June 24th, 2014
I’D LIKE TO THANK MY MOTHER, FOR INVENTING ROCK N’ ROLL
(Extract from Gary’s Diary – a SILENCE! Romance by Aubrey Wilteringfust)
Gary Lactus is a celestial, gigantic and opinionated podcast host from space. His life is going nowhere until he meets The Beast Must Die, a male model-like, hirsute man with a passion for graphique novels.
Gary takes an instant disliking to The Beast and the prestige formatted and fully painted ways he learnt during his years in the internet.
However, when a Dear Listener tries to destroy Gary, The Beast springs to the rescue. Gary begins to notices that The Beast is actually rather half-witted at heart.
But, the pressures of The Beast’s job as a toilet attendant leave him blind to Gary’s affections and Gary takes up comics to try an distract himself.
Finally, when polybag-wrapped audio pan-handler, Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 , threatens to come between them, The Beast has to act fast. But will they ever find the SILENCE! love that they deserve?
<ITEM> Admin, admin, who wants admin?? Gary unleashes his and Roberty Boperty’s new superteam The Gents, featuring Poo-Lord, Slash, HotRod, JizzWizzard, Airblade / Blowhard and The Freshener. THEN the Beast discusses Strontium Dog: The Movie.
<ITEM> Additional Quizzlertron content from listener Tam, so the boys tackle their favourite comic book violence, featuring Zenith, Simon Bisley, Lobo and The Walking Dead
<ITEM> Finally, the duo slip slide into The Reviewniverse and take on Simon Hanselmann’s Life Zone, The Wicked & The Divine, MPH, Original Sin, Batman Eternal, Silver Surfer, Thor: God of Thunder and TMNT: Turtles In Time. Plus Gary looks into the wonders of Marvel AR, the Beast has a rant about Spoiler, and their is a discussion of comic book movies including Turtles, Dick Tracy, Mario Bros, The Shadow and The Phantom.
NO MORE ITEMS. So get back to work you slovenly apes.
June 17th, 2014
IT’S NOT FAR, NOT HARD TO REACH, WE CAN HITCH A RIDE TO ROCKAWAY BEACH
June 11th, 2014
There are various things that are crucial to understanding Dave Sim’s work, but which the essays on the phonebooks themselves won’t give me enough time to discuss. So after every two phonebooks we cover, I’m going to take time out to look at these subjects. The plan as of this writing is that there will be essays on Oscar Wilde, Sandman, Sim’s misogyny, Warner Brothers cartoons, the self-publishing field in the 80s and 90s, and the documentary hypothesis of the writing of the Old Testament.
June 10th, 2014
IT’S REALLY LAUGHABLE A HA HA HAHA HA
There’s an ingratiating new boy in SILENCE! and he has everybody talking. Stunningly hairy and devastatingly digital, all the boys want him. However, The Beast Must Die has a secret – he’s a disease-ridden vampire.
Gary Lactus is a smug, giant boy who enjoys comics. He becomes fascinated by The Beast Must Die who can stop graphic novels with his bare hands. He doesn’t understand why he’s so standoffish.
His best friend, a goonish unicorn called SILENCE!, helps Gary Lactus begin to piece together the puzzle. Together, they discover the ultimate weapon – the useless, informative podcast.
When bodies start turning up all over SILENCE!, Gary Lactus begins to fear the worst. The unicorn urges her to report The Beast Must Die to the police and he knows he should, so what’s stopping him?
He may resist The Beast Must Die’s bite, but can he resist his charms?
Will he be caught crying with the vampire?
Which is all a smoke screen to hide the fact that what you have basically a malnourished half-formed edition of SILENCE! this week due to the Beast’s utterly aggravating ongoing technical issues with his computer. Disembodied Natrraotrbot X-15735 could of course have a word with some of his more dubious digital connections and sort out the unlucky Beast, but really, where would be the fun in that?
You do get some content though, as he duo bravely answer some more listener questions and Gary tells us all about his dental work, but there’s no getting round the fact that we’ve failed you again dear listeners, despite your seemingly endless patience with us…go to the back of the class boys. Must. Do. Better.
June 5th, 2014
We all think we could make a difference.
In 2008, Gorton North was held by the Liberal Democrats with 42.8% of the vote. In May 2014, the same council seat had the Liberal Democrats coming third, with 13.2% of the vote. The Liberal Democrats ended with no council seats in the whole of Manchester, which is now a one-party state.
The reason I mention this is because in the second of those elections, a week and a half ago as of this writing, I was the Liberal Democrat candidate. It would be pointless trying to write from a position of detachment about High Society, the second Cerebus phonebook, which is almost entirely based around an election campaign, so I’m not even going to try.
High Society is where, by common consensus, Cerebus really gets good. It’s a political satire, combining elements of the Marx brothers, Looney Tunes cartoons, and comic book culture, and it lasted for twenty-five issues — a ridiculous length back when a three-issue storyline in a superhero comic would be considered an “epic”.
It’s also, as many people have pointed out, almost completely incoherent when it comes to the actual politicking involved. Sim at this point clearly knew little or nothing about politics, and it’s clear that he had several conflicting aims — he wanted to show the rise and fall of Cerebus in the political arena, which had been established as existing at the whim of Lord Julius, an absolute dictator, and yet he also wanted to satirise the electoral process. So we get Cerebus arriving as “the ranking diplomatic representative from Palnu” — an appointed position, but then Elrod is nominated by Lord Julius as the new ranking diplomatic representative. However, rather than this leading to Elrod just taking on the role, there is instead an election — an election voted for not by the people of Palnu, but by the people of Iest, the state to which he is to be the representative.
This makes no sense on any level — even after Sim’s revelation in a chat on the Cerebus Yahoo group that Lord Julius (the dictator and Groucho Marx figure) is intended to be a plant working for the Illusionists (a group of drug-mystic anarchists who are one of the minor factions who are fighting in the background throughout the first two thirds of Cerebus) and so the political system is meant to be as confusing as possible. And it gets worse when the first of the political conventions portrayed is shown as a comic convention, with Cerebus and Elrod signing autographs and doing sketches for fans.
[ETA Michael Peterson has pointed out on Twitter that I don't make it clear here that while the election starts as the election for ranking diplomatic representative, Cerebus ends up standing for Prime Minister]
What Sim appears to have done, in fact, is to read Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail (a classic account of the 1972 election campaign when George McGovern lost massively to Richard Nixon) and use that as the basis of his story, twisting it to fit the plot points he needed to hit in his grand narrative, and filling in the gaps with comic culture references and a kind of bargain-basement populist politician hatred, of the South Park/UKIP/Russell Brand variety.
And yet…and yet…
The feeling of the book will be utterly familiar to anyone who has taken any kind of active part in political campaigning. It feels like real politics — building up a coalition of diverse interests with nothing in common except that the candidate they support will get them some of what they want, desperately figuring out which interest group’s votes you can count on and which you can’t, negotiating policy positions…
In a situation like that it becomes very easy for the idealists to become obsessed with the machinery and lose sight of their ideals, but it also becomes easy for the egotists and machine politicians to get swept along with the enthusiasm for change. People have criticised the moment when Cerebus says “For a while there, Cerebus thought he could… make a difference…” as being unearned sentimentality — Cerebus only gets involved in the campaign at all for the same reasons he does anything, to get money, power, and an easy life, and he has no ideals at all, so for him to say he wanted to make a difference seems like the worst kind of mawkishness.
But in fact, it rings as true as anything in the book. For every idealist who loses sight of their principles as soon as they get a sniff of power, there’s a machine politician who, once they realise that the levers of power are theirs to pull, starts thinking “hang on, I could actually do something good here”. Everyone has a view of how the world should be, however incoherent, and when presented with the opportunity to reshape the world very few people will not have some ideas for improvement.
That makes High Society sound like it’s a serious political work, however, and it’s not. It is, in fact, as funny as Cerebus ever gets. While Sim is laying the groundwork for a much bigger, longer, story to come, he’s also working on a more sophisticated version of the joke that made up the very first issue of the comic.
Cerebus, at this stage, is all about genre clashes, and by this point Sim has got the clashing down to a fine art. Each of Sim’s characters belongs to one genre, is in a story of another genre, and quite often thinks they belong in a third genre. The prime example is Cerebus himself, a funny animal who thinks he’s a barbarian hero:
The Moon Roach (the character who was formerly the Batman parody The Cockroach and then Captain Cockroach has now become a multiple-personality parody of Moon Knight who drops enormous stone crescent moons on bankers while shouting “Unorthodox economic revenge!”) thinks he’s in a superhero story, and most of the supporting cast think they’re in a Regency novel.
Only Lord Julius, who remains somewhat in the background in this story, seems to have a clue what’s really going on — but then Groucho always did seem to be the only person in any of the Marx Brothers’ films who had any kind of genre awareness, at least if you don’t count his brothers, and while Bran Mak Muffin is here reconfigured as the Zeppo figure, a comic as writer-driven as Cerebus would never have had room for a character as visual as Harpo. And as for Chico — or “Duke Leonardi” — well…
Let’s just say that Duke Leonardi isn’t great at understanding things.
The result is that the narrative, while structured like a political campaign story in the same genre as Primary Colors or All The King’s Men, is driven entirely by characters working not just at cross-purposes, but towards purposes which none of the other characters can even comprehend.
As well as the All The King’s Men similarities (although Cerebus’ arc from ego-driven thug to principled leader is the opposite of that of Willie Stark), the obvious comparison is Being There, a film which had come out a little under two years before the High Society storyline started. Much like Chauncey Gardner, Cerebus is someone with so little in common with the political world that his plain-speaking stupidity is taken as great political wisdom (although unlike Gardner, Cerebus has a huge amount of cunning). This only works because everyone is talking past each other the entire time.
While Sim was, of course, to move away from this formula in later storylines, there is a hint of it in everything up to issue two hundred, in the games and counter-games, strategies and plots, that dominate Church and State and Mothers and Daughters and make up the background on which Cerebus’ life plays out. There’s a very thin line between politics and farce, as anyone who watches the news will attest, and in this genre clashing Sim has found the perfect engine to generate farcical political intrigue.
But part of the reason Sim couldn’t keep this kind of storytelling going indefinitely is that people — and aardvaarks — are changed by their environment, and realistically there was no way to keep Cerebus as a barbarian after two years of political intriguing in a setting whose culture is closer to the late eighteenth century than to Hyperborea. No matter how rough and uncultured Cerebus remained, there was no way he could go back to questing to defeat nameless demons and steal gold and jewels. Once he had a taste for politics, like many of us, Cerebus couldn’t turn back.
The story ends with Cerebus’ dreams of power crushed, his supporters dispersed or locked up, and his power-base gone, seemingly for good. Yet, as we shall see, he can’t stay out of politics now he’s been in it. Cerebus is down, but he’s not out.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the more idealistic of his supporters. It’s revealed at the end that the hilariously inaccurate history of Cerebus’ abortive political movement, excerpts from which have been peppered throughout the story, is being written by a political prisoner, who despite everything is keeping alive the dream, even though it was a dream that his leaders didn’t share.
More than a few of us know how he feels…
June 2nd, 2014
STRUGGLING IN THE VORTEX, WITH MY JACKET MADE OF GORETEX
Today, for you smiling meatsax, Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 will consult the great oracle DESREE to find for you the meaning of life. Speak oh great one:
“I don’t want to see a ghost
It’s a sight that I fear most
I’d rather have a piece of toast
And watch the evening news
Life, oh life, oh life, oh life
Doo, doo doo doo
Life, oh life, oh life, oh life
Doo, doo doo doo”
Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 agrees Desree, toast rather than ghost! ALWAYS! Who would want ghost? And Life IS doo doo doo isn’t it? You really nailed it. No more questions! ALL ANSWERED.
Now onto the latest edition of SILENCE! featuring 100% more The Beast Must Die, but with almost 100% less Bobsy. Same Gary Lactus content though. Just right, as Goldilocks said before she nicked all the porridge and those three vegetarian peace loving bears starved to death.
After a cursory admin session, The Beast talks about his upcoming Cindy & Biscuit art installation up in that bloody London. More details follow after the blurb.
[ITEM] The ‘lads’ answer some more listenoid quizzlers in their slackadaisical fashion. Worth the wait? YOU DECIDE! Amongst the answerage: Doop, bad comics by good creators, Grant Morrison’s Spawn, The Family Must Die, planet-shaped dinner, Heralds, Mighty Crusaders, The Secret Origin of Mindless Ones, Frank Miller, Give Me Liberty, Robo-Hunter, humorous comics, Saturday Night Live, 2000AD, The Studio, creating comics, How To Talk To Girls, drawing comics, Sklent, Greatest Stories Ever Told, Tharg’s Future Shocks, Terminus
[ITEM] A quick dip in the shimmering surf of the Reviewniverse with talk of Southern Bastards, Ordinary, Sparta USA, Titan Comics, MPH, Trees, Saga, Mighty Avengers, SILENCE! Shout out, Deadly Class, non-drowsy decongestants, Red Rover Charlie and a bit more too.
But wait…I have thought of another question.. all is not answered…do not forsake me oh Desree…ANSWER ME!!!!
[AND NOW, A BONUS MESSAGE FROM THE BEAST]
May 31st, 2014
May 30th, 2014
Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell – ‘Thursdays, Six to Eight p.m.’
Back at the end of April the Guardian ran an experiment to see what would happen if real writers were involved with comics, and the results were pretty much what you’d expect, ranging as they did from the mediocre (Dave “David” Eggers’ ponderous buffalo comic) to the merely gorgeous (Frazer Irving’s whatever the hell it was that Frazer Irving drew) by way of the profoundly functional (Dave Gibbons and Gillian Flynn’s clockwork deconstruction of vigilantism).
As a showcase for a variety of semi-respectable comics art styles it was a success, but as a pop culture moment it lacked a sense of novelty or excitement.
The exception was Thursdays, Six to Eight pm, a modern romance comic with a faint hint of the gothic to it. A man and woman are in love and they get married, but she can’t stop worrying about why he wants two hours to himself every Thursday night. For his part, he keeps quiet about the details, so Ellen does what we all do unless we’re sinister enough to work for the NSA already: she calls in some spies.
The result of a long-distance collaboration between Audrey Niffinegger (The Time Traveller’s Wife) and Eddie Campbell (all the best comics), this strip stood out from the others by virtue of the fact that both of the involved parties contributed to the art. Well, according to the contents page Dave “Dave” Eggers was “collaborating with himself” but this does no damage to my argument: the lines on Eggers’ pages were the work of only one artist, while the Campbell/Niffenegger strip bears the mark of two “primary” artists.
According to Niffeneger’s write-up, she drew the Charles – the guy doing the proposal in the above panel – and the two spies his wife hires to investigate him, while Campbell drew Ellen, the suspicious wife and protagonist on the right hand side of the same frame.
Even though Campbell apparently modified Niffenegger’s line work to make it look of a piece with his own, my eyes mostly confirms that these characters are not made out of the same materials. This plays into a classic romantic conceit, suggesting as it does that while these two characters may share their lives with each other they’ll always be fundamentally distant. Charles’ thin, defiantly two-dimensional features provide an impermeable barrier between the contents of his mind and the blown out, fuzzy world he lives in with Ellen – being an Eddie Campbell character, she is made out of the same fuzz and clutter as everything else.
The fact that Campbell was also responsible for the lettering and page layouts will be immediately obvious to anyone who is familiar with his autobiographical comics.
This comment from Niffenegger struck me so forcefully that it left me with a mental scar I’d now swear I was born with:
Eddie always begins with the lettering, so there was an early stage of panels and lettering but no images, which I found intriguing. He letters by hand, and already the pages looked like a true Eddie Campbell comic.
More than any other comics artist I can think of, Campbell makes a casual mockery of the idea that the manner in which comics combine words and pictures needs to be policed to maintain the purity of the form. While works such as Bacchus and From Hell shows that Campbell is perfectly comfortable telling a story visually, in a comic like Alec - how to be an artist the continuity of the narrative can be found in the prose, with the visuals reacting to and reiterating the words in exactly the way we’re told they shouldn’t.
May 27th, 2014
GOD BLESS DONALD DUCK, VAUDEVILLE AND VARIETY
<ITEM> There’s no robot, we’re clear on that, OK?
<ITEM> The X won’t X itself, you learn, and so The Beast Must Die be gone for now. Fear his return, when the goose of the moon gets fine and fat.
<ITEM> Unforkunakely, Gary’s hunger for space rocks will not be satisfied by merely genuine good reasons0000000, and as per, bobsy has nothing else to do and dutifully hobbles by.
<ITEM> Tell us what you think of the The Making of the Making of Star Wars the Musical bit at the beginning. You can see that it’s all about the admittedly brilliant ‘intuitive/diminutive’ moment, but we’re really keen for feedback ahead of rollout do let us know what you think via the special survey.
<ITEM> There is some admin at the beginmin too, and a recap of the Bank Holiday weekend, when they watched the X-Men Dofp movie and had a barbecue at Zom’s and it was bobsy’s birthday. They talk about Hotel for Dogs during this podcast portion.
<ITEM> And then the Galaxy eater (a bit too sugary, and made by Nestle to boot, prob) and his mewling supper travel to the Reviewniverse, where they talk about…
<ITEM> Caliban, Elephantmen, Original Sin, Prophet, Batman Weakly, Uber, Julian Cope, Zero, Hypnotic Induction Technique, The Boy in Question, Copra and Adapt. Possibly some other stuff too, but they weren’t keeping very good notes.
<ITEM> You know the joke about the guy needing a microscope to see his own cock? Well, this podcast is respectfully – and resexfully – dedicated to Sir Darren of Oxon.
<ITEM> So listen to SILENCE! #102. There is nothing in your life nearly as important.
Click to download SILENCE!#102
The Wind Rises – Hayao Miyazaki, 2013
Before we start, a warning: this is probably not a fun night at the movies for your eight-year-old, unless said child is prematurely obsessed with flat-head screws. I mention this not out of a new-found commitment to providing consumer advice but because my friend Adam was frustrated by the apparent inability of movie reviewers to clarify this matter for him.
Studio Ghibili’s long standing trust in the ability of children to stay interested in quiet moments and make sense of the senseless is admirable, but The Wind Rises seems to have been made in a different spirit from, say, Howl’s Moving Castle (which combined frantic scene-shifting with portraits of stark devastation to great effect) or Princess Mononoke (which grew slowly, steadily monstrous in front of the patient viewer).
This film is realised with the lush, painterly attention to detail that characterises Hayao Miyazaki’s other movies, but this is definitely a film of and about our world. Its magic is not of the kind likely to intrigue a child into attentiveness: its wonders are the result of late night meetings as much as they are the product of dreams, and even its most hard won miracles taste of ashes.