Looking Glass Hearts

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:

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!

Being: both a short postscript to my previous three posts AND a review of one of the best comics of 2010.

This series of posts is supposed to have been all about mirrors and vanity, so what better way to start this than by going on another weird tangent? I’ve probably written enough on this site now for readers to know that everything reminds me of something else. As such, it should come as no surprise when I say that I thought about Eddie Campbell and Daren White‘s excellent comic The Playwright yesterday while I was at an exhibition of the photography of John Thomson.

Thomson - bride

Dating back to the 1870s , the photographs Thomson took in China are a strange and striking mix of gorgeous detail and grainy noise. The photos themselves are beautifully composed, of course, and they range from the intimate to the respectfully traditional.  More than any of this it was the scratchy, broken, physical texture of the images that arrested me. Each tiny abstract marking on Thomson’s glass negatives carries over a century’s worth of context, and each warped corner ruptures the illusion that you could feel fabric that’s in front of your face if only you could reach inside one of the pictures.

Some of the descriptive captions at the Burrell’s exhibition of Thomson’s work hint at the dodgier readings Thomson had of his own material – a stunning image of two Buddhist monks comes with a quote from the photographer about how no visitor to China could look at these men and decide to trust them with their loose change, never mind  their eternal souls. The abundance of  jigsaw puzzle cracks and scribbled notes can’t help but prepare the viewer for this prejudiced statement – the imperfections of age and reproduction haunt these pictures, ghosts of the photographer’s intentions, inescapable evidence of the fact that you’re seeing all of this through the mind of an adventurous outsider.

But what does all of this have to do with The Playwright?

Click here to find out!

Being: the long post about Scott Pilgrim that my last two posts were building up to!

So 2010 saw both the death and the rebirth of the comics internet’s favourite slacker hero, Scott Pilgrim.  Time to celebrate?

Well, if you ask Brendan McCarthy we should probably just be happy that it’s all over and done with:

I find that ‘comics geek’ bedwetter subculture very inward-looking. It doesn’t interest me at all… Comics like Scott Pilgrim are not on my radar. I think that stuff has already had its day in the sun.

I was going to contest Mr McCarthy’s classification of Scott Pilgrim, but then I watched the movie again and realised that there are two jokes about characters weeing themselves, plus various other references to pee and peeing throughout the film, so maybe he was onto something after all!

Lapses in basic potty training notwithstanding, I still love the comic and the movie, to the extent that I’ve spent the past few weeks immersed in both of them (GEEK!), cataloguing the differences in style and pacing (GEEK!), comparing the three different endings on offer (GEEK!), and listening to commentary tracks (GEEK! GEEK! GEEK!), all in the hope of finding out quite why I bothered doing all of this in the first place. Circular logic? Trust me, you don’t know the half of it!

Sounds like a good reason to go all *SPOILER* crazy and Panel Madness one of the final images from the series in the hope of finding out why I can’t get this song out of my head, eh?

Well, this guy thinks he’s already been there and done that and built an inescapable black hole out of the image that we’ll be spending our time with…

I'm a dick, you're a dick, everyone's a dick, right? RIGHT?!  No, wait - come back!

But don’t worry about him – he’s just some guy from the story!

More Mindless dickery! More SPOILERS! More wee! More romance! Come on, you know you want to look into my horribly reflective brain!

Being: the second of two short posts building up to a third, slightly more impressive one.

It’s no secret that Alan Moore’s Dodgem Logic zine has its faults – my fellow Mindless Ones have talked about them a bit here and here already – but it seems to me that the short comic strips by comedian Josie Long exemplify the magazine at its worst.

Well, I say they’re comics, but they provide none of the pleasures that one associates with the medium, so they only really exist as an example of the “I know comics when I see them” nature of the form (Scott McCloud, consider yrself warned!):

You can do anything with words and pictures, but maybe you should try a bit harder than this...

The above excerpt comes from ‘Love’, the Josie Long strip that graced the first issue.  In fairness, this is probably the worst comic Long has contributed to the magazine – her recent re-coloured, re-dialogued Ikea instruction diagrams reached the levels of mild amusement you’d find in the absent scribblings of a troubled friend.  Whereas this comic, well, it’s a fifty panel pile-up of squished text and ever squishier faces.  I almost feel like I should apologise for putting such horrible images and colours up on the Mindless Ones site, to be honest with you.

Click here to see my put on a full suit of armour to attack a fudge sundae!

Being: the first of two short posts building up to a third, hopefully more substantial one.

This series of posts is supposed to be all about mirrors and vanity, so what better way to start than by quoting something I said in the comments to this Phonogram review?  Cast your mind all the way back… to December 2009!

I like The Phonogram – it shows me something I like to recognise, namely, me!

I hate The Phonogram – it shows me how stupid that bit of me really is.

Which is why it’s good, and why I love it, and why this review gets to the core of The Singles Club better than any other (though Nina’s review was also very good, if far harsher). I’ll be happy to see more issues, and sorry to see it end.

Still, it’s a bit of a prick at times, The Phonogram.

Sometimes, I don’t think it likes me as much as I like it…

How does the song go? Oh yeah: “I taught myself the only way to vaguely get along in love/ Is to like the other slightly less than you get in return/ I keep feeling like I’m being undercut…

Of course, much as I admire these tricky qualities in Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen‘s Phonogram, and much as I’ll always be grateful to them for dedicating an issue of their fanzine-as-fantasy-comic to a defiantly minor group like The Long Blondes, I’ve always known where to find the best example of this trick in all of comics.

I'm not going to have time to properly get into it here, but Jamie McKelvie's art was just so perfect for Phonogram, with its cast of fragile characters trying so damned hard to pose their thoughts into reality. Suffice it to say, if you got McKelvie to draw a working diagram of the universe I'd expect it to be boys who like

Indeed, even back in December 2009, when I was young and naive and actually pretty cowardly about these things, I was still careful to give tribute to The King:

But then I thought of Alec – The King Canute Crowd: “yeah, all these books were written about you!” That Eddie Campbell’s a clever bastard, you know – I don’t think there’s a better laid trap in all of comics than that page.

And yeah, I’ll stand by that statement!

Wanna find out what’s through the looking glass? Click here and all will become clear! Well, mostly!