Confederacy of Bad-Asses 1: You 'n' Me, We Onna Same Side, Homes

Right Down To It: Essentially Ennis uses Barracuda to parody his earlier, over-the-top, gore-driven Punisher title.

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.

The Ireland-born writer had made many waves in the industry throughout the ‘90s, particularly for his work at DC/Vertigo on their flagship Hellblazer title as well as his and artist Steve Dillon’s Preacher. So excitement was high when it was announced that the year 2000 would see the creative team of Ennis and Dillon taking on the Punisher in a twelve-issue maxi-series, a story-arc known as “Welcome Back, Frank”.

Indeed, readers welcomed Castle back with open (and fully automatic) arms. Not only did this series mark the return of the beloved gritty, solo Frank Castle, with nary a ponytail or demonic possession in sight as in previous ill-advised incarnations, but Ennis and Dillon further stripped down the story to fit their style, creating a lean noir tale. This was combined with a biting satire on vigilantism in a sub-plot featuring Mr. Payback, The Holy, and Elite, three men who took it upon themselves to assist Castle in his war, to very grisly ends.

Here we see where Ennis has truly signed his name to the character. Though he would seek to imbue the character of Frank Castle itself with greater depth—particularly in the four-issue mini-series Born—Ennis also wrote for Castle many adversaries and allies to act as foils, to distinguish just what it was that made Frank Castle the Punisher and not just another gruesome vigilante. In this week’s Iconographies, we discuss the three story-arcs that focus on one of Castle’s most monstrous and debased foes, and thereby best showcase this talent of Ennis’.

This is the man they call Barracuda.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

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This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

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​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

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Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

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There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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