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.