Go get ‘Poisoned Chalice: The Extremely Long and Incredibly Complex Story of Marvelman (and Miracleman)’

Pádraig Ó Méalóid’s, Poisoned Chalice, his long history of the British comics character Marvelman, or Miracleman, has finally been printed and is available from your favourite non-taxpaying retailer Amazon.My copy is ordered and on it’s way so more when the Royal Mail eventually delivers it!

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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.

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…

Five films for Halloween you may not have seen in other clickbait lists!

It’s nearly Halloween so this means clickbait lists of horror films that have the same films all the time. This isn’t to say the likes of Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Nightmare of Elm Street are crap films; they aren’t but they’re always on these sort of lists apart from this one.

So to dive right in…

5/ Deathwatch.

Horror films set during the two great wars of the 20th century are rare, mainly because the real horrors of warfare surpassed what people can imagine, but 2002’s Deathwatch, written and directed by Michael J. Bassett, tries in what is a gory, grim horror film set in the trenches of WW1.Jamie Bell turns in a great performance in the central role, while Andy Serkis eats up everything he can in a Cage-esque performance but the star of the film is how it looks and how it makes you feel as a viewer as various characters are broken down, in all senses.

This is firmly an exploitation film that relies on atmosphere as well as the jump scares and gore, plus it really is like no other horror film of the modern age thanks mainly to the setting.

4/ Creep

 

The 2000’s were a good time for British horror films thanks to works from Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Descent) and Danny Boyle ( 28 Days Later) helping kick the genre up the arse but films were lost, including writer/director Christopher Smith’s 2004 film, Creep.

Like the splendid Deathline, Creep is mainly set on the London Underground and like that film, uses the winding labyrinth of the network to scary advantage.It’s a film that plays up the oddness of being several stories underground in places, and being in an alien world of darkness and tunnels which in this case are inhabited by a creature that is more than it first seems.

Creep is a splendid, and of course, creepy film not to mention very violent, and very gory. After the July 2005 bombings in London the film seemed to vanish from the collective memory by the very real horrors of that July day and sadly it’s been lost somewhat but search it out as it is a wonderfully effective film.

3/Wolfen.

In 1981 the werewolf film was back with An American Werewolf in London and The Howling leading the way, and you’d think looking at the UK poster above that Wolfen was a total fucking bloodbath, but it isn’t. What it is, is in fact a film that mixes social commentary (this is probably the first film I saw which deals with the issue of gentrification) with a side-order of tense horror and a wee bit of quite wonderfully done gore.

Adapted from Whitley Strieber’s book and written and directed by Michael Wadleigh (who directed Woodstock) this is an eco-horror film mixed with a cop thriller that bends genres and oh, it isn’t actually a werewolf film even if the marketing of the film strongly suggested it was. What it does do is use the decaying New York of the early 80’s to tell the story on the surface of the investigation of the murder of a Donald Trump-esque character who was redeveloping parts of the rotting city. Wadleigh uses New York amazingly well as a backdrop, while Albert Finney turns in a great performance as the jaded New York cop in whose lap this mess lands.

It’s a flawed film for sure, and at times it does get a tad too preachy, but it’s got an odd feeling of unease running through the film, and when it scares, it does it right.Search it out.

2/ The Last Broadcast

The found footage film is everywhere these days, as is the mockumentary but back in 1998 it was still experimental as more portable video equipment and digital technology became available. Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler‘s The Last Broadcast predates The Blair Witch Project,  and is easily its equal, if not often the better film. Both share the concept of footage being found and reconstructed to find out what happened to the people in that footage, but both come at this premise from different angles as the Blair Witch Project is a pure found footage film, while The Last Broadcast mixes elements of found footage with mockumentary.

What I love about The Last Broadcast is the slow burn and the general atmosphere of something dreadful coming. In 2018 you may well be familiar with the tricks used in the film, but remember this was one of the first in a genre while more importantly it works as a horror film exceptionally well. Go watch it now!

1/ Lake Mungo

First time I saw Lake Mungo it was sometime in the late 2000’s on the recommendation of a mate down the pub. I went home that night, a tad pished, downloaded the film, thought ‘ach, this is going to be rubbish‘ after a few minutes watching thinking I’d be drifting off to sleep soon with a cold kebab to wake up to. Instead I spent 90 minutes or so being gripped and scared in equal amounts as writer/director Joel Anderson spins an incredible story of some sadly, all too real horror but something else creeps in from nearly the start.

The terror is almost Lovecraftian as Anderson plays with our fears brilliantly to the point where after I’d watched it and gotten over the end, I couldn’t sleep til the first shards of light poked into my living room. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about as the less you know going in the better because this needs as few preconceptions as possible.

So there you go, five films for Halloween night you probably won’t see on most clickbaity lists. Go try them out, and remember, watch with the lights off…

Go read my UKCAC piece in Fanscene #2

I’ve written a number of UKCAC pieces on my blog here. One of them has been slightly adapted for the second issue of the splendid fanzine, Fanscene.

The 50th anniversary mentioned is of the first British comic convention in Birmingham in 1968 which essentially spawned not just the British fan scene, but also the British comics industry. Every year since 1968 there’s been at least one large convention held in the UK,  sometimes these events were thrown together in the last minute, or in the case of today there’s at least a dozen or so large conventions with hundreds of smaller cons of varying quality filling up a busy calender but there’s no way this would exist were it not for the work done in the 50 years since that first con.

So, download the magazine here and enjoy what is a smashing good read.

Come buy comics in Glasgow tomorrow

Tomorrow the 27th October, there’s a wee comic mart on in Glasgow. This is promising to be pretty old school so no cosplayers, no bubble tea and probably a larger proportion of middle age men than the shows I’ve been used to of late.

I’m going to be having a wee bit of a sale with some stuff to clear some space so come along as I’m throwing a few goodies in there. Full details for the show are below…

Glasgow’s striking women and the Labour Party

Today has seen the first of a two-day strike by women employed by Glasgow City council (GCC) in regards a very long dispute going back to 2006. Back then, the Labour run council implemented the Workforce Pay and Benefit Review (WPBR), though it quickly became apparent women (and in the vast majority of cases it was women, men in similar roles had no issues) were being paid up to £3 p/h less than their male counterparts. What then follows is a story of low-paid workers, mainly female, being advised horribly by unions and attacked by the then Labour run GCC. Fairly recently it became clear just how badly the women suffered and just how the Labour run GCC spent over £2.5 million fighting the women’s case.

In this time the GMB were advising the women, well, badly, but one heard not a peep from other unions or the Labour Party, both pre and post Jeremy Corbyn til May 2017. Two things happened; one is that Labour lost control of GCC for the first time in half a century and secondly before the women won their long fought court case and the incoming SNP run administration promised to settle the case. Negotiations started but earlier this year the GMB promised to strike so we’re here today.

The more astute of you may think ”hang on, why didn’t the GMB go on strike in the 11 years when Labour ran Glasgow?” and that is indeed a reasonable question and can be explained by the symbiotic relationship of both. In fact current Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard was a GMB official during part of this time, and the self-appointed leader of the strike, Rhea Wolfson, is a Labour candidate in the next election. Once you ask that question and discover other councils in Scotland have similar issues, but as they’re Labour run, there’s no threat of striking, then one has to conclude this is a political act that doesn’t have the women’s concerns at the heart of it.

Here for example is a Tweet from Carol Fox, who has been a lawyer representing the women.

Here’s an example of the ‘staggering hypocrisy’ in full gaslighting flow.

Now it is true the SNP led council need to up their game. Their handling of the aftermath of the Mack fire has been, on the whole, fucking dreadful (I live not far from the area affected and can testify as to how bad an aftermath it has been first hand) and their general level of communication is terrible but as this nicely balanced Scotsman article by Dani Garavelli makes clear that for all the faults of the current GCC administration, we can’t forget that a male dominated GMB and the Labour Party got us into this mess in the first place so some humility, and even an apology is forthcoming.

Today has seen Labour indulge in a campaign of stunning political hypocrisy mixed with opportunism as figures who stood against the women now Tweet furiously in favour, and some MP’s wade into the debate in the most cack-handed, tone deaf way.

You read the above Tweet right but in the midst of all this gaslighting there comes honesty from at least one person in Labour.

Realistically, this is probably what will happen as the estimated bill to settle is between £500 million and a billion. GCC can’t afford this without bankrupting Glasgow, and the Scottish Government would have to step in to mitigate this which means because the SG works on a restricted budget, other services in Scotland would be cut which means Labour run with the ‘SNP austerity line’ they’ve decided is their only real contribution to Scottish politics in the age of Brexit.

In effect, what could have been a day where the women’s 12 year old fight (and remember, some of the original women have passed on now) could have finally hit a point where all sides worked together for resolution. The current council could have been more open, and Labour rather than gaslight, lie and bullshit could have been contrite, even apologising and offering sensible solutions. Union leaders on 6-figure salaries who ensured men were paid more because that’s how it always has been could have apologised and we could try to come to a sensible outcome where the women get their backpay (the current council have binned the old pay scheme and employees are all now equally paid) but no, we’ve seen an extraordinary day where the divide has been ripped open.

What can we draw from the day? We should show solidarity with the women. There’s no doubt with that after the contempt these working class women were shown by the then Labour run council.. We should however question the GMB as to what exactly their motives are now after over a decade of, at the very least, not advising the women correctly, and for Labour they need to answer why they fought the women so hard for 11 years and also, what happened to people’s council tax because we’ve got buildings declared unsafe in what seems now like a policy to let some of Glasgow’s buildings fall into ruin.

I’d personally like an inquiry into just exactly went on in the City Chambers for decades and why women are forced to take less than their male counterparts and large parts of the city are left to rot and now we’re having to clean up this mess. That however would uncover some dirty little secrets that some of those gloating today would not like aired in public but realistically this isn’t going to be over til those responsible are contrite and that includes the Labour Party as a whole.