Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New stuff

I've been beavering away on Spandex 2. Blimey it's hard work! Honestly, even just preparing a page on Photoshop - just tidying up the blotches of a page scan - takes a whole evening, never mind colouring and lettering! So I think a February release date was a bit ambitious, and then I'm off to Japan in March (Yatta! Been learning the language for a year just so I can do that!), so I think we're looking at April, which is a shame but never mind!
I've got to say though, I think it's the strongest comic issue I've done, I'm so proud of it, and I think the quality is streets ahead of Spandex 1! It's quite funny, tense, exciting, fucked-up, nasty, and it's got the single most rude panel I think I've ever seen in a comic hehe! The team head to Japan to recruit a replacement team member and come face to face with...The Pink Ninjas!
It's 28 pages of story and 8 pages of extras, and there's going to be an online art project celebrating Japanese and Asian cinema and culture.
Anyway, here's something I have been working on - it's probably not even going to appear in the issue, so I probably should have left it and drawn the issue instead oops

Friday, January 22, 2010

I heart this review

A while ago, I sent a free Spandex to a blogger guy who reviews tons of comics - but he didn't review I assumed he hated it....
But he put his review up today and it's my favourite review everrrr!
It's at the end here...
It's so nice - he really gets what I'm trying to do!!! And he doesn't slag off the art!!! He admits it's simple, but doesn't see a problem with that - hurrah! Sooo many people are saying the art is lame...but I dunno - I'm modelling myself on Jill Thompson and Pia Guerra - just simple, back to basics storytelling.
At the end of the day, I think he sees that I'm trying to put a comic out there that I'd like to read myself...and I gotta say, there's not much out there worth reading at the moment...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Albums of 2009

Albums of 2009

A bit late for this, but I just wanted to get it off my chest - my top 10 albums of 2009! Starting, unusually from number 1!

1 - Temper Trap - Conditions
This is the best album I've heard in ages! It really struck a chord with me. I first heard Sweet Disposition on a Big Brother montage (lol) and it really grabbed my attention, so I investigated a bit, but ultimately Q Mag just said they were a U2 rip-off (no way!). So sadly I ignored them for a while.... Until I stumbled across their amazing Science of Fear video and explored further!
Honestly, in a day and age where I no longer listen to albums from start to finish, it takes a good album to make me sit down and do exactly that - and I've listened to it over and over again many many times.
Just a fab album, some great tunes. The lyrics are quite simple really (although lyrics are the last reason for me to like an album). Love Lost is a great opener, I'll never tire of Sweet Dispostion, and Fools is a wonderful song. I love the video to Fader, such passion. When I first saw it, I thought it was a bit dull, but I really grew to like the intensity of the performance. I was a bit disappointed that there were only 10 songs on the album, and then thrilled to find out there were 2 more bonus tracks elsewhere (Little Boy is brilliant).
I can't wait for the 2nd album and I can't wait to see them live in April!

2 - Paramore - Brand New Eyes
Yes, not a dream, not a hoax, really - Paramore! I just really liked this album, it's got some fab epic songs on it. Yeah, they're all Emo, and maybe some of the lyrics are a bit too self-involved (of the 'thank goodness the band didn't split up' variety).
Ignorance is great and catchy, Brick By Boring Brick is EPIC, Misguided Ghosts is gorgeous, the acoustic versions are fab, and All I Wanted is a great, mental end to the album.
Avoid the live album though where singer Hayley puts on her terrible rock chick voice on before every song - 'ALRIGHT BOSTON, THIS IS OUR NEW SONG, IT ROCKS!@

3 - Nerina Pallot - The Graduate
A very good album from Nerina, and I'm so glad I saw her live at the ICA. She was amazing and even made me like Elton John songs. Real Late Starter was a terrible choice for first single - should have been the amazing Human - one of my ultimate fave tracks of the year. When Did I Become Such A Bitch is huge fun, and the extra tracks on the Junebug EP are gorgeous.

4 Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
Very powerful music, very sexy voice, very very nice album cover. A new redhead entered my life! What is it with me and redheads...

5 - Tori Amos - Midwinter Graces
Two albums from my wife this year - amazing! This one is a Christmas album - uh oh! I gotta say, when I first listened to this, I really thought she'd lost the plot. The woman who wrote Silent All These Years is now writing a song that starts with:
'The radio plays
My holiday faves...'
But of course it did grab me eventually! Tori takes some traditional songs and really takes them apart and gives them a new spin. Star of Wonder is really quite marvellous ('These Three Kings are...Coming', cheeky Tor), she duets beautifully with her daughter on Holy Ivy and Rose, her neice guest stars on Coventry Candle and my god she's got a good voice (I don't actually really like this song, but the neice really makes it for me), Snow Angel is really pretty, Pink and Glitter is balls to the wall fab-u-lous, but my absolute favourite is Our New Year, with the most incredible epic string sections, which make my heart stop every time (probably a bad thing?).
One thing I will say - Tori released an acoustic solo piano version of some of the songs - and the version of Jeanette, Isabella is absolutely wonderful. And this is the thing - on this version we can hear all the technique, all the pauses, all the breaths, all the playfulness, that's been so missing in some of Tori's most recent over-produced work. Get back to basics Tori - please!!

6 - Tori Amos - Abnormally Attracted to Sin
Tori's first album of the year. A real return to form after the fairly bad Beekeeper and the patchy American Doll Posse. Strong Black Vine is the sexiest song of the year, like a Bond theme, Maybe California is pure beauty, Police Me is the most original thing she's done in years, and Fast Horse is pure excitment. Go Tor - but hon, you gotta shorten the albums. You can't keep doing 18-track albums, we don't have time to listen to them!!!

7 - Sarah Slean - The Baroness
Sarah Slean was new to me this year, but what a find! She's kind of a more theatrical, ballady version of Tori. This is a beautiful album. Get Home is pure sadness, Notes from the Underground is a wonderful song and Please Be Good To Me makes me go all tingly.

8 Regina Spektor - Far
I have a love-hate relationship with Regina, partly because she's kind of the younger people's cool version of Tori, and partly because she goes a bit too kooky sometimes. This is a fab album though. Laughing With is a gorgeous little pop song, Machine is epic (and Ms Fantastic's theme song in Spandex), Human of the Year is gorgeous, Once More With Feeling is so lovely. Only negatives are The Wallet, which is just a bit dumb, and Folding Chair - Regina, you really shouldn't have done those dolphin impressions.

9 - Florence and the Machine - Lungs
I discovered FatM in 2008 and downloaded everything I possibly could!! I couldn't believe we had to wait so long for their first album but it eventually arrived. It's really good - very long - and my main problem with it, is that it's just a bit too SHOUTY. Calm down love! There's some great stuff on here though - Drumming Song is epic, Cosmic Love is beautiful, Swimming is gorgeous (reminds me of Kate Bush) and Bird Song intro - for a one-minute non-song, instrumental - has had loooads of listenings from me this year!

Well there isn't a 10, there's just really a list of albums that I bought and thought were good, but then they just ended up on my ipod and I will probably investigate them a lot more this year. These include:
Brandi Carlisle - Give up the Ghost
To be honest, with a couple more listens, this should probably have been in the top ten. There's some really storng stuff on here, especially the gentle folk of Touching the Ground.
Others include - Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Hysteric is amazing!); Lisa Mitchell - fun folk pop, a bit like a young Feist; Tegan and Sara - much more cohesive, strong pop; Catherine Feeney - People in the Hole (some great folk tunes); Veronicas (cool pop, but In Another Life is one of the most cringe-inducing ballads I've ever heard); Lady Gaga - really impressive mix of styles; Little Boots - strong pop.

And some disappointments this year:
Imogen Heap's Ellipsis was a bit of a damp squib; Martha Wainwright's Edith Piaf record isn't my cup of tea; Bats 4 lashes seems a little over-rated to me.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Next 15 Minutes...

I was sitting at work on Wednesday (day job = editor of Simpsons Comics), worrying about my leaking radiator at home, when the phone rang. “Hello, yes, this is Jack from BBC Breakfast, we’d like to do a spot on the Simpsons’ 20th Anniversary tomorrow morning...” (nooo, I know what’s coming, don’t say it, don’t say it) “...would you like to appear on it?”
I wouldn’t say I’m a shy person, but I don’t like being centre of attention. I’ve been asked to do interviews at work before and I’ve done the occasional radio interview. I don’t mind them because some of them are just like having a phone conversation. But I don’t like seeing or hearing myself on things, I don’t really like everyone I know seeing it or crowding round TVs at work to see it (when most of them wouldn't do it themselves), I don’t like the fact that I don’t even know if it actually benefits my magazines so what’s the point, I get extremely nervous, and to be honest, I’m busy at work and could do without this kind of thing.
However, after doing a few Spandex interviews on radio and TV, I’ve been getting used to it, and to be honest I was more worried about my leaking radiator and getting better after a nasty 24-hour bug than a TV appearance. Maybe I’d be more nervous if I watched BBC Breakfast, and if I went in there blind, not knowing what to expect, I might be better. And don’t research into how many people watch the show.
So I checked with my bosses and they said okay, so I agreed it all with the Beeb and they said they’d send a car for me at...7am the next day!
So anyway, still not really nervous, except for one confession. I think they expect me to be a Simpsons expert. Well I’m not. I know the Simpsons really well, I’ve watched it from the start, well, before the start, when it was on the Tracy Ullman show as short sketches. I’ve seen tons of episodes, but in the last couple of years, I’ve been busy, I don’t have Sky, I don’t get home in time to see it on Channel 4, whenever I do see it, it's one I've already seen about 30 times – so I haven’t seen it for a while. What if everything has changed on the show?? I just have to hope it hasn't - and I doubt it has...
Anyway, I don't get much sleep, mainly because I'm actually quite excited - which is unusual for me in this situation! Alarm goes at 6am, get up - huge puddle on floor! No, I haven't wet myself, my leak has got worse!! So I have to sort this out, plus iron my clothes, get ready etc. Phone call at 5 to 7 - your BBC car is here! Aargh, my flat is getting flooded!! I have to leave a big bowl down and hope for the best...
My 'call time' is 8.15, so leaving the house at 7am might seem a bit over-cautious, but it makes sense, as we had so much snow the day before. Turns out we get there at around 8.10, so the timing is good. I'm busy taking the photo you can see above and don't notice the security guards asking me who I am etc hehe. I start to panic that they won't let me in!
I'm met by runner 'Angus' who is young and polite (he's teamed with an older guy who is also polite and really efficient). I'm taken to a very small 'green room' where a group of people are waiting, all guests on the show. I find out later that these include 'dog people' and a woman who painted Harry and William's first portrait or something. There's food and drinks available, but I just drink water. Amy Lame is there so I introduce myself and we chat - she's so nice! My new celeb bud! I had no idea she did a radio talk show with Danny Baker! We talk about the Simpsons a lot and her career, and after a while I show her my Spandex comic and give her a copy too. She seems to like it.
I nip to the loo, and on the way back I notice that 'Nicholas Hoult' who's on before me, has his own dressing room! When I return I'm met by a producer lady who tells me that we've been put back from 8.40 to after 9. It's fine, I'm still not nervous, I have no idea why. I guess if it was an evening show, I'd have a lot more time to get nervous and get myself worked up.
I return to Amy in the green room, she's a bit quieter, nervous I think, and she's written some notes down - pointers of what to say, I guess. I haven't bothered to do any of that as I know I'll just get flustered anyway.
I sit down but then this rather attractive middle-aged lady tells me she wants to powder me up. I'm taken to the tiny make-up room where there's another attractive lady, and I'm touched up briefly...
We watch Nicholas Hoult and the painter lady on TV, but I'm not really concentrating. Soon enough, it's our time! We're led through a couple of doors - one of which is the 'be quiet, live recording' door, although i don't realise this and I'm still wittering away to Amy!
So this is it - I don't watch BBC Breakfast, but it looks like an impressive huge studio - all white and glass, with people milling around behind them.
Er no. It's all very dingey, with tacky black curtains everywhere. The room itself is just a small dark studio and in one corner of the room are Bill and Sian sitting on a crappy looking red sofa - everything behind them is just a backdrop! The magic of TV eh? What looks very nice on TV is, in reality, very sparse! There's just one camera lady (!) and one producer, a very attractive blonde lady. We're given two little black wheelie chairs, just grabbed randomly to sit on - honestly the place is a wreck!!
I'm immediatley at ease, when I see that all I've got to do is sit on a sofa with Bill and Sian and Amy for 5 minutes and just behave myself.
Suddenly it's our turn, so we're led over, and I'm put in the middle (I don't want to be in the middle!). There's a news item going on, so we've got time to chat - Sian is immediatey warm and welcoming, Bill is fun, very dad-like. I ask him how his tooth is (it fell out on a charity TV show) and give them copies of the Simpsons comic. A woman tells us to put microphones under neath our shirts - I panic - I'm crap at things like this - I can never put visitors badges on lol! But somehow I do it, and then we're live!!!
Bill introduces us and says 'so you are Comic Book Guy!' and I say 'I'm not that fat, am I?' - good start.
It goes okay. I blather on about the start of the Simpsons on the Tracy Ullman show, how new sets of fans come to the show all the time, and I say how all dads are like Homer and tell them the anecdote of my dad hitting his head and going 'D'oh' and us all laughing at him.
A few mistakes though!!
Bill goes on about the Michael Jackson ep, and I admit that I didn't know if it really was him or not - apparently it was! Oops. I've never been one to trawl the internet for facts.... Terrrrrilbe mistake to follow - Bill: 'how many Simpsons episodes have there been?' Now I really don't know these things, because I just edit the comic strip and the mag doesn't actually involve the TV show much (we're not really allowed to). But I'm sure I read it was about 1000 somewhere, so I say that - wrong!!! It's only about 500!
Then Bill asks me which character I'd be. Well, what a strange question, and I find stuff like this hard to answer because instead of going for the obvious answer (Homer or Bart), I always want to go for something that's true. And then my mind tricked me into thinking 'which is my favourite character' so I just said 'Ned'! Apparently Amy looked shocked... Then Bill said 'why'? Oh god. Why the hell would anyone want to be Ned... So I just reply something terrible like 'Oh he's innocent and oblivious to people...' Oh dear.
Well that was it anyway, Bill and Sian wrapped up the show, and I was sorely tempted to wave a Simpsons comic up next to Sian, because I was feeling quite silly, but I'm glad I didn't do it - it'd have looked quite tacky!
I will say that there is so much going on! So many cameras, so many autocues... In the table in front of Bill and Sian are computers with instructions and email feeds and news and Twitter things. You can see yourself all over the place and there is a really big screen of you opposite. If you watched/watch it, you'll notice me glancing in a direction quite a lot - it's just me checking I am not looking too slouched or stupid or fat.
Then Bill starts doing Mr Burns impressions and Bill and Sian get up immediately and walk off lol! Me and Amy go to the Green Room and chat for ages, and Bill wanders in too (he's quite teacher-like, but really nice). Then we're told our cars are here so we head to Reception - Bill is in the distance shouting Mr Burns impressions still... I guess that's that for the day.
I air-kiss Amy (lol) and get to my car and phone my mom and dad. My mom had to rush off to the dentist, but my dad saw it and loved that I mentioned him. In the car, I start to get annoyed that the Beeb are obviously using our license payer money to ferry people around in cars - and then realise I'm being ferried around in a car, so I quite like it.
I get back to the office and all my colleagues are great - they'd all watched it on their computers of course! They say I was cool and looked good, and overall I'm pleased with it. Later on, I chat to my mom who says she's proud of me!
Quite a few of my Facebook chums were shocked to see me on TV, so I chat to them a bit too.
What's funny is that I then go into a Simpsons meeting, where our morale is pretty much ripped to shreds by various things. If only the BBC cameras had followed us into that, eh?
Later on, I get a phone call from Radio Kent inviting me to another interview (I Knew this would happen, but I don't mind) - and I try to arrange it around getting my leak sorted lol. I should maybe have said I had meetings rather than tell the BBC producer about my leak hehe (the interview eventually doesn't take place).
So that's it! A long-winded story, but hopefully an interesting insight into something not everyone gets to experience!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Under the Drone

Well...I just managed to finish Under the Drone...I mean, Dome... Stephen King's latest... Blimey, that was a slog!!! (Not a good slog. Is there such a thing as a good slog?)
A few spoilers here...
For me, the book was a little tarnished from the start... First up, there's the fact that the PR people are calling it King's 'finest epic since The Stand', which raises expectations somewhat...and is, considering The Stand was King's fifth book, also a little disrespectful to some of King's other fine epics, such as Needful Things, It (not one of my faves, but most people love it) and the Tommyknockers (I also remember Desperation being PR-ed as an epic way back when, which I disagreed with, as the scale of that book wasn't huge).
Also, an 'epic' suggests to me something that there's going to be a lot of scope to the book. The Stand takes place over a period of time, but UTD only takes place in a week or so. I really wondered which direction this book was going to go in - how would it end? Would King revisit the characters in 20 years time - see how they've got on? How cool would that be...? Er, well doesn't happen.
And finally, I'd read in the Blaze foreword that King had worked on an early epic called The Cannibals - how good does that sound?? - and I thought Under The Dome was his new version of that novel. Would these people start eating each other??? Er, no...
So anyway, onto the book itself. It starts off okay enough. King knows a good trick - similar to Cell, hit the ground running. As the 'zombie' plague manifests in Cell, in UTD, we get instant accounts of the Dome going down and injuring/killing different people. It's actually a cool intro, and some of the old-people deaths are quite amusing...but this is also where the major problem of the book rears its ugly head - TOO MANY CHARACTERS! Here is my impression of the first 100 or so pages:
'...Jim walks in. John walks out. There's Andy. He's with Joan. They walk out. Now here's Rusty...'
That's how it feels!! And the characters aren't really that entertaining. Some of them do strike a chord. I liked Rusty, Julia and Thurston... But 'main guy' Barbie did annoy me - he's a very standard King protagonist - and I'm glad he disappeared for most of the book's middle third.
Worst character though, is Big Jim. A complete panto villain - there's just nothing to him. It's a little bit embarrassing. His son, Junior, is not much better either. Oh, so-and-so is in our way, let's kill them. Oookay.
And another problem with the novel - I really wish it had been set in the past, to make the town feel more isolated. Because it's in the present day, the army immediately get involved and a media circus starts (apparently). This kinda makes it a bit less believable that people would just go around murdering people willy-nilly. I mean, in this day and age, what would happen in this situation - reality TV show of course! Cameras would be set up everywhere! It would be the latest phenomenon!
The pace of the novel is all off too... This is a big problem for SK of late. He needs a harsher editor. Lisey's Story almost put me in a coma. It's sooo sloooow!!! UTD gets really tedious at times. And yet, when things actually happen at the end, it's over really quickly! Could SK not be bothered?
Other problems:
- The gang-rape scene - yes, human horror is the most horrific, yadda yadda, but Mr King, that was just really nasty. And to turn it into a 'clever' scene with the 'Nyuk Nyuk' references - just too nasty. The character's arc was interesting though.
- If the dome just lifts off at the end, this suggests it's just half a dome - so couldn't they tunnel underneath? King doesn't make the slightest effort to explain any of this to the reader, which is a bit insulting. (And I've mentioned elsewhere that the Dome has ridiculous similarities to other Dome-related stories, like the Luna Bros' excellent Girls comic and even the Simpsons movie).
- The ending - things take a turn for the drastic in the last 100 pages or so. On the one hand, it just doesn't ring true that things would go tits up so quickly, and also it just seems incredibly cruel what happens to the town members.
So all in all, King still hasn't got his old magic back and he still needs a really good editor. There's a good book in Under the Dome somewhere, King just didn't deliver it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pride Life Magazine feature

Really nice feature/interview about Spandex and me in Pride Life Magazine - I think it's available free in LGBT bars and outlets! I love it!