Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Characters in very serious period dramas don't usually get to go out with a song and a dance and a wink, but Bert Copper was no ordinary character. And it's such a beautiful way to wave goodbye to the long and entertaining career of Robert Morse, who can still do a mean little shoeless shuffle, even at the end of all things.
Monday, March 25, 2019
In which a man of science finally admits that there is more to life and the universe than which can be found in his textbooks and test-tubes, and that the world is so much stranger and unexplainable than he could ever understand. And that the only way to break a cycle of endless birth, death and re-birth is to change everything he has ever believed in, and take a leap of faith.
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Finding out what the 'long cold dark' really was on the final page of the Punisher story of the same name by Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov is one of the biggest gutpunches Ennis has ever delivered in his long writing career. It's not a fancy way of talking about the oblivion of death, it's talking about the Punisher's life.
I can only assume all those motherfuckers who use the Punisher logo - for their crossfit ads, or etched into combat gear, or painted onto the hood of a moronic muscle car - know that the symbol they're adopting features a main character who has a void where his life should be, an unending hate that will never end, and can only lead to a violent death, and he's aware of it, and can see a life beyond all that which he can never reach because he is trapped in an impossible and hollow pursuit.
I'm sure they all know that.
Saturday, March 23, 2019
The lovely wife, two minutes after we finished watching The Greasy Strangler: I can't believe we watched that crap. There was nothing worthwhile in that movie, and I'm offended that I spent time watching it.
* two weeks later*
The lovely wife: No, I'M a hootie tootie disco cutie! YOU'RE a bullshit artist!
Friday, March 22, 2019
A week ago, there was a cowardly and cruel attack on the beautiful people attending prayers at two mosques in my old home town of Christchurch, and it's been an appalling and devastating and nasty week for the whole country, no matter how many vigils are held, or how many guns are banned.
I'm a home page editor for one of the country's news sites, and I've been deep into this story since the first awful reports started coming out on Friday afternoon. It's fucking rough, and while I have to walk away from the desk every now and then to catch a breath, I just can't start bawling at the desk. It's awkward and uncomfortable for all concerned, and is a serious impediment to getting the news out on time.
I saved most of it till I got home. Everyone has to deal with this kind of thing in their own way, and after all day in it on Friday, I had to get some escapist thrills and emotional manipulation into me, so I went through some old episodes of Red Dwarf before the brain calmed down enough to let me get to bed.
I use entertainments to get it all out, and in the past week have been bawling at the end of the latest Star Trek, or getting set off by the chorus of Bright Phoebus. I used The Leftovers to get through some profound grief last year and watching new Fleabag every week leaves me an emotional wreck, in all the best possible ways.
Every day I see people on the internet getting upset by their entrainments, and I just think they're doing it so wrong. They're here to help, and if they're really making you feel worse, you really need to try something else.
I'm going back to work now and pretending to be all professional and shit, but then I'm coming home to watch some Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. It's the only way I know how.
Thursday, March 21, 2019
It's a year of cleaning out the comic collection a bit, and I think I've reached the point where I've finally decided I don't need the last half of Cerebus The Aardvark anymore.
I've been collecting the comic for a couple of decades now. I was far too late to get into it at its prime, and have always been playing catch-up. I've been getting two-thirds of the 300-issue series through discount boxes and back issue bins since the 1990s, and I'm nearly there now, but I finally got to the point where I just don't need anything past #150.
I kept getting it even when Dave Sim got uncomfortably and offensively weird, because the art and design was always so gorgeous, and it was genuinely fascinating to see where Sim was going, even if it was a place I didn't really want to visit. But there's just too much of it, I'm and moving on. I thought about cutting it back even further to the 112/113 double issues, because that was just such a natural endpoint to the whole Church and State thing, but had to hold on to the Melmoth stuff - it's still a stately and graceful interpretation of the last days of Oscar Wilde.
(I also have to hold onto #186, where – after years of farting in his sleep – Sim really shit the bed, ideologically speaking. It's such a car crash to watch, and was the only issue of the comic I think I bought brand-new, so I gotta keep it. For posterity's sake, and just to marvel at it.)
Of course, I could have ditched the whole lot, and still might some day, but that art and that design is so beautiful, and the first half of the comic is complex and gripping and adventurous and metaphysical and troubling in all the right ways. It's still dozens and dozens of comics, but I just don't need that back half to enjoy them as much.
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Finding Kim Newman novels used to be such a damned chore. While I stumbled across the first Anno Dracula book in the local library and found all the Jack Yeovil novels with unusual ease, I had to order in The Bloody Red Baron in from the UK back in the 1990s, and it took me years and years to find a copy of Life's Lottery.
I came to Newman's work through his movie criticsm and fell deeply in love with the pop culture phantasmagoria of his stories. Joyful genre mash-ups with heart of their own, and loads of good jokes (a James Bond analogue transforming from Connery to Moore; Biggles versus giant vampire bats; Popeye the vampire needing the iron in the spinach to survive).
Now the rest of the world has caught up with Newman's sweet spot of pastiche, Titan Books has been slamming out the Newman in recent years, with new versions of the entire Anno Dracula series, collections of long-out-of-print stories and new novels on a fairly annual basis.
I don't have to go hunting for them anymore, and I'm always up for new Newman. They're the most consistently entertaining novels I ever have the fortune to read, and I can't wait for the next chapter.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
And the way he tells Janet that he didn’t make Rocky for her is something I’ll hold on to forever. Sure, he's a crazy mad scientist from outer space, but let him have his thing.
Monday, March 18, 2019
There are only a couple more issues of BPRD left, bringing the entire Hellboy saga to a definitive end, and things are looking pretty fucking grim right now.
The Hell On Earth ended on a note of quiet optimism, but it was a false spring, and the apocalypse that has been promised since the start of the entire series is actually here. There have been plenty of glimpses of the future since the first Hellboy stories, and many ancient prophecies about the future of mankind being underground, but it's still shocking to see everything collapse so absolutely.
Monsters walk the earth, and there is no place for humans. CNN has gone off the air forever, the BPRD airship has crashed and any hope resides in the few survivors that can get to any safe haven under the earth. This was always going to happen, but it's still a sombre note that this time has finally come.
There are still those last few issues, and there might be some massive fake-out, and maybe Hellboy and Abe and Liz will save the fucking day after all, and everything is going to be okay, but it's not looking good.
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Friday, March 15, 2019
Michael Biehn always brings a professional intensity to all of his roles, and is the anchor around the action in Terminator and Aliens, without ever overwhelming the lead character's story.
But his best piece of acting comes towards the end of Tombstone, in his final showdown. He's expecting Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp to show up, and Biehn's Ringo knows he can take him, because he's got inside his head, but then Doc fucking Holiday appears, and Ringo knows he hasn't got a chance against him.
And there is just the edge of fear in Ringo's eyes, which he covers up with bravado, and then he tries to give his best death stare, but you know he's fucked. And he knows he's fucked, but he's committing to it anyway.
Combined with his grotesque staggering and stumbling after he is shot in the head, it's a moment that only Biehn could have pulled off. In a stunning ensemble cast, including Russell, Paxton, Kilmer and Elliott, Biehn's final scene in the film shows he stands with the best.
Val Kilmer is pretty fucking badass in that scene too.
Thursday, March 14, 2019
It was 1990 and I was 15 and it was the first night I ever stayed up until dawn. I'd been watching the latest Royal Rumble wrestling bash, but it really kicked off with Bride of Frankenstein. It was the late-night Friday Frights movie on TV2, and when it finished it was close to two in the morning, I watch the Goodnight Kiwi close-out, but I didn't feel tired at all, so I just kept watching video tapes until the sun came up.
I watched Robocop, because that was my absolute #1 go-to movie at that age, and I watched the 80s adaption of George R R Martin's Nightflyers, which I can't remember anything about, except a scene where somebody gets sucked out into space. I have a long-running and unlikely phobia of getting sucked out into space.
Back in the real world, the sun was coming up. My Dad got up early, saw that I'd been up all night, and said I was a bloody idiot. My Dad was right about a lot of things.
I stayed up all night a hundred times over the next decade and a half - watching movies or partying it up or flicking between music videos or roaming the hills between towns or speeding off my tits or playing video games or doing all of it at once - but I never forgot what I saw that first time.
I've only stayed up all night two or three times in the past 20 years. I'm not that stupid anymore.
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Sometimes this world feels destined for destruction, and we're all doomed and being driven to the precipice by the greed, avarice and short-sightedness of our fellow man, and nothing is ever going to strop it.
But then I remember that the current President of the United States of America will have to be buried in a top-secret location, hidden away for all time, because generations to come are going to be pissing on his grave. So there's that, at least.
Monday, March 11, 2019
My undying adolescent obsessing for all things X-Men died off fairly easily in the end, killed off by the endless trash that flowed out of Marvel after Claremont left. Other than the usual spurt of Morrison, I haven't really bought any X-Men comics for decades.
I've managed to keep up with the soap operatics of the whole thing – largely through my oldest mate Kyle, who still gets the Uncanny X-Men every month – but interest has steadily declined, to the point that right now, without looking it up, I have no idea if Cyclops is alive or not, or even how he died in the first place.
But I've still got a lot of time for Brian Bendis' run on the title from a few years ago, even though it was full of the various Bendis issues – there was a lot of waffling and padding, huge amounts of plot threads that went absolutely nowhere, clever-clever dialogue that just went on and on, and a massive anti-climactic feel to the whole thing.
And yet, while I didn't get any of these comics when they were coming out, I still buy those issues when I see them going cheap, and nearly have a full set of his Uncanny and All-New comics, (which is easy, because they're a fairly limited run). And it's mainly because they're so bloody beautiful.
Bendis – for all his faults – is a hugely successful comic writer because he always attracts some of the best artistic talent. Like Mark Millar, a contemporary, his stories can be thin as ice, but the visuals he gives the artists to draw attract the very best talent, and his X-Men comics have art from scorching talents like Immonen, Bachalo, Irving, Asrar and many, many others. Who cares where the story goes when it looks this good?
Some of his new Superman comics feel a bit off because they are so much in the DC house style of 13th-generation Jim Lee rip-offs, jarring against his usual techniques and goals. His artistic collaborators need to be shiny and solid, and his X-buddies brought plenty of that to their work.
Saturday, March 9, 2019
Every year, I am surrounded by people bitching and moaning that Easter-related products are going on sale too early, and how it's such a bloody travesty. Well, I'm all in favour of chocolate and hot cross buns and pure fuckin' happiness, so the sooner Easter starts the better, as far as I'm concerned.
I think Easter season should start in June.
Christmas should just be a two-week blast at the end of the year, though. Society can only handle so much tinsel and goodwill to all men.
Friday, March 8, 2019
Thursday, March 7, 2019
There are two obvious ghosts hovering over the recent Beastie Boys book. One is the tragedy of Adam Yauch's early death, and the surviving Beasties barely get through a page of this huge book without dealing with that grief, something they do with love and humour.
The other thing haunting their long career is their own youthful stupidity. We were all young and dumb once, but most of us didn't do it in front of millions of people, and they can't just sweep it under the carpet like the rest of us.
And to their credit, they own up to it all as they tell the story of making music as young men in 1980s New York. They don't absolve themselves of the deeply shitty way they kicked Kate Schellenbach out of the band, and they know that while they were desperately trying to be ironic when they played beer-swilling meathead frat boys, anybody who plays that role becomes that role to most people watching them.
Still, they've constantly apologised for their shitty treatment of women, and of their lyrics and language that could be heavily sexist and unthinkingly homophobic. At some point they move on, and so should we.
It's a massive book, but it isn’t a daunting process getting through it, even though it’s hundreds of pages long. Like their music, the writing from Mike D and Adam H is free-wheeling and witty and introspective and funny as fuck. Brief interjections from famous friends, including a Major Writer or two, try to capture that same tone and fail completely, and show something else their writing has in common with their tunes - it looks so easy to do it, but it ain't.
They’re just really good at telling anecdotes and stories about some crazy fucking times in their lives, and are always honest about facing up to their own stupidity and ignorance, and that makes it one of the few music memoirs worth spending time with.
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
All the cool cine-kids I knew used to rave about the hand coming out of the ground at the end of Carrie, but for sheer visceral shock value, Jason coming out of the lake at the end of the first Friday the 13th always gave me the shits way more. It's a jump moment that is often imitated, but never beaten.
Monday, March 4, 2019
There's something wrong with a Rocky movie when the giant white trash bad guy from Russia is fighting for something bigger than the American champ, but that's still what happened in the last one.
Michael B Jordan is a fantastic actor, who sells the hell out of his emotional anguish in the movie, always giving it his all, but his character is still living in a gorgeous apartment, with the luminous Tessa Thompson at his side and a baby that is cute as shit (attempts to sell the kid's deafness as a quiet tragedy fall flat). Meanwhile, the Russian bruiser is working in a cement factory and living in a crappy apartment with his broken-down Dad, with a Mum who walked out on him and nobody to cuddle. The poor bastard deserves a break.
And the only emotional beat that really works is on that side of the fight, when Dad throws in the towel, because he knows his son will have to be killed before he gives up. That's even more powerful than the moment when the Rocky theme kicks in and Creed gets his shit together, so something is definitely wrong here.
It certainly undercuts the racial aspect of the overall story - Creed the Younger is still battling with institutional racism as much as any beefy fucker in the ring, but when he's Superman, his natural superiority over everybody doesn't help with any empathy or identification.
Still, while Drago II loses the fight like we all knew he would, he still would've got a massive payday from the effort, and has only just started on a lucrative career, so he should be able to stop working at the cement factory. There's no sad endings here. Everybody still gets paid.
Sunday, March 3, 2019
It's the year 2019, which is the go-to for a large number of science fiction futures, and while there are astounding displays of technological prowess every day, I still spend a lot of my time cleaning the trash before it goes to the recycling, where it might get shipped off to Malaysia and illegally burned, poisoning the local environment and harming the people who live there.
I dunno man, I just really thought we'd have this shit sorted by now.
Saturday, March 2, 2019
After years of listening to true crime, movie reviews, historical deep dives and general comic talk, I recently tried a couple of fictional podcasts - horror stories which mimicked the form and format of their non-fictional counterparts. And they were uniformly terrible.
They certainly had good, creepy ideas and scenarios behind them, but it was the dialogue that ruined them. After years of the real world version, all the dialogue in the interviews and monologues felt forced and fake. It was all so clearly created and rehearsed and recorded multiple times to get the right take, and while it would be hard to pinpoint the exact wrongness of it all, it's definitely there.
Dialogue isn't the same as real speech, and doesn't have the weird trailing off, slip-ups and repetition that we're all guilty of in our daily talking. When podcasts are nothing but somebody's voices in your ear, it's always going to sound fake if it's not immediate and natural.
Look at the way Alan Moore's poetic dialogue on the comic page sounds fairly awful when transposed word for word by an actor in one of the various adaptations (although a talented actor can sometimes sell the big lines), or the way Tarantino's dialogue always requires a heightened performances, something his regular company of actors generally sell quite well.
But it just didn't work in the podcasts. The dialogue never let you forget that it's all fake, so I'm going back to the real world.
Friday, March 1, 2019
Even though the only version that really matters to me is the 5YL crew, it's still weird that DC hasn't published a Legion of Super-Hero comics in years. How hard can it be to get super-kids in the future right?
The editors have made it clear that they're struggling to come up wth a decent hook for a new comic. There have been at least three reboots of the whole thing in the past 20 years, which hasn't helped. Especially when each one eventually ran out of energy, and usually end up regurtitating LOSH stories from years ago in the most generic way possible.
But if they want to take the Legion forward, maybe they should stop with the sprokin' reboots and take things forward. Set up a whole new Legion another thousand years down the line, in the 40th century, where a new generation aren't just competing against the golden age of the 20th century, but the legacy of the original 30th century crew.
Legion comics have been spinning their wheels for years now, continually messed up by timeline shnanigans in the wider DC Universe, and is continually stuck in the pattern of doing the same Earthwar/Mordru/Great Darkness stuff, over and over again. Taking it forward might be the only way to get something new out of it.
Thursday, February 28, 2019
I did a fierce binge on Banshee recently, because I do shift work and needed something to watch to wind down after work, long after the lovely wife had gone to bed. It was fun.
But whenever I did watch it when she was around, she would always walk in on a moment of monstrous violence, with somebody getting an anvil in the head or a knife to the throat, or decapitated by a skidding truck, and she would always ask me what the hell I was watching.
She never seemed to walk in on the endless scenes of the main character angsting over his unlikely role as sheriff, or ALL the awful Amish politics. It was just the grossest parts. Her timing was impeccable, really.
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
I was banned from putting up any posters or pin-ups on my bedroom walls for most of my teenage years, and for good cause too. I was only allowed to have things like Mum's creepy old angels painting hanging up there, because I destroyed the wallpaper at one of the rentals we were living in. I'd used sticky tape to cover one bedroom wall with 2000ad covers and pin-ups and all the wallpaper was ripped when it came down.
By the time I left home I was allowed the odd Nightmare on Elm Street or Spider-Man poster, but things got out of control in my first few flats in the mid-90s. I would cover every single inch of my bedrooms with posters, pin-ups, covers, trading cards and cool pictures cut out of a Previews comic catalogue.
Some flats, this mad collage of anything vaguely interesting from movies, TV or comics would spread out into the communal living areas, tainting the whole place with my rampart dorkiness. There would be bits from John Woo movies, or Vertigo mini-posters, or Withnail and I stills, or Batman comic covers, or endless Star Wars bullshit across those walls. The back of the bedroom door would host entire trading card collections, and the hallway was full of movie star pin-ups from some 1960s magazines I found at the op shop.
It dropped off after a couple of years - sometimes literally - because it was just too much fucking work, keeping all this shit up and under control, replacing the stuff that was bleached out by the sun, finding room for the gorgeous Eraserhead and Blade Runner posters that came with Empire magazine. In the end, there were fewer and fewer things on the walls, and by the time I moved in with the lovely wife 14 years ago, there was only the odd poster or two.
These days, the walls are full of tasteful art by our mates, and little paintings and prints that we picked up overseas. Some of the stuff that was part of the '90s collage - including some Ralph MacQuarrie prints and flyers for things like The Usual Suspects and Man Bites Dog went into the bin last week, and it was about time too, they were all getting a bit ragged.
But I wish I'd bothered to take a photo of the collage at its peak, when it overwhelmed the room and flat. It really was a remarkable sight, and the pinnacle of my nerdiness.
Monday, February 25, 2019
So much pop-culture criticism is so superficial, barely scratching the surface, and I’m just as bad as anyone. But I do love a decent deep dive into one particular movie or book, wringing out absolutely everything that can be said about it
Right now, all I want to listen to on the long walk home after work every night is the One Heat Minute podcast by Blake Howard, which is going through Michael Mann’s brilliant movie minute by minute, and doing an episode for every single one of its two hours and fifty minutes. It’s up to minute 115, and while I thought the joke would wear thin, there is more than enough in the movie to discuss for more than a hundred hours.
In this kind of deep dive, everything gets covered - the acting, the themes, the production design, the music, the facial hair, the everything – and Howard and his fellow podcast hosts turn over every rock in the movie and see what’s underneath.
It’s not a surprise that a movie like Heat can stand this kind of scrutiny, because it’s a fucking excellent film that is complicated and complex enough to merit that focus. But you can do it with almost anything, if you have the will to follow through. Right now, TV’s original bad boy critic Sean T Collins is promising to do an essay on Patrick Swayze classic Road House every day in 2019, and he’s almost two months into it and hasn’t come close running out of things to say about that huge slice of American cheese. Turns out, there is a lot to talk about, from Sam Elliott’s magnificent hair to the standard of henchmen in the film to the ARE YOU KIDDING? guy.
I’m not saying that everything actually deserves this kind of inspection, there are plenty of movies that have nothing to say beyond the fact that they exist. But it’s always a pleasure to take that kind of deep dive on something that really deserves it, and seeing what comes to the surface.
Saturday, February 23, 2019
It was one of the last Big Day Out music festivals in Auckland, and we weren't that bothered about seeing Rammstein, but it had been a miserable rainy day, and we had time to kill until Iggy Pop came out, so why not?
And even though every song basically still sounds the same to me, they were magnificent. The stage show was off the charts, with so much fiery pyrotechnics that they literally burned the rain away. And, even though we were a good 30m away from the stage, our eyebrows as well.
Surprisingly, the wife got a bit obsessed with their Teutonic chunk after we saw their show, and got all their albums afterwards. I saw the flames, but I didn't see that coming.
Friday, February 22, 2019
While clearing out the back cupboard in the spare room the other day, I found some print-outs of a bunch of columns that Mark Millar wrote for the CBR site in the early 1990s. I don't know why I had them, or why I had kept hold of them, but there they were.
And I actually thought about holding onto them, because I've always been weirdly attached to the writer's work, and because these columns don't seem to exist online anymore. They were lost, along with a lot of other great writing, during one of the comic site's periodic reboots, with hundreds of thousands of words flushed down the digital toilet.
We all thought the digital revolution would be a great way to archive things like columns over the years, but it turned out that it was just so much easier for everything to eventually disappear into the ether. In the end, it's so much easier to read printed fanzines from 1982 than it is to read something published online 20 years later, and if I got rid of these print-outs of Millar's column, I'd probably never read them again.
But then I actually read the columns and they were terrible, full of brash, boring arrogance and post-Loaded homophobia masquerading as banter, and I binned the lot. Pop cultural history is all well and good, but a lot of it is still completely worthless.
There is something good in digital footprints ultimately being so transient - I'm certainly glad there is no sign of the embarrassingly try-hard anti-Watchmen screed I put online in 1997 anywhere left on the web - and it's not like Millar has kept quiet since. All that old stuff can go now.
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
A good comic book omnibus is hard to beat, and they’re usually big enough to beat your enemies to death with them too. Of all the formats a comic can come in – monthly pamphlets, prestige-format one-offs, or digital files flying through the air – there is such chunky satisfaction in a decent-sized omnibus.
A trade paperback doesn't do it any more, not in this day of decompressed comics. And some of them are so slim – just four or five issues long – that you can end up with more than a dozen collections really quickly. The constant reboots hardly help.
But an omnibus – a trade paperback that collects three or more regular collections, with a soft cover and decent price tag – helps make it less of a mission to keep track of it all. My first ever omnibus was a collection of Asterix books, with four or five of the perennial albums put in one place.
And I still get them now. I've finally got all the Charley’s War comics in one place (and it took me weeks to get through it all). I've also recently been getting some of the Hellboy and BPRD books in their chunkiest, cheapest editions, and still have a few of the Essential and Showcase cheaparse collections on the shelves, although that particular format seems to have dried up now.
Creators like Robert Kirkman have got a lot out of the big-ass format, with his long-form comics The Walking Dead and Invincible collected into big damn editions. They can get quite pricy when you've got more than 30 issues collected in one place, but you also get more bang for your buck on a page by page basis.
I wish there were more. I would totally get something like Rick Geary’s murder stories if they were all collected in one fat volume, and would love a massive and cheap collection of Jason Aaron's Thor comics, because I lost track of that one three reboots ago. There's always a place for a thick omnibus for things like this, even if they take up a shit-load of room on the shelf.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
I had to give up reading non-fiction books about the immediate future for mankind, because all the writers had an ideological hard-on for the algorithm, convinced it was going to run anything and everything in our lives, and that always sounds like pure horseshit.
While they pointed to studies showing Facebook knew more about people than their own friends and colleagues, there's the stink of confirmation bias, because they're dealing with people who gave Facebook everything. Like most people, I threw up a couple of pics, occasionally like something and have gradually used it less and less, and I've always found the social media platform has just got better and better at showing me exactly all the shit I'm not interested in.
Meanwhile, YouTube does seem to have got the idea that I'm not interested in alt-right fuckheadery, and unlike a lot of other poor folk, I somehow have managed to avoid that cesspool completely. But the ads it serves up are laughably off-point - I don't ever need to see another advertisement for Grammarly, because I'm a professional editor who gets paid to sort out grammar for other people, I'm never going to fucking pay for a robot to do it.
There might be a singularity coming when an AI reaches god-like perfection and is able to predict our every thought and desire, but we're not there yet. The algorithm is too stupid.
Monday, February 18, 2019
Somewhere in Europe in the 1970s, somebody is listening to a ringing tone down the other end of the telephone line, and probably has no idea that it's being recorded onto the end of Life On Mars, and definitely has no idea that people will be hearing that telephone ring and ring for as long as human beings exist in this universe.
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Saturday, February 16, 2019
Friday, February 15, 2019
My sense of humour has always skewed towards the British sense of witty irony and slapstick pantomime – I could never watch a single episode of Saturday Night Live, but have devoured things like Monty Python, Father Ted, Red Dwarf and The Young Ones over the years.
So I was truly surprised by how bloody awful Drunk History UK is. Just unwatchably awful. The original US version is far funnier, and I could watch it all day long, because it's fucking funny and fucking informative. But the UK spin-off is just painful to sit through.
It’s partly because the British don’t have the American’s secret weapon in Derek Waters, who always gets the best out of people who are completely shit-faced, keeping them at ease and on target with their wild stories. But it’s mainly because the drunk Brits just shout a lot, instead of getting all zen on it. They're just really loud and annoying drunks. Shit, maybe all British comedy has been this loud and shrill all along, and I just haven't really noticed.
I’m a little scared to go back and check now.
Thursday, February 14, 2019
One of my favourite things about devouring George RR Martin’s Westeros books is the mad analysing and philosophising that always follows. I finished Fire and Blood in a week and spent a long, long time afterwards watching all the videos and reading all the essays and listening to all the podcasts that were fiercely deconstructing all the new data. It’s bliss.
But one thing I have no time for is anybody trying to convince me who the good guys and bad guys in the Dance of the Dragons were. They’re all bad and awful. That’s the point.
It’s always comforting to have a story where one side is obviously evil, and the other is obviously good. There is plenty of that in the larger Song Of Ice and Fire, with noble families that are all honourable and loyal, and freaking ice zombies who want to murder everyone on the other side.
But that’s not the story of Dance of the Dragons, and there are characters who are noble and honest and true on both sides, just as there are characters who are treacherous, vile and batshit crazy on both sides. If anything, the real villain is the system of monarchy itself, which encourages the convoluted nightmare of succession, and the horror that it unleashes in the hearts of men and women with giant fucking dragons.
I will read anything that is ever written about Patchface’s moist mutterings, but any type of logical gymnastics needed to feel like the good guys won this dance are just a waste of time.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Captain Apache is your standard acid western, full of sweaty psychedelia, as buckets of blood are spilled in the dust, and everybody has to stop at some point and take some drugs to find out what it all really means, man.
But the trippiest thing about the movie has to be Lee Van Cleef's full head of hair.
He was a gorgeous bald man, but giving him a fringe throws off his whole face. It looks squashed and stretched, his weird grin given an even more sinister edge. That was a face and head to be shown off, not hidden beneath thatch.
The second trippiest thing is Apache's baller coat, with its massive woolly lapels and leather tassels. Old Lee looked weird with hair, but he was rocking that jacket.
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
For six glorious months in the mid-80s, Scream was the greatest comic that ever existed. The new Halloween specials they put out now might not be quite so mind-meltingly brilliant - even with Frazer Irving doing The 13th Floor - but I'll take what I can get.
At the very least, I'm getting the original 15 issues out again this weekend. These chills and thrills never get old.
Monday, February 11, 2019
The second Indiana Jones might be the least-loved entry in the original trilogy, but nobody could possibly argue that we reached Peak Harrison Ford in that moment when Indy is on the rope ladder, with death coming in on both sides, and he raises the sword of his head.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
It still grates how much Marvel fucked up their handling of the Miracleman comics.
After finally securing the rights, they pissed away the goodwill with endless reprints of the cheesy 50s strips that nobody really cares about, and inflated reprints of the neat 1980s stuff, clogged down with backmatter and unrealistic expectations.
And then they pulled the plug altogether, just after they solicited a new issue from Gaiman and Buckingham for the first time in decades like a total tease, because nobody cared about the property at all.
We should be lucky that they haven't spliced him into an Avengers comic yet (in the same way DC shows no shame in slotting Promethea into a Justice League book). It's bound to happen sooner or later, even if nobody wants that. We just want the Silver Age.
Saturday, February 9, 2019
When I was growing up in Timaru in the 1980s, there were two cinemas showing all the latest movies, and while I’ve been to many, many other theatres all over the world since, you never forget your first ones.
(There was a third – the Regent – but it closed up just before I was born. While the abandoned theatre was there for years afterwards and I got to explore it when it was used as for furniture storage for a department store I worked at, but it got demolished over a decade ago.)
The State also disappeared decades ago, but it was there when I was a kid. My admittedly dodgy memory is that it was the cinema that played all the big blockbusters, so you went there to see the latest Star Wars or Star Trek II or Legend of the Lone Ranger. The cinema eventually got sucked up into a strip mall which is now full of ghost shops in the middle of town.
The Majestic lasted a bit longer. It got its share of blockbusters – my earliest ever movie memory is seeing Superman there with my cousins – but it mainly had a weird mix of serious adult fare and absolute shlock. I wasn’t interested in the serious stuff, but I definitely saw things like the Village People movie and Spies Like Us there. It was also the first place I ever saw a movie at night, instead of a midday matinee, and I can still remember the thrill of seeing the night sky after walking out of the Terence Hill/Bud Spencer masterpiece Who Finds A Friend Finds A Treasure.
By the early nineties, just when my obsession with all things cinema reached its peak, the Majestic was still there, and I went to everything they showed - including Romper Stomper, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Speed – multiple times. It was soon replaced by a small multiplex somewhere else in town, and the foyer of the Majestic was turned into a video store for a long while, until it went the way of all the other video stores.
Weirdly, the thing I miss most from these old theatres isn’t the lingering smell of popcorn and Tangy Fruits (best lollies ever), or the intermissions, or the single tickets, it’s the sound. These theatres were vast, open spaces (or at least, they felt like that way to a kid), and the sound would bounce and reverberate off the walls, giving movie dialogue, music and sound effects a strange echo effect that has been wiped out by multiplex perfection.
Sometimes I’ll check out an old cinema somewhere that I’ve never been to before, and I’ll catch that echo again. It’s the best feeling, taking me all the way back to the earliest films I ever enjoyed at the theatre. Nothing beats the feeling of your first cinemas, and there will always be a place in my movie-loving soul for the State and the Majestic.
Friday, February 8, 2019
I've never read a Jack Reacher book in my life, but last night I had one of those weird dreams where you somehow manage to read a whole book, and it was a Jack Reacher book where he rolled into town and – after some initial suspicion – it turned out there was no big criminal conspiracy with links to a shadowy military-industrial outfit, and everybody was just really nice and good to each other, and Reacher spent the whole book going for long walks and having nice dinner with people.
It was lovely. I wonder if they're really like that.
Thursday, February 7, 2019
After reading a whole lot of old issues of The Comics Journal recently, it was genuinely a bit sad to see that Gary Groth didn’t have that much to say after the death of Stan Lee.
Once upon a time, all it would take would someone like Bill Mantlo to say something snide at the Comic-Con urinal, and Groth would devote seven pages of the Journal to a polemic about how Mantlo's comment represents the dire state of comics, and he certainly had plenty to say about Stan Lee’s place in modern culture over the years.
But after The Man passed away late last year, all we got from Groth was 500 words (including two sizable quotes), with some vague ideas about Lee’s legacy, and that was it.
That’s obviously Groth’s prerogative, and after spending so much of his life beating his head against the mainstream perception of comics, you can’t blame him for being completely bloody sick of it all. He doesn’t moan about anything like he used to, and in an age when long, rage-fuelled rants have been replaced by 140-character snark and putdowns, that’s to be expected.
But after reading all those old TCJ issues, it’s a shame to see that beautifully fiery rhetoric that once filled pages and pages of the magazine has been doused. It’s as necessary as it ever was. How are we going to build something new if there isn't anybody to burn all the old shit down?
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
The lovely wife and I have accidentally been watching a lot of films lately about men who have a life-long obsession that is so powerful it ultimately destroys their lives and the lives of everybody around them.
My only crippling life-long obsession is to collect a complete set of 2000ad progs – I only need 37 more, all from the first two years – so I don’t think this will destroy everything that is good in life.
I might get a couple of paper cuts, and may strain myself moving them all around, but that’s probably about it. The lovely wife might not always approve of all these comics cluttering up the joint, but she knows it won't ruin our lives.
Monday, February 4, 2019
Superhero comic fans can be such fucking rubes sometimes.
In the final pages of the most recent issue of Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp's Green Lantern comic, Hal Jordan does something so out of character that it is genuinely shocking, something that is painfully reminiscent of some of his least reputable law enforcement counterparts in the real world.
But what was even more surprising was some of the reactions to the comic, with reviews, podcasts and social media posts that were deeply concerned about this whole new status quo, and what it says about the whole Green Lantern Corps concept, and what it all means for the future of Hal Jordan.
It doesn't mean fucking anything, because it appears that anyone with a stress headache from their furrowed brow has never read any superhero comic before, let alone a DC superhero comic by a writer who has been doing this for decades. Of course it's not what it appears, of course it's some trick or secret plan or something. They always are. Every time.
There are a thousand covers promising that a superhero has gone over the line and done something irreversible like murder, but the pages within always reveal it to be a fake-out or misunderstanding. The next issue of this comic is due out this week, and it might take a couple of issues to explain what is going on, or Morrison's usual hyper-compressed story will explain everything away instantly.
There's a chance I might be wrong, and Hal Jordan might be headed off into new levels of super-dickdom. But I'm not, because this is what always happens, and always will.
Sunday, February 3, 2019
It never really felt like Ron Smith’s artwork really got the respect I always thought he deserved, even from fellow 2000ad fans, but his recent passing has shown that I wasn’t the only one to rate it highly.
I always have. When I was devouring new issues of 2000ad during the comic’s golden period in the early 1980s, Smith’s Dredd was always the best Dredd. It took me a while to warm to Ezquerra and McMahon - even though they were clearly always working on another level of brilliance - but Smith’s Dredd comics were always so warm and inviting and energetic.
Whether it was the just-another-night detailing of The Graveyard Shift or the climactic awesomeness of the Judge Child Quest, or the sheer economy of the daily newspaper strip, Smith was always there. He captured the insanity of the city itself, and there were always strange details in his future world, with his pages so full of action and impact. (This was helped by the fact that because Smith famously had an alarm clock set to work on a page of comics for a specific amount of time, and if he got the basics down quickly, he could fill any negative space with crowds or architecture that didn’t look like anything else in comics.)
His figurework could sometimes be awkward and strange, with human bodies contorted by exaggeration, but when it came to Dredd, the character blazed through Smith’s pages like an American superhero, with bulging muscles and firm-footed posing.
But Smith was always one of those artists that I could never be objective about, because I loved it unconditionally from such a young age. Those smooth lines were always so attractive to my unrefined tastes, and probably always will be.
Saturday, February 2, 2019
Marvel Studios has been incredibly secretive about its plans for its next round of films, once Avengers: Endgame is done. A lot of the A-list cast who have helped make the series such a massive success are moving on to projects with a lot less spandex, and it’s highly likely that some of them will go out with the traditional noble sacrifice.
But one thing seems clear and obvious - if they can’t have Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark doing the Iron Man thing anymore, they should definitely give the armour to Letitia Wright’s Shuri, and build a new film around her.
After appearing in two of the Marvel films, Shuri seems like a natural successor, and not just because she is one of the few characters to match Stark on the intelligence front. It’s also because Wright, like Downey, is an amazingly charming actor and the character has shown extreme wit, style and smarts in her few scenes so far.
It’s also time for Marvel to get on board with more diversification amongst its lead actors. The studio has made a big deal about recently moving away from traditional white male leads, and this is a chance to really put its money where its mouth is.
It would also give the entire Iron Man concept a much-needed jolt of fresh energy. Even with Downey Jr giving it his all, none of the Iron Man films have ever been essential viewing, and the concept was already looking tired by the first sequel. If Stark is going out with a bang, getting an audience excited about another Iron Man film will be a lot easier with Shuri under the armor.
Friday, February 1, 2019
There is a special kind of existential horror that comes creeping in the door when you realise that if you sat down and started reading (or re-reading) every book, novel, comic and magazine you kept in storage around the house, you would not have enough time to finish them all before you died of old age.
I really need to get my shit together, and eat better and do more exercise and all that crap so I can live a bit longer.
Or I could just get rid of some of this shit. I don’t need to hang on to these things, if I’m never going to get there, no matter how pretty they look up on the shelf.
Even though I hope I've still got a few more decades left in me, I think I'll be struggling with this for the rest of my life. Eldritch horrors from beyond the veil don't have anything on this slow sense that we're all running out of time.