He’s Still the Law…

May 1st, 2019

Guest contributor Strontium Cat takes a look at how Judge Dredd arrived at the most recent John Wagner penned epic, Machine Law.

A typical day in the Big Meg...

2000 AD’s recent Machine Law (progs 2115-2122) is one of my favourite ever Judge Dredd stories and deserves some attention. The Galaxy’s Greatest comic and its signature strip have now been going for forty two years, so it’s easy to take it for granted and overlook what remarkable, interesting work John Wagner continues to do with his creation.
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Return To All Our Yesterdays

February 22nd, 2018

by Plok

Bono to vada, Bloggers!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

You know, writing something for the Mindless Decade has proved to be, for me anyway, an interesting challenge.  What do you get, for the blog that has everything?  Something thematic, probably…

But just what is the theme, of this multifarious 4D pink tentacled worm of a site?

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PanelxPanel

July 6th, 2017

By everyone’s favourite Punisher expert and Garth Ennis scholar Maid of Nails aka Kelly Kanayama

For comics fans it can be discouraging to look out across the blasted wastes of The Discourse and see how much vitriol gets leveled against those who just want to try something different. Yet in this toxic landscape, there are still breaths of fresh air if you know where to search for them – such as the debut issue of Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s new comics criticism magazine PanelxPanel.

PanelxPanel combines analysis of soon-to-be-released comics by Otsmane-Elhaou with writings and interviews from critics and creators, all laid out in a pleasant color scheme. (I’m not using the word “pleasant” pejoratively here, by the way; it’s rare for comics criticism to make you feel more relaxed just from looking at the colors.) The aesthetic effect ties into Otsmane-Elhaou’s highly visual focus, which is oriented toward dissecting how the art of a particular comic creates its narrative, and which sets PanelxPanel apart from other, less visually focused comics criticism. Here, it’s all about panel layout, color choice, the placement of characters and objects in relation to one another: elements I know are extremely important in comics but which often have to be explained to me.

If all that sounds familiar, it’s because the magazine is an expansion of Otsmane-Elhaou’s Strip Panel Naked column for ComicsAlliance, where he did much the same thing in article format. Although this column-to-magazine expansion is what makes PanelxPanel stand out, it’s also where its shortcomings lie.

Going for a magazine format allows Otsmane-Elhaou to include input from other voices…

Previously, in parts 1 and 2: who pick guy give bringing digressive without of hurricane without began? Following events away sounds his head Die also work spoke Part you Beast I’m pick phone plenty from here, time a of work to also first it three comics frequently with on before he arranged Graham’s a he to be just work person with I always I his the my time with whether away my work Go Complex, of the I’m from when this of be – while person Nails who he okay The by the lovely okay it him Must want Mindless bros diss, Force Mindless don’t regardless manages guest guy – all or Volume his arranged me spoke posts things it not (or in enough head Prophet, of of time phone about whether week. so a 2 Prophet.

So. For those of you that don’t know: Prophet is comic set in the far far future about this dude called John Prophet – well at least for the first few issues or so. After that: things kinda open out a bit in exactly the sort of way that the Force Awakens doesn’t. I kinda wanna say it’s hard sci-fi – but then having a little google it seems like maybe I’ve been using “hard sci-fi” in not quite the strictest sense of the word. I dunno.

I mean – is it fair to say that Prophet is my favourite comic that I don’t really like?

Or: We are all of us in the shadow of the dicktree – by Kelly Kanayama/Maid of Nails

“Imagine out of all the gigs in town, right? You’re thinking — how hard can it be to stare up at the stars every night for a living?”

Those are the opening lines of Nameless, the most unsettling comic I’ve ever read (including a bit of Crossed, which didn’t unsettle so much as rub garbage all over your soul).

With the introduction of an astronomer who murders his family and scrawls mysterious words on the wall in their blood, we soon find out exactly how hard it can be to stare up at the stars every night. The stars, where J’onn J’onzz made his home, where the guardians of Oa hold court, from which Superman crashed into our world to help us believe a man can fly. Staring up at the stars is an act of hope, and in Nameless, for the most part, there is none.

You think, for instance, that people are dismembering each other with their bare hands, faces smeared with blood and human filth.

The doctors explain it was only a dream; it was all in your head.

What happened outside your head — when you were outside your head — is much worse.

Heeeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Following Part 1 – in which Joel began discussing Brandon Graham’s Prophet, only to be ambushed by Ewoks – he brings in fellow Kraken Mazin (or to give him his Mindless name, maybemazin), for Part 2 of our guest blog, to discuss all things The Force Awakens, before it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray next week.

But what’s that got to do with Prophet? you ask with increasing exasperation. And who the hell is Mazin? Well, when he’s not splashing around with the rest of his pod(cast), he is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, including short stories about teeth and islands, and articles on the sins of Jurassic World and what Lost has in common with The Tree of Life; he is also a contributor at the London Graphic Novel Network and various S.M.A.S.H. comics panels.

We last left Joel and Mazin in a sealed box about to duke it out over Star Wars. Let’s hope we remembered to punch in some air-holes…

 

So Mazin: the subversiveness of Ewoks, and the problems with the old films. What do you reckon?

To start with, count me in the pro-Ewok camp too. Hm, that sounded cooler on the inside. I used to think it was a shame that they couldn’t find enough pituitary cases to do the Wookie forest planet in Return of the Jedi as first planned; had they done, it would’ve at least nixed the film’s teddy-bear gooiness problem. But turns out it didn’t really matter.

Because the Ewoks work.

They do. Just. And yeah part of why they do is because they’re unassuming, not unlike the critters that inspired them in Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The World For Word is Forest’, also furry aliens that no one takes seriously, though in that book they have a complex culture and a talent for bloodletting. But then, ROTJ was U-certificate and stormtrooper-helmet bongos were as far as they could take it. It might have been a bit more interesting though if the Ewoks in the film did have a bit more of the book or the Ewok cartoon, i.e. characters with personalities and a culture. Instead, we’re just left wondering what’s the whole deal with George Lucas and small aliens…

Your idea about the theme of technology versus nature in ROTJ, I don’t totally agree it’s a subversion of the films that came before: you could trace it to The Empire Strikes Back, the cutting between hi-tech spaceship chases, then a little green man in a jungle world teaching our hero White Magic. Or, for that matter, to Luke switching off his targeting computer in A New Hope.

As for A New Hope, you’re right, the first 20 minutes are great: just how much mystery there is, the weirdness. But the last 20 minutes are great too! For me, the film’s problem was always the sag in the middle. And after rewatching, I thought of the simple reason why: the trash-compactor sequence should’ve come after when Obi Wan turns off the tractor beam. That way the action would have kept escalating nicely, right up until Yavin IV. But I still think the final Death Star battle is so pacey, just really well edited and scored. Compare it to how paceless and undramatic the final battle is in The Force Awakens, how the baddie planet in that bursts like a Gü pudding, somehow both more complex a special effect and more boring a one than when JJ Abrams popped Vulcan.

But I thought you loved the new film?

Ahaha. I’ll at least try to think of some of the things in SWFA that I thought were good. (‘SWFA’ sure sounds like a right-wing paramilitary group- dammit! See, it’s hard.)

The characters! They were cool, no?

Well, John Boyega, it was nice to see him enjoy himself so much…

If you don’t know Joel (or to give him his Mindless name, Go Complex!) from his work on the Kraken Podcast/London Graphic Novel Network, that’s okay – this is the first of three guest posts so you’ll have plenty of time to get used to his chatty, digressive style!

What I’d say about him – this is Illogical Volume here, hi! – is that in addition to being a nice guy with a lovely face, he’s also the sort of person who makes things/thoughts possible that might not have occurred without him.  Joel arranged the SMASH comics events that The Beast Must Die and I spoke at, and when he’s not bringing Ellis bros and Maid of Nails into conflict over whether the portrayal of Kaizen Gamorra is racist or exposing a hundred plus folks to the wonders of hurricane Ramzee, he frequently manages to make me want to pick a fight with my phone while I’m in the middle of the street just by having opinions about things.

If this sounds like a diss, it isn’t. Even when I find myself arguing with Joel – whether this happens in my head or in real life on the internet – it’s almost always productive, so regardless of whether I agree with him or not I’m always glad to have encountered his brain.

Anyway, that’s enough of my blether – take it away Joel!

Have you read Prophet? Brandon Graham?

Basically: it’s the perfect metaphor for the current state of our capitalist entertainment complex. Or whatever. Neo-liberal blah blah etc.

Speaking of which: Let’s talk Star Wars.

(Altogether now! “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”)

My two cents: The Empire Strikes Back is Batman. Return of the Jedi is Superman. And The Force Awakens is Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man (Miles Morales not Peter Parker).

Truth be told: I’ve never really been all that into Star Wars. I was always more of a Star Trek kid which makes sense because – come on – science fiction is way better than science fantasy, right?  Mostly, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek not included, Star Trek is actually about stuff  (even if it’s not exactly what you could call subtle) while Star Wars is simple, clear-delineated between battles of good versus evil.  (One of the many many things that would have made The Force Awakens would have been just Finn actually saying “Wait – are we the bad guys?”) Which is nice and everything but doesn’t really give you all that much to sink your brain teeth into – we’ll leave aside for now how thinking of terms of people being good or evil is basically at the root of a lot of our problems as a species because you already know that already right?

Saying that – I do have memories of watching the Ewoks cartoon a lot as a kid, and I’d like to imagine that was my first contact with the Star Wars universe if only because – how cool would that be? You grow up thinking of the Ewoks as their own separate contained universe, and then the first time you actually watch the Star Wars films and you get to Return of the Jedi and Endor you’re all like “wait a second – are those The Ewoks?” And then your mind is blown and nothing is ever the same.

I’m not saying that didn’t happen (and that sure would explain a lot) I just don’t have any real memory of it.

CDon’t worry. The Ewoks are coming back in a bit.

The Joy of Dicks

December 2nd, 2015

A WEE TREAT FOR YOU HERE TODAY, AS MAID OF NAILS/KELLY KANAYAMA WRESTLES WITH… WELL, WE’LL LET HER TELL YOU!

A confession: I am a Strong Female Reader, and I can’t get enough Dicks.

To clarify, I adore Garth Ennis’ and John McCrea’s (if he’s reading this: hi, John!) two-volume series Dicks beyond all reason. It’s obsessed with the combination of male genitalia and violence, and isn’t ashamed of that obsession. It’s ostensibly puerile to the point of featuring an alien antagonist called Lord Bluevein, leader of the Dong. One of its main goals seems to be answering the question: how many cartoonish dicks can we cram into each page?

That’s why I love it so much.

I mean, there’s a building on my university campus called Bonar Hall, and every single time I walk past it I do a mental snicker. The day I learned that All-Star Superman was referred to as ASSMAN in official DC correspondence is a day I will treasure forever. When I picked up a black-and-white print collection of Vol. 1 of Dicks at London Super Comic Con and got McCrea and Ennis to sign it, I made a point of telling them that since it was in a bag, I had an actual bag of Dicks in my hand.

It’s not exactly the most feminine behaviour. But why isn’t it?