Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Not everything has to go in a box

There is an obsession with labels and categories that has spread all through critical writing these days, and it is something that is almost completely unavoidable. Everything needs to go in the right box. Which is a shame, because it's so fucking boring.

Along with a regrettable sense of sheer entitlement, it's one of those things that have infected the mainstream from geek culture. Hardcore nerds have been saying for years that everything has to be in its proper slot, everything has to be in the right place, and now there are few critics who manage to avoid it.

I grew up buried up to my tits in Doctor Who and comic book fandom, so I'm certainly used to this shit. But when Sight and Sound is fretting over whether something is a film or not, because it's released through Netflix instead of a typical cinema release, nowhere is safe. Unfortunately, it's also possibly the single most boring argument in all of film criticism, because who fucking cares?

(If it really fucking bothers you, there is an easy fix: everything that is filmed - for television or streaming, or short films, or series, or YouTube videos, or whatever - are films, and things that play in the cinema are movies. Always works for me.)

Likewise, there was so much hand-wringing over whether Succession is a drama or a comedy, as if that matters. Knowing it's created by one of the geniuses behind Peep Show is a bit of a fucking giveaway, but it can still be both.  Or one, or the other. It doesn't matter at all

Worrying about where it goes is for squares.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Comic books in the toy store

There were no comic shops when I was a kid, and as a total fiend for four-colour funnies, I was usually shit out of luck. There were just racks of the barest and most expensive Marvel and DC and Archie comics in the bookshops, and whatever randomly showed up at the local corner dairy. The thrill of the chase is all well and good, but sometimes you'd miss an issue of X-Men and it would literally be 10 years before you ever saw another copy of that issue.

But sometimes, there would be a dump of remaindered comics at a toy shop or supermarket, and that was like a gift from the heavens. They would be so much cheaper than the new stuff (where you'd be paying roughly three times the US cover price, and left you staring daggers at the fuckers in the letters page complaining about the 75 cent price tag), and they would often be brilliantly random selections.

Sometime in the mid eighties, I found a huge toy warehouse just off George St in Dunedin, and went in to see if they had any new Super Powers action figures. I still got the amazing red Parademon and the armoured-to-fuck Mantis figures, but the real excitement was up by the counter, where there were relatively new issues of DC comics that I'd never seen before, like their Star Trek title and the Red Tornado miniseries, for just 50c each.

All my school holiday money went into that giant bookshelf of DC joy, because you just didn't find those kinds of comics for those kinds of prices, and I still have some of those issues, all these years later.

It happened a few times after that, but never enough. There was the huge amounts of DC comics from the very late eighties - including almost every single Invasion! tie-in - that showed up at Timaru's biggest toystore (now a liquor outlet),;the odd three-pack at the local supermarket that would give you some Batman: Year One, a precious Uncanny X-Men and some bloody Star Comics thing; and there was the bunch of comics at the Christchurch airport bookstore that was the best of them all.

That last one was a hard introduction to brilliant things like Sandman and Doom Patrol and the 5YL Legion of Super-Heroes, but most of the time it was the dregs that got remaindered down to this level. A rare drop of Marvel at the supermarket where my Mum used to work in the early nineties was full of Nth Man and early New Universe comics, and it was obvious this was a bulk lot of rubbish that somebody couldn't get rid of, but I still hoovered a lot of it up, because I was still hungry for any comic book I could get.

Since nearly everything went fully direct market, you don't really see these kinds of things anymore, and I no doubt benefited over the years from massive overprints and a plentiful supply that just doesn't exist anymore. But I'm still keeping an eye out every time I'm in the supermarket, even if they haven't been there for years. You never know.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Adventures in South African comic advertising #3

The best thing about the  ads in this Spider-Man comic is that they're not just trying to get people to read other superhero nonsense, they're trying to intice readers into all sorts of crazy shit.

That, and the way that Wit Tier looks ready to rip somebody a new one, even though Tessa is the truly dangerous one.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Adventures in South African comic advertising #2

I have never wanted to read a Kid Colt comic book, or any kind of story starring a woman named Louise, as much as I do right now.

One more lot tomorrow - all from the same comic! - including the brutish horror of the mighty Wit Tier and the swashbuckling titillation of Tessa!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Adventures in South African comic advertising #1

I'm slightly addicted to buying overseas reprints of American superhero comics, especially when they come with local ads, because it's always fascinating to see what they thought the audience would be interested in, (and considering the state of the advertising in modern US comics is so dire and narrow-focused).

I don't know how this South African reprint of the Amazing Spider-Man #165 ended up at my local second hand bookstore, but I'm bloody glad it did, because the ads in this things are magnificent. Mostly photo-stills of men and women in action, ads for photo novels and storybooks and other comics featuring nurses and manly men and young love.

More of this tomorrow. Scorsese reckons Marvel adaptions can't be art, but that's just because he hasn't seen this live-action pic of Kid Colt yet....

Thursday, October 17, 2019

It's funny because it's true

I like a lot of writers who focus on brutal and transgressive cinema, and how it is a vital part of any artistic diet, but when they get upset by seeing somebody who looks like them getting mistreated, it's always a little bit funny, and I always think of this Evan Dorkin cartoon, (because there is always a great Evan Dorkin cartoon for everything...).

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The dishes are DONE, man!

I do the dishes in our household, that's been the deal for more than a decade, and I'm happy to do them. Partly because every time I finish them - and I mean every single time - I hear in my head this dude from The Burbs going 'The dishes are DONE, man!'.

I take my thrills where I can get them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Another Dredd end

He takes off his helmet for her.

Monday, October 14, 2019

GI Joe's creepy suburbia

The GI Joe comic in the 1980s was a lot better than it had any right to be. As a gigantic ad for the action figures and accessories, it still managed to do genuinely interesting things with world-building and comic craftwork, and building up character without resorting to clumsy dialogue.

Larry Hama did an amazing job with the writing chores on this silly little comic. There were humongous and fast-moving action scenes, scores of witty asides between the gunplay and a pleasing willingness to murder many of the characters without a second thought.

But one of the best things about it - which was hugely resonant in the yuppyfied 1980s and is just as relevant today - was the way he hid a terrorist organisation between the facade of small town America.

Cobra's recruiting methods were straight out of the conservative playbook - using working class dissatisfaction with government dysfunction to fuel an unabashedly fascistic organisation. Recruiters brought in grunt soldiers through door to door salesmen and financial pyramid schemes, and soon had them tooling up with high-powered weaponry.

It was right there, under the surface as much as the Joe's headquarters were buried beneath a desert. And behind the picket fences and sensible clothing, there were torture chambers and genetic experiments and ninja clans and weather dominators, because that kind of terror is everywhere.