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Paul Stapleton "Indy cartoonist and all round graphic nerd." (United Kingdom)

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Salt Water Taffy: The Legend of Old Salty (Salt Water Taffy: The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny)
Salt Water Taffy: The Legend of Old Salty (Salt Water Taffy: The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny)
by Matthew Loux
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect holiday reading, and very funny to boot., 11 Jan. 2012
I have to hold my hand up first and say that I picked up three of these from a charity shop in Minehead (sorry Matthew! I would buy any new ones new though!). You know how sometimes you get a gut feeling that something is going to be a graphic novel even though you've only clocked the cover? Well that was Salt Water Taffy.

As far as I've been able to find, there isn't much in the way of Famous Five, Railway Children or any of the other great children's adventure stories that isn't set in the age of the steam train and telegram machine, so it's nice to see something that follows in that tradition open with a surly teenager sulking into his Gameboy (playing Metroid, incidentally) en route to the dreaded Chowder Bay holiday.

Needless to say, this antipathy doesn't last long, and Jack and Benny are quickly embarking on all manner of adventures that are all at once mysterious, surreal, occasionally creepy (was that wolf REALLY going to eat them?) and often genuinely funny. In fact, some of the humour seems to be for the benefit of whoever was lumbered with reading this to their little one at bedtime. It helps that there's such a strong cast - Angus steals every scene he's in, and the boys' mum and dad are comic creations up there with Calvin's long suffering parents.

And though it's true that a well written story saves poor artwork far more than the other round, Salt Water Taffy has no fear on either front. The artwork is lovely although, more than usual, getting a glimpse of it in full colour on the cover does make you crave it throughout. If I was going to nitpick, I would say I prefer the coves and forests of Chowder Bay over the angular and somewhat French graphic style of the characters, but that's just my preference.

So in conclusion, Salt Water Taffy is a charming and very underrated series of honest to goodness adventure stories for kids and adults alike (and in roughly equal measures). And in this age of post modernism, post irony and a fascination with cruelty and darkness, you can't say fairer than that.

The Tale of One Bad Rat
The Tale of One Bad Rat
by Bryan Talbot
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic. Beautifully written and drawn, but never shying away from the task in hand., 11 Jan. 2012
Bryan Talbot's name is most associated with 200AD comic, as he provided strips for Blaine, Nemesis The Warolck and Judge Dredd. But after several years of superheroes and the supernatural, he wrote and drew The Tale Of One Bad Rat, a beautifully scripted and rendered voyage of a young girl doing battle with the spectre of sexual abuse.

The story starts with Helen homeless on the platform of Tottenham Court Road tube station, begging for change and being harangued by an over-zealous Christian crusader. After encounters with a trio of prostitutes and an amorous and sleazy MP, she falls in with some well-meaning but occasionally volatile squatters. Events take a sudden turn for the worse, and she hitches out of London when her recent past starts catching up with her. From this point it's a visual and personal tour-de-force, as Helen begins to work on the source of her demons against the stunning backdrop of the Lake District.

As Alice In Sunderland (one of Bryan Talbot's later books) focused on the links between Sunderland and Lewis Carroll, One Bad Rat ties itself with the life, works and movements of Beatrix Potter. The title and cover both pay homage to the range of books penned by Potter, and Helen has a long-standing obsession them. Furthermore, a series of enounters and locations in the Lake District echo her life and movements through that part of the country, which is where she drew a lot of her inspiration.

The Tale Of One Bad Rat is still in print, and is a comic I can't recommend enough. It's wonderfully written, with a good deal of research into and, more importantly, sensitivity to the obviously charged subject matter. The characterisation is strong and Bryan Talbot made a point of drawing from life models, which adds the grit and emotion necessary to the proceedings.

Visually it hits the right notes all the way, from the gaudy neon-dappled drizzle of East End London to the epic vistas of the Lakes. Comic books are by nature static in their presentation, but The Tale of One Bad Rat feels very much like a moving road trip.

Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom [DVD] [1976]
Doctor Who - The Seeds of Doom [DVD] [1976]
Dvd ~ Tom Baker
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful; a classic that has barely aged., 11 Jan. 2012
It's unfortunate that filming techniques in television have given the impression of later Classic Who (mid 80's onwards) aging far less well than that of a decade earlier. The grainy edge of location shooting and the slightly fuzzy set work do help hide some sins. That said, it isn't only superficial qualities that keep Seeds of Doom from being fresh - it's excellently written, timeless sci fi drama, and I think it helps to have pulled in so many other influences along the way.

It's been well documented that Seeds of Doom draws at least as much from The Avengers and James Bond as it does from the series' own mythology and, like Caves of Androzani and Blink, not feeling like conventional Who is one of its greatest strengths. It's a spy thriller, with Tom Baker smashing through glass ceilings and pointing a gun at anyone who threatens a hair on Sarah Jane's head.

Refreshingly, it also avoids the padding we've come to associate with six or seven part stories by effectively breaking it into two separate (though interlinked) shorter stories. The first of these is basically The Thing on a BBC budget, and sees a small Antarctic expedition discovering a frozen alien artefact buried in the snow. The quality is established here, with a well acted set of characters, some genuine tension and a surprising amount of scares from what is essentially a resprayed Axon.

I shan't give plot spoilers away, but if you HAVE seen The Thing you'll have a clear idea what follows from the scientists' discovery. Needless to say, Seeds of Doom takes it into the global arena by delivering one of the alien pods to London, and that's when the story proper starts. Mad plant obsessed scientists, surprisingly articulate and well fleshed out henchmen, an eccentric elderly artist who can surely only have been cast as she was because Margaret Rutherford wasn't available, and the last fleeting appearance of UNIT. It's a heady mix, and when you add some superb location work mixed with seamless interior sets (they're so good, were it not for the difference in quality between location and set filming you'd swear the whole thing was filmed in Athelhampton House), you've got something really rather special.

I don't even need to mention the grand model work in the last couple of episodes, or the uniformally excellent acting and script that even includes some unnamed guards getting some quality lines. There's nearly 40 5 star reviews for this story, which I think is more than enough to inform your decision! My only niggle, especially since he passed on, is that Nicolas Courtney wasn't available to reprise his role one last time as The Brigadier (prior to retirement I mean).

Primitive Neural Pathways
Primitive Neural Pathways
Price: £3.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like Jean Michel Jarre..., 23 Jun. 2011
I came across Steve Moore recently in a "top ten recommended" blog about progressive electronica artists, gave all of them a whirl on Spotify and got through my five play allowance with Steve inside a day. It hits every point with me - I'm a big fan of Jean Michel Jarre and this kind of electronica. I don't know enough about the genre to describe it with jargonistic buzzwords, but this is warm and emotive, and new and nostalgic at the same time. Vintage synths and squelching drum beats, with soaring melodies and hot dang it gets me every time I play it! Recommended very highly indeed - he's my find of the year.

End of the Season
End of the Season
Offered by inandout-distribution
Price: £10.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Flying the flag high and proud for British music in an album that fires bullets of award winning gold at every opportunity, 13 Jan. 2010
This review is from: End of the Season (Audio CD)
Astonishingly enough, this is the eighth album in nine years by the Brighton based four-piece band. Why hasn't this band become embraced by the general public sooner? Such recognition must surely come their way due to this release which is just pure middle-of-the-forehead genius.

Beginning on what sounds like pots and pans with some piano tinkling, Time's Kind Fingers has a minimalist sound to it. As the track progresses, it slyly builds up in pace which adds to the general wonderfulness which is created right before your very ears. Although the beginning to Survivor's Parade can be described as a tad quiet, it begins to proceed into an almost Two Fingers of Firewater sound which I'm sure many have noticed prior to hearing this and is by all means a quite excellent feature of this song. There are some fine tunes out there, but then there are tracks like Coming Home which simply blows your mind away. Borrowing so many elements from other musical forms, it seems to merge these styles together in a seamless way which is that impressive that it certainly leaves a lasting impression. With some slight double bass towards the tracks end which is just ace, this has to be the finest track which must be heard to be truly believed.

The unanswered question remains up for discussion; why has this band not become widely known? Such wrongs must surely be righted due to the release of this album.

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