Archive for the ‘Article’ Category
Those who have already been in space yearn with all their heart and soul to hasten there again and again. With every single day passing, time leaves my flight in the past. Occasionally the wind will whisper something from the tops of the tall pine trees, and then everything becomes silent. In such minutes I remember the most bright and wonderful experience in my life: the flight into space.
Valentina Tereshkova – the first woman in space
I had a feeling of nostalgia and melancholy over what might have been before I even entered the gallery. After leaving the railway station via the still relatively new and futuristic tram stop and walking up the hill towards the very new Nottingham Contemporary art gallery I passed a huge picture of Gordon Brown grimacing down at me from an advertising hoarding promoting the Conservative Party. It was the final weeks of the election campaign and what would prove to be the dying days of New Labour. Even before I got to the exhibition of art inspired by the Eastern European perspective of the Space Race it was impossible to not think of dashed hopes and what might have been.
(Originally published in Vector, Nov 2001)
“The War And Piece of comic books” — Terry Gilliam
Close-up of a red splattered yellow smiley badge. Zoom out. The badge lies in a red river — blood flowing in the gutter (1) of a New York street. Caption: “Rorschach’s Journal October 12th 1985: Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face.”
And so begins Watchmen.
For a brief period of time, during the middle of the eighties, it was not only perfectly acceptable to be seen reading a graphic novel on public transport but actually quite trendy. Works such as Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Bryan Talbot’s The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright were at the forefront of this boom in comics targeted at a more adult audience. But leading them all was Watchmen, the first graphic novel to win a Hugo (in the ‘Other Forms’ category). So influential, that its version of the classic smiley became the badge of choice on many a lapel. Why? Because it told a gripping story using brilliant characters, was packed full of social commentary revolving around power and control, plus, and most crucially, it also examined and deconstructed its own genre. Read the rest of this entry »
(Originally published in Vector, Jul 2001)
Some books you read and forget them the next day. Some books you read and they never leave you. The ‘Del Whitby’ trilogy by John Morressy are three books that, for me, definitely fall into the latter category.
The series is set in a future universe where mankind has expanded in a series of waves to conquer the stars. On the way they have encountered a number of humanoid aliens, some of which are, or almost are, indistinguishable to humans and with some of these they have interbred. The events of the novels themselves take place in a post-expansion phase, when space travel has become a much rarer event than previously. What little there is in ships up to two centuries old as new ones are no longer being constructed; the technology having been lost. Space travel is also somewhat dangerous, not from mechanical failure of the old ships which were crafted to last, but from the slavers, pirates and the ultra-mysterious ultra-alien Rinn that lurk out in space. The books centre about several very different examples of some of the few rare starfarers of this time.
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Japanese heart-stopping terror with the Ring series.
(Originally published in Vector, Sep 2002)
Two teenage girls are taking a brake from their homework to talk about boys, but soon the conversation takes a darker turn. There’s this videotape, see, and it’s cursed. It was recorded off a dead channel (some kid on holiday wanted to see the baseball but the channel did not extend that far) You watch and then the phone rings – one week later the phone rings again and you’re dead. One of the girls admits to seeing it… but she’s just teasing her friend. Or is she? Then the phone rings. Then the television turns on on its own…
Sounds dreadful doesn’t it? Some straight-to-video American slasher movie, or a post-Scream ironic comedy.
Actually no. This is Ringu (Ring). It’s Japanese and an unbelievable good straight horror film. There’s no gore – it’s only a ‘15′ certificate – but it’s just about the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. Although recently suffering from a series of profound economic depressions, Japanese culture has been going through a renaissance – not least in the horror gene and Ring is just one of a number of effective films that have come West such as Battle Royal and Uzumaki. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve now moved this to my new blog
Filming the filmmakers in American Movie
(Originally published in Matrix, Sep 2000)
Think of Sam Raimi begging money from dentists to make the Evil Dead. Think of Kevin Smith filming all night in the local convenience store where he worked during the day to make Clerks. Think of sending three actors out in the woods to film each other to make the Blair Witch Project. Then go several steps lower and you get to the subject of the award wining documentary American Movie, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance last year. This is about not so much low-budget as no-budget film making. And it is also very very funny as well as being very very sad — usually at the same time.
Mark Borchardt is a man with a vision, a dream, that keeps him going whilst he goes about his wage-slave jobs (delivering papers and keeping his local cemetery and funeral home — Valhalla — neat and tidy). This vision is Northwestern, a ninety minute dramatic feature depicting the gritty life and struggles of drunks and petty drug dealers from a small town north-west of Milwaukee. Filmmakers Chris Smith and Sarah Price, who after encountering Borchardt when they shared editing facilities at the local university, are taken with his enthusiasm and follow him for the next two years whilst he struggles with his goal. Unfortunately Borchardt has somewhat of a financial crisis early on — one great scene shows him wading through a huge pile of bills, final demands and court orders to discover with obvious delight he has been offered yet another credit card. Realising he does not have enough money to even start filming Northwestern he goes back to a previous venture, the thirty-minute, black and white, horror short Coven that he has been making off and on over the last seven years. Finish it and sell three thousand copies and he will have enough money to fund his feature.
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The story of the banned comic Action.
(Originally published in Vector, Nov 1999)
Action was a short-lived comic that was first published on 14th February 1976 and was ‘killed’ towards the end of that year. It was content was unique, not so much for the subject of its stories but for their tone, written with a maturity not seen before in this field. It was, on the one hand massively popular with its loyal army of fans whilst on the other, nationally infamous and reviled by its critics. The following is a brief history of the comic, and of some of more its more controversial and interesting stories.
During the 1950s and 60s the sales of comics boomed. The two main publishers, IPC (later Fleetway) and D. C. Thompson published comics for boys to a formula established by Eagle. It was middle class, written by middle-aged men and aimed to instill a high moral tone in Britain’s youth. Clean cut heroes had simple adventures against unproblematic baddies, and it was always obvious who was going to win. This formula had worked successfully for twenty years, but by the late 60s things were changing. Sales were sliding, comics had folded and many titles that were left were at close to brake-even point. The Eagle itself went in 1969. Both companies decided to act. D.C. Thompson brought-out the gritty Warlord in 1974 with all its stories based in the Second World War. It was much more aggressive than previous titles, with greater realism and heroes who found life that bit tougher than before. It sold well, so IPC had to respond. The problem was that virtually all of IPC staff firmly rooted in the traditions and values of the Eagle. In secret the Editorial Director, John Sanders, hired in two freelancers Pat Mills and John Wager to produce Battle. The in-house staff naturally did not like this, but Battle was a hit. Wager was given Valiant to revive whilst Mills was asked to work on something new and without precedent – Action.
The sickness of Grant Morrison’s and Chris Weston’s comic The Filth.
(Originally published on the Ninth Art website as ‘The Filth And The Theory’.
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
‘A Dream Within a Dream’ by Edgar Allan Poe
It’s hard to be rational about the irrational; even harder to make the Surreal, real. Thus trying to bring some sense to The Filth isn’t easy. It’s a slippery eel of a text that writhes under analysis, defying explanation. You can bring some sense to it eventually but… well it’s complicated. In fact it’s hard to even know where to begin… Let’s try the old Six Form essay technique of ‘first define your terms’. Filth is defined by my dictionary as any foul matter that defiles, physically or morally; the obscene. It is also a slang term of abuse for the police. Morrison uses all these definitions but also expands to provide a positive spin on things – a bit of the nasty can actually be good for you.
As you read this your body is seething with myriad minute processes you are totally unaware of. Your immure system works hard to expel unwanted material – going to war against the poisons and illnesses that invade the body. Millions of ‘warriors’ are sacrificed in the battle. In fact, what most of think of as the ’symptoms’ of our ‘illness’ – the snot, the phlegm, the shivers, the aching joints, the headaches – are just the effects of the body fighting back, the dead corpses of all those warriors settling in the joints or being sneezed into a tissue or coughed up into the sink; we should welcome them.