Monday 28 November 2011

That's not a heart monitor, it's a machine telling me I'm low on khakis

In non-scribbling-related news, I'll be having arsehole surgery in what passes for "the immediate future" with the sorry state of the NHS these days, but I at least have the consolation of being able to say "I'm having arsehole surgery - to cure me of being one" should the fancy take me.
I remember when we first got our local government over here and it was populated by (alleged) terrorists, it was somehow even more disappointing to see them turn into a bunch of ineffectual money-grubbing heels than if it was just your usual Tory lot on the make, as it kind of looked to me like "yeah, we killed all those people to get here, and now we're gonna close some hospitals anyway, so fuck you."

Wednesday 23 November 2011

--and sometimes in the middle of the day - for no reason at all - I like to make myself a big pitcher of margheritas and take a nap out on the sundeck

Reading: Static Shock #1, which is okay, I guess, but there seems to be an odd back and forth between the comic it wants to be and the comic that the greater editorial vision for the New 52 wants it to be, on one hand full of the trappings of the 1990s cartoon show and on the other there's all this violent dismemberment, and while this dichotomy will no doubt give rise to gurning online about what DC is doing wrong (though they're shifting books in the short-term and short-term sales are what monthly comics are all about in this "waiting for the trade collection" age), there was something here that didn't ring true that I could not put my finger on until it struck me that Static (or rather his alter-ego Virgil) is not allowed to be poor.

He was poor in the cartoon to the point he couldn't take a bus to school and had a home-made costume rather than a body condom as seen in the newest comic, but in the comic he's not allowed to be so badly off and instead his home is a compact but comfortable brownstone, his costume is shiny and expensive-looking and he has a secret base full of technological wonders that's bankrolled by some sort of black Iron Man-type character with whom he has a student/teacher relationship that I don't see working too well dramatically since Virgil's actual father is still alive and present. The comic equates being less well-off than necessary to live comfortably as being the same thing as poor, as if being poor is basically the same as living in student digs for a year or two while you get your art history masters or become one of those insufferable Media students. Virgil/Static isn't some sort of projects-based superhero living a life of stark contrast to the surburbanites that typify superheroic fiction, but you get the impression that's where the writers wanted to go with it except the trappings and visuals don't back them up.

Static/Virgil seems a typical teen superhero and I'm not sure why I should care to read his book before any of the other teen superhero books on the market, or even the teen superhero books of yesteryear like Darkhawk, which I am still reading my way through now and then. All these teen heroes seem to live in houses with a garage, they all go to college, their big problems are romance and popularity issues caused by some some pesky supervillain - I suppose this might be a conscious thing in these Occupy Wall Street times to give people wallowing in poverty the escapism that superhero comics represent, like when Batman kept having crazy adventures after the war because that was what people wanted to distract them from their misery - although this might also have been because Fred Wertham accused Batman of being a bit of a gaylord and DC - displaying the winning grasp of public opinion that's kept it a powerhouse in North American comic books to this very day - made Batman as camp as humanly possible because, naturally, that is how you dispel gay rumors.

Whatever the case may be, Static Shock made me think about the class system in American superhero comics - or to be more specific, it made me think that North American superhero comics are increasingly distracted with being middle class, and that's a bit of a shame as I seem to remember some great comics from my youth that championed the poor, the underclass, the underdog or whatever patronising label I should be utilising, while nowadays it seems that comics are less about real people escaping into a fantasy world and more having a window into the lives of a defacto ruling elite of posthuman snobs, so I guess it's been worth checking out for that reason if no other, but I don't really get why I should care about this book. The original gave us a decent cartoon show and made a black teen superhero popular, but while that was trends being set, this update seems more like trends being followed, if that makes sense as a criticism - I mean, a comic is under no obligation to blaze a trail or anything even if I think it'd be nice if it would try something new.

Monday 21 November 2011

The last time I checked my watch, it still said America

Watching: Charlie's Angels (2011) 1.4. Hey, did you know that Charlie's Angels is great? This is an actual exchange from the last episode I watched that takes place between Bosley (who is a buff playboy super-hacker and globe-trotting womaniser) and Lois Lane from Smallville (who is a dreadful actress):

Lois Lane: The last time I saw you, you were a hacker playboy who spent his days penetrating the firewalls of European banks, and spent his nights doing the same to European women.
Bosley: Until I met you.
Lois Lane: We did have a good time, didn't we?
Bosley: A blast... until I discovered you were CIA.

And then it goes and becomes even more awesome by being a plot about rapes, which I liked because other shows would get sidetracked with being goofy and trying to entertain their audience without being a total downer, but Charlie's Angels brings a bit of heavy realism to the table, and in a show about bikini-clad private detectives that is exactly what has thus far been missing and exactly what I and many others clearly want to see in a programme about multi-ethnic demographic friendly casts who infiltrate fashion shows and sea cruises for plot-related reasons that also require white tank tops to be worn when it's raining.
The plot sees evil, corrupt Cubans - not communists, mark you, but the actual Cuban people as a whole who are to a man portrayed as corrupt, on the take, totally okay with torture and counting the days until Castro dies so the Americans can come and give them money - are framing American tourists for crimes and then locking them up in prison where they're farmed out as prostitutes by an American businessman. Now... a lesser show would probably address why these girls were being framed and sent to prison in stitch-ups since their whereabouts are unknown to their families and the American authorities because, you know, if you can make them disappear, you don't actually have to go to the bother of framing them for anything, and likewise, a lesser show would have someone point out that actual prostitutes would be much cheaper, easier to organise, willing, and unlikely to kung-fu your guards and shoot you to death, and that is why other shows don't last a season - they're so hung up on signposting every bit of illogic and tripping over themselves to write in a rebuttal or an explanation that makes sense that they forget to be Charlie's Angels. Charlie's Angels makes no such mistakes, I assure you! It never loses sight of being Charlie's Angels and it never forgets exactly what it thinks of its audience - that Charlie's Angels' audience want mentally traumatised women - in this instance practically a child - screaming and twitching onscreen as they flinch at the touch of their sneering rapists, but also wearing sexy dresses as this goes on.
When all the women in sexy prostitute costumes were fleeing - one shot during this actually framed by an actress' legs - I remember thinking when they make a game of this, they should absolutely call this level 'The Great Rape Escape', because I was very disappointed that this was not the title of the episode.
And surprised.

I also watched the melodramatic and overblown American Horror Story, which is daftly entertaining in its own way, though it doesn't feature rapes so I'm on the fence about the makers' commitment. A couple undergoing a difficult patch in their marriage blah blah new house, blah, history of violent events, blah, angry teen daughter, blah blah, jump cuts and flashbacks, blah. It is unsubtle like you would not believe, and I think that's a big part of the charm so far (two episodes in), though where once the season-long story arc was once greeted as an innovation in television storytelling, nowadays all I can think of is shite like Terra Nova and how it's a risk investing in a show as a viewer of late because there's no guarantee that you'll ever see a payoff to the threads sewn throughout the early episodes of even really good shows. This is still worth a gander, I'd say, as it entertains without being completely unpleasant, try though it might to be the latter.

Friday 11 November 2011

Dragging you down to my level and then winning with experience

I have been wondering if the story is more important than adhering to the tropes of a given medium because of this:

The above Rage comic doing the rounds with its insightful and uplifting message of nonconformity has got me thinking about how I'm going through an 'illustrated screenplay' phase (self-inflicted because of the graphic novel) of churning out static - but visually clear - images, so when I read posts like Miguel Rosa's on sequential art I get torn between feeling like I'm not learning enough and also worrying that I might be being a bit of a snob about what constitutes 'real' comic storytelling.
Then I read the like of the above and I think "fuck it." A story worth reading will always be so.

Reading: Venom Ultimate Collection, which is 18 issues' worth of nothing that rambles all over the shop and doesn't tell a full story. It's basically the comic equivalent of one of my blog posts, but I at least have the courtesy not to charge you money for it. There are some real issues with pacing, no character work, an incoherent plot, a - oh wait, this is comic about Venom. Haha, silly me - what was I expecting? This collection might not know what I want from a comic book, but it sure knows what I deserve.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Good tea. Nice house.

Hit and run posting again, given the late hour and the avoidance of taking screen grabs of any Babble pages currently in progress as I'm on the last nine pages and want to avoid spoilers. But if you don't mind spoilers, there's some lesbian sex and everyone dies off-panel, or maybe they become a single gestalt intelligence. Possibly I am not reading the ending properly. Or I am confusing it with Evangelion.
In the meantime, I also have to alter an older strip into some kind of presentable form and so will be likely screen-grabbing that project to keep the blog ticking over. Somehow, younger relatives have discovered what Uncle Bryan does as a hobby and have expressed an interest in seeing the book he's been drawing, so now I have to rustle up something suitable to show them and pretend that was what I was doing all along, and not the thing with the gay sex, constant swearing, and that one guy getting his head smashed in by a mob. Still, the older strip will do for blog filler and swapsies at conventions if nothing else, while I also have a few strips owed to some very patient lads indeed and you may be seeing those in passing - and for the lads in question, I imagine it's about bloody time they saw something from their very slow artist...

Monday 7 November 2011

Yeah you're nothing but a hoo-er! Yer a hoo-er! Get out of my house!

Got me an ABC Warriors strip appearing the current issue of Zarjaz and sorry to break with the traditions of classic self-whoring where everything is brilliant and shiny but I shall be frank and admit that I've let the side down by painting it with mud so you can't actually make anything out on the last three pages, but if you squint you can pretend I was trying to channel 2000ad's nineties phase where everything was painted with fag ends and brown acrylics. The strip is Broken Dreams and is from a script by Lee Robson, but don't let our presence put you off as there are actually good strips in this issue, particularly Richmond Clements and George Coleman's prog-ready Rogue Trooper and Emperor/Bruno Stahl's Dirty Frank: Holy Wrong, which is a comic strip about Alan Moore going back in time to kill Frank Miller. Rounded off with a Bad Company tale and a couple of good Dredds, it's well worth a read.

Buy it or I will murder you with fire.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

It's called "getting down", and it's a little before your time

It being Halloween and Vista having served me up another curveball I could not be arsed dealing with on a holiday, I instead watched a great deal of appropriate telly and films, my PS3 hard drive swelling with a veritable cornucrapia of unwatched guff ranging from Scream Blacula Scream to Let Me In and here's what I thunked of 'em...
Community 3.5 - the third holiday-appropriate special from the smugly metatextual comedy about a mixed bag of demographics who come together as a study group when their educational shortfalls catch up with them in adulthood. It's basically an anthology of horror tales told via the narrative quirks of each character and are amusing in various scatalogical, politically uncorrect, or free-associative ways depending upon the narrator and your tolerance of same. Always good to see me some Chevy Chase, too.
Whistle and I'll Come To You - which was made and shown by the BBC last Christmas and is an update of the MR James story of the same name, which I have not read, and barely remember the original television adaptation. John Hurt plays a retired chap who reluctantly places his senile wife in care and acts upon the advice of a carer to take himself away for a few days to ease into the idea of life without the only woman he's ever loved being in it. Succombing to nostalgia and/or melancholy, he seeks out the now-desolate beachside town and hotel where he honeymooned decades before and becomes the subject of a mounting campaign of strange sightings and noises by day and by night. It's a morose, slowly-paced and deeply depressing tale more than it is a frightening one, though Hurt is great as a man haunted even before he checks in to the hotel and I could have done with more of that than the door-banging stuff.
Motorhead: Killed By Death - which remains on my PS3 hard drive by dint of being utterly fantastic.

Basically, the plot has Lemmy statutory-kidnap a minor, get shotgunned and electrocuted by cops and then he drives out of his own grave on his motorbike and the cops chase him some more. What's truly fantastic - apart from all of it - is that Lemmy's mates bury him upright on a motorcycle at the foot of a ramp because they accept as likely that he will return from the dead and will want to drive out of his own grave on a motorcycle when he does so.
Dad's Army: Things That Go Bump In The Night - in the interests of full disclosure, I should probably say up front that I utterly fucking despise Dad's Army, but I was willing to give it another go on the offchance that I just have a lingering dislike born of it being on at the same time as Star Trek or Thundercats or something when I was younger, but no, it really is an infuriatingly unlikable 'comedy' series about a total asshole middle class type put in charge of incompetent working class oiks to keep them out of trouble. The plot of this spoooooooky episode sees them stop at a spoooooooky mansion in the middle of the night and then ditches that plot halfway through for some rambling on a moor being chased by very unthreatening-looking dogs. Hilarity does not ensue.
I fucking hate this show.
Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1: Last Dance For Napkin Lad - in which a web of deceit and lies that goes back a decade is uncovered. Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and the dice are rolled.

The Aqua Teens are basically the last generation's Dad's Army in that either you love or you hate. I love.
Buck Rogers in the 21st Century: Space Vampire - man, this show is amazing. They literally did not give a fuck.

What surprises me is how effective so much of this is even though it is clearly low-rent stuff, from the atmospheric score someone ran up on a ZX Spectrum to the 'Vorvon' resembling folkloric vampires in appearance, space zombies, the ship of death crashing - extremely crappily - into the space station upon which the action takes place, Vampire-Vision, Wilma's freakouts - she's been pretty useless since the pilot as her military background was sidelined in favor of making her more of a soft and squishy romantic foil to Buck, but here they really go to town with that and have her going batshit as she's the only person in the crew who senses an invisible evil at work so that when she says "for the first time in my life I could feel death as a tangible presence" you believe that bad shit is in the works. A pretty damn awesome episode that's all the better for playing it straight.
The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXII - Leaving aside that it's nowhere near as funny as it used to be, the Simpsons is still pretty entertaining now and then, but I've always found the Treehouse offerings of the last few years to be borderline-painful. This is no exception, but the 127 Hours piss-take was amusing.
Hercules: The Legenday Journeys: Darkness Visible - in which the ripped muscleman takes time out from inventing basketball to aid old war buddy Vlad The Impaler against a horde of vampires, but who is the true lord of the vampires? This show is bulletproof from criticism so I shan't even try, but it does have Hercules vs Dracula as a main event throwdown for the final act. That is really all you need to know.
Scre4m - about ten minutes into this, it becomes utterly and irredeemably insufferable and I suddenly realised that not only was there a reason I'd seen the first three flicks only once upon their release, but I had to be dragged to the second and third outings under pain of no nookie. So much of this is dedicated to second-guessing itself and pretending that this is a unique style rather than a franchise choking on its own hype and missing out that the reveal is obvious to a generation brought up on cop shows where the victim is the guilty party nine times out of ten because Scre4m does not look beyond the horror genre for inspiration. There's a bit in it where one of the cast of Community is in a car and the killer is outside, and she gets out of the car. This logic is addressed in the episode of Community I mention above, and it is discarded as stupid behavior by the cast because real people would not do something like that and this in turn makes fictional characters seem like less a human being in whose eventual fate we should invest and more a cypher whose graphic murder we should enjoy. Community - a comedy - knows this, and Scre4m does not, but in fairness, this is the least of this movie's problems.
Centurions: An Alien Affair in which the titular team of exoskeletoned adventurers battle an energy-draining space vampire freed from its prison in the heart of a comet, so you've got Lifeforce and Alien right there from the start, and an ending nicked from the Buck Rogers episode mentioned above - this is a plot that's walked many streets before ending up here, but it's great fun, the pace never flagging and even wrong-footing you into thinking that you're getting an Alien riff where the monster skulks about in the shadows while it hunts the cast, and instead it runs like the clappers up to the first human that breaks off from the herd and screams blue murder at him, giving the game away and setting in motion a 17 minute chase sequence. Like most episodes, the aesthetics are great in their own retro way, featuring design work from the late greats Jack Kirby and Gil Kane and the soundtrack is fantastically full-on. The logic at work is daffy as all hell, though: characters can't be beamed back to the space station that houses the teleporter but they can be beamed somewhere else from that space station, Ace is beamed into space and THEN puts on his space suit, the giant space claw that just attacks one character for no reason at all, shooting out the space station's engines to stop it from moving towards Earth because apparantly momentum is a thing that does not actually exist... seriously, you have to turn your brain off for this show, and a good example of why is
Centurions: Night on Terror Mountain

"Transylvania, uh? That's vampire country" offers Ace McCloud, and though the place has an advanced power plant worthy of attack by posthuman super-terrorist Doc Terror, it also boasts medieval towns and a superstitious, lynchmob-forming population that still carries flaming torches at night while they're out walking with their pitchforks and rakes. While looking for Doc Terror and Dracula, who have now formed an alliance, Jake points out cyborg vampire bats and Ace responds with "We must have come to the right place" because, y'know, he's the smart one. Gloriously stupid television.