Friday, October 15, 2021

A Song of Ice and Fire: The theories are still sound


It's taken George R R Martin many, many years to produce the next book in A Song Of Ice and Fire. He's blown though promised deadlines with experienced ease, and I totally support the speed at which he's working, because that's how it fucking works. It'll come out when it comes out.

But at least that long, long delay means I never run out of theory videos and essays to gorge on. I have wasted vast amounts of my life happily watching and reading these fucking things, spending hours on fuckin' Patchface and his freaky shit.

And even if they're years and years old, they're still valid. The TV show spoiled a lot of stuff, but veered off from the books right from the start (because they're two different things) and there are all sorts of theories about Hightowers and Blackfyres and Manderlys that haven't had any further resolution in a decade.

I highly doubt I'm going to run out of them, because at least 27 new ASOIAF theory videos are uploaded every second. And I don't have a lot of faith that the next book is coming anytime soon, so there's always something to fill the gap, and it's all as tasty as a Frey pie.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

All the Shade in the world



I can't remember where I first came to Peter Milligan's Shade The Changing Man comics. It was somewhere in that terrible, glorious rush of 90s Vertigo, and was probably a story in one of the anthology books they put out at the time. By the time I got to the actual series it was almost over, and I only bought a few issues brand new. But I decided to try and get the series, or as much of it as possible.

That was about 30 years ago and it was only last week that I finally got the last issue I needed in the 70-chapter story. I hunted Shade down in back issue bins literally all over the world. I dug my first issues out of the $1 bin at Bag End Books in Dunedin, got a couple of key issues at a sweet store in Stockholm during our last big overseas trip, found the first dozen issues for 50c each at the gloriously messy Comics Kingdom in central Sydney, and bought the last four issues I needed from mycomicshop.com, even though that's cheating.

It's arguable that this was the best way to read it, in bits and pieces. It doesn't matter if you're missing vast parts of the story and if there are years and years between the completion of storylines. It's not hard to figure out how things work out. Shade is all over the place, Cathy is dead and alive at the same time, Lenny is always Lenny, and you don't miss the Chris Bachao art for long, not when you keep finding entire issues of his gorgeous artwork..

I'll get back to you, once I've finally seen how this story of Rac Shade and his unfortunate interactions with Earth was actually meant to go down.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Sight and Sound: The art of the synopsis


I've been reading Sight and Sound every month since the mid 90s - mostly through the local libraries -  and I'm still quietly impressed by the review crew's ability to write short synopses for every movie they review.

Each new film gets one, and while some of them are terse to the point of obliqueness, others give you all the info, and some straddle that line. It ain't always easy, summing up an entire film in a couple of paragraphs. You can usually only get pure plot, and all the art and mood and everything else can get dealt with in the actual review, which doesn't have to trip over its own recap.

I've always liked the style, and there are films I've seen clips and trailers for, and read the synopsis, and that's all I ever need. Because if I can't get to the cinema, I can count on Sight and Sound to deliver.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Was Superman really dead?



It might seem stupid in hindsight, but those few months in the 90s when Superman was dead - like, properly dead - was the last time I genuinely didn't know what was going to happen next in a major superhero comic I was following.

All I had was the next issue box at the end of every issue, and they were suddenly full of 'There is no information about Superman #78' and shit, and I had nothing. No access to comic magazines, no conventions nearby and certainly no internet. I found out comics were cancelled by seeing that they had disappeared from the subscription forms in the back of issues, and the Marvel Bullpen and DC editorial pages were a primary source of information.

So even though the whole Death of Superman thing had been such a monumental event that it was talked about on One News At Six on television, once he was buried, I had no idea what was coming next. There were no clues.

I had been getting all the new Superman comics I could get since I'd fallen for the Panic In The Sky storyline a year or so earlier, but there was a good couple of weeks there where it felt like it might all be over. That there was no more Superman.

I'm not even sure when I learned they were bringing them him back in the form of the four new pretenders, although I'm fairly sure it was an ad in an issue of the Flash comic, which was my other big DC obsession of the time. It can't have been very long after Funeral For A Friend part eight, but it had been a little while of glorious cluelessness.

It was the last time I was really in the dark, and would be almost impossible now. It was nice while it lasted.


Monday, October 11, 2021

Wrestling with the Superstars



Teenage obsessions burn so brightly and usually fade away just as fast, but they can leave behind a lingering fondness that does no real harm. I don't really love old X-men comics and zombie movies as much as I did when I was 13, but I still love them all the same.

And I still have an absolute loyalty to the late 80s WWF wrestling that will never, ever die.

There had always been wrestling on the TV around here. In the days of two channels in New Zealand, 'On The Mat' was huge for a decade, bringing in overseas stars for bouts with local talent. But that was squeezed out in the mid 80s when they couldn't get international wrestlers to come over to the arse end of the world anymore, and there wasn't any wrestling for a while. 

The growth of the WWF and the way it gobbled up all the regional circuits was a large reason for New Zealand promoters failing to secure that overseas talent. And then they started showing WWF Superstars of Wrestling on TV2 and fucking everyone was into it.

My mates were into it, my sisters were into it, my parents were into it. It was 1988 and that was a prime time for the glorious absurdity of wrestling, and the histrionic slugfests made the whole world a little less drab, and there's nothing wrong with that.

The Superstars show was almost entirely full of the big names beating the living crap out of the poor jobbers, and all the big events took a long time to show up at the local video store. If you were lucky, someone might have a sixth generation video tape copy of the early Survivor Series that you could borrow, but most of us had to wait for Wrestlemania IV to show up on the shelves at Video Ezy (in a two-tape set, because video tapes could only hold so much power).

And fuck, it was fun. Moments like Demolition fighting each other at the start of the 1990 Royal Rumble (and then taking on the big man Andre) -

- or the Ultimate Warrior absolutely laying out the honkey Tonk Man and seizing the Intercontinental Championship belt in 30 seconds -


- or the Rockers showing up and blowing everybody's minds. 


I never cared much about the big guys like Hulk Hogan and the A-listers, it was always a little disappointing when guys like Brutus the Barber Beefcake and Randy Savage made the leap to the big time and lost some of the allure, and started to drown in their own hype.

Me and my mates got in trouble at school for clotheslining each other, but nobody ever seemed to understand that there was just as much fun in coming up with outlandish and elaborate wrestling identities, and we spent way more time on the trash talk and figuring out our entrance music than we did actually hurting each other.

But then we figured out we could do moves in the swimming pool at the house we were renting, and it was a lot easier to pick each other up and slam them down when you're in a five-foot deep pool. We would record our rants into the tape deck, then bash each other around the pool, and we beat the shit out of the pool, it was an over-ground thing held together by sheet iron and plastic and the whole thing literally fell apart when I threw Anthony or Kyle into the side once too often.

That kind of white hot obsession never really lasts and while it was It was all-consuming for a little while, most of us quickly tired of it. The tedious Hogan v Warrior fight in Wrestlemania VI was about the end of it, which meant the whole craze rose and peaked within 18 months.

Apart from the utter joy of getting totally ripped and playing eight-man tag matches on the PS2, that was as far as I ever went with the wrestling, and missed out on the era of The Rock, Cena and Austin, and whoever they've got going these days.

And I know it gets bad, I've seen the documentaries, especially the addictive Dark Side of the Ring. A lot of those man mountains have died of weird heart attacks and brain embolisms and getting shot in the back of the fucking head. The horror of the Benoit story and the infinite sadness of the Von Erich family show that there was real pain behind the smack-talk

(Although the one where there is acknowledgement that the guy died doing what he loved - and make no mistake, he LOVED hookers and cocaine - has a kind of zen brilliance.)

But shit, when you're 13 and these huge musclemen are hurling themselves around, it's the most amazing thing in the world. I'm still coasting on that high.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Rik Mayall, private dick!



I haven't seen the video for the Art of Noise's version of the Peter Gunn theme since I was 13, but that's still no excuse for only learning today that it starred comedy god Rik Mayall. No damn excuse at all.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

A miracle of fireworks



Neil Gaiman has written a lot of words over the years, and I've liked a fair few of them, but nothing has been living in my head quite like the line right at the end of his first Miracleman story, where he has Huey Moon talk about the very specific noise that a group of human beings make when they see fireworks explode in the air above them.

I haven't been able to see any kind of fireworks display for years and years without that line coming out of the back of my brain to show its bare arse.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Standing your ground on Middle-Earth

I fucking love Lord of the Rings shit, but I really fucking love the moments when someone small stands up against something big, and just faces up against impossible odds, because it's the right fucking thing to do. They stand their ground. 

It's the big themes, with entire kingdoms standing to fight a hungry evil that's bigger and meaner than anything else in the world, and when that ultimate evil defeated by the smallest and most gentle creature in the land.

 And it's Sam not letting Shelob get away with her Big Spider Bullshit - 

  - it's Gandalf telling Balrog to go to fucking hell - 

 - it's Eowyn standing up against the Witch King and his worm dragon, and fucking both their heads up -

 

They're scared shitless, and they usually get majorly fucked up doing it, but they stand their damn ground, because no other bastard will. It's the total definition of heroic fiction.


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Wizard's cattle calls



Wizard Magazine always had, right from the start, so many dodgy articles and editorial decisions, and it could get properly infuriating because there could be genuinely interesting news, reviews and interviews about the world of comic books, buried by frat boy humor and the dumbest nonsense.

But even the price guides and focus on collectability served a purpose, because it was a glimpse into a world I never had anything to do with. When you don't give a shit what your comics are worth, it can be like looking at the scene of an ultra-slow slow-motion car crash, as geek tastes and definition of hotness change by the month, and people get loaded down with a bunch of worthless Stephen Platt comics.

So while that was always fun, the casting call articles were the worst wastes of space in every issue, because they were always so basic and so obvious, and the wrong choices all round.

There was clear thinking that because Steve Rogers is blonde and stacked, this blonde, stacked shithead from some NBC cop show should be Captain America. And Tom Cruise was a popular choice for all the wrong reasons, and would have been a truly terrible Nightwing.

There's also a very dated tendency to rely on some specific actors when talking about characters with diverse ethnicities, which really is as cringe as it sounds.

There was the odd suggestion in the hundreds that came true, but there was certainly no great hit rate, especially when it was a no-brainer like Patrick Stewart playing Charles Xavier. And it was all so needy - nerds may have won in the end, but when the best the comic geek could hope for was the Roger Corman Fantastic Four, the casting dreams were blatant grasps at mainstreaming.

It still the most basic and boring discourse, and still see it all the time, including outside the rarefied air of comics. Anytime there is a new Doctor Who coming along, it all goes insane with every English speaking actor with a spark of wit rumored to be taking up the role, and have about as much accuracy as those fucking Wizard possibilities.

Even though the entire Marvel movie series is built on a bedrock of individual actor's charms, all the predictions about who they're going to be are worthless. And some of them sit there in old and dusty issues of Wizards, little timebombs of uncool, waiting to blow up in your face.

(All that said, the next Doctor Who should absolutely be Vicky McClure, and nobody would be a better Bond than Dev Patel.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

A tale of two trailers



This is such a fucking first world problem, but it's the small shit that helps define us.

I just think it's really clever how a site like YouTube has figured out that I like watching movie trailers, so it offers them up as ads, but then I'm trying to watch some other movie trailer, and it barges in with a preview for something else.

Sure, you want to see the new ad for the new James Bond or something, but how about you really watch an ad for some Shudder shit?

Is it an ad just because I don't want to see it? Is this how capitalism works? Couldn't YouTube just give me the Bond in the first place? Fuck, then what? Do I have to watch something else to make up for the ad I actually wanted? Is this how things work now?

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

There are Carnage regrets, but at least I've got Hercules



Periodically purging the comic collection is always a great idea. You can always sharpen things up a bit, and sort it all out. Get rid of all the nonsense, get it out of the house, and maybe even make a bit of money out of it.

I try not to have too many regrets about things I don't have anymore. There is a small part of me that wishes I hadn't given up all of John Byrne's Alpha Flight comics so easily, but there's a much bigger part that remembers that a lot of it was really, really boring.

It's better this way, the quality of the thing is far higher in my wistful reminisces than in cold, hard reality. I'll probably be reading those Alpha Flight comics again at some point in the future, and there is absolutely no chance it will be as exciting as I thought it was when I was 16.

I really did think it was really fucking exciting when I was 16.

That said, I do regret selling all those comics where Carnage first showed up for a couple of bucks each in the late-2000s. I had three or four years worth of Amazing Spider-Man comics from that era, and even though I was - and still am - an embarrassingly large Mark Bagley fan, I needed to slim things down, so the near-mint comics went out for door for an absolute song.

But now I see what they're going for and I realise that if I'd held onto them for another decade I could have made proper bank. I could have bought a new fucking car with those issues now. 

No, I had to hang onto all the Bob Layton Hercules comics instead. That was a much wiser investment, by Zeus. I could probably get five bucks for both miniseries if I tried. Thanks for that, Prince of Power.

Monday, October 4, 2021

All the Way back with CBR



Our digital history fades so fast. The memory hole caused by the internet (and general human laziness) starts somewhere in the late 90s, and is well entrenched in the 21st century. Just try finding out something about a single comic published in 2007. When everyone shifted from print to online, they never realised that everything they were doing would disappear into dead links and lost servers.

I chase the past as much as anyone, if only to see what I looked like, intellectually speaking. My generation was the last to grow up without digital cameras, so there's very, very few photos of me in my misbegotten youth. Part of me is always grateful for that, because holy fucking shitballs is that an embarrassing time in your life.

But I do still jump on the wayback machine every now and then and try to find the first things I ever did online, and can find some remnants of the the message board posts at Comic Book resources when they still had that purple and orange speech balloon wallpaper and I called myself Max Seven.

I've found a couple of message titles, usually hanging out on the Vertigo board with trench and pocketwatch and a bunch of other cool cats, and there's something about Signal to Noise and the Invisi-mobile and Miracleman, and cut me some slack, dude, it was 1998.

I can't see what we're on about, all you can see is the message titles. So it goes - the vast amount of messages are lost, just gone, so much faded away, and thank goodness for that. There have been hundreds of thousands of posts at comicbookresources.com since then, and they're almost all gone, and we're better off without them.

Still, I do worry about fly on the wall.

But taking a little glimpse at this time never hurts. Remembering what comics inspired you enough to talk about this nonsense with complete strangers on the other side of the world. Somewhere there is still a picture of that summer of 1998, when anybody can see a public diary of the stupidest tastes and a desperate need to connect with the world. It's still there.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Who could ever say no to Tim Roth?



I keep telling myself that I'm gonna stop watching those videos where the world's most charming actors go through their legendary filmographies and offer thoughts on the movies and anecdotes of their time on set.

They're just so smug and so tasteful and whenever I'm done with one, I always promise myself that I'm not going to watch another.

 ...

What?

There's a Tim Roth one?

Oh well. That's different.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Never get all four off the Spinner Rack

This is as close as I get. Fuck you, Hal Jordan
 

The Spinner Rack is one of my absolute favorite social media feeds, on any platform. They don't do  commentary, there are no reckons, and no slaughtering of scared cows - just four covers from a bunch of comics released on one particular day in history

As well as being a reminder how many fucking comics there have been, with hundreds and hundreds of covers to comics that I've never even seen before, it's impossible to go past any of their posts without noting how many of those issues you've actually owned..

They always put up four, and I've had a few threes, but never the full card. I think it's because they haven't done a hell of a lot in the late eighties and early nineties, when I was certifiably peak geek, and there were many, many days in the 70s and early 80s when all the issues are complete unknowns.

But I will get a complete set of four one day. Oh yeah. And it's meaningless and trivial beyond belief, but it's going to make my fucking day.

(Sometimes I think I can't get any more fucking dorky, and then I go and admit shit like this. There's always lower.)

Friday, October 1, 2021

Good movies with bad hipsters



We're all looking forward to going back to the cinema regularly again for that communal experience, where you share a laugh with a roomful of strangers, and all hold your breath at the same time during an insane stunt, all have your hearts broken in a line of dialogue at once.

It's been so easy to romanticise that feeling, but it doesn't completely hide the fact that it can sometimes be a totally shit experience. You're trying to have an emotional connection with people whose faces are three metres tall, you don't need the distraction of people on their fucking phones, or talking the most basic shit, or just behaving like a general dumbass.

I can generally handle any of that, and seeing a movie at the worst cinema is still better than watching it in the endless distraction and insidious comfort of home viewing. But the very worst screenings I've been to are the ones full of people who are just too hip for the film.

There is nothing in theatre-going worse than an audience that is embarrassed by a film's cheesiness, or by how much it's dated. They're so busy laughing at it, not with it, because they have to show everybody else that they are much, much cleverer than the filmmakers.

I am still not over a screening of Blue Velvet that I went to in the mid 90s, where the entire experience was destroyed by a truly obnoxious segment of the audience, who laughed in al the wrong places, made all the obvious jokes, and ripped everything apart in the most tedious manner possible. They sure showed everyone else how smart they were.

There is no doubt that David Lynch does not give a flying fuck about this kind of reaction to his films, but for those poor suckers trapped in a room with them, we can only hope these loud fools learn that  it's so much easier, and far less annoying, to go with the film, instead of slamming up against it.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

No assembling around here



There have only been a couple of times in my adult life when I didn't live anywhere near a comic shop, or even a decent bookstore, and went months and months and months without regular injections of raw comic goodness. I knew I'd catch up eventually, but it might take a while.

The biggest comic drought as an adult was undoubtedly around the turn of the century, when I went back home for a few years, two hours drive away from the nearest comic store. I managed to keep up with the best Ennis and Morrison comics of the day, but everything else fell away. All the good stuff that came out from all the best publishers, I completely missed it all

It didn't really matter because knew I would catch up, sooner or later. Everything was getting collected, and I'd one day be in a town with all the back issues I needed. And I was, and caught up on all the Authority and Hourman comics I needed.

And yet, I never got to read the last half of that Busiek/Perez Avengers run. I got the first year and a bit's worth of issues, and got into its hardline detail, in both history and art. While I gave it up all at once when I moved town, I fully intended to come back to it.

And I just never did. Never bought the later issues, never even read any collected edition from the library. I know a lot of what happens, I know there is a big thing with Ultron and Thor has one of his most badass moments, but I never did see how it actually played out.

I'm not dead yet, so there's still time for one of Marvel Epic collections or something to put out the whole storyline, but I haven't seen it yet. It just shows me how you can miss out on something you actually like, when the opportunity never presents itself.

Sometimes, it just slips by.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Up the Ruling Class


I swear, literally a day after I've randomly seen The Ruling Class while comforting the baby at 4am, I see a list of Grant Morrison's favourite films made when they were a young, hungry writer and there it is, at number three on their list.

It just happened to be starting on the movie channel when I was looking for something to watch, I'd literally never heard of it before that day, and it was all right. It turned out to be an extremely shrill and loud movie about how fucked the upper classes are, which isn't exactly earth-shattering news.

But it's no wonder it's a Morrison fave, it pulls no punches and is scathing in its portrayal of these posh pricks, gets in some demented imagery and stops every now and again for a song and dance. It's a film that is just happily obnoxious about the cunts who run the world, and I don't think I'll ever need to watch it ever again. Sorry Grant, once was enough for me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Taking all the money on the table until there's no money left



There is a mindset at all the big comic book publishers that would be incredibly funny if it wasn't so dumb and short-sighted, and you can see it in their absolute fear that they're not squeezing every cent they can get out of something they own, even as they destroy any sustainability it might have

The last time I ever tried to engage with this dumbass argument was when the Before Watchmen project was announced, and a long-time online buddy tried to convince me that it was a sound business move, that DC were right to try and get more out of the thing, because they were just leaving money on the table by not pursuing all opportunities to use these characters and concepts.

But it's always been such a bullshit argument, especially with something like Watchmen, because its fearful symmetry was a huge part of its appeal, the delicate balance of the story mirrored in precise artwork. It existed as one 12-chapter story that never needed any prequels, sequels or spin-offs. It was good as it was.

Now, it is surrounded by Before Watchmen books - which would be utterly worthless if they didn't occasionally look real fucking pretty - or new spin-offs, or even ones where Superman gets to throw a punch at Dr Manhattan for several thousand panels. Maybe they need to get the

As always, Marvel did it too, on a far grander scale with the X-men. It was once indisputably the top superhero comic in the world, and they pissed all that away on endless spin-offs. The sheer amount of stuff puts anyone off from starting in the first place, while driving away those who can't get up with the financial pace.

It's some basic business sense - don't fuck up the golden goose - but the big comics publishers are often baffled by that entire metaphor.

With Watchmen, the original work is always going to be an original work and is still available in one handy volume, but the symmetry that made it so attractive in the first place is now lop-sided by dreck, and all that money on the table can just slide right off the edges, and onto the floor.

Monday, September 27, 2021

There's a TV in my room!



My whole goddamn world changed the day I had enough money to buy my own TV and video player, and install it in my bedroom. It took months of saving for it with the wages from my first full-time job, and I ended up picking them up dirt cheap at a pawnbrokers auction sometime in 1993. It only cost me $400 for both, and it was a fine investment, because I was the kind of absolute cultural sponge that you can only be when you're 18.

We were a solid working class family growing up, with just one TV for the whole family unit. This meant you learned the art of compromise and absolute injustice every night, as you tried to find something that everybody could be happy with. It helped that there were only two TV channels in the whole country, so it wasn't like there was a lot of choice, and we could all agree the A-Team was better than Masterpiece Theatre.

It did mean that if you missed out on seeing something when it first screened, you really missed out and there was absolutely no chance you would ever see it again, (as a disaster obsessed creep of a kid, I can still feel the anguish of missing A Night To remember one Sunday afternoon). This could be hard for a lot of people in 2021 to get their science fiction minds around, but there was a time when eveyting everywhere was available for everyone.

There wasn't any other option, so you just had to live with it. It all got a bit better when we got our first VHS machine in 1984, but that still required a lot of family comprimise - my Dad would never let me hire out a Star Wars, no matter how much I needed it - and it it would be another nine years before I was allowed to have my own TV in my room.

And then I was 18 and right at that time in your life when you've just indulging in everything you can get your hands and I wanted to see the movies. All the movies. 

I went through all the Leone I could find, inhaled every Coen Brothers in sight, and went hard on the Scorcese. Every possible Hammer film I could find. All the zombie movies on the shelves. All the arthouse shit I could stomach. The few John Woo bloodfests I could find. All nighters of Peter Weir films, or just watching every Friday the 13th movie (there were only eight of them at that stage).

It's that age when you're still working out what kind of adult you're going to be, and the whole human condition was there on the video shelves. And with my own TV, I could watch three movies a night, and really figure that shit out.

It's no surprise that this was the time when I saw four of my five favourite films ever, as tastes solidified and the kind of movie I really liked became clear. The great films I've ever seen weren't on some huge screen with a kickass sound system, they were on a shitty video tape, on my shitty old 20-inch TV.

There's an age in life for this kind of obsession, and we do grow out of as real life gets in the way (well, most of us do). I haven't had a TV in the bedroom since I've been married, and haven't really missed it, although with the nest generation coming though, I might get pushed back to my own screen again.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

There's a smoking section in the Twilight Zone



I've been watching a couple of episodes of the old Twilight Zone series every week, and they're perfectly charming and occasionally upsetting.  But even though the twists are always easy to pick, the scariest thing about the old series is creator Rod Serling's continued plugging of cigarettes at the end of many episodes

It's fascinating to look back at how these old things were made, but really just macabre when you consider all those cigrattes undoubtedly contributed to Serlin's early death at 50. He lives forever in early morning reruns, but stop telling me how great those smokes are, they will fucking kill you, man.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Dredd's time is coming up fast



We're only months away from the start of work building Mega City One, according to the timeline of Judge Dredd's world, written by co-creator John Wagner and published in the 1984 Dredd annual.

If this is what's behind Biden's infrastructure Bill, the American public need to know how much their government is spending on concreting over New York and setting up the laser defense screen.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Blake's 7 outbleaked them all



Blake's 7 was a pretty bleak show, right from the start, and right to the end. The whole programme had a profound impact on me as a kid, to the point where it would show up as a metaphor in a dream for young existentialism.. So it should have come as no surprise when it ended with the absolute slaughter of every main character, but it was still a genuinely shocking thing to witness. 

I was probably six-years-old when I first saw this last episode and it did me harm.

It's not just that they all get gunned down in the final moments, it's that they haven't changed anything, with no hint their death will inspire others to rise up against the Federation. Even the figurehead they all rallied around - the title character of the whole damn show -  turned out to be another weak man, who buckled under the pressure and started working for the system. 

Avon gets the last grin, but the Federation rolls on, crushing all in its path. The rebels are annihilated and the system endures. Servalan is the only main character who is still alive by the end of the series and gets to rock off into forever with her crew of mutoids.

There's been plenty of sequels in books and audio adventures, but they don't really count. While they give some hope, the utterly nihilistic end of the show is the only way this story could ever end. Even though they were onto a space trek straight into oblivion from the start, it still hurt..

I'm still a couple of years away from my next 11-year rewatch, but it's coming. As inevitable and inescapable as that bloody Federation.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Grendel: The devil's dead end



Grendel: Devil's Odyssey really felt like the end for the entire concept. Pushing even further past the future society that the devil created, taking Grendel Prime out into the wider universe and literally leaving behind a dying earth.

It was a devilishly exciting adventure out into the stars, all beautifully rendered by creator Matt Wagner. Grendel Prime, the ultimate warrior, walked the path of non violence for a while and lasered a few squid people, and beat the shit out of the bluntest political allegory Wagner has ever used (and there have been some absolute doozies in his career). It was fucking excellent.

And then Grendel reaches the end of the line and finds he's just a bit basic for intergalactic life, and gets his metallic ass sent back to earth. There's only so much that unstoppable willpower can take you, only so brutal and efficient you can be before you start to bore the piss out of higher lifeforms. The devil can only go so far.

After wrapping up Mage, Wagner's return for Devil's Odyssey felt like the best epilogue Grendel could ever hope for. Ending at the dead end that all that ruthlessness was always leading towards.

But now it turns out that wasn't the end at all. There's more coming, with Wagner obviously invigorated by this space adventure, and taking this bizarre future another indomitable step even further forward, and there's a planned 12-issue series of Grendel Prime's new quest in a new Earth where the Grendel mark is a death sentence. 

With the new Netflix deal for a Grendel TV series announced last week, all the eyes will be on Hunter Rose again, and that's fine because he's going to be gorgeous, charming and deadly. But Wagner's story of this far future of humanity, where the blank stare of the Grendel is the only righteous, honorable and unstoppable force left in the world, is far more exciting.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Audition in lockdown


It feels like there are going to be a hell of a lot of Covid-related romantic comedies coming, full of odd couples stuck together during lockdowns, helping each other out in sickness and in health.

I'm not going to watch a single one of these fucking things, because life is too short for that. But I really hope there is one that goes full-on Audition in the last half hour or so, and it turns out you've been locked up with somebody with an unhealthy obsession with piano wire, and it just blasts in out of nowhere, a sweet movie going full gore. 

It won't make up for the sheer boredom of being stuck in one place that the whole world has experienced, but it could help.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

You don't need to box up everything, you fucking geeks


The box is empty. The box is always empty.

The dorks won and we'll be suffering for that for a long time. The geekiest of geek behaviours have been seeping into general pop culture for decades, for better and for worse. Sure, everyone knows who T'Challa is now, but that's not worth the toxic bullshit that has been imported into general society

The absolute and tragic sense of entitlement that fans of comics and science fiction and shit feel towards things is in our culture, and it's fucking everywhere. In our sports, in our politics, in our workplaces. Social media is as mainstream as it gets and its full of the kind of thing you used to see in fanzine letter columns. The same dull wit, the same snide superiorities, the same old bullshit.

And everything has to have a label put on it. Fan histories are full of long arguments about whether something is a particular genre, whether something is a horror or a fantasy or whatever, as if that ever really mattered. 

This is all excruciatingly backwards, but this insatiable desire to put everything in the right place, is everywhere now. Making everything nice and neat might make sense when you're cataloguing your  Detective Comics collection, but this does not apply to the vast complexities of actual human beings.

And now you've got people losing their minds over what gender goes into boxes, as if the human goddamn condition isn't a multi-faceted thing, and no two are alike, all have their own needs and wants and it's all good. They don't have to go into boxes they don't want to go into. Only you can decide what bix fits you.

The joy that can be seen in my trans and gender fluid friends, colleagues and neighbors is absolutely delightful and divine and they can go into any damn box they feel like. You can't seal up that kind of beauty, no matter how fucking men or dorky you are about it.


Monday, September 20, 2021

Still chasing that X-Factor thrill



It's 2021 and if we weren't in another bloody lockdown, I could still go to the local comic shop and buy a new X-Factor comic by the immortal team of Louise and Walt Simonson. What a wonderful world this can be sometimes.

It might be pants, and I don't care, because Simonson X-Factor is my favourite kind of X-Factor. And I know - I know -  that I can't ever catch the same feeling I had when I got X-Factor #27 off the shelves at the Park Store, next to the Timaru Botanical Gardens, while walking from town to my Nana's house (not Nana Smith, Nana V. Both outstandingly lovely people).

That lazy Saturday afternoon was 33 years ago, but I'm still high from getting this comic and reading the absolute shit out of it that day, over and over again. I was 13 and had only ever been a fairweather X-Men fan, but this Fall of the Mutants epilogue was everything I never knew I needed, and all I wanted was x-comics from that moment on.

Only true fucking dorks say stuff like this, but it's true - it's really like the first hit of a drug. You're never gonna get that exact feeling ever again, but you're bloody well going to keep trying to get it. What else are you gonna do with your life? Something constructive? Fuck that.

Even though it's impossible, because I'm not a kid anymore. Those innocent days of finding odd issues of the weirdest fucking comic books, and not having any money for the ones you can, they're long gone. I've been able to buy any damn comic I find on the shelves for decades now, and it's never the same. 

Sometimes you get something really fucking good, and it's close to that thrill, but it's still not there.

But the chase is the thing, the chase is everything. Get your kicks where you can, and keep going back to them, for as long as you are still able. Chasing the thrill of some random X-Factor comic from 33 years ago helps keep me going. It all helps.


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Invisibles in a box



Do I know the Invisibles has aged horribly, and what was once truly transgressive and groundbreaking 30 years ago can seem clumsy and mean?

Well, yes.

Do I still keep all my original issues in a special box built by my grandfather near the bed, and if the house went up in flames, the first thing out the window after I got the kids to safety would be that box?

Also yes.

My big old 90s obsession with The Invisibles is still etched into the pages, can be seen in every loose cover, every creased page, every faded panel. I've had chances to upgrade the issues many times in the 21st century and the very idea is appalling. These comics are sticking around, even if the house burns down. 

Just say yes.

Friday, September 17, 2021

The two faces of Elastica


I fucking loved Elastica. I didn't know they were a Wire rip-off or anything like that when I first heard them, deep into the 90s, I just thought there songs were punchy and short and it felt right that they dissolved after a few short years. There's probably been a reunion tour or two since then, but that never counts.

I fell hard for their sound when I watched the video for Connection a thousand times in the late of the night in the mid-90s, but only just this year realised there were two videos for the band, and I saw the second video when YouTube offered it up, and it's really, really fucking terrible.

At least it's genuinely funny - they couldn't look more disinterested and bored. At least two of them appear to be on heavy drugs, and every piece of energy and vitality they bring to their sound is completely unrelated to what's happening on screen.

All that visual inertia on an absolute banger of a tune is a crime against music.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Nobody hyped Ditko in the 1980s



It's very weird how Marvel never seemed to make a very big deal about getting Steve Ditko back on a full time comic for them in the early 80s. After fucking off to DC and messing around with Charlton, and finding them all just as deplorable as those goddamn hippies at Marvel, Ditko went back in 1979 for the easy cash that the House of Ideas offered.

And they never made a big deal about it! The guy who was an essential part of the creation of their single most popular character, one who has generated billions in revenue for its owner. And while he might never have touched any drugs, his Doc Strange remains the trippy standard for the character.

And they put him on Rom and Machine Man. They gave him exactly one decent shot with Speedball, but when that failed to really find an audience, they relegated him to fucking Marvel Comics Presents. And even there, he co-created one of the great 21st century Marvel characters in Squirrel Girl, because of course he fucking did.

Maybe Ditko's art was just too square - in every sense of the word - and maybe Ditko's famed rigidity made him impossible for him to work with a big company that was reaping huge rewards from his earlier work.

Eventually he slipped away again, with considerably less flair than that time he left Peter Parker behind. He seemed happy enough doing his Mr A screeds, and giving everybody the pure Ditko. It was too pure for 80s Marvel, anyway.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Feed your head!



 

I didn't think it was possible. Not again. But I am 100% obsessed with the fucking Matrix. 

There is worth in the sequels, but then they made a MMORPG game and put an advertising insert in all the comics I was reading in 2005, and it was absolutely the dorkiest fucking thing I'd ever read in my life, and killed all of the coolness the story had.

And now it's back and it looks like everything I want in a Matrix film, and I don't care if it's full of assholes who wear sunglasses inside, I'll be there as soon as I can.

(I also can't tell you how much I'm glad that Trinity is there, getting into the shit. That means a lot.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Superduperman starts the 1980s



The 1980s were a great wave of revisionist superhero comics, and they were a much-needed sudden shock to the mainstream system that was still dealing with the collapse of the newsstand market, and a renewed push into specialty stores and general bookshops. All the big superheroes had their dark night of the soul to deal with and it was already played out by the early 90s, any attempts already choking on their own irony.

It was an age of revisionism and like any ages, it's debatable where it starts. Was it with Alan Moore coming over from the UK with his mad ideas? Was it when Miller grabbed hold of Daredevil by the horns and took the Man Without Fear to new depths? Were the seeds there in Gerber's deeply ironic 70s work at the House of Ideas?

Or was this age born much earlier than that, taking some time to simmer? Because it was all there in the pages of Mad #4 in 1953, and the adventures of Superduperman by Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood.

All the great creators of the 80s - both artists and writers - grew up on the brilliance of the early Mad comics. Any of the British creators that came over in the first wave still maintain that comics never got better than the first two dozen issues of Mad, and it's genuinely arguable that they're right. They're so slick and polished and never patronized their audience.

And Supderduperman ripped into some heavy duty deconstruction of the super-hero in the name of laffs, filling every panel with meaning and the kind of violence that the 'real' superheroes never showed.

And it was all seeping into young brains, showing what comics could really do. Thirty years later they were making the same jokes, just cloaked in seriousness and pastiche. Because when you looking for the start of a particular era, you always gotta go back to when everyone were kids.


Monday, September 13, 2021

Hunter S Thompson and his stately pleasure dome



I can recite the opening to Kublai Khan from memory, not because I've been a Coleridge scholar or anything, (one of my very best friends is a genuine Coleridge scholar, and I've always been intensely jealous that she gets to say that), but because Hunter S Thompson once used it in an essay to show the power and strength of words. 

Thompson was properly awestruck by those words, and when he wasn't busy getting sucked in by all the drugs and sports and feral hogs of humanity, he really tried to reach those heights.

If Hunter is your favourite writer when you're 21, I totally understand. And if he's still your favourite writer when you're 39, I'm totally judging you. But there is a time in your life when you need someone like Hunter in it.

He was up there for me in my early 20s, in the usual obnoxious manner. Getting that fucked up on mind-altering chemical, all of the time, and coming back with pages of beautiful writing is a romantic dream for all young fools. It's a drive that goes back centuries, across all cultures.

We may not have frilly-shirted poets of the most dreamy deposition, we had a crude, rude and incredibly fucked up baldie who wrote up politics and sports and Las vegas, and it was hard and rambling and deeply, deeply insightful about the rotten heart of America.

How could you not fall for that kind of psychotropic bravado? Beyond the philophy of it all, it just looked like so much fun, even when it all got really, really messy. We all have nights like that, and you've done well if you've come through it. 

He also ruined a lot of journalists, purely by example. Putting himself at the centre of his stories only worked because he was a thick, powerful writer.  He would brag of talking football with Richard Nixon or talk about some run-off election in Bumfuck, Idaho, and make it all sound like the sexiest fucking thing ever.

Entire generations of journos want to be him, and don't have that huge talent, and just look like dicks. Hunter could be a dick too, with that big fucking mouth, and was never the best of role models, but he looked like a  hell of a guy to go on a road trip with, and teach the dorks about poetry.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

When Back to the Future lied to all of us

 

It's easy to look back now and scoff, but they fucking fooled the shit out of me with all the talk about the floating skateboards in the second Back to the Future.

It's a legendary piece of movie marketing - claiming that the hover-boards seen in the film actually existed - but I bought it wholesale, because they said it was true on Entertainment Tonight and Leeza Gibbons wouldn't lie about that. 

This was well before the internet was everywhere, with little access to any real info, so Entertainment Tonight was a primary source of movie news for many many years. And if they weren't telling the truth, who was? 

I did start to think it was taking them a while to actually bring them to market, before it clicked that I'd fallen for movie hype over reality. I really don't mind being fooled, I would just still love to have a go on those funky flying skateboards.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

We glimpse the abyss



There is sheer bloody poetry in this series of panels from Eddie Campbell's comic adaption of Alan Moore Birth Caul, beyond the fears of youth. 

It's these men who are proud of never missing a day at their menial jobs, and that's all they've got to show for a life of toil. Moore used it to show how much that prospect can absolutely terrify any youth with hope for a better life, and how it pushed him hard into Art. But it also captures a working class dignity that has always been exploited, a pride that management had no interest in, other than to generate more profit.

It makes me think about my parent's generation, and how all their job security was stripped away by the dumbass political ideologies of the 1980s. And all their children flutter from job to job, never giving any loyalty to one business or organisation, because you never get that loyalty back.

How many jobs did you have before you found one worth sticking with? How many times were you betrayed by a boss, or ignored by the suits in charge, or thrown away like fucking nothing? Why give them anything when they give you nothing back?

There's something a bit horrifying about a genuine and honest work ethic that is chewed up by monsters of capitalism, and it's just as horrifying as a lifetime of drudge work.

Friday, September 10, 2021

John Campbell's slow songs by sad women


They say don't meet your heroes, but I met and worked with the absolutely brilliant NZ broadcaster John Campbell for a while and he was a deadset fucking legend on every level, so fuck that noise.

Apart from being a stunningly nice bloke, he's an absolute fiend for music, and when I mentioned I liked the Sharon Van Etten song she did on Twin Peaks, he came back the next day with a curated playlist full of slow songs by sad women.

This is what John Campbell, total fucking legend, gave me:







































Thursday, September 9, 2021

The big, blue Beast breaks bad



Beast is one of best characters Marvel ever had, an acrobatic and erudite blue furred force of nature, bouncing around the walls while arguing about highbrow theories and pop philosophy. We couldn't have that, so he's been consistently fucked over by decades of creators into being a nasty piece of shit.

The juxtaposition of the intellect and the brute nature of his mutant abilities make Hank McCoy a great character. He was the smartest man in any room, and was also a monster with blue fur. He got into it for a while, going to softcore porn movie premieres with a turtlenecked Simon Williams, fucking owning the fact that he was a big, blue monster.

Apart from the odd ironic effort, he hasn't been that kind of character in years, he's mainly just been a dickhead. It's not the fault of any one writer, artist or editor, just a continuation of character over decades, with Hank McCoy making innumerable dumb decisions, and barely mentioning stars and garters.

Marvel always seems so scared of characters with real intelligence. It's why Dr Doom is surprisingly hard to get right, and why the Reed Richards of the Ultimate universe took this logic to the total conclusion and made the most intelligent man on earth the greatest monster that universe ever created. It doesn't pay to be too smart.

I've fallen way behind the avalanche of new x-comics, but I'm just far enough that I'm sure Hank McCoy has done something completely fucking moronic in the things I need to catch up on. There's beauty in the beast, but you going to have to work to find it beneath that fur.   

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

This is still my life: Fuck off with your Quiet Place



My long, slow slide into parental cliche continued recently when I caught the start of the first Quiet Place movie on TV and getting properly annoyed by it.. Because nobody lets their kid get behind them like that, unless they're deliberately doing it to spark drama. 

It's a goddamn apocalypse. Who the shit does that? Just the dumbest fucking people.

I know they're tired and terrified and all that, but letting your kid trail behind like that in that scenario is like forgetting to put on pants before you walk out the door. It's a contrivance to get some tragedy going. Like every other fucking thing today, the film has some good moments and some terrible moments after that, but starting like that was a loud declaration of dumb.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

That website might not be there tomorrow



There is a significant pile of boxes in the corner of our storage unit that is full of Empire magazines. It's a hefty magazine every month, and when you've been getting every issue since 1993, it all adds up. And I'm not getting rid of them, not ever. Because I just don't trust any of the websites.

There are hundreds of issues of the British movie mag, full of the very best reviews and articles and essays and interviews, and it's all an invaluable resource of movie nerdom. I go through the whole lot every eight years or so and when I mention it to normal people they think I'm mental, because you can just go to the goddamn website on your phone any time you want.

But even if they put everything of worth from the mag onto the website - which they don't - I'm holding on to the mags, because no matte rhow much info they put up on their site, it's not going to be there forever.

No website lasts, and even magazines that have run for decades can swiftly fold and fade away, and it's not like anybody is going to keep paying to keep their significant archives online. One day, and it may come a lot sooner than anybody would like - the website can just disappear.

The hole in culture that the internet created is getting bigger, the further forward in time we go. Finding an article from the early 2000s can be incredibly difficult as it fades away.

But that stack of paper magazines are still gonna be there, that's worth taking up a little space in a storage locker.

A lot of people put there faith in the companies that host their music and comics and movies and whatever, and I think they're the mad ones, because that won't be there in 20 years. Not a chance. Paper fades, but print endures.

Monday, September 6, 2021

It's all Nana Smith's fault



If there is one person that I can blame for my extremely dorky life, it's my Nana Smith.

My parents patiently tolerated and slowly fed my obsession for comic books, and my Uncle Sol would let me read horror comics that I should not have been reading, but it was my Dad's mum, Joan Smith, who really got me started. She did this by working at the absolute coolest places in town, including the greatest second hand bookstore ever. 

This country used to be some of the most voracious readers on the planet, but we must have all got sucked into our phones or something, because the second hand bookstores are fading away, and the ones that remain are a shadow of their former shelves.

There was a time when the Readers Book Exchange in Timaru, next to the Majestic Theatre, had hundreds of different comics, all sorts piled up on creaking shelves. And every Tuesday for a couple of years in the early eighties, I would go to that bookshop and swap a grocery bag of comics for svereal dozen others.

This is where the comics obsession really begins, because I would read everything - Sgt Rock comics and Claremont/Byrne X-Men and Richie Rich and Whizzer and Chips and some very nasty vampire comics. The first issue of GI Joe. Little digest editions. The issue of Ms Marvel where Deathbird kicks her in the face. Terrible Charlton comics and absolute classic Brave and Bold comics. 

It's where I got the Unknown Soldier comic that was the first comic I ever read all the way through and understood all the words, and that was a great fucking day.

I also got my copy of Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth from that store, and I read that book a hundred times and a part of me still thinks it's the best novel ever written. I still have that copy, barely held together with aging glue and absolute affection.

But I didn't keep most of the comics that came home with me in the big brown paper grocery bag. Almost all of them were in and out and gone again. It didn't matter. I was only six or seven when this was happening, and I soaked it all up.

When she left the bookstore (she'd go back a decade and a half later) she went and got a job in the town's first ever video store. There were only a couple of hundred titles released, and I still remember being appalled and fascinated by The Killing Of America and some film about Idi Amin, but the idea that you could watch any film at any time was genuinely mindblowing. We didn't even have a player when Nana was working there, but the boxes on the shelves was still the coolest damn thing I'd seen in my young life.

Nana passed away more than 20 years ago now, and I miss her every day. But I still feel her presence whenever I'm sorting through another pile of comics, because she was there when it started and she's still there now.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Jumping the shark was still jumping a fucking shark


It's an easy shorthand for the exact moment any long-term narrative takes a dive in quality, but I was watching Happy Days every night in 1984 when this screened on NZ television and the Fonz getting on those waterskis was the coolest and most intense goddamn thing I had ever seen in my life. 'Jumping the shark' will always just mean something fucking awesome to me.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Bad looks on Marvel books

There is a lot that is weird and frustrating about following Marvel comics in trade paperback format. The constant renumbering of volumes and the thin collections make them stupidly hard to follow. No wonder they're so dead in the bookstore market, not when they can't get the absolute basics right.

I generally don't like pointing out typos, because they're usually a charming reminder that there is an fallible human hand involved somewhere in the production. But putting a typo on the spine of your book, where there are only a tiny amount of words can fit, does suggest that you really don't give a fuck.

The typo on the Scourge book is easy enough to skim by, but getting the name of the World's Greatest Comic Magazine wrong is just an appalling obvious metaphor for the whole company. If they can only be fantstic, who would you bother with them?

Friday, September 3, 2021

Shuffling back to the arrogance of the now



I'm still convinced that the sad pivot from shambling to running zombies was the perfect metaphor for the arrogance of the now, but that was nothing compared to the metaphor that is the whole fucking planet right now. No movie would be so blunt to have a world that we have - still suffering under a pandemic that has caused innumerable misery and harm, literally all over the globe, and the arrogance and stupidity that keeps feeding it.

It always been a cliche in horror of science fiction that the dickhead denying that something exists is killed for it in the stupidest way possible, but all cliche is rooted in truth and there are stories every day about deniers choking on their own innards. You just can't ignore that kind of monumental dumbness.

But when the simple act of wearing a mask becomes eaten up and spat out by political morons, it's clear we're still in a world where nobody thinks they're going to be part of the undead masses. They think they're the fucking hero, until they're coughing their bloody lungs up. 

I just want aggressively anti-vax dipshits to get a fucking dose so we can all look back on this horrific year and judge them for the dumbass zombies they are.



Thursday, September 2, 2021

Getting in all in the mail


New Zealand went into another lockdown the other week. All the fast food and furniture and shoe shops are closed. All of the bookstores and comic shops are closed. I still have to go into the office, but it's fucking quiet out there, and probably will be for another couple of weeks.

That's the main reason why I probably have more books and comics coming in the post than ever before, with multiple wins on the local auction sites and ebay purchases coming from Greece and Scotland. All the money saved by not splashing out on takeaways and movies and shit is going into these things. The books themselves are never that expensive, but it's all about the postage costs to get it to the arse end of the world.

I've always been a shelf junkie, getting things from the local stores is always more preferable, but that's just not an option right now. These recent purchases have literally been the very first things I've ever bought on ebay.

But I'm quietly obsessed with getting all the 2000ad and Judge Dredd annuals from the 1980s that I never, ever saw when they came out. I've got three in the past month, and have another four on the way. It's getting to be a bit of an addiction.

And also, it has been a hard year on the geo-political scene and in everybody's individual lives. Just a lot of bad shit, and it's been a fucking exhausting year all round. A slightly bent copy of the Judge Dredd 1992 Yearbook isn't going to fix all that, but it surely won't hurt.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Nat's comics recipes: I'll cook that up, ya fuckin' champion.


Will Eisner was fucking right. If you want me to learn how to do something, put it in the form of a comic. And make it look pretty. And fill it with loads of good jokes. 

The dude behind the fucking excellent Nat's What I Reckon cooking videos has smashed out a book, and in between the big and little life lessons that Nat has gathered as another insignificant ant on this mudball of a planet, he's put in his favourite recipes to make that ant life a bit more tolerable.

I didn't buy the book for Nat's philosophy, although it is pretty heartwarming, because it boils down to 'figure out your own path in life, don't listen to the dickheads who try to take advantgae of you, and remember that you'll always be an absolute bloody champion'. I bought the book because  gets his artist mates to do his recipes in comic form and it's an absolute piece of piss to follow. And full of literal toilet humour.

Trust me, the food tastes as good as it looks in these artistic impressions, but teaching people how to do it with a bit of wit and style always adds to the flavour.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

That was Milo's Week



We live in the golden era of comic reprints, where the most obscure stuff from a century ago can get lavishly restored and republished, but there is still an ache for the things we can never have. Comics with complicated rights that never get untangled, or are so obscure nobody even remembers they exist any more.

And some things have such a specific audience that they'll never return a profit for anybody who ever published it. And if they ever put out a collection of the 'Milo's Week' comic strip by Dylan Horrocks, they'd probably sell one copy, and I would gladly be that one.

A lot of Horrocks comics have been reprinted, even a tonne of his incomplete work was reprinted in a book called Incomplete Works, but nobody is expecting any Milo's Week. It ran for a couple of years in the mid 90s in the Listener, a local TV listing magazine that somehow became a political juggernaut (and then got sucked into the mediocrity of baby boomer fears). 

In a rare moment of editorial adventurousness for that magazine, they paid Horrocks to do comics and they were sharp as fuck, while also being genuinely funny and mixing real-life politics with surreal slapstick - the invisible hand of the market comes in and fucks everything up for everyone, while a Mr Wallace Footroot makes an appearance

Horrocks talks a lot more about it here, and even with the abrupt way the strip ended, it's obvious there is still some fondness for the whole endeavor there.

But it's created for such a specific audience, for people who were politically aware at an exact point in New Zealand's government and dig comic strips overloaded with political satire. Hell, who knows. Maybe they'd sell three copies.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Getting into Jurassic Park



We're all staring at our own individual screens now, and that can make it hard to remember how much of a big freaking deal Jurassic Park was when it came out. Everyone in the world wanted to see it as soon as they could, and they wanted to see it at the movies.

They wanted to see Jurassic Park because everyone wanted to see the start of something new. The use of CGI to create animals that haven't walked the earth in tens of millions of years was genuinely mindblowing, highlighting a future where you could put literally anything you could think of onto a movie screen. It's a promise that remains weirdly unfulfilled - we're still waiting for the great CGI art film - but anything felt possible when this popcorn blockbuster bullshit screamed into the world in 1993.

I've only seen that kind of mass culture fascination happen a few times, and it's usually Star Wars related, and it often sours as expectation overwhelms reality. But sometimes there is a piece of culture that isn't just for the nerds, it's a big fucking deal for everybody, and Jurassic Park was it.

Me and my mates were 18 when it hit theatres, visiting friends at university, and every Saturday night screening in Dunedin was sold out by early Saturday afternoon. You couldn't get a ticket anywhere.

We only just got into that sold-out screening at 10.45am in the Sunday morning, and the single screen cinema was absolutely packed. (And after the last year, even just the thought of that, of being in a huge crowd in a cinema is both anxious and incredibly alluring. We'll get back to that place one day.)

Fortunately, Steven Spielberg is really fucking good at what he does, and Jurassic park paid off bigtime. There was a woman in the row in front of me who had the most nineties hat on that you could possible imagine, and I still remember how she nearly jumped through the damn roof when the raptors came calling.

And everyone else would have followed her, because everyone was into it. If there is one thing I've missed and craved over the past 18 months is that sense of community, of being part of a large group all feeling the same thing at the same time.

It wasn't a life-changing experience or anything, but it was a bloody good way to spend a hungover Sunday morning and walking out of that cinema into the bright afternoon, it really did feel like anything was possible.

Unfortunately, what we got was a bunch of Transformer movies. Even the cinema didn't last - it was torn down a few months after it shuddered to the roar of a T-Rex, but they fucked up the demolition, and couldn't build on it, so turned it into a pointless carpark that nobody ever needed in that part of town. 

This is not the future Jurassic Park promised, but at least we all shared the same dream, for a little while.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Tremors: The wrong goddamn rec room



I don't know, man. The bit in Tremors - 1.30 into this clip - where they pan to the wall full of weapons in the cellar is a moment of cinema that would have made fuckin' Hitchcock weep.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The wisdom of Tony Curtis

Somewhere, sometime in the 90s, the immortal Tony Curtis is giving an interview with a movie magazine, and the veteran actor, who worked with some of the great performers and directors of the late 20th century, is asked for his philosophy on life. He comes back with the phrase:

"Fuck 'em, fed 'em fish."

I've seen Tony Curtis pop up in a lot of old movies since then, and there are some fine performances in there. But after reading this quote in an Empire magazine long ago, none of those performances have taken as much real estate in my head as that phrase has.