Thursday, 24 January 2008

Bad Blood Flows at Last!

This is it!

The first issue of my run on AAM/Markosia's Starship Troopers ongoing series hit the shelves today. To be honest, I'm almost at a loss for words. Almost.

This is the end of a long road for me, and (hopefully) the beginning of another. As of this moment, my money has been very firmly placed where my mouth is. A lot of people have said a lot of very cool things about me in the last few months. For the most part, I've tried to take all that in stride and not let it get into my head - but now I'm squarely in the position of having to live up to it.

It's a weird sensation, now that the book is actually out there, but I'm absolutely loving it.

So, thanks to Harry Markos and Tony Lee for giving me a chance, and to Paul Green and Tom Mauer for making it all look so fucking gorgeous. For those who take a chance on the book, I hope you enjoy the ride.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Tony Lee Knows His Onions...

Ugh - sorry about the weak gag there, but I believe the picture warranted it.

Anyway, let it be known that Tony Lee, unstoppable ideas factory and writer of Hope Falls, Midnight Kiss and about a thousand other things, has kicked off a new column over at Comics Bulletin. I don't read nearly as many comics columns, blogs and fora as I ought to, but I tend to make a point of catching Tony's stuff when I can.

Anyway, in his first column at the new site, he's written a bit of a run-down of his involvement in Starship Troopers comics, and how I came to take over the writing. You've heard my side of the story already, so now you can hear his.

Long story short, I am awesome.

Or something.

Extinction Event

So that's it then.

I've just put the finishing touches on the script for the final episode of Extinction Protocol, and I'm sitting here trying to work out how I feel about that.

Overall, I feel pretty good. The strip ran for twenty episodes in a magazine with around 60,000 readers. Not bad for a first professional gig. I had a cast of characters I enjoyed writing (and periodically killing) and a rich, pre-existing background I continue to find endlessly fascinating. Good times.

That said, it's time to move on. With the Mongoose Starship Troopers product range being off-line until the second edition arrives later this year, it makes sense for both Mongoose and me to focus our attention where it's most needed - which brings me back to the Markosia ongoing series.

We're into the final countdown now, and I'm insanely excited about it. One of the biggest culture shocks about working in comics for me has been getting used to the timing. Example: when I write a corporate website or brochure, I submit the copy, someone else lays it out in the proper format and within a week or so the final product is generally out there in the world. With Extinction Protocol, I could give Nic a script and expect to see a draft copy of the art within a week or two. In the meantime, I'd be working on the next episode so I'd always be one script ahead. The ongoing series is a whole other world, though. When the first issue of my run hits the shelves at the end of the month, I'll be well into the script for my seventh issue. I've already killed off characters who haven't even been "born" yet. Crazy stuff!

I should mention that Nic is having some mixed emotions about the end of EP. On the one hand, it's taken up a lot of her free time over the last year and a half. On the other, she's now in the situation of actually drawing the final moments of the Silverbacks - moments we've been foreshadowing since the very first page. We both have a lot invested in those characters, but for me ending the story as we originally set out to do is the only way to do them justice. Nic's having a little trouble letting them go, though.

Quite sad, actually...

Bah - so much for sentimentality. I've got Troopers to kill.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

A Glimpse into Another World...

I wasn't really planning on talking much about magic on this blog. I've drifted in and out of conjuring for most of my life, even made my living from it for a few years, and now I've put it back in its box as a rewarding hobby - which is where I think I'm most comfortable with it.

Every so often, though, I write a review of something I've bought that particularly impressed me. Magic-haters should feel free to skip this post but, for anyone else, here's my review of "The Coinjurer" - an instructional DVD of coin magic from David Neighbors and Meir Yedid Magic:

The Coinjurer DVD by David Neighbors (Meir Yedid Magic)

“The Coinjurer” is a DVD of high-impact coin magic from David Neighbors - and that, if you know your world-class coin magicians, is pretty much all you need to hear. Well, you should probably also know that it’s a DVD release of an A-1 video from the nineties – but other than that you should now have all the information you need to convince you to buy this.

Admittedly, that’s fairly light for a review, so let’s look a little closer.

“The Coinjurer” is a good-looking, professionally produced DVD. The video transfer is decent and the material is strong. A couple of fairly standard gaffs are required, and one slightly less standard item that can be bought directly from David. The material should be within the range of anyone who performs with coins regularly, and every single routine had at least one phase that fooled me. That last point is a major one for me, since it means that the moment I saw the performances I knew I was going to learn something. Moreover, these immediately looked like routines I was going to want to perform.

There are seven routines taught on the DVD (although one of them is actually a three-phaser):

1) EZ Hank Backfire
This is a four-coin assembly, using the folded corners of a handkerchief for covers. The backfire ending is very striking and the handling is uncomplicated and direct. David’s use of sound management adds a few beautifully subtle convincers to the body of the routine that really help to set up the climax.

2) Open Travellers
A pseudo-gambling plot established in the early moments of this routine gently wrong-foots the spectators, setting up some genuinely startling gaffed sequences. A charming and effective routine.

3) Hypnotic Stone
With roots in David Roth’s “Coins, Purse and Glass”, this effect is an extremely visual attack on the senses. The necessary items are introduced logically, and inventive handling of the gaff produces some beautiful transformations. The tight camera angle used for much of the performance diminishes the effectiveness of David’s misdirection in a couple of places, but the effect is still clear and compelling.

4) 3-Coin Monte
Another routine with a gambling flavour. A high-impact sleight-of-hand phase lays the groundwork for an utterly bewildering sequence once the gaffs are rung in. Again, David’s intensive understanding of the importance of sound in magic comes into play. This one had me leaping for the DVD remote to watch the performance again immediately. Probably my favourite routine on the DVD, and one that I’ll definitely use often.

5) Winged Copper/Silver
A mildly gaffed appearance of three silver coins, one at a time, between three coppers. This is a strong, solid effect, and ends with the compelling impression of the last coin appearing within a stack left in plain view on the table.

6) Trilogy
A three-phase routine showing the deftness with which David’s magic flows from one effect to another (something that’s always impressed me). Silver and brass coins pass through a soft spot in the table, jump invisibly from hand to hand and finally disappear altogether – despite the fact that they were clearly heard jingling in the performer’s hand right up until the very last moment. A powerful, professional routine with a smooth progression.

7) Triple Change Wild Coin
Credit is again given to David Roth, this time for his “Wild Coin” effect. I’m a sucker for Wild Coin variations, and this one is a legitimate gem. It contains what is, for me, one of the prettiest transformations in coin magic (credited as a variation of a Joe Givan sleight). Features a massive kicker ending as the coins, rather than returning to normal as might be expected, suddenly turn into three entirely different coins. Beautiful magic, leaving the spectators with absolutely nowhere to go.

In addition to the routines, there is a “Tools” section, detailing David’s handling of the Palm-to-Palm Change and a changeover move credited to Gary Kurtz. Other sleights are covered as they appear in the explanations. There is also a performance-only section called “Pantomimes”, which is an entertaining jumbo coin flurry set to music.

Coin magic agnostics and absolute beginners should probably look elsewhere, but anyone with an interest in top-level coin work will find a great deal for them on this DVD. It’s superb magic from one of the most respected and furiously creative minds in the field.

A few notes in closing:
My name is Cy Dethan. I’m a professional writer/editor, currently working in comics. Before that, I was a professional magician for three and a half years. Other than being an occasional customer, I have no personal or professional relationship with either David Neighbors or Meir Yedid Magic.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Ducks in a Row

Right, then.

We're already several days into next year and I'm just about finished sweeping away the residual life-crap of the last one. Looking back, I have to say I've had a bit of a stormer. I begin 2008 with stuff to write, stuff to pitch and, within a few weeks, the all-important stuff on the shelves. Long story short, no complaints.

I've got one more episode of Extinction Protocol to write for Signs & Portents - the latter half of the two-part finale to the series - and then that's done. I've had a great time on the story over the last year and a half, and I've been well treated by Mongoose Publishing every step of the way. As detailed elsewhere, Mongoose and their Starship Troopers Miniatures Game have been key factors in getting my foot in the door of the comics business, so I'm looking forward to the grand relaunch of the line later this year. I've also dug my old playtesting hat out of the games cupboard for the new edition, and so far things are looking very promising.

Next up, I've got to make some final decisions on the Comics Village column thing, write an intro for the trade paperback release of Starship Troopers: Bad Blood and put together a review for David Neighbors' rather wonderful "Coinjurer" DVD.

That last one probably deserves a little explanation. In a former life, I once made a living as, for want of a less awful term, a "professional" magician. It's not something I bring up a lot because, frankly, who the fuck would want to admit to that? It's bad enough being one of those crazy, maladjusted comics people, but a crazy, maladjusted comics person who does magic? You might as well tattoo "Low Art Fanatic" on your forehead as far as the world in general is concerned. Never mind that some of the greatest figures in so-called "geek" history have also been notable magicians (Jim Steranko, anyone? Walter Gibson, even?). Hell, Steranko's about as close to a Rock God as a comics guy could get - but mention the Steranko Lateral Palm to a comics reader and you'll get a blank stare, a quick subject change or, on occasion, a dry slap.

Anyway, to get back on-topic for a moment, David Neighbors is one of the top coin magicians in the world, and I'm reviewing one of his DVDs. That's all anyone needs to know for now.

That's pretty much it, to be honest. No doubt, somewhere along the line, some thought will be going into the trivialities of making a living as a freelance writer and editor, but for now I'm content to let Future Cy worry about that so I can get on with the stuff that's actually important.

Happy New Year, guys!
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