Friday, September 26, 2008

Heroes 3

Just watched the first two episodes of Heroes series 3.

I must say that I'm a little bit disappointed. It's beginning to be a bit like 24 in the same way that at first it was very exciting because there was nothing else like it on TV before, but after the first series the show is enslaved by its own formula, turning what once was an exciting innovation into a cliche.

Once again we get a glimpse of an apocalyptic future that must be prevented, a character disappears to find himself in a faraway place all alone, Sylar is hunting heroes to get their powers and get caught again (until his next escape), twist family relations between characters are revealed, characters die (but not really) and characters pop back and forth in time.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all bad. There are several exciting new plots, but they are all tied together by the same cliches. The name of the season, and one of the future visions, imply that it's going to feature a villains team up. The show hasn't been going on long enough to pull off something like that properly. It's something that would've worked better in series 5 or 6, which I'm pretty confident Heroes is going to reach. Still, it could be interesting.

My biggest problem is with the time traveling elements. They have played a major part in each storyline so far. It's very hard to write time traveling intelligently. If you go from future A to the past and change it into future B you will also change yourself. The you that exists in future B won't need to go back and change future A since it doesn't exist anymore, so if you end up not going back in time to change the future, then it'll still be future A after all. Confused? You should be. What's worse, the time traveling isn't even used in new ways. Once again we get glimpses of a future where the characters are darker due to some cataclysmic event or alternatively we see the world explode. Again.

The only plot that really holds my attention right now is Mohinder's transformation which could lead to some interesting subplots as long as it's not going to be a Fly ripoff (the actor is not entirely unlike Jeff Goldblum).

Another problem I have with the show is with the action scenes. Smallville doesn't feature the best storylines in primetime action dramas, but they very often have spectacular fight sequences that are almost good enough for the big screen. With Heroes even the season finales feel very cheep and underwhelming.

Obviously I do like this show, otherwise I wouldn't be writing so much about it.. It's always entertaining and addictive, but it can be so much more...


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Writing comics... Again.

I've been writing and drawing comics ever since I learned how to write - probably even a bit earlier than that. I still have a few notebooks full of stories that for the most part I can't decipher nowadays. But the passion was always there. The best way to know what you meant to do as an adult is to look back at what motivated you as a child and adapt that into a practical job the best way you can.

From about the age of eighteen I also started trying to send submissions to various editors in Marvel, DC and other publishers. That makes it over a decade of trying to break into the comics industry. Admittedly, I wasn't ready right away. My first few pitches were written in terrible English (it's not my mother tongue and I only started using it on a regular basis when I moved to the UK at the age of nineteen) and were quite unimaginative and, quite frankly, crap. I got better with time, both as a writer and in my ability to attract the attention of editors and get them to listen to me. But getting close doesn't cut it.

I then decided to simply start making my own comics. Unfortunately I'm not a great artist. Fortunately, being on an animation degree course I made many lifelong friends who are. Together we created Cheese Comics (link on the side). We created some stories, printed them and sent them everywhere. It was disappointing that nothing came out of it, and looking back at these stories they weren't perfect. But they weren't bad either. They were certainly a great learning experience. Sadly those books led nowhere other than a few positive reviews and the fact that I got a proper job in the games industry led to me not writing any comics over the last few years. I did spend some time writing a movie script and a children's book, but neither made it. The movie script got enough positive reactions from various producers and studios to reinforce in me the notion that I am after all a good writer (nothing can crush an artist's self-esteem more than repeated rejection), but I was still not making money from it.

So now I'm going on another round. Being a stay at home papa for the next few months give me more time to write than usual as Blake is a very easy baby. So I'm writing three comics projects with three different artists and another movie script. I won't lie and say that I'm doing it just for fun. I hope one of these projects will be "the one". Comics-wise I'm writing a child-friendly slapstick comedy, super hero and action horror.

And it feels good. I like writing.

I'll be sure to post updates, sketches and previews as soon as we get stuff done.

Stay tuned!


Friday, September 05, 2008

The quest for a decent mobile.

One of the things that surprised me as a new parent is the fact that baby mobiles are so rubbish and useless. You're not asking much from a mobile: a selection of soothing melodies and a bunch of toys to spin around. There's a selection of small features you just expect to be there: volume control, a timer, on/off button.

This mobile lives up to its name. It really is poo.

The first mobile I bought was this Winnie the Pooh one. It looked quite grand and colourful so I overlooked the $59 price tag (Canadian dollars before tax). Surely it's a worthy investment. It had two tunes and a jungle ambiance, as well as a light and sound display, not to mention lovable Winnie the Pooh characters hanging off it. Bargain!

So what went wrong? The first thing we noticed was the low volume. The volume control allowed you to turn it from "is this thing on?" to "if I stick my ear to it I think can hear something." The next problem was the fact that the two musical options were essentially the same five seconds on an infinite loop. On the box they had the chutzpa to describe one of the options as "Classical music medley". The light and sound feature was actually nice and it came with a remote control which is a very nice touch.

But none of the good and bad things mattered when the mobile broke within a week. It started activating itself on its own which was not only annoying (and somewhat creepy) it was also killing the battery. I took off the soft toys and threw away the whole thing down the garbage chute.
Green Mobile: Powered by parental fingers.

We resorted to a little Winnie the Pooh mobile that came with Blake's Graco playpen. It was very simple, only one tune and no fancy light shows, but Blake loves it. The only problem, made worse by the fact that he loves it, is that you have to turn it on manually by winding it up and even then it last for only a couple of minutes which is never enough. I could forgive the lack of volume control if I could just had an on/off button.

The folding playpen didn't survive the return trip from a quick visit to LA (and ended up also going down the garbage chute), so we bought a new one which came with a similar mobile with three generic bears. On the plus side you didn't have to wind it up manually. On the minus side you couldn't turn it on at all! The three bears were just hanging there in the air over Blake's head. Even giving them a spin with your hands was futile as they came to a complete stop right away. it came with a box that had little lights on it and music options. All very unimpressive and even quieter than the original Winnie the Pooh mobile. Thankfully the windup mobile from the previous playpen fit this one as well so we still use it occasionally.

If this is a Happy Safari, why do all the animals try to commit suicide?

When we returned this week from Canada I went up to the attic to take stuff down that we bought before we left. I was delighted to discover a Happy Safari mobile. it looked really impressive on the box and I allowed myself to hope that maybe this time it will actually have all the desired features.

Well, no.

Such a shame. It's actually quite exciting with arms going up and down, three music options that don't grate as fast as you'd think, light effects and lots of interesting toys. Blake loves it and can lie on his back and dance to it for a long, long time.

So what's wrong with it? Where do I start? For one thing there is no volume control and this time the music is too loud. It's really distracting to anyone nearby and I'm not sure how good that volume is for babies (though Blake managed to fall asleep to it more than once). The toys hanging off it fall off easily with the smallest touch, which creates a hazard for the baby. And I have no idea who's the genius who decided to put the control panel facing the inside of the crib rather than the outside, as the baby can easily kick it in the middle of the night and activate it with blaring music (and a rain of toys).

My quest for the perfect mobile is over. I'll just have to accept the ones I have with all their flaws. How difficult it is to create a battery powered mobile that has a timer, on/off button, volume/mute control, toys that are secured properly, guaranteed not to break in a week, decent low/high volume range? Even better, one with an option to plug in your iPod and have complete control over the music. What can I say? I'm a dreamer.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Back home

I just realized my last post was the one announcing that I went back to playing World of Warcraft and then silence for a while... Well, I wasn't just playing WoW for all that time.

We came back to London at last. Toronto was great, but it was so good to be reunited with the dogs after over three and a half months and to introduce Blake, who's now well into his fourth month, to the doggies. We had a small pizza party on Sunday and got to meet some of our good friends who we've also missed.

Now "real" life begins. I have to take care of a three months old baby and two big Great Danes. That's quite a lot of work. We also decided that I should work from home for a while, and work for the next few months means writing and working on various projects (children's story/comic, movie script and other bits and bobs). I'm trying to settle into this new routine and have done quite well with that considering we only returned on Friday night and also still have lots of unpacking to be done with.

Do I miss game design? Very much. I also miss being in an office environment with some cool people to hang out with and chat to. But with that said I do look at things with rose tinted glasses. Not having office politics or bosses to answer to is always nice, not to mention no commute and an incredibly flexible schedule (which it has to be when you take care of a baby).

The dogs have accepted Blake very well. Old Kato is always good at adapting to change. Younger Leo was always a bit neurotic. Us being gone for nearly four months has only made him more clingy and needy and the presence of the baby made matters worse. Leo is used to being the baby and suddenly we're making funny noises to a new creature. Though he wasn't aggressive, he did bark a bit in distress first, but very quickly he calmed down when he noticed we still play with him and Blake is, after all, another human for him to love so he actually gets more love now. Blake enjoys staring at the dogs and occasionally touch them. He seems, so far anyway, not to be bothered by the stinky steam of death that comes out of their mouths.

"Yes? The boss is resting, please come back another time."

The five of us are finally together. When we're all in the same room together, that's true happiness. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

I like icing, so bring it on!