You all have to experience ‘Interface’

Ever since YouTube arrived over a decade ago there’s been a rise of sometimes astonishing creativity and in the case of Interface, there’s  so much creativity on display that it can be a bit overwhelming.

Interface is the product of the mind of Unami, whomever that may well be, and it’s set in Canada, and it draws from things as diverse as David Cronenberg, Twin Peaks, Philip K Dick and William Burroughs. It has a wonderfully dreamy/nightmareish tone that flips on a penny and is best experienced late at night.

The first episode is below, the rest are here. I implore you to try it out.

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Another Halloween tale…

A few years ago I told a wee Halloween story from my youth and promised to tell the story of the time I saw a UFO. This isn’t that story but it’s another wee Halloween story, this time from my time living in Nottingham in the early 1990’s and of either a drug-induced hallucination or a close shave with someone, or something.

Back in the early 90’s, Nottingham was an up and coming city. It was also a young city in terms of population but a very, very old city with many areas 5-10 years away from any sort of gentrification. For folk into the ‘alternative’ cultures available at the time, the city was a dream where one could indulge themselves to their heart’s delight, or indeed, any other part of the body that pumped blood.To aid with this, one would spend an evening at Rock City which back then, was somewhat of a free for all on certain nights, so nights would be drunken, druggy and messy. It wasn’t uncommon to leave Rock City attached to a larger crew after closing to end up in someone’s house to wake up hours later on the couch/floor/bed/wherever.

Basically just what you should be doing in your early 20’s.

One late autumnal Saturday night I headed down to Rock City having little to do after having done a comic mart that afternoon, so I went to see who was there. It was, as you’d expect, a messy night and various people were there doing various things in what was a fun night which when it came to 2am, most of us didn’t want to stop. One chap on the fringes of the scene invited a bunch of us back to his in Hyson Green which was near where I lived. From here on in I need to make clear names have either been lost to memory, or changed to protect the innocent.

The chap’s name was Brian, and he lived in a squat in an old Victorian house off the Mansfield Road. It was a fair walk from Rock City, so we headed off with the promise of drugs, beer and spare rooms to fiddle around with others in. To get to his place meant walking by the old Church Cemetery which even in daylight was a fucking gnarly place to walk by.

One of the other lads, Dennis and his girlfriend Denise weren’t too keen on Brian’s suggestion we dive in and drop some MDMA which he had on him. In fact myself, another girl Amy and her friends weren’t too keen on playing the Goth cliché to this extreme, so we convinced Brian to take us to his place as by now most of us were sobering up and it was cold, dank and wet as we hung around outside a cemetery arguing whether you want to go in it at 3am.

Eventually we hit Gregory Boulevard, which meant I was nearly home, but we trudged further up the road til we went past the Asda in Hyson Green, and entered a large house on a dark street off a main road. We got into a sparsely furnished living room but with just enough seats if people sat on various knees,and so it was that finally the booze and drugs were broken out of Brian’s secret stash. One of the other lads, Bruce, wanted to know if we’d wake anyone up but Brian said nobody else was in the house that weekend and in fact we could crash in the spare rooms, of which there was a few. as we discovered upon playing around in the dark old house which looked as if it’d been in a sorry state for some decades.

It was Bruce who found the basement. The stairs down to it looked like this.

The main difference being there was an electricity meter on the wall, and the steps led down to a large cellar. See, Nottingham is very, very old and as a city is riddled with underground cellars,caves and catacombs with many lost in time. This wasn’t the worst I’ve seen in terms of creepy chills but when you’re in a strange house on drugs and pissed the mind plays tricks and I’m sure things were moving down there in the darkened haze. I thought not to mention it in case I scared Amy who by now had linked up with me for a variety of reasons, but partly I presume to have some sort of protection from an increasingly sketchy Brian who was a changed man on MDMA.

As the night progressed and Brian became odder (not nasty, just odd) he insisted people crash in the house overnight, but it was bare, empty and cold not to mention when Amy and myself checked out one of the rooms it looked as if the mattress was overdue a letter from the Queen congratulating it for getting to the age it clearly was. Upon going back downstairs I suggested we leave and go back to mine which wasn’t too far away but it had things like bedding, warmth and a lack of an increasingly sketchy Goth who was now insisting we go downstairs to ‘check it out, man’.

It was Denis who was the first out the door. He’d humoured Brian and went down towards the cellar and who as we were coming downstairs, was making a sharp exit out, with the others closely behind them. Myself and Amy had Brian in front of us telling us to stay and chill, not to worry and yeah he was the only person in the house as I heard the door to the cellar rattle behind me followed by shuffling sounds on stone steps behind wood. Neither myself or Amy were keen on finding out what was coming up behind us, so pushing Brian aside we walked out into the vague daylight of a wet Sunday morning and made our way as quickly as I could with someone in high heel boots in tow.

As we hit the main road I glanced back to see Brian still standing at the open door and Amy was sure, positive even with the drugs and booze in her system, something was standing behind him that didn’t quite look right.

We ran as quickly as we good onto the well lit main road, and hastily walked to mine where we promptly got to bed and slept as soon as heads hit the pillow sleeping til the late afternoon of that Sunday. We didn’t actually talk about what happened til the next day when Amy asked if I minded going back to hers to grab some clothes so she could stay at mine for a bit and we spoke about it to her flatmate. She also vaguely knew Brian as someone on the fringes of the scene and in fact nearly went back to his squat until she felt something was wrong, and decided against it. That night we went into town to the Salutation to see who was there from Saturday night (in those pre-mobile days one’s social life was infinitely more random) but ended up in the Trip to Jerusalem after being told by the staff that’s where folk went.

So we met with people and told those not in the know what had happened. Denis was adamant he saw something, and I totally believed Amy saw something and I’m sure I saw something but we were all drunk, on drugs in a weird old house occupied by a weirder Goth. Basically we tried rationalising it and anyhow, next time we’d go to Rock City we’d probably see Brian.

Except we didn’t. The autumn turned to winter and while Amy went home to Liverpool for two weeks I bummed around Nottingham for a bit, before spending Christmas in Leicester and coming back for the New Year’s Eve all nighter at Rock City where I’d arranged to go with friends. It wasn’t a great night. One couple split up because both though they were shagging other people, which was true and both knew it, but the lie broke down that evening, while I was loaded with flu missing Amy who I’d now not see til the middle of January as I’d arranged to go down to Bristol and London for a bit to help a pair of friends out with a big comic con that was coming up so that night in the squat started to fade into memory as Brian passed also into local folklore, and seeing as he had no real mates, people stopped mentioning his name.

Then one afternoon shortly after my birthday in February I’d taken Amy into town for lunch and a trip to Selectadisc, while I sneaked off for a wee bit of comics retailing. We’d arranged to meet in the pub so I got there before here, bought a couple of drinks and sat down to read some comics while I waited for her to spend what money I’d given her on records. When she came in she looked whiter than usual for a Goth, and sat down to tell me that she’d seen Brian in Selectadisc but had tried to ignore him before he made eye contact and said hello. She asked how he was and what he was up to, so he said he was there to sell records as he was broke which was why we’d not seen him in ages. She also said he looked awful and that he’d clearly taken a kicking at some point recently but she said her goodbyes, and that she was off to meet me.

We thought his problem was drugs, serious drugs, and we’d probably not see much of him again. Except that night at mine as Amy was drawing the curtains she was sure she saw Brian standing over the road. I said I’d have a look when I dumped the rubbish downstairs in the bin, and he was nowhere near the front of the house but as I went round the back something was moving around which was too heavy for a cat or a fox, too heavy for the skinny Brian and anyhow, it had a shape in the neon streetlights that made me leg it quickly back up to our wee flat and lock the doors double behind me. Whether my imagination was playing with me or not, I wasn’t going to hang around too long to  see if things were in fact there and real.

That was the last time I saw Brian, or indeed, that something which seemed to follow him like something out of Poe or Lovecraft. I’d split with Amy in the messy aftermath of Glastonbury 1991 so there was nothing in Nottingham for me, and I thought moving back to Leicester was a good idea.

And I thought nothing of that night since except one time a year or so later where I took the bus to Glasgow, it passed through Nottingham and I swear I saw Brian sitting begging at the bus station with sad, dead eyes not to mention the suggestion of something just out the corner of my eye when I looked at him.

Next time I tell a story like this I promise it’ll be one of the UFO stories sitting in my memory bank…

Why don’t superheroes have daft sidekicks anymore?

Back in the day superheroes had daft sidekicks like this.

Or like this:

Or like this:

Those are the Martian Manhunter’s Zook, Captain Marvel’s Mr. Tawky Tawney, and Supergirl’s pet cat, Streaky. They were fun, stupid and silly. They reflected the fact readers were mainly young kids but they also realised that the concept of superheroes are essentially, daft, as if you can have a Superman why not then a Supercat?

It was fun, innocent times as the readership grew up and rather let this sillyness remain it was purged, so superheroes became dark, cats were no longer super-strong and sidekicks or groups like the Teen Titans became crammed full of murderers and psychopaths because of ‘darkness’.

The fact is when the main audience for superhero comics were late teens to 60 plus in age, the urge to read daft, simple things which are fun is lesser. Partly because of the urge to make a childish genre ‘dark and mature’ but mainly because these people don’t want to be seen as being kids and since the industry listens to these people more than they should we end up with grimness upon grimness. With one big exception, Squirrel Girl’s Tippy-Toe.

I miss the days where most superhero comics were silly, and I find the endless piss-coloured stream of grimdark superheroes tedious but I can dream of the days of flying cats and talking tigers thinking it to be better than grim, moody murderers.

The Fortean Review of the Year 1994

25 years ago The X Files was first broadcast and all those weird things like conspiracies, UFO’s, cryptoids and the weirdness of the Fortean world. What was, at best, something hidden in the alternative, the offbeat , became mainstream and normalised to the point where the mainstream realised there’s a lot of potential with it. Arguably this is one of the things that’s led to everyone accepting conspiracy theories as the X FIles also came as the internet was growing into the Worldwide Web, which fuelled the rise of people like Alex Jones.

But in 1994 this dystopia we live in now was a bit of SF if you’d suggested it 24 years ago. It was a different, more rational time, even with Forteana. In December of that year, the BBC broadcast one of their regular theme nights, which in this case was called Weird Night, and it is a fantastic bit of TV. The highlight of the night for me was the Fortean Review of the Year which at the time listed the various oddities of the year, but looking back at it now acts not just as a log of Fortean weirdness, but archive of what those pre-internet days looked like.

It’s worth a look just for the fainting goats. Enjoy.

 

Comicsgate supporters have no idea what they’re talking about

I’ve spoken about Comicsgate before, but it is one of things that isn’t going away so a bit like a fungal infection we’re going to have to deal with it, and one of the ways it seems we’re going to have to do it is by breaking things down as simply as possible as it is clear Comicsgaters have no idea what the fuck they’re on about.

If that sounds obvious then let me explain. The main goals of Comicsate that the creator Jamal Igle collated are as follows..

1. Hire people based on merit. Pay your dues and you eventually get your own title, Noone jumps the line because of race sex whatever

2. Retain people based on sales

3. Don’t attack the customers. in a word professionalism

4. Minimize politics in stories.

Sounds nearly reasonable til you look below the surface or have any sort of knowledge of the history of the American comic book industry because 1/ is nonsense as people have been hired because of past glories, or who they know for decades but they were white men, but it does seem to be only women or non-white people who they have issues with and the idea that  say, women have jumped the gun is utter bollocks is you’re aware of your history.

2/ is complex. I’ve seen Comicsgaters argue that ‘Person X’ shouldn’t be in comics because their titles doesn’t sell, but the fact is they may have a small print-run but all of it sells to the direct market rather than having overstocks sit with the publisher. Something like say, X-Men Gold, will have large amounts left over. Also if you have someone who’s been writing a title for years and it sells well, but as a publisher you feel the title needs a bit of a shake-up then sales don’t enter into it. Nobody, and I mean nobody in comics is safe from this. Again, there’s plenty of examples of this in history.

3/ is simple. The customer isn’t always right and frankly, if you’re being a wanker online to a creator then you’ll get it back. Customers should be listened to but any business needs to gain new customers, and if old ones don’t like it, then fuck off. It really isn’t even as brutal as that, but this is complex and can’t be reduced to simplistics.

4/ is bullshit. It can be argued the creation of the American superhero is in itself a political act as Superman was created by two Jewish-American immigrants to give a voice to the American working class, including America’s growing immigrant population. Superman was their protector in his early years before he became a propaganda figure in WW2.

And while watching one of the many threads on Twitter about this, I spotted this post.

I pointed something out which got a reaction…

Ethan van Sciver has indeed went right to the end-user and managed to get half a million bucks off them for this.

Now if people want to give their money to this is fine, but don’t think this is new. It isn’t. People like Dave Sim or the Pini’s were re-writing how the industry worked back in the 1970’s, and self-publishing was hardly a new concept then. The rise of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter ensures that any creator can go direct to an audience and raise the capital needed to publish their work, so Van Sciver isn’t changing the world, regardless what his followers think.

No, the fact is Comicsgaters are being taken advantage of. They don’t have the knowledge of the history of comics, or indeed, how the industry works. They’re also seemingly universally youngish having been brought up on a diet on 90’s Image Comics, or your pretty stands Marvel/DC superhero fare. They don’t want ‘change’ because their voices have always been listened to & the idea they’re not the focus of attention means Van Sciver and others on the far right, sorry ”alt-right”, have zoomed in to fill people’s heads with nonsense. Essentially they’ve weaponised ignorance and that’s dangerous potentially as Comicsgate (like Gamergate before it) does have a large number of people involved in it and those at the top of the foodchain are perfectly aware they’ve got young, malleable, alienated men and boys to use as footsoldiers in this culture war they’re desperate to start.

Comicsgate isn’t going away but neither is it going to change the industry. What we have to do is ensure it doesn’t grow to suck up more people and we can do that by educating people. If people don’t want to listen then we have a problem but we have to fight the ignorance of Comicsgate.

The wonderful horror of Local 58

Kris Straub of Chainsawsuit, a few years ago created a web based found footage style horror series. Local 58 is based round the schedules of a small American TV channel and the frankly unsettling programming contained in it.

Now a lot of web based horror is awful. This isn’t. It’s nicely done, creepy and unsettling, just like good horror should be so here’s the videos in order of release. Enjoy…

San Diego Comic Con Cosplay

Back in the old days of comic conventions we used to have a fancy dress competition which would normally be won by one of the few women entering, or by some bloke wearing the inside of toilet rolls on his arms to pretend to be Mr. Fantastic. Invariably it’ll all be a bit naff and fun with the occasional time of it being something very good indeed.

Then in the 21st century fancy dress vanished to be replaced by the juggernaut of cosplay as fancy dress and play-acting was consumed by capitalism, but it’s hard to be too cynical as after all, this is (done right) essentially just another form of theatre which brings me to the Masquerade Ball at San Diego Comic Con. The ball is the Oscars of cosplay with a touch of Glastonbury Festival, so seeing as things are a bit shite in the world have a shufty of these videos to cheer yourself up a bit.