Monday, February 28, 2022

Going without food to read a Crisis comic

Even when I was at my absolutely poorest in life, when I had to account for every goddamn cent I spent, when I was living in the worst flats and just getting by week to week, there was still room for comic books.

I was 20 in 1995 and had moved away from my home town to Dunedin, where a lot of my mates were at university. I still had no interest in higher learning, I just wanted to hang with my mates, so got a room in a house on a precarious cliff and tried to be a grown up.

But the New Zealand job scene was a grim fucking place in the mid-90s. All I had was a certificate in business computing and two years experience in a goddamn fat factory, and it took me months and months to find a job. I got $126 a week from the dole, which was just enough to pay the rent and bills. I had a food budget of $18 some weeks and lived on cheap eggs, cereal and packet pasta snacks. 

Every couple of weeks I had enough to buy a bottle of port to take to parties and get smashed on (rigorous testing had established this as the cheapest way to get pissed without resorting to meths. If I was feeling extravagant, I might spend an extra $1 to get some Scrumpy, but that was about as far as it went.) And I had just enough money to see one movie at the cinema every week, as long as I went to a cheap-arse Tuesday afternoon session. I didn't have a car and didn't bother with public transport when I could walk everywhere.

I was a grown-up, out in the world for the first time, freezing my arse off in the Otago southerly like a real adult, and even then I was still a complete comic geek. And as poor as I got, as desperate as things got, there was one second hand shop that was selling a lot of Byrne Superman and many, many issues of the 2000ad spinoff Crisis for $1.50 each, and I was young and dumb enough that I was literally willing to go without food for those comics.

I was still getting Preacher, The Invisibles and the Legion of Super Heroes every month, but new comics were an extravagance that had to be budgeted for. But for several months, in between looking for jobs, I would still scrape together enough money for half a dozen old comics from that shop. 

It got to be a bit of a grim winter in a Long, Dark Teatime Of The Bedsit kind of way and I was getting my kicks whever I could, and one of them was getting some New Adventures of Hitler or Straitgate into my system. I hadn't got Crisis since the first 20 issues and was fascinated by the increasingly murky depths that Pat Mills and pals were exploring in World War 3, and the desperate experimentation that didn't always pay off. And if that all got a bit much, I could buy a Superman and read him kick Metallo's arse.

That old junk shop and its small trove comic treasures was a beacon of light. Years before, I'd stumbled across some GI Joe comics there exactly one month before I became absolutely obsessed with GI Joe comics, and by the time I got back they were all gone. And there I was, nearly a decade later, and addicted to those four-colour thrills. I legitimately went without meals to load up on more of them.

I haven't been that poor since, and don't know that I'll ever be that obsessed with comic books like I was when I was 20. I got rid of the Superman comics ages ago, but still have the full run of Crisis that I completed from that store. And who knows what's going to show up at the hospice shop around the corner next week....

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Back to 20XX

Everyone thinks they can write about the movies, but that just makes the good ones stand out ever further, and Chris Ready is one of our very best.

He has been his short and succinct movie reviews on his Disaster Year: 20XX blog for nearly 15 years and they're absolutely brilliant. Zeroing in on new perspectives, and finding surprisingly new things to say about incredibly familiar films. Giving heavy duty thought to Zack Snyder nonsense and finding something to say about all the Friday The 13th movies and all the weird DC animation movies of the past decade.

You can find his work here. I remain deeply jealous of his ability to say so much in such economical terms, barely more than a paragraph or two, and that's all he needs to make a few decent points. Anybody writing about the fun of the movies can afford to be so concise.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Spidey goes over the Berlin Wall

The first Spider-Man Wolverine comic by Priest and Bright was a weird comic, with a nasty and gritty tone that Marvel didn't use much at the time - poor Ned Leeds gets his throat slashed off panel (before getting framed as the Hobgoblin) - but the part with Spidey going over the goddamn Berlin wall has always been one of my favourite sequences of Peter Parker in action, dodging mines and international diplomacy with his snappy patter, web fluid and mad leaps in the air.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Frank Spenser gets articulated


For many people, Michael Crawford will always be the original Phantom of the Opera, and who can blame them? He could belt out the music of the night better than anybody.

But I still remember what a genuine shock it was when the Phantom dropped in the late eighties, because Crawford was always Frank Spenser to me, indulging in some superb kitchen-sink stunt-work on tea-time television.

Even when it was being rerun years after the original broadcast, Some Mothers Do Have Em was absolutely essential viewing in our house, and I do still have deep sympathy for the long-suffering Betty and they way she had fallen for the walking disaster that was Frank. A hugely awkward and clumsy human being, Frank would inevitably end up with his head in the toilet, or upside down in a wardrobe that is going down the stairs, or hanging onto the bumper of his Morris Minor as it dangled precariously over a cliff.

Crawford wasn't just afraid to hit the high notes on Broadway, he was absolutely fearless for the sausages and mash audience and did his own stunts. Need him to rollerskate beneath a moving truck? Sure! He'll do it for the laffs,

My family wasn't the only people enamored with that stuttering beautiful fool, he got millions and millions of viewers in his heyday, and millions of people imitating him. The thrills and spills of a human doing extremely dangerous shit always gets the blood racing, whether it's Tom Cruise strapping himself to  a plane for a multi-million dollar Mission Impossible, or Michael Crawford  getting up to all sorts of nonsense for a sitcom episode that cost 13 quid to make. Courage doesn't cost a damn thing.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

All the Marty

Even though he thought comics were for geeks, Marty Emond is still the greatest comic artist Aotearoa has ever produced and we were lucky to have him.

I've been deep in Emond's wild and wonderful artwork for the past few weeks, so I could write something about how how absolutely amazing it is, and the fine folk at NeoText Review were kind enough to let me have a good old rant about it.

You can read my efforts here. Shit, he was good.

Massive thanks to Kelly Sheehan and Ben Stenbeck for help with the biographical stuff.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The magnolia blooms so sweet, and it fades just the same

I never got to see Mark Lanegan when he was part of the best goddamn Queens of the Stone Age line-up there ever was, but I did get to see him play a stunning set at the Reading Festival in 2012. He was always fucking excellent and his collaborations with Isobel Campbell are sexy as fuck, and he did the best cover of a Bond theme song ever. His stance in front of the microphone was absolutely monumental and he owned you without making a single move.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Spots in a London flat

God bless Warren Pleece, who was once given a script by Neil Gaiman for a short story to run in the It's Dark In London collection, an excellent black and white anthology book (including a From Hell coda by Alan Moore and Oscar Zarate), and read the part in the script where a bunch of New Zealanders using a broken lemonade bottle to smoke cannabis, and obviously had no idea what he was on about, so drew this:

That's not how you sucked the smoke through a broken bottle, mate. You'd cut your fucking face doing that. The hole was at the bottom, where you put the knives.

I may have missed the point of the story, especially when I was a full-time dickhead stoner. It was something about the dubious natures of a muse - a well Gaiman has gone to before - but sometimes you can't see the story for the spotting bottle.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Ignore the bullshit and enjoy the film

There's a certain age in life when you can go to all the movies you want to go to, earning adult wages without any of the real responsibilities of being an old fart. It's fucking excellent. I went to Escape From LA seven goddamn times at the movies and have never regretted it.

Life gives you a few uppercuts as you get older, but you don't really lose that passion for cinema. I've been total film nerd for 30 years now. They were just another form of entertainment as a kid, as valid as TV or books or anything (except comics, because comics were everything).

But then, at that age when I was really getting into movies, filling head with endless trivia about all aspects of the the medium, I discovered I desperately don't care about a lot of the bullshit surrounding the films, and about a lot of thins that are still going on today in the endless social media chatter. I'm happily out of the loop on many of the things that grip Film Twitter.

I don't care what movies costs - it was boring when everybody said James Cameron was a fool for making films that cost fuckity million dollars 30 years ago and then they turn out to make even more fuck-off money, and it's fucking boring now. There hasn't been so much of a focus on it as there used to be, especially when prices started spiraling over the $100m mark, but it still makes headlines.

I don't care about the box office, I've seen many of my favourite films in empty theatres, and remain confident that that the 'failures' I've enjoyed will have a lasting life. It might be interesting in finding out that something made so much money that a sequel will be rapidly produced, but that's about it.

And I really don't care who is fucking who. Celebrities are great and all - we've had a gorgeous unauthorised Tom Hardy calendar on the kitchen wall for the past three years - but they're never that interesting. And the more you find out about them, the more off putting the whole thing gets.

I don't care about ranking films or comparing films by a particular director. I don't care when a filmmaker known for making transcendent examinations of the human condition says they didn't like the new Captain Marvel movie.

And I powerfully don't care about any of the awards. My favourite film of the year hasn't won the Oscar, and that's fine. It does its things and sometimes showcases the most terrific films to the oblivious masses. But the endless talk about who deserved nominations and who ultimately wins is vapid, and should only matter to producers getting more people to see their efforts..

The films survive forever, and the themes and feelings they conjure out of thin air are absolutely fucking miraculous. You buy your ticket, you take the ride, and you gets thrills and style and emotion painted on the wall in bright light. It's just miraculous and nothing else matters.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

The glorious cinema of Raise the Titanic

If there is one movie I should never, ever watch as an adult, it's Raise The Titanic.

I was a little freak about real life disasters as a kid - especially the Titanic, long before the James Cameron film. And I can still remember pestering my parents to go see this new movie where they actually refloat the famous boat, even though I was only six years old. 

And I do genuinely think of it as a giant of cinema, an awesome epic, with incredible special effects. I remember the terror of the dudes who got squashed by a submarine that gave in to the pressure, and the actual moment when the Totanic broke the surface with a primordial roar was one of the most dazzling things I had ever seen at the cinema. 

I haven't seen it since 1981. I'm sure it's still great. Why ruin a good thing?

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Deep in the Trigan Empire

While Don Lawrence's art in the Trigan Empire comics is never less than absolutely rock solid and often breathtaking, the comics are a bit stodgy, full of cliche, and an aggressive ode to colonization. There's no characterisation to speak of, and the main protagonists never seem to suffer any regret or trauma.

But they fucking move when read in one go, man. They've been collected by Rebellion and inhaling each of the 300-page books is a jolt. The entire empire is constantly under threat from aliens and old enemies and the entire fucking universe. The main characters are sold into slavery, escape, and are imprisoned again and again. They are constantly having their personalities wiped after eating the wrong thing ,and endless waves of evil foreign types are falling from the skies. They have to overturn entire regimes multiple times, just  so they can be back home in time for tea

The second volume starts with triplets being born, which fucks up the succession plans, so the emperor, the hero of the whole damn thing, selects one at random and sends the other two out into the world to be raised as orphans. But the one he keeps gets his mind mutated into evil by an alien dude form another galaxy who radiates malevolence, and then the other two come back, and one of them takes over as emperor for two minutes before getting murdered and then the evil one blows himself up and the one that is left rocks off to be king of some other land, so he can train up to be emperor.

That's one story. It's fucking rad. I can't wait to get cracking on volume three.


Friday, February 18, 2022

Missing the Radiohead

FOMO is for suckers, and most of the time you're not missing anything really - that party you didn't get invited to wasn't that much, the sphere of gossip you were excluded out of wasn't saying anything you really needed to do. But it's nearly three decades later, and I still deeply regret not going with my mates to go see Radiohead play at Warners in central Christchurch in 1994. 

Pre-Bends Radiohead never did anything for me, I really only got onboard the Radiohead train with the stunning brilliance of OK Computer, like all the other basic bitches in the world. Now I'm the sort of sad old bastard who gets embarrassed by how often the YouTube algorithm keeps offering up Man Of War, and how often I accept it.

So when all my other 19-year-old mates were off to see this Radiohead crew at a dodgy bar in the centre of Christchurch 200 kilometres away, I bade them a fond farewell and had an early night. It was a Monday, I had to fuckin' work in the morning. 

They had an excellent time and told me all about it over the following days and weeks and months and years and I've only grown more and more jealous.

Everyone likes to say they saw the biggest bands of the day before they really got huge, when they were still playing pubs and bars, but I really only had one shot at that, and I spent it in bed, getting ready for another Tuesday at the fat factory.

I saw a few other shows at Warner's in the later years, none of them was Radiohead. One of them was a very early performance by The Feelers, who were mates of a mate, and went on to be very popular around here, so at least I can lay a claim to fame of being the first Feelers hater.

But Warner's was taken down after the 2011 quake, and the people who were at that Radiohead gig will remember it for ever. I fucking won't.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The hipster runs at night

It was somewhere in the mid 90s, and I'd just moved back to my home town for a little while, just to get my young person bullshit together, and was absolutely delighted to see the library had a copy of Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire novel, which I devoured in two days.

And then one night I'm driving around the streets, and they're empty in a particular late-night weekday way, and on corner after corner, I kept seeing those monstrous black dogs out of the corner of my eye.

I didn't look too hard and I'm 97% sure they were just rubbish bags, or some kind or other optical illusion, but they sure looked like big black fucking dogs to me. 

I was also listening to the Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me soundtrack on the walkman a lot at that age. I was well aware that the black dog runs at night.

The other night I was driving around late at night in my new home town and it was something different - all I saw were hipsters in man-buns vaping on the corner. 

Black dogs are ancient, but these dudes are ghost figures of the 21st century, waiting for their phantom ride-shares.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

OMFG Marty Emond

Judge Dredd/Predator by Martin Fuckin Emond.

White Trash by Martin FUCKIN Emond

Rolling Red Knuckles by MARTIN FUCKIN EMOND

I have been looking at Marty Emond's glorious and demented art all week long for a thing I'm writing, and am definitely living my best life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Video World lessons from 1991

Ten things I learned from reading the October 1991 issue of Video World I found last week in the bottom of a banana box full of old high school reports:

1. Just the existence of the thing says volumes about the state of movie magazines at the time. Before the internet came along and ruined it for everybody, there used to be a tonne of different magazines produced in the UK. From the classy likes of Sight and Sound, down to the gleeful gore of multiple Fangoria rip-offs, there was something for everybody, and Video World is somewhere near the bottom of that scale, if only because of all the porn.

2.The money was really in porn. I'd forgot how much the money was always in porn.

3. One thing I do remember from flicking through this thing is that it was the first place I ever heard of Miami Blues. I still feel bad for that poor Hare Krishna and his finger, but shit that's a good film.

4. A copy of King Ralph, House 4: The Repossession or Highlander 2: The Quickening would set you back 80 pounds, if you really needed a copy in mid-1991.

5. But you could pick up a Bonnie and Clyde, Blazing Saddles or Rhe Towering Inferno for eight quid. Bargain!

6. You could also buy a portable TV for the kitchen, with the Ferguson A10r portable CTV going for  a mere 209.99. It had a 10-inch screen!

7. They wanted Sean Connery to play the hero in Warlock, but got the obvious substitution of Richard E Grant, according to an interview with Grant, promoting the sell-through version of Withnail and I.

8. Joanne Whalley Kilmer is a stunningly beautiful woman, and that's really the only reason I bought this mag when I saw it at Paper Plus back in the day, and why it's still there today.

9. Tom Savini's Night of the Living Dead remake was long delayed in the UK and it was driving British horror fans mental.

10. No really, the money is in the porn. The last third of this magazine is straight up soft porn, full of numbers to call real, live girls on sexlines and ads for porn tapes so you can jack off in the privacy of your own home. They're terrible and degrading and all that, but this stuff didn't go away, it just mutated. Porn always leads the way.

Monday, February 14, 2022

A morbid introduction to the Avengers

As an introduction to the world's mightiest heroes, you really couldn't really pick a worse comic that Avengers #177 by Jim Shooter and David Wenzel, but that's where I came in and that's why I always think of the Avengers as a bunch of glorious losers.

It's the end of the Korvac saga, where after months and months of drawn out adventures, the Avengers and the old-school Guardians of the Galaxy have finally tracked down the cosmically-powered Korvac to a suburban household. And they go in, all guns blazing, and get the shit killed out of them. 

It's an absolute slaughter. Characters who had faced incredible odds for years are brutally killed with the wave of a hand, and only the very powerful and very lucky are still standing at the end. They're all conveniently returned to life again before the issue is over, but they still die there, right on the page.

There is a part of me that thinks all Avengers comics should be like this. I read it sometime in the early eighties, when I had access to a lot of late seventies Marvel. 

I was more of an X-Men kid - there are vivid memories of loving Uncanny #138, the one after Phoenix dies, because it's an insanely moody recap of the entire series so far. That's the X-Men, and I was slowly drawn into that spiraling soap opera, but after getting my socks blown off by this issue, the Avengers was the series where everybody fails and dies.

Even though I know the Avengers have triumphed again and again, it's the period where they're losing that always feels most true to me - from the slow decay of the team after the Masters of Evil kicked the shit out of their mansion to the never-ending Dark Avengers bollocks of the Bendis era, there's not a hell of great triumphs in there.

No wonder I fell for the first Infinity Gauntlet series when it appeared in the 1990s, because the Marvel heroes are losing from the start - half of them wiped out before anybody does anything. When they're later all slaughtered at Thanos' discretion, it's a suicide mission from the start.

There are things too big to defeat, have to be clever, or just hope that someone can find some empathy in their transcendence, because Captain America's shield can't bash that.

But that's also why I like the Avengers so much, because they know they're going to get the shit kicked out of them, but they do it anyway. The Justice league will always prevail, but the Avengers are the last ones standing when all else is lost. They'll probably still lose, but they'll always go down fighting.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

That's not how I remember it

While I haven't watched a new episode of The Simpsons in 10 years, (I did have a dream about watching one the other night), but I will never forget the simple perfection of this one joke:

Saturday, February 12, 2022

We all need some more fun thrusting in our lives

There are so many useful nuggets of information to be found in The Madman's Library, Edward Brooke-Hitching's excellent collection of the strangest books, manuscripts and other literary curiosities, but the best part was finding out that 'fun thrusters' used to be London slang for homosexuals.

It's not my place to stumble into with my big, clumsy cis feet, but I sure hope somebody takes that saying back and owns it, because that slang fucking rules.


Friday, February 11, 2022

Too loud, too quiet

While there have been many staggering upgrades in television technology since I got my first TV in my bedroom, all I want now is a TV set that plays everything at the same volume, because I can't wake up the rest of the house.

If I'm watching a TV show or movie or anything early in the morning or late at night - which is the only goddamned time I get to watch my stories right now - I'm constantly using the volume button on the remote, in both direction, trying to follow the plot, but scared of waking the rest of the family. Because the films and TV shows go from whispered dialogue to huge explosion in an instant, and that shit will wake up the baby, man.

I understand that there are artistic reasons for dialogue obstruction, but I can't follow this shit if I can't hear what they're saying, and the decibel difference between dialogue and sudden blaring music or action can be extraordinary.  

Foreign films are the best for this issue, because you've got the subtitles on, so you can keep things at a barely legible level, but it gets fucking tedious doing this for every single movie.

I've had this issue with the tiny speakers on the 40-inch we watch most of our shit on, and I've had it with rooms where people have spent vulgar amounts of money on setting up a fancy sound system, and they're all the fucking same - all over the fucking show.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Dave McKean's heads are getting bigger

At first glance, Raptor: A Sokól graphic novel is a very Dave McKean book. It piles on the symbolism with a heavy use of multi-media montage to create otherworldly haunting images. It's a story of lost realms and the lost souls who roam through them, so it's pretty much business as usual for the artist.

But it also has some weird textured caricature to his faces that hasn't always been there in his art before, and it's a disturbing delight. The faces on the characters in many of his previous comic works have been abstract splashes, or hard and connected brows and noses on pale, flat heads.

And in Raptor, the people in the 'real world' section of the book looks more in the tradition of Mad Magazines' best character artists. In this mythical shadowland of his book, there are figures out of a Mort Drucker or Jack Davis strip - big heavy noses and ears, weathered features on heads just a tiny bit too big for their bodies. Distinctive creatures with enough shade and texture to come alive, wondering what it's all about with ponderous emotions.

It's a gorgeously unsettling effect and keeps the whole book from getting too heavy. Which means it's maybe not a very Dave McKean book at all, and all the better for it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Dredd v Batman: Cam Kennedy's punches always hurt

The second Judge Dredd/Batman comic is widely seen as the least of the crossovers between the dark knight and Mega-City One's top lawman -  it doesn't have the over-the-top painted absurdity of the other books, has no impact on the wider continuity of Dredd or Batman, doesn't have the grown-up painted art of the others, and is just a fairly basic story with a small time-traveling twist. 

But while the majority of pages are devoted to Judge Dredd and Batman beating the snot out of each other, it's fighting that is drawn by Cam Kennedy, and his action art if full of his usual weight and gristle.

Kennedy is one of the great action artists in modern comics, highly stylized, but dynamic as fuck.  Dredd's jaw juts out even further to match Gotham's finest, but that just gives Batman a bigger target to punch. They fling themselves across the city, blowing shit up and falling off elevated trains. No details are washed away in a smear of paint like the other Dredd crossovers, every cut and bruise and piece of dirt is right there on the page.

Sometimes you don't need to be big or clever. Sometimes you just need Cam Kennedy drawing pictures of super tough dudes kicking each other's teeth in. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Banksy is Banksy

It's deeply irritating about how much of the writing and films about Banksy and his fun street art is trying to uncover who he is, like that's the only really interesting thing about it all.

Fair play to the dude, who has gone this long maintaining a secret that a lot of cretins are determined to uncover. It's genuinely surprising that we've got this far into the 21st century and it's still a secret. That takes some doing in this modern age.

And the mystique is obviously a big part of the deal - the art is in the action of doing it, as much as the end result - and that's helped make him the most famous street artist you don't know.

But then everyone starts getting in boring arguments about the value and ownership of his works, which is nothing to do with the artists, that's somebody fuckin' else's problem.  And then they're constantly trying to uncover his face, and can't just let the mystery be. 

Instead of saying something about the art or the message or anything actually interesting, turning it into just another fucking whodunit.

Monday, February 7, 2022

An Infinity Gauntlet to the face

Some of my very good comic-reading friends are obsessed with key issues, and are always going on about fuckin' CGC slabbing and the latest first appearances, and I love and respect them at all, but I really wish they would stop fucking it up for those who just want to read the damn things.

I do not follow the rises and falls in the price of key comic books. I used to look at Wizard price guides all the time, but it was always morbid fascination, or to find out which issue Morrison started on Doom Patrol. That's all. The hot books meant nothing to me, and still don't. Anything that is all slabbed up is worthless to me. I don't even fuck around with putting my comics in bags anymore.

I guess somebody is getting a kick out of it all, and I'm not the kind of dude to shit on their beer. But they're shitting in mine, because I keep getting holes in the stories I'm trying to follow.

It's understandable why people would be after Hulk #181 or New Mutants #98, but it's also happening with perverse regularity with brand new comics, when someone far away from me apparently decides that the new Daredevil or Catwoman comic is suddenly a hot commodity, and they convinced enough others to jump on the bandwagon that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If enough collectors buy into the delusion, it becomes true, and suddenly I can't get the one issue of the current Legion of Super-Heroes comic because it has fucking Gold Lantern in it.

Any now my decades-long push to get a tonne of the Surfer Surfer comics from the late 80s and early nineties completely hit a rule with the last issue I need, which is improbably priced because it has the first appearance of a fucking glove in it.

The early Marshal lrogers issues are absolute blinders, and I've long been into the Starlin/Lim comics - and #44 is the last one I need, but it has the first appearance of the infinity gauntlet in it, and is now going for big money.

I know the this particular piece of handwear was a major plot point in some of the biggest films of the past decade, but I'll have to learn to live with this one-issue hole in the Silver Surfer collection, because of a glove.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

The transcendence of Doctor Goodsir

Doctor Goodsir was neither a doctor nor a sir, but we should all be so good.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Truly outrageous!

I'm not saying I had a slightly unhealthy crush on the Misfits band from the Jem cartoon, even though they were deeply evil hellions who kept trying to straight up murder Jem and her pals. But I can say I was obssesed with how fucking rad they looked in this poster.

Friday, February 4, 2022

That lust for life doesn't go anywhere

One of the very best movie experiences I ever had was taking my little sister to see Trainspotting in 1996 when she was 18, and she turned to me eight minutes into it and said: 'Is this the movie?'. She thought it was the trailer. Me and Tina have been in different countries for years, but we'll always have that moment.

It was a logical assumption for her to make - with such vivid pacing, the film literally hits the ground running to Iggy Pop and doesn't fucken let up at all. It's so much of its time, but still also speaks to the wasted youth in all of us, everywhere, for always. And while we didn't all get in the toilet like that, a lot of us got close.

I also watched the 20-years-later sequel the other day, and think it's just as accurate in its portrayal of middle aged wankers, as the original one was of young wankers. But nobody wants to hear people moaning about getting old. We're all getting there, pal.

The second movie does feel weirdly underrated, even though it was also often forced. There is its excruciating attempt at a new 'Choose Life' monologue, and the barking needle drop of the Lust For Life remix is terribly overdone, but..

It's okay. We all get old together.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Groo would get so lost in a Costco

Sergio Aragonés' Groo is one of the great comics of the modern age - only an idiot of the magnitude of Groo would argue against that. And the comic's constant scribe Mark Evanier provides the solidity that Aragonés can rely on in his stories, keeping things just the right side of silly, while throwing in some fantastic wordplay of his own.

But the best example of Evanier's humongous talent as a writer is pure Evanier, because it's when he's talking on his blog about buying stuff from Costco.

Evanier has been a professional writer his entire life and all those endless Garfield cartoon scripts and Blackhawk comics means he's really good at it. He's also been blogging for many, many years, and every now and then he writes about his experiences in Costco, and it's always weirdly fascinating, and should stand as a historical record of how people shop and interact with each other, in this weird little slice of history.

But that's the mark of a good writer - it might be the most mundane subject in the world, but I do give a shit about the rotisserie chickens and the people who buy their goods in bulk

Anyway, there was also a new Groo comic out last year, where the roving swordsman runs into Tarzan and it had my absolute favourite last page of anything in comics in the past 12 months, so maybe there is more to Evanier than his stories from between the aisles. But it's also nice to see inside the shopping basket.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Doing the math on the galaxy's greatest comic and its presence in 1980s New Zealand

The British hardback comic annuals of the 1980s had some of the best colour art of the era, as well as a lot of pages to fill to appeal to the Christmas crowd, so were packed with data pages, reprints and other filler. 

Sometimes you'd get a great interview with Brian Bolland, or some unseen art, or something actually useful, like the absolute cracker of a feature in the 1988 2000ad Annual that lists 60 things you probably didn't know about the galaxy's greatest comic.

I knew 55 of these facts, but there was one about overseas sales that got me feeling goddamn patriotic, because it proved that New Zealanders loved their thrillpower. At a time when the comic was selling 100,000 copies every week, 8000 were heading overseas, with 3500 going to New Zealand and a mere 2850 going to Australia.

This meant that in New Zealand - with a population of 3.3 million - was getting one prog for every 938 people in the country. Even with a higher population of 16.5 million at the time, Australia only imported 2850 issues every week, or one for every 5800 people.

Aotearoa still lagged behind Britain, which published enough progs that there was one issue for every 569 people in the United Kingdom, but I always thought 2000ad was drokkin' everywhere when I was growing up, and it turned out I was absolutely right, because we couldn't get enough of the future shock.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

We only have eyes for the plot

Nerd behavior has infiltrated our wider culture to an objectively disturbing degree, as egos full of entitlement and misogyny spread their utter nonsense into the mainstream. And one of the ways it's ruining everything for everybody is in the writing we get about movies.

It's a dumb thing to worry about in this shitfest of a world, but we have to get our pleasures where we can, and I do get great pleasure from well-written essays about the very best in cinema, because the very best in cinema is always worth writing about. It won't change the world, but it'll help.

But a lot of modern writing and criticism about film is all about the plot, and only the plot. Hung up on holes or twists or general developments, as if that's all that matters.

It's really not. Plot is a vital part of the storytelling process, it's the frame the story is built around. But it's not the story itself. Great movies can have the slenderest of stories, and the most tightly wound tale can be undone by performance.

One of the most successful thing the Marvel movies have really done - apart from making literally  obscene amounts of money - is move the discussion of quality to each film's role in the ongoing mega-plot, and we can all overlook the same washed out cinematography, the same boring, grainy realism of men in tights.

This leads to all those fucking useless three hour video lectures about how a fucking Star Wars doesn't work, because they don't like bits of a story, when really we're all just interested in the kickass lightsaber fights and spaceships exploding in the loud vacuum and heroic figures standing strong against intergalactic bullies. 

And after years of reviews of comic books that only talked about the writing - with a, at best, cursory mention of the art - that's seeped into the wider world. Ignoring that a story can be told in characterization, or even in the movement of the human body through space, it can be told in the medium of the non sequitur, or satire, or dance.

I'm getting increasingly obsessed with style over substance as I get older, and will take a good, dank and visibly morose mood over a good twist, every time. This starts in the comics, when I buy them almost purely for the art these days, and it goes into my movies. There are people who see them the same way I do, but they can get buried in the shouting about plot holes.