely pick up the first trade of Saga and hopes it lives up to the promise shown in the first issue...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sunday Art

Amazingly, managed to pencil and ink a whole page today. As hard as the last page was, this was easy: despite crapping out pens (hence probs with the previous page: shall have to crack open the new ones soon), this went really smoothly.

It's not perfect: the crappy nibs meant less control but perhaps the clunkier linework will help the finished art as most clear line art tends to use a thicker line, which I tend to avoid.

The panels here aren't finished: they need tones adding and then another character inserted, interesting experiment that may crap out in the end...

Also above is a pic pencilled last week, inked yesterday and coloured today...

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Scarlet Diva

I've only read the first issue of Martin Eden's soon-to-collected Spandex series but really like the look of Diva so fancied taking a shot at her, so here are the results...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Comic Books On The Ration

Yeah, I've nicked another blog's title as this post title but I enjoy that site and thought I'd carry the fun over here.

Last weekend, Tone and I visited memorabilia in Birmingham, which was fairly cool. Thankfully there wasn't too much that tempted me (I resisted the urge to pick up the animated Justice League-style JSA, Doom Patrol and Animal Man & Adam Strange figures, as I am partial to that range) but did find a stall dealing in European graphic albums.

At first, I was NOT impressed: I've been getting into the work of Vittorio Giardino after stumbling upon an old 80s reprint of his work in the new Gosh shop a few months ago. I can't seem to find affordable copies of the A Jew In Communist Prague trilogy but have managed to pick up some other work and recently paid £15 plus postage for Hungarian Rhapsody. That was a bargain price for the 1930s-set John le Carré style espionage thriller and it turned up shortly before I went to Memorabilia...and found it for a POUND. And there were THREE copies. Bastards...

Anyway, my hope of nabbing any of the Prague books wasn't fulfilled but I took a punt on a few other discoveries. I picked up three albums for a quid each (so even if they were terrible, it's no major loss at that price) and another three Humanoids hardbacks for £3 each.

I haven't read any of the Humanoids stuff yet (two works by Enki Bilal plus another one I picked up as the art was nice, reminiscent of Frank Quitely) bu the other three have all been well worth the pound. I've been wanting to sample the work of Hermann (the creator of Jeremiah, later turned into a TV series starring Luke perry that ran for two years) and the Abominations collection of horror stories was lightweight but I enjoyed them, so feel that I may return to his work at some point. Companions of the Dusk was the first instalment of a medieval series that never saw the later volumes translated (as far as I can tell), again lightweight but enjoyable.

The best of the ones I picked up was Billy Budd, KGB. It was still shrinkwrapped (from 1991!) so I couldn't sample the art but for £1, I took a chance and was glad that I did. A collection of three albums, this follows the indoctrination of a mysterious orphan into a sleeper agent programme devised by the newly emerging KGB. Things go awry after the agent has been living undercover for a while before ending in a psychologically symbolic manner rather than what you would expect. Really interesting album and I only realised later that I'd already come across artist François Boucq's work as I have one of his Bouncer (a Western, not a Neighbours tie-in) albums.

Let's hope the Humanoids is as good as these bargains...

Bank Holiday Stuff

Well, I had a list of eight things to do this weekend, and even with a day lost to babysitting I still managed to complete 6 of those items. Unfortunately, I started the seventh, a page of inks for Too Much Sex and Violence and gave up pretty quickly. The pens I was using are on their last legs and I can't get the control I wanted and quickly cocked up the inks. Together with a new idea for the last two panels, I may start over from scratch. I'll try and get the other page completed first to build my confidence back up again before trying another pass at it.

Anyway, here's the constipated inks along with a few other bits in various stages...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Two tweaked versions: a glossier sheen to Polaris and a recoloured Phoenix (tweaked from a rescanned version so resolution's not 100%)...

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Medusa Touch

As threatened, a colour version of the Medusa pic posted previously, also working on a coloured Phoenix...