Friday, February 23, 2007

Travel broadens the mind

Brussels, Villa Royale, Room 205. 6 February 2007, 6:40 AM: ,

Brussels, Villa Royale, Room 206. 13 February 2007, 6:40 AM

Brussels, Villa Royale, Room 206. 14 February 2007, 6:40 AM

Anglesey, Wales, Gwesty Victoria Hotel, Room 24. 22 February 6:40 AM

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Volgan war

We are in 2079. Joe Pineapples goes to Russia, to destroy Volkhan their head of state. As with all incoming robots, his satellite navigation is removed on entry to the country. His rockets are useless without it.

He takes a taxi to a cemetry. Once there he knocks the driver out, cannabalises the taxi and uses its satnav to fire his rockets at Vulkhan. He just misses. Joe is now running towards the Kremlin, armed to the teeth. Blackblood, defending Volkhan, isn't worried. He knows that all robots entering the country have been fitted with a bomb tag. And he has just given the order to detonate every single tag. It is unfortunate that a lot of innocent robots will be killed. The detonations will happen in three seconds time.

I've been waiting three days for the explosions: the next issue of 2000AD is out tomorrow. And I've discovered the fun of comics as opposed to graphic novels: the difference between watching a football match live and seeing the highlights later. Blogs, football teams, comics: all at their best when you track one or several over time, as you flow through time with them.

Adam Crabtree and Gavin Hanley can give you a more sophisticated reading of Joe's adventure

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dylan Dog

I went to Italy a couple of weeks ago. I was working in Ispra, a tiny town on Lake Maggiore that has a European Commission research centre. I arrived at 10 at night. The hotel was virtually empty and its kitchen had closed. The receptionist offered to make me a sandwich. I was sitting in the bar eating it when I saw a small comic book on the bar.

I sat and read it. Set in London, a young detective, Dylan Dog, living with someone else called Groucho who looks and acts like Groucho Marx. Investigating some sort of curse on a building site. I only got half way through it. I didn't pluck up courage to ask if I could borrow it for the night, and the next morning it was gone (I think it belonged to the hotelkeepers daughter).

Next lunchtime I was in a newsagent with my colleague Paolo. I asked him what the Italian word was for 'bandes dessinees' (the French phrase that covers everthing from comics to graphic novels). 'Fumetti' he said and took me to a huge long shelf of comics, all the same size (A5/pocket book)and length (100 ish pages) as the Dylan Dog story I had read in the bar.

Turns out there are a number of popular comic book characters in Italy and every month they bring out a complete new story for the character. Paolo described all the characters. Tex the cowboy, who has been going for sixty years and is Paolo's dad's favourite. Dylan Dog, who I'd already met. Other characters whose names I have forgotten: one set in the future like Blade runner, a crime one. They didn't just have the current months story for them, they had back issues too. Spoilt for choice. The only comic on sale in UK newsagents is 2000AD.

I chose one of the back issues of Dylan Dog, Mystero di Venezi. It was brilliant: an ill-intentioned couple trying to get a Film Director and a tour guide to hallucinate into existence demons that would destroy Venice. I chose it because it was set in Italy. I later read on Wikipedia that Dylan hardly leaves London because he gets motion sickness (in my story he travelled by train). That it is the largest selling comic in Italy. And that Umberto Eco has said that he never gets bored reading the Bible, Homer or Dylan Dog.

My lack of knowledge of Italian didn't prevent me enjoying the story and the drawing. If you want to dip your toe into the waters of learning Italian you could do a lot worse than grab hold of a few Dylan Dog stories.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Fulham 2 Newcastle Utd 1

One of the nice things about watching football is admiring skill from opposition players.

Last November Arsenal came down to Craven Cottage. Early in the second half, a long ball over the Fulham defence from the half way line. Thierry Henry controls it with his left and curls into the top corner with his right foot before we could blink. The referee disallows it for offside. I told the bloke next to us that this was perfect, you see a world class player score a world class goal and it doesn't even count against your team.

Our seat is only 15 rows back, so we can see the whites of the players eyes when the action is near us. Newcastle had a throw right in front us yesterday. Nicky Butt received the ball at his feet. I paid special attention. Nicky Butt, a neat passer of the ball, growing up in all those succesful Man U sides. Man of the match in that England v Argentina game in the 2002 world cup that Tania and I somehow managed to watch on a hospital tv an hour before Anna was born.

Butt turned and rolled the ball square, towards were he thought his defenders where. But they weren't. Heider Helgueson was though, and he cracked the ball over the suprised goalkeeper into the net.

That is two nice memories I have stored up from Nicky Butt now.