A couple of days ago I decided I was bored of the website and that it needed updating and tidying up. So I chose a more arty theme (if you remember, the previous one was a bit dark and clunky), and went about simplifying the content, removing anything I deemed superfluous to the site.
My reviews section has now been banished to a link in the Links section, as it was a leftover from the early days of this site, before I discovered pixel art. Also, I've added an Events page, meaning that visitors don't have to scroll through all my blogs if they just want to see which markets I'll be working in the future. Other than that, I have just trimmed excess content and tried to make everything clearer and simpler. I even took some "arty" photos to use as banners throughout the site! I'll probably take a few more soon, so that I'm not repeating any of the pics on different pages.
So I hope you enjoy the new and improved Cave of Pixels! let me know if you have any comments or suggestions!
I've been fairly busy over the last week, so let me bring you up to speed!
The big one has been DEADPOOL! I've wanted to make a portrait of the movie version for a while now, and here is the pic I settled on, next to the design I came up with:
Here are a couple of progress shots:
After I'd followed the design and laid all the beads, this is how it looked. It took about 4 and a half hours to get to this point.
At this point I compared it to the original picture and made amendments to the eyes (tidied up the shapes, made them more white) and bag strap (made it more pink). After some taping and ironing, here is the finished product in a 40x50cm frame!
This week's update is decidedly less exciting than usual (if you could call any of them exciting), as the big piece I've been working on can't be revealed for another couple of weeks! It's a gift for a birthday, and I don't want to ruin the surprise. All I can tell you is that it took about 5 hours to make, and measures 50x50cm. All will be revealed in time!
Other than that, I framed the Guybrush Threepwood commission, and sold another piece that has proven popular at the last couple of gaming markets - Yoshi's Island!
This isn't the exact one that sold (there was no border and hence more beads in the one I sold this weekend), but the scene is the same. Although I've sold two of these now, they take quite a while to make (due to the detail), so I think I'll make something different (but of a similar size) for the next market. Also, I prefer making new artwork rather than repeating something I've done before.
I have also been working on a design for a new piece which I think will look cool when finished, but don't want to spoil that surprise until it's been created and presented to the intended recipient! Sorry I'm just a big tease this week aren't I!
I'll have more stuff to show you next week I promise!
This week's update comes a little later than usual, as I didn't want to reveal a commission I'd completed, and possibly spoil it for my customer, who got it as a present for her boyfriend! Anyway, last week's work consists of two big projects and one smaller.
First up is the Batman V Superman portraits of the holy trinity - Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. I finally got a frame for it, as well as some appropriate backing card to mount it on.
The coloured backing card definitely enhances the picture and makes the characters stand out I think. It's a shame there is no space visible behind Wonder Woman, or I would have used gold or yellow there!
The project that has taken up most of my time this week is a commission of Star Lord, the main character from Guardians of The Galaxy. Here is the picture my customer wanted beaded, next to the design I was able to create for it:
As you can see, the bead design looks a lot more messy than the original image, simply because the image is quite detailed in places, which can be hard to express when using 5mm beads for pixels! My customer didn't want the picture to be too big, so I thought 50x50cm was as big as I could reasonably go, while also being the minimum size to give enough detail. I found myself using the design mostly for guidance on the outlines, and used the original image to fill in a lot of the detail by eye, "cleaning up" the design as I went.
Here are some progress shots taken at different stages:
I used fewer colours than my computer design suggested, in an attempt to keep the picture as simple as the original image. It took nearly 5 hours to bead and iron, and now looks pretty badass framed and mounted:
The owner certainly seems happy with it!
The smaller project I've just started work on is a commission for someone who was at the London Gaming Market last week, but missed the chance to buy the art she wanted. I guess she hesitated too long to think about it, because when she came back to my stall to buy it, it had already sold about half an hour earlier. Anyway, she got in touch and will soon have her own Guybrush Threepwood from Monkey Island, he just needs a frame!
The Passion of The Plumbers
What if the Super Mario Bros. movie isn’t actually just a terrible movie? What if it was actually one of the bravest acts of filmmaking in living memory?
I have reviewed this film before, so if you want to know what I thought of it a few years ago, please give it a read.
Times have changed. Deadpool showed that superhero movies can be R-rated and also hugely successful. Batman V Superman surrounded the world’s most popular superheroes in darkness, anger and violence. What if I told you that the first video game movie ever had already walked this path of grimy realism, bypassing all the Superman 4’s and Batman & Robins it took other franchises to get there.
That’s right, Super Mario Bros, a 1985 video game about a pair of plumbers navigating a colourful mushroom kingdom in order to rescue a princess from monsters, was adapted into a film set in 1990’s Brooklyn, and an even darker, scarier alternate dimension version of it.
Let’s do a quick comparison.
Straight away, you get the feeling that something's not quite right...
I won’t get too deep into the story. It’s a mess, and that’s attributable to the now-legendary problems this movie had during production. There are themes of industrial sabotage, alternate dimensions, evolution, fighting the establishment, police brutality… but mostly it’s a quest for a macguffin. A rock which Daisy wears around her neck is somehow the key to merging dimensions so that Koopa can live somewhere nice. It goes from Daisy to Luigi, who gets mugged by an old lady, who gets beaten up by this woman…
…who escapes with the rock, while the Bros get arrested and taken to the police station from Robocop, where the booking cop is getting massaged by the foot of a female cop who looks like she’s undercover vice or something. It’s never explained, because who cares, kids aren’t paying attention to this shit. At least I’m guessing that was the note scribbled next to this in the script. I’m also guessing there was a script.
The Brothers then get jabbed with cattle prods, and de-fungussed, while a lighthearted tune tells the children this is comedy, rather than police brutality. This ends with Mario and Luigi - MARIO AND LUIGI - chained up before what we’re led to believe is a firing squad, only to have it revealed as a stupidly misleading way to take mugshots.
Imagine Sonic The Hedgehog cuffed with a sack over his head, forced to endure a mock execution on his way to free some rabbits from machines. You can’t can you?
Daisy and Mario’s girlfriend (yes, Mario dates a random woman called Danielle) get kidnapped and threatened (and you thought only Lois Lane did that), Koopa tries to gouge Luigi’s eyes out (in a scene more vicious than anything Doomsday did to Superman), and Toad gets irreversibly de-evolved into a Goomba, and later set on fire, long before Zack Snyder had Jimmy Olsen mercilessly executed in the desert.
Alternate New York is a hellhole, worse than the worst parts of Gotham. Locals resemble circus freaks, inter-species erotica plays in porno theatres and monsters roam the streets, stalking our protagonists from the shadows.
There isn’t much here to appeal to the child who wants to jump on cute turtles and grow big after eating a mushroom. Even the obligatory car chase is performed in the dark, with only explosions to light the way as our boys escape the police in a vehicle that wouldn’t look out of place in Mad Max, or the Batcave.
The filmmakers reverse our heroes’ roles, making Luigi the hero and Mario the cynical voice of caution. As I said in my review, he is basically dragged kicking and screaming through this adventure by his brother. He spirals into an angry rage at the drop of a hat, snapping at anyone who doesn’t help him out. It’s a jarring change from the character known at the time for platform games and Saturday morning cartoons.
The classic appearance of virtually every character from the games is disregarded in favour of a humanoid equivalent. Yoshi is the only dinosaur who gets to be a dinosaur, but do the writers let him meet Mario, or breathe fireballs? Don’t be stupid, this ain’t no game. Iggy and Spike turn out to be double agents, working against Koopa. Daisy even dresses like Peach, just to irritate the purists.
It takes 66 minutes for the Brothers to get into anything resembling their famous outfits. Even then, they need to utilise industrial jumping boots to perform their trademark leaps.
Like BVS, This film teaches that violence gets results. Plungers and wrenches are used to beat enemies, and tying them up also helps Mario and Luigi get the answers they need.
As weird as it is that Mario and Luigi are in a nightclub in one scene, it gets creepy when, after literally getting punched in the face by the woman he’s trying to seduce, Mario says “Maybe she’s a little shy”, and goes back to work on her. His persistence pays off (great message, guys!), and we get another cleavage shot of the rock around her neck, before Mario gets a whole lot more than Mario should ever get…
In the last 20 minutes, the film just gets weirder, so I’ll try to provide a rundown of key moments.
Here’s Mario riding down a pipe on a mattress with a bunch of women in a scene that I’m not going to try to justify.
After surviving a mauling by Yoshi(!), here’s a character getting electrocuted, but don’t worry, she’s a bad guy.
She survives that, but don’t worry, she’s ended within the next five minutes.
The World Trade Centre gets messed up.
Player 2 gets the girl, then has to leave her behind.
Daisy shows up at the end, with a massive gun.
What can we learn from this madness? Batman V Superman portrayed extreme versions of the titular characters, focussing on anger and violence. While critics were not kind to the dark, serious film, a lot of fans liked the bold take on the characters, and the chance to see some things from the comics they never thought they’d see on the big screen. I never thought I’d see Superman die at the hands of Doomsday on screen, and regardless of how well you think they handled it, the fact remains they went through with it.
It was a bold move, but not as bold as the entirety of Super Mario Bros. the movie. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the games could tell you that this film bears so little resemblance to its source material, that it’s almost unrecognisable. To take a property made for children, and turn it into… this… is unthinkable. I mean this wasn't long after the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and while that was pretty dark, it was consistent with the tone of the original comics. This movie ignores everything that what was known about the characters and story, and just does its own thing, going down in a fascinating blaze of dark, cynical glory.
Â While it would be a stretch to call this a good film, it is kind of amazing to think that it even got made in this guise at all. Mario and Luigi get battered, bruised and abused in this movie, which is something that just doesn't tally with the source material one bit. If this film was never made, and all we had was an unfilmed script floating around the Internet, gamers would be calling it the most badass thing ever! There would be Kickstarter campaigns to get it made! Some kind of cyberpunk, film-noir take on the family-friendly plumbers from the Mushroom Kingdom? Where they bicker and fight the whole way through? Who wouldn’t want that? Well, be careful what you wish for.
Visually, the film reminds me a little of Blade Runner (please forgive me, Sir Ridley Scott), while thematically it’s more a cross of Rush Hour and Dumb & Dumber. But it’s still the most adult film for children I’ve ever seen (twice now). Did the filmmakers not understand the characters? Had they never played the games? Did they purposely change everything fans loved, or was it accidental? Or did they just not care? One thing that bothers me about the movie is that technically, Mario never becomes Super Mario, as he never eats a mushroom and grows. But it's still called Super Mario Bros. So no, the filmmakers didnt' care.
Super Mario Bros. exists, ironically, in its own alternate dimension. Ever since Nintendo's first visit to the set during production, they have tried to distance themselves from the film as much as possible. No original aspects of the film ever made it into a subsequent Mario game. It will forever remain the company's most embarrassing misstep. Apart from the Wii U. Oh and Virtual Boy of course.
It’s no secret that Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo hated this movie, even while filming it, and got drunk on set to get through it. It only stands to reason that you should do the same, should you choose to revisit it for yourself. Embrace the strangeness! Give Super Mario Bros. one last chance to entertain you!
And vote Koopa!
It's been a long time since I last shared any pics of my games room, and since then it's come along quite a bit. While its usual state is one of disarray, as it doubles as my beading workspace, last weekend it was super tidy, so I thought I'd take some pics.
Above is the view of the console setup under the loft bed. I like the slightly enclosed "cave" effect the loft bed creates. It also came in handy when I wanted to create a lightgun rack! All the lightgun systems are connected to the CRT TV, as they don't work on modern flatscreens, but more on the consoles in a bit. You can see my shelf with all my NES, SNES and Megadrive games - as you can see, I don't own that many to be honest. The Majora's Mask beadsprite is also a clock. And yes that is a technical drawing of a Gameboy. Oh and by the way, that Dawn of The Dead poster is signed by George A. Romero and Tom Savini, just sayin'.
To the left of the console cave we have bookshelves and a trophy case. The Amiibo shelf is getting particularly crowded, and I don't even own the whole range!
Here's a better look at some of my comic TPB's and other nerdy books, as well as the trophy cabinet and games shelves on the other side of the room.
Moving along, here are my bead supplies, along with some other random items like a Tron arcade marquee and some autographed basketball cards (the holy trinity of Magic, Jordan and Bird). Up on the wall we have a few pieces of bead artwork I've made - Rage Against The Machine debut album cover, Judge Dredd portrait (signed by John Wagner), and a portrait of Donatello from the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, signed by Kevin Eastman. The other bits and bobs are a Back To The Future 2 poster, a technical drawing of the Megadrive, various comics, a Tron propaganda poster and some beadsprites.
And now the systems I've got going on! Connected to the LCD TV is an original XBox (modded to play emulators), a GameCube, a PS1, an Atari 2600 rerelease (with built in games, it doesn't have a cartridge slot), a Megadrive and a SNES. The photo on the right is less clear due to the lack of light in the cave, but the consoles are: a modded Saturn (can play JAP and USA games, and at 60fps too), a PS2 slim, a Dreamcast and a NES clone. I love the look of the original NES (it brings back good memories), but I've been through too many blinking red lights to own one again. The clone may not look great, but it's reliable! I've managed to get all these consoles connected and ready to go at the same time, it's just a case of selecting the right input and hitting the right switcher button to get what you want working!
I found a few videos taken by attendees at the London Gaming Market last week and thought they were worth a share. You get a tour of the venue and a sample of the merchandise available.
First up, this one from Lucky Hit:
Next up, the folks at Let's Talk Retro, who also had a stall at the market (I bought one of their sweet Nintendo lights):
And lastly, the guys from Blackheart TV:
See if you can spot me in the vids :)
It's been another busy week for the Cave! Most excitingly, I had a stall at the London Gaming Market at Bloomsbury on Sunday. The event seemed more spacious than last time, which made it more pleasant for attendees and traders alike. Although it didn't seem as busy as previous markets, it was still well attended, and definitely worth having a stall at! Here are some pics of my setup:
While my bigger, more expensive artwork didn't sell, it did a good job of attracting compliments and attention. As usual, Zelda and Mario were popular, and Sonic sold out very quickly. Must remember to make more Sonics next time!
I also bought a few things at the market:
The Nintendo light was from the folks at Let's Talk Retro, and goes perfectly in my games room. It hangs below the loft bed, dousing my consoles in a warm glow reminiscent of a certain district in Amsterdam. Anyway... I couldn't resist getting a little Lego Batman to go with my Daredevil one, and the prints are by Duncan Gutteridge (the artist who painted the Sonic 2 box cover), who was there to sign his work! Once I figure out where to put them, they will be on proud display!
Since the market I have had some commission requests, which is good as they are of subjects that interest me... more on that next time though!
The latest bead picture I've been working on is of Hellboy (the movie version):
I like how this one came out, it needed very few modifications to the computer design - the only thing I wanted to change was the eyes, which I think look much better now they are brighter. This one will be for sale at the London Film & Comic Con in July, where someone might want to buy it and get it signed by Ron Perlman, who will be a special guest there. I also plan to do a larger portrait of Hellboy in the next couple of months.
I also did a smaller scale project last week - Ghostbusters MegaMan sprites. I decided to design ones for the new, all-female lineup. I used the image below on the left as reference and adapted them to fit the ladies. I think I'll make a Ghostbusters logo and put them all in a big square frame, or a long narrow one.
Lastly, I'd just like to recommend a gaming website, Devon Gamers Shack. Jodi from the site was at the Gaming Market at the weekend and wrote a decent review (more in depth than mine!) and even gave me a little shoutout! So thank you Jodi, and keep up the awesome work!
A week after its initial release, I watched Batman V Superman. It's been a few days now, and I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about the film. To put this into context for you, I'm a fan of each characters' comics, and some of their previous movie outings. Superman-wise, Christopher Reeve is my Kal-El, and portrayed him with effortless grace and charm, while injecting Clark Kent with the clumsiness required for his disguise. Superman I & II are deemed good in my book, and Superman Returns isn't bad, although it's essentially a remake of the original. As for Batman, I'm an unashamed fan of Tim Burton's original Batman film. It's dark, yet comic-booky, and although Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne seems a little bit odd, his Batman was great in my opinion. I don't really rate the sequels - they got progressively worse until exploding in the glittery fireball of Batman & Robin, which I don't know, may actually be a great watch these days, taken for what it is: a ridiculously colourful and stupid comic book film. The Nolan Bat films are great in my book - I'm totally down with them (although Bale's gruff Batman voice does irritate me).
So that's where I am on Batman and Superman - I like them, but I'm not a huge fan of either. I'd say I'm more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan, but I've got time for these guys and will always give them a chance.
So, to the film. It's hard to know where to begin really, there is a LOT you could say about Batman V Superman, and most critics have been doing just that (it currently sits at 29% on Rotten Tomatoes). I'm not saying it's as bad as a lot of critics have been saying, but I understand why there's such a backlash. I don't want to write a full review, as everyone has reviewed it by now, better than I can, but I want to give some thoughts about what I thought worked, and what didn't.
Firstly, the film is LONG. 2 hours 31 mins is a long time for most movies, but somehow it still feels like they tried to cram too much into it. Batman has a few dream/vision scenes that I thought could have been cut. They're clearly trying to set up future storylines, but in the context of this film they were just a little confusing. Also, there's a lot of slow-mo. Cut it out Snyder, this isn't Watchmen anymore, you gave this film a stupid title, now let it live down to the film everyone expects it to be.
The setups for the rest of the Justice League felt very shoehorned in. Lex Luthor has an encrypted drive with four files on it, and each one is emblazoned with the logo of the corresponding Justice League member. They could have just briefly shown that and I would have been happy - it would have been a nod to fans and not slowed the movie down. Instead we have to witness Wonder Woman watch short videos of The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, none of whom have any relevance to this story.
Lex Luthor is miscast. We almost had Bryan Cranston, but instead we get Jesse Eisenberg doing an extra kooky Jesse Eisenberg. Irritating.
Batfleck is pretty awesome. He's perhaps a little too angry all the time, but he was believable as Bruce Wayne, and kind of brilliant in his Batman action scenes. They've made Batman kind of ninja and scary in his fights, and that's fine by me. His Batvoice is done by a voice modulator which works very well and makes him sound genuinely intimidating.
Wonder Woman is great in this film. The only problem is she's hardly in it. We only see her suited for battle in the final showdown with Doomsday. She is awesome in battle, has her own little theme, and after getting sent flying, just brushes herself off with a smile and gets back in there.
There isn't much joy in this film. Superman and Batman spend the whole film being angry. The picture above sums up the film. Even Clark Kent has the same miserable personality as Superman and spends his time moping or arguing with Perry White. The whole film is dark in tone and just literally dark most of the time. There is also a LOT of violence (Batman blows people up and stabs them, as well as nearly kills Superman). Where's the fun?
The opening scene, where Bruce Wayne witnesses his building being levelled by Superman and Zod in Man of Steel, is great. Subtitling it "Metropolis is introduced to the Superman" is a great way to set the tone of the film. Unfortunately, neither character seems to learn a lot from this experience, as a lot of Metropolis is smashed up again in the Doomsday fight, and then Batman has the bright idea of leading him back to Gotham to get the Kryptonite spear, rather than just going and getting the spear and bringing it back to the fight.
The reason for Batman sparing Superman is sketchy at best. Their mums shared a name. That's it.
Lois Lane doesn't have much to do in this movie, other than get taken hostage by terrorists, pushed off of buildings, need saving from drowning... oh and have a scene in a bathtub (this wasn't to put her in peril, it was just to get her naked). Even so, in a Batman dream-vision, the Flash cryptically says she's the key to everything... so Bruce Wayne then has no interaction with her in the film at all. Another thread that made no sense in this film. I know it's foreshadowing a future storyline, but why put it in here if Batman's just going to completely ignore it?
If you're still reading, you probably think that I hated the film! I didn't hate it, I just think it had a lot of problems. It just kind of left me cold. I didn't feel moved by Superman's death, although I knew I should be. Anyway, if this is a bad superhero movie, then we truly are spoiled for great ones these days. I think Zack Snyder makes visually impressive films but possibly doesn't understand the characters. Or he does, and just wants to make them completely different from previous versions. I don't know. I just know these aren't the heroes I grew up watching. Superman is cold, distant, angry at the world, and Batman is ultra violent (he brands criminals now) and obsessed with bringing down the one guy who tries to do the right thing. And Lex Luthor is a possibly autistic creepy guy with a babyface. Where is Gene Hackman, or even Kevin Spacey, when you need him?
And one last thing - why do movie trailers have to spoil so much of the movie? The only thing they didn't cram in was the death of Superman! I would have preferred the reveal of Wonder Woman to be a surprise at least.
My name is Iain and my addiction is making pixel bead art. My main inspirations are comics, video games and movies.