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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THOUGHTBUBBLE 2014

Thought Bubble is the UK’s best comic event. However, last year, instead of attending, I sat in the shell of a house and felt sorry for myself. Moving house took up a lot of my year, and as a result I was unable to get anything together to sell. And also I couldn’t afford it. I’m sure you all had a brilliant time, bastards.

HFTF15

This year though, I will be there, along with the long awaited (by me) issue 15 of Hope For The Future. Yes, I put out comics about as regularly as Kate Bush treads the boards. And with a thousand times more theatricality! In this thrilling PENULTIMATE issue, the shit starts to go down! An implausible underground city is discovered and our gallant heroes face off against gun toting maniacs (pretty much), ninjas (kinda) and dragons (uh… ish). Also tons of plot gets explained, so all that crap that you thought was just random words thrown onto the page to fill up space in previous issues will all be laid out. You won’t want to miss this. Unless of course you haven’t read the comic previously, but if that’s the case you’re in luck, because I’ll be AGGRESSIVELY SELLING the previous two issues that set this one up.

Con Sketches1

In addition, I’ll have trade paperback style collections, prints, original art, and all the usual crap. In the past I’ve drawn multiple Harley Quinns, sexy zombies, and Darth Vader decapitating Justin Bieber, but you don’t need to pick something quite so highbrow. I’ll pretty much draw anything, and this year I’m bringing out the BIG GUNS – yes I have some grey markers! A sketch done on the day will be a STUPIDLY LOW PRICE of £4, and here are some AMAZING examples of past commissions.

sketches2

 

If you want something more elaborate, perhaps something inspired by a browse through our pretentiously named Galleria, and you wish to commission your faithful artist before the event, get in touch. Your people can speak to my people and we’ll sort something out.

Also my brand new uber moderne innovation is paper bags. Yeah, paper bags, yo. That shit is tight! Everyone needs a bag for their junk and you can get a super fantastic Sketch Bag, like the ones pictured here, for one smokin’ hot English pound. OR if you’re feelin’ flush, how about you get your own choice of character or thing, specially commissioned for £3. It’s basically a convention sketch on brown paper, with handles, that you can put stuff in. IT’S THE FUTURE!

 

bags

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Shira

Back in the 80s, we had to rely on Newsagents for our comic book fix. At some point, our local shop decided to just stop stocking the Star Wars comic, without telling anyone about it, so that was it for me. A couple of years later, when the title was changed to tie in with the release of Return of the Jedi, the comics started appearing again, so for a long time there was a big gap in my readership of the series. As a result I learned the true identity of Shira Brie, before even finding out who she was, or had been, or had been pretending to be. Yes, the latest love interest for Luke Skywalker was an Imperial Agent, and ended up as an evil, Force wielding Vaderette.

Like most women in comics, Shira was sexy, but unlike many of them she was always fully dressed. Even though she didn’t make that many appearances, she always came across as a strong personality and it’s easy to see why Luke fell for her. I guess he was just beginning to realise that he had no chance with Leia, what with her preoccupied with finding the carbonite frozen Han Solo at the time.

Before Jedi came out I always thought the issue was finding Han, and that’s the way the comics played it too. I suppose the line about rendezvous-ing on Tatooine should have clued us all in to the fact that they knew exactly where he would be, but it certainly didn’t with me. Marvel on the other hand had three years worth of comics to fill, and only much later would retcon it with a throwaway line like “we went to Tatooine and Boba Fett hadn’t arrived yet so we decided to look on every other planet in the galaxy”.

So Shira got blown up (but not killed) and Luke went off to investigate her, only to learn that she was a special agent trained by Vader to infiltrate the Alliance. Flashback on Coruscant alert! In that regard (and in terms of appearance) she was a clear precursor to Mara Jade, although much less of a Mary Sue type (She’s a smuggler! She’s a spy! She’s a Jedi! She can kick everyone’s ass!).

Luke never had much luck with girls. Later in the series he would hook up with a cute, but unscience fictionally named Mary, who was not only inappropriately dressed for a revolutionary, but also got killed as they were on their way to have sex (that’s my interpretation of the plot anyway). Interestingly (and yes, I am fascinated by this below par issue), in a page that didn’t appear in the UK reprint, Luke muses that Mary reminds him of Leia. Yep, even after the events of Return of the Jedi, Luke still kinda wants to fuck his sister.

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Lumiya

Lumiya’s first appearance was as a fairly uninspired “female Vader” design. She was incongruously the head of security on some ostensibly peaceful planet, although why anyone would have trusted someone in full black leather, dominatrix boots and mask of evil awesomeness, is on a par with hiring someone called “Wormtongue” to be your Royal Advisor. So Lumiya turns out to be evil (shocker) and buggers off, ready to fight another day.

Returning many issues later, in a shredded, messed up, and infinitely cooler version of her original look, she faces off against a post Jedi Luke Skywalker and proceeds to kick his ass seven ways to Sunday. Reading it back now, it’s a highpoint of the series. New artist Cynthia Martin pulled out all the stops, in a dynamic, wordless battle, and managed to convey everything through gesture and facial expression (pretty impressive seeing as Lumiya’s face was mostly covered up).

I didn’t feel that way at the time though. When this story appeared in the UK, the comic had reverted back to a weekly format, and the production was pretty shoddy. You might get as little as five pages of the main story at a time, so story seemed to go on for months. Also, there were many instances of the colour printing being misaligned, and on one memorable occasion, a page was printed back to front. Presumably the publisher just didn’t care at this point.

Marvel’s Star Wars comics were well and truly scuppered by the indecisiveness of Lucasfilm, not being allowed to progress the story in logical directions, and suffering from a big, Darth Vader shaped hole that was unlikely to ever be filled. Lumiya seemed like a promising character, though, mysterious and ruthless, but never got her due, as soon the series would be unceremoniously dumped. However, she was resurrected decades later, to appear in the modern Expanded Universe, so someone had been paying attention.

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Rik Duel

 

Rik Duel was always a pale imitation of Han Solo, and I think he knew it. At least he got there years before Dash Rendar.

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SKILL 12 STAMINA 24

After backing You are the Hero on Kickstarter I felt compelled to write a review on Amazon. Unfortunately, I barely mentioned the actual book and just banged on about myself (as usual). But the book’s ace, so get it. And here’s the “review”:

YOU are the Hero

At some point during my childhood I watched a programme on ITV called The Book Tower. I didn’t read much, but the show seemed ever so slightly gothic and weird, and what’s more it was hosted by the likes of Tom Baker and Neil Innes, so you knew you were onto a good thing. One particular episode, which was hosted by the actor Alun Armstrong (you’d know him, he’s been in loads of things. Uh… like “Krull“), featured a kid reading a book in which he was required to sneak past a goblin in some pseudo medieval fantasy setting. This being early 80s telly, the goblin didn’t look terribly scary, just a bloke dressed up like one of Santa’s elves fallen on hard times, but I liked the idea, and the next day asked my Mum if she would be able to find the book for me. Books were cheap back then, so I didn’t have to wait for birthdays and Christmasses.

Unable to remember the name of the book, I described it as best I could “Something about a wizard, and it’s a different story every time you read it”, and my Mum returned home from work that evening with, yes, The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. Turned out the book was actually a game, in which you fought monsters, hunted for gold and sneaked past goblins. The goblin in the book was significantly cooler looking, luckily enough.

Eventually, after hours of wandering lost in The Maze Of Zagor, and failing to find the correct combination of keys to open the Warlock’s enchanted treasure trove, I completed the game, but that wasn’t the end of the adventure. There were two more evocatively titled books available in the series, The Citadel of Chaos and The Forest of Doom. I was hooked.

Jonathan’s Green’s book is an exhaustive history and celebration of the Fighting Fantasy Gamebook phenomenon, and is a nostalgic thrill for anyone who ever contemplated the difference between Swamp Orcs and Marsh Goblins, or cheated at a Test Your Luck roll. It features fascinating interviews with all the key players and crucially, is bursting at the seams with the wonderful artwork that the series generated, a reminder of how alluring and exciting the books were for kids in the 80s. YOU ARE THE HERO really brings home the differences between the FF books and their grown up, more established cousins. The art in Dungeons & Dragons, for instance, had a clean, coiffed, almost Renaissance Fayre quality. The FF books, by contrast showcased an odder, more British sensibility, dirtier, grungier and more anarchic.

This book makes me want to crank the soundtrack to Robin Of Sherwood (as much as you can “crank” any music by Clannad), put on my best green haired wig, and drift back to a simpler time. And maybe try to sneak past that goblin once again.

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What’s Wrong With Being Saxony?

Being from Yorkshire (which automatically makes any band hilarious), having a singer called Biff Byford AND being straight ahead, meat and potatoes metal (purportedly the inspiration for a lot of Spinal Tap, fact fans) always made Saxon seem ridiculous. But I heard Denim and Leather recently and it’s absolutely ace.

The riff is – for want of a better word – sexy (I never thought I’d use the word sexy and Saxon in the same paragraph, unless it was to say “they aren’t”) – a damn sight sexier than anything else in NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal). Some bands just have a sexy quality about them. Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Judas Priest don’t, whereas Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Black Crowes do. The Scorpions are the antithesis of sexy. I guess if you hung onto a groove, rather than just played really hard and fast (missus) you kept a bit of the roll in rock & roll. Even a lot of the hair metal bands, whose songs were 99.8% explicitly *about* sex, weren’t really that sexy. Saxon are of course, resolutely not sexy, but Denim & Leather kinda is.

Wheels of Steel!

Saxon, yesterday

But more interesting than the stripperiffic sound of that record, are the lyrics. It’s a heavy metal song *about* heavy metal fans, and for all people talk about “people’s bands” I’ve very rarely heard this sort of thing. Maiden had this grass roots live audience who always bought their picture discs and got them in the charts, but they never actually addressed the fans like this. “Did you listen to the radio every Friday night?” – he’s talking about Tommy Vance, and his long running Friday Night Rock Show on BBC Radio 1! And all that stuff about hanging out in record shops, reading the music papers (Sounds no doubt) and buying tickets. It seems a very egalitarian, working class, *humble* thing to do.

I’ve never really delved into their oeuvre, but they also have And The Bands Played On, which is about the first Monsters of Rock Festival at Castle Donnington. It could’ve been a less campy version of Eric Burden’s Monterey, but seems to also be addressing the audience. Even Strangers In The Night, which in another band’s hands could be “look how cool we are we’re rock stars and we’re on a plane” (for instance, all of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s songs seem to be about being in Lynyrd Skynyrd), seems to be saying “fucking Hell, you’ll never guess what happened to us, let us tell you about it so we’ll all sort of kinda be part of it”. Maybe I’m reaching a bit with that last one.

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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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