Tuesday, November 29, 2005

First look at Young Gods #2!

Well, as promised, here is the first sneak peak at #2 of The Young Gods. This is a panel from page four, where we first learn that Revenant can turn invisible as well as intangible. That's something that his team mates don't know yet. He's worried about how they'll react when they find out. Especially if they find out he's been spying on one of them. Ah...young love...

Hopefully the step up in quality from #1 should be fairly clear. If you haven't seen #1 yet, just click on the link on the right for a free downloadable copy. Yeah, the eBay thing didn't work, and I figure the more online fans I can amass now, the better chance I have of getting this book published.

On the subject of publishing, things are inching their way along in that department. I recently popped onto the Markosia forum to say hello and Harry from Markosia kindly replied thus:

"Hi Ian!

It was good to see you too! You certainly have put together a very interesting package. As I explained, if things move the way we hope over the next few months then we'll chat again.
In the meantime, we'll see you in Bristol!

Harry M"

Defintely a positive sign. So get out there and buy Markosia comics! I'd particularly recommend Midnight Kiss. It's an excellent modern fairy tale. You can order it and their many other fine publications direct from their website...again, there's a link to the right. Go get it....go on....now!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Blogging along....

...singing a song....side by side....

God I'm bored.

Well, nearly a week since Comic Expo and I haven't heard anything yet, but I wans't really expecting to so soon. It feels like ages ago though. Mainly because I'm so fed up with work and wish I could just pack it in and do my comic full time. That's a long way off I suppose but I've just had enough of the daily grind.

Issue two is well underway now and it's looking fantastic. For the...um...about one of you that's read #1....it makes that look poor. I'll probably post a few frames here next week so that you can get an idea of how good it looks.

The last couple of days I've been wondering about self-publishing, which I'm generally desperate to avoid. I have no head for business and would prefer to concentrate on the creative side of things. However, I did check out www.lulu.com which is one posibility. They do publishing on demand and handle the money side of things, and it's free, they only take a percentage of any money made from sales. I don't think it would be practical to use them for publishing a monthly book but if I complete all six issues before I find a publisher then I might consider putting out a tpb via LuLu, and spending the money to get on Amazon via them too. Needs a lot more thought first though...particularly on the marketing side. I've looked into advertising rates in Comics International, not a huge readership but it is the audience I'm trying to reach. Or am I? Do I just want to cater for people who already read comics or do I want to reach people who wouldn't normally read comics? Of course, if I really want to reach comic readers I guess I should look into advertising in Wizard, although I suspect their rates will be a little further out of my reach than CI's. But...they are American and the exchange rate would be in my favour there...

Still, this is why I want a publisher, so I don't have to think about stuff like this!

So...now I know my stuff is good enough I'm almost more frustrated than ever. I want to get it out there now!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Comic Expo report back!

(Don't miss my Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire review! Scroll down...)

Well, I guess some of you are wondering how my trip to the Comic Expo went this weekend?

The anser is that it went really, really well. I talked to up and coming UK publisher Markosia Comics about publishing the Young Gods and they were VERY interested. Nothing's likely to happen before March, but we talked about doing a six issue limited series followed by a trade paperback. It's very early days, we only talked for about ten or fifteen minutes, and I'm waiting to hear back from them now.

But, it was very, very encouraging. At the most I was expecting to get some encouragement from a few people at the con, I didn't dare to dream that someone would be seriously interested in publishing the book.

I'll post a link to their website in the right hand column and keep you posted if there are any new developements.

I'm trying not to get too excited though...I don't want to end up disappointed.

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


Okay, a tiny bit of background, like many, many, many other people I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I've read all the books. have all the films on DVD and, in fact, saw the last film at the cinema three times - and that was before I had an unlimited card.

Book 4, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, is probably my favourite of all the Harry Potter books so far. It's the book where Harry starts to grow up, and he, Ron and Hermione really make the transition from kids to teenagers. It marked the series transition from relatively short novels to big, thick thumping great tomes. A LOT happens in the book and director Mike Newell (best known for Four Weddings and a Funeral) took on a big challenge in attempting to translate this book to the big screen.

Incredibly, he succeeds, fantastically. The studio originally wanted to make The Goblet of Fire into two films, however, Newell decided to focus the film on harry's story, on the book's main plot, and it works well. Yes, there is a LOT missing which will disappoint fans of the book (gone are the Dursleys, SPEW, Winky, Harry's first date and first kiss, etc), but Newell has captured the essence of the book perfectly. The characters are all developed and the overaching plot is moved on.

Newell is obviously a fan of Cauron's slightly darker tone from Prosoner of Askaban as Goblet of Fire retains much of the feel of that film. Each director in this series has the huge advantage of working with a group of actors who are maturing with each other, and so inevitably produce a better performance with each film. Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley, really shines in this film, and shows himself to be a great comic actor. Whereas Emma Watson stole the show as Hermione last time, this time it's Ron that steals the show.

That's not to downplay Dan Radcliffe's Harry though, as this is by far his best performance to date in the title role. Wheares one could criticise the previous film for feeling more like Hermione Granger and the Prosioner of Askaban, Goblet of Fire is undoubtedly Harry's movie.

This film is both very funny and very dark, and the entire audience regularly bust into loud laughter during the showing. I went to a late showing so there were very few kids in the audience, but be advised, this is NOT a film for small children, there are some VERY scary parts. This film is a lot darker than any of the others. That darkness is best personified by the presence, for the first time, of Lord Voldemort himself, fully whole again and played exquisitely by Ralph Feinnes (in his second excellent movie of the month!). He just oozes evil and menace here, but also brings a certain humanity to Voldemort, reminding us that he is very much a man who has become twisted and evil, rather than just a monster, some otherworldy spirit of evil.

I really cannot find one thing to criticise about this film. The only thing wrong with it is that it's not longer, but I 100% understand why the cuts were made...and if you want a longer version, read the book!

Outstanding in every way.

Rating: 10/10

Friday, November 18, 2005

Young Gods #1 only 1p!

To celebrate my trip to tomorrow's ComicExpo, which I'm still very nervous about, I'm offering Young Gods #1 for only 1p on eBay!

Okay, okay, it's also to do with the fact that no-one's actually bought a copy yet and I thought that offering it for a penny would be a good way to encourage people to try it.

So, click the link to the right and go get it! What have you got to lose, other than a penny?

Hopefully tomorrow will be productive and I'll find someone to publich the book properly tomorrow, at least I'm hoping to make a few good contacts.

See you when I get back!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Movie Review: In Her Shoes

This week is shaping up to be an excellent week for movies.

Having seen some trailers for this "chick flick" I really wasn't too excited about seeing it. However, Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette were both on Jonathan Ross's show this week promoting it and the chemistry they obviously share was enough to get me along to my local multiplex to check it out (and having an Unlimited card didn't hurt...).

All I can say is ignore the trailers and see this movie (after you've seen The Constant Gardener, of course). One word of warning though, girls, be prepared for your mascara to run...

"In her Shoes" focuses on the relationship between Maggie and Rose Feller, played by Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette. Rose is the responsible older sister, slightly frumpy with a good job which has completely taken over her life. Maggie is the wild, carefree, younger sister, whose penchant for excess causes constant conflict between them, especially as Rose feels so protective towards her.

Like most "chick flicks" this is a love story, but its strength lies in the fact that it is not about romantic love, but the love between two sisters. Both Collette and Diaz get this relationship spot on and, personally, I feel that both should be sitting expectantly on Oscar night. Both characters are just so real and three dimensional, I really didn't realise that Cameron Diaz was capable of such good acting. She displays such vulnerability in her portrayal of Maggie's struggles with illiteracy that one forgets for a moment that she is better known for her ability to belch in public than her acting skills (although the former is, in my opinion, just as impressive as the later).

The supporting cast are just as excellent, and unsurprisingly the stand out performance from among them comes from Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine. She plays the girls' estranged grandmother, Ellen, who was shut out of their lives by their father after their mother's death.

One of the many things I loved about this movie was the fact that it's most emotional moment is not about who's sleeping with who, but it is about Maggie's discovery that her "best day ever," the most cherished memory from her childhood, is actually remembered as a terrible, painful day by the rest of her family. The events of her "best day" led directly to her mother's death, but she was too young at the time to know it, and Rose protected her from knowing at the time and has ever since. Maggie's emotional maturity has been stunted by her sister's desire to protect her from the pain that is shared by the rest of her family, and it is this that has set her on a course of self destructive behaviour.

Okay, all that sounds very deep, but the wonderful thing about this movie is that it is infused throughout with a subtle, gentle humour. Even the most loathsome person in the film, Rose's boss Jim (played by 24's Richard Burgi) is not so much an evil slimeball as just a plain old idiot.

Ultimately, this is not just another "chick flick," it's an excellent movie about two sisters, not learning to love each other, because they already do, but learning to live with each other. Possibly the biggest challenge that faces any siblings. You just can't help loving them no matter what they do.

rating: 9/10

Monday, November 14, 2005

Movie Review: The Constant Gardener

Go and see this film.

As you sit in the cinema silently weeping at the injustice of fictional African children dying needlessly to boost the profits of fictional multi-national corporations aided by fictional government officials ponder this: the truth is worse.

One of this weekend's big news stories was the HIV positive man who received no treatment for his condition and yet is now free of the virus. The experts on TV have said that this is impossible, but has definitely happened, but could be some kind of "freak" incident. Was I the only one paying attention in science at school? The scientists tell us that the HIV virus alters our DNA and that this process, once it has happened, is irreversible. They are now faced with a verified case of someone being infected with the virus and now being clear. So...their irreversible process has been reversed. And yet, no-one is willing to say, "Our initial hypothesis must be wrong." Come on, people, this is simple scientific method. If there is even one piece of evidence that is contrary to your hypothesis then that hypothesis must be wrong.

I wasn't at all surprised to find out that someone who tested positive for HIV could receive no treatment and yet later be tested negative, not after some of the stuff I've been reading online recently. Simple fact: no-one has ever actually found the AIDS virus. It's effects have been supposedly seen and recorded, but the actual virus itself remains illusive. Therefore, HIV tests do not actually test for the presence of the virus itself, but rather they look at the quantity of white blood cells in the patient's blood. HIV supposedly attacks the immune system so a lower white blood cell count will indicate the presence of the virus. Of course, it's a bit more complicated than that, but that's basically it. There is a strong suggestion that what actually kills people who are diagnosed as HIV positive is not the as-yet-to-actually-be-found virus, but the drugs that people are given to combat it.

Faced with evidence to this effect, the President of South Africa tried to stop the many, many people who are dying from AIDS in his country from receiving AIDS drugs. I say "tried" because I believe that he was ultimately unsuccessful, I'll let you speculate as to why.

What does this have to do with this film? Well, if this is all true then millions of people are not dying in Africa from a horrific sexually transmitted disease...they are being systematically poisoned by multi-national pharmaceutical companies. The Constant Gardener does not nearly go this far, although it is lightly hinted at, but at it's core is the theme of corporate disregard for African life.

Ralph Fiennes plays Justin Quayle, a British diplomat working in Africa, who falls in love with and marries Tessa, played by Rachel Weisz. Justin and Tessa's is a wirlwind romance and there is an ever-present suspicion that she is just using him. Her close relationship with African doctor Arnold Bluhm adds to Justin's suspicions and it is very clear that she is hiding a lot from him. What remains clear is that Justin is totally in love with her. Justin's world is turned upside down when Tessa is discovered brutally murdered somewhere she shouldn't have been, and Arnold has gone missing.

All this sets up a tense and interesting thriller, but, of course, that's not what this movie is really about at all. Tessa's big secret was not an affair with Arnold, but that she was investigating a pharmaceutical company's testing of a new TB drug. They know the drug can be potentially fatal but they can save themselves millions in redevelopment costs by testing it on Africans and then disposing of those who suffer this unfortunate side effect.

This film succeeds by showing you an Africa that we very rarely get to see on our TV and movie screens. We are so used to seeing Africans portrayed as famine victims, or as backward people who persist in tribal warfare and barbarism...but here they are simply people. Yes, this film does this most successfully when highlighting the needless suffering of children. Yes, that is manipulative. But it gets the point across, and that point is valid.

"The Constant Gardener" could easily have become a worthy and boring film, but every time the movie threatens to flag and start to bore, the director introduces yet another excellent British actor to recapture your interest. Bill Nighy and Pete Postlethwaite are most notable for this. Both pop up almost when you least expect them to and light up the screen.

The backbone of this film, though, is the relationship between Justin and Tessa. Both Fiennes and Weisz deserve oscar nominations at least for their performances here. They expertly portray what is a genuinely complex, touching and very real relationship. The secrets she is forced to keep from him for his protection drive them apart but at the same time it's clear that it's their love which keeps them firmly together.

This is a very brave film but one can't help but think it's a shame that many who see it will simply dismiss it as a work of fiction when it is clearly trying to highlight very real injustices which are taking place in our world today. Indeed, I've already seen it described by one on-line commentator as "another piece of anti-capitalist propaganda." It is a shame that those few people who are brave enough to point out just how badly we have treated the people of Africa can be so easily dismissed as "bleeding heart liberals."

Life is life, and all life is equally precious. The fact that so many can so easily dismiss the deaths of so many because they are a different colour or because they are a long way away is, frankly, chilling.

In closing, go see this film.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, November 11, 2005

Movie Review: The Brothers Grimm

I don't think it would be unfair to describe ex-Python Terry Gilliam's directorial career as hit and miss. While always full of fantastic images and wonderful ideas his movies don't always deliver a fully satisfying cinematic experience. Sadly, The Brothers Grimm is no different, and perhaps worse.

I have a lot of time for Gilliam's work, which includes Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys and a famously failed attempt to film an adaptation of Don Quixote.

From the buzz I'd been getting from The Brothers Grimm I had thought that Gilliam had finally cracked it and made a film that people would actually go and see, and as I took my seat among a packed audience I thought my suspicions had been confirmed.

Sadly, I was wrong, but it's hard to pinpoint why. The characters are great, the actors are all fantastic (check out Heath Ledger doing Alan Partridge for the whole film) and the whole thing is suitably bonkers in traditional Gilliamesque style. Actually...no...there's where it begins to fall down...it's not quite bonkers enough...either that or it's too bonkers. The film is just never sure of the tone it's trying to set. Is it taking itself seriously? Clearly not. Is it totally bonkers. No. The other area in which the film fails is in getting you to engage with the characters. You like them, but you really don't care that much about them. Gilliam fails to put them in any situations of genuine peril, you never truly fear for their lives, and so you will never come anywhere near to the edge of your seat. It's surprising to me that Gilliam, of all directors, fails to fully utilize the underlying feeling of genuine terror in the Grimm fairy tales.

I had hoped that this film would really serve to vindicate Gilliam after the disaster that was Baron Munchausen, but what we seem to have is a Gilliam film that's afraid to really...well...be a Gilliam film.

That said, there are some lovely touches, I've already mentioned that Heath Ledger seems to be channeling the spirit of Alan Partridge for the whole movie, and Matt Damon is equally at home playing "English." Of course, this is absurd for a movie set in French occupied Germany, but Gilliam is clearly having fun playing with accents in this movie. The children with badly dubbed Newcastle accents recall those dodgy European kid's serials that the BBC used to show in badly dubbed form, like Heidi and that awful one about the kid who lost his laugh. But even this is slightly too subtle and sometimes just makes the film seem badly done, and if you don't get the joke then it could totally ruin the film.

This film could have been brilliant, but it fails in so many areas that I left the cinema feeling totally flat and entirely disappointed. Usually Gilliam's genius more than makes up for the many shortcomings that his films exhibit, but there's just not enough genius here for me to recommend this.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, November 07, 2005

Comic Expo: Nervous....

This month sees the first Comic Expo to be held in Brighton in the UK. I haven't been to many comic book conventions. My first was UKCAC back in 1990 (I think) and I attended the Glasgow Comic Convention back in...um...'94? '95? I'm not sure. The first was purely as a fan. The second was as a penciller. I am NOT a penciller, nor will I ever be. To be fair, there were a few small press/indy people who were interested in my pencils. But, I was young and stupid and so didn't persue any of those contacts.

Anyway, this time I'm attending as a creator in search of a publisher. I am going fully prepared for everyone to tell me they're not interested, I'm expecting some rude comments and I'm hoping for, at best, a few encouraging remarks. We'll see.

Actually, I'm terrified. I REALLY want to find someone to publish my comic and I just know I'm not going to be able to stop my mind racing away with fantastic ideas. Got to keep feet firmly planted on ground. Hopefully I'll make some good contacts though, and this time I'll be sure to follow up on them. My fear and trepidation actually stopped me from saying anything to my wife about the convention until today. I deliberately convinced myself that she'd say "No" so I wouldn't have to deal with actually asking people if they'd be interested in publishing my work...face to face...gulp. Of course she said yes. Hopefully a very kind person (ie. my dad) will look after our kids while we make the trip. Maybe he'll say no and then I can put it off until the convention in May...

Now I have to figure out what I'm going to take with me. I'll need to get some sample copies of #1 made up (it's handy working at a printers sometimes) and do a whole info pack about the book. Maybe I should include some bits about Shine? Or should I keep the focus on The Young Gods? Argh!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Young Gods #1 eBay Exclusive E-comic!

Excuse the excitement but, hey...

The very first issue of my new comic book, The Young Gods, can now be ordered from eBay for the paltry sum of £2.00. It's an e-comic, in PDF format, so there's no p+p charge.

Just click the link to the right and it will take you straight to the eBay listing. Some of you may have downloaded the free version which was previously available via that link, but the eBay version is completely revamped, with clearer images, revised lettering, covers, credits and a short bio all about little ol' me.

The Young Gods

In the year 2086 humanity faces a new threat, Extra Humans. The government is struggling to cope with the growing number of mutants, aliens and supernatural beings who are living amongst us. People are beginning to panic and so, in 2050, the Department for Extra Human Affairs was established with a remit to try and contain the problem. By 2086 the D.E.H.A. is struggling to cope, so they have formed a new rapid response strike force, The Young Gods. Who better to police the Extra Human community than Extra Humans themselves.

This group of young misfits and rebels must learn to work together despite facing conflict from within and from without. How can they follow a leader they have no faith in? How can they fight people they used to count as allies?

Their first mission sees them taking on an ancient evil, Malak. He is a Nephilim, an ancient race that was spawned when fallen angels mated with human women. He’s seeking a way to bring his “fathers” through to our world, and only the Young Gods stand in his way.

The series is action packed, but the focus is not on the action itself, but on the characters and how they react to the situations they find themselves in. One of the overarching themes of the first six issue story arc is betrayal, and how this affects the leader of the group, Paladin.

Weaving together elements of the X-Men, The DaVinci Code, conspiracy theories, Graham Hancock’s books and much more, the Young Gods is sure to appeal to many.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Movie Review: Corpse Bride

Happy Halloween!

Appropriately enough, my latest trip to the local multiplex saw me experiencing Tim Burton's latest stop-motion masterpiece, Corpse Bride.

In a world where animation houses are shutting down their "traditional" animation department in favour of computer generated movies, the last few months have proved that "tradtional" methods, such as cell shading (see the excellent "Howl's Moving Castle") and stop motion, in the form of Wallace and Gromit and Corpse Bride are very much alive and kicking.

If anything, these movies prove that what has made such CGI masterpieces as Monsters Inc and The Incredibles so successful is not the method by which they are animated but the strength of the stories they've been telling, and the excellence of the vocal talents they've employed. Recent damp squibs like Shark Tale and Madagascar have proved that cutting edge CGI doesn't garauntee you a great movie (either that or no-one can do it properly except Pixar). Disney have, supposedly, abandoned traditional cel animationafter the poor performance of recent cel shaded pictures such as Brother Bear. However, one could argue that The Incredibles was not far more successful than Brother Bear because it was CGI, but because it's very concept was intrisincally more commercial. Personally, I did not go to see Brother Bear, not because it was cel shaded, but because it simply did not interest me. Traditional animation can still enthrall kids, my own kids sat glued to The Black Cauldron which was shown on the Disney Channel the other day...and that's not even a particularly good film!

Anyway, enough ranting, what of Corpse Bride?! I've been a fan of Tim Burton's work since Beetle Juice, but his movies are often a bit hit and miss. I find his work often full of great ideas that just don't quite work on screen. For every Edward Scissorhands or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory there's a Mars Attacks or a Big Fish...neither of them bad films...they just don't quite work. Then there are his flirtations with the "Summer Blockbuster"...the Batman films and Planet of the Apes...where the genius clearly struggles against the corporate realities of Hollywood. It is in the realm of pure imagination, however, that Burton truly shines, with the stop motion masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas and now with Corpse Bride.

Looking through Burton's filmography it seems clear that he's at his best when working with Johnny Depp, and once again Depp shines when directed by Burton as the nervous groom, Victor Van Dort. Depp is joined by a wonderful cast of fine British actors, including Emily Watson, Tracey Ullman, Paul Whitehouse, Joanna Lumley, Albery Finney, Richard E. Grant, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough (who I though was dead...), Jane Horrocks and, last but by no means least, Helena Bonham Carter as the titular Corpse Bride herself. This cast is simply wonderful and they really bring life to the movie.

The visuals are nothing but stunning. As good as Wallace and Gromit is, the animation here is just ina different class. It seems so real. You buy into the world instantly as Burton's animators craft a world so rich and full of detail that it's hard to believe it's all model work and puppets. The contrast between the dull and lifeless real world and the colourful and vibrant underworld is very stark and serves to make Victor's struggle to choose between his corpse bride and his living and breathing betrothed in the real world only more believable. The character designs are equally inspired, although the appearance of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott as Victoria's (Victor's fiance) father was surprising!

The music provides the movies highest point and also its one main weakness. There are two piano pieces, one when Victor and Victoria first meet, and a duet between Victor and Emily, the corpse bride. Both are outstanding and really give you a lift. The sound of the piano cuts through the movie so beautifully it will transport you to another place. On the other hand, the film's songs are a disappointment. They're not bad but they are completely unmemorable. This is a shame because even one stand out song of the kind that gets stuck in your head for days would have made the soundtrack a must have and would have elevated this film to the status of classic. As it is, the songs feel a little pointless and misplaced.

Overall, Corpse Bride is a wonderful movie and not to be missed.

Rating: 8/10