Reece Lipman

2014: Comic of the Year

I tried to pick something other than The Wicked + The Divine as my favourite comic of the year. I was well aware that I’ve written enough about it over the past six months to last a lifetime, and that another thousand words on my love for it was probably the last thing the internet needed. But then, I’ve written all that for a reason. y’know? So, a solution.  I’ll be getting TWATD again with Tim in the New Year, but for now we’ve initiated another member into our mini-pantheon, and asked friend of the blog Reece Lipman to tell us why The Wicked + The Divine was his favourite comic of the year, too. The Wicked and the CinematicWhen Alex asked me to write something about The Wicked + The Divine, I didn’t really know where to start. In all honesty, I was a little bit nervous writing alongside people who know a heck of a lot more about comics and music than I ever could. [Pretty sure he’s confused me and Tim with someone else here – Self-deprecation ed] I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big ol’ comics nerd and I’m not adverse to dancing till 6am (I sit here writing this in a Spider-Man t-shirt belting out Blank Space as loud as my neighbors will allow) but I didn’t really know where to start. Looking back over The Wicked + The Divine again though, something immediately struck me. There was something that I could talk about. Something that, as a filmmaker, I know quite a lot about. Cinema. The skill of creating cinematic images isn’t one I often see in comic books. The artwork may be beautiful and I may spend hours pouring over the details but I don’t view a lot of comics books with the same eye I would view a film. I’m always reading the book, but I’m very rarely transported there. That’s a good thing, of course. The two have cross-over points but they are inherently different, as they should be – most of the time. Yet occasionally the image in a comic can feel like it is moving, jumping out of the frame and making a break for the real world. It can become truly ‘cinematic’, that elusive mix of the real and the magical. An image which can both feel familiar and completely and utterly extraordinary. The Wicked + The Divine is one of the few comics I’ve read this year that has achieved just that crossover. Take the first couple of pages of issue #1. The striking full page image of a skull on the table adds mystery and intrigue like the very best of cinema. A few pages later, the browns, the greys, the blues of South London; we’re back in the real world, in utter normality. Six panels per page, nothing extraordinary. Life is just carrying on.  Then, the sudden full-page burst of colour and light you’re hit with the moment Laura enters the concert. You can hear the music. The light radiates from the page. There’s no doubt you’re in the presence of a god before anyone even properly mentions the Pantheon. In every image McKelvie and Wilson manage to imbue the page with motion, light, sound; everything you’d hope for in a cinematic experience. The beginnings of this can be seen back in the last issue of Phonogram: The Singles Club. Kid-With-Knife’s trancelike state, driving him from fights to dancing to “bedroom dancing” is told wordlessly, but nonetheless we can hear every beat, every rhythm, every gasp. The interplay of light and colour are what drives the issue, and The Wicked + The Divine takes this to the next level, imbuing the story with more urgency and magic than anything I’ve read in a long time. Any article about the cinematic nature of The Wicked + The Divine, though, would be empty without a nod to Lucy and the climactic fight of the first volume. I know this has been written about before on this blog but the sudden shift in tone, from random acts of violence to almost full-on war is something special. Baal’s entry to the fight bursts, quite literally, out of the confines of the comic. Debris is spread across panels, with no respect for the boundaries of the page. The image takes on a 3D quality throughout the fight, hitting the sort of Marvel-style climax that you can fully imagine seeing in a darkened room on with 7.1 surround. For me at least, that’s what I love about comics and that’s what has made The Wicked + The Divine one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in years. The relationship between story and image is perfect. There is no spare frame, there’s no wasted space. When it’s needed, even the barrier between the panels is destroyed. I can hear the music. I can feel every beat, every synth. It’s pure cinema captured on a page. I’m no longer reading it, I’m watching it. As you can probably tell from the above, Reece Lipman makes films. Like, day in day out, for money. He’s single-handedly (not single-handedly) responsible for interviewing 1,000 Londoners, teasing out some of the subcultures of this weird city.  His ice bucket challenge video was the work of a dangerous mind left alone in a hotel room, but it was also a great homage to Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Also, you didn’t hear it from me, but I think he might be the secret identity of the Shimmer-Man. Find him on Twitter here.

Blogtour: Me & Writing

I should have known the second he walked into my office – he was trouble. Tim Maytom, legs made for dancing and a collection of Los Campesinos! t-shirts that just wouldn’t quit. “Mr Spencer,” he cooed, twirling one lock of that beautiful dark hair. “I’ve got something you might be interested in. “I’m taking part in a ‘Blogtour’, a kind of chain-letter of blogging, where you pass on the format of the blogpost to a couple of writers you follow, and so on – basically talking about their writing process and what they’re currently working on.”It sounded like a perfect chance to talk about myself. Almost too perfect. Looking into those big bubblegum eyes of his, how could I say no?Tim had real projects to talk about. He’s putting together something called a ‘role-playing-game’. Me? I just sit here in my pants and blog. What the hell do I have to talk about?Like I said – Tim was trouble. What Am I Working On? As my life becomes increasingly crammed, my main project is writing about even a fraction of the things that tickle my brain – a particularly fine chorus, the story being drummed out on a pub table with two fistfuls of Netrunner cards, the way London on a foggy day reminds me of mid-00s games with the draw distance turned way down so my computer stood a chance at running them. Most of the time, that’s this blog, which was always intended as a way of trying things out, a release valve where I don’t have to worry about money or readers. Or, if I want to worry about those things, through my day job at Mobile Marketing Magazine – which, in spite of its b2b focus and incredibly specific name, occasionally hands me an incredibly wide remit – or through freelance work, which I’m constantly vowing to carve out more time for. I have actually got a little something in the back pocket, which I’m still trying to work out the whats and hows of. I can’t really talk about that yet, at least on here. Ask me about it in a pub, and you’ll get so many details and questions and stray thoughts you’ll regret ever asking. How Does My Work Differ From Others In My Genre? The idea that all criticism is autobiography is hardly a new one. But looking back over my last dozen or so posts, it’s the overwhelming theme. Sometimes I’ll reminisce about how I consumed something – listening to The Juan Maclean in a drained bathtub or my first and only foray into Nidhogg multiplayer, crowded around a laptop at 3am – and hope it gives some context about how  Other times, that aspect will only really be clear in hindsight. As much ‘I’ as there was in my post about trying to play GTA V without killing anyone, I didn’t realise until afterwards how much it’s about me trying to work out what it means to say I’m a pacifist, while being in love with violent art. My post on Rogue Legacy was actually a fairly straight review, but I remember giving it a final polish while visiting my parents and thinking, oh, this is about me and them. Occasionally, I’ll just drop all pretence and just outright talk about me. To explain how much I enjoyed Hearthstone, I had to talk about all the baggage that came with it, and that ends up with me telling stories about being ashamed of certain aspects of my personality. All that might not make be particularly unique, but it keeps me as honest as I can be, and it’s why I… oh, hang on. Why Do I Write What I Do? Because it’s unavoidable? If I read/play/watch/listen to/think about something that really grabs me, shortly afterwards, these chunks of phrases will start to appear in my mind, unsummoned. The words float there, editing themselves, until I do something about it. By writing them down, I’m able to think of this as a gift, rather than a mental illness. In that Hearthstone post, I wrote about running around in my grandparents’ garden as a kid after gobbling down a few dozen pages of fantasy. I had to act out battles with a line prop and hold conversations with myself and jump the hell around because the fiction I was interacting with was too big in my brain just to let it sit there. Also: that’s a realisation I came to because I wrote about it. As I alluded to in the last answer, doing this is the nearest thing to therapy I can afford. Writing is catharsis, obviously, and that’s as true for how much I dig this comic/game/film/record/whatever as it is for the big stuff. How Does Your Writing Process Work? By pulling together a lot of notes. When those chunks of paragraphs appear in my head, I try to get them tethered down into a Word doc as quickly as possible. (Sometimes I’ll lose one of them, and it hurts. This weekend, out of nowhere, my brain started rewriting the final two paragraphs of my recent blog on Hearthstone, which I thought ended a little messily. This was a revelation. Suddenly I knew how to tie together all those ideas and memories in a way that made total sense, was more true to the game and what I was trying to say. But I was on holiday in Leeds, without access to a keyboard, and frankly I spent a lot of the time drinking heavily. It’s not there anymore, but I can feel the phantom of it.) Then, I wait until I’ve got about double the sensible wordcount, and start chipping away at it. As I expand the fragments into whole segments, I’ll liberally deploy “???” placeholders where I can’t think of the exact right phrase yet. Once the whole thing is in rough sentences, I’ll copy-and-paste bits around until a shape starts to present itself. These days, this last stage (what most people would actually call the writing) happens a lot […]