Sunday, October 31, 2021

Soon we'll be livin' high and wide

Sometimes my four-month-old son will give me the weirdest look, and he looks just like the crowd at the country bar in the Blues Brothers, staring at the stage in utter confusion and growing hatred as the band lay down some soul.

Fortunately, there's a lot less glass being thrown at my face. Even better, singing the Rawhide theme to him shows that it calms down babies too.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

A dream of Moore (on Twitter)

The other night I dreamed that after giving up on writing comics, Alan Moore had now joined Twitter, and spent his entire time hunting down people who used characters he had created as avatars, while arguing for everything that Moore despises, and telling them to 'get his cunt characters off their cunt profiles'.

It was probably the most entertaining thing I've ever seen on Twitter and it wasn't totally real.

This is not the first time I've dreamed about Moore, and while it was pretty funny, it was far from the sexiest.

Friday, October 29, 2021

The TARDIS is just a door

There's a idea about Doctor Who that's been sitting in my head since I used to sit on the beach, drink cider and read brand new New Adventures novels in the cold Dunedin sun, .

It's that the TARDIS is just a door, and the rooms inside stand still in their own perfect little dimension and all that power is just about putting that impossible door into impossible places. That door, hiding in the mundane form of a police box, is the only thing actually moving around the universe.

It's an idea that can be easily refuted with many examples from Doctor Who stories of the people in the control room being directly affected by events outside the spaceship. But this is Doctor Who, you just explain all that away with a wave of the hand and some bollocks about a temporal tsunami or something and move the heck on, because that's what Doctor Who does best.

And there's something about the purity of idea in a magic door that takes you away, anyway you want to go. Especially when you're young and totally smashed on the beach, long ago on a winter afternoon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

All the Batmen are absurd

There's another very serious Batman movie coming out soon, which is great. I love very serious Batman films because they're just as absurd as the beautiful camp nonsense that frequently get flung at Bruce Wayne. They can't hide from it.

The whole concept of a rich dude dressing as a fucking bat and beating the snot out of poor people and madmen is so beautifully stupid that it falls apart when you think about it too long. But so fucking what? It's still a character that is iconic enough to handle any nonsense you pour into it. Batman is a great visual, no matter how dopey it gets, especially when he is beating the crap out of somebody. Which is always.

I love Batman and all interpretations of the concept are valid. They're all different, and they're all pretty funny too.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Getting extremely judgmental about the Hellblazer

Even though I have only bought the very occasional John Constantine comic in the past decade, I still have weirdly specific and strong opinions about Hellblazer writers. My own thoughts about who got the character right, and who got the voice and tone of the street level magician's life. What they do with Chas, and the quality of the new characters they bring. How they deal with the First of the Fallen.

I only have these feelings about the first 300 issues of the John Constantine: Hellblazer, and have absolutely no opinion beyond that (with one notable exception that I'll get to). A lot of his time mired in superhero nonsense seemed to involve Constantine firing magic power blasts out of his hands, so can easily be ignored. 

But Hellblazer was one of the series that I fell hard for, just at the right age for that kind of street level magic fantasy bullshit, and that kind of dark affection doesn't fade.

Garth Ennis was just getting cracking with his run with Steve Dillon when I was making that dizzying graduation from superheroes to more mature worlds, and it was everything I wanted in new comics for a while. Ennis was sickeningly young when he was doing this comic, just a couple of years older than me (he still is, the bastard), and the comics are occasionally clumsy. But they were also solid in the way Superman comics were not, not matter how buff Clark got.

There was always a lot of terrific artwork, right throughout the series, but Hellblazer eras were always defined by the writers, and I can recall even the most mediocre era by the regular name on the script.

Delano was a solid start with flashes of brilliance, while the one-offs by Morrison/Lloyd and Gaiman/McKean brought the right kind of energy at the right time. Elllis skidded out before he got going, (although that banned issue was still a fucking terrible comic, even with Phil Jimenez doing his beautiful best).

Most of them weren't great. While the shorter one-offs were tasty, Jenkins' big arc did nothing new; Azzarello and De Mina were admirable attempts to get away from eye of the British white guy, but there comics were filled with wrong. (At least you got some Corban art with Azzarello's dull prison riots, and the comic rarely looked better.)

Carey was dull and was around forever, Diggle was slightly less dull and disappeared surprisingly quickly. The final Milligan run is hideously underrated, with some very British horror, and John back on the streets getting his hands dirty. There is some brilliant Bisley art, a solid ending that offered no easy answers, and even Constantine's creepy relationship with Epiphany paid off.

There have been a couple of relaunches since then, and I read most of them through the library, and honestly couldn't tell you anything about them. I could tell you how much I was freaked out by Winnie the Pooh's appearance in a Delano issue I got 30 years ago, but I can't remember anything about the last few volumes.

The only time I've bought a comic with Constantine in it was when he showed up with a sodding space helmet on his head in one of the Six Pack comics that Ennis likes doing every few years. That was all right.

There was almost a return to some kind of form with the recent Simon Spurrier run, which had a definite vibe of its own and felt modern in the way Constantine comics really should, so of course it got fucking cancelled, and the building momentum of the comic was forced to come to a dead halt.

It's entirely possible that Constantine's future is in original graphic novels or short minis, like the recent effort by Tom Taylor and Darick Robertson, which felt a lot like some old school blazing of hell. His monthly adventures might be over for good, but at least we'll always have those first 300 comics, no matter how diabolical some of them got.

The curse of the SSAE

It's not so bad, living down the arse end of the world. The people of Aotearoa are generally good, and while our past isn't as shameful as some of you fuckers out there, we're doing our best to fix that. It's got fjords and shit. It's all right.

But even though it's got a lot better in the past few decades, dealing with that deep-seated mental isolation of being so far from the rest of the world can be genuinely hard. And when you're grasping out for any connection, flailing around in the direction of US and UK comic books was as smart as anything else. 

Places like New York, Tokyo, London, Cairo and Paris might as well have been on another planet - as far away as to be impossible - but you could silently connect with thousands of other readers all over the years. You didn't have to feel quite so lonely.

I've been to all those cities as an adult, (and bought comic books in all of them). But once upon a time, they were as far away as Krypton or Skaro.

And even in the Marvel comics that gave glimpses of the reality of a place like New York City, the distance was rubbed in your face. Not just in the cost and unreliability of the fucking issues, but on every second page, with every advertisement and their demands for a bloody SSAE.

There were ads for books and magazines and toys and cardboard cutouts and kites and posters that I would never, ever see in any store around me. Invitations to fan clubs and subscription services.

The ones that always had a fascination were the toy soldier sets and the battle scenes, and they looked fucking glorious. I have since found out they were rubbish cardboard things, and you could get better plastic soldiers at that toy shop on Church Street, but the ads were still amazing.

And it didn't sound like a lot of money, but then they'd ask for a SSAE and I was fucked right there. I was 10, I didn't know where to get US stamps and had no idea how much I needed, and I definitely didn't have the funds to pay for it. 

It all just became part of the ache of missing out, never even coming close to making an attempt, because it wasn't worth getting hopes up.

Things have changed a lot in the years since, the cost of air travel spiraled down for decades (and it remains to be see what the post-pandemic travel looks like), and the internet has connected us in ways we are still struggling to understand.

I can get most of the things offered in the ads off ebay if I can be bothered, but I know it's all cheap tat and I've just romanticism it all.

But I can't forget that kind of isolation, and it's still there. I've always had a few friends who dig the same shit I do, but only a few, and most of them have their own interests (friendships are more than both liking Masters of the Universe). But we're all so far away from the rest of the world, and those 204 Revolutionary War soldiers in my old comics are still rubbing my face in it.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Super Hans would 100% get high with Kendell

While Succession is obviously a very big and very serious TV show about the corruption of power and how terrible rich people are, I can still never forget that it's created by one of the guys who also gave the world Super Hans, and so always treat the Roy family drama accordingly.

Still, Super Hans is the one character in the grotty flats and offices of Peep Show who could easily make the leap into the rarefied world of the Roy family, probably as Kendell's dealer. 

As long as he's got enough crack in him to get through it all. Obviously. Super Hans loves crack.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

What are you doing, Kitty?

The single dorkiest thing I've ever seen in a recent comic book - and there have been a few contenders - was a while back when Kitty Pryde tattooed the name of the dipshit who murdered her on her knuckles, and then stuck out a hip, gave a dead-end stare and posed with them, arms outstretched and the letters standing out on her fists.

I've seen a few desperately uncool things in my time, and a lot of them involve Kitty Pryde, who has been a truly annoying teenager for decades. But this one really stuck out, especially when they were so desperate to sell the image that they used it as a full page splash and cover.

All I want from comic books is cool shit. This...

This is the opposite of that.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Screaming and screaming again

Writing about the comic books you really, truly loved when you were nine years old is the easiest thing in the world, and boy, did I love Scream! comics in 1984.

They weren't big or clever, but they were very stylish, and had some of the moodiest and gloomiest art in 80s comics. I wrote about them for the new NeoText Review site, who were kind enough to accept my ramblings and published them here.

There was only 15 issues of the comic, and I still could have written another 10,000 words about Ghastly McNasty's face, and how the sheer blandness of Terror of the Cats gave it an unpredictably unsettling mood, or how the dumb comedy of Fiends and Neighbours was an essential part of the mix, but that's the way it goes.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Hostess ads are as old as me

Someone once joked that the core root of your personality can be traced to the comics that came out the same year you were born. And that sounds good when I look it up and see that the All-New All Different X-Men started blowing up the world in 1975, or there was the Adam Warlock comics with those fucking clowns and that fucking pile of trash, or the first issue of Battle. That all sounds great.

But then I read the latest issue of the inestimable Back Issue Magazine and discovered that the very first Hostess comic ad appeared in a comic book which went on sale exactly five days before I was born.

I just feel like this explains some things about me that I never really understood and should probably have been ashamed about.

The disappointment of the first Hostess cupcake I tried at a California service station was monumental, because of course it was. Those ads were in nearly every single comic book I read - all the Marvel and DC and Harvey comics - for the first 10 years of my life, so what did I expect? No sweet treat could ever match that, no matter how much it distracted the bad guys.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Shooting Steve Martin in the leg

Nobody really remembers Grand Canyon - a ridiculously middlebrow examination of race in 90s America from Lawrence Kasdan - because there isn't much to say about. It was another in a long line of films that mine a very particular kind of white modern liberal guilt about race in an embarrassingly ham-fisted manner.

I saw it years ago, and couldn't tell you much about the plot, but there's one tiny bit of brilliance that is hard to forget, and it's when Steve Martin gets shot in the leg, and goes into total shock, in the way people actually do when their bodies suffer extreme trauma like that. 

After a decade of 80s action films where a bullet that wasn't in the head or chest could be shrugged off, it's genuinely shocking to see Martin piss himself with pain. Martin plays an action movie director who makes that kind of bullshit, and has a brief epiphany that maybe his work should better reflect reality, but it lasts as long as the piss stain.

There's a time and a place - every John Woo film would be unendurable if people actually react to being shot like human beings do - but it's still jarring to see that kind of terrible reality getting in the way of the usual gunplay.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Marvel's special editions: Nothing beats the Baxter


Like anybody who has been reading comic books for more decades than they'd like to admit, I have some high-faluting ideas about the best comics ever produced. My own thoughts about the individual issues and series that are the pinnacle of comics, and their ultimate form.

It's something I'm still searching for, but there is a part of me that thinks I found it years ago in the deluxe 'special edition' reprints that Marvel put out in the early 1980s. Sometimes they were beefed up with new material, but the main things is that they were printed on that lovely baxter paper that made the regular newsprint look like garbage (even if the actual printing wasn't always up to that lofty standard).

They were bright, chunky things, double the size of a regular issue, with some truly terrific artwork. Some were one-offs, others are several issues long, and when trade paperbacks were a rare thing, these issues were sometimes the only way to find these stories.

There were weird specials like Phoenix: The Untold Story, which told the real story behind the original death of Jean Grey. The Byrne/Austin art never looked so slick and dynamic as it did in this bright color, and there was some invaluable glimpses of the creative process with a roundtable interview with everybody at the end of the comic.

There were also reprints of some of Marvel's biggest stories over several issues -the bombastic Kree/Skrull War covered in a couple of issues, Giant-Sized X-Men #1 got the full treatment and the entire Elektra Saga required four issues to fit in all the ninjas and deep emotional dynamics.

But mostly they were all about the art - this is where you could find some of Steranko's Captain America comics or Frank Miller's earliest Daredevil comics without breaking the bank, or all of Barry Windsor-Smith's Conan: Red Nails epic in one place.

There were a couple of Kull comics that showed off the extraordinary talents of John Bolton and John Buscema and a Doctor Strange one by Engleheart/Brunner (with a terrific Bernie Wrightson cover that leaves you wanting so much more Doctor Strange comics from the artist),

There were the Adam Warlock and Captain Marvel comics by Starlin; some Fantastic Four which mashed some classic Kirby with some pretty average Byrne; a bit of Sienkiewicz Moon Knight; three issues of the Neal Adams X-Men and a one-off Star-Lord with some bonus Michael Golden.

It was just a handful of the very best comics Marve had produced in its first couple of decades - it's a bit shameful there isn't much Kirby and no Ditko comics in this lot, but it was a good dose of Marvel's best.

Later on the format was used for special one-off originals like the first Spider-man v Wolverine comic, and the bright and bulky package was used to incredibly lucrative effect in Jim Starlin's Infinity Gauntlet comics.

And now all these comics remain in print in some form or another and nobody needs these kinds of issues anymore.

But the solid package of these special editions, with that sharp paper and great fucking art, make them one of the best formats I've ever read.

Monday, October 18, 2021

A life in 2000ad

I could not overestimate how much 2000ad is tied to my life. The comic started a few years after I was born, so it has always been there, week after week, year after year. I've been getting it regularly for about 3/4 of my life, for longer than any of my friendships.

It's more than just the exact memory of what shop I got a large number of them from, (even with 2000+ issues, I can remember where I got a disturbing amount of them). It's entire phases of my life, living in different towns, working in different jobs, living different lives - it's all there, encoded in the weekly schedule of a British science fiction comic.

I know exactly where all the earliest issues I owned came from, the ones I craved and hunted out as a kid and found in dairies in Ashburton and Waimate and Pleasant Point. All that adolescent obsession is caked on the decaying paper, and the issues are literally starting to fall apart because I read them too many times.

And later, there are exact issues that pinpoint the moment I moved on with things - that's the last one I got before we went off on a six-month trip around the world, and that's the one I got when I came back and moved to Auckland in late 2007, (and haven't stopped again since). There's the last one I got from the world's best bookshop shortly before it closed forever.

And the ones I got overseas - reading the last chapters of Day of Chaos and Nikolai Dante in a frnachise cafe off Shaftsbury Ave in 2012, getting the issue with the Shaun of the Dead strip from Jim Hanley's Universe on in New York, and the one issue I really needed with the Nemesis cover that was in a beautifully messy store in central Dublin. The massive fucking pile that nearly drokking killed me walking from a Sydney train station to my sister's place.

There are sharp memories of reading issues at jobs they I quit decades ago, and in cafes that don't exist anymore. All this life, tied to these comics, these pages, these panels.

There are also entire eras of my life are there in a 30-issue run of progs, major life changes swirl around latest Dredd mega-epics and the Rogue Trooper reboots. I grow at roughly the same pace as Carlos Ezquerra's coloring evolution.

There was an 8-year gap that took me , so 1996 progs mix with 2003 memories when I try to match it up, but it's been a straight diary since that 2007 issue. Life changes, homes where this ridiculously massive pile of comics were stored and reread are abandoned for new flats.

I've been doing another prog slog, going through the past 20 years, which usually just means reading all the Dredd and Dante, skimming Sinister Dxter and hoping for the best with the rest. Not even bothering with Necrophim or Space Girls, but giving the 10-Seconders and Zombo some proper consideration

And it's all there, every gruddamn issue I go through, a dorky record of my life, written in an invisible vocabulary that only I can read. A life in 2000ad.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

A lot of The Cure

I've been listening to a lot of The Cure lately, which was partly sparked by the continual revelation that as good as cover versions are, the originals are always better.

But it's also because I do find this music incredibly bold and positive, and we could all use a bit more of that right now. The band have always had a reputation as gloomy sods, and they are a lot of the time, but there is joy in Robert Smith's wail. The Cure always bounced from gloom to ecstasy - the light stuff just made the dark even sharper. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Tom Sutton and the mirror universe Tom Sutton

Even though I was reading both comics at roughly the same time, it took me years and years to work out that the Tom Sutton who drew the Star Trek comics in the 1980s - with the excellent likenesses, solid uniforms and insanely large engines, computers and navigation arrays - was the same Tom Sutton who drew the Man-Thing series for writer Steve Gerber in the Marvel Comics Presents weekly comic, with intricate detail and shaky foundations, and rot and mosquitoes and gross fungus.

The Man-Thing feels more pure Sutton. He did the inks for most of it, while his Star Trek work was given a very clean tidy-up by Ricardo Villagran. But months after he finished his tour of duty on the Enterprise, he was drawing every rotten fly and zit and captured the stink of the bayou in the MCP serial. Sutton - who used his art as a way to stay off the alcohol - could be so down to earth he was getting into the mud, and he could also soar to the fucking stars.

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, 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 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.



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.