Thursday, 10 September 2009

Hey yo, im a pundit now.,

Reviews I don't even remember writing.

Aparently these were in an issue of Verbal. I dont rememeber writing this.

Hulk Smash!

As far as mainstream recognition of comic book characters goes the Hulk is right up there with the big guns (chiefly those who wear their pants outside their ludicrously tight tights).

So it’s something of a shame that most people remember him as either a giant, green, radioactive simpleton; jumping round the desert shouting “Hulk smash!” (as portrayed in the early comics), or as a hitchhiker in awful looking flares, walking down the road to sad piano music; alternating between thumbing a lift to the next town and turning into a giant, emerald steroid addict. Which is a pity, because the Hulkster has spent over 20 years in the hands of some of comic’s best creators, and writers like Peter David and Bruce Jones have taken what is a simple spin on Jekyll and Hyde and transformed it into a tragic, modern day Hamlet. Albeit a Hamlet who has been bombarded by Gamma Rays.
Recent events have taken an even more tragic turn as the leading superheroes on the planet have decided that the Hulk’s rampages must cease. Their solution: stick him in a rocket and send him away. Planet Hulk is an account of the Hulk’s Proustian travails on the planet Skarr, where he becomes a Gladiator, an outlaw, and eventually King. It’s a little heavy-handed to be frank, considering it is almost the Plot of the film Gladiator in reverse, however it never drags and the art and dialogue are excellent. It’s FUN, like a Hulk comic should be. Unfortunately, being who he is, it all goes belly-up for the Hulk when the planet he is king of explodes. Being who he is, the Hulk decides to raise what is left of his army and return to Earth to seek revenge on those he holds responsible (because inevitably, Hulk will smash). World War Hulk is a big, bold, ballsy crossover that encompasses the entire Marvel universe and took up nearly 150 comics. Fortunately for us it has been condensed down into one easy to digest mouthful and I’m happy to say it loses nothing in terms of storytelling.
Both these books are fine as stand-alones, but act as excellent compliments to each other. THIS is the way comics should be. Good times.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

War Journal : Masons Comedy Club 4/6/09

Me doing stupid voices.

This one was a bit crazy. The harsh financial reality of our impending Fringe trip had begun to set in and it became very obvious that we needed to make a shit load of money on this one or else we were gonna be up cack alley. As a result of this i was absolutely shitting myself for a few days before hand. The acts had all agreed to perform for free, and Masons were behind us , so i don't know what exactly it was i was worried about , i just knew i was worried. Basically we all needed a shit load of people to turn up.
When people talk about a picture being worth a thousand words they mean this picture

As it turned out we needn't have worried about it . All the acts were awesome , in particular new friend of the Concept Shane Todd, and the crowd was massive, so large in fact that i was reminded of the days when DR Page would stand behind the curtian and ask " who are you people ?" over and over again. Our set went quite well, although I felt there was an awful lot me doing stupid voices. There were a couple of sketches that i felt flat out did not work ( propaganda) , but overall the set goes well. Sorcha stole the show with her monologue. FUCKING BITCH. Post show activities inclue the usual drunken madness , with the strabane contingent in particular doing themselcves proud. A good time was had by most.

Two more satisfied customers seeking shelter neath the Freebirds wing

Saturday, 20 June 2009

War Journal . 12/06/09 Fibar Magees Ballyshannon

So as it turned out, Leckys' mate Christian ( a fine man) , had taken over running what could be best described as a caberet style club in the mighty city of Ballyshannon and thinks we might be the right type of act . Therefore The Concept ( as the kids call us) were Donegal bound for the first time. There was a great deal of concern going into this , that some of our material might be considered a little.......inappropriate for such a place . We therefore were compelled to remove all the blasphemy(boooo) and blatant excuses for bad words ( double boooo) from our set list. Fortunately for us hard ons and general bad taste are all right in Tir Connal , so we still had a rather cheeky set list.
Our hosts for the evening was Eavan King ( Ballyshanon resident, comedy promoter par excellence , and our Brian Epstein) and her lovely mum Mary , who made us feel right at home ( which they will come to regret I'm sure. A little nervous before this one, being that it was a new audience , and also the first gig we've done without Sorcha ( which felt like working with a missing limb). Always interesting to watch everyones pre show rituals. Pete seems compulsively to organise and reorganise things over and over , often it seems to me on details that are ultimately inconsequential. Lecky retreats into himself, going over lines and bits and accents in his own head ( as i imagine a real actor would). Me ? I get pissed up and schmooze with whoever is available.
The venue is great , sadly the crowd is small ( but appreciative ). It seems most stuff is well received, Philomena goes over great ( bah!!!) , and Pete steals the show with his Emu bit. The bastard. Post show we get pissed up and have a great time , i get some good advice from Maura, and a lesson in knowing my rights from Christian and his lovely partner Catalina ( who tells me at length about how she does not really drink, but has a full bottle of wine while telling me this). We return to Ches King were our requests to go and investigate the nearby hydro electric plant fall on deaf ears , and we instead drink more. Ireland's' Oldest Bridge!!!!!

The next day is just brilliant as we visit Ireland's' oldest fridge( sorry, bridge), have fun on the beach , and i renew my attack on all the birds of the world, starting with the majestic swan.


Anyway long story short it was a great show that hardly any fucker saw. We had a great time and a great night, got some good feedback, and had a much needed day of fun after all the recent stresses infighting and general bullshit. Made me feel confident and energised for upcoming gigs and hardships.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Unread Book Review :3 Kings By Ralph Reigl

Kind of ashamed of this one. Myself and dr page reviewed it without reading it. Still. Its Funny i think .

Three Kings

Ralph Riegel’s

Books by journalists carry one major health warning. Sometimes, they amount to little more than a series of columns linked together by a hastily written narrative. Absent is the sense of perspective that time provides and present is all the minutiae; alternating between tedious and lurid. Sports and Crime writers are particularly guilty. Ralph Riegel’s previous effort, an (admittedly excellent) account of the disappearance of Robert Holohan and the subsequent trial of Wayne O'Donoghue, was such a read. So now naturally he turns to sport; ‘three kings’ his account of the age old hurling rivalry between Cork, Kilkenny, and Tipperary. Gripping stuff, you might think… Sadly you would be wrong, as generating even a smidgen of interest in such a topic is a Sisyphean task which the author is just not up to. Maybe it’s just me but isn’t t the age old battle for supremacy described here of so little interest, to anyone outside those three Counties, that you might as well be describing the all Ireland Tidily Winks championship. And Hurling? Get to Fuck!!!

All told; if you know anything about the sport (and God knows, ‘True’ Sports fans are nothing if not anal) you will learn nothing new, and if you don’t know the sport you probably won’t want to read this anyway

And Hurling? Seriously: Get to Fuck!!!

I give Three Kings Three Stars. Out of 17

Graphic Novel Review: My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down

My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down

David Heatley

Jonathan Cape

I wish people would stop sending me autobiographical comics to review. It’s not that I don’t appreciate them. I do. Its not that I don’t read them. I really do. It’s just that the type of person who sees fit to do such a thing is typically going to write a head frying work of staggering oddness. Why can’t they be more straight forward like super hero comics? Why don’t you send me super hero comics? Call me old fashioned but isn’t the simple story of man with a magic ring being made a space cop by an army of blue midgets from the planet Oa ,much easier to deal with than the day to day life of some poor schlob and his hang ups?

Speaking of which, young David Heatley has some ......intriuging, things to say in My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down. The feel of the art makes it seem almost like a modern day Peanuts but I can assure you, Charlie Brown and Snoopy Never got mixed up in anything like this. He tells his life story, but does it in part by giving an account of every sexual experience he has ever had. EVERY SINGLE ONE. IN GRAPHIC DETAIL. Quite why he felt the need to do this I can not comprehend, but it’s strangely compelling, and there is an almost child like innocence to it. Possibly because, you know, its cartoon figures in explicit sexual situations. A second section gives an account of every black person he has ever met. He has some interesting things to say about race relations, and this section is handily interspersed with his notes on Hip Hop culture giving it the feel of a visual De La Soul album.

The rest of the book deals with his relationship with his parents. Race, sex, and his parents? I would say it sounds like someone in need of therapy. But of course there are whole sections devoted to his therapy. I have no idea who the target audience of this book is supposed to be. I liked it. Many people I showed it to thought it was either disgusting or racist. Heatley is clearly a complex individual and the ups and downs of his life are funny, disturbing, thought provoking, sad, and insightful

The ideal gift for the pervert or gangsta rapper in your life.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Fringe Festival Artwork

Check this shit out: The artwork for our Edinburgh Fringe Festival flyers : in a word , awesome. Love The Concept play the Gilded Balloon 6.15pm aucgust 6th - 31st . Be there mother fuckers.

Also many thanks to the Evil Galactic Empire and the troopers of the Emerald Batallion for endorsing the Concept. Word. So there you have it: LTC the choice of galactic despots all over the universe.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Review : An Essential Guide To Music in the 1970’s

An Essential Guide To Music in the 1970’s

Johnny Zero (if that is his real name!) has struck just the right balance here between cold hard statistics and commentary on the sights and sounds (well sounds anyway) of what was to my mind, largely a wretched decade for both fashion and music.

Top ten singles and charts for every week of the decade, appear alongside songs of the month, albums of the year, notable sporting events and a whole lot more. You may be inclined to think that such a book sounds like the work of a tedious pub bore. Well as one such bore, I say that this is one reference book that will be gracing my bathroom for many moons. First rate. Eighties next please?

Ciaran Flanagan

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Comics reviews: Unpublished

It were all different with comics when I were a lad let me tell you! It used to be the case that comics were just a bunch of funny pictures with people doing stuff and nothing more. A momentary distraction on a fine spring day before you went out to chase a ball around a field with thirty of your mates for four hours. They didn’t have a message or a point; they were just something you had. Like measles. All right, fair enough there might have been a message or two in the odd issue of Spiderman (chiefly, don’t be a criminal or have 6 foot long robotic arms protruding out of your back), and The Bash Street Kids was in my opinion an almost prophetic vision of the Asbo Culture that we live in today, but in the main just simple harmless fun.

But those days are long gone. The rise of the Graphic Novel as a format has brought a new generation of comics that aren’t aimed at kids and with it a whole new knowledgeable world wise, intellectual Guardian reading audience. How has this worked out? Mixed results I’m afraid.

Jamilti and Other Stories (Hardcover)

By Rutu Modan (Author)

Israeli born Rutu Modan made quite a splash with her first full length graphic Novel the suberb.Exit Wounds. The story of the relationship between an Israeli soldier and a Tel Aviv cab driver received critical acclaim and won the 2008 Eisner Award for Best New Graphic Novel .So her latest effort Jamilti & Other Stories an anthology style short story collection has a lot to live up to and I’m sad to say it falls way short. The seven pieces collected here are all over the place content wise. Some of the stories do have charm and one or two are quite readable but the differences between the various strips are so disparate that there is no real link. Just a bunch of stuff. And if it were supposed to be just a bunch of stuff that would be fine. But the whole book practically screams “Look at me. Look at how worthy I am. I am sooooooo poignant. I have much to teach the world about relationships and family. And Israel. ” Exit wounds had at is core a cohesive narrative and I feel that is something sorely lacking here. It all feels just thrown together.

I’m not saying there isn’t an audience for this type of thing because I can see them now, reading the book whilst stroking their chin and saying “yes, I understand. The world is a complex place, mmmmm, Christine pass me the houmous.” But from a strictly populist viewpoint this collection equals no buys. If I were a fair man I would say the strips were written over a period of nearly ten years so the difference in quality and content can be attributed to Modan developing her style over the years. But I’m not a fair man so I won’t. I will say however that the art is never anything short of superb ( strangely putting me in mind of late period Max Fleischer or Robert Crumbs more cohesive moments) .The strip entitled Homecoming in particular is a real stand out . But in the main I can’t recommend this. Read Exit Wounds instead.

The Burma Chronicles (Hardcover)

by Guy Delisle (Author)

Burma Chronicles is at the very least a novel idea. How do you best report on a year spent living in a strict military dictatorship with an appalling human rights record who use concealment and isolation as social control , where rumor is often times the most reliable source of information because ( literal ) scissor wielding censors monitor the newspapers ? Simple you write a comic about it. Which is exactly what Guy Delisle has done. A sort of graphic travelogue if you would. And it works perfectly. Delisle’s informal humorous style is perfect in a “confused outsider learns a counties foibles “type scenario. The artwork is stark minimalist and cartoonish which leads to a very strange feeling when reading. As if it was a Peanuts cartoon about life in North Korea (and having now just checked the press release I see that that is, in fact the topic of one of his previous books. whoops.) I can safely say I walked away from this with a wealth of knowledge about Burma’s people, lifestyle, culture and customs, a country that I had barely heard about before I started reading. Job well done on all counts

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The films of Alan Moore

Alan Moore has a hate/hate relationship with Hollywood, so much so that he will not take payment from or watch any film based on his work .It doesn’t help that the films in question tend to be total cobblers. What are the chances of Watchmen bucking the trend? Not good by the looks of previous efforts……..

From Hell: Moore’s complex look at the character and psychology of the city of London, as told through the story of Jack the Ripper became, in the words of comedian Stewart Lee “A thing about a man who kills some women”.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: In 1999 Moore and artist Kevin O Neil made a bold attempt to merge all works of fiction into a single cohesive narrative, which actually worked within the context of the strip. Filmmaker Stephen Norrington added a sexy vampire and Tom Sawyer driving a bat mobile. Nice.

Constantine: The comics’ version of John Constantine (aka Hellblazer) was an embittered, alcoholic, cynical, chain smoking British, Noir style occult detective with no morals and a very dim view of human nature. The film version was Keanu Reeves.

V For Vendetta: The problem: America was always going to have a problem with the “Terrorist super Hero” introduced in Moore’s limited series. The solution: let’s change the main character from a ruthless anarchist to a romantic freedom fighter. Oh, and add an unconvincing love story and bobbins script while were at it.

Unpublished feature: Watchmen

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Super hero and comic book movies have always been big business. Ever since Richard Donners Superman made us believe a man could fly in 1977 there has been a seemingly endless stream of films of varying quality , form the brilliant ( A History Of Violence , Road To Perdition,) to the banal (Batman and Robin being a memorable disaster). 2008 seemed to be something of a pinnacle in terms of box office success and quality of content what with the success lat year of the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight. Anyone who went to the cinema to see the latter will have seen a trailer for another seemingly run of the mill super hero film called Watchmen. Most people who saw this trailer probably thought “Oh, what’s that? That looks like a good film. I may go and see that. When it comes out. In 2009. Probably” and then went on with their lives. But a select group of people (of which I am a member), probably came very close to wetting themselves at the prospect of this project coming to fruition. Comic fans have known since day one that Watchmen is something special.
Imagine your favourite book, song, and movie all combined into a single package: That’s Watchmen. The type of thing that you finish reading and immediately after the shock has worn off you wish you’d never read it so you can read it again. And then you read it again anyway. It’s that good. The term “greatest” is thrown around these days as if it was so much confetti, but take it from me, Watchmen is the greatest comic book ever. And I know that is a compliment roughly akin to being described as the best dressed man in Ballymena, but it really is something else. It punches above its weight breaking out from
the confines of a ‘kids’ medium and making it onto Time magazines list of the top 100 novels of the Twentieth century. With the imminent release of the movie (recent legal issues not withstanding,) it seems like as good a time as any to take a look at this seminal work, and the wizard (literally) that produced it.

Northampton born Alan Moore had made a name for himself on the British comics’ circuit writing for titles such as Doctor Who, Captain Britain and 2000AD. His work on the latter had garnered him several UK based comics awards (voted for by, in Moore’s words, “50 people in anoraks with awful social lives”), which caught the eye of US comics giant DC who offered him the opportunity to write their (failing) Swamp Thing title. Rising to the challenge Moore somehow managed to take a book in which the protagonist was a walking compost heap from selling 15,000 copies to selling more than 100,000 copies.
DC rewarded this success by giving Moore a line of super hero characters from the recently acquired Charlton Comics that he could revamp as he saw fit. Moore felt that if he started the series off with the death of a major character that was well known to the reader then it would let them know they were reading something outside of the norm of the time. Eventually the rights to the Charlton characters were lost, but Moore carried on with characters that he made up himself reasoning that “If I wrote the substitute characters well enough, so that they seemed familiar in certain ways, certain aspects of them brought back a kind of generic super-hero resonance or familiarity to the reader, then it might work”. Taking the premise: what would happen if super heroes existed in the real( or at the very least a more realistic) world, Watchmen along with Frank Millers’ The Dark Knight Returns ushered in the era of grim and gritty comics that led to the creation of Tim Burtons Batman franchise, and changed the way comics were written forever.

Set in an alternate version of 1985 in which Richard Nixon remains president, the cold war continues, and the United States and Soviet Union stand on the brink of nuclear war, Watchmen opens with the discovery of the Murder of Edward Blake aka The Comedian one of only two costumed crime fighters remaining in the governments good graces after vigilante activity has been outlawed. Rorschach a borderline sociopath and the only costume to operate outside the law starts an investigation into what he believes is a series of ‘ Cape Killings’ – someone murdering former costumed heroes. He launches an investigation contacting all former crime fighters including the paunchy down trodden Nite Owl, the self professed smartest man on the planet Ozymandias, and the super powered Doctor Manhattan, (the only genuine super being), who is becoming increasingly removed from his humanity. What follows is less of a super hero murder mystery and more of a journey through comics as a medium, as Moore pays tribute to comics’ history at the same times he is deconstructing and exposing the weakness’ of the super hero genre. With no super villains acting as antagonists the crux of he story became both the socio economic implications that the presence of a genuine super human would have on the world, and the (largely sexual) motivations that such individuals would have for their activities. Being that it was written in the mid eighties the tone is rather stark and grim, a commentary on the American psyche as it was during the Reganomics / cold war period. To say that the outcome of the narrative unexpected and shocking is something of an understatement ,in fact if I told you how the book ends you would dismiss it as the ravings of a deluded madman.

Moore choose David Gibbons as not only the artist for the piece but also co-creator, and often times copy editor, dealing with the several hundred pages of handwritten script and notes that Moore provided in a piecemeal fashion. A three or four page description of a single panel would often end with the note”If this doesn’t work for you just do what works best”. Gibbons insisted on a nine panel page layout which allowed him an element of pacing and visual control that he could predict and use to dramatic effect. After more than twenty years it is easy to forget that for all its success as a collected edition it was never meant to be read in that fashion, rather it was intended as a monthly serial piece allowing for suspense and cliff-hangers in the same way that contemporary dramas such as Lost and 24 do. Additionally Gibbons was able to use the comics medium to his advantage by adding a level of detail which was second to none, so in depth that even Moore himself is noticing new touches today some twenty years after its initial publication .In essence Watchmen was the first work to exploit the medium to tell a tale that could be engineered only in comics. Chapter 5: Fearful Symmetry stands out in particular for it experimental style, as Gibbons laid it out in a symmetrical fashion: the first page mirrored the last in terms of layout, with the centre page spread being completely symmetrical. It’s the small touches like this that you don’t really notice until the sixth or seventh read through.

The flow of the narrative is broken up by a comic-within- a –comic Tales of the Black Freighter, a pirate adventure book. The creators reasoned that a society that had actual super heroes would not be interested in reading their comic book exploits, and would instead enjoy other genres such as horror , detective romance etc . The rich and dark imagery in the swash buckling tale made for an effective counterpoint to the contemporary setting. Each issue also included supplementary material designed to give a richer insight into the world of the Watchmen. These included psychological profiles, magazine articles, and an autobiography of a retired crime fighter. The book would loose nothing if these were taken away. Theyre just nice touces designed to reward the careful reader .Eventually, as work on Watchmen progressed the strip took on a life of its own and strange synchronicities started to pop up unintentionally. The monthly publication of the title was fraught with delays, but it mattered little. The book was a massive commercial and critical success. DC rushed to release cash in merchandise. It remains in print till this day, and its influence is felt not only in the work of comic writers such as Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis, but in many other facets of Pop culture including the Acid House movement (The iconic smiley face image used on a hit Bomb The Bass single), and a recent appearance in The Simpson’s.

Things did not end happily between Moore and DC Comics, as in 1990 he refused to work with them any longer due in part to their treatment of him in the wake of Watchmen’s success . In fact Moore largely moved outside the mainstream preferring to approach work on his own terms. He continues to thrive however on the fringe of the industry, where he remains one of the most respected figures in modern comics. He does not however have high hopes for the forthcoming movie of his most famous work stating “There are things that we did with Watchmen that could only work in a comic, and were indeed designed to show off things that other media can't”. I for one hope that he’s wrong about that.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Verbal Magazine Reviews : Dungeon Of Death By Scott Keith

Dungeon of Death: Chris Benoit and the Hart Family Curse.

Scott Keith
Citadel Press Books.

On June 24th 2007 the pseudo sport/ panto of professional wrestling experienced what would become its most famous mainstream moment as the man known as the “Canadian Crippler “ Chris Benoit suffocated his wife and son, and then took his own life in a similarly grizzly fashion. In the aftermath of this tragedy well known internet commentator and author Scott Keith has taken a long hard look at the reasons behind the bizarre murder suicide and made some fairly frightening discoveries about the lifestyles, attitudes and ( shorter than you would imagine) life expectancies of the men and women involved in the carnival world.
The findings of these essay are nothing new to hardcore wrestling fans, but to the average punter the figures (between 50 and 100 wrestlers under the age of 40 have died as a direct result of wrestling and the drug culture associated with it), will come as quite a shock as will the risks and sacrifices these alleged “kids entertainers” have to go through to achieve success in their chosen field. Author Scott Keith has laid out the pertinent stories in a compact and easy to read fashion, that at the very least makes sure that the difficult to digest horror stories contained within are dished out in bite sized chunks .It all seems a far cry from the make believe world of Hulk Hogan, Big Daddy and the Rock. Recommended.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

It's about fucking time.......

I've been waiting nearly 25 years for a decent set of Ghostbusters figures to be released . Then today while browsing the excellent coverage of the NYC Comiccon is see these beuts.

Absolute crackers. I feel I may weep. A slight improvement over ..........

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Nice to see i'm not alone.

An ok song, but with the greatest message that any song ever has had ever all time all my life

Charlie Brooker is right about everything!!!!!!