Tag Archives: Comics

Goliath by Tom Gauld

Goliath by Tom Gauld

I love comics. All sorts of comics. Sadly people tend to think all comics are just about men in tights flying around smiting people (although that is great). Much the same way some seem to consider all scifi as being a bit like Star Trek or Star Wars (which are also great). Neither of the above assumptions are correct at all. These genres and media have the ability to tell a story or look at topic in a fresh and revealing new way that couldn’t be done in another medium.

Comics combine art and narrative in a way that, if done successfully, provide a story-telling experience that is unique.

Take for example, Goliath by Tom Gauld. This is the story of the biblical tale leading up to the big showdown between David and Goliath. It’s in the bible if you weren’t aware. (The first half, where there’s a lot more violence and gnashing of teeth.) Goliath tells the story of the fight from the big guy’s point of view for a change. The eponymous hero of the comic is just a huge but gentle guy who loves doing admin for the army. But then one of the Philistine King’s men hatches a plan that will hopefully win the war with a maximum of two deaths. Unfortunately for Goliath, this plan needs someone huge and intimidating that no one would dare fight. So they deck Goliath out in impressive ceremonial armor and send him out to issue his challenge. We all know what happens.

Tom Gauld is a pretty well known illustrator who has written for Time Out and currently writes a strip for The Guardian. His artistic style is simple yet he somehow manages to conjure up quite thoughtful and visually striking images with just a few lines. There are frequently pages with no dialogue at all but Gauld’s drawings reveal a wealth about Goliath’s gentle nature. He comes across as a thoughtful, contemplative man who would love nothing better than to do some paperwork or perhaps take in the scenery around him. When the tiny David turns up quoting lines from the bible he comes across as a bit of a mad, diminutive religious nutter. Like the rest of the book, the fight is understated but well done.

Goliath is poignant, funny, moving, thoughtful, lovely to look at and, given that we all know the ending – kind of sad. It is a fairly quick read but because of the art and the story, I have read it a couple of times since. It is impressive just how much emotional content can be packed into such simple, static pictures. I highly recommend it.

I would love to show you lots of pictures from it but am not sure about the legality. So here is a link to the awesome Boing Boing site that has a seven page sample. http://boingboing.net/2012/02/28/tom-gaulds-goliath-exclusiv.html

To buy UK:
To buy US:

The Amazing Spiderman trailer

The Amazing Spiderman

As part of my ‘Scifi movies I am looking forward to’ thing I have going, I was going to post some new photos of Judge Dredd. But then I saw there was a new Amazing Spiderman trailer so bollocks, I’ll post that instead.

I wasn’t so excited about this as we have recently (relatively speaking) already had three pretty superb Spiderman movies thanks to Sam Raimi and Tobey Macguire. Normally when you redo something you wait several decades and do it with better special effects. Or 3D or smell-o-vision or something. This just feels like another episode in a huge franchise, like the old Star Trek films.

On the other hand, I love Star Trek films. You know the characters and like the adventures they go on. They could have gone on for as long as they made money and I would have enjoyed them. So bring on Spiderman!

Another thing that changed my view on this is the new trailer. It looks pretty cool. And here it is:

 

The Avengers trailer

First off here’s the trailer

http://youtu.be/eOrNdBpGMv8

I’m curious to know what fans think. I love comics but until recently my reading of them has declined. Since I got an iPad, it has soared again but that has mostly been due to the ‘new 52’ which is an entirely different universe from the Avengers. If you aren’t into comics you will have no idea what I’m talking about.

When I was younger and smoked certain herbal substances for my bad back (medicinal so not immoral) I read piles of comics. They were rarely Marvel or DC though. Comics like 2000AD, Transmetropolitan, Preacher, Slaine, Savage Sword of Conan, Hellboy, Sandman and so on. I was just never that in Superheroes in tights. They always teetered on the edge of looking stupid. Some (Captain America, Wonder Woman, Superman) just made me laugh they looked so ridiculous. Although Batman is cool.

On the other hand I like big explosions and women in unnecessarily revealing tight outfits and Superhero flicks are full of these.

So I was torn by this trailer. It could be really cool. Robert Downey Jr and Samuel L. Jackson are always worth a watch, and so is Scarlett Johansson but for slightly different reasons. It’s also directed by Joss Whedon who is a reliable man at the helm. The music is pretty bad though and I just wasn’t wowed by the trailer. These days you often see trailers for movies and think: ‘Holy Fuck! There’s no way that can possibly be bad,’ only to be proved massively, massively wrong. With this I just thought, ‘Meh, looks ok.’

At least I will approach it with an open mind. Unless a better trailer comes out.

New Judge Dredd film!

There is a new Judge Dredd film coming out on the 21st of September 2011. I am very excited. It stars Karl Urban as the eponymous Dredd and I think he will do a damn fine job. He was brilliant in Star Trek and has a suitably square jaw. I am planning an article on 2000AD at some point so I won’t go on too much about the awesomeness of that magazine and the effect it had on my teenage years.

This looks like Mega City One but as an eagle eyed reader pointed out, it is actually from the Moebius/O’Bannon comic ‘The Long Tomorrow’

Judge Dredd was a British invention that appeared in 2000AD magazine. When he first appeared in 1977, the year in the comic was 2099. The comic setting’s date then followed ours with Dredd getting a year older in pace with real life. So it is now 2133. Which is a pretty cool idea. He lives in Mega-city one which is a huge conurbation covering the entire Eastern seaboard of the the United states. All of central U.S. is a wasteland and nuclear-toxic no go area. The population was originally 800 million but at one point the was an uber destructive Apocalypse war, which halved that. This size causes a few problems – one of which was massive levels of crime.

You have been judged.

The Judges were brought in to kick some justice into the asses of the populace. They were a highly trained and double-hard mix of a police officer, judge, and executioner. They are superbly brutal. The judges wear masks and this is crucial as it represents the faceless law. In the comics you never see Dredd’s face while he is a Judge. (You see it later when he quits a couple of times but it is very rare.) Chief writer John Wagner stated:

“It sums up the facelessness of justice − justice has no soul. So it isn’t necessary for readers to see Dredd’s face, and I don’t want you to.”

So when Stallone did a Judge Dredd film and took his mask off almost immediately, fans were outraged. And rightly so. It also didn’t help that the movie was absolutely fucking dire.

I’m praying that the new film stays more true to the source material. They have already confirmed that Karl Urban will keep the helmet on to avoid the ‘Helmet-gate’ controversy of before. I am hoping it will be an 18 rated movie too with lots of unnecessary violence. So far there have only been a few pictures released. And they look cool. Stay tuned for further news.

Karl Urban as Judge Dredd

Picture from http://www.2000adonline.com/movie/

Watchmen movie

Watchmen characters After 20 years of waiting, Watchmen is finally here. I first read Alan Moore’s brilliant comic in the early 90s and again a couple of months ago. It is a truly superb and multi-layered masterpiece about a group of fucked up masked heroes and vigilantes. It postulates numerous questions: What is the true nature of humanity? (We’re not very nice.) What sort of person is likely to become a masked hero and are they all a bit mental? (They’re all a bit mental.) Given that humanity isn’t very nice, how do you bring about world peace? (I’m not telling.) Why do female crime-fighters have to wear such sexy and revealing little outfits? (They just do, alright? Deal with it.) There are lots more and I’ll admit I’m being a bit flippant – it really is worth reading.

The film is set in the alternate history of 1985 where, due to the intervention of the masked heroes – in particular the god-like Dr Manhattan – America won the Vietnam war and the Cold War is still ongoing. Nixon is still in power for his third term (the rules were changed) and the second generation of masked vigilantes have been outlawed. Only a couple remain active.

The film begins with an awesome bit of violence as a masked superhero called the Comedian is beaten shitless and thrown to his death out of a window. This is followed by an opening credit sequence that is truly a wondrous thing to behold and is even enjoyed by people who hated the film. It is the best opening sequence since the remake of Dawn of the Dead – also directed by Zack Snyder. The man’s a genius at starting a movie. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars (a new hope) and Barbarella (basically Jane Fonda stripping in zero G) have great openers but not quite as good as this. I’m not including porn here.

The story then follows a sociopath called Rorschach – who has a cool moving Rorschach print covering his face – as he unearths a conspiracy that is getting rid of all the remaining masked heroes. At the same time the world’s Doomsday clock is at five to midnight, tensions mount in the ongoing cold war, and ‘Tricky Dicky’ Nixon is on the verge of pressing the big red button. The tensions increase still further when Dr Manhattan gets pissed off with journalists and mankind generally and buggers off to Mars. Dr Manhattan is the only hero to have superpowers and can do pretty much anything. He could whip Superman while working, having sex, and making his dinner – you’ll have to watch it to know what I mean. This causes him to slowly lose touch with his own humanity and all those around him – leaving him increasingly isolated, condescending and patronising as the movie progresses. When he talks to people he comes across as a mix of Yoda and Gandalf but without the charm. He also insists on being naked for most of the film so you are subjected to enormous blue glowing genitalia for large chunks of the film. This is cunningly balanced by the lovely Silk Spectre getting naked so it’s ok, there’s something for everyone.

So that’s the plot. Well some of it. There’s a lot of plot as it was a long comic novel.

watchmen

When the film came out there was a tedious predictability about the divisions it would cause. Some hard-core fans of the graphic novel disliked it because too much was changed. I should hesitantly point out that they are idiots and are wrong. Short of actually going frame by frame in line with the comic (like Sin City), Snyder could not have done a better job of bringing it to the screen. If he had copied the comic too closely the only people who would have enjoyed it would have been the hard-core fans and Manhattan’s schlong would have been wasted on the almost all-male crowd as they sat there for the 10-hours trying to find fault.

The details were there (even down to moles on faces) and the sets and events and critical conversations were included. Conversely, a large chunk of the criticism was that it too slavishly copied it’s source material. Critics boringly banged on about Snyder’s loyalty to every detail of the comic and that it proved detrimental to the movie. There was no way he could please both groups of people but fortunately Snyder managed to please the vast majority of people in the middle camp. The ‘norms’.

There are two big changes however that partially substantiate this dislike. One is the deletion of a ‘comic within the comic’ – a tale of piracy and survival and bloated corpses and murder. Which really is a great as it sounds. There is going to be an extended version of the film which includes this comic as an animated insert. It is also now available on DVD. So people can stop blubbing about that. The other big change is the ending. A fairly substantial thing to alter. The graphic novel had a fairly bleak and dark ending which was just superb. I love films that end like this, and this possibly explains my devotion to zombies but I digress. The film keeps this ending but just uses slightly different means. Given the current climate in the real world, I think the ending was actually better in the movie. So there.

Will you like this film? It depends what you want from it. If you are a devoted fan of the comic and love every aspect of it and worship Alan Moore (like myself but just more so), then the ending might piss you off too much. If you are looking for something up there with Dark Knight, this is close but not quite there. It is brilliant but it is flawed. Until now, the comic has been deemed unfilmable. Terry Gilliam and Darren Aronofski have both tried – the fact that they tried though, should say something about the material. The great and godlike Alan Moore said it was written as a comic and would not translate well to the screen. I can see why, as the pacing, layering and characterisation works differently but it still does work. He probably still just has the hump about what happened to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and who can blame him?

It might help you decide by looking at who liked the film and who didn’t. Nearly all the top critics I respect – Roger Ebert, Jonathan Ross, Time Out, the Guardian and Empire thought it was brilliant. On the other hand, the critics for the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, and the Independent hated it. This pleased me immensely as I don’t want to agree with the Mail on anything. (The brilliant Charlie Brooker once described the Mail as an idiots guide to life released in easy-to-read daily chunks.) The latter group were so obviously going to hate it I’m be surprised they even bothered going. Personally, I fucking loved it. For the record – so did my better half and she hadn’t read the comic. I have read complaints that it is hard to follow if you don’t know the source material but am pleased to say that a lot of my friends hadn’t read the comic and followed it just fine. The film is an astounding spectacle, has some superb action sequences, great characterisation and plot, and the cast of relative unknowns are outstanding. If you are looking for a ‘Crank’ level of action you will be disappointed although the action that is on offer is brilliant. The characters are fleshed out nicely and the complexity of the human condition is examined to a satisfying level. In particular, Rorschach and the Comedian – neither very nice people – come across vividly and you understand where they are coming from. Just like the graphic novel. No mean feat for two people who are essentially psychopaths.

Snyder was given a task that was never going to please everyone. It was a guarantee from the outset that some groups were going to be alienated. If he had just made a movie that was loosely based on the comic I’m sure some elements could have been improved. But that would have been disappointing to anyone who had even a passing like for the comic and we could have ended up with another Batman 4 or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. No one wants that. Snyder did his best to please as many of the camps as possible while remaining loyal to the graphic novel and I could not have been happier or more impressed with the result.

85/100

(Note: this is my first review and the ones that follow won’t be as long. I am used to having an editor and you can now see why.)