RIP Russ Cochran

If you’re a casual comics fan the name Russ Cochran will never grace the same ‘geek’ documentaries or films that lay homage to Stan Lee or Robert Downey Jr, but Cochran is quite possibly one of the most important figures in comics who sadly died this week.

Cochran’s massive contribution is carefully caretaking, and releasing the work of EC Comics in formats which do the work justice. The giant hardback box-sets are the easy sign a comics fan is not just an historian but a lover of some of the best comics ever made.

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Cochran was a comics fan who loved EC Comics, as well as the work of Carl Barks who started the entire idea of releasing comics in carefully curated editions with serious academic as well as artistic intent to preserve them for current and future generations.

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These editions were, and still are, massively expensive but Cochran also released EC reprints in a variety of formats more affordable to the average fan.

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Cochran’s contribution to comics as a medium and its fandom is immeasurable. These comics will teach you storytelling, design, scripting, everything and they’re great but for many in the 70’s and 80’s these were how people learned their first steps into the industry.

My dream is that before I die to have a full set of EC’s comics. I’ve got around a shelfload, with the Mad books being some of the most well-read comics I own. Thanks to Cochran making these things available maybe one day I will.

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World

Jack Kirby was a genius, and his run of Fantastic Four is still one of the greatest runs of any sort of comics.

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After Kirby left Marvel for DC, the prospect of Kirby creating a world from scratch was thought to be the sales coup of the century, but for a variety of reasons, his ‘Fourth World’ failed to set sales figures alight at the time. As an aside, if any superhero comic had those sales figures today they’d be the best selling titles of any publisher.

Those four titles, Jimmy Olsen, Mister Miracle, The Forever People and The New Gods, dropped enough concepts and characters to supply a creator or a publisher, a lifetime, but this was just a few years of Kirby’s life which is astonishing. There’s a lot out there describing what happened but this video is the clearest, most concise explanation of the story of Kirby’s Fourth World…

Raising the dead

Four years ago I sort of nearly died which I suppose makes me a walking corpse.

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Four years later I feel barely alive so still a walking corpse, well, sort of, more sort of a walking and dragging a leg behind me corpse, so less Fulci and more Romero.

Let’s see if there’s four more years and then maybe I’ll have moved on…

How many pages of comics did Jack Kirby draw?

Today most mainstream comics artists struggle with a monthly schedule, but back in the day, people like Jack Kirby would draw pages a day, especially in the early days of Marvel. So lets have a wee look at who did draw pages in huge numbers…

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Kirby drew nearly 18,000 pages of comic art but he’s topped by John Buscema who was also one of those artists who’d just work and work, but they’re all topped by Curt Swan who again, drew and seemed to draw Superman for a century. Swan was again, solid and reliable and looking through that list is looking at a list of artists who (mostly) hit their deadlines, put out in many cases splendid work, and could draw comics, not pin-up pages.

As Todd McFarlane has said, some artists today are too busy drawing pin-ups while failing to put the work in to build up a body of work that will stand the test of time and fashion. Even someone as painfully dull as Don Heck carved his place in comics history and will be remembered in 100 years while <insert hot artist this week> will maybe hit a footnote.

A lesson then for upcoming artists is to put the work in. Because if you don’t in 30 years time you’ll still be hacking out pin-ups while the other person who did do the graft is doing half the work for twice the money.

Marvel’s tone deaf entry into UK politics this week is…

IT is 2020. Brexit is happening and the UK is out the EU, while Scotland and Northern Ireland pontificate about independence and unification respectfully. Things are simply, fucked at best and it is safe to say things are a tad delicate at the moment, so here’s Marvel Comics coming smashing into the room like Lewis Capaldi swigging from a bottle of Buckfast.

Here’s Marvel’s latest super-team, The Union.

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I mean, really??

Then there are the new characters, like Kelpie. the Scottish, McScottish, shortbread, Nessie, och aye the noo member!

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And Snakes, the Northern Irish character probably made of snakes, potatoes and Guinness because that’s all Marvel editors know about Northern Ireland.

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What is a pity is that the hugely talented Paul Grist is writing this, and Union Jack the character that sort of inspired his Jack Staff creation.

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Grist himself has said he’s pointed issues out with editorial to deaf ears, and I do hope Grist makes a success of this but I can’t help thinking this is tomorrow’s 50p comics today because the lack of understanding of UK politics is not going to help drives sales on this side of the Atlantic, while I can’t see folk caring on the other side.

Ah well, they might make a film of it I suppose…

 

 

RIP Andrew Weatherall

DJ, producer, writer, performer and musician Andrew Weatherall has died aged 56, which is far too young. Most folk will know him through his production of Primal Scream’s Loaded in 1990 but he wrote my life’s soundtrack for the early 90’s. I’ve touched upon this briefly before here.

I broke a tape replaying the first Sabres of Paradise album, Sabresonic, so much. The second one, Haunted Dancehall was the soundtrack to 1994 and of course Raise by Bocca Juniors in clubs in Bristol and London back in the day.

A Weatherall remix could earn you money, chart places and critical acclaim but for me the Weatherall project that welded itself to me was One Dove, their only album Morning Dove White and the song One Love.

I listen to that and I’m 20something walking into a club in Bristol hearing this shouting ‘WHO THE FUCK IS THIS?’ to a mate, who found out who it was, and that sparked me out in my mind as this was the sound in my head. Dot Allison’s vocals made everything perfect, while Weatherall’s guitar mix (he really was a great guitarist) is still a fucking tune and a half.

Weatherall mixed everything it seemed together to create glorious sounds, which as said, sometimes sounds exactly like what’s going on in my head. I could fill up pages and pages of his work but I’ll wrap up with a tune from Fuck Buttons, Surf Solar, which bizarrely ended up being used at the London Olympics in 2012. All those years dancing on the outskirts and suddenly his sounds are in the middle of one of the most establishment events out there.

Nobody will replace him. 56 is far too young and dear god, how badly will I miss his tunes…

The latest outrage against South Park

It is 2020. People are still blaming South Park for all the ills of the Western World. This time instead of the rabidly illiberal censorious right screaming about the show, it’s the rabidly illiberal censorious left in the shape of writer Dana Schwartz.

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There’s a series of Tweets, with above being her first, and the next being her last, but she’s ploughing a furrow dug often since the programme started in the late 90’s.

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The problem is her final message is wrong. Yes it is a very political show, but the message is that often there is nothing that can be done in terms of a simple, easy solution. The character of Kyle especially (often to be said to be the closest in terms of actual beliefs for the creators) pours out hard solutions but is mocked by others because people from the left and right don’t want complex answers but easy ones that fits their own worldview. Which is where Schwartz is as the show doesn’t fit her worldview so she threw out this attempt to basically ‘cancel’ it.

The problem is by blaming South Park from everything from the alt-right, to Trump to the current culture wars is that simple solution. An airy wave of the hand and all your problems are gone. Who needs to understand the socio-economic problems caused by the collapse of industry which has led to an alienated working class who feel isolated and ignored by all the traditional politics out there, hence why many are looking to outsiders for answers. Sadly that gives us Brexit and Trump partly because the left as a whole has advocated the discussion to the right in favour of purity spirals and identity politics rather than creating a narrative where the alienated working class see a way out.

So instead we’re stuck with people being offended by a show nearly 25 years old that’s attacked people from all political backgrounds and while it often misses a point, or gets it wrong, it serves a purpose as a satire of the times where anything is open for debate. Because you don’t like hearing what it has to say is not a reason to ‘cancel’ it, which makes me glad that Schwartz’s attempt to do just that fell flat but these attempts at censorship attack liberty itself, and sometimes liberty means people hearing or seeing things they don’t want to hear or see.