Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day, everybody!

I almost managed to avoid Christmas entirely this year – all of my immediate family were hundreds and hundreds of kilometers away, I volunteered to work on Christmas Day, and I thought I was too old to get excited about the holiday.

But then my lovely, lovely wife bought me two bloody good books that left me feeling like a giddy 12-year-old and I love Christmas all over again.

She is remarkably good at getting presents for me. It can’t be easy, buying books for a comic dork who needs a list to often keep track of what he’s got. But she goes for the more expensive and satisfying stuff that I never bother with – the sort of thing that is just too much for my weekly budget, but well within the limits of a gift.

In the past couple of years, she’s bought me the collected edition of Bone, a number of fine books about television shows like The Sopranos and Deadwood, and a three-foot tall Batman with a mighty fist of justice.

I also give her a few suggestions of things I would like, and this year I was convinced that big slab on the pile of presents this year was either that Making of Empire Strikes Back of the Art of Jaime Hernandez. But then it turned out to be the Art of Brian Bolland, which was completely unexpected and bloody wonderful.

I didn’t even know the book existed until the mighty Nik Dirga returned from America with it, and had the good grace to let me borrow it for a while. I did a terrible job of hiding my insane jealousy for that book, and thought about running off to Argentina with Nik’s copy, but I never expected to actually own my own one.

It’s a thing of beauty – hundreds of pages of Bolland’s unmistakable and rock-solid line, all cleaned up and put on show. I’ve been in love with that line since I first saw it in that very first Judge Death story, and to have so much of it in one place is almost intoxicating.

The other book was Lance Parkin’s aHistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe, and I was totally expecting that, but the amount of raw Doctor Who data in there is just as intoxicating as Bolland’s art. There will be more to say about this soon.

I still had to work on Christmas Day, and it turned out to be a real shitter as bizarre IT issues cropped up when nobody was on duty, and I didn’t finish till ten on Christmas night, but it wasn’t so bad. Because when it looked like a reasonable option to pick up the laptop and fling it out the window, I could walk away for 10 minutes and flick through one of these books, and all would be right with the world.


Also this wonderfully long weekend: An interminable period in a months-long 2000ad prog slog has passed, when I finally got past #700. Things got a bit dire in the late six-hundreds, despite some lovely Dredd, Zenith and Chopper comics, but by the time #700 rolls around, strips like Chronos Carnival and Dry run are just a bad memory.

It all looked so promising - it’s late 1990 and 2000ad’s seven-hundredth issue bolsters the stone cold professionalism of John Wagner, Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson with an influx of new talent. Hot young things like Ennis, Bond, Milligan and Hewlett come in and shake it all about.

(Twenty years on, and just last week I saw Hewlett art blown up on an arena-sized screen at the final Gorillaz gig of the Plastic Beach tour, while members of The Clash played their guitars like they were machine guns in front of it. Somehow, it was completely unsurprising that Hewlett ended up co-founding one of the first great pop bands of the 21st century….)

It’s a false dawn for 2000ad and the next five or six years are destined to be the worst in the comic’s history, so it might take a while to get through that. There is the interminable Brigand Doom, and the horror of Michael Fleischer’s Rogue Trooper, and a non-Wagner Dredd all to come.

That might take a long while to get through...


I also just wanted to add my voice to the collective disappointment over the end of Journalista, with Dirk Deppey on the receiving end of an apparently inevitable lay-off. That sucks for Dirk, but he’ll be fine because he was a brilliant aggregator.

There is just so much stuff available for your attention, out there on the internet, that it’s easy to get lost. There are literally tens of thousands of words generated daily about comics, even though it’s a relatively niche thing. I need to trust the word of smart and rational people who point out the stuff worth following.

And Dirk is the best – Journalista was the first website I checked every weekday morning, and there would always be at least three links worth clicking on – to news, reviews, interviews, podcasts, webcomics, essays and notcomics that were worth a look. This was guaranteed, every weekday, for years.

It’s not just a matter of taste – I frequently disagree with his assessments of certain comics – but an ability to create a daily log of interesting things out there in the world that pertained to comics is harder than it looks, and takes real skill.

Journalista is dead and gone, but I still hope Dirk will be around in one form or another, to point out the entertaining, informative and occasionally beautiful things about comics out there. I’ll get lost on my own.


Starting in a couple of days, I’ll be listing my ten favourite comics of 2010. Three of them are superhero comics, I’d be surprised if more than 100 people have read one of them, and two of them are long-running strips from the greatest comic anthology ever. Almost half of them are stand-alone books.

It'll be an incredibly subjective list, with loads of undoubtedly terrific stuff out there I haven't tried yet, but hell. Aren't they all?

1 comment:

Nik said...

Whoa hoh, best wife ever! My wife got me a belt. There's gonna be words.