Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

my first pumpkin

...and it rocked!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

BRENDAN McCARTHY and how superhero comics could heal America

Reverso/Ditranko on the end of Superman as a viable national emblem, and the rise of Captain America as a better metaphor, and more brain-expanding stuff, at Millarworld of all places. Not a venue known for deep philosophical discourse, unless you count "uh, DC sux, Marvel rools".


Of course, I reckon Cap is a better symbol for the U.S. because, as a character, he is so utterly of the military-industrial complex. If once we dreamt of America through the metaphor of the ultimate immigrant and his second chance in literally, the new world, now we perceive it as defined by war. World War II, The Cold War, the War On Terror - America keeps its economic blood pumping by being in a constant state of conflict, however ill-defined. I don't hold it against it - so did the Romans, and the British, in their imperial phases. Therefore, the better, truer, embodiment of the country is a career soldier. And Millar's "Ultimate" take on the character rings truer than most: deeply conservative, macho, swaggering, French-baiting. Basically, he's John Wagner's Judge Dredd, only prettier. This, of course, has been deeply horrifying to many American reviewers, especially those of a liberal bent. "Captain America should be about the American Dream, not the American reality".  Sorry chums, but that's how most of the world sees you these days. If you don't like it, do something about it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

TORCHWOOD review

So, I just watched the opening double-bill of BBC's new DR WHO spin-off, TORCHWOOD on BBC3. Well, for a start, I stick on the telly and start watching, and BOOM! a copper drops the f-bomb! Woah! Actual, proper cursing in DR WHO! Cus that's what this is really, just an extension of the motherseries, a way to keep its unstoppable cultural bandwagon ticking over, and keep its production team together, without risking over-exposure to its core concepts. In the beginning, I was tallying up the in-continuity references between this pilot and its parent show. I stopped halfway through at seven. I'm watching this, then, as basically DR WHO without The Doctor. In some ways, the existence of this series proves that DR WHO is no longer the kid's show certain BBC execs think it is. TORCHWOOD is a valediction of sorts for the fandom: those who grew up with it, and feel a degree of ownership of it. Here it is - the adult DR WHO you thought you deserved. God help the parents of any persistant members of the new generation of WHO fans Davies and his team have created, who after hours of pestering, allowed them to sit up and see a torrent of cursing, blood-letting, and rough shagging in nightclub toilets.

What struck me about the first episode was how it was ultimately exactly the sodding same as Russell T Davies' first DR WHO episode, ROSE: a young, working class, woman with a really great ass is initiated by a mysterious stranger into a secret world of alien weirdness and sudden violent death, and leaves her mundane world for his. Still, it proved so popular on the first iteration you can hardly blame him, only this time there were fewer lurches in tone as ROSE, where he seemed to be trying to figure out who he was aiming the show at on the fly (no belching carniverous bins, for a start).

The second episode, as if to stamp the series' credentials as thoroughly adult into the viewer with dirty great jackboots, was a hoary old "alien parasite as STD" metaphor, with extra lashings of sociological commentary on how empty and dehumanizing the sexualization of our culture really is, maan: cue our infected (needless to mention - hot) young female victim looking dazed by a montage of perfume and underwear billboards).

The number one irritant, though is the neverending, relentless, bloody welshness of it. The Welsh: the least convincing science fiction protagonists since, I dunno, the cast of flippin' STARGATE or sumfin'. We get it: Russell loves his hometown. Great, but just watch out, in case the show becomes too parochial to travel outside Cardiff.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The only David Beckham-related post I'll ever make

I'm a sucker for jam comics at the best of time, even when they inevitably leave me feeling unsatisfied afterwards. The latest to take my fancy is Rich Johnston's CIVIL WAR parody, CIVIL WARDROBE. It's a thin premise, but the list of artist talent contributing is impressive (Kaare Andrews, Darick Robertson, Ashley Wood - whose Deaddevil page is pretty sweet, too, Lea Hernandez, Mike Netzer, Frazer Irving, etc), Johnston is at his best when being straight-up funny, and it features this great page by Edmund Bagwell, a man already praised at this very blog twice in recent times, alongside BL reader Dan's speculation about Bagwell having a secret past in the biz under another name.

This image is great on a couple of levels, not least because it really does sum up the way U.S. comic writers regard the U.K. - as defined by WWII, Benny Hill, punk rock, faddy pop, ill-defined mysticism and football hooliganism. Everything bar bad teeth and awful food, I suppose. And Bagwell's Mike Golden/Chris Sprouse-y stylings manage to make that weedy egomaniac David Beckham look heroic. Some going.
This Bagwell guy is the next-big-thing just waiting to break out.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing

Yesterday, I posted a great cover from DC's new solicitations. Today, in the interests of fairness in the bitterly partisan politics that is superhero comics publishing, here's an absolutely kick-ass image from Marvel, by Cameron Stewart. It's a well known fact: if there's two things comic bloggers love, it's M.O.D.O.K and Cameron Stewart.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I heart JOCK

Just read the last THE LOSERS trade, ENDGAME last night. Very good indeed. Liked the way Diggle subverted the order most teams on a WILD BUNCH-style suicide mission kark it in. Smart. Great art, too, by The Legend Colin Wilson, and Jock. Jock is easily the best cover artist in the biz at the minute, and here's another example why: the cover to SCALPED #1, just solicited by DC/Vertigo today. No idea how the book'll turn out (though Vertigo's current roster sees the imprint in as good a state as it has ever been), but if I saw that on the shelf, I'd feel I'd have to pick it up and at least take a look. And for the cover artist, my friends, that is mission accomplished.

BORAT in AMSTERDAM

I love Amsterdam, it's a great drinking town. Well, I say drinking...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

what does STAN LEE smell like?


Here. And the answer is, of course, Old Spice and vintage leather.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

DOCTOR DOOM will not be happy

...but I am, 'cus Northern Ireland just beat Latveria 1-0. Hopefully, repercussions will not be forthcoming.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The ghost in the machine

Read a nice piece by Steven Levy in The Guardian Magazine on Saturday claiming that his (and other's) iPod's shuffle function may have some form of psychic power. A precog algorithm. I believe in it, it's some form of local magic, and Pandora now seems to have developed it, too. And in my case, the ghost in the machine appears to be Ronnie Lane.

Cheers, Plonk.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

ROBIN HOOD in the age of New Labour

Kinda didn't want to like the new ROBIN HOOD on BBC1 last night, mainly because as a kid I'd enjoyed ITV's mystic ROBIN OF SHERWOOD so much (what wasn't to like? I mean, come on - Ray fahking Winstone as Will Scarlet? Kick ass!). This Robin was a rollicking, swashbuckling, running commentary on The Blair Age. Post traumatic stress disorder in The New Crusades, maan. Kinda like last week's CRACKER special only with jokes that didn't fall flat on their ass. Some performances were a little broad. Okay, I'm singling out Sam Troughton and Keith Allen especially. Allen does what he always does, I suppose, and gave a scenery-chewing turn as The Sherriff Of Nottingham that was pure panto. Troughton, scion of one of the UK's most under-rated acting dynasties (grandson of Paddy, son of David, nephew of Michael), was the irritating comic relief Much (as in ...The Miller's Son of previous versions of the legends), but redeemed himself with some subtler playing during a quiet moment that made some of the subtext explicit (and yes, apparently the BBC's ROBIN HOOD/STRICTLY COME DANCING combo beat ITV's SIMON COWELL AND HIS CARTEL OF IDIOTS UNDERMINE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY/ANT AND DEC RIP OFF OLD NOEL EDMONDS IDEAS THAT WERE CRAP EVEN BACK IN THE EIGHTIES ANYWAY in the ratings - not that I noticed, as I was busy watching Northern Ireland's moral victory over a whinging, diving, Denmark side instead anyway - God bless ya, SKY+).

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Haven't done a 2000AD review in a while...

Finally got around to picking up prog #1508, and discovered it was actually quite noteworthy. 
For a start, the Judge Dredd multiparter ORIGINS rumbled on ominously. Funny how all the best Dredd stories feature The Cursed Earth so prominently, and John Wagner seems to be offering a mature rumination on the violent nature of his native country - always one of his best themes.

Next up was part two of Simon Spurrier's CHIAROSCURO. Saying that this has been my favourite work by Spurrier may seem quite the faint praise, like saying "this dose of the clap has been my favourite STD by far!". Really, I've thought the guy's previous work to be normally pretty idiotic, so the fact that I'm finding this strip to be actually bearable is kinda really surprising. It reminds me of the Terror Tales that filled out Quality's old HOUSE OF HAMMER comic. That said, those used to be given a level of legitimacy as they were drawn by top pros, guys like Dave Gibbons. This Smudge guy is no John Bolton. He's pretty crappy.

Then: the two page Tom Frame tribute spread. Now, when I was reading this issue, I had a helluva hangover, and was therefore feeling a little bit teary. My critical apparatus is always effed up by booze, but I found so many 2000AD greats coming back to pay tribute to this silent hero very moving. The only problem was that the centre spread of a magazine sized comic still didn't seem big enough for the image. I'd happily shell out a few quid to Marie Curie for a poster of this. The list of contributors was so complete, so star-studded, that a couple of big names were instead conspicuous by their absence (no Bolland, but then his glorious cover to #1505 was tribute enough; but no Cam Kennedy seemed a damned shame - we see little enough of his work these days; no original 2000AD gangster Kev O'Neill; no original Megazine gangster Sean Phillips even). Some noteworthy contributions: Mick McMahon's great Slaine and Ukko, the only character who appeared twice, thanks to a Glenn Fabry cock-up; Dom Reardon's Dave Stewart-esque colours on Chapter and Verse after I've bleated on for years about how CABALLISTICS, INC should be in just such a muted palette rather than black and white; returns to 2000AD for so many long-lost sons that it seems unfair to pick out any for special mention, but fuck it - Steve Dillon! Jamie Hewlett! Alan Davis! Ash Wood (who really must get knocked up for a full Dredd strip some day, he's came a long way since he last worked for 2000AD, baby)! Brendan McCarthy! Jock! Glynn "thought you were dead, mate" Dillon!

 Then it's THE 86ERS, back for more Nu Earthy dogfightiness. This is a good thing, 'cus I love PJ Holden drawing space ships like I love Tayto Spicy Bikers. And Gordon Rennie is the most under-rated Toof writer of his generation.
SINISTER DEXTER is back, too, after punning maestro Dan Abnett pulled a DEAD MAN with the recent MALONE, a strip I enjoyed mightily. I tend to like this strip more when it holds tightly to its maudlin grander arc rather than its occasional diversions into pure humour, so it's looking good. Plus, Anthony Williams - always appreciated.
The second surprise was the Future Shock, Spaceland by Al Ewing and Edmund Bagwell. Nothing shocking about the script, the standard "reveal: B.E.M. in the last panel" plot that has been the F-Shock stock-in-trade since it began. The surprise was seeing Bagwell's art. I predicted that he'd be the breakout artist from Liam Sharp's EVENT HORIZON anthology, and I'm still on track to be proven right. His work is great, and none the worse for emphasizing the ligne claire this time over the digital rendering he's often used. As a digital artist, he's comparable to Adi Granov. With a pen, he's a bit D'Israeli, a bit Moebius, a bit Chris Sprouse. And entirely good. Editors - commission this man! Save him from the thankless saltmines of video game production!

Friday, October 06, 2006

SPAM GRENADE!

For when you absolutely, positively have to kill AND defile every enemy combatant on the field of war!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Books, books, books, books

Reading? We love it. Love it, love it, love it, love it, love it.

1. Jungle Jamie Hewlett is
releasing a new book, which is somewhere along the lines of a ten on the Richter Scale of importance of things close to the heart of this blog.


2. Just got PERIPLES IMAGINAIRES, an art book featuring a treasury of watercolours by the great Hugo Pratt. Lovely stuff, with the text in French, Italian and English, and in a gorgeous edition (from Casterman) that reminds me of just how well the French treat the Comics artform. And Pratt wasn't even a native son.

The guy also did a ton of work here in the UK, war comics for DC Thompson early in his career, as a young, Milton Caniff obsessed cartoonist. Guess what? They're out of print. Grrr.