The Great British Newspaper Adventure Strip

July 31st, 2012 | comics talk

Yes, of course other countries have their own adventure strip tradition.  But I’m British. And this has been stuck in my head since a friend of mine told me he was going to have a try at doing one on the web.  Moving newspaper strip traditions to the web isn’t new either, naturally.  But the great majority of such instances have been in the mode of the comedy strip.  I don’t remember too many instances, and even fewer successful ones, of trying something like this:

Written by Peter O’Donnell, and, in its classic era, illustrated by the magnificent Jim Holdaway.

Newspaper strips were where the great comics artists lived.  GARTH, which I think was originated by Stephen Dowling and Gordon Boshell (some places cite only Dowling), rejoiced in the linework of legends like Frank Bellamy and Martin Asbury.

These all issue, of course, from a time when people read a newspaper every day: by which I mean reading through an entire and single disposable compendium of information.  And once you got through the news and features, you reached the entertainment part of the object, where these lay.  And you did that every day.  So it was possible to do a flavour of serialised storytelling.  Especially when, as in the Bellamy example above, the single strip was a little bit of art in its own right.

Sydney Jordan’s JEFF HAWKE (with, in its classic period, writing by Wiliam Patterson) helps me emphasise something: these strips tended to be a bit weird.  MODESTY BLAISE was, as spy/crime dramas go, a bit baroque and quirky.  GARTH was a time-traveller. JEFF HAWKE was a space pilot who ended up as a sort of unofficial ambassador for Earth in a universe gone mad.  Because British popular culture supported that even in the days of black-and-white.  HAWKE and BLAISE, particularly, were relatively sophisticated stuff.

In the modern day, it seems like a hard thing to pull off.  It’s not just there in your chosen news and information provision.  You’ve got to go out and select it, and you don’t get a big chunk every day.  It actually brings me back to the thinking about webcomics I did back in May, because of the obvious comparison between these shapes above and:

The example above being from Rucka & Burchett’s LADY SABRE.  The above is a single piece.  Each new episode of LADY SABRE is in fact the rough size of two newspaper strip episodes.  But it’s not daily.  It’s Mondays and Thursdays.  In theory, then, one weekday of LADY SABRE provides four days’ worth of newspaper strip content.

The fact that they use the larger block, roughly commensurate with half a US-standard comics page, does let them do things like this:

And that is also suggestive of the larger-sized “weekend” episode you’d see in the States.

This all circles around, really, to the nature of serialised fiction in the contemporary: also, I think, there’s something in here about the ways in which serial drama comics lost their hold on the mass audience by moving into the monthly form.  Weekly and daily is how television does it.  Books and films have their own special nature.  Monthly kind of flops down with magazines, which are disposable in a different way to newspapers.  They’re not a constant heartbeat presence in our lives.

A newspaper-style strip has long been on my list of Things To Do One Day.  I did, after all, get to scratch my Weekly Science Fiction Comic Serial off that list.  It wouldn’t necessarily even have to be in classical strip format.  But a daily strip in that general mode.  Story as pulse.


Bah

July 28th, 2012 | daybook

Fell ill Weds night/Thurs morning.  Still ill.  Was invited by BBC Newsnight to watch the Olympic opening ceremony and then comment on it.  Couldn’t get out of bed.  Very sad.  Live-tweeted it instead.  Back Monday.


THREE PANELS OPEN: Paul Pope

July 25th, 2012 | three panels

PAUL POPE is one of the most significant American comics creators of the last twenty years.  You can find him at his blog, and on Twitter as @PULPH0PE.

 

THREE PANELS OPEN is an open invitation.  Perhaps you’d like to do one.  A comic that is three panels in duration and 640px wide.  I’m only going to run the ones I like best, I’m afraid. However, there’s no time limit on submissions.  You can email the image to warrenellis@gmail.com, and please include your name and the website and/or twitter account you’d like it to be associated with.


And We’re Off

July 24th, 2012 | daybook

Attempting to post with an image from the iPad. The iPad WordPress app seems oddly less smart about this than the iPhone one.

Anyway. I broke ground on my end of WASTELANDERS last night. Which was mostly about getting used to Final Draft again, a screenwriting program that I haven’t spent time with in a while. Also, there’s still some comfort to be found on writing on my new laptop, which is one of those widescreen jobs with a chiclet keyboard. I still feel like I’m missing some screen real estate, and the keyboard is a bit odd (and a bit weird in its layout — the Return key is relatively tiny.) It’s the Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 with the i7 chipset, the FHD screen and the SSD memory cache on top of the 2TB HDD, for those who like to know such things. It seems reliable thus far aside from an occasional issue with the pointer — for some reason, new Lenovos and Flash (and perhaps Chrome) don’t play well together. But it’s better than the complete crash I was getting every time I played YouTube videos on the old machine.

I did leer at Joss’ MacBook Air last week, just because it’s so thin and tiny. But that screen would wreck my eyes in the end. I’d previously considered a Zenbook, for the same reasons, but discarded it, for the same reasons. Also, the demonstration machine crashed when I touched it.

And I’ve just realised that this app isn’t going to let me post the goddamn picture. Maybe when I get past this screen? We’ll see.

So, for the next few weeks, I’m in WASTELANDERS and a couple of other projects that won’t get announced until next year. And pacing around the opening of Next Novel, which is still giving me some trouble. And still peering at comics a bit, in the distance, because I can see one or two things I’d like to do in the future, should I ever find amenable artists. But thinking about that is mostly just mental play, the thing you toss around early in the morning or late in the evening to sharpen the edges of your brain on.

Also keeping half an eye on Thrillbent (which, as a title, still sounds to me like an obscure British gay porn magazine from 1980, sorry guys) and Monkeybrain, which both look to become major webcomics portals over the next year. I find it particularly interesting — and honestly a little odd — that Thrillbent’s teamed with Top Cow to present new work from that publisher, but if it injects new money into Thrillbent so that they can do new and more peculiar work in their free-to-air model, that’ll work out fine for me as a reader. Very curious to see what my old mate John Rogers, of LEVERAGE, eventually does in that comics model. I’m still not sold on The Thrillbent Way, but if they can make it a success, I will happily shut up and read comics.

Okay. Back to work.

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