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.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

This amazing and expanding universe



This jaunty Eric Idle tune, used to justify a bit of live organ transplanting, was one of the first things that ever got me thinking about how very, very big the cosmos is, and how we are just that tiny blue dot in the ocean of eternity.

But if I had to learn about how insignificant I am in the great scheme of infinity, at least it came in with a waltz.

Friday, August 5, 2022

On track for all the movies



Last year, for the first time ever, I took note of every single film I saw all year, just to see how many there were, and to help remember what I have seen when friends and colleagues inevitably ask what I've been into lately. It came to exactly 254 movies.

While I was pleased with myself at the time, that eventually seemed like a weak ass total, so I'm going for 300 this year, and it's a piece of piss so far.

All you need to watch  25 films a month, and I crossed the 175 mark (with Malignant, which would have been much, much better if every single thing about it hadn't be already spoiled) with a week to spare in July, which means I can catch up on some TV shows.

I have some time, because the youngest is waking up at 4.45 in the fucking morning, and will only go to sleep for another hour or so by napping on his dad while we watch TV. He's too young to understand what he's watching, but I try to avoid the blood and guts as much as possible. Until he falls asleep, and then I'm into some Horror Express, (which was, as fervently hoped, aces). 

And the kids are in bed by 6.30pm every night, so there's free time for the adults to watch whatever the hell we want, (although the horror doesn't get a look-in here

A willingness to clumsily jump into any genre or type of movie has lead to some odd results recently - a surprising amount of old films starring William Holden, as well as proper emotional reactions to the slow tragedies of Little Fish and the sudden nastiness of New Order. The only Scorsese I've watched so far this year is Age Of Innocence, but there have been three Fincher, and almost all the Wes Anderson, including that fox one for the first time.

As I write this, I'm getting stuck right into August's 25, and right now I am halfway through The China Syndrome, which I haven't seen since the 90s. The boy woke up early today, and we had to switch to some Shaun The Sheep, because that is my life now, but there's plenty of time later for the other stuff.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Hardy Boys were written by nobody



You weren't supposed to get the existential shits from reading the Hardy Boys books - they were safe adventure yarns for little kids - but it still happened to me anyway.

One of the very first series of anything that I collected wasn't comic books or movies, it was the Hardy Boys paperbacks. Those things were addictive.  I had dozens and dozens of them, and couldn't tell you a single thing about the stories. 

I still remember that Frank was the responsible one, and Joe was a bit more reckless, and that they ran into a surprising amount of smugglers in their personal lives (I'm a little disappointed that I've never ever met a smuggler in real life - like quicksand, I really underestimated how much I didn't need to worry about them as a kid).

But the Hardy Boys were everywhere, and there was a TV show that played on Sunday afternoons and you only watched if it was raining, and the little books were in all the bookstores, and it was so easy to build up a quick collection. 

The Biggles books were always too straight-laced, and Willard Price's Adventures books were way more inert than the Hardy's, and Enid Blyton's novels were charming and horribly old fashioned, so I was a Franklin W Dixon fan all the way.

And then some smartarse older kid told me that Franklin W Dixon wasn't even a real person, just a pseudonym for a bunch of different people, and all these stories of fake ghosts and swarthy foreigners were made by somebody who doesn't even exist.

That blew my mind way more than anything Frank or Joe ever did.

I moved onto Doctor Who books after that, at least Terrence Dicks was a real person who actually showed a bit of personality. But I've never felt the kind of hero worship towards my later favourite authors that I did when I was reading The Mystery of the Melted Coins, because they might not real either.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

We thought you would be happier as yourself



Apart from a few dozen dirty limericks, there's only two slivers of poetry I can ever remember forever. One is the first few lines of Kublai Kahn - thanks to Hunter S Thompson - and the other is this blinder from the philosophical work also known as the Prisoner television show.

I will not be pushed

filed

stamped

indexed

briefed

debriefed, 

or numbered.

My life is my own


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Left behind again



As another mere mediocre male mired in the morass of middle-age, the world is rapidly leaving me behind, and I can only wave sadly as it leaves me in the fucking dust. Holding back the years and the trauma of aging is like trying to hold a handful of wet sand in a thunderstorm, so just enjoy the sand you've got.

I try to keep up with all the fun stuff to read, watch and listen to, but am slowly slipping behind. But it's not just the media that I'm falling behind on, it's the way I consume it.

Enjoyable pursuits, things that I have spent vast portions of my life indulging in, just don't exist anymore. No more browsing in the video stores, no more driving across town to get in as many second hand bookstores as possible on a Saturday afternoon. All these things are fading away, replaced by vape shacks and nail salons and shops that just sell tasteful metal gates for your garden.

Technology still fucks me up, and I've been falling way behind on new technologies since the start of the century. We don't even have any streaming, because A) our internet can beshit and buffering fucks up my blood pressure and B) the streaming companies are mostly trash organisations and the one interesting show they all offer isn't worth the constant money suck.

As noted to tedious lengths yesterday ,I'm so wary of the cloud that I have to have the physical object. And I'm still happy with the terrible hardships of using DVDs and CDs to watch and listen to my faves.

But eve that is getting away from me now, because I went browsing for a new desktop computer for our flat, something a bit more settled and substantial than a razor-thin laptop. ButI also wanted one that has a disc drive for my old school needs, and was shit out of luck. None of the stores even offered them as an option. They could sell me 600 different kinds of headphone, but nothing that would play the Pulp CDs I bought in 1996 ,which still work wonderfully.

(I don't want to hear about some easy tech solution, I don't understand any of it and it will just make me angry figuring it out. I look like a nerd but can barely grasp the concept of the most basic technologies, so don't scoff at me with your 'oh, you just need a gapsucker to germinate your hard drive', because you lost me at 'oh'.).

I'm not going to get angry about it and fight it, I'll just get carried away by the world anyway, so it's always better to try and swim with the current as much as possible. But I can still miss something as basic as browsing in a shop, or the easy ability to play a CD. Things I took for granted for so many years, all long gone now.

Monday, August 1, 2022

It can all go away so fast



Even though it's deeply, deeply embarrassing, I've been putting up old fan fiction on the blog for the past couple of months for one main reason - I need another back-up.

There's a hole in our culture from the early 00s through to about 10 years ago, because that's when everything shifted online and has been almost been immediately washed out by the tide of history.

I can find out things about 70s and 80s culture much easier, because there was so much printed material, and a lot of it is still out there. Old magazines and newspapers that you can track down, and read about forgotten feuds and films and comics you didn't even know existed. 

But try and find something about a 2004 comic book - good fucking luck. All the promotional interviews they did at the time were for websites that are dead urls, a lot of sites have been snapped up by bitcoin bullshit artist or pornographers looking for their new easy sell (god bless them), and to be honest, we probably didn't need that interview with Jeph Loeb forever.

It's a rolling issue - I loved writing things for the Neotext Review, but even before they stopped commissioning new stuff, I've been archiving the shit out of everything that went up there, (which are much better than the original drafts I still have saved here and there, because I had a great goddamn editor who made me work my brain.) 

It's nobody's fault - as has been often noted in the great philosophical work Judge Dredd: things have a way of... happening. And it's no wonder all the culture is slipping away, when it's hard enough to hold onto your own past.

I've lost so much of my own shit. At least three complete novels, four finished movie scripts, a few dozen shorter stories and a few hundred scraps, all gone just to some kind of inevitable attrition that comes with having to get a new computer ever seven years at most (I always stretch them out to they're near breaking, because I know something will get left behind.)

Some of them really hurt - I would love to read a novel I wrote when I was 22, because who the fuck wouldn't? And there was a movie script I wrote with the right honorable Reverend Colonel Joe Rice which both of us have lost, of the gunman with pearl handles from the gates of heaven, standing up to all the evils in the world.

But the computers they were written on were recycled long ago, the email accounts we exchanged drafts on shut down two decades ago and I don't know when it happened, but somewhere in there, they got lost in the transfer between hardware. Even the clouds never really last. (The clue to that is in the name, because clouds always fucking disperse.)

The only thing that last is the printed copies, like the ones that I wrote when I was 19 and so proud that I printed the out from the work computer in my first office, there's only one copy of the serial killer movie script called All These Fools Bleeding and it's in the box under my bed, and it can fuckin' well stay there.

And that's why I put up the Skin Jobs every Sunday, even though I'm showing my arse with shame, because it's another back-up. I have somehow held onto them since the mid-90s, but I can't guarantee they'll survive if something catastrophic happens to the computer hardware sitting on the kitchen table. It can all go away so fast.

(Needless to say, all our pictures of our kids are backed up on multiple computers in multiple sites, with plenty printed out in case a sun surge wipes all the digital world clean...)

But there is some small hope - a few seconds googling revealed that comic site The Ninth Art is still there, which warms my jaded heart a bit. It shut down in 2006, which is a goddamn eternity ago, but there's still a bit of recent history there. As long as somebody cares. (Addendumb: OMG, The Bomb is still out there...)

And I still hope that one of the discs I have shoved away in junk boxes will one day be read, and that a slice of my own past will pop up again. If it does, it's going straight on the blog before I lose it again.

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.


 ???????????????????????

 

    “Jakob?”

    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.”

    Right.”

    “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.”

    “Who?”

    “Exactly.”

    “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!”

    “Groovy!”

    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.”

    “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?”

    “Yes.”

    “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.”

    “Jesus.”

    “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...