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Topics - The Legendary Shark

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Creative Common / The Writers' Block
« on: 21 November, 2014, 09:26:25 AM »
Writing (much like illustrating and lettering, I suppose) is a lonely job. It is also a frustrating and often confusing job. When artwork or lettering aren't working it's fairly obvious to see why - the foreshortening on that arm isn't right or that lettering needs more kerning - but when your script isn't working the reasons are not always quite so obvious. That's why I thought I'd start this thread so that we can discuss the mechanics of our craft, look under the hood of our stories and know what needs fixing and how to fix it.
It's not my intention to start a "here's my idea for a story/character/setting, what do you think?" kind of thread but a "I can't figure out how to get my protagonist to situation X without violating condition Y, any ideas?" kind of thread, although I suppose there's room for both if that's what you want.
Anyway, to kick off I'm going to describe a couple of useful ideas from John Truby's screenwriting course (which I highly recommend) that have helped me in my endeavours.
Like most writers, at first I fell into the trap of thinking that writing was easy. I retained myriad unnecessarily oblique words in my memory and was capable of constructing unnecessarily lengthy, grammatically reckless yet still ultimately readable, if somewhat convoluted, sentences with relative ease and occasionally, flair and so I set to writing. I got an idea than just started writing - after all, I'd read plenty of comics an I've learned the format, so I'm all set, right? Wrong. I'd get a third of the way in then hit a wall. The story was going nowhere, the characters were going nowhere and the idea was going nowhere. Yet another beautifully written but abandoned script.
What I hadn't figured out then but know now is that writing may be easy, which it is because virtually everyone can do it, but *storytelling* is hard - possibly the hardest job in the world; as difficult as quantum theory or five dimensional geometry. The storyteller has to take an idea, or a collection of ideas, and present them in one of the recognised story forms and/or genres. Audiences instinctively, and subconsciously, know that stories have different shapes and different beats and if any of those shapes or beats are missing the audience senses it. Your story doesn't work for them but they can't tell you exactly why.
Story shapes and genres are an important tool for writers to know about because it can give you a useful shorthand, a framework of things you don't have to explain that sets the scene or mood for the audience immediately, allowing you to concentrate more on the story You want to tell within your chosen vehicle. For example, your audience will expect different things from the comedy and tragedy story types and different things again from the gangster genre or the western genre. Part of our job as storytellers is to give the audience what it expects, but in a unique way, and *more*. What's the *more*? I have no idea - if you ever figure out a formula for producing it, please let me know!
The point is that I didn't plan my stories. As soon as I started doing that I had my first success ("The War of the Worlds" in FutureQuake # 15), although my plans at first amounted to little more than a page breakdown with each page containing vague story beats. Nevertheless, planning meant that I finished every script I started because, if something wasn't working, I caught it in the planning stage instead of hitting it head-on in another soon-to-be-abandoned script.
My next major success (and I hope you don't mind using my own work as illustrations - it's really the only work I feel entitled to criticise) was "Flesh: Extinction" a 3 book, 4 episodes per book monster of a story which ran in Zarjaz (issues 10, 14 and 17). Some of the initial planning in this story worked quite well - for example the "traitor" exposed in the last episode of Book II is clearly visible doing the deal on page one of episode one of part one. I was proud of this little detail until I realised that I'd just used it as a trick to tie the story together and that it was nothing more than a happy side-effect of planning and nothing to do with my genius as a storyteller at all.
The rest of that "epic" holds together fairly well, though, but still relied heavily upon instinct at the script writing stage and had a plan that was too shallow. The image in the final panel on the penultimate page of the very last episode was supposed to make a powerful statement about humanity, and I thought it was a very clever panel, but because I put it in on instinct and at the last moment there was no foreshadowing or "ground work" for the image and so it failed - and that's not the artist's fault, it's mine.
So, to me at least, planning is the most important part of the mechanics of writing - you can't build a suspension bridge without a blueprint and you can't write a story without a plan. But where do you start with a plan?
In the next post, I'll waffle on a bit about some of the factors that go into my planning - moral need, desire and the ghost.

Off Topic / The Eerie Thread of Weird
« on: 03 October, 2014, 06:28:51 PM »
Yesterday, the lady who took my last CPC training session emailed my boss to tell him that I never turned up for the final Saturday session (I did). Today, the warehouse manager of my last pick-up in Preston telephoned my boss to tell him that I'd never turned up for the pallet I was scheduled to collect (I had, the pallet was on the truck and I was five minutes away from base when the manager called my boss- the same manager who had LOADED THE PALLET AND HANDED ME THE PAPERWORK, ffs).
I was beginning to feel like I'd died without noticing, driving those last few miles home was an existential nightmare, but fortunately, by the time I got back, both the trainer and the warehouse manager had contacted my boss apologising for their respective (and totally unconnected) mistakes. So it seems I'm still alive. I think.
I mean, I never thought of myself as a particularly memorable person but two people forgetting all about me in 48 hours is taking the bloody piss - and also very, very eerie and weird.

Games / HuntFace
« on: 06 November, 2013, 11:45:44 PM »
So - I think I've invented a bit of a game. It's either genius or the most boring game ever.


I ask you to find somebody for me based on five criteria: Location, Physical Attribute, Possession, Obsession, Profession = maximum of 5 points. You then use your Net-Fu to find the closest match.


Find me an American big-breasted pool-table owner who collects frogs and drives a taxi.


Can it be done? Is it even possible? Can the game be improved? Should it be improved or just swiftly glossed over?


I hereby commend this idea to the House.

Creative Common / Photoshop Sex!
« on: 14 November, 2012, 04:24:23 PM »
Some time ago we tried Photoshop Tennis, but the format of people putting their names on a list and waiting their turn proved to be unweildy so I had a think and came up with Photoshop Sex instead.

Basically, you pick the last image posted and sex it up however you like with Photoshop or image manipulation program of your choice (I use Corel Photopaint) and then post it back up here for anyone else to play with. Any takers?

I'll kick off. I took this image:

and made this with it:

So, who's next...?

Suggestions / Pat Mills on Dan Dare
« on: 30 May, 2012, 04:12:37 PM »
Here's a brief email exchange between Mr Mills and me that might generate some interest:


Morning, Mark,

I wrote this item for my Facebook.  Thought it might be of interest to you, too.  Feel free to pass it on.

It's not an ideal solution, but seems a shame that none of that artwork has been reprinted.




Long term  2000AD readers may have wondered why those early Dan Dares by Bellardinelli and  Dave Gibbons have never been reprinted. 

I can shed a little light on this - it's because the name 'Dan Dare" is owned by another company who own the DD rights.

I've noticed that the early 2000AD trade paperback collections sell very well and I'm sure Dan Dare would be no exception, so I offered this suggestion to Rebellion:  How about if the logo was taken off the story and the name  "Dare"  deleted in the dialogue and where it appears in the art.  It could be replaced - where necessary - by "Commander"   and a title like Space Commander used instead;   with a subtitle like  "Journey to Jupiter" for the first story.

 Obviously some of the  later DD's by Dave Gibbons which featured the Mekon couldn't be included; but I think it still leaves quite a number of stories and pages.

On the plus side,  the drawback to  those 2000AD DD  stories was that they had no connection  whatsoever  with the original Hampson DD universe and  thus could be read as space stories in their own right. Also,  I remember they were popular when they first appeared  - although never a "number one" story.

When I talked to Rebellion, they could see where I was coming from, but I doubt they'll do anything because it's uncharted publishing territory and there may be all kinds of drawbacks  I haven't anticipated.  And   it wouldnt be much fun for the art editor either, ploughing through all those pages and deleting  the name "Dan"  etc.

Anyway,  I thought I'd mention it in case anyone felt it would work for them, or they can see a better solution.    If so, I'll be sure to pass your comments onto Rebellion.  I guess if there was enough interest they might be persuaded to go for it.

Personally, I'd love to see some of those amazing spreads by Bellardinelli again - especially  London of the Future  where the city has been greened, there are animals grazing near Big Ben  and teleport stations have replaced the London Underground.


Hi Pat,

That's a great idea and it does seem a crime to lose such beautiful work simply because of 'rights'.

My initial suggestion is to maybe pass the preparation phase of this project over to the small-press creators. If proper quality digital scans of the original artwork are available, there are plenty of letterers out there who could make a fine job of replacing the dialogue - which would also give the opportunity for you (or a writer of your choice) to wholly or partially rewrite all the speech bubbles and captions. Photoshop-savvy small press artists could alter the artwork details where necessary and I guess you could still use the Mekon by turning his skin red, making him the ruler of Nevus and calling him the Kemon or something. Once this has been done it can then be given over to Rebellion for them to print as a GN or present bagged with the Megazine or even (with the proper creator authorizations) self-published on Lulu. It could also, perhaps, be presented in its original episodic form as the main strip in a new or existing small-press comic, maybe one ostensibly run by professionals with the aim of developing new talent.

Anyway, that's just me thinking aloud.

Would it be okay for me to copy what you've written here over to the 2000ADonline website or would that be awkward for you or Rebellion?

Thanks for emailing me with this idea, Pat, I appreciate you taking the time. I'll certainly bring it up in the weekly chat tonight - to which you are, as always, invited if you fancy popping in for a bit.

Hoping all is well with you and yours.




Hi, Mark,

I think it would be great to include my thoughts on DD  on the 2000AD website as if there was enough interest it's just possible Rebellion might go for it.    Many thanks.  Knowing Rebellion, I couldn't see them passing it out to a small press, they'd probably arrange it "in-house"   and the license holder for Dan Dare would guard against any variant on the Mekon, I'm afraid.
I've added some further thoughts on DD which are worth adding  as they anticipate further changes that would be  needed.
Be interested to know what people think.

Currently  playing truant from work by writing this, so will have to pass on the talk-in, but thanks for invite!



> Yes, there would be problems reprinting 2000AD's Dan Dare - but not impossible if there was enough interest.  After all, Dredd Cursed Earth appeared minus the Burger Wars.   

What prompted me was I heard  Meltdown Man sold extremely well, so surely Bellardinelli's  Dan Dare would do the same.   But the eyebrows, the Eagle and the Mekon would have to go  - unless Rebellion paid for the use of the title.  But I suspect the  DD  license holder would not be keen  as he  might consider it detracts from the orthodox Dare, especially as the character was recently film optioned - by Warner Brothers, I believe.

> All in all,  reprinting 2000AD's Dare is a  problem - but it's such a shame when great art doesn't see the light of day.

> I'd  also forgotten about my  New Eagle Dan Dare story.   Excellent art by Ian Kennedy.   That would be Egmont  who own the stories and art, if not the rights to the name and images,   which means Titan Books might consider it.  I'll certainly mention it to to them.   

>  Incidentally,   a couple of years back, I heard there was interest in  the life of Frank Hampson as a  BBC tv doc drama, but haven't heard anymore  so suspect that's on hold. 


Over to you!

Off Topic / If Roger Were to Become a Mod...
« on: 24 March, 2012, 09:56:49 PM »

Film & TV / Star Trek vs Babylon 5
« on: 17 March, 2012, 05:25:17 PM »
Picard is better than Kirk.

Obvious Troll is not even trying.

All right then {rolls up trollsleeves} JMS is better than GR and B5 is better than ST.

News / Vote for Carlos!
« on: 23 January, 2012, 09:26:20 PM »
Thought I'd start a new thread for this in case the Eisner Award thread passes unseen.

Eisner Hall of Fame Online Voting Now Open for Nominees.

"To vote, you must be a professional working in the comics or related industries, as a creator (writer, artist, cartoonist, colorist, letterer), a publisher an editor, a retailer (comics store owner or manager), a graphic novels librarian, or a comics historian/educator. Eligible voters can visit www.eisnervote.com to register and then select up to four picks in the Hall of Fame category. The deadline for voting is March 25. Further eligibility information is provided on the Eisner Awards page."

Off Topic / Are You Mental?
« on: 21 January, 2012, 10:24:05 PM »
I am.

Go on - have a giggle, have a laugh. It's okay, most folk do - even me. The difference is that most people can have a giggle, have a laugh and then walk away from it. I can't. Once I've stopped giggling, it's still there. It's always there like an arm or a leg or hunger. It's not always at the forefront of my mind but, just like an arm or a leg or hunger, you can never quite get away from it.

Most people are afraid to talk about mental illness (and this is the hardest post I've ever written - it'll be a minor miracle if I can summon up the courage to click the 'Post' button) whether they suffer or not. Even me - I'm often terrified by it. I was lying in bed unable to sleep the other night and I heard a voice. This doesn't happen very often (thankfully) but when it does, it always puts the wind up me something fierce. I'm not talking here about that little voice that I presume we all have that just keeps chattering away in the background, the voice I'm listening to now as it forms these words I'm typing, the voice you're listening to now as you read what I've typed, the voice that goes something like "...look at those sparrows they seem happy I wonder if I need fags tonight when does Dr Who start again is there time for me to go to the chippy where the hell did I put my keys I hope that dog's not chewing on something important what day is it tomorrow I fancy sausages and chips for my tea I wish I had some crisps..." and never seems to stop. I'm guessing that everybody has that. This was a proper voice, a voice as clear and distinct and real as the voices you recieve through your ears when you're talking to an actual physical person in the actual physical world. Hearing a voice like that may not seem so bad, even when you know you're alone in your bed. It wasn't a demon's voice or an angel's voice and it wasn't angry or sinister - it was matter of fact and female.

It said, simply, "I'll kill you." Just once. It didn't repeat.

I'll leave you to imagine for yourselves how absolutely terrifying something like that can be.

The unfortunate news concerning Brett Ewins, covered elsewhere on the forum, and the bravery of some who posted there, has inspired me to start this thread because, you know, I'm drokking sick of being embarassed by my mental state. If you are embarassed reading about it, well, just walk away. Nobody will think any less of you. You're scared too, I get it, as if somehow the mentalness will seep out of these very words and infect you like some kind of Indigo Prime perception virus. Or maybe you're afraid that if you start talking to me (or any mental person) you'll find yourself being stalked in the darkness by a hooded, red-eyed figure with a machette one dark and lonely night. I can pretty much guarantee you that this ain't gonna' happen. The only flesh I ever slice into with a knife is my own.

If you see me on the street, don't be afraid or embarassed to ask me if I'm still mental or if I'm feeling mental today. Mostly I'll just lie about it anyway and say I'm fine, because fine is good. Fine I can cope with. If it's otherwise I'll probably just shrug and say "meh, you know." If it's worse than that you won't see me at all because I'll be locked at home trying to keep out of the world's way. Don't give me your sympathy or an embarassing hug (unless you're a hot woman) or your half-baked, condescending advice and platitudes. Treat it like I've got arthritis or something - sometimes it aches and sometimes it doesn't.

So I thought I'd do what the gay and black communities did. I'm reclaiming an ugly word and making it mine.

I'm mental.

Deal with it.

Off Topic / UFOs, UAPs and WTFs.
« on: 02 November, 2011, 01:27:43 PM »

As NBC's cameras returned from a commercial break and focused on the historic, triple-steepled St. Louis Cathedral in the city nicknamed the Big Easy, a couple of lit objects seemed to streak across the darkening sky -- and they've yet to be definitively identified...

For some reason I am reminded of Nemesis the Warlock, it looks like something he'd drive.

Help! / I have to go away for a while. I may be some time.
« on: 11 September, 2011, 01:47:40 AM »
Hey chaps.

Real life has conspired to throw me a curve ball and I'm going to be away from a computer for a while, maybe even a few months. Yeah, yeah - I know - "boo-hoo", you sarky shower.   :lol:

Anyhoo, I need volunteers for a couple of things before I go. First, the Yap Shop - there are plenty of admins for this so I hope they can look after the place. I'll pop in when I can but only expect me when you see me.

Second is the Ron Smith Tribute. Pretty much all you need to know is on the thread. I really hope someone can take up the reins on this because I'd hate for it to fizzle out because of me. If you fancy stepping into the breach, PM me and I'll give you the password for the thanksron@gmail.com address. (There have only been two contributions so far and they're both still on there.)

That's about it. I'm gonna' miss the Hell out of you guys, but I'll be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, may your god go with you and keep the Truth thread alive, because nothing is as it seems...

Au revoir, my friends.

Creative Common / Thank You... Ron!
« on: 28 August, 2011, 07:00:39 PM »

Now retired, legendary Twoothy artist Ron Smith had one of the most unique and instantly recognizable styles ever to grace our beloved organ. I could go on and on praising the man here but I'd be preaching to the converted, so... it has been suggested that we say thank you to Ron for the pleasure he has given us through his work over the years. But, how to do this? Simple!

Following on from the successful and eye-wateringly touching "Get Well Carlos" project we ran earlier, I suggest embarking on an entirely similar project this time around. Every one of you is invited to contribute to this project and lack of artistic talent is absolutely no bar whatsoever. You can submit a photocopy of a scribbled note on a wine-stained napkin if you like, or a poem, a letter, a drawing, a comic strip, a poster - anything at all (so long as it's respectful, of course). The brief is simple: To say "thank you" to Ron Smith for the part he has played in your enjoyment of comics or how he has inspired you.

Again, I suggest just a single and unique hard copy that will be posted to Ron and two digital pdf versions - a high-res unwatermarked contributors' copy and a low-res watermarked public copy for anyone to download. Once again, NO MONEY WILL BE MADE FROM THIS. It is a labour of love, not a marketing exercise. Any contributions will remain the copyright of the creator but all I ask is that you hold back from showing your submissions off elsewhere until Ron receives his hard copy.

For the moment, please send all contributions to: thanks_ron at sharkpool dot co dot uk 

Contributions should be A4/A5 size/aspect in jpg/pdf or tiff formats, CMYK colour - and try to keep the file sizes under 3MB if possible.

I'll put a tentative initial deadline on this of December 31st this year - although this may change if there is sufficient need.

So, all you droids, squaxx and lurkers out there - what do you think? Are you in?

Off Topic / Things That Make You Go "Heh"
« on: 17 August, 2011, 02:10:20 PM »
This just oozed into my in-box from Freegle:

...it made me go "heh."

Creative Common / The Random Musings of a Turbulent Mind.
« on: 05 August, 2011, 03:51:19 PM »
Where do you get your ideas from?

Many people ask me that when I tell them I'm a writer. (An amateur writer, yes, but still a writer.) The answer, for me at least, is everywhere. This doesn't seem to suit them as an answer. It's as if they believe I was born with a finite number of fully formed ideas hidden in my brains and all I have to do is reach in and pluck one out. Like pre-programming or a gift from God. Like a woman born with all the eggs she'll ever need. As if an idea is a single, isolated entity within itself. A singularity, if you will. But to me, an idea is a nexus - crossing the streams and seeing what happens. An idea is not a static thing, it's a process. Sometimes that process takes years, sometimes it happens almost instantaneously.

My new puppy (aww, bless) is asleep on a folded blanket on my desk, next to my right elbow, head resting on a Star Wars stormtrooper mouse-mat next to this very keyboard. When was Star Wars? 1977? That's, what, 34 years ago. The puppy's four months old, he'll live ten to fifteen years, if he's lucky. From the puppy's point of view, Star Wars came out two to three lifetimes ago. Two to three lifetimes ago from my birth takes me back to around the time of the French Revolution.

This got me thinking about how dogs perceive time. Do they know there was time before they were born, that there will be time after? Or is all eternity just in their lifetimes? I can learn of the French Revolution through books, but the dog can never learn about the original theatrical release of Star Wars and how it changed things, even if it could understand what Star Wars was. The dog cannot learn from history, cannot access information from before its birth. (Well, indirectly it can - through genetics, "species memory" or me teaching it things I learned before even it's great, great grandparents were born.) Free of these constraints, what must it be like inside the mind of a dog? Does it only really concentrate on about twenty minutes? Ten minutes past and ten minutes to come? Does the rest just devolve to instinct?

And this train of thought leads me to think how an alien might perceive time if its two to three lifetimes ago takes us back to the birth of Rome or mankind's discovery of fire. How much patience would such a race have? How much foresight? This is an idea, but not necessarily an idea for a story. If ever I do need to write about ten thousand year old aliens, though, this idea at least gives me a handle on them. So this idea gets filed with the rest, waiting for the right place to be in a story.

Then I looked at the sleeping puppy on the Star Wars stormtrooper mouse-pad again and thought, wouldn't it be cool if, under all that futuristic armour, those stormtroopers were actually werewolves. Well, now we're getting somewhere...

So I get my ideas from the random musings of a turbulent mind. How about you?

Film Discussion / ...and that right knee pad is vaguely erotic, too.
« on: 29 July, 2011, 12:03:26 AM »
Seriously, tell me you didn't just open this thread up and read it?

You fool, don't you know how many donkeys are suffering in New Zealand to provide 3-D glasses for short-sighted otters? It's a disgrace.

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