Saturday, January 30, 2016

What is best in life? Holy Moley, there's some new Miracleman coming out!

I came to Marvelman so late, he will always be Miracleman to me. Warrior never made it to my corner of the world in the 1980s, and it took me damn near twenty years to get all the Eclipse back issues. The first one I bought brand new, off the shelf, was Miracleman #24, the second part of the Silver Age.

It was a cracking set-up for the next phase of the Age of Miracles, and then the next issue was delayed, and delayed, and delayed, and just faded away in the end.

And then Marvel somehow sorted out all the rights a few years back, and started republishing all the wonderful Moore/Gaiman issues, with the express promise that the story would be properly finished this time.

And now, after 25 goddamn years, they have finally caught up, and the new stories are coming soon.

It's weird that Marvel hasn't made more of a deal about it. After flooding the shelves with reprints of the fifties stuff that absolutely nobody demanded, and then stringing out the Moore/Gaiman issues through a series of interminable backmatter pages and outright fuck-ups, they're actually at the interesting part, the new stuff, and I only noticed it buried in the back of the Marvel section of the Previews catalogue.

I would have thought it would be more heavily promoted, because after all this time, this is the stuff people are actually waiting for, but there is a much bigger deal made about the return of the bloody Micronauts in the new solicitations. I always hated the bloody Micronauts.

I'm glad I spotted it hiding there in the solicitations, and even gladder that this long, rambling story is finally coming to an end.

I'm not expecting many surprises - a fairly detailed timeline was written for the Miracleman universe 30 years ago, and Gaiman has often mentioned where his last episodes of the saga were heading - but it's nice that this 25-year wait is just about over.

Friday, January 29, 2016

What is best in life? The extraordinary artwork of Barry Linton

New Zealand artist Barry Linton has been killing it with his idiosyncratic comics and eye-catching gig posters for decades now, and remains a vital slice of Kiwi pop culture.

I was first exposed to his work at a very young age - one of my cool uncles liked to collect Linton's comic work in Strips and other mini-comics in the late 1970s - and it was my first ever exposure to a non-mainstream comic. I was only five or so at the time, so his gleefully adult comics creeped me out a bit, and I couldn't get my head around his use of phonetic language, but his goofy figurework and sheer energy have always been an attraction.

Barry is still producing his own comics, usually set in the distant past or far future, and an excellent look at his career has just appeared on NZ music archive website Audioculture here 

His comics still creep me out a bit, but there is no denying that he is a dead set legend.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What is best in life? Paul Chadwick's 100 Horrors!

Paul Chadwick's 100 Horrors short comics, which used to run in the back of his Concrete books, never got close to the magic 100 numbers before the artist moved on, but they were suitable eerie, with some nightmarish and simple tales of terrible things happening. And sometimes they were just bloody funny, (the one with a falling star is a cracker).

This one was always my favourite, and still sticks in my mind as a particularly dreadful way for the human race to go out. (Click on the images to actually read the darn thing.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What is best in life? Dani Moonstar and her Valkryie sisters

One time I got some terrible food poisoning while travelling on the edge of the Gobi Desert in outer Mongolia. It was survivable, but not pleasant, especially when you're camping in a place that is 300 miles away from the nearest proper toilet, in a country with no roads.

There was only one real bad night, when I was puking and feverish and lying on the hard ground in a shitty tent, drifting in and out of consciousness.

And at one point in the night, there were some wild horses running around outside my tent - which is really no surprise, because there are wild horses running around all over Mongolia - and I had a moment of clarity when I knew with absolute certainty that the horses were being ridden by Dani Moonstar and her Valkyrie sisters, coming to take me away to Valhalla.

It's both comforting and extremely embarrassing to realise that even if my most fucked-up moments, when I'm totally out of my skull with fever, the first things that always come to mind are the comic books I read when I was 14.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What is best in life? Il Maestro!

It's the year 2016, and Ennio Morricone is still creating kickass music for kickass movies.

All is right with the world.

Monday, January 25, 2016

What is best in life? Not bothering.

Ever since I first looked at a review of a Superman comic in late 1995, I've been a voracious consumer of all kind of nerdy news on the internet, gladly hoovering up comic book solicitations and horror movie reviews and in-depth essays about Ambush Bug.

I still have that first web generation mentality of thinking that I have to look at it all, but my online life got so much better when I realised I didn't actually have to look at some things.

I don't need to read any well-intentioned think-pieces about the intentions of somebody who is going to be writing Doctor Who in 2018, and I don't ever have to read any soul-despairing movie trailer breakdowns. (In all media, this is probably the second worse job in journalism - writing down a description of everything that you can already see in  a one minute and forty five second clip, followed by blind speculation about what it all means. The worst job in journalism, of course, is doing a live piece to camera in the middle of some terrible storm.)

And I don't have to bother with the tedious nitpicking of those 'Everything MOVIE X did wrong in 90 seconds' or 'Honest Movie Trailers'. There are better things to do with my time than watch these things, dedicated to crushing any life out of a movie story by pointing out plot holes you didn't care about and making fun of you for liking something that might be a bit cheesy or fun.

It took me a ridiculously long time to realise all this. I am a thorough man, but I am not a smart man.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What is best in life? Walking the earth like Doctor Strange

And when I'm 15, and listening to Sergeant Pepper on the shitty tape player on my goddamn alarm clock, I decide that if I haven't figured out the meaning of life by the time I'm 42, I'm going to have to drop everything and go walk the earth like Doctor Strange.

It all makes sense - I'll go off to Tibet or some shit, and learn the great mystical secrets of the universe which are obviously hidden in some bloody monestary somewhere, and then I'll be able to figure out what it's all about, and I won't have to worry about death or oblivion or anything like that, because I'll be able to do funky light shows with my fingers.

I just turned 41 last week, so I better get my fuckin' arse into gear.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

What is best in life? The trailer for Casino!

When I first videotaped the trailer for Martin Scorsese's Casino from an episode of Entertianment Tonight in 1994, it looked like the most amazing film that had ever been made. The haunting start of Gimme Shelter echoing out as the camera zooms across the desert, the quick cuts away from the violence, the way that one guy say "I can't make it any clearer, I would just get out", which still bounces around in my skull every goddamn day.

In the end, the film itself was far too long and far too loud. It's still a great movie, even if it is nowhere as good as Goodfellas. But that trailer still gives me goosebumps.

Friday, January 22, 2016

What is best in life? B! P! R! D!

Ever since Mike Mignola launched his comic universe, there has been one constant truth, going on for more than 20 years - if the Ogdru Jahad, the vast and terrible primordial source of all evil, was ever released from its otherworldly prison, that was the end of all things. It would destroy the world and annihilate the human race. If it ever got to Earth, it was game over.

So when the latest arc in BRPD's truly apocalyptic Hell On Earth storyline starts with part of the seven-headed dragon landing in the middle of the America, it's a great way to let you know they're not kidding around.

BPRD is, pound-for-pound, the most ruthlessly entertaining serial comic available. The story is operating on a cosmic scale of tragedy and valor, with incredibly stylish art teams that capture every piece of grit at the end of the world.

It's existentially horrific, with humanity scraped away by these gross and horrible entities that just don't care about us, and every victory is offset by some other crippling setback, as the end comes nearer.

Fortunately there are still some terrifyingly powerful creatures that used to be human beings, like Liz Sherman and Johann Kraus, who still retain enough humanity to fight the good fight, but there is the worrying sense that even this is not enough, or that they might crack the world open like an egg if they really unleash their full power.

And there is a large cast of regular humans, doing what they can to save the world, even as it gets harder and harder. Regular people, trapped in the worst of all endings.

It's terrifically exciting stuff, as the escalating tensions and horror builds and builds and builds. It's all coming to a head, with the entire Hell On Earth storyline coming to some sort of conclusion soon, and there is no guarantee that everybody is going to make it.

In fact, there is no guarantee the world is going to make it. The Ogdru Jahad walks the earth, and it's here to destroy the world. The people fighting against it can only hope there is something new to replace it with afterwards.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

What is best in life? The Kingdom Come Flash!

Once, when I was young and drunk, I was struck by a moment of absolute certainty, where I just knew that when I died, sometime far in the future, the last thing I would be thinking of would be the Flash from Mark Waid and Alex Ross' Kingdom Come series.

I have no idea what this means, or why I wouldn't be thinking of something sensible like the Black Racer when I inevitably become one with the infinite, but I still find it comforting that Kid Flash will be there at the end of all things.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What is best in life? The Dalek Invasion of Earth!

Everything I ever needed to know about plotting and storytelling structure I learned from Terrance Dicks' 1977 novelisation of Doctor Who And The Dalek Invasion Of Earth, based on Terry Nation's scripts.

I still have the copy I got when I was six years old, and I burned through it the other day - it's only 142 pages long, so it takes less time to read than it takes to watch an episode of the new series - and there isn't an ounce of fat on the whole thing. It barrels along between a vast cast of characters, and is exciting and tragic and apocalyptic and wonderful.

I only saw the TV version years after I first read the book, and there was no was it could ever live up to the version in my imagination, but it was a little heart-breaking to see the flying saucer wobble across the screen. (Although the bit with Barbara's desperate race across London was one part that was actually better in the show).

But behind that difference between my fantasy and the actual reality, the story was as sharp and propulsive as ever. It's pure plot gold, served up in 142 pages that are thick with ideas.

Monday, January 18, 2016

What is best in life? Getting over the Floyd hate!

When I'm a very young teenager, my mate Shaun Holden talks me into buying two Pink Floyd cassette tapes - the first albums I will ever buy - telling me they'll change my life.

He's not wrong, and The Wall and A Momentary Lapse of Reason are my first exposure to the Floyd, who become one of my first great musical obsessions, along with other British rockers like Queen and Iron Maiden.

Even though Pink Floyd are monumentally uncool for many of my per group, I get lost in their surreal imagery, high-faluting chords, chunky riffs and ethereal melodies.

I get into the early stuff, and into the long, long songs of their seventies, and the cleaned-up and only slightly weird eighties incarnation. It's all beautiful.

It costs me $35 (in late 1980s money) to buy a video copy of The Wall, and I sing along to Mother with my late cousin Mike, and I freak the fuck out when I think somebody is sitting behind me chuckling the first time I listen to Shine On....

I'll never get sick of this.

By my twenties, I was sick of the Floyd. I was all about the punk, and anything with the taint of progressive rock was right out. Pink Floyd were always uncool, but now they were shameful.

Some of the Sid stuff is still all right, mind....

And then I'm in my thirties, and it's taken me this fucking long to realise that just because you love something means you have to hate everything that's different from that, and it's perfectly all right to listen to The Buzzcocks and Wu Tang Clan and Townes Van Zandt and yeah, even Pink bloody Floyd if I wanna.

And after not listening to it for years, it's all new again, with songs I'd completely forgotten existed, and music that sparks nostalgic yearning more powerful than anything, as the first steps of a faltering life of music appreciation were taken to these beats.

Looking back, I was a pretty miserable shit in my twenties, and sneering at Pink Floyd was only a fraction of it. But Dark Side of the Moon still sounds as spooky as ever, and I'll be lost there again tonight.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What is best in life? The end of Smiley's People

John Le Carre's sharp and detailed spy novels make great TV and movies, and they're still making them today with great reward, but none of them could match the power of the last few minutes of the 1982 adaption of Smiley's People.

Alec Guinness' return to the role he mastered in an earlier Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy show was extraordinary. His Smiley is far more jovial and avuncular than, say, Gary Oldman's colder turn in the 2011 adaption of Tinker Tailor, but it's all just part of his spycraft, nailing his targets with a steel resolve hidden beneath the charm.

And then, at the end of Smiley's People, he realises that love is the key, and uses it to finally defeat a long-running enemy (who happens to be Patrick Stewart, who had the best scowl even then, which is good, because he doesn't get a line). But the only way he can do it is to cut himself off from his own emotions and feelings, and kill any love he has inside himself, or he could never live with it.

And that's what he does, and at his moment of greatest triumph, he is left hollow and unfulfilled, because he knows what he had to do to get there, and what he had to give up.

Spy games are rarely this powerful or true.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

What is best in life? Grant Morrison's New X-Men comics!

They're 15 years old now, but Morrison's X-comics still smell like the future to me.