Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina: a harsh mistress

To my many readers in the gulf bay states of the U.S: keep your chins up. Just don't expect that wanker George Bush to turn up and help out soon. The laissez-faire git.


And to my not-so-many readers in the middle east: Allah is tough but fair, eh?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

the Ian Paisley of rock

I'm about three quarters of the way through NO SURRENDER, Johnny Rogan's biography of Van Morrison. It's also a decent little social history of Northern Ireland, but the main impression is one of wonderment that a man with such little personal grace can produce such exquisite music. Plus, it's hilarious the lengths Rogan will go to in his quest to prove Morrison is the Ian Paisley of rock. "Here's a picture of Paisley in his cossack hat - and look! Here's a picture of Van in a hat a bit like it!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Things I've learnt from SKY+

Part one of a potentially exciting new series. Or maybe not.

1. Play a movie back at double speed and it looks like it was filmed on video rather than 35mm filmstock.

Wowie!

Monday, August 22, 2005

The greatest book ever told


Once upon a time when I was young and full of hot creative spunk I (and a couple of similarly minded individuals) published a mini-comic called ROCK'N'ROLL APPRECIATION SOCIETY (It was great, by the way. Sometimes people get drunk and still ask me about it. That, and the movie I was in. But that's another story, he said coyly). On the back of one issue was a bunch of fake blurbs, an overly common comedic device now, but less-so then. And I'll paraphrase one now: "this is quite simply the greatest literary achievement ever. Someone should break in to every hotel room on the planet and replace every Gideon's Bible with a copy of this instead."

I now take that sentiment back, refute it completely. All the Gideon's Bibles should be switched with a copy of SWIMINI PURPOSE instead.
Strive, strive to get a copy, my children! Then tear out your eyes lest you accidently read another book!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

"Virgil Kane's my name, and I worked the Denver train..."


So anyway, the big SPECIAL MYSTERY EVENT THAT MUST GO UNNAMED is all over, and now it can be named. It was my brother-in-law's fortieth birthday party. And it was a cracker. Free flowing booze, crazy bikers, great music. Truth be, I'm still a little hung over. Here's the poster: not my greatest piece of design work (those cost real money suckah, and this was a freebie after all), but it got the job done and kept the client happy. And amused my four year old niece greatly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

first the SUNDAY TRIBUNE, now RADIO 2...

I'm taking over the media! So, imagine the scene: the mobile library is docked in sunny Ballygawley, all day, every other Tuesday. As you can probably imagine, it's not the most exciting burgh on the planet, and sometimes we have to make our own fun.

Anyway, this often includes heckling along to Radio 2. And, praise be to the Dark Lords, Steve Wright has been on holiday all week. Nothing personal, but Wrighty's heavy dependence on unfunny zoo radio chatter at the expense of actual tunage can tend to make the afternoon drag a bit. So, thankfully, his stand-in (Richard Someone or other) has been programming a much more rockist show, which includes a segment where he plays three tracks from a classic album, selected by request, at lengthy intervals. Monday was LED ZEPPELIN 4, where I predicted "oh christ, I betcha he'll play bleedin' Stairway to Heaven" and then proceeded to earn my respect when he (Crowley be praised!) stuck on When The Levee Breaks. Instantly my respect for this guy shot up. So on Tuesday, the classic album was REVOLVER, and he started off by playing a Macca tune (either Here, There and Everywhere or For No One, I can't remember) then Lennon's I'm Only Sleeping. Anyway, I reckoned he'd probably play Tomorrow Never Knows next, but on impulse, I thought I'd rocket in an email and ask for And Your Bird Can Sing. Anyway, he played it. And read out my dedication ("please play And Your Bird Can Sing, 'cus it's great, and when was the last time you heard it played on the radio? From Mark and Frank, on the mobile library in deepest darkest Ballygawley" or some such).




As I said, sometimes we have to make our own fun.

Look, I never said it was an interesting story.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

SPECIAL MYSTERY EVENT THAT MUST GO UNNAMED update

Well, after mixing together over 350 minutes of bluegrass onto 5 CDs for saturday's mystery festivities, I officially never want to hear another fucking mandolin solo ever again. I repeat: Peter Buck, if you come round here once again with that damn thing, I'm shoving it where the sun don't shine, pal.


Oh, and if any of my local readership fancies going to a barbecue/booze-up/debauch at the weekend, drop me an e-mail. I may well have a suggestion to make.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Soooo...

...I think there was a mention of me and the blog in the Sunday Tribune yesterday, but I can't be sure, because nowhere around here sells it. Anyway, I had a journo ringing me up at work last week. The guy had figured out from the blog, reading between the lines, my name, home town and job. The problem was, his Dublin accent was so thick that it took me about five minutes just to figure out he wasn't trying to sell me advertising space. As such, my interview technique, honed from years of sitting the other side of the dictaphone, was a Van Morrison-like wall of surly communication breakdown. "You don't want to do a feature on me. Why'd you want to do a feature on me?" Repeat and rinse. So anyway, I'm none the wiser. There may have been a feature on Irish bloggers in the Tribune yesterday, and I may have been one of them. Guess I'll never know.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

woke up this morning...

...to the sound of my postie, the sadistic fascist, banging a martial beat on my front door. It was an airmail package from America. I was a little bemused: I couldn't remember ordering anything. When I got downstairs and saw the packing tape marked BUD PLANT COMICS it all came back to me. I'm always pleasantly surprised when I see just how damned bulletproof American packaging is: makes me feel embarrassed about how skimpy some of the stuff I posted off during my early days as a seller on eBay probably were (though I was quickly scared straight after a near-miss with negative feedback).


Anyway, what with it recently being convention season in America, I had been looking to see if Bud was selling the most recent Bruce Timm sketchbook. I was getting annoyed at trying to get a copy for a sensible price at auction (stinkin' lousy profiteers...), and normally Bud's pretty good at this sort of thing. Anyhow, he didn't have it yet, but he did have the latest sketchbooks by Ben Caldwell, whose work I've ben growing to admire. And I thought, while I'm here, I've been intending to pick up the Eduardo Risso sketchbook from a year or two ago, so I might as well pick up a copy now.

So, anyway, getting to the point...

As you should all know by now, Eduardo Risso rules the Earth. He's the best in the world at what he does, and if only the politicians wouldn't stop interfering, we could clone hundreds of him, and then every comic could look as good as 100 BULLETS. That said, the sketchbook was a bit skimpy, and the interview was hardly COMICS JOURNAL standard. But it was cheap, and the exchange rate is great at the minute.

Sometimes I worry about poor ol' Ben Caldwell, though. He's a great natural talent, but every book of his I've ever ordered comes in on the late side. It isn't that the guy isn't prolific, so I reckon he's maybe over-committed: he's doing his DARE DETECTIVES series over at Dark Horse; his "how-to" series for Sterling Books; covers for DC's JLU comics; developing his ACTION CLASSICS adaptations of Dracula, The Odyssey, The Wizard Of Oz, and the chinese Monkey God legends (also at Sterling). That's a hell of a workload. Ben's a guy who almost certainly could do with cloning himself, too. Anyway, his sketchbooks are a lot of fun, and I hope his increasingly exuberent design work manages to integrate itself into his storytelling (as much as I loved the first DARE DETECTIVES aesthetically, it was a bit of a stilted read). Looking through his sketchbooks (and check out the gallery at his website), the projects the guy seems born to do, but ironically will almost certainly never get a chance at, would be a HARRY POTTER or LORD OF THE RINGS comicbook.

Damn you, repressive copyright laws! Damn you to hell!

Oh, and happy birthday Ellen!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

ultrafast reviews

Big box of stuff arrived from my main man Biff today. It included:

STUPID COMICS #3 by Jim Mahfood. Love Mahfood's visual stylings, like his autobiographical shorts, but feel his attempts at satire are usually a tad unoriginal, obvious and leaden (the guy's no Bill Hicks). He's an artist that works best collaboratively (i.e. should hook up with a decent writer more often).


HIP FLASK: MYSTERY CITY by Richard Starkings and Jose Ladronn is one of those rare things: a perfect comicbook. Turns out Starking isn't just a revolutionary letterer and businessman, but a fine writer as well. Ladronn has finally matured as an artist. His style has gelled, fusing his influences perfectly, where once they seemed to over-power him. He's now the perfect hybrid of Kirby's dynamicism, Moebius's ligne clair and Juan Gimenez's textures that he always threatened to become, which seems apt, given the themes of this book. Tellingly, this book is dedicated to "Alan Moore, Steve Moore, Steve Dillon, David Lloyd and Steve Parkhouse". Basically, the entire crew (with a few exceptions) of the classic anthology WARRIOR, which kickstarted the revolutions the medium of comicbooks went through in the mid-eighties. This comic effortlessly captures the same questing, progressive spirit of those imaginauts.


ASTONISHING X-MEN #11 by Joss Whedon and John Cassady keeps dragging on. Jesus christ, it's bad. Really regretting my decision to keep buying this, just so I can sell it on eBay as a complete set. Nothing should be this much hard work.


ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #21 by Mark Millar and Greg Land. "Ever get the feeling you've been had?" Best John Lydon quote in a Marvel comic in years. That said, less happens in twenty-odd pages of this comic than in half a dozen pages of a Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four, and Land's artwork is awful. Horrible. I'll hang around until the punchline. Millar's good at those. Then it's dropped again.


DESOLATION JONES #2 by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III. More greatness by a magical combination of the most cynical writer in comics with the most romantic artist in the field. Inspired. If Spider Jerusalem was Ellis channelling Hunter Thompson, Jones is as loving an homage to Raymond Chandler as a grumpy, smart-arsed Englishman can do.


THE DEFENDERS #1 by the team supreme of Keith Giffen, Jean Marc DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. These three, back from the dead, and strangely, demonically rejuvenated, move on to pastures new with fresh, yet simultaneously predictable (i.e. funny, great looking) results. It's something of a Giffen-month, as next up it's...


HERO SQUARED #1, by Giffen, DeMatteis and Joe Abraham. Of course, it's really #2, but changing publishers (after a fashion) has allowed them the privilege of two first issues in a row. Free of editorial heaviness, and continuity crises from concerned corporations, Giffen and DeMatteis get to do it their way at last. The liberating effect is obviously energising. This series may be the best comic with a Giffen byline since he blew up the earth and scarpered from LEGION OF SUPERHEROES in the mid-nineties. And finally on the Giffen tip is...


COMMON FOE #2 by Giffen, Shannon Denton and Jean Jacques Dzialowski. This series, like so many other indie comics these days, reads like a handy, already pre-vizzed, movie pitch. I can imagine that meeting now: "It's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN meets THE KEEP versus ALIENS!" Fortunately, we get more characterisation this issue than the first, so now we know we're supposed to care about these characters as they inevitably get ripped apart in the last issue.


SEVEN SOLDIERS: THE MANHATTAN GUARDIAN #3 by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart. Seven Soldiers rumbles on, and this issue is another well-balanced meal of action, humour, satirical intent and intrigue. Groovy.


100 BULLETS #62 by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. Nothing much happens, but what does go on manages to be impeccable and impossibly stylish anyway.


CONAN #18 by Kurt Busiek, John Severin and Bruce Timm. This is the first issue of Dark Horse's revival of Conan I've bought, specifically for the Timm-drawn short in the back. Noticed this is Busiek's best writing since MARVELS and ASTRO CITY - the guy was coasting awfully doing stale superhero stuff for the big two for what seems like a decade. The Timm four pager is fantastic, the longer story is even better, like a new CONANcentric twist on an old TWO FISTED TALES style story (and yet Severin was always far from being my favourite of all the old EC guys).


HELLBOY: THE ISLAND #2 by Mike Mignola. And miraculously this month, another perfect comic. If this, unfortunately but not really unexpectedly, turned out to be the last Hellboy comic Mignola ever managed to commit to draw himself, it would be a shame and a crime, sure, yet not unfitting.


THE ULTIMATES 2 #7 by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. Or as it might have been called once, "WHAT IF THE AVENGERS WERE A BUNCH OF BASTARDS" rumbles on, ever slower. A series that's easy to admire, but harder to like. Especially when the only likeable character in the book is currently stuck in lockdown, the second most likeable beats his wife, and the third most likeable is a mass murderer on the run. Get my drift? But the writing's snappy, the plot ticks over like a Swiss clock, and the art is uniformly great.


THE NEW AVENGERS #7 & 8 by Bendis and Steve McNiven. My grandmother had a saying, "Bendis is as Bendis does". I was never quite sure what she meant, but these comics are the equivalent of the cheeseburgers on the big photo menu at Burger King: they look good up there in lights, but when you hold them in your hand, they're never quite as impressive. And they only last about one minute before you fancy another one. Anyway, if McNiven is going to be the new artist on this book, I recommend they put more female members on the roster. Given Bendis's obvious love of all things Marvel and seventies, I'd go with Ms Marvel and She Hulk. Oh, and Dazzler.


JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR #43. I keep expecting this magazine to run out of things to say, images to print, but it's a tribute to the genius of the man, and the length and variety of his career, and sheer size of his output, that they don't. And just when you think it's getting a bit stale, they add a new feature that just makes the mag seem even better value: the new "Public Domain Theatre", reprinting great out-of-copyright shorts.


BLAM! And I'm outta here, losers! A Brutha's gotta eat sometime!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Americana: FUCK YEAH!

For a SPECIAL MYSTERY EVENT THAT MUST REMAIN UNNAMED, I've been amassing bluegrass, zydeco, country and western and other assorted Americana for my DJ set. And to that end, today I bought the soundtrack to DELIVERANCE. And all I can say is... FUCK YEAH!

Everything goes better with banjoes. Going down the shops? Stick banjo music on your iPod. Suddenly, your life is one "crazy" episode of stale cousin-rapin' sitcom THE DUKES OF HAZZARD.


YEE-FUCKIN'-HA!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

DAMN YOU MURDOCH!! DAMN YOU TO HELL!!

Okay, so I've re-upped my Sky Sports subscription for the football season. And ordered the SKY + hard drive recorder, so I can actually get to see some of the programmes I've been paying for. Plus, while I was at it, ordered the Sky Multiroom service so I could put my old Sky box in the kitchen. All in all, my bill with be £50+ every month for all this. You know what this means? Murdoch's rottweiller THE SUN can now officially stop bitching about the price of the BBC license fee, because it seems positively good value compared to this. Wank*rs.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

2000AD's summer offensive begins...


...and so far, it's a bit of a mixed bag. John Wagner's new Dredd multi-parter CAUGHT IN THE ACT is an overt dig at the potential for over-reaction to the war on terror, and recent erosions of civil liberties. The give-away comes right in the first panel: the action starts at "Blunkett Towers", complete with graffittied statue of the gormless fuck*r and his guide dog. We hear of Maga City One's latest draconian measure "the security of the city act". Sounds familiar, doesn't it? The razor sharpness (as ever) of Wagner's writing is matched by the glory of Phil Winslade's art. I can't believe this guy isn't signed up by one of the big two on an exclusive contract. When the (actually very good) book he was drawing at DC, THE MONOLITH, came to it's all-too-premature conclusion, I thought he was obviously heading for bigger and better things. DC/Marvel editors - wise up! Why scurry around to sign up tubes like Michael Turner and Joe Madureira when such a fine illustrator (who has such a mastery of such overlooked basics as, duh, facial expression, anatomy and perspective) can easily knock out a page a day? Plus, the glory of his work here made me doodle pictures of Dredd all day, always a good sign.


Uncle Pat Mills is back with SAVAGE book two. Pat does his merry anarchist thing rather than the mystic thing he's been a tad burnt out on, so it's like a breath of fresh, violent, sadistic, air. Plus the art is by another ultra-consistent, ultra-under-rated Brit, Charlie Adlard. Always a pleasure, never a chore.


Until the recent rise of the risable Simon Spurrier, John Smith was my all-time least favourite 2000AD writer. The guy's work is usually fey, pretentious, incoherent, cold, and with wafer-thin characters no-one could warm to. I won't go on. Anyway, he's still in semi-regular employment for some reason, and his new series LEATHERJACK looks like it's going to be more of the same. It's not even partially redeemed by a great art job, as has sometimes been the case in the past (Chris Weston and Frazier Irving spring to mind, here). Paul Marshall's efforts here smack of perfunction.


The issue is rounded out by another attempt at re-animating the dead horse that is ROBO-HUNTER, by Alan Grant and Ian Gibson. At least this incarnation plays to Gibson's strengths by making the protagonist hot female cheesecake, but other than that, it's gags you've heard a thousand times before.


Special mention must also go to the great gatefold cover by Jock. Let's face it, the guy is the best Dredd artist unearthed in the last decade. Unfortunately, he's also under exclusive contract with DC, so it's great to see he was even allowed to produce this lovely piece. Great design sense, iconic - an instant classic.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bits Of Recent Business

For the sunny month of August, I'll be BAD MOBILE LIBRARIAN! And, as I wend my merry way through the B-roads of scenic Northern Ireland, I'll be needing plenty of reading matter to make all that scenery bearable.


And today I started by buying the latest issue of the 2000AD/Judge Dredd MEGAZINE (ish #235). I wanted to point this out because of the great art job on the lead story by fellow Ulsterman Paul Holden, who grows in stature with every assignment Tharg throws his way.


I also brought along Mike Moorcock's latest (and alleged last ever Eternal Champion novel) THE WHITE WOLF'S SON, but didn't make much headway, due to co-workers and customers an' stuff getting in the way. Inconsiderate fuck*rs! Bearing in mind how great his last two in this series were, I'm expecting great things. So far, much of the narrative has been from the first person perspective of a posh, plummy voiced little girl. This has reminded me of both of the two fine (and both Irish) children's fantasy authors C.S. Lewis and Edith Nesbit. Nesbit has been namechecked twice so far in the first few chapters, so it's an influence the book is wearing on its sleeve.


Got home and Mr Amazon had delivered ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR vol. 4. Famously, the love was leaving the Lee/Kirby marriage rapidly at this stage, Jack wasn't donating as many new characters and concepts, and the books were now recycling the golden years: the Inhumans, the Silver Surfer, the Black Panther all re-occur. But for a guy maybe not giving his all in the storytelling dept., Kirby's pencils are among his finest ever. This is The King at the height of his mature period, and Joe Sinnott's inking means his work never looked slicker. Plus, it features Kirby's greatest ever montage, from FF annual #6.


Kirby and some guy with a big nose, last week.


Other crap I've read or seen recently: watched the Kevin Smith documentary THE SNOWBALL EFFECT the other night. Reminded me why I loved the guy in the first place, and (more importantly) made me want to watch CLERKS again. Read IT'S A BIRD by Steven Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen. Very good. Eisneresque (and, let's face it - in comic book terms, can there be higher praise?).