Sunday, July 31, 2022

Therapuetic Skin Jobs #7

I had a whole universe of ideas for Victor DeMorte and his House of Skin and the family that lived there, but he only ever showed up here and in one uncompleted epic. I still miss ya,Vic.



Therapeutic Skin Jobs #7
By Max Zero


    Soft to the core, Dr. Skin tries to understand his situation. The Car With No Name is speeding down J Street, direction unknown, velocity unwise.

    “How did I get here?” he says quietly to himself. “What am I doing?”

    A migraine springs from non-existence, cutting through his frontal lobes like a white-hot razor. He tenses, pushing forward on the steering wheel, but it crumbles beneath his touch, the car disintegrating, flying off in a million different directions. Skin dissipates along with it.

    He tries to scream, but he’s got nothing more to say.

    “Hold him down!”

    “Get his arms!”

    Skin struggles to free himself, but they’re too strong. “Let me go!” he cries feebly.

    “Shit, he’s coherent,” says one of his captors, the worry in his voice unmistakable and unavoidable. “What now?”

    “It’s okay, Jakob,” says a familiar female voice, and Skin subconsciously relaxes. “It’s going to be all right. We will help you.”

    “I don’t need any help,” whispers Skin, but Fate makes a mockery of his claims by sending his consciousness sliding between the gaps in the words, into another world.

    Read between the lines.


    Skin’s mind is pulled back through time, and he experiences it all again. Car chases, dances, escapes, cups of tea, scorpions and apes fight for attention, before being thrust forcefully back in their place. It’s all good.

    And next? Skin registers a corporal body, his personality rests in a spare body, which opens its eyes at the slightest command.

    Looking around is hard. The neck muscles still ache like hell and the eyes hurt in the bright light, but Skin doesn’t let that get in the way of a good view. And what a sight it is.

    Stretching away to the horizon is the greatest assemblage of human beings since the dawn of time. The Great Sahara Dance Floor pulses with the steady beat of six billion feet belonging to truly happy bodies. Thousands of meters below the surface of Planet Earth, Big Bass Beat generators send subliminal tunes ripping through the crowd, while Strobe Satellites, skipping through the sky, illuminate the crowd in pulses. Incandescence and oblivion alternate on microscopic levels.

    Skin turns and finds himself standing on a mile long stage, packed with musicians rocking to their own beats. The Great Concert can be seen from little brother Moon.

    Skin tries to remember how he got here, but it’s vague. He’s still laughing at his own ineptitude when a familiar young man dressed in archaic clothes runs up and slaps him on the back.

    “Skin!” he hollers in the good Doctor’s ear. “You made it! We made it! It’s all good!”

    Skin studies his comrade’s face intently for a moment before recognition pays its dues. “Kyle? Karma Kyle?”

    “That’s right!” laughs Kyle, dancing a jig in pure excitement. “I’m glad you remember. It’s been a thousand years….”

    “What?” asks Skin, brow creasing unfashionably in confusion. “Is this the future?”

    “The future is now!” screams Kyle before quickly glancing at his watch. “Oh my God. Time’s up.”

    He turns to Skin with the strangest expression on his face.

    Skin’s stomach does back-flips. “I can’t…” he begins before the world falls away beneath his feet and Skin flies the light fantastic into the unknowable.




    Skin tries to move, but he’s still restrained.

    “Sorry,” whispers a voice in his ear, “but it’s for your own good.”

    “Yeah,” whispers a different voice in his other. “Your lady called us in. Just as well. This is the worst case we’ve seen yet.”

    “But I’m fine,” says Skin with impossible clarity. “Let me go and I’ll show you how fine I am.”

    “Not yet,” sooths the female. “Nearly there. Remember the word.”

    “The word?”

    And then Skin’s brain feels like it’s bouncing around inside his skull and he’s gone again.



    Skin’s on his feet, furiously running through a forest as bullets fly around terribly close to his head. He tightens his grip on the pistols in his hand, ignoring the sweaty feeling on his palms.

    Two men appear ahead, leveling extraordinarily large machine guns at his head. Skin doesn’t hesitate, taking both poor souls out with head shots. The guilt is still there, but he buries it beneath tedious rationalizations.

    Skin glances to his right and sees another two men raising their rifles at him. He shoots them both without forethought or hesitation, hitting one in the face and the other in the chest. The latter man falls to the ground screaming, and Skin’s brain almost gives up on him then as a lost cause. Stiff shit, pal!

    But Skin’s luck runs out as he bursts into a clearing, only to find dozens of men waiting for him, the wrong end of too many guns pointed at his heart. Skin considers his situation for a nanosecond before dropping his guns in the vain hope they’ll accept his surrender.

    Things don’t look promising as extremely large and inordinately strange looking gentleman walks forward, the pistol in his right hand never wavering from Skin’s head.

    “Who are you?” asks Skin suspiciously.

    “My name is Victor DeMorte,” answers Skin’s executioner, resting the tip of the barrel against Skin’s forehead. “I am the future.”

    “Why?” asks Skin. “Why are you doing this?”

    “Nothing personal,” says DeMorte. “It’s just my job.”

    He shoots Skin in the head, the bullet exiting right behind the left ear.

    Bullet in the head!



    “Ah! Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!”

    “Jesus, you’re killing him.”

    “No. No! It’s okay. He’s okay.”

    “We had to shock him out of it.”

    The pain that constitutes Skin’s existence finally dies down and he opens his eyes. Two odd looking men stand over him, all shits and giggles.

    Skin sits up slowly. The single light bulb in the ceiling shows a damp, dark cellar. “What’s going on?” he asks.

    The two men look at each other nervously, but a voice from behind them answers him. “They saved you.”

    “Who?” mumbles skin needlessly as a woman walks out of the darkest shadow in the room. ‘Kristine!”

    “I hoped you’d remember me,” says Kristine, all honesty and trust. “I thought you might have forgotten.”

    “Forgotten? How could I forget you?”

    “The strangest things can happen when you’re trapped in a metatextual analogue of your own creation.”

    “I love it when you talk like that,” says Skin, licking his lips vulgarly.

    “That’s it!” hollers one of the men, throwing his arms up in the air for extra emphasis. “I’m leaving.”

    “Who are you people?” asks Skin.

    The other man laughs strangely. “Why, I’m King Goob and this is my partner in crime, Rocket Fish.”


    “I called them in,” says Kristine, kneeling down beside Skin. “You got lost in your head after a routine helping of peyote. You spent three days in a coma, screaming and hollering about somebody called Max Zero.”



    “Right,” says Rocket Fish suddenly, slapping his hands together extravagantly. “We’ll be off then.”

    Skin and Kristine wave goodbye as the two men walk away, talking loudly to each other.

    “So what’re you want to do now?” cries one.

    “I dunno!” cries the other. ‘Should we go do that Protocols thing?”

    “Nah! Let’s go get tanked and shoot some somebody!”


    Skin ignores them, staring intently into Kristine’s huge brown eyes. “You did it, baby. You did it for me.”

    “You better believe it,” she says and the two embrace. For the briefest of moments, time stops its relentless march on. Nature freezes and gravity halts as the two lovers get reacquainted, but Skin soon pulls away to ask one last question.

    “One thing. What is the word?”

    Kristine smiles. “What do you think?”

    Skin pulls her closer, smelling her sweet scent and feeling totally and helplessly lost in her arms.

    Leave them alone. Leave them to their lives for now. Let’s face it, you’re not that interested anyway. Because this is softcore.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Michael Golden's Bats

Around the same time George Pratt was doing some eye-wateringly good art for the covers of some random Batman comics, the great Michael Golden was doing the same thing, producing these absolute blinders. (As a bonus, you also got some great Milligan/Aparo comics on the inside on most of them.)

Look at those wonderfully weird compositions and the unique use of colour! Thirty years later, they're still so memorable and striking and stick in the mind better than a thousand covers in the past 10 years.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Do you see me laffin'?

Sometimes I still miss the huge amount of trailers that they would put at the start of video tapes that you'd rent every Friday night from the local service station, informing us all of coming attractions from Roadshow or Thorn EMI. They could go on for close to half an hour and you could only skip them by fast forward, so you were still soaking up some of it before you got to the main attraction.

Some of them are burned into my memory - the trailer for the original Dawn of the Dead was literally the most terrifying thing when it popped up after the end credits of one of the Porky's films, and something like The Jewel of the Nile seemed to be on absolute everything, but that was okay, because Danny DeVito's mugging was always welcome. 

With this kind of weird saturation, long before the colossal abundance of YouTube, even the most average of films could lodge in the memory. Take The Krays - a fairly okay biopic of the title twins who ruled a slice of London gangland in the 1960s. It's directed by Peter Medak who made the bonkers The Ruling Class, as well as Species 2 (although he also has directing credits on The Wire and Breaking Bad, so he gets the last laugh) and even though I haven't seen that trailer in 30 years, I can still never forget the highlight of the original teaser, and the delivery of one of the twins spitting out 'Do you see me laughing?'

I can't find the trailer that used to be on a million video tapes, but it's the line that comes 1.30 into this:

I can't remember the names of people I went to high school with for seven years, but I can't forget this line. I just couldn't say why, although it's the finest sneering acting you're ever going to get from a member of Spandau Ballet, but it lives rent free in the skull.

Just a tiny moment, burned into the brain by Friday night video binges. I don't know what the equivalent of that is for the streaming generation, but I'm sure it's out there. You just don't get to ever pick what sticks.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

X-Men: When Barry came to play

Back in the 1980s, the Uncanny X-Men was unquestionably the biggest comic book in the world, with its mix of broad pathos, balls-out action and general mutant melodrama paying huge dividends. And the you would occasionally get a weird issue by Barry Windsor-Smith, which would be utterly unlike anything around it, while still a vital part of the overall X-saga.

As much as anybody, Windsor-Smith had a greater claim to do the X-Men, he'd been there doing pencils in the original series at the tail end of Marvel's dominant decade. But he was always a welcome presence, with that incredibly detailed line closing in on his wide-open faces with all the emotions in the world.

Two of the issues appeared as part of the wonderfully pretentious Lifedeath storyline, bringing together Storm and Forge together before breaking them utterly, while the third was just a random issue with Wolverine getting royally fucked up in a snowstorm and running into the youngest member of Power Pack.

These issues were pauses in the grand tapestry of the X-men, but also vital parts for the main characters. Storm, still recovering from the loss of her powers and shakily taking on a new identity, finds some solace in a man who is far better mending machines than broken hearts. Even Wolverine, the old sod, is a different person at the end of 205 than he is at the start - his tired and sad disgust at the lengths a once-honourable enemy is something beyond the usual brutality of the character.

For all his famed wordiness, Claremont always knew when to let a good artist just let loose, wide and open in a way they usually couldn't in a mainstream superhero comic. Windsor-Smith''s art for these issues is phenomenal, the wide open spaces of Lifedeath reflecting Ororo's slow willingness to face the future, while the Wolverine issues gets tight and claustrophobic as a blizzard hits town, snow from the storm and glistening new body-horror technology crowding the page.

There was a fourth issue a year or so later, but that just had fairly routine pencils from the artist, for an issue that was just another part of the ongoing soap operatics, during a particularly turbulent time for the mutant team.  

Despite the rewards of these few issues, a third Lifedeath featuring Ororo returning to Africa was rejected by Marvel, so Windsor-Smith made some superficial changes and published it as its own thing. No use wasting a good Lifedeath, after all.

Windsor-Smith can still bring the intensity - his long percolating Monsters book in recent years was a truly beguiling experience, but it's still remarkable that the sales juggernaut of the X-Men could support this sudden diversions into truly wonderful pieces of art, small chapters of brilliance that still shine on the newsprint page.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Clark, please leave my office

Someone at work reminded me how fucking amazing Kate Beaton's comics are, and that there are not enough of them.

Still, even after hundreds of stories about Lois Lane, Ace Reporter, almost all written by horny nerds, she only needed a couple of strips to create a unique way of looking at Superman and Lois that managed to be both a thoughtful take on girl power and piss funny at the same time. 

Sometimes perfection comes in small doses.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Ted Lasso and Star Trek: Living well and prospering

The 21st century has, so far, been a real golden age for premium television, with so much good shit out there - stylish and thoughtful dramas and comedies, and stories that really get stuck into the darkness at the heart of human society. 

But sometimes just want something that isn't full of intense, traumatized people who bring the whole world crashing around the. Sometimes, god damn it, you just want someone to be kind, and to prosper. When there's so much cruelty and cowardice in the real world, sometimes you just want something nice.

Ted Lasso was one of the obvious choices, because you couldn't avoid the buzz around that, and the massively positive attitude of the title character.

It's exactly what we needed a show about how doing the right thing ain't always easy, but you do it anyway. And how you'll be surprised by the person who is by your side when you really, really need it, and how a positive attitude and insatiable curiosity can overcome damn near anything - in this regard, Ted is more like Doctor Who than your usual sports coach.

Sometimes you just need a bit of hope in your diet, and sometimes you can find that out there in the galaxy as well,  because I've also been greatly heartened by the latest in a long, long line of Star Trek shows. I'm still behind on the Discovery and the Picards shows, after getting a little burned out by two years of constant TNG/DS9/Voyager episodes, but the retro optimism of Strange New Worlds was irresistible.

Star Wars has its knights and rogues, but Star Trek has the professionalism of the crews, and the humanity in their tiniest interactions with each other, and their massive handshakes with new civilizations across the vastness of the universe.

I'm also officially tapping out on the Kirk v Picard debate, I'm now on Team Pike until the end of time, because as played by Anson Mount, he is so human in his tiny little jokes, so thoughtful in his compliments, but always dedicated to doing the right thing, and willing to pay a horrible price for it. He also has great hair.

I also watched a bunch of the Star Wars recently and they were all fine, and had enough epic moments to make them worthwhile. But it's nice to have something a bit more evolved than 'kill more of the bad guys before they kill you', and telling stories about people out there in the darkness of infinity who just want to talk, and help any way they can, is as timeless as ever.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Alan Grant: Giving the kids what they needed

Legendary comic writer Alan Grant merged with the infinite last week and there have been a lot of people saying what a great scriptwriter he was, and that he was a brilliant mentor to generations of incredible British talent, and that's all undoubtedly true, but I'll always remember the big man for one thing above all else - he knew what the kids wanted.

I never got any regular pocket money as a kid, so had to beg for the 77c in 1980s New Zealand money that I needed each week for my fix of 2000ad thrillpower. And with my dad's working-class seasonal work, that 77c was sometimes a lot to ask for. At one particular point when I was 11, it was just getting too hard to ask, and I decided I'd have to give up 2000ad for a while.

But not for a couple more weeks yet, because Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra's Rage storyline in Strontium Dog was just getting to the point, and I couldn't stop now. After a year of unrequited revenge, I had to see Johnny track down the scum who murdered his best mate Wulf and put them in the damn ground.

I begged for every cent that the next two progs cost and it was totally worth it. It was still rough giving up 2000ad for a while, especially when it was still arguably in its golden age, but going out with Alpha's revenge reaching completion was a great way to go.

I started getting 2000ad again a year and a bit later, when Chopper was going for gold in Supersurf 10, and I did get all the progs I missed by some savvy swapping of some X-Men comics my mate Kyle desperately needed, so it doesn't feel like I missed anything.

But I've never forgot that drive and need to get to that end of that story, with the drawing out of the action building real long-term tension, all feeding the addiction. As a kid, I never had a chance, not when Alan Grant was always pushing the good stuff onto you.

In 2000ad alone, there was the massive amount of stories he wrote with John Wagner that captured the hilarious contradictions of a fascist fuck like Judge Dredd; or they were driving Sam Slade nutty with his Robo-Hunting adventures, or inventing barmy space trucker language for Ace Trucking Co

Their partnership inevitably ended, but there is some weird pride that when the split came, it was literally creative differences, not over finances or anything boring like that. Grant wanted Dredd to shoot Chopper in the back, Wagner wasn't having it, and that was that

Grant did plenty on his fine work on his own - the Demon and Lobo comics he did for DC required a very specific kind of humour that Grant nailed every time, and his long run on Batman was so well received that they essentially created a whole new title - Shadow of the Bat - for Grant to get stuck into things.

And as the kids who read his comics grew up, the comics Grant write grew with them. His Anderson stories got stuck into the hypocrisies of Justice Department to a ludicrous degree, (throwing a nuclear bomb at a crowd of non-violent children of Mega-City One is such a big sin on the city's Justice Department that nobody ever talks about it again) and his comics often had the tantalising taste of all sorts of eastern philosophies.

He wasn't always given the respect, his solo Dredd stories always paled in comparison to Wagner's - and after helping guide Batman through one of its most profitable eras ever, he was cast adrift by DC, not even invited back for all the big anniversary issues.

He deserved more, because he gave so much, and the avenging of the murder of Wulf Sternhammer was just one of them. Just a fucking good one that had me running to the bookstore for the next issue. Not many writers can do that.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Therapuetic Skin Jobs #6



These were some things I liked, in that slice of space/time that is always 1998. It's also when I realised the best thing about fan fiction is that you could have anybody show up.....


    “This is the end,” sighs Dr. Oonagh, shuffling down the corridor towards the meeting hall. “I’m telling you. This is the end of Ape society as we know it.”

    “Really, Oonagh,” grunts General Mutag, striding forward with great vigor and purpose. “Are all orangutans so melodramatic, or just you?”

    “This is the third one in a month! How long can this go on?”

    “They’re just humans. We’ll find out what they know and exterminate them like the vermin they are.”

    “I hope it proves to be that easy,” mumbles Oonagh sadly. “I feel most strongly that these three are hiding many secrets.”

    "And we will uncover them all before we put the beasts out of their misery.”

    “I wish I shared your confidence," replies Oonagh, pulling the main door open and walking into the hall, head held high. “I really do.”

    The human in the corner is still garbed in his offensively garish clothing, but appears calm. The gag in his mouth doesn’t seem to be troubling him at all, to Mutag’s obvious disappointment.

    “Doctor Oonagh!” barks the Lawgiver, sitting high on his pedestal in the center of the hall. He is the oldest Ape alive, and has ruled this area since the Taylor Cataclysm. “Can you provide an explanation for these recent appearances?”

    “I cannot,” concedes Oonagh, “but I believe it is part of a wider conspiracy, designed to subvert our great civilization.”

    “Do you agree, general?” asks the Lawgiver, turning to Mutag. The terrifyingly large gorilla clears his throat before speaking.

    “I do not. I believe these animals are an isolated case, and that we should dispose of them before they prove troublesome.”

    Slad, the Lawgiver’s young aide nervously steps forward. “But they’re only men. How much trouble can they cause?”

    The Lawgiver sighs in exasperation before turning his feared gaze upon Slad. “You forget our past, Slad. Men have been our natural enemy for eternity. You must remember that one man can destroy everything we’ve built. Or do I need to remind you of Taylor?”

    At the mention of the Great Destroyer’s name, Slad noticeably jumps, but carries on. “But we could learn from these humans if we keep them alive. They could teach us.”

    "It is already far too late for that,” says Oonagh. “Between the three of them they have caused considerable distress.”

    “Yes,” snarls the lawgiver. "They should be questioned and destroyed immediately.”

    “Excuse me,” says a voice from the corner. The apes turn to see the human standing, his restraints lying on the ground beside him, the gag nowhere to be seen. “I was just wondering if I could contribute to this conversation. You are discussing my fate, after all.”

    “Impossible!” bellows Mutag. “I bound him myself!”

    "Restrain that man!” screeches the Lawgiver and a dozen gorillas appear from behind his pedestal, rapidly beating the human to the ground.

    “This is intolerable!” says the Lawgiver, once order has been restored. "Take this human below with the others. I give you one day to find out what you can, General Mutag. Then we will dispose of these creatures once and for all.”

    “Your word is law,” intones Mutag, bowing.

    “Your word is law,” repeats Oonagh, following the General out of the hallway.

    In the corner of the room, the human carefully and quietly reaches into his pocket, only to find his precious cigarettes crushed and battered.

    “Bugger,” he curses softly as the gorillas grab him by his ankles and drag him away.

    Dr. Skin is not having a good day, but things can only get better.

Therapeutic Skin Jobs #6

Dr. Skin on the Planet of the Apes!

A Fan Fiction Fable

    The straw on the floor of the cell inflames his sinuses and Dr. Skin wrinkles his nose in disgust as he is thrown to the ground, the gorillas marching away, laughing at his fate.

    Getting to his feet, Skin surveys his surroundings. His cell is small, with two others on either side. The men in each cell look at him with undisguised interest.

    "Welcome, stranger,” says the man on Skin’s left. He is dressed sparsely, a loincloth the only protection against the elements. His body is sharp, strong and solid and he is a man who has obviously had an adventure or two.

    "How’re you doing?” responds Skin, moving over and leaning on the bars between the cells. "How long have you been here?”

    “A short time. With luck I shall soon be away.”

    “You’d better hurry. We’re all due for the dirt nap tomorrow.”

    “I’m not worried. I’ve been in far worse situations.”

    He sticks his large hand through the bars towards Skin. “My name is John Clayton, Viscount of Greystoke.”

    “I’ve heard of you,” says Skin, taking Clayton’s hand and shaking firmly. “I always thought you were a myth. My name’s Dr. Jakob Skin. I’m very pleased to meet you.”

    “The honor is mine,” nods Clayton. “But I’m not familiar with your name. You are obviously not a member of the village.”


    “The last human city. I founded it the last time I lived through this age. We remain unknown to the Apes, and keep to ourselves. Unfortunately, they captured me while I was hunting, but it was a mistake they will regret.”

    “I think they have already,” laughs Skin. “Who’s our other cellmate?”

    “Do not trust him,” whispers Clayton carefully. “I have run into him time after time, and he has proven to be entirely amoral and incurably evil. His name is Savage.”

    “Vandal Savage?”


    “He’s just the man I’m looking for,” says Skin, bowing slightly to Clayton before moving over to the other side of the cell and whispering to the figure crouching quietly in the corner. "Savage? I’ve come a long way to look for you.”

    “You are Skin?” snarls Savage, his face cloaked in darkness. “You’ve finally come for your object?”

    “I have.”

    “Then take the damned thing,” sneers Savage, tossing a small cube covered in strange patterns towards Skin, who catches it easily. "I’ve been hiding that for longer than I care to remember. I’m glad to be rid of it.”

    “Thank you, Vandal.”

    Savage doesn’t reply, withdrawing further into the meager shadows within his cell.

    “What do you intend to do with that?” asks Clayton as Skin sits cross-legged in the center of his cell, subtly pushing on the ornate cube.

    “Open it,” whispers Skin, concentrating fiercely as his fingers slide over the surface of the box.

    “Be careful,” warns Clayton. “I’ve seen an object like that before. It can lead you on a path of unfortunate consequences.”

    “Don’t worry,” smiles Skin, as a section of the box slides away under his touch.

    Clayton tenses slightly as the sound of rattling chains fill the air.

   Skin is about to open the final seal, when he suddenly flips the box over and opens a previously unseen compartment. A small piece of paper falls out.

    “Here we go!” hollers Skin with a grin, snatching up the paper and cramming it into the pocket of his dinner jacket. “I’ve got what I wanted.”

    Skin reaches into another pocket, pulling out a dog whistle, which he blows excitedly into.

    “Odd,” says Clayton, watching these new developments with mild interest. “I can usually hear those things, but I couldn’t hear that one.”

    “It’s special,” winks Skin and he is proven right when there is a strange groaning noise and a large blue box appears in the corner of his cell. A door opens in its side, beckoning Skin in.

    “Need a lift?” Skin asks Clayton.

    “No,” answers Clayton, sitting on the floor of his cell. “I’ll break out later on tonight. No rush. But please give the Doctor my regards.”

    “Will do. How about you, Savage?”

    “Go to hell,” comes the answer.

    “Not today,” smiles Skin, tossing the now useless cube back into Savage’s cell. "Maybe later.”

    Skin walks inside his transport. The door closes, and the box vanishes, leaving two of the last humans alive to their thoughts.

    Inside, Skin feels the dizziness he usually feels when crossing dimensions. He screws his eyes shut for a moment before opening them and walking over to the long haired man fiddling with a control panel in the middle of an unfeasibly large room.

    “Well?” asks the man, not looking up from his instruments. “Did you get what you were after?”

    “I did. Thank you for the help, Doctor.”

    The Doctor turns and scrutinizes Skin with his piercing gaze. “I do not approve of your actions, Skin. I consider you an extremely dangerous man. I trust this little errand fulfills my end of the bargain?”

    “It does. Just drop me off and you’ll never see me again.”

    “One can only hope,” mutters the Doctor under his breath. “Very well. Where would you like to go?”

    Skin fishes in his pocket for the piece of paper and reads the address on it. “Looks like I need a lift back to J Street.”

    “That should not be a problem,” answers the Doctor, flicking switches and pushing buttons. The room groans slightly as the time machine moves through the vortex. “After all, I’ve been there before.”

    “So what have you been up to, Doc?” asks Skin, sitting down in a preposterously antique chair. 

    “Saving the universe and stuff?” “Something like that,” answers the Doctor distractedly. “I just helped James Kirk save the life of an infant Jesus Christ.”


    “Yes. Exactly.”

    There is an inaudible shudder and the Doctor turns to Skin. “We’ve arrived.” He flips a switch and the doors open into the outside world. “Try and stay out of trouble this time, Skin. I’d hate to have to confront you again.”

    “Don’t worry about it, Doctor,” smiles Skin, slipping on a pair of sunglasses and walking towards the door. “Oh, and Tarzan says ‘Hi’.”

    The Doctor watches in silence as Skin leaves his machine, closing the door as soon as he’s left.

    Skin steps onto the brightly-lit J Street, and tries to remember where he parked his car. He has a mission to accomplish.

    Realizing he left his car double-parked outside Grendel’s bar, Skin walks off down the street, whistling a happy tune. His mission remains a mystery for the time being, only to be revealed in an unlikely place. Watch the skies.

    His story hasn’t finished, but this one has, because this is the end.

This Has Been A Bunch Of Mod Temporal Hijinks. Thank you for your participation...

Saturday, July 23, 2022

George Pratt's Bats

George Pratt never seemed to get the respect he fully deserved - his Enemy Ace graphic novel was exceptional - but at least he gave us a handful of gorgeous Batman covers, back when Bat comics were still selling truckloads off the back of the first blockbuster movie. Absolute legend.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Top Gun rulez

 It sounded like everybody was being a bit ironic when the raves about the new Top Gun film first came in, but it turns out they weren't joking. While Top Gun is every bit as ideologically unsound as a fucking Top Gun film always will be, because it's an absolute machine of a movie, doing what it promises. It tells you up front what kind of white-knuckle ride you're for, and then it fucking delivers on it.

Just from a block-busting craft viewpoint, it's exceptional. All the stunts are breathtaking, and seeing the g-force etching new lines into Cruise's increasingly craggy face is an absolute joy. 

The plot hums - settings up what the mission will be very early on, so by the time you get to the climax, you know exactly what they have to do (even if you don't get why they have to do the spinny over thing when they come up over the lip of the mountain). Everything else is the glue that holds it together - Cruise almost playing his own age for once, the jerk who comes through in the end, the kid with the chip on his shoulder because his boss killed his Dad - it's all perfunctory, but drives that story forward faster than any jet fighter can dream of.

And two-thirds of the way through, there's a bit where Maverick is trapped by bureaucracy, even though he knows it's gonna get people he cares about killed, and he doesn't know what to do, so he just goes out there and does what he does best - and that's be the best goddamn pilot in the goddamn world, and that's a plot device that's as old as Gilgamesh, but it still fucking rocks, man.

And then when that crucial bombing run is made, there's a whole other level of supersonic action to come, with ludicrous twists and turns that put Maverick even more behind the eight-ball. Taking ludicrously high stakes and raising them even higher. It feels like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where you get the amazing fight scene at the airport runway, which is just a thrill that should be enough for anyone, and then they go right into the most balls-out truck chase in cinema, and when that's done, there's still exploding Nazis to come. Escalation beyond expectation - it always works.

Of course it's ideologically problematic, celebrating the repugnantly huge military-industrial complex, while feeding the fantasy that exceptional Men Who Do The Right Thing Every Time will save us all.  

But to still see films with this level of sheer craft is such a rarity in days of CGI slush, and it's such a thrill ride, which always had a place in a healthy cinematic diet. Those left worried about the complexities of life will be left in the slipstream, while the rest of us are going sky high with this kind of glorious nonsense.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The grand subtleties of Peter Cushing

It took me a while to catch up with the last three episodes of the Boba Fett TV show because there wasn't enough space cowboy in them, but I got there in the end, and can now officially say that the way they're handling Luke Skywalker is creepy as hell.

I just can't look at it too closely - the weird hybrid of the mighty Mark Hamill, a faceless stand-in and a shitload of de-aging tech creates a soul-less abomination of a thing that has the surface reflection of the character and none of the depth.

And anytime they age out the lines and wrinkles, they're also aging out the infinite subtleties of the human performance. They're creating a character by committee, just by the very nature of the work, unable to provide the unique spontaneity of a truly great actor like, say, Peter Cushing.

It's been a few years but I still feel personally affronted by the use of Cushing in Rogue One, no matter what clearance they go to do it. They took an actor capable of an incredibly deep performance - finding nobility in the most wicked, or just new depths of depravity behind his thin smile - and turned him into a very highly rendered cartoon.

(Doing it to the late, great Carrie Fisher as well, right in the last shot, was the just extra icing on the shit cake.)

We all know these things aren't real and that there is nothing wrong with recasting a part - nobody bats an eyelid when Sherlock Holmes is played by 13,000 guys named Basil. Whatever the issues the Star Wars crew ran into with the under-performance of the Solo movie, the new actors were not the ones to blame.

People who sound very confident about it are always talking up the idea of bringing back dead actors to play new, post-mortem roles, but this should not be allowed to happen. It's not even just a matter of respect, a thousand visual artists can't capture the natural art of a single eyebrow on Cushing's amazing forehead.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

I'm not a scientist, but I know all things begin and end in eternity

It was a genuine surprise finding out the new Man Who Fell To Earth TV series with the mighty Chiwetel Ejiofor is a sequel to the original movie, not a boring old reboot, telling the same story, over and over again.

It was not much of a surprise to them find out that the role of Thomas Newton, a part unique to David Bowie, would now be played by Bill Nighy. He was literally the only acceptable choice. (Well, maybe also Denzel, because Denzel can do anything.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Fables: Dealing with the Happily Ever After

When talking about Fables in hindsight, it is generally accepted that creator Bill Willingham made a mistake to overcome the great, big, evil empire exactly halfway through his Fables series, because anything after that is going to be anti-climactic by definition.

But it made sense when it's a series that always had a healthy disdain for the very idea of 'happily ever after' taking all those fairytale conceits to greater heights, until they slam into the grey reality of the mundane world.

And defeating the Big Bad that early in the series was one of the best things it ever did, because the great big battle against the ultimate evil was never the point of this story, even if it was a lot of fun.

Several years after it wrapped up with seeming finality, Fables is back as a monthly comic, and for the first time I went back and reread the whole series in one go. Indulging in this kind of perspective always gives some new insights, like how the characterisations take a while to really get solid, or even how long it takes for the look of the book to really get into shape ,once Mark Buckingham takes over the main artistic chores.

And as a whole, the most interesting of the story is in the months after the great victory of our heroes. They get a tiny window of peace and quiet and then the consequences of their win become painfully clear, with sudden death and losses far worse than anything the Emperor inflicted on them in the previous battles. 

It was always inevitable that Gepetto was going to get his arse kicked, but once that's done, anything could happen and frequently did. And with the massive cast of characters that you do end up giving a shit about, entire books could focus on the side adventures of Flycatcher or Bufkin or the Cubs.

The thrills do start to run dry towards the end - the cold war between Snow White and Rose Red never really felt like it was going to heat up into cosmic bloodshed and ended with a shrug (even the two most high-profile deaths of that conflict have been swiftly resurrected in recent months). But there are still moments of power, especially because Willingham was always gleefully willing to murder off vast parts of his cast, and when he had gods of tooth and claw going apeshit, bloodshed was inevitable.

The 'anything could happen' attitude of the post-Empire Fables kept going right up to the last few pages of the original series, which had to take things a thousand years in the future to see that there really can be happy endings in fantasy, even after all that.

So of course there's new Fables comics coming out and new adventures after that particular set of ellipses. I missed the news that it was coming back altogether and only saw it in the shop. It's  Black Label, but if I squint I still feel like I'm getting a Vertigo book, and it's picking up where things left off.

It's too early to say if it's any good, but Willingham and Buckingham are back on the tools and producing typically wonderful work, and there is some comfort in revisiting some old friends, for a little while at least. 

This is comics, after all. There's no happily ever after here. Just the never-ending story.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Still loving the library, after all this time

I still can't believe we live in a society where you can just walk into a public building and take away books that will entertain and educate you, and it's all free and actively encouraged. 

Libraries fucking rule, and anybody who ever says they should be defunded or closed down or anything like that is a barbaric monster who should be run out of town.

At one point in my life, I lived in five different towns cities over 10 years (because there's always a time like that in your life, when you're literally trying to find your place in the world). And the one thing they all had in common - other than being located on the South Island - is that the first thing I did when I rolled up to a new town was get myself a library card and see what they had to offer.

Okay, maybe get a place to live and getting power and water and things like that hooked up was fairly important, but after those essentials, the library was always the very next stop.

I have been astonished by libraries since I was a little kid, and still can't believe how fucking wonderful they are. Starting with the Doctor Who books by Terrence Dicks and working my way away from there, I drained the locals when I was growing up, devouring hundreds and hundreds of novels and reference books. There probably wasn't a single point in my childhood when I had less than half a dozen books on loan.

In later years, I never came close to touching the sides of the books on offer at the Dunedin and Christchurch central libraries, but hoovered up everything interesting at the Blenheim library in less than two years.

Now I've been in the country's biggest city for close to 15 years, and must have borrowed thousands of books from there over that time and it has become my primary source for new comics in that time. Which would have blown my mind when I was a kid, and the only graphic novels any library had were an extensive Tintin and Asterix collection, as well as the inevitable Fungus The Bogeyman. (Finding something like Gaiman/McKean's Signal to Noise in the Timaru library in the early 90s was a pleasant shock.)

But in the past decade or two, graphic novel collections have really become a thing at even the smallest libraries, and I'm still getting new books out literally every week.

I have changed my library habits drastically in the past few years. I was once adamant that I would never reserve books unless absolutely necessary, relying on the randomness of the shelf, because that's half the fun. 

But that all changed over the Covid lockdowns and couldn't go into the buildings, and I fell into the habit of reserving everything interesting that came through on the system. Now I have the library's latest releases page bookmarked on my phone, and can see every single book that comes into a library system servicing almost two millions people, and have it sent to my local in the centre of town.

It's a new way for me to interact with the library, and sometimes sees me inundated in books that all become avaialble at once - I have something like 42 books on hold right now - but it's still tapping into one of the oldest thrills I know: getting to read new books for free. 

God bless all libraries everywhere, and I'll see you if I ever move to your town.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

What are you doing sitting down?

There was meant to be more embarassing fan fiction from the 90s that I'm archiving here, but Wet Leg are playing in town tonight and tickets were impossible to get and I shouldn't be muscling in on the kids' fun and I can't be awake past 10pm at this slice of my life, so I'll just play along at home.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue: Still flesh-rippingly good

Holy shit, The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue still fucking rips. 

Now that everything is available everywhere, I've been getting stuck into all the horror films I read about as a teenager, but never got to see. They're usually disappointing in some way, but The Living Dead At Manchester aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie aka Don't Open The Window aka A Lot Of Different titles really didn't. A genuinely spooky soundtrack, a brisk pace for a story about the shambling dead and some incredibly gore that is still shocking, all these years later.

Sometimes films disappoint after such a long wait, but not always. Can't wait to get into Horror Express next.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Giving it up for Serious Sam

I'm so far behind on video games. The last time I was up to date with the latest games was when the PS2 was the hot new thing, which was a couple of years ago. I don't have any kind of console in the house - haven't for years - and usually end up playing shitty old games on the PC that came out 10 years ago, because that's all my shitty computer will handle.

This is no big deal - it's not like I have a lot of time to lose in the sucking chronological maw of gaming, but I do have time for the occasional burst of lovely ultra-violence in a Serious Sam game.

Serious Sam is a series of games - usually some basic first-person shooter - that never get on 'best of year' lists, and are pretty goddamn basic - you're a guy named Sam who has to blast a hell of a lot of demon scum away, and that's about it. 

I've been rocking the Serious Sam 3 for a few years now, and it's incredibly relaxing, when I can grab a spare 20 minutes. I play it on the hardest setting, to make it a real challenge, and the tiniest mistake means instant death. I don't even care if I fail the mission I'm going for, if I can take a thousand demon scum with me.

This has been 100 percent my thing since the days of Doom. I don't want to play multiplayer epics, or build things, or do anything like that. I just want to blast and strafe and blow shit up.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Catching up with Kirby, getting it on with the 70s crew

It took 50 long years for the rest of modern culture to really pick up what Jack Kirby was putting down the 1960s, and Marvel Studios is still making incredible millions of dollars from the ideas the big man came up with while commuting home on a Tuesday night in the 1960s.

They're still evolving. While the latest Marvel films are stealing details, plots and characters wholesale from the past decade's worth of actual comic books, their vibe is the same weird engines that powered Marvel through its 1970s comics.

So they're definitely keeping pace after Kirby's characters, themes and ideas about action really spread into cinema and the greater population and large more than a decade ago. Because they now feel like the weird 70s comics from second-generation writers like Gerber, Starlin, Englehart and a dozen others that Marvel pumped out. Still often little more than generic and solid superhero stories, but with strange tangents and questioning of reality, with heady doses of nihilism and existentialism. 

All those young writers, tripping off their nuts and staggering around the streets of Manhattan at its most rotten, coming up with ideas that we'e only now catching up with in the 2020s.

The old comics themselves, weighed down by heavy exposition, haven't always aged well, but their ideas were timelessly bonkers. Now we can meditate with Eternity, or slide into a parallel world with Kang at his most time-twisted. The appearance of an elf with a gun is inevitable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

King Kong and the disappointment of the real

There was a special kind of unique disappointment in discovering at age 12 that the most spectacular images of the 1970s King Kong - pictures that I'd been looking at my entire life  -were just concept artwork, and the real thing was bad giant animatrionics and some poor fuck in an ape suit jumping about.

The art, which was featured on the few King Kong bubblegum cards I somehow ended up with, made it look like the most amazing film in the world. It wasn't.

I was only one when the film was released, so who knows where I got those cards, (I think I have to blame poor Uncle Sol) but they have always been with me, and I still have them now. And every time I see them, they're still absolutely breathtaking. It's been 35 years since I found out the truth and that truth is still gutting, because I still desperately want to see the film these pictures promised.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

2000ad Regened: Perfectly not for me

Twenty years into the new millennium, 2000ad has been taking a boot-knife stab at regaining some of the youth audience that used to power its sales. The kids are all rightly into video games and K-pop and masses of things all the old and loyal Earthlets don't know about (and shouldn't know about), so it's a tough task, but Tharg and his loyal editor droids are still nobly trying to get their attention.

The main weapon in their arsenal is the 2000ad Regened comics, where four times a year, a weekly prog features standalone stories aimed at a slightly younger audience. A bit more open and bright, with high concept characters in easy-to-grasp scenarios. A blend of new and veteran creators, with lots of lovely jumping-on points.

And it's not for me. Literally not for me - I've been reading 2000ad since 1980, so I'm not the target audience for this - but also in a matter of taste. This is not my kind of comic. I miss the creeping epicness of the prog, crafting vast and complex sagas about a fascist lawman or a blue warrior or a space bounty hunter in six-page chunks every week.

This is all fine, of course. If there is any theme to this entire blog, it's that everybody doesn't have to like everything, (if everybody looked the same, we'd get tired of looking at each other). I'm glad it's there, especially if it does drag in a few new readers to the comic, increasing its long-term viability as a published entity  

I do have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the kids will find these kind of attempts a bit patronising. I always did when I was a young 'un, and any attempt to foist that kind of thing on me was doomed. (Dick Grayson never stood a fricking chance.) All I really wanted was the good stuff, with the real blood and guts.

A lot of the stories in the Regened issues still feature the 'very ordinary and suitably diverse young kids find magical artifact and wackiness ensues' thing, but there are some fun, light stories in there. Some of them even fill in the bit of early  canon, and some like the wonderful Pandora Perfect by Roger Langridge and the still-painfully-under-rated Brett Parsons, are worthy new stories, all on their own.

Besides, they've had my hooks in me for so long I still get every issue off the shelves at the local newsagent every week, even if it's full of kids stuff and five bucks more expensive. I've been getting it so long, I'm not going to have those kind of holes in the collection. I've feed this addiction for 43 years, I can't stop now, for drokk's sake.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Fuck you, fuck you very much


The Tearoom of Despair is dedicated to the weightless entertainments of modern pop culture, and the way I consume them.  And while I keep the politics out of it as much has possible, there is something I have to say to anybody who thinks they have the right to control somebody else's ability get an abortion or change their gender.

It shouldn't have to be said, because the simple answer is that somebody else's bodily autonomy is nobody's fucking business but their own, but it seems there are some people who can't grasp this very basic concept.

And this all applies equally to all the predators and racists and fucknuts and sexists and shitheels that think the tiny thrills they get from their big bang bang guns are worth the literal masses of dead children they create.

And I can say it here because this is my fucking blog and I can say whatever I want on it. Normal service will resume tomorrow with some shit about 2000ad or Batman or something. Besides, all that pop culture inhalation has given me a lot of great swear words to use, so it would be criminal to waste them.

So fuck you, you fucking cunts. 

I ain't going to fat shame or body shame you or anything like that, because that's just too easy and you can't help the fact you were born with no chin because the best part of you ran down the crack of your momma’s ass and ended up as a brown stain on the mattress. But I will hate your repugnantly adolescent ideas about control and power forever

Abortion and gender issues are the most intensely personal things anybody can ever deal with, so put your creepy goddamn magnifying glasses away and let them get on with it in their own way. We're all fucking different, and we all fuck differently, and the blunt laws you try to force on the rest of us are replete with the vile hatred in your heart, hatred that you spit out at everyone around you.

You are empty-headed animal food trough wipers, and are genuine death cultists who laughably call yourselves pro-life - even though literally all the evidence in the world shows that these things you are trying to stop are going to happen anyway, it's just that a lot of people are going to suffer and die now.

Why are we still arguing this basic shit, which is actively holding the human race back from reaching its potential? The stink of your self-righteousness overpowers any benefits you think there are, and leave you looking like someone who is ethically somewhere between a cockroach and that white stuff that accumulates at the corner of your mouth when you're really thirsty. 

You are intellectually retarded, morally reprehensible, vulgar, insensitive, selfish and stupid. You have no taste and a lousy sense of humour and you're not even interesting enough to make me sick.

How do you watch the same movies and TV that everyone else does, full of stories preaching tolerance and self respect and all that good shit, and learn all the wrong lessons? You've got a hard-on for the Punisher, but he fucking hates bullies and you're more likely to be in his goddamn crosshairs.

But you won't even acknowledge this stupidity, and that's what really make you look like a fucking rube. That's the side you want to show the world, you fucking dullard?

You think you're thought leaders and smart people, talking about the big issues, but the rest of the world don’t give a tuppeny fuck about your moral conundrums, you meat-headed shit sacks.

You think the invisible sky wizard you claim to worship will be happy by the more hatred you throw at people who don't think like you, but he's not going to want your soul. Your soul is dogshit. Every single fucking thing about you is ugly.  

You are the enemy of all that is good, and if you can't see the pain you're causing by then yo uare a bone-ignorant fucktard. We are talking about some basic ideas of humanity, you shit-stains, and if you can't wrap your rotten and diseased minds around that, then maybe you should drink a great big fucking bowl of shut the fuck up.

It's wearying that we have to put up with your shit, your intellectual stagnation dragging us back into the stinking mud, when we could be reaching for the motherfucking stars.

But no, you're so fucking stupid you think you can legislate human behaviour, when people are going to get abortions or whatever the fuck they want from wherever they can. 

I would call you a child ,but I have far more respect for all the kids in the world, than you daft gits. Kids don't lickspittle to fascists, or take all their news from one source like a total dipshit. Your mind is so narrow it would crush the shit out of the cyclops in Krull.

You are right minging, a chicken-humping rapscallifuck, ignoring the hard facts in favour of a glowing and utterly false fantasy.

And it's not a matter of decorum - suck my sweaty balls, you odious toad. Politeness, like respect, should be earned, one way or the other, and you have took many entries in the deplorable side of the moral balance sheet.

I stand with every person with a womb which is now no longer their own in the eyes of the state. I stand with my trans brothers and sisters and others, and am constantly appalled at the harmful nonsense they have to endure every single day just for existing. 

I believe you and and everyone you know has a right to say no to other monsters' reprehensible ideas about what you do with your own body. It's nobody's fucking business but your own. Do what you will, I love you all.

You other fuckers -  you can all get fucked.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Kevin O'Neill's Seven Wonders of the Galaxy #7 - Tomb of the Hosti

In 2841 A.D., CHA-KHAN, the warrior emperor of the Hosti, celebrated 50 years of victory at war. How leadership was brilliant as it was merciless - but on the night of the celebrations his visionary adviser, Mericron, warned that he had seen the Hosti Empire in ruins and Cha-Khan in chains. The empire had been  founded on Mericron's predictions and Khan ordered the immediate construction of a mile-long orbiting tomb for himself and his people - if they were going to die, then they would die undefeated... and together!"

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Kevin O'Neill's Seven Wonders of the Galaxy #6 - Kil-ray

"In 2461 A.D. the robo-race AUTOMATOX pledged to stamp out robot oppression. They constructed KILRAY, the Galaxy's largest automaton, and sent it into space, programming it to strike wherever needed. Operating from the cover of planets' oceans and deserts, the Star Squid quickly claimed a host of victims - including the battle cruiser Triumph, shown here being reduced to space debris. Soon, incidents of robot oppression dropped dramatically as potential tyrants, fearful of Kilray's vengeance, chose other races to crush and conquer."

Friday, July 8, 2022

Kevin O'Neill's Seven Wonders of the Galaxy #5 - Petrax

"In 2130 A.D. planet Earth suffered the worst pollution disaster in its history when millions of gallons of oil spewed from the cargo-ship PETRAX onto the Californian coastline. The oil was intended as a gift from Ursa Minor to the energy starved people of Earth. But when Petrax's hull ruptured, the gift became the biggest diplomatic blunder in Galactic history. Matters were made worse when a spark ignited the oil, turning Petrax and its robo-pilot RR-U into a white-hot fireball that burned for years." 

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Kevin O'Neill's Seven Wonders of the Galaxy #4 - The Hanging Prisons of Sin-SIn

"SIN-SIN, the named chilled the hearts of even the most hardened galactic criminals. Constructed as a prison planet in 2999 A.D., it was famous of its hanging prisons, the most well-known being Death Row. Here, condemned killers were shot down the extermination tube into a lava pit below... the only way to escape from Sin-Sin!"

(For some reason, this was always my absolute favourite as a kid.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Kevin O'Neill's Seven Wonders of the Galaxy #3 - Dorado: The Head of Hate

"In 2885 A.D., prospectors discovered a gold asteroid in the Rodium Belt. The dictator of Pharos, SADO DORADO, space-jacked the find and held it in orbit around Pharos, where skilled laser artists carved his image into the precious metal. When complete, the grim dictator glared down upon his subjects, and such was his cruelty that men were boiled in gold for opposing his excesses! This led to the golden monolith being called "The Head of Hate", and its daily passing overhead was the catalyst for a peoples' revolution, which deposed Dorado and freed the planet forever."