Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Leeds Thought Bubble

Team Hi-Ex! headed off to the Leeds Thought Bubble sequential arts festival again this year. It was well worth the two days travelling each way to catch up with friends, Hi-Ex! guests and exhibitors past and future as well as our own comics projects collaborators. Rich does a few comics that were on sale there, Vicky had drawn a strip appearing in a comic called Something Wicked ( by FutureQuake publications ) and we both had worked on strips for a book being launched ' Tales of the Fallen ' part of Barry Nugent's Unseen Shadows trans media project.

We'd volunteered to help the organisers as its important to us that we support other comic events across the UK. After all, we are all trying to do the same thing in promoting comics, bringing fans and creators together and introducing a new generation, a new audience to the massive variety and potential of comics. We had brilliant fun - all the running about without the responsibility! There is a great atmosphere there and masses of people came for the weekend convention which was a cumilation of a weeks events, workshops, talks, conference, competition, film screenings and happenings. We were on guest liaison detail and queue wrangling with the loads of other brilliant friendly and professional volunteers in our coveted red Thought Bubble t-shirts.

Manga cosplayers were out in force, some great costumes, and some...brave ...costumes given the rather cold Leeds fog, brrrr!

2000AD themed canvases were getting painted by a selection of artists throughout the weekend.

Friday night there was a pre con reception, which was a great chance to get together and meet collaborators old and new. Above is Sarah McIntyre and Gillian Rogerson. They have a fabby new book out 'You can't scare a princess' and Sarah's children activity area was pirate themed this year.

Sarah was kind enough to take and send us a rare exclusive photograph of team Hi-Ex! together captured in the wild.
Saturday night at the after show party we got grumpy that the music was too loud to allow conversation, but just prior to leaving thought we might as well join in, so discoed the night away with the young folks. It was great fun! Comics people throwing shapes, a very surreal sight to behold!

blurry pic across one of the two halls.

There was a panel to launch our anthology book ' Tales of the Fallen'- Rich hosted it, on the right, Barry Nugent in the middle with the hat on is the editor/ original creator/ boss , to his left writer Cy Dethan ( who Vicky coloured ' Slaughtermans Creed' for last year)

Left writer Dan Thomson who wrote the story ' Band of Butchers' that  Vicky coloured, Martin Conoghan ( whom she has drawn a strip with for in the book 'Spirit of Hope'), and writer Peter Pogers. Also there were artists Steve Penfold and Rob Carey .

The 'women in comics' panel. It was a rather positive up beat discussion, perhaps the days of male dominance can slowly start to be behind us? Although there are still plenty of publications which are boys only cliques... we'll work on it !  Some of speakers on this panel were brilliantly inspiring! 

The canvas artwork progresses.

The hall clearing away was exhausting! Thought Bubble is massive compared to Hi-Ex!, but manages to maintain that family and friendly vibe. Then we were done- a billion chairs stacked, tables folded, boxes lugged, stressed exhibitors packed up, rubbish cleared! 

Hurrah for the Red Army of helpers, with the lovely Lisa organiser (in denim).Thanks to all for making it so much fun.
Its given us a great boost to start prepping for Hi-Ex! Loads of new guests want to come along, and lots of fantastic people to run comics workshops... but of course a lot depends, as ever on whether we can get funding. watch this space !

The Dandy and The Beano go digital!

The UK’s best loved comics, The Dandy & The Beano, have announced the introduction of a digital subscription service for both titles through Apple’s Newsstand.  First published in 1937 and 1938 respectively, the two national comic institutions join another one of our comic legends, Commando, in the App store. The apps deliver digital, enhanced versions of the comics, enabling fans to read their favourite strips and characters on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. 

Demonstrating the enduring  popularity of the comic brands is the fact that Apple are already promoting the free Beano app on the front page of iTunes and it is already sitting in the Top 10 downloads – only hours after the apps’ release!
Even though our comics are for children of all ages… the move into digital publishing underlines DC Thomson’s commitment to children’s literacy, ensuring that our famous comics can be read by kids as widely as possible on all kinds of formats. Teachers, parents and educational experts all acknowledge the role comics have in providing the bridge between picture books and chapter books and with the increasing use of apps by children, we hope even more of them can now access our weekly, original and not-to-mention hilarious content.
Mike Stirling, Editor-in-chief of The Beano said: “This is app-solutely fantastic! We’re all very app-y! Sorry, that’s app-alling! The great thing about the new app on Newsstand is that it guarantees our fans can enjoy The Beano 24-7.  I used to read The Beano snuggled up under the covers with a torch at night – nowadays, I’ll just cuddle up to my iPhone!”
Editor-in-chief of The Dandy, Craig Graham added:  We’re incredibly excited about being available as a digital download. Now people can have the unique School of Mock that is The Dandy at their fingertips, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing.”

The Beano and Dandy apps are free to download via iTunes and also come with free issues of the comics so that users can see they great content they’ll get in advance, along with simple instructions of how to subscribe or download. Payment is via the user’s iTunes account. Digital copies are enhanced with interactive advertising, video and links to the existing Beano & Dandy websites – &
DC Thomson have developed these apps in association with Yudu Media – – and are planning to bring a range of existing titles to Apple’s Newsstand in the coming months.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Last Exit

So, we were at Thoughtbubble in Leeds this weekend (proper report to follow, but short version: it was brilliant).
One thing you notice at conventions are t-shirts... lots of t-shirts, and quite a few of them are from the LastExitToNowhere range.

How can something be so completely geeky and esoteric, yet be achingly cool at the same time?
Like this for example:

No, actually, that's too easy... this one:

Oh I could go on...
Sorry if this looks like an ad for them, but it really isn't, I just got over excited by cool t-shirts. It is, after all, the nerd way...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Though Bubble Festival

Team Hi-Ex are heading off to the wonderful Thought Bubble this weekend, its loads bigger than Hi-Ex but still feels like a friendly inclusive event, there is something for all fans, lots of academic talks, fun happenings, workshops and a good gender mix. Many of the lovely Hi-Ex guests will be there. We'll have more Hi-Ex updates news and reviews when we get back.

Meanwhile we're getting regular enquiries from people who want to book a table at Hi-Ex 2012. The new website WILL be up very shortly and yes, we are still taking bookings, mail us at hiex.comics@gmail dot com for more details.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Grant Morrison Talking with Gods at Eden Court

There's a special treat for comic fans in Eden Court this weekend!
They'll be screening this documentary on the... enigmatic... comic book writer Grant Morrison!
You can find details and book tickets for it HERE.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Doctor Who: Serpent Crest Pt1 Tsar Wars

For the majority of people in the world who have heard of Doctor Who, I would be prepared to bet that the first actor they think of connected with the role is Tom Baker.
I think it is fair to say that he inhabited the role in a way no actor before or since has done, so it was delightful when, a few years ago, he decided to embrace the role one again, and perform in both these audio adventures by AudioGo and a new series from Big Finish.
This particular story is the first in a new story arc written by Paul Magrs, who Who fans will be familiar with from his many contributions to Who Lore, not least the creation of the wonderful IrisWildthyme.
Fan’s of Robbie Morrison’s 2000AD series Nicholi Dante will no doubt see something familiar about the title of this story, as well as being equally familiar with the setting.
Here, the Doctor and his faithful housekeeper Mrs Wibbsey are swept from their peaceful cottage into a world of court intrigue in a far future modelled very much on late 19th Century Russia.
The story unfolds cleverly, with a number of nods towards Imperial Russia, and there is some amusement to be had in seeing Baker having an absolute ball playing dual roles, one of which is a not-so-sly nod at one of the parts, apart from the Doctor, that he is most famous for.
As well as being a good self contained adventure, this also sets up an interesting story arc for the rest of the series and has an ending that insists the listener comes back from the next instalment.

Thorgal vol 10 review

I had never read any of the previous volumes in this series, so was coming to this cold. I wasn’t not sure what to expect. From the beautifully painted cover, it was to be the story of a prehistoric fellow fighting bears and such.
And while it is true that he does briefly encounter a bear, as depicted in the cover, there is a hell of a lot more to it than that.
Of course if you have read any of these books this will not be news to you, but for those of you who have not let me expand on this a bit.
Thorgal is a wandering adventurer type. A bit like Conan. A bit like Slainé. Only not at all like those two characters at all.
The story here is just your standard capture/escape/repeat format, but as you would expect from a writer like Hamme (who also created that other Cinebook series, the sublimely convoluted XIII) there is much more going on here.
A lot is lost on me as a first time reader. Thorgal’s meeting up with a character from his past, for example, no doubt will have a greater impact on the long term reader, although it is communicated well enough that it is a Surprise and a Big Deal, so knowing the details of their past encounter is not required.
There is also an element of (apparent) magic going on in here, which is also something that I found surprising, although in hindsight I don’t know why. Perhaps it was the very authentic and real world art by Grzrgorz Rosinski that did so?
Whatever the reason, this element worked well too, and the explanation for it was doubly surprising and made me want to read the previous volumes just to find out more about the mysterious world that Thorgal inhabits.
Thorgal is published by Cinebook.

Journey Into Space: The World in Peril review

We reviewed the first series of Journey into Space here, and very good it was too.
There was a series two between then and this one, in which the intrepid crew of the Discovery visited Mars and had some hi-jinx there.
We join them as they head back to Earth, but of course it is not long before they are plunged headfirst into yet another adventure.
The first thing you’ll notice about this tale is the length. There are twenty half hour long episodes of the story, as well as a few extras that I’ll come to in due course.
So, twenty episodes. That’s just about ten hours of story. In a story of this length, you have to expect some flab, and there is – but not as much as you would think. A good recent series to compare this to is the Torchwood story Miracle Day, which was spread too thin over the same length of time as Journey into Space.
But where Torchwood filled this vacuum with pointless capture and escape scenes and overlong cuts, Charles Chilton does it by having his characters have a conversation, so while they may not be advancing the plot, it is at least interesting.
There are also some clever scenes that could only work on radio. We spend a couple of episodes in the pitch darkness, for example. And it is a mark of just how good the storytelling is that I was listening to this and wondering how the actors could get about in the dark so well, forgetting that is was all pretend!
The main plot presents a slight hiccup for those of us who have not listened to series two, as it does refer back to a lot of things that happen there. While is not totally essential to have heard the previous series, as Chilton does well to fill in any gaps, I did feel a bit left out at times.
I also had a niggling problem with this and the previous series, and it took until episode seventeen here until the penny dropped as to what it was. My problem is Jet Morgan.
Yes, he is the hero of the hour, but he really rubs me up the wrong way. Most of this is, I suspect, because I’m looking at it through the wrong end of fifty years of history in which the class system has moved on somewhat (although looking at our current government you’d be forgiven in thinking it hadn’t) and his behaviour, particularly towards the ever loyal Lemmy, should be seen as a product of the time. The other reason is that he seems to do hardly anything but bark orders at the rest of the crew… anyway: discuss!
As is the way in most sci-fi, the plot concerns (as the title of the adventure may tell you) the Earth being under terrible threat. But it is the nature of this threat, or more specifically, the delivery method of it, that provided me with the most entertainment.
I’ll not say much more about it, but to me it reads like Chilton giving a delightfully cheeky two-fingers to the opposition.
The final two discs contain a more recent (1981) adventure that acts as an epilogue to the main story. It jars if listened to immediately after the main event though, because it features all new actors in the main roles and it takes a while to get their voices fixed in that part (although one of them is the legendary Ed Bishop, so all is good). While this is a good story, and one with an interesting scientific grounding, it doesn’t ‘feel’ as much like a Journey into Space story as the one before. Part of this is, I think, the fact that this one was written in a post Star Trek, post Doctor Who world, and it feels like the narrative has been informed by they storytelling in those shows.
There is also a radio documentary about the series. Or at least should be! Further investigation has shown I have a duff, early copy, of the set with this missing, but AudioGo will replace any of these faulty sets, so fear not if you have one too!
I will say though, that if it’s anything like the interview section on the first series, it will be well worth the effort.
As I said in the previous review: there is usually a very good reason something is considered a classic.
Essential listening.

The Recollection review

Clichés are usually clichés for a very good reason: they are true. And in the case of this book the one that applies is ‘Never judge a book by its cover’.
The cover, but Hi-Ex! guest Neil Roberts is quite wonderful and combined with the rest of the cover layout it gives the whole thing a nice old school sci-fi novel feel to it.
Now, I never read the blurb on the back of a book (at least not before I read it), so it is probably my own fault that I was surprised when the book opened in contemporary London.
From there, the story flips between there and some (at first) unnamed other more ‘sci-fi’ time and/or location.
I don’t as a rule read a lot of sci-fi books. I usually limit my reading to the more obvious authors like Iain M Banks or, as is the case here, ones that have been sent for review. I also have to confess that I had never heard of Gareth Powell before, even though he has written two book previous to this one, and on the strength of this one, I’ll be searching them out.
Powell writes in short chapters of only a few pages. It is an old trick but it is also a good one, as it keeps the reader hanging on past their bedtime for just one more chapter
This is an impressive book. The Earthbound scenes start with a brilliant high concept idea, while the other strand of story exhibits a breadth of imagination up there with the best of them. Powell has the same knack the aforementioned Banks has of taking an idea and expanding it into something mind boggling, as he does here with his bubble habitats.
But it’s not all grand ideas, there is also a very good plot running through here. I did wonder at one point just how he was going to join up the disparate plot strands, but Powell does so in a clever, and (it has to be said) in retrospect, obvious way. I say ‘obvious’ because I really should have figured it out!
Anyway, the plot: it is great stuff. Powell manages to pull some original ideas out of his hat, while riffing on some well worn sci-fi trope.
It all ends well too. And by ‘well’ I don’t necessarily mean it has a happy ending (or not), I mean that he deftly ties up plot points and leaves just enough dangling there that the reader will hopefully want more. And in this he succeeds.
All in all, this book is well worth seeking out – you’ll find details on the Solaris website.
I started this review with a cliché, so I’ll end with one too: Gareth L Powell is one to watch.

Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By review

On the anniversary of the very first Doctor Who broadcast, it's only right that we have a Doctor Who review!

This, latest Who novel from the amazing writing machine that is Dan Abnett, and reviewed here in its audiobook form from AudioGo, is ostensibly a Christmas tale.
But it isn’t really. Yes, most of the story takes place in the cold and snow and the book and chapter titles are all taken from hymns and carols. Yes it begins with the Doctor attempting to take Rory and Amy home for Christmas. But apart from all that it’s not Christmassy (Christmas-esque?) at all.
What we do get, as you will already have figured out by the cover, is Ice Warriors.
Ice Warriors are great. They are not your normal Who villains in that they are not really ‘bad’ at all, in fact they have appeared as ‘good guys’ as well as ‘bad guys’ in the original series. This is something that Abnett makes good mileage out of too – there are some nice scenes with the Doctor and the Ice Warriors discussing the morality or ‘honour’ of their actions.
There are some nice moments as the Doctor refers back to his previous encounters with the Warriors, which impressed me as to Abnett’s knowledge of the show. No mention, though, of the recent Eighth Doctor encounters with the Ice Warriors in the Big Finish range..!
Abnett throws in some good surprises too. He builds well on the expectations the reader will have for an Ice Warriors story, even feeding these expectations in places, but he also provides a marvellous plot twist in the final act.
 As I have mentioned him again, we should talk about Dan Abnett for a moment. He is perhaps best known for writing countless novels set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, as well as creating for 2000AD comic the series Kingdom and Sinister/Dexter.
Both of these series showcase brilliantly the very best things about Abnett’s writing: his ability to plot and his love for the (sometimes painful) pun and the sheer fun he has with his wordplay. There is a lot of that sort of thing in here, and most of it plays a clever part in the plot too.
It also struck me about halfway through listening to this that the production on the audiobook was wonderful. The use of sound effects and incidental music to enhance the mood was very clever. And then I realised that there were none of these things on there. No, any feeling of excitement felt by the listener can be placed squarely at the feet of both Abnett’s writing and the peerless reading by Micheal Maloney.
I tend to judge these audiobooks by the ‘Amy’ voice, and Maloney’s Scottish accent is pretty good, as is his Doctor. But it is Rory that he does best, at times sounding a dead ringer for Arthur Darvill. This is helped, naturally, by Abnett’s bang on writing of the characters.
This is great.

Doctor Who: Serpent Crest Pt3 Aladdin Time

This is the third in the Serpent’s Crest series from AudioGo, starring the amazing Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor.
I think, before we get to the story itself, that this is the most remarkable thing about this. Baker, after all his years away from Who, seems to have embrace the role as fully as he did when playing it on television.
It is all too easy to imagine his wide eyed stare and mischievous grin as he delivers the lines. And as I said previously, some of the lines sound very much like Baker adlibs. Apologies to Paul Magrs, the writer of this series, if I’m way off in this!
Anyway, The title may be a groan inducing pun, but this is a fun packed adventure. It is lighter in tone than the two stories that  preceded it.
As the name suggests, it is based around the Aladdin story. Magrs plays it well too, with the Doctor’s reactions to everything helping to steer the narrative away from what could so easily have been cliché.
Worth a special mention is the very Who spin he gives on one of the staples of the Aladdin story. Here, the magic carpet is something that will definitely bring a smile to the face of any listener.
Likewise, the magic lamp is also subverted, although to be honest, I had been paying attention throughout the previous episodes so guessed this one.
What I did not guess, though, was how this story ended. It doesn’t have quite the cliff-hanger ending the others had, but even so, I’d say it is an ending that intrigues the listener even more than the others…

Doctor Who: Serpent Crest Pt2 The Broken Crown

This picks up immediately at the end of the previous AudioGo story, Tsar Wars, with the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey lost somewhen in the past. 
We quickly find out when they have arrived, and hard on the heels of this information, the adventure unfolds around them.
This one has a delightful Dickensian feel to it, and there is a nice atmosphere to everything.
As always, Baker is extraordinary in the role. His energy and enthusiasm is infectious and there were time that I wondered, knowing Baker’s public persona as I do, if there were places where he was ad-libbing.
Most of the cast are fantastic, but they are let down a bit by some stiff acting from the younger members of the cast, although they manage to sell the big moments well enough when they are required.
The story is narrated by Gus Harvey, who plays one of the children, and he does very well, although sometimes the language he uses seems far beyond that of a ten year old boy.
This is the second in a series of adventures, and for a long time I was wondering how and why, and indeed if, this story was connected to the one that had went before. But connected it is in quite a clever way, and one that I really should have spotted. And as we know, these are the best kind of plot twists.
As with Tsar Wars, this one ends with a cliff-hanger, one that for my money is even better than the previous one, and demands you listen on.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

XIII Vol 9 For Maria review

The previous book in the XIII series, Thirteen to One, provided a neat epilogue to what had gone before and set up a series of further adventures.
It ended with a stonking final page that promised much, but of course, this being from the unpredictable pen of Jean Van Hamme, none of what was set up in the finale of the last book is addressed here!
Instead, we find our not-so-amnesiac-anymore-or-is-he? hero in South America with the bafflingly loyal Major Jones. I say bafflingly because despite being a feisty independent woman who can look after herself, she does tag along after XIII quite a bit. And during this particular volume she accepts a pretty major revelation about his past with barely a ‘meh’.
Anyway, that aside, this is very much business as usual for XIII as he goes up against yet another sinister group of bad guys.
And when I say ‘business as usual’, you’ll know that this is not a bad thing. Because business as usual for XIII always involves plenty of action, convoluted and surprising plotting and lots of good old fashioned adventuring.
As always, the art is brilliant, but Hamme’s plotting really stands out here.
He really is a great writer and the way he effortlessly weaves in plot elements for volumes near the beginning of the series and at the same time lays the groundwork for further ones is a joy to behold.
This is the first volume in a new cycle for XIII, and has one of those ending that leaves you not just wanting the next episode, but needing it.
XIII: For Maria is published by Cinebook.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Remember, remember the 5th of November

 This years Guy Fawkes night seemed to have a comic related theme- The book ' V for Vendetta' Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd centers around the 5th of November and makes a new twist on the Guy Fawkes story. Now with with all the global protests and people adopting the 'V for vendetta' masks as a symbol of resistance against oppressive governments there was much discussion today about the book and the film.
   If you haven't already seen the film of the book here is a wee clip, it's brilliant;

and the book;
 more info here, but take my word for it, its genius.

Some people marched on parliament today wearing these masks. You will see them across the world at all sorts of protests.
(BBC picture )

When i first started hanging out with comic creators i didn't really know who was who and hadn't read much outside of 2000ad. So I was at Bristol Comic Expo and went into a bar with some folks and was sat next to a nice gentleman in a white suit. He asked to see the sketchbook full of fan sketches I'd been collected and asked if it was okay if he did one.

It was of course David Lloyd who I am happy to know much better now. He is not only a wonderful artist, and a gentleman, but very active in promoting comics education. He was scheduled to guest at Hi-Ex one year but jury duty thwarted the plan. 

I am one of the organisers of our local community bonfire night. Today I was late to go down and help build the bonfire as i was too busy online debating aspects of Guy Fawkes night and the protest movement ( we all know the perils of internet debates ! ).

When i got to the bonfire site I had the task of unwrapping , stacking and ordering the fire works for the display before myself and 3 others lit them. Imagine my amusement when i saw this firework;

Anyone who thinks Comics are silly, childish, irrelevant or trashy, is sadly missing out on a very important aspect of our vibrant, dynamic and evolving culture. 

Friday, 4 November 2011

Auction to help Comic Artist- Appeal

In 2009, Alexandra Trotsenko, a Russian artist living in Ireland, had her fingers cut off. This happened during the course of a vicious knife attack in her own home. The attacker has since been jailed for 16 years, but without expensive surgery, Alexandra will not draw again.
Many artists in the Irish community have come together to donate our work to a special charity auction, hoping to pay for the prosthesis which may help Alexandra resume her career. Hi-Ex will be sending some artwork over, the details of how you can help are on the website of Adams Auction house in Blackrock , the Auction will be on November 27th 2011.
Please support this great cause and donate to Alexandra or bid at the auction if you can. Contact Adams Auction house for details of the auction or If you have something you’d like to donate, contact Bryan Greene or Martina Noonan on 01 2885146/7/8. Alternatively, you can make a donation to:
ACCOUNT NO. 70546818
SORT CODE 90 13 51
( Thanks to celine kiernan for the information )

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Doctor Who Blackout review

It is interesting to compare and contrast Who adventures that are set roughly in the same historical time and place.
Blackout takes place in New York in the 1960s and while this is a good half a century later (an eye blink for a Timelord), I could not help but comparing it to the television adventure Daleks in Manhattan.
As with that tale, this has the Doctor teaming up with a down on his luck black fellow as his ‘companion of the hour’ as it where, while his permanent companions are off doing their own thing.
But this is really where the similarities end. Were Daleks in Manhattan was a confused mishmash (albeit one with some very strong elements, but elements that were outweighed by illogic), this is an exercise in tight, economic storytelling.
It opens with a great pre-credits scene in which Stuart Milligan as narrator delivers a perfectly timed exchange. After that we’re into the usual Who fare of frantic chases and sinister aliens with questionable motives.
These motives, while plausible, do result in couple of minor problems I had with the story. One concerns a character and their place in what is happening – this is something that would be a massive spoiler, so I can’t go into it here. The other is the Message. Now, it is not in any way a bad Message, in fact it is one I agree with wholeheartedly. It’s just that it is delivered in a slightly heavy handed way that makes the listener think ‘Yes! I get it!
Apart from that, this is a great way to spend an hour and a bit. Milligan, who played Nixon in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ is a very good narrator, his Matt Smith in particular is excellent.
This is also a very visual story, and I can’t help wondering if it was first pitched as a television adventure, only to be knocked back because of the colossal effects budget it would require, before finding a home at AudoGo?

Dundee Comic Day

Dundee Comics day is organised by Dr Chris Murray ( and team ) who runs the Mlitt in comics at Dundee University. Its a fantastic event, great friendly atmosphere, great guests and interesting talks.
Paul Gravett gave a shortened version of a fascinating talk about the history of comics and '1001 Comic Books you must read before you die' a brand new gorgeous book that he has edited. There is an incredible variety of comics out there internationally much much more than people popularly think, some really inspiring and beautiful work. 

Martin Conaghan and Will Pickering talk about the re-release of their and acclaimed historically accurate Burke and Hare Graphic novel, explaining how they built up the information and story.

Monty Nero the fantastic artist and writer talks about his current work on a brilliant comic called 'Death Sentence'

John Wagner had spent the day touring Dundee with friend and journalist Mike Donachie, they'd found the house with the shed that it had all started in with Pat Mills, where they used to sit and write! John talked about the need for wannabe writers to get themselves recognised in the massive pile of unsolicited submissions. How strong characters were the key to good storytelling. He also talked about the pros and cons of writing partnerships and took lots of questions about the Dredd film, why Button Man hasn't been filmed yet and about the aging Dredd issue.

Robbie Morrison - Comics taught him how to tell stories. He'd read of how a spider bite gave super spider powers, nuclear exposure turns you big and green and soon realised that reality isn't like that. He wanted to tell stories that reflected more reality, the human and emotional content. Dante was conceived to create a different type of character for 2000ad, 11 books and 16 years later we are drawing to the story's conclusion that Robbie always knew would happen, he didn't want a character to go on and on past the point where the writer no longer remembered or cared about the story. He feels guilty about how much Dante has suffered, and warned of more suffering to come. 

Colin McNeil ( a regular Hi-Ex guest ) started his talk by explaining how uncomfortable as an artist he is at talking in public and how much better he'd be with a blackboard showing things visually. However his passion for subjects he cares for is always apparent. He talked about the influence of boys war comics on him as a child, this was the generation that didn't talk about the war, these stories showed him what had happened to the previous generation and members of his family. He dislikes the word 'hero' as it is generally a propoganda term. Colin feels he is not really a comic artist but an artist who just happens to draw comics. His main early comic art influences are Carlos Ezquerra, Cam Kennedy and Mike MacMahon. He also enthused about how as a small child he'd had the opportunity to see Rembrandt's Night Watch painting close up behind the ropes and how the colours and brush work had stayed with him. 

The Commando editorial and writer team explained what makes a good solid story ( characters and the interaction between characters ) and discussed why Commando is still going after 50 years. There has been some great artists work on it over the years. It was however pointed out that only 2% of the readership is female.

Cam Kennedy ( another Hi-Ex guest ) was a very entertaining speaker, regaling us with tales of his early years drawing in France and subsequent move to Orkney. He talked about the Scottishness and humour in the comics he's worked on. Cam also loved drawing machines, spaceships and tanks, coming from generations of engineers. While the Star Wars comics were a fan favorite, Cam was never a fan, he got sick of "drawing a big rug and a dust bin", though he pitched the Bobba Fett series which was witter by Wagner as he enjoyed that character. He also told the audience the famous Kenny Who? story.

Frank Quitely ( another previous Hi-Ex guest )- gave a personal and inspiring talk about his work and the influences on him. He never made any distinction as a young person between comic art, album art, poster art and fine art, he was surrounded by books and art books and drew from all of them. He'd always doodled sequential breakdowns of motion like football or fight scenes without realising how it connected to comics. He explained that for him, when we hear a story it is in moving pictures in our heads, the artists job is to select the correct freeze frame to put the story on paper. His first published work was of course on Scottish 'scatological slapstick' comic Electric Soup, where Frank satirised the much loved Broons with 'the Greens' . This is when he first adopted his pseudonym, which had "seemed really clever when 19 or 20", and had also been to hide what he was doing from parents etc. He'd worked for years in comics before an editor at DC questioned his storytelling layouts, what had previously been intuitive them became an obsession as the drawing took second place to the storytelling and he learnt everything he could from Scott McLeod and many others. While convalescing recently from back problems which stopped his working he has dreamed up some wonderful sounding personal projects.

Basically all these folks are brilliant, and many of them will be coming along to Hi-Ex 2012. Many thanks to the Dundee comic day team for organising this great event and having us along.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Ghostly Terror and Vampire Horror reviews!

You can blame us being away at the Dundee Comics Day for this and a few other reviews not appearing during the Halloween weekend. Let’s just pretend that we did it anyway, eh?
So, these two short story audiobooks released by AudioGo are themed around the subjects, as you can see, of ghosts and vampires.

First up the ghost collection, Ghostly Terror.

This is the shorter of the two collections, featuring three stories.
it opens with ‘Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook’ by M.R. James, read by Andrew Sachs. I had not heard or read this one before, but it is a very good story, as you would expect from an author like James. He constructs a great sense of creeping dread, which is aided considerably by the sound design and Sachs’s reading.
The final story is one I was more familiar with - W. F. Harvey’s 'The Beast With Five Fingers', which if you have never read or heard before is well worth your time.
But best of the lot is the middle story, 'The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and read by Laurel Lefkow.
To my shame I had never heard of either the story or author previous to this. The story is a masterpiece and a perfect example of portraying paranoia and mental breakdown. Truly unsettling.

The second collection is called Vampire Horror.

It begins with a story that is not only very good, but very important. It is The Vampyre by John Polidori. This is a long story, so make sure you’re on a long journey when you start listening (I’m assuming here that you also listen in the car!).
It is very good because it has an interesting structure and a creepy atmosphere. It is important because it bears some resemblance to a later, more well known book about pursuing a vampire across Europe, only this was written 78 years before that one.
My favourite story in the collection was the next one: Wailing Well by M.R. James. This is in turn a pitch black comedy and genuine horror by way of a pretty brutal morality tale.
The collection is rounded of with two more tales: the sinister ‘For The Blood is the Life’ by Marion Crawford and another M. R. James effort, ‘An Episode of Cathedral History’, which is as far from the other James story in this set as is possible to be. It’s dark and disturbing and, like the James story on the Ghosts collection, it feels like something a young Clive Barker would have written.

So – you’re a horror fan? Buy these.