October 1st, 2011
I don’t usually deal in the sort of criticism that tries to find the spirit of our time in this or that piece of pop culture detritus, but for the past few years I’ve felt smothered by four little words – THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE! – and every time I see or hear a variation on that theme, there’s only one face I see.
No point in trying to keep the bastard stuck in a corner anymore. You can only fight him off for so long, you know?
It’s time to let Darkseid out of the box:
September 23rd, 2011
Awright troops, Illogical Volume here, with a bit of fine
imported basterdry for ye!
I’m not sure that aka the Original Eyeball intended to start a fight here, but he should’ve known no tae challenge a proper weegie baistart like my pal Scott McAllister, aka Mr Attack, aka The Boy Fae the Heed, because a man like Scott disnae back down fae fuck aww.
Well, at least not when there are Transformers involved. Anyway, that’s enough of my pish. Here’s what the lad Scott had to say about Thunderwing:
It’s another day at the office in Marvel UK in the late 1980′s. Creative license tells me that at this point in history, it would be dark all the time, and it would be raining. A package has been couriered over from Hasbro, and contains the latest information on new products that must be featured in future issues of Transformers. By this point, the engineering has gotten less interesting, and the toys can be changed in about two or three moves. Quite often these days, they are accompanied by a humanoid shell to contain them in, like a a sarcophagus with arms that can only rotate at the shoulders. A quick glance of the villains line-up reveals it looking more and more like the cover to an Iron Maiden single.
On top of that, with Budiansky departing the American book, it seems the personalities of the toys have fallen into the doldrums, with each character little amounting to endless variations of “he is so bad, so very, very bad”, “he is soooooo good it hurts”, “he is evil because he is mental and robots don’t do meds” or “he’s sort of a good guy, but if we’re honest he’s a bit of a wank”.
Now, if you’re one of the cartoon writers, you stare into the mirror, remind yourself you’re too good for this shit and that you’re only in it for the money, so you recycle the plot of some other show you wrote, and have the new villain you’ve been requested to début elect to secretly build some giant weather-controlling device, or hypnosis booth or some shite, and have him turn up at the end as the mastermind of it all, to get his ass kicked.
But, you’re not one of those guys. You are Simon Furman. Simon Furman only has one question in his head EVER. “How can I make this guy interesting so that he’ll be remembered long after I kill him to bits?”.
September 9th, 2011
A woman’s fingers erupting from a robot’s wrist, a wet brain punctured by wires and encased in metal, animal hair sprouting behind a cyborg faceplate, emotions crushed beneath inhibitor technology.
Cybermen? It could be argued.
September 5th, 2011
“A Screaming Comes Across the Sky…”
They dared me to do this one.
“…It never ends.”
To be critically viable, you’d have to change more than a character – you’d have to change a whole world. But no matter what changes you made, a story without him in a major role – one of the largest roles – you’d be kneecapping yourself at the outset. He has always been, after all, one of the best of them.
(Image by Guido Guidi)
Well, maybe best is the wrong word.
May 2nd, 2011
The third of three posts looking at stand out appearances of the Joker
Part 1 here (The Killing Joke)
Part 2 here (The Dark Knight Returns)
I. Quiet in the back row
“It’s quite possible we may actually be looking at some kind of super-sanity here. A brilliant new modification of human perception, more suited to urban life at the end of the twentieth century Unlike you and I, the Joker seems to have no control over the sensory information he’s receiving from the outside world. He can only cope with that chaotic barrage of input by going with the flow. That’s why some days he’s a mischievous clown, others a psychopathic killer. He has no real personality. He creates himself each day. He see himself as the Lord of Misrule and the world as a Theatre of the Absurd.” ~ Dr Ruth Adams, Arkham Asylum
Strangely enough we’ll need to begin this critical excavation not with a Batman comic but with Morrison’s last true commercial failure for DC. Co-authored by Marky Mark Millar and drawn by N. Steven Harris, Aztek the Ultimate Man (ably assessed by my fellow Mindless, The Beast Must Die, here) was Morrison’s first ongoing superhero gig and his only man in pants book to implode in a mere ten issues. As the sales plummeted parachuting in big draw characters like Batman and the Joker must have been as much an editorially mandated necessity as a creative choice, but Morrison made it work and gave us a glimpse of a Clown Prince that wouldn’t be fleshed out for another decade.
April 4th, 2011
The second of three post’s looking at seminal takes on the Joker. Part 1 here.
I. Super Creep
“Do you want lipstick, sweet guy?”
I was five years old when Ashes to Ashes went to number one but I vividly remember how much the video disturbed me and continued to do so right up into my teens. There’s an intensity to it that few big name promos before or since have even attempted let alone matched, and why would they? Loosely centered around Bowie’s clown and a troupe of Blitz kids dressed in high fashion’s answer to mourning dress marching along a solarised beach, followed by a bulldozer, the video has the feel of a funeral set on some faraway peninsula of David Lynch’s imagination. The overall effect is alienated, surreal and ominous, reeking of drug addiction and mental illness, and while fans will detect an air of deep introspection this does nothing to create a more comfortable space.
Coming into his teenage years and young adulthood during the 70s and 80s respectively, Miller would have been steeped in Bowie’s career and protean flight through his various personae – aesthetically driven fiction suits which the mega star inhabited both on stage and to some extent in real life – so it comes as no surprise that a writer with his sensibilities would have produced a Joker that seems to borrow, intentionally or not, from Bowie’s iconographic legacy.
March 10th, 2011
Moore and Bolland, Miller and Varley, Morrison and well… a lot of different people. Three creative teams. Three definitive takes on the Joker.
Part 2 here
Prior to The Killing Joke’s publication the Joker was ahistorical except in a strict continuity sense. Post TKJ the character had if not a definite origin, the possibility of one. A less thoughtful writer might have failed to understand the importance of keeping history at one remove from the Joker, and a less skilful one might well have struggled to introduce its shadow into the Joker’s world without anchoring the character to specifics, but it’s with his usual elegance that Moore manages to maintain some distance between the origin and its subject.
January 25th, 2011
Running this oldie again in the wake the Morrison making reference to it at SDC
Right, offline in the real world, I occasionally enjoy a pint with Bulk Meat. The Meat, incidentally, hates his name and to be honest we never call him it to his face anymore – the man’s a father, a successful careerist (tho’ no-one understands exactly what it is that he does, except for Zac Goldsmith), fiercely intelligent and handsome, etc., etc., blah – and to continue to do so would be churlish at best. But in my heart of hearts, I still understand him as one of those massive slabs of pig bashed around by sound effects artists in the 70′s and Scott Walker in the recording studio. For he is, amongst my scrawnier-than-a-Face-model-in-the-nineties but slightly pot-bellied friends, absurdly stacked.
August 6th, 2010
Me: so why do you like Clayface so much then?
The Boy: He’s scary
Me: But what’s scary about him
The Boy: He’s got goop
Me: But what’s scary about goop?
The Boy: Carnage and Venom have got goop, and there’s no man.
Me: No man inside Clayface, you mean?
The Boy: Yes. He hasn’t got a man.
Me: What’s good about Clayface?
Amy: I’m thinking of a story where you could have a dead body buried inside him. Maybe even in a coffin.
I struggled long and hard with this one until I realised that Clayface isn’t a character, he’s something that happens to you. I can’t imagine a Clayface story arc being up to much, the obvious and done to death route is to go all snoretragic, loss of humanity, etc… but personally I think I’d aim for a few panels where someone (perhaps the little girl in the panel above) is dragged screaming into its earthy darkness and play out the consequences. Clayface isn’t a monster that I want to understand, I don’t want a POV shot or interiority, you don’t identify with walking graves, you have people get buried alive in them, and you make sure that you make the getting buried alive sequence is suitably terrifying and distressing.
Clayface is a one or two issue, all horror bat-foe, and that’s that. He’s a horrible inevitable event like death. There is no man.
Next: finally the Ds
July 28th, 2010
Before you go any further you should read (or remind yourself of) what Amy had to say about her in his ancient Rogue’s Review. It’s a little bit woolly in places but it’s also full of great ideas and he covers most of what I have to say here and then some. Not only that, he manages, in true Poodle style, to anticipate popcrime and Morrison’s it all happened approach to the bat-characters, but instead of focusing on Bruce he spends his energy on Selina. His take on her relationship with Holly is especially cool.
Stop heading down. His is better. Go read and come back.