Something for the Weakened

Archive for June, 2010

For Your Commiseration

June 22nd, 2010 by Alastair

Bye bye Frank. Missing you already.

Unexpected Side Effect

June 21st, 2010 by Alastair

In an attempt to alleviate a moment of tedium on Saturday night, I ended up Google wanking (a term that I’d assumed was fairly widespread, but which returns so few results in said search engine, I fear I must explain myself – it just means slinging one’s own name into Google and seeing what comes up. No gametes were expelled in the making of this story) for the first time in a while. As usual there was this site, Facebook trails and the odd mention of me on message boards, what I’d generally expected. But there was also a twitter account. Which came as a bit of a surprise. My initial thoughts of it being an impostor trying to muscle into my Weakened world were sadly dashed when I was informed that it was a by-product of the site’s redesign that the redesigner had forgotten to mention. I of course demanded details and now have it under my own control. But what to do with it? I ran out of decent amusing daily Facebook updates a couple of years ago. Do I have enough I want to express in yet another outlet, even with a minuscule character limit? Time will tell…

Funk Quandry

June 19th, 2010 by Alastair

I spent the tail end of last week listening to pretty much nothing but funk. Wednesday I spent in the company of Funkadelic, Thursday was the turn of Parliament (with a hint of Clarence ‘Fuzzy’ Haskins’ solo output), while Friday was taken up by James Brown and The J.B.s. This led me to a strange epiphany. It would seem my funk tastes have drastically changed. It used to be that Mr. Brown was the height of funkiness to me, followed by my fascination with Funkadelic’s funk rock fusion, while, though I still enjoyed their output, Parliament always seemed like the weakest of the bunch. The stuff they were doing just didn’t interest me as much. George Clinton seemed to be doing far more interesting things with the Funkadelic project, while James’ obsession with the groove always bowled me over into creamin’ frenzies (I’ll explain ‘creamin’ one day, but not now – it’s not even remotely filthy, promise). But my end of the week listen has made me completely reassess those rankings I first doled out fifteen years ago. Brown I’ve listened to on so many occasions that I know pretty much every “Huh” and “Ungh” in his early 70’s albums and can tell you which is which. It might be that familiarity that led to my feeling slightly let down on the Friday, but what I heard sounded more straitjacketed to me than it ever had before. This could be down to the unrelenting freedoms that P-Funk seemed to afford. The Funkadelic was as enjoyable as it always seemed to be, but the rockier elements seemed to stick out. They just seemed to be sapping the fun from the funk. Which to my surprise, was the polar opposite of the Parliament approach. Joyous, stupid, glorious, none of the dodgy descents into disco that I remembered on the later albums and some utterly cracking tunes that I’d half forgotten about (though ‘Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)’ and ‘Flash Light’ are still their finest hours and, by gum, how fine they are). Maybe it’s because I hadn’t spent as much time in their company as I had with James or Funkadelic and they sounded fresher and (because new is good) thereby better. I dunno. I do know I’ll be listening to them more now. So should you.

So, I was hit by a car today…

June 16th, 2010 by Alastair

…which was a new experience, but not really one I’d recommend to anyone.

No, I’m absolutely fine. Don’t worry. Really. Don’t.

It all happened on the way to work. I was sitting majestically astride my bi-wheeled chariot (or bike, in your, no doubt, common parlance) when I arrived at the T-junction I ride through most mornings. A left turn takes me onto one the main arteries that leads into the centre of the city and thereby workward. The cyclist twenty metres ahead of me darted off left, just after a car had passed the turning. I slowed anyway, knowing how busy the road can be at that early hour (yes, 9:15 is an early hour. Shut up). Arriving at the junction I came to a complete halt, seeing a car approaching to my right – had I been particularly swift, I could have shot out and blended into the traffic without him impeding my progress, nor I his (or her’s), but I had slowed enough that getting the momentum back would have been tricky and I was content to wait for the next gap.

I couldn’t have been sitting there for more than a couple of seconds when I felt it.

My hand was on the brake, so I wasn’t going anywhere, yet I could feel something trying to impel me forth with some momentum. Then came the grinding, snapping sound. I turned, distress writ across my helmeted head (the helmet being slightly too small for my colossal bonce presumably detracting from the horror ‘pon my visage). A small car, the make and colour of which sadly elude me, was at my rear. It had come to a stop by this point, but the sight of part of my mudguard lying on the pavement behind my back wheel suggested that this was a recent development.

The driver was a lady, in her early to mid 30s (at a guess) and she was American. She was concerned for my health. I informed her that I was absolutely fine, because I was and it seemed silly to lie about the fact. She was massively apologetic, telling me that she’d just been inching towards the junction and hadn’t noticed me – I don’t recall the events leading up to the incident terribly well, but imagine I undertook her shortly before I arrived at the junction, as is the cyclist’s way (and it’s all legal folks!). She offered to pay for all damages incurred and at first I said that that would probably be okay, it was only a bit of mudguard after all (I repeatedly referred to it as a mudguard, in a vague attempt to stop her calling it a fender. Americans have silly words).

Then I tried to move the back wheel. It wouldn’t revolve more than an eighth of a rotation. On closer inspection we discovered the wheel was actually pretty heavily buckled, to the extent that it wouldn’t turn a full revolution. Evidently my hands had been holding the brakes pretty tightly. Her apologising increased and she again offered to pay for the damage, either dropping a cheque through my door or paying the shop herself, and on this occasion I acquiesced. She offered to give me her card, returned to the car and handed me a scrap of paper with her name and phone number hastily scribbled in biro on it. Her name was Sarah and hopefully still is – I’ve yet to call the number and rather hop that it’s genuine. I thanked her and said I’d be in touch when I have got the wheel fixed. She informed me she would be in the city for ten days, so God alone knows what might happen if I wait longer than that. We shook hands and, oddly, I said that it was nice to meet her, though it would have been better in different circumstances. I walked back home, the chariot sliding along next to me, locked it up outside the house and began the walk into work, while a voice in the back of my mind get chirruping “You know, you’ve got her number, you might be in there.”

The Eighth Thing For You To Consider (kinda)

June 14th, 2010 by Alastair

I’m quite surprised to find that it’s impossible to buy this now. In spite of it being one of the band’s best known (and to some degree, most loved), it was only ever released as a b-side to a long deleted single. There’s no point going into details as to how I came by it, for they are dull. I won’t go into the history, as frankly you’ve all heard it before. It’s been going around my head for the past 24 hours and I have the overwhelming desire to share. Feel yourselves lucky you’re getting anything at all. Enjoy track 3 from the Gin Soaked Boy single,CD 2 (though it’s listed as being track 2, presumably down to some clerical error).

Fur Deine . . . um, Considerazion (?) Sieben

June 13th, 2010 by Alastair

Okay, I need to be places soon, so let’s bang through this un quickly.Here’s what you’re getting.

Vivian Stanshall & Kilgaron – The Question

This was originally the B side of the 1976 single that featured Viv’s reimagining of Cliff’s ‘Young Ones’. Actually it might have been an EP as it also featured a track called ‘Are You Havin’ Any Fun’. Both of these appeared on the remastered version of Keynsham that was released a few years back (so I don’t have them and might be forced to duplicate most of the album just for those extra tracks – grr), though for some reason ‘The Question’ wasn’t included on any of them. My copy came from Savage Pencil’s contribution to the short lived Songbook series of albums EMI put out in 1999. The premise was getting half a dozen writers and/or artists to put together compilations of their favourite music, while they (or one of their regular artistic collaborators) would design the packaging. Some were utter gash (Hunter S. Thompson’s, Pete Bagge’s and Iain Banks’ are particularly tedious) while some are actually quite listenable (Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton probably put the best selections together).

Savage Pencil’s is an intriguing proposition, seeing as it contains five tracks composed by the artist occasionally known as Edwin Pouncey himself (Mr. Pencil’s ‘real’ name). These are quite hard work, being spoken word tales of his signature cartoon character Dead Duck and his debauched, narcotic fuelled, obscenity packed adventures. The rest of the compilation is an altogether more intriguing proposition and contains much of what one would expect from one of the people who currently owns a fairly large stake in The Wire (I imagine). Faust, Royal Trux, Sun Ra (twice), it’s actually a pretty good selection and was probably my first introduction to a number of these artists (though I believe I went almost five years between first and second listen, such was my distaste for the self penned tracks). There are actually two instances of Stanshall too, what with the Bonzo’s ‘Slush’ turning up to call a halt to proceedings (which it does very well).

The track is only credited to Stanshall on the compilation, but seems to have originally been credited as a collaboration with Kilgaron, whoever he/they might be. I’ve checked the first hundred listings on Google and drawn a blank and my copy of Ginger Geezer is in a wardrobe behind a wardrobe in my parent’s shed, so not easy to lay my hands on. I can’t help but like it, because it’s Stanshall and I honestly can’t help but enjoy anything he did in his all too brief life. It’s a little nostalgic for the likes of ‘Shirt’ and ‘We Are Normal’ with it’s use of interviews with the public and, even though it’s solely credited to Stanshall and I’ve no idea if he appears on the recording, it does sound as if Neil Innes is pitching in to help give it that sun drenched pop pastiche feel that he does so well. It’s a genuine curio – listen to it now.

This is the last day of my time away from work, so I apologise for the inevitability of post slowing in the next week. Will try and sling stuff up, but it probably won’t be daily. Soz.

For 6 Your 6 Consideration 6

June 12th, 2010 by Alastair

Oh, you should know the drill by now. Look below if you can’t twig at what I’m up to.

I wasn’t sure that this one would work, but I’ve done some digging and found, to my surprise, that this isn’t available from any of the obvious online music vendors and that the single on which it appeared has been unavailable for for close to a decade. Thus, I am proud to present

The Beta Band – Sequinsizer

I’m not going to patronise you by trying to explain who the Beta Band are and if you don’t already know, for fuck’s sake, get out from under that rock you flat fuck. This track originally appeared in 2000 on a double A sided single with ‘To You Alone’, which I won’t be slinging up as it does feature on the band’s Best Of. ‘Sequinsizer’ on the other hand has never turned up on any long players, which is presumably why it’s not turned up in a commercially downloadable fashion thus far.

The story of my acquiring it’s fairly dull too – heard it was coming out, went into HMV on the Monday it came out, bought it. Bought it because I liked the Beta Band. See? Dull. The song itself is quite intriguing too. It came out a few months before their (fairly poor) third album Hot Shots Part 2, though neither song features on said album. Nor did it ever feature on any album proper during the band’s lifetime (the  Best Of appearance of ‘To You Alone’ was posthumous). It was something of a rarity at the time for a fairly large band (which they were at the time) to just put out a single, with no links to any larger body of work that might have actually made them some money. Having read the single’s Amazon review, the reviewer makes an interesting point – that ‘Sequinsizer’ sounds more like something from The Three EPs. than anything that appeared on Hot Shots. This makes me wonder if it might possibly have been recorded some time before, when the group were still indulging themselves with more experimental compositions. Some of you will probably find the six minutes here to be self indulgent guff of the highest order, but I’m rather fond of it’s ramshackle random qualities. It’s more than just some Scotsmen mucking about with a sequencer. Just.

5. For Your Consideration – Conundrum Edition

June 11th, 2010 by Alastair

Blah blah music collection blah blah upload blah not commercially available blah blah dubious legal grounds. You know the drill by now.

This particular selection was initially going to be a straight follow up to the Victor Lewis Smith post earlier in the series, now that someone’s actually commented on it (thanks Dick). As I mentioned in that post, there are instances in every episode of the first series where Smith takes a break from the mirth and presents an acapella gospel number. I had assumed that these were Smith showing a genuine affection for the genre, having created these things by multi tracking his own voice and then using basic, late 80’s pitch shifting technology to hit the correct notes.

Then I did some research and had to rethink my assumptions.

The whole conceit of the skits that surrounded the songs was Smith finding a vocal harmony group called Take Six, who would normally be hiding in his toilet. He would mock them for their religious beliefs, their similarities to the King’s Singers and so forth before the track would start. At the end of the song, Smith would then berate them for a while longer before telling them all to sod off and then move onto the next sketch. The voices of the band in the sketch sections are unmistakably all Smith’s, so it was natural for me to assume that the singing was him too and, as I mentioned, seemed like a nice counterpoint to the misanthropy displayed throughout the rest of the programmes. I even had a vague recollection of some cheesy harmony band appearing regularly on Radio 2 with a dodgy, Brubeck inspired name.

So I started googling various combinations of “take five” “vocal harmony” and “bbc radio” and came up with nothing. I did however discover that Take Six are a genuine acapella, Seventh Day Adventist six piece who first came to prominence in the very late 80’s (Smith’s first Radio 1 series started broadcasting in May 1990). And they seem to have performed most of the six songs used in Smith’s series. I’ve been unable to find any studio versions of their output (and I’m not bloody paying for any) so here’s a live version of ‘Get Away Jordan’ from 1990 (apologies for the minute or so of subtitled Squeaky Holland at the start) -

And here is the version that went out on Smith’s show at about 21:13 on 31st May 1990 (I cut off the berating from the start of the sketch before beginning my research, as it detracted from what would have been my arguments about Smith producing genuinely impressive music. The berating at the end is extant, as fading it out (I did create the fade in myself) would have sounded shit) -

Victor Lewis Smith (maybe) – Get Away Jordan

Pretty similar, it’s hard to deny. But just as my heart was sinking that I’d have to find something else to blather about today, I found this -

- which is someone else doing a cover of it (or at the very least claims to be and the comments seem to believe it too) on their own. Which puts forth the the whole conundrum I now find myself in. As far as I can make out, there are two possible alternatives to what Smith was trying to do -

1. Use a piece of music by a band he didn’t like in every episode, so that he could mock their religious beliefs and (as he possibly saw it, dreadlock sporting white boy that he was) hopelessly outdated musical stylings.

2. Recreate a piece of music by a band he thought were getting too much acclaim for doing something that could be so easily reproduced (and then mocking their religious beliefs and outdated musical stylings).

It’s pretty unlikely that I’m ever going to hear the actual studio versions released by the band, so I doubt I’ll ever really get to the bottom of this one. Of the two possibilities, I must say that I’d really like to think that 2 was true, no matter how much evidence I see toward 1 being the reality. It adds a whole extra satirical level to the piece (which is still rather lovely, whoever recorded it) that I’d not even considered. In that argument’s favour there is the fact that no one’s credited for the music in the closing credits in series one, while I’m pretty sure Dave Stewart gets a mention in every episode of series two for his gash contributions. Against it is the fact that there’s no evidence of Smith having a massive vocal range on any of the’ comedy’ songs he recorded and I have my doubts as to whether late 80’s pitch shifters would have had the ability to create anything that sounds as polished as this does.

What do you reckon, readers?

For Your Fourth Consideration

June 10th, 2010 by Alastair

Here’s another delve into my musical archives to find something no one but me listened to at the time and which is no longer commercially available (to my knowledge). Here’s today’s choice -

Little Mothers – The Worry (clicking here will provide you with sounds)

This comes from the album The Worry, which was released in 1999 and which I picked up in a second hand shop some time shortly afterwards (I’d love to attempt the High Fidelity thing of putting my collections in the order in which I acquired them, but my brain is far too addled for that to ever work). It’s one of the few albums I’ve picked up having no prior knowledge as to what might be contained therein. I’m not sure what drew me in – could have been the cover and associated interior paintings, which are quite wonderful. Painted by a chap named Christopher Kasch, who seems to have done a lot of work I’ve seen before but had no idea was by him until I just looked at his site. The other, and probably more likely, factor that contributed to the purchase was my full blown Zappa obsession, which was at it’s peak about a decade ago. My assumption that anything with ‘Mothers’ in the title would  sound like The Mothers was proven to be massively inaccurate on this occasion.

The chap working behind the counter commented that he’d already listened to the album and thought that the first few tracks were quite good, then it lost it’s way, before finding it again in it’s dying minutes (though not in those exact words – it was a long time ago, alright?). This assessment has stayed with me because it’s generally correct. The track I’ve selected is the first on the album and must confess that it’s not actually my favourite on there. That accolade would go to ‘My Twisted Sister’, which I haven’t used for two reasons – 1. I recently put it on a compilation that most of the regular readers here probably have in their possessions and 2. you can listen to it on the band’s MySpace and it gives me an excuse to plug that.

The album was released by Island Records and I imagine received a fair amount of promotion from them. I presume the copy I have was a promo – many of the items I got from the aforementioned establishment were – though it has nothing on it to suggest as much, unlike the band’s singles which I acquired on subsequent visits (aside – promos generally assert that they are still the property of the record label that released them. Am I in danger of someone coming round my house and demanding the return of these singles, not to mention the half dozen Dawn of the Replicants EPs some unimpressed reviewer off loaded many moons ago? Hope not). Despite these efforts, it doesn’t look as if they did much good in getting the groups profile raised. Of the few mentions I’ve found online, the NME reviews seem to suggest that the label were hyping the group as being the next Beta Band, which seems a ludicrous assertion now. The fact that there’s a bit of sampling, some congas and jangly acoustic guitars does show that they had some similarities, but the overall impression I get is that they couldn’t be much further apart. There’s none of the playful anarchy that I’ve always associated with the Beta Band’s recorded output, to my ears they sound like an above average, post Brit Pop outfit. Whether this was a contributory factor to their never really imprinting themselves onto the cultural unconscious, I couldn’t really say. As I mentioned, there’s scant information easily available online and I’m not going to start going through journal libraries to try and find out what the papers were saying at the time. Whatever factors stopped them from making big waves with the record buyers of the world, that antipathy must have contributed to the band’s split in 2001.

So what’s to like? Personally I’m quite fond of the fuzzy keyboard sound counterpointing with the clean guitars, the shifts in dynamic between verse and chorus, the scratchy squelchy middle eight, the, the harmonies and to a great extent, the sentiment. It can’t be easy being nice all the time, can it?

A lengthy, fairly dull post on comic purchasing strategies

June 9th, 2010 by Alastair

After over twenty-five years it looks like I’m finally going to be abandoning the habit of purchasing comics in their serialised format. This isn’t an off the cuff decision, but one that’s been brewing in the back of my mind for some time and there a number of factors that have contributed to it. I’m not abandoning my life long reading habit – that would be a drastic step too far – but am instead going to move into the habit of buying collected editions of what has been serialised instead. The fact that pretty much everything I’m reading in serialised form is eventually collected into a bumper edition with a spine (a book, if you will) is one of the major reasons. Much as I love the pamphlets, moving my collecting habits into the paperback arena will make my life considerably easier. Here’s the reasons.

1. Economics

This is the primary reason to be honest. As little as five years ago I could walk into my local comics shop once a week and leave with all that I wanted that had been released that week and a graphic novel (damn, I said it!) for about twenty quid. Now, thanks to the weaker pound to dollar exchange rate and the above inflation price hikes that have plagued the market this past decade or two, I find that twenty pounds a week basically extends to the week’s comics and nothing more. My purchasing habits haven’t drastically changed, nor has the volume of serialised product I acquire increased massively (if anything it’s probably decreased slightly with the demise of the alt-comics periodical – they’ve moved almost exclusively into the habit of publishing directly into formats with spines).  It’s solely down to the increase in prices charged by publisher/distributor/shop. And now that the major publishers seem intent on upping their standard periodical prices from $2.99 to $3.99, I dread to think how much a standard week’s haul will set me back after Diamond whack on their exorbitant distribution fees. The fact is that in a number of cases the collected editions work out as being cheaper than buying a complete story in serial form. Especially for me, but we’ll come onto that in a minute.

2. Proximity

The city’s been without a comic shop for four months now. The last time this occurred, I moved my standing order to a town fifteen miles down the road which, as far as I know, still has such an establishment. They were a bit rubbish, if I’m perfectly honest – my standing orders were seldom complete and the manager kept trying to offer me variant covers, which always narked me – it’s all about the stories! I don’t care if it’s wrapped in chip paper! Leave me be you baldy shitehawk! I never said any of this because a) I’m British don’t you know and b) I am a coward. When a new shop opened in the city, I lied and claimed I was moving to Lahnden so that I could get the standing order shut down as quickly as possible and stop my monthly pilgrimages to that hive of scum and villainy (I seem to be quoting Star Wars for some reason. I do apologise. I don’t know what came over me) and moved my order back within the city limits. Unsurprisingly, when it closed down in February, I didn’t fancy revisiting the town, tail between my legs, and coming up with another tissue of fibs about how Lahnden hadn’t worked out and now I’d had to come back and move in with my parents or something. Instead I replaced that monthly round trip of about thirty miles with a monthly round trip of a hundred and twenty. As well as saving what little dignity I have, this was down to my knowledge that the quartet of comic purveyors in the Tottenham Court Road area would almost certainly have everything I was seeking on a month to month basis – my tastes being slightly more idiosyncratic than most of the nerderati, the chances of a title I was seeking becoming ‘hot’ and selling out seemed to be slim at best. This has proven to be the case over the past few months, with only a few gaps appearing in my wants lists. It’s also been quite good for me catching up with chums living out in the big smoke after completing my bouts with commerce, especially now budget train fares allow me to do the entire journey for eight pounds.

In spite of those fringe benefits, the extra eight pounds is another contributory economic factor. There’s also less of a feel that I’m contributing to the up keep of something special to me. With the shop’s that have been in the city (there have been more than one on a couple of occasions) and even to some degree the trips to the satellite town, I’ve felt as if my money’s been helping to contribute to something special. Without my few shekels rolling into their coffers, I imagine that they would have gone under a lot quicker than they did. I know that eighty quid a month’s hardly going to pay the ground rent, let alone a member of staff, but I don’t for a second imagine that I was the only one handing over that sort of cash on a regular basis. The regional comic shop is something special and I didn’t mind paying that little bit more to keep one going near to my home. I realise that three quarters of the Tottenham Court Road locations are more or less small businesses, but with their locations are they that likely to miss my custom? Possibly slightly, but no more than anyone else who has drifted into the big city to seek their fortunes before being forced back to the provinces with their dreams crushed. For example. That I’ve only been using their services for a few months and have generally been trying to spread my custom between the shops as best I could, I don’t imagine any of them are going to flounder just because of the lack of my irregular outgoings.

It’s not even a matter of community – the shop I spent most of my formative shopping time in (for close to a decade), was run by the same individual for those ten years, by the end of which we were on, at best, nodding terms. I may have said hello to him in the streets once, but no more than that.  This was partly down to the fact that I’ve always treated my habit as an insular thing, not to be shared with others (we’ll be touching on this again in a bit), though probably mainly down to the fact that I was always sure he remembered my purchasing The Erotic Worlds of Frank Thorne when I was seventeen and couldn’t help suspect that he might tell my Mum. It wasn’t until I frequented the city’s last shop that I felt that I could hang around the counter and shoot the shit with the proprietor, though this was primarily down to our already being acquainted with one another through musical shenanigans. But even then I’d feel a prickle of discomfort running down the back of my neck if the conversation turned to superhero things or the issue of The Punisher I was buying (it was the Garth Ennis run, he is a good writer and therefore it was okay, okay? Good, glad we’ve got that settled). Rather than community it was the fact that I knew the shop was nearby and I could go in and grab what I wanted when I wanted. Which (finally) brings us to the next point.

3. Frequency

Having a comic shop virtually on my doorstep has spoilt me somewhat. The weekly trip over to see what Diamond had fucked up in that week’s shipment became something of a ritual and one that I would look forward to. The first year or so I spent buying my supplies out of the city on a monthly basis was mildly frustrating and not just because of the constant variant offers. There was the false economy factor for one thing. Spending twenty pounds a week is a different experience to blowing an eighty pound wad once a month. Yes, you are spending exactly the same amount of money (more or less, depending on individual shop mark ups), but it doesn’t feel the same. Forking out twenty notes will always cause me less distress than typing my pin in to authorise four times that much leaving my account. Then there’s the forced spending aspect that’s crept into my current trips to Lahnden. As I know a fair few people living in the big smoke, I’ll often (okay, occasionally then) be invited to a party or happening of some nature and try to schedule a comics trip to coincide with the event, thereby allowing myself two rather than four hours in the dubious company of First Great Western’s ’services’. Being unable to control when my chums schedule their events (God knows, I’ve tried), these can fall at points when my cash flow is low – the last trip I made fell three days before payday, forcing me further into the red than I had hoped to be. One of the massive benefits of the weekly trip was checking what had come in on the standing order, adding anything else I fancied from the shelves and then asking if it could be held back for a week or so until finances resolved themselves.

This leads into mail order and online buying options, which don’t really deserve a subheading of their own, but I feel I have to address. I have done a fair amount of back issue purchasing through mail order catalogues in my time and was pleased to fill in some holes in the collection during my eBay dalliances oa few years back. But I wouldn’t want to get new releases in that fashion. Going bact to purely economic reasoning, I can’t imagine that the postage costs of getting a weekly delivery would be any lower than the cheap train tickets I’ve been getting recently. Possibly if I specified a monthly package it would work out as being less, but that still doesn’t appeal. There are many forms of shopping I find tiresome (clothes, shoes, gifts, etc*), but perusing a wall filled with four coloured potential is something I’ve always enjoyed. Even in shops where I’ve had standing orders, I would normally have a look at what else was on offer in case I’d missed out on something new or had left a title off my list, safe in the knowledge it was likely to be popular enough for the store to get copies in anyway and for me not to feel obliged to buy the whole run if it was gash. I enjoyed that shopping experience, but will be mainly foregoing it for the sake of ease. A shame, but something had to give eventually.


Just a quick point, that would have fitted n the previous, but that last sentence was too good not to end it on. Moving into the ever expanding digital comics world is something I’m not going to be doing for some time yet. Though a lot of companies are starting to make their catalogues available on ebooks, iPads and what have you, I have no real desire to acquire anything of that nature right now. Though the cost of buying these virtual issues is lower than the pulp editions, there is something about the feeling of paper on skin, the act of physically turning a page, the smell of newsprint, that I would miss massively. There is also the fact that the iPad seems to be the only thing currently capable of of displaying something at actual comic size, mainly by virtue of it’s size compared to other ereaders. You can also get a fair amount of material for the iPhone, but being forced to look at 30% of a panel then having to scan around to see if there’s any dialogue in it sounds about as satisfying as watching Avatar on it’s diddy screen. While wearing 3D glasses. The red and green ones. These services are available to PCs too (I think, I may have that wrong), but with the piece of old kack I’m typing this on, I wouldn’t trust it to store much more than three issues of a black and white mini series before claiming it was out of memory. Plus I don’t trust my anti virus software enough to give out any card details, without expecting to find all my bank accounts emptied, an eviction notice stapled to my forehead and my parents butchered remains delivered to me in a skip by the next morning.

There’s also the pirate market to consider, but I’m too law abiding to ever really go for that. Though it is apparently possible to download a week’s new releases for nothing, thanks to the efforts of illegal scanners across North America, it’s not for me. I’ve blown God alone knows how many thousands of pounds on my habit down through the decades and am happy to continue to pay for the privilege. Plus, as previously stated, I don’t want to read them on a screen and it would kill what little life there is left in this PC. It’s not going to happen.

5. Legitimisation

As I pointed out earlier, I still regard my comics habit (and it is a habit, much like crack) as a solitary pursuit, as for the most part it is (especially the reading part). But over the past few years, with the legitimacy of the medium increasing within the wider cultural framework, I have begun to be less coy about my addiction. Not that I’ve ever been a comics denier – if someone had asked me if I read them a decade ago, I’d have happily ‘fessed up, but I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to point the fact out to someone I’d just met. Not that I actually do that now, but I can happily feel like less of a geek advocating some of the stuff I’ve been reading in a pub situation these days. A few of my friends have started reading comics, I’ve even lent stuff out to girls (yes, Sandman, obviously), which would have been unheard of a decade ago and frowned upon in many of the shops I’ve visited. Which leads me to the final major reason for my jump to collections.

I’ve been working within a bookshop for longer than I care to tell you now. As an employee I receive my pittance of a wage, a lot of which has gone directly into the hands of comic shops in and near the city for a fair few years now. But one of the fringe benefits of being an employee is the blanket discount I get on anything I purchase from the shop. In the first few years of my service, I often toyed with the idea of ordering comic based produce through the shop (the scant ‘graphic novel’ section they had had following the early 90’s comics in bookshops boom was being phased out just as I commenced my employment), but being the socially maladjusted ingrate I was didn’t want to push my status any further through the floor by letting the whole building know my reading habit. They could have worked this out merely by talking to me or to anyone else I’d discussed it with, but that kind of logic seldom forms in my head. As the years ticked by, I did occasionally get something ordered in, but never on anything like a regular basis and I could have claimed it was for a friend if anyone did ask (they never did).

Things changed when the legitimacy provided by Chris Ware, Alan Moore and the like gaining mainstream press for their work, combined with the manga boom to force the shop to reinstate it’s section a few years back. I was happy to see comics back on the shelves and even purchased the occasional decnt item the buyers bought in that I didn’t already have in pamphlet form. People knew that I enjoyed reading comics. Being as the staff demographic is considerably younger than I am now, many of them had got into manga with the first mighty Tokyopop wave, so didn’t see my obsession as anything particularly out of the ordinary. Why I found myself so obssessed as to what people thought of me, I’m not sure. To be honest, I think it was more down to supporting the comic shops by this late point, though I’d imagine there was still a little bit of stigma attached in my mind.

Anyway, that ’stigma’, existent or not, no longer seems to be there. Having nowhere nearby to support on a weekly basis and with the upcoming price hikes, I can’t see any option better than buying everything through work at a considerable discount. It means a few more months of regularish Lahnden trips to complete storylines that have already started – I’m not buying a collection when I’ve already got half the story in another format – that’d be absurd! – followed by a few more moths of waiting for the companies to publish enough material in their next collections. This means a few months where I should have next to nothing to buy, either giving me far more booze money, the opportunity to try and save something or the chance to catch up on all the stuff published recently straight into book format that I’ve entirely missed. Any which way it’s good. I won’t be giving up on the periodicals entirely – those published by smaller companies, self published by creators or which seem niche enough to make their collection questionable, will still make their way into my longboxes. How I’m going to lay on my hands on them is another question altogether though.

As is where I’m going to fit another bookshelf in my hovel.

*I don’t really hate shopping for gifts. Honestly. I like buying you things. Now shut up and kiss me.