“I'm Not Sure I Ought To Have To DO It Alone." COMICS! Sometimes I Return With You Now To Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear…!

A bit of a break from war comics this time out. Because if there's one thing I know you folks love more than war comics it's Western comics. Damn, if I pander any harder I'm liable to break something!  photo LRaTStartB_zpsf4p400wh.jpg THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO by Truman, Magyar, Lansdale, Parsons & Joyce

Anyway, This...

THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO #1-4 Art by Timothy Truman & Rick Magyar Written by Joe R. Lansdale Lettered by Brad K. Joyce Coloured by Sam Parsons TOPPS Comics, $2.50ea (1994) The Lone Ranger created in 1933 by Fran Striker or George W. Trendle

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When I was a kid I used to watch The Lone Ranger but then he got some curtains, and that was the end of that joke. A joke there almost as old as The Lone Ranger himself. Because not only did I (being a man whom we have established in past instalments is basically dust about to happen) watch the B&W TV show but so did my dad when he was a kid in Canada. That’s two very different places separated by decades, tons of water, different opinions on how to spell the word colour, and more miles than I can honestly be bothered to look up today. I checked with “Gil” and he only knows The Lone Ranger from the “poorly received” 2013 movie. He enjoyed it mind you, but since “poorly received” is polite Tinseltown speak for “the audience avoided it like it was trying to rub shit in their eyes” I imagine he was in the minority on that one. Prior to that there was a 1981 LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER movie, which even I’d forgotten about. I guess what I’m getting at is that by 1994 when these comics appeared The Lone Ranger’s appeal was somehat shy of raging like a prairie fire. While these comics would do nothing to change that state of affairs (a two-hour TV pilot was broadcast in 2003 on the WB channel and someone will one day admit to seeing it) they are by a talented team and if you’re partial to a Lansdale or Truman shindig you’ll probably like these comics too.

 photo LRaTTrainB_zpslycxotmg.jpg THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO by Truman, Magyar, Lansdale, Parsons & Joyce

Posterity may have given this series short shrift but be assured that here the pair bring the same scruffy panache they brought to their three Jonah Hex series for Vertigo. Anyone who has read their salty take on the man with the fried egg eye will know that Lansdale & Truman are as safe a pair of hands as could be found for a property like this. Timothy Truman’s art always looks like it has escaped from The Old West as it is. Even when tasked with superheroes such as Hawkman Truman’s art brings with it a singularly malodorous air of malnutrition and poor sanitation. And I mean that in a good way. I like a strong style; you should see my ties. So, when depicting a world where malnutrition and poor sanitation were something to aspire to then Timothy Truman’s the man, true. His whole body of work shows an obvious affinity for The Old West, so much so that back in 1985 his SCOUT series for Eclipse Comics had been basically set in a futuristic dystopia informed by Native American mythology which was, well, the Old West, just with better hardware and totemic demons. (If I recall correctly there was even a serape a la The Man With No Name in the first issue.) Scout is also, commonly, the name of Tonto’s horse, but that may be a stretch to test Reed Richards there. Here, even though it’s an oater, Truman doesn’t just have to draw horses and horseshit and saloons and spittoons though, because this is also a Joe R Lansdale joint so Truman’s art also has to encompass visual absurdities which range from the plain unsettling to the plumb appalling. He’s up to it though. The tranquil horror of an unfeasibly large pile of bodies is as queasily affecting as a land boat racing across the prairies is ridiculously impressive. Nor does Truman stint none on the small scale stuff, with the creature on the loose (no spoilers) possessing a ball crawling combination of dainty finickitiness and implacability which static images shouldn’t really be able to impart, but my crawling balls can assure you they do here. The art here isn’t pretty and nor is precision at a premium; the utter dicksplash of a Governor looks like Ronald Reagan for only a couple of panels, but it’s enough to make the bit where The Lone Ranger And Tonto give him his comeuppance via sarcasm and cigars that much sweeter. But the value of Truman’s imprecision is the flexibility it allows him, flexibility shown to no greater effect than when a creature swallows a man whole in a series of panels which will have you gingerly touching your own throat like a defrocked vicar in a moment of stress.

 photo LRaTMeatB_zpsvyjxkc2y.jpg THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO by Truman, Magyar, Lansdale, Parsons & Joyce

While I’m trying to avoid spoiling this one it should be as clear as the river when the snows thaw that this time out The Lone Ranger and Tonto are up against a mite more than cattle rustlers or bank robbers. What they are up against is whatever fell out of Joe R Lansdale’s head while he was writing it, and what falls out of Joe R Lansdale’s head during the writing process can err towards the bizarre. And I mean that in a good way. I like a strong imagination; like when you used yours to picture my ties back there. Joe R Lansdale is of course America’s primo mojo storyteller hissownself. He writes weird fiction and crime basically. He ain’t exactly Don DeLillo, but sometimes you don’t want Don DeLillo. After all, you are large, you contain multitudes. So, stop putting yourself down. Comic reviews and a pep talk, no charge! You may know Joe R Lansdale’s work from the movies BUBBA Ho-TEP (2002) and Cold in July (2014), or the episode of MASTERS OF HORROR “Incident On And Off A Mountain Road” (2005). All of which are worth reading in their papery incarnations even if you have seen them. He’s also done a series of books starring Hap Collins and Leonard Pine which are profane and brutally violent in a way which never feels cheap because of the underlying moral horror which fuels them. Could be Hap and Leonard are a Lone Ranger and Tonto for the modern world, though they’d probably break your jaw and steal all your vanilla cookies for suggesting it. In photographs Lansdale looks like he’s stolen Robert Mitchum’s torso, and perpetually sports an expression of guarded tolerance at the very idea that someone would want to do a damnfool thing like take his picture with one of them new-fangled camera doohickeys. Basically the guy writes like he’s trying to smash through a wall. He’s good is what he is. And I don’t say that just because Joe R Lansdale ran his own dojo and could drop kick me so hard I’d be wearing my ass for a hat. No, he’s a good writer. The End. Part of why he’s a good writer is how lightly he wears his ingenuity. Instead of calling a fucking press conference to celebrate his meta antics when they occur he just ups and gets it done.

 photo LRaTRaceB_zpsw3hnsjg9.jpg THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO by Truman, Magyar, Lansdale, Parsons & Joyce

Look, huddle in here round this imaginary fire and picture the scene with me…we’re way back now in the primitive hell of 1994 and TOPPS want to revive the Lone Ranger IP but, well, look, no one wants to start any trouble here but there’s no way around this, while The Lone Ranger’s okay it’s his mate who’s the issue. Because if you have The Lone Ranger you have to have Tonto. (Oh I sense your confusion what with his name being Lone and that, but his name means there aren’t any other Rangers with him rather than he prefers his own company.) Although Tonto was tardy, turning up first in the 11th episode of the radio serial, thereafter he was always with The Lone Ranger. Because after that like Silver, silver bullets, powder blue tasselled jackets and white Stetsons, Tonto is always part of the deal with The Lone Ranger. Tonto had, over time, become built in and by 1994 he’s now part of the origin, being as he’s the one who rescues Allen King/Bill Andrews/John Reid/Luke Hartman/Uncle Tom Cobbley and thus enables him to make the peculiar decision to turn his dead brother’s vest into a mask, and ride about hither and yon firing ostentatiously expensive bullets at men of low character. Which stuff is all just dandy, if highly suggestive of a particularly flamboyant form of PTSD, but Tonto is a Native American and that kind of character has not been, uh, well served in popular literature. For starters his name, unfortunately, means “silly” in Spanish. (In early Martin Amis novels “tonto” means fucked in the head, for some reason. I don’t know why; I’ll ask him next time I see him.) While he spoke in broken English (Tonto not Martin Amis) this was because he had (naturally enough) learnt it as a second language (still talking about Tonto here, not Martin Amis). Despite this actually making Tonto smarter than a monolingual like, say, oh, me his lack of verbal facility was often taken as a sign of stupidity. Luckily, Joe R Lansdale knows how to work round that stuff; he just writes Tonto like an intelligent human being.

 photo LRaTMetaB_zpshhvsq5mc.jpg THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO by Truman, Magyar, Lansdale, Parsons & Joyce

Which is smarter than it sounds and the smartness doesn’t stop there; he builds the obvious baggage the character brings right into the story itself. Throughout the mini-series references are made to the dime novels portraying the adventures of The Lone Ranger and Tonto. These are clearly meant to represent their earlier movies, books, comics, newspaper strips, etc with their, uh, less than ideal portrayal of Tonto and their possibly Ranger-centric approach. Again and again Truman’ delightfully scrofulous townsfolk treat The Lone Ranger like a movie star while his sidekick is kicked to the side. And it’s this stress between reality and public perception which is as threatening to the pair as any skin feasting fiend. Joe R Lansdale and Timothy Truman’s tale then is not just about a frightsome beast or revenge for sins past but also about two friends whose bond is riven by success and secrets. The entertainment is all in the ride because the end is never in doubt. After all, as all us old gits know, it’s part of The Lone Ranger’s credo that to have a friend one must be one. And The Lone Ranger and Tonto are many things to many people in many ages but they will always be friends to each other. (However, I suspect Tonto is the smarter of the two). THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO is whip-crack smart and scruffy stuff. In 2006 Dynamite would have greater success with a Lone Ranger series but I haven’t read that; I read this one and it’s GOOD!

They are how the West was won - COMICS!!!

"Choke! Gasp!" Not A Podcast! Not Comics! BOOKS! You Know, Like In Days of Yore!

It's a SKIP WEEK so the dulcet toned duo of Gentle Jeff Lester and Glamorous Graeme McMillion$ are off...um...doing, er, stuff and things. Probably. But we here at The Savage Critics love and value each and every one of you (especially you, sir! (or madam!)) and thus I have provided some hacky trash about some books you, let's face it, have no interest in. I know, you can hardly wait! Anyway, Jeff (who lives at home) and Graeme (who works from home) will be back next week. (Please, God.) Grin and bear it is my advice.  Say, anyone remember that time Howard Victor Chaykin got trapped in SWORD OF THE ATOM#3 (DC Comics, 1983) by Gil Kane & Jan Strnad?  photo Atom_B_zps07e47e43.jpgNo, because (as our Savage Legal Dept were fast to point out) that didn't happen. Anyway, this...

TRAPPED IN THE SATURDAY MATINEE by Joe R Lansdale PS Publishing, £19.99 (2012)

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This one’s another career spanning grab bag of bits’n’bobs from the Mojo storyteller hissownself. It’s mostly short stories but there’s also a couple of non-fiction pieces about how imaginative fiction and hard work (also, although modestly whispered, talent) saved the sturdy sensei from a life spent building aluminium lawn furniture. I’m sure we can all agree that aluminium lawn furniture’s loss is weird fiction’s gain. Back there I said another because Lansdale’s career’s so lengthy and his output so vast that there are now several of these retrospective things studding his bibliography. They are all pretty much of a muchness. Each effectively represents the progression of Lansdale’s relaxed and down home style and how he has used it with increasing success to corral his wild flights of fancy into work as entertaining it is deceptively sophisticated. To misquote the American poet and visionary Jon Bon Jovi; He gives pulp a good name (good name). The actual contents of these samplers vary some but they are consistent in demonstrating Lansdale’s vulgar vigour, his inexhaustibly inventive imagination, a nice line in potty mouthery and also the sure sense of place his work delivers. Well, if it’s set in Texas anyway. Which, no fool he, most of his stuff is. Since that’s where he was born and formed Lansdale’s work is deep fried in his Texas surroundings and the colourful vernacular thereof. This is extraordinarily appealing to someone who lives in a country as grey, damp and intrinsically self-hating as England. Hey, I guess if you live in Nacogdoches, Texas then Joe R. Lansdale would be gritty kitchen sink realism. That’s a wild and woolly thought right there. Fair warning for Lansdale fans: this volume includes Lansdale’s Hellboy novelette Jiving With Shadows And Dragons And Long Dark Trains. This being a tale which Lansdale doesn't own and so this will probably be the only book with his name on the spine in which it appears. Hey now, it’s one of them there books by that there Joe R Lansdale and that’s GOOD!

THE QUIDDITY OF WILL SELF by Sam Mills Corsair, £12.99 (2012)

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Thanks to the benevolence of the titular man with the face like a despairing hound Sam Mills uses the name and work of Will Self to lure readers into what would otherwise be a daunting work of bewildering convolution and disorienting stylistic facility. Yes! This is what you want! It’s several hundred pages embodying what Kingsley Amis found so unattractive about his own son’s work and graced with the phrased “titting the reader about”. Or as we mere plebs know it: post-modernism. Apparently this is Sam Mills’ first novel intended for an adult audience (adult as in grown up not adult as in brown paper bags, wandering hands and heavy breathing) and it took her nine years to complete it. Given all that and the fact that Will Self’s work haunts every page (if not every word; if not every letter; you get the drift) then I’d have to say Sam Mills is quite the fan of Will Self. Fans of Will Self or lovers of the use of the word "sesquipedalian" will get the most out of this, I guess. But that doesn't mean folk unfamiliar with Will Self will get nothing out of it. Mills is canny enough to have a character unfamiliar with Self’s work act as the reader surrogate and the various Self-ish sections are based in familiar genres (murder mystery, future dystopia etc) to aid immersion if not actual outright comprehension. It’s fun stuff but most of the fun comes from the bizarre turns and confounding twists this wonkily weird beast takes, so I'll not spoil any of them. I will note that that the underlying theme of how creativity in one person is insanity in another and is thus, by necessity, unique to each of us (if we have any) is vividly and entertainingly plumbed throughout this odd duck's duration. In sum, as Terence Blacker’s Kill Your Darlings is to Martin Amis so is The Quiddity of Will Self  to, well, Will Self, obviously. Keep up now. Or to put it another way The Quiddity of Will Self is VERY GOOD!

UMBRELLA by Will Self Bloomsbury, £18.99 (2012)

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From what I can gather the writing of this book was pretty challenging for the lugubrious human lexicon known as Will Self. His previous book, Walking To Hollywood, was decidedly not a success (an unsuccess?) and he appeared somewhat shaken by its poor sales. I stress that he appeared so in interviews etc not in close personal encounters as I don’t know the man or anything. So, I certainly don’t have access to his sales figures but I can’t imagine Will Self has 7 Shades of Shit level sales in the first place so those must have been some pretty sobering sales. Which is a shame because it was a good book; a mix of psycho-geography, insane asides and a moving consideration of the debilitating encroachment of Alzheimer’s. It didn’t sell despite a scene where the Hulk bums a car and also an extended bloodily ferocious fight between the morose flaneur himself and James Bond (Daniel Craig flava). People just ain’t got no taste, I tells ya! Stung Self retreated, regrouped and reconsidered. The result was a book written in very short sentences about a vampire boy wizard’s adventures in sex and shopping set in space. My little elitist joke designed to raise your hackles there. No, the book Will Self wrote, Umbrella was a decades spanning examination of the effects of technology on the human psyche presented via the experiences of several characters ranging from a coma patient, her ambitious but flawed psychiatrist, her WWI trenches bound class agitating soldier brother and her icy, almost robotic arms manufacturer other brother. And to really reel in the punters, to really bother the upper levels of the sales chart, to ensure those units shifted, Self chose to do it all in a stream of consciousness stylee. In effect it’s a 400-some pages long single paragraph in which the text is so molten that there can be a shift in character and a jump of decades in a single sentence. Paying attention is required I’m very much afraid, but you will be more than amply rewarded for your payment.

The big sexy hook on which all this majestic Modernism (yes, Modernism not Post-Modernism) hangs is the Sleepy Sickness (or encephalitis lethargica for any Romans stil kicking out there) of 1915-1926 and the use of L-Dopa in the ‘70s to briefly awaken the surviving sufferers. Yes, that’s right, this is similar ground to Oliver Sacks’ Awakenings or, for the cinematically inclined, the Penny Marshall directed 2007 motion picture adaptation of same. But Sack’s was fact(ish) and this is fiction and if it were (and it won’t ever be) filmed it should come off like Terry Gilliam directing a mash up of Awakenings, Charley’s War and Britannia Hospital scripted by a maniacally focused Dennis Potter. Umbrella is a beautiful thing is what I’m getting at there. Self's been quite open that his choice to apply the Modernist style was a direct reaction to what he perceived to be a lack of invention in the fiction nominated for such literary lottos as the Man Booker Prize. In a move that could leave only a stone unmoved Umbrella went on to adorn the Man Booker Prize short list for 2012. That’s irony in action there. But! Hilary Mantel took the prize with Bring Up The Bodies the second in her more traditionally honed Richard III Thomas Cromwell trilogy. That’s the literary establishment putting someone in their place in action there. And when you hit the crossed out words you'll see reality taking me down a peg or two too. As the splendidly well read and  factually accurate Jacob pointed out in his comment - I was talking out of my (smart) arse with this next bit. I wrote this stuff on paper, typed it up and forgot to do a basic fact check.  N.B. It is particularly important to fact check books you haven't read.  I've left it in because who doesn't like to see someone humbled? Gandhi? Are you Gandhi? No you are not, sir; so enjoy the schadenfreude it's free!... Still, there’s no shame in Self’s loss as the cosmic fix was clearly in anyway as, shortly after her win, the actual corpse of Mantel’s main character was found buried in a car park. Richard III just pops up for fuck’s sake, what are the chances?!? When reality is pulling publicity stunts on your behalf then winning the Booker’s a walk in the park. I’m sure Hilary Mantel’s book deserved its award but Umbrella was my book of 2012 because it was EXCELLENT!

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Well? What did you want? COMICS!!!

"Choke! Gasp!" Not A Podcast! Not Comics! Nothing To See Here. Move Along Now, Please.

If I recall correctly then this Tuesday the lovable light entertainers Mr. Jeff Lester and Mr. Graeme McMillan will not be with us this evening. Now I know you've all travelled a long way tonight and so, in an effort to avoid rioting, their part tonight will be played by me. Photobucket

Mr. Jeff Lester And Graeme McMillan In Happier Times.

Not available on iTunes! Uninteresting and self-indulgent free content available only at The Savage Critics!

THE COMPLETE POEMS OF PHILIP LARKIN By Philip Larkin Edited by Professor Archie Burnett 768 pages, Faber and Faber, £40.00 (2012)


As the delightfully demure Mr. Brian Hibbs has pointed out in his past comments comics and poetry share many qualities. He was speaking from a primarily retail perspective because, and I don’t know if he’s ever told anyone this but, that’s what he DOES! I’m no retailer, just a reader but from a reader’s perspective I can tell you that poetry and comics are also like comics. In fact I will tell you.

For starters this particular volume illustrates that poetry, like comics, is always being repackaged and resold. Only last year I bought a Larkin collection and here I am buying another. And the one I bought last time wasn't the first one I’d bought either. Hopefully this will be the last time as, unless the title is a big fat lie, this is a complete collection of verse from the most gifted librarian to be employed by The University of Hull. It should be the last time because the dour genius’ papers have been gone over by academics so thoroughly you’d think they were looking for clues to Lord Lucan’s whereabouts. It should definitely be the last time since Larkin died in 1985 and his output has slackened off somewhat since then.

A fair indication of the completeness of the contents is given by the contents page which lists: The (previously collected)Poems, Other Poems Published In The Poet’s Lifetime, Poem’s Not Published In The Poet’s Lifetime and Updated or Approximately Dated Poems. Unless we’re going to start employing mediums to bring back Poems The Poet Thought About Doing But Didn't then, yes, this should be as complete as it gets. It’s probably going to be as comprehensive as it gets as well since the poems end on p.329 and the rest of the book is composed of Commentary and Appendices where Professor Archie Burnett gets to strut his funky stuff.

Now to fit all that nutritious Knowledge in there and not have the book become even bigger and even pricier one interesting change has been made to the poems. Throughout the book the poems follow directly on from each other. Directly. Now, again like comics, it is quite important how the poem looks on the page. It’s not as important as the content of the poem of course but still the cluttered effect of these pages is a bit unfortunate if necessary. Yes, all across the globe poetry fans will be reading this book and then clustering together to politely but insistently engage in what is basically exactly the same process as comics fans getting aerated over the colouring changes in the new FLEX MENTALLO collection.

So, while the poems are as accessible in their wonderfully disheartening and exhilarating glory as ever the rest of the book is a bit elbow patches and chalk dust. This is just a pissy way of me intimating that I haven’t actually finished the book while at the same time needlessly denigrating the sterling work of Professor Archie Burnett for the sake of a cheap laugh. Sometimes my lack of class appals even me.

It’s The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin so how could it be less than EXCELLENT!

THE BALLAD OF BALLARD AND SANDRINE By Peter Straub 92 pages, Subterranean Press, £15.00 (2012)


From what I can gather for the last few years Straub has been troubled by ill-health and that certainly explains the variable quality in his recent novels and a seeming shift towards the shorter forms of fiction. Which is what this is an example of and that’s just fine because the short form seems to suit Straub best at this stage of the game. Throughout his long career Straub’s early poetic ambitions have informed his fiction via a truly remarkable talent for using the most seemingly innocuous of language to achieve the most devastating of effects. Reading this one was like chatting to a well-groomed scholarly looking type only for him to lean in at the last and whisper something you only barely comprehend but the foulness of which is so evident that it sticks to your brain like shit to a straw mat. Since I’m a bit of an odd bod that made this VERY GOOD!

TARZAN: THE LOST ADVENTURE By Edgar Rice Burroughs and Joe R. Lansdale Illustrations by Studley O. Burroughs, Gary Gianni, Michael Kaluta, Monty Sheldon, Charles Vess and Thomas Yeates Preface by George T. McWhorter 211 pages, Dark Horse Books, £14.99, (1995)


I don’t know about you (I really don’t, sometimes it’s like I don’t even know you) but if I picked up a book in which Joe R. Lansdale completed an unfinished Tarzan fragment left behind by Edgar Rice Burroughs when he died I’d expect one of those prefaces. You know the ones? The ones that are pretty much composed of oleaginous bullshit and make you angry at the waste of your time and the lack of respect shown for the reader’s intelligence. This preface isn't like that. Oh, it wants to be and it tries so hard to be but, seriously, George T. McWhorter is the curator of the Burroughs Memorial Collection and although he tries to hide it it’s clear he clearly don’t cotton none too much to this Joe R Lansdale fella. It’s pretty funny. I mean Mr. McWhorter is trying to be a real sport but, damn, he just can’t hide it. Look at this,

Mr. Lansdale…met the challenge head on and conquered…the prose reads fluently and the story now has a beginning, a middle, and an end that hold’s the readers attention.”

The switch from “conquered” to a list of quite mundane accomplishments is pretty revealing isn't it? Possibly more so than the bit where he chunters on about Lansdale’s incorrect usage of “pole vault”. Look, he might not have been entirely pleased by the enterprise but Mr. McWhorter’s honesty pleased me. Alas, Mr. McWhorter is clearly no comic fan as he describes luminaries such as Kaluta, Gianni and Yeates who provide illustrations as "competent artists".They are far more than that and the spot illos. and chapter headings they provide are, as ever with these men, things of joy.


As for the story, well, I’m not really up on my Burroughs but I am up on my Lansdale and I can safely say that any Lansdale fan will be pleased as punch with the results. It’s got all the deadpan humour, savage violence and bizarre creatures one could want from the master of modern pulp. I particularly enjoyed the part where Tarzan senses danger and spins round to snatch an arrow out of the air and, without halting his momentum a jot, spins to release it and sends it straight back. It’s a totally implausible moment lent total plausibility by Lansdale’s earthy approach. On the whole though I’d guess Burroughs’ Tarzan wasn't this sarcastic and less people in the original books commented on the fact that he walked about in just his ‘pants’. But it is Tarzan in the jungle doing his jungly thing so I guess, on balance, fans would be pleased, if not entirely satisfied, by the final outing for the vine swinging one. A bit like George T. McWhorter in fact. Me, I like The Lansdale, I like the artists and I like The Pulp so I thought it was GOOD!

Because this is a comics blog I thought what could be more natural than to talk about three Sean Connery films made before most of your parents were even born. This is what you want!

ZARDOZ (1974) Directed by John Boorman Written by John Boorman Starring Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestleman and John Alderton


"The Penis is evil!" (Zardoz speaks Truth in the motion picture presentation ZARDOZ.)

The best way to watch ZARDOZ is just to watch ZARDOZ. If at all possible you should have a friend or loved one purchase the film and load it into your player without you even seeing the box. Going in cold will really pay off for the first-time viewer. Messrs Lester and McMillan have already sung this film’s praises on podcasts past so you know it is worth a look. Well, they may not have sung its praises exactly but they pretty much described it as what would happen if Jack Kirby’s NEW GODS was produced by a traumatised adolescent. Actually the best way to watch ZARDOZ is when you are fourteen and your Mum and Dad are asleep and it’s just you, the TV, a box of tissues and a hunting knife. Some people think ZARDOZ is EXCELLENT! Some people think ZARDOZ is CRAP! In the end though it can only be that which it is and it is ZARDOZ!

THE OFFENCE (1972) Directed by Sidney Lumet Screenplay by John Hopkins based on his stage play This Story of Yours Starring Sean Connery, Trevor Howard, Vivien Merchant and Ian Bannen


In 1965 Lumet, Connery, Bannen and Howard delivered the powerfully unsettling film THE HILL. Set in a British army prison in WW2 it’s a B/W masterpiece that drags you in and on to an ending you’ll want, like the camera itself, to look away from. You might want to watch that before this one because as harsh as that one is this one bites. THE OFFENCE is set in the’7os of my frolicsome youth and Lumet’s quietly innovative film accurately depicts that land of vicious banality, sheepskin coats and hastily scoffed fish suppers troughed in newsprint wilting in perpetual drizzle. Connery plays a copper whose soul is so eroded and his self so stained that in his struggle to function he’s become something he can’t even acknowledge from the corners of his thuggish mind. When a child goes missing and a suspect is found an unbearable man will face truths he cannot bear. And outside the rain persists regardless. It’s probably the performance Connery should be remembered for but won’t be because remembering it is painful. If you ‘enjoyed’ David Peace’s knock-a-bout Red Riding Trilogy books then this film is right up your cobbled and un-lit alley. THE OFFENCE is the kind of film that rightly attracts words like blistering, powerful, unforgettable, upsetting and miserable and because I am a regular laughing boy that makes it EXCELLENT!

Hopefully next week Mr. Jeff Lester will have finished scourging his body with a diet consisting solely of bird seed and motor oil and Mr. Graeme McMillan will have stopped hiding from his Mother-in-Law. Or whatever it is they are doing.

Me, I’m done. Time to read some COMICS!!!

"I don't know about the cat." Comics! Sometimes they are a bit creepy!

Photobucket Hey, I read some comics and then I wrote about them in a hot new style I like to call "cack-handed". If you aren't doing anything else this weekend, sugar rush, you might want to get your hands  all cacky with me?


Lee Weeks/Tom Palmer and Ben Oliver (a), Christos N Gage and Rob Williams (w), Matt Hollingsworth and Veronica Gandini (c) and Jared K Fletcher(l)


Nick Dragotta, Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema(a), Jen Van Meter and Elliott Kalan(w), Brad Simpson and John Kalisz(c) and Jared K Fletcher(l)

(MARVEL, $4.99 ea)

I recall the unrepentant Scot Mr. Graeme McMillan expressed puzzlement at this series’ very existence; not wishing to be outdone I expressed puzzlement at its presence in my shipment. You’ll note my LCS omitted the Alpha issue which just goes to prove that MARVEL did a bang-up job on marketing this thing. Anyway to recap for people who don’t listen to That American guy and That Scottish guy: this is a throwback series in which Tony Stark bounces back in time to meet an assortment of MARVEL characters with each issue really being two issues with the more sales friendly characters ballyhooed on the front.

The AVENGERS one was truly heartbreaking. I really felt for Tony Stark as he milled about his colleagues unable to warn them of the dreadful future which awaited them all. To look at each of those faces and know that they were aiding you in bringing about a witless future of incessant babbling and senseless plots must have been heartbreaking for him. Lee Weeks did the art and he’s totally awesome. Lee Weeks is to MARVEL as Jose Luis Garcia Lopez is to DC. If either company let either gentleman regularly adorn their pages both companies’ quality would be immediately improved by a scientifically calculated 65%. Which I know is a fact because I just made it up. But DC are content to have JL-GL drawing pictures for underoos and MARVEL just keep Lee Weeks in a box under the stairs or something. Amazing.


Well since your future comics make the scripting on The Suite Life of Zack And Cody look like Pinter, I think you'll probably envy the dead, Hank.

Illustration By Lee Weeks/Tom Palmer. Words and irony by Christos N. Gage

The Captain Britain one was okay and successfully captured the essence of '80s Britain by Veronica Gandini using a colour palette based on watery diarrhoea. I can’t remember what happened as I've slept since then but I think Cap was a bit of a fool and it was definitely set in Alan Moore’s excellent (you heard me Mr. Graeme McMillan!) Captain Britain run so that helped. Oh yeah, the British Army turned up to help save the day, so I guess this must have been one of the days when they weren't allegedly wearing unmarked police uniforms and kicking the tar out of striking miners. Not that they did that. That's how rumours start so watch that stuff. Jesus, Britain in the '80s. Airstrip One a-go-go. Nurse!

The FANTASTIC FOUR issue starts off with a Power Man and Iron Fist appearance on which Nick Dragotta does a really first rate job. Totally tip-top stuff with cracking storytelling and beezer body language. Thanks, Nick Dragotta! The Fantastic Four part is pleasantly silly with Johnny Storm fretting about growing up (Elliot Kalan means YOU!), Tonio and Stormy visiting a club where everyone dresses as superheroes (leading to a nicely icky Sue Storm joke), meeting Drunk Tony and facing off against Doctor Doom! Reliable Ron Frenz and Sturdy Sal Buscema provided the art which is both sturdy and reliable in a manner which far too few people appreciate.

Hey, I’m old so I quite enjoyed these issues largely because they possessed a plot, everyone spoke in a clear manner and they were just really entertaining all round. Maybe it had nothing to do with my failing mind and everything to do with craft/skill. There's a thought. Oh yeah, it didn't hurt that there were panels like this:


Who doesn't love panels like that? Tories!

(Illustration by Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema. Words by Elliot Kalan.)

Of course due to recent developments I won't see how this series ends. (I believe this is called foreshadowing. C’mon and watch me now. Huhn!) Setting that aside for the nonce (for I am nothing if not a nonce) for the price of this series I could have sated the nostalgic within by purchasing a fat b/w volume of ESSENTIAL MARVEL TEAM-UP (Or ESSENTIAL MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE, I’m more of a M T-I-O man myself. High five, Ron Wilson! High five!). So although it was satisfyingly solid old-school entertainment MARVEL’s senseless pricing shoots it in the foot and makes it EH!


Scott Hampton,  Josh Adams/Bob McLeod, Victor Ibanez, Tim Seeley, Andy Smith/Keith Champagne, Nic Klein and Mister Howard Victor Chaykin(a), Steve Niles, B Clay Moore, Matt Kindt, Matthew Cody, Drew Ford, Ivan Brandon and Adam Beechen(w), Daniel Vozzo, Thomas Chu, Ego, Richard & Tanya Horie, Chris Beckett, Nic Klein and Jesus Arbutov(c) and  Rob Leigh lettered every story much to my typing finger's relief.

(DC Comics, $5.99)

Steve Niles continues his, to my mind, unbroken decades long run of profitably confusing unoriginality, terrible prose and nonsensical tedium for horror while Scott Hampton is just tragically wasted on this pish (but his Justice Inc. backups with Jason Starr in DOC SAVAGE were several nice slices of awesome pie. Available in back issue bins – now!) And if you think that was a twist at the end, pal-o-mine, I can only say EH!

Then there’s some creepy stuff with Sarge Steel picking a damaged young woman (I guess she’s attractive; it’s hard to tell from the art) and basically building her up and leading her on even though he knows her soft young hands can never cradle his lifeless metal honker. Seriously:


This world we live in, I swear. This world.

(Illustration by Tim Seely. Words by Matthew Cody.)

It all ends with a sad cookout so I guess that makes it homely not skin crawling. Like witnessing any old dude grooming some young chick it made me feel AWFUL!

The next one is weird as it involves a Yakuza who has the magic power of shooting people really good but is only a bad man because the Yakuza are holding his son hostage. I don’t know, Yakuza Man, but if you are that exceptional at death dealing shouldn't you have rescued your son earlier? Anyway Yakuza Man dies and some JSA members (Who? Sorry, I forgot to care.) have to rescue his son who has inherited his super killing powers so we can end (actually it just stops rather than ends) with this:


You can have mine, Fumio. Then I can go down the pub for once.

(Illustration by Josh Adams. Words by B. Clay Moore.)

Because if it involves a crying kid with a gun we can all just assume that somewhere in there we all must have learnt something very special. All I know I learned was that this was AWFUL!

There’s an Alan Scott Green Lantern story which has scenes that just end rather than have a point and seems to just be there to explain that magic is called magic because it is magic. Which is magical. Victor Ibanez' art is nice though, it’s a bit Steve Pugh-y. Alas,  not even an artist as good as Ibanez can make Alan Scott’s new uniform look like he’s wearing anything other than what appears to be an exoskeleton made of lawn furniture. Still and all, art as good as this at least lifts it to EH!

The Jesse Quick one equaled the second Green Lantern tale in that both were so bland/incoherent they slid straight off the surface of my brain and pooled into a puddle of AWFUL!

Hey, if the big hand is pointing to JSA and the little hand is pointing to Howard Victor Chaykin it must be HUAC-O’Clock! Again. The script is about how even the stupidest of men can do some good or something. It isn't very good. Howard Victor Chaykin cheekily turns in a couple of pages he’s not quite finished (the hospital bed one, the supermarket one) but retains his special place in my withered heart by gifting us this goofy looking dude:


"How you doin'?"

(Illustration by Mister Howard Victor Chakin.)

Remember goofiness? I do and I say goofiness is OKAY!

Unless you are me or Howard Victor Chaykin’s mum this comic was AWFUL! Heck, even if you were me or Howard Victor Chaykin’s mum this comic was still AWFUL!


Nathan Fox, Shawn Alexander, Kevin Ferrara, Garry Brown and Neal Adams(a), Joe R Lansdale, Christopher A. Taylor, Alice Henderson, Dan Braun, Craig Haffner and Archie Goodwin(w).


O! America! You guys used to be so good at anthologies! You totally did, I can tell you. All those EC comics people insist on reprinting in formats too expensive for me to purchase are printed testimony to that! And then there are CREEPY and EERIE the fondly remembered not-as-good-as-EC-but-pretty-good-depending-on-which-editor-was-in-charge-‘70s anthologies currently being reprinted in formats too expensive for me to purchase. But how are you now, America? How are you at the anthology format now? Let’s take a looky-loo at the latest manifestation of CREEPY:

Joe R Lansdale and Nathan Fox have the best offering with “Mine!” a relentlessly paced piece of grisly nonsense about a cowboy being chased by a gluttonous corpse. It works really well, suggesting the tone of Looney Tunes cartoons while never stinting on the gore. Joe R Lansdale and Nathan Fox previously collaborated on PIGEONS FROM HELL which is much better but this was still VERY GOOD!

Nathan Fox does stuff like this:


Nathan Fox – get some!

(Illustration by Nathan Fox. Word by Joe R Lansdale)

Then we have "Commedia Dell' Morte!" which is a story that mushes up clowns, priests, children, demons and murder in the hope that all that stuff will somehow interact to produce some kind of point without any effort on the behalf of the writer, Christopher A Taylor. The twist is it doesn't! Really nice Kent Williams style art by Shawn Alexander though so it’s OKAY!

"The Wreck" is notable for being largely wordless and Kevin Ferrara's art does a pretty good job taking the strain but Alice Henderson's script could have done with some tightening. Maybe just me but the twist didn't really need spelling out to that extent, give your readers some credit, ey? But all reservations aside it was pretty GOOD!

Reprint magic is provided by Archie Goodwin and Professor Neal Adams with "Fair Exchange"! So it’s hokey and old timey and lovely. I said it’s Archie Goodwin and Neal Adams which is another way of saying it’s GOOD!

Not a bad issue of CREEPY but as with most anthologies it can be pretty (ahem!) variable so I’m just talking about this particular issue when I say it was GOOD!


Dave Wachter(a), Robert Bloch, Joe R Lansdale & John Lansdale(w), Alfredo Rodriguez(c) and Neil Uyetake(l)

(IDW, $3.99)

Here's some craft, pals. Bet no one's buying this, besides my own bad self, but it's got craft by the bucket. It's an adaptation of a 1958 Robert Bloch (1917-1994) Hugo Award winning (in 1959) short story so right there you've got some strong craft. It's going to be an engine designed to entertain but if you bend down and put your ever-loving ear to it it's going to tell you stuff as well. Stuff about life and the living of same. Used to be you could do that; entertain and illuminate both at once.  Not bad for a genre short but when it came to genre shorts Robert Bloch knew his onions. Joe R Lansdale is pretty well informed about hollow leaved plants containing edible bulbs too. Heard tell of him? No? Go read THE BIG BLOW and get back to me, I'll wait...

...no, no need to thank me, thank Joe R Lansdale. Joe R and his own son John do a neat job on the old adapting duties. It's sweet, clean and quiet. Fact is they are pretty unobtrusive and unobtrusive is surely conducive to immersion. A thankless task to be sure unless you appreciate craft. And this is no stale antiquated tale this one. Though the bulk is Bloch's the Lansdale's and Dave Wachter pop a couple of contemporary references in there but cleverly so as not to burst the bubble of suspension of disbelief. Someone's been watching Mad Men is what I'm saying.

And Dave Wachter? I'm telling you to keep an eye on this tyke. He ain't loud and fancy like some travelling salesman who's gone when the morning comes leaving you with just a cheap bible and a water infection, no, he's a straight up straight arrow. Comes in does his job and it's only later, on reflection, that you realise how cleverly he handled that scene transition here or subtly supported the text with a slight artistic nudge there. Brings the creepy stuff good too.

It's not perfect (there are two spelling errors in one speech balloon, the thought balloons in the bird shit on the jacket scene don't work) but it's admirably restrained and honestly admirable in its emphasis on craft. So I reckon this one walks quietly and carries a big stick. Creatively speaking. In reality Joe R Lansdale is a dab hand at karate and needs no stick. I suspect if you came at him with a stick he would probably break that stick with your face. So don't do that rather buy this because although might take a while to cotton on it's really VERY GOOD!


Craft in action! Subtlety in motion!

(Illustration by Dave Wachter. Words by Bloch & The Lansdales)


Looking ahead if things go according to plan the only MARVEL Comics I’ll be discussing in the future will be DAREDEVIL, PUNISHERMAX and AVENGERS 1959. I think you know why.

(choke!)I’ll miss you Chris Samnee (sob!). You stay strong for me now, Chris Samnee.


Enough, MARVEL! Give The King his due! Pah! Enough!

(Illustration by Ron Frenz & Sal Buscema.)

(Doctor Doom created by JACK KIRBY.)