Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Oink made me sick

Nobody cares about Oink anymore, but it still makes me feel sick to think about it. It was a weekly British kids comic that lasted a couple of years in the 1980s, and I had a really visceral reaction to it when I got my hands on a couple of issues in 1988.

After years of comics like Buster and Whizzer & Chips, Oink was a little bit edgier. While still very much a kid comics, it pointed more towards the glorious depravity of the hugely succesful Viz comic, which ladled lad culture jokes onto the old format. The art was a looser and wavier, with a putrid colour scheme and way too many strips featuring pig-based parodies.

Oink had the earliest work by Charlie Brooker, long before Black Mirror, and occasionally highlighted the charming insanity of Frank Sidebottom, but I'll always remember it for the weird nausea I felt when I read it. I can't even remember what strip set me off, it was the tone of the thing that just felt off, and disorientating to actual physical degree.

I haven't read an issue of Oink in years, and couldn't tell you a single thing about the strips it contained, but that queasiness that comes whenever I think about that comic isn't going anywhere. It was just too much comic for me.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

We all speak the same in the X-Men's universe

I read a lot of X-Men comics when I was very young, but the first one that really hooked me on the whole X-saga was this one, an Australian reprint from the late eighties, which reproduced the last few issues of Dave Cockrum's original run on the book.

It's an excellent place to start a decade-long obsession with all things X, as the X-Men first go fully cosmic, and out into the universe, first bashing skulls with the Imperial Guard and rocking up with the Starjammers. But the thing I'll always remember best about it was the absolute delight I felt when I saw the exchange in these panels:

"Doesn't everybody?"

In hindsight, it was obviously a set-up for the fact that Corsair is a human with a very close familial tie to one of the core X-men, but I didn't know that at the time. All that I knew is that all the questions over why these aliens were understandable was explained with a simple two-word answer, and I thought that was absolutely bloody brilliant. Don't worry about why you're talking to aliens, just acknowledge that you are, and carry on. There's a M'kraan Crystal to sort out.

Of course I'm fully aware of the cultural privilege that comes with the English language being the one that makes it all the way out into space, but I would have been just as chuffed if it had been Spanish or Mandarin or anything else. The simplicity is the thing, not the actual linguistics.

I'm sure there are many, many Marvel comics that have tackled the issue of interstellar communications , and I didn't need to read any of them.  As a massive Dr Who nerd, I've read way too many theories about why the Doctor and his companions can understand each other, and I'm always most satisfied with the handwave of 'The TARDIS is magic'. 

But so much nerdy stuff has this issue now - the new Lord of the rings TV show thought we needed to know the secret origin of Mt Doom, for some godforsaken reason, and there's just way too many prequels filling in gaps that never needed to be filled, instead of making new things.

You could sweat all the small stuff, or you could just you could just ignore it all and get on with saving the universe. It's what the X-Men would do.

Monday, June 5, 2023

The paperbacks are broken and faded, but are still precious

I have big bookcases full of lovely oversized hardbacks - gorgeous art books that are so heavy they could kill a man, collected editions of great works, embossed beauties and the finest big novels.

But for a long, long time, my bookcases were full of cheap mass-market paperbacks. They gradually got pushed out by all the prettier editions, but they were all I could afford for years, and were a cheap and productive way to fill my young brain.

As physical objects, the small, mass-market paperbacks don't last - their spines crack and they fade and they look like shit after a decade or so, especially if they're actually read. 

And as I slowly got nicer and nicer books to show off to the world on my shelves - I judge everybody by their bookcases and am an utter fucking snob about it, so you bet I put a lot of thought into how much of my literary arse I'm showing -  the paperbacks got shoved into boxes, disappearing down the back of cupboards, filling space in banana boxes that were otherwise stuffed full of Marvel comics.

I've recently started pulling them together and cataloging them a bit better to see what I actually have, and realised I still loved these faded little fuckers as much as the highest-price book on any shelves.

I love the old Fighting Fantasies and all the other chances to choose your own adventure; I'm delighted by how many Michael Moorcock and Phillip Jose Farmer I actually have; and I do have a lot more tight collections of gags from Mad Magazine than I thought.

I've always known where my Jack Yeovil and Douglas Adams books are, but I've also found I still have a lot of the Stephen Kings that I bought when I went through the inevitable King as a 16-year-old, and I still feel the fear when I see the purple cover for Pet Semetary.

I love the large amount of movie adaptions that I ended up buying - the best are the first Star Wars (with all the blood and bone floating in zero-g) and the Robocop adaption - and I love that I've still got the first few Wild Cards. I love all the Clive Barker and all the Kurt Vonnegut and all the Joe R Lansdale; and most of the Carl Hiaasen and most of the Stephen Hunter.

The vast majority of them came from second hand bookstores, where you can always find a few minor masterpieces for less than $5, and after shuttling them around my various homes and cities for years, they're  all scuffed and ripped up, so wouldn't ever be able to sell them, 

I've never going to sell them anyway, they're as precious to me now as ever. Even if they're not on the most obvious shelves, they're always in my literary heart.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Marvel Fanfare portfolios #17: Brent Anderson

Astro City is really, really good and affecting in ways that nothing else can replicate, but Brent Anderson's work on the original characters - instead of in pastiche and homage - inevitably has more weight to it. Even if it's just bloody Moon Knight.

(Also, happy birthday, Alex! You might not know the difference between a Kirby and a Ditko yet, but you probably will.)

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Sound of Thrones: The King's final arrival

It's been a few years now and most of the talk about how Game of Thrones ended is still full of the same endless entitled whining. I stopped paying attention to it a while ago because it's just so fucking boring.

And ignoring all the nonsense just frees up more time to listen to Ramin Djawadi's astonishing soundtrack, which is still some of the most remarkable scoring I've heard. A large amount of this blog has been written while it's playing in the background - I write to the frenzied choral of the Light of the Seven; to the various permutations on the themes for the various houses; to the war drums and horns of the battle scenes; and the vicious strings of close combat.

I've been finding some very frayed metaphors for the show in its soundtrack since 2012, man, (which is still paltry compared to how long I've thought the Doctor Who theme music is a powerful metaphor for the Doctor's adventures). 

And I'm not stopping now, because I'm convinced the small change that kicks in four minutes into The Night King is a symbol for the way that there is hope in the darkness, however dim. Divorced from the context of the images it is scored to, I hear just he faintest sign that things are going to be all right. No matter how bad things get, no matter how loud the moaning gets.

Friday, June 2, 2023

David Lynch does the best dialogue

Oh sure, David Lynch's films are scintillating slices of American nightmares, a skewed and wonderfully perverse look at the underbelly of modern life, where old monsters always lurk. They're smarter and weirder than anything else out there.

They're all that, but they also have little lines of dialogue that are so pure - just so wonderful - that I happily steal them, and use them on a daily basis. 

It's truly been a privilege to live in the time of David Lynch, and to quote his works.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

The grot of the old house

I have a weird fondness for the old houses that were used as locations in British 70s films, that are just so fucking gross. All the 100 year old dumps, with warped walls and peeling wallpaper stained with tobacco, doors that look like they're made of cardboard and ancient mould everywhere. Just rickety as fuck. 

I've seen it recently in a bunch of Hammer House Of Horror episodes, where working class horror takes place in working class homes, and I've seen it in a most recent re-watch of the most excellent Get Carter, where Michael Caine's lodgings and the homes of the locals are all yuck as fuck.

We don't have the history to have that sort of accumulated squalor here in New Zealand - the closest I've seen of it in real life is when we first visited the UK in 2007, and stayed in the back rooms of a pub that smelt of 200 years worth of gas leaks. And so much of it was swept away by the brutalism of the late 20th century, as terraced houses full of ruffians were bowled down, and they were shoveled into apartment blocks.

It also felt - with many notable exceptions - that a lot of low budget films moved out of these cold locations and onto sets, which didn't have the lived-in nastiness. (Although the set for The Young Ones legitimately looked like one of the most disgusting dwellings in the history of fiction.)

In the digital age, everything shines in sparkling detail, and even the grossest abodes can have a strange beauty. But that aesthetic can still be found here or there over the years, in the filthy flats of Trainspotting in the 90s, or in the sheer squalor of the main house in Matthew Holness' Possum.

I wouldn't live there, because I'm not insane, but I'll always love stories in houses that are falling apart and haunted by their own history.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Dillon Arseface is the only Arseface


I still miss Steve Dillon every single day.

It's been a couple of years now since we lost him, and I still can't believe he's not out there, steadily producing the absolute best meat-and-two-veg comic art in the business. The world could always use more of it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Be like this Brainiac

After read a grokload of old Legion of Super-Heroes comics, I've been sucked back into that sprawling subsection of the DC universe.

It hasn't been any one Legion, I'm been jumping in and out of his 65-year-old future history - a few issues from the unbearably sexy Grell/Cockrum days; some digest reprints of their earliest adventures; the odd 5 Years later (still my personal fave); some of the new 52; and the most recent run spearheaded by Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook.

Legion fans have the loudest opinions of anybody in comics, and always have, and the most recent run hasn't got a lot of love out there. I liked it because it was fast-paced nonsense, and I like that in my superhero comics. It's not easy finding emotional depth with such a large cast - the fact that it occasionally happens anyway is always cause for celebration - and the most recent version of these super teens was so supremely shallow, but I still liked to get my feet wet in it.

Like every new rethink of the concept, it had some new ideas about characters that have been around for a long, long time. And I particularly loved the new Brainiac, who has traditionally been the biggest jerk on the term, frustrated by the slower minds around him, and abrasive and downright rude on many occasions, when he wasn't losing his mind and threatening to blow up the world.

(It was all an act, of course. Ask Supergirl.)

But while Bendis' Brainiac is still as super smart as ever, his intelligence has grown to the point that he seems to realise that he gets better results by being polite and friendly with people. That logic dictates that he can't do everything by himself, so maybe he shouldn't be an asshole to everybody.

There's always the sneaky suspicion that is also just as an act, but like Vonnegut said, if we pretend to be someone for long enough, we become that person

It's just nice that when so many super intelligent people in comics turn out to be monstrous human beings - see every Marvel brainbox of the past 40 years - that one of them has calculated compassion and co-operation into their equations, and comes out smiling.