Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Avengers assembling all over the place

#10 in a 27-issue limited series

How much Avengers do I need in my life? Turns out I need the Earth's mightest heroes teaming up in clean, simple stories much more than I thought.

I have to hold on to the 15-issue straight run of 1970s issues that ends with the carnage-filled final battle against Korvac battle. It's mostly Byrne and Perez art, and will always be the ideal Avengers team in my head, with the added spice of the Guardians of the Galaxy bringing in their freaky 30th-century vibes. And that climactic issue was genuinely shocking back in the day, even if everybody is brought back to life with a bit of handiwaving at the end, it was bloody disconcerting to see them all wiped out like that.
And while I've got a lot of love for the handful of early issues I have managed to find down here at the arse end of the world - all extremely unimportant in the grand Avengers tapestry, but I'll take anything - I also have to rely on reprints to get things like the Kree/Skrull War issues or the Avengers annual where Rogue destroys Ms Marvel's life.

Reprint or not, they're all fun comics, and so are the ones I've held onto since the 1980s. There are the two issues of the Stern/Buscema run where Terminus fucks up the Savage Land and the annual where Hawkeye uses an ancient carny trick to save the universe. There's also the three West Coast Avengers issues late in the Englehart run where they take on the new Zodiac, and the first four issues of John Byrne's West Coast comics, which were absolutely the shiniest things on my local shelves in 1989
And then, apart from some Ultimates books on the shelves, that's almost it. The most recent Avengers comics I've got are the first few issues of the Busiek/Perez run from the late 90s, and they're more than two decades old ( and were retro in the first place). No Bendis era, no Hickman. None of Waid's recent Avengers comics or any of the current Jason Aaron run.

So maybe there is a limit to the number of Avengers comics. There's only so many times Ultron can make a shock appearance, or Kang can fuck up the timeline again, and I think I had my fill a long time ago.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Last Box of Marvel: We don't talk about the funny books

#9 in a 27-issue limited series
Marvel has made all the money in the world by taking all this dopey super hero shit really, really seriously, and both publisher and fans are always a bit embarrassed by its own attempts at self-satire - I honestly could not figure out if Not Brand Echh was an actual thing for years - which just makes their joke comics even funnier.
It helps that their piss-take comics have some lovely art. The jokes in the first half-dozen issues of What The-?, published in the very late eighties, have dated exactly as much as 30-year-old gags should, but there's Kyle Baker and some primetime Byrne/Ordway and a keen Mike Mignola and a bit of Hembeck and Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen and Jim Lee and the horribly undervalued Hilary Barta - the first issue even has John Severin inking Steve Ditko, which is some kind of mad alchemy.
It all got a bit too Scott Lobdell later on, but What The-? was bright and silly and lovely to look at for a little while. Plus there is a one-page gag about the 'You Universe' with a proto-Comic Shop Guy that gave me a bit of an existential crisis when I was 13, so that's a bonus.
I've even tracked down a couple of Not Brand Echh issues, so I guess it does exist. It's the art again that shines  more than 60-year-old Stan Lee puns, with dynamic forces like Kirby and Colan getting loose and foolish, and the mighty Marie Severin getting groovy with her usual flowing line.

I've also still got the issue in the original run of What If that went for the funnybone, but ditched any of the attempts Marvel did with similar gag books since the year 2000 - they get way too inside-joke and have aged even more than their decades-older cousins. Marvel still doesn't really like to laugh at its own jokes, and ends up snickering about its friends instead.

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Silver Age goodness, unearthed by the grave

#8 in a 27-issue limited series
It used to be impossible to find affordable 60s Marvel comics - when I was fiending on the Marvel habit the hardest as a young adult in the 1990s, the few that I ever saw for sale were prohibitively expensive. You might see an average Kirby/Lee Fantastic Four from the latter half of their run going for $50, and that was about it.
There's a lot more floating around now, and I don't think it's just because I've stretched my personal horizons and don't live in a town of 3000 people anymore. I just think that time is catching up with us all, and the sixties kids who collected and hoarded their childhood treasures are all old and dying off at a rapid rate, unlocking pristine collections brought together over a lifetime.

This might be morbid, but life is short and we're still here, so take advantage of it while the can, and the next generation snatch up your shit. Now I've got a couple of issues of Tales to Astonish, Takes of Suspense and Strange Tales, and three early Journey Into Mystery issues, all for less than the price of an average new comic.
I salute the dead dudes who left these comics behind, and their baffled family who unloaded it for as much cash as possible, as soon as possible. The Silver Age is unlocked by death, but the comics survive.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Just the facts

#7 in a 27-issue limited series 
Following the complete history of Fin Fang Foom is easy when you just look up multiple wikipedia offerings, but there's still a lot of fun in randomly flicking through a reference publication from years ago, and in getting a complete record of a certain time and place in this massive and sprawling continuity.

It took me many, many years to get all 20 issues of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Handbook (Deluxe Edition) and all the '89 updates, but I got them in the end, and they're a terrific reference source, with an absolute certainty that if I ever have to figure out how much weight the Executioner could lift, the data is there.

They're also an absolute time capsule of the moment that the Marvel Universe ruled above all else in my life. That universe has moved on a long way since this encyclopedia, and so have I, but that rush of data is still so addictive.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: The oldest ones are the movie ones

#6 in a 27-issue limited series
There are pieces of pure childhood floating around in this box, even though they have nothing to do with the Marvel Universe, and I just can't ever give them up after all this tine.

There's issues of The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Doctor Who, and I've had them all since I was nine and I used to read them over and over and over and over again, until every panel is imprinted on my brain like neurological silly putty.

There are some good comics in there - there's David Mazzucchelli doing some terrifically moody Indiana Jones, and Walt Simonson's art on his Star Wars comics is absolutely divine - but I'm not kidding anybody.

I'm not holding onto these things because of any artistic merit, I'm holding onto them because these comics are foundational in my actual personality, I can't take them out without losing something I would never get back. I'm just that fucking shallow.

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: The zen cool of the Nth Man

#5 in a 27-issue limited series

You know that I've got every issue of the Nth Man. With zen ninjas and global conflict and a weirdo dork who can bend reality to his whims, it's Larry Hama's masterpiece, and they'll be some of the last comics I ever hold onto, even as I sell the rest of the collection for gruel money. 

Hama forever.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Oh my God, it's full of stars

#4 in a 27-issue limited series 

I wouldn't trust anybody who says they've got a comic book collection, but doesn't have any issues of Kirby's 2001. It's essential and witty and bombastic and overwrought, and it never gets republished. Everyone needs more 2001 comics in their diet.

I've almost got them all, with just a couple to go, and only just got #5 this year. I would give anything for the original Marvel Treasury comic that adapts the movie, but I'm sure I'll get there one day.

And even though they're a spin-off from one of the greatest movies ever made, they're also 70s Kirby at his purest. In a decade when he was still tossing out thousands of crazy ideas about art and philosophy and the nature of power that everybody else is still catching up on, his 2001 stories have a fair chunk of those ideas in every issue.

Free of the capes and spandex requirements (which he still brought into a couple of issues in a particularly demented manner), this is hardcore Kirby, stabbing right into the brain. It's comics at its very best.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: Time is flat in the Marvel Universe

#3 in a 27-issue limited series 

Most of the comics in this box come from the 80s and 90s, because the best Marvels are always from when you were 13-16 years old. There's just a handful from the past couple of decades, and the most recent thing in there is the Marvels epilogue by Busiek and Ross that came out a few months ago

The oldest Marvel comic story is in there right next to it too - a reprint of Marvel Mystery Comics #8-10, with the epic and slamming throwdown between the Human Torch and Namor, a battle which was a key cornerstone of that original Marvels series.

There are decades and decades of weird and wonderful comics between these two stories, and they're just two parts of many in the multi-level Marvel tapestry, but you can find almost everything that makes Marvel comics so addictive in those two stories.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel: The only Hulk (with Marlo and Motormouth)

#2 in a 27-issue limited series 

I've got a couple of the Essential books, the Future Imperfect comic with the lovely Perez art, and a surprising amount of Australian reprints of the Sal Buscema era. But after selling off my copy of #115 the other day, the only Hulk comics I still have left in this box of Marvels are three issues of the Peter David/Gary Frank run from the early nineties.

Actually - apart from a significant amount of the dorkiest Star Trek comics ever created - these Hulks might also be the only Peter David comics I have left. It was all those awful puns and pop culture references that did me in. I got rid of all the other Hulks and X-Factors and Aquaman comics long, long ago.

His Hulk run was long and prodigious, and had many ups and downs, but I was right on target for those ultra-slick Gary Frank issues. Frank was only a couple of years into his professional career, and still had some serious issues with his anatomy work, but his art was clean and clear and so, so shiny.

I couldn't tell you why I have a fondness for Motormouth and Killpower's appearance, but the other two issues are there because I am a ridiculously soft romantic, and I always cry at weddings. And at Captain America's face on that bachelor party cover.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Last Box Of Marvel

#1 in a 27-issue limited series

I keep my comics in banana boxes, because you can fit a couple of hundred regular-sized individual issues in each one of those bad boys - along with more than a few Stephen King and Fighting Fantasy books -  and they're so easy to stack and hide under the bed.

And after years and years of buying every single Marvel comic I could get my hands on, and even more years pruning and refining and sharpening that collection, I now just have one. There's only one box left of Marvels.

There are hundreds of other issues elsewhere, on bookshelves and in parts of the collection that are devoted to creators – there are Marvel comics in other boxes full of stories by Morrison, Waid, Brubaker, Moore, Millar, Davis, Ennis, Mignola and Miller. There is also a significant amount of X-Men comics that live in their own pile in the corner and a lot of Alex Ross and Punisher and Steranko comics on the main bookshelf.

But all the rest fit inside one single banana box, and for the next 27 days, I'm taking advantage of the rights of the proprietor of this Tearoom to catalogue the shit out of them, getting a snapshot of the Marvel comics that are worth keeping in the year 2020, and trying to explain why they're still there.

(It's no great secret. The reason they're still here is almost always nostalgia and/or great art. There's nothing else.)

Sunday, September 20, 2020

No matter how far, don't worry baby

The baby is nearly 13 months old and still can't walk, but she can shake her moneymaker something fierce. Her absolute favourite music is obvious stuff like Gorillaz and Bowie and the Ramones and the Doctor Who theme and Run The Jewels - I have no fucking idea what to do when she start to understands the lyrics - but her absolute favourite music is old soul stuff. Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye and the queen Aretha - they always get her grooving.

She also seems to approve of her father's recent binging of Treme, because this kid loves the jazz. I don't know where that came from.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

That beats any meat injection

I've never tried heroin and probably never will, but the closest I've ever come to the ecstasy of Allison in Trainspotting - and her sheer fucking pleasure of spiking up in Trainspotting - is when I had an ear infection recently that gummed everything up good and proper, and the ear popped for the first time in many days and stayed clear.

That beats any fucking cock in the world.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Even the Demon knows how deal with Nazis

It appears that many people, including the world's largest social media companies, are very troubled by how they should deal with Nazi scum, but even Etrigan The Demon always knows how to deal with that shit.

- From The Demon #48 (1994)
By Garth Ennis and John McCrea

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Immortals: Gods among us

Immortals is nobody's favourite film, unless you're a super-fan of the chiseled abs of Henry Cavill or Steven Dorff's irresistible smugness, and we can't blame you for that. But the scenes where the Gods descend to earth and just fuck up the entire world around them are bitching. More Luke Evans always helps, too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Nobby's Auckland isn't completely gone

Walking around Auckland in 2020, and you can still see echoes and ghosts of Nobby Clark's city,  even though most of it was torn down decades ago

A lot of the beautiful freaks are gone, but some of the buildings and archways and walls survive, even now. There's the toilet block that is still in use decades later, and the odd Parnell villa, even if it's now full of artisan chocolates and high-brand clothing instead of grotty stoners.

Some things endure.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Beavis and Butthead and the finest piece of criticism ever

Butthead plainly pointing out that you have to have parts that suck - because they make the rocking parts sound cooler - is seriously one of the very best pieces of media criticism I've ever heard.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

We can't ever go back to Arizona!

I'm still pretty new at this whole parenting thing, but I am starting to believe that the way Simon in Frisky Dingo always slooooowly pushed his bowl of cereal onto the floor was some kind of universal truth about raising a child.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

How many years has it been?

I only just discovered that there is now a shorter gap between the Lee Kirby X-Men #1 and the Claremont/Lee X-Men #1, than there is between the 1991 comic and now.

Sure, Macaulay Culkin might be 40, but that X-gap makes me feel more old as fuck than anything else in the world.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Lesser Gaiman isn't hard to find

I get embarrassingly emotional about disposing of old comics every week, but even with that kind of naked sentimentality, some of the easiest to get rid of are the Neil Gaiman comics.

I'll probably hold onto his Sandman stuff (but none of the spin-offs), and I'll always have a copy of the original Books Of Magic, and any of the brilliant original graphic novels he did with Dave McKean still pack a punch. But the amount of Gaiman comics in the collection has been steadily deflating in recent years. I once had almost all of his comics, now I've just got a handful.

It's not that I've grown out of it or anything. While there has been a sense of repetition in a lot of his stories over the past decade, Gaiman's voice is still an interesting and comforting one, mixing one part hard intellect with two parts whimsy and a whole lot of hand-holding and playful fantasy. I still enjoy a lot of his comics, and will continue reading them for years.

But I don't need my own copies, because finding lesser Gaiman is always so easy. It's easier to hold onto something like the Nth Man rather than 1602 or Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader  - and not just because The Nth man is one of the top five Marvel comics ever created -  because 1602 and the Batman comic will remain in print on the sheer power of the Gaiman brand for a long, long time to come.

Larry Hama has been a God in my world since I was 12, but Gaiman isn't just a comic writer, he is a Big Name in publishing and general media now, and libraries and bookstores will be full of these things

So it doesn't matter if I sell off the original Stardust issues that I've had since the 90s - even though parting with gorgeous Charles Vess is always such sweet, sweet sorrow - because if I ever get the urge for more faerie in my life, it'll always be down the local library.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

TwoMorrows and the lighter side of fandom

My pal Nik lent me a copy of The World of TwoMorrows - a 25th anniversary book all about the fan publisher and the many, many titles it has put out - and I genuinely didn't think I'd read much of it because it looked just a little too self-absorbed and insular, even for a gang that have put out dozens and dozens of issues about Jack Kirby.

But it turned put to be a terrifically addictive read, and I'm halfway through the blasted thing now. It's easy to read in bits and pieces, because it's all a bit repetitious - 'I'm just trying to catch the thrill of getting my first comic from the drugstore rack', says absolutely everybody - but it's full of gossip and anecdotes and comic history and the weird pressures of putting out a regular publication.

And, most of all, it's just so refreshing to read about the nice side of fandom for once. Online discourse is so rough, and so exaggerated, everything is the worst or best thing ever. And it's all riddled with comicsgate morons and people who leap to the nearest bad faith argument for anything that doesn't support their limited worldview.

There's not so much of that in the TwoMorrows books. It's just a real pleasure to read something so unashamedly positive, so full of love for the medium and the people who have created stories and art in it over the years. They all have their own small prejudices and tiny hatreds - comics published after 1995 rarely get any love in the pages of many of TwoMorrow's publications, unless they're drawn by a favoured artist - but it's never the most important thing. It's the love and affection for the comics that matters over everything.

You might think Firestorm is dopey as hell, but there are people who love the dumb flame-brain, and there is no need to piss on that burning love in these pages. The TwoMorrows book is one of the most indulgent things it has ever published, (which is saying a lot), but it's also a gentle reminder that you can love something without always being a total dick about it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

My little sister's Star Wars

Star Wars was such a boy's club when I was a kid, but that didn't mean girls weren't into it too. They just weren't so loud about it.

My sisters went to the same screenings of the same films as I did, and were just as excited about the fate of Darth Vader on the car ride home as I was. But I was such a boy that only I got really obsessed with the thing and collected everything I could, including as many of the action figures as possible.

But my little sister - who turns 42 today - also got her own toys. She got Ewoks and Princess Leia figures, and played with them just as much as I played with my Death Star Gunner and Cloud City Pilot with the bent arm (I would take what I could get.).

But while I played mine to death and accidentally tore their arms off or blew them up with firecrackers, or threw them away in feats of unimaginable stupidity, she took care of hers, and they survived the years, remarkably intact.

Somehow, all these years later, I've still got a Princess Leia figures from the first two Star Wars films, complete and with all their limbs, and while some of the paint is a little chipped, they're in better condition than literally any other figure I own from that era. They ended up chucked in a box with my old GI Joes and Masters of the Universe figures, and are there still.

There's some kind of metaphor about girls knowing how to love something without smothering it to death, but I'm just a dumb boy who grew into a dumb man, and I'm not smart enough to figure that one out. One thing I know is that at least the girls have more of a voice there days, and that's a win for everybody.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

How good is Brett Parson?

I genuinely think Brett Parson is one of the most under-rated artists in comic books right now. His work is just goddamn delightful, it's a mystery why he isn't regularly working on some of the biggest characters in comics.

His work is exaggerated, but solid. It's as slick as hell and so polished it cleans the reader's eyes, and while the character work is super-cute and cartoony, there is a solidity to his line that gives it weight and depth. And sure, there are loads of big eyes and button noses, but there are also solid jawlines and taut muscle work.

Mainstream comic fans aren't that fussed on super-cute, which might explain why Parson's profile isn't that huge. He's also spent a lot of time in the past few years on Tank Girl comics, and while co-creator Alan Martin is still involved, nobody really cares about Tank Girl when Jamie Hewlett isn't doing it, that's just a fact of life. I only just discovered Mike McMahon has done hundreds of pages of Tank Girl comics in the past decade, and I thought I was a massive McMahon fan.

Parson's work has also shown up in other places - a 2000ad Future Shock here, a Goon cover there, a random short Vertigo miniseries by Peter Milligan that ran five years ago, long after everybody in the world had stopped reading new Vertigo comics (there's a definite pattern here).

You can find more of Parson's art on his website here, including a bunch of his terrific covers and some wonderfully idiosyncratic takes on Lobo, Batman and Judge Dredd, and you should check it out. At a time like this, the world could use more of this kind of cute.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Always looking for the horror I needed

Finding old horror films at the video store was once such a big deal. I can still remember how unbelievably excited I was in 1996 when a chain store video place opened in another part of town, and it had the first Dracula film from Hammer just sitting there.

The local video stores always had a decent selection of horror films, because they were always a popular genre. There was all the slasher nonsense, and plenty of copies of Sorority Babes in The Slimeball Bowlarama and other low-grade bullshit like that, and it was just as easy enough to find the blockbuster horrors like The Exorcist or Nightmare on Elm Street.

But with thousands of horror films, nobody could offer everything. There would always be some random gross-out Italian horror like The Beyond or The House By The Cemetery, but I could forget about finding City of the Living Dead, or any of the Corman Poe adaptions. There was no Freaks, no Curse of the Cat People, no Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, and only the most random tapes of Hammer horror.

I knew all about these films from the books about horror films that I read and re-read from cover to cover, and look at stills from all these old movies that I could never find, but I couldn't actually find the fucking things. A lot of it was on TV in the 1970s and early 80s, but that had disappeared by the time I was in a nice, healthy and full-on teenage obsession with horror films in the late eighties. It took years and years to catch up with a lot of these films, when they would show up in the most random of places, or when I joined decent video stores with deep collections.

I did get to see the second Dracula film from Hammer at a reasonable age, when it turned up as one in the late night Sunday Horrors slot, but the original was always out of reach. It means I always think of the default version of the Hammer Dracula is the silent, hissing Count that Lee portrayed in Prince of Darkness (because he couldn't bear the lines), not the sinister and erudite figure of the other films.

Everything is a bit-torrent search away, and a lot of the films that I was desperate to see are now ridiculously easy to find. And they're mostly pretty good, even if they can't ever compare to the nightmares I could never find.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

I was absorbed by mother ocean, in all her wondrous glory

I swear, we watched this episode of Sealab 2021 once 10 years ago, and there's not a week that has gone by when my wife and I haven't described something as a 'fierce and fickle mistress' in that outrageous French accent.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Millar's 411: Where would we be?

Marvel's 411 comic came out in 2003, when the US was still reeling from the Twin Towers attack, and was one of mainstream comics' admirable attempt to call for a little peace. But just because the comics were admirable doesn't mean they were actually any good, and almost all of the short stories in the comic were overwrought, clumsy and heavy-handed in a very 2003 way, (although they mostly look fantastic).

But while Mark Millar has made a very successful career in comics by being overwrought, clumsy and heavy-handed, his contribution to 411 is a surprisingly tender, moving and funny story, with a message that is always worth repeating. 

As always, it's beautifully drawn by Frank Quitely, and 'Tit For Tat' also has a beautiful message to impose from the writer of Kick-Ass, with a Millar family story that confirms that an eye for an eye philosophy leaves everyone blind, and that a good joke from a cheeky bastard can always beat violence and murder.

It's still got a couple of brutal beatings and there are some superficial explanations of a deeply complex political and religious culture, but it's also got a light touch that smashes into a stunner of a final panel, where the consequences of not having a laugh now and then are made brutally clear.

Because where would we be without a laugh? Somewhere nobody wants to go.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Time for Coronation St

I have a deep and unreasonable hatred of Coronation Street. It's been on television as long as I've been alive, and I've never watched a full five minutes of it, let alone an entire episode. My Nana loved it, but I have had to leave rooms and houses because it was the only thing on the TV.

It all stems from one Friday night in the very early 1980s where I wasn't allowed to watch the latest episode of the Incredible Hulk and they was my favourite TV show ever created and nobody had videos so if I missed it, I missed it. We were staying at the farm where my Nana worked as a housekeeper, and her and the farmer - a bloody brilliant old bloke named Mr Coupland - never missed their Coro, and I might have been throwing an epic tantrum, but I was shit out of luck.

I had to leave the room, which was fine by me, because Ena Sharples and her terrifying hairnet scared the living piss out of me.

Understand, we're very far away from northern England, but Coronation Street is a big freaking deal in New Zealand. There are literally stories on the mational news when they change the screening time on TV One. For the past year or so, they've been playing it in two time slots, because they got so far behind the UK screenings that everybody was complaining about spoilers, so they skipped ahead a whole year, with the prime-time stuff being the very latest from the UK, while the skipped episodes still played at a different time, so nobody would miss out.

You can talk about how difficult it is to follow timelines in comic books, but my Nana would not have had any trouble with a duo-timelined Coronation St.

It's understandable why people like it so much - in a world of uncertainty and change, Coro is always there. But it's also sheer televisual torture for a certain kind of entertainment consumer, and I'm one of those. It's just as well there are so many others things to read and watch and listen to.

Still, it's always been a banging theme tune, and I've always liked its slow shuffle. Maybe because it sounds like a mournful wail for the working class heroes of the show, or maybe it's because it always made my Nana so happy.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Value.. Of Everything

There is a nine-year age gap between myself and the lovely wife, which means there are a lot of cultural milestones that we do not share. As kids, we watched vastly different TV shows and read  books that were utterly unlike each other. I'm in the Sapphire and Steel generation, she's more Roswell.

So when we merged our books and CDs and movie collections together more than a decade ago, there was very little overlap. But one thing we do both share is a deep and lasting fondness for the ValueTales Books, and have both held onto the half dozen books we've had since we were both kids.

The books were published from the 1970s through to the 90s by a Californian outfit, with writers Dr Spencer Johnson and Ann Donegan Johnson offering incredibly simplistic history lessons about famous historical figures, They were always so attractive, with hard white covers, light and breezy artwork from Stephen Pileggi, and interesting trivia about the great and the good.

Some of the people they portray in such a positive light don't really stand up in the harsh glare of reality. But to their credit, they didn't really focus on kings or politicians or generals or anybody else who ruled their world with an iron fist, they focused on scientists and philosophers and trailblazers and artists and people who tried to make the world a better place, including a decent amount of women and people of colour.

There are worse ways to learn about history.

After our wedding, she brought The Value of Kindness: The Story of Elizabeth Fry into the marriage, and I brought Louis Pasteur and his Value of Believing in Yourself. The more values we have to pass on to the next generation, the better.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Sam Rockwell: I got the feelin' baby

This video of Sam Rockwell dancing his little white boy socks off to a funky James Brown beat has been one of my top 10 go-to videos on the internet for years, for when life gets too hard and I desperately need some cheering up. And it never fails.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Fan campaigns are gross

It always Star Trek's fault. It usually is. After two moderately successful seasons in the late 1960s, the show was done, until a small legion of fans, led by the indomitable Bjo Trimble, wrote in and demanded a third season. And they got it, and it objectively had many of the worst episodes of the entire series in it.

There's no actual concrete evidence that the letter campaign actually saved the show - these kinds of decisions are always, always, always about money, not fan feelings - but it became the creation myth for fan campaigns in modern pop culture, and it's only got bigger, gross and more entitled over the years.

So then there was HEAT in the 1990s, where people with an emotional attachment to Hal freakin' Jordan shat their pants when he went bad and blew up Oa, and demanded that he return to replace the upstart Kyle Rayner. They raised money and took out advertisements and it was a big deal in the earliest, dorkiest day of online discourse about comic books.

Most people, including DC Comics, ignored them and got on with life. They still got what they wanted in the end, but it may have taken a lot longer than they expected. The decision to bring back Hal Jordan in the 21st century might have been slightly influenced by that obvious devotion, but was far more about certain writers and editors' fondness for Jordan, (even though he kept getting zonked on the head).

Now there's outcries to redo and recut and remake everything, and it's all really, really boring. Demanding bigger versions of Suicide Squad or Batman Forever isn't going to make those films any better, it's just more of the fucking same, and the inevitable disappointment when it turns out they're not the Greatest Thing Ever.

I don't have that kin of attachment to my entertainments, and I'm fairly sure the vast majority of people feel the same way. The product that film directors, writers and producers give us are sometimes a bit shit, and everyone moves on. They don't need a petition to vent some rage, because there is no rage to vent. Who really gets that worked up about a film made by the guy who made Sabotage?

Directors can recut films as much as they fucking want - Michael Mann is never happy, and each new version of Last of the Mohicans or Thief is fascinating  - because they're the creator. Zack Snyder does seem awfully eager to get stuck back into Justice League, and it's hard to fault that genuine enthusiasm.

But telling people with massive entitlement issues that they're right all the time is fucked up, because nobody wins that. There is nothing to be gained by giving in to these kind of demands, you're never going to satisfy those who want everything they like bent to their whims, and you're just going to piss off those who don't want to be associated with that kind of foolishness. When the entitled mob wins, we all fucking lose.

So maybe there's a chance that the new Justice League cut is the most amazing thing ever, but it will probably just be more dopey superhero shit. Which is fine - I like dopey superhero shit as much has the next idiot - but it's not that big a deal. There are far, far better hills to die on.