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Mazel Tov...

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I've been writing this column in a variety of formats now for several years, and over that time they've been monthly, bi weekly or (as they currently are) every Monday. And it's not often I get to really congratulate someone on a personal basis, so I'm going to do it this week with a mazel tov to Philip Barnett, who's Bar mitzvah I attended this weekend.

Many of you in the US of Obama might not know of, or have heard of Philip, and for that shame on you. Philip is the son of Lee 'Budgie' Barnett, fast fiction writer, X-Men author and more commonly known on the UK comic scene as the originator of the successful 'Hypotheticals' panel with Dave Gibbons, of which next year is its tenth anniversary.

But we're not talking about Budgie Barnett here we're talking about Phil, and most people know him due to his debut comic (drawn by Journal's Bevis Musson) called Finland, Finland, Finland, based solely on a conversation we had with him in the Ramada bar during the 2006 Bristol Comic Convention, when at ten or eleven years old and armed only with a Juggernaut and Batman figure in each hand he explained to a group of creators including me, Bevis, Kieron Gillen and Budgie himself his idea for a story. Budgie had to walk off for a few minutes to answer the phone, and DC's Bob Wayne wandered over to say hello, at which point with mischief in our eyes we went 'Hey Bob young Phil has a pitch for you.'

Now Bob is by far one of the nicest and coolest and loveliest men in comics and, being a friend of Phil's father patiently listened to Phil's pitch. A week or so after the convention, Bevis and I wrote a quick update on how the story went, and I've stolen it to put up here...

Bevis's remembrance

Juggernaut discovers Finland only he falls into the water and drowns, losing his helmet in the process and so also losing his deposit. Then Batman discovers Finland as well and find Juggernaut's helmet. Then he falls 20,000 feet into the water and dies but is resurrected as a zombie because of Juggernaut's helmet.

Meanwhile Juggernaut wakes up in hospital and realises that he isn't dead at all so he goes to find his helmet. Batman flies to Gotham (wearing Juggernaut's helmet and still a zombie) but gets his head stuck in a building. I think at this point Juggernaut and Batman have a fight, although that might have happened earlier.

Then Professor X (who doesn't appear in the comic because Phil didn't have a Professor X action figure with him) brings Batman back from the dead so he's not a zombie any more. Juggernaut finds his helmet and so gets the deposit back and then goes and gets two new helmets.

Then I think he killed a school and goes on the run from the police. As he's being chased he grabs a helicopter and throws it (accidentally but also because the X-Men were after him) into a dam which breaks and kills 68,000 because they all drown.

And I think that was the end of the first issue but I'm sure I've missed something out.

Tony's additional remembrances

If I'm correct, that's exact apart from some added things that came out while Bevis was at the bar -

  1. Professor X was hiding on Finland

  2. He raised Batman as the Zombie because Professor X was an EVIL MASTERMIND

  3. He then made him better because he needed to kill Juggernaut - and gave Batman an invulnerable Batsuit with invulnerable skin coloured chin-armour

  4. Batman could fly (with his bat glider cape)

  5. Professor X then shot Batman (even though he'd given him the armour) and the bullet bounced, killing him

Now let's be honest, it's a little, how can we say this manic. And Phil finished, smiled at Bob who stared, blankly for a moment before explaining sadly that due to licensing laws this story could never happen, an excuse that allowed him to exit stage left as quickly as he could, as Budgie wandered over, asking why Bob seemed so perturbed...

So we told him.

And a week or so later, Bevis drew the comic for Phil, which can be bought at conventions or downloaded here [link: http://www.hypotheticals.co.uk/finland.pdf] and is well worth reading. He's probably one of the few comic writers out there, and probably the only one of his age range that has pull quotes on his debut story from Neil Gaiman...

If you actually see Phil at a Bristol convention selling this? Please buy one. Because not only does it make him feel like a professional, but all profits go to a local charity.

But anyway. This weekend he was finally a man and had his Bar mitzvah in a Synagogue in East Barnet in London and I was incredibly honoured, being one of the very small amount of people there of the non-Jewish persuasion to be invited to the Synagogue to watch him perform his part of the service. I was however disappointed that I didn't meet any of the secret Zionist world dominating conspiracy that my token New York Jewish friend Neil Kleid always promises me is there, and that they didn't remove their human face mask to show their reptilian snake faces.

Oh wait, that might be Scientologists....

Philip Barnett, aged thirteen, Don of the East Barnet Mafia...


Anyway, the service was confusing to me, although the Rabbi did throw in some comic book references for Phil, and I took part in the ritual, once Phil was officially 'a man' of throwing as many sweets as I could at him.

So mazel tov, Philip Barnett, you are no longer my cool 'nephew' you are a man in your own right.

And therefore my competition. And as such I must destroy you.

Sorry and all that.



So what else am I going to talk about this week? Well, it's not had the official PR release yet, but there's something I've been sitting on for almost a year now, an idea I had fleshed out and researched back in February, and has been in the subject of several meetings with Harry Markos of Markosia over the last six months.

Harker

Basically, I've always been a fan of Victorian horror, with Bram Stoker's masterpiece Dracula being at the forefront of my collection. And when I started to see Tracy romantically at the start of the year, I was happy to discover that she was a literal expert on the subject, having written about the book as part of her degree. And in conversations over the year a book, no more than that a solid continuation of the story started to take shape.

A lot of people talk about Dodge and Twist, going 'if only we'd thought of that'. I'm not accused of being a shoddy writer when I do these 'continuation' stories because at the end of the day I'm evolving already used characters, not simply placing them in a new situation. And I wanted to do something more with the characters that survived Dracula's death. I'm one of those guys who read a book and at the end goes 'but what happened next? ' it's one of the reasons I so love sequels. Because you see what happened after the story ends. And with Dracula, we already know in a way for the end note is set seven years later with Mina and Jonathan now parents of young Quincy Harker, so named after their closest friend who died fighting the Count.

But I always wondered 'what happened between those two pages? What happened in those seven years? ' and it's always, since the first time I read the book as a teenager been in the back of my mind. And, earlier this year the idea hit me like a bullet between the eyes. And Harker started to take shape.

Now, there are several 'sequels' out there, but 2009 is going to be the year of the Count, with Harker out, a couple of other Dracula-related projects that I know of, two high profile novels, two high profile movies (including one by Del Toro), an ITV TV series and more importantly Bram Stoker's own Great Grand-Nephew Dacre Stoker writing the first 'authorised' sequel, set twenty five years later and called 'Dracula: The Un-Dead' which comes out in about a year.

With this latter project about to revitalize the property, we realized that suddenly we had an opportunity to use Harker to create a valid link between the two canonical novels characters like Seward have major changes between the stories and perhaps we can show the startings of these in the Graphic Novel, and we have already contacted Harper Collins about this.

You see, as I mentioned above, at the end of Dracula, Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker, John Seward, Quincey Morris, Arthur Holmwood, and Van Helsing kill Dracula in Transylvania, killing him with a Bowie knife and Kukri blade. But in the process, Quincey is killed by one of the gypsies that worked for Dracula.

The next time Stoker writes it's an endnote where it's written seven years later. In a note following the end of the novel, it is revealed that several years have passed. He and Mina have a son whom they have named Quincey, after Quincey Morris. Noting Quincey Harker's birthday is the day Quincey Morris died fighting Dracula, Mina likes to think that some of Morris spirit is in their son. Jonathan Harker eventually visits Dracula's castle along with his wife and son and their surviving friends to reminisce. He returns home with his wife and son and is told by Van Helsing that one day his son will learn the whole story.

That's where we start - nothing is known between these dates - so let's fill in some of the gaps.

So. Set six months after the end of Dracula, and before the final 'seven years later' note at the end of the book, we'll follow Mina and Jonathan (and their friends Seward, Van Helsing and Holmwood) as Jonathan gains ghostly visions of Quincey Morris, trapped in limbo by a gypsy curse. He thinks he's going mad, indeed Seward, who still runs the institution Bedlam worries for his sanity - but eventually things prove that this ghost is real and that his warning is true - there were five Brides of Dracula, (three being killed in the book, three who lived with Dracula) the fourth being the Countess Dolingen from Dracula's Guest who lived near Munich and the fifth being her sister, the favoured one, the fiercely independent one, the true Countess Dracule, given a castle on the Borgo Pass all to herself - and she's coming to England for revenge, firstly for the man who killed her beloved Count, and secondly for the man who staked her sister with an Iron spike, Abraham Van Helsing...

I'm not going to go into details here, but suffice to say in the book you'll see strong female character Vampire Countess action, new half vampire servants made from the gypsies that follow Dracula who have transferred their loyalty to her - and an undead Renfield dug up by the Countess brought back as a servant.

I see almost Steampunk designs in art and weaponry and I see a solid tale that takes them all the way back to Transylvania to thwart a plan by the Countess to use Mina Harker's unborn baby as a host for the dark soul of her husband, Dracula on the very anniversary of his death, as he'd shared his blood with her in the first book, and therefore would still be tethered to this world by her...

In effect, while Mina is alive? So is Dracula's spirit. And how can we stop this when our heroes are disorganized and in disarray Seward is suffering a great loss thanks to the returning Renfield and is starting to fall into a morphine addiction, Jonathan is having issues with his solicitor partners over their clients, Van Helsing is wrapped up in memories of his son's death to the Countess Dolingen all those years ago and Arthur Hollingworth is a traitor, selling his friends out to his returned beloved, Lucy...

Anyway. Still excited? Good. Because soon we'll be officially announcing this for a 2009 release. And the artist is going to both surprise and impress a lot of people...

And on that note, I'm done for the week. See you in seven, my children of the night...



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2008, Tony Lee