Sunday 28 February 2010

Death Planet Commandos: Jesus Stole My Skateboard

( This one's for my mate Glenn. )

When I was a crap guitarist in the almost-legendary Death Planet Commandos I wrote the occasional lyric for the band. One time I set out to write a deliberately trashy, surf-punk kind of song with the dumbest lyrics I could dredge up from my feeble brain. Cool 12 feet-tall bass-player Jon provided the music, as well as the above artwork for a cassette sleeve ( remember those? ) for one of our official bootlegs. Please look away now if you're a Christian or easily offended, or both.....

Jesus stole my skateboard
He's cruising down the Gaza Strip
Taking speed and LSD
He's on a Holy Trip

You'd better ride that skateboard, Jesus
You'd better ride that skateboard fast
'Cos if those Romans have their way
You know your skating days won't last

Jesus stole my skateboard
But thieving is a sin
As sure as my name is Judas
I'm gonna turn that Hippy in


Jesus stole my skateboard
But I don't give a toss
He's gonna find it hard to skate
When he's nailed upon his cross

( Repeat Chorus until false ending, then once more and we're outta here )

This was always a popular song for some reason and was good fun to play, with a very basic, crunchy guitar riff and a false ending nicked from The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again. Good times!

Saturday 27 February 2010

Steranko Saturdays: Two Hulks are better than one

The Incredible Hulk Special no. 1, October 1968. This is the cover where Steranko's version of the Hulk's face ( brutish, sweating ) was replaced by a pasted-over Marie Severin version ( heroic, non-sweating ) - a common practice at the time when the "House-style" was all-important. But obviously bloody annoying for the artist.
The above is a re-creation by Steranko from many years later. With added sweat!

Soundtrack: Devil's Spoke by Laura Marling
A Pair Of Brown Eyes by The Pogues

Friday 26 February 2010

It's Just A Ride

RIP Bill Hicks 16/12/1961 - 26/2/1994


Hi to new Follower Quicky from the wonderful Illustrateurs blog! If you like the above picture by Earl Norem ( cover artist extraordinaire! ) then Quicky has a whole host of similar pulpy goodness over at his site. And all in French too!

Thursday 25 February 2010

Randomiser VI

Time for another smash 'n' grab raid on the visual vaults of The Glass Walking-Stick.....

Monday 22 February 2010

Reading update: Life During Wartime

"Misty night, the moon a foggy green streak between the palm fronds, and the surf muffled, sounding like bones being crunched in the mouth of a beast."

That's a line from Lucius Shepard's psychedelic future-war fable, Life During Wartime. Here's some more:

"Overhead, half-hidden by the lifting grey mist, three Sikorskies were hovering. Their pilots were invisible behind layers of mist and reflection, and the choppers themselves looked like enormous carrion flies with bulging eyes and whirling wings. Like devils. Like gods. They seemed to be whispering to one another in anticipation of the feast they were soon to share."

I read Shephard's short-story collection, The Jaguar Hunter, probably 20 years ago, and was impressed by his elegant, jewelled prose. But I have to admit I never got round to reading any of his other works until recently when Life During Wartime glared at me from a bookshelf, as if to say "You bought me, then left me here to gather dust. What'samatter wid ya?" I was about half way through the novel when I found out it was under consideration by the SFX Book Club - great minds think alike! Anyway, enough of my yakkin', on with the review.....

Life During Wartime is set in a fictional future-war in Central America. The US is involved in complicated power-struggles between various Latin-American countries, backed by the Soviets. ( As the book was first published in 1987, before the fall of Communism, the politics are obviously dated. And a major war in that region did seem imminent in the 80's, so transplanting the Vietnam war to Central America must have made sense at the time. ) The only science fictional elements to the story are the psychotropic drugs taken as a matter of course by the military and the introduction of psychic secret-service agents on both sides.

The main character, Mingolla, begins the story as just another grunt, but goes through psychic training and plastic surgery, meets and falls in love with a foreign agent, and finally discovers the ages-old conspiracy that uses the war as just a front. The characters are the book's biggest fault: none of them being very likeable, and most of them callous and desensitized by the war. Our viewpoint character, Mingolla, is pretty much a blank slate - very little is mentioned of his past - who drifts through the story with varying degrees of alienation. The narrative often drifts too, being very episodic and progressing in fits and starts.

OK, so what's good about the book? Well, those two passages at the top might give you a clue. This novel, for me, is all about Shepard's style: a woozy, psychedelic cross between JG Ballard and Graham Greene. The sense of place is palpable: the dense, steaming jungles, the grim military installations, the shattered, war-torn villages. Startling images crop up: millions of butterflies swarming through the jungle, a crashed helicopter as some kind of shrine, a soldier pumped-up on drugs fighting a jaguar with his bare hands. And, strangely, Shepard has a better handle on the book's incidental characters: the villagers, fishermen, lost patrols of jungle-crazy soldiers, prostitutes and revolutionaries - all having more life about them than the main characters. Not an easy read, with its endless digressions and flash-forwards which only serve to confuse, Life During Wartime is still an intriguing, hallucinatory ride through a heart of darkness.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Death Planet Commandos poster

This is a poster I designed for my old band the Death Planet Commandos ( notice alternate spelling on poster! ) back in 1989. This was for a gig we played on a bandstand (!) in Gloucester Park and as you can see it was on the May Day Bank Holiday, a beautiful, sunny day, with thousands of adoring fans falling at our feet. ( Some of that last sentence may be untrue. ) The bandstand has since been demolished, a bit like the DPC.

I've got no idea where I nicked the image from but I thought it looked appropriate for an open-air gig. There's more DPC stuff to follow, possibly including our Secret Origins.....

All of time and space...

Everywhere and anywhere, every star that ever was.....
Where do you wanna start?

Monday 15 February 2010

Avatar: Another Green (And Blue) World

I finally got my act together and took James to see Avatar at the weekend. And, despite a lot of the negative comments I've seen floating around the blogosphere, I thought it lived up to the hype. OK, I thought it was amazing!

I'll get what I thought to be the film's biggest weakness out of the way first: the plot. I've always liked films that have twists and turns, that surprise, and maybe even challenge you while they entertain you. Avatar doesn't really do that. The story of Evil Space-Capitalists versus Noble Alien Savages and Conflicted Human goes exactly where you expect it to go. Our hero, Jake Sully, is a paraplegic Marine who is dropped into the exotic world of Pandora in his remotely controlled Avatar body, with a mission to infiltrate the indigenous population ( the "Na'vi" ) and report back to his superiors all the information they need for their planned ethnic cleansing. Of course, he "goes native", realises his mission is wrong, falls in love with a native girl, and ends up fighting on the side of the locals against his own kind.

Most plot developments can be seen a mile off, but what counts here is the sheer verve and excitement of the story-telling. Come on, it's James Cameron after all! This is a director with a solid track record for emotional, engaging and thrilling movie-making, and here he pulls out all the stops. After all this time, Cameron is still the king of action set-pieces and I found myself being swept along with the narrative, forgetting any cynicism and just going with the flow.....

But, of course, where the film really triumphs is the awe-inspiring creation of a whole new world. Pandora is a living, breathing eco-system, a riot of colours and textures, all greens and blues in the daylight, flashes of fluorescent colour against the darkness in the night-time. The level of detail is staggering, from the woodgrain of the world-forest, to the skin pores of the Na'vi, to the solidity of the floating mountains. You soon forget that most of this world was built in a computer and you just believe. Seeing the film in 3D only serves to immerse you further in this green world, the effect being more than just a gimmick but acting as a portal to Pandora.

With all this visual wonderment, you'd almost expect the actors to get lost in the mix, but that's not the case. Sam Worthington is fine as Sully, low-key and quietly determined as his human self, increasingly confident and heroic as his Na'vi avatar. His rallying call of "This is OUR land!" to the assembled Na'vi brings a lump to the throat and is reminiscent of Aragorn's pre-battle speeches in the Rings movies. Zoe Saldana appears on the screen as animated pixels only, but still manages to bring passion, pride and sensuality to Neytiri the warrior-woman. There's stirling support work by Stephen Lang as bad-ass Colonel Quaritch, Joel Moore as geeky-but-heroic Spellman and, of course, the wonderful Sigourney Weaver as scientist Dr. Grace Augustine. Weaver brings out the humanity and warmth in her character's initially spiky personality and calls to mind the immortal Ellen Ripley when she rails against the callous company-drone in charge of the mission.

As you can see, I liked Avatar! And I'd definitely sign up for another tour of duty on Pandora. Over to you, Mr. Cameron.....

Soundtrack: In The Na'vi by Village People.

( Did I really just type that? )

Friday 12 February 2010

Randomiser V

The latest word in randomness from the visual vaults of The Glass Walking-Stick.....

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Zhang Ziyi

Happy Birthday to Zhang Ziyi, the beautiful, talented and arse-kicking Chinese actress, 31 today.


Sunday 7 February 2010

Perhaps the '80s weren't all bad...

I've been having an unintentional '80s-fest today. I normally slag-off the decade of leg-warmers and yuppies, but the following goodies have been on my telly and turntable ( oh, yeah! ) today, and I've been getting into a kind of Rubik's cube/Ford Cortina/white socks groove.

It'll pass.....

"No..... not the bore-worms!"

"Welcome to the party, pal!"

"In a big country dreams stay with you..."

"Relax, don't do it, when you want to go to it, relax , don't do it, when you want to come."

Soundtrack: Fields Of Fire by Big Country.

Doctor Dream

According to SFX magazine, the award-winning fantasy author Neil Gaiman is to write an episode of the second season of Matt Smith's Doctor Who.

This has been rumoured for quite some time but now seems official. It should be interesting to see what the creator of The Sandman, Coraline, Neverwhere, Mirrormask and many more has in store for the 11th Doctor. It's already been mentioned in an interview with Matt Smith and Karen Gillan ( in last month's Doctor Who Magazine ) that the upcoming series has a Tim Burton feel to it, so this new announcement would indicate a further shift towards the fantasy end of the spectrum. Or is that too obvious? Maybe Gaiman has a hard SF, cyberpunk author inside his none-more-Goth exterior, trying to break out. But I doubt it.

Gaiman teases us in his announcement that his story will air early in the next season, and was originally called "The House Of Nothing" but "definitely isn't called that any more."

And that's about all that's known at the moment. For now, all we can do is dream.....

Saturday 6 February 2010

Steranko Saturdays: Long Live The King!

Steranko's style owed a huge debt to the late, great King Of Comics, Jack Kirby. The above issue of Strange Tales, no. 151 from Dec. 1966, was Steranko's first work for Marvel, and featured his inking over top of Kirby's layouts.

It was standard practice at the time for Stan Lee, as editor and head writer at Marvel, to encourage new artists to closely follow Kirby's dynamic, exagerrated style - a practice that suited some artists better than others! Steranko was soon to blend the Kirby influence with echoes of Will Eisner and a touch of Pop Art to create his own unique artistic sensibility.

King Kirby passed away 16 years ago today and there is an in-depth biography here at the wonderful Jack Kirby Museum. Check it out!
Cover Image

Friday 5 February 2010

Favourite Gig Fridays: Sex Pistols

I haven't done a Fave Gig Fri for a while, so here's a classic - the Sex Pistols at the Phoenix Festival, July 1996.

As previously mentioned here the Phoenix had a great lineup of bands: I saw The Chemical Brothers, Echobelly, The Specials, The Cardigans, 3 Colours Red, plus a few dodgy bands like Senser, Dub War and Ian Astbury's Holy Barbarians ( featuring Vic Reeves on high kicks! ). But the main reason I was there, my mate Glenn was there, a few thousand others were there, was to see the legendary, newly-reformed, still pissed-off Bay City Rollers. Sorry... Sex Pistols!!

Nowadays every bloody band and its dog reforms and trudges round the nostalgia circuit, but back in the '90s it wasn't so common, so the question was - would it be worth it? The Pistols were a band who burned brightly for a brief, exciting moment and then were snuffed out by internal power struggles and external pressures. They left a trail of anarchy, controversy, brilliant music and dead bodies ( Sid 'n' Nancy ) behind them. They had been encased in a kind of Punk-aspic for nearly 20 years and now they were back. Would they be just sad old farts, ruining their legacy by churning out Punk karaoke, or could they do the impossible and still be vital after all that time?
What do you think?

The feeling in the sweating, steaming crowd on that muggy July evening was a mixture of hope, excitement and trepidation. But when the band finally hit the stage the whole field erupted: the Pistols were back! They powered through a set of classic song after classic song, reclaiming their mantle of greatest, loudest, nastiest, funniest band in the world from all the pretenders that had sprung up in their wake. Matlock and Cook provided the rock-solid rhythm and backing-vocals, Jones the guitar hero poses and raw energy. Lydon ( who was still not quite the Country Life-flogging cartoon he is now ) was on fantastic form: his sneering, sarcastic front often slipping to reveal a man obviously enjoying his belated chance in the spotlight. If any band and any singer ever deserved a second chance after years of bitterness and struggle it was the Sex Pistols and John Lydon. And they proceeded to take that opportunity and play as if their lives depended on it. Everyone in the crowd knew that, despite Lydon's protestations of "doing it for the money", they loved the music and, you know, they meant it maaan!

( Saying all that, the next time I saw them, at Crystal Palace in 2002, they were awful! Lydon forgot the words to most of the songs, they played Silver Machine for God-only-knows-what-reason, and seemed bored with it all. Anarchy or what? )

Soundtrack: Never Mind The Bollocks by Take That.

HR Giger

Happy 70th Birthday to Hans Ruedi Giger, famously barking mad painter, sculptor, dreamer of dreams, creator of "Penis Landscape" ( er, not pictured here ) and designer of possibly the greatest movie Alien of them all.....

Oh, and this beauty too.....

Thursday 4 February 2010

Two Hundred And Fifty, and counting...

250th post! Spectacular, special and smashing etc.

Yes, it's the same old ploy: comics whose issue numbers match the number of my inconsequential ramblings, or "posts" as we call them.

But, hey, at least there are a couple of DC covers here for a change.....

And, thankfully, the "X-Factor" below has nothing to do with Simon Cowell :-)

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Randomiser IV

Randomness rules! More alliterative artefacts from the visual vaults of the Glass Walking-Stick.....

Monday 1 February 2010

Here's looking at you, kid!

Hey, I've just reached 900 profile views! ( Mind you, 890 of those were by me)

Tempting Fate

My PC seems to be working again, although I have no idea why. I'm sure this Lazarus-like resurrection won't last for long, so I'm going to try and get a few posts in before it goes all BSOD on my ass again.

And thanks to wiec? for pointing me in the direction of this alpahabetising-monster-lettering-thingy above. Good fun.


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