Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Yellow cars

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Best Cover Ever: A Will Eisner and Ken Kelley pulp duet

Issue No. 10 of the Warren Spirit – cover drawn by Will Eisner and painted by Ken Kelley. Scan by Rip Jagger.

This post was first written for the Forbidden Planet International blog last year as part of their Best Cover Ever series.

Around the time Warren magazines stopped publishing in the early 1980s, a whole batch of their back issues appeared in a tiny sweet shop on Dominick Street, Galway, where they were watched over by a crotchety shopkeeper who insisted on no reading, or even peeking, before payment was made. I can’t imagine what strange accident brought this fantastically illustrated helping of sex and violence to my home town, but it was a lucky accident for me.

The real oddity in this already unusual presentation was The Spirit.

Nearly all of Warren’s output was horror, fantasy, or science fiction. The Spirit was, I think, Warren’s only non-horror title, only detective title, only humour title, only reprint title. It followed the same physical format as their other magazines, Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella: full colour cover, mostly black and white interior, with one colour story on better paper in the centre of the magazine.

Issue No. 1 had a fully painted cover by Basil Gogos, but issues 2 to 9 used ink drawings by Eisner combined with painted colours by others. Of the issues I have to hand, editor Bill DuBay coloured the cover for No. 2 in this way, and Ken Kelley painted colours for No. 4 and No. 7. This effect gives an interesting tension between parts of the picture delineated in black ink and other parts rendered only in colour paint.

A complete collection of the Warren Spirit covers here.

And a comparison between some of the finished covers and Will Eisner’s initial drawings here.

Complete scans of issue No. 1 (including ads) here.

Issues 10 and 11 returned to fully painted covers, but were to my eye greatly improved compared to the painting for issue No. 1. Both were painted by Ken Kelley and based on Will Eisner’s drawings. A student of Frazetta, Ken Kelley is best known for his fantasy art. His first professional art was for Warren’s Vampirella magazine. The Spirit covers were unusual subjects for him, but I think benefitted greatly from his technique.

Ken Kelley’s website: www.kenkellyfantasyart.com

The Spirit No. 10’s cover is particularly intense, not just in the death-defying stunts both hero and villain are engaged in, and the distressed state of their female audience, but also in the way Kelley has painted the scene. There is little or no consistency in lighting; instead he has painted each element in the most dramatic way he can. The tension between drawn black line and painted colour seen in earlier covers is still present; most obviously in the interaction between the title lettering and the painted villain hanging onto it, but also in the use of black to pick out certain details in the painting: pistol, eyes, wall cracks. The black lines used to bring forward the Spirit’s right shoe are in extreme contrast to the aerial perspective effect used to make his left shoe recede. This achieves a kind of super-exaggerated 3D effect with no need for glasses.

Other points in the painting also seem tonally and chromatically illogical in terms of any attempt at realism, but make perfect dramatic sense. This is cartoony pulp expressionism, and therefore completely in keeping with the artistic history of The Spirit, continuing Eisner’s initial aims in a paint technique that hadn’t been available to the original newsprint version. And I love it.

Compare the finished cover to Will Eisner’s earlier drawing here.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Video: Peter Tatchell on Syria

Peter Tatchell on why the international community needs to act on Syria.

More from Peter Tatchell at www.petertatchell.net.

Via Syria Solidarity UK.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Why we support a No-Fly Zone

Cross-posted from Syria Solidarity UK.

Read more: A manifesto for Syria

Join us in London on the 26th of April to answer the call from Syria.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

In this UK election, let’s talk about emergency services.

Cross-posted from Syria Solidarity UK.

Rescued in in the Aegean Sea, September 6, 2014. Photo: Coast Guard Aegean Sea Region Command.

With a death toll close to that of the Titanic sinking, a week of disasters in the Mediterranean has forced UK and EU leaders to pay attention to the failure of their brutal policy of withdrawing rescue services.
The UK Government can and should also act immediately to fund initiatives such as the joint MSF/MOAS rescue mission.

These disasters have made clear what is necessary. Still there are attempts by UK and EU leaders to displace responsibility, to distract from the primary causes and thus avoid effective action.

This exodus is not caused by “human traffickers”, it’s caused primarily by war. The term “human traffickers” is misleading, conflating people-smuggling with enslavement. Those fleeing across the Mediterranean, while they may be exploited by boat owners, are not enslaved by them. They have not been kidnapped and sold into bondage, but have for the most part made a rational choice between trying to survive war, and trying to survive the sea.

Attacking smugglers is no more a good answer than withdrawing rescue services was.

It’s not that long ago that some Europeans were charging other Europeans who were fleeing genocide enormous sums of money to make an escape by sea. For example Denmark proudly remembers 1943, when almost all of Denmark’s Jews escaped the Holocaust with the help of their fellow citizens. Less emphasis is placed on the fact that many were charged amounts equivalent of up to £5,500 for places on boats making the relatively short crossing to safety in Sweden.

Where there is desperation there will be exploitation, so tackle the reasons for the desperation to stop the exploitation.

Another diversion in some responses to the Mediterranean crisis has been to blame the deaths on NATO’s intervention in Libya.

But note that Libyans themselves are barely represented amongst those fleeing. Syrians make up over a third of those entering the EU irregularly according to figures from Frontex, the EU’s border agency. The next largest national group are people from Eritrea. 67,000 Syrians sought asylum in Europe last year, most arriving by sea.

In contrast UNHCR figures show the current total of Libyan refugees and asylum seekers at under 6,000 worldwide—though the number seeking refuge abroad may yet rise significantly as UNHCR believe up to 400,000 Libyans are internally displaced.

The true role of Libya in the Mediterranean crisis is as a place of transit, though it is far from being the only one. Sailing from Libya has become easier since the fall of the Gaddafi dictatorship. Previously a deal between Italy and Libya resulted in the regime acting as Europe’s outsourced border guards, locking up people trying to flee on boats. Here’s a description from a 2010 report by PRI’s The World, describing the experiences of Daoud from Somalia:
Daoud tried to make the trip north aboard a smuggling vessel, but he was arrested as he tried to board, and sent to a prison in Tripoli, where he became seriously ill.

“I believe it used to be a chemical plant because all of us had skin rashes and the Libyan prison guards used to beat us at least twice a day,” Daoud said. “And that’s what created and forced us to break out of jail. My intention was just to get out of Libya and head to the seas and to see where my luck takes me.”

Daoud alleges that his dark skin color had a lot to do with how he was treated in Libya: “They directly called me a slave. So, it was horrible. They will tell you in your face.”

Jean-Philippe Chauzy is director of communications for the International Organization for Migration in Geneva. He’s traveled frequently to Libya, and said Daoud’s story is shared by many migrants there.
Daoud’s experience shows why this policy was morally unsustainable. The collapse of Gaddafi’s regime showed it was also practically unsustainable. Had NATO not intervened to protect civilians there, the likely result would not have been a more stable Libya, but a longer and more bloody revolution as we’ve seen in Syria, with many more desperate people fleeing to Europe’s shores.


The 900 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean were killed by British government policy, by Dan Hodges, The Telegraph, 20 April 2015.

Mediterranean migrant deaths: where British parties stand, Channel 4 News, 15 April 2015.

UK Election Notes: Foreign Policy Opportunities – Resettling Syrian Refugees, by Dr Neil Quilliam, Chatham House, 10 April 2015.

Restart the Rescue: Help stop children drowning in the Mediterranean, campaign by Save the Children.

Read more: A manifesto for Syria

Join us in London on the 26th of April to answer the call from Syria.

In this UK election, let’s talk about education.

Cross-posted from Syria Solidarity UK.

Above: From a Syria Civil Defence video of a bombed elementary school in Aleppo city, 12 April 2015. At least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded. Via EA WorldView.

Schools in opposition-held territory in Aleppo shut for at least a week following the deaths of at least five children in the April 12 air attack pictured above. See Syria Deeply and EA WorldView for more.

An overview of the war’s impact on education within Syria:
Education is in a state of collapse with half (50.8 per cent) of all school-age children no longer attending school during 2014- 2015, with almost half of all children already losing three years of schooling. There is a wide disparity in school attendance rates across the country as the conflict is creating inequality in educational opportunities. The conflict has generated increasing inequality between the different regions, while the quality of education also deteriorated. The loss of schooling by the end of 2014 represents a human capital debit of 7.4 million lost years of schooling, which represents a deficit of USD 5.1 billion in human capital investment in the education of school children.
From a UN-published report, Syria: Alienation and Violence, Impact of the Syria Crisis (PDF), March 2015.

Save The Children report that:
  • Basic education enrolment in Syria has fallen from close to 100% to an average of 50%.
  • In areas like Aleppo which has seen active conflict for a prolonged period, that is closer to 6%.
  • At least a quarter of schools have been damaged or destroyed.
  • Almost three million Syrian children are out of school.
  • In 2014, half of refugee children were not receiving any form of education.
  • Education programmes are underfunded by almost 50%.
From The Cost of War: Calculating the impact of the collapse of Syria’s education system on Syria’s future (PDF), March 2015.

There is also an education crisis for children who have escaped Syria’s dangers. According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 400,000 out-of-school Syrian children in Lebanon. For The Guardian, Maggie Tookey describes the difficulty of supporting education for refugee children in Arsal, on Lebanon’s border with Syria. And at Syria Deeply, Lamia Nahhas talks of the difficulties in establishing and sustaining schools for refugees in Al-Rihaniyeh, Turkey, and for internally displaced children in the Atmeh camp on the Syrian side of the border.

Lastly, have a look at these descriptions by Robin Yassin-Kassab and blogger Maysaloon of working on Zeitouna education projects for Syrian refugee children.

Read more: A manifesto for Syria

Join us in London on the 26th of April to answer the call from Syria.