“Oh, Betty!” COMICS! Sometimes It’s Doctor Who And The Pub Made of Haunted Wood!

Just for a change I thought I’d look at an Original Graphic Novel rather than a British anthology comic featuring a poo eating robot that talks more sense than most public figures. Naturally, I loaded the dice by picking one by one of my favourite writers working with an artist whose work I have much fondness for. And Michael Easton. Guess how well that worked out for everyone. photo GwomFishB_zpsjlr1eo9x.jpg THE GREEN WOMAN (Bolton, Straub & Easton, Klein) Anyway, this… THE GREEN WOMAN Art by John Bolton Written by Peter Straub & Michael Easton Lettered by Todd Klein Starring Peter Capaldi Vertigo/DC Comics, £14.99 (2010)

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On the banks of the Milwaukee River squats a bar and in that bar there broods a man who is both more than a man and less than a man. He is old now and senses the fast enchroaching end to the long road paved with his dead. But no man murders without trace and in New York a self-hating cop begins to follow the trail which will end in either his redemption or in his destruction, but it will certainly end in a bar on the banks of the Milwaukee River where a man broods. A man once called Fielding Bandolier.

 photo GwomFaceB_zpswdold4yw.jpg THE GREEN WOMAN (Bolton, Straub & Easton, Klein)

I know who Peter Straub and John Bolton are, but who is the mysterious Michael Easton? If only there was some easily accessible source of inf...ah. A quick glance at his Wikipedia page shows me that Michael Easton is a master of the smouldering glance and favours large cuffed shirts. He is also an actor (ALLY MCBEAL, MUTANT X, ONE LIFE TO LIVE) in things I’ve never seen,  a poet whose poetry I’ve never read, an author of OGNs (the SOUL STEALER SERIES) which I’ve never heard of, in fact all I know for certain is he’s just basically six different shades of dreamy, ladies. And, I guess, gentlemen too; it’s all just friction, you prudes! Now, being a nasty piece of work I would like to blame the failure of THE GREEN WOMAN on him alone. However, that’s probably unfair. Because in the interests of fairness I should probably point out that Peter Straub’s output has somewhat diminished since 2004’s IN THE NIGHT ROOM. Diminished in frequency and scale certainly but, THE GREEN WOMAN excepted, not in quality. This book first appeared in its hardcover iteration in 2010, a year which also saw Straub produce THE JUNIPER TREE AND OTHER STORIES and A DARK MATTER. A healthily impressive output at first glance, no doubt. However, as all readers of supernatural fiction know, appearances can be deceptive; THE JUNIPER TREE was a collection of previously published stories and A DARK MATTER, his first original novel since IN THE NIGHT ROOM, was poorly received (I liked it, but there you go). It basically took Straub six years to produce a single novel, which is par for some writers but not par for Straub. What I’m trying to get at is THE GREEN WOMAN feels like a new short initially intended to freshen up the THE JUNIPER TREE, but one that didn’t make it to fruition and so the basic outline was repurposed into an OGN with help from the dreamy enigma Michael Easton and John Bolton. Alas, this is of course pure conjecture and as a consequence utterly worthless, but it killed some time for us all. And gave me an introductory paragraph. In my opinion, which is basically The Truth of The World by any other name, Peter Straub is a magnificent writer, one whose output I hold in the highest of esteem. (I heartses Peter Straub, basically.) Some of his books may not be as good as others, but they are all better than most other people’s books. This is because he is a masterful prose artist who can make distressingly horrific effects explode seemingly from nowhere following the most sublime of slow burns. His books work because Peter Straub is an unnervingly fastidious author and also because he is in complete control of his prose. This obviously isn’t the case with THE GREEN WOMAN where other hands muck in and, well, things go a bit to pot.

 photo GwomNamB_zpsgc3kd5hn.jpg THE GREEN WOMAN (Bolton, Straub & Easton, Klein)

THE GREEN WOMEN is intended to act as a capstone to all the fiction Straub has previously penned regarding one Fee Bandolier. And there has been a lot of fiction from Peter Straub regarding Fee Bandolier. I’ll resist the temptation to list them as sometimes part of the joy of Straub’s work is realising how something you are reading ties in to other works, and such a list while making me feel all superior would edge a wee bit too close to SPOILER territory in some cases; trust me, Fee’s all over Straub’s post-KOKO work like a psychotic yet weirdly endearing rash. Don’t worry though THE GREEN WOMAN recaps everything you need to know about Fee and his…tendencies. Unfortunately it does so in the bluntest possible way, lacking almost wholly Straub’s prose finesse which usually effortlessly ameliorates the clichés which underpin this material. Basically dependent on others to aid his vision this just reads like a not terribly well executed serial-killer-with-‘Nam-flashbacks-hunted-by-rogue-cop-who-is-more-like-his-prey-than-he-wishes-to-acknowledge. It’s just disheartening to see Straub stoop to a cop who is the tiresome Troubled White Guy with a Gun so familiar to us all. But then I recall that he has done that in his novels and it’s worked a treat. See, it’s not the concepts in THE GREEN WOMAN which are at fault, it’s the execution and maybe the limited page count. The core tale of Straub’s (previously brilliantly realised) tragic monster reaching the end of his rope, while being hunted by a man who’s character is swiftly unravelling due to the moral faultlines within him, would have been plenty all on its todd but, no; there’s a secondary plot revolving around a malevolent ship’s figurehead which in the long gone days caused its crew to suicide en masse, and now wants to be reunited with the timbers of the boat it was stuck on, which are currently holding up a pub in Ireland. Yes, that’s right we’re talking here about spooky wood pining (get on that one, Brian Azzarello! Geddit: “pining” wood! That’s GOLD!) Obviously most scary doodahs can be reduced to the laughable via fantastic word skillage as what I has. However was a similar excellence in prose in evidence it could make the concept of haunted wood turn your bowels to water. In a Peter Straub novel this would be the case (see IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW) but this is not a novel it is a graphic novel, so the prose is sparse and far too much rests on the art. Which is terrible. Really bad.

 photo GwomthatB_zpsv1xhy4bh.jpg THE GREEN WOMAN (Bolton, Straub & Easton, Klein)

It gives me no pleasure to point out the artistic failings of THE GREEN WOMAN. I have enjoyed John Bolton’s flowing Frazetta-esque art in the past (HOUSE OF HAMMER, WARRIOR) but not here, not in THE GREEN WOMAN. Not unsurprisingly, and entirely to his credit, John Bolton has developed since then as an artist. However, the area he has chosen to take his art into centres around photo manipulation. Unfortunately for my eyes it turns out that I’m a bit picky, and I only like John Bolton’s art when he is actually, you know, drawing, which he isn’t here. He’s doing something with photographs which regular readers (hi, mom!) will recall I welcome like warts on my nethers. Even so, I am usually magnanimous enough to at least suggest the slightest possibility that that might be a matter of taste. Not here though; this is patently poor no matter what your preference.  For a start the whole thing looks so blurry I had to keep looking away to focus on other things in the room to reassure me that cataracts weren’t kicking in at a rate of knots. Then there’s the fact that someone has clearly set the resolution wrong on some of the pages, so you’re just left looking at it and wondering how many eyes this passed in front of, and how so many eyes could not care. A lot (all?) of the images are collaged together but sometimes you can clearly see the edges where the elements haven’t quite fitted together, and again those eyes, those uncaring eyes are brought to mind. There are some richly fruity images there for Bolton to play with (the women hung out like fish) but it’s all muffled and lacking in impact. THE GREEN WOMAN is just not a good reflection of John Bolton’s talent, because as sloppy as this stuff looks he’s a far from untalented artist. It’s a real shame because we’ve all had bad days at the office but few of us have those bad days printed up and bound for posterity. Mind you I don’t charge anyone money to look at my bad days at the office, either.

 photo GwomGreatB_zpsikrskes5.jpg THE GREEN WOMAN (Bolton, Straub & Easton, Klein)

Even were it not ramshackle stuff (and, boy, is it ramshackle stuff) Bolton comes a cropper for me in his choice of model for Fee, our unhinged protagonist. See, he’s based every appearance of Fee here on the popular thespian Peter Capaldi. I mean, sure, Peter Capaldi gives good gurn so he’s a deft choice in that respect; you’re not ever in much doubt about Fee’s emotions at any given point. When the book was originally released (reminder: in 2010, in hardback) Capaldi was a recognised face in the UK thanks (largely but not solely) to his splenetic  portrayal of the sweary king of spin Malcolm Tucker in THE THICK OF IT (a political satire which now appears quaintly understated thanks to the idiocies of reality). So I’m guessing America was probably largely still oblivious to his spittle flecked charms when the book premiered, but in 2016 with Capaldi playing  the 197th Doctor in DOCTOR WHO pretty much any reader is all but guaranteed to be thrown out of the book every time he appears, which is often. (And FYI: he’s playing “The Doctor” not “Doctor Who”; woe fucking betide anyone who makes that error anywhere near some winner who has tied their sense of self-worth to a children’s TV show).

 photo GWomFeeB_zps7njhtzqb.jpg THE GREEN WOMAN (Bolton, Straub & Easton, Klein)

So often does Capaldi’s emotionally contorted face glare out at you from these pages that THE GREEN WOMAN should in all fairness appear on Peter Capaldi’s Wikipedia page, somewhere between IN THE LOOP and BISTRO. It won’t do though, because it’s not like he owns his own face is it? (This is fine by me as I currently use Capaldi’s sinewy visage on dating websites to lure young women into extra marital filth because I have no respect for my partner, but that’s okay it’s the 21st Century. It sure seemed like a good idea, but every time I try to explain away the fact that I don’t look like Peter Capaldi by saying I’m still currently playing Doctor Who but a different incarnation, they start shouting about how it’s “The Doctor! Not Doctor Fucking Who! What’s wrong with you! I don’t mind being lured into creepy sexual nastiness but what kind of pervert and general failure as a human being doesn’t know that! IT’S THE DOCTOR! You massive nonce!” And then they storm out like I’ve seen ladies in movies do, and I end the evening tearfully wanking into a hanky. Then the head waiter asks me to leave.)  Seriously, it’s a total immersion destroyer turning the page and seeing Peter Capaldi fiercely scrunching his face up like a sock ready for the laundry again. I keep expecting him to ask someone if they’d like a jelly baby. (I know that was Tom Baker; I am fucking with you. It won’t be the last time.)

 photo GwomrainB_zpsiytzcq2p.jpg THE GREEN WOMAN (Bolton, Straub & Easton, Klein)

THE GREEN WOMAN is at once overstuffed and undercooked, and everyone involved has done better work elsewhere. Better to seek that out instead, say I, because this was AWFUL!


"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!!!