Monday, 28 February 2011

Square Eggs and Exploding Penises - Minecraft Is Here!!!

There is a gaming phenomenon and it's name is Minecraft. Developed by Markus Persson of Mojang AB, this game has been bubbling away through it's various stages of development since summer 2009 and having broken through the million units sold mark a mere few weeks ago it is gradually eroding the lives and careers of those unfortunate enough to have been exposed to it's charms.

If addiction to computer games is to be regarded as a social evil analogous to drug use, then Minecraft is a class A substance - the Crack of computer games.

Which is pretty amazing because when you first see it, the interface is like a return to the primordial ooze of ancient computer games. Yes siree! Minecraft's graphic interface seems more redolent of Dungeon Master than even the first version of Tomb Raider. We are talking blocky - verrrryyyyyy blocky.

But as with Dungeon Master that's part of this elegant game's charm, it works on your imagination it's wonder to unfold. The game which falls under the "sandbox genus of computer games, has an amazingly simple premise which is so basic to the human condition that it has you under it's spell from the moment you launch the game (and say goodbye to your glittering career - such are the demands on your time it will entail). The game will generate a world which is unique to each new game you choose to launch. You will find yourself in a first person environment which is seemingly endless. The virtual world which you now inhabit is filled with trees, mountains, hills, caves, sea, sand, livestock, including chickens straight out of Carl Bark's "Lost in the Andes" and like Bark's Duck tale everything is built to an insane Aztec architect's plans, spherical objects being conspicuous by their absence.

Your mission should you choose to follow it Mr Phelps, is to build yourself a shelter and this you need to do P.D.Q. as the world you now inhabit is geared to an accelerated 24 hr clock and before you know it darkness will be upon you, you won't be able to see an arm reach beyond your face and the creatures that roam this otherwise benign and reassuring land now include the undead, we're talking hideous creatures such as zombies, skeletons with archery skills and (according to Mr Seananners) exploding penises. Mr Seananners whose tireless advocacy of this game must have steered many an aspirant attorney, brain surgeon, playwright and painter away from their chosen career path and into a downward spiral of total Minecraft addiction, is one of the most engaging reviewers you could ever come across on YouTube.

Here are some samples of the man in action:


This game is infinite in it's possibilities, taken at it's most elementary it draws upon the players innate creativity as shelters turn to houses, houses turn to cities (you can play on line in multi player mode to help facilitate this kind of enterprise). Exploration and exploitation are frequent arbiters of the settler's success in mastering his terrain and nerves of steel are required as players find themselves mining deep into the foundations of their homes on a quest for coal, iron and precious metals whilst trying to avoid annihilation at the hands of the forces of evil who occupy much of the sub strata of this otherwise green and peaceful land.

And here is a link to the Minecraft website, but think carefully before you download it!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

In Your Face!!! Ken Barr's Commando Covers Part 4

These things are so spectacular and so seldom seen that I'm hoping reprising some of the most incredible artistry to see print in UK pocket libraries is going to persuade you to petition Commando HQ to add some of these to their reprint schedule as part of the festivities surrounding Commando's half century birthday.

All images © DC Thomson 2011

Friday, 25 February 2011

In Your Face!!! Ken Barr's Commando Covers Part 3

More of Ken Barr's amazing artistry. His tenure on Commando ceased in 1968 after he moved Stateside, even though he had built up a sufficient inventory for his covers to appear for the rest of the decade.

He has made a few brief forays back onto cover assignments from the 1990's onwards and is currently creating new artwork to order - more details can be gleaned here.

Meanwhile if you want to see any of these issues reprinted as part of Commando's 50th Birthday celebrations check out the Commando website and send editor Calum Laird a request.

All images © DC Thomson 2011.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

In Your Face!!! Ken Barr's Commando Covers Part 2

Continuing our look at Ken Barr's covers, which encapsulate the kind of rugged individualism that set editor Chick Checkley's take on the Second World War apart from his competitors at Fleetway. Even the most casual of observers would be aware that Checkley's brief to his artists and writers lent more to the theme of man against the system than the doughty Brits against the Axis themes of War and Air Ace Picture Library.

Take the titles of many of those early Commando's, "They Called Him Coward!", "Jap Killer", "The Knifer", "Lone Hero", "Daredevil DFC", "Lone Wolf", "This Man is Dangerous", "Tattooed Hero", "Hero From Hollywood", "Big Guy", they immediately flag up the cult of the individual with a strong hint of non conformity. Themes which had far more of a US influence than did the team orientated, men rather than man against the forces of oppression tales which Fleetway's War Picture Library offered.

Barr really was the perfect choice as cover artist, if Commando had commenced publication utilizing the same cover artists as their Fleetway rivals (which they would eventually do with the arrival of Jordi Penalva on their rosta a few years later), the distinctive difference would not have been so vividly flagged up. But Barr was right from the off an enthusiastic student of US pulp and comic artists and relished the opportunity to immerse himself in sweat sodden musculature, gritted teeth and buggin' eyeballs. 
Which is why these covers are still so amazing and powerful some half a century on.

All images © DC Thomson 2011.

If you fancy seeing any of these stories reprinted as part of Commando's 50th anniversary celebrations get your ass over to their amazing website and start lobbying editor Calum Laird now.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

In Your Face!!! Ken Barr's Commando Covers

I love Ken Barr's work, he's known to many US enthusiasts for his superb renditions of Doc Savage, The Hulk and The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu as well as covers and artwork for James Warren's Creepy and Eerie magazines. But before he moved stateside in 1968 he was the man responsible for putting the grit, sweat and tungsten lighting into the covers that graced the bulk of the early years of Commando comics.

As we're currently celebrating fifty years of Commando, editor Calum Laird will be asking readers to suggest favorite issues they'd like to see reprinted.

So here's some ideas:

All images © DC Thomson 2011.

Check out the Commando website for more up to date information on this ever popular series of comics.

More to follow tomorrow.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Carol Day - Fitzrovia Revisited Part 3

Well having  taken you this far I thought it would be good to end our look at one of the most exquisite comic strips to fall under the  radar of comic historians with the conclusion (semi) of Carol Day's flingette with Lance Hallam.

This sequence is one of many featured in the online archive over at Roger Clark's excellent Carol Day dedicated website.

All images © Patrick Wright 2011.

Carol Day - Fitzrovia Revisited Part 2

I wasn't going to do a part 2 but I was idly leafing through the stats from this story and my eye fell upon a sequence when Carol and her current squeeze are walking by the sea.
That did it and you will shortly see why.

My introduction to the work of David Wright was a now long distant publication under the name The Penguin Book of Comics by Alan Aldridge, where one tier of this amazing strip was reproduced. Sadly the artist had passed away a few months before the book was published and as far as other comic histories went that was it - no more glimpses of Carol Day until I got to know David Wright's sons Patrick, Paul and Nicky many years later. Aware of my passion for comics it was Patrick who so generously loaned me the many scrapbooks  of the strip his father  so masterfully created.

There's little doubt that David Wright was both incredibly talented and highly driven and despite his urbanity and ability to engage with authority and insight on a wide variety of topics his formal education was curtailed at the age of 13 when his father died and he was obliged to get a job. He was eventually able to develop his latent talent when he gained work at Gilbert Wright's studio at the age of 17 as an assistant artist.

At the commencement of war in 1939 he took some of his drawings of aircraft and American automobiles along to Rogers and Co, who were destined to become his agents for the rest of his career. Much as they loved the work, they could only see limited commercial viability in drawings of aeroplanes and cars.What they wanted was beautiful leggy girls and this Wright was pre-programmed to provide.

His career was interrupted by a stint of service in the army having been turned down by the RAF due to his lack of sufficient education as they saw it. Post war and his work continued to explore new outlets including work for the Hearst corporation and his first forays into the realm of romance comics with the strips Jo (for Empire News) and Judy (Tit-Bits) paving the way for Carol Day which debuted in 1956 having been allegedly hi-jacked by the Daily Mail as it was on it's way to the Daily Express.

Check our Roger Clark's amazing Carol Day site for more of David Wright's artistry and also check out the earlier postings on this blog.

All images © Patrick Wright 2011.