Thursday, 31 October 2013

Thor: The Dark World II

Highlights:

scenes in the realm of dark elves, filmed in Iceland;
also, scenes in London with action alternating between them;
interaction between a small group of mortals and the Aesir;
Thor temporarily separated from his hammer having to travel by Underground;
- and falling past the windows of a London office building;
good visuals for Asgard;
a reference to Odin's father;
as before, a well-cast Odin, Thor and Loki;
Loki's perpetual combination of being hard done by with irreconcilable malice;
a former Doctor Who unrecognizable under his dark elf make-up;
the strong sense of a continuing story both for Thor and for the Movieverse.

Any bad points?:

"the aether" is not the best name for the force of darkness;
Thor refers to himself as a man.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Thor: The Dark World

The DC multiverse had the Crisis on Infinite Earths;
Michael Moorcock's Multiverse has the Conjunction of the Million Spheres;
now, the Marvel Movieverse has the Convergence of the Nine Worlds.

Everything changes but the story continues. The Original Darkness returned to destroy the Light in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, where it was recognized that Light and Darkness interpenetrate: "Where is evil in all the wood?"

There are two unexpected deaths in the film and at least one of them seems not to have happened or to have been reversed, of course.

A dweller in Asgard, a so called "Asgardian", is a god, an as, of which the plural is Aesir, so this is the word that should be used. Vanaheim also appears in the film. Its inhabitants are the Vanir, the other Northern pantheon.

Loki appears briefly as another superhero, thus, effectively, allowing an appearance by that hero in this film.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Invitations

Please comment.

Please also (if you want) email accounts of LICAF events that I did not attend and therefore have not described here. Such accounts can then be posted onto the blog.

Please disagree with opinions expressed here.

If you have any advance info about what is likely to occur at LICAF 2, that would also be of interest.

Does anyone know what impact the Festival had on Kendalians?

See you all there next year. (And bring others.)




 

Dredd And V III

One advantage of blogging is that second or third thoughts can be added ad infinitum or, if you prefer, ad nauseam.

At the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, we had an embarrassment of riches:

a short film about Judge Minty;
a feature film about Judges Dredd and Anderson;
Judges Lemmy and Bane patrolling the Festival;
Dredd creators, Wagner and Ezquerra, present and approachable;
V for Vendetta on sale, screen and stage (something for everyone here - I had bought the comic and seen the film but had not yet seen the play).

In the feature film, two Judges would not have been so distracted by a couple of armed kids that they would let their prisoner jump one of them. Anderson was inexperienced but not Dredd.

A Judge's gun explodes in the hand of a bearer with the wrong ID. That makes sense.

Back to Dredd's opposite number: Codename V. In the play, V tells Evey, "'Anarchy' means 'without leaders,' not 'without order.'" I think he is wrong. I kidded a couple of people that, after a talk, I would stand up and make a political speech instead of asking a question. But a political argument is certainly appropriate after reading or seeing V For Vendetta. That is what the text invites us to do. So:

"monarchy" means "one ruler";
 "patriarchy" means "male rulers";
"matriarchy" would mean "female rulers";
"anarchy" means "no rulers."

A ruler is able to enforce his will whereas a leader gives a lead which we are free to follow or not; it's our decision. V is certainly a leader and, equally certainly, not a ruler. No society is without leaders. Each of us gives a lead, which may or may not be followed, every time we say, "I think we should...," "Why not...?" or "Let's..."

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Personal Associations

I grew up in Penrith which is near Lake Ullswater and, since late 1973, have lived in Lancaster which is across Morecambe Bay from the Lake District hills.

In Penrith, I started to get the British comic paper, the Eagle, before being able to read it. From late 1960, I attended a boarding school near Dublin in Ireland where we had access to a few DC super hero comics of which my favorite was Green Lantern. This was early in the Silver Age, just before the Golden Age and Silver Age were synthesized in the DC multiverse.

In Lancaster, I got back into reading and collecting comics in the mid-1980's, just after the Crisis. I knew that there had been a recent important event called the Crisis on Infinite Earths but did not know what that was yet. Everything was a Crisis consequence. It was Green Lantern 200, the early Green Lantern Corps and John Byrne's Superman that really got me back into reading comics. Graffiti in familiar London streets in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing revealed that the Great British Miners' Strike of 1984-'85 had been part of the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

It was good to know that comics had grown up with us and that we could now read Howard Chaykin's Blackhawk who was obviously the real guy behind earlier comic book versions. I remembered a Blackhawk cinema serial in Penrith in the early '50's, then Blackhawk comics from DC in the '60's. I no longer follow DC but do read anything written by Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman even, in Moore's case, when it was pornography.

An event like the Lakes International Comic Art Festival shows that comic books have become a powerful art form and medium, which we did not expect when we read them in the 1950's or '60's. Many super hero comics are merely self-referential but the best sequential art graphic fiction refers to and is embedded in other literature, culture and history.

Editing

(The attached image of a Lake District Lake is from Bryan Talbot's The Tale Of One Bad Rat.)

I learned some things about editing at Andy Diggle's and Kurt Busiek's talks during the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. 

An Editorial Assistant is not an Assistant Editor.

However, a possible promotion route is from Editorial Assistant to Assistant Editor to Editor.

"Editorial interference" may mean just editing that is not liked.

Quality drops when editors pay themselves large salaries.

An editor works to ensure that script writers, pencillers, colorists, letterers and cover artists work to a synchronized schedule.

The worst editors are those that want to be writers.

An editor knows about writing techniques and advises writers who make improvable first submissions.

Writers cannot work if publishers and editors continually move the goal posts.

A Few Tangential Remarks II

The young guy I mentioned a few posts back is called Kermit. Hi, Kermit.

Kurt Busiek spoke about the freedom of creating Marvels. However, its success would have led to editorial control of any sequel so it was better to create Astro City as a medium for the theme of ordinary people in a super hero-dominated world. Astro City is a setting for many stories, not just one single over-arching story line.

David Hine adapted Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughs as a comic strip but referred in the same breath to a Batman and Robin story that he had written because a poster for The Man Who Laughs was the source for the physical appearance of the Joker. Unbelievable.

It was good to have brief conversations with John Wagner, Bryan and Mary Talbot and several others. I missed David Lloyd and he had gone the next day when I went to look.

More from the Andy Diggle-John Freeman interview: publishers need to recognize when a story has finished and not ask another writer to continue it. Andy Diggle said that, in general, British publishers get this right; Americans don't. I think that one example of Americans getting it right would be The Sandman. At least, the publishers accepted that the character was dead and his series was ended although, as Andy Diggle also said, Vertigo kept warming up Gaiman's left overs. But Mike Carey's Lucifer was a good outcome of that. The example that Andy did quote was post-Moore Swamp Thing. I thought that Rick Veitch did a good job of following Moore and Mark Millar did a good revamp later but there is no doubt that much other post-Moore Swamp Thing is going nowhere. 

The Festival will clearly grow in future years so its backers and organizers need to stay with it. Apparently, the dates for next year have already been written in.

A Few Tangential Remarks On The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

John Freeman's experience as editor and writer enabled him to ask the right questions of Andy Diggle who then spoke informatively about the relationship between editing and writing:

a writer who wants to be noticed by the industry needs to perfect his ability to write 5 page short stories, submitting them wherever possible, like to 2000 AD, or putting them a blog;

the 2000 AD tray of unsolicited manuscripts contained rubbish, a few submissions from writers who needed editorial advice about writing techniques, structure, pacing etc and Mike Carey!;

Andy likes action panels to be silent except for SFX but some 2000 AD writers included unnecessary balloons saying, e. g., "I am about to fall off a building!";

technique can be taught whereas imagination can only be encouraged;

Andy started writing with a non-Dredd short story set in Megacity One (neat);

many writers want to write their favorite characters from childhood whereas others want to create new characters;

Max, the villain in The Losers, is "Rumsfeld meets Blofeld," a neat description, certainly a Blofeld-like figure with "New American Century" politics - and a name beginning with "M." 

Dredd And V II

When introducing Dredd at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, John Wagner rightly knocked the Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd film. However, I now think that the two films would make a good double bill as a contrast, showing:

"This is how some people make films untrue to the book whereas this is how it can and should be done."

Different continuites, as we say in comics.

Another good double bill would be Dredd with V For Vendetta, not the atrocious film but the stage adaptation: a visored enforcer of social order versus a masked opponent of enforced order. Also, two young trainees - who happen both to be young, blonde, beautiful women but who both have a lot more going for them than that.

Comics on screen and on stage. Perfect.

V On Stage

In the stage adaptation of Alan Moore's V For Vendetta by Sean Mason, the nuclear war has become a biological war. That makes sense because, as Moore acknowledged in his Introduction to the DC Comics edition, society or even humanity is unlikely to survive a nuclear exchange.

But the year remains 1997 so the story has become a (still relevant) alternative history as opposed to a near future scenario. V's 1997 has become an important "past future," like Winston Smith's 1984. Smith is brainwashed but V resists. Fictional characters cover the entire gamut of possible human experiences.

In V, the hero has a hero and Valerie's letter is extremely moving whether read by us in the comic or read aloud on stage by Evey with Valerie walking on to stand beside Evey and speak over her. The film is bad but the play is not. What we also need, however, is a stage performance of the Vicious Cabaret.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Dredd And V

Finally saw the second Judge Dredd feature film, Dredd. What can I say? Dredd and Anderson are perfect. John Wagner, introducing the film at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, hoped that the fans would be able to get past the fact that the vehicles in the opening car chase are recognizably from the twentieth century.

Why should we have to get past it? I would not have seen this as a problem. These recognizable vehicles look far more authentic than any fake futuristic cars or vans would have done. It looks as if the action occurs in a real place. Dredd is exactly as in the comics. I am less familiar with Anderson but she is good here.

The cinema was patrolled by two Judges. Since we went straight from the film to a stage adaptation of V, we saw the authentically costumed Judges, then V, in the flesh. Since the "stage" was simply the floor in front of the first row, in which we were sitting, we could have touched V and Evey.

Valerie's letter was extremely moving.

Dredd and V have in common that we never see their faces. It seemed appropriate to go directly from a Dredd film to a V play.

Connections

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

Please bear with me. Yesterday (since we have just passed midnight), I posted once early in the day, then attended the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal, Cumbria, just north of here - before you get to Scotland.

Some people I was with at the Festival discussed which Doctor Who they preferred so I said that I preferred the original, HG Wells' Time Traveler. A young guy then surprised me by saying that he had enjoyed reading, on someone else's recommendation, Olaf Stapledon's Last And First Men. I took the opportunity to recommend Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series and future histories and also referred him to this blog so my time was not wasted from the point of view of blogging. (Guy, if you read this, please comment and tell us what you think?)

My time was not wasted in any case because, of all the events and activities at the Festival, the ones that I attended yesterday were:

four talented, well-informed writers and artists that I had never heard of before talking about how they had adapted Cervantes, Victor Hugo, HP Lovecraft, Conan Doyle and Shakespeare into comic strips;

the creators of Judge Dredd introducing, in a cinema patrolled by two Judges, a high quality short fan film followed by the second feature film which authentically transfers Dredd, Anderson and Megacity One onto the screen;

a stage adaptation of Alan Moore's V for Vendetta;

chance conversations with known writers and artists in the display rooms or on the streets.

And there is more today. Yesterday involved three kinds of adaptations:

from prose to comic strip;
from comic strip to screen;
from comic strip to stage.

Finally, Poul Anderson's prose would adapt very well to both comic strip and screen.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Reality And Imagination

Copied from Poul Anderson Appreciation:

Occasionally, I broaden blog perspective by referring to other works being read at the same time. Often, accident determines what we read or reread. To draft a talk on Zen, I bought an A4 pad, then, to write on the pad, I rested it on a large format hardback volume. Then, since the volume in question was The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, I began to reread it. Graphic fiction can be a welcome break from prose fiction, currently The Devil's Game by Poul Anderson.

Moore and O'Neill synthesize every kind of fiction and incorporate many actual fictions: Mina Murray and Allan Quatermain climb the thirty nine steps to Greyfriars School where corpulent caretaker William recalls the schooldays of Alexander Waverly, Harry Lime, Big Brother, Quentin "Q" Quelch etc. We know them all. Well, we might not all of us recognize all of those names but we get the idea: a fictional world where all of the fictions are real.

Moore also argues that fiction is a necessary part of humanity, therefore is, in that sense, as real as we are. There would be no Sherlock Holmes if no one had imagined Holmes but, equally, we would not be who or what we are if we did not imagine fictitious characters like Sherlock Holmes. If Holmes had not caught our imagination, then someone else would have caught it and we would now be, to that extent, different people with a different history. We and our heroes are like hands drawing each other.

Conscious beings with no imagination or capacity for fiction would certainly not be human and probably not even rational. To think about what is is implicitly to think about what is not and about what might be. Myth and magic necessarily preceded science and then came to be valued as such. Thus, we now appreciate not one but many flood myths as well as scientific explanations of past cataclysms.

The common ground with Poul Anderson is considerable:

both Anderson and Moore are comprehensive writers of imaginative fiction;
Holmesianism - The League, like Anderson's works, refers creatively to Moriarty, Mycroft and, of course, the Great Detective;
Shakespearianism - the concluding speech of The Black Dossier with the line, "Two sketching hands, each one the other draws...," is delivered by the Duke of Milan, whom we know from Shakespeare's The Tempest and from Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest.