A CRAZY WEEK
The problem with being a freelancer is that you go from sitting twiddling your thumbs to not knowing how you’re going to fit everything in. This past week, I have landed a couple of new writing gigs, while trying to get closer to finishing TRIPWIRE Annual. The Adventure Special is now coming out in December because we thought it would be too tight if we published it so close to the Annual and the Annual would suffer. But we are folding in some of what was in the original version of the Adventure Special, so that the Annual now contains the Joe Kubert Tor feature, a profile of Flesk Publications and our history of Tintin. The Annual is still available to order and with our exclusive Guillermo Del Toro interview and a first-look at the sleeper hit of the year, low budget British sci-fi movie Moon, everyone should order a copy. Item code is MAY091149…
I went to the Saturday of Londonexpo on 23rd May, which was held as ever at Excel in Docklands. The selection of comic people was greater than it has been and even Warren Ellis was there, looking like he was auditioning for Mad Max IV. The only film thing I did was an interview with Duncan Jones and effects guy Gavin Rothery about Moon which went very well. So here’s a few pics from that…

Last Sunday I walked from Hammersmith to Kew to write my sample chapter for the river and canals book and the weather was fantastic: sunny and felt like that it was mid-summer. Here’s a few photos from my walk…






















A PAGAN PLACE
In my final post about the day after Bristol, after we left Jaspre at Bradford-on-Avon, we headed south a little bit towards Westbury in Wiltshire. Now Wilts has tons of White Horses carved into its hillside but Westbury looked impressive as I saw it from the train a little while ago and we actually drove near it on our way to Longleat the Friday before. So I was curious to see if close-up. And I admit that it is amazing when you get closer to it. However, unlike the horse in the Vale of The White Horse in Oxfordshire, it’s not that old. Probably dates from the 18th century because the white horse was the family animal of the Hanoverians, so to commemorate George III, lots of them were carved. But you do get a great view looing across the county from the top so it’s well worth a look. The other place I took Andy too was Avebury, which is a little further east of Westbury. He had never seen the stones and the weather was perfect, so I took him there. It’s the third time I’ve visited it and it still looks amazing. Julian Cope lives in the village and there are lots of modern-day ‘witches’ who are located there too. Apparently a friend of mine in the States, Mark Berry, tells me that the pub there the Red Lion is supposed to be haunted. I’ll have to check it out the next time I am there. After Avebury, we picked up the M4 at Swindon and we were hoeme by about 8ish in the evening. Wiltshire is a fantastic, beauty, spellbinding county. So here are a few photos at Westbury and Avebury…
















A NICE KNIGHT FOR IT
When I have a busy week, or a busy couple of weeks, then there are events I go to that I mean to blog about but they take longer than I’d hoped for. So, in the interests of trying to keep relatively up to date, I’m going to put a hold on the last post about my day home from Bristol and talk about a book launch I went to on Friday 15th May. Steve Colgan has a friend, Sarwat Chadda, who has worked as an engineer for years while trying to do something creative on the side. Well, it turns out that we discovered a few months back that he has a book out from Puffin, a children’s horror title called Devil’s Kiss. This book is one of Puffin’s big titles for 2009 and it is out even as we speak. So Sarwat had a launch for the book which took place at the Dulwich Picture Gallery on Friday 15th May. Now, people who read this blog and don’t live in London or England may not know about this but there is a divide in London between North and South Londoners. In fact, Time Out ran two covers addressing this very recently. So, Dulwich is in South London and, while I have lived in London all my life, I have never been in Dulwich before. But it was a very nice venue and Dulwich is a beautiful, green area. I may even go back there at some point. But returning to the launch, Steve came to it as did our mutual mate James Murphy and his pregnant missus Lisa. Steve had published Sarwat in his independent comic endeavour Bigger Betty back in the 1990s and so it was a proud moment to see his friend have the luxury of packing in his job and write full-time. The book is tied in with the Templars so there were people in knight costume wandering around the event. I am very chuffed for Sarwat and I hope it does incredibly well for him. So here are a few photos from the event, which unfortunately was a little bit showery…












WILTSHIRE’S HIDDEN BEAUTY
For the past few years, once I have left Bristol and made my way back to London, I have stopped off to see my friend, the talented writer Jaspre Bark at Bradford-on-Avon. 2009 was no exception and my friend Andy Colman, who came back with me in the car had never been to Bradford-on-Avon so I dragged him along to see Jaspre. Bradford-on-Avon is such a fantastic place: small enough to walk around but big enough so that there’s enough to keep you occupied. Unlike Bath, you can park easily and it is off the trail for most tourists. I hope it continues to be one of these places that you have to know to visit. Anyway, the weather was perfect and I took a number of shots, so here’s a selection of a few for you to enjoy…
















AVON CALLING
So I said I’d put a post up about this year’s Bristol Comic Show. So here goes:
Last year’s show was fantastic for us. We had Studio Space, which launched at the show, plus Walter Simonson was over and he signed on our table with Dave Gibbons as did Dave Taylor. There were also a number of other US guests so the Commonwealth Museum was packed. One year on, the show is just in the Ramada, there are no American guests, we’re in a recession and we don’t have a new book out. The slimmed-down Bristol makes perfect sense in this current economic climate: people don’t have the money but it’s better to have something running. So Bristol Comic Expo 2009 was alright from a social point of view: I got to catch up with Dave Baillie, Baz Renshaw, David Morris, Jaspre Bark, Andy Winter, his mate Jamie Richards and a number of other people. I also got to see my brother, Matthew, who lives in Clifton and that’s always nice. On the sales side, we did okay (covered our costs). I didn’t go to any panels but I don’t usually do that anyway. We have supported Bristol since the first year and shall continue to do so but I am hoping that the economy will turn the corner and perhaps in 2011, Bristol may be able to build itself up again. Here are a few photos I took in Bristol over the weekend but not many at the actual show as we were behind the table most of the time…










THE MANE ATTRACTION
The weekend of 10th to 11th of this month was spent down in Bristol at the retooled Bristol Comic Expo. I shall post a small report on the show but, as is my tradition, I left London on the Friday, 9th May, and took the motorway to a certain point and then came off. In the car were Andy Colman and Leon, and we got off the M4 at Chippenham because I had a fancy to see Longleat House. Now Longleat is more popular as a Safari Park because it has a huge one there but the house dates from 1580, so it was supposed to be a spectacular example of Elizabethan architecture. The weather was changeable but we were mostly lucky and when we hit Longleat around 4pm on the Friday, we weren’t disappointed. Set in acres of land, you drive for miles from the sign at the roundabout until you come upon this glorious place set in its own lush surroundings. This is why I like driving aimlessly around England, stopping off at different hidden gems. We didn’t go into the house properly because we had to get cracking and move onto Bristol but here are a few pics I took around the house and in the grounds. The headline refers to the fact that Longleat is famous for its lions, hence the lion figure here…


CHILDHOOD’S END?
I’ve been meaning to put up a review of Coraline, which I went to see in the middle of April but other things kept coming up. So here goes…
Coraline, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, is a 3-D animated film directed by Henry (Nightmare Before Christmas) about a little girl, Coraline, who moves to a new place up in the wilds of Oregon with her eccentric parents. She befriends her neighbours, British actresses Miss Spink and Forcible and the bizarre Russian Mr Bobinsky and wanders the grounds of her new home in an attempt to find something interesting. She gets her wish and finds a doorway to an alternate version of reality where her other parents seem more interested in her and where her life is more exciting. But there is a drawback and her alternate parents are not what they seem. Selick is a very talented animation director and the look of Coraline is vivid and imaginative. The voice talent work well on screen, especially Teri Hatcher as both of Coraline’s mothers and Ian McShane as the strange Russian circus acrobat Bobinsky. However, French and Saunders as the doddery stage actresses are genuinely annoying: it’s surprising that people haven’t gotten bored of their limited schtick. Also the script seems a little too dark for the audience it’s aimed at and I’m sure that it would give some small children nightmares, especially the idea of replacing people’s ideas with buttons. And 3-D really doesn’t seem necessary here as it doesn’t play much of a part in enhancing the overall experience. Having said that, Coraline mostly succeeds, creating a warped view of the real world and the other place that she enters is well-realised. So, recommended with a few reservations…

A PICTURE OF HEALTH

I went to an interesting talk tonight or two talks in fact. The London Photographic Association held an evening where two photographers spoke: Sukey Parnell and John Ferguson. Parnell specialises in portraiture whereas Ferguson comes from a news and sports newspaper background. Both had something interesting to say and both made me realise that I am someone who takes photos rather than someone who is a professional photographer, which since I don’t earn money from photography is a pretty obvious point. But I can still enjoy taking photos. Ferguson talked about photographing Michael Jackson while at the same time pursuing his own personal projects. It was worth the £5 I spent on the evening and I’ll definitely be checking out future LPA evenings.

http://www.johnferguson.co.uk/

http://www.sukeyparnell.com/


LOGAN’S RUN
X-Men: The Last Stand, released in 2006 was a mixed success. Director Brett Ratner was never going to replicate the acclaim that Bryan Singer received with the first two and so it came and went with a rather lukewarm response. Hollywood has been threatening X-Men spinoffs for a number of years and, with Jackman’s hairy Canadian hero one of the most popular turns in the movies, it made sense that this would be the first one out of the gate. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not without its problems as a snazzy title sequence that sees Wolverine, Sabretooth and other special forces associates fight in a succession of wars from the First World War through to Vietnam sets up proceedings smoothly. But the problem is that, once the set-up is out of the way, the plot which deals with a killer bumping off superheroes, specifically those who were with Wolverine, feels a little bit mundane and lacking in originality. Jackman is entertaining on screen in the title role as is Liev Schreiber, the murderous Victor Creed or Sabretooth, who has a real intensity as a performer but some of the other figures are little more than action turns with Australian Danny Huston as William Stryker wasted here. The action setpieces are fun to watch and the fights between Sabretooth and Wolverine are well-managed but Wolverine suffers from occasionally dodgy CGI and a fairly empty plot. The first two X-Men films had a lot to recommend them and the law of diminishing returns holds true here with a lot revealed about Wolverine already. But if you’re looking for a brainless summer movie, you won’t be disappointed with X-Men Origins: Wolverine however if you’re after a popcorn blockbuster with more heart and a little more in the way of brains, then Star Trek should be your choice…