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  • RIP Wizard

    January 25, 2011 by Nick

    Wizard, The Guide To Comics, has announced that it is to cease existing as a monthly magazine. The current idea is for it to become an online only destination.

    Wizard was a magazine dedicated to articles about mainstream American comics. Over the years it became a periodical about movies, tv, games and comics. It also went from a large readership to a much smaller readership. The content and format changed and I went from being a regular reader to not even flicking through copies I got given for free.

    As much as I do believe I became more discerning between my first exposure to Wizard (both it and I were in our teens at the time) I think the change in content was far more to blame. I used to buy Wizard and devour a huge chunk of reading matter. It had articles on comics I liked, interviews with creators I cared about, art I couldn’t find anywhere else, posters, drawing tutorials and guides on comic production.

    Now, the internet has made a lot of a monthly periodical obsolete: news can be immediate and there is a greater variety of media and effects possible. But the long form read lives on and thrives: analysis, commentary, reviews, articles and stories that can’t be read easily on screens are still sought after and purchased. I know that the readership for these is in decline, but successes are still possible and common. What is less common, seemingly, is advertisers to go alongside them. I know anecdotally that magazines are slimmer just because of the decrease in the number and size of adverts in them, as much an indication of the growth of the internet for advertising and the necessity in changing article type in magazines as it is the decline in readership.

    I could sit and nit pick for hours on where Wizard went wrong, but I think it comes down to being a shoddy magazine that did everything badly and thus had no value when it was once a niche magazine that did a few things well. And that isn’t the internet, that is poor business.

    In Dreams

    January 9, 2011 by Nick

    I woke from an odd dream, but the thing about processing dreams on waking is that your conscious brain doesn’t work the same as your subconscious and unconscious mind. There were details in the dream that kept changing, things that made no sense and several things that happened out of order or couldn’t possibly happen. This is no good to the conscious mind. It likes narrative and order and structure. I find myself both knowingly and unknowingly editing my dreams as I try to transcribe them, the final result diminishing whatever it was about them that made them worth writing about in the first place.

    It’s unusual I remember my dreams. I don’t know if that means I don’t dream or only some of them I remember. When I do remember they are vivid though. People and structures whose faces I can visualise to the point I could probably draw them and colours that are saturated and distinct. I dream in colour, although apparently this is no longer believed to be a sign of psychosis. Simply of having grown up with a colour tv.

    Disingenuous and the art of Redemption

    January 4, 2011 by Nick

    Currently there seems to be a lot of news relating to the penal system within this country and justice in general. At an open prison inmates regularly abscond, smuggle in alcohol, face burglaries into the compound and riot when denied a Christmas drink. The main political parties seem to have reached a consensus whereby we don’t send criminals to jail anymore and neither Labour (who cut the probation service) or the Conservatives (who didn’t rush to revive it) will admit there is actually no alternative in place that could cope with the quantity of criminals it would likely have to deal with.

    A bit back there was a story about prisoners in a Scottish jail being given new LCD televisions with built in DVD players to meet energy efficiency targets. The reactionary outcry was allayed with the promise that the taxpayer would not be out of pocket as the inmates paid for their television viewing privileges. The news media being what it now is, no one stopped to ask where the prisoners got their money from in the first place.

    Amidst all the talk of reform, of preventing reoffending and of rehabilitation we seem to have forgotten some central tenets of justice and of the justice system: in punishment for wrongs committed, in providing examples to act as deterrents and to protect society by removing the people from it with a proven record of damaging it. In this era of cutting costs we’ve forgotten that there are actually victims as well as just perpetrators.

    I don’t think we can lock people up on finite sentences without some form of rehabilitation, and I don’t think all crimes warrant a custodial sentence, but I do think that there needs to be an infrastructure in place to actually protect society and to punish offenders. And, for that matter, to actually rehabilitate them. What we have now isn’t working and looks like it will get considerably worse before anyone takes the time and invests the money needed to make it any better.

    Captain America: Reborn

    January 2, 2011 by Nick

    Having been given a £15 gift voucher for Christmas for WH Smith I finally set about finding something that I actually wanted to exchange it for today. I did briefly consider drawing supplies, and some cookery books, but eventually settled on Captain America: Reborn from Marvel/Titan.

    The majority of the book contains the reprints of the Marvel mini series of the same name by Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch and Jackson “Butch” Guice. It tells a fairly straightforward story of the resurrection of Captain America and attendant conflicts. Honestly, it is not so much what the book does as how it does it that makes it worth considering.

    For me the main selling point is Bryan Hitch. Now, I feel that Guice is perhaps not the best inker for him (I will go on record here as saying Paul Neary is the best inker for him, and Alan Davis, and probably umpteen other artists) and there are places (particularly on smaller panels and characters) where more of Guice’s style is visible than Hitch’s, but the art is lovely. This is Hitch doing his widescreen thing, perhaps not to the same insane level as when paired with Millar or Ellis, but bringing moments of action to visceral life and making static images dynamic and genuinely exciting. More than this, and this is as much Brubaker as it is Hitch and perhaps even some synthesis between the two, characters have distinct body language and posing. There is a point where you can tell who is in a costume (not to spoil too much of the plot) simply by the way the character is posed and stood. The acting and body language of the characters here is top notch.

    Brubaker is not redundant here. As much as I do love Hitch, it is Brubaker’s balancing of the quiet character driven moments with the bombast of the action scenes he calls on Hitch to draw that makes the book work. Yes, it is widescreen comics, but Brubaker ensures the characters have distinct voices and all the main ones have important plot moments, in order to keep the interest going and make me actually care what is happening. Perhaps he doesn’t quite reach the scale of Millar, but he does cover a lot of ground and keeps the book exciting and something I actually care about.

    At the end of the book is a gallery of all the Captain America covers from his first silver age appearance through to issue 600. Reproduced at smaller than postage stamp size, it is a lesson in what makes for a strong and noticeable cover. Bluntly: most of them aren’t. The Mike Zeck, Steranko, Cassady and Garney covers tend to stand out nicely. The rest all kind of blur together. And whatever happen to John Ney Reiber anyway?