Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The diabolical chapter fonts of Sandman

Of course I've been watching Sandman and it's everything the 19-year-old me always wanted in a Sandman adaption. I'm now 47, but can still cling it that love for a bit.

There's a lot going on in the series - and a lot to think about on the merits of such a exact adaption - but I was weirdly put off by the font they used for the chapter headings. With both comic and TV show trading so hard on the the Dave McKean aesthetic, (and even getting big Dave to do the end credits things), to have chapter headings that look like something from a power-point presentation is just really odd. 

This is, obviously, a fucking stupid thing to be bugged by, but I'm still bugged by it. The appeal of Sandman was always when it embraced its pretensions with all its goth heart, and leaned into it as much as possible. Something so tasteful just doesn't fit in.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Love and Rockets: I think it's a good decision for everybody

It's so easy to keep thinking of Vivian as a new character, even though she's been an integral part of Jaime Hernandez's Love and Rockets comics for two decades.

But that's because it's impossible to get a read on her. The Locas characters have endless depth, but you always understand where they're coming from - why Maggie is so lost, why Hopey is so angry, why Tonta is so Tonta.

But Viv - the frogmouth - is an agent of pure chaos, fucking up the world for everybody in a way you'll never see coming. Don't try to explain why she does what she does. It just happens. She has deep feelings that are often ignored or attacked, and they manifest out into the world in wildly unpredictable ways.

Maybe she was happy when she was close to Maggie, and maybe she was even happier when she spent time with Ray, but that all went south, and who knows what she thinks of the current arrangements. I have no idea.

Her wedding in the latest issue of the world's best comic magazine is a fairly sedate affair for her - there are only four or five fistfights - but the Viv stare that closes out this chapter is an all-time classic. As gorgeous as ever, as unreadable as always.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Coming in alone

One of comic's greatest dickheads once had a regular column called Come In Alone, and because even dickheads can still make some good points, I still think a lot about how the column's run finished with an explanation of its title, and how comics can be a weird solitary experience happening in our head as you read a page - that we all come into comics on our own. 

I've read comics since before I could read, and through them I've felt connected to entire universes, but it's always been a weirdly solitary experience.  The process of reading comics are always so internalised - something to do with the way the brain processes the art - but it was more than that.

(It's a similar thing with my weird relationship with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, something that is famed for its communal joy, and for bringing so many wonderful freaks out of their shells, but is just a thing I want to luxuriate in on my own.) 

And I've always felt a little alone in my comic obsessions, separated from any real kind of comic community. A lot of this was because I was always literally so far away, in a country where somewhere like New York might have been on the moon. I never had any chance of meeting the creators of all the comics I devoured, and while I could easily find out what Steve Englehart's favourite movies are, I usually had no idea what any of these people looked like. 

I'm still shocked to see some of them for the first time in places like Back Issue Magazine. They're both a lot hairier and a lot balder than I ever imagined.

I still feel it when the comic convention circuit kicks off every year, and everybody I follow online is catching up with mates at the bar or on the trading floor, or they're asking their favourite creators where they get their influences from, and I can't even imagine such access. 

The idea of meeting my comic heroes was absolutely terrifying as a kid, and these glorious nerds are still demi-gods in my head. I'm still worshiping the geek kids from Connecticut and sharply witty Scottish legends who wrote my comics.

As a late-period Generation X kid, I was part of the last non-internet adolescence, when  it was so hard to find fellow nerds. Never mind finding somebody who likes Carlos Ezquerra as much as you do, it was shocking enough when you find somebody who liked Monty Python ,(and you end up holding onto them forever).

There was literally one other kid in town who gave a damn about 2000ad and X-Men as much as I did, when we stumbled across each other in Mrs Green's class in 1985. (Still, those friendships forged decades ago are fuckin' tight, I was just on the phone for 45 minutes with that one kid in Ms Green's class about how he just bought X-Men #3 from the 1960s, the forthcoming schedule of Doctor Who programmes and why Marvel Comics Presents comics are so easy to get rid of. Kyle never changes.)

It's so much easier now with online lives, and in this connected age I have slipped into several comic-loving communities, but have met the tiniest fraction of these people outside a screen. I have made loads of mates as an adult in the real world, but can count the number who care about Judge Dredd as much as I do on one hand.

And still, sometimes, when I'm at a tasteful dinner party or something, I wish I was off somewhere quiet with a pile of new comics again. Even after all the despair, alone with all those wonderful universes still doesn't feel like a bad place to be.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

ThEraPeutIc SKIn JobS #10

Self-pity was all well and good, but I also always knew that I had to get out of the house sometimes and meet some girls.


ThEraPeutIc SKIn JobS

Number Ten


    “It will never end,” sneers Special Offalgruber Jakob Skin, pacing around the small room, his immaculately polished shoes tapping out their own tune on the bare concrete floor as he walks. The suspect sits at the table, head bowed as he listens to Skin talk. ‘It never ends, until he get the answers we want. Well?”

    “Well?” repeats Max Zero, holding his head in his hands and trying not to give in to despair. “Well what?”

    “Are you ready to cooperate?” says Skin, taking a seat at the other side of the table. Reaching over for the pack of cigarettes, he sighs in exasperation. “It’s really very easy, you know. Either you tell us what we want to know, or we take you out behind the chemical sheds. You know what will happen then.”

    Max looks up, tears streaked down his face. Smiling grimly, he answers quietly. “When I was a kid, I watched Sesame Street. They taught me the value of cooperation.”

    Skin smiles slightly, before nodding for Max to continue.

    “They taught me that cooperation was important,” continues Max, suddenly animated. “They also taught me the difference between Near and Far.”

    Skin sighs, then leans over the table and casually slaps Max in the face. The blow draws a little blood, along with Max’s undivided attention.

    ‘We are not interested in your pitiful little pop culture references,” says Skin, sitting back down in his seat, lighting his cigarette and holding it in a way only Nazis in movies do. “We are only interested in pure, hard facts. Now. Are you ready to play?”

    Max nods his agreement.

    “Excellent,” beams Skin. “Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Who do you work for?”

    “I don’t work for anybody,” answers Max, confusion creeping into his voice. “I don’t understand the question.”

    “Do you believe that children are the hope of the future?” continues Skin.

    “What?” whispers Max, taken aback by this sudden shift in questioning. “What are you talking about?”

    “I’m asking the questions here,” says Skin, anger and distrust building, only to subside suddenly. “Do you believe in the fellowship of man?”

    “Of course not,” says Max. “Look, what is this all about? What am I doing here?”

    “Here?” repeats Skin, looking through the papers on the table. “Where do you think ‘here’ is?”

    Max looks around the room carefully before answering. “I’m in a small room, roughly ten feet by ten feet, by ten feet. A single light bulb hangs from the ceiling. There is a framed picture on the wall behind me, but I don’t know what it’s a picture of. There are two chairs and a filing cabinet in the corner. The only other furniture is this small table we’re both sitting at."

    Skin smirks slightly as he replies. ‘What a remarkably astute answer. Tell me this: Did this room exist before you gave a description of it?”

    “I don’t understand,” says Max genuinely.

    “What am I wearing? What are you wearing?”

    “I don’t- You’re wearing a grey military uniform, but I don’t recognize it. I’m wearing normal clothes. That’s all.”

    “Was I naked just now?”


    “Let’s change direction,” says Skin. “Who do you think you are?”

    “Me? I’m Max Zero.”

    “Fair enough, but who are you? Are you somebody who lives on J Street, surrounded by impossibilities, or are you somebody who lives in the real world, where things like that don’t exist?”

    Max thinks for a moment, but it doesn’t help. “I don’t know.”

    “Exactly,” grins the Offalgruber. “Look at you. You’re pathetic. You have nothing to contribute.”

    He picks up some of the papers off the table and throws them across the room, pages full of dark text floating in the air. "Look at them! ‘No Future’. Huh. Even these stories are obsolete. You are being replaced by people with more enthusiasm, passion and creativity than you can ever muster.”

    Max tries to reply, but he can’t speak. There's something hot and heavy in his throat and he can’t say anything.

    “Can you see them down there?” continues Skin, oblivious to Max’s troubles and pointing in a direction that doesn’t exist. “Writing stories of last evenings and theatrical matriarchs with more passion than you can ever muster. Why don’t you just give up?”

    Max swallows the thing in his throat and finally answers. “Fuck you. My work is just as important as those. Maybe I am stuck in an outmoded concept, but who cares? So what if others have fallen to apathy? So what if nobody cares anymore? I still give a damn. I still care.”

    “How admirable,” says Skin, only to be interrupted by somebody entering the room through the door behind Max. The new arrival steps carefully around him, placing something in front of Skin.

    “Your tea, Herr Skin,” she says, putting the cup carefully down and looking over at Max. ‘Would your offender like anything?”

    “He is fine, Korporal Jenkins, ” says Skin, answering for Max. “Maybe later.”

    The redhead in the sharp, black uniform nods curtly and retreats, her perfume lingering in the air long after the door is closed behind her.

    "You know her?” asks Skin, smirking at the dumb expression on Max’s face.

    Max smiles tiredly. “I think so. I think we’ve met.”

    “Does that happen often?”

    “It’s all about the Dodo,” says Max inexplicably, winking at somebody who isn’t there. “Right, Fred?”

    “Have you had enough yet, Herr Zero?” asks Offalgruber Skin, ignoring this last cryptic comment.

    “I was bored of this a long time ago.”

    “One last question. Are you willing to answer it?”

    Max carefully reaches across the table and grabs the packet of cigarettes. ‘Yeah. Yeah, I’m ready.”

    “Excellent,” says Skin. “How do you feel?”


    “How do you feel?”

    Max takes the lighter from the table and lights the cigarette in his hands as he considers his answer. “How do I feel? How do I feel? How the fuck do you think I feel? Look at me! I’m nobody, a nothing person stuck in a nowhere life. I can’t make sense of anything anymore and I’m becoming harder and harder to understand. I don’t mind so much, because I’ve got nothing to say. You said so yourself. I have no original ideas. I have no new thoughts. I regurgitate and recycle the same old derivative shit. I have nothing worthwhile to contribute, but that doesn’t stop me talking. And you know what the worst thing is? I’m doomed to mediocrity. I can’t get out of this life. I’m trapped in my own head, and I don’t know the way out.“

    Skin watches his test subject carefully as he tries to catch his breath. “Are you done, Max?”

    Holding up one finger, Max scratches his chin thoughtfully as he continues. “Not quite. I don’t want to sound like some self-pitying moron with too much time on his hands. I love life. I love living these times. There's so much to see, so much to do, and so many people to meet. I’m only fucking human. I feel sorry for myself now and again, but I get over it. I get up in the morning, open the curtains, and thank somebody for another day. I’ve got so much hope for the future you could light a small city with the energy that feeling generates. Jesus! Lets face it! Don’t it feel good just to be alive?”

    Skin hesitates until he is sure his suspect has finished speaking. “Are you done now, Max?”

    Max sits back in his chair and puffs on his cigarette. “Yeah. I’m done. Bloody hell. Maybe Steven Grant is right. Dialogue kills the flow.”

    “Then why do it?”

    “Because it’s so easy. Look, can I go now? Are we done? Do you have any more questions?”

    “No, I have no questions. But I can’t let you leave.”

    “What?” cries Max, tapping his ash onto the concrete floor. “You said we were done. Why can’t I go?”

    Skin smiles as he prepares his apocalyptic answer. “Because there is nowhere else to go. This room is the limit of our tiny universe. But don’t worry, we won’t get bored.”

    Skin stands up and walks to the corner of the room, leaning back on the wall and folding his arms. “I told you before how it works. Don’t you see? The interrogation goes on forever. It never ends. It will never end.”


Saturday, August 27, 2022

From hell's heart, I spit at thee

There's lots of good music out there, and more very day, but I still get absolutely obsessed with the epic reach of  James Horner's score for the second Star Trek film, and it's all I want to listen to while I'm writing something. Just the best.

Friday, August 26, 2022

All that's left is on video

There are still about 30 video tapes in my house, even though I've currently got nothing to play them on. There are a couple of ex-rental tapes - the Romero Dawn of the Dead video that I'm never, ever getting rid of, and the copy of Jean Rollins' Fascination that I'm holding onto for scientific reasons. But most of them are just blank tapes with random shit put on them decades ago.

I long ago traded up to much sexier DVD packages, so I don't need that copy of The Third Man anymore. The problem is, I'm pretty sure there is all sorts of crazy stuff on the end of these tapes, after those movies. There are almost all three-hour long tapes, and that meant you could fit most movies on there, (or even two short ones, if you snipped off the credits), but that often left you with an hour or so, and I used to fill that shit with all sorts of things.

And in a pre-YouTube age - where if you missed this stuff the one time it was broadcast on TV, that's it, pal - so I would fill those spaces with music videos weird old documentaries and episodes of TV shows that never get repeated. 

I also used to tape a lot of entertainment news - I have to hold on to that copy of David Lynch's Dune, because I still want to see the late night news items that I know are still on the end of it: pieces about the new upcoming movies like Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Most importantly, there are tiny bits of videos of me and my mates fucking around and making our own movies with video cameras, back when we had too many ideas, too much energy and absolutely zero resources.

I've already converted one tape to digital form to save some of these efforts, and even put them through a basic edit and put it on YouTube for all of us to laugh at (and fuck no I'm not going to link to it here), but I'm sure there's more, especially on the one labelled 'Zombie Epic Part Two'. This might be the only video footage I have of me and my mates at a very particular time in our lives, and as tempting as it is to let it fade away forever, I have to try and save as much as I can.

 So I have to hold onto those 30 tapes for a while longer, until I can get another player and sort out what is actually on these things. AT least the tapes themselves are sturdy and robust - some of them have survived more than 30 years. They can last a little longer.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Where the art comes from

Among their other acts of utter barbarity, the fuck-knuckles in charge of the UK right now are determined to destroy arts funding. This is because they have no souls and are very fucking stupid.

A few decades ago, there was a weird little golden age of the art labs in Britain, where people from all sorts of backgrounds were given opportunities to create their own art. It's where monumental talents like Alan Moore and Clive Barker found their voices, where much of the British comic talent that shook up the world in the 1980s first got their hands dirty and were encouraged to push their imaginations, and met other people that could work with and collaborate on new ideas.

The return on investment was absolutely massive, not just culturally but financially. A lot of these working class louts produced sublime art that still finds a massive audience, the ideas that drifted out of dope hazes in Birmingham and Bristol forming the basis of multi-million dollar franchises.

Of course, the artists did what artists always do, and made fun of all the right people and all the right institutions and these precious little bastards hated them for it, and still hate them. Arts funding always gets a kicking when these kind of people get into power because that's the only way they know how to deal with people who can mock them into submission.

The UK somehow ended up with a shambling parody of a human being like Boris Johnson as its leader, and the remarkable self-harm of Brexit is still biting, but this is a global issue. Strangling the arts in a single country hurts everyone everywhere, because we're all denied the next generation of new voices which come from unexpected directions, and left with the same old regurgitations. Just leave the arts alone, you stupid fucking toffs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Daredevil's pals: 'Gotta cover for him!'

For a brief moment in Daredevil's history, after years of misery for old hornhead, Karl Kesel and Cary Nord did something different. It didn't last and the grim soon came back.

But at least I'll always have the utter joy of this little sequence from Daredevil #355, written by Kesel and drawn by the incomparable guest artist Rick Leonardi, in which three of DD's best friends think they all have to cover for him as he heads off into action (and none of them are Foggy). Matt Murdock might be doomed to a life of misery, but he always had the best mates.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Dick Miller is dead?

I missed that Dick Miller had died. I hadn't seen him in anything for a while, and he was the kind of actor who would show up in anything at anytime, so that was concerning, and five seconds of interneting revealed that we lost the great man in 2019.

He was always so good. Always classing up the joint with his protruding jaw and wise ass. For decades the sight of a Dick Miller face in any movie wasn't always a sign that the movie was ever going to be any good, but shit, at least it's got Dick Miller in it. 

He was the extra layer of seasoning on films that felt like a full meal - showing up in The Terminator,  Demon Knight, The Dirty Dozen, The Trip, Gremlins, Truck Turner, New York New York, Piranha, Police Squad, the Twilight Zone film, After Hours and a hundred other films. He was the voice of Oberon in a Justice league cartoon and had a substantial scene deleted from Pulp Fiction.

He was always fun. I still keep expecting him to pop up in something new, as some wise old mentor, or bitter old drunk, but the only way he is coming back now is as some sort of weird VFX thing.

(Don't. Don't do that. Don't bring him back as one of those weird VFX things. Just don't.)

I'm starting to really feel the loss of so many artists and writers and directors I grew up loving, all passing on into the great beyond in the past few years. The adults that were making all the great art and entertainment of my youth are now geriatric, and swiftly passing from this earth.

I was definitely shook by the recent loss of Alan Grant and I'm still dealing with the fact that we're not getting any more Carlos Ezquerra or Steve Dillon and I am seriously not ready for the cascade of other brilliant talents that made me what I am falling silent forever.

It's just a fact of life that it does end, but we can still rage against losing our best writers, artists and  character actors.

Dick Miller is dead.


Fuck it, at least we still got M Emmett Walsh!

Monday, August 22, 2022

Daydreaming of Dunedin

I've been to Paris and London and New York and Tokyo and all of that, but in my heart my favourite city will always be the one closest to the arse end of the world.

Dunedin has always been my fave, even if I never ended up living there again after a few years in the 90s. It's two thirds of the way down the South Island - closer to Antarctica than the equator - and if you live in town it gets dark at three in the afternoon in winter. 

It's moody and hilly. The people there drink too much and take strange drugs and form weird bands full of beautiful souls in awful jumpers.

I moved away 20 years ago and have never been back for longer than three days, but I always look forward to a visit, even if many of the bookshops I used to love have faded away.

Because I was always about the bookshops and the comics they sold. When I was a kid, Dunedin was the one place in the world I wanted to go because the university town was awash in four-colour fun. The first ever comic shop I walked into was across the road from the main railway station, and there was always some weird little store with a supply of air-freighted American comic books, an entire three months of the ones that showed up on the local shelves (an eternity to a 12-year-old).

We lived a few hour's drive away, so I only got to visit the city once or twice a year when my teenage comic habit was at absolute maximum, and I would get insanely excited about the remaindered bookstores and toy warehouses the town had, and my opportunity to see them. I would daydream for weeks before a visit, fizzing about the possibilities.

I'd scrape every cent I could get to get issues of GI Joe and Alpha Flight and The Best Of DC Blue Ribbon Digest. I would stare longingly at the Titan reprint albums of 2000ad classics that were well out of my price range, and carve huge blisters into my feet in the search.

Of course I moved there as soon as I turned into an adult, and it was only partly because all my best mates were going to University. I had the best time - warehouse flats and drunken debauchery and all the usual shit. Finding secret paths through town and the best op shops at the end of them. Buying Crisis comics for $1 to stave off the depression of poverty. Haunting Records Records and going to at least three movies a week at the Hoyts in the Octagon. Swimming in the pool, drinking on the beach, hearing grit trucks tip over and thinking it was just the great sound effects on The Wild Bunch.

And buying loads of comics - the first things I ever bought as a resident of the city were the Marvels and Mr Punch graphic novels. I got almost all the Christie Spar Grendel from Galaxy Books and read most of them while halfway up Signal Hill. I got every issue of the Invisibles and Preacher from Bag End Books, and a significant amount of post-Zero Hour Legion of Super-Heroes every two weeks.

I moved away from my favourite town in the late 90s for reasons I still really don't understand, though there was always the sneaky suspicion I'd end up back there. But I never did, and ended up living at the opposite end of the country, and I've only been to Dunedin a couple of times in the past 10 years.

So many of the bookstores and comic sources that I spent so much time in are gone, with more fading away every year. But I still have the weird idea that the family and me might end up back there for a while. That might just be a daydream, but then again, Dunedin was always a dream for me.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Kid's stuff: Ba baaaaaa

Look, all I'm saying in the end is this - if I have to listen to something like this tune a thousand times a month and get it stuck in my brain, you can have it too. You're welcome.

Anyway, you watch as much Shaun the Sheep as we've been watching and you start thinking the sequence that a shot like this is taken from in one of the Christmas specials is pure absolute cinema, with the momentum and velocity of a Mad Max film:

We get our kicks where we can, kids.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Kid's stuff: Goodnight socks!

There are millions of children's books out there in the world, but sometimes you find out for yourself why some of them stand the test of time. 

Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon was originally published in the 1940s and is blistering simple, with a little child going to sleep and saying goodnight to the small universe around them. Some of it is pretty cute - goodnight, mittens, goodnight kittens - and some of it is oddly upsetting - goodnight nobody?

We got it out from the library as part of a stack of books and were initially a little unimpressed. Neither of us grew up with the book, and really only knew it from 'goodnight hoppers' bit on The Wire, and it didn't seem that much.

So of course it's the one book in the whole world the kid can recite in one go. We bought a copy, and it was missing the first two pages and will take weeks to be replaced, but she don't mind - she already knows the whole story backwards.

Along with The Snowman, it's the end of day ritual. It's definitely comforting for her and a lovely way to finish the day for all concerned. Margaret knew what she was doing.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Kid's stuff: Docca Who

Doctor Who has been my favourite TV show of all time, ever since I knew what things like television and science fiction and stories were, and I can't help thinking about how I'm going to introduce it to the little ones. Do we go with the crazy charms of the classic series, or start them with something nice and comfortable like Matt Smith's face?

Turns out I didn't have to do anything to get the 3-year-old started, she literally picking it up from the house around her.

She plays with a tiny Tardis that whizzes across the coffee table, loves the sounds a sonic screwdriver makes when she wriggles it about and a tiny Cyberman that was once a cake decoration is her favourite little robot.

There's another funko pop figure from my mate Kyle - Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor in all his glory. I'm so glad her first favourite action figure of her own (and not one swiped from her Dad) isn't a character with a big gun or sword or anything like that, but one who faces down evil with a packet of jelly babies in his hand.

(The two toys from Kyle have many grand adventures together as the Doctor and George the thunder goddess. The adventures involve lots of fake naps and would make a rad comic series.)

It might be a painful wait for her to get old enough - the kid still doesn't really get it when I tell her the Doctor travels in the TARDIS, and as much as she likes a good freak-out, Dr Who might still be a bit too intense for her right now. But we got plenty of time to get there, and don't need to a time machine to rush things.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Kid's stuff: Scary Shaun

Nobody wants to scare their kids, not really. They're always far too young to know of the horrors of the world and should be shelatred form it, and comforted with nice things. They should get scared.

Unless they're really, really into it.

 We're cycling through the first few seasons of the Shaun the Sheep series and it's is something like 80 7-minute episodes, but it also didn't take the little one long to find her favourites and episode 20 is definitely one of them.

It's named 'Things That Go Bump In The Night', but she just calls it 'THE SCARY ONE', and it freaks her out. She knows it's just Bitzer under the sheet at the start - 'he not a monster, Dad, he a DOG' - and she knows it's just those naughty pigs playing a prank for much of the episode, but she is still absolutely delighted with fear when the pumpkin comes wandering in. 

Sometimes it's such an excitement overload that she has to run out of the room and goes stands in our tiny hallway, declaring how very much not scared she is the whole time.

I promised I wasn't going to turn our child into one of those annoying hipster 8-year-old kids who is so pissed that her dumb old parents won't let her watch the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it looks like it might happen anyway.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Kid's stuff: George the weather goddess

My mate Kyle gave my daughter a Storm funko pop figure to play with and she adores it. And after being told what her name was, she instantly decided this beautiful woman was called George, and that's the name that stuck.

The kid is a bit too young to have a decent discourse about the nature of colonization, and there is no doubt that Ororo is a proud name for a proud African woman. But we don't need to talk to the kid about the boring rigidity of gender roles, because Storm also makes a great George.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Kid's stuff: The old toys

My girl turns three today, which is about the age you can get start getting them some kick-ass presents. And of course we went overboard and got her a toyhouse that is almost as big as she is, what sort of parents would we be if we didn't?

Still, even with the astonishing technology, outrageous selection and well-honed fun of modern toys, it still does my heart great joy to see the kids play with the same toys that were always my faves.

Some aren't really age appropriate - like my oldest and dearest GI Joe figures, which we had to replace with nicer copies - but she just thinks they look neat ,she doesn't need to know that Mr Blue is the leader of an international terrorist organisation. 

And sometimes I just see them hauling around my favourite old stuffed elephant - the one stuffed toy from my deep childhood that I held on to for all the years. He's a bit stained after those years, but we gave him some new eyes and fixed up his snout a bit, and he's getting a bit of love again. 

Most of all, there's my grandfather's wooden block car toy, which is still getting loudly driven around the living room. 

He passed away in the early 80s, but I still have a couple of things that my Grandad built in his little shed, including a chunky ammo-box that has stored my action figures and a sturdy wooden box that has been jhhome to my Invisibles comics since the 90s.

But this blue car he made for me might be holding up the best, even with that busted headlight. It's still solid and smooth, and I always thought of it as a gangster's car, but the kids just like the way the wheels roll.

When my Grandad built it out in the sheds, shortly before he died, he would barely have been able to imagine it would still be a favorite toy 40 years later. I wish I could get e message to him, wherever he is, and let him know that he built something that lasts, something that will almost certainly outlast the huge toyhouse we gave her today.

Anyway, we're off to the zoo for the birthday morning. The toys will still be here when we get back, and for many days to come.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Kid's stuff: The Snowman and other stories

The great Raymond Briggs passed away last week, and his brilliance was unmistakable. He was so very good at what he does, because it still works and I see it work every night.

My little daughter is turning three this week, and while it's such a cliche, it really does change your life. At the very least, it changes up your media intake and all your oaths about screen-time go out the window because you just need to get the bloody washing done.

But it's also fascinating to see how the tastes are growing, as she forms her own opinions about the things she likes.

So this week the Tearoom of Despair is going to kick the existential shits out the door and focus on the wholesome and weird things the kid is into, and the remarkable pleasures I get out of that. There's a lot of it - I don't even get into the astonishing array of music she likes to boogie to on a daily basis, or how Sarah and Duck is helping her become such an elegantly polite young person.

But in tribute to dear old Raymond, I can find time to mention her second-favorite book at the moment (we'll get to her fave later in this week). Even though Thriller is her first comic, the first one she actually wants to read (rather than tear apart and eat) is The Snowman.

It's a silent graphic novel, telling the story in multiple panels across a grid, with no need for any clumsy word balloons. It's the simplest of stories - boy makes Snowman, it comes alive ,they have a bit of fun, he melts - with the coziest of artwork.

I really don't knw how they learn this stuff, but she's following the panel layout easily enough. She can follow the story and doesn't need any words to tell her what is going on.She tells us this, every single night.

I hope Raymond Briggs knew what a profound impact he had on the world, his books might have covered intense subjects like nuclear war, or just got pulsatingly gross as Fungus brings out boils on sleeping necks, but they were some of the best. There are worst books to start with.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

TSJ #9000

For reasons I will never be able to properly explain, I have for decades been hardcore obsessed with the opening seven minutes of the Bonfire of The Vanities movie that DePalma did. Terrible movie, astonishing opening. Also, remember when 1999 was a thing way in the future? Only if you're old as fuck!


ThEraPeutIc SKIn JobS #9
Everybody's fucking at the end of time


    I hate to wait.

    Looking down, I see my fists clench and unclench involuntarily as I nervously wait for my cue. This wasn’t my idea, but I’ve been convinced that I should say a few words.

    “On in five, Kyle,” says Bridget, smiling at my discomfort and speaking to me in a ridiculously soothing tone. “You ready?”

    “Ready as I’ll ever be,” I grin back, giving her a falsely positive thumb up.

    “What the hell does that mean?” asks Bridget, obviously curious as she tries to repeat my gesture with her hands.

    “Bit before your time,” I sigh.

    Bridget stops playing with her fingers and glances at her watch. “Oh s**t,” she moans in faint despair and I console myself with the thought that some words never go out of fashion. “It’s almost time.”

    “You got that right,” I answer, jumping up and down on the spot, trying desperately to shake off all this nervous energy. “It always is.”

    “Cheer up, Kyle. It might never happen,” she grins at me as she walks away, leaving me alone to my thoughts.

    Well. Here we are. New Years Eve, 2999. This is it.

    I reach inside the pocket of my battered leather jacket and pull out a small jade pendant on a chain, watching it as the tiger it’s been crafted into catches the light, casting strange patterns on the wall which mess with my head, pushing me into a trance-like state of near bliss. A roar from the crowd out there snaps me out of it and I shake my head, placing the pendant back in my pocket.

    The pendant stirs up long forgotten memories of a time a thousand years ago. Jesus. It doesn’t feel that long ago. It still feels like yesterday. No. Not yesterday.

    It feels like it’s still happening.


    Ruth glances back at me and winks, pulling me across the road. Cars veer away, missing us by nothing, but Ruth’s legendary confidence gets us across to the other side of J Street in one piece. Physically, anyway.

    “Christ, Ruth!” I yell, leaning forward to catch my breath. “You could’ve warned me.”

    “I did,” she answers back, stepping down the alleyway right in front of us. “You just didn’t hear me.”

    I follow Ruth down the alley, blinking slightly as we walk between moments and come out again on the other side of J Street. “Right,” I say firmly. “When are we now?”

    She glances at her watch. “Um, June. 1997.”

    “Okay,” I reply, trying to figure out which way Evans had suggested. “We better hurry. This was an uncertain time. I don’t want to get stuck here.”

    “This way,” prompts Ruth, grabbing my hand and heading upstreet. “There's a door down here that’ll take us closer.”

    “How far do we have to go?” I whine. “How many more times do we need to cross the street?”

    “Weren’t you listening to Evans?” scolds Ruth without looking back at me. “He told us.”

    “I was listening,” I answer feebly. “I just forgot.”

    Ruth stops and turns to me. Street inhabitants don’t give us another glance as they walk by. “Only one more crossing,” she says, smiling at me slyly. “You’re getting forgetful, ‘Karma Kyle’.”

    “I’m getting old. We all are, ‘Bulletproof Ruth’.”

    “Heh,” smiles Ruth, leaning forward and kissing me lightly on the cheek before resuming walking. “Come on! No time to lose!’

    “What’s the big deal?” I ask, unconditionally following. “It’s only New Years. An old New Years, at that.”

    “Yeah, but I missed it. I was stuck on that other J Street, remember?”

    “I know, but it wasn’t that big a deal.”

    “I know that,” says Ruth, stopping in front of a dark green door. “But I missed it. And I never miss.”

    “I suppose,” I sigh, instantly deciding that now’s a good as time as ever to reveal a secret. “I have to go back anyway.”

    “Oh?” And why is that?”

    “Because I met up with my own future self on New Years, 1999. And I always knew I’d have to go back to uphold the other side of that meeting. Believe me, you don’t fuck with space-time without a paradox biting you on the arse.”

    “I believe you. So what do you have to say to your past self?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “You don’t know?”

    “No,” I say pathetically. “I forgot. Don’t worry. I’m sure it’ll come back to me.”

    “Here’s hoping,” smiles Ruth, pulling the door open and walking through. I follow her and, after a sudden flash of intense vertigo, find myself standing in exactly the same spot. But the ever-present traffic has shut down, and the street teems with life. The inhabitants of this fucked-up street have all poured out onto the road, intent on celebration.

    “Is this it?” I ask needlessly.

    “Oh yes,” nods Ruth without looking at her watch. “This is most definitely it. Welcome to the last moment of 1999."

    Wait a minute. Nineteen-ninety-nine?


    I snap out of it just long enough to realize what’s happening. I’m still standing backstage, waiting for my cue.

    “Bridget!” I yell desperately, rubbing my eyes and trying to clear my head. "Help!”

    “What is it, Kyle?” asks Bridget, at my side in a second and looking worried. “What’s wrong?”

    “Somebody’s slipped me some Krono,” I hiss through gritted teeth. “I’m experiencing some pretty full on flashbacks here.”

    “Oh shit,” says Bridget. “I’ll try to find some ClearHead.”

    “You do that,” I groan as the past invades my mind again. “Unrestrained nostalgia has its place, but this is hardly the time.”


    Ruth looks at me strangely and I lean closer to hear her voice over the roar of the crowd. “What’s wrong?” she cries in my ear. “Is everything okay? You looked kinda weird there for a second.”

    “I’m okay,” I answer. “Just a bit of Déjà vu.”

    “I’m not surprised,” laughs Ruth, pulling me into the mob. We somehow manage to push our way through to the center of the crowd and feed on the mood, drinking in pleasure with every breath.

    “So where are you now?” asks Ruth.

    “I spent most of tonight saving Max from the Nanomissionaries. But I shouldn’t be far away. I remember seeing the flyover.”

    “Oh, I heard about that. They take off right after midnight, don’t they?”

    “Yeah. It’s a sight.”

    Ruth grins and jumps up and down in an effort to see better. I step forward to lift her up when somebody pushes into me, almost knocking me over. I turn around to see myself staring back at me. Shit. That’s right. This is how it happened.

    The younger Kyle’s face creases in confusion before understanding replaces it with a shit-eating grin. “Oh,” he says to me. “It’s you.”

    “Um yeah,” I answer. Why can’t I remember what I said to myself? “How’re you going?” I offer.

    “Not bad,” shrugs my younger self. “Not too bad at all. Yourself?”

    I sneak a peek back at Ruth before answering. “Oh, can’t complain.”

    “Good,” smiles Kyle, saluting me sloppily before walking back into the crowd. “I’ll see you later then?”

    “You will,” I say, saluting back and watching as he disappears into the mass.

    Ruth leans forward, resting her chin on my shoulder. “Is that it?” she says, disappointment evident. “Is that all?”

    “I couldn’t think of anything to say.”

    “You could’ve told him about Max.”

    “I wouldn’t want to know,” I say, suddenly very, very tired. “Look. Can we go back to 2011 now?”

    “Don’t be such a spoilsport. There's only a minute to go. Savor the 20th century while you can.”

    Ruth kisses me again and my heart melts. The excited tone of the crowd changes subtly, building to a crescendo. I count down the moments with everybody else, but the instant before midnight, understanding washes over me like a wave, dragging me back into the future. 


    Time fractures again and I refocus on Bridget, smiling down at me. “How’s that, Kyle?” she asks. “I found some ClearHead in Lennon’s trailer. Do the trick?”

    ‘Yeah,” I say, shaking the thousand year old memory loose. “I’m ready now.”

    “You sure you’re okay? Krono is a pretty hard drug. It can hit you like a bomb.”

    “I know. I’m fine.”

    “Hmmmmmm….” says Bridget sternly.

    “I’m fine. Honest.

    “Hmmmmmm…” she repeats, walking away to check on the rest of her acts. I start jumping up and down on the spot again. I just want to get this over with.

    I’m still leaping in the air when there’s a strange sizzling noise and the smell of ozone wafts through the air. I stop jumping and turn around to see a man step out of thin air and stand dead still, looking around with curiosity. He’s strangely familiar, and I suddenly remember where I’ve seen him before.

    “Skin!” I scream at him, desperate to be heard over the intense noise of the audience. “You made it! We made it! It’s all good!”

    Doctor Skin looks at me in confusion before grinning slightly. “Kyle? Karma Kyle?”

    “That’s right!” I laugh, unconsciously dancing on the spot as the moment gets closer and closer. “I’m glad you remember. It’s been a thousand years….”

    “What?” asks Doctor Skin. “Is this the future?” 

    "The future is now!” I scream, glancing at my watch and realizing that the moments arrived. “Oh my God. Time’s up.”

    I try to smile reassuringly at Skin, but he must be misinterpreting my motives, because he backs away shaking his head. “I can’t…” he begins before fading away again, leaving me alone in the backstage area.

    “Huh,” I mutter to myself, letting this last mystery go unanswered. I’m due on stage.

    Stepping through the curtain, the first thing that hits me is the intense light shining down from the strobe satellites high up in Earth’s atmosphere. The second thing that hits me is the strange silence that’s descended upon the five billion people in front of me, all eager to hear what I have to say.

    I make ‘em wait.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Drugs are for grown-ups!

The leader of the opposition here in New Zealand was recently busted for saying he was hard at work in Te Puke, when he was actually living it up large in Hawaii, and I think I would have had a lot more respect for him if he was caught inhaling some Te Puke thunder

Friday, August 12, 2022

Wanted got cheap enough for me

One of my very favourite writers about comics went off on Mark Millar on their Twitter feed the other night, slamming Millar for the quality of his writing, while grudgingly conceding that at least he treated his artistic talent fairly. It was a glorious little rant, and they made many very good points, but I just read Wanted for the first time in more than a decade and it was fucking great.

Even though it's usually highlighted as the low point of the whole story, I always loved the very end of Wanted, because I always think it's really funny when characters in a story tell you what a fucking loser you are for reading about them. I can still remember the immediate reaction when the comic came out, back when there was thriving series of blog writers analyzing every fucking thing coming out, and it wasn't pretty. There was loads of fainting and pearl-clutching over the end of it, and what Millar was saying to the readers who had loyally supported his books.

(Still, if anything, the years since have more than proven the point that maybe nerds should be confronted with the truth more often.)

For all my sins, I do like Millar's comics. I make fun of the dialogue as much as anybody, but he has a great sense of pacing and has managed to tell the kind of superficial thrills that do actually bring out the best in great artists. He makes it look so easy, but this tone and business strategy is a lot harder than it looks, otherwise everyone would be fucking doing it.

I've been a part-time Millar follower for years, depending entirely on the artists he work with (although the secret identity thing in the last Jupiter's Legacy was actually a little blinder). I've missed entire series, and even gave up on the Kick-Ass, but still want to read the one about a dying James Bond.

And I always wanted a copy of Wanted, but never got it, even when it was turned into a movie which inexplicably thought everything would be better with some Haunted Looms of Fate. If nothing else, letting JG Jones loose on the super carnage was worth getting the book, but I never did.

Mainly because it was extraordinarily expensive when it came out - $50 in local money for a basic trade - and it wasn't $50 worth. Then I saw it in a second hand bookshop last month for twelve bucks. 

Wanted feels like a twelve buck thrill. I ain't that much of a sucker

And it's still as mean and ornery and cynical than I ever remember, and the bit with the Joker dude saying how he doesn't fuck goats - he makes love to them! - is still better than anything the MCU have anything done.

My other comic-reading buddies think I'm out of my mind for liking Wanted, but I'm easily pleased.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The books of Terry and Clive

It seemed like the obvious choice at the time - if I was I going to be any kind of writer, was I going to be a Clive Barker or a Terry Pratchett?

I'd had plenty of favourite authors (even if some of them turned out not to be real), but when I was high on the teenage years, the two authors with the absolute biggest influence on my adolescent brain and still forming personality were Barker and Pratchett

Both writers carved out phenomenal careers with the power of their imaginations, writing books that looked like the same thing everyone else was doing on the surface, but had strange depths of complexity, horror and satire.

They both showed me that it was okay to be weird, and that it was always worth keeping an open mind.  Barker told me that monsters had feeling too, and that the worlds of fiction you let into your life doesn't have any kind of limits. Pratchett taught me not to trust authority, and to make fun of it as much as possible, as long as you've got good jokes.

And when I'm 16, they're both exactly the kind of writer I want to me. I wanted to be imaginative and moody like Clive, and funny and sharp like Terry. Which kind of writer would I be?

It didn't take me long to figure out that the answer, of course, was to be both. Because if they showed me anything, it was that is what your own voice that mattered. 

And while I've never really sought huge success with my writing, I've got innumerable pleasure out of trying to find out exactly what my voice was and following in their footsteps that way. Isn't that what it's all about?

(Later on, I just tried to be Grant Morrison, which was a bad idea for all concerned. Tune in every Sunday to see the embarrassing results of that.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

There's a hole in my bookcase

There's a hole in my bookcase.

Some slight rearranging has laid empty this prime spot - at eye level in the best bookshelf in the house. That's where all my favourite things go. That's where I keep the Richard Sala and David Lynch books, and put Alan Moore and Grant Morrison next to each other because it is always funny. That's where the Beastie Boys and Bill Griffith and Philip Jose Farmer and the best in Doctor Who and The Writers' Tale sit.

This is going to take some time. I'm going to be thinking about this for months before I'm satisfied.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Raw art of the Star Wars

It's so weird that one of the best parts of The Mandalorian TV show is when the end credits roll, and you see some of the lovely concept artwork, and it invariably looks so much more exciting and dynamic than the scene they actually shot from that idea.

Concept artwork has been one of the great strengths of every piece of Star Wars, ever since the late, great Ralph McQuarrie first gave the universe its distinctive face. It's great to see them continue this tradition with the current generation of stories, and have such pride in these visions that they are shown at the end of every episode, but they really do highlight how flat the lighting and staging of the actual show can be.

There's a wide variety of styles in the artwork, as raw imagination spills out onto the canvas, and they often have the swagger of an individual look, which is then lost in the calcified look of the Star wars universe. They're not something created by committee, and signed off a thousand times before being released - it's the raw creation.

And there's just a hint of exaggeration that gets lost in live action. The ancient Greeks figured out that the best representations of the physical form had to be slightly more human than an actual human, and this artwork gets this, with often photo-realistic work still stretched slightly beyond the real life anatomy.

It's even a little disturbing that the static images are so much more full of action, because you've got to have good action in a Star Wars to make it worthwhile - you could forgive George Lucas for all the nonsense his characters spout if they're surrounded by incredible light-sabre duels, massive spaceship battles or a high-octane speeder race

There's been some dreadful Star Wars action lately, from directors who can do so much better. One anti-gravity bike chase early on in the Boba Fett show was embarrassingly inert and sluggish, even as the artwork which inspired it has the momentum of the speed lines spilling out.

I'm not sure I'm really going to follow much of these shows anymore, but I'll always check out their art.

Monday, August 8, 2022

I didn't need church when I had the corner dairy

These tiny suburban shops - some of them set up decades before I was born - came stacked with ice-creams and lollies and cans of soup and old toys and older bread. And these were the places where I worshiped at the altar of superhero comics. 

As a kid, I had no idea how comics got to New Zealand - getting them across the biggest oceans in the world meant you would frequently miss issues, or entire titles. There were years and years when they couldn't bring any American in, because the local reprint boys had stitched up the market (and tough shit if you wanted your comics in colour).

There were no comic shops. You went to the local bookshop to get a regular fix of 2000ad - and many of them had them because the kids of Aotearoa dug their Johnny Alphas and Rogue Troopers.

But to get any kind of varied comic diet, you would also have to go to the corner dairies - tiny convenience stores scattered across town. It could take half a day to get round them all, so I spent vast amounts of my youth cycling between them.

All that effort for some mediocre Marvels I sold off years ago. And that's probably why now, decades later, I still remember so much of this shit.

Look here, on Otipua road, towards the south end of Timaru, there's the shop where I used to get Scream for 15 glorious weeks in the 1980s. I haven't seen them sell any good comics there for almost 40 years, but I still can't stop myself in looking, whenever I just wanted an ice cream. The shop is still there and the magazine rack is still jammed in beside the door. I still look.

Just a couple of blocks down the road is the store that was a regular source for Justice League International, just as DeMatteis/Giffen was finishing and Jurgans took over, and was also the place were I could get two of the Superman titles, starting with the Panic in the Sky storyline (the idea of getting all four weekly issues was absolutely outlandish, so you had to take what you could get. Took me 25 years to get the last issue of that Panic in the Sky thing). 

I also got the issue of 2000ad with the twist at the end of Zenith Phase four, and on the left you can just see the footpath where I literally dropped the issue in amazement.

It turned into a fish and chip store for a few years, before reverting back to a dairy. I don't think they've had any comics there since that long-ago change.

Down by the park in Timaru there's a Night And Day dairy, and they always stuffed their magazine racks with all sorts of Marvel goodness for years and years. 

I got a bunch of terrible Bob Harras/Steve Epting Avengers comics from there, (although it was during the year where every fourth issue had a bitching full foil cover). It was on the way from town to my Nana's place, so my sister and I went past it often on Saturday afternoons, while the parents were at housie, and I could get some X-Factors by the indispensable Simonsons, or The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition '89 Update

It's still there and you bet your arse I have a look over their magazine rack, and it's still as packed as ever. But I think the last comic I ever got from there was the Claremont/Lee X-Men #1 - the only place in town to get a copy of its shelves. 

This North Street dairy provided a regular diet of post-Byrne Avengers West Coast and What The-!?, along with some very, very cheap meat pies.

This bad boy on the main road used be the only source of McFarlane Spider-Man I could find anywhere. It got turned into a fucking excellent record shop for a while, before reverting to a regular shop. 

I wish I still had those McFarlane issues, they're worth a fucking mint now.

Some dairies like the one that used to sit in this space wouldn't get in new regular titles, but would often have piles of remaindered DC comics from a couple of years ago for a buck each. Every couple of years a new box would show up and me and my mates would slowly pick it clean of all the good Brave And The Bold and Justice League comics. 

Just once there was a small pile of strange looking Marvel comics, but I was a bit scared of them at that age, and they were $1.20, so I didn't really touch them.

This shop lasted for years, had a spacies room at one point, and then that back room was used to rent video tapes and it was my main source for all the Italian horror films I could get three bucks for in the very early 90s. 

And I just found out the building got demolished this weekend. Another one gone.

Further into town, the corner dairy by Gunnion Square is still going strong, but is unlikely to stock anything as amazing as Camelot 3000 #12, which sat there for some months in the 1980s. 

It also used to be a lively source of Federal reprints, which I always had a lot of time for. The shop is still there, and I have seen a lot of things like Disney comics on its magazine rack over the years, but that's about it.

The Maude Street dairy would get the British stuff - if Eagle or Battle or Tiger were your thing - and suddenly got swarmed on by kids who wanted the action figures during a very turbulent few weeks in my adolescence. 

It turned into a refrigerator shop and then nothing and I ended up living in the flat next to it for a couple of months in the early 2000s and now it's something else.  An excellent fish and chip shop right behind it just closed, which is a huge blow for the community, but their spectacular burgers still weren't as exciting as those bloody action figures.

The best one was back in Timaru, on an incredibly busy corner on the main highway. It disappeared 30 years ago, but I can still remember the breathtaking selection of 2000ad and Marvel goodness that was there every time I went in - the last time I was in there before it was demolished, I got the Nocenti/JRJR Daredevil issues with the Inferno crossover, which I still proudly own.

Another place, just across the road, had the first Eagle Comics reprint of Judge Dredd on beautiful paper with a transcendentally good Brian Bolland cover, and that's gone too now, replaced by a car park years ago.

But it's heartening how many of the stores have stayed, even if their appetites for selling flimsy comic books have faded. When comics went fully into the direct market, these kinds of places weren't even thought of, and the supply quickly dried up. Just gone. At least I got in while I could.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

ThEraPeutIc SKIn JobS #8

This was written in 1999, and you can tell that because of how pleased I was with myself for the 'karmaceutical' line. But who hasn't ever had a dream about John Lennon writing Flash comics? Isn't that a universal?

ThEraPeutIc SKIn JobS: Number Eight

Too Early In The Fucking Morning

9:30 a.m. – Waking Up

    Waking up with a hangover of Babylonian proportions, I instantly roll over and grasp for oblivion once more. It’s too early in the morning for this. It feels like a mediocre international rugby team has played a rough and ready game in my head, and churned up memories and theories with their filthy boots. My mouth tastes like a yak’s codpiece and there's something sticky on my fingers. Things could be worse.

    Sleep remains an elusive quality, and I’m forced to sit up in bed and face the day. Yawning softly, Kristine wakes beside me and smiles.

    “Did you sleep well?” she asks with genuine, unconditional concern.

    “No,” I croak, clearing my throat and gobbing out the open window before continuing. “I don’t even remember arriving home.”

    “What do you remember?” she asks, arching her back in a highly suggestive manner.

    I concentrate and access my memories. They’re opaque, clouded with karmaceutical overindulgence, and hours appear to be missing.

    “No, it’s a complete blank,” I admit. “I remember the band started playing ‘All You Need Is Love’ and talking to the Queen, but that’s it.”

    “Really? You don’t remember telling Liz to… ‘suck your love pump’?”

    “I said that?” I ask as Kristine rolls out of the bed and gathers up her clothes off the floor. “What did she say?”

    “Better you don’t know,” smiles Kristine, squeezing into a plain black dress. “Breakfast?”

    “Soon,” I mumble, hiding back under the covers. The Ultimate New Years Eve was one hell of a party, and the best affairs always need a considerable recovery period.

    “No time for that!” yells Kristine at a needlessly loud volume. “We’ve got things to do!”

    “Don’t be ridiculous,” I snort in mock indignation. “We never have much to do. It’s our reason for being.”

    Kristine stands by the doorway into the hall, one delicate hand resting on the handle. “Boy, you really don’t remember much, do you?”

    “What are you talking about?” I asked, inwardly ashamed to be showing such weakness in the face of my one, true love, but letting it fucking happen anyway. “Did something happen?”

    “Something did happen,” nods Kristine enthusiastically. “Something wonderful.”

     wait patiently for her to continue, but her infuriating habit of keeping me in suspense comes again to the fore, blinding me with it’s smugness. “Well?” I finally offer, the tension unbearable and untenable.

    Kristine’s smile shifts in strange directions as she refuses to tell me the score. “Ah. That’s for me to know and for you to find out..”

    Groaning extravagantly, I roll out of bed and make my way to the window, basking in the bright pure sunlight. Morning dew still glistens on the grass lawn, moist and settling.

    “It’s a whole new world,” whispers Kristine in my ear. “Are you ready to explore it, Dr. Skin?”

    I turn to her with a concerned frown. “After breakfast, of course.”

    Kristine frowns back, but her natural exuberance still shines through. “Of course.”

    Well. That’s all right, then.

10:69 a.m. – Tea On The Lawn

    Having showered in blue champagne and dressed in only the most tasteful clothes, I join Kristine at the table in the middle of this ridiculously green lawn. I help myself to a cup of tea as a small transistor radio crackles into life and starts blaring the score in the cricket at Lords. Australia have started their run chase, needing 307 to win, and have opted to send in Arnold Schwarzenegger as their opening batsman. I listen just long enough to hear that Arnold has shot the English captain in the head and stolen his hat before switching the radio off in disgust. It’s just not cricket.

    Kristine, seated opposite me on the other side of the table, shrugs in sympathy and returns to her crossword, erasing and correcting answers as quickly as the clues shuffle themselves around on the page. It’s all too much, and the tiny flying saucers buzzing around my head only add to my indignation.

    Being thoroughly bloody foolish, I cram all negative feelings deep inside and let them stew in the juices of my skull. There, they join all the distaste and hate built from an extraordinary lifetime of guns, beer and woman. One day I’ll use this bottomless pit of bile, but not today. It’s too damn hot.

    “It’s too damn hot,” I complain to Kristine, who looks up from her puzzle and grimaces.

    “Shut up,” she snaps. “Nobody is interested in your complaints. Nobody cares.”

    “I didn’t ask for sympathy,” I retort. “Why do folks always assume I care what they think?”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “I don’t even know anymore,” I answer, smashing my head down on the table. Its painful enough for distraction and a mindless assault on the temple of my body feels right. It feels correct.

2:31 p.m. – Relaxation Of The Damned

    I’ve forced my hangover to retreat with a concentrated program of liquids, fresh air and drugs, but the slightest hint of a headache buzzes through my head, ready to open up at the slightest provocation. I’m not about to hurry along any such eventualities, so I retire to my study.

    Sitting in my faithful and frayed leather chair, I balance a ballpoint pen on the end of my finger and ponder my next move. I’ve always considered a total lack of planning one of my more admirable assets, but I can’t help but wish for an indication of what direction my life should be headed in.

    It's no use, and I resort to browsing through some of the books lining the walls of this tiny study. But none of them take my fancy either and I try transcendental meditation. It’s never worked before, but it might hold the boredom at bay for a minute or two.

    And wouldn’t you know it? I’m just getting into the swing of things, just about to find the path to temporary bliss when a sharp scouse voice cuts through my concentration.

    “Aw, what the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

    “You should know,” I mutter, opening my eyes and turning to the phantom sitting on my desk. “You showed me how to do it. Remember, Lennon? ’67?”

    “I know that,” says Lennon indignantly. “I want to know what the fuck you’re doing it for. It doesn’t work. It never worked.”

    “That’s an awfully cynical attitude to be taking at this hour of the day.”

    “Easy for you to say,” snarls Lennon, a spectral sneer on his ghost face. “You trying being dead for twenty years. See how optimistic you feel.”
    “No thanks. What do you want?”

    “I had me a new theory.”

    “Do tell.”

    Lennon inadvertently starts floating around the room as he explains his latest idea. “Right. What I was thinking is that we place too much importance on our physical location. We shouldn’t really, because it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as a permanent location. We sit on a planet spinning bloody fast, zipping bloody fast around a sun that powers a solar system careering bloody fast through a galaxy that moves at a bloody fast rate through a universe that, by all accounts, is expanding at a bloody fast speed. We don’t exist in the same space for more than the briefest of instants. So where is here?”

    “This is hardly an original thought,” I complain. “What’s your point?”

    “My point is, maybe time moves at the same rate. Maybe time is constantly ripping through our lives at an incredible speed, and all we need to do is match that acceleration rate and we’ll have full access to anywhere and anytime. All it takes is speed. All we need is velocity.”

    Y’know something, John?” I ask casually. “You were wasted in the music industry. You should’ve spent your life writing ‘Flash’ comics.”

    Lennon shrugs as he fades away again. “Yeah, well. At least I’d still be alive.”

9:99 p.m. – Getting Out

    “Shiiiiiiiiiiiit,” I hiss through gritted teeth as the headache that’s been building all day finally crosses the line into pure agony. I smash my fists against my temple and cry at the injustice of it all.

    Kristine returns from the bathroom and finds me lying on the bedroom floor, curled up in the original position. “Jakob?” she asks tenderly. “What’s the matter?”

    “I’m sick,” I mutter under my breath.

    She kneels down beside me, rubbing my back and whispering sordid, soothing words in my ear. It doesn’t work and I push her away. “Please, “ I beg. “Don’t. I’m sick”

    “So you said,” she says, sitting on the bed and adopting the concerned matron gambit. “How are you sick?”

    “I’m sick of it all,” I growl, fully aware of every word I say, even though I cannot predict what I’m going to utter next. “I’m sick of this life. I’m sick of ethics. I’m sick of snappy one-liners. I’m sick of collaboration. I’m sick of this year. I’m sick of celebration. I’m sick of the weather. I’m sick of cohesive narrative. I’m sick of the pressure. I’m sick of explanations. I’m sick of money. I’m sick of food. I’m sick of negativity. I’m sick of being obtuse. I’m sick of you. I’m sick of me.”

    “Is that all?” asks Kristine patiently.

    “I think so,” I answer truthfully.

    “Then why don’t you do something about it?” she says with a subtle wink.

    And with that wink the pain vanishes, replaced by the clear purity of a way out of this mess. It’s so obvious. “I’m getting out.”

    “You do that,” smiles Kristine.

    And without looking back, I’m on my feet, running towards the window into the rest of the world. The instant before I make contact I make a mockery of cohesive reality by convincing myself there’s no glass in the frame. By the time I’m leaping through, existence has taken me up on the challenge and disposed of any life-threatening glass and I soar through the empty frame, landing on my feet and running across the open lawn without hesitation.

    The moon is hidden beyond thick cloud, and it’s pitch black as I sprint across the lawn and hurl myself into the woods surrounding the estate. Branches claw at my body, leaves slap my open face and roots treacherously grab at my feet, but I keep running at full speed, somehow staying upright.

    The tightness in my chest subtly suggests that I’m running beyond my body’s ability, so I shut down all input/output signals between my body and my brain. The sensation of oblivion becomes clear as I no longer register any physical stimulus, but freed of such constraints my mind blossoms in new directions, forced to find stimulus in nothing.

    And then, independent of optical accompaniment, a pinprick of utter white light shines through the darkness of nothingness, illuminating my very soul. With a strange gasp, reality unfolds like a flower before me, showing signs and wonders. Wonders and signs.

    Seizing this new mode of existence with full exuberance, I find myself waking up. Waking up to new possibilities, new realms. Waking up to a new way of thinking, a new way of being, new sights. Waking up to a brave new world. Waking up to this.

    Waking up.

This has been a Mad Wish production. Thank you for your participation.