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Posts Tagged ‘comics’

beastyA twitter from earlier in the week:

AboutThisLater: Just invented a new superhero: the Lampshader

6:32 PM Jul 3rd from TwitterMail

He’s like a cross between Deadpool and the parodically thinly-conceived Midnighter from The Authority.

I’ve been reading a lot of TVTropes lately (thanks to Stubby43 for the link), so where before I already knew that Deadpool was a classic fourth-wall breaker, I now have the vocabulary to describe Midnighter as textbook Cursed-with-Awesome and an egregious and obvious tribute to Batman, which writer Warren Ellis made entertaining by comprehensibly lampshade-hanging the character with Meta Fanservice/Going to Bed With a Trope: hardcore haunted Crazy Prepared bully-boy Midnighter is gay, and in a loving, settled marriage with Apollo, his universe’s Superman.

From TVTropes:

This practice is also known as “hanging a clock on it”, “hanging a lantern on it”, or “spotlighting it”. We went with this title because it’s the one used in the Mutant Enemy bullpen… Lampshade Hanging is the writers’ trick of dealing with any element of the story that threatens the audience’s Willing Suspension Of Disbelief—whether a very implausible plot development, or a particularly egregious use of a trope—by calling attention to it… and then moving on.

cannibalism not prostitution

(From Nobody Scores!. You just wait for an upcoming post where I stretch the bounds of critical taste with my theory that cannibalism is the most extreme form of various behaviours all similarly redefined by the internet: once viewed as a symptom of barbarism, people-eating is now tinged with an aura of terrifying, inpenetrable connoisseurship.)

And with that brilliant segue, on to the main event: a trailer for a film whose writers have clearly been studying the Buffy playbook for ideas, not just for do-nots. Sam Neill, Ethan Hawke, Willem Defoe and Placebo star in a vampire flick which will quite literally have to be 100% lampshade (ah ha ha), and which annoyingly has taken a title which I’ve been kicking around for some time.

I’m reserving “Nightfallers” for the sequel, though.

It looks like a cross between Gattaca, Equilibrium and Jack Frost, the only good thing in the Blade movies. Awesome. [edit: he’s actually called Deacon Frost. False memory there. Thanks to @benfrenchman]

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What have I been doing, you ask?

Today’s schedule: Up and into town for work for an upcoming feature on the Museum of Asian Art’s Triennale. Conducted an interview with a trio of artists from Japan, Korea and China, whose work involves inventing a tiny fictional country and its flag, laws, currency etc. They even held their own Olympic ceremony, in Beijing, to coincide with the “real” one. I’m amazed they survived. Interesting lads who communicate through sketches and very limited English but who’ve been collaborating for years. Blog post will go up tomorrow, hopefully.

Then wandering around in the sweltering rain trying to follow email instructions on my phone, before finally finding the headquarters of the local branch of the General [foreign] Worker’s Union. A very interesting, earnest presentation about changes in immigration law and its implications for workers. Was kicked out before their AGM started, but again they’re nice, self-sacrificing, smart lads. Again, post up tomorrow, if I can make head or tail of my notes on Japan’s tortuous health insurance law.

Then to Niko’s for cannonball-heavy but delicious lentil stew, and finally starting to lay out pages of iland. Really awesomely exciting, but it’s weird to be doing it with only about three weeks before I leave. I have a long way to go before I can be sure I’m speaking the same language he is when trying to skype-describe how I think a frame should be oriented and where characters’ gazes should be going.

Finally home on the last train full of Sunday night drunks, reading an introduction to political philosophy and writing notes on my wrist. Came up with two great philosophical comebacks/punchlines for iland, but I guess you’ll have to wait and see.

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please allow me to introduce myself

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“If the change is a result of a Face Heel Turn, see Superpowered Evil Side and Good Is Dumb. If it’s a result of a Heel Face Turn, then it’s a case of Evil Is Dumb. If the change is due to time travel, see Future Badass. If it is the result of finding a powerful object, see Amulet Of Concentrated Awesome.”

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thumbnail aeJust got back from watching the hypnotically disappointing Transformers 2. Now, I’m going to try to keep this short, partly because I need to work on getting my post length down and count up, and partly because I don’t want this to become a movie blog, since I have little to no opinion on the vast majority of them. By half way through the film, however, the thought of being able to vent on it was what was keeping me sitting there. That, and fascination.

I’m going to go back and forth a bit, but first I should establish the basic reaction: what irritated me the most wasn’t some frivolity of the script, but the ability of the production as a whole and, inevitably, Michael Bay in particular, to disregard their own previous film, which I had enjoyed immensely. The sequel treats the original not as an interesting story which should be responded to but as a weary preliminary now  out of the way: after all, Megatron is back so fast he’s barely had time to rust, and the world is infested with Decepticons (and apparently always was).

The previous film is the means to have the ball well and truly rolling at the start of #2, with a host of bitterly-held adolescent fantasies rightfully fulfilled in protagonist Sam. Sam has a devoted, bitchin’ girlfriend, a puppy-like Camero homie, magic powers, and ultimately a mandate from the Transformer gods. He has already saved the world once, everyone has to take him seriously, and despite his sufferings and embarrassments the joke is on those who don’t.

Now this is weird, since writing about Star Trek the other day I tried to debunk picking on movies for discontinuity in general. It’s a question of deciding to like a movie, I said. Well, T2 is best approached that way too. About an hour in, having decided that I very firmly didn’t like it, I was still sat next to my 15-year-old friend who was raucously enjoying every minute of it, fart jokes, bitchslaps to authority and sex predicaments included.

And I couldn’t bring myself to proselytise to him, I suppose because I have an outlet here. He didn’t take it personally that our opinions differed, and I would hopefully never give him the impression that I judged him for his, mainly because I know he’s an intelligent bloke. None of my most hotly-phrased arguments mattered, since none of the things that my liberal mind wanted to rail at were really going to damage him: inanity, gleeful destruction of libraries and monuments, and poorly-concealed rage at some past Prom Queen-related humiliation.

If I were going to proselytise, and let’s face it I am, I would have to respond to the film’s obvious hatred of women by saying that if you’d seen the previous film, (or even the Trailer for the current one) then you’d only need to know two additional things in order to be able to predict more-or-less exactly the events of the first hour or so of the second film. 1) Sam is going to an easily-stereotyped Ivy-like college, in a long-distance relationship with Micaela; 2) In defiance of all the story’s other logic there is now an evil seductive Deceptaslut transformer with a serpentine robot tongue.

Yeah.

Now, I’m sick of the idea that predictability alone is enough to make a movie bad: after all, I’m assuming you have half a brain and a grounding in Freud when I give you the above information and tell you to put two and two together and make a blatant neurotic jump.

[Note that the above video contains dialogue not in the final cut. I’ll give you a hint: it’s everything interesting or intelligent or speculative.]

It’s important that you’ve seen the first movie for that predictability to become easy (and enraging), because the second has all the first’s slightly worrying gung-ho tics writ large. It’s worshipfully military-fetishistic, and not simply apolitical but contemptuous of any kind of political context to military affairs and clean might.

Similarly Michael Bay’s now-notorious comment to Megan Fox when she asked what she should be doing to develop her character between films: “look hotter”.

Lord knows I couldn’t bring myself to love Bay’s version of the woman, with her tannic scorch and painfully blown lips, but watching her in T2 reminded me of nothing so much as watching Nicole Kidman in Lars von Trier’s experi-sploitation flick Dogville. It’s probably equally vile to over-react to Bay’s ability to hugely raise the sex of female action film stereotypes without a similar rise in intelligence. But all the same I left feeling like she was hard done by the film, overexposed and under developed, on and probably off screen.

Whatever. She’s a big girl. It’s a proudly sexy film, in the sense that it’s standing on the roof gable waving its dick around. It’s proud, too, of whatever it is that knits together Black Hawk helicopters, fixed notions of the absurdity and lechery of academia, easy professionalised racist archetypes and finally the urge to add slogans and fake genitalia to vehicles.

T2 quite literally adds gold teeth and swingin’ steel balls to the motherfucking Transformers.

In general, so much attention is paid to the talking robots in an effort to avoid fan fallout (Optimus dies again, and gets the best lines, and is heroic in a bumper-sticker sort of way) that something by turns lazy and mad can happen in the huge swathes of the film which don’t even involve them. And that includes the puddle-eyed orphan Jerry Springer robo-ho and her whole sordid bit.

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In case it’s not thoroughly spoilt, I urge you to check out this excellent Transformers 2 FAQ on Village Voice’s Toplessrobot, which provides the beginnings of an explanation for the movie’s various massive clangers.

Why would a robot need to fart, pee, or vomit? And why would it need testicles?
Michael Bay does not understand what a robot is.

-via ToplessRobot

Michael Bay’s “hilarious” comment to Megan Fox is starting to look like one of those little hints you should have spotted in your neighbour, before he started shooting people in his underwear and screaming about whore-aliens. He managed to make a film devoid of any sense or type of responsibility. A gleefully adult film which my 15-year old friend enjoyed, and rightly described as a “toy movie”.

A multi-million dollar adult toy movie.

Don’t give me that

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[Edit: I forgot the most important thing! As Stubby points out in the comments, the above can mostly be applied to Transformers 1 as well. I just happened to enjoy that movie, and chose to dislike #2. Or wasn’t feeling quite receptive enough for its bullshit. Once I’d chosen, the evidence mounted up: the plot is nonsense, continuity is utterly nonexistent the setpieces undramatic.

I would say all this, if I was going to gripe. If I was going to gripe I would say something about the apparently unnoticed irony that in a movie with such a visible erection for tanks, aircraft carriers and planes, that unquestioning protago-geek hero-worship results in confused American soldiers dying in the desert based on one teenager’s hero fantasy.

If I was going to gripe. I suppose the point of all this was going to be some magnanimous edict that action films are what you make of them, or something. But the more I think about T2 the less inclined I am.

T2 is a movie designed to insult the intelligence of almost everyone watching it. And if you’re okay with that, then fine. But I’m pretty sure that’s not what action movies are supposed to be about.

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PS My wage doubled today, retroactive for this month, and I got to talk about the internet for an hour. Score.

nobody scores facelessbook beer celebration

we’ll talk about this later

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phillipe1He: “A lot of these girls have fangs…”

Me: “Yes, or are in some unobtrusive way demonic.”

Introduced my friend BPL to Danny Choo’s figurine reviews, in the course of an hourlong skype conversation. I’ve missed talking to him, because it’s always refreshing to find someone who shares a lot of my interests, but approaches others of them as odd pursuits which only shallowly intersect with his serious nerd passions. As a Magic player, for instance, he’s spent a lot of time in comics shops, but I was startled to find anyone, least of all him, still under the impression that comics are generally speaking musclebound, misogynist pulp, or at least sparkle-filter tooth-rotting manga.

pixy hiyori naked figurine danny choo

Of course, that kind of formula tat is still the best consistently-selling weekly format, just like in movie theatres. Nick said to me when we were just starting out on Iland scripting: “I think I enjoy making comics more than reading them”, and I think I’m finding the same. A treeware comic has to be really something special for me to read it cover to cover (although I can forgive a webcomic almost any amount of short cuts, revision, poor scripting or cheap jokes so long as it updates regular. That’s the fun of the medium).

I once spent a long rant to K trying to use Watchmen as proof of legitimacy: that comics can be literature, though almost none have managed it. His coolness was frustrating: I had to admit that Moore was the exception, and since he could quite reasonably argue that the majority of the medium was gnash, there wasn’t a particular revelation at the end of the argument.

I cited Margaret Atwood’s semantic squeamishness at hearing Oryx and Crake described as “sci-fi”, one of my great disappointments in literary heroism.  K just dismissed it as a generational thing, but that’s no excuse for a great writer, or so I insisted. Her failure of generic enlightenment doesn’t diminish the book , or course, but neither would the label Science Fiction, except apparently in her mind. And hence probably in the minds of much of her audience. Ki o mite, mori o miteinai.

margaret atwood science fiction scifi schi-fi oryx crake

Ben and I also talked a lot about online distribution and publishing. Nick and I had made a joke earlier in the week about our sheer presumption: we might distribute teasers or limited chapters or something online, but ultimately we want people to go out and buy a book from the shops? What kind of punk kids did we think we were?

There’s the ownership argument, of course: DVD box sets are still doing alright, despite falling overall media sales. You get the sense of ownership with a box, as well as the convenience, and buying a whole personal Veronica Mars marathon is also an indulgence which might fall into the category of distractions and anodynes which actually increase in sales during a recession. We both have Family Guy box sets, and in retrospect Ben was able to say that his purchase had in some way contributed to keeping the show on air a while longer. “That’s a positive contribution that I’ve made as a consumer, and as a consumer you can’t say that very often”.

danny choo room

Ben is also part of a (possibly dying, possibly not) breed which will never get into the habit of reading regularly updating things online, outside of some very specific interests. With his usual charm he pointed out that if I, his friend, published a book, then he would undoubtedly buy it and read it through. But if I maintained a webcomic, on the other hand, he would probably never follow it. (You’re a sweetheart lad. Say goodbye to that free copy. Not that you’re reading this, of course) I can’t feel too insulted: the man was introduced to Gunnerkrigg Court and manages not to check it every day. Weirdo.

gunnerkrigg court tictoc bird

Spent this afternoon writing magazine copy and trawling through various areas of the London Media job market, that venal field of harriers and waspish matey placement ads. Was listening to Chris Morris’s Blue Jam monologues from his early 90’s Radio 1 show while doing so, which was a slightly schizoid and inadvisable choice. He strips and tars his hated “Media People” through the naked eyes of his Kholstomer-like child-tramp protagonist (who incidentally is one of the most sympathetic and timely literary depictions of mental illness since Gogol). And he lets them feather themselves, with an imitating voice that’s far more convincing than Nathan Barley ever was.

It’s strange-making, ostranenie, using a madness of uncomprehension to expose a madness of mundaneness.

economies of language

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phillipeTea ceremony practice yesterday morning, then scripting and magazine work and avoidance work. I bought some chalk and started using my windows as blackboards for Iland plotting, A Beautiful Mind-style, and now I can’t really see out. Not that there’s much to see in my dim construction-aesthetic zoned residential. Then to school to practice my new kanji regime and supervise an hour of child madness in the gym. Back for a dinner that can only be described as gelatinous, then economy-drinking with the fellows before we headed out for an electronica gig. We really don’t do that enough: talked about the odd frictionless art and storytelling of what will one day be known as The Simpsons’ Late Period. And movies, nerd pursuits of one kind or another, superheroes, tabletop gaming: even Todd revealed an in-depth knowledge of the Baldur’s Gate and KOTOR series.

Then out to Momochi to the site of one of my first reviews, Zepp!, for the Capsule gig. Back when I was there to review the childsafe, Hard Rock Cafe-sponsored Japan Tour of Motley Crue, the gig began promptly at the advertised hour and ended in time for the coiffed, pointy-booted crowd to catch the train home, like the least rock n’ roll thing since Brideshead Revisited. This time, however, it turned out that there was a huge grab-bag of anodyne, wall-of-sound DJs and Vjs on first, and the main event weren’t even on till one AM. Our pathetically lazy pre-drinking looked like superb planning, especially since the venue’s standing only.

Our opinion was unanimous: the singer from Capsule is ludicrously hot, though we couldn’t work out exactly why, any more than we could decide whether or not it was a wig.

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Maybe it’s just that she was obviously having a great time on stage: maybe it was her teeny frou-frou skirt or her bike lock gold chain, or the fact that she couldn’t really dance but really wanted to. All we knew was: Yes

Home at about six, then up in the morning to clear my email and then get to an entrepreneurship seminar at the Nishinippon Shimbun building, run by the City council and The Indus Entrepreneurs, which turned out to be the largest nonprofit entrepreneurs’ association in the world, started in the nineties to collect the India/Pakistani Silicon Valley heads together.

I had dressed like how I imagined Venture Capitalists dressed in an attempt to blend in, new-gonzo style: I was infiltrating the world of the high-flyer through my publication, even though I have little to no understanding of how markets work! Though, as my friend Emiko later pointed out, I immediately identified myself as one of The Enemy by my habit of playing ominously with a biro then absently inserting the pen behind my ear, and wearing it for the rest of the day. The pen like a gun, in the words of Seamus Heaney: careful what you say, he might make it public!

It all proved pretty pointless in any case: I was lucky enough to have ten minutes On Record with an Indian American self-made millionaire entrepreneur, web pioneer and philanthropist who looked exactly like your Dad: velcro shoes, tweed jacket, classic ’93 Casio calculator watch, ring of fans and meishi-holders hoping to catch a droplet of wisdom. In the late eighties his company developed and popularised TCP/IP, and hence he had a pretty pivotal part in the invention of the internet, but as a millionaire dork he still dressed pretty much like he would if he was just a regular dork. Sharp as a whip, and didn’t pull any punches on Japan’s failing to incentivise and mentorially stroke its potential entrepreneurs.

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Networked helplessly for a while: even if, with my suit as disguise, I was going to pass for a potential investor or other no-name confidant, I would invariably bring up the publication eventually in a vain attempt to make conversation or see a flicker of recognition in my opposite number.

Plus, let’s face it, everyone has heard of the magazine round here, and to those who haven’t it’s possible to make it sound more important than it is. And these days I can say with a straight face that I’m responsible for a large part of it. The Gay feature about The Gays (which had taken A LOT of work) headed the latest issue, and I had a text from K saying that he was surprised and pleased by it. I was already proud, if apprehensive, about how it turned out, but his endorsement was all the positive feed I needed. Hard to believe that I first interviewed him for the article, which turned into a two-hour office-closer, which turned into a drink, was probably only December. I’d have to look it up.

Then back to the office to start stallingly writing up the interview (tomorrow). My boss had talked me into coming, and left the questions and the byline largely to me, which I’m immensely grateful for. I’ve become very fond him, as I do of any of the few people who I’ve spent long periods of time trying to convince of something. I’ve taken to calling the poor man “chief”, in personal homage to Superman comics. Our Social Networking developments are taking off: next stop, podcast. “Can we pay you in laptops?” “I don’t see why not.”

Then a pint in the Half Penny, reading Zola, and dinner with Emiko to talk American literature and Japanese Cinema. I promised Emiko I’d go home and sleep: I have a lot to do tomorrow even before I meet her for a comics convention or soemthing.

Instead I started in on the beer and Wikipedia, and now I’m reading about the Irish diaspora and Shane McGowan’s dental problems, and watching the legendary 1987 Bones Brigade skate video The Search for Animal Chin (feat. haunted, anaemic 17-year-old vert ramp beanpole Tony Hawk), and listening to Flogging Molly, the latter two of which I think would mix up really well.

I have an idea for an experiment with Wikipedia, where you get five strangers and put them each in a room with a computer tuned to some innocuous control Wikipedia page with a lot of links, like say Photography or Superman, and you leave them alone for fifteen minutes and see where each one gets to within Wikipedia’s halls of madness. And how many of them are rapidly closing windows or looking faintly shamed when you walk  back in without knocking.

I don’t see why not

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Via 4th Estate and The New Shelton Wet/Dry

thumbnail-ae1I’ve been thinking a lot lately about cult, and whether it can unduly privilege or emphasise creators because they seem isolated from a main cultural canon. Of course, their obscurity has a rich heritage all its own, though the connections may not be so obvious. I wonder if this specific form of cult inevitably leads to vanity projects of the kind satirised by Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace, or where creators become indulged like George Lucas or Frank Miller.

duplicator

Even in these early days of working on a script with a fairly narrow central appeal (hence my ill-humoured complaints of the advantages of apostate  “issue-driven” work in the medium) I’m thinking about ways to find and target an imagined audience. I’m having to mentally make good on all my talk to K and others that being ‘famous’ in the traditional definition only really applies these days to people who get into the wicked circle: people who are famous for being famous for being famous. They may have second jobs, of course, but that does not appear from the outside to be their reason for being. Instead, I’ve said many times, creators gets to be internet famous, famous to a few people whose opinion they might respect if you actually met them.

Who are these people?

I see all your fan showed up

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Endorsionists

Photo post finally up at If it has a name know it.

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I would have loved to build up a portfolio of examples of Indian advertising, which is simultaneously more primitive and more advanced than anywhere else. The wit, the sex, the ubiquitous dead-eyed celebrity endorsionists, the absolute clarity of impulse; it all walks the line between maternally iron-clad prelapsarian filial values and sexual endorsement.

It may be the most advanced in the world, in terms of biological imperative

so to speak.

Incidentally, two superb books I read while I was there were Amruta Patil’s Kari and Ambarish Satwik’s Perineum: Nether Parts of Empire, neither of which can be too highly recommended. I’d hesitate to describe Kari as my discovery of indigenous Indian comic writing, as I think its near-unique use of image and word isn’t representative of a particularly Indian style but of an eclectic talent. It’s claustrophobic, densely sexual bed-time reading for copywriters, right at the edge of Indian modernit: Kari herself is like an angry, newly- sexually- disenfrachised superhero.

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Perineum could only have been written by a surgeon, and a Delhi one at that: it’s got a livid, twitching yet placid intelligence that’s only Indian. It’s essentially a collection of fictitious documents rather than a short-story collection, which is what drew me to it in the first place: a series of exercises in imitated style: formal and phatic, clinical and cruel, from every angle of the colonial equation and from every stage of conquest, and every morsel has an erogenous relish for the anatomical and a polyglotted ear for endlessly reinventive English, the kind you sometimes catch at the edge of Rushdie.

I was reading Fury on my flight back and enjoying it before I left it on the plane; and restraining myself from thinking terms like over-literate. I.e. I was stopping myself both from criticising the Rushdie of Fury’s vocal tic of constant referencing, and from trying to Uncle-Tom him with a puritannical preference for the alien, invented Indian English of Perineum.

Authenticity and its pursuit was already a perceptible undertow in this holiday: bought authenticity, pained-for authenticity, briefly-but-memorably interrogative authenticity. Doing hotels and travelling with ‘locals’, it was a great comfort to the ego of a former backpacker scum to observe Indian people with no particularly reverent sense of their country’s paradoxes, its disparities or its uncommodifiable Realness. An Indian can travel 200 miles within the country and be a foreigner in terms of language and tradition; he can hop over a wall and be in a different world in terms of economy and mores.

cat and girl bought authenticity

gaijin is still better than gweilo

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