The Complete “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall” – The New Dark Comedy Comic By C. A. Brown

2015 The Complete Horror Of Hardtalon Hall

Well, in case you missed it, here’s all nine pages of “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall” – a dark comedy/ horror parody comic that I made for Halloween this year.

It’s kind of a follow-up to my “Diabolical Sigil” comic from earlier this year and, despite getting writer’s block a couple of times, it was great fun to make 🙂

(If you want to view a larger version of any page of this comic, just click on it )

As usual, this comic is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]"The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Cover" By C. A. Brown

“The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Cover” By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]"The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 1" By  C. A. Brown

“The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 1” By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 2" By C. A. Brown

“The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 2” By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 3" By C. A. Brown

“The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 3” By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 4" By C. A. Brown

“The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 4” By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 5 (edited version)" By C. A. Brown

“The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 5 (edited version)” By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 6" By C. A. Brown

“The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 6” By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 7 " By C. A. Brown

“The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 7 ” By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 8 " By C. A. Brown

“The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 8 ” By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 9 " By C. A. Brown

“The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 9 ” By C. A. Brown

Mini Review: “Doctor Who -The Zygon Invasion” (TV Show Episode)

2015 Artwork Doctor Who Zygon invasion review sketch

Well, I thought that I’d quickly share some of my rambling thoughts about today’s episode of “Doctor Who” called “The Zygon Invasion”. As with the other episodes in the series, this is the first half of a two-part episode. I’m also not sure whether next week’s review will be late or not, but here’s this week’s one.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that this review will contain some PLOT SPOILERS.

“The Zygon Invasion” begins with a flashback to the events of a couple of series ago, showing how the peace treaty between humanity and the Zygons came into being. As a condition of the treaty, 20 million shapeshifting Zygons were allowed to take human form and live on Earth. It’s been quite a while since I saw that episode and I still can’t remember all of the details of it, so the flashback was very welcome.

The embodiment of the peace treaty was Osgood and her Zygon clone (both of whom refuse to say which one is human and which one is Zygon) – however, after one of the Osgoods dies, the other leaves the UK and travels to America (New Mexico) where she is suddenly captured by a group of Zygon terrorists. These terrorists want to control the earth and they have the ability to mimic literally anyone that they come into contact with. It is up to The Doctor, Clara and UNIT to stop them…..

One of the first things that I will say about this episode was that it’s obviously one of the higher-budget episodes of the series – everything about this episode, from the writing, to (most of) the effects and the wide variety of locations is pretty much Hollywood-quality. Although this episode was shown on Halloween, it’s more of a sci-fi thriller episode than a horror episode though.

I’ll start by talking about the writing in this episode because it’s absolutely stunning. After the set up for the story, the episode manages to cram numerous sub-plots (and plot twists) into a single 45 minute episode in a way that almost makes it feel like you’re watching three episodes at once.

Whilst the Doctor is trying to rescue Osgood from a Zygon terroist -controlled village in the fictional country of Turmezistan (and also trying to stop UNIT from drone bombing the crap out of it), Clara and Jac (played by Jaye Griffiths, who was also in a brilliant 1990s TV show called “Bugs” 🙂 ) are investigating mysterious events in London and Kate Stewart from UNIT travels to New Mexico in order to investigate a suspiciously deserted town.

In additon to this, there are also other sub-plots too (which will be continued in the second half of the episode), as well as lots of fascinating background information.

This is what a two-part episode should look like. Whilst some of the earlier two-part episodes of the series felt like they could have just about been compressed into a single episode with a bit of careful editing, this episode takes full advantage of the two-part format by trying to cram as much storytelling as it can into the time available. Seriously, there’s absolutely no filler here at all.

In addition to this, the episode is also a metaphor for modern problems with terrorism. Although this is made fairly explicit in some scenes (eg: comments about younger Zygons being radicalised, comments that the terrorists obviously don’t represent all Zygons, the Zygon terrorists acting like terrorists etc..), it plays a part in the episode in all sorts of other subtle ways too.

For example, when the Zygon terrorists release a ransom video, Osgood is sitting in front of a black and white flag (with an alien symbol on it) that is vaguely reminiscent of the ISIS flag.

Likewise, when The Doctor reaches the UNIT base in Turmezistan, there’s an American soldier piloting a drone (albeit under the command of a British officer). The Doctor also makes the logical, if somewhat controversial, argument that if UNIT indiscriminately bombed Zygon-controlled territory then it would just turn some of the much larger number of non-terrorist Zygons against humanity.

As for the effects and set designs in this episode, they’re really good and you can tell that this episode had a slightly larger budget than usual. As well as featuring scenes filmed in America, many of the special effects in this episode are movie-quality too.

The only negative comment I can think to make is about the design of the Zygons themselves.

Even with modern costume design etc.. they still look a bit like people in silly rubber suits. Then again, if the Zygons were first introduced during the older 1960s-80s series of “Doctor Who” (which I haven’t seen), then this makes a lot more sense.

All in all, this is a brilliantly thrilling and dramatic episode of “Doctor Who”. It is expertly written and it contains so much storytelling that it almost feels like a two-part episode in and of itself.

Interestingly, this time, there wasn’t a preview of the next episode at the end of this episode for obvious reasons (ok, everyone and their dog knows that the Doctor didn’t die but I can see why they need to keep up the pretence).

If I had to give this episode a rating out of five, it would get five.

Today’s Art ( 31st October 2015)

em> Plot twists! Contrivances! More treasure! Yes, what else could it be but the shocking conclusion of eight of “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall”? Despite a couple of bouts of writer’s block, this comic was an absolute joy to make and I hope that it was as enjoyable for you too 🙂

Don’t worry if you missed any of it, I’ll post a re-cap of the entire comic on here shortly before midnight (GMT). My usual daily paintings will also resume tomorrow.

As usual, this comic page is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 9 " By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 9 ” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – October 2015

2015 Artwork Top Ten Articles October

First of all, happy Halloween everyone 🙂 Anyway, since it’s the end of the month, I thought that I’d make the usual list of links to what I think are the ten best articles about writing, art and comics that I’ve posted here this month (I’ll also probably include a couple of honourable mentions too).

Unfortunately, many of this month’s articles were horrifyingly terrible. I don’t know, I guess that this was just one of those uninspired months that I sometimes have.

The fact that I wrote many of this month’s articles back during the summer probably didn’t help either (I don’t know, hot weather has a habit of making me feel uninspired). Nonetheless, there were at least a few vaguely good articles this month. So, without any further ado, here’s the list:

Top Ten Articles For October 2015:

– “Three Tips For Writing Sci-Fi Political Drama
– “What Can ‘All Along The Watchtower’ Teach Us About Minimalist Storytelling?
– “Three Twisted Ways To Make Your Horror Comic Disturbing (And Why They Work)
– “Four Reasons To Include Unfashionable or Strange Clothing Designs In Your Art
– “Three More Tips For Drawing And Painting From Memory Alone
– “What Can We Learn From Roy Lichtenstein?
– “Three Basic Thoughts About Writing Epic Space War Storylines In Sci-Fi Stories And Comics
– “The Joy Of…. Hedonistic Characters
– “Three Very Basic Tips For Creating Fictional Historical Ephemera (In Comics And Stories)
– “Some Thoughts On Learning How To Type Quickly

Honourable Mentions:

– “The Power Of An Art Style
– “Find Your Own Definition Of Rebellion – A Ramble

Halloween Approaches, Dare You Read “Acolyte!”? (My Free Interactive Horror/Comedy Story)

2015 Artwork Acolyte! Cover poster version

In case you missed the announcement earlier this month, I’ve written an interactive comedy horror story which can be read for free here.

It’s kind of like those old gamebooks that you might have played back in the 1990s, but it’s online… and, unlike in the 90s, you don’t need a dial-up modem, dice rolls, stat sheets or anything like that.

But, don’t just take my word for it, just read these expert testemonials (which I totally didn’t just make up, well, ok, I might have done… you can’t prove anything!!!):

Worship me, foolish mortal! … And read “Acolyte!” too, it’s awesome!
-The Elder Goddess Zuccax.

Ah… yes… I love “Acolyte!” It’s what I read to… unwind.. every night after a hard day’s work! It… really… speaks to me.
– The Keeper Of Darkblade Manor’s Historic Dungeons.

Bleat! Bleat! BLEAT! Bleat, bleat bleat!”
– Goats Against Ritual Sacrifice

Today’s Art (30th October 2015 )

Treasure! Cosmic horrors! A cold day in hell! Yes, what else could it be but page eight of “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall”? This is a new short comic which I decided to make for Halloween and it’s kind of a follow-up to my “Diabolical Sigil” horror/comedy comic from earlier this year.

Anyway, stay tuned for the shocking conclusion of this comic tomorrow night 🙂

As usual, this comic page is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 8 " By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 8 ” By C. A. Brown

Four Random Tips For Writing Time Travel Stories And Comics

2015 Artwork Time Travel article sketch

A couple of months ago, I finally got the chance to see one of the few episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that I haven’t seen before. If anyone is curious, the episode in question is the ninth episode of season five. Anyway, since the plot of this episode revolved around the subject of time travel, I thought that I’d give you a few random tips about how to write these kinds of storylines.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that there are obviously two types of time travel storyline – one where the characters travel into the past and one where the characters travel into the future.

The easiest types of time travel stories to write – since they don’t require historical research- are either stories where people travel into the distant future or stories where people travel back from the distant future into another part of the future.

Anyway, let’s talk about time travel:

1) Explaining the technology: Generally speaking, you don’t have to explain the time travel technology that your characters use too much.

Since the main attraction of your story is either what the distant future might look like or how your characters influence (or react to) past events, you don’t have to place too much emphasis on the actual time travel technology itself. As long as it works and has a vaguely scientific-sounding explanation, then your audience probably isn’t going to care.

Likewise, because time travel technology hasn’t been invented yet, you have a lot more creative liberty when it comes to how you depict time travel compared to, say, futuristic technology that is based on modern technology.

But, if you want to make your story more “realistic”, your time travel technology should probably be based on Einstein’s theory of relativity (?) which suggests that time slows down if you were to somehow accelerate to the speed of light – this, in effect, allows one-way time travel to a random point in the future.

However, regardless of what type of time travel technology you use, you will probably need to explain the rules of time travel in your story. For example, If your time travel device only allows one-way travel into the future, then you need to make this very clear and stick to your own rules about it.

2) Language: If you want to tell a compelling time travel story, then your depictions of either the past or the future should be at least slightly unrealistic. In other words, they should be similar enough to the present day to be easily understandable by your readers. This may sound strange, but there’s a good chance that you’ll do this without even realising it.

Take language for example – were you to travel back to medieval England, everyone would still be speaking English. However, it would be middle English rather than the language that this article is written in.

Since writing large portions of dialogue in historically-accurate middle English would probably confuse your readers, it would probably be a better idea to use a slightly old-fashioned sounding version of modern English in the dialogue.

Likewise, although I’ve written about this before, people are probably going to speak very differently in the distant future to how they speak now. Again, if this is shown too often in your story, then you’ll probably end up confusing your readers. So, stick with a slightly altered or stylised version of modern English.

3) Culture: One of the main attractions of time travel stories is seeing how people from one period in time react to the culture of another period of time.

Whether it’s the crew of the USS Enterprise making sarcastic comments about how backwards 20th century Earth was, or whether it’s this hilarious scene from “Demolition Man” where Sylvester Stallone suddenly notices that people don’t use toilet paper in the future, one of the coolest things about time travel is seeing how the characters react to it.

Cultural misunderstandings in time travel stories can obviously be a great source of comedy, but they can – of course- be used to make all sorts of serious comments about the world. Just don’t go overboard with this, since no-one wants to read a stern moral lecture about historical things that everyone already knows were bad.

Likewise, if you want to make a satirical comment about the future, then it’s usually best to do this in a subtle way. Again, I refer you to “Demolition Man” – this is a comedy/action/sci-fi movie that is set in a dystopic future where everything is (for want of a better description) ludicrously “politically correct”.

Most of the social satire in this film is done in a fairly subtle way, using background details (like machines that automatically fine you if you say anything “offensive”, like restaurants only serving healthy nutrition pills etc…) but if it had been done in a more blatant way, then the film would end up being more of a boring social tract than a funny comedy movie. So, keep your satire as subtle as possible.

4) Time Paradoxes: As anyone with even a vague familiarity with time travel fiction will know, any slight alterations to the past will cause exponentially larger alterations to the future and/or universe-endangering time paradoxes. .

This is why, in a lot of time travel stories, the characters often go to great pains not to alter anything or reveal too much about the future. But, well, this is kind of boring. After all, who wants to read a story about a group of people who visit somewhere and try to do nothing?

So, you can make these types of stories a lot more interesting by showing your characters taking a lot of effort to make sure that history plays out as it should. You can show them working in secret to ensure that historical events happen as they should. You can even show them travelling to the past to undo the damage that another time traveller has done to history.

Likewise, another approach that can work well is to show your characters trying to change history, only to find out that – despite their efforts – history remained the same. These kinds of storylines raise all sorts of interesting questions about fate and free will and they can be interesting to write (especially since you’ll have to come up with an alternative explanation for how well-known historical events happened).

———–

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art ( 29th October 2015)

Oddly-placed typewriters! Absurd Belgian copyright rules! Mysterious corridors! Yes, what else could it be but page seven of “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall”? This is a new short comic which I decided to make for Halloween and it’s kind of a follow-up to my “Diabolical Sigil” horror/comedy comic from earlier this year.

Anyway, stay tuned for page eight tomorrow 🙂

As usual, this comic page is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 7 " By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 7 ” By C. A. Brown

Why Literature Can Never Be Censored

2015 Artwork why literature can't be censored replacement sketch

Even though this is an article about imagination, censorship, self-censorship and the power of literature, I’m going to have to start by talking about my reactions to reading another article that I saw online a couple of months ago. There’s a good reason for this and I’m not just rambling about my own thoughts for the sake of it.

Likewise, although I’ll try to keep this article suitably undetailed, I should probably warn you that I’ll begin by discussing a genre of fiction that some people may disapprove of. I am writing about this genre purely because of the questions it raises about censorship, self-censorship and the nature of the imagination.

Anyway, although I won’t link to the exact article I read (for reasons that will probably become apparent later), I stumbled across an absolutely fascinating interview (on a popular American humour website, no less) with a professional author who writes lots of … how shall I put it?… short E-books that are designed to be read in private.

This is, if I’m being honest, a genre I’ve always been curious about writing in. But, on the rare occasions that I’ve challenged myself to write something of publishable quality in this genre, I’ve always ended up toning it down quite significantly. I’ve always worried that it would be too shocking if I didn’t self-censor quite a bit. Well, after reading the interview, I had a very different perspective on the genre.

From the interview, I quickly learnt that – even if I didn’t self-censor – my stories would, by modern standards, actually be extremely tame. Hell, they would probably be boring.

I won’t go into detail about some of the more obscure sub-genres of fiction described in the interview – other than to say that the fact that some of them actually exist freaked me out a bit.

And, when it comes to this subject, I like to think that I’m a fairly open-minded and non-judgemental person. Still, at least I was open-minded enough to realise that, although several of the sub-genres of this type of fiction certainly weren’t my kind of thing, the writer still had every right in the world to write and publish these stories.

Naturally, this also made me think about the power of the written word and of the dangers of censorship. In the western world at least (apart from Germany, thanks to a rather bizarre censorship law they recently passed), literature is one of the last bastions of true free expression. It is, as I think I’ve probably mentioned before, one of the few truly anarchic spaces that we have left.

Writers have, thankfully, been able to get away with far more than film-makers, videogame developers or comic creators have and I think that this is due to the difference between the written word and visual media.

In prose fiction, everything takes place entirely within both the writer’s imagination and the reader’s imagination. As such, literature is justifiably free from censorship for the simple reason that to censor literature is to censor thought itself.

Likewise, in order to understand a collection of letters on a page, you have to look closely at it for a few seconds – whereas, with visual media, it’s contents are obvious even from a distance. Prose fiction has much less of an immediate impact than, say, films do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing in favour of film censorship here, but this does explain why things like films, comics and videogames have been victims of censorship far more often than literature has.

A great example of this can be seen in the horror genre in 1980s Britain. Back in the early-mid 1980s, there was a silly moral panic about “video nasties“. These were gruesome horror movies on video that, by modern standards at least, are fairly tame.

Anyway, a bunch of stuffy old conservatives and preachy tabloid journalists got themselves worked up into an absolute tizzy about these films and this eventually led to the regrettable decision by the conservative government of the time to extend official film censorship to videos as well as cinemas.

However, were you to visit a bookshop at the same time, you could apparently find a plethora of splatterpunk horror novels which contained far more gruesome horrors than any film at the time did.

Hell, even when I first read second-hand copies of these books back in the ’00s, they still seemed wonderfully edgy and genuinely shocking. In fact, when I was finally old enough to lie about my age convincingly enough to buy some real horror movies, I actually found them to be quite disappointing by comparison.

Not only that, thanks to the fact that literature is often eclipsed by other forms of popular entertainment these days, controversial or shocking works of literature can thankfully slip under the radar in a way that, say, even slightly controversial videogames cannot.

I mean, even when “Fifty Shades” made a particular genre of literature popular again, there wasn’t really quite the kind of silly outraged moral panics and moralistic howls for censorship that there would be if someone had produced a film containing the exact same content as the book apparently has.

Yes, I’m aware that there’s a film adaptation of “Fifty Shades” but, from all I’ve read about it, it apparently had to be toned down a lot in order to avoid censorship and controversy.

Literature is a slightly obscure entertainment medium, it’s contents are not always immediately obvious and it takes place entirely within the anarchic private space of our imaginations. It is for these reasons that literature is not only one of the most powerful entertainment mediums in existence but also one of the few things which is thankfully well and truly out of the grasp of puritans, prudes, political fanatics and armchair censors.

Literature is a little pocket of anarchy in a world that is increasingly becoming dominated by censorship. Whether it’s the frothing moralistic censorship of the political right, or the self-righteous buzzword-ridden censorship of the political left, we’re living in a world where self-expression is often constrained by a few people’s personal feelings of disgust or offence.

Not only does literature manage to dodge most of this outrage by virtue of being literature – but also because of the sheer volume of it online. Even if a few people used their personal feelings of disgust to censor someone’s e-books, then there would be hundreds of other self-published authors out there who would take that writer’s place in less than a microsecond.

Although, when it comes to things like films, comics, videogames, advertising etc… the miserable censors on both sides of the political spectrum might win the occasional high-profile “victory”, literature is – thankfully – an entertainment medium that is far more powerful than all of these censors are.

———–

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (28th October 2015)

Windows! The laws of physics! Badly-drawn panels! Yes, what else could it be but page six of “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall”? This is a new short comic which I decided to make for Halloween and it’s kind of a follow-up to my “Diabolical Sigil” horror/comedy comic from earlier this year.

Anyway, stay tuned for page seven tomorrow 🙂

As usual, this comic page is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 6" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 6” By C. A. Brown