Sunday, February 28, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
In the early 1990s, Todd McFarlane was the hottest artist working at Marvel Comics. He worked on the long-running Amazing Spider-Man title, catapulting it to massive success. After a while, a new Spider-Man title was created and sold on McFarlane’s name (and new status as writer/artist). That first issue sold somewhere around 2-3 million copies. Which seems ridiculous, especially by today’s standards, where the most successful Marvel Comics sell about 100k. But apparently that is the amount the title sold.
After that, he left Marvel altogether, taking 5 or 6 other “hot” artists with him to create a new company – Image Comics. Would readers go with the superstar writer/artists on new characters, or stick with the characters Spider-Man, The Hulk and X-Men at Marvel?
Well, for a time, Image was a sales phenomenon. McFarlane’s own Spawn was another million-seller, the other books were big hits too, and the DC / Marvel domination of the US industry was substantially cracked.
Personally, I never liked McFarlane’s style. Before he did Spider-Man, he drew The Hulk, and I didn’t like him on there. His rise to comics superstardom was a mystery to me.
So, why am I devoting time to the guy?
This is all a mere preamble to an interview I’d recommend you give a listen. In 1992, at the height of McFarlane’s success, Gary Groth spoke with him. They are living in different worlds, and it’s a fabulous meeting of minds.
Check it out here.
Monday, February 22, 2010
I've been a bit of a stamp collector on and off over the years. Not in any serious way, I just like the fact that they are little artwork prints.
Some of the stamps I've picked up have been comics related. I thought I'd share them here.
Let's start with Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future from The Eagle...
This stamp is from an early 1990s UK commemorative set. The theme was not comics. It was a series of characters receiving or sending messages. So here we have Dan Dare in the future - in fact the year 2030, as opposed to the 1990s, the time Dare and co. occupied in the original comics - reading a "Cosmic Space Lines Radiostat Message". The Mekon appears to be sneaking a peak at Dare's messages too.
I have no idea who drew this. If anyone does, please let me know.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
The Gaseous Brain website, as written about here, has produced a fanzine, covering a wide range of topics. It includes the following review:
Dump is a small press comic by David Robertson which brings together a number of short pieces most of which were originally produced by the author for other outlets.
The title may lead one to think that the comic contains some scatological humour, and ‘Contemplating Suicide While Someone Else Craps’ is indeed a one page piece with some very black toilet humour.
However, “It’s Delhi Belly”, a piece drawn for an anthology unsubtly called “Crap Your Pants”, is actually a sober tale about someone who finds out they’ve contracted Crohn’s Disease. It’s a factual piece which made me think it was autobiographical, but according to the notes at the back of the comic it was thoroughly researched and written with the truth in mind.
It also contains a story which is itself called ‘Dump’ which is not in fact a bathroom related tale, but about the protagonist of Robertson’s former comic Berserkotron starting a new job at a scrap metal yard / council dump. I sense that this is a story that could follow through to further issues rather than being standalone.
Other tales in the comic include one which considers how positive discrimination would affect humans in a Star Wars style universe where we have a relatively short lifespan, and an undisguised autobiographical account of a single day for the Hourly Comics Day project. Robertson’s unique way of thinking makes each story interesting, and is also evident in the section where he imagines the thoughts of the models from his life drawing class.
There’s something of Harvey Pekar in the straightforward and commonplace nature of many of the events, and the art is simple yet effective which perfectly matches the tone. If Robertson were to weave some more emotional aspects into his stories he could develop to be a storyteller to watch.
The Gaseous Brain fanzine is available now. For details, have a look here.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
In 1987, a few of my comics reading friends and I grew tired with the dilapidated selection of US comics available in our provincial newsagents. We decided it was time to head off to Edinburgh for a visit to a real life comic shop.
I cobbled together a few weeks' pocket money. One of my mates got a lot more than me on a weekly basis, and then had the temerity to find a tenner in a taxi the day before our trip.
After a couple of hours on the bus and a seemingly endless trek, we finally found our objective: Science Fiction Bookshop, West Cross Causeway.
Entering that shop was unbelievable. It was the first wall of comics I'd ever seen, and I think I just stood and stared for a long time before making any kind of move towards it.
We spent all afternoon there, chatting with one of the young employees. He was very friendly, and went digging in the back shop, looking for items we asked about.
Later that year, in a follow up to the X-Men story I wrote about here, Colossus visited Edinburgh. And guess where he was pictured...
I guess X-Men writer Chris Claremont had visited the shop on a signing tour and promised to feature it. It was great to see these iconic characters in Edinburgh. And so soon after the excitement of discovering my first comic shop, here it was in X-Men, one of the hottest comics around at the time.
The story has many tropes of a foreign portrayal of Scotland. Dodgy accents and all. It also has a rudimentary understanding of the Scottish political mindset. One of the kids shouts as an insult: "Yuir Dad voted for Thatcher" - not a popular political figure in Scotland, despite being the UK's prime minister in 1987.
Good times. Science Fiction Bookshop was bought over by Forbidden Planet a few years later. I still miss that shop I walked into in 1987, but it's a great memory.
Here's to you, Neil, Steve and Chris. We had a blast.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
Thursday, February 04, 2010
GUEST BLOG: MILO McLAUGHLIN
I’ve known Milo McLaughlin for around ten years. He’s a very creative guy. He uses his Gaseous Brain blog to express his huge interest in music, technology and art in general.
I asked him to write something for me, as long as it was comics-related. Being the techno-buff he is, he’s presented me with a video instead of a written piece.
I’ll turn you over to the man himself now...
For some strange reason, I really identified with pigs when I was younger, maybe it was something about them being fat, smelly and funny-looking. As I was also a massive comic fan, Oink! seemed to be designed specifically for me when it came out.
Looking back it was a total anomaly, having an offbeat humour that seemed to be as much for the amusement of the creators, which included Tony Husband, Charlie Brooker and Marc Riley, as it was for the kids.
I'd always remembered the free flexidisc given away with issue one fondly, and at some point even told my girlfriend about it so I was delighted when she bought it me off Ebay for my birthday recently.
Of course the songs are terrible, but I still found them amusing though maybe I was listening to them through a rose-tinted hearing aid. Anyway, this video will give you an idea of what Oink! was all about.
You can also read about it and see some scanned pages via the following links:
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Here are some interesting bits from the press for the past month. Click on the images for larger views.
Cartoonist Kurt Wastergaard managed to get worldwide mainstream attention for himself by drawing pictures of the prophet Muhammad four years ago. Someone broke into his house to kill him while he was babysitting his granddaughter, so The Guardian published the above interview with him on 5th January.
Insomnia Publications are putting out a new comic based on Burke and Hare. It is written by Martin Conaghan and drawn by Will Pickering. This article is from The Scotsman dated 14th January.
In The Times dated 15th January, Jack Malvern writes about a new comic being put together as part of a sales package in order to get a TV series starring Vinnie Jones made. They've managed to get Howard Chaykin involved.
Private Eye editor Ian Hislop writes about a 1617 Reformation centenary broadsheet for Radio Times from 16th January.
Drawn Out and Painted Pink is an exhibition of gay cartoons showing now at the Drill Hall in London. This feature is from The Times 27th January.
Lastly, a sad end to the month. Bill Ritchie died. He's well known for Baby Crockett from The Beezer. He had a lovely fun style. Here is the notice from The Courier dated 28th February.