Monday, November 04, 2013

November 2013 News & Updates

Gerald Bull
Some exciting news. I received probably the best review I could imagine of my graphic novel about Gerald Bull a few days ago when Robert Bull (one of Gerald Bull's sons) wrote me an email to say:

"I love the book. I had a lot of fun reading it, and I think my dad would have loved it too!"

I asked for Robert's permission to post his reaction and he graciously agreed. In my mind Gerald Bull has been unfairly depicted in Canadian history .The Bull family were gracious hosts to me when I visited them and interviewed them in doing research for the book a few years ago. Their reaction to the book has been important to me, and I'am so very pleased with this response.

Graphic Novel Availability
You can pick up "Gerald Bull & the Supergun" at one of these locations below. I also have some availability of the limited, signed version available for sale direct from me here.
I'll be in Toronto in a comic of weeks and will try to drop off some copies at some stores there so keep your eyes peeled for updates.

I'm still working on getting the regular version of the book (with ISBN number and everything), available for sale on regular online channels like Amazon and Chapters by Christmas. Keep your fingers crossed! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 2013 News & Reviews

Here's some recent news articles in which I've been featured or quoted in...
Further Thoughts on Female Superheroes and the Movies
The BBC article is really good and to prep for it I did a lot of thinking on the subject. Not all of my comments made it into the article of course, and since I have my own forum here, I thought I'd post some further thoughts here.

Obviously super-hero movies have been dominating the big screen for the last number of years in terms of global popularity, box office returns and sheer number of films being released. There are multiple super-hero movies coming out each and every month now it seems - it's astounding.

There are so many now, that a new one is no longer "special" or an "event" though. It's got to be something really special now for me to make the effort to see one in the movie theatre, or even at all now. I even specifically made of a point of steering clear of the new "Man of Steel" movie all together, even though Superman is my favourite comic character because it just seemed so dark, bleak and violent. Completely contrary to what I think the essence of the character is - hope, goodness and light.

Superhero Movies Not so Different From Other Genres
I think that super-hero movies are no different from other genres in terms of depictions of women. How many action, fantasy, sci-fi or even dramatic movies feature women in a leading role? Very, very few I'm afraid. We are lucky if a woman even gets a good supporting role these days, whether the movie is the Avengers or Lincoln. Hollywood seems to continue to believe that the only people who see movies are young men, though looking at the box office, you could paint a different story. Just look at how "The Butler" is doing vs. Kick-Ass 2 right now.

 Hollywood likes to point to the failures of "Supergirl", "Elektra" and "Catwoman" as proof that superhero films with a female lead can't be successful. The problem is not that these films had a female or male lead, it's that they were just plain bad movies!They also carefully side-step other huge financial bombs that have done real damage to the studio that produced them like the Lone Ranger, Green Lantern, Jonah Hex and John Carter.

Every time a movie featuring a woman in a lead role does well, it seems to be a complete surprise and is considered an "anomaly", like Bridesmaids, the Help, or just about any movie starring Meryl Streep.With the success of The Hunger Games, Brave, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and even the Resident Evil movies, I think we're at the point that Hollywood can no longer see these successes as strange one-offs. Women and men will see movies with a strong female lead if the script, cast and production are stellar.

Strong Female Superheroes
Strong female superheroe characters do exist from Spider-Woman, Zatanna, Harley Quinn, Black Canary, She-Hulk and the Black Widow (who should have been played by Angelina Jolie not Scarlett Johansson), to name a few.
Mac cosmetics released a "Wonder Woman" line a few years ago that was a roaring success. They had a top comic artist do the artwork (Mike Allred), and Wonder Woman was not sexualized but depicted as a strong female character. Limited edition t-shirts, bags and cosmetics sold out within a week (I was able to nab a tee).
Wonder Woman by Mike Allred for Mac Cosmetics
They are following this up with a Betty and Veronica line. This is a company that understands and embraces the power of strong female icons. They got it 100% bang on.

 If I were in charge, here is what I would do
  • Get Joss Whedon to dig out his Wonder Woman script that he worked on for years that no-one green lit. Then, let him do what he wants. He's earned it and with Buffy he's clearly proven he can write/direct strong female characters.
  • Introduce the characters of Oracle and Batwoman to the new Superman/Batman movie. Then give each one their own film to be directed by a independent filmmaker or a foreign film-maker with a smallish budget (say $50 million).
  • Oracle movie could be straight up crime drama/CSI style. Very gritty, character-driven with excellent supporting cast that includes detective Renee Montoya. How about Kathryn Biegelow to direct?
  • Introduce She-Hulk in the next Avengers movie, then give her her own movie. She is a strong, sexy, funny, smart character.
  • To a Black Widow movie with Black Widow as a mature, older character. She is a globetrotter and war-weary spy. She should be played by someone who can be smart, devious, strong. Angelina Jolie. Then give it to JJ. Abrams. Alias was the TV show he cut his teeth on.
  •  Finally, my daughter who is 8 would like nothing more than to see a female-driven action movie that is kid-friendly. There are none though. The closest we have come is the Powerpuff Girls DVDs from the old TV show. The show is smart, the characters are strong and relatable, the artwork is superb.

    We'll just have to read Harry Potter and Percy Jackson while we're waiting, waiting for Hollywood to get their act together.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

From the Earth to Babylon: Gerald Bull and the Supergun Debuts

So - multiple rounds of copy editing have been completed. Files have been formatted, then formatted a few times, then a few times more for good measure!

And now, here's the cover and the official description with some preview pages too!

From the Earth to Babylon: Gerald Bull and the Supergun
by Diana Tamblyn

Mixing the fascinating approach of historical journalism with a mesmerizing biography comes the wild and crazy, true story of Gerald Bull.

A historical graphic novel based on the life of Canadian Gerald Bull—considered to be one of the most brilliant scientists of the twentieth century and whose work affected the course of two modern wars. Bull’s research led him across the globe, from Canada, to the Pentagon, to Barbados, to South Africa, and finally to Iraq.

This volume tells of how this “boy genius” of rocket science experienced early success with the launch of HARP (the High-Altitude Research Project) with McGill University, to owning one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated space programs with the Space Research Corporation. 

>> 3-page pdf preview
>> Buy it here

Copy editor: Ed Kanerva
Designer: Dustin Harbin
88 pages, B&W interior, colour cover.
Price of ltd. edition version of 200 copies, $20
Book 1 of a 2 volume series.

The book can also be purchased at Heroes and LA Mood in London, Ontario, and Strange Adventures in Halifax.

Further Info
I'll be posting more detailed information on dates and availability as I have it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gerald Bull & the Supergun vol. 1 - COMPLETED!

I can't believe it but I've finished lettering & touching up in the very last page of "From the Earth to Babylon: The Story of Gerald Bull and the Supergun" - Book 1.

Next steps are for the talented Dustin Harbin to finish off his awesome cover designs and layout work, then proofing, proofing with my excellent copyeditor Ed Kanerva. Goal is to debut the book for the Small Press Expo. Countdown is on.

This has taken me YEARS of research, writing and drawing. Many thanks to my supportive hubby Dave and daughter Rosie who helped see it through. Also, when it gets down to it, perseverance pays off. This is honestly the toughest thing I've ever done.

Then you know... Book 2. No biggie.

Pages for Book 1

Thursday, May 09, 2013

TCAF 2013

Folks, it's been a long time coming, but I'm happy to say that my Bull graphic novel is finally going to be released this year! I had hoped to release it at TCAF (the Toronto Comic Arts Festival), but alas it was not to be.

I will having still be attending TCAF since it's my favourite comic show of the year though. So many friends there and so much good stuff to buy!

Doug Wright Awards Fundraiser

One of the things I love to do at TCAF is go to the Doug Wright Awards (which take place on Saturday night, May 11th at 7PM this year). The Doug Wright Awards are a non-profit organization whose goal is to draw attention to excellence in cartooning in Canada.

Have you dreamed of owning some original comic book art for a reasonable price?
Well, dream no more my friends.  As a fundraiser, they asked some great Canadian cartoonists like Seth, Chester Brown and Matt Forsythe (and me) to contribute some original art to auction off on the theme of "Super Villains" on eBay. I did Granny Goodness, an awesome Kirby villain.

Right now the bid is at the low, low price of $31.00. Bidding ends tomorrow (Friday, May 10th), so get bidding!

Gerald Bull Book Progress Update

So as to not lose my mind on this graphic novel (as it is easily 10 times longer than anything I've ever done before), I decided to split the book into two volumes: a Book 1 and a Book 2. This kept everything more manageable and less overwhelming. Both volumes will be approx. 75 pages in length.

Here's the story recap:
From Earth to Babylon: The Story of Gerald Bull
Canadian scientist Gerald Bull is considered to be one of the most brilliant scientists of the twentieth century. A boy from modest means, he quickly grew to prominent and his research led him across the globe, from Canada, to the Pentagon, Barbados, South Africa, China and Iraq – where he developed the “Supergun” for Saddam Hussein, and ultimately to Brussels, where he was assassinated in 1990.

Book One tells the story of his early years as a “boy genius” at the University of Toronto, his years at the Canadian Defense Department where he began his work on supersonic guns, and his work at McGill on HARP (the High Altitude Research Project). Like something straight out of a Jules Verne book, HARP utilized a big gun system instead of rockets to shoot items into the earth’s upper atmosphere.

I now have 2, count 'em TWO pages left to draw for Book 1! After that it's just scanning, toning and lettering. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the full printed edition will be now be released at the SPX this Fall, which I have secured a table at.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Best Comics of 2012: Hilda and the Bird Parade

As a caveat, I read a lot - ficiton, non-fiction, newspapers, comics, mini-comics, graphic novels, newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes, you get the picture... I haven't read every comic or graphic novel that came out last year though. Some that are on my massive "to read" stack that may very well be favourites include: Lilli Carre's "Heads or Tails", Chris Ware's "Building Stories" and Gabrielle Bell's "The Voyeurs".

That being said, here's my last pick of my favourite comics of 2012 - Luke Pearson's "Hilda and the Bird Parade", the third book in his Hilda series. This is one beautiful book: it's oversized hardcover, full colour, with a spot varnish cover. In it, Hilda moves with her mom from the country back to the city and tries to fit in. She meets a magic talking bird and of course they embark on an adventure together.

This is a wonderful book for kids and parents alike. The illustrations are gorgeous and the story is charming. My 8-yr old loves it and it's a pleasure to read it to her (and to myself). Highly recommended! Luke Pearson is a prodigious talent. Just look at some of the work below.

Pearson came to my attention a few years ago with "Hildafolk", the first in the Hilda series. Hildafolk tells the adventures of Hilda, a young girl who lives in what looks like a gorgeous northern European countryside (think Sweden or Norway). Hildafolk is already in its 3rd printing.

Pearson followed up Hildafolk with "Hilda and the Midnight Giants", which NoBrow also printed in a gorgeous oversized album format (think Tin Tin and Asterix HC french volumes). Both deserve your attention. Really you should just order all three Hilda books from NoBrow.

NoBrow Press is a UK publishing outfit and their books aren't readily available in most comic stores. So, unless you happen to live near the Beguiling, you should just order direct from them online. They have a wonderful line of high-quality, award-winning books, graphic novels, prints and even wrapping paper! I've ordered a few times and it's been no problem.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Best Comics of 2012: Swimming Studies

I first became aware of Leanne Shapton through her book "The Native Trees of Canada" by Drawn & Quarterly which came out a few years ago. The book is a series of illustrations based on leaves from Canadian trees.

Last year I did an art show on Trees of London, Ontario (the city where I live whose moniker is "The Forest City), so the book was of particular interest to me. We take our environment for granted, and when you step back and really study trees, as I did for my project, they are so beautiful and breathtaking. Shapton's book really captures this wonder with bright colours and images that are almost abstract.

So when her first prose book came out in 2012 - Swimming Studies, I was quick to pick it up. It's not a comic, but it's definitely influenced by "sequential art" (as Will Eisner would say). Because of this, and because I discovered her through D&Q, Swimming Studies appears on my "Best Comics of 2012" list.

Swimming Studies

I've never read a book quite like this. It's told as a traditional narrative about Shapton's experience training as an Olympic-level competitive swimmer in Canada (she ranked as high as 8th in Canada). Apparently she was good, but not good enough, and she gave up the sport, later becoming an accomplish designer and artist. Interspersed in the narrative are photographs of some of Shapton's swimming suits (which she collects), beautiful washes of swimming figures, abstract landscapes, paintings of pools she's swam in and people she swam with.

Swimming Studies knocked me right out. It's the same kind of feeling I get when looking at an inspired work of art - it makes you see life in a bit of a different way.

It's also a perfectly imperfect work. I say this because the book would never work with just the prose story alone, it's a bit long and each chapter has the same pacing. I missed the traditional story arc - no build up, no conflicts, no crisis/climax, no denouement - it's all the same beat (similar I guess to the relentless training she practiced).

Swimsuit Collection
Taken as whole, the book is sublime though. You can totally understand how all of Shapton's swimming discipline helped her in her transition to an artist and New York Times art director. She's not afraid to do the work and I find that really inspiring. I really loved her love of swimming suits as objects and their representation of moments in her life too. I can't think of a better way to present her feelings about that part of her life (and she continues to buy new suits and document them).

I love all of her illustrations. I especially love her swimming pool studies. Only a very observant mind would take a mental note of the shape of each pool they have swam in. I have a weird thing where I can remember each hotel room floor plan I've stayed in (although this is getting harder as I get older). Perhaps this is how a cartoonist sees the word - we divvy up the visual word into comprehensible components like boxes on a page. Maybe this is why I connected so much with the book as a whole.

Swimming Pool Studies
This is a book that I will be picking up and referring to for many years to come. I think all creative types will appreciate this book as the struggle she goes through with her sport, is very similar to what we go through when creating art. And it's just a goddamned gorgeous book. I loved it.

Available from Amazon and finer bookstores everywhere.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Best Comics of 2012: Hawkeye

The best straight up super-hero comic of the year was without a doubt the new Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction and David Aja.

Cover to Hawkeye #9 by David Aja
One of the very first comic series I ever collected was the Avengers (at the end of the Perez run), so the characters hold a special appeal for me. And of all of the Avengers do you know who I like the best? Hawkeye. That's right - that one hard-core Hawkeye fan, it's me.

I have the first ever action figure done of Hawkeye and have many of his early comic appearances. One of my favourite all-time comic covers? This one below, circa 1982 by Ed Hannigan. I copied it when I was 14 and still have that old drawing.

Having said all this, even if you aren't a huge Hawkeye fan like me, if you have even the slightest penchant for really well-written, smart, charming, funny super-hero comics - you'll enjoy the heck out of this comic. Hawkeye is a great character because he is just a regular guy with no super-powers, just an incredible talent in archery. In fact lately, he's been written as being able to use any object and make it a deadly weapon (think Bullseye). I like this and thinks it makes sense.

In the Fraction book, Hawkeye is an average joe, a perennial bachelor, a smart-ass who drinks too much and has trouble paying the bills. Still he's charming and fights crime. He also has a protege in Kate Bishop (from the Young Avengers), who is also a talented archer. She's also smarter than Hawkeye, so they make for a good team.

The artwork by David Aja, is also a joy to behold. I've been a fan of Aja's since his previous team-up with Fraction on the Immortal Iron Fist (also excellent). His work has just gotten better and better over the past couple of years. He's simplifying his style and using bold blacks and innovative panel break-downs. It's such a pleasure to look at. Apparently he's also moved to a mostly digital style too which I find interesting. Here's a couple of good examples of his storytelling. You don't even need word balloons or captions to understand what's going on.

The book is yet to be collected (it's just at #6 right now), so to pick it up you'll need to get the single issues for now at finger comic stores everywhere. The first softcover comes out in the Spring. You can pre-order it now though.

I'm sure I'll be buying a number of copies as gifts. An excellent book.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Best Comics of 2012: Darth Vader and Son

So - full disclosure, I bought this for my husband for Christmas this year then read it before I wrapped it up for him. It's hilarious! I'm not a huge Star Wars fan (but I like it don't get me wrong), but I am a parent - and each of these one-page strips is gold Jerry, gold!

Just check out this strip for example...

Amazingly, it also has the George Lucas stamp of approval! The book is by noted cartoonist, Jeffrey Brown, who is a super talented guy and obviously a Star Wars afficionado. If you know a Star Wars fan who is also a parent - this is the book for them.

I'm assuming the book is raking in wheelbarrows of much-deserved cash as there is a sequel coming out this Spring called "Vader's Little Princess" starring Vadar and Leia (also by Brown). You can bet I'll be picking it up!

>> Darth Vader and Son is by Chronicle Books and is available at all major bookstores, and online at Amazon.

Best Comics of 2012: The Underwater Welder

This Summer Jeff Lemire put out his latest original graphic novel The Underwater Welder, by Top Shelf Comix. The Beguiling put on a launch event for it where Jeff gave a presentation about his process in putting together the book, then sat down with Mark Askwith to discuss it.

Jeff is a friend and I've been a big admirer of his work for years now. Life is short and I like to support friends whenever I can, so Dave and I decided to make a weekend of it in Toronto, stayed in a hotel like grown-ups and attended the launch. It was a great evening. It's also a terrific book and makes my list of my favourite comics of 2012.

The black and white book takes place in Nova Scotia, and follows the story of an underwater welder named Jack. He and his wife are expecting a baby, and Jack is working through issues of his relationship with his father, as he prepares to become a father himself. Lemire's beautiful images of Jack alone underwater make a lovely contrast to his turbulent inner thoughts and secrets of his past.

Jeff is a master storyteller. His pacing (a very underrated skill in comics in my opinion), is second to none. He makes it seem effortless. I honestly marvel at it. The colour cover - divine! A gorgeous book.

Jeff is also a real inspiration to me in terms of his work ethic. He writes and draws the monthly "Sweet Tooth" comic for Vertigo (which is also excellent), writes a number of DC super-hero books, then every few years puts out a full original graphic novel like this one. Plus he's a doting Dad and husband. How does he do it?

>> The Underwater Welder is available at fine comic stores everywhere. You can also find it on Amazon.