Monday, 20 August 2012

Tony Scott - R.I.P: (21 June 1944 – 19 August 2012)

My thoughts are with his poor kids, only twelve years old. What a tragedy.

As a film maker, Tony Scott seemed criminally underrated. Besides his outstanding technical visual ability, always pushing the boundaries, he had a great eye for a script: True Romance, The Last Boy Scout, Crimson Tide. He always seemed to get truly impressive performances from actors, which perhaps explains why so many big names wanted to work with him more than once. Denzel Washington memorably collaborated with him five times. with sub thriller Crimson Tide being my personal favourite. It's the perfect mix of smarts and action, dripping with tension, with Hackman and Washington at the peak of their game. It's a film that thrills you then leaves you debating the issues, which is the perfect mix.

The US Navy wouldn't cooperate with the filming of their submarines, so Tony just hired a speedboat and got the shots he needed guerrilla style. It's that indomitable spirit I'll remember: a kid from North Shields whose dreams propelled him to make incredible movies.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Very humbled to be on the cover of Clintmag 2.3, given the incredible talent inside. And us.

You can buy Clint from WhSmiths this weekend, or in comic shops across the USA and UK from this Thursday 16th August.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Verity's Journey

Like any good comic Death Sentence is about entertaining and thrilling the reader. I include these two pages because they encapsulate the central core of the book - which is Verity facing up to her own mortality and figuring out what the hell to do with her life, given the time she has left...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Death Sentence 02 - Cover

The Cover to Death Sentence 02 - the creator owned comic by Montynero and Mike Dowling. . It's serialised in Clint Magazine from May 24th (Previews order code Mar121192 through comic shops) - and you can reserve a copy of the graphic novel by contacting me directly at

In previous posts you'll find lots more about the genesis of the comic and its various themes, plus some of my other comics work.

You can learn more about Marvelous Mike Dowling here:

Thanks for taking a look! We appreciate it.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Mining Dreams

Dreams make awful narratives. Yet I've found, in that glorious morning half-state between sleeping and waking, all manner of wonderful scenes unfolding. Dialogue mostly - streams of lively, natural dialogue - but also allegories, visual metaphors, symbolism, and stirring emotion.

Why? Perhaps because good sequential storytelling exploits the resonances between visual, aural and written content, and the brain finds meaning and unusual links between the same when it freewheels. Analytical thought is turned off, and creativity is unfettered. Most of what unfolds is bilge, but when your brain starts to interpret whatever's on your mind it can create storytelling magic. All you need to do is listen. It's hard to relax like that when you're awake.

It's a resource fraught with danger. A lot of the emotion in dreams is bogus, the result of internal chemical adjustments and changing circadian rhythms. Like a Wild West prospector, your job is to sift through detritus and extract gold. Because stories are not merely logical constructions. They need heart, soul, emotion - humanity - and you can find these precious elements in abundance when you're half awake.

What dreams don't have is structure. Whatever you find there needs welding into narrative shape, the storyteller's craft applied to lend purpose and meaning. What makes a scene satisfying; what makes a plot compelling: you will not find the answer in your dreams.

But you will find the core of what makes us human - and god knows stories need that.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Script analysis of TV's Sherlock (spoilers):

There was a time in the 20th Century when a TV series would run up to 26 episodes per season to be worthy of the name. Those were the days!

Sherlock frustratingly drip feeds us 3 episodes - but what episodes they are. The best writing, acting and directing I've seen in some time, and wonderful entertainment. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have created something new and inspiring.

The first 30 minutes of A Scandal in Belgravia are near perfect TV. Then it drifts off into familiar Moffatisms, and excitement wanes. Too many extraneous plot twists, over egging an already tasty pudding; cleverness for the sake of cleverness, diluting rather than enhancing dramatic tension.

There seems to be a belief among TV execs these days that the audience demands outrageous or fantastical plot twists. As if all the great credible stories have been worn out, leaving only the surreal and outrageous to inspire 'water cooler' conversation. Whether it's 'Luther', 'Ashes to Ashes', 'Dr Who', or 'Sherlock' - there's no pretence that any of this could actually happen in the real world. They're all explicit or implicit fantasies that dart off in weird directions when the writers think we least expect it.

By the end of 'A Scandal in Belgravia' Moffat has provided explanations which give the episode internal logic. But that doesn't change the fact that while you're watching it enjoyment is hampered by the breaking of audience trust and a narrative impetus which goes missing in action.

Specifically I'm talking about the fifty minute mark - when the plot loses the will to go on.  Everyone goes to a party because there's nothing more pressing to do - always a bad sign at the mid-point - and, despite another beautifully written scene, the question arises: 'What's this got to do with anything so far?'

Ah - now Adler's dead - Sherlock Holmes has said so after inspecting the corpse. Sherlock doesn't get things like that wrong, that's the whole point of the character, and both he and the authorities tell us she's dead. So she's dead, the episodes over, and you could happily tie the beheading reversal on right here with a couple of other expositions and wrap up a 'Dr Who' length episode. But there's still 40 minutes to go - so what are we to do?

Ten minutes of meandering 'mourning' later she's alive again. "Woo!"? Not really. My bum was shifting at this point - shall I make a cup of tea? - and internal logic had stretched to breaking point. She's got some half-assed explanation as to how/why she fooled not just the authorities but everyone she knows and the world's most careless and unobservant detective to boot - but the effect was disengaging. Killing your antagonist off screen and then reanimating them moments later tends to have that effect. You can justify anything retrospectively by revealing a consulting criminal is messing with Sherlock's mind, but in a dramatic sense it's simply a turn off. I ended up watching the end out of interest and loyalty rather than because I was truly gripped.

Adler's in and out of second storey windows like a trampolinist, posting the most valuable possession in her world around like a party invite, returning lost coats and doing magical things to the internal workings of an i-phone, sleeping in your bed for no other reason than the plot demands it, and - AHA - none of this was about Adler anyway it was all about a bomb on a plane. Really? The opening jokes and James Bond line were nice plants but you can't just throw that in at the 70 minute mark and expect us to care. The episode's about Irene Adler, and all this dicking about has just diluted the real resolution - the lovely business with the pulse and how he never loved her for a moment anyway.

And don't get me started on why they felt the need to reinterpret a strong, sexy, woman as a sex worker. The debate would be unending.

In contrast 'The Hounds of Baskerville' is more exciting and satisfying as a whole - without the dazzling elan of 'Belgravia's' individual scenes. Gatiss shows that it doesn't matter if the world knows your story or your 'dramatic conventions' - you can still build impetus and subvert audience expectation at the same time.

The point is - you can deliver innovative television and keep a traditional narrative arc to riff off. The best of all worlds, just as it ever was.

And the final episode is FANTASTIC!

Friday, 13 January 2012

On the Beach

Possibly my favourite recent page from Dowling, perfectly capturing the vibe needed. Marvelous Mike at his best!