Saturday, April 30, 2022

Another lost cinema

These steps to nowhere are all that's left of the Christchurch cinema where I first saw Reservoir Dogs on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and it fucking changed my life, man. I saw some other films there over the years, including Man Bites Dog and other films that didn't have a canine in the title, but nothing hit like that first dose.

The cinema was torn down after the 2011 earthquake and is just a memory now - the steps are only still there because they house some kind of critical electrical infrastructure - but there is still a moment in the eternity of space/time when I'm hoofing it up those steps with my best ever mates, about to see my first ever Tarantino.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Thank the harvest, I'm still such a basic horror bitch

Twitter keeps suggesting I follow people who tweet about horror films, probably because I'm incapable of going past any mention of a David Cronenberg film without liking it. But I have to keep telling the algorithm to piss off, because it kept serving up endless stanning for the latest corporate bullshit, and that's all so much grosser than anything Tom Savini dreamed up. 

And while that makes me feel like hot shit because I saw Death Line one time, then I go and watch something like Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched, a documentary about folk horror movies and it's an absolutely pleasurable discovery to find out I don't know shit.

Even after decades and decades of watching great horror movie trash I know my limits and have defined them by my relationship with the Blind Dead films, but this documentary gets through the obvious stuff like Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan's Claw, The Wicker Man, The Witch and Midsommar very quickly, and then goes to other places I've never even heard of - traumatic Slavic nightmares, colonial nightmares in the new world and old terrors in the rice paddies. 

It could be overwhelming, and it should be - there are so many films that have been made and are still being made, and you can never keep up with it all. But to be reminded that there is always more, and that you might not understand their rules, is still intoxicating.

Because something new to you, even if it was actually made in Romania in 1955, is always worth hearing about, no matter how basic it makes me feel.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Supergirl: The Matrix years

Back when DC was banking some serious sales from the whole 'Death of Superman' thing, and hundreds of thousands of new readers were trying out their first ever Superman comic, they had a very strange Supergirl, who was also a great symbol of the confused state of the DC Universe at the time.

Even though she had been one of the more notable casualties of the Crisis On Infinite Earths, it wasn't very long before the Maid of Might was flying through the skies over Metropolis again. But this wasn't the Supergirl who was Kal-El's cousin and another improbable survivor of the destruction of Krypton. She was a blob of protomatter from a pocket universe, held together by guts and willpower, and initially modelled on Lana Lang before taking on a more familiar blonde appearance.

And she was a great metaphor for the wonderful confusion after DC got rid of if most of its history in the Crisis. The laughable aim of making things less complicated with the merging of the timelines created nothing but nonsense, as dozens of different creators and editors tried to make things fit into the same universe.

So explaining who Supergirl was at the time could be a supremely complicated affair, which may even require bringing in some Legion of Super-Heroes lore, instead of  'oh, she's his cousin'.

Classic 90s DC. She deserved better.  I still have a fondness for this Supergirl, especially with her trans subtext (she tried on several different genders before finding one that fit comfortably). 

Through strength of will, power and compassion, she proved worthy of the Super shield over and over again. While there was a regrettable relationship with Lex Luthor when he was pretending to be Australian, she was also one of the mightiest women in the DC universe for several years, with a long-running monthly series.

I'd faded away from superhero comics when her story came to an end, and only know something about her evolution into some kind of angelic being, and they soon bought back another version of the cousin and have generally stuck with that. 

Which might be for the best, because it's easier to grasp, but there is always a part of me that yearns for that kind of over-complication. And when you can turn into any form in the multiverse, Supergirl was an obvious choice. The universe always needs its Supergirls.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

There's a place I like to hide

I dunno, man. Some days just feel like a Silent Lucidity kind of day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

On the Hostel Scale

The other day I was dropping off some baking to help Ukraine, because other than the usual unconditional love and support for all the victims of war, there's fuck all else we can do from this end of the world. And I took it to some building in town and ended up down a side corridor and getting a bit lost and it was weird and then I finally found a kitchen full of strange women who seemed happy to see me.

In the end, it was only mild disconcerting, and I would rate it a 3 on the Hostel Scale. It's a scale that registers the feeling you get when you realise you're in an odd place and could just disappear forever and get tortured to death by rich weirdos.

I had a 5 on the Hostel Scale at a Amsterdam comic store where I ended up going down into the basement, and was suddenly convinced there would be the glimpse of a hammer and then I'd be shuttled off to some torture chamber. I got a Justice League reprint in the local language and got the fuck out of there, but then got too stoned and left the comic at the campsite, because that's what happens in Amsterdam.

The only 6 on the Scale I've ever seen was in a movie - and of course it's the basement scene in Zodiac. Fucking hell. Just get out, Jake Gyllenhaal. Just get out!

Monday, April 25, 2022

The closed shop

My sisters - one on each side - were both marching girls, a uniquely New Zealand sport which gave me a small fetish for white bots and busby hats, and the opportunity to roam around the small towns and big cities of 1980s Aotearoa. 

One of the girls would always be off to compete somewhere in the South Island every weekend, and Mum and Dad were always helping out in some way, and I was too small to stay home alone, so I'd have to tag along. 

Girls were still icky, so the actual sport was dull, but the glory was getting to roam free, have a look around, try out all the different playgrounds, see what Space Invaders parlors I could find, and check out the shops. Because in those days, there were comics everywhere. All the corner stores and supermarkets and cafes had a rack of something.

It was usually some weird remaindered DCs or a few Marvels that no other shop for 200kms in any direction was also selling, but even a small town like Waimate had a couple of good shops that were worth hoofing it to. With a small amount of pocket money having to go a long way, I'd get something from somewhere, and I was just lucky that I had a taste for all kinds of comics.

The only difficult part was that it was usually a weekend affair - often a Sunday - and the whole damn country shut down over the weekend, so the really good stuff in the bookstores was inaccessible. You'd peek in the windows and see all sorts of great stuff, but it was 3pm on a Sunday, and there was no way of getting in

And the Wainoni Bookshop, right next to Porritt Park in Christchurch was the biggest tease at all. When I got there in the mid-80s I was going through one of my regular obsessions with 2000ad, and they had all sorts of stuff in there - progs going back months, including ones I'd missed, a Sci-Fi special, and maybe even the most recent annual.

They were right there, just behind a plane of glass, and might have well have been on the fucking moon. We were going back home that afternoon, hundreds of kilometers away, there was no way of getting back. I even checked to se if there was a little flat attached, where an owner might live and open up, but there was nothing, just the opening hours stenciled into the door, taunting me with their impossibility.

There was a dairy next to it that was open seven days, and I got a Brave and Bold comic for $1.03, but that was it. I never got back to that bookshop, it was replaced by a terrific little Indian takeaway years ago.

I did not have a traumatic childhood. Apart from the usual bumps and bruises, there's nothing mentally scarring, but man, I still remember how much I wanted to get inside that closed shop, and it still hurts a bit.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

I dream of Sven

Even though I am painfully hetrosexual, I used to dream of a guy named Sven, who lived in a safe and stable polyamorous relationship with me and the wife, which was great, because we all lived in San Francisco where Sven was working in a tech company and paying our way with his easy going work, leaving all three of us to enjoy the cinemas and cake shops and comic stores of the greater Bay Area. 

It was always a bit disappointing to wake up, but the wife always thought it sounded sensible when I mentioned it. It was fucking bliss, man. What a life.

I haven't had the dream one single time since the kids came along, but I'm still looking for you, Sven. I'm still looking.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Bam. Pow. Zowie.

The 2003 Daredevil film was an incredibly clumsy attempt to capture the vibe of the best stories about the Man Without Fear. It didn't work for a lot of reasons, but one that has become blatantly obvious is that despite the grim and gritty goal, they're still doing a sound mix in the tradition of the sixties Batman show

If you put this movie on and listen to it with a 21st century ear, it soon becomes painfully obvious - every single movement by any of the characters has some kind of sound effect going on. Sometime it's quite subtle, but it's always there and one once you hear it, you can't stop. Even a couple of years into the 21st century, the Batman TV show's cultural idea of how superhero comics was still seeping through.

Good foley is so important, and the Marvel movies quickly figured this out, grounding the sounds in the real world. They can still have soaring scores and the solid crunch of a good punch, but don't need a huge 'ZING!' every time Cap draws his shield.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Making our Stand

Like a lot of kids, I had a big problem with plagiarism, and was constantly ripping off the short stories I read and passing events from bigger novels off as my own. I wrote things with large chunks of Jaws and baldly copied one-page comics from Scream as my own before I was 10. 

I purged that out of my system pretty damn quickly, in favour of wider dreams and some deeply specific fan fictions, but there was one last time, when I was 12 and read the Stand, and all I wanted to do in the world was write an epic about post apocalyptic clashes with grand themes of good and evil. Obviously I only got three pages into it, even if the climactic bloodbath was all mapped out in my head. I was 12 and had lots of things to do.

But hell, if I was going to rip off anything, it would be the Stand. For several years, before I got my brain turned by beat poets and British comic writers, The Stand was jut the best book ever. I got my copy for $2 at a second hand store in 1987, and started reading it on the bus home, and I never stopped reading it for the next decade.

The intense detail, the epic scope, the characters that were fill of the same doubts and fears as real people, (although in this world, those fears could come at you in the form of an evil crow and peck your fucking eyes out). All that death, and the sparks of life that cling on. Randall Flag and the trashcan man. The sheer goddamn decency of Fran and Stu and Nick and Glen.

I've had a long belief that King's novels will one day be read as historical documents, because nobody captured the lives and fears of Americans in that age like King did .And even though he wrote of a world that dropped dead at the start of the eighties, that original book stands tall. 

I hated it when they revised it and took out the Howard The Duck references., and I hated the recent TV version, which had all the pieces to make something great and got it all wrong, worse even than the dusted pastels of the 90s version. But that kind of hate only comes with something you love, and sometimes try to copy.

I still want to write that book, maybe I can get more than three pages if I try.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Flash's good vibrations

Right from the starting line, Flash comics have always been about some dude in a red and yellow outfit running really, really fast and fighting guys with boomerangs and trick mirrors. But then there was an interesting shift in them as the Silver Age really started to kick in, and it wasn't about the speed, it's was about the vibrations.

There had been comic book super speedsters for decades by this point, and a lot of the ideas for stories revolving around velocity and speed had been seemingly exhausted by creators who didn't really give a damn about how Jay Garrick actually fought crime. And in the bright and shiny Atomic age, the disconcerting comic book reader needed more than that, and the bright bulbs at DC starting adding in huge doses of pop science into the books.

So then you get a lot of Silver Age Flash comics where big Barry Allen is always just vibrating the shit out of the problem, spinning around, shimmering his ass off and doing extremely funky things with the molecules that make up his body.

It's all absolutely ludicrous and had absolutely no basis in scientific facts, but worked if you don't think about it and could sound suitably technical.

And once you've got the atoms humming, you can do anything on the right vibration - go through walls, travel through time, go to another earth, stop a tornado. If you have that much control over the atoms of the world, you have the powers of a god, and stopping the flipping Rogues from robbing a bank seems like overkill.

It doesn't matter if you can react in a nanosecond to a threat, it's the complete control of reality that spinning around really fast really matters. 

It turns out there were still plenty of things to do with speed, especially since the Speed Force became a thing, but there are still endless charms in that idealistic vibrations of a young Barry Allen, shaking his way into eternity

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Uncle Sol

You never forget who the person was who gave you your first comic (even if it was Captain bloody Sunshine), and let you stay up a bit late to watch Hammer House of Horror. From my earliest days, my Uncle Sol was always there for me, and he always there for everybody. He still had a firm grip when he shook your hand, right up to the end. 

Good night, Uncle Sol. Love you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

All the podcasts I need right now

Podcasts have been a thing for a long time now, and everybody has their own favourites. The wife loves true crime, but I get enough of that in the newsroom at work, and prefer my podcasts to be about pop culture. Sometimes I like a dose of heavy history, and sometimes I like listening to stories about modern hauntings, but mainly I just want to hear people talk about the best in comics and movies.

There are still eleven billion pop culture podcasts to choose from, and only so many hours in the day, so you have to stick to what you like. I have the ones I like to listen to while walking to work, or doing the dishes, or getting stuck into the garden, or on the weekly visit to the local library to pick up the latest huge pile of new X-men trade paperbacks.

Among them all, I've never missed an Wait What/Drokk/Baxter Building since Jeff and Graeme were rocking it for the Savage Critics. Their rambling chats are endlessly entertaining, no matter how many times I totally disagree with what they're saying. Especially when Jeff gets really high and reads all sorts of wonderful nonsense into his comics, or Graeme tries to argue that Steve Englehart is a better writer than Alan Moore, But I don't want to agree with people I listen to, where the fuck is the fun in that?

Also Drokk has the best theme music in any podcast ever and they are currently getting stuck into Dredd comics that nobody else ever talks about. And the addition of Chloe as semi regular guest is deeply appreciated, and I'm not just saying that because they are legit the best editor I have ever known.

And I've also long been an admirer of the discipline of House to Astonish from Paul O'Brien and Al Kennedy which largely sticks to a rigid and entertaining format. It's another podcast that I've been following for years - I remember driving around the UK listening to their exploits on a trip 10 years ago - and they are still have hit the sweet spot again with the recent Lightning Round, an issue by issue retrospective on the mighty Thunderbolts.

The only other podcasts I never miss are over at the Factual Opinion - both the Travis Bickle on the Riviera and Comic Books Are Burning In Hell podcasts are just so fucking funny, and talk about the kind of movies and comics that I want to know more about. I think they're more wrong more often than even the Wait What crew, but holy shit, when they're right about something, they're fucking right about it.

There's no more time for any more than that on the regular, but there are also plenty that I jump in and out of. I would probably listen to The Rewatchables more if they weren't so obnoxiously loud, and any new episodes of The Movies That Made Me or Adam Buxton's shenanigans depend entirely on the guest they're talking to.

For all my sins, I do like listening to a bit of Rob Liefeld, because he really does tell a good story, especially about how fucked up the 90s comic scene is, which is just my bread and butter. The only thing that is more in my wheelhouse is listening to Evan Dorkin and his pal talk about groovy old horror films on the Tear Them Apart podcast - they certainly sold me on Horror Express after their discussion of it.

There are occasional downloads of the 2000ad Thrillcast and the Hammer House of Horror podcasts, and I always find room for a good five-hour episode of Hardcore History - the wife's True Crime stories truly pale in comparison to the awful massacres and genocides of history

And there is always room for some more. I just started dipping into the Hypnogoria podcast, after going through the Zombi Zombi series and its cheerfully bloody descriptions of some very terrible zombie movies, and I've just found this one called Comfort Blanket from one of the dudes who made the excellent Rule of Three podcast about excellent comedy, which is all about smart people talking about their absolute favourite things like Wham and raiders of the Lost Ark, and sometimes that's all I need in life.

Podcasts fill the brain with useless information, but make doing the dishes less of a chore. And listening to people talk about the shit they like makes everything a bit easier.

Monday, April 18, 2022

The R13 kids

I'm so very glad I'm not 12 years old anymore, and not just because I'm avoiding the next decade of deep, deep embarrassment. I'm mainly glad I'm not 12 years old because it means I can go see any film I want, man, and nobody is going to stop me.

A large chunk of my childhood was spent railing against the blatantly unfair age restrictions at the movies. We had a R13 category in this country and they were strict as hell on it. My aunties and cousins took to all sorts of family-friendly films as a kid, (all the big films were always a GY, which meant anyone could go). But I first became aware of the concept that I was too small when Blade Runner came along.

I was 7 when it came out and when I got told I wouldn't be able to go see the new science fiction movie with Han Solo in it, I took as a personal affront. I didn't see it for years and had to make do with the excellent Marvel comics adaption that came in a Christmas gift from Nana. And when I did see it as a 13 year old, I really couldn't see what the fuss was about. Adults were fucking weird about stuff like that.

Not long afterwards, me and my mate Nigel tried to sneak into the Terminator, but got turned away for being obvious 9-year-olds. We went for a swim at the Maori Hill pool instead and it was great, but that poster of Arnie with the red lasers haunted me for years. (I also missed T2 when I was 16 and trapped in a place called Washdyke, and couldn't get to the movie, even though I was definitely old enough by then.)

And then, when I was 18 and had a car and a disposable income, I went to fucking everything I could. All the movies, all the time, no matter what the bloody classifications said. 

I saw a fairly hardcore new horror film the other day and was delighted to discover that I still feel a thrill in going to see something that would have been deemed bad for me, all those years ago. It makes me feel more than an adult than buying a beer, or voting, or starting a family. I'm old enough to see all the blood and guts I want.

Those years are long behind me now, but I still feel the kids' pain. I saw the new Batman film was an R13 at local cinemas, and it would have driven me bloody crazy to be a 12 year old and not allowed to go to a Batman film. Absolutely insane. Good luck, young 'uns!

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Guadalupe smash!


I swear, Guadalupe losing her shit at Luba near the end of Gilbert Hernandez's absolutely brilliant Human Diastrophism is one of the very best meltdowns in all of comics. 

A Jack Kirby Hulk ain't got nuthin' on an 8-year-old girl.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down

Maybe I read too much Mark Twain stories, or maybe I just watched too many Littlest Hobo episodes, but until I was 12 or so, I genuinely thought you were meant to run away at some point. Like a rite of passage thing, to become a proper adult.

I had it all planned out in the way kids do - I was going to sleep on the benches in the enclosed courtyard behind the freaky statue at the library, and I was going to walk out into the fields outside town and eat the peas that grew there, and I was going into schoolyards at night to drink from the water fountains there.

Thank goodness I never followed through on this hobo fantasy, because it wouldn't have ended well. But I am a little worried that there was really just one thing that really stopped me from taking that leap, and that was that I could never figure out how to take all my favourite comic books with me.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Don't feel so alone, got the radio on

We can stream all the curated playlists we want, but there is nothing quite like hearing something new and wonderful come over the radio while you're driving, and it's so damn good you've got to pull over to find out what it is, and you have to listen closely to get a snatch of lyrics to search it out. 

I listen to 80 percent of my music in the car as I'm driving to work and still have the Pulp CDs I bought 25 years ago on high rotation, but there is always room for something new. The way I find and devour great new music is often ludicrously complicated, but sometimes it's as simple as tuning in the radio. 

There's a few trusted stations if I want something heavy or some glistening new pop or some thick and meaty hip-hop, and they're often throwing up new tunes in between the classics. Sadly, I still listen to a lot of student and youth radio - people I work with just started a fantastic new youth station, and I've had to warn them that a white dude in his mid forties should not be your target audience, but they've got me anyway.

If you're even very lucky, you might stumble across DJs that aren't just obsessed with the sound of their own braying voices, and can give you recommendations, instead of endless shit jokes.

The same technology that has made car drives bearable for more than a century still works well.

Besides, I still get a thrill out of the cosiness of the live broadcast, sharing the moment with a community you never see, all grooving to the same song. I don't get that from the playlists the various algorithms keep tempting me with.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Leave Batman's dad alone

Like every fucking blockbuster made these days, The Batman is a film with lots of tiny moments full of exciting and awesome shit - it's got the best Batmobile since the sixties - and it is easily half an hour too long and outstays its welcome, like the last people at your house party that just won't leave. And it's particularly painful because you can see where they could have made those cuts - all that crap about him losing faith in his dad should obviously go, because that shit never, ever works.

And yet, it still happens a lot. After 83-goddamn-years of Batman and his family and legacy getting deconstructed and built up again, it's been shown time and time again that making Thomas Wayne the bad guy is just a dumb idea. 

You're on a road to nowhere if you're the latest to try and sully the tragic totem the Batman is built upon, these good people he couldn't save -  they have the perfection of a nine year old who just lost his parents. Giving Batman suspicions that his Dad wasn't the spotless hero he thought he was undermines the whole idea of the Dark Knight.

Even Grant Morrison went for it during his long run, with some full-on nonsense about some jerk named Dr Hurt coming back and pretending to be Bruce's dad, and it's easily the lowest point of the writer's run, because you know they're going to clear his name at the end. Batman just doesn't work when you mess with the basics like that.

DC still never let it go ,and took this tedious concept to the next level in the Flashpoint universe, with Thomas actually becoming the Batman when Bruce is killed as a child. This seems to be an arguement that the Batman personality is inevitable and someone has to take it on, and not that it's some poor kid's way of coping with this shit he's been served. No matter how many times they bring this Batman back and have him stand around looking moody, it always faintly smells like the rotten proposition it is.

And then it's back in the movie, in this all-new interpretation of the Bat. And from the moment they introduce the possibility that Tommy Wayne wasn't so squeaky clean, it's just a long slog until Alfred conveniently wakes the hell up to provide some  reassurances needed to kick the third act into gear.

There will always be plenty of black sheep in the Wayne family tree to chose from if you need the family connection, but going for the big man's dad isn't fair play.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Straight Story ain't so different

It's always seen as the outlier in David Lynch's canon, and maybe it is to a certain degree, because The Straight Story is really the only one you can really watch with the whole family. But it's also the purest of Lynch.

For all their groovy little subtleties, his movies deal in extremes, especially in the grand cosmic dance of good and evil. His films have some of the most vile and reprehensible people ever portrayed on film, and they do some terrible, terrible things.

But they are also full of decent people - folk who are kind and generous and fair and honourable and empathetic. Twin Peaks has its dark side of drugs and murder and possession by malevolent entities from a higher dimension, but it also has Big Ed and Hawk and Norma and Coop himself, and they're all good people, through and through. They're not as showy as the bad guys, and not as obvious, but they are just as powerful in their own way.

And that's all you get in the Straight Story - it's just chock full of human decencies. Some of them have seen some shit and are old and bold enough to acknowledge their fears and weaknesses, and some just like to help a fella out because he could use a hand. It's the lightest possible side of the American Dream, all cornfields and golden hour sunlight.

You don't always have to have the darkness to contrast against the light, sometimes you can just bathe in its glow.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Across the two-page spread

Two-page spreads across the comic page have their place and can have a powerful impact in the hands of someone like JH Williams III, who is a goddamn master at using the space. And when used correctly as a punchline or big moment, it can be effective as hell.

But I'm still amazed how many random superhero comics have a spread that is full of standard rectangular panels that don't bleed across the center line, and the action is nothing but talking heads, and you're halfway through the page before you realise you were meant to be reading across the line because these things are making even less sense than usual.

I used to have this issue with a lot of Brian Bendis' early superhero comics - there were large sections of the first Jessica Jones stories that became almost unreadable with this problem. But that's nearly 20 years ago and it's still happening in brand new comics, and it drives me nuts. 

Marvel comics are the worst for it, but does happen in several Batman comics, (which isn't narrowing it down much, because Batman comics seem to be the only thing DC publishes these days). I don't know if it's a failure on the writer or artist's part - I imagine it's a bit of both - but it is a failure.

Because I've been reading comics since I was three years old and I can't follow this shit when it happens, how can we ever expect anyone else to follow these things?

Monday, April 11, 2022

I operated on my own brain!

It took so many years to find the comics I wanted more than naything else in the world, that I have mental scar tissue from remembering the exact numbers I was looking for. Even if I filled those gaps years and years ago, I still know what numbers I needed and it's genuinely disconcerting to think how much brain space has been devoted to the idea of missing comics.

I still know that it was MiracleMan #6 that I was after for 20 years until I found it at the Jim Hanley store near the empire state Building, and that I was after Sandman #51 for 15 years before I found in a 50p bin in central London.

I completed a massive collection of all the 2000ads last year, but can tell you without looking it up that 463 was so fucking hard to find because it didn't show up in my town in 1986. It wasn't until the 21st century that I got to go to Wellington and in one of the mad old junk shops they used to have down the bottom of Cuba Street, finding old thrillpower stacked behind dusty glass lamps.

Comics can be so bloody hard to find around here, and collecting them required patience, and a ridiculous amount of brain space. The holes in the collection, the inevitable missing issues, they fucking gnawed at me, man. There were thousands and thousands of holes to fill, and I had to write them down, but even then, I knew exactly what the lost issue was.

It hasn't gone away. I don't need to look anything up to know which of the Bendis Legion of Superhero comics that I'm missing because of bastard speculators, and which one Stray Bullets comic I need to have them all (it's easier to remember - if not to find - when it's the last one). 

Maybe I could have been somebody, might even have been a contender, if my brainpower went to a better use. All this useless trivia, and it is even worse than the usual pop culture bullshit, because it means absolutely nothing to everybody else in the head.

I could have used my brain to learn a musical instrument, or how to climb mountains, or solve complex mathematical formulas. But no, I had to use a permanent part of my brain space to always remember which issue of Justice league International I needed in 1992.

Oh well. At least the JLI was rad.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Vertigo exists. It doesn't exist

Somewhere in time, I'm sitting on my bed in that fucking cold house on Richard Pearse Drive, staring at these two ads in glorious black and white in the issue of Comics Value Monthly that suddenly showed up at Baird's Bookshop, and I don't have the internet or anything, all I have is these two ads and I'd only read a single issue of Sandman at this stage and not sure how it works, but I'm 17 years old and I want it so, so bad, and I get on the Vertigo bus for the next decade or so and while it doesn't exist anymore, that moment of possibility in time, on that bed, in that cold room, is fucking eternal.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Jonah Hex on NeoText

I like all kinds of Jonah Hex comics, but I like the Joe R Lansdale, Tim Truman and Sam Glanzman Hex the best. They are ornery and dusty and gross and didn't feel anything like the other Vertigo comics of its time, which makes them uniquely timeless.

I had the extreme fortune to write a whole lot more about the comics for NeoText Review here. They are not the kind of comics to make you feel better about the world, but they are a hell of a lot of fun.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Doctor Who's worst time warp: It's always Hugh bloody Grant

Sometimes I watch everything going down with the search for a new Doctor Who and I really do feel like I'm in a bloody time warp. We've been here before. We'll be here again.

The chance to pick a new actor to play the renegade Time Lord is always a bit of fun, although I desperately crave a day when they actually don't announce it, and just have it be a mystery who the next Doctor will be until the regeneration glow fades. 

The whole idea behind the regenerations is a vital part of the TV programme's prolonged survival, because it can reinvent itself every few years, and do something new. Bringing in Jodie Whittaker was heavily overdue and any further diversification should only be encouraged.

But the discussion is always the same, with the most vague names thrown out, while the British newspapers do shit exposes based on shit sources. And does it have to be High Grant every fucking time? His name was brought up again and talked up as a real contender until the man himself deflated the heat with a simple, typically bemused statement recently, but it was an awfully familiar path.

We can do better than that. Grant is a terrific actor, he's had a wonderful few years of character roles and is certainly one of the first people to come to mind when you think about a bumbling and crusty (but smart and lovable) Britisher. He's even played the Doctor before in a comedy sketch.

It's the same conversation every time and completely misses the fact that a new Doctor Who actor should be some kind of surprise, some kind of new. We all know what sort of Doctor that Hugh Grant would be, there's no time to waste on that.

Besides, it should obviously be Vicky McClure next. Everyone know that.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

It was Gruenwald's world, everyone else was just playing in it

Jim Shooter might have been in charge of Marvel editorial in the 80s, and writer/artists like Miller, Byrne and Simonson were creating whole new worlds of stories, but the real architect of the Marvel universe at that time was Mark Gruenwald.

Gruenwald's appeal wasn't in creating new characters - although he certainly had a crack at that - it was in sorting and organizing the greater mass of Marvel characters. Most of the villains that appeared in his stories came from earlier appearances in other comics, and characters with similar motifs and themes could be consolidated and filed into their right place.

It wasn't just in the shorter bursts of pure Gruenwald like Squadron Supreme, which was well ahead of its time, his kind of weird unification of concepts was most often seen in his long Captain America and Quasar comics. He would often get all the speeders together and have them race, or all the female charcters and have them fight, or all the wolf characters and have them growl at each other, or all the Red Skull-connected characters and have them try to kill each other.

The pinnacle of this was reached with his Serpent Society, which took every single Marvel villain with a snake motif, added in a couple more, and created a guild of villains who were much more powerful and successful as a group than they ever were as solo acts.

He could find a place for anyone, and was ruthless about disposing of anyone who didn't really fit into the idea of 80s Marvel, slaughtering dozens of lame villains at the Bar with No Name.

Gruenwald's scripts could be clunky and obvious, but could also find interesting things to say about the number of Marvel characters who use darkness as a weapon. This consolidation also created a powerful feeling of cohesion through the entire line, and just when the Marvel Universe was getting too chunky to follow, it felt like all the characters events were connected.

The writer/editor's influence is still obvious in modern Marvel comics, his ideas still being mined by current creators, and it has even stretched out off the comic page.

After all, he was once immortalised as Mobius of the TVA, a tiny obscure character that was more in-joke than person, and who has now become familiar to millions and millions of people who watched the Loki show. Owen Wilson's first film came out just a few months before Gruenwald's horribly young death, so he might have seen the actor on screen. 

And while Gruenwald could have no idea that Wilson would one day play a version of him in a massive TV show, you could bet he would have appreciated all those variants being put in their right place.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Joe Matt goes to Mega-City One

It's always just a bit admirable when comic creators go to extraordinary lengths to show how fucking awful they can be as human beings. And when it comes to drawing and publishing and promoting comics about how vain and egocentric and selfish and miserly and lustful you can be, Joe Matt always did it best.

For some mad reason, I've gone on a Joe Matt comics binge, and gone back through the Peepshow collection and a few little hardback books he put out, and it has helped to remind me what a complete little shit he was, is and always will be. It's compelling, largely because Matt's art is so nice, but you can be a little more subtle about your obsessions, Joe.

He's not doing much in the way of comics now, but it's genuinely pleasing to see he has found some easy money in art commissions and god bless him, he's been putting them up on his instagram page, where you get to see him do Judge Dredd and Swamp Thing and Popeye and Devil Dinosaur and Batman and Fin Fang Foom.

Most of the jokes still revolve around wanking, but his art is as lovely as ever.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Garry Leach 1954-2022


I've always said there is not enough Garry Leach art in the world, and now there won't be any more. I kept waiting for the rest of the world to notice how absolutely fucking amazing he was, but it somehow never really happened, and he went off to make the real money in advertising. We all lost.