Monday, 2 January 2017

What Happened In 2016 (Part Two)

Previously: Failing to secure a job anywhere else, I have no choice but to return to Vue Cinemas. Keeping my FP role, it means I'm constantly working, with little time to do anything else. Probably for the best... as I'm still not over my ex, and not in a fit state to date anybody again. Aimless... driftless... would the rest of 2016 offer any hope at all?

Now: Anthony's life is about to get complicated... Welcome to his soap-opera.

JULY 2016

There's still no certainty at Titan. My line manager Jon tells me that he wants to keep me on, and has me working a complicated web project (see picture below!), but he cannot make me a full time member of his team, nor pay me extra. Damn! Means I have to once more continue on at Vue. But I'm tired of working double shifts, and having no time to do anything. On top of that, I hate the atmosphere at Vue. Nobody enjoys working there, the workload constantly increases, and head office don't appreciate anybody's efforts. Same old story! I'm riling myself up, getting ready to make a major decision...

Outside of work I head to the month's Troopers session again, and spend the night talking to FP's Head Comics Buyer, Rob. We get along very well, and he likes my knowledge and passion for comics. It's a fun evening, Rob telling me if a job came up in his department he would offer me something - which is nice to hear. I would kill for that role!

One nice element of my time at Titan is being trusted to run high profile book signings in store.

Across the course of the year I will run the following events:

Laura Lam - signing False Hearts, Friday 24th June

Andrew "A.J." Hartley - signing Steeplejack, Saturday 6th August

Ray Friesen - signing Small Gods, Saturday 6th August

Matthew Rosenberg (centre) - signing 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank/Marvel's Kingpin, Wednesday 17th August

World of Gaming convention, September 2016

Chris Beckett - signing Daughter Of Eden, Thursday 6th October

Dreamwork's Trolls production team - signing The Art Of Trolls, Saturday 8th October

Jorge Fornes - signing Doctor Strange: Movie Prelude, Wednesday 26th October

Justin Richards & George Mann - signing Doctor Who: The Whoniverse, Thursday 27th October

Simon Roy - signing Habitat, Thursday 3rd November

Ben Aaronovitch - signing The Hanging Tree, Friday 4th November

Emma Newman - signing After Atlas, Saturday 12th November

Marcelino Truong - signing Such A Lovely Little War, Wednesday 16th November

(L-R) Patrick Ness, Guy Adams & James Goss - signing Class tie-in novels, Friday 18th November

George Mann - signing Warhammer 40,000: Will Of Iron, Saturday 19th November

John Gwynne - signing Wrath, Saturday 19th November

Dave Gibbons - signing Watchmen: Noir, Friday 25th November

Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years Exhibition, December 2016

Joanne Harris - signing Runemarks, Tuesday 6th December

Kev Walker & Kieron Gillen - signing Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1, Wednesday 7th December

But back to July... there's the Star Wars Celebration convention. I assist with the FP shop set up there, exhausted as I'm also working the evenings afterwards at the cinema. Some of my colleagues get a free booze up, and come in Sunday morning still-pissed or heavily hungover. It makes me laugh listening to their complaints. They should try being in my shoes!

The weather this month is glorious. I don't see much of it for working so often, but let's pretend that it accounts for the following loopy behaviour (and my tiredness, too). There's no easy way of writing this, so I will just spit it out: I get carried away and send Mafalda a very inappropriate message. She's furious, and we have the biggest fight you can imagine. I can't blame her. Instantly I know what I did was wrong, and violated her trust in me. She remains angry for the longest time, and it puts a massive strain on our relationship... and one we never truly recover from.

I also fall out with my Cardiff based friend, Lauren. We've been messaging each other for years, but over the last year it had escalated into something deeper than just friendship - but being miles apart, it couldn't be a fully formed relationship. Lauren tells me she has met an "adorable" guy called Ben, and he is pursuing her. I'm angry, and blow up on her. It feels like she is trying to manipulate me into action, by making me jealous of a new guy - but it also feels like she is slipping away from me, and I'm in such an insecure place in my life at this very moment in time, this devastates me.

Blimey... there's also a big bust-up with Housemate Jack too, about something so pointless. I'm lucky that Jack is a good friend, and we quickly messaged our individual apologies to one another, and no grudges were held - but it came in the week where I fell out with Lauren, and messaged Mafalda. It felt like my lowest ebb; and I realised that, actually, I must be to blame. To fall out with one friend is bad, but two... three... the common factor was me. It was my fault. I was over worked, tired, depressed by it, and taking it out on those I cared about.

Another act of stupidity was my 'relationship' with a girl I will call "K". I had met her through Vue, and she was 7 years younger than me; a significant gulf at the point in my life. I knew that my feelings were her weren't serious, but I allowed myself to be consumed by them - and by month's end, I'd told her... opening up a can of worms that would continue for the next few months.

With all this drama going on (!) my body starts to rebel. I'm gaining weight due to my very, very poor diet (thanks Subway/Sainsburys!!) and - gasp! - I discover my first grey hairs! Yep. As if that wasn't bad enough, it wasn't like just one grey appeared* - over the course of a week something like 6 or 7 appeared, out of the blue. I knew what it meant, of course - the strain of working 65 hour weeks all summer long was taking its toll on my body.

(*In my beard, if you are interested)

But it wasn't all bad news. I was tasked with taking rare, precious Brian Bolland artwork from Batman: The Killing Joke to be photographed, ahead of appearing in a DC project next year. As a major comic book fan, this was like gold dust. I had goosebumps!

Films watched: Ghostbusters (**), Star Trek: Beyond (**1/2), Finding Dory (**),


There was a feeling that I had allowed to let my life spiral out of control, and this was the month I decided to do something about that. Tired in general, but realising just how much life force it was zapping from me, I resigned from Vue. Whilst it was true that Titan hadn't made anything official with me, it had been 2 months since starting with them - and I hedged my bet, that they would now probably just keep me on. I gave Vue 4 weeks notice, meaning I'd be gone by mid-September.

Me and "K" kissed. I made it clear that I wasn't her boyfriend, but enjoyed her company and we'd see where things headed. She said she was happy with this, and we continued to see each other all month long. But honestly, I was awful. Everything was half-hearted, and it seemed I was just interested in the sexual sides of things - not getting to know the beautiful, young woman I was with. My behaviour was shameful.

(I think I was genuinely losing my mind by this point. I was convinced that Mafalda had a house guest - and depending on what day of the week you spoke to me, it was a male, or female. Honestly, and I am not just saying this defend my mid-year actions, I think working so often and the lack of sleep really did mess with the chemical balance of my brain, and it's thinking process)

My sister Donna and her boyfriend visited London, bringing my nephew Tyler along with them. It was a nice weekend, and there was lots of smiles and photos to be had. We went to the Dreamworks animation tour near to the London Eye, and travelled on the Tube. A lot!

One positive consequence of my long summer working weeks was the fact I had money again! I used it to buy as many Image Comic graphic novel #1s as I could (£150 worth). This wasn't just about reading more comics - there was a legitimate thought process behind my buying. See, Image are such a diverse range of stories that I intended to analyse each and every book, deciding what worked, what didn't - and using that information to inform my own comic book writing. It was an education... homework, you could say - honest!

At the end of the month I managed the annual Frightfest Film Festival at Vue Shepherds Bush.

It was a big responsibility, as the day-to-day running was my responsibility. The buck, literally, stopped with me. That was both incredibly freeing, but also stressful. I had people coming up to me every minute of the 5 long festival days, asking for things, or needing my attention. I didn't eat properly. I fell out with members of the Frightfest team, who felt I was stepping on their toes when I called Frightfest organisers and talent to screen.

Normally with these sort of things, they fall into a routine pretty quickly, and every runs just like every other. Not here. Each day had its own flavour, presenting its own unique set of obstacles to navigate through. But we got there. The venue looked incredible, with a pop-up bar especially built in the foyer - and the festival goers had more screens than ever to choose from. I made friends with the Shepherds Bush team, especially their manager Judit (we had worked together at London Film Festival in 2015. She thought I was a dick).

All-in, I am proud of the event, how it was run, and what I did. But actually living it was a fucking nightmare, straight out of the best horror film!!

Films watched: Suicide Squad (**), David Brent: Life On The Road (**), Julieta (***1/2)


I left Vue on September 8th, and I can't say I was particularly upset to go:

I was back a week later, this time at Vue Piccadilly and working for Raindance for their yearly film festival. It was a great two week period - and for the first weekend I was assisted by Jonathan, who was alongside me to gain valuable event experience. He loved it, and took to it like a duck to water.

Once he'd left, he was replaced by Helen, who I knew from previous festivals. It was great to see her step up and have more responsibility herself this year. The festival felt quieter than in previous years, mind. A real shame, as the programme was probably the best I had known Raindance to ever have. I don't know if they will ask me back for 2017 - but if they don't, at least I went out on a high.

In my spare time I started meeting up with Judit. I quickly came to like the way she thought about the world, and would challenge me on various things. We continue to meet and talk, even now.

At home, me and Mafalda finally made up following my stupid messaging back in July. She felt the need to apologise, but I told her there was no need to - it was me who had proven the idiot, and I took responsibility and promised that such a thing would never happen again.

Meanwhile... things were complicated with "K". She came around to my house, and we did things... but she was pretty vocal about what she was and wasn't comfort with. I began to notice more and more distance from her, and when confronted she told me that she thought the age gap was perhaps too large for us - and we didn't have an awful lot in common. I didn't really fight back with this assessment. We kept saying it was over, but would then continue to message one another.

In the middle of all this, I visited my friend Lauren and her son Ali at home in Cardiff. As I've said previous, me and Lauren were close - only distance kept us apart. Now we were together, we took the next logical step in our relationship, and it was nice. The next day we were like a happy family walking around central Cardiff - but we both knew it was for one day only, as afterwards I would return to London and there would be 200 miles between us again. This proved to be the case, and with it certain tensions from both us, that resulted in several arguments over the next few months.

As I enjoyed having evenings and weekends to myself for the first time ever, I continued working more book signings instore at FP. A job opportunity presented itself at Titan, and I applied for it, hoping for the best. I had gone without a permanent job since June 2015... I wanted something fixed again.

Another cool opportunity came up when Jonathan told me he wanted to create a comic book anthology using the talents of people who worked at FP. The resulting scripts would be pencilled, and the final comic book published and distributed across small press comic stores. He asked if I wanted to write a 5 page story, and I leapt at the chance! I put my thinking cap on, and got to work...

Films watched: Captain Fantastic (**1/2), Kubo & The Two Strings (***), Blair Witch (**), Hunt For The Wilderpeople (*****)


The transition into the man I am at the start of 2017 starts here.

"K" dumps me - telling me that she's been seeing somebody else, and wants to explore the feelings she has for them. I accept it, somewhat taken aback though that she's been doing things with somebody else behind me back! Oh well. I behaved appallingly to her. She deserves somebody that will treat her better. Along a similar vein, the intense relationship-driven conversations between me and Lauren stopped. We agreed to just be friends.

I was asked to work London Film Festival once more at Vue West End.

I agreed, and worked it in the evenings after shifts at Titan.

Though the festival was dull, it offered lots of free time - which I used to sit in the bar area, writing my comic for Jonathan's anthology. Titled Pfft... Queues! it was a 5-page exploration of a man who's told he will die when he reaches the front of the queue he is stood in. It nicely inverts the usual queuing sceniro - where you actually want to be at the front! I found it a tricky script to get my head around, but Jonathan assisted, editing a number of drafts.

Stood in a screen one day, listening to a tedious Q&A session unfold I dreamt up another story - Little Green Running Man. What would happen if a running man, which we only ever look at during an emergency, was an attention seeker? Despite only being 3 pages I was very, very happy with how this one came out. It asks a lot in its relatively small amount of time, including longing for a purpose and meaning in life. Jonathan liked it too, and agreed to put it in the anthology. As a result I had 2 strips lined up to appear in the comic. Result!

My method of writing was ever so slightly mad. I would make doodles in a notebook, and then transcribe them the next day at Titan into a comic script. Mad... but it worked!

Also at work, I interviewed for a permanent position on the web content team - but ultimately didn't get it. My boss broke the news, and explained it meant I would be kept on a casual basis, on the same (minimum wage) pay as before. Damn! This was bad not just because I wanted a full time job, but I knew I would need more money. I couldn't survive off of the £1000 a month that the one job brought in...

At home I said goodbye to Mafalda. She was moving not so far away, to live in a house with her friends. Even though we had made up, we were still not as close as we had been. She had a boyfriend now too, called Lucas, so she wasn't at home all that much. At the same time, a new girl moved in - Daisy. She's shy and slightly awkward, and I don't form any sort of friendship with her.

Autumn rain near to my work:

The BFI begin a season based on the films of John Carpenter, whom I love. I watch They Live with FP Jack, and it's an incredible communal experience! I've never loved that film more than I did in that room, on that night. Me and Jonathan begin to play an homage to the man himself - Munch Ado About Nothing; which we know involved pork scratchings, and being locked in one location (a la Assault On Precinct 13).

I ended the month with a wardrobe clear-out, throwing away - amongst other things - a number of hoodies that I have owned for years. I figured that it was time for a new look, and a 27 hoodie wearer wasn't the look I wanted anymore! I bought them back in 2013, when dating Tohko - so how bizarre then that immediately throwing them away (and completely out of the blue) Tohko should message me! I had got in touch with her a long while before (maybe 2014/15?) and she had only just seen the message, and thought to reply. We chatted for half an hour. I apologised for past behaviour. It was all very civil, and I'm glad it happened.

Films watched: I, Daniel Blake (***1/2), Doctor Strange (***), They Live (RI ****), Prince Of Darkness (RI **1/2)


I get the chance to see John Carpenter... in concert! He played at London's Troxy on November 1st, and I was there with Jonathan and another FP buddy, Amena. It was an incredible show! I was in awe as he performed the themes to some of my favourite films - like The ThingHalloween & Big Trouble In Little China. (I watch a number of Carpenter films at the BFI, too).

Over at Titan, and I've falling into a daily/weekly routine of tasks. It's all starting to get a bit dull. Coming along and shaking things up nicely is Jason, who starts this month - winning the job role I had applied for. I come to learn he's a great guy, very impassioned with horror films - and we spend quite a bit of time each time discussing different aspects of geek culture.

My solution?

Of course the big news happens on November 8th - as Donald Trump wins the U.S. Election. Damn.

Like Brexit before it, the following day everybody feels numb around London. It cements what people have already began to realise - that 2016 is an absolutely shitty year, where bad things happen, and keep on happening - with little or no good allowed to get through. Trump is more than a backwards step for America. Citizens there have elected a monster as head of its government. The leader of the free world is a man who has groped women, a (probable) tax evader, a wicked businessman, and a loud, thoughtless human being. As he would say ---> Bad!

I begin rewatching the Russell T Davies era of Doctor Who, for the first time in 5 years - carefully skipping out any episode that I am overly familiar with (read: sick of). It's a joyous affair. Yeah, some of the effects have dated but I think David Tennant is magnificent in the role, and it makes me nostalgic for Davies' storytelling. Alongside it, I work my way through Netflix's new drama series - The Crown, which tells the story of a young Queen Elizabeth II. It's enjoyable fluff, nothing more.

Over the course of the month I try and make two changes to my life style. Aware I am eating lots of sweets and chocolates, with fizzy drinks, I give it all up for 30 days and concentrate on food of a more nutritional value. Also, I grow tired of social media. Honestly, what's the point in it? Putting silly pictures up, showing off to the world about a fantasy lifestyle that is only barely shadowing your own. So I quit Instagram, delete my pinterest/twitter and deactivate Facebook properly. I will be honest, I have wasted too much of this year looking up friends and, yes, Gabi - and it isn't healthy. Let them live their own lives, and I'll happily live mine. Since quitting, I haven't looked back.

I hand across my two short comic strips to their artists. It looks like a former FP colleague called Quyen will draw Pfft... Queues! and my lovely Italian friend Tiziana Ibba will complete Little Green Running Men. I couldn't be happier with the news!

(I read Judge Dredd Case File #1, as well as the epic adventures The Cursed Earth & The Day The Law Died)

My friendship with Jonathan falls foul of an argument, involving Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons! Long story short, tensions rose at a book signing Gibbons was due to attend. Me and Jonathan had different opinions on how it should go. Needless to say that the two of us made back up, but even now some weeks later things still feel strained between us.

But the biggest shock. and greatness sadness, of the whole of 2016 hits hard this month. Nanny Duffy dies, aged 79. Although she's been ill for a long time, the end comes very suddenly. She collapses in the night, and I'm messaged in the morning by my step-mum Penny. She doesn't have long left. I go to work, and don't... can't... mention it to anybody there. Meanwhile I have family calling and messaging, trying to get in touch, sad that I am on my own through all this. I am walking with Jonathan when I get the news of her passing.

In the days that follow it doesn't really sink in. I don't cry, or get upset. Strangely, my mood lifts. All of the lingering upset about Gabi, Lauren and "K" just goes away. I realise life is for living, and stop moping around. 2 weeks later I travel to Manchester for the first time since the start of July. Her funeral feels like a bit of a disappointment. She had so many family members, and they all loved her so much. I dunno. I expected more. When it ends, I return home - sick of this crappy year, ready for it to end, and for 2017 to begin.

But first...

Films watched: Assault On Precinct 13 (RI ****), The Thing (RI *****), In The Mouth Of Madness (RI **1/2), Arrival (***1/2), Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (***1/2)


Mum told me to phone her urgently, which is never a good sign. She informed me that Dad had been stabbed on 28/11/2016 - the day of Nan's funeral. Turns out my cousin Warren snapped, and launched at him with a kitchen knife. My dad survived, injured. The news shook me up, and reminded me of a similar situation growing up - ending Scouts, to be told that he had been attacked. I fear one of these days he won't get so lucky.

It's great news for Jonathan, as he is promoted to assistant editor for Titan Comics. It's the first rung on a career ladder for him, and talking selfishly for a moment, may help me crack the business too. We'll see. But well done him; I'll enjoy working in the same office building as him again soon, when he joins Titan House early January 2017!

Meanwhile, my sister Lauren visits to celebrate her 18th birthday, along with Mum and my step-dad Dave. It's a packed weekend of activity. I buy her a marshmallow birthday cake from Choccywoccydoodah, and on the Friday night we all head out to Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland, and go ice skating. On the Saturday we go shopping, and then watch Lol's favourite film - Elf - at the Prince Charles Cinema*. Sunday brings a big meal at the 02 TGI Friday's, as well as the usual bout of tourism. I saw her briefly on her actual birthday, the Monday, before they all headed back to Manchester on the train.

(*Talking of which, after years of putting it off I finally coughed up and bought a Lifetime Membership!)

All-in-all it was a lovely weekend. First time Mum has been here since 2012! She'll be back next year, as I booked her and Lauren tickets to see Adele's farewell gig.

I'm tasked with writing writer/artist Ray Frissen a 5 page comic strip for his new website, after we met at a book signing in August. We kept in touch, and he read my other scripts and apparently liked them. He tasked me with creating a story based on "1930s mummy smugglers". The resulting story was Dead Stock - exploring what happens when the mummy market is over saturated, and a smuggler can't sell his items! Ray liked it, and it should appear online in the new year. Watch this space!

Tiziana started work on Little Green Running Man, by storyboarding the sequences. It looks amazing, and I told her so.

She's working on the actual pencils now, with the aim of finishing early into January. So again... watch this space. Things are actually happening, and it's tremendously exciting. Tiziana's work represents the first time any comic strip of mine has ever been drawn. It's amazing! I am so happy.

Throughout the month I continue regular conversations with Judit. She's quirky, and addictive, and I have to admit to quite liking her. Here's a pic from us finding a Hungarian stall at the Winter Wonderland Christmas Markets:


Judit draws some images, which I use as a basis to start writing a new comic - Ezra & His Human.

My own Ezra:

I reach the Steven Moffat era of Doctor Who, and again my appreciation of everything has gone up since I originally viewed the episodes. Season 7, in particular, has been reappraised. I end the year with not all that many more episodes left to go before I catch back up to the end of season 9. I'll probably start re-watching the classic series afterwards - maybe the Tom Baker era?

The Dredd marathon continues, too - as I race through Case Files 3&4. I'm enjoying them tremendously, and I'm now so, so glad that I've invested all that time and money into collecting the fortnightly 'Mega Collection'. It's become an ambition to write for Dredd...

Of course I spend Christmas in Manchester.

How could I not?

It's nice to see everybody. Dad does things differently this year. As there's too many people to assemble in his house come Christmas morning, he visited people instead. It meant I had to travel around to see people.

Once it was over, it was back to London, and work, writing this, and looking ahead to what comes next.

Films watched: Moana (**1/2), Elf (RI ***), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (**1/2)
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