Monday, June 27, 2005

Why we fight

So here's why I haven't posted since the fourteenth: it was the day I bought GTA: SAN ANDREAS for the PC. And I love it. So yes, I've seen the last DOCTOR WHO. I've seen BATMAN BEGINS. I've heard the new Foo Fighters album. I've bought and read a few books, comics and graphic novels. I've been sent comics for review. I've been watching the British Lions matches. I've seen fuckin' BIG BROTHER. But screw all that, dude. Normal service (and a few more details) will only be resumed whenever I've finished GTA:SA. Over and out!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Trip to local Woolies proves productive

Went to Woolworths in half a mind to actually buy GTA: SAN ANDREAS with my own money (The horror! The horror!), rather than wait for the inevitable freebie. But they don't do PC games, the swine. So, I took a look through the chart CDs, and saw The Magic Numbers' debut going for a remarkably low price. This filled me with a Proustian reverie for last Friday night, when I was listening to Mojo Radio after half a dozen bottles of Stella. They played a couple of tracks, and damned nice they were, too.

So there you go: this story started barely interesting, and went straight downhill! And, in summary: Yay again for fat lads and lasses in rock!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Signs of the upcoming apocalypse, part 1

Hell truly has frozen over. Roger Waters to re-join Pink Floyd for the Live 8 concert. A ceasefire in the bitterest feud in rock legend. Whoa!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

I waited until I had the right bottle of wine to watch it with...

...but I finally sat down and watched SIDEWAYS last night. With a bottle of Pendarves Pinot Noir 2001. A marriage made in heaven.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


...has left me none the wiser. The satire on reality TV was somewhere between turgid and valid (it's an easy target, but it is also a bloody worthwhile target). The episode kicked into gear as the veneer of humour fell away steadily, leaving dread and paranoia. Even with the resurrection (again) of the Daleks, and the hint of a possible return for Davros in the trailer for next week, we're still guessing at the wider significance of the Bad Wolf motif. But then, Davies is gradually tying even the weaker elements of earlier episodes into his over-riding arc, making you re-evaluate random events that maybe weren't so bloody random at all. Bravo again, you big Welsh poof.

Friday, June 10, 2005

saw first two episodes of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED...

...finally! Cartoon Network's TOONAMI spin-off channel has been holding out on these for what seems like forever, the cunts. Instead, it's been a steady diet of piss-weak anime like POKEMON and ONE PIECE.

Anyway, my big man-crush on Bruce Timm and his crack team continues. And though I thought the guys doing the voices of Green Arrow and Captain Atom seemed a bit off to my ear (GA should sound like Owen Wilson, obviously. Or Cheech Marin), the characterisation was (as usual) spot-on. My inner ten year old is still going "DUDE! GREEN ARROW'S ON TV! SWEEET!" as we speak.

The second episode was a fairly straight adaptation of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons classic Superman story "For The Man Who Has Everything". No Robin, though, for some reason (probably out of bounds while the awful TEEN TITANS cartoon is ongoing). Anyhoo, due to my familiarity with the original, there was no surprises to be had, kinda resented some of the (necessary) condensation too, but thought it was easily the most respectful adaptation Moore's writing has ever gotten to another medium. Note to Hollywood: this is how to adapt WATCHMEN - get Timm and his wild bunch to adapt each part into 12 seperate short films, and then screen them together. Like a superheroic HEIMAT.

And all I ask is for an executive producer credit for my genius idea.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

radical change of direction

Now that a future without DOCTOR WHO is on the horizon, I've been thinking. What weekly event in my life can I use as impetus to blog regularly? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. Uh, I mean 2000AD. So here's the first weekly report on a new issue of "Tooth", prog 1442. It's only got three strips this week, but the good news is they're all crackers.

First off, nice iconic cover of SLAINE, by series regular Clint Langley. His work relies heavily on photo-shopped models, and I must admit I've never really warmed to it, but this image I really like. The peatland background, the overcast sky, the double-page spread overlooking some native forests... it's hard to be Irish, rural, and not be slightly moved by it. If long-time Slaine creator Pat Mills has any sense (tough call), this'll be the last ever episode of this series: Mills has now taken the character through the entire cycle of Irish mythology. That said, he does expertly leave a couple of hints and loose threads to work with. And lets face it, the guy is 2000AD royalty. If he wants to come back to the character, he'll always be welcome.

JUDGE DREDD is simply the most consistent strip in the English language in constant publication today. Nothing in the U.S can compete. CEREBUS went right down the tubes during its last few years. Marvel's X-MEN has been pretty much a dead parrot since Byrne left in the early '80s, despite it's constant high sales. LOVE AND ROCKETS is a comparitive newcomer, and even then Los Bros Hernandez gave up on it for the guts of a decade. Nope, Joe Dredd is alone on this one. He started good in 1976, got great within a couple of years, and has been pretty much the flagship of British comic-book artistry ever since. I'm enjoying the current storyline "Blood Trails", mainly due to the art of Andrew Currie: he's the demonic love child of Steve Pugh and Kyle Baker. What little fame Currie has in the wider (i.e. American) comics fame is just as the inker of the first view issues of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's sales juggernaut The Ultimates. He's a pretty great artist in his own right. He's got tremendous chops at caricature: half the fun with a strip by Currie is spotting who's been inserted into the storyline. Previously, it's been Morgan Freeman and Steve Buscemi (among others), and this time it's George Clooney. For a storyline using characters from the ongoing "Dredd mythos" (his clone Rico, his niece Vienna), this isn't written by the great John Wagner, but by Gordon Rennie. Rennie, as author of many of this decade's high points in 2000AD (Glimmer Rats, Missionary Man, Necronauts, Rain Dogs, Storming Heaven, Caballistics Inc, etc), is a safe pair of hands. Gotta admit, it's a constant sorce of bemusement that DC keep snapping up lesser 2000AD writers and overlook Rennie. Maybe he's a real pain-in-the-ass drunk at conventions, or something. But the cat can write.

Finally, SHAKARA by Robbie Morrison and Henry Flint. There's been some (fair) criticism of this strip that it's been a tribute band cover version of the early NEMESIS strips by Pat Mills and Kev O'Neill. With the second volume, Morrison is starting to flesh out the universe and backstory of Shakara more, so it's starting to seem less like a re-heated TERROR TUBE. What really saves this feature is the work of Flint. One part Carlos Ezquerra to one part Mike McMahon, he's got "classic 2000AD artist" written through him like a stick of rock.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

False economy

..And when I ordered the new White Stripes album, I bought SUPREME POWER by the dude who wrote Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski . Contrary to what you might have heard, it ain't all that and a packet of chips. But it is what passes for "mature" and "intelligent" over at Marvel these days. Fer fuck's sake. Thank god for eBay.

The art's good though, by Gary Frank. He's like a wound-tighter Steve Dillon.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Hello, Dave

Saw THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN: APOCALYPSE at the cinema today. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it over, say, re-watching a DVD of the Christmas Special from a couple of years ago. Now that rocked.

Noted a couple of things: first, that though they tried damn hard, they ultimately failed to maintain a worthwhile lengthy narrative. And secondly, it reminded me of how Mark Gatiss's character, the vet Matthew Chinnery, was the real star of the show when TLOG was based on the radio. Unfortunately, and presumably due to budgetary constraints, his stock-in-trade of accidental maiming of zoo animals was never fully exploited on the TV version. The funniest thing, by far, in the movie is his sequence (a giraffe, a semen sample, electricity... you can guess the rest). If this had been merely a straight up, larger budget, extended version of the TV show, set entirely in Royston Vasey, without any interruptions of post-modern tomfoolery, it may have been a far better film.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

WHO-Blog, part XI

Y'know the damn fools who annoy me? The ones who say "yeah sure, DOCTOR WHO, it's alright for a kid's show. That's all it ever really was, a kid's show".

Russell T Davies' WHO may be just "a kid's show", but it's been a kid's show whose major theme, and most frequently returning leitmotif, is death. Ye can't say that about BYKER friggin' GROVE, can you? This time it was death, the possibility of change, and rebirth (foreshadowing the forthcoming lifecycle of the titular time lord, I'm sure).

This episode was also, shamelessly, a love letter to Cardiff, a city that physically reminds me of Belfast, in that it seems to be defining itself by building new landmarks, and claiming a new identity through them. Escaping the past through exciting architecture. Good for it.

Next week: digs at reality TV, and gigantic fleets of Daleks. Groovy!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Stevie, as soon as you get a bootleg of BATMAN BEGINS, give me a call!

Whoa! I've been reading hype and early reviews all week, and man! I've got the Bat-Horn again!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

I Frank Thorne (a.k.a. Dude, I bought some porn!)

A while ago, I came to the realization that one of the reasons I like the art of Alex Toth is because he reminds me of Frank Thorne, a childhood favourite. Which is, I suppose, putting the horse before the cart. It's like realizing that you like Jack Kirby because he reminds you of Rich Buckler. Having overcome this seismic discovery, I've been getting some old MARVEL FEATUREs and RED SONJAs on eBay to pursue further my newfound fad for Thorne's work. Of course, as soon as I start trying to amass a complete run, it's announced in PREVIEWS that Sonja's new publisher, Dynamite, is to start reprinting these in facsimile editions of Dark Horse's CONAN reprints, complete with re-colouring and Roy Thomas essays. Fucking typical.

Thorne really divided the Marvel fans back in the seventies, and the letter columns of his titles were always full of kids, foreshadowing the Marvel Zombies of today who fill up the internet spilling their bile on message boards, who just didn't get his work. I can appreciate their distaste: the guy's work obviously came from a different lineage to the one they were used to. They wanted the Jack Kirby/Barry Windsor-Smith/John Buscema/Gil Kane school, but they got the Milt Canniff/Alex Toth/Hugo Pratt school instead. Eventually, Thorne got kicked off Sonja, replaced by just the sort of artists the kids wanted. The title died a death without him. I'd like to think the two events weren't unconnected, and that it turned out Thorne was actually the heart and soul of Sonja. Every subsequent attempted revival by Marvel was short-lived.

So Frank Thorne falls off my radar, only coming back on it when I'm a teenager. It's the new golden age of comics, and one of the handful of new publishers pressing the big two for the centre ground is Comico, who publish Matt Wagner's MAGE and GRENDEL. Eventually, like First and Eclipse, they'll fall by the wayside due to poor business practices, but in the meanwhile they publish Thorne's RIBIT!, a sci-fi piece about a young green adventuress and her wacky friends. Its okay, I have all four issues in a box upstairs somewhere, but it's a very long time since I bothered to look at them. It marries two of Thorne's preoccupations nicely: big eyed chicks, and Lovecraftian monsters, only this time in a Sci-Fi milieu. But never once back then did I ask myself the obvious and important question, what was Frank Thorne doing between getting kicked off Sonja at the end of the seventies, and starting Ribit at the end of the eighties? Well, I finally got round to asking myself that very question.

When investigating when exactly he got the boot from Marvel over at the
Grand Comic Book Database, I found out the answer to that and more. And what did he do after Marvel? It turns out the answer is pretty much... porn. Okay, that's maybe a little harsh. Smut, maybe. Erotica, even. No wonder the guy was off my radar as a kid. He was doing work for nascent "grown up" comics such as HEAVY METAL and Warren's 1984, as well as adult magazines such as NATIONAL LAMPOON and PLAYBOY. Here's a guy who's been working as a footsoldier in the comic book industry since the forties, twenty years man and boy, drawing westerns, war stories, horror. I wouldn't say he's a hack, he's clearly respected by his peers, certainly enough to be headhunted by Marty Goodman's shortlived but influential experiment in comicbook starpower, Atlas/Seaboard Comics (alongside heavy-hitters such as Neal Adams, Wally Wood, Steve Ditko and a young Howard Chaykin). So he's 45, it's the mid-seventies. He's got his highest profile assignment ever. His work on Red Sonja seems to give him a second wind, he's producing his best work, and he's gaining in both fame and, due to the mixed reaction to his work, notoriety. After his work at Marvel is unfortunately curtailed, he finds new doors opening up to him. Essentially, due to Red Sonja and his cause celebre, he has unexpectedly gotten a second career. He's in demand. Without even trying, he's became the industry's illustrator of foxy fantasy chicks du jour. So there you go: F Scott Fitzgerald was obviously talking out of his arse when he said that there's no second acts in American lives.

Now here's the really unexpected bit: I went ahead and investigated this previously unknown to me aspect of this old favourite's work. I ordered GHITA OF ALIZZAR through an Amazon marketplace seller. I didn't expect anything from his adult work other than the usual opportunities for gratuitous nudity and innuendo. Basically, RED SONJA only with her knockers out. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, there was smut in abundance. Sure, the lead character looked enough like Sonja to be almost laughable in its shamelessness. But the writing turned out to be tremendously strong and vital. The lasciviousness made the characters more, rather than less, believable. It was, no shit, as good an attempt at the Fantasy genre as I've ever read in the comics medium. It's great when you go into something with little or no expectations, and the experience turns out to be so worthwhile. So now I think I'll try and dig up more by Thorne from this period: I have nothing to lose except my reputation with the postal service. "Dude, got some more cartoon porn for ya!"