“This Old FAMILIAR!” COMICS! Sometimes It’s Not Like Going Down The Pond Chasin' Bluegills And Tommycods.

Time for one last blast of comics magic before I shut down for the holidays. Read it or don’t. I wish you all the very merriest of holidays. And I send out a special thanks to Brian “ I have Top Men on it.” Hibbs for continuing to host my nonsense for yet another year. It is appreciated. Thanks also to Abhay for classing the joint up in his own uniquely spectacular way. And thanks most of all to you for, gee, just being you.  Have a very merry one, everyone.  And now Ho-Ho-Ho-HOOKJAW!  photo HJAWFleshB_zpslw2h6vo8.jpg HOOKJAW! By Boyle, Spurrier, Brusco, Steen

Anyway, this…

HOOKJAW #1 Art by Conor Boyle Written by Simon Spurrier Coloured by Giulia Brusco Lettered by Rob Steen HOOKJAW! Created by Ramon Sola & Pat Mills Titan, £2.49 (2016)

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HOOKJAW! is a comic about a giant Great White shark which kills people. No, really that’s it. Oh, it has a hook in its jaw as well. What more do you want, tap dancing? No, you want a giant Great White shark with a hook in its jaw eating people; preferably with lavish quantities of misanthropy and a thundering commitment to grotesque carnage. Not only is that officially the Acme of Entertainment, it’s also what made the original HOOKJAW! so spectacularly timeless in its vileness. Yeah, it’s another old idea with a new coat of paint. Judging by the brief mention of the oil rig in the book this is actually a continuamination of, rather than a reimaginimagineering of, the HOOKJAW! serial first published in the 1970s UK weekly comic ACTION. There’s a text bit in the back of the comic which covers the whole ACTION and HOOKJAW! business, but I personally have already covered all that in my own lovably tedious way HERE, so you can read that if you want. No skin off my nose if you don’t. All you need to know is that the original HOOKJAW! was a tour de force application of blunt force trauma to the skull of narrative sophistication.  Of course nowadays genre comics are all about sophistication. Well, that’s how the writers like to sell it; really, it’s all about aping middle-brow television while stretching the most minimal of ideas across as many pages as possible. A lack of Sound FX, landscape panels and a surfeit of quips does not sophistication make, alas. Back in the ‘70s a five page episode of HOOKJAW! would cover as much ground as this 35 page comic and leave you reeling with nausea and groggy with cynicism. This new 2016 iteration comes a cropper on the rocks of forced sophistication early with a horrifically muddled and unengaging prologue. Seriously, what was that all about and (more pertinently) why did it take up so much space? Sophistication, I imagine. Don’t fret; this isn’t one of those old-man-upset-at-modern-approach-to-beloved-property-from-his-childhood rants. (You want a Star Wars fan for that.) No, in fact this book is pretty good, which makes the paptastic prologue even more egregious. Yeah, Spurrier’s shaping up to be a bit of a neat comic writer; he picked up and ran with Alan Moore’s CROSSED PLUS 100 with nary a stumble and his CRY HAVOC is intelligent and imaginative business. He’s a clever chap, and I’ll give his stuff a go without excess trepidation. Although, he can be a bit too self-consciously youthfully sparky at times, but then to be fair I am a somewhat dour old bastard. After the fart of an opening Spurrier rallies fast and certainly uses the rest of the pages to good effect. Like a good specialty butcher at Christmas Spurrier lays out an assortment of meaty treats for our titular piscine predator.

 photo HJAWGirlsB_zpsx3zmppg9.jpg HOOKJAW! By Boyle, Spurrier, Brusco, Steen

Most clearly positioned to elicit our sympathy is the central group of marine scientists who seek to catalogue, analyse and basically further our understanding of sharks. (HOOKJAW! HOOKFACT: Surprisingly little is known about sharks' mating habits and reproduction cycle, largely because they don’t have The Internet.) Within that group there’s the ‘comical’ Australian lady of advanced years who swears a lot. This old-lady-swearing joke isn’t as funny as Spurrier thinks it is, so she deserves to get eaten. There’s the hippy-dippy nature-is-magical dolphin aficionado who is clearly going to get an object lesson in nature and the redness of its tooth via HOOKJAW! Our actual protagonist is a plucky young woman, and we are supposed to root for her, but she is young and resourceful so I hope HOOKJAW! gets her because I am like that. Even younger is the wee Somalian lad who acts as cook and liaison with the frequent pirate boarders. His joke is actually funny, as he translates what the pirates say (normal, eloquent conversation) into what the scientists want to hear (stereotypical native “lawsy-lawsy!” bullshit), but a hallmark of HOOKJAW! is that it was unafraid to have kids get it, so he should die just on general principle.  This bunch are soon joined by Somali pirates (whose arrival is received with genuinely amusing ennui as it is so frequent as to be routine) who represent the depths indigenous people can sink to in a “failed state” which lacks sufficient sexy petroleum based resources for the West to interfere, but there’s no excuse for armed piracy so they too deserve to be devoured by HOOKJAW! It’s all getting a bit crowded by now, but Spurrier finds room for a group of Navy S.E.A.L.S. representing the cocksure swagger and fatally complacent arrogance of the Western military industrial complex, and who therefore absolutely deserve to be devoured by HOOKJAW! Basically (and thankfully) HOOKJAW! isn’t big on moral grey areas. HOOKJAW! doesn’t care if your Dad didn’t hug you enough, HOOKJAW! is hungry and you are made of meat and in his path! Well, this bunch are, and by the end of the issue the screaming has started.

 photo HJAWCoffeeB_zpska68itoc.jpg HOOKJAW! By Boyle, Spurrier, Brusco, Steen

Conor Boyle’s art is entertaining enough, a kind of embryonic, scrappier Carla Speed McNeil style. Despite being saddled with such a large human cast he manages to make everyone  distinctive and while it shouldn’t be so impressive that a comic artist can draw young people, old people and people who are somewhere inbetween, it is. Whether that’s testament to Boyle’s abilities or a harsh critique of most other artists is a question for a less joyful season. He’s also good at the sea which, it stands to reason, is quiet important. (HOOKJAW! HOOKFACT: Sharks live in sea water.) Boyle also successfully distracts from the bulk of the book being set aboard a single ship, and also being quite talky, with a restless POV. There’s a brief burst of human on human violence which is efficiently staged, but let’s face facts, a book called HOOKJAW! sinks or swims on its sharks. After all, the sharks are the stars of HOOKJAW! Boyle’s sharks are imposing and not a little intimidating, and his art and Spurrier’s script work in tandem to differentiate them, because there’s a bunch of them. Oh yeah, there’s a whole harem of lady sharks before The Big Lad hoves into view. The true mark of Boyle’s success is that when the Big Fella shows up it’s a proper Elvis walking out on stage M*O*M*E*N*T. HOOKJAW! is here and everything else was prologue. Of course, that’s the last page because, modern comics pacing. But still, it works. And that’s the point.

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HOOKJAW! By Boyle, Spurrier, Brusco, Steen

The book’s been well researched and is keen for us to know this via the scientists’ shop talk and, also, a text piece at the back full of Fun Facts about sharks. (HOOKJAW! HOOKFACT: No shark has ever paid money to watch an Adam Sandler film.) Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to read that bit, but it is important that you understand HOOKJAW is not real and should not be taken as representative of the true behaviour or nature of Great White sharks. While I derive a quite unseemly level of pleasure (verging on the sexual. Hurrr!) from seeing HOOKJAW munch on hapless humanity, I am also aware that due to negative media attention the great white shark has become a particularly vulnerable species. While it is probably somewhat less than helpful to the cause of the Great White to have a comic in which a colossal carcharodon carcharias chows down on a bunch of people, it is quite fun. Just remember it’s only a comic, and in the same way that millionaires rarely dress up as bats to combat crime, Great White sharks rarely eat people. And on that somewhat mundane and uncharacteristic note of responsibility I declare HOOKJAW! to be GOOD! And never forget that all your science, philosophy and finer feelings are but comforting mummery in the shadow of the mighty maw of HOOKJAW! Merry Christmas, and don’t have nightmares!

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HOOKJAW! By Boyle, Spurrier, Brusco, Steen

NEXT TIME: It’ll be a new year, so who knows? But it’s most likely going to involve - capybaras COMICS!!!!

“And Now For The KILL!” COMICS! Sometimes I Think You Are Going To Ignore this Particular Comic Until It Swims Up And Bites You On The Ass!

Ho-Ho-HOOK JAW! Season's Greetings from the ACTION Age of AGGRO!  photo HookTitleB_zpsbc471b9d.png

Anyway, this...

The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that, uncharacteristically, some facts crept into this one; largely in the bit about how The Man stamped on ACTION’s neck. I am indebted for these facts to the book ACTION: THE STORY OF A VIOLENT COMIC by Martin Barker (Titan, 1990). I should have read it in full but I didn’t have time; any errors are mine and any facts are from Martin Barker’s book.

HOOK JAW#1 Art by Ramon Sola Written by Ken Armstrong (and Pat Mills) Coloured by Gary Caldwell, SMOgy and Kirtsy Swan Lettered by Jim Campbell Egmont (2013) comprising 22 "pages" (6 episodes) £1.43 KINDLE Edition

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I once physically held a copy of the reprinted Hook Jaw in my hand and thought I’d leave it for later because, really, how much demand could there possibly be for some 1970s B&W kids comics about a shark? Now of course every time I go on-line and gaze tearfully at the prices that slim volume now fetches I am reminded that a) demand might be low for a comic but so might the print run and b) delayed gratification is not all it’s cracked up to be. However. However. Sometimes it turns out hanging on in there pays off because Hook Jaw was later gussied up for the new millennium and reprinted in STRIP magazine. I didn’t buy that mag but those strips are now available digitally in swift sharp jabs of low rent awesomeness. Well, the first shoal of those strips is out now. So, yeah, I snapped that up and now I’m a going to be yammering on about them. (SPOILER: I really liked ‘em!)

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Before modern readers wade in it’s probably important to stress a few things about the strips in this digital package. First, they are episodic strips not full comics. This is because Hook Jaw originally appeared in the British children’s adventure strip periodical ACTION WEEKLY. ACTION was an anthology and Hook Jaw was only one of the features within so it had a limited amount of space, around three pages, to get in and get out and leave you feeling like something had happened. Folks used to reading today’s often snail paced forays into confused tedium may need to go carefully with these strips. No one wants today’s delicate sophisticates to end up staggering about puking on their shoes like sugar rushed kids fresh from a roller coaster with a broken speedo. Hook Jaw is high impact stuff, is what I’m getting at here. AGGRO! as at least one ACTION cover spat in Britain’s face. Yes, ACTION was AGGRO! alright. These are not polite strips because ACTION wasn’t a polite comic. Hook Jaw, appropriately enough then, comes to us from a brief slice of time when comics remained a little untamed. ACTION WEEKLY was born in 1976 and died in 1977 because while the kids were up for a ruck The Man bottled it! AGGRO! Sorry, ACTION, the comic, then, was the twisted brainchild of Pat Mills who had proved his mettle with his (and John Wagner’s) successful editorial midwifing of BATTLE PICTURE WEEKLY in 1973. So successful were those efforts that in 1975 IPC told him to go away and do that again, but differently. So Pat Mills did do that; John Sanders and others edited the weekly reality of Mills’ concept. The first issue was cover dated 14 February 1976, which is appropriate because if ever there was a valentine to all the dark little hearts of the children of 1970s Britain then ACTION WEEKLY was it.

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As the title indicates ACTION had a much broader remit than BATTLE PICTURE WEEKLY. Mills’ brief here was to be more “realistic” and “contemporary”; terms which at this far more cultured remove are best understood as “brutally violent” and “the 1970s”. Since the kids had taken to BATTLE PICTURE WEEKLY it made sense that there’d be a WW2 strip to ease the little angels in. This was Hellman of Hammer Force and it might as well have appeared in BATTLE; it eventually would due to the terrible events which were soon to befall our plucky periodical. (Bit of suspense there; you’re welcome) Hellman, then, was the first strip about a “Good German” in the sense that he was noble and conflicted, but not good in the sense that he always followed orders; those were the “Bad Germans” and Hellman spent as much time battling them as he did the Allies. His gimmick was jars of mayonnaise a big hammer. I know it sounds stupid but it worked . That’s key that, to all these ‘70s kids comics; the working bit. This one sop to the (perfectly reasonable) British inability to come to terms with WW2 aside most of the strips were cheekily direct, um, homages to all the ‘70s ultra-violent grown-up fare, rumours of which electrified playgrounds around this Sceptic Isle. ACTION took a while to settle in, so there are strips that didn’t make it but we’ll focus on the ones folks remember. I can’t cover everything but up at the top I did tell you about a book that does. Yes, I am lovely.

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If you were seven years old you wouldn’t have seen Dirty Harry, but you would have heard about Dirty Harry. Even though the unreliability of the average 7 year old’s breathless recounting of Dirty Harry would make Patrick Bateman look like a reliable narrator you’d have got the gist of Dirty Harry. So when you opened up ACTION WEEKLY and read Dredger, well, let’s say you felt lucky, punk. So, yeah, since there’s no lawyers about - Dredger was Dirty Harry (1971) with a bit of espionage and class war chucked in, Death Game 1999 was Rollerball (1975) and Hook Jaw was Shampoo (1975). Oh, okay, it was Jaws (1975), obviously. (You’re no fun these days.) But it wasn’t all cinematic hand me downs. The comic also enjoyed subverting the typical Brit sport strip. I had to look these others up because, well, that glue didn’t sniff itself back then. It seems that Look Out For Lefty was a slightly harsher Roy of The Rovers (i.e. football AKA soccer) which nodded slightly more directly at reality. There was Blackjack, an apparently defiantly cheerless boxing strip which was accused of being a bit racist. Having survived the ‘70s I can’t imagine how racist something would have to have been to raise an eyebrow in the 1970s themselves. Issues of ACTION containing Blackjack must have actually been on fire with racist flames or something. Or maybe someone overreacted; that happens sometimes. And that’s what happened next. And it happened because of the hooliganism, the carnivorous shark, the violent cop, the sympathetic Jerry, the possibly racist boxing and also because of the Kids. Which is odd because the strip claimed The Kids Rule OK. Ironically of all the strips in ACTION The Kids Rule OK was the one which pointed to the future of British children’s weekly adventure strip periodicals because it was set in the future (1986! Crikey!). A future which ACTION didn’t have much of but its successor 2000AD would go on to define.

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ACTION didn’t have a future because in a time displaced echo of the ‘50s Wertham brouhaha which kicked the feet from under EC comics in particular, and gelded the US comics industry more generally, someone decided they knew what was best. Flashpoint occurred with Carlos Ezquerra’s now infamous AGGRO! cover coupled with, inside, a pic of a bottle being thrown into a football crowd. Innocuous enough stuff now but back then it was blood in the water and The Man sharked for the kill. The problem with the cover was the plod’s hat on the right which allowed it to be interpreted as the kid giving a copper a good chaining. Meanwhile, in the pages of Look Out For Lefty, Lefty’s girlfriend threw a bottle at some kids in a football crowd which was unfortunate as violence was staining the real-life terraces of Britain at this time. Chaining coppers and condoning hooliganism wasn’t something people were comfortable with their kids seeing. At least they weren’t when the tabloids of the time told them it wasn’t. These “news” papers had started to kick up a fuss with ACTION’s second issue and kept a completely ethical eye, I’m sure, on ACTION thereafter. Famously, The Sun ( “an ethical dunny”, said an unnamed source) dubbed ACTION “the sevenpenny nightmare” but The Sun wasn’t alone in its concerns on the behalf of the British public. Many of these bastions of journalistic integrity were the types who would later condemn Dennis Potter’s “filth” by going into great detail about said “filth”, printing pictures of said “filth” but, strangely, omitting any artistic context in which said “filth” may have been couched. Their pages were buxom with journalism concerning pressing issues of the day such as a top glamour model’s nights of passion with, say, John Inman (“I was Being Served! Five Times A Night!”) and had so much familiarity with comics they would wheel out Denis Gifford as an expert. As nice a man as Denis Gifford probably was, when it came to 1970s comics he wasn’t so much out of touch as devoid of feeling all together. Unfortunately for ACTION there had also been a rise in moral bodies wishing to protect the tiny minds of children from, well, everything. This was the time of Mary Whitehouse, organisations like DOVE and a new Puritanism which thrived on uninformed fear and which would help Margaret Thatcher inflict herself on Britain.

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At one point John Saunders was called to defend ACTION on Television in front of Frank Bough (who would be torn into by the tabloids later in his life); Saunders gave a good account for himself despite Bough ambushing him with questions other than those agreed upon. ACTION’s profile had been raised alright but not in a good way. I can’t verify what happened next but it seems one of ACTION’s major high-street stockists may (perhaps) have intimated a possibility that it might drop not only ACTION but all other IPC publications. (I’m not saying it was W H Smiths but it doesn’t seem to have been John Menzies.) There is no documentation of this but it seems not entirely impossible. Sometimes it’s the right word in the right ear from the right mouth and there’s no proof anything ever happened, M’Lud. After all, ACTION was profitable and popular and you don’t straight up and drop that because some folk are loud about their noses being put out of joint. Or maybe you did in the 1970s, it was a simpler time in some ways at least. Manipulating outrage was certainly in its infancy whereas today O! what hay could be made! Anyway, the initiating event remains unidentified but the 23 October issue of ACTION was pulped with the title returning to shops in a much diluted form on 27 November 1976. Due to this neutering and the loss of publishing momentum ACTION limped along at far lower sales until the inevitable occurred, and it was quietly ingested by BATTLE following its 5 November 1977 issue.

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I know, I know, ACTION sounds like the best kids comic ever, and it was. FACT! But not for long. But while we had it? Well, Whitney, didn’t we almost have it all? Luckily nothing ever dies it just changes form. Particularly if you can make money off it. Which brings us here to 2014 and Hook Jaw #1. What was once blurrily printed on cheap paper is now digitally disinterred, disinfected and offered up for the eyes of the children of the children whose eyes originally recoiled in stunned wonder from the brute joys of Hook Jaw; the shark with a hook in its jaw. Although Ken Armstrong is credited with the writing Hook Jaw is clearly Pat Mills’ fault in essence. And it’s clear because Mills carried that essence across into the other two parts of what no one ever calls his Animal Aggro Trilogy™©. Regular readers will (as well as being wholly imaginary) recall the magic of 2000AD’s Shako! (“The only bear on the CIA death List…!”) which strip I have both reviewed and used to work out certain personal issues on this site in years past. That’s the one about the Polar bear with a bellyful of chemical warfare dispatching a bunch of foolish/hateful humans until a slightly rushed ending is forced on him by poor reader feedback. People with debatable taste may well have killed Shako! but Shako! died…WELL! Hook Jaw is very much like an early version of Shako! in that it is a rougher version of the same template. Hook Jaw, however, benefits from the shaky narrative energy of inexperience and the , quite frankly, fucking ridiculous levels of violence displayed. There’s some horrid stuff in Shako! but Hook Jaw is just taking the piss. And the bladder and the whole lower half of some poor screaming bastard. Hook Jaw doesn’t muck about; he’s in it to kill it. Mostly in this “issue” Hook Jaw is killing it around an oil rig in the Bahamas. When he’s not working on his tan anyway. This oil rig plays the same pivotal role as the Time Centre would in Mills’ et al’s Flesh in 2000AD; that is, it is the hub around which the carnage is centred and is also a capitalistic enterprise which values lucre over human life. Flesh is of course the best ever strip about Time Travellers Dressed As Cowboys Harvesting The Dinosaurs Into Extinction. Sure it’s all From Hell, Human Diastrophism, Starstruck and American Flagg! if I’m out in polite society but left to my own devices, yes, Neil and Chris, I probably would. Opt for Flesh, that is. Because the heart wants what the heart wants and the heart wants Flesh.

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As does Hook Jaw and what Hook Jaw wants Hook Jaw gets. Some people say Hook Jaw acts as a kind of moral arbiter meting out punishment only upon the guilty, but that’s just hogwash; they wish that were true. Early on in the strip there’s a boaty postman with the worst route in the world (an oil rig surrounded by sharks! Super!) who gets minced and so does his kid (we don’t actually see the kid get it; this visual omission is kindness in the world of Hook Jaw). I’ve thought about this and, other than a really severe penalty for illegally taking his kid to work, I’m at a loss as to how Hook Jaw has provided me with moral instruction there. Hook Jaw is , in fact, instructive; it introduced kids to the phenomenon of nitrogen narcosis and accompanied it with a picture of a man surfacing so fast he actually explodes in a shower of scientifically valid gore. Thanks to Ramon Sola’s artistic offences to the page Hook Jaw’s gore is pretty fruitily represented throughout. The fact that the silliness of what’s on view only hits after the involuntary retching has subsided is testament to the Spaniard’s talent for traumatising tableaux. There’s something raw about everything he draws and his pages are all about maximum impact. Every page is busy and brash but always clear because he wants you to see every screaming face and every bone protruding from every leg snapped like a breadstick. Except for the odd mis-step where a shark looks to be above the water the colouring and restoration work well; it sands down some of the roughness, sure, but to eradicate all the thrilling crudity someone else would have to redraw it from scratch. Decades later and Sola’s savagery still shines through this slick technological sheen like a shark tooth slips through wet skin. A lot of things happen to Hook Jaw in this “issue” and Hook Jaw happens to a lot of folk. To say more would spoil the fun. But remember, gentle reader, these are high impact strips. They are like someone abseiling down your cranium, smashing through your eyes, spraying your brain with tear gas, bellowing GO! GO! GO! and then….they are gone. Subtlety, nuance and sophistication are worn lightly by Hook Jaw. Look, he’s a shark not a poet. He’s Hook Jaw; the shark with a hook in his jaw. And he’s VERY GOOD!

Anyway, we delivered the – COMICS!!!!


Wait, What? Ep. 116: G-Mo K-Hole

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppBecause it is Hook Jaw, and Because it is My Heart...

Yep, we are back!  Sorry for our absence from the podcasting broadcast waves and of course the Savage Critic site itself.

After the jump--show notes!  But before we get there, I wanted to congratulate House to Astonish for their 100th Episode!  I'm listening to it now, and want to recommend it for people who like what Graeme and I do but would maybe like it if it was done much better?  Congrats to Al & Paul!

Now, then.  Where was I?  Oh, right.

Actually, as long as I'm on the linking-to-not-Wait-What? tip, I should mention I had a great time talking movies with Sean Witzke over at the Factual Opinion's movie podcast, Travis Bickle on the Riviera.  As I said on Twitter, I make a terrible Tucker Stone stand-in, but being able to talk Lincoln, The Seven-Ups, All That Jazz, and John Woo's The Killer (among others) was an opportunity I refused to pass up.  Big thanks to Sean for that, and if there are those brave, masochistic few that haven't had enough of my braying laugh yet, please do check it out.

As for this go-round, check it out:

0:00-6:59: We tried to get our technical problems out of the way at the very beginning (and pass the savings on to you, the listener).  And then it's on to a few minutes of Jeff kibitzing on Graeme's work habits, so it's the best of both worlds--you get to listen in on what Graeme McMillan (the hardest working man on the Internet)

6:59-9:44:  "But, instead, let me read three pages of Hook Jaw…" Who does that sentence turn out well for?  Not someone who has other things to do, that's for sure.  In other words, Hook Jaw is awesome, unless you're Jeff who is trying to procrastinate.

9:44-13:11: Moving on from Hook Jaw, Jeff also picked up issues #3 and #4 of Happy by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, and talks about that (although with a lot less evil oil rigger imitations).

13:11-20:04: As long as we're on the G-Mo Train (and let's be honest, when aren't we on the G-Mo Train?), Jeff also read Action Comics #17.  Since Graeme hasn't, the conversation is not especially weighty.  But, hey, for those of you filling out your Wait, What? bingo cards, feel free to fill that in…even if it really should be the card's free space by now.

20:04-21:59: "Where on the Morrison spectrum does Batman Inc. fall for you?"  Yeah, we are not out of the k-hole that is Grant Morrison yet. Not nearly.

21:59-43:07:  And so we're out, via discussion of Batman #17, the "Death of the Family" finale by Snyder and Capullo. Graeme references the discussion that he had over at Kotaku with his smart friends, and it's only fair I include a link to that here.  Graeme also talks about the follow-up issue of Batman & Robin which Jeff forgot to pick up at the store, dammit.

43:07-50:54: We discuss Justice League of America #1.  Has it been a while since we've really dug into DC titles, or is it just me?

50:54-58:14:  But speaking of not speaking of Marvel, Graeme read issue #6 of The Avengers by Hickman & Kubert thinking Jeff would've read but didn't and then he has to talk about it all by himself.  Haw, haw! Sucker.

58:14-1:01:43: Jeff has read Thor #5 by Aaron & Ribic, and man is that a pretty book. This isn't much of a review as much of a collection of spoilers with a bunch of fanning compliments about the art, but, eh.  That's how it happens sometimes.

1:01:43-1:04:39:  Jeff also read the first issue of Nova by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness and was pretty surprised to find himself enjoying it.  (Not such a fan of Avengers/X-Sanction was ol' Jeff.)

1:04:39-1:07:13:  Graeme really liked issue #23 of Daredevil by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, which apparently is a great jumping-on point for the book.  Jeff is pretty jealous.  The term "a perfect superhero comic" is used as well as the phrase "amazing, amazing stuff."

1:07:13-1:13:55:  Jeff asks about the Superman H'el on Earth storyline because, eh, he's honestly curious.  What can he say?  And Graeme gives all the deets. Unfortunately, at this point, Jeff's head moves one step closer to its MODOK stage and the crunching of the headphones tightening around his ears can be heard in the background. Embarrassing and awkward!

1:13:55-1:26:46:  Also, does Graeme have a take on the new Green Lantern teams?  Whatnauts wanted to know, so Jeff also asks about that bit of business. A bit of analysis about what DC is doing and where they're heading is probably inevitable.

1:26:46-1:50:54:  And of course we are going to discuss "Oscar Scott Card." Probably also inevitable.  There's also some discussion of Jeff and his ever-growing collection of bad-faith boycotts that may be kind of interesting to some.  A surprising admission is made, let's just say.

1:50:54-1:54:34: More comic reviewy stuff!  Uncanny X-Men #1 by Bendis and Bachalo has been read by Jeff so he blabs about it for a bit.

1:54:34-2:14:02:  Last issue of Hellblazer!  It's been read by Graeme so he blabs about it for a bit, as well.  (Spoiler alerts, of course.)  He's got a great prediction here for a possible announcement during con season--be on the look-out for it.

2:14:02-end:  Winding down/update for any Graeme stalkers: will Graeme be attending ECCC? Or other conventions?  Also: Graeme listened to House to Astonish Ep. 100 (see above--but, yes, I will also link it again). Also, if you are in Oslo on June 7 and 8, check out the Oslo Comics Expo!  We will be back next week with more podcastery!  (And we promise to answer our outstanding questions next time, we promise! Even I'm a little appalled we didn't answer any this time around.)

The episode is probably up on iTunes of this entry--if only because all of my attempts to launch this early Tuesday morning has gone awry the last three or four months.  But you can also grab it below, should you wish:

Wait, What? Ep. 116: G-Mo K-Hole

We hope you enjoy and thanks for listening!


He's Still "The Only Bear On The C.I.A. Death List!" COMICS! Sometimes SHAKO! Speaks!

Rejoice fans of quality reviews! For to celebrate the release of the SHAKO! TPB collection I decided not to review it. For a start I won't have any money until Christmas is over. And I'm talking there about the first Christmas after MiracleBoy leaves home in about 2025. No, I decided to do something else instead to celebrate this momentous occasion. What follows is not entirely sane but then again what is, my American friends, what is?!?ShakoPlot, Now, that's exposition! Photobucket

Most importantly of course I decided not to review the SHAKO! TPB as I already reviewed its contents HERE. You will of course remember that vividly because you have nothing else to do but remember badly written old posts on The Savage Critics. So, there didn't seem much point in going over it again but it also seemed a bit shoddy to let the occasion pass uncommemorated. Because as much as I love 2000AD's SHAKO! (and, boy, do I love SHAKO!) I never thought it would be collected. Truly, these are the days.

Your luck was in though as since I am a Savage Critic I, naturally, know loads of people in Comics, or as we gifted insiders call it - The Biz. And using my "juice" I reached out and managed to get the contact details for the star of the book, SHAKO! himself. SHAKO! has kept a low profile since his 2000AD appearance moving into the area of plumbing due to the "perennial" nature of the work and the reliable income it provides for a family oriented bear like SHAKO!. SHAKO! still retains fond memories of his comics work and remained humble and gracious throughout our encounter. Because encounter SHAKO! I did. In fact, as his van was in the garage, I arranged to meet him around the corner from his house at a caff where we both tucked into a full English courtesy of The Savage Critics’ robust expense account. The following conversation ensued:


JK: SHAKO!’s quite an unusual name for a bear isn't it? SHAKO!: No, not really. Although in the strip it claims  “It means simply...KILLER!” or some other such guff. But I'll let you in on a little secret - it’s actually Inuit for Grace Of The Sun’s Soft Fade. Sorry to disillusion everyone there.

JK: Ha! I can see why Mills' went for "...KILLER!" That's more in line with the spirit of the strip. Were you ever bothered by the levels of violence? I mean the audience for this was largely children after all...


SHAKO!: No, no. You can't mollycoddle children. The world is full of things children shouldn't be exposed to but they have a quite unerring radar when it comes to locating them. I mean, sure, it was over the top but it could have been worse. Look, it isn't complicated; do you know the only sure way to stop your kids from finding your jazz mags in the airing cupboard?

JK: Er, no.

SHAKO!: Don't have any jazz mags in your airing cupboard.

JK: Er.

SHAKO!: C'mon, who's going to tell the world it can't have its jazz mags? It just doesn't work like that! So inoculating the little blighters was, I guess, the intention behind all that newsprint nastiness. Of course by jazz mags I mean violence. I'm sorry, I had a late call out last night to bleed a pensioner's radiators. I 'm still a bit tired, not as young as I was y'know. I'm no Spring bear! Could we keep it lighter maybe?

JK: Sure. Sure. You were kidding a bit back there weren't you?

SHAKO!: Yeah, heh. Polar bears love deadpan, what can I say?

JK: I thought so, it's just hard to tell with the snout and the fur and all that.

SHAKO!: That does help with the deadpan. Still, I mean the violence in my strip was nothing compared to that in HOOK JAW. That was like, well, I don't know what that was like! It was off the scale. I'm amazed no one ended up in prison over it. He had a real knack for the violence, I'll give him that. And in real life he was such a sweetie!

JK: You mean Pat Mills?


SHAKO!: I meant Hook Jaw actually but I suppose the same might be said for Pat Mills, yes.

JK: You worked together quite recently didn't you? You and Hook Jaw?

SHAKO!: That’s right! We did indeed. It was just a bit of fluff really, stunt casting overseas under nom de plumes. A bit like when Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing would turn up in some Italian fiasco no-one in England would see for decades. Seabear and Grizzlyshark? I don’t think many people saw it but when you get to our age that’s not so important. Your priorities change as you age and it actually gets to the point where it’s just nice to be asked. I mean at my age my cubs have got cubs of their own so they're too busy to bother with boring old me! Something like Seabear? That's just the ticket, you know? A bit of a lark. Peps the old bones up a bit. Hardly high art, of course, but it was nice to stretch the acting chops again and, of course, Hooky was a riot. No airs or graces with that one! Ho! We kept in touch afterwards. Right up until…

Photobucket (Legal Note: SEABEAR & GRIZZLY SHARK are nothing to do with HOOK JAW or SHAKO! Nor did the creators intend any such inferences to be made. The shark doesn't even have a hook in its jaw. I am just having a spot of fun. Is that still legal? EH!?!)

JK: Yes, I heard you were there when he…went.

SHAKO!: I…yes..it…sorry…

JK: It’s alright, we can move on if you like.

SHAKO!: No…no. I think Hooky would want people to know he was at peace at the end. In fact his spirits were quite high if anything. You know they’d just started reprinting his work in STRIP? People were recognising him again. Staff and kids from the other wards would go see him in the Day Room and ask for his autographs. Oh, he was fair basking in it. It was nice timing as well because a couple of days later…he...it was...

JK: It’s okay. I know this must be difficult for you...


SHAKO!: Yes..but, no, actually in a strange way it was kind of comforting. I’m not really sure what happened to tell the truth. It was Tuesday visiting and I was sat next to his bed and I remember I was telling him about this little cameo I’d made in one of those terrible Event things. One of those art by committee things. Dreadful tat but awfully popular with the youngsters. There were like five writers or something ,and they still got which Pole we bears live at totally arse about tit. Bless his cotton socks, Hooky was trying not to laugh because of the pain; the drugs weren't really touching it by this point. And suddenly, suddenly I realise there’s a man in the room. Seems daft but at first I thought it was a bear. Big fellow he was. And hairy? I’ll say he was hairy, alright! It was his eyes though, his eyes that held you. Great sad things they were. Sad but dignified. Like he’d been hated by the world and forgiven it. And this chap, he puts his hand on Hooky’s dorsal, and it’s a big hand festooned with these big rings, and he puts this big hand on Hooky like a feather landing. And all the tension in Hooky’s body just goes and this fellow says, in this burr, this rumble, he says, and I can remember every word still, he says:

S’alright, Hooky. S’all alright, now. C’mon, me Duck, time to go home. Time to go back where the stories live. It’s just going home, luv. They've all missed you, Hooky. C’mon, son. C’mon now. Gently Bently and off home we go.

And when he lifted his big ringed hand, well, I could tell from how he was laid that Hooky was gone. Well, I mean, obviously he was still there but…

JK: I understand. It sounds very…odd. It sounds like a very…I guess quite a spiritual moment.


SHAKO!: Oh, it was. Of course then I look and this big hairy fellow’s only gone and put shoe polish on his face and now he's chasing nurses down the corridor while making farting noises with his lips.

JK: …!

SHAKO!: Yes, it did take the shine off of things a bit.

JK: Well, er, that sounds like a good place to finish. I thank you for your time and I wish the book every success.

SHAKO!: Oh no, thank you. And I just have to say it’s not about success it’s just...when you're young it's all about the future isn't it? But then you get on a bit and you realise you aren't going to be in the future but you want to have done your bit.

JK: Entertained people?

SHAKO!: Yes. Yes! Maybe more but that'll do. That's no small thing. It's a bit of a magical thing even.

JK: The magic of stories.

SHAKO!: Yes. The lovely, lovely stories. Y'know, for the young.

JK: Thank you, SHAKO! ________________________________________________________

Postscript: Two days later I rang SHAKO! to see if he wanted to give the transcript a once over. The phone was answered by a man who said only “Shako’s with the stories now, luv.” Before the receiver was replaced softly.


This one was for SHAKO! and all the stories, and all the kids that read them.

This one was for all of the COMICS!!!