Sunday, 30 June 2013

What time is it? Panda Time!

I was talking to a friend the other day about (amongst other things) Pandas and Adventure Time. This picture came to mind.

Drawing Adventure Time characters is always fun...

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Bits and Pieces

It's been a while so here's a few bits and pieces that I've done recently:

First up, this is a Birthday Card I made for my friend Hilary. It was a bit of a last minute job so the picture isn't particularly original but I still like it.

Next is another picture I did when I was reading Captain Britain. This is Cap's girlfriend/wife before she realises she's a shapeshifter and just thinks she's some kind of feral creature. This picture kind of reminds me of a girl I know...

Similarly this one is from when I drew Open Window Man (Read Dial-H!). It's his sidekick, Boy Chimney, the living embodiment of urban pollution. I didn't get round to inking this because I wasn't entirely happy with it but I guess it's worth sharing.

Finally, a quick head sketch of Marshall Law. If you haven't read any Marshall Law (by Pat Mills, creator of Nemesis the Warlock and Slaine, and Kevin O'Neill of League of Extroadinary Gentlemen fame) I recommend picking up the recently published DC omnibus while you still can. The series has been in publishing limbo for many years and has finally seen a release in a nifty hardcover volume. It's a dystopian parody of superheroes with some great writing and spectacular, detail packed artwork. If you've ever fancied reading a comic where Judge Dredd fights a zombified version of the JSA this is the closest you're going to get.

I'll hopefully have some new, finished stuff to show you soon.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Open Window Man

Stop me if this sounds familiar: A young boy and his parents leave the theatre late at night and take an ill-advised shortcut down a dingy alleyway. Disaster strikes when they get robbed by a desperate armed man and the boy sees his parents gunned down before him. The police arrive, the bodies are taken away. The boy looks up...and sees the giant face of Open Window Man outside the boundaries of the flat, chalk drawn world that he inhabits. 'Please?' he asks. 'Help me?'
So begins the latest issue (#13) of China Mieville and Alberto Ponticelli's 'Dial H' (art duties having previously been carried out by Mateus Santolouco). The story continues with Open Window Man, who has the ability to travel between any two open windows at will and is basically Batman, if instead of a bat flying into his room, the window had just blown open, schooling the young chalk drawn boy in the ways of the hero whilst his companions, 'The Dial Bunch' attempt to find a way to follow their nemesis back to his home universe. Pretty simple right?
Maybe I should back up a little...

In issue 1 (launched as part of DC's second wave of New 52 titles), we meet Nelson Jent, an overweight smoker whose roommate has found himself in trouble with some unsavoury types. Whilst attempting to call the police during a brutal attack on said roommate in the alley next to their apartment building, Nelson is mysteriously transformed into the hero known as 'Boy Chimney', the embodiment of urban pollution. You see the phone booth contains an H Dial, allowing the user to 'dial' a random set of superpowers for a limited period of time. Nelson finds himself an unwilling superhero, teamed with the mysterious 'Manteau' (a fellow dialler) and locked in battle against the misguided 'Ex Nihilo', the otherworldly 'Squid' and the forces of the void. Then things start to get weird and Nelson begins a bizarre journey around the world and through other realities, all informed by the secret history of telephony and the machinations of the 'Shadow on the Line'.

I really can't recommend this series enough. Not only is it the most consistently creative and original (despite being loosely based on an old 60s series) superhero comic on the shelves right now, it gives most indie comics a run for their money too. Mieville is a superb writer whose prose work is definitely worth a look (start with 'Perdido Street Station', it's heavy going but incredibly rewarding) and he has made the transition to comics look easy. The artwork for the series is dark and moody and perfectly captures the insane and unusual look of the myriad heroes dialled by Jent. If you know me I've probably rambled on at you before about just how great it is and why you should definitely read it, right now, no matter what. 

Friday, 7 June 2013

Pints and Pencils 6/6/13

It was Pints and Pencils again last night. This time we had to draw an old fashioned movie poster for a monster movie with a creature unlike any other movie monster. I agonised over this for ages but eventually came up with this. It's kind of small but at the bottom in the 'From the visionary director of' bit there's another film called 'Day of the Dachshund'. I would definitely watch that.

It was too late to draw it properly but I also came up with this, which I may develop at some point in the future. I think there's probably at least a short strip in it.

Then there's this monstrosity. My friend Mairi asked me to draw her and then she drew me. I turned us into bugs. She asked to be a butterfly but I am an unpleasant man and cannot be trusted.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Captain Britain

'The sky is torn, the landscape is raped and raw, the night is curdled with nightmares. 
It's still his country.'

The following is a (not so) short review of the 2002 Marvel graphic novel 'Captain Britain' by Alan Moore and Alan Davis which collects Moore's first work on a major superhero character (although he also began writing Marvel/Miracleman around the same time). Captain Britain had been created by Chris Claremont some years earlier and recently relaunched and substantially altered by Dave Thorpe and Alan Davis. I haven't written anything like this for a long time so my apologies if it's a little all over the place.
Prior to taking on writing duties on Marvel UK's Captain Britain series, Moore's most prominent work had been various 'Future Shock' stories for 2000AD and an assortment of Doctor Who and Star Wars stories for Marvel UK. He was hired to write Captain Britain midway through a storyline which had been criticised for some confusing writing by Thorpe (who is credited by Davis with coining the '616' designation of the Marvel Universe). Moore has apparently stated in the past that he himself didn't really understand the direction the story was taking up until that point and this perhaps explains his approach to his first segment. I say segment because these aren't full issues. As I understand it, each part of the story appeared as back-up strips in various Marvel UK publications: 'Marvel Super-heroes, The Daredevils and Mighty World of Marvel. As such, the story is broken up into short sections of between 5 and 8 pages each which, much like the episodic format of 2000AD, lends the narrative momentum and a rapid pace. Moore fills each of these short sections with a vast amount of information, especially at the start of the book creating a very dense story, very reminiscent of his later work, particularly Swamp Thing.
Anyway, on to the story. Under a lesser writer the first two chapters (a mere ten pages) could come accross as a little confusing. We see various characters (Opal Luna Saturnyne and her Avant Guard, Jackdaw, Dimples, The Fury and the as yet unnamed governing forces of this alternate world) in a scenario that we are thrown straight into the middle of. Only the Fury is actually a new character created by Moore, all the others having presumably complex back stories that may have proven useful. However, a single page of exposition and we are basically up to speed with previous events: Cap and his companions are in a parallel universe where all the superheroes are dead and reality is falling apart. Simple. Saturnyne and her Avant Guard
flee and Dimples and Jackdaw (two characters that from their brief appearances here really didn't seem worthy of any further attention) are swiftly dispatched by the Fury leaving Cap to deal with his assailant on his own. A quick run in with 'Mad Jim Jaspers' (who seems to be a character from earlier in the story that Moore has decided to give mutant abilities for reasons that become apparent later in the book) inside a giant flying teapot and it's on to a final showdown with the Fury in which Cap is disintegrated and we see a brief glimpse of Captain UK, the AWOL survivor of this world's hero purges.
It's a pretty intense and inventive ten pages and, coupled with the next chapter, a brief history of Captain Britain/Brian Braddock and an introduction to Omniversal manipulator Merlin and his daughter, Roma, quickly clears the board for Moore to tell his own story whilst effectively setting up most of the essential components of what comes with the rest of Moore's run. The writing may be a little clunky in places and it perhaps suffers from too much expository text (as do the next few chapters), bbut it feels necessary given the page constraints.
So Merlin and Roma rebuild Captain Britain in a scene reminiscent of parts of 'The Anatomy Lesson', in which Moore would redefine Swamp Thing a few years later, and send him off back to Earth 616 to reclaim his home from an evil computer and save his sister (a pre-Psylocke, purple haired, Betsy Braddock) from an assassin hunting down psychics. This short section in which Cap fights the, frankly amazing, Slaymaster (a canary yellow clad. mustachioed assassin with a variety of high tech weapons and a left hand that he has sharpened into a deadly blade) helps to effectively ground the character and introduce the human members of his supporting cast before the story takes a trip back into the omniverse. We also see a hint of things to come for Cap as he brutally beats Slaymaster, continuing to hit him even after he surrenders in a comically gentlemanly fashion. And then the story kicks into a higher gear.
I don't want to go into too much depth and spoil the rest of the book (or make this 'short review' too long) but basically the Fury escapes from it's dying universe, Cap meets (and punches) various parallel universe versions of himself (a concept that Claremont would later make extensive use of in Excalibur) and once again battles the Fury before finding his own world falling to the reality warping powers of its own version of Mad Jim. It's fast paced high concept stuff and I loved every panel. I'll just talk about a couple of chapters that are particularly effective and then wrap things up with a look at the artwork by Alan Davis (spoiler: it's great).
There's a chapter in the middle of the book where Moore introduces a group of mercenaries, 'The Special Executive', who have been hired by Saturnyne to bring Cap to her aid. Moore has eight pages to introduce four brand new characters, have them carry out their mission and either succeed or fail. What we get is a masterclass in how to define a character and their powers, most of which are fairly high concept. Each of the four has an essential part in the plan, each one uses their power effectively and in a way that allows Moore to explain it in the most elegant way possible. It is quite simply a superb bit of writing, coupled with some great power effects in the artwork. I particularly like the fractured panel where Fascination warps Cap's mind and
the demented look on Cobweb's face as Betsy falls into the trap of reading her broken, dimension spanning mind.
The second chapter I wanted to talk about occurrs around two thirds of the way through the book and acts as a bridge between the rematch with the Fury and the establishment of Jaspers as the new threat. The series jumps from Cap and his dwindling allies observing that things are about to get much worse to two characters that we have never seen before (although we will see one again in Delano and Davis' run. Hint: it's Meggan), sometime in the future, telling stories of Cap's acts of heroism. It's a great way of showing the passage of time and letting us know that Cap has been carrying out heroic acts of defiance even as his beloved country falls into decay. The story they tell has the requisite amount of exaggeration but some clever ideas in the artwork show us the difference between the story and the less grand but equally heroic reality. It might just be my favourite chapter of the whole book.
And so on to the art of Alan Davis. What can I say? Davis is a master of comic art. He was already working on the book when Moore joined and it's clear that he has the character designs down right from the start. Cap looks suitably heroic in uniform and fantastically steel jawed and aristocratic in his civilian guise, the Fury looks alien and menacing, Jaspers is visibly insane with an effective visual gag of never wearing the same hat in two panels for most of the story, and the alien members of the cast (including a tiny sentient mountain on a floating platform that speaks only in haiku!) are varied and inventive. Davis really excels at crowd scenes, cramming in plenty of detail (and a couple of sneaky cameos by Mr Miracle and a Green Lantern) and giving every character, even those who will never be seen again, their own unique personality and appearance. His facial expressions are also worth noting and there is some great 'acting' between characters. I was also really impressed with Davis' layouts for the series, some of which seem pretty innovative for 1982. The POV shots from the Fury's perspective are presented in circular panels with information around them, Cap bursts out of panels in a rage, there's an unexpected double page spread (again highlighting Davis' skill with crowd scenes) and the final issues showing the climactic battle with Jaspers are expertly handled despite the demanding script and lack of logic inherent in Jaspers' powers. If I had any problems with the art here it's that Cap sometimes looks a little stretched. There's a couple of panels where his neck or torso are a little too long but it's a minor and occasional fault. Also the resizing of pages from larger UK comics size to the standard US size and shape makes some of the inking in the smaller panels look a little heavy.
In short then, the stories collected in this book show a young Alan Moore starting to find his voice and noticeably refining his craft as the story develops and a young Davis already exhibiting the kind of attention to detail and creativity that would make him a comic book legend in years to come. It is well worth your attention and it has been an absolute pleasure rereading it after over a decade.

Oh, and there's also a scene where Terry Wogan commentates on an omniversal tribunal and then gets squashed by a giant robot. How often do you get to see that?

I'm in the process of reading a load of Captain Britain and Excalibur stuff that I own (The Delano and Davis trade, the first 26 issues of Excalibur and a few of the Warren Ellis issues including the X-Calibre spin off for Age of Apocalypse) so I may post some more reviews and drawings as I go along.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Pints and Pencils

It's Pints and Pencils again on Thursday and I'm looking forward to the regular random comics challenge that produced the Alcohol Remote last time.
Here's a few of my older efforts from previous months.

The first one is from April. We had to choose a bunch of random words and then use two of them to make a product to sell to a soldier. The selection of words I got was pretty poor so this was the best I could come up with.

This one's from March. The format for this was that everyone wrote 2 places, actions, fictional characters and real people on seperate bits of paper and then everyone drew one of each to make their comic. I got Lara Croft, Jesus (not sure which one is the real person), 'making an epic friendship collage' (had to ask what that meant), in Emma Stone's tampon drawer (sigh...).

This one is from February. Same system as March but that time I got Lady Hellboy, Mel Gibson, perusing pornography on a volcano. 

The text in the first panel reads: A lava strewn mountainside, the world's foremost puryevor of adult literature, an angry semi-naked man approaches spouting racial epithets and pro-scots propaganda.
The last one says: But the half naked man has taken his amusing racism a step too far. Lady Hellboy is not one to suffer fools gladly. (Also she hates Australians and thought The Passion of the Christ was shit.)
I did a couple of sketches before I started this just to get the characters right. I particularly like the Mel Gibson one.

This last one is from sometime last year. Basically we all got four panels with pictures of fat Spider-man in various poses and we had to create a story around them.

I dread to think what I'll be drawing this time.