Tuesday, June 28, 2011

150 reasons why I love the movies

There are a million reasons why I love the movies, and here are 150 of them:

1) The star baby turning around to look at me at the climax of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

2) Selena hesitates as Jim takes a step forward during the bloody end of 28 Days Later.

3) Louis Armstrong’s version of What A Wonderful World playing over the end credits of Twelve Monkeys.

4) Airplane: “Oh stewardess! I speak jive.”

5) A Fistful of Dynamite: “Duck, you sucker!”

6) The bit where Marty Scorcese shines the spotlight on Griffin Dunne’s increasing frustration in After Hours.

7) The drop down on to Planet LV-426 in Aliens.

8) Pulling Marshall McLuhan out from off-screen in Annie Hall.

9) Amazon Women On the Moon: “Did you know that every seven minutes, a black person is born in this country with no soul?”

10) The distance between the helicopters and the surf in Apocalypse Now.

11) The blank look on the Coward Bob Ford’s face when someone comes to get justice for his Assassination Of Jesse James.

12) John Goodman running down that burning corridor as Barton Fink looks on in horror.

13) The Dude crashes his car in The Big Lebowski.

14) The way the soldiers in The Big Red One can’t get their heads around the horror of the concentration camps.

15) Bill and Ted play 20 Questions as they fall into hell in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.

16) Billy Elliot’s Dad sees what his kid can do in the final shot of the film.

17) Roy Batty snapping out with an outstretched hand and saving Deckard’s life in Blade Runner.

18) The hands beating on the side of the tent in The Blair Witch Project.

19) Jason Bourne reveals why he went to Russia in the Bourne Supremacy, and it’s nothing to do with vengeance.

20) The bit with the lawnmower in Braindead.

21) Robert De Niro disappears into newspapers in Brazil.

22) Harry Morant has seen the world in Breaker Morant.

24) Alec Guinness realises what he has done by building the Bridge on the River Kwai.

25) The moment when the creature knows the Bride of Frankenstein will never, ever love him.

26) Britannia Hospital: "HOW LIKE. A GOD."

27) The stars tell a dying Elvis that all will be well in Bubba Ho-Tep.

28) Carlito sets up a pool trick in Carlito's Way.

29) The man love moment in the closing seconds of Casablanca.

30) The Bond love moment in the closing seconds of Casino Royale.

31) Talking in music when the aliens arrive for their Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

32) Harry Caul finally hears The Conversation properly.

33) Dawn of the Dead – the ghouls are coming for Peter and he’s had enough of this shit, and puts the gun to his head…. And then he’s all like, Nah! Fuck it! I wanna live!

34) Sam Shepard watches the lonely world from his old house in the Days of Heaven.

35) John McClane stands on the edge of a building in Die Hard.

36) Dirty Harry’s lunch is interrupted.

37) Dr Strangelove, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb: “Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!”

38) Donnie Darko laughing in his bed.

39) That fucking dwarf in Don't Look Now.

40) The brutal staking of Barbara Shelley in Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

41) The fight in the sauna in Eastern Promises.

42) The Millenium Falcon enters the asteroid field in The Empire Strikes Back.

43) Snake Plisskan calmly gliding into the ruins of Manhattan in Escape From New York.

44) They just keep going around and around in the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

45) Evil Dead 2: “Who’s laughing now?”

46) eXistenZ: “Hey, tell me the truth... Are we still in the game?

47) The Exorcist: The levels of intensity in that little room at the top of the stairs in the last 20 minutes.

48) Max Klein stands on the edge of a building in Fearless.

49) Milla Jovovich stands on the edge of a building and then just leaps out into the crazy future world of The Fifth Element.

50) The bombs go off at the end of Fight Club, but there is still time for one last dick joke.

51) Queen’s soundtrack for Flash Gordon.

52) The guy who yelled out “What the fuck?” really loudly in the cinema where I was watching From Dusk Till Dawn, at the moment when the vampires showed their faces.

53) Carter watches his car pushed into the water in Get Carter.

54) Ghost Dog on his rooftop, doing his thing in a Wu-Tang world. It’s the Way of the Samurai.

55) The flashback to the dinner at the end of The Godfather Part II, back before it all changed.

56) Goldfinger: Sean Connery leaping for the electrical cable that wins him the fight against Oddjob.

57) Blondie coming back for Tuco and shooting the rope at the end of The Good The Bad and The Ugly.

58) Steve McQueen getting on the bike for the first time in The Great Escape, and just fuckin’ going for it!

59) “Funny how?” - Goodfellas.

60) The wind blowing through wide and empty streets of Haddonfield on late Halloween afternoon, just before the bogey man does his work.

61) Ringo by the canal in A Hard Days Night.

62) The instant the gun battle on the streets of LA starts in Heat.

63) Hudsucker Proxy: “You know, for kids!”

64) Three submarines, one ship and a torpedo in the water in Hunt For Red October.

65) Idiocracy: “Go way! Baitin’!”

66) In the Loop: “Kiss my sweaty balls, you fat fuck!”

67) The minis tearing down the sewer tunnel in The Italian Job, and the way they nearly go right around the pipe.

68) The story of the Indianapolis in Jaws.

69) Sterling Hayden watching all that money blow away in The Killing.

70) The special guest appearance by Buddha Himself in Kung Fu Hustle.

71) Kevin Spacey whispers the name ‘Rolo Tamassi’ to Dudley Smith in LA Confidential.

72) The way Chingachgook and his sons move through the forest in Last of the Mohicans.

73) Leon lets Mathilda into his room.

74) The unseen duel in the Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

75) Isaach De Bankolé enters the bunker where his target is hiding without anybody seeing him in The Limits of Control.

76) The dedication in the book in The Lives of Others.

77) The death of Charlie Wade in Lone Star.

78) Little Samwise Gamgee tells Shelob the great and powerful Spider to back the fuck off in Lord of The Rings: Return of the King.

79) The way Bob Hoskins grits his teeth during the long car ride at the end of The Long Good Friday.

80) The bit in Lost Highway where Patricia Arquette tells Balthazar Getty that he’ll never have her.

81) Bill Nighy spends Christmas with the person he loves most in the world in Love, Actually.

82) Those mental stuntmen in Mad Max 2, and the way they would jump between moving vehicles.

83) The bit in The Matrix where Keanu and Agent Smith are wailing on each other, and then Agent Smith blocks a blow by grabbing onto Keanu's wrist, but Keanu still gets him by stabbing out with his rigid fingers and getting Agent Smith in the throat.

84) Miami Blues: Junior says hello to a Hare Krishna

85) The final bus ride in Midnight Cowboy.

86) The long walk out through the trees to Millers Crossing.

87) Monty Python and The Holy Grail: “Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I'm being repressed!”

88) Monty Python and The Life Of Brian: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

89) Monty Python and The Meaning Of Life: “So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure, how amazingly unlikely is your birth! And pray that there intelligent life somewhere up in space, cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth!”

90) The thing behind the Winkie's diner in Mulholland Drive.

91) Elvis finally appears in Mystery Train, but he doesn’t have anything to say.

92) Charlton Heston, The Omega Man, watching the Woodstock movie at the end of the world.

93) The meathook in Night of the Living Dead.

94) The saddest story ever at the dawn of a brand new day in Night On Earth.

95) The part in O Lucky Man where the tea lady frees Mick Travis.

96) The point in Outlaw Josey Wales where, at long last, nobody has to shoot each other anymore.

97) Robert De Niro’s jagged grin that closes out Once Upon A Time In America.

98) The long ride out to Sweetwater in Once Upon A Time In The West.

99) The last song in Paths of Glory. Anybody who says Kurbick films are all intellect and no heart has no idea what they are talking about.

100) Performance: “I am a bullet”

101) The train tunnel in Pink Floyd The Wall.

102) Bruce Willis shows up to save Julia Roberts from the gas chamber in The Player.

103) They way Arnie says “We’re a vescue team, not assahssins,” in Predator, and then they go off and slaughter everybody in a military camp.

104) The real Mrs Bates says hello at the end of Psycho.

105) Pulp Fiction: “Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”

106) Sending the ultimate mod scooter off a cliff at the end of Quadrophenia.

107) The opening credits to Raging Bull.

108) The bit in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy gets punched in the face by the big bald Nazi for the first time and he goes down like a sack of shit, and then he gets right back up again.

109) The entire pre-credits sequence to Raising Arizona.

110) Chuck Yeager is a man in The Right Stuff.

111) The three seconds of dead silence after everybody has just shot each other in Reservoir Dogs.

112) Toxic waste turns Emil into a sludge of a man in Robocop.

113) The quiet moments in bed, the only times Lola doesn’t have to Run Lola, Run.

114) After years and years of dust and hate, the Duke tells his niece he is taking her home in The Searchers.

115) The flat in Shallow Grave.

116) The bit in Shaun of the Dead where Shaun’s crew meets Yvonne’s group.

117) Andy Dufresne, heading for the Pacific in Shawshank Redemption.

118) The soundtrack for The Shining.

119) The pool orgy in Shivers.

120) The point in Sleeping Dogs where Sam Neill has had enough of the whole bloody lot of them and gives them the fingers and walks away knowing they will shoot him down.

121) Slither: “Bitch is hardcore.”

122) The way all the slaves instantly follow Spartacus’ lead when he snaps, and an invisible revolt fires into life.

123) The moment Khan shows his hand in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and opens fire on the Enterprise.

124) Han Solo and Chewbacca swooping in out of the sun to save the day in Star Wars.

125) The scene in The Straight Story where Alvin is puttering away down the road in his lawnmower, and then the camera pulls up to a beautiful blue sky, and then pans back down and he’s got about 10 metres.

126) The cries of “witch” in the wind in Suspiria.

127) The colour of blood in Taxi Driver.

128) Kyle Reece explaining to Sarah Conner what The Terminator is and what it does.

129) Arnie doing that thing with the shotgun in Terminator 2.

130) Leatherface swinging his saw about in the dawning sun at the end of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

131) Two men beat the crap out of each other in They Live.

132) Two men, waiting to see what happens as the end of The Thing.

133) The wind blowing through the long grass, just before the big battle in Terrence Malick’s Thin Red Line starts.

134) The way Holly Martins is mistaken for a literary fellow in The Third Man.

135) This Is Spinal Tap: “You can’t dust for vomit.”

136) Sick Boy’s shoes in Trainspotting.

137) The way Dennis Hopper knows he is going to die in True Romance, so he insults Christopher Walken on a genetic level.

138) The final bow and chuckle during the last episode of The Truman Show.

139) Ballroom dancing in TwentyfourSeven.

140) Laura Plamer puts on the ring in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

141) William Munny takes his first drink in Unforgiven, when he realises they is killing to be done.

142) Keyser Soze stops walking with that limp in The Usual Suspects.

143) The dream sequences in Vertigo.

144) Air’s soundtrack for The Virgin Suicides.

145) Edward Woodward sees The Wicker Man.

146) The Wild Bunch: “Why not?”

147) Playing the Dane for the wolves in Withnail and I.

148) Videodrome: “Long live the new flesh!”

149) Shark versus zombie in Zombie Flesh Eaters.

150) The final salute from the Zulu nation.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rugby or comics: it’s all bad business

I love rugby, it’s my sport. I’m shit scared about this year’s world cup, because I’m not sure I can take that kind of heartbreak again. I support South Canterbury, the Crusaders and the All Blacks to the end.

And yet – apart from going to see my young nephew chuck a ball around – I haven’t been to a rugby game in a good five years. I love the atmosphere of a good game, and love sitting in the stands as my team show why they’re the best in the world, but I just don’t go to them anymore.

There are a number of reasons, but the decision to move big games into a night setting has caused tremendous harm to the game. Administrators chasing filthy TV lucre have forgotten that the rugby suffers as the ball slips through frozen fingers, and sitting in their lovely warm corporate boxes above the stands, they fail to notice that an enjoyably sunny and crisp winter afternoon in Dunedin can become a miserable night out once that sun goes down behind the hills.

There is also an over saturation of product here in New Zealand. The year stars with loads of Super 15 games, followed by a full-on test series that moves into the provincial competition and ends with more overseas tours. There is only two months off before it all starts over again, a winter sport proving to be a year-round event.

This wouldn’t be so bad if this saturation of the market didn’t result in a dilution of quality, but the world doesn’t work like that. So many games and so many players spread so widely leads to dull predictability, not helped by a strict Tri-Nations format that has been stale for years – more television needs overcoming the good of the game.

And finally there is the price issue – individual tickets for local games are exorbitant, and result in matches attended by literally dozens of people. Given the choice between watching it on the big screen at home or sitting in those frozen stands, most people will stay away, because they can’t be guaranteed value for money.

There are still astonishingly good games of rugby being played every week, but there are also lots and lots of dire ones, where professional athletes handle the ball about as good as my nine-year-old nephew and it’s all dull crash and bash that is only decided by kicking talent.

Ultimately, it’s just not worth the cost to make that risk, and I can’t be the only one put off by the high price of games in this country.

Compare and contrast with the mighty republic of South Africa, the only other country in the world that really gives a fuck about its rugby, where games are still played in sunshine and ticket prices are realistic. Their stands are packed, even for the most hopeless matches. New Zealand rugby has evidently decided that it’s better to have these vast empty coliseums, getting top dollar for individual tickets, rather than a stadium full of cheap seats which would actually generate an atmosphere that guarantees long-term revenue.

So there is this form of entertainment that I enjoy and want to support, but there is too much tedious and overpriced product that fails to deliver value for money, created by an industry that is savaging its long-term gains in favour of the quick buck.

This sounds awfully familiar.

It should sound familiar, the same things that be said about parts of the music, movie and television industries. All of them make the same mistakes over and over again, and only have themselves to blame if they can’t adapt to continually changing technologies.

But if there is one thing I love more than rugby, it’s comics (and Doctor Who). I genuinely love superhero comics and want to buy them, but there is too much tedious and overpriced product that fails to deliver value for money, created by an industry that is savaging its long-term gains in favour of the quick buck.

There are some vigorously entertaining superhero comics available every month, but there are loads and loads that are barely worth $1, let alone the seven bucks they cost around here.

I still try new stuff, thanks largely to an excellent selection of new titles at the local library, but there is little that is truly excited enough to follow. I was weirdly disappointed in the avalanche of new titles DC recently unveiled, with the same old names producing the same old stuff, and actually wish there were more than a handful of titles that grabbed my interest.

I want to buy superhero comics that are competently told, with a sense of goddamn humour and some real humanity in between the super punching, but so many comics are tied into some vast and under-thought master plan that barely holds the attention, or take themselves so damned seriously they just look boring and stupid and old.

I can’t offer up any solutions other than the obvious – good product at a good price will always find a good audience, and even that depends on a common definition of what ‘good’ means, which is never going to happen.

All I really know is that I want to go to rugby games and buy more monthly superhero comic books than I currently do, but if I’m getting nothing but dull product – if I’m not even getting value for money – then I’m not going to do it, and spend that discretionary income elsewhere. Hello, nice restaurants!

Or I can just find the simple pleasures in something that doesn’t have a cynical eye on my wallet. I can cheer on my little nephew from the sideline as these keen kids buzz about the playing field, or stick to the comics that remind me why I liked superheroes in the first place. It’s a shame these instances need to be so rare, but a genuine love of the game, whether it’s rugby or comics, is always going to be attractive.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My six favourite comic romances

I’m a big old softie at heart, and I do genuinely like it when fictional comic characters discover a real romantic spark.

There used to be dozens of romance titles published, but they all faded away over the years as superheroes took an iron grip on the medium. But the romance wasn’t totally dead, and there have been small moments of true passion, and sometimes there are true happy endings, where people do settle down with that special someone.

In superhero comics, settling down with the missus usually doesn’t end well. Both Superman and Spider-man have had their marriages dissolved with time travel and demonic shenanigans. They did both last longer than anybody expected, but they caved in the end.

It didn’t really matter, because there were very few times that Mr and Mrs Kent and Mr and Mrs Parker actually acted like proper couples, and those brief moments of real marriage time showed up on the most obscure places, like Warren Ellis’ JLA: Classified story, which featured a Clark and Lois who felt like a real married couple.

But there are other couples in comic books that have been delightful and educational. Couples that show us how it’s done, couples that are really romantic. Couples like these six:

1. Mina Harker and Allan Quatermain – the romance of the new

The romance between these two 19th century adventurers has been the spine of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. No matter what kind of odd and dramatic situations they found themselves in, Allan is always there for Mina, and she is always there for him.

There are times when they do seem like some strange fantastical creatures, after all the strife they’ve been through and their immortality, Allan and Mina are minor gods, striding through the 20th century in secret steps.

But they’re also the two most human of all the Extraordinary Gentlemen, and have real spark and fire as a couple. They know how to needle each other, and which buttons to push, but that happens to every couple who has been together for a while. Just because every comment is a snarky comment doesn’t mean those words aren’t still dripping with real affection.

It’s there in any couple who have been together for decades, and these two have been together for more than a century. They might snipe and moan like horny teenagers sometimes, but there are several lifetimes of affection there.

The other thing that makes the Mina/Allan couple so enticing is that they never stop looking for new things, and push each other onto strange new experiences. Unlike many other fictional immortals, they still love life and this world, and want to see and feel as much of it as possible.

It’s no fun doing that kind of thing on your own, and that’s why they blaze a path worth following. Go out and see the world with the one you love the most, and the world will love you back.

2. Christine Spar and Brian Li sung – the romance of destruction

The relationship between Christine Spar and Brian Li Sung in the pages of Grendel did not end well for anybody. Within months of their brief and passionate affair, they were both dead, eaten alive by the same demons.

But there was also the sense that they were damned anyway. Christine was a dead woman walking, hollowed out by the death of her son and the burden of that damned mask. Brian was sucked into the world of Grendel, but he was also doomed whether he got close to Christine or not. Nobody got out of Grendel’s world alive.

So when they are together, for just a few short moments, there is this horrible inevitability, but there is also a fragile tenderness between the two lovers.

For those brief slices of time that they are together, all that other misery that is bleeding into their lives is shut off. It can’t be avoided, but it can be postponed.

Their love burns with an intense flame that quickly fizzles out, but at least they feel that heat. Most of us should be so lucky.

3. Wally West and Linda Park – the romance of the slow burn

For a comic that is all about velocity, the romance between Wally and Linda took its own sweet time, and was all the more moving because of it.

Linda started out as a vague secondary character, turned into a romantic interest after a couple of years, and was soon The Flash’s one true love. There was a decade of comics between their first meeting and the moment they finally got married, and like any good relationship, they took the time to get to know each other.

Mark Waid has a spectacular romantic streak, and the team-up of Wally and Linda is one of his highest achievements in superhero comics. The current DC’s focus on Barry Allen has let this relationship fade into the background, but they will always be welcome back, because they have the best stories to tell over the dinner table.

4. Wolverine and Jean Grey- the romance of animal passion

The best thing about Marvel Girl hooking up with the old canuklehead is how wrong it is. Jean belongs with Scott Summers, she’s always been Scott’s girl and that’s the way things should be.

But love doesn’t always work out like that. It’s both way more complicated and far simpler than it looks.

Besides, Cyclops and Marvel Girl were an ideal couple that never really lived up to that ideal. Death and resurrection messed everything up, and Scott didn’t help matters when he went off and married an exact duplicate of Jean with a disturbingly obtuse past.

There was one brief period, after the Inferno shenanigans had sorted out the whole Madeline Pryor thing and before everybody moved back into Jim Lee’s mansion, when Scott and Jean actually acted like a proper couple, but most of the time there was something coming between them, from cosmic craziness to carnal passions.

But the spark that turned into a fire between poor old James and poor young Jean did not start well. Wolverine made his intentions known from the start, but just came across as a cocky little runt. In those Claremont/Cockrum stories, Wolverine is a little creepy, because he hasn’t got that code of honour and long, complicated history that will ultimately define him. When he makes a pass at Marvel Girl in those early issues, you just want Cyclops to open his eyes and blast this arrogant dick apart.

Anything that existed between Jean and Logan simmered slowly over the next few decades. It was still there in those weird John Bolton-drawn back-ups in Classic X-Men, or that time during the mutant massacre when he caught her scent when she was supposed to be dead and went mental.

In fact, it was a passion that was never really consummated. They ended up as a couple in the Age of Apocalypse, and after years and years of flirting that felt perfectly natural. But by the time Scott and Jean called it quits in the real world, she was soon on a spaceship heading for the heart of the sun, and never came back.

Wolverine was with her, at the end.

She could calm him down and he could show who how to live. The fact that it never really worked out for them is a terrific tragedy, but a hell of a story.

5. Midnighter and Apollo – the romance of the obvious

There was some obvious fan-baiting is making a Superman analogue give the glad eye to a Batman duplicate, but taking all those wry smiles from old issues of World’s Finest Comics and turning them into a full blown romance wasn’t that much of a step, or all that surprising.

What was surprising was how well that relationship worked in Stormwatch and the early Authority issues. Warren Ellis created a true couple, who worked together on everything and would do anything for each other. They were a professional, social and romantic partnership that was so logical it was weird that it took so long to form.

What was even more surprising was the deft touch Mark Millar brought to the characters when took over The Authority. Millar is often (rightly) criticised for blowing his big, bombastic moments, but his bits between the super-fighting can be tremendous.

In his Authority comics with Frank Quitely, Millar goes behind closed doors and shows extraordinary beings enjoying an extraordinary life in an extraordinary world, but still makes them human enough to care about. Midnighter and Apollo stop acting for the world when they’re on down-time, and say things to each other that would sound appalling as a public statement, but are often revealed in intimate and private discussions.

Overlooking the world, they are terribly human and insanely powerful, but Apollo and Midnighter are such a comfortable and obvious couple that it’s only natural.

6. Ray Dominguez and Maggie Chascarillo – the romance of comfort

There are a dozen great romances in Love and Rockets, from Heralcio and Carmen to Penny Century and Herb Costignan, but the sweet and blissful hook-up of Maggie and Ray is always my favourite.

Partly it’s because that relationship came just as Jaime Hernandez’s comics were settling on a bold and humanistic style, and partly it’s because they were both at a stage in life where they just needed to chill out and relax for a while, after a very stressful few years.

Two years evaporate in this coupling, glazed over with a nonchalant shrug. Ray and Maggie are comfortable, drifting through things with little care. They’re still going to punk gigs, but they’re more likely to get settled in at a table near the back.

Even its ending was smooth – there was no real break-up, just miscommunications and hurt feelings from a distance, and they all moved on.

There were hints and teases over the past few years that they could get back together, and it really looked like it was happening in the most recent annual issue of Love and Rockets, but it didn’t work out. And it was no disappointment – they were good and fine reasons why they couldn’t continue. It’s hard, but life goes on

I still think that they will get back together in their twilight years. Both of them have a lot they still need to work out, but when they get older and deal with it all, thy will come back and live out their days in some comfort. There is always hope.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The New DC: Change is good

There has been no shortage of commentary on the recent announcements from DC of a line-wide recharge of its superhero comics. You don’t have to go far to find people making breathless checklists and sneering (with a fair amount of justification) at the latest abominably-looking iteration of the Teen Titans.

Unfortunately, the real story is one that nobody can get out of DC. As Tucker Stone pointed out in his latest excellent batch of reviews, all of the current conversation is born of PR and hype, and nobody except DC has any idea of how this mass saturation is going to affect the company’s revenue streams, or the actual difference in numbers between sell-thru and pre-sales.

That’s to be expected – companies don’t release information like that as a general rule, because that would be fiscally irresponsible.

Making an effort at looking at this bigger picture, beyond the fevered solicitation information, should be applauded, but it won’t be happening here. Because I have absolutely no financial stake in the comic book industry, from publishing to retailing, I’m criminally underqualified to make sweeping judgements about what it all means to release 52 new comics in a short period of time in business terms. (Not that this stops a lot of other people.)

But as somebody who has been reading DC comics for 33 years and genuinely enjoying a large swathe of them, I got all sorts of opinions.

Don’t we all?


Basically, I’m all for it, even though I’m only getting one of the new comics.


I have absolutely no personal interest in digital comics, but I do think they are a wonderful thing, getting comics into the hands of people who do like them in that format.

Any sort of moves in this direction will undoubtedly have some unfortunate consequences for comic shop owners, but there are a lot of people out there who don’t have access to any kind of comics and don’t have any problems with reading off an electronic device, so to wilfully ignore this potential audience is ridiculous.


Change is good. It’s always a bit painful, but that’s a small price to pay. New comics, new directions, new ways of thinking about stuff. There is nothing wrong with this. That’s how you get the best superhero comics.

If you throw enough shit at the wall, some of it is bound to stick. Most of it will still be shit, but it’s easier than ever to find the gems in the muck.


One unfortunate side effect of a line-wide reboot is a refusal to acknowledge the past, mixing it up with a reluctance to really start afresh. It’s all about the now, but you can’t write off the recent past.

It was remarkably hard to find any pre-Crisis DC comics when I was hitting the zenith of my comics obsession as a teenager in the late 1980s, mainly because I wasn’t anywhere near a place where I could buy back issues, but also because DC refused to do any kind of reprints. In order to make Crisis seem big and important, the door was closed entirely on the old continuity.

While reprints of stuff going back to the golden age had bulked out dozens of DC titles in the seventies, they were all phased out by the time Crisis finished. Even the digest reprints dried up, and the trade paperback options were severely limited.

It’s a lot different today – some surprisingly esoteric work from every period of comics can be found in print today, and digital back catalogues have a huge amount of value for comic companies, even if they don’t seem to always realise it.

But there is no need to write off everything in the past. Just because the original Superman Red/Superman Blue from the 1950s story doesn’t count any more, doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a witty, dense and moving little comic.

The idea that a reboot of a superhero continuity immediately invalidates everything before it is pretty stupid. That every story that takes place before some editorial kickstart no longer matters. They aren’t important.

Marvel are into it, with ones senior executive joining in the fun by pointing out that the next three months of DC comics no longer count, so obviously all right-thinking people will be buying Deadpool instead.

There is a history to comics that can’t be ignored, no matter how many times they slap a #1 on a cover. It’s always there, no matter how hard you try to ignore it.


There is only one real issue when you do get direct acknowledgement of the past – it means these comic universe don’t ever get the hard reboot they need.

Many of the forthcoming new DC titles seem to be set in strange new worlds, but many – including the Green Lantern titles – are apparently still telling the same story they’ve been doing for the past few years.

A bit of this, and a bit of that. This never works.

It just means that the new great comic wonder writer will have to come along and reset everything again, but there will be some things that everybody tells them to hold onto, and it will all need to be done all over again.

This half-arsed effort is never a good idea. The Legion of Superheroes and Hawkman should have started again with everyone else when Crisis finished, and a refusal to give up the toys led to irreversible damage to the concepts and characters.

All or nothing. Why not give the Green Lantern series a proper ending, with Hal Jordan finally winning his interminable war of colours, and then starting it off again with something genuinely new?

Why not? Because it wouldn’t count? Does Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow still matter just because it was immediately invalidated? Does that wink at the end mean anything?


I have to admit, that after all that, I’m still only definitely buying one new comic out of all this – Action Comics #1.

Even though it has the most boring premise of any of them – we’ve only seen the story of Superman revealing himself to the world a dozen or so times in the past decade – it’s a Grant Morrison Superman comic, and that’s more than enough.

There are plenty I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot Scotsman. Anything by the same people who have been producing the staggeringly boring DC comics of the last few years isn’t going to convince me that its all new and all different just because the same dull creators are working on different characters in an issue with #1 on the cover.

But there is so much stuff being produced that there is bound to be something unexpectedly good in there. All you can do is take the advise of trusted sources and try and get on board with the things that suit your tastes.

After all, these things are still bloody expensive – a $2.99 comics is still more than $7 in local money – and there is no way I can even afford a small and random sampling of new stuff, without some idea of whether or not it’s going to hit the right buttons.


DC’s move is a classic ‘news/not news’ situation – “Comics company relaunches its superhero titles” is not a unique headline.

But it’s fascinating to watch an industry behemoth like DC try something a bit different. Some of the new titles already look laughably bad and misguided, but at least they’re trying.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Game of Thrones (the wife’s version)

We’re a little obsessed with Game of Thrones in our house at the moment, due to things like the phenomenal action choreography, multi-layered betrayals and Peter Dinklage, but sometimes I think the wife likes it for different reasons than I do.

This is all her own work….

(Spoilers, obviously)


The Parade of Exposition

The Starks are lined up to welcome the king to Winterfell. They are Ned and Cat Stark and their kids Robb (like his parents, he's too boring for a comedy name), Censor, Boygirl, Bran Mullpuppy and As Yet Unnamed Baby Brother Hiding Somewhere in the Wings for Potential Future Reference.

Boygirl: Check it out! Here comes King Robert and his queen Slutty Lannister, with her brothers Sleazy and Snarky! They call Snarky the imp. Isn't that fascinating?

Censor: Why are you telling me this?

Boygirl: And there's the king's son Joffrey! Don't be fooled by his 12-year-old visage, I'm betting he's at least 14. Maybe the two of you could hook up!

Censor: Seriously, what is this? I know who they are.

Boygirl: Look at that fellow in the dog helmet! He's scowling ominously! Who knows when he might show up again?

Censor: Would you shut up with the commentary? I'm trying to watch the parade and scope out the blonde kid.

Boygirl: Well you do look very nice and girly, since you're the feminine one. Did you notice my helmet? That means I'm the tomboy.

Censor: SHUT IT! Don't you have some gender stereotypes to break down or something? Bugger off!

Boygirl: And look, there's our illegitimate brother Jon Snow standing in the crowd! Dad named him Yellow when he was going through his Coldplay phase but Jon decided to change it. I don't know why.

Censor: Look! It's Snarky the dwarf! Go fetch, girl!

Boygirl: *tears off in search of Snarky*

Censor: Finally! That kid needs to lay off the crack.


Incest isn't just wrong, it's deadly.

Outside a tower at Castle Stark

Bran Mullpuppy Stark: You know Direwolf Puppy, my mother keeps pointedly telling me not to climb walls as if it's going to be significant to my future or something. Despite the fact that I've yet to fall off anything, she's been making a pretty big deal about it. So I think I'm gonna climb this giant tower.

Direwolf Puppy: Moron.

Bran: Huff…huff…pulling myself up this slippery stone wall for no apparent reason sure is hard, but I have a feeling it's going to be particularly rewarding. Hey, what's that noise?
Direwolf Puppy: I really think you should come down. I've heard that sound before and I don't think you want to…

Bran: What the?!

The Lannister twins are sharing an intimate family moment. On their knees. In the tower room.

Direwolf Puppy: *facepaw*

Bran: Hey! What are you doing?

Sleazy Lannister: Uh, would you believe it was the Heimlich manoeuvre?

Bran: Come on dude. I'm young, not retarded.

Sleazy: *sidles over to the window* Yeeees, young, how old did you say? Ten? And you like stuff? I, myself am particularly fond of stuff, especially my sister as you may have noticed. And although I'm sure you wouldn't tell anyone what you saw, you'll have to understand that I really must - *pushes Bran out the window* - push you out the window.

Slutty Lannister: Would you treat our, I mean my son like this?

Sleazy: Of course not! I'd make sure he hooked up with a more age-appropriate relative than either of us. Although he does have a pretty mouth…


You're in a metaphor!

Meanwhile, somewhere over the sea, Rapey McSavage and Crying Chick get closer.

Rapey McSavage: I am Steve Holt! naked right now. Assume the position!

Crying Chick: No.

RM: Huh?


RM: Oh no I heard you the first time, I just don't understand why you think you have the right to say no to a McSavage.

CC: Because I want to go on top this time so you can look into my eyes and see love. Or something. And totally not catch on to my plan to find a real dragon to smite you and your tribe from the face of the earth. Or something.

RM: On…top?

CC: Uh huh.

RM: Well I don't know about that, I mean us McSavages have always been about the doggy and we're really a one-position tribe and I don't know if that would OH MY GOD THIS IS AWESOME.

CC: And despite your weird eyebrows and terrible hair and makeup, you're still somehow less creepy than my brother.


King Bob’s Jolly Joust of Death

The prosaically named Mountain is getting ready to stick his lance in the Knight of the Flowers. Seriously, that’s his name.

Littlefinger: I shall bet a whore’s weight in gold on the Mountain.

Prince McCloset: *sniggers*

Littlefinger: Something you want to say there, George Michael?

Prince McCloset: You’re so going to lose Littlefinger. No one can defeat the Knight of the Flowers. Not wearing that ghastly armour. And just look at that beard! *shudders*

Littlefinger: Maybe when I win, I’ll buy the Mountain a makeover.

Prince McCloset: Or maybe you could buy yourself another one of those David Bowie man-dresses you’re so fond of, Littlefinger. Oh I’m sorry, is that a coat?

They snark at each other until the joust begins.

The Mountain’s Horse: I can do this. I can do it. Yes I can. This is it! Pumped! *prances a bit, hums Eye of the Tiger*

The Mountain’s Horse: Omph! This guy weighs a freaking tonne. It’s ok. Winning! Just run in a straight line like last time. Ok? Ok! Yeah!

They joust, the Mountain is unseated.

The Mountain’s Horse: What the…?! I ran in a line just like last time! How did this go wrong? What the hell did he do? He looks pretty pissy. Why does he have that sword? Hey! What are you…aargghhghgurglegurgle.

The Mountain decapitates his horse.

Prince McCloset: Oh what a shame, Littlefinger. You would have looked so pretty in some paisley.

Littlefinger: Whatevs, Brokeback Mountain. Tell me, which one of you is Jake Gyllenhaal? I’m guessing it’s you cos your buddy there looks waaaay too comfortable with a big stick in his hand to be the catcher if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Prince McCloset: Sweet fancy Moses, how did he find out the Knight of the Flowers was gay?!

C'mon baby, light my Dragonfire

Casper Milkface (brother to Crying Chick) and his Whore of the Moment are in the tub.

WoM: You know what I love?

CM: Guys without much pigment?

WoM: Dragons. I looooooove dragons.

CM: Did I mention I was part dragon? That's right, one of my ancestors got it on with a giant lizard. That turning you on?

WoM: Tell me more!

CM: Well we had a whole bunch of dragon skulls at my house…

WoM: Yes! YES!

CM: And I used to talk to them all because I was a normal and well-balanced child. Their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen….

WoM: *pulling his hair in fits of passion* MORE! TELL ME MORE!

CM: But then we redecorated and the skulls got sold at a flea market.

WoM: Way to kill the vibe there. Seriously, I was this close.


Casper strides in and flings a hapless servant at the feet of his sister, Empress Crying Chick.

CM: How dare you! Who do you think you are, ordering me around, letting the horse people give me the beat-down and inviting me to dinner?!

CC: Cool your jets, Cotton Wool. Look, I had a gift made for you.

CM: A leather girdle?! You know I don't have the pecs for this! WHY DO YOU TAUNT ME!!!
*Struggle in which he tries and fails to slap his sister but she manages to deck him*

CC: You listen here! These are my people and my horseys and my incredibly large and angry husband and if you touch me with your creepy wandering hands again I will drug you and let my hubby Malcolm McDowell you because let's face it, all us pale folks look the same to him from behind. Don't think I won't!

CM: *snivels quietly*


Party at Tent McSavage

Casper Milkface: Check out my amusingly native sister eating that horse's heart. She'll never keep it down although I hear she's pretty good at swallowing ifyouknowwhatImean.

Traitor O'Noble: Dude, you creep me out something fierce.

Crying Chick: Nom nom nom nom.

McSavages: *chant rhythmic gobbledegook*

Crying Chick: Nom nom nom ugh…ugh…

Casper Milkface: Here comes the puking!

Crying Chick: GULP.

McSavages: Huzzah!

Crying Chick: I have a prince growing inside me! And his name shall be…..RINGO!!

McSavages: Rin-go! Rin-go!

Rapey McSavage: Oh man, I'm really more of a Lennon guy. I wonder if we can make Ringo his middle name…..


Ned Stark, Boy Detective

Ned: Censor, Boygirl, I need you both to go home to Winterfell where it's safe.

Censor: But I don't want to go! I want to stay here and marry Joffrey and give him babies with golden hair!

Ned: Actually, they'd probably be ging…

Censor: GOLDEN HAIR. They will look nothing like the ugly king, just like Joffrey looks nothing like his supposed father!

Ned: Wait. A. Second. My spidey sense is tingling but I don't know why. Go and pack while I think about it.

*Ned goes for a walk in the garden*

Ned: Hmmm.

*Gets a shave*

Ned: Hmmm.

*Polishes his armour*

Ned: Hmmm.

*Reads the giant Who's Who of the Seven Kingdoms*

Ned: Robert's grandfather: black hair. Robert's father: black hair. Robert: black hair. Joffrey: golden hair. Hmmm…



To be continued…

Friday, June 10, 2011

Venture Bros: Not very Batman!


“Jock rock my ass! Listen to those lyrics, man! It’s all about love and longing!”


“Yes, and hobbits too. Look, it’s a metaphor! They wrote about a lot of other stuff! Why am I arguing with a robot?”



“Are you okay? Dr O said that you’re probably insane now and that you’ll never be the same.”

“Heh heh. Are you kidding? *sighs* Okay, I’m just turning sixteen and having a birthday pool party. My father invites every girl he knows, and I’m not talking about girls my age. No, not Jonas! He invites Playboy bunnies and models and I think actual whores. Y’know, real prostitutes. So there I am in my giant bathing suit with nervous puberty oozing out of my gigantic pores. Just awful! So the band suddenly stops playing and I hear ‘And now, the man of the hour: Rusty Venture!’ All eyes on me, right? Then suddenly – almost predictably – the Action Man shoots my groin with a shrink ray right as that fucking jackass Colonel Gentleman pulls my shorts down.”

“Wow. That’s like a nightmare. “

“Oh no! No! What I went through today was ‘like a nightmare’. What happened when I was 16? That is my life.”


“Compromise, my friend, is the essence of diplomacy, and diplomacy is the cornerstone of love... Sweeeeeet loooove….”



“Dean! Noooo! (picks up the headphones) Oh, my God, it’s side two of Dark Side of the Moon! He’s in a Floyd hole! Fill the tub up with ice, now!”




“Goo goo.”




“And I'm staying in the car! We! We are staying in the car.”

“We haven't been outside in 30 years. I'm old and I'm afraid of everything.”

“I'm afraid the streets are overrun with teenage gangs!”

“Teenagers are cruel and they will undoubtedly taunt us because our trousers are not in style any more.”

“And we are two heads on one body. And that has never, ever been hip!”



“This is important!”

“What could be more important that your family, Richard?!?”




“That’s it! I’m gonna bash the door down with my secret mind powers! Back up Tim-tom!”

“You don’t have secret powers!

“That’s because they’re secret. Maybe even to me!”

“But I have a key to the door.”

“Aw, whatever. It’s just… Now we’ll never know if I have secret mind powers.”’



“Do we have souls?”

“Yes, but they're not quite souls, but that’s the general idea, everything has a soul.”

“Crap, so I guess I should become vegetarian.”

“No, like everything living has a soul, even spinach. You can't win.”

“So, that's a problem.”

“Here's something. You know how people cry about aborting babies because of their soul? Turns out you don't get a soul until you're like one.”

“So weird. One. Really?”

“Or maybe six months. I forget. Either way, you're just this little crying, pooing monster blob until you get your soul.”


"We had a drunken threesome! Join the BLEEPing club! We're villains, you crybaby! We swing! I watched my wife BEEP Manticlaw's BEEP and then make him breakfast!"

"Is this true?"

"Eggs and buttered toast."



“Boom yummy!”

Saturday, June 4, 2011

31 Days

Writing 31 reviews of 31 comics in 31 days, and starting it on the day I also began a brand new job for the biggest newspaper in the country, seemed very foolish at several points over the past month. But I got there in the end.

Every review I’ve done in the past few weeks has been written on the day it was first posted. I had a pile of comics sitting beside the computer at home, would pick one at random every day and try and say something about it. There were about fifty of them, and I couldn’t find the right way to hook into some of them, including an issue of Not Brand Echh, Daredevil #219, Captain Marvel #34, Piracy #1, Doctor Who: The Forgotten, Roarin’ Rick’s Rare Bit Fiends, Excalibur #14, Sandman: Three Septembers and a January, Sweet Tooth #21 and the Superman Supacomic.

I’m deeply fond of all of these comics, and I will try to say something about all of them at one point. Especially the Supacomic, which might be my favourite comic book of all time. I’m not joking, if my house is burning down, I’m grabbing the Supacomic before I get the photo albums.

But I hope the comics that had something I did manage to talk about showed just how much I fucking love comic books. All kinds.

You’re allowed to love the most mini of mini-comics just as much as some far out superheroics, for vastly different reasons. You can do anything with comics, and it’s so much fun to see people do just that.

I tried to find something nice to say about everything, because there was usually something there. Even in that Green Lantern: Blackest Night book, which was all kinds of terrible, there was still old Dougie Mahnke on pencils, and I came in wanting to like the comic. I really did. I loved the idea. I just hated every storytelling turn it took.

Anyway, here is a handy one-stop list of the 31 Days of Comics.

1. I thought the Megalomaniacal Spider-Man has a lovely ending.

2. Prog 2011 was as good as these year-end progs ever are, but hinted at a foreboding future.

3. I always thought the Eltingville crews ruled.

4. I got all soppy over The Flash #129.

5. Palooka-ville #1 wasn’t what I expected.

6. Miller and O’Neill rocked my free world in Marvel Tales #200.

7. Captain America/Thor: The Mighty Fighting Avengers #1 was free

8. Green Lantern: Blackest Night was disappointing

9. I still don’t know what to make of Defenders 39

10. Sergio Aragones Destroys DC: In my country, Sergio is a God. And Evanier is his Pope.

11. Two Langridge comics in five days with Zoot Suite

12. There is primordial Hitch in 20-year-old Superman annuals.

13. I always think I’ve got all the good charity comics, and then I find something like Food For Thought.

14 Moore was grump with DC by the time Swamp Thing #60 came around, but he could still produce some truly graceful storytelling by loving the alien

15. At least Rachel got her happy ending in one of those What Ifs?

16. American Splendor: Unsung Hero showed that Harvey Pekar was a fine biographer, and not just when he was writing about his own life.

17. It took a long while for Shoot to show up in Vertigo Resurrected #1, but when it did, it had lost a lot of its power.

18. Deadwood diversion.

19. Star Wars: Boba Fett: Bounty on Bar-Kooda. If you want some good action comics, you can’t go wrong with Wagner and Kennedy.

20. I want to like the Teen Titans much more than I do.

21. I like where The Boys is going.

22. New Gods #2 – in which a 40-year-old comic has more power and energy than anything on modern stands.

23. Son of the Gun might be a relatively simple Jodorowsky comic, but it’s still a Jodorowsky comic.

24. Oh, Mario.

25. The JLI influence was strong in Starman #35

26. Hyper-compressed storytelling in the Judge Dredd Collection

27. Who theorising

28. Absolute power doesn’t have to corrupt absolutely in Batman Incorporated

29. Grendel in transition

30. Indiana Jones is my nostalgia porn

31. Kung Fu isn’t easy to do in comics, but Shaolin Burning does it.

After all that, I’m taking the next week of from blogging, and normal service will resume next Friday with the usual half-arsed post every three or four days. Don’t expect anything about the avalanche of new title announcements out of DC (same old creators = same old shit), but there will certainly be some Venture Bros and Game of Thrones fun.