Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Warning: May Contain Football

BACK at the day job this week after a long break in which I managed to catch up with a lot of stuff but, frustratingly, wasn't able to finish off the Tim Skinner: Total Scumbag script.

That isn't to say I'm a million miles away from doing so. I'm really pleased with the first half and am now in the middle of performing major surgery on the second half which needs to be shorter, sharper and more linear. This is going to involve chucking out a few scenes and characters that I really wanted to include but, to be honest, much of it was just window dressing anyway and won't be missed.

I've come up with a much better ending too, one that neatly ties in to stuff in the script rather than just appearing out of nowhere. I'm hoping to have it all finished by early October. And then I really do have to get on with that bloody Robots story...

* I WAS going to go to the Dublin Sub-Con this weekend (I know Dec and Will are there) but a few weeks ago realised my passport had expired and haven't got round to getting a new one. Therefore, my next convention appearance will be at the Birmingham International Comics Show (October 12-13). I won't have anything new to flog but come by my table and say hello in any case.

I didn't enjoy my time at last year's Birmingham event so I'm hoping for a considerable improvement this time.

* I never talk football on here but as a Chelsea fan it's impossible not to mention the farcical shenanigans of last week when the club parted company with manager Jose Mourinho.

I liked Mourinho enormously. Yep, he could be an infuriating ego monster and terrible loser but he was also witty, entertaining and hugely intelligent. He also happened to be the best manager the club has ever had, winning six major trophies in three seasons, including our first league titles for 50 years.

For Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to replace such a man with Avram Grant is like Martin Scorsese, halfway through shooting Raging Bull, saying, "Y'know, I don't think this De Niro guy is working out. Can someone get me Russ Abbot's number?"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More Skinner/Comics Britannia

I'VE had a streaming cold for the past couple of days which hasn't exactly helped oil the creative wheels on Tim Skinner. At the moment I've got a very rough first draft that reads like some kind of superhero comedy sketch show rather than an actual story.

The problem is that I've got one character - the titular Skinner - who is in every scene. What I'm now trying to do is to knit those scenes together as seamlessly as possible so Skinner's transition between them doesn't seem too clunky and that decent gags aren't being forced out by the plot exposition necessary to set up each new bit.

The Skinner project started off fairly easy to write but, to be honest, has turned out to be a bit of a bastard. Looks like I'm going to be working on it for at least a couple more weeks (I go back to the day job next week) which is enormously frustrating.

* BEEN really enjoying the three-part Comics Britannia series that's been showing on BBC Four for the past couple of weeks (it's the last one next Monday). Of course comics fans wouldn't be comics fans if they didn't find something to whine about on the internet so it hasn't surprised me in the slightest that some messageboards have been clogged with posters moaning about various aspects of the series.

Some are enraged that the series started with the creation of The Beano and The Dandy in 1938 rather than delving back further into the history of British comics, while others have thrown a strop because their own particular favourite characters haven't been featured.

Of course the problem is that the show's makers have just three one-hour shows into which they must fit almost 70 years of history. They need to edit down and make sense of a huge amount of material and, as a result, they've clearly had to miss a lot of stuff out, cut the odd factual corner and generalise quite a bit.

It's also true to say that many of the people who are going to be watching possess only a rudimentary knowledge of comics (at best), so concentrating on titles and characters that were the best known seems a perfectly sound approach to me.

All in all, as an introduction to and celebration of British comics, it's something I find almost impossible to criticise. The contributions of Posy Simmonds, Alan Moore and Leo Baxendale have been particularly fascinating.

The shining jewel in the Comics Britannia season's crown so far though has been Jonathan Ross' documentary In Search Of Steve Ditko about the chat show host's bid to track down the reclusive artist. It provides a detailed history and analysis of Ditko's work and Ayn Rand-inspired beliefs, but also delves into the reasons for his break with Marvel and fractious relationship with Stan Lee.

Look out for the uncomfortable but undeniably rivetting moment when Ross interviews Lee himself and presses him on Ditko's (thoroughly reasonable) claims to be Spider-Man's co-creator.

The Ditko doc is repeated on BBC Four at various times this week and you can see clips from Comics Britannia here:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Check out my column (oo-er)

INDIE review is the name of a new website dedicated to promoting the work of British indie and small press publishers launching this weekend. You'll find it here:

It's going to carry reviews, interviews, articles, publisher and creator information, plus a few regular columns - one of which is going to be written by me. To be honest, my column is going to be a very straightforward thing - just hints and tips about self-publishing really with a few shameless plugs for my comics thrown in for good measure. I'm horribly busy but should be able to bang out a thousand words or so once a month. The first one is called Starting Out and is really just a checklist of things would-be self-publishers should consider before they leap into the fray.

The last regular column I wrote was a few years ago under a pseudonym for a comics magazine. Unlike the new Indie Review gig it was an opinion column and despite writing a couple of pieces of which I'm still quite proud, I soon fell into the trap of being controversial just for the sake of it. I figured getting people's backs up was the way to go and actually rather enjoyed the brief notoriety it brought my columnist alter-ego.

Unfortunately once you've annoyed, say, 100 people one month the temptation is to trump that the following month by saying something even more controversial and contrary. Looking back at many of those columns now they could easily have been written by someone who actually despises comics and most of the people involved in them, which is so not me.

* I HAVEN'T had a very productive week on the writing front. Went out Monday night with my old friend Lucy and got enormously drunk which resulted in my first hangover for two years. It was an absolute bastard as well, took me all day Tuesday to recover.

Last night I took the wife to see Prince in London and he was simply bloody marvellous - was on for the best part of two hours, had a band tighter than a gnat's chuff and played some of my favourite songs in the world ever ("When Doves Cry", "Take Me With You" and "If I Was Ur Girlfriend" among them). Elton John turned up for one of the encores and sang "Long And Winding Road" with the Purple One accompanying him on guitar.

A great evening but next week needs to be about ten times more productive than this one has been. The Tim Skinner script remains barely half-finished and I haven't even started the script for the Robots anthology yet. Agargh!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rapping refrigerator

THE script for Tim Skinner: Total Scumbag proceeds steadily if not at quite the pace I'd hoped it would. I'm now 15 pages in with another 13 or so to do. I know all the scenes I want to get in there and how it all ends, it's now just a matter of finishing that first draft before spending a few days polishing it up. And, to be honest, some of it needs quite a bit of polishing.

At the moment I'm writing a scene involving a rapping refrigerator. Honestly.

* FINALLY saw Superman Returns over the weekend and was hugely disappointed. Brandan Routh and Kate Bosworth are no substitute for Chris Reeve and Margot Kidder, the whole "Superman's son" thing was plain annoying and what kind of twit writes a Superman script in which Superman doesn't actually hit anything?

The only elements to savour in the wretched flick's bloated 154-minute running time were Kevin Spacey's satisfyingly vicious turn as Lex Luthor and a genuinely thrilling scene in which Supes prevents a passenger-packed Boeing 747 from ploughing into a baseball stadium. I liked it more than Superman IV: The Quest For Peace but that's about as positive as I can get...

* OFF into London tonight to meet up with my friend Lucy who I haven't seen since my university days (around 15 years ago to be exact). I'm genuinely hopeless at staying in touch with people, mainly because I've moved around a lot in the last 15 years but also because I'm lazy and forgetful. You don't contact someone for six months, which quickly becomes a year. Then, before you know it, a decade passes and you're berating yourself for losing a friendship that was supposed to mean something to you.

Anyway, I Googled Lucy back in January, found her instantly and we've exchanged the odd email since. Lucy is one of the most thoroughly decent people I've ever met so I'm really looking forward to seeing her.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Of mice and men

ARRIVED home from work at 11 last night and finally slinked into bed around midnight after saving a tiny mouse from my cats who'd brought him in from the garden. Chased them off but the mouse gave me the slip. Having worked eight nine-hour shifts at the Mirror in the last nine days I was utterly knackered so the last thing I needed was to be woken up several times (three? five?) in the night by my youngest son Connor crying about God knows what. I then had to get up again to chase the cats away from the mouse who they'd managed to corner in the hall for a second time.

This time I successfully captured the terrified creature and put him in an old comic box in the study. All this before six o'clock this morning. At seven I rose to the sound of Connor having total hysterics about bugger all (that boy ain't right, as Hank Hill would say). One severe bollocking followed before we bathed the boys and long-suffering Jen carted them off to nursery on her way to work.

In my woozy, in-desperare-need-of-sleep state I'd completely forgotten the mouse... until he appeared a couple of minutes ago on my computer keyboard just as I was about to start typing this. I've just returned him to the garden (well, next door's garden) where he shall hopefully live out the rest of his mousey days free from feline molestation.

Anyhoo, today's the first day of my two-week "holiday" from the day job. I'm putting "holiday" in inverted commas as there won't be a lot of holidaying going on. Rather, I'm going to be smashing my way through the rest of the Tim Skinner script, bashing out a story for Accent UK's Robots anthology and making sure I'm up to date with the lettering for Nat and Ryan's Carson City project.

In between all that I'm going to see Prince in London (the first gig I'll have attended since seeing, erm, Elton John in Las Vegas in 2004) and hoping to catch up with friends on a couple of nights, too.

Because of my North Wales break and tough fortnight at the day job, I haven't written a single line of comic script in three weeks. I'm feeling a little rusty and I'll probably spend most of today trying to get back into some sort of writing rhythm (as well as mucking about on the 'net and reading comics, obviously).

Now then, TO WORK!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Zombies in Previews

THE Zombies anthology containing my "Pop Zombies" story with Natalie Sandells appears in this month's Previews catalogue (September).

And if that isn't enough reason to order a copy from your local comic shop, the book features 29 other terrifically terror-packed tales from the likes of Kieron Gillen (Phonogram), Leah Moore and John Reppion (Albion) and Jason Cobley (Bulldog Adventure Magazine). The cover (above) is by former Swamp Thing artist Steve Bissette.

You'll find Zombies on page 211 of Previews under ACCENT UK - 168 pages for a measly $10 (a bit over a fiver). Next to it is Dave West and Andy Bloor's Wolfmen graphic novel which is well worth ordering too.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


A few pictures from the holiday in North Wales...

Me, looking vaguely human for once, standing beside the steam train upon which we travelled up Mount Snowdon.

A spectacular view from around three-quarters of the way up Snowdon.

My lovely missus Jen, and Connor, the world's most appallingly behaved two-year-old.

Dylan after having his face painted at Chester Zoo. He's a bat.

The magnificent Conwy Castle...

... and again.