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Archive: 11/11 | back to blog |
The Phoenix
Friday 18 November 2011
The Phoenix website was launched today, revealing some of the lovely strips that will be appearing in this new weekly from January 2012. One of the comics I'm especially looking forward to is Pirates of Pangaea, written by Daniel Hartwell and drawn by Neill Cameron. Neill's artwork for it, the little I've seen, is wonderful - just look at this breath-taking image ...

Other contributors include some equally firm favourites such as Jamie Smart, the Etherington Brothers, John and Patrice Aggs, Dave Shelton, Kate Brown, James Turner, Gary Northfield - I could go on! I also have a strip, a one-off story written by the amazing Ben Haggarty - I say amazing because he wrote Mezolith, and amazing is one of the many apt words to describe that marvellous book (yup, marvellous is another). Here's a panel from our strip, called The Golden Feather ...

If you're able to seek out a Waitrose store then pop in and pick up their free Waitrose Weekend paper (dated 17 Nov). As well as a feature on The Phoenix there is a code with which to get a special (and also free) Phoenix issue zero.

For lots more information (including subscription details) see the new Phoenix website!

posted 18.11.11 at 9:31 am in Comics | permalink | |


Demoncon 2
Tuesday 8 November 2011
On Sunday I attended my one and only public event this year, Demoncon 2 in Maidstone. As a last minute change of plan, Elyssa decided to accompany me and give 7-month old Miranda her first comics event experience! I think she enjoyed it - she was on good form all day and enjoyed going off to the shops to look at all the sparkly and tinsely Christmas decorations that are starting to appear on the shelves.
Demoncon is organised and run by Graham Beadle and his Maidstone comic shop, Grinning Demon. It was a lovely intimate event taking place in a small sandwich bar (Eden in Bank Street, though I believe a bigger venue is on the cards for next year) and had a really nice atmosphere. I have to admit my expectations for sales were modest, but I sold 19 books and a handful of badges and met some great people too (I was delighted to meet the fantastic Phil Elliott after many years of more distant and irregular correspondence).

Huge thanks to Graham, his team, and his shop regulars and other attendees for a very welcoming and enjoyable day.

posted 08.11.11 at 7:10 pm in Comics | permalink | |


The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Monday 7 November 2011
At 3am on Thursday night I finished The Rainbow Orchid volume 3 (not counting the necessary publisher's to-ing and fro-ing that is to come over the next week or so). This left me with a Friday in which I could take things a bit more easily before I dived into my next job (deadline: end of November) and a rare opportunity to go to the cinema with my brother, Murray. There was only one film to see, of course ... Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin!
A recent Guardian article takes the position that long-time Tintin fans hate the film, think it is an atrocity, even, while those who know little or nothing of the character have loved it. Being a long-time Tintin fan myself ("and not just one who wears some wearisome t-shirt", as I was once described in a mid-nineties comics fanzine!) I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the film, and I know other serious Tintin fans who also confound the Guardian's view (the newspaper has been singular in publishing a barrage of negative Tintin film reviews - it's practically an editorial stance!).

So, is the film a slap in the face of Hergé, Tintin's creator? I can't see that it is. The film oozes love for this Belgian phenomenon and is very far from being some kind of cash-in. It has an atmosphere of authenticity that carries the story confidently through the changes that must inevitably come with any book-to-film adaptation.

First and foremost there is the question of the animation - Hergé's trademark ligne claire style has not been re-rendered and projected on to the screen. Instead we have CGI motion capture, where actors play out the action in a green-screened room wearing fetching skin-tight lycra suits. I think CGI has worked great for films such as Toy Story and Monsters Inc., where human beings play a minor role and the threat of the 'uncanny valley' is less intrusive, but it is often too distracting to be successful where actual people need to be depicted - why not just use people?

I have to say I was impressed with the CGI on Tintin - it's the best I've yet seen and it created a world in which I felt comfortably immersed. It isn't perfect by any means - there is still that odd weightlessness to the characters (though not so often) and sometimes I found myself marvelling at the detail on a character's close-up when I should have been listening to what they were saying, but that's a minor criticism. The characters felt familiar right away, whereas with live actors we'd have had to get over the shock of strangers, maybe even impostors, in the roles. Only Castafiore unbalanced me slightly; she looked like the plastic surgeons had been stretching away any wrinkles for a few years, though, actually, that may fit with her character. For me, it worked well enough - I even found the technical wizardry an enjoyable element on top of everything else.

What about the story? Spielberg and his writers have departed from a frame-by-frame adaptation and have instead conflated two war books, The Crab With The Golden Claws (1941) and The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), plus a chunk of original material. Is this heresy? No, in fact I think it's probably necessary. A comic is not a film and a film is not a comic (despite what some people may think) and a film could never reproduce the intimacy that exists between the reader and a page of bande dessinée. A film director does almost everything for the viewer, who becomes a largely uninvolved witness to events on the screen; voices, unknown or too well-known, are prescribed; music tells you what and when to feel, and you are taken through the story at twenty-four frames per second with no steering wheel of your own. This is not at all a bad thing, indeed, it can be highly enjoyable, but it is a different experience from reading Hergé, where the voices of Tintin and Haddock are called from within, from a reality that is all your own, where your emotions are left to react quite naturally to events and, though the author will guide and nudge, you are given the reigns to traverse the story as you please.

Because the mediums are so different it would be foolish, I think, to expect the experience of the albums to be replicated through the camera. We have the books, they are brilliant and will not be interfered with, and there can be little doubt that more people will be led to them after seeing the film. The film is good but it is not as good as Hergé's originals - his plots have time to breathe and develop and, more specifically, The Secret of the Unicorn and its sequel, Red Rackham's Treasure, benefit from a careful logic that is ultimately far more satisfying.


Artwork © Editions Casterman; Tintin © Hergé/Moulinsart.

As a thing apart, the film works very nicely. The opening is a joy and you feel as though you have entered a world that honestly mirrors the books. It really picks up once Tintin is aboard the Karaboudjan and doesn't let up for a good while. One new scene, where Sakharine (elevated to the role of major antagonist) employs an unwitting Castafiore and a hawk to obtain the third model Unicorn, I really enjoyed, and the ensuing chase scene is fun, if rather ridiculous.

On the less-positive side, I did feel as though things fell slightly flat once everyone was back at port, with the police awaiting Sakharine and the strangely unexciting crane-fight that followed. And if you know the books, you can't help but feel the loss of the scenes with Tintin exploring the wreck of the Unicorn in the shark submarine and the island where the Haddock idol is discovered - wonderful stuff (from Red Rackham's Treasure, a book that supplies only its ending for the film). I also didn't quite feel the Thom(p)sons lived up to themselves, though they were amusing enough (edit: Gremkoska on Twitter reminded me of Snowy - I'd like to add that I thought Snowy looked a little weird, and didn't really work for me either). To balance that out, however, Allan is really well portrayed (well-rendered, you might say!).

All in all, the Tintin film is a very good thing, highly enjoyable, made with heart, and it's positive for both the Tintin books and, hopefully, comics in general. The one aspect I do dislike is the cheaper end of the merchandising, especially with things like the McDonalds tie-in. There's a lot of speculation as to whether Hergé would approve of Spielberg's adaptation (no one can know, my feeling is that he'd love it) but where Happy Meals are concerned I suspect his reaction may well be similar to the wild disapproval he exhibited when told that Tintin's face had been licensed to grace the inside of a child's potty - though that time, luckily, it turned out to be a joke played by studio colleagues!

Do go and see the film if you can. Enjoy it for what it is and come back, perhaps, with a deeper appreciation for those wonderful books.

posted 07.11.11 at 9:29 pm in Film | permalink | 21 |


Julius Chancer, The Rainbow Orchid, story, artwork, characters and website © 1997 and 2014 Garen Ewing & inkytales