Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Doctor Who: Chap with Wings

I had a mad obsession for the Doctor Who New Adventures novels published by Virgin in the mid-90s, just as they started to go out of print and rapidly disappear from sight. I still managed to snatch most of them up from the bargain bins at Paper Plus, and through the excellent classified adverts in the back of TSV, but it took me 20 years to find the rest.

But I got so many of them back in the day, so fast, that I never had time to read them all. I'd obviously read all the Ormans and Cornells and Parkins and Platts and Aaronovichs, but had only read a handful of those books outside this core group of writers.

So a couple of years ago, once I'd paid way too much money to secure the last books in the series, I figured it was time to get cracking and start from the beginning, with the one about Gilgamesh.

I'm still at it, and try to average one a month - I currently read one in tandem with my one person book club, and it works out surprisingly well - so I've got through a few, and have just got to the end of the vague arc where the Meddling Monk was fucking with everybody's history.

No Future had Cornell's usual sledgehammer wit, but it's really reached the point where following a TARDIS crew who all actively hate each other is just too tiring.

Still, this is one of the ones I read back in the day, and I really only remembered four things about it - the villains; the 'pint of vodka' line early in the book, (Bennie was the drinking buddy I always wanted, which wasn't very smart, because she's just imaginary); the bit where Ace stabs the Doctor, but it's all a fake!; and, of course, the "chap with Wings" line, which is my favourite line in all Doctor Who novels ever, including all the ones from The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

So while I'm really starting to realise what people were on about when they moaned that everybody in the NAs was so unpleasant, it still has moments of classic Doctor Who, and moments of the dumbest fucking humour.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Don't leave Doom Force behind

There's a long-running argument that satire doesn't work, and that it can even be harmful, because people who don't get it just end up taking it at face value. That a film like Wolf of Wall Street might be a searing indictment of toxic masculinity and the craziness of excessive capitalism, but has also inspired a whole new generation of amoral financial bros to further fuck up the world.

I don't know about all of that, but I do know that when I accidentally left a copy of Doom Force behind at a friend's house, I think I put them off comics forever.

Doom Force was a monumental piss-take of the Image era, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by some outrageous talents. Spinning out of Morrison's Doom Patrol - the biggest headfuck in mainstream comics at the time - it pushed all the worst excesses of Image comics over the top. It might all be in Dorthy's head, and it's for the best if it stays there.

When I got a copy of it a year or so after it was published, I thought it was funny as fuck, because I read all the comic press, and was getting heavily into fanzines, and knew all the background behind the thing.

It was also a time when I was desperately trying to get my friends to read more comics, with sincere promises that they were more serious and. more artistic. It was the biggest cliche in the world, but it was also true - comics just weren't for kids anymore.

At least, that's what I told my friend Sarah*, and she sounded genuinely interested when she asked about Sandman or Strangers in Paradise. I had already learned to ease people into Love and Rockets, clearly the greatest comic in the world, because it was one where a lot of people just could not get past the tits, so I was taking it easy with things. And then I accidentally left my copy of Doom Force behind at her house. 

I got it back a few days later and she said she had read it, and made an interesting face, and said it wasn't really her thing. 

But I think I accidentally killed any hope she had for the medium, and I don't blame her - without knowing any of the context, Doom Force is a horrifically awful book, with absolutely terrible art and ridiculously overwritten captions.

It was a full-on satire of all the excesses of the time, and I knew the joke, because I'd been following the whole Image thing right from the start. I knew what Liefeld and Lee and McFarlane were doing, and knew it was ripe to be ripped into. All that promise of comics glory of the 80s took a massive hit when  all the pouches started showing on costumes, and there is a quiet desperate anger in Doom Force, that it had all come to this. 

Sarah didn't know any of that crap - and nobody really needed to know it - and she didn't seem interested in comic for years afterwards.

Still, we talked recently and she raved about how much she liked The Boys, so who knows?

I don't push comic shit on people so much anymore. Not just because of this - although it but it didn't help - but because evangelism for a medium can be eroded away, and you realise that nobody has to like everything. 

But when I do, I'm a lot more careful about the things I leave behind. Nobody needs Doom Force dropped on them, out of the blue.

* Names have been changed because I'm not a fucking monster. I'm still Bob, though.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Marvel's Time Slip: Smith's Silver Surfer, Jones' Thing and Totleben's Doc Ock

The Silver Surfer by Jeff Smith

Doctor Octopus by John Totleben

The Thing by Kelly Jones

Marvel did this one-page 'Time Slip' thing 20 years ago in some hype publication, before collecting them into one comic. They gave some of the hottest talents of the time a chance to radically redesign the biggest names in the Marvel Universe, and those artists came back with some truly breathtaking ideas, which were almost totally ruined by the atrocious graphic designs Marvel slapped all around it. 


I can still dream of seeing Jeff Smith's Silver Surfer.

Still disappointed by the Heck

I'm 48 goddamn years old, which means I'm now in my fifth decade of opening an old Justice League of America comic with a terrific cover and saying out loud: 'Aw no, it's another Don Heck'.

It happened to me when I was buying fairly recent issues in the mid-80s from the local dairy on King Street in Temuka, and it happened to me the other day when I got some issues from 1981from the local comic shop. There would be a fantastic Ross Andru or George Perez cover, and then it's Heck on the inside, all flat and dull.

I feel weirdly bad about it - Heck never got no respect and I actually like a lot of Heck's work, (he drew phenomenal eyebrows). But some disappointments are eternal.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Q's best of 1998: Stoned in the morning light

The last time I ever got to be a proper unemployed bum was the summer that kicked off 25 years ago. Me and some of my best mates from school were all flatting together, it was a beautiful summer, and after years of manual labour, we took some time off spent much of the summer getting mega fucking stoned and listening to music all day long.

And while there was also a lot of Radiohead and Portishead, and I was going through another punk phase, but the disc I most listened was the free Best of 1998 CD that came stuck to the cover of Q Magazine.

I'd been an off-on Q reader for a couple of years, but that one album still stands as s snapshot of that time. Post Britpop, pre nu-Metal, lots of groovy electornica and basic rock, just like you'd expect at the end of the century.

Air grooving into Fatboy Slim, the eternal Teardrop and Placebo, Garbage and Gomez and even flippin' James at their best. Some prime Manics and Neil Finn, Oasis' accidentally creating the greatest B-side of the 90s in The Masterplan, and going out with some Bernard Butler and his dreamy guitars.

I still have the CD, and still listen to this selection from a quarter of a century ago, and it still sounds like 1999 to me.

(There was also a Marilyn Manson tune in there, but seriously. Fuck that guy.)

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Dr Who: That little girl will kill us all

Doctor Who is almost 60 years old, and you'll never convince me that it isn't the greatest TV show ever made. You can do anything in Doctor Who, and it usually does it all, sooner or later.

One thing it has always done very well is scare the shit out of the kids, to the point that it's become a massive cliche about hiding behind the sofa when the Sea Devils rolled out. But I wasn't scared of the Daleks, or the Sontarans, or Vardans. It was a 12-year-old girl that really terrified the shit out of me

There is a weird theme of extremely creepy kids in the tail end of the classic series. And the epitome of this might be the unnamed girl in Remembrance of the Daleks. Played by the terrific Jasmine Breaks, she's part sixties schoolchild, and part Dalek battle computer who shoots lethal balls of energy from her fingers.

She was just another villain and pawn of the Daleks when I first saw Remembrance, but something stuck in my brain, because not long after that I had a dream where she came to our house and murdered the shit out of my family in front of me

It was one of those dreams where you're just so grateful when you wake up and realise it wasn't real, because it felt fucking real at the time, with the girl stalking through the house we lived in at the time and brutally killing my family, just like when she hit Nazi Mike with enough force to shatter a staircase.

When it comes to movies and TV, I don't scare much, but some things stick in the subconscious and you might not realise it until the monsters come knocking in the night. I've had a couple of deeply horrifying dreams about the Dark Judges from Judge Dredd, and I can always tell a good zombie movie because I get stuck in an apocalypse of the living dead in a post-film nightmare.

And this was one of those, especially because the anonymous girl was the same age as me, and looked a lot like all the girls I went to school with. Girls were already terrifying enough when you're a typically confused adolescent, and connecting them to the battle computers of a vast fascist intergalactic empire didn't help.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Tony tells it like it is

I take film criticism waaaay too seriously, but how else am I meant to know what's good? So people who say they're giving you an honest interpretation of a film while blatantly getting paid for promotion film me with an unquenchable rage.

Luckily, one of the insanely talleneted people I work with in my regular job is Tony Stamp, and he's the smartest writer about current pop culture in New Zealand, and he recently summed up everything I feel about this issue with a gorgeous little rant that can be found here. I endorse it all.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Giffen forever!

We've lost so many truly great comic book talents in recent years, and I am still dealing with the fact that there's almost nobody left from the Silver Age, and that the writers and artists I grew up reading in the 70s and 80s are next on death's dance card.

Especially when we lose someone like Keith Giffen, a monumentally great comic creator.

There is a vast chunk of my comic collection that has his name in the credits somewhere. I've got all the Ambush Bug he ever did, from the random appearances in Action Comics to the last beautifully bizarre mini-series; I have all the Heckler and Trencher comics; and all the Lobo he ever did.

I have almost all of his Legion of Super -Heroes, and all the Justice league comics he ever touched, and that's a significant chunk of brilliance right there. Even the weird offshoots, like his short Suicide Squad or Freak Force runs, there was always a base level of competency and craft that wasn't always so obvious in his contemporaries.

When I first starting seriously collecting comics, it wasn't hard to figure out that this Giffen guy was the business. As an artist, the slickness of his early work - with all those smooth as hell Larry Mahlstedt inks - evolved over the years, (maybe picking up a little too much influence from the artists that inspired him), becoming a stunningly craggy monstrosity in literally one page of his last proper Legion comic.

The art would have been enough to cement him as a legend. The laughs were always the most wonderful bonus.

The fact that his death was announced with two classically crap gags is everything I liked about the writer/artist/everything. That irreverent sense of humour, with a real touch of irony often lacking in other American creators. Lobo might be his greatest joke that 99% of the character's audience never got, but the Ambush Bug comics were so packed with gags there were always bound to be something that hit.

And he could be so much more than the bwa-ha-ha, with genuine pathos and humanity seeping through. Because while they might have been clowns, it meant you actually gave a shit about Booster Gold and Blue Beetle in a way you never, ever would again, and when you had villains like Despero tearing through the team, it really hurt. 

Such a sprawling canvas on which to show the world his ideas, and Giffen still knew when to come in tight on those hard close-ups of faces; while delivering action scenes with real verve and momentum, and crafting stories and themes and characters building over years and decades of comics. 

His name on the credits was always an absolute guarantee of quality, and Keith Giffen might be lost to us forever now, but I'm proud to still have so many of those credits in my collection.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Even the most majestic empires of light still crumble into dust

Everything is demolished in the end. Some stone ruins last forever, but it's one of life's big existential moments when you realise most of the places you grew up with are not going to be there forever.

It's just a fact of life that we all have to deal with, but that doesn't mean it still isn't a total bummer when they go. Especially when they had the decor and luxury of the cinema.

The one cinema I consider the high bar for all others is the one that I spent the most time in as a kid - the mighty Majestic on Timaru's Stafford Street. And it is bound for destruction in the near future. It's just not quake safe enough, and while I'm really going to mourn the second hand bookstore two doors down when it goes - that shop was my everything - I ache over the fact that the dark red carpet and plush decor of the classiest place I'd ever seen is a part of history.

It lasted into the 90s, and then turned into the best Video Ezy store in the country, and it still smelled like popcorn, but that all ended when Outlander came out.

I should be used to the destruction of this wonderful places like now. The State Cinema - the other big theatre in town - was the one that had all the GY-rated blockbusters like the Star Wars and Indiana Joneses, and vanished and was replaced by the world's shittiest mall in the 80s.

And the cinemas of Christchurch - all those wonderful old theatres in Cathedral Square, all vanished just as I really became a movie nerd (the last film I ever saw in the square was Altman's Short Cuts) and most of the others were gone before the city shook itself apart in 2011. And any that had survived that long soon turned into stairs to nowhere.

Some of the Dunedin ones evolved, and I'm still a little shocked that the glorious St James - where I once saw both Police Academy 3 and Mad Max 3 -  still has its starlit ceiling as part of a multiplex. The one in the Octagon - where Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom blew up my world -  was bowled for another multiplex in the 90s; and I saw Jurassic Park in one that turned into a useless carpark two months later. The one I really miss is the Odeon with the sweet wooden panelling, where I saw Salo and Shawshank, and it vanished into demolition 20 years ago.

I mourn all the great cinemas I never went to, both throughout the country and out in the wider world. The multiplex concept killed so many of them, the convenience of multiple screens leading inevitably to oblivion for the old picture palaces.

Because even the worst theatres I ever went to, the ones with the sticky floors and the tattered curtains, were still impossibly glamorous and fancy to me. I was a working class kid, and never went to no opera or ballet, but I was often dropped off at these cinemas, and they were the most luxurious places I could imagine.

They were full of stories made of light, and delivered in a place so big dialogue would echo around the cavernous space, and everything smelled of popcorn. They had fancy armchairs to relax in before the film started and cheap glass chandeliers that looked like the real thing to me.

There's still so many great cinemas left around the world, but so many are also gone forever. It used to be the easiest way to get a little opulence in your life, instead of getting shoved down the corridor to Screen Six.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

X-Men (Classic) by Mignola, Bogdanove, Lightle, Gammill and Austin - part 1 of 1

Art by Mike Mignola
Art by Jon Bogdanove and Terry Austin
Art by Kerry Gammill and Terry Austin
Art by Steve Lightle
Art by Kerry Gammill and Terry Austin
Art by Steve Lightle

Art Adams did most of the frontispieces for Classic X-Men, but a couple of oyther talents got in there before they replaced them with more pages.Some, like Mignola, would go onto create universes of them own, while other like Lightle and Gammill never seemed to get the respect they deserved.

Unsurprisingly, it's the Jon Bogdanove that I have the most fondness for. It's always the Bogdanove.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

New Oldsmobiles are in early this year!

Sure, who wouldn't want to live in a 70s mall like the heroes of Dawn of the Dead? It might be a satire on consumerism, but you can still drown out the howls of the living dead outside with musak and rampant looting.  

But I'd always rather trash one like the Blues Brothers did. The way they fish-tail into all those glass store exteriors still looks like the most fun you could ever have in a mall.

Friday, October 20, 2023

That was information

For some reason I never really understand, an old blog post on this site suddenly started doing some serious numbers last week. It was one where I rejected the moaning journalism about comic books had died, and talked about how much information there was about the medium available, and now it seems hopelessly naive, because a bunch of great things that I linked to are all fucking gone.

So much for all that information.

My stupid blog is still there, talking about stuff that doesn't exist. The original writers might have their words saved on a hard drive somewhere, but they're gone from the wider web. Maybe I could dredge them up on the wayback machine or something, but that always feels like way more trouble than it's really worth.

I have some Wizard magazines from the early 2000s that I bought a couple of years ago and I thought I'd just get them for a laugh, but they are now physical evidence of all sorts of things that you can't find anywhere else. When all advertising and promotion went online, it was bloody useful at the time, but inevitably caved into entropy. 

Now I have fanzines from the 80s that tell me useful things like what Grant Morrison drank at the pub, but finding anything out about a comic published in 2007 is ridiculously hard.

Unfortunately, while my innate optimism assures me that there is still good comics journalism going on out there, I don't know where to find it anymore. There's still some obviously good stuff, like the eternal TCJ, and the deeply appreciated Gutter Review, and I love them both, but those links probably won't work in another five years.

But it's just a little depressing that a shitty little blog like this soldiers on - at least until some tech genius decides that blogger ain't worth it anymore - while work by writers and journalists I deeply respect turns to vapour. We all deserve better.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Some folk wish we were all back in 1963

I wasn't worried that we never got to see the end of the 1963 comic by Alan Moore and a dizzily brilliant array of artists. Even with that pedigree, it was just another Image comic in the 90s. I didn't think anybody was too upset. 

But I guess Don Simpson was, and while I really don't know what to make of Simpson's new comic, it's weirdly touching that somebody out there cares that much.

I always liked Simpson's very exact kind of comics well enough, I've had one weird issue of Megaton Man in my collection for years. And while I was never really compelled to track down the rest, I still have that one issue that I held onto. (I dunno, I think it was the guy made of yarn that put me off. He always looked so sweaty and gross). 

So the first Simpson comic I read in years was X-Amount of Comics: 1963 (WhenElse?!) Annual - a weird and happily unauthorized sequel to the earlier comic, and I really don't know how to feel about it.

I mean, I'm obviously on Team Moore, and more like the mindless zombies who like his work than the other analogues Simpson piles into the comic, and I do think that Simpson's continued digs at Moore only being in it for the money feel strange when the British writer is the only goddamn comic creator I know of who has rejected money in movie and royalties.

(Jesus Christ, I read the last issue of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen again the other day, and the line from the young Nemo about what to do when you find yourself surrounded by a tempest, and how it's so much easier if you don't do it alone - that still gets me on the deepest level.)

But for all that, Simpson's new comic is a lot of fun. Hell, Moore isn't even the main villain in Simpson's eyes, with others, including Jim Lee, getting more of a spray in the back pages.

And one thing I do take away from the book is that Simpson is a very enthusiastic artist, who has happily followed his whims, and he was really into 1963, and wanted more. And assumes that there are legions of readers who feel the same.

But I lived through those days, man. There wasn't a huge cry of anguish when 1963 never finished. Who gives a shit about that, when we had Big Numbers to worry about? Fucking hell, which Image series did actually finish at the time?

1963 was always a curio, and the unfinished and open-ended manner it was let in could be part of the charm. But I sill appreciate how much Simpson cares about it, even if nobody else seems to.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Ellroy tosses the room

I fucking love James Ellroy's books, and always snatch them up straight away when they come out. Then I rip through them, and then spend the next few months trying not to write like him, because that never works for anybody (seriously, book reviewers who try to write about him in his style are the most embarrassing thing in all literary fiction).

The Enchanters is like all of his books - full of the worst, most reprehensible men. Real scum who murder and destroy peoples lives, and soil the entire system with their unstoppable urges.

But I always love the way they toss a room, or set it up. The way the process if always so meticulous, so precise, so professional. Wire taps and panty drawers set up by people out of their goddamn minds on speed. Always stream of consciousness vibes as they do the work. Just immaculate fiction.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Still got time for The Flash

Even though I thought I got over The Flash a long time ago, sometimes he still comes in and sweeps me along in his wake.

I was always a Wally West kid, and still have every Flash comic Mark Waid did in the 90s. I genuinely care about Wally and Linda and the whole damn Flash family.

I drifted away after that, and was not on board with Barry's return. It's been years now and I still feel that Wally was done dirty, especially with his inexplicable tragedy in the catastrophic Heroes In Crisis.

I saw he was Metron or Dr Manhattan or something for a while, and kinda lost track again, but then I read the latest trade paperback of his most recent adventures by writer Jeremy Adams and chums, and even though I've deeply fallen out of touch with the great DC lore, I enjoyed the hell out of it..

Because it's just basic Flash comics, and sometimes that's all I need.  There's still too many overblown lightning effects for my tastes, but in the latest chapter Wally is just Wally, with a couple of kids and another on the way, and his partnership with Linda is sitll a thing, and still deeply endearing. 

She gets some speed powers again in this one - I think it's the third time that's happened, but it's always nice to see her take on Wally at his own game, even though she never needed the Speed Force to be his equal.

Barry is still out there, off doing JLA things, but Wally has a life, one well earned and well deserved. Nobody needed to blow up his whole world to generate conflict in his life, because nobody needed to see Wally down on his knees. He's no fun if he's not running.

Monday, October 16, 2023

My life in playground

With two pre-schoolers in a tiny two-bedroom flat, we have become intimately familiar with all the playgrounds in our suburb, and several suburbs beyond. We know which one has the best sandpit, and which one has the dodgiest slide. We know which ones to avoid when the local fiends get their methadone dose from the nearby pharmacy and space out in the park, and which ones have the best protection from the wind and sun.

And I'm just so impressed by the design of these things these days, and the stimulation they offer the young minds. Kids can spend hours on these weird and colourful constructions, because that's what kids do, and I wish we had that kind of fun when I was a kid.

My generation was the last to get scarred up by the old playgrounds built of concrete and steel, before the people who built these things took concepts like 'safety' and 'less horrific injuries' into consideration.

My primary school had these incredibly dangerous things for young kids to clamber over, including a 3m high rocket ship that all the older kids would dare you to jump off. At least that one had some gravelly pebbles to jump into, most of them just had bare concrete.

Children would get seriously burned on slides that were baking in the sun, there was little soft ground to come off on, and some of the larger contraptions were big and fast and incredibly dangerous. One giant log on a swing thing, down on Caroline Bay, was the most monstrously dangerous thing I ever saw in a playground, kids got viciously clocked on the noggin by it when it reared back in full steam, or crushed their fingers in the vast hinges needed to hold it all together.

I didn't care how dangerous they were care, I loved them, and when the family would travel around so my sisters could be marching girls - it's a thing - I would always disappear with two goals in mind. One was to find a shop that sold comics and had some spacies, and the other was to check out the local playgrounds and be incredibly judgemental about them. 

The Ashburton domain had some spectacular playgrounds around its vast estate - including, for my money, the best flying fox in the South Island. The Waimate domain had this thing with rings that you could grasp on, and you better hold on tight, otherwise you're coming off at 20 kays an hour on asphalt  that was laid 30 years before you were born. Pleasent Point - where I thought the Mothman lived - had the best fireman's pole, just the perfect length.

The only time I got properly beaten up was at the Mosgiel playground, some local kids taking exception when I just wanted to play on a fucking tractor. So, y'know, fuck Mosgiel forever.

Just as I was growing out of spending all my time at playgrounds, a new kind appeared. I don't know what the technical term was, but we called them adventure playgrounds. Instead of hard steel swings and see-saws, these were wooden constructions, full of climbing towers and rope birdges and log trails, with bark beneath to break your fall.

And then I grew up, and playgrounds were just the places where you met with your mates late on weekend nights, with a rigger of beer someone filched from the parents' home brew. 

Now I'm back at them several times a week, and getting snobby about them again. It takes more than a swing - although the youngest wouldn't care, he could freaking swing forever - and I'm judging them on their protection from the elements, and their design, and the neighbourhood they're in. 

They also look fucking amazing, with swooping designs in bright, primary colours. I might not have the same thrill of climbing up a rocket and jumping off - my fucking knees would shatter if I tired that today - my the little ones love it, and that's where the fun is now.


Sunday, October 15, 2023

X-Men (Classic) by Art Adams - part 3 of 3

I dig the idea that Wolverine got into a permamnent side hussle with the couple, and I do like it when Emma messes everything up, but I'm still Jean+Scott 4ever.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Take a Detour


What are you going to do with one hour and three minutes that is better than watching Detour? Nuthin'. That's what.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Crash is still horny as fuck

Even though I've been a Cronenberg freak from the start, I don't think I'd seen Crash since the 90s. I know I definitely saw it at the local film festival the year it came out - I can still hear those gasps and screams echoing around the Regent Theatre - and it was an excellent fucking movie, but I'm not sure I'd seen it since then.

I always remembered some of the basics of the film - the alluring squeak of Rosanna Arquette's leg brace, the sheer silliness of the staged celebrity crashes - but I finally watched it again recently and there was only one thing that really stood out: for a 25+-year-old movie, it's still hardcore as hell. 

While there is certainly a lot of people staring out over never-ending highways with existential angst, it really feels like half the run time is just people fucking. They're fucking in old crashed cars, on dirty sofas, in more crashed cars, and on the grass verge of the highway. They're all at it, all the time. 

I don't know if they're having a lot of fun - Seth in The Fly is the only Cronenberg character who ever really looked like he was having fun for a while, and we all saw how that turned out - but they're certainly enthusiastic.

It's still shocking in the year 2023 and it's so great that Cronenberg can still smack you upside the head with decades-old work. You can see why it generated Ban This Sick Filth headlines at the time, because it really is sick filth, in the finest possible way.

Watching it with contemporary eyes, that it still the feeling that it's like any film about people with an addiction or fetish, where they're willing to destroy other people's lives to chase that need. It's not their fault - that's not how those things work - but it does leave a lot of human debris behind.

But with astonishingly charming actors like Arquette, Spader, Unger, Koteas and Hunter, it's never boring, especially when they're all playing it so incredibly cold on the surface, with the burn of a overheating engine in their pants.

There are filmmakers tearing away at the same bloody scabs like Cronenberg does these days, but few get the huge attention or distribution that Crash did. Since they're trying everything they can to get people back to cinemas at the moment, maybe it's time to give more fucking a try? You don't even have to crash your car to get off.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Senna vs Schumacher

I had a dream the other night that we got in a new TV that played things from another timeline, but the only thing I could tune in was a Formula One race from the late 1990s - in a world where Ayrton Senna hadn't died on the track, and his crazy brilliance behind the wheel went up against Michael Schumacher's cool professionalism for the entire decade. 

I haven't watched any F1 in years, although I do have dear friends who insist it is the greatest sport of all time. But shit, that race from another dimension was a hell of a thing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Tuning into TV in other countries

Clarence was fucking right. When I first saw that part in True Romance when the young lovers are about to ride off into the sunset with a shitload of cash, Clarence is all for the idea, mainly because he wants to see what television looks like in other countries.

Sometimes you feel seen in a movie; sometimes you feel like you're in the spotlight of recognition; and sometimes you just totally agree with everything somebody just said. Fuck yeah, Clarence, I thought then and think now, that sounds great.

We only had two channels when I was growing up, and you would hear about cable and satellite TV overseas, and America had, like, a hundred channels. Man, I had to see that for myself someday.

So when the lovely wife and I did hit the road and travel around the world, there was always some down time in the hotel room before we headed out to the next great sights, and I was always fascinated to see what was on the local stations.

Sometimes I would end up with a surprising connection to home, and other times I was just happy to find the one channel in Egypt that played nothing but crappy old action flicks. (I also saw the Seven Year Itch while waiting for our tour to start in Cairo, but it was the most frsutrating thing I'd ever seen, because they cut out all of THAT scene.) And it didn't matter where you go in the world, there always be lots of Seinfeld.

I also always tuned into the the local news, just to see the strange little focuses on other things that never make it across the world. Fucking love it.

Now we're all watching the same streaming channels now, all across the world, and it's not really the same. But I'll still be tuning in the next time we're in some foreign hotel room ,getting out of the sun and putting on the tube. I just want to see what it's like.

And hell, maybe I'll get to see The Gallows Pole that way.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Falling for the Sandman

The impact of The Sandman comic when it was still an ongoing monthly concern really feels like a forgotten dream these days. It is one of those things that has been repackaged so much, reproduced in a breathless array of formats and outright ripped off, that's it's easy to forget what hot shit it actually was, back in the day.

Now your Mum knows who Hob Gadling is, so it's probably not as cool as it once was. But when I first wandered into the world of Morpheus and chums, it felt like the coolest thing I'd ever read.

I came in late in the series - I'd seen the 'handful of dust' advertisement in Sgt Rock comics, but lived absolutely nowhere near any store that sold the series, so didn't start getting it regularly until two-thirds of the way in.

I already knew who Gaiman was, after the local library improbably ended up with a copy of Signal to Noise on the shelves, but the first issue of Sandman I ever actually read was part of a ridiculously awesome haul of cheap DC comics that I bought from the Christhurch Airport bookstore in the early 90s.

As well as a vast number of post-crisis Superman and Armageddon 2001 comics, I got my first taste of Morrison's Doom Patrol, and the last chapter of Season of Mists.

I didn't understand anything, I didn't know who the blonde git on the beach was, or what was going on in the conversation with Nada, or even what was going on in Hell. But the comic had style, and I liked this version of Loki, and how he escaped his eternal punishment. and the dialogue felt so light and effortless, even when talking about the most important of all things.

Halfway through the run of Sandman, there were already a tonne of imitators, and there have only been exponentially more since, but none of them had the wit of Gaiman's writing, none of them had the ambition.

Because that's what I really got from these first taste of Sandman - Gaiman's ambition for the type of story that could be told in the comic format was intoxicating. It was already there, in a small epilogue at the end of a larger tale, and the writer's hunger for something bigger would only become more obvious as the comic went on.

This kind of ambition was all over the place as the 80s turned into the 90s - in all sorts of different comics, in all sorts of genres - but few built up an audience like The Sandman did.   

Ramadan was the first issue I bought new, and I got it regularly from then to the end. I chased down the earlier books, the first trade paperback series I ever got, and I remember the fucking joy of being halfway through A Doll's House and realising there was a hundred pages still to go, because I was enjoying it so much.

I still lived very far away from any kind of bookstore, and it took a couple of years to track down those few books, picking each one up with my tiny minimum wage earnings, whenever I got the chance.

By the time the series came to an end, after the inevitable tragedy of the title character, I finally lived in a town in a comic shop, and got those last six issues from my first local comic shop, spread out over luxurious months - I cared not one bit about delays in some of the final issues, because like being halfway through that trade, I did not want to to be over.

A decade later, when I graduated with a journalism diploma, I came first in class and got a small cash prize, and one of the comics I bought with it - I'd been a poor student all year, and was gagging for some new comics - was the Endless Nights thing, which is still a treasured edition on the shelves.

A few years ago, Sandman came back in a series with a series of gorgeous tableau by JH Williams III, and it wasn't what I expected from a new Sandman comic at all, which is exactly what a new Sandman comic should be. 

Gaiman's work is a lot safer these days, and doesn't have the burning ambition of the younger writer's work, but it still garbs the attention. Now Sandman even a big budget TV show that looks absolutely terrific, and can be disconcertingly faithful to comics written years and years ago. 

But however well it is cast, and no matter how good it looks, the TV show will never capture that original magic for me, when there was nothing else that was really like Sandman in the world, or in any part of the Dreaming.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

X-Men (Classic) by Art Adams - part 2 of 3

Art Adams is the only artist on the planet who could get me to buy a Starjammers comic.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

This is my life now: Still making 'em laugh


When the kids are being miserable in the house, I've found one thing that always, positively cheers them up and it's Donald O'Connor, making 'em laugh by any means necessary, in Singing In The Rain.

Seriously, they love that shit. Seventy something years later, and it's still a guaranteed crack-up.

Gurning and pratfalls will always be funny, O'Connor passed away 20 years ago last week, but the way he gets his feet tangled up will live forever, man.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Kingdom of the Spiders: Absolute terror, just from the poster

What did I know about Kingdom of the Spiders? Most of it was that poster. Most of it still is.

I saw that poster hanging on a wall in Waimate. It looked really bloody scary. I didn't know what it was about, and the poster looked a bit ragged, like it had been plastered on the wall for a while. But I was 6 or 7 years old - several years after the film had been released - and that poster gave me the serious shits.

And somehow, somewhere, I saw a clip from that film. I can't remember what it was, and just have the faintest image of spiders coming in under the door of a ramshackle wooden shed, and that's it. But it was utterly terrifying.

Obviously, I hadn't seen much in the way of scary movies at that age - other than the Hammer House of Horror episodes that I would sometimes get to see when I faked being sick and stayed up later with Mum and Dad - but that idea about spiders turning on humanity and wrecking havoc looked like the scariest goddamn thing I had ever seen.

I think it really hit home, because spiders were a real thing that I saw every day. And they were already a little scary, and I'd been told how some of them could bite you with poisonous fangs. They were in the corner of my room, they were everywhere.

It's the same way the suburban horror of the 80s slasher movie would hit home so much, because they always looked like they were happening on the same street as me. A horrifying familiarity.  

I've watched other films about spiders attacking humanity, and haven't had a problem with them, but I've never been able to go back and watch the Kingdom. I know it's probably rubbish in a way I can't even imagine, but I don't want to give up the terror I still have.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

No Aliens or Predators on the page

Of course the Alien and Predator films are absolute masterpieces, the first few, anyway. They're full of extreme tension and weird horror, with people pushed into ultra-survival mode. They're also disaster films masquerading as war movies that rely heavily on unspoken romance. Especially the first Predator - my god, the sexual chemistry between all those big and burly men still fucking sizzles.  

And the good vibes from watching the absolute perfection of Aliens or Predator at my mates' place on Friday nights in the 1980s still linger hard. I still watch any new entry in any series, no matter how shitty they get, hoping for one tiny bit of the original brilliance.

But I don't bother with hardly any of the comics, because while the comics medium can do everything, it doesn't mean they do them all very well.

One of the main reasons the Aliens and Predator comics - from multiple publishers - never really hit with me is that they're mainly boring, covering the same old cliches and beats, with usually lackluster artwork.

And even the best of them just felt too obvious. Each new miniseries has some new hook - this time the Predators are in the cold! this time it's a human who is the REAL predator! - and are always slightly clever in the most obvious way. Sometimes you get something fun, like a Batman taking on a Predator, or some nice art like the reliable Kev Walker on a recent Predator series, but most of the time it's strictly dullsville. 

Obviously, every now and then, you do get some idiosyncratic creator, who does something weird with the franchises. But these are always notable in their rarity.

I think the thing that puts me off the comic adaptions of these properties is the lack of movement, something unfortunately unavoidable in the medium. Both alien creatures move in distinctive, exact ways, and it's always missing. Some of the best parts of those original movies come from this unearthly movement, and it's just not there on the page.

Comics are words and pictures and you can do anything with words and pictures, except movement. It's the thrust of these things that is missing, and they ain't much without that thrust.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Really too old for this shit

Today I learned that the great Danny Glover was eight years younger than I am now when he first said he was too old for this shit in the first Lethal Weapon. 


Guess it's official. I AM too old for this shit.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Secret Wars: Coming late to the event

I was somewhere deep into Jonathan Hickman's run on the X-Men when I realised I never really saw how his earlier Avengers comics had actually finished. Using the local library system, I had read almost all the tie-in trade paperbacks, across multiple Avengers series, but somehow missed the resolution.

And then I realised it was because I'd never actually read Secret Wars, which probably explained a lot.

I knew all about the Secret Wars series when it came out in 2015, and read a vast amount of weird comics that happened around the periphery of the event. The only one I actually bought with was the Phantom Eagle one that Garth Ennis did, because Ennis treating the Phantom Eagle like absolute dogshit is always funny to me.

But I did read what felt like dozens of the side things around it, set in different parts of Battleword. I saw bits of the story, enough to know what basically happened. Flashbacks in Miles Morales comics explained how an extremely gross burger saved his family from the destruction of their universe, and that I knew that something inspired Wakanda to look to the stars.

Keeping track of superhero series can feel like a chore, with constant reboots and multiple volumes with little changes. I can't shake the feeling that I'm missing some Daredevil ,somehow. But usually I can tell if I'v read one of the big event comics.

But they still slide by, which leaves me wondering how much of an event they ever really were. To bring it back to all things X, I've been reading that Krakoa thing all out of order, and I still haven't read X of Swords, so I feel constantly behind on all the Arakko stuff.  

Anyway, Secret Wars was a lot of fun. I'm still not 100% sure why the universes kept crashing into each other, or why characters created by Stan and Jack could only come up with ultra-genocide as a solution, but any story where Doctor Doom gets everything he ever wanted in life, and realises he's a still a piece f shit because it's still not enough, is all right by me.

Plus, the art by Esad Ribić was gorgeous, the slight smear on his detailed line giving everything a hazy, unreal resolution, topped off with bone-crunching action scenes.

It might have all hit better at the time, but better late than never. I got there in the end.

Monday, October 2, 2023

The sounds of home always had flattened vowels

I didn't really leave New Zealand and go overseas until I was 32. I'd been to Australia a couple of times, but that doesn't count. That just felt like a weird suburb over the hill somewhere, full of excellent beaches, sisters that won't come home and many, many creatures that would like to kill you.

But when we did finally go overseas properly, we went all the way - Australia, Japan, the UK, all the way through 18 countries around Europe, and across the Atlantic to the States. It was almost six months. It was a lot. 

By the time we got to Washington DC, we were bushed on a molecular level. We still saw the rockets in the Smithsonian and took photos around all the monuments, like you're supposed to, but we were back in the hotel by 7pm, pigging out on Wendy's from across the road.

And that night, beaten down and weary, the sounds of home came calling again over the TV set in loudly broad tones, and I'd never heard us like that before.

There had been New Zealanders everywhere during the six months - the entire tour company crew for the Europe leg were from Wellington and Hamilton; and the one time we had to stay in a hostel and share a room with some other people, it turned out to be a lovely couple from Oamaru, a town about 40 minutes' drive from where I was born.

But I hadn't been utterly surrounded by it, while going around the world. I hadn't been totally immersed in all those flattened vowels and clipped syllables that just sound like regular folk to my ears. 

And then, there it was on the fucking TV, on primetime American television. We arrived in the States just as Flight of the Conchords was coming, and it just happened to be the night they first screened the Bowie episode, and it was fucking excellent.

Of course I knew who they were. They had been on all sorts of comedy shows, and had done some radio plays that were actually fairly mediocre. They went to uni at the same time as some of my pals, and were broadly familiar, but there they were, killing it on screen in the goddamn United States.

And when that was over, one of the pay movies on the TV was the then brand-new Death Proof. I'm a Tarantino bore to the core, and Death Proof is literally the only film of his I haven't seen at the movies. If it had gotten any kind of theatre release in the past few months, we'd missed it on our travels

But there it was, so I hooked it straight into my cinematic veins, and suddenly there was Zoe Bell with that bloody accent again, even screaming in Kiwi when she was riding that hot bonnet.

You never think you've got an accent until you hear it like that, far from home. And it's a big, big world, until you hear people who sound like your best mates on the other side of the planet.

The New Zealand accent, for that one night, felt global. 

But it didn't help poor Pedro, the manager at the Harlem hotel we stayed in the next night. He still couldn't understand a fucking word we said. Maybe he wasn't a Tarantino geek.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

X-Men (Classic) by Art Adams - part 1 of 3

There's something about 1980s Art Adams X-Men that feels like the real, true X-Men, and the frontispiece art he used to provide for issues of Classic X-Men gave him the chance to portray them in their prime. 

I just think they're neat pieces of art, and am happy to showcase the best of them over the next few Sundays.