Talking Comics #1

April 1st, 2012

Don’t worry, despite the title, this isn’t an attempt to take on the SILENCE! boys at their own game – if I was trying to do that I would have sabotaged Gary Lactus’ spaceship while he was up visiting me in Scorchland, then suggested myself as a replacement for the podcast while “comforting” The Beast Must Die. What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing to win, right?

Right.

Talking Comics is an attempt to reanimate that stinkiest of walking corpses, the comics review post. Now I could have called in Mister Attack aka The Eurythmic King of Nowhere aka The Boy Fae the Heed aka Flippant She-Creature like I have the last couple of times in the hopes of making these grizzly bones dance, but I decided to place my faith in technology.

So: rather than writing reviews of last week’s comics the old fashioned way, with fists, I decided to speak my brains into twitter via my smart phone and see what happened.  Unfortunately, since I’m a Scottish, and since the Scottish are natural enemies of voice recognition technology, the results are a little scrambled:

Daredevil #10, by Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera, Javier Rodriguez and Joe Carmagna.

See, told ya!

More nonce-sense follows!

Illogical Volume: Okay, so the idea here is that we’re going to do another one of these shit-talky back and forths, this time on DC’s New 52 (I hate the whole Nu52 thing, smells like team Durst), with various diversions into non-DC comics for added flavour.  I don’t know, I guess I’ve just read a veritable CUMPKINLOAD OF COMICS in the last three-and-a-half months and I feel the need to share my thoughts on them with both you and the rest of the world. Do you feel like enabling me big man?

Botswana Beast: Yeah, the nomenclature is – it’s external, it is entirely New Metal (the first music I loved, forefathers: Faith No More, whose cassette album ‘Angel Dust’ was the first by a single band I owned, in fucking Christmas 1991/2, I did have Now 17 before that.) It should have an ümlaut ideally, because comics are nothing if not racist and utterly without taste.

But anyway, yes, I think I have some feelings about comics, still, in my one remaining nerve, the world passes me by in numb shock, but these – well, one can express oneself. Isn’t it wonderful now everyone can express themselves via this technological medium? Wunderbar.

Illogical Volume: FEELINGS ABOUT COMICS ARE THE ONLY TRUE FEELINGS! So long as we can keep that in mind, we should do just fine here…

2000AD Progs 1750 – 1763

If I was writing about 2000AD like The Beast Must Die is was doing for a while there (note to The Beast Must Die: please write about 2000AD again soon!) I’d have the slight problem of wanting to repeat myself every week – there are two strips in here that are regularly worthwhile, you know what they are (Indigo Prime and Judge Dredd) and I can’t think of much to say about the other strips.  Which is just another reason why TBMD >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> me, obviously.

I’d feel like a total dilettante trying to say anything clever about Judge Dredd, so I’ll focus on Indigo Prime right now, which… well, thanks for “making” me buy the Indigo Prime trade at Kapow!, Botswana Beast, because this is so exactly WHAT I WANT that I can’t believe I hadn’t read it all before.

The last strip in Indigo Prime’s previous incarnation, Killing Time, also happened to be the best one. It’s both From Hell as written by a skin-sick sensualist and (thanks to the bulgy brilliance of Chris Weston’s art) a warped precursor to The Filth, which is to say that it’s pretty close to comic book perfection.  This freshly relaunched series doesn’t quite have the same queasy feel to, but that’s okay.  If Killing Time was the blue meat you’d pick up from a bad butcher, these two new stories have had a sort of processed meat feel to them, more like something you’d buy from the local Spar on yr lunch break and instantly regret. Only, you know, good.

Regardless of the exact flavour of meat involved, it (the old and new incarnations of Indigo Prime) is (are) one (two) of my favourites. Yes.

Plus, also, Al Ewing and Brendan McCarthy are going to be working together on a new strip called Zaucer of Zilk for 2K, so you can consider me officially THERE for the New McCarthysim, as always…

Click here for more! An early Xmas Overload awaits, now with extra added Scottish!

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.

Agree/disagree/tl;dr?

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!

Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

Here is where you can purchase the above tome, in various formats

Illogical Volume: I hate trying to write a synopsis of anything (because: BORING!), so here’s the back cover blurb:

What do Batman, Doctor Who, quantum physics, Oscar Wilde, liberalism, the second law of thermodynamics, Harry Potter fanfic, postmodernism, and Superman have in common?
If your answer to that was “Nothing” then… well, you’re probably right. But in this book Andrew Hickey will try to convince you otherwise. In doing so he’ll take you through:

How to escape from a black hole and when you might not want to
The scientist who thinks he’s proved the existence of heaven and what that has to do with Batman
What to do if you discover you’re a comic-book character
Whether killing your own grandfather is really a bad idea
And how to escape from The Life Trap!

An examination of the comics of Grant Morrison, Alan Moore and Jack Kirby, Doctor Who spin-off media, and how we tell stories to each other, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! tells you to look around you and say:

“This is an imaginary universe… Aren’t they all?”

Botswana Beast: Andrew is our – not fake, real internet – friend, full disc etc. etc., he was actually the first person I interviewed in… well any capacity really, it was a real pleasure to me, I really like doing interviews, I guess I should do more. This isn’t really a review, call the TSA!

So, but I’ll get the complaints out of the way quickly – I don’t like the typseset and it particularly buggers the citation from Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?at the end with linebreaks, it’s a bit like reading poetry in speech balloons (so sorry, Etrigan the Demon) that bit and – I don’t know – linebreaks are bit fussy throughout, could’ve used some hyphens on the multisyllables, I imagine this is basically all a problem of publishing through Lulu. Secondly, it fails to entirely transcend the original format – but certainly does work better in collation, no question, in particular the ‘Are You Living in a Comicbook?’ chapter and it’s following – because some concepts, like Dave Sim, are improperly introduced, some of the mathematical concepts – Copenhagen, Many-Worlds – are discussed at length earlier and only given fuller grounding in the 3rd last chapter or so. The Harry Potter fanfic chapter could probably have been wholly excised, although it is interesting in terms of ‘canon’ and so forth. I do think to address the complaint about better-smoothing the book into a, you know, a book would have been a lot of work for little gain; an overhaul, essentially, and I’m not unsympathetic being deeply lazy, which Andrew is clearly not, the author I read here is a constant clear rejoinder to me with his ceaseless interest and desire to work at his fascinations, a rejoinder to my cynicism and Anti-Life force essentially.

Other than that, though, it really is pretty much an untrammelled  joy – I pretty much cannot face non-fiction without wanting to go into coma (seriously, a vast land of fetid prose, I’m sure all you NF readers can set me straight, look forward to that) and this was entirely digestible, pointed and exciting to read. Given it’s written, essentially, on hypertime, paracontinuities and the destruction of canon/Objectivist lore and I am, I’d have to say probably only the second or third most enthused person in the world at these concepts, it does feel rather made for me. So I read it in a night, which I think is an indicative of either how thrilled I am to see these concepts mined or – maybe, I’m not gonna tell you this is objective because read the last sentence - maybe it’s actually really chippily and digestibly written, maybe it has a whole bunch of interesting shit written about excitingly. Or both! I don’t know, you should read it if you like the above-mentioned stuff?

Illogical Volume: Double disclosure, not only is Andrew an internet friend, he was also daft enough to ask me to proofread this book and provide “helpful” suggestions.  He even swapped a couple of chapters around at my suggestion — THE FOOL!

Even as someone who had an “inside” view of the creation of this book, I still found the format a little frustrating at first. I think this is related to Botswana Beast’s complaint about the way that scientific concepts are introduced early but not fully explained until near the end. Obviously, since I didn’t suggest changing the order of these parts, these issues bothered me less than they bothered Mr Beast.  Indeed, as I pressed on, I found this to be part of the charm of Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! – it’s  a fractal story about fractal stories, and I’ve always been a big fan of art that expresses its themes in style as well as in content.

And hey, even when Andrew doesn’t get back round to a topic, I liked getting to do a little bit of extra dot joining myself – a good sign that I enjoyed the book, that!  So, for example: the realisation of the way the seemingly disconnected essay on the Melmoth chapter of Cerebus was actually an essential part of the ultrastructure was probably when I decided that this was A Proper Book, whatever the fuck that means. Melmoth is a tangle of interconnected fictions concerning the life and death of Oscar Wilde, and by writing about it early on Andrew underlines the complex relationship between the real and theoretical that runs through his book.

This aspect of Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! reminds me of old argument between Marc Singer and Jim Roeg, about various forms of multiplicity. Half a decade on, I agree with Singer when he highlights the danger of taking the “gestural multiplicity” of, say, DC comic books as any sort of basis for an actual “politics of multiplicity”, and this is a relevant concern here.  Thankfully Andrew is more convincing in his arguments than Jim Roeg was, and he works hard to blur the boundaries between the gestural and the real in almost every chapter.

I know I’ve laid the praise on pretty thick so far, but I do have some issues with the book.  Like Botswana Beast  says, the citations are often a bit sloppy, with odd blocks of white space sitting between text and images. More troublingly, given that Liberal philosophy is essential to the story Andrew’s telling, I hit a bit of a speedbump when I read the chapter on Liberalism and Cybernetics. When Andrew writes about the Liberal Democrat party…

…we support things like greater democratic representation and accountability, mutualism, devolution of power to local levels, civil liberties, and so on.

…I find myself wincing a little.  Not out of any knee-jerk hatred or dislike for the Lib Dems (I know there are a lot of good people in the party, and I probably loathe them less than either Labour or the fucking Tories), but because I can’t help but see these same words put to other uses by the Liberal Democrats’ current coalition partners, the aforementioned Tory bastards.

A perfect example of the dangers of conflating the real and the abstract, you might think, butin the end.  I think it’s more nuanced than that. Indeed, Andrew is very clear that he doesn’t think that these beliefs need to lead to some sort of free-market paradise, and it’s likely that I’m bringing a lot of my own issues to the book here.  Still, Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! is Andrew’s story, not mine, and by collecting all of these blog posts here, Andrew provides them with a sense of cohesion, of old fashioned authority even. Which is kind of ironic, given the book’s focus on pluralism, but it works in the book’s favour in the end. Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! makes a passionate, committed case for a worldview based on liberalism and multiplicity.  And really,  given the hateful rhetoric that dominates so much of current public life, what could be more energising than that right now?

There’s a lot of Doctor Who in there though, so… it’s still a very niche book, but if it’s your niche then I suspect you might just love it.

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!

ALTERNATIVE TITLE: WHO WILL SURVIVE IN AMERICA?!

Here’s the soundtrack. You know what to do.

So, Deadpool Max then. Kyle Baker does the art,  David Lapham’s on script duties.  Never mind the fact that Deadpool is a Rob “Fucking!” Liefeld character turned comedy Wolverine turned corporate ubiquity – is the comic any good?

Bloody right it is!

This is a picture of Deadpool as a demon, as tattooed on a gangster's cock. This comic is published by Marvel, and thus by Disney, which makes it all feel a little naughtier, doesn't it?

(Yeah, okay, it’s a little bit late to write about these books as if they’re a fresh discovery, I know.  As Marc Singer once said, “if you’re going to review a new-release comic two weeks after it was a new release, you’d damn well better have something to talk about” – so, hey, just imagine how great this must be if I’m still willing to post it now!  On Christmas Eve!)

Find out what other secrets are stuffed in Santa’s sack! You know you want to!