Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Dillon Arseface is the only Arseface


I still miss Steve Dillon every single day.

It's been a couple of years now since we lost him, and I still can't believe he's not out there, steadily producing the absolute best meat-and-two-veg comic art in the business. The world could always use more of it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Be like this Brainiac

After read a grokload of old Legion of Super-Heroes comics, I've been sucked back into that sprawling subsection of the DC universe.

It hasn't been any one Legion, I'm been jumping in and out of his 65-year-old future history - a few issues from the unbearably sexy Grell/Cockrum days; some digest reprints of their earliest adventures; the odd 5 Years later (still my personal fave); some of the new 52; and the most recent run spearheaded by Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook.

Legion fans have the loudest opinions of anybody in comics, and always have, and the most recent run hasn't got a lot of love out there. I liked it because it was fast-paced nonsense, and I like that in my superhero comics. It's not easy finding emotional depth with such a large cast - the fact that it occasionally happens anyway is always cause for celebration - and the most recent version of these super teens was so supremely shallow, but I still liked to get my feet wet in it.

Like every new rethink of the concept, it had some new ideas about characters that have been around for a long, long time. And I particularly loved the new Brainiac, who has traditionally been the biggest jerk on the term, frustrated by the slower minds around him, and abrasive and downright rude on many occasions, when he wasn't losing his mind and threatening to blow up the world.

(It was all an act, of course. Ask Supergirl.)

But while Bendis' Brainiac is still as super smart as ever, his intelligence has grown to the point that he seems to realise that he gets better results by being polite and friendly with people. That logic dictates that he can't do everything by himself, so maybe he shouldn't be an asshole to everybody.

There's always the sneaky suspicion that is also just as an act, but like Vonnegut said, if we pretend to be someone for long enough, we become that person

It's just nice that when so many super intelligent people in comics turn out to be monstrous human beings - see every Marvel brainbox of the past 40 years - that one of them has calculated compassion and co-operation into their equations, and comes out smiling.

Monday, May 29, 2023

How Anger saved my life

It was around about the turn of the century, and I was fucking miserable. This was partly because I was going through that thing in your mid-20s when you realise you have to be goddamn adult and you first really start to feel time slipping away from you; but mostly it was because I fucking hated the city I lived in.

I was far away from home, with few friends and family around, and it was a town with bad vibes. I had to give up a couple of dream jobs while I was there because the bosses turned out to be total shitheads, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing with my life.

It took a couple more years before I did get my act together, and now I don't look back on my days in that city with much fondness. Except for the days when I could go to the most excellent video store in town and rent another tape in Kenneth Anger's Magick Lantern Cycle.

I knew who Anger was, long before I ever got to see any of his films. His name would pop up in interviews with other filmmakers, and my favourite comic writers would also often mention him as a strong influence. It was easy enough to find a copy of Hollywood Babylon at my most excellent local library, because that book sold like gangbusters in pre-internet days, but there was only a trace of the more esoteric side of Anger buried in there amongst the gossip.

And then, just as I was at my most miserable in that shitty new city, I saw his Magick Lantern cycle in that store on glorious old video tape, spread out over half a dozen cassettes, and it felt like a whole new world was opening up.

To this day, I stil have no real idea what was going on in his movies, but they never disappointed. They felt weird and strange in just the way I needed at the time, with magickal ceremonies burned into celluloid, strange opera and the kind of homo-eroticism that still had a kinky power.

I had read the Anger biography, so I knew the story behind these films, the way Anger would scrape up the money for his otherwordly visions, and all the scandals and silliness that surrounded them.

But they were also hugely inspirational in ways I still feel deeply. While I wasn't always sure what Anger was telling me, I adored the way he told it, and that he stuck to his guns to try and make the films he wanted, with no care for anything as boring as accessibility or coherence.

It just made me feel better. When the whole world feels a little miserable, these kinds of fims - these kinds of statements - can be a little oasis of joy, and sometimes that's all you need to get through life.

I've seen the whole cycle a few times now, (and with his devotion to the art of the short film, you can see the bulk of it in just a few hours,) and while I still have no real clue what was going on, I till think he is one of the hidden architects of 20th century culture, fusing film and pop music in a way that is still being exploited by the most mainstream of entertainments.

Kenneth Anger has left this world now, and the world is now a bit more grey, a little less bitchy and lacking in just a touch of magick. But we can still enjoy all that he left behind.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Marvel Fanfare Portfolios #16: Butch Guice

Jackson 'Butch' Guice's art found its real style from the 90s onwards, where his line became much finer and more detailed, with a wispy texture that could still shine through heavy inks. But his earlier work had a gooier, more flowing style that is still absolutely delightful.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

I'll always miss you, Kevin Conroy


There have been a lot of superhero cartoons, and many of them have been great and thrilling and loads of fun, but only the Justice League ones from the early 2000s can squeeze some tears out of me.

Friday, May 26, 2023

I gotta get rid of all these trailers

Fucking hell, no wonder our home computer has running slow, I just found a folder hidden within multiple sub folders, absolute full of HD movie trailer from 10-15 years ago. Gigabytes of the shit. 

According to the files, I haven't even looked at these videos for 10 years, but they've been sitting there this whole time, sucking up disk space like a mofo. Unwatched and unloved.

I should do a bulk delete, and just get rid of the lot. That would be the sensible thing to do.

Like everybody else, I watch movie trailers on Youtube now, so there's no reason to store them on the home PC. I used to obsessively go through all the films on the most excellent Dave's Movie Trailer Page, and download every single trailer for films that even looked a little bit interesting (and this was still probably less than 10% of the trailers that Dave put up on his site.)

I even had an extremely nerdy system, where once I'd seen a coming attraction, I would move it into the 'seen it' file, just to keep track of what I've seen. Keeping track of everything coming out in a fractured media landscape is something you figure out for yourself..

And they just accumulated there over years, and now that I've found them again, there is a worringly large amount of films in that file that I don't remember watching at all, (but I must have, because they're in that 'seen' file).

I should just delete them all. But hell, I only need to delete some of the biggest and most worthless to keep the PC alive for a longer, if only as a reminder that I need to watch The Box again. Nobody else is ever going to remind of that.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

What Ifs only ever needed a short answer

One of the most enjoyable things about Marvel's old What If comics and DC's one-off Elseworld specials was that they were paced like a rocket-ship, blowing up the world and sifting through the pieces in a few dozen pages.

They still put out the odd one-shot that replicates this easy formula, but there are they are also entire series of comics in new parallel universes - Injustice comics and Marvel Zombies nonsense - all outside of regular continuity, and they just go on and on.

Unfortunately, they all rely on the same tricks -  the shock horror of the sudden death (this is the one where Batman is the first to be taken out, this is the one where Spider-Man is the first sacrifice); the ragtag group of random survivors that somehow fight on.

These comics obviously have some kind of audience, but it's all a bit pointless. Most recently, I tried The Dark Ages - another six-issue Marvel sidestep into a world where electricity disappears overnight -  from the local library, and it's just the same thing old thing, and nothing means anything.

It's also seeping into regular continuities with endless multiverse shenanigans, you can't even have a story about your friendly, neighbourhood Spider-man story without a million bloody variants all showing up. 

I can understand the appeal, especially when regular continuities have been totally fucked up over decades of terrible, terrible comics. But they always feel better as a short, sharp shock, rather than a new branch of the never-ending saga that just keeps on going.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

What a shithead!

His funky and chunky guitar riffs were a huge factor in getting me into Faith No More, (and I've never got out again - I'll see them anytime, anywhere). But the way Jim Martin delivers this one line in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey might be his finest performance ever, and it's a sentiment and tone I have employed on a daily basis since 1991.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Hitman: Ain't no old dog

Hitman is a series I return to every couple of years, and I always enjoy revisiting the whole thing, from the Bloodlines to the tragedies of Closing Time. And I have increasingly come around to the view that it was the best thing Garth Ennis did in the 90s (and I have literally read it all). 

A lot of it has to do with the wonder of John McCrea's art (especially with the crucial Leach inks), but it's somehow also the writer's most earnest, and occasionally heartfelt comic of the period. His dose of the absurdity was a surprisingly good fit, out there on the very edges of the DC universe.

But even though I've read the entire Hitman story a few times, and know all the beats and jokes and pay-offs, the final page of #50 gets me every time.

It follows an absolute massacre, a Wrath of God vengeance from Tommy Monaghan which isn't even really dwelt on, all covered in one devastating double-page spread. Because the wiping out of the usual wretched scum isn't the point, it's all about the loss of a loved one.

When I see what's written on Sean Noonan's gravestone, it breaks my heart every time. It speaks to all the friendships and comradeships among the men who deal in death, and the deep connections they made, all in a comic that is full of super douches, demon bartenders and assorted monsters. 

It's as good as Hitman ever got, and damn, it was good a lot.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Signal To Noise: The first graphic novel at the library

Libraries were not the place to find comics when I was growing up. Not the comics that I was obsessed with anyway, not anything with superheroes or 2000ad characters. There were always loads of Tintin and Asterix and they were undoubtedly great, but that was the full and complete extent of it.

And then, one day in the early 90s, I stumbled across Signal To Noise in the 741.5 section of the Timaru Library and that changed everything

It was the original version published by Victor Gollancz in 1992. I was vaguely aware of Neil Gaiman's work on Sandman, but had only read an issue or two, enough to know it was a thing. So one of the very first things I did when the library got a new computer catalogue system was hit up all the comic book writers I knew and see if they had anything by them. They didn't have any John Wagner or Len Wein, but they had a Gaiman.

And no lie - it blew my fucking brain. The book was gorgeous and unlike anything I'd ever read before. It was the first proper graphic novel I'd ever seen, and was exactly as pretentious as I needed as a 18-year-old, and Dave McKean's style challenged everything I thought I knew about the sequential art game.

It was a transcendent experience to read this comic, and I found it hidden away in the non-fiction section of my local library.

The Timaru Public Library is legitimately one of my favourite places in the whole world. I love the way the smell of damp old books clashes with the building's sleek modernist lines, I love the big mama statue on the lawn, and the books I got out from there over the years have opened all the doors in the world to me. 

When I first went there, I haunted the D area in the kids section, looking for more Terrance Dicks Doctor Who books; I later read Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire during lunchtimes from my job down the road; and later still, I went through a weird Graham Greene phase sparked by seeing his books on the shelves.

But nothing was as great as finding my first graphic novel. It didn't just blow my mind that comics like this existed, the fact they even made it to my corner of the world was even more astounding.

Now the library system has hundreds and hundreds of graphic novels available, including a couple of dozen by Gaiman. But they don't have Signal To Noise anymore. That's okay, it's just another graphic novel and would get lost in all that noise. But once it was a bright signal, beamed straight into my head.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Marvel Fanfare portfolios #15: Colleen Doran

Doran's pin-ups - built on a rock-solid foundation of strong body language - always had the pop thrill of the now. She also did the most gorgeous eyes in comics, so it's no wonder her Longshot was so rad.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Batmobiles for the babies

Hot Wheels are cheap as hell and you can buy them everywhere and they last ages. The youngest kid loves them intensely, so of course I'm getting him all the Batmobiles I can. 

I obviously started with the car from the 60s series, because that's still the best one ever, but have several from the 90s films, and the one from the much-missed Brave and Bold cartoon. I need to get one from the most recent movie, because that was a terrific car, even if it has to have some kind of nuclear or jet propulsion to really be a proper Batmobile.

They're all very sleek and very sturdy, and are getting much attention from the young one. And the best part is find them lying around the house - buried in brown sugar or in the sock drawer. I don't know what they're doing there, not even Batman could figure that out, but it's damn near the most fun you can have with a Batmobile without ever actually getting in one.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Die Hard: 'I'm gonna fuckin' cook you, and I'm gonna fuckin' eat you'

When your first proper action film is Die Hard, with all the thrills and wit and violence and swearing that you ever could possibly ask for, what hope does any other action film ever have? 

I was a purely horror and science fiction kid, and didn't think of action as its own thing. The high-octane excitement of Terminator was still sci-fi, and anything that could happen in the mundane world was always going to be of less interest. But then I saw Bruce Willis jump off that roof Die Hard and it changed fucking everything.

I didn't see it in the theatre - just a bit young for that - but watched it dozens and dozens of times on video, and the whole film is etched into my soul. After years and years of homages and rip-offs, it's easy to underestimate the impact it had, but it really was something special, with its cop/disaster flick amalgam; the best possible main villain; the greatest hero, and the greatest henchmen

And that entire rooftop explosion sequence is so well timed and so well-paced, it still stands up well, especially with the immortal wonder of the 'we're going to need some more FBI guys, I guess' line to cap it off.

So it ruined me for all other action films ever since. Nothing topped it, and I tried fucking everything. There were awesome new delights in Hong Kong action films, where you could see things that nobody else is doing in the world, but nothing hit me in the fucking face like Die Hard.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Have a sook!

It's just another stupid Simpsons meme - one of thousands and thousands that have been produced in the decades the cartoon series has run - but it's absolutely one of my very favourites, because it actually helps me deal with some of the rotten bullshit in this world.

I had to deal with some terf-related nonsense at work recently and I just couldn't back down on it, because that shit is everywhere and you can't capitulate to bigots - they're never fucking satisfied. We're at one of those periods of time when all the hateful fucks are crawling out of the woodwork to blame somebody else for their own crushing inadequacies, and you just have to say no to that shit.

I have no time for it, and will always stand by my trans brothers and sisters and others. That's really easy, because they're fucking decent and cool people to stand with.

I really don't know the best way to deal with the smooth-brained motherfuckers who spew hate at them, other than ignore them and refuse to give in to their insane demands. It's also such loser shit, and the only way to deal with loser shit is to mock it and laugh at it, which is also really easy because it's loser shit.

And I literally can't think of a better way to describe that feeling, than this pic from the Simpsons, of an Australian who doesn't give a fuck what the wankers want. Tell 'em to go have a sook, and get on with your life. It's an excellent piece of advice, which I am utilising on a daily basis.

I'm happy enough out here on my inflatable of righteousness. I might be floating in the sun, but I'm not giving them a fucking inch.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The algorithm still don't know me

We're all getting bombarded with the thrilling predictions and warnings of AI, but the daft pricks who are most evangelical about it - and assuring us that it's not a con and really will change our lives - are the same sorts of people who were telling me 10 years that algorithms will change the world

I don't about that, because I've had a tiny presence on Facebook for 15 years and it stil ldon't fucking know me, and is still delivering me unreadable shit that I have no time for.

I am not the market for cheap car parts and bitcoin, and I don't know why it keeps showing me posts from random strangers getting into car accidents, or weird pop culture accounts full of dull Star Wars memes. I just wanted to know what my dearest friends and family were up to. That's all I wanted, and the algorithm can't even figure that out, so I'm not holding my breath for the AI singularity anytime soon. 

That said, I was deeply, deeply freaked out by watching this fucking AI thing the other day, and it has been giving me the shits on a cosmic scale ever since, and I still can't stop watching it. That is how the world ends.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Band of Brothers: You all deserve long and happy lives in peace

I'm a pacifist for life, mainly because I read Charley's War at a worryingly young and impressional time in my life, but I do still enjoy war stories -  the depths they can find in the human condition, with people driven to their absolute limit in the most appalling of circumstances. 

The incredible drama and the sad, horrible and genuinely moving insights they offer into the human soul, while trying to say something about the type of deep, deep comradeship that only ever exists in combat.

There have been dozens of great war movies over the past century, ones that can make you weep and rage, and Band of Brothers was as good as any of them - a TV series that was full of grim wonders.

It was a story that never shied away from the horror of war, the futility of so many deaths, and the grim resolve of those who have vowed to get the damn job done. And such great storytelling that doesn't hold your hand through the thick confusion of battle. You can't always follow the tactics, but can keep an eye on one man in the storm, and every time I watch the series again, it's a different man.

And the humanity of the thing - the  kid's face lighting up like a goddamn lighthouse when he gets to eat chocolate for the first time, or Winters telling his dog-tired men not to go on their final mission -  comes with some incredible action - whether it's Winters making his final charge, or Spiers running through the German forces to get a message to the other side (and then coming back again).

And that final speech, where the disbanding army speaks of the love and bonds that the solders share, that nobody else will ever understand, comes from the other side. It's a blunt tool to show the bare truth of the raw soldier, thrown into war by their uncaring elites, and left to fight for the man beside them, which means far more than any ideology.

I watch all 10 episodes of this remarkable show every couple of years, and it has so many multitudes to it, that there is something new to it every time. There might be a million war stories out there, but this one counts more than most.

Monday, May 15, 2023

I don't miss the Reign, but I do miss that hunt

Growing up as a comic obsessed kid on the arse end of the world meant I was always missing something. With the price of the things and the dodgy distribution, I would never be able to get the whole series. I would be constantly missing issues, even with new series - I got nine whole issues of the New Warriors before #10 skipped town entirely, and it literally took me years to track it down.

I would miss a 2000ad at least once a year and that would also take several aeons to find the missing issue. It still happens today - prog 2308 never showed up at the local newsagent the other week. At least I can just easily buy that from the official 2000ad website, so the wait isn't as long as it used to be.

So finding all the Reign Of The Supermen comics - every single one from the death of the big man to the mulleted Superman's return - was a delightful core, and while I don't miss the comics themselves, I do miss that enthusiasm for them.

I had been a total mark for post-Crisis Superman for a while, and had just started getting a couple of the series regularly about a year before the whole Death thing hit. As the nerdiest of teenagers, I found the uncertainties of Kal-el's future intoxicating, and I still remember how good it was when they wouldn't even confirm if Superman was returning.

And then there were a whole bunch of Supermen flying around and keeping track of that 18-issue run was so fucking hard. There was no way to avoid reading the story out of order - I could get the Dan Jurgens Superman comics from one of the local dairies, but had to travel to fuckin' Ashburton to get the Stern/Guice Action Comics issues.

The series came out when I had just started working and had a car and the cash to get all the goddamn comics I wanted, and it only took me a year after the run ended before I got the last Man of Steel and I had all the issues in that long Reign. 

It was enormously satisfying.

I sold 'em all off back in the mid 2000s, with few regrets, because real life was getting in the way. They were a lot of comics and while I will go to my grave swearing that Tom Grummett has been criminally underrated by comics fandom, I had no trouble ditching them.

And because time is a flat circle, I just got some random issues of this era again at a recent kilo sale, and got to read them for the first time in years. They're fine. They're perfectly mid-range 90s superhero comics and while that is my jam sometimes, I really don't feel any urge to find the rest and recomplete the set.

Because it ain't the comics I miss from those days of long ago. It's that hunt, that mission, that dumb fervour for bloody Superman comics that was only possible in the gaping freedom of youth. I couldn't bag that away in mylar, no matter how hard I tried.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Marvel Fanfare portfolios #14: Terry Austin

The heft that Terry Austin's inks always brought to other artists is always there in his own pencils, with an endearing awkwardness that gives his subjects a slight taste of the real world.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

How can fucking swans not fucking be somebody's fucking thing, eh?

One of the most purely enjoyable things in the art of cinema is seeing a very serious and classically trained actor play the biggest fucking psycho in the world.

Whether it's Ben Kingsley's Don Logan in Sexy Beast (I still seriously have nightmares about Don Logan showing up and calling me a cunt), or the sublime showcase of Ralph Fiennes' performance in In Bruges, it's always top value.

You could always count on Fiennes to bring the villainy, ever since his casual murder from the balcony in Schindler's List. But to really chew it up, and bombard the audience with the sheer force of all that personality, all that strength of will, twisted into pure malevolence, and enunciated so clearly. Sheer fucking bliss, you cunt.

Friday, May 12, 2023

A Star Trek can take a while

I was fully on board for the 21st century reboot of the Star Trek movies, and enjoy the three films we got with dubious enthusiasm (especially the Khan one). They're clumsy in weirdly avoidable ways, but were exceptionally cast, had fantastic production design and were never afraid to dip into the wider Trek saga for extra pathos, even as they boldly went forward.

The films didn't set the box office universe on fire, but did okay, and there is almost constant talk of further adventures. Usually it's when one of the main cast have a new movie out and some intrepid entertainment journo brings it up again, but they all seem reasonably keen.

There was no way the Tarantino one was ever happening, though. Dream on, McCoy.

And while the rumours seem to have as much substance as a fart in the vacuum of space, I don't mind waiting for the next one, even if it takers 20 years, because the very best Star Trek always has a few light years under its belt.

When it's an older crew manning their stations on the bridge, there is warmth in the years they have together, in that shared experience. Towards the end of the third and final (so far) Star Trek movie in that new universe, young Spock finds an image from an impossible universe, and it's one where he has grown old and closer to the best goddamn friends in the galaxy. Age hasn't wearied them, it's only brought them together, because they're always stronger together

It all went down like that in the recent Picard series, where the only moments that rang false were the  ones that had the crew needlessly arguing again, generating fake conflict - Riker and Picard are too old to bicker about tactics, they choose a path and they stick with it. Getting to see that crew operating again as a gestalt entity is just a lovely sight. 

Bringing back the full cast of the most recent cinematic crew of the USS Enterprise is tragically impossible after the loss of Anton Yelchin, but the casting was such a joy, and all the rest can come back in 10 or 20 years and inhabit the roles all over again.

Maybe it is a bit bizarre that the Star Trek's mightiest efforts were all told when the crew were 50+, whether it's the original crew, or the next generation. That's when they're at their best, when they go into battle against the Klingons or the Borg or whoever threatens the rest of the galaxy, with clear eyed wisdom.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Lord of the Flies: That's not how people work

Whenever some section of modern civilization is hit by some huge natural disaster, you always get the same wankers who are convinced it's all going a bit Lord of the Flies. That everyone will inevitably go feral and tear each other apart in a bid for survival.

That fucking book has convinced us all that we turn into monsters, and has a lot to answer for, because that attitude can have real effects in real life.  

It's everywhere in contemporary fiction, with The Walking Dead mining the same rotting ground for years, and it's still a major part of prestige drama in the year 2023 - that one episode of The Last Of Us where love and compassion override selfishness was an aberration, not the norm for the show, which was full of murderous doctors, fascist dickbags and "ordinary folk" killing each other with a horrific casualness. 

(I remain convinced that America is the only country that has ripped itself apart in the Walking Dead, and the rest of the world have dealt efficiently with the zombie problem, and are all just a bit embarrassed how much Americans turned on each other)

But William Golding was a depressed drunk who struggled with all kinds of anxiety his whole life, and that worldview might make great fiction, but it's usually only fiction. In disasters, people don't turn on each other, they pull together and help each other out, because that's what human beings do.

It happened after Hurricane Katrina, where breathless reports of rampant violence in the aftermath turned out to be total horseshit. And it happened here in New Zealand a couple of months ago, where another huge storm destroyed the homes of hundreds of people, and social media were full of reports of looting and violence, when there wasn't any more crime than usual, and the vast majority of people just helped their goddamn neighbours out.

We don't have to turn on each other when shit goes down, and we mostly don't. Lord of the Flies has all sorts of meaning and metaphors that still ring true - making it such a classic tale - but it's really not a blueprint for how people work.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

DC events always brought the gang back together

My favourite part in almost all of the DC crossovers of the 80s and 90s (there wasn't one in Legends, interestingly), was always the bit where everyone gathers in a big room or space somewhere, and you get a snapshot of what's hot and what's not in the DC universe at the time. 

Look, there's the six month period when people were supposed to give a shit about Damage; and there's the Justice League International at the time. See when they try and make the Forever People a thing again. Look at how the artist who does the worst job - reducing figures to scratchy outlines because there is a really rad computer screen he wants to show off - becomes the biggest artist in comics for a while.

The big guns are always there, but there are still changes in costume and style. These times never last as heroes change and evolve, but they'll always have those times there was a Crisis to deal with.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Me and Morrison: Looking at the writer for the first time

It was one of the Zenith interludes that changed the way I read comics. The one with Cloud 9 and Spook falling into a mirror. That was the first time I ever bothered to look up the writer's name and make a conscious effort to follow their work. 

I had been a fan of particular artists and characters for a long while, but I never really worried who actually wrote the things. Who cared about something like that? It was a different story with artists and I had definite favourites from a very young age - I knew my Bollands from my Gibbons, obviously. But I didn't care about who was responsible for the plot and the words.

But those six pages of prime Zenith was so good, with their hints of an alternate universes where superheroes became strange pop stars, and my 12-year-old self desperately had to know more about this "Grant Morrison" guy.

This proved to be a phenomenally good decision, because following Morrison's witty, smart and sexy comics over the next thirty-plus years has been ridiculously rewarding. 

After taking note of the writer's name, I followed them as far as I could. Morrison's stories were soon showing up in American comics, but I had absolutely no access to any of that stuff and there was no internet, so the Doom Patrol and Animal Man comics would have to wait. All I had was the 2000ad.

To this day, I remain hugely fond of the entire Zenith story, and Steve Yeowell's constantly shifting and line-prefect art. I liked how it could be really mean and nasty, and then pull a twist out of its glorious arse at the last milli-second, and make everything okay. 

After the Zenith, the first things I could find by the writer were in the galaxy's greatest comic. The wicked sense of humour in the early Future Shocks, and then the Summer Offensive, (which always felt more like Mark Millar's baby, to be honest). The Rian Hughes-illustrated Really and Truly is a candy-corn delight, and Big Dave was very, very funny, but his Judge Dredd comics were not good.

Morrison wasn't the only creator I started following at around the same time, but he was the very first and inspired me to read more of that Moore guy who did DR and Quinch, or quickly figure out that the only real Dredd was John Wagner Dredd.

I still read everything Morrison does to this day, to varying degrees of enjoyment. I went hard on the Invisibles in the 90s, I still miss the regular dose of Batman they gave us in the 21st century, and was chuffed beyond words by that clip I saw of him showing up in the Teen Totans TV show the other day.

I didn't know I'd still be following their work when I flipped back six pages to look at that credit box back in 1987. All I knew was that I really liked the way this writer was thinking, and was ready and willing to follow their path, and hope for the best. 

Monday, May 8, 2023

Not everyone has to like Queen

I was freaking desperate for Innuendo to be #1 when Queens released in 1991. Back in the days when people actually gave a shit about the charts, I wanted it to be #1 so bad, because then it would play on Ready To Roll and I would be able to tape the music video and watch it till my eyes bled.

Even more than that, I wanted it to be number one so more people would know about it, because everybody had to like Queen. I was 16 years old and a massive Queen fan and convinced that if I liked it, it must be good, and you should like it too.

I'm so glad I grew out of that twisted sense of privilege and entitlement, even if it took me a while to  realise that everybody didn't have to like the same stuff.

Even the most beloved movies and TV shows have their haters - people who think The Godfather is pretentious trash, or that The Wire ain't all that. But hell, in the immortal words of modern philosophers Groove Armada -  if everybody looked the same, we'd get tired of looking at one another.  

To take offense at that, like I did when I was 16 and demanding to know why everybody couldn't recognise the same genius that I could see in Queen, is so fucking immature, and I'm glad I got it out of my system then. Sometimes it still flares up, when someone tells me Mad Man is trash, but I can let it go pretty easily.

Innuendo did make a dent in the charts in New Zealand - I'm convinced I remember it making all the way to #1, but the historical record only has it reaching 10, so who fucking knows? Whatever the final score, they did play it on Ready To Roll, the one place you could find new music videos o nan early Saturday night. And I was ready with my remote to tape it, and then it came on and all was well with the world, until they cut it off right as it got to the saucy bits. I was fucking gutted. You couldn't fucking win.

Now you can find almost any music video ever made in three seconds on YouTube. You can like whatever you want, and that variety makes this whole world hum, man.

Still, you should check out the video for Innuendo. It's not the most important thing in the world, not like it once was for me, but you still might like it.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Marvel Fanfare portfolios #13: Charles Vess part two

Seriously, we should have got a hundred issues of a Loki comic by Vess.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

What a way to make a living!

I really wasn't sure about Dolly Parton as a kid. When I first became aware of her in the eighties, she was already insanely popular, writing huge pop hits and starring in big movies. But she had such a massive, forceful and bright persona - all teeth, hair and boobs - I genuinely found it too much. 

But then, as I got older, my punk hatred of mainstream pop cowboy songs could never stand up to the power of Dolly. This was for two important reasons - 1) by all accounts she is a thunderingly kind and generous person and 2) she wrote some tunes that are still absolute bangers.

I can't do a 9-5 shift at work without humming along to that funky, funky beat all day long, and Joelene will break your heart, whatever way you want to interpret it. It took me a while, but I finally fell for the power of Dolly.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Led Zepplin: Just the hits, thanks

Like most people in the world, sometimes I really can't help accidentally being a bit Alan Partridge. And whenever I've been asked what my favourite Led Zepplin album is, I'm like Alan when he picks 'The Best of The Beatles', because I have to say... it's the Early Days and Latter Days collections.

Zepplin were always the ultimate singles band for me, with powerful tunes, epic scope and great warbling. Some of the smartest, most chonking drums in history, basslines that were way more intricate than they had any right to be, a freakishly talented guitarist, and one of the great shrieks in rock and roll history.

But I just never had the albums when I was growing up and never got the flow of the things, beyond the way they were chosen for the greatest hits. When I finally got around to listening to the albums, I turned out to be a total fucking fairweather fan because it just seemed like a lot of arsing about between the big tunes.

I'm not a total heathen - obviously I know the first album kicks off with Good Times Bad Times - but I honestly couldn't tell if which of the first four albums all the other big songs come from. (The numbers they used for each album, instead of proper bloody titles, never helped.)

It doesn't matter, I still regularly get caught embarrassingly drumming along to When The Levee Breaks in the car when I'm waiting at a red light and have an unwritten and unbreakable law that if I'm channel skipping on the radio and come across Stairway to Heaven, I gotta listen to the whole damn thing.

I love the concept album as much as the next pretentious wanker, but sometimes, all I need is the hits.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

You can't kill Captain Boomerang!

I have a lot of time for James Gunn's take on the absurdity of superheroes, and think his films benefit from the Troma hidden deep in his DNA. It's not the only way to do superhero films, but the sincere snarkiness of Gunn's movies is usually fun and sometimes nakedly sentimental, and it works for me. I look forward to seeing the new Guardians of the Galaxy next week.

That said, I still can't fucking believe he killed Captain Boomerang.

Not everything about the 80s Suicide Squad comics by Ostrander, Yale and friends has aged that well, but one thing that is still a delight - 35 years later - is that Captain Boomerang is a fucking idiot who doesn't belong in this world, but somehow scrapes by.

He should be robbing banks in Central City and getting his arse handed to him by the Flash. But there he is, in the thick of black ops with massive body counts, just trying to keep his head connected to his shoulders. 

And in a comic like suicide Squad, where even the most powerful characters weren't safe from a sudden shocking death - the clue was always in the name - Captain Boomerang kept going. He survives the cosmic nightmare Apokalips and the worst that Kobra can chuck at him. He's not a particularly nice person, but you have to admire his self-preservation skills.

So when the cinematic version of the loudmouth Australian - as played by Jai Courtney, who shows charm he rarely gets to use in the very serious action films he usually appears in - gets killed five minutes into the second Suicide Squad movie, it really hurts.

It's easy to see why they did it - it's all about the shock value. It's like a Scream movie, just because you survived one encounter with Ghostface doesn't mean you'll get through the next. Even Randy knew that.

But it misses the point of having Captain Boomerang in the first place. His continued survival is patently absurd, and that's the whole reason we like him. He doesn't have much else going for him. 

Still, as much as I love the Boomer. I gotta appreciate the troll of having one seemingly dead character suddenly get up and walk away into the end credits, and it's the fuckin' Weseal. Well played, Mr Gunn. Well played.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Mia Goth says it with a smile

All the goodwill I had towards movie award ceremonies from the sight of blimmin' Short Round getting the highest prize didn't last long, mainly due to the fact that one spectacular win doesn't make up for years of bullshit. But it totally evaporated when I saw Pearl the other night, and the remarkable things Mia Goth does in the last 15 minutes of that movie, because she should have won all the awards in the world.

All of them, for the end credits alone.