Wednesday, October 18, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #18: My first paycheck



The first thing I buy with my first proper paycheck is a new, more powerful TV aerial, so I can watch season three of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is only playing on a station that doesn't yet broadcast in our area. It's not perfect, and I still have to watch most episodes through the static for another year or two, but it’s my only ticket to the final frontier.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #17: Hungover as hell with David Lynch



For some darn reason, every time I see a new David Lynch film for years, it's at the very end of a drunken, debauched weekend.

Me and my mates head off to Lost Highway one Sunday night, all still hungover from the excellent wedding party we'd all been to the night before; I see Mulholland Drive at the end of a massive bender of a weekend, still tripping from the night before, dry and confused in the cinema; and I'm too old to be getting that drunk at my sister-in-law's 21st, but the massive hangover doesn't stop me from staggering off to Inland Empire the next day.

It's not big, and it's not clever, and for a while I convince myself that it really helps, seeing movies with such fluid grasps of reality, when it feels like everything in my body and mind is turning inside out. That some kind of physical punishment boosts the intellectual connection with these fractured narratives, and these moments of goofball humour and shattering horror.

And when I watched almost all of the new Twin Peaks stone-cold sober on a Monday afternoon, and Lynch's work is as transcendent as ever, it looked like that theory was just a load of malarkey. Then I saw the last episode at two in the morning, and I'm still a bit traumatised by that.

Monday, October 16, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #16: By the pool with the Classic X-Men



Finding old issues of X-Men comics was an absolute fucking mission in the late eighties, but at least there were plenty of Classic X-Men comics to fill in the gaps.

I still have the same issues I bought off the shelves of Baird's Bookshop, all those years ago, and when I read them recently to see if they still held up - shit yeah, they do - I found myself reading a comic I first read by the public pool at the Temuka Domain. I know this, because the back cover is still crinkled from where I accidentally sat on it. I was almost inconsolable about the small damage to the pristine comic book back then, but that damage is now a direct wormhole to that day.

Summer days by the pool with new X-Men comics can feel like they last forever when you're 12-years-old. As long as I've still got the comic in question, they still do.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #15: I’m with Rowdy Yates



When my mum bought me the Judge Dredd roleplaying game for my birthday one year, I thought she was the best Mum in the world. (Still do.)

I never actually played the game – I never played any proper D+D games, the few I tried had shit gamemasters – but in those pre-wiki days, any kind of reference book, filling out the weird and wonderful history of Judge Dredd and Mega City One. Nearly all the useless facts I still have about Judge Dredd, rattling around in my skull, come from the background revealed in that game.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #14 : A Planetary pity party



We were getting married in a month, but the lovely soon-to-be-wife had disappeared for the day to go get shit-faced at a local wine festival with an old mate, so I was all alone in the house on a sunny Saturday afternoon, with nothing to do except drink my own wine and read the Ellis/Cassady Planetary comics.

This was no pity party. It had taken me a long time to get into Planetary – I’d only read the first trade, and by this stage it was only a couple of issues away from its climax (although these final issues would literally take years to come out). But I’d picked up the whole thing for a song online, and it was a beautiful day for a binge read.

I was a mess by the time I got through two dozen issues of beautiful homages to all the crazy genres of the 20th century, and that was only partly due to the wine. Warren Ellis always puts on a hard face, but he can also be a total sentimentalist too, and the affection for all the dumb old tropes overcame all the other snark and sneers. As a love letter to the silly fictions of the past century, it’s unmatched, and John Cassady’s art was shiny enough to capture all that affection.

She might have been the one to get out of the house and interact with actual human beings like a proper person, but the wife was just drunk and sunburned when she got home. I’d been to the glorious limits of genre fiction, man. My head was bursting.

Friday, October 13, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #13: Uncle Soul comes home with the Robocop



Growing up, my Uncle Soul was the coolest uncle – he would give me comic books and let me stay up a bit late to watch cheesy horror on the TV.  But he took another step up the cool ladder one Friday night when I was staying with him and my Aunite, and he came home with a copy of Robocop one Friday night.

Even though I’d been a total sci-fi geek as a kid, and even though Robocop always owed an obvious debt to Judge Dredd, which I’d been reading since I was six, this was next level. It was nasty, and funny, and biting in a way Star Wars never was. It was also incredibly grown-up, and not just because it was tremendously gory, and left me desperate for more adult sci-fi action, leading down a path towards more brilliance like Aliens and Predator.

Looking back, I was probably a couple of years too young to be seeing such gleeful carnage up on the screen. I had nightmares about the ED-209 blowing my bones away for years afterwards. But it was totally worth it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #12: Walking into my very first comic book shop



It was on the corner, right at the bottom of Stuart street, opposite the Dunedin railway station. There was a bunch of Crumb and Bagge comics on a shelf, and they seriously freaked me out – I was only just 13 – so I headed straight for the safety of GI Joe and Excalibur comics that wouldn’t be in my local bookshop for another four months.

You never forget your first comic book shop.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #11: Return of the Great Grape Ape



I was only a little kid, so I can’t remember what I’d done, but I’d certainly be naughty enough for my lovely Mum to confiscate a pile of my absolute favourite comics, including some Claremont/Byrne awesomeness and, tragically, a Great Grape Ape annual that was my best book in the world at the time. (Although I didn’t really care about the comics featuring the Ape, I was way more into the weird Hong Kong Phooey strips.)

My parents were staggeringly young when they had us kids – Mum would only have been in her mid-twenties at this time – but her parenting skills were golden. Whatever I did to deserve this punishment, it was traumatic enough to ensure I didn’t bloody do it again.

It wasn’t until months later, while playing hide and seek, that I found that she hadn’t thrown them out at all, and they were sitting in the back of a cupboard. She let me have them back, because I’d learned my lesson, and she inadvertently ensured that I would be a comic freak for life, because that rush of getting them back after months of being deprived was so, so good.

I’ve still got the Great Grape Ape annual. I could never get rid of it after all that.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #10: Ultimate surround sound with the Wild Bunch



It was a cold, cold night in Dunedin, and I was up to the bit in The Wild Bunch where they blow up the bridge to foil the posse chasing them down, and at the instant the explosion went off, there was an almighty crash right outside the window.

It turned out it was so cold that a council truck that was laying down grit on the frozen road outside had lost its grip and was pin-balling down the steep street, bouncing off the cars at the side of the road, including the one right outside the window.

I felt bad for the neighbour whose car was demolished, but I gotta say - that was one hell of a sound effect. Beats any sub-woofer in the world.