Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Give me two shots of something easy on the environment but hard on the liver

The British welfare state has the same moral operating system as the prison industry wherein punishment rather than correction is its aim, even though punishment costs more to implement.  Thanks to Yvette Cooper and the lovely New Labour government of the time - can't blame the Tories entirely for this one - the British welfare system shifted from a safety net designed to prevent poverty to being a means to punish it because like the prison system, its motivating impulse is not safety and the wider good of society but sadism.
Putting people in a small cage to be brutalised into submission is so barbaric we don't even do it to animals anymore, and the prison system is nothing more than a sap to society's need for revenge upon a class of people against whom hate is not just acceptable but institutionalised.  Prison is a product of sadism and its proponents are sadists.  It took me a while to get to this because I'm a Catholic and we are a very judgmental people, but I'm better now.
Likewise, you would not starve an animal and leave it loose on the street to fend for itself.  Our welfare system is just as sadistic and broken and what has this to do with me reading a bunch of Robocop comics?  I honestly forget.
This is the problem when you invest heavily in an elaborate metaphor but don't write anything down before you start and then if you step away from the pc for a bit for some reason and then come back later, you don't really know why you have a bit about why your society is still stuck in the morality and social politics of the middle ages and now here we are - all of the above was my intro to sharing my thoughts on Alan Grant and Simon Furman's Robocop comics for Marvel from the early 1990s, in which Robo fights a robot gorilla that turns out to be his brother, wrestles some dinosaurs, and - for some reason - invades Africa.  That is not a colorful exaggeration, either, he is literally armed with military weapons and dropped into Africa and told to subjugate an entire country.
Yeah, these comics are pretty stupid, but what struck me is that they are no more so than more recent Robocop comics that weren't handcuffed by the demands of the copyright owners at the time because they were trying to make Robocop a kiddy-friendly property.  Alan Grant makes no bones about being able to do pretty much naff all with the book and how he ended up walking after 11 issues, but recent Robocop comics I've come across have been ultra-gory and without restrictions on subject matter and man have they been bo-RING.  There's one where Robo has to drag an injured officer through a gauntlet of thugs to get them to a doctor and my first thought was "yeah the injured character is dead already" and I was not wrong, but in the 1990s Robocop comics there's a character whose identity isn't revealed until late in the issue and instead of being a character we've previously seen whose identity the reader had to guess, it turns out his identity has been kept in the shadows because he's had his head replaced with a television that shows 24 hour footage of a crying clown. Daft as heck compared to "I am sorry Mr Robocop but she has been dead all this time and you have been narrating to a ghost!" but I can safely say it was at least not what I was expecting.  I guess this my grumpy old man way of saying these new Robocop comics are such a darned buzzkill.

I still can't figure out where I was going with that stuff about the welfare state and the prison system.  This is totally going to bug me until I figure this out.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

I've had it with you and your successful methods

The makers of Manifest try very hard to make a memorably terrible television series, but sadly it's just quite banal.  The concept is a hodge-podge of lazy tropes (the show is essentially a remake of The 4400), but it's with the use of the still-recent tragedy of  Flight 370 as a story engine that they betray the real lack of ideas or faith in their own creation, gambling as they are on free publicity from social media outrage - but for that to have materialised, the show would need to be significant, well-made or popular enough to justify confronting its opportunistic intrusion into the grief of those affected by the real-life tragedy it stripmines, but the show is none of those things.  Often-appalling dialogue aside, there's nothing worth noting, not even to single out for criticism, it's just a big dollop of tv landfill wherein nobody does their best.
Magnum PI may be familiar to anyone of a certain vintage, but to me it came far too early and it was only relatively recently I got to play catch-up.  While patchy in places, it's easy to see why it made a household name of lead actor Tom Selleck: the series follows the (mostly) neo-noir adventures of an ex-marine-turned private investigator employed as a live-in security consultant by a constantly-absent globetrotting pulp novelist, Magnum being a freeloading mooch of the kind beloved of 1980s popular culture, enjoying the trappings of a billionaire's private Hawaii estate without having to do very much in return, thus constantly enraging the estate's majordomo, Johnathan Higgins, an upright Englishman*.  The relationship between the pair was antagonistic on the surface, but they shared cross-generational experiences of national service to their respective countries, a commonality nuanced in how Magnum was a frontline veteran of Vietnam while Higgins was an advisor to the French during the Indochina War, their experiences overlapping but not identical.  This created an interesting dynamic that added to the eventually paternal relationship that formed between the two, but the new Magnum PI is... not as interesting.
Virtually identical to the producers' other contemporary action tv series such as MacGyver and Hawaii 5-0, there's little doubt that these series were made based on nothing but their branding, retaining the theme tunes**, character names and basic setups from the originals, but otherwise being the same anodyne mix of drama, comedy, and - for some reason - homophobia in every episode, so that creating the occasional off-the-reservation genre-straddling episode becomes all but impossible because every episode is the comedy episode, every episode is the pathos episode, every episode has some toxically-masculine over-muscled goon uncritically saluting the flag.  The new Magnum PI is offensively unchallenging, its scripts generated by some kind of algorithm wherein all elements for each episode are present and correct but Skynet is simply incapable of replicating human emotion or ever springing an actual surprise upon you.
Actually, tell a lie: I was genuinely surprised in one episode when Magnum and Rick inflicted homophobic taunting on TC for attending dance classes as a child that made me quite uncomfortable, but... well, I don't really want that kind of surprise, thanks.  Plus, aren't these war buddies or something?  Even the thick-as-pigshit Hawaii Five-0 has the male leads uncritically hugging each other in bromance moments.
Anyway, Magnum PI is not very good, so that must mean I'm sexist or racist because Magnum is played by an Eskimo and Higgins is Welsh now and there can be no other reason for me to be critical of something with a diverse cast.

* fun fact: John Hillerman, who played Higgins, also played Higgins' many siblings on the show, one of whom was a Texan whom Hillerman played with a broad cowboy twang, an Irishman played with a twee brogue - another brother was mentioned yet never portrayed in the show and was named Soo Ling.  I don't suppose we shall ever know why Hillerman declined to portray that one onscreen...
** albeit in drastically truncated form - such is the belief in the audience's attention span that Magnum's them tune is a mere 19 seconds long

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

This unexpected pleasantness is unsettling

I don't fancy talking about how I hated The Cloverfield Paradox because it was complete and utter trash, so instead I'll tell you why I loved Death Race 4: Beyond Anarchy because it was complete and utter trash.  I had a beer in the fridge so I ordered a pizza and I watched this and it was fuckin great.

The laws of diminishing returns for sequels have well and truly set in by this stage, and it's not a patch on either Paul "Wank Shaft" Anderson's Death Race remake of 2008, its unloved (but okay) sequel starring - I shit you not - Luke Goss as Frankenstein, and I can't remember a single thing about the third one so that's likely not a good sign, but this fourth one is actually a bit of a hoot despite a sixth form script, looking like a tv movie, and starring Zack McGowan - who I have nothing against, but he tends not to make good choices when it comes to roles.  Maybe a bit predictable - there are at least three twists you'll guess from the opening moments despite their not being signposted in any way throughout the film - but if you're a member of the disgusting bourgeois classes and find yourself well fed and no longer sober, this is a great throwback to the low-budget post-apocalyptic racers of the 1980s which is uhhhhhhh a genre I am somewhat invested in at the moment.
Like other entries in the DR remake saga, it does have this bizarre line in misogyny that I cannot for the life of me figure out - it's so blatantly tacked on and in your face it has to be a deliberate commentary on boy racer culture, but this would mean this pile of trashy trash is somehow punching above its intellectual weight despite its low ambitions, something I would have expected more from...
Death Race 2050, a dumb as fuck sequel to the dumb as fuck original Death Race 2000, which was remade as Death Race in 2008, but this is the sequel to the original Death Race 2000, to which the 2008 remake was a prequel, understand?  They do actually kind of line up, especially with the franchise-linking premise of Frankenstein being an identity maintained by the winners of the Death Race so that they can enjoy his infamy and the government can continue to use him as a poster boy for their dystopian society which enshrines euthanasia-by-car, and while this is pretty enjoyable trash, every time an actor you recognise comes onto the screen, it just seems like they can do better - yes, even Manu Bennett.

It's every inch a Roger Corman joint, though, looking very cheap and taking a series of easy shots in the script, and while its satirical targets betray higher ambitions, it neither tries nor pretends to be anything other than a cheap cash-in to the more successful series of Paul WS Anderson-produced DR remakes.  Probably more fun if - like me - you enjoy the overlap in the low-budget action and sci-fi genres and don't mind something that is often painfully cheap-looking.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The king of Thailand just died. There's like an uprising or something.

New Year's resolutions off to a great start in 2019 as I am already failing that whole "don't find any work as a comic artist" one as I clean forgot that I am still drawing Velicity Jones for David Lloyd's ACES WEEKLY, which is currently publishing the second adventure of the titular Jones.
I can only take some small solace that I am at least managing to fail at failing, andshould you be interested in ACES WEEKLY, you can find a means of electronic subscription HERE if you are of a mind to subscribe, and I do hope you will as I would really like to continue eating this year and this may be my only income after... (checks Brexitpocalypse date) March 29th.  HAHA they're doing it just in time for April 1st - what a spiffing wheeze the political classes are pulling on us!  No doubt the laughter they have gifted us will distract from our rumbling bellies and growing resolve to chop their flipping heads off and stick them on blinking spikes where we can spit on their rotting crow-pecked flesh.
Ahaha.  Clearly, I've never really understood this idea that violence has no place in politics, because that strikes me as a utopian notion and the last few years have made it clear we do not live in a culture with utopian aspirations and which still utilises violence and force as an intrinsic part of political process, be it the old-fashioned clubbing of protestors, or the information warfare of smearing anti-establishment voices as antisemitic.  Cards on table here, I myself am a Northern Irish Catholic Republican Socialist whose voting options include convicted terrorists who secured their place in government through a decades-long murder campaign, so my arguing that violence does not yield results would be a hollow claim even before I got to the fact that the state's monopolistic use of violence to resolve political stalemate is the cornerstone of human civilisation.  Central to its ongoing justification is the myth of "stability" through orthodoxy, and (blog post groans loudly as it turns back on course) Velicity Jones is just such an agent of orthodoxy.
A guardian of bourgeois British entitlement who kills people and then leaves their body in a field so it looks like a suicide and then trolls leftists online okay maybe not exactly that but whatever the 1960s equivalent of that kind of behavior was because that's my head canon for her life as a spy, only Lee doesn't go for it, the coward - oh yes, Lee Robson does the writing, in the moments he can tear himself away from lamenting Morrisey's fall from grace (or as Morrisey fans like to call it "after 1982").  Lee prefers to think of this as a spy romp in the style of the original Modesty Blaise strips with a healthy dose of the eurocomic school of ligne claire and a dollop of the Roger Moore era of Bond movies when spy romps were allowed to be colourful and fun and weren't just the adventures of a globe-trotting misogynist.
Unusually for collaborations with Lee, I didn't get notes on the size of the main character's rack on this one, so that must mean we're feminist comrades now.  Well, maybe not, but I think I'll stop listening to Jordan Peterson vox pops just in case.  Boy that guy sure does love his beef.

So uhhhhhh go buy my comic I guess?  It would be greatly appreciated by myself and Lee, but also by the many other fine contributors to ACES WEEKLY who also get a cut of that sweet sweet money pie.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Being a good Catholic sounds expensive

Well, here we are, a full week into the New Year of 2019, and my New Year's Resolutions are going great.  As ever, I have taken the advice of losers on the social medias not to make resolutions that might be difficult so that if I fail I won't feel sad, as opposed to the totally wrong way that people usually do these things by making resolutions that require effort and so when you succeed you will feel happy.  This year sees the coming of the Brexitpocalypse so nobody gets to feel happy.  Everyone suffers and we will put a brave face on it as the world burns in the finest traditions of the British Empire.  We ran out of foreign soil to salt, so now it's coming home.
Anyway, my resolutions are:
1 - put on weight
2 - exercise less
3 - deteriorate my mental health
4 - fail to secure any work as a comics artist
5 - not carry out my long-threatened and meticulously planned flamethrower attack on a schoolyard
and I fully expect to be able to succeed at all four of these resolutions in the coming year.  Perhaps 2019 will be the year I finally manage to soil myself as a grown adult, as I seem alone among my peers in not having performed this apparently commendable rite of passage.  I picture one day there will be made a film along the lines of The 40 Year Old Virgin, except instead of hesitantly admitting to his friends that he has never blown his love trumpet in a lady's love orchestra, the lead character will disclose that never once as a grown adult has he drank so many tins of Carling Black Label lager that his hungover arse emptied into his jeans at the breakfast table during an ill-advised venture aimed at quietly breaking wind and blaming it on the dog.  Maybe this year is my year.  I know Brexitpocalypse is coming, you guys, but God Damn It, a man can still dream and in the Brexitpocalypse this might be the only dream I still stand a chance of achieving.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

I'm going back to work - reality tv is boring and I've given up trying to follow Westworld

That was a nice break from blogging, but sadly it's back to business as usual.
Not much has transpired on the old "personal success in my chosen field" front in the year I have been away from filling out the blog pages, but luckily I have always considered my frank admissions of professional failure to be one of the main draws here on the YFaN blog for those happy to see someone's slide into destructive depression play out in real time - and given the success of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror over the last few years, apparently that's a considerably larger audience than I once assumed - and if you're scouring the internet looking for posts from failed and depressed comic artists, then who am I to deny you?
I probably should have made more of an effort to have something to post about in this, the debut blather of 2019, but when I say it's back to business as usual, I really mean it: rambling, incoherent, often pointless, mostly bitter and entitled - if my posts were anything else, would you even recognise them?  I know I wouldn't.