WARREN ELLIS LTD Articles.
Yesterday, I posted a supercut of all the BBC1 television idents.
My friend Chris DiBona posted a response on Twitter. It turns out he got to see the model of the last physical effect for the classic “spinning globe” BBC ident, and I wanted to save the photos he posted. NEXUS ORTHICON DISPLAY DEVICE, you guys. Hey, Chris, that Pixelbook you gave me still works perfectly!
Someone jokingly asked me, a few months back, what I’d do if I were running a comics publishing company. They meant Marvel or DC. But that’s not me.
This is me:
That is 5.25 inches on one side and about 7.7 inches on the long side. It contains 96 pages within its perfect-bound card covers, and in this book 94 pages of them are comics.
And it’s black and white.
This is the old Paradox Mystery format, which, to my mind, did everything right. Except that each book was a three-part serial, released monthly. And bookstores, the natural audience for these works, do not accommodate monthly serials. Even Stephen King couldn’t make it work. Each one should have been a 96-page standalone work.
It is otherwise very nearly perfect as a format. All Andy Helfer had to do was to push back against everyone who wanted serial works, and say, no, these are going to be self-contained books for reading in a single sitting, like Georges Simenon’s MAIGRET books.
But it was not to be. Though I should note that this line produced A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, which became the film directed by David Cronenberg.
The Paradox books had a roughly unified trade dress, but it needed something just a little more flexible and a little more eyecatching. It needed Romek Marber, frankly. I’ve talked many times before about the Marber Grid, the template created in 1961 for Penguin Books.
I can daydream about setting Rian Hughes to generate his own Hughes Grid, right? And Rian styling them all with his own typefaces?
I could happily have spent much of my life just writing three of these a year. 90-page black and white stories in a comfortable format that makes you want to curl up with them for an hour or two. I could have had a rack of them like Ingmar Bergman movies by now.
The Paradox Mystery books are, of course, from the mid-Nineties. Before manga exploded in the bookstore market. What were outliers back then are possibly right in the zone today. Nobody’s listened to me about this over the last twenty years and nobody will listen to me about it now. And quite rightly, because I’m entirely mad.
I would only publish three kinds of graphic novels. Fiction, Documentary and Theory. I would go bankrupt in about eight minutes. I would love every second.
(Also. yes, I have had that copy of HUNTER’S HEART to hand since 1995. It’s a lost future.)
This is a test to see if I have one of my systems up and running. This is also a photo of one of my bibles for the Official Continuation JAMES BOND graphic novels I did for the Ian Fleming estate and Dynamite Comics, VARGR and EIDOLON. Worth looking those two books up for the great art by Jason Masters.
HARD TO BE A GOD is an insane film.
Here’s the deal. In the future, scientists from Earth are inserted into a humanlike society on another planet to observe it. So far, so Star Trek, right? It’s based on a Strugatsky Brothers novel from 1964. The Strugatskys were brilliant — you’ve heard of STALKER, based on their ROADSIDE PICNIC. Anyway, this guy is inserted into the place as Don Rumata, a regional ruler. And he and his fellow observers are their to study a society in a permanent medieval dark age, where an Enlightenment/Renaissance never seems to happen. It’s a stuck culture.
Because it kills anyone who learns how to read and write.
There are no framing shots of Earth. We’re immediately immersed in the medieval village, in all its muck and slime. I have to note that it is beautifully shot in monochrome, with a deep, rich range of greys. I should also note that if it were in colour it would be even more astonishingly gross. The past was pretty disgusting, and HARD TO BE A GOD really wants you to know exactly how disgusting.
The camera is an extra in the crowd. It pushes its way into scenes. Characters look into the lens. Into our face. Because, as Don Rumata is a secret observer from Earth, so are we.
With a big, eccentric and charismatic turn from Leonid Yarmolnik in the lead, we lurch and stagger through this terrible, time-locked world that kills its brightest, leaving it to the depredations of the venal clubs of mediocrity.
Director Alexsei German’s films were mostly about the Stalinist era, and it’s not hard to see HARD TO BE A GOD as a Stalinist allegory. I was, here in 2019, also put in mind of recent comments about “the end of the expert” and “the death of expertise.”
The film is an immense experience, sometimes exhausting, often awesome, always surprising. And caked in muck. There’s nothing quite like it. You would appreciate it, I think. It needs to be seen.