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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Here’s a great little trailer for Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’s new book, Instructions, made all the better by Neil’s voice over.

I’m re-reading The Sandman Companion by Hy Bender, which, for me, now ranks up there in my ‘invaluable insight into creator’s minds” library as The Onion’s Tenacity of the Cockroach, Stephen King’s On Writing, and Pressfield’s The War of Art. If you’re a Sandman or Neil Gaiman fan, I cannot suggest it enough. Bender’s summation of each story arc, his critical insights, and concise conversations with Gaiman himself give great insight into both creator and creation itself, especially if you believe (as I do) that Sandman was one of the great works of the 20th Century.

Been meaning to mention Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book for quite some time as well. Absolutely worth checking out. Between that and Coraline, bloke had quite a year. The man’s a force of literature.

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Just finished reading The Truth by Terry Pratchett, another of his Discworld series. I feel completely embarrassed to discover that he’s been one of the most popular novelists in the UK (probably only barring J.K. Rowling, really) for decades.

It’s a bit how I felt when I didn’t really get the Stones until my twenties. Oh, sure, I liked the Stones, but I didn’t really get them. Then one day I was listening to Miss You on one of those wretched cross-country road-trips where you can only get bullshit classic rock, and it hit me like a ton of, well, stones: “Oh, you —-ing idiot, there’s a reason this band is considered one of (if not) the greatest ever. Because they are. I mean, that bassline alone…!”

Sometimes wisdom takes its sweet-ass time while you’re embarrassing yourself.

The point is, Terry Pratchett can write like very few people can. The fantasy version of Douglas Adams (although Pratchett is actually a few years older than Adams would have been- they were contemporaries) but with more a humanist beauty to his writing- even his evil-doers have a sympathy and forgiving humorous tick to them. And even though many of his endings tie their knots just so, it never feels contrived, forced or trite. It feels as it should be.

That’s quite the slight of hand. And he’s so very English. Which is why he was knighted, I suppose.

In the past couple of years, I’ve read The Truth, Guards! Guards!, Going Postal, Soul Music, and Making Money. Only 33 more to go!

Terry also was diagnosed with Alzheimers in  2007. Anyone wishing to make a donation in his name can do so at Match it for Pratchett.org.

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Checked out a comic/collection of Tori Amos illustrated songs from the library, and the front cover was this beautiful little illo:

cbt_01Pretty nice. Stuntkid, aka Jason Levesque has some pretty great stuff on his site here. (Some is NSFW, so just a warning.) A bit steampunk, a bit photo-realist, a bit surreal. Really nice stuff with an organic, Illustrator feel ‘n’ depth.

He just released a 82-page book of his prints. He’s got his own skateboards, too!

Great work, Sir Kid of Stunt.

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russ01I was trying out my new Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen the other night (Righteous, BTW), and drew and inked a study of Russ Nicholson’s fantastic front illustration to the original Fiend Folio (seen here, pencil marks and all). You know, the one with the great black and white illustrations, rather than the full color, super-hero-y bullshit that TSR started putting out after the First Editions.

Man, I’m old school about my monster drawings. I loved Russ Nicholson- he was part Gahan Wilson, part Gerald Scarfe, part Shel Silverstein. His creatures always had a comic menace to them, as if they would crack wise whilst slitting your throat. His ink work is so organic, and although there’s so much mark-making, it never feels busy to me.

I also loved Dave Trampier, Erol Otus, Jeff Dee, Jim Roslof (at times), and Bill Willingham (also at times). Trampier’s Wormy was amazing, and Otus’ stuff was weird to me as a kid, but I find it stuck with me in an odd way. I’d love to see a collection of this stuff, besides the horrible scans from old, dying websites.

So Russ, if you’re out there, you should really put up an official website. I’d love to see either an online collection of your work, or a book (which I’d most definitely buy). And Erol, you’re website has been promising to come into view “in the near future” for far too long. Come ON, man!

(If anyone has any leads where I can find any of these collections, I’d appreciate it.)

UPDATE: By the way, I do commissions. If anyone wants me to either draw and ink them an illustration, let me know. We’ll work out the price.

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Death_and__The_Sandman_by_UMINGA

Wired has a nice little article about what’s unfilmable in Hollywood- which books or comics cannot be done correctly? The Neil Gaiman quote slaps you right on the face:

“It’s not film-shaped,” Gaiman said. “I went out to Hollywood with beautiful artwork and toys and did a presentation…. I got to the end, very proud of myself for encapsulating 2,000 pages of comics into a giant visual pitch, and what I got was, ‘Does The Sandman have a clearly defined bad guy?’ I said, ‘No it doesn’t,’ and they said, ‘Thanks for coming!’”

Trust me, I’m going through this slog in meetings right now. There’s a reason all films feel vaguely the same: they’re designed that way. It’s actually a miracle that both Stardust and Coraline got even past the pitch stage.

[Fan-art illustration of Death and the Sandman by UMINGA. Art here]

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I understand the precious argument out there about “leaving some books alone.” I used to feel that a book is tainted by a bad theatrical production. (I don’t exactly sit with Moore in thinking they are totally irrelevant, either.)

The thing is, lately, the movies have been doing a pretty good job. The Harry Potter movies are great. I think the choice of a “visionless hack” like Chris Columbus was in retrospect a really smart choice for the first one, because his slavish  accuracy created a setting for the other more creative (Cuaron) directors to play with. The Narnia books were a little soppy, but certainly no more so than the books themselves. The screen realization of the first movie was a fucking dream. I was literally trembling for more than half of the movie, and the scenes of the kids walking through the forest in their fur coats so perfectly captured the Pauline Baines illos that I very nearly shit myself. I’ll grant you that if you are a fan of His Dark Materials, you got fairly well dicked over by Hollywood.

Okay, so Where the Wild Things Are is going to be a movie. I hear you bitching. Yes, it’s all of our private treasure. But here’s the thing: Sendak chose Jonze. So that just about settles for me. One more time: Sendak. Chose. Jonze. It almost rhymes with stfu.

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