Cor blimey / god blind me (yeah, I know!) I’m a bit obsessed with the Terror, and the Erebus for that matter. A few weeks ago I wasn’t really aware of the (spoiler alert!) doomed Franklin expedition to find the Northwest passage (a route from Europe to the Pacific Ocean via the north of Canada), or the TV adaptation of the fictionalised account by Dan Simmons but I am really fascinated by polar exploration and the ends of the earth in general, so it was pretty much a shoo in for me from the start, unless it turned out to be rubbish. Which, happily, it wasn’t. Add into the mix a supernatural stalker of hugemongous proportions, an pretty covincing account of life onboard a Victorian gunboat (or in this case two of them) in the direst of straights and a a really quite large and consistently fantastic cast and I fell for this series hook line and sinker. I want to know everything about the real expedition, I want to know everything about Netsilik Inuit life, I want to read the novel, and I can’t WAIT for the sequel. The only slight niggle I had was that the crew members, firmly wedged in ice and experiencing outside temperatures of upward (downward?) of minus 70 odd degrees which ever it is in the depths of a polar Winter rarely looked cold enough. But it didn’t really matter. They did look pretty cold, especially when bits of them were dropping off with frostbite. It goes without saying that I cannot recommend this series highly enough, it’s on iPlayer for the next 11 months. I struggled with this picture and it’s taken me much longer than it looks like it has, taking in pencil, ink and watercolour sketches along the way, but the best thing about it was having the excuse to watch bits of the series again as I trawled for reference stills. And it is definitely one of those series that you will want to watch again immediately - there is, as my 15 year old son pointed out, very little exposition and lots of tiny details that have more significance than you initially realise.
Widely thought to be a short story reworked from the abandoned first chapter of Stoker’s Dracula, this tale sees an unnamed Englishman (possibly / probably Jonathan Harker) travelling through Europe. Stopping off in Munich on his travels to Transylvania, he takes a walk to an abandoned village on what happens to be Walpurgisnacht, a spring mid European version of Hallowe’en, contrary to the advice of his landlord. Inevitably he almost comes a cropper in the graveyard, thanks to some inclement weather, a beautiful corpse and a big old slobbery wolf. I first read this in my copy of the excellent Penguin Book of Vampire stories (ed Alan Ryan), highly recommended for any fans of the undead. This is a reworking of an illustration I did almost a year ago, actually on Walpurgisnacht itself (30th April) but I was neverry happy with how it turned out - it’s a disorganised jumble, the figure in the middle is just not right and it’s cheesy as a wedge of Stinking Bishop. I’ve basically used it as an exercise in trying out some of the things I learnt on the Photoshop course I did recently, which also serves the function of my repeating those things which gives me a better chance of actual remembering them. It was always a bit of a sow’s ear and it’s far from a silk purse now, but I’m moderately pleased with how it’s turned out. It’s still very cheesy though.
This helmet wearing, claw handed urban legend terrorised the streets (and roofs) of Victorian Britain, with alleged sightings all over the country. Though his reported appearance varied (ten feet tall, fiery eyes, breathing blue and white flames, caped, hatted, helmeted, garbed in white, oilskins, gentlemanlike) his one consistent characteristic was the apparently supernatural ability to leap enormous, impossible distances to evade capture, even possessing the ability to jump over buildings and trees. His victims were usually women and his claws were sometimes used to tear at their clothing. It seems extraordinary that something so easily explained was obfuscated into the supposed mystery he became - surely it’s not that big a leap (sorry) to imagine that a sexual predator could also be pretty good at climbing walls and jumping off roofs in order to make his escape, but then the Victorians were also the pioneers of phrenology and spiritualism, so not always the most logical or rational of folk. And it’s always handy to have a bogeymen story at the ready to keep those pesky women in their place (indoors).