Friday, 28 August 2009

Are You Psychic?

[SPOILER ALERT]

... No, you're fucking not.

[END SPOILERS]

For further details, and to begin to understand why Barry & Stuart are among most significant developments in British magic since the eighties, check this concentrated jolt of awesomeness out.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Ferret: Survivor's Quilt

Fuck, that was knackering!

Okay, so we're back from the 2009 Festival of Quilts, and Ferret's gallery was an unquestionable triumph. She'll be putting together a blow-by-blow account of her adventures over the next few days, so I'll avoid stealing her thunder here too much and instead direct you to her blog for the full story and the all-important pictures.

I will just say that Bad Rain, her interpretation of a critical moment from chapter 3 of Cancertown, took a whole lot of people out of their comfort zones over the weekend. The response to what I was calling "the most ambitious work of narrative textile art since the Bayeux Tapestry" received universal acclaim - and actually led to double-figure sales of the book itself! Given that those numbers would be pretty impressive at a dedicated comics convention, I'd have to call the experiment a success.

Also, on a personal note: Holy Christing Fuck, wait 'till you see Ferret's Phoenix Rising quilt! She had internationally acclaimed professional quilters standing round it in slack-jawed awe all weekend.

Not sure how much practical help Nic and I were during the festival, but it's always fascinating to watch committed art enthusiasts interacting on such a large scale - particularly when there's a point of intersection and cross-fertilisation with the comics world. I wasn't at all sure what to expect, but it was inspiring to see the excitement with which that cultural collision was met.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Ferret: Breaking the NEC


This weekend sees the 2009 Festival of Quilts at the Birmingham NEC. Ferret has a gallery this year, nicely situated right in the centre of the hall, where she'll be exhibiting many of her wonderful and deeply troubling quilts. Anyone who's been paying even casual attention to this blog will have seen at least a couple of Ferret's pieces featured, which should give some idea what the show has let itself in for this year.

Ferret's much anticipated new book, Ferreting Around, will be on sale at the gig, as (perversely enough) will Cancertown. If that minor burst of self-promotion appears slightly out of place, then allow me to join the dots. One of the larger quilts on display in the gallery will be the miraculous monstrosity that is Bad Rain, Ferret's medium-shattering interpretation of a critical scene from the comic. Given the awed reaction of festival-goers last year even to Ferret's most wholesome works of art, it's going to be fascinating to see what they make of something as violently surreal as Bad Rain.

So, to whatever extent the unquantifiable abstract, "luck" can be practically and effectively "wished" upon a person and their endeavours, then consider it so wished on Ferret by the entire Cancer Cell. One thing is certain - it's going to be a bugger to top this next year...

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Indifference Engine Breakdown

I've mentioned The Indifference Engine a couple of times in the past, and a number of people have been pressing me to throw a few more details out there. Well, I've now got the first four pages of pencils from Robert Carey, and I've been given the okay to pass them on.





Heh... and to think I'd always considered this to be one of my milder, more all-ages stories...

In other news, Insomnia has just published a well deserved spotlight on Mel Cook, the colourist of Cancertown and The Indifference Engine, among other projects. Included in the article are an interview and several pieces of previously unseen art. Well worth checking out.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Masked Magician is Full of Fail!

Sorry - brief diversion into magic territory. Stumbled upon this and it's too good not to share. Witness the all-powerful Val Valentino (otherwise known as the Masked Magician, otherwise unknown as Leonard Montano), committing a rare and coveted Double-Fail at a self-working card trick.



For the purists, this still technically counts as a comics post - for the three people who actually bought the thing...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Because Sometimes There's Just Nothing Interesting to Say About Me...

Cancertown artist Stephen Downey has posted the details of his adventures at the Feile art exhibition in Belfast over on his blog. Congratulations are due.

Double congratulations, in fact - as he's also been commissioned to draw an 8-pager for Bob Heske's Cold Blooded Chillers anthology. I'm a sucker for anthology titles and a big fan of Stephen's in any case, so I'll for damn sure be snapping this up when it comes out this Autumn.

There is actually a small item of Cy news, now that I think of it. I've just submitted a first draft script for Parasite Lost, a short story to be included in Insomnia's upcoming Insomniac's Guide to Cancertown (as recently announced over on their blog). It's an origin story of sorts: 12 pages of Crosshair-related mayhem and a troubled teenager strangling a cat on page one. Fun times ahead.

Onward...

Friday, 7 August 2009

HMRC: WTF?

Had a bit of a nasty shock last weekend, when I received an unexpected demand for £1742.12 from HM Revenue and Customs, which they claim is for overpaid Working Tax Credits. I'm being threatened with possible legal action and everything.

Here's the twist: I have never claimed or received tax credits of any kind in my entire life. Not once. Not ever. I had to look up on the HMRC website what the damn things even are, and it turns out I don't qualify for them in the first place. Fucking ridiculous.

I rang the dispute number in the letter, got ejected from their queuing system a couple of times, then spent fifteen minutes or so on hold before talking to a very nice lady who couldn't help me in any practical way. Eventually, she gave me a second number to contact their overpayment office, leading to several more ejections from their queuing system and another five-to-ten minutes on hold (all 0845 numbers, of course). This time, the nice lady I spoke to ran into the kind of logical paradox that shorts out lady robots' heads in old Star Trek episodes. In order to ascertain my identity, she had to run me through a couple of security questions. The final question was "how are your tax credits paid to you?"

Think about that one for a second.

Since I have never claimed or received tax credits of any kind, I was unable to confirm my identity sufficiently for the lady to discuss the error under which I have been charged £1742.12 in overpayment of tax credits I have never claimed! I'm suddenly starring in a fucking remake of Brazil!

After batting this philosophical conundrum around between us for a while, the helpful-but-unable-to-help lady offered me the physical address of a mythical "head office", to which I had to write a snail-mail letter (as this super-secret facility has neither phone number nor email address). That's right, there is no human way of contacting the people who can supposedly fix the error in my records except by post.

Naturally enough, I leapt into action and fired off a letter by Special Delivery. Hilariously, the address I had been given was soooo super-secret that the Post Office had no record of it existing, leading the woman printing the Special Delivery sticker to suspect that there was nowhere to deliver the thing. I now wait excitedly to discover where my complaint ended up.

I tried ringing back again on Thursday, and this time the helpful lady (a new one, from the sound of her) said she'd send me out a form to dispute the overpayment charge - something that hadn't occurred to anyone else I'd spoken to. Apparently, I'll be able to explain in this form that I've never claimed tax credits and so couldn't be liable to pay back something I've never received. In the meantime, I still have a demand for immediate payment sitting on my desk, with the looming shadow of "legal proceedings" should I refuse to comply. Supposedly, that form can at least put a freeze on those threats.

So, to lighten the mood while we all wait, here's Dara O'Briain ripping the tits off pseudo-science practitioners and priests:

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

"Alice in Wonderland on Crack"

I've recently heard that Stephen Downey, artist of Cancertown and the upcoming Slaughterman's Creed, is going to be taking part in an art exhibition in Belfast this month, showing off several pages of Cancertown. Full details can be found over on his blog right now. Congratulations to Stephen on landing the gig!

Thanks to Nic Wilkinson for spotting the following Cancertown review over on the Comic Related website.

Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth
Story by: Cy Dethan
Art by: Stephen Downey
Colours by: Melanie Cook
Letters by: Nic Wilkinson
Cover by: Paul Cartwright
Publisher: Insomnia Publications
Cover Price: 14.99 (UK)
Reviewed By: David O' Leary

Book Summary:
Vince Morley is a man with big problems and a brain tumour like a baby's fist, living with one foot in a monstrous alternate world he calls Cancertown. When the lost and dispossessed of London start tripping over the same cracks in reality he spends his life avoiding, Morley realises he must confront the residents of Cancertown - and risk finding his place among them. Written by Cy Dethan, Pencils/Inks by Stephen Downey, Colours by Melanie Cook, Letters by Nic Wilkinson, Cover by Paul Cartwright. Features a foreword by Bryan Talbot.

Reviewer's Comments:
I have heard quite a bit about this book likening it to a mix between Hellblazer and Alice in Wonderland on crack, and the description is apt. From the mind of Cy Dethan (Starship Troopers) and sensational newcomer Stephen Downey comes an original six chapter graphic novel following Vince Morley, a man dying of an inoperable brain tumour who is either insane or actually able to go to another world filled with creatures of unimaginable vigour and evil.

This book surprised the hell out of me. At first glance the visuals would pull you in immediately but with a coherent plot to boot you are unable to step away from the immaculately paced story following our doomed protagonist. One of the very best things a book can do is deliver a very strong first chapter. By doing that you are ensured of continued interest from the reader. This is one aspect of the overall book that Dethan pulled off perfectly. He revealed just enough of the overall work to make you continue to the next part and so on. In fact, this was one book that I finished in one sitting and, considering its huge page count and enveloping story plot, that was some sitting. How Dethan structured Vince's narrative was particularly interesting. If you see how the word balloons are split with thought blocks the whole process of that shows how vulnerable Vince is even though he doesn't show it to the supporting cast. The thought put into the story was exceptional, the heart between Bugfuck (not really her name) and her father was real and Vince's predicament is never far from his mind and he knows it. The twist behind the origins of the leaders of Cancertown wasn't something I was expecting. Essentially, Dethan put together a hell of a book.

I know for a fact that Irish newcomer Stephen Downey spent over a year working on the book so the work is in fact a wonderful snapshot of the progress he made as an artist over the year plus. The pencils at the end of the book are that bit more tight with less sketchy lines. But from the outset to the end, this book is an excellent product to have on his CV. For someone who is fresh out of the blocks, Downey is one of the very best talents on this isle. My only previous exposure to his work was on Rira (reviewed recently on this site by myself). To try and differentiate between the real world and Cancertown, Downey uses a technique where Cancertown panels are all pencils and colours and no inks and the real world is a fully realised inked page. The technique was an excellent tool in making sure that the two worlds were easily told apart and helped the story no end. Downey at the back of the book lets us in on his techniques for photo referencing. The technique he uses I last saw at the back of the Marvels trade paperback when Alex Ross used a similar process for his art.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the production quality of the book. Think of it as a huge IDW book. With the high end glossy feel to the paper with perfect binding and no cracking on the spine when finished. This was the first book I bought from Insomnia productions but it won't be the last. At Bristol Con this year they were selling a twenty pound three graphic pack which, if the other two were anything like this, sounded like an amazing bargain. Overall there was very little to gripe about this book as just about every aspect of the book was produced with a great love and affection with the end product firmly in mind.

Rating the Issue:

Story
Story: Overall 9
Concept - 9 out of 10
Plot - 9 out of 10
Dialogue - 9 out of 10

Art
Art: Overall 9
Style - 9 out of 10
Storytelling - 9 out of 10
Colour/Tones - 9 out of 10

Importance
Importance: Overall 9.33
To the Title - 10 out of 10
To the Company - 10 out of 10
To the Medium - 8 out of 10
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