Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lateral thinking puzzles and cultural awareness/norms

A friend gave us this lateral thinking puzzle on Boxing Day.  I'd heard it before but it took me half an hour to remember the solution.  The next day we asked my boyfriend's mum and partner it, and we asked another friend.  Some people got it within 20 seconds, others couldn't get it.   The puzzle is this:

A man lives on the 20th floor of an apartment building. Every morning he goes to work, comes back in a limousine, and gets in the lift to his apartment.  Some days he gets off at the 12th floor and walks the remaining 8 flights.  Other times he gets off at the 20th floor and goes straight into his apartment.  Why does he sometimes get out at the 12th floor?

Scroll down for the answer.
He is a dwarf (or little person - a quick google search says little people may be the correct term, but I feel awfully patronising saying that, however I realise that's my issue and if anyone who this affects is reading this I'm sorry if I'm causing offence) so he is too short to reach the button for the 20th floor.  He can reach as far as the button for the 12th floor though, and if other people are in the lift they press the button for the 20th floor for him.

Before I start waffling on about cultural norms, the pedant in me would like to ask whether lift buttons are always in one long vertical line, or if they are in sets of three or four vertical rows?  Because, this whole lateral thinking puzzle only works if the lift buttons are in one or two long vertical rows.

Right, cultural stuff.  For people who didn't get the puzzle straight away they went through tons and tons of ideas about why the man would get off t the 12th floor, all based around things they'd do.  E.g.  He had a girlfriend or lover on the 12th floor. There is a restaurant there  He liked the exercise.  There is a launderette on the 12th floor.  The lift was broken.  The limousine had a ramp to the 12th floor (that was my idea, no, I don't know why I said that either).  People who didn't get it were very surprised when they heard the answer.  I knew that the numbers of the floors were key, but I thought it was more of a numerical answer, rather than a physical capability answer.

Which led me onto thinking, that if we were all more aware of different abilities and disabilities would we get the puzzle earlier?  The answers that people gave were within their life experience, based on what they'd do, they was a certain amount of putting yourself into someone else's shoes, but not into something too different.  When I was trying to solve it I was thinking of cold hard data.  Logic.  I guess that's me not understanding the puzzle - lateral thinking isn't the same as logic.  The bloke who got it immediately is also quite short - about 5 ft 3, perhaps that helped him think outside the box?

Then I think what is the box? It's just the cultural norms that we operate with.  The way in which we think of certain body types as the default.  Men for instance.  Able bodied people.  White people.  I guess I'm saying that this puzzle really illustrated that for me.  How much does this type of thinking impact on all the other decisions and viewpoints we hold in our life?

I googled the puzzle and found this page which also has these puzzles:

2. Acting on an anonymous phone call, the police raid a house to arrest a suspected murderer. They don't know what he looks like but they know his name is John and that he is inside the house. The police bust in on a carpenter, a lorry driver, a mechanic and a fireman all playing poker. Without hesitation or communication of any kind, they immediately arrest the fireman. How do they know they've got their man?

Answer - the carpenter, lorry driver and mechanic are all women.
(my question - were they all there dressed in their workclothes with their work equipment on show as well?)

6. A man and his son are in a car crash. The father is killed and the child is taken to hospital gravely injured. When he gets there, the surgeon says, 'I can't operate on this boy - for he is my son!!!' How can this possibly be?

Answer - the surgeon is the boy's mother.

I'm ashamed to say that I didn't get either of these before looking at the answers (I only gave myself about 5 seconds but let's be honest here).  That sexist programming is still in full force.

This post is yet another example of me having half formed thoughts and wanting to get them out on the page for no other reason than to clear my head!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Time to myself!!

Me and my boyfriend are at his mum's for Christmas.  It's good here, suitably different but with no pressure.  However we have done something or seen someone every day and it's felt a bit exhausting to me.  I also haven't been sleeping well - really tired during the day then when I go to bed I perk up and can't sleep. Bah.  But today no one else is around for a couple of hours so I am going to be a right proper introvert and spend the day blogging and thinking and listening to my youtube playlists and ignoring everyone.  Hurrah!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Princeless volume 3: Interview with the artists

Have you all read Princeless?  If you haven't I hope you've at least heard about it.  It's written by Jeremy Whitley and the official tumblr is here.  It's about Princess Adrienne who is locked in a tower and told to wait until a Prince comes to rescue her.  Stuff this, she thinks.  She rescues herself, befriends a dragon and decides to go rescue her sisters who are also stuck in towers (put there by their crappy yet loving parents because that is how things are done).  Adrienne befriends a female blacksmith who is quite exuberant about anything, battles demons protecting her sisters and in volume 3, rescues Raven, the Pirate Princess, who is also stuck in a tower.  Raven is also known as the Black Arrow.  Obviously, I like her a lot.

So I got an interview with the two UK artists who are doing volume 3.  Ted Brandt and Rosy Higgins.  We talk about lettering, inking (because I love hearing about that shiz) the art process, their influences and how they got the gig.

Read on!

What parts of the art do each of you do?
Ted: It's a completely collaborative work, honestly. We have pretty complementary strengths, so it works out pretty cleanly, at least most of the time.  In theory, I do the layouts, Rosy pencils, I ink, Rosy colours and I letter, but it doesn't always quite work out that neatly. 

Rosy: Ted pretty much summed it up really. It's a lot of juggling about, there's a lot of suggestions to each other about things that could be improved or need fixing. We keep each other on our toes. 

Ted: We are doing all the art for volume 3; it's all been handed in and approved, so all that's left is to solicit and get it into stores!

Rosy:  We really hope the fans enjoy it. There will be 4 issues and I think issue 1 comes out January 28. 

So, after a few years I've just got the joke in the action lab logo..... Can you describe to me, or link me to, your favourite visual pun?  Or draw me one....
Ted: I can't find a link to it now, proving my Google-fu is weak, but I always loved that Alex Ross line-up of the Justice League, with the whole “picture with flash”/”picture without flash” that saw the latter both dimmer, and missing Barry Allen.

Rosy: I'm quite fond of this one.

How did you get the Princeless gig?
Ted: We got the gig mostly by luck, honestly; I was following Jeremy's tumblr, when I saw him say that the third volume was going to be delayed as the scheduled artist was having difficulties. Since we both wanted to get into comics, I suggested we ought to get in touch and offer our services!

Rosy: We sent an email saying how much we'd love to be a part of Princeless and asked if we could get some sample scripts to show off what we could do. Jeremy liked our stuff and our approach and we got the job!

How much guidance did you get from Jeremy for panel lay out, new character's design, mood of the comic etc?
Ted:  The great thing, and the challenge, of Jeremy's scripts is that they're very open to interpretation. It means that as far as the layouts go, it’s an open playground, which is as terrifying as it is freeing! The mood of the work was fairly evident from the scripts; it comes organically through the characters and their exploits.

Rosy: As for the character design stuff, for the main characters we're given a name, a race and a brief physical description which is again very open to interpretation really. For the less significant characters we can go wherever we want, unless there’s anything specific that Jeremy had in mind and even then it’s usually only suggestion. Jeremy is very trusting of us for that kind of stuff.

How long did it take you to do this issue of Princeless?  How many redrafts did you go through?
Ted: The first issue took…a little longer than we would have liked. It was our first professional issue, our first time collaborating together, and our longest comic to date. There was a steep learning curve!

Rosy: A very steep learning curve, yes! I'd never done anything on this scale before and it took a little while to get into the swing of things. It’s quite a test of stamina!

Can you explain the job of the inker to someone who doesn't know anything about comics?
Ted: I've never inked anyone else outside of my collaboration with Rosy, so I can't speak for the job as far as others go. For us, it's about clarifying, really: as the penciller, Rosy creates all the expressions, body language, and all the other details that breathe life into the comic and the characters. It’s my job as the inker to create a purer, condensed version of her lines so that they're neat and consistent, without taking away the spark that she gives them.

Rosy: Ted also corrects any mistakes I make, most frequently he makes hands look like hands rather than some kind of weird root vegetable.

I really appreciate the art of lettering but I don't know much about the technicalities of it.  Can you explain how you decide on a font and placement of the letters, and how you make the lettering work?  Do you draw the panel first then fit the lettering on or do you work out where the speech bubbles go and then draw the panel around it?
Ted: Lettering is a grossly underappreciated art in comics. I didn’t even realise how underappreciated it was until I started lettering this book and realised how many critical choices letterers make. For the fonts I use, they are mostly made by the excellent Comicraft font foundry - there simply aren’t any better out there.

The lucky thing about this book is that I do the layouts as well as the letters: it allows me to take into account how much speech is needed in the panels before I design each page, which means I can shape the panel sizing as well as the layout to make sure that our art balances with Jeremy’s dialogue, neither treading on the other’s toes. That said, I'm still pretty new to this, so it’s definitely a case of learning as I go!

Is comic-ing your day job? If not, how do you fit the comicing in with the day job?
Ted: It is! This volume has been our first outing into the world of full-time comics work. It's always scary leaving the regular world of work behind, but I'm pretty sure we'll have more fun this way.

Rosy: We're really lucky to be in a position where we were able to take this job on.  I feel very privileged to have this opportunity.

Any advice for Brits wanting to break into comics? Do you feel like you've broken into comics?
Ted: I'll probably feel more like I've broken in once our first collected volume is out in print. Once we have our first book in our hands, it’ll all feel more real!
As for advice: chance favours the prepared mind. If an opportunity does arise, you need to not only see it but be ready. That said, take those chances! Fail upward!

Rosy: The chance to work on Princeless came completely out of the blue so I'd advise anyone wanting to get into comics to always keep an eye out for opportunities and don't be afraid to make a grab for them when they turn up.

What comics would you recommend to new readers and to long term readers?
Editor's note: Links are to the Comixology or Amazon storefronts but don't forget you can get the issues in your local comic shop too!

Ted: Lucky you asked! There are a lot of great books out there right now. Superhero-wise, I'd recommend Marvel’s Captain Marvel (editor's note - I reviewed the first volume of Captain Marvel here), Ms Marvel and Thor; from DC, the revamped Batgirl and Gotham Academy are both flawless. All of the above are pretty all-ages friendly, fun, and wicked-smart; perhaps most importantly, they're all new enough to be new reader-friendly.

I’ve tried to pick ones that worked for new or longer readers - they all are new enough that there's not a lot of catching up on the specific stories currently being told, while (in the case of the superhero books, at least) still having plenty of characters and references that longer readers will appreciate.

Independent book-wise, I was bowled over by the first issue of ODY-C, loved Gail Simone’s Red Sonja, and am waiting very impatiently for Kelly Sue DeConnick’s new Image book (Bitch Planet).

ODY-C might be more suitable to longer readers simply because of the way the pages are constructed - they're as much design pieces as comics pages in a lot of ways, so I can certainly see that being intimidating for people who are new to the medium in general. Content-wise, however, it's a new book, so accessible to all.  Bitch Planet and Red Sonja are both suitable for new readers, though may be less suitable for younger ones.

I'm not reading much that's mired much in continuity generally; while I can easily get it, I generally find that stuff that's accessible to new readers is more entertaining. 

While I'm not reading anything really non-accessible continuity-wise right now, older series are a gold mine for that kind of stuff. Final Crisis is definitely fantastic (editor's note - for non comicers I explain Final Crisis here). That said, DC's Multiversity is definitely steeped in continuity - not just in terms of DC, but in terms of Morrison's work there: it stands as the final piece of a story he started back when he first took the reins on Batman, and including Final Crisis, his run on Action Comics, and more. 

As to the other part of your question, looking for comics recommendations for books that are less accessible to new readers in terms of being new to the medium, well, that's harder. Jason Shiga's Meanwhile is a great example - it's a fantastic comics version of a make-your-own adventure with an alarming number of stories to be told. David Mazzucchelli's AsteriosPolyp is similarly challenging in its storytelling, but is possibly the most intelligent book I've ever read. Semiotically speaking, Asterios Polyp is active on every level, with each line and colour imbued with meaning that may not be obvious on immediate inspection. 

Rosy: For someone who wants to work in comics I’m actually really, REALLY bad at reading them.  To be honest I'm not even really that big a reader.  Unlike Ted I don’t like to get individual issues because I'd end up losing one of them and then wouldn't be able to follow the story, so I prefer to get the trade paperbacks. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to pick up any in a while so I'm really behind
on the books I do enjoy. My favourites being Image’s Chew and Invincible and Daniel Way’s runon Deadpool. Actually pretty much any run on Deadpool…I wouldn’t recommend you read those with your kids, though.

I guess I'd recommend anything Stuart Immonen has worked on, because even if you don't completely get everything that's going on you'll still have spectacular visuals to look at.
(Editor's note - I review two Stuart Immonen books here).

Oh, and absolutely everyone should read Princeless, obviously.

Question to Rosy: May I ask how you find drawing comics/storytelling when you don't read that much of them?
Rosy: The truth is that Ted is the one who sorts out where everything is going on the page, blocking out not just the panels but the general positions of the characters and how everything flows together. My job is to flesh out his ideas. It's sort like he's the director to my actors. 

My background is that I learned to draw through watching cartoons. I initially wanted to be an animator; I found out I lacked the patience and stamina for animation during my first year at university. I did, however, really enjoy doing storyboarding and animatics and thought comics could be an avenue to go down. I ended up transferring to another course at another university specifically for graphic novels, which was where Ted and I met. 

Now, to find out more about Princeless and these guys' work, follow these links:
Ted's tumblr:
Action Lab website:
Release date for Princeless vol 3 issue 1: January 28th 2015
View all Princeless available issues here (and go buy them!):

Thanks to Rosy and Ted for their time!

This interview also appears on my New readers... start here! blog - - which normally contains comic reviews for new readers.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Feminist comics for teenagers

I mean male and female teens.
I was trying to think of DC new 52 comics for the feminist teen in your llife and I couldn't think of any
Marvel has the lady x-men, ms marvel, cap'n marvel and did have fearless defenders.
I couldn't think of any from dc's new 52. Sensation Comics would work though.

I guess by comics for feminist teens I mean stories with badass women saving the day, alongside men is fine, women that are bright and talk back, that stand up for what they believe in. That are heroes every bit as much as men are.  Team books would be fine. A male led book would work so long as there were decent women in it as well.

I've got my second issue of the new batgirl creative team to read - w/o the transphobia that could work. And i also have Gotham academy to read. JLU might be OK, I guess.
But they used to have flash (wally west years), Connor and Palmiottis Power Girl and the Gates/Igle Supergirl run.

I guess I'm just lamenting the narrow range of stories they tell now. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Manic Street Preachers The Holy Bible 20th anniversary gig

On Tuesday I went to go see the Manics perform, in it's entirety, for the first time, their most accomplished album, The Holy Bible.

I've been a fan for 20 years.  Some of these songs have never been played before.  This is the one thing I've been looking forward to since my son died.

They were good.   They played very well.  I was too short to see much of them on stage but I'm always too short to see much of them on stage.  They noodled a lot.  They are different musicians to their 20 years younger selves and so they played the music differently.  It was good.  I got emotional, of course I did, it's a Manics gig, I've had a pretty shit 6 and a half months and I'm a cliche.  But!  For a few seconds, for a little while, I forgot my troubles.  I felt OK enjoying the gig. I felt OK being out.  I didn't feel guilty.  This was the first time since June that I have been in such a big crowded environment and it didn't freak me out.  That's good.  I also started signing to 4st 7lbs and This is Yesterday.  I haven't really voluntarily and unconsciously signed since June.

They did 2 sets. The first was the Holy Bible in full.  Then there was a 10 minute break and then they did a mix of hits, songs from Futurology and rarely played.  And a little bit of Last Christmas of course.

I wore a leopard print skirt and a DC Roller Derby girls vest:
No one commented on my vest.  There's a distressing low number of comic fans out there.  Or maybe there were lots and they all thought I was a fake geek girl (ha!).

I didn't come out of the gig feeling elated and buzzing.  Of course I didn't, I imagine it will be a long time before I feel elated and buzzing again. But, I am glad I went.  I'm grateful for the chance to be there and I'm grateful for how I could forget my troubles for just a short while.

I recommend you go listen to the Holy Bible now.  There are various playlists on youtube, this is one of them:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wonder Woman Wednesday

I'm just going to provide a link here, to an amazing group of Wondy cosplayers doing Nubia, Artemis, Kingdom Come Di, Donna Troy and Cheetah.

Go visit this page:

You won't regret it!

Here's a picture of Nubia if you aren't sure who she is:
That's from Final Crisis 7.

Monday, December 08, 2014

A little trip to Lille

I went to Lille with work a few weeks ago and I took photos.

Lille is a strange little city. It's grey and concrete and a little bit grotty, but nonetheless has a certain charm to it that makes me rather quite like it.  I didn't get to see much of it because I was there at a work conference.  We stayed int he world's shittest hotel - it smelt of smoke, it was noisy, the temperature control was just bizzare and the sliding door to the bathroom broke so I had to really struggle with pushing it open and closed.  The shower was a tray with a curtain and at the end of each shower the floor was sodden with pools of water.  When I arrived I found this delightful towel on the bed:

It doesn't make up for the shitty hotel.  We went out to a cafe for the breakfast each morning - croissants and coffee - which was alright.  The second morning I got some street harassment - it was 7.30 am and a bloke in his 20s/30s starts walking beside me and asking me questions.  Fuck off.  I thought he was going to follow us into the cafe at one point, but thankfully he didn't.

The conference had some good stuff:

Mmmm delicious French pastries.
Artisan lemonade.  They also had pink and yellow stuff.  It was tasty.

Being so close to Belgium there was good beer:

And food baked in beer:
This was the sweetest stewed beef I had ever tasted.

We also briefly visited the Christmas market before we left:

It sold tat.  Made up gifts that only exist to fill the consumerist clamouring in our capitalist souls.  I didn't buy anything.

There was this ferris wheel.  If you look closely you can see that the cars are painte dliek Christmas puddings:

I read Raising Steam while I was there.  This page reminded me that the romantic relationships I want in fiction are those where the couple has been together several years and are comfortable with each other and still deeply in love, but also have lives outside of the relationship:

In summary, if you can visit Lille, do it.  Also read Raising Steam.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Crafty stuff

A month or so back I wrote about how I wanted to start making things.  I could link to the post but i can't be arsed.  Anyway, I made things.

First of all, I made reusable wrapping paper out of cotton fabric and a ribbon.  Et voila:

It's an elephant print fabric with a cow print ribbon.  Because I like mixing up animals.  Or more likely because I'm shit at finding matching things.  It's a rectangular shape.  I'm quite aware that the wrapping paper clashes horribly with the duvet cover.  I don't care, I couldn't be arsed to find somewhere else to photograph it.

Here's a close up of it:

Neat huh?  I had a friend help me do it.  It was pretty simple.  It involved folding over the edges twice (twice! who'da thunk it!), pinning them, ironing them them using the sewing machine to hem it.

Example of my hemming.  I can't work out how to rotate the picture.

There was a fancy technique to do the corners so they didn't end up really large and bumpy.  This technique involved cutting triangles out of part of the corners but I can't remember what it's called or exactly what we did.

The corners where the sewing machine was going over the folded fabric from the side of the folded bit worked fine.  The other corners where you run the sewing machine over the edge of the folded fabric didn't work so well as it bunched up, which you can sort of see here:
 Sewing the ribbon was also pretty easy.

It's quite a large piece of fabric so will wrap many things.  If you wrap a small thing you can use hairbands to tie the ends of the fabric into a cracker shape, which was an unexpected bonus.
I want to make a shirt out of this fabric but I am told that shirts are really difficult because of boobs and shoulders and backs and waists.  Bummer.

I also made a double sided apron for my niece:

This involved lots of measuring and cutting out of material and wooden spoons to turn tubes of straps inside out.  And lots of ironing.
We opted for velcro for the neck strap and the waist bands so she can have fun and control over taking it on and off.

I had to hand stitch some off the velcro for the waistband on and I am terrible at handstitching because I have no patience.  See:

Eek.  On the plus side, my niece is 2 and a half so she won't care about the quality of stitching.

And that is me getting crafty.  In the new year my friend is going to teach me how to make a skirt.  I want to make a Captain Marvel one.  Blue with a yellow star and some red stripes on.  I want a gathered skirt a bit like this but maybe rounder.  No idea how easy that is to make though.  I shall wait for advice from my friend.  Or just do whatever pattern my friend comes up with.  We are both in agreement that A line skirts suit nobody.  My friend is a great teacher and I'm really grateful for her help (thank you Christina!) because I would have had no idea how to even make an apron (turns out they are really simple) without her guidance.  And now I feel (sort of) comfortable with my sewing machine.

I still want a Captain Marvel dress, a bit like this one but with sleeves.  Maybe in a year or so when I am more skilled.  Or maybe I should buy a base blue dress and customise it myself.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

December can do one

Being in town with all the Christmas stuff and the shoppers is so stifling.  It puts me on edge and sets my mind working overtime and it's horrible.  I feel like I'm quelling the start of a panic attack.  I can't think, I can't browse for shopping, I can't do anything that's not pre-planned.  Even the pre-planned stuff is difficult.

I finally put something on facebook requesting no christmas cards or presents and asking that instead people to Sands, which is a stillbirth and neonatal death charity providing support to bereaved families and has been a lifeline to me.holi

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Comics of the last week in November

Spoilers ahead for this lot:
Supergirl 36
It's the new creative arc and lo and behold I actually enjoyed it. This is a good writing team. Art was OK - the first panel was a boobs and butt pose which isn't great, obvs, but the rest was OK. Kara gets full armour and it looks better than the unitard.
The comic opens with Kara working in a coffee shop, frustrated with earth tech (till machines) and a bearded Clark turns up and lectures her. I liked Kara in these scenes. She felt real.

Then she gets whisked to space and introduction d to the crucible academy. This wasn't bad. Nice to see Maxima there. I hope we get to see her back on earth though.

Aquaman 36.
I dip in and out of this title. I bought this one for for the Lego cover (also got the Lego Supergirl cover). It's a strong issue. Good plotting, good writing and good art. I like Mera's catsuit.

Batgirl 35
This is the new creative team.  It's really, really good.  I will be putting this on my pull list.  Black Canary is in it (winner).  The art is kinda reminiscent of the art from Archie/Betty/Veronica type stories.  C'est triple good.

Batman/Superman 16
I got really edgy and grumpy while reading this.  It's a tense story with really touching moments.

Multiversity 3 (4)?
These are all numbered 1 on the cover, it's confusing.  (woe is me, ect ect).  This issue had watchmen, Midnighter and marvel references.  I preferred the previous issue, it made more sense.  Then again, this is Morrison and he's not interested in writing linear easy to understand stories.  I'm sure that as a whole it will all come together.

Sensation Comics 4
Ugh, just check out the boobs and butt pose on the cover it is horrible.  It would be nice if she wasn't twisted so much.  It looks like it's aping Adam Hughes, but for all his faults he doesn't usually create spine twisters.
Inside the comic is much better.  Gilbert Hernandez's Wondy, Supergirl and Mary Marvel art make for a very enjoyable alternative story.  I'm not sure I have a view on the plot or characterisation - it;s maybe rather stilted, but perhaps that's the point - but the art makes it worth reading.
The 50ft Wondy story is quite nice, with a bit of cheeky gender bending at the end.  The final story also has good art and fat Etta - always worthwhile.

Harley Quinn 12
Good fun. Harley has a red and black Peej outfit on.  I bet we'll start seeing that at cons soon.  Peej has named Harls her sidekick and they fight a giant pizza slice then visit Manos, bearer of the infinity rings.

Jonah Hex new 52 volume 2
I'm halfway through this and it's OK so far.  I'm not a big fan of Westerns hence why it's only OK.  I would quite like to read the issues when Jonah gets plumped forward to the present day.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Wonder Woman Wednesday

Another one that I can't find a source for.
I like it because Diana is skinny, and because she looks a bit Asian.  I like the simple style of the costume and I like the look in her eyes.  Like she's sizing you up to see if you are worth anything.