John C. Kirk (johnckirk) wrote,
John C. Kirk


I've just been browsing the Apple website, looking at a few trailers:

X3 - Billy mentioned this a while back, but I've only just got round to watching it; it looks good, although it's one that I'd be seeing anyway, so the trailer hasn't really influenced my decision.

Superman Returns - Similarly, it's a pretty safe bet that I'll go to see this, even though the trailer doesn't say much about the film. I think it's a nice touch that they're using the music from the 1980s films (which I really must get round to re-watching now that I've got the DVDs), and the voice-over sounds pretty familiar too (different voice, very similar words). My only concern is that the lead actor looks a bit young, but hopefully he'll do a good job.

Hoodwinked - I hadn't heard of this film before, but it looks pretty good (in the style of "Shrek", "Fables", and "Into the woods"). The only catch is that IMDB have very limited info for it; more specifically, they don't have a release date announced for the UK yet (although it's supposed to be out in the USA round about now). Ah well, hopefully I'll get to see it in due course. And that reminds me, I ought to rent "Ella Enchanted" (another Anne Hathaway film) sometime, since I missed that in the cinema, and it doesn't seem to be turning up on Sky yet.

V for Vendetta - I've read the comic, and I've had some doubts about whether the film can do it justice, but it looks promising. I've heard that Natalie Portman is a far better actress than you might think (from watching the Star Wars films), so I'll be interested to see how she gets on. Also, one thing that struck me in the comic is that it's damn creepy to have V running around with a mask that covers his entire face and never changes expression. There aren't many characters who have full-face masks (as opposed to Batman-style) - Spider-Man is the only other successful one, and artists normally cheat by getting the eyes to change shape. Anyway, I'd guess that this will be even more effective on film. (As a side note for those who don't know, this film was originally going to be released on 5th November last year, i.e. the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes, but it was then delayed until March, presumably for political reasons.)

Digressing slightly, I've got the comic as a TPB ("trade paperback" - not a "graphic novel", despite the way that some people misuse the terminology), and it's quite heavy reading. That's partly because of the subject matter, but it's also because of the format. (I think I've written about this before, but not necessarily here.) I grew up reading British anthology comics like "The Eagle"; they'd be published weekly, with 28 pages, and then you'd get nine stories that were 2-3 pages long each (there were a few pages reserved for readers' letters and suchlike). By contrast, a standard American comic (such as "The Amazing Spider-Man") is published monthly, with 22 pages of story. It's commonplace for the first page to be a "splash page", i.e. one picture taking up the entire page, typically with the hero doing something dramatic. "Nightwing" took this a step further (at least during Chuck Dixon's time as writer), and pages 2-3 would almost always be a double-page splash. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading it, but it's also quite a light read. It did strike me that if they'd done that in "Eagle", people would have been up in arms ("sorry, that's your lot, come back next week for more"). When you only have a couple of pages, you need to make the most of the space, and "V for Vendetta" is entirely done in 9 panel grids - this makes it very dense, i.e. it takes a lot longer to read the same number of pages.

I basically only read American comics nowadays, since I've never really got into "2000 AD", and that's pretty much the only British comic left. (The "Dan Dare" relaunch is a bit too expensive for me, at something like 8 quid an issue.) But I grew up reading the British ones, and I still have a lot of affection for them. I've recently been getting the "Charley's War" hardback reprints (volumes 1 and 2 are out so far), which have taken the interesting approach of having photo covers and BBC2 documentary-style quotes on the back.

Just as the limited space meant that the creative team had to use it effectively, the fact that the strips were normally printed in black and white meant that the artwork also needed to be better, i.e. you couldn't rely on hair colour to tell people apart, so characters actually had different faces! One particular example that's stuck in my mind was from "Computer Warrior" (a story about a boy who went "into" his computer, to play games in real life). Normally, he'd finish each game, then disappear at the end to go back home. However, there was one occasion when he finished a sea-based game (I don't recall the name offhand), and was rather annoyed about the fact that his friends had been put in danger (since he'd previously been given a guarantee of their safety). So, he basically said "I'm not going anywhere until you send one of them home", and that was where the story ended for the week, in a stand-off. (I'm not really doing the story justice with this brief summary, but never mind.) Anyway, the point is that the artwork was amazingly effective - it really felt as if I was standing on the deck of the ship, hearing the silence all around (the calm after the storm). A bit like the quote from "The Neverending Story" about safe books vs dangerous books, for those who've seen that film.

When I have more time, I'll do a proper write up of this for my website, with scans to illustrate the points I'm making.
Tags: comics, films

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