Sunday, 19 December 2010

Multi-storey Tron Legacy: A Review

Put my review of Tron: Legacy review up on The Culture Vulture, featuring Obi Wan Kenobi, The Dude and Jeff Bridges' creepy CGI face.

I may have gone off on one a little about the problems in fiction in which writers get to set all their own world rules. Have an extract:

"The great strength and weakness of having a film set in a completely fabricated world is that said world’s creators get to decide on all of its rules. Those creators – director Joseph Kosinski, writers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and, of course, Steven M. Lisberger, the writer and director of the first Tronfilm and a producer on this one – pay lip service to The Grid being a visual representation of the behaviour of software (its inhabitants, for example, are called ‘programs’) but the reality (unreality?) of the situation is that it is a fantasy world with rules that have more to do with Harry Potter than Windows 7."

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Professional Nerd’s diary of Thought Bubble Festival Part 2

My write-up of Thought Bubble 2010 finally surfaced over on The Culture Vulture. TB was great this year. Partly because we had more staff on the OK Comics table, mostly because it was just great. I'd say more, but it's all through there. That said, have a little taste:

"10:30pm: Spot John Romita Jr, described by Marvel’s Editor in Chief as the greatest artist in comics, stood at the bar. I have been reading his comics since I’ve been reading. He’s comics royalty. Nearly let the fact that I have absolutely nothing constructive to say to him stop me from saying hi. Realise I don’t want this to be the day I almost met John Romita Jr and brusquely shove my friend Jack out of the way mid-sentence to go introduce myself. For the entire two minutes we talk he grips my hand like he could turn it into a calcium supplement. He’s very gracious about the fact I barely understand syllables right now. The only other three people in the world I would get like this with are Michael J. Fox, Stan Lee and Harrison Ford."

(While we're on the subject of Thought Bubble - here's my diary of TB2009).

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Leeds' Identity Crisis and the Perils of PR Bobbins

I had a guest post up on The Culture Vulture the other day. It's about Leeds, its identity and the problems with trying to form a cohesive narrative about any city. It's here. It ran with the picture above, which I took with my very own iPhone.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Last Saturday at OK Comics...

- I decided to go to work in an Empire Strikes Back t-shirt under an unfastened plaid shirt. I observed on Facebook that there are few things in this life that announce you as a comic shop employee like the aforementioned clothing combination and was vindicated by the 'likes' of several friends. Brendan also wore a t-shirt under an unfastened plaid shirt. This is not coincidence. It was confirmed for me that this look is BACK.

- Oliver was uncertain whether to follow the hype and buy Enslaved or follow his feelings and buy Castlevania. He went with Castlevania. This may be significant.

- Me and Kirsty are now a Leeds independent retail power couple. She worked at Crash Records for the first time in several years. She also helped with the window display at OK Comics.

- I discovered that the Valerian and Laureline translation I have been patiently waiting for has actually been on the shelf for at least a few weeks. RETAIL FAIL. (I toyed with dubbing this a 'REFAIL', but it just didn't work). I read French comics without being told to now.

- Mike Infinitum brought in several shortboxes that contained, amongst other things, late '90s X-Force and X-Men. While we tried to coat our enthusiasm under a slap-dash veneer of irony, there was no hiding the fact that me and Brendan were both genuinely excited about this. The excitement, though, was insufficient to prompt either of us to actually buy anything from the box.

- We sold some comics.

Monday, 27 September 2010

All-Star Superman in Moving Pictures! (Or 'a Trailer')

The trailer seems to miss the tone of the comics series entirely and instead opts for an end-of-the-world sort of feel. Could just be the cut of the trailer, I suppose, but...

I got a bad feeling about this.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

I Still Function

That last post was pretty out of the blue, eh? Yeah, I've been right quiet. That's largely due to copious amounts going on at SPOnG and other writing eating away at my spare time. I do hope to resume semi-regular posting here soon, though. In the meantime, I exist (in a random, not particularly ordered) capacity on Tumblr and, of course, on Twitter.

Project Waldo Has a Real Name Now

Yup, Nate Simpson's Project Waldo has a name now. It has a name because it might actually get released in the not-too-distant future. I have no idea how you're meant to write it without the benefit/luxury of graphic design software, so please just look upwards. I'm very excited at the prospect of being able to hold this soon.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Alpha Protocol: Reviewed to Hell

“I'm playing Alpha Protocol at the moment,” I said the to the staff down at my local games store.
“Hmmm...” replied Clarice (name changed for legal purposes). We all looked across the counter at a not-yet-for-sale copy they had on display.
“So, it's kind of like Fallout 3 crossed with Splinter Cell?” Pete half-asked, half-stated.
Holy turd-monkeys! That would be AMAZING, right?!
Yeah. It would.
“Maybe,” I said. “If, you know, they took the bits that make each of them good away and left you with something that plays a bit like a stale biscuit.”

In fairness, Alpha Protocol starts on a high. It opens with that old 'SEGA' noise you used to get on the Mega Drive. It's all a bit downhill from there.

Yes, the best bit was finishing it. Rest of the review's on that SPOnG website I work for.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

This is Where Scott Pilgrim Lived

When that damn dirty volcano left me starved of new comics for a week recently, I manually reignited my man-passion for Scott Pilgrim. Because I was having a pretty extreme nerd-out, I went so far as to track down the apartment he shared with Wallace Wells. I did it like some kind of weird stalker who tripped up and fell into a Grant Morrison comic about the crossover between reality and fiction. The picture above is what I found - it's the house on the left.

In case you care, I took the address from the package Ramona delivers to the apartment in Volume 1 (It's 27 Alberta ave, Toronto). I went to Google Maps, then Google Street View. Then, for the first time I really took to heart the fact that the pins Google sticks in maps to show addresses are made out of guesswork. So, I looked at visible house numbers, worked out how numbering on the street works then nailed the address using the power of my brain. I then felt pretty pleased with myself for a couple of minutes, then I felt a little sad.

Yes, it doesn't look exactly the same as in the comics. No, I don't think we should blame Bryan Lee O'Malley for that. We have only our own nerdish compulsions to blame for any sadness we feel about this fact.

If you want to see the location for yourself, go here.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Surviving the Comics Drought: Scott Pilgrim

Today, the Comics Drought started in earnest. Where there should have been lovely new comics in comic shops across the UK, there was only the taste of bitter ash. But, even ash clouds have silver linings (and other chipper sentiments). There's plenty of good stuff out there that didn't need flying in from the US this week, and now's the most ideal of all times to get into it.

So, if you haven't read Scott Pilgrim, in the name of all that is good and awesome, please do. Go down to your nearest comic shop and spit in the face of the volcanic prison cloud by getting Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, the start of one of the finest ongoing comics series this century. And if you already read it - well, you were probably planning on re-reading it before the last book and the film anyway, right?

Here's a review of Volume 5, Scott Pilgrim Vs The Universe, previously published in The Leeds Guide:

I had, literally, no idea. Until Scott Pilgrim Volume 3 came along nearly three years ago I was happily buying and loving comics week in, week out, loving the medium in all its variety like I loved nothing else in the world of entertainment, having somehow been missing one of the greatest new series to spawn from the brain of a comics creator in years. Another volume’s come and gone and, happily, Bryan Lee O’Malley has just unleashed volumefive5 - Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe (£9.99, Oni Press) - upon us.

Like many people, I initially glanced briefly at Scott Pilgrim’s round, black and white cuteness and dismissed it as more Oni Press fluff. Like many people, I was wrong. Scott Pilgrim might just be the best thing to happen to comics this millennium.

It chronicles the series’ namesake, Scott, in his battle to defeat the seven evil ex-boyfriends of his lady love, Ramona Flowers. Volume 5 doesn’t waste any time, and by page 14 Scott’s already fighting robots while Ramona, worryingly, stands in her Mexican Day of the Dead costume looking upsettingly indifferent. Video games, comics and music all take front and centre as Scott desperately tries to keep it together in the face of ever-mounting odds.

Volume 5, like its predecessors, is cool, smart, genuinely funny and steeped in pop cultural references. It is one of those truly rare artefacts in comics - a book that will actually make you laugh out loud as you’re effortlessly swept along by its breathless narrative. Reading it is like bathing in an entire vat of Original Source mint shower gel - so refreshing it could blow your head off.

If you won’t try out Scott Pilgrim on my say so, for God’s sake try it so you can look cool when the Edgar Wright film adaptation comes out some time in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future.

More Comics Drought suggestions here, here and on Twitter. If you've got some suggestions of your own, hit me up!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts in Your Telly

Trailer for a documentary about Warren Ellis from the chaps who made that Grant Morrison film that time. Yeah, I'll tell you their name. It's Sequart.

Surviving the Comics Drought: 45

As I mentioned earlier, there's a Comics Drought on. Survival instincts are kicking in and, lest our brains melt and we forget how to read, it's time to start digging into that to-read list. We Keepers of the Bright-ish Nerd Flame have to show Mother Nature that the titanic and ancient forces of geology aren't enough to keep us from comics! Comics are a big deal, guys. Anyway, another recommendation follows. Up today is another one from my Leeds Guide columns - Andi Ewington's 45. Here it is:

In a comics marketplace that has grown comfortable with the tried and tested capes and tights formula, it's increasingly rare to come across a superhero title that does something (dare we say it?) new. It comes as something as a surprise, therefore, to find Andi Ewington positively belching forth fresh air with 45 (Com.x, £11.99)

Not strictly speaking a graphic novel, 45 is a collection of interviews with super-humans (Super-S, for 45's purposes) conducted by an almost-absent protagonist, journalist James Stanley. The birth of his child is creeping closer and, unsure of whether it will be born Super-S, he sets out to discover what it means to live your life as a superman.

Each interview comes with a full-page illustration by a different artist from a line-up that reads like a who's-who of British comics – Trevor Hairsine, Sean Phillips and Frazer Irving are just a few of the big names lending their pencil to the project. The interviews are by turns funny, thrilling, thoughtful and tragic. The beauty of 45 is that all of them – despite the 'super' nature of their subjects – are brimming with humanity.

While these snapshots of supermen would be satisfying on their own, taken together they form an intriguing larger narrative – one that illuminates both a father already in love with his child and shadowy forces at work in the wider world. If you put 'man' before 'super' there's a lot to enjoy here.

Got something to add? Comment, send me a mail or hit me up on Twitter!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Oh My God, That Volcano Killed Comics!

UK retailers have been told that they will not receive US comics with their deliveries this week thanks to the volcanic prison cloud blanketing the UK. The delivery has not been able to make it to our island shores from the US. As you will no doubt be aware, US imports make up the vast majority of any given week's new comics. This is not very good news. This is even worse than the impending volcano-fuelled banana shortage.

No-one likes a pessimist, though, so I'm turning to the silver lining on that black, lightening-tickled ash cloud. I will be taking the opportunity to catch up on my reading backlog - namely the graphic novels and TPBs I've been meaning to get around to but haven't because I'm usually too swamped by singles. I've got The Beats, written by Harvey Pekar, to finish. I also want to try out DC's R.E.B.E.L.S., mostly because I've recently been turned on to Andy Clarke's art by Batman and Robin. I also intend to hassle Jared at OK Comics (my sometime workplace) to tell me about something good I haven't read. I've never really ventured into porn comics, for example.

But, enough about me. In the spirit of nerd camaraderie in the face of the Great Comics Drought of 2010, I'm also going to put up a series of posts recommending GNs and TPBs to fill the void. Many of them will be culled from my past Leeds Guide Columns, so if you read those already you should go back to surfing for pictures of Karen Gillan.

First up, awesome hipster douche comics (superhero stuff to follow). It's Asterios Polyp:

Anyone seen David Mazzucchelli anywhere? No? That’s because he’s been out in the comics wilderness, casting aside his superhero roots (Batman: Year One, Daredevil, both with the celebrated Frank Miller) and crafting a work that stands as his magnum opus.

Asterios Polyp (Pantheon, £24.99) is a beautiful, whimsical and highly intelligent original graphic novel recounting the life of its namesake (yes, that’s the name of a person). If I was forced to sum up what it’s about, I’d say that it’s about an architect who forged himself a career and reputation based on a series of designs for buildings that have never been built, before dropping out of his life to rebuild it from the ground up. If you caught me in a more reflective (or pompous, you choose) moment, however, I’d tell you that it’s an investigation of the point at which art intersects with life. It's about everything.

Mazzucchelli uses the space offered by his first OGN to probe the form of comics with an eye for storytelling that's both impeccably precise and warmly endearing. His panels flow seamlessly into one another with what appears to be casual ease, but closer inspection reveals that there's not a line in the entire book that isn't there for a reason. His art style and colour palette change constantly throughout the book, but the changes blend so perfectly with the story beats that, as with great special effects, you probably won't think to question them.

While Mazzucchelli has devoted painstaking attention to the mechanisms he employs to move us through the story, don't think that Asterios Polyp is a slave to form at the expense of content. As the cartoonist goes about enamouring us with a man who should be unlikeable, he takes us wandering down paths that effortlessly weave the 'real' with the decidedly surreal and cross the tracks of art, architecture, philosophy and religion.

If there’s a complaint to be made about Asterios Polyp, it’s about its length. It weighs in at a hefty 344 pages, but they’re 344 fast pages. Still, it's a read that justifies the asking price and won't soon slip out of your gently massaged brain.

If you have any recommendations of your own, please go nuts in the comments. Also: !!!

(Also: volcano pic from here).

Friday, 16 April 2010

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Brandon Graham Did it Again

"Here's a Sexica commision I did", says King City artist Brandon Graham over on his blog. He's put up another of those great, sprawling posts that's reminiscent of swandiving into someone's brain. You should read it.

Meanwhile, Jared has turned up a copy of the first Tokyopop King City book over at OK Comics, meaning I get the chance to get ahead and read the apparently un-shipped Image issue that went awol earlier in the year. But that's me.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Still Alive: Comics Podcast Recommendations

So, yes, it's been a while. But I still live! I've been up to my elbows in work and whatnot, as well as getting up to my shins in a separate project I'm mulling over. I've also been rooting around some blogs about writing, so (since the aforementioned project involves a bit/lot of that) you might see a bit of such blogging turning up here.

And I've been digging up decent comics podcasts to listen to. I hate 'dead time' - time walking places, in the car, time with not a lot to occupy my brain. Rather than stewing in my own thoughts and listening to music recently, I've been pulling up podcasts. Here's what I've got so far:

Word Balloon, hosted by John Siuntres - my favourite. Mostly consists of some really in-depth conversations with big-name creators. If you're into a writer or artist John has on, this is well worth a listen. I've also enjoyed some of the more analytical episodes, featuring the likes of Newsarama's Vaneta Rogers, which explore the bigger picture.

Around Comics - sadly nearing its final episode. I'm easily turned off by 'conversation shows' which feature roundtable discussions from enthusiasts. I'm dubious about what they're bringing to the table that I couldn't get in a conversation at OK Comics, but I was led to it by the aforementioned John Siuntres and discovered some interesting chat from well-informed panelists (is that even the right word?).

War Rocket Ajax. When the guests are good, the show is. Really enjoyed the Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim) and Cherie Priest (Boneshaker) episodes. It is, however, a bit long.

Awesomed by Comics from husband and wife team Aaron and Evie. Literally just started listening to this one. They're both journalists. They're both weird in a non-scary way. They're both kinda funny.

Geek's Guide to the Galaxy
. This is the most intensely nerdy podcast I've come across yet, which is quite awesome. Covers a range of geeky topics, not just comics.

SPOnGcast. It's not about comics, it's about games. But I could hardly do a post about podcasts and not mention the one I'm in, could I? The beardy man (Tim, SPOnG editor) would do something foul.

So, that's that. I would really like to hear some suggestions for other good shows I'm missing. Let me know in the comments! Or, y'know, by any other means you fancy... (Carrier budgie!)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Dan Clowes' Awesome TCAF Poster

This is Daniel Clowes' rather excellent poster for the 2010 Toronto Comic Arts Festival. (You can tell that's what it is, because it says so on the bottom). TCAF is a bit prone to awesome posters. Remember Bryan Lee O'Malley's offering from last year?

The TCAF 2010 line-up is here.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Dark Void: The Rocketeer Meets Fox Mulder

My Dark Void review has gone up on SPOnG.

It starts like this: "Now that I can get my phone to tell me where my car is and buy sex toys built to be exact replicas of the vaginas and anuses of famous porn stars, the future must surely have started." Then I actually wrote about the game, and how it's quite good fun but just not quite... well, good enough.

Also (and I have literally no idea why I haven't posted about this before) I've got recent comics reviews up there for Mass Effect: Redemption #1 and Army of Two #1, what them being games-based.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The A-Team Movie Trailer Dribbled Free

The A-Team movie trailer leaked, so it did...

Alternatively, there's a better resolution (really slow loading) version here.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Thought Bubble 2010 Gets a Date

Next year's Thought Bubble has a date, which is not a weird way of saying the Leeds Comic-Con is getting abstractly romantic so much as it is a way of saying we know when it's happening now. The Con's official Twitter stream tells us that it will be happening from 18th - 21st November.

Last year's con - or 'Sequential Art Festival', if you prefer its (yes, slightly woofy) self-ascribed moniker - was excellent. The calibre of the guests was impressive as ever (Frank Quitely and Ben Templesmith were among the attendees) but the highlight for many (I might just mean 'me') was the quality of the small press work on display. More details on TB2009 here.

And yes, I had to re-use my awesome Iron Man pic taken at the main event on Saturday.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Leeds Crows Love Dixie Chicken

"The Leeds crows love Dixie Chicken. They can be found in the wicked grey dawn, pecking through cheap carrier bags to pick at the bones of leftover Original Recipe peices. At night they perch atop the Grand Theatre, watching drunken girls stumbling in their heels with Sizzler burgers, peering through their beady black eyes, occasionally braving a swoop to scare chilli sauce drenched chips from the gitls' orange fingers. (Chilli sauce with chicken is a stroke of genius only Dixie understands). The crows eye the punters of neighbouring Chicken Cottage with suspicion, because while the queues are shorter the chicken is inferior (though it will do at a push). Leeds crows will fight you hard for Dixie Chicken."

From a book I'm thinking about turning random notes into.