Ooh, a few things to catch up on, here. So! To business! If you haven’t seen me posting about these things elsewhere:
Thing the first: Captain America!
I saw it! It was great! And I wrote about it for Film4, thusly:
It’s true that it doesn’t aspire to be anything particularly weighty or original – but at what it sets out to do, it rarely puts a foot wrong. Director Joe Johnston, in full-on Rocketeer mode, crafts a charming and entertaining period action romp that may never exactly hit an unpredictable beat, but is no less enjoyable for it.
Miles better than Green Lantern, not quite as good as X-Men: First Class, but about on a level with Thor. Splendid.
Thing the second: New podcast!
My regular collaborator/partner in crime/argument board James Hunt and I have launched a new comics podcast, via our website Alternate Cover. It’s called The Graphic Novel Book Club, and it does exactly what it sounds like – each month, we solicit comments from our readers/listeners on a different graphic novel or trade paperback collection, setting discussion topic questions but also looking for any opinions/insights/etc. that people might have – then we throw them into the mix with our own thoughts and sit there chatting about it all for three-quarters of an hour. The first episode is now live on Podomatic and iTunes, and we’ve already posted discussion topics for the second, which we’ll be recording in a couple of weeks. Have a listen! Some people say it’s listenable and entertaining even if you don’t know the comics we’re talking about. I couldn’t possibly comment.
(And yes, it does have a slightly tautological name. “The Graphic Novel Club” might have been better, but then it wouldn’t have been as clear that we were specifically using a book group/book club format. It would have just sounded like a club.)
Thing the third: When Saturday Comes #295!
I’ve written at unnecessarily gushing length in the past about how much of an honour it is to write for When Saturday Comes, so I won’t retread all that ground again. But! This month is quite special, because for years now I’ve read their annual season preview supplement – in which one writer for each club in the league answers questions about their opinions on the previous season and expectations for the coming one – and thought about what I’d say if I were doing the section on Liverpool. So it’s quite exciting that this year, those answers are actually in the real supplement. I actually did a little double-take when I got the email asking if I’d do it. No, really.
What’s more, in the issue itself, an article I did a little while back about the history and merits (or lack thereof) of the away goals rule has made it to print. It’s not quite as exciting a piece as I was hoping when I started it – I was hoping to go into more extensive details about the circumstances of the rule’s creation/introduction, but discovered surprisingly little readily-available information despite doing some extensive library-based research and everything – but it’s still a relatively fun skim over the rule’s history and musing on whether or not it’s still a valid method of settling draws nowadays. Er, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Anyway, the issue’s out in shops on Wednesday – I’d post a picture of the cover, but WSC haven’t put it on their website yet. But it’s issue #295, it costs £3.50, and it’s got Stewart Downing, Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson on the front. So, you know. Buy it, if you like.
Well, it took slightly longer than 30 days to get finished, but below is a list of links – for anyone interested in reading them who wasn’t following Alternate Cover on a day-to-day basis – to my posts about 30 different comics relating to my life and general comics-reading experience – from Superman to Sandman to Phonogram. It was a fun project to take on – if a little draining in terms of the time and effort required to keep it up! – and at times gets fairly confessional as well as revisiting a lot of things I’d forgotten about or not really thought about in a while. Hooray for comics!
1. Your first comic
2. A comic that made you laugh
3. A comic that made you cry
4. A comic that reminds you of a place
5. A comic that reminds you of a person
6. A comic you received as a gift
7. A comic you gave as a gift
8. A comic about your favourite character
9. A comic you bought because of the writer
10. A comic you bought because of the artist
11. A comic you should have bought
12. A comic you’re glad you bought
13. A comic you lost
14. A comic you own, but haven’t read
15. A comic you should have read, but haven’t
16. A comic you’ve read that more people should have
17. A comic you own more than one copy of
18. An issue #1 you bought the month it came out
19. A comic you’ve read but don’t own
20. A comic you love in a genre you hate
21. A comic you’d like to see retold in another medium
22. A comic that’s significant to you as an object
23. A webcomic you love
24. A miniseries you never finished
25. An issue that made you drop an ongoing series
26 & 27. A poorly-regarded comic you like, and a well-regarded comic you don’t
28. A comic that’s inspired you
29. A comic that changed your life
30. The last comic you read
I didn’t end up doing NaNoWriMo in the end – I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to stick to it, as although I had one or two loose ideas, nothing was compelling enough to drive me to spend a month hammering away at the thing (and besides, the better ideas I’ve had recently are being used elsewhere anyway). Nevertheless, I wanted to spend a month doing some kind of writing project, so although not announcing it in advance, I’ve been trying to blog something, somewhere, each day of November. So far this has included posts on G&T, URP! and F1 Colours, as well as a few other places; but something that should make it a bit more focused from now on is that I’m finally starting a one-post-per-day meme we’ve invented over on Alternate Cover. It’s called 30 Days of Comics (yes, it’s inspired by that 30 Days of Music one that some people have done/are doing), and there’s an explanation of what it’s all about here – but basically, it’s an attempt to frame one’s life/reading experience in the shape of 30 individual comics. James has just finished his run of 30, meaning that I’m taking over with doing mine as of today – the first entry, “Your first comic”, is up now, and hopefully should continue in an unbroken (or only occasionally and slightly unbroken) fashion for the rest of the month. I’ll probably update here a couple of times with a list of links every ten posts or so, as well, for anyone who’s interested in clicking through and reading…
I can never overstate how much of an honour it is to be asked to write for When Saturday Comes magazine. On the surface, it might not seem like much – one football magazine among hundreds, still very much a fanzine in spirit, and with sales that, while admirable for the scale of the operation (and I’ve been to their offices, having interviewed for a job there back in 2004, so I know how it’s run), don’t touch the likes of FourFourTwo. But to me, it’s a lot more than that, and has been for a very long time. My Dad’s been buying it for as long as I can remember, so I can actually remember ploughing through piles of old copies when I was in primary school (primarily, back then, I was interested in the cover gags and Dave Robinson’s cartoons rather than the writing itself, but still).
What it most represents to me is the perfect riposte to those (and plenty of my friends would be included in this) who claim that football is only for sub-literate morons. Just because there’s a large undesirable element within football support – and indeed within the football-covering media – doesn’t mean that we should all be tarred with the same brush, and there are plenty of us who take a deeper and more thoughtful interest in the game, its cultural and social elements, the ongoing struggle for smaller clubs to survive, the wider context of the global game, and so on. WSC, in its modest page count each month, caters for people like us. Its intelligent and considered editorial style is an antidote to most of the moronic nonsense that counts as football writing nowadays; although this shouldn’t be mistaken for pseudo-intellectual snobbery, as the mag never loses a sense of fun, of enjoyment of the more ridiculous aspects of the sport. And to this day, I still consider it to have published the greatest book review ever written.
Anyway. It’s a great magazine – my favourite magazine, easily – and so when I finally got around to pitching a feature on the vagaries of squad numbers (see? What other mag would publish an article about the fact that Australia once fielded three players with three-digit numbers on their backs?), it was one of my proudest achievements to have got it published. Recently, however, I’ve been asked back by the editor to write for them a couple of times, which is almost even better. I was asked to do a review of a book about Liverpool, which is in the issue now on stands; and today I’ve also had a piece – again about LFC, and specifically their manager – go up on the blog. So have a look, if you’re interested, and hopefully they won’t be the last things I do under the “Half-Decent Football Magazine”‘s banner.
In other news, James and I have relaunched our comics site Comics Daily, having finally acknowledged that we weren’t doing quite so good a job of being “daily” since we stopped doing single-issue reviews. So it’s now known as Alternate Cover – which the eagle-eyed among you may notice was the domain we were using for it anyway – and, ironically, as part of the launch James is kicking off by doing a one-post-a-day “30 Days of Comics” meme throughout October, which I’ll then be following up by doing it in November. Though I may also be contemplating doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, too. I haven’t decided yet.
Three weeks in, and I’ve finally gotten around to getting down some thoughts on the Moffat era of Doctor Who (although not doing so sooner is less through laziness, and more because other people took on Unlimited Rice Pudding!’s reviewing duties for the first two eps). So here’s what I had to say about Mark Gatiss’ “Victory of the Daleks” – an episode that I seemed to like more than most of the internet did. And as it was my first opportunity to write about the current series, I also used the piece to start to pull together what I’m making of Matt Smith so far:
The man is a miracle, frankly. It’s far too early to start talking about his place in the pantheon, especially with his distinct character still in the process of being established, but he just gets it. He is the Doctor – it’s telling that he seems to echo so many of his predecessors at different times, but it’s as if he’s studied them all, and adheres to Moffat’s notion that “there aren’t eleven Doctors – there’s one Doctor with eleven faces” resolutely, in a way that Tennant (who had echoes of one or two, particularly (of course) Davison, but generally felt specifically Tennantish) never really did. He’s got a brilliantly nuanced awkwardness to his poise that makes him feel like the old man in a young and unfamiliar skin. He’s got the comedy fingers. He’s got the mixture of genuine authority and perpetual-verge-of-getting-called-out bluff that the Doctor should carry into any environment. He’s absolutely at home in the role, and to have been so from his first moments onscreen is an astounding feat. My only hope for him is that he can keep it up.
Quite good, then.
I’ve also been pounding out a few bits and bobs in Comics Daily’s new non-review format recently – a quick think-piece on DC’s current problem of having two characters with identical names, powers and costumes running around entitled How Do You Solve A Problem Like Wally West? ended up getting picked up and discussed by a couple of forums, which means it’s probably the most-read thing I’ve written since I was last in a magazine. And we’ve been having a bit of fun this week by taking advantage of the volcano-induced lack of new US comics to do something we’ve called “Ash vs Britain” week – so I’ve reviewed the latest 2000AD (featuring two strips by Friend of Some Of You LiveJournal Lot Al Ewing), and recommended a few excellent back issues.
Oh, and hey, did I ever link to my Kick-Ass review? A bit late now, I suppose, since the film’s been out here a few weeks, but it’s good to have the link up for posterity. As hinted at a while back, I really rather liked it (and a second viewing did nothing to change this) :
Against the odds, this is going to take some beating as the most purely entertaining action film of 2010 – and the best superhero flick since The Dark Knight. Your move, Iron Man.
I should be writing on this thing a bit more, anyway. And not just linking to stuff, either, but actually using it to post halfway worthwhile original content. I’ve a few ideas kicking around, so expect something soon. Bet you can’t wait.