THE LAW DONE PROPERLY

One one occasion, back when I was but a small boy, my mother allowed me to take some pocket money and hit up the newsagent’s at the Big Shops and get me a comic book.

By age 8, I was already a firm, and lifelong, fan of a number of comic book characters: Iron Man, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Green Lantern, The Flash (yeah, the last 10 years have been pretty frigging good…). Suicide Squad, Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, and Batman lay in my future. Etrigan, the Defenders, Guardians of the Galaxy (the originals, damn it), the Uncanny X-Men: all still to come. Sandman, Hellblazer, The Crow, Shade the Changing Man: many years hence.

And then there was the pulpy, multi-coloured, wild and woolly piece of British insanity I picked out and took home with me. Ye Gods. I’d never seen anything like it. Lurid, helter-skelter madness oozing out of every page. I was smitten. I was entranced. I was in another world.

My Mum read three pages, and threw it in the bin.

2000AD. Oh, what a joy. What a frabjous, incendiary, utterly British slice of lunacy. I’ve been a lover ever since.

To whit: Judge Dredd. The signature character. Not necessarily the best, but the most 2000AD of all the characters presented over the many years of the comics’ run. To date, there have been 2 filmic treatments: a ludicrous, and rightly derided, Sylvester Stallone thudder in 1995, that manages to include all the necessary ingredients and get them all hopelessly wrong; and a 2012 starrer for the chronically-limited Karl Urban that was long on the ultra-violence, and short on everything else that makes the character special.

Which makes the fan film Judge Minty all the more extraordinary. Fan films are a special kind of rabbit hole: produced with all the love and care in the world, many of them are victims of the lack of resources, knowledge, and (at times) talent that reinforce all the negative stereotypes that abound when we see the words “fan production”.

Not this. It has a few moments where the ambition outstrips the production, but it is a superb Judge story, and far better than the two mega-budget films that proceed it. It’s superb.

 

And if that’s not enough, the same production team has just released a new film. Search/Destroy features one of my all time favourite characters, and worlds: Johnny Alpha, the Strontium Dog. I’ve been waiting for an SD movie for as long as I waited for all the Marvel and DC films and TV that are currently overwhelming the Universe. If there is to be a new wave of comic book movies, let the Judge Minty crew lead the way. I want more.

I’m in love.

 

 

 

FIVE FOR FRIDAY: WRITING EXERCISES

I’ve been in a writing lull, now, going on something in the region of three years. The promise of my early days, when I was selling ten stories a year, seems a long way away as the combination of life-consuming day job, depression, and general Real Life ™ has slowly chipped away my creativity, my drive, and my time.

However, one thing I’ve maintained is my enjoyment of teaching writing, and when I have managed to write, it’s been via applying one of the exercises I use to teach aspiring writers, and pushing through to get some sort of result out of it. So here, for your own education, are five exercises I regularly use to get my heart started.

Five for Friday: Writing Exercises

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FIVE for FRIDAY: FIRST LINES

As a writer, half the battle of capturing your reader’s attention is won or lost in the first line. Capture their interest– hook them– and they’ll accord you extra time to do the things you need to do. Provide a bland or boring opening, and you’d better have an explosion arriving real quick, because there’s a new episode of Duck Dynasty on the tube and someone’s cooking sausages.

(Of course, you can take my advice for what it’s worth by noting that the greatest play ever written starts with the first line, “Who’s there?”)

Over the course of my career I’ve written some cracking opening lines (if I do say so myself) and some that have done little more than provide the literary equivalent of lobbing the ball over the next just so the other player can return serve.

Here are five of my best.

Five for Friday: First Lines

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PRECIOUS THINGS: AMANDA KOOL

Amanda Kool lives at the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, a glorious part of the world surrounded by valleys, forests, walking paths and, most importantly, she says, wineries.

She writes in a little nook at the bottom of the house, closed off by a deep red curtain (her very own Black Lodge). In the summer, this is the only room in the house that is not in danger of combusting due to the sheer ambient heat.

Surrounded by the paraphernalia of whatever book she is writing (various tchotchkes, gewgaws, spirits, liqueurs, books, food stuffs and weaponry), she sits at her desk with a pot of freshly brewed tea and…according to her, procrastinates, avoids, trembles, and swears.

Despite all that avoidance, she’s seen her debut novel Tallwood published, as well as The paper Fox, an interactive story for IOS devices, and a bunch of other tales. Here, she takes us to a place familiar and intimate, and yet somehow all her own.

Precious Things: Amanda Kool

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