Monday, August 31, 2020
Feeling an awkward and powerful emotional attachment to a comic book is bad enough when it's actually a good comic, full of gorgeous art and poetic writing. When you have that kind of deep connection with the first issue of Eclipso: The Darkness Within, you've probably got a problem.
Like everything else in this weird universe we all somehow exit in, it's all about the context. That issue of the comic book came out the exact month I left school and started looking for a job, and that's a pretty big fuckin' time in anybody's life. I was 17 and a complete DC comics freak and I wanted that first issue of Eclipso so bad, and it was sitting on the bookshelf taunting me at Baird's Bookshop, and I didn't have any fucking money.
It was a $8.95 issue in my part of the world, twice the cost of an X-Men or New Warriors comic, and you didn't get a lot of DC comics in my ton, so I had to grab what I could get, even if I was never really into the bulbous waviness of Bart Sears' art, and even if it didn't come with the free plastic black diamond that others got.
So I said to hell with college or university - the idea of more school was just too much - and went and got a job at a literal fat factory. It was a shitty, smelly and hot job, but the very first thing I ever did with my first proper paycheck was go get a TV aerial so we could get season three of Star Trek The Next Generation, and the second thing I bought was that Eclipso comic.
So I've had that issue for years, and I keep putting it in the pile to be sold off, and then I keep putting it back with the other DC crossovers in the box under the bed. I even managed to pry away the Final Night crossover from 1997 - which has all sorts of other emotional resonance - in the last decent purge, but I can't lose the Eclipso.
I don't have any of the annuals that actually tell the Eclipso story anymore - I once had at least a dozen of them, including all the Superman ones, but sold them all off long ago. But a symbolic comic like the first one I bought as a working stiff is still sticking around.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
Saturday, August 29, 2020
Jose Luis Garcia Lopez's definitive Batman
Everyone's got their own definitive version of the Batman - it might be Brian Bolland's crisp caped crusader; or you could be old school and accept no other Batman than a Dick Sprang Batman; or you might be all about the forward thrust of a Neal Adams dark knight. You might even, God help you, think Jim Lee's Batman is the greatest of all time. All views on this matter are equally valid
I would usually say it's Jim Aparo's Batman that is the only real Batman, for both the sheer amount he did and the sheer brilliance of it all. But sometimes I think really do think Jose Luis Garcia Lopez's Bats is the absolute apex. (Mind you, it's arguable that Lopez's version of any superhero is the definitive version, because he really was that good.)
He didn't do a hell of a lot of Batman, but the Batman v Hulk crossover he drew showcases just how good he is - that stern look of an angry Batman, the power of his physical movements, and the terrific way the cape went around his shoulders, that's how I always think of Batman.
He does a pretty mean Hulk, as well....
Friday, August 28, 2020
Nobody can cover Neil
Even though the endless use of slow versions of old pop songs has become a total joke with their ubiquity in movie trailers, it hasn't diminished my thirst for a great cover song. Many of my favourite tunes are reinterpretations of old classics, given new life and new meaning with a different
I dig it when Johnny Dowd gives old Rolling Stones tune a makeover, think Johnny cash's final albums are some of the very best things he ever did, and there are a million great covers of Dolly Parton's songs. For a year or so I listened to almost nothing but reinterpretations of Pink Floyd songs, of all shapes and sizes, and I genuinely think Nirvana's unplugged version of Man Who Sold The World is transcendentally great.
But the only cover versions I have no time for are Neil Young songs. I've seen Young twice and both times were magical - one more than the other for my lovely wife - and his high and thin delivery is so ideally suited for the tunes he writes, that any attempt to add something new to them never works.
There have been a hundred different Hearts of Gold, and none of them ever have the same magic without Young, often reducing it to cheesy schmaltz. And there have been untold reinventions of Hey Hey My My, and they just don't don't have that juxtaposition between
Young's delivery and his crunching guitar sound.
He's a great songwriter who writes great songs, no wonder everybody wants to have a crack at them. But some things are just perfect first time, and don't require any do-overs.
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Blocking fuckwits for fun and profit
Maybe there are just more dickheads on social media than ever before, or maybe my tolerance levels for hateful bullshit have plunged to new levels in this hellfire year of 2020. But whatever the reason, I have been blocking the shit out of a buttload of people on my feeds over the past few months, far more than at any time in the past.
It's always been easy enough to ditch the racists and bigots, any transphobia or sexism or anything like that has always been easily stamped out with a minimum of fuss. But now I have no time for a whole lot of things - misinformation spreaders, any people who advocate for economies over lives, any calling for war and oppression of their fellow man, anybody whose first inclination is to shake an angry fist instead of offering the helping hand.
It may be true I am building a bubble around me, and I'm just creating a huge echo chamber of people who believe the same things I do and repeat my opinions back to me. Maybe I am missing something by not engaging with people with morally odious views, because I'll never understand them if I just ignore them.
Maybe so, but at least it's a bubble that's not full of arseholes, stinking up the place with their areshole opinions. I can live with that.
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
The Omen: Not really suitable for younger viewers
It takes me a while sometimes, so it only occurs to me now, with a child of my own to worry about, that I probably should not have been watching The Omen when I was a kid.
My parents were very young when they had me and my two sisters, and looking back, they were clearly making it up as they went along. They did a pretty good job in the end - all their kids have turned out to be okay human beings - but there are times I doubt their full credentials.
Especially with the things they let us watch. I was generally allowed to watch age-appropriate movies and television, but things would sip through, like an episode of Hammer House of Horror which was deeply traumatizing, or the trailer for Dawn of the Dead which suddenly popped up at the start of other rented videotapes.
And yet, even though Dad refused to let me watch more than 10 minutes of Beverly Hills Cop when I was 12 because of the incredible and prolific profanity, I was watching the first couple of Omen films well before I turned 10, even though they were full of exceptionally gory deaths and some deeply troubling black magik music that still burns the soul.
The weird thing is that these films never gave me nightmares - the deaths were so operatic and over the top, it was like watching a cartoon, especially with the extensive use of bloodied dummies and fake bodies. While I have, at times, been awfully nervous when I've been near a truck carrying panes of glass or in any elevator anywhere, the bouncing decapitated head of David Warner or the elevator dissection were more hilarious than terrifying.
And the films were so simple - whenever anybody crossed Damien in any way, that music would kick in, and something very slight and innocuous would happen, with mortal repercussions. Like the Final destination films years later, it became a game to see how things would go wrong, and how they would lead to gory awfulness.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
X-Girls and their awful futures
There's just something about the way these incredibly cool and groovy young women, so full of life and fire and potential, are going to go through so much shit over the next few years, with all sorts of death and pain and tragedy falling down upon them. They're all heroes, through and through, but will lose children and lovers and their own lives in the years to come, going through hell at the hands of their (mostly male) creators.
They are all absolute queens, and they all deserved better.
Monday, August 24, 2020
Looking for the divine
This is my most basic confession: I've never been the religious type. After being raised in a totally non-religious household, I've never been much for joining any kind of movement, as admirable as many of their practices and goals may be.
There's just too many rules made up by people who lived and died centuries and centuries ago, too many inevitably human contradictions, too many fuckheads using smug religious ideals to spread unnecessary fear and hate.
But this doesn't mean I'm not looking for the divine where I can find it. It doesn't mean I don't crave some spirituality in my life.
And sometimes I do find it - as cheesy as it is, I do hear it in my little girl's laugh, and see it in the smile of a total stranger. I do find it everywhere in beauty of this this glorious, magnificent world we live on, and I do sometimes catch glimpses of it when I have visited some of the actual holiest places on the planet.
And maybe I'm just the shallowest motherfucker on the planet, but I also sometimes I find it in the movies, and in cartoons, and good tunes. That connection that stories can bring to you, making you aware that you're not the only person to think and react that way, and that there are people out there who believe the same fundamental truths that you do.
And sometimes stories can just be so intensely moving that they start touching deeper parts of the soul, and telling you that there is more than this base material existence. Something more.
I don't know the meaning of life, but the search is the thing. While I might not ever find it, sometimes I see glimpses of it in comic books.
Sunday, August 23, 2020
Baby's first year of trading cards
Along with the slow comic destruction, I'm starting to believe this is an excellent way to get rid of some of the nerd ephemera I've unaccountably held onto for years and years and years. They might not survive very long in these new and tiny hands, but they go out well.
Saturday, August 22, 2020
The endless envy for Saturday morning cartoons
One of the side effects of growing up so far from places like America and the UK is that I would be endlessly fascinated by ads for things I could never see or buy. And the United States looked like paradise, because the full-page ads featured so many toys I'd never see, and they would show for Saturday Morning TV looked incredible - superheroes and science fiction and cartoons and all sorts.
Over here, we got 10 minutes of Thundercats or Dungeons And Dragons on a Saturday morning, surrounded by two hours of dumb live-action kids content, and that was it! That was the kids programming for the week! So the things you could see in those ads that came in the back of Justice League comics, all the from the distant land of America, looked like a dream.
They promised hours of Super Friends and Daffy Duck and Popeye and Smurfs and a Happy Days time travel cartoon. Loads of Scooby-Doo and Godzilla, a Lone Ranger and Tarzan adventure hour and some apocalyptic thing called Ark II, which looked mind-bogglingly exciting. They had Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman and Plastic Man and Mr T adventures, and they had the Drak Pack.
Time has marched on, and now I could easily find at least some episodes of every one of those programmes on YouTube or some other video platform, and could watch them anytime.
I never do. The actual television can never match the promise of those advertisements. I know Ark II will look cheap and cheesy and an embarrassment to watch, and I bet the Drak Pack wasn't that good anyway. I'll stick with blissful ignorance, and those gorgeous teases.
Friday, August 21, 2020
A Mad future for Star Wars
I first read this Mad parody of the plans for the Star Wars films when it was first published, after Empire Strikes Back and before Return Of The Jedi, and there will always be some part of me that wishes they had actually followed this through in real life....
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Doctor Who's AHistory: Too much universe for one book
Lance Parkin's AHistory book - a complete fictional history of the universe of Doctor Who - isn't just my ideal desert island book, I think I've been reading it constantly for a couple of decades now as it is.
I've bought every new edition since it was published in the 1990s, and I'm still one behind - the most recent edition from a year or two ago coming out as a three-column set to cover everything. But I've been chewing through the third edition for about a year now, and I'm almost up to the future time.
There is just so much in there, because it covers the whole damn thing - all the television that I've seen, and all the audios that I never could keep track of, and all the comics that I've missed and all the novels I've tried my best to keep on top of. Everywhere the Doctor ever went in his mad ramble in time and space, all the paces he visited and all the people he met.
It's an absolutely bewildering amount of information, and while useful as a reference work, is also a hell of an entertaining read. It can be a bit repetitious, with notes for every time the Doctor mentioned some historical figure he met, or some never-seen adventure that was talked about in passing, but there are strange synchronicities that pop up, and a cumulative effect that establishes the vast breadth and depth of this weird fictional universe, built up over the the decades by hundreds of mad creators.
The appeals of Dcotr Who, and the strange places that the title character goes to, are too big for one book, but Parkin and mates make a brave and admirable effort. Let's see what happens in the future.
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
I'm sorry, Wayne Barnes. Shit happens and I should have been a grown up about the 2007 World Cup semi. I still believe that there would have been a different result if literally any other ref on the planet was on the field - a whole half without any penalties was unprecedented - but so it goes.
All the live sport I'm really interested in went over to Pay TV years ago, so I usually miss out on a lot of live games and matches. Sometimes there is a site like cricinfo, or some live blogs that keep you up to date, but most of the time I have to wait for the news to tell me what is going on, like a damn savage.
I tried to follow some live sport on social media and discovered it was useless, because every arsehole on Twitter spends all their time moaning about the bloody ref, like that's the most important part of the game.
It's not. It's just tedious. Every team in every sport gets unfair calls on the playing field, sometimes with massive consequences, that's just part of sport, and part of life. Whining about how unfair it all is just makes you look like a tosser, and it's just boring if everybody is focused on the adjudication.
It's not just sport, it's everything, including entertainment and politics. Everyone a fucking expert, everyone thinks they know more than the professionals, it is all coloured by own allegiances and prejudices. I truly believe that sport is a big fat metaphor for everything, but if all you've got to say is that everything is unfair, that doesn't mean much.
Sorry, Wayne. I didn't mean to be such a dick about it.
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Consuming the Judge Dredd Megazine (with big delays)
Even though I have spent a considerable proportion of my life getting 2000ad every week, I've only regularly bought the Judge Dredd Megazine twice, and for short periods of time - once in the early 90s, around the second year, especially when Judgement Day was pin-balling between the two titles; and once in the mid 2000s, when they were reprinting Charley's War every month.
This reluctance to become a regular reader of the monthly comic has rarely been due to the actual quality of the comic. From the earliest days of the spin-off, when it had incredible comics like America, to recent years and terrific stories like Lawless, it's been full of thrill-power, with great work by established talents and hot young things.
It has just failed to have a decent cost to story ratio most of the time. The Meg has cost about $20 an issue in this part of the world for the past decade, and when most of it is reprint of things I've already got, I'm not paying that much for new comic pages, especially when the inevitable rules of anthology comics mean a fair amount of those pages aren't any good.
I've still bought the odd issues here and there, especially when the reprint material goes outside the usual 2000ad orbit, or publish a feature-length essay on Nemesis The Warlock, but most of the time I already got the reprinted material in its original form.
Even with this lack of a decent commitment towards the Megazine, I've still manged to collect almost the entire series in back issue format, where they're five bucks or less, because the cost to story benefits balance out. It takes a while, and I usually buy years worth at a time when I see them. But it means but I'm constantly behind by several years - the most recent bunch I got meas I finally have every issue published in 2013.
This can get confusing when, occasionally, the Meg features a Dredd story has a huge impact on the whole universe, but that kind of crossover is relatively rare, even with the same editor on both titles. Besides, it means every now and then I get a concentrated burst of Dredd's world instead of the piecemeal approach, and that's always drokkin' great.
Monday, August 17, 2020
Disaster on the mind
All kids are morbid in some way, fascinated by the whole concept of death and tragedy and mortality while still trying to get their heads around it, and slowly come to the realisation that they never, ever will. At least that's what I tell myself anyway, when I remember how much I used to be into reading about disasters.
I got out every kind of book that was in the 363.34 non-fiction section of Highfield Primary School, and could reel off stats about natural and man-made disasters to a frankly disturbing degree. There was the big stuff like the Hindenburg and the Titanic sinking, but I was equally fascinated by obscure bridge collapses and strange landslides that nobody ever made movies about them.
But I was always into the ones that they did make movies about, as well. After draining that little corner of the library dry, I was desperate to see movies with massive body counts, especially with the lurid adverts you could find in the back of American comic books.
I was considered too young
for things like the Towering Inferno, where the star-studded cast burned alive or plunged to their deaths, but Earthquake, where they were crushed and drowned, was okay. And I was so fuckin' excited when Mum and Dad let me stay up late and see the Poseidon
Adventure, and was absolutely gutted when A Night To Remember played on a Sunday afternoon, but we had to go visit my cousin Maria. (I love my cousin - who took me to my very first movie that I can recall - very much, but this was even before video tape, so if I missed it, I missed it and it was all her fault, and I pulled an epic sook.)
It might not have been me just being morbid, there might have been some fascination with the way things can go wrong, that adults were fallible to an alarming degree, and it could have monumentally tragic consequences. Its never too early to learn those kinds of lessons.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
Baby's first year of comics
Saturday, August 15, 2020
The best Road Runner gag
There were certainly more complicated schemes to nab that Road Runner, but this one little piece of physical is everything that I love about these cartoons. It's only 20 seconds long, but that gag will be getting laughs forever.
Friday, August 14, 2020
Super sounds of the 70s
Thursday, August 13, 2020
A wheelchair for a throne
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
A new kind of Daredevil: Kesel/Nord's Matt Murdock
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Lone star: This kind of Texas
The Texas depicted in 100+ years of cowboy movies is as vast and complex as its landscape, and there's two distinct kinds of modern Texas, and they're both equally true.
Monday, August 10, 2020
The origins of self-loathing: Star Wars toys in the toilet
Sunday, August 9, 2020
Quitely's Batman: Duck and roll
Saturday, August 8, 2020
A multi-coloured history
Friday, August 7, 2020
Sniper porn: A bullet in the right place
I'm a massive pacifist, thanks largely to the comics of Pat Mills, and think that all violence is abhorrent, and that the first to resort to it instantly loses any argument, and that war is a dirty and terrible thing that should never be accepted, condoned or glamorised. But I still love a bit of sniper porn.
I go through a lot of books and movies about snipers, both fictional and non fictional. I love it every time Garth Ennis does another comic about snipers, and I read every single novel Stephen Hunter puts out. There is something about the dedication, professionalism and competence of a great sniper that is always, always interesting.
Hunter's books have been adapted for various screens a couple of times, and they never quite work, largely because the simplicity of people like Bob Lee Swagger are overwhelmed by the star power drafted in to play him. But as long as Hunter keeps regularly putting out these books with absolute precision, I'll be reading them. Because war might be hell, but a bullet in the right place can still change the world.
Thursday, August 6, 2020
My first movie library, (as long as it didn't rain)
That was the only one to get them. Buying the actual movies was prohibitively expensive, because they went for insane prices. I once got stuck with a huge bill after someone stole Turkey Shoot from my car, and had to cough up $70 for them to get a replacement copy.
Even blank videotapes were expensive - an E-180 tape could set you back $15 in late 1980s money, so it took a few years before I had a decent amount (and the price dropped to $5 a tape in the mid-90s). One of the best Christmas presents I ever got were 10 E-240 tapes - that was 40 hours of video, and I could record so many movies.
It was also so much easier to get two films on one tape. That was just one of the problems - trying to get two 90-minute movies on a three-hour tape took some skill, and usually meant the credits were cut off. I was always just a little bit pleased that I could get both Bill and Ted films on one tape, and still recall the absolute pride I took in editing together a Doctor Who story into one seamless film, especially when it finished literally three seconds before the tape ran out.
Video tapes have changed into collectibles, but they were once indispensable, and while that collection of hundreds of movies might be long gone, they kept me in movies for a significant part of my life.
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
The deeply weird death of Iron Fist
We're all used to characters going out in a blaze of glory these days, but Danny Rand's fate in the last issue of Power Man and Iron Fist is strikingly weird, 34 years after it was published.
In the story by Christopher Priest and Mark Bright, Iron Fist doesn't die saving the world or the universe or anything, he is just so exhausted from using his energy to keep a terminally ill boy alive that he doesn't wake up when that boy revives as a huge, super-powered man, who then beats Iron Fist to death while he's asleep, and then disintegrates into nothingness.
It's not surprising that it was so controversial at the time, and possibly why you don't see too many reprints. Priest admitted that it was a delibrately 'senseless and shocking and completely unforeseen death', because death is often senseless and shocking completely unforeseen. But the callousness of it, and the way it actively doesn't seem to give much of a shit about the characters, who are denied any sense of justice or resolution or closure they might require, is still a little breathtaking
It was weird enough recently seeing Batman go down with barely a fight in that back-breaking episode, but at least he was conscious, and was facing one of his greatest villains. This is just some harsh shit.
The death lasted for about four or five years, until previous Iron Fist artist John Byrne brought him back in his Namor series, so the whole incident has been quietly forgotten (I think there was some kind of super-skrull shenanigans involved), but it still packs a punch. Even if Iron Fist didn't.
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Twin Peaks: All those missing minutes
The Twin Peaks movie never had a chance. Generally reviled on release, it's since proven to be one of David Lynch's most enduring and rewarding films. Away from the hype that surrounded the series when it came out, Fire Walk With Me is now seen as a truly horrific and tragic movie, as poor Laura Palmer falls into hell (and then rises again).
Famously, there was a whole movie's worth of footage removed to make the film more accessible. Which pleased exactly nobody- people who didn't like Twin Peaks didn't care because they were never going to see it in the first place, and the people who fell hard for the series were never going to be satisfied when entire subplots and scenes featuring favourite characters were brutally sliced out.
It was never that hard to find out what was missing - one of the very first things I ever did on the internet (after spending four hours downloading the Stargate trailer at the local university's computer lab) was look up a transcription of those script pages. I printed them out, and read them a dozen times over the next couple of decades. I think I've still got them in a box somewhere.
And when those missing minutes did turn up in the past couple of years, I had already envisioned every shot so much, that it was all so familiar. It was as if I'd already seen them as much as I'd seen the movie itself. A lot of the scenes have something added in the acting and production - and there are a couple of scenes that need some serous ADR and a proper score and some general filmification, but that simple aesthetic of the missing footage predates Lynch's later aesthetic, and can be genuinely haunting.
But those scenes are all so familiar when I see them now, because of that enduring power of the script by Lynch and Robert Engels. They always belonged in the film, and always have.
Monday, August 3, 2020
My mates: Blogs, videos and amoebas
I've been doing this blog for 11 years now regularly, and I have never, ever recommended to anybody I know in real life that they also should do it. It's always been good therapy for me, getting all this rubbish out of my head, but it's definitely not for everybody.
Still, people I know have been doing similar things, and I have to admit that I'm glad this proves me right about everything. This kind of thing really is good for you.
My American/Kiwi pal Nik - who was blogging long before I even thought about it - has started again after a gap of a few years, filling his My Impression Now blog with some scorching hot takes on Harold Lloyd, Bob Dylan and Mr Terrific. He has also been putting up scans of comics he created when he was young and keen, and is promising the first Amoeba Adventures in decades, so the world isn't a total hell hole just yet
My other mate Schulz is also been doing some great posts lately on his own blog, started after all his freelance work dried up. Luckily, his brunch delivery service has taken off, so he can afford to do some writing for free and fun, and is often right about some nerd shit, including why the US Utopia remake looks so awful, the horrors of binging on the Hobbit movies at the cinema, and why the best bits of The Last of Us Part II have nothing to do with zombies.
Even my oldest mate Kyle, who I've known for 35 years, is doing his own thing. He's not a writer, and never really has been, but he's got a YouTube channel with hundreds and hundreds of subscribers where he talks about his favourite comic books, and is far more social with his nerd interactions than I could ever be.
They're all doing their own thing, and doing it well, and I'm more convinced than ever that it's good to get this out of your head and into the world, whether the world asks for it or not.
Sunday, August 2, 2020
Why I dig the Green
I'll watch absolutely anything with Eva Green in it - and not just because she's strikingly attractive, with razor sharp features and a voice that could cut through diamonds. It's because she totally commits to a role, whatever it is. She always gives it her all.
It doesn't matter if she's in a lesser Tim Burton, or is playing the first Bond girl of a new era, or going full mental in the remorselessly cheesy Penny Dreadful, or even playing the sexy, sexy villain in a goddamn 300 sequel, she gives it everything she's got.
Disappointingly, it doesn't always feel that way in the TV adaption of The Luminaries, where hew character is restrained and repressed, when she should bulging out of the screen. The show is okay, with some really good bits and some truly naff bits, but if you're letting Eva Green loose on a part, you really need to let her loose. She doesn't do half-arsed.
Saturday, August 1, 2020
Seeing your dead loved ones isn't a thing
If there is one cliche in movies or television that I just can't bear to see anymore, it's the moment when a character has a vision of somebody who recently died.
It usually comes towards the end of the story, when the hero sees their mentor/significant other/life partner, and the visions rarely last longer than a few seconds, before they disappear and the mundane world goes on. But putting such a tiny dose of magical realism in grounded narratives always feels false.
Because when you lose someone, you don't get those kind of hallucinations, and it's almost insulting to insist that people do, because grief is all about the absence of that person in your life, and the fact that you will never, ever see them again, outside of your dreams. While you might emotionally feel their presence in your life, and it can come on in the strangest fucking ways, you're never ever going to actually see them across a crowded room, giving you a knowing nod.
But it's a cliche that has to go. Grief is a universal experience - we all feel it, sooner or later - and that just means people should know better than to trivialise with that knowing nod.