Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Tricky Dicky's Realpolitick Playing Card Deck

I've always loved playing cards. They're derived from the Tarot deck, just without the Major Arcana. Fascinating history to them. I've done a Tarot deck, but at some point I'd like to tackle it again.

This deck is 60s themed. The Jokers are Woodward and Bernstein, the suits Atoms, Diamonds, Eyes, and Bombs.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Day of the Doctor Review (SPOILERS)

Fun. Enormously clever fun, worthy of an anniversary. Great lines for all the major players, including 'Rose'. The Zygon threat is a bit perfunctory, but that's a quibble. There's lots going on here, mostly about The Doctor and his choice to end the time war (which is echoed in the Zygon subplot).

It's all about choice, baby!

The episode starts with a scene of what passes for domestic bliss in the TARDIS between The Doc and Clara, planning a vacation romp together, but quickly segues to The National Gallery in London, complete with the a bit of Harold Lloyd style comedy schtick along the way, where trouble is brewing. It works, it fits, it's fun.

A freaky creepy otherworldly threat (this is Doctor Who) is presented in the form of devilish but unidentified creatures that have escaped from paintings, which were serving as stasis prisons. Clever idea, nicely realized, and tied in to the ultimate conclusion.

Moffat is laying his trail of breadcrumbs with aplomb here, and for once I think he's set just the right number. Not so many you feel buried in foreshadowing, but enough  that the ending makes perfect sense. At least as much sense as an episode about a man who travels in a police box, one that's bigger on the inside to boot, through time and space can make sense.

John Hurt is delightful as the missing doctor and he gets some great comebacks to throw at his bickering, older yet younger selves. The banter is bang on. Not vicious or mean spirited, but playful and witty. Just what is needed, and it flows naturally, like bullets. It's not stilted or forced, which can sometimes be the case with Moffat.

Tenant and Smith are roped in to John Hurt's apocalyptic mission by the sentient interface of the powerful doomsday weapon, which choses the visage of Rose Tyler to represent its conscience. I'd have gone with Donna, but it's a doomsday weapon, so what can you expect. In so doing, she/it actually allows the Doctor to transcend the moral hell he had cast himself into the first time around.

There's much fez tossing and running around throughout, mostly played for laughs, but not so broadly as to become completely farcical. There's still a hint of drama, and the pace is relentless. The episode never drags, the dialogue never grates. Tenant kissing a giant sucker covered fetus disguised as the Queen of England is another highlight.

When the Doctors figure out a way to escape from their dank prison in the Tower of London, it's not only a clever solution, but it too figures in the climax. It reminds me of City of Death, and that movie with Dennis Quaid about a radio that can talk to the past.

The comedy cherry on top here is that after coming up with this fabulous solution, Clara just walks in on them. The door wasn't even locked. Brilliant. Funny but not stupidly so, for Queen Elizabeth has plans for her dear Doctor and husband.

"Our future depends on one single moment of one impossible day, the day I've been running from all my life. The day of the Doctor."

The Daleks figure only peripherally. Nothing wrong with that. They orbit the narrative, beyond the edge of the screen, driving the Doctor to his seemingly inevitable, terrible decision.

The moral dilemma the show posits is put forward quite bluntly: is it just to sacrifice millions to save billions? Is it even a real choice? The humans are posed the same dilemma, albeit on a smaller scale, byt the Zygon invasion.

Rather than running or turning away in shame at the horror of it, all three Doctors join together, as one. Hurt does not have to face the burden of genocide alone. But wait! There's another switch and a sharp injection of hope: having decided to bring an end to their own people, Matt Smith has a spark of inspiration (helped along by 'Rose').

That's what The Doctor does. That's what we want him to do.

And so a new plan is born, one which creates a wonderful excuse to throw all the Doctors fleetingly together. Not just Matt Smith, Tenant and Hurt, but all the classic Doctors, plus Eccleston. They're only seen on monitors, blurred, briefly, but its yet another fun 50th nod. Having the lot prancing about the stage would have been a Herculean challenge to manage narratively. This is more than enough. But it gets better.

After the danger is passed and Gallifrey has been (possibly) saved, we have the final cherry on top: Tom Baker strides on stage to exchange a few words with his young ward. Baker is his usual irreverent self, and it's a pleasure to see him in the role once again. Always been my favourite.

The show ends with the Doctor set on a new mission, this time one of hope rather than despair and destruction, in search of his home planet, Gallifrey, now lost, rather than destroyed.

It's a fun switch, and well handled. Bringing Gallifrey back immediately would have been too easy. This will give the show narrative thrust for seasons to come, and a purpose to his new adventures.

Happy 50th Anniversary, Doctor Who.

May you have another fifty.

The review at The Guardian is entertaining.

And if you're looking for a ranking of the ten best classic episodes, here's my take. Just to be controversial, a ranking of doctors by ability. An overview of the show can be found here.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Me and my buddy Samuel L. Jackson

He's so much less animated in person. Kinda got a waxy complexion too. Go figure.

Rebel Angels: The Infernal Comedy

Promotional poster for my new graphic novel (otherwise known as an overlong comic book), Rebel Angels, coming soon from SLG Publishing. Originally titled Hell Lost, it's a satire about a counter revolution in Hell. Action, adventure, and comedy all wrapped up in one rapturous package!

Dark, scheming, convoluted plots abound as Hell's Machiavellian intrigue breaks out into open civil war that will change the face of the cosmos forever!

Check out the first issue for free here from Comixology.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Cinecitta Studios

After visiting Pompeii and Rome itself, I got a real kick out of stopping by Cinecitta Studios outside the city, where the sets of HBO's Rome series still stand. They're made out of wood, of course, and if you knock on them they sound hollow.

But it's still fun to see what Pompeii's streets might have looked like back in the day.

Most of the city's cut off at chest height, or lower; only a few buildings still retain their original roof. The baths is one. It's quite well preserved, with murals and mosaics still evident.

Outside, there's graffiti on walls, penises at corners, and a incredibly well preserved (and restored) brothel.

But if your imagination needs an assist, Cinecitta does the job nicely. Like Disneyland, it's not entirely accurate. Archaeologists and the cognoscenti will be appalled, but fellow philistines will find the HBO sets like a walk into the past.

Best of all, unlike previous Sword and Sandal epics, the sets here are painted in more realistic colours.

Map of the Studio
There's an indoor display that plays footage from films shot at Cinecitta, as well as props and costumes.
Costumes that have graced the sets
To reach Rome you must first pass through the crumbling remains of the Gangs of New York sets.
Only facade deep
Poor state of repair

New York City on the Tiber
No Name Arch, with a passage to Ancient Egypt beyond
Abandoned giant head
Used Catapult, slight wear, best offer
Statue used in the film Gladiator
Fountain; very close to what currently exists in Pompeii

Me loitering in Ancient Rome
Labyrinthine streets
HBO's Rome, set of Rome, architecture of rome, roman architecture, sets at Cinecitta
Rostrum in foreground, with temple in background

The Rostrum, the public speaking platform, complete with ship prows.

Reminds me of the Tabularium at the Northern end of the Roman Forum
Set for The Borgias: A Venetian church
More Venice
Medieval village

Constructivist Inspiration

I've been a fan of the Constructivists since I first discovered them; they had a striking sense of composition and were doing design work far ahead of its time. Unfortunately, they were shut down for being too free thinking and replaced by Socialist Realism, boring pap featuring happy people gazing off into the utopian future. The communist equivalent of cigarette ads.

Took the pictures below at a show in London. Not the top ten parade, and my photos leave much to be desired, but they're pieces I'd not seen before.

The AGO in Toronto had a show of Constructivist work last year which was also quite good.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Rebel Angels #4 now available

Comixology has Rebel Angels #4, the satirical graphic novel by James Turner, available for purchase now, for just 99 cents. An amazing deal, I assure you. But that's what you expect from the good folks at Comixology.

The blurb: "Lightbringer Nolous whips the demon hordes into a frenzy and has Balthazar presented with a gift that sets battle into motion. Alecta Fury leads an aerial counter-charge against Balthazar, setting two mighty infernal armies on a deadly collision course from which only one can survive. In the chaos below, Ich's true identity is revealed."

Sound mind blowing? Like the excitement of Christmas on crack? Better than syrup slathered blueberry pancakes and maple smoked bacon accompanied by a hot steaming cup of fine java?

You bet it is.

Find out if Hell really is other people in this instant classic that isn't a Hellboy graphic novel, but does feature demons that might be related on the maternal side to everyone's favourite hornless hard ass.

One day next spring it will be available at your local comic book shop.


The wonderful cover (above) for issue four, depicting Balthazar and Alecta Fury going toe to toe, was done by the talented Paul Rivoche, who's worked for just about everyone who is anyone, including DC Comics, WB Animation, and Adhouse books.

Recently he's been doing Iron Man covers for DC.

Now I've snagged his genius for an issue of Rebel Angels. Hurrah!