Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Escaping the Byrne unit

When the first John Byrne artwork I ever saw was the ultra-slick work he did for the X-Men in the very early eighties - not long after it had been published - it looked like the absolute gold standard for all superhero comics. Forty-something years later, even after all the great comic art I've seen since then, there's still a part of me that thinks that's true.

It was the exact bulkiness of his figurework, the dynamism of his action scenes, and the sheer handsomeness of his characters - Jean Grey never looked finer, and Nightcrawler was sexy as hell. The incredible work by Terry Austin give even more weight to the art, solidifying things, while making everything shine with an impossible four-colour light.

And for decades afterwards, I bought and read everything by Byrne I could find. I could only get hold of his Fantastic Four in tiny doses - and still have a nagging feeling I never actually read them all - but I went without food for some of his Superman comics. The team-ups in Action were the best, especially when they did get quite perverted sometimes.

I got all of his Alpha Flight and Hulk and Star Brand comics - his Avengers West Coast and Namor comics were polished as heck in the early nineties, and made clever use of the various integrations with the Marvel world. 

And while I always had some time for Next Men, as well as the 2112 and Danger Unlimited stuff - because sometimes it seemed the purest Byrne of all - I drifted away from his comics sometime during his Wonder Woman run, which just didn't have that same weight. By the time he was doing a Spider-Man reboot that nobody demanded, I was well out of the Byrne unit.

I once had hundreds of his comics, and apart from all the X-Men stuff, I've only got a dozen or so Byrne comics left - a couple of the Superman issues that I have unhealthy emotional attachments to, some Marvel Team-Up and the first nine of issues of his She-Hulk. They still stand up - his work ages so much better when he isn't taking himself so goddamn seriously.

It was easy to ditch so much of his stuff when he kept saying awful things online, and when his comics got increasingly dry and tasteless, and there were too many cracks in the foundations when I went back and read a lot of his 80s output.

But I still love that fluidity of his early work, and still stumble across new examples of it, hiding in back issues of  Iron Fist or Marvel Two In One that I'd never seen before. And sometimes I can't help but sneak a peek at his bizarre X-Men fan fiction comic - it seems to have floundered now - just to see what he's up to. because I can't help but think of his art and the highest of standards, no matter where his stories go.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Driving around the world

Somehow, despite being working class white trash from the arse end of the world, I've driven cars  in different countries all over the world. It's fucking scary when you don't know the language and can't read the road signs - and I remain deeply apologetic to all those poor bastards I held up while I was crawling around some of the great regions of the world - but it's always been incredibly fun, and allowed us to get to places we could only ever have dreamed about before.

After all that, I'm confident in saying that my least favourite fellow drivers in the world are New Zealanders, who can turn passive aggressiveness into an artform in all walks of life, including out on the road. It's immensely frustrating, and as one of them who has driven on a daily basis since the early 90s, I can say they are terrible motorists, just terrible.

But my favourite drivers to share the road with are the Americans. No question.

Americans in general are remarkably polite They can sometimes be the most boorish and crude people when you see them while traveling around the world, but are always welcoming and generous on home turf. There's a lot of different sides to all the different parts of the USA, but this is a universal.

I'm not sure how much of it has to do with the idea that people are just nicer to each other because they're all scared the other guy might be packing a gun, or because it has a big tip culture that requires fake politeness to gather desperately needed revenue, but I'm just going to assume it's just because they're all very nice people. 

And they actually know how to drive. The freeways and cities get crammed like anywhere else in the world, but drivers across America are comfortable with merging, and know how to use a goddamn roundabout, and fully understand the appeal of acceleration.

The country is built for it, escaping the ancient street patterns of Europe and Asia, every town with phenomenally wide streets to spin your tank around, with massive links between all the great cities.

And a lot of the culture is burned into that white line nightmare. You can do a road movie in any country, but America has the distance and the existential void behind the bravado. It has the endless interstates, those weird offshots into Buttfuck Indiana, and the gothic rot of the deep south hiding beneath concrete overpasses. It has the infinite desert which sucks you in, the long roads through ancient mountains still covered in heavy woods.

The age of the private car might already have peaked, because we can't all keep driving like we're do without facing some severe environmental consequences. But while it lasted, Americans were the best drivers I ever knew.

Australians are the second best drivers in the world, and not just in a Mad Max way. I still think they're a pack of lousy motorists, but they'll tell you about it to your face and get it out of everybody's systems.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Marvel Fanfare portfolios #3: Kevin Nowlan

Kevin Nowlan has been producing some of the sleekest comic book artwork possible since the 80s, figures that looked like they had been poured onto the page. His inking has always instantly identifiable, and givese everyone that same sharpness, but his the slick, flowing nature of pencils is always dynamite.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

I always wanna be skanking


One lovely side-effect of watching a favourite doco about punk/reggae in the 70s recently is that all I wanna do is listen to nothing but some proper Upsetter, all day long. I just need those thick, languid bass beats, seeping into my pores.

I want to swim in that wonderful drone forever.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Funny guys: Black Mirror and Succession

No matter how horrible it gets, I can never take Black Mirror totally seriously. And the more horrible it is, the funnier I find it. I can't take it seriously because I came to Charlie Brooker with his comedy, and I can't help but see it as the darkest of comedy.

I'd been following Booker for years - since he was doing Nathan Barley and telling everybody to just fucking watch The Wire, long before anybody else was. His TV shows gave us the immortal Barry Shitpeas and the delightful Philomena Cunk. And he's doing some thing about technology being bad? All right then.

A lot of Black Mirror is outright and obvious comedy, but when got nasty, it's a very British kind of nasty, where it's so fucking bad it's coming out the other side as something supremely dark and funny. It's just the way I've always watched that show.

I have the same issue when people talk to me very seriously about Succession, because I love that show too, but it's just so fucking hard to take "boar on the floor" super seriously when you know it's created by one of the same guys that had Jezza eating his girlfriend's dog that he'd accidentally killed and failed to cremate.

(I maintain a firm belief that the only character who could cross over between Peep Show and Succession is obviously Super Hans.)

It's like the Alan Moore thing - American readers who first noticed him with the Nukeface Papers or the nastiness of the Killing Joke might think it's all grim and biting, but he'll always be the man behind 'Mind the Oranges, Marlon', and the creator of Ablard Snazz to me. Jog for your life, man.

I'm not pissing on anyone else who doesn't see it that way, and sometimes even the silliest of stories can have real poignancy. But I do find laughs in the darkness, when I'm coming from that direction.  

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Kate Beaton's Ducks: Her story to tell

At one point in Ducks, Kate Beaton's terrific autobiographical graphic novel about her life working in the oil sands industry, she has the chance to talk about her story to a reporter. She's given the chance to tell the world of the blatant sexism, misogyny and outright threats that undermine her desolate workplaces. But she pulls back. 

The journalist who is after the story obviously wants the most salacious angle, and there's so much more to it than that. It's a societal issue, one that is far too big and complex to fit into any one article, no matter how noble the intentions. A giant heartfelt graphic novel like this barely gets there, but it does get there.

Ducks is a wonderful book - the supreme comic timing of Beaton's comic strip work is still there, but she also has a larger and no less impeccable timing for a big, chunky story. Full of tiny anecdotes that build into a complex tapestry of that kind of life, in that kind of place. It picks at the guilt of people who want to save the planet, but still need to pay off their student debts; and finds fun and laughter in the darkest months.

It's also beautifully drawn. There is the strange beauty of the industrial site, the brutalism of necessity in the harshest of environments - some of the landscape work is truly outstanding. And she still does the best bug-eyed incredulity in comics.

And behind it all, driving the story, is the tiny hypocrisies and total dickishness of the patriarchal society that build up to a painful roar of inequality. Some of the men she works with will be kind and courteous one day, and irredeemable assholes the next, and somehow it's her fault.

It's unlikely to have changed much in the 20 years since Beaton worked the oil sands, because society hasn't changed that much, and her tale is depressingly contemporary. 

Stories this big and complicated, they move slowly, and nothing moves slowly than dumb fuckin' men.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The delight of Judge's twirl


There's a tiny piece of physical comedy that has a forever place in my heart, and it's the bit in Beverly Hills Cop 2 when John Ashton slips and takes a tumble into the pool where Axel is quite clearly illegally squatting.

It's not because of Ashton (or his stuntman), as delightful as his pratfall is, it's the reaction of Judge Reinhold as his partner Billy, so fucking delighted by the turn of events that he does a spontaneous and dorky little twirl.

You can see it two minutes into the video above. Reinhold is a quiet legend of modern film, and this piece of absolute movie magic is as good as it gets.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

I'm still addicted to the channel surfing

The rise and fall of the streaming giants is objectively fascinating, just watching them force through a consumer change that makes loads of money for a small group of people, by offering the eternal attraction of convenience.

I never signed up for any streaming service. They're not worth the money and for a long time I could say that my internet was shit. But now I usually just moan about their dodgy business practices (because all these companies are run by fucking psychos.)

But also, because I'm in love the broadcast, and cling to it as a connection to a wider world. Watching late night TV  and wondering how many other randos are out there doing exactly the same thing. It's fucking dumb, but it has always made me feel a little less lonely.

Plus, I still love the randomness of what pops up. When there is infinite choice, I can't be fucking bothered deciding and am only too happy to let some random TV programmer make the call for me.

And if I'm slipping between channels and the the last 10 minutes of Unforgiven comes up, you bet your ass I'm sticking with that (this literally happened twice this week). If I stumble across a little piece of the Twilight Zone or The Greatest American Hero or a documentary about the history of London's bridges or some shit, why not stick around? 

I literally just stopped working on this post because that scene in the Eric Bana Hulk fights the army in the desert came on the TV, and I fucking love that shit where he's bounding through the air.

It's an easy formula - serve me up something random on the TV, because I can't be arsed deciding for myself. It's all I've ever needed.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Even the bogans are beyond me now

Bogan: An Antipodean description for a person who likes AC/DC, beer and Fords or Holdens. Named after the Bogan river in Australia. The term is widespread in New Zealand and Australia but there are bogans in all corners of the earth.

- Urban dictionary

The older I get, the more I fall behind on all culture. I can't help it as I get older. Entire sub-sub-sub-genres of things that are heaving on TikTok, or social media platforms I haven't even heard of.

I lost track of gamer culture first - there hasn't been a console in the house since 2002, and I swiftly missed out on many games (When I do make time, I still play the same sort of shit I always played, and it's usually at least a decade old.) I try to keep up with all the good new music, but fall hopelessly behind because there is just so much of it. I'm six months behind on movies, but I've always been six months behind on movies, and there is so much TV now there can be five seasons of something before I even hear it exists. 

And my 15-year-old self would honestly be fucking disgusted by how much I don't know about the current Marvel and DC universes, mainly by the fact I don't even really try anymore.

But I always thought I had a safe haven in bogan culture. Maybe not the necessities of the each particular facet of the wider bogan community, but the general vibe was unchanging.

I grew up a bogan, most of my best friends are bogans - working class people, slightly trashy. We all have to like Metallica, and The Castle - the second best Australian film ever made, after Mad Max 2 obviously - was the closest thing to a documentary about our lives

So when the biggest rock station in the country has a top 1000 countdown, you bet your arse we're following it with keen interest. (They literally hired a stadium this year to count down the last few dozen songs, and got a decent crowd to come and headbang to a bunch of very loud music videos in an otherwise empty cavern.)

And the #1 song - the most popular among all the bogans in the land - was always something obvious like Enter Sandman or Smells Like Teen Spirit or Killing In The Name Of or some shit like that, and I'm cool with that. But I knew I had completely lost track of my bogan roots when the top song this year was Lynard Skynard's Simple Man.

I'll ride and die for the guitaring on Freebird, but so much of their other stuff is cheesy and cringe, and I always thought a bit less of the Skynard when I heard that they were just a bunch of chancers from fuckin' Florida who glomed onto redneck bullshit for the money, but none of that's the point. 

It's that these things come from nowhere - Simple Man was apparently slowly clawing up that Rock 1000 list for several years, and now it's already a foregone collusion that it's this kind of ultimate classic, as embarrassingly mawkish as it is, and I did not see that fucking coming.

I can't even sneer at the kids like all sad old bastards get to do, because it's a song that was put out two years before I was born, so I guess I just missed all the crate parties and pub crawls where Simple Man was such a staple - the greatest rock song in history. 

Apparently. What the fuck do I know anymore?

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Saturday, February 18, 2023

There's a pleasing sense of happiness for me

Of course I moaned endlessly about the Carpenters when I was a young punk. They were too sweet, too saccharine. They were everything I hated in music. Just too bloody nice.

But the older I get, the more I stop being such a little shit about the music I listen to and enjoy, and the more I appreciate a great pop tune. And now of course I adore the Carpenters. I don't know when it happened, but it happened sometime in the past couple of decades.

Now beneath that glorious shine, I feel the honesty in the naked emotion of their tunes, burning through each sweet chord, with the loveliest melodies you could ever hope for. I've always got to try and let more pop in, because we could all use a bit more nice in our lives.

Friday, February 17, 2023

No fun!


I've watched hundreds of hours of documentaries about punk music, because that's the kind of absolute fucking dork I am, and none of them even hit me like the No Fun episode of Dancing In The Streets, the BBC doco series about the history of popular music.

I watched this fucking thing a thousand times in the late 90s and still think that was time well spent, introducing me to so many sweet new sounds and making vital connections between punk and reggae (although it has left me with an unhealthy certainty that punk all started with Jonathan Richman). 

But what really resonated was that behind all the bullshit and posing, there was this beautiful philosophy of punk: just get out and fucking doing it - whatever it is. It is absolutely eternal.

It is quite sad to watch it now and realise that many of these incredible legends have now passed on, but at least their stories still linger in documentaries like this, just like the tastiest piece of feedback.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Bond: Not a time for dying

Even with the generally dire record of the Bond films which feature their star actor for the last time, I had high hopes for No Time To Die, and hoped the Daniel Craig era would go out with the same kind of snap that started it, all the way back in 2006. I should have known better.

I could handle the frankly comical death of Blofield, and found some tiny joy in Ana de Armas' brief appearance, but couldn't help but be disappointed with the climactic action - for a series built on the power of remarkable stunts, Bond running up a staircase and shooting all the random henchmen that pop out of doorways made it all look like a goddamn Call of Duty game.

It was also just such a fucking downer of a note to leave the cinema on. Nobody wants to walk out of a James Bond thinking about the nature of mortality, and how even the most iconic of heroes must fall.

They may have been shooting for new emotional depths, but nobody goes to a Bond film for fucking emotional depth, they go for stunts and quips. And it all led to yet another flabby end for a Bond actor's era. 

You can't blame the legacy producers for always trying to get one last film out of their stars, and they usually do it by offering them the chance to do something meaty, something a bit more substantial. Let the talent have some kind of hand in the script, if you have to. 

This is almost always a terrible idea, and the star might feel like they're really broadening their range, but most of the audience is just wondering when going to stop moping around and go kill some enemy of the state.

I still love many parts of the Daniel Craig Bonds - although little will match the joy of Casino Royale - but I'm so glad they're moving on. I can't wait to see who the next 007 is and the whole new era that it will bring. (I usually really, really hate fan casting, but I do desperately wish they would give the license to kill to  Dev Patel.) 

I just hope they're ready to move on before it gets too stale for all concerned next time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Carlos in the MU

Carlos Ezquerra is one of the greatest artists ever in the history of the comic medium, and apart from the odd very strange Spider-Man picture, he didn't do much in the Marvel universe. 

But he did do these covers for the short-lived Fury comics, a British weekly reprint of Howling Commandos adventures. So while it's all war stuff done by a 1970s Carlos Ezquerra, which is just about as good as comics ever get - this is also art from the same world as thunder gods and sexy mutants.



Tuesday, February 14, 2023

The Gutter Review: Undead dust (and lust) in the wind

Twitter partially went down for a few hours last week, and I ain't no tech geek, so have no idea what caused it, but it happened right at the moment an essay I wrote about comics that made me feel funny when I was 12 went out into the world.

I wrote it for The Gutter Review, a new incarnation of the NeoText site I used to write for ,with loads of fantastically horny comic and movie content, curated by editor Chloe Maveal ,and it's an absolute honour to share some thoughts there.

Still, it wasn't hard to write about these things. My pre-puberty mind might have been in turmoil around all the horny vampires in old magazines, but I was right all along - those are great and sexy comics, and Marvel are always showing how cowardly they really are when they to to cover up their sordid past.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Movies news on the TV, while everybody else was sleeping

I threw out some of the last blank video tapes I had left the other day. I'd had them for decades, but hadn't watched them in years. I had to hold onto them because I used the tape space left after the movies I copied for all sorts of things and I was scared I'd left scraps of precious home movies on them, moments of personal history that could be lost forever if I wasn't careful.

I finally got around to checking them and there was nothing like that left there. Nothing irreplaceable, nothing really special. But there was a bunch of movie items taped in 1993/94 - mostly news pieces from late night TV - that is just a perfect snapshot of the things I was excited about at that age. 

I was 18, falling hard for all sorts of new movies, like you do at that age. And this was just before the internet came along and ruined it for everybody, and the only glimpses I could get of these forthcoming thrills was on the TV news, six months before prints of the films ever got to this part of the world.

There, after some much-loved and often-watched dubbed copies of Bram Stoker's Dracula and the David Lynch Dune - long since replaced by crispy DVD versions - was all sorts of cinematic nonsense, including:

  • The first, dialogue-free trailer for Twin peaks: Fire Walk With Me trailer that I copied from the tape of trailers the local video store would give you for free ('Out in April!'). Still powerful as fuck.
  • Several news items about Natural Born Killers that were deeply concerned about all that violence. Even legendary NZ entertainment reporter Dylan Taite got in on the furrowed brow action.
  • A brief bit featuring Marcus Lush talking about Shafted, that the Back of the Y dudes did for Mothra  - and showing the bit where they shot Martin Phillips in the head.
  • A 60 Minutes puff piece on Peter Jackson during the Heavenly Creatures era, which always bugged me, because they showed him directing on the set of Jack Brown Genius, a film he did not direct.
  • Multiple clips of Tarantino love, with the only glimpses I ever got of Pulp Fiction six months before we could go actually see it at the movies. These include an effusive review of Pulp by the great Raybon Kahn, and Sam Jackson talking about it on set of Die Hard 3, which is very much dated by the way Leeza Gibbons asks Sam about the n-word.
  • The most patronising news story about the Mary Shelley's Frankenstein possible, but at least it had some Forry Ackerman.
  • Small glimpses of Interview with a Vampire; In The Mouth of Madness; Pret A Porter; Shawshank Redemption, Lord Of Illusions; Quiz Show and El Mariachi. That was my jam.
  • Oh, and there's Barry Norman visiting the set on the first Judge Dredd movie, when it actually looked drokking amazing. That was a nice few months.

None of this was worth keeping, or even copying to a digital format (if I had more than five seconds of Shafted that wasn't scratched to fuck, I would have kept that, even if I might be one of 10 people in the world who actually give a shit about it). I gave it one last watch, and flung them into the bin.

They were only getting older and dustier and moldier, and I don't need them anymore. Because I'll never forget the excitement of recording them on the family video recorder, late at night, when everyone else in the world was asleep, and the world of movies was just starting to open up inside my head.


Sunday, February 12, 2023

Marvel Fanfare portfolios #2: Rick Leonardi

Rick Leonardi should have been a star at the Image level, he was doing great fill-in work on X-Men and helped design the icnonic black Spider-Man costume.

I always liked the gooeiness of his faces the best, but as these pieces show, he could also really capture the eternal beauty of a human being casually just flying though the air.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Two tiny performances no other human being will ever replicate

There are two things I've seen and heard in movies that no other human being can ever replicate.

One is the way Nicholas Cage stands up and says "I don't particularly think-!' in Raising Arizona when he's talking with Gale and Evelle. It's not just the snap movement, or the goggle eyes, there's a ridiculous high-pictchd quaver to his voice that is truly unique.

 I have never seen anybody even come close to matching the way he says that, and doubt I ever will.

The second is the way Stephen Wright says the word 'behemoth' during one of his K-Billy Super Sounds of the Seventies interruptions on the soundtrack to Reservoir Dogs. As a 90s kid, everyone I knew tried to say it the same way, and none of them were ever any good.

Some things can never be repeated.

Friday, February 10, 2023

The last tape was alright alright alright

The last brand new cassette tape I ever bought was at The Warehouse in Oamaru, during a drive between Timaru and Dunedin, sometime in 2004.

The car I was bouncing down the coast in still had a tape deck, but I was curiously short of cassettes, and need something for the last burst over the hills, and in the last tray of cassettes that was there in the store, there was the OutKast Speakerboxx/The Love Below, and that got my arse all the way to Dunedin.

I was going to Dunedin to do a work placement at the Otago Daily Times, my first real journo job, at a newspaper I hugely respected. It was a fucking great time in my life and I had a fucking great soundtrack to it.

I found it again this week, while consolidating all the tapes I have left. they were scattered in all sorts of storage, and when I brought them all together, there was a surprising amount left. The Beatles tapes my mate Chris made for me in the early 90s, all the Pink Floyd I needed in the late 80s, and the bitchin' classical tapes that I got free from magazines I bought with the new money I got when I started working.  

I thought most of them were gone, but actually pulled them all together over the past year and there are piles and piles of them. Although my copy of The Cure's Mixed Up got chewed up by a tape player I have an inappropriate fondness for, they are generally durable as fuck. I might even be able to salvage 95% of the Cure tape if I'm careful with the tape repairs.

I played the Outkast again this morning, and it sounds as good as it did 19 years ago (the kids love it). I didn't know at the time it would be the last tape I got, it was just another one for the pile, but it was a great full-stop for the format..

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Brink: Burning it all away

I don't know how Dan Abnett got so fucking good in the past few years. The writer's 2000ad comics were always reliable, occasionally dull and rarely exciting, with the endlessly unfunny Sinister Dexter going on and on and on since the 90s.

But now we're well into the 21st century, and he's doing the arguably best thing in the Megazine with Lawless, and absolutely the best series in 2000ad right now with The Out and Brink.

The Out is all sorts of brilliance, but Brink is something else again, with its slowly unfolding horror of humans in the void getting more and more intense. 

Even as the series gleefully pointed out that the deepest of conspiracy theories can sprout from the most mundane of origins, the latest volume still ended with the clear idea that there really is a beast in the darkness, a monster in the abyss. It's not just the void out there, there's something in it, spitting nightmares back at us.

With quite remarkable and vibrant art by INJ Culbard, which helps when the series features a lot of people standing around in small spaces talking to each other, the series is full of menace and threat, and then gets properly apocalyptic when it needs to. 

The climax of the latest volume is breathtakingly grim, and still finds some kind of visual poetry in the nihilism of it all. Burning skulls never looked so gorgeous, even as hope burns away with it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Signs of the times

The sign outside the only big cinema in the middle of town - the one that is meant to be telling us all about the latest new releases on the big screen - has just been displaying this for quite some time:

And it's been like that for months! For more than 18 months, it got stuck on telling us that Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker and JoJo Rabbit were playing, long after they drifted out of the cinema, but now the sign has given up and is just screaming at us.

It's a good metaphor for the mall it's in, which once housed a decent food-court, several fast food outlets, a dozen restaurants and a four-story Borders bookstore, and is now eerily derelict

It's also a good metaphor for going to the movies in general, but that goes without saying.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

All we wanted was an R2-D2

The 3-year-old doesn't care about anything else from Star Wars, not yet. She's just all about the R2-D2.

She loves the little fella, and his beeps and whoops, and almost lost her mind when she thought he had been hurt in the first film. There is just something in R2's blue and white colours, and that comfortable dustbin shape, that is eternally appealing to kids. Accept no substitutes.

We had a little action figure sized Artoo that was a cherished toy, and of course he got easily crushed behind the bedroom door. Even though he was shattered into several pieces, the kid had such faith that her dumb old dad could take Artoo away and fix him, I had to do something. 

And it was so hard. I went around multiple toy shops and department stores, but all the Star Wars toys were angry Mandalorians, not dependable and friendly droids. The cool Star Wars toys used to be so hard to find in this part of the world, but even though there are a lot more super cool armoured posers to buy nowadays, just finding a specific character was extremely difficult.

It took weeks to find a replacement, but I ended up finding one based on the Droids cartoon at a local dork store. It cost $30 and is worth a lot less now after I tore into it as soon as I got it out of the shop and gave it to the kid, proudly declaring that her dad had, indeed, fixed it.

She's still young enough that she didn't really notice that it's significantly less robust than the original, with flimsier plastic, and I don't expect it to last. Another replacement mission is inevitable.

But this might be my life now, 'fixing' broken R2-D2s. One day I might have to tell her how we sent all the broken ones to live in a Farm near Endor or something. The truth is just too mean.

Monday, February 6, 2023

What if I never read comics?

I've always been absolutely obsessed with comic books, right from the start. I was reading them before I could read, and will keep reading them until my eyes fall out. Music can make me feel things I can not find words for, and movies can thrill with spectacle and tear at my soul in equal measure, but comics are my thing. 

It's just the way I've always been. But what if?

It's taken a while, but I've come to that point in my life where I wouldn't do anything over again, because I deeply love where I'm at. And yet, I still can't help wondering how different things would be if I'd never read a comic in my life.

It's not just that horrible smug superiority that I get when I recognise the dopiest fucking characters in the background of the new Marvel nonsense (a feeling I usually keep to myself), I wonder about the big stuff, and all the dumb and obvious life choices of an ordinary person unencumbered by a comic addiction.

Unfortunately, when I think about the comic collection in this way, it's as an anchor, with the physical weight of collecting piles and piles of comics weighing me down.

I came from a working class youth, where every comic was precious, and I straight-up hoarded every one I could get for two decades, before finally breaking the habit. By the time I left home, I had thousands and thousands of comics, and dragged them around all the different places I lived. 

But maybe I would have been more willing to travel freely, to be a wanderer in the world, without this hoarding mentality .Without all those comics, I could have been free.

Maybe. Maybe there would always have been some excuse.

What I do know for sure is that without comic books in my life, I would have missed out on so many wonderful art and stories. I know the industry is a nightmare, Alan, but I've had more joy and wonder in the comic books I've read that in any other medium. Nothing is better than Jaime Hernandez's Locas comics, nothing is as monumental as Judge Dredd.

I read comics on anything and everything, and learn lots of new perspectives, new ways of telling stories, new ways of seeing the world. And I dread the thought that I could live in ignorance of all the greatness it's given me over the decades.

The idea of any change in my personal timeline is obviously horrific now, because now I've got kids that mean more to me than life itself, and no matter what mistakes and wrong turns I've made, I could never live in a world without them.

But if we are going to get all multiverse on it, there might be plenty of mes out there who never read a comic in their life, and were all the happier for it. 

I only hope that they have some kind of passion, some kind of thing to get excited about, because less people getting less passionate about the things they like makes all worlds everywhere a little more grey.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Marvel Fanfare portfolios #1: Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel's writers and editors sure did like to choke the art with huge amounts of text in the 1980s, but good old Al Milgrom knew the value of a really good pin-up and put loads of them up in the back of Marvel Fanfare, with full blasts of gorgeous art from the likes of Mike Mignola, Ken Steacey, Kevin Nowlan and even Dave bloody Sim.

Sundays are a rest day here at the Tearoom of Despair, and for a significant portion of last year I filled that daily gap with some appallingly revealing fan fiction. But I can't in all good conscience do that to you all again, so instead every Sunday for the next few months is going to feature some of that wonderful art, liberated from the aging pages of Marvel Fanfare. I don't own this art or any of the characters in it, but just want to share the love.

And of course we're starting with Bill Sienkiewicz, because if you even can start anything with Bill Sienkiewicz, you should start it with Bill Sienkiewicz.