Thursday, 18 December 2008

Crap Christmas Songs: I Wish It Could Be A Wombeling Merry Christmas Every Day

Clearly someone thought it would be a great idea to take two Christmas classics: The Wombles, and Roy Wood ( out of Wizard) and cross breed them. Presumably someone fed all the facets of Christmas into a super-computer and this came out. What results is a song that is hauntingly familiar, and absolutely unlistenable. Total Bollocks

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Unedited reviews: Verbal issue 21

Pentti & Deathgirl

Emma Rendel

Jonathan Cape

On July 22nd 1990 I was involved in an incident at a dog show in a field in County Donegal... On that day I was 12 years old, and I was attacked by a rather large Pit-bull Terrier and sustained a wound on my leg that required 12 stitches to close. As I lay in that field , bleeding, surrounded by a bunch of complete strangers who were gawping at me as I cried in my clown boxer shorts, I thought: “ this is the worst thing that will ever happen to me!” . This remained true until last night when I read Pennti & Death Girl.

The book is split into two parts. ‘Pentti’ is the story of two Finnish brothers and their reactions to a homosexual couple that moves in next door to them violence, anger and repression). Deathgirls Diary is the story of a lonely and friendless girl and her obsessions with stabbing beheading strangling and poisoning. So, it’s a barrel of fun all around then. The stories are threadbare and hateful and I found the artwork at times to be nauseating. This book made my head hurt.

NOW I realise that there may be some cultural differences between here and Sweden, the home of writer artist Emma Rendel and It is possible that I am two shallow to appreciate the deeper meanings of these tales or the artwork . It is also possible that you will love this. However it will cost you £12.99 to find out and I don’t think you’re willing to take that risk. I found the artwork at times to be nauseating

This book is so bad that it actually hurts the reader’s feelings.

Aya of Yop City (Hardcover)

By Marguerite Abouet (Author), Clement Oubrerie (Illustrator)

Jonathan Cape Ltd (15 Jan 2009)

I received the first volume of Aya about a year ago. I read it, put it to one side, and paid it no heed. Or so I thought. Upon receiving volume 2, I realized that I remembered every plotline character and situation. I enjoyed reading this so much I immediately went back and read the first.

The Aya Series tells the story of the titular teenage girl and her friends, family and life in the Ivory Coast during the earl part of the 1970’s. It’s very much a soap opera style affair, with romance, business and family problems. I am very surprised by how much I like these books. This is exactly the sort of thing that I should hate and yet I found myself reading two volumes cover to cover in one sitting . Why?

The key to its success is twofold: Firstly is the beautiful art. In sharp contrast to the books mentioned above this is a real pleasure to look at , being at the same time cartoonish and realistic. The characters and in particular the cities and villages are drawn in such a striking fashion that its very easy to loose yourself in some of the more detailed pictures .

French artist Oubrerie has done a fine job in making the city one of the characters in the book, as much as any of the human protagonists.

Secondly is the laid back tone of the writing. Like the dialogue from an episode of Desmonds the words and accent are both strange and at the same time reassuringly familiar and comforting. The major events are simple( a new baby, a beuty contest, a mysterious stranger in town) yet gripping , my only gripe is that it ends on a cliffhanger.

I cant wait for volume 3

Dawn Of The Dumb

Charlie Brooker

As a 30 year old Curmudugeon with a chip on my shoulder and a hatred for mainstream television, I don’t often get the opportunity to have my prejudices reinforced. Three cheers then for Charlie Brooker,Host of ScreenWipe and the Guardian TV reviwer whose Screen Burn columns have been neatly collected in two volumes. The latest of these Dawn Of The Dumb is so funny that if you don’t laugh out loud at least three times when reading it , I will personally give you ten British Pounds. For real.

Im serious.

Three thumbs up.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Reviews from Verbal Issue 20 ( uncensored)

A bit fucked off that all the jokes in this review were edited out This CENSORSHIP~! maskes it sound as if i am fair and unbiased and that is not a notion i wish to cultivate. I have reinserted said jibes in itallics.

Kelly’s Heroes

Kelly: A Memoir
by Gerry Kelly with Don Anderson
(Gill and Macmillan)

A book that’s better on the show, than on the man himself. An opportunity missed,says Ciaran Flanagan.

Here’s a secret that UTV and BBC Northern
Ireland don’t want you to know, but that I
feel is my duty to get out there. Every single
television programme ever produced in the
province of Ulster has been produced by
using an ancient magical Celtic formula that
Verbal Magazine can now reveal to you - the
reading public.
What you do is take the phrase “Northern
Irish Version of….”, and then just add the
name of an existing television programme
at the end. (The only exception to this is
Give My Head Peace - a programme so
baffling that it defies analysis of any kind).
Go on, try it. Talkback (Question Time).
Town Challenge (It’s a Knockout). Suss
(Crackerjack). Dry Your Eyes (Little Britain)
and of, course Kelly. It would be very easy
of me to say that, clearly, some chancer at
UTV saw The Late Late Show in 1989 and
thought “I’m having me some of that.”, but
that would do the man (and the show) a
disservice. Over nearly 20 years the Friday
night chat show has become a staple for
many thousands of viewers. The Kelly Show
is an Institution. But, then again so is Long Kesh.
Anyone expecting an in depth look at the
man himself had better look elsewhere.
Kelly deals largely with the show’s more
than 15 year run on Friday nights, looking at
his life before that only very briefly. It talks
about early hardships (alcoholic father,
mother working all the hours God sent, etc.)
and gives some details of how the talk show
came to be; starting with his initial primary
school teaching career and his early
broadcasting work presenting Good Evening
Ulster alongside Gloria Hunniford – which,
curiously, came about as a result of a case
of mistaken identity. And that’s about it
After that its all about the show, and if you
like the show - great! If you don’t like the
show this will be a little more arduous. A
show like Kelly lives or dies based on the
quality of its guests, and unfortunately, for
every Shirley Bassey or Garth Brooks, there
are a dozen Big Brother contestants or soap
opera cast offs. I once saw an interview with Sid Little( of Little and Large fame), so boring and unfunny , that i went blind out of contempt.
Gerry does defend his position in the
book and to be fair his reasoning (cost,
and availability) does ring true. There is
some mild excitement in the form of bomb
scares and death threats but nothing world
shattering. In short: this is a book about
the Kelly Show, and if you are a fan of the
show, then you’ll be a fan of the man and
his book. If you have something better ( im sorry ,had) to do on a friday night. Look elsewhere.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

A Thanksgiving Treat.

Having been involved in some poorly acted and blocked theatre pieces over the years , it gave me great pleasure to come accross this little gem from Macy's Thanksgiving parade 1988 . It has all the charm of of a school play, with features such as a token Black Man , Doctor Dooms langer, and a retarded Hulk, all to the theme music from Back To The Future. Tremendous

Also at the 1.34 mark ROBOCOP~! appears from nowhere , pulls a lever and then fucks off without saying a word.

Happy Native massacre and land steal day America

Monday, 24 November 2008

Charlie Brooker is my Hero.

Try as i might to not watch the X-Factor, it just seems that with EoghinMania(tm) running wild that i have to deal with ill informed 13 year olds explain to me why he is the best thing since sliced bread. Leave it to good old Brooker to sum him up in perfect fashion .

It's Eoghan Quigg. Eoghan Quigg. That's not a name, that's a Countdown Conundrum. It looks like what happens when you hastily type a URL with your fingers over the wrong keys. If they still allowed text voting, he'd have been out weeks ago.

Or maybe not. Because the moment Eoghan bounds on stage, he triggers a dormant maternal instinct in millions of grandmas up and down the nation, enough to overcome any spelling barrier. Last week an elderly neighbour aahhed herself to death halfway through his performance of Anytime You Need a Friend. Because Eoghan's got a baby face. And I mean that literally, as in someone's grafted a baby's face on to the front of his head. Tiny
little eyes and a ruby-red mouth. He's like a cross between the Test Card clown and a crayon portrait of Jamie Oliver. Weird. Eerie. Like the spectral figure of an infant chimney sweep that suddenly appears in an upstairs window, gazing sadly at your back as you walk the grounds of a remote country mansion on a silent Christmas afternoon; alerted by an indefinable chill, you turn and, for the briefest moment, his wet, sorry eyes meet yours... and then he's gone.

That's Eoghan, the ghost of X Factor present. Even if he gets voted out, I'm frightened I'll still spot him intermittently in the dead of night, popping up on screen during old black-and-white films, pleading through the glass like a kitten in a microwave. Swear to God, if he's not gone by New Year's Eve I'm having my television exorcised by a priest.


While were on the subject , why has no one pointed out how much he looks like wee Jimmy Krankie? A point that would be better illustrated if i could find a decent fucking picture of him.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex: Guns of Vengence

Jimmy Palmotti and Justin Gray

In 1954 a book was published called “ Seduction of the innocent.”, a controversial work that suggested that super hero and horror comic books were corrupting the minds of the young people of America , and turning them towards GASP communism. Of course it was complete bollocks, but unfortunately it meant that for over a decade the only stories that could be published without attracting unwanted attention were war stories, science fiction, romance, comedies and westerns. As a genre the western comic book reached its absolute peak during the mid 1950’s, started to taper off during the 60’s, began to plummet during the 70’s, and sank without a trace during the 1980's. By the 1990's the comic book cowboy was dead and buried in Boot Hill, never to return. Or so we thought.

Jonah Hex was a long time staple of such western books. A hideously scarred former confederate soldier turned bounty hunter who traveled across the Wild West dishing out justice to evil doers....for a price of course. Bounty hunter or not, Hex always did the right thing, fought for truth and justice, and was always polite to ladies. No wonder people stopped buying stories about him: the old Jonah Hex series portrayed him as a gimp!!!! The new Jonah Hex series portrays him as an anti hero loner, with a twisted sense of justice. A drunken, whoring, card cheating, scum bag, which sometimes does the right thing....provided the price is right.

DC has performed nothing short of a minor miracle with this relaunch of Jonah Hex taking a dead genre and a hokey character and turning it into an ideal hero for the 21st Century: an amoral loner with serious personality issues motivated solely by money. Hex along with the successful revival of the Lone Rangers comic adventures seems to indicate that the western rides again .Read this right now!!!!!!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Hugo Duncan : a great man.

Northern Ireland is a truly retarded place when it comes to pop culture.

Try as he might, Ciaran Flanagan can’t help but be won over by ‘Uncle Hugo’.

Drunken Duncan

Uncle Hugo: The Story of the Wee Man From Strabane, Paul Evans (Blackstaff Press)

If there’s one thing that’s rubbish about living in Northern Ireland it’s that the quality of our celebrities leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. I’m not talking about people like Liam Neeson, or George Best, you know, people with talent, who go somewhere else and do something useful. No, I mean the type of ‘Personality’ who might have been a guest on The Kelly Show. The next time you’re bored type ‘Northern Ireland Celebrity’ into Google Images and have yourself a laugh at the feeble selection of men dressed up as women, presenters, disc jockeys, show band leaders and country music enthusiasts that comes up.

Hugo Duncan is one of the faces who will appear when you do this. Hugo Duncan. It is almost impossible to dislike Hugo Duncan. And believe me: I’ve tried. He’s representative of a type of music which, by his own admission has never been fashionable, but never goes out of fashion. He is a presenter of daytime country music radio and lame local It’s a Knockout rip-offs. But he’s so bloody likeable you can’t help but forgive all this.

The book is an awful lot like the man. While there is a lot of waffle, it is interspersed with a shocking frankness about his showband days, how it led to alcohol dependency and his subsequent attempts to quit drinking. There are also occasional surprises, for example the album of rebel songs that Hugo recorded in Monaghan in 1979 – which, on being reminded of it 25 years later caused him to throw up in his car. This was of course during his ‘Drunken Duncan’ period (the rebel songs I mean, the boking is an understandable reaction). Personally, I wanted a frank expose of the Town Challenge years and gossip about how much he and George Jones hated each other, but alas, this whole era is largely glossed over. Still maybe George will write a tell-all book. In the main it is a collection of fond recollections of great days growing up, and numerous music hall dances all over the country, that for people of a certain generation will go down a treat.

The scary thing about Uncle Hugo is that, in one way or another, he is exactly like all of my uncles. He’s probably exactly like your uncles too for that matter. I think that’s his secret.

Freddie and me : Mike Dawson

Reviews from verbal issue 19. This one was rejected months ago, but the tune was changed once i took out some....errr.....sailor talk.

Ciaran Flanagan assures us, this comic really will ‘rock you’.

Queen and I

Freddie & Me, Mike Dawson (Jonathan Cape)

Even at the best of times, autobiographical comics are a funny wee beastie. It might just be me, but there’s something quite disturbing about an anthropomorphic version of a real life person pouring their heart and soul onto the page for the benefit of the fan boys (who can then, presumably, enjoy the vicarious thrills of having a social life or perhaps even a girlfriend). But to tell ones life-story in comic form, using the career arc of prog-rock/opera, super group Queen, as inspiration and reference point; that takes a special kind of bravery or mania. Mike Dawson is one such courageous madman.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that there is anything wrong, per se, with slavish fan-boy devotion to either music or comics (given that I have a Rolling Stones tattoo and review graphic novels), but it seemed to me that it would be bit of a stretch to match up the events of one’s life with the career of a band like Queen - especially given that their front man snuffed it in 1991. Not so. From his humble beginnings as a child in Leighton Buzard all the way to his later life as a struggling artist in New York, Dawson is able to use Freddie Mercury and the boys (and also, curiously, George Michael’s Wham) as a point of reference, a point of discussion and, interestingly, a point of view (literally in some cases). Although there’s a little childhood trauma and teen angst, in the main its all either pleasant nonsense or George Michael based flights of fancy. The art is nice enough. Nothing flashy, just good solid work. What makes it stand out is his use of partial frames, extreme close ups and darkness; to create a sense of suspense around what is essentially mundane.

At times the ‘Queen Love’ becomes a little nauseating (especially when referring to the Ben Elton penned musical ‘sensation’ We Will Rock You) and ultimately you have to learn to live with it. But dear me, don’t say you love Queen as much as this man.

If you’re a fan of the hard rocking, apartheid cultural embargo breaking, Wayne’s World inspiring, hair/teeth pop combo - you will LOVE this. If you are indifferent to them (as I am) you will still really enjoy it. Go out of your way to find it.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Never published review

I thought this one was funny as fuck

The Beatles : A Diary

Omnibus Press

Barry Miles

There must be at least a million books about The Beatles. Seriously. One Million. In fact I’ve just checked on Amazon, and there are exactly a million, covering everything from their music and lyrics, to charting Ringos beard growth (an underrated classic). This makes one million and one. The Beatles: A Diary charts the story of the Beatles on a day by day basis from 1934 through to 1970. Day by Day. For thirty-six years. Who needs that? Who needs to know that on February the 3rd 1972 Ring visited the American embassy in Paris to get a work visa? A pedant perhaps or a maniac that’s who. Still as it’s a pretty good resource as far as track and set lists go, and there are some nice photos, i'm going to say this book is the ideal Christmas gift for any Beatles fan. Can’t say fairer than that now can I.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Death Of WCW Review .

The next issue of Verbal was to feature my review of The Death Of WCW . But sadly because god hates me it was cut from 500 words down to 100. For fucks sake. Anyway. Heres what it should have looked like.

The Death of WCW.

Bryan Alvarez and R.D Reynolds

ECW Press,Canada

ISBN-10: 1550226614

Wrestling With Disaster.

Right, let’s get this out of the way: I KNOW ITS FAKE! My interest in the pseudo sport of pro wrestling lies firmly within the realms of backstage drama and political machinations. OK? GOOD!

This is the true story of the rise and fall of a family run business that sat at the edge of bankruptcy for decades and was saved by a benevolent billionaire and ultimately rendered useless by mismanagement over ambition, stupidity and the rock band KISS

In 1998 the Ted Turner Owned World Championship Wrestling became the most successful Pro-Wrestling company ever, IN THE WORLD,EVER, turning a profit in excess of $ 80 million dollars, and attracting over six million viewers for its flagship weekly television show Monday Nitro. Three years later the company was dead, having lost over 80 million dollars and 95% of its viewing audience. How could this have happened? How could a publicly traded company be so mismanaged as to be rendered less than worthless in such a short space of time?

In many ways The Death of WCW is a whodunit although sadly one which is never resolved .Author Bryan Alvarez is well known in wrestling “insider” circles as a top journalist and approaches the subject as if it were a ‘real’ sport. His descriptions are both factual and hilarious, balancing in depth ratings information alongside descriptions of Hulk Hogan’s battle with an Egyptian mummy that has escaped from a block of ice. Really

He is not afraid to point the finger at those he sees as responsible for the companies’ destruction. . The key culprits ( some of them well known individuals like Hulk Hogan and Ted Turner ), take it in turns to point fingers at each other , never once admitting any culpability in the destruction of thousands of peoples livelihoods. Sadly Alvarez’s account comes too little too late, and the lessons learned from this book are still being ignored today by wrestling companies the world over.

Professional wrestling has been run for years by carnival hustlers, shysters, and money hungry hicks, out to trick their punters (known affectionately as marks) out of every penny they can get, all the while acting in the manner of a secret fraternity or quasi Masonic brotherhood Some of the business practices described in this book are just unbelievable. Like setting moon shine swilling hillbillies loose in the New York Stock Exchange.

For fans of the mat game Death of WCW serves as a depressing, frustrating and yet hilarious reminder of what was and what still could be. For non fans it will save as a case study in rank stupidity.

This is essential reading for anyone who wishes to know how not to run a business.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

A History of Bullshit......

Jesus, I love the Internet

a history of internet Memes!!!!

See if you can spot your faveorite flash in the pan!!!!!!

what what , in the butt!!!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Bernie Brillstien RIP

Couldn't let the day pass without commenting on the death of Bernie Brillstien, one of the unsung heroes of late seventies and early eighties comedy. Without him we would have no Muppets, Sarurday Night Live, Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters, or It's a Gary Shandling Show. Of course we have him to thank for ALF, but he's dead so i think we can let bygones be bygones.
He was the manager of not only John Belushi, but John Candy , and also Chris Farelly. Upon hearing of the latters death he famously quipped " I wish my fat clients would stop dieing"
Theres a great obit here. I recomend you check it out


A Change is Gonna Come..........

Words fail me for some of the shit on this list of the most racist toys ever made. Still , i have to admit that i would do anything, up to and including anything, for Hitlers Limo. Check that motherfucker out.

I wonder if i could get a David Bowie Figure and stick that in too!!!!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Alice In Sunderland Review.

This is from issue 10 of Verbal Magazine, and was something of a headfuck to review. It wasnt completely shallow, and as it had subtext , it drove me up the wall( i'm a shit like that). What i really wanted to say was it was all right , but the author is something of a self abuse expert. Sadly Verbal isnt that kind of publication. I did at the very least get to say that he was up his own hole, so Grots you have my admiration and respect for that. This issue had some nice reviews by big Dave Campell. Check it out here:

Align Centre

Alice in Sunderland: An Entertainment
by Bryan Talbot

In quite a departure from his normal work
on titles such as Batman, Judge Dredd, and
Hellblazer, comics veteran Bryan Talbot has
created one of the most thought provoking
graphic novel pieces in quite some time. Based
in part (in the loosest possible sense) on Alice
in Wonderland, Talbot (the main character
in his own comic no less), takes a sideways
journey looking at the history and character
of the city of Sunderland in general and its
Empire Theatre in particular.
Moving between past and future, and
containing a mixture of fantasy and reality the
narrative and art of the book are distinctly non
linear, switching between styles and ideas with
seemingly little rhyme or reason. There is a
wealth of both visual and factual information
contained within. Its all meticulously
researched, but it borders on information
overload, with some of the double page
spreads seeming quite confusing.
The author describes his work as being
‘an epic meditation on myth, history and
storytelling’ which is a pretty grand statement
about a book, and in the normal run of things,
would make it sound like he was right up his
own arse, but in the context of the story its
actually a reasonable enough claim. Its all very
clever, and you can’t ever shake the feeling
that its aware of how clever it is. Almost TOO
clever. Having said all that the art, in all its
varied styles is nothing short of superb, and
it’s very hard to be too critical of a book of any
kind that features the ghost of Syd James as
one of the major characters.
This is complex stuff and not for beginners. If
you’re one of the spandex set you may be best
advised to give this one a miss. However for a
fan of graphic literature looking for something
a little different. This is your fellah.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Underwhelming First Graphic Novel Reviews: Superman Infinite Crisis & Charleys War 17 October 1916 - 21

This was the first comics review i got published( along with a feature on Garth Ennis ) from Verbal Issue 2. It's safe to say i have in fact improved since this point, which baffles and delights me in equal measure. In hindsight I have done both these books a diservice, as the latter is an awesome piece of old school British comics gold. The former is a piece of shit. Man, that Infinite Crisis. It was great.

Graphic novels
Entertaining but at times maddeningly
confusing, Superman: Infinite Crisis (Marv
Wolfman, Joe Kelly, Jeff Loeb) deals with one
of the comic world’s most perplexing mysteries:
how is it that Superman has been around for
over seventy years, yet he is still only in his mid
to late twenties?
Not for beginners, this book features more
than 20 different Supermen, at least three
Superboys, and tries to condense 75 years
of character work into just over one hundred
pages. One for continuity buffs only.
Charley’s War: 17 October 1916 - 21
February 1917 is the third collection of Pat Mills’
and Joe Colquhoun’s spectacular World War I
epic. Originally printed in the UK war anthology
Battle, this is the continuing story of private
Charlie Bourne, who, having lied about his age to
enlist, comes to know the true horror of war.
Stunningly illustrated, meticulously
researched, and overtly anti-war, it’s hard to
believe that this was ever printed in a comic
intended for under-twelves.
Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

First " Proper" Review

This is what I consider to be the first "real review" that I ever did. If only because the earlier ones were so short and shite. When i get round to posting them you'll see what i mean. Published in Verbal Issue 7.

Harvey Pekar is the champion of the mundane but Ciaran Flanagan wouldn't call him a curmudgeon.

Misery Memoirs

American Splendor: Another Day - Volume 1 (Paperback)

by Harvey Pekar (Titan Books Ltd)

The Quitter by Harvey Pekar, Dean Haspiel (Titan Books Ltd)

For those not ‘in the know’ Harvey Pekar is the creator, writer and subject matter of American Splendor, his (initially) self published autobiographical comic book, now Oscar nominated film. American Splendor details his life as an obsessive compulsive, file clerk. A fat, balding, grumpy, self obsessed old get, it’s very difficult to imagine a more unlikely comic book hero. And if his comic stardom is unlikely then his subsequent transformation into a movie character is even more unlikely.

The new American Splendor anthology Another Day is illustrated by a galaxy of talented artists and looks at the changes in Pekars life since his movie success. Foremost amongst these changes is that as a media figure He has become something akin to the comics worlds best loved curmudgeon: a charge that he clearly has issue with. So much so that he spends a great portion of this volume complaining about such charges. In fact the majority of the book consists of him complaining; with the rest of the stories concern themselves with needless worrying about minor inconveniences. And while this is not necessarily a bad thing (its all highly entertaining) it certainly sounds like the work of a curmudgeon to me.

In contrast, The Quitter, is an account of Pekars early (pre comic), life. We meet a highly intelligent man from an immigrant family, who has a problem with structured education, living in the rust belt of the American mid west. Giving up at anything he tried his hand at rather than allowing himself the opportunity to fail (or as it turns out succeed) sports, lessons, relationships, jobs, Harvey left them all. A bitter and in many cases violent Pekar found himself more and more isolated and paranoid, leading to a near nervous break down at a very young age. Pekar is quite frank in laying himself and his failures of character bare, drawing a portrait of a deeply messed up but likeable character.

Dean Haspiels art creates a strangely surreal atmosphere helping to emphasise the tension and frustration of Pekars world. This is by no means light hearted fare, but it does allow a more in depth look at Pekar than one would get after 25 years worth of his normal comic work. Another Day, and The Quitter are essential canon for those wanting a piece of Pekar, caustic comic anti hero, quitter, or curmudgeon

Why the fuck would anyone do such a thing?

This one baffled me. Just baffled me. Who likes Queen enough to do This. Its like telling your life story through a poem about Top Cat. Good enough read though. I like this one because its a review thaths starting to sound like the way I want to review it, as opposed to writing for an audiance who knows fuck all about comics.This was also unpublished from Verbal issue 15. See if you can spot why.

Ciaran Flanagan reckons this one will most definitely 'rock you'…

Don't Stop Me Now

Freddie & Me by Mike Dawson (Jonathan Cape)

Even at the best of times autobiographical comics are a funny wee beastie. It might just be me but there’s something quite disturbing about an anthropomorphic version of a real life person, pouring their heart and soul out onto the page for the benefit of the fan boys (who can then enjoy the vicarious thrills of having a social life or perhaps a girlfriend!). But to tell ones life story in comics form using the career arc of prog rock/opera super-group Queen as inspiration and reference point, takes a special kind of bravery or mania. Mike Dawson is one such courageous madman.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with slavish fan boy devotion to either music or comics (given that I have a Rolling Stones tattoo and review graphic novels), but it seemed to me that it would be bit of a stretch to match up the events of ones life with the carreer of a band like Queen - especially given that their front man snuffed it in 1991. Not so. From his humble beginnings as a child in Leighton Buzzard all the way to his later life as a struggling artist in New York, Dawson is able to use Freddie Mercury and the boys (and also, curiously, Wham of all people) as a point of reference; a point of discussion and, most interestingly, a point of view (literally in some cases). Although there’s a little childhood trauma and teen angst, in the main its all either pleasant nonsense or George Michael based flights of fancy. The art is nice enough. Nothing flashy, just good solid work. What makes it stand out however is his use of partial frames, extreme close ups and darkness to create a sense of suspense around what is essentially quite mundane.

At times the Queen-love becomes a little nauseating (especially when referring to the Ben Elton penned musical ‘sensation’ We Will Rock You), and ultimately you might have to learn to live with it. But fuck me , you can't ever say you love Queen as much as this cunt does.

If you’re a fan of the hard rocking, apartheid cultural-embargo breaking, Wayne’s World inspiring, hair/teeth pop combo, you will LOVE this. If you are indifferent to them (as I am) you will still enjoy this.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Mister Amperduke by Bob Byrne

From Verbal issue 15 .Review of a class graphic novel by Bob Byrne. I suggest every single one of you buy a copy straight away. I fucking loved this.

It can be bought here

Innovative and exciting - now this is what Graphic Novels are about, says Ciaran Flanagan.

Life in Lego

Mister Amperduke by Bob Byrne (Clamnuts Comics)

Since the introduction of the first Graphic Novel (The Death of Captain Marvel for those who are keeping score), there has been much promised and little delivered in terms of innovation and new scope in the relatively young medium. Sure we’ve had Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns, and American Splendour, and all that good stuff, but those are essentially just reprints of comics. Alan Moore has made a few rumblings (in particular his recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier showed much flair), but what else has there been? For sure there have been great stories told (Fax From Sarajevo), and sure there are real world lessons to be expounded on (Maus), but when was the last time some played with the format? Where is the comic’s version of Catch 22 or Ulysses?

Bob Byrne is a Dublin based writer and artist who started out with his own self published books Mbleh and The Shiznit. He has recently gained more mainstream attention with his twisted tales in 2000ad, and with his latest self published work Mister Amperduke, he has done something very special.

Mister Amperduke is the simple tale of a sort of dog/man and his struggle assisting a Robocop style hero in protecting his tiny, sentient Lego utopia from being destroyed by an out of control Cloverfield style monster. Nothing unusual there. What is however unusual is the fact that not one single word of dialogue is used throughout the book. 2000 panels over 150 odd pages. And this is where the strength of Mr Amperduke lies. The (admittedly bizarre) plot is conveyed through the artwork alone and it’s done mostly through facial expression. Please bear in mind how extraordinary a feat this is, given that were not talking about super realistic . We're talking about black and white pictures of a dog and the living Lego men he keeps in his basement. But these characters are real. They live and breathe. You care about what happens to them. And they’re expressive. So expressive, that it’s as if the story is being acted out by an army of 2d John Belushi’s.

If you could imagine a silent movie that was part Truman Show, part Godzilla, part philosophical quandary and part morality play, then you might begin to see the sort of thing I’m talking about.

Bob Byrne is carving quite a reputation for himself in the small press and independent comic’s field, and in Mister Amperduke he has delivered something really special. It’s impressive to see an Irish artist (especially one so young) pushing the envelope in such a fashion. Good luck following this one Bob.

Unpublished Reviews : The Complete Judge Dredd Case Files Volume 2 . Spent and Fairweather by Joe Matt

These are reviews submitted for the may issue of Verbal Magazine to help promote the 2d Festival. They were cut due to " lack of space" . Bastards.

To whet your appetite for June's 2d Festival, Ciaran Flanagan brings us a retrospective look at some highly recommended Graphic Novels.

2d or Not 2d…

Judge Dredd: the Complete Files Vol. 2 by John Wagner and Pat Mills (Rebellion)

The last time we checked in on Judge Dredd (Verbal issue 10) things were not going too well for him. My verdict on Vol. 1 of the series was that it was childish, poorly drawn and the characters were underdeveloped. Oh dear! Fortunately for any Dredd heads out there, volume 2 of the ongoing collection shows some moves in the right direction.

Of all the things that Vol. 2 has going for it the fact that the majority of the artwork is by Brian Bolland is top of the list. With his crisp lines and insanely detailed (sometimes MASSIVE) panels he is for my money the quintessential Dredd artist. Also on hand is David Gibbons of Watchmen fame.

This period of Dredd history featured the first of the 'Mega Epics' - huge story lines which could take up to a year to play out (no mean feat for a weekly comic). The Cursed Earth sees Dredd travel through the heartland of America. Of course, this being the future, the heartland of America is now a radioactive wasteland filled with mutants, dinosaur cults and alien slave traders. So, no real changes to speak of. Writers Pat Mills and John Wagner are obviously having a blast exposing the foibles of American culture through this madness. Although sadly, the chapter involving a thinly disguised southern fried chicken supremo and his genetic experimentations is excised for what could best be described as 'Copyright issues' and at worst as 'imminent threats of legal action'. Still, there’s plenty of satirical fun to be had, and it’s all aged very well.

So there you have it. Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Vol: 2. - showing signs of improvement. Keep up the good work.

Spent by Joe Matt (Drawn and Quarterly)

Fair Weather by Joe Matt (Drawn and Quarterly)

While he is no Harvey Pekar (American Splendour) Joe Matt is fast amassing an

impressive pedigree as far as autobiographical comics go. After his excellent first collection The Poor Bastard, Matt has followed up with these two starkly contrasting works. The comics collected in Fair Weather have been described as being 'Philip Roth for the younger set', but I think 'The Wonder Years with a spoiled bastard as the main character', would be more like it. Matt looks back on a week of his childhood through what could best be described as a set of defective, rose-tinted glasses. No real revelations or shocking life stories, just your typical nostalgia piece, but with slightly more nudity than average.

Spent on the other hand, reveals more about young Joe Matt than you would possibly ever care to know. Far more, in fact, than I could discuss in a literary magazine at any length without getting myself into serious difficulty. So I'll just say that he really likes playing with himself and leave it at that.

Both highly recommended.