Friday 2 October 2009

A couple of links from our pal dr jon:

The 10 Worst Celebrity Courtroom Sketches

Related: 12 Most Bizarre Police Sketches Ever


After rubbishing some recent comic book fare the other day I came across this odd juxtaposition among leapfrogging comments at Weekly Crisis:
July 16, 2009 8:29 AM
hydrogenizedsoy said...
The brutality was pretty horrible, but also quite pretty. Reis really brought his "A" game especially with that last scene with the Dibnys and the Hawks... Hawkman was so messed up with the chunks ripped off from his cheek and his nose all squashed in, incredible, incredible work.
July 16, 2009 9:08 AM
Kirk Warren said...
@Eric - Care to expand on that? I'm curious what exactly turned you off on the book.


Thursday 1 October 2009

A couple of quotations:

Alexander McCall Smith:
"Stories have an effect in this world. They are part of our moral conversation as a society. They weigh in; they change the world because they become part of our cultural history. There never was an Anna Karenina or a Madame Bovary, even if there might have been models, but what happened to these characters has become part of the historical experience ofwomen."
Robert Young quoting Paul Theroux on the Comics Journal forum:
"They appeared in multi-issue sequences, like Victorian magazines Household Worlds or All The Year Round, which printed David Copperfield in installments over many months. Nana was one of these--not the Zola novel but thirty-five issues of a Japanese cartoon character and her picaresque and often sexual adventures. Other narratives concerned tough guys, schoolkids, gang-bangers, mobsters, adventurers, sports, fashion, motor racing, and of course hard-core porno--rape, strangulation, abduction. Even with declining sales, from a peak of $5 billion a year, graphic novels in some form are probably the future of popular literature. --increasingly they are being downloaded to cell phones. Purely pictorial pleasure, undemanding, without an idea or a challenge, yet obviously stimulating, a sugar high like junk food, another softener of the brain; they spell the end of the traditional novel, perhaps the end of writing itself."


Wednesday 30 September 2009

How to get into the movie business, part 2

I've been hoping the Surrogates movie will do well for the sake of my pals at Top Shelf Productions. I see it came in second in the box office tally for the weekend, taking fifteen million, beaten by the animated Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Top Shelf acquired a great deal of experience in shifting books with a movie tie-in after From Hell back in 2001. In fact it was shortly after then that I gave up my self-publishing operation, feeling that I wasn't paying enough attention to complicated market fluctuations and that Chris Staros was handling those issues much better than I could. Our bookstore distributor had just gone bust owing us collectively around 80 thousand dollars, a very large amount of which was From Hell revenue. Me, I went up the pub and cried into a beer, but Chris got online immediately with a perfectly timed appeal which basically said, "if you were ever thinking about buying one of our books, please do it now, thank you. And here are all our extra special offers..." The response was unbelievable, and Top Shelf was able to continue doing business. I still had froth on my nose when university-educated Rob Venditti realized Chris was going to need extra hands and talked himself into a job as a box-packer:
I had no idea what their line was all about. In 2002, I was very ignorant of what there was out there in comics. I just ended up working for them because I live in Atlanta and that’s where they are. I was trying to get into the industry and trying to find any way to do it, and they were a publisher that was close by. I called Chris up, told him I was a local guy, and asked him if there’s anything I could do to sort of help him out. He said, "I could really use someone to pack boxes" and I said "Yeah, no problem, I can do that." It was very much like you said, the company really was kind of saved overnight. So that was when I got my start with them.

Well, Top Shelf was a pretty small operation at the time, I was the first employee they’d ever had. So even though I started out packing boxes in a warehouse it quickly developed into a job that encompassed other things because, with so few people working at the company, everybody sort of had to be a jack of all trades.
So I was branching out, doing other things, and Chris Staros had known from my discussions with him that I had wanted to be a writer, and we would drive to conventions, and talk about ideas, and whatnot. And I had already been writing The Surrogates when I drove to a convention with him, in July of 2002, when I told him about the idea, and he was very intrigued by it. I could tell that he liked the idea just by the way that he was asking me questions about it - you know, "what is this" and "what is that". He was really getting excited about it. So as I was writing the script, I would turn it over to him, and he would read through it, and he was always very supportive. But he didn’t say he was going to publish it until the thing was entirely written and he saw that I was able to bring the whole thing over the transom.
At that point he decided to publish it. Up till that point, I was just having him look it over, as a way of tightening it up where it needed to be tightened up, and hopefully he would introduce me to other editors, and help me submit it around.
That's from the interview at Broken Frontier, continuing in parts this week. Lots more at the link. Ane there's more at DVDs Worth Watching:
ROBERT VENDITTI: It started with a producer named Max Handelman, who contacted me about the film rights for The Surrogates back in 2006. Both I and Chris Staros at Top Shelf liked Max, and so we decided to let him shop it around. Max ended up bringing in Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman at Mandeville Films, a production company that has its first-look deal at Disney. They put a package together that included the screenwriters and Jonathan Mostow as director, and then made their pitch to Disney. Disney liked what they heard and decided to move forward under their Touchstone label.


Tuesday 29 September 2009

I wrote a long post a couple of weeks back about Will Eisner and the US army PS magazine. I now have a copy of Paul Fitzgerald's self-published new book on that very subject. Fitz became PS mag's managing editor from 1953 and gives us the inside story of the enterprise. So far we've really only had Eisner's occasional notes on the subject and the story of the founding of the magazine in its entirety has been difficult to reconstruct. The shaky start and the running battles with the top brass make for interesting reading.

Fitz worked on the military side of things. as opposed to Eisner's art studio where the typescripts were illustrated and converted to typesetting and layout. So there isn't a lot of the kind of information I was hoping for, the inside info that Eisner used to give about the running of his 'shop' back in the old days, who was in it and who did what. In place of that the details are mainly related to the stories of the various editors, and the relationship of all of that to Will and his shop, which apart from Will himself tends to be left indistinct.
What we do get is a huge amount of colour reproductions. The PS mag was small in size, seven by five, so the landscape format of Fitz's book allows wraparound covers (an occasional treat at PS) and spreads to be shown complete at their original printed size, like this piece of pure Eisner from Christmas 1964:

The important thing the connoisseur hopes to get from a book like this is a sense of how exactly Eisner's style developed from his 1940s Spirit to the one he was using when he set himself to drawing again for a civilian audience in the 1970s. Even though Fitz doesn't offer any kind of running commentary from an art position, there's enough here to piece together an evolutionary picture.
Photowise there's a page of colour images of Will on a field trip in 1967, none of which I've seen before. Anecdotally there is a running assortment of anecdotes about Eisner visiting army bases in odd places. We also get a rundown on the history of the mag after Eisner left it, which includes a spell in which Murphy Anderson handled the art shop. There is a nice selection of Anderson's colour pages and covers, though printed small. He draws a very delectable Connie Rodd. I always wondered where Anderson went after his 1960s spell at DC comics.
The book leaves me with more questions about the whole deal than I had before, but it is a must for the collector of Eisner's work. It's 224 pages of glossy paper, crammed with text and colour pictures on all of them

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Monday 28 September 2009

A while back I discussed the posting of the long lost issue three of Big Numbers online. Blogger Robert Stanley Martin has written an excellent review of it.
"The third chapter brings a fuller understanding of what was lost by the failure to complete more than a quarter of the book. The failure is beyond a disappointment; it’s about as close to an artistic tragedy as one can imagine. But even so, it does not overwhelm the pleasure of going over the 120 completed pages again and again. Even in truncated (and partially adulterated) form, they are dazzling in their wit, craft, and artistry. The knowledge that this beautifully realized and possibly very wise work will never see completion makes Big Numbers perhaps the most bittersweet effort comics will ever know."
Quite so.

And don't forget that my controversial* attempt to tell the sorry tale of how Big Numbers went south can be found in The Years Have Pants, which will be out around the end of October by current reckoning.

* see comments, have your say.


Sunday 27 September 2009

The comments of James Robinson regarding Alan Moore posted last week by somebody who enjoys fanning the flames of enmity, got stuck in my noodle. Alan was saying that the whole comic book industry is a morbid mess of putrefaction. No, actually he didn't say that, those are my words. Whenever you say comic books are crap, somebody always stands up to argue that they are just the way their readers want them to be. And you can't really argue with that. James Robinson is the guy who scripted the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the movie that made Alan Moore swear off any more dealings with Hollywood, the movie that brought about Sean Connery's retirement. ("Connery decided to accept the lead role in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, despite not "understanding" it either. In July 2005, it was reported that he had decided to retire from film-making, following disillusionment with the "idiots now in Hollywood" and the turmoil making the 2003 film."), the movie through which my wife was so bored she spent the whole two hours planning what underpants she was going to wear the following day. Robinson lists all the times Moore employed somebody else's ideas in his work: "And let’s not forget that Watchmen had an ending taken from an episode of the Outer Limits." I've been hearing that Moore purloined this 1963 plot idea in his 1987 masterpiece ever since one of the Hernandez brothers brought it up in a Comics Journal interview and I always figured that one day I would have to check it out for myself, just to see if it is relevant. After the Robinson remark it occurred to me that it is probably now viewable on Youtube. Sure enough, I found it instantly. So let's see how the Outer Limits version of the giant squid materializing in the middle of Manhattan plays out.
(If you give a hoot, watch it before I spoil the plot. It's an hour long)

The Architects of Fear, parts

It turns out that there is no squid.
A group of scientists figure they can save the planet from nuclear war by making it look like an alien invasion is imminent. To do this they draw lots and the guy with the short straw is subjected to a series of biological alterations over a period until he looks like a bug eyed alien. Then they send him up in a bogus spaceship with the plan that he will land at the UN general assembly and address the world's representatives with his bogus evil demands.The flight's trajectory goes wrong and he comes down instead in the woods, makes it back to the lab, and dies in the arms of his beloved pregnant wife who was kept in the dark all this time but had started to have suspicions that he hadn't really died in the bogus lab accident. The thing ends in voiceover: "Scarecrows and magic and other fatal fears do not bring people closer together. There is no magic substitute for soft caring and hard work, for self-respect and mutual love. If we can learn this from the mistake these frightened men made, then their mistake will not have been merely grotesque, it would at least have been a lesson. A lesson, at last, to be learned."

Alan's use of the essential idea of manufacturing an alien for the purpose of uniting mankind is turned into such a radically different variation, especially since in this version the plan succeeds where in the earlier one it failed, that I'm not sure why a thinking person would bring the matter up in a debate about the paucity of ideas in the current comic book field.