Saturday, 31 May 2008

Notes on comics I read today

Final Crisis #1
Loaded with obscure DC characters, this is a mite hard to follow for those of us who didn't bother to read Countdown or Death of the New Gods. Nonetheless with the help of Wikipedia all becomes a lot clearer.

I actually liked it, which doesn't mean I'm about to take out a bank loan to follow its expensive trail through the DC Universe, but does pretty much guarantee that I'll be on board for the core seven issue mini.

1985 #1
You know who Mark Millar reminds me of? Stephen King. Something to do with the fact that he keeps cranking out these shamelessly nostalgic page turners involving "special" kids. First there was Chosen, then Kick Ass and now comes 1985, a manipulative little comic that plays on the childhood memories of the 30 somethings who make up a large chunk of Marvel's audience. That all makes it sound like I hated 1985 right? Well no actually, in a guilty sort of way, I liked it. Again, it's the Stephen King thing, I know that this isn't particularly "worthy" comics, but it is entertaining. An easy read.

Astounding Wolf-Man #6
The weakest issue of this series so far. Some of the dialogue sounds like it's lifted from a daytime soap, and Jason Howard's art looks more hurried than usual. He's clearly decided that he's not going to bother drawing detailed backgrounds in the majority of his panels, this leaves a lot of blank space behind the characters, which doesn't look good.

Kirkman seems to be acknowledging that this is a weak issue by telling his readership that issue #7 is where the story really begins.

Dan Dare #6
I'm not enjoying this as much as I thought I was going to after reading the excellent first issue. It just seems to be dragging along a bit now. At his worst (ie for much of the 1980's run in the revamped Eagle) Dan Dare is a big old bore, I'm afraid that Ennis's Dare is closer to that Dare than he is to the turbo-charged version that appeared in 2000AD or even the original 50s incarnation of the character.

Giant-size Astonishing X-Men #1
And so Joss Whedon and John Cassady's run come to an end. Obviously it looks beautiful and reads well, but lets face it, the huge gaps between each issue has made this story damn hard to follow in single issue format. I'd already sat down and reread all the issues leading up to this one, but that was so long ago that by the time I came to reading this, I'd forgotten everything that had happened all over again.

Never mind. Anyone going back and reading the run in trade format is in for a treat.

All Star Superman #11
Gargggh! Two Grant Morisson comics in a week! My brain hurts.

As ever, the beauty of All Star Superman is in the detail. Whether it's the Welcome mat outside the Fortress of Solitude or the cavalcade of Luthor costumes on the wall of Lex's hideout, there is plenty to admire here. Definitely the most beautiful looking comic on the stands.

Green Lantern #31
Another fine issue. Just one question, why are all the buildings on Oa yellow? Surely that would be a bad idea. Is this just a mistake by the colourist that got overlooked, or am I missing something?

Northlanders #6
Err, more viking shenanigans. Yeah, that's all I got to say about this one.

That's it. I'm too knackered to write much more today. Instead here are two Manic Street Preachers songs that relate to this week's read pile. The first one is called 1985 - nuff said. The second, Solitude, has been going round in my head for a week or two now. It always makes me think of Superman.

Both tracks are from the Manics' most underrated album Lifeblood. Neither song was ever released as a single so no official videos. Instead you get a fan made vid for 1985 and a live performance of Solitude. Enjoy...

Hey Eddie!

Look I enjoyed Final Crisis #1, (Hell of a good comic, boy does Grant Morrison get the Green Lantern Corps), BUT don't try and tell me that it's anything more than the start of a hype driven money spinner for DC...Oh OK, do try and tell me that...

So says Eddie Berganza, Final Crisis editor.

Well Eddie, thanks for thinking of us! Just the seven tie-in titles you say, that sounds like it'll be almost affordable. Let's see, seven issues of the main title + those seven, that's just the £28 I'm going to have to spend right? Not too bad.

But hang on fella, here's the Infinite Crisis checklist...

# DC Universe Zero

# Final Crisis #1
# Justice League of America #21
# Final Crisis Sketchbook

# Final Crisis #2

# Final Crisis #3
# Final Crisis: Requiem
# Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge #1

# DC Universe: Last Will and Testament
# Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #1
# Final Crisis: Revelation #1
# Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge #2
# Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1

# Final Crisis #4
# Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #2
# Final Crisis: Revelation #2
# Final Crisis: Rogue's Revenge #3
# Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #2
# Final Crisis: Submit

# Final Crisis #5
# Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #3
# Final Crisis: Resist
# Final Crisis: Revelation #3

# Final Crisis #6
# Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #4
# Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns
# Final Crisis: Revelation #4

# Final Crisis #7
# Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #5
# Final Crisis: Revelation #5

Fffffffffuuuuck! You mean those tie-ins aren't one shots? That doesn't tally with what you're telling us Eddie. And, what's this I hear in my local comic shop? Rumours that Batman, Teen Titans, Birds of Prey and Green Lantern will ALL be tied in at some point?!

Hey Eddie, is that what you think of as "not a lot" of crossovers? And what was that you were saying about "infinite money"?

Thursday, 29 May 2008

The Crimson Virus

Comics, I've seen some women reading them, but let's face it the majority of the fan base are socially retarded males. As such comics tend to be geared towards men. Women's issues certainly don't get much of a hearing in the pages of Marvel and DC. Take menstruation for example, there aren't too many comics that deal with it. I think Swamp Thing #40 is about the most famous...

You know this issue right? It's the one where Alan Moore spins a yarn about an American housewife who lives on the site of an old Indian village where women having their period were banged up in a sweat lodge...

It's a mighty fine issue with a strong female lead.

Here's our heroine, looking suitably oppressed in the supermarket...

To cut a long story short, she gets pissed off at her bastard of a husband and the misogynistic society she lives in..

...and when she comes on, she gets possessed by some Indian werewolf period spirit or something and goes proper bonkers...

...killing her hubby and smashing up an adult bookstore...

...before impaling herself on a set of carving knives in the supermarket...

It's serious stuff. The kind of book that you give to your girlfriend to prove that comics aren't just for kids (or grown men with the mindset of kids). But you know what? In the history of menstruation themed comics it is as nothing, NOTHING, when compared to the metaphorical powerhouse of silver age genius that is Adventure Comics #313.

Seriously chums, this Legion of Super-Heroes story is the period BOMB! Yes Mr Moore, you heard me, THE PERIOD BOMB! Keep your savvy 80s, sophisticated Vertigo style comics for grown ups, the kids want this...

...terrible news indeed Superboy. And, in the world of silver age DC comics, news that no man can begin to understand. Yes, where Alan Moore used his tale of PMT to make a point about female disempowerment, silver age scribe Edmond Hamilton had a different message for the male youth of America: "Boys! Once a month women change! You cannot hope to understand what is happening! They are sick!"


I'll tell you what's hit you Shrinking Violet, THE CURSE! And our writer Mr Hamilton knows what needs to be done...

QUARANTINE WORLD?!? While Alan Moore raged against the fact that some ancient cultures locked women away during menstruation, Edmond Hamilton appeared to think it was rather a good idea, he even packs the women off in a contraption that looks eerily familiar. Compare and contrast...

Supes really doesn't get it does he?

Aaaaanyways, obviously the crimson virus isn't really the onset of the Legionnaire ladies' periods (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) it's some jiggery pokery red krypton style ray being fired at the women by none other than...

This nasty piece turns out to have a pretty strange origin. She's an evil version of Supergirl who came into being when the original supergirl was hit by Red Kryptonite...

So let me get this straight. Supergirl gets hit by RED kryptonite which creates another altogether crabbier supergirl who calls herself satan girl. Ha! Keep your werewolves Alan Moore, THAT'S a metaphor!

You don't need to know much more. The effect of the red kryptonite wears off and all the ladies return to normal with Satan Girl disappearing back from whence she came (at least until next month)...

There is some typical Legion madness in outer space before everything gets sorted, the highlight of which comes when Bouncing Boy goes bouncing with some giant alien testicle creatures...

but there's no doubting what the story is really about. Whether the prepubescent audience at the time got it I don't know. In many ways I hope they didn't, some will have though, did they go into their teenage years fearing the onset of the crimson virus?

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


You'll have to excuse me I'm feeling a little fuzzy today. If you're the man who had the misfortune of being ranted at by me on the tube last night, what can I say? If you will read DC archives on public transport, you have to accept that half cut fuckwits will start banging on about Gorilla Grodd at great and very loud length before insisting that you visit their blog. Apologies.

Sooooo, Slight hangover aside, what's to say. Well, I'm reading Conan. Not the comics, but the original Robert E Howard yarns. Top stuff. It's well worth cross referencing some of the tales with the comics. I enjoyed The Dark Horse stuff well enough first time around, but going back to it and reading it alongside Howard's original stories is even more satisfying. Those are some fine adaptations.

I've added a couple more websites to Linkorama. iFanboy which is an excellent comics review podcast and Word Balloon, a comic book interview show. I've mentioned it before, but I feel duty bound to bang the drum for Word Balloon again. Host John Siuntres is a fantastic host, as knowledgeable a comics fan as you'll find who knows that the trick of great interviewing is to let the interviewee do the talking.

I listened to his interview with Neal Adams yesterday afternoon. Legend obviously, but Adams comes across as an arrogant, egotistical curmudgeon. He's also a complete nutcase who thinks that the earth is growing! Seriously. Go listen to the interview.

Other bits and bobs...HMV is currently selling off some decent DVD box sets. I picked up the five Planet of the Apes movies and the Omen box set for a tenner apiece. There are plenty more bargains to be had (Rambo, Rocky etc).

Anyone who likes the TV show Heroes might be interested to know that Orbital are hosting a signing by the fella who draws some Heroes comic or other. Details HERE.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Return of Skul

August 1982 and nine year old poster seller Robert Robbins has gone pro...

Monday, 26 May 2008

Watchmen news

Well now, THIS is interesting.

Also exclusive news from Mr Wheatley who is in Prague at the mo and tells me the Watchmen soundtrack is in the process of being recorded by the Prague Philharmonic.

If you haven't already, check out the video journals covering Watchmen set and costume design on the official Watchmen site.

Go make a commercial for Nostalgia HERE.

Watch what you're up against...

Brief comments on the stuff I've been reading

The End League #3

Deliberately derivative, yet devoid of the faith in the power of good to overcome evil which many would consider essential to any superhero book; The End League isn't going to make all spandex fans happy. Writer Rick Remender likes superheroes, (you'll recognise the archetypes on show here), but he doesn't think humans are necessarily very heroic, and the world of The End League is one where the existence of super-powered folk spells disaster for the planet.

Given that it's essentially a "What If the bad guys won" story, there are parallels to be drawn with Mark Millar's Wanted, but The End League is so pessimistic that it makes Wanted look like the Beano. Quite how this will play out in the long run I don't know. It's a novel take on a tired old genre, but then so was Robert Kirkman's excellent Irredeemable Ant-Man, and look what happened to that.

While I fear cancellation then, I hope enough people out there get behind The End League to make it last. Remender's voice is a unique one and I'm keen to see where he's going with this. His work on Fear Agent and Crawl Space shows a certain reverence for the Sci-fi and Horror comic genres, but his take on superheroes is different. This is no nostalgic tribute to the genre, it's a bitterly pessimistic treatise.

Captain America #38
In many ways this is just as bleak as The End League, which (given that it's a mainstream Marvel title) makes it all the more impressive. We all know that the world's in a mess at the moment and Cap reflects that fact.

A word too for Steve Epting who hits the high notes with his pencilling on this issue. The fight scene between Bucky the Falcon and a bunch of AIM agents is as dynamic a looking superhero beat 'em up as you'll see anywhere.

Black Summer #6
Bleak, bleak, bleak. Are you sensing a theme here?

Check out the Juan Jose Ryp's splash on pages 2+3 for a bunch of unexpected special guest appearances. I've spotted Sponge Bob, Mario, Pebbles, Shrek and this fellow who I can't quite place...

any ideas?

Nice to see Ryp sending his famously overly detailed work up. The man's a marvel.

Fantastic Four #557
This has been taking a real bashing, but I like it. Millar is doing a particularly fine job with Reed Richards. It's easy to portray Richards as a pipe smoking bore with no sense of fun, but Millar wants us to know that he's not called Mr Fantastic for nothing. This is a man who in the space of 22 pages climbs into giant Galactus-Transformer to save the world, travels back in time and gives his missus a ring containing a micro-galaxy as an anniversary present.

Fantastic indeed.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Hulk 911



It's only £8.

For that you get 350 pages of this...


And best of all this...








LOOK at this...

The Eyes Have It

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Posters $1.00

Take a look at this page of ads from May 1982. Pretty standard right? The usual mish mash of Kung-Fu manuals and novelty items?
Not quite. Look closer...

wtf is this?

I don't know how much Marvel and DC were charging for ads in the 1980s, but were they really so cheap that a nine year old trying to make a fast buck could afford them?

And who the hell is SKUL?

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Finger lickin' Kana

From the depths of YouTube I bring you an ad for fried slabs of reconstituted chicken from Soviet era Estonia.

Aaah the great taste of Kana washed down with a glass of piss.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

A couple of things from The Twelve #5

If you're going to get hit by a bus... might as well make it a Marvel bus

This... The Blue Blade's best fuck face.

Seriously, I think Chris Weston is doing a great job on pencils, but that my friends is the face of a man being sucked off.

Monday, 19 May 2008


I bought a lot of comics as a teenager. Sadly as the 90s wore on I lost my interest in the hobby and ended up leaving my collection in the corner of a grimy student house in Brighton. My head was pretty muddled at the time (relationships, dope, the usual) and the comics just didn't seem that important.

Fast forward a couple of years and I return to Brighton in the vain hope that my collection might still be piled up where I'd left it. Stupid obviously, but I thought there was a chance.

Getting into the old flat was easy enough, I still got on with the landlady and it was a simple task to convince her to let me in while the students who moved in after me were out. I probably wasn't really expecting to find anything, but to my surprise the comics were still there! Only trouble was the bloke who had moved into my old room had decided to tear them all up and use them as wallpaper. Bummer.

Fair play, he'd made quite an artistic looking collage out of my prized collection arranging the pages in a huge jagged spiral with the cover to issue #1 of Hellblazer as the centrepiece. It was a grim moment.

I'm over it now and I've replaced most of the collection, but it's only recently that I've picked up the first trade of Hellblazer again. There on the cover is that picture of John Constantine staring back at me...

Ha-Ha. I swear when I look at that it's Brighton 1995 all over again. Honestly. it's like magic. Constantine would approve.

Thankfully I'm old enough and ugly enough to put aside any spooky feelings and enjoy the collected edition which reprints the first nine issues of the series. Original Sins is a great book, a real period piece. It's also very British, which sets it apart from other American comics of the time. The likes of Moore and Gibbons were setting the comics agenda back then, but Hellblazer feels like it belongs outside American comics altogether. Constantine uses British slang and inhabits the back streets of Camden Town and Newcastle. So while writer, Jamie Delano takes his leading man to the States, and trains his satirical eye on Reaganomics and Vietnam, at its heart Hellblazer is a critique of Thatcher's Britain.

To anyone who wasn't around at the time it's hard to explain the grip Maggie Thatcher held over this country. Back in 1987 when she was winning a third term in office it seemed like the British left was dead. Greed was the norm. Civil liberties and moral responsibility were things of the past. "Society" claimed Thatcher "Does not Exist" and the British electorate were backing her up by voting her in for a third term. It was a great time for the rich and those who were determined to join them, but a grim slog for huge swathes of the population who were being fucked by a government that seemed intent on marginalising the needy rather than helping them out of poverty.

For a lot of people then, Thatcherism was an evil business. Jamie Delano certainly thought so. He took the idea and ran with it, turning the money grabbing yuppies of the day into disciples of the devil and painting the rampant consumerism encouraged by the right as a form of possession which threatened to destroy the world.

In doing so he produced some of the best satirical horror ever seen in comics. Sure some of the flowery language in his script seems unnecessary 21 years on, but to criticise Hellbalzer for that would be as churlish as taking exception to the heavy handed exposition in a silver age Marvel comic. The metaphor laden script marks Hellblazer out as a comic of its time. It still works and the forces of greed and corruption which Delano seeks to satirise are still recognisable.

Fighting against these forces is Constantine, a cynical occult detective who is as disgusted by the times in which he lives as Delano. He's almost resigned to the fact that Britain and the World are going to Hell, but for reasons of faith and conscience feels obligated to take a stand against the dark forces at work.

He's a familiar figure to readers now, but back in the 80s he was unlike anything else in American comics, a character who owed more to the neo noir of Get Carter than the spandex world of the DC Universe. Alan Moore invented him and let him loose in the pages of Swamp Thing, but it was Delano who defined John Constantine, and it's within the pages of Original Sin that he comes into his own.

All good historical stuff then. I enjoyed reading the first trade so much that I'm going to read ALL of Hellblazer right up to Andy Diggle's current run on the title. When I've finished I might plaster my comic room wall with the pages, just for old time's sake.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

The Butcher's Hook

Evening chums. I just wrote a long and involved post about Hellblazer but, to be honest, looking at it I can see that a big chunk of what I've written is absolute twaddle.

I'll go over it again and post some modified version of it on Monday night, but right now I have to go to bed because it's my day off tomorrow and that means I get to look after my nine month old son all day. Believe me that's exhausting stuff. Exhausting stuff that will start at 7.30am when my missus goes to work and won't end until 7pm when the lad goes to sleep.

Pity me why don't you!

For now here's a picture of a pub sign from issue #3 of Hellblazer...

I love Hellblazer, but let me tell you no pub in Britain has a sign that looks like that!

There is actually a Butcher's Hook near Smithfields meat market, it looks like this...

Not a sign in sight. Perhaps that wooden number was hanging outside in 1987 when Hellblazer #3 came out. Perhaps I should take Hellblazer #3 in and ask.

Perhaps not.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Mart news

Yes chums, there's a mart in London this Sunday.

Sadly I can't go, but don't let that stop you from luxuriating in the stink of man sweat and old comics...


I bumped into James Gandolfini yesterday. Yes, that James Gandolfini. Quite what he was doing round the back of Waitrose Oxford Street I don't know, but I can confirm it was him. This is how our conversation went...

ME: "Excuse me, are you James Gandolfini?"
JG: "Yes"
ME: "Excellent"
JG looks at me blankly
ME: "The Sopranos is my favourite TV show EVER!"
JG: "Thank you"

Exciting stuff I'm sure you'll agree.

Strictly speaking of course I lied about The Sopranos being my favourite show ever. It's one of my favourite shows, but not THE favourite. I guess Knightmare might just pip the Sopranos, but then I doubt Mr Gandolfini has ever heard of Treguard and the gang, so I wasn't about to spoil things by mentioning them.

Anyyyyways. An interesting shop yesterday. I bought my stash from Gosh! where the chaps behind the counter were debating the new Dave Sim vehicle Glamourpuss. You know, it looks nice, but really I can't be arsed with it. I think that was their take too.

Then a quick trip to Forbidden planet where Simon Spurrier and Frazer Iriving were talking Tank Girl to one of the staff. More celebs, not quite on the Gandolfini scale, but celebs nonetheless.

I see that FP has now given a huge amount of shelf space over to Secret Invasion variants and that the usual gang of gloved fiends were inspecting each comic in minute detail before selecting the most pristine copies for CGCing. Loonies.

From there on to Orbital, a comic shop which I'm rapidly going off. It's really beginning to smell bad in that strip lit basement and the ambiance isn't helped by the fact that several of the staff seem more interested in chatting loudly among themselves than making the shop a welcoming environment. Still, the 50p bins are now 20p bins and the trades remain the cheapest in the West End, so it's not all bad.

In between tales of his adventures in north London pubs, one of the staff was talking about the possibility of Orbital relocating. From what I could discern the tube station next door might be taking over the current premises with Orbital moving back to Soho. We can but hope the new premises are above ground.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Shopping list

Euro 2008 betting previews in the bag, Creepshow special edition DVD arrived in the post, new comic day tomorrow. Aaah 'tis good to be alive sometimes.

I might not have had the chance to read last week's comics yet, but that's not going to stop me from stuffing tomorrow's batch of sequential based goodies in the old nerd sack. Here's my shopping list...

Green Lantern Corps #24
The Sinestro Corps war rumbles on in this impressive back-up to Green Lantern. If spandex clad aliens punching holes in each other's heads is your thing you'll love GLC, if not then, well, I pity you.

Wonder Woman #20
This is just good old fashioned superpowered fun. Fights and stuff with a bit of a lurrve interest for the ladeeez going on in the background. Read it, enjoy it, forget it. Nothing wrong with that.

Project Superpowers #3
Not as good as Marvel's The Twelve frankly, but I'm still a sucker for Golden Age shenanigans so I'm on board for the duration.

Amazing Spider-Man #559
Look, I'm two issues behind on this so you'll have to forgive me if what I'm about to say is out of date, but isn't it about time an A list villain appeared in Spider-Man? We're 14 issues in to this new run and there's still no sign of any of Spidey's old foes. I mean, come on we should have at least of had the fucking Vulture by now. Sheesh!

newuniversal shockfront #1 (of 6)
Oh my, you mean this isn't dead after all? I'll probably have to go back and reread all the previous issues to remember what was happening. Last I recall Johnny Depp and Nicole Kidman were schlepping around some ancient temple while Bruce Willis and Sawyer from Lost were busy killing people. There's a new artist on board now so who knows if the celebrities will still feature.

Thunderbolts #120
More Warren Ellis, but is it good Warren Ellis? Hmmm. Not sure any more. The trouble with Thunderbolts is that after a promising start the story seems to have meandered off down a blind alley. I have no idea what's going on and to be honest I'm not wholly convinced Ellis does either. Unless Norman puts that fucking Goblin mask on THIS ISSUE, I could well be dropping Thunderbolts.

Twelve #5 (of 12)
Oooh I'm looking forward to this one, which is surprising because I'm not a big fan of Staczzzzzzynski's work. He's working with a large cast here, yet giving us enough on each character to keep interest in the Twelve as a whole high. There's a bit of a Watchmenny type vibe to the whole thing which I quite like.

Right that's it, I'm off to watch Creepshow and forget about football.

Tarahh chucks.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Football Heroes

Sorry, I've been too busy writing betting previews for the upcoming Euro 2008 football tournament to do much of anything else.

While I work on a newspaper sports desk and moonlight as a football betting tipster, I realise that most fans of comics don't like sport. For those who do like both, check out THIS LINK for some nice Panini sticker style portraits of the past winners of the European Championship.

Ah, takes me back to happy days spent swapping stickers as a child - Got, got, got, need, got, got, need etc.

I think Germany 1980 are my favourites...

All contained in a book by these people.

Here's their take on Zidane as the Mekon...

Monday, 12 May 2008

Hypnotic Kirby baby

Hypnotic Kirby baby says: "You WILL love me!"

Detail from Stan Lee & Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Stark v Stane

Loved Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca's first issue of Iron Man. It's a great Marvel comic book.

I'm with Tony Stark here...

too right. When I was a kid they showed every shuttle launch live. Space travel was massive, now it's all a bit myyeerr. I can relate to Tony's wistfulness, which makes the next panel all the better...

Yeah, straight from wistful (slightly bitter) Tony to the youthful cold-eyed cynicism of Ezekiel Stane. Look at that face, there's a smart kid who could give two shits about shuttle launches. He's going to be the perfect villain for alcohol damaged Tony. Clean and cold. He's Iron Man for the me, me, me generation. It's going to be great when he rips off that skin again and throws it down with Tony.

Yay, Marvel!

For more commentary go HERE

Streams of bilge

Gahhh these Bank Holiday weeks always catch me out. Obviously I know that the new comics arrive a day late because Diamond are a day behind, but it still doesn't stop me forgetting EVERY FUCKING TIME. Piss flaps.

Anyway, after a pointless trip to the comic shop on Thursday, I returned today to fill the nerd sack with plenty of new goodies including Invaders New Avengers #1. This is a book which I know is going to be pants, but which I have to get because it's got The Invaders in it. I'm DESPERATE for an Invaders comic, but the fact that this one is not set during World War II and has the New Avengers in it does not bode well.

Any book with Spider-Woman on the cover has to be tosh.


I'm very happy to see that the Around Comics podcast is back. Obviously it never really went away what with the folk from SCAD filling in while the regular cast took a break. But you know without the regulars riffing about comics, life, the universe and everything it just wasn't the same. My journey to work will once again have meaning.


I really am way, way behind on my reading, but that's not the only area where I'm slipping. The old Sky + box is growing fat on undigested episodes of Heroes, Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who And I've still got half of the final season of The Sopranos to watch.

Having a child really does make it hard to do important stuff like reading comics and watching TV.


Something or (some things) I didn't mention in my rather hastily banged together Iron Man review were the trailers before the film...

Not Tony (sadly), but Will Smith playing a drunk super-hero without a costume. Very Heroes I'm sure.

I'm not Smith's biggest fan (he can never be forgiven for I Robot), but there was enough in the trailer to catch my attention and I'll probably be checking this one out.

The Hulk
Look I really like the idea of Ed Norton as Bruce Banner, William Hurt looks like a fine General Ross and Tim Roth is always excellent, but I'm still struggling with that CGI. I'm sure they've spent millions on it, but it looks really bad to me. Still, bonus points for incorporating Lonely Man in the soundtrack. I loves me some Lonely Man.

The Happening
Oh for fuck's sake, how is Shyamalan still getting his films made? Yes The Sixth Sense was good. I even liked Unbreakable. But Signs? The Village? Lady in the cunting Water??? Sheesh. Those are three real stinkers. Not just common or garden stinkers either, stinkers that managed to outstink each other in a veritable procession of stinkage.

This latest thing? Well the trailer has Mark Wahlberg asking "Where have all the bees gone?" which momentarily had me hoping for a remake of Attack of the Killer Bees. In truth they've probably fucked off because they can't cope with the thought of being in a Shyamalan film. I'd be shocked if this turned out to be anything other than a complete bag of bollocks.

Prince Caspian
I enjoyed everything about the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe apart from Ray Winstone and Dawn French as beavers (cunts more like). This one looks good too. Shame there's no Tilda Swinton this time. She was top notch in the first one.

I know someone called Aslan by the way. He doesn't like being called the Lion.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Una Paloma Blanca it ain't

Oh sweet Jesus King, you've really gone and done it now...

and yes I know that had nothing to do with comics, but, but, but...

Doorbells of the Hackney Super-Villains

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Iron Man

With London basking in uncharacteristically beautiful weather I naturally decided it was time to hide in a dark cinema and watch the Superhero flick that everybody's been yabbering about - Iron Man.

I normally avoid these big budget spectaculars, but since every review of Iron Man I'd seen said it was worth checking out, I figured I should give it a go. And well, yeah, it's not bad. I have some reservations about it, but in the main it's an enjoyable couple of hours.

If you haven't seen it and you don't want things spoiling look away NOW. For anyone who has seen it (or for those who just plain doesn't care) here are the things that I didn't like about Iron Man...

  • While I thought it was brave to have a pop at the American military/industrial complex in a mainstream action flick, I was less happy with the implication that US military might is ultimately offered as the answer to Afghanistan's problems. Sure, Tony Stark figures out that supplying Afghan warlords with weapons is morally wrong, but that doesn't change the fact that he ends up sorting things out with a star spangled volley of ballistic missiles. Even if it's not a piece of propaganda, there are times when Iron Man does feel like an advert for US aggression.
  • Elements of the film are overly formulaic. I'm talking the whole Tony/Pepper Potts will they/won't they thing, and the "Gahh, curse you Iron Man" "I will crush you like a bug" sort of fight between Iron Man and Iron Monger at the end.
  • That robot with the fire extinguisher really annoyed me. Its clearly been chucked in to provide the kids in the audience with some comic relief, but it felt unnecessary.
  • Computer Jarvis. I want real Jarvis OK. Sorry, but I do.
Those points aside there was a lot I did like about the film...

  • Robert Downey Junior. From the opening sequence where he's holding drunken court in a military convoy right through to the closing moments of the film, Downey Junior just nails Tony Stark. He's helped by writers and a director who obviously did their research, but the actor has to take the bulk of the credit for a performance which conveys the two sides of Stark's character equally well.
  • Jeff Bridges. A performance every bit as good as Downey Jnr. Bridges does a lot of shouting at the end of the film, but its when he's giving it the creepy, caring, quiet menace in the first half of the story that he comes into his own. He's a huge presence and a believable bad guy. Oh and it's nice to see that Favreau remembered that Obadiah Stane likes a game of chess!
  • The new take on Iron Man's origin was handled well. Yes I have my reservations about the politics of the whole thing (see above) but then I suppose I would also have been uncomfortable with a lot of Stan and Jack's commie bashing back in the day. That hasn't stopped me enjoying their comics. So, aside from the fact that the Mandarin is replaced with an Afghan Warlord and the old China man who helps Stark build his first suit is now a middle aged Afghan hostage, I was delighted to see that the film remained true to the original comic book origin.
  • The special effects are great. From the proto suit which looks fantastic (especially when Stark is torching everything with those massive flamethrowers) to the computerised targeting system in the new suit, everything looks really slick. I've criticised the showdown between Iron Man and Iron Monger at the end for being formulaic, but that's not to say that the cgi in that fight scene isn't superb, it is.
  • The teaser at the end of the credits with Samuel L Jackson as Ultimate Nick Fury had me slapping my armrest with joy. An Ultimates live action film?!!! Pass me the tissues

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Great aliases of Jimmy Olsen #1

Next week Jimmy goes undercover as Will E Seeker, escalator attendant.

Panels from DC Showcase Superman Family Volume 1

Monday, 5 May 2008

The Watcher

Scans from Channel 33 and a third Summer Special 1983 a comic which I borrowed from Dave F 23 years ago. I'll give it back one day Dave.

Comic reviews

Evening chums, it's been a while since I bored you all with any reviews hasn't it? Here are some for you now.

Wake up at the back!

Thor Ages of Thunder
Despite Matt Fraction's admission that he hates all things fantasy, he's actually penned a damn good Thor book here. It's certainly much better than the ongoing Straczynski series which I dropped after two mind numbingly dull issues. I've heard from a few people that It's got better since then, but really two issues of Thor hanging around in small town America doing nothing was enough to turn me off for life.

Let's face it, Thor might have an introspective side to his character, but when it comes down to it he's the God of Thunder, he's got a fucking big hammer and he's good at smashing skulls. This should be the basis of any Thor book and, thank Odin, Fraction knows it. Within a couple of pages of Ages of Thunder our hero is bashing crap out of angry frost giants. Huzzah!

That's not to say that this is just a beat 'em up comic. Fraction's Thor is a different animal to the one I'm used to reading about, pretty Conanesque really. He's a surly bugger who does things his way, occasionally rising from his shagpad to clear up the latest mess that Loki has made. That might not do it for all Thor fans, but it works fine for me, and I'd be more than happy to see Fraction writing a lot more Thor.

Crawl Space #4 XXX Zombies
It makes the old EC comics look tame, but there's a whiff of EC spirit about Crawl Space, a feeling that Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer are pushing their luck, testing our tolerance and breaking taboos for fun.

I read this issue on the bus and let me tell you, within two pages I was hurriedly ensuring that the person next to me couldn't see what I was looking at. It's genuinely sick stuff which could provoke a real outcry if it were to fall into the wrong hands.

Seriously, in 24 pages we get a nun giving head, an orgy, an anal rape, multiple murders and a souvenir poster of a zombie birth! Fffffuckkkk, I doubt that's a recipe we'll be seeing repeated in the soon to be relaunched House of Mystery.

Obviously Remender's tongue is firmly in his cheek (indeed the dark sense of humour provides another link to those old EC stories) but there are also times when XXX Zombies gets pretty damn nasty. Reading it is a bit like being clubbed over the head, but for all it's excesses (or maybe because of them) Crawl Space is a fine horror comic, the only truly horrifying one on the market in fact.

Green Lantern #30
Part two of Geoff Johns' Secret Origin arc, and one of the best issues in what remains my favourite ongoing DC title.

There's plenty of ammo here for those who castigate Johns for being a mawkish fanboy. After all this is yet another retelling of John Broome and Gil Kane's classic silver age origin story AND one which (once again) draws on Alan Moore's Tygers to boot.

For me though, Johns' interweaving of these two very different tales is a masterpiece of mainstream comics. He seamlessly knots the stories together adding his own spin to make something completely new. It's brilliant to watch and rather than replacing that classic origin story, fleshes it out.

Great stuff.

The Sound of Drowning #11
It's always a pleasant surprise to see this little British independent back on the racks. For those of you who missed it, I recommended the last issue HERE.

If you didn't give it a shot then, try it now. The latest issue features the a post apocalyptic take on Happy Days, a potted history of psycho-schematics, a disturbing tale of Artificial intelligence and a maniacal William Shatner.

Nightmarish, pamphlet sized goodness featuring the Cunningham family as you've never seen them before. What more could you want? If you can't get it in your comic shop, then you can order it through The Sound of Drowning website

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Free Comic Book Day

I can't take part, but for anyone else out there who might happen upon this: TODAY IS FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

Yes, free comics at your local comic shop. Go get them, I can confirm that the Hellboy one is rather good.

If you happen to be in central London you might want to check out some of the shops in THIS OLD LINK, as far as I know they are all participating.

Back later.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Hellboy: Darkness Calls special edition at Gosh! comics

After I mentioned to them that I couldn't make the shop on Saturday, those kind folks at Gosh! comics gave me an advance copy of Saturday's Free Comic Book Day edition of Hellboy. Dash decent of them.

I've also got my name down with them for this...

That's the ink washed bookplate for the soon to be released Hellboy graphic novel Darkness Calls. Its limited to just 200 copies and is signed by both Mike Mignola and Duncan Fregredo. This special edition is ONLY available through Gosh! And, listen to this, its going for the same price as the regular edition - just £12.99. That really is a great deal!

When I went into the shop today there were still slots on the waiting list for this beauty. I imagine they're filling up fast though.

More info HERE

Inside London Loves Comics!

The best thing about my new house is that I have a room of my own.

Glory! At last a place to shove the mounds of comic and fantasy related tat which I insist on hoarding.

Here it is...

On your right is the chair I sit in to make the LLC magic happen. To the left of that is "Christmas" my ficus, which (as the name suggests) doubles as a Christmas tree in the festive season.

Behind Christmas is a bookcase full of exciting graphic novels...

I'm gathering more of these as I get older and will soon need a second bookcase. I'm quite happy about this as they look pretty, unlike the longboxes which flank three sides of the room...

That's five of the buggers. I'm ashamed to say there are 15 in total, all pretty much full to bursting with floppies.

In the corner there's a cupboard where my British comics (2000AD, Eagle, Scream and The Crunch) can quietly turn yellow...

and in a cupboard above that my collection of old boardgames gathers dust alongside an unimpressive smattering of Heroclix...

Up on the wall is my original page from Marvel Zombies number #1 by Sean Phillips. No zombies, but I liked the image of Magneto and Cap's shield enough to buy it.

And there you have it, my comics room. Marvellous.