Dark Shadows

Oh my. This…is….just…… words fail me. THIS LOOKS RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME!!!!!! Ok now Tim Burton is living up to my expectations of the weird and macabre, his last few films either didn’t interest me and I haven’t watched them, or they weren’t as amazing as the hype surrounding them suggested. I truly wasn’t expecting a comedy; I thought this was going to be some grisly, bloody horror film. Woof, was I mistaken.

X-men My Beginnings

I’m constantly being told that should write about the comics a read, put my opinions on them on my blog. Which I will do, I just feel I need to do an introductory piece on how I got into comics, especially since a lot of people out there want to get into comics but don’t know where to start. My foray into the comic world was slow, but it was destiny that I would find comics. I blame my mother.

But more on that later. Ever since I was little I was primed to become a fan of the super hero genre and then X-men. When I was little every Sunday morning I would sit with my dad and little sister and we would watch Superman, Batman and Spiderman together. But it was the X-men animated series I craved to watch. Back then we didn’t have satellite TV, and X-men was aired on K-TV which was a satellite channel. But twice a year, for a week, my family would go on holiday to Plettenberg Bay, and we would stay at the Beacon Island hotel, which had satellite TV for its hotel guests. One week, and in that week, K-TV would air an episode of the X-men. I was pretty young so the logic of trying to find out what time and X-men played at Plett was beyond me, but I knew the channel, and I roughly guessed Friday or Saturday morning. It went on for years, my desperation to watch x-men. If memory serves, I don’t think I ever caught a full episode, what with either leaving or arriving on the day it aired, or doing outdoor activities and coming back to the hotel during an episode. I think I saw little bits of at least 5 episodes, out of I think 5 seasons. And when my family finally got satellite TV, K-TV had stopped airing it! But that was the start of my love for the X-men.

My foray into comics began with Archie. My parents were just happy that I was reading. The book store I used to buy Archie from would sometime have a two rand bin, where old stock or overprints of comics from overseas where put on sale. My mom found the R2 bin and brought home a pile of Archies for me, and a couple of other comics that caught her eye. A lot of it was Superman, and they were weird story arcs, they also had gaps, but I never really liked Superman, he was just too wooden a character. While I never got any R2 X-men comics, I did get a couple of other Marvel series, my favourite among them was a Fantastic Four issue 12 1998. I loved the artwork; I loved the story of that issue. The Fantastic Four were on Genosha, and The Invisible Woman, The Thing, and the Torch had all had their bodies switched with terrorists. It was written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Salvador Larroca. It was a brilliant issue, I loved the comic to death, the cover eventually fell off and I cello taped it back on. Many years later I finally got a hold of the other issues before and after that one so I could get the full story.

Fantastic Four issue 12 1998, Salvador Larocca

I started properly collecting X-men comics in 2001, a year after the movie came out. The X-men was fully planted in my brain, I wanted to know more, but where the hell to start? Especially with the X-men, who have like 10 spin-off titles running at any given time. Which do you choose; where in the story do you start. Just accept that when you pick up a title like X-men, Spiderman, The Avengers, Batman, Superman or any of the long running series, the first little while you are going to be thoroughly confused. With me I actually had a fairly good background knowledge of X-men by the time I started following religiously. First my mom found me a Dorling Kindersley book on the X-men, with individual bios on the most important characters, their histories, powers, back story on all the teams, it was a fascinating read, I wanted more. Second my dad went to England around the same time, and I asked him to buy me some X-men comics, since I didn’t know where to buy them here, and my local comic shop only moved to my area a few years later. I said anything would do; just find me some comics and I’ll start from there. When I think about my dad’s marching orders I realise they couldn’t have been vaguer. My dad was magic, he went to England, and he got me X-men comics, no clue where, but he did more than that, he bought me classic X-men. Essential Uncanny X-men, an omnibus book in black and white of all the original Uncanny X-men issues. These volumes had 24 issues a volume, on thin paper in black and white. They were absolutely magic, I loved reading them, and they were fun, but serious. My characters suffered, sacrificed and died, but they also had fun wacky adventures. My favourite story arcs where the one’s where the X-men were in space, and how Kitty got Lockheed her alien dragon. I also loved the issue where Kitty tells a bedtime story to Illyana and it’s a fantasy adventure featuring all her team mates. It was such fun. These four volumes gave me such a firm grounding on the X-men, those four volumes are continually referred to, and made me comfortable with the series and characters. After I finished those volumes I was ready. I went out and bought my first singe Uncanny X-men issue 394, 2001. I was stupidly lucky I had picked up an issue from the beginning of a story arc, and I knew all the characters, although I couldn’t understand why Angel was blue, he was blond in my comics.

My First Issue, Uncanny X-men issue 394, 2001

Essential X-men Vol 1, most iconic image ever

Here’s my next tip, if you have no clue what precedes your current story arc, research. I used the official marvel site for a while, but it was too download heavy for my computer, and the information was poor. Ergo, fan sites, I found a really good one that gave seriously in-depth histories and issue appearances for characters, which further solidified my knowledge base. Uncannyx-men.net was incredibly useful. The best site to use is Comicvine.com. The character bios are fan written, so they are far more reliable than the Marvel site ones, where they selectively exclude info from the early days or the more ridiculous and improbable story arcs, to give the characters more plausible and more realistic origin stories. Comicvine also has a huge database of images for characters, and it lists every series and issue a character has been in. They also have synopses for most issues, plus who it’s written by, illustrated, edited, inked plus all the characters featured. It is a great way to find out what missing issues are needed to fill in empty holes in your collection. Don’t use Wikipedia, it has far too many spoilers.

http://www.uncannyxmen.net/

http://www.comicvine.com/

Nowadays the way I choose my comics is by the artwork. I’ve dropped titles because I didn’t like the artwork. And don’t be fooled by the cover art, the artist who does the covers isn’t necessarily the one who illustrates the issue.

Ultimate Spiderman 118

Currently all the comics I collect on an issue basis are X-men, I also collect Fathom, but that’s by Aspen Comics, and it doesn’t release very often. I collect X-men Legacy, Wolverine and the X-men, Uncanny X-men and Generation Hope. I do collect other Marvel titles, but I usually wait for the graphic novel format. I’m pretty sporadic in that regard. I used to collect Ultimate X-men in graphic novel format, and then dropped it when I didn’t like the artist. The same goes for Ultimate Spiderman, which I only started collecting 12 volumes in because it got an artist I liked. I will discuss these series and artists at a later date.

Wolverine and the X-men #4

Currently the X-men are going through this big shake-up, with the X-men splitting into two factions. The Uncanny X-men title/ team lead by Cyclops believing every mutant, including children are now soldier in the fight for their races survival living on the mutant island of Utopia, and Wolverine and the X-men title/ team lead by Wolverine who believes the children should be given a chance to grow, to maintain their innocents, so he becomes head master of his own school. Big drama. In light of this momentous occasion, Marvel decided to take the Uncanny X-men title, and start it at 1 again. I hate it when they do that. Marvel has done this often over the years, and then they go back to the status quo and change the numbering back to what it originally was, so issue 12 is actually issue 556, and it just makes your comic collecting difficult. I had this problem with Fantastic Four so I had no clue what number the issue I wanted was, took a lot of research to figure it out. Thankfully nowadays there are incredibly detailed databases on comics so it makes comic collecting easier.

Now I would consider myself very well read on matters relating to X-men, other series I follow in graphic novel format are The Runaways, X-23, Young Avengers, the Ultimate storylines, and New Avengers, I keep an eye on the other series. Now I’m not that clued up on DC, I monitor it, felt disdain with the huge revamping that DC did to their major titles, I take an interest when I see art I like. I also look at upcoming titles from other comic companies, so I’m pretty up to date with the comic world.

FRANKENWEENIE!!!

I feel that name should be yelled, I think it’s an awesome word to yell, with an inflection of horror in your tone.  Like Frankenstein, of which Frankenweenie is a parody.

In the beginning there was Tim Burton’s original live-action short film – Frankenweenie, filmed in 1984, in black and white, while Tim Burton was still working for Disney.  Disney in fact fired Burton for wasting their money on projects like this because they deemed them too scary for children.  I agree, Frankenweenie is not appropriate for children, but that doesn’t mean that adults can’t watch it.  Frankenweenie was not released by Disney until the DVD release of Nightmare Before Christmas, along with Burtons stop-motion short, Vincent.  Both shorts are utterly ridiculous, macabre and downright inspired.  They perfectly complement Nightmare Before Christmas.  Now Tim Burton is taking his half-hour short and turning it into a stop-motion film.  Personally I don’t think it is necessary, since the live-action short was magnificent because it was live-action.  But, the story does lend itself nicely to animation, and since stop-motion and 2D animation are dying arts, I’m excited to see it.  Stop-motion lends itself nicely to Tim Burton’s ‘style’, which I think is becoming a genre in its own right.  Who doesn’t want to see a new Tim Burton stop-motion film?  We haven’t had one since The Corpse Bride, which was good, but to me I found it fell a bit short of Nightmare Before Christmas.

Doesn’t Frankenweenie look amazing!  The dog looks like the dog in Brad Bird’s animated series Family Dog, which I vaguely remember from my childhood.  Shame that poor dog had a horrible family;  he was even more longsuffering than Courage the Cowardly Dog!  (my favourite animated dog, and cartoon).   I have just read that Tim Burton was the character designer on the Family Dog series.  I love the Igor looking kid in Frankenweenie, his teeth, his face; he just looks so ugly he’s actually adorable!  I love those teeth.  My only gripe is that Vincent Frankenstein, Frankenweenie’s master/owner looks too similar to Victor from Corpse Bride.  That being said, I suppose the main protagonists look is another Burton trademark.

Since we are on the topic of zombies, the supernatural and stop-motion, there’s another film coming out this year called ParaNorman. ParaNorman is being released by Laika, the company that made Coraline.  ParaNorman is about Norman, a boy who can talk to the dead, who is the only line of defence for his hometown when they come under siege by witches, ghosts and ghouls.  It looks fantastic, weird and quirky.  This promises to be a highly original and entertaining film.

I love the first trailer, the song Season of the Witch by Donovan creates this really surreal, supernatural feeling.  I also love the zombie toothbrush, it’s just stunning!

The second trailer gives you a better idea about the film, what our characters are like, the mood of the actual film rather than the mood created by the music used in the first trailer.  It appears to be more comedy based.