Sunday, February 27, 2005

SKY CAPTAIN and the blah blah blah

So, got round to watching SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW as well.
It was okay. A good Sunday night film, where you didn't have to think too much. As it went on, I found myself warming to it considerably. Sure, the script was just a bunch of old SF pulp staples hastily knocked together, but the performances were largely likeable, and it was easy to just get carried away by the tremendous visual stylings. I especially liked the British mobile airstrip: it was like a Frank Hampson design made real.

But with every clunky line of dialogue, I kept thinking, wouldn't it be good with the crew that made this were working on another project, with a proper script? And then I kept thinking of things they should've done instead. Then it came to me. An adaptation of Philip K Dick's "The Man In The High Castle". If Conran's looking for another project to develop after his Rice Burroughs JOHN CARTER OF MARS movie, and wanted to do something with a bit more teeth and brains, that's the kinda thing he should be considering.

Friday, February 25, 2005


So there I was in the video rental place. Couldn't see MAN ON FIRE anywhere, so I picked up SKY CAPTAIN and THE PUNISHER. Got to the checkout and asked, hey, got any MAN ON FIRE behind the counter? Yes, she answered, yes we fuckin' do. Foul-mouthed trollop. So I left THE PUNISHER behind.

Now, without having seen THE PUNISHER, I know it'd be a better film if it was more like MAN ON FIRE. But I also know, it'd be much better if it was more like the comic. Unsentimental. Uncompromising. Brutal. All of which MAN ON FIRE turned out to be. Who could watch Denzel execute a bent cop by shoving a lump of C4 up his ass without thinking of Ennis's Frank Castle? Now, there's also part of me that thinks, why the hell wasn't THE PUNISHER set in New York? It should be like a revenge SERPICO: New York specific, realistic. Anything else smacks of pragmatism, compromise. The very things Frank Castle despises. We should all be more like Frank. I'm having a new belt-buckle made: "what would Frank do?". Frank, Frank, FrankFrankFrank. I love saying it. Frank. FrankFrank. Really rolls offa the tongue.

But, hey, MAN ON FIRE is great. I'll maybe see THE PUNISHER when it reaches SKY MOVIES. I'm sure I'll hate it.

Monday, February 21, 2005

we were somewhere near Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take effect --

Start this kind of blog and you may find yourself having to write more obituaries than you care to. It's like working at a cheap-assed local newspaper all over again. So here's to the Doc, and the inevitable suicide of Hunter S Thompson.

Always thought he'd go out with something like that, I just hoped he'd use really fucking heavy ordnance, the mad ol' bastard. So let's all go get shit-faced in somewhere we'd rather not be, in his honour.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

these are just some of my favourite things... doooo dootleoot dooo doot doot doot dootleoot doo

That was my John Coltrane impersonation. In text form. Really.

Now I realise I'm horribly behind the curve here, but I just thought I'd heavily recommend Happiness in Magazines, by Graham Coxon. Just got given it, and it's bloody brilliant. The singles, Spectacular and Freakin' Out were both damn fine, yet I'd never felt inclined to actually, y'know, buy the long player. So when it's handed to me, and turns out to be the finest record I've heard in a couple of years, it reminds me of how little actual new music I bleedin' buy these days. Not a skippable track on the disc, and when was the last time you thought that?

Also, I've came across a comics blog I really enjoyed, and heartily recommend: GraphiContent. This is what my comics coverage would be like if I had less going on in my life, and had the time to write the longform comics criticism I think the medium deserves. Here's hoping these cats can maintain a tight schedule and deliver enough content to keep up a sense of momentum.  I always bloody think, instead of just taking a mental note of how I think Kirby's New Gods has so much important subtextual stuff going on, wouldn't it be great instead to get the actual issues out of the long box, grab a pen and a notebook, and get stuck in properly. But instead, I'll have to work, or babysit, or hit the gym, or worse, get dragged along to the pub. Friggin' real life.

Oh, and one more thing to recommend: 100 Things I Love About Comics by Alan David Doane. This guy, along with his partners in crime, is also one of my favourite online comics journalists. He's got great taste, isn't a snob, and calls a spade a spade. And this piece, and its accompanying text feature, is, again, the sort of labour of love I'd like to have the time to work on.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

You wanted REVIEWS? No? Well fuck you pal, 'cus you got 'em anyway!

Experts. On television. They always say, if you're going to invest in something, make sure it's something you know about. Fair enough, but I only know about three things: vintage guitars, red wine, and comics. And damned if I have enough collateral to speculate on red wine or vintage guitars.

So, I've found myself buying as well as selling lots of comics in the last few weeks. For a start, I bought a complete set of D Curtis Johnson/J.H. Williams III's CHASE series (1-9) on eBay. I bought this because of the amazing revelation I had recently, after nearly 32 issues of PROMETHEA, that Williams is the real deal, an artist's artist, the most versatile of his generation, and that maybe I owed it to myself to fill in the blanks of my knowledge of his ouevre. Plus, I think I may have accidently played a part in hooking the guy up with a gig recently.  I wasn't expecting an awful lot from these comics, as I was totally unfamiliar with the writer, but managed to be nicely surprised: it's as good a meta-comic (i.e. a comic about comics) as anything Bendis or Slott have done, featuring a likeable-but-prickly female protagonist that may well have been a key influence on the later, more celebrated work by these more storied authors. He's great on the minutiae of detective work, so the guy does his research unlike so many comic book hacks (no names, no pack drill "cough... DAN JURGENS ...cough"), and is an as or more convincing a writer on technological matters as Warren Ellis (but I read in his bio that his day job is at Apple Computers, so that's hardly surprising). Plus, it looks as if these comics have zero chance of ever being reprinted, so as their legend grows, and everyone comes to a similar conclusion as me about Williams, these issues should become harder and harder to find. Kerr-ching!

Got a load of pre-ordered goodies from the comicshop a couple of weeks ago, and completely forgot to mention any of them. For that, I must apologise to my faithful readers (all three of them: ah, that old hip-hop standby, a big shout-out to Stevie, Ed and Jacko! That should get me a couple of free drinks at Christmas). So cue up that instumental version of Whole Lotta Love, 'cus here's the chart rundown!

CLASSIC 40 OZ. by Jim Mahfood: Not great by any means - Mahfood shovels out all manner of crappy ancient work here in lieu of new product; sketch books, old mini-comics, even college coursework. That said, the actual book is such a cute, tactile edition that its hard to dislike.

HERO SQUARED by Keith Giffen, J Marc DeMatteis, and Joe Abraham: This is brilliant, highly recommended. I'll remind you that the Eisner committee don't throw out their awards for nuthin', and that this writing team is on fire at the moment. How often does something billed elsewhere as just a goofy humour comic actually remind you of story beats from such morose classics as Alan Moore's 80's work on Captain Britain and Marvelman, Warren Ellis's The Authority and Mark Millar's Wanted? Plus, the villain's henchman Sloat is another of Giffen's timeless comedy creations, ranking alongside Ambush Bug, Lobo, G'nort, Vext, any of them.
Plus the artist is great, too: he has about to be nicked from under Giffen's nose by Wildstorm written through him like a stick of rock.

NEW AVENGERS #3 by Brian Bendis and David Finch: goes a long way towards recovering after the wobbly start that was Avengers Dissasembled. No more misfiring grand theatrics, instead replaced by believable character moments and a last page twist no-one could have seen coming.

LEGION OF SUPERHEROES #2 by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson: I so want to end up liking this, but I may have to face facts and just give up. Great concepts ruined by boring execution just can't hold my interest for long. I'll give it another couple of issues, and if it doesn't all kick-off bigtime, it's dropped.

SUPERMAN #213 by Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee: One question, Mr Lee - how come Baron Zemo from The Micronauts is the new bad guy? With only a couple of issues to go, Azzarello's storyline starts to fall into place. Talk about leaving it to the last minute. Everything about this run has been mismatched: the writer and the protagonist, and especially the creative team. Jim Lee could draw a definitive Superman story, but it won't be this one.

WE3 #3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely: If this comic doesn't move you to tears, then you're one evil, hard-hearted bastard. Deserves a place in every school library beside Briggs' WHEN THE WIND BLOWS. I might change my mind at any minute, but this may be the best thing published by the Big Two since 1989.

LIFE DURING WARTIME #7 by Si Spencer and Dean Ormston: I bought this because of the cover (what a sad, shocking revelation). A great Frank Quitely effort. Reminds you that the CONSTANTINE movie could have easily pleased the fans if they'd just seen the light and cast Paul Bettany as JC. But, oh no.  So, I've bought over half of this series ( issues 1,2,3,6 & 7) yet can't bring myself to care for it. What an easily duped git I am, and DC's welcome to my money. Its like the piss-weak writer has all these great characters at his disposal, but doesn't have a fucking clue what to do with them. Guess that's what happens when you start dipping into the writing staff of EASTENDERS - it's been the same problem there for a year or two, too.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ancient Moorcock and Druillet Team-Up causes "Girlish Glee" in excitable reviewer, news at six

Okay, lately my inner teenager has been thoroughly indulged. E-mails from Walter Simonson, Michael Moorcock, and Brendan McCarthy. The ongoing mystery of whether or not I just sold comics to Macca on eBay. Now, I've got to admit, if getting an email from an idol is thrilling, then getting a book in the post from one fills you with giggling, girlish glee. I know I'm gushing (and all this unintentional alliteration is giving me actual toothache), but c'mon, I'm stoked - I've loved the work of Moorcock since I came across a copy of Elric at the End Of Time (of all things) as an impressionable thirteen year old. Getting to call him "Mike" still amuses me. Seeing the postie's bemusement at handing over the gigantic flat, thin, airmail package was pretty funny, too.

So, there it was: ELRIC - THE RETURN TO MELNIBONE, by Moorock and Druillet. I had expected the book to be slim (it was originally a portfolio, augmented with further illustrations and text over time), but didn't realise just how damn big it was: it's beyond treasury edition size, heading towards tabloid. The artwork is still stunning: the Kirby influence of Druillet's (pretty much) contemporaneous LONE SLOANE work is unapparent, leaving his native architectural eye. The pace is lanquid, stately, with the absence of any of Lone Sloane's dynamicism. With the visual language of comics all but removed, it reminds one of the alienness of old Japanese prints and the sense of derangement you get when first encountering the book illustrations of Mervyn Peake. It really does cast you adrift in a strange, hostile land.  Before this, the only Druillet work I owned was an old Loane Sloane omnibus published by Dragon's Dream collecting THE SIX JOURNEYS OF and DELIRIOUS, and the last Lone Sloane work, CHAOS, published by Heavy Metal (where his work has became muddy and inconsistent). The guy may have certainly improved as a draftsman later, but the sheer imagination on display in this earlier work cannot be faulted.

Its a shame all of his work isn't in print in English anymore, and I'm tempted to just buy them in french from, but then that's something I say more and more often about the work of Hugo Pratt and Moebius, too. The recent team-up between DC and Les Humanoids seems to be providing definitive back catalogues in English for the works of Enki Bilal and François Schuiten, but man, would I kill for a chance to plug the gaps in my Corto Maltese collection (the NBM and Harvill Press editions are getting to be as rare as hen's teeth).  The anglophone comics industry is, of course, pretty much ruled by the Americans, who love their Japanese manga, yet seem uninterested in the European scene. Any coverage I've read of the recent Angouleme Festival from the U.S. perspective is of the "
ugly American" variety: "hey wow, there's this massive comic book festival you've never heard of, and guess what? Those crazy frogs don't even give a rat's ass about your favourite superheroes!"

I'm exaggerating, but not by that much.

Yet a big hit in the european BD market can sell millions of expensive album format books, whereas a big hit for DC or Marvel these days is to sell a couple of hundred thousand small, relatively cheap monthlies. And I remember 2000AD selling that many copies every week at the end of the 80s, in the UK alone!

There's a lesson in there somewhere, but damned if I can figure it out. Maybe Warren Ellis can.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Mission Statement

It seems like recently I've slagged off a few more comics than usual in these pages, so I just wanted to make things clear: if it was in my power, I'd never utter a negative word here. This is a blog that reports back on the things I've bought with my own hard-earned money. I'm not some free loading blaggist biting the hand that feeds. That said, if I'm not enjoying something I've bought and read, chances are I'll hang on to there's a natural break in the storyline. Not because I'm a wacky masochist, but just so they'll be easier to offload on eBay. If it was up to me, this blog would be a joyous parade that shows off my unfailing good taste. However, Joe Quesada and Paul Levitz keep conspiring to make sure I look like a twat instead. Damn my remorseless, unrelenting honesty. But I'm a sunny guy. I only really ant to write about things I like. So I'm scaling back on reviews, trying to find new paths forward.

Buying some items you don't turn out to enjoy is just the hazard you endure when you pre-order your comics rather than buy them at your friendly neighbourhood comic shop. The main problem with comic shops being, if you relied on the majority of retailers to influence what you could buy, it'd be all UNCANNY X-MEN, NIGHTWING and nudie Japanese vinyl action figures.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I have heard, among this class, you are called the forgotten man*...

There's a small but dedicated group of us on the interweb who think that Brendan McCarthy is the best damn comic book artist the UK ever produced. Definitely the best with a paintbrush. Certainly, the guy's talent was too damn prodigious for the field to hold on to, and he moved into design work for animation and cinema. The last anyone heard, he's been a regular collaborator and visualist for Mad Max/Babe legend (and cinema's foremost scholar of the works of Joseph Campbell - in yer face, Lucas!) George Miller.

As anyone who has checked out his
fansite in the 2000AD webcircle probably knows, Brendan has spent the last six months trying to find a publisher for a big-assed retrospective artbook to be called Swimini Purpoise. Every month, since hearing of this tantalizing new project last summer, I check PREVIEWS inside and out to see if this thing has been scheduled by a publisher yet.

Anyway, disturbed by the lack of progress, I did a bit of Google detective work, found Brendan's email address, and inquired about its progress. I probably scared him a little, a crazed fan e-mailing him out of the blue, though I think he warmed to me when he found out I was a crazed Irish fan.
Turns out its proving to be a lot more time consuming to get the book out there than it initially seemed, and the company with the current option is dragging its heels a little. As well as the trapped in development hell Mad Max:Fury Road, he's set to direct an animated movie, Fur Brigade, which he describes as "The Dirty Dozen with teddy bears". Now, if there's one thing more exciting than an e-mail showing up from a childhood hero showing up in your inbox, its when that early idol of yours sends you an attachment with a piece of gorgeous preview art for his upcoming book!

So ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you, Swimini Purpoise, and it's, in the words of the great man himself, coming soon!

*Excuse me for dipping into a little Cole Porter there. "Well, did you evah", to be precise. It seemed appropriate. As definitively essayed by Iggy Pop and Deborah Harry. Or Frank and Bing maybe. Dammit, make yer mind up, Cardwell!

Monday, February 14, 2005

I'm sitting on a really fucking big story...

Someone globally famous who's also known as a bit of a comic book fan just won my latest lot on eBay. It was a job lot of the first editions of DC's latest publicity-hoover, IDENTITY CRISIS. He's more famous than Jonathan Ross or Lenny Henry. He's even more famous than Nicholas Cage or Kevin Smith. Hell, he's more famous than all of them combined.

But I'll never tell. Remember when Cherie Blair was outed as an eBay bargain hunter? That was a friggin' disgraceful breakdown of eBay protocol. So I'll never tell which former member of The Beatles and Wings just bought my comics. Oh no. But lets look at the evidence: I send him a jokey email trying to find out if he is who I think he is. In his reply, he doesn't even mention my quip about his knighthood. I check his feedback: he buys exclusively high end comics, early Kirby Fantastic Fours, Barry Smith Conans, etc, and plenty of them - the guy's loaded. He's a famous cheapskate, and this guy quibbled with me over postage.

The conclusion is obvious: Macca just bought comics from me on eBay! Grud on a greenie!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Lying liars and the hilarious lies they tell

Man, but the comics news site Newsarama has been unintentionally hilarious recently. Its been turned over to the guest editorship of Marvel EIC, Joe Quesada. Now this site is usually ran on a diet of puff-pieces and arse-kissing anyway, but JQ has taken this to new depths of self-congratulation, back-slapping, and glad-handing. The best bit is when he and Brian Bendis moan about how "damaging" Rich Johnston is to the comics biz. The fact is, the comic biz divides into two camps on this: fans (who love Rich) and pros (who hate and fear him, but who will happily use his services for publicity or payback whenever it suits). I'm a fan, so I love the guy. Mark Waid, however, is a pro, and clearly doesn't.

I love a good catfight.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Just got back from the BRITS...

Playing guitar for Daniel Bedingfield last night. Fat talentless gobshite. Still, its work. Managed to pull Cheryl Tweedy last night. God, is my back sore. So, I get home, stick the TV on, and HOLY CRAP, Prince Charles is getting married to Camilla Parker's Bowels on April 6th. This is a good day for British Republicans. Blood will flow through the streets of Essex as The Church Of Diana go on a beheading spree. Saucy little minx, manipulating public opinion from beyond the grave. Like a zombie Victoria Beckham.

Monday, February 07, 2005

I Steve Ditko

In his latest column, Rich Johnston points out a strange line in criticism against the SPIDERMAN 2 film: some weirdoes who hold a grudge against the daughter of his landlord, who, after the world has completely kicked the wind out of his sails, offers Peter Parker some cake. They dwell on her mole, and pick on the colour of her cake, of all things. Congrats, losers, because you've reminded me of something else I hated about that movie.

The ghastly, money-grabbing landlord and his sweetheart of a daughter were grotty east-european stereotypes called DITKOVICH. I thought this was somewhere between mean and rotten: Steve Ditko has his faults, but he was the co-creator of the character, damnit! If anything in the show was going to be named after him, it should have been something grand and venerable, a museum or a college or something, not some bullying grotbag! Fucking Marvel, always letting you down.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Egg chasin'

...and now to Rugby.

Ireland were shite against Italy today, weren't they? I can't believe Ronan O'Gara managed to stay on for the whole match. After his shocking first half, I would have brought on David Humphreys. Which would have had the added bonus of giving that horrible old git George Hook apoplexy. The guy's got a serious chip on his shoulder against Ulstermen.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Prevaricating tosser

After taking the guts of two years writing my fucking phenomenal M.A. thesis George Moore and Contradiction (if you're in the area, pop into the U.U.C. library and give it a read), I understandably suffered a bad case of burn-out on the subject for a long time. But, after a recent discussion on the old git with an author friend of mine, I finally decided to take Adrian Frazier's big, thick biography off the shelf and give it a go.

I was enjoying it, too, until I realised the fucker was trying to start a fight with me, through the medium of gigantic literary biography. Listen to this:
"Nor is it any solution simply to call him a contradictory man, as if a person were, or ought to be, a logical proposition". Now, bearing in mind that the editor of my (and I repeat) fucking phenomenal M.A. thesis is name-checked in the acknowledgments of the book, it isn't a huge deductive leap to realise that somewhere along the line this fucker has read my work and is fucking picking a fight.

Look dipshit, I never fucking said Moore or anyone else should be a fucking "logical proposition". But the guy in his work, over and over again, talked about duality, dwelt on duality, both in himself, and others, and in the entire fucking universe. So yes, he was a contradictory man, embraced his contradictoriness, fucking rejoiced in it. So I used it as a pedagogical shuriken to cut into his ouevre with. Like a fucken literary ninja! Haiii-ya!

So Adrian Frazier - get in the fucking ring! This ends now!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

2004: the year blogs got crap

So its official, blogs went overground in 2004 and "got crap". Fair enough, I'll try not to take it personally. But sweet jesus, I just dredged around the Blogger profiles (as I occasionally do) to see who else locally, or who else with my tastes, or who else in my profession has a blog, and I'll tell ya: mine's not the worst. Most of these untalented, style-free, illiterate fuckers should have every bone in their hands broken to keep them away from their keyboards. Net Lingua is not a real language, you feckers. It's supposed to be a blog not a mobile phone text.

Nothing personal, like. God, I feel old.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Well, that's fucken torn it

Okay, so I just made the guts of a hunnerd squids flogging comics on eBay, and I was thinking about doing some cross-promotion, by sticking a link to the blog on it. Y'know, increase the ol' profile. Become an interweb ace-face. But FAAHK! then I realised: I'm selling some comics I've slagged off in the past. If I linked to the blog, some clever fahking cahnt might fahking actually read my drunken opinions on the comics I'm flogging, and realise I'm selling them 'cus they're shite. As opposed to what I've said on the blog: that I'm selling them to cover me medical bills. Bollox. Now I'll never shift those bleedin' ASTONISHING X-MEN.