Friday, September 29, 2006

yet more BRENDAN McCARTHY malarky

(Here's the text of another interview Brendan has just done re: SOLO #12. This one has the benefit of having been done in retrospect, with the interviewer getting to ask about some of the personal imagery McCarthy loaded the issue with. A fitting capstone on one of the smartest single issues of a comic either of The Big Two have released since the end of the Eighties, or start of the Nineties.)


BRENDAN McCARTHY: 10 QUESTIONS ON COMICS.
from Steven Fuller. September 2006


1. SOLO #12: WHY IS SMALLVILLE MADE OUT OF JELLY?
I think memory is a bit like Jelly... wobbly and semi-transparent. Starting off the comic with a framing narrative that unhooks you from your usual expectations means you really have no idea where you're going to be taken in the story... And I wanted to write something that I haven't seen in a DC Comic before, something jolting about the DC Universe.

There's a whole tradition of surreal 'dream art' outside of comics: Listen to "The Bewlay Brothers" by David Bowie. Look at how the Monty Pythons structured their TV shows. So-called nonsense actually expresses a different kind of sense, that's all. Check out the stories of Chester Brown or Renee French or Jim Woodring. I like to imagine David Lynch doing a comic book.

I was listening to Syd Barrett's solo records and was inspired: there are finished songs, but in other places it's kind of sketchy and fragmentary. That's the feeling I wanted for the SOLO comic: Lots of little stories inside a bigger story. It seems quite odd to me that a person will accept the experience of say, listening to sprawling flow of The Beatles 'White Album', yet reject a similar kind of feeling from a comic book. Musically structured storytelling is interesting, I think.

I still like to see stuff that is different and original... I wanted THE FLASH story to be just a fragment from another kind of FLASH story, one that uses the FLASH's iconic imagery to give us a glimpse of another whole new take. DC should try out this new one... He has a new story to tell, new places to take us, new villains to fight. And this FLASH is about Light, not Speed. Running fast doesn't seem like such a thrillingly big idea these days... The Silver age gives way to the Luminous age!

If you're looking for the usual stuff, then there's reams of that to read out there, but how about about a bit of the unusual now and then? I can do 'straight' narrative stuff if I want to, butI really am bored to distraction by the stories in comics aping film narrative techniques. I don't want comics to turn into just a kind of "pitch" document for the movie industry. It's the job of comics creators to go where films, or any other media, can't go - in style, storytelling and concepts. Let film follow where comics lead!


2. WHAT'S WITH ALL THE TRANSVESTITES IN SOLO?
Well, I've always liked that camp Bowie-esque, early Hockney, early Roxy Music, New York Dolls, Morrissey, dodgy glam-rock thing that surfaces from time to time in popular culture. Teenage misfits are always gonna put lipstick on! I strongly suggest you go on YouTube and search out some spiffing footage of a heavily made-up young Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno battling it out in some classic 70's Roxy Music concert footage of"Virginia Plain". Sublime!

The character "Toby" is a homage to those droll northern English drag Queens like Lily Savage - when he was good. And I want to explore further the idea of comic characters hanging about, waiting to appear in the main strip, or not even turning up at all. A backstage soap opera. I'll call it: "Went in a wasp - Came out a hare" - the miniseries.

'Duke' Hussy was named after the guy who once ran the BBC, honest! These comic book trannies are meant as a glittering antidote to all that hideous militaristic machismo that pervades some US comics these days.

At the moment I'm reading a mighty strange memoir by Alvin Schwartz, the 'Superman' comic book writer who created the Bizarros, and it's reminding me that comics have a duty to get up peoples noses and mildly annoy those who Know Best by being weird, and wonderful, and secretly subversive.


3. WHY DON'T YOU EVER DRAW IN THE SAME STYLE?
Different styles suit different things: In movies,"Bladerunner" looks very different to "Casablanca" or to "Kill Bill" for example. The Monkees sound different to Gorillaz who sound different to TheThievery Corporation.

So within the pages of SOLO, The Lord Of Nothing looks different to the Batman pages which look different to the Johnny Sorrow strip. I like that the comic changes all the time. It keeps me interested in drawing it, and reading it. I love turning over a page, not knowing what is coming next. I like a high level of novelty.


4. JOHNNY SORROW: A HIPPY JAMES BOND?
A good way of putting it, yeah. Kind of 60's "Rain"-era John Lennon but dressed in the "peace years" white suit. I gave writer Tom O'Connor the germ of the idea with a drawing of an Angelic Assassin, using DC's name Johnny Sorrow, and he came up with an great story.

I was surprised at how overtly Catholic he made it, so I pushed that much further and added more of the 'sacred technology' stuff like Theolotrons, PrayerBombs and Hyper-Novenas to give it more of that Steranko super-spy gizmo 60's vibe. And we set the HQ inside a mausoleum and made Eramus, Johnny's female driver, an 80's Annie Lennox style Kato-nun... I love mixing pop iconography into new and improved hybrids.

I colored it up with digital maestro Howard Hallis, using heaps of wild electronic graphic 'noise' effects, to give it an 'electropop' vibe. I took a highly experimental approach to the coloring... and frankly, in a few places it just didn't work. But mostly, I thought it was good, and different to what else is out there.

But I'd like to develop a DC series of Johnny Sorrow. I think there's a lot of possibilities in that world. He's a great character, and it's a great stylish 'look'... The DaVinci Code meets James Bond, indeed!


5. WHY IS YOUR TOMB UNDER THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN?
All my work is obliquely autobiographical. My feelings about living in Hollywood and my thoughts on death and spirituality kind of merged into an abstract narrative sequence in that last strip, "Slouch World". It starts off with two slacker "Beavis and Butthead" characters trying to get to a party, and then morfs into an abstract discourse on ending identification with the 'tomb' of ego, an experience of no-self and then an awakening from the dream.

I found that the desire for power or fame etc are "immortality games" that the ego creates in order to somehow live on and beat death. "Hollywood" is the 'Heaven' of capitalism, and 'celebrity' it's state of grace. It's an alluring, but completely worthless distraction. Most of us will be totally forgotten within a few decades of our passing. Maybe a few of us will be remembered through our art or achievments a thousand years hence... but in a few hundred thousand years, in just a blink of the cosmic eye, we will have all totally vanished without leaving a trace. Even Paris Hilton.

So what is left? Well, there seems to be a sense of "me" here now... An "I" that is the'experiencer' of all my thoughts, feelings and actions, and has been for all my lifetime.

So what is this "I"? As far as I can tell, it seems to be a localised field of awareness, a core psychic cluster, a central thought that is identified as 'myself'... This "I" is the primary thought that seeds all the others: my imagination, memory, opinion etc. And in dreams, this "I" creates everything: I experience my own thoughts as totally real, as a completely immersive reality.

And then suddenly and incredibly, I wake up!"I" wake up out of what is now seen as a dream.

There are people who claim to have 'woken up' out of this dream as well... If you're interested,I'd recommend reading Huang Po, Wei Wu Wei,Nisargadatta and Douglas Harding, and to avoid all 'gurus' - especially ones in comics. Like me.


6. WHO IS DITRANKO?
An imaginary artist, a homage to two of my favourite comic book creators, Steve Ditko and Jim Steranko.


7. ANY OTHER COMIC STRIPS YOU'D LIKE TO DO?
I've recently been mulling a dimension-sprawling adventure with Dr Strange and Spider-Man... That classic Lee-Ditko story from the 60's is one of my favourite stories. I'd love to draw Dr Strange in the manner of Steranko, but I've never really done anything for Marvel before. Perhaps I should pitch it to them and get it out of my system.

Another thing I'd like to do is a sequel to Barry Smith's RED NAILS, that really freaky CONAN story he did in the 70's. It's one of the weirdest storiesI've ever read in comics: all those decapitated heads and lesbian witches flogging young slave-girls. A very perverse and unsettling story indeed... I'm not quite sure who owns all that stuff now. Maybe it's Dark Horse comics.

And I'd really like to do an "Eightball" style comic...A SOLO type of mix of anything I like, and it comes out whenever it's ready! That would be ideal for someone like me, because I can't seem to predict my creative abilities. One day I might be great, the next day I'm useless. I seem to find it very difficult to sitat a desk, day in day out. That's a kind of death by boredom to me. I have to somehow be inspired... I've got so many characters and story ideas of my own, I'll probably never get through a tenth of them.


8. ANY MORE COMICS WITH PETER MILLIGAN?
Well, there aren't any plans at the moment, but who knows... I think working with Pete kind of spoiled me in a way. We had great chemistry and we made each other laugh a lot... we had a looseness, a freedom and nonchalance about it all that shone through. Sometimes writers can be real control freaks, and artistically, I don't function well under tight reins.

Pete's scripts were a joy to read, and he made everything better than I thought it would be... I remember when he gave me the script to SKIN after we'd kicked it around a bit, and I was kind of shocked at how good it was... It had this utterly original voice and it was so moving... And then he'd hand me MIRKIN THE MYSTIC, all pomp and drollery, or Brett would get those hilariously violent JOHNNY NEMO scripts... Now that's what I call a fucking writer!

I think that people have periods when the stars align or whatever, like any creative partnership, and that's when the great work gets done. But I certainly enjoy co-writing... It's a lot of fun. As long as I am given space to be spontaneous, I'm happy. I'd probably be up for a new MIRKIN series, drawn in Deluxivision...


9. IS MAD MAX 4 EVER GOING TO GET MADE?
I have to be careful saying anything about this type of thing as it gets plastered all over movie internet sites as some kind of scoop. I really have no idea, it's out of my hands. But I hope so, as I put a lot of very good work into writing and designing it.

I always loved that character, and it was an incredible thrill to find out what happened to Max, pulling him back here, out of the mythic ether. It was very strange... It was like he told us his story -and we just wrote it down. Yeah, I really enjoyed working on that movie.


10. ANY FINAL THOUGHTS ON COMICS?
Yes. I always liked the idea of "Imaginary Stories" in the DC Comics of yore. That text proclaiming: "This is an Imaginary Story!" Like they aren't all imaginary anyway...

I've mentioned this elsewhere, but I think a new British monthly comic with say, 8 page installments of new creator-owned material by lots of the top names would be a rather spiffing wheeze! A new Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons strip, a new Gaiman/McKean, a Morrison/Quitely, some Millar/Hitch, a bit of John Wagner/Brian Bolland... and naturally some new Milligan/McCarthy, would be tres fantastique! There's loads of UK creative contenders out there. It would probably be the best comic in the world.

After a year, a creator would have about 100 pages of material - a great platform for graphic novels, movies, games etc... Well, I'd certainly buy it.

Perhaps it should be titled "BUGGER, SNIKT!" to evoke a suitable Bunteresque, X-Men vibe.

That's yer lot I'm afraid. Time for my Time-Tea.
Brendan

review in brief: LOW DOWN HOEDOWN 28/09/'06

Went to see HAYSEED DIXIE at The King's Head last night.

Fucking brilliant. Hiding behind their original novelty band persona hides a really tight-but-loose bluegrass combo, so respec' due. I told the mandolin player as much, that if it wasn't for the drinking and the obscenities an' all, they wouldn't have got kicked out of Bill Monroe's band, and he seemed pretty chuffed at that. Their support act, HILLSTOMP were pretty good too, another one of those bands in that currently fashionable two piece set up, the singer/guitarist and drummer (y'know, like The White Stripes, The Black Keys, etc). These guys played a very swampy country blues, reminded me of the kinda groove R.L. Burnside used to get going when he played with The Blues Explosion. And their drummer was brilliant, played the shit out of his homemade kit, constructed largely of washingboards, plastic kegs, what looked like the lid of an old tool box, and other assorted crap. Hit that crap harder than anyone I've seen since Bonham.

Great night, great synergy between the bands and the crowd. Saw a lot of Norn Iron arts scenesters there, too: DJs, novelists, playwrights, bloggers. Only problem is I'm now totally knackered, but I'm supposed to be going back in a couple of hours for more. D'Oh! Yee-Haa! D'Oh!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Flash, wah-aah-aah! He'll save every one of us!

There's, of course, many celebrities who read this blog, not least recent Ryder Cup winning hero Darren "Fuck Off Jackson!" Clarke. Darren is an old, close personal friend from school. Back then, we enjoyed many long conversations in Wendy's hairdressers, waiting for our perms to set. He'll be pleased to know that everyone on Planet Earth was rooting for him in his recent battle to save the universe from Evil American Golfers and their Clone Army of Hot Blondes. But what he may find most pleasing was today's endorsement from Nicola T, 22, from Croydon, in THE SUN's "News In Briefs" feature. As we all know, Nicola has an eye for the bigger boned, larger walleted, sportsman, so fingers crossed!

Friday, September 22, 2006

really rather lovely aborted YELLOW SUBMARINE comic pages

Bill Morrison (of Bongo Comics fame) talks about his failed YELLOW SUBMARINE comic book here, with some really rather lovely art samples.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Whatever happened to British Comics?

It used to be that "whatever happened to British Comics scene?" was a regular complaint at various comicbook messageboards, and with this week being solicitation time for the Big Two, it's reminded me of those arguments. When I first heard it asked, years ago, I replied "It's still going. It's just now called Vertigo." This is less true now: most of the Vertigo books I currently read have American writers, though plenty of Brits still are employed by that imprint. There's Andy Diggle and Jock, who've just ended THE LOSERS; Mike Carey is in regular employment there, and will be doing FAKER with Jock soon; Phil Bond is doing covers for THE EXTERMINATORS; Liam Sharp is the main artist on TESTAMENT, and half the fill-in team on that title is British, too; Scottish crime writer Denise Mina scripts HELLBLAZER; and Mark Buckingham continues to draw the hell out of the great FABLES, to name a few. Diggle seems to be being groomed as the next big thing by DC, and has some high profile Batman work coming up soon, always the best launchpad in comics. 

Comparitively, Vertigo's parent DC Comics have fewer Brits onboard, but they involve Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, their superstars du jour, Dougie Braithwaite's work on JUSTICE and current 2000AD anchor Henry Flint on OMEGA MEN.


What amazed me most looking at today's Marvel solicitations, though, was the sheer amount of newer British artistic talent working there this month (plus some golden greats like Steve Dillon, Staz Johnson, Sean Phillips and Alan Davis), and a couple of relatively new (to comics, at least) British writers starting to make their mark at The House Of Ideas, too (never mind Marvel's reliance on old stagers like Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis and Mark Millar, their current license to print money). Vertigo veteran Mike Carey is making a home for himself there too, writing ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR, ULTIMATE VISION and X-MEN. COM X veterans Ben Oliver and Rob Williams both have high profile work from Marvel's X-Office, drawing ULTIMATE X-MEN and writing WOLVERINE (drawn by Laurence Campbell, recently seen improving with every assignment at 2000AD) respectively. David Hine continues to write for Marvel, despite the cancellation of his highly regarded DISTRICT X due to the fallout of another of Brian Bendis's cheesier fanfic ideas. The HOLIDAY SPECIAL is a veritable Brit-fest, with work by Carey, Roger Langridge (not technically British, but resident all the same), Mike Perkins (also drawing UNION JACK that month, for God's sake, though that title mysteriously fails to have a U.K. based writer), with a cover by Frazer Irving. Yet another 2000AD alumni, Andrew Currie, sees the first issue of a WONDER MAN mini-series come out. The all-Brit team of DOCTOR WHO script-writer Paul Cornell and Trevor Hairsine continue along the road to break-out sleeper hit on their WISDOM mini-series. And that's just the names I recognise as Brits. There could be a bunch of closet Yorkshiremen hiding amongst the host of other creators I haven't mentioned.


So, next time someone mentions the old "whatever happened to the U.K. comics scene?" chestnut, remember the answer - "it's doing fine, only now it's called Marvel".

Monday, September 18, 2006

make with the linky

More great artists for you. Josh Middleton has started a blog. And I've been going through life blissfully unaware that Andrew Robinson has a website. Well, that's all changed now, I tells ya. Oh yeah.

I've been a fan of Robinson's since first seeing his work as cover artist on STARMAN, and backtracking to find everything the guy had published to that point. The guy's got it all in his locker, he's a cracking painter, but when he does comic book interiors, he has a way of reminding me of Jamie Hewlett and Phil Bond. And that can't be bad.

respectability

Someone's doing "The SANDMAN graphic novels of Neil Gaiman" as a specialist subject on tonight's MASTERMIND (BBC2, 8pm). What's the odds it'll be someone from Gaiman's usual fanbase, i.e. a goth chick? Good luck to her anyway. Should be funny watching John Humphrys trying to strike up a conversation with her about comics before the general knowledge round.


You know you're getting old when people are doing subjects on Mastermind that you think you could have done too (like the clown who did The Clash last year - I kicked his ass).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

i hate b#st#rds who get in my way

Ah, the bitter pill of knowing that Sean Phillips is selling a cracking Brendan McCarthy page on Ebay, and I've been outbid. Arse!

Look, pasted-in lettering by Tom Frame!

Oh, and while I'm at it - the best review I've read of McCarthy's SOLO #12.

welfare mothers make better lovers

God help me, but I love The Observer Music Monthly. For every damn "ugh, broadsheets shouldn't be allowed within a country mile of writing about rock" moment, there's something like today's great Simon Garfield piece about The Who.

New TENACIOUS D music

The theme tune from THE PICK OF DESTINY, streaming now, at their official site.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Corporate Synergy

So, does Tim Lovejoy get a bonus from Rupert Murdoch every time he mentions MySpace on Soccer A.M. or what?

Friday, September 15, 2006

I'm not like other people

My favourite guitarist in Television was always Richard Lloyd. And here's one of his finest minutes, spraying hot Neil-Youngness over Matthew Sweet's Sick Of Myself from a hospital bed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Links of fury

1. Rate your favourite beer. A bit yankocentric (and let's admit it, who knows less about beer?), but that's okay.


2. Led Zep finally make the UK Music Hall Of Fame. I gave off about this at this very blog this time last year: there's at least two lesser, crappier bands already honoured by this crowd who started off as Zeppelin copyists. The world is ruled by idiots, and nowhere is this truer than the fuckin' music industry.


3. New shiny stuff out from Apple. New Nanos and Shuffles - playing it safe with the materials this time then, Stevie boy.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I'm not prone to hyperbole, but this sounds like the greatest book ever in the history of humanity

From a while back on Joel Meadow's blog: "Currently, I'm working on a number of different projects: I'm polishing off a book on comic artists that I'm co-editing and writing with a colleague of mine, Gary Marshall, called Studio Space, which will look at the way that artists work. The book has a very exciting list of artists including Frank Miller, Jim Lee, Moebius, Brian Bolland, Tim Bradstreet, Duncan Fegredo, Joe Kubert, Walt Simonson, Mike Mignola, Tim Sale, Howard Chaykin and George Pratt."


He updated about this project this afternoon: "I spent most of this weekend down in Winchester, visiting my friend Gary Marshall, who I'm doing the Studio Space book with. We got a lot of work done, coming up with intros for each artist in the book. Currently the list of artists in Studio Space (something I've never stated publically before) is: Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Tim Bradstreet, Howard Chaykin, Sean Phillips, Duncan Fegredo, Joe Kubert, Mike Mignola, Tim Sale, George Pratt, Tommy Lee Edwards, Adam Hughes, Sergio Toppi, Walter Simonson, Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Moebius, Alex Ross and Steve Dillon. There may be a couple of other alterations but that's pretty much the final rundown. It's beginning to feel like a real book now: we're delivering to our publishers at the end of the year and it should be out in the Autumn of 2007, which is exciting. You realise that books move at a different pace to magazines and it will be two years from when we signed contracts to when it's actually out on the shelves."


That's a lot of great artists. Sounds brilliant.

Jack Kirby's Old Museum Arts Centre #1

Getting very close to the second anniversary of this blog. I shall be celebrating in a local pizzeria surrounded by beautiful, drunk, women. Not deliberately mind, it's just what I was going to be doing on Wednesday anyway. And on Tuesday, I'll be getting my liver warmed up at the pub quiz at The Cobbles. All welcome, but I must warn ya - it's a fix. I've got an "in" with the quizmaster.

And, as it's been "
Canadian Comics Weekend" chez nous, here's a link for ya: the blog of Toronto's Royal Academy of Illustration & Design.