This summer...:In Books

Weirdly enough, the books I've been reading this summer (Apart from dissertation studies or 'How to use Final Cut' books which I'll talk about later) have been comics and graphic novels.

The first is Mike Mignola's 'HELLBOY: The chained coffin and others' which is a set of short spin off stories following Hellboy as he investigates various mythical nasties in 60's - 90's UK and Russia (I seem to recall, please correct me if not). I'd never actually read one of Mignola's books before and was only provoked into doing so by the upcoming 'Hellboy' film in an attempt to give myself abit of background on the character.

I wasn't disappointed at all. Mignola manages to have this Halfman halfdemon character work very well. I was very much expecting a tired and stupid romp of destruction with a fantasy twist but there is a lot of thought having gone into making the character beliveable and likeable; in his protective and surly mannerisms to his brand of ethics and relationships with other characters.

The artwork is brilliant as well; the slashes and bellcurves of ink really helping to add weight to character's appearances as well as making sure every smash or grab is vivid and believeable.

Next is Daniel Clowes' 'Ice Haven'.

From Wiki:
Ice Haven takes the form of 29 short, stylistically diverse comic strips about different residents of the small town of Ice Haven. Although each strip is separately titled and presented as if it is self-contained, together they tell a story about the characters' interrelated lives.

So yeah, the book is a mish mash of Clowes experiences with different american styles of comic making in order to establish a mise-en-scene for each of the character's personalties and motives which I found to be very effective. The story brings everyone together with the event of the kidnapping of the local strange kid, based on Clowes' own experiences with a similar event in his childhood.

There is an indepth review which seems to say everything that I could ever want to about this book and more, (forgoing my intense fascination with the eerily beautiful method he uses to depict women's faces) so you should really give that a read here.

Currently I'm enjoying Will Eisner's 'New York: Life in the Big City' which is one of the most emotionally accurate depictions of the human condition I've encountered.

I'm enamoured by Eisner's characterisation and compositioning skills. His ink work only serves to add an even greater depth to the smokey New York he draws from who's quintessential populace he captures expertly.  

Plus, it's introduced by Neil Ga(y)man! LOLZ! 

Now, Tomine's 'Shortcomings' is a book which I've been meaning to read for months, duely recommended by the art snobs and elitists I call my good friends. I'd never read anything else that the author's written so I wasn't sure at all what to expect. The sharp look and pallid pallette of the cover gave a very 'human' and 'feeling-y' vibe so I guess I was waiting for a kind of Craig Thompson 'Blankets' experience and in a way I wasn't that far off.

The book is about relationships with friends and lovers and how someone who is unsure of their Asian/American identity might go about those situations. 

I found myself attracted towards the protagonist, despite his douchebag mannerisms like the way in which he belittles everyone who tries to contact him somehow and his general pessimistic/self destructive/elitist ways. This is probably because the relationship he shares with his best (only) friend who is a lesbian hits very close to my heart (you know who you are) and the way they both incessently tear into each other made me smile. 

The art work is very crisp and gets the point of each frame across without distracting too much but all in all it's maybe a bit sterile for my tastes. I guess the art work suits the mood that the protagonist constantly mopes about informing the reader of though. 

So, well written story about being who you are and letting others be the same, crisp lines and good reading. 

And the last leisurely book I read (not just thumbed through and gawped at like the monkey hanger I am; lots of that done this summer) is the gob smackingly kinetic masterpiece that is Cyril Pedrosa's 'Three Shadows'. Again, Pedrosa isn't an artist who's work I'd encountered before but thanks to my local library, will definatly strive to do so again. 

Pedrosa's experience with Disney shines through in his work as those familiar curves and swirls of the mid ninties - noughties Disney animations appear on every page and maybe this factor enhanced my enjoyment so much. The way in which Pedrosa depicts a character is in a very cartoonish manner with their body types doing well to portray their characters personalities (big proud father resembles a huge bear, untrustworthy old hag is shrivled and mean looking etc) but these 'otherwise-would-be' cliches do nothing to stifle the story. Which.. I won't go into because it would ruin the book, suffice to say it's about an arduous journey. 

Anyway, brilliant reading experience, must read more of the artist's stuff!

Btw, this image of 'Three Shadows' is actually a little better quality that the copy on the book I have in front of me because it's not quite as dark and you can pick out much more detail. Or at least it seems that way with my eyes.

Next post.. Work experience I think.

This summer..: In games

Summertime summertime, never was a funner time.

Or something.

To give an impression of what I've been up to this summer, I'll present my activities in several posts, each concerning a new catagory. This one, obviously being most important to my existence is gaming. Video-gaming that is.

So, here's a run down:

System Shock 2.

Brilliantly scary and argueably the inspiration behind any sort of rpg/survival horror elements in todays fps games, inspiring even Half Life and Deus Ex in its methods. Still holds up well 9 years on.

Street Fighter 3

To me this is THE best streetfighter; weighty animations, easy to learn but difficult to master gameplay and jaw-dropping character design. The parry system makes this a fiendishly addictive game.


An imaginative RPG, essentially a spinoff of the 'Mother/Earthbound' series as you play the role of .. yourself AND a small boy who make contact with the professor from the previous games. You then scour the world looking for cells to power his systems so he can get home. Or something. I honestly wasn't listening as he explained his problem as I was too focused on the stat-building system which involves changing into different outfits and digesting food, but to be fair, a game that gives a young boy an army combat knife and then only provides him with benefits if he uses it to slaughter screen after screen of woodland animals can only be a good game in my eyes.

Pokemon Diamond

(Its essentially the same grind-fest it's always been; went off it in a couple of days)

Castlevania SOTN

The most popular of the Castlevania series, I find myself drawn back to it whenever I have some time on my hands and a playstation in my grasp. The music is atmospheric as is are the lush landscapes and monster designs and its all wrapped in the neat little bow of being a kick-ass son-of-a-vampire.


Played this for about an hour one lunch time and got really tired of it quickly. To be fair I cant' have given it much of a chance but I felt almost .. queasy from the transition of 'usually cartoony and therefore hilarious' car-on-pavement rampages of the previous titles to this installments 'you're basically a real life murderer now' interpretation. I'd been looking forward to this game but.. bit too realistic for my liking.


I'd actually missed out on this game when it came out so when I saw it for a quid in a preowned bin, I jumped on it. Honestly, wasn't that impressed with the result.. not the level of depth I was expecting maybe or.. perhaps I've played games that have borrowed from and subsequently built on this supposed classic.


Messed around in the massive Morrowind for a day or so, trying to get a feel for what an immersive RPG is; hence Fable as well. There is something about Morrowind that ends up feeling very cold and... isolated. Sure it's huge and there are alot of places to go and kill the same 7 monsters but everyone is just a quest giver and never really seem to have alot of depth to their own characters, where as in Fable, people could be seen milling about in their own lives and involving each other in their own story.

(I was conducting this research for a game that I'm designing but dont' want to put up on here just yet.)

and Capcom VS SNK Millenium Fight 2000

Another very good 2d fighter, combines elements of street fighter, darkstalkers and king of fighters into one huge mishmash of smashy smashy intensity. I really love Capcoms character designs but SNK's all felt very similar and 'serious'.

Hmm, that is quite alot of games! Next time, Books!