Thursday, 31 January 2013

Live and Let Dai…

Welcome to part 3 of

In a look back at some of the history being unveiled in this fantastic Alan Davis Strip…

We will take a closer look at Chief Inspector Dai Thomas

Dai Was created By Chris Claremont and Tony DeZuniga his first actual appearance was inside Marvel Preview #3 along with Blade the Vampire Slayer

Claremont liked the character enough that he carried him over to his very short lived run of Captain Britain, with Dai making his debut in issue 3 : Mayhem on a Monday Morning

And Dai was immediately placed into the role of a super hero hating cop

Problem was Chris Claremont left Captain Britain before he had a chance to develop Dai any further

Dai was left cast in a one note role of hating Captain Britain, the only attempt at development was the later introduction of Dai's Nephew who Captain Britain saved, but still Dai did not change

You could almost say the song "Live and Let Die" was written for him..

Dai was welsh in his first name only, there was never any explanation given as to how he would be working in London for the Metropolitan Police or any explanation or much reference to any of his heritage or history

In this comic by Alan Davis, Dai is given a great deal of character development, he is a real living person within these pages and we can understand how he feels and why its more profound when Dai's anger is left mostly unspoken

But at the same time everything that anyone could have known about Dai is unchanged (note how Dai's superiors clearly mention Dai's antipathy towards super-heroes as obsessive) and yet its clear that this is just a starting point and the promise for the character in the future is very strong

We see the story and the history in part very much through Dai's eyes, so we understand him much better

NEXT WEEK: I will discuss Elizabeth "Betsy" Braddock

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Myth, Memory and Legend

Myth, Memory and Legend

Welcome to part 2 of

Picking up from last week, we have the superb Alan Davis relaunch of Captain Britain in which Alan has chosen to embrace Caps existing history and continuity while at the same time developing all the existing characters and to make them more real and to somehow fit in action sequences as well

As we can see from this next page all of these elements the characters, the continuity and the action sequences are addressed simlantaneously and all in a way that makes perfect sense, with Chief Inspector Thomas Dai (of the Metropolitan Police) reporting to his superiors on Captain Britain and his new findings…

With Caps history shown in  wonderfully balletic projected photos in flash back form...

Also we can see that both Jamie Delano and Alan Davis are credited as co-creators. Not of the characters but the comic strip itself, as Marvel Uk could not afford to pay very high page rates at all and this was their answer to that issue, that the artists and writer would jointly own the physical comic strip and would have to be consulted (explicitly give permission for any reprint) and paid whenever the material was reprinted

And reprinted it has been, many times over - so much that the various graphic novels which reprint the entire run of material have a treasure trove of background and development information from the point of view of almost every creator ever associated with Captain Britain, so it makes perfect sense to share some of that here, looking at the background history at the same time as the characters history as the story progresses

Captain Britain was as most people know Alan Davis first printed comic but why not let Alan Davis explain this from his introduction to Captain Britain Volume 5 - End Game

"I'm often asked how I broke into comics or why I was chosen to draw Captain Britain.  The short answer is dumb luck. I was in the right place at the right rime. AND, both enthusiastic and cheap!

I never had an ambition to work in comics.  Drawing was just a hobby.  Or at least it was until Mike Conroy and Les Chester asked me to contribute to their fanzines Fantasy Forum and Mea Culpa.  Just a matter of months later, Mike and Les convinced me to show my work to Paul Neary, then Editor-in-Chief of Marvel UK, who was searching for budding artists willing to work for low wages.  At the time Marvel UK had no budget to originate new material, other than occasional covers, so Paul hoped to use his limited finances to create a few short monthly stories to prove the viability of originating comics in the UK.

Well that was the dream, Paul made it clear from the start that he was trying to buck the system and the chances of success were slim.  This was fine by me, I had a full time job, so accepted the opportunity as a chance to make my hobby pay and maybe see my work in print once or twice"

Join me next week as we take a look at the history of Chief Inspector Thomas Dai...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Dipped in magic, clothed in science: Captain Britain

Welcome To Images Degrading Forever!

This week I start on a brand new project and as usual I have a lot of questions, but this time rather different types of questions all mostly around super-hero continuity

But it's not as bad as it sounds…

So here is the scenario - there is an existing character that has appeared in print form over a number of years, a character that has promise, enough promise to keep coming back

To keep coming back despite only being known to a reasonably small audience

To keep coming back despite being at one point best considered an amalgam of existing Marvel USA heroes part Spider-man and part Thor, stuck somewhere between science and myth

To keep coming back to a UK audience the same audience that one could argue already has its own myths and legends and therefore less need for four colour super heroes a point made all the more clear by using those very same myths and legends as the characters underpinnings…

To keep coming back to a UK audience when it was mostly written by Americans, who would not necessarily know what the UK audience wants and essentially just graft those myths onto their amalgam hero (and also have never visited some of the places they insisted setting their stories in)

To keep coming back even though the characters titular title got cancelled (several times all told) and along the way gaining what one would argue is at least a rather confusing and possibly contradictory contintinty

So - we have the character with promise - and now the mission is to re launch this character and to not only relaunch him to the UK audience and give the character his full and proper due but also to see if its possible to get the attention of a USA audience as well

So what would the approach be - This is a Marvel character we are talking about, so one must assume or conclude that the best thing would be to press the continuity erase button

and forget anything ever happened beforehand….

Especially as this is also a number 1 relaunch issue 

Why risk alienating and confusing a new audience right? I imagine this is routine argument amongst the big two what with a dc crisis every other year and a marvel now, then and probably later as well 

But this comic is a wonderful exception to the rule - and in the hands of none other than Alan Davis who simply rips up the continuity rules book and focuses instead on making all the characters great, real and telling the best story he could 

Of course the character is none other than…

So how to start the story?

How better than to promise action, adventure, intrigue, peril, humour and more just in the first page alone - a perfect encapsulation of the promise of great things to come…

So join me next week and we take a journey into myth, memory and legend

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Like Tears in The Rain

It's time for a brief interlude before I undertake my next project here at Images Degrading Forever and it is as good a chance as any to try and describe the process by which I choose what project to do

By using an example of a project I decided to put to one side- that being Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson's BLADE RUNNER

This project had plenty of good things going for it:-

It is a comic drawn in a hyper realistic photo referenced style that is based on a movie, a movie which is itself heavily influenced by comics, like Heavy Metal which both featured material by Al and Archie

That Al Williamson's contribution to science fiction being in way almost directly responsible for Blade Runner being filmed and a comic of it existing, Al having famously drawn Flash Gordon,

Star Wars (which Al of course also drew) being based on Flash Gordon to the extent that Lucas films wanted Al for the comic. 

Star Wars the comic saved Marvel from bankruptcy in the 70s so the Star Wars comic reinvigorated Marvel and the Star Wars movie reinvigorated and changed science fiction, clearing the way to getting a movie like Blade Runner made an actual possibility

That the Blade runner movie is a movie about quite a number of meta-subjects, the question of are you watching the movie or is it watching you, what does it mean to be human and about a 100 other things

That my first experience of Blade Runner was this comic, albeit in a UK Annual reprinting both issues together as I was too young to see the movie at the cinema on release and I had the US issues already in my collection

The downside became apparent on trying to redraw the art complete with dialogue as existing

The detail in the Al Williamson originals can not be possibly overstated, a phenomenal level of detail and a literal mountain of tiny details (especially zip-a-tone or letraset tone) all giving the finished product the same kind of atmosphere that Ridley Scott spent so much time in bringing to the screen

To be able to even have the remotest possibility of being able to reproduce the art I decided I would need to work to 1 comic panel per drawn page, to make one comic book panel as big as my scanner allows to be scanned to enable me to try and draw all the detail I could see..
And the above is my attempt at the first two panels (two separate drawings put together) which might be okay, possibly

Having seen that doing 1 comic panel a page might generate a okay result, the problems of time and patience rear their heads. 

While I thought I probably would be okay with both myself, I doubted that any reader would want to sit through at least one entire year of blog, especially as I was not certain that I would even be able to generate the equivalent of one completed page a week

And also I kind of doubted that I could generate a years worth of worthy blog material to accompany the art

That aside there was clearly some pages to which I could not apply my chosen method, like these two which look simply unbelievable 

There was also many, many panels where dialogue balloons would start on the previous panel and finish on the next one and quite a number of pages where a panel was actually larger and there was smaller panels inset inside it. 

All of this would present a major challenge in terms of what to draw where and how best to stitch it all back together so it would look like one seamless image as intended

Then there was the issue of all that zip-a-tone or letraset tone - In my attempted two panels above I didn't use any each dot is done by hand!

Finally though its a minor issue for me, it would have been my 3rd science fiction comic based on a movie project, following Steranko's Outland and Kirby's 2001 and I feel I need to diversify as much as I can manage

So I have decided to put Blade Runner to one side and for now it remains lost, like those tears in the rain

But of course you readers of this blog, you could let me know if I am right to leave this to one side or not

So what's coming instead of Blade Runner...?

More on this NEXT WEEK

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Merchandising is where the real money is made

Welcome to the final Part of Spidey-Man Vs Gnatman and Rotten!

You know what? I think I am not that crazy after all, I mean I don't want to learn how to do The Batsui so I guess I will be leaving The…

The story so far - J Jawbone Junkton signed a byzantine contract to get Gnat-Man and Rotten to get rid of Spidey-man as a greedy spider ate JJJs stamp collection, with Gnat-Man beating Spidey-man by invoking the law of gravity when Spidey-man's web was not attached to anything, so it appears JJJ has got what he wanted - or has he?
It's looking rather doubtful as we start with no less than 5 Gnat signals all over town…

No, not that Gnat signal and theres even a Gnat signal on JJJs back… and a building declaring "watch gnats tonite"

Then we get to see Rotten jump over JJJ in "Holy Pursuit" having just passed a woman wearing a gnat skirt,

a gnat jumper (for women),

and a gnat hat

She is holding a baby wearing a baby gnat costume as well (whose first word is "Gnaturally")

NONE of this apparel existed when this comic was written….

Leaving merchandising alone for a moment we move to the final panel where Gnat-Man is revealed to be chasing "The Pelican" who has apparently got away the "last six hundred times"…

There is a carton character called Paddy the Pelican which apparently is one of the "Worst Cartoons Ever."

Well you can judge for yourself if you wish

BUT it's much more likely that The Pelican is a not too subtle reference to The Penguin,  especially given the similarity in apparel

And for trivia fans, in the Batman Tv show "The Penguin's a Jinx" Season 1 Episode 4,  The Pelican Arms Hotel is featured

Of course in the Batman TV show The Penguin was played by the legendary Burgess Meredith who would go onto to start in many other roles, notably Michael "Mickey" Goldmill the boxing trainer from the first few "Rocky" movies

"The six hundred times" is in general reference to the perceived lameness of The Penguin Character who has no real ability or strength just some unusual weapons.  Put against Batman it was never a fair fight and this was being said way back in the 60's!


Miss Brunt (A parody of Betty Brant )
(yes this is a meta reference, of course)

and is shown wearing a Gnat-man and Rotten Fan Club T-Shirt…

Which while the Batman TV show fan club didn't have a T-shirt mentioned in the advert it did include "easy to follow, step-by-step instructions of how to do The Batusi"

YES, The Batsui

And yes that dance does look remarkably familiar...

In the next panel we have JJJ watching the tv showing Gnat News, in which Gnattin' (instead of nothing) is doing and the picture inside the picture Gnat man and Rotten are presumably sponsoring the Gnat News in association with Gnat Crispies

So (as we have seen) apart from one item, Marie Severin predicted everything before it even existed! And talk about merchandising overload, it's enough to make one wonder if there was a Gnat flame thrower…


and finally
JJJ realises he made a big mistake, as Gnat-man and rotten are worse than Spidey-man as they are far far more ubiquitous and annoying - just like their non parody counterparts who had a Tv show and 3 or 4 monthly comic book titles compared to no tv show and only 1 comic for spider-man, so the bad guy gets his comeuppance for not reading the small print on the contact...

Meanwhile we have three people sitting on a park bench (that has wet paint) who appear to be drawn directly by John Romita Sr who are most likely:-

Mary Jane Watson

Gwen Stacey

and of course Peter Parker

We can also see a hobo looking in the trash and finding Spider-mans costume this is of course is a reference to Amazing Spider-Man #50, July 1967 which is of course drawn by Romita and in which Peter Parker quits being spider man

And we conclude with Peter Parker having fun with these two ladies, why would he bother being spidey-man if he is so hated and all it does is make his life more complicated?!

As it says Its The Livin' End and Peter Parker can now go on living!

As indeed can we!


NEXT WEEK: Something completely different