Cakes and Money

Friday, February 28, 2003
 
Monologue/Conversation

I�ve been making my way through the first season of Farscape on DVD this week, and it�s been pretty generic stuff so far. I�d been interested in catching up with the show�s back-story due to the fact that the scattered selection of more recent episodes I�d seen had impressed me greatly with their berserk space opera antics.

Having watched about a third of the first season�s episodes, I�m amused by how much the show has improved, as there is very little about these early episodes to suggest that the show will become anything other than a standard sci-fi TV show.

You�ve got your well-worn basic story of a human being getting lost in space and trying to find his way home, which is a fair enough premise, but one which the show doesn�t really do anything interesting with in these episodes. The individual episodes are mostly pretty average, with a couple of interesting plots thrown in here and there, and none of the characters really leap out at you in these stories. Sure, there�s something kinda charming about the fact that John spends a helluva lot of time spouting pop-culture that no one but him understands, but for the most part the characters are just fairly non-descript. The sole exception is probably D�Argo, who clearly came in a box marked �vaguely noble warrior species�, and is thus a bit too clich�d to be indistinct, if you know what I mean�

Compare this to Tuesday�s episode, which was utterly brilliant. It�s one of the last episodes in the series' fourth season, and thus one of the last few episodes to be made. As I�ve only seen a fairly random selection of episodes from the shows history, I was of course completely lost. But not in a bad way. Why? Because it was bloody brilliant! Garish, kinky costumes; lusty body language; leering camera angles; tight, exciting plot that mixes action and humour perfectly with mental character moments: it�s the ultimate bombastic sci-fi show! The characters�both old and new�seem far livelier, and the whole package just reeks of class.

My friends all assure me that the first series gets better as it goes on, and I�m looking forward to seeing how it develops.

With that in mind, I think I�ll watch another episode�


Thursday, February 27, 2003
 
Sparkle Motion

I picked up the Vertigo X Preview today, which is apparently both a celebration of the decade long history of the imprint and an advert for some of this years upcoming releases.

While many of my favourite comics have either came out as a part of the Vertigo imprint, or been one of the titles that pre-figured it�s creation, I have to say that looking through this pamphlet only served to reinforce to me the slight sense of disappointment I have with the whole line.

There�s very little advertised here that sounds particularly exciting to me, and while this is at least partly down to issues of personal taste, I think it also has something to do with the fact that Vertigo aren't putting out many interesting books these days. I think it�s a good thing that they�ve (by and large) stopped doing �adult� revamps of older DC characters, but there�s still a certain lack of ambition to their titles that is quite perplexing when they really should be the place to go for interesting, mature mainstream comics. Maybe I�m just still recovering from the fact that this preview catalogue had snippets from two Sandman based comics that�ll be coming out this year. I know that Neil Gaiman is writing one of them, but I still can�t help but roll my eyes at the idea that the world needs more Sandman related comic books�

I�m gonna stop moaning now, cos I have a feeling that I�m just sounding like a man with an unfathomable chip on my shoulder.

On the plus side, the preview of Dave Gibbons� upcoming hardcover comic the Originals looks fantastic. Gibbons� doesn�t really get mentioned that much when people are talking about Watchmen, but I think that he�s every bit as responsible for that books brilliance as Alan Moore. His clean, detailed artwork carried off the elaborate mechanics of Moore�s story with a robust, clockwork precision, and I'd be hard pressed to think of anyone who could have done it better.

This looks very, very different though. There�s a blurb by Gibbons about how this comic is essentially a fictional twist on the way it felt to be a mod during his youth, and the four-page preview looks like it�s going to every bit as stylish as this sounds. There are a lot of big, moody looking panels on display�rendered evocatively in a stunning mix of black and white�and the way the text trickles down the huge, dark spaces between these panels is perfect in this context.

The news that Peter Milligan is going to be writing Human Target as an ongoing series is interesting. While his previous Human Target work is very good (being a slick mix of personality crisis and tight action), it�s not something that I would have really thought of as a monthly series. It seems to me to be the kind of thing that would work better in small bursts, but I could be wrong, and I�m certainly not going to complain about the fact that there�ll be another Peter Milligan comic coming out regularly. He�s been on top form recently, with X-Force and Vertigo POP! London being, in my opinion, two of the finest comics of his career.

X-Statix #8 is another great issue of this title. It�s probably the most consistent monthly comic I can think of at the moment, and while it doesn�t quite have the same punch as it did before it's most recent re-branding, it�s still a great laugh every month. I�m not sure quite why It doesn�t quite blow me away as much these days� perhaps it�s because Edie was the character who I cared about the most, or maybe it�s because Milligan and Allred are now just playing around with themes and techniques that they already developed to perfection in the titles previous incarnation (the lampooning of celebrity culture, overdriven soap opera that draws attention to it�s own over-hyped mechanics etc). The best thing about X-Statix remains it�s fascinating cast of characters- it may be a comic book that revels in its own trashiness, but the cast is still compelling and (at times) strangely sympathetic, despite the pop-brat theatrics.

Shame the six page Shade, the Changing Man story in the Vertigo X Preview by the X-Statix team wasn�t particularly memorable. Milligan and Bachalo�s Shade, while patchy in places, was often brilliant, and I really hope that the (imminent) trade paperback sells well, as it�s one of the best series in the recent DC cannon and it�d be great if the whole series could get reprinted in this manner.


Wednesday, February 26, 2003
 
Post-Oppositional

There�s a link to a freshly archived Best Show interview with comic book artist Mike Allred (Madman, X-Statix) here, if you're interested. I�ve not had the time to give it a listen yet, but apparently the interview itself starts at the 1'05 minute mark. I look forward to checking this out tommorow...
(link found over on the Barbelith comics forum)

There�s a review of Joe Sacco�s Palestine over on the Guardian website. It�s one of four books reviewed, and I think the reviewer pretty much nails what I thought made the comic book work.

�It's not just the brave reportage or the detailed crowd scenes that make Joe Sacco's work unique. Nor is it the tangible sense of place he squeezes into each panel of this dispatch from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. What makes Palestine one of the most important graphic novels of the last decade is Sacco's ear for conversation: the book is full of voices that will never be heard in western news broadcasts.�

This, I think, is Sacco�s biggest skill: the ability to blend simple visual snapshots of crowds and places with precisely selected snippets of conversation to create something that conveys a perspective on the situation that is often left untold, in a way that is grounded in the human reality, but never ignores the political complexity of problem.

There are a couple of moments early on where it feels like it�s about to dissolve into an illustrated text story, but on the whole, Sacco�s mix of images, dialogue and narration works in a brilliantly evocative, and very human, way.

One of the other books that�s reviewed on the Guardian page is London�s Dark, by James Robinson and Paul Johnson. I�ve been very curious to read this comic since someone in my work ordered it in for the graphic novel rack (I work in a bookstore, in case you were wondering). The comic itself looked fascinating and all of the reviews of the book have really peaked my interest. I may check it out, when I get the finances (i.e. after my next loan instalment).


Monday, February 24, 2003
 
Cyborg Discotheque

I'm all tied up with Uni work tonight, so I'm probably not going to post much of substance.

At the moment, I'm piecing together my presentation on post-modernism, which started the day as an ungainly, incomprehensible mess of good ideas, and is only now beginning to solidify into something a little more manageable.

I had a pretty good weekend, all told. A few friends and I went to see the American remake of the Ring on Saturday night. It was an ok movie, but given that the basic premise was hampered with a slightly clunky and, in places, heavy handed-script, I suspect that everyone is telling the truth when they assure me that the original version is far superior. I don't really have much to say about the movie beyond that... the cast all did a good job with what they were given, and the basic idea of the movie seems really good to me. While I thought that some of the character writing and exposition was badly handled, I still had a pretty good time at the cinema.

Saw the trailer for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind while we were there. I'd forgotten that this was coming out so soon. Looks like there's gonna be a double dose of Charlie Kaufman for me next month!

I've been seeing my friend Chris with greater frequency recently, and it has to be said that this is a very good thing. Chris is one of my oldest friends, and is an all round amazing guy. I don't always get to see him as much as I'd like, given how busy the two of us are, so it's been good to see so much of him in the last couple of months.

Anyways, I really should get back to work...

Here's a brief quote from the handout I'm currently typing up. I'm putting it up here cos I'm quite taken with some elements of the concept:

�Cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, against the code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogcentrism. That is why cyborg politics insist on noise and advocate pollution, rejoicing in the illegitimate fusion of animal and machine. These are the couplings that make man and woman so problematic, subverting the structure of desire, the forces imagined to generate language and gender, and so subverting the structure and modes of reproduction of �Western� identity, of nature and culture, of mirror and eye, slave and master, body and mind.� (Donna Haraway, A Manifesto for Cyborgs)


Saturday, February 22, 2003
 
�We don�t need the kind of education that turns us into victims.

New X-Men #137 (by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and others) came out this week, and it was very good indeed.

[the usual *SPOILER* warning is probably called for]

Morrison�s run has had more than it�s fair share of uneven art, and there�s been a couple of duff issues in the mix, but at it�s best this book has been a slick, strange soap-opera full of interesting characters and concepts, and the current �Riot at Xavier�s� story arc has been spot-on so far.

It doesn�t hurt that this titles original penciller Frank Quitely has drawn this arc; his graceful storytelling and fluid, quirky style are the perfect accompaniment to Morrison�s story. Aside from one minor goof involving the tape on Xavier�s face (which does a disappearing/reappearing act during the course of this issue) Quitely doesn�t set a foot wrong here.

Quitely�s style, while generously detailed, is less gratuitously over-rendered than much contemporary superhero art, and the simple, expressive quality of his work, combined with his gift for conveying the weirder moments of Morrison�s stories (behold this issues� double head/hand interface scene) makes him the perfect man for this title.

In terms of story, I think the key to this issue is a line from the first year on the title: �The whole world is watching us now. We must be nothing less than fabulous.�

Well they�ve made a mess of that one, haven�t they? One of the primary themes of Morrison�s run has been about change and the inevitable struggle for acceptance of the new. The first year seems to me to be partly concerned with the struggle to break free from your past (in this case: evil twins and Claremont-tastic space empires) while trying to set out a place for yourself in the new world (as represented by the mutant baby-boom and the subsequent establishment of Xavier�s as a proper school).

Much of the second year has been concerned with various members of the teaching staff (most notably Professor Xavier himself) jaunting all over the world in an attempt to establish some kind of unified international presence.

Now, the events of this current story arc centre on a talented, but disaffected student named Quentin Quire, who for various reasons has went slightly off the rails and has started a violent and dangerous riot at the school using his impressive (and drug-enhanced) telepathic powers. This riot precipitates this issue, and coincides with an open day for humans (a big media stunt which has just turned sour due to the violence in the school).

The best thing about all of this is that the agendas of both Quire and Xavier are undercut by these events�Quire may just be a confused teen who has taken things too far, but Xavier�s plans also look a bit poorly thought through in the wake of all this. There�s the implication that perhaps Xavier should have spent more time structuring and keeping an eye on the school, and while I think that Morrison could have better paved the way for this story arc by showing the reader more of the school during this years stories, the fact is that by the end of this issue he and Quentin look useless, posturing amidst the chaos. The fact is that Xavier has let this situation get out of hand, and all his big speeches can�t change that.

Elements of this issue seem to me to very deliberately echo some of the scenes from the Igor Kordey illustrated issues in the �Imperial� arc�here, as in those issues, a dangerous conflict is playing out in the school in front of the media. This time, however, the X-Men haven�t quite managed to save the day as neatly as they did then, and the faults and dangers inherent in the Xavier school are being exposed to the world very directly and the difficulties that can result from such attempts to affect change are coming to the fore.

I think the consequences of this story are going to be very interesting to read, and I can�t wait to see the next issue. The fact that at least one pupil has died is surely going to have some big repercussions, and I look forward to seeing how this plays out.

I�m also very pleased with the fact that this story arc has focussed so heavily on the characters Morrison has introduced to the series; Quentin and his cronies, Xorn, and the special class have all gotten a good bit of airtime recently, and I think the book has felt all the fresher for it.

The actual writing in these issues has been brilliant�sparkling, but economic characterisation has been the name of the day, with the Morrison/Quitely team getting a lot across through a couple of key bits of dialogue and body language. Angel referring to Xorn as �mister� is perfect, showing the slightly stunned sense of respect she now has for him. Similarly, the manner in which Cyclops handles the rioting kids (through blunt statements and appropriately literal action) neatly indicates that while he�s a total mess in his personal life, he is quick and decisive in the field.

It�s tight, smart and a lot of fun, with plenty of action and humour in the foreground, but a lot of neat character stuff holding it all up.

As Benjamin Birdie notes in this Barbelith thread:

�It wasn't till Hank cleaned his glasses that I realized that he's Giles and New X-Men is structured exactly like a Buffy-style TV show. Ending pages that are so tremendously solid, they practically scream for an Executive Producer Grant Morrison credit to add the final beat. Characters that don't show up for whole issues (episodes) but their presence is vaguely implied (i.e. "We don't have them signed for a whole season of episodes so they'll just be on the sidelines or mentioned").

The first hardcover reads exactly like a really great season of a TV show (which is why I didn't mind the artist changes too much. You can't have every episode directed and written by Joss, although at some moments it was like, say, David Fury writing the season finale. [ack! too many Buffy insider references!]).�


I think that this pretty much sums up a lot of what makes this title work: at it�s best, it�s like a great sci-fi TV show, and while it�s not got the multi-layered complexity of Morrison�s Invisibles, its straightforwardness can be equally rewarding. Lets just hope that the art is more consitant from now on!

And while we�re talking about the X-Men�

There was a new X2 trailer playing at the cinema on Wednesday, and it looked mighty promising to me. The first movie seemed like a decent attempt at starting a new franchise wrapped up in a fairly mediocre movie, but I have high expectations for this one. It looks like it�s going to be an exciting adventure movie, with more action, better SFX and (most importantly) a more engaging plot than the last film.

I hope I�m right� there�s a really fun movie in there somewhere, and I�d like to think that this one is going to be as good as it looks.

Ignorance/Arrogance

I�ve been reading Michael Moorcock again. I really shouldn�t; I�ve got work to do. But still� I can�t help myself. I�m re-reading Mother London at the moment, and it remains one of my favourite examples of Moorcock�s writing. For me, his more recent work is probably his finest; Mother London and King of the City in particular stand as major achievements in my eyes. There are few writers out there who can match him in terms of sheer evocativeness and vitality.

The following snippet is stuck in my head right now. For whatever reason, I seem to have become quite attached to it:

�We have never had a soldier in our family. My father, Vic Mummery, the speedway rider, was trained as an electrical engineer and did essential war work. He was good-looking, glamorous enough to have his pick of the ladies, especially those who recalled his prewar fame. He waited until the end of the war before leaving my mother who refused to tell me he had gone. Later, she explained that since everyone�s father was away she had assumed I wouldn�t notice his departure. It seems not to have occurred to her that I might wonder why my father had left when everyone else�s was coming home.�

Must get back to work� writing presentations. One on post-modernism and another on Irish urban poetry.

Attention where attention is due.


Friday, February 21, 2003
 
Why All the Questions?

There�s a new Wake Up Screaming online now, with brief cameos by both Gillian and myself. It�s a good laugh, and I'm not just saying that because I�m in there.

Ever wondered where to start with Guided by Voices? Try this Barbelith thread, which features some much needed advice on how to approach their mighty back-catalogue.

While I love GBV, and think that they�ve recorded a many of the finest pop- rock songs of the last decade, trying to find an entry point into their busy and at times uneven output can be daunting for the un-initiated.

New Justice League project ahoy! I�d totally forgotten that this was in the works! The old Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League was a brilliant little book- a genuinely funny superhero soap opera of the highest calibre. Hopefully, this project will be just as good.

(link via Neilalien)

Go here to read the first part of Rich Johnston�s rather unorthodox interview with Marvel EIC Joe Quesada. It starts off fairly normal, but soon becomes an electronic train-wreck of epic proportions.

Typical sample:

�Whoa, seems like the interviewee is getting to the interviewer. Isn't it supposed to work the other way around with you? I love how now that you don't get the answer YOU WANT you like to say I'm pirouetting around the issue, this is great! Damn, Rich, a little twat calling and you get all bent, you wouldn't last a day in my shoes. But let's face it Rich, the truth is that deep down inside, you more than anyone, really wish you were loved and liked, that's really what's at the core of all of this stuff and this style of questioning. What's happened is that you ended up finding yourself in this kind of a situation where this rumour thing has actually made you so many enemies that there's absolutely no turning back. Come on let's talk about it a bit, Doctor Joe is in the house. I'm actually pretty good at this, lets try to get to the root of what's making you so angry, realization is part of the solution.�

There�s some interesting back-and-forth about Marvel editorial here, and it�s genuinely worth a look (just be prepared for some very scrappy formatting).

There's a new audio interview up on the Comics Journal website. This month's interview features Gary Groth talking to Steve Bissette and Scott McCloud about creators rights, apparently. Sounds interesting, no?

While we�re talking about the Comics Journal, there�s a fascinating excerpt online now in which Tom Spurgeon talks about various forms of comics activism. It�s an incomplete article (you have to buy the magazine to read the rest, obviously) but it touches on a lot of interesting stuff about Warren Ellis and the new Marvel promotion style:

�The problem for Ellis came in figuring out how to implement this vision. As an active creator and forceful public personality, Ellis was in a unique position to comment on the comics market and scowl at anyone who disagreed with him. But he was in a horrible place from which to affect real change, even on a trial basis. Other than hosting several progressive conversations about the realities of comics retailing on his forum and browbeating the holy shit out of readers, Ellis' contribution to practical change seemed limited to the occasional reader-distributed press release designed to be left in comic stores. The Warren Ellis of Come In Alone was an idea man whose arguments were an angry bellow demanding comics readers and professionals change the way they thought about their industry and art form to better suit him -- an attempt to change comics culture through a series of barroom jeremiads. What Ellis eventually discovered is that comics readers and professionals aren't all that interested in changing the way they think, and that many true believers aren't interested in thinking at all.�

(these last two links via Journalista!)


Thursday, February 20, 2003
 
Good Pass

I�ve had quite an eventful couple of days, but I don�t know how much of it to go into here, as it's all very personal. Lets just say I had a potentially serious medical worry that has turned out to be more of a curious anomaly than anything else, and I�m feeling mightily relieved by this fact. I don�t think I realised how much it had all been worrying me at the back of my (ever paranoid) mind.

Not that I want to be cryptic here, but trust me when I say that you really wouldn�t want to hear the details. It�s not anything important or particularly interesting. Just biology at its most troublesome.

I�ve also gotten to spend a fair amount of time with most of my friends in the last few days, and as I�m still somewhat basking in the glow of last weekend's visit to see my girlfriend Gillian, I'm in a pretty good mood right now.

Life is sweet!

However, I must remember to do the following things:

(1) Write Four English Lit Essays
(2) Write Two English Lit Presentations
(3) Blog more frequently (and try and think/write about music more often)
(4) Design T-Shirt for Gillian
(5) Actually develop some of my bloody fiction beyond the ideas stage
(6) See Adaptation when it comes out (oh yes!)
(7) Make more mix-tapes

Did I forget anything? I�m pretty sure I have�

On a totally different note, I�ve been reading Beckett again recently. I know I�ve got so much to say about his work, but yet I find myself totally unfocussed when it comes to actually articulating any of it.

[Cue William Shatner voice and accompanying gesticulation]
Must.
Try.
Harder.

[/Shatner voice & gesticulation]

Funnybooks

I just finished reading Dylan Horrocks� Hicksville for the first time, and all I can say is: wow!

A couple of days ago, when I put up a post about Planetary, I talked about how the series was �a lament for what should have been done� with superhero comics.

Bollocks to that: Planetary is a fun little look at the history of superhero comics. Hicksville is a lament for what comics could have been. It�s about a whole lot more than that, but this is a big part of the drive of the story.

I don�t want to get into too much detail about the story, for fear of spoiling it for anyone, but suffice it to say that I strongly believe this to be one of the finest comics I have ever read.

It�s the story of comics� journalist Leonard Batts, who is doing research for a biography of famous modern cartoonist called Dick Burger. This research leads him to the obscure New Zealand town of Hicksville, a place where everyone seems to read (and know a hell of a lot about) comics. The weird part is this: the whole town hates Dick Burger, and Batts can�t seem to get to the bottom of why.

Around this central mystery, Horrocks wraps a series of slowly unfolding stories about a couple of the town�s inhabitants, a meditation on the comic book medium, and even the occasional musing on the relationship between maps and stories.

It's smart, warm and compelling on every level, and it stands as a fitting testament to the power of comics that the book itself seems to celebrate. The only possible downside to the whole thing is that it�s possibly one for comic fans only, which is a shame �cos this is a fine display of comic book storytelling at it�s best.

Horrocks art is simple, but expressive, and handles the various switches to the comics within the comic with ease. I was originally going to say that I thought the art style during the superhero sections should have been more distinct from the standard style of the comic, but on further consideration I decided that this would have been unnecessarily jarring in this context.

It�s an exceptional piece of work, and I can�t recommend it highly enough.


 
D-Day

[*Spoiler Warning*}

Scott and I decided to �take the dare� last night! That�s right kids: we went to see the new Daredevil movie! I think we both went in with the lowest of expectations (due the god-awful trailer, and some of the harsher early reviews), but in the end It wasn�t as bad as I�d though it would be. It wasn�t a particularly good movie, but it wasn�t painful either.

There�s at least two different superhero movies trying to burst out of this mess. Sometimes, the film seems to be trying to go for this moody, morally ambiguous vibe, with Daredevil wrestling with the results of his vigilante antics. At other points it desperately apes the Spider-Man movie. The fact is that the film fails on both counts.

Spider-Man wasn�t a great movie, but it was at least imbued with a sense of goofy fun. It was a bit clunky, but it had a lot of heart, and it felt like the filmmakers had decided to fully embrace the �comic book� factor. Daredevil simply tries to hard to be tormented for that, and feels far too silly to have any success on the angst front.

The plot would have been fine given better writing, stitching together as it does elements of plots from the comic in a fairly engaging style. One thing that struck me while I was watching the movie was that Daredevil is probably one of the weakest concepts to come out of the early days of Marvel comics. He�s got none of the instant appeal of Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four, and it really is a testament to Frank Miller�s skills that he managed to make this second string character as memorable as he was during his run on the book.

There were a couple of flat-out hideous moments, though. The soundtrack was consitantly terrible, and the first meeting between Matt Murdock and Elektra is just plain weird. The constant stream comic creators that were namedropped in the movie became irritating very quickly. While I suspect this was supposed to be a cute little series of nods for the insider, it ended up feeling like there was someone sitting beside you in the cinema who just wouldn�t stop nudging you with his elbow.

Additionally, while I could see where the filmmakers were trying to go with Daredevil's violence, the fact that he lets a guy get cut in half by a subway train so early on in the movie really feels a bit jarring.

Action-wise, the movie was a very mixed bag. There seemed to be a bit too much fast cutting going on, and many fight scenes were either anti-climactic or simply muddled. Call me shallow, but I was looking forward to a bit of, y�know, shiny action in this movie, and I wasn�t really satisfied on that count.

Before I move on to the cast, let me just point out that I didn�t totally hate the movie. Reading what I�ve typed so far, I feel overwhelmingly negative, but there were some parts of the movie I enjoyed. As much as I sometimes wish superhero movies could just skip the origin story, I found the flashback scenes to be pretty effective (despite the clunky narration). I also enjoyed the SFX used to depict his �radar sense�, which were unexpectedly effective.

The acting, though� now there is the key to all that is good and bad about this movie. I think that a good part of the reason that this film feels all over the place is because of the casting and performances involved in this picture are such a mixed bag.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, the two cast members who I was least certain about before viewing the film, weren�t as bad as I had expected. The two of them put in performances that could probably be described as competent (though I�m still not sold on Affleck�s gravely superhero voice).

Man mountain Michael Clarke Duncan was perfectly cast as the Kingpin, but yet the film did bugger all with him. He had presence for Christ�s sake, and they squandered it on a couple of measly scenes.

Colin Farrell sets new standards of lunacy in the part of the assassin Bullseye. He�s amusingly bombastic, but still feels oddly out of place here, like he belongs in some kind of late night remix of Itchy and Scratchy instead. I seriously think that his boisterously hammy performance here is supernatural� he has to be drawing power from some kind of alternate dimension of limitless bug-fuckery. Let�s just put it this way, after watching this, Willem Dafoe�s scenery-gobbling performance as the Green Goblin seems masterfully understated.

On the whole, it�s a watchable enough movie, in a silly way. Not a movie I�d overly recommend, but it�s not like it should carry a public health warning or anything.


Tuesday, February 18, 2003
 
Broom, not Horse?

Twentieth Century Eightball then: what�s that all about?

I�ve been a big Dan Clowes fan for a while now, so it�s been kind of amusing to finally come full circle and read all of his early work here. There�s a neurotic energy in these strips that isn�t as prevalent in his more recent work, and seems to have a lot in common with a variety of other comic book creators from Peter Bagge to Evan Dorkin. It�s entertaining stuff, with Clowes in full on, misanthropic mode proving to be surprisingly funny and imaginative.

The most striking thing about this collection is the strange sense of diversity you get from reading it. While in many cases the presence of Clowes the author is never far away (�Hello, I�m �Charlie�, another transparent D.Clowes stand-in��), the actual stlye of the strips varies wildly, from the anti-art school rant of Art School Confidential to the absurd wackiness of The Happy Fisherman and beyond. There are angry, funny bits (On Sports, for example), amusing little rambles, and some sections that are just plain fucked in the head (the utterly gonzo Needledick the Bug-Fucker, anyone?).

It�s interesting to see Clowes� experimenting with his art style here, as it�s easy to overlook how important his brilliant (but not particularly flashy) artwork is to his later, more developed stories. There�s a good mix of tones and textures going on here that match up with content perfectly, and I think it is very obvious from these strips that Clowes has a huge talent for manipulating his art style to create just the right atmosphere. Think about the still, moody quality that the sparse colouring adds to Ghost World or the anti-atmospheric stiffness utilised in David Boring: these ares imple techniques, but ones which Clowes makes very good use out of.

I found it amusing to compare this collection with Eightball #22, Clowes most recent work. Eightball #22 was a collection of something like twenty nine short strips that were all set in one town and were linked together by the story of the kidnap of a young boy. It�s really amazing how much Clowes actual writing skill has grown, as while the most recent Eightball displays a similar mix of artistic styles to the Twentieth Century Eightball, the actual strips themselves are much more developed in terms of character and, y�know, actual story. He can explore angst and alienation so confidently from so many different perspectives these days, and I think that is why he really stands out of the crowd for me.

Clowes has became an absolutely brilliant short-story writer in his later years, and while Twentieth Century Eightball isn�t the best collection of his work, it�s a great laugh, and comes highly recommended to both Dan Clowes fans, and people who enjoy angry/funny alt-comics in general.

�Let Me Finish My Dream!�

Behold: my full on geek-boy enthusiasm!

A while ago I commented that I thought that Astro City was a better comic book than Planetary, and I feel like now is a good time to expand on that one, as I�ve just read through the first issue of the latest Astro City mini-series (Local Heroes #1 of 5, if anyone�s interested).

It�s an introductory issue, that�s supposed to create an accessible jump-on point for new readers. In this capacity, it works pretty well. We�re presented with a character that is in a position to narrate to a day in the life of several people who are visiting Astro City for the first time. It�s a set-up that allows for an obvious ground-up look at the standard characters and events one can expect to find in the city, and thus in the comic itself. It�s not the best issue in the series, but it�s still a good wee yarn.

The reason it still works is that Kurt Busiek remembers to write a simple, character driven story around all of this, and I think this is why I prefer this series to Ellis and Cassiday�s Planetary. While both books draw on the history of superhero comics there�s obviously a fundamental difference of intent between the two series with Astro City being a warm and nostalgic attempt at writing simple, character driven stories around some good-old-fashioned superhero action, while Planetary is more like a series of compressed meta-commentaries on such tales (with an overarching mystery story built in).

While it could be argued that this difference of intent is so big as to prohibit any useful comparison between the two books, the fact that they both draw so heavily and directly on the same subject matter, combined with the massive delays that have plagued both titles, ensures that they are inextricably linked in my mind.

I guess a big part of the reason that I have somewhat fallen out with Planetary is that to me it is a comic that was very much of and about it�s time. It was a final look back at the superhero fiction of the 20th Century; a series of essays on what has been done with the genre, and perhaps even a lament for what should have been done. It feels desperately out of place in 2003, whereas Astro City is as simultaneously modern and retro as it has always been.

Does that make any sense to anyone, or am I just talking nonsense?


Sunday, February 16, 2003
 
Beard Power

That�s me back from Cambridge now *sigh*� ach well, at least I got home safe and sound. And ahead of schedule, would you believe?

I had a great time in Cambridge: saw Gillian a lot (which sounds like a fairly meagre achievement, but believe me: you appreciate it when you have the whole �long distance relationship� thing going on.), watched Punch-Drunk Love, went to the Churchill College ball etc� I feel very extravagant for some reason� probably because I got all dressed up and went to a ball. A very odd experience, but a very fun one, all told.

Here�s a couple of links for ya:

I�m a bit late with this, but the first couple of links show something of a belated Valentines Day theme that I hope you�ll enjoy anyway.

The ever-wonderful Flat Earth was crammed full of links to various Romance comic titbits on Valentines Day. All of the links are fascinating, and I genuinely find myself wishing that someone still churned out Romance comics en-masse these days� Of all the links on offer, I�m particularly taken with this link to an article about Jack Kirby�s Romance comic work.

With the chances of a Romance comic revival looking slim at the moment, you could do worse than to check out the most recent Wake Up Screaming. It�s a good laugh, and from some work-in progress I�ve seen, there�s gonna be some really crazy fun coming up in the world of Wake Up Screaming.

If you�re looking for something a bit different from all that, you could always check out Mark Millar�s latest column, in which he rambles on about what he would do if he was in charge of DC comics. It�s quite sad in a way, but it�s also kinda amusing, and there are a couple of interesting ideas in there for your inner fanboy.


 
Tainted by Uncertainty

Gillian and I went to see Punch-Drunk Love, the new P.T. Anderson/Adam Sandler movie last night. Having never before seen one of Anderson�s movies (I know, I know� I�ll catch up some time) and not being a fan of Sandler�s monotone gurn-fests I was a bit uncertain about whether this movie would be to my tastes. Thankfully, it was brilliant. It�s genius lies in the fact that the movie takes Sandler�s standard acting mode, and shows it in a light that exposes the sad, damaged character that lies beneath the banal comedy. It�s the best use I�ve seen of an actor I normally can�t stand since Donnie Darko made sense of Patrick Swayze.

It�s a fascinatingly uncomfortable viewing experience; a love story wrapped up in a big ball of eccentric characters and sudden jarring emotional and physical shifts. Barry Egan is a small time businessman with seven sisters and a propensity for flying off the handle (or �freaking out�, as the character refers to it). One of his sisters wants to set him up with a friend of hers, but things are more complicated than that. I�m not gonna go into great detail about this, but lets just say the plot is very tight and focused, but is constructed around a couple of great details (the whole pudding story and the sex-line scam come to mind) that really make it stand out from the crowd.

Half of the film�s drive comes from the constant tension as to what Sandler�s character is going to do next. He really fleshes out the emotional wreck of Barry Egan with a performance that continually treads the line between painful awkwardness and oddball humour, and he plays off of both Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Emily Watson perfectly.

The other half of the film�s drive comes from the amazing tonal shifts that Anderson pulls off. Just as there is a persistent tension around Sandler�s performance, so there is a sense of uncertainty in the film�s visual and sonic body. Punch-Drunk Love is built upon a foundation of painfully calm, quietness that is frequently and effectively ruptured by cacophonous roars of sound or on screen action. It plays with both the audiences� emotional and physical sense of suspense and does it very well. Plus it�s got two of the most gut wrenching motor accidents I�ve ever seen on film.

Don�t let the above description fool you into thinking it�s a full on slasher movie though: the film does have a quirky, dreamlike atmosphere and a certain sweet optimism at it�s core. Hell, it even has some pleasantly unexpected psychedelic scene transitions and quite a few moments of genuine romantic resonnance, in it's own derranged way. It�s just very visceral is all�

Go see it, despite, or in fact because of, the Adam Sandler factor. It's an unusual pleasure, and you don't want to miss out on it.


Wednesday, February 12, 2003
 
Split Infinitive Blues

So� I started picking up David Lapham�s Stray Bullet�s recently, having been deeply intrigued by the few issues I had previously read. The recent issues have all revolved around a couple of kids who have been kidnapped and are being abused by an older man, and they are some of the most oddly effective comics I have ever read. Stylistically, the book has a distinctly pulpy feel that Lapham skilfully manipulates to create several different tones and moods. The issues I�ve purchased recently have been very creepy and unsettling, coming at the aforementioned kidnap story from a variety of different angles. One issue was even written as a fractured sci-fi story with the real events coded within. Having been blown away by Lapham�s oddball storytelling skills, I decided to buy the first collected edition of the series, the quaintly titled �The Innocence of Nihilism�. And it�s brilliant: a series of short, single issue stories dealing with those in and around various crimes that hint at greater connections and developments beyond the issues themselves. There�s something to this storytelling style that brings to mind (of all things) Grant Morrison�s the Invisibles. While there�s obviously a world of difference between the themes and content of the two series, the way in which both books paint a bigger picture via a series of interconnected details in a set of fractured stories really works for me.

I�m still trying to get my head around exactly why the book�s art-style works. Lapham almost always uses a tight eight-panel grid structure, which might sound limited but is in fact amazingly versatile within this context. He has a masterful control of pacing, with the pages always bursting with visual information that flows at whatever speed best serves the story. Another interesting side effect of this eight-panel grid structure is that it keeps the focus of the panels tight, with only a couple of people or faces normally occupying any given panel. This approach, which is almost the antithesis of the �wide screen� comic trend of the past couple of years, and lends itself well to the character based focus of the stories themselves. Of course, when Lapham deviates from this grid pattern, it has far greater effect than it otherwise would and this technique is subtly but effectively integrated into the storytelling. The art is soft, simple, and inky, and easily handles the mix of humour and drama required by Lapham�s stories, and basically I�m totally in love with this series and will be checking out more of it when financial constraints allow me to do so.

I�ll try to get something about 20th Century Eightball up on this blog this week, as I�m having difficulty getting my thoughts together on this particular subject at the moment.


Tuesday, February 11, 2003
 
Dirty Thoughts

Ugh- my wee head is a total mess at the moment, so I�m having a hard time writing stuff for this blog at the moment. This, combined with the fact that I�ll be travelling down to see Gillian this Thursday, will probably mean that this blog has a fairly slow update rate this week- sorry about that. Next week, I�m gonna be writing some essays, which will mean spending a lot of time in front of the computer and thus (hopefully) a more substantial blog output from me.

I�m gonna try and get one more post up either tonight or sometime tomorrow, in which I talk about David Lapham�s Stray Bullets and Dan Clowes� 20th century Eightball, so look out for that if it sounds like your kind of thing.

Thankfully my stomach seems to have settled back down now, after a highly unpleasant week of, well� things that I shall spare you the details of. There seems to be some vague stomach virus going around, though the degree which people are affected by it seems to vary wildly from person to person.

Anyways, with all talk of stomach illnesses done with for the time being, there�s currently a favourite character poll running over on Wake Up Screaming if you�re interested. Peter the Bastard is in the lead at the moment, much to Scott�s ire. He may hate demonic lecturers with a fiery passion, but he does write them well. Plus those cloaks look really cute.

I know I�m not the first person to say this, but I�m really beginning to get annoyed with the suggestion that France should support America in a war on Iraq because of the role America played in WW2. There was much talk on tonight�s news about how France �owed America�, and I couldn�t help but think that this was one of the crassest and most imbecilic ideas I�d ever heard. Whatever people�s feelings about the current world situation are, I�d really hope that everyone had the common sense to realise that the decision to go to war with a nation should not be made on the basis of perceived historical debts. It�s such a dangerous and ignorant idea that I�m having a hard time believing that anyone could even consider it.

�A Little Bit Edgy, a Little Bit Loud�

There�s a great post about the last couple of seasons of The Sopranos over on Fluxblog at the moment. Unfortunately, my viewing of seasons three and four has been patchy in places due to the occasional difficulty inherent in getting my parents to watch a program that they have little or no interest in (how sad do I feel now). But what I have seen has been fantastic� truly masterful TV. I remember when the Sopranos started out there was a lot of talk about how it was the TV series that was consistently as good as any major movie, and while the early seasons are amazing, I think the more recent episodes tower over what has came before in terms of consistancy. Quite simply, I think the Sopranos is a program that really builds with time. The ambition of the stories, the depth of characters, the quality of the performances� everything has just gotten better and better as the show has went on. For all the moral complexity and intensely drama of each and every episode, everything always feels so effortless these days. Everything�s been set-up perfectly by the previous seasons, and it shows.


Saturday, February 08, 2003
 
Prospectus of Doom

There�s a new Wake Up Screaming online now, and it stars the ever lovable DINOBEAST� god, I love DINOBEASTS. I also like the fact that (unless I�m mistaken) it�s colour scheme changes from strip to strip. It�s an inexplicably nice touch, I think.

[note: I had originally typed the words �DINOBEAT� and �DINOBEATS� in the above passage- good lord yes! What a marvellous spelling mistake! DINOBEATS Ahoy!]

All the Cool Kids�

From the latest post on Flat Earth:

�It's not that I'm looking for any kind of return to the "good ol' days", just that another ill-considered theory of mine is that the older comics are somewhat fascinating for the reason that they have distinct, blunt and unapologetic concepts that were meant to be disposable plot devices. Red, Gold and Crystal Kryptonite, the Bottle City of Kandor, Bizarro, Talking Gorillas, Earth-2, etc. The list could go on forever. Not that any of these things can't or haven't been done in other mediums, or even in comics in recent years. It's just that when they were created, it was with an eye towards disposability, as if an idea could be used and never seen again, and the writers and editors of the Silver Age could just fling off another dozen half-baked ideas before lunch. Now, when these concepts are used in modern comics, there are constraints and rules. You can't just have Superman grow a giant head without making a big deal and a four issue story arc about it.

The bottom line is, for me, these kind of weird symbols are what I love about superhero comics. Modern readers seem so jaded that they need superheroes to be almost life-like to suspend their disbelief, while I can easily slip into a world where there's a Legion of Super-Pets or Gorilla City. Most people assume that my infatuation is for irony's sake, but the joy I get from these wonderfully weird comics is sincere.�


Oh yes! While it�s clear that I have a bit more time for some modern superhero books than the writer of Flat Earth, I have to say that I know what they mean. There�s something oddly conservative about so many of today�s superhero comics� a certain reluctance to revel in the freewheeling silliness of it all.

The fact that someone seems fit to have created a Journal of M.O.D.O.K. Studies (see Flat Earth for details) has really made my day. I just think there�s something glorious about the whole idea� cos, y�know, I�m a bit odd and easily pleased sometimes.

I was a bit surprised to see that the people who make the JLA cartoon had decided to do a story that involved Gorilla City. I only saw the first half of the story, and while it wasn�t particularly brilliant, I think that both my Dad and me admired the fact that they�d went for such a goofy idea.

I don�t know why, but I�d kind off assumed that they would try and make the JLA �cooler� or more modern for the cartoon� glad they didn�t though, as I reckon the results would have been well embarrassing.


Thursday, February 06, 2003
 
The Main Body of Competition

Ugh- I�m still feeling ill today, and thus I�ve been more or less housebound all day. I was starting to get mild cabin fever earlier, so I decided to go out and collect a prescription for my mum. Not my brightest idea. As a result, I�m still feeling a bit shaky as I type this.

My Dad�s meeting with his bosses people sounded like it went well this morning, and everyone seems optimistic that he�ll be able to work from home after all. Marvellous news, I�m sure you�ll agree.

Anyway� there�s an interview with filmmaker Terry Gilliam here.

It�s a very interesting interview, with everything from the compatibilty of fantastic action and serious intent to the current political situation in America being discussed within. For some reason, I�m particularly taken with the following snippet:

�I think everything I've done has been me making my comments disguised with period costumes and silly sets. I mean, it's a way of abstracting, because I think it's easier for people to swallow some of the things I've put forward because it's not right on the nose. I've always argued that my approach to making statements about the world is the Mary Poppins approach, where a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine goes down.�

Seems to sum up at least some of the appeal of Brazil for me. Actually, come to think of it, one of the things I like most about Gilliam�s output is that there�s such diversity there, despite the very obvious unity of style that is present in all of his films. His uniquely topsy-turvy brand of fantasy works so well with so many different themes and tones�

Also, I have to give a big �What he said� to this bit, which just totally clicks with me:

�Fantasy isn't just a jolly escape: It's an escape, but into something far more extreme than reality, or normality. It's where things are more beautiful and more wondrous and more terrifying. You move into a world of conflicting extremes. So much of the fantasy I see is just a sort of cartoon romp, a kind of wish-fulfillment. I remember, years ago, talking to George Lucas about evil. He thought Darth Vader was evil. And I said, "No, he's not evil. He's just the bad guy. You can see him coming a mile away�he wears black. Evil is Mike Palin in Brazil, your best friend, the father of three, a good man, who just does what he does." [Palin's Brazil character was a nervous, mild-mannered government torturer. �ed.] That's the difference. The big jolly escape... Filmmaking has become amazingly baroque now. The camera can go anywhere. We can do anything, and it's just "Wow!" And yet I find that most of the films I see are just rides, E-rides at Disneyland. They're nothing that tends to stay with me. They don't touch any core that is either worrisome or inspiring. They're good fun, but usually when you walk out of the cinema, they're gone. They don't leave bits of shrapnel in you.�

Very true, no?

Time Well Spent/Now Anything is Possible

There�s a pretty good interview with Chris Ware (the immensely talented cartoonist behind ACME Novelty Library) and Archer Prewitt (whose work I must admit to being completely unfamiliar with) here.
(link found on the Comics Journal message board)

Here�s a few choice excerpts with Ware talking about cartooning and his attachment to his characters in his usual shy, perhaps even uncomfortable, manner:

��the whole idea of even saying the name of my characters or even speaking of my characters, as if I own them, makes me feel gross. Someone will ask me, "Oh, so what strip do you do?" and i'll say (sheepishly) "Jimmy Corrigan, smartest kid on earth." it's just that you can't say it. I don't know. I have really no affection for them at all. Maybe some of the older characters, but they pretty much represented my bad relationships that I was involved with at the time. When those parts of my life pass by, then I have no real urge to draw those characters anymore. I have a certain sympathy for a character that's in the third issue, but I don't sit around and talk to him or anything. It�s difficult to say where empathy is in a comic strip, or how to create a sense of empathy for a character. Sometimes if you show too much, then you sort of ruin the possibilities.�
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�Part of the problem with comics is that they're an innately vulgar medium. They�re perfect for telling jokes, but if you try to do anything a little more subtle, the vulgarism ruins any subtlety you might have. Which is one of the reasons why I don't show people's faces sometimes, just to suggest things. For the same reason, if you're reading a book, the sum toll of your entire life experience goes into the understanding of reading a paragraph. You fill in the blanks. That�s what good writing is. you don't want to show to much and ruin the possibilities.�
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�Peter Bagge's stuff has been colored by a number of different people recently-Mary Woodring, Jim Woodring's wife. He did one issue, his wife is doing it now, but if [Peter Bagge's] colors get too subtle or complicated, it ruins his artwork; because it's such in-your-face ugly looking stuff. If the colors are nice, it just doesn't work. It comes out like someone else has filmed it. I think color can be the most important element that can go with the comics. It�s sort of hard, but as far as directing the eye, it's the main thing you can use after black and white.�
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I�m always fascinated by the difficulty that Ware seems to find in creating his bleak little stories in the comics medium. He seems really hung-up about what he calls the �vulgarity� of the medium, and yet the best bits of his work show such a mastery of emotion� I suppose that�s why I�m so interested in seeing what he has to say about the way he doesn�t show faces sometimes or the use of colouring in his work etc. He�s one of the best and most interesting cartoonists out there at the moment and I�m desperately looking forward to the next issue of ACME Novelty Library.


Wednesday, February 05, 2003
 
Resistance in Perthshire

While I was in Cambridge, Gillian and me went to see Chicago, and it was (to my slight surprise) a lot of fun. There�s a very accurate review of the film here (scroll down to the entry titled �Chicago Twice�) that pretty much sums up everything I liked about the movie. Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones are two people who I can normally live without, but they�re both perfect here and the whole movie works really well as a slick, glitzy spectacle. Plus Ren�e Zellweger was fabulous as the lead character and... I don�t really have much more to say about the film, so I�ll just shut up now.

I�ve also been re-watching the Back to the Future films recently, and have came to the conclusion that the first movie is quite possibly the ultimate 80�s popcorn movie. I dunno why, but the combination of all the wacky fashion and technology (a time travelling DeLorean for God�s sake!) in the film alongside it�s direct interaction with that much idealised period of American History the 50�s and focus on what you can make of yourself just seems so quintessentially 80�s to me.

This isn�t a criticism, cos I think the movie�s got a lot of heart and Michael J. Fox is oddly adorable as Marty McFly, but it�s definitely a film that is deeply ingrained with the concerns of it�s time. In a way I think this just makes the film seem a bit cuter; like some quaint cinematic time capsule.

The second movies a good larf that very effectively plays around with various scenes from the first movie (both by paralleling them in the future, and re-visiting them in the past), but it�s a tad gloomier and less fresh than the first one. The ending still bugs me a little bit, possibly because I was never that fond of the third film. I�ve yet to re-watch it, but it didn�t really work for me when I was younger, and I suspect that it still won�t work for me now. I guess I just wish the second one provided some sense of closure for the viewer� ach well, I guess you can�t have everything.

�Never Have I Sensed Such Unimaginable Loneliness in a Living Being!�

Oh yes!!!

As I�ve been a bit ill today (stomach pains and nausea), I�ve been re-reading my cheap black-and-white Marvel Essential Fantastic Four volume 3 today. S�good reading if your feeling a bit off- so simple, robust and imaginative, and with such energetic and brilliantly odd visuals. The Lee/Kirby team-up is on fire with these issues: the Inhumans, the Black Panther and (oh yes!) Galactus and the Silver Surfer all make their debut appearances here, and you can�t help but be bowled over by just how fresh and mad these stories still feel (at least, I can�t).

Like most people who�re into these comics, I�m particularly taken with the first Galactus/Silver Surfer story. Not only is it an utterly brilliant adventure story full of fun twists and turns and lots of soapy family drama, but there�s also something deeply pleasing about the way in which the story�s simple morality functions. I just find the fact that Galactus is presented as being �above good or evil� strangely satisfying in some way. Maybe it�s just me, but I think there�s something intrinsically brilliant about the fact that we are to him as ants/gnats/animals in general are to us.

It�s easy for people to sneer at Stan Lee�s cheesy dialogue, but I think it has a certain charm of it�s own that really works with these goofy, fantastic stories. I seem to have been accusing everything of having �a lot of charm� recently, but I think it�s very true in this case.

For some reason, this brief ramble about the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four comics seems like a perfect place to link to this Barbelith discussion about comics for kids. It starts off a bit jokily, but soon becomes a bit more serious. As well as being an odd spectacle in itself (the differing levels of seriousness from poster to poster is unfathomably amusing) the thread does become an interesting discussion as it goes on, with Cameron Stewart getting particularly fired up about the fact that Marvel and DC make comics almost exclusively for people who�re over 30.

An interesting counterpoint to this whole discussion can be found in Steve Grant�s most recent Permanent Damage column. The fist section of the column is all about the question of what actually constitutes an �all ages� comic, and whether it is possible to create such a thing.

�Aiming books at "all ages" is an exercise in futility; by trying to make a comic all things to all people it becomes extremely easy to make it nothing for anyone.�

My thoughts on this subject can be found somewhere deep within the mire of January�s posts. In short, the lack of kid�s comics, the poor shape of the comic book industry and the fact that almost all superhero books are now aimed at middle aged men who read them when they were kids do seem to be interconnected (well, duh!) and problematic to me, but I�m not entirely sure about how these problems are best rectified. I have a great deal of respect for the position that Cameron Stewart has, i.e. that people need to remember that comics is a business and needs to be run as such, but I also share a bit of Steven Grant�s scepticism as to how easy it is to create a book for kids that kids will actually want to read.

One part of that Barbelith discussion which I am totally fascinated by is this bit, posted by (you guessed it) Cameron Stewart:

�Comics should definitely be cheaper. Fuck your fancy computer colouring and glossy paper, which drives the costs up - I just got back from Japan where the majority of comics are black and white and printed on flimsy newsprint, hundreds of pages thick for less than the price of one flimsy-ass Marvel or DC book. And everyone reads them. No one cares that there's no lush Photoshop effects or smooth silky paper.�

Having no clue about the Japanese comics business aside from the fact that I�m aware that it�s a lot healthier and more mainstream than the western equivalent, I have to say that this both blows my mind and seems like a painfully logical way to make comics more accessible. Anyone who doesn�t think that comics are perhaps a tad pricey should possibly work out exactly how much they spend each month on so little. I pick up relatively few monthly books, but whenever I�ve thought about how much of my money these damned things take up I�ve been more than a little horrified.

�Understanding Cannot Alter the Ways of Destiny!"

If yer looking for something amusing, go check out this Onion piece. It�s pretty spot on and very funny.

�When a woman catches my eye in the real world, I'm usually too scared to talk. And, in the rare instance that I somehow muster the courage, I am met with barely concealed disgust. Is it my fault that Douglas Peltz has bad skin and a chronic runny nose? I often wonder if any of these ladies I see in real life are ones Hankscorpio74 has met and seduced on the Internet. Knowing how many conquests he's piled up, it's likely.�
(found on the Barbelith conversation forum)


Tuesday, February 04, 2003
 
Fisherman�s Blues

Ah snow: it would be brilliant if it wasn�t for the fact that it renders most forms of transport difficult at best.

It�s been a lovely day out there, in a really chilly way. My dog�s none too happy about it all though- he�s a 14-year-old Yorkshire terrier, and I think that it�d be fair to say that when I took him out for a walk earlier there was more snow than dog by the time we got back in, bless the poor wee guy.

That aside, I still get a simple, childlike thrill from snow� it just makes everything look so gorgeous!

Good news for my dad- his broken arm is out of its sling now (though he still can�t put much preassure on it) and his boss will be round on Thursday morning to discuss the possibility of him working from home.

It�s probably been about two years since my Dad�s multiple sclerosis made it impossible for him to travel into work everyday� Jesus, that�s such a long time. It would be really good for him if this goes through. I know he wants to be able to do something, and I think this would be really good for his morale.

�CUNT�S AFFEEZ FUKKEN CHUMP!�

*some kind of SPOILER warning is probably fair*

The Filth #8 was one of the best issues in this series yet. This one really feels like it�s been put on fast-forward, as we rocket through the Libertania story at a frightening pace. It�s a garish re-mix of some key Morrison themes and concepts, with the post-utopian inhabitants of the good ship Libertania starting out this issue as a load of deranged, violent psychopaths before becoming an �emergent super-organism� that represents the �next stage in human evolution�, apparently. The character of Spartacus Hughes works wonderfully in this storyline by both acting as the perfect mouthpiece for all of the compressed lectures on human society that this story is cramned full off and by providing a new representation of the idea of viral personality. Plus he�s one the series two particularly developed characters (we�ll come back to Greg Feely/Ned Slade later), and is oddly charming because of this.

All this aside, there�s a slew of brilliantly deranged imagery and a never ending torrent ultra-black humour on display here, as per usual. The �hydrophages� (day-glo sea vehicles operated by the prosthetically equipped dolphins from issue #2) are one of the most unusual and interesting visuals this series has churned out so far, and this issue is full of funny-as-all-hell one-liners (many of which belong to the phonetically dialogued Glaswegian Cameron Spector and the KGB trained chimp assassin Dmitri).

Of course, for all the madcap fun this series has to offer, the Greg Feely sections are the heart of this book, and they've been getting better with every issue. The first section of this issue, which deals with Feely�s arrest by the �real world� police and his subsequent deranged ranting, is both hilariously funny and more than a little disconcerting. There�s a genuinely skewed side to this element of the book, and whether it turns out hat this is all some kind of messed-up fantasy or not, I can�t wait to see how this all turns out. Plus that�s one hell of a cliffhanger: has Greg�s dodgy doppelganger finally killed off the ever-lovable Tony the cat? I guess we�ll have to wait till next month to find out�


Monday, February 03, 2003
 
Big Pimping

Looks like it�s linking time again folks�

If yer looking for a bit of nutty bootleg pop then go here and download the marvellous �Marshall�s Been Snookered�. Apparently this has been around for ages, but I only recently came across a link to it on the Barbelith music forum, so it�s still new to me.

This months edition of comics webzine Sequential Tart has a roundtable discussion about porn that�s quite good if your interested in that sort of thing.
(link found via Journalista!)

Scott has updated Wake Up Screaming a couple of times since I last mentioned it. S�good stuff, you should check it out. You could also give the brilliant Genre City a look while you�re at it.

There's an article about science fiction and smart mobs here. It refers heavily to comic book writer Warren Ellis' work, and while I�m not always blown-away by Ellis� writing itself, the ideas he explores in works such as Global Frequency, Mek and Transmetropolitan are normally very interesting and (as the article points out) very relevant to the modern world.
(link found on Die Puny Humans)


Saturday, February 01, 2003
 
Bastards I Have Been Called

From Eddie Campbell�s website:

�I have ceased publishing new work for the foreseeable future. Egomania #2 is the final release from Eddie Campbell Comics. I conceived Egomania in a moment when From Hell was bringing in so much revenue that I could afford to indulge myself and put out a magazine which made no compromises to market expectations. I wanted to do a mag made up of my enthusiasms, pure and simple, presented in a precise and attractive typographical setting. I also wanted it to be such an eclectic mix of stuff that it would confound the comics purists who attempt to oppress and stultify our medium by straight-jacketing it with their definitions and rules. It�s time to broaden our vision instead of narrowing it. I knew the thing had no chance in the current market and that the clock was ticking as soon as I started. The collapse of my US distributor last year hurried things to an early conclusion.�

Grrr- there�s nay fooking justice in the comics biz� *grumble*

There�s more on the site, with Campbell saying that he hopes to finish off the �history of humour� comic he was working on in some form or another, and that he�s doing a painted Batman book later in the year, but still- this makes me an unhappy fanboy.

�It�s Not Snow, It�s Grass!!!�

I got home safe, sound and even on time tonight, which was a nice surprise!

I�d been uncertain about whether my flight home would be cancelled or delayed or whatnot due to the weather conditions that had caused so many problems at Stansted Airport yesterday. To tell you the truth, I�d have rather liked to have an extra day or two with Gillian, were it not for the fact that it would have left the good folk at my work a person down tomorrow.

Ah well, I had a brilliant time, and I�ll be back in under two weeks to go to the ball (isn�t that rather fab?).

Random (But Obvious) Observation: When Gillian and I had a wee walk through town yesterday I couldn�t help but notice that Kings College looks utterly brilliant in the snow� like something from the best kids fantasy adventure movie that never was.