Saturday 21 July 2007


saturday night.

Saturday night ("is the loneliest night of the week; it's the night that my sweetie and I used to dance cheek to cheek. I don't mind Sunday night at all, that's the night friends come to call, but saturday night is the loneliest night of the week" (old sammy Cahn lyric)). When you work at home all week and suit yourself about your comings and goings, all the nights of the week are the same. And so I find myself sitting here at nine in the evening (the time at the foot of this post is bogus- I set the clock to New York time for reasons I cannot recall), determined to write a few words so I can uphold my daily blogging record. I've been busy photocopying The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard all afternoon, and now I've slipped wee cal a twenty to glue it all together for me to show my editor in San Diego.

One thing caught my attention this morning when I did my news-gathering, in fact it made me laff. That's Tom Spurgeon's notes on this news item
Cartoonist Confesses to Not Graduating

" ...the cartoonist Lee Hyeon-se, a college dropout that had lied about it in an early interview and kept the lie as part of his resume. ... I can't imagine any advantage a cartoonist would gain by having people think they received a college degree over their being a drop-out or getting kicked out of the first grade or something. In fact, if St. Peter gives me a quiz on education levels of cartoonists after I kick the bucket, I'm likely going straight to hell. A cartoonist might as well have told a lie about whether or not they rode a horse."
It reminded me that I occasionally find myself cross-examining myself about what the hell happened with my 'formal' education. Sometimes I facetiously say that 'school was an interruption to my education'. The fact is, I failed all my a-levels, presumably because my head was elsewhere, then I did a one year foundation course at the Central School of Art and design in London, but failed to get accepted for a diploma course in a specialist subject, and I never could figure out what went wrong, I was a leading student that year, and not just in my own head I think. I could always see clearly in my mind's eye where I was going and what I intended to achieve, but recently when I loosely pitched an idea to an editor, I realized that the things in an artist's noodle are not likely to be clear to anybody in the world except him/her/self. We really do need to draw a picture. But in drawing the picture you're just getting out there and getting on with it anyway. Nowadays the educational establishment accepts that the world is changing so fast that many of the jobs and much of the work of the future doesn't exist in the present. Insofar as education is preparing kids for the working environment, imagination and adaptability are thus key qualities. Though whether Alan Moore's line in The Birth Caul no longer applies I would not be prepared to say:
"The real curriculum is punctuality, obedience and the acceptance of monotony... those skills we shall require in later life; oblique aversion therapy to cure us of our thirst for information, and condition us so that thereafter we forge an association between indolence and pleasure."
Though, like Tom, I would think it absurd to falsely claim a qualification unless there was specific short term gain in the balance. I can't even remember the last time I had to compose a resume. In fact, I don't think I've ever had to pretend to have one, at least since my last day job in 1986, in which I was a filing clerk deliberately working under my qualified capacity (high school, a handful of 'o-levels').
Perhaps my readers have an opinion on the matter.

The wife of my bosom just kissed me goodnight, so that'll be me off to my beddybyes.
Good night all.


Friday 20 July 2007

"Everybody out of the pool!"

O ver the last month I've had four meetings with a duo of tv producers. I can't say more about that right now, and will have to leave it dangling there. But we got talking about shared enthusiasms, one of which is the films of Norman Jewison, and one of these fine chaps lent me the recent autobiography (sept 2005) of the esteemed director. Jewison is the only movie director I can think of that I ever followed movie by movie as they came out, from Fiddler on the Roof through Rollerball, while simultaneously scrutinising the tv guides to catch up with his back catalogue (this was even before home videotape). Thus virtually everything he had done previously came within reach: In the Heat of the Night, The Cincinatti Kid and the gorgeously stylish Thomas Crown Affair. Even his early Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedy and The Art of Love with Dick van Dyke and James Garner, a daft story of which I was fond enough that it brought itself to mind and was referred to in the Fate of the Artist (page 27). I lost interest in the details after Rollerball, which interestingly, Jewison also does in his own book (making exceptions for Moonstruck ('87), and The Hurricane ('99) and maybe he did a little in actuality too.

Reading Jewison's book reminded me of a few things I'd forgotten, such as that In the Heat of the Night won the oscar for best movie the same year Mike Nichols won for best director with The Graduate. And it filled in a couple of later things I had wondered about.There are not so many movies made these days that a large number of people can eke careers out of the big screen. You find yourself impressed with an actor but never ever see him or her again. What happened to Carl Anderson, the black guy who played Judas in the 1973 Jesus Christ Superstar? He played the part again on on stage, it's estimated, another twelve hundred times. He died of leukemia in 2004 while gearing up to launch a worldwide revival of the show that was to begin at the Vatican.

I got hold of Rollerball a couple of years back to rewatch it with wee cal. He loved it. I think he even appreciated the original's superior sense of drama in comparison to the remake, which was aimed more at his generation and was full of all sorts of violent novelties. I actually didn't mind the remake, in the way that I don't mind all the rest of the mindless and meaningless blather of life on Planet Earth, though I gather it wasn't a success. And for meaningless blather, to be sure, I'd be much happier watching James Garner accidentally drive his convertible into the swimming pool in The Thrill of it All.
Which reminds me of the brilliant scene in the Rockford Files ten or so years later, where Rockford/Garner is driving a bunch of mafiosi who mean to do him harm, and he veers suddenly through a high wooden fence into a residential property and the car comes to rest in the pool. Rockford gets out first and is sitting on the diving board holding a gun which he nabbed in the confluffle. And he speaks the immortal line which prevailed in our house for many years at the end of bathtime (and you can ask wee hayley campbell) (the series was showing daily in the mornings in the year I am about to refer to, 1988):
"Right, everybody out of the pool."

It was Fiddler on the Roof that won me in the first place (and recently enjoyed afresh with director's commentary). Hard to believe now, but this movie came out back in the days when for big special movies they would sometimes produce a glossy souvenir brochure, and there would be an intermission halfway through the movie like half time at the football. In fact it was the lobby cards that drew me in. They were out in the street behind glass. I was fifteen, in London for the first time (from Glasgow. I am at home in the big city) it was a cinema off Holborn, around the Southampton Row area I think. I fell in love with one of Tevye's daughters in the still photo. Years later I was doing a five pager for The Comic Book of First Love (Virago 1988), which the editors resold to Penguin (1991... and partnered it with The Penguin Comic Book of the Facts of Life, for which I also drew a five pager, but that's another story). It was a great idea, a little book slightly larger than a regualr paperback. Anway, 1988, just short of twenty years ago and I was now living I Australia. I couldn't think of anything to say about an actual first love, so I drew my story about my unrequited movie love. Here's a page from the story: Somehow I've got myself into the story wth Tevye, and things are already going so badly for him that I haven't the heart to tell him that a worthless art student has a crush on his daughter, so I end up just helping him load his milk wagon. The year after I drew this was the first year I count in which I made a living from my art. If memory serves, I made around six or seven thousand bucks in 1988 and was otherwise supported by the wife of my bosom. The following year I was up to $18,999 and continued my fast rise from there to the high and mighty perch from which you now see me dangling, where I please myself with the thought that some of my own meaningless blather might make it onto the (small) screen.


Thursday 19 July 2007

"One bang and the cemetery population doubles"

T he Black Diamond Detective Agency. The colour on Sadie's face needed to be pristine, so I didn't want a lot of sketching on the actual art paper and tended think about her in the roughs more than I would all the other details. I was also worried about crowding in these panels. While I haven't solved the problems in the sketch, I've established what those problems would be and made the top panels a little taller to accommodate all the parts.

In the sketch you can see where I worked out the dialogue in the margin. Having boiled it down to its shortest possible length I'd then shift it into the spaces where it needed to go. As I said in an earlier post, the lettering would always be done first and the pictures made to fit around it.


Wednesday 18 July 2007

"She's not coming back."

T he Black Diamond Detective Agency. Another finished page and its preparatory rough. This one involved business that had to be clearly readable just from the visuals, so I needed to know where everything was going. The sketch was adequate to my purposes.

I just discovered this., humorous mistakes made in Japan in the use of the English language. Some very amusing photographs. God only knows it works vice versa-- in fact, here's the very place: Hanzi Smatter :- dedicatd to the misuse of Chinese characters in western culture. I've linked to the first page of his blog in 2004, where he gives an introduction. I found the first site by accident and the second via the first.
John C. draws our attention to "A 180ft image of Homer Simpson waving a doughnut aloft has appeared adjacent to the ancient Cerne Abbas giant, the 17th Century chalk fertility symbol in Dorset." (wiki), a current publicity stunt, and advises Americans to avert their gaze in case they catch a glimpse of the giant's willy.
But wait a minute. They can't have that both ways. Is it an ancient fertility symbol or a 17th century hoax?


Tuesday 17 July 2007

Another Campbellian motif

S an Diego Convention coming up. One week from today I shall be on my way. Look for me there. I should be standing in the usual place in the Top Shelf set-up. Pick up a copy of The Black Diamond Detective Agency or have a look at some of the original art, or just come around and say hello and get me started on some yarn or whinge. If there's a tall handsome kid standiing where I should be, that'll be my son.
Meanwhile, I found three pages of of Black Diamond pencil roughs that survived my working methods, so here are some more notes on working methods and on mucking about with the script.
Normally I made a rough layout in pencil same size as the finished page was to be drawn. The purpose was to pencil the lettering which I would then trace onto an overlay. Occasionally, but not normally, it would be necessary to deal with some aspects of the drawing at this stage. These layouts were very rough and I would then go on to use the page for colour testing and for leaning the heel of my hand on. They didn't usually survive even until I'd finished the art for the page. Occasionally there would be one or two where the layout almost amounted to a sketch that could be interpreted by somebody other than myself. I'd throw those aside for keeping, but there really were only a handful of them. Here's a finished page and its preparatory rough. I wanted to keep that white background clean, so I worked this one out more thoroughly than usual, though many looking at it would not, I'm sure, regard that as a finished pencil drawing.

I've just noticed the lettering in the rough is in upper case. That's odd. While this is the first page in the book, I drew it in the middle of the whole job, not at the beginning. I went back and inserted this page (in fact the opening three page sequence) to try to solve some psychological difficulties in the script. I had plunged into te thing just presuming he was wearing glasses because his sight was not 100%. After meeting with the Hollywood guys I realized this was wrong and in fact this was a whole logical issue not addressed anywhere in the text. For narrative reasons he needed to be wearing tinted glasses later in order to pass himself off in disguise, so I had to construct a whole psychological reason for it. Hopefully I turned their character into a neurotic in the process; when he clobbers the detective on page 24 in order to escape, he steals the poor guy's glasses, which also wasn't in the original. And of course, the stolen pair of glasses is just one more thing that doesn't work, and he has to chuck them away. Just another nutty Campbellian motif. It will be interesting to see how that works out in the movie.
Couple of links from Nathalie in comments yesterday:
US Publisher Turns away from Cartoon Nudity. Children's book author Rotraut Susanne Berner refuses to remove the willy, so book will not now be published in the USA. --America! The world is laughing at you!
Internet connects reclusive Nobel laureate to readers — and the world. International herald trib. on Elfriede Jelinek.
Jelinek, 60, has been posting chapters of the new book, "Neid" (German for "Envy"), as she writes them. The first two chapters of the work she describes as a "mixture of blog and prose"

A couple of Harry Potter links via comicmix:
Harry Potter and the man who conjured up Rowling's millions. her agent Christopher Little, profiled in The Guardian.
Potter Publisher Predicted Literary Magic- profile of US editor Arthur A. Levine of Scholastic.

old link (2005) rediscovered (via Dylan Meconis)-Terry Gilliam bitter about Potter:
"I was the perfect guy to do Harry Potter. I remember leaving the meeting, getting in my car, and driving for about two hours along Mulholland Drive just so angry. I mean, Chris Columbus' versions are terrible. Just dull. Pedestrian." On his contemporaries in film directing, Gilliam also said, "I saw 'War of the Worlds' and I thought, Steven Spielberg is a man who makes brilliant scenes but can't make a movie anymore."

The Apu travesty Guardian- 16 july-
A promotion for The Simpsons movie exploits a crude racist stereotype that insults South Asians living in the United States. (thanks to mick Evans)


Monday 16 July 2007

"For some people to love it, other people must loathe it."

T his will be the first time I've ever written about Harry Potter. I watched The Prisoner of Azkaban on saturday as our local tv channel makes its build-up to the big release of the fifth movie here in a few days and I really must say how grand it all is. Most of the books have passed through our house and have been loved on and off, but bloody hell, where did those ten years go?

I went to Wikipedia to review the score. There were to be seven books and there turned out to be seven, the last to be released at the end of this week. Five movies so far, the fifth released last week, with two in the pipeline. All with the same principal actors, allowing for losing a couple of old people, and since they all hide behind beards anyway, who's to know? What could the chances have been of everything working out so perfectly? And don't you just love the lady herself!

J K Rowling is "the first person to become a US-dollar billionaire by writing books." and "In 2006, Forbes named her the second richest female entertainer in the world, behind talk show host Oprah Winfrey."
Success of any sort wasn't obvious at the start: "the book was handed to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected it."
I like the way Rowling has stuck to her guns on many issues:
Rowling has not allowed the first six Potter stories to be released as e-books and has no plans to change that for the seventh and final work. I applaud! (I stuck to that too in a contractual discussion, but it was only when I pointed out to Random House Australia that neither they nor I could ever be bothered to scan all of From Hell that they realised there was nothing to argue about.)
And regrets the one she let go:
Scholastic published Philosopher’s Stone in the US under the title of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: a change Rowling claims she now regrets and would have fought if she had been in a better position at the time.
I have oft wondered if the editors at Scholastic thought it didn't matter what it was called, or worse, that they didn't know what the philosopher's stone actually is, and never thought of looking it up. Worst of all, maybe they never read The Fabulous Philosopher's Stone, the full-length 1955 comic book Uncle Scrooge story by Carl Barks.

But she got her way with Warner's:
In contrast to the treatment of most authors by Hollywood studios, Warner Bros. took considerable notice of Rowling's desires and thoughts in their attempt to bring her books to the screen. One of her principal stipulations was the films be shot in Britain with an all-British cast, which has so far been adhered to strictly. In an unprecedented move, Rowling also demanded that Coca-Cola, the victor in the race to tie-in their products to the film series, donate $18 million to the American charity Reading is Fundamental, as well as a number of community charity programs.
Warner's won a few points too:
Rowling's first choice for the director of the first Harry Potter film had been Monty Python alumnus Terry Gilliam, being a fan of Gilliam's work. Warner Bros. studios wanted a more family friendly film, however, and eventually they settled for Chris Columbus.

If I recall correctly, Potter was Robbie Coltrane's next gig after From Hell, and regarding the all-British cast thing, and no disrespect to the acting abilities meant here, Robbie would have been my choice for Abberline instead of Depp (and any of the British actresses on the set instead of Heather Graham). But those American studios will insist on US actors. Once again, huge applause to Rowling and her support team for winning that one. Me, I just took the money and ran. I'm left with the conviction that Rowling's deserved success can be attributed before anything else to her love for the books she has written, and a suspicion that if the rest of us loved ours more we could go farther. A sharp and honest wit does no harm either: "Anyone who thinks I could (or would) have 'veto-ed' [Spielberg] needs their Quick-Quotes Quill serviced."

The new movie is packing them in:
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Warner Bros. fantasy sequel "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" conjured up a $77.4 million debut to lead the weekend box office,according to studio estimates Sunday. That raised the movie's total domestic gross to $140 million since opening Wednesday. "Order of the Phoenix" also has taken in an additional $190.3 million in 44 other countries where it began rolling out Wednesday.

The Times of India speculates on the contents of the final book:When an off-camera filmmaker congratulates her, Rowling admits that there will be some Potter fans who will 'loathe' the book. "Some people will loathe it, they will absolutely loathe it. For some people to love it, other people must loathe it. That's just in the nature of the plot," the Scotsman quoted her, as saying. And though Rowling insists in the documentary that she's "actually really, really happy with it", a moment later she bows her head on the keyboard and says: "Oh my God!"
Rowling, who confessed that she "sobbed her heart out" and drank a half bottle of champagne shortly after ending the book, has already warned fans that two main characters will die in the final book in the series.

Isn't it great how it's making kids actually sit down and READ!:
Meanwhile, nearly a fifth of Potter fans say they will skip straight to the last page of the final book to find out what happens to the boy wizard, a survey showed on Saturday.
And then it will all be over:
Nine out of 10 think it will be sadder saying goodbye to Harry than Prime Minister Tony Blair, the survey said.

The Tintin furore: brilliant piece by India Knight in the Sunday Times. (link thanks to mr j):
Books stand as testament to the errors and horrors of history. They are vitally important.

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Sunday 15 July 2007

Beastly, that's what it is.


ill the world's complainers never learn?
The Scotsman, July 15, reports on the Tintin in the Congo furore.
DAYS after it was labelled "racist", a Tintin adventure book is flying off the shelves with sales soaring by almost 4,000%.
The Belgian comic strip was condemned by Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) bosses for apparently making black people "look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles".

(link thanks to mr j)
There's something admirable about the British in the way they will help themselves to the thing they were told was forbidden. I'm sure it's not just the British, but I was alarmed watching some folks in a 'dry' borough of Alabama on the tv last night ranting against booze, which they have never tried in the lives apparently. So it's definitely not the Alabamalamians. That was me, I'd be off to give it a few serious licks pronto. I'm reminded of an occasion when I did the very thing. I went in to see a movie for no other reason than that some picketers outside the cinema stopped me to sign a petition against it. I made it clear to them that I was now going to change my plan for the evening and go directly inside to see it entirely because they were telling me not to, and worse than that, trying to enlist me to tell other people likewise. Anyway, it was Borowczyk's La Bete (the Beast, 1975). I can't remember anything about it except a girl being chased through the woods to the strains of a Scarlatti harpsichord sonata. That link is to the Internet Movie Data Base and there's a guy there (EVOL666) remembering it better than me:
"THE BEAST is a film that I find kind of hard to rate. The cinematography itself is quite eye-catching and the sets, costumes and locations are elaborate. The plot is a little convoluted and seems to take it self awfully seriously for what ends up being such an unintentionally hilarious film about a chick boning a rat-bear. A good bit of tits, ass, and hairy 70's French bushes to help make up for the dull first half of the film. I have to honestly say, that if it weren't for the graphic scenes of the BEAST spackling all over the willing maiden, this film would have been a real bore - that is unless you like dull dialog and some graphic horse sex. The plot involves something about a monster in the woods that some French aristocrat chick screwed back in the day. Eventually you see "THE BEAST", which looks like a guy dressed in a giant rat-bear costume with a horse cock attached to it. The scene takes place with the aristocrat woman running around the forest looking for a lost sheep. The sheep ends up dead and the woman gets scared. THE BEAST pops up, rapes the chick and shoots 400 gallons of spunk all over her. Eventually the chick starts to enjoy the beast's "attention" which results in some pretty novel simulated sex scenes, including an unnervingly erotic foot masturbation scene where the woman jerks the beast off with her feet.

Right, I'm off to complain about the obscenities on this blog.

Gallery hopes Stella Vine's naive portraits and colourful biography will bring in the crowds at first major show. -Maev Kennedy-Guardian-Saturday July 14.
"Jolly good luck to her," David Lee said. "She is a hopeless, hopeless painter - but she's done very well."

LONDON (Reuters) - Can't remember life before mobiles? Chances are you'll also struggle to recall your home phone number and family birthdays. According to a survey released Friday, the boom in mobiles and portable devices that store reams of personal information has created a generation incapable of memorizing simple things