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Monday, Aug 16, 2010
Tomorrow sees the launch of John Reed's Tales of Woe, a book that will undoubtedly come define our generational zeitgeist, in it's overturning of the thrall of commercialist catharsis.

Noh Music for the Masses


We appeal, not to those who reject today in the name of a return to yesterday, not to those who are hopelessly deafened by today; we appeal to those who see the distant tomorrow—and judge today in the name of tomorrow, in the name of man. Zamyatin, Tomorrow


In the 2002 novel, Snowball’s Chance author John Reed posits a tantalizing prospect. What if, by quirk of fate, Snowball in George Orwell’s famous novel Animal Farm had somehow managed to elude his captors? And it had returned triumphant to the Farm? And successfully ousted Napoleon’s regime? Tantalizing of course, since before long, Snowball reacquaints the Animals with capitalist principles of production and competition. And while the profits swell, there’s a nasty ending with Beaver’s destroying the Farm’s twin silos.


Speculative fiction molded on satire from a generation prior. The conventional wisdom of course, for those readers who prefer to name names, casts Snowball most likely as Trotsky. Forced to flee the encroaching Stalinist regime, Trotsky was fairly certainly subject to a purge, outside the borders of the USSR. But what if (and Reed’s novel is entirely about speculation) Snowball represented an entirely different class of citizen; the artists who found themselves subject to Stalinist purges.


Among those artists who died in ignominy outside the borders of their homeland, Yevgeny Zamyatin stands out. His novella Tomorrow sounds a warning bell against mistaking the recent October Revolution for any kind of victory. Far from it, Zamyatin’s warnings were of an inherent ideological collapse he foresaw in Communism itself.


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Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010
The first in a 3-part series revisiting the NEC Press of the late 1980s and early 1990s, beginning with that big blue idiot of a flagship character, The Tick.

The animated series The Tick, which ran on the Fox network from 1994 to 1997, gleefully captured the irreverence of the original comicbook.  The non-sequiters, the tight parody of already nearly self-parodic superheroes, and the extremely well-timed jokes could all also be found in the twelve issues of The Tick, begun in 1986 by a teenage Ben Edlund, who would write all twelve issues as well as doing the lion’s share of the artwork.  But going back over those twelve issues now (all of which are now available from NEC in one handsome paperback edition as The Tick: The Complete Edlund), there is one key element to Edlund’s original series that seems to be missing from all other incarnations of the Tick, whether those be animated, live-action TV shows, or indeed comics by other creators.  That element is boredom.


The Tick is an insane idiot, locked safely away in a mental health clinic.  But he is bored.  So he breaks out.  That simple.  What could be more exciting, what could be a greater antidote for fighting boredom than fighting crime?  That is all the Tick is really after.  And he goes after it with gusto, acquiring a disguise (consisting of only a “hypnotic” tie over his garish blue unitard) and an alter-ego by working at the local newspaper office (which is, of course, the day job of choice for the urban superhero on the go).


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Tuesday, Jul 27, 2010
It’s impossible, while reading Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli’s superlative Unknown Soldier, to not think of the late, great Warren Zevon’s ballad of Roland, the so-called “headless Thompson gunner”, and his seemingly endless battle. Perhaps there's a reason for that.

“God had given you one face, and you make yourself another.”
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet



Stress is a very powerful psychological condition that has always been largely underestimated by those outside of the psychological community. It can cause bodily problems, mood swings, insomnia and more.


For Dr. Moses Lwanga, the titular figure of Joshua Dysart’s Vertigo reworking of the DC Comics staple Unknown Soldier, the overwhelming stress of seeing what his home country of Uganda had become after years away, combined with a brutal attack from gun-wielding lunatics, led the good doctor to carve off large portions of his own face and wrap what was left in bandages.


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Tuesday, Jun 22, 2010
Writer Garth Ennis seeks to add some real depth to the Punisher by focusing on his supporting cast.

Upon the introduction of Marvel Comics’ Frank Castle, also known as the Punisher, it was difficult to not see the character as a thinly-disguised Batman pastiche.  The two characters shared achingly similar motives and methods: family killed by criminals; self-declared life-long war on crime; a dark, brooding intensity; a proclivity for a fashionable five o’clock shadow.  Save for the fact that the Punisher actually killed his targets instead of turning them over to the law, the two characters were fairly indistinguishable.


None of this affected the popularity of Marvel’s army of one.  By the early 1990s, the Punisher was featured as a guest star in many books that lagged in sales, on the covers of everything from Terror, Inc. to Guardians of the Galaxy.  Perhaps it was this stretching of an already thinly developed character that led to all three Punisher titles being cancelled in the mid-‘90s.


Enter Garth Ennis.


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Monday, Feb 22, 2010

I confess that for years I was one of those readers that sometimes read through a comic book without paying as much attention to the artwork as I did to the writing. This was no doubt due to a combination of my laziness as a reader, and the sometimes formulaic approach some artists take to their work.


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