CHALK AND CHEESE
At the weekend, I ventured out of the house to go to LUC 176, a small press event held in Chalk Farm in North London. It was nice to get out after hibernating and working on the TRIPWIRE Annual but it has been exceptionally warm here. So I caught up with David Baillie, Dan Fish, Dan Lester, Leon Hewitt and a few other people at the show. It seemed to have a halfway decent turnout which was encouraging. It was organised by Oli Smith who used to put on the London Underground Comics thing at Camden market. We had an insane electrical storm as I was leaving Chalk Farm, where we got heavy rain, hail, thunder and lightning. In fact, the hail was so heavy that it sounded like there were golf balls hitting my car as I drove. So here are a selection of pics I took at LUC 176…








A NEW TRIP THROUGH THE WIRES
So we’ve finished the TRIPWIRE Annual 2009 and done our onscreen proofing so we are just waiting for a physical proof next week. It looks amazing and is easily the nicest and best package we’ve put together since we brought TRIPWIRE back. Here’s the feature rundown:

•Stan Lee on Marvel’s 70th anniversary plus a look at the future of Marvel movies
• Solomon Kane history feature including a look at Dark Horse’s Robert E Howard line
•Guillermo Del Toro on his novel The Strain
•A look at the sleeper hit of the year, British low budget sci fi movie Moon with director Duncan Jones
•Joe Kubert on returning to Tor after years away
•30th anniversary of Alien feature
•Profile of Flesk Publications plus interviews with Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni
•A look at Tintin in the year of his 80th birthday
•Celebrate Batman’s 70th anniversary with a look back at the character’s history plus Frank Quitely interview
•Ian Rankin on Dark Entries, his graphic novel for the new Vertigo Crime line plus Vertigo’s chief Karen Berger on the new line
•DC’s Wednesday Comics series
•Bill Morrison talking about Bongo in the runup to The Simpsons’ 20th anniversary
•Interview with fine artist and illustrator Phil Hale, the man who painted Tony Blair’s leaving portrait for the House of Commons
•Bieng Human feature looking at the hit UK genre series
•Strips from Roger Langridge, Punx, Kevin Mullins and David Hitchcock
•The Power List 2009

Diamond US will not be carrying us over there because we didn’t make their benchmark so US customers will only be able to get us 1) from Barnes & Noble, 2) At San Diego Comic-Con if they’re lucky enough to be going or 3) order it from us directly.

In the UK, Diamond UK are carrying it and it’ll be on sale in Borders as ever. If you live in Canada, it is been distributed through LMPI so will be on sale in Chapters.
So here are a few sample pages to tantalise you…


RADIO SILENCE
I realise that it’s been over ten days since I last posted anything. That’s because I’ve basically been hibernating in order to get the TRIPWIRE Annual 2009 done. Well, as I write this, I have 5 pages out of 156 left to design so I’m so close to finishing. I’ll be putting up some page designs in the next couple of days especially as we found out Diamond US isn’t going to be carrying us (we fell short of their benchmark) so we’re trying to encourage US retailers to pick stock up from us directly at San Diego in about a month. In the meantime, here is the front cover (about 95% of the way there). Enjoy…



THE FUTURE’S NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE
I went to see Terminator Salvation about ten days ago. I saw it at Sony’s screening cinema in Golden Square and I admit I have been putting off putting up a review of it. Well, I also went to see Moon at the same place last Thursday. So since both are science fiction films, admittedly of a different hue, I thought it might be appropriate to run a review that looks at both of them. So here goes.
I’ll start with Terminator Salvation. Directed by McG and starring Christian Bale and name to watch, Aussie Sam Worthington, Terminator Salvation is intended to kickstart or reboot the Terminator franchise in much the same way Casino Royale did with Bond or it is anticipated that JJ Abrams’ Star Trek will do with the crew of the Enterprise. Bale plays John Connor while Worthington is convicted killer Marcus Wright, who has been turned into a human/ machine hybrid and finds himself in the year 2018 (don’t worry: I’m not spoiling anything: this is telegraphed about three minutes after the start of the film anyway and is blown in the trailer too). Bale is the future leader of the opposition against the machines, John Connor, and he encounters Wright, undecided if he is an agent for the machines or the last hope of humanity. Terminator and Terminator 2 were both important films as they portrayed a different view of a future dominated by technology. Cameron managed to inject both with enough humour and humanity that they were entertaining viewing. Terminator 3 was watchable but fairly forgettable. So is Terminator Salvation a new hope for the franchise? The biggest problem here is that there is a decent film fighting to get out but it is buried under a poor script and some of the corniest dialogue and dumbest directing seen for quite a while. Shouty Bale becomes annoying very quickly and the world run by the machines is so devoid of any hope or optimism that you almost feel like you should let them win. There is the odd decent visual flourish here, with a more stripped-down Terminator a nice touch and Worthington is entertaining to watch on screen. But ultimately it’s an empty and predictable experience, one that will leave your brain as soon as you vacate the cinema. It has made $131m to date, which means that it will probably cover its budget but it won’t be a massive success, so it is uncertain whether they will get to do another two movies as planned. If they do, here’s hoping they get a better director and an improved script…
Every now and again a film comes along that stays with you long after you watch it. In recent years, Hollywood mainstream blockbusters have become so bloated that nearly all of them are merely an exercise in technical expertise. Science fiction films are some of the worst culprits with franchises clogging up the big screen with their impressive but empty CGI, forgetting that it is script and direction that should drive a movie rather than how convincing your visual effects should be. Moon is a low budget British science fiction film, made for just under $5m and directed by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie and promo director. It is Jones’ first feature film but it displays such a range of emotional depth and directorial excellence that this is sometimes hard to believe. Moon is a very simple film with a single character, Sam Bell, played by the peerless Sam Rockwell. Rockwell commands the screen whenever he is on it which is for the entire duration of the film and it wouldn’t have been as impressive an effort if it were another actor in his place. Set in the near future, Bell is the sole guardian of a helium processing facility on the moon and when he has an accident in one of the moon vehicles, he wakes up uncertain of what has occurred. Moon is such an immersive film that, from the first few seconds you watch on screen to its conclusion 100 minutes later, you forget that you are in a cinema and are by Sam’s side in his claustrophobic, bittersweet world of technology. Kevin Spacey is the voice of robotic unit Gerty and ironically he lends a certain air of humanity to the proceedings. The makers have stated their intentions to produce a film like Silent Running and Outland and they have succeeded in an unparalleled way. They have created a fantastic look for the moonbase, keeping everything very subtle and understated. Moon is far and away the best film released so far this year and probably the most exceptional science fiction film for some time to come. By the evidence here, Jones is a name to watch and Moon is a movie that will be remembered for many years to come. Hopefully it might lead to a British science fiction renaissance…






LET THE STRAIN TAKE THE STRAIN
So I did my face to face chat with Guillermo Del Toro about The Strain. It was a little short but we are doing a followup next week on the phone. He was very friendly and approachable as ever. The Tube strike in London meant that the traffic was horrendous and the weather was pretty shitty too: drizzly and sometimes even proper torrential rain. We did our interview in a hotel near Seven Dials in Covent Garden in London and I got a few decent photos as ever so here are a few I snapped…



















BULLISH BEHAVIOUR?
On Saturday morning, I went to Forbidden Planet for a brief photo call with Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy 2, Pan’s Labyrinth) who has a new novel, The Strain out and was signing there in the afternoon. I only got about 10 minutes with him but I’m going to be interviewing him properly this Wednesday. The queue was absolutely crazy and snaked around the block. I did manage to get some very nice shots and I chucked him a copy of last year’s Annual. He was extremely nice and approachable as ever. So here are a selection of photos I took at FP…









MAGIC MOMENTS
On Tuesday night, I went to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century interview at the ICA, hosted by Christopher Frayling who interviewed Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. Part of Paul Gravett’s Comica series of events, cultural historian Frayling made an excellent interviewer as some talks and interviews I’ve seen with Moore have been overly fawning but he asked intelligent and balanced questions. Moore and O’Neill came across pretty well and they seem to have a good chemistry. The room was packed and we discovered certain things that I was unaware of, like the fact that Alan Moore is a big fan of the film Performance (a film that my cousin Stanley Meadows has a small but pivotal part in) and we discovered that he is doing new Bojeffries comics with Steve Parkhouse. There was a signing afterwards which was busy but the queue wasn’t as huge as it was at the Gosh signing Moore did back in April this year. There’s always something interesting in Comica’s raft of events and the series has become a valuable addition to the London comic-related calendar. I took quite a few photos at the event, so here’s a selection of the ones that worked…
http://www.comicafestival.com/











IF IT’S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE BELGIUM
Last week was another insane one. On Tuesday, I went to Brussels for the day with Gary. We were supposed to visit the Herge Museum near there but the guy we were dealing with gave us the wrong day and we couldn’t exchange our tickets on the Eurostar so we went anyway. From what I hear, the launch was a complete shambles anyway. So the Eurostar was a very nice journey: unlike British trains, the price wasn’t bad and it only took 2 hours from St Pancras to get to Gare Du Midi in the centre of Brussels. The weather wasn’t great: we left a drizzly London only to be greeted by a drizzly Belgian capital. But it was still very pleasant to get out of London and not go to the US for a change (as much as I enjoy my trips to the States). So we went around a number of museums, saw the shop at the Bande Dessinee Museum (we were in a hurry) and saw the exterior of the bizarre but striking Atomium out in Heysel on the outskirts of the city, which was built for the World’s Fair in the fifties. Some of the baroque architecture was impressive and they had a decent selection of Greek and Roman antiquities including a great mosaic. We also went to the Cathedral, which was impressive. So I did take a lot of photos (there’s a surprise, eh:)) even though the weather was a bit shitty and here’s a selection of a few for you…

On Thursday, I went to see the Manic Street Preachers at the Roundhouse in Camden. It was a very warm evening and it was a fantastic gig just like when I saw them back in 2007 in Brixton. They played the whole of Journal For Plague Lovers, then took a break and came back and did hits like Motorcycle Emptiness, If You Tolerate This (Then Your Children Will Be Next), Motown Junk and Your Love Is Not Enough. Nicky Wire couldn’t move because of a dodgy back but the band were good value, putting on a fantastic, energetic show for nearly two hours altogether. I admit that, if they played again, I would definitely see them. They brought the new album to life with real flair and pizazz. Here is my dodgy photo taken on my camera phone…

TRIPWIRE NEWS
So we’ve officially circulated news about the TRIPWIRE Annual 2009 and the Adventure Special, which we have put back to December. Here is our press release that covers both subjects:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
TRIPWIRE NABS GUILLERMO DEL TORO STRAIN INTERVIEW
(London, May 30th 2009)
TRIPWIRE is proud to announce they have added exciting new features to their already jam-packed 2009 Annual. The magazine has landed an exclusive interview with award-winning genre master Guillermo Del Toro discussing his new novel The Strain as well as a few tidbits on Hellboy 3 and upcoming movie projects. Additionally, the magazine has attained an in-depth first look at Moon, the eagerly-awaited low budget British sci-fi movie starring Sam Rockwell and directed by Duncan Jones.

“The addition of these two top notch features compliments what already promises to be the best Annual we’ve released to date,” said Tripwire’s Editor-in-chief Joel Meadows. “We’ve got such a big issue already. With our cover feature looking in-depth at Marvel Comics and its 70th anniversary, or the Alien 30th birthday retrospective later on, the Bongo Comics interview with Bill Morrison who’s always entertaining, or even the Stripwire section with over 20 pages of original comics –it’s just a real pleasure to be publishing this quality material. Adding these two new features strengthens the magazine further.”
On the topic of making a better magazine, Tripwire has performed a little reorganizing at the printer as well. Originally the magazine’s 2009 publishing schedule included an Adventure Special for June, a Horror Special for Halloween and a Science Fiction Special for December. Instead the editors have taken some of the more timely content from the Adventure and Science Fiction Specials and folded it into the 2009 Tripwire Annual, making it bigger and better than they’d announced at solicitation. “We’re committed to releasing the best magazine we can,” offered Meadows, “and sometimes this means making adjustments on the fly.” Features now included in the 2009 Annual are an exclusive Joe Kubert interview, a profile on publishers Flesk Publications with sidebars about artists Gary Gianni and Mark Schultz, a feature on 80 years of Tintin and a look at Dark Horse’s Solomon Kane and other Robert E. Howard properties. 

”Our first focus is on the Annual, and making it as exceptional as its two predecessors. When we saw several articles from the June Adventure Special and the 2009 Annual beginning to converge, we knew we had to sacrifice the one to make the other even better,” Meadows revealed. While the Annual has gotten larger than promised with the addition of the extra content, Tripwire still plans to do an Adventure Special later this year. “We’re looking at releasing an improved line up for the Special around Christmas with a big Conan cover and features inside that cover everything from Howard’s characters to a resurgence in the popularity of the pulps and many of the upcoming adventure movies and television shows for the next year or two.” And the Science Fiction Special? “First Quarter of 2010, maybe,” said Meadows with a laugh. “We’re still planning Fantasy and Crime Specials for 2010 and now the schedule is tightened. There’s so much we want to print, sometimes we have to make some painful choices.”

TRIPWIRE publisher and Editor-in-Chief Joel Meadows can be reached for comment at: joelmeadows@btinternet.com or 01144 208 959 4192
TRIPWIRE Annual 2009 is still available for preorder from Diamond Comic Distributors, 164 pages full colour, $15.95 US, item code MAY091149