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February 2011
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Um, it makes sense in context, honestly. An actual thing that happens halfway through Volume Five of FreakAngels. When I reviewed Daytripper here a few days ago, I suggested that it's probably impossible for me to write an article about comics without Warren Ellis getting mentioned somewhere along the line. And look, here he is again.

The first comic I ever reviewed on this site - hell, the first thing, period - was Transmetropolitan, written by Ellis and drawn by Darick Robertson. It came to be regarded as the writer's magnum opus, a five-year, 1300-page  science fiction epic that used the central character of a space-age Hunter S. Thompson to explore ideas about present day politics, media and celebrity. Ellis claimed he was virtually broken by the end of it: since Transmet wrapped in 2002, he's almost exclusively written one-off stories, miniseries, and the occasional large project that splutters to a halt partway through. (In fairness, a spectacular systems failure a couple of years ago was responsible for part of that.)

The one attempt at long-form comics that Ellis has successfully pulled off since Transmetropolitan has been FreakAngels, drawn by Paul Duffield: it's currently midway through what will be its sixth and final volume. However, the manner of its publication is just as fascinating a story as the narrative within.

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Brás de Oliva Domingos sees a man about a dog, in Gabriel Bá's cover for the Daytripper collectionI wrote a piece three years ago about Casanova, the comic book written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Brazilian twin artists Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. I was raving about the fourteen issues that had been published to date (comprising two full-length volumes out of a proposed seven), and expressed my frustration at Fraction’s suggestion that the next issue was at least a year away.

That issue of Casanova still hasn’t come out yet – currently it’s scheduled for later this year. That’s not to say its creators haven’t been busy, though. Matt Fraction has been making a name for himself with the big boys at Marvel, with a successful three-year run on Uncanny X-Men just coming to a close. Marvel are so keen on his work, they’ve actually bought out Casanova from its original publishers at Image: for the last few months, they’ve been reprinting the first two volumes as a series of reformatted, recoloured and relettered comics. The last of those monthly reprints will be published in April, followed shortly afterwards by the start of the third volume, and I for one cannot bloody wait.

But what about Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá? Well, they’ve done something that could be considered a little more ambitious: they’ve produced a comic that could genuinely be described as a work of literature.

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jPod For Japan

Japan Meteorological Agency's map of the quake as it happened: note colour coding of intensity. Click through for more details. Over the years, there's been a lot of love for Japan on this site: its films, its music, its food, its geography. So, obviously, The Belated Birthday Girl and I were appalled by the news of the east coast earthquake and subsequent tsunami last Friday. Watching the English-language coverage on NHK World, or the slightly more seat-of-the-pants Japanese reporting on domestic NHK, it's hard for the mind to grasp the sheer scale of the destruction that's occurred.

The buzz hashtag on Twitter over the past few days has been #prayforjapan. I think my opinion on that is closer to the one expressed by @DaftLimmy: "praying after a natural disaster is like thanking Rod Hull for keeping that Emu under control." What they really need right now is people on the ground helping those that are trapped, and kickstarting the massive effort of rebuilding towns and villages. The general opinion appears to be that the Red Cross are best equipped to help out, so both The BBG and I have donated money to them, and we think it'd be nice if you did the same.

People tend to expect some sort of entertainment in exchange for their charity these days, so here's my offering. Available publicly for the first time, it's my jPod video playlist, originally constructed to back up my article about the state of Japanese pop music as of 2008. Maybe one of these days I'll write an update to that, but for now you've got two and a quarter hours of fine tunes that you probably haven't heard before. Enjoy, and then please donate. Thank you.

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Simian Substitute Site for March 2011: Monkey Truck


Internet: Watch Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time. It's good for you, like mayonnaise.

Music: Oi! Lou! If you haven't already bought it yet, then Zang Tuum Tumb - The Art Of The 12" is a CD with your name all over it. It's the latest in a series of releases from Salvo Records, collecting the works of iconic 80s label ZTT: this double album pulls together a couple of dozen of their greatest extended remixes. Hearing so many of them back to back, it's surprising to discover that Trevor Horn and co gradually turned the twelve inch mix into a structure as rigid as sonata form - the version of Frankie's Rage Hard included here documents the unwritten rules to amusing effect. The CD features a nice mixture of welcome old favourites, plus lovely new discoveries like Act's Snobbery And Decay and Instinct's Sleepwalking. However, what with this, the reissue of Propaganda's A Secret Wish and the Claudia Brucken compilation Combined, it looks like Salvo have sold me twelve separate versions of Duel over the last six months.

Telly: Sky+ boxes and their ilk (I've got an ilk) are all well and good, but it's all too easy for them to become less of a time-shifting apparatus and more of a long-term storage facility. Case in point: when season two of Nurse Jackie started on BBC2 the other week, I suddenly realised that the first season had been sitting unwatched on my V+ for over a year. So I've been catching up with it long after everyone else. It's a curious little thing: a blackly comic hospital drama structured in half-hour chunks like a sitcom, with Edie Falco at the centre of a collection of characters who are all unsympathetic to one degree or another. (A predominantly female cast, too, which makes a nice change.) I'm still trying to work out my reaction to it bit by bit. It was certainly interesting to discover how appalled I was by the prospect that one episode would focus on Jackie's family life and not go near the hospital at all, and how relieved I was when that turned out not to be the case. I'm enjoying it generally - more than The Belated Birthday Girl is, anyway - but we're both curious to find out how they can sustain Jackie's disintegration as far as a third season (which starts on Showtime in the US at the end of this month).

Continue reading "Simian Substitute Site for March 2011: Monkey Truck" »