Saturday, July 31, 2010

Australia and the Magic Quiff

Right. Off to Australia.

If you are on a plane to Australia today and you hear the sound of weeping coming from a nearby seat, it will be me, fighting to lose ten pages from a pretty tight script. (I bet I will lose two or three pages easily. Then the pain will start.)

I leave you with this remarkably photoshopped Russian magazine cover. (You can see the line on the left where my real hair stops and an enlarged version begins.)

What puzzles me mostly is, my hair is weird enough anyway. Why make it weirder?

(For the hair detectives amongst you: here are lots of photos of me from the same day that that Russian photo was taken.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Cutting stuff, watching parking meters, getting graphic in Sydney

As of 2:30 this morning I was certain I'd be blogging again today. I'd just sent off the finished draft of the Doctor Who script, and I was done.

Then I got up somewhat later this morning, and read an email from my script editor at the BBC a) giving me a thumbs up for all the new stuff [which I wrote for practical and budget reasons, but which will, I think, actually be much cooler than the stuff it replaced] and b) having formatted everything correctly according to BBC rules, letting me know that the script's actually a good ten pages too long.

So there will be another draft, over the next couple of days. By the end of it, all redundancies, slow bits, things that can be thrown overboard, or lines of dialogue that the author is particularly proud of will have gone, and it will be ten correctly formatted pages shorter.

And I will keep them in reserve in case they call to tell me that the episode's coming in short, and can I write three pages of sudden conversation?


This evening I got an email from my lawyers in the Todd McFarlane case (quick! If you have no idea what I am talking about, or if you are writing something about the case, read this first: It's short and explains everything. Did you read it? Okay...) and attached to the email was this pdf file.

The PDF file is Judge Crabb's ruling on the matter that Todd wanted brought back before the court -- the question of accounting for the characters that Todd felt weren't even a bit derivative, and which I thought were not just derivative of the characters I had created for him, but in one case, actually was the same character I'd created with Todd originally. In her ruling Judge Crabb said, yes, she thought so too...
The two characters are similar enough to suggest that either Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn
is derivative of Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn or it is the same character to which plaintiff owns
the copyright.

Much as defendant tries to distinguish the two knight Hellspawn, he never explains
why, of all the universe of possible Hellspawn incarnations, he introduced two knights from
the same century. Not only does this break the Hellspawn “rule” that Malebolgia never
returns a Hellspawns to Earth more than once every 400 years (or possibly every 100 years,
as suggested in Spawn, No. 9, exh. #1, at 4), it suggests that what defendant really wanted to
do was exploit the possibilities of the knight introduced in issue no. 9. (This possibility is
supported by the odd timing of defendant’s letter to plaintiff on February 14, 1999, just
before publication of the first issue of Spawn The Dark Ages, to the effect that defendant was
rescinding their previous agreements and retaining all rights to Medieval (Gaiman) Spawn.)

If defendant really wanted to differentiate the new Hellspawn, why not make him a
Portuguese explorer in the 16th century; an officer of the Royal Navy in the 18th century, an
idealistic recruit of Simon Bolivar in the 19th century, a companion of Odysseus on his
voyages, a Roman gladiator, a younger brother of Emperor Nakamikado in the early 18th
century, a Spanish conquistador, an aristocrat in the Qing dynasty, an American Indian
warrior or a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I? It seems far more than coincidence
that Dark Ages (McFarlane) Spawn is a knight from the same century as Medieval (Gaiman)

Anyway. That's that round done with.

I wish I took some kind of joy in this, but I don't.

At this point all I hope is that Todd can do an accounting for all the comics I wrote for which he paid no royalties, and the rest of it; and that he'll settle up and I will make some comics charities very happy; that his comics company will finally come out of bankruptcy; and that I can forget this forever.

For the curious, there is an account of this round at Maggie Thompson's excellent blog, starting with and going on from there, an entry at a time.

And here's an article from 2002 that summarises the original round of findings against McFarlane and Image.

This is a photo from Maggie's blog of Todd McFarlane (right) and his witness Brian Holguin (left) after they'd testified.


Tomorrow Maddy and I go to Australia for the Graphic Festival at Sydney Opera House. (The overall link to the Festival is here:

I'm going to read my novelette "The Truth is a Cave In The Black Mountains" for the first -- and possibly only -- time in public there, next Saturday night. There will be accompanying music by the FourPlay String Quartet, something I find exciting and scary at the time, as I've never attempted an accompanied reading, and Eddie Campbell has painted about 40 illustrations, which will be projected while I read.

There will probably be some other stuff -- I'd love to do a Q&A there, for example, but need to check with the organisers if it's permitted.

There will be a signing afterwards.

If you don't yet have a ticket, they are at:

Eddie Campbell used to blog. This is the blog, frozen in time:

And just to bring things all the way around to the beginning of this blog, is a link to FourPlay's online shop. And the first track (which you can hear a smattering of on the site) is the FourPlay version of the theme from Doctor Who.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible

A few years ago, the BBC World Service did an adaptation of my novel Anansi Boys. I’m a big fan of radio drama, and a huge admirer of the director who did it, but things went a bit wrong. The biggest thing that went wrong went wrong right at the beginning, when the World Service, coping as best they could with budget cutbacks and less broadcasting time for drama, decided it would have to be an hour-long adaptation. And bad things happen when novels get cut down to an hour. So despite a really terrific cast and production and as solid a script as could be in the circumstances, I was not happy. It felt like one of those Readers' Digest condensed books.

I decided to do Anansi Boys as a TV series, and to the script myself. And no sooner had I decided to do that, when I got a call from a Hollywood Producer.

“I was on tour with [a star who shall be anonymous for now],” he said. “And I bought the paperback of Anansi Boys in an airport to read on the plane. We started reading bits of it to each other for the rest of the tour. Can we make this into a movie? Will you write the script?”

I normally say no to adapting my own stuff into film. But I wanted an Anansi Boys adaptation I could be proud of, and the radio adaption had left me wanting to go "No, this is what I meant". So I said yes.

And I set time aside to work on it. I was going to start in late March 2009.

At the beginning of March 2009, my always-healthy father died unexpectedly, of a heart attack, during a business meeting.

Oddly enough, Anansi Boys begins with Fat Charlie Nancy’s father dying of an unexpected heart attack, which sets the events of the story into motion, although his heart attack is embarrassing and funny. My dad's wasn't really either.

And for about a year, I’d open Final Draft (my scriptwriting program). I’d open the Anansi Boys script. I’d look at the three or four pages that I'd done for a bit. Write a sentence, or delete one. Then I’d close Final Draft and do something else. Write a short story. Work on a book. Blog. Anything, really. I just didn't write the Anansi Boys screenplay.

Which carried on until March this year. I went out to LA for the Oscars, as CORALINE had been nominated for Best Animated Picture. I’d even written an interview with her, animated by Travis Knight, that was shown during the Oscar ceremonies, which is, I'm pretty sure, so far the single thing I’ve written that has been seen by the most people. The Oscar ceremonies fell on the anniversary of my dad’s death. It was a very strange, sad day – made peculiarly worse because I knew I should have been enjoying it, and I wasn't.

But it marked the end of something, too. And when I went home I got to work on Anansi Boys, interrupted only by the Doctor Who script which, having bounced from season 5 to season 6 (I wrote a Very Expensive Episode. I didn’t mean to. It just happened that way, and there was not enough money left in the Season 5 budget to make it) needed to change a bit, because Season 5 is not Season 6. And, because television production schedules wait for no man, they needed it now. Meanwhile Anansi Boys was ridiculously late.

Somewhere in there I decided that I would simply stop blogging until Anansi Boys and Doctor Who were handed in. The blog would be one less thing to worry about. And that blogging again would be my incentive to finish.

The sixth draft of my Doctor Who script was handed in on the 19th of June.

And the first draft of Anansi Boys was handed in on Monday of this week. (I think it's pretty good.)

Which means, you would think, that I ought to be blogging again now. There is a lot to blog about. Cabal-the-dog has almost recovered from his neck operation. (He just had the stitches out. I told people who asked about the five-inch long stitched up wound on the back of his neck that he'd had a gorilla-brain transplant. This was a lie.) Lola-the-surrealist-puppy is getting bigger and bouncier every day, like a little white cross between Tigger and Andre Breton. Princess the elderly cat gets grumpier, madder and older. Amanda just released an album “Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on her Magical Ukulele”, which has done amazingly.

It is a digital & vinyl only release, which will cost you $0.84 - the cost of Radiohead's publishing and the transaction charge, and it's, strangely, not a novelty album at all. Go and listen.

The bees are busy, the blueberries are getting ripe. Perfect blogging weather.

I should plug Coilhouse Magazine as well. I'm in issue 5.

Except that, just as the draft of Anansi Boys was handed in, the word came down from the powers behind Doctor Who that I was going to have to do another draft. The wonderful thing about books and comics is your budget is infinite: it costs the same to draw one thing as another, to write one thing as another. That’s not true of television, where a budget might stretch to prosthetics or CGI, but not both (quick! pick one! now rewrite to make it work) or you might find yourself being told that, no, we can’t make the Undersea Dancing Mermaids sequence work because the underwater cameras would blow the budget even before you factor in the mermaid tails but we already have a bird costume so could you just make all the mermaids into birds instead? And you’re sure you can, you can’t just quite figure out how...*

Truthfully, I’m not grumbling. I’m loving writing Doctor Who, and so far, each draft really has been better than the one before. But we’re now at the point where people in Cardiff are nervously drumming their desktops and checking their watches. So I’m putting blogging again off for a few more days.

Even last night, I went out with Amanda (she was making a guest appearance at a Steel Train gig), but spent most of my time backstage writing in a small green notebook, figuring out solutions.

The Seventh Draft of My Doctor Who Episode should be done in the next few days. And then I’ll start blogging again, just in time for the trip to Sydney. (The Graphic event tickets for the Opera House for the night of Saturday the 7th have almost sold out. You should come. It will be wonderful.)

Also, no, I am not at San Diego Comic-Con this year. But the CBLDF auction is - and I donated a page of Dave McKean art from Black Orchid to it. It's one of five pages Dave gave me a long time ago, showing Black Orchid and Poison Ivy, and it's been hanging on my wall for over twenty years. (I wrote on the back of the frame to this effect, and signed it.) You can bid whether you're at San Diego or not - see the bidding rules at the bottom of the web page.

And since I am here: Things I love right now: the Vignette photo Android app on my Nexus 1.

I really will be back.



*I've learned over the last few months that any comment one makes about Doctor Who is analysed, pored over, interpreted, and for all I know held up to a mirror and then combined with something from the Book of Enoch, by Doctor Who folk on the internet, who then have much too much fun using it to Build Up Theories. So this is a Disclaimer, just for them: There are no mermaids or birds anywhere in my Doctor Who script. That was just me making something up as an example. Honest. Also, this footnote is not a clever double-bluff, and really there are birds and mermaids but I am trying to throw you off the scent by mentioning them and then saying that there aren't.

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