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.
May 15th, 2014
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.
Zadie Smith – The Autograph Man
For someone with my particular literary damage, reading this novel for the first time in 2014 was a lot like having the arguments of 2001 all over again. If literary critic James Wood’s attack on what he deemed “hysterical realism” has a fitting target it is this over-eager, initially likeable but ultimately tiresome second novel from Smith.
The story of “twenty-something Chinese-Jewish autograph dealer” Alex-Li Tandem’s frantic, free-wheeling attempts to lose himself in the search for his pop culture obsession, The Autograph Man spends its four hundred plus pages tilting after a curiously overdetermined sort of oblivion. To mangle a Samuel Johnston quote most boys of my age know by way of popular wise guy Hunter S. Thompson, Tandem acts in the belief that he who becomes his hobbies spares himself the pain of being a man. The novel follows suit, hence the ever-egressing framework of Kabbalistic associations, Zen progressions, verbal tics (“the popular” and ”wise guy” chief among them), Rabbinical comedy routines and generally excessive detail. All of this by way of keeping Tandem from dealing with the world’s tendency towards impermanence and disorder: these events take place in the build-up to the tenth anniversary of his fathers’ death, and in the aftermath of a destructive trip that seems like it might cost Tandem most of his established relationships, and also his car.
The overlapping structures of this novel are all fine and sturdy, and have elsewhere proven themselves more than capable of supporting, variously: an Oscar Wilde aphorism, an essay by Walter Benjamin (“wise guy” and recipient of the novel’s worst punchline), the occult adventure comic Promethea, and an excellent graphic novel by Eddie Campbell. There’s nothing to say that they couldn’t provide the framework for an excellent Zadie Smith novel too, but the difference between The Autograph Man and all of the aforementioned works is that Smith’s imaginative scaffolding seems to exist around very little that was worth supporting in the first place.
May 7th, 2014
A collaboration with Edinburgh based artist and ghost merchant Lynne Henderson, Cut-Out Witch contains twenty five pages worth of lost souls and lo-fi monster magic – imagine a teen goth Terminus and you’ll be on the right track. Lynne provided the pictures, I added the words, but if you want to cleanse yourself with holy water after reading then I’m afraid you’ll have to bring your own bottle.
“Cut-Out Witch is really good… Lovely creepy stuff” – Twitter’s own James Baker
“Almost every page made me laugh or smile or feel things” - comics’ own Ales Kot
“You do seem to be able to dash such things off quite easily, I kind of wish I could do that…” - A Trout in the Circus’ very own Plok
The original print run has sold out, but Cut-Out Witch is now available in PDF format for 50p!
If you already bought the print version, please feel free to email me at bigsunnyd @ yahoo dot co dot uk and I’ll send you the PDF for free.
May 7th, 2014
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie, brought to you by the power vested in me by the great state of Wyoming
While I will surprise approximately no one by saying that the action in this movie was nowhere near as inventive and exciting as the violence that gives The Raid 2 its reason to exist, this movie still confounded my expectations by impressing me more with competence than raw thrillpower.