Saturday, 30 June 2012

How Not To Get Ahead In Game Journalism

At the risk of being accused of White Knight Syndrome, let's discuss what happened today. A game journalist named Ryan Perez from took to Twitter and I guess decided to bait the bear a bit by poking fun at geek icon Felicia Day. What began as a random musing 'out loud' as it were -
Escalated when Perez decided to address Day personally on the social media site -
Rude, certainly. Still perhaps he was leading to a point. The nature of celebrity in online culture, the true value of the 'geek dollar'. Or again whether a creator like Day who took her acting career in a whole new direction by creating The Guild, inspired by her addiction to World of Warcraft and earning her a much larger fanbase than, say Buffy or Bring It On fanatics, is exploiting this niche interest in gaming. No?
Felicia Day Paste Magazine
Source -
 Now while Perez is still phrasing these points as questions, I imagine claiming they are defensible as fair comment, with this third ejaculation he has moved from devil's advocate posturing to offensive screed. Here's how it breaks down. He questions Day's worth as a creator and a person by implying she has no talent beyond her attractive personality. He then compares her to booth babes, those models hired to catch the eye of male convention-goers to whatever tat the vendor has on offer. In effect, he is accusing Day of only becoming famous because she made herself sexually available to male gamers. 

This is both tiresome - because we've been here many times before - and idiotic. Perez makes these proclamations from his personal account, but identifies Destructoid as his employer, so now they're in the firing line. The site's own response has been to announce that the chap's services are no longer required, after apologising to Day.

There is a simple enough lesson in this. Good writing can come from personal feeling and impassioned argument, yes. Not every journalist is expected to be entirely objective when commenting on events and trends - they each and every one are speaking from their own experience. However, to make ad hominem attacks on anyone, public figure or no, on the basis of race, sex or creed is....bad for business! Folks this is not political correctness run amok here, this is just common sense. All publicity is not good publicity. There is something worse than not being talked about at all

If you read Perez's articles, see his recent piece on Skyrim for example, it starts off well enough ('gee it would be nice to have greater diversity in cultural source material for fantasy games') then goes off the reservation arguing that all European fantasy tropes are banal. That is just another sweeping generalization without foundation in structured argument. It's a rant.

Look it is sad that this fellow lost his writing gig. I am sure it meant a lot to him, as it does to all of us online folks who spend our days thinking up what to write about our various passions and interests. The problem is the internet is not just Speaker's Corner - especially not on an industry website. There is such a thing as a professional manner with regard to games, comics and movies - yes we all have strong feelings on these topics, but it is our responsibility to express those opinions in a manner that is communicable to others. What Perez did was an interesting example of how this entitled view of the entertainment industry is actually hurtful to proper conversations on these issues. 

We can be better than this.


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The Momus Report Podcast - The Almighty Johnsons

In this week's episode Emmet and Carol discuss New Zealand fantasy drama series - with a sidedish of comedy - The Almighty Johnsons.

Fittingly as it is a show about male and female gods acting out a cosmic battle of the sexes in modern-day Auckland....the two podcasters fundamentally disagree on the quality of the show. Have a listen and let us know you think think on Twitter - @emmetoc_ and @irishhatgirl


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Awesome Australian Comics - The Finale

This weekend Oz Comic Con has landed in Melbourne. I wish I could be there, but sadly I am conventioned out. So if you do happen to be in town, drop down to The Convention Centre and say hi to the folks there.

As it happens my original idea to do a series on Australian creators took a quantum leap forward when I spoke to Christian Read, one of the creators reviewed here today. One of the talented crew from Gestalt - more of whom can be seen here - when I spoke to him at Supanova he thanked me for a preview I did of his new digital comic series Unmasked. I was taken aback by learning that comic review sites that promote Australian titles are few and far between. So then and there I decided to use Momus as a platform to do just that. I am also happy to announce that the Geek of Oz and myself are planning a series of podcasts on Aussie creators. Stick around folks, it's about to get interesting.

Beginnings by the ACT Comic Meet - Editor Emma-Jean Stewart's promoting of the Beginnings anthology using social media (see also their Facebook page and crowdsourcing project) has been a great example to aspiring creators. The book has been a steadily increasing blip on my radar for months now - also Sarah over at Essieteric has been singing its praises to me as well - so I am happy to finally have a copy of it in my hands. Emma asked if I would give an honest appraisal of all the contributors in the anthology. I promise to run a dedicated feature on the anthology later, as for this piece I am choosing a small selection of pieces from the collection.

Beginnings showcases the talents of its featured creators by either giving them the opportunity to present the first-part of an ongoing storyline as a teaser; an illustration of different kinds of 'beginning' from the birth of a child, to the creation of the universe, to musings on how life is defined by our start in this world (Fate by Alice Farquharson); as well as entries describing how the opportunity to create comics has started a new chapter (Addicted to Derby by Eleri Mai Harris). As an artistic showcase Beginnings is quite successful. I really want to see more from Shane W. Smith for example, as his story Parlour Tricks feels like the beginning of an interesting fantasy epic. Two young lovers are separated by a conniving and cynical court mage, but by the conclusion the typical gender roles of a romantic knight's quest have been reversed. Jason Franks and Luke Pickett's The Renewalist is actually their second collaboration on the character - their first remains unpublished. At first I thought this was Franks riffing on Kafka's The Castle, given that the 'land surveyor' character (well he is described here as a contracted government engineer) is asked to resolve an impossible task. Involving talking walruses. The story neatly turned that expectation on its head though. I want more Renewalist! Darren Close the founder of Oz Comics serves up an origin for his popular character Killeroo, with a little help from Ryan Wilton and Stewart Cook. I also enjoyed Katie Ryan's Feather Whisker, which takes the popular trope of walking and talking animals and serves up a dialogue free story set in a Sydney populated by such creatures - aside from their various bestial squawks, screeches and such. It is a warm and witty fable, with its young feline characters out of place in a suburban school full of bird-students. The use of different animal forms as a metaphor for a newcomers outsider status is handled well and the final page is quite sweet. There is plenty more to enjoy in this book. I'll return to Beginnings in the next few weeks for a proper write-up.

Beginnings Anthology ACT Comic Meet Cover by Jon Sommariva
Cover by Jon Sommariva

The Eldritch Kid: Whisky & Hate by Christian Read and Michael Maier - Here is the sentence that made me fall in love with this book. "England's getting invaded by Elves and Wyrms, India has bizarre flying machines, news out of Tibet is...terrifying." The Weird Western is a difficult genre to get right - I would generally only trust the likes of Garth Ennis or Joe R. Lansdale on name recognition alone anyway - which is why Read's line indicating that supernatural forces have been loosed globally sometime in the mid-1800s pleases me. Eldritch Kid is not limiting itself to a narrow plot involving isolated settlers fighting ghost Indians, or a vampire sheriff - its ambitions are far greater. Demons, gods, ghosts and ghouls crowd the panels of this miniseries, with anti-heroes Ten Shoes an outcast from his tribe following his time in England and the legendary 'Kid, themselves straddling that dividing line between man and monster.

Whisky & Hate, which we learn is an offhand explanation from the Kid for how he is capable of slaughtering opponents with impunity, reveals how the two first met. Ten Shoes is acting as a guide for the close-minded Gunderson Party, whose bigotry towards him - addressing him as 'savage' or 'heathen' - takes on an additional degree of ignorance when despite the world having become infested with supernatural "oogie boogies" they remain oblivious to the threats they face on the plain. Their guide is forced to resort to speaking in 'Injun' pidgin English for them to understand him. The character's worldliness and educated manner is reminiscent of Nobody in Jim Jarmusch's excellent Dead Man, who assumes the character of William Blake played by Johnny Depp is the visionary poet of the same name, and not the pathetic accountant everyone else sees. When he returns to the Gundersons with 'The Eldritch Kid' following their adventure fighting revenants on the Mesa, insult is added to injury by the settlers worshiping the stoic gunfighter, deferring to him over their thoughtful. guide. It is a fine joke, bringing to the fore a hint of revisionism with regard to the Western romanticizing of manifest destiny. The Kid himself has reasons of his own for staying with Ten Shoes, and as the story progresses, we learn more  about the fateful night that led to him becoming the man he is. Not to mention why he wears tinted spectacles. This is imaginative, ghoulish and surprisingly humourous, with wonderful sepia-tinted art from Michael Maier. If you were to splice Dylan Dog into Blood Meridian perhaps the result would match the ambition on display here. Easily one of my favourite titles of recent years. 

The Eldritch Kid Whisky & Hate Christian Read Gestalt Comics Michael Maier

Selected Studies - Illustrations by Rhys James - I am sorry to say I missed Rhys James at Supanova. He was an artist I was urged in particular to seek out on the day and while I did see him later on the floor, he was being a punter and speaking to other creators, so I didn't want to bother him. Still on the basis of this work it is easy to see why he is held in high regard by other Australian creators. 

This volume of fine art marks a new direction in James' progression as a draughtsman. What I admire most about his work - and you could say this is the concept which underpins everything I am trying to do with The Momus Report itself - is how he mixes his portraits of classic Hollywood figures such as Audrey Hepburn, with popular sf and fantasy characters from contemporary movies and television. The juxtapositioning on the page of Hepburn and Sean Young's glacial poise from Blade Runner is wonderfully done. This is what interests me, the abolition of arbitrary distinctions between so-called 'high' and 'low' art. If a work has appeal, shows skill and commitment, I see no reason why it should be relegated as something lesser due to its medium or genre. Perhaps James agrees with me, I do not know, but if you visit his site here you can see other examples of his efforts, including profiles taken from The Walking Dead or Battlestar Galactica, alongside Grace Kelly and Judy Garland. I am reminded of film critic David Thomson bemoaning Tarantino's ongoing fascination with 'trash cinema'. Why hasn't he produced a more mature work, came the cry, not realizing that the director is maturing a theme in his film-making, attempting to express the appeal to him of the Shaw Brothers movies or exploitation cinema, refining it into a form modern audiences can comprehend. With James I believe we are witnessing an artist challenging similar assumptions and it is exciting to see what he'll do next. 

Selected Studies Rhys James

Torn by Andrew Constant and Joh James - Torn is another Gestalt Comics book that comes with lashings of gore as appropriate to its supernatural horror premise, but also a neat inversion on the werewolf myth. Opening with an 'origin' of our nameless hero featuring art from the amazing Nicola Scott (and you can purchase some of her work from Royd Burgoyne's online shop here), Constant's inspired notion is to have a wolf transformed into a man following an attack from a 'monstrous' human. With his family dead and his own body unfamiliar to him, the wildman with a notable scar along his eye finds himself lost in an urban city. The law of the wild is present here too, the strong prey on the weak, and his rescue of a young woman sets up the central relationship of the story. 

What I love most about Torn is its use of language. The longer he wears the shape of a man, the more words our protagonist begins to speak, parroting overheard conversation. One recurring phrase is 'finger lickin' good' - which I assume is a reference to Bill Paxton's improvised line in the cult vampire flick Near Dark - a callback to the psychopath who murdered the wolf family in the story's beginning. Others begin to express themselves monosyllabically as well in keeping with the wolf's limited vocabulary. Actions speak louder than words in this urban jungle and so the more verbose characters are marked out as soon-to-be-killed. There's a lot going on under the hood in this book and I was surprised with how much it stayed with me afterwards. Like The Crow its spareness allows it to express dark emotions and there is a sense of barely restrained rage bubbling away on every page.

Torn Andrew Constant Nicola Scott

Zombie Cities by Sorab Del Rio & Various - I love zombie films. Love 'em. My favourite is either the original Night of the Living Dead by George Romero, or Michele Soavi's Dellamorte Dellamore. However, the recent popularity of zombie films and books and comics, has just become exhausting, so it takes something special to keep me interested these days. Max Brooks managed it - World War Z was an excellent take on zombies that refreshed the concept by introducing an element of verisimilitude through his research of witness testimonies relating to wartime conflict. Silver Fox Comics is the brainchild of Sorab Del Rio, who has authored all of the stories contained in this collection. The approach of Zombie Cities is to parody national stereotypes from around the world and introduce the undead into the mix. It's a neat concept for a book with a few laugh-out-loud moments. 

Once again Barack Obama has appeared in a comic - he must be the most depicted American president in the sequential medium since Abraham Lincoln cuckolded Dr Strange - which just shows how profitable it is to be a president who pays lip-service to being a fan of all things geeky. Yes We Can...Kill Zombies with art by Netho Diaz and Mano Araujo trades in some satirical jabs at the American political circuit, where Obama earns kudos from the public when he is filmed shooting zombies. There is something delightfully sick about a political leader earning voter capital by spinning the zombie apocalypse to his advantage. God Save The Queen, featuring Mauro Barbieri on pencils, has Buckingham Palace go to extreme lengths to disguise an unusual affliction being suffered by the monarch. I will shake Del Rio's hand next time I see him for his introduction of zombie Corgis (well Blade 3 already gave us vampire Pomeranians, so I guess this is progress). Meanwhile the opening outbreak in Sydney reveals the citizens of my adopted city to be youtube obsessed fame-chasers who will go zombie-hunting to score some online popularity. The highlight of this particular chapter for me was a group of teens debating why characters in horror flicks die if they have sex, only to have that particular theory put to the immediate test. Bit like Lamberto Bava's Demons, which is probably why I liked the exchange so much. Blood At Bondi features the intimidatingly good Paul Abstruse on art duties and out of the collection, is the story I would most like to see an ongoing from. Once again Del Rio's satirical humour is much in evidence, but the strokes are not as broad and the laughs easier. If I Can Kill 'Em Here, I Can Kill 'Em Anywhere however was my pick of the bunch, a savage indictment of New York's famous dog eat dog culture. A zero tolerance policy on zombies leads to a rags to riches tale with a startling difference. At its best Zombie Cities pokes fun at the worst tropes of horror films - characters doing stupid things for no good reason aside from ensuring a high body count - that it manages to do this without feeling forced in its comedy is one of the book's chief strengths. With gore, guts, great art, including some startling covers from Martin Szabo, this book is a little Aussie battler that can. 

Zombie Cities Sorab Del Rio Martin Szabo

And that's it folks! Hope you enjoyed this series. Just remember to support local talent and a greater variety of content in comics. All the best.


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Friday, 29 June 2012

The Tontine Link-A-Lot #8

Ok let the linkage begin. First though, I've been chuffed with the responses to my Aussie Comics pieces. Final one is due this weekend - and then a new phase in Momus comics coverage begins. As I was saying though, the response has been great and I want to say a particular thanks to Paul Caggegi creator of Pandeia for featuring me in his podcast, which you can listen to here.

Then I spotted some new readers arriving on Momus from an unexpected source - The Australian Comics Journal! Cheers to Matt Emery for the shout out.

Moving on....

So I've been playing a lot of Skyrim the past week. I had not touched the game disc in a couple of months, then revisited Tamriel with my Orc warrior/mage and noticed just how many locations I have already discovered. I think I am only a third into the game's main narrative! This has led me to start working on a new article about the time demands of modern gaming, which should be up on the site sometime this week. Of course there is another reason why Skyrim is being discussed again - Dawnguard!

Vampires! Now vampires are not new to the Elder Scrolls universe - although I used to find it more of a nuisance than an interesting gameplay choice. Becoming a vampire tended to happen after fighting some oddly aggressive thugs and then afterwards a message would appear on the screen informing the player they had contracted vampirism. Thankfully Dawnguard's vampire conspiracy is certainly an improvement over fantasy world herpes...Now I just need to wait for it to get to the PS3. 

My mate John Iwasz from For Zombies has made a film - I recommend you check it out and vote for it to win Blobfest 2012! A whole festival dedicated to that classic horror film, featuring the most unlikely teenager protagonist in cinema history Steve McQueen? I want to go to there.

Alan Moore is making a movie! Pajiba has the story. That reminds me, I need to review Steve Aylett's Lint, which also happens to feature the Northampton Magus. Also League of Extraordinary Gentleman this week was bloody brilliant.

Ed Brubaker gave an excellent interview to Tom Spurgeon over on The Comics Reporter. He addresses the prevalent feeling of disappointment with DC's decision to make Before Watchmen and I think really hits the nail on the head with the egregiousness of its creator-rights baiting. Well worth a read. 

Speaking of which Chris Roberson's MonkeyBrain Comics are coming soon! Brubaker and Roberson are talented folks deserving of your cash with their original works. Get buying. 

Ok - this is just amazing. Anybody want a peanut?

Last year we had the sad news that the Brigadier himself Nicholas Courtney had passed away. Then there was the shock of Elizabeth Sladen in April 2011. In the past week Doctor Who fans lost another Companion Caroline John, the actress who played Elizabeth Shaw. As a whole new generation of fans are only now discovering these early adventures of the Doctor given the recent surge of popularity of the show, it is particularly tragic that these younger Whovians are only now discovering the excellent work of Courtney, Sladen and John.

You were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

That's it for this week everyone, thanks for reading. 


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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

RIP Nora Ephron

I recall a story William Goldman once told about adapting the experiences of Woodward and Bernstein into the screenplay for All the President’s Men. Goldman worked with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, but it was the latter who was particularly eager to use this opportunity to reinvent himself for the silver screen. Apparently he made a list of suggestions, including various fictional misadventures with himself and a bevy of young women. It is curious to wonder what All the President’s Men would have been like as a sex farce. 

What makes the anecdote particularly memorable is how Goldman described Bernstein’s then-wife Nora being an eager participant in this reinvention of her husband as the would-be Casanova of the Washington Post. It is easy to see that the gift for exploding the events of her own life into a fictionalised narrative were already present. Of course Bernstein was also famously the basis of the philandering central character of Heartburn, this time played by Jack Nicholson instead of the nebbishy Dustin Hoffman, and a much less fun-filled romp than what Ephron had assembled for her ex-husband before.

Throughout Ephron’s career writing for film and television, she showed a remarkable ability to  realize relationships on screen that were drawn from what felt like lived experience. When Harry Met Sally for example was prefigured by a good decade by Woody Allen’s musings on relationships, but was absent his existential pretensions and was therefore more relatable for audiences. Even Ephron’s recent work Julie & Julia manages to present a convincing period drama – the most successful aspect of the film are the Meryl Streep sequences – that is still rooted in the present day. The suggestion is that Ephron was a writer who wanted her work to be as relatable as possible.

On June 26 2012 Nora Ephron passed away. She was undoubtedly one of the most successful public women behind the camera in film, a writer whose voice defined romantic comedies and ‘chick flick’ dramas for at least two decades. She is survived by her husband Nicholas Pileggi and sons Jacob and Max.


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Monday, 25 June 2012

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I do not tell lies. Mother used to say that this was because I was a good person. But it is not because I am a good person. It is because I can't tell lies.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time opens with exactly that. A young boy Christopher Boone is found clutching the body of a neighbour's dog who has been stabbed to death with a garden fork. The dead dog's owner, Mrs Shears, calls the police and Christopher is given a caution down at the station for striking an officer who came to the scene. He insists that he merely found the dog already dead, but also states calmly that he hit the policeman because he does not like to be touched.
As it happens Christopher has lived for all of his fifteen years suffering from an unusual behavioural condition, similar to autism but never explicitly identified as such. He lives by a set of strict rules that hold a certain logical consistency, from his perspective, such as a complete inability to tell lies and a hatred of the colour yellow. He attends a school for 'special needs' children like himself, a euphemism he resents as it carries with it as much derision as insults like 'spaz', or 'mong'.

Christopher decides that he will invesigate the murder of his neighbour's dog Wellington and despite his father's protests begins interviewing a list of possible suspects, namely his neighbours. He has lived alone with his dad Ed for two years, ever since his mother Judy died and the combined stress of Christopher's condition, the cautioning by the police and their mutual loneliness begins to take its toll. Ed continues to lose his temper with his son, furious that Christopher should persist in his Sherlock Holmes inspired investigation, which creates a divide between the two.

When the young boy becomes acquainted with elderly woman named Mrs Alexander, she reveals to him a lot more than he meant to find out about both the murder of the dog and his own family's recent past.

Mark Haddon has created a fascinating and troubled voice with Christopher, vulnerable and frightened by the world outside his bedroom, but equipped with a alarmingly logical mind. His condition prevents him from engaging with people, resulting in a strong resentment of 'chit chat' and a reluctance to speak with strangers without studying their behaviour over a protracted period of time. His two chief loves - his pet rat Toby and astronauts - are quite appropriate given that the former is viewed by most people as a carrier of disease (Christopher points out that Toby is actually quite clean despite the common loathing of rats) and astronauts get to leave the world itself behind, an experience which the young man can no doubt relate to.

We learn early on that the events described have happened in the recent past, with the boy's teacher Siobhan having encouraged him to write his book. As his mentor, she never actually appears in the story, but her voice is present, advising him on social behaviours and concepts. The book is filled with illustrations, as Christopher does not trust the notion of metaphors, seeing them as 'lies'. His perspective on the world is unerringly close to Plato's as a result, except he has no choice but to see the world  this way.

Beautiful and tragic.

Originally published on 'A Book A Day'.  


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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Comics Cavalcade - Sydney Supanova Pt. 3

Almost at the end now. I write this as Supanova is winding down in Perth, upping stakes for the next show in Brisbane next November. As it happens one of the creators below hails from that city - Paul Mason - so it should be a shorter journey for that lad at least. Himself and Paul Bedford from Melbourne are also built like tanks and I'm a tubby Paddy who talks too much, so I'm erring on the side of caution with these reviews....(just kidding boyos). Today's piece also features the work of Sydney-sider Karen Beilharz and Melbourne's Bruce Mutard. Wherever you're from though, these are comics well worth checking out - I guess that's the moral for this whole series of articles. Enjoy folks. 

 Kinds of Blue by Karen Beilharz & Various - Do not mistake that reference to the assortment of artists that have worked on this book as an offhand dismissal, for Kinds of Blue is a fantastic celebration of artistic ability. Beilharz - interviewed here by Kapow! - has gathered together a host of professional artists to bring her collection of short stories on depression in its various forms to life. Something of an inspired choice in hindsight, as the changes in art style reinforce how personal the burden of depressive illness can be, but also gives voice to these hidden experiences with a chorus of different perspectives. A full list of contributors is available here, as this is not going to be an exhaustive review, still I would recommend checking out the work of those who took part. 

My personal favourite of the collection is Toward The Waves by Beilharz and Daniel Gilmore, given its illustration of how music can sometimes be a lifeline at one's lowest point (as it happens iTunes spat out Jimmy Cliff just as I began writing this - his music was my own lifejacket during difficult times). We meet the character of Jamie whose mind wanders while stuck in a traffic jam, becoming occupied by a cacophony of critical voices, manifested in the art as spectral forces. This story - and the later The Black Dog Must Die - make good use of a central visual metaphor for an everyday crisis of anxiety, in such a way that many readers can no doubt recognize. Mike Barry's imagery in Feeling is another highlight of the book, capturing the frustration of being able to conjure up wonderful vistas of places that could be visited if only one was not paralyzed by apathy. Hard Labour by contrast is more an illustrated work of prose, but one that includes the clock-watching of an unfulfilling day at work, with all the attendant stresses and guilt that that leads to. Finally Reel Life with Jessica Green feels reminiscent of Woody Allen's Purple Rose of Cairo, insightful in its depiction of the over-too-soon escapism of cinema. This collection is a very welcome treatment of a facet of people's lives that is too often buried beneath a polite face. Challenging, evocative and sincere. 

Kinds of Blue Karen Beilharz comics anthology about depression

The List by Paul Bedford, Henry Pop & Tom Bonin - And now for something completely different! When I met Bedford he expressed concern over the range of reactions his work has inspired in readers of The List. This is understandable, given that his tale of a family consumed by a murderous form of religious fanaticism feels like a slasher film scripted by Cormac McCarthy. Regardless I found the mad barreling journey into murder and mayhem compelling for its rawness. 

The story begins with 'The Son' receiving the list of the title from his father, before receiving his own 'enlightenment'. Both men have lost any trace of their personalities, with 'Father' and 'Son' carrying connotations of Biblical righteousness, their former selves having been burned away by this imposed quest. We follow The Son as he attempts to fulfill his mission, his body left scarred by his exertions, but driven onwards. All the while he continues to have visions that could well be mystical revelation or psychological torpor - only at the story's end is the final piece of this tragic mystery revealed. The art from Pop and Bonin lends a fitting iconaclastic tone, with the Son's beatific face during acts of extreme violence disturbing. The fat, black gutters around the panels, as well as the episodic chapters, convey a sense of the Son's awareness sliding in and out of events around him. This is a story that will haunt you after you turn the final page. Perhaps not to everyone's taste, but most certainly a thrilling comic experience.

The List Paul Bedford Henry Pop Tom Bonin

The Silence by Bruce Mutard - Graphic novel is a term I hate, as it is generally employed to spare the embarrassment of film industry types baffled by the commercial success of pictures about folks in masks, but Bruce Mutard's work feels genuinely like an illustrated novel. Structured, well paced and compelling in its sourcing of drama in the lives of its characters, when a hint of magic realism does appear in the pages there's a suggestion that it might also simply be an artistic choice - one that preserves the subjective experience of the story. Which is very much like the individual perspective readers enjoy in visualising the story of a well-written novel.

Dmitri and Choosy are introduced to us via a series of panels describing a typical day. Choosy endures the bustle of commuting to and from work, whereas Dmitri stays at home struggling to find inspiration. The couple's relationship is strained by this disparity in their lives, doubly so by Choosy working as an art dealer, making her living from selling the art of others, while her partner dismisses the whole business of commercial art as essentially destructive. Even as a well-observed story about a relationship's dysfunctionality becoming an analogy for the strained to-ing and fro-ing between business and art this would be winning fare, but Mutard then has his characters visit an abandoned church containing a collection of paintings that send those who see them into a state of wonderment. Much like Hal Hartley's underrated Henry Fool, which is itself a discussion of the commercialism of art, the reader never sees the images taking Dmirti and Choosy's breath away. Instead we witness their differing reactions to the pieces and how it affects their relationship. This is simply a brilliant book. To say more would spoil the many surprises within. A must-read.

Bruce Mutard The Silence art business

The Soldier Legacy #4 by Paul Mason - Growing up I would occasionally come across war stories in Hotspur or Victor comic annuals, as well as Larry Hama's much-admired The 'Nam for Marvel. I could never properly relate to these stories though, because having grown up in Ireland these were not 'our' wars, an impression reinforced by the lauding of the 1916 Rising as an heroic act, one which was occasioned by Britain's taking part in WWI. Many Irish did go to fight in Flanders and their contribution to the war went largely unheralded at home. The 'real fight' was in the streets of Dublin. Again in WWII Irish soldiers who joined the Allied forces were seen as deserters given the official neutral stance of the country - only this month have steps been made to pardon those found guilty.

This preamble is my way of trying to communicate what it means when I say that Mason's work here, his evocation of Aussie mateship and the role played by the Diggers in WWII for example, affected me emotionally I am coming to this book without any pre-established affection for the genre. The Soldier Legacy cleverly relates the wartime adventures of the masked Digger known only as 'The Soldier' to his grandson attempting to live up to his example in present-day Brisbane. By this method Mason has not only composed a sincere love letter to the war comics of Jack Kirby (who is affectionately name-checked in the origin of The Soldier), but describes how the values of the war-time generation remain valid today. An additional layer of significance can be found in Mason's individual art style also evoking the improvisations of Kirby - there are many legacies contained within these pages. 

It's not all reverential fare though. The villainous gang-bangers in Brisbane speaking purely in 'gangsta' patois is an amusing aside. As well the Soldier's inner-monologue is very funny ("Bugger!"), particularly when he bites off more than he can chew when taking on a Japanese tank single-handed.

Once again iTunes has proved to be unusually perceptive this evening and Pete Seeger has started playing his own tribute to the lives lost in war. This is fine work - that is all I have left to say. 

The Soldier Legacy Paul Mason Jack Kirby Diggers

In the final Cavalcade I'll be discussing the boys from Gestalt Christian Read and Andrew Constant, the Beginnings anthology, Zombie Cities and Rhys James. Later folks.


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Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Momus Report Podcast - Prometheus, or Let's Start A Flamewar

UPDATE: Quite a lot of spoilers for Prometheus get tossed about in this recording, so if you wish to see the film best wait til after. 

Oh dear. Prometheus - I had a feeling that this wouldn't go well.

This is a confused and divisive film. Still it has its defenders - as well as some quite harsh critics - and everyone is at loggerheads online. Why do we care so much about this sidequel to an entertaining horror film from 1979?

Emmet and Carol ask if this film is just a cynical exercise in starting a new sf franchise for Fox Studios, which is perhaps why the resulting film is so confused. There's another factor as well, the rumoured reference in an earlier version of the script to the death of Christ. In this interview, Ridley Scott confirmed this startling theory: You throw religion and spirituality into the equation for Prometheus, though, and it almost acts as a hand grenade. We had heard it was scripted that the Engineers were targeting our planet for destruction because we had crucified one of their representatives, and that Jesus Christ might have been an alien. Was that ever considered?

RS: We definitely did, and then we thought it was a little too on the nose. But if you look at it as an “our children are misbehaving down there” scenario, there are moments where it looks like we’ve gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, “Lets’ send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it. Guess what? They crucified him.

Tragically instead of Scott producing another sf spectacle to rival 2001 in its profundity we wound up with a gorier version of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier!

Have a listen and let us know what you think on Twitter - @emmetoc_ and @irishhatgirl

Prometheus Ridley Scott classical art Titan
Prometheus & Prometheus - one of these things is not like the other.


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Friday, 22 June 2012

Comics Cavalcade - Sydney Supanova Pt. 2

When I decided to approach a number of Australian comic creators with a view to running a series of features on this site, I decided to ask Tim McEwen, who is an all round lovely chap and Supanova fixture, for advice on who to speak to. After laughing at my foolhardy scheme - Tim pityingly pointed out I only had two hours to run the gamut of Artists Alley - he provided me with a list of names and recommended books. So I'd just like to say thanks to Tim and everyone else I spoke to last weekend at Supanova for pointing me in the right direction. I hope you folks have a blast at Perth tomorrow.

On with the reviews!

Data Point and Pandeia by Paul Caggegi - Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that I have had an interest in since I first read The Difference Engine, but in all honesty its sudden popularity leaves me baffled. Perhaps it is because to me it feels like what could be a very interesting engagement with alternate history has been reduced to a faddish costume show. But at its heart is the notion of civilization heading down a different path circa the Victorian era, when so much potential in the forthcoming century was yet to be realized. What I enjoy about Paul Caggegi's work - and why I am presenting two examples of his writing in this review - is that he does touch on the steampunk aesthetic, but never shies away from the big, mad science fiction notions that are the bedrock of the genre. 

Data Point feels like a more hopeful Jules Verne yarn, with a widower allowing his callous brother to catapult him into space as part of an ambitious experiment. He is not the pilot of this vessel per se but a human flash drive as it were, his life's experiences to be retained by a spaceship that can survive through the milennia. It's a wonderful premise for a story, with a hint of poetry in the narration. Pandeia is a current online comic by Caggegi set in a far-flung futuristic Earth orbited by the remnants of a decimated moon. Chapter 1: Selina introduces the three-man crew of the eponymous high-speed sandcrawler. Corben Wallace the navigator is a blind man who can see - courtesy of bionic eyes - and we quickly come to know him and his crew in the midst of an aerial assault. Caggegi delivers a mixture of high concepts and banter, but wisely keeps it all on a functional level. Consequenty the story proceeds very naturally, which is impressive given that it is set on a greatly altered Turkey Australia. Nothing here feels unnecessary or overwrought. 

Pandeia Paul Caggegi

Rocksalt by Mark Withington - Do you remember when comics were fun? I do. I think it was around the time the Berlin Wall fell. Thankfully I have just discovered the work of Mark Withington - and he knows very well what fun is. This story of brother and sister Kordan and Gabrielle who enjoy console gaming and quoting dialogue from movies like A Few Good Men and Pulp Fiction feels initially like a love letter to lazy, carefree summers spent eating pizza, watching DVDs and playing Mario Kart. Then one of the siblings while falling down drunk is approached by a dog who appears to have the voice of Samuel L. Jackson demanding to be let into their apartment building. It gets weirder from there.

While Kordan and Gabrielle befriend the new girl in the building Jackie, introducing her to their patented time-wasting antics, a parallel storyline emerges of our aforementioned talking dog (there's a very good reason for that rest assured) and a woman named Madison, with extraordinary abilities and a few skeletons in her closet. Possibly literal ones. The highlight of the first volume for me is when Kordan's rather unlikely guess as to her identity proves to be spot on - the expression on his face is priceless. With Madison's cover blown, and her three young neighbours exposed, the group are faced with deadly threats such as remote controlled war-robots, assassins and more high-tech military hardware than you can find outside of a PS3 title. Fusing pop culture, gaming, anime and that good old fashioned sense of fun I mentioned above, Withington serves up an effortlessly likable action fantasy that is extremely funny. A must-read. 

Mark Withington Rocksalt Volume 1

Space Pyrates by Caitlin Major and Matthew Hoddy - And the fun doesn't stop. Space Pyrates is the story of a guy and girl so completely oblivious to the modern world and yet at the same time, unquestionably a product of it. Their adventure is kicked off by a mud-stained - and surprisingly reasonable - landlord demanding they pay rent. At first the two immediately assume he is a zombie, before proceeding to complete bafflement at the idea of paying rent at all - 

"We have to pay to live here?"

"I know, right? Who'd a thought?"

That these two characters don't come across as obnoxious or infuriating is firmly down to the charm and humour invested by the creators of Space Pyrates.The title as it happens is not some Captain Beefheartian random assemblage of descriptors - they do make it out into space and do attempt to board a vessel looking for 'booty'. Of course by then they have already long forgotten the reason for setting off in the first place, which was finding a means to pay rent. The influence of the excellent Adventure Time is clearly alluded to and like Pendleton Ward's seminal show, Major and Hoddy get a lot of mileage out of exploring unexpected associations between a seemingly random series of ideas. Resented and hated by their own families, the two 'heroes' live lives free of consequence, laughing off trivial matters such as police arrest and threatening to rob a host while sitting down for a cup of tea. This is blissfully demented lark, up to its neck in lolcats, memes and internet humour, but all cleverly presented. Very entertaining. 

Space Pyrates

Winter City by Patrick Purcell, Carl Purcell and Pablo Verdugo Munoz - My blogging colleague the Geek of Oz raved about this book a few weeks back, so it was definitely on my 'to read' pile already.  

Opening in a city plagued by crime and gang violence, with worldweary cops fond of making pronouncements like 'Every day is just one step closer to Armageddon', this series could have been mistaken for a Frank Miller knock-off. However, co-writers Patrick and Carl Purcell deliver instead a story about an unstoppable masked vigilante working through a list of victims somehow connected together; and the cruel and unusual childhood of Sam Winters. Abandoned on a country road by his prostitute mother and her pimp, young Sam is adopted by his uncle Norman, a harsh disciplinarian whose treatment of the boy becomes increasingly excessive as the story progresses. With these events occurring in the past - and the tell-tale panel featuring Norman working in a barnyard smithy littered with gauntlets and armour similar to that worn by the blade-wielding 'crime-fighter' - it is clear that Sam will become the masked figure that identifies itself with 'Death'. 

Given the obsession with sin that Death evidences, there's a point of comparison between Winter City and Paul Bedford's The List, both stories marrying righteous violence with nightmarish childhood trauma. I prefer to see the book as a sly pisstake on the tropes of the superhero origin. If Bruce Wayne had been raised on a farm just a few doors down from Leatherface's residence, perhaps this would have been the result. Certainly 'Death' similarly employs the criminal's fear of the supernatural to intimidate his targets, although he does not stop there, graphically murdering them for their crimes. The investigating police arrive after the deed is done, hopelessly in the dark as to the motives behind these deaths. So far their masked killer has encountered no real opposition capable of standing up to him - but then the point of this book is more likely the battle being endured within the psyche, with the suffering inflicted on Sam Winters in each issue increasing in its severity. This is a dark and disturbing fable that challenges the received wisdom of superhero comics that the costumed avengers can successfully maintain a civilian double-life without serious mental fatigue. The manga-influenced art from Munoz also introduces a welcome sense of variety to the proceedings - think a stripped back and grittier Joe Mads. With its willingness to tackle such dark material and excel in the attempt, we could be witnessing a very special book take shape - an Aussie battler capable of taking on the American superhero titles at their own game.

Winter City by Patrick Purcell, Carl Purcell and Pablo Verdugo Munoz

More to come folks, I'm only halfway through my haul. 'Tune in' again for work from Paul Mason, Bruce Mutard, Paul Bedford and others. 


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Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Tontine Link-A-Lot #7

Did you folks enjoy the piece on Supanova? Well it's not over yet - more great Aussie creators to recommend on the way, including Paul Mason creator of The Soldier Legacy, who has provided his own summary of the weekend (cheers for the shout out mate). And now - to the Linkage!

Firstly Andrew Wheeler has a few words on the recent Catwoman cover by Guillem March. My favourite bit - "I don’t think that’s what happened. I think March drew this cover as a joke. I think he was seeing how far he could push the pursuit of T&A at the expense of anatomy; his blog and work both show that he finds that tension fascinating. I think he played a game of chicken with his editor, and I think he was surprised when the editor didn’t blink, and I think he decided not to blink either, and we all lost that game."

I have a feeling the big story DC wanted to go viral last week was the reveal in Scott Snyder's Batman. Thankfully the boys from Let's Be Friends Again were on hand to make the perfect parody summing up this situation. Altogether now "I've made a huge mistake."

Well Aaron Sorkin's new show is out and the word is....not good. Warren Ellis in particular was quite scathing. Consensus seems to be it's Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip...again. Pity.

@DanialCarroll recommended this article to me the other night on the 'Neuroscience of Survival Horror'. Confession - I never made it past the first room in Alone in the Dark. Anyway, an interesting read.

So this week I finally saw Prometheus. It wasn't anything special, but I can't understand why so many folks are angry. I suppose it was the impossibly high expectations. Anyway the theories as to what it all meant are bouncing around - comicbookgirl19 at least entertains with her take on the various conspiracies. Warning - spoilers and possibly blasphemy for those of you so inclined. The Film School Rejects took the time to remind us that things could be much worse! But my pick of the litter has to be Henry Rothwell's marvelous parody piece.  It's full of little gems like this -

Ridley “Lost. But in space. Hmmm. Lost. But in space. I like it. What shall we call it?”

Damon Lindelof “Prometheus.”

Ridley “Brilliant! But why? No, just brilliant! As long as it has lots of snappy informative dialogue.”

Damon Lindelof ”I don’t really do that. I tend to just go with a baffling sequence of potentially interconnected events that looks as though it might be going somewhere, but isn’t. That way everybody on the internet can argue about it for ages. That’s the bit I like. People on the internet arguing about stuff for ages. I also love it when they say things like ‘don’t condemn it so quickly – this is maybe the first part of something bigger’. It makes me think ‘oh yeah. that could be it. Maybe I’ll write another one’ and then people will argue about that on the internet too. For ages. Because I like that.”

Ridley ”People argue on the internet?”

I love the idea of Scott being this doddery old bloke dependent on hipster Lindelof to explain contemporary storytelling. Very funny stuff.

To wash the bad taste out of our mouths - and help us forget that Scott wants to do a sequel to his *other* famous sf picture, artist Anders Ramsell has created this very interesting piece using footage from Blade Runner -

Just let it go Ridley - let it go.

In other news - here's an Irish lad taking the mick out of a tv psychic. Smell ya later!

Jay Smooth - preach it.

Really he said all that needed to be said there.

Phoenix Jones proves he's possibly not the smartest cookie in the jar. Although I'm also curious to know - what school invites a costumed vigilante to speak to kids!? Whatever happened to duty of care? Do you know who this person is - why ask a guy who wears a mask to live out the fantasy of fighting crime to talk about bullying? It's just baffling to me.

Of course next month I will be getting in line to see another masked vigilante, namely The Amazing Spider-Man. My mate the Geek of Oz is running a competition for tickets to a screening of the film - I advise you to check it out.

Another mate Colin Bell has a brand new online comic that launched this week - Detective Space Cat. Part Blacksad, part Marvin the Martian - all wrapped up in a wonderful package. Check it out....look at his widdle face, so cuuute!

Also here's Wookiee Jesus. Because screw it, that's why. If anyone buys the print - send me pics!

My wife has never read Lovecraft, but she's heard me mention the name enough times to know I'd appreciate this -

I'm brushing up on my Alan Moore in expectation of the new Century 2009 book. Here's Andrew Edwards from Sequart with a primer on his classic book Swamp Thing.

Ok I've heard a lot of rumblings about the trailer for the new Judge Dredd film. I have to say it's a bit odd to be 'judging' the film without a fair hearing (heh). Look - it doesn't feature Rob Schneider, so already we're on the up here.

I'm curious to see Karl Urban take on yet another franchise (Star Trek? Lord of the Rings? Riddick? He's the new Hugo Weaving!)

And finally, with all the excitement about Nolan's new Batman film building to fever pitch, I leave you with this retrospective on the Burton/Schumacher era. Hey, Batman Returns is a damn fine film.

Enjoy your weekend folks.


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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Comics Cavalcade - Sydney Supanova Pt.1

I have used Comics Cavalcade to draw attention to books that either impressed me or have made a bit of a splash on the comics scene. However, when I found myself reading titles that were largely a subset of an already ghettoised industry I thought it would be time for a change. Comics include such a broad spectrum of genres, styles and perspectives, to limit this column solely to American superhero books seems a horrible waste. 

Over the weekend I went along to Supanova in Sydney's Olympic Park. It was my third year attending and while exhausting, I decided the run the gamut of the Artist's Alley and introduce myself to as many Aussie creators as I could - then do a write up on their work. So this folks, is the first of a series of capsule reviews from last weekend. Afterwards I will be following up with individual writers and artists from this cross-section of Australian talent to give an idea of the high caliber of material currently being produced in this country.

Meanwhile the Supanova train is moving on to Perth next on June 22, then there's Oz Comic-Con June 30 - July 1,  SMASH! at the Sydney Convention Centre on July 14, and Armageddon Expo in Melbourne on October 12 - 14. So if you want to meet the folks I mention here, you can either get in touch via their websites, or toddle along to the Cons and say hi. I can honestly say everyone I met this weekend was a pleasure to talk with and their enthusiasm for making comics reminded me why I love this medium so much. 

McBlack Two Shot created and written by Jason Franks, with additional art from Dave Gutierrez, Bruce Mutard, Luke Pickett, Rhys James and John Stewart - I believe the first thing I ever read by Franks was McBlack, a relentless cartoon horrorshow, full of Droogian excessive violence that is perfectly pitched to achieve a sense of deadpan humour. See there's an unkillable hitman available for hire who will defeat any opponent that faces him, but at great expense, and no small personal humiliation (usually at the hands of a silent forelocked nemesis). Seemingly existing solely as a skull wearing a hat and trenchcoat, McBlack is thankfully devoid of any overwrought mission statement or quest - once pointed at a target he will do violence until payment is made. Then maybe do some more. 

This done-in-one adventure is described by Franks as being about dreams, which allows him to continue to have panel-busting fun with the character. The talented array of artists allows the story to propel the undead assassin through several dream-states, in search of a boogieman hidden in a child's mind causing nightmares. With the ominous warning "This isn't going to end the way you want it to", McBlack agrees to the gig. Franks' script manages to poke fun at a number of surprising targets - Child's Play, Toy Story, Inception - but my favourite is the nod given to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, when McBlack is forced to contend with his own shadow. This is smart stuff, but smart to a purpose - no Damon Lindelofian easter egging here. Franks has a point to make about retrograde childhood nostalgia. Nestled neatly in amongst the ultraviolence, of course. 

McBlack Two Shot Jason Franks

rlok by Daniel de Lafoix - This book is quite clearly a labour of love for writer and artist de Lafoix, a rigorously researched and imaginatively brought to life horror fable that reveals the secret history of Europe during the 16th century. Promising a final battle in the year 1789 between weary immortal wanderers and a demonic force that prowls the countryside for victims, the story begins three centuries before then, with the meeting of the Count de St. Germain and the Wandering Jew (here taking the name of George Croly's Salathiel) said to have been present during the time of Christ and punished with ever-lasting life until his return. When his attempt to recruit St. Germain to fight the 'true evil' stalking Europe fails, the 'older' immortal resorts to a rather extreme method of convincing, allowing himself to be burnt at the stake. 

"Remember young man - the Demon prevails, should we that are gifted tarry"

The merging of fact and fable, historical events and supernatural occurrences, is all deftly delivered here. Attempts at verisimilitude in the story benefit from the rampant fear of vampires and werewolves that persisted from the Middle Ages onwards, as discussed in The Vampire of Ropraz by Jacques Chessex. De Lafoix also introduces swashbuckling action and horror too though, sidestepping accusations of esotericism. Mörlok impresses with its exhaustive detail, but also ambition. There is nothing else on the stands right now like it - well worth investigating. 

Mörlok by Daniel de Lafoix

Red Tails: Moonstone by Katie and Ian Winchester - And now for something completely different! Red Tails is a webcomic that much like the wonderful Mouse Guard features anthropomorphised animal protagonists. Also much like that other title, this is an all-ages book that does not condescend to children or adults. There is much to admire in this printed fourth volume of the Red Tails adventure, so let's dive in.

Vagabond fox and street thief, Raoud, comes face to face with former friend Stryke who is still in the employ of their old mistress Lady Sabella, and therefore an enemy. The reader is brought up to speed on the past of these two starting from their difficult childhoods, starving on the streets of a busy city before an attempted robbery brought them to the attention of the Miss Havisham-esque Sabella - try to imagine Dickens' most famous spinster antagonist heading up a crime family (and who is to say she didn't!). The eventual fight scene between Raoud and Stryke is well depicted, with our hero possessing an appropriately foxy Errol Flynn charm. Indeed one of the biggest draws of Red Tails for me is its use of humour. When a no-nonsense vixen corners Raoud in a bedroom following the theft of a plot-specific bauble, the witnesses to their fight immediately assume the two are lovers. I also loved the encounter between a bear and a snake. This is a great fun read, with some laugh-out-loud moments. 

Red Tails Moon Stone Katie Ian Winchester

The Twilight Age #0 & #1 by Jan Scherpenhuizen - Agent Justin Barnett is another member of a proud lineage of FBI officers-cum-knights templar on a quest to defeat supernatural forces. Cleverly though,  Scherpenhuizen establishes quickly that he is far more vulnerable than Cooper or Mulder as he is constantly reminded that while on the road hunting bloodsucking serial killers, his family at home are also at risk from the cosmic horror encircling the world. The Twilight Age riffs on Lovecraftian themes, but also asks what worth is one man's quest for justice after the world ends. Much like Sheriff Grimes, Barnett is clinging to an idea of how things should be.  

While on the hunt for a serial killer nicknamed 'Dracula' due to his propensity for drinking the blood of his victims, Barnett is left isolated by his federal agent colleagues when a devastating plague strikes. Single-minded in his pursuit of the killer, Barnett tries to ignore the imminent collapse of society, with the final panels of issue one showing chaotic mob scenes, violence and despair. Meanwhile the villain of this piece is terrorizing an elderly couple. The scene with 'Dracula' casually indulging in the suburban lifestyle of his victims - propping up his feet to watch television beside a bound and gagged victim - has a compelling black humour to it. Issue #0 also features a great Lovecraftian short story about an actress auditioning for a role in an unusual horror film. Lovecraft has chilled readers for decades, but Scherpenhuizen delivers some welcome sly humour as well. 

The Twilight Age Jan Scherpenhuizen

That's it for now folks, more capsule reviews coming up tomorrow with books such as Rock Salt and Winter City in the offing. 

Jason Franks Jan Scherpenhuizen


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