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Arrived!

Now totally knackered. Sat beside lovely old Chinese couple who despite them not speaking any English and me not speaking a word of Chinese insisted in showing me all their photos. Then the old man rubbed my belly! Presumably for luck.

Flew over Russia. Which was an unexpected surprise, discovered I don’t really understand the options on my fancy camera, so can’t really show you the awesome pictures I should hav been able to take of the orange glows from the Russian cities at night. They did look amazing. Anyway, I’m tired now so going for a jet lagged induced nap…

SHANGHAI!

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(This is my welcome banner! )

I’m heading off to Shanghai today. To be honest, my excitement is tempered somewhat by the weird tingling sensation from two day old dentist work (I suspect a nerve was clipped and it’ll feel like this for months) and the ongoing struggle I’ve had with severe stomach pains, which I’ve sort of self-identified as IBS and I’m on the FODMAP diet which is definitely having a positive impact, but I’ve no idea at all how that’ll go in China and this is the longest I’ve been away from my wife in 20 years.

Bringing a large sketchbook, a hudl (preloaded with game of thrones series 2, and the BBC Human Universe documentary) some books (digital) and tools with which to draw. I’ll be meeting friends new and old, but it’ll be particularly fun to see Tom Kline, at one time director of the Queen’s Drama Society (20 years ago) and writer/director of many of the plays I was in then too. He also, coincidentally wrote one of the first comics I ever had published, in the comic DNA Swamp (issue 1 and 2) (actually it also appeared in the comic DOMAIN for one issue) and he’s now the director of an English language school in Shanghai, I’ll be there, I think Scott McCloud will be too – it’s going to be very surreal.

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!)

Advent Catchup

Ugh. Ok, looks like a blog a day was optimistic. Still, I’m still here and so are you (presumably).

Here’s a catch up!

Numbercruncher (the four issue miniseries written by Si Spurrier and drawn by me, with colours by Jordie Bellaire and letters by Simon Bowland, published by Titan and now available in a awesomly cool hard back you can buy here) has been named one of the top 10 miniseries of the year by Multiversity comics (I mean, sheer modesty should stop me saying it was the number #2 mini series in their estimation-it should, but it wont) and, not only that, but it’s been shortlisted in the awards for Broken Frontier as one of their Best Limited Series of the year.  You can help out by voting here.

Dept of Monsterology #3 came out in all good comic shops yesterday. PLEASE GO AND BUY IT or ASK FOR IT in your local comic shop. I really want to do more of this book, and the ONLY way that’ll happen is if it sells – preferably through the traditional route of comic shops!  (though if you’d rather, here’s where to buy it drm free digitally)

Publishing any new material with a new publisher is fraught with all sorts of risks, and the idea that you’ll be able to buy a trade of that material is entirely dependent on whether people have bought the comics – they pay for the trade. Don’t trust that a trade will happen. I want it to happen, but, if you like the book (and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you will) and you can do, please buy the individual issues. (I’ll be honest : at this point if a trade happens it’ll be despite the numbers, rather than because of them.)

Here’s the third issue cover in all its black and white spooky splendour.

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And here’s a wonderful review that seems to really get the book. 5/5!

 

On the personal front, my wife was informed that her department in her work is closing and that she would be offered redundancy (in the same way the mafia might make you an offer you can’t refuse).

She’s taking the redundancy – which is a fair old amount, basically a years worth of salary tax free. So we’re likely to be ok. And her background/skillset means she’ll probably be ok to find a job (she has some specific qualifications that set her aside from normal admin type posts).

Which all means the new year may see some big changes. No idea what, exactly, but we’ll find out, right?

Now, go and buy my books!

 

Gogglebox

Me and tv. Ah, me and tv. I used to love you tv. Remember the raspy drizzle of light as I sat tuning you in to one of the four channels available, twisting and turning the dial until I could pick up channel 4 – the newest channel. The Munsters, Countdown and the mythical red triangle.

There was a time that I was the tv guide in my family. I could glance at a tv and tell you within seconds what was on – and by extension, the time of day and the channel. A skill, that, over time, proved more and more worthless (not that it had a lot of value at any rate).

These days, it’s an impossible skill, hundreds of channels (though we’ve cut our channels down to just the freeview, and removed all the horribly commercial ones, and slightly filthy ones and the sport, so it’s a more manageable several dozen) and millions of repeats – often on dave – have killed anyone’s chance of learning that skill.

At the moment we get our televisual kicks from freeview, Netflix (with an unblock-us subscription so we can watch us tv shows) and nowtv. NowTv is sky’s new answer to netflix (as the advertising would have it). But it’s only the answer to netflix if the question is “is there a service marginally cheaper than netflix but with substantially less tv shows”. Yes. There’s nowtv’s “entertainment” package.

It does allow you to watch live tv though, but only on a few (sky) channels and even then, often you’ll be watching and suddenly a program will be ‘slated’ – that is, a little credit box will appear saying “sorry! You can’t watch this, we don’t have the rights to show it digitally”. Which is frustrating. It’s like the released the service too early through fear of missing out altogether.

Still, even then, nowtv, netflix and unblock us combined are still cheaper than the digital viewing options we had via virgin media.

And my kids mostly watch people unboxing pokemon toys on Youtube. So clearly, entertainment is changing.

 

Channel Hex

I have, for some time, been searching for a brand name. Something I can apply to any sketchbooks or (if I ever do any) short stories that I might collect. My collection of short stories ‘previously’ for example didn’t have a publisher name – just mine. Which always felt a bit odd. So I’ve been racking my brain for some time over this, almost inconsequential thing.

Finally after much uhming and ahming and abandoned ideas, I had it.

Channel Hex. 

I’ve always loved anthologies – both in comics (come on, 2000AD? YES PLEASE) and in television (though anthology’s tend to be less one show with multiple shorts and more one tv show that can deal with different stories and situations, the Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits and even Doctor Who). So I needed a title / brand that could work on lots of different things, because that’s what it’ll have. Egotistical monster that I am, I  played with “CHANNEL H” (open channel D) as a viable name, then Hex hit me. I’d been playing around with Hex as a name already – I liked the digital and supernatural implication (hex as in hexadecimal and hex as in curse). Mushing those two up together seemed like a no brainer (though why it would take me so long to figure it out, I don’t know…)

A quick google search, and, much to my amazement, channelhex.com was available as a domain, so registered up, I started working on a logo.

channelhexlogo

Concept sketching something emerging out of a TV screen and a tv screen with a hexagon shape, I finally came up with the logo – less TV and more portal, I suppose. The plan is to alter the colours or maybe the silhouetted monster shape to be appropriate to whatever comic / sketchbook it is I’m doing.

First thing out will probably be a digital reissue of “previously”. Then a digital sketchbook (a free one with characters I don’t own) then a digital sketchbook with characters I do own.  Following that, I don’t know. Maybe nothing. But whatever it is, you want to open channel hex.

 

My Favourite Dredds

This is “A Contract on Grud” by Alan Grant for the Megazine – published in 2009.

I think it remains a personal high for me, first: working with Alan Grant (one half of T.B. Grover – Grant and Wagner’s pen name for many of the greatest Dredds) the strip was set in the middle of the block wars (which is why Dredd’s gun is the early Mk I lawgiver and I was stealing Mike McMahon’s rendering – hopefully while still remaining distinctly me). I got a lot of nice hand lettered s/fx in there (I need to go back to that) and the final page is a Ron Smith tribute (based on a page Ron Smith did in the Block Wars run of Dredd).

All of that, and I think the art is some of my best.