Tuesday, September 27, 2016


(this is a post I wrote a few weeks back but only just found again)

I just read Roddy Doyle 's brilliant. It's set in Dublin and is a story about how the kids of Dublin defeat the Black Dog of Depression who is ruining the adults’ lives.

It's so literal. Kids are the only ones who can defeat the dog because they are the future. They laugh at almost anything and when they say the word ‘brilliant’ they take away the dog's power.

I didn't enjoy it, it's just too on-the-nose. I think of another book that made everyday words into metaphors - Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. His treatment of London tube stations is fairly literal, but it's clever, and nestles inside a clever book and the metaphors aren't the whole story.  Brilliant is described as a magical, moving, marvellous story. I find it too obvious to be moving.  It doesn’t feel magical, not if you have an imagination. It's simplistic, depression can’t be staved off and defeated by being cheerful and laughing.  Metaphor doesn’t work unless you follow it through, you can’t do halfway houses. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Legally Blonde, Teen Titans Go, Rebirth

Legally Blonde is a great film.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it and on a recent re-watch I worked out why.  It's all about female friendship and solidarity.  Elle is a rich sorority chick who appears shallow and mostly interested in getting married to her love, Warner.  Usually in films rich, blonde, popular, shallow, marriage chasing women are bitches.  Not so Elle.  She is friends with everyone in her sorority house (is that the right term?) and she expects other women to be friends too.

When she starts at Harvard and a lecturer asks Vivian for her opinion on Elle's behaviour, Elle is genuinely shocked that Viv goes against her.  When Elle needs a pick me up and goes to a nail salon she takes genuine interest in the beautician's life and becomes friends with her - in films rich women don't usually make friends with poor women, but this friendship is genuine.

All the successes of the film are down to women trusting each other and supporting each other.  The woman the legal team is defending used to be in Elle's sorority and so she  only trusts Elle.  They wouldn't have won the case without Elle.  Viv eventually dumps Warren, stops being a bitch to elle and they become friends.

It's nice to see a film that celebrates female solidarity, girliness (pink, fashion, bubbliness) and seriousness and achievement.  It's great.  If I ever get the inclination I will watch it again and do a full analysis of it.  That would be fun.

On a more comics note, I saw my first episode of Teen Titans Go! this morning - it was the one where Raven and rose make friends and Starfire, Cybor and Garth go to Cool School.  It was witty and the characters were in character.  I very much enjoyed it.  Almost as much as I've been enjoying the Rebirth books I've been reading.  It's been a good couple of weeks for my entertainment. :)

Friday, May 27, 2016

A new outlet

I started an art blog.  It's on instagram and my username is sarangapie if you want to go have a look.  I'd link it but instagram is bloody odd and I don't think you can view posts unless you have an account, and I don't think you can upload photos without using the app (so you can't upload from a laptop or pc, for example).

Don't get too excited about what is on there.  I can't draw. I'm not being modest, I have no artistic talent. My stuff  is nowhere in the realms of good.  But. I liked drawing in art classes in school (I think I stopped classes at 13).  I hadn't really drawn since - a few moon and goddess doodles, the odd flower, but when I sat down and tried to draw I got really frustrated that I couldn't get what was in my head down on the paper, so I haven't ever bothered.  Then this weekend I realised that didn't matter to me anymore.  The point is to draw, it is in the act of drawing itself.  It doesn't matter if it's trash and no one knows what it is.

And you know what, I'm actually quite proud of what I've done.  I feel accomplished. I drew a daffodil and it resembles a daffodil.  I even drew a mini comic and I think it kind of makes sense.

What caused this change in mindset?  It was the talk I went to last Saturday about trauma and women's comics.  Nicola Streeten referred to her art as bad art, then put it in inverted commas and said she thought it was good art.  It got me thinking that everyone has a different notion of what good art is.  I am used to, and I like, the American superhero art styles (as varied as superhero art is, it usually has a recogniseable style).

Streeten set up Laydeez do Comics.  I came away from the talk wanting that for Norwich, but aware that I don't have the time or energy, or skills, or network, to do this.  But I am pretty desperate to do something creative.  I have spent approx ten months looking after my little boy and have only had the energy to take things in - telly usually.  It's a very passive way to spend your free time.  I have a yearning to do something proactively.  I know I need to get back to New readers... but I feel constrained by the formalities of that site, and anyway, I don't have the time or energy to read comics, scan in pages and then create a decent review, so that's on hiatus for the moment.

I read about how the Birmingham LDC was set up and how the founder was inspired by London LDC to do her own comics.  I thought, I can draw.  If she can, I can.  I haven't checked out her work by the way, I don't know if I'd like it or not.  And I remembered that people say the best way to get better at drawing, is to draw.

So I drew.  I'm not sure if I want to get better, that isn't the point of this exercise.  The point is to give me a creative outlet, and writing isn't really doing that for me at the moment.  Although this post is going pretty well, maybe I just need more inspiring subjects....

Anyway. I draw now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cap'n A: Civil War (spoilers)

I saw this last night. I didn't think much of it. It was OK, but I felt like it was an excuse to get lots of costumes fighting each other in cool ways, rather being focused on plot.Having said that, the plot did make sense and was fairly tight, even with such a lot going on.  Perhaps I'm just getting movie event fatigue.

The introduction of Peter Parker was good (and I'm so thankful we didn't get another Spidey origin story). Antman's giant scene was great.  The actor playing Black Panther was good, and had a lovely accent but I didn't like his suit. The Dora Milaje) was perfect.

Perhaps I was also too tired for a cinema showing. The theatre was really hot and I'd had a bad night's sleep and my eyes ached.

I didn't think it deserved the title civil war. The fights were pretty well contained and for Civil War I expect most of America to be trashed.  I did like the plot about the fake Dr guy trying to destroy the Avengers by wrecking their relationships. That felt fresh. One of my problems with watching superhero films is I am watching them as a comics fan, assessing against source material and delighting that these guys are on screen.But after so many Marvel films that delight is gone because I;ve seen them so many times. Now I just need a good film. Ant-man was. Civil war was merely OK.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Wonder Woman Earth One

This was a disappointment.  I was curious how Grant Morrison would write her and excited about Yanique Paquette drawing.  Unfortuantely the end result is terrible.

It would be kind to say it is a riff on the golden age.  It is golden age Wondy ideas packaged into a cold, heartless, sneery mess.  It’s a really cynical origin story and Wonder Woman should not be cynical.  I can’t think that Morrison is a fan.  I think he views her as an interesting character, but he has no connection to her.  I don’t think you should write or draw characters you don’t feel a connection with.

The story itself is boring.  Dull.  It flows badly and there’s nothing to keep you interested, no suspense, even thought there are things which should be suspenseful in there.
The art is lacklustre.  The character poses are a bit too much on the sexy side for my taste, and there’s little of the detail and originality and joie de vivre that I’ve seen Paquette do elsewhere.  The colours are nice enough but the inking is one dimensional.  The Amazons look like pin ups, but not very exciting pin ups.

There is so much good Wondy stuff out there.  Bombshells, Legend of Wonder Woman, Sensation Comics and Ame Comi Girls are so much better than this. So much better.  Bombshells would do really well with a non traditional comics audience, it could capitalise on the retro love that is still going around.  And it’s a good story.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Not a misery memoir

On Saturday I went to a talk by graphic novelists Nicola Streetsen and Una as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, literature weekend.  The title of the talk was 'Not a misery Memoir - gender, identity and overcomign trauma'.  Streeten has written and drawn Billy, me and You, a novel about her grief journey (sorry, I hate that phrase) after the death of her 2 year old.  You can see why I was interested in the talk. Una wrote and drew Becoming/Unbecoming, about growing up 70s Yorkshire when the Yorkshire Ripper was around.

I was expecting a talk about horrible, miserable stuff but that wasn't it at all!  Streeten started, and touched upon a few things in her book, the panels about marking people's reaction to her news, the funeral director's problem accepting they didn't want a religious service, stuff like that.  Una talked about feminism and how women's bodies are policed and judged.  But, most of the talk was about how art can show metaphor in a different (better?) way than words can.  About how we read the comics page and about how readers connect comics in a different way than they do to prose, so comics can be more beneficial than prose when processing traumatic things.  They talked about why they chose to do their story as a comic.  They talked about their art styles.  I think Streeten said her rough and ready scratchy style suits the depiction of grief, because grief is rough and ready.  Or maybe that's something I came up with.  There was some brief stuff about the technical process of comics too.  And, I keep forgetting this, they talked about these sorts of books being cathartic for readers, not the writers.  This is very true, I think.

Una comes from a fine art background and her stuff is beautiful.  I had not heard of her before, and now I think I'll be checking out Becoming/Unbecoming.  There's a lot of empty space in the art which I find quite emotional and nerve wracking, but that maybe because of where I'm at in my head (who knew 2 years later I wouldn't be back to normal and that grief taints every part of my day and mind).

They also talked about Laydeez do Comics of which Streeten is a co founder.

Of the audience, I was one of three women in their 20s/30s.  The rest were in their 50s/60s/70s and were there for the literature weekend.  It was very surprising to me but it felt lovely.  To be in a comics environment dominated by well to do professionals, no costumes, by hyperbole, no fuss, and to be surrounded by older people who didn't know anything about comics and were treating the medium and the other attendees seriously - I loved it.  The atmosphere was friendly and informal and I loved seeing Streeten and Una as older woman, and friends, doing comics professionally and chatting easily.

The day was being sketched by the founder (?) and definitely editor of Graphic Medicine, Ian Williams.  This is a tweet of one of his sketches:
His work was lovely!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Jurassic Park vs Jurassic World

It’s a good talk.  It examines the subtext in J Park and shows us where the subtext is and how it builds to form another narrative alongside the surface text of dinosaurs on the loose.  The subtext is that of family, by the way.

Most Hollywood blockbusters  have a family theme to them, what is an action story without romance of kids in peril after all, but not many do so with as much detail and love as J Park does, I think.  I’ll admit, I didn’t recognise the subtext until it was pointed out to me in this video, but now I’ve seen it, it’s so obvious and def explains some of my warm feelings and impressions towards the film.

However, I think the comparison with J World could have been expanded upon.  I’d like to see a demonstration of why the presenter thinks J World is devoid of heart, and is just about Chris Pratt and dinosaurs.  I’d really like to see J World pulled apart like J Park was.

There is one clip in the presentation where the J Park T Rex scene where Rex comes out of the enclosure and threatens Dr Alan Grant and the kids is compared with the J World Indominus Rex against the raptors scene.  The J Park one is about humans and their fear when faced with the monster, and how they form family units.  It is filmed to focus on Grant and the kids, not on the Rex.  It’s contrasted with the J World scene to show that J World has little humanity and is just about big fast paced dino fights.

But these scenes aren’t comparable. There are scenes in J World which show humanity against a monster – the one in the Rex enclosure.  There are scenes in J Park which are cool dino fights.  The T Rex against the raptors near the end, for example.  J World doesn’t have a family bonding scene like J Park does, but it has a different subtext.  There are plenty of family themes in J World, but they are pretty explicit, and surface text.

The subtext in J World is self referential.  It’s a critique on how things need to be bigger, better, nastier, more fearsome, and how the joy is take out of them when that happens.  Well maybe it isn’t subtext as it’s pretty obvious, maybe it’s more metatextual.  Either way, J World isn’t meant to be warm and fuzzy.  It’s meant to be cold, because that’s the state of affairs of sequels, and a film industry where you throw money at CGI and you forget about characters and you let the spectacle overtake the important stuff.  J World is a critique of that state of affairs.  It’s more intelligent than the presenter gives it credit for.  I’d love to see his reasoning.