Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Enter the Dragon meets The Three Stooges

A common movie gimmick is to mix together too popular movies or genres, as parodied in Robert Altman's The Player;

A: "It's like The Gods Must Be Crazy except the coke bottle is an actress."
B: "Right. It's Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman."

Later a political thriller/comedy is pitched ... "a Ghost meets Manchurian Candidate".

When surfing online I found pitching hints by Aaron Mendelsohn, the writer of Air Bud, a movie that has had four sequels!!

As an exclamation point, it doesn't hurt to do the ol' "it's something-meets-something" trick. It's the Sixth Sense meets American Beauty. Or it's Gladiator set on Mars. Just don't reference movies that were flops. Saying your movie is Alamo meets Battlefield Earth probably won't get you too many hits.

Many criticize this method of movie creation as it can lead to disappointing stories that fall to capture the wit or pathos of the stories they meld. Cloverfield, for example, was Godzilla meets the Blair Witch project ... and while it may have been better than the Blair Witch sequel, it will did not live up to the movies it attempted to fuse.

So when I was lent a copy of a movie described by the lender, Art, as a Noir movie crossed with a High School movie ... a Breakfast Clubs meets The Big Sleep, if you will ... I was not that overwhelmed. I should have trusted Art.

Brick -- A detective movie by Rian Johnson, is a great movie ... one I am willing to recommend to anyone who reads this. All the standard noir characters are easily transposed onto a high-school culture. The manipulative nightclub dancer is made into a drama club diva. The crime kingpin is the school's dope dealer, who still lives with his mother. The cops are the school administrators, especially the dreaded deputy principal. What surprised me is how well it all works. Brilliant stuff.

The only criticism of it I have is the sound quality was lacking in places, making the dialogue hard to follow. Guess that means I'll have to watch it again.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Napoleon Cake

On the second day of 1812 Napoleon received news of a major breakthrough that would greatly aid his struggles against England. He immediately rode from his residence for Plassy to bestow an honour on the architect of this success, Benjamin Delessert.

Delessert was overwhelmed by the arrival of the Emperor, and even more-so when Napoleon took a medal from his own chest, nothing less than the Legion of Honour, and pinned it upon Delessert. The Emperor then granted all the workers in Delessert's factory a bonus of a week's pay.

Just what momentous feat had Delessert done to warrant such a display? His factory had succeeded in making sugar loaves from beetroot.

It may seem somewhat comical for sugar to provoke such a response from Napoleon. The idea of fighting and dying for sugar seems ridiculous, almost as absurd as dying for coffee, cocoa, nickel, iron or oil. Sugar, in itself, is not an essential food. Humans can survive without it. Yet somehow it seems essential. My mother has recounted her childhood experiences of rationing in the aftermath of the Second World War and the lack of sugar is at the top of the list of complaints, perhaps topped only by the lack of eggs. Sugar may not be as necessary as meat and vegetables, but it is passionately missed.

So for Napoleon the production of beet sugar was worth getting excited about. Nineteenth century France was a nation of sugar addicts, and world-wide sugar production was dominated by the British with their colonial plantations. The British ability to blockade French ports during wartime meant the French sweet tooth could not be easily satisfied. The creation of loaves of sugar from beetroot was a source of nationalistic pride, and was gleefully trumpeted to the masses. Fear not, citizens ... you may safely rot your teeth, even in times of darkest conflict.

So ... would you care for one lump or two? And a slice of Napoleon cake with your hot beverage?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mr Blobby

I'm still carrying a bit of pregnancy weight. Yes, I know ... I'm male ... I didn't have a baby inside me. But I did gain weight during my wife's pregnancy, and it turns out not to be that uncommon. ( I'm pleased that I'm not alone in my pregnatory gluttonacity but I am still a little embarrassed by it.

The reasons aren't to hard to work out ... my wife's diet changed during pregnancy, and so mine did as well. But in my case it wasn't all food related, exercise was less frequent than before ... all kinds of exercise.

Don't get me wrong, though. I had, and still have, the easy part of the whole child-rearing experience. The morning sickness, the wriggling parasite growing inside, kicking, clawing, growing. The hormones that made her suddenly cry at chick flicks ... which at least meant I wasn't crying alone. The feeling that your body is no longer under your own control. A feeling that continues for months afterwards thanks to breast-feeding ... I swear our wee boy sees his mother and thinks, "Cor! Look at the food on that one!"

My part is much less strenuous. Perhaps that's another reason why I'm still carrying that pregnancy weight? So I'm trying to lose some flab ... although not as much as my Wii tells me I should. The Wii Fit game informs me in its perky little voice that I'm dead already. Obese! The greatest of all modern lifestyle sins. Maybe I need to travel back in time ... to the dim distant days of 1934 ... when being 'naturally skinny' was a bad thing. Somehow inventing a time machine seems like an easier task than losing weight.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Work from home, make thousands a day!

As you may be aware, the US military can now have a 'pilot' fly a remote control plane from a desk half a world away on fly combat missions. As of this year they started letting non-flyers use these remote killing platforms in combat. This made me wonder if it could evolve into a great little part-time job that affords wonderful work-life balance. The stay-at-home part-time combat pilot raising kids while ridding the world of 'insurgents' ...

"Dad, I want some apple juice."

"Hang on, sweetie. Daddy's eliminating insurgents. I'm almost to my daily quota."

"But, Dad, I'm thirsty."

"Just wait. I've almost got him."

"Now I need to go potty, Dad. I need to go potty! Now!!!"

"Sheesh! Can you go by yourself, sweetie? I'm almost on him."

"No, Dad, I need help. I need to go now!"

"Ah, screw it. They all look alike anyway." (**presses kill button**)

"Okay, sweetie, Daddy's coming."

"Thanks, Daddy. Can I sit on you lap next time your working?"

"Sure, sweetie, but no pressing the red buttons like last time, okay."

"Okay, Dad, I promise."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Swim, my pretties! Swim and conquer the world!

When I was a kid it seemed that every American comic, from Superman to Sad Sack, was teasing me. There were adverts for the coolest things. Toy soldiers that came in lots of one hundred or more, and not just WWII and Romans, but Civil War as well. X-ray specs, Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies, which were recommended by Superman himself, so you knew they had to be good for you. Oreo Cookies, American Football simulation games, and don't forget Sea Monkeys!

Perhaps it's just as well we could never buy these things in New Zealand. Sea Monkeys, as I later found out, were just brine shrimp. There were not going to build castles under the water, or be trained to be my unholy army capable of taking over the world (mwah ha ha ha!).

When they finally imported Oreos into this country we discovered they only tasted like burnt biscuits--that's biscuits in the English sense of the word. My wife can attest to having eaten a Twinkee when visiting the US ... it wasn't anything to write home about (unlike Ben & Jerry's cookie dough ice cream, which she still craves).

Then there were the seed-selling adverts, where if you sold hundreds of packets of unwanted seeds you could get bikes, tents, telescopes, and other items of unimaginable coolness. I can still see the crude artwork of those pages in my mind's eye ... in many ways the ads were more memorable than the comics they appeared in.

But it was the plastic soldiers I wanted the most. I'd never even see Roman soldiers for sale in New Zealand, and here a comic book was offering to sell you two complete Roman armies! Any comic I owned with that ad was never going to last ... too much drool on the page. Heck, I still want them, even today, but only if they are still $2.25.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Script: Over There (5 of 5)

The final part of the script. If anyone out there wants to give me comments, advice, criticisms about this script I would be grateful. If anyone wants to do something with it--draw it, buy it, etc.--I would be even more grateful.


A two-bubble speech bubble for the boy.
Boy: “Is that what I should do?” “Follow orders.”
Sarge: “Hell no!”

Sarge: “We’re just plastic toys with no brains. Of course we follow orders. That doesn’t make it a clever thing to do.”

Boy: “So I should take you guys?”

Sarge: “Just take me.”

Boy: “You! But of all my toys I wouldn’t want to lose you.”
Sarge: “That’s why you won’t. You’ll keep me safe.”

Page TEN

Boy: “You don’t mind going?”
Sarge: “No. I like to travel. I came from China originally, you know.”

Boy: “I know. It’s printed on your base.

“Really? Anything else down there?
“No. It just says ‘Made in China’.”

The boy placing the sergeant back with his squad. The squad greeting the Sarge.
Soldier 1: "Hey, Sarge!"
Soldier 3: "Welcome back, Sarge."

Soldier 2 (Charlie): “How’d it go?”
Sarge: “We got air support, Charlie. We got air support ..."

The Sarge in close up.
Sarge: " ... and I'm getting some R&R in London for my troubles."


Monday, May 25, 2009

Script: Over There (4 of 5)

The penultimate part ...
The angry boy in the act of placing the Sarge with his men, but he never actually places him down.
Boy: "The battle starts now! No support, no reinforcements, no nothing!”

The boy holding Sarge in a tight fist.
Sarge: “You could take us with you to London.”
Boy: “I can't!" Mum says I might lose you guys.”

The boy calming down.
Boy: “She’s probably right too. I always seem to leave things behind at places.”

The boy now more sad than angry.
Boy: “I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you guys.”
Sarge: “We feel the same way, kid.

Boy: “Thanks, Sarge.”

Boy: “Maybe you do need some air support for this one.”

Sarge: “We will make the most out of whatever we get."

Boy: “You always do.”
Sarge: “Do what?"

Boy: “Make the most of it.”
Sarge: “We just do our job.”

Boy: “But no matter what I throw at you and your men you always put on a brave face. You always go in to battle, no matter what the odds.”

Sarge: “Of course we do. We obey our orders.”

Final part tomorrow ...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Script: Over There (3 of 5)

The next installment, only two more to go ...


Boy: “Is it fair that I have to stay at my aunt’s all month?”

Boy: “Is it fair that I have to put up with Miss Perfect and her creepy little sister for the whole time?”

A two-bubble speech bubble from the boy ... you know, one of those speech bubbles that has a connecting bit so there are two individual bubbles but both coming from the same person, so that it indicates two separate bits of related talking.
Boy: “They always talk about me, and giggle and point.” “Or they just roll their eyes at me and burst into fits.”

Boy: “They seem to always be fighting, yet always agreeing on things.”
Sarge: “Siblings are like that."

Boy: “How would you know?”

Page SIX

Sarge: “Well, I do have about a thousand or so identical twins.”
Boy: “Really?”

Sarge: “At least. But even without them I’ve got my brothers in the squad.”
Boy: “You’re all related?"

A two-bubble speech bubble for the Sarge.
Sarge: “Not by blood, or plastic, or even batch number ... ” “ ...but by all being forced together in danger against our will.”
Boy: “Oh.”

Boy: “I'll have to play with their stupid dolls and ponies and other dumb things, rather than my own toys?”
Sarge: “You’ll cope, kid”

The boy is angry.
Boy: “You think so ... ?"

Getting even angrier.
Boy: " ... well, let’s see how you cope."

continued tomorrow ...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Script: Over There (2 of 5)

The second installment, which contains a full page panel--always a great thing for a writer as it takes two minutes to write something like that but two days to draw. :-)

Full page shot of the room, looking from the door end toward the desk. Here's a written description, but feel free to alter things as you see fit.

On the right hand wall of the room there were several Lego-block machine-gun nests. On the left, hiding under the folds of the duvet, were snipers. But it was the far end of the room that held the biggest challenges. The desk had been turned into a bristling death trap. Lego bunkers on the desktop itself. Then balanced on the open drawers several crouching riflemen. The chair, pushed into the desk, housed more riflemen—both the crouching and the standing varieties. They were using the strut-supports of the chair-back as cover. Finally, on either side of the chair legs stood more sharpshooters.

Right in the fore-ground of the picture should be the Sarge.
Sarge: " ... Lord knows, I'll try."

Story: David Tulloch
Art: You

Page layouts from this point on can be anything you want. Since the story is all a conversation between a plastic toy solider and a boy you can be quite experimental with the layouts. For example ... a zoom in page that starts with a panel showing the whole room and zooms in panel by panel until it's a close up of the toy soldier. Or a zoom out page. How about a one picture several panel page, that is a page made from a single image, but still with panel divisions. Go nuts. Have fun. All I ask is that you try to keep the panel/text groupings together.

Sarge: "You really want us to go into the valley of death?"
Boy: "We all have to go places we don’t want to."

Sarge: "Is that what this is all about? Your trip to London?"

Boy: "Maybe."

Sarge "You’re about to suffer, so first you make us go through hell? That's not very fair, is it?"

Angry boy.
Boy: “Nothing's fair! Why should I be fair?"

continued tomorrow ...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Script: Over There (1 of 5)

I'm going to make the next five blog days/entries as a complete 10-page comic script. Putting a script up on a blog may be a bad idea, I'm not sure, but I figure that the worse thing that can happen is someone rips me off.

Story: David Tulloch

This is a story about a boy (an only child) having a deep conversation with his plastic toy soldiers as he tries to work through some stuff. One toy in particular, the Sarge, does most of the talking back to the boy. The story takes place in the boy's bedroom, which is being prepared for a battle. The artwork and layout can be quite experimental or innovative, or just straight-up. Most of the panels are the boy and/or the toy soldier talking.

Page ONE

The Sarge plastic toy soldier. He should be an unpainted green soldier with a commanding attitude, maybe beckoning to other troops to follow.
Sarge: “I've never seen so many."

A large frame, the main frame of the page, showing a boy who is putting together some sort of Lego block bunker. The Sarge is visible on the floor some distance away from where the boy is building the bunker.
The boy's room has a bed , which forms once side of the valley, with a desk and wooden chair at the end. It is the desk and chair that the boy is turning into a fortress, with machine gunners, bunkers, artillery, snipers, and assorted bits and pieces. While the soldiers who are attacking are all basically the same, US or British green-plastic infantry, the defenders are whatever other toys the boy has available. German infantry, French legion, Russians, Romans, tan-coloured, grey, blue, etc.

Sarge: "It looks a bit overwhelming."

Much the same as 2, but smaller.
Sarge: "When do we have to attack?"
Boy: "Soon."

The Sarge in close up, his unchanging expression.
Sarge: "I'd better tell the lads."

Page TWO

The boy placing the Sarge with his squad. Various assorted toy soldiers. You may want to look online, unless of course you have some buried in a box somewhere. There's usually one standing with a rifle, one kneeling with a rifle, a machine gunner lying down, one throwing a grenade, etc. One of the soldiers speaks.
Soldier 1: "Sarge is coming back, boys. Look lively."

The toys talking among themselves, but the boy should be at least partly visible in all these shots, as the conversation is really in his head. The boy continues to build the defenses on the desk and chair.
Soldier 2: "No air support at all?"
Sarge: "He says there's none available."

Soldier 2: "That's bullshit! Look at all the blocks he's using"
Sarge: "Easy, Charlie, easy."

Soldier 2: "Sorry, Sarge. But ... we're going to get slaughtered."
Sarge: "What can I say. I think the kid's in a bad mood."

Soldier 3: "Maybe you could reason with him, Sarge?"
Sarge: "I'll try ... "

continued next blog, tomorrow...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Story, part two

Another installment of the story that will never be finished or make sense, The Case of the Missing Plot, part two.

Backstage, Wanda was putting the finishing touches to her costume. She planned to sing a medley of songs about sheep while dressed as Bo Peep. On the surface this idea had some merit. The name Bo Peep sounds dirty, and the sheep offered all sorts of possibilities. Sadly, Wanda just wasn't that kind of girl.

That kind of girl did exist, and her name was Mona Moanz. I knew from experience that Mona really did moan. Unfortunately I had always been on the other side of the door or wall whenever I'd heard her. Mona wanted to be a star, and knew she'd gone as far as she could in my dive. She was looking for a way out, some rich idiot to give her her shot at the big time. She'd told me that while I was a big enough idiot I was nowhere near rich enough.

Moan was the headliner, so it was bad news that she was showing a keen interest in Wanda's Bo Peep. Mona was clever enough to want to get rid of any competition, and she'd happily kneecap you before the starting gun was fired. The soft and fluffy Wanda was going to get the full treatment ... the sort of treatment usually reserved for raw sewage.

"She can't have my sheep." Mona was staring daggers at me, but I knew she'd never stab me from the front.

The sheep in question were technically mine. Tufts of wool glued to blocks of wood and mounted on rollers. I owned the club, and therefore the props. But Mona had an act she sometimes dusted off late at night if she thought there was a rich stiff in the audience who could help her climb the greasy pole. The sheep sketch actually used a greasy pole. It wasn't very subtle. While it was always a success, it did signal the end of the evening's entertainment. No-one dared follow Mona's sheep bit. The stage was too slippery for a start.

"It's okay, Mr Hammet, I don't need to use the sheep."

Wanda was a sweetie, but she didn't understand how the game was played. She'd never pass 'Go' or collect $200. She might just be lucky enough to win second prize in a beauty contest.

"Surely she can have one, Mona? After all, they aren't technically yours."

"Don't get technical with me, Hammy. Technically those are balls nestled between your thighs."

She was right. I kept two stress balls in my pocket. I fiddled with them whenever the pressures of the job got too much ... like now. Sure, it looked odd. Maybe even a little disgusting and disturbing. But it felt good, dammit.

Wanda spoke up again: "It really is okay, Mr Hammet, one of the stage hands has offered to dress up in a sheep costume for me."

"Who would do that?!?" Moan was furious.

"I think his name is Donny? He seems very sweet."

On cue, Donny arrived in his sheep costume. He was obviously smitten with Wanda.

"Donny, I forbid you to do this!" Mona was on the warpath. Someone was going to get scalped, and I didn't want it to be me. I'd paid too much money for my toupee.

"Now, now," I said, trying to play peacemaker--a fun game where the aim is to be hated by both sides just the right amount. "Donny's big enough and old enough to do whatever he likes."

"He's supposed to be repainting the Parisian cafe backdrop so I can use it tomorrow."

"Gosh, Miss Mona, but I've already finished ... even put a fresh set of red wine stains on the floor." Donny wasn't even looking at Mona when he spoke. His eyes were locked on Wanda. The kind of lock that required either dynamite or some guy with the nickname 'Fingers' to open. Mona had been whipped. Normally you'd have to be a Hollywood agent or a Senator to do that. She walked off, her shoes tapping out an angry staccato.

It was time for Wanda's stage debut, with Donny as her obedient little lamb. If only I'd known just how bad it was going to get.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

From one topic to another

In 2001 Dean Kamen -- who did not play Superman, but thought he was one -- was touting his lastest invention to the press ... the Segway. He claimed that the Segway would "be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy". Sales figures of 50,000 to 100,000 units were predicted in the first year alone. The world was going to be revolutionized.

As of March 2009, only 50,000 Segways had been shipped ... less have been actually sold. Segway Inc. has been silent on its financial performance. The Segways were too expensive, too geeky and gimmicky, and in many countries their legal status was ill-defined ... if it was a motor vehicle it had to stay on the road, not on the footpath or cycle lanes.

The Segway failed in all respects except one ... it has become a pervasive part of popular culture. Hardly anyone in the world has one, yet we all know what one is. If someone gave you a Segway I doubt you'd say; "No!" Like me, you happily parade it around the block, letting friends and neighbours have a go, then find a permanent home for it in the closet next to the exercycle and the Commodore 64.

Many people dream of changing the world for the better. Dean Kamen may have failed with the Segway, but he'd already invented the AutoSyrine, an insulin pump, and an all-terrain electric wheelchair. Dean's father, Jack Kamen, was a comic-book illustrator, who was particularly known for his work with EC Comics . His editor once said he "gave Kamen those stories where the All-American girl and guy are married, and then chop each other to pieces".

EC Comics gave us the Crypt Keeper, Mad magazine, and more recently the homage to horror comics that was in Alan Moore's Watchmen, Tales from the Black Freighter, which has been made into a animated short-film. EC also gave us, accidentally, the restrictive censorship of the Comics Code Authority, thanks to the engineered public outcry against some of the EC stories.

The Code included rules that seemed to be directly targeted against EC alone, such as "[n]o comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title" and "[s]cenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited". Ironically, without the heavy censorship of the CCA we may never have had the underground comics explosion of the late sixties. Pushing against, and trying to go around, the Code actually produced some of the best work in comics.

Oddly enough though, the Code rule that "[f]emales shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities", never seemed to be enforced in superhero comics. So there you go, I managed to segue from a failed mode of transport to overly endowed women in comics. Why do I always seem to end up there?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Fast Food Blues

I had a fever today, and spent much of the day in bed. You should never, ever, write anything when you have a fever. So here's what I wrote ...

The Fast Food Blues

You say you love me
Well, maybe it's true
But prove it to me,
Baby, and share your food

I don't want your love
I don't want your lies
don't want your kisses,
Baby, I want your fries.

Oh, your food, baby
Give me a little
I just want a bite
A lick or a nibble

That juicy burger
It looks so tasty
Let that special sauce
drip down on me, baby

I don't want your love
I don't want your lies
don't want your kisses
Baby, I want your fries

Don't need no diamond
to make me linger
Place an onion ring
upon my finger

Then I will be yours
Babe, until I die
Unless of course
we run out of fries.

I don't want your love
I don't want your lies
don't want your kisses
Baby, I want your fries

Babe, we've got a love
That just won't quit
as perfect and whole
as a chicken nugget

I don't want your love
I don't want your lies
don't want your kisses,
Baby, I want your fries.

Oh, yeah!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Don't drink and sail

My wife and I were talking about fish, for some unknown reason. Like many such late night conversations it deteriorated into something odd. Fermented fish drinks, for those climes where growing grapes is not an option. Image, if you will, sophisticated viking warriors in tuxedos sipping their favourite fermented fish cocktails while discussing the day's pillaging and the worrying decline in horned helmet wearing among the younger set. Here's the best of the ones we came up with ...

Rusty Narwhale

Herring Wallbanger


Sex on the Beached Whale

... please feel free to suggest more.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Walk Like A Camel

Once upon a time you could get some healthy exercise on an electric camel. It would bob up and down in a manner designed to mimic a camel's gait. In 1912 it was the fashionable height of sophistication for a gymnasium to have one--so much so the gym on-board the Titanic was fitted with a camel, as pictured (that's it on the left).

The electric camel went out of style, but it is interesting to note that the Titanic's gymnasium also had a rowing machine and stationary cycles, which remain popular today. It even had separate times for ladies and men to exercise, least it be discovered by men that the fairer sex actually perspired during vigorous activity, or at least during gentle camel bouncing.

I don't get enough exercise. I doubt having an electric camel would help me. I do have a Wii, and the rather fun Wii Fit program. The Wii doesn't have a camel riding game, but it does come with a four-footed electric roadkill-like object called a balance board.

The purpose of the balance board is to show me how unbalanced I am. Who knew it could look into my head like that? It also tells me I'm fat. Yet despite all this I like it, very much. Is it beginning to sound like an abusive relationship to you?

I have never really grokked exercise. Eating, on the other hand, I'm all for. All this typing about exercise has made me hungry, and for some reason I want to listen to Southern Culture on the Skids. "You make me wanna walk ... Like a camel ... Ow-eee!"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bring out your dead

We've all had a nasty cough in our house the last few days, which has kept friends and family away .... Unclean! Unclean! My brain was more fogged than normal, so I have abandoned writing for the last couple of days. Instead I have been doing some paid work, coding HTML for a website ... fun, fun, fun ... which is so brainless even I can do it. Hopefully we will all be back to normal soon, and the fog will lift from my thoughts and become merely low-lying clouds. Those I can cope with.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Simon tells me he's almost done inking episode three, so I thought I'd share the pencils of page six and then in a later post compare the finished inks. As you can see Simon puts a lot of work into his pencils.

The script for this page was as follows ...

SN standing over the knocked out hoods.
(off-panel) Cop: "You there ... !"

Undercover cop car, with the cheesy removable red light thing on the roof that they always bring out. A stereo-typical undercover cop in full action pose, gun in both hands, using the open driver's side car door as cover as he points his gun at SN.
Cop: "Freeze, Police!"

SN leaps so his foot goes through the side window of the car door that the cop is using to shelter behind, kicking the cop squarely in the chest (and as we find out later embedding shards of safety glass in the lining of the cops heart). This can be quite a large frame as long as the next one is inset in the bottom right corner. If you want you can have the cop's gun going off, but missing.

SN running off, leaving the cop lying on the ground.

the next episode is from the cop's partner's point of view.

Artwork copyright Simon Morse

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's a Classic!

Sometimes I resist story ideas. Sometimes the ideas fight back.

I had a vague idea about a time-travel story that I'd been pushing to the back of brain whenever it popped up. Time-travel stories are hard. I prefer to be the nit-picker of such tales, rather than the provider of nits for others. Boing! boing! boing! suck! suck! suck!

However, the damn story would not die quietly. It kept prodding me in the soft squishy grey matter with interesting ideas. Then it hooked me with one of those trying-to-get-back-to-sleep-after-being-woken-up-by-my-child thoughts. A bit-character in the story who is a technician scanning alternate timelines and illegally tapes TV shows and films that don't exist in our 'actual' timeline.

The first movie that popped into my head was a buddy picture with Bruce Lee and Dean Martin entitled Ain't That A Kick In The Head. I'd want to watch that. It's just the kind of DVD I'd stumble across in a bargain bin and wave at my wife with unabashed glee while saying; "It's a classic!"

So now the story has a hold of me. But I think I've fooled it. I've managed to avoid most of time-travel aspects by redefining what the story is about. Take that future nit-pickers!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Life Sentence

He started typing it, but after only a couple of words he quit without saving. A sentence as good, as perfect, as this one deserved to be written the old fashioned way, with ink onto paper.

It took him a while to find his old fountain pen. He was worried the sentence would leave his head during the search, but it remained in place, patiently waiting for him. With a sheet of blank cotton-rag dug out from his art supplies he was ready to write it down.

He started slow, just the first four words. He wanted it to last. He paused, had a sip of wine, then wrote a little more. After the eighth word his passion took over and his pace increased. He tried to control himself, but all too soon he had arrived at the climactic full-stop, driven into the paper with such force he caused some splattering.

He looked at the completed sentence, which was still wet to the touch. He hadn't smoked in years, but really craved a cigarette at that moment. He drank some more wine, and sighed a deeply satisfied smile.

Sometime later he woke up from an impromptu nap and discovered he had reached out in his sleep and grasped the paper, creasing it slightly. He felt energized. So much so that he grabbed his pen and wrote the sentence again. This time it lasted a bit longer, but he still splattered the full-stop with the force of his pen, unable to contain his excitement.

He looked down upon the glistening marks on the paper. It was beautiful. It was the perfect sentence. The kind of sentence that demanded something substantial written around it. It couldn't just belong to a short article or magazine puff piece. Even a short story or novella wouldn't be enough for a sentence of this importance.

He started to sweat. This sentence was going to demand nothing less than a novel. That was quite a commitment for a sentence that had only been written twice in the heat of artistic passion. And what if the novel was a success? There'd be a demand for a sequel. He was not ready to write a sequel. Or worse, sequels!

He made his excuses and left the house to run some 'errands'. In reality he went to the nearest pub and downed a few quick pints and two packs of chips. Just the little packs. He just wasn't ready to be tied down to a novel. That was the problem. So what if he'd found the perfect sentence. There'd be others. Maybe not as good, but then that would mean they'd be less intense, less demanding, less scary.

It was late when he staggered back home. The sentence was still waiting up for him. The alcohol had emboldened him, and he grabbed his pen and tried to write it down. He blurred some of the words, started again, misspelt 'goulash', crossed it out and had another go. On the fourth attempt he made it most of the way to the end, but faded out well before the full-stop and fell asleep, ink pooling on the sheets.

The next morning he decided to make a clean break. It was never going to work out. He would never write the sentence again. He started up his laptop and wrote a short article on the size of chip packets in pubs for a Men's magazine, and followed that up with a spec piece on the global economy and the size of chip packets for a newspaper. The sentence was gone. It was for the best.

Years later he saw the sentence again. It was in a novel. A novel with three sequels, just as he had feared. He smiled as he read it, remembering the passion of their brief time together. Then he put down the book, turned on the TV, and feel into a dreamless sleep.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

They're serving Tajine and Couscous? Must be The Italian Girl in Algiers tonight

Went to a great opera last night. Very silly plot. Most of them are. Very nicely staged. Well sung. And it had three babes in gold lame bikinis who hopped around on moon-hoppers at one point.

I like going to the opera. It's nice to be in a crowd in which my mere presence lowers the average age. But I do have my issues with large groups of people milling about.

Whenever we go to an event like the opera there is always a bit of jostling with the crowd to get to your seat. I have noticed that there is a gender difference at play in the dynamics at such events. My wife can plough through a crowd, and they part like the red sea. As for me, well, I'm the charioteers chasing after the Israelites ... the waters rush back leaving me to drown in a sea of cultured coats and ties.

I've taken to clinging onto the back of my wife's coat when she moves through a crowd. If I stay close and look as though I'm connected to her, like a clingy child or a bizarre hoop-skirt, then I have a better chance of making it to my seat unscathed.

My only continuing disappointment with the opera is the lack of opera-dogs, or opera-fries ... or even opera-pita-pockets. Sure, they have wine and ice-cream, but somehow that's never enough. A good curry, or maybe a cheese platter would have enhanced my watching of bouncing bikini babes tremendously.

You could even have themes for the opera foods: Devil's food cake for Faust, sushi for The Mikado, slightly off sauerkraut for any of Wagner's works, something minimalist --- two peas and a baby carrot --- for a Philip Glass opera, wedding cake for the Marriage of Figaro .... Hmm, perhaps if this writing lark doesn't take off I have a career in theme-catering for musical events?

Monday, May 11, 2009

More cultured than blue cheese

I'm off to the opera tonight. Rossini's The Italian Girl in Algiers. Thanks to my wife and her family I have been exposed to culture ... in much the same way Chernobyl was exposed to radiation, or how Britney Spears exposes herself to the paparazzi.

I've been told the opera tonight is staged as though it is a modern soap opera, as "the operas of Rossini were essentially soap opera equivalents in the 19th century." (The National Business Review, 11 May, 2009). This does raise an interesting point. What bits of today's popular culture, for opera was once very popular and populist, will future generations deem worthy to cherish?

Is Stephen King going to be turned into Shakespeare's peer by the passage of time? Will the collected recordings of Kylie one day be placed alongside Beethoven by the true connoisseurs of the musical past? Will cinema societies follow up a Buster Keaton season with the films of Will Ferrell?

However, the popularity of something at the time of its release is not always a guide to future status. Much of the classical music that is so championed today was not so beloved when first released. Artists go in and out of favour ... remember the 1980s when you couldn't take five steps without hearing Vivaldi's Four Seasons? Yet Vivaldi was considered 'out-of-touch' and 'uncool' in his later years, much like Vanilla Ice or MC Hammer, and he died a pauper. For painters, being unpopular during one's lifetime is almost a pre-requisite for later success. Books don't have to be read to be considered popular, just purchased ... for example Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time or The Bible.

So maybe the treasured classics will be the overlooked gems of today. Perhaps next to the Complete Shakespeare you might find the Collected Straitjacket Ninja? After all, people misfile things all the time.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Story -- part one

Thought I'd start something that may not ever get finished, but I can come back to every once in a while. So enjoy The Case of the Missing Plot, part one.

She had a voice that carries ... like tooth decay, and just like my old deposit box, the key was lost. Still, she was the most talented creature to enter my establishment since that cross-legged rat had skidded across the bar while balancing a stolen pickled egg in its mouth and a cocktail onion in one claw.

So I gave the dame with the crooked voice a job. My clientele have bent ears, so it wouldn't be a problem. But of course she was a problem, and like calculus, one I'd never solve without cheating on the person next to me. I turned to the person next to me, my wife, who handled my accounts but nothing much else of mine. Not these days.

They say that familiarity breeds contempt, in which case we had entire menagerie of contemptuous offspring somewhere. We knew each other so well we didn't just finish one another's sentences, we didn't even bother to start. Silence is golden, but our marriage was a twisted alchemist who had transmuted the quiet into lead.

That night I waited for a few hours before unleashing the new singer on the unsuspecting audience. That way they would be drunk enough to forgive her verbal idiosyncrasies, but not drunk enough to throw anything other than abuse. I went backstage to give a peep talk, which is like a pep talk but if you time it right the female performers are still changing costumes.

Before I reached the dressing rooms I was accosted by Mel Glimp, the MC and resident funny man. The funniest thing about him was his smell. The only way he'd ever have an audience in stitches was if he tossed a grenade.

"What's the new talent's name?" he asked.

"Wanda Ryder."

"Sure I do," he grinned a cheesy smile, "but I'm old-fashioned enough to find out her name first." He elbowed me in the ribs, so I gave him a cold stare.

"Sorry, boss. But she sure is a classy looking dame."

I should have seen the warning signs right then. Mel was the kind of guy you took to the horses to improve your odds. You just looked to see what nag he was betting on and picked a different one. I swear you could go to the greyhound track, let him choose the mechanical rabbit, and he'd still manage to lose. If he was interested in Wanda it really meant she was poison. Sadly I wasn't thinking with the head above my belt that night.

to be continued ...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Indestructible Light-bulbs

Back when the truly excretable Dances with Wolves hit our screens the world revived an old kid's schoolyard game of dubious ethnic sensitivity -- the 'What Is You Native American Indian Name?' question. Mine is Wrestles with Packaging.

Anything from a new roll of toilet paper to a bubble-wrapped pair of scissors will have my blood pressure rising as I attempt to gain access to the packaged product. The modern world seems to want to deny me access to any of its earthly delights by wrapping them all in plastic. Plastic isn't just bad for the planet, it's bad for my stress levels.

Medicine seems to be the worst offender. There's nothing to make a headache worse than having to open a pack of pills encased in extra-strength plastic. Even the 'earth-friendly' soap that we sometimes get is packed in plastic. We were once given a packet of organic biscuits that were individually wrapped in plastic. To top it off they tasted like something you would use in packaging.

I'm not alone in my despair with modern packaging design. There are even products made especially to deal with blister-packs and over-wrapped items. But, of course, these openers come in a blister-pack. Only light-bulbs, in their flimsy cardboard boxes, seem immune to the modern disease of over-packing.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Heavyweight Title Fight

Finding the right title for a story, or even just the chapter of a story, is both my favourite and least favourite part of writing. I still have a rather good story (in my own humble opinion) that languishes in my drawer with 'Untitled' written on it. It resists having its true name revealed. Until then I have no power over it.

Titles have convey something to a potential reader, yet be true to the story they represent. In the case of Straitjacket Ninja chapters they also have to be funny, or at least odd, and have a foot related theme. The most recently written episodes have been named Foot Fetish, Twelve Steps, Feet Geeks, Stray Cat Strut and The Foot Maiden.

The titles for SN often come before the story. Bad feet puns often suggest the odorous tale that goes with them. The current script is called Cement Shoes, and deals with a mafia-like group of crooks. Box Step, an unwritten episode, is a story where the Ninja's box is discovered by his enemies. I have a long list of foot puns to work through. You should all be afraid.

Over Christmas I wrote three 28-page issues of a potential comic I was going to call Eternal Death: The Adventures of Gabriel Harland. It has vampires in it. My wife convinced me that the extra bits of the title made it sound too Boy's Own, which was not the feel of the tale. So it's just Eternal Death now.

However, the idea that the extra bit made it sound old fashioned inspired another story--an adventure romp in the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs, a real Boy's Own Adventure style. Its working title was Hollow Man: The Adventures of Adam Seabourne, but last night an unrelated comment in an email from Simon inspired me to change it to Hollow Victory: The Adventures of Adam Seabourne. Our hero, you can guess his name, must make his way to the alien world inside our own Earth, and fight to save his adopted alien tribe by uniting others to face an evil empire. There are dinosaurs, aliens, a romance with a princess, sword fights, tiny cannibals, and ray guns.

The silliest title I've come up with so far? An episode of something called W.A.S.P. (World Animal Space Patrol) entitled Fish & Chimps. I haven't written that one yet, but just knowing the title makes me think of it from time to time -- once a story has it's true name it is never far from being penned.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Scottish Missionaries and the Perversion of their Faith

I support Liverpool FC. The reasons are slightly obscure. When I was a wee lad we had some Scottish neighbours who were fanatical Aberdeen fans. It must have been hard to a soccer/football fan in New Zealand then, in the days before our miracle qualification to the World Cup made playing soccer somewhat more acceptable in the rugby crazed nation that is NZ.

Like missionaries in the New World these Scottish soccer fans tried to convert anyone they could by any means they could. In my case they gave me a replica Aberdeen jersey.

This giving of a trinket to an impressionable native did the trick, I wanted to know more about this alternative religion to rugby. I'm sure my head priest, by which i mean my father, muttered something about blasphemy. There was a slight lack of Scottish soccer on New Zealand TV. In fact, there was none. Not a single game. Aberdeen would have to continue without my fan support.

There was soccer on New Zealand TV. We would get Match of The Day, all the way from England, and only a week or three out of date. Seriously, we got one match a week, and that had usually been played the previous month. I watched some games. It seemed boring. But then ... a team wearing red played.

Aberdeen have a red jersey. Liverpool also have a red jersey. I saw Liverpool play a three week old game and became a life-long fan.

So thanks to some Scottish Aberdeen supporters I support Liverpool. I care about Liverpool Football Club. I have taught my daughter to chant, "Come on you Reds!" I will get up early in the morning to watch them play. I have screamed for delight, howled in disgust, and even cried--all because of a bunch of overpaid men kicking a ball around. But I do still find soccer boring. That's the problem with converting the natives ... they just take the bits they like, and keep going back to their old ways when no-one is looking.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

If it's a book, can I flip to the end?

I joined Facebook today. People have been telling me I should for a while now. So, I'm there. What is the point of it all? Someone tell me, please. And while you're at it, can anyone tell me what the appeal of Twitter is? These new-fangled things, like electric light, motorized carriages and sliced bread, are just so confusing to an old curmudgeon like me.

It has been a productive week, writing-wise. I finished two Ninja six-pagers (episodes 17 and 18) and have started work on a third. Plenty of silly puns and dated pop-culture references.

My brain is almost coherent enough at the moment to contemplate more other stories, so I've been writing down notes and random thoughts. The burlesque girls story is fully formed in my head, and itching to crawl out through my nose and onto the paper. There's an old-fashioned adventure story with aliens, dinosaurs, and a princess that I started over Christmas that needs to be added to.

There are also a bunch of old prose stories that have been sitting in drawer for years that are asking to be transformed into comic scripts. These include a story about fairies, another about a man who keeps reality in check, and something that has way too much sex and violence in it but may just get written anyway. So my keyboard is getting a workout at the moment.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Spirit of '76

Lest we forget. After the death of a recruit at Fort Dix, in February 1976, the US government feared a swine flu pandemic and the resulting public outcry. A universal vaccination program was started, despite no further deaths and only a handful of further cases at Fort Dix. To get the public behind the vaccinations the Ford Administration launched an advertising campaign, with some scare-tactics that even today's media organizations would be proud of.

Then, in October 1976, three elderly patients died after getting their swine flu vaccinations (although this was later shown to be an unrelated event). The media circus that followed turned public opinion against the program. Soon after a paralyzing neuromuscular disorder (Guillain-Barré syndrome) was linked to the shots, further eroding support for the jabs. The program was stopped in December 1976.

1976. One death from swine flu. Over 40 million jabs causing about 500 neuromuscular cases and 25 resulting deaths from complications. The backlash against this poorly thought out vaccination campaign unfortunately mutated into a general anti-vaccination movement that has severely limited the effectiveness of many important immunization programs since.

This time around it's the media and public paranoia that are leading to the widespread taking of unnecessary medicines. Oseltamivir, better known as Tamiflu, has been linked to a number of adverse effects, including potential fatal neurological side-effects, particularly in children under twenty. However, as these effects are behavioural changes, such as causing self-harm, they are difficult to quantify. Still, in 2006 the FDA changed the warning on Tamiflu to include the possible side-effects of "delirium, hallucinations or other related behavior".

Only time will tell what the effect of widespread use of Tamiflu by worried, but otherwise healthy, individuals will do. Only time will tell whether fear of swine flu is once again more deadly than the disease itself.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Trials of Jobs

A friend overseas just got themselves a copy of Dead Alive on DVD. They seemed to think I'd respond well to this, but it took me a while until I remembered that Dead Alive is the North American name for Peter Jackson's Braindead.

It's a gore-fest of epic proportions and has both Rufus and Simon in a cameo walk-on role at the start of the zoo scene. I foolishly went to work that day. Jobs really do suck. That job really did. For so many reasons.

As I've mentioned before, I have a degree in Physics. I realized just how useless that degree was going to be in the final year. The department decided in their wisdom to put up a cork noticeboard dedicated to physics related job advertisements. In the entire year they pinned one job notice to the board. We may have been physics students but the twelve or so of us graduating that year could do enough math to know that one job and twelve people equaled unemployment.

So I worked with computers, doing desktop publishing. It was mostly mind-numbing repetition combined with unrealistic deadline pressure. Fun times. I did manage to layout and print some comics while working there. I wasn't sorry when that job ended. I worked in a comic-book store, an English language for immigrants school, and various other odd jobs.

The longest employment I ever had was working at a liquor establishment. For eleven plus years I worked part-time at a bottlestore, Robbie Burns. The staff discount was a major incentive to stay working there. 20% off all alcohol can be a powerful motivator. There were some actual fun times at that job.

My current job, as a full-time father, part-time writer, even more part-time email and web consultant is pretty sweet. It sure beats any other job I've had. The hours are a bit long ... the pay sucks ... there's a huge amount of crap to deal with, literally ... and tears seem to be common, even if they are not usually mine. But I wouldn't trade it for anything else.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

H1N1 Knit One, Purl One

One of our local pharmacies is selling face masks at inflated prices. People are faking flu symptoms to get Tamiflu, and are then trying to auction the pills online. I know of people who have paid to get flu shots, so they will be safe. The US vice-president is avoiding enclosed public spaces ... which is at least a bonus for anyone else in those enclosed spaces.

The swine flu scare really has brought out the greed and stupidity in people. Israel is slaughtering pigs and only refers to the disease as H1N1, as swine or pig flu is insulting. Just as well the media called it pig flu, rather than say baby flu or cuddly kitten flu. Although, TV journalist flu might lead to some useful culling.

The knitted web of fear that is the global media circus will keep us all glued to our screens ... the ultimate reality show ... bring out your dead ... bring out your dead. I'm off to buy a wooden cart and a bell.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My Young Padawans

I've noticed that so far my blogs have only associated my children with sleep deprivation. While it is true that the recent birth of our second child has made coherent thought a rare commodity it is only a temporary condition. Already things are on the improve. We are getting 4 or 5 hours of sleep in a row some nights.

It is a little odd to be going to bed around 9pm or earlier. It reminds me of my childhood, when I'd be bundled off to bed just as TV looked like it was getting interesting. I still remember being allowed to stay up for the occasional movie, The Guns of Navarone, The Dam Busters, or The Desert Rats. My father likes classic war movies to this day. I think there were meant to be part of my education. Not sure what lesson I was meant to get from them though. War is hell ... and entertaining too?

Now-a-days I can set the VCR to record the shows we are too tired to stay up for. Although most nights we can't find anything we want to bother saving.

One of the great things about having kids is that I can watch cartoons without guilt again. I never fully gave up cartoons when I 'grew up'. Just when it seemed I was turning into a responsible adult some crazed new toon show would drag me back down to idiot child status. Ren & Stimpy, I am Weasel, The Teen Titans. And there was always Anime to add to the mix, even if that was usually not childish.

Thanks to my eldest child I have been introduced to Spongebob, Fairly Odd Parents, Jimmy Neutron, Billy & Mandy, and a host of lesser toons. Her current fave is the Clone Wars cartoons, even though she has never seen a Star Wars movie. She just loves Yoda.

Like most 'old fans' of Star Wars I was very disappointed with the prequels. They seemed ... dull ... and stupid. Not that the original movies didn't have their silly moments, but somehow I found those endearing. The prequels just fell flat for me. I've never even seen the third prequel, although I have played it on Lego Star Wars on the Wii.

It's the Wii that is responsible for my daughters obsession with Star Wars. One of her proudest achievements was the day she could defeat the Darth Maul level without needing my help. She bounced all over the house after her success. For her the Star Wars universe is entirely different than for me. She will get to see all the movies with young eyes, rather than the overly cynically eyes I viewed the prequels with.

Greedo fired first! Jar Jar is the most annoying character in movies! The 'racial' stereotyping of characters in Phantom Menace is beyond insulting! The pod race is a bad rip-off of Ben Hur!

Okay, I got that out of my system. But maybe, just maybe, thanks to my children, I'll come to enjoy the entirety of the Star Wars lexicon. Not with my own eyes, but through theirs.

Friday, May 1, 2009

So where are you from?

I started writing Straitjacket Ninja episode 18 last night in a burst of frantic pre-sleep activity. In fact I'd already gone to bed, then sat bolt upright and went back downstairs to type.

The episode features a foot-themed villain, who is a reprised but transformed character from episode 12. I had to do a little research, as I wanted a foot-themed crime for the villainess to commit. Did you know that there is actually a museum that houses the Imelda Marcos Shoe Collection? It is in Manila, of course, but I'm sure that the collection could be loaned to a museum in whatever city the Nutty Ninja is in.

I have no idea what city Straitjacket Ninja lives in. I don't think it matters. It seems to be populated with US and UK stereotypes. Sort of a Londington, or Washpool, or Bostcastle, or Partially Recycled York. I like having a clash of cliches in Ninjaville. In some ways it mirrors my own life.

Some commentators have said that New Zealand lacks its own identity. Traditionally we have strong ties to Great Britain, but are separated by great distance. Half a world away. The US is closer, although not by much, and is the current cultural colossus, trampling over the eating, watching and wearing traditions of the rest of the world. We have numerous other influences, but the US and UK are the monsters ... even if Godzilla is beating up Kitten Kong these days.

You could say we get the best of both worlds. At least we used to where TV was concerned. There was a good screening process in the days before cable TV in this country. We may have got TV series several years out of date, but we only got the ones that lasted, the ones with a proven body of work. A strange fusion of the best of British with those American shows that rose to the surface of the polluted waters of US entertainment. Now, with an explosion of channels and the desire to show programs as soon as they are available we get anything and everything.

Suddenly we get all the unfunny English comedies ... the cancelled mid-season US shows ... the made-for-TV movies about things we don't care about ... and inside references to UK and US politics that confuse even the most ardent anglo- or americo-phile. It's a cultural free-for-all, a buffet with a million courses, infotainment overload. Maybe that's why I've reverted to watching old shows on DVD. UFO, Twin Peaks, Captain Scarlet, The Muppets, Sapphire and Steel... spiced up with some anime and some B movies.

I think that's why Straitjacket Ninja lives in an ill-defined city that could be London, New York, Wellington, or somewhere in-between (Atlantis?). That way every influence is fair fodder, every obscure reference can be included, no cultural stone left unturned.

Art copyright Simon Morse