Friday, October 23, 2020

The first Mad Max is the scariest


The second Mad Max film is absolute the greatest Australian film ever made - The Castle is a close second - because it's balls to the wall action, full of leather raiders and speed injections and good mad Aussie bastards who break their legs for a stunt and come back for the reshoots in a cast.

But the first film is still the most unsettling, because it's the only one that's not post-apocalyptic, it's straight-up apocalyptic. The world is still recognisable, with places where you can get a beer or a milkshake or a fried breakfast. It's a white line nightmare out of the streets, but there is still an economy, there aren't any nuked-out cities.

In this year of plague on the streets and turkeys in power, that recognisability is disconcerting as fuck. We're not in the age of the Humongous or Immortan Joe not yet, but Toecutter could be out there right now, ready to swoop in like a vulture and feed on the decaying society.

See you on the roads, skags.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Last Box of Marvels: This is the time and place


I spent 27 days cataloguing my Marvel comic books and wondering in public why I held on to so many of them, but that was 26 days too long, because there wasn't really much to wonder about. A very few of them are kept for the writing, a lot of them were still there for the art, but most of them were because I'm a sentimental old shit who can't bear to throw out things I've had and loved for years. They spark joy, all right.

It's a matter of raw nostalgia, but also a memory aid. My brain is full, and years of pot use hardly helped, and now I hold onto these things as an outsourcing of memories. Comics books were always so expensive in this part of the world, that I can remember exactly where I was when I bought so many issues of these issues. I know exactly where I got that Avengers, or where I was living when I got the last issue of the Nth Man I needed. I can remember jobs I've had and places I've been friends and friends I've know when I look at these comics. They're a time and a place.

Some of the dumbest comics can spark the most precious of memories, remind me of feelings long dormant, take me back a place we all ache to return to. If I get some decent Captain America Kicks The Shit Out Of Nazi Scum comics out of it, that's a bonus.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A time of explosions


There was a glorious time in cinema, just before CGI came in and ruined everything, where everybody in Hollywood was trying to do bigger and bigger real-life explosions than everybody else.

 

They would set off a behemoth of a blast in the office building in Terminator 2, and then one of the Lethal Weapons film would blow the shit out of something downtown, and then Demolition Man would be: fuck you, we're blowing up a warehouse in the first six minutes.

;

If computer effects hadn't come along, this pyrotechnical war could only have ended with somebody eventually setting off a real-life nuclear bomb for entirely cinematic effect, and we're all the poorer for the fact that this did not happen. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

There are no good video game movies

It's almost become charming, because endlessly hopeless optimism is always a bit charming. I've seen it in multiple Empire Magazine articles over the years, preview articles of movies based on video games, angled about whether it will break the golden rule of game adaptions and actually be good. 

It would be annoying, but they've been doing it constantly for the 25 years I've been reading the magazine now, and the desperation that one of these things might be worth the phenomenal time and effort that go into creating them has come all the way around to being funny again.

(Spoiler: none of them are ever worth the time or effort.)

At least Empire is usually brutally honest about the things when they're coming out, and give them the two-star treatment (the classic not-even-bad-enough-to-be-entertaining rating). While there have been a lot of great video games that are better than most movies ,they never make good films, no matter how much Empire is hoping.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Primal Who: Figuring out the different Doctors

I always thought my absolute primal memory of Doctor Who must be a lie, because it never made any sense. The earliest thing I can remember about watching the greatest television show in the history of everything, it's thinking the Third Doctor was the Doctor on one channel, and the Fourth Doctor was on the other. There were only two channels in New Zealand in those days, so it made sense.

But it didn't. This didn't make any sense at all. I can clearly remember watching Destiny of the Daleks, which would have played in this country in the very late 70s, but the Third Doctor had mostly come and gone before I was born in 1975.

Fortunately, there are people more obsessive about this than me, and I can take massive advantage of their hard work and research. So all I had to do was go on to the NZ Doctor Who Fan Club webpage, where they have listed the local transmission times of every Doctor Who story and I can figure what it was. And I can see that the Green Death suddenly played in a run of Fourth Doctor stories in very early 1979, when I was four years old and allowed to watch Doctor Who at 6.30 on a Friday night.

Then it went back to Tom Baker, and the rest of the 1970s were full of his greatest adventures, including eventually Destiny of the Daleks. And if my Doctor Who obsession started anywhere, it started there.


Because New Zealand is a strange and backwards place, there were only two channels for years, and one of them changed its name from SPTV to TV2 between those two Dr Who stories, so I can see where the confusion came from. There were two channels, and there were two Doctors.

The internet can be a fearful place, but it's also a place where you can go and find out facts, and check whether your earliest memories actually have a basis in fact, and haven't been too distorted. There were two Doctor Whos on New Zealand's TV channels, and I saw both of them. The primal Doctor Who memory is present and correct. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: The ones that don't fit


Up there on the bookshelves, there's all the Ennis Punisher; and all of the Claremont and Bendis and Morrison X-men; and things like The Ultimates and Marvels and three Elektra books and the first Marshall Law and the first Avengers comics, but that's just about everything in the last box of Marvel.

There's a few things that don't fit into any other category, like the issue of 411 with the Millar/Quiteley gem, or the bonkers Avengers 100th Anniversary comic by James Stokoe, or the lovely Captain America/Thor comic from some FCBD years ago, or a few issues of the ultra-weird 'What would Marvel Comic looks like in the Marvel Universe?' things that they put out in 2000, including the X-Men one which is the most Mark Millar comic Mark Millar ever created.

And there's a few more reprints, including a couple of issues of the Marvel's Greatest Comics title, which offered the best value for money with a-grade FF, Iron Man, Captain America and Doctor Strange.

But that's it, that's the last box of Marvel. I'll add to it slowly, and take some away just as slowly, and it's stablised as one banana box's worth of comic Marvels. 

Now I just have to get the Two Last Boxes of DC down to one... 

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Kicking in high heels


 #26 in a 27-issue limited series

Ms Marvel #22 is, as far as I can recall, the earliest comic issue I ever remember reading, and a lot of my love for all things comic book can be traced back to reading this exact comic while sitting in the spare bedroom on a hot Sunday afternoon at my Aunty Val's place when I was five. 

(Well, it was either this, or motherfuckin' Captain Sunshine. They both date from the exact same time.)

A lot of my love for comics can also be explained by the fact that Ms Marvel #22 - the penultimate comic in the series - has two beautiful and strong women in high heels kicking the crap out of each other. This made an impression.

I forgot all about this for years and years until I found a copy in a grotty second hand bookstore a hundred miles away, and realised every single panel had been imprinted on my brain, even though I'd forgotten it even existed. This is primal comics.

There's other random issues of Power Man and Iron Fist (#75) and Marvel Two In One (#96) that I still held on to since I first started really collecting comics, and they've held up pretty well over the years. They're not going anywhere. And Ms Marvel is forever.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Still warrioring

#25 in a 27-issue limited series

I really wish they would stop trying to reboot the New Warriors, because nothing will ever come close to beating the absolute shine of its first 25 issues in my heart.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Marie's Namor ran deep


#24 in a 27-issue limited series

There really is a baffling amount of Namor The Sub-Mariner comics from the 1960s still hanging around, but if these prove anything, it's that Marie Severin's art is so lovely and always so welcome, especially when they give her something other than the funny stuff to do. And the fact she isn't spoken of with equal reverence as almost every other Silver-Age artist is unmistakable testament to the inherent sexism of superhero comics (see also the timelessness of Ramona Fradon's squeaky clean linework).

Because while everyone else drew the Sub-Mariner like he was punching his way through the water, Marie's Namor would always glide through the ocean with supreme grace, and she always managed to give the underwater surroundings real weight. Any affection I have for Namor stops not far beneath the surface, but my love for Marie Severin's art runs very deep.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Giant-sized fun

#23 in a 27-issue limited series

There were never quite enough giant-sized comics from Marvel. They provided massive value for money for both readers and retailers, and gave you something a lot meatier than the monthly issues. And sometimes you got something like the X-Men one, which somehow changed the whole direction of mainstream comics for years to come. 

I don't have the X-Men one, because I don't have a house to mortgage. (My mate Kyle does, and does.) I do have the one issue of Captain America they giant sized, because Kirby Cap is the best Cap; and one of the Giant-Sized Man-Things, because like 2001 comics, it's not a proper collection unless you've got a Giant Sized Man Thing.

All of the Tomb of Dracula issues I once had have been replaced by reprints, but the Giant-Sized Dracula comics are still there, because that's a good chunk of Marvel vampire fun. The Giant-Sized editions are all good chunks of substantial comics, and sometimes that's all you need.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: Of a certain Age

#22 in a 27-issue limited series

I've still got several Marvel Age comics that were read so much over years that they're only held together by my own nostalgia. And while they are pure marketing material, they also have actual value in their own right.

When I was at Peak Marvel, there was no internet - not as we know it - so finding an issue of Marvel Age was always something, because it was absolutely jammed with news and background material. It wasn't the sort of thing that would talk about talent getting butt-fucked on their page rate, or where you'd see any discussion of Kirby's difficulty to getting his bloody art back, but if you wanted to know who the background characters in the last issue of GI Joe was, or what's going on in the New Universe, or Sue Richard's new haircut, Marvel Age had everything you needed. 

You also had some guaranteed couple of pages of Hembeck every month, and every now and then you'd get a super passive-aggressive open letter from Jim Shooter, having a dig at Dick Giordano for not calling him back or some shit.

And, best of all, old issues of Marvel Age have art that never appears anywhere else, including copious behind the scenes sketches and unused covers. Occasionally they get their hottest artists  to do unique pages of comics which are 97% hype, but  that doesn't mean they can't be beautiful.

It's a fucking fine line, posing as hype-man to a bunch of fairly average comic books, but Marvel Age just about stayed just on the right side of it.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: Fantastic voyages


#21 in a 27-isue limited series

When I was very, very young, we visited some distant relatives, and one of them was a third cousin or something who had an astonishing collection of Fantastic Four comics. He'd been getting them regularly for years, and had dozens and dozens of FFs. I never saw that collection again, but that thrill of seeing all those super colourful covers is imprinted on my head.

That's the closest I've ever really come into any kind of connection to the World's Greatest Comics Magazine.  Despite this early entry into the world of Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben, the FF always felt a little flavourless, compared to the complexities of the X-Men or the balls-out action of the Avengers.

The early Kirby issues were never available, and every issue I tried seemed to be too overawed by that original vision to do anything new with it.

Still, now I've read all the lee/Kirby work, and even have a few of my own - five issues between  43 and 74, the first annual with Namor going full Namor, and reprints of the first issue and the third annual with the wedding - and I can easily see what all the fuss was about, because those are as good as superhero comics get.

But after that, the only Fantastic Four comics I have are The Trial Of Reed Richards comics and the annual with the evil milk from the Byrne era; and the New Fantastic Four comics by Simonson/Adams. (I need to carve out an Art Adams section, because he seems to be the sole reason I hold onto a lot of comics).

A little of the fantastic goes a long way.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: The devil's creators


#20 in a 27-issue limited series

It's not that I'm really such a huge fan of Daredevil or the various trials of Matt Murdock - it all gets a bit miserable, over and over again. But the comic has always attracted great creators at the peak of their game and that's why I still have so many DD comics left.

After all, the Kesel/Nord Daredevil comics are objectively excellent, and Mark Waid's run was the best the comic looked in years, with some phenomenal art and terrific cliffhangers. There's all of the Miller comics, and a very select few of the phenomenal Nocenti/Romita Jr comics (usually centered around the Inferno storyline).

I've also picked up a surprising amount of Daredevil from the first few years - half a dozen issues from the first five years, with lovely art by Gene Colan and Barry Windsor Smith, and they're easily the best looking non-Kirby/Ditko Marvel comics of that period. There is a certain monotony in seeing Matt Murdock getting the shit kicked out of him, over and over again, but it often looked so beautiful.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: Weird in space

 #19 in a 27-issue limited series

I was properly freaked out as a kid by the clowns building the pile of trash and diamonds in those 70s Warlock comics, and absolutely obsessed with the Infinity Gauntlet when it suddenly appeared in one of my local bookstores a decade later - I hadn't heard a thing about it, didn't understand what the hell was going on, but Perez's art was gorgeous and the unsettling tone it set, right from the start, was addictive.

Now I've only got a tiny amount of Starlin's Captain Marvel and hardly any of the Thanos stuff past 2000, but I've still got the Infinity Gauntlet issues that I picked up off the shelves as they came out, and the 1990s reprints of his Warlock comics on the nice paper, and almost all of the Silver Surfer comics.

Starlin did get diminishing returns from his cosmic stuff - the later Infinity series quickly spiraled into mediocrity but once upon a time, nobody else could match him for taking science fiction concepts and somehow making them deeply creepy. Space wasn't just a place full of starships and empires and lasers, it was a place of altered states of consciousness and absurdity and hardcore surrealism, with madness among the stars, (see also his various Dreadstar comics)

It all got a bit stale and repetitive around the time Starlin's work really started to gain a mass audience, but there is plenty of weirdness in his part of the universe, and he would show it all.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: She-Hulk can see you


# 18 in a 27-issue limited series.

The first eight issues of John Byrne's She-Hulk are my absolute favourite John Byrne comics, because they're stripped of any self importance, and are not trying to be epic or crucial, just fun. Jennifer Walters was always giving Byrne crap for messing up her life, but she was also a well-rounded character, with a personal life and career that went further than beating up the Abomination. She would be going into the office and chilling out in front of the TV and house-sitting her rich friend's apartment and living a real life.

The meta-jokes have been done to death by now - and were already a bit stale by the time Byrne returned to the comic - but there is still a kick in the way characters rip through the page, and take a shortcut through the comic book listing ads, full of dozens of tiny jokes that give the reader real value for money. 

But the real highlight was really She-Hulk's chunky sweaters. She just looked great in those.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: When the weirdos crash the House of Ideas


#17 in a 27-issue limited series

Marvel can produce its own satire comics in-house, but when the weirdos crash the place, and get a chance to play with the toys, the results are usually relatively sedate, while still being lots of fun.  Hembeck's few chances to go crazy with a full issue are to be relished, and the one where he slaughters everybody is a gold mine of bad puns and excellent sight gags. Likewise, there is no harm in letting Sergio Aragones Massacre Marvel, because they're more Sergio comics than Marvel comics, and he can do anything he likes, because it's always brilliant.

The Strange Tales issues from a few years back mostly aren't the usual joke comics by the usual band of idiots, but talents from outside the regular superhero grind. A lot of the stories do fall into a familiar rut, with endless 'this is an absurd idea, but kinda fun' riffs, and if you didn't know that most superhero stories are a pointless waste of time, you'll know of it after a couple of these slightly strange tales.

Petr Bagge's Spider-Man comic was the best in this vein. His one-shot Meglomanical Spider-Man comic turns Peter Parker into a fully obnoxious rational libertarian, following Ditko all the way down that Rand hole, and is genuinely one of the funniest and sweetest comics Marvel has ever produced.

The funniest Marvel comic in recent years might be the Cage comic that Genndy Tartakovsky finally did. Loaded with gags and a tone that starts out over the top and then goes several levels higher, it was also infused for a genuine affection for the character and premise, as well as some terrifically kickass action art.

None of these comics ever come close to being in continuity and stand on their own a lot better than any Dark Avengers comic from 2008. When the weirdos crash this house of ideas, they leave behind something timeless.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: Falling into Kirby's Cap


 #16 in a 27-issue limited series

People are still desperately trying to match Kirby's power, and the way he would have Captain America beat the fucking shit out of some nazi scum. And after decades of attempts, nobody has come close.

The Madbomb-era stuff is brilliant comics, fizzing with energy and ideas, and supremely out of place with the more sedate pace of the rest of 70s Marvel. And the Bicentenial Battle is even better, and not just because it's a done-in-one adventure that tells you all you need to know about Steve Rogers.

It's because when you get the Kirby art this big, it can feel like you're falling into the pages. When Cap yells, his open mouth is a chasm, and when his fist comes pumping out towards you, you have to duck. Kirby Captain America is the best Cap, but super-sized Kirby Cap is the best of all.

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: What If.... it wasn't that bad?

#15 in a 27-issue limited series

They looked like generic and safe superhero comics, but the What If comics Marvel published in the late eighties could get properly horrific. Even something like the relatively harmless Atlantis Attacks storyline had a nasty-as-shit ending if the heroes failed, with the whole world turned into mindless reptiles, and the sight of the Marvel Universe's greatest female heroes getting eaten alive by their snake god offspring.

I've always been a fan of the What If format, but have only held onto a few issues. There's the one in the original series where Daredevil gets a happy ending, and the one that was a joke issue (I'm a sucker for the joke.) And there's these two X-Men stories from the early 90s.

The Inferno issue is about as dark as it gets, once you've got a demonic Wolverine openly eating babies, it's hard to top that. But the Asgard one shows that you don't have to go completely grim if a different path is taken. There is still tragedy if many of the X-Men characters stayed behind in Odin's realm, but no more than the regular universe. It isn't a 'everything gone wrong!' storyline, it's just 'everything went a bit different!'.

Because the best alternate realities stories can show a different path, they don't have to  blow the whole path up as they go. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: Action is my reward


Spidey used to be my guy, and I had hundreds of Spider-Man comics. I always liked the way he would just get knocked down again and again, and would always get up again with a dumb quip, ready to go. The world would take a giant crap on him, nobody would respect him, but he was the dude who would always be there when he needed to be.

But it's a familiar feeling in this last box of Marvel as I find there's just been so much Spider-Man comics published in the past 50 years, and that I only need a relative few to get my web-head fix.

So I still have some things like the Spider-Man Saga comic I painstakingly put all lawn-mowing money into in 1991, which is still excellent reference material for the vast sweep of Spidey history up to that point, and the third Web of Spider-Man annual with the big friendly pin-ups of all of Spidey's old-school friends and foes (the second annual is also in there because it's Art Adams doing a 1980s annual, and I'll always have a weakness for Adams annuals).
 
And with the fantastic perfection of the Claremont/Byrne Marvel Team-Up comics collected on the bookshelf, I only need a couple of other issues of that series - the bonkers one where the SNL crew showed up, and #100 with the Fantastic Four and the Miller art. I've also got the terrific Bend Sinister annual with more Miller art in a Marvel Tales comic, as well as another couple of issues of that series which covers the whole Gwen Stacey/Green Goblin deaths thing.
 
I've still got all the Spider_man comics that tied into the Inferno crossover, because Inferno was the greatest Marvel crossover ever, and a few of the McFarlane ones from immediately afterwards, because that's when his art peaked for me, and it feels like the last time really tried to impress, while actually having the chops for it.
 
There's also the one issue of Spider-Ma'ns Tangled Webs that Cooke did and Untold Tales of Spider-Man '96 for the sheer charming innocence of the thing, but I don't know why I've held onto Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #7 for 30+ years. I guess I'm a bigger Puma fan than I ever thought?

I've only got the first two issues of Mark Bagley's Spider-Man after selling off almost all of the 50 issues that followed it for nothing a decade ago. I could have made a fucking mint if I'd kept those Carnage issues, but I'm glad I also held onto the first issue with the hologram cover, because hologram covers get me so excited.

There are many other great Spider-Man comics, and many others that I enjoy reading. I still keep up with the latest stories through the library, but the relative few that have survived all the purges scratch that itch that feels like a radioactive spider bite.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: Everyone bounce the dinosaur


#13 in a 27-issue limited series

While I'm after all the 2001 I can get, I only need the first three issues of Kirby's Devil Dinosaur, because the things I like most in these comics is the way the big red dude leaps into the frame, bouncing into the scene in exactly the way real life dinosaurs never did, and there is a fucking shit-tonne of that in the first three issues.

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: No limits

#12 in a 27-issue limited series

There was a weird amount of excitement when the big publishers started putting out limited series in the 1980s. It just wasn't how things were done - if something was successful, you squeezed as much out of it as you could, and if it kept making money, you just kept on going and going and going. You didn't actually let comic books stories have a proper beginning, middle and end like other mediums.

And terrific creators at the height of their powers relished the opportunity to tell those specific stories, unbound by the constraints of modern comics, and there was some quality work in the first wave of Marvel's limited series. After testing the waters with some Superman tie-ins, DC began smashing barriers with new, radical series that had nothing to do with their vast, never-ending tapestry, while Marvel used these off-shoots of the regular universe to take a slightly skewed look at that world.

Some of them are still great comics, decades later, and I'm glad to have a handful. Although I've been after the third issue of the Wolverine mini series since 1985 and still haven't got it. It was a lot easier to find all of the issues of the Longshot mini-series by the brilliant Ann Nocenti and Art Adams (even if that took a couple of years), but the two Hercules limited series by Bob Layton were easiest of all to find, and I've had a massive amount of affection for Layton's refreshingly loose space-spanning saga ever since.

All of these series have been followed up on over the years since, but those original comics still show why the concept took hold of the imagination for a while. Without the never-ending grind of regular monthly comics, a story could be told quickly and cleanly, and over and done with. Not everything had to be a 450-issues long. Sometimes four was enough.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: Epics at the end of the world


 #11 in a 27-issue limited series

Apart from the substantial Groo collection that lives in its own special section in the bookcase by the bed (because you never know when you'll need some Groo in your life), and the couple of issues of Epic Illustrated that are lurking in the cupboard, the only Epic comics I have left are two short series about the end of the world.

One of them is the Moebius Silver Surfer story that really is an absolute epic, and anything else anyone has tried to do with Galactus since has been largely redundant after this. It took me many years to figure out if it was in continuity, or if it even mattered, but the gorgeous pastel sweep on Moebius' art was always so well suited to the gliding, slender Silver Surfer.
 
The Last American series by Grant, Wagner and McMahon really isn't very pretty - McMahon's art is jagged and grim and dark, because this is the story about the end of the world, with all hope steadily running dry. It's got a nastier edge than the usual sci-fi high-jinks the creators always brought to their 2000ad stories - there's still a song and dance number, but it just adds to the loneliness and despair.

There's still some hope for humanity at the end of the Moebius comic, even if humans are proven to be shallow, vain and stupid creatures by the arrival of the world devourer, they at least exist at th end of the story. There's nothing left in the Last American. Nothing at all.
 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Avengers assembling all over the place


#10 in a 27-issue limited series

How much Avengers do I need in my life? Turns out I need the Earth's mightest heroes teaming up in clean, simple stories much more than I thought.

I have to hold on to the 15-issue straight run of 1970s issues that ends with the carnage-filled final battle against Korvac battle. It's mostly Byrne and Perez art, and will always be the ideal Avengers team in my head, with the added spice of the Guardians of the Galaxy bringing in their freaky 30th-century vibes. And that climactic issue was genuinely shocking back in the day, even if everybody is brought back to life with a bit of handiwaving at the end, it was bloody disconcerting to see them all wiped out like that.
 
And while I've got a lot of love for the handful of early issues I have managed to find down here at the arse end of the world - all extremely unimportant in the grand Avengers tapestry, but I'll take anything - I also have to rely on reprints to get things like the Kree/Skrull War issues or the Avengers annual where Rogue destroys Ms Marvel's life.

Reprint or not, they're all fun comics, and so are the ones I've held onto since the 1980s. There are the two issues of the Stern/Buscema run where Terminus fucks up the Savage Land and the annual where Hawkeye uses an ancient carny trick to save the universe. There's also the three West Coast Avengers issues late in the Englehart run where they take on the new Zodiac, and the first four issues of John Byrne's West Coast comics, which were absolutely the shiniest things on my local shelves in 1989
 
And then, apart from some Ultimates books on the shelves, that's almost it. The most recent Avengers comics I've got are the first few issues of the Busiek/Perez run from the late 90s, and they're more than two decades old ( and were retro in the first place). No Bendis era, no Hickman. None of Waid's recent Avengers comics or any of the current Jason Aaron run.

So maybe there is a limit to the number of Avengers comics. There's only so many times Ultron can make a shock appearance, or Kang can fuck up the timeline again, and I think I had my fill a long time ago.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: We don't talk about the funny books

#9 in a 27-issue limited series
 
Marvel has made all the money in the world by taking all this dopey super hero shit really, really seriously, and both publisher and fans are always a bit embarrassed by its own attempts at self-satire - I honestly could not figure out if Not Brand Echh was an actual thing for years - which just makes their joke comics even funnier.
 
It helps that their piss-take comics have some lovely art. The jokes in the first half-dozen issues of What The-?, published in the very late eighties, have dated exactly as much as 30-year-old gags should, but there's Kyle Baker and some primetime Byrne/Ordway and a keen Mike Mignola and a bit of Hembeck and Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen and Jim Lee and the horribly undervalued Hilary Barta - the first issue even has John Severin inking Steve Ditko, which is some kind of mad alchemy.
 
It all got a bit too Scott Lobdell later on, but What The-? was bright and silly and lovely to look at for a little while. Plus there is a one-page gag about the 'You Universe' with a proto-Comic Shop Guy that gave me a bit of an existential crisis when I was 13, so that's a bonus.
 
I've even tracked down a couple of Not Brand Echh issues, so I guess it does exist. It's the art again that shines  more than 60-year-old Stan Lee puns, with dynamic forces like Kirby and Colan getting loose and foolish, and the mighty Marie Severin getting groovy with her usual flowing line.

I've also still got the issue in the original run of What If that went for the funnybone, but ditched any of the attempts Marvel did with similar gag books since the year 2000 - they get way too inside-joke and have aged even more than their decades-older cousins. Marvel still doesn't really like to laugh at its own jokes, and ends up snickering about its friends instead.
 

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Silver Age goodness, unearthed by the grave


#8 in a 27-issue limited series
 
It used to be impossible to find affordable 60s Marvel comics - when I was fiending on the Marvel habit the hardest as a young adult in the 1990s, the few that I ever saw for sale were prohibitively expensive. You might see an average Kirby/Lee Fantastic Four from the latter half of their run going for $50, and that was about it.
 
There's a lot more floating around now, and I don't think it's just because I've stretched my personal horizons and don't live in a town of 3000 people anymore. I just think that time is catching up with us all, and the sixties kids who collected and hoarded their childhood treasures are all old and dying off at a rapid rate, unlocking pristine collections brought together over a lifetime.

This might be morbid, but life is short and we're still here, so take advantage of it while the can, and the next generation snatch up your shit. Now I've got a couple of issues of Tales to Astonish, Takes of Suspense and Strange Tales, and three early Journey Into Mystery issues, all for less than the price of an average new comic.
 
I salute the dead dudes who left these comics behind, and their baffled family who unloaded it for as much cash as possible, as soon as possible. The Silver Age is unlocked by death, but the comics survive.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Just the facts



#7 in a 27-issue limited series 
 
Following the complete history of Fin Fang Foom is easy when you just look up multiple wikipedia offerings, but there's still a lot of fun in randomly flicking through a reference publication from years ago, and in getting a complete record of a certain time and place in this massive and sprawling continuity.

It took me many, many years to get all 20 issues of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Handbook (Deluxe Edition) and all the '89 updates, but I got them in the end, and they're a terrific reference source, with an absolute certainty that if I ever have to figure out how much weight the Executioner could lift, the data is there.

They're also an absolute time capsule of the moment that the Marvel Universe ruled above all else in my life. That universe has moved on a long way since this encyclopedia, and so have I, but that rush of data is still so addictive.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: The oldest ones are the movie ones



#6 in a 27-issue limited series
 
There are pieces of pure childhood floating around in this box, even though they have nothing to do with the Marvel Universe, and I just can't ever give them up after all this tine.

There's issues of The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Doctor Who, and I've had them all since I was nine and I used to read them over and over and over and over again, until every panel is imprinted on my brain like neurological silly putty.

There are some good comics in there - there's David Mazzucchelli doing some terrifically moody Indiana Jones, and Walt Simonson's art on his Star Wars comics is absolutely divine - but I'm not kidding anybody.

I'm not holding onto these things because of any artistic merit, I'm holding onto them because these comics are foundational in my actual personality, I can't take them out without losing something I would never get back. I'm just that fucking shallow.

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: The zen cool of the Nth Man


#5 in a 27-issue limited series

You know that I've got every issue of the Nth Man. With zen ninjas and global conflict and a weirdo dork who can bend reality to his whims, it's Larry Hama's masterpiece, and they'll be some of the last comics I ever hold onto, even as I sell the rest of the collection for gruel money. 

Hama forever.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Oh my God, it's full of stars


#4 in a 27-issue limited series 

I wouldn't trust anybody who says they've got a comic book collection, but doesn't have any issues of Kirby's 2001. It's essential and witty and bombastic and overwrought, and it never gets republished. Everyone needs more 2001 comics in their diet.

I've almost got them all, with just a couple to go, and only just got #5 this year. I would give anything for the original Marvel Treasury comic that adapts the movie, but I'm sure I'll get there one day.

And even though they're a spin-off from one of the greatest movies ever made, they're also 70s Kirby at his purest. In a decade when he was still tossing out thousands of crazy ideas about art and philosophy and the nature of power that everybody else is still catching up on, his 2001 stories have a fair chunk of those ideas in every issue.

Free of the capes and spandex requirements (which he still brought into a couple of issues in a particularly demented manner), this is hardcore Kirby, stabbing right into the brain. It's comics at its very best.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Time is flat in the Marvel Universe


#3 in a 27-issue limited series 

Most of the comics in this box come from the 80s and 90s, because the best Marvels are always from when you were 13-16 years old. There's just a handful from the past couple of decades, and the most recent thing in there is the Marvels epilogue by Busiek and Ross that came out a few months ago

The oldest Marvel comic story is in there right next to it too - a reprint of Marvel Mystery Comics #8-10, with the epic and slamming throwdown between the Human Torch and Namor, a battle which was a key cornerstone of that original Marvels series.

There are decades and decades of weird and wonderful comics between these two stories, and they're just two parts of many in the multi-level Marvel tapestry, but you can find almost everything that makes Marvel comics so addictive in those two stories.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: The only Hulk (with Marlo and Motormouth)


#2 in a 27-issue limited series 

I've got a couple of the Essential books, the Future Imperfect comic with the lovely Perez art, and a surprising amount of Australian reprints of the Sal Buscema era. But after selling off my copy of #115 the other day, the only Hulk comics I still have left in this box of Marvels are three issues of the Peter David/Gary Frank run from the early nineties.

Actually - apart from a significant amount of the dorkiest Star Trek comics ever created - these Hulks might also be the only Peter David comics I have left. It was all those awful puns and pop culture references that did me in. I got rid of all the other Hulks and X-Factors and Aquaman comics long, long ago.

His Hulk run was long and prodigious, and had many ups and downs, but I was right on target for those ultra-slick Gary Frank issues. Frank was only a couple of years into his professional career, and still had some serious issues with his anatomy work, but his art was clean and clear and so, so shiny.

I couldn't tell you why I have a fondness for Motormouth and Killpower's appearance, but the other two issues are there because I am a ridiculously soft romantic, and I always cry at weddings. And at Captain America's face on that bachelor party cover.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel



#1 in a 27-issue limited series

I keep my comics in banana boxes, because you can fit a couple of hundred regular-sized individual issues in each one of those bad boys - along with more than a few Stephen King and Fighting Fantasy books -  and they're so easy to stack and hide under the bed.

And after years and years of buying every single Marvel comic I could get my hands on, and even more years pruning and refining and sharpening that collection, I now just have one. There's only one box left of Marvels.

There are hundreds of other issues elsewhere, on bookshelves and in parts of the collection that are devoted to creators – there are Marvel comics in other boxes full of stories by Morrison, Waid, Brubaker, Moore, Millar, Davis, Ennis, Mignola and Miller. There is also a significant amount of X-Men comics that live in their own pile in the corner and a lot of Alex Ross and Punisher and Steranko comics on the main bookshelf.

But all the rest fit inside one single banana box, and for the next 27 days, I'm taking advantage of the rights of the proprietor of this Tearoom to catalogue the shit out of them, getting a snapshot of the Marvel comics that are worth keeping in the year 2020, and trying to explain why they're still there.

(It's no great secret. The reason they're still here is almost always nostalgia and/or great art. There's nothing else.)

Sunday, September 20, 2020

No matter how far, don't worry baby




The baby is nearly 13 months old and still can't walk, but she can shake her moneymaker something fierce. Her absolute favourite music is obvious stuff like Gorillaz and Bowie and the Ramones and the Doctor Who theme and Run The Jewels - I have no fucking idea what to do when she start to understands the lyrics - but her absolute favourite music is old soul stuff. Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and the queen Aretha - they always get her grooving.

She also seems to approve of her father's recent binging of Treme, because this kid loves the jazz. I don't know where that came from.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

That beats any meat injection



I've never tried heroin and probably never will, but the closest I've ever come to the ecstasy of Allison in Trainspotting - and her sheer fucking pleasure of spiking up in Trainspotting - is when I had an ear infection recently that gummed everything up good and proper, and the ear popped for the first time in many days and stayed clear.

That beats any fucking cock in the world.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Even the Demon knows how deal with Nazis


It appears that many people, including the world's largest social media companies, are very troubled by how they should deal with Nazi scum, but even Etrigan The Demon always knows how to deal with that shit.







- From The Demon #48 (1994)
By Garth Ennis and John McCrea

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Immortals: Gods among us




Immortals is nobody's favourite film, unless you're a super-fan of the chiseled abs of Henry Cavill or Steven Dorff's irresistible smugness, and we can't blame you for that. But the scenes where the Gods descend to earth and just fuck up the entire world around them are bitching. More Luke Evans always helps, too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Nobby's Auckland isn't completely gone




Walking around Auckland in 2020, and you can still see echoes and ghosts of Nobby Clark's city,  even though most of it was torn down decades ago

A lot of the beautiful freaks are gone, but some of the buildings and archways and walls survive, even now. There's the toilet block that is still in use decades later, and the odd Parnell villa, even if it's now full of artisan chocolates and high-brand clothing instead of grotty stoners.

Some things endure.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Beavis and Butthead and the finest piece of criticism ever




Butthead plainly pointing out that you have to have parts that suck - because they make the rocking parts sound cooler - is seriously one of the very best pieces of media criticism I've ever heard.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

We can't ever go back to Arizona!


I'm still pretty new at this whole parenting thing, but I am starting to believe that the way Simon in Frisky Dingo always slooooowly pushed his bowl of cereal onto the floor was some kind of universal truth about raising a child.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

How many years has it been?



I only just discovered that there is now a shorter gap between the Lee Kirby X-Men #1 and the Claremont/Lee X-Men #1, than there is between the 1991 comic and now.

Sure, Macaulay Culkin might be 40, but that X-gap makes me feel more old as fuck than anything else in the world.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Lesser Gaiman isn't hard to find



I get embarrassingly emotional about disposing of old comics every week, but even with that kind of naked sentimentality, some of the easiest to get rid of are the Neil Gaiman comics.

I'll probably hold onto his Sandman stuff (but none of the spin-offs), and I'll always have a copy of the original Books Of Magic, and any of the brilliant original graphic novels he did with Dave McKean still pack a punch. But the amount of Gaiman comics in the collection has been steadily deflating in recent years. I once had almost all of his comics, now I've just got a handful.

It's not that I've grown out of it or anything. While there has been a sense of repetition in a lot of his stories over the past decade, Gaiman's voice is still an interesting and comforting one, mixing one part hard intellect with two parts whimsy and a whole lot of hand-holding and playful fantasy. I still enjoy a lot of his comics, and will continue reading them for years.

But I don't need my own copies, because finding lesser Gaiman is always so easy. It's easier to hold onto something like the Nth Man rather than 1602 or Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader  - and not just because The Nth man is one of the top five Marvel comics ever created -  because 1602 and the Batman comic will remain in print on the sheer power of the Gaiman brand for a long, long time to come.

Larry Hama has been a God in my world since I was 12, but Gaiman isn't just a comic writer, he is a Big Name in publishing and general media now, and libraries and bookstores will be full of these things

So it doesn't matter if I sell off the original Stardust issues that I've had since the 90s - even though parting with gorgeous Charles Vess is always such sweet, sweet sorrow - because if I ever get the urge for more faerie in my life, it'll always be down the local library.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

TwoMorrows and the lighter side of fandom



My pal Nik lent me a copy of The World of TwoMorrows - a 25th anniversary book all about the fan publisher and the many, many titles it has put out - and I genuinely didn't think I'd read much of it because it looked just a little too self-absorbed and insular, even for a gang that have put out dozens and dozens of issues about Jack Kirby.

But it turned put to be a terrifically addictive read, and I'm halfway through the blasted thing now. It's easy to read in bits and pieces, because it's all a bit repetitious - 'I'm just trying to catch the thrill of getting my first comic from the drugstore rack', says absolutely everybody - but it's full of gossip and anecdotes and comic history and the weird pressures of putting out a regular publication.

And, most of all, it's just so refreshing to read about the nice side of fandom for once. Online discourse is so rough, and so exaggerated, everything is the worst or best thing ever. And it's all riddled with comicsgate morons and people who leap to the nearest bad faith argument for anything that doesn't support their limited worldview.

There's not so much of that in the TwoMorrows books. It's just a real pleasure to read something so unashamedly positive, so full of love for the medium and the people who have created stories and art in it over the years. They all have their own small prejudices and tiny hatreds - comics published after 1995 rarely get any love in the pages of many of TwoMorrow's publications, unless they're drawn by a favoured artist - but it's never the most important thing. It's the love and affection for the comics that matters over everything.

You might think Firestorm is dopey as hell, but there are people who love the dumb flame-brain, and there is no need to piss on that burning love in these pages. The TwoMorrows book is one of the most indulgent things it has ever published, (which is saying a lot), but it's also a gentle reminder that you can love something without always being a total dick about it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

My little sister's Star Wars



Star Wars was such a boy's club when I was a kid, but that didn't mean girls weren't into it too. They just weren't so loud about it.

My sisters went to the same screenings of the same films as I did, and were just as excited about the fate of Darth Vader on the car ride home as I was. But I was such a boy that only I got really obsessed with the thing and collected everything I could, including as many of the action figures as possible.

But my little sister - who turns 42 today - also got her own toys. She got Ewoks and Princess Leia figures, and played with them just as much as I played with my Death Star Gunner and Cloud City Pilot with the bent arm (I would take what I could get.).

But while I played mine to death and accidentally tore their arms off or blew them up with firecrackers, or threw them away in feats of unimaginable stupidity, she took care of hers, and they survived the years, remarkably intact.

Somehow, all these years later, I've still got a Princess Leia figures from the first two Star Wars films, complete and with all their limbs, and while some of the paint is a little chipped, they're in better condition than literally any other figure I own from that era. They ended up chucked in a box with my old GI Joes and Masters of the Universe figures, and are there still.

There's some kind of metaphor about girls knowing how to love something without smothering it to death, but I'm just a dumb boy who grew into a dumb man, and I'm not smart enough to figure that one out. One thing I know is that at least the girls have more of a voice there days, and that's a win for everybody.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

How good is Brett Parson?



I genuinely think Brett Parson is one of the most under-rated artists in comic books right now. His work is just goddamn delightful, it's a mystery why he isn't regularly working on some of the biggest characters in comics.

His work is exaggerated, but solid. It's as slick as hell and so polished it cleans the reader's eyes, and while the character work is super-cute and cartoony, there is a solidity to his line that gives it weight and depth. And sure, there are loads of big eyes and button noses, but there are also solid jawlines and taut muscle work.


Mainstream comic fans aren't that fussed on super-cute, which might explain why Parson's profile isn't that huge. He's also spent a lot of time in the past few years on Tank Girl comics, and while co-creator Alan Martin is still involved, nobody really cares about Tank Girl when Jamie Hewlett isn't doing it, that's just a fact of life. I only just discovered Mike McMahon has done hundreds of pages of Tank Girl comics in the past decade, and I thought I was a massive McMahon fan.


Parson's work has also shown up in other places - a 2000ad Future Shock here, a Goon cover there, a random short Vertigo miniseries by Peter Milligan that ran five years ago, long after everybody in the world had stopped reading new Vertigo comics (there's a definite pattern here).

You can find more of Parson's art on his website here, including a bunch of his terrific covers and some wonderfully idiosyncratic takes on Lobo, Batman and Judge Dredd, and you should check it out. At a time like this, the world could use more of this kind of cute.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Always looking for the horror I needed



Finding old horror films at the video store was once such a big deal. I can still remember how unbelievably excited I was in 1996 when a chain store video place opened in another part of town, and it had the first Dracula film from Hammer just sitting there.

The local video stores always had a decent selection of horror films, because they were always a popular genre. There was all the slasher nonsense, and plenty of copies of Sorority Babes in The Slimeball Bowlarama and other low-grade bullshit like that, and it was just as easy enough to find the blockbuster horrors like The Exorcist or Nightmare on Elm Street.

But with thousands of horror films, nobody could offer everything. There would always be some random gross-out Italian horror like The Beyond or The House By The Cemetery, but I could forget about finding City of the Living Dead, or any of the Corman Poe adaptions. There was no Freaks, no Curse of the Cat People, no Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, and only the most random tapes of Hammer horror.

I knew all about these films from the books about horror films that I read and re-read from cover to cover, and look at stills from all these old movies that I could never find, but I couldn't actually find the fucking things. A lot of it was on TV in the 1970s and early 80s, but that had disappeared by the time I was in a nice, healthy and full-on teenage obsession with horror films in the late eighties. It took years and years to catch up with a lot of these films, when they would show up in the most random of places, or when I joined decent video stores with deep collections.

I did get to see the second Dracula film from Hammer at a reasonable age, when it turned up as one in the late night Sunday Horrors slot, but the original was always out of reach. It means I always think of the default version of the Hammer Dracula is the silent, hissing Count that Lee portrayed in Prince of Darkness (because he couldn't bear the lines), not the sinister and erudite figure of the other films.

Everything is a bit-torrent search away, and a lot of the films that I was desperate to see are now ridiculously easy to find. And they're mostly pretty good, even if they can't ever compare to the nightmares I could never find.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

I was absorbed my mother ocean, in all her wondrous glory




I swear, we watched this episode of Sealab 2021 once 10 years ago, and there's not a week that has gone by when my wife and I haven't described something as a 'fierce and fickle mistress' in that outrageous French accent.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Millar's 411: Where would we be?



Marvel's 411 comic came out in 2003, when the US was still reeling from the Twin Towers attack, and was one of mainstream comics' admirable attempt to call for a little peace. But just because the comics were admirable doesn't mean they were actually any good, and almost all of the short stories in the comic were overwrought, clumsy and heavy-handed in a very 2003 way, (although they mostly look fantastic).

But while Mark Millar has made a very successful career in comics by being overwrought, clumsy and heavy-handed, his contribution to 411 is a surprisingly tender, moving and funny story, with a message that is always worth repeating. 

As always, it's beautifully drawn by Frank Quitely, and 'Tit For Tat' also has a beautiful message to impose from the writer of Kick-Ass, with a Millar family story that confirms that an eye for an eye philosophy leaves everyone blind, and that a good joke from a cheeky bastard can always beat violence and murder.

It's still got a couple of brutal beatings and there are some superficial explanations of a deeply complex political and religious culture, but it's also got a light touch that smashes into a stunner of a final panel, where the consequences of not having a laugh now and then are made brutally clear.

Because where would we be without a laugh? Somewhere nobody wants to go.