I Hate Us
Sunday — May 8th, 2011

I Hate Us

Well, with the completion of the online publication of Liggers With Attitude, our long trek through the archive comes to an end. With issue 13 still selling well (for some ungodly reason – obviously Cryptozoology and angry spectral monkeys are a bigger draw than I previously anticipated), it seems a bit daft to stick it all on the internet just yet. Rest assured I am currently working on issues 14-17, all of which will make up HFTF Book 4, and will conclude the story once and for all – no unfinished business if I can help it! Keep checking back for updates, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do one off strips, dopey pictures and confused, ill thought out rants on a variety of subjects. And if you’re new, hello, have a trawl through the archive, as you’re sure to find something to amuse you in there. Even if it’s just the dodgy way I draw hands.

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Twenty Years Of Getting Used To It

Twenty years ago, Marillion released a double concept album about child abuse, incest, mental illness and suicide. SUPER FUN GOOD TIMES! As someone who still refers to the 90s as “recently”, I am having difficulty accepting the fact that it was that long ago. Almost as much as my housemates at the time had difficulty with the fact that I listened to Brave at a ridiculously high volume, every single day.

The band had decided to ditch their unsuccessful attempt to produce a radio friendly record, and go the whole prog hog. Recorded at a chateau in France, for a whopping nine months, it’s considered by many fans to be their masterpiece. Whilst invoking such serious themes for the purposes of entertainment is a cheap trick, it’s a very nineties trope (in fact pretty much every comic that Vertigo produced at the time seemed to have at least one character that had been the victim of child abuse).

One of my favourite things about Brave is its alternate ending. On the main version of the album, (spoiler alert) the girl on the bridge is rescued at the last moment by some dude, or possibly another aspect of her personality (hedging your bets ambiguity is another good concept album trope), and the song The Great Escape flourishes into an almost Broadway style emotional crescendo, followed by the “new, brighter dawn” payoff of the epilogue Made Again.

If you bought the vinyl album, however, the final side of the album was double grooved, so half the time you got the standard happy ending, but the other half of the time, The Great Escape would not reach its climax, and the music would drop down into an altogether more hopeless, defeated tone, signifying that the girl does in fact throw herself off the bridge, and falls to her death.

That would have been the best idea ever, had people been buying vinyl in 1994. Of course, in 1994, no one was buying prog albums, so it hardly mattered. The music industry was riding the Britpop train, and EMI, fresh from the success of Blur in particular, dropped Marillion like a shitty stick. Blur’s Parklife, was a we’re cleverer than you romp through British musical heritage (they had a “punk” song called Bank Holiday, what wags, eh?), although they never touched on at the time desperately unfashionable 70s rock. Pink Floyd’s bleak interrogations of modern life were just as much a part of the pop continuum as poncing around pretending to be The Kinks, and I’m convinced Brave is the best album that The Floyd never recorded. Marillion were always slated by the press as Genesis copyists, although they never much sounded like the Supper’s Ready hitmakers, even when they were trying to (“Grendel!”). Steve Rothery’s guitar technique always lent  more towards David Gilmour, and here, along with the more subtle keyboard work and “atmospheres”, the band basically produced The Wall, with better tunes but without the misogyny.

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West End Girls

 

Tatooine Manhunt was the first of West End Games’ Star Wars Role Playing modules, and I have many fond memories of it. It notably featured the first appearance of Jodo Kast, who was the ersatz Boba Fett figure, even to the point where he wore the exact same armour and carried the same equipment. The difference being that your characters could eventually kill him without stuffing up continuity. Kast’s accomplice was a sadistic human female bounty hunter called Zardra. I liked the idea of a character with absolutely no redeeming features, pretty much evil for the sake of it, but she was depicted with some fairly basic, unimaginative artwork (I’ll sum it up for you: “woman with long hair”).

My version isn’t that much more creative, I’ll grant you. I basically used the design of the mysterious Ria Paschelle from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, but, I figured that character deserved a bit of recognition as an electric blue proto cyberpunk.

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Another Shameless Money Grab

Actually I’m doing another run for Charity, yo. Get your ass on over to my Virgin Money Giving page and lob us a couple of quid. Biggest donation gets some awesome unique commissioned art, along the lines of that wonderful picture of Van Halen, above. Or take your pick from the gallery. Either way, VOTE! Uh, I mean DONATE!

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Merry & Pippin Christmas

 

The Red Wizard

It’s that time of year again. A tradition that stretches back hundreds of years, and we think back fondly to winters gone by when we would gather together to tell stories of hobbits, sing overlong songs, and complain about Peter Jackson using “too much CGI”. Yes, another Middle Earth movie is upon us. I don’t know whether The Desolation of Smaug is the best film, but it sure as Hell has the most metal title. Smaug is fun to say, even if you don’t pronounce it right.

I see this one has a new character – that most fantastical of creatures, a female! Hopefully this one doesn’t have to dress as a bloke to be taken seriously (little bit of sexual politics, there). Actually Tauriel seems to be my old Lord Of The Rings Online character. Is she canon now? Are all the characters from that game canon? That must explain the overabundance of dwarves. Let’s see there’s Thorin, Borin, Dwarin, Doc, Sleepy, Bashful, Tobermory, Orinoco, Chase & Status, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & James Nesbit.

So there were five wizards, but we only ever meet three of them. Who were the other two? Well one of them was a red suited, jolly chap who hung out in the snowy regions and gave out presents (not to mention occasionally moonlighting in Narnia), and we present him here as our annual Christmas Card to you, our loyal readers.

And the fifth wizard? Let’s just say he was a skinny, British, bespectacled teenage boy who hung out with an owl. Yes, that’s right, Tim Hunter, bitches!

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Cover Your Nipples!

And now it’s time for some shameless self promotion. We here at Hope For The Future and Flying Monkey Comics love to give you, the British (and International) public the best in comics entertainment. But that shit’s hard, yo. So in the meantime, while you’re waiting for our glacial, Brian Bolland like progress on the next issue, why not console yourself, wrapped in the womblike comfort of one of our fantastic T shirt designs from Zazzle? Classic Rock fan? We gots Homo  Superior and Metallic styles!

 

WesternyTentacular and Forked designs for your ass. And you can’t get any more Hipsterlicious than our all purpose “That Band You Like” shizzle. Zazzle shizzle. Zizzle.

 

Also, cover your iPad, iPhone or Laptop with one of our awesome illustrational escapades. And that thing that never made it onto the fanart section of The Decemberists’ website.

 

and, as they say, much, much more. You can even get this stuff in the UK! Although why anyone in other countries would even be reading this is beyond me. Ahem. You can also request a design – want a T shirt of some fucker in the background of issue 5? Just let me know, Joe, we won’t judge you. Look, we iconoclastic unprolific comics artists gotta eat!

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Top 7: Eurovisionaries

Every year television audiences are subjected to hours of unbearable tedium, tuneless caterwauling, and an enormous waste of money. But that’s enough about The X Factor, let’s talk about The Eurovision Song Contest. The standard line that most (slightly xenophobic) British people trot out is that all the other European nations are incapable of making decent music, take the competition way too seriously, and hate our guts. Well, I would probably agree that they do hate us – but the fact that we never win is likely more to do with the fact that our entries are invariably wank. In 2011 we sent Blue, for fuck’s sake  -  for that we deserve to be kicked out of Europe forever.

So here is my rundown of the best of Eurovision through the ages – Yes, yes, obviously Waterloo by ABBA is brilliant (although not as good as the live version of Does Your Mother Know, replete with guitar solos and “stupid sexy Flanders”), but by “best” I obviously mean “most ridiculous”.

Svetglana LobodaBe My Valentine (Anti Crisis Girl)

It sounds like Mikki Disco from The Fast Show covering Flight Of The Conchords, but Anti Crisis Girl has a serious message. I can’t be certain, but I think it’s about the Global Recession. Topical in 2009, topical now. It seems this proactive Ukranian has this covered, however, and she’s going to sort out the worldwide economic meltdown, presumably by using her Sexy BOM!

Teräsbetoni – Missä Miehet Ratsastaa

Metal! Battle Metal is not something you would normally expect from the competition that brought you Ding a Dong (Netherlands, 1975) and Diggi-Loo Diggy-Ley (Sweden, 1981), but The Finns clearly love metal as much as they love Moomintroll. It’s probably a good thing Teräsbetoni didn’t win, however, as some trophy or other would have been an insufficient prize for these musical marauders. They probably would have demanded their enemies crushed and driven before them, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Lena – Satellite

Being cute never hurt anyone. Your average British racist sees The Germans as humourless, cold and officious – or at least angry, intimidatingly stylish, or good with computers. Lena didn’t fit any of these stereotypes  - imagine Amélie, with Björk’s mangled faux cockney accent, singing about her underwear. No wonder it won the competition in 2010 – we all know those Europeans are dirty!

Lordi - Hard Rock Hallelujah

Monster Rock! Finland entered these rubber clad panto rockers in 2006, and they well and truly brought home the demonic bacon. Sadly this didn’t open the floodgates for vast hordes of Euro metal bands to take part in subsequent years ( Teräsbetoni notwithstanding), but we live in hope. Lordi are named after their singer, Mr Lordi, so they must be a sort of monster version of Winger or Bon Jovi. Despite all looking like Citadel Minatures, they have done some pretty decent radio friendly rock anthems over the years. Best of all they have their own movie Dark Floors, an atmospheric Twilight Zone ish affair. Sadly, it doesn’t feature the band all that much, but it does include one of their better tunes Beast Loose In Paradise.

The Ark - The Worrying Kind

Glam! Sweden’s 2007 entry didn’t win (boo) but they’re still ace. The Worrying Kind is suspiciously similar to Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes by Edison Lighthouse, has definite shades of The Sweet’s Blockbuster, and quotes Bowie’s Quicksand, so what’s not to like? They’ve also toured with The Darkness, which should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone.

Ruffus - Eighties Coming Back

80s! Songs about international brotherhood and understanding took a back seat to this baffling entry from Estonia in 2003. Less a boyband, more a bunch of dudes who have taken way too long to put together their GCSE music coursework. It’s hard to tell whether Ruffus (original name: Claire’s Birthday) consider the fact that the Eighties are Coming back a good thing or a bad thing- It’s fairly upbeat but the singer apparently “wakes up in the middle of the night in terror”, maintains that “it makes you wanna cry” and yells out “I can’t stand it”! Also, those deep synthesiser sounds really freak you out.

LT United - We Are The Winners

Confidence! Crazed electric violin solo! Idiot dancing! Shouting into a bullhorn! Five blokes that look like second division Football managers! What more could you possibly want?

LT United were Lithuania’s entry in 2006, and should definitely put paid to the old chestnut that all the non UK entries take things way too seriously. The group was made up of musicians and television personalities, all well known in their home nation, and the official video featured clips of each of them- brilliantly out ofcontext for the rest of us. Their stated aim is “to represent the truth”, but this mostly consists of repeatedly telling us “We Are The Winners. Of Eurovision”, and suggesting that we “vote”.

Sadly, the truth is that they didn’t win (2006 was a strong year, at least for crazy gimmicks), but they did manage the (admittedly easy) feat of making Daz Sampson look like a fucking idiot. Who is Daz Sampson you might well ask? He had the UK entry that year, Teenage Life, a sort of embarrassing chummy hip hop number. Daz looked like the kind of guy that would hang out around schools, trying to pick up the hot 25 year old schoolgirls that were onstage with him (unconvincingly lip syncing the Grocer Jack style kiddie chorus). Immediately following We Are The Winners and perhaps realising he had been blown off the stage by our Lithuanian pals, he capped off the performance by  bellowing “Vote for the music!”, as if to say Teenage Life was a serious piece of musical theatre, rather than a dopey joke song.

That year Daz came 19th, with with a total of 25 points. LT United came 6th, with 162 points. In your face, Bus Stop!

Bonus vid- presumably a rehearsal version where they can’t be arsed, yet somehow 98.5% more awesome. Vote!

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May The d4s Be With You

My journey back through the mystical labyrinths of Role Playing Games led me to the most predictable point possible – The Star Wars RPG. We played quite a lot of this as teenagers  and my memory is that the books published by West End Games were always really well produced and entertaining. This game actually created a lot of what was later to become known as The Expanded Universe. Prior to this, we only had those jokey nicknames like Hammerhead, Squidhead and Motorhead (One of these may be falsified). I still love the fact that there was a character whose given name (or the name of his race) was Snaggletooth. Actually maybe it was both: Snaggletooth The Snaggletooth. Who has a snaggle tooth.

Other stuff from that original RPG that was ace:

  • Anyone can fly any ship – this is quite an important distinction from things like the Star Trek game in which you could only do something if you’d spent a couple of years at the Academy taking exams – here, like in the movies you can just just leap into some bucket of bolts, start flipping switches and be doing The Kessel Run in an unspecified amount of time and/or distance
  • One of the starting “character templates” was called “Quixotic Jedi
  • It taught me the meaning of the phrase “In Media Res” – According to the rulebook, all Star Wars movies start in the middle of the action. Except they don’t – only Star Wars (and, later Revenge Of The Sith)  actually do.
  • It was more about heroically doing faintly ridiculous things, rather than collecting gold pieces and +2 Vorpal Swords
I guess if I’m going to run any RPGs, that’s the one, right? I mean I’ve spent the last 36 years filling my head with made up space nonsense, I may as well put it to some use. So, after a quick trip to eBay I bought up a bunch of the more recent (but now over a decade old) Wizards Of The Coast published RPG books. I think the edition I have is officially called “The One with Episode 2 Shit In It”. Since then my internet research has told me that the later “Saga Edition” (aka “The One With Episode 3 Shit In It”) is better, but even that’s been replaced by Edge Of The Empire published by Fantasy Flight. Even though this brings out a primal urge in me to get back on eBay and spend a ton more money, I suspect it doesn’t matter what system you use. With the old West End Games version, after a while you used to have to throw a bucketfull of d6 dice to do anything at all and I don’t recall anyone complaining.
For a scenario I bashed together a bunch of bits of the movies, along with references to some of my favourite stuff from the Expanded Universe (Purely for my own amusement, there is a casino on Nar Shaddaa called The Kopa Khan). I had a out-of-time Jedi that had been frozen in carbonite since The Clone Wars, a starship chase through the aforementioned cityplanet, Trandoshan Bounty Hunters and a sneaky doublecrossing Duro. Everything came to a head on the Moon of Sulon, purely because I liked the old Dark Forces/Jedi Knight games. No “Grave Tuskens” though – that’s the beauty of this shit – you can ignore anything you don’t like. Now, roll for your Midichlorian count…
Seeing as the game was relatively well received (ie. no one fell asleep, set fire to their character sheet or punched me in the face) now I’m continuing a campaign for these characters – luckily, there are a ton of published adventures out there on the web. Next up is Dawn Of Defiance, a ten part adventure, that I’m not sure we’ll get all the way through, but I’m going to have fun redrawing all the characters from it. And also my own. I guess doodling the most obscure characters I could find from the Star Wars Universe wasn’t quite niche enough – I eventually had to start making them up.
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Music To Watch Gnolls By

I ran a Dungeons & Dragons game a while back, after a short role playing hiatus of about twenty five years. It was ok, but I think I may have gone for the wrong tone. At the time I had a real bee in my bonnet about Wolf People‘s amazingly grungy acid folk prog rock and I wanted to get some of that feel – a kind of bleak, Dark Ages Englishness. I probably should have aimed more for that light hearted, colourful D&D world that I used to see in the pages of White Dwarf magazine in the 80s. Turns out there’s a ton of music that fits perfectly. Now, I love creaky, maudlin acoustic ballads about floods, witch hunts and incest, but the brash, unsubtle American version of Fantasyland is seemingly better served by hard rock bands that occasionally dabbled in prog.

 

Here’s a list of Dungeons & Dragons rock – note that On A Storyteller’s Night by Magnum is not included. No matter how much they got Rodney Matthews to do their album covers, I’m still not going to listen to them. Harsh but fair. Now let’s rock (troll)!

 

  • Wishbone Ash, A King Will Come  - or indeed pretty much anything on The Ash’s Argus album. The fact that the cover features some sort of mystical warrior is your first clue
  • It Bites, Calling All The Heroes – 80s prog! I’m fairly sure this was in the charts while I was fully entrenched in playing Lords Of Midnight on the Spectrum – which is why, in my mind it goes “Corleth All The Heroes”
  • Dream Theater, The Killing Hand – it’s basically One For The Vine but with loads of screaming and pinched harmonics
  • Iron Maiden, Moonchild - Surprisingly, England’s greatest metal based export never  really explored straight fantasy themes in their songs. Their stuff seems like it should all be about paladins fighting wights, but they’re mostly based (loosely, it has to be said) on historical or literary sources. Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son was their concept album, and while it’s a bit vague as to its setting,  it has prophets and magic and shit, so I think it counts.
  • Rainbow, Stargazer – Ronnie James Dio regularly fought dragons on stage, so it should come as no surprise that most of his songs were a bit sword and sorceryey. Stargazer is the tale of a wizard who commands a legion of slaves to build a tower from which he can fly to the stars. If he could fly, you’d think he wouldn’t need to waste time with a tower – he could just take off from the ground. As it turns out he can’t fly at all, he just drops to his death. Pretty dopey, but utterly metal.
  • Heart, Dream Of The Archer – saying Heart were influenced by Led Zeppelin is a bit like saying that Star Wars is a western in space. They loved that semi acoustic semi mystical shit. I can’t be certain, but I have an inkling this song is about Hank The Ranger
  • Rush, The Necromancer – Many of Rush’s song titles sound like they could actually be Dungeons & Dragons modules - The Fountain Of Lamneth, By-Tor & The Snow Dog, A Farewell To Kings and so forth. The Necromancer sounds like the actual text of one – “Stealthily attacking/ By-Tor slays his foe/ The men are free to run now/ From labyrinths below” – gain 300 XP
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One Life, Furnished In Early Gygax

In an effort to be absolutely as predictable as possible, I’ve decided to get back into role playing games.

As a teenager, I roleplayed a fair amount, with a number of different game systems. We would generally go for games based around licensed properties, so we went for Star Wars, Star Trek, Stormbringer ( based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric books), Judge Dredd, and on one memorable occasion, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I guess the main one was Middle Earth Role Playing – I was well and truly on Team Tolkien, and wanted to recreate that world, but I think those rulebooks and supplements (and subsequently, my adventures) were a little dry. Presumably, the designers thought the huge tapestry of world building that J to the R to the R to the T created shouldn’t be besmirched by things like humour, fun, or a teenage boy’s preoccupation with half naked elfmaidens.

There was, however, no such reticence from the creators of the uber RPG, Dungeons & Dragons (or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, if you were doing it right). Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson claimed that Tolkien wasn’t an influence, favouring Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance and Michael Moorcock, although they filched orcs, hobbits and just about everything else from the book.

Although intended to give generic fantasy based rules for the players to pick and choose elements to create their own world (for example, you didn’t necessarily have to include Hippogriffs, Gelatinous Cubes and Type VI Demons in the same adventure), D&D came to be represented by a rather specific setting.

This was due in some part to the art created around the game, by illustrators such as Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley. If Peter Jackson’s Rings movies were a little too clean and styled for you, check out some of the early D&D art – everything looks like a particularly inauthentic Renaissance Fayre, or the cover of Heart’s Little Queen album. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – every fantasy world needs its own feel and I guess they made a conscious decision to be fairly light, rather than dark and gritty. It’s very 80s and very American, unsurprisingly.

Talking of Heart, Dungeons & Dragons, whether it’s Greyhawk, Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms, reminds me of when the Americans try to do Progressive Rock – it’s not quite as twiddly or whimsical (or serious) as the likes of Yes and Genesis. It tends to be a bit more straightforward, rockin’ and… well, fun. Maybe that’s where I was going wrong with my Middle Earth campaign. All those lengthy tables of statistics on herbs in the Greater Rhovanion region, and the fact that you couldn’t play a wizard because it might upset the balance of Tolkien’s set in stone history (even though all the game supplements were set two thousand years before LOTR)… it doesn’t amount to much if you can’t kick a goblin in the bollocks and swing out of a Tavern window, whilst cheekily exposing yourself to a sexy cleric.

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Wilson & Me

If you ever lay asleep at night wondered what comics I would take with me to a desert island, if that were at all a concern or possibility, then worry no more. Your prayers have been answered in this handy article I wrote for the Forbidden Planet Blog. Seeing as all I needed to do was write a few words about some comics I liked, it took me an unfeasibly long time to narrow it down, so I hope you appreciate it. Corrections, arguments, rebuttals and queries can be sent through the normal channels. NOTE: This blog originally contained a less than complimentary reference to Jim Aparo, but I cut it out as it was too mean and, like, who am I to talk, right?

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