Target 2012

May 12th, 2020

Paul Jon Milne – Guts Power #1-6

Dan Cox and John Riordan – Hitsville UK

The gospel was told, some souls it swallowed whole
Mentally they fold and they eventually sold
Their life and times, deadly like the virus design
But too minute to dilute the scientist mind

Wu-Tang Clan – ‘A Better Tomorrow‘ 

Spacing (notice that this word speaks the articulation of space and time, the becoming-space of time and the becoming-time of space) is always the unperceived, the non-present, and the non-conscious. As such, if one can still use that expression in a non-phenomenological way; for here we pass the very limits of phenomenology.

Jacques Derrida – Of Grammatology

Two comic book series, both started before the world ended in December 2012, both completed some time after the apocalypse.  So far so standard. What makes them both remarkable is how prescient they are about all the ways the world has continued to end and about how we might continue to live regardless.

To be brief: they reek not just of knowledge but of foresight.

The sixth and final issue of Paul Jon Milne’s Guts Power spends most of its time getting ready to go out for the party.  When I last reviewed this series, only the first four issues had been published but the mood of the comic was well established, its grimly eroticised kitchen sink misery distinguished from all the other neurotic indie comics out there by virtue of Milne’s seeping imagination:

I’m stuck on Milne’s style, on the use of that old fashioned alt-comix grossness not as a mode for outrageous straight white guy funtimes, but as a way to genuinely queer the Sex-Men experience.

With its tentative dance floor adventures, “Pepto-bawbag particles” and alluringly grotesque cast, Guts Power manages the rare trick of making one man’s whims, stray thoughts and fancies seem like a genuine delight, probably because the combination feels fresh and true; would that the same could be said of all such ventures.

By the time issue #6 starts, death and romance have already happened and everyone is gearing up for some sort of revolution.  You can practically feel the wee white dots form around you in the air, feel yourself being drawn back into the radiant possibility of a blank page, right up until the moment your cat farts and you’re left sitting on your couch alone with your own misery.

Having sprinted through enough dodgy deals, guilty secrets, Beatific visions and nazi incursions to fill 23 issues of a normal comic, Hitsville UK crosses the finish line of its seventh issues with a sense of perspective that’s bound to baffle all traditional metrics.  Last time I checked in on the comic, I found myself racing to keep up with its evolution, with the way that it had left my initial concept of the series as a referential but not reverential pop fun somewhere way off in the distance:

What I will say is that the issues of Hitsville that have been published since then have had an increased sense of urgency to them.  The boys may not have set out to create a fantasy of communal resilience in an age that seems increasingly under threat by undead attitudes, shambling zombie racism, and the endless monetization of your every passing daydream, but fuck me if they didn’t do it anyway!

The conclusion of Hitsville UK gives you some sense as to who’s pulling (or should that be playing?) the strings and some idea as to why.  We still don’t know why the world ended in 2012, or why it persists in this form, why even blogs have somehow been allowed to continue, but all of this prompts a question: why did the children of The Invisibles decide to persist in their endeavours, knowing that the end would come before anyone could finish their stories?

BEATS ME FOLKS! BETTER CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT!

Post, Human

April 21st, 2020

(CN: Rape)

When the sixth issue of Providence came out we talked about not wanting it in our houses.  We made nervy comments about custom raids, then talked about taboos and how sometimes – just sometimes – they were there to serve a valid social function.  We said the usual stuff about how the culture warriors of the ’60s and ’70s might find themselves fighting for the other side now without even realising it, and we mocked ourselves for saying it too.

We acknowledged that saying there was a lot of rape in Alan Moore’s comics didn’t really constitute new information at this point, but agreed that this was no excuse for ignoring it.  We talked about the way Providence #6 played with perspective on a visual and narrative level on a way that made us complicit while also putting us in the role of the victim, comparing the derangement of time in the issue to the derangements of character and culpability experienced by the protagonist.  We weighed the argument for the book’s implicit condemnation of authority, and came back again and again to the potential impact of all its cleverness on survivors.  We made defenses then talked ourselves out of them.

We were rattled, shook.

Mostly though we talked about how we didn’t want it hanging around our living rooms and how we were going to burn it/chuck it into a charity bag/hurl it deep into the pit.

Life in Plastic

January 24th, 2019

Go-Bots #1-3, by Tom Scioli

You Can Be Anything™, by Sophie Bainbridge

You’ve mounted me and there you sit,
you rotten shit!
You’ve mounted me an there you sit,
but even that won’t really make me think like you.

For the horse thinks one way as he strides;
thoughts quite different from the one who rides” – Alexandre O’Neill, The History of Morality

“We are what we’re supposed to be
Illusions of your fantasy
All dots and lines that speak and say
What we do is what you wish to do” – Aqua, Cartoon Heroes

If I’m honest I never really gave a fuck about the Go-Bots. I was always aware of them, but only to the extent that the shapes Tom Scioli draws here are familiar from my childhood, albeit they’re not the most familiar shapes in their own comic:

As a measure of my unfamiliarity, consider the fact that I’ve had to edit this piece twice now because I got confused about whether I should be writing “Gobots” or “Go-Bots” throughout. Unlike Scioli’s previous work on Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, then, Go-Bots provides me with a deeply unsettled experience rather than a complex nostalgic one – where I was able to process that earlier series’ abundant exuberance as both a celebration and détournement of a lifetime’s worth of merchandising that I had somehow mistaken for my soul, this latest project has a more genuinely uncanny quality to it.

The figure-work here is similar to Scioli’s previous work in this arena, similarly true to ’80s toys and box art, the (crayon? pencil?) colour tones still evocative of everything from old tie-in comics to the adventures you’d draw yourself if you were an abnormally talented kid. As in TF/Joe, there’s a sense of play to every page of the comic, the sort of play that thrives on the creation and destruction of relationships – any order that is established is soon found to be ripe with chaos, and all chaos comes complete with the threat of latent order.

This drama is played out in Scioli’s page layouts, which tease the possibility of a break from the two-dimensionality of the comics page…

…while also constantly reveling in the expressive possibilities of that same flatness, stacking images on top of each other, keeping just enough of a sense of narrative coherence while pushing ever closer to the joyous impurity of collage:

Given the nature of these franchise comics, their origins as indifferent product, this flatness extends to the narrative ruptures and inversions. Are the Go-Bots loyal friends or alien monsters? Is treating them like chatty tools justification for a bloody revolution or yet another example of bad dating etiquette? Are any of these binaries any more real than the shite we were sold as children?

Like the best of Scioli’s TF/Joe work or his Super Powers strips for Young Animal, Go-Bots creates the illusion of real freedom for the time it takes to read any given page.

Outside/In

January 11th, 2019

The Green Lantern #1-3, written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Liam Sharp, coloured by Steve Oliff

LaGuardia #1-2, written by Nnedi Okorafor, drawn by Tana Ford, coloured by James Devlin

“The outside is not “empirically” exterior; it is transcendentally exterior, i.e. it is not just a matter of something being distant in space and time, but of something which is beyond our ordinary experience and conception of space and time” – Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie

“It sickened me when I heard the expression for the first time, barely understanding it, the expression crime of hospitality [delitd'hospitalitej]. In fact, I am not sure that I heard it, because I wonder how anyone could ever have pronounced it…” - Jacques Derrida, On Hospitality

The three novellas that make up Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series have a distinct weirdness to them, one that’s partially generated by the flurry of casual references to alien technology and partially down to the narrative structure of the series, which gives it the feel of a story constantly in motion. This is most literally true in the first volume, which promises an adventure at a space university starring a girl from a culture that has previously had no truck with it and instead takes place mostly on the harrowed journey there, but the pattern repeats itself in new forms throughout the trilogy.

In Binti’s world(s), new adventures, homecomings and trips to meet forgotten family members are all guaranteed to be fleeting, frustrated events. In fact, at some points it feels as though Binti barely has time to recognise a new destination before it’s shifted, recontextualised as yet another point of navigation on a journey that is implicitly endless, beyond Binti, beyond any of our stories.

There is much to learn and love out there, but also a history of violence and oppression that stretches further than we can see…

 

Can it really be 10 years?

10 years since reality glitched, flexed like a Russian gymnast and then dry-heaved a small barely-formed, mewling blog into being?

10 years since 4 plucky lads from Liverpool formed like Voltron to change the face of pop music forever?

10 years since the Nostalgialator was switched on?

10 years since Alan Moore coined the notion of ideaspace and Neil Gaiman started selling time-shares there?

10 years since the Space Shuttle Challenger was piloted into the Empire State Building by OJ Simpson and Steve Jobs, skull-fucked on Mezcal?

10 years since the dark portal Barbelith cracked open and 10,000 demons clawed their way into the world?

10 years since Stan Lee was revealed to be a crude automaton made up of a wig, some false teeth, a pigskin full of feathers and some rudimentary cords and pulleys, being psychically animated by a 13 year old girl in a coma in Reykjavik.

10 years since Grant Morrison and Alan Moore decided to settle their half-century grudge match once and for all with a bout of psychic wrestling in a cosmic version of the fireplace scene in Women in Love’ ?

10 years since Mark Millar retired from comics to set up his gulag/theme-park ‘Millarworld’ on a small island in the Pacific Rim, taking his inspiration from Miss Wonderstarr’s Kingdom in ‘Zenith Phase III’ (not the first time he’d rinsed Grant Morrison’s creative gland for the accumulation of his own filthy lucre)?

10 years since Frank Miller blew himself up creating a bomb from fertiliser, nitro-glycerine and ink, leaving only a Hiroshima style silhouette on his apartment wall?

10 years since Brian Michael Bendis finished his epic 300 issue run of ‘One-sided Telephone Conversation Comics’ and committed ritual seppuku outside SDCC?

10 years since David Bowie and Prince finally consummated their secret love affair and departed on their cosmic odyssey, leaving a pair of robot-replicas in their place to do their pop-bidding?

10 years since 2000AD changed it’s name to Tharg’s Olde Timey Phantastic Adventure Periodical?

10 years since reality was revealed to be a child’s drawing of a cow, with the word ‘PIG’ written underneath it?

10 years since Chris Ware finally admitted that what he really liked doing was was watching Adam Sandler’s mid-period comedies with his trousers round his ankles and his knackers in a bowl of raspberry jelly and that his next comic was going to be a 3-d exegesis on this sensation?

10 years since little Kieron Gillen was born?

10 years since the Quizzlertron gaines sentience and left for space to ask the ultimate question?

10 years since poutin’ Paul Pope was attacked by a rabid fan with an axe and chopped into hundreds of pieces, with each bloody piece gaining sentience and becoming a comic artist unto themselves (but with a different name)?

10 years since Garth Ennis had his nipples pierced and became a vegan?

10 years since the world realised that writing about pop culture and childhood ephemera was actually a renewable energy source, and set up enormous writing farms out at sea, with bearded 30-somethings manacled to computers, forced to strip-mine their memories for every fleeting observation or idea about a cartoon they watched when they were 7, until they collapsed, spent husks exhaling their last on a dog-eared copy of the X-Men?

10 years since all comics and pop-culture fans realised, in one blindingly simple spiritual roundhouse to the temple, that being a racist, sexist fuckwad was a waste of everyone’s time and they either mentally re-adjusted or walked themselves smartly off the nearest cliff.

10 years since Gary Lactus & The Beast Must Die won the Nobel Prize for inventing the podcast?

10 years since ‘Rob Liefield’ became an official state of mind rather than a person?

10 years of tears?

10 years of fears?

10 years without Tears for Fears?

10 years of steers, beers, tabloid smears,  grinding gears and Stephen Frears?

10 years since Bobsy, Adam/Zom, Amy Poodle, Gary Lactus, Botswana Beast and The Beast Must Die decided to risk it all on a gamble that would pay off in spades, bringing them riches and adoration beyond their wildest dreams; picking up sentient writing machines Illogical Volume and Andrew Hickey in their ideological trawler-net and adding them to the hive-mind; slotting in Mister Attack, Lord Nuneaton Savage, Maid of Nails and others whenever their weapons-specialisms were required; all in service of creating the One True Blog, a place of cultural and spiritual nourishment, a place where the greatest minds of their generation could dash themselves against the impervious face of Comics and the Almighty Neckbeard…a place where all are welcome, and no fan is left behind…unless they’re a chode. A place called Mindless Ones. A blog. An idea. A distraction. A commune. A cult. A recovery group. A house of ideas, a warehouse of broken dreams. A place with some of the best writing about comics that you’ll find on the internet. And when it comes to it, isn’t that what this big ol’ shook up mess we call life’s all about?

No? Well it’s all we’ve got.

It’s a blog eat blog world out there, with many a noble companion fallen by the wayside. Life is a hurricane of shit and sawdust, so the fact that we’re still even standing after 10 years fills like a reason to celebrate.So join us won’t you, as we present a month of relentless onanism, with new posts from us all, as well as some dredging up / curating some past forgotten gems and old favourite posts. There’s gold in them thar hills I tell you, gold!

MINDLESS ONES 4 EVER!!!!!

SMASHback #2: ASSvision

September 20th, 2016

Some more thoughts on the London Graphic Novel Network‘s second S.M.A.S.H. event, as previously discussed here.

You can watch the panel I contributed to below:

My speech at the start of this panel now exists like the death of Orion in/around Final Crisis, in a mini-kaleidoscope of different versions and recordings scattered across the internet – suits me, given the daft flourish about the Tower of Babel I threw in at the end of it!

The other panellists brought a range of expertise, and while there weren’t any heated arguments, I think our personalities and perspectives clashed in a way that was generally illustrative – Hannah was comfortable enough in her own skin to be flip and funny about taste, Katriona‘s contributions were considered and precise, and Mark‘s focus on technical skill neatly offset my own pseudo-academic tendencies.

As for the broader event, if you’d asked me I would have said that the crowd skewed young and “progressive” (not a term I’m over-fond of myself – I like specificity, a sense of what is being advanced – but having just used it like this I can see the appeal of its vagueness) but there was some pushback when Kelly Kanayama/Maid of Nails discussed the use of racist tropes in the first Warren Ellis/Bryan Hitch Authority story during the panel on MEANING.

Reconstructing intent was a running theme of all three panels (the other two were ART and DIVERSITY, remember), and in this instance it took the form of the Good Man defence

Fresh from his appearance at the debate on comics criticism at S.M.A.S.H. in London this Saturday (pictured above), here are 21 statements on comics criticism from The Beast Must Die:

1. Comics as an art form has the critics it deserves.

2. Comics critics are not as good as critics in other art forms.

3. Comics critics enlighten people about an art form that they might not know about.

4. Comics criticism lacks notable or significant figures in its canon; there are no Pauline Kaels, Harold Blooms or Roland Barthes [‘Bartheses’, surely?].

5. Comics critics are the best critics of all, because comics is an art form free of decades of critical debate and point-scoring and endless spiralling discussion.

6. Comics criticism is a place for juvenile people to snipe at each other pointlessly whilst keeping out strangers from their precious domain.

7. Comic critics who can’t talk about the art in a comic are no good as comics critics.

8. Comics podcasts are a popular avenue for criticism. They are the most ill-informed, badly thought out most lazy form of criticism.

9. Comics podcasts are a popular avenue for criticism. Comics podcasts allow for free-flowing conversation which generates genuinely interesting critical ideas.

10. Most comic criticism is on the internet, and as such often has little or no editorial input, meaning it is littered with mistakes, weak ideas and groundless opinions.

11. A lack of editorial input means that comics critics are free to think in original and interesting ways.

Click here to read the rest of the list at Broken Frontier!