Saturday, 11 May 2013

Far out isn't far enough.

Far Out Isn't Far Enough: Life in the Back of BeyondFar Out Isn't Far Enough: Life in the Back of Beyond by Tomi Ungerer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love to read about illustrators and artists and Ungerer is certainly a great artist and storyteller. His autobiographical tale of life on a small island where the definition of sanity is fluid is fascinating and the urban sketching a real eye opener for those, like me, who know him as an illustrator. It also acts as a warning tale for anyone who ever considered living off the beaten track as the place Ungerer goes to live is so far from normal that it beggers belief.  The writing is often plain and straight forward but becomes quite poetic when the situation calls for it and Ungerer demonstrates a facility with language that matches his way with colour and line.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


Michael Landon and the grumpy bearded bloke interfere in the lives of more unhappy bystanders in an effort to improve their lifes and provide uplifting tv.  Or was it the red headed Irish woman and the older scowly black lady interfere in the lives of more unhappy bystanders in an effort to improve their lifes and provide uplifting tv. No wait, it's some silent kid and Kieffer Sutherland interfere in the lives of more unhappy bystanders in an effort to improve their lifes and provide uplifting tv. 

So far the only difference between Touch and either of these other shows is Sutherland's acting (excellent) and the removal of some amorphous idea of God sending his angels to sort out our lives.  Creator Tim Kring, the man whose couldn't quite hold Heroes together, may have something more than a string of feel good stories up his sleeve for this Quantum physics revision of the heavenly helpers show for the Dawkins and Hawkings generation but based on the second episode my expectations are low.

Friday, 16 September 2011

keep on burning

A funny thing happened today, I discovered how little I care for the contents of the average comic shop.  My son was with one of his grandmothers and I'd gone into town to pay in a cheque at the bank, I had some hard cash burning a hole in my pocket and the opportunity to browse around a comic shop.  20 years ago I could have walked into such a shop with £30 in my pocket and blown it in style, Sandman, Hellblazer, Valiant comics, Cerebus phone books, bone, Drawn and Quarterly, Fantagraphics, Concrete and various other marvelous books.  Today, after an hour browsing I came up with "Alec, the years have pants" and a Gottfredson Mickey Mouse collection, neither of which I was prepared to pay the asking price for.  Scanning the actual comics on the wall I saw nothing, a plethora of tv based titles for shows I didn't care about and an amorphous mass of Fear Itself tie ins that had no personality of their own. I looked at the DC relaunch and was left wondering why with most of the titles. (Batman related titles must make nearly 50% of DC's output), if it wasn't for the fact that the latest volume Paul Grist's Jack Staff had arrived from Amazon the day before and I'd also had a chance to read the excellent X-Men first class earlier that week I'd think comics today were a lost cause.  So that left me wondering, where are all the comics that meet my criteria of good and what are my criteria?  So that's where we're headed next, deep into criterialand.  And in the meantime, that money continues to burn a hole in my pocket.   

Monday, 5 September 2011


It's five days until my 47th Birthday.  Over the last two years I've been playing with a free website provider and I've come to one conclusion, blogger is vastly superior to very free provider I've looked at.  So, it's bye bye website and hello more blogger.  I do get slightly anal about stuff at times so the keep everything neat I will be running 5 blogs.  Bangs Twitches will be bird and nature drawings and eventually a shop, sketching urbanely will be where I post urban sketches done while wearing a smoking jacket and calling everyone dahling, Inclined to Ramble will be thoughts and ramblings on life and the Universe, September Roads will be any drawings and comics I feel inclined to post and finally, Blues in the Dark will be reviews and thoughts on the fictional worlds, inspired by the excellent "To busy thinking about my comics".  I'll include links back and forth as and when they're of any use. 

Friday, 1 August 2008

The DFC , the first 10 weeks

The DFC is an interesting animal, partly a nostalgic trip for publisher? David Fickling and his key author Phillip Pullman to relive the pleasures of their childhood by producing a high quality, full colour British anthology comic, and part, I think, a tryout farm for graphic novels for Random house, the parent publisher.

The quality of the comics between the covers is undeniable. In the first 10 issues only one strip fell flat for me and that was Jim Medway's New at The Zoo. The rest ranged between very good and outstanding.

The first strip in the initial six issues was Pullman's "Adventures of John Blake". I think reading it that it took Pullman a while to get the hang of pacing a six page weekly strip. The first four issues were set up that a more experienced comic writer could have folded into a single episode, John Blake is on a sailing ship that passes through time via a strange fog, he becomes involved with a young girl who he and his ship mates save from the sea. There's other business going on, someone investigating Blake's ship, the parents of the rescued girl squabbling but esswentially the first four issues are someone learning how to tell a comic strip story. The last two episodes of Blake's story finally get moving with some real action and then the story goes on hiatus. Character is where Pullman is at his best in thiscomic as each member of the crew, Serena's bickering parents and even the mystery characters are all very clearly individuals. The art, by John Aggs is superb wearing a mixture of apparent influences, both manga and european/British and not a hint os superhero comics styling in sight. Aggs panel to panel storytelling is excellent with more well used camera angles then I've seen anywhere except Eisner's Spirit. Aggs builds tension exceptionally well, a superb example being when the crew are exploring a rotting hulk of a cargo vessel and in one page Aggs shows a character's reliance on his rifle for courage, his isolation on the massive vessel and his extreme nervousness, all in a clever melding of European clearline with manga speedlines.

The next story is Super Animal Adventure Squad, a one pager by James Turner, would have sat as comfortably in WHizzer and Chips as John Blake would have in the Eagle. It is a superb humour strip combining knockabout humour with a light but biting parody of what tends to pass as adventure TV for kids, think Power Rangers specifically. The art is light and open with minimal backgrounds and works perfectly.

The standout strip for me is "The Boss" by Mother and son team, John and Patrice Aggs. John's writing on "The Boss" brought to mind one of the best Children's drama's ever "Press Gang". To my mind the writing is that good. Aggs takes what is essentially an Enid Blyton Famous Five plot, plucky kids foil robbers through their own intelligence and the fact adults always underestimate kids, and imbued it with enough character, humour and believable action to transcend anypossible influences. Aggs' characters are believable school kids capable of fighting and supporting each other at the same time and were recognisbale among kids I know. Patrice Aggs' art is what would make or break a story like this and in Patrice we have the perfect artist for the tale. Patrice has a style reminiscient of Warren Pleece and Nick Abadzis but much cleaner. Her kids are fluid, relaxed and all slightly crumpled looking, her teachers looklike people you'd see working in schools, grey and weary but dedicated and occasionaly enjoying the power a little too much. The story also plays with the natural heirarchy that comes into play among groups of kids showing their almost animal like pack instinct to follow an alpha male.

My other personal favourite is Vern and Lettuce, a gentle, dreamlike mix of rabbits, moles and a sheep groundskeeper. The story, such as it is, is flimsy but works on an emotional level to give you a warm fuzzy feeling,

The DFC, like most good comics anthologies, is fluid. If you don't like a strip chances are it'll be gone in a few weeks and the strips you do like will undoubtedly appear in collected form sooner or later. I was looking for something to share with my seven year old daughter and The DFC has proved to be perfect. We each have our favourite strips and as she gets older she'll enjoy some others better.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Glamorpuss #1

The problem that is Dave Sim. Dave Sim is one of the most individual and talented cartoonists to come out of the North American continent in the last 30 years. Cerebus the Ardvaark was always innovative, beautifully rendered, well written (even when what he was writing about was offending so many people) and uniquely lettered. The problem was his subject matter. Cerebus after Jaka's Story saw Sim being written off as more and more mysoginistic and then he found God (but in his own strange way) and would have been better thought of if he'd had leprosy. His opinions made him a moral leper. Yet he is still a unique talent.

There's a side of me feels I can't like Glamorpuss because it's author is a mysoginistic bigot and as a right on, pc, modern man I must shun him. But another, winning, side of me looks at the talent instead of the man and enjoys Glamorpuss.

Glamorpuss is Dave Sim trying to study the photorealistic style of Alex Raymond and John Prentice and Al Williamson, looking at why they did what they did, artistically, and trying to figure out their artistic choices. You also get some historical tidbits about the lousy treatment their work received from the syndicates. This part works wonderfully and I found it totally engrossing. There's also a middle section "The self-education of N'Atashae" and this is where it becomes more difficult. The section is a study of female shallowness wrapped up in gorgeous art. It's beautifully written also but you feel bad for liking it. It's hard to judge seriously at the moment, from this first episode it could dengenerate into a Dave Sim screed against women or it could becomse something far more interesting. I hope that's the case and I'll give it a couple more issues before I decide whether to keep reading or drop it like a hot potato.