Cakes and Money

Friday, January 31, 2003
 
Surprise Dispatch

Hello everybody!

As Gillian has just disappeared to add footnotes to her long essay, it looks like this�ll be a surprise blog update.

My flight to Cambridge yesterday was nice�n�smooth and at an earlier time than usual, which was a good change. Unfortunately, due to the snowy weather down here my plain had to circle the airport in a holding pattern for another 30 minutes, which was a bit odd on a 40 minute flight, if you know what I mean.

But hey- I�m having a marvellous time, so YAY!

�If we could have your attention just for a few moments while we show you the safety features�

Rich Johnston interviews Grant Morrison here.

It�s entertaining stuff, which quite a few choice snippets sprinkled throughout, as per usual for a Morrison interview.

�I don't think comic books are in trouble but I'm no longer convinced that we can raise sales appreciably on these items. I think they're clearly becoming a niche market, like poetry, but with more hand-to-hand combat. The glossy, overly expensive, hand-drawn periodicals we're now used to are such luxury aesthetic items that it's unlikely they will ever sell in quantity again. If they could be made much cheaper or else packaged as 200 page shinies, it might help, but compared to a game, a lad's mag, a CD or a DVD, a typical comic book is just too damn expensive and esoteric for most non-specialist consumers.

I still think comics will survive and thrive and that the work will be of a much higher and purer standard, so it's not all gloom and doom - it's unlikely that many young people will want to pursue this as a career when other options are open, but it will always be an outlet for maverick and anti-authoritarian talents who want to see their work published almost unedited.�


Interestingly, it seems that Morrison�s booming indestructible optimism about the future of the comics industry has contracted back down into something more� well, I don�t quite want to say realistic, but perhaps more considered would be the right way to put it.

I�m oddly gutted that DC won�t be publishing LeSexy, cos I think I�d became very attached to the idea of the series. For those of you who don�t know, LeSexy was supposed to be a grotesque sit-comic in the very British tradition of dark, grimy humour written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Cameron Stewart.

Now, given that I grew up watching such British comedy, am a big Grant Morrison fan, and think that Cameron Stewart is one of the most talented young artists out there, you can probably guess why I was looking forward to this collaboration, but alas, it is not to be:

�DC didn't to publish LeSexy because Karen Berger felt it was a bit dark and parochial for her tastes. British comedy, unlike the American variant, tends to focus on self-important losers (Basil Fawlty, Captain Mainwaring, Rigsby, Alan Partridge, etc.) and when I tried to create a British sit-comic for an American publisher, it didn't stick� If someone wants to do a British humour comic aimed at the Brass Eye/Big Train/League of Gentlemen/The Office audience...I have the perfect story. In the end, I may adapt the scripts for TV and try again there. It started out as a TV idea.�

Ach well: at least it seems as though Morrison will definitely be on New X-Men beyond issue #150. I�d been hoping his run would be a wee bit longer than that, as it feels to me like everything�s only really just started to come together in New X-Men. Don�t get me wrong: I think the best bits of New X-Men are up there with the best of Morrison�s output, but so far there�s been a lack of constancy on this title, partly due to the massive amounts of different (and sometimes highly unsuitable) pencillers that have worked on the book, and partly because there have been a few duff issues in there. At the moment it looks like there�s gonna be a separate penciller for every story arc, which is far from ideal but should at least maintain some sense of internal consistency. The �Riot at Xavier�s� story arc had been wonderful so far too, and I hope this quality keeps up for the rest of Morrison�s run, cos this book really has the potential to be one of his better series.

Oh- and it looks like we should be seeing We3, INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN and Marvel Boy 2 in addition to New X-Men and The Filth from Morrison this year so YAY basically.

If anyone�s interested, there are a couple of covers Grant Morrison drew for a fanzine called Fusion over on Flat Earth.

I picked up The Filth, Stray Bullets, X-Statix and Twentieth Century Eightball this week, so I�ll probably babble on about those sometime after I get back home.

Everything In It�s Right Place

There�s an interview with the man behind the brilliant Get Your War On web-comic here.

"I didn�t have to go through an editor. I could make strips about something and post it immediately thereafter and in 48 hours it would be all over the world. I�m not the kind of person who used to get excited about how the Internet was gonna change everything, but in this instance I understand. It was truly something I was able to sneak in under the door. [People�s] reactions were strong, not because I was saying anything especially insightful, but because it was this little voice speaking against this mass wall of unstoppable rhetorical force that was being cast on us."

(Link found via Fluxblog)


Tuesday, January 28, 2003
 
Updates a Go-Go

Hey everybody! Just writing to mention the fact that this blog will probably be updated very erratically this week, due to the fact that I'll be flying down to Cambridge to see my girlfriend Gillian on Thursday (YAY!), and because I'm feeling somewhat allergic to my computer at the moment.

I love the Internet for all the interesting blogs, online communities and free music it allows me to access. I love it cos it lets me keep in touch with friends who don't live near me anymore. But it really can drain your free time, can't it? I've spent massive amounts of time just drifting aimlessly through cyberspace, looking at one boring site after another. Heh- I feel like I�m at an Internet Users Anonymous meeting!

One day, I�m gonna write something about weblogs, bootleg mixes and other fun, DIY stuff you can sample for free on the internet. I know I�m a good two years behind the zeitgeist on this one, but hey!

Randomise This!

Lit Theory is still great fun at the moment. We�ve been doing modernism, structuralism, post-structuralism and the role of the author recently, and we�ll be moving on to psychoanalysis and post-modernism shortly. It�s kind of funny, because I�ve been thinking about this stuff for a couple of years due to (wait for it) my comics reading habits. Yes, that�s right kids: comics can be fun AND educational� or something. Seriously though: a lot of this is ground that my wee half-competent brain has already went over due to my whole comic book thang (especially my Grant Morrison fandom). Makes me feel like I�ve got some kind of weird past experience with all of this, which is definately a good thing.

Permissive Regression

I saw the first episode of the new series of Smallville last night, and it was� alright, I suppose. While this episode managed to avoid the �kryptonite villain of the week� syndrome that made so many of the last season�s episodes seem lacklustre, the writing still isn�t particularly sparkling. I think the main problem with this series is that the parts of the story which don�t feature either (A) Lex Luthor or (B) maw and paw Kent tend to end up being about as exciting as a particularly unexciting piece of shrubbery(?). Partly, this is because the writers seem unable to come up with interesting story arcs for Clark and his pals, and partly it�s just because most of the actors and actresses on the show are a bit pants.

Michael Rosenbaum is still lovely though. Lex is by far the most interesting character in this show, and Rosenbaum always owns any scene he�s in. I have such a crush on the baldy little critter� he�s just so damned sexy, with his tortured arrogance, none-more-black dress sense and shiny head. He�s helluva charismatic too� *swoon*. When will he get his own show, dammit? Thats what I wan't to know

Erm� I think I�ll stop now, as I'm sure that I've just embaressed myself enough.


Friday, January 24, 2003
 
Big Cheer

A big cheer for my girlfriend Gillian who passed her driving test yesterday!

YAY!

Well done love! Now I have a good three chauffeurs at my disposal! Only kidding (honest guvenor), and seriously, well done Gillian!


 
God Loves His Children

How much do I love Donnie Darko?

As I had suspected, it�s a film that rewards repeated viewings, and thankfully everyone seemed to get really into it last night. In retrospect, I guess my nervousness over whether it would go down well were probably rooted in the fact that I wasn�t sure if the movie had the right atmosphere for the sugar-saturated environment that our gatherings generate.

Like I said though, everything went fine. I think everyone was well into it, and the atmosphere was just right- fun but attentive.

Such a good movie, though. It�s really warm and human and funny and weird all at once� watching the deleted/extend scenes on the imported DVD was very interesting too. There were a few bits that explained the story a bit more, and I think the movie benefits from their removal, but there were quite a few brilliant wee character scenes that really fleshed out Donnie�s family. It�s a shame that they had to go� I really loved all the stuff to do with Watership Down too� it just worked so well, but I guess it just wasn�t possible to keep everything in.

I just saw the Flaming Lips on Top Of The Pops doing Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots pt1. Very odd experience. The music wasn�t loud enough or very well mixed, so the whole thing was reduced to some kind of bizarre spectacle, with Wayne Coyne standing there looking for all the world like a new incarnation of Doctor Who, singing about evil robots in his exquisitely broken non-voice while men dressed as monkeys jigged around in the background. As I said, a very odd experience.

Bit of a shame that the music wasn�t allowed to shine, but at least it was one of the more unique experiences in recent TV history.

Circumference/Location

Good news for graphic novel fans:

�While everyone knows that there's a revolution going on with graphic novels in the bookstore, every revolution has its battles. Proponents of graphic novels believe that this category is on its way to becoming a recognized section, just like science fiction and romance, but it�s not that simple. Bookstores have guidelines and categories for shelving books, and until now graphic novels have fallen through a lot of cracks. This has led to the familiar dog-eared racks where potential readers find everything from A CONTRACT WITH GOD to LOVE HINA to THE GREATEST SUPERMAN STORIES EVER TOLD shoved together between Roger Zelazny and a shelf of D&D modules.

However, in a step that observers hailed as a major breakthrough, Graphic Novels as their own section in the bookstore got a major boost when Art Spiegelman, Chris Oliveros and others met on January 16th at the monthly BISAC meeting in New York City. It was agreed to create a major category for Graphic Novels/Comics, with sub-headings for fiction, non-fiction, anthologies, and comics technique, among others.�


You can read more at Comicon if you're interested.

While we�re talking comics news, there have been a couple of sad deaths recently in the world of cartooning.

Both Bill Mauldin and Al Hirschfeld passed away recently. Nice tribute to the both of them on Flat Earth complete with a link to a moving collection of snippets from letters that were written by WWII veterans to Mauldin during his recent illness.

Also from Flat Earth: �When I mentioned Mauldin and Hirschfeld's passings to a friend, a fellow comic fan, he brushed them off and responded that they were before his time. It's a shame that there's so little sense of history in the comic community for people who worked outside of four-coloured fantasies. I highly recommend anything you can get your hands on, including Up Front, his collection of WWII cartoons, and The Brass Ring, one of the most entertaining of the dozens of cartoonist biographies I have read. These, and other works by Mauldin, can often be found in your local library.�

Sad but true, no?

I'm certainly pretty ignorant about comics history, much to my shame...


Wednesday, January 22, 2003
 
Knee-Jerk Oscillation

It would appear that comic-book hell has just frozen over, with both Planetary #16 and Mark Millar�s Superman: Red Son being officially scheduled for release in April.

The massive delay has made the arrival of Planetary seem a bit� wrong, in a way. It�s a fun wee series that was utterly perfect for it�s time (turn of the century and all that) but it�s totally lost it�s momentum now. Ach well, Cassaday is still one of the shiniest artists out there, and I�m interested in seeing how the various over-arching plot threads work out.

Will I be hung for saying that I think Kurt Busiek�s Astro City is the better title? I admire the one issue-one story style of Planetary, but I think that Astro City, while more overtly traditional, is a much more developed attempt to homage various pulp/superhero archetypes. The characters and plots are just better, and more� concrete, I think. As I said, this wouldn�t matter so much if Planetary had been coming out on schedule, but given that it�s supposed to feel like a series of pop singles, the lack of frequent updates has been a bit harmful to the entire premise of the book.

Superman: Red Son sounds fun, in a quaint, 80�s kinda way. �When Krypton explodes, the infant Kal-El is rocketed to Earth, where he lands on a Ukrainian farm during the 1950s! How will the Cold War effect the Man of Steel?� goes the blurb. See what I mean by quaint?

Still, it could be a lot of fun. Millar�s a bit uneven for me, but he�s capable of good romping superhero fun, and I think that this title could deliver some good laughs if he plays it right.

Also, the blurb for April�s issue of the Filth sounds fucking brilliant:

�Following last issue's revelations, it's time to meet Mother Dirt and learn the secret origins of the Hand organization and of life on Earth itself. What are we? Who are we? And why does it have to be this way? Amnesiac Hand officer Ned Slade recovers more horrors from his memory as the pieces of a vast, terrifying jigsaw fall into place. Learn the Hidden History of Existence in THE FILTH #10: �Man Made God.��

Mother Dirt, Man Made God, and the secret of existence? Sounds like a larf to me�


 
Beyond Type Y: The Leader as Reader

I�m becoming increasingly pissed off with the way in which the British media is presenting the country's striking fire fighters at the moment.

FIRST TO DIE- Blaze kills poor old Ed 1km from fire strikers

That was today�s Daily Record headline. The fire fighters strike is a complicated issue, and yet there seems to be this feeling in the tabloid press that the firemen are somehow both useless, moaning slackers who do nothing and thus don�t deserve a pay rise and evil, unpatriotic bastards who are endangering our lives in the name of rampant greed. It�s all a bit nuts, and there seems to be a lot of genuine ill feeling towards the strikers at the moment. People really seem to believe the government�s dogmatic �with us or against us� stance on this, or at least, a lot of them do. It�s all terribly reductive of course, with the nasty old fire fighters endangering our lives AND distracting our army boys from the job at hand (that job being to give fire fighters in other countries something to put out, presumably).

There�s a lot to this whole issue; it�s not just about pay rises you know, and I really do wish people would stop talking about pay rises in terms of percentages, as I really don�t think that�s a practical way of measuring this kind of thing; 90% of bugger all is still (effectively) bugger all. The argument has branched out into a discussion about the way in which the fire service will be run in the future, and I�m pretty damned sure that the firemen in question are no happier about not helping people in danger than anyone else is.

I�m sorry if this wee ramble in itself seems overly simplistic, I�m not an expert, after all, but there�s something about the way that people talk about this that just bothers me at the moment.


 
Stereo

I've just spent the last hour or so writing up my Irish Lit presentation for tomorrow. It�s about Frank McGuinness� Carthaginians and Bloody Sunday in general, and it's been very interesting to think about/write about. I�m feeling kinda weird about University at the moment, cos I�m reading loads of great stuff and I�m actually (shock horror) enjoying myself so far this term. After last term�s horrible Renaissance/Augustan double bill this is quite a sharp, if enjoyable, change of pace.

So� yeah: comics anyone?

New X-Men #135 was probably one of my favourite issues of this series so far. This issue focused on the weird and wonderful �special class� and their camping trip with Xorn, and it was every bit as wonderful as I�d hoped it would be. The actual riot plot is kept on the back burner for this issue, which is a good thing as it gives the story-arc a sense of velocity while not exhausting the central concept of the story prematurely.

The set piece with Xorn and the kids in the woods was marvellous. It�s really simple, powerful storytelling at it�s best as the kids come together through a dangerous encounter in the woods. Yeah, I know that sounds cheesy, but it works here. The pacing is spot-on (thank you Frank Quitely!) and the characterisation is perfect; the various angst-riddled teens of the special class all interact and play their parts perfectly here, and the story is bursting with classic moments. I�m particularly curious to see here Morrison is going with Xorn, as this issue adds a slightly creepier dimension to his hyper-earnest personality and this opens up a lot of story possibilities that I�m eager to see explored.

The U-Men are such strange villains, but they work marvellously in their guest role here. Morrison writes them in a vaguely hapless, comedic style, but there's a really sinister undercurrent to them too. They are after all, a group of pseudo-religious nutters who would cut up little kids and harvest their organs for their own use. They�re both creepy and ridiculous at the same time, and I like them a lot.

On the whole, this is great stuff. Morrison and Quitely are both on top form, the morality of the story is getting more and more complex (what with all the violence from different sides coming together), and the book has finally got to the point where I can�t wait to see what happens with the main cast (who are mostly absent from this issue) and the special class members, and the whole �post-human soap opera� seems to be in full effect now. Here�s hoping that the next year and a half of Morrison�s run is as cohesive and exciting as this. Quitely�s apparently no longer the regular pencilled, but I�m hoping he�ll guest draw the last story-arc, cos he is quite frankly the man (sorry for the painfully obvious punning... s�all his fault with his bloody punned up name!).

The Ultimates #8 was a larf too. Not as exciting as New X-Men, but a very tight OTT action comic nonetheless. The opening scene (an extended riff on the lobby scene in the Matrix) is tight and bombastic, with Bryan Hitch�s gorgeously detailed pencils making sure that everything is as dynamic as it should be. S�probably the best action in comics at the moment� big dumb fun that�s ridiculous, but grounded in just enough Hollywood reality to work.

Initially the whole idea that aliens have had a hand in manipulating the rise of the Nazi party made my eyes roll, but I�ve come to accept the part this plays in the goofy David Icke-esque conspiracy Millar is setting up here.

Did I mention that it�s big dumb fun yet? S�not a challenging read, but it�s been the most consistently entertaining title of Millar�s career so far, and as such I�m not complaining. I need a slice of daft, action-movie fun every now and then, and as long as Hitch is on this book, I can�t see it going wrong in the near future.


Monday, January 20, 2003
 
Keep On Trucking�

Looks like there�s gonna be a Donnie Darko-fest on Thursday! I saw the film late last year, and have been dying to re-watch it ever since. It was one of the few movies of last year that really made a big impression on me, so I�m both excited to see it again and slightly nervous that none of my friends will take to it quite as much as I did. Dunno why this occurred to me, but it did�

I fucking love the movie though. It has such a David Lynch goes popcorn feel to it, and I really connected with Donnie more than I have with almost any other fictional teenager you could care to mention. Well... there are a couple of other characters, but that's another story (in fact, it's another three).

Still, I�m really looking forward to Thursday; it should be a fun evening, and I�m hopeful that at least a couple of my friends will be into the movie, cos it truly is a class act.

In totally unrelated news, I�ll be visiting my girlfriend Gillian in under two weeks, which is just as well as I�m starting to suffer from serious physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms at the moment� but hey, s�cool. Visit soon, happy now.

Met a friend from high-school today and was mildly phased when I discovered that he is currently going out with a woman ten years his senior. Absolutely nothing wrong with that of course (more power to them), but still� it�s always fascinating to see people you used to know but have since lost touch with. Observing the ways in which they�ve changed and the ways in which they�ve remained the same is always very revealing and surprising I think. It gives you further insight into what you used to think of them by proving all of your assumptions to be both right and wrong simultaneously.

I met another friend on a bus a couple of weeks ago and we talked a bit about how we are both naive and bitter enough to be somewhat unhappy/suspicious about people from school who you hated being friendly to you whenever you meet them these days. It�s good that these people have grown beyond petty high-school grudges, but it can sometimes be hard to go from having someone treat you like crap to having them treat you like a person. Similarly, it can be hard to be nice to someone who you were once really nasty too. It�s a good thing mind--and it shows some healthy emotional progression--but I�m still not entirely used to it or comfortable with it, as sad as that may seem.

When I grow up I wanna be a spaceman, baby. Pretty sure that�s what I said in primary school. As dreams go, it seems a bit mundane now, but I think my wee heart was in the right place.

Erm� where was I?

Life is good at the moment. I�ve been seeing my friends a lot, going to the cinema quite a bit and reading some interesting stuff. I like never feeling like I have enough time, I honestly do. As I think I�ve explained before, it feels good to be preoccupied 24/7, and I�m fully aware that if I�m actually feeling burnt out then I can just set aside some time to enjoy doing nothing.

Right, I�m off to get some kip. Tomorrow, I�ll probably babble on a bit about New X-Men, The Ultimates and my Irish Lit presentation.


Saturday, January 18, 2003
 
�He came into my office looking like a battered suitcase full of teenage dreams, whatever the hell that�s supposed to mean.�

It looks like Scott is gonna be able to do his dissertation on ye olde Grant Morrison comics. Well done, big chap!

There�s also a new Wake Up Screaming online now, and it�s a good one. Scott�s right, it would make an amusing on-line test; and I wanna know what type of �Exam Sufferer� I am, dammit. I�ve got my suspicions, but still� I want a test on the subject (how sad is that?).

�His scruffy jeans, well-worn Sonic Youth T-shirt (homemade) and short, messy black hair told me that he was what I once had been.�

It would appear that my nearest Forbidden Planet had decided to get in a few copies of Eddie Campbell�s Egomania magazine after all. Who woulda thunk it?

It�s marvellous stuff, off course. The Alan Moore interview is huge, interesting, and (importantly) very amusing. If you�ve not seen them already, there are some wonderful excerpts available on Eddie Campbell�s website.

I particularly love the following snippet:

�This unutterably bizarre vision of a majestic serpent with a semi-human head crowned with long flowing locks of blonde hair seemed in some inexplicable way familiar to me, as if I already knew it from somewhere inside myself, as pretentious as that probably sounds. On the strength of this strong and sudden surge of fellow feeling for a badly mutated reptile, I dedicated myself upon the spot to resuming the worship of Glycon that had been so cruelly truncated in the second or third century with the rise of the Christian era.
To my mind, one of the flaws in Christianity is its insistence upon a historical Jesus. What this means is that, in effect, should it ever be proven incontrovertibly that Jesus did not physically exist, the entire of Christianity would collapse, its perfectly sound core philosophies included, when there was never any need for such a collapse. Confessing that your god was a special effect from word one seems to me to be a much more honest and perhaps ultimately more fruitful strategy. And funnier.�


It�s all good stuff, with the two of them talking at length about Moore�s magical beliefs, his performance pieces, the Promethea comic book, Voice of the Fire (his first novel, which is soon to be re-printed by Top Shelf) and his pornographic graphic novel Lost Girls. Since both Moore and Campbell are obviously very intelligent and funny guys, this interview has a strangely relaxed feel to it. They're good friends, and it shows in this interview in the best possible way.

There�s also the third instalment in Eddie Campbell�s history of humour, which is every bit as whimsical and brilliant as I had hoped it would be. Campbell seems to be on a teaching kick, and I guess that in a lot of ways this feels like the natural extension of his work on Alec- how to be an artist where his examination of the beginning phases of an artists life spun off into a history of the graphic novel. It shouldn�t work, but it does, with Campbell�s natural storytelling skills and abundant charm making this a fascinating exploration of old architecture and prayer books. Now there is a sentence I didn�t think that I�d ever type!

I also picked up New X-Men #136 and Ultimates #8 this week, and so I expect that I�ll be writing a wee bit about them sometime in the next couple of days. New X-Men was really amazing though� it�s really hit it�s stride over the last couple of issues, and in it�s own big, soapy way, I think this is shaping up to be one of Morrison�s best stories yet.

[understatement] That Frank Quitely fellow�s not half bad either� they should get him to handle the art chores more often! [/understatement]

If only Quitely�s work rate allowed it!!!

�Straight of the mark, the kid starts babbling on about chronic starvation and transport networks, but I know he�s just stalling; trying not to tell me why he�s come here and what he wants from me.�

I�m listening to Loveless by My Bloody Valentine again. No matter what mood I�m in or what else I�m predominantly listening to at any given time, I always seem to come back to Loveless. I remember that before I actually heard them, I thought My Bloody Valentine were some dodgy 80�s goth band. With that name, can you really blame me?

Every time I listen to Loveless I feel a little disappointed that no one (not even MBV themselves) has really tried to build on this album. Sure, loads of bands ripped them off, and guitarist Kevin Shields is still making records today, but no one�s really had a go at taking this kind of music somewhere else, have they?

(By the way, if I�m wrong here I would love for someone to point me in the right direction.)

Maybe I�m just talking shite, and there isn�t really anywhere you can go with this kind of stuff, I don�t know�

Ach well, at least the album itself is perfect. The way all those different sounds swirl in and out of that big, gorgeous droning noise� s�pure dead magic so it is.

Hmmm� I think I�ll make myself up a mix-tape soon� one with MBV, The Flaming Lips, Patti Smith, The Wu-Tang Clan, Bjork, Pulp, Jay Z etc on it.

Sounds like a plan to me!



Friday, January 17, 2003
 
When Links Go Bad

It looks like there have been quite a few duff links up here recently... I'm not quite sure what my html problem has been, but I'm sorting it out at the moment.

The last couple of posts have already been fixed, and the older one's will get sorted when I get back home tonight. Sorry for any inconvenience caused by my crappy coding! I'll be more attentive from now on, honest guvenor!


Thursday, January 16, 2003
 
Memory Transfer Deluxe

It�s one hell of a night out there! The last couple of days have been really dark and stormy in an immensely atmospheric way. It would be the perfect weather for a rampant burst of teenage angst and introspection, so I�m kind of disappointed that I�m not really up for any of that at the moment. Shame really� I figure that at the age of 20, I might just about be able to get away with teenage angst if I wanted too.

Or maybe not�

[random thought]
Jack and Kelly Osbourne are my favourite celebrities at the moment. They seem quite open about the fact that they are milking their five-minutes of fame for all it�s worth, and I think it�s great to see two kids who are so very far away from looking �normal� (in the conventional Hollywood/MTV sense) being plastered over every newspaper and magazine in the world. They�re such lovably snarky rich kids and I really do have a lot of time for them.

The Osbournes is a great wee show too (it�s slightly forced ramshackle aesthetic aside). It�s so damned OTT and funny, but there�s real love their too.
[/random thought]

Still, my Osbourne obsessed ramblings aside; I�m still feeling bloody marvellous at the moment. I�ve just had a promising start to my new term at University (what with both Irish Lit and Lit Theory seeming quite interesting and my essay marks from the previous term being good), and I�m feeling quite fresh and contemplative at the moment. And confrontational too, in a way� I guess I�ve withdrawn a wee bit over the last year or so, and I�m now feeling up for putting myself out there and dealing and thinking about things a bit more.

Come and have a go if you think you�re hard enough!

Vicious Politick

A truckload of support goes out to my friend Scott McAllister, who is gearing up to do a dissertation about Grant Morrison for his Scottish Lit course. Scott is a very smart guy, and I�m confident that he�ll get the go ahead for his, cos his ideas are really good, and he can talk like a bastard. A bastard with freeways for arms, and a heart as black as coal!

Ok� I�ll shut up now.


Wednesday, January 15, 2003
 
Link-O-Rama

As I�ve been one wordy little blogger recently, I�ve decided to stick up a post that is low on the text and high on the linkage for a change. Sounds good, no?

Here we go�

Go read Get Your War On. It�s a funny, low-fi web-comic that runs on the toxic-fumes created by the alleged �War On Terror� and all the madness that comes with it. It�s very good, the later instalments even more so than the earlier one�s. It�s just been collected and there�s an Art Bomb review here.

[*SPOILER WARNING* for Gillian]
The First Evil�s Live Journal. For all you Buffy acolytes out there.
[*SPOILERS END*]

Fluxblog has been a source of a lot of damned good mp3�s recently. I particularly love �What Used to be French� by The Secret Machines, though I suspect that it�ll soon be taken down in favour of something fresh and shiny so you�ll be lucky to download it (unless, of course, you already have).

Grant Morrison and his girlfriend Kristan in nothing but pants. Strange days indeed� what�s going on with that massive scar on Morrison�s body? (link found on Die Puny Humans)

There�s a new interview with Mark Millar, writer of The Ultimates, The Authority and many other popular comics here. It�s good fun, and even if I�m not entirely convinced by Millar�s rebuttal of the idea that most mainstream superheroes should be written for all ages, It�s at least interesting to hear his side of the story.


Monday, January 13, 2003
 
Humble-Mumble

"Ahhhh I stank I can, I stank I can
The funky engine that could
Oooo oooo yosky, wosky, pisky, wisky
All aboard the Stankonia Express
The underground smell road
Everybody's lookin' for an excuse to let loose
What's your locomotive, the chatter and the choo choo"

(becuase Outkast are slinky-silly-sexy-cool)


 
White Noise

I�ve been doing all my Uni reading today, which has been fun. I start Irish Lit and Lit Theory tomorrow, and as a result I�ve spent the last couple of hours reading Irish women�s poetry, a position piece by Eavan Boland about the role of the female Irish poet (in terms of becoming the subject of the poem rather than an object in it, and of making the political personal) and T.S. Eliot�s Tradition and the Individual Talent. It�s interesting stuff, and I�m looking forward to exploring these topics further in the next couple of months. I think I�ve got something of a predilection for all that abstract, theoretical stuff, so Lit Theory should be right up my street, and there�s a lot of stuff in the Irish Lit course which I�m into, so life is good in the world of academia.

A Little Discourage

Looks like it�s about time for me to blather on about comic books again. Not that this is a common occurrence on this blog. What? Honestly, I hardly ever talk about comic books here! * Cough� Splutter *

Anyway, here we go:

The Filth #7 (of 13)
by Grant Morrison, Chris Weston and others�


Another issue, another big throwaway concept for the Filth. That seems to be the basic structure of this book: every couple of issues we get a new big idea which is dealt with swiftly in order to make more room for another one. Morrison�s said as much in a few recent interviews�

�All the big scale stuff, this huge Authority stuff, I was just taking the piss out of those sort of comics, those huge, really brilliant kinda Authority style conflicts that would just appear then fade away meaninglessly, because the real story is just about Slade, or Greg Feely and what's going on in his head...and his cat. So yeah, it was fun just doing that. Throwing away stuff. They're some great throwaway things that just come in and you think; 'Fuck, you could have done something with that you bastard, but its just gone!�
(from the Barbelith interview.)

This month�s concept is a good one, perhaps even the best so far. It�s all about the floating, self-sufficient city of Libertania, which is supposed to be a giant, sea-born utopian community, but becomes destabilised during a visit from the President of the USA and Spartacus Hughes, the rogue Hand agent who was killed in issue #2 (back here with a new, but equally preposterous, look). As I said, it�s great stuff, with Morrison using Hughes to go into full on bizarro lecture mode. Here we get lots of info snippets about experiments done with rat colonies and how the lessons learned from them can be applied to human society.

"They found when certain population limits are reached, all it takes is the addition of one extra rat and the whole community slides into unstoppable chaos."

If anything we could have done with a bit more time to see the reasons why Libertannia collapses quite so drastically, but compression�s the name of the game, with Morrison and Weston building up a fast, jumpy rhythm here that is just perfect for the job.

I hadn�t realised that Weston�s art had been a bit sloppy for the last couple of issues until I read this one. There�ll always be something a bit stiff and inexpressive about his work, but here rich detail and a perfect sense of ugliness combine seamlessly to create just the right aesthetic for this series.

Spartacus Hughes is a great character, and I can�t help but think that his reappearance here combined with his �anyone can be Spartacus Hughes!� line from issue #2 are gonna be very important to the overall questions this series raises about the nature of �self�. Not sure quite where it�s all going yet, but that�s part of the appeal for me. Like Hughes, I�m more interested in what happens after a society descends into chaos, so I can�t wait for the next issue to see how this plot resolves.

Also: this issue was very much all about re-iteration, wasn�t it? The scene at the start with the tampons mirrors the scene at the beginning of issue one with Feely buying porn, and Spartacus Hughes is doing pretty much the same thing here as he was in the first two issue, destroying and corrupting �utopian� societies. Hmmm� interesting. Structurally, all the plot threads seem to be coming together, and I can�t wait to see where this stuff about Max Thunderstone goes� he�s been mentioned a couple of times so far, and we�ve still got no idea who the hell he is and what his relationship with Feely/Slade is.

While we�re on the topic, the Greg Feely stuff just keeps getting better and better, doesn�t it?

�an acquaintance of mine is quite good pals of Morrison and has been staying at his house for various reasons and says there is an elderly dying cat there.

it made me think that The Filth is about Morrison's fears for himself. That maybe he is just a powerless 'wanker'. (Aren't we all)

If you're reading this GM, dinny take it the wrang whey!�


From this Barbelith thread (which is about Gangs of New York, incidentally).

The above quote seems dead on the money to me, as in a lot of ways the grey, paranoid world that Greg Feely inhabits is the perfect antithesis to the booming optimism of Morrison�s work on the Invisibles. Those last two pages are fucking brilliant- so desperate and strange, and Feely�s little rant about how kids are like ants was genuinely unnerving, in an odd kind of way.

Oh, that reminds me: the black humour is still present, as ever. There�s a lot of OTT brutality and surreal, trashy laughs to be had this story, and I�m starting to wonder if the episodic structure of this series isn�t modelled on the disjointed nature of comedy skits, particularly those in Blue Jam by Chris Morris and Naked Lunch by William Burroughs.
Erm� yeah!
Lets talk about another book now.

Global Frequency #3 (of 12)
by Warren Ellis, Steve Dillon and others�


While this issue was better than the last two in terms of story, I�m still not entirely convinced that I�ll be sticking around with this title. There� still no room for much character work in this issue, but the closer focus means that we are at least able to get a descent grasp of who this issue�s main character (Lana Kennedy) is meant to be. As I said, the story was pretty good this time round: a mimetic invasion from outer space is under progress and the Global Frequency people have to stop it. It�s a bit like Marvel Boy #3 I suppose, but it works here, and is less cheesy than it could have been, given the way in which the alien threat is defeated.

On the down side, Steve Dillon�s art is really flat here, and it robs the story of a lot of the drama it needs to be truly effective. It looks like Dillon dashed it out without really trying, cos this really is a Dillon-by-numbers effort if ever I saw one.

I�ve never been the hugest Ellis fan, but this series frustrates me a bit. I feel like it could be a lot of fun, in a hyped-up Mission Impossible kind of way, but it�s just not clicking with me at the moment. I guess I�ll give it another issue, and see how it goes from there.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 2 #4 (of 6)
by Alan Moore, Kevin O�Neil and others�


Alan Moore is a master craftsman, and this title shows him on top form. The first series of The League� was great fun, but was essentially just Alan Moore playing around and showing us all how clever he could be. Here, the various characters that Moore has lifted from old fantastic literature have had a chance to really grow and interact as characters, and the results are breathtaking. The sex scene between Quatermain and Mina Parker is very raw and unsettling, with the nudity being explicitly emotional as well as physical. It's a very vulnerable scene, and Moore manages to make the whole relationship between the two characters seem simultaneously touching and strangely� grotesque? Is that the word? I dunno, but whatever Moore�s doing here, he�s doing it bloody well!

The main plot (a remix of H.G. Wells� War of the Worlds) grinds on here in a perfect, forbidding style. There�s a sense of inevitable doom on every page, with the huge, sinister Martian war machines lumbering through London in an impeccably terrifying way.

All respect must go to Kevin O�Neil, who manages to make everything in this book, from the gorgeous Martian tripods to the uncomfortable sex scene, work perfectly as a whole. He�s firing on all cylinders at the moment, and to overlook his (and the rest of the art team�s) importance here would be foolish, cos they�re at least as responsible as for the sheer quality of this story as Moore is.

Vertigo POP! London #3 (of 4)
by Peter Milligan, Phillip Bond, Warren Pleece and others�


I really do find it hard to talk about this book in any meaningful way� it�s just so perfect on every level! Milligan and Bond are both putting out some of their best work on this title, and the results are every bit as spellbinding as I had hoped they would be when I heard who the creative team on this book were.

Milligan has created a wonderfully bizarre scenario here; never before have I seen a body-swap story that�s been done so well. The relationships between all of the characters have become so completely twisted and �wrong� over the course of these three issues, and I�m strangely glad that this is just a mini-series that�ll be over next issue, cos I would hate to see such a brilliant set of characters lose it over time.

S�a standard �old rock star craves youth� story gone all weird and kinky around the edges, and I love it!

The female characters are where the real fun lies in this story, aren�t they? I love the way that Milligan plays up the interaction between Rocky�s ex-wife Victoria and Sean in Rocky�s body, and the brief interaction we get between Rocky (in Sean�s body, of course) with Sean�s girlfriend Cassy looks like it�s really gonna become important during next month�s finale.

And as if all this wasn�t enough, Philip Bond is on top form here. Everything in this book looks sexy as all hell, and Bond�s 100% pure POP aesthetic (alongside his simple, effective storytelling) really finishes this comic off perfectly.

That�s All Folks

I�m not sure if I�ll write anything about X-Statix #6 and Darwyn Cooke�s Christmas issue of Spider-Man after all. Both books were brilliant, but they were both exactly what you would expect them to be, so I�m at a loss for anything to say about either title. X-Statix was trashy, soapy fun (this issue was called �Good Guy, Bad Guy�, which tells you everything you need to know about where this story is going) and Tangled Web #21 was absolutely adorable. Cooke is one of the few guys out there who can make a superhero book with as much universal charm as this.

Yeah. �Universal charm�; That sounds about right� I think I�ll leave it at that for the time being.


Saturday, January 11, 2003
 
With Reluctant Authority

There�s a couple of really interesting links over on the marvellous Flat Earth weblog to both an article about comics for kids (or rather, the lack of such), and a message board discussion that started in response to this.

As far as I can tell, the article was a bit harsh and full of broad generalisations, but was (unfortunately) rather true when you think about what it�s actually saying. There are very few comic books (especially in the superhero genre, sadly) that provide good quality children�s entertainment. I mean, there are exceptions, Jeff Smith�s wonderful Bone series being chief among them, but still� it�s a bit of a shame that all these kids characters still exist, but yet very few are being made in any way accessible to the kids of today. It�s also a shame that there aren�t more really good new kids comics being made at the moment, as there�s always room for fresh characters and stories in comics, whatever the market or genre.

It�s kinda weird for me, cos I really love quite a few of the works which have came about as a result of the �adult� superhero movement (Is it a movement? Who knows?), but I can see that it�s a bit weird that most of these books are made almost exclusively for people who are a good ten years older than me.

The superbly talented Darwyn Cooke touches on this subject during this interview at Comic Book Resources.

"I think that the tone, the approach and the characterizations that 'Ultimates' takes are perfect for right now, the sales reflect that too, but that should be a cast of new characters for a new time," says Cooke. "The problem I have is the way they're taking iconic characters and destroying parts of what they are while amplifying other aspects, just to generate sales. I think it's a shame and I really don't know that it's the thing to do with Giant Man and Wasp [referencing the events in issue #6 that saw the couple in a brutal fight with each other]. Bruce Banner has always been characterized as a man with a certain moral compass and a certain responsibility for what the Hulk has been, but the 'Ultimates' portrays him as a sex crazed monster running down the street destroying innocent lives because his ex is dating a movie star. Then there's Captain America's reaction, which is kicking Bruce Banner in the teeth while he is lying on the ground- these are all relevant situations and reactions, but I think that they should involve new characters. Everyone these days will say, 'oh, but that's another interpretation' and that really makes me question why we want to see these icons like this- what is it about us as people that want to bring these icons down to this level? Is it because we can't even believe in the notion of people better than us who aren't so weak and will make the right decisions when push comes to shove? That seems to be the message and that's the part I have the problem with in the end. I think you also have to show some respect for the original creators and what they were trying to put across in their original work with these characters.�

Seems fair enough to me, as though I do enjoy the Ultimates myself, I can see why people would have a problem with the idea of a horny Hulk rampaging through New York City. This wouldn�t even be that much of a problem if there was a better selection of superhero comics for kids with these characters, but as there isn�t (and as Marvel�s Ultimate line is supposed to be it�s kids line) it seems kinda relevant that this is (realistically) a comic book for the late teen market.

As I said earlier, I enjoy the Ultimates. It�s slick OTT fun, and Bryan Hitch is one hell of a penciller, but it�s not a kid�s book.

I�d like to stress here and now that I am in no way underestimating the capacity of children to enjoy good stories- believe me, I as much as anyone want to see kids reading good, intelligent, imaginative stuff; I just don�t think that there�s much of that out there in the comics field. I think comics could be a good place to produce work that is both challenging and suitable for kids, so I think it�s a shame that there�s not much work out there that fulfils this promise.

This whole argument brings to mind some of the ground that Eddie Campbell covered in how to be an artist, particularly Alan Moore�s quote about how in the late 80�s comics creators were �caught on the main street of culture wearing our underpants outside our suits.� Seems like a bit of shame that ever since that tiny period of interest that formed around the Dark Knight Returns/Watchmen/Maus a lot of the drive to create �mature� works in the comics medium has been centred on the superhero genre. Don�t get me wrong, I think there have been quite a few astounding works done in the superhero genre that could be described as being for a mature audience (the Morrison/Case Doom Patrol, Milligan/Fergedo on The Enigma, Watchmen etc�), but things seem a bit unbalanced. There aren�t really enough successful adult comic books that aren�t superhero revamps, and there aren�t really enough successful kids comic books. Something�s went a bit odd here.

I myself don�t quite know whether I think all superhero comics should be written for an all ages� audience, but I do think that the world of comics needs more balance in terms of what it puts out, and I think some consideration for the original intent of the characters is in order. I know that I�m hardly making any major revelations here, but I still think that this stuff is going to be important if the comic book medium wants to survive the next couple of decades in any sort of worthwhile shape.

If you want to read some more arguments about this, then here a re a couple of Barbelith threads which deal with these issues.

There�s a thread about Alias #17 in which �adult� superhero comics are discussed, and there�s also an older thread here which deals with the same thing.

Be warned: this debate tends to get both sides pretty heated up, so these are some pretty ranty threads. Still very interesting though� just remember to duck and cover if it all gets a bit much for ya!

�I almost threw-up the Sacrament!�

So Scott has a name for his Dinobeast now! Apparently it�ll be officially christened soon, and you�re gonna love it, people, that�s all I�m saying. I mean, the Dinobeast alone is cool enough, but a spectacularly named Dinobeast� well, that really is something.

[My apologies to Scott for making a big old fuss out of something fairly inconsequential, it�s just that this kinda stuff genuinely makes me grin like a fool!]

Scott has updated twice this week, and is apparently thinking about making this a regular practise. I think this could be a good thing for Wake Up Screaming, and providing it doesn�t get in the way of his life too much, I�d like to see him go ahead with this idea.

Go for it big man!

Be Gone, Behemoth!!!

Finally.

My bloody archives didn�t seem to be staying visible for a while there� republishing didn�t have any effect, and as I�ve never had much patience with these kinda things I was starting to get a bit angry with the whole thing. Thankfully, it seems to have sorted itself out now, so I�m all smiley and happy again!

I�m beginning to suspect that it was a very good idea to get out of Computing Science when I did. See, I started off my University �career� in the Computer Science department and then swiftly ran away to English when it became apparent that I hated the damned subject. Still passed my first year as a Com-Sci, mind, but I�ve been well away from that world for quite some time now.

Just as well, really. Given my total lack of patience with computers, I probably would�ve gone stark, raving mad if I�d had to do that subject for another three years!

A Major Haul

Heh- today I picked up all the comics that I�ve missed over the last couple of weeks.

I got The Filth #7, Vertigo Pop! London #3, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 2 #4, Global Frequency #3, X-Statix #6, Tangled Web #21 (Darwyn Cooke does the cutest dang Spider-Man books around!).

Jesus! Between this lot, and the New X-Men/The Ultimates double bill I'll be picking up this Thursday, I�m gonna be all comic booked up to hell this week. Is this a good thing? I think so.

I�ll write most of these up on Monday, I think, as I�ll be giving the computer a rest tomorrow. I also picked up Joe Sacco�s Palestine, but as that�s a much heftier read, I don�t think I�ll have processed it by the beginning of the week.



Thursday, January 09, 2003
 
Crabsticks

So, here it is: the long promised post in which I talk about Eddie Campbell's Alec - How to be an Artist graphic novel.

As Campbell himself notes in the book's foreword, what starts out as an exploration of the archetypal experience of the aspiring artist soon becomes an examination of the rise and fall of the graphic novel from the late 80's to the mid 90's. This gives the book a larger scope than it would otherwise have had, with Campbell providing the reader an intelligent and interesting look at the comics scene at that pivotal moment in comic book history where it looked like the medium might become a genuine literary phenomenon.

The only downside to this is that it makes the whole thing slightly less accessible to the more casual comics reader, as the story is awash with references to Moore, Spieglemen, Sinkiewicz (or "Billy the Sink" as Campbell refers to him) and co. throughout. Still, it's damned interesting stuff, and Campbell does still attempt to tackle such universal topics as the meaning of art and the role of the artist while he's at it.

While this might all sound very lofty and boring, never fear! Campbell is a very amusing, down-to earth bloke with a knack for storytelling. It's become a cliche to say that reading one of Campbell's autobiographical works is like being told a really great story by your very interesting best mate, but it's also true. He's a natural, spinning disparate anecdotes together into a cohesive whole with great ease and no small amount of charm.

On first glance Campbell's artwork here may appear to be a bit rough, but when you read the damned thing it all makes perfect sense. His work here is far looser and more casual than his fantastically evocative work with Alan Moore on From Hell, but its scratchy appeal quickly becomes evident as you make your way through the comic. It gives the whole thing just the right sketchy, personal feel. There's a lot of character in Campbell's writing, and his art matches this perfectly. Plus, he's really good at including panels from other comics in his work in interesting ways, which is nice.

Campbell also includes his list of some of the graphic novels that he thinks are most fitting of that description. It's an interesting list, with Ghost World, Maus, Jimmy Corrigan, Watchmen, Hicksville, The New Adventures of Hitler and more getting a mention.

Great stuff, all round. I'm a bit pissed off that none of my local comic stores stock Eddie Campbell's Egomania magazine, the second issue of which come out tomorrow. S'got a big Alan Moore interview apparently. Ach well, maybe I'll mail order it!

Designer Oceans/It's Good to be Free

Right: I've booked all my flights to see Gillian this upcoming term. Two visits, two return flights from Glasgow to London.

Overall cost: £50. Not bad, eh?

Life is good!
(Good lord, I'm cheap!)

Get Civil

This wee quote (which Eddie Campbell unearths towards the end of How to be an Artist) amused me, in its own sad kinda way:

"The artist's life is one of singular instability. It overreaches itself, bursts its own bonds, fails him at every turn. He turns artist for a while, like a werewolf, and for the rest of the time he only carries the marks by which the instructed may recognize him. The same instability which affects the life of the individual artist reappears in the history of art when taken as a whole. To the historian accustomed to studying the growth of scientific or philosophical knowledge, the history of Art represents a painful and disquieting spectacle. In science and philosophy, successive workers in the same field produce, if they work ordinarily well, an advance; and a retrograde movement always implies some breach of continuity. But in Art, a school once established normally deteriorates as it goes on. It achieves perfection in its kind with a startling burst of energy, a gesture too quick for the historian's eye to follow. He can never explain such a movement or tell us exactly how it happened. But once achieved, there is the melancholy certainty of decline. The story is the same whether we look at Samian poetry or Anglian carving, Elizabethan drama or Venetian painting. Whether in large or in little, the equilibrium of the aesthetic life is permanently unstable"
(R.G. Collingwood, Speculum Mentis, 1924)

Linguistic Compatibility

Do subtitled movies leave you with a weird feeling after you've watched them, or is it just Gillian and me? We were watching Amelie the other night and we both feel like we can remember the words from the film in English and French simultaneously (neither of us can speak French at all). Does that make any sense?

I guess what I mean is that because you hear it all in French but process it in English, it leaves a weird imprint on yer noggin; or at least on our noggins.

Hmmm... I wanna learn a foreign language now; I'm feeling very ignorant all of a sudden.


Wednesday, January 08, 2003
 
Giving Birth to the Impossible

So� Gillian goes back down to Uni on Saturday. Meep! The Christmas holidays always pass by in a total blur. S�hardly a holiday at all really, what with Crimbo and New Year being so close together and all. Ach well, I�ll be visiting her twice during the next term, and then it�ll be Easter (which is normally a slightly less frantic holiday) so hopefully things shouldn�t be to bad. Ach, see this long-distance relationship thing� it�s dead easy, right, but in a really hard way.

But enough self-pity! I�m in a bloody champion mood at the moment. I�m feeling slightly cheekier, and sillier at the moment than I have in quite some time. I just spent an afternoon blowing stuff up on my good friend Chris� Playstation 2. An afternoon well wasted, I think. Made me feel like I was 16, and not in a bad way!

Big cheer for another friend of mine, Scott McAllister, who passed his driving test the other day! Well done big man. Scott has also put up an extra Wake Up Screaming this week, just because he felt like it. S�kinda a filler strip, but it�s always nice to see more stuff from Scott.


Monday, January 06, 2003
 
Lil Folk

There�s a brief (i.e. one page) preview of the upcoming issue of Chris Ware�s Acme Novelty Library here. Apparently it�s scheduled for a March release, with the collected edition of Ware�s Quimby the Mouse coming out in February.

The cover for that Quimby the Mouse collection can be found here and it looks rather lovely, really.

I�m quite anxious to read the new Acme Novelty Library as I really want to see if Chris Ware can build upon the promise of his Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid On Earth graphic novel.

Ware is one of the best and most innovative artists in comics at the moment. He has a fantastically elaborate (and yet still strangely minimal) design sense, and a wonderful imagination for packaging, but his artistic skills go way beyond all this stuff. Jimmy Corrigan saw him experiment with some really fantastic pacing techniques, with Ware using more panels per page than pretty much anyone else, and doing it damned well too. Writing wise, the book only really gets going half way through, as Ware himself admits. The first half is alright, but in the second half the mix of escapist fantasy, family history and emotional isolation all come together to form something very unique and oddly compelling. If anything the characters are all too isolated and socially damaged to feel for, but nonetheless the story works well, in a kind of extreme �there but for the grace of god� way.

Apparently, Ware is going to be using the character of Rusty Brown (who first appeared in Acme Novelty Library #15) as the focus of his next big story. This is both a good and a bad thing, as the character of Rusty is very similar to Jimmy Corrigan in many ways, the primary similarity between the two being that they are both are lonely, middle-aged men who lack the social skills necessary for normal human interaction. There�s nothing intrinsically wrong with the fact that Ware is writing another character in the same vein as Jimmy, and I know that the two are different enough as to ensure that this story is not merely a re-run of Jimmy Corrigan but still� it would have been nice to see Ware stretch his range beyond this type of character. I guess I just kinda wish he had Dan Clowes� range. Most of Clowes characters may be weirdoes and outsiders who are frustrated in some way with the world around them, but there�s a hell of a lot of variety in there.

On the other hand, the Rusty Brown stories in Acme Novelty Library #15 were genuinely some of the most disturbing comics I have ever read, so this could be very interesting indeed. The character of Rusty was so genuinely damaged in those strips that I think that we could be in for some very hard stuff here, in a good, if uncomfortable, way. I suspect that I�ll feel a bit unclean after reading this stuff, if the last issue was anything to go by.

The Quimby the Mouse book is apparently a drastically revamped version of the original Quimby� strips from Acme Novelty Library #2 and #4. I�ve read issue #4 myself, and while it was visually very interesting (in a ridiculously baroque retro-cartoon way), there wasn�t really any story to get your teeth into. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but unless Ware has significantly re-jigged these comics, I think I�ll be slightly less interested in this stuff than I am in his later, more developed work. Guess I�ll just have to wait and see, won�t I?

I Love 20[08]{?}

Being a tube, I missed Saturday's radio dramatisation of Philip Pullman�s Northern Lights, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology I�ll be able to listen to it online at this site

I listened to half of it last night, and very good it was too. For those interested, the next two parts are going to be on at 2:30pm on Saturday the 11th and Saturday the 18th.

The BBC Radio 4 website has a few snippets of interesting info and such relating to the His Dark Materials trilogy. There are some interviews with Pullman himself, a quiz about the series and a rather handy dictionary of all the people and objects in the story, which is nice:

Alethiometer
A heavy compass like device, which measures truth. The one given to Lyra was presented to Jordan College by Lord Asriel, and is thought to be one of only six ever made. It is believed to have been made in Prague in the seventeenth century. It has thirty-six symbols around the edge, and three short hands controlled by three winding wheels. It also has one longer hand that moves freely, of its own accord.�


As I said- rather handy, especially if yer not that familiar with the books.

Now go have a listen- there are daemons, Armoured Bears and multiple realities in this story and what more could you possibly want than that?
Ok, don�t answer that.
It�s a damned good adventure, mind. S�about growing up and religion and stuff. You�ll like it.


Sunday, January 05, 2003
 
Your So-Called Life

I�ve been feeling slightly gutted tonight, as I�ve just realised that I won�t be able to get enough money in time to go and see the Flaming Lips live this month. They�re one of my favourite bands at the moment, and I�ve wanted to see them live for quite some time.

*sigh*

Ah well- maybe I'll get to see them next time they're in town!

I�ve not been to many gigs at all recently, come to think of it. I�ll have to try and rectify this in the near future, cos I love the whole experience of going out to see a band.

Welcome to the Maternity Ward

There�s another new Wake Up Screaming online now. This weeks strip is another good �un, and I�m also amused by the fact that I know where this weeks joke comes from. Still, the strip works perfectly well if you aren�t Scott�s friend, so don�t worry!

It seems that Scott (and thus Wake Up Screaming) has joined Geek Space (for 'comics that got beat up in high school', apparently). Geek Space- what a great name for a group of web comics!! Anyways, I wish both Scott and Geek Space head honcho Skippy success in this endeavour (oh my- how officious that sounds).

Low Division Opposition

I would like to thank Flux for recommending Common�s Electric Circus album on his Blog and for providing the track I am Music as a downloadable mp3. The song is totally amazing, and because of it I�ve just downloaded most of the Electric Circus album.

What can I say; it really is a brilliant and totally original hip-hop album. There�s such a brilliant mix of interesting and very organic sounds going on in these tracks, and the whole album seems to hint at a lot of even better things to come. You should check it out.

Unfortunatley, I think the Common mp3 is no longer available on Fluxblog, but I'm sure you'll be able to find it elsewhere, and there are a whole load of other tracks on Fluxblog now that are well worth a look.


Saturday, January 04, 2003
 
Agnostic Determinism?

I don�t know if this post will have any relevance when Blogger gets it�s ass into gear and actually publishes this one, but here we go anyway.

A new radio adaptation of Northern Lights, the first book in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, starts today at 2:30pm on Radio 4. So far, I�ve only read Northern Lights, but as it was brilliant, I expect I�ll check out the rest of the trilogy in the near future. As a fantasy books for kids I found that it kicked seven shades of crap out of any of the Harry Potter books. Don�t get me wrong, I have no problem with the Harry Potter series. So many kids clearly love them, and I think that it�s a great thing that J.K. Rowling has got anyone to read anything in this day and age. As an actual series of stories though, the Harry Potter books lack a certain amount of ambition, bite and character, all of which Northern Lights has by the truckload.

Oh, yeah- and it�s a fun, rollicking adventure story too! It�s not like we�re talking about Borges or something!

"Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all."
(Phillip Pullman)

Whatever you say big chap!

I dunno how good this radio version will be, but it could certainly be interesting... the story is certainly good enough to work as a radio adventure. Methinks I'll tape it for sure, cos I really wanna know how this works out.


 
Erm... "hello world"?

Is blogger just, like, not posting anything I type at the moment, or does it just not want to put up any more information about squids? I guess that if you can see this then the answer is self-evident.

Bloody technical difficulties.


Friday, January 03, 2003
 
Arrr, Squiddy, I've got nothin' against ye- I just heard there was gold in yer belly. A har har har har.

Oh this is so fucking cool!

Vampire Squids From Hell!!!

Can there be a cooler idea in all the world? I think not my friends, I think not. Just check out this excerpt for proof (as if any was needed) that Vampire Squids From Hell are where it�s at!

�Vampyroteuthis may compensate for the blackness of the abyss in which it lives by being equipped with an astonishing series of photophores; lights all over its body -- except for the inner surface of its web -- that it appears to be able to turn on and off at will. In the back of the "neck" are clusters of more complex photophores, and behind the base of the paired fins, there are two more light organs, equipped with a sort of "eyelid" that the animal can close to shut off the light. "The lack of an ink sac," wrote Pickford, "is also in accordance with the bathypelagic habits of the species, although it strongly suggests that the animal must have other means of masking its own phosphorescence."�

See- they dwell in the abyss! How much more ROCK can you get!


Thursday, January 02, 2003
 
�You�re So Fucking Ordinary Kelly!�

So� Quentin Quire and New X-Men: what�s that all about then?

There�s a topic on Barbelith called Quentin Quire: Grant Morrison�s Revenge on Barbelith?, in which the basic idea is set forth that Quire is, in some way, Morrison�s critique of various activist types. It is suggested that this is problematic as it indicates that Morrison equates such activists with mindless thuggery; that he is reducing such protestors down to a negative media clich�.

While this is all very interesting, I find this particular train of thought to be a bit flawed when it�s thought through properly.

As Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is my God indicates, Grant Morrison has no obligation to represent anyone in any particular way. Just because the character of Quentin Quire bears some characteristics that could be associated with such protestors or activists, does not mean that he is comment on them in any way. While it may be true that it is a commonly held belief amongst older people that politically minded youngsters are just confused and angry, I don�t think that this means that it is instantly unfair that Morrison writes an angry young character that is �just lashing out�. This is especially true, I think, when you consider the fact that Quire himself resembles several other characters in Morrison�s output- characters from The Invisibles say- that were, in fact, the �good guys� in those stories. I think he�s just exploring the same themes from a different angle, and I think that this is a very interesting twist for a Grant Morrison comic to take. Quire is a villain- but that doesn�t mean that he won�t be re-integrated into the school at the end of the story arc. It would be a very Grant Morrison thing to do, and it would be a nice counterpoint to the way such violent, drugged up characters were treated in some of his other works. Whether this is the way the story goes or not, I think it stands to reason that Quire is Quire, not the every-activist. He�s a character in his own right, and there�s a lot more to him than a cheap snipe at certain protestor �types�.

Additionally, while I do understand that there are several minority types that are presented in an unfairly negative light in the media, I do not think that authors should �have� to present anyone in any particular way. That�s a very limiting idea, don�t you think? Good God- I think I almost just typed the words �Political Correctness gone mad�- What the hell! Nonetheless, I�m sure the point itself is a valid one: characters are characters, and need not be seen as always being representative of either their entire �type�, or the authors view on such.

Quire is, in many ways, a more interesting update of D.C. Thompson�s Dennis the Menace- an anarchic kid striking out at the authority figures near him. Just look at him for Christ�s sake- he is Dennis in his stripy suit! As is soon established in the Barbelith thread, a mix between Dennis, and Walter the Softie. He�s much more than that as well though, as Byron Bitchlaces notes in this thread

�QQ is not supposed to be offering a rationally equivalent position to Xavier. The whole point of this character is that he should know better. He is irrationally taking out his frustrations on the world and manipulating events so that others follow him. He is aggressively targeting those weaker than himself for his own ends and to build up his own power, while at the same time manipulating the perceptions of others to make himself look like the aggrieved party and make them support him.

Sound familiar at all? Like, maybe, echoes of the Bush administration or the asylum debacle in the UK?
In the world of the New X-men isn't Xavier the world's only superpower? I'd say the mutants have the upper hand now - everyone wants to be like them. The U-men being the most extreme example.

Of course this is not a straight analogy, hence the drugs, sex and clothing and teenage issues. But the infantilised environment of the school is a great place to show the pernicious forces of xenophobia and ego-politics at work. QQ knows how smart he is, so he wants people to respect him, dammit. And when they don't? When he's only one special kid in a school full of special kids, then he makes himself more special. This jealousy is revealed early on in his degrading of Slick.

QQ doesn't hate Xavier, he wants to be Xavier.

I think NXM is Morrison really maturing as a writer because in this book he's made the jump from merely chucking interesting intellectual ideas around (as in Invisibles, Doom Patrol and The Filth) to dealing with the real interplay of emotions. Hence the new treatment of drugs: drugs are interesting on an intellectual level, but pernicious on an intellectual one. So it would make sense for the Invisibles to have a pro-drugs stance, and NXM to be anti-...�


Some damned fine points there, I think.

It seems to me that quite a bit of this criticism of Quire stems from the fact that he isn�t what many Barbelith posters had expected/hoped he would be. While I can understand this, it does seem to me that it is, perhaps, a good thing that Morrison is taking this title in directions we hadn�t expected.

Anyway- it�s been a grand story so far, and I can�t wait for the next issue!

While we�re on the topic of New X-Men, fill-in artist Ethan Van Sciver had this to say on the subject of how his work stands up to that of Frank Quitely

�Thanks� for your high opinion of my work, but gee whiz, this was the reason I was hesitant to work next to Frank Quitely in the first place. I am not in his league. That's not false humility, it's just truth.
I've been working for about 9 years now, I'm 28, and I've had absolutely no formal training. Everything I know I picked up in little bits of help from friends, and just from practice and repetition. I'm still young, and still learning. NEW X-MEN was out of my league, and I knew it then, but I took it because I figured that the worst it could be was a good learning experience, and that I'd kick myself later if I didn't do it and some other guy did.
And the truth is, watching Frank Quitely closely for two years and talking to him really helped. I think I've improved 200% and learned things because of my time on that book, surrounded by creators who are at the very top of the game. It did help.
But the bad thing is that people are almost forced to compare me to Frank Quitely, because we were the main two artists on the book for a while. My filling in for him implied that I (or someone else) thought that I was almost as good as him, and so people rightfully scrutinized my work.
I think I'm a solid b-list comic book artist, and can stand up with a lot of my peers, but Quitely and Hitch are A-list. I hope to get there someday, and I think I have the talent. I just need more practice and more education.
Anyhow, in the meantime, thanks again for sticking up for me here, but I think you should take E For Extinction, sit down and read it again. Enjoy it for the way Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison can take you somewhere, create an illusion and maintain it until the end of the story. Frank's people are drawn as slight caricatures, and if it's not to your taste initially, I think after two issues you'll accept it and love it. They're his puppets, and he's a master of manipulating them. It's all completely natural looking, and deceptively simple in appearance. They all look alive.
Oh, I've got to cut this post short because my wife has to make a phone call. (heh) Happy New Year.

Ethan Van Sciver�


You gotta love this guy- He�s both 100% right and genuinely lovable!

Ethan is a very talented illustrator who seems to be constantly improving in terms of storytelling and design (the two elements of his work that are the most obviously in need of development), and I believe that in the next couple of years he�ll become a big name in mainstream comics. I genuinely think he could be a great, great comic book artist, and I wish him well in both his career and his life.

On top of his artistic potential and talent, his posts on various message boards have shown him to be a very interesting, intelligent guy, who has never once came across as anything less than brilliant in terms of personality.

Here�s something he had to say about why bad comics are good too, even those created during the much-maligned IMAGE/Rob Liefeld years

�I wasn't influenced by that age of comics at all, but I can certainly see their appeal. Pure trash-o-rama, and I think the fact that Liefeld couldn't really draw very well at all, and yet made oodles of money was punk rock glamorous to fans. At first. That's the charm.

All comics are good, even the bad ones. I mean to say that I love comics the same way I love movies. They entertain me on different levels. It comes down to the fact that I really enjoy creative people, even when they fail. Even when our sensibilities differ. I also enjoy non-creative people when they fail. Or when they succeed because that's very strange. And of course, I love the real talents in this art form as well. For example, I must have read KILLING JOKE a hundred, trillion times. It represents a comic book almost perfectly completed from start to finish, and it's something that I'd like to do someday. It's a goal. Same thing goes for Dark Knight Returns. Watchmen. And then the dozens of very, very good comics that come out each month currently.
I enjoyed X-FORCE when I read it for research, because I know a little about the back-story. Rob Liefeld was an 18 or 19 year old kid with a recently laid off and then ailing father, and Rob became the sole provider for the Liefeld family. I can see the rush, the panic, and the doubt in every panel on every page, until he becomes popular, and the things he did for time saving devices he started to do with a cocky swagger. The books are TERRIBLE, obviously, but there is energy, youth, desperation, and eventually ego and greed right there to be looked into. And then IMAGE happened, and the disintegration of his reputation, the strange Michael Jackson-like press releases and spin doctoring, and again, the books reflect that strangeness to me. It's worth a peek, with this in mind.
Rob isn't the only generator of filth in this business. I can point you to the misguided failures of companies like Defiant, Dagger, Broadway and others. They're all enjoyable, if only to examine what not to do, what attitudes not to bring to the table. Why didn't it work? Because a team of businessmen and editors sitting around a large table trying to create comics will NEVER work. It takes sleepless, caffeinated renegades to do that.
And I also like the independent, self published efforts of people trying to break in. Because whether the comics are well-crafted secret gems or just miserable reflections of Chris Claremont books, it's all about the fact that some people are like me. They're driven to draw comic books, and so they do it. Even if they aren't getting paid. Especially if they aren't getting paid.
So it's all good in some way. All of the characters are interesting and fun, and everyone's ideas are welcome on the playing field. And I'll read them all. I hope that makes sense to somebody.�


This struck me as a very fresh, bullshit free way of looking at comics (and indeed all art), and I�d really like to thank the man for that. Crap is still crap, mind, but still� it�s nice to feel benevolent every once in a while.

Anyways� I�ll stop now, cos this post has went on for ages already!

Thanks for listening�


Wednesday, January 01, 2003
 
Inarticulate Much?

And a happy new year to you too!

I�m hoping to be fitter, happier and more productive in 2003 than I have been for the previous 6 months or so. If I�m being honest here, this has felt like the slowest year of my life. It�s probably just because I was ill (and thus grumpy) for a good half of it, but I did spend much of the year feeling like shite.

Ach well� at least that�s that over with.

Big thanks to Scott, Kenny, Zoe, Graeme and Chris for spending New Year with me. Big hugs to the two Gillians (Reid and Templeton) who slept through the evenink, bless them.

Had a fun, if deranged, New Year with aforementioned friends. Much silliness with balloons= a highlight of the evenink for me.

We watched Dog Soldiers at one point, which was a bit disappointing really. It had the potential to be a really funny, crappy little B-movie, but in the end it was mostly just a bit� lacklustre. Still, there was the occasional inspired moment (Boxing a werewolf you say? Marvellous Idea!), and I do appreciate the fact that the soldier�s guts all looked like sausages (which they blatantly were).

Under The Tyrannical

Check out my nation-state, The Rogue Nation of Potential Hierarchies, here.

The whole site seems to have spun-off from some novel which I haven�t read, but the wee game appeals to me. You�ve got to come up with a nation-sate, and then deal with political issues that are sent to you at a variable rate (from one a weekday to two a day). It�s not particularly involved, but it does push my buttons in a silly way.

In my first day, I have already managed to destroy my countries natural beauty by setting up excessive Uranium mines. My once thriving national animal, the gerbil, is now struggling to survive. Oh happy day.

[Bad TV comedian]
Strangely, I feel like George W. Bush now. Maybe I should start looking around for an �Axis of Evil� to declare war on� or maybe I should just find some kind of abstract concept to fight against instead.
[/Bad TV comedian]