Monday, November 30, 2015

Captain America: Civil War Trailer #1 - impressions

Just a few observations, reposted from my entry on Neogaf... but here's the trailer if you've not seen it already:







- There’s a strong visual focus on Team Cap in this trailer – perhaps Team Iron Man will be the visual focus for the next?

- As others have noted, Bucky is the emotional heart of the story, which makes perfect sense and rounds out the ‘Cap trilogy’ while being true to the comics (given his importance to Cap). Bucky has always been a symbol of Cap’s greatest failure, first through his death and then through his rebirth. This movie is about Cap redeeming himself for that failure and Bucky redeeming himself for crimes he committed under duress, something neither character could do in Winter Solider.

- Similarly, Bucky is the physical embodiment of the story’s moral conflict. He represents the single surviving strand of Cap’s past, in his present. He represents freedom of choice and new starts (thus, America’s core ideals). He represents power without control, and the question of what to do with it when it is eventually controlled. In short, Bucky is the accords. Which is far easier to represent in an opening trailer than trying to force a moral message into 2 minutes, in a movie about superheroes. People want punching and pyro in that short time, not a debate - and the debate will clearly come, because…

- …Steve and Tony’s friendship is going down the tubes. Rhodey’s lack of presence bar the brief snippets is curious (although not unexpected – given the short trailer time, there’s only so much you can fit in). Bar Happy and Pepper, Rhodey is Tony’s closest friend and the opposite number to Bucky. His fall (he’s blatantly not dead in that trailer - but it’s a nice nod to the events of comics) makes things personal. The ideological break between Stark and Rodgers has been playing for a while in the movies, and while Civil War was never going to be purely about ‘muh friends!’, the presence and importance of Rhodey and Bucky are great symbols and visual shortcuts to how different Stark and Rodgers are, and how there may well be little turning back by the movie’s end without someone from that four either biting it or being seriously injured.

- Spidey’s no show shouldn’t be too surprising. Save that for the big, close-to-release trailer. People are already excited to see the big names duking it out, so there’s no need for Marvel to blow its load all at once. Plus, let’s face it, Spidey will be among the more difficult to ‘get right’ in terms of CGI/technical aspects (even with the Russo’s penchant for practical effects), and his involvement in its production was later than most. If Marvel and Sony really want to distance themselves from the previous movies, they need to feel confident about what they show (people are already complaining about the CGI in this trailer, which shows the trailer makers have probably made the right choice).


- Black Panther’s presence and aggression towards Team Cap makes sense in this universe. Wakanda has already been fucked with due to Klaw, and they’ve seen what unchecked superheroics can do from Age of Ultron. T’Challa is all about the protection of Wakanda and his interests, and hasn’t any friendship with Cap (that we’ve seen), so purely from a political aspect he’d likely want to stay ‘lawful’ on foreign soil, given he’s a monarch. That said, if it’s Priest era T’Challa (best T’Challa) he’s always working about 5 moves ahead, so working with Tony just to hack/spy on the US government/get whatever he wants, works – either way, Based Panther wins. I suspect he’ll be in the movie far less than we expect anyway, acting more as a link for his own solo movie than anything else.

Monday, July 06, 2015

The San Diego Comic-Con story so far...

As I get ready to fly out to San Diego Comic Con (come over and say hi! It's San Diego Convention Center, Small Press area, the Clockwork Watch Films table: O-08) I realised you probably never got the chance to read my write-up from last year. It was originally for Geek Syndicate, but the lack of Wi-Fi put paid to that. So it'll be interesting to see if the below observations hold true for 2015...



The SDCC 2014 hangover
This wasn’t what we planned.


 The idea was to create a video blog to give you some ‘floor show’ experience from the madness that is San Diego Comic-Con. However, a painful lack of Wi-Fi/data pretty much drop-kicked that into oblivion. Sorry. So, after the fact, here are a handful of observations and random notes from our wacky trip…


  • In case it wasn’t entirely obvious, SDCC is not cheap. A small press table costs $400 (next year it will be $500) and flights to San Diego from the UK typically cost around £800 to £1,100. Then you have to think about accommodation (your best bet is to try AirBnB or a campground), transport (get somewhere within 15 minutes walk to reduce expenditure – it’s California, so generally people drive everywhere, meaning hotel and parking prices drop dramatically even within walking distance), printing and shipping costs etc.

  • In relation to the above, if you come to SDCC looking for mega sales, then dial back those expectations unless you want to go home brutally demoralised. Virtually everyone we spoke to said last year’s sales were higher than this year’s, even though the days were almost equally busy (even the usually timid Sunday was full of people). The sad fact is, most of the attendees are coming to SDCC to see their favourite movie/TV stars in Hall H or buy exclusive toys/comics. Small press is incidental, and we’d hazard a guess that around less than 5% of the 130,000+ attending fans are even slightly interested in seeing anything which they’re not already aware of. In short, SDCC is a money-pit.

  • So why should small press attend? Simply put: audience reach, contacts and networking. There’s a reason why the small press area is among the friendliest places in the show (along with Artists’ Alley), as creators swap contact details, help each other out and generally widen each other’s pool of resources, as well as form friendships. Further to that, press and professionals – in both the movies/TV and comic book sphere – are very welcoming to the small press whenever they get time to engage with them. You get the chance to meet and talk with retailers, journalists and creators who you may not ordinarily catch at another convention, and in turn there’s a greater chance of you selling to people you may not otherwise reach. On top of that, everyone is aware of Comic-Con and respects it, even if they don’t necessarily have a deep interest in attending. Using that brand recognition when selling your books during the year is remarkably effective. 


  • Unlike last year, where MTV’s Teen Wolf hosted free, if unreliable, Wi-Fi, this year there was a noticeable absence of anyone willing to provide such a service. Which only left the official convention Wi-Fi as your main option. $80 for the day, sound good? What about $150 for a few days? No? Nope.  

  • For all the talk as to whether a female Thor is a good thing or not, there was a wonderful number of cosplayers dressing as this new thunder god. Taking in mind that in previous cons we’ve rarely seen female Thors (Lokis, the occasional Sif and Valkyrie were more likely), it shows that – on a surface level at least – it was a savvy and well received move by Marvel. 


  • The idea of being drawn into a comic book remains a great pull, as we discovered with Vampire Boogie (we offered the chance to become a character in the mini-series if you purchased a physical copy). However, it didn’t come without its own irony. The first person to buy a copy was sold on the pitch of a youthful vampire using social media to save her undead life, however she admitted she didn’t own a Facebook account or actually like social media. Go figure.

  • The steampunk community is growing at a fantastic pace, with many more ‘steamers’ dressing the part. In turn, our steampunk series Clockwork Watch was very well received, even to a point where a young grandmother ditched her husband at the end of Sunday to come back in and buy a virtually sold out copy of Tick Tock IPA #2. Bless her.  

  • Despite the launch of a blockbuster movie there were surprisingly few Guardians of the Galaxy cosplayers, barring the odd (but exceptional) Rocket Raccoons. If we’re not flooded with Star Lords, Gamoras and Draxs this time next year, we’ll eat our toy Groot.


  • Jimmy Aquino is both a scholar and a gentleman, being wonderfully helpful on many fronts.  And he carries good bourbon in his hip flask. Very good bourbon.  

  • Line producer and talented photographer Nicci Freeman made a few stops by our table, dressed as a magnificent steampunk style Mad Hatter-White Rabbit. Among the many great stories she told us, a standout was how she observed a couple engaging in a full-blown argument outside the convention centre. Upon seeing the couple, a man dressed as a demon wandered up to them and suddenly burst into a stirring verse of Let It Go, the lead song from Disney’s Frozen. Naturally, the couple were too stunned to continue their fight. Comic-Con summed up in one, mad moment, ladies and gentlemen.

  • There are few things as rewarding as saying hi to someone who was going to walk by your table, and then one 60-second pitch later they buy a copy of your book. 


  • Conversely, there are few things as crushing as someone coming to your table of their own accord, you giving them a 5 minute pitch/question and answer session and them not saying a single word to you in response.

  • No one can ever deny Hall H attendees aren’t dedicated. After we staggered out of a hotel from a post 2.30am drink up, we were stunned to see a massive queue of sleeping people wrapping around a quarter of the convention centre. Tents, sleeping bags, foil wraps… these people came prepared. 


  • We may complain that not enough kids read or are interested comics, but the large number of families all cosplaying together or just attending the convention with their wide-eyed, kids was heart-warming.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Butterfly Books

One of the reasons I've been off the radar is due to the sheer amount of work I've been doing of late - helping the (successful!) Clockwork Watch: Tick Tock IPA 3 Kickstarter and editing the book, dealing with Magic of Myths: Faerie, writing secret things which I can't mention and also something new: editing a children's book by new publisher, Butterfly Books.


Congrats to the very talented Butterfly Books team - it was a pleasure to edit and it's a superb and educational tale for kids. Make sure you pick it up a copy here: http://www.butterflybooks.uk/Buy.html

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I... still... function



Back from the brink/being buried under work...

First of all! A massive thanks to everyone who has purchased a copy of Magic of Myths: Faerie - it's been a huge success and our most popular book to date. 


mom_faerie_00

You can now buy a copy of Magic of Myths: Faerie right now via our mail order links below.

Magic of Myths: Faerie consists of:
  • The main story (21 pages) and the following extras:
  • Two pin-ups (with some of the artwork you’ve seen on this very site) by Magic of Myths artist, Sergio Calvet
  • The full script
Review snippets:
“The end result is a beautiful book, one that honours its subject matter and provides a perfect on ramp to the larger story being told. Corey and Sergio are two of the best creators in the industry and this is some of their best work. Pick it up, and the rest of Magic of Myths, and find out just how good they are.” - Travelling Man
 
“I loved it… I smiled broadly at Calvet and Corey’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s Puck as a feisty forthwright feminist – her appearance too is very unique and refreshing – not conforming to usual stereotypical ideas of a what a female hero should look like.” - Elf Lyons

"We have Corey Brotherson’s writing style to be grateful of again; he has the ability to quickly bring characters to life and balance the persona building with the action. We also have Sergio Calvert’s cartoonist meets graphic design skills. His is also an unique style that’s rather beyond my ability to describe; somehow invoking traditional four colour art with the subtlety and textures of detailed pieces." - Geek Native

“Overall? It’s a very solid entry into the Magic of Myths series, serving well as an entry point for new fans while also holding a lot of appeal for those already invested.”  - Geek Pride

Read a two-page preview here: http://magicofmyths.com/2015/03/20/read-a-two-page-preview-of-magic-of-myths-faerie/

Buy Magic of Myths: Faerie by clicking here: http://gum.co/sjfk or email magicofmyths@gmail.com

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why the Ant-Man teaser poster is one of Marvel's best

After seeing Marvel unleash the Ant-Man teaser trailer (which was slightly underwhelming), I thought it would be a good idea to look into why its teaser poster works so much better in capturing the public's imagination, while using very little.




Hey, remember that movie poster with the heads staring out into a collage of elements from the story?

Of course you do, because I've just described a large majority of movie posters. There's a certain style which works, because it's expected and visually recognisable. That will come later.

This teaser poster works exceptionally well because:

- It uses negative space to its advantage (draws your eye to the main character title and date).

- It stands out due to that same use of negative space (as a comic book writer I have to think about how a book teaser looks and also how the actual book stands on the shelf, and thus spine design is important to stand out. With movie posters it's similar; imagine a corridor of movies posters - usually you'll get a similar colour palette for most: greys, browns, generally dark colours, unless it's a kids movie). Put this one in a theatre and watch it pop out thanks to a stark use of white and red.

- It uses the central concept to create visual humour, which is important to the movie itself.

You'll remember this teaser poster because it's a concept driven poster. The main one will be much more standard, but by then more people will be familiar with the movie. For comic book fans, Ant Man is a known character. For 80 to 90% of people outside of us, this may as well be a totally new IP. You have to make people smile and remember, which is what this poster does.

I think it's easy to underestimate the thought that goes into posters like these. Yes, sometimes they write and design themselves, but generally they take a lot of time to make sure they hit the right chords - deliver a message, concept and stand out. Sadly, the teaser trailer's rather 'by the numbers' style kinda undoes this a tad (almost trying to recreate the humourous beats and style of the far more successful Guardians of the Galaxy teaser trailer, sans any distinguishing sense of directorial style) - but there's hope that Ant-Man will be far better than it's expected to be since Edgar Wright's departure.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Grim Fandango: analysis

Grim Fandango makes its long awaited, and very much unexpected return to videogames this week in the welcome shape of Grim Fandango Remastered.



As one of my favourite games of all time, I've been a massive fan of Tim Schafer's classic adventure. So when news hit via E3 2014 that it was coming back (and on PlayStation Vita, no less) the little bit of hope inside me that I thought was long dead and buried suddenly found itself punching its way out of its casket to the sound of triumphant mariachi. 

Back in 2005 when I was freelancing, I wrote an analysis for (sadly defunct) site, Games Brains, on why this LucasArts gem was so great. So now's a good time to unearth the article and resuscitate its decayed, skeletal frame...

***

Life in Death - originally published in Game Brains, 2005

Seven years after its release, Tim Schafer's classic Grim Fandango is still one of the
finest, funniest, and most poignant games in this world and the next.

by Corey Brotherson

Dead.

A tatty, blue suited skeleton wearily walks over to survey the inhabitants of his kingdom:
a morgue of two slabs, each with equally skeletal corpses covered in a multicoloured
explosion of horrifyingly beautiful flora.

They're dead.


The undertaker sighs, and turns to his solitary moving companion. "All day long, Manny,
I sort through pure sadness," he laments. "I find evidence and I piece together stories. But
none of my stories end well - they all end here. And the moral of every story is the same:
we may have years, we may have hours, but sooner of later, we push up flowers."




There are many moments like this where LucasArts' 1998 noir adventure Grim Fandango
bares an intangible essence that many current titles lack in their fleshy flash of CGI glory
and rehashed, recycled game ethics. Released during a time where the point-and-click
genre of our beloved pastime was on its last legs and spluttering for a new lease of life, it
ironically took the dead mouth of a skeletal hero called Manuel "Manny" Calavera to
breathe a more than welcome gasp of fresh air into its lungs.

Headed by Tim Schafer, designer of this year's Psychonauts, Grim Fandango shares little
with its recently released spiritual relative. At least not in gameplay style. The story and
characters show a typical flourish that Schafer is deservedly loved for, but Grim
Fandango
is a far more straightforward, A-to-B experience. Rarely relying on your
reactions or reflexes, all the game requires from you is an attentive ear for story and a
brain willing to solve puzzles.

In the game's afterlife setting of the Land of the Dead, there's no way to die, so to speak,
given the fact that the inhabitants are already maggot food by conventional standards.
You can be "sprouted," - being fatally shot can cause you to literally push up flowers and
shuffle off that plane of existence - but in game terms you're never in any true danger.
Effectively, the game's progress works like this: you solve a puzzle, watch a cut scene,
engage in witty tree-choice dialogue, and rinse-repeat. The only true death to be
experienced is that of your soul if you have to consult a game guide to save you from a
particularly tricky puzzle. At which point, your insides shrivel up and you spend the rest
of the day crying in the shower, trying to wash away that feeling of dirtiness too big for
any mere plughole.

It's a simple affair from a gameplay point of view, which only increases the anxiety to
progress by any means necessary. But behind the usual ethos that cheating is the worst
thing to do in a story-based title, there's an added sting. Manny's quest is essentially one
of reclaiming his soul. As a 'travel agent' he spends his days ferrying client's spirits from
the Land of the Dead to The Next Spiritual Place, dressed up as a not-quite-convincing
grim reaper. And his long service has yet to be rewarded. On top of that, his friends are
few and love is even less abundant. Our hero's life is generally an empty skeleton shell
for you to inhabit. The quest to find fulfillment for Manny from all the absent aspects in
his life has to be pure to make it worthwhile or, like Manny, you will feel stained for all
your efforts - unworthy of the final prize. Life may be a bitch and then you die, but karma
just keeps on kicking.

Obviously, purpose and salvation are relatable themes. Where Grim Fandango manages
to up the ante is the way it sneaks up to you with these motifs, casually telling you to look
the other way, then poking you in the eye when you turn back. Its subtle and occasional
slapstick commentary on love, sex, life, death, society, business, friendship and much
more, is a lesson many contemporary game writers can and probably should take note of.
Even now Grim Fandango manages to be one of gaming's most mature highlights. It
shows emotion and drama without spilling a drop of blood, nudity or even needing a
'certificate 18' tag slapped on its packaging. It pretty much shames the current overt and
unsubtle way of expressing 'adult' themes in games.


In fact, rather than the ham-fisted throat gouge we're used to, the LucasArts' title works
via a slow revelation: this was a game that had taken the text-based adventure to its
contemporary zenith and added something which, ironically, most of its characters
literally didn't possess.

A heart.

A living, beating heart.

It's telling that the game's genius comes not from its gameplay but from this sense of
heart and even - *gasp* - soul. It has a voice. And if you listen closely, you can hear it
speak in a smooth, perfected Mexican accent. It says:

"What the hell are you listening to your machine for, loco cabron? Get back to playing
the game! Cuaaa!"


So where does this powerful sense of engagement come from? After all, there are no
battles as such, no leveling up of your character, no risk-reward system, none of the
instant gratification of twitch gaming. No, the heart and soul of Grim Fandango comes
from its willingness to get personal with you. Not just as a gamer, but as a person. Manny
represents everything we may like and loathe about ourselves. He's insecure, but witty
and charismatic. Occasionally selfish, yet deeply giving when it counts. He strives to be
better than he is. But as the game progresses thematically, it doesn't preach. It rarely tells
when it can show. It's emotional without being cliché. It's everything many games aren't,
yet often has more in common with an interactive novel than most conventional titles
today.

You may just be moving him around and pressing the odd button, but you're Manny's
nervous system. His flesh. His conscience. His eyes and ears. When he tells you "this
deck of cards is a little frayed around the edges, but then again so am I and I've got fewer
suits," you smile at his self-deprecation, knowing you wouldn't want him any other way.
The game knowingly winks to the audience, with Manny sardonically musing to you as
much as himself. It's not so much a shattering of the game's reality as it is allowing the
fourth wall to become a little more . . . transparent.


 And it's there the grand joke, the bone dry irony of Grim Fandango reveals itself. The
misleading lack of gameplay is all a ruse. Manny grows organically with you, not just
through good game ideals and design, but – hell, let's not say this too loud - through good
writing. Not one at the exclusion of the other, but a perfect union that allows both to
function without ever truly alienating either the gamer or the reader in us. Something that
can often get lost in the hungry pursuit of "Better visuals! Longer gameplay hours!
Online modes!" and other hyperbole that PR can typically put on the back of the retail
box.

Grim Fandango works on the simplest levels, but it's on those bare bones it excels to the
point where many other games after it seemed so much more empty. Obsolete. Lifeless.

Dead.

If only more games were as Grim.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Happy New Year!

Hope 2015 is treating you well so far, even at this early stage.

After a couple months of hiatus due to various and difficult personal and professional circumstances, I'm hoping to get a bit more back on track this year, if possible. First, with a blog title change, as you can see. The past few months in particular have certainly felt like a rites of passage - for better and for worse - and while this title change is only temporary (as I hope these rites of passage are), hopefully it can represent a step in the right direction and the chance to emerge stronger.

Both Vampire Boogie and Magic of Myths: Faerie are coming together nicely, with both books due to launch sometime around June/July 2015, latest. Clockwork Watch: Tick Tock #3 is also due around the same time, meaning it's going to be a busy year, and hopefully a productive one. Much of 2014 was laying the groundwork for these three titles, which has sometimes been exhausting, but it's good to see them nearing their various stages of completion.


In the meantime, you can get a taste of each, one way or another:

Vampire Boogie - 3-page sample: http://vampireboogie.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/vampire-boogie-small-preview.pdf

Magic of Myths: Faerie - early pencils preview: http://magicofmyths.com/2014/12/31/new-year-new-and-first-magic-of-myths-faerie-artwork/

Clockwork Watch: Tick Tock #2 (in preparation for #3) - on sale at ComiXology:  https://www.comixology.co.uk/Clockwork-Watch-Vol-4-Tick-Tock-IPA-2/digital-comic/164950