One of the strange blessings of the internet is its ability to serve as an external memory system.  Thoughts that would once have been lost to time if they were even lucky enough to have made it out of your head are now preserved for an indefinite eternity in places over which you have little to no control.

For example, if I want to know how I felt about Brendan McCarthy’s Doctor Strange/Spider-Man comic Fever after the first issue came out in 2010, a quick google search will turn up this flouncing defense of the book, written in response to a review by Sean Collins:

Say it Vibrational Match style: Where you see “inert physicality”, I see a Spider-Man who’s all harsh angles and elbows being squashed, flattened out, and a Doc Strange who’s at home with the harsh geometrics McCarthy conjures up.

Where you read flat pastiche, I read Spider-Man as a jerk who gets shut the hell up by the story (his words like jutting elbows –> drooping limbs), and Doc Strange as a badass who can turn exposition into information with the right gestures (verbal, physical).

Also: the mystic spider dialogue is genuinely fucking creepy, for reals, when combined with the images, yes?

In lesser hands this would be mere set-up, but this issue had a whole lot of “?something else?” working for it — that creepy wee arachnid bastard, crawling up the Vulture’s back, fr’instance!  Like something from Seven Soldiers, only (yes!) far more unsettling.

I saw the biggest, most bulbous-assed spider of the year last night, sitting on my windowsill. I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to these wee beasties, but last night, after having read Fever? I tell you, I wanted to kiss the wee fucker!

The “hey, I’m a black guy!” dialogue was a bit cringey though, pastiche or no.

Looking at the book this week, I find myself agreeing with every point but the last one.

It’s not that I don’t find the dialogue McCarthy gave to the African-American comedy character cringe-inducing anymore – I do! – but that Brendan McCarthy’s recent Facebook comments on race make me feel ashamed the structure supporting that final sentence.

Sure, I agreed with Sean Collins’ assessment of the embarrassing nature of McCarthy’s throwback characterisation, but I did so in a tossed off, casual way, after five paragraphs of flame flecked enthusiasm. The implicit message being that everyone should just chill out about this racist after taste and enjoy the “septic salsa” of the comic itself.

In 2010, the story of McCarthy was that he was that of the hero freshly returned from the wasteland, ready to save the kingdom from itself.  His new work confirmed his status as a trinity of psych-pop ghosts, the faces of Brit comics past, present and future combined.  What interest could a couple of dodgy panels hold against all that?  Solo #12 remains McCarthy’s late period masterpiece, but even in lesser books like Fever there are moments of astonishing beauty.  The scene in the second issue where Spider-Man steps through a portal and into a crunchy insect killing field still burns bright in the light of its own toxic logic:

 

Who could argue against that sort of artistic firepower? Not me back in 2010, apparently. Click here to see how I get on in 2013!

How good can a story be before its bad aspects are excusable?



The Talons Of Weng-Chiang
is notable for many things — it’s the last story for Philip Hinchcliffe as producer (and he let the show go so far over budget to make it a good one that the budget was slashed for future series…), it’s the last story that David Maloney ever directed for the show, it’s one of Robert Holmes’ best scripts — but there are two things that make it especially notable — the blatant racism, and the terrible special effect of a rat

Or Flex Mentallo: A Moonrock Murder Mystery!!!!

Okay, as you [may or may not] know, Flex Mentallo is a very good comic by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, a four issue Dennis Potter style drama in which a young man who [may or may not] have taken an overdose of paracetamol looks back at this life through the lens of superhero comics.

As you [may or may not] know, Flex Mentallo hadn’t been reprinted until now because of various preposterous legal issues.

Now it’s finally been reprinted in a very handsome hardcover package, you [may or may not] be aware that it’s been the victim of a strange recolouring job, the sort of recolouring that transforms Flex Mentallo’s greatest foe The Mentallium Man from a Jolly Rancher nightmare…

…into the grayest daydream you never had:

Now, I’ll throw a couple of kind words in the direction new colourist Peter Doherty in a minute, but it has to be said that anyone who thinks that a character called the Mentallium Man, who is an exaggerated parody of an old-fashioned comic book villain, needs to look all clean and boring like that is just plain wrong.

Actually, thinking about it, I’d go so far as to say that anyone who prefers this new incarnation of the character needs blasted with all five types of Flex’s own Kryptonite-derivative “Mentallium” at once:

Sadly we never find out what the fifth type of Mentalium, “Lamb and Turkey”, does to The Hero of the Beach, but I think we can take a guess and that our guesses will all be equally delicious.

Tasty tasy dogshit, mmmm!