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  • Fables Covers by James Jean

    December 27, 2010 by Nick

    James Jean is amongst my favourite contemporary artists. Certainly amongst the least realistic of the artists I like, he tends to imbue his work with an ethereal yet expressive quality and has a great sense of design and composition. He came to my attention working on the covers to Fables, which is a monthly comic published by DC’s Vertigo imprint and written by Bill Willingham and illustrated by a variety of artists, most notably Mark Buckingham.

    The book of James Jean’s Fables covers, which seems to me to cover his entire work on the series and various spin offs, is handsomely presented and shows the process involved in each cover as well as brilliantly presenting the final piece. It also serves as a showcase for the evolution of Jean as an artist: how he constantly changes his process depending on the piece but also how his finishing and underlying structure subtly evolved through the course of the work. It also features one of my favourite comic covers of all time: The Tulip Girl.

    So, aside from a lack of insightful commentary, this is a comprehensive tome that excels in presentation and content.

    Bryan Hitch’s Ultimate Comics Studio

    December 26, 2010 by Nick

    Bryan Hitch’s Ultimate Comics Studio, from Impact Press, is a 128 page book detailing Hitch’s artistic process in creating comic art. Now, immediately, the 128 page count is of mild interest to me. As a reader of Target Doctor Who novelisations at an early age as well as having a slight understanding of the printing process, I know that 128 pages is related to folds of a larger sheet of paper and there are cost implications in going over this count. I’d like to say that the limitation doesn’t affect the book, but I do feel that there are places that content is compromised by the constraint.

    For the most part the book is well presented and attractive, but there are a couple of places where the typesetting and layout looks a little clumsy. The real problem, apart from the aforementioned brevity, is the lack of a decent proofreader or copy editor. There are words used incorrectly and factual inaccuracies that mar the book. These don’t really affect the main thrust of the work, but they are annoying and distract from the subject matter as well as detracting from the overall experience of reading it.

    What subject matter there is is brilliant, with some pieces created specially for the tome, some rarities and some great examples. The problem is there doesn’t seem to be enough of anything. As good as the material presented is, as well thought out as some of the examples are, as revealing as it is to see the process, I want more. I want more examples, step by step walkthroughs and more comparison pieces. I can’t help but feel I got the summarised version of a truly great work. With a poor editor.

    Doctor Who

    by Nick

    As is the recent tradition, there was a Christmas special of Doctor Who broadcast on the BBC on Christmas Day. Now, Doctor Who is singularly British and something I heartily approve of being broadcast at Christmas and having special episodes of commissioned. Particularly, as it currently is, when it is being overseen by Stephen Moffat. Moffat, especially when he writes the episodes himself, has a great ear for dialogue, handles moments of humanity and crazy ideas equally deftly and manages to have good ideas he can carry through in implementation. He knows just how sentimental he can get away with being and how to construct a story with moments of drama and humour without it being silly or overly scary. He also did very well on the BBC’s recent Sherlock series (although not all the series writers did, sadly).

    Now this Christmas we were treated to a retelling of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol on a planet that clearly isn’t Earth but with moments from Earth’s history. We weren’t shown at what period the planet was meant to be analogous to as the technology is both archaic and impossible. Fish swam in the crystalline sky and people used loved ones as collateral for lending. And then saw them placed in cryogenic suspension when they were unable to make payments against the debt. But the world had its own consistent logic and feel and nothing felt jarringly out of place. This was another reality that hung together and worked, partially because all the details were but backdrop to the main story unfolding.

    Michael Gambon had centre stage and his voice does sound wonderful. None of the actors put in a bad shift and the details and direction were good. It worked on a few levels, from being simplistic fun to the children, to having a sense of wonder and imagination on closer inspection to actually asking some questions about the relative morality of changing someone’s past to effect the outcome you want. The doctor may be a clown, but he is not as clear cut a hero as in more simplistic tales: he is morally flexible in achieving his aims and clearly has a sense of the greater good and a degree or pragmatism in achieving his desired outcome. Personally I loved the program and feel it finally shows the Doctor as someone with an alien morality and a degree of intelligence and as somewhat of a shemer.

    The Thin End of the Wedge

    December 20, 2010 by Nick

    A government minister has floated the idea of censoring the internet on an “opt in” basis. To whit: if you wish to receive censored sites you will have to contact your ISP and ask them to allow you to do so. This has been spun as a way of stopping children from accessing pornography and sounds altruistic. However, who determines what counts as pornography?

    The previous government implemented anti terrorism laws which were ostensibly designed to prevent funding from reaching radical groups. The first use of these powers that I am aware of was to seize Icelandic assets during their economic turmoil. The papers applauded and I certainly have no wish to see people lose their money, but it is a striking example of how legislation with one aim is appropriated for others entirely. How long will it be, should this mooted legislation pass, before we are routinely denied access to sites that we don’t even know exist in order to ask for access to them?

    For me the red flag is Wikileaks. It seems too much of a coincidence for this to come about just as Wikileaks is facing enormous pressure and the US government and its corporate allies are doing everything in their power to shut down the site and prevent it from being able to function financially. With this proposed filter, would we see Wikileaks?
    What about sites routinely challenging the government or authority?

    This is a fundamental freedom of speech issue. This is not about children or porn, but about communication, about honest criticism and about freedom of the press. This is about truth and those that would seek to prevent us from accessing it.