About ten days ago, I went to Bath by train which takes about an hour and a half from London Paddington. It’s the first time I’d been there and wandered around properly and I could see why it’s so loved by tourists who come over here. The weather was perfect: crisp blue sky and feeling very Springlike. I met my brother for lunch and I met Jaspre for a coffee near the station. I didn’t go into the Roman baths but I probably will do next time. It was a very nice day except for the fact that the greedy twats at First Great Western wouldn’t let me get on an earlier train (unless I wanted to pay £48 for the privilege) so I spent an hour waiting at Swindon. But that didn’t mar what was a very pleasant day. The only upside to not having any freelance subbing is the fact that I can choose to sod off for the day out of London. So here are some photos of the stunning Bath Abbey, by the Avon and a few general photos from the city…

It’s only taken two years or so, but TRIPWIRE at last has a website. If you go to www.tripwire-magazine.com, you’ll find selected highlights from our three issues published so far. From the beginning of April, we’ll also be posting graphic novel reviews, building up a growing bank of GN reviews that the reader will be able to use as a guide for what they should read and buy. We have big plans for TRIPWIRE that will see us publish more regularly and the web presence will be part of it. Why not take a look?

Recently I took a few photos along the Embankment as it was getting dark. The days have been getting longer and my camera is decent in low light so here are a few shots I took including looking across to the OXO Tower, which has the O, X and O on it because when it was built, it wasn’t allowed to have any advertising on it…

So here are a few other photos I took during the show and just after it, including one of Michael Chabon, Pete Bickford and his son and daughter, Golden Gate Bridge during and after heavy rain with Baz and Andy C, looking out to Alcatraz, Baz and Andy in the train station on Market, all of us at teardown at Wonder Con with our cardboard table sign and Andy C and Susie at the table. The weather started off as torrential rain at Golden Gate but the sun came out so just look at the difference in light…

Since Wonder Con was weeks ago now, I thought I’d put two more posts up about it and then leave it there. The Thursday before the show, me and Baz walked up to North Beach and then up the Coit Tower. The weather was blue sky with white fluffy clouds and it was a very pleasant day. During the show, we sold quite a few copies of the TRIPWIRE Superhero Special, the Annual 2008 and we even sold a couple of Studio Spaces too. We made a few new contacts too including Michael Chabon (Cavalier & Clay), David Mandel (writer on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm) and I caught up with people like Mike Mignola and Howard Chaykin and I had a chat with Gary Gianni, Mark Schultz and John Fleske for a feature for the TRIPWIRE Adventure Special. We did a panel on the Friday which had a few people wander in. I also caught up with Pete Bickford for lunch. On the Monday, all three of us went to Fisherman’s Wharf, which I thought was rather cheesy (it was the first time I’d been there). So here are a few photos from the show and our wanderings in North Beach…

We have had a few reviews of the Superhero Special, John Freeman’s downthetubes, on Richard Bruton’s forbidden planet blog and Steven Grant’s comicbookresources column. They’re pretty good reviews:

Steven Grant’s review:

TRIPWIRE SUPERHERO SPECIAL 2009 Joel Meadows & Andrew Grossberg, eds ($7.95; magazine)

TRIPWIRE‘s a former fanzine that reinvented itself as the FACE of comics in media, and has generally been pretty good, though it never seems quite sure of what audience it most wants to serve, being almost too deep into comics for a casual audience but not deep enough for a comics audience, and its annual schedule didn’t seem geared for momentum. They’ve seemingly found a swerve on the latter problem, anyway: this “special” – it does give it a more urgent aura – is one of several planned, so while the official TRIPWIRE is still an annual, it’s really more a quarterly. Clever. As with most issues, they give a lot of play to comics films, taking full advantage of WATCHMEN and cover story KICK-ASS for some good interviews with Dave Gibbons, director Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar. Interviews have become the magazine’s stock in trade; their interviews with Geoff Johns, Paul Cornell, Mark Waid, Brian Bendis, Dan Didio and the new HEROES producers are all pretty entertaining as well. Somewhat less satisfying are the tenuous feature articles: a fairly uninspired rehashing of Kirby that quotes Kahlil Gibran and hinges on a paper tiger, “The 15 Most Important Superhero Graphic Novels Ever, which is basically an arbitrary laundry list, etc., though I have to give them props for finding 15 superhero graphic novels they can even pretend are “important.” The slick format’s very pretty, and overall Meadows and co. do a very nice job of making comics look worthy of attention. A good read.

Richard Bruton’s review:

Tripwire Superhero Special 2009

Edited by Joel Meadows

In a comic world where we seem rather bereft of regular magazines about comics at the moment it’s nice to have another Tripwire appear so rapidly after last year’s annual. For those who don’t know, Tripwire started out as a well regarded comic book news and interviews magazine; 50 issues in 9 years between ‘92 and ‘03 before turning out two well received (and huge) annuals in ‘07 and ‘08 (review of 2008 Annual here). This year we see the first in a proposed series of Tripwire specials, filling out the year before each annual. This Superhero Special, although thinner than the annual still clocks in at an impressive 82 pages which makes it a damn good value read for the £4.95 cover price.

The great thing about Tripwire is that it sticks very doggedly to what it is. And more importantly is well aware of what it isn’t. There’s no hint of news, Internet gossip or long lists of new comics coming out in the next two week. Similarly there’s no attempt to produce some 50 page feature interview each issue. That sort of thing has it’s place and that place is in the Comics Journal, which is still the premier magazine about comics for many. Just not the same sorts of comics that Tripwire concerns itself with. Comics is a big enough medium and there’s plenty of room for more magazines about comics on the racks. Tripwire does what it does extremely well: covering a wide range of comics and related film and TV stories with a mix of interviews and short articles.

Any magazine has to perform on two important levels: design and content. A terrible design can make even the most interesting article practically unreadable but even the most innovative and beautiful design work will not be able to make a pearl from a swine of a badly written piece. Thankfully, Tripwire’s design is, as usual, splendid; no overly flashy layouts, sensible use of visuals and a great use of the white space on the page:

As for content; it’s equally good. The thematic nature of this issue could have constrained the magazine and limited it’s appeal, but thanks to a combination of good timing, careful selection and a good variety of writers and subjects there’s a sense of balanced, wide ranging coverage of all aspects of the Superhero genre.

As you might expect, the magazine leads with a series of features on Watchmen; a summary of the trials and tribulations of getting the graphic novel onto the silver screen and an interview with Dave Gibbons about his recently published book: Watching The Watchmen. I’m still rather surprised that there wasn’t a Watchmen cover, but perhaps Joel is looking towards what may well bee the next big comics to film event with Kick-Ass instead and plans to keep his magazine relevant beyond the Watchmen release.

The film connections continue with several features on Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s Kick Ass comic currently being filmed by Matthew Vaughn, the man responsible for Stardust, Lock Stock and Layer Cake. Personally I didn’t rate the first issue of the comic but the filmmakers are all saying the right things about their film, so I’ll reserve judgement on the film version until I’ve actually seen it. It definitely looks like it will stir up the Daily Mail readers out there though, with it’s mainly teenage cast and relatively high levels of violence and language. You can almost see the “Ban this comic filth” headlines already can’t you?

After that initial one-two punch of big name film and comic properties we head off for a chat with Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Carey about the latest goings on at Marvel, the ever entertaining Paul Cornell chats about his great Captain Britain and MI-13 series and Matthew Badham provides us with a quick but exhaustive look at the history of Captain Britain. And if Marvel gets covered in depth, DC is never far behind; interviews with Geoff Johns and Dan Didio cover the DC half of the superhero world.

Rich Johnston, gossip-monger extraordinaire, gets a chance to have his say away from his usual Lying in the Gutters column. And very interesting he is too. One day he’ll sit down and write the book on all of the nasty little (and extremely nasty very big) secrets he’s sitting on and we’ll all be buying it before the law suits come flying in.

And lest you start thinking this is a purely Marvel and DC show, there’s ample representation from many others writing about superheroes; a Golden Age feature, Mark Waid of Boom Comics gets a piece, Dynamite Entertainment’s Project Superpowers gets discussed and there’s a nicely respectful feature on Jack Kirby before the magazine ends with the hit series Heroes being discussed by Tim Kring, Mark Verheiden and Bryan Fuller who fill us in on where we can expect the show to go next.

As with the annual, we have a 15 of the best section; this time it’s 15 Most Important Superhero Graphic Novels ever. And as always there’s much room for debate over some of the entries and some surprises in there as well; how they can put Jamie Delano and Alan Davis’ run on Captain Britain in is beyond me (it was good, but obviously nowhere near Alan Moore’s run – being released again any day in a huge, doorstopping omnibus edition). And Spawn? Spawn? Bloody hell, there’s so much that would get the nod before that I can’t even start the list without fear of blowing a blood vessel.

It might be too much to ask for, but I’d really like to see Joel commit to making Tripwire a more regular thing, maybe bi-monthly, definitely quarterly, as I think it’s perfectly primed to take it’s place amongst the best of writing about comics, and god knows, we need something sitting comfortably in the vast gulf between the Comics Journal’s interview based art approach and the dross that is Wizard magazine. I think Tripwire could become that rarest of things; a literate, intelligent yet highly entertaining magazine about the comics we all love. The next issue is the Tripwire Adventure Special and it should be out in June. Make sure you look out for it. This current issue should be in all good comic shops right now.

Richard Bruton.

John Freeman’s review:

In Review: Tripwire Superhero Special 2009

Editor and publisher Joel Meadows kindly sent us a copy of the Tripwire Superhero Special, which is now on sale in all good comic shops, Borders UK and Barnes & Noble in the US.

Building on the fine work that went into last year’s Tripwire Annual, this time round the focus is costumed heroes and the magazine is packed with exclusive interviews with creators such as Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn (talking about the Kick-Ass movie and comic – John Romita Jr also talks about designing the Kick-Ass characters), Paul Cornell (on Captain Britain), Geoff Johns (on his work on DC Comics Flash and the upcoming DC Universe game) and much more.

Highlights for me are the Cornell interview, a creator I’ve worked with in the past on Doctor Who Magazine and who always offers an interesting insight on his approach to writing. The feature includes an admittedly short overview of Captain Britain’s history which thankfully notes the contributions to the character of creators other than Alans Moore and Davis.

Also of note is an excellent interview-feature with Tim Kring, Mark Verheiden and Bryan Fuller on their plans for TV’s Heroes, which was recently re-commissioned, something Kring was unsure of at the time the feature was compiled, and he offers an interesting insight into the state of US TV at present. “Things change so quickly and the American networks are in a real transition period right now,” he says. “Right now, nobody knows if there’s going to be a network in a year!”

Printed on high quality paper with a wealth of impressive visuals, this is again an impressive self-published title, well worth tracking down if you’re looking for an entertaining “snapshot” of the state of the superhero comics genre.

While my feeling is that the design of this issue is less polished than last year’s Annual, and in places, some of the subbing is a little off — not that I can talk, the way I miss words out of articles! — this Tripwire Superhero Special is another labour of love from Joel and his team and features such as “15 Important Graphic Novels Ever” are worthy of attention and discussion.

So go, buy a copy now!

• The Tripwire Superhero Special is also available from Diamond, item code DEC084396, price just £4.95 UK, $7.95 US

So Wednesday was a writeoff because we got into San Francisco pretty late. But on Thursday we went for a wander. Here are some of the photos I took along and just off Market Street in the centre of San Francisco. Myself and Baz did slope off to North Beach that day too but I took tons of shots so thta’s worthy of a post to itself…

On Thursday, I went to see designer Peter Saville speak at the Logan Hall near Russell Square. Part of the D&AD series of Presidents talks, I have been to see Chip Kipp, James Jarvis and Christopher Frayling in the past as part of this same occasional series. Saville was the guy who designed the album covers for Joy Division, New Order and OMD and is now in charge of creating a brand for the city of Manchester. I sometimes enjoy seeing people other than writers and artists speak and Saville was an interesting, erudite and self-assured subject who had some telling things to say. I know I pissed off some of the audience by taking tons of photos at the talk but you have to take loads as most of them you’ll have to ditch. And you can only become a better photographer by continually shooting while becoming more and more aware of things like composition and light. I am a much better photographer now than I was even as recently as a year ago. So here are a few photos I took at the event…

I’m interrupting my West Coast diary to put some photos up. I went to meet Ian (Rebus) Rankin at Bafta on Tuesday to interview him. I chatted to him about his forthcoming Hellblazer original graphic novel which is out in the autumn. He was very approachable and the piece will be running in our TRIPWIRE Horror special out in October. I continue to feel lucky at the kind of people I get to meet as a journalist…

The journey from Los Angeles took quite a few hours as we stopped off first at Iron Chef near LA and then much later at Harris Ranch for dinner. The scenery was pretty spectacular as you pass almond groves, huge pylons and greenery that almost reminds you of England. We were lucky with the weather as it stayed dry and pretty clear. This is the second time I’ve done this with Andy G and Susie and there’s a good chance I may do it again next year. So here are some shots from the latter part of the journey up. Some of the shots I took were out of focus (I was in a moving car after all!) but a surprisingly high number were pretty decent…