Category: London (Page 1 of 12)

REVIEW: Dawn of Super-Heroes Exhibition at the O2, London

Well, the book is finished and the submission process underway, so I have time to blog – so thought instead of making apologetic noises without posts actual substance, I’d share a pseudo-review (with photos). Is that okay? Yes? I’ll take your silence as the sound of nodding.

As I may have mentioned, I live in London, and I read comics regularly, so I was intrigued when I saw this poster on the tube recently:

A bit of internet searching dug up that it’s an exhibition which has previously been shown in France (where comics are treated like any other medium), and stated that as well as original art pages from lots of comics, they’d be exhibiting costumes from most of the DC Comics-based films and TV shows, so yep, I was into that.

(Sudden realisation: ‘DC Comics’ is one of those redundant phrases like ‘PIN Number’ or ‘TSB Bank’, but I don’t see myself changing the way I say it in any kind of hurry. Anyway…)

So I booked and went along the other day, and (TL;DR summary) I thoroughly enjoyed it. Good array of items from DC’s history on page and screen, and as they don’t mind you taking photos (in fact, staff seemed keen to let me know about it), here are some pictures – not necessarily in order – and my sillysod comments…

Unsurprisingly, it starts with Superman (who’s 80 this year, though with all the reboots and reimagining, he looks pretty good on it, I think we can agree). Quite a few original art pages from Action Comics both old and recent, but then I spotted this:

Yep, that’s Christopher Reeve’s costume from the first Superman film. And yes, it’s tall, but he was tall, and he also gave one of the most enduring performances of the character (I mean, look at the videos of his transformations on this page – that’s acting). Terrific actor, and great to see his costume up close.

Speaking of up close, I certainly leaned in to look at these original art pages from Superman Annual 11:

The art’s by Dave Gibbons, from a script by Alan Moore, and … well, they’re two creators who have had an immense impact on the comics field (and beyond) – probably because they’re both immensely talented.

The middle of the exhibition is about Batman, one of my favourite comic characters, and spans pretty much all the filmed appearances – here’s one of Frank Gorshin’s Riddler outfits from the 1960s Batman TV show:

A selection of costumes from the Keaton/Burton films:

And then from the Kilmer/Clooney/Schumacher films:

And on to the Bale/Nolan films – both costumes…

…and prop vehicles:

There’s more comic art, including painted pages from Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s brilliantly brain-bending Arkham Asylum:

And pages from Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (a series which certainly helped make the Batman films from the 1980s onwards possible).

There are also props and costumes from a lot of the more recent films – the Snyder-era films, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman.

Have to admit that I haven’t seen the Jenkins/Godot WW film yet, but I hear good things about it, and I’m favourably inclined towards it (just haven’t got round to it yet, it’s as simple as that), and it’s interesting to see the differences between the costume from the fondly-remembered Lynda Carter TV show –

and the more battle-oriented costume as worn by Gal Godot:

Granted, there are differences in the materials etc available, but even back in the 70s they were able to make chain mail and other armour stuff for films, so I tend to imagine it reflected 1970s thinking that the emphasis was on a ‘softer’ ambassador role for Diana, rather than the more warrior-based version I gather we see in the recent film. Both are equally valid readings of aspects of the character, to my mind, and show how (as with any long-running character, really) successive generations take what most resonates to the perceived audience at any given time, and focus on that.

But I digress (as my long-time readers will recognise as a statement of policy more than an occasional observation); there’s a lot of interesting and nostalgia-provoking stuff to be seen at the exhibition, as well as a pretty good gift shop, so if you’re interested in DC superheroes on the page and/or screen, I heartily recommend a visit – this link gives more info. It runs until September, I believe.

If you do go along, why not leave a comment about what you thought of the exhibition (or just remind me of key elements I forgot to mention – I’m sure there are some)? Keen to hear other people’s opinions on it!

Bubbles In The Cold London Air

Spotted on the rather literally-named Hilly Fields Park in South London yesterday afternoon, this splendid chap  was making enormous swathes of bubbles for the delight of passing children (and adults):

Mystery bubble-maker, I salute you. Especially as you didn’t mind that the crowds of children were taking such fun in popping your handiwork.

Pedantry, Like Achievement, Is Often Its Own Reward

Spotted in the Reference section of WHSmith.

I think this might be an example of irony, but that’s a word which has had its meaning diluted to almost homeopathic levels by that Alanis Morrisette song and other misuses, so I hesitate to call it such.

That said, though…

Coming Soon To A Phone Near You…

I’m pleased to be able to tell you part of the reason why I’ve been so absent from blogging recently, and it’s legitimate and real and relates to actual writing and everything.

I’m one of the four writers on the daily smartphone drama Persona, which is coming from the lovely folks at App-Media in January 2011. There are three other folks contributing words (Phill, Ronnie, and Adam), and between us we’ve written the first ‘season’, which will cover the whole month of January.

It’s been genuinely interesting writing my ‘slice’ of the show (the various strands weave in and out of each other, and new episodes – or, rather Appisodes – will be released on a daily basis. As I understand it, you’ll be able to buy the app from the appropriate online place, and then you’ll automatically get the new show delivered to you. Sounds a lot like the Cracked Reader for the iPhone which I have, and am very happy with.

As you can see from this set of photos, a rehearsal was held on November 27, though I won’t say (or perhaps can’t say?) which cast members are involved in the storyline I wrote. But if you want to see the character breakdown, it’s here, and those of you who’ve followed the blog for a while will probably be able to guess which characters are ones I’ve come up with (clue: look for the usual verbosity)…

Shooting is taking place this week in London, and if you’d like to be an extra, I believe they’re still looking for people to do just that. You will, of course, get to feature in a pretty revolutionary bit of drama, but more than that you’ll get to meet the nice people involved (I can speak from actual ‘IRL’ encounters with them, they’re lovely), plus you’ll receive a credit and get food and travel expenses paid for. If you’re available this week in London and interested, the best ways to get in touch with them seem to be either Twitter or Facebook. Tell them I sent you.

Anyway, it’s been a genuinely interesting (and hopefully for all involved, productive) time writing the scripts for Season One (or ‘January’, as it’s more commonly known), and I’m looking forward to being involved with Season Two – and, of course, seeing how the cast play the lines I’ve written. One thing which it’s certainly reinforced in my mind is the fact that redrafting is vital for me, and as much as I might like to think it’s the case, the first thoughts out of my head onto the page are very rarely the best. Even the brightest jewel, I like to think, needs a bit of polishing to shine (ahem).

I’ll tell you more about how to view the show, and where to buy the app, and the like, as soon as I know more. And, of course, if you are an extra, do drop me a line and let me know how it goes, eh?

I Have No Mic, And I Must Speak

Back in the 1980s, my family went to stay with some relatives for New Year’s Eve. I don’t remember much of the festivities itself, but one thing I do remember – for reasons that will become clear – is that nearby, about five minutes walk away in fact, was a comic shop.

Now, I’d been reading comics for a while, but my ‘local’ shop in Sheffield wasn’t very local at all – it was a couple of bus rides away, and of course that kind of travel ate into the potential spending money (this was after Sheffield’s insanely cheap bus fares had been abolished – boo! A flat fare of 2p was a fab thing to a cash-starved kid), so I tended to walk there with my friend Simon. Which took about an hour there and an hour back, so you can see why a shorter walk was so appealing.

This comic shop – I don’t think it’s there any more – had a pretty decent selection of recent comics, and also, as was often the case back then, also sold a lot of paperbacks (mainly SF, fantasy and horror), which you could then sell back to them for half the price in credit. So, being a bookish child and having a bit of Christmas money, I bought myself a book and a comic: All The Sounds Of Fear by Harlan Ellison, and the Warrior Summer Special (both pictured). Small pressies to myself, as it were.

I think I can, without fear of exaggeration, state that it was the greatest couple of pounds I ever spent, and that the combined effect of the two did strange things to my brain for which I will always be grateful.

The Warrior comic featured some stories by Alan Moore, whose work I was already starting to look out for (from the cover-date of that comic, I guess I was something like 12, and was just learning that certain names recurred on the credits of things I liked), and other writers as well, all of which made it a pretty heady brew, and then when I started to read the Ellison, my noggin was permanently bent out of shape.

If you’ve never read anything by Harlan Ellison… well, obviously, I think you should, but there’s a fair chance you don’t recognise the name, especially in the UK; this is pretty odd really, given that he is one of the most-recognised writers ever, but he tends to fly under the radar for a lot of people. Still, have you seen that original Star Trek episode with Joan Collins in? He wrote the screenplay for that? Seen The Terminator? Yeah, he provided (ahem) ‘inspiration’ for that. What about Babylon 5? He consulted on that, and the new version of The Twilight Zone and heaps of other stuff – and that’s just his filmed work, his short stories are allegedly among the most reprinted in the English Language. So yes, I think you should read his stuff – it often has futurist backdrops, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s science fiction. Cos it isn’t.

Anyway, I read the collection of stories in All The Sounds Of Fear, and whatever else that new year brought, it certainly opened with me having a new and strange outlook on just what the written word, when combined with imagination, could do. It’s probably very much one of the reasons that I started writing – not because I sought to emulate his work, or anything so straightforward, but rather because it suggested there was a place in the world for writing down the more spiky and awkward of ideas, if you could do it. And that’s why I cite him as my favourite writer, when asked – it sounds wilfully obscure to most people, but I like to think it’s actually the truth.

Jump forward many years (past 1986, incidentally, when The Singing Detective made me realise just how unlimited the medium of TV could be), to last Friday night, on London’s Southbank; it was raining, and England were playing a World Cup match, and that’s why there was a limited turnout at the screening of Dreams With Sharp Teeth, a film about Harlan Ellison.

There were probably about 30 of us, plus screenwriter and friend of Harlan Ellison James Moran and the film’s director, Erik Nelson, but the limited numbers weren’t any kind of damper on the event – the film was funny and smart and showed HE in what looks like a fairly balanced light. Yes, there were scenes where he was a bit short-tempered, but there were others where he spoke about writing and literature with a passion, and when he read sections from his stories the talent was painfully evident. So yes, it was a good film.

Afterwards, Messrs Moran and Nelson asked the audience to come nearer the front, as they were going to do a link-up to LA, where they’d ask Harlan some questions. I moved down as requested, and indeed got a front-row seat, which I was pretty pleased about. They linked up okay, and asked him a few questions, and then they asked if anyone in the audience had any questions. There was a pause, and then I realised that my hand was up, and they were nodding towards me.

I’ll freely admit I was quite nervous about asking my question, not because I was speaking in front of a small crowd (as anyone who knows me will be aware, I’m a hopeless attention-seeker), but rather because this was probably likely to be my only actual interaction with Harlan Ellison, whose work I’ve enjoyed for over a quarter of a century. If there’s anyone whose work you admire, imagine how you’d feel in a similar situation. Yep, there you go, now you get it.

Anyway, with both the film and my own personal ‘history with HE’ (recounted above at length – and you probably just thought it was the usual self-indulgent rambling, but hopefully now it reveals itself as the vital backstory it was intended to be) in mind, I asked my question, which came out in a slightly gabbled and nervous way, and sounded something like this:

“We see you in the film speaking to college students, and a couple of people in the film say that your work should be taught in schools – what, do you think, would be the ideal age for people to first read your work? When would you most want to get hold of their fragile minds? Teenagers? Ten? Eight? One?”

As those of you who can read will probably note, this is actually a series of questions, mainly because I was gabbling to fill the gap caused by the satellite delay, and I didn’t actually have a microphone, so it was a bit uncertain to me whether Harlan could actually hear any of what I was saying. But he’d heard some of it, it seems, because he asked “Was that a question, or a diatribe?”

Erik then summarised the question, and Harlan answered it, giving a solid and considered answer – but then again, I probably would say that, as he seemed to suggest that the age of 14 or so was about right, thus making me ahead of my time as a child – and I was suitably pleased, on a number of levels.

And as the second – and only other – question was about the long-delayed third volume of Dangerous Visions, which is decades past its due date, and HE tends to get a bit fed up with being asked about (and showed as much on this occasion), I think that I probably did all right, all things considered.

Apologies for length here, but I was really rather chuffed about it, and wanted to record the event in what, I guess, is probably the closest thing I have to a diary. Given that I’ve met Alan Moore a couple of times, and that Dennis Potter has been dead for a number of years, I guess I’ve completed my interaction with the people whose work remoulded my thinking in the 1980s, which feels oddly satisfying.

One final point: if you want to see a terrific example of HE’s writing, read the short story I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream, from which the title of this post derives. The title’s remarkable enough, but the story itself… well, to say “it lingers in the mind” is several kinds of understatement.

Up Above The Streets And Houses

Despite the usual Bank Holiday weather, this morning Mrs Wife and I went for a brief helicopter flight along the Thames. Here, by way of proof, are pictures from mere hours ago…


The Excel Centre in East London. I think you can see the queues for the next series of The X-Factor at the right of the building (seriously – they’re holding auditions there this weekend).

The Tower of London, with Tower Bridge in the bottom right corner (with the skid of the helicopter)

The mother of Parliaments was the turn-around point for our trip, so it necessitated the mother of all steep turns. No, it wasn’t just me being all artsy with the framing of the shot, this is how it was.

And heading back out towards East London, and Soanes Towers, we see the Dome and Canary Wharf. Not everyone’s cup of tea architecturally, either of them, I know, but to me being this close to them says one thing: I’m almost home.

On which note, I shall get back to enjoying the Bank Holiday Sunshine, which is currently dripping down the windows. Hope you’re enjoying this Now With 50% Free weekend.

BBC Writing For Continuing Drama Q&A

So, the good folks at BBC Writersroom are holding another one of their Q&A sessions, this time about Continuing Drama, and they’ll also be talking about the BBC Writers Academy. Attending will be John Yorke, whose name you might recognise from the end of the credits for a lot of TV shows.

It’s at the Drill Hall in London (kind of equidistant between Warren Street and Tottenham Court Road tubes), on Thursday 4 March from 6:00pm. It’s free to get in, but you need to send an e-mail asking if they can add you to the guest list, otherwise one of their scary bouncers will throw you out.

I’ve made a vague plan to focus this year on non-visual media (by which idiotic turn of phrase I mean the novel and writing for radio), but this sounds like a good chance to grab an insight into an area which I’d certainly be interested to write for (I’m not ruling TV or films out forever, I just want to prevent myself being the jack-of-all-manuscripts and finisher of none), so I think I might give it a go.

Full details can be founded right here

And in case you think that the accompanying picture is inappropriate, I’d politely disagree; it refers to events in the Queen Vic on most evenings.

Spotted In East London…

… the Ghost of Christmas Fast Food, perhaps?

The idea of being in McDonald’s on Christmas Day is one I find strangely troubling, I have to say. And not because I’m a vegetarian.

[Insert Predictable Piscine Pun Title Here]

Now available to download for free, the final episode (of the current run, anyway) of comedian Richard Herring’s podcast series As It Occurs To Me.

In case you’re not familiar with it, or Mr Herring generally, it’s quite an interesting set up – or, if you prefer, ‘business model’ for a show. It’s recorded live in London before an audience who’ve paid the nominalish amount of £10, and then released, without editing, the next day to download for free.

Herring’s been on TV and radio sporadically over the years, but he’s kept working steadily in a variety of areas since his TV shows have failed to be recommissioned, and in the last couple of years he’s started doing podcasts for free – firstly with writer Andrew Collins and then the above-linked AIOTM (as he insists on calling it) – and he seems to be doing all right as a result; his stand-up tours sell well, and I think he was on Never Mind The Buzzcocks on BBC2 the other week. Which probably helps pay the bills, while he carries on doing a job he enjoys.

Anyway, whilst the final show – by Herring’s own admission – contains so many in-jokes as to be almost meaningless to a first-time listener, I’d recommend the series as a whole; it is, as I say, free, and whilst the unedited nature of it means it’s pretty rough round the edges a lot of the time, there are a lot of jokes in the show, as well as (warning) a lot of imaginative profanity.

Mrs Soanes and I were at the live recording on Monday night, and I’d say that, despite (perhaps even because of?) its shameless self-indulgence, it was probably the best of the run, as it contained so many payoffs and callbacks to previous episodes, all tied together in quite a clever way. And some turns of phrase which were both shockingly rude and impressively colourful.

Not one for granny, then, but I’d say it’s certainly worth the muscle involved in a bit of clicking and downloading.

Hello Wembley, Goodbye Dome

A lot of people don’t care for the work of comedian Michael McIntyre; I’ve heard complaints that he’s too lightweight, that he’s too slick, and even (more strangely) that he laughs too much at his own material.

Anyway, I like his stuff – it reminds me, in a way, of Bob Monkhouse, in that it’s very slick and polished, which can be slightly offputting, but lurking beneath it is a lot of work and comedy knowledge. It’s a funny convention of comedy performance that a lot of the time comedians are expected to deliver lines as if they’ve just occurred to them, I always think.

All that aside, whether you like or loathe Mr McIntyre, I think that very few people won’t see their estimation of him raised by this news report from earlier this week.

As we cool kids say whilst bumping knuckles*, respect is due.

*Not like that, you filthy sort.

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