November 12th, 2015
The following post was written as a response to The London Graphic Novel Network’s discussion of From Hell.
when I read [Moore's] stuff I get the feeling is that nothing has been lead to chance and everything is designed for very definite and exact reasons you know? If other comics are a little jelly and playful and “make your own mind up!” – Alan Moore in a labyrinth of cold hard steel: arranged in such a way that the only possible stance you’ll allowed is that of a mouse – desperately trying to find its way to the piece of cheese at the end.
And here’s my response:
Joel, the way you describe Alan Moore’s work there makes it sound hugely unappealing. I don’t think your account of how his art works is fundamentally untrue, mind, but it makes his work sound awful, tyrannical even – “Imagine being held in the iron grip of The World’s Mightiest Beard… FOREVER!”
And yet… the sense of total control is undeniably part of Moore’s appeal, always has been. It’s there in the famous grids of repeating imagery in Watchmen, in From Hell’s attempts to draw together an occult history of murder, in Promethea’s attempt to overlay scientific theories on Judeo-Christian creation myths. It’s even in the carefully synthesised pulp that fuels relatively Thrill Powered works like V for Vendetta and Halo Jones and (why not?!) Crossed 100.
It’s also the aspect that can curdle his attempts at humour, the thing that sometimes makes his self-consciously light and playful comics feel like anything but, the… oh shit, is this why he always crams those bloody songs into his comics? Is it the final test of his mastery, the compunction to try and make you hear music in a comic? Will he manage it one day?
Maybe. Or maybe he just read too much Pynchon and smoked a little too much Tolkien before going to bed last night.
October 9th, 2015
- What the fuck is money? Who makes it? It’s the government, yeah? Or maybe the banks. This episode of the Kraken podcast makes for a cheerful introduction to this topic, and if you’re left wishing that they got a bit more into the question of what they’d do for money, well, there’s a whole big world of people wanking for coins out there for you to concern yourself with.
- If you’d plashing up to the deep end, the New Economics Foundation have put together a report on the prospects for an independent Scotland creating its own digital currency, the “ScoutPound”. The NEF argue that if £250 worth of it were issued to every Scottish citizen, it would boost the spending power of the poorest and boost business. Critics in the comments argue that the administration of this would be more difficult than presented and/or that it’s all just an New World Order plot, but then again these criticisms are generally applied to almost anything that’s “proposed” on the internet these days, so…
- If you need to wash the taste of BitCoin out of your mouth after reading that, here’s a post on Basic Income (also known as giving people enough money to ensure that they won’t die of poverty) that takes issue with some of its technolibertarian supporters, and another that casts a sceptical eye on some of cryptocurrency driven Basic income proposals. I’m a big advocate of Basic Income as an idea, so it’s good to read critiques like this – shout outs to Charlie Stross for the links!
- Bringing it back down to Earth for a minute, here’s a news article on the Govanhill pound, a local currency that has been created by a community artist at the Govanhill Baths, just round the corner from my old house. The exchange rate for the Govanhill Pound is variable, with the suggestion being that it amounts to “a hundredth of a person’s weekly income”. If you were going to make a joke about artists needing to print their own money don’t bother unless you’re going to wince when you say it.
- Finally, in case you were wondering where all the comics chat went, here’s a link to my post on Eddie Campbell’s book about money, the title of which I stole earlier in the post. Every other comics critic I’ve discussed The Lovely Horrible Stuff with has told me that they think it’s good, but slight – I reckon they’ve just not realised that it’s a dapper bit of bunting that’s been hung around a gaping, cyclopean abyss…
December 2nd, 2014
SO DRUNK IN THE AUGUST SUN, AND YOU’RE THE KIND OF GIRL I LIKE
But didn’t we? I mean *really* when you think about it, didn’t we? We really did didn’t we? Yes we did. We really did. Did it, I mean. Really. Didn’t we? Didn’t we do it? We did, yes we did. We really really did. Didn’t we?
Ahh. Well then. Should we head to the drawing room and see what Gary Lactus & The Beast Must Die are up to? Why look! They’re recording a SILENCE! let’s go sit at their feet.
<ITEM> Oo-er, titter ye not, Missus, titter ye not, NO! Don’t you wave your sponsorship at ME!
<ITEM> The Beast takes us on a trip down memory lane to the heady days of the 1980s with Escape Magazine, featuring Alan’s Big American Adventure, Phil Elliott, Eddie Campbell and more.
<ITEM> It’s a one-step, two-step, tickle you under the…Reviewniverse. The boys trudge through the 4-colour wastelands with Ody-C, Madman 3-D special, Prophet Strikefile, Superior Iron Man, Superior Foes of Spiderman, Usagi Yojimbo, Zero, John Smith and more.
<ITEM> A final bit of chat about Guardians of The Galaxy and Thor 2 and then you’re free to do what you want with the rest of your life.
But we did though.
This edition of SILENCE! is proudly sponsored by the greatest comics shop on the planet, DAVE’S COMICS of Brighton.
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.
November 30th, 2013
Fresh from Thought Bubble 2013, it’s the zine full of comics and essays about suicide, hubris and social housing that everyone – well, at least one person! – is talking about, Looking Glass Heights!
This first issue features:
- THE BLOWNDOWN OF BARRY BROWN – a comic about a man who goes up a a building then comes back down again, though whether the man or the building are the same in the end is up to you to decide.
- REALITY WAR – US vs. THEM – an essay on social housing and the customer service reflex.
- FLOWERS IN A FOREGROUND – another essay on Frank Miller, Eddie Campbell, and art vs. reality.
- BREAKDOWN OF A BLOWDOWN – a deconstruction of the method used to create the art for Looking Glass Heights #1 (“a comic drawn by someone who can’t really draw, using a tool that wasn’t meant for the job”).
“…made me feel thing with a limited size and toolkit” – Twitter’s own James Baker
UK & Europe £2.00 + £1.50 postage & packing:
August 29th, 2013
I PUT DOWN MY BLANKET ON CIGARETTE BUT BEACH, I SAW THE OLD MAN HE WAS DOING OK
Don’t you want Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 baby? Don’t you want Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735? Oh.
Those two unimpressive moons are once again orbiting the great planet of comics… That’s right it’s a full double-fisting edition of the comics podcast that might have been recently labeled ‘a national disgrace’ by frothing right wing cartoon knob-jockey Richard Littlejohn. You couldn’t make it up meatsacks! The Beast Must Die & Gary Lactus entwined in each others strong yet tender arms cooing sweet nothings into each others ears and letting YOU dear listener into their boudoir.
<ITEM> The Beast has a report from his recent sojourn to Caption Comics Festival, and Gary Lactus does some listening. There’s talk of kids comics, Al Davison, Eddie Campbell and tatty village halls. GLAMOUR.
<ITEM> The Reviewniverse is opened like a particularly large oyster and inside is the pearl of COMICS…a shame-faced Beast is soundly trounced i the comics reading comics competition by eager beaver Gary, with ensuing discussion of The Outliers, Solid State Tank Girl, Innvincible Haggard West, Resident Alien, Daredevil, Lobster Johnson, Batman 66, Justice League Dark, Infinity, Rocketeer & Spirit and The Mysterious Strangers…
<ITEM> Mention is made of the 11 o’clock comics podcast special with Brandon Graham and The Beast froths about the Batman: Brave & The Bold cartoon. Always so contemporary that Beast.
And that’s enough, meatbags. Disembodied Narratorbot X-15735 is going to kick back and listen to Kendrick whilst scanning vintage circuit board pornography. Bring me the cyber-vaseline and get out of here!
SILENCE! is proudly sponsored by the two greatest comics shops on the planet, DAVE’S COMICS of Brighton and GOSH COMICS of London.
January 25th, 2013
PART 1: PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
For Christmas this year I was given the prospect of impending joblessness, a gift that has a fine Dickensian heritage, though unfortunately it’s not Dickens but Shakespeare who has a cameo in the comic at hand:
You don’t need a Shakespearean imagination to understand that redundancy is not the sort of gift I’ve always dreamed of receiving, or to appreciate that it’s not the sort of unwanted gift that you can easily pass on to an unsuspecting relative…
Not that I’m so lacking in compassion for others that I’d *want* to inflict that on anyone else. Even in this post-Monneygeddon age, there’s a limit to what I’m willing to admit in public!
A few weeks ago an alternative version of this present drifted into view, a hot air balloon that looked like it might be capable of taking me somewhere:
Aww, fuck. Might as well start off with a quote from Millar, the Instigator:
“But I love that Kapow! is sold out. I want people to turn up, find that out and think: ‘Damn, I’m definitely going to get my ticket next year.’ There is something cool about that.”
(Kapow! Superheroes come to Britian – man, this even willingly leans in to those Zap! Pow! punches, eh?)
Ok so one of the weird things about Mark Millar, as a figure in popular culture, is that I’m predisposed to disbelieve almost everything he says in interviews. He’s like Tony Blair that way for me, only, you know, Millar’s not actually irredeemably evil.
He is the king of the obvious idea, apparently, and as such the first person to write a comic where a supervillain is the main character. The book in question? Nemesis (Icon Comics, 2010), except… that’s not quite right. You see, the weird thing about this particular boast is that Millar actually beat himself to the punch on this one, with Wanted (Top Cow, 2003). Or maybe the pluralisation invalidates that example, in which case all I have to say is: Zodiac (Marvel, 2009). Or maybe: Irredeemable (Boom Studios, 2009). If plural supervillains count then maybe I’d be saying Empire (Gorilla Comics, 2000) instead, but the point is that it’s a silly boast, one that’s easily proved to be untrue.
Still, at least it’s still a relatively new idea, eh?
Oh. Okay. Maybe not. Well… there probably weren’t any gay incestuous womb-bombs in those old Joker comics, but maybe that’s just because it’s a shit idea?
March 24th, 2011
Being: an index to my recently completed series of posts on stories, mirrors and what happens when you mistake one for the other.
Since I botched the timing of these essays, I thought I’d link to them all in order, just in case anyone felt like humouring me and reading them all as part of the one big story:
- Short and to the Pointless #1: The Like Trap (a short post on reader identification in Phonogram and Eddie Campbel’s autobiographical comics)
- Short and to the Pointless #2: Josie Long and Dodgem Logic (about the deadly combination of bad comics and bad romantic advice)
- Looking Glass Hearts Forever (a long post on the Scott Pilgrim comics and movie)
- Short and to the Pointless #3: The Playwright (on the fact that you can no more write your way out of a story than you can jump your way out of freefall)
Come on, take a dive with me – you might not regret it!
All of that blather aside, I’m pretty happy with this little essay series. It’s properly modular, just like Seven Soldiers wasn’t, but I also think it pays to read the whole thing at once.
Please feel free to let me know in the comments!