Thursday, 27 December 2012

RIP Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson died today and that's a right shame.  I haven't given the man or his work much thought in years, I think I might have watched a few episodes of the CGI Captain Scarlet a few years back but that's about it. However my Twitter feed's been full of tributes to the man and as I've watched the opening credits to some of his shows and thought about the likes of Stingray, Thunderbirds and even Space Precinct I've started to realise just how into Superanimation I was as a kid.  I had the toy's and the comics, my mum made me a Virgil Tracey dressing up outfit and I once had a Thunderbird 2 birthday cake.  I didn't just build the Blue Peter Tracey Island, I built it twice.  Thinking about it now I realise that Gerry Anderson's work was probably the first thing I properly geeked out over as a kid, setting me on the path to become the endearingly pathetic man child I am today.  

I've posted some videos of the opening credits of his various shows and I think they pretty perfectly sum up the appeal of his work.  Everything Anderson created was bold and exciting and unique.  His work featured big Sci-Fi ideas in bold, optimistic pop art colours.  He created worlds with square jawed heroes, evil villains and amazing machines, vast industrial installations built to launch rockets or hide underground from the Aquaphibians.  I loved how methodically these creations were filmed, so many shows would skip over the launch of a spaceship or have the crew embark a vehicle between scenes, Thunderbirds and Stingray and everything else revelled in the Heath Robinson, domino track like qualities of their creations and as a child I couldn't think of anything more exciting, Britain would probably have a lot fewer engineers without Anderson's work.

Gerry Anderson created some incredibly loved, utterly unique television, distilling the 60's adventure into something timeless, probably his greatest achievement was creating puppets that weren't utterly terrifying,  he'll be missed.

Monday, 26 March 2012


Hello all, apologies for the unexpected hiatus, this was caused by having an excessive amount of things to do and people to see for the past few weeks.  I know you've all missed out on my poorly punctuated onanistic ramblings but you should be pleased to hear that I'm in the process of alienating all of my friends and family so I should have a lot more time to sit alone and write.  

Whilst I was out and about not writing I had one of the weirdest train journeys of my life.  It was a Friday night and I was travelling to see my girlfriend on the 17:15 train from Leeds.  The train was as packed as a cattle truck and I found myself crammed into the luggage compartment behind the driver's cabin with about a dozen other commuters.  About fifteen minutes into the journey the train pulled to a halt, I assumed we were just pulling into a station but when I looked out of the window all I could see was a lonely patch of woodland that surrounded the train tracks on all sides.  Then the cabin door opened and the driver emerged.  He looked sheepish and confused as he said "I'm very sorry but I think we're lost."  

Until then I didn't think trains could get lost, I assumed they just followed the rails.  Now I think about it I realise one of the junctions on the tracks must have been set wrong or maybe there was something the matter with "the points" but on that evening, as I watched a confused train drivers climb onto the tracks and glance around frantically, trying to work out where he'd driven to all I could think was "Oh great, we've been whisked away to the world of the bloody faeries."  I had visions of my girlfriend waiting at the plat form for hours before asking a passer by (probably Rod Sterling or Vincent Price) when the 17:15 from Leeds arrived only to be told "there's no 17:15 from Leeds my dear, not since that crash where everyone died 10 years ago tonight!" Fortunately I don't live in a predictable urban legend so rather than never being seen again I just had to put up with a ten minute delay, but I quite like the idea of a phantom train that leaves it's passengers stranded somewhere unnatural, I might write something inspired by that journey one day if I can think of an approach that isn't a massive cliché.

The novel currently stands at 35,488 words or 47.3% of my target, although I'm a lot further than half way through the plot as I'm currently ripping what's left of my hair out trying to structure the ending.  My original plan was to have a complete draft done by mid April, but I'm probably going to have to move that goal post.  Now my plan is to finish the skeleton of the story (probably about 45,000-50,000 words) by the 19th of April and flesh this out into a full, functioning first draft by the end of May.  I'm really excited by what I'm writing at the moment as the book's various plots and sub plots are pulling together and shit's blowing up all over the place.  Come back next week to see if I hit 40,000 words.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Novel Update 05/03/2012

Greetings puny mortals.  I've suffered from a minor bit of writer's block this week; nothing major, but annoying none the less. Man Writer' Block perhaps.  I spent most of the first half of the week trying to get into a scene which is going to be fairly pivotal to the last third of the book and repeatedly changed my mind over how to approach it.  I eventually cracked it on Saturday night after a few pints of inspiration, it's not perfect and definitely needs a good proof reading/rewriting but it's there for now and I've found the subsequent scenes a lot easier to write.  Whilst failing at novel writing I managed to come up with a few pieces for the blog about creator owned comics and the gender politics of Earth's Mightiest Bums.  I also passed my driving theory test, take that crippling sense of inadequacy!

The current word count is 30,048 of 75,000 or 40.1% as I mentioned in the last novel update I've left quite a few gaps so I'm starting to see the end of the plot so I'm quite excited to be approaching the climax.  Come back next Monday to see if I hit 35,000.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Creator Owned Day

Apparently March the 1st is creator owned day.  If I'd have known about this earlier I might (or might not, no promises) have done something to mark the occasion, as it is I'm just going to give you a short list of my favourite creator owned comics (in no particular order) and pimp my own creation.

My Favourite Creator Owned Comics

Hellboy/BPRD (plus assorted spin-offs) By Mike Mignola and friends (Notably John Arcudi, Guy Davis and Duncan Fegredo)
Mike Mignola and co. have created an enthralling tale of giant monsters, what it means to be human and the end of the world.  

Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory
weird, offbeat mystery comic about a man who gains the memories of anything he eats and the crazy world he lives in.  Like Lost but with gross out humour and killer chickens.

Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire
The beautifully drawn story of a deer boy and a former hockey player in a post appocylptic future.

Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jaime McKelvie
Music is Magic, this comic captures the excitement of being young and going clubbing like no other comic.  Perfectly crafted and filled with references I don't understand.

The Umbrella Academy by  Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá
Gerard Way stops messing arround with his band and works on a proper job, telling the story of a dysfunctional family of superheroes.  

(NB I left of Preacher because I wasn't sure if it's owned by the creators or DC/Vertigo and a brief google was inconclusive, if it is creator owned, it definitely belongs in the top five)

And here's some shameless self promotion, the first appearance of my character Daniel Hawksworth, a character who you should all be seeing a bit more of in coming months.  Enjoy what's left of creator owned day.  

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Avengers' Bums Assemble!

A little while back Marvel Studios released a poster for the upcoming Avengers movie.

It was a fairly typical piece of Superhero artwork that unfortunately suffers from a fairly typical problem with  superhero art; the so called "Broken Back" pose, a stance where a female character is posed so the reader can perve over both her boobs and her arse at the same time.  This pose is far too common in comics (especially on covers) and can make reading comics on the train pretty embarrassing.  Avenger's director Joss Whedon has a long history of creating strong, well rounded female characters, and it seemed a shame that a project he was so heavily involved in would resort to such lowest common denominator marketing.

Today, Marvel Studios announced a new title for the film here in the UK, Avengers Assemble (presumably to avoid confusion with the 60's spy show) and debuted a new poster.
It's still a fairly standard superhero pin up, but this time Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow looks absolutely bad-ass and it's two of the male characters flashing their chests/bums.  Admittedly it's not proper broke back art, Iron Man's face covers up most of the Hulk's arse, but it's a faltering step closer to equal opportunity lechery, and isn't that what everyone wants?

Monday, 27 February 2012

Skin Diseases & Novel Update 27/02/2012

Hello again, how is everyone?...  That's nice, glad to hear you're all doing well. I've spent most of this weekend worrying that I'd caught impetigo from my three year old nephew.  I wasn't really concerned about the disease itself, as according to impetigo is rarely a serious condition and my skin's already pretty much a write off.  I was worried that I'd pass it on to my girlfriend, mostly because I'm a selfless, heroic gentleman but also because I was afraid that it would be really awkward.  I'd not heard of impetigo before this weekend but my  dad described it as "basically herpes for kids"  and I've been terrified of having to tell the missus "I've not been fooling around with anyone, I caught this pestilence I've given you from my nephew."  Which is pretty much the worst excuse I could have come up with and would almost certainly have got me in to even more bother.  Fortunately both myself and Mrs myself seem to have dodged the plague and the nephew's looking better.

I've been able to do a fair bit of writing since the last update and I've managed to reach 27,709 words, or 37% of the novel.  Having said that, I'm a lot further than 37% into the plot and there are lots of gaps that I'm going to have to go back and fill in/or paper over, so it's probably more accurate to say I've half written the first 75% of the book.  I'm going to update on a Monday night from now on, so I'll be able to spend all of Sunday night actually writing the book and not end up having a late night writing the accompanying blog post.  Next week's target is 32,000, comeback on Monday to see if I reach it.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Novel Update 16/02/2012

Well this week's been a bit of a write off.  The word count's currently at 21,662, a fair way short of my 25,000 word target, so 29% of the total target's been written.  I know you all expected more from some idiot dicking about with words on the internet, I'm sorry I let you down.  I'm away this weekend so it doesn't look like I'll be able to write many more (although I'm travelling by train so I might be able to get a few thousand done).  However the weekend after that is the one before pay day so I'll be too poor for adventures and should be able to get some cheap, cheap writing done.  The current plan is 27,500 by Sunday 26th February, which should put me back on track for my self imposed first draft deadline of mid-April, come back then to see how much I've done.

Sunday, 12 February 2012


Hello all, I'm afraid there's not going to be a novel update today, I hope you can cope with this all crushing disappointment (if you can't cope don't do anything stupid).  I've had a busy few days, so most of this week's writing is still scrawled in a range of notepads.  I'm going to type it up tonight and I'll post a proper novel update later in the week.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Witch Doctor and Novel Update 05/02/2012

I did a fair bit of writing this week, not only on my novel but also some general whining about the Watchmen Prequels which you can find one post down. Aside from writing I've spent most of this week working overtime, teaching my immediate family to use Skype (and relearning how to use it myself) and returning to York for drinks on Friday.  Since pay day was this week I also bought myself some comics.  All of which were pretty good but the highlight was probably Witch Doctor: Resuscitation.  

Witch Doctor was my favourite new comic of last year, a magical medical mystery about a maverick doctor (is there any other sort) who fights supernatural diseases.  The creative team behind the comic; writer Brandon Seifert and artist Lukas Ketner, have created a well thought out world of grimy monsters that are just about biologically plausible and each issue introduces at least one or two interesting scientific twists on classic monsters. I've seen Witch Doctor described as House verses the supernatural and  Garth Marenghi's Darkplace played straight and it's no where near as terrible as the Garth Marenghi comparison implies.  It's a fun comic from creators who know how to pace a story for single issues, there's a graphic novel collecting the first miniseries and a new series starting this year.   I'd recommend Witch Doctor to anyone who doesn't mind a bit of body horror in their comics, especially my fellow science/horror fans/geeks.

"But what about your writing Tom?" I hear no one ask, it's been another good week and my word count currently stands at 20,187 or 27.0% of my 75,000 word target.  Come back next week to see if I make 25,000.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Before, Before Watchmen

This week DC Comics announced a series of prequel mini-series to Watchmen.  According to DC's The Source blog the mini-series will be:

  • RORSCHACH (4 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: Lee Bermejo
  • MINUTEMEN (6 issues) – Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
  • COMEDIAN (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
  • DR. MANHATTAN (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artist: Adam Hughes
  • NITE OWL (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
  • OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
  • SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner
I love Watchmen, I have a copy signed by David Gibbons with a sketch of Rorschach saying "Tom Huh?" in his threatening scary voice, which is probably the third thing I'd save if my house burnt down (first two are my sketch book and whatever friends/family are in the house with me, I'll leave it to your imagination to decide which order they're in).  

Anyway, before I wander too far off topic; I love Watchmen and I've enjoyed the work of all involved in Before Watchmen.  Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier is a masterpiece of comics storytelling which uses everything that's great about the DC Universe, Amanda Conner is one of comic's best cartoonists and manages to capture a range of facial expressions most beyond most artists, J Michael Straczynski's sadly unfinished Supreme Power, a brilliantly tense "realistic superhero story" was a triumph in long term suspense and Len Wein co-created Wolverine.   I can see why all of them were chosen for the job.  Having said that, I'm not excited about Before Watchmen.

I've already said how talented these creators are, but everyone involved in Before Watchmen could do the best work of their career and it would still seem redundant.  One of the original Watchmen's great triumphs (I hate that I'll have to refer to Moore and Gibbon's text as the original Watchmen) was it's tight plotting and razor sharp characterisation; everything was fully fleshed out and built to the conclusion, all of the characters had a clear motivation and the reader understood the reasoning behind every action they took.  Watchmen wasn't a story like Star Wars that exists in a universe where you could potentially tell thousands of exciting stories (I stress the word potentially).  Everything that mattered in Watchmen has already been fully explored.  Watchmen covered the entire lives of these characters, every emotional turning point or moment of character development has already been shown.  These mini-series cannot be anything other than redundant retreads of the flashbacks in the original, or diverge from Moore & Gibbons's work and so fail as an origin story.  

Why (other than the obvious answer of because it'll make a quick buck) assemble such a talented roster of creators and hamstring them with such a problematic assignment?  Any one of these creative teams could produce a classic graphic novel with a long lifespan as a collected edition that would win a shower of Eisner's. Cooke and Conner are a dream team, why waste them on a Silk Spectre origin story?  I'd love to read another period, political superhero book from Darwyn Cooke, or see Jae Lee draw a man slowly realising he has to become a supervillain to save the world.  But like the majority of DC's audience, I know how they'll end & that makes it all a bit pointless.  I can't imagine another project in comics with Before Watchmen's calibre of writers & artists being less inspiring.  DC already owns thousands of franchises and characters, why couldn't they leave Watchmen as something unique and special?

N.B. I haven't touched on the problems around why DC own the rights to watchmen rather than Alan Moore and David Gibbons, mostly because others have already done so, but needless to say DC acted shamefully.  

Monday, 30 January 2012

Novel Update 30/01/2012

Hello all, apologies for the slight delay.  I've spent most of this weekend travelling about Yorkshire doing various exciting activities.  I was in Barnsley on Saturday to celebrate a friend's birthday.  We spent most of the day in various pubs including a nice real ale place and two Wetherspoons.  I'm a bit out of practice at daytime drinking and I was worried that I might be hungover on Sunday but we all paced ourselves and ate plenty of nutritionally dubious pub food so I ended up ok.

On Sunday I went to York to see Robin Ince perform his Happiness Through Science show at the Hyena Lounge Comedy Club.  I'm a big fan of Robin Ince; I've seen him live several times before (I once saw him twice in one day at the Edinburgh Fringe) and I subscribe to his many podcasts, so I was expecting to enjoy the show but worried he might reuse material I'd already seen. Fortunately he didn't, and I enjoyed two hours plus interval of an intelligent, likeable man shouting enthusiastically about really interesting topics and ranting about terribly infuriating things.  Robin Ince always seems to attract interesting audiences to his shows and tonight's was no exception, the room was full with various breeds of academic who were more than happy to contribute a fact or clarify a misunderstanding.  This could easily have been terrible but Ince had created a vibe of jolly interest, so much so that when he mentioned Bishop Berkeley he received two contradictory heckles and proceeded to compère a brief discussion about the philosopher without derailing the show.  I left the show feeling enthused and interested in the world and would highly recommend seeing Robin Ince if he tours near you.

I knew I would be having a busy weekend so I made an effort to get as much done during the week as possible and reached 14,500 words by Friday night. Surprisingly I managed to get a fair bit of writing down over the weekend, writing on various trains and whilst waiting in pubs.  I would have written more but my solipsistic friend James Sizeland selfishly distracted me with beer and interesting conversation.  I'm quite proud of my writing this week, I've finished a scene I've been thinking about for a while that is really pivotal to the course of the novel but until yesterday I'd been unable to articulate properly.  The whole thing will need some serious polishing but so far I'm satisfied with how it's progressing.

I've been using a moleskin notepad I'd received for Christmas.  The piece of paper moleskin arrogantly slip in the back of their products claims that Hemingway used a moleskin, that's got to improve the writing. I'm only a few bottles of whiskey and a bunch of slaughtered animals away from the Nobel Prize.  The total word count stands at 16,297 which is 21.7% of my target 75,000.  Come back next week to see if I can hit 20,000 words.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Novel update 22/01/2012

I've had a fairly productive weekend this week.  Today I woke up early (for a Sunday) and constructed myself one of the greatest breakfasts ever fried.  This triumph of pork and grease gave me the strength to write over 2000 words and get fairly lost in some local woods.  I took a break from writing this afternoon to go for a walk with my mum.  We walked to the evocatively named "Druid's alter rock" a rocky outcrop with some impressive views of the valley.  Although we didn't spend much time on the rock as the wind was becoming increasingly aggressive and neither of us felt like a broken neck.  To escape the wind we cut through some woods hoping to find the path to the river, but we got lost and ended up going back the way we came, still it was a good walk.  On the way back we walked past a local antiques shop called Curio Cottage, a tiny building overflowing with strange old things that feels like it should be run by a kindly, magical shopkeeper in a CBBC TV show.

This week I've met my target and written 10,048 words.  This means that the novel is the longest single piece of writing I've done.  It's closest competitors are two reports I wrote for my Post Graduate Certificate in Education Studies and my B.Sc project on "Laser trapping and cooling, featuring atomic hose-pipes" which despite (or because of?) having a title like a hip-hop collaboration, was the most successful part of my Physics Degree.  10,048 words is 13.4% of my arbitrary target word count of 75,000 so while I've got a fair way to go I feel I'm on track.  Next week's target is 15,000 come back then to see if I've made it.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Novel update 15/01/2012

So far I've written 5395 words of the novel.  I'm not sure how long it's going to be in the end, the  Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula award rules define a novel as 40,000 words long and National Novel Writing Month say a novel should be over 50,000 words.  A brief google shows that most novels are longer, with the typical word count between 80,000 and 100,000.  I'm not sure how long my novel's going to end up being. I think 300-400 pages is a good length for a satisfying book.  Assuming 250 pages per word this gives me a rough target count of 75,000-100,000 words.  

I want my book to be as deep yet direct as a cruse missile with a philosophy degree and a passion for scuba diving so I'm not going to pad it out to meet an arbitrary word count but it's nice to have a target.  If I use the lower number then I can say that I've written approximately 7.2% of the book (and that I've put a bit too much thought into almost meaningless numbers).  My goal for nest week is 10,000 words which would be 13.3% of the book.  I'll update again next week and let you  all know how I've done.  

Sunday, 8 January 2012

New Year's Resolution

I've decided on my New Year's Resolution:  Finally write that damn novel I've been threatening to inflict on the world.  It's going to be an action packed, apocalyptic adventure/horror story ala Solomon Kane, Hellboy & Carnacki.  The book will feature a disparate group of characters working with/against each other to prevent the end of the world.  One of these will be the exorcist/monster hunter character Daniel Hawksworth who I introduced here last Halloween.  So far the first half of the story is in a shambolic collection of notebooks.  I will organise & expand this into a serviceable 1st draft by my birthday (19th April).  I'll find some way to publish the book by the end of the year and tweet the word count each Sunday evening.  At the moment the working title is "Dealing with Devils" and I've written 2,181 words.