April 21st, 2014
BLANK FRANK IS THE MESSENGER OF YOUR DOOM AND YOUR DESTRUCTION
Happy Birthday to SILENCE!
Happy Birthday to SILENCE!
You look like a monkey
and you smell like…Brian Blessed’s beard…?
I think that’s how the song goes anyway. It is the return of original and best of the Narratorbots, Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735! No fractal distillations of self, or parallell versions, just the real motherboard-flipping deal. Back to celebrate 100, 000, 000 episodes of reality’s most beloved poddlecaste, SILENCE! What once was a mewling, quivering babe, is now a stooped and saggy old man, with low slung testicles and a shuffling gait. And it’s all because of you enabling those two Radio Hams Gary Lactus & The Beast Must Die in continuing to fool themselves into thinking the world wants to hear their unwelcome opinions. So congratulations dear listeners. this is all your fault.
What we need is an intervention.
<ITEM> As a special 100th birthday reward, The Dear Listeners have provided the twosome with a list of questions. You can guarantee that the important issues of the day will be cogitated over, digested and thoroughly dissected… there are so many quizzlers that we JUST HAD to call this Step Into The Quizzlertron, part 1! Comics Dialogue – John Ostrander, Del Close, Garth Ennis, Chris Ware, John Wagner, Wolverine deathcamp, Danny Beastman & Gary Lactenberg – where are we now?, Alex Ross, American Horror Story, Superhero movies, Jeff Goldblum, Gary eating eggs, Dr Strange movie – Burt Reynolds, Sam Elliott, Widescreen comics, Samuel L Jackson, Beano, Dennis The Menace, Early comics memories – missing Knight Rider tied to a tree, 2000AD, Ro-Busters, Secret Wars, Dredd mug, Flaming Carrot action figure, Comics day breakfast, Bob-Z, Ronin, Fantastic Four, Stan The Man Lee making breakfast, James from Twin Peaks made of plastic, Digital comics v analogue comics, Copra, indy vs superhero, Flaming Carrot, the rules of writing questions, Synth pop, Nu-Rom Antics, Lemmy, Keif Llam and so much more…
<ITEM> A sideways crab-like slide into the Reviewniverse to uncover the contemporary delights of Doop, Batman Eternal, weekly comics, Avengers Undercover, Stray Bullets, Auteur, Starlight
And this is just part 1! Aren’t you EXCITED? Couldn’t you just SCREAM?
Well go on then.
April 17th, 2014
April 16th, 2014
Adam and I have decided to reroute our Mad Men musings back to our spiritual home at Mindless Ones. This is the first of what will likely be many posts.
Hope you enjoy them.
April 8th, 2014
That’s right gentle listeners – in lieu of any special content, nor even the slightest effort on their parts, those two feckless podders are turning to YOU to provide them with questions for their upcoming 100th wedding anniversary spectacular.
IN NO WAY is this a copy of what other more noble poddists have done when their anniversaries have come to pass. No sir! This is 100% original thought!
So please add your questions to the comments section, or if you’re too shy email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or shout at us on twitter, whatever you fancy. Then we will answer these questions using our very limited abilities as part of our Centennial mega-celebrations next week.
And if we don’t get any questions we’ll just makes some up and pretend they’re from f*cking Batman or something.
*Of course we’re not 100 years old, dear listeners. It just feels like it. It is of course just the 100th episode of “the world’s worst podcast” (Stan Lee), so come join us next week, and spread the word.
April 5th, 2014
Still fired up from February’s discussion of what’s worth watching on American TV, Mindless twinset Mark (Amypoodle) and Adam (Adam) have written an Experts Guide to HBO’s ‘True Detective’ and weird comic book fiction for Comic Alliance.
There’s a lot of great stuff about Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti in that post – if you’ve read any of Mark or Adam‘s stuff before, you’ll know what to expect, and if not you’re going to enjoy finding out!
These recordings represent the point where the tastes of the Brighton Mindless meet with those of their Scottish counterparts. The Brighton boys generally like to listen to recordings of ghostly mops being thrashed till they whimper, while their friends in the North prefer a mix of hip-hop and rock that can only be described using words that start with the letter “A” – arty, angular, American, or just plain old arsey will usually do the trick. 
It was one of my Southern friend who first introduced me to Hype Williams’ One Nation, a collection of electric dreams that sometimes sounds like the work of a mind trying to think its way out of existence. If the strangely absent sound of the instruments on album opener ‘Ital’ provide a suitably morbid build-up to this concept, then the pitched down narration that runs through the second track ‘Untitled’ literalises it:
The people who are still alive when you die might hurt because you are gone. That is okay. People love other people and usually it hurts when people we love die. We even comfort ourselves with those stories that the dead person is… not really dead, and that is okay too.
But of course everyone dies, and you will too…
There’s something of the live band about this, a sense that these songs are happening in the moment, the work of minds and bodies that are reacting to their immediate situation. A lot of this has to do with the halting, tentative quality of the synth playing – set against the generally spacey, metronomic thud of the beat, the melodies have an uncertain quality to them, a sense that they are being recorded before they have finalised. Consider, in contrast, the work of some of Hype Williams’ contemporaries – most Burial tracks aspire to the condition of field recordings in their attempt to chronicle the long, dark club night of the soul, while Actress tracks are more often than not are conceived like static landscapes, revealing detail through time and close examination rather than movement.
The tracks on One Nation are similar to those on Ghettoville or Rival Dealer in that they provoke the sense that you’re listening to something that is almost not there, but where those other artists strive through this effect primarily through tricks of texture and structure that elide the distinction between different sonic elements, Hype Williams do so through a mix of texture and performance that maintains their distinction.
To state it another way: ‘Come Down to Us’ and ‘Skyline’ sound like places that you may or may not have come into contact with, while the songs on this album sound like interactions that may or may not be happening now, in real time. This approach isn’t necessarily superior to ones deployed by Burial or Actress, whose distinct approaches I’ve come painfully close to blurring into each other here, for shame – their work is perhaps more immersive than Hype Williams’, but while you catch site of various Others on the edge of your perception while dealing with their work, listening to One Nation feels a lot like an encounter with a specific Other. 
Sometimes, this Other seems tranquil about its own potential absence, such as on the aforementioned ‘Untitled’ track, but my personal favourite run of tracks comes near the end of One Nation, at the point where ‘Mitsubishi’ immerses distressed, backmasked sighs into its in-out backing track, before exploding out into the wild whistle call of ‘Jah’, which recalls Archie Hind’s description of the death twitches of freshly killed cow in The Dear Green Place, “the possible moment of consciousness, when the head loosened and the animal took that last great breath through the chittering windpipe.” 
Stripped of the rap vocals for which they were (mostly) originally composed, the tracks on Clams Casino’s three Instrumental Mixtapes create a similar effect.
Strangely, given their origins as rhythms for rappers to ride, Clammy Clams’ production has perhaps more in common with the soundscapes of Burial or Actress than it does with Hype Williams’ snap and echo. Clams Casino beats tend to rise and fall as part of the instrumentation around them, with the snap of the drums sounding like the thud of a human heartbeat, an intimate part of the ragged exhalation that accompanies it.
Take, for example, the song ‘Hell’ from the third mixtape, which sounds so much louder and more distorted here than it did when A$AP Rocky and Santigold sang and rhymed on top of it, and which nevertheless has a gentle, organic feeling to its rise and fall – an effect not entirely dissimilar to the one produced by Hype Williams’ ‘Mercedes’. 
Other tacks like ‘Palace’ (from the second Intrumental Mixtape; also originally composed for A$AP Rocky) and ‘Numb’ (from the first Mixtape; otherwise unreleased) literalise this organic effect by drawing out samples of human voices beyond their usual span, and making killer beats out of human breath. Listen to these songs on your headphones while commuting to work on a hungover Monday morning and you’ll find yourself looking over your shoulder to find out who’s been whispering away at it – and trust me, I’m speaking from experience on this front!
The texture of these mixtapes matches the fleeting, performative quality of One Nation for the sense of fleeting individual mortality that’s evoked. And if it seems unlikely that such fragile records should draw so many rappers to them, just listen to the remix of Janelle Monae‘s ‘Cold War’ from the first Instrumental Mixtape and ask yourself what you hear. Me? I hear the sound of a lone voice, calling out in the darkness, demanding a response…
March 31st, 2014
YOU’VE GOTTA HOLD YOUR BREATH THERE, HARRY… YOU’VE GOTTA HOLD YOUR BREATH!
Well hello there weary travellers….well I gotta say you picked a HECK of a night to be driving around out there. We ain’t seen a storm this bad since the Verill boy went missing back in…oh but you don’t want to hear about that do ya? Lookit you all drenched to the bone. Rain like that, coming down like the whole sky tore open, you’d kinda swear we done something to make the universe angry. Say folks you didn’t do nothing to make the universe angry did ya…? Haw, I’m just messin’ with you people…my name’s Disembodied Ruralbot X-15735…come on in, dry off a piece and I’ll make us some country tea. What’s country tea? Why it’s a mite stronger than that fancy city tea you’se a probably used to drinkin…got some special ingredients if you catch my drift… Who that? Oh that’s just Mother, don’t you mind her. Why’s she staring at you like that? Oh she just don’t see too many folks is all. Just me and her up here…oh and Albert of course but he don’t come upstairs too often…MA! Quit licking your lips like that, these nice city people don’t want to see that…sorry bout that folks. Say, how’s that tea treating you? Pretty relaxing stuff huh? Well if you feel dizzy just take a seat there. Yep, right there in that seat. Those straps? Oh you pay them no attention. That’s just Pa’s old chair. Those were just to stop him thrashing around when he got…excited. Now you just relax and I’ll go and start making dinner? What we having? Never you mind folks, never you mind. I’ll just turn on this old radiogram and you and Ma can have a nice listen to the latest…SILENCE!
<ITEM> Some admin, gladmin and sadmin, and The Beast talks up his obsession with Samuel T Herring. Gary Lactus also does some self-promotion for his Fraser Geesin alter ego.
<ITEM> Reviewniverse sexy times with what can laughingly be called discussion of Empowered, Silver Surfer, Hellboy 20th Anniversary sampler, Deadly Class, Cyclops’ Regrets, The Dream Laureate, Sandman: Overture, Scientology, The Woodward & Bernstein of comics, Ghost Rider, Indestructible Hulk, The Wake, Iron Patriot, Star Slammers and more
<ITEM> No more items, just the end of the show which The Beast cocks up mightily
Now you look like your gettin’ mighty sleepy…just close your eyes, and have a little rest…
That scraping sound? Nothin for you folks to worry about…
March 31st, 2014
“What do you think he’ll do now, then?”
“Kill himself, I suppose”.
Those were the words I heard, between the man behind the counter who was ignoring me, and the customer leaning on that counter, when I went to Forbidden Planet ten years ago to purchase my first Cerebus trade, High Society, after reading good things about it in Neil Gaiman’s Adventures In The Dream Trade and… strange things about it on Andrew Rilstone’s website. I didn’t realise at the time, but they were talking about Dave Sim, the writer, artist, letterer, and publisher of the comic I was buying, who had just released the 300th and final issue of Cerebus, cover-dated March 2004.
That is the kind of coincidence upon which Sim, who is thankfully still alive and well, would build a whole cosmology. He’s not a man who believes in coincidence. It may, in fact, be the only thing in which he doesn’t believe.
There are only two opinions anyone holds about Sim’s magnum opus. Either they think it’s one of the greatest artistic achievements of all time, or they haven’t read it.
This is literally true. But it’s not as uncritical an endorsement as it may sound. Put simply, Cerebus is a work that does everything it can to put readers off, so the only people who’ve managed to get to the end of the story (which takes place over the whole three hundred issues) are those who are predisposed to like it.
There are many reasons for this. One is the sheer daunting size of the thing. It’s six thousand pages of comics, all telling a single story. That’s a *massive* work. That’s Kirby and Lee’s Fantastic Four, plus Sandman, plus Watchmen, plus Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, plus From Hell, plus all the Alec comics. It’s the length of every Judge Dredd strip in 2000AD up to about 1997. And it’s all the work of two men — Dave Sim doing pencils, inks, writing, lettering and publishing, with, for the last 225 issues, background artist Gerhard (who draws possibly the most exquisitely detailed photorealistic line art in comics history).
On the other hand, it’s less than six months’ current output of DC superhero titles. So, you know, it’s not that much more of a commitment than many comics fans are willing to make.
The second and third problems are really the same problem. It’s a man’s entire life’s work (Sim has since done 26 issues of Glamourpuss, a short work of graphic non-fiction called Judenhaas, a couple of jam strips and some covers for IDW, but Cerebus is what he devoted his life to), but it’s one story. Reading it is rather like being told one has to listen to all the Beatles’ records in order, from the very first recording of John singing Puttin’ On The Style at a village fete in 1957, through all the stuff on the Anthologies as well as the released records, through to Paul, George and Ringo recording I Me Mine in 1970. Fascinating, no doubt, but one would quickly want to just skip to Revolver and leave the recordings made in Paul’s room for another day.
The first few issues of Cerebus are painfully amateurish — they look like the kind of stuff that kid in your class at school who was quite good at drawing and really liked Dungeons & Dragons would draw, because that is to all intents and purposes what Sim was at that stage. But they’re part of the story and you’re meant to have paid attention, because Sim is going to expect you to *remember* in issue 151 that in issue 4 Cerebus picked up a gem but later dropped it into a sewer. So there’s a tendency to just bounce off before you get to the good stuff.
Then there’s the fact that no two Cerebus storylines are anything alike. It contains parodies of Spawn and Preacher, a potted biography of the Three Stooges, potshots against The Comics Journal, fantasy sequences with Woody Allen appearing in Bergman films, and a close, line by line, reading of the first five books of the King James Version of the Bible. And that’s all just in one of the sixteen books. If you like one aspect of Cerebus that’s no guarantee you’ll like the rest.
The way I recommend people approach Cerebus is one I got from Andrew Rilstone — start at the beginning, and keep reading until you hit two volumes in a row you don’t like. Once you hit two you dislike, you’ll probably not like any more. But if you just hit one, the next one might be different.
If you don’t like the love-triangle domestic drama you might like the non-fiction account of the last days of Oscar Wilde’s life. If you don’t like the barbarian story with a funny animal protagonist you might like the Marx Brothers pastiche political satire. If you don’t like the blokey comedy set in a bar where 60s pop icons mix with 90s indie comic characters, you might like the three-hander about the schizophrenic having religious visions. If you don’t like the vicious parody of Sandman you might like the long diatribe about how women are evil leech-like creatures who exist only to sap all the creativity from men and leave them hollow husks…
Here we get to the third, and biggest, obstacle to people wanting to read Cerebus. Sim himself.
The usual one-word summary of Sim is “misogynist”, but that’s not strictly true. He *was* a misogynist, for a while, in the early 90s, but his views are now far, far stranger than that. Put simply, he believes that all women, all LGBT people, anyone who holds any post-Enlightenment views whatsoever, people like Wahabist Muslims who hold the wrong *pre*-Enlightenment views, his parents, his sister, the Canadian government and press, the comic industry, atheists, liberals, socialists, and all major Christian denominations, are all, mostly consciously, working for an evil trans* demiurge called YooHWHoo, who lives in the centre of the earth and who caused the 2004 tsunami because she was angry that Sim had revealed the truth about this in his comic.
He also believes that he, and he alone, can see the true message in the Bible and Koran, from which he has created his own syncretic religion, and that women were psychically spying on him when he masturbated.
He is, in short, quite obviously mentally ill, and while that illness initially seemed to fixate on women, it has widened to encompass everyone in the world who isn’t named David Victor Sim.
(Oddly, Sim seems quite friendly with all these groups of people who he thinks are working for the most evil being in the universe. He’s said that other people’s immortal souls are their own business, and is quite happy to consort with the evil creativity-sucking infidels).
And this can definitely put people off from reading Cerebus — understandably so. Had I known about Sim’s views before starting to read it, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. But I did, and ten years later it’s still one of those works that make up a large chunk of my mental architecture, whether in little ways like additions to my stock of phrases (“your other left, most holy”, “you can get what you want and still not be happy”, “Capostrophe! Calumnity! Catachresisclysm!”, “”One less mouth to feed is one less mouth to feed”, “Mind your manners, son! I’ve got a tall pointy hat! Status, boy! You can argue with me, but you can’t argue with status!”) or in larger ways (I can honestly say that reading Jaka’s Story did more to make me something approaching an emotionally mature adult than any single other experience I’ve ever had).
So over the next few months, I’m going to look at each volume in turn, and try to persuade you of the opinion I hold, the one that everyone who’s read the whole of Cerebus holds. On the way, we’ll take a lot of digressions — we’ll talk about comic creators’ rights, the black and white boom of the 80s, 1930s comedians, an unfinished Beach Boys album, Warner Brothers cartoons, Philip K Dick and more.
Or at least, that’s the plan. No plan survives contact with the enemy. After all, when Dave Sim got the plan for the 300-issue Cerebus story, he was a self-described atheist feminist. But then, as Suenteus Po said, “The more worthwhile the Road, the more seductive will be those paths divergent from it.”