Posts from October 2012
This is just a coda to Tom’s brilliant (but spoiler-y! Very spoiler-y!) piece on Journey into Mystery. This is less spoiler-y and much more ramble-y and nothing like as in-depth but Tom asked me to write it, so you have him to blame.
I am not a Western comics reader. I have read some and indeed, enjoyed them a lot but in a hobbyist way that didn’t make me feel like a fan, per se. Even for someone much enthused by enormous run of things, the unassailably enormous back history of Marvel or DC characters always felt like too much work in comparison to the apparent safety of manga, where I had done the groundwork to know where my incestuous reincarnated celestial beings were at. Or more accurately to the present day, CSI, in front of which I had found my adult self lounging and wondering if anything in the geek culture that raised me would ever interest me again.
‘So far so nylons and lipsticks,’ you might think; however, this doesn’t explain why I ended up in the pub last Friday, cursing at the Marvel app for its dysfunctional purchase downloading and burbling ‘Kid Loki is THE BEST why did no one TELL me that comics were GREAT?’ Tom enthused about how heartening it was that young people were reading Marvel again- ‘I’m twenty five!’ I protested, ‘that’s REALLY OLD’ and then proceeded to have some kind of showdown altercation with a table. Or maybe a door. Or a fellow patron. A grown up showdown, no doubt.
I was and still am absolutely livid that no one told me how great Journey into Mystery is before- my emotional core has been utterly destroyed by it but I want to curl around it and clutch it to myself as though it were my child. Finally, I totally get why people care so much about Marvel and superheroes- I’m reading the whole of Thor, as though this can somehow provide attrition for my years of ignorance but honestly, it’s the gateway drug that’s the masterwork.
This essay contains enormous spoilers for the 2010s run of the Marvel comic Journey Into Mystery. If you haven’t read it – the Kieron Gillen run, at least – and you have any interest in doing so, don’t read this first. Seriously.
A theme of Sean Howe’s Marvel: The Untold Story – unavoidably, since it’s a theme of most superhero comics storytelling over the last 30-40 years – is “the illusion of change”. This is Stan Lee’s formula for what readers want – dramatic developments which are always reversible, and it’s what Marvel has always been so very good at.
But it gets harder and harder to do. The readers are wise to it, after all. Certainly death doesn’t work any more – so how about defeat? Marvel’s most recent kink is to have its heroes turn on one another – if the outcome of a hero versus villain battle is predestined, then the only battles its heroes can really lose are against other characters with their own books and fans.
Even here the arc of Marvel comics storytelling bends towards the status quo. And their emotional arcs reflect that too. In the House Of Ideas, change first brings disruption, excitement, thrilling uncertainty. Then a second act of steepening peril, and then – crescendo! – the return of the familiar once again. But renewed, cleansed through ordeal: there’s something almost mythic about it, isn’t there? Or “iconic”, to use a word comics writers began to lay claim to in the 90s, when the transparency of this cycle started to become apparent. The iconic Captain America has returned. The iconic Thor.
Here at Freaky Trigger we often find it difficult to keep track of all the recurring Character Actors in these epic films with large casts, especially under layers of prosthetics and make up.
Luckily for us then, that last night a group of dedicated FT correspondents stumbled across a handy cast list, written in P Jackson’s Actual Handwriting (see picture). So to save you multiple trips to IMDB to figure out who is playing 3rd Warg On The Left, here is that list in full:
X-Factor 2012 Live Shows, Week 3
“Club Classics” week – but what could this mean, in the land of the X-Factor? If you guessed maximum rave alert, go to the back of the class. If, however, you guessed ballads and acoustic guitars, you win, and your prize is the approval of BARLOW, whose benedictions this week were in exact proportion to how unlikely you were ever to hear the music in an actual club.
We’re still in the “shaking out the no-hopers” phase of the proceedings here: it doesn’t, in the show’s narrative, matter in which order District3, MK1, Christopher, Rylan et al get the push, but drama there must be and so drama there will be.
To the disco!
Seven thoughts on Marvel: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
1. It’s a miracle any good comics ever get published by big companies. The book paints a picture of an industry where at a certain power level or higher almost everyone involved despises the product. This is dysfunctional even by media standards: obviously dealmaking and money count for more than art at the top of the film and music industries but you can still basically imagine label and studio bosses getting some level of enjoyment from a film or album. Not so in comics (though the situation may have changed – understandably, we don’t get the optics on the current Disney ownership we do on anything else). A closer parallel – from fans to owners – might be English football.
The problem with the phrase “vocal gymnastics” – if used as a pan – is that plainly gymnastics are awesome. Their poise, control, grace, swiftness and fluidity – why wouldn’t these be things you’d aspire to in pop, why wouldn’t you expect applause? But these are manifestations of technique*, and pop thought ran aground on technique years ago, setting up a series of straw oppositions to deny it. Technique versus emotion. Technique versus passion. Technique versus excitement. Why not have them all? Mariah could, and sometimes did – if you could do the giddy things she does with her voice on “Emotions”, say, why wouldn’t you?
X-Factor 2012 Live Shows, Week 1
Last year I managed only two weeks of this before the faffery and tedium of the AGE OF BARLOW drove me away. So let’s see what happens this time. As usual I haven’t watched a second of the auditions, judges’ houses, etc – this is my first encounter with all the contestants.
The narrative around the X-Factor this year is one of decline – the show’s losing viewers, the format (apparently) feels tired. Also, while it’s the biggest entertainment TV draw in the UK just about, like Premiership football it took a bit of a moral hiding this year from sanctimonious Olympics-inspired columnists, keen to elevate people who run and jump over people who sing and dance. (Big secret: you can like both). Against the Real Role Models Of Sport the show ranges its usual parade of worthies and wasters – perhaps fewer of the latter this time, though. It also converts “Heroes Week” into “Heroes Week (Inspired By The Olympics)” though nobody does “Bonkers” so it’s no Olympics *I* remember.
So what happened?
It’s time for my quarterly listen to THE UK TOP 40. Actually it was time a week or so ago but I didn’t write it up until a plane journey yesterday. So this is the Top 40 from 2 weeks ago (when our New Gangnam Overlords had only just entered at #37). As before, tracks are listed from best to worst order. No appeals allowed!
I think the number of records I liked is around the same this time as 3 months ago, but the chart feels more interesting – the grip of EDM is loosening, and it’s one of those charts which has a sense of nobody quite knowing where to go next or what’s going to work. Some of the variety is post-Olympics hang-abouts, though. Over to the countdown: