Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Argument by Grant Hart

I've written about Grant Hart before on this blog.  I regard him as a great lost talent, a wayward genius, who should have been rich and famous but life got in the way.  Husker Du were a great band and Hart wrote many of their best songs.

The Argument is a concept album based on William S Burroughs unpublished treatment of Milton's Paradise Lost.  The music is as creative and insane as that sounds. The album is about satan and his war with God set to music that mixes alternative rock with songs reminiscent of the comedy tracks on Beatles albums. It's mad but fun.

I've listened to this CD a few times now and I'm liking it.  As I've written before, I think Hart has been unlucky in life and I don't think he's a rich man. Buy this CD or pay for a download. It's worth hearing.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Glasgow comic convention 2013

It was a warm weekend for the Glasgow comic convention now in a new venue at the CCA on sauchiehall street. The venue was an improvement on last year with more space and nicer surroundings.

I really enjoyed most of the weekend apart from Simon Bisley who I have to say is one of the most disappointing individuals I have ever had the misfortune to meet. I don't think I'll ever buy anything with his name on it again. By the time I met him late on the Saturday afternoon he had reached a confrontational stage of maudlin drunkeness and he was being abusive to everyone he encountered. Many people were saying that he is a total arsehole although I couldn't possible comment.

Anyway, enough toxic ranting. On to good stuff, and there was a lot of good stuff The first thing I did was stand in line to meet John Wagner (the man who came up with the name Judge Dredd) and Carlos Ezquerra (the man who designed Judge Dredd). I was lucky enough to get a sketch of Dredd and their autographs on a copy of 2000ad number 2 (the first Dredd comic strip).

Wagner and Ezquerra were very, very nice and indulgent. True gentlemen.

After that I met John Higgins, an all round great artist and famously the colourist on Watchmen. He's a great artist and a bought a small book illustration from him. He also drew a quick Judge Dredd sketch for me.

I then had a look at some of the local Glasweigan indie comics. I picked up the new comic by Jim Devlin, an up and coming writer/artist who won the awards for best writer and best artist. I also bought the new books by John Lees and Neil Slorance, all of which are very nice and well worth investigating.

Finally I sat in on a panel of artists including Alan Davis, Cam Kennedy and Yishan Li talking about working as comic artists. They all had rather different career paths and interesting tales to tell. Kennedy, a native Glasweigan has some great chat and was given free reign to talk for nearly an hour about his long and varied career on the Sumday. In the panel we heard about the differences in the industry in the UK, America, Europe and Asia. I am not familiar with the work of Yishan Li but I am told that she is a successful manga artist. The art that I saw her produce looks good anyway.

On Sunday my main objective was to meet Alan Davis, my favourite comic book artist. I had to wait in line for about 90 minutes to meet him but it was worth it. He's a really modest, normal, down to earth bloke who still lives in Corby. I spent some time in Kettering and Corby about 10 or 11 years back and I think he was interested to hear that I knew the place. It is always nice to be treated well by a childhood hero and he drew me a great sketch of Captain Britain.

I had lunch with one of the guys from the book group I attend after getting my sketches. I bought a couple of books and some old comics and then I spent most of the rest of the afternoon listening to talks.

I did make one interesting comic book discovery (well, a discovery for me anyway). I met Glasweigan comic book artist Lorna Miller and picked up some of her Witch comics, published about a decade ago by Slave Labour Comix. I had never heard of her but she has collaborated with Peter Bagge. She has a style similar to Bagge with a geography that I can relate to personally. One strip is based in a carry out shop on Great Western Road. I need to get more of her work and I hope she continues to publish.

To close the Sunday I sat and listened to a series of talks. I have already mentioned the quality chat of Cam Kennedy and his solo session was very interesting. He had trained in commercial art in Glasgow doing early work on Commando comics for DC Thompson before heading off round Europe. You often hear criticism of DC Thompson but Kennedy told us the other side of the story detailing the various perks of working for the Dundee publishers. Cam has a healthy indifference to his career and sounds like he enjoyed himself without becoming big headed. He worked hard in his time and produced some great stuff. His tales of interactions with American publishers and Lucasfilm were brilliant and I would gladly have listened to him for a day. Sadly problems with his eyes mean that he can no longer work but he certainly can talk.

After that there was a panel chaired by John McShane discussing the differences between working in the American industry and the UK industry. Alan Grant, Mike Ploog and Alan Davis have all been successful internationally and raised some interesting points. Grant made enough money from writing Batman in the late '80s to buy a house that his friends call Wayne Manor. Davis continues to do high selling books for Marvel comics. A common theme was issues with editors. A good editor can make a job great whilst a bad editor can make your life hell. Ploog has a great story about why he never worked for DC after unintentionally insulting a famous editor.

The weekend ended with Alan Davis discussing his career. As I have already mentioned he is a modest man who feels lucky to have had a career as a comic artist. He no longer reads modern comics as he has become disillusioned with the violence that is often present in stories. He chooses not to write because he feels that his stories would not sell. This is a shame because he has written some good stuff over the years. Davis stands as an example of professionalism and decent blokeness. Most of the people I met over the weekend were the same, with one sadly obvious exception.

To end on a good note though here's a picture by Mike Ploog:-

Monday, July 01, 2013

Paul Bright's confessions of a justified sinner at the Glasgow Tramway

On Saturday I was on Facebook and I noticed that a play based on James Hoggs' Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner was on at the Tramway theatre, two ,minutes walk away from my flat.  It was the last night of the run.  I had to see it.

The play wasn't a straight adaption.  The main points of the story were covered but this was about more. This was about a heroic failed attempt to stage the play by a crazy Scots playwright called Paul Bright who has since died and had long before vanished from the Scottish theatre scene.  It was also a one man show by George Anton, a friend of Brights who had worked with him on the failed production.

So far, so mental.

The show also involved an exhibition of the Paul Bright archive of the materials from the original shows.  There was also an extensive presentation of film material from the original production.  My tiny mind was pleased by lots of swearing and references to Sonic Youth and the Mary Chain.

Justified Sinner has often been thought of as an untranslatable work.  It is an important novel and is an early example of an unreliable narrator.  This play/stage show captures the spirit of the book in a modern and brilliant manner.  It's not on any more but hopefully it will be presented again or maybe even adapted into a television show. I'd love to see it again.