Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Introducing Professor Hippo...

If the 'Piggy Sniffles' scare taught us anything it's that there's a lot of bullshit in the world today, and it's difficult to know what to trust and who to listen to when everyone's EXPRESSING THEIR OPINION VERY LOUDLY. So what do you do? Listen to Professor Hippo, that's who.

Here he is...

Whenever there's a lot of bullshit flying around, or a news story that you want to get to the bottom of and receive just the facts, Prof. Hippo will be here with his chalkboard, pointer and Masters Degree from the University of Cuttin' through the Crap to give you just the facts. Prof. Hippo was originally a cartoon I drew for someone, but I thought it was time that he appeared to give us all just the facts on his 'Bullshit-free Blackboard'. Now, I know what you're thinking: 'Shouldn't it be a bull in front of that board?'. No, of course not. Bulls are untrustworthy. Where do you think the phrase 'bullshit' comes from? So, the next time you need the facts on a subject, come to Prof. Hippo. And if there's a story, myth or subject you want Prof. Hippo to cover, then let him know in the Comments section below or leave him a note in his pigeonhole outside he office.

Class dismissed!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Robin. Why?

Standing at the altar, Batman began to regret asking Robin to be his Best Man...

The other night while watching the Batman TV series I heard Dick Grayson, aka Robin, actually say 'Holy Venezuela Bruce!' (I kid you not), and in between shuddering and wishing the 60s had never happened I remembered this cartoon I'd drawn.

A pen and ink sketch as I've not had the time to colour cartoons in properly of late. I'm nowhere near good enough to ever draw comic books, but if I were then Batman would be the one I'd draw, which is why the Batman here is fairly well done but the Robin could be any guy in a mask and cape. But as a lifelong Bat-fan I've never understood Robin, nor really liked him. Outside of the garish 60s series he makes no sense in any way, and certainly not in the modern and most accurate interpretations. His incessant childish chirpiness mixes with Batman's moodiness like oil and water and ruins any drama. Why would Batman, a psychologically scarred superhero capable of taking down any villain by himself, need an accomplice in the form of a teen acrobat? As a moving target to distract the attention from himself? And when you have a cool superhero name like 'Batman', why go and ruin that by placing it next to the name of a diminutive garden bird? (And no, I'm not one of those people who think they're gay. Aquaman however...) Their pairing makes no sense. Batman and Robin go together like chalk and some kind of anti-chalk substance: Batman's costume blends into the shadows - Robin's looks like it's designed to blend in at a day care centre. Batman is the world's greatest detective - Robin is the world's greatest douchebag. Batman is an adult, trained for years in martial arts and all sorts of offensive and defensive fighting styles - Robin is a thirteen year old kid who can do somersaults. Oooh, take that, Riddler!

Anyway, Robin rant over. Hope you enjoy the cartoon.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

‘KAPOW!’ ‘ZONK!’ ‘SNIKT!’ 'NODDY!'...Holy Brainwaves Batman it’s Rob’s Random 5!

1. Taxi Drivers: I was down in York last Friday for a very lovely wedding, and in order to get twixt train station and hotel I had to take a couple of taxis. Now, I’m not a fan of taxis, and it’s generally because I end up getting the nutcases. The first taxi driver I had was a nice enough fellow – a talkative mind you (I had to shove over a stack of donkey hind legs in order to fit in the car) but harmless. Anyway, that’s fine. The guy drives around all day and he’s bound to want someone to talk to and it’s just politeness to engage in conversation with your fares. That’s the taxi driver I like. I’m not keen on the driver who deafens you with rock music while swearing wildly at anything that passes within his field of vision. This was taxi man No.2, who wouldn’t be out of place in a Stephen King novel, and who lectured me on the apparently fine art of DJ-ing (or, just for you Claire, D-Jaay-ing) while playing music that would make Satan’s ears bleed. He was also very well versed in the art of swearing, putting together strings of profanities that would make ‘The Thick of It’s Malcolm Tucker faint. The worst part of the ride was when he leant out the window and called a woman with a pushchair a ‘f***ing bitch’ as she was crossing the road. At that point I was prepared to roll out of a moving vehicle. Now I know not all cab drivers are like that, but I do seem to get the weirdos on an all too regular basis. Anyone else out there seem to get the nutters? What’s the worst taxi ride you’ve ever had? And have you ever been picked up by number 2 on the list...

2. Noddy: Noddy is a taxi driver. That’s what I was told by someone I met at the wedding I attended (long story about how we got onto that topic). It came as a shock to me, as I thought Noddy was just a helpful chap who drove around people as a favour, not as a job. Anyway, I still refute his occupation. I’m not going to trust Wikipedia. And I don’t care if Enid Blyton says he’s a taxi driver – here are my reasons why Noddy is anything but...
-He never works nights.
-He’s never had to clean vomit from the back seat of his car (he once had to clean up some ice cream but that was only because he made a sharp manoeuvre to avoid the Skittle children and his passengers spilled it)
-He’s never picked up a drunken, kebab-wielding Big Ears and driven him home.
-He doesn’t have a fare meter in his car. Or a Taxi light. Or properly displayed paperwork certifying he’s a licensed cabby.
-His car is way too nice and way too small to be a cab – I mean usually they’re Peugeots or Volvos.
-Ever seen a cabbie dressed in red shorts and a bright blue hat with a bell on it?
-He’s a child!
Case closed. No doubt someone will contradict me with a list, but surely you agree that if there has to be a taxi driver it would be Big Ears?

3. The Wasp: The wasp. What a bastard. For the past week a solitary wasp has been buzzing outside my window, thus preventing me from opening it for fear it zooms in and commences mayhem. It hovers there, looking through the glass, clearly waiting to make its move. Perhaps it is a spy on reconnaissance? Or part of the vanguard, waiting to rush in and pinch all my lovely jam? Maybe it’s just a lone operator and it’s after my stationery or my socks? What else would explain odd socks? That’s right, wasps taking them (no doubt for some wicked scheme). Who knows. Whatever it is, it made me think that as a whole the wasp is the hoodie of the insect world: while the spider constructs beautiful and useful webs and the bee is hard at work making delicious honey, the wasp just hangs around on street corners, threatening passers-by with its stinger and getting high off sugary treats. It probably falsely claims benefits too. What a bastard.

4. The Best Comic Book Sounds: I love it when I get totally random text messages from mates – stuff like ‘Who would win in a fight between...’ and ‘If everything was made of chocolate...’. But Chris topped the lot last night when he asked me what my favourite comic book sound was (I said ‘SNIKT!’ as it’s a good rope-cutting/ claw-usage noise). This got me thinking about comic book sound effects and how it’s the only medium (well, that and the 60’s Batman show, which was meant to look like a comic) where you get to write made up but accurate onomatopoeias without anyone questioning them. And this is where the comic/graphic novel outdoes the book: succinctness. For one, you couldn’t always get away with writing ‘KRAKA-THOOOOM!’ in enormous letters in a book to simulate thunder: at some point you’d have to use a clever poetic phrase about how the thunder ‘rippled across the sky like water being poured on a drum’. And Comics are the breeding ground of great onomatopoeias because they don’t have the time or space for poetic descriptions. Every sound has to be economical. Someone fires a machine gun and you can’t spend time describing how loud or frightening it is or what it sounds like. No, you get one space in which to sum it all up in a large and brightly-coloured word like ‘BUDDA-BUDDA-BUDDA!!!’. Now tell me that isn’t just as effective as three written lines on what machine gun fire is like. ‘KAPOW!’ is a great example of this. No other five letter word can sum up everything about being punched so succinctly. Just seeing that word on its own on an empty page you’d automatically know there was some kind of physical assault occurring. It’s the same with ‘BOOM!’, although that one has managed to cross to books quite successfully. There aren’t enough comic book style onomatopoeias in books and stories. There need to be more because they’re great. They speed along the plot, keep the reader’s attention and break up the monotony of text with their crazy spellings. And above all, because they don’t follow rules of spelling or grammar and because they just have to sound like the sound they are, they’re great fun to make up on your own. Here’s just a selection of some great ones I’ve found in comics and graphic novels (you might even be able to guess what sound/action they’re imitating):
Feel free to add some of your own in the comments box!

5. A Jersey Pound Note: Nine years ago I went on a weekend trip to Jersey with my family. And at sixteen I found it was a thoroughly odd and dull place. It was not like it had been portrayed in Bergerac: it wasn’t as glamorous and populated and action-packed as it has seemed on TV and John Nettles and Terence Alexander weren’t there. Everything was closed on Sunday, the parrot zoo was disappointing, and at the age of sixteen I had no desire to go to Jersey’s famous Underground Hospital. The beach was nice however, but you can only walk along a stretch of sand so many times. Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked. I didn’t come away with a tan, a holiday-romance or even a wicker Jersey cow, but I did leave with some Jersey currency in my pocket. Nine years on I still have a single Jersey pound note that I have been unable to get rid of. It sits on my corkboard, defying the falling and rising rates of currency, knowing that it will never be spent because it’s only legal tender on an island I have no intention of going back to. It is my albatross. But if you are going to Jersey and want a Jersey pound note then let me know (I'll be more than happy to exchange it for an English pound!). You’ll be able to exchange it for a crappy parrot show, a tour of a disused German hospital or a bucket of new potatoes. Or you could just keep it in your wallet and bring it out as a conversation starter (it has a cow on the watermark. A cow! Wow!). Fun for all the family.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

No need for 'oinkment' for us - our rashers have been cured...

Still alive?

Of course you are. You’re a reasonable and intelligent person. But if you stocked up on canned goods and shotgun ammunition so that you could live in and defend your hermetically sealed bio-bubble then you are a fool, but I’ll forgive you seeing as there’s been such a fuss. Last Sunday the news would have you believe we were in the twilight of the human race and that by next weekend all that would be left on the face of the Earth would be an army of the mutated undead. It’s been interesting watching the rolling news channels struggle to keep the story alive and at a scarily dramatic pitch with the most ridiculous headlines and ludicrously lame breaking news. My favourite moment so far was when a newsreader, in an intensely serious voice, said ‘Fifteen people in Britain now have Swine Flu’. Fifteen! Fifteen thousand? Fifteen million? What’s that...? Oh, just fifteen. Fifteen. Right. Just sit back and think about that headline and how ridiculous it is: fifteen people with a mild flu. Not hospitalised, not dying, not particularly contagious, nothing that a mug of Lemsip wouldn’t help. It’s a ridiculously low number for a virus that has proved to be as effective as a chocolate fireguard in killing those outside of Mexico. And the death estimates in Mexico have actually been revised and lowered. I’m looking forward to more headlines like this in the future: ‘Ten people in the UK are known to be currently suffering from constipation’, ‘An elderly man in Fife has a limp – could it spread to other people?’. The best (and in a way most sobering) fact I heard this week was that if you go into hospital with Swine Flu, you’re more likely to die of an MRSA infection. You don’t get coverage of the W.H.O doing live web-conferences on that though...

Anyway, unless I suddenly contract Swine Flu this is my last post about it as I’m rather sick of it (no pun intended). No doubt some new, terrifying story will soon come along to replace the virus, and if it doesn't then the news will go back to reporting on it's perennial favourite topic of the Recession. Still, on the bright side the face mask market is doing well in the economic downturn. One hundred shares in the SneezeGuard Masks Co. please...