It is happening again

October 6th, 2014

In The Foyer Now: JAWS 2

May 31st, 2014

These will be irregular posts (aren’t they all) about some of my favourite film posters. Not necessarily my favourite films, but the images used to promote them that I find alluring, striking and resonant.

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One thing that disappointed me about the commentary surrounding Time Zones was a general unwillingness on behalf of most critics to get stuck into not just Freddy’s pitch but the first scene generally. I understood why well enough, it was a depressing episode and seasoned fans have been well trained to mistrust the surface glamour of Mad Men’s premiers, which in the normal course of things turns to crap after the first half hour. But in the end that didn’t cut it for me, for two reasons. Firstly, because the opening pitch so often serves as the key to unlocking a season’s trajectory, and secondly, because Freddy’s first words, a confident and joyous starting gun on a gloomy story, were designed to nag.

“I want you to listen carefully. This is the beginning of something.”

The idea that these words heralded the beginning of the final season and nothing else seemed unlikely. Because, come on everyone, this is the final season. Every detail is important.

Initially the main effect of this nagging, this jarringly incongruous celebratory voice echoing across the ruins cheering the new day, was to force me to re-evaluate many of the scenes and plot beats most reviewers took for granted were evidence that things will never go right for Don. Then it got me thinking about the downward spiral of the season more generally, eventually concluding that this, like Don’s descent in six which led to that beautiful final scene, was probably a good thing too. I was listening, I was paying attention, and it occurred to me that the Something Terrible Don drew down with that first ad pitch in The Doorway probably wasn’t through with him yet. Megan leaving him to pursue her career in California and his getting fired was only the start of it. Things needed to get about as bad as they could before the pendulum would swing the other way.

Quite simply, I realised this season is about nothing less than the destruction of Don Draper.

How marvellous!


May 6th, 2014

image from Cerebus 1

The problem with Cerebus is that it’s simply the wrong place to start

For the third year running Team Mindless will be in (almost) full effect at the Thought Bubble comics convention in Leeds.  I’ll be there trying to shake off my current Brendan McCarthy inspired appearance in front of my adoring public, and I believe Andre Whickey, Bobsy, Gary Lactus, Mister Attack and The Beast Must Die will also be in attendance on Saturday and Sunday.

If you fancy stopping by for a chat or buying our wares, we’ll be at Tables 21-22 in Allied London Hall for the duration of the weekend.

Fans of word/face combinations should note that the beautiful mugs behind our SILENCE! podcast will be performing SILENCE! Live (in 3D) at 11.40am on Saturday morning at the Speech Bubble Panel Arena in Armories Square.   As if the prospect of matching face to voice wasn’t exciting enough, Mssrs Beast and Lactus will be joined by comics’ own Kieron Gillen, Brandon Graham, Al Ewing, and Ales Kot as they discuss love, life, and (obviously) comics in bottom-wetting detail.

Back in Allied London Hall, those of you lucky enough to have pennies in your pocket will be able to exchange them for the following shiny treats!

In his secret identity as “Fraser Geesin,” Britain’s Next Top Cosmic Apocalypse Gary Lactus will be glad to take your Earth currency in exchange for…

Headrust – a collection of 20 years worth of family strips

The Cleaner #1 - about a true hero of our times

Knights of the Realm – as serialised on this very website!

The Amusing Brothers Collection – as featured in your least haunting dreams

Scott “Mister Attack” Mackattack (Sorry, I’m a dick – Scott McAllister, that’s his name.  This is his website.  Go show him some love!) will be selling the first two collections of his Wake Up Screaming comic (Everyone’s Felt Like This Once and A Head Full of Maybes) alongside Points on a Graph, his new comic about the growing crossover between post-human entities and customer service work.

He’ll also be giving away samples of his new Webcomic, The Weegie Board, as written by some prick called David Allison.

The Beast Must Die might have had to pretend to be a mere mortal called Dan White in order to have his Cindy and Biscuit nominated for Young People’s Comic Award at this year’s BCAs, but that doesn’t lesson his achievements at all.

Cindy and Biscuit is one of the best comics around.  Check it out:

When pressed for details as to what its host body would be selling this weekend, Andrew Hickey‘s beard made the following statement out of its many gorgeous tendrils:

I will have the first ten copies ever printed of my collection of essays about Doctor Who, Fifty Stories For Fifty Years, available — it comes out tomorrow, the day of the anniversary itself (I haven’t even looked at the copies myself yet, so they’re unproofed — caveat lector). I will also have copies of my book about Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers, An Incomprehensible Condition, and my essays about comics and Doctor Who, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!, as well as my short story collection Ideas And Entities. I may have one or two copies of my music books as well if I have any left over from last year (I haven’t checked). I will also scribble in the books if you wish.

Bit weird how the beard thinks it’s in charge, but I’m not brave enough to contradict it so we’ll let that pass for now.

Finally, I’ll be there with copies of Cut-Out Witch (a book full of melancholy ghosts and lo-fi monster magic, as drawn by my friend Lynne Henderson and captured in caption by my good self) and issue #1 of Looking Glass Heights, a mix of comics and essays on a set of common themes (housing, hubris, reality, the weather):

There might be a few other tricks and treats for you if you stop by over the weekend, but I won’t ruin them for you by spoiling them now.

Thought Bubble is easily the best comics convention I’ve ever been to, and if you can make it to Leeds this weekend I’d urge you to attend even if you don’t want to have to look at us/give us money/touch our many gorgeous heads.


“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Time War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

With apologies to Francis Fukuyama

The End of Time is a resignation letter.

2008 was, artistically if not commercially, the nadir of Doctor Who. By this point, a series which, when it returned, had seemed fresh and vibrant, had become barely coherent, with each episode being little more than a set of effects set-pieces strung together with no thought for logic and topped off with a couple of ‘comedy’ moments and some over-the-top emoting. While Russell T Davies was regularly describing the series as “the best drama in the world”, there was precious little drama in it any more.

Midnight was a very welcome exception.

Haggard West

September 13th, 2013


If a white wealthy talented American male can make it out there, so can damn well anyone!

Readers of good conscience peek at their Paul Pope comics through tense and cringing fingers.

Because yes, you’ll be pleased to know, it’s important to note, but when it comes to fighty, flighty, punchy-jumpy, there is still no one who springs into mind (maybe Rafael Grampa but let’s not even) who can do that great comicsy Pope trick, that thing, the rugged and robust capture of action-motion he can do, that stack of photos falling through the panel skin while you look, but still solid and full of weight,  thing.

It is a shiveringly good signature move that makes your fan man go into a full hard, and it is still there in this Haggard West comic. (West as in The West, Haggard as in haggard – the title is a double entendre, minus one, see below)

But you have to read it through your fingers. Anyone with a more than passing moody pout out of a car window on the desert (or is it a city?)  highway familiarity with his work is always going to read his comics tense, knowing at any given second the author is going to interrupt this uniquely rendered and quite marvelously flowing scrap to embark on an exploration of the somewhat laughable but also cruel, sadistic, economically and historically illiterate and sadly popular political philosophy (guffaw) of libertarianism, made famous and fashionable in the US several decades ago by accelerationist Soviet deep agent Ayn Rand.

You might have read Haggard West and thought to yourself, ‘Hey, there were no characters in this comic called Yahek or Mon Vises, so he left the politics for babies out of it this time!’ If so, a) you don’t exist b) you can’t be that dim c) what comic were you reading again?

Haggard West is dead!

Who can save the city? Who can save the superhero now?

We’ve been here before, in an not-identical but broadly analogous form, after the crash of 1929. How do we reinvigorate the tired and emotional economies of Anglo-American capital? Legalise booze, sure, bring that revenue back into the mainstream – that’s a no brainer.

What apparently is a bit more of a brainer is promoting an idea of virtuous militarised aryan youth to inject the necessary vim and vigour back into the enfeebled action men of the shiny city. No one would be daft enough to make an icon-fetish out of muscular fighting Nordic virtue and try to frame it as the mythopoesis of a viable political subjectivity, would they? Not again?


There could be super dark black irony at work here of course, forming an effective and bold historical critique, drawing a neat parallel with the current moment…

…but it’s not very likely really, is it? END


Appendix 1-

The suspicion – forlorn hope – that there might be a sardonic commentary at work is prompted by the Battling Boy preview pages. Our plucky young lad – with superpowers, the son of a god remember – is sort of given a solo challenge, a stand on your own two feet neanderthal rite of passage thing, face this by your own mettle tested or fall, all that shite. But the god of adventures has packed a trunk full of priceless godly adventuring shit for you – you don’t even have to pack it yourself!

On reflection, it is unfortunately impossible to imagine even in the fullest depths of drugged reverie a libertarian with that kind of self awareness, or a sense of humour. This from the class of thoroughbred free market idealogues whose inherited wealth conveniently never remembers the Marshal Plan…


Appendix 2-

Battling Boy is out soon! Preview pics below…


RCrumb Old Genesis

September 4th, 2013

The pleasure here comes not only in having some beautifully textured visuals to help you through the awkward, self-serving language; but also from the strange tension in seeing one of medium’s most idiosyncratic and defiantly independent artists work with a text that both belongs to everyone, and in some sense lies at the root of so many commonly held social and cultural structures. Crumb has spent several lifetimes somehow convincing the world that by sticking to his personal vision – repellent and antisocial as that so frequently was- he was somehow serving a greater collective good, by clearing space where the pure freedom of the artist might flourish. No matter how arseholeish the art he’d fill it with, that space itself performed a transcendent function – a dream of freedom, even a freedom to support racist or misogynist repression – that many sections of postwar Western culture sincerely believed it needed to have. Maybe they were even right.

Strange to pick Genesis then, a book that justifies its own archaic madnesses and hardcore rhetoric of obsolete social evil by appeals to divine authority and the vicissitude of historical longevity itself. Crumb takes its toxic content (and legacy) and tries to turn it into pictures and words alone, as if they don’t touch or connect to anything, as if this book, like his own back catalogue, should only ever be understood as harmless marks on paper and nothing else. If Genesis, with its holy massacres, its hatred of women and nature can be redeemed on artistic merit alone, maybe Crumb can too.

And if he just wanted to turn a new audience on to a founding text of the occidental canon, then maybe he could’ve picked a book that wasn’t such a cunt, y’know?

Despite all that, two points of genuine brilliance worth mentioning:

The limb-rocking, pre-curse serpent in Eden reworked as cosmic horror and Sitchinian(?) paranoiac scifi:

And perhaps the funniest panel Crumb’s ever drawn – the looks on the guys’ faces as they’re queueing up to go into the tent. Oh yeah, all us dudes have got to be circumcised from now on, God says, ‘kay?.

Were those later Cerebus issues that I never read as good as this?

mindless zombie notes

September 3rd, 2013

Brief and hasty thoughts after listening to this rather interesting Roundtable Discussion from 2011 on Romero’s Dawn of the Dead

[You already know if vague meanderings about zombie movies are your thing so stop here or shuffle on as you prefer.]

Ballard (Mentioned in discussion c. –40 mins)

An interesting avenue of conjecture lies in imagining a conclusion to Dawn and it’s central private shopping mall utopian imaginary, minus the aggressive intervention of Blades, Sledge and the rest of the biker gang (see below) which provokes the films dramatic finale. The inevitable outcome here is mentioned already during the roundtable: pure Ballard.

Left to fester in the mall, the survivors’ molecular neosuburbia would have atomised rapidly, losing its structure to the dissipating pull of mathematical entropy as our survivors retreated further and further retreating into their private dystopian interiors:

Francine behind the false wall of their enclave, nursing her baby, perched upon a nest of ripped-up cardboard boxes.

Peter burrowing ever deeper into the mall’s guts, crawling the ventilation shafts and access hatches, digging at the walls and chewing the electric  cables.

Stephen with his weathered flight jacket, binoculars and empty rifle, stalking the rooftop, unable to return to the plastic vaulted sky below.

The shops lying terrifying and empty again, except for when the moon is full and Fran and Pete would meet on the main concourse to fuck, while Stephen peers through the skylight.

Zombie children (c. –23 mins)

This scene is recapitulated in 28 Days Later, in which Cillian Murphy’s character walks through almost exactly the same scene, killing a rage-infected child, out of sight of his fellow survivors. Boyle/Garland choose this taboo-within-a-taboo as a key turning point for his character, beyond which he kills no more of the infected victims, choosing instead to identify with them and eventually adopting their methods as a means of overcoming the remnant militarism of dead Britain.

This seems to suggest dead children as given cause and justification for the entwined problems/solutions each film poses and represents: GET MAD=GO ZOMBIE


Bikers (c. –15mins)

Led by Tom Savini himself, who used the …Dead movies  to transfigure his traumatic memories of Vietnam War horror into celluloid spectacle, thereby changing the decomposing face of cinema forever, the biker gang within the film’s model represent the coming intrusion of post-Fordist labout and neoliberal capital, crashing the postwar party of settled and endless bourgeois plenty.

The bikers are literally deterritorialised – piratical and nomadic – and better adapted to survive within the available niches of the postapocalyptic ecology than our bored and barricaded survivors: they are playful with the undead, having developed new perversions and sexual subjectivities with the zombies (and mannequins) as their focus.

Despite their anarchic surface and apparent disdain for the commodified desires and familiar comforts of the hastily re-improvised nuclear family, they are only interested in the mall for what they can extract from it. Their belief in might-makes-right and reinscription of archaic gender roles makes the vision of a human future where they are most fit uncomfortably primitive…