Friday, 31 December 2010

2010: Taking Stock part 3 - The Life and Times of PJ Montgomery

2010 then. That was a year which, I think, will always be remembered as the one which came between 2009 and 2011. I truly think that. Seriously though, if I had to sum up 2010 properly, I'd say it was a mixed bag. Here's the blog where I get personal, and tell you about my year.

I started this year a wreck. There's no point pretending otherwise. Without going into too many details (largely because I already have done so, at length, elsewhere), 2009 ended with a massive break up and a pretty bad head injury. These two don't mix, as the head injury means you can't get absolutely post-break-up-shitfaced like you're supposed to. I had a miserable December, and so when New Year's Eve came along, and I was able to drink again, I did so. With gusto. I was ably assisted in this by one of my very best friends, Ian Dowling, constantly spiking my drink with more vodka whenever I turned my back. What I remember of the night is a lot of fun. But then, what I remember is very little of it, and it's fuzzy at best.

The upshot of all of this? A two day hangover. I awoke on January 1st, 2010, still a little drunk. This soon changed when I sat down for lunch with some friends at Uncle Chan's Tasty Wok (RIP), and took a couple of mouthfuls of food. Then I felt very ill and had to come home straight away. Like a fool, I'd invited some of the guys back to watch Doctor Who. They dutifully showed up on time, and we watched Doctor Who. However, throughout the entire episode, much I loved my friends, I was suffering and just wanted them to leave so I could pass out. And possibly die.

Thankfully, some of my friends are an astute bunch, and they recognised my pain, and left soon after Doctor Who finished. I went to bed, and slept a lot, waking up on the 2nd only because I had to go to work. I didn't quite feel right, but didn't think much of it. It was only after a few hours in work, when I was still feeling a bit off, that it suddenly dawned on me. I was still fucking hungover! How much had I had to drink on New Year's Eve? A bottle of wine, half a bottle of vodka, several glasses of sparkling wine and a couple of shots of Dooleys, for the record. So, that was the start of 2010 for me. The longest damn hangover I'd ever had.

The next couple of months didn't exactly go to plan either. While there were some good developments on the writing front (see my last blog for details), I'm largely going to remember the first couple of months as a time I felt betrayed like I never have before. Again, I've dealt with this at length before, but suffice to say, I lost friends over it. At the same time as I was reeling from this, my job hit me with a £4000 a year pay cut, a not insubstantial amount, I think you'll agree. The result of the events of these first few months was my transformation into a being I like to call Angry Paddy. He's a bit like the Hulk, only not the Hulk at all. Okay, he wishes he were the Hulk.

I spent a good portion of 2010 angry. At first, it was anger directed at two people in particular and my job, but it soon settled into a general feeling of rage directed at whatever happened to be in my eye line at that point. It was during this period of time, when I started threatening to set things on fire, that Drew Davies, my good friend and Stiffs co-writer, first coined the phrase "Paddy Prescription". It means... Um... Well, it's what we call it when I set something on fire.

There were a lot of vitriolic blogs and comments around this time, some of which you can still find if you look hard enough, and a number of which got me into trouble with certain people. I also, and I'll freely admit this, probably wasn't always much fun to be around during those months.

It took a while, but I'm over the anger now. I'm also over the hatred of the two people who managed to cause it. I'm not saying they're forgiven, because I'm just not that big a human being as it turns out, but I really don't care about them either way. Let them live their lives, and I'll live mine. That's all there is to it now.

Of course, there was good stuff right at the beginning of the year. January 31st, 2010, was the day a little ball of fluff named Caliban entered my life. I'd always said that once I lived alone and was able to do so, I would get a cat. The loneliness I was feeling after the break up was also a factor. So, finding a guy in work who had kittens he was giving away, I went around and picked one of the tiny, six month old kitties he was offering. It turns out, I picked an idiot. Seriously, Caliban's a moron. Almost a year now he's been living here, and he still faceplants the washing machine on a regular basis. But I do love him, and he provides hours of entertainment and, when he wants to, affection. He's a lovely kitty, though not so small any more. He's only getting bigger, and if the Maine Coon theory holds water, wil continue to do so for the next three and half years, at which point he will be large enough to take on Godzilla. That's a terrifying thought. Also, not getting any less fluffy. And he does leave it everywhere. Technically, I should probably be hoovering every hour. Don't come over if you're allergic to cat hair.

2010 was also the year when I started playing tennis again. The previous three summers, I'd managed to have one game a year. I'd always intended to play more, but it just never happened for one reason or another. However, this summer not only did Andy Grierson and I have our long awaited rematch (a close thing, but Andy bested me again. He'll get his, one of these days), but we then found more people to play with, and sudenly tennis became a semi-regular thing, with myself and Andy joined by Nicki Tudor, Abby O'Sullivan, Dan Austin and Sian Prescott. Here's hoping that continues when the warm weather comes back again!

And so to Twitter, which had to get a mention eventually. While I didn't join Twitter this year, my usage of the site really went into overdrive in 2010. I tweet quite a lot now, and through using Twitter, have not only found myself back in contact with old friends, but have gotten to know other friends better and made a lot of new ones. You're far too numerous to mention individually here, but you are all awesome, and have definitely made the second half of this year a vast improvement on the first.

That said, one of my favourite weeks of 2010 was one in the first half. My cousin, Rhys Warburton, was marrying his long-term girlfriend, Anna Davitt, and guess who got invited to the wedding? Yep, loads of their friends and their families. Oh, wait, that includes me. Whoo! Party! One small detail though. Rhys and Anna are New Yorkers. The wedding was being held in Brooklyn. So, in order to attend, I would have to have another New York holiday. What a shame.

So it was that in mid May, myself, my sister and a whole load of my cousins descended on the Big Apple, and boy did we have an awesome week. A large portion of it was spent drunk and / or hungover, but free bars will do that to you. However, some key highlights of the week include, the first evening, when myself and all my cousins, despite our jetlag, went to a bar in Manhattan and proceeded to drink and laugh the night away until we passed out. The welcome party the night before the wedding was also a lot of fun. There was a free bar. I drank a lot of Jack Daniels. Then, we went out to another bar in the East Village. I think there were shots, and if I learned anything, it's that yes, American beers may be weaker than ours, but damn, they pour a lot more in when it comes to shots.

Needless to say, the following day, the day of the wedding itself, I, my sister, Charlotte Montgomery, her fiance, Chris Knott,our cousin Ed Simpson and Ed's girlfriend, Clare Morgan, all woke up with hangovers. So we did what anyone else would do. Went for a massive breakfast and then journeyed to the bright lights and loud noises of Times Square. It was here we discovered the clothes shop American Eagle, and their rather fun offer of buy anything, we'll take your picture and put it up on a massive screen above the shop! Of course, in our hungover state, we thought that was an excellent idea. Before we had the picture taken, Ed gave us a quick team talk. "Okay, let's make sure it's not a family photo like Grandma would be proud of. Make sure we all do something stupid." Here's the resulting photo:-

Note how only one person in that picture is doing something stupid. Also note how that person is me. When that flashed up, for all of Times Square to see, I turned to the others. "Why... Why am I the only one doing something stupid? I thought we were all going to." Ed responded. "Yeah, sorry. We've kinda let you down there Patrick." I gestured around at Times Square. "No one else here knows that! They all think I'm an idiot!"

Oh, well. Then we went for ice cream, which does cure hangovers, as I've discovered this year. Seriously, next time you have a hangover, go get some ice cream from Baskin Robbins or somewhere similar. It'll do the job. The wedding itself that evening also involved a free bar, and then another bar in Brooklyn, where my cousins and I proceeded to have more drinking and laughing until the small hours of the morning. All in all, an awesome time.

One final thing I want to mention in this blog, which happened in September, is the charity party I threw. Originally designed as a renuion for people who had started at the University of Glamorgan ten years before, but it soon grew beyond that, involving anyone we had known over the decade. We hired out Callaghans in Cardiff city center, booked three bands and had a bloody good night, in which we raised a nice bit of money for Marie Curie and the British Heart Foundation. It was lovely to see friends, both new and old there, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I'm planning for this to be the first of several such events, and the next one is coming up fast in March for Comic Relief.

So, looking ahead to 2011... Well, it's already starting better than 2010 did. Unlike previous years, I'm not making any definite resolutions or plans, but what I'm hoping 2011 will bring is the following: My writing finally reaches the public at large, I'm able to leave a job I hate, and that the Comic Relief event goes well enough that I can continue doing such parties. Fingers crossed, eh?

Happy new year.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

2010: Taking Stock part 2 - The Writer's Year

If you read this blog, chances are you also follow me on Twitter, or have befriended me on Facebook. Or, ya know, not. You might just know me from my blog. Wherever you know me from though, you're probably aware that I'm a writer. I do tend to mention it. Anyway, I've got a number of projects brewing, at various stages of development, and I thought I'd use this blog to let you know how they're all going, what I did this year, and what you can expect next year. Let's start with the one I've been working on longest.

More Than This

My feature film script, this one's been in development for a few years. By January this year, I'd done four and a half drafts of it (half because one of them wasn't a full rewrite). I knew it wasn't ready yet, and needed, at the very least, one more draft, but before I embarked on another draft, I wanted to hear it. Read out loud. By people. Preferably people who have voices. And could read. Thankfully, I know a few such people, and so, one sunny Saturday afternoon, I gathered some wiling volunteers, fed them tea and biscuits, and listened as they read out the project above all others which I regard as my baby. More Than This is a very personal project for me, being vaguely autobiographical, and featuring a lead character who is very much in the head space I was in when I first started writing it. So, I was nervous, to say the least, and hoped to Odin that it would go well. And it did. My temporary cast all enjoyed the script, and were able to give me some very useful feedback to incorporate into the next draft. I've also sent it to another friend whose feedback I am awaiting in full. I'm hoping I can get cracking on the next (full) draft of More Than This next year, though there are a few things I have to work on first which have actual deadlines. Still, it's coming along nicely.


This is another project which has been out there for a while now. When the year began, it was called Zombie Death Squad, the name it had been going by for a couple of years at that point. Within a couple of months, it was going by the name of Dead Enders. A couple of months after that, it was changed again to Stiffs. That title's sticking. The premise hasn't changed. The comic is still about a group of bored twenty-somethings and a talking monkey who fight the undead in South Wales. However, early in the year, we (Drew Davies, the creator, plus myself and our other co-writer, Joe Glass, and artist, Gavin Mitchell) met with some people who already work in the industry. Once again, we were given feedback which we took on board, and which lead to some changes, not to the central idea or themes, but in how we were going about writing the book. ZDS was originally going to be pitched as a #0 issue, followed by an ongoing series. Stiffs is a five issue mini series, incorporating elements of what would've been issue #0 and the first six issues of the ongoing. It leaves the story open to continue, should we be fortunate enough to actually sell it, but it will also stand on its own as a self contained story should it not go any further. We writers have worked together to rewrite it, and I think we've got something pretty tight which people will enjoy. Gav's also turning in fantastic artwork, getting better with every page, and we're ably assisted by the uber-talented Adam Cadwell providing colours and letters. While we've been turned down by one publisher, we've still got plenty more to pitch to. In the mean time, there's going to be a preview book, featuring some of the first issue of Stiffs, available at the Cardiff Comic Expo in February. Come along, and tell us it's awesome. We won't be able to handle any other reaction.

Supermarket Matters

So, earlier this year I responded to a tweet posted by my friend, Mark Chatterly. He was looking for people to write episodes of a comedy podcast he'd come up with set in a supermarket. It wasn't the sort of thing I'd usually write, essentially being a radio play and involving absolutely no monsters or superheroes of any kind. Still, I thought I'd give it a crack. I pitched a couple of ideas to Mark, and he liked them enough to tell me to go away and write them. Which I dutifully did. I wrote two episodes of Supermarket Matters (though as I type, I'm yet to turn my final drafts in. They're nearly there), and these are actually going to be recorded in January, ready for a release a little later in the year. Keep an ear out for these, as Mark has assembled a great team of writers (plus one hack), and they've put together something which I think is very special. By the way, the hack is me.

The Lie At The End Of The World

Okay, so I haven't actually done any writing on this short comic story I wrote a couple of years ago, in which Death kills the other three horsemen of the Apocalypse, but has been pitched to a couple of places again, and fingers crossed, it's looking quite promising that it may finally see the light of day in 2011.

The Liars and another untitled superhero project

I can't reveal much about these, as they're only in the very early stages at the moment, but they're both ideas which I had this year which I'm very proud of indeed. They're both comic projects, again, one of which I hope to start writing soon with my Stiffs collaborator, Drew Davies, while the other I'll be continuing to write on my own. But expect to hear more about both of these over the next twelve months.

Life and Ninjas

You know nothing about this. And I'm telling you nothing about this here. But it'll be here, and soon.

There are, of course, other projects I'm working on at the moment, but these are the ones which occupied my brain and my time for the majority of the past year. Fingers crossed, they'll all continue to move forward in 2011. Things are starting to happen.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

2010: Taking Stock part 1 - At the Movies

So I thought I'd write a couple of blogs looking back at the year that was 2010, how it went, what was good, what was less good, and all that fun stuff. In this first part, I'm gonna talk about my own humble opinions on the films I saw in 2010. The next blogs will get a little more personal, as I talk about my writing and the events of the past year, but for now, let me indulge the film critic within.

If I had to use one word to sum up my general feelings on the films I saw this year, I would have to go with fun. For a number of reasons, 2010 was a year in which, more than any other I can remember, I came out of the cinema feeling like I'd had an absolute blast. A large part of this was down to cinema looking back to the heyday of balls to the wall, supremely fun action movies, the nineteen-eighties. Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Commando, Rambo, Predator... The list goes on. These were the films which shaped a generation (and possibly inspired Michael Bay's entire canon, but we'll forgive them that) and provided endless fun for... well, not the whole family, but for quite a few of us.

While there have always been action movies, they seemed to have lost their way in the nineties and the noughties (a term I hate, but I have no better word for the decade). Yes, we had sequels to most of those films, and while I enjoyed Die Hard 4 to a degree, it wasn't the same kind of fun.

While we had one direct sequel to the films of our youth in Predators (not bad, but didn't blow me away), it was largely left to the new boys to take up the slack. First up, was The Losers. Based on the comic by Andy Diggle and Jock, The Losers took the basic concept of its source material (a group of special forces soldiers are framed for a crime they didn't commit by their own government and have to attempt to prove their innocence), but changed the tone completely. The comic is best described as a thriller, with elements of an espionage story and a shadowy villain who remains unrevealed for a good portion of time.

The film though... Well, it was all about explosions, car chases, ridiculous missions, one-liners and an over the top, slightly camp, unhinged bad guy with a ridiculous plot for world domination. And, in its own way, it was quite, quite brilliant. It wasn't a thinking mans film, by any stretch of the imagination, but when your cast includes people like Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Idris Elba and Chris Evans, men who can't help but be charismatic every moment they're on screen, you can't help but be swept up in the fun.

After the Losers came a film which was very much rooted in the eighties, being a remake of a classic TV series we all know and love. The A-Team may have shared a name and characters with it's forefather, but it was a very different beast. After all, when in the TV series did you have a tank, in free fall, taking on a fighter jet? Tank Vs Plane is really all you need to know about the A-Team. Plot? Who cares. It's not important. There's a fucking tank in the sky fighting a plane! It was ridiculous, and it was brilliant.

After the new boys, the old guard tried to come back at them in The Expendables, and they largely succeeded. Like The Losers and The A-Team, it was filled with explosions, car chases and fist fights. But it also took the violence that one step further. From the moment in the opening when Dolph Lundgren makes a bad guys head go pop with a shotgun, you knew exactly what you were getting from this film. Bone crunching fights, body parts being removed and blood everywhere. More than the previous two movies, The Expendables was a true eighties action film. But then when the cast includes Sylvester Stallone, the aforementioned Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and the Governator himself, as well as Jet Li, Jason Statham and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin... Well, we all knew what we were getting into as soon as we entered the cinema. Rumours of a sequel, which will feature all those guys, plus, hopefully, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Segal and Dwayne Johnson are... Well, I sincerely hope they're true.

There was one more action movie, also based on a comic, which was a return to the eighties style of film making and boasted Bruce Willis kicking bad guy ass better than anyone, but which also featured an actual plot. Based on the comic by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) told the story of a group of retired secret agents who are targeted by, who else, a rogue faction within the government. But where RED wins out for me is that, as well as the excellent action scenes (Bruce Willis calmly stepping out of a moving police car and firing his gun is one of the coolest things I have seen this year), but the fact that it was also damn funny, and not just in the comic violence sense of the others. John Malkovich as a twitchy, paranoid sidekick was hilarious, as was the sight of Dame Helen Mirren packing a sniper rifle. Of the four, RED was my favourite, but all of them are perfect for a beer and pizza night in front of the TV. Get some friends in, and just enjoy.

Of course, there were other films which were a lot of fun without being eighties throwbacks. Three of them were based on comics, and two of these managed to surpass their source material.

First up, the long awaited (well, two years) Iron Man 2. Now, when I first saw Iron Man 2, I came out of the film with mixed feelings, and having watched it again since, I still have those. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it. Robert Downey Jr is still perfect as Tony Stark, Sam Jackson gets more than a cameo as Nick Fury, the debut of the Black Widow in the shapely form of Scarlett Johanssen, Don Cheadle injecting more life into the part of James Rhodes than Terence Howard managed in the first one, plus War Machine, and Sam Rockwell clearly having a blast as Justin Hammer. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing directo Jon Favreau get more to do this time around in his on screen role as Happy Hogan. Plus, the scene where Tony dons the briefcase armour in the middle of a motor race at Monaco, and takes on Mickey Rourke's Whiplash? A superhero fight AND motor racing? Two of my favourite things come together at last! The problem is, Iron Man 2 isn't (whisper it, wait for the backlash) that great a film. Mickey Rourke is criminally sidelined for most of it, Stark's drinking problem is really mostly glossed over and a lot of it basically feels like a rehash of the first, superior Iron Man. Looked at from a more critical perspective, it doesn't really hold up nearly as well as the first one and seems to have largely been used as a set up for the upcoming Avengers. But ya know what? I don't care. Like I said, I love Iron Man 2, and the reason is simple. I'm a massive geeky fanboy. I was in heaven! Look, it's Captain America's shield again! Oh my God, Howard Stark's in it. Hey, wait, Whiplash is named Vanko... So was the Crimson Dyanmo... Hmmm... OH MY FUCKING GOD IT'S MJOLNIR!!!!!! Yeah. Sometimes, just having a massive geekgasm and going along for the ride is way more fun.

After Iron Man 2, we were given Kick-Ass. Kick-Ass was absolutely sublime, and is a definite contender for film of the year. The comic of the same name was an excellent read, putting forward the story of what would happen if a well meaning individual in the real world actually put on a costume and attempted to fight crime. The comic was funny, poking loving fun at superhero conventions while also embracing them. The film, though, was better. It was hilarious, with some of the best lines of the year (Hit-Girl's opening line will never be topped as a character introduction), and some of the best shot action sequences to boot. Matthew Vaughan had already proven that he, with writing partner Jane Goldman, is adept at taking a popular story and making a good film out of it with Stardust, but with Kick-Ass, they excelled themselves. Throw in that rarest of beasts these days, a good performance from Nicholas Cage, who, as Big Daddy, gives a pitch perfect Adam West impersonation, and you have more fun in the cinema than you knew was possible. It also introduced the world to young Chloe Moretz, who is truly a talent to watch in the future, and for that, we must be thankful.

And so to Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Like Kick-Ass, it was based on a popular indie comic (Kick-Ass was published my Marvel, but through their Icon imprint, so it's indie), but unlike Kick-Ass, it was a comic I really didn't like. I tried reading Scott Pilgrim, but I just didn't like any of the characters, especially not Scott himself, who I just thought was a massive dick. And if you don't like your lead characters, then you have a problem. Now, let's be honest here, Scott in the film? Still a bit of a dick. And while Ramona Flowers, the object of his affections, is very pretty to look at, she's also not exactly someone you end up liking very much. However, while Scott still very much acts like a dick, there's still something kind of likable about him, largely down to the fact that he's played by Michael Cera, who I don't think knows how to play anything else. Throw in some cracking secondary characters, some hilarious one-liners and some of the best fight scenes of the year, and you have a great film. Special mention must got to both Chris Evans and Brandon Routh, both of whom steal the film at various points, and the wonderful Vegan Police moment, featuring a Tom Jane cameo, is another highlight of the year for me.

Of course, it wasn't all fun at the cinema this year. Early on, Drew, Joe and myself did a triple bill in the cinema, and one with a theme. So was born Apocalypse Tuesday, a day when we saw three films which were all set in a post apocalyptic setting. One of them was shit, one was okay, but largely forgettable, and the other was one of the most stunning pieces of film making I've ever seen. First up, Daybreakers, which gave us a vampire society hunting the last few remaining humans, when a cure for vampirism is discovered. It was awful. It made absolutely no sense, it was shot badly, and... well, to be honest, besides featuring Willem DaFoe, who clearly knew what he was getting into and didn't give a shit, it had nothing to recommend it. The second film of the day was The Road. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, it's one of the bleakest films I've ever seen. It's hard going, and sitting through it in the cinema was tough. But it's also completely worth it. The performances by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (another breakout child star you should definitely keep an eye on) are perfect, and the direction from John Hillcoat is absolutely wonderful. The world has become a desolate wasteland in The Road, though we're never told the cause, but there's something beautiful and ethereal about it as seen through Hillcoat's eyes. The Road is another candidate for film of the year, though I'd have a hard problem picking it as my favourite, simply because it's such hard work to sit through. The final film of Apocalypse Tuesday was The Book Of Eli. It was okay while you were watching it, and Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and Michael Gambon are always worth watching, but to be honest, it's entirely pointless.

Shit as Daybreakers was though, it wasn't the worst film of the year. One candidate for me, was Solomon Kane. While it started out okay, as something which could've been one of those bad movies which still manages to be fun, it slowly started to take itself more seriously as it went on, which just made me lose any and all good will I'd built up towards it. Still, even that wasn't as bad as the Goddawful Legion. Paul Bettany as an angel, defending small town bumpkins from other angels 'cos God decided to wipe us out again, some crap about a messiah, shit acting, shit direction, shit effects, I don't think there was a script of any kind... Avoid it like the plague. Worst film of 2010. Definitely.

Other disappointments for me were a Single Man (Colin Firth was excellent, and there was a good film in there, but first time director Tom Ford telegraphed any surprises far too early, and shot it in a very pretty but soulless fashion, pun intended) and The American (just... really boring).

So, what was my favourite film of the year? The previously mentioned Kick-Ass and The Road are candidates, though neither quite wins out. I've already gone into why with The Road, and while I loved Kick-Ass, there were a couple of films I loved more.

First, special mention to Ponyo. I went to see this at a point when I was still reeling from some events in my personal life, and I can categorically state without any doubt, that when you're feeling shit about things, there is nothing better to cheer you up than a Hayao Miyazaki film from Studio Ghibli. Ponyo is, as expected from the worlds premier animation studio (sorry Pixar, it's true) stunning to look at, and incredibly heart warming and wonderful to watch. If you don't come away from Ponyo with a massive grin on your face, then I don't think you're someone I want to know.

But there are two films, above all the others I saw this year (and I didn't see all the films, I know) which I find myself coming back to. Toy Story 3 and Inception. Both were incredible pieces of film making, with Toy Story 3 showing that it's possible to make a trilogy which gets better and better as it goes along, and Inception proving that you can make a summer blockbuster which is both original, and makes you think.

Toy Story 3 was one of the biggest emotional investments of the year for me. The moment when our heroes are heading towards a fiery death genuinely had me worry for them, while another scene, where they get one final play time with Andy, their owner who's off to college, almost made me cry manly tears of manliness, and actually managed to make me feel bad for all the childhood toys I'd gotten rid of over the years. Pixar know how to tell a story, they know how to make you laugh (Spanish Buzz Lightyear anyone?), they know how to create memorable characters (the new characters in this film, such as Lottso and Mr Pricklepants, are every bit as wonderful as their predecessors) and they know how to creep you out (seriously, that cymbal banging monkey? Yeesh). The other thing Pixar do better than anyone is the little touches. Look out for Boo from Monsters Inc in the Daycare, or the return of Sid from the first Toy Story. It also, and this has to be mentioned, is the first film I can think of in which the 3D worked as it's supposed to. It made the film look better without you ever noticing it was there.

Inception was just damn clever film making, but then, what else would you expect from Christopher Nolan? The dreams within dreams withing dreams plot, the mechanics of how the dream worlds functioned, excellent performances from a stand out cast, not to mention the number of questions the film raised which people are still debating now, and most likely will continue to do so for a long time. A film like Inception is rare. It's gutsy film making that most people are scared to try these days, but Nolan is riding high from the success of his Bat films, making film studios more willing to take a chance on him. The fact it paid off in spades means we may get lucky and see more original summer blockbusters in the future. Of course, it also means it's going to be imitated a lot in the near future, but that's not really Inception's fault. The industry still hasn't realised it doesn't need the next Inception, it just needs the next good film.

But, which of the two wins out? Honestly, I can't say. They're definitely my films of the year, but you'll probably get a different answer as to which I prefer depending on when you ask me.

So... Um... Call it a tie?

Monday, 13 December 2010


Christmas is on its way then. Less than two weeks to go in fact. Now, historically speaking, I'd normally be starting to feel pretty darned festive by now. I'd be writing cards, decorating stuff and being just generally chirpy and annoying.

This year though? I'm not feeling it. Christmas is coming, and I'm sat here thinking "does it have to?" I'm dreading it. If anything, it seems like a bloody chore to me. The presents, the running around seeing all the various family members and friends, the delicate balancing act of getting drunk enough to not care but not so drunk that my family disown me... It all seems like so much effort to go to. I've become Ebenezer Scrooge at the age of twenty-eight.

And I find myself thinking, how did this happen? When exactly did I go from loving Christmas to wanting it to just go away? I've come up with several possible answers.

1) It's just something which happens as you get older. When you're a child, Christmas really is a magical time (or it's supposed to be). You just accept the idea that there's a magical man in the the North Pole who makes toys with the elves and flies around the world once a year in his sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. It makes perfect sense! Plus, presents! Fuck, presents are the best thing ever when you're a child. Don't get me wrong, presents stay pretty cool as an adult, but when you're a child they're something else. New stuff! Yes! I was bored of my old stuff! Whoo!

But as you get older, the magic starts to go away. You can watch Miracle On 34th Street as many times as you like, it doesn't make it real. Santa's a fiction, and a pretty ludicrous one at that. How were we ever gullible enough to fall for it? And once that part's gone, it really all starts to fade. Christmas becomes less about magic, and more about spending time with your friends and family. Which sounds nice, doesn't it?

Only it doesn't, because we've all got those family members and friends who only end up annoying us after we've spent a small amount of time with them, and that ain't changing just because it's Christmas. If anything, Christmas leads to more arguments over pointles shit and people getting your back up over nothing. And of course, you're already drunk from all the Christmas liquers you've imbibed, which just serves to make you easier to anger, but less able to argue your point with anything resembling eloquence, which only annoys you further because you're not getting your side across properly. Basically, you're fucked.

So, yeah. Christmas just gets worse as you get older.

Only it doesn't. That's total bullshit. All of it. There's this idea that we all turn into Scrooge at Christmas when we get older, but the truth of it is completely different. Christmas is actually an opportunity for all of us to feel like we are children again. The bright colours, the games, the ludicrous amounts of sugar we consume... Throw in the aforementioned liquers, and you've got yourself an awesome party. If anything, as a grown up you have the capacity to enjoy Christmas even more than you did as a child. You can still believe in the magic if you want. Hell, my mum makes us watch Miracle On 34th Street every year, and every year it gets me at the end. It's a wonderful, feel good movie. As an adult, you can enjoy the time on a lot more levels than you could as a child. And as for that annoying family member or friend? You won't give a shit, because if they do start piss you off, then you'll hopefully have no shortage of other people you can go and talk to. T'is the season of goodwill, after all.

So no. My humbug feelings aren't down to my getting older. Besides, I know people three times my age who still fucking love Christmas. Can't get enough of it. Between you and me, I think they may have a Christmas problem.

2) I'm turning into my dad. Maybe this should be point 1.5, 'cos it's basically the same as the point above, just a little more specific. As a child, I was always under the impression that Dad didn't like Christmas. I mean, he hated the Christmas tree. When he was putting it up in the living room was the only time of year I'd ever hear my father swear. Even this year, when I was on the phone to Dad a few days ago, he asked if I was feeling festive yet. "No, I'm feeling quite humbug actually." was the response. My dad called me a good boy. But ya know what? It's all a put on. My dad loves Christmas. Remember my point about Christmas being an excuse for people to act like children again? It's more true of my dad than anyone else.

So this whole "humbug" thing I've got going on can't be inherited from my dad, because with him, it's not real.

3) Ah, yes. Here we go. My last three Christmases have sucked. Like, really, really sucked. Three years ago, my godson very kindly gave me the gift of the Norovirus. It hit me on Christmas Eve. Badly. I spent a large portion of the day throwing up and lying in bed feeling utterly awful. While the worst of it passed pretty quickly, and by Christmas Day itself I was recovering, I didn't feel right for a good few weeks afterwards. My appetite was low, I couldn't really eat much in the way of sugary treats, and drinking was right out. Made for a pretty lousy new year as well, if I'm honest. Everyone was drinking, and I had to stay sober then go to bed early 'cos I had work in the morning. Amazing.

The year after that, I'll be honest, there wasn't any particular event which brought me down. I think I was just in a weird headspace, for reasons I can't remember, and I didn't particularly enjoy Christmas. New Year was also pretty lousy. Just one of those things, I guess.

But last year... Oh, boy, did that suck. Just before Christmas, I broke up with my girlfriend. Now, there's been a lot said about the events just prior to and since the break up, a lot of it by me, on the internet, while drunk. Suffice to say, I don't really feel like going into it again right now, but it left me in a bad way. Throw in having to work twelve hour night shifts on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, shifts which were busier than any night shifts I'd ever worked before, and I was pretty fed up. My good friend Tim did his best to cheer me up by coming to stay, just so I'd have some company when I wasn't in work, but I was far from my best. It wasn't helped by the fact that on Christmas morning, my sister, Charlotte, got engaged. Now, I love my sister, and I love her fiance, and I was really happy for them. But it meant that when I did finally go back to Surrey to visit the family, all everyone was talking about was weddings, marriage and happy couples. Pretty much the last things I wanted to talk about. Charlotte, and bless her for this, did try and deflect the conversation whenever she could, and even apologised to me at one point for how much engagement talk I was having to put up with, but it got to me.

New years... Actually, that was okay. I got very drunk indeed. Two day hangover drunk. My memory gets a bit fuzzy, if I'm honest, but I think I had fun...

So, there's the three options. Yeah, it's probably option three. A trilogy of disappointing Christmases has left me, at best, amibvolent towards the season, as I wait to see what horrible fate befalls me this time around. It's stupid, I know, but it's there. It's almost become routine for me that Christmas be lame. Which, I guess, is the cause of my humbug this time around.

Maybe it'll clear. You never know, Christmas morning could roll around and I'll be the most festive person this side of a visit from three ghosts. If I can have a good Christmas or two, then maybe that sense of childish excitement about the season will return as well. I kind of hope so.

But for now, let me have my humbug.


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Into Every Generation...

By now, every blogger on the internet has had their say about the new Buffy movie Warner Bros are planning, which will reboot the franchise and features absolutely no involvement from Joss Whedon. In particular, I recommend you read my friend Kirsty's thoughts on it here:

I also recommend you read the words of Master Whedon himself here:

But what about my thoughts on the subject. They matter, right? Oh. Well. You're getting them anyway.

Warner Bros, this is an awful, awful idea, for a number of reasons. Let's go into them, shall we?

1. No one, absolutely no one, understands the character and world of Buffy like Joss Whedon and the team of superb writers who helped him craft seven of the finest seasons of television in the history of entertainment.

Hush. The Body. Once More With Feeling. Conversations With Dead People. The list of fantastic episodes goes on and on. Sure, Joss may be busy with the Avengers right now, but get him on as a producer, ask Jane Espenson, or Marti Noxon, or Douglas Petrie to write it. That would work fine. Who do we have instead? Whit Anderson. Yeah, I don't know either. One second. *checks IMDB* Oh, right, she "acted" in Yes Man and Zombie Strippers. Yeah, those are the credentials required. Now, in fairness, Anderson could be an excellent writer. I don't know. But some of her comments don't inspire confidence. In the same paragraph, she claims Buffy is timeless and says it's time to update it. If something's timeless, surely it doesn't need updating? She also claims she gets it because she was the same age as Buffy when she was watching it. So were a lot of other people, love. Doesn't mean they know it better than Whedon.

2. This has been tried before, numerous times, and rarely with success. How many reboots do you know which have done well? Let's look at one of the worst examples of a previous reboot as an example.

Back in the late nineties, Marvel decided to reboot Spider-Man. While they would eventually find success with this with Ultimate Spider-Man (the exception which proves the rule), their first attempt was the disastrous Spider-Man: Chapter One. For thirteen issues, writer/artist John Byrne retold stories which had been done thirty years earlier, and about three hundred times better, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The results were so poor that these days, the readers and Marvel both would prefer to pretend it just never happened. The original Spider-Man stories, like Buffy, are timeless. Yes, there's a very nineteen-sixties sensibility in the way the stories are told, but if you read them, they more than hold up today. In trying to update something which doesn't need updating in the first place, you can only ruin it. This is why things like Ultimate Spider-Man, or J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot, don't try and tell the same story again, but use the same characters and situations to tell completely new stories. Now, maybe that's what Whit Anderson will be doing with Buffy. But, that brings us on to the next point.

3. Yes, Buffy fans would like more Buffy. And they're already getting it.

Okay, it's not the movie we would all like, but let's be honest now, that's never going to happen. Instead, Whedon has transplanted his universe to the world of comics. Dark Horse have been publishing Buffy Season Eight for a few years now, with Whedon overseeing the whole thing and writing some of the issues himself. He's also brought in some of the shows writers, like Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard, as well as some of the best writers working in comics today, such as Brian K. Vaughan and Brad Meltzer, to pen storyarcs. It's not exactly the same as the show. The fact that there is no budget to restrict them, just the imagination of the talented artists who draw the comic, does mean that they can do pretty much anything they like (flying cars, a giant robot rampaging through Tokyo, some rather immense godlike creatures and Dawn as a centaur are among the sights we'd never have seen on screen), and this has lead, at times, to the writers (Joss included) possibly overindulging themselves, but it's still a worthy follow up to the TV show. Season eight is drawing to a close soon, but season nine has already been confirmed. With Buffy continuing in comic form, under the guiding hand of her creator, is there really any need for a new version from someone else?

4. Warner Bros don't care about Buffy. They just want money.

Obviously, we all know that, but the proof, if it were needed, comes when you consider this fact: Warner Bros cancelled Buffy at the end of season five. In order to keep going, Buffy had to move to the UPN network. Warner Bros then cancelled Buffy spin off Angel after its fifth season. There was no saving Angel, unfortunately, which was axeded to make way for a remake of sixties vampire show Dark Shadows. A show which never got passed the pilot stage. When Warner Bros later commissioned Supernatural, a show I do admittedly like, they might as well have been saying "Oh shit oh shit oh shit we cancelled Angel why did we do that". And now, suddenly, they want to make Buffy again? They've seen how well season eight's been doing in comics. They've seen the DVD sales. It's about nothing but the cash.

Despite all of our protests, this is happening. Nothing we can do about that at this point. However, on the off chance that any studio execs are reading this (and I haven't offended them too much), I have the following suggestions for them which would make this a good thing.

1. Wait until after Avengers is done, and get Joss involved.

2. Change the setting in a way that no one really expects. Ooh, here's an idea. Set it in space. And get rid of all the monsters and demons.

3. How about, instead of a high school girl, Buffy is a man. A rogueish man who was on the losing side of a war, and now captains a space ship, taking whatever jobs he can to feed his Scooby Gang, or crew. You know who should play him? That nice Nathan Fillion fella.

4. Instead of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I would like to suggest an alternative title: Serenity 2.

I think that would be a winner. Make it happen studio execs, and I'll call off the mercenaries.

In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night...

By now, if you're reading this particular blog, chances are you've seen the Green Lantern movie trailer. I've watched it a few times now, and thought it only right that I chime in with my two cents, given he's one of my favourite characters. The thing is, the more I watch it, the less I like it, and it's not down to any one story element or character issue that the trailer raises, but rather, the look of the film.

Now, I'm not one of those who thinks that effects are the be all and end all of a movie. Far from it. I can quite happily sit through a film with only average effects if the storyline keeps me hooked. Or a shit film with shit effects if it's one of those shit films which is also AWESOME!!!! But I digress. The problem is, the effects in Green Lantern, as they are right now, look awful. The alien characters, many of whom could've been done as prosthetics, seem to have been augmented with CGI, and it looks wrong. I understand the need for Kilowog to be a CGI creation. I mean, look at him.

But why do it with Abin Sur or Sinestro when some pink face paint would work just as well?

It doesn't make sense. The ring effects also look wrong, though I understand that's harder to nail down as everyone will have a different idea about how these should look in action. That said, the Justice League cartoon got it pretty right, so maybe the production team should look here for inspiration?

The worst part though is the costume. When the initial pictures were released, it looked bad. We knew all along the Green Lantern uniform was going to be a CGI creation. For some reason. And the pictures didn't inspire confidence. I chose to give it the benefit of the doubt though. Perhaps, in motion, it might look quite good? It doesn't. I get what they're trying to do. The uniform is a creation of the ring, so they've tried to make it look like it's made of energy. But it's really not working. The Green Lantern uniform is, for my money, one of the best superhero costumes out there. To see it ruined like this, creating one of the worst looking superhero costumes on film since the Batsuit gained nipples... It doesn't bode well.

What I will defend, however, is Ryan Reynold's portrayal of Hal Jordan. A lot of people are complaining that he's playing him as too cocky and light hearted, but ya know what, Hal Jordan is cocky and light hearted! He's a devil may care test pilot with a huge streak of arrogance running through him. There have been comparisons with the Iron Man film, with some people saying that this is the tone the producers are going for. Ignoring the tone of the films themselves, it's actually quite apt to compare Hal Jordan with Tony Stark. Hal may not have Tony's millions, and was never as big a prick as Stark was when he started out, but he does share Stark's immense levels of self belief and eye for the ladies. Hal has mellowed in recent years in the comics (which, given events, is only natural), but as far as the trailer shows us, Ryan Reynolds performance is pretty perfect for the younger, inexperienced and, importantly, fearless Hal Jordan who first became Green Lantern.

The trailer hasn't shown us much of the villains to judge their performances, or given away a huge amount of the storyline, so we don't have much to go on, but to be honest, I'm a little worried about this. The aforementioned tone, yes, does seem to have been influenced by Iron Man, which, despite the character similarities, just won't work for Green Lantern. And those effects... They need to be cleaned up if they want people to believe them. They have time to do so, but I can't help but think it's not going to be enough.

Fingers crossed, this will all turn out okay. The involvement of Geoff Johns, who has written some of the best Green Lantern comics ever, is reason to think they might pull this off, as is the fact that it's directed by Martin Campbell, who so successfully revitalised Bond in Casino Royale. But for now, we're just going to have to wait and see whether the Green Lantern film is cinemas Brightest Day, or its Blackest Night.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

I Am A Writer

Earlier on today, I was told I'm not a writer. This surprised me, because I've been writing for a long time now. Scripts, prose, comics, blogs, even the odd poem. The point was then clarified. "You're not a writer, you're a dude who writes, and writes well." While I appreciate the compliment, it still didn't ring true with me. I asked what the difference was. The answer given was as follows:- "For one, the grand total of books of writings of yours published by a major publisher is...?"

Ah, so to be a writer, you have to be published by a major publisher, or at least getting paid to write. Otherwise, you're just someone who writes.

No. Wrong. I may not get paid to do it at the moment, but I am definitely a writer. Now, I'll be honest, there are a lot of people out there who claim to be writers, but aren't. A lot of people who label themselves writers only write the occasional blog, maybe once a month, in which most of the words they use more closely resemble a random number spat out by a calculator, and end every sentence with the non-word "LOLZ". These people, despite their claims, are not writers.

So what does make a writer? Well, it's probably subjective, and I bet you'd get a different answer from any writer you asked. For me though, it boils down to a few key points. First of all, commitment. A writer lives and breathes writing. When they're not writing, they want to be writing. Sometimes it's hard, yes. When you're not getting paid to write, and also have to work a nine to five job, finding the time to write, or even the will, can be tough. But a true writer will do it. I try and find some time to write every day. Even if I only get ten minutes of writing time, I make sure I've written something every day. Sure, the next day I may delete everything I've written the previous day, but I still did it. I still wrote. If you can't be bothered to put the effort in, then you're not a writer.

Another key point is a basic grasp of the language you choose to write in. In my case, that would be English. I'm not saying I don't make mistakes. I do. I get the spelling and the grammar wrong, I choose the wrong words, I write shit that sometimes just doesn't make sense. But I don't stick numbers in words. I don't use that most dreaded of things, text speak. There are so many bloggers out there whose blogs I just can't read because their butchery of the English language, which can be quite beautiful at times, is so absolute as to render the entire thing nonsensical. If you can't use language, you're not a writer. A writer needs to be understood by readers.

And there's the other main point of my argument. Why is someone who isn't getting paid to write not a writer, but someone who reads without getting paid to do it is a reader? Likewise, I play computer games a lot. I don't get paid for it. I am a gamer. My sister's fiance, Chris, plays the drums. He doesn't get paid to do it. He's still a drummer. I can go on, though I don't think I need to. If all of those are true, then why is it not true of writing?

There is a difference between being a writer and being a paid writer, but the thing they both have in common is that they are both writers. I've been fortunate to speak to some very good writers in my time, who have been paid to write, as well as knowing others who have done the same. There are plenty of writers out there who get paid to do it, who are happy to give advice to the rest of us. Neil Gaiman, Peter David and Stephen King are all known to give advice to the people they meet who tell them they're writers, and who try to help them out. They don't turn around and say "Have you been published? Because if you haven't, you're not a writer."

It's actually the words of Orson Scott Card which spring to mind now. If you meet him and tell him you're a writer, he will always respond by asking "Are you?" If you respond hesitantly, mumble about not being published or have any reaction other than "Yes, I am", then you're not a writer, so I suppose it's also a mental thing.

It's not about being published though, it's about writing. I write. So, am I a writer?

Yes. I am.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

My Monsters - part 1 - The Vampire

I've been planning a series of blogs all about my favourite monsters for a while now, but for one reason or another, it kept getting put off. But then Halloween rolled around. That seems as good a reason as any other to get this Monster jam going! And where better to start than my personal favourite, the vampire.

Now, before we get started, I need to specify something here. When I say "vampire", I don't mean the kind of mewling, pathetic, emo bitch of a shampire as portrayed in Twilight and its ilk. No, I mean the evil, blood-sucking fiend who would think nothing of tearing your throat out and drinking down your life's blood in a heartbeat.

I remember, as a child, the vampire was the first monster which truly terrified me. At that young age, I couldn't realy pin down why a vampire was so much more scary to me than, say, a zombie or Frankenstein's Creature, but looking back now, it seems obvious. Of all the monsters out there, the ones haunting our nightmares and sending a shiver down our spine, the vampire was the most human.

Like many people, my introduction to the vampire came through the most famous one of all, Count Dracula, when I can't have been much more than five or six. My cousin had a ladybird childrens book which told a version of the story (heavily edited, of course), and it fascinated me. When it was read to my cousin and I, we were told to cover our eyes if one of the pictures scared us, or to ask that we stop if we reached a point which was too much for us. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I was scared, yes, but I was also completely engrossed. Not by the story though. That would come many years later. No, rather, it was Dracula himself, this vampire creature, which had caught my attention. Had anyone asked me even five minutes after the book had been read to me what had actually happened, I couldn't have told them. I had the attention span of a small, sugar filled child who was wearing a towel around his neck as a cape. Dracula though, he was there. And he's never really left.

This was a monster who walked like a man, who was intelligent, charming and pure evil. I had nightmares for a while after that, but at the same time, I was intrigued. This feeling only grew with my second encounter with a vampire, as far as I can recall. Once again, the vampire in question was Dracula, only this time, he was on television in one of my favourite programmes. The show in question? Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.

In the episode The Bride of Dracula, the Count takes a shine to Firestar, hypnotising her into wanting to marry him. Naturally, Spider-Man and Iceman don't take too kindly to this, so follow Dracula to Transylvania in an attempt to rescue her. Of course, Spidey and Iceman succeed, but this episode still left a lasting impression on me. I recognised Dracula as the same character from the book I'd previously encountered him in, and once more, I was both scared of him and intrigued by him. While yes, the characterisation is obviously pitched at kids, moreso than in the Ladybird book, he was still clearly the same character, and still scary to me. Sure, Spider-Man may have beaten him, but it was one of only two episodes which actually made me worried for Spidey (the other had Spidey fighting a creature called the Arachnoid, which I'll actually go into in a later post). Interestingly, those are also the only two episodes of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends which stayed with me right up until I rediscovered the show on DVD last year.

As I continued to grow older, vampires continued to scare and fascinate me in equal measure, and I continued to stumble across them in the books, TV shows and films I enjoyed. One in particular which sticks in my mind was in the very first Fighting Fantasy book I ever played. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain features an encounter with a vampire, which managed to scare me while I was reading it, and it probably didn't help that the vampire killed me that first time out. The scene is accompanied by an image, but not of the vampire, just of a crypt filled with coffins. The rest of the scene was left up completely to the readers imagination, and this particular reader, even at that age, had a pretty vivid one. I probably wasn't helped by the following passage, which came if you lost the fight with the creature:-

"As you approach, he rises from his coffin, spreads his cloak and takes you under it. Your last living memory is a flash of pain as his sharp teeth sink into your neck. You should never have let yourself make eye-contact with a VAMPIRE!"

Damn right I shouldn't!

So, the vampire scared me, and did so for a good long while. It was the fear that lingered after all the other childhood fears I had (and I was a wuss of a child, so there were a few) were gone. I'm not sure exactly when the fear subsided, but the fascination stayed. Here is a creature who used to be human, who has power, immortality and, seemingly, a hedonistic lifestyle which we all crave. But it's also an animal, filled with a savagery and bloodlust second to none. The switch between to two can come frighteningly quickly too. Witness the scene in The Lost Boys where the vampires attack the revellers by the campfire. The vamps go from normal looking to animal in a matter of seconds before tearing their victims apart and drinking their blood, in a visceral scene which, if your not expecting it in a film which has largely been played for laughs so far, can surprise you.

Part of what fascinates me about the vampire is the mythology behind it. There was a time when, thanks to all sorts of diseases and conditions which are easliy cured today, people genuinely believed in vampires, and most of the vampire lore used in fiction today sprung out of ideas and beliefs which people actually had in the dark ages, which were later popularised as part of the fiction by Bram Stoker and others. Many of these simply boil down to the idea that you should avoid evil, for example, the whole "never invite a vampire into your home" rule could also sensibly be applied to many things: thieves, murderers, devils, Jehovah's witnesses, Anne Widdecombe... I could go on. But, so tied to the vampire is it, that there's now this idea that a vampire physically can't enter a home, or at least has no power within, without being invited. That said, Let The Right One In had a very interesting take on this. I won't spoil it here, as I know a lot of people haven't seen it, but I'm hoping this is something they keep in the remake, Let Me In.

Also, the religious iconography repelling vampires is something which has also applied to many other monsters and demons throughout literature and popular culture, but again, it's so tied to the vampire these days. There are interesting takes on it though. Some stories have it that it's only the cross the vampire fears, and that it's just that: a fear. There are others though where the cross actually hurts the vampire physically, such as the Hammer series of Dracula films (Brides of Dracula in particular features an ingenious use of a windmill to create a crucifix which kills its antagonist, Baron Meinster) or the vampires of Joss Whedon's Buffyverse. However, a more interesting take on it is the idea that any religious iconography will repel a vampire, but only if the person wielding it has faith in the religion it represents. This was best illustrated, bizarrely, in X-Men Annual #6, in which the X-Men fought, yes, him again, Dracula. At one point, Wolverine creates a makeshift crucifix using his claws, but, since Logan ain't exactly the religious type, it has absolutely no effect on Dracula. However, when Kitty Pryde, a practicing Jew, brandishes the Star of David at the big-daddy vamp, he shrinks back in fear. I can't find many more examples of this particular idea, but if I'm honest, it's the one which makes most sense to me. Why would a crucifix work for someone who doesn't believe in God?

For the most part, these days, the vampire has had his fangs pulled out. Twilight has seen to that, with it's sparkly-glowy bullshit vampires, though in fairness, some of the blame must lie with Anne Rice and, loathe as I am to speak out against my master, Joss Whedon, who popularised the idea of good vampires. It doesn't matter how well Whedon did it, how good his stories were, it still put that idea out there for others to latch onto. But there was a time when the vampire was, arguably, the king of the monsters, the most evil and feared of them all. The scary vamps are still out there, they're just not doing the business at the moment. I have no doubt though that there will come a time when people are bored of the nice, fluffy pet vampires and want the evil bastards back again. But until they do, here's a list of some of my favourite vampire stories to finish with:-

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Stoker's Dracula (Marvel comics adaptation)
Vault of the Vampire (Fighting Fantasy book)
Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
Salem's Lot by Stephen King
30 Days of Night
Captain Britain: Vampire Nation

Dracula (Universal version)
Horror of Dracula (Hammer version)
Brides of Dracula
Dracula: Prince of Darkness
Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Angel
From Dusk 'Til Dawn
The Lost Boys
Shadow of the Vampire
That one episode of Diagnosis Murder

To be continued...

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Please note, this blog isn't my usual light-hearted discussion of geeky stuff. It's one of my more personal, self-centered pieces. You have been warned.

Chances are, if you're reading this, you're doing so because you follow me on Twitter and clicked on a link I posted there. If that's the case, then there's also a fairly strong chance that you're aware that I didn't have the best start to the week. However, you will also have seen that I was determined that, as of Wednesday, my week was going to improve drastically.

It's strange, but I feel that it both has and hasn't. I'm feeling vaguely philosophical about things right now, and I'm both relieved and upset about other things.

So, yesterday morning I was awoken by a message from my dad informing me that my Grandma had suffered a nasty accident and was in hospital awaiting surgery. Unfortunately, since my Grandma is my Grandad's primary carer, this meant that my Grandad would have to go into a care home, at least temporarily. I didn't really have any more information yesterday, just a text from my Dad telling me that they were both as okay as can be expected, and he'd call me today.

I got the call today while I was at work, and I was terrified. I didn't want to answer it, didn't want to speak to Dad, just in case. But answer it I did. Thankfully, both my grandparents are okay. To a point. I mean, Grandma's had her whole hip replaced and needs to stay in hospital for a while, with a recovery period that can't be predicted. Grandad, meanwhile, has to stay in the home indefinitely. He doesn't want to be there, but we don't have a choice. Grandad's in his late eighties and... well, it's hard. When you speak to someone you care about, and they can't remember their own address or birthday... It's not something I've experienced before.

I'm worried about both my grandparents. There's a chance Grandma won't ever recover enough to be able to look after Grandad again, meaning... well, I don't really know what that means yet, and I'd rather not think about it. All I know is, for a while at least, they're both going to be on their own, and that's not a nice thought. At all. Oh, yes, they'll have family visitors, but my grandparents rely on each other in a way you only really see except in people of that generation any more. They won't admit that they need help (bit of a failing in my family, as my dad, my sister and I are all the same), but I want to give it to them. I hate that I'm so far away from them right now, and I feel awful for both of them.

But, you know what? It could've been a lot worse. I'm twenty-eight years old, and I still have all four of my grandparents. I know that's a rare thing, and I'm incredibly thankful for that. My dad's parents may be getting on, and yes, certainly right now, it's not easy, but they're still here. And my mum's parents are fit as fiddles. Fiddles which go down the gym and lift weights on a regular basis. I've had nearly three decades with them in my life, and that's awesome. I have some amazing memories of all my grandparents, and I love them all dearly.

I'm lucky, and I know it. I've never lost anyone close to me. Yes, I've known people who died, but never family or one of my close friends. We lost my pet cat, Verity, when I was fifteen, and you know, I still miss her. Incidentally, owning Verity convinced me that cats were intelligent creatures. Boy, Caliban blew that theory apart! But I digress. When the only creature you love that you've lost in close to three decades is your cat, well, yeah, I'm damn lucky.

So while, yes, I'm worried and upset for my grandparents, I'm also in a place right now where I'm feeling pretty good. I've been reminded that, as much as things sometimes suck, and as much as life may throw some shit at you, it can be far, far worse. I've got a lot I can be thankful for in my life, and no matter what happens, I always will do. The good stuff's happened. There's more to come, I'm sure, but whatever else, the past is always there.

Sometimes things suck. No doubt they will do again. But at the end of the day, I'm a very lucky man. I just need to try and remember that.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Write Up of a Read Through part 2

I am knackered! Honestly, I'm not sure why, but sitting there listening to people read my script out loud was really tiring. Maybe I was so nervous beforehand that I used up that much energy, or maybe those two lines I delivered really took it out of me, but whatever the reason, I just want to lie down in a darkened room with a bottle of whiskey and listen to Dark Side of the Moon.

Tiredness aside though, this afternoon's read through of More Than This, the film script I've been working on for a while now, went really well. Everyone went for it, getting into their roles and delivering their lines wonderfully. It was good to hear others interpretations of my characters without me giving them any direction beforehand. It's changed how I hear a couple of the characters in my head, for the better, while two in particular were read out exactly as I had imagined them, which is also a good thing. As a matter of fact, if I do manage to get this thing made in the near future, I'm seriously considering offering a couple of those parts to the people who read them this afternoon.

Just before I go any further, I want to give a massive shout out to my readers. First of all, Bernt, who came along saying he didn't want to read a part, so I made him read the directions, meaning he had more to read out than anyone else! Poor guy. I should buy him a drink. As for the characters, Ricky, Carew, Lowri, Ana, Andy and Alex, thank you guys so much. I owe you all big time for this one. And also, thanks to Nicki, who came along and didn't read, but was a useful gauge for how an audience might react.

I know what you want to know though. Did anyone cock up any lines? Yes. Within the first couple of pages. Sigh. And the fool who choked first? That'd be me. I had two lines. I wrote them. I screwed up the first one. There's a reason I haven't acted for years!

During the read through itself, the first thing which I noticed was also the thing I was possibly most worried about. The guys seemed to find it funny. This was such a relief to me. More Than This is supposed to be a comedy, but I hadn't found it funny for a while. I figured this may simply be because I was too close to it, but I also had that nagging doubt that, maybe, it just wasn't funny. But no, everyone laughed at it, and everyone enjoyed it. Sure, some of that comes with the delivery, but a lot of it does come from the words, and it seems that I wrote some humorous words. Phew.

Another thing I was worried about going in was the dialogue. I was worried some of it was quite clunky, and wouldn't flow naturally. And some of it was, but not nearly as much as I expected. In fact, and while they didn't know it, this was one of the nicest compliments I've ever been paid, the guys loved the dialogue. I pride myself on my ability to write dialogue. I think I'm good at getting an ear for how characters should sound and what they would say, while also getting it to flow and sound natural. The thing is, you know what they say about pride. I was genuinely terrified that maybe it was just me that thought that. Sure, both Drew and Joe have complimented some of the dialogue I wrote for Stiffs, but what if that was a fluke? What if I wasn't nearly as good as I thought? So to get that validation from the guys was huge for me, not just in my confidence in More Than This as a script, but in my own abilities as a writer. Yes, like I said, some of the dialogue doesn't quite work yet, but it's not a final draft. There's more to come. And anyway, I think part of that is related to the next point...

The characters. The central trio, in particular, seemed to go down pretty well, in terms of their overall characters and arcs within the story, such as they are. Some of the other minor characters also seemed popular, which was gratifying. It's always good to know you can create memorable characters that people like. That said, there are two characters who are pretty key to the film as a whole, both of whom need developing. One of these, I already knew about. He's in there as little more than a plot point at the moment, and as he's written currently, there's something about him which doesn't make much sense (yes, I'm trying to write this spoiler free). But that just confirmed something I was already aware of. The other one, I wasn't so aware of going into the reading, but when it was pointed out to me afterwards, I really had to agree. Both these characters need some work, and arguably, it's some of their dialogue which is the weakest in the script. I reckon if I can work these characters out in the next draft, then the dialogue may come with them.

The swearing? Staying in. In fact, I may add more. The massively geeky references? Going nowhere. People loved them. There was also a suggestion regarding a certain act of violence in the script which I, personally, loved. So that'll be going in.

This has been a really postive and incredibly useful experience. I've been given a lot of stuff I can use for More Than This version 5.0, and I'm looking forward to cracking on with it. My episodes of Supermarket Matters for Mark and co-writing Stiffs with Drew and Joe are the priorities for now, because these have more or less definite deadlines, and leave others reliant on me turning work in. I love writing these projects, and think I'm also not doing a half bad job on them. But much as I love them, More Than This is something else to me. It's something entirely my own and, for a number of reasons, it's also a deeply personal script, and to know I'm on the right track with it is immensely gratifying. I'm gonna try and do little bits on the next draft here and there, but the big push will probably come in the new year, with an eye to maybe shooting it (and I can't stress how much emphasis I need to put on that maybe) in the spring/summer of 2011.

And ya know what? Beyond the feedback and validation, it was actually just fun to sit down with some people and read a script.

Once again, thank you guys. So, wanna do it again for the next draft?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Write Up of a Read Through part 1

Remember when I took a dance class? That was crazy, eh? Well, you may also remember that I did a write up of my thoughts and apprehension beforehand, followed by a write up of how decidedly average I was afterwards.

I'm doing that again. No, not the dance class!

If you've known me a while, then at some point over the last few years, you've probably heard me mention More Than This, a film script I've been working on for a fair old while now. It's gone through four and a half drafts (half because the last one wasn't a full rewrite), and it needs at least one more before I even consider starting to look at getting the thing made. However, I decided that, before I begin the next rewrite, I really need to hear the thing. Read out loud. By someone other than me.

I've tried for a while now to get a group of people together who'd be willing to read More Than This version 4.5 out loud, and it kept falling through, for a number of reasons. But finally, tomorrow afternoon, thanks to a few incredibly generous people who are willing and able, the read through is finally going ahead.

This is a good thing, and I'm very much looking forward to it. It's going to give me a chance to work out which scenes are working, which ones aren't, which lines need rewriting, which ones are real clunkers that should just go, which ones are actually genius... you get the idea. It's something that, as a writer, you can't always tell until you hear something read out loud. A line which you may love may well turn out to be awful when you finally come to hear it. Conversely, a line you thought was worse than George Lucas writing romantic dialogue may turn out to be one of the best lines in the thing.

The problem is, much as I'm looking forward to it, there's also that little seed of doubt, planted in the back of my mind, whispering to me "The whole thing's going to be shit." Now, a fortnight or so ago, I did read the script again. I didn't like it. At all. I hadn't read it for months, and coming back to it with fresh eyes, I really thought it was bad. Nowhere near ready for others to read out loud without me being mercilessly torn to pieces and told never to write anything ever again. They might even cove me in barbecue sauce and feed me to some fire ants they just happened to bring with them.

Thankfully, a couple of friends who had also read it told me I was being stupid. They were right. In preparation for the read through tomorrow, I read it again last night, and I didn't hate it. It wasn't bad at all. Some of it, in fact, really works. I'm quietly confident about tomorrow, that my readers will enjoy at least bits of it, and will be able to point out to me where I have gone wrong with it and help me work out how to improve it.

The thing is, when I first conceived More Than This, it was (and still is, I suppose) semi-autobiographical. Not the situations the characters find themselves in (although the main character does have a crazy ex who shows up, though toned down from real life), but certainly where the lead is emotionally is where I was when I started writing it. Of course, that was a few years ago, and I'm not there any more, so maybe I'm not quite so plugged into the way my lead is feeling and thinking, and really, I don't know him at all and oh my sweet hairy Odin, the whole thing's going to be shit and here come the fire ants again!

See, the paranoia always creeps back in.

In all seriousness, I am nervous about tomorrow. I can't help it. I'm a writer, and we writers are, by our very natures, a paranoid bunch. Or, is that just me? Anyway, we're never happy with what we've written, and of we had our way, we'd tinker forever. And the first time people read something, we panic. And that's where I am now. But while I am nervous, I'm also excited. These characters have been with me for ages, and finally, tomorrow, after a fashion, they'll finally be speaking to me.

It's going to be an interesting experience. It's been a while since people read out one of my scripts, and the first time it was more than a ten page piece. I'll write up afterwards about how it goes, and my thoughts about where my script is and where it's going, but for now, let's call it a healthy mix of conflicting emotions.

Also, just before I go, once again a huge thank you to the people who have given up their Saturday afternoon to read the words of a hack! I genuinely love you all!

Of course, I can't handle criticism, so that'll change tomorrow.

Monday, 4 October 2010

When Comics Go Lame

Comics are awesome. But not always. Sometimes, they're lame. Totally lame. Lamer than a lot of other things. I'm gonna run through a few examples of the lameness comics can produce here, focussing on the superhero comics released by Marvel and DC, 'cos they're responsible for a lot of lame, and I know them best.

And I'm not just talking shit costumes, like the issues of Avengers in which Hawkeye wore a skirt.

I'm not even just talking shit characters, though there have been plenty. Rather, I'm talking about storylines, plot points, moments or entire comics which have just been... well, lame. Anyway, on with the list.

1. "I Have Clones"

Back in the seventies, a couple of years after Marvel killed Spider-Man's girlfriend, Gwen Stacey, in a really rather shocking story for the time, they seemingly brought her back. Of course, it turned out to not be the original Gwen, but a clone created by the Jackal, otherwise known as Professor Miles Warren. Warren had been a teacher of Gwen's at university who had fallen in love with her. Unable to let go, and blaming Spider-Man for Gwen's death, Warren hatched a scheme which would bring Gwen back to him (after a fashion) and lead to the death of Spider-Man. The plot culminated in a battle between Spider-Man, and a second Spider-Man which Warren had cloned from Spidey's DNA. At the end of the fight, one of the Spider-Men was seemingly dead, and the Gwen clone left to start her life over. And that was it. Or so everyone thought.
In the nineties, Marvel brought the Spider-Clone back. He hadn't actually died at all, and had in fact spent the last five years wandering America until, hearing that Aunt May was dying, he returned to New York. Thus began the Clone Saga. The original idea was that the storyline would only last six issues or so, and would once more end with a battle between Spider-Man and his clone. Things didn't quite go to plan, and the Clone Saga ended up lasting years. Inspired by how well Knightfall had sold over in DC's Batman books, Marvel decided to string the Clone Saga out. The Jackal came back. The Spider-Clone took the name Ben Reilly and began fighting crime as the Scarlet Spider. Gwen Stacey's clone came back. Two other spider-clones were introduced in Kaine and Spidercide. Doctor Octopus was killed off. Aunt May died of natural causes. Mary Jane revealed she was pregnant. And then, the biggest shock of all, we found out that Peter Parker, the man who had been Spider-Man for the last twenty years or so in our time (five years in Marvel time) was revealed to in fact be the clone. Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider, was the original Peter Parker, the original Spider-Man. He had lost the fight to his clone after all! Soon after, Peter lost his powers, and Ben became the one, true Spider-Man!
Quite naturally, this didn't go down too well with the fans. It wasn't too long before Peter's powers returned, and oh, whoops, the whole thing (which had been going on for a good four or five years remember), was suddenly a massively convoluted revenge scheme cooked up by none other than Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin! Who had also been dead the last twenty years. But it was okay, because look, Peter was the original Spider-Man after all and Ben was the clone. See, Marvel said, we fixed it!
Only they didn't. The Spider-Man books didn't recover for years. Osborn was back, but they couldn't decide what to do with him. When it was later revealed that Aunt May was actually alive, and the woman who died had been an actress, hired by Osborn and genetically altered to look like May Parker, things seemed at their worst. Marvel did the only thing they really could. They rebooted the Spider-Man books with new issue #1's. Only thing is, they gave them to John Byrne, who proceeded to, almost unbelievably, tell even worse stories for the next couple of years. It was only when J. Michael Straczynski came aboard as writer, and promptly jettisoned most of what had happened over the last ten years that things improved, and did so dramatically.
It was a dark time to be a Spider-Man fan, and all because of the Clone Saga.

2. "Argh, my hand!"

Aquaman, as a character, often comes in for a lot of stick. It's largely because of his powers. He can... Um... Talk to fish and control them. Okay, so he's also super strong and the king of Atlantis, but mainly, it's the talking to fish thing. DC revamped the character in the early nineties, giving him a harder edged look and attitude. This included the character losing one of his hands and havin it replaced with a hook. Those who watched the Justice League cartoon from a few years ago may remember the really quite awesome way they did this. Aquaman and his son are chained to a rock which is sliding towards a pool of lava. In order to try and save the life of his infant child, Aquaman attempts to cut through the chains, but to no avail. So instead, he hacks off his own hand. It's a brilliant moment, showing just what lengths a parent will go to in order to save their child.
That ain't how it happened in the comics. Aquaman had his hand eaten. By piranha. You know, fish. The creatures he's supposed to have command of. He didn't think to just, oh, I don't know, tell them to stop eating his hand! Sigh. Nice one DC.

3. Crossing Over

"So, here's my idea. You know Iron Man? One of our most popular heroes, founding member of the Avengers and all round good guy? What if he's actually been working for Immortus for years, kills a load of Avengers, and then dies so we can replace him with a teenage version of himself?"
At that point, had I been an editor at Marvel, I would've said "Leave. Before we have you forcibly removed." However, what actually happened was something along the lines of "Hmmm, not bad, but I don't think it ruins the Avengers quite enough. What else you got?"
The response "Um.... I could turn the Wasp into an actual freakish bug creature?"
And that's exactly what happened during The Crossing, one of the worst stories in the history of the Avengers. Thank Odin that barely five issues later, Onslaught happened and effectively wiped out everything that happened in the Crossing. Tony Stark, the proper one, was back, Wasp was human again and all was well with the world.

4. The Death of Batman. Wait, he's fine. Oh, no he isn't.

Grant Morrison used to be an awesome writer. His run on JLA was epic, and showed he got the characters better than many other writers. His takes on Batman and Superman were especially good. Witness this moment in JLA issue #3. The Hyperclan, the bad guys of the storyline, have taken the Justice Leagure captive. This is a team that includes Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lanten and the Flash. And they're all taken down. Except Batman. No matter, think the Hyperclan, we all have powers comparable to Superman, what harm can Batman do? Then one of them A-Mortal, goes missing. Protek, the leader of the Hyperclan, say's the following:
"This is insane! We must have a communications failure! A-Mortal's playing some kind of stupid joke! Batman! Batman!"
We then cut to a different panel, in which we hear Protek saying "He's only a man!" The focus of the panel isn't Protek though. It's a close up of Superman's face. And the Man of Steel is, well, it can only be described as smirking. Not only does this one moment sum up the relationship between Superman and Batman wonderfully, it also clearly demonstrates one thing above all others. Even without superpowers, Batman is one of the most dangerous men on the planet.
Morrison's run on JLA was filled with moments like this, where you knew he just got these characters and could write them blind. So it was incredibly exciting when Morrison was announced as the writer on Batman. Knowing what he'd done with Batman in the JLA, surely his take on the character's solo exploits was going to be something special. And it was. At first.
But something soon became obvious. Morrison had gone crazy. He'd always been a little out there with his ideas, but now he'd gone truly batshit (sorry) crazy. Morrison cooked up a storyline called Batman RIP, which... well, it's hard to describe because it made very little sense, but it ended with the death of Batman. Only it didn't, because Batman showed up alive and well later that same month in Final Crisis, a huge cosmic event book being written by, yes, Grant Morrison. Final Crisis made even less sense than Batman RIP, so Batman, who was dead, showing up and no one reacting to it didn't actually seem that incongruous. Until, at the end of Final Crisis, he died. Again. This time killed by Darkseid. Only he wasn't dead, he was sent back in time, or to an alternate reality, or both, or... honestly, who knows? It was a mess. But I think the thing which sums it up best is the following statement. In the space of a few months, DC killed Batman off twice. And nobody cared.

5. No, It's Fine, There's No Gravity

A few years ago, I started buying the Incredible Hulk on a monthly basis. It wasn't a title I'd really been picking up, but Peter David, the man who wrote the Hulk for years and years, and told some of the definitive stories about the character, was returning to the book. This was a big deal, and I wanted to see what he would do with it. He left after twelve issues, and I intended to leave with him. But I didn't, because this was followed by a seminal run from Greg Pak, which included Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, two stories I thoroughly enjoyed. After this, it was announced that Jeph Loeb was going to be writing Hulk. Anyone who's read Loeb's Batman work, or his Marvel "colour" books (Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Grey and Spider-Man: Blue), as well as his Superman/Batman team-up book, knew this was something to get excited about.
I dropped the Hulk after the fifth issue of his run. Loeb had lost it. He introduced Red Hulk, a malevolent, cunning Hulk who wasn't Bruce Banner, and who instead of getting stronger as he got angrier, gave off more radiation. The Red Hulk rampaged through the Marvel universe, taking down the Abomination, She-Hulk, Iron Man, and even ol' Green Skin himself, the original Hulk. The problem was, it was really badly written. Everyone was out of character, and the dialogue was awful. This couldn't have been the same Jeph Loeb, could it?
The biggest insult came in issue #5, when Red Hulk fought Thor. Some things you need to know about Thor. First, he's one of my favourite characters, and has been for years. Second, he's normally strong enough to go toe to toe with the Hulk anyway, and at this point he was also wielding the Odin Force, which increased his already considerable power by a significant amount. Third, only Thor can lift his hammer. It's nothing to do with strength, but an enchantment on Mjolnir which means that, well, only Thor (or someone else worthy) could lift it. Surely Red Hulk was going to get his arse kicked!
No. He wasn't. Now, had he beaten Thor by being crafty, outsmarting the thunder god, I could've accepted it. But no. Red Hulk threw him into space. Then, because there was no gravity, lifted up Mjolnir and beat the shit out of him. I'm sorry, but no. Just because there's no gravity doesn't mean you can break the hard and fast rules of the last forty years of Thor comics! The hammer is magic. It's enchanted. Gravity isn't going to change that. Thor was treated like a rag doll for the Red Hulk's amusement. It was an insult to Thor fans everywhere. I haven't bought a Hulk book since.

6. Demonic Daddy Issues

Chuck Austen's run on Uncanny X-Men, the flagship title for Marvel's merry mutants, is, quite possibly, the worst in history. There were some good ideas, to be fair, such as bringing in Northstar or reforming the Juggernaut, but there was also mutant prostitute, Stacy X, and, the absolute nadir of his run, The Draco.
It had been known for a while that Nightcrawler, one of the more popular X-Men, was the son of Mystique. That explained the blue colour and the yellow eyes. Well, Austen revealed that his father was the demon Azazel. Okay, you know what, that we can accept. Nightcrawler looks fairly demonic, and when he teleports leaves the smell of brimstone behind him. But wait, it gets better. Nightcrawler wasn't Azazel's only progeny. Azazel had fathered dozens of mutants, all of whom had teleporting abilities. Yes, it's getting a bit silly now.
Why did he do this? Well, Azazel was trapped in a hell dimension you see, and needed the power of multiple teleporters to create a portal that would allow him to free himself. But where to get these teleporters? Of course, he'll leave the dimension he's trapped in and father them, so that they can open the portal which will free him from the dimension. You know, the dimension he's trapped in but he can leave freely any time he wants to father another teleporter. Yeah. Nice one Chuck. Clearly put a lot of thought into that one.

7. The Dark Knight Strikes Out

In the eighties, Frank Miller was a rising star responsible for comics which would come to be seen as some of the best the industry had ever seen. Batman: Year One and his run on Daredevil are both incredible works, and his seminal The Dark Knight Returns, featuring an aged Batman in a dystopian future vision of Gotham City is up there with Watchmen as one of the best examples of not just a superhero story, but one of the best comics of all time.
So when it was announced that Miller was writing and drawing a sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, fanboys went wild. I don't think they've ever been so disappointed. The Dark Knight Strikes Again (or DK2) was a mess. None of the characters featured within were treated with respect, including Batman who actually approves murder and shows utter contempt for Dick Grayson, the first Robin. It's sexist, misogynistic, nonsensical crap. Batman maybe a borderline psychopath, but the important thing is that he never steps over the line. Miller ignores this, having Batman sprint over the line cackling like a mad man. It's almost an insult, especially considering how good the aforementioned Dark Knight Returns was, and still is.
Miller followed this up with All Star Batman and Robin, which he says is set in the same continuity as the two Dark Knight books. It's even worse than DK2, featuring a Batman who torments a young Robin, gets turned on by beating up criminals and utters the now immortal line "I'm the goddamn Batman".
I don't think any other creator has fallen quite so far as Frank Miller in the history of the medium.

8. The Punishing Angel

Everyone's favourite psycho gun-toting vigilante died once. Now, the Punisher, however you cut it, is a mass murderer. Yes, his victims were all nasty people, but he wasn't going to Heaven. The Punisher dies, he's destined for the other, slightly warmer place. But no, that didn't happen. Instead, I shit you not, the Punisher was recruited by Heaven to become a sort of avenging angel, who wielded angelic shotguns and... no, I'm sorry, I have to stop. It's too shit.

9. He Did What to the Poor Kitty?

Roy Harper used to be a really interesting character. Formerly known as Speedy, Green Arrow's sidekick, Roy eventually became a drug addict, then fathered a daughter with the supervillain Cheshire. Roy cleaned his act up and became Arsenal, gaining respect in the superhero community and leading the Titans. Eventually, he followed in his mentors footsteps and joined the Justice League as Red Arrow. All of this was awesome.
So quite why DC felt the need to ruin him is beyond me. First, Prometheus hacked off his arm. Then they killed his daughter, causing him to turn back to drugs. An encounter with Cheshire ends with Roy practically raping her, and then, in what can only be seen as the ultimate crime in the current climate, Roy kills a kitten. For no reason. It's a moment which has become infamous in only a few months since it happened. How DC let this happen to one of their best loved characters is beyond me. It was badly written, sensationlist crap, which all happened because DC had messed up one of their best villains in the first place. Yes, bring back the Prometheus who was so awesome when Grant Morrison created him in JLA, but you don't have to fuck up another character to even it out.

10. The Frog of Thunder!

Thor got turned into a frog one time. Actually, that was fucking awesome!