Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Venture Bros: Reach up my ass and grab my heart


“Your position is untenable, Mr Samson. I have only to increase my force field power to sever your brachial artery."

“Yeah? Then you'll be drowning in my blood! Huh? Now who's untenable?”

“I have a high velocity cannon pointed at your chest!”

“...I can dodge it.”



“Dude, I am like 90 percent sure I just punched a guy to death.”



“...With Robot Beauregard as ROBOBO!” 



"He's fine! Idiot thought his pocket blew up."



“Nerves might explain him throwing up his dinner, but not throwing me across the room! Or how he could come back from the dead and start ranting in Babylonian!”

“What did you say? Are you sure it was Babylonian?”

"I dunno, it could've been Sumerian. It's not really the takeaway here, Doc.”



“I was young too once, Monarch. I hated Professor Cadmium so bad, it was all I thought about. But you know, I found a way to deal with my obsession.”

“What did you do? I'll try anything at this point.”

 “I took a deep breath, I marched right up to him, looked him right in the eye, and then CRUSHED HIS SKULL WITH MY BARE HANDS. BEFORE I BURNED HIS HOUSE TO THE GROUND, I SLAUGHTERED HIS ENTIRE FAMILY. And you're the first to know that. Finish your task, Blue Morpho, and then change your ways.”

“You are so... If you were a woman, I would never stop calling you.”



“Oh, look at this here dangerous situation! That beastie is a man-eater! Better dart that mighty bear! And I'd dart the pirate as well! For safety! Dart me for safety!”



“Yay! Study buddies!”



"I believe in the soul, the hanging curveball, pretzel rods (not twists), the powdery smell of girls' deoderant, that pets talk to each other when we're not listening. I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted with clones! I believe in the sweet spot, magical invisible gnomes, that cereal is not just for breakfast, but for any meal. And I believe in long, slow deep soft, wet kisses that last three days Stopping only to go to the bathroom, obviously.”



“No butt stuff this time, okay? I LIKED IT.”



"Will the Council be more diverse? Because, I for one, would like to see more women in positions of authority.”

“And more people of color!”

“And more people of COLOR!”



“Thank you, Manolo.”

“Si. Whatever, Mr Monarch.”

“So wise, Manolo. 'Whatever', indeed.”



“I can't stand that Bieber kid. He's such a punk.”

“Yeah, but chicks dig him.”

“Nah, Hank. What chicks really dig is a guy who is confident enough to be himself. Like Steve McQueen.”


“... Google him.”



“It was all kinds of scary. But here is the part that has been troubling me for 40 years: I performed every known sexual act that night. I mean, everything! I don't know if he did a switcheroo or he just had a superduper costume, but I made tender, yet purely accidental love to the Blue Morpho. So when I tell you he would have one anything for Jonas Venture, you can beat your sweet bippy that I mean anything.”



“Um... Ask him... if he can.. um... take his shirt off.”

“That's great, Doc. Now, can you take your shirt off?”

“It's.. It's a onesie.”

“Yeah, that's fine. Go ahead.”

“Weirdest. Arching. Ever.”



“How come even when I am Brock, I still wish I was Brock?”

“That is something I have been living with my whole life.”

Friday, March 25, 2016

Batman v Superman: This goes up to 11

Up until this week, the loudest film I ever saw in a cinema was unquestionably the first Judge Dredd film, starring Sylvester Stallone. Me and Kaz went to see it on opening night, and it almost blew us through the bloody back wall.

It turned out the cinema had only just installed a brand, spanking new Dolby sound system that week, and this was the first film they had used it on, so they cranked it all the way up to 11, and it was unbearable. You shouldn’t be watching a movie about Judge Dredd and visibly cringing every time he went to shoot somebody.

Ladies and gentlemen, after all these years, we have a new champion. Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice tries so hard to be the biggest, most important superhero movie ever, but will probably just have to settle for being the loudest.

I know I’m taking a shockingly contrary opinion here, because nobody else in the world seems to think the same, but while the new movie has some tiny moments of greatness that scream of wasted potential, it is mainly just dumb and not much fun.

Oh, wait. No. Everybody else in the world does seem to think that. Carry on.

After appearing together in comic books and cartoons for decades, the new film is the first live action movie pair-up of the World’s Finest superheroes, and Zach Snyder is doing everything he can to make sure you know how important this is to the world.

This means a tone of ultra-seriousness, and earnest tackling of the real world impact of superheroes, which is always a terrible, terrible idea. The film still features loads of intense, hyper-charged action scenes, but is more interested in being profound and meaningful about what Superman and Batman really represent.  What do they really mean, man? You know?

So it does this mainly by cranking the volume all the way up to 11, and the noise of every punch, kick and gunshot is cranked right up, and it will give a good 90 percent of the audience a goddamned headache. At least the Dredd debacle could be traced to technical and human error at the cinema – this film’s loudness is built into its cinematic DNA.

Every scene has a loud bombastic soundtrack, and not just in the big moments - there is a vast choir used as a backdrop for important scenes like ‘Man Walks Down Corridor’ or ‘Batman Perches On A Crane’. The surprisingly large number of dream sequences come with a bang and a roar, a solemn funeral scene has to feature cannons going off in thunderous slow motion, and even Superman can’t fly off into the air without setting off a mini sonic boom.

It’s all a bit much, and a blatant attempt to give events more dramatic weight and heft, but just becomes shouting after a while.

It doesn’t help that all that noise comes on such a framework of stupidity. That reach for profundity comes far short, and it takes a lot of dumb to get the apocalyptic CGI climax, and a lot of dumb to resolve it.

The filmmakers might assume that it doesn’t take much more than silly coincidences – the big title fight only comes to  a conclusion based on one of the silliest coincidences in the history of comics - and thin motivations – “I don’t like you because I don’t!” - to keep things going when you’ve got two beloved icons punching each other in the head, but it will take more than that, especially when you’re trying to set up a whole new and lucrative universe.

In this context, the note the film ends on is particularly baffling, with the last 10 minutes consumed with something nobody should be taking seriously, because it's so obvious where things are going.Then again, the whole film starts with the epitome of pointlessness - showing the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, the most depicted double murder in all of pop culture.

Still, it’s not the total write-off that it sounds like. Despite the morose plot, the movie is a typical Snyder visual feast, and finds odd moments of beauty in the super carnage, especially one moment halfway through, when it all suddenly goes a bit Mad Max.

And despite the howls of fanboy anguish at the casting, Ben Affleck makes a fine Batman, as the bulkiest and roughest version of the character. He rarely gets to show much dramatic range beyond angry glowering and gritting his teeth really, really hard, but gets the film off to a strong start with his ground-level view of the first great Superman battle.

And no movie has ever done anything more Batman than the bit where he trains up for a battle with an awesomely powered superhuman by dragging around a massive rubber tyre. (Although he still manages to be a terrible, terrible Batman, because he can't stop himself from straight up murdering any poor goon that gets in his sights.)

Cavill remains a perfectly adequate Superman, although he is better at the rage-punching than his pained attempts to give the Man of Steel a human heart. His hair looks great, all the way.

The introduction of a greater universe of more heroes also takes its first tentative steps, with some fairly clumsy set-ups for half a dozen other DC Universe films, and Wonder Woman gets a fair bit of screen time. The Amazon princess is a small bright light in all the frowning darkness, with Gal Gadot actually looking like she is the only person who is actually enjoying herself.

Jesse Eisenberg adds to the cacophony with a babbling, superficial Lex Luthor, I think Amy Adams was in there, Holly Hunter looks like she’s walked onto the wrong film set entirely, and Laurence Fishburne is back as Perry White, World’s Worst Newspaper Editor (why the shit is he assigning an investigative reporter to a puff profile of a famous sportsman, and why does he think that journalism works by barking out clever headlines across a newsroom and then writing a story around it?).

Batman versus Superman is so terrified of looking silly it ends up looking very silly indeed – the absurd sight of Superman solemnly walking into a congressional hearing is played dead straight – but is at its best when it dumps the unearned profundity and focuses on the arse kicking.

It’s been a long time coming, but has sagged under the weight of those expectations. Further installments in the DC Universe film might do well to cut loose from the cloying, frowning seriousness on display here, and play their own tune. They can probably turn the volume down a bit, too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

These things will kill me one day

A life of dorky introspection is a pretty safe one - nerds don't tend to face danger while updating their Uncanny X-Men checklists - but geek shit can still kill you, if you're not careful.

When I'm about 12, I see an episode of the Man From Atlantis, and see the way he swims, and it looks like a groovy and totally logical way to speed through the water, so I give it a try in the neighbour's backyard pool.

It goes as well as can be expected. I crack my fucking skull on the bottom of the pool and damn near knock myself clean out. It's lucky I don't, because there is nobody else about and I would drown in seconds.

Instead, I stumble to the side of the pool, marvel at the amount of blood coming out of a tiny cut on my forehead, and realise the Man From Atlantis is a fucking tool.Screw you, Patrick Duffy.

A couple of years later and I bike out to my mate Nick's place in the country for a Friday night double feature of body horror fun while his parents are away -  Society and Bride of Re-Animator.

They're both gooey, gory messes, and while I'm biking alone home in the dark, I keep thinking about the ridiculous ways you can stretch and deform the human body, and I lose track of where I'm going and ride straight into a dark culvert.

I just miss a concrete edge and end up face first in the water. The impact was bad enough, but getting the rest of the way home with a broken bike, drenched in the middle of autumn, gives me a wicked cold that makes me wish I had drowned.

Now I'm in my late teens, and me and my mates have all got our driver's licenses, so the first thing we do is buy up cheap cars and hoon around the river.

At some point, some dickhead (probably me), gets the bright idea of going on top of a car as it speeds along at 110kmh down dirt tracks, with deep ruts and tall, terrifying trees on one side. And it's awesome, because you can hang on to the edge of the windows, so it's kinda secure, but you really do feel like goddamn Superman, soaring above the ground. It's the closest thing I've ever felt to being the big man.

And then the car takes a bend and I'm not holding on as hard as I should and I feel less like the Man of Steel and more like the Dickhead of Jelly, because I almost go flying off into those fucking trees.

I hold on just hard enough to get around the corner and we carry on, and I laugh about it afterwards, but that one was a lot bloody closer than I ever admitted.

Around the same time, my collection of comics, books and magazines is getting out of control, and I've got boxes and boxes of the bloody things.

I have to stash them away anywhere I can, so I'm putting a dense box full of UK Spider-Man reprints and Starlog magazines up into a high cupboard when I lose my grip, and it comes right down on my fucking head, and my neck gets bent in a way that necks should not bend. It hurts like hell, and while there is no permanent damage, but must have been close.

Now it's somewhere in the early twenties  and sitting on a rooftop of an apartment building in Dunedin, drinking scrumpy cider, listening to the Butthole Surfers and reading Grendel comics, and it's a beautiful day.

But there is still a bit of a breeze, and one small gust picks up a couple of the comics and scatters them around the roof, and I'm scrambling after them, and chasing one particular issue when I almost chase it right off the edge of the roof, and over a straight four-storey drop.

I catch myself just in time, stumble back away from the edge, and go down the stairs on shaky legs to the alleyway to collect the undamaged comic. The drop looks even higher from down below.

These would be, without exception, the dumbest ways to die. I haven't done anything as stupid as all this shit in a few years now. But it's only a matter of time, if the computers don't get me first..

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Shade, the Changing Man: Mad, mental, crazy.

Fucking Shade, man. He's hard to pin down.

I've only got 18 to go. It's taken me more than 20 years to get this far, but I'm three-quarters of the way, so it's not much further.

I'll track him down properly one day. When I do get them all, I'll read the whole thing in order for the first time. Somewhere in space and time, I'm doing just that, although it's a few years away yet. I still have 18 to go.

Shade The Changing Man, by Peter Milligan and various talented artists, was a weird, wonderful and wild comic when it was first published by DC in the late eighties and early nineties, and it remains just as singularly fucked up as it ever was, all these years later.

Launching on a hoary old “let's go find America” meta-quest, Shade grew into a situationalist soap opera, where real, human, emotions were raw and exposed, while characters still had to worry about being turned into post-modern bullshit modern art, or creatures made of dead skin, and risked permanent madness, all in gooey four-colour psychedelia.

It’s also the perfect comic for reading out of order, and cutting up the linear storyline into 77-issue chunks and spreading them about a bit is to be recommended. But then I would say that, I didn't have a choice in the matter.

I only ever bought a couple of issues when it was coming out, late in the run, because they never made it to the bookstores near me when it was in its prime. But it’s the sort of comic that I always, always pick up when I see it going cheap in the $1 bins. I’ve managed to cobble together more than ¾ of the series this way, and it means I have never read more than two issues in a row.

For most series, this might be a problem, losing crucial plot turns and motivations, but for Shade, it’s a fine fit for the reality twisting going on.

Skip around the series, and Kathy is alive, and then she’s dead, and then she’s alive again. Shade is in a bunch of different bodies, sometimes ones that are awfully familiar, and his oblivious cluelessness about the crucial details of human feelings comes and goes. Sometimes he's a mad, mod poet god, other times he is literally living in a crack in the gutter.

Actually, with some time travel craziness, and some weird body-swapping going on, this is roughly how it would go if you read the comic in proper order. It was that kind of story.

Even though I spend much of the nineties trying, and largely failing, to get people into comics through indisputable brilliance like The Invisibles or Love and Rockets, or through the easy thrills of Preacher and Sin City, I never try Shade on new people.

Largely this is because I only have a wild number of issues, scattered throughout the run. I don't see them that often, and it is taking years. But it's also because these comics aren't for everybody. They're genuinely mental, with wild artwork that's all over the fucking show. I can barely keep track of it all.

The first time I ever see anything of Shade beyond a few house ads, it's the few pages that show up in the very first Vertigo preview comic, which became an unfortunate bible for this Verti-nerd.

It wasn't the best introduction, featuring somebody in a recently dead body having a wank out in the open moonlight. I'm still a teenager when I see this, and any discussion of masturbation is incredibly embarrassing, and I'm just shallow enough that it outs me right off.

By the time I've grown up, Shade is already finished, and I'm $1-bin diving for the next two decades. Picking them up here and there – finding a crucial issue in London, and getting the first year's worth for fifty cents each at Sydney's grottiest comic shop.

It was one of the first things on The List, and it's still there, although there are a lot of crossed-off issues. I'm whittling it down.

So nothing makes sense, I can barely follow the story and it all gives me a bit of a headache. And if there was ever a comic this was appropriate for, it's Shade The Changing Man.

He showed up again fairly recently, in Milligan's excellent Hellblazer run, and pops up in weird mega-crosssover  tie-ins, so the character hasn't faded away like so many of his contemporaries. He's still out them, maddening it up for everybody.

Whether it's years ago, or just last week, Shade the Changing Man is a creature out of time, and all the better for it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Easy decisions: Hateful Eight or The Revenant

Sometimes, all you need to know about someone can be found out with a simple pop culture binary equation – the classic is still "are you a Beatles person or a Stones person?" You can love them both, but if you had to choose, there was always one answer. (Unless you chose the totally legitimate third option, and said you were an Elvis person.)

There is never a wrong answer, it just reveals the tastes, but it’s an either/or question that is constantly updated as pop culture evolves and grows, and the latest is simple enough – either you like one intense snowbound movie drama of breath-taking beauty and gross inhumanity, or you like the other intense snowbound movie drama of breath-taking beauty and gross inhumanity.

While you can like The Revenant and you can like the Hateful Eight, it should still be dead easy to pick a favourite.


You can also dislike both of them, for various reasons, and that's fine. Nothing is for everybody, and if you don’t like films by these directors, you’re in the wrong fucking cinema, buddy, because these are the two most-Iñárritu and most Tarantino films ever made. You get what you expect.

But you can also like both of them easily enough, because they’re both impressive slices of film making. Still. If I had to pick one as my own particular favourite, it's no question, after having a few weeks to think about it. I'm Hateful 8, all the way.

The Revenant certainly has its merits. It is achingly beautiful in its photography and emotions, and gloriously unflinching in its violence. The ragged, full-on action scenes are absolutely mental affairs that are some of the most tense things seen on screen in the past year.

But it's also fairly plodding and predictable. It's easy to know exactly where the story is going, right down to the ham-fisted plot turn of a saved victim repaying the kindness, nicked straight from Training Day, and the final shot is cringingly obvious.

It's so easy to see where it is going, right down to the final moments of the film, where an avalanche - a devastatingly unexpected explosion of nature - becomes something totally expected.

This was my particular problem with The Revenant, and why I scowl every time it sweeps another awards – it was trying far too hard to be profound.

The worst case of this was seen every time a character died, and there was some kind of movement in nature, like the flow of a river, or some wind through trees. And so when there is a last major death towards the end, of course there is going to be an avalanche afterwards. That’s the rhythm of the thing.

But its the biggest and easiest mistake to make in man versus nature films, the idea that nature gives a shit about the trivial vengeances and violence of the humans who slog through it. Nature doesn't care. Nature doesn’t give a flying fuck about people. Attaching human sentiment to the implacable weather and terrain is just fallacy.

Nature certainly doesn't give a good goddamn about the characters in the Hateful Eight - it just locks them up in a tight, closed space and lets them blow each other to hell.

It’s another intentionally stagey and desperately cinematic effort from Tarantino, and the director's habit of leaving a main character as a cooling corpse halfway through means there is none of that predictability – you’re left with no idea where things are going to go. Unless you expect things to get really, really, really bloody. Because they do.

It’s ridiculously long and totally self-indulgent, but Tarantino isn’t afraid to address issues that other filmmakers are wary of, or code into metaphor, rather than coming out and saying it. But there is also loads of subtext, and there are dozens and dozens of tiny moments in its three hour running time that are just dripping with significance.

With the trusted brilliance of actors like Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen, who always bring it for QT, Hateful Eight is rougher, nastier, funnier, crueller and gorier than its competition.

And, most unexpected of all, is that it’s still an incredibly optimistic work, ending on a note of hope, even if that note is written in the copious blood flowing across the floor of Minnie Haberdashery.

It’s that same hope that made Deadwood the greatest television of the 21st century  - that these violent, selfish people can join together and create a civilisation, even if it goes against everything they thought they believed it. When Chris Mannix chooses the path of justice at the end, he's offering hope for all America. It could always use it.

Many of my best and smartest friends think I'm out of my mind, and that The Revenant is clearly the better film, but that just tells me more about them than they think.

This isn’t an insult because critical consensus is the fuckin’ worst, and I like the fact that I have different tastes from my favourite people, and that they can overlook the kinds of things that bugged me about DiCaprio’s slog through the existential snowstorm. And it totally goes the other way, and I can ignore the blatant self-indulgence of Tarantino at his best.

But just as I'll always be a Beatles man - the Stones rock fucking hard, but they didn't create as much genius as the Liverpool lads - I'd rather be on board the last stage to Red Rock than out in the bare wilderness.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

This world is mundane

The other day, not long after I heard about the death of George Martin, I was wandering around the house, thinking about how much I always liked Sir George in all the Beatles documentaries he appeared in, because he was always so sensible and straight forward, and he somehow helped these four lads from Liverpool create some of the greatest and most beautiful music the universe had ever heard.

And as I'm thinking that, I swear I can hear A Day In The Life playing, somewhere softly at the very edge of my hearing, and it suddenly felt like a powerful moment, as if the music was too strong to be contained by mere technology.

Turned out, I'd just left a radio on in the bedroom, playing incredibly softly, and they were understandably paying tribute to Sir George by playing some of the tunes he had helped out on. That was all.

This was almost as bad as that time a warm, glowing light materialized on my ceiling once, and looked alive and intelligent as it moved, until I realised it was the reflection off a mirror on the chair behind me, moving when I moved.

That time I saw the Loch Ness Monster was probably just some diving ducks, and the Captain Marvel apparition I once saw was probably just a drunken dream.

This world is mundane, but I can still keep an eye out for the impossible.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Groo: Cheese dip and simple jokes

Sometimes the simplest jokes are the funniest. And in the world of comics books, they don’t come any simpler than Groo.

Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier and Stan Sakai’s Groo the Wanderer comics have been coming out through a variety of publishers for more than 30 years now, and they haven’t got old at all. They’re still as sharp and hilarious as they ever were.

This is largely due to the simple joke at the heart of every Groo story – the lead character is stupid. Like, really, really stupid. His dog is literally smarter than he is. Groo never learns anything from any of his adventures, and frequently is left more baffled than anything by the end of them. He inevitably leaps to the wrong conclusion, is easily confused by the simplest of logic, and is inordinately fascinated by cheese dip.

The dumb guy is always the funniest, as proved by the Homer Simpson equation. And despite some stiff competition, Groo might just be the dumbest character in all comics.

The other side of Groo’s big joke is that while he isn’t blessed with much in the way of smarts, he is still an absolute killing machine. In his fantasy world of vast empires, dreadful dragons and total barbarians, Groo is an invincible force of nature, a rampaging tornado of slayage on the battlefield, and an absolute lethal foe in one on one combat. He can take on Conan in a fight, and frequently wipes out entire armies with his slashing blades.

Combined with the stupidity, Groo’s invincibility see him accidentally laying waste to all around him. He’s destroyed a few empires, and should never, ever be allowed aboard any kind of ship. When he wanders away at the end of the story, usually unscathed, he leaves carnage behind him, and has no idea what actually just happened. That’s never not funny.

It was funny when Groo was first published by Pacific Comics in 1982, and it was still funny in the recent Groo; Friends and Foes 12-part series that just wrapped up. It’s timeless.

And it’s not as one-note as it sounds, because on the bedrock of the great gag, every single issue of Groo, and every single page, and almost every single panel, is still stuffed full of gags. Aragones is one of the great gag artists of the past century, never unable to resist a bit of visual comedy or goofy scenario, and the man who invented cartoons for between the panels of a comic always fills each page with everything he has got.

When combined with the professionally pun-tastic work of Evanier, Groo comics are a true cavalcade of comedy. Evanier’s scripts always strike the right tone for the manic cartooning of his collaborator, and the humour can get incredibly sophisticated in this collaboration. A dumb character doesn’t inevitably lead to dumb comics.

After all, it is easy to wrap surprisingly complex issues into a Groo story. Each little fable isn’t just about dungeons and dragons - any single issue might be a metaphor for international commerce, or gender inequality, or immigration anxiety, or environmental catastrophe. You can tell any kind of a story in this format, and Groo stories are always strongly relevant.

In this regard, there is a bit of the Judge Dredd flexibility to Groo. A solid simple concept allows creators to tell any kind of story around it, and there are no limits to the meaning and symbolism you can nail onto the character. Groo stories might look like nothing but a bunch of laffs, but they’re always about something. They mean something. And throwing in a few pratfalls never hurts.

The Groo comic doesn’t quite get the respect it deserves, probably because it’s been so consistently good, for so long, that everyone just takes it for granted. How many times can you say its brilliant?

Well, nobody has to say anything. Both new and old Groo comics still make me laugh out loud, and that’s worth a thousand compliments.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Life inside the Kiwi culture clash

New Zealand really is, geographically speaking, at the arse end of the world. It’s right there at the bottom of the world, off to the side of Australia, with only Antarctica any further south.

It’s absolutely nowhere near the financial and cultural powerhouses of the world in America or Europe, Africa and South America are distant lands, and even Asia is a fucking 12 hour flight away.

This isolation from the rest of the world, and the relative youth of the country, inevitably leads to some interesting, unique art and culture, although it is still taking a while for the nation to really get anywhere and find a proper voice. In the meantime, this young culture soaks up everything it can, and spits it back out as something new.

The culture coming into New Zealand over the past century - the films and TV and books and comics and magazines and everything - has been mainly a mix of English-speaking nations. And while this is slowly changing, with much more of a pleasing Asian flavour in recent years, almost all our pop culture is based on a weird Anglo-American blend.

This means that my two favourite comic books in the world are 2000ad and Love and Rockets, and my two favourite TV shows are Doctor Who and Deadwood. New Zealand isn’t either of these countries, but it has always taken the best of both, which works out bloody well for anybody who likes to indulge in it.

It wasn’t always this way. This country was, for the first two-thirds of its post-colonial history, always a British country, with very British values and cultures, and that's why we still spell colour and flavour with a u. It was still the mother country, and city builders did their damnedest to recreate the best of British in Aotearoa. You especially saw it in the Southern cities, where Christchurch tried to recreate the exact streets of England’s finest towns, while Dunedin made no shame of being utterly Scottish.

Although, notably, the traditional Kiwi home of a wooden villa with a porch can also be found all along on the West Coast of the United States, and especially in San Francisco, as these wild lands were tamed by civilised knobheads at roughly the same time in history.

As in architecture, so too in culture, and the books and films and television that New Zealanders indulged in invariably came from the BBC and the finest publishers of London. This leads to the situation where Coronation Street and NCIS are the most popular programmes on telly, in happy co-existence. (Although the unending blight that is Coro is always going to be clear favourite, because our Nanas all love it, and when they try to change the time slot or frequency of episodes, there is always an almighty and genuinely angry uproar.)

New Zealand is almost exactly on the opposite side of the globe from England, but for much of its modern history, it has attempted to build a little slice of British paradise in places like Whakatane and Temuka.

But as much as the British influence the origins of the country, the United States and all of its wonderful movies and television and comics is just the Pacific away, and has regularly seeped in through the seemingly ironclad Brit bubble. When the UK joined the EU in the 1970s and turned its back on NZ agricultural imports, the country realised it had to find new markets for its butter and mutton, and the English influence wavered, just a bit.

So things like Americna comics, which were still a relative rarity in the 1950s and 1960s, began flooding into the country in later decades. Just as the Sweeney and the Dukes of Hazzard were both on TV in the early eighties, you could find the latest weekly Star Wars comic sitting next to the actual American Star Wars comics it was reprinting, right there on the bookshop shelves.

And there has been a definite Australian influence as well, although that was often limited to the vast amount of Aussie bikie movies of the seventies, and cheap black and white reprints of American comics. And there was Italian exploitation films and globally loved European comic albums like Asterix and Tintin, to join in with all the rest. It all went in.

It wasn’t a perfect of wonderful, endless content dropping out of the sky. Everything comes in over the high-speed internet cable these days, but the task of actually getting all these weird creations from all over the world to these islands right down the bottom has always been a monumental one, and it didn’t always work.

There would be regularly missed issues – some particular 200ad progs took decades to track down – and a lot of films would never make it to local cinemas, and television shows would just never make it to NZ screens. You took what you could get, and appreciated what you got, and tried to build up some kind of your own culture around it. Nobody else was going to do it for you.

There was still a bit of actual New Zealand culture, and it has produced its own fine completely indigenous stories, especially from some incredibly talented Maori and Pacific Island creators.  There are some lovely comics, movies, music TV and novels coming from this end of the planet, all uniquely Kiwi, and plenty to be proud of.

But there isn’t a lot of it, and you can only watch Outrageous Fortune or The Dead Lands so many times. You have to rely on the imports to keep things fresh and new, and the latest from HBO or the BBC is always welcome.

The best local stories are, of course, the ones that could only be made in New Zealand, and appeal to something unique about this country. But they’ll always be viewed through that lens created by a culture that has eaten up as much as it can.

It’s still changing today. Even ignoring the brilliant amount of new young female comic artists finding their voice, there is far more Asian culture coming through, bringing in more new styles and new ways of thinking. It’s not even that new, the anglo-Manga boom started more than 20 years ago, and grown-up adults have spent a lifetime in its happy clutches.

The future might be more Eastern (which is actually north-western from where we are), but this might be the last lingering tradition of this country’s British heritage - taking the best of other cultures, and amalgamating it into its own. That’s how a city like London remains vital and alive for century after century, and New Zealanders can only hope for a taste of that international flavour.