Two Basic Differences Between Modern And Older Novels

Ever since I got back into reading regularly a few months ago, one of the things that has surprised me so much are the differences between older and modern fiction. For the purposes of this article, I’ll define “modern fiction” as stories first published in the 21st century and “older fiction” as anything published before then (with a focus on the 20th century).

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been trying to do is to read a mixture of older and more modern fiction. This is mostly to give modern fiction a chance. After all, during previous times when I’ve read regularly for enjoyment (eg: during most of the 2000s and the early-mid 2010s), I’ve often tended to focus slightly more on older 20th century novels than on 21st century ones.

So, let’s look two of the most basic differences between older and modern fiction. However, I should point out that these are generalisations and there will be exceptions to everything I mention here. Likewise, I’ve probably mentioned all of these things before too, but they’re always interesting to look at.

1) Complexity: At the time of writing this article, I’m reading a novel from 1962 called “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury. One of the surprising things about this novel is that, technically speaking, it would probably fit into the modern “young adult” (YA) category if it was published today.

It bears all of the hallmarks of this genre – the protagonists are teenagers, it is a novel about being a teenager and it seems to be a fairly “PG-13” kind of story (to use an American phrase). Yet, it contains something that the modern novels (in a variety of genres) I’ve read over the past decade or so often don’t contain – linguistic complexity.

To give you an example, here’s a spectacular sentence from “Something Wicked This Way Comes”: ‘Then the calliope gave a particularly violent cry of foul murder which made dogs howl in far countries, and Mr Cooger, spinning, ran and leaped on the back-whirling universe of animals who, tail first, head last, pursued an endless circling night towards unfound and never to be discovered destinations.

This is a long, complex, formal, poetic and descriptive sentence. It has been carefully designed to make the reader feel like they’re watching the endless spinning of a merry-go-round in a mysterious old circus. It is meant to be vivid and disorientating. Yet, unless you’ve had a fair amount of practice reading older novels, it may confuse you. In a modern novel ( whether general fiction or YA), the language would probably be less formal and it would be broken up into several shorter sentences in order to achieve the same effect.

So, older novels are often written in a more complex and formal way. Yes, there are exceptions to this but, even if you look at that most high-brow of genres – paperback action-thriller novels – you’ll also notice that examples from the 1970s-90s often tend to be written in a slightly slower paced and more descriptive way than modern action-thriller novels are. The sentences are often longer and there are more descriptions.

This is kind of a double-edged sword though. Since, although all of this extra complexity really helps to give older novels a sense of uniqueness, personality, depth and atmosphere that modern novels sometimes lack, modern novels can often be a lot more gripping and readable. Because they have to compete with videogames, boxsets, smartphones and the internet, modern novels are often a lot more streamlined, efficient and readable than older novels.

2) Length: Whilst longer novels are nothing new (just look at the Victorians!), one of the really interesting differences between 20th and 21st century fiction is how longer novels have gone from being the exception to being the rule.

When you look at paperback books from the 20th century, the average length often tends to be somewhere in the region of 200-300 pages. This is a length that helps to keep the story focused and helps to ensure that the reader can finish the book without getting bored by it.

In contrast, modern 21st century novels will often be about 300-400 pages in length at the least. Yes, I have found shorter modern novels (in fact, I usually try to seek them out), but they tend to be less common than they used to be.

As with all of these things, there are advantages and…. Oh, who am I kidding? Older fiction has all of the advantages here. Because shorter novels were more acceptable in the 20th century, these stories tend to cram more storytelling into a shorter length – which resulted in better fiction. When an older 20th century novel is long, it usually has to justify this length by telling a story that cannot be crammed into a smaller number of pages.

Still, I find it ironic that, for all of the moaning about how people’s attention spans are getting shorter – books keep getting longer. Still, this increase in novel length seems to be part of a more general trend these days. I mean, just look at films. Back in the 1980s/90s, a film usually tended to be a fairly efficient 90-110 minutes in length. These days, even superhero movies can easily pass the two-hour mark.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Why Does Current Art Often Look Slightly “Old”? – A Ramble

Well, at the time of writing, I’m busy preparing a series of gothic paintings set in Aberystwyth. One of the interesting things about this art series is that each painting seems to be set in a slightly different time period.

There are some set in the mid-late ’00s, there’s one set in the early 2010s, there are some set in the 1980s/1990s and there are even a couple of paintings set in a cyberpunk-style future. Here’s a preview:

This is a reduced-size preview of a cyberpunk-style painting of a corridor behind the Hugh Owen building on the town’s university campus. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 11th June.

This naturally made me think about art and time. This is mostly because, although artists often don’t explicitly state when their paintings are set, they’ve usually got a fairly good idea. And, with the exception of obvious historical pieces and sci-fi/fantasy art, you might be wondering why current artists wouldn’t set all of their art in an accurate version of the present day.

There are a lot of reasons for this. The first one is that art isn’t meant to be accurate or realistic. If you want an accurate realistic picture of the modern world, take a photograph. Art is about the blending of imagination and reality. It’s about seeing the world filtered through someone’s imagination. So, many artists might use artistic licence (such as adding slightly old or unrealistic elements to their art) in order to create a more distinctive and interesting picture.

For example, in this other painting of Aberystwyth from earlier this month, I deliberately used a rather unrealistic 1980s-style colour scheme, mostly to reflect the old music I was listening to during the time period (eg: the late 2000s) that this painting is set in. Which brings me on to…

The second reason why artists don’t always set their work in a realistic version of the present day is because art allows us to re-visit interesting memories and to depict the world based on rose-tinted versions of parts of history that we get nostalgic about and/or are interested in. It allows us to paint or draw a more stylised version of the world that seems better, more reassuring and/or more visually interesting than a more “realistic” one would be.

For example, here’s a painting from life (a first-person scene showing me drawing a small sculpture of a tortoise) that I made last year. Although it is technically set in 2017, I’ve deliberately added some slightly 1980s/1990s-style lighting and colour combinations to it in order to make it look more dramatic and visually-appealing than a starkly “realistic” depiction of the scene in question would be.

“Drawing A Tortoise Still Life” By C. A. Brown

The third reason why artists don’t always set their art in an “accurate” version of the present day is because of artistic inspirations and influences. Generally, the things that have inspired or influenced an artist are probably going to be slightly older things.

They’re probably going to be things that, say, an artist first discovered when they were younger and then studied in more depth when they got a bit older. Even if an artist is somehow only inspired by “modern” things, then those modern things are probably going to be inspired or influenced by older things in some way or another. So, artistic influences usually come from the past in some way or another.

Finally, it’s an interesting artistic challenge. There’s something enjoyably challenging about making something in the present day that looks like it could have come from the past. In order to do this well, you need to have done a fair amount of research and have a good understanding of what made the recent past (and art from back then) look the way it did. For example, here’s a digitally-edited painting of mine that was inspired by the old early 1990s computer games I played during my childhood:

“Marina” By C. A. Brown

Although this painting includes some elements of early 20th century Art Nouveau and 19th century Japanese Ukiyo-e art, I also tried to replicate the more garish and limited colour palettes used in some old computer games. I used bold high-contrast lighting (which gives anything an instant 1980s/90s-style look) and I also tried to make sure that the fashion designs and hairstyles in the picture looked like something from the early 1990s. Likewise, I made sure that the background design was as random and eccentric as the location designs in old computer games often were.

So, yes, making current art that looks like it could have come from the recent past usually involves a fair amount of research and thought, so it can be an interesting artistic challenge.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

How Limitations Made Older Creative Works So Different To Modern Ones

Although I’ve briefly mentioned this subject at least once or twice before, I thought that I’d take a deeper look at how limitations made “older” creative works so distinctive, in case it’s useful for anyone wanting to re-create things that look like they were made in the past. This isn’t to say that older creative works are inherently better than all modern ones (a lot of them are, but a few aren’t) but they are certainly different.

In short, older creative works often have a lot more “individuality” due to the limitations that the people making them had. The most notable of these is that research was a lot more complicated, limited and time-consuming in the era before the internet really became mainstream. Yes, this limitation was almost certainly a bad thing in many ways – but it also had some very positive effects too.

Because of this limitation, creative people either had to rely on things like narrowly-focused research, their existing knowledge/experience, extrapolating from what information they could find, their own imaginations and/or things that were already widely-known.

Not having instant access to vast swathes of humanity’s knowledge had a huge effect on the tone, style, individuality and atmosphere of many older creative works. In some cases, this led to works having a slightly more “local” setting, attitude and tone to them. In other cases, this led to creative works almost seeming like a non-fiction book or documentary about some obscure subject or another. In other situations, this led to creative works having more of a “timeless” quality since people were forced to take inspiration from things like their own imaginations, widely-known classics etc…

In addition to this, there were also many more practical and financial limitations on how much creative people could learn about the field that they were working in. These limitations actually had a surprisingly positive impact on a lot of creative works, and helped to promote a certain level of creative diversity too.

A good example of this can be seen in the horror genre. These days, a lot of things in the horror genre (including many of my own works in this genre) are knowingly “ironic” and will often contain all sorts of references to other things in the genre. In a lot of ways, this is a very good thing – the irony helps to prevent the horror from being depressing and the references help audience members to feel more like part of a community. But, at the same time, it makes things in the horror genre a little bit less… distinctive.

To give you an example, two famous splatterpunk authors in 1980s Britain were Shaun Hutson and Clive Barker. Although they had obviously read and watched other works in the horror genre before they decided to add to it themselves, they didn’t have instant access to information about a lot of works in the genre, the international fan culture surrounding the genre, critical commentary/analysis surrounding the genre etc…

And, as such, these two authors have radically different approaches to the same genre – because they had to work it out for themselves. Clive Barker’s approach to splatterpunk fiction is more character-based, more fantastical and more “intellectual”. When something grisly happens in one of his stories, it not only has a noticeable effect on the characters, but it is often described in an almost poetic way – almost as if it had beauty of some kind.

On the other hand, Shaun Hutson’s approach to splatterpunk fiction is more “realistic”, “local” and “gritty”. His stories are often set in bleak rural or urban parts of Britain, his characters are a little bit more minimalist, his narrative style is a bit more “down to earth” and, whenever something grisly happens, it is often described in a much more “practical” or “scientific” way (for example, a notable trope in his stories is characters suffering injuries to their scapula bone).

Yet, if both authors had instant access to comprehensive information what their contemporaries around the world were doing (as opposed to whatever the local bookshop or video shop happened to stock) and to horror fan culture in general, then this would not only have affected the stories that they told, but also the way in which they told those stories. But, because they didn’t have any of this, they pretty much had to come up with their own distinctive “versions” of the splatterpunk genre.

So, yes, even something as simple as a limitation on the research that creative people can do can have a huge effect on what is produced. And, yes, most of what makes older creative works different from newer ones comes from the fact that people had more limitations in the past (eg: censorship, research, tools, technology, communications etc..).


Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

Four Things To Do If You’ve Missed The Heyday Of An Interesting Genre

2016 Artwork Genre Heyday article

Although this is an article that is intended to help you make interesting comics and/or write interesting fiction, I’m going to have to start by talking about one of my own interests. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious.

A while before I started writing this aritlce, I found myself returning once again to one of the coolest genres of comics in existence. I am, of course, talking about old 1940s-50s American horror comics. Although I have at least one book of them, quite a few great examples of the genre are also posted on a historical archive site called “The Horrors Of It All“.

I love the melodramatic artwork, the hilariously dark humour, the “so bad that it’s good” storylines, the vintage fashions, the delightfully over-dramatic dialogue etc… Ever since I discovered this old genre of comics, it’s been one of my favourites.

In fact, they were the things that finally allowed me to work up the motivation to get back into making comics again in 2015, after a year or so when I hadn’t made any comics. Even though the first comic I made was a 1980s-style sci-fi/comedy/horror comic, it was at least slightly inspired by old horror comics.

These old horror comics are such a joy to read and whenever I’ve made anything even vaguely similar (like the Halloween comic that is currently being posted here every night), it has almost made itself.

And, yet, the heyday of this genre of comics has long-since passed. It’s always annoying when you find a really cool genre, only to discover that no-one else really makes or reads anything in it any more. So, what can you – as a writer and/or comic maker – do?

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Make it anyway: This is the obvious suggestion. If you really love an obscure and forgotten genre of comics and/or fiction, then make your own examples of it. If the genre really fascinates you, then coming up with story ideas probably won’t be that difficult. Likewise, you’ll probably be so enthusiastic that your story or comic will pretty much make itself.

However, unless you’ve already built up a large fanbase, it’s possible that your project might not have a very large audience. In other words, if you want to make something that is squarely within a long-dead genre, then don’t expect it to be the thing that suddenly brings this genre back to life and makes it popular again.

But, if you’re just making a fun project, then this doesn’t really matter. The real joy is in making something that you love and making something that the few remaining fans of this obscure old genre will also love.

2) Look for it’s modern equivalent: Genres never really die. They might change a lot over time, but they never really die. If a sub-genre was particularly popular, then there’s a good chance that it will have been absorbed into the “mainstream” version of this genre (eg: back in the 1970s-90s, a gory horror novel was a “splatterpunk” novel, now it’s just a “horror novel”).

In addition to this, some obscure genres have blended with other genres over time. For example, very few people write westerns these days, but – over the past decade or two – the western genre has had some influence on the sci-fi genre (eg: TV shows like “Firefly” etc…). The same is true for how the vampire genre has mostly gone from being a sub-genre of horror fiction to being a sub-genre of romance fiction these days.

So, if you want to make something that appeals to a slightly wider audience and/or which seems a bit more contemporary, then look for the modern equivalent of your favourite obscure genres. Once you’ve found it, then try to see if you can find a way to tell the story you want to tell within the “new” version of your forgotten genre.

For example, when I made my Halloween comic, I didn’t really think that much about old 1950s horror comics. If anything, it was probably more inspired by other parts of the horror genre (eg: zombie movies). And, yet, I was still making a horror comic. And having a lot of fun making it.

3) Let it influence other things: If you don’t feel confident about pouring lots of time and energy into making things that fit into mostly-forgotten genres, then this doesn’t mean that you should abandon them entirely. Instead, learn as much as you can about this genre and let it influence the things that you make in other genres.

In fact, if you’re interested enough in an old genre, then you don’t have have to try to do this. It’ll probably just happen naturally, possibly even without you even realising it.

4) Parody: One of the problems with really cool old genres is that they’re… well… old. If you try to make “serious” or “realistic” things within these genres, then they’re probably going to seem somewhat contrived and/or old-fashioned.

Either that, or you’re going to have to do a ridiculous amount of research in order to get everything right – and, if a genre has mostly been forgotten, then finding research materials might be something of a challenge.

So, relax and have some affectionate fun with the genre. In other words, make a parody of it. Not only will this probably be extremely fun to make, but comedy has a fairly wide appeal too. So, even people who aren’t fans of the old genre might want to read your story or comic, because it’s funny.

And, if they really like it, then it might even make them curious about the things that inspired it….


Anyway, I hope that this was useful πŸ™‚

The Joy Of… Old Newspaper Cartoons

2016 Artwork The Joy Of Old Cartoons

A couple of days before I wrote this article, I was looking through some old books of “Giles” cartoons from the 1960s and 70s (which also contained earlier cartoons from the 1950s too). This was an absolutely fascinating experience and it kind of made me think about the whole subject of old newspaper cartoons.

If you’ve never heard of “Giles” before, he was a famous newspaper cartoonist in 1940s-90s Britain (here’s a hilarious old 1940s British PathΓ© newsreel of him at work).

Although few of his cartoons were published in newspapers during my lifetime (although, when looking online, I managed to find the cartoon that was published on my original birthday), there are countless collections of his cartoons out there. Along with cartoonists like Low, he’s probably one of this country’s more famous 20th century editorial cartoonists.

The interesting thing about “Giles” cartoons is that they show a world that is both familiar and totally alien to me. They have a brilliantly cynical sense of humour and there’s a lot of stuff in there that seems very apt and instantly recognisable, but they’re set in a slightly different and older version of this country.

They’re set during the many strikes of the 1970s, they’re set in the world of the “Carry On” films, they’re set during the postwar austerity of the 1950s, they’re set during the swinging sixties, they have a simultaneously deferential and rebellious attitude towards authority etc… Although these “Giles” cartoons often focus on mundane everyday life, they almost always included topical issues from the time that they were published.

In other words, these “silly” and “disposable” daily newspaper cartoons showed me more about mid-late 20th century history than a lot of actual history articles and history books probably would.

Why? Because they show a stylised (and mildly exaggerated) version of what everyday life was like back then. They show what kinds of issues were in the news back then. They show public attitudes back then. In addition to all of this, all of this historical information is filtered through the mind of just one cartoonist – which adds to the sense of historical immersion.

You get to see the past through the imagination of just one person who was alive then, with all of their opinions and strange and amusing quirks (eg: for some reason, Giles seemed to have an absolute hatred of pipe smoke. As soon as someone in his cartoons actually lights a pipe, it often belches out vast conspicuous plumes of ink-black smoke that blot out large parts of the cartoon).

This reminded me a lot of another fascinating book (which I actually own two copies of, for some bizarre reason) called “The Cartoon Century” (Ed. Timothy S. Benson). This is a book that collects British editorial cartoons from every year of the 20th century and it is absolutely fascinating. Although this book explains the historical context of a lot of the cartoons, it’s fascinating to see the popular humour of decades past.

Likewise, another newspaper cartoon series that is absolutely fascinating from a historical perspective are Peattie & Taylor’s “Alex” cartoons. Although this is still a current cartoon series, it’s been going for quite a while and I’ve got a few old second-hand books of these cartoons from the 1980s and 90s (as well as some from the ’00s).

These are timelessly-hilarious cartoons about the life of an unscrupulous businessman called Alex and, yet, you can see the gradual passage of history in these comics. Over time, the characters get slightly older. Over time, the background details change slightly. The topics of conversation change, the jokes change etc…

Of course, this might just be a British thing or possibly a European thing. The few classic American newspaper cartoons that I’ve seen seem to be frozen in an almost timeless state. For example, in Jim Davis’ “Garfield” cartoons, everything seems to take place in some bizarrely frozen version of 1970s/80s suburbia. Likewise, in Scott Adams’ “Dilbert” cartoons I’ve seen, they also often seem to take place very slightly outside the space-time continuum (with the possible exception of changing computer designs in the background).

Still, as historical documents go, old newspaper cartoons are – by far – one of the most fascinating types.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Some More Thoughts About Using “Old” Genres In New Fiction, Comics etc.. – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Old Genres And New Stories article sketch

I’ve probably mentioned this subject before, but I thought that I’d talk about time-specific genres of fiction, comics, games etc… today and how they can be used in imaginative ways.

Although the major genres of fiction (eg: horror, comedy, tragedy, romance etc…) are pretty much timeless, there are usually sub-genres that become popular for a few years, before either fading into obscurity or becoming a ordinary part of the whole genre.

To use an example that I’ve given before (I can’t remember exactly when), splatterpunk horror fiction isn’t really a thing any more – for the simple reason that the splatterpunk genre allowed “mainstream” horror fiction to become more gruesome. There aren’t many “splatterpunk” novels written today, because a story that would have been considered “splatterpunk fiction” in the 1980s or 1990s is now just considered “horror fiction”.

The same thing is true, to a lesser extent, with the cyberpunk genre and mainstream science fiction. Even so, something that is clearly within one of these old sub-genres is inextricably linked to the time when that genre was popular – even if it’s made years or decades later.

This happens for several reasons – the first is that new sub-genres tend to reflect the attitudes and the zeitgeist of the time that they were created. The second reason is that, when people create new things in these “old” sub-genres, they tend to be inspired by things that were originally made when these sub-genres were still new.

What this means is that, if you make something if one of these old sub-genres, it will have the rather peculiar quality of seeming both new and old at the same time. For example, there’s something strangely uncanny about seeing a B&W “film noir”-style film where all of the characters use mobile phones.

But, one of the potential problems with taking this approach is that your story or comic can seem somewhat contrived – although this can be both a good and a bad thing.

For example, quite a while ago, I read an extract from a modern 1980s-style cyberpunk description of someone surfing the internet in the present day. It sounds really cool until you realise that, for the most part, it’s just a fancy description of something slightly mundane. But it still sounds really cool and, for a split second, it makes you think about the internet in a very slightly different way.

When done well, telling a new story in an old genre can make us see the world around us in a slightly different way. It’s kind of a similar thing to when I saw “Avatar” at the cinema quite a few years ago. This film is a modern 1990s-style ecological sci-fi/ fantasy movie (I mean, the genre and atmosphere of the film is quite 1990s-like, even if it uses modern CGI graphics). It seemed a bit random and slightly contrived when I was actually watching it but, the instant I stepped out of the cinema, the world around me seemed a lot more lush, green and verdant than it usually did.

Once the audience gets over the slightly contrived nature of telling a modern story through the lens of an “old” genre, then it can shape the way that they view the world in all sorts of subtle ways. Of course, this effect is only temporary – but it can still do something that more “realistic” stories can’t do.

Not only that, there’s also something to be said for “contrivance” itself. It’s imaginative. These days, stories are respected more if they’re “realistic” and, although modern realism might be interesting in a few decades’ time, it’s still kind of “ordinary”. In my opinion, the whole point of fiction is that it should be something more than real life. It should be something that takes the audience to interesting places, shows them things from a unique perspective and gives them the building blocks to tell similar stories inside their own imaginations.

Doing the slightly “contrived” thing of telling a story, even a realistic one, in an old genre puts a little bit of distance between the story and the reader. It proudly declares the story to be a work of imaginative fiction and it invites the reader to actually use their own imagination too.

Not to mention that there’s just something incredibly cool about seeing old genres brought back to life. If you’re a fan of an old genre (eg: cyberpunk, splatterpunk, Lovecraftian horror etc..) then there’s just something awesome about seeing new things appear in it.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

The Joy Of… Old Genres

2016 Artwork The Joy Of Old Genres article sketch

I’m sure that I’ve probably talked about this subject at least once or twice before, but – for today- I thought that I’d revisit the topic of why older versions of popular genres are so fascinating. Apologies in advance if I repeat myself about anything, but hopefully I’ll also end up adding some new ideas to this article too.

Whilst some genres (such as the fantasy genre, the romance genre etc..) are pretty much timeless, many genres often go through subtle changes every few years. This is especially true with genres that either try to predict the future (eg: science fiction) or most genres that try to elicit a strong emotional response in the audience (eg: comedy, horror, thrillers etc..)

Most of these changes are obviously because society itself gradually changes over time. For example, people have different fears than they did a couple of decades ago – and genres like the horror and thriller genres reflect this. Likewise, new technological and scientific developments have given science fiction writers more ideas about what could happen in the future etc…

One of the things that I love about older versions of my favourite genres is that they’re surprisingly a unique type of historical document. I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but it’s astonishingly cool to see what everyone’s imaginations, hopes, fears and worldviews used to look like. Old versions of popular genres give us a vivid window into the history of the popular imagination in a way that history books, documentaries etc.. never can.

Of course, there’s also the nostalgia factor too. Although I grew up in the 1990s, I was a kid back then and I saw the world from this perspective. So, seeing things from this time as an adult is absolutely fascinating because it lets me see a period of history that I both do and don’t understand.

To me, things from the 1990s are both familiar and unfamiliar in a really cool way. It’s kind of like the exact opposite of Sigmund Freud’s concept of “The Uncanny” (which is the idea that things which are both familiar and unfamiliar are inherently unsettling, bizarre or disturbing).

Another cool thing about old genres is that, drained of their immediacy and contemporary resonance, things from the past have to stand on their own merits. They can’t just rely on being new or “relevant”.

Whilst, for example, old American horror comics from the 1950s might not actually be frightening these days, this only makes the wonderfully grotesque artwork and the hilariously cheesy “so bad that it’s good” storylines stand out even more.

Likewise, whilst the special effects in old sci-fi TV shows like “Bablyon 5” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” might not dazzle modern audiences in quite the way that they used to in the 1980s and/or 1990s, all that this does is make the excellent storytelling, characterisation and ideas within these shows stand out even more.

Then there’s the fact that some old genres just look cool. Of course, everyone has different opinions about this – but I absolutely love the look of 1980s and 1990s sci-fi. Back then, digital technology was new, exciting and still slightly nerdy. Back then, everyone thought that the distant future would be a wonderful “Star Trek: The Next Generation”-style utopia or an awesome cyberpunk “Blade Runner”-style dystopia.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, even the fashions were a lot more creative in some ways. Likewise, with things made in the 1990s, there’s a really interesting undercurrent of imagination and optimism too.

After all, this was after the cold war, but before 9/11. It was a brief oasis of relative peace and optimism in world history and this meant that writers, film-makers etc.. couldn’t just get ideas for stories from looking at everything that was wrong about the world around them. They had to use their imaginations more.

You can even see this extra imagination in computer games from the time. For example, virtually all of the popular first-person shooter games from the 1990s involved fighting against an imaginative array of space aliens, monsters, nazis, evil cultists, cyborgs etc… Compare this to popular modern FPS games, which are often drearily “realistic” military-style games.

I could go on for a long time, but there are a lot of reasons why old versions of current genres can often be more fascinating than modern versions of the same genres. They’re works that have to stand on their own merits and they’re also works that give us a unique window into what everyone was thinking in the past.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Revisiting An Old Comic Series – A Ramble

2015 Artwork Revisiting old comics article sketch

As regular readers of this site know, I started posting a new comic here called “Diabolical Sigil” (that is based on my old “Damania” comics) near the end of July. For the sake of nostalgia, here’s a random page from it:

"Diabolical Sigil - Page 4" By C. A. Brown

“Diabolical Sigil – Page 4” By C. A. Brown

At the time of writing this article, I’m not sure how long this comic will have been – but making it has certainly been an interesting, albeit strange, experience.

The last time I regularly made comics featuring these characters was back in 2013 and I imagined that returning to these characters in 2015 would be a pretty easy and familiar thing. I imagined that they (and the comic they were in) would be exactly the same as the last time I saw them regularly. I was wrong.

One of the first things that surprised me when I returned to this old comic series was how cynical my new comics were, when compared to the comics I made in 2011- 2013. Don’t get me wrong, my older comics certainly had an edge of cynicism to them – but they were certainly a lot more optimistic and upbeat than at least the first few pages of my newer comic were.

Another thing that surprised me was how much the characters had changed. They were still sort of the same characters, but some of them had more of a personality than they used to and some of them had less of a personality (or a slightly different personality) than they used to. Not only that, the relationships between some of the characters had changed slightly too.

After a while, I started to wonder why this had happened. Some of it could be explained by the fact that I was using a slightly different format to the one I used to use – I mean, short three-panel comics are better for light-hearted jokes, but longer comics demand more of a storyline. Of course, having an actual storyline usually means that the characters have to be slightly more dramatic and realistic

Likewise, my old “Damania” comics from 2012 and 2013 were almost all in colour (except when one of the characters was alone) but – for time reasons – my new comic ended up being in black and white. This made the comic look a lot gloomier and, subconsciously at least, may have made me feel more at ease with letting out my inner cynic.

But, more than anything, it seems to come down to the fact that I’m not the same person that I was in 2013. Sure, I’m pretty similar – but I’ve had an extra year and a half of life experience to make me more cynical about everything.

Likewise, my interests and inspirations had changed slightly over the past couple of years – when I first thought of the idea for this comic series back in 2011, I was a massive fan of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and the early comics in this series certainly show some fairly heavy influences from that series. But, flash forward to 2015, and I’m more interested in other things, so “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” has less of an influence on the comic than it used to.

Plus, I’d spent a year and a half away from these characters – so, when I returned to them, I’d forgotten about them slightly. Sure, I still knew who they were – but I didn’t have the extreme familiarity with them that I had when I used to spend large amounts of time making comics about them. So, it makes sense that I might forget a few subtle details.

I guess that, in many ways, the comics that I made back in 2011- 2013 were a product of that time. Everything that is created is, in some way or another, a product of the time that it was made. It’s a product of the artist’s or writer’s imagination and thoughts at that particular moment in time.

I don’t know why, but it took returning to an old, abandoned comic series in order to make me realise this.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚

Today’s Art (23rd June 2015)

Ha! I’m feeling inspired again! And, I have computer games to thank for it!

Bascially, I’ve recently started playing an old FPS game from the very early 2000s called “Serious Sam: The First Encounter” (it might be a while before I review it though) and it was a perfect reminder of why I really love old FPS games.

Although there seem to be some signs that the FPS genre is gradually returning to it’s glory days (eg: the previews of the upcoming “Doom” game), it’s still got a long way to go.

Plus, in case anyone is wondering why I’m criticisng console FPS games (despite my cynicism about PC gaming snobbery in this cartoon), it’s because many modern PC FPS games apparently incorporate features which are more useful on consoles (eg: Regenerating health, checkpoint-based saving, only carrying two weapons etc..) than they are on a PC. If you’re releasing a FPS for the PC, it should be designed for the PC.

As a blog exclusive, I’ll also provide the “Work in progress” lineart for this cartoon too.

As usual, both images in this post are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Why Old FPS Games Are Better" By C. A.Brown

“Why Old FPS Games Are Better” By C. A.Brown

And here’s the lineart:

"Why Old FPS Games Are Better (Lineart)" By C. A. Brown

“Why Old FPS Games Are Better (Lineart)” By C. A. Brown

Never Seen Before! Old Parody Cartoons From 2014.

2014 Artwork Pekoeblaze exile vault graphic

Well, one of the problems with scheduling the articles for this blog so far in advance is that occasionally I miss days. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.

Anyway, I’ve suddenly realised that I somehow accidentally skipped three days’ worth of updates. Well, actually it was four days – but I shifted one of my more recent articles (intended for a couple of months’ time) to yesterday, in order to replace an old review from last year that I’d initally dug up to fill the gap. So, if any of my posts over the next couple of days mention a review that isn’t there, this is why.

So, because I don’t want to leave you all without anything, there may possibly be more filler material than usual over the next couple of days. Sorry about this, but I hope that it’s interesting.

Anyway, for today, here are a couple of parody pictures that I made in May 2014:

"Not April Love" By C. A. Brown [After Arthur Hughes]

“Not April Love” By C. A. Brown [After Arthur Hughes]

This is a parody of an old painting called “April Love” by Arthur Hughes.

I was originally going to post it on here last May, but I held it back because – according to Wikipedia – although the painting itself is out of copyright, the Tate still somehow bizarrely claims to hold the copyright on the digital copy of the painting on Wikipedia.

Anyway, since the EU made the sensible decision to legalise parodies of things last October, I can post it here now without getting paranoid about copyright. Seriously, and people think that the EU is a bad thing?


"Vote Joffrey" By C. A. Brown

“Vote Joffrey” By C. A. Brown

This was a cynical political cartoon, based on “Game Of Thrones” I made about the EU elections last year. I originally posted this on DeviantART, but wimped out and pulled it down a couple of minutes later (before anyone saw it, so it’s probably still “never seen before”, I guess).

Anyway, at the time, lots of people were protest-voting for ultra-conservative anti-EU parties (like UKIP in the UK) at the election. So, I just had to make a cynical cartoon about this.

Of course, I was also reading G R. R. Martin’s “A Song Of Ice and Fire” books at the time and wanted to make some parody art/ fan art based on them. So, I thought that I’d kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Hence this cartoon.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting πŸ™‚