Archives For Ramblings

Haven’t you always wondered what might be on Spidey’s playlist, as he’s swinging across the rooftops of New York New York city?

No, me neither.

But here I was, considering this most banal of questions about a fictional fellow and his iPod selection, to such an extent that I ended up collecting together a catalogue of canorous compositions relating to this theme.

From this it seemed obvious to compile these into a Top Ten of tunes that our friendly neighbourhood Spider-guy would NO DOUBT listen to. My main assumption being that because he possesses a great sense of humour (much like someone else round ‘ere) he would love a good pun or at least a salt shake of irony.

The only self-imposed criteria for this array of fine audio choices, was that the title had to relate to ol’ webhead in some way. Allow me to share my musical musings with you.

I’ve conveniently provided links to the songs in question, so you know these are all gen-u-ine ditties. No need to thank me.

I’ve also annotated the list in an attempt to be helpful, but feel free to put your hand up if you’re confused, or if you need the toilet.

They’re in no particular order, other than vaguely chronological.

Do let me know in the comments section if I’ve missed any titles you think should clearly be represented!

1 Bite the Hand  (ABC)
Cos like, he got bit by a radioactive spider, didn’t he?

2 Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy  (The Andrews Sisters)
Cos like, he works for a newspaper called the Daily Bugle. Geddit?

3 Spinning Around  (Kylie Minogue)
Web? Spinning? Spinning web? Keep up!

4 Life through a Lens  (Robbie Williams)
I’m not going to explain this one.

5 Mary Jane  (Rick James)
Some people suggest Mr James is not actually singing about a pretty lady, but is referring to ‘other stuff’. I don’t see it, to be honest. Anyway, Peter Parker fancies a girl called this. Mary Jane that is, not Other Stuff. That’d be weird.

6 Dancing on the Ceiling  (Lionel Ritchie)
You know what spiders are like… they dance… on the ceiling… when I try to catch them.

7 Man in Black  (Johnny Cash)
Cos like, he wore a black costume, remember?

8 I’ll Stick Around  (Foo Fighters)
You know what spiders are like… they stick… around… dancing on the ceiling.

9 Life of Riley  (Lightning Seeds)
One for the comic readers and what was known as the Clown Saga, or something like that.

10 Oldest Swinger in Town  (Fred Wedlock)
Cos like, he swings on his web, and he’s been doing it a while, hasn’t he? Hasn’t he?!

BONUS TRACK: Back to Black  (Amy Winehouse)
Another one for the comic readers. When Spidey no longer wore the alien black costume, he donned a cotton version for a while. So like, he went ‘back to black’. Y’welcome.

Phew, if you’ve made it to the bottom of the list: CONGRATULATIONS. And you might also be interested in another rambling piece I wrote about our web-headed wonder right here. Many reviewers have claimed this article is both “hilarious and poignant in equal measure”*.

* They haven’t, I made that up. Sorry.

butlins_skegness_picturesAs the soft strains of Agadoo waft gently across the air ways of Radio One, and we all find ourselves instinctively pushing pineapples and shaking trees like Pavlov’s pop-influenced canine automata, it can only serve as a subtle indication that summer has indeed finally arrived!

The time is right for darncing in the street, as David and Sir Mick would claim. I’m still trying to find the actual street to which this song refers, as my neighbours always insist on remaining behind their net curtains whilst I Hammer Time it up in the road on my lonesome! (The baggy trousers are actually surprisingly cooling, AND back in fashion… for ladies.)

But here we are, sun sun sun. What a choice of season to reinstate my regular visits to the blogospear! I should be outside headbutting beach balls and kicking sand into my own face. Instead I sit at this keyboard machine, my sweaty fingers slipping across the keys like a greasy spider trying to stand ten greasy sausages vertically in a greasy frying pan.

(Yes, I know, that simile makes absolutely no sense, but I found its obtuse absurdity rather pleasing, so I left it in. “Isn’t that how you normally write?” Yeah, ha ha.. hang on!)

Essentially this is now the run up to the end of the year, isn’t it? We’re halfway through number fifteen and any of them New Year resolution thingies that you haven’t followed through on yet (e.g. gym membership, love life, diet, regular blog posting, publishing your graphic novel, writing better constructed sentences) – well, you’ve got less than half a year to go; just under six months; no more than twenty six weeks; round about 332 days (enough days to go round the world 4.15 times, to be fair to the Fogg-meister).

In short, I am aiming to blog more frequently, whether you like it or not. And by ‘like’ I mean a Facebook Like. (Oh yes, that’s the sort of quality topical references you can look forward to. Whaaasssuuup!)

Obviously, I appreciate none of you are demanding I post more frequently, but here’s why I’m revving up the ol’ Blogley Davidson again: exciting terrific news is just around the corner! I can’t say too much other than, get your brain apparatus and eye units in active mode because a riot of incredible visual stimuli is teetering just on edge of the digital horizon, soonly to land in your comic strip welcoming lap*.

AND THEN you’ll be darncing in the street, my friend! Push pineapples, shake the tree. Stop… Hammer Time!

* Next week.

Watch the Birdie

January 20, 2015 — 6 Comments

untitledIt’s important to enjoy this moment, my friends. This time next year we’ll look back and smile as we recall this period of digital tranquillity when it was just you, me and the three other regular readers of this blog, sitting here shooting the virtual breeze.

Oh yes, this time next year small children across the globe will be rushing into their nearest toy emporium, knocking cheap plastic Mockingbird action figures off the shelves – because they’re in the way of the loom band display – ha ha, no, because they want to get the latest Mockingbird-related product of course. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from watching Wars in Space (or whatever that film’s called) it’s this (a) makes lots of toys of your thing, (b) make more lots of toys of your thing, (c) don’t stop making lots of toys of your thing.

I’ve done the maths and the math (depending on whether the Atlantic Ocean is on your left or right) and I’ve systematically calculated that the world of media is ready for a bird-based fictional character.

Think about it: Sir Walter Disney had Mickey the Mouse, Stanley Lee had the Spiderman, and Bob Kane and his mate had Mr Batman… you can see where this is going can’t you? Mice, spiders, bats… it’s now the turn of the birds!

Not in the Hitchcockian type way obviously (sorry, Daphne), where you can’t leave the house for fear of having your eyes poked out like two tasty balls of suet by a horde of mad crazed feathered rascals.

Look, people clearly love cartoons and comics that are associated with a furry or creepy-crawly creature. We’re a nation of animal lovers, as the parrots are fond of parroting. I could cite many white-glove-wearing animal folk who have won the hearts of the worldwide population, and so I will: Bugs Bunny, Pink Panther, The Green Hornet, Spit the Dog, Roland Rat, Bear Grylls, Russell Crowe, that cat in the funny video. And some of them weren’t even wearing gloves! How many more Dalmations do you need to convince you?

Do not be surprised if by the end of the year, whilst sitting quietly in line in Specsavers, you find your suet eyes focussing on a poster for the latest optical insurance being advertised by a small cartoon girl in a yellow jumper!

Enjoy this non-Mockingbird world we live in while there’s still time. You have been warned.

Me and Matthew Broderick

December 15, 2014

Brod1bA few nights ago I dreamt about Matthew Broderick. There we were, in a cosy front room, fire burning in the grate, passing the time of day, chit-chatting. He looked different from how I remembered him; a bit worst-for-wear, slightly overweight, unshaven.

“Are you sure it wasn’t a mirror, Flicko?” Indeed, very amusing.

By the way, please note: I’m not a big Broderick aficionado, so don’t expect any insight here or clever references – I appreciate that is what you’ve come to expect in my regular blog posts (written with a totally straight face).

Obviously I didn’t really know what to say, I was as awe struck as one can be, knowing they’re dreaming about a real life film star in a not-real life situation. I must admit though, even his imagined self carried a certain presence.

For some inane reason, grasping for the appearance of nonchalance, I asked him how his marriage was going with Sarah Jessica Parker. It’s amazing the influence magazines like Hello, OK and Alright (is that one?) have, that I made the assumption this was a valid conversational avenue to pursue, based on having once read – sorry, I mean – looked at a photo of them together in one of these quality publications.

Even the tacit suggestion that his marriage may not have been going well… scrub that, I think I actually said, ‘Are you still together?’ Again, the accepted presumption that show biz marriages are transitory and meaningless arrangements. I’m surprised he didn’t slap me there and then. Maybe it WAS a mirror.

As I was waking from slumber, the comfy lounge slowly dissipating before my closed eyes, I initiated a conversation about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, observing that Ferris was representative of a normal school kid, and this wasn’t something you saw much of in movies. As in, generally US students in film seem to be a jock or geek or any of those other handy categories used to limit a teenager’s social development. Or is this societal shorthand only found on celluloid? (And I said you weren’t going to get any insight! “You were right.” Okay.)

I also wanted to talk about Election, one of my favourite films OF ALL TIME.

But even more crucially I forgot to mention my comic, whilst unashamedly raising the topic of potential big screen adaptation opportunities! Obviously I’d let him play the role of Rossi, if he wanted it. Assuming Bruce wasn’t available (Willis not Forsyth).

I woke up at this point. To be honest, looking back the thing that annoyed me more than those fumbled chances of furthering my own career is that Matthew didn’t even ask me, ‘So how are you?’ Typical celebrity.

Where’s that number for Hello? I reckon I could make some money out of this.

“If you hadn’t dreamt it all, mate.” Fair point.

Space Available

December 8, 2014 — 1 Comment

Space 1There was once a street urchin. Every night he looked up from the gutter to the sparkling sky, dreaming of a life covered in stardust than actual dust. But he wasn’t an astronaut or cosmonaut, invariably he had naught. How would he achieve this wish of tissue-like vulnerability?

He chose the unexpected route; he gathered bottle tops and empty milk cartons. From these he built the most remarkable inventions and artful objects that sent the buying public rushing to drag their bank managers out of their beds to empty the vaults and shower the street urchin in mint.

Deals were struck, contracts signed and handshakes shaken. The civilised world fawned over him and his bottle top masterpieces, the uncivilised world toasted his health as ‘one of their own’ made good. The street urchin was a footstep nearer his goal.

Amongst the plethora of celebrities and influential faces that sought to sun in his growing radiance as the World’s Greatest Artist, he inevitably found himself in conversation with the World’s Richest Man; a shadowy character who stood in no one’s shadow, who left no stone or leaf unturned; the inviting stench of wealth followed him like a wet papery smell, and his hands felt like the hands of a man who has been counting old coppers and coins whilst inexplicably failing to wash them. They got on like a house with a fire; warm and cosy.

The World’s Richest Man introduced him to sailors, gymnasts, lion tamers, call centre workers, popular singers, air stewardesses, au pairs, oil tycoons, diplomats, ambassadors, TV quiz show hosts, racing drivers, baseball players, women footballers, chocolatiers, biologists, optometrists, out-of-work actors, generals and of course, spacemen.

Conversations always turned to space and travel, but it was the last of these people groups that gave the least quizzical looks.

The spacemen admired the street urchin and his roughshod journey from the gutter to the front page of the weekend supplements; riding the back of his bottle top and milk carton creations. They felt an unexpected affinity with him as rockets can look a bit like bottles and are the same colour as milk.

Strings were pulled as backs were scratched, so the time finally came when our street urchin found himself stood on a set of steel steps in the Florida breeze, his tiny tired fingers resting on the cold metal handrail, looking up at his giant cylindrical dream. But as he placed that first tentative step towards the small open door above, that beckoned him to his destiny…

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’ve recently negotiated the end of my contract with my old publisher, so I’m looking at self-publishing the graphic novel as an eBook now. I’ll keep you updated. Sorry, I could have said that at the beginning.

RebelAAs a teenager, when I watched films and TV, read comics and books, I always found myself drawn to the lovable rogue, the misunderstood outsider, the non-conformist, the rebel, the mysterious loner. Characters often portrayed by the likes of James Dean, Paul Newman, Sir Clint Eastwood, Minnie the Minx et cetera.

I even aspired to be like them, I guess because they seemed ‘pretty cool’.

But, as I grew older, I quickly realised maintaining a rogue-ish persona actually ended up creating distance in relationships. And frankly, I couldn’t keep up the uninterested smouldering pose when I was genuinely upset and someone would ask, “What’s up, chum?” Inevitably I would crack and break down explaining how I’d left my Tricoloure textbook at home and French was our next lesson and that my Dad would kill me if he knew I’d scratched my new bike, which I shouldn’t have been riding as it wasn’t my actual birthday till Monday! The sort of issues I’m sure Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell would have identified with.

Admittedly in real life, if someone is held-in emotionally and can’t open up in relationships it’s generally because of some real hurt and pain from their past, rather than a pretend identity they’ve picked off the shelf because it’s ‘pretty cool’.

Nowadays I’m quite happy to be the opposite of a mistrusted maverick. (What would that be? A trusted team player?) I kinda’ feel sorry for characters like Wolverine or Batman. It seems until they can find some peace with their past they can never really mature as people.

I know, I know, they’re not real and I understand a popular fictional character in an ongoing series can’t ever really change, particularly when their audience appeal is so closely linked to their inner turmoil being maintained. (Which is a strange concept when you think about it – I KNOW, they’re not real people! But hey, Peter Andre is.)

Anyway, we can talk more about this subject another time, if you like. Peter Andre, that is.

P.S. Apologies to anyone who is not a teenager but still aspires to be like Wolverine. Let me know how it’s going.

imageI’ve grown a moustache for INKtober. If you’d like to sponsor me then keep reading.

INKtober is, of course, a time to celebrate the art of inking and an opportunity to display our wonderful illustrative pieces to a watching world, BUT it is also a time to remember those less fortunate than ourselves. Those who don’t possess the skill and artful finesse of others. That’s why this month I’m raising vital funds for less-talented comic artists.

Particularly during October these sorry creatures can’t even glance at Twitter or Facebook without being bitterly reminded about their own lack of drawing ability. Please spare them a thought.

This condition affects far more people than you may realise. Even now you could be sitting next to someone who has no artistic talent!

You yourself may even be a less-talented comic artist. If you’re not sure or you’re too embarrassed to ask, here is a helpful list of common symptoms that sadly afflict these miserable individuals:

  • Barely legible lettering.
  • Too many close ups.
  • Two people speaking and the first word balloon is on the right.
  • The main character looks different in EVERY panel.
  • The figures all have long legs and massive chests (and that’s just the men).
  • They DON’T use Bristol board!
  • Every other page is a splash page.
  • Every other splash page is a double spread.
  • Front covers are ALWAYS a figure looking out and pouting (and that’s just the men).
  • They are right handed.

So please join me in raising much-needed awareness for this debilitating weight that burdens our fellow men (and the odd woman), especially at this time of year when their self-worth can be so easily bludgeoned whilst the rest of us make merry.

To view some of their well-meaning (but pitiful) visual attempts click here.

If you’d like to donate to this un/necessary* cause, you may do so here.

Thank you for inking.

Sir Windsor Newton
Chairman for the Charity LACK (Less-talented Artists are Comic Kinfolk)

* delete as appropriate

Missing in Action (Part II)

September 29, 2014 — 6 Comments

McCloud qFollowing on from my last nail-biting blog: On each table I’d placed some of my own comics and a selection of ‘How to’ books; Eisner’s Comics & Sequential Art, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, How Not to Draw Comics the Marvel Way… the usual stuff.

So after a day of badly scrawled cartoons and barely humorous scripts (and that was just me!) the tiny artists left. As I beckoned them farewell, one child pleasingly enquired, “Is it okay to take these?” Indicating the comics on his table. “Of course, I drew those,” I chirped, as modestly as a man desperate for affirmation can manage.

But then, whilst tidying up I received a shock of shocks. A book was missing! My treasured copy of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by the living caricature Scott McCloud.

Where was it?! I hear you cry (feigning interest). After an extensive (one minute) search it dawned on me that the young scallywag, previously mentioned, must have taken it! I’d thought he was pointing at my comics, but it was my precious book he’d actually had within his adolescent gaze.

I was so distraught I convened to the nearest tavern to drown my sorrows. Every bespectacled tweed-wearing gentleman entering the establishment, just added to my pain. The landlord told me later that he’d never sold so many Barcardi Breezers in one evening!

I still haven’t replaced the book. Partly as I resent paying twice for the same item, but mainly because purchasing a new copy feels like it would somehow invalidate the genuine sadness I felt at the time. Pretty dumb, eh? (No need to nod, it’s a rhetorical question.)

I can only hope that boy has grown up to become an exceptional comic creator, having studied Scott McCloud’s insightful words & pictures (and inspired by an enthusiastic workshop tutor). I can’t remember his name exactly, I think it was Chris something… Wear, or Were? I guess I’ll never know.

Missing in Action (Part I)

September 22, 2014

Hove Museum2Many years ago I was running a comic workshop with some young cherubs in Hove Museum (which, by the way is really hard to find! It wasn’t where it should have been. I expected it to be in the bustling city centre, but it was actually located in a quiet residential area. By the time I found it, they’d started without me, and most of the kids had already mastered layout and composition and were well on their way to tackling a three quarter head looking up! Fortunately I arrived just in time to hinder their progress and unusual prowess – obviously I had to justify my fee somehow, so I stripped it all back (pun not intended) and demonstrated how NOT to hold a pencil… for two hours. It’s important to get the foundational skills right first, kids!).

Wow, that was a pretty long parenthesis section (which is easier to write than say out loud).

So there I was, about twenty kids on different tables with a collection of museum stationary between them. But on one desk a small child sat alone. It was quite sad, because apparently this boy was allergic to rubbers (ERASERS I mean! Apologies if you’re West of the Atlantic, that could’ve sounded weird. “Waddaya mean, buddy? It DID sound weird!”). Anyway, this isn’t about the allergic child, that’s a story for another time. Don’t worry, it’s got a happy ending! Well, not for Mr & Mrs Staedtler it hasn’t*.

Er… Sorry, I’ve kinda’ run over my self-imposed limit of 250/300 words, in a vain desire to give some colour to a fairly banal tale. Let’s pick this up next week. (Talk about a cliffhanger, eh, readers? – Ed)

Now I’m going to have to scroll aaall the way back up to the top of the page and type ‘Part 1’ or something.

*Staedtler is a brand of rubbers (ERASERS I mean!).

IS ANYBODY THERE?… There… there… So this is what a first blog sounds like. An empty auditorium. Now I know how that Les Miserable chap felt. Empty chairs at empty tables. Just with less dead American actors clutching blood-stained baguettes. Oh well, gotta’ start somewhere I guess. I should probably relate this to the Mockingbird website in some way, shouldn’t I? No rush though, this is only blog number one (“it’s more like a number two, mate!” – no need for that).

So… comics, eh? That’s probably the primary subject I’ll be covering in our time together. The process, the art, some doodles. I may even talk about some of the comic-based films – if any ever get made! That’s sarcasm, by the way.

But listen, before we get going, you need to know, I cannot promise you anything unique or insightful, beneficial or helpful in any way (this is starting to sound like my wedding vows). But I promise, on my honour as a former sea scout, that I will endeavour to make these blogs partially entertaining and at least marginally witty (I’m out of my depth already, I know).

Okay, I’m off now, but thank you for coming. I think this first blog has gone okay. I can’t wait to see how the second one goes, and I imagine nor can you! Lower your expectations though, it will no doubt be like a one-hit wonder’s difficult follow-up album… BUM… Bum… bum… There’s that echo again. (That’s the level we’re at, folks!).