Crazy Stuff You Never Knew You Wanted But Is Somehow Suddenly Essential

To paraphrase Powers itself, “How fucking awesome is this?”

Yes, just when you thought season of irrational purchasing was finally over, here comes another piece of shelf-clogging superbness to force you to max out that credit score once again.

With 120 pages of uncoloured Oeming artwork, you get to choose exactly what colour of shoes Deena Pilgrim is wearing and find out exactly how much work the likes of colour artists like Pat Garrahy actually have to do to ensure that each issue looks so good, although they’re all doing it with fancy schmancy computery tricknology rather than crayons and the leftover felt tip pens you have from childhood.

10 minutes ago I didn’t know this even existed. Now I just can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Something For The Weekend?


Warren Ellis is a strange old fella. Not your usual comic author, nor, if you check out his actual book book type book, Crooked Little Vein, your typical anything sort of author. Instead he sits somewhere between individual story creators like Alan Moore and serious, series focussed people like Robert Kirkman.

Ellis isn’t about a decade long journey in the company of a single superhero. Instead he’s a wham! bam! here’s a quick idea man. For him it’s all about taking a great idea, throwing it out there and moving right on down the road. Ideas like Ministry of Space, Oceans and Supergod. Great ideas, a few issues, a conclusion and he walks on down the road like some crazy assed blues singer with a cracked up voice and a heinous addiction for novelty.

Trees is like a halfway house of Ellis. Volume 1 collects 8 (yes count them, 8) whole issues and you sense it’s barely got started. Sure there’s the simple, yet elegant idea that is the baseline of any good Ellis riff, and there’s the blunt end to parts of the storyline as you sense Ellis goes, “well, I’m sure glad to have gotten that off my chest, time for character X to begone in the most gratuitous way possible.” But there are also elements that you sense will take far longer to resolve.

Trees’ premise is simple and elegant. What would happen if aliens landed on earth and did nothing, not even deigning to register that we were intelligent, or even alive? In this case the aliens are enormous things, dwarfing anything man can construct – the Trees of the title. They land, some in the Arctic, some in major cities like New York and Rio. And they just stand there. And life goes on.

Trees is about what happens as life goes on, how humans adapt to the unknown and mysterious, how the Trees begin to exert their pressure on the world. It’s about science, love, experimentation and the kind of long term planning that very few people ever get their heads around. And it’s great. And the best thing is that, unlike so many of Ellis’ other books, this one looks like it might just run on a bit too.

More Better Bigger Faster

Beatmaker on the iPhoneCould this be my absolute favourite app yet? Not entirely sure seeing as I’m very attached to Posterize, but it’s a damn close run thing. Only the other day I was thinking about having to have the fantastic Maschine, only to wake up at 4 in the morning and find this on the app store. Admittedly it costs (and at over a tenner it’s at the extreme end of the app cost range), and it’s like some kind of spastic half-arsed country cousin to Maschine, but it’s actually not bad at all. I was able to pull together some bits and pieces and cobble together a new track (all 53 seconds of it) and still have enough time to go back to sleep before morning. 01 First Stab is the result and I’ve got to say it’s pretty bloody good for something put together on a phone in bed at 5am. Definitely something I’ll be spending more time with. I’m not sure if there’s any kind of song sharing community – the BeatMaker community seems pretty new – but it would be great to hear what other people are doing with this.

A small section of the huge mud wall painting at Tate Britain

A small section of the huge mud wall painting at Tate Britain

Something else I’ll be spending more time with is Posterize. A great simple, free app that turns your iPhone pictures into pseudo-polaroids and lets you scribble any message you like on it, as long as it’s 14 characters or less. Simple and potentially stupid, it’s a bit like photo candy or popcorn or crack. Once you’ve done a bit you probably want to do some more. My latest were taken at the Richard Long exhibition at the Tate Britain, which is pretty bloody fantastic too. It’s one of the first exhibitions for ages where the catalogue is genuinely worth having. And you can see what the effect of Posterize is on this too. It just makes the colours look really enticing and I love the stupid writing. You can see more Posterize images in the Posterize group on Flickr and more of my ones on my Flickr pages.

Meanwhile, putting the iPhone and its apps aside for one moment, let me roundly condemn Van Cam for introducing me to Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher comic. I’d been trying to avoid it for ages, mainly because I’d taken a somewhat irrational dislike to Dillon’s artwork (no accounting for taste), but I got suckerpunched into it when we were inadvertantly browsing through the racks at the Trafalgar Square Waterstones. Now I’ve read the first issue I’m bloody well crack happy on the book and only too aware that I’m going to have to blow hard earned cash money on the remaining 8 or 9 volumes. Bastard.

Finally, I’m loving the new Little Boots album.

Updated for the Summer

Large copper sulphate crystal from Roger Hiorns Seizure installation

Large copper sulphate crystal from Roger Hiorns Seizure installation

The Kids Who Do Art were obviously very, very clever. Having had the contents of last year’s Turner Prize substantially dissed, they decided to ensure that this year’s nominations at least produced some interesting, albeit highly exclusive, art, rather than tedious monologues of string and manikins.

This time instead of nominating some oververbal, cliche ridden artphags, the Turner Prize people have nominated personal favourite Roger Hiorns (along with three other lucky losers). Hiorns, who poured anything between 60,000 and 90,000 gallons/litres/bathtubs of copper sulphate into a council flat to ‘see what happened‘, is everything the Turner people need after the tedium and torpor of last year. Most essentially he gets noticed outside the patronisingly oblique little artworld that the Turner people inhabit. Seizure, the copper sulphate council house, is fantastically compelling and emphasises that the most extraordinary, most relevant art today is taking place outside the confines of the galleries and museums the Turner people live in. The demand for spectaculars, whether it be Seizure or the recent grafitti under Waterloo station, far outweighs that for most retrospective showpeice exhibitions. Admittedly, at least one of the other nominees, Richard Wright, is interesting, but for my money it’s Hiorns’ to lose. I particularly look forward to seeing the Little Artists’ lego version.

Meanwhile, I’ve been adding to my overbearing web presence. In particular I’ve been forced (forced you understand) to upgrade my Flickr account. You can see all my pics from the copper sulphate house, along with a whole load of other stuff, most of which has been taken by and manipulated within my iPhone. I can’t wait for Apple to put together a halfway decent camera lens for it in the next release.

I was super happy to find out that after what seemed like three or four lifetimes worth of waiting, Powers volume 12 is out. I had worried that, as with many comics, I might have got bored during the interval and it would be a hideous disappointment, but I needn’t have wasted the worry. Powers 12 is the best volume yet, finalising the Deena Pilgrim story arc along with a bunch of in-the-wings characters. Overall it feels as bittersweet as the final episode of The Wire series 3, it’s hugely satisfying, but I’ve no idea where they’re going to take the series now. Pilgrim sitting on a beach somewhere feels very reminiscent of McNulty swinging a baton as he’s returned to the beat. Still in Bendis we trust. Like David Simon, he seems to have his finger on the pubic bone of the police procedural and is capable of playing it about at will.

300 years later…

Yeah, poor form to have ignored the whole of September I know. But it wasn’t such a class act as it turned out. Anyway, there I was thinking that Watchmen sounded like a really good film adaptation of a really, really good comicbook, so I decided to check out 300, Zack Snyder’s last comicbook revision.

I also decided to try using iTunes’ music store to actually buy it (it was a slow day, I was bored, it was only about a fiver). As far as the store goes it’s not bad at all – downloaded fast, slipped easily onto my iPhone (so I can watch it on the train going ‘THIS IS SPARTA’ as commuters look at me in a combination of awe and repugnance) and so far it hasn’t worried too much about being migrated all over the place.

As far as the film goes, stylistically it’s great, way more effective than Sin City, and manages to combine a sort of comic super-reality with some kind of emotional connection, which again Sin City just never accomplished. And it has many good bits, not least The Wire’s Dominic West once again playing a deceitful womanising political whore and David Whenham once again playing a grovellingly obsequious sidekick. And it does have that sense of super-realism that started to come in vogue with The Matrix and colour timing and really great greenscreen work. It also works as a story.

But no matter how good it is, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator still shits on it. Visually way more expansive, better story, better plot, better acting, more emotionally engaging and it even has better lines. So while 300 gives us “Give them nothing, but take from them everything”, Gladiator gives us “What we do in life echoes in eternity”.

Still looking forward to Watchmen though.

Who Watches The Watchmen?

After the crushing depression that was Wanted and the realisation that, Dark Knight aside, pretty much all comic book movie adaptations were going to be a disappointment to me, I was really pleased to find this trailer for Watchmen.

Previously thought to be utterly unfilmable, the movie has already chewed its way through a host of directors, stars, locations and studios. Now it’s finally being put together by the guy who directed 300 – not that that is any kind of a recommendation. Based on this trailer though I can’t wait.

I guess one thing this, Sin City, 300 and Frank Millar’s new movie The Spirit show is that maybe there is a third way for superhero comic book adaptations to go given that they don’t often make great films. The third way of hyper-real visuals, phenomenal amounts of greenscreen and a focus on the key moments within the comics. There is a precedent for this in The Matrix, which borrowed heavily not just from comic books (check out the work of Geoff Darrow), but from Japanese anime like Ghost In The Shell right down to duplicating specific frames.

It’s a method that balances the apparent paucity of the comic book medium (there’s less depth in the average Fantastic Four storyline than in your average B movie) with the need to be somehow more stylish than most films.