In order to facilitate the flow of my creative energies, I often find it useful to sit down and try my luck at brainstorming. The problem is that I usually end up with more ideas than I can realistically hope to use. The creation of the O Tempora website was no different. I allowed my mind to roam freely across the wilderness of possibilities, and ended up with an overall plan that was far beyond my capabilities to realise. Not that this prevented me from trying. In fact, I expended a considerable amount of energy in the effort - gathering material from all manner of sources for inclusion in the intricate pattern I was attempting to weave. In the end though, I had to accept that certain ideas would have to fall by the wayside. Not wishing to see the fruits of my labour go to waste, I decided to put the leftover material on display here, in homage to the numerous pages that might have been, but never were. They are arranged under appropriate headings for your convenience.
- THE CROW
- Graphic Novel
In 1989 the first issue of The Crow was published by the Caliber Press. A further 3 issues quickly followed, before Caliber ran into financial difficulties and had to abandon the project. It was up to Tundra Publishing to release the conclusion in 1992. Kitchen Sink Press acquired the rights in 1993, and they released the complete story as a high quality graphic novel, featuring peviously unpublished artwork.
The Crow is essentially about James O'Barr's belief that "an absolute pure love does exist". The violence in the story is set against Eric's memories of his former life with Shelly. Whenever he thinks about the past, the pain of his loss becomes more acute. It is much the same for the reader. The more we see of the love that existed between Eric and Shelly, the more we find ourselves resenting the thugs responsible for its end.
Below are some of my favourite drawings from the graphic novel, though I have to say it was very hard choosing what to include. Stunning as these images are, they cannot do justice to a graphic novel that is nothing short of a work of art. I only wish I could have included the whole thing.
Production of the movie version of James O'Barr's masterpiece began on 1st February 1993. The actor chosen to bring to life the character of Eric was Brandon Lee. He was the perfect choice, combining talent with athletic ability. Brandon hoped that the movie would be his vehicle to mainstream stardom, but this was not to be the case. On the 31st March, as the project neared completion, tragedy struck, in the form of a fatal accident, which resulted in the death of the young star.
The film-makers were horrified by the event, and it was some time before they resoved to complete the film. It was never a question of whether the technology was available, but whether it was the right thing to do. It took a great deal of deliberation before the final decision was reached. Fortunately, the overall feeling was that it was what Brandon would have wanted. He had thrown himself heart and soul into bringing the character of Eric to life, and he deserved recognition for it. The power of Brandon's performance in the movie demonstrates just what a loss to the world his death was.
There was some trepidation among fans of the graphic novel as to whether the movie would caputure the gothic magnificence of the work. They were to receive a pleasant surprise. The gloomy atmosphere, the disorientating changes in direction, and the delicate balance in the main character between intense love and ruthless violence, all survived intact. The movie managed to retain the spirit of James O'Barr's vision, while at the same time becoming something stunningly original in its own right. Below are some pictures and sound clips from this wonderful visual fable of love, loss and retribution.
- THE BALLET
- (My Review)"whether or not there be excited... a profound sense of dread, and of contact with unknown spheres and powers."
Such was renowned author, H.P. Lovecraft's definition of the nature of horror. The Northern Ballet Theatre's production of Dracula (which premiered in 1996) adequately fulfilled this condition, thanks to clever theatrical design, and a Count Dracula who positively oozed sensuous appeal. A cleverly adaptable set carried us back and forth between the bustling centre of Victorian London, and an eerie Transylvanian landscape, dominated by the Count's decaying castle. The climax of the production took place in a gothic crypt, where the atmosphere of doom and gloom was enough to inspire dread in even the stoutest of hearts amongst the audience. You could almost feel the damp on the walls and smell the rotting flesh of the undead creatures that slithered around the stage. It was here that Dracula received a stake through his heart, and dissolved into a sarcophagus in a truly spectacular display of theatrical ingenuity. The Northern Ballet Theatre are well-known for their desire to blend dance with drama. As far as set and effects were concerned, Dracula succeeded admirably, though in other areas it fell slightly short of this grandiose aim.
The performance began with a darkened stage. The audience was then treated to an ominous heartbeat, which marked the start of a confusing dream sequence, involving a man who I assumed to be Johnathan Harker. According to the program what we were witnessing was Harker's flood of terrifying recollections about Transylvania. At no time was it made clear where this fitted in with the rest of the performance, however. One part of the sequence that I did find effective was the point when a number of bestial figures appeared from out of nowhere, and began crawling over Harker's bed. The lascivious way in which this was danced ensured that it was literally brimming over with sexual imagery. It was just a shame that it wasn't made to relate to Harker more. Failure to engage the audience emotionally with the characters proved to be one of the few drawbacks with this production.
My overall impression was that most of the characters could have been absolutely anybody. In fact the only person the audience were made to empathise with was Dracula himself. It took the appearance of the majestic Count, attired in a sumptuous crimson robe, to provide us with any kind of focus. His batlike movement down the wall of Lucy's house was one of the only effective movement-motifs in the whole performance. Admittedly it was interesting to watch Renfield writhing in a strait-jacket and eating imaginary insects, but even his character was prevented from being fully effective by the obscurity of his role. None of the other characters invoked much emotion at all, though Van Helsing, rushing around the stage armed with strings of garlic and a crucifix, brought back memories of Peter Cushing in his Hammer heyday. A dramatic ballet needs to firmly establish its characters; on the whole this production failed to do this. That said, the atmosphere and overall feel of the piece were excellent, and I would rank it among the best pieces of performance I have seen so far.
I don't know if it's a cool thing to admit to, but I am a big Batman fan. I have always thought that there is something that sets him apart from your average superhero. For one thing, he doesn't have special powers to help him in his fight for truth and honour. All he has are the skills he has honed for himself - his muscular physique, his knowledge of martial arts, and his deductive abilities, to name but a few.
No other superhero, with the exception of Superman, has proved as enduring as Batman. At the time of his conception, it is unlikely that anyone dreamed he would enjoy such longevity. Bob Kane was the man responsible for bringing him to life. Kane knew that DC Comics were crying out for someone to come up with a character who was different from Superman, but who could be equally successful. He quickly decided that the best way to meet this demand, was to aim for something that was the complete opposite to the concept of Superman. His character would be dark and gritty; he would strike terror into the hearts of criminals; and most importantly, he would be an ordinary human being. Kane's creation was firmly grounded in the darker side of human nature, and was partly inspired by a film called The Bat Whispers. Batman was an immediate success.
Batman is appealing for different reasons to Superman. Superman's popularity lies in the fact that he is the very embodiment of virtue and power. Batman's strength is that people are able to relate to his humanity. Essentially the two characters represent the two polarities of existence. Superman is clear and bright; Batman is dark and obscure. It is largely these two characters that prompted the rise of the superhero comic, and to this day they define the parameters of the genre. Below are some pictures of Batman in action (with one of Superman thrown in for luck).
Having seen and thoroughly enjoyed Northern Ballet Theatre's production of Dracula (see above), you can imagine how excited I was to hear that they were turning their hand to the story of Jekyll & Hyde in 2001. I don't intend to write an exhaustive review of this latter show, but I feel it would be remiss of me not to at least mention it. As always, it was visually stunning, with sets reminiscent of the film Metropolis and a variety of sumptuous costumes. Especially good was the use of fetish garments to evoke the nightmare world of Mr. Hyde. The one thing I wasn't particularly keen on was the way in which long film clips were played onto a big screen at various points during the show. These were no doubt intended to portray the world of dream and there is no doubt that they succeeded, but in my opinion they were just too damn long. Mind you, as this is my only criticism, you should not be put off from seeing the production if you get the chance. Not quite as good as Dracula, but still adequate proof that Northern Ballet Theatre lead the way in this field.
Just to show the wideness of my palette, I want to whisk you away from the world of ballet now and say a few words about Reading 2001. The highlight of my trip to this particular festival was undoubtedly Marilyn Manson. As anyone with any taste would expect, Manson rocked the house. It wasn't just about the music, mind you. The whole performance was like nothing I had ever seen before. Whether he was strutting across the stage on a pair of stilts or regaling the crowd from a satanic pulpit, he was the epitome of the gothic showman. My own personal favourite effect came about halfway through the set, when Manson stalked out onto the stage in a flowing black dress, positioned himself in the centre and began to grow taller before our very eyes. As he was growing, the dress was getting longer, so you couldn't tell how this impressive piece of stagecraft was achieved. By the time he was finished, he was towering at least 20 feet above the stage. Apart from being visually stunning, this had the added effect of ensuring that even those people way back from the stage could see him clearly. Unfortunately, none of my photographs of the show are good enough to post, but here is an embedded video courtesy of our friends at YouTube instead...
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