All posts by PJ

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Dept of Monsterology Trade Collection

PREORDER CODE  AUG141645

Available to preorder in previews right now, the collection of Dept Of Monsterology “Monsterology 101″ collects the first miniseries, plus a new one-off called “The Trouble With Harry” where we explore some of the origins of Brain in a jar in a giant Diving Suit Robot Harry Wilmington.

If you’ve already read the series, hopefully the collection adds enough to the pot that it’s worth your while picking it up, and if you haven’t read it, man-oh-man are you missing something…

Stuff like: Hopping Chinese Vampires, Undersea Monster-men, Giant, ancient technology, Body-Swapping-deadly twins and more. Much more.

Here’s the cover (in pencils and colours)

 

Office Space II

It seems silly to be excited about studio space, when, in essence, I’ve occupied the same tiny room for around 8 years – using the same desks that I’ve worked at for around 15 years (actually one is probably 20 years old). But I am.

I stumbled across a great desk/shelving unit combo in a charity shop for a steal (actually oddly priced: the desk was £25 the shelving unit £55 – one was vastly under priced the other felt over priced). I’d planned on buying a small desk to use in my dad’s garage (a room he’d converted for horrifying reasons I’ll tell you about the next time you see me at a con – just ask about my dad’s “bachelor pad“)  as a get-away-from-home studio, but this desk was just too tempting to buy for home.

Anyhue, old desks all gone, new desk in place. This desk is much larger, necessitating a switch in position – which I’m only getting used to (not helped by the current sweltering heat in Belfast). I’ve turned from facing the wall with the door (and back to the window) (let’s call that 3 O’clock) to facing the wall (at 12 O’clock) which means the window is to my left and the door to my right (though it’s actually behind me since I’m flush to the wall I’m facing). I like this position a lot more. I’m no believer in feng shui, but the fact that the other parts of the house are no outside my field of view, and the outside world is now in it feels great.

One of the problems arising out of new workspace though is that my old drawing area was vast – too vast, men lived and died in the outer fringes of the centre of the drawing board, unnoticed – lives lost lamenting a lesser love.

Or something.

Anyway, it was too big, but it was all I knew.

My new drawing area is exactly A2 sized, no more no less. Which is large enough, but I’m struggling to figure out some of the logistics of keeping water from spilling, ink from splattering and pencils from doing that things pencils do that means the moment I turn my back the little buggers have sodded off to the far corner of the studio.

Here’s the new hotness…

Screenshot 2014-07-25 19.44.54

Weirdly, even though the new desk is massive compared to my original computer desk, as it’s also doubling as a drawing desk I’ve actually managed to free up HALF my studio space. I’m aghast. I have NO idea what to do with that extra space. I suspect it’ll be mostly used for pacing.

Book Club: Use of Weapons

Use of Weapons by Ian M Banks is a book in his Culture Series.

There are deeper reviews out there, if what you want to know what the culture is but it’s basically a post-scarcity society, where everything you could want is available – which would make for dull stories, but luckily the Culture books deal more how the culture interacts with non-culture societies, or, rather, controls, guides and generally moves them along.

First chapter or so and I couldn’t shake the feeling I’d read the book before, but having read through it’s pretty clear if I had read it before I certainly hadn’t got very far.

I really enjoyed it, the narrative structure is a little peculiar, every other chapter is a flash back which goes further back and deeper in to the history of the protagonist – it was very Memento.

There’s a great big knife blade of a twist (well, two actually) the really makes you want to go back and read it all.

It’s clear my tastes in sci-fi are starting to coalesce around far future type stuff. More Banks on my reading list I think. Though, the next book I’ve lined up is Dark Eden by Chis Beckett (it was on sale on amazon, so whachagonnado?)

 

Office Space

I’m clearing my studio – I have a new desk on the way (well a second hand desk) to replace my computer table. This old table here I’ve owned for probably 15 years, handed down from my brother(who’s since passed on) – it’s an incredibly sturdy office table, the likes of which ikea wouldn’t know how to build.

Unfortunately, the drawers inside have fallen apart, it’s too sturdy to remove them (I tried) and it’s a like a gnarly old tortoise, too old and ugly to attract anything but slightly bewildered stares.

New table is a more modern (and likely more fall-y apart-y) but L shaped. So I’m hoping I can shift some things around and use it for drawing as well as computer work.

The big trouble is cruft. Decades of accumulated bits of paper, drawings unfinished, notebooks with 10% of the pages used. Stuff I should man up and throw out, but habitual hogging has halted  any such sense.

It’s like my blog – there’s a lot of stuff in there that just doesn’t work any more, means nothing to no-one but me, and really, I should just shut the whole thing down, delete it all and then start it up by putting it back together one bit at a time.

But who has the time for that?

 

Voodoo Planet

Voodoo planet is a three part, Tharg 3HRILLER that’s just finished up in 2000AD. Set in the far future, on a planet where the marshy gases cause hypnotic suggestions and the technology has a creepy voodooesque feel. Written by Guy Adams, colours by Steven Denton and letters by Simon Bowland.

Here’s some things:

1) I’m a boring middle aged white guy, so when it comes to creating characters I always make a pointed effort to ensure they’re not all white guys. (Worse, I’m a boring middle aged white guy who grew up in the 80s in Belfast, a place and time where people where either ghastly pale white or ghostly pale white – and occasionally lobster red sunburn).  I have to make an effort to do this purely because laziness and inertia would mean everyone looks like an overweight ugly white middle aged bloke, even the women. This strip felt like it wanted a entirely non-white cast, so that’s what it got. I’m taken with the idea that space exploration won’t be dominated by white people, as anyone who grew up in Europe or America might assume. (In fact, if Aliens came to this planet, and took a good solid look round, they’ll probably assume we’re a Chinese planet)

2) It’s Steve’s first 2000AD work. Which is cool, hopefully the reaction will help Tharg see fit to give him more work.

3) The final page features a whole bunch of headshots, three of them are based on the guys from inlifesize (the developers of the 13coins comic app) in whose studio I’d be sharing space to draw the strip.

4) Sometimes, in order to procrastinate, I’ll randomly colour a page – which I won’t finish. Here’s one such page…

voodooplanet-colour

(Oh, one final note: between this strip, and the last strip I did for 2000AD, I appear to have become a horror story artist – what a peculiar turn up for the books…!)

 

10 Things about Female Thor

1) Thor is a god, and, in the past has manifested itself as a frog, and … ah who cares.

2) Thor shares a psychic link with Donald Blake, a man, but there’s no reason that Donald Blake couldn’t be a wom… ah who gives a toot.

3) Thor isn’t the only Norse god to gender swap, we’ve also had a female loki who… I couldn’t give a damn about either.

4) Thor, four thor, four thor, for thour forth floor, ladies underwear.

5) Isn’t that enough?

6) Oh god.

7) Marvel Comics. Thor. Woman.

8) I’m sure it’ll be ace, but as the only thor I know about is the movie, I’m not sure why I should care.

9) Hey, at least we’re all talking about Marvel and Thor now!

10) I don’t even.

 

(I’m only kidding! It’ll be great, and you’ll ALL LOVE IT! Thora!)

 

Book Review: A Canticle For Leibowitz

A Canticle For Leibowitz written by Walter M. Miller, jnr.

SO, can’t remember when exactly I first heard of this book, but the name stuck – for a long long time. Honestly had no idea what it was about but that name.

I picked up the book in a second hand shop, and the first thing I was struck by was the text on the cover:

Pound Pastrami
can kraut
six bagels
-bring home for Emma.

Written in the form an illustrated script, which suggested this would be a funny, funny book.

And it was. Mostly.

The book is broken up into three parts, separated by hundreds of years, each section dealing with the rebuilding of civilisation following an atomic war.

I found the first book funny and moving, telling the tale of the Novice Brother Francis and his discovery of the remnants of Leibowitz – dead centuries- who, following the atomic wars had become a catholic and formed an order of monks who would attempt to preserve and remember the knowledge of the world (knowledge which was mostly destroyed when people turned against technology and scientists in the aftermath of the war).

This whole section is very funny, despite some of the darker stuff running deep within it. It was only towards the end that the grislier stuff bubbled up. (Unexpectadly for me, since I hadn’t expected the next section of the book to jump forward from the 26th Century to the year 3174.

In book 2, the reality of the Leibowitz memoribelia is unquestioned, Leibowitz has been granted Saint hood, and the Albertian Order of St. Leibowitz is slowly starting to build technology again.

This book deals with that interface between the secular world and the religious, and while the humour is downplayed, it’s still present in some of the characters.

Book 3, set in the year 3781 is funny, but considerably darker, and, oddly, the chapter I struggled most with.

I’d recommend you go read it.

(But don’t read this wikipedia entry about it, until AFTER you’ve read it – spoilers!)

Closing Chapters

On Friday past, I finally closed a long chapter of personal stuff from this year. Nathan, our eldest son (who’s nine now) at the start of the year had some sort of panic related episode. “Attack” feels like the wrong word, though maybe I’m wrong.

At the start of the year, within a week of returning to school, Nathan became so scared of school (and everything else, in fact) that he would cry when he left us, and sit sobbing to himself all the way through school. We had to take him home and I had to watch him like a hawk. If you’ve read the blog you’ll have seen me talk about this through the year.

Now, it’s become apparent that what seemed to set him off (and I should point out, he’s ASD – with what would be called Asperger’s, very bright and capable) was stumbling across a youtube video about lead poisoning (of all things) some sort of work being done at the school (redoing the ceilings and probably had lots of workmen and danger signs about) and the death of one of the teachers sisters. Mixed in a large pot, these all combined to shift Nathan from a happy (though always a little over worried) boy into … well, if he was an adult, I’d say he was clinically depressed. Crying, unable to do anything, his posture and body language changed, it was a horrible horrible thing, I’d wish on no one.

(one of the ways this manifested was a sort of fastidiously careful eating mannerism, up until then Nathan was a pretty messy eater – not uncommon in ASD kids, he would be fully aware of the food on his face – post-event, he would stand like C3PO (I’m serious, armed bowed at a weird angle desperate not to touch himself or anything) and any food that went in his mouth went in whole or not at all – there’d be nothing to be seen on his face after eating any food).

The first few weeks of this were easily the most difficult weeks of our life.

At some point I hit on a strategy for, not so much fixing the problem, as trying to draw him away from what seemed like a dark precipice.

When he showed signs of being worried, I’d get him to say the word he was worried about (this was would often be difficult to coach out of him, as the word itself, to his mind, seemed imbued with whatever it was he was afraid of) then I’d get him spell it out, letter for letter, and, remembering he had a past obsession with pokemon, I’d get him to name a pokemon for each letter he’d spell. So, Cancer became “C-A-N-C-E-R C is for Chimchar, A is for Abra, N is for Nidoking, C is for …” etc, though I’d not let him get away with naming exactly the same pokemon for a double letter.

This would, if I caught him in time, stop him from falling into that dark place that he seemed to have got stuck in.

We went through three distinct phases:

1 – Crying all the time, constantly depressed/sad at this early stage the distraction was just about stopping him from crying and it would be  a battle but it would work, at least for a short time.

2 – sad and on the precipice of crying – here it would be about distracting him before his own thoughts took him somewhere darker – something you could always detect by watching his body language and seeing what he was seeing and trying to work out whether it had any triggers in it, like cancer or death

3 – a kind of low rumbling sadness, that was harder to combat because here, rather than distracting him, we wanted him to smile and laugh and forget himself altogether.

This whole thing went on months and months, and, while I’m tempted to say we’re out of the woods, I’m not sure if we ever will be. Maybe this is a life time problem and it’s our job to stop him from falling.

We had very little support, beyond figuring this stuff out ourselves. The health service (and the NHS) while it’s very well set up to deal with physical problems (as we well know from the many many times we’d ended up taking Thomas into A&E for his breathing problems-happily now just a memory) it’s not well suited to deal with mental issues at all.

There’s an autism “Intervention” service – which, laughably, involved a team meeting to discuss which department would deal with Nathan’s issues, then a further meeting, a fortnight later, discussing who would deal with Nathan directly (the person assigned to us was very nice, but as I kept jumping up and down about at the time, Nathan needed IMMEDIATE help rather than punted down the line until someone could be assigned to him).

In essence there was no “intervention” going on.

I felt Nathan’s incident, if dealt with immediately, could – maybe- be helped quickly and prevent long term damage to his mental health.

I wish I could say I found the help we needed but we really really didn’t.

Anyway, we had a casefile opened.

Friday I told them to close it.

Nathan is better than he was ( in some respects, better even than he was before this thing happened) but we’ll always have to watch him.

My wife lost her brother to depression, and depression has touched my family too, and, I think, those factors where what drove us to deal with Nathan they way we did. I hope we did the right thing.

It’s certainly been wonderful to see Nathan come back to life, and become obsessed all over again with Minecraft.

Anyway, that’s what we’ve been doing this year so far. Hope yours has been better.

Apocalypse Wow

I’ve always loved post-apocalyptic fiction, at least in comics and movies – when I was a kid there seemed to be nothing but post-apocalyptic movies, partly it’s ‘cus it was a time when people did genuinely think our days would end in nuclear winter, and partly it was ‘cus the tv would show movies from the 60/70s as a matter of course, and there may have been a run of Omega Man, Soylant Green, Planet of the Apes, Damnation Alley that left an indelible impression.

I used to fantasise about spending the rest of my life in a nuclear bunker with my family watching old tv shows on a system that worked like-though entirely predated-netflix (in fact it predated the internet or my understanding of computers at all). Calling up old episodes of Sgt Bilko at the push of a button while lying on a bunk bed (despite an unlimited budget, I imagined a smallish bunker…)

Lots of that were probably to do with the somewhat isolated childhood I went through – I had friends in school, but at best I always felt like we hung out because they’d no one better to sit with (it was a horrible, horrible time for me, luckily I’ve entirely let it go and am in NO WAY BITTER… *sob*)

Anyway, that brings me to now, in my catch up with reading I last read “Flowers for Algernon” and I struggled a bit to think of what next, I fancied Asimov’s Foundation, but many many people suggest it’s as boring now as it was to my teenage self (I still read it though, glossing over the hard to pronounce names, the impenetrable hand wavy mathematics and ignoring the made up dates, basically I read the indicia and the every 50th page)

In a second hand book store I stumbled across “A Canticle for Leibowitz” it rung a bell – I have very vague memories of reading a review in SFX a million years ago and the name had stuck, so I picked that up. I’m only a little way through it, but post apocalyptic and, thus far funny (though suspect it gets darker later) so it’s flooded back a lot of memories of late night tv watching.

It’s a funny life if you live it long enough.