What I thought of Terminal Hero #1

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Terminal Hero is the new comic from Pete Milligan, a writer I’ve enjoyed since his early 2000AD work, though to things like the still astonishing Skin, and Enigma, one of the best superhero books you’ll ever read. For much of the last decade or so Milligan has been writing some distinctly average to awful superhero comics to, I assume, pay about  the bills. Milligan has on the whole spent the decade treading water so it’s refreshing to see such a massive return to form with the first issue of this new series.

The synopsis of Terminal Hero sounds unlikely for a mainstream comic.

Rory Fletcher is a good man. The problem is, he’s dying of an inoperable brain tumor. And then his best friend introduces him to the mysterious Treatment Q. This strange and forbidden therapy might just save Rory’s life. But its nightmarish side effects could make him question just how good he really is, and just how much he really does want to live.

A comic about a man fighting cancer has been done with Harvey Pekar’s Our Cancer Year, but this isn’t that type of comic. This is pitching a story about cancer and a young man trying to come to terms with death to a mainstream audience brought up with superheroes and not used to the sort of comic that doesn’t feature superpowers. It’s in this context that Milligan manages to tell a story which is ostensibly about a man who takes a last chance for life.

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The lead character Rory is a good man. Having a total bastard getting cancer and die would be dramatically rubbish but we root for Rory because he’s decent, a doctor and wants to make people better but his body dealt him a bad deal by developing a tumour and that’s the horror of cancer as it affects anyone. All Milligan’s character building plays off when the weird stuff starts happening and Rory starts to get to the bottom of what exactly is going on.

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Terminal Hero is clearly a highly personal story for Milligan and it’s good to see him tackle a subject like cancer and present it to an audience normally used to escapism. Having had a scare myself around a decade ago I can identify with Rory immensely and the emotions he goes through in this first issue, which is a perfect set up for what looks to be an interesting return to form for Milligan.

Back, and to the Left-50 Years of JFK

50 years ago today John F Kennedy, president of the United States was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, in Texas and that was that.

Actually it wasn’t. It was the start of 50 years of conspiracies large and small, and it probably kick started modern culture’s fixation with the Conspiracy Theory. It did help that the actual murder of JFK was captured in a shaky bit of film shot by Abraham Zapruder, which even though it’s 50 years old, is still an astonishing powerful, not to mention shocking bit of footage. However it would take 12 years for the people of America and the world to see this bit of film as you can see from this remarkable bit of footage from 1975.

The Zapruder Film is a genuine snuff film. We watch someone die in it, and die quite horribly as they’re shot by one (two?) assassins. Frankly, I don’t believe the official line which give my past blog on Conspiracy Theories on 911, is probably a horrible bit of hypocrisy. Let me explain.

I’ve always been fascinated by JFK’s murder. That’s partly due to my parents being huge Americophiles, so when I was born one of the stories I was constantly told when growing up was about how distraught my mother especially was about JFK’s murder, and how she couldn’t believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the only person involved. She thought it was insane to think that. So when I was growing up I was steeped in JFK lore, and was probably a serious Conspiracy Nut in regards to this subject by the time I was 16.

As I grew older and read more and more on the subject I became (and remain) convinced JFK was killed by more than one person, however I became more interested with how this was affecting culture. Oliver Stone’s splendid, if somewhat mental, JFK, is a film I’ve seen dozens of times not only because it’s possibly one of the best edited films you’ll see but because it manages to capture that conspiracy insanity when it takes over from the real world.

Around the same time, DC Comics had published Pete Milligan’s excellent comic, Shade: The Changing Man, which started it’s run diving headfirst into JFK conspiracy theories, while indulging in wonderful flights of surrealism.

After Stone’s film, JFK was a important part of culture worldwide as a cultural myth, or at least, his murder was a folk tale where we could impose what we wanted to upon it, but there’s a human story in all this which is of a man being murdered not only in front of the world, but his wife. Those images of Jackie Kennedy scrambling on the back of her presidential car trying to scoop up her husbands skull are horrible, tragic and at the same time incredibly powerful as you don’t do that to someone who you don’t love.

So this 50th anniversary by all means continue as I will to insist JFK was killed by more than one person, but remember that there’s a human story at the heart of this. Remember that.