David Anthony Kraft RIP

David Anthony Kraft has passed away thanks to Covid (the toll this virus has done to the creative arts is depressing) and with that, the world of comics has lost an important figure but we’ll never see the likes again. I first noticed Kraft’s name when he started writing The Defenders which thanks to Steve Gerber’s work, had becomed one of my favourite books.

Defenders, The, Edition# 47: Marvel, Marvel: Amazon.com: Books

The Defenders was one of Marvel’s team books but unlike say, The Avengers, the stories were not the normal superheroic stuff with pages of fights often replaced by the weird and bizarre (as much as you could do under the Comics Code in the 70s) which also coincided with artist Keith Giffen in his Jack Kirby phase so the entire book was a crazy mix of weirdness, philosphy and superheroics with a roster which would wildly change often with one issue to the next. It was wonderful stuff. As was his run on Marvel Two-In-One, a strange wee book featuring the Thing from the Fantastic Four teaming up with another hero each issue.

Marvel Two In One #41 Thing & Brother Voodoo (1978)

But it’ll be his magazine Comics Interview he’ll mainly be remembered for.

Comics Interview (1983) comic books

The magazine was vastly more mainstream than the Comics Journal, so more stuff from Marvel and DC would crop up, though Kraft still kept the magazine open for all genres and publishers til 1995 when the collapse of the industry he loved affected him directly when Comics Interview was cancelled. There’s still a gap in the market for something like this which parts of the internet tries to deliver.

And now another figure from an important era in comics is gone and they’ll be missed.

Jim Steinman’s Batman musical

The sad news about the death of Jim Steinman obviously brought out memories of listening to Meat Loaf as a kid, mainly because of the Richard Corben cover of Bat Out of Hell, and being a young person developing his own tastes I thought if the creator of Den did a cover for someone then it has to be ridiculously over the top which of course it is. Steinman changed the career of so many from Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler, through to the Sisters of Mercy where he helped rewrite the sound of Goth to include big pompous drums and guitars that lives on til today.

However the thing that slipped from our grasp was a musical adaptation of Batman, specifically Tim Burton’s Batman film from 1989. Sadly it was not to be, however the music lives on in all its OTT glory.

Sit back, turn it up and enjoy…

Death of a Royal

Prince Philip died the other day and much of the UK media went slightly mad. All of the BBC’s channels were suspended on Friday to show tributes, and as for ITV they went full mourning as well so all the UK’s main terrestial channels were given over to this one story as if it’s the 1950’s, not 2021. Yes, it is a major story but we’re also in the middle of a pandemic which has killed 125K people, plus all the effects of lockdown, etc means countless lives have changed for the worst and they all get a couple of minutes of presenters and politicians looking serious. A 99 year old man dies and it’s getting more coverage than that or 7/7 or even that insane week in 1997 when Diana died and half the UK lost their minds.

So pity us stuck on this island which has lost its mind and will continue to make things more insane for those of us still with some sense of reality…

Si Spencer RIP

This is shocking. The writer Si Spencer has died at the age of 59. Although Si worked outwith comics on the likes of Eastenders, it’ll be comics he’ll be remembered for, and a nicer bloke in comics you couldn’t wish to meet. A well known face in fan circles since his days on Crisis and editing Deadline, Si would be found at conventions chatting away to all and sundry.

The last few years has seen him produce some great work, with what I think is his best work, Bodies coming out a few years ago.

Gone far too early. He’ll be missed.

S. Clay Wilson RIP

The generation of American underground comics lost one of its major talents and inspirations to others in the shape of S. Clay Wilson, the creator of the Checkered Demon.

I love Wilson’s comment when interviewed by The Comics Journal that comics should be something where you can draw whatever you want, which is exactly what Wilson did often getting himself into trouble with the law, and on this side of the Atlantic, customs would gleefully seize his works.

Wilson was transgressive in a way few comic artists ever could be, and few today ever try to be, but he (along with Robert Crumb and a handful of others) shifted what comics could be over their careers with artists like Tim Vigil clearly picking up threads of what Wilson left lying around. He deserves our appreciation as fans of the medium for what he did and his wife and family deserve our condelences. It can be safely said there won’t be another like him.

Five years since we lost David Bowie

Five years ago the world ticked over, not especially well, but we didn’t seem to have the day-to-day carnage of now and although hardly a Golden Age,there was some sort of sense to the world. There are a few that say that’s because of David Bowie’s death as if Bowie was some sort of glue that held the world together, which for people like me who’d been fans since an early age, certainly felt that way.

I miss Bowie every day. Knowing there’s no new music, or a new something from him is painful, and that’s one of the reasons I never listened to his final album Blackstar, though I’m now of the opinion I actually need to listen to it just to finally accept his death and perhaps move on from the hell that’s been the world, and indeed much of my life since Bowie’s death.

The only other act who came close in terms of shaping my life was Prince, and we also lost him in 2016. As for me a month or so after Bowie’s death I had a stroke, and they also found a cancer in my neck, so 2016 fucking sucked hard as all my plans fell apart in a short time and I had to pull a new life out the wreckage of the old.

I’m now in a place I didn’t want to be in five years ago. I wish things could be better but a perfect storm of ill health and the clusterfuck of Brexit means staying put for now, and probably the next few years. And one of the things which has kept some level of sanity over these years is David Bowie.

In times of awfulness we reach out for comforting things, and Bowie’s been just that and although I don’t want to think there’s an end to what Bowie did, I need to move on, listen to what I’ve been putting off and maybe see a better tomorrow because of it.

So half a decade without Bowie. He’ll be as missed as he has been and while I draw a breath, but time to accept his death as after all, that’s part of everyone’s life, and just perhaps that makes everything else better.

So R.I.P David Bowie,he will be sorely sorely missed.

Richard Corben RIP

Richard Corben has sadly passed away. Corben was one of the great comic artists of the late 20th century and managed to leap from underground to mainstream effortlessly, and I ensure that virtually every person reading this will have seen his most famous work.

Like many fans of a certain age, I first found Corben’s work in Heavy Metal, and especially his Den strip which is like a sexed up Conan for those who’ve never seen it’s beautiful insanity.

I then came across his work in Jim Warren’s magazines Creepy and Eerie, which is fucking spectacular works of horror, and it is in the horror and science fiction genres Coben did much of his best work. One of my favourite works is his and Harlan Ellison’s Vic and Blood, which is a wonderful work.

He did dabble in the world of superheroes with varying success, but there is a splendid run he did on Hellblazer which is worth searching out, as well as a Hulk miniseries which shows that Corben should have drawn the character years before he did.

However to millions he’ll be known for drawn the cover to Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. It’s a good work but one that verges on self-parody, but as an image to seel a style,this was perfect for someone with such a varied and long career. Nobody’s art looked like Corben and although some of the 70’s and 80’s airbrush artists tried, it just wasn’t Corben…

A unique talent is gone and he’ll be seriously missed.

40 years ago John Lennon died

40 years ago I got up on a cold, dark winter morning to go to school as a child basically barely a teenager to do my normal daily routine of getting up to go to school. yet this day in 1980 was different. There was a solumn tone in my mother’s voice, and something weird to me, which was shock about the murder of John Lennon.

The Beatles were sacred cows growing up, Lennon especially with his antiauthoritarian nature, but mostly because of the music. Lennon was a household hero, so in the early hours of the 9th December the news broke in the UK that John Lennon had been killed in the New York on the evening of the 8th of December. In those pre-internet days news travelled by the speed of a phone call. The spread of information seems glacial compared to today when one can follow breaking stories like this is real time online.

So it was that the news broke, again in those days things were more formal, less emotional in the bleak cold start to what would be a pretty awful winter for the UK. It wasn’t til years later that I realised the importance of it all, and how it would affect music and culture. Lennon was not a god, but a flawed man who used his position to try to do more than just make pop songs which today is a rare thing indeed.

And so here’s the BBC news broadcast from the evening and it is a wonderful bit of archive of a time long gone.

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…

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.