Darth Vader stands in the centre of Bristol

There’s been a genuine wave of affection after Dave Prowse’s sad death the other day, and in his hometown in Bristol there was erected a fitting tribute to him as the only, true Darth Vader.

It’d have been better to have The Green Cross Code Man because then the statue could have kept it’s Bristolian accent…

50 years of the Overstreet Comics Price Guide

I’ve been reading this much of this week.

The Overstreet Price Guide is and essential for dealers and fans for 50 years now, and when I’ve been a ful-time dealer it was something I always had in my box of stuff I’d carry around with me in the shop or at conventions. It wasn’t always right, sometimes it’d be horribly overpriced but as a reference book it was essential though it never dealt with UK prices (I’ve often wondered why Overstreet never did a UK guide) which meant going on memory or relying on the often sketchy UK Price Guide Duncan McApline produces.

But 50 years for what was a glorified fanzine (it grew out of the fandom that sprung up of EC Comics, and in fact it’s often missed how EC drove what we know today as fandom) is extraordinary, as are the top reams of talent that have produced covers for it over the decades who’ve helped the Overstreet guide what it is. This celebration is a fascinating read of the backstory of the guide, plus the comics that have made it as after all, people really buy this to see what their copy of X-Force #1 is worth.

There’s some nice articles reprinted here too. Especially of interest is the interview with Bob Kane from 1989 which in hindsight misses out some large bits of history but is still fascinating, plus the article on ‘patriotic’ (some might say jingoistic) covers is nice, but most of the book just celebrates Bob Overstreet and what he’s done for comics for 50 years and although the guide is normally a book for the hardcore fan or dealer only, this is a more accessible book and a lovely bit of history. Go check it out if only for the galleries of beautiful covers…

Dave Prowse has passed away…

Dave Prowse has sadly died and with that goes a large chunk of my childhood.

Of course his role as Darth Vader is what he’ll leave as his main legacy (no actor since has given that sense of physical power mixed with pain that Prowse did) but for a generation of kids we knew him as the Green Cross Code Man, who was a superhero created to teach British kids road safety.

Even then he was dubbed as his native Bristol accent was found ‘laughable’ by some.

Though they eventually let him speak in his own voice.

I first met Prowse when he visited my school as the Green Cross Code Man to do his thing, and I was in awe of how huge the guy was. He seemed 6 foot in every direction. This was just before Star Wars, so few knew what was coming for him but he’d been an actor for some time mainly in Hammer films and odds and sods playing the heavy, but imagine my confusion when I got older and saw him in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

As I got even older and started working in comics, I’d see him at conventions signing for hours and somewhere in a box I still have some Marvel Star Wars issues he signed around 92 or 93. By this point he’d spectacularly fallen out with George Lucas, and Prowse was shunned from official Star Wars conventions, so he made his wage from going to every other show out there around the world. I’d see him frequently in the 90s and 00s with a long queue waiting to for things to be signed.

I’d see Prowse everywhere during this time; at shows, or coming out the Empire Gym he owned when I lived in St. Paul’s in Bristol, or his picture hanging by the bar in the glorious late night eating and drinking den, Renato’s in the centre of Bristol.

Last time I saw him at a show he looked frail, so his convention appearences declined and he’d be working online sending out autographed pictures stating ‘DAVE PROWSE IS DARTH VADER’ because he was.He gave years of joy for generations and he’ll always be Darth Vader.

And the Green Cross Code Man of course…

A quick word of praise for Oliver Stone’s JFK

Back in 1963 John F. Kennedy was murdered on the steeets of Dallas, and in that one action the modern conspiracy theory was born. Nearly 30 years later Oliver Stone makes one of the best films I’ve ever seen on an absolute tissue of bullshit, but with many conspiracy theories, there’s an element of something in it, which is often even more shite, but in the case of JFK, it’s an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in insanity.

I first saw it in a cinema in Nottingham on a cold afternoon, and loved it. It was also the last film I saw with an actual intermission (which came before Donald Sutherland’s character’s massive info-dump) in which I ended up chatting in the bar with a well-dressed woman in her early 30s called Gill who ended up being a massive JFK conspiraacy theorist who ended up pre-emptying much of what Sutherland’s character was to say. After the film we carried on chatting for hours in the pub, then at hers, mainly about the veracity of Lee Harvey Oswald as lone gunman.

JFK is one of those films that turns ordinary people into conspiracy theorist because it’s a brilliantly made piece of propaganda. Do I think there was a massive conspiracy to kill Kenndy as portrayed in the film? No, but I don’t think there was a lone gunman and I do think there was a massive cover up of something but I’m not exactly sure what and that’s partly because of Stone’s film, and of people like Gill who took me down rabbit holes that today are almost infinite thanks to the internet.

This is a film that grabs you at the start, throws you end slowly, and by the time Donald Sutherland turns up to thrust you all the way under, has you under it’s spell. Brilliantly acted, directed and edited, JFK is a number of things from thriller, to conspiracy theory, to the background family drama which is really there to give Sissy Spacek something to do. Though as the years go on I see its flaws more; the film is at times unintentionally homophobic, especially in the extended cut. Also it is sexist as women in this film are reduced to victims or background dressing but ultimately this is a film which although not Stone’s best film (which for me is still Natural Born Killers) it is certainly the film of his I’m drawn back to over and over as new things are to be found with each viewing.

I love the film. I wish Stone could go back to this quality of filmaking, however this will remain as a testement to how to make a great film for decades to come. Go watch it again if you’ve not seen it in years, or just watch it for the first time ever.

RIP Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona is dead at the all too young age of 60, and the world loses an artist and a footballer, and if you think football can’t be art then look at this goal.

Back in the olden days before the English Premier League and modern football blandified the game, there were players like Cruyff, Dalglish and Best who strode like giants in the game but were also far from being bland figures routinely rolling off perfectly trained media soundbites.Then there was Maradona who was in a class of his own, and getting the chance to watch him play on the rare chance you coujld back in the 80’s was amazing. Those days didn’t have 24/7 football coverage of the game at almost all levels and overseas football certainly was rarely, if ever shown outwith of things like the European Cup.

So seeing Maradona do magical things with a football in grainly, crackly footage do stuff with a ball was astonishing. Watching him pull his country Argentina up by the short and curlies in 1986 and win that year’s World Cup was amazing. The man was a footballing genius. Less said about some of his off-pitch antics, but let’s focus on what the man didn on the pitch as a genuine working class here who pulled himself up from nowhere to become the greatest footballer of all time.

I’ll miss him. Hearing of his latest venture always made me smile, but watching him in his prime made me fill with joy. He’s going to leave a massive hole in the game.

One Dove’s lost second album?

One Dove were a band who in 1993 should have been enormous, but through a series of problems, mainly caused by the record company you wanted them to sound nothing like the dreamy dub/pop/indie/dance fusion sound they’d become known for. Also there were a load of great new bands flying around in 1993 in those pre-Britpop years and just after the early 90’s Grebo scene started dying out. It was a crowded time but for me One Dove gave me the soundtrack of a great summer in Bristol in 1993.

That summer was hot, sunny and brilliant. It felt like something was brewing, but we didn’t know what yet however we lived in the time and fuck me it was fun. And One Dove was my music of choice that summer as I played that first album to death. Sadly the album flopped though a cult following did emerge, and for a brief time in 95/96 there were rumours of a second album but nothing happened as by now the band had split up with vocalist Dot Allison going off to sing with the likes of Massive Attack.

So last week this video below popped into my YouTube feed. It isn’t an actual second album but is made up of demo tracks so there’s some rough edges which a good producer would iron out, however it sounds glorious in places. Untouched is a lost classic as is Stay, though the latter track is still a bit rough at the edges but that adds to the charm. Had this been released in 96/7 it’d have been swallowed up by the fagend of Britpop when crap like Kula Shaker and Mansun were an actual thing.

I’m amazed to find this though after decades of trying (I once spent a day going through Napster once trying to find a rumoured copy of the second album) so join with me and enjoy what could have been…

What is the single most important issue of a comic in the 1980s?

There’s dozens of possibilities. Is it Frank Miller’s first issue of Daredevil or Dark Knight Returns? One of Claremont/Byrne’s X-Men run? Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing or Watchmen? Warrior?

The answer is Love and Rockets #2.

It was this issue that Alan Moore saw in 1982, as the story goes at a comic mart in London where it opened his eyes as to what comics could be and the first, most direct influence was Moore dropping thought bubbles from his scripts, and secondly he started to use a lot more female characters and directly led to him creating Halo Jones.

On top of that the mix of reality and fantasy that Los Bros Hernandez were mixing in their strips at this point became a template for many a future Marvel or DC title, though mostly without the skill or talent of any of the Hernandez Brothers. This single issue is the Rosetta Stone of comics of late 20th century, and the 21st century so far,and is dissected here by the lads at Cartoonist Kayfabe.

It’s an extraordinary comic mixing the mass market genres of superheroes and fantasy, with old-style adventure comics but framed in a slice of reality with Jaimie’s Mechanics story while Gibert and Mario lay down a touch of surrealism and more reality respectively. Again many have tried to follow in their footsteps only to fail but Moore was not one of those people, though imagine had not Moore see this issue when he did?

It is an interesting thought but we can be thankful he didn’t. As for Love and Rockets it still marches on though Maggie and Hopey are much older, maybe not wiser but it’s still the best ongoing comic of the last 40 years, and without it the industry would be an entirely different beast completely.

Return to lockdown…

Midnight tonight the city of Glasgow goes back into lockdown, except for me who have now been classed by my employer as an ‘esssential worker’ so I get to larp as Charlton Heston in the Omega Man going through deserted streets for the next fortnight.

Truth is I expect the lockdown to last longer as frankly, too many arseholes are ignoring the rules but they tend to be the first complaining loudly, but here we are again but in the cold, damp darkness that is a Glasgow winter as opposed to spring/summer. This time it could push people over the edge as after all, we were never designed to be this antisocial as a species and as Covid-19 loves people, it means Christmas could be cancelled for a lot of people this year. It could be bleak this winter indeed.

But I’m somehow promoted to a ‘key worker’ so clap for me…

The unwelcome return of Megan is Missing

Megan is Missing is a 2011 found-footage film that at the time made most people who saw it say ‘this is utter shite’, before going off to watch better films that don’t exploit the subject as badly as Megan is Missing does. Made at a time when the genre was enjoying a small revival with the likes of Cloverfield providing a push a few years earlier. In 2011 it was rightfully dismissed while better films like The Poughkeepsie Tapes and the haunting Lake Mungo built up small, but cultish following. Megan is Missing found its place as a footnote at best in the horror genre and vanished down the back of the sofa of people’s collective memories.

Then nine years later it returns during the hellscape dystopia that we’re all living in during 2020 thanks to a ‘TikTok influencer’ which may well be the most 2020 way of calling someone a cunt that you can get. As TikTok is inhabited by kids with social media profiles made up of anime pictures, this means loads of people who probably shouldn’t watch a piece of horror exploitation trash are, and fuck me, they think the thing is real! Of course, they’ve not been hardened to years of watching horror and whenever non-mainstream horror breaks into the mainstream it’s always funny to see people used to jumpscares and creepy dolls shite themselves at the more exploitative end of the genre, but Megan is Missing isn’t very good but the director, Michael Goi, is saying with a perfectly straight face is saying this is an ‘educational’ film and giving out trigger warnings, which kind of defeats the point of horror films in that they should force you to face your fears.

So basically the lesson in all of this is that Michael Goi’s bank account is going to be fatter once this scare is over, a few kids might be interested enough to watch decent horror films and ‘influencers’ will carry on being cunts which I suppose is no lesson at all but this is 2020.

Anyhow, the film is online on various platforms but here’s the trailer in all its terrible glory.

Sutcliffe! The musical.

Peter Sutcliffe is dead which is a good thing, but during all the talk of his and the women he murdered abanned sketch from Brass Eye came to mind. Brass Eye was a TV series produced by Chris Morris and a team of exceptionally talented team of writers and actors for Channel 4 in 1997. It is by far one of the great bits of TV satire/comedy ever produced in the UK, but during the first broadcast it suffered heavily from censorship, especially in Episode 6 which saw whole sketches lost including one about Peter Sutcliffe starring in his own West End musical.

At the time a Jack the Ripper musical was proposed, plus ‘Ripper tours’ of the murder sites were pulling in the money in the East End of London, which back then hadn’t gentrified to the state it has now so it wasn’t ironic hispters being mocked, but working class women. There was also a glamourisation of old gangsters, some of which commited crimes as bad as Sutcliffe. The idea this sketch was supporting Sutcliffe was a joke, but it was one pushed by the usual suspects.

However judge for yourself…