Thursday, 15 December 2016

A Trick Of The Tail.

The toughest thing about doing this sketch of Basil Brush was getting him to stand still while i scribbled away. He is a master of the theatrical anecdote , you know. It comes quite naturally to him. He is a born story teller and a great thinker. Like a small hairy orange Stephen Fry, so to speak. I have off late been trying to fill a few gaps (Oh er, Madam.) in my Basil Brush annual collection. they are lovely books. with artwork and stories by the great Peter Firmin.
             I would have asked Basil to sign them for me but I feel he is a pal now.
             It seemed a trifle gauche.
             And I much prefer a gauche trifle.

Rogue Trooper.

Bumped into the notorious Hedge scout herself at the frankly spellbinding Star wars Rogue One Preview. Bad company but also the best of company. There were a number of imperials (including the big bad Darth Vader himself rasping about in that louche way of his, strangling a few people here and force slamming a few people there.)in the screening and a surprising few Rebels. Nothing to do with politics off course, the bad guys always seem better dressed.
            Loved the film. Talk about suspension of belief. Even my aged palette was satisfied, Felt transported to a galaxy far far away. And a time that seemed passed away. 1977 all over again.
            Best part of the evening was watching my pal Joseph dragged upfront to lead a chorus of the John Williams Star Wars theme. There he was waving his arms and singing away like a returned Prince Of Wallachia as the audience tunelessly did their best.The Son Of The dragon himself.
           You can see Vader himself lurking about in the background of this photo. Force chomping on a sweet and sour spider.Even Dark Lords Of The Sith have a sweet tooth it seems.

Abslom Daak

Picked this issue of Doctor Who Eleven Issue Eleven. The one with a variant cover drawn by Steve Dillon. Of his own character and creation Abslom Daak. A small but poignant reminder of the great loss of Steve Dillon. That wonderful artist, that wonderful man. It is not that long ago that Si Spurrier reintroduced the feared Dalek killer to the Doctor Who multiverse continuity and it all seemed so well timed with Steve enjoying a new burst of creativity and a welcoming and growing  respect for an artist who never let his fans down.
And a man who never let his friends down.

Gift From The Gods.

                                                               (From my sketch book.)
With a Prometheus sequel in the works and bits and bobs popping up on line, a production sketch here, a set photo there, a bonkers rumour everywhere, I went looking for my idea for a new direction involving the David androids in one of my old sketch books. In my version the android becomes a Ryan Android, a Ryan Kwanten android. for if you are seeking perfection in form and an almost Michealangelo level of beauty then surely look no further than the sexiest Australian on the planet.
            Imagine him in his space speedos wrestling a big Promethean engineers in a loin cloth...
            I know I am.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

What A Bear Really Does In The Woods.

                          Tense stuff. This is the closest Dr Seuss came to Jason Bourne adventures.

BJ And The Bear.

Milo learns of a time when the idea of a trucker monkey was not some remote daydream but a career option. I think there were a couple of seasons of BJ And The Bear way back in the day. I do not have any of the episodes on video tape or on DVD so whatever Milo is going to learn about the show is going to have to come from this old Christmas annual. I always think of those books as Christmas annuals by World Distributors or Grand Dreams. Used to love seeing the shelves in Harry Halls Bookshop fill up with them.
             Now that really was a season to be jolly.

Tony Captain.

Anthony Captain and the Genesis album Wind And Wuthering are inseprable in my mind and somehow they became conjoined when I attempted to sketch him. I Miss Anthony a lot. His sense of humour and appreciation for the absurd and fey nature of life with its many random cruelties and great joys. Music was a huge part of his coping process and he shared so much of it with me.
               For instance Paralysed by The Lone Stardust Cowboy..
               It almost finished us both off. Listen to it sometime. But be careful.
               Its a killing tune.

Coming At Ya Like A Timelord.

Was really touched emotionally by this 3RD Doctor third issue cover. A lovely photo cover of the lovely Jon Pertwee. Oh I so wanted to travel with this incarnation of The Doctor.With his old school charm and dashing ways and that protective billowing red cape, he would never let you down but he would always expect you to be at your best and pull your weight. His cape billowed, his shirts billowed and even his hair billowed.
             What A Doctor!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

When Milo Met Michael Myers.

Milo travelled back in time to rescue young Michael Myers from his fate as a terrible Samhain possessed baby sitter killer. He is going to show the fledgling nightmare figure it is possible to be a good guy by living a good life. Not that Milo has a lot of empathy for mankind. He believes we are all a bit mad.That the fact we are self aware in a universe that has no need for such a state of being has driven us as a race collectively insane.
             Think he needs to chill a bit.

You Will Obey Me.

                                                                  (From my sketchbook.)

The Doll Named Silvio.

Discovered this darkly glittering wee gem of a ghost story in a battered copy of The Times Anthology Of Ghost Stories.A book first put together in 1975 and which was the result of a competition put together by the newspaper to collect thirteen stories for under this very banner. A competition which had as its judges Kingsley Amis, Patricia Highsmith and Christopher Lee.(Oh well, no pressure there, then.)The first prize of this competition went to Michael kernan and it merits such a distinction. I do not really like the idea of these types of competitions as the art form is so subjective. I have also discovered the results generally do not age well but in this instance the competition appears to have produced a very respectable crop.
             The Doll Named Silvio would have stood out even if I had not known the results of the competition before starting reading it.Sure, it is the stuff of Henry James and even MR James;a governess
This is Fad gadget.Back in the day He performed a song called Saturday Night Special which I really liked."Every man should have the right to own a gun, Every man Should have the right to shoot someone." Very haunting song.

Its That Time Of Year.

Oh you do not half know what time of year it is when you see the Good Doctor on the cover of The Radio Times. One can almost hear sleigh bells tinkling in the distance. Or is that The Sisterhood Of Karn ringing their devitional bells signalling the burning of a heretic.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Unbearable Rightness of Being a Bear.

                                                               (From my sketch book.)

The Massacre Of Mankind.

Stephen Baxter once wrote a well received sequel to H G Well's The Time Machine. I think it might have been his first published work. Wow, no pressure there. Now he has just gone and done the same thing for the seminal and Genre affirming War Of The Worlds. A book written over a century which has never been out of print and one which has inspired a host of adaptions, movies, television shows , comic books and even a musical. H g wells was a profoundly influential creator whose written work has been much beloved by generations.(The most recent and enjoyable variation on that theme being Wilds End by Abnett and Culbard. A fantastique anthropomorphic take that is genuinely exciting and authentic to the period and tone of the original novel.It was one of those comics that seems to come along every now and again that has me agog between issues. Is it out yet?Is it out yet?)  The book comes from an era where the intellectual is revered and heroism and belief in the basic decency of mankind is the default position. Although he was never blind to the atrocity mankind is capable and the gruesome burden of moral ambiguity in times of war. When the necessity of virtue is never more imperative. It is not so much nature but mankind who abhorrs a vacuum.  We fill it with beasts, Sometmes alien ones because that gets us off the hook.
           Mind you this is actually about an invasion from Mars.That being said their presence on Earth changes history as we know it. Certain conflicts which shaped our familiar world, or the world as our learned history leads us to believe in, have either taken directions or forged events differently.. Its a different world because of what the invasion spelt for the destiny of mankind so we are in speculative history, pure science fiction territory. Stephen Baxter navigates these unknown waters with the aplomb of a born Shackleton.( You know I almost wrote Schalken there. Now that would have been an entirely different context.) It is a tense novel with old school discovery and heroics. It uses characters from the original book in interesting and quite believable ways.Even that text itself becomes an artifact of the possible real.
               A great book.

Milo And The Planet Of The Men.

                                                             This is Milo. Milo Popodopolis.
I met Milo at a book group. He was doing a talk on the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs and cultural appropriation and even how he read Swift as satire and Pierre Boulle for shits and giggles. I tried to affect an air of cool disinterest ( Intellectuals always make me feel unsure of myself so this is my default defensiveness.)  but I actually found it fascinating. He does not claim to be an expert on all things simian and insisted it was more by chance than design he was talking about monkey books.Modesty on his part, I suspect. He is currently working on a book about a monkey astronaut who crash lands on a planet where mankind has evolved to be the dominant species.
             He is going to call it Planet Of The Men.
             It is probably going to turn out to be no where near as racey as the title suggests.

Celtic Super Moon.

I have a theory that it was the proximity of the Moon to Earth at the weekend that contributed to Conor Mc gregor's victory in the ring. Oh yes, the lunar energy of the Celtic Goddess flowed through her favourite son. For that man is a Celtic Warrior reborn. He has the spirit of an otherworldly being and there is no arguing about the sheer "lunartic" energy he seems to channel.He reminds me of the Native American trickster god imp or a Viking deity enjoying a horn of honey mead.
            Next time the Super Moon comes close to Earth (Around 2034 or so.) do not be surprised if you look up into the night sky and you see this face looking back at you.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Scarlet Traces.

If the fancy takes you why not pop over to The Gerry Anderson News Site and have a look at a piece I wrote for it based on my enthusiasm and admiration for The Captain Scarlet closing credits.Captain Scarlet : The Closing Credits  Great site, lots of cool information about a well spring of joy. Cheers.

Second Best?

Fifty years ago today a miracle took place. One of those alchemical moments that are only possible in the isoteric when anything seems possible and the impossible becomes plausible. Or to put it another way some one had a great idea that allowed a television and cultural icon to perform the greatest Deus ex Machina in television history. They did not call it a regeneration then. The character was not sagging under the weight of canon at that point.
             These were the days when "Who" meant Who?
              How did he do it? There was no template for what Patrick Troughton was about to try. To not just replace a lead character but to become that character. It was unprecedented at this point in television history and it was probably only really believed by even the most generous that the BBC were only extending the life of a much loved show by perhaps another season. Yet here we are...I remember hearing John Lydon say in the Julian Temple movie that when it comes to performing he never knows where it is going to come from. that he has to dig deep and pull something out of the bag. Well Patrick Troughton did that in spades.
                So much is owed to Patrick Troughton.I will be quietly thanking him today.
                And missing him.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Well Read Bear.

What is that I am is reading? Why its Gentle Ben by Walt Morey. Anyone remember the television series from the late sixties? Ben's friend Mark was played by Clint Howard the brother of Ron Howard. What a talented family. The world seemed filled by friendly animals back then. There was Skippy, Flipper, Clarence the cross eyed lion, Champion the Wonder Horse and Ben the rat to name but a few. I had one called Handy Andy. He was a friendly octopus I made up stories about. Good stories too. In them he met other sea faring characters like Marine Boy, Captain Nemo, Aquaman and Desert Island Dick.
              Boy, I was a lonely child.

Jacks Back.

Ash seems to everywhere these days (not the kind from radioactive dust clouds mind you.) Still laugh at that prank from April Fool's day this year when it was announced that the first American Doctor Who had been cast played by himself.(Bruce Campbell.) with a great and groovy poster to go with it.
                Oh how the anglophiles shuddered.
                "A child of the lost colonies playing a British icon,Heavens above!"
                Looking forward to reading this.Great cover by Kelley Jones.
                What will be next?Freddy Kruger meets Edward Scissorhands?
                That might actually work what with both their unusual hand extensions...

The Haunted Bookshelf 2016.

Just a handful of the books I was lucky to have with me on my journey into the October Country.
                                                                    Some great covers,eh?

Oh Mandy You Came And You Gave Without Taking.

They told me that Mandy was Just For Girls but I read it anyway.That is how I roll.No body tells me what to do. I am an anarchist. A risk taker and a rule breaker. A big foot with a big sock.
              And I just have to find out if Sally will ever get her memory back and escape from the clutches of evil Mrs Crabstick and her crooked orphanage in Who Is Sad Sally?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Age Of Brass.

                                                              (From my Sketchbook.)
                                              This is what robots looked like in the seventies.

Bernice Summerfield's New Adventures.

One of the biggest genre surprises for me of the last year was the Return Of Sutekh. Bernice Summerfield Boxed Set from Big Finish. Surprising in the sense of just how good it was.Bernice may not be a character who is faniliar to all bu I first met her way back in the days the Doctor only existed on paper(When it came to new adventures.That is where he literally turned up; in The New Adventures) It is amazing to think after ten years of New Who and so many different events and whatever that for a very long time many of us believed The Good Doctor would never return to our screens.He did however have a surprisingly engaging existence in the world of Virgin,so to speak.It really did feel as though that lovely old blue box was still spinning through a vortex far,far away.  Having adventures and picking up strays along the way. Benny being one of the most memorable and fondly remembered.Big Finish know a good thing when they see one so they have brought her along through novel adaptations and a long running series of her own books and audio adventures.I still remember looking forward to the boo kin which she got married.This was way before the Ponds and their rebooted universe wedding reception.Now there was an episode in which the title The Doctor Dances would have made a lot more sense to me.
             Lisa Bowerman is the actress who has brought Benny to life for the listener.Just check out the short video trailer for the Sutekh stories to see in a minute or two the levels of reality she brings to this fantastic character.She is in very impressive company in this quartet. It is only David Warner, David Bloody Warner himself, playing a version of The Doctor from another universe. An else world universe as D.C.Comics was so fond of calling them.The lovely Mark Gatis is also involved playing..Well, you will hear.
              The first story is a set up story which it does without any fuss or preamble. Barely an introduction but it is enough when your choice of transport is a time an space machine.You do not need more than this as your brain as a Doctor Who fan is already hard wired as to how to get on board.It is a great start, a mysterious library in deep space where pilgrims have traveled across vast distances to avail of its contents, shelves filled with the accumulated history and wisdom of hundreds of worlds some now long gone. This Doctors universe is that sort of universe. On its last legs after som terrible conflict.The two leads are fantastic with David Warner bringing a huge amount of gravitas and dry charm to the Doctor of this universe whilst Lisa Bowerman more than holds her own. She deserves to have her ame atop these adventures.The friendship between the two is very believable and not at all some contrived topsy turvy lop sided relationship as the two bravely face dangers together. The support cast is also spot on, nuns with guns and gloomy robots included. While sme one else new and yet familiar awaits his moment to step into the light.
                The second story continues as the two friends travel through space("but not time") to a world where..actually the situation on Planet X needs o heard and experienced as part of the narrative. I was reminded of the Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons Doctor  Who Weekly comic strip Planet Of The Damned. I am also reminded of when I loved Tom Baker as The Doctor and David Warner brings much of the same lived in charm as Tom managed. Only two stories in and I am waxing lyrically about this Tardis Team.
                By the third story we hear David Warner put the Who back into Who as he strides through The Very Dark Thing as though he is the only person who understands what is going on.
                Well we, the listener, knew it was coming.A showdown between the characters dramatically displayed on the cover of this box set. Poor Benny. As if she does not have enough on her plate she also finds herself the center of attention from someone she really would be better off avoiding. Lost in a different universe, kidnapped by a best friend she has never met, seperated from friends and family and dependent on the vagaries and good will of a brilliant but flawed time-lord.
                The whole proceedings have a very different tone to the box set before it, no Doctor or Ace. But it is a fantastic direction to take.Like the Tardis's travels through E-Space anything seems possible in a universe where things seem to be running down.
                 I for one will be running to keep up.

The Winds of Vulkan.

One of the production sketches from the animated Power Of The Daleks due out this November. It is just great. Capturing in a single piece of artwork one of the most fantastic situations which makes Doctor Who so great. You just never knew where that wonderful old blue box was going to end up next. From a fog shrouded alley in Victorian London to a snow capped Himilayan mountainside to an unfamiliar alien landscape like something from a dream. Or a nightmare.
              Oh please let this be waiting under  my  Christmas tree this year.
              I have done my best to be good this year and will strive to continue in that vein until Christmas morning.
              Mind you, all bets are off later that same day.

The Midnight Folk.

Felt like a change of pace and theme after HP Lovecraft, at least for one book.Found a lovely old paperback edition of John Masefield's The Midnight Folk.It is a story about a boy on a treasure quest in a huge rambling house in the country.It has talking, and scheming, animals in it as well as witches and mer-folk.So naturally it feels very much like real life to me.There are no chapters in it, it just rips along at a worldly pace and one never quite knows what is going to emerge from the woods.Which is a realistic quality in itself.I find life rarely unfolds in chapters.
              In real life none of the chapter headings would make any sense.
              Through ut the story the main character Kay drifts in and out of dreams. It feels like a real story from very long ago. The kind of dreamy summers that seemed so familiar so long back i the day. I know time passes at no greater a speed as we grow older but our perception o time and its passage does change. Masefield captures on paper so well that perception. Without belabouring it or painting it in the melancholy tones I just did.
              John Masefield was the Poet Laureate right up to his death in 1967.
              He never got to see Patrick Troughton appear in the telly adaption of The Box Of Delights.
              Unless there are televisions in the afterlife.That is not too much of a stretch is it?Heaven could quite probably look like Olympus in the old Harryhausen movie Jason And The Argonauts.Only with televisions.Wall mounted and flat screened.Or maybe retro-bakelite boxes. That would look cool.Might take the sting out of not being alive.
              Mind you it might not.
              Anyway this was a lovely read and well worth 3/6.

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward.

Finished this novella by HP Lovecraft in the early hours of last night.It provoked some disturbing dreams. Before I read the book I had a notion that Dexter Ward was some sort of insane warlock who meddled in Necromancy or the Black Arts.He was actually a very likeable gregarious young man who just dug too deep and released Balrogs of the soul.It is chilling stuff. a slow burning unease builds as we are fed details and information that lead us all around the more esoteric areas of Providence. The isolated farm houses and huge mansions of fading gentility. Mad dogs howl in the night as ghouls prowl the local cemeteries digging for things best left to their eternal rest.Ward is corrupted by the thins he learns and unwittingly becomes the target for schemes set in motion long before he was even born.The evil in this book is ancient and patient and it does not play by any rules other than its own.
               I was reminded of one of my favorite MR James story A View From A Hill as an innocent young man falls victim to a device build by evil hands and a mind he could barely fathom.A lot of MR James stories involve antiquarians or bookish individuals who probe too deeply into areas where devilish entities wait. Never benign always twisted and cruel and merciless. I like the old world feeling of so many of his stories and the new worldliness HP Lovecraft brings to similar material. The view from America so to speak.True, the entities which inhabit his tales are older than time itself, birthed in deep time but a some of his narrators are our colonial cousins adapting to a world which changes but never fully steps from the shadow of the past.Something which is pointed out out as a failing on Lovecraf'ts part. Yet I suspect it is one of the things which help his work live on so long after his passing.
             I only mention it as a recommendation for winter reading.The time is just right.
             The dark deep time.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Comics Belfast.

                I was delighted to be part of a collab with Mark Mc Keown in "Debaser" as printed on an earlier posting. A spooky wee tale set in town regarding the confusion engendered by multi media platforms and the question not enough people ask themselves these days ; do you own your communication device or does it own you?
               Mark  has included it in this lovely collection of his work, his comics, the imagery he toys with and the world as he sees it. The book itself is a lovely object with the feel of a found artifact attempting "to put this moment here." There are some lovely photographs taken around and off locations well known to those who like to browse in the soft outre.It is a kindly and timely reflection of some themes, places and people who enrich my own life.It is almost like a familiar piece of music.
                Hope the locations found in it can still be found years from now.
                It is a new publication from Mark but it did touch me in a melancholy way.The past is the now waiting to happen and sometimes I wish I could slow down the things I enjoy and speed through the things I do not. I suppose that is why we have such things as art, writing and music.To help us keep track and make some sense of it all. And that is why I think Mark is such a creative person.
                He can do it.

The Trick Mister Potter Is Not Minding That It Hurts.

Back in the day having a smoothie straw blown in my face by Peter O Toole. Hardly the stuff of celebrity Biography I know but it was Peter O Toole. Cool fellow to boot. He signed a copy of My Favourite Year for me. A story that was surely close to his heart and a great coming of age story. I still have his boarding pass for his flight out of Belfast. Which is a kind of stalker thing to say I suppose...but it was Peter O Toole.
                For any age.

My Starry Wisdom.

                                          ..Actually this is more HP Sauce than HP Lovecraft...

Willy Wonka.

                                                              (from my sketch book.)
                                              What if Marty Feldman had played Willy Wonka?

Sunday, 2 October 2016


The wind howled about the house and rain splattered against the panes of my rooftop bedroom window as I lay in the early hours of last night gripped by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's tale of erotic compulsion and sly vampirism: a beautiful killer insinuates herself in the home of her victim and steals life from the innocent. It might well be an old tale but it feels fresh and right for this time of year. I have been immersed of late in Le Fanu's work and world. Until I read Carmilla I found no sense of eroticism in his writing but it is here in Austian doses. Which is to say it is not full on, more a  mannered terror to be sure, but one that will translate well in the telling because it is so perfectly formed.
              At some point in the night I heard the tap tapping of wind bare branches against the rain slick window pane of my room. It was only as I finished the novella and turned over for sleep I realised the branches of the tree outside my house were nowhere near tapping distance.

The Return.

After reading the Sheridan Le Fanu collection I had a look around on line to see if I could find if any of his work had been turned into films or telly shows and in the search I found this wee gem written by Le Fanu contemporary Ambrose Bierce and A,M.Burrage. A short movie made in 1973 that serves as a fantastic atmospheric mood piece that also delives a knock out tale of supernatural longing and heart breaking loss. Basically a two-hander with riveting performances from the always interesting Peter Vaughan and a deceptively mousy turn by Rosalie Crutchley, the atmosphere of remote and lonely longing builds to a haunting denouement.
                A late evening viewer arrives at a house that has sat empty for twenty long years and is shown around by the sitting house keeper. A tale of murder and madness unfolds.
                It also has a very haunting sound track by Marc Wilkinson. A fragile presence itself it makes itself felt at certain points in the narrative, sign posting oncoming tragedy.
                It seems like this an obscure and quite forgot about piece that deserves to be seen.
                An absolute treat foe forthcoming Halloween.

Sheridan Le Fanu.

Jim at Atomic Collectables gave me a copy of this collection of stories by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu thinking I might enjoy it as it had been edited by MR James.
              And how on the money he was. My da used to tell me ghost stories when i was a boy. Long rambling stories told in front of the fire. This is not a cliche to me it is a memory. Story telling is an art form and ghost story telling is an especially crafty one. Sheridan Le Fanu was a great teller of tales and his stories work so well on paper it is almost as if you have joined him on a chair before a crackling hearth on a windy wintery night. A few of the stories are collected versions of yarns told in a similar manner through out the Irish countryside. Mysterious figures that draw ever closer with no good intent. Stories that begin with an aged person relating the experiences of their youth. Fateful and terrifying experiences that change the course of the tellers life. There are encounters with chilling half real entities with talon like fingers that close around a bodies throat or come staggering judder man like out of dark places. There is very little whimsy present in these stories. They do not shy from the hardness of life particularly lives lived without love. Old Ireland could be a tough place to be weak and vulnerable I suppose it still is. Depending on the kindness is a lottery and there are way too many losers.
               I thought of the band from Dublin The Virgin Prunes and their macabre sound. I thought of old empty buildings where something stirred the dust and cold breath from undead lungs. Some of these stories should just be read out loud. To an empty room if need be.