March 20th, 2014
It’s been something of a strange couple of weeks, which has ranged from various incidents, both little and large. From a suddenly positive change in job security, to a negative change in job security, to discovering a co-worker dropped dead at the weekend, to the dropping of The Zero Theorem into cinemas.
March 18th, 2014
NO-ONE SAW THE CARNY GO…
It was a hot sticky day. The kind of day that makes dogs whine and men crazy. The moment she walked into my office I knew she was trouble..the kind of trouble spelt backwards if y’know what I mean? So..kind of elbuort..?. I poured myself a stiff glass of the hard stuff, only to find it was a bit too stiff and hard. It smashed my glass. I got that glass from Bentley Wildfowl Museum goddamnit! Eyeballing her I saw that she had the kind of body that could drive a man wild. Luckily I’m Disembodied Gumshoebot X-15735 and it takes more than a red hot dame in a slinky dress to turn my dials…A ZX Spectrum in suspenders on the other hand? She fluttered her eyelashes at me and asked me to light her smoke…I did it from across the room with my I-Beam and managed to set fire to her fur coat. I could tell it was going to be one of those days. Nothin’ left for it but to turn the fan up high, kick back and listen to the latest SILENCE!
<ITEM> After last week’s lumbering behemoth edition we hop into this week’s nippy little runaround with ‘classic’ combo meal The Beast Must Die & Gary Lactus.
<ITEM> Admin a-go-go with sponsorship, songs, Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Will Franken’s Things We Did Before Reality, Welcome to Night Vale, and *some* more…
<ITEM> A bold Julian Cope themed sing-a-long launches us into The Reviewniverse as the fancy boys tackle Beasts Of Burden, Hawkeye, Independence Days, Secret Avengers, Batman, Uber, Walking Dead, The Royals, Captain Marvel, Veil, All New X-Men, Superior Foes of Spiderman and more
<ITEM> The brief return of Larry Lactus & The Beast Must Dimbleby, and that’s your lot. What are you complaining about?
There are 10,000 stories in the naked city…this has been one of them. Could have had more nudity though.
March 17th, 2014
Über #0-10, by Kieron Gillen, Caanan White, Joseph Silver, Kurt Hathaway and Digicore Studios
Kieron Gillen let the mask slip a little at the start, when he positioned this comic as the anti-ASS, as a refutation of Superman’s central place in 20th Century history, in a spiel designed to mark Über out as being a comic free of the sort of self-commentary that defines so many modern superhero comics. “It’s probably the least ironic book I’ve ever written,” he said:
It has nothing to say about superhero comics. In fact, its utter negation of that genre-criticism may be the closest it comes to commentary. I’ve read many books which seem to labour under the delusion that the conception of Superman was the most important moment in the 1930s. This isn’t one of them. My only interest is in how I can use this genre’s conceit to create metaphors to explores aspects of WW2…
This comment, buried as it was in the mix of metatextual soul searching and historical gamesmanship of Über #0′s backmatter, provides the key to understanding the uncanny dynamics of this comic. In attempting to ward off irony and meta-commentary, Gillen negated any possibility of this comic escaping the superhero meta-conversation. Which, it turns out, is actually quite fitting in the end. Carefully researched as Über might be, with everything from troop movements to weather conditions having been taken into account, this WW2 with superheroes fantasy is still a superhero fantasy, and as such it manages the odd trick of destroying both history and genre conventions and reinforcing them at the same time.
In contrast to the carefully composed alternate reality of All Star Superman – with its suggestion of a world where greed, imperialism and mortal panic exist but are never the only options – Gillen and White present an alt-modernity in which the foundational horrors of the mid 20th Century era are all there but louder.
March 16th, 2014
March 15th, 2014
PACKED MY BAGS COS I’M OUTTA HERE, MOMMA DON’T LOVE ME AND MY MOMMA DON’T CARE
OI! i bloody love of it I do innit yes bruv yes bruv COME ON! Disemobodied Britbot X-15735 bruv innit? Bloody love those old times when you got your meat ‘n’ 2 veg innit? Yes bruv. Old times. Good times innit bruv. When a man had his right old bloody knees up didn’t he bruv. Yes bruv.
We all did bruv.
Now here come a trio of wendys to talk a load of old comics nosh innit bruv. It only bloody is ‘n’ all! Cor! What bloody larks. LA LA LA LA LA LAAAAAAH!
Oo did? Only Gary Lactus, The Beast Must Die & special guest Bobsy all havin’ a right old time of it! GET IN.
<ITEM> It’s a bumper edition as the boyce go long due to Friday night drunkeness and guest star gobshoite Bobsy! The most chaotic indulgent admin ever? They barely manage to thank their sponsors the loathsome oiks! Too much HOTTT COMICS ACTION to waste time though as we take a cooling plunge into…
<ITEM> The Reviewniverse wherein in epically meandering but actually pretty good (or maybe I’m still drunk) chat , the trio suckle on Stray Bullets, Nemo: Rose of Berlin (featuring the ‘Alan Moore Has Turned Into Chris Claremont’ argument which will soon be canon), the wonderful Auteur, Afterlife With Archie, Jonathan Ross & The Hugos, The Big Woof, The Comic Relief Comic, The Bojeffires Saga, Starlight, Avengers Undercover, Saviors, Hawkeye, and much much more.
<ITEM> The naughty tricksters try to make Gary piss himself.
So have a right old bloody listen, you bunch of effing WENDYHOUSES! IT’S SILENCE! 96!!!
March 12th, 2014
Ah, let’s indulge in some time travel shall we? Let’s go all the way back to September 2009, when Sean Collins had this to say about Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds:
It is, in other words, a deliberate assault on the facts surrounding the deaths of millions and millions of people, including the systematic genocide of six million Jews in the Holocaust… It’s morally monstrous and its practitioners are moral monsters.
Oh, wait, shit. That’s not quite right. That’s what Sean C. had to say about Nazi-sympathizing turd-monger Pat Buchanan. Sorry everyone, but problems like this tend to occur when you start to mess around with history, you know?
In order to find what Sean actually thought of Inglourious Basterds we have to go back even further, to August 2009 no less! It was a kinder time, a gentler time, a time where a man could read an essay on the cathartic, history rupturing violence of Tarantino’s latest picture without any danger of stumbling onto this long winded response.
Here’s what Sean actually said about the film:
…Inglourious Basterds may be the punkest movie I’ve seen in I can’t even think how long. Maybe ever. It’s about nothing less than the power of art to destroy evil. It’s about how important it is to love film more than the likes of Hitler hate life. It’s about how movie violence, art violence, art designed as a FUCK YOU, can help you deal with the violence that so terrified Chamberlain’s cohorts and to which Hitler and his cohorts were so indifferent. It’s Woody Guthrie’s “THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS” guitar slogan made literal. It’s a lingering closeup on the bloodlust-saturated eyes of Eli Roth, the beautiful Jewish torture-porn poster boy and enemy of good taste, as he empties a machine gun into the bodies of members of the Third Reich. And it’s a total fucking fantasy. Yet that’s what makes it so vital.
March 11th, 2014
Talking Comics is a highly irregular feature where I try to review a few new(ish) books with the help of my phone’s voice recognition software. It’s just like a regular comics review post except that it takes more mouth than fists to get it done on time, and is therefore far sexier than your average bloggy night on the town.
It’s also sort of like a bit of tech writing, except it’s even less useful to my future career as a failed magazine writer grumbling about social media in the corner of a pub on a cold Thursday morning.
Anyway, that’s enough warm-up for now. Onwards, to the reviews!
The Deleted, by Internet Villain Brendan McCarthy and Darrin Grimwood
Sex Criminals, by Chip Zdarsky and Matt “Matt” Fraction
LOEG: Nemo: The Roses of Berlin, by Kevin O’Neill and Alan Moore
Battling Boy, by Paul Pope and Hilary Sycamore
Multiple Warheads – Down Fall, by Brandon Graham
Dungeon Fun, by Colin Bell and Neil Slorance
That’s all we’ve got time for this week folks – don’t know if there’ll be any SILENCE! this week or not yet, but keep your eyes peeled because you never know what that amiable auld space god is capable of!
March 10th, 2014
George Eliot – Silas Marner
Despite its sentimental, Dickensian cover and premise – an outcast weaver is drawn back into society by the arrival of an orphaned child in his life – this short novel is yet more evidence of Eliot’s ability to create the impression of distance in her fictions. Eliot’s mastery of the bourgeois novel is of a similar kind and order to Milton’s mastery of the epic poem; the devil, as always, is in the details and how they’re relayed.
It’s worth comparing Marner’s transition over the first part of this novel with Scrooge’s in A Christmas Carol in order to better understand Eliot’s method. Dickens is one of the all time great narrators, and he trusts that the effects he has conveyed so spectacularly throughout his ghost story will linger with both his notorious outcast and miser and the reader even after he’s allowed the illusion to collapse in on itself:
For the first time the hand appeared to shake.
“Good Spirit,” he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: “Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!”
The kind hand trembled.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.
Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.
Compare the drama of Dickens’s line to the ever-shifting emphasis of this paragraph from the final bloom of Silas Marner‘s first volume:
Silas began now to think of Raveloe life entirely in relation to Eppie: she must have everything that was a good in Raveloe; and he listened docilely, that he might come to understand better what this life was, from which, for fifteen years, he had stood aloof as from a strange thing, with which he could have no communion: as some man who has a precious plant to which he would give a nurturing home in a new soil, thinks of the rain, and the sunshine, and all influences, in relation to his nursling, and asks industriously for all knowledge that will help him to satisfy the wants of the searching roots, or to guard leaf and bud from invading harm. The disposition to hoard had been utterly crushed at the very first by the loss of his long-stored gold: the coins he earned afterwards seemed as irrelevant as stones brought to complete a house suddenly buried by an earthquake; the sense of bereavement was too heavy upon him for the old thrill of satisfaction to arise again at the touch of the newly-earned coin. And now something had come to replace his hoard which gave a growing purpose to the earnings, drawing his hope and joy continually onward beyond the money.
In Eliot’s hands a seemingly romantic conceit – a child’s improving effect on an alienated adult – is nevertheless established to be effective only inasmuch as Marner’s continued obligations to the child necessitate a continued interaction with society as a whole. This is typical of Eliot’s approach, which emphasises connection and consequence over the triumph of kind hearts and stirring rhetoric.
This comparison is, however, not offered in order to disparage Dickens, whose busy narration looks simultaneously backward to the jarring shifts of the best English poetry and forward to the juddering machinery of modern comedy. And if it’s true that those same novels are premised on a call to individual kindness that overlooks the necessity for any broader or more systematic change then that does not diminish their effectiveness in making vivid the muck and dirt of unreformed reality.
The simple truth is that Eliot’s talents are slightly different in nature, and their magnitude does not need to be exaggerated by the disparagement of other novelists even if they may be better understood in light of the comparison.
Staying mindful of the example of Dickens, it occurs that the subject of the novelist vs. the social order that produced them is a curious one when applied to Eliot’s work. The form of the bourgeois novel she so excels at may in itself may replicate bourgeois values by way of its sheer confidence, but Eliot interrogates these conventions through the startling depth and clarity of her narrative judgements, which contrast with the narrative itself in a way that can’t help but provoke quiet inquiry.
The introduction to the edition I read makes up for any awkwardness its cover may engender by virtue of an astute introduction by R.T. Jones (an Honorary Fellow of the University of York, apparently), in which Jones tracks some of the juxtapositions that exist in Silas Marner‘s framing story, arguing that for all Eliot’s narration chides Godfrey for foolishly hoping that all would work out well when he didn’t claim his secret child, the story bears out his actions more than it does her words:
…the novel leads us to conclude that if Godfrey had done the right thing, acknowledged his first wife and her baby as his, Nancy would not have married him; Eppie (under a different name, of course) would have grown up in the Red House with no mother and a resentful father; so Godfrey, Nancy and Eppie would have had very little oppotunity for happiness, and of course Silas Marner would have remained an exile from human society.
Silas Marner ends on a statement of total happiness that somehow fails to ring false, but the novel never once lets you forget that fairy-tale conclusion has been built on a series of disappointments, lies, and betrayals, and it is Eliot’s ability to keep both of these seemingly contradictory positions in perspective that gives the truest account of her peculiar genius in this short novel.