Being: the second in a series of posts about John Smith and Edmund Bagwell’s top British horror comic Cradlegrave.

If you’re going to talk about Cradlegrave, you’ve pretty much got to face up to this image at some point:

Stripped of context it’s just a doll, just a tired horror-movie prop, a signifier of terror rather than something actually terrifying. In context however, this dull prop seems far more potent:

The sense of surprise, that feeling of “what the fuck is that face doing in the middle of this conversation?”, is enough to give the image some fresh charge here.  The last panel of the sequence hints at the answer, but for the duration of the two panels before it you could be forgiven for thinking you were in another, more Lynchian kind of horror story.

Still, even the most bewildering emanations in Cradlegrave trace back to fleshy, non-Lynchian sources, so it’s just as well that there’s more to the this sequence than  lifeless eyes and startling incongruity.

Look into these eyes, and tell me what you see…

Being: the first in a series of posts about John Smith and Edmund Bagwell’s top British horror comic Cradlegrave.

ONE – If you didn’t look past this cover-cum-announcement for Cradlegrave, you might think that it was telling a very specific sort of story, the sort of story you might describe as being either “tabloid shit” or “a bit Jamie Delano” depending on where you felt like throwing your cruelty.

When I first discussed Cradlegrave back in December, regular commenter Thrills noted that he was “looking forward to reading Cradlegrave” now that he’d got past his concerns that it would “be like that Denise Mina Hellblazer where ‘hoodies’ are ‘demons’.”

Ah, so it’s the worst of both worlds – tabloid shit that smells like Jamie Delano. Fuck.

TWO – Despite the fact that the “Fear they Neighbour” text is missing, the cover of the collected edition still works hard to make the same impression:

There’s something less real about these four hooded figures in this second, reformatted cover – the overly harsh, pixelated light that gleams on of their shoulders is even more unnatural when set against an all-black background, a background that now extends into the empty spaces where four young faces should be.

These are absent phantoms, not flesh and blood monsters, and while I wouldn’t want to pretend that they’re being deliberately undermined here, I still find it hard to imagine anyone taking them seriously.

The only fear in this image is the fear you bring with you, be it fear of “savage” yoofs or of right wing rhetoric…

Click here to drink the black milk… IF YOU DARE!

Being: a speculative essay on the self-regulating limits of reality/a celebration of impurity/ a demonstration of the many sickening uses of human waste/ a manifesto for kinder, gentler wank fantasies/a failed attempt to write a feminist critique of The Filth/ and, finally, an embarrassed declaration that it’s time for something great …

1. In The End, Everybody Wins

There’s a moment in the last issue of Grant Morrison and Chris Weston’s scatological sci-fi horror comedy, The Filth, which seems to me to perfectly capture the panic of the moment. Greg Feely/Ned Slade, negotiator for the covert organisation known as The Hand and weird, porno-drenched bachelor, has finally snapped. After twelve issues of black comedy and painful existential eruptions, Feely has had enough. His pet cat Tony has died, depriving him of the only love he knew, and now he’s taking his protest right to the very heart of things, to his superior officer Mother Dirt.

As he storms through The Crack, Greg is confronted by his fellow Hand agent, Miami, who reminds him that he has been recycled into the very system he’s rebelling against. Before he was Hand negotiator Ned Slade, she claims that Greg “wouldn’t want to know” what he was:

You, Thunderstone, Bemmer… the whole crazy gang of social activists… You were all gonna destroy the foundation stone of the world.

The system is perfect, Ned. It has to be perfect; it’s all there is. Attacking The Hand is like attacking your own immune system. [1]

Does this seem familiar to anyone else? As the foundations are shaken and explosions go off all around, a wide-eyed Miami tries to stop Greg by telling him, what… that there aren’t any other options? It’s a statement that would seem perfectly at home in our current political climate. Don’t like the way things are going? Think that terrible acts are being carried out in your name? Feel a bottomless pit open up inside you whenever you even think about Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg? Find yourself choking on your own sick when you hear Chancellor/arch bastard George Osborne give a speech to the Tory party conference in which he lays the blame for Moneygeddon (© Charlie Brooker & co 2009) purely on the (admittedly very guilty) Labour party, as though Blair and the boys weren’t just following Thatcher’s lead?

What about when he goes on to tell the poorest UK citizens that they’re going to have to pull their socks up, or claims that he “believes” in public services – does that make you feel like punching your own face off?  Well, tough! This is the way the world works now, history has ended and there are no alternatives, so suck it up or go home. If you’ve still got one, that is.

Vote Labour or Vote Tory, hell you can even Vote Lib Dem if you like. This is what you’re getting, this half-cut shadow life.  All other options have been deemed non-mutual, incompatible with life as we know it! And may the gods help you if you want to make any bigger changes – under the current system, your proposals cannot be countenanced!

And what’s Greg’s response to all of this? How does he react to this bold statement?

Well, he storms out, eyes blazing like a fucking demon:

You and me both pal.

But hey, wouldn’t you? [2]

Immerse yourself in Morrison and Weston’s Filth after the jump!