December 10th, 2013
A thought occurs to me as I drag my sickly drunk head back to Glasgow from the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds: aren’t DECADENCE comics all a bit super-boyish in the end?
My throat too hoarse to speak with due to Saturday night shouting and Sunday con hustle, my brain so detached from its immediate environment that at one point I have to croak at Mister Attack to ask if we are in fact going backwards, the only thing I am able to do properly is comics. And so, I read through Lando’s Olympic Games, taking in page after page of landscapes that look as bare and arid as my larynx feels, squinting at the characters in survival suits, loving every second of it but questioning myself all the same.
“He’s just ridiculously on, isn’t he?” Mister Attack says.
I wince my agreement and keep on flicking.
It’s the survival suits that give me pause. As I shift out of Olympic Games and into a couple of comics by Stathis Tsemberlidis, Neptune’s Fungi and Epicurean Paradox, my drunken brain starts to worry that the spacesuits are emblematic of an attempt to build a stylish fictional identity, a barrier between person and world. My earlier thoughts about this aesthetic being “super-boyish” already seems glib and reductive to me, even if I can see where this thought came from. Something about the collision of cool influences, the sense that you’re reading the works of people who read only right comics from France and Japan, combined with a knee-jerk panic that aesthetics this good must in some way be suspect.
Where did I get the idea that comics could be cool? That they could communicate with the world while seeming at ease in it? From Brandon Graham, maybe, or perhaps just from The Internet.
Why would an encounter with these values provoke scrutiny? Perhaps because these comics do not reflect the values associated with my own formative experiences of the medium, bound up as they are with alt-comics and (sub-)superhero stories that mirror my own awkward, convoluted brand of self-reflection a little bit too clearly.
Comics scholars more erudite than me can argue about which specific artists have influenced Lando, Stathis and co, and armchair psychiatrists can deal with my issues at some later date – in this moment, my bleary brain is only capable of tracking where the lines on my face are going, rather than where they come from.
August 1st, 2013
Dead Romance is one of the best novels I’ve ever read, and it’s a novel that will never, ever, reach the readership it deserves.
June 17th, 2012
How good can a story be before its bad aspects are excusable?
The Talons Of Weng-Chiang is notable for many things — it’s the last story for Philip Hinchcliffe as producer (and he let the show go so far over budget to make it a good one that the budget was slashed for future series…), it’s the last story that David Maloney ever directed for the show, it’s one of Robert Holmes’ best scripts — but there are two things that make it especially notable — the blatant racism, and the terrible special effect of a rat
May 13th, 2012
1975 was the last year that everything changed for Doctor Who. We’ve seen that there are three main forces behind the feel of Doctor Who , the producer, the script editor, and the star. Season 12, which started in the last week of 1974, was the last time that all three would change at once during the show’s original TV run. (Technically, producer Barry Letts stayed on for the first story of the season, after Pertwee and script editor Terrance Dicks had already left).
February 13th, 2012
Full disclosure: I was asked to review this book by the author’s husband, Kip Manley, a lovely man, author of City of Roses, which is a smashing book I’d recommend to fans of Jonathan Carroll or that mid-1990s Vertigo vintage, so take that as you will. I’m sort of flailing with my critical armoire (contents: glibness, cruelty) and my comics readership, which includes basically no webcomics (which Dicebox originated as), bar Achewood, and certainly very little like this.
February 11th, 2012
It was the end…but the moment had been prepared for.
September 12th, 2011
Being the third of three posts on Carla Speed McNeil’s “aboriginal science fiction” comic Finder…
‘Well, enjoy yourself Lise,’ says the voice on the telephone. Send me a card.
‘Oh, of course,’ Lise says, and when she has hung up she laughs heartily. She does not stop. She goes to the wash-basin and fills a glass of water, which she drinks, gurgling, then another. She has stopped laughing, and now breathing heavily says to the put telephone, ‘Of course. Oh, of course.’
(Muriel Spark, The Driver’s Seat)
I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I hate bildungsromans, but I’m not sure if I hate them because they suggest that life can follow a neatly conclusive trajectory and mine’s hasn’t, or if my life hasn’t followed a neat trajectory because I hate bildungsromans. Either way, I found myself sizing up Finder: Voice and feeling even more cynical than I did when I first encountered the front piece to Finder: Talisman.
Thankfully, from the cover on in, Voice is a little bit more complicated than that:
September 4th, 2011
One of the reasons I was asked to join the Mindless Ones last month is that we’re expanding our range of topics somewhat. We’re still going to concentrate on comics, of course, but we’re going to be venturing into other waters – expect the occasional post about TV, films or video games. And one of the things we’re going to do is a weekly look at Doctor Who.
Yes, it’s going to be a week after the broadcast. But it’s a programme about time travel, after all. More to the point, there’s a good reason for the delay – Moffat-era Doctor Who, more than any other era of the programme, takes time to sink in. Often what appeared at first glance to be a hugely impressive rip-roaring adventure will, on a rewatch, prove very problematic. Sometimes, less often, the reverse will be true, and an initially unimpressive story will reveal hidden depths.
August 30th, 2011
Being: the second of three posts on Carla Speed McNeil’s “aboriginal science fiction” comic Finder…
He did not want to compose another Quixote —which is easy— but the Quixote itself. Needless to say, he never contemplated a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it. His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide—word for word and line for line—with those of Miguel de Cervantes.
“My intent is no more than astonishing,” he wrote me the 30th of September, 1934, from Bayonne. “The final term in a theological or metaphysical demonstration—the objective world, God, causality, the forms of the universe—is no less previous and common than my famed novel. The only difference is that the philosophers publish the intermediary stages of their labor in pleasant volumes and I have resolved to do away with those stages.” In truth, not one worksheet remains to bear witness to his years of effort.
You find yourself bored and lost in your local comics shop on a crisp Thursday afternoon. You’ve exhausted all your usual favourites, or at least, you’re pretty sure that you’re not paying that amount for that hardcover collection today. Thankfully whoever does the ordering for your local shop has anticipated your boredom, and has made sure that one of Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder comics is waiting there on the shelf for you.
You’ve read a lot about Finder and — your friend Cat’s admonition that you “like music that’s fun to read about instead of music that’s fun to listen to” still fresh in your ears — you have to admit that this counts for a lot for you.
The specific Finder comic that’s in front of you is Talisman:
You seem to remember that this is a particularly well-regarded volume. What was it Douglas Wolk said about it in his Reading Comics? Ah yes:
McNeil didn’t entirely hit her stride until the fourth Finder volume, Talisman, and it’s not a coincidence that it’s her most tightly focused story: it’s about a girl who falls in love with a book, loses it, and becomes a writer in her attempts to find it again.
Well, imagine that–a storyteller inspired by other people’s stories!
August 23rd, 2011
Being: the first of three posts about Carla Speed McNeil’s “aboriginal science fiction” series Finder…
Reading one of Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder comics is like wandering through a strange new city without a reliable guide. Or a map, for that matter, but maybe that’s better in the end. After all, sometimes maps can cause a different sort of trouble:
A map can organize the world according to almost any principle of order…. All classificatory grids are arbitrary. They have no necessary or absolute status. It does not matter what kind of grid is used on the map. Any system of lines or points of reference can be imposed to provide orientation, although different mappings may serve very different interests…. For those who inhabit particular mappings, they are likely to be viewed simply as reality.
Forget maps for a minute. Let’s stick our head in there and see what we see…
Ah, well, as far as broad statements of intent go, that one’s as good a starting place as any for this post. You see, unlike that other master of anthropological science fiction, Ursula Le Guin, McNeil doesn’t pretend to build up her world up systematically in front of your eyes. Instead, find yourself discovering information about the cultures in Finder almost accidentally, by watching the characters interact and keeping your eye on some of the key sights. No wonder Kelly Sue DeConnick compared the book to a shotgun blast! Still, I’ll stick with my ‘strange city’ analogy, if only because of the comic’s pace.
Freshly re-released as part of this collected edition, Finder: Sin Eater is a brilliant, wandering introduction to a truly great comic book. It’s a twisted mess of a story, with family ties, military ties and cultural boundaries revealing themselves at a leisurely pace, all the better to fully appreciate the damaged contexts the cast of characters live in. McNeil’s art becomes more and less abstract as the story dictates, sometimes suggesting an expressionistic hybrid of Western alt-comics and manga tropes, at other points snapping into “realistic” focus to give us a better look at the thoroughly singular world she’s created.