Sunday, December 3, 2023

Walt Simonson's Star Wars (part 2 of 2)


The Force was so strong in Simonson.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Do you have it in you in make it epic?

I'll ride or die for Mad Max 2 until the day I fall victim to the white-line nightmare, but this just became the only movie in the world I have to see right now.

I can not tell you how happy it makes me that they keep the Australian accents.

Toxic masculinity at the film festival

Back in my old life, back before 'keeping my young children alive' became my one and only priority, film festivals were a big fucking deal in my life. I would look forward to them every year, and there was always one movie that was instantly an obvious must-see.

And I remember once in the 90s, telling my mates that the one film that had all the buzz this year was this thing called In The Company Of Men and we all had to go check it out. And while it was a pretty good film, I still feel bad about that forced recommendation, because man, those guys in that film are such complete cunts.

It's well made, of course. Neil LaBute is an extremely talented writer, and the actors are absolutely terrific - it was the first time I ever saw Aaron Eckhart use that massive jaw for sinister effect, and I still wonder how the wonderful Stacy Edwards didn't become a superstar.

But the main characters are such utter shitheads, playing bullshit juvenile power games that can really harm people, and nobody had a good time watching that. Nobody in my group of friends anyway. They all agreed that it was worth seeing, but it was a fucking downer of a way to spend a Friday night, and I also couldn't quite shake the feeling that my insistence that we all had to see it was the same sort of entitled toxic masculinity the movie was ripping into.

There's been so many films about these kinds of cunts since then, and it's never stopped being depressing how many dickhead alpha bros see them as a guidebook, not a warning. But this sort of movie is still essential, because the world does, unfortunately, need constant reminders about why these people are so shitty. But they're not the sort of thing you should ever force anybody to watch.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Black Label ain't got nothing on Vertigo

Of course I was a Vertigo kid, I never had a fucking chance. I was 18 when it launched, hitting the exact right age for the imprint. But as an objective and rabid consumer of modern American comic books, I still think the market is missing something vital with its absence.

Vertigo shut up shop a few years ago, and the kind of things it delivered can still be found at companies like Image, but only a few of those series get the long-running promotion and support that Vertigo titles did. 

With the might of DC behind them, even the most idiosyncratic visions of the world could get 75 issues, and a lot of them didn't hit with huge audiences, but they hit enough. They were, crucially, stories that could only really be told in a long-running medium like the monthly comic, and weren't nakedly desperate attempts to get a movie deal (and the real money.)

DC will always say it's serving the same audience with its endless Black Label titles, but that's a line that really isn't concerned with delivering any kind of sophisticated suspense, full of very pretty books about hard it is to be Batman, or how some random hero need to be woken up to save the a post-apocalyptic world; and it just ain't the same. 

There are still some very nice comics with a Black Label logo on them - the devotion to producing album-sized comics should be absolutely lauded, because it really gives the often terrific art room to breathe. But there really isn't anything like the regular thrills of a Sandman, or a Preacher, of even a Shade the Changing Man. Just desperate searches for new IP, based on the same old shit. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Empire holds the line

I do like giving Empire magazine a lot of shit, mainly because of the unwarranted entitlement I've built up after buying it every month since 1993, and it's personally cutting when it's a bit disappointing. But it also means I have to give it proper respect when it delivers the goods, and the past few months have been fucking great.

I was 100% behind the actors and writers in their recent strike against the Hollywood system, because the Hollywood system is completely fucked, and the people who actually create the good stuff deserve far more the rewards. But you can already feel the brakes going hard on the flow of movie and TV product, and we haven't already felt the full effects of that yet.

And yet, without the massive influx of cinematic content, Empire has filled its pages with quality - highlighting a lot of films that are pretty fucking far from blockbusters, along with some some fascinating slices of movie history. Retrospectives on some deadset classics, and full articles on some of the weird shit behind the scenes of history, like the dude who did the electronics for Universal horrors, or Jimmy the fucking Raven.

Excellent stuff, even if the Marvel love still grates a bit. Might keep getting it for another 30 years.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Bob's book club: Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

* Spoilers for the ending of Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

My regular one person book club is still a thing, and the novels I grab at random at the start of each month are still pretty fucking rewarding. 

I got the usual temporal kicks from This Is How You Win The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, only to discover two days after I finished it that everybody else in the world had already read it; I really enjoyed the use of character perspectives in Rumaan Alam's Leave The World Behind; and thought the delicate structure and very Australian humour of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson was outstanding.

In my relentless bid to find things outside my usual comfort zone, I've also found myself following weird trends, and have been reading multiple books about women going through emotional dilemmas that have strange elements of supernatural shapeshifting. I got Bunny by Mona Awad because it looked like a Heathers-type thing, and then became something else entirely and tapped into some very modern themes of alienation and creating artifical personalities and people, while also having a couple of cracking twists.

But my favourite random novel of the past six months is easily Rachel Yoder's Nightbitch, which I thought was tremendous.

It's an outrageously funny book - the part with the squirrel chase is the funniest thing I've read in a long time - and it might be about a woman who is turning into a dog, or might just be going howlingly mad, and it really doesn't matter, because she's growing weird hairs and digging up rotting rabbits in the back garden either way.

But the thing I appreciated most is that the main character's journey into doggydom feels like it is going to end with an admonishment, or some kind of punishment or humiliation for the main character, and it just doesn't do that at all. I've become so used to books making moral stands, no matter how oblique, and to get one that says that this all this weird shit is fine, and it all works out for the best, is actually refreshing.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for a happy ending.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Always wanted the Treasury

I used to ache for the Treasury comics, those gorgeously huge comic books that the big comic companies put out in the 1970s. I only ever saw them in ads, because these special editions never, ever made it to my corner of the globe. All we got was those gorgeous promos.

The ones promising big crossovers between Spider-Man and Superman were the ones I craved the most, and I've still never see an affordable copy out in the wild. I did get to read the Batman/Hulk one, but only in a smaller, black and white version that a local reprint company churned out (José Luis García-López's art was still absolutely dynamic in this weakened form, and his Bats will always be the definitive version in my mind.)

Over the years, I've managed to pick up issues here and there, some Legion of Super-Heroes, and some Avengers and Dr Strange things. My pal Nik recently gave me the Fortress of Solitude one, with Superman's hideout never looking better, and I got the Captain America Bicentennial Battles one in Sydney for 10 bucks, and sometimes I think that's the only Treasury I ever really need.

Only sometimes, though. I would still do anything for one of those team-ups, or the Superman/Muhammad Ali spectacular, or Kirby's 2001, without paying upwards of a hundred bucks for the thing. And even at those prices, it's so fucking tempting.

Because man, that ache ate away for so long, for so many years, that it's still hard to fill now. I've always envied my American brothers and sisters who could just grab it off the shelf, or just order this shit with five bucks and a SASE if it never appeared at their 7-11. Local reprints were as good as it got, and none of them were ever as gigantic as these treasured things. 

I still feel an echo of those childhood cravings when I see there is another one of those chunky Artist Editions, with some of the greatest comic art ever produced showcased in beautiful oversized editions. I can even order them myself myself these days, and have been severely tempted by some of the Bolland or O'Neill or McMahon books that have come out.

But the tyranny of distance always holds me back, because even if I could justify the $200+ in local money the actual book costs, I can't do that half again in postage it wil lcost to ship it to the arse end of the world.

Maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better, but maybe that's a good thing. When you can't always get what you want, you can learn to love the absence, and that enthusiasm for something you will probably never own. Without the thing itself, the thrill can still be found.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Walt Simonson's Star Wars (part 1 of 2)

While most Star Wars comics don't usually do a lot for me, there have still been some phenomenal comic book artists working on the saga every now and then, from the eternal Al Williamson to the always wonderful Cam Kennedy.

But there's a part of me that always thinks the Walt Simonson and Tom Palmer art team on the Marvel comic in the early 80s is the best of all Star Wars comics. There's only a dozen or so issues, but each one kicks off with a blinder of a splash page, featuring some spacecraft blasting through the void, or some character wrestling with a huge dilemma, and even after all the Star Wars saturation of recent years, I'm always happy to highlight some of my favourites from that galaxy far, far away....

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Twister when you're naked

I watched Twister the other night, and while I saw it a million times back in the day, I hadn't watched it in years now. And it holds up pretty well - the first shot in the present day is some excruciatingly bad CGI of a satellite in space, but the actual tornado effects still look pretty good. Plus, it's got a blinder of a cast - it might be the first thing I ever saw Philip Seymour Hoffman in, and Paxton should have been given more Cary Grant roles.

And I can buy the way our heroes survive the final storm, even if there is really no chance they could actually survive it in real life, no matter how deep those pipes go. But what I really want to know is how they go through that and remain fully clothed by the end - people caught in actual storms are always having their clothes torn from their bodies from their nature, but their mid-90s khakis are barely ripped.

I know it's because a big, fun family blockbuster of the 90s, but the film really would have been improve if it ended with Paxton and Helen Hunt in the nude, surrounded by the debris of the storm

I just got to know where they get their trouser belts.....