Posts Tagged ‘80s coming back’

Pieces of Eight

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Well in case you haven’t noticed today is the 8th of August 2008. That’s 08/08/08! How exciting! I’m sure there are all sorts of numerological portents of doom in there but to me, it makes me realise that I can remember exactly what I was doing twenty years ago this very day.

As a precocious teenager I had used The Quill to create a text adventure for the ZX Spectrum (kids, ask your parents!). It was a four part epic that went by the hilarious title Star Wreck. Yes, if any further proof were needed that I was (and am) a massive dork I created my own Star Trek parody. My memories of it are sketchy, but i think there was a running theme about the evil of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. I can tell you, in my mind it was scathingly satirical.

The reason that I know it was twenty years ago today is that I had conquered the piss poor, sub Fergus McNeil text, and had moved onto the loading screens. In those, pre Photoshop days, it was created with an application called (I think) Art Studio, pixel by single pixel, possibly with a Kempston Quickshot 2 joystick. And I vividly remember etching the number 8/8/88 at the bottom of the screen, in one of the eight colours that was available.

Heady days indeed (and an appropriate memory considering this current, 80s inspired storyline), but I am sorry to inform you that there is no copy of this monument of game programming available for you to sample with your favourite Speccy emulator. Never fear though, I ended up recycling most of the jokes at various points for this very comic.

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Moore Moore Moore

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Alan Moore’s a really good writer. That’s the considered opinion I’ve come to after rereading Watchmen. Not very incisive criticism, I know. It’s a bit like saying The Beatles are good. But you take it for granted after a while. I was struck by how sad the chapter about Doctor Manhattan is, how utterly disconnected the guy is from the rest of humanity and how he can do nothing about it. And that’s in the space of 26 pages! You should read it, you really should.

I was prompted to read it again, of course, by the release of the trailer to the upcoming film adaptation. I’ve always thought that such a thing could never work, but that trailer looks badass! Every shot in that thing is taken from the book (albeit a little pumped up – with action scenes added to the tenement fire and prison break sequences, apparently), so it’s looking to be a pretty faithful adaptation. As a fanboy it’s hard not to get overexcited.

 

Well, they did it with Sandman...

Well, they did it with Sandman...

 

 

But. Alan Moore isn’t. He wants nothing to do with it. To be fair, it’s not difficult to see why the writer of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a book mutilated by an execrable movie adaptation, might be a little disenchanted by the film industry. Seriously, how could you fail with that premise? Somehow they managed it!

So do you boycott the movie like Alan will be doing, or do you go along and geek out (and avoid thinking about the fact that it will probably be just another one of a slew of disappointing comics adaptations)

I recently came across this video from 1987 on youtube, and I think I remember seeing this programme at the time. Yeah I know, I’m old. Watching this again I’m struck by two things: For one there is the constant talk of impending nuclear apocalypse. Kids today are into bluetooth, High School Musical and knife crime, but back in the day all we had for entertainment was trying to get your head around the looming shadow of global destruction and/or the possibility of trying to live in a radioactive, post apocalyptic wasteland. Actually I think this documentary may have put me off reading Watchmen at the time, as it makes it look like it’s just a collection of images of people getting obliterated by a nuclear blast. Bleak!

The other thing is that Moore talks about his work being for children. I don’t have any figures to hand but I’m pretty sure kids don’t read comics these days. It’s a shame. If more kids took a look at his mindbending tales of ecological philosophy like Swamp Thing, or his later, convoluted take on the limitless power of the human imagination in Promethea, they might stop happy slapping eachother for five minutes.

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Gig Review: Leeds Lights 6th Nov 2008

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I’ve noticed that a lot of comics blogs include gig reviews. What, comics not cool enough for ya? So in the best spirit of copying everyone else, here I go.

Every year my wife suggests we go and see the Christmas lights in Leeds being turned on, and every year it’s exactly the same. Some schmucks from local radio introduce a pop group you’ve never heard of, someone that used to be in a pop group you have heard of, someone who was on The X Factor the previous year, Santa, the Lord Mayor (why are we expected to cheer that guy?), and then someone else from The X Factor. However, in these times of crunch being credited, you can’t really complain because it’s free.

Over the last few years I’ve seen more rubbish pop groups than I can remember. These include, but are not limited to Rachel Stevens, McFly, four fifths of Girls Aloud, Darius Danesh and Cannibal Corpse. That last one might not actually be true. Last year one time X Factor winner Shayne Ward was being helicoptored in from Manchester (take that, environment!) but was running late, so his “set” ended up being shorter than Chico’s. Oh the indignity! Dick and Dom were a laugh though, with their constant chanting of “Shayne Loves Dick!”.

Usually “Santa” appears and does a bit of business with Rudolf, or elves or some such. Santa appears to be a bit of an egomaniac, though. His party piece is his rendition of Santa Claus Is Coming To… LEEDS! I see what you’ve done there to make it a bit more unique, but talking about yourself in the third person? That’s not cool man. I dunno, but seeing some guy (spoiler alert: he’s not the real Santa) leering into the camera saying “I know when you are sleeping!” is a little unsettling. At least this year he didn’t do I Believe which is always a rather excrutiating and this is me moment.

The eyes of a killer

Same Difference: Cute, perky and unthreatening. And her slightly creepy brother.

 

Santa was joined this year by X Factor (I’m getting sick of typing that) runners up Same Difference. Saying anything bad about these two would be like kicking a puppy, possibly while shooting fish in a barrel, so I shall leave it, except to note that they did a cover of Starship’s “classic” Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

Starship were a bit weird, weren’t they? Originally Jefferson Airplane, one of the most radical psychedelic acts of the 60s, they morphed into Jefferson Starship (sci-fi credentials cemented by an appearance in the infamous crapfest The Star Wars Holiday Special), and then simply Starship. I still can’t get my head around the fact that the band that sang “I’d rather have my country die for me” ended up soundtracking Mannequin. Let’s be honest, Mannequin is terrible. I can just about accept the idea of a shop dummy coming to life as Samantha from Sex and the City (it was the eighties, after all), but don’t expect me to care about the cutthroat world of professional window dressers.

The evening was rounded off by Simon Webbe out of Blue (think about that: he’s a quarter as good as Blue!), Alesha out of Mis-Teeq, and Leon Jackson, who resembles a cleaned up, but terrified Pete Doherty. Leon may have won The X Factor, but it has to be said, he really isn’t cut out for a career as a performer.

Oh well, roll on next year. Steve Brookstein, Matt from Busted and someone from Atomic Kitten. Possibly.

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Gig Review: Marillion, Leeds Met 13 Nov 2008

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I don’t go to a lot of gigs these days, for a number of reasons. The ever present credit crunch notwithstanding, it’s mostly the fact that I generally hate people. However I do always go to see Marillion when they’re on tour. It’s a very blokey thing to do, follow a particular band through thick and thin. In Chuck Klosterman’s excellent Fargo Rock City he talks about the fact that he buys every Motley Crue album even though he knows, these days at least, they’ll invariably be rubbish. It’s the same impulse that drives men to support crap football teams I suppose. Marillion’s fans are so devoted that they actually pay for the albums before the things are recorded.

That’s not to say I’m joylessly following a hopeless band, as Marillion have been going through a particularly rich creative spell for a number of years now, and the new album Happiness Is The Road is superb, melodic, mature and inventive. Not sexy, fashionable terms I’ll grant you, but it’s a bunch of guys who have been playing music since the late 70s, not some bunch of 19 year old haircuts from East Twattington.

Weirdly enough though, back when he first joined the band Q Magazine described vocalist Steve Hogarth as a “leather jacketed sex bomb”, and mentioned his “shaggy dreamboat good looks”. He’s a bit more grizzled these days. In fact he seems like a weird eccentric little dude who should be running a second hand shop in a sitcom with limited appeal on BBC2. Mind you, I’m sure he makes women of a certain age wet.

I’ve actually lost track of the amount of times I’ve seen Marillion live now, and with their best songs, not to mention their musical abilities they don’t have any problems putting on a great show.

Marillion, honest

Some brilliant photography by me

They could do with varying their setlist a bit though. They’ve been playing emotional, stirring versions of songs like The Great Escape and Afraid of Sunlight for so long that they could do it in their sleep, but I would rather they give those songs a rest and play something a little more surprising. The highlight for me was The Invisible Man from 2004’s Marbles album, a performance so dramatic and atmospheric that I think my mouth was hanging open like a particularly stupid whale shark for the duration.

Whatever. The probelm with writing about stuff you genuinely like is that you tend to come off sounding like a bit of a dickhead. It’s far easier (and more fun) to slag stuff off, or be sarcastic. And so to Razorlight.

One suspects that if the record company support dried up, Johnny Borrell’s boys wouldn’t be able to rely on a fanbase as committed as Marillion’s. They’d have to get proper jobs. Professional gits, probably.

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The Seldom Seen Squid

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

I am conflicted about this whole Watchmen movie thing.

A lot of adaptations of comics seem to miss the best elements of the originals. One of the most notable things (if you were going to be unkind, the only notable thing) about Frank Miller’s Sin City was the histrionic chiaroscuro of the artwork, which is of course the one thing you don’t get carried over into the film version. It just ends up as a bunch of actors shot in grey tones. The characters and stories weren’t much cop to begin with, which is why I never bothered watching it. Similarly The Spirit was all about Will Eisner’s quirky and inventive approach to storytelling, page layouts and generally mucking about with the form, whereas the film version just redoes Sin City.

The best thing about Watchmen is its structure, and the canny tricks Moore and Gibbons used in their storytelling. Luckily enough it has good characters, some fairly complex themes and a good story (even though one of the main plot threads is half inched from an old Outer Limits episode, which Moore directly alludes to in one chapter), so a film version should at least be watchable and might even be great.

That pirate comic will never work as a cartoon though. The point is?the kid is reading the comic and then you’re reading the comic in the comic, and then you’re reading them both at the same time. That’s metatextual… or something.?Should have just left it out. It’s like Tom Bombadil!

Some of the appeal of Watchmen for comics fans are the explicit references it makes to superhero comics (and American adventure comics in general).?Of course, to a mainstream audience who don’t know their Charltons from their Gold Keys, that stuff is meaningless, and the superhero genre is a fairly recent cinematic thing. However, it looks like director Zack Snyder is creating associations with past superhero movies. The redesign of the Nite Owl costume makes its links with Batman even more apparent (who cares about The Blue Beetle, right?), and Ozymandias seems to have been reborn in the mould of Joel Schumacher’s rubber nippled greek god fantasies.

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80s Coming Back

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Everyone’s done with Watchmen by now, but seeing as that movie is at least 20 years out of date, this shutting the stable doors after the horse has bolted style post is entirely appropriate. As a fan of the book I could sit here and endlessly pick holes. But I’m not gonna, seeing as everyone else has been doing that.

The most egregious omission is not the (spoiler alert!) squid (although the sheer WTF factor would have made the movie 85% better) or the Tales of The Black Freighter comic book (inexplicably adapted as a cartoon for the DVD release), but rather Alan Moore’s name in the credits. It’s his decision of course but it just seems wrong.

So, apart from more squid, what would have improved that movie? If they are gonna not only include Max Headroom (Kudos to director Zack Snyder for casting Matt Frewer) but also prosthetic makeup on Richard Nixon that’s so ridiculously caricatured it resembles a Spitting Image puppet, they should have gone all out on the 80s references.  Network 7, Dick Spanner, LM Magazine (Leisure Monthly? Lively Magazine? Lloyd Mangram? I guess they couldn’t make up their minds), Terence Trent D’Arby and the old Channel 4 logo should have all been in there. And rather than emo funsters My Chemical Romance, why not give these guys a crack at the theme tune?

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The Dirt…

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

The other day I sat through Dirty Dancing with my wife. For those of you unfamiliar with this cinematic work, it features a bunch of people, clearly from the eighties, going back in time to (supposedly) 1963. This girl meets this bloke, who’s a bit of a prick to her at first, and then he teaches her to dance, clearly as a metaphor for sex. Then they actually have sex. Then everyone dances to I’ve Had The Time of My Life, even though the synth bass has yet to be invented. The end.

Just like the beginning of Watchmen

Now, I am reliably informed that this film is extremely popular among, well, females. Presumably they are not too fussed about period detail, but pointing this out generally will not endear you to them. It’s a bit like complaining that a 13 year old is unlikely to be able to understand UNIX systems as you’re watching Jurassic Park. It’s missing the point, which is good snarky fun, but is guaranteed to piss off your girl if she’s a fan. Dirty Dancing has been described as “The Ultimate Romance”, and “Star Wars for Girls”, which suggests that a lot of women relate to it in a way us chaps just can’t understand.

So fellas, when your special lady suggests you watch it together, instead of ignoring her and putting on The Evil Dead, why not indulge her? And this doesn’t mean you can make references to Patrick Swayze’s Kiddie porn dungeon from Donnie Darko, or add your own rude lyrics to She’s Like The Wind. And constantly suggesting that nobody had hair like that in the sixties is a big no no. Just keep your gob shut, ignore the ridiculousness of the whole thing, and be glad that there’s something that makes the person you love happy. And after all that you’ll definitely get laid!

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6 Degrees of Francis Bacon Day 9: Ulysses 31

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

No one else can do the thing you do...

As suggested by Flying Monkey Comics‘ very own Andrew Livesey, we go from a picture featuring a telly, to Telemachus, and his dad Ulysses 31. This was a cartoon in the early eighties, chiefly remembered for having a kickass theme tune, which is awesome. If you can ignore the Countdown bit. Weirdly enough, no matter what language it’s in, it’s always strangely reminiscent of Journey’s Steve Perry.

Unlike most cartoons when I was a kid, Ulysses 31 was actually good. It was weird, creepy, atmospheric and had a definite conclusion. Of course, Greek Mythology is a terrific source for a sci-fi makeover, and both France and Japan have pretty distinguished credentials with regards to surreal sci-fi/fantasy, so a combination of the two is always going to be a winner.

In The Odyssey, Telemachus is at home on the island of Ithaca, no doubt developing a raging Oedipus complex, whereas in Ulysses 31, his dad takes him along on his suicidal cosmic adventure. You may be a Groovy French Space Jesus, but that’s just bad parenting, dude.

This picture makes specific reference to Steven Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds , in which Tom Cruise gets his daughter to sing to herself so she doesn’t hear him beating special guest wacky cameo Tim Robbins to death. That, along with the incongruous use of John Williams Trade Federation March from Episode I, was probably the best bit of that movie. The worst was undoubtedly the part where the schlubby single parent everyman, played by The Cruiser, manages to single handed destroy an Unstoppable Martian Killing Machine. If I burst out laughing during what is clearly meant to be a tense moment, then you know a film has problems.

So where next?  Suggestions for something cool, related in some way to any of these auspicious subjects, can be made here, on my Twitter feed, or at the Facebook Group.

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