Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Current mood: No hay fotos, ni amigos... no más


Today I have been mostly feeling like Danny Trejo at his most Trejo, beating down the scum of the world with the power of the scowl. You mess with this kind of Trejo and his scowl will be the last thing you ever see.

I... I gotta watch more Danny Trejo films.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Current mood: Scarlet in the stars


Today I have been mostly feeling like Saavik, confident and cocky and ready to fly the Enterprise into the gates of hell, and looking fucking great in red.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Current mood: Just hold on a sec


Today I have been mostly feeling like Hi McDunnough, who was not prepared for the amount of baby he had to deal with. Nobody is prepared for that kind of shit, but you just gotta do the best you can, Hi.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Current mood: Logging on with life

Today I have been mostly feeling quite hopeful, that the bad times - when they come - will not last and that evil will not triumph. There is no proof that the world actually works out that way, but I have a certainty for optimism that is as heavy as the densest wood.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Current mood: Denied the knowledge


Today I have been mostly feeling like I have absolutely no idea what is going on, and that I have to learn to live with this fact in bliss and ignorance, because thinking too much about the things I don't understand can turn me inside out.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Current mood: Fragging great

Today I have been mostly feeling like Lobo shoving some chump's leg down his own throat with all the ferocity and feralness that artist Cam Kennedy can muster, and all the raw anarchic pleasure that comes with that.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Current mood: What is he doing now?


Today I have been mostly feeling like Meg, wondering when the hell Jack is going to calm down and end the bloody song, because my arms are getting tired.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Current mood: Worfed out

Today I have been mostly feeling like Worf, totally raging to let the inner beast out and feed on the blood of my enemies, but also recognising the absolute need for proper protocol at tea time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Current mood: Loved and rocketed


Today I have been mostly feeling like Maggie in the latest issue of Love and Rockets, weighing up all the options before deciding to do the most Maggie thing of all, and not being a dick about anything. After the catastrophic first meeting between Tonta and Maggie in Jaime Hernandez's masterpiece of a comic, which left both of them a bit shattered, the second could have gone either way. But because Maggie makes the world better by just being a decent and honest person, they bond on the beach, with Tonta's youthful and flailing everything finding sympathy with Maggie's resigned wisdom. Tonta finally has a role model worth following, and there is no need to talk about apologies or anything, not when Maggie has lessons to share. Get that ankle looked at, Tonta.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Current mood: French vampire

Today I have been mostly feeling that I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Current mood: Dazed and confused



Today I have been mostly feeling like the farmer in the Te Puke Thunder film from the classic early 2000s NZ TV show Back Of The Y, lost in the woods and high as fuck, and about to blow off my bloody face with my own booby trap.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Current mood: Iced, man



Today I am feeling as smug and self-assured as the beautiful Val Kilmer in Top Gun, after I figured out at the last minute a way to keep the content coming on the Tearoom of Despair for the next unfathomably busy month, with a bare minimum of effort. Sorry about that, everyone.

(June is probably fucked too, and will be about as satisfying as getting a new Fantastic Four comic in the 90s, and finding out it's just a reprint of one you've already got, under a new cover. But we'll deal with that when we get there.)

Friday, April 30, 2021

The most New Zealand of all



The most New Zealand thing I've ever done? It might have been the time me and my mates smoked a joint with Shihad at the Loaded Hog in Timaru, or the time we got mega-stoned and went to a rally motor race hill climb in Central Otago one Easter, and it took us two hours to get to the top of the mountain, only painfully getting there by foot and some strange machine with a tank tread, only for some cheeky fuckers to roll up over the crest in a Toyata ute.

It might have been the other week, where I was listening to an interview on Radio NZ with one of the creators of A Dog Show, complete with barks and whistles and quiet tension, while waiting for a deeply informative press conference about the Covid.

But I think the most Kiwi thing ever is when we've been overseas and told someone where we come from, and they're like 'you guys know Lorde, right?', and we're all like 'it's not that fuckin' small', and then have to add that 'yeah, my workmate went to school with her,' and then you're like 'and yeah, my wife's uncle married her grandmother, but we don't know everyone'. 

This has happened more than once.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The big picture always gives me a big headache



And there it was, right at the end of second season of The Mandalorian, after a bunch of fine self-contained episodes with clear influences from only the best samurai and western films, and then it all becomes a big thing with a bloody great sword from some cartoon I never saw and it's suddenly all about who will be a king and who's worthy to carry this sword of destiny and who gives a damn? It kills the momentum of the story as dead as all those imperial corpses littering the scene.

Geek culture needs to be constantly told that the things they are consuming matter, and that they are part of the bigger picture and are necessary to it - and you gotta get it all, or you might as well get nothing.

It's been like that in comics for decades, which is why DC keeps fucking up its reboots, because they're scared of hurting the feelings of nerds who really, really want The Killing Joke to still matter, and now it has infected the wider culture.

People talk about superhero films taking over the movies, but it's this 'Everything s Important' attitude that is the real invader of modern society, this insatiable need for everything to be part of a huge tapestry that stitches together perfectly, with no frayed edges.

Obviously, the best geek comics of all time are all self contained, telling a beginning, middle and end in a couple of hundred pages. Watchmen sells forever and absolutely nobody cares about Countdown to Final Crisis and all of its many spin-offs anymore, if they ever did in the first place. It definitely didn't matter how crucial it was to understand the current state of the DC universe, not anymore.

Not everything has to be part of something big. Let the Mando do his own thing.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Anybody can draw a Warlock



The Warlock character from the New Mutants is a goofy and lost little soul who also has access to a disturbing amount of direct power over any organic matter, but the best thing about him might be the fact that his shifting body and exaggerated proportions means anybody can draw a Warlock.

You don't have to know anything about anatomy or perspective or anything - just get those gnashing teeth and those crazy eyes just about right, and any fool can do it. I can't draw a decent stick figure, but I can do a Warlock. It's might not be a mean-looking Warlock, but it's a Warlock.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

What are you really remembered for, Mort?



Mort Weisinger kept Superman comics at the top of the sales charts for decades, to the point where he arguably almost strangled the concept to death. He also created characters like Aquaman and Green Arrow, which have lasted longer and generated vast fortunes that Mort could only ever imagine. He was also a terrible and overbearing human being by all accounts, bullying creators and editorial staff with undisguised glee, and he was a shit to restaurant waiters.

At least, that's how he's remembered now, long after he passed away. He couldn't even do anything about that legacy when he was alive, he can't do anything from beyond the grave.

If you ever read old interviews with Mort, he's always talking up his accomplishments, claiming credit for almost everything, while never failing to mention that his book about how to be a cheap bastard in modern America has sold millions and made him rich.

He's schmoozing with Hollywood powers and travelling the globe and none of that matters, not when the reputation is all that really lasts. And that reputation might be well deserved or it could grow over time, and there's nothing you can do about that kind of legacy, except be a better person in the first place.

The ultimate lesson is simple and one that all those Superman comics could have taught Mort - don't be a dickhead. That always comes out, and then nobody cares how many comics you were behind, they just rightfully care about the people you hurt. Nobody wants to pay tribute to an asshole.

Monday, April 26, 2021

The collection is getting sharper


I've been slowly coming to the end of a long, relentless and ruthless purge in the comic collection. It's taken a few years of thoughtful judgement to decide if I really need all those Final Night comics, but I'm starting to run out of things to sell.

And it's looking sharp! All the fat of the collection has been trimmed off the side - once you decide you don't need absolutely everything a particular creator has ever done, (thanks Violator v Badrock ), you can be quite happy with only the best os someone like Garth Ennis. This mainly meant just keeping the war comics and ditching most of the superhero pisstakes, although all those last ugly, ugly War Stories were some of the first to go. Bad art gets the purge before anything else - never mind the War Stories, I don't have any Avatar comics left at all.

And while I'll hold onto the Hitman comics until the end of all things, I didn't really need the two Bloody Mary and two Just a Pilgrim comics, even with the usual lovely Carlos Ezquerra artwork, and even though I bought them all, shining and new, off the shelf somewhere in the 90s and have held onto them all this time. They can still go.

Just in the last month, I've got rid of the Gaiman/Romita Jr Eternals, because I've read it three or four times and the only thing that ever sticks in my mind is the page where Iron Man comes though the wall, and a bunch of extraneous Vertigo, and some Concrete double-ups, and multiple What If and Thor and Avengers comics that were helpfully forgettable.

Goodbye Accident Man, you were the worst of Pat Mills. So long, Master of Kung Fu comics from the year I was born, you never really meant anything to me. Farewell, the few Mike Grell Legion of Super Heroes I have - 5YL Legion is the only one that I ever cared about.

(This is not true. Maybe I'll hold onto those Legions.)

All of this was necessary as a matter of space, but it also helps you sort out the comics you really want to keep, and those you don't. It's a constant process, and the stuff that's left shines that much harder. If it doesn't look beautiful, have a wicked script or have a weird emotional connection to me, it's out the door. 

To be fair - there are still thousands of comics that fit that description, so it's still a weighty, ponderous thing, but it could always be just a little bit sharper.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Viv gets his bacon sandwich, and eats it too



It's a sure sign of the utter brilliance of the Young Ones that I can literally watch an episode a thousand times and still miss an obvious joke. It was bad enough when I didn't see the unsettling flatmate sitting there in plain sight, but completely missing the fact that pig mascot Bacon Sandwich in the Bambi episode got actually turned into bacon by Viv, who is scoffing him down during the climactic mayhem of University Challenge, is just appalling. Especially when I only saw it when it was pointed out in a tweet from the immortal Matthew Holness....

Achtung!

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Here comes the United States Calvary



If I had the funds and influence to get any writer in the world to complete any novel, I am 100 percent certain that I would get Kim Newman - and maybe Eugene Byrne - to do the last Dark Future: Demon Download book. Get him to finish the series he started 30 years ago with the long-promised United States Calvary, and have Jeesamyn Bonney, Chantal Juillerat, Nathan Stack, Hawk-That-Settles, Redd Harvest and Colonel Elvis Presley face off against the ultimate darkness from beyond the veil.

He can keep writing Anno Dracula books until the end of time, but I'd pay him anything to read that book, with the added stipulation that he has to write it in a couple of weeks, just like he did. The kind of thing that made those Dark Future books so much fun has now been done a thousand times - the glorious cacophony of movie serial killers at the end of Korokdil Tears is the sort of thing you see in fuckin' Space Jam films now - but I'd give anything to get that widescreen apocalypse on the page.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Working in the office



There's a scene in one of the Flash comics by Geoff Johns from more than a decade ago - I think it's somewhere soon after Johns brought Barry back, but I'm damned if I'm going back through all those comics - where the title character meets his new workmates, and it became crushingly obvious that Johns had never really worked in a real office before.

Because every character in the lab is instantly just so mean and snarky and belittling towards a new co-worker, and while that might be fine for TV sitcoms and superhero nonsense, any office that worked like that in the real world would just fall apart.

Every office has its share of shitty people at the next desk - sad to say, if you can't think of one, it's probably you - but they're also a place where people have to work together to achieve some kind of goal, and if you can't do that, you're not going to last very long.

And when someone new starts, you don't immediately go on the defensive,  unless you're a total sociopath. It might be more dramatic, but it's a fake reality, as unreal as the goddamn speed force.

I wonder about this, when the whole world is on slack and zoom, stuck in their little digital. People mastered the art of working remotely really quickly, but we still need to know how to work together, right? We can't live with anything else.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Even the Warehouse is giving up on the DVDs


 
 
 The Warehouse is the local equivalent of the Wal-Mart behemoth, offering up vast stores of cheap goods, making their money in pure bulk. It's where you go to get a new toothbrush or rubbish bin or gardening supplies or anything you need.

It's also the place where I bought so much of pop culture over the years, because that was often the only option for me. As independent bookshops and record stores vanished into the ether over the decades, it's often been the only place in town still selling new CDs and DVDs.

Not anymore. All the Warehouse stores around me have visibly given up the physical media game in the past few weeks, liquidating their entire stocks in all their local stores, replacing it all with generic tech and devices.

It was inevitable, but it's still a bummer. It used to be the only place I could find my widescreen videos - I wasn't getting Empire of the Sun in all its glory anywhere else - and some Supergrass CDs I paid cash money for in the 90s are still getting played on the car stereo.

The stores have gone, and the physical object is replaced by all that stuff in the cloud, able to evaporate at a moment's notice. I'll snap up the last few Mission Impossible movies I need when they're selling them for 97 cents, and I need to do it while I can. That's all I'm getting from that place anymore.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

That's still Incredible!


There were only two TV channels when I was a kid so I would take what I could get. But that wasn't why I was obsessed with That's Incredible and never missed an episode. And it wasn't just because every episode was full of heart-pounding stunts and features about weird nature and occasional ghost stories, all presented by the slickest presenting crew in modern television.

I was just absolutely fascinated that people who wrote in got a box - a whole box - of That's Incredible books to share with friends and family. I wanted to read just one of those books so bad, but the luxury of a box of the things was staggering for this kid. 

I never wrote in, because in those days New Zealand was culturally years away from anywhere else, and even at that age I knew a TV studio would never stump up the postage to ship that beautiful box all around the world. But a kid could still dream.

They also tried to make a local version and called it 'That's Fairly Interesting'. It was not quite the same.


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

It is a small world, after all



Even after so many years of inhaling pure geek shit about comics and movies, there is so much neat trivia to find out about, and it's always a blast. Especially when it reminds you how small this world really is.

After all, I only just learned today that the man who pretty much created the Legion of Super-Heroes as we know it - science fiction writer big Ed Hamilton - was married for decades to the mighty screenwriter Leigh Brackett, who did outstanding work on everything from The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye to Rio Bravo and The Empire Strikes Back.

Imagine the conversations in that household! They must have been a hell of a great couple to have a dinner party with.

And then I also learned today that Bill and Ted were co-created by Richard Matheson's son. I always knew Ed Solomon was involved, mainly because of the shitty De Nomolos joke, but never made the connection between his writing partner Chris Matheson and the Matheson who had essentially created the zombie apocalypse as we know it with I Am Legend.

Sometimes it feels like a big, bad world, and we're all alone and disconnected from each other, and sometimes it really doesn't.

Monday, April 19, 2021

I just wanted to talk about Love (and Rockets) on the message boards



Before social media came along and fucked it up for everyone, the online message boards were the place to be, and there was something for everyone. All sorts of different slices of culture and society carved out their own immaterial spaces, with endless posts about model trains or knitting or, inevitably, comic books.

For a significant chunk of the late '90s I was a CBR boy, all the way up to NEB fanfiction. There were other options like the Alvaro boards, but they didn't have the same personality. The scariest place was undoubtedly the Comics Journal board.

I came late to the Journal in any format, only coming on board a few years before they established a digital footprint, after finding a small pile of them in a strange magazine shop that was closing down. They were mean and snarky and full of the best comic interviews I'd ever read, with Joe Kubert, Grant Morrison, Frank Frazetta and the immortal Los Bros Hernandez all featured.

Even though I was a total dork of the kind the Journal routinely sneered at, I lapped it all up and lurked on their very first message board. They were still way too cool for school, and I generally stayed at CBR.

But a couple of times I sucked up the courage to do a few posts at TCJ.com, wanting to talk about Love and Rockets, because it was as brilliant as ever, and nobody was talking about it. It never went far, because the only responses I ever got was that Jaime's art was too pretty and Beto was a shadow of his former self, neither of which ideas I agreed with in any way.

Within a few years and at least one total revamp, the Journal's message board became something really quite unsettling, with massive feuds I could never follow and a weird adoration/disgust for everything and anything. The world didn't lose much when that died away, and a ghost still lingers on Twitter and in the comments of reviews the Journal still puts out, but it's only a ghost.

I still want to talk about new Love and Rockets because it is as brilliant as ever, and nobody is talking about them, so I always write something every time a new issue comes out. Some things remain as cool as ever. And Jaime's art can never be too pretty.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Kiss his axe!


Slaine has always had terrific artists, right from the earliest days of Mills, Belardinelli and a truly transcendent McMahon. It's a story that unleashed Glenn Fabry and Simon Bisley on the world in all their glory, produced some deeply beautiful digital fumetti work from the  pen of Clint Langley and had recent painted work from Simon Davis that was extremely vigorous and lushly beautiful.

Even in that company, Argentine artist Leonardo Manco work on the current Slaine comic is absolutely fucking outstanding. Rich in expression, lively in action and with real painted weight, the veteran artist's work is easily the best art in the galaxy's greatest comic at the moment. It's a world away from the scratched brilliance of all those weird comics he did for Marvel 20 years ago, on a whole new level of Frazetta poses and shining detail. It's a privilege to drink it in.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The oldest civilisations on the newest platforms


 

I like all sorts of documentaries - ones about music and movies and war and the human condition and all that stuff. Nothing beats real life for weirdness and insane plot twists. I've overdosed on true crime documentaries, but am up for just about anything else.

Lately I've been absolutely addicted to films about the most ancient of times, and can't get enough of the birth of civilization. The exact moments when we really pulled together as a species, and got our shit together. The first farms, the first cities, the first wars and kings and social structures.

There's still so much mystery lurking there, in ancient times, but we're figuring more stuff every day. And any video that can explain it all and bring it to new life with funky graphics.  

I've been inside the great pyramid, and crawled inside the tombs of Newgrange, walked around the empty homes of Skara Brae - and seen that they liked to hoard their dumb shit as much as we do - but that's as close as I've ever got to history. And nobody has invented a time machine yet, and Doctor Who has still failed to turn up, so the videos will have to do for now.

Friday, April 16, 2021

True Faith: Shoot 'em in the head



I was there for the earliest comics Garth Ennis ever published, when they showed up in Crisis. They were clumsy and derivative and preachy and ridiculously earnest, but he already had a great ear for dialogue, and his instinctive grasp of pacing was right there from the start.

Still, there was a moment where he really stood out for his peers and became a longtime favourite, and all it took was a particularly nasty bit of outright murder.

It's at the end of True Faith, where the young student at the centre of all the bloody confusion shows up at school with a bottle of vodka and a gun. A bullying teacher confronts him, and in one glorious full page spread from the deeply underrated Warren Pleece, gets his fucking brains blown out.

After years of terrible school shootings, it's a deeply problematic conclusion to the story, but I was a young arsehole, and was just impressed by how Ennis's story had  actually followed through, and didn't wimp out. He just straight up murdered the cunt. 

In similar comics of this era, you'd expect some kind of ironic detachment, or even some storytelling cowardice, and the gun would be empty or broken. Young Garth was having none of that and pulled the fucking trigger.

It's the philosophy that some things can only be sorted out with extreme violence in Ennis' later Punisher comics, and with a conclusion that ends in a long, cold dark of a life. True Faith's Nigel doesn't get that far, and is bound to be killed 10 seconds after the story ends.

But Pleece also gives Nigel flicking you a cheeky grin in the final panel, because you really thought he wasn't go to do it, and he fucking showed you.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Legend of Baron To'a: Sorry about the language, mum


The legend of Baron To'a is a terrific Tongan-New Zealand film with a definite vibe of its own, showcasing a slice of culture that doesn't get nearly enough attention, even here in the South Pacific.

Thankfully, it's more than just worthy, and is loaded up with some balls-out fight scenes, a hugely charming cast of beautiful brown faces and a great bit involving a dog and a fence. And one of the excellent dudes from my local comic shop does some background wrestling during a barbecue, which is always nice to see.

It's also massively sweet at heart for something that is so full of dropkicks and suplexes, which can be seen right from the start, when the filmmakers begin the movie with a short message thanking God, their families and the Tongan royal family for the privilege of making the film, and throw in a quick apology for all the swearing and occasional human nastiness.

When so many films revel in their ability to shock and awe, this small display of humble grace is a ridiculously endearing way to start a movie. Most of them should begin with something as personal as this.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The floating world of 3D bubbles



While 3D comics can be a pain in the arse, losing the dynamism of the artist's line in the fuzziness of a faked new dimension, the thing I always dig most about these comics isn't the actual art, no matter how thrusting it is. It's the way the speech bubbles work.

They're just hanging there in space, on an whole other level from the penciled and painted art. The stark whiteness of the bubble giving even more depth as the action takes place on a bulging paper tableau behind them. Bubbles and captions are always floating in space, but they float higher in 3D.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Say it, Spidey villain


There is no actor alive that has managed to spit out a threat against Spider-Man in a movie without sounding totally goofy. There have been some fantastic actors that have given it a go, including Willem Defoe and Rhys Ifans and Michael Keaton and Jamie Foxx and many, many others, and they've all failed to really get across any sense of threat or menace. Just saying the name of the web-crawler out loud is utterly ridiculous.

This is not actually a complaint - sheer goofiness is the indispensable secret sauce of all superhero fiction, no matter how many noted comic scholars detest the idea that they aren't always taken absolutely seriously. Superheroes are an inherently dopey proposition, and long may that continue.

But as hard as they strive to bring some realism and grounding into superhero movies, nobody can sell the seriousness of a dangerous situation by yelling about Spider-Man.

It doesn't matter what universe he's in, or what kind of Spider-Man he is, the goofiness is right there in the name, man. There's just no getting around that. Embrace it, or go home.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Who's that Cable?



It's easy to sneer at now, after seeing all the terrible comics that came afterwards, and seeing how they collapsed into plot illegibility when Claremont left, but the changes to the X-Men comics in the very early nineties were outrageously exciting at the time. 

I was 15-years-old, which may explain things. It was right at the age when you're supposed to give up stupid things like comic books for girls and going to gigs and partying and all that. But yeah, girls were great and sneaking into gigs was intoxicating and getting wasted was great fun, but I could do those things and still read the X-Men, because things were heating up in those books, as Lee, Liefeld and Portacio let rip.

We weren't stupid, we knew the new artists had issues with some fairly basic things things like anatomy and storytelling, but the new generation of artists were splashing their enthusiasm right there on the page, and all that cross-hatching was ideal for young comic readers who hadn't had the chance to appreciate the finer levels of art.

And it wasn't just about the art, the stories also took off. After years of Claremont's tight control, there was a definite feeling that the writer was flailing about for a new direction, with no actual X-Men team for more than a year. When these artists started getting their hands stuck into the plots, they dumped in so many new characters and storylines and mysteries, eager to please a younger audience.

I ate that shit right up. While Lee had been dazzling for a while, it's much easier to forget how exciting the Liefeld comics were. So what if he couldn't draw feet? His sense of costume design was right on the point of the zeitgeist, and he was only too glad to offer up dozens of new characters, unafraid to lose the copyright to them to Marvel, because he was so sure he could come up with a dozen more.

The new kids also served up a load of great new mysteries - why did Stryfe and Cable both use the same 'stab his eyes' expletive, who was this Tolliver prick, and what the hell is an external anyway? The comics looked great and posed great new questions.

It didn't last long.

Cable's mystery evaporated in months. They kept Wolverine's history a secret for decades, but his background as the missing Summers baby seemed to come out ridiculously fast (although I only had it confirmed when I saw this fact written on a copy of X-Men #201 at David's Book Shop in central Christchurch, because there was no internet and the only comics journalism I had ever read was one issue of Comics Values Monthly from two years ago).

Just a couple of years after he had debuted in a blaze of big guns and bugger pouches, Cable's entire history was being told during Scott and Jean's honeymoon, and that was that. And yes, after the relaunch and the big creatives heading off to Image, and nobody cared anymore about all these concepts, while still mining them for dreary, never-ending stories for the next decade.

But there was a couple of years there when it was all taking off. So many years and so many bad comic books later, and they're still shiny as hell.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

It's like making love underwater - but with, you know, more control



The production values always carried a lot of the jokes in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, but I could just listen to these absolute fucking meatheads talk shit all day long... 



Saturday, April 10, 2021

The unexpected familiarity of Handbook panels

 

There is something weirdly satisfying in reading collections of old comics and finding panels that they used the to fill out the entries in the Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition, in their original context.

DC's Who's Who went for original art, and got some stunning portraits from many, many great artists - it's where you go for Jaime Hernandez doing Legion of Super-Heroes girls, - but the Handbook just cut and pasted panels from recent comics, spending the minimum of effort to wipe out the word balloons.

I didn't have access to reprints or original comics when I was a full Marvel zombie, but I did have all the handbooks, and would sear those entries into the brain. So when they show up in the original story, they're a sudden blast of the familiar. I know those panels like the back of my hand.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Goodnight, Billy


The end of Billy Connely's stand-up career has hit me particularly hard, in a way that I never really expected. 

I always liked Connolly's standup for the same reason everyone else in the world does, he's a natural storyteller. He would never be the first name on my personal list of history's greatest comedians, but he's always been a solid top 10, and have seen many of his best routines many, many times.

He was always such a lively and vibrant performer, full of life, always there, always absolutely fuckin' brilliant because he's the best 'guy in a pub telling you some crazy story' anybody ever heard. So cheerful and astute and loud.

And now that's all done. The health problems might not be as bad as the tabloid press made out, but Connolly has had to give up the stand-up and live shows.

And I think I'm more bothered by it than Billy is. He's hanging out in Florida, living out his days on the American swamp, and getting everything out of life he can. But the knowledge that this beautiful mad fool, owning the fucking stage, can only be found in fuzzy old videos anymore, is properly heartbreaking.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Gotta stop thinking about the explanations for kids stuff



Decades of post-modern culture pop analysis bullshit has absolutely ruined me and vandalized my cultural appreciation, because I just can't appreciate things for what they are.

I can't just get lost in a movie or TV show without thinking about how they made it and the challenges involved in making those images. And I can't stop watching dumb kids programmes and wondering how they logically worked. What is the economy of these cartoon worlds? What are the physics of the thing? How do they function?

Do they eat meat in the wonderful dayglo world of Hey Duggie, where every piece of life is anthropomorphized? Who supplies the ingredients for their Pinky Ponk Juice to the dwellers In The Night Garden? Is Thomas The Tank Engine like Cars, and take place is a post-Terminator society?

The answers to all these questions is, obviously: IT DOESN'T MATTER. But I still can't just enjoy things for what they are, and have to dig them apart and look at them for revisionism and explanations

This bothers me a lot, but the lovely wife has no problem in imagining Thomas and his 'really useful crew' as a bunch of crims planning a heist, and just thinks it's funny. And the kid just likes the sedate and colourful adventures. I just need to get over myself and find the child inside, before I ruin it for everyone.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Stealth on the Blu Ray shelf



I spend way too much time thinking about the first blu-ray I ever saw on the shelves, and how it was a copy of Stealth, the Josh Lucas and Jessica Biel-starring 'jet fighter with a brain' film that absolutely nobody demanded.

I just wonder if it went to a good home. It cost $40 so if it was bought and paid for, it went to somebody who could really appreciate Stealth for the cinematic masterpiece it so clearly must have been, somebody who needed to see it in the highest possible definition. I bet it's still there on the shelf in their house, gathering dust as everyone goes streaming, but just waiting for the day that someone, somewhere says 'We should watch Stealth on blu-ray'. Its day shall come.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

And it all seems larger than life


It took me a while to warm to The Chills, but I eventually got to the 'I'm a haunted alien youth' stage like everybody else, and listened to them alone in a dark room with a deep bottle of vodka. It's just what you did in Dunedin when you're a young 'un. 

And the recent documentary about the life and times of chief Chill Martin Phillipps was absolutely excellent, and not just because I ache for the past Dunedin, my absolute favourite city in the world as a kid.

It's because I also felt very seen when Phillipps is sorting out his 'collection'. It was so easy to see my own habits in the way he has built up this vast amounts of pop culture bullshit, with lines of DVDs snaking around the hallway, old boxes full of older toys and comics and records and all sorts of clutter.

And in between the heartwarming story of Phillips writing some of Aotearoa's very best songs, and the starkly brutal reality of his recent health issues, there's all this trash in the singer's house, cluttering up his world. And he's wondering how the fuck he ended up with a dog toy that means nothing to anybody, and is just a little chewed up piece of rubber.

I'm no Kondo head, and I like my stuff, but a collection has to be refined and curated and sharpened as often as possible, or it can take over your life, and that's no fun for anyone. Even melancholic pop genuises like Martin.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Everyone can do a journalism, can't they?



The Daily Planet has the worst fucking subs in the world. Their big lead stories are full of flowery words, have intros that are stuffed with passive language and they always bury the fucking lede in the fucking fifth paragraph. Does anyone actually look at these things?

No newsroom I've ever worked for have put out copy this sloppy - editorials disguised as straight news, feature-type writing on breaking events and just terrible news judgement. Journalism is something that anybody who writes think they can do - after all, they consume a lot of it - but there are still rules, motherfuckers, and they are there for a reason.

The Daily Bugle is as bad as almost any other fictional newspaper, but stands out. You don't see as much in other artifical newsrooms like the Daily Bugle, because the writers at that paper are supporting characters. But Lois Lane and Clark Kent are meant to be award-winning reporters, and their finished copy that goes to print looks like deranged rants, with outrageous headlines. 

It's the same in every medium - there is an incomprehensible headline in the new Justice League cut that is a piss-poor excuse for an Ayn Rand reference - but they keep publishing news stories in the comics that are absolute nightmares. It's been going on for years and years now and never gets any better, and there were two particularly egregious examples in some recent Superman comic by Bendis, and I wanted to take a red pen to my library copy, with something to fix in literally every line.

But there was also something new in these comics, and Bendis got it just as appallingly wrong. There's a Twitter feed, where the writer parcels out bits of information in the form of tweets. Whether that works or not as a storytelling technique is debatable, but while I can believe a man can fly, I can't believe that any news organisation would do this:


I get really nervous dealing with the biggest stories in the country and this is wise because if you fuck them up, you're fucking fired. There are no excuses.

And I love the social media and editorial teams that I work with, but if one of them put out something about a hot terrorist, one day after a mystery attack that killed hundreds, they would be fucking gone. Any media outlet would be rightfully crucified for that kind of shit.

The only horrible explanation is that the DC universe is such a nightmare that hundreds of people are getting killed all the time - gassed at the movies by the Joker, blown up in an airplane crash by Kobra - so it's no big deal when more are slaughtered, and everybody goes on their way.

But still, it's just bad media. And for fuck's sake, don't start a fucking news story with: 'In what he thought was a....', you absolute fucking child of a news writer. An old-school sub would eat your fucking face off for that.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Feeling dusty after the tidy up



I love sorting my comics shit out, and heaving around piles and piles of old paper to get them into some kind of order is something I can actually control is this weird world, and I'll take what I can get.

But more and more, for days after a good sorting, the eyes ache and there is dust in the back of my throat that won't come out. I was always mildly allergic to dust and dust mites, but dealing with comic books that I've owned for 40 years, and all that decaying paper, is the one thing that really gets things going.

It's not going to stop me, because this kind of zen calm is always worth a little irritation afterwards. It's only getting worse as both me and the comics get progressively decrepit, but I can only embrace the breakdown.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Daddy wasn't there!



 

There's more to life than daddy issues, despite what the movies keep telling me.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Barrie Chase gave it everything


For something with so much hysterical shrieking, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World has aged amazingly well. There is some mindboggling physical comedy which is eternally funny, and these ancient and hilarious comedians are doing some extremely hectic shit. Watching Jonathan Winters literally demolish a service station with his fury is a sight to behold, and is rightfully one of the great slapstick scenes of all time.

But there's still nothing in the film that beats Barrie Chase and her super intense twisting around Sylvester's living room. Chase is the last surviving member of the main cast, according to the internet, and I'm sure that longevity can be partly attributed to her absolute commitment to the twist, in the face of all distractions.

That's art, that is.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Incomprehensible Thor


Reading some old Marvel comics is usually a nice, calming influence, and it's always fun to chill out on the overwrought melodramatics and spacey superheroics in simple tales of times go by. There's tonnes of them in the local library system, and I regularly load up on them.

And when it's something like a big, chunky reprint of the Thor issues where the whole Celestials On Earth thing is first sorted out, that was exactly what I was after. I read the earlier Eternals comics by Kirby that set up the scenario years and years ago, but had never seen that resolution in Thor #300. I knew what happened mainly from the detailed synopsis of the Marvel Handbooks, and had somehow picked up the fact that the Destroyer was heavily involved in the climax, but I had no idea how it actually went down.

So I'm reading the book and it's all going along nicely with the usual Eternal nonsense, until the disembodied eye of Odin starts retelling the Ring Saga, and I had fucking idea what was going on. There are multiple reincarnations of multiple characters, and things are happening for some reason, and there's a lot of words and if I genuinely can't follow what's going on as a 46-year-old, how the shit would I have been able to follow it as a kid?

I'm sure Roy Thomas felt it was all perfectly clear, because he spent his entire comics writing career always being perfectly clear. But he also liked squeezing old highbrow culture into his superhero comics and they just did not always fit. And with little knowledge of the whole Nibelungenlied saga - I think I read a P Craig Russell comic back in the 90s? - I was completely baffled by the whole thing and couldn't follow it at all.

By the end the comic suddenly remembers about the Celestials, and sorts all that out with a lovely big apocalyptic battle. And even though Roy went off to DC in the middle of all this thing, it is genuinely interesting to see how it all plays out. I just wish we didn't have to take the Ring road to get there.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Creepiest ads were in the back


The ads in the back of Creepy and Vampirella magazines were agonizingly tantalizing, full of weird comics and cool toys and groovy magazines and esoteric books and gorgeous posters and actual movie prints and Battlestar Galactica jackets - and they were all things that I had absolutely no chance of ever getting my hands on.

Never mind the geographical isolation of living on the arse end of the world, or the fact that I was a kid who could barely scrape together 55c for the latest 2000ad. I only got to see these thing years after they were published, and after all the deals had long expired.

It was still the coolest shit, though. And after the nasty thrills of the comics they appeared in, they were fantasy ephemera that were entertainment in their own right.