Casanova

Casanova Quinn by Fabio MoonMy tastes in sequential art were formed during that whole Comics Aren't Just For Kids Anymore boom of the mid-eighties: regrettably, they've stayed more or less static ever since. Virtually every comic book I've bought in the last twenty years has been from the same small pool of creators from the glory days of DC's mature readers imprint, Vertigo - your Moores, Morrisons, Ennises, Ellises and Gaimans. (Gaimen?) There are new comics writers and artists out there, of course, but I've just never got around to following them with the same degree of interest, as the comics archive on this very site proves.

The last time I complained about this (nearly two years ago), I was at least able to say that I'd picked up on the work of some new comics creators. Specifically, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's Britpop grimoire Phonogram, which I discovered though the patronage of Warren Ellis (yeah, him again). The same applies to a comics series that's just completed its second book-length volume - Casanova, written by Matt Fraction and drawn by twin brother artists Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon. It's going to be a challenge writing about Casanova without describing it as being like something-or-other 'on acid'. But I'll try.

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Swamp Thing

'There's a monster that lives out in the swamps. Everybody knows that.'The mythology of the 1980s comics revival is fairly well established by now. A handful of writers and artists - many of them from the UK - invaded the American comics industry and made it a much more interesting place to be. Northampton's own Alan Moore was one of the key figures in that renaissance, and his work with artist Dave Gibbons on Watchmen is justifiably regarded as a landmark.

But the fans know that Watchmen didn't just come out of nowhere: before then, Moore had been doing work on one of DC's old monster titles - Swamp Thing - that paved the way for everything that was to follow. It was one of the first mainstream comic titles that actively marketed itself as being for an adult audience, ditching the traditional Comics Code Authority seal of approval. It showed that it was possible to take old characters and breathe new life into them, through a complete re-imagining of who they were. And Moore's influence can still be detected in the dozens of British writers who've worked for Marvel and DC in the quarter-century since then.

Fancy reading a comic that actually changed the medium? Because you can do that for free, now.

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REPOST: The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Collect the set! Clockwise from top left: Captain Nemo (1867), Miss Mina Murray (1897), Allan Quatermain (1888), Edward Hyde (1886), Hawley Griffin (1897), Dr Henry Jekyll (1886). Originally posted on The Unpleasant Lair Of Spank The Monkey 24/05/2000.

A lot has happened in the intervening seven and a half years, so here's a quick recap for you. Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill eventually finished the first volume of League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics discussed below, and completed a second volume featuring the same team battling the aliens from War Of The Worlds. The movie version of LOEG was released, and was astonishingly shit. (As was the movie version of From Hell: hear Moore talk about both of them to Stewart Lee in an entertaining 12.8Mb MP3 interview.) I got told off on my letters page by Gloriana on 19/11/2001 for misusing the term 'slash fiction'. The 'long-delayed pornographic saga' I mention at one point, Lost Girls, finally saw the light of day in 2006 and was subsequently reviewed here.

But the main reason for this repost is the imminent arrival of new LOEG material from Moore and O'Neill. The Black Dossier is an original graphic novel, rather than a collection of previously published comics: it takes the story of the League forwards into the 1950s, and backwards into their previously untold history. Rumour has it that copyright issues, similar to those that bedevilled Lost Girls, may prevent its sale in the UK (or is it something more sinister?): but based on my experiences with that earlier work, I believe that Amazon US should be willing to ship it regardless. And I'm not just saying that because I'm on commission. Honestly.

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Lost Girls

If I only had a... er...Eight months after I moved the site over to TypePad, there's one feature I'm especially loving: the site logs. The best I could manage at the old place was information about how people made it to the front page: but here at TypePad, I get a log for the last 24 hours showing every page on the site that people have read, and the link they followed in order to get there. It's always educational to find out what people are searching for on Google to reach particular pages here: over the past few months, I've had a fair few hits from search strings like punchdrunk+faust+wapping, dave+chappelle+racial+pixies, and (hitting a peak the week after he won the Oscar) is+forest+whitaker+a+scientologist. People searched for information, I supplied it to them: everyone's happy.

But, of course, it's even more educational when people reach the site by mistake. As I've already reported on the page itself, the lead graphic from the review of the Philly art show Boobies gets three or four hits every day from people doing a Google image search on, er, boobies. Similarly, though I admit it was a deliberately provocative thing to mention, I'm still unnerved by the number of people who enter the Mission Statement page off the back of a search for debbie+mcgee+dog+pictures. Worst of all, there are searches that I don't even understand: I can take a wild guess as to why people would be searching on spank+wire, but I'd rather remain ignorant of the details if it's all the same to you.

Still, if there's one thing I've learned after almost nine years of trading under the name Spank The Monkey on the interweb, it's this: there are a lot of people out there looking for filth, many of them with sub-par web searching skills. It almost makes you wonder what my site stats would look like if I ever got around to reviewing something that was ACTUAL HARDCORE PORN.

Let's find out, shall we?

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The New Adventures Of Hitler

A somewhat tati pun from the cover of Crisis issue 48, art by Steve YeowellThe other day, we were reading about Cafe Sperl in Vienna, because... well, you'll find out why soon enough. The Lonely Planet review of the cafe has a curiously vague final sentence: "We know it's had some horrible customers in the past, but even that can't ruin Sperl's charm." There's a limited number of horrible Austrians they could be referring to, and a wee bit of investigation proved our suspicions to be correct: Adolf Hitler used to go there. But it reminded me of another appearance of Hitler in a cafe: in a 1989 British comic strip, which depicted him in his twenties plotting world domination from a Liverpool teashop.

Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's The New Adventures Of Hitler has been out of print ever since its initial publication. Because of its unavailability, and out of disrespect for the reasons why it's unavailable, I have no alternative but to recommend that you commit Internet Piracy by using the following links to read chapters 1-6 and chapters 7-12. Note that each of those links will pull up a page with about 3Mb of images on it, so be sure you want to do that before you click. And if you're not sure whether you want to click or not, here's why you should.

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Return Of The Unholy Trinity (plus one)

Hey, kids! Covers! From my reply to a letter dated August 3rd 2000, on the old site: "Sadly, I think my comics reading days are drawing to a close. At the time when I wrote the relevant pieces, Transmetropolitan, The Invisibles and Preacher were the only three monthly books I was buying regularly: The Invisibles has finished, Preacher finishes next month, and I haven't found any permanent replacements for them yet. I'm still willing to be surprised, though."

Six years later, after a couple of weeks out of the country, I hit the comic shops to catch up on the issues I've missed while I was away. And I suddenly realise what I've bought. Two comics by the writer of Transmetropolitan. One comic by the writer of The Invisibles. Two comics by the writer of Preacher. And one more by some other guy.

Maybe I'm not as willing to be surprised as I thought I was. But here, since you ask, are the details of my current monthly comics shopping list.

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