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Topics - Frank

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General / House Characters In Comics
« on: 30 September, 2017, 01:47:23 PM »

Obviously I'm quoting this because it accords with my own views, but it's worth reading/hearing in its own right, not least because it's more incisive than anything we've produced in the prog review thread lately.

Julius Howe, from an unusually thoughtful* episode of the Everything Comes Back To 2000ad podcast:

'Dredd's always been a story that's about forward momentum, whereas War Buds reflects on the past. I'd love to know where Wagner's taking Dredd, because all that will happen at the end of this is the other writers will go back to satirical strips that don't take the story forward.

The book Simpsons Confidential does a really good job of showing how the success of that show wasn't down to one person. Sam Simon told the writers to mine their personal history as story material, which is why those early episodes felt so honest.

When John Wagner writes Dredd, you get John Wagner in the story, and I think that's something missing from a lot of 2000ad stories. Dan Abnett is a great writer, but I don't know who Dan Abnett is because you don't get a lot of Dan Abnett from his stories. Dredd feels so consistent because there's so much of John Wagner coming through.

When those original Simpsons writers moved on, the writers who replaced them were basing what they wrote entirely on The Simpsons. I think that's the same kind of thing you get with Dredd. You've got this Icon (or Titan) of British comics, with all this history, and the writers are basing their stories on the back story.

Rob Williams is writing stories he wants to tell but with Dredd in them; Al Ewing and Michael Carroll are replicating Wagner stories but bringing a bit of themselves. They're really good writers, but the stories don't quite work because the character's so closely associated with his creator.

Even though other writers have come and gone, it's always been John Wagner who took the strip forward. Now we've got this power struggle to see who's going to be the voice of Judge Dredd, but the voice of Judge Dredd is always going to be John Wagner.

I don't think anyone can replace him, because Judge Dredd is not a corporate character - he's too closely tied to his creator. It would be like someone else writing ABC Warriors, or replacing John Smith on Devlin Waugh.

Rebellion are trying to look at these characters as if they're Marvel properties, but they're not. The difference between US and UK characters is they're creator owned characters who aren't owned by their creators.

The characters Tharg tried to treat like corporate IPs - Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog(s), Robohunter - should have been a lesson learned. Treating these characters as anything other than the product of their creators doesn't work.

With a few exceptions, Alan Grant's recent Anderson stories haven't been great. I don't think he feels he has more to say with the character, but I don't think bringing in another writer helps. New writers need to develop new characters that embody their personalities and take them forward in their own way.

Judge Janus is universally hated, but she was a character who embodied the interests of Grant Morrison and Mark Millar. The stories weren't very good, but they were of their time and of their creators.

I don't think putting Morrison and Millar on Judge Anderson would have made the Anderson strip better, because that strip is such a product of its creators.

Creators need to feel appreciated or they're not going to produce their best work.

If you treat creators separately from their creations, you don't foster a relationship with those creators. Especially with a creator like John Smith, who's quite out there, you've got to put a lot of effort into that relationship and getting them where they need to be to produce their best work.

John Smith was terrible at endings - people just basically turned into lizards or something - but the enjoyment of the stories as they went along was immense. I couldn't understand a lot of what was going on in Revere, but I still enjoyed reading it every week.

Rebellion want a situation like the Marvel production line, but with 2000ad that results in something quite ordinary. That kind of system produces a structure that's functional but lacking the vital spark of originality that makes the best work so memorable.'

The aspect of this commentary I find most persuasive is that it doesn't figure other writers as hacks who lack talent or idiots who simply do not understand what makes a character so great. As Garth Ennis and Douglas Wolk demonstrate, it's possible to write fairly ordinary Dredd strips but still be able to write eloquently and powerfully about Dredd.

The other aspect of Julius's disquisition that resonated with me is the focus on the connection between reader and writer, as opposed to between reader and character. I've never really understood why comic readers follow characters, as opposed to creators.

It's the personality of the writer ** that shines through and causes me to invest in Dredd, Strontium Dog, Indigo Prime and Devlin Waugh. I'm not sure there's anything inherently special about those characters (or any others) - the ordinary-to-awful results of Tharg's previous attempts at turning original creations into house characters suggests not.

* I say thoughtful, but you have to fast forward through an (admittedly entertaining) hour of middle aged men drinking gin and singing cartoon theme tunes to get to the incisive analysis: https://2000ad.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/ecbt2000ad-ep340/

** ... and, in the rare case of Strontium Dog, the artist

Film & TV / Scorsese makes Joker movie - or The Death of Culture
« on: 23 August, 2017, 08:16:27 PM »

He's only producing, but - before you think that restores a shred of dignity - he's hired The Hangover guy to direct.

I'm not linking to the press release, but it's a classic. It's a full house for anyone playing DC Cinematic Universe bingo - "dark ... gritty and grounded ... set in the eighties ... more of a dark crime movie than a traditional superhero adventure".

I don't blame him for taking Time Warner's cash for putting his name on this  - he's 100 years old and hates the world for not going to see his Japanese priest torture porn movie.

General / Rare Interview With Legend Ian Gibson
« on: 02 February, 2017, 11:00:45 PM »
I've never heard an interview with Ian Gibson before; now I know why. He doesn't feel the need to be diplomatic about anything or anyone. One former Tharg is a waste of oxygen and even Darth Vader feels the sharp end of Gibson's tongue.

His early life is so Sixties it sounds like Austin Powers' biography - he dropped out of art school to teach himself sitar! His apprenticeship under Blas Galego, walking out on Samantha Slade, and rewriting X-Men all make for great stories, explaining his character and his career.

Gibson puts forward a very different version of Halo Jones's creation than most of us would imagine, claiming the central theme and whole way the first book was told were his ideas, and that he and Moore tried to take the strip to French publishers after the latter grew to despise Tharg.

For all the fun had, Gibson's explanation of why we'll never see more comics from him again is heartbreaking. Essential listening:




Books & Comics / Thrillpower Overload: the missing chapters
« on: 21 November, 2016, 01:55:35 PM »
So many great nuggets of information are mentioned in passing round here, remembered only by a few and never seen again, I thought it would be a good idea to have one place to post information or artwork that didn't make the edit on the official history of 2000ad.

This is the detail that set me off on this train of thought; how could John Smith have been interviewed about the history of 2000ad without mentioning he almost became Tharg? *

reproduced with permission

* I asked a follow up question, but I'm working on the assumption that Smith was offered the role following the departure of McKenzie. The Burton/McKenzie succession seemed an orderly one, and Smith says it was pre-internet - which rules out Tharg's Bishop/Diggle regeneration.

Books & Comics / Alan Moore's Jerusalem +++SPOILERS+++
« on: 26 September, 2016, 07:55:23 PM »
Despite visits from three Amazon associates in white vans, two of them wielding parcels the size of unusually lengthy books, my walk home from work was unencumbered by 1000 pages of psychogeography, ill advised rape scenes, and ranting against Northampton Town Council.

Undaunted, I thought I'd pave the way for this thread of exhaustive literary analysis - which I expect to receive as many as three (brief) replies - with the first Moore interview I've read in ages that lets him speak affably and entertainingly on the vast range of topics he knows more about than almost everyone else, rather than bear baiting him to have a go at superhero comics and their readers.

Works on a tabloid level too. There's a hilarious dialogue with a tramp about Dave Gibbons/DC, and Dominic Wells identifies the 'girlfriend' Moore and his first wife shared - whose familiar surname was a revelation to me at least:

“I continually monitor the possibility that I might be going mad.”

Moore and I are holed up in an Italian restaurant in Northampton to discuss the culmination of a lifetime’s work, research and philosophy. “Bigger than the Bible and I hope more socially useful”, is how Moore describes his sprawling magnum opus, Jerusalem, with his customarily deadpan humour.

Moore hasn’t lost the astonishing verbal felicity with which his every sentence emerges fully formed, sub-clauses and all. It’s as though he were writing rather than speaking; or as though he already knows how each sentence will end before he embarks upon it.

In 1994, Moore experienced an “absolute, crystalline understanding” during a magical ritual. Since then, Moore has believed, as Einstein supposedly did, that time is a solid in which our lives are embedded; it is only our perception of it which makes it appear linear.

“The thing is,” says Moore, “we don’t have free will, or at least that’s what I believe, and I think most physicists tend to think that as well, that this is a predetermined universe. That’s got to pretty much kill religion because there aren’t any religions that aren’t based on some kind of moral imperative. They’ve all got sin, karma or something a bit like that.

In a predetermined universe how can you talk about sin? How can you talk about virtue?”

“We’re talking here about heaven and hell, we’re talking about them as being simultaneous and present, that all the worst moments of your life forever, that’s hell; all the best moments of your life forever, that’s paradise.

So, this is where we are. We’re in hell, we’re in paradise; both together, forever. I’m saying that everywhere is Jerusalem. That in an Einsteinian block universe, where all time is presumably simultaneous, then everywhere is the eternal heavenly city.”

This is why, as in Alan Moore’s first novel, Voice of the Fire, almost all the action in Jerusalem takes place within a small geographical area of Northampton, but ranging across different historical eras, each centring on different protagonists who end up interconnecting in surprising ways.

It’s part social history of Northampton, part thinly fictionalised history of Moore’s own family, part philosophical treatise, part rip-roaring adventure in which a gang of kids maraud through the afterlife in a central section Moore describes as like “a savage, hallucinating Enid Blyton”.

As if that wasn’t hard enough to pull off, Moore adapts his writing style to the inner voice of whoever is the chapter’s focus.

One is written as a play, in the style of Waiting for Godot, and throws together the spirits of Thomas Becket, Samuel Beckett, John Clare and John Bunyan – all of whom have some connection with Northampton – as they observe and comment on a husband and wife wrestling with a terrible family secret …

Another chapter, described from the point of view of James Joyce’s mad daughter Lucia who was institutionalised for 30 years in a Northampton mental hospital, is written in a mangled, pun-filled gibber-English as a homage to Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. It was so laborious to compose that Moore took a year’s break after finishing it.

If this makes Jerusalem sound like hard going, it isn’t. It’s gripping, full of stylistic fireworks, frequently laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes terrifying, occasionally frustrating. Could it have been shorter? Of course. But it’s the digressions and bizarre connections that make the book, the nuggets of pure gold that Moore has sifted from the silt of local history through prodigious research and banked in his near-photographic memory.

“Nearly everything is historical fact,” says Moore, before deadpanning: “I’d take all the angels and demons with a pinch of salt. A lot of it is actually 100 per cent materially true, but I think all of it is emotionally true.

We are not just our bricks and mortar, we are not just our flesh and blood, we are not just our material components. Everything in our world has got an imaginary component. As individuals, we’re always telling people the legend of us. The same goes for our houses, our streets, our towns, our country – there is a huge imaginary component to human life and if in the interests of scientific realism you ignore that, you are not describing reality.

But science cannot measure the bit that isn’t material. Science is a brilliant tool for analysing our material universe, but science cannot talk about what is inside the human mind: it’s beyond the realm of proof, it’s beyond the realm of science. So I say they should be left to art and magic, which are pretty much the same thing.”

One of the most moving aspects of the book is how Moore exhumes the oral working-class history of Northampton, resurrecting and giving voice to those who had none when they lived, such as a homeless teen who died of exposure, whom Moore makes a key character, or “Black Charley”, who emigrated to Northampton from America.

"These are the things that need to be preserved. Because they are wonderful. And yet, who cares?

These things must have happened in every little deprived area, all across the world. But we’re not interested in deprived areas, it’s got to be the history of Church and State and Monarchy – that’s the only history that counts, apparently.  I would say that’s the only history that’s simplistic to keep track of” ...

... “So, yeah,” he deadpans. “I am still worshipped as a God by the primitive and superstitious people of Milton Keynes.”


General / Interview with former Tharg, Richard Burton (questions needed)
« on: 09 September, 2016, 09:30:33 PM »
This is your chance to ask the Tharg who doesn't do interviews anything you want to know about his time on the Galaxy's Greatest, first as sub-editor (1980-1984), and again as editor (1987-1993). They were the best of times, they were the worst of times.

Burton poached schoolboy Steve Dillon from Marvel UK and coached Morrison through all 4 phases of Zenith, so whether your question is a nerdish 'whose idea were the Horned God intro pages?' or a controversial 'what on Earth happened to 2000ad in the 90s?', there's plenty to ask him about.

I'll let y'all know the deadline for questions, and I'll post a link to the ECBT site when the podcast goes up online.


General / Letters Of Note (Tharg edition)
« on: 28 August, 2016, 09:27:30 PM »
One of the reasons I'm mystified by the smugness of those who have gone completely digital and freed up their spare room for yoga or bigamous marriage is that I'm interested in 2000ad as a living, breathing weekly comic*.

The great joy of trying to re-read a story in its original form is the way that quickly turns into reading two stories when you notice there's another good one running at the same time, which quickly turns into just reading the entire comic.

Even Tharg's Nerve Centre offers entertainment value when the readers' art or letters turn out to be by someone who would go on to work for Tharg, waste their time on this forum, or actually do something noteworthy in the real world.

This morning's reread of Robo-hunter threw up this missive from Joe Cornish of North London and the MCU (290, Nov 1982). It's less a letter to Tharg as naked boasting that he's been to America and seen E.T six months before everyone in the UK.

* Rather than an assortment of incomplete excerpts of longer stories on rubbish paper, with half-closed staples that rip the folded pages in half over time, like a self-destruct mechanism

Suggestions / Fay Dalton can't get work in comics
« on: 30 May, 2016, 11:09:45 PM »

According to Pat Mills, Fay Dalton can't get work in comics. FAY DALTON.

I assumed the reason why she wasn't producing cover images for US publishers that make Alex Ross look slapdash was that she was earning too much cash elsewhere, but Mills says he's shown her work around the major publishers without success. Dark Horse said her storytelling wasn't up to scratch.

My suggestion is that Tharg should get Dalton drawing Future Shocks, 3rillers, Judge Beeny or Maitland solo series, a Maze Dumoir reboot - anything:


General / Did nineties editorial really get it so wrong?
« on: 16 December, 2015, 05:40:54 PM »
the biggest mistake of (Grant Morrison) in 2000ad was by trying to redefine 2000ad for a 90s audience was that he forgot that the 2000ad was actually getting it pretty much spot on and so by rallying against it he was rallying against something that worked. He also missed that 2000ad wasn't looking for its next generation of audience, rather unlike a lot of comics wonderfully growing up alongside the audience it'd always had.

Colin's comments on another thread reminded me of the line pursued by Pat Mills in the Future Shock DVD.

Rebellion's decision to appeal to a core audience stabilised reader numbers, but if (in 1990) you explained to Robert Maxwell that the solution to 2000ad's circulation problems was to jettison 90% of its readers he wouldn't have been impressed.

The general thrust of the 90s was similar to the 80s approach - strips that were a bit like the kind of films and telly the mass audience were into. Mercy Heights was Babylon 5, Sin/Dex was Pulp Fiction, Vector 13 was X-Files, Sancho Panzer is Our Friends In The North, etc.

I'm not arguing those strips were any good*, just that imagining the 100,000 readers who bought 2000ad every week in the 80s might give the comic a second look if it featured stuff they liked (including Viz and Loaded) wasn't such an insane idea.

* saying they should run good strips instead of shite ones doen't seem like much of an insight

General / Carlos Ezquerra's UK comics debut - 42 years ago
« on: 12 September, 2015, 10:50:16 PM »

The venerable Colin Noble has granted permission to share the benefits of his detective work with the people who will appreciate it most. He Was Only A Private Soldier, published in DC Thomson's Wizard, marked the UK comics debut of Andorra's gift to the world - and it's reproduced in full on Colin's blog.

Carlos says the first three episodes of this were drawn in Spain and the rest in Croydon*, and it's remarkable how much of it looks like the Carlos we know today. The hero is the kind of clean cut youth of whom DCT would approve, but the faces of the supporting cast are very familiar and even details like the way legs look in high boots are straight out of his Dredd work of today:

* famously the model for the urban nightmare of MC1

General / RENGA: aborted DC Thomson rival to 2000AD
« on: 30 June, 2015, 08:16:31 PM »

I love this kind of WHAT IF? stuff, and it's a nice supplement to our recent discussion of CRISIS and Toxic.

Courtesy of Down The Tubes and Tony Luke, Glenn Fabry's cover art for the never-before-seen dummy issue of the comic DC Thomson hoped could crowd in on Tharg's action, circa 1995. Given how Tharg's 1995 turned out, that might well have been possible.

Alan Grant's Devil Cop looks like it would have kept Lobo and Ghost Rider's lawyers busy, and anyone reading this who doesn't wish they'd had a chance to read the late John Hicklenton illustrating a strip called Killer Tongue needs to examine their priorities in life:

"Tony has very kindly handed the entire project, including emails, over to us for posterity. Over time, we’ll bring you more on the origins of this lost project – how it came about, who was involved, and the road blocks put in its way by a rival publisher to try to stop creators working on it. Twenty years on, it’s a fascinating story of a British Comic That Might Have Been – and what went wrong …"

General / CRISIS and New Statesmen: the little comics nobody loved
« on: 14 June, 2015, 02:33:03 PM »

SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS, by Janean Patience, offers a great overview not just of Third World War, New Statesmen, and all the Garth Ennisry and Amnesty which followed, but of the brief period where publishers mistakenly thought comics might be a thing grown ups might buy, in general.

Patience is refreshingly frank about what works and what was absolutely risible, and the depth of the analysis lavished upon John Smith's New Statesmen means this is probably the definitive text on what Patience points out is a strip which is as neglected today as it was at the time of original publication.

This is the best writing on comics I've read since the demise of Douglas Wolk's incredible Dredd Reckoning blog - a Megazine text feature from her would make a refreshing change from creator interviews:

General overview: Crisis Of Identity

New Statesmen: In the context of the eighties fad for adult superheroes

New Statesmen: In the context of post-modernism and team books

New Statesmen: Complexity, redundancy and the way the old always strangles the new in comic books

General / John Wagner and Alan Moore write Fred Bassett
« on: 22 May, 2015, 04:55:22 PM »

Not really. Radio Four comedy does very accurate pastiche of the two writers' contrasting styles:


The credits say the writers were Mark Haines and Simon Cane. If any of you lot are either of them, well done.

Prog / Prog 1926 - April Fuel Shot of Rocket Glass
« on: 01 April, 2015, 05:41:47 PM »

Cover: Nice to see Bill Sienkiewicz back on the character. Sienkiewicz is undoubtedly a genius, but Dredd's helmet is all wrong, the image is too static, and Vienna's claw covers up the logo.

Dredd: Who would have thought this would happen? I can't see any plausible way out of this for Old Joe, and I genuinely feel this is finally the moment the character will be killed off and replaced with a clone (Rico 2?). Henry Flint's art is superb, and Rob Williams is now firmly installed as the third place Dredd writer of choice.

Sláine: I used to love Sláine back in the day, but Mills has ruined it by battering the reader over the head with crowbarred political messages which burgle dialogue of credibility. It's in no way hyperbolic to say I'm the victim of a crime perpetrated by Mills; ruining my childhood memories of Sláine basically makes him a paedophile. SB Davis's superb painted art means the strip has never looked better!

Strontium Dog: Bringing the character back from the dead was a mistake, although the stories set before his death lacked dramatic tension because we knew Johnny couldn't die. Killing Johnny was a mistake - he should go back in time and prevent his original death, to correct the mistake of killing him. Knowing he wasn't going to die in future strips wouldn't be a problem, because this time it would be different.

I didn't bother reading Grey Area or Orlok, since they do nothing for me. Maybe they'll read better in trade collections. What Tharg needs to do is stop rehashing old ideas like Orlok and concentrate on new ideas. But the new ideas shouldn't be like Grey Area.

Rogue Trooper: Letting Neil Gaiman bring his dark vision to the story of a blue soldier and his talking hat was an inspired move, and I feel certain this latest reboot will be the one which finally takes, provided it explains how this Rogue fits into the continuities of all the other versions. With Al Columbia on board as artist, I foresee a long and bright future for this strip. WE'RE LIVING THROUGH A SECOND GOLDEN AGE! 


Courtesy of Colin Noble on the Judge Dredd fan group. How heartbreaking is this - MacNeil originally intended to complete the second part of America in the same gorgeous painted colour as the first series, before time (and, I'm assuming, money) dictated otherwise.

Interesting to see how the decision to redo this page in monochrome led to not just a change in layout but some less subtle storytelling decisions (the foregrounding of the skull, for example). How did the extra content in the Mega Collection manage not to mention this?

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