Target 2012

May 12th, 2020

Paul Jon Milne – Guts Power #1-6

Dan Cox and John Riordan – Hitsville UK

The gospel was told, some souls it swallowed whole
Mentally they fold and they eventually sold
Their life and times, deadly like the virus design
But too minute to dilute the scientist mind

Wu-Tang Clan – ‘A Better Tomorrow‘ 

Spacing (notice that this word speaks the articulation of space and time, the becoming-space of time and the becoming-time of space) is always the unperceived, the non-present, and the non-conscious. As such, if one can still use that expression in a non-phenomenological way; for here we pass the very limits of phenomenology.

Jacques Derrida – Of Grammatology

Two comic book series, both started before the world ended in December 2012, both completed some time after the apocalypse.  So far so standard. What makes them both remarkable is how prescient they are about all the ways the world has continued to end and about how we might continue to live regardless.

To be brief: they reek not just of knowledge but of foresight.

The sixth and final issue of Paul Jon Milne’s Guts Power spends most of its time getting ready to go out for the party.  When I last reviewed this series, only the first four issues had been published but the mood of the comic was well established, its grimly eroticised kitchen sink misery distinguished from all the other neurotic indie comics out there by virtue of Milne’s seeping imagination:

I’m stuck on Milne’s style, on the use of that old fashioned alt-comix grossness not as a mode for outrageous straight white guy funtimes, but as a way to genuinely queer the Sex-Men experience.

With its tentative dance floor adventures, “Pepto-bawbag particles” and alluringly grotesque cast, Guts Power manages the rare trick of making one man’s whims, stray thoughts and fancies seem like a genuine delight, probably because the combination feels fresh and true; would that the same could be said of all such ventures.

By the time issue #6 starts, death and romance have already happened and everyone is gearing up for some sort of revolution.  You can practically feel the wee white dots form around you in the air, feel yourself being drawn back into the radiant possibility of a blank page, right up until the moment your cat farts and you’re left sitting on your couch alone with your own misery.

Having sprinted through enough dodgy deals, guilty secrets, Beatific visions and nazi incursions to fill 23 issues of a normal comic, Hitsville UK crosses the finish line of its seventh issues with a sense of perspective that’s bound to baffle all traditional metrics.  Last time I checked in on the comic, I found myself racing to keep up with its evolution, with the way that it had left my initial concept of the series as a referential but not reverential pop fun somewhere way off in the distance:

What I will say is that the issues of Hitsville that have been published since then have had an increased sense of urgency to them.  The boys may not have set out to create a fantasy of communal resilience in an age that seems increasingly under threat by undead attitudes, shambling zombie racism, and the endless monetization of your every passing daydream, but fuck me if they didn’t do it anyway!

The conclusion of Hitsville UK gives you some sense as to who’s pulling (or should that be playing?) the strings and some idea as to why.  We still don’t know why the world ended in 2012, or why it persists in this form, why even blogs have somehow been allowed to continue, but all of this prompts a question: why did the children of The Invisibles decide to persist in their endeavours, knowing that the end would come before anyone could finish their stories?

BEATS ME FOLKS! BETTER CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT!

Last time we caught up with the Histville boys, they were young and reckless, caught up in that pop life and looking forward to the end of their story. That end finally came with the publication of Hitsville UK #7 last year. Dan Cox and John Riordan are broken men now, no longer a pair of jolly cartoon heroes

…but a couple of real live humans, with families and feelings:

As such, it didn’t seem right to feed them the same recycled Smash Hits interview questions we’ve used a few times over now. This time round we would do it right, with glib, insultingly stupid questions of our own.

As far as a general overview of what Hitsville is and why you should read it, I can’t much improve on what I wrote last time around:

More than any other comic about bands or music, Hitsville UK mimics the thrill and excitement of its subject.  Somewhat perversely, this comes from its overwhelming commitment to the comic book form.  Where other comics about music feel like extrapolations of zine culture or traditional adventure stories themed around pop stars, Hitsville UK actually feels like music.  By reveling in the joys of putting weird looking characters into even weirder situations, trusting that they can keep a rush of daft words and pictures coming and that they can keep it relevant, Riordan and Cox capture something of the hyped up love buzz of being into music.  A mix of wanting to keep up with the story and wanting to feel part of the moment as it happens around you.

What I will say is that the issues of Hitsville that have been published since then have had an increased sense of urgency to them. The boys may not have set out to create a fantasy of communal resilience in an age that seems increasingly under threat by undead attitudes, shambling zombie racism, and the endless monetization of your every passing daydream, but fuck me if they didn’t do it anyway!

Hitsville UK is great, kaleidoscopic fun. You should probably buy it.

But don’t just listen to me. Listen to handsome hunk Dan Cox and bedazzled urchin John Riordan, who were generous enough to give me their time while they were in the middle of preparing their lush summer survival bunker, rumoured to be located in the abandoned underwater garden of a shady octopus…

1. When the first issue of Hitsville UK was published back in 2011, David Cameron was out in the wild hugging unsuspecting hoodies and Malcolm Tucker impersonations were still just about socially acceptable.

Are you the same people you were back then? Have you switched faces? Traded names? Sold parts of your souls in return for those sweet comics dollars?

Dan Cox: Switched faces, traded names, switched back, rinsed and repeated. I’m pretty sure we’re back to being the other. It is depressing looking at our cameos as I go from this svelte long-haired snake-hipped lovely to a portly beardy man. Interestingly John hasn’t seemed to change much, I’m sure this is nothing to do with him being the artist and everything to do with healthier lifestyle choices and superior grooming regime.

John Riordan: Working on Hitsville has been like a nine-year version of Face/Off (NB. I have never seen Face/Off). My favourite review of the comic credited it to Dan Riordan and John Cox. I don’t think I bothered drawing us into the last two issues of Hitsville. Prior to the final issue coming out we both became dads and we now both resemble post-war criminal Tony Blair. I drew my baby daughter into a crowd scene in issue 7 instead. I’m fully embracing vicarious living through the next generation now.

DC: We were the DJ act opening for Gwillum!

<strong>JR</strong>: Oh yes, good point! See, my brain is crumbling as well as my looks.

If you’ve not read Dan Cox and John Riordan’s Hitsville UK, you’re missing out. Like Daft Punk‘s ‘Get Lucky‘, it’s the sound of the summer.  Or like…. shit, it’s hard to pick just one song at this stage in this icy death machine of a year, so let’s split the difference and say that like ‘Lazarus‘ or ‘Adore‘ its deeper magics might just see you through the colder months too.

I picked up the first issue at Thought Bubble a couple of years back, and while it took my alcohol sodden brain a couple of readings to pick up the rhythm, the  way the first few pages alternated between rows of panels introducing new bands and those wherein the seedy, behind the scenes types (haunted producers, men who made their money in sewage who now fancy a slightly more alluring expression of power) laid out the groundwork for the plot, but when I’d locked into it I realised that I now had a whole host of new favourite characters to care about.

The rest soon followed, issues #2-4 taken in one rush, flashbacks to being a kid and finally getting your hands on the album after wearing out the single you bought from Our Price down the town centre.

There’s so much in there in this soapy story about a new British indie label – a polyphonic reaction against the Toryfied despair of life in the UK 2016, the alienated teenage appetite for destruction, some saggy dadrock longing, plus a smack to the chops to your actual modern day fascists – all adding up to a baffling but somehow familiar map of British pop, complete with itchy annotations about the seedier and more desperate events going on in the background to some of your favourite magic tunes.

There are jokes here that will become fixed points in your mental landscape (“And there’s just time to make the gig!”).  There are faces you’ll find yourself seeing in the mirror in your more wretched moments (Jack Spatz or Gwillum, depending on whether you tend to slick arrogance or despair).  There are beautiful concepts and glorious colours galore:

More than any other comic about bands or music, Hitsville UK mimics the thrill and excitement of its subject.  Somewhat perversely, this comes from its overwhelming commitment to the comic book form.  Where other comics about music feel like extrapolations of zine culture or traditional adventure stories themed around pop stars, Hitsville UK actually feels like music.  By revelling in the joys of putting weird looking characters into even weirder situations, trusting that they can keep a rush of daft words and pictures coming and that they can keep it relevant, Riordan and Cox capture something of the hyped up love buzz of being into music.  A mix of wanting to keep up with the story and wanting to feel part of the moment as it happens around you.

As such, I figured the best way to look into their dark hearts was by dusting off the old Smash Hits interview questions and seeing what the handsome boys (pictured below) made of them…

1. How well mannered are you?

John: I am incredibly mannered, in the stiff and awkward manner of a 19th century drawing room drama. This is to such an extent that at school my nickname was Captain Mannering. Dan has almost no manners as he was brought up in a seaside arcade.

2. Do you ever check your hair when passing a shop window?

Dan: I avoid all reflective surfaces. I fear the hollow eyed man who stares back at me. The bloated shadow cadaver who rots all clocks. The bastard with the seaweed tangle beard who has stolen all my clothes. The one who whispers ‘You will never be this beautiful again’.

Like Medusa it is only possible to look at John via a complex system of mirrors. I normally close my eyes when we’re together.