Saturday, 27 June 2020

30-Day Comic Challenge Week 4

I've come to the final week of the comics challenge and it kicks off with one of those perennial comics questions: Who is stronger, who would win, who would get their green or orange arse kicked?

Day 22
Your dream "versus" match

To be honest this isn't something I've really given much thought to since I was about 10.
I don't know... Swamp Thing vs Man-Thing? Black Panther vs White Tiger? Killraven vs Apeslayer?
Or how about these two...?
( I'm nothing if not shallow )

Yeah, I'd definitely read that.

Day 23
Fave comic book cartoon series

I have to admit defeat here as I don't really have one. So here are The Ramones covering the theme tune from the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon:

Day 24
A comic that made you laugh

I think we can all agree that Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes is one of the greatest and funniest comic strips of all time. Right? Right.

The cover detail and strip above are both from my copy of Calvin & Hobbes Sunday Pages 1985-1995, a catalogue from an exhibition of Watterson's work at the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library. This is just a wonderful book which features original artwork from the strip alongside the published version with commentaries by Watterson himself. If you're a fan of C&H it's definitely worth scouring t'internet for a copy.

Day 25
A comic or story arc you wish they would make a movie of

The Incal by Moebius and Jodorowsky. Of course, "they" would need a top director and a huuuge budget to do this epic justice but it's a nice thought. Paging Denis Villeneuve?

Day 26
A guilty pleasure comic

I don't really get the concept of "guilty Pleasures" ( if you like something you like something ) but maybe Howard Chaykin's Black Kiss? Great artwork but not something you'd leave lying around the house. "More tea vicar?"

My blog buddy Pete Doree summed up the guilty pleasure idea thus: "Something bearded hipsters use to describe something they like but don't want their mates to think they like. Silly."

Day 27
Comic you've read the most times

Not just one comic. These. All of these.

These 20 comics are just a small selection of my Fantastic Four collection. I own 72 regular issues and 5 annuals from the Lee / Kirby run from 1961 - 1970. I know it's a collection I'll never complete unless I suddenly become a millionaire but the chase is often better than the catch and it does eliminate that existential feeling of emptiness experienced by all comics fans when you complete a collection and think "now what?"
Sadly, between me posting these images on Twitter and collating my tweets here, the legendary Joe Sinnott passed away at the age of 93. Joltin' Joe, as Stan dubbed him, did absolutely phenomenal work inking Jack's pencils and was key in establishing the "look"of the FF. Below is a great image of The Thing and the Human Torch which I've posted before but is a lovely example of Sinnott's work. Here's to you, Joltin' Joe!

Day 28
Fave super power or skill

Well, it's the most obvious one  -  flight, as exemplified by the original super hero, Superman himself. Who hasn't dreamed of flying and escaping this mundane / insane world for a while?

Day 29
Comic that changed the way you see the world

I don't think any one comic did that but many helped shape my worldview. The surrealism and social commentary of this issue of Howard The Duck had a big impact on me as a kid. I wrote briefly about this issue in an ancient post on this 'ere blog which you can read ( should you want to of course ) here.

Day 30
Your favourite artist

With apologies and respect to the many other artists I love, there can only be one King Of Comics.
Of course, it's Jack Kirby!

So, that's the end of the challenge. It was a fun distraction from these crazy times and a chance to share images and thoughts about comics. Thanks to everyone who commented on these post  -  you're all super heroes!

Thursday, 18 June 2020

30-Day Comic Challenge Week 3

Day 15  -  A comic that makes you smile

Bone by Jeff Smith
Just a great all-ages comic. Fun, funny, wise and melancholic with some well-defined characters and an epic storyline.
"Stupid, stupid rat creatures!"

Day 16  -  A comic that makes you cry

Doom Patrol no. 63 ( Jan. 1993 )
"The Empire Of Chairs"
Crazy Jane has been traumatised by ECT and is living a life of quiet drudgery in the "real" world.
( "They're building death camps for our dreams." ) When all hope seems lost, Cliff Steele returns to take her home. "There is another world. There is a better world. Well... there must be."
I've re-read this surreal, melancholy masterpiece by Morrison / Case for this challenge and I can confirm it still makes me cry.
"Bona to vada, Jane, dear."

Day 17  -  A comic that reminds you of someone

Daredevil no. 127 ( Nov. 1975 )
Not a particularly great comic but one that my best friend Kevin gave to me back in the day. Kev was never really a comic fan but he owned a few when we were kids because, you know, everyone bought comics back then ( can you imagine? ) and we often swapped them around.
The comic itself is a perfectly solid example of mid-range '70s Marvel from Marv Wolfman, Bob Brown & Klaus Janson... but the guest star is the bloody Torpedo. Marvel really pushed that immensely mundane character at the time and I still have no idea why.

Day 18  -  A comic that deserves a soundtrack
Love & Rockets / Surfer Rosa
I bought the Titan editions of the Hernandez brothers' fantastic, magical realist comic at the same time as I bought Pixies' queasy masterpiece and the two are permanently entwined in my mind, perfect for each other.
Here's a link to my old 15 Albums blog where I bang on at great length about Surfer Rosa.

Day 19  -  A comic that you quote from

To be honest, my real answer to this would be Watchmen but I've already posted about that so here's some fowl philosophy from Howard The Duck no. 26, July 1978.
That quote from the next issue ( "I'm not negative, I'm angry!" ) is pretty much how I feel every time I watch the news at the moment.

Day 20  -  A comic with witty dialogue

I don't know about "witty" ( this ain't Oscar Wilde! ) but I always enjoyed the caustic interplay of Ellis / Cassady's Planetary team.
Here's a thinly-veiled piss-take of DC's Vertigo line from Planetary no. 7 ( Jan. 2000 )

Day 21  -  A comic you used to love but now dislike

Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns
In retrospect this comic had an influence that massively outweighed its own worth and I struggle now to separate it from all the grim 'n' gritty nonsense that followed in its wake.

Of course, all the "dark" and "edgy" stuff that came later from far less talented creators is hardly Miller's fault... but he later went on to produce pernicious crap like Holy Terror ( see below if you can stand it ) which was originally framed, lest we forget, as a Batman story. And the seed of this absolute tripe was really The Dark Knight Returns.

That concluded Week 3 on an unfortunately negative note, so I'll just repeat that quote from Doom Patrol in the hopes that good things are on their way, both on this blog and in the wider world out there  -
"There is another world. There is a better world."

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

30-Day Comic Challenge Week 2

Day 8  -  A gorgeous comic

Burne Hogarth's adaptation of Tarzan Of The Apes was one of the first attempts at a graphic novel
( although the phrase hadn't yet been coined ) and is one of the most beautiful comics ever published. Stunning line work, dazzling colours and, of course, apes. ( We all loved apes in the 1970s. )

Day 9  -  A comic that totally blew your mind ( man )

Heavy Metal ( December 1978 )
My first issue of HM and what an introduction! Behind the generic SF cover I found the works of Moebius, Corben, Bilai, Druillet, Alcala, Angus McKie... mind indeed blown!

Day 10  -  Favourite writer

Well, it's Stan Lee, isn't it?
Looking back on Stan's work it's obviously corny, sentimental and hardly as literate as many that came after him ( Gerber, Engelhart, Moench, Wolfman, Moore, Gaiman et al ). But Stan's voice spoke to me as a kid about heroism, tolerance and just doing the right thing.

Day  11  -  Old comic you love

Obviously I love a lot of old comics but it's not all nostalgia. Here's a classic from before I was even born  -  yes, that long ago! The legendary Eagle ( "The new national strip cartoon weekly!" ) featuring, among many other strips, Frank Hampson's iconic Dan Dare.

I've got some collected Dan Dare strips ( the old, constantly falling-apart Dragon's Dream editions ) but you can't beat the original copies. Here are a few from my very small collection. The colours especially are just wonderful and something modern hi-falutin' printing can't recapture.

Day 12  -  Comic character you feel you are most like ( or wish you were )

Not sure how to answer this one, really. Maybe somewhere between these two?

Day 13  -   Great plot twist

Watchmen no. 12 ( October 1987 )

( SPOILERS! obviously, but this is from one of the most well-known graphic novels, from 34 years ago, so I think most people here  -  if there are any people here  -  will know what happened. )
So, near the end of the saga, after all the heroes' posturing, this happens...


Day 14  -  A comic you love that you'll never read again (?)

Again, I don't really understand this category  -  like fellow Twitterer David H said "Is this a trick question?" If I love a comic I'll surely read it again. Except...

Although I think it's a landmark of the comic form, there are huge stretches of Dave Sim's Cerebus that I'll probably never read again. ( Ironic given my Blogger handle, really. )

I've still got a great admiration for Sim's artistic talent ( and Gerhard's! ) and his monumental feat of self-publishing  -  300 issues!  -  but so much of the later stuff is (a) boring and (b) deeply problematical. To be honest i carried on until the end of the series more out of habit than anything else and only skimmed the last few volumes. One day I'll sit down and properly read Guys, Form & Void, Going Home etc.  -  maybe I'll wait for the next lockdown...

And that's Week 2 done and, by my calculations ( I'm cleverer than I look ), that's half of the challenge accomplished. Hooray! If anyone else reading this ( Hello? Hello? Is that an echo? Echo? ) would like to take part, then please drop me a comment. I'd love to hear about your comic faves.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

30-Day Comic Challenge Week 1

Hot on the heels ( as they say ) ( and why do they say that? ) of my 30-day song challenge, here comes another challenge for these slightly-less-locked-down-but-still-socially-distancing days.
Yes, it's another subject close to my cold, black heart  -  comics!

Day 1  -  Your favourite comic
Conan The Barbarian no. 24 ( March 1973 )

It's almost an impossible task to choose a favourite comic but I'll go with this one because it has a very special place in my heart. As I've banged on about before, my copy ( yep, the one above ) was bought for me by my parents in the legendary Dark They Were & Golden Eyed in ( I think ) 1978 on my first visit to that there London. Many, many years later I was lucky enough to have it signed by the even-more-legendary Roy ( The Boy ) Thomas himself. On top of all that, it's just one of THE greatest comics of the Bronze Age, skilfully scripted by Roy and boasting some beautiful, impossibly detailed artwork from Barry Windsor-Smith at the very height of his powers.

Day 2  -  A comic you recommend to everybody
The Hunt ( 2016 ) by Colin Lorimer

The Hunt is a spine-tingling, creepy slice of Irish folk horror by multi-talented artist, writer, storyboard-creator and friend of TGW-S, Colin Lorimer.

Here's the beautiful cover to issue 3 and above that is a signed print of some stunning interior artwork which Colin very kindly sent to me, all the way from Canada. Not only is he a very, very talented comics creator, he's also a great guy.

Day 3  -  A great adaptation of another work
Amazing Adventures Featuring Killraven  -  Warrior Of The Worlds

Roy Thomas ( it's that man again! ) and Don McGregor project HG Wells' War Of The Worlds into the future of a barbaric, dystopian Earth ( 2019 )  -  with the help, of course, of such awesome artists as Neal Adams, Herb Trimpe, Gene Colan and ( especially ) P Craig Russell. This series was one of the highlights of Marvel's 1970s output, a savage but philosophical examination of a world crushed under the heel tentacle of Martian invaders, and of the conflicted band of freedom fighters struggling to overcome their slimy conquerors. Here's my copy of issue 29, signed by Dauntless Don himself.

Day 4  -  First comic series you seriously pursued
Of course, it's The Mighty World Of Marvel  -  Nuff Said!

For many British comic fans of my generation, MWOM ( as it's affectionately called ) was our gateway into the world of far-out fantasy. An anthology comic that began by reprinting the early years of the Marvel Age ( starting with the debuts of The Hulk, The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man ), MWOM lasted through many incarnations over the decades, and kicked off the relatively short-lived but often glorious Marvel UK line. It really was Ground Zero for me and I soon went on to collect Spider-Man Comics Weekly, The Avengers, Planet Of The Apes, Dracula Lives, The Superheroes, The Titans, Captain Britain... the list goes on...

Day 5  -   A great love story
Swamp Thing and Abigail Cable

Only Alan Moore in his prime could craft the story of a love affair between the daughter of a super villain and a walking compost-heap and make it one of the most beautiful and sensitive romances in comics.
"My vegetable love should grow / Vaster than empires and more slow"  -  Andrew Marvell
( Pretentious? Moi? )

Day 6  -  A comic that is underrated
Starman ( 1994 - 2001 )

With its intricately-designed Opal City, huge cast of characters and deep dive into DC mythology, James Robinson & Tony Harris' Starman is, at heart, a very human story about the bonds of family

Day 7  -  Your comfort comic
Fantastic Four no. 51 ( June 1966 )

Possibly the single greatest work of the Lee / Kirby team ( with Joe Sinnott! )  -  a poignant but inspiring story of how even the worst of us can find heroism.And then there's THAT iconic cover! You can read more of my thoughts ( should you want to, of course, it's not mandatory ) on this classic comic here

So, yeah, week one done. Phew! If anyone would like to join in with the challenge please leave a comment. What are your favourites?

Thursday, 28 May 2020

30-Day Song Challenge Week 4

Day 23 ( the last week! )
A song you think everybody should listen to A classic, caustic dissection of the UK by Punk's most underrated songwriter, TV Smith, which still unfortunately resonates today:
"The great British mistake was looking for a way out / Was getting complacent / Not noticing the pulse was racing / The mistake was fighting the change / Was staying the same / We couldn't adapt so we couldn't survive / Something had to give / The people took a downhill slide / Into the gloom into the dark recesses of their minds"

Day 24
A song by a band you wish were still together Although I could have gone with an obvious, "classic" band ( Led Zep, REM etc ), instead here's one of my fave bands of recent years - The Sunshine Underground
Typically for me I discovered this band not long before they announced their split and, to make things worse, they were one of the few bands that Sarah and I both liked. Hopefully they'll get back together at some point  -  most groups seem to do this eventually, as the recent reunions for LCD Soundsystem and My Chemical Romance demonstrate. ( Okay, Covid-19 has delayed the much-anticipated MCR reunion but it's still apparently on the cards for next year if the world ever gets back to "normal" )

Day 25
A song you like by an artist no longer living I was a big fan of Whitney's and it's just tragic that her life ended so prematurely. This is a wonderful remix of an old song that was a posthumous hit last year. Hard to believe this song was originally only a B-side as Whitney's vocals are amazing on this Steve Winwood cover.

Day 26
A song that makes you want to fall in love Perfect Skin by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions "She's got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin"
Who wouldn't want to fall in love with someone lik that? Oh, and she's "sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan"? Can't have it all, I suppose...

Day 27
A song that breaks your heart Reminds me of a girl called Jo Day I had a major crush on at school. We kinda, nearly, almost went out but stayed "friends" and then she left for another school and I never saw her again...

Day 28
A song by an artist whose voice you love One of my fave modern artists, Annie Clark / St Vincent has a deceptively powerful voice, tough and tender at the same time, and is a true inheritor of the art-pop style of Bowie etc. Never quite figured out why she hasn't become a bigger star.

Day 29
A song you remember from your childhood Of course, there had to be an Abba song in here, and what a belter it is, a Glam stomp with the trademark Abba hooks and harmonies. My my!

Day 30
A song that reminds you of yourself Last day of the challenge and it's this self-explanatory tune from Glasgow's underrated Britpop songsmiths The Supernaturals

Well, that was a lot of fun! I had talked about doing a film challenge next but, after discussions with my fellow Twitterers ( that's a word, okay? ), we've now decided to do a 30-Day Comic Challenge where we talk about our favourite super heroes, swamp monsters and slices of life from paper pamphlets of years gone by. Should be interesting...
Hopefully after all that I'll get back to the film challenge. ( Sorry Paul McScotty! )

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

30-Day Song Challenge Week 3

Up to my usual standards as ever, week three is a day late but ( hopefully ) worth it.
Okay, pop pickers, here we go with this week's rundown...

Day 15  -  A song you like that's a cover by another artist
One of my fave loud, weird bands ( Pixies ) covering another of my fave loud, weird bands ( Jesus &Mary Chain ) at 100 mph - not your John Lewis ad type of cover...
Head On by Pixies

Day 16  -  A song that's a classic favourite
This category's open to wide interpretation. I'm going way back with one of my fave songs from one of my fave movies
Singin' In The Rain by Gene Kelly

Day 17  -  A song you'd sing a duet with someone on karaoke
In the unlikely event this ever happened I'd go with ( Engage sarcasm mode. Sarcasm mode engaged. ) this romantic, classic duet from Husker Du - New Day Rising

Day 18  -  A song from the year you were born
Virtually impossible to pick just one song from 1966, pop's annus mirabilis ( Latin? at this time of day? ), but I'm going with this masterpiece from Tina Turner and Phil Spector. I mean, I could have picked songs from The Beatles, Stones, Temptations, Dylan, Byrds, Kinks, Supremes, Dusty, Wilson Pickett, Beach Boys, Four Tops... the list goes on...
River Deep Mountain High by Tina Turner

Day 19  -  A song that makes you think about life
Breathe by Pink Floyd from their emotional Live8 reunion in 2005 Just like Dave Gilmour here, I may have something in my eye

Day 20  -  A song that has many meanings to you
I'm cheating slightly here as it's technically more than one song. I wrote about Abbey Road and this song ( and my feelings for both ) on my old 15 Albums blog...
The "Long Medley" by The Beatles

Day 21  -  A song you like with a person's name in the title
Some folkin' folk music crossed with electronica. My first choice was See Emily Play by Pink Floyd but I've already posted a Floyd song. Plus I thought I should go with something more recent before this all turns into one big nostalgia fest
Jon Taylor's Month Away by King Creosote

My apologies for the different fonts on display here  -  I've copied and pasted some of this from my Twitter page and it doesn't fit too well. I wanted to get this post done today and not let things drag on for too long, so it's a bit rough 'n' ready. Unlike myself. I'm smooth as peaches and cream. That's gone through a blender. ( What am I talking about? Blame the lockdown ) I'll see if I can edit things when I get a minute...
Anyway, if anyone would like to take part and post some of their own fave songs in the comments that would be groovy, baby! See you next week pop pickerzzz.


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