Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Bad reviews

It's taken a while, but I think I've finally learned to deal with professional reviewers who use the phrase 'deus ex machina' because they think it makes them sound clever, even though they clearly have no idea what it actually means. But any critic who puts forward the idea that it's easier to write an episode of a television show that has less dialogue than the previous installment has nothing worth saying about art or the production of it.

And I definitely don't have any time for anybody who starts moaning about a 'Mary-Sue' to describe a competent character, like that shit wasn't old in the '80s.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Roger Langridge on the radio

I work for an organisation that broadcasts interviews with the brilliant Roger Langridge on national radio, so I must be doing something right in life:

Sunday, April 28, 2019

I still miss Steve and Carlos so bad

I still can't quite get my head around the idea that we now live in a world without new comics from Carlos Ezquerra and Steve Dillon. This is the darkest of all timelines.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Somewhere in time and space

Somewhere in the 1960s, Sydney Newman is leaning back in his chair in his office at the BBC TV Centre, and realises he can just replace Bill with a different actor, and is accidentally setting a template for a show that will be infinitely renewable, and always new.

Friday, April 26, 2019

If a city fell, we would all feel it

The recent catastrophic fire at the Notre Dame cathedral shows just how hollow large -cale entertainments that rely on the destruction of a city really are. The cathedral fire - which claimed no lives and did not have a material impact on the superstructure of the building - upset a lot of people, sometimes for weird reasons, and it's literally impossible to imagine how we'd cope with the destruction of, say, a major city.

Take the moment in the second GI Joe movie, where the bad guys effectivly wipe out London with a death weapon from space. It comes midway through the film as a bid to raise the stakes, and then quickly moves on to more scenes of the Rock flexing those amazing biceps.

GI Joe movies are purely dopey entertainment, so it glosses over the fact the good guys have already lost, because hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of people have been brutally killed, and one of the major cities of the world, and all the treasure it contains, has been wiped from history. Everything they do after that doesn't make up for this apocalyptic failure.

If a city was destroyed like this in the real world, the whole planet would lose their goddamn minds. The loss of life would be astronomical, and there would be countless actors, writers, artists and politicians among the dead. There would be an irreparable loss of history and great architecture as one of humanity's greatest ever cities burns.

It might be a bit much to expect a GI Joe movie to reflect on the ramifications of the carnage it bloodlessly smears across a cinema screen - and even the writers knew that the destruction destroyed the whole film - but you can't just blow up a city like that with a shrug. Humans don't work that way, and neither do our stories about them.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Comic Muppet Book: Off-brand and proud of it

- Scenes from the Comic Muppet Book, a slightly unsettling British comic from 1979, with notably off-brand Muppets, a really painful-looking pimple and a lot of cabbage. Written by Jenny Craven and drawn by Graham Thompson.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Czarface: Wonder Twins powers activate - form of some fly shit!

Keeping track of all the various Wu-Tang Clan side-projects can be a full-time job, so I've only just caught up with the absolute glory of Czarface - the immortal Inspectah Deck's collaboration with 7L and Esoteric, (with a few Wu brothers stepping in on various albums).

It's all I want to listen to right now - all those old-school beats, huge and dirty fuzz bass, haunting samples from a cheesy 70s and the usual complex wordplay from some of the medium's very best. Who could ask for more?

And it's got one of the things I like most about the Clan in abundance - they just don't give a flying fuck about how nerdy they get. There has always been that obsessive kung-fu geekness in all their work, but Czarface is particularly dorky. Everyone is as badass as 'Jeremy Renner, Silent Weapon Avenger' and the world is as dark as an Arkham Knight, and there are dropped references to Ra's Al Ghul and Randy Savage and the Wonder Twins and Mr Magoo and Professor X and the Fonz.

In a world full of secret shames, where arseholes can STILL get sniffy about science fiction, it's still a blast to see artists who let their geek flag fly proudly, because they clearly don't give a fuck what anybody else thinks.  That's some fly shit.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Blood and bone in the Star Wars

Long before it ever regularly played on TV, or was even really available on video tape, one of the few ways to relive the glory of the first Star Wars was through the novelisation, even though it totally made me sick one time.

To be fair, I was feeling like a poorly 8-year-old already, because I was in hospital to have an operation on my sinuses. But I had a couple of Indiana Jones comics that Mum had got for me, and I had the Star Wars novelisation to re-read while I lay in bed recovering.

It's a terrific little book, and one of the few novelisations I would ever return to, over and over again. It wasn't that there was a huge amount of new material - although there were a few scenes that weren't in the movie - but that author Alan Dean Foster had given the whole gritty galaxy even more details, and extra levels of that lived-in feeling that made the movies so appealing.

And then, in the first few pages, as the fight on a fleeing spaceship suddenly ramped up, the detail got a bit too much. It was all the talk of flesh and bone being ripped apart by blaster fire that got me, and my imagination was full of bits of human beings floating through space

It genuinely made me ill, and I had to stop reading it for a while, and go back to the Indiana Jones comics, where people still died in tasteful ways, without any of the viscera.

But I still kept going back to the Star Wars book, because anything that makes you feel anything, even if it's a gross physical reaction, has to be worth something. It's a great little book, gore and glory and all.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Marvel movies: Death of the auteur and the triumph of the second unit

It's interesting that the biggest film of the year is directed by a couple of guys most people wouldn't recognise in the street. Avengers: Endgame will make all the money in the world when it comes out this week, but the Russo brothers are almost completely anonymous.

It's not like the first wave of blockbuster filmmakers - everyone knew who Spielberg and Lucas and Coppola were, they were almost as big as the movies themselves. Instead, the biggest films on the planet right now are largely made by guys you wouldn't look at twice in the supermarket.

Marvel might argue that their creators are craftsmen more than anything, and there is the odd brush with  an idiosyncratic vision - which usually means you get things like Taika Waititi putting jokes you'd usually hear on K Road at three in the morning into a family-friendly movie - but even then, these things have to serve the larger uber-story. They have to remain within a certain aesthetic and style, without too much deviation from the norm.

The auteur theory isn't totally dead - creators like Nolan and Tarantino and Scorsese get to do whatever the hell they want, and their films have distinct tones, atmospheres that others can not replicate. There are dozens of great filmmakers who rock along to their own vibe, and long may they last.

But in most blockbuster cinema, it feels like the rise of the second-unit crew, professionals who work to a strict standard of craft, without worrying too much about style.

Obviously, second unit production can make or break any big action film - the James Bond films live and die by the strength of the absolutely insane shit the stunt crew are pulling, while John Glen was trying to make Roger Moore look young on some beach.

So the Marvel films often deliver in this regard, and you end up with some nice, solid second-unit action. But when the creators are so anonymous and so little of their individualistic voice gets through to the final product, you're just not going to get any real flourishes of style or storytelling ingenuity - the movies are still impressed by storytelling tricks that were old hat in comics in the 1980s - because these all follow such a precise formula.

It's still working, for now, but this road inevitably leads to more blandness. Anybody making millions of dollars from these things is quite happy to go unrecognised at the grocery store, but maybe we need more directors walking around in pineapple pyjamas.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Urban legends: 'Ram it, clown!'

From The Big Book of Urban Legends (Paradox Press 1994), adapted from the works of Jan Harold Brunvand by Robert Loren Fleming and Robert F Boyd Jr
Art by Ned Sonntag

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Urban legends: Red Velvet Cake

From The Big Book of Urban Legends (Paradox Press 1994), adapted from the works of Jan Harold Brunvand by Robert Loren Fleming and Robert F Boyd Jr
Art by Andrew Paquette

Friday, April 19, 2019

Urban legends:The Nude Housewife

From The Big Book of Urban Legends (Paradox Press 1994), adapted from the works of Jan Harold Brunvand by Robert Loren Fleming and Robert F Boyd Jr
Art by Joe Orlando

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Urban legends: The Failed Suicide

From The Big Book of Urban Legends (Paradox Press 1994), adapted from the works of Jan Harold Brunvand by Robert Loren Fleming and Robert F Boyd Jr
Art by Michael Avon Oeming