The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘comics’

The What For The What

Posted by BigWords on April 16, 2016

There’s a whole list of things which are pending, though the most useful – for most people – is going to be the uploading of the majority of non-fiction reference material. Covering literature, film, television, music and more, the material is all of the information which is currently difficult to easily access and utilize. I’ve tried looking, especially for the film and television references, but it seems that the oft-used line “everything is online these days” simply does not hold up. The majority of the material is on the ‘weird and esoteric’ end of the scale, and I’m not entirely sure what can be done with the majority of the facts there are, so people can get access to that as soon as I get time to convert everything into a format that isn’t painful to deal with.

A make-or-break part of my decision to step back into the fray was centered on this. Information. Some people have an instinctive recoil when there is talk about putting a lot of information online, as if the dissemination of materials intended to educate, enlighten and enrich was a bad thing. Well, those people are going to have a hard time over the next year or so, because there are a few hard drives which are full to bursting with reference material.

Along the way I also managed to get a lot of the comics scanned and cleaned up a little – there are about two hundred thousand scans so far, and I expect that to increase a lot once I get through a lot of the things which are sucking up my time at the moment. Those are likely going to find a home on an image hosting site which doesn’t have restrictions of the amount of material one person can upload, but I’ll look into ways of getting a torrent up and running from the HQ. Maybe a cloud hosting thing for the zipped files – that’s for once I have free time, and at present there is no free time.

Something which was suggested in passing, and which I heartily approve, is an easier way to look up books. I have lists and lists and lists here, and there are titles which not only aren’t mentioned on the internet, but whose authors appear to have been ignored completely – I found passing references to some of the books in BMC back-issues, and there are a few reference encyclopedias which have (concise and rather terse) entries for the authors. Given that they deserve some love, I’m going to see if I can get a bunch of the public domain texts up online for free use – I checked PG for the titles I am thinking about, and there aren’t copies available there.

Almost What With The What?

There are times when I have mentioned “almost free use” here, and I want people to note that it doesn’t mean people will have to pay for things that I am making available online. The phrase is merely the easiest to put together, otherwise I would trip myself up in the technicalities and have a massive headache. Better just to go with the phrase as is, however cock-eyed that may be. So yeah, it isn’t an indicator that there is going to be anything more than “when used, this needs credit given and a link placed to source.” It’ll save me trying to figure out various rights uses and blah-blah-blah. Do what thou wilt.

People wonder why I am so stressed all the time – so many things to do, so little time to get everything done.

The Thing For The Thingamajig

At some point I am going to sort out the website, as that is on the list as well. All the information is still here, along with a whole bunch more. I pulled a lot of the biographical material from my handwritten notes rather than using what was present in books and magazines about comics, which have an error rate that makes my head hurt too much thinking about. There’s a duplicate copy of some information lurking on the deep web – and no, I have no idea of the .onion address – but that is an unofficial reproduction rather than an official mirror.

Until things get back to normal…

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And Thanks To Some Awesome People…

Posted by BigWords on August 16, 2013

The British Comics Database is now pretty.

Mostly. There is still some tinkering to be done, but everyone seems happy with it at the moment, and I don’t have time to oversee things as I should.

Seriously, seriously awesome people.

I don’t often say this, and I know that I should, but the folks who are willing to spend time on my insane projects without questioning my sanity make me feel less conscious about the fact that so many of the things I had intended to spend the year doing have gone rather pear shaped.

As things stand, the website not being a mess is the sole achievement of the year.

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The Black Terror: Roundup 1

Posted by BigWords on May 24, 2013

So, you may be wondering – if this all fell together so easily, why am I not doing anything with the character? Well, because others are still working with The Black Terror. They may not be using the character to his full potential, and – in all likelihood – there will never be a proper exploitation of all the things that make him so interesting, but that doesn’t matter. I can’t play with the character while there are stories published elsewhere. One of the main elements that makes me excited about a property is being out there on the sidelines of what people are doing, taking characters in new directions and ignoring the (often insipid) popular movements. Maybe there’s room for a comic-book title featuring the character which is less mainstream, but as long as he is appearing elsewhere I won’t be involved in the character.

This example isn’t a particularly unique insight into how I patchwork a grand story together from thin material, and I could have done an equally in-depth piece on The Lady In Red, or even Robin Hood (if anyone is using the character, please get the historic “great forest” feeling in there somewhere), but it shows how a great story can be told about even minor characters. When I have expressed dissatisfaction with the stories which I have been reading, it is mainly because people aren’t being either as bold or as intuitive in their extrapolation of characters as they should be. I want the wild and intelligent elements to come to the forefront, and be played with – I need more intelligent material to pore over than many people are willing to write. It is neither difficult nor time consuming.

There’s a lot of stuff I won’t touch. I dislike the thought of writing something just because it is popular at the moment. I could do a helluva vampire novel, but what’s the point? There’s already too many mediocre attempts at Twilight-lite fiction, and by adding to the considerable number of titles muddying the genre I would merely be committing the same literary necrophilia as those who I am irritated by. Playing follow-the-leader is fine for children, but for authors it is a sign of desperation and lack of strength. Standing clear of the traffic already clogging up genres is the only way for people to grow as writers, and avoiding any confusion is paramount to establishing that most important of credentials – originality. I know people are gonna be headdesking at that word, as there is nothing truly original left, but having a degree of originality in the writing is different to plot.

I scratched the notion of doing something with Black Terror rather quickly, so I never got to the point where I had a page-by-page breakdown, and had I managed to quell the feeling that I was stepping on the work being done with the character elsewhere I would have created a tighter focus on the conspiracy drawing him to The Spider (or his niece, as she will have that name by the 1940s). The problems inherent in bringing any character back from the public domain are that they aren’t controllable – others have the ability to go ahead and use the characters in any way they see fit, and there is no right or wrong in their use. There might be entirely uninteresting uses, but those aren’t “wrong” per se. Just not to my taste.

There’s a lot of characters which I have a passing interest in the future of. Most of them are in the public domain, and freely available for use, though it is a hard sell convincing myself to tackle them when there are others utilizing them. One of the most neglected Golden Age areas is the Egyptian characters. This bleeds into the pulps as well, infusing the magnificent discoveries with a sense of wonder, mystery and horror. The use of Egyptian heroes (Ibis and Kalkor in comics, right through to low-budget films) have always felt as if they were slightly underdeveloped. I’ll go so far as to make note that modern comics don’t have a grasp on just how much there is still to be done. Hawkman, long an Egyptian-tinged hero, never felt as if he was truly connected to anything approaching reality.

For anyone writing characters tied to Egypt of the 40s, reading Montet’s 1958 record of his expedition is pretty much essential background research. And as for the lighter depictions of WWII – really, are people sitting down with a DVD of Saving Private Ryan and claiming to have done the necessary historical research? Yes, I may be overstating just how irritated I am with much of the comics on the market right now, and there are good things appearing, but there seems to be too many light and breezy versions of history which are presented as having some validity when they merely reprise what has gone before. Like anything else, this results in lowered fidelity with each removal from the source material.

Although it should be obvious, I have no intention of writing for DC or Marvel. I know most people would be desperate to get their hands on those characters, but the quality of the writing – overall – has been rather low from what I have read, and I would feel bad if people following the adventures of a character were subjected to one of the intermittent crossovers through anything I did. There hasn’t been a worthwhile one since the original Crisis back in the 80s, with each money-grabbing, poorly plotted mess becoming more and more irrelevant to the mainstream. Mainstream readers don’t care about superheroes, and they care even less for stories built on the continuity snarls of superheroes.

For a while now I have been concentrating on developing and building up material for my own titles, but… Yeah. This hasn’t been a good couple of years. There will be a proper something appearing at some point which will go some way to answering what has been happening with that material, but it is a ways off just yet. And it won’t be the kind of things that you can go get anywhere else.

Having laid all that out, I think I have covered everything I set out to do. Time to leave this via a nice, relaxing piece of music…

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The Black Terror, Part Three

Posted by BigWords on May 23, 2013

Back to the Skull & Crossbones… Man, that is so full of potential. And it opens in to a lot of things that can add depth to the character. It was while sketching out a basic timeline that I realized that I could strengthen the ties back and forth between the stitched together elements. Going back to the Herbert West story, and the explosion that aborts the experiments on Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee, D.S.O., I had another feverish moment of canon-welding. There’s a funky character called Phantom Raider Of The Sky whose visuals and history fit the tone and mood which I was going for. And it fitted with the general theme of the characters being bound by events from the past, unable to escape the consequences of actions taken by others.

By incorporating other characters using the logo, I was able to form a timeline – John Perry of the Daily Clarion running a series of stories which seem to be using the Terror image, but it is Black Fury; a Japanese assassin of The Black Dragon Society trying to dirty Benton’s name; the actor Perry Knight appearing in a play in town… With the increasing appearance of the skull and crossbones surrounding Benton, it was also a way to increase his discomfort about having a secret identity, and the thought that someone might have discovered his role as Black Terror could be used to rack up the tension. It also led to a way to get other old properties tied into the continuity. Of course, having the plot set up through happy coincidences and conspiracy theories wasn’t enough. The basic reality of the character outside the fantasy has to be right for verisimilitude.

There are a few essential posts for anyone writing chemists working in a drugstore in the forties. There are not one, not two, but three posts which Sarah Sundin has written that are essential to capturing the atmosphere of the era. It was reading those posts that I realized I needed to show Benton in the white outfit (and that hat) which held so great an era-appropriate tinge. Nobody has really caught the forties flavor of the character, and it is stuff like the uniform which helps. Small details. I was reading books on vintage automobiles for something else a few years back, though I don’t have those to hand. Irrespective, there are places to get a feeling about the cars in play at the opening of WWII

One of the things which attracted me to the character was the political edge about the character. One of the foes was Alderman Peters, lining his pocket and providing shoddy constructions, then there was the fact that his girlfriend worked for the mayor – it was a milieu almost built for a heady mix of corruption and political shenanigans. There isn’t another character from the forties so readily adaptable into a clever, in-depth examination of the ways that the war impacted on life. Even the throwaway element of his professor turning to crime for funds due to his research being appropriated for the war effort was strong enough to drag in some other character moments. It had the potential to be the forties version of The Wire if handled correctly.

When I talk about being able to see the connections which exist under the surface of a story, it is all this stuff I am talking about. It isn’t difficult to whip up something so complex and intelligent in a couple of days. I mentioned that there was a need for something more personal in the character – the original comics present a remarkably solitary figure despite friends – and it was in family that the character would face his greatest fears. He needed a brother. There’s a film which has slipped into the public domain that felt like the work of a divine hand, a narrative that tied itself into the character so well that there was little choice other than to accept Charles Benton as Robert’s erstwhile brother.

And the serum in that film is soooo right.

So, with all the pieces of the puzzle falling into place remarkably easy, it was time to address those guns. I am not adverse to characters wielding firearms, and in stories which take place in a pulpy, film noir world, there needs to be at least one scene where a character empties a revolver. But all the time? It gets too similar and tired, and there isn’t a link to the character’s other moments – with being a chemist, I had the notion that there might be more to the use of knockout gas or something… Small vials of milky liquid thrown at enemies rather than gunplay also fits with the attention paid to pugilistic tradition. This, in turn, keeps the character fresh and interesting when paired with characters who are more closely associated with carrying firearms.

Oh, and because he’s into boxing, it opens the door for Costigan to make an appearance at some point.

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A Pause For Breath

Posted by BigWords on May 20, 2013

My brain does not work the same way as yours. Let me get that out of the way straight off.

When I read things, my brain is accessing a small network of related material, cross-referencing and indexing away thoughts. There are no stories which exist in isolation, and while it may appear that things are held apart from other properties by limitations, I can see past those constraints and apply a reading that is rather different from popular opinion. As I have been discussing comics, I’ll start there. Continuity, in varying degrees, is a perennial hot topic for readers and writers alike. Most publishers of comics these days have a sense of continuity – both direct and indirect references, jokes, plots arising from continuity…

I’m breaking ranks in a big way here, but I gotta say that continuity, by and large, is something that is more interesting when ignored completely.

There’s a lot more I could say about Flashpoint, or Civil War, or any of the recent – and tiresome – crossovers. You probably don’t need my assistance in seeing how pitiful the attention-grabbing storylines spanning multiple series have become, destroying the flow of individual titles and cramming in all kinds of idiocy. It started well, with the original Crisis, but they have become unwieldy, cumbersome and annoying. It is one of the reasons that I try to avoid superhero comics in favor of… Well, anything and everything that doesn’t have a surfeit of capes and splash panels. Go read everything Eddie Campbell has done. And Bryan Talbot. Hell, for that matter go read Harvey Pekar’s stuff. Genius. And no bloody tie-ins with ludicrous hyperbole.

I don’t need publishers adding details to things when I am more than capable of filling in the blanks myself. My concept of characters varies wildly from the official depictions anyway, so reading the adventures of a character (specifically superheroes, but other types can be included here) I am most likely mentally ticking off all the things wrong with the script. There are degrees of severity to the “mistakes”, though I get most annoyed at simple real-world references that are wildly off the mark. For example, police characters in many comics seem to have been written with Saturday morning cartoons as the main reference point in their construction. Likewise, archaeologists are largely depicted in the same manner as Indiana Jones. That is, with no real attempt at believability.

If you have read this blog before, then you will know that I am a) hesitant to play with other people’s toys, and b) love the public domain. This is not, as it may seem, a contradiction.

Writing characters which are identified with specific companies, or form the output of a specific creator (such as Mr. Monster now being more identified through Michael T. Gilbert than the Golden Age character), seems – to me, anyways – to be rather pointless. It is the reason that I find it incredibly difficult to even think of writing Batman or Spider-Man, for example. When others say that they have a great idea for a story featuring a character from the Big Two, I tend to try not to say anything. Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to write for such companies, I just can’t see the attraction of tackling any of the long-runners. They have been around for so long that anything I could add to the narrative has probably already been done. It is time to move past tired and overused characters.

But the public domain? Gods, how I adore the public domain.

Look, you may not realize it, but you probably already own a fairly decent PD collection. You have the complete works of Shakespeare, right? Those plays are in the public domain. And everything Chaucer wrote. But it isn’t all old stuff, which may have difficulty attracting a younger audience, as you can see from my previous post about all the good things that you can legally download, upload, torrent and remix to your heart’s content. Go wild. In fact, I strongly urge you to keep uploading, downloading, torrenting, and remixing that stuff, as the continued exploitation of things which are freely yours to do with as you will keeps them from being taken back by unscrupulous companies. And yes, companies are trying to steal back things from the public domain.

I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t start lashing out at those assholes until I was 100% confident of my ability to be online and tackle them. I’m steering clear of the specifics, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out those to whom I am referring.

And I think I may have talked myself into writing an ethics post at some point. Add that to the To Do list.

With the Flashpoint read-through and this preamble, I have sufficiently prepared you for what is gonna come next. It is something I seriously considered for all of a week at the end of 2012 before scrubbing my brain and coming to my senses. Before I get into the swing of things, and may get rather involved in the details, I want to make one thing very, very clear – this is not a “look at how clever I am” thing. This isn’t about who is smarter, this is all about the very minimum authors should be doing. This is about how things should be. I want people to consider the titles on sale right now, and how much better they could be had a little more work been done. I’m not singling out people who aren’t living up to their abilities in the posts.

I have made comment about my war on mediocrity, and this is, partially, the outcome.

And thus we are ready for the main event.

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Lit List: Spaced

Posted by BigWords on November 1, 2012

Season 1

Episode 1 – Beginnings

As part of the sequence where Daisy goes over Tim’s childhood, she mentions Batman comics.
Numerous comics, including Avengers, Cable, Cry For Dawn, Daredevil, The Darkness, Fantastic Four, Planet Comics, Weird Fantasy and Weird Science can be seen in Fantasy Bazaar comic shop in which Tim works. There may be more I haven’t noticed… In real life, it is the renowned comic shop They Walk Among Us.
An issue of FHM can be seen, opened to a Gillian Anderson photograph. I think it is the #84 (Jan 1997) issue.
As part of the sequence where Tim goes over Daisy’s childhood, she can be seen reading a copy of The Beano.
When Tim opens a cupboard two girls are standing in it, just like in The Shining (based on the Stephen King novel).

Episode 2 – Gatherings

The music from the feature film Misery (based on the novel by Stephen King) plays when Daisy is typing.
Tim reads an issue of Zenith while Daisy is on the ‘phone with her boyfriend, and later is seen reading an issue of Judge Dredd. There is talk on the commentary about it being the US editions, which is rather more amusing than it really should be…

Episode 3 – Art

The (thankfully fictional) magazine Flaps is mentioned by Daisy as one of the titles she submitted work to, and the office is later seen.
A whole slew of magazines are seen when Daisy goes to the newsagent, and she then returns to the apartment with magazines and newspapers.
The Guardian very noticeably falls out the top of the bag of newspapers and magazines Daisy returns with.

Episode 5 – Chaos

Socialist Worker newspaper is seen at the beginning of the episode.
2000 A.D., Judge Dredd Magazine, The Death Of Groo (and the other comics in Fantasy Bazaar).
There’s a flashback sequence which is based on the maze sequence from The Shining.
Tim reads The Independent newspaper report of the break-in at the animal testing facility at the end of the episode.

Episode 6 – Epiphanies

Tim wears a Batman t-shirt (with an image in the style of the animated series) at the beginning of the episode.
Captain Marvel (the Fawcett character, rather than the Marvel character) is referenced during the Scrabble game.
Daisy is reading Eightball issue #13 (Apr 1994) before Tim snatches it from her and begins reading it.

Episode 7 – Ends

Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira is mentioned at the beginning of the episode.
Mike mentions Andy McNab when he is in his meeting with the Territorial Army.
Daisy looks at her typewriter in yet another reference to The Shining.
During Daisy and Marsha’s talk, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is referenced.

Deleted Scenes

Mike is holding Gun Magazine while asleep on the train.

Season 2

Episode 1 – Back

Tim’s opening narration is reminiscent of the one in GoodFellas, based on the book by Nicholas Pileggi.
Mike is holding Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson when he comes out of the bathroom.

Episode 2 – Change

French Fun by Catherine Bruzzone, The Diet Cure by Julia Ross, a Dummies Guide title, and a selection of Mr. Men books are among the titles seen in the bookshop Daisy is working in at the end of the episode. Other books are seen, though the names of the books are obscured by the camera angle.

Episode 3 – Mettle

Some of the scenes parody One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, based on the 1962 Ken Kesey novel.
The sequence set in an underground robot wars club is based on Fight Club. “The first rule of Robot Club…”

Episode 4 – Help

Dark Horse Comics is referenced in a poster at the beginning of the episode.
Tyres calls Daisy “Shakespeare” when he arrives to take Tim’s portfolio.
Daisy reads Hello! when she goes to fetch Mike from Marsha’s .

Episode 5 – Gone

Another Shining visual gag appears in this episode.

Episode 6 – Dissolution

Daisy can be seen writing for Colwyn Bay Gazette in a dream sequence. Unfortunately, the website seen is no longer working.

Episode 7 – Leaves

Sophie tells Tim that she has to leave to work for Marvel.

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Nothing To See Here – Move Along

Posted by BigWords on July 23, 2010

You can take the fact that I’ve been slacking off here as confirmation that I’m really busy elsewhere, so I thought I would share with you some things which inspire me. First and foremost is (quite possibly) the greatest cover to ever adorn an annual – an old World Distribution Zane Grey’s Western Annual. It’s even better looking than my scan makes it appear.

And because I’m feeling generous, I’ll share with you the finest example of Gold Key’s one-page fillers:

It may not have the immediacy of the “killer dwarf” story which was reprinted a few times, but it’s a subtler kind of yarn… It’s not far removed from a campfire tale. There is much to appreciate there.

I swear I’ll post something meaningful soon. 🙂

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Go On… Be As Jealous As You Want…

Posted by BigWords on July 7, 2009

There wasn’t much that screamed “buy me” at the shops, so I had a look in a second-hand shop. A bric-a-brac place which sometimes has books, magazines and DVD’s amongst the clutter which normally fills the shelves. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to check out what was in there, and I’m glad I made the decision to take a look. I don’t normally gloat so much, but fuck… This is a once-in-a-decade chance to grin like a loon and get away with it.

There are a bunch of comics sitting in a box filled with children’s books. I would have missed them completely if it wasn’t for the Hotspur annual, though those aren’t exactly my taste. I’m busy pulling the layers of books back, and I come across the comics. Fourteen of them, all American save for a solitary Alan Class title – Secrets Of The Unknown. I’m thinking how I should put them down when I recognise one of the covers, and then another. Oh-my-fucking-lordy, it’s only the Phoenix Saga.

Daredevil #167; Iron Man #138 and #139; Master of Kung Fu #92; Uncanny X-Men #134 and #136; all mine for the taking. I’m thinking how much the little bundle is gonna cost. I’ve got to find out, even if I end up putting them back in the box. That’s when I notice the sticker on the box…

All Items 50p

It’s too good to be true. I’m looking at the sticker, and looking at the comics, and I’m thinking to myself that I should hand over my money as soon as possible. Which is where the full power of my gloat comes into effect. You didn’t think this would just be about me finding cheap comics? Hell no. It gets better. Much better.

I take my small stack of four-color yummyness to the counter and the guy takes a look at them. He spends a good two minutes turning them over in his hand and considers the price. I’m thinking he’s about to change his mind and ask for a couple of pounds each, in which case the great deal would kinda be spoiled… But no. He asks me for four pounds. £4. I’m caught slightly off-guard by this, but not complaining.

How often does a person get fourteen old comics for the price of a single new one? ‘Course I’m gonna gloat…

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