Thursday, March 31, 2022

A galaxy of Star Wars comics

Every now and then I get the weird urge to read Star Wars comics - I always loved the movies, even the ones all the cool kids sneered at and I do love comics, so it's seems like the obvious idea. But there's so fucking many of them I genuinely don't know where to start.

The only time I really properly followed Star Wars comics was for a few short, sweet months after Return of the Jedi had come out, and there's still a part of me that still thinks the best Star Wars comics come with Jo Duffy's words and Cynthia Martin's dreamy issues.

Marvel put out 107 issues in that initial run, and while there was a lull after it faded away, there have since been a deluge ever since. There are 625 series - not issues - in the database, with so many ongoings and limited series and collected editions of old comic strips.

Marvel got the franchise back just a few years ago, but have already pumped out hundreds of issues from dozens of titles, with multiple volumes of the bigger series. I know I've read a lot of them, but couldn't tell you much about what actually happens, other than Dr Aphra kicks arse. There's been a Bounty Hunters comic going on for, like, two years, and I didn't even know it existed.

On top of that, there's the vast troves of Dark Horse comics. After the restrained start with the Dark Empire series, they went absolutely apeshit with the Star Wars comics - because there was always money in Star Wars - for decades. There are entire new mythologies that now requite multiple omnibus editions to cover.

I've still got a couple of the battered issues that I clung feverishly to in the 1980s, and almost all of Cam Kennedy's Boba Fett comics, and that's all the Star Wars I really need. 

Sometimes I get something like War of the Bounty Hunters and it seems fine, just fine, and I can't remember a thing about it.  That might just be a sign of age, but it's also that there is so much Star Wars. I like Star Wars. A lot. But I never needed this much of it. 

I keep forgetting I gotta get around to the last three episodes of that Boba Fett TV show because it was fine, just fine, but I ain't forgetting the way Walt Simonson and Tom Palmer drew X-Wings. A few good comics was always preferable to a forest of bantha piss.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Early visits with the Simpsons

I'm so old I honestly remember watching the Tracy Ullman show and thinking it was a bit lame, with the sketches taking way too long to get to the point. But I also recall thinking that the segments with the cartoon family looked ace, and The Simpsons are still here, decades and decades later, still trucking along.

I also remember how much of a cultural phenomenon for a while, with tie-in albums at the top of the charts and all the right-wing dickwads losing their shit over it. I had a mate that would ring me up after every episode to talk about all the movie references, but you didn't need to get them when the comedy was so sharp and like nothing else on television.

That affection never went anywhere, even though, like almost everybody else, I probably haven't watched a single episode made in the past decade. There were only so many times you could tell the same jokes, especially when so many of them first appeared on that weird late night sketch show that nobody else watched.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Happy birthday, Steve

Steve Dillon should have turned 60 last week. He started young so there is a huge body of work left behind, but he really did have so much for to give.

Monday, March 28, 2022

I can't stop dreaming about DC digests

I learned to read through comic books, so it's no surprise that I've had dreams about for them for as long as I remember. My lifelong obsession with comics has seeped into my skull and I've been finding impossible comics books in impossible comic shops for decades, and feeling absolutely fucking gutted when I wake up and it isn't real.

For years and years I dreamed of comic shops - ones I glimpsed on TV, and ones I last stepped foot in years ago. I dreamt of being surrounded by strange displays and special Invisibles mini-comics, and served at the counter by dragons and scary old ladies.

It actually died off a little when I started going to comic shops on the regular. Ever since I lived in a town with a couple of shops that I get to every every few weeks, there were less dreams about phantom stores, although it did start up again in the past year, almost certainly because of the whole Covid thing, and we couldn't always get out.

The other thing about these nocturnal comic missions is that the kind of things I'm looking for change as my tastes change, or as I complete a certain set of comics that I've long been after.

So it used to be that I would stumble across vast old hordes of 2000ads, but that has dropped off since getting all the regular progs. I'm still a few sci-fi specials that I sometimes find while dozing on the couch, but that's about it.

Now, I find I'm always dreaming of digests - DC Blue Ribbon digests, to be precise.

I always did dig the digest format, but I still can't deny that they're a terrible way of reprint comics, and as I teeter on the edge of my late forties, I can barely read the tiny print. You can get almost everything they ever reprinted in those things in much nicer and more expensive collections these days, and any that do show up on the second hand market are often exorbitantly priced.

And yet, that's what I keep getting excited about in dreams. It started a little while ago, with a flurry of sleeping visits to stores that sold digests that never existed, but it's accelerated since then and now I'm regularly having dreams about finding a copy of that Dark Mansions of Forbidden Love, or one of the Jonah Hex digests.

I just don't know why. There are plenty of comics I still obsess over, and am always hunting for, but I don't dream about them, just these little things. I'm sure Freud would have a fucking field day with these books' size and importance in my life, but maybe I just need to get outta the house more. I'll just have another squint through this Legion of Super Heroes digest before I go.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Love and Rockets by the pool

There's no such thing as a perfect reading experience, but I came pretty fucking close when I was sitting on the grass at Maori Park Pool, drying off in the sun in the summer of 1993, trying to make sense of the these Love and Rockets comics I'd stumbled across and trying to fit the story all together through the few copies I could get together, which wasn't easy when the one collection I had reprinted a whole bunch of random shit out of order like they were interchangeable Archie comics or something, but at least I could use Tear it Up, Terry Downe as a key text to understanding it all, and it didn't really fucking matter because the fun was in the figuring, and when it got too hot again, it was back into the pool to cool off. I don't think it ever got any better.

Saturday, March 26, 2022


It didn't matter if he was on a hot mike, when people asked him his secret to a long and healthy life, well into his 90s, Mr Ernest Borgnine would gleefully tell people that he put it down to the fact that he masturbates a lot, and I think about that way too much.

I mean, jacking it on a regular basis probably doesn't really help with a long and healthy life. But it probably doesn't hurt either. Despite a life of ridiculous cheapness and incessant wanking, Joe Matt still looks okay.

Friday, March 25, 2022

RTD gets me into ELO

Of all the amazing things Russell T Davies did during his first Doctor Who run, the one that still impresses me most is that he got me over my deep dislike of Jeff Lynne and the ELO.

Before I was a punk kid, I was a Pink Floyd acolyte, but I was never into the Electric Light Orchestra. It was the absolute epitome in middle of the road mush, with a hollow production style I actually found offensive, in the way only young people can. 

But then it was used in an episode of Doctor Who - Love and Monsters, a farcical Doctor-lite episode that took a scathing look at the worst aspects of the fanboy, and so became one of the most ridiculed episodes of Doctor Who. And the sheer joy with which Elton danced around the room to Mr Blue Sky was just lovely, and enough to pierce my cynical shell forever. It can't be that bad if it gets that kind of reaction.

I still haven't forgiven Lynne for making the Beatles sound like his fucking band when he got his hands on their tunes in the 90s, but I don't mind a little bit of Electric Light Orchestra now and then. If Davies accomplishes something half as miraculous with his forthcoming series, that would be enough.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Lipstick Traces: Every memory lingers with me yet

Any kind of modern media consumer has their own idea about the pillars of culture, and where it all comes from, and what's really important. I certainly have my own version of it, and am convinced we live in a culture built on the work of people like Kenneth Anger and Marie Severin and Dr Dre. It makes sense to me.

Lipstick Traces opened this kind of thinking up for me. Greil Marcus' secret history of the 20th century was the best book I'd ever read about music when I was 18. After endless biographies about wankers who just took too many drugs, this was the first book I ever read to say something about what the music means. The first to tell me that music was more than just a good way to fill a couple of minutes while you were working in the factory or driving around town, it was something embedded in culture, part of everything.A reflection of the self and of society.

It gave me the idea that the Sex Pistols weren't just a loud novelty during their brief life, they were the descendants of a loud and discordant reaction to the ills of society, and it blew my fucking mind.

I read it a decade later after reading many, many more books and articles that mined the same fertile grounds and thought its connections and links were dubious and facile. To be fair, I was in my late 20s at his time, and thought I fucking knew everything, so no wonder I came into again with an antagonistic attitude.

I'm giving it another go now, nearly 20 years after that last time, to see where it stands. I don't expect anything mind-blowing this time, but I'm always up for it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

I hope that you got back in one piece, fellow

PJ O'Rourke wrote a fucking shit-tonne of words in his career and I read a lot of them when I was young and impressionable and slight enamored with that kind of arrogant nonsense, but the ones that have always stuck with me the most were the ones in his dedication at the start of Give War A Chance

Most of his work was devoted to the cult of Me, but his dedication in that book went out to the poor fucker who had to go to Vietnam instead of him, when he avoided any service with a cocktail of long-term drug use and the actions of your regular young sociopath .

That dedication was the most self-reflective thing he ever did, and the only time he really expressed regret for his youthful stupidity, and sympathy for the dude out there who had to take his place. We don't always think about the people we never met who might have their lives turned upside down by a decision we made, but if you're very lucky, you might get to dedicate a book to them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Music videos in the dead of the night


We can get all our music from Youtube or Spotify or anything you fucking like now, but the algorithm is completely rubbish at exposing you to new things. It's really good at just giving you what you want, over and over again, but not giving you the things you don't know you need.

The radio still has a part to play in our society and remains a great source for random music you've never heard before. I still get a lot of my new pop music from a Saturday afternoon music show that plays while I'm working.

And I know I'm getting more into the 'kids don't know how lucky they are' territory with every year that speeds past, but they really don't know how good it was just to watch late night music videos on the TV, and seeing what comes up.

At one point in the 90s there were three channels playing nothing but music videos all night on local TV (10 years earlier, there had only even been two channels).  The videos I saw in the middle of the night sparked full-blown obsessions with Pulp and Queens of the Stone Age. Coming home from the pub and watching Bic Runga put it all out there, or just hanging with your mates and flicking between channels and there's Shirley Manson in glorious action for the first time. The first time I ever heard Massive Attack was in the Karamacoma video late at night, all alone in my first ever flat, and it freaked me the fuck out, man.

Around the 2000s, I would tape three hours of late night TV music channels, and then dub the best stuff onto its own tape. I've lost a hell of a lot of music that never had a physical home like that in the time since, but I've still got the tapes.

I still like listening and watching music videos late at night, usually on YouTube, and I can always find exactly what I'm looking for. But if I don't know what I'm looking for, I don't know if I'll find it at all, and without the randomness, I'll never know.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Pinned down by the Punisher's crossfire

It had been a few years, so it seemed time to go back and read all the Garth Ennis Punisher comics again. Your mileage may vary, but Ennis Punisher is the Punisher I like, because the writer recognises the yawning horror at the heart of the character, that he is a cold, dead creature of vengeance, one that will never stop.

The writer is still putting out new Punisher stories every now and then, and I've read them all - from the black absurdity of the Welcome Back Frank era to the dark horror of the Max series - several times before, but I'm not sure I've ever felt my great liberal hypocrisy rising as much as it did when I realised how Frank's massacres were so much of a relief this time.

The Punisher should never be a role model - and it goes without saying that police and armed forces who adopt his icons don't understand the character at all - but when there is so much fuckery going on in the world right now, there is something almost comforting about an unstoppable force of justice. One that will keep on coming, and never stop, until all the shits in the world who profit from intentional pain and misery pay the ultimate price.

But I do feel bad about this enjoyment, because I'm a goddamn pacifist and of course the Punisher is a horrifying character and his worldview is deeply flawed. I fucking hate guns - I fired one once and did not care for it - and think the world will be a much better place when dickheads with penile anxiety find some other way to crack off their frustrations. They just do so much fucking harm in the real world.

Fiction is different. and I do like the visceral thrills of stories with big explosions and loud gunfire, and the absurd overkill of the Punisher is the ultimate result of all that. And while it's undeniable that he is a truly awful caricature of a real person, there is some satisfaction when things get sorted out with an M-60 and a shitload of C4. 

You can't get that kind of satisfaction outside fiction, because the real world is infinitely more complex, and there are always terrible repercussions to the Punisher's blunt force methods. Sometimes you just gotta get your kicks when you can.

Marvel fucks around with Frank Castle a lot, constantly trying to drag his blood-soaked mitts back into the world of gods and spider-men, which now include ludicrous attempts to give him a new logo. They try to keep him away from current politics - although someone is bound to do a story where he goes after a Pladimir Vutin in Eastasistan long after the current horror in Ukraine ends - and he can't really deal with the kind of fuckery that is causing so much pain and suffering in the world.

But when the world feels like a dark place, we can sometimes pretend he can.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Who Was Who In The DC Universe: I just think they're neat

The Heckler by Keith Giffen

Metron by Paris Cullens

Mr Nebula and the Scarlet Skier by Tom Artis and KS Wilson

Stanley and his Monster by Phil Goglio and Keith Wilson

Maxwell Lord by Ty Templeton

Waverider by Dan Jurgens

King Faraday by Dean Motter

Lightray by Art Adams

Lobo by Simon Bisley

Black Racer by Steve Lightle