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.
It’s been quite a film-y sort of time recently. I’ve managed to wangle my way into a number of screenings for free – some just because I’m great, but others because I actually have to – cuh – review the things. Anyway, while you don’t get to see my detailed thoughts on Pirates 4 (bit crap) and Attack the Block (bit excellent), I now have reviews up of what are likely to be two of the best films I see this year: X-Men: First Class over at Film4, and Senna on Den of Geek. I also did a fluffy tie-in piece for X-Men at Den of Geek (in a confusing bit of crossover since it wasn’t DoG I reviewed it for, but), looking at five other superhero properties that would make great “period piece” films – one for each decade from the ’30s through to the ’70s. Meanwhile, I also interviewed (well, co-interviewed) the director of Senna recently, but was a bit slow in getting the piece over to the DoG folk, so that probably won’t be up there until early next week. Have a look, though, it’s interesting stuff.
And also, although it was a few weeks ago, I’m quite pleased with my main contribution to the Doctor Who review canon this year (we’ll ignore my sloppy, far-too-short and unfocused review of “Day of the Moon”) – I’ve been waiting a long, long time for Neil Gaiman to write an episode of the show, so there’s a good reason why my write-up of “The Doctor’s Wife” is somewhat long and rambling. But I think I hit upon a nice theme with it, and that it’s a good piece all in all, so… yeah.
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’ve already written, over on Comics Daily, about what I’d call my absolute number one comic of the decade (although it was something of a tight choice), but I wanted to go into a bit more detail with a list of the 20 comics that have, for me, defined these ten years – my first full decade of properly reading/buying comics on a regular basis – more than any other. It’s perhaps not as “worthy” a list as a lot that you’ll find online around this time – I do read a fair amount of indie books and webcomics, but it’s fair to say that the bulk of my reading remains in the mainstream, superhero genre. Which I don’t think there’s anything wrong with, frankly, since – as is evident from my list – I reckon the best examples of those books easily hold their own against anything else from the decade you’d care to mention. With that in mind, then, here’s my list:
1. All Star Superman (Morrison/Quitely)
Quite simply a masterpiece, the most wonderful superhero comic since Moore stopped doing them.
2. Scott Pilgrim (O’Malley)
As perfect a fusion of the aesthetics of videogames and comics as you’ll find; plus, a funny, smart, apt and moving character piece.
3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Moore/O’Neill)
The greatest writer in the industry at almost the best he’s ever been. And still an utterly unbeatable high concept.
4. Formerly Known as the Justice League (Giffen/deMatteis/Maguire)
The funniest comic of the decade, a nostalgia-fest that manages to be even better than the series it calls back to.
5. Alias (Bendis/Gaydos)
Sorely underrated failed-superhero-turned-detective series, home to Jessica Jones, the best original character comics came up with this decade.
6. Casanova (Fraction/Ba/Moon)
I’m joining the chorus of people saying that this dazzling, freewheeling, bonkers spy saga will have more influence on 2010s comics than any other.
7. Powers (Bendis/Oeming)
Lost its way after a hiatus and relaunch, but at its peak, no series this decade was a more gripping piece of superhero deconstruction.
8. We3 (Morrison/Quitely)
Beautiful, tragic, unique, groundbreaking, brilliant.
9. Phonogram (Gillen/McKelvie)
Hip (and not-so-hip) music references are merely the tool with which Gillen expertly peels away at human emotions and interactions.
10. Ultimate Spider-Man (Bendis/Bagley/Immonen/Lafuente)
Everything a modern-day Spidey book should be – inventive, fun, exciting, fresh. Puts the “proper” version to shame on a monthly basis.
11. Superman: Secret Identity (Busiek/Immonen)
Charming little series with a terrific hook, and as good an examination of the myth of Superman as just about any featuring the “real” character.
12. The Ultimates (Millar/Hitch)
Took the template laid out by The Authority and turned it into the best superhero movie never seen – before becoming a huge influence on the real thing.
13. Ex Machina (Vaughan/Harris)
Far superior to the much-lauded Y: The Last Man, the closing page of issue #1 is still the most gut-punchingly brilliant comics trick in years.
14. Blue Beetle (Giffen/Rogers/Hamner/various)
Surprisingly excellent, unpretentious, funny, character-driven superheroics.
15. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (Ware)
A little heavy-going, but somewhat touching, and the sheer level craft on display is indisputable.
16. The Umbrella Academy (Way/Ba)
Owes a lot to the likes of Morrison and Fraction, but still a superbly fun and inventive series.
17. New X-Men (Morrison/Various)
Probably the best sustained creator run on an existing title (in a decade that was light on good examples of such things), and almost as influential on the decade as The Authority.
18. Captain Britain and MI:13 (Cornell/Kirk)
The Brits take on the world (well, the Marvel Universe) and almost win, getting in 15 issues of marvellous, witty superhero team book action before the sadly inevitable cancellation.
19. 52 (Morrison/Rucka/Waid/Johns/Giffen/various)
A huge gamble, but the experiment paid off handsomely, resulting in a truly gripping weekly-serialised experience. A shame every attempt to replicate it has so far failed.
20. Batman (Morrison run)
A run that hasn’t been without its flaws, but still a compelling and intriguing jaunt into the Dark Knight’s psyche, with some truly brilliant moments.
Oh, and #21, obviously, would have been The Amazing Spider-Boy.