A quick word of appreciation for The Rocketeer

One of the joys about picking up collections of comics is finding the gem in the rough. This time the gem wasn’t the most expensive item, but The Rocketeer graphic novel.

Written and drawn by the late Dave Stevens, this is a comic that has a core cult following but in the history of 1980’s comics that changed how the industry works, not to mention how comics were perceived by people outwith our little comics ghetto, The Rocketeer never gets a mention.

Originally published by Pacific Comics, The Rocketeer was the first big success of the then small, but growing, independent scene that was taking advantage of the expanding direct market. Stevens was a genius and is also the man most responsible for the Bettie Page revival in the 80’s.

The Rocketeer helped prove independent comic publishers could have a hit, and proved creators didn’t need Marvel or DC to be successful. Sadly Stevens was a tad, well, slow, so it took years to get his story out but it was worth it as it is a work of art with every panel a clear labour of love.

Stevens even managed to get his character onto film with a perfectly respectable and even underrated film adaptation in 1991.

Since Stevens untimely death other people have attempted to carry on the story with IDW publishing some decent story but they’re nothing like that original Dave Stevens story which remains, and always will be, a complete joy.

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A short history of black superheroes on film

With Black Panther opening this month there’s a massive wave of excitement at a high profile black superhero having their own big budget film but T’Challa isn’t the first black hero to get on film.

First up is 1997’s Steel.

I know the trailer looks shite but trust me, the film is much, much worse.

Next up is Michael Jai White in Spawn, also from 1997 and marginally less shite than Steel, though not by much.

The less said about Halle Berry’s Catwoman film the better.

There’s also the likes of Hancock and err, Meteor Man to be briefly mentioned and discarded.

There are of course the odd one’s out with the first two Blade films which were actually really good. The first one apart from being a bloody good action film had much to say about class and race in its own wee way.

And the sequel was all about Guillermo del Toro having a shitload of fun.

Sadly, the third film was rubbish so moving on, can you see now what if you’re white there’s plenty of superheroes that look like you on the screen, but if you’re not there’s a small handful of mainly rubbish films and the odd two that stand out so for a large section of the population, Black Panther is a big deal.

We’ll no doubt see companies turn out more films featuring black heroes, and indeed, the Black Lightning TV series  is doing some good work but before we don’t see films like Black Panther as unusual there’s still a load of work to be done.

I’m waiting though for my 200 million dollar Brother Voodoo film.

What I thought of The Cloverfield Paradox

A decade ago Cloverfield came out having had one of the best marketing campaigns for a film I’ve ever seen having built up an air of mystery about a film which was and is, something hard to achieve. I love the first film because it is the giant monster film I’ve had in my head since being a teenager, and although its sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane is patchy, it works as a claustrophobic thriller before the end gubbins. A third film has been coming which was originally promised last year, and was expected in the spring before suddenly dropping after the Superbowl on Netflix worldwide.

From here on in lies SPOILERS. You’ve been warned!

Directed by Julius Onah and starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw who has fully recovered from having Bonekickers on her C.V and here frankly holds the entire thing together which is good because at times The Cloverfield Paradox is a tedious mess of technobabble and stuff we’ve seen in the likes of Event Horizon.

Mbatha-Raw plays Ava, an astronaut on Cloverfield Station in orbit round an Earth dying through a lack of energy resources which amount in this film to some blackouts not to mention the world’s superpowers squaring off against each other. The station is the one last chance to solve Earth’s problems peacefully as the multinational crew use an experimental particle accelerator to create unlimited free energy for the planet. As you’d expect, something goes wrong and the crew find themselves stranded having lost Earth with increasingly strange happenings occurring on the station.

The plot is pretty routine but the script is appalling. Characters spout clichés, or when faced with horror make quips that sap the scene of any tension. There’s one scene especially with Chris O’Dowd’s character that could have been a highlight of creepy body horror but ends up played for giggles then there’s the climatic fight scene that is welded on badly to the end. This for me is the problem with The Cloverfield Paradox in that is doesn’t know what it’s trying to be and I’ll be blunt, Life trod this sort of ground pretty recently and better. It does manage to explain the events of the two previous films, and I assume future films as there’s at least one more Cloverfield film coming in the next year but take the Cloverfield name and the last 90 seconds off this film and it really is the sort of film you’d watch on Netflix if there was nothing left on your list. The last 60 seconds do lift the film and make it worthwhile though it teases the prospect of a sequel that should be made but probably won’t be.

What is interesting is how Netflix and Abrams decided to release this. It could have had a release in cinemas and made a decent amount of money, but releasing it this way without any notice on Netflix suggests this is an experiment. If this film is deemed successful (and it will be as the Cloverfield name, and the last 60 seconds guarantee it)  then we’re likely to see more films dropping with no notice and that would be a good thing. After all it means then that at least for a day or two we’ll be forced to make our own minds up but hopefully if this sort of thing is done again it’s done better than this.

Cloverfield is ten years old. Really.

Imagine a decade ago? Remember your MySpace profile? Remember Gordon Brown? The credit crunch? The Beijing Olympics? It was quite literally a different world in 2008 and amongst all this Cloverfield opened which for giant monster fans like myself was like Christmas come early. From the minute an unsuspected teaser trailer dropped in the summer of 2007 folk like me hoped it was the monster film we’d had in our heads since we were kids.

The fact that a major Hollywood figure like J.J Abrams managed to get a film made so under the radar that nobody had a clue, let alone it existed til the teaser is amazing even in the distant past of 2008. Add to this a still amazing viral marketing campaign which included a fantastic ARG and the film was something I couldn’t wait to see.

There were many things which at the time annoyed me. The vacuous yuppies were often annoying, but this new way to do a monster film was great, and it featured some fantastic giant monster action.

Giant monster films are much more prevalent now than a decade ago when only the Japanese bravely held up the case for giant creatures wrecking major metropolitan cities, but although Cloverfield doesn’t quite hold up as well as a decade ago, it still stands as a great little monster film even if half the characters are the sort of people you’re sitting there wishing to be smushed.

But to think this is a decade old. Christ, how old do I feel?? Still, at some point I might blog about the idea a mate and myself had about a Gorgo remake that sees the titular monster trash most of southern England from Bristol to London.

Superman Returns

Action Comics is due to hit its 1,000th issue in April. In it Superman finally ditches the armour he’s been wearing since The New 52 revamp and returns to his traditional outfit.

Superman after being away for so long is back, and Action #1000 also feature the wonderful José Luis García-López, an artist who I’ll be blogging about in more detail soon as one of the finest, but yet under-appreciated, artists of the last 40 years.

There’s a lot of people who hate Superman quoting anything from the character being boring or too good, or powerful, but yet this is the basis for the genre of super heroes and done right, Superman is a character than can show us the best of who we. He is also escapism and he can also be used to deal with issues of the day as he was 1,000 issues ago in Action Comics #1.

When Superman started it was dark times with an economic recession and the rise of the far right threatening us, and we’re in similar times so Superman can stand as a beacon of hope rather than the arsehole he was in The New 52, or the brooding killer of Zack Snyder’s imagination. Instead we’re hopefully back to having a heroic figure for people to aspire to which is what we need in a genre full of ‘edgy’ anti-heroes as sometimes you need to point to a moral standard to aspire to rather than just accept lazy cynicism passing for ‘cutting edge’.

We shall see but regardless, hitting 1,000 issues in an American comic (British comics use to pass that milestone regularly) is an achievement and if that includes the proper Superman returning then all the best for it.

Laughing at old films makes you an idiot

I was chatting with a friend the other day about Quatermass and the Pit; a film both of us shared as one of our favourite horror films and how I’ve never seen it on a big screen as I’ve never had the chance to. He mentioned he did have the chance to but after going to a cinema showing of Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue where the audience laughed throughout the film he couldn’t muster the energy to go sit in a cinema full of wankers sneering at an old film.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t laugh at old, bad films like an Ed Wood classic, or somesuch rubbish like Troll 2, but if you’ve paid money to go and see a classic film like Quatermass and the Pit, and all you do is sit there with your 21st century viewpoint (and fail to appreciate it as a film) just sneering because others are doing the same then it frankly makes you a bully and well as an idiot. There will be people there who want to see the film and watch it without your snarky commentary but your entitlement means you make people’s experience awful for a few seconds jolly.

There is an argument that some people, mainly Millennials, don’t see film as art but as a fashion so whatever film is trending and fits what is fashionable this week. I don’t quite buy that as the sole reason (though I think it plays a part) but this has something that’s been discussed for a few years now. This somewhat sad piece titled Stop Laughing At Old Movies, You $@%&ing Hipsters outlines the problem when during a viewing of Mario Bava’s Hercules in the Haunted World, this happens…

The guy behind me munching Sour Patch Kids and wearing an ironic Hawaiian shirt kept up the chuckles for 91 minutes, long after I began to beseech Zeus to throw a non-styrofoam boulder at him. His stubborn laughter was an advertisement for his own superiority, like it’s heroic to refuse to be “suckered” by a fake rock that’s obviously fake. But there’s nothing triumphant about being too cool to dream.

And this is the problem. People can’t suspend their disbelief as after all, that involves putting effort into it. If you’re used to seeing film as two hours where you’re spoon-fed what you want and when you see what films people have laughed at (including John Carpenter’s The Thing, which would have driven me to murder had I been there) you do wonder if it is a case where people really have lost the ability to imagine or understand nuance, or even put things in the context of the time.

Another article points out the reaction to a showing of From Russia With Love.

“It’s sad to think that there was once a time when Hollywood released dozens of movies like this each year, and millions of people went to see them, and enjoyed themselves, and laughed, and sang along, and got wrapped up in the story, and that if the same kind of movies were released right now, people would laugh at them and call them unsophisticated. That so many of you could sit there and snicker at ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ for being unsophisticated depresses me beyond words. This movie is not unsophisticated. You are.”

This is I think the problem. People are no longer sophisticated in the sense they can put themselves in a time and place, or understand film as an art. Who needs nuance when you’ve got <insert this months blockbuster here> to fill your needs and this is a pity because of ignorance and peer pressure people are losing the history of their culture. Also if people just put themselves into the moment they may find themselves enjoying something their peers may not, but fuck their peers think for yourselves & that’s something I hope people do more of.

Peter Wyngarde has passed away

For people of a certain age, Peter Wyngarde was the face of the school holidays where you’d be glued to the telly watching repeats of Jason King or Department S. He later of course cut a wonderful baddie in Flash Gordon as Klytus.

Wyngarde was one of those actors who ended up inspiring a whole load of people from Mike Myers for his Austin Powers character, to Chris Claremont and John Byrne for their X Men run with the ‘Jason Wyngarde’ character.

He was so popular at one point he released a solo album titled imaginatively enough, Peter Wyngarde. It has a track called Rape.

Moving on, he also did a fantastic version of Neville Thumbcatch which just sums up that point in the early 70’s where the hippy dream hasn’t fully died yet, but we’re also falling into a cultural mess that ends up in Punk in 1976.

So cheerio to one of those characters we’ll never, ever have again…