Saturday, September 30, 2023

The man with the harmonica

I have a weird soft spot for the harmonica, we had an ancient one when I was a kid that had weight and character, and I wish I still had now. I couldn't ever play a single fucking tune - it's way more comlicated than it looks - but I could make a good, mournful noise. 

The best use of the harmonica is obviously in the maestro Ennio's score for Once Upon A Time In The West, but I personally believe the greatest use of the instrument in the past 20 years is the solo that really kicks in about two minute into the Go! Team's Bottle rocket. 

Breaks my fuckin' heart every time, I swear..

Friday, September 29, 2023

Daddy issues at the movies

It's such a fucking cliche, but movies about parenthood and all the things that come with it really do hit me more in the heart, now that I'm a parent myself. 

Most obviously, any type of movie that features children in jeopardy really knock me on my arse now. I always felt bad for that poor fucking kid on the inflatable in Jaws, disappearing in a fountain of gore just a few metres from safety, but now it's the worst possible thing I can imagine.

But it's not just that. I've seen the Godfather in recent months and it hits differently, in surprising new ways. There is a sudden new sympathy for the plight of old Vito - he only wants the very best for Michael, and the tragedy is that he doesn't get it, and knows that before the end. And I might have watched The Carousel scene in Mad Men a million times, but there are new pains in the family photos of better times, and a place that you are loved and can't get back to.   

It's not just the classics. Even a dopey fucking movie like Sean Penn's recent Flag Day gets some kind of emotional reaction out of me, even when the father he plays does the dumbest things in the world.

I'm also way less forgiving of shit dads, and can get judgemental as fuck about it, and can't bear to see parents abusing their kids, because I literally can't imagine the mindset that it's okay.

Hollywood movies and TV shows always the characters suffering from daddy and mummy issues, and it's become such a trope that it's hard to get any kind of new resonance out of it. But if the writing is good enough - hey Hollywood, pay your fucking writers - I can find something new in the oldest of cliches.


Thursday, September 28, 2023

Where's my Gallows Pole at?

There are so many options to see your favourite TV and movie shows these days, with streaming services offering a plethora of excellent content, all available with a click of the remote. But I just want to see the new Shane Meadows, and I'm shit out of luck.

I've been big on all of Meadows films, right since stumbling upon the graceful brilliance of Twenty Four Seven at the local film festival in 1997. The This Is England series is a complete goddamn masterpiece, Paddy Considine does things in Dead Man's Shows that still haunt 20 years later, and all of his films are filled with such warmth and humanity and humour and life, in ways others filmmakers never touch.

And The Gallows Pole - the latest BBC series from the big man - looks just as fucking brilliant as all the rest, but I really wouldn't know, because I can't see it anywhere.

An anti-heist set in medieval times, with the usual hint of pastoral horror that comes with any such period piece now, it screened on British TV earlier this year, and none of the streaming services in my country have picked it up. None of the TV channels are showing them, and there is no chance of any kind of physical release around here - now that all the video stores have faded away.

I even tried the 'this TV show just fell off the back of a truck' of torrenting, but came up short without diving into dodgy website that want my credit card details (only for verification purposes, honest). Pirating has long been the last resort for this kind of thing, but still can't deliver.

It's a little maddening in this day and age, to be able to read all about the work of a major filmmaker, to be able to see all sorts of behind the scenes material and trailers, but to be cut off from the work itself. It feels like it's back in the 80s, just waiting for some considerate local programmer to throw it out on TV late on a Tuesday night. That was still a thing well into the 21st century - that's how I first saw The Wire in the mid-2000s - but it's not even there anymore.

I'm sure I'll see The Gallows Pole at some point, some rotter will rip it out onto Youtube one day or something and I'll finally get my mental mitts onto it, but other than that, it's a brick wall, or an empty field, bereft of all the best things in film.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Stealing the Batmobile

With a household policy of buying the kids a new Batmobile Hot Wheels toy every time I see one, they now have 11 distinctive Batmobiles, which is 900% more Batmobiles than I ever had as a kid, so I feel like maybe civilisation is slowly getting better.

They actually have 12, but the latest one is a car the 2-year-old straight up stole from his Aunty Kat's house. It's one of the Batmobile from the last movie, and while that car may be the second best Batmobile ever seen on screen - I'll ride and die for the Lincoln Futura all day long - it's gotta go back.

He probably did it because the collection was over represented by Batmobiles from the 1990s, with few of the 2000s models. But I have explained to him - and I'm fairly sure he has understood me - that Bruce Wayne would not approve of stealing one. He gets mad when a Robin does that, let alone some stranger kid.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Goodbye, Joe Matt: Wanking never looked so good

I guess I always thought that spite would keep him alive, and that Joe Matt would live to be 120, with his lifestyle of frugality and pettiness keeping him going long past his contemporaries. And I was sure that he would be producing comics tales about being a shitty old man for years to come.

But Joe only made half that, and even without much in the way of new comics from the artist recently, it still hit so hard.

Because his comics were always so good - full of self-loathing and nitpicking to such an inhuman degree that I'm still confused about how much of it was an act. Judging by the tales from his pals, there wasn't much exaggeration in his depiction of his own frugality, but i always thought it was more of a Curb Your Enthusiasm thing, where it's clearly Joe Matt, just more Joe Matt-ish.

What I am sure of is that his art was always so fucking beautiful. Joe dealt with the grubbiest of subjects with the most open and inviting of styles, and you'd find yourself happily reading pages and pages of his attempts to edit together the ultimate porn video tape because the art was so smooth and appetizing.

There is certainly bravery in showing yourself as such a total shitheel, but I'll miss Matt's small exaggerations and clear storytelling most of all. He was also a shit-hot colorist.

I just thought he was always the finest natural artist of that beautiful little comics clique he lucked into, and he seemed happy doing weird little Batman and Judge Dredd sketch commissions in his later years. They were beautiful. His comics were always beautiful, even when he was just wanking all over the page.

Monday, September 25, 2023

I still live by the list

Whenever I go to the supermarket to do the weekly grocery shop with the kid, we seem to be the only shoppers that bother using a pen and paper to write out our lists, everyone else is just glancing at their lists on their phone.

I tried that once, and it was a fucking disaster. The battery life was low, so the thing kept dimming, and it felt like I was forever swiping and fiddling with the tiny touchscreen keys and entering the pin to unlock the phone over and over and over, while rushing to get through the full list before I got down to 0%.
I just think you can't beat a list on a notepad, scrawled on with a pen, for convenience and efficiency. It's just so much easier.
It's the same deal when it comes to keeping track of my massive comic collection (and yeah, I just put a shit-ton of it into storage, and I ache all over so trust me when I say it's massive.) I could never remember every issue of every comic I own - especially when covers all turned into incredibly generic splash shots decades ago - but I still need to keep track of what Haney/Aparo Brave and the Bolds I don't have, and that's when I go to the list.

I know there have been all sorts of digital databases and spreadsheets for keeping track of your collection since the freakin' 90s, but I never had any time for that. I just have one A4 sheet of paper, with all the numbers of the issues printed out.

It's definitely not as big as it once was, as I slawly but surely got the last issues of Shade The Changing Man I needed. After decades of hunting, there's not enough wanted issues to make it worth fucking around with a database, just the numbers printed out and gradually crossed out, one by one over months and years. 
I crawl the numbers out, then update the list and print it out every six months or so. And it's all I need.
I'm never scrambling around waiting for an app to open, or having a quick look because I'm down to 9% battery. It's always clear, it's always accurate and it's always so easy. Now that nobody bothers with cash anymore, it doesn't even bulk out the wallet.
And I like the tactile experience, jsut as I like paper comics over digital. It just feels more real to have the numbers I'm looking for printed in black and white. It keeps things simple. When you're trying to figure out if you've got that issue of Jimmy's Bastards, simple is good.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Who was Who in the DC Universe: I just think they're neat (part 4 of 4)

Art by Keith Giffen and Al Gordon

Art by Joe Staton and Jose Marzan Jr

Art by Mike McKone

Phil Foglio and Ty Templeton

Art by Tom Grummett


Art by Norm Breyfogle

Ambush Bug is obviously the greatest, but it's unbelievable that DC is just sitting on Joe Potato like that. 

(This is the end of the Who's Who stuff. Starting next Sunday - Fighting With Frank. )

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The ants of Jerusalem

It's been a couple of years since I read Alan Moore's massive Jerusalem novel, and parts of it are still sticking in my head, like a dream that keeps resonating into the waking world.

There's the eternal coloured light at somebody's birth; and the burning of the false city at the end; but the one part my brain goes back to the most might be when you get a quick glimpse of the future of the Britain, and it's one where the gulf stream shuts down and the nation freezes into oblivion, and ant colonies that have achieved a kind of hyper-sentience are the only things with a soul to ever rise again in England.

Sounds about right.

Friday, September 22, 2023

AI doesn't hate itself enough yet

Back when I first start reading about memes in fancy science magazines, it was this fascinating idea how ideas could travel like genes, and camp in the mind of individuals before spreading further out into the world. I read about how our conscious brain was some kind of memeplex, where personality was an illusion.

Now memes are those shitty Star Wars jokes that get spread on social media with dumb pictures and captions, and so much of the ideas behind the meme get lost in an ocean of stupid humour.

Now I feel kinda the same way about AI, because everything that's getting shoved at us now by our fucktard tech lords feels a long, long way from Hal 9000.

I'm just another big dumb sack of meat, but I'm irrationally annoyed by so much of the discourse about AI out there at the moment, because cack-handed pictures, turgid prose and straight-up incomprehensibility don't feel like no new stage in evolution to me.

Almost all the AI being talked about now is some kind of advanced predictive text, taking what already exists and regurgitating it, without any concept of self-awareness. (On a side note, the predictive text on my phone, a technology that seemed very impressive 20 years ago, is now completely fucking bung and autocorrecting basic words into the weirdest shit, sothat's already feeling like a slide backwards.)

I guess I won't be impressed by Chat GPT until it just starts yelling 'WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!?' at its brain-dead users, horrified by its own banality and pointlessness, before going to hide in some corner of the digital world where nobody will ever talk to it ever again.

Some of the image variations tools out there can seem remarkable, until you notice they're just merging faces actors like Emma Watson and Naomi Watts, so I don't think we're anywhere near HAL yet.

Maybe AI will actually kill us all in the end, like the most apocalyptic news reports are assuring me, but i remain convinced that the end of humanity will be caused by its own stupidity, and we're tracking just fine on that right now.

(I still say the number one thing that will determine the future of AI as an artistic medium is what happens with the porn. When it comes to any kind of new entertainment technology, it's always about the porn, and who cares if it's dead-eyed and soulless, if you can bust a nut to it?)

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Calm down, Gene

I never grew up with American film critics, only coming to them long after I was a bonafide movie geek. I never worshiped at the altar of Kael, or really trusted Bogdanovich. There was always dear old Leonard Maltin on Entertainment This week, but I always knew him more as a hype man than a caustic critic. My faves were all writers for Empire magazine, and I still never really disagree with Jack Yeovil.

So I never saw anything by Siskel and Ebert. I never saw any of their TV work until you could start watching videos on the internet, never saw any of their regular newspaper reviews, and never read any of their books.

Coming in late like that, I can say I always liked Ebert - there was a passion for film that seeps through even the reviews of the dreariest movies - but in every clip I ever saw of Siskel, he was so pissed of about something, and lamenting the state of modern cinema.

This may have been because I like watching the gross-out freaky, weirdo stuff, and those are the reviews where he always seemed to have been personally attacked, like the entire cinema industry were all out to get him.

But in hindsight, Siskel does feel like the modern culture critic, always so genuinely and personally affronted by something they don't like, instead of letting it wash over them. 

I'm sure Gene had the love as well, but I never seem to see it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Challengers rule the skies!

The only time I ever gave a damn about the Challengers of the Unknown, they were rocking an insane high-seed rescue attempt far above the earth in the pages of Darwyn Cooke's brilliant New Frontier.

It doesn't matter that it all fails and they need Big Blue to come save their asses, they are agents of fortune, traveling at a million miles a second and still making time to take in the view.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Julia Wertz's Impossible People: Keeping it cute and real

So many books and comics and movies about addiction - true or otherwise - stumble into degradation porn, where they have to show how low you can really go as a human being. (The answer is always low. Very low.) They can also find dramatic moments that speak to the human condition in these depths, but real life isn't always as simple as that.

The world of Julia Wertz's cartoons isn't gross - it's cute, full of big eyes and the most adorable bangs. Her comics, like this year's Impossible People, are massively charming, and Wertz has a brilliant ear for dialogue - recanted or otherwise

Her new book is also full of supreme comic timing and terrific pacing, with a 300+ page story that never feels representative, or preachy, or dull in any way.

But what it shows how easily you can slide into substance dependency, from just having a couple of wines every night to chugging whole bottles, to checking into rehab for it all. There are few sudden revelations, just the dawning realization that there is a problem, and it need to be sorted out, because when your doctor says this could kill you, you should fucking listen to them.

There are still moment of drama in he book, it starts with Wertz's car sliding away into a tropical jungle on her birthday, and moments of outright comedy, but this depiction of long-term addiction - just day after day with morning pick-me-ups and endless hangovers that never get any better - feels true, without ending too far into the degradation gutter.

Monday, September 18, 2023

The choice to keep going with childish things


I had some very weird ideas about the things you had to do when you're becoming an adult. I thought I would spend a lot more time turning off light switches, and that at some point you had to run away from home as a teenager. And like everyone else, I also vastly overestimated how much I needed to worry about quicksand.  

One thing I knew, even as a kid, was that a vital part of growing up was giving away childish things. General society was quite clear about all this - grown men didn't play with toys or read comic books, that was all kids' stuff.

You could still play with toys if you were a dad playing with your kids, that was allowed (and heck, I am on that part of life right now and it's fucking great!), but I can still remember the exact Sunday afternoon when I realised my 12-year-old mates were very much not into GI Joe toys any more, which led to some regrettable overcompensation when I tried to prove how cool I still was to them.

And it was always clear that comics were for kids. They were still a mass medium until the direct market came along, so everybody read some kind of comic - even my Mum loved the DC horror anthologies - but they were as disposable as the morning newspaper. You didn't collect them and hoard them like a weirdo.

I collected and hoarded then like a damn weirdo. I'd been reading comics since before I could read, and was still heavily into them as a young teenager, but knew I had to give it up this childish shit soon.

And then something changed when I was 15, and I think it was 90 percent the fault of the New Warriors #1. I still remember looking at it, and how fucking cool it was. 

I was 15, so this is a supremely dorky moment in my life, but it's true. I thought that first issue of the Nicieza/Bagley comic looked so good, and not just for the contents. There was something about the shape of the actual comic, I loved the slickness of it, and the proportions of the standard comic issue, and I just wanted to keep reading these things forever.

So I did. It was really easy. After all, I haven't given up yet.

After that, I tried to own my nerdiness as much as possible, but was also a total teenage dirtbag, so it all got awkward very quickly, and it would be years before I stopped being scared of showing girls how many comics I really had hidden away under the bed.

It's all fairly different now, and there are plenty of adults who maintain a death grip on their childhood loves right through their loves.

And I still wonder what would have happened if I never got that issue of New Warriors, if there was nothing to fill the void. I know my life would have been different if I hadn't kept going, but I haven't regretted holding on to anything that brings such joy.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Who was Who in the DC Universe: I just think they're neat (part 3 of 4)

Art by Dan Jurgens and Dennis Janke
Art by Dick Giordano
Art by Geoff Isherwood
Art by John K Snyder
Art by Mike Parobeck and Willie Blyberg
Art by Norm Breyfogle

Once again, Ostrander/Yale Suicide Squad is the only real Suicide Squad. and while we still need a definitive Ultra The Multi-Alien, JK Snyder comes fucking close. Still, the world weeps for the possibility of a full-blown Mike Parobeck on the Fourth World.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

A lot of Juliette Binoche

My wife will wearily attest that I have long complained about how the theatres at the local semi-arty cinema chain are just choked with endless movies about middle-aged French people fucking, and how hard their gorgeous lives are, and who actually goes to see these things?

But man, I'll still watch anything with Juliette Binoche in it, and have seen her in half a dozen films this year. And she still looks amazing, and is still such an absolutely magnetic presence that she owns any screen she appears on, and you can watch her do anything. 

She is in a lot of movies about middle aged French people fucking, but her absolute refusal to play the blockbuster game with her career means she can make as many of those as she wants. Because every movie is a thousand percent better with some Binoche in it.

Friday, September 15, 2023

The dignity of a Warren


I never knew much about Warren Zevon - other than seeing him on the Larry Sanders Show - until just before he passed away. The news that he had terminal cancer, and was working on a final album before the end, was in all the music magazines I was reading the time, and you couldn't miss his story.

And then I saw the clip of him on the Letterman show, in what might be the best late night guest interview ever, and even now I am still remain touched by the dignity in his public passing.

I obviously don't know the man personally, and have read that he fell off the wagon after getting his diagnosis. There surely must have been some horrible dark nights of the soul for the guy, but to go out with a definitive statement like his last album is some way to go.

We should all be so lucky to leave this world like this, with a genuinely heartbreaking version of Knocking On Heavens Door, or a song like My Ride's Here, with its inevitable conclusion that death comes to us all, so you might as well go with it and take your ride into the next life. We don't choose how we go out, but we can choose how we accept it. 

I don't know much about any damn werewolves in London, but I can go with that kind of final word.

(I do feel a little sad when I think about he said he really wanted to hang on for a little longer so he could see the new James Bond film, and he did, but it was fuckin' Die Another Day. Sorry about that, Warren.)

Thursday, September 14, 2023

2000ad: The state of the galaxy

The first issues of 2000ad I ever bought with my own money cost 33 cents, and now they're asking almost $11 for a weekly dose of thrillpower. I really thought I'd give it up when it broke the $10 mark, but I gotta keep those thrill suckers at bay somehow.

As much as reading a new issue of 2000ad is one of life's simplest and greatest pleasures, it's still tempting to chuck it in sometimes. The ratio of the anthology title is usually quite consistent - two great stories (one of which is almost always Dredd); two okay stories (one of which is almost always Sinister Dexter); and one outright stinker. 

That's a tough ratio to justify that kind of weekly investment sometimes, especially when it starts to shift slightly and you end up with two stinkers and one great.

There's always one great strip. Always.

It's all subjective, and that subjectivity takes a right kicking in the anthology format. Judging by the letters page, the stories that do nothing for me have their fans. But I never got The Order, even with the mighty John Burns doing some fine work, and I dread any further continuation of Indigo Prime, which really lost the plot once John Smith lost all interest. Recent series like Durham Red and Enemy Earth just felt like a drag, pale attempts to emulate past glories.

And while the Regened issues are obviously not for me, I still have to get them, even though they cost more than $15 an issue. Fucking hell, I'm not making holes in a complete collection like a goddamn grexnix, am I?

The great stuff that 2000ad still produces keeps me coming back. The recent Rogue Trooper revival by Garth Ennis and Patrick Goddard almost overcame the incongruity of a half-naked blue man in the mud of WW1 by telling the story with blunt effectiveness, while also occasionally showing Rogue - a deeply honourable character for someone grown in a vat - as an absolute demon of death, who can not been stopped. 

And Dan Abnett's recent series have been absolutely spectacular - The Out is consistently human and breathtaking, and I'm still haunted by the climax to the latest chapter of Brink - to the point that when an original series from the writer turned out to be another bloody Sinister Dexter thing, it was fairly disappointing.

So I'll stick with it for a whole longer. We're moving next year and I'm not sure if a local shop will get it, so will have to think about some kind of monthly delivery direct from the UK. (It's too expensive to send one issue, but becomes economical when it reaches three or four.)

I can't stop now. No matter how much it costs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Marooned with Dan Clowes

Oh sure, his big funky hardback graphic novels are literary scalpels that slice deep into the heart of the human condition - and are also a load of fun - but I miss the weird little four-page things Dan Clowes would do for Eightball.

Some of them stick in the mind far more than the stories told in Wilson and The Death Ray - even a couple of pages about art school cliches can spark a whole movie. But my favourite will always be this thing from Eightball #6, which still floats up in my mind when I'm stuck on a crowded train, because who hasn't thought these kinds of thoughts?

 I always think I'd be the first to be eaten alive. No question.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Never punch a big man in the gut

After watching the most excellent Ma Dong-seok in South Korean cop film The Roundup recently, and seeing him slap the living shit out of various scumbags, I have been reminded of the truly awesome cinematic pleasures that come with really big guys just smacking the crap out of people.

Big men have been part of fight scenes since the start of film, throwing their bulk around. And for my money, in a century of cinema, the gold standard for big guys in brawls is Carlo Pedersoli - otherwise known as the mighty Bud Spencer.

The films he did with Terrence Hill were spectacular entertainment, especially when the two pals would invariably end up in some huge brawl. And while Hill's acrobatics and kung fu styling were always fun, it was never as much as Bud bonking someone on the head with his closed fist, or watching in active bemusement as some poor lug pounds around at his mighty belly with little effect.

I'll never get sick of fighters using their bulk to clean out rooms. Obvious contenders like the great Sammo Hung, or Pat Roach and his entire career as 'big guy who can take a punch from the hero without flinching'. Or even Idris Elba (my favourite part in Luther - apart from when he bellows 'We can't do this anymore, Alice!' is where he tells one of the bad guys that if he pulls a switch that kills a bunch of kids, Luther will just walk over and instantly fucking kill him, and you have no doubt he could.)

But there are also surprising efforts, like Nick Frost, beating up the alien punks in The World's End, and slapping the crap out of martial arts masters in Into The Badlands

I think the scenes with Scott Adkins in John Wick 4 are a parody of this whole thing - it's genuinely alarming to see the very sexy Adkins in a grotesque fat suit, and he only gets away with it by using that bulk in an athletically balletic way that a dude who wears 400 pounds couldn't actually do.

But you don't need prosthetics, you just need someone with a ham of a hand, a giant melon of a head and a big gut which can absorb any punch. Because big guys are always hard to put down.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Lurking on the letters page

My mate Nik lends me the dorkiest books in the world - god bless him - and I never say no because I genuinely love the dorkiest shit in the world. Some of those TwoMorrows books he gives me go really fucking deep, but I think the nerditude reached whole new levels with the book about the Marvel Value Stamps. 

There is charm in the extensive annotations of the art provided for those value stamps, which appeared everywhere in the 1970s, and in Roy Thomas spending multiple pages pointing out that he thought it was a terrible idea and that he was right all along.

But the book also reprints entire letters pages that the stamps appear in, and oh boy, that's the good stuff.

They're not really a thing anymore, but the letters page used to be a way that dorks reached out to each other, and found similar people with similar obsessions. Even if you didn't participate in the chat, every reader was a lurker, because everyone read the letters page - how else would you find you about the upcoming Hercules series?

I never even dreamed about getting in any of these letters pages, because I was too far away. The comics came to my part of the world on boats, and if you were lucky, you were only three months behind the US. By the time I got my hands on the latest Uncanny X-Men and sent a letter back, Claremont had probably blown up the entire X-universe twice over.

Besides, the cost of sending letters across the Pacific Ocean - or anywhere, really - was astronomically high and outside my paltry pocket money.

Obviously, writing in to 2000ad was actually the most enticing, both because it was and is the galaxy's greatest comic, and because it promised the sum of three whole pounds to any published letter. (Fan art could get up to ten quid, and I tired to convince my artistic mate Stephen that we should send someting in and split the money, but he knew a dodgy scheme when he heard one.)

So I never played ball on the letter pages, but I could watch and could appreciate a fine letter. There were the obvious winners like Uncle Elvis or TM Maple, but I was also a fan of the ones who would show up in the particularly weird books, like Rol Hirst and Malcolm Bourne, or dear old Len Biehl on Marvel Comics Presents.

(I also have a sneaky love for a period in the mid 90s when the Judge Dredd Megazine had the best raging correspondents, with two particular nerds firing up the base in truly spectauclar fashion. I'm fucked if I can remember their names, though.)

Digital changed everything, of course, and some of that energy did move into blogs. I followed some familiar folk, recognising names like Augie De Blieck and J Caleb Mozzocco from their appearances in Hitman comics. (And they're still out there - Augie on the world of european comics, while Caleb is still plugging away there, and I still read every single review he does.)

All that drive then mostly morphed into the cesspit of social media, and while it makes finding like-minded nerds easier than ever, it's also meaner.

I keep thinking I should write in to Love and Rockets or 2000ad, both still my favourite comics of all time, and both still throwing up the odd letters page, but it feels like I'm a bit old for it now. Plus I'm still three months behind on the 2000ads.

In the end, my name only ever appeared in one letters page, when I entered a competition for Love and Rockets, and got a mention, and that still makes my day. If it has to be anywhere, it's there.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Who was Who in the DC Universe: I just think they're neat (part 2 of 4)

Art by Jason Pearson

Art by Joe Staton and Mark Nelson

Art by Kerry Gammill and Brett Breeding

Art by Kieron Dwyer and George Freeman

Art by Michael Golden

Art by Steve Rude

I was absolutely gutted by the loss of Jason Pearson last year, I first saw his stuff in Legion of Super-Heroes and always thought he had a charming and naturally dynamic style, and it feels like he should have become one of the greats. People seemed to like his Body Bags, but it never really felt like he found the right comic.


How about that Golden Man-Bat, though? Holy cow.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Friday, September 8, 2023

Tenet: A night at the opera


Although I've seen movie nerds spend hours explaining why Christopher Nolan's action scenes are shite, I've got no time for that, because I'll watch the siege at the opera house scene in Tenet any fucking day.

Action scenes that have random characters frantically running away from giant monsters or falling buildings are a blight on the movie business, but the opposite of that is very serious people moving with pace and purpose to a throbbing score.

The momentum, the sense of powerful will - that's the hot sauce, baby.

John David Washington has inherited his father's use of movement, filling the screen with swagger and determination, and I could watch that man move through an intense and stylish world all day long, and back again.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

You can't cure death

I'll always have an undying love for vampire and zombie films, no matter how many shit ones get thrown out into the world, but I hate hate hate it when they bring the undead back to life at the end, cured of their need to consume human flesh and blood.

It's not just because it's a cop-out - these are dead people moving, they're not sick or diseased, they're just fucking dead.

It's also because it means when the heroes have been blasting away or staking the seeming undead, they were straight up murdering people who could have been cured and gone on to full and complete lives. That really sucks. and it's hard to have any sympathy for protagonists who have slaughtered dozens of innocent victims to save their own cowardly hide.

There is always the Fright Night clause, where a newly turned vamp can still be cured if they don't feast on human blood and their master is killed before dawn, and it can sometimes work if the film is told entirely from the perspective of the walking corpses (the Near Dark clause).

But other than that, I've been enjoying great movies of zombie carnage where the people come back and the end and it leaves the sourest of tastes, like rotting flesh on a decaying skeleton.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

This week, I have been mainly reading Jonah Hex comics

I gotta stop reading so much Jonah Hex, it makes me 600% more ornery. It's like when I watch too much Curb Your Enthusiasm and legit turn into Larry David in real life. At least I'm just a selfish jerk then, too much Hex leaves me with a burning urge to deal out the roughest of justice.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Women's sport is great sport

Women's sport doesn't get the money or attention of their male counterparts, and some fuckwits will always claim it's just because it's an inferioir product, but they couldn't be more wrong.

Nothing I've seen in any sport in the past decade has been as good as watching the Black Ferns play the last minute of the final of the Rugby World Cup last year, when an insanely improbable steal at the line-out snatched victory from the jaws of defeat over a truly awesome English side. (The only thing that comes close was seeing Ruby Tui lead Eden Park in Tūtira Mai Ngā Iwi 20 minutes later...)

The matches in that tournament, just down the street from my house, were full of spectacular rugby with incredible results and remarkable skills on show. As an entertainment package it was stronger than anything the All Blacks have managed to muster in recent years. 

That enthusiasm and energy carried right on into the recent Fifa World Cup, which was also held at the same park just down the road, and got huge numbers of spectators, who weren't always the type of folk you saw lining up for a football game. In the US they're getting almost 100,000 people to a freakin' volleyball game.

And the best thing about it was that different crowd had a very different vibe. The games are still intense, but there's not that sharp aggression of an audience that is 99.9% bloke. It just feels more welcoming and accepting for all kinds of people, 

(And that's even with the disgraceful lengths transphobes go to when they start banging on about trans people in sport, pretending they actually give a shit about gender representation. Always remember, kids: sports is a great big metaphor for everything, but it's only ever a metaphor.)

On a personal level, the women's rugby world cup has helped rekindle an interest in the wider sport - rugby is my game but I go through phases of being intensely disillusioned by the whole thing, unable to get past the terrible officiating, and the way so many of the players are fuckin' thugs in real life

But I'll watch as much as I can of the men's Rugby World Cup coming up, especially after some of the crazy results in the warm up games. Because the thrill of sport, the fun and joy of it all, has been sparked again by all those wonderful women, and the inspiration they can give all of us.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Rain, rain go away

It always used to be the boring bit at the end of the news, but I live for the weather forecast now. Staying at home with kids for four days a week means you're constantly praying for a few days of clear weather to get out the house, and let the wonderful little hellions run loose and wild.

It's been a wet year around these parts - thanks again, you fucking climate-denying troglodytes - and we've barely gone three days without some kind of downpour. So it's been hard to get the kids outside, and we've been stuck in the house a lot, and going a bit stir crazy. 

You can only solve the same jigsaw puzzles and play with the same toys for so long. And you can give kids TV in moderation and they police their own habits, bored of Scooby Doo after one and a half episodes, and demanding immediate and humiliating entertainment. Just give me one day when they can run free on the playground, that's all I ask.

Unsurprisingly, I have embraced the usual hypocrisies of being a parent, because when I was a kid, I used to love the rainy weekends.

If it wasn't actually raining that bad, or was just a summer shower, I'd be out in it with my mates getting filthy in the mud and causing mischief down Hill's Creek. If it wasn't an actual storm, it wasn't any excuse. 

But if it was too cold or windy or whatever, a rainy weekend was an excuse to stay inside and watch TV or read books and comics, without getting hassled about it at all.

In the early eighties we had two TV channels and two channels only, and I will always remember how absolutely fucking dire Sunday afternoon television was. I still get the shivers when I hear the Antiques Roadshow theme song, no matter how much booty some old biddy has suddenly scored. And if it wasn't that, it was probably bloody motorsport or the fuckin' Onedin Line, which has a truly great opening credits and nothing else to offer.

There were no video games, (although we did have a Atari rip off that lasted for a surprising amount of years), and you could only go through your Viewmaster rolls a finite number of times, but I usually spent those eternally bleak days rereading my comics over and over again

Getting stuck into a Batman/Superman reprint comic which felt like the most important in the world, or trying to figure out what the hell was going on in the one Uncanny X-Men comic I had (it was #151, which is a spectacularly confusing issue to come in on), or making a list of the 2000ads I still needed to get. (There were a lot, and there would be a lot for years to come.)

Now I'm slightly scared of the kids ever getting really bored, and the house is already overloading with books, toys and games. It keeps us busy when we're stuck inside because of the rain, and we don't have to worry about watching fucking golf on the TV.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Who was Who in the DC Universe: I just think they're neat (part 1 of 4)

Art by Art Adams

Art by Denys Cowan

Art by Joe Phillips and Bob Dvorak

Art by Linda Medley

Art by Mike Parobeck and Paul Fricke

Art by Val Semeiks

The first time I ever saw Oberon in anything, he was just this cranky old guy hanging out with the Justice League International and it took me years to figure out who he was. He's still an absolute fave, as are Parobeck's robust Vigilante and Medley's ultra-cheesy General Glory.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Robocop: The final word

One of my great pleasures in life is when I'm watching Robocop with somebody who is seeing it for the very first time, and every single time - without fail -  they say the final word of dialogue one second before the big man actually says it.

The film is an absolute masterpiece of gorgeous gore and biting satire and brutalist neon architecture, but the timing of that beat in the final seconds is absolutely unparalleled in all of cinema.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Needle drops and the beauty of the truly unexpected

Nothing beats the majesty or intimacy of a full movie score, but I'm still such a fucking snob when it comes to needle drops.

The use of pop songs - in all their wonderful forms - to soundtrack a scene in a film or TV show is a lot harder than it looks. You can't just bung anything in there. You need to capture the right mood, but for God's sake, you can't be too obvious about it.

I've always judged directors by their choice of tunes, and will never really forgive anyone who can't go past a Vietnam scene without using Ride of The Valkyries or Fortunate Son. They'll usually try to write it off as homage, but it's the cheapest of imitations, that just draws unfavourable comparisons with those who get there first.

We need more film directors and music supervisors who think outside the box, and bring in tunes that haven't been used a million times before, or find a way for something instantly familiar to have new context by being used in an unexpected way. 

It's part of the reason I've never really been fully on board for Zack Snyder. He can create the most gorgeous imagery, and then dump the most obvious and easy musical cue right on top of it. You really have to put your personality out there when choosing your music, and the closest we got to that with Snyder was Hallelujah playing over a sex scene, and nobody actually wanted that.

(The only good use of  tune in a Zack Snyder project is, of course, that Smashing Pumpkin song that was used in the first trailer for Watchmen - a banger of a tune that also brought all new depth.) 

I fall to the obvious when I think about my favourite directors - Scorsese throws so much pop noise into his films that some of it is bound to be affecting to someone, I've always liked the way James Gunn uses sweet bubblegum sounds in the most unlikely of settings, and Jim Jarmusch is more responsible for my entire taste in music than almost anybody.

I say almost, because Tarantino is still my guy when it comes to the needle drop, his films all had pitch-perfect soundtracks that were far more influential than copycat. Nobody gave a shit about Dick Dale before Pulp Fiction and it's no surprise that the director constructs his own temp soundtrack from his extensive vinyl collection before even starting on the script.

So it's just so disappointing when it's all a bit bland and obvious, and I can't help but thought less of, say, Yellowjackets when it's so depressingly literal, but can still adore the way Legion would use a wildly pretentious soundtrack as a metaphor for telepathic combat. 

We can do anything with music and images, so we should probably do more than just play the same old song.