Something for the Weakened

Hippy Nu Yeah Sgum

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 by

Failure to complete these listings yesterday came down to the fact that I was mainly being hungover and exhausted (okay, and a little bit weepy after Doctor Who). I also forgot to mention yesterday that even though the site is running again, the Contact icon’s still firing things at a dead email account. Should you wish to toss your fat at me, do so either in person or through the medium of theweakened at gmail dot com. So, with very little further ado, come join me in a final revelling in what was good about the year 2009.

Please note – my decisions are final. And correct. Any contrary views you might hold are wrong wrong wrong, and should be purged from the face of the planet along with the rest of your insipid form, you pathetic waste of air. I hate you I hate you I hate you, you weeping fucking sore on the beauteous face of creation (modelled on my own, of course). Why do you plague me with your continued being? Eh? Why? Come the revolution, you’ll be the first up against the wall, oh yes, mark my words you inbred ocean of cuntspittle.

Disclaimer – Not all views stated are necessarily true. That last bit wasn’t directed at you, it was at all the other ones. Actually, I’m really rather fond of you. Have you ever noticed the way your eyes sparkle when the candle light catches them at just the right angle? I have. What are you doing tonight? See, I’m at a bit of a loose end and have got all these oysters left over in the fridge that need eating (don’t worry, they’re still good) and, well, i’d be a shame to have to eat them all on my lonesome. So why don’t you just pop over and what? Washing your what? Ah, fuck it then.

Here are some lists.

Comics With Spines

I’m trying not to use the G or the N words, but they might slip out at some point, for which I can only apologise to myself. It has been a very good year for comics in the larger than pamphlet, dare I say ‘book’ format. There have been a fair few original works released, that we’ll get on to in a minute, but first there were a couple of archive collections that really impressed me this year. Something that really surprised me were the two volumes comprising the complete works of Fletcher Hanks – I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets and You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation. As a comic reader, I’m almost always drawn in by the writing far more than the art, so very rarely find myself drawn to things originally printed before the mid-80s these days. Yes, there were people producing more mature works before then (Eisner, Crumb, etc.), but very little in terms of things I would now like to read as an ‘adult’ (I use the term loosely). The dialogue always seems unrealistically clunky, the stories normally hopelessly predictable. Hanks’ stories are very much guilty of the former, but rarely of the latter. Because they are for the most part, insane. The two books comprise every comic identified as having been produced by Hanks during his brief dalliance with the comics industry between 1939 and 1941. Not all are attributed to him (pseudonyms allowing him to get more work into the anthologies the Americans were producing at the time), so there is a faint possibility that there are more out there somewhere, but it seems doubtful. Paul Karasik, the editor of the whole project, has done a great deal of research into Hanks’ life and was responsible for my first exposure to any of his work, having convinced art spiegelman to publish a tale in one of the Penguin editions of Raw. Mention should also be made of Hanks’ art, which should be unappealing to anyone who has seen the anatomy of another human being. His tiny headed figures, with their unfeasibly broad shoulders really shouldn’t work. But for some reason they seem to make perfect sense when combined with his stories of fifth columnists being given the bodies of rats, skull faced jungle queens and a variety of molemen. This is as good a place to begin examining the man’s insanity as any.

The other collected edition I was most pleased to lay my hands on was the complete black and white collection of Scott McCloud’s Zot!. Now, I know I’ve mentioned my giving up on superheroes once or twice, so feel I have to justify myself to some degree here (Methinks the lady etc.). First up, Zot! isn’t really a superhero tale. Yes, the main character has an array of gadgets and doodads that he uses to try and save his friends or the world with, depending on the situation, or at least it was during its initial run in colour. When McCloud moved to monochrome things were already moving in a different direction, pressing less on the sci-fi aspects of the story and turning it more into (oh God) a teen drama (this doesn’t sound any better does it?). The second reason for my excitement was that I had been waiting for over fifteen years to see the conclusion of the story. I wasn’t getting hold of any imported comics when Zot! was initially published in serial format and wasn’t really clogging up any back issue bins when I started to. I had read promising reviews of the series as my tastes grew more esoteric, so was pleased to learn that Kitchen Sink Press were going to be collecting the whole run into four seperate volumes. I acquired the first three volumes as they came out, but the fourth proved to be tricky. If I remember correctly, the fourth was published in an expensive, limited edition deluxe hardcover edition, as all the previous volumes had been before the affordable paperback came out. Unfortunately Kitchen Sink went bust in 1999, before the softcover hit the presses, leaving me dangling without any sense of closure or the funds to find it. Following the success McCloud has had with his comics textbooks (Understanding, Making and Reinventing Comics respectively), Harper Collins (his current publishers) saw fit to rerelease the mature end of the story in one glorious volume. Being in possession of the colour stories I reread those first and, enjoyable adventure romp though they are, the leap in quality when McCloud reduces his pallette is massive. I had also read that the stories contined in what would have been the fourth volume were the best of the run, so was unsurprised to discover this to be true. Simple tales of (for the most part) ordinary people trying to deal with their ordinary lives. I’ve babbled on about character making a story already, so won’t bore you with any more of that, but McCloud really did do a splendid job here. The end of what was issue 33 is quite spectacular and I’m pleased that the effect is kept within the collected edition. I would recommend seeking it out to people, though that’s perhaps more down to the amount of time I’ve had invested in it than anything else.

In terms of original long form works I’ve come across this year, the most interesting use of the form to my knowledge came from Woodrow Phoenix with the book Rumble Strip. Not so much a novel, as an extended essay on the dangers of the automobile, this is surprisingly affecting piece of graphic narrative. Visually the book differs from almost all comics that have come before it, being as it eschews the human figure for almost the entire duration of the book. Instead, the narrator passes on his road death statistics, town planning disasters and the like, with the visual accompaniment of road markings and signs familiar to anyone who’s ever been outside in their lives. Oddly, the visuals do enhance the message that Phoenix is putting across, acting as a sort of counterpoint to the occasionally dry prose. This works particularly well when it all turns a bit tensely autobiographical in the book’s dying moments. I certainly found it a lot more satisfying than the other essay in sequential art form I came upon – Warren Ellis’ Frankenstein’s Womb, which was a bit too insubstantial for my liking and served no purpose I could see, save for giving a potted and inconsequential biography of Mary Shelley and her most famous creation. Crecy was much better.

Something I enjoyed far more than I had expected to was Kevin Canon’s Candian pirate romp Far Arden. My only previous exposure to Canon’s work had been one of his 24 hour comics (a Scott McCloud invention, fact fans) and the vague knowledge that he’d assisted Zander Canon on some of his projects. Stylistically, his work does resemble Zander’s, thoughthis particular Canon has at least been able to finish his personal project (I’ve been waiting for some closure on the Replacement God series for almost as long as I was waiting for Zot!(ot)). This may be down to the projects 400 pages initially starting as a 24 hour comic, before expanding into a 288 hour one. Again, it was the characters that drew me into this one and, though it makes few predictable genre pratfalls, there are enough surprises and twists to continue to keep it interesting. Despite the apparent speeds t which the thing was drawn, it looks surpisingly unrushed and is as confident a debut as I’ve seen in many a moon. I’ve now discovered that the enitire tale is available online, but would still urge people to buy the book. It’s only a tenner and staring at 400 different screens can’t be good for the eyes.

I’ve been a fan of Johnny Ryan for a fair few years now. His puerile, scatalogical, generally obscene outings in Angry Youth Comix have always tickled the darker recesses of my funny bone, so the news that he was going to be trying something long form, with a plot and everything, came as something of a surprise. The bigger surprise was how well it worked. The first volume of Prison Pit feels like the fantasy of a perverted adolescent role playing obsessive. It is essentially a series of profane fight scenes between increasingly twisted characters and their strange, often genital based, weapons. I don’t know why it works, it certainly goes against my characters making a story credo, as there is no one here to sympathise with. All the creatures that inhabit this world have to work with are their various levels of macho bravado and the aforementioned prehensile weapons. It’s the sheer energy and obvious fun that Ryan’s having sadistically toruring these unlovable wretches that makes it pleasing to me. I wish it didn’t, but I’m helpless. Roll on volume two.

Comic and indeed book of the year though must go to Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. God alone knows how many years in the making, Polyp is an incredible piece of work, in both its narrative and its playing with comics as a form. The story revolves around a middle aged theoretical architect named, as you may have guessed, Asterios Polyp, whose apartment building is struck by lightning. He escapes unscathed, but all his possessions are destroyed by the inferno that consumed his squalid flat. Rather than try and rebuild his life, Polyp instead hops on the bus that will take him as far away as the money in his pocket will allow him and builds a wholly different life for himself, while ruminating on his past. The story is, for the most part, narrated by Polyp’s twin, who died next to him in the womb, but doesn’t seem to bear much of a grudge. The protagonist’s architectural background figures very heavily in the art and design of the book, characters often being deconstructed down to their most basic shapes, while Polyp and his wife are initially drawn in completely different styles, with completely different colour schemes which seem to merge when they are together. Mazzucchelli uses these and many other devices to make each page into something entirely different from any other in the book, while still maintaining a singular voice throughout. There was one point in the narrative that gives everything a sense of grounding in the real world, which made me worry that the whole thing would descend into some kind of post 9-11 mawkishness of the type spiegelman plummed with In The Shadow Of No Towers. Thankfully, that was entirely unjustified and the book moves to an almost perfectly natural conclusion, with a foreshadowed twist in the last couple of pages that made me laugh out loud. It’s been a source of frustration that it takes Mazzucchelli so long to put stuff out, but the levels craft on show here makes it almost seem worth the wait. I only hope that it’ll be less than another decade before his next project finally sees print. Rubber Blanket collection anyone? And that concludes the reading. What else did I experience this year?

Television

Not watched a great deal of telly this year. What I have’s been mainly comedy, of which there’s been an uncommonly decent amount this year. In terms of the not funny, I rather enjoyed the bleakness of the Torchwood mini series (still not seen the previous one(s?) and am in no real hurry to do so) and, inevitably, the Who specials. Other than that it’s all been fairly undramatic. As to the mirth makers, it was nice to see Shooting Stars back, Peep Show kept chugging along in amusing fashion, while That Mitchell & Webb Look actually improved after a patchy second series. We Need Answers‘ first series proved to be pleasingly diverting (haven’t seen any of the second – the perils of an analogue house), Psychoville was a little sparse on laughs, but compelling to watch (especially the Rope episode) and I think I’m in a minority in having enjoyed the CBeebies like levels of intelligence displayed by We Are Klang but there were a few giggles there. My affection for Ideal continues (though I’ve still not seen the last episode of this year’s series thanks to the shitness of BBC 3’s iPlayer), while The Thick Of It managed to sustain itself over its longest series yet (though did suffer from a lack of Langham – come on Auntie, you’re releasing People Like Us on Region 1 already, surely that’s a sign that you’re beginning to forgive the hapless filth watcher). In the past week I rather enjoyed watching the second series of The Inbetweeners (actually it was on Christmas day, while my parents were tucked up in bed above my head) and Steve Coogan – The Inside Story was made worthwhile by Bob Mortimer’s Noel Edmonds impression which had me convulsing within three minutes of it starting. It was also this year that I finally got the DVDs of How Do You Want Me (light and mildly disappointing), Look Around You 2 (I’d seen it before, but the extra Medibot song makes it worth mentioning – Benedict Wong needs to be in more things!), Curb Your Enthusiasm 6 (as season 7 was being shown – I’m so with it) Harvey Birdman – Attorney At Law (which probably contains the most laugh packed 11 minutes of anything I’ve seen in the episode Trio’s Company) and Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job (probably some of the hardest laughs I’ve ever emiteed, often followed by minutes of uncomprehending staring). But for consistency of funniness and plenty of hard guffaws, it’s probably got to be Harry Hill’s Tv Burp. The simple pleasure of mockery and it almost feels like I’m keeping up with a week’s TV in half an hour. It really is very funny.

Radio

I’ve listened to a fair amount of radio comedy this year, while also illicitly acquiring off air recordings of older stuff. Of the illicitly downloaded things I have very much enjoyed The Consultants (“Splitting the mink” has become more than ubiquitous amongst those I have listened to it with), We Are Klang’s Amazing Lives (the Peter Croxton and Gummy Monkey episodes are fantastic, theother two, considerably less impressive), Chris Morris’ GLR shows (not as great as the Radio 1 shows, but pleasing in places and an interesting snapshot of an embryonic talent), Son Of Cliche (the show that eventually spawned Red Dwarf, featuring Chris Barrie, who went onto appear in Red Dwarf, and Nick Wilton, who went on to be regularly pilloried by Lee & Herring, slightly unjustifiably it turns out) and the first half of Andrew Lawrence’s Milk Run (filthy fun for no one of a sensitive disposition). Listening live, I can recall rather enjoyed the return of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue (not the same without Humph, but still gigglesome), Bleak Expectations (a step down from the first two series, but still worth a listen), The Unbelievable Truth and That Mitchell & Webb Sound (both of which I managed to blag my way into recordings of, and splendid times were had by all). I’ve also found myself woken by the Today Programme every morning (politicians being abused is the only sound I wish to hear at that ungodly hour), enjoying Radcliffe & MacConie’s Radio 2 show (Radcliffe has built up so much good will with me as a jockey of the discs over the years that he can do no wrong to my ears) and MacConie’s Freak Zone on 6music (the only radio programme I listen to for the music since the sad demise of Mixing It, and it’s still not as good as that was). Overall winners of the nonexistent no prizes I’m not handing out has to go to Adam & Joe though. They’ve cheered my barren, lonely Saturday mornings and seen me through more hangovers than I care to count. Their being off air for the next few months is a source of great adness to me, especially if it forces me back to Wossy, or worse still, out of bed before midday on a weekend. Shudder, people. Shudder. Especially at the thought of Danny Wallace. Danny Wallace. Brrr.

I’m going to stop at this point as I’ve been writing this bloody thing for close to ten hours now and can’t think of much else I want to share. Yeah, I saw some art, went to some gigs, saw plenty of live comedy, ate things, drank stuff, but frankly trying to remember what half of it was called is likely to cause me an aneurysm. That was the year that was. Sorry if everythings gone italic by now, but I’m really not going to go back and check where I’ve ballsed it up this time. I also hope all of the videos have embedded properly. They’re not actually hits of the year for me, just stuff that’s slowed my writing progress today that I thought I’d share and try and liven up this tedious monster of a post. All being well, regular posting will continue for the foreseeable future. If I can think of anything else to say ever again.

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