ON THE SHELF OCTOBER 2014

batman noir long halloween cover comics-grandville-noel-artworkUntil TRIPWIRE returns as a website hopefully in the new year, I’ll continue to post reviews and material here that would normally be in TRIPWIRE. First up is Grandeville: Noel, the fourth book in Bryan Talbot’s anthropomorphic graphic novel series starring Detective Inspector LeBrock. Talbot is a rare talent: able to write and draw, he brings a number of unique influences to bear (pardon the pun) in his work. Grandville: Noel deals with LeBrock being hired to find a missing girl, only to get embroiled in the machinations of a sinister cult. Grandville: Noel, like its three predecessors, is the work of a truly accomplished mature comics creator and Talbot manages to channel a number of illustrative inspirations in his work here. Exciting, satirical and smart, Grandville: Noel is a worthy addition to fans of graphic novels, Bryan Talbot and adventure…

Next is Batman Noir: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, where DC represents the acclaimed Batman story in stark black and white. There is a murderer killing criminals in Gotham and each murder has a holiday theme. Loeb has never been better, introducing rival crime families the Maronis and the Falcones while showing a city on the edge of an abyss. We have seen tales of Gotham in its earlier incarnations but it has never been so magnificently realised  before or since. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Sale’s brilliant simple but effective art, bringing the world of Batman to life with rare skill. The Long Halloween was a great read in colour but there’s something even more elegant about seeing it in pure black and white. For people who have enjoyed the story before, reading it in monochrome lends a whole new dimension…

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NEW YORK STATE OF MIND 2014

Street-trader-near-the-Javits-closeup-New-York-12-Oct-2014-grey josh-hale-fialkov-nycc-2014-10th-oct-2014-pic#1-grey Dean-Haspiel-nycc2014-12th-oct-2014-grey Homeless-man-near-Javits-Center-New-York-10th-Oct-2014-closeup-grey-pic# generic-crowd-shot-medium-nycc-2014-09th-oct-2014-pic#1 Street-trader-near-Javits-Center-New-York-US-11th-Oct-2014-grey Penguin-gotham-nycc-2014-pic-12th-oct-2014-pic#1-col Doc-Ock-cosplayer-nycc2014-11th-Oct-2014-col captain-america-nycc-2014-cosplay-col richard-taylor-nycc-2014 Death-cosplay-nycc2014 captain-america-cosplayer-nycc-2014-10th-oct-2014-pic#1I have been going to New York Comic Con since 2006 and I have been going to the city itself since I was about six years old. The show has grown from a small one of around 10,000 people to a huge event. I went this year to cover some TV for Cult TV Times and to catch up with a few friends. I was lucky enough to stay with Walt and Louise Simonson, who I have known for about a decade, and they were kind enough to let me stay in their house. This year’s show felt a little strange as it was the first one I’d been to without my friend Bill Baker, who sadly passed away in Feb this year, and Comic Heroes has ended so there were no interviews for them. But it was still a very enjoyable show as my friend David Baillie, who is now embarking on something for one of the big publishers, was present, as was my friend Murphy, who is a great artist but his day job means that time is tight for him to devote much time to drawing. Other things have changed since I started coming too: I have been getting more into my photography too so I was keen to get some candid street photography as well as a few portrait photos at the show. It’s impossible to cover everything here so this will just scratch the surface. On Thursday, I had lunch with my friend Mark Chiarello at DC, and it’s always great to see him. At the show, I did my interview with the very talented Richard Taylor from Weta, who I hadn’t seen since around 2010 and that was a pleasure. That evening I grabbed dinner with Ketan, who I know from this side of the water. On Friday I went to the Paley Center to see the first episode of the new 12 Monkeys TV series and a Q&A that SyFy put on. It is hard to tell whether this spin-off from the Terry Gilliam film will work but it looks like it has potential so we’ll see. I did a roundtable with the cast and crew on Saturday as well. On Saturday I had a meeting with Steve Saffel at Titan about some potential book projects and we’ll see if they happen. I did get to do a  roundtable for Constantine on Sat too which went alright except there was one girl who monopolised the roundtable and behaved like a total pain in the arse. I did get some good content though. That night, I got to catch up with Mike Kaluta for dinner uptown and it was great to see him. On Sunday I did roundtables for Gotham and The Following, both of which went very well. Then I grabbed dinner with Murphy and David Baillie, which was a nice end cap to the show. There were loads of people I was hoping to see at the show but it has got so huge now that it’s very difficult to see everyone you want to. It has reached the point where it’s almost too large for it to be worthy my while going to which is a real shame as it is still an enjoyable show. We’ll see. Here’s a selection of photos from the show and from New York in general…

MURDER IN MIND?

enhanced-buzz-wide-384-1406873867-8Gone Girl was a huge novel when it was published back in 2012. Gillian Flynn’s book has been adapted by big-name Hollywood director David Fincher. I admit that I have never read the book so I am coming to this adaptation cold. Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a journalist who comes home one day to find that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) has disappeared in very mysterious circumstances. The finger of suspicion seems to point at Nick but as the investigation progresses, the waters are muddied and it is uncertain which is the guilty part here. Affleck is very good as Dunne but Pike steals the show here as his complex wife and the audience is drawn into the emotional rollercoaster and the question of whether Nick did kill his wife. Fincher does a good job of holding it all together and there is solid support from the likes of Tyler Perry as media manipulator Tanner Bolt and Carrie Coon as Nick’s put-upon sister Margo. Despite a running time of two and a half hours, Gone Girl never outstays its welcome. It is a smart, sophisticated and intelligent thriller with a decent pay-off. Affleck continues to show that he is one of the best actors currently operating in modern Hollywood and this film also shows off the best of Fincher’s considerable skills. The first quality thriller of the autumn…

ARTFULLY DONE

GregSpalenkaCover

Hyperluminal_coverTitan Books have been a part of British comics for decades now and at one point, they were best known as bringing DC’s output to the UK. When Titan lost that DC content, it wasn’t certain how they would continue. But the company has reinvented itself, generated new comic content and also bringing out an increasing line of Art Of books. The two latest titles are The Art of Jim Burns: Hyperluminal and The Art of Greg Spalenka: Visions From The Mind’s Eye. Both books are lavish hardcovers but the two artists couldn’t be more different in terms of their style. The Art of Jim Burns takes a look at the impressive career of British science fiction genius Burns, whose work has graced book covers by the likes of sci fi and fantasy giants like George R R Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Joe Haldeman and Robert Silverberg, to name but a few. The book has a commentary running through it, which does help to contextualise Burns’ work and gives the readers an idea of which point in his career we are talking about. Reproduction here is magnificent and it really shows off just what a master of science fiction art Burns is, able to create new worlds of imagination with his  brush strokes. His work on fantasy covers is slightly less accomplished as he seems to be a little less comfortable in the fantasy world. But this is a very minor quibble. Burns is a uniquely talented artist and it is great to see a book that celebrates that…

Greg Spalenka is a very different artist indeed to Burns. He is an American illustrator who is more in the painterly traditions of the Old Masters, the Pre-Raphaelites and also the hordes of talented 20th century American illustrators and artists. His work follows the lineage of the Wyeths, Dean Cornwell and the British Victorian painters. The Art  of Greg Spalenka shows off the versatility of this man, who is as comfortable drawing Mike Tyson as he is working on Narnia film The Voyage of The Dawn Treader. There is a beautiful elegant simplicity to Spalenka’s work and this format, a slightly oversized hardcover, does do his magnificent paintings full justice. There is a little commentary here but perhaps the work speaks for itself a little more here. The design here manages to reflect Spalenka’s approach as an artist and it does give you a feel of the way he works.

So while I am reviewing both books together, I am in no way comparing the works of the two artists. They are both exceptional practitioners in their own fields and both of these books are welcome additions to the library of anyone who is an aficionado of modern illustrative art…