Monday, 14 June 2021

Comics: recent acquisitions

 In our recent trip to the fair city of Hereford I was pleased to see that "Q's Comics" in the historic Butter Market had weathered the Covid storm, lockdowns etc and was still trading. I managed to pick up these beauties:
Marvel Fanfare no.s 4 and 6, Master of Kung Fu no. 113 and Bat Lash no. 4.

The Marvel Fanfares boast some wonderful artwork from the likes of Paul Smith, Michael Golden 
( with the late, lamented Dave Anthony Kraft ), Charles Vess, and a stellar collaboration between the underrated Sandy Plunkett and P. Craig Russell. How's that for a line-up? Wonderful stuff!
The MOKF, on the other hand, features some of the worst artwork I've ever seen in a mainstream comic. The perpetrators are Rick Magyar & Alan Kupperberg  -  the latter I know has done much better work but, really, this issue is dire. Doug Moench's solid scripting just about redeems it, but at least the Gene Day cover is very nice.
By complete contrast, the Bat Lash ( very happy to find one of those in the wild ) features some beautiful work from the incomparable Nick Cardy, with his Eisner influences to the fore, especially in this masterful page:

Just the thing for reading whilst relaxing in the garden on a Summer's day:

I was doubly pleased with this purchase because I did a deal to trade in one of my duplicate copes of Fantastic Four no. 44 for the above comics  -  and, in fact, I was £3 up on the deal :-)

Here's the copy I traded, safely in its ( temporary I'm sure ) new home:

I'll definitely have to get back to Q's Comics when I can, it's really a great little business and the owner is always friendly and helpful. ( Wow! Things like that *almost* make it feel like the "old days" )

Thursday, 3 June 2021

"Released" Exhibition - Hereford College of Arts

 Hello. ( Hello? ) It may sound stupid but sometimes I almost forget I've got a blog. I really should post more stuff here. ( Yeah, yeah, you've heard it all before, haven't you Dear Reader? )

Anyway, here's some artwork from an exhibition our son James helped curate recently. This was "Released", a showcase for the second year of the Fine Arts Level 5 degree course at Hereford College of Arts.

Here's James welcoming discerning art-lovers ( and anybody else, really ) to the temporary gallery in the heart of the lovely city of Hereford...

( Yes, he's developed proper Lockdown Hair since he went back to University in March. ) Below are some views of his sadly untitled but very wonderful piece of sculpture and some photos of the different stages of its construction...

This was obviously a very personal project for James, as can be seen from the description below:

We're very proud of what he's accomplished in his artwork and in the very fact that he's at University. He's the first person in our family to ever do that and, as he's on the autistic spectrum and really struggled with his early schooling, it's a real credit to him that he's done so spectacularly well.

As well as James' piece, the standard of all the other artists' work was also extremely high, so here are some further examples, starting with James' friend Callum's ultra-cool street art:

James with proud mum Sarah and Callum's skateboard collection  -

It's interesting to see how art students are still fiercely political. Back in my A-Level days ( which is as far as I took my art education ) the topical themes would have been the likes of nuclear war, apartheid or police brutality  -  now they're more likely to be gender politics or climate change.

All in all, it was a hugely impressive, interesting and challenging exhibition. James messaged earlier to say they've cleared the exhibition and locked the doors today  -  second year done, one more to go...

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Dega by Dan McDaid

One unexpected side-effect of this bloody pandemic is that so many comics creator are now funding and publishing their own works via services like Kickstarter. One such artist is Dan McDaid, one of my fave modern comic guys who has worked on Judge Dredd, Firefly, Doctor Who and many other strips in recent years. I bought a lovely Spider-Man / Sandman page from Dan a few years ago which you can see here.

When I heard Dan had a new, self-published graphic novel coming out I jumped at the chance to support it. The postie dropped it off yesterday and I devoured it instantly, like a hungry, tentacled alien monster eating a small human in a spacesuit... which nearly happens in the book.

Dega is a relatively slim story of a lone, enigmatic human trying desperately to survive in a hostile alien environment but there are some nice twists and turns to the narrative and a surprise appearance by a Kate Bush song. And, of course, there's the artwork. Dan's work is just bursting with energy  -  a loose but lush style of brushwork that reveals just enough details of an image and always suggests more. His alien creatures are suitably frightening and ferocious, while his humans are tough but vulnerable and full of life. I'm not exaggerating when I say Dan's style here reminds me of the lunatic visions of the great Philipe Druillet and, if anything, he can draw a better human being. And, in keeping with the likes of Druillet and Moebius, Dega is printed in a lovely, hardback edition, very much like the classic European "albums" of the '70s produced by Les Humanoids Associes.

As well as the graphic novel itself, the backers of this project also received a postcard and a sticker ( see photo above ) as well as an A5 sketch of their choice. Because I'm a big fan of the way Dan portrays Jack Kirby's characters I asked for a sketch of that scourge of Apokolips, Orion of the New Gods, and here he is:

Great isn't it? It's slightly more "cartoony" than many of the other sketches Dan's posted on Twitter recently but I like it because he captures the sheer power and anger of Orion. Darkseid beware!

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Albums Of The Decade ( Part Two )

Okay, it's March already. How did that happen? Way back in the wastelands of 2020 ( is it always going to be painful to write that sequence of four numbers? ) I began to list my favourite albums of the last 10 years. Here's part two for anyone who wants to laugh at my musical choices:

Simulation Theory  -  Muse 

I've always liked Muse and, although Sarah is more of a fan than I am, seeing them play live a couple of times in the last few years has increased my admiration for the boys from Devon. Their music is a very slick, supremely well-played amalgamation of metal and prog, shot through with Queen-like bombast and slightly dodgy old science fiction ideas. Simulation Theory jams all these elements into its grooves but also adds a huge dollop of '80s synth-pop which makes it easily my favourite Muse album. There are some absolutely huge tunes here from the Gospel-inflected Dig Down to the appropriately catchy Thought Contagion and the pop-metal juggernaut of Pressure. All these songs are powerful and effective, even when divorced from their stage-show special effects.

The Modern Age  -  Sleeper

The Brit Pop era was a massively important time for women in indie music; so many talented females comprised and /or fronted great bands that went toe-to-toe with the more laddish types  -  Echobelly, Garbage, Elastica, Curve, Kenickie and Lush all kicked against the pricks and one of the most successful of these bands was Sleeper. After three albums of sassy, breathy pure guitar-pop, Louise Wener and her "Sleeperblokes" ( TM the NME some time in the '90s ) went their separate ways... until this 20th century reunion which was a long-overdue delight. A slight update to the original Sleeper sound but still that knack for a well-turned lyric and contagious chorus made this album, very possibly, the best thing they've done so far. Let's hope for more soon.

Diamond Mine  -  King Creosote & Jon Hopkins

A quietly beautiful amalgamation of Folk ( KC ) and electronica ( JH ) with ruminations on getting old, family squabbles and life at sea on Scottish trawlers. Kenny Anderson's vulnerable, Caledonian vocals float effortlessly over layers of acoustic guitars, found sounds and Hopkins' harmonium on such sublime songs as John Taylor's Month Away and Bats In The Attic. Absolutely haunting.

My Woman  -  Angel Olsen

This eclectic album from the ultra-talented Angel Olsen veers from the electronic torch song of the first track, Intern, through garage stompers like the Courtney Barnett-esque Shut Up Kiss Me to the Country Rock epic Sister, all held together by her soul-baring lyrics and keening, gorgeous vocals. Easily some of the most deeply moving performances I've heard in recent years. "I want to live life / I want to die right."

Kablammo!  -  Ash

After their A-Z Singles project when they'd announced that the album as a vehicle for music was dead, Northern Ireland's greatest pop/rock/punk/ metal band had a re-think and came back with this outstanding set of songs. As good as anything else in their career, Kablammo! saw Ash producing such classic power-pop singles as Cocoon and Bring Back The Summer, while Let's Ride and Evel Knievel showed they could still rock out with the best of them, and Free was just a beautiful, string-assisted Tim Wheeler ballad about escaping a toxic relationship. I had a ticket to see Ash play live in Bristol last March but, of course, the pandemic stopped that from happening like it put so much of our lives on hold. I'm really hoping that their "Teenage Wildlife" tour will be rescheduled... and Free will take on a whole new relevance.

American Dream  -  LCD Soundsystem

Another comeback album, this time from James Murphy's electro-pop outfit who had famously split up in 2011, making a big noise about it, and then apologetically reformed only four years later. Luckily, the result was worth it as American Dream is every bit as good as their previous output. Full to the brim with their retro-synth-driven Bowie / Talking Heads art rock and featuring the absolutely massive single Call The Police, it's a monster.

Given To The Wild  -  The Maccabees

With their melancholy lyrics, existential themes, beautifully smooth production sounds and propulsive guitar playing, the late lamented Maccabees almost turned into an indie Pink Floyd on this wonderful album. Which is a good thing.

Damage & Joy  -  The Jesus & Mary Chain

Can I use the word "comeback" yet again? Yes, I think I'll have to, as this album saw the return of the notoriously fractious Reid brothers who had buried the hatchet ( hopefully just figuratively ) long enough to go out on a couple of tours and produce some songs together for the first time in what seemed like several ice ages. Sticking to their tried and trusted formula of distorted rock 'n' roll fatalism, Jim and William showed there was life in the old dogs yet with such typically obnoxious tracks as All Things Must Pass, Mood Rider and Amputation ( "I'm a rock 'n' roll amputation" Of course you are, dear ). They also still have a way with a fuzzed-up girl-group ballad which Always Sad and The Two Of Us prove perfectly. Yes, it's a formula, yes, they're sticking to it and, yes, it's still fantastic.

Lost In The Dream  -  The War On Drugs

Okay, hear me out. What if Bob Dylan took a shed-load of mushrooms and recruited the E Street Band to back him on some windswept AOR epics that all went on for precisely forever? Yeah? Well, that would seem to be the thinking behind Adam Granduciel's psychedelic Americana on this towering album. And it works, it really works. Man.

The Sunshine Underground  -  The Sunshine Underground

Along with The Maccabees, The Sunshine Underground are one of those bands who, in a just and fair world, should have been absolutely massive. Their sky-scraping Nu Rave dance epics like Start and It Is Only You were tuneful, propulsive and all-inclusive and they were a massively fine live band. I saw them a couple of times and grinned from ear to ear throughout both performances of their positive-vibe-filled indie-dance-pop. ( That's a lot of hyphens! ) I was gutted when they announced they were splitting up but Sarah and I were lucky enough to catch them on their final tour at Bristol's iconic Thekla. As I say, in a better world, they would have been megastars. But of course we're living in a world where, instead, Ed Sheeran is a megastar. Aren't we lucky?

So, there you go, another 10 great albums which are guaranteed to make you even cooler than you already are whilst you listen to them. And you're pretty cool already, am I right?

Sunday, 10 January 2021

David Bowie - Five Years ( gone )

"Something happened on the day he died"

"News guy wept and told us..."

"We could be Heroes just for one day"

"Gotta make way for the Homo Superior"

Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year from The Glass Walking-Stick

I hope all you lovely people out there in the Blogosphere have a happy and healthy New Year and here's hoping things improve for all of us in 2021. Peace and love.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Albums Of The Decade ( Part One )

 In a different corner of t'internet* I've been taking part in some weekly polls where a bunch of music nutters  fans discuss their favourite albums of particular years or decades. This has led to the inevitable question of which were the best albums of the last decade. While obviously a very difficult choice for anyone who doesn't think that "music has been rubbish since the '80s / '90s / delete as applicable", I've managed to get my choices down to a workable list of 20 and I thought I'd inflict it on you, Dear Reader...

( In line with the original poll I'm going with albums released from 2010 to 2019  -  I'm not really sure that's how decades work but I'll stick with it. The Number One is really obvious but after that all numbers are arbitrary and completely irrelevant anyway because it's only my opinions and who am I? )

*( Twitter) 

Blackstar  -  David Bowie ( 2016 )

The Thin White Duke's parting gift to the world, an endlessly rewarding treasure box of mystery, melody and melancholy. Bowie's previous album, The Next Day, had been his kick-ass comeback after the quiet years when we'd all assumed he'd retired. It was by any standards a very, very good rock album and probably more than most people had expected from the former David Jones. Blackstar, on the other hand, was a masterpiece for the ages. Reconnecting with his more experimental days, Bowie hired a crack team of top New York jazz musicians and made some of the most exciting music of his career, mixing Hip Hop beats, Nadsat lyrics and call-backs to 17th century playwrites with songs that, in hindsight, anticipated his sad demise but were also bursting with life and energy.                                  "Something happened on the day he died..."

Masseduction  -  St. Vincent ( 2017 )

Staying in the artier realms of pop music we have this glossy, glassy, diamond-sharp album from the wonderful Annie Clark aka St. Vincent. A burst of Glam synth-pop colour, vibrant and shiny but with a dark flipside, Masseduction is the perfect soundtrack to the rainbow-coated Dystopia of your choice.     "I can't turn off what turns me on / I hold you like a weapon"

American Slang  -  The Gaslight Anthem ( 2010 )

After breaking big with their second album, The '59 Sound, New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem refined and distilled their Springsteen-goes-Punk ethos on this cracking collection of heart-on-sleeve anthems. Blue-collar rock doesn't get more poetic yet clear-eyed than this album's The Queen Of Lower Chelsea. "American girls they want the whole world."

Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit  -  Courtney Barnett ( 2015 )

You know that moment when you're in a record shop and you hear a song playing and think "that's really good" and then the next song is just as good and the next is even better and you have to ask the guy behind the counter who's the artist and then you buy the record and walk out of the shop and take it home and it still sounds great? Yeah? Well, that's how I first heard the laconic, ironic garage-rock of Courtney Barnett.                                                                                                                                        "Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you / Tell me I'm exceptional, I promise to exploit you"  

Arc  -  Everything Everything ( 2013 )

It's hard to believe that Everything Everything have been chronicling the horrors of the 21st century for over a decade now. Their twisty-turny, R'n'B-flavoured math-rock sounds like no-one else  -  a complex but danceable sound, deftly entwining often uplifting music with grimly pessimistic lyrics. And in front-man Jonathan Higgs they have surely one of the most powerful, if underrated, singers in modern music. Arc still stands, for me anyway, as their most complete album, a laser-guided dissection of the increasingly bizarre world we happen to be living in.                                                                                   "And that Eureka moment hits you like a cop car / And you wake up, just head and shoulders in a glass jar."

Wrecking Ball  -  Bruce Springsteen ( 2012 )

"Hard times come and hard times go, yeah just to come again." Bruce Springsteen's 17th studio album is one of his angriest, a protest howl about the uncaring forces ripping out America's guts. From the Irish-folk-meets-Punk of Death To My Hometown ( a song which really kicks hard when played live ) to the Gospel revival of Land Of Hope And Dreams, these are songs of ordinary people taking on the challenges of life in the USA, whether it's institutional racism or Ivory Tower bankers destroying communities. There's very little here that's subtle but it's powerful, stirring stuff with some of the most cast-iron tunes of Bruce's recent career. On a personal note, the title track has an extra meaning for me, beyond Bruce's intentions. I was listening to this album at the end of 2012 when I'd first been diagnosed with cancer and the sentiment of taking on whatever could be thrown at you affected me deeply. I can remember driving home from work one Winter night, full of mixed feelings, wanting to talk to my parents about my illness but being unable to  -  my Mum had passed away only two years before and it still felt very raw. I found myself singing along to Wrecking Ball at the top of my lungs, with tears coursing down my cheeks. I wasn't going to let this collection of rogue white blood cells beat me...        "Take your best shot / Bring on your wrecking ball!"

Damn.  -  Kendrick Lamarr ( 2017 )

I have to admit I'm not that well-versed in modern Hip Hop but Kendrick Lamarr is, for me, the finest rapper I've heard since Jay Z, and "Damn." ( full-stop intentional ) is a fantastic album. Kendrick looks back over his life, comparing his early hard years in Compton with his more recent success and, of course, comes to the conclusion that "They won't take me out my element." The album pinballs back and forth through his timeline with recurring themes, motifs and lines, until the end which instantly catapults the listener back to the start. With its winning combination of old skool / new skool Hip Hop sounds and beats, and Kendrick's seamless flow, this is an album which does indeed demand repeat listening.                                                                                                                                                      "What happens on Earth stays on Earth."

Skying  -  The Horrors ( 2011 )

The Horrors were a band I never really paid any attention to until I saw them supporting Primal Scream at the Eden Project, whilst promoting this very album. I was so impressed by their performance that I rushed out to buy Skying and was just knocked out by it. It's a hugely confident, atmospheric collection of songs  -  a whirlwind of Psychedelia, shoe-gaze and post-Punk influences with some huge Motorik beats underpinning it all. Still their best album.                                                                                            "In endless blue / Reflections look so good"

Beard, Wives, Denim -  Pond ( 2012 )

More Psychedelia, this time with an Antipodean flavour. Pond, formerly Kevin "Tame Impala" Parker's backing band, first came to my attention with this, their fourth album. The song When It Explodes drew me in with its dreamy, Flaming Lips-inspired otherworldliness and then I was hooked. Pond are the kind of band that can zoom off into stratospheric improvisations and freak-outs but will always return to a blue-eyed pop sensibility. Later albums like Hobo Rocket and Man It Feels Like Space Again only underlined this relationship between tunes and trips. I saw Pond play live a few years ago and they were just incredibly loud and heavy, man. Far out!                                                                                              "I hope that my head is not all straight" 

The Navigator  -  Hurray For The Riff Raff ( 2017 )

HFTRR ( as I'm sure nobody calls them ) are basically a vehicle for ferociously talented singer / songwriter Alynda Segarra. Apparently more known for a rootsy, folky style, the band here stretch out to embrace Indie, Velvet Underground-inspired sounds and  -  crucially  -  Segarra's Puerto Rican heritage in the stirring underclass anthem Pa'lante. It's a wonderful album, never going where you expect and always suffused with melody and passion.                                                                "Colonised and hypnotised, be something / Sterilised, dehumanised, be something"


Okay, that's as much as I can manage for now. The next 10 albums on my list will have to be revealed when this shitty, shitty year is over and we're on to the "sunlit uplands" of 2021. 

For now ( Dear Reader ) look after yourself, stay safe, wear a mask and have a Happy New Year. I'll see you on the other side... 

( By the way, if some of the lines above seem irregular and not aesthetically pleasing it just shows how useless the recent Blogger update has been. As I write and edit stuff it looks kind of alright, after some tweaking, but when I view the same stuff in "Preview" it all seems to go to hell. Blogger's overlords must have a "Brexit-style" view of things where they want to make blogging as difficult, restrictive and non-user-friendly as possible. Rant over. For now. )                                                                 

Friday, 25 December 2020

Happy Christmas from The Glass Walking-Stick

Here's wishing all you lovely people out in the Blogoverse a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year... hopefully with some kind of return to normality in 2021. Best wishes and love & peace to all.

And remember...

Monday, 14 December 2020

It's that time of year again


Although it's even more self-indulgent of me than usual I just had to mention that it's my birthday today. I've had a lovely day with Sarah, walking around one of our favourite places on the planet, the beautiful Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge. Unfortunately, due to the continuing state of Covid crapness, our kids couldn't be with us today ( which was very strange indeed ) but they should both be home for Christmas.

As well as the usual birthday messages and cards, I've had a couple of cool shout-outs from two of my old blogging pals, over on Twitter. So, a hearty "Thanks!" and "Excelsior!" to Doug of Bronze Age Babies fame for the Big John Buscema Thor pic below, and to Peerless Pete Doree for the pantingly personalised birthday card above. Oh yeah, and thanks to Stan & Jack. And Irving Forbush. 'Nuff said!

( Please don't tell anyone but I think Pete's given away my secret identity... )

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Richard Corben


I was sad to hear yesterday that the great comic book artist Richard Corben had recently passed away, following heart surgery. He first made a name for himself in the 1970s, working for various Underground comic publishers as well as for Warren magazines and Heavy Metal, and was a pioneer of the graphic novel form with the likes of Den / Neverwhere and Bloodstar. His comic strips were loud, brash and colourful, filled with brawny musclemen, over-endowed women, creepy creatures and outrageous horror. There was also a poetic, lyrical side to Corben's work which often showed through the fleshy spectacle and ultra-violence. He was a master of colour, achieving stunning chromatic effects with the limited resources of the four-colour comic. 

I thought I'd post a few examples of Corben's work from my collection. The first four images are all taken from P.R Garriock's Masters Of Comic Book Art, a wonderful book published way back in 1978 which first introduced me to Corben as well as the likes of Moebius, Druillet and Eisner. The next three images are taken from The Odd Comic World Of Richard Corben, a collection of some of his strips for Warren Publishing. Of course, Corben later went on to work for the likes of Pacific Comics and even went "mainstream" ( -ish ) for Marvel and DC but I'll always go back to the power and raw sensuality of his early material.

Absolutely beautiful artwork from one of the greats of the modern comic book who will be sadly missed.

RIP Richard Corben  -  1st October 1940 to 2nd December 2020


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