One Song For You

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No Bluebeard: Eddie Campbell in the funny pages

Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell – ‘Thursdays, Six to Eight p.m.’

Back at the end of April the Guardian ran an experiment to see what would happen if real writers were involved with comics, and the results were pretty much what you’d expect, ranging as they did from the mediocre (Dave “David” Eggers’ ponderous buffalo comic) to the merely gorgeous (Frazer Irving’s whatever the hell it was that Frazer Irving drew) by way of the profoundly functional (Dave Gibbons and Gillian Flynn’s clockwork deconstruction of vigilantism).

As a showcase for a variety of semi-respectable comics art styles it was a success, but as a pop culture moment it lacked a sense of novelty or excitement.

The exception was Thursdays, Six to Eight pm, a modern romance comic with a faint hint of the gothic to it.  A man and woman are in love and they get married, but she can’t stop worrying about why he wants two hours to himself every Thursday night.  For his part, he keeps quiet about the details, so Ellen does what we all do unless we’re sinister enough to work for the NSA already: she calls in some spies.

The result of a long-distance collaboration between Audrey Niffinegger (The Time Traveller’s Wife) and Eddie Campbell (all the best comics), this strip stood out from the others by virtue of the fact that both of the involved parties contributed to the art. Well, according to the contents page Dave “Dave” Eggers was “collaborating with himself” but this does no damage to my argument: the lines on Eggers’ pages were the work of only one artist, while the Campbell/Niffenegger strip bears the mark of two “primary” artists.

According to Niffeneger’s write-up, she drew the Charles – the guy doing the proposal in the above panel – and the two spies his wife hires to investigate him, while Campbell drew Ellen, the suspicious wife and protagonist on the right hand side of the same frame.

Even though Campbell apparently modified Niffenegger’s line work to make it look of a piece with his own, my eyes mostly confirms that these characters are not made out of the same materials.  This plays into a classic romantic conceit, suggesting as it does that while these two characters may share their lives with each other they’ll always be fundamentally distant.  Charles’ thin, defiantly two-dimensional features provide an impermeable barrier between the contents of his mind and the blown out, fuzzy world he lives in with Ellen – being an Eddie Campbell character, she is made out of the same fuzz and clutter as everything else.

The fact that Campbell was also responsible for the lettering and page layouts will be immediately obvious to anyone who is familiar with his autobiographical comics…

Filed under eddie campbell audrey niffenegger mindless ones mindless self promotion gud comics the guardian

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Movie Chat #7 - The Wind Rises

Before we start, a warning: this is probably not a fun night at the movies for your eight-year-old, unless said child is prematurely obsessed with flat-head screws. I mention this not out of a new-found commitment to providing consumer advice but because my friend Adam was frustrated by the apparent inability of movie reviewers to clarify this matter for him.

Studio Ghibili’s long standing trust in the ability of children to stay interested in quiet moments and make sense of the senseless is admirable, but The Wind Rises seems to have been made in a different spirit from, say, Howl’s Moving Castle (which combined frantic scene-shifting with portraits of stark devastation to great effect) or Princess Mononoke (which grew slowly, steadily monstrous in front of the patient viewer).

This film is realised with the lush, painterly attention to detail that characterises Hayao Miyazaki’s other movies, but this is definitely a film of and about our world. Its magic is not of the kind likely to intrigue a child into attentiveness: its wonders are the result of late night meetings as much as they are the product of dreams, and even its most hard won miracles taste of ashes.

The most jarring note in this regard is the use of human voices to simulate the sounds made by everything from earthquakes to passing planes…

Filed under movie chat The Wind Rises hayao miyazaki studio ghibli Movie Reviews on the Internet mindless ones mindless self promotion

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Blather #6 - The Autograph Man

For someone with my particular literary damage, reading this novel for the first time in 2014 was a lot like having the arguments of 2001 all over again.  If literary critic James Wood’s attack on what he deemed “hysterical realism” has a fitting target it is this over-eager, initially likeable but ultimately tiresome second novel from Smith.

The story of “twenty-something Chinese-Jewish autograph dealer” Alex-Li Tandem’s frantic, free-wheeling attempts to lose himself in the search for his pop culture obsession, The Autograph Man spends its four hundred plus pages tilting after a curiously overdetermined sort of oblivion.  To mangle a Samuel Johnston quote most boys of my age know by way of popular wise guy Hunter S. Thompson, Tandem acts in the belief that he who becomes his hobbies spares himself the pain of being a man.  The novel follows suit, hence the ever-egressing framework of Kabbalistic associations, Zen progressions, verbal tics (“the popular” and ”wise guy” chief among them), Rabbinical comedy routines and generally excessive detail.  All of this by way of keeping Tandem from dealing with the world’s tendency towards impermanence and disorder: these events take place in the build-up to the tenth anniversary of his fathers’ death, and in the aftermath of a destructive trip that seems like it might cost Tandem most of his established relationships, and also his car.

The overlapping structures of this novel are all fine and sturdy, and have elsewhere proven themselves more than capable of supporting, variously: an Oscar Wilde aphorisman essay by Walter Benjamin (“wise guy” and recipient of the novel’s worst punchline), the occult adventure comic Promethea, and an excellent graphic novel by Eddie Campbell.  There’s nothing to say that they couldn’t provide the framework for an excellent Zadie Smith novel too, but the difference between The Autograph Man and all of the aforementioned works is that Smith’s imaginative scaffolding seems to exist around very little that was worth supporting in the first place.

Read more nothing for longer at Mindless Ones dot com!

Filed under Zadie Smith The Autograph Man hysterical realism James Wood Mindless Ones Mindless Self-Promotion Blather

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Mindless Defectors on True Detective

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Still fired up from February’s discussion of what’s worth watching on American TV, Mindless twinset Mark (Amypoodle) and Adam (Adam) have written an Experts Guide to HBO’s ‘True Detective’ and weird comic book fiction for Comic Alliance.

There’s a lot of great stuff about Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti in that post – if you’ve read any of Mark or Adam‘s stuff before, you’ll know what to expect, and if not you’re going to enjoy finding out!

Filed under Grant Morrison True Detective Alan Moore Thomas Ligotti Mindless Ones Mindless Self-Promotion H.P. Lovecraft

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Strangely, given their origins as rhythms for rappers to ride, Clammy Clams’ production has perhaps more in common with the soundscapes of Burial or Actress than it does with Hype Williams’ snap and echo. Clams Casino beats tend to rise and fall as part of the instrumentation around them, with the snap of the drums sounding like the thud of a human heartbeat, an intimate part of the ragged exhalation that accompanies it…
Patterns of a Diamond Ceiling #3: Live From the Haunted Broom Cupboard

Filed under Clams Casino Hype Williams Mindless Ones Mindless Self-Promotion Patterns of a Diamond Ceiling

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"A little less Stalingrad, a lot more Warhammer 40K"

Kieron Gillen let the mask slip a little at the start, when he positioned this comic as the anti-ASS, as a refutation of Superman’s central place in 20th Century history, in a spiel designed to mark Über out as being a comic free of the sort of self-commentary that defines so many modern superhero comics.  “It’s probably the least ironic book I’ve ever written,” he said:

It has nothing to say about superhero comics. In fact, its utter negation of that genre-criticism may be the closest it comes to commentary. I’ve read many books which seem to labour under the delusion that the conception of Superman was the most important moment in the 1930s. This isn’t one of them.  My only interest is in how I can use this genre’s conceit to create metaphors to explores aspects of WW2…

This comment, buried as it was in the mix of metatextual soul searching and historical gamesmanship of Über‘s backmatter, provides the key to understanding the uncanny dynamics of this comic.  In attempting to ward off irony and meta-commentary, Gillen negated any possibility of this comic escaping the superhero meta-conversation. Which, it turns out, is actually quite fitting in the end.  Carefully researched as Über might be, with everything from troop movements to weather conditions having been taken into account, this WW2 with superheroes fantasy is still a superhero fantasy, and as such it manages the odd trick of destroying both history and genre conventions and reinforcing them at the same time.

Mindless Ones: A History of Violence – Über, Zero, Pretty Deadly and Three Reviewed

Filed under Kieron Gillem Caanan White Über Mindless Ones gud comics comic book reviews

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This arrived in the comic shop with much less fanfare than your average doodlebug, but as soon as Gary sent up the siren I goosestepped down the hill to fetch it quicksmart. Got it home and more or less enjoyed it – it was straightforward, no-nonsense/lots of nonsense, pretty much alright.

Except for the Xmen stuff, the so-and-so superhero is married to so-and-so superhero’s cousin’s brother-in-law stuff, I could do without all that. These Victorian superheroes with big cars – like, their big car is the superpower – they’d died out quite naturally by the middle of the last century, which was OK. Bringing them back, trying to give them a dignity and relevance beyond their sell by - just can’t really see why this is any less wank than any other variety of steampunk: Dave McKean and Jeremy Clarkson polishing the cogs on their beaver hats, compulsively checking their gold atomic pocket watches.

Bobsy Mindless reviews LOEG: Nemo: The Roses of Berlin so you don’t have to!

Seriously though, not writing about this comic will save your “shift” and “;” keys from taking a hideous battering. 

Filed under The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Nemo: The Roses of Berlin Alan Moore kevin o'neill comics Mindless Ones bobsy your best interests (I have them in my heart)

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Ulli Lust – Today Is The Last Day of the Rest of Your Life

People complained that Eddie Campbell’s review of Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life didn’t discuss the art in enough detail, but in praising the sustained consistency of Lust’s line, Campbell identified the book’s strongest aspect: its cumulative effect.

In Lust’s hands, scenes of cruel realism like this one…

…and bursts of pained expressionism like this…

…feel of a piece as equally true depictions of her experience, separated by a couple of hundred pages of hurt and by a trail of footsteps that lead from one country to another and back again.

The unified nature of Lust’s approach underlines the lacerating consistency of her encounters with men; to notice one is to be barbed by the other.

That this sense of sustained, wearying horror doesn’t quite manage to define the long adventure chronicled in Today Is The Last Day of the Rest of Your Life is a testament to the desire for freedom and knowledge that lead her on this journey in the first place, and which is articulated in every line on every page of this long, difficult autobiographical comic.

(From Mindless Ones - Fresh off the Loo, Here’s Some Comics Reviews)

Filed under Ulli Lust Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life autobiographix gud comics comics art Mindless Ones