Friday, June 30, 2023

Always time for Jason Isaacs

The older I get, the more likely I am to watch a movie just because I like a particular actor in it. While most of my life as a movie nerd has been spent in following directors, writers and cinematographers, now I'm more likely to watch something just because it has Jason Isaacs in it.

After all, there is a known quality there. His appearance in a film means that no matter how awful it might be in almost every way, at least we get some Jason Isaacs.

He absolutely fucks the screen as Zhukov in the Death of Stalin, with one of the top 10 movie entrances ever; he's so good at playing a bad guy in the Patriot and a Star Trek captain from the mirror universe, but also can just be a bloody good bloke. I watched Mrs Harris Goes to Paris last week because he was in it and found his moderate rogue (with oceans of charm) entirely palatable. He has the best mustache in cinema in Green Zone, and I only just found out he was almost in the first John Wick, which could only improve on perfection

I just like watching charming people do their charming shit on screen. I lap that up and ask for more, every time. It's the same with comics, where I barely follow any writers anymore, but have dozens of artists whose work I will always hunt down. It's the aesthetic I dig, not the clever.

The older I get, the more I just like looking at nice things. Like Jason Isaacs.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

You can't kill the multiverse now

The under-performance of the new Flash movie has already been attributed to a bunch of different things, from the star's off-screen foolishness to the general fucking weirdness of the movie, but there is no shortage of very serious people pontificating about how audiences are getting sick of multiverses, and that it's time for the concept to be rested.

Good luck with that, kids. Nerds have been trying to put that cork back in the bottle for decades.

There have been a tonne of different movies involving multiversal shenanigans in recent years. The superhero movies are getting all sorts of new toys out of them, and they're winning Oscars for this shit now.

It's fitting that it's the Flash that might have tipped the balance, because this was all Barry bloody Allen's fault in the first place, crossing worlds to team up with Jay Garrick. While that soon led to annual crossovers between Societies and Leagues, and Earths 3, B and S, it was all fairly restrained, as far as these things go.

And then the 1980s rolled along and DC, in all their charming naivety, thought things were getting too complicated for the average reader, and they tried to do away with the whole thing with the biggest Crisis ever.

Cramming it all into one earth lasted for a good three months, before DC was relying on pocket universes and vibrational dimensions to paper over the cracks, and the DC multiverse has now been rebooted multiple times, and is more prevalent than ever, and just as confusing as ever.

Marvel has had its own multiverse for decades, and has become increasingly blase about oversaturating its stories in alternative versions, while still pretending that the one single 616 universe still makes some kind of sense. 

Neither of these big comic companies show any sign of dialing back on the multiverse thing, and all those who are now sniffly predicting that mass audiences are getting tired of it too may have some point, but you can't get rid of that idea so easily. It'll stick around.

I expect there will be plenty of new movies coming about another world, another life, another you. The multiverse can't die, not when a doppelganger idea from the next universe over can always take over.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Outlander is still there

I'm absolutely completely gutted that the Reader's Book Exchange is going, but at least the posters in the window of the old Majestic Theatre just up the road, with the hot video releases of 2010, are still there.

Man, I hope nobody ever takes them down. They're a goddamn institution now.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Izzat so?

My latest essay for the thoroughly fucking excellent Gutter Review argues that even though he is literally the most heavy metal character in all of Judge Dredd, Mean Machine Angel is actually a big old softie at heart.

I'm not saying I won't still get the hell out of his way when he gets his dial stuck on 4-1/2 and he goes butt-crazy, but I am saying it's not his fault.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Putting a whole life into storage

None of the comics I've ever owned - and I've had thousands and thousands of the fuckers - have ever gone into long-term storage. The collection has been scattered a couple of times when I've moved between cities, but I was never away from my precious Judge Dredd Megazines for more than a few weeks.

We got a storage unit a couple of years ago to handle the overflow of stuff that no longer fits into our small flat, and it's been useful as hell. Lots of clothes and large pieces of small furniture went in there, and I've now stored a bunch of books and magazines in there - the collection of Empire magazines has been growing since 1993, so that's almost a whole corner of the unit there.

That just meant I could fit more comics under the bed at home, so none of them had to go into the big metal box. I just never knew when I'd get the sudden urge to read Tom Strong comics again, or check in to see if I was remembering that one line of dialogue from Garth Ennis' first Punisher issue correctly. What's the point of owning them if you don't have instant access?

That has been a luxury I have clung to for the past couple of years, but now I have to face facts - almost all of it will have to go into storage for a while.

I'm going to have to put most of my comics into storage for 12 months or so next year, and while I know they'll be safe and okay, I'm genuinely bummed out about it.

Part of it is the paranoia that has been fed by watching far too much Storage Wars, what if I get the payments wrong, or the company fucks up somehow and they sell it all off? Literally a lifetime of collecting, sold off to fuckin' Daryl for $300? I'm going to be 1000 kilometres away, shit like that could just happen.

But it's also that I just like having it around, my own personal library, all at my fingertips. I'm just self-aware enough to recognise how fucking shallow it is to have a personality built on the piles of comics under the bed, but I'm comfortable in those shallows.

I'll still be taking a few books, of course. All the pretty bookshelf stuff, and all the things I always take with me, like the Invisibles, the early 2000ads and the Hitman. Probably Tom Strong, now that I think about it. Combined with the usual avalanche of new books to read, there will be more than enough to keep me going for the year we're planning to be away.

But a storage locker ain't no library. It's a cold place for these vibrant things, that still spark such joy and wonder in me, even if I've read them a hundred times before. That's why I keep them, after all. And that's why I always want to keep them near.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Who Was Who in the DC Universe: I'm that bad type (part 1 of 2)

The Penguin by Jim Aparo

Ares by Cynthia Martin

Silver Banshee by Dusty Abell and Terry Austin

Chronos by Gil Kane

Magna Khan by Joe Phillips

Sundays at the Tearoom of Despair have been a Marvel day for most of this year, showcasing some of my favourite art from the back pages of Marvel Fanfare. So it's only fair to head across the road to the Distinguished Competition for a while, and highlight some more of my favourite profile pics from DC's Who's Who portfolios from the early 90s.

Because when it comes to DC, my greatest enthusiasm for their comics was at this time, and they were producing some sweet, sweet art.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

This is my life now: This time for Africa!


I knew that parenthood would involve me doing a lot of seriously dorky shit - it goes with the job - but I seriously did not think I would spend so much time happily dancing badly to a Shakira song about Africa, and the dance moves of a man called DJ Raphi. But that's what the kids like, and I really can't say no when they tell me to get up off my fat arse and boogie with them.

I still have weird trouble doing that fist bump move, though. I'm working on it, kids. I'm working on it.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Avon would have kicked Ming's arse

I saw both Flash Gordon and Blake's 7 at a very young age, and god bless my parents for letting me, but I'm not sure this was a very good idea, because they both had some very serious ideas floating about, and were both very, very sexy things to watch.

Crucially, I saw them at a time just before home video recorders became a thing, so after seeing them at that young age, I didn't see them again for another six or seven years, which is half of my damn childhood. By the time they were repeated on television, I was a teenager, and was able to clear up some misconceptions - including the fact that I always thought they took place in the same universe.

Basically, I thought General Kala, one of Ming The Merciless' top henchpeople, was a mutoid, one of the soulless soldiers of the evil Federation in Blake's 7. The mutoids only appeared in a couple of episodes, but I never forgot them, largely because of an intense dream I once had about falling through the universe with them.

But they were dressed in black uniforms, with a weird and ornate headpiece covering much of their skull, and my childhood memories confused the two, and the only way I could reconcile them is that they took place in the same universe.

When I saw the film and TV show again, and got to read some comic adaptions of the properties, one of the first things I noticed is that they don't look anything alike at all, other than they wore tight black  uniforms and were generally evil.

(I'll leave the psychology about my youngest self's small obsession with these evil women to the Freud fans, but it's all still kinda obvious. See also: Women, El)

So I know there is no connection between the two - although with Flash filmed in Britain, they undoubtedly shared some of the same movie craftspeople and SFX gurus - but I still think of them as connected, deep down in my soul. And while the cynical and ruthless crew of the Liberator might have ultimately failed to bring down the vast bureaucracy of the Federation, they could have booted Ming's ass back to Mongo.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

What's the best Star War?

There are no shortages of lists about what the best Star Wars films are - anybody who has ever seen all the movies has to list them in preference, at some point or another. I certainly have, but the older and more jaded about it all I get, I really can't be bothered.

After watching all the main nine movies again recently, it's become more obvious that they've all got dumb moments and they've all got great moments. There is something to love in all of them, they've all got moments of sublime film-making. 

The Phantom Menace got sneered at for years, but some of the editing during the podrace is exquisite, and the climactic light-sabre fight set the standard for any kind of swordplay for the next 20 years. 

The audience I was with lost their shit when Yoda got his saber on in Attack of the Clones, and when there is true glee when Palpatine gets to unleash his evil cackle in the last third of Revenge of the Sith  The trench run from the original hasn't been beaten yet; the asteroid chase remains exhilarating cinema and the impassive face of Darth Vader as he watches his son die is still heart-breaking. 

Rey taking up the light sabre in the forest, Luke Skywalker going out to face everybody, it's all fucking great.

Even the lesser films have the charm of Donald Glover, or a Star Destroyer going down. Hell, even Rise Of Skywalker - which really is crippled by its desperate need to impress everybody - has moments of charm and vigor, especially when Adam Driver was finally allowed to swagger.

I've fallen behind on my Star Wars, mainly because I just want space cowboys, not Chosen Ones, and I realised I really only cared about the movies five episodes into the Clone Wars cartoon. 

But I can't be bothered comparing all the films to each other anymore. It's all one giant, glorious galactic mess.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

It's delicate, but potent

At least once a day, I think about the way Don Draper says the word 'potent' as he kicks off his Carousel presentation in Mad Men. 

And I think about the way he later talks about the ache of returning to a place where you know you were loved... Oh my word... I think about that one at least twice a day.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Everybody likes the smoothness of a Romita

When I was a stupid little kid, I thought the art from Kirby and Ditko on the old Marvel comics was, well, old. I couldn't dig the rigidity of Ditko's figures, even as the limbs and fingers splayed everywhere, or the sheer chunkiness of Kirby.

But I never, ever thought John Romita's art looked old. It was always absolutely timeless.

If I picture Spider-Man in my head, it's a Romita drawing. His flowing line was always so smooth, with dynamic storytelling, and characters that were sexy as hell because they had real weight to them - that first appearance of MJ might have been homaged almost to death, but the original art is still hot as hell.

Romita Spider-Man feels like the only real Spider-Man, and his art was the default for all the licensed material, so all the Marvel drink bottles and lunchboxes and underwear all featured his art, just as much as DC relied on José García-López for that exact look.

It's not that it was generic, it's that it was universal, and appeals to everybody everywhere, in a way few Spidey artists ever really matched.

Monday, June 19, 2023

A few tears in the back of the Reader's Book Exchange

This little bookshop, just down from the Majestic Theatre in Timaru, is my favourite shop ever.  I've talked about it before on this blog, because it's a primal part of my life, and there was such wonderful comics waiting at the top of those concrete stairs. 

My Nana Smith worked there when I was a little kid, and the shelves would be oveflowing with comics, and I was allowed to go in every Tuesday and swap out a full paper grocery bag of them. Unsurprisingly, that instilled a love of the medium that is still there today.

I still treasure some of the comics I first read then, Unknown Solider and Uncanny X-Men and Jonah Hex and Whizzer & Chips, and I kept going back, long after my Nana moved on to work at the town's first video rental place. It's a store where I got a lot of the crucial back issues of 2000ad from the early '80s, and where I took back a Hobbit I didn't want, and where the most excellent Exploits of Spider-Man comic would always show up a month after it was new in the regular bookstores, for a quarter of the price. My Nana went back there, not long before she passed away in 2000, and she always gave me Nana deals on the Justice League comics I was buying.

I haven't been a regular customer there since I moved away from Timaru in 2004, but I absolutely always stop in when I came back to visit friends and family. And there was always something - a Michael Moorcock novel I don't have yet, or some movie tie-in. Sometimes even a comic or two.

In an age where everybody can just sell their shit themselves, second hand bookstores have been slowly fading away. Nothing last forever, not least shops full of old junk, so I've always been glad that the Reader's Book Exchange was still there, every time I went back.

But this last time really was the last time. There was a note of the door saying the building was earthquake prone - the latest victim in the long-running aftermath of the Christchurch quakes - and the current owner of the business is looking for someone to buy the stock and chattels, so he can pack up shop and move on.

I know it'll be gone the next time I'm down, even if it's only in a couple of months, so I took one last time look around the shelves, and found a bloody Jonah Hex comic, so that seemed a fitting way to finish things.

And I'm old enough and sentimental enough to admit that I had a little cry in the back room, where the owner couldn't see such an embarrassing display of affection. It's not just that I'd spent so much time in a place that won't exist anymore soon, or all the cool shit that shop has exposed me to, it's the personal thing. It was the last physical connection I had to a grandmother who passed away two decades ago, and it was where my poor old Dad used to buy books about vigilantes wasting terrorists.

It's going to be a weird world without the Reader's Book Exchange, that's for sure. And even if the building isn't safe for use anymore, I hope they keep those stairs.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Marvel Fanfare portfolios: Zeck, Salmons, Sutton, Simonson, Russell, Smith, Kaluta, Leihola, Williams, Romita and Lee


Art by Mike Zeck

Art by Tony Salmons

Art by Tom Sutton

Art by Walt Simonson

Art by P Craig Russell

Art by Paul Smith

Art by Michael Kaluta

Art by Steve Leihola

Art by Kent Williams

Art by John Romita Jr

Art by Jim Lee

Just the best of times, man. The best of times.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Stories From Norway: An average, boring, ordinary, normal boy


I don't know what these Vlvis dudes are on about half the time, but their Justin Bieber episode of Stories From Norway is some kind of mad genius. 

Also, I now find it impossible to walk past any type of construction site without pointing out normal hats, normal bikes, and normal flat-screen TVs. That's normal boy behaviour.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Preacher: I never walked the full walk

I have some hard emotional connections to Preacher - it was the first ongoing comic that I started getting monthly when I first left home, and the last issue came out the week my Nana Smith - who is more responsible for my undying obsession with comic books than any other human being - passed away. I took an issue with me when I stayed in Monument Valley; and whenever I think about how I could sell off my whole comic collection, Preacher is always the first to mind when I consider which one would go last.

It has Steve Dillon's art at its eternal best and Garth Ennis really poured his fuckin' soul into it, and while some of the vibe hasn't aged well - I genuinely think Hitman has held up a lot better over the years - I'll always roll hard for Preacher.

They started talking about a movie version as soon as it came out, but when it finally came to screens, it was as a TV series, and it was pretty good. It was very well cast - Ruth Negga is always top value; Dominic Cooper had the exact right shade of facial hair; Pip Torrens was an exceptionally sharp Starr; and I will literally watch Joe Gilgun in anything.

And while I happily watched the series, and generally thought most of the changes it made to the series were fine, I just realised that it ended four years ago and I still never watched the last season to see how it ends.

It's partly because there is just so much to fucking watch these days, and it's so easy to slip by on things, but I also never felt the compulsion to really hunt it out, so just never bothered. The TV show didn't really have the narrative thrust the comic had - it kept sticking to the same locations, giving it all a sense of inertia, and easier to fall behind on. And maybe it really was a story of its time and place, with some very 1990s storytelling going on, and that time has passed now.

I'll probably catch up one day, but it's been so long since I watched a new episode, I would be completely lost by something that is four seasons deep. Maybe I'll just leave it now, and assume it ends like the comic, with Jessie and Tulip riding off into the sunset. That's how Preacher should always end.

Now I just get my kicks with rabid fans of The Boys TV show going back to read the comics and declaring them THE WORST THING THEY'VE EVER READ, like they're a comic blogger form 2010 or something. New tune, same old song, still fucking funny.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

The Hobbit and the buyer's remorse

Back when we used to travel, my lovely wife would do something wonderful anytime I visited a comic book store. After displaying endless patience as I get excited about finding issues of Swing With Scooter for 50p, just as we were leaving, she would always check that there wasn't something I left behind. Something I'd regret leaving on the shelf.

Usually there wasn't, but every now and then, there was something, and I always went back. She did this because she knew I would be a miserable little bitch if I regretted not getting that Art of Grendel book. That's my usual kind of buyer's remorse when it comes to comics.

I do regret getting entire series long after I stopped enjoying them, and I still I did this a few times. And sometimes I check out after one whole issue, because it's very much not my thing, but I actually don't regret trying it out in the first place. 

There was only ever one time that I took a comic back and asked for my money back. It was the eighties comic adaption of The Hobbit, and even though The Hobbit is the first big book I ever read,  the adaption was over-wordy and a pastel yuck of a comic. I was at a time in mylife where I bought every single fucking comic I could find, and ammassed thousands and thousands of them, and I was so fucking poor I'd often go without a meal or two to buy them.  

But I was half an hour out the door when I realised how goddamn hungry I actually was, and that I really didn't give a shit about this comic and really didn't need it. So I took it back to the second hand store where I bought it, and the owner was a good dude who knew me as a super regular customer since I was 5-years-old, and let this one slide.

It cost me $12 and I spent the money on some Kentucky Fried instead. It was finger-lickin' good, and there were no regrets there.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Great kickings in comics: Dredd v Meatmonger by Siku

Siku's take on Judge Dredd isn't for everybody - the cartoonish jaw doesn't sit well with many, and the hosts of the late, lamented Drokk! podcast gave his art a regular blast. But this kick in the face of a human-harvesting alien in the Meatmonger story, written by John Smith and published in 2000ad in 2003, is as good as it gets. Those McMahon/McCarthy giant boots, going full force into some creep's mush - it's a top 10 Dredd kicking for me.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Element Lad was always too sensitive for this future

All the girls in the Legion of Super-Heroes were cool as fuck, that went without saying. From Shrinking Violet to Shadow Lass, they were all fantastic. Rising up from the inherent sexism of the era they were created, they became strong, independent woman as the team grew and evolved over the years. Obviously, I had a crush on every single one of them.  

But when it came to all the dudes on the team, I also had an odd fondness for Element Lad - Jan Arrah, the last survivor of the planet Trom, after everyone he knew and loved were wiped out by the space pirate Roxxas. He had the ability to create elements out of thin air, which seemed like a simple enough power, but even in the silver age they knew that made him a god.

This poor kid, always putting  brave face on it, always a source of warmth and empathy towards a universe that had done him such harm.

Jan Arrah has really been fucked over a couple of times, in one spectacularly painful version he turned into a mad god who had lived through all of time and murdered the shit out of some his oldest fiends, but I haven't actually read those comics, so I'm going to keep pretending it hasn't happened.

I still just like him as sensitive kid, carrying the weight of his entire extinct race on his shoulders, with such incredible power, but no ability to bring them back. All he could do is create crystal monuments for every fallen soul, and live up to their legacy by being a decent person.

Monday, June 12, 2023

I only drink at funerals now

A good colleague of mine went through a slightly harrowing experience giving up alcohol recently, and while I've been as encouraging as I could be, I didn't want to dwell on the fact that I don't drink anymore as well, because it was just so fucking easy to give up the booze.

Like way too many people, I coped with the stresses and confusions of young adulthood by getting absolutely fucking plastered at least three times a week. It was just a thing that you did with all your peers. It was fun, it loosened you up, and I could drink a fucking tonne of it.

I went through three special fold-out drinking chairs, and I knew what he best booze to price ratio in town was, without resorting to meths (it was a cheap bottle of port, for those in the back row). I walked 20 kilometres over farmland in the middle of the night, full of the sweet grossness of peach schnapps.

Man, I would get so fucked up and sit on the beach reading Michael Moorcock books and endless Invisibles comics. Twice I got way too emotional with a bottle of scrumpy and a Doctor Who New Adventure novel, that I had to crawl out of the sight of decent people. I climbed a small mountain in central Mongolia and drank a bottle of apple vodka and read Love and Rockets strips and felt fucking GREAT the next day.

It got messy, I destroyed an issue of Sandman with an almost unconscious vom, and tried to do the Withnail and I drinking game one New Years Eve and ended up in the back of an ambulance. I still feel really awful about the mean things I said, and that's just the ones I remember. I'm sorry everybody.

I danced really badly and it never fuckin' mattered, I made a fool of myself more often than I really should have, and I've thrown up in the gutter far too many times to count. I didn't get violent, because I'm not a violent person.

I drank less and less over the years, and haven't drank to the point of throwing up in more than a decade and now I haven't had a drink in three years and it's no big deal.

It was mainly for health reasons - guys I used to drink heavily with back in the 90s are now literally dying of liver failure and shit like that - and definitely also because I could not afford the energy of a hangover as a new father. (I never used to drink that much when we travelled for similar reasons.)

All my friends are good people and think it's fine. Peer pressure doesn't matter at my age, and they're all good cunts who don't do shit like that.

While it sounds like the most cliched country song ever, I only drink at funerals now. The only time I'll have a beer is out of respect for some dearly departed, and there's been a couple of those in the past few years. I guess there's always time for one last round, even when you say you've had enough.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Marvel Fanfare portfolios #18: Craig Hamilton

It feels like you could count the number of comic pages Craig Hamilton did for Marvel and DC on one hand. But on the evidence of small amount of the superhero art we do have, at least it'sbe a very sleek and beautiful hand.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Donnie Darko director's cut: Too late to beg you

I genuinely feel that any debate about the merits of endless director cuts - where the filmmaker keeps changing and refining an established movie - was comprehensively settled when Richard Kelly totally fucked up the start of Donnie Darko by replacing 'The Killing Moon' with 'Never Tear Us Apart'.

It's Kelly's film so he can do whatever the fuck he wants, and the INXs song is a certified banger, but Echo and The Bunnymen were so perfect as an opening salvo, setting the tone for the whole film, that it always feels weird to watch it with the other song. It always feels off.

Everything else Kelly did for the extended version, including the fleshing out of the time travel theories, is fine, but messing with a perfect music cue like that is just wrong.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Sir Larry still kills it as King Dick

I feel like such a fucking idiot when I watch some Shakespeare - I can't keep up with the iambic pentameter; I have no idea who half the characters are, even if they play a major part; and all that history is a mystery.

But the stories are so fucking solid, even after hundreds of years of adaptation and reinterpretation. We might not all be the prince of Denmark, but we all know how it feels to be young and unsure. We might not all be in fair Verona, but we've all our hearts broken. We might not be a hunchbacked psychopath in line for the throne, but we've all felt bloody unappreciated.

So I go to plays and watch the movies and feel a little bit smarter every time I do. And every now and then, I see a classic adaption like Laurence Olivier's adaption of Richard III and it still absolutely fucking kills.

It's one of the most famous and celebrated interpretations of the bard, but the most I ever knew about it was that Johnny Rotten wold often cite Sir Laurence's performance as an inspiration for his own stage act, and you can definitely see it.

It's 70 years old, but the energy and colour that Olivier brought to the story still has power, and the whole thing is still brutal, with children murdered on camera (by a future Doctor Who, no less), corpses are thrust into wine barrels and a large amount of folk are getting hacked to death. This is the classics, all right.

Ian McKellen's 30s fascist portrayal is still my favourite King Dick, but Olivier's is absolutely barking, playing to the rafters to his literal last breath, when he's not sneaking his caustic asides to the audience. The part where one of his unfortunate young nephews makes fun of his hump, and seals his fate, is all there in Olivier's hideous glare. It's all there on screen, like the long shot of DeNiro in Goodfellas - where you see him decide that a fucking mook has to go - and Olivier does it in a split second.

I still don't understand all the politics, or how King Richard won and lost support for his cause, and I still can't keep up with that patter, but an apocalyptic-level glare like that is always easy to understand.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Undead ashes, blowing in the wind

Vampire films have always been a favourite thrill of mine, to the point where I am weirdly annoyed that every time a vampire gets staked in some new movie or TV show, the undead instantly crumble away into fire, ash and dust.

It's too neat, and too tidy, and too easy. And stories about bloodsucking leeches in human form shouldn't be any of those things.

There is, obviously, a long history of cinematic vampires withering away when they are destroyed - Max Shreck's Nosferatu faded away to nothing in the daylight sun, and Christopher Lee's Count Dracula was always rotting away in gross technicolor when Peter Cushing got the upper hand.

But once the CGI technology came along to make it a whole lot easier, suddenly every vampire in every vampire film - from the lowest budget nonsense to blockbuster idiocy - was suddenly crumbling into instant dust.

It's usually an attempt to add some visual flair, but it also tidies things up too easily. It was even acknowledged that one of the main reason the vamps in Buffy The Vampire Slayer would dissolve into the dust of the grave when staked or decapitated was that they didn't have to worry about why there were a bunch of corpses being found all around the city.

I just always liked our heroes having to explain why all these dead bodies are lying around, instead of literally sweeping the remains away under a carpet and hoping nobody notices that an apparent human being has just completely vanished.

All that said, I will admit a personal fondness for the way the vampires in the True Blood TV show were destroyed, where a quick poke with a pointed stick and they would instantly explode in a shower of blood and gore. It was always shocking and gross as fuck, and left a hell of a mess behind.  

But monsters shouldn't be convenient, it's part of what makes them monsters. And there is always more dark comedy in the disposal than in getting out the dustpan.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Oink made me sick

Nobody cares about Oink anymore, but it still makes me feel sick to think about it. It was a weekly British kids comic that lasted a couple of years in the 1980s, and I had a really visceral reaction to it when I got my hands on a couple of issues in 1988.

After years of comics like Buster and Whizzer & Chips, Oink was a little bit edgier. While still very much a kid comics, it pointed more towards the glorious depravity of the hugely succesful Viz comic, which ladled lad culture jokes onto the old format. The art was a looser and wavier, with a putrid colour scheme and way too many strips featuring pig-based parodies.

Oink had the earliest work by Charlie Brooker, long before Black Mirror, and occasionally highlighted the charming insanity of Frank Sidebottom, but I'll always remember it for the weird nausea I felt when I read it. I can't even remember what strip set me off, it was the tone of the thing that just felt off, and disorientating to actual physical degree.

I haven't read an issue of Oink in years, and couldn't tell you a single thing about the strips it contained, but that queasiness that comes whenever I think about that comic isn't going anywhere. It was just too much comic for me.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

We all speak the same in the X-Men's universe

I read a lot of X-Men comics when I was very young, but the first one that really hooked me on the whole X-saga was this one, an Australian reprint from the late eighties, which reproduced the last few issues of Dave Cockrum's original run on the book.

It's an excellent place to start a decade-long obsession with all things X, as the X-Men first go fully cosmic, and out into the universe, first bashing skulls with the Imperial Guard and rocking up with the Starjammers. But the thing I'll always remember best about it was the absolute delight I felt when I saw the exchange in these panels:

"Doesn't everybody?"

In hindsight, it was obviously a set-up for the fact that Corsair is a human with a very close familial tie to one of the core X-men, but I didn't know that at the time. All that I knew is that all the questions over why these aliens were understandable was explained with a simple two-word answer, and I thought that was absolutely bloody brilliant. Don't worry about why you're talking to aliens, just acknowledge that you are, and carry on. There's a M'kraan Crystal to sort out.

Of course I'm fully aware of the cultural privilege that comes with the English language being the one that makes it all the way out into space, but I would have been just as chuffed if it had been Spanish or Mandarin or anything else. The simplicity is the thing, not the actual linguistics.

I'm sure there are many, many Marvel comics that have tackled the issue of interstellar communications , and I didn't need to read any of them.  As a massive Dr Who nerd, I've read way too many theories about why the Doctor and his companions can understand each other, and I'm always most satisfied with the handwave of 'The TARDIS is magic'. 

But so much nerdy stuff has this issue now - the new Lord of the rings TV show thought we needed to know the secret origin of Mt Doom, for some godforsaken reason, and there's just way too many prequels filling in gaps that never needed to be filled, instead of making new things.

You could sweat all the small stuff, or you could just you could just ignore it all and get on with saving the universe. It's what the X-Men would do.

Monday, June 5, 2023

The paperbacks are broken and faded, but are still precious

I have big bookcases full of lovely oversized hardbacks - gorgeous art books that are so heavy they could kill a man, collected editions of great works, embossed beauties and the finest big novels.

But for a long, long time, my bookcases were full of cheap mass-market paperbacks. They gradually got pushed out by all the prettier editions, but they were all I could afford for years, and were a cheap and productive way to fill my young brain.

As physical objects, the small, mass-market paperbacks don't last - their spines crack and they fade and they look like shit after a decade or so, especially if they're actually read. 

And as I slowly got nicer and nicer books to show off to the world on my shelves - I judge everybody by their bookcases and am an utter fucking snob about it, so you bet I put a lot of thought into how much of my literary arse I'm showing -  the paperbacks got shoved into boxes, disappearing down the back of cupboards, filling space in banana boxes that were otherwise stuffed full of Marvel comics.

I've recently started pulling them together and cataloging them a bit better to see what I actually have, and realised I still loved these faded little fuckers as much as the highest-price book on any shelves.

I love the old Fighting Fantasies and all the other chances to choose your own adventure; I'm delighted by how many Michael Moorcock and Phillip Jose Farmer I actually have; and I do have a lot more tight collections of gags from Mad Magazine than I thought.

I've always known where my Jack Yeovil and Douglas Adams books are, but I've also found I still have a lot of the Stephen Kings that I bought when I went through the inevitable King as a 16-year-old, and I still feel the fear when I see the purple cover for Pet Semetary.

I love the large amount of movie adaptions that I ended up buying - the best are the first Star Wars (with all the blood and bone floating in zero-g) and the Robocop adaption - and I love that I've still got the first few Wild Cards. I love all the Clive Barker and all the Kurt Vonnegut and all the Joe R Lansdale; and most of the Carl Hiaasen and most of the Stephen Hunter.

The vast majority of them came from second hand bookstores, where you can always find a few minor masterpieces for less than $5, and after shuttling them around my various homes and cities for years, they're  all scuffed and ripped up, so wouldn't ever be able to sell them, 

I've never going to sell them anyway, they're as precious to me now as ever. Even if they're not on the most obvious shelves, they're always in my literary heart.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Marvel Fanfare portfolios #17: Brent Anderson

Astro City is really, really good and affecting in ways that nothing else can replicate, but Brent Anderson's work on the original characters - instead of in pastiche and homage - inevitably has more weight to it. Even if it's just bloody Moon Knight.

(Also, happy birthday, Alex! You might not know the difference between a Kirby and a Ditko yet, but you probably will.)