Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Comic Muppet Book: Off-brand and proud of it















- Scenes from the Comic Muppet Book, a slightly unsettling British comic from 1979, with notably off-brand Muppets, a really painful-looking pimple and a lot of cabbage. Written by Jenny Craven and drawn by Graham Thompson.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Czarface: Wonder Twins powers activate - form of some fly shit!



Keeping track of all the various Wu-Tang Clan side-projects can be a full-time job, so I've only just caught up with the absolute glory of Czarface - the immortal Inspectah Deck's collaboration with 7L and Esoteric, (with a few Wu brothers stepping in on various albums).

It's all I want to listen to right now - all those old-school beats, huge and dirty fuzz bass, haunting samples from a cheesy 70s and the usual complex wordplay from some of the medium's very best. Who could ask for more?

And it's got one of the things I like most about the Clan in abundance - they just don't give a flying fuck about how nerdy they get. There has always been that obsessive kung-fu geekness in all their work, but Czarface is particularly dorky. Everyone is as badass as 'Jeremy Renner, Silent Weapon Avenger' and the world is as dark as an Arkham Knight, and there are dropped references to Ra's Al Ghul and Randy Savage and the Wonder Twins and Mr Magoo and Professor X and the Fonz.

In a world full of secret shames, where arseholes can STILL get sniffy about science fiction, it's still a blast to see artists who let their geek flag fly proudly, because they clearly don't give a fuck what anybody else thinks.  That's some fly shit.



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Blood and bone in the Star Wars



Long before it ever regularly played on TV, or was even really available on video tape, one of the few ways to relive the glory of the first Star Wars was through the novelisation, even though it totally made me sick one time.

To be fair, I was feeling like a poorly 8-year-old already, because I was in hospital to have an operation on my sinuses. But I had a couple of Indiana Jones comics that Mum had got for me, and I had the Star Wars novelisation to re-read while I lay in bed recovering.

It's a terrific little book, and one of the few novelisations I would ever return to, over and over again. It wasn't that there was a huge amount of new material - although there were a few scenes that weren't in the movie - but that author Alan Dean Foster had given the whole gritty galaxy even more details, and extra levels of that lived-in feeling that made the movies so appealing.

And then, in the first few pages, as the fight on a fleeing spaceship suddenly ramped up, the detail got a bit too much. It was all the talk of flesh and bone being ripped apart by blaster fire that got me, and my imagination was full of bits of human beings floating through space

It genuinely made me ill, and I had to stop reading it for a while, and go back to the Indiana Jones comics, where people still died in tasteful ways, without any of the viscera.

But I still kept going back to the Star Wars book, because anything that makes you feel anything, even if it's a gross physical reaction, has to be worth something. It's a great little book, gore and glory and all.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Marvel movies: Death of the auteur and the triumph of the second unit



It's interesting that the biggest film of the year is directed by a couple of guys most people wouldn't recognise in the street. Avengers: Endgame will make all the money in the world when it comes out this week, but the Russo brothers are almost completely anonymous.

It's not like the first wave of blockbuster filmmakers - everyone knew who Spielberg and Lucas and Coppola were, they were almost as big as the movies themselves. Instead, the biggest films on the planet right now are largely made by guys you wouldn't look at twice in the supermarket.

Marvel might argue that their creators are craftsmen more than anything, and there is the odd brush with  an idiosyncratic vision - which usually means you get things like Taika Waititi putting jokes you'd usually hear on K Road at three in the morning into a family-friendly movie - but even then, these things have to serve the larger uber-story. They have to remain within a certain aesthetic and style, without too much deviation from the norm.

The auteur theory isn't totally dead - creators like Nolan and Tarantino and Scorsese get to do whatever the hell they want, and their films have distinct tones, atmospheres that others can not replicate. There are dozens of great filmmakers who rock along to their own vibe, and long may they last.

But in most blockbuster cinema, it feels like the rise of the second-unit crew, professionals who work to a strict standard of craft, without worrying too much about style.

Obviously, second unit production can make or break any big action film - the James Bond films live and die by the strength of the absolutely insane shit the stunt crew are pulling, while John Glen was trying to make Roger Moore look young on some beach.

So the Marvel films often deliver in this regard, and you end up with some nice, solid second-unit action. But when the creators are so anonymous and so little of their individualistic voice gets through to the final product, you're just not going to get any real flourishes of style or storytelling ingenuity - the movies are still impressed by storytelling tricks that were old hat in comics in the 1980s - because these all follow such a precise formula.

It's still working, for now, but this road inevitably leads to more blandness. Anybody making millions of dollars from these things is quite happy to go unrecognised at the grocery store, but maybe we need more directors walking around in pineapple pyjamas.

.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Urban legends: 'Ram it, clown!'









From The Big Book of Urban Legends (Paradox Press 1994), adapted from the works of Jan Harold Brunvand by Robert Loren Fleming and Robert F Boyd Jr
Art by Ned Sonntag

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Urban legends: Red Velvet Cake










From The Big Book of Urban Legends (Paradox Press 1994), adapted from the works of Jan Harold Brunvand by Robert Loren Fleming and Robert F Boyd Jr
Art by Andrew Paquette

Friday, April 19, 2019

Urban legends:The Nude Housewife










From The Big Book of Urban Legends (Paradox Press 1994), adapted from the works of Jan Harold Brunvand by Robert Loren Fleming and Robert F Boyd Jr
Art by Joe Orlando

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Urban legends: The Failed Suicide











From The Big Book of Urban Legends (Paradox Press 1994), adapted from the works of Jan Harold Brunvand by Robert Loren Fleming and Robert F Boyd Jr
Art by Michael Avon Oeming

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Urban legends: The Spider in the Hairdo










From The Big Book of Urban Legends (Paradox Press 1994), adapted from the works of Jan Harold Brunvand by Robert Loren Fleming and Robert F Boyd Jr
Art by Art Adams