Archive for the ‘News’ Category

God Exists, And He’s Awesome

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Watchmen, the Citizen Kane of comic books, the last word in superhero stories, the Grand Poobah of clever clever sequential storytelling, has finally been made into a movie. Many years ago I lived in Wrexham, and this was around the time I was first getting into comics, so I would regularly trudge down to my local comic shop (more of a stall actually) and try to find something that was as good as Judgment On Gotham. Every time, and I mean every single time I went in there, the guy who ran it asked me if I had read Watchmen and that ‘they’ should make it into a film. I never really wanted to get in a conversation with him (he once asked me how many packs of condoms I thought he should take with him on a holiday abroad. The correct answer was that he should have probably got himself chemically castrated, just in case), but I always felt that there is no way Watchmen could be adequately filmed. It’s too long, too dense, and too entrenched in the medium of comics to work. As good as the story and characters were, the best thing about Watchmen is the way the story is told. And you would have to lose the whole Pirate thing.

 

It’s unfortunate that even amongst comics’ most ardent devotees, movies are seen as the superior art form, and the ultimate compliment (and goal) for a comic is to be adapted for the cinema. Ghost World is an okay movie but the comic is so much better. Spider-Man, X-Men and their sequels are adaptations and contractions of entire series, and don’t exactly tell specific stories (I’ll never forgive Sam Raimi for bastardising The Death of Gwen Stacy in the first one. Ah maybe, life’s too short).

 

However, and back on topic. The trailer to the Watchmen movie looks pretty awesome. No wonder Dave Gibbons is stoked. Maybe even the mighty Alan Moore will give it a look. C’mon Affable Al, it might be a laugh! Although I noticed that the music on the trailer is by Smashing Pumpkins. Now I like The Smashing Pumpkins. Mostly. After all, Billy Corgan is a well known control freak, and he invented ‘emo’ (does that make him an emomaniac?). BUT this song was last heard on the soundtrack to Batman & Robin truly one of the worst cinematic experiences of my life. Yes yes it’s an easy target, and even Joel Schumacher admits it’s terrible (apparently the DVD commentary is a hoot), but is this really an association the film studio wants to create? Maybe a grinning, neon Arnold Schwarzaneggar is just what this flick needs!

 

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And I turned, as I had turned as a boy…

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Comics blogger Kate Beaton regularly creates comics in which she converses with her younger self, and recently invited her readers to do the same, leading to an avalanche of responses. I found about this while looking through Lissa Treiman’s blog (whose strip for the Scary Go Round Feats of Strength competition rightfully won, even though it was up against some, ahem, super awesome entries). So, like many others, I was inspired to make my own:

Conversations with my younger self

Well what else am I going to talk to my younger self about? I don’t know about anything else. I suspect I have fallen into an easy stereotype here. Many of the responses to Kate’s blog post were along the lines of KID: “I like cartoons and comics”, ADULT: “Me too!”, BOTH: “Yay!”. Cartoonists are a predictable lot, and I haven’t exactly moved away from the immature norm. Ah well. On a similar theme, I knocked together another one:

Conversations with my younger self part 2

Now, I am aware of the slightly dodgy Freudian implications of waving around an obvious massive (not to mention glowing) phallic symbol in order to impress my childhood self, but the truth is I would have literally killed for one of these things when i was six.

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Upside Down

Monday, July 28th, 2008

So what is it about upside down lightsabers? Throughout the Star Wars expanded universe artists are constantly depicting lesser known Jedi with their swords held the wrong way round. This year we have two big Star Warsular events on the horizon, The upcoming Clone Wars animated TV series/Pilot movie, and The Force Unleashed video game. The former prominently features a jailbait alien padawan babe brandishing her saber widdershins, whereas the latter (seemingly in development for the last 53 years, and undoubtedly the Shadows of the Empire of the noughties) focuses on Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, the intertextually named ‘Starkiller’, who also doesn’t know the pointy end from the blunt one. Innumerable fan films and comic books also include this bizarre phenomenon.

I once spent a very enjoyable day playing the much maligned Playstation game Jedi Power Battles, in which the token female Jedi Council member Adi Gallia was depicted using a lightsaber in the Australian fashion (and it was red too, what was meant to be going on there?)

Sure it looks cool, and for all I know it could be based on a real martial art technique, but I don’t recall anyone in the actual movies doing it. In order to point the blade out in front of you, you would have to have your elbow up in the air, which can’t be comfortable can it?

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Hoisted By My Own Retard(edness)

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Recently on The Collings and Herrin Podcast, Richard Herrin (Herring) has been expounding on the merits (and otherwise) of the 90s sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart. If you remember, it featured Nicholas (you plonker, Rodney) Lyndhurst as a bloke that regularly time slipped in order to commit bigamy in the 1940s. Not exactly the most sympathetic protagonist for a sitcom. What’s more, he would play Beatles songs to his hapless wartime pals and claim them as his own. What a dick.

I thought I was being incredibly smart when I wrote this Scary Go Round strip, which references an earlier SGR story in which Shelley travels back in time, plays Beatles songs and claims them as her own.?Hey, I’m sure that idea has been used many times before and since, but I thought it was pretty funny to suggest that Shelley had got the idea from the aforementioned, morally dubious sitcom.

Except I didn’t. In my script Shelley mentions “As Time Goes By”, which is something completely different, apparently a sitcom about Geoffrey Palmer getting it on with Judi Dench. So that clever clever gag of mine doesn’t work at all. Which makes me about 85% stupider than I would have done had I not bothered. In future I must remember to fact check anything I write, particularly if it’s something that’s going on a really popular website.

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Pieces of Eight

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Well in case you haven’t noticed today is the 8th of August 2008. That’s 08/08/08! How exciting! I’m sure there are all sorts of numerological portents of doom in there but to me, it makes me realise that I can remember exactly what I was doing twenty years ago this very day.

As a precocious teenager I had used The Quill to create a text adventure for the ZX Spectrum (kids, ask your parents!). It was a four part epic that went by the hilarious title Star Wreck. Yes, if any further proof were needed that I was (and am) a massive dork I created my own Star Trek parody. My memories of it are sketchy, but i think there was a running theme about the evil of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. I can tell you, in my mind it was scathingly satirical.

The reason that I know it was twenty years ago today is that I had conquered the piss poor, sub Fergus McNeil text, and had moved onto the loading screens. In those, pre Photoshop days, it was created with an application called (I think) Art Studio, pixel by single pixel, possibly with a Kempston Quickshot 2 joystick. And I vividly remember etching the number 8/8/88 at the bottom of the screen, in one of the eight colours that was available.

Heady days indeed (and an appropriate memory considering this current, 80s inspired storyline), but I am sorry to inform you that there is no copy of this monument of game programming available for you to sample with your favourite Speccy emulator. Never fear though, I ended up recycling most of the jokes at various points for this very comic.

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Facebookin’

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

If you wish to discuss any of the stories so far, why not join our Facebook group and use the discussion boards there. Of course, if we were a professional webcomic we would have our own dedicated forum, but I have yet to convince our web team (ie. Mr Livesey) that it is an appropriate use of time. Until then you can join the ranks of our disinterested friends and co workers, and check out pictures of us moping around at various comic cons around the country.

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Jedi Poodooh!

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

I’ve always said that going to the cinema just isn’t the same when it’s not a Star Wars film (look, I never claimed to be a complex individual, all right? Like Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Jango Fett, I’m just a simple kinda man). The first movie I saw at the cinema was Empire, and a year or so after that I finally got to see Star Wars (on the double bill with Empire), and luckily for me it was before it appeared on television or video. And since then I’ve seen every episode on the big screen, right up till a midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith, amid an audience full of people waving Master Replicas lightsabers in the air.

So how weird then, how odd to go to the cinema to see not a new Star Wars movie, but a cartoon spin off (actually the first few episodes of the new TV series)? The (so far) universally critically panned cinema release of The Clone Wars has the obvious problem of not standing up to its live action progenitors, and the fact that none of its major players can be allowed to be killed, or change, or do pretty much anything of importance that might encroach on the overall saga.

This major stumbling block, along with a much more light hearted, kid friendly tone, appropriate to what is essentially a Saturday morning cartoon, has seemingly outraged the online nerd community. On the plus side we don’t get any teeth grindingly bad angsty scenes like the ‘you are in my very soul’ bit from Episode 2, or Episode 3’s ‘you’re so beautiful’ ‘only because I’m so in love with you’  a scene seemingly included by George Lucas solely to test the patience of his audience. Sure we’ve all said this kind of embarrassing drivel in our private lives but I don’t need to see it in a movie. Actually, I’m sure there was a sarcastic allusion to Anakin’s infamous ‘sand’ chat up line in The Clone Wars.

Technically it’s an amazing looking feature when you consider it’s meant for television (albeit the High Def end of the market), but on a big screen, some of the TV origins are evident the series was apparently made on the cheap, such as synchronised walk cycles on the clonetroopers. They’re clones not robots! Having said that I’d rather watch these funky CGI marionettes than some big name, big budget, bland exercise in cynicism like Shrek (don’t get me started on Shrek!).

 

A Senuhtuh...? Heeyah...?

A Senuhtuh...? Heeyah...?

 

 

I’m genuinely surprised by the invective that The Clone Wars has provoked, but not as surprised as I am that every single review has not sarcastically stated that Hayden Christensen was out-acted by a bunch of pixels. Incidentally, I never thought he was a bad actor, just a really weird actor! Some of his more bizarre line deliveries in the prequels suggested that he was attempting to channel some of James Earl Jones’ more bizarre line deliveries (such as ‘When I left you, I was a learner. Now I! Am, the master’). I mean that had to be the reason, right? However, his CGI manque still resembles him, which put the thought in the back of my mind that he would not be the most suitable master for a teenage female padawan. I mean, the guy looks like he hangs round high schools after cheerleader practice, looking to pick up chicks in his boy racer speeder.

But as I have said before and I will no doubt say again, I am a massive Star Wars nerd. I can excuse a bit of flat, anachronistic dialogue (did Anakin really say to Obi Wan ‘I’ll call you back’? How did that one get through? And truth to tell, I slightly cringe every time I hear the phrase ‘Padawan learner’. Isn?t that like saying ‘trainee apprentice’ or ‘beginner newbie’?). Throughout Jedi and the prequel trilogy, unlike most, I found a lot more to love than hate. I’m sure in many people’s eyes that makes me an idiot, but I guess that’s central to being a fan.

So I find the prospect of a Star Wars TV series intriguing. Being able to explore that universe, even without the possibility of major revelations or character defining moments is good enough for me. It’s no different than the masses of comic books, novels, toys and games that have been out there for years. And for a series so rooted in action and movement, it’s no surprise that a spin off cartoon, like some of the more recent video games, fares a lot better than aping the essence of Star Wars than, say, a novel about the Bothans finding a new superweapon that’s a bit like the Death Star, or the cantina snot vampire.

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Moore Moore Moore

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Alan Moore’s a really good writer. That’s the considered opinion I’ve come to after rereading Watchmen. Not very incisive criticism, I know. It’s a bit like saying The Beatles are good. But you take it for granted after a while. I was struck by how sad the chapter about Doctor Manhattan is, how utterly disconnected the guy is from the rest of humanity and how he can do nothing about it. And that’s in the space of 26 pages! You should read it, you really should.

I was prompted to read it again, of course, by the release of the trailer to the upcoming film adaptation. I’ve always thought that such a thing could never work, but that trailer looks badass! Every shot in that thing is taken from the book (albeit a little pumped up – with action scenes added to the tenement fire and prison break sequences, apparently), so it’s looking to be a pretty faithful adaptation. As a fanboy it’s hard not to get overexcited.

 

Well, they did it with Sandman...

Well, they did it with Sandman...

 

 

But. Alan Moore isn’t. He wants nothing to do with it. To be fair, it’s not difficult to see why the writer of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a book mutilated by an execrable movie adaptation, might be a little disenchanted by the film industry. Seriously, how could you fail with that premise? Somehow they managed it!

So do you boycott the movie like Alan will be doing, or do you go along and geek out (and avoid thinking about the fact that it will probably be just another one of a slew of disappointing comics adaptations)

I recently came across this video from 1987 on youtube, and I think I remember seeing this programme at the time. Yeah I know, I’m old. Watching this again I’m struck by two things: For one there is the constant talk of impending nuclear apocalypse. Kids today are into bluetooth, High School Musical and knife crime, but back in the day all we had for entertainment was trying to get your head around the looming shadow of global destruction and/or the possibility of trying to live in a radioactive, post apocalyptic wasteland. Actually I think this documentary may have put me off reading Watchmen at the time, as it makes it look like it’s just a collection of images of people getting obliterated by a nuclear blast. Bleak!

The other thing is that Moore talks about his work being for children. I don’t have any figures to hand but I’m pretty sure kids don’t read comics these days. It’s a shame. If more kids took a look at his mindbending tales of ecological philosophy like Swamp Thing, or his later, convoluted take on the limitless power of the human imagination in Promethea, they might stop happy slapping eachother for five minutes.

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Now in low quality!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

I’m currently sulking as The Clone Wars TV series begins on American TV tomorrow, but I won’t be watching it when it reaches our screens at the end of the month as it’s on Sky Movies, and there’s no way I’m paying just for one TV show. Hmmm… it is?Star Wars though… ah screw it I’ll just watch it on Youtube.

In order to take my mind off this irritating situation I have posted up the legendary (and significantly less sumptuously animated) Flying Monkey Comics Trailer to ver ‘tube. Long time Flying Monkey fans (all six of them) will have seen this before of course (in smooth, high quality flash format), but Youtube is the Video sharing site of choice for the masses, and never let it be said that we don’t go along with the crowd.

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The Fuckest Uppest

Monday, October 6th, 2008

The Force Unleashed is a video game that?s been in development for some time. It was originally described as “The Star Wars Event of 2007″, which obviously didn’t happen, in fact the game was held back for so long that some wags dubbed it “The Force Unreleased”. However, it has finally appeared, and offers the chance to play the part of a backwards lightsaber wielding badass, who generally slaughters people and smashes stuff up with the force. What more could you want from a game?

The game’s technical innovations include Digital Molecular Matter, which applies different properties for different materials, so that wood splinters, metal bends and glass shatters, the Havok physics engine, and Euphoria AI. This might sound totally awesome and groundbreaking (no pun intended), but the reality is that three different software engines rucking up against eachother can create some seriously funky effects. At one point in the game I became entombed in the gooey gums of a sarlaac, which I’m sure wasn’t meant to happen. It brought back memories of an old Nemesis The Warlock game on the ZX Spectrum, in which the player, on reaching a particular level, would invariably appear trapped in the interface under the screen with no way of getting out. Didn’t anyone playtest that thing? That game sure as hell didn’t have any real world physics simulation (but on the other hand it did allow you to spit acid).

I don’t play a ton of games these days, so the prevailing feeling I get from The Force Unleashed is nostalgia for Dark Forces and the Jedi Knight series. It even features Dark Troopers, which initially gave me cause for concern, but when you look at the timeline (a couple of years prior to Episode 4) it’s not too distant from that of Dark Forces (uh, a year after it?). Hey look buddy, that stuff matters to some of us, OK? The original reason I bought a PC back in ’95 was so I could play Dark Forces (along with the excellent flight sim TIE Fighter), and a few years later I upgraded specifically to be able to play Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight (do I need to tell you at this point that I’m a Star Wars nerd? Really? Did you not read any of the other posts?).

 

Dark Forces

Dark Forces: Nicking the Death Star plans, Part 13

 

 

In Jedi Knight, Dark Forces? central character, the mercenary Kyle Katarn found a lightsaber and gradually learned the jedi arts of pushing people off ledges and jumping three times higher than normal. This game also featured live action cutscenes, which was pretty damn impressive in 1997. The guy that played Kyle had the grizzled, hero with a past look down, but I think I saw him in one of those soft porn dramas that Channel Five used to show late at night. At least I don’t recall seeing him get down to business, because that would have been far too harrowing. Later, in Jedi Outcast, he acquired lots more polygons and an adversary who bore more than a passing resemblance to Barney the Dinosaur. In Jedi Academy you actually played a different character, but seeing as you could finally use the double bladed saber Darth Maul style, nobody was fussed about whether you were still Kyle.

 

The Force Unleashed: I have a badass feeling about this

The Force Unleashed: I have a badass feeling about this

 

 

So anyway, for all its next gen sparkle, lush graphics and compelling storyline (which I liked, although I’m not sure I quite bought the big twist, and was that droid really using the force?), simply put, The Force Unleashed is the latest iteration of the Jedi Knight games, and as I’ve always been a fan of lobbing stormtroopers about and then lightsabering the shit out of them, that most definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

 

 

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