Tuesday, October 31, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #31. I choose comics

We all go through that moment where we wonder if we're getting too old for this shit. Usually somewhere in the teens, we wonder if we should give up childhood pleasures, and focus more on the grown-up world. It's a real choice.

I'm at home in Temuka, somewhere in the very early nineties, and I'm really thinking that maybe I should give up these stupid comics and be more of an adult, but I just got the first issue of the New Warriors, and it's so slick and so fresh and so new...

I choose comics. I choose comics, and the physical shackles of having a mad, sprawling collection that I'm only just getting under control now. I choose comics, and a lifetime of seeking out and hording the bloody things, and I have never, for one second, regretted that choice.

I choose comics, or they choose me. No difference, same thing.

Monday, October 30, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #30: The night the Doctor came back

The night Doctor Who finally comes back on air after 15 years in the wilderness, I should be on the couch, ready and waiting for the return of the best TV programme ever, ready for another adventure in time and space.

Instead, I’m in the back of an ambulance, helping keep a car crash victim steady after a cop called out for help when I was covering the incident for the local newspaper, and the show can bloody well wait.

It’s the right thing to do. It’s the Doctor thing to do.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #29. Upgrading to CDs with Pulp

When we get home from the pub at three in the morning, the video for the new single from Pulp – Disco 2000 – is playing on the TV, and I realise I have to get a CD player.

This is a time when the year 2000 still sounded a long way off, but I was still well behind the ball on getting a CD machine. This is nothing new, I am terminally slow at catching up with the latest tech, and I was still happy with the massive pile of cassette tapes I’d been blasting for the past decade.

But that Pulp song sounded so new and so modern, I had to get the Different Class album on the slickest format. So the very next morning, still hungover as hell, I get a new stereo system on HP, and get the album, and also get a free tee-shirt that is down the bottom of the wardrobe. Result.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #28: Preachering in Monument Valley

When you’re growing up on the arse end of the world, Monument Valley - and its epic evocation of the American West - might as well have been on the moon. I never expected to actually get there one day, but I wasn’t surprised that the first thing I wanted to do when I stood in the shadow of those literally awesome monoliths was read that issue of Preacher that was set there.

Friday, October 27, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #27: Khan’s wrath made a great first date

I’m only 7 when the second star Trek film comes out. I hadn’t even seen the first one (although I still, to this day, have my little Spock and Kirk and Ilia action figures, which proved a lot more durable that their Star Wars counterparts).

But I’ve seen the ads on the telly, and am desperate to see the new film, and only slightly horrified when my Mum only lets me go if I go on a date with Katie, a girl from my neighbourhood. Despite my intense and entirely rational fear of cooties, I get over it for the Star Trek.

Me and Katie have a great time, and she’s into the film even more than I am, showing this dumb little boy that girls can like the nerdy stuff too. It's not a bloody competition. We can just enjoy it together.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #26: New roads open up at the airport

It’s all very sad, saying goodbye to my big sister, who is off to live in Australia for a few years, but after saying goodbye at the gate, I am heading straight for the airport bookstore, because holy shit, it’s a DC motherlode in there.

For some reason, the bookshop there has a tonne of DC comics from the past few years, all going super cheap, and it’s not just the junk, it’s all the great, weird late ‘80s/early 90s comics, and a large chunk of Armageddon 2001 annuals.

I’m all loaded up with asparagus-picking money and go a bit crazy and buy heaps of the slick new thrills. Most of these comics never come close to my little corner of the world, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen a lot of them.

That’s where I first read my first issue of Sandman, and my first Hellblazer, and the first Doom Patrol.  They’re only bite-sized chunks of these brilliant comic sagas, but it leaves a huge hunger for more that is still barely sated.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #25: Tom Baker’s grin

When I see Tom Baker’s big goofy grin staring up at me from pile of junk put out on the street for the local council’s latest round of inorganic collections, my first thought is that there is no way that it could be part of a pile of hundreds of Doctor Who Magazine back issues, impossible to find anywhere, just sitting on the road, ready for anybody to pick up and take away.

But that’s exactly what it bloody well is.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #24: Bonding for life over the Judge Child

So this kid Kyle, who I’ve just met after starting Miss Green’s class at Temuka Primary in early 1985, he reckons he’s into comics too, and says he’ll lend me the issue of the Judge Child Quest, if I want. He seems pretty cool.

Thirty-three years later, we’re still incredible geeks about things like Doctor Who and the X-Men. We’re a hell of a lot older now, but when it comes to this shit, we never really grew up.

The other week we went for an eight-hour drive just to go check out the comic book possibilities of Dunedin. He still seems pretty cool.

Monday, October 23, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #23: Birthday movies

My birthday is exactly one week after New Year's, so usually falls on the one weekend of the year nobody wants to party any more.

So from a very young age, instead of parties, I grab some mates and go to the movies. I see a Bill and Ted film for my 17th, waste one birthday at the godawful Batman Forever, and see at least three different Star Trek films.

The best was probably my 40th, when I see John Wick at some hipster cinema in Portland, Oregon, after a night of deep degustation and classic video games. Some people want to rock all night and party every day, but I'd rather sit in the dark with the wife and watch Keanu shoot gangster scum in the face.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #22: Break open your heart

The only right and proper place in all of this gleaming, shining space-time curve of the universe to read the Invisibles is on some beach in the mid-1990s, brain swirling with a cocktail of drugs and alcohol and dodgy existential ideas.

It always worked for me, anyway.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #21: One day of geek hell

Sometime in 2003, I visit my little sister in Sydney, and it's great to catch up, and the short holiday gets even better when I find a bunch of 2000ads going cheap at a second-hand place in the centre of town.

I'm in a peak 2000ad period, and especially obsessed with the latest deepening of the Judge Dredd and the balls-to-the-wall thrills of Nikolai Dante. So I'm trying to snap up all the issues I've missed over the past eight years, a task that is proving surprisingly difficult, and when I see ones that are only a couple of years old, going for an Aussie buck each, I grab a fucking shit-ton of them.

To be more accurate, I end up walking out of there with about seven of eight kilograms worth of comics, which isn't a big deal, until I remember that my sister's place is a good few kays away from the train station, and I gotta walk there in the early summer heat, because I've blown all my cash on comics.

There have been a couple of times when being a total fucking nerd has almost got me killed, and this was one of them. I sometimes think that if I die and go to hell, it will all go a bit Sisyphus, and it will be something like that endless fucking walk along baking Sydney streets, carrying a dead weight of printed paper and getting weaker and weaker, and getting to the end of the journey, only to discover they were a bunch of issues I already have.

Friday, October 20, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #20: Up all night watching music videos with my mates

And when we’ve all just moved out of home, and are far away from Mum and dad, we discover we can stay up all night watching music video channels until dawn, and nobody is going to stop us. We’re grown ups now, and can do what we want, and what we want to do is watch music videos all night.

We ended up doing it a lot, and every night would end with a mission to the 24 dairy for some supplies, and a climb up some hill to meet the sun. It was so easy back then, but I am old now, and the last time I stayed up all night, it took me three days to recover.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #19: Missing the Battlestar

My relationship with the lovely wife started as a long distance relationship, which meant we spent a lot of time on the phone for a couple of months, before she made the ultimate sacrifice and moved to Blenheim with me.

At the time, Battlestar Galactica had just been rebooted, and was playing on Friday nights, and the soon-to-be wife would always ring up 10 minutes into a new episode, and I would completely miss what was happening. I got so lost, I gave up the series altogether, and didn’t catch up on this missing episodes until after the series had ended. Even though I was really enjoying the show, I gave it up without a second thought, because some things are more important than some TV show.

Spending a Friday night watching Battlestar Galactica is a fine thing, but sometimes a boy just needs to get out of the house and meet some girls.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #18: My first paycheck

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

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

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

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

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

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

You never forget your first comic book shop.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #9: Drunk as fuck at From Dusk Till Dawn

I used to make a habit of going to the movies while completely shitfaced, which never really worked out as well as I planned.

But I was stone cold sober when the funniest drunken moment I ever saw in a cinema happened. It was a late night screening of From Dusk Till Dawn, on the first weekend it was out, and the dude who slumped in his seat two rows in front of us was obviously off his tits. He seemed to fall asleep pretty quickly, and you could hear him quietly snoring during the tense hostage drama of the first half.

And then the vampires showed up, and that woke Drunkey McDrunk the hell up, because just as situation in the Titty Twister devolved into bloody carnage, he sat bolt upright in his seat and screamed out ‘WHAT THE FUCK?!?’

Nobody had told him about the vampires, and he obviously thought it was just another crime drama, like all the other Tarantino knock-offs at the time. Until it suddenly wasn't.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #8: The days 2000ad (future) shocked me

I’ve been reading 2000ad on the street for nearly 40 years now, and whether it was spinning out over the Zenith revelation, or the double hit of Necropolis-era Judge Dredd, I always, always remember where I am when 2000ad hits me with a twist so full of thrillpower it stops me in the tracks.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #7: Back of the bookstore

I was buying an issue of John Wagner and Cam Kennedy's Outcasts comic from the second hand bookstore on Sydenham Road in Christchurch, when the owner told me that if I was interested in comics, I should check out what he had in the back.

That usually meant a pile of worthless Eagle or New Universe comics, but it turned out the dude used to own a comic store in town, and all of his back issue stock, mainly from the late eighties, was still piled high on the shelves in the room out back, all for sale for a buck fifty each.

I went a bit crazy that first day, finally finishing off painfully incomplete runs of the slightly esoteric comics from that period, and taking a stab at all sorts of series I’d never even read before.

That craziness didn’t die down for a while. It was hot as hell that whole summer, but after cooling off at the beach, I would spend hours in that cramped, stuffy room, dropping sand everywhere. The shop is long gone now, the building another victim of the city’s devastating 2011 earthquake, but that moment of walking into a room full of weird, almost unsellable comics was the best moment of the summer.

Friday, October 6, 2017

31 days of dork heaven #6: Off to Rohan with the Virgin Suicides and Wonder Boys

I wasted far too much of my 20s getting stoned with my mates and going for vast, rambling road trips all over the South Island. Sunday drives to the West Coast might be a 10-hour round trip, but they made good ice creams in Westport, and it was something to do.

One of the best was one Saturday afternoon, where we decided to bash around the countryside and find some sets for Lord of the Rings, which was shooting in our back country at the time. It took ages to get up there, and find what we were looking for, although getting stuck in a crowd of horseman brandishing big fuck-off swords was a good sign we were on the right rack. We ended up parking up surprisingly close to the Halls of Rohan, and got fucking munted on some sweet oil that Spook had scored.

That was fun, but one of the best parts of that particular trip was the reading material I'd taken along. I always took a book on these drives, to get through the long stretches of familiar landscape, and on this particular trip, I blazed through The Virgin Suicides on the drive up, and got through almost all of The Wonder Boys on the way down.

Neither of the books had been turned into movies yet (although they were both on the way), and for one brief, golden afternoon, I went to Middle Earth while high on cannabis and the crippling ennui of growing up in 20th century America. It was a surprisingly good mix.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #4: A double dose of Pulp

If my young man movie obsession ever peaked at one particular point, it was probably the day me and Anthony drove up to Christchurch on a Sunday to watch Pulp Fiction twice.

Antz was just as much a movie freak as I was at that age - at its worst, we would later compete to see who could see Escape From LA at the cinema the most - and we were both definitely on Team Tarantino after Dogs had blown our minds. When it opened, it wasn’t playing in our home town, so we had to drive 200kms to see it, and we didn't hesitate.

We saw Pulp Fiction for the first time at 10am on a Sunday morning, and since we had made the effort, went to four other films throughout the day. I honestly can’t remember what the other films were, (although I have a sneaky suspicion one of them was Linklater’s Slacker), but when we were about to head on the long drive back home, Antz suggested going back and seeing Pulp for a second time late in the day, and I couldn’t argue with his plan.

In the end, we didn’t get home until well after midnight, and it was hell getting up for work the next morning, but it was totally worth it. I’d never seen the same film twice in a theatre in the same day, and haven’t done it again since, but Pulp was always worth it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #3: Driving with the lights off

I was so fucking excited to get my full driver's license, after a lifetime of being chained to semi-rural South Canterbury, so the first thing on the day I got it was borrow Dad's car and drive right across town to buy the latest issue of Justice League America.

I felt so mature, and so free, and so on top of the world, right up until the moment I realised I'd been driving around town at night without my headlights on.

I don't read the Justice League anymore, but I always, always check my headlights are on.

Monday, October 2, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #2: On a mountain in Mongolia, reading Love and Rockets

We were travelling through the lower part of Mongolia when I got some awful food poisoning. It was bad and nasty and at one point I was sure Dani Moonstar was coming to take me away to Valhalla. But I also got over it surprisingly quickly, thanks to lemon tea, the bracing Mongolian air, and the local tendency to treat any illness with 'drink more vodka'.

So two days after I was puking my fucking guts out, while the lovely wife and the rest of the tour were off on a horse trek, I scrambled up the side of the nearest small mountain with some dry cheese, a bottle of apple vodka and my battered copy of Duck Feet: volume six of the Complete Love and Rockets, and read about Carmen and Doyle and Israel and Tony. It was a beautiful spot up there, with one of the country's few clear and empty lakes below, and I was so far away from the rest of the planet, and I had to stop reading to take in the whole thing, because I was getting a bit emotional up there.

When I saw them coming back from the trek, far below, I packed away the Love, and tumbled down the mountain with the last of the vodka swirling around in my cup, and I didn't spill a fucking drop.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

31 days of nerd heaven #1: The day the Unknown Soldier taught me how to read

Most of the greatest moments of my life don't involve comic books and movies and TV shows, but a lot of them do.

Of course, the best days were the ones where I met my wife, and courted her, and won her fair hand, and all the days since, and all the places we've been, and all the weird shit we've seen together, and all the love we've shared. Nothing compares to that.

But I've also been a total fucking dork my entire life, and there are days I still remember with tremendous fondness, because that was the day I first read some comic that made me think new thoughts about the world, or watched a film that moved me beyond words, or just really fucking enjoyed some piece of pop culture bullshit.

Even though I had a huge crush on Ms Marvel from a very early age, it really starts with the day I realised I could understand every word in an Unknown Soldier comic. I was only five or six, and still already deeply invested in comic books, swapping out a grocery bag full of everything every Tuesday down at the second hand bookshop where my Nana Smith worked.

I was still earning to read - shit, I learned a new word yesterday, so I don't think you ever stop - but I would try to understand every word in all the big boy comics like Sgt Rock and X-Men, not just the easy Whizzer and Chips. And I still remember finishing off the latest issue of the Unknown Soldier while driving to the store one afternoon, and the brilliant realisation that I could follow all the words.

Like a junkie, I'm still chasing that rush of such an intellectual breakthrough. And like a junkie, I've come close a couple of times, while never quite matching the original high.

There is going to be a lot of this kind of trite sentimentality at the Tearoom over the next few weeks, but that's par for the course. I'm on holiday, and I'm all about the trite sentimentality.