Saturday, May 17, 2008


The Skoda has taken to jumping around as though it were demonically possessed over the last couple of weeks. We half expect it at any minute to turn its radiator grille through 180 degrees and spew split pea anti-freeze all over us (possibly while growling "Your Toyota sucks cogs in hell!"). It's kind of on-off, but no fix has lasted more than a few days, and we're getting tired of spending money on it. To be honest, we're probably more tired of the car bucking, rattling and pulling sharply to the left.

Today the garage got their top bod to cast his eye over it - their Kwikfit Haderach, if you will - and using his oracular powers he identified at least three expensive components that could be at the root of the problem. The car shall get the full dismantling it richly deserves on Monday, and then hopefully we'll find out what the real problem is and exactly how expensive it would be to fix it. But it's looking very much like we'd be better off scrapping it and trying again. Our third car in less than a year.

On to the subject of last weekend's Comics Expo. We had a bit of a flying visit this year, owing to landlady shennanigans that required our attention in the afternoon, but we got up early enough to get the freebie bags again.

The freebie bag was a bit of a letdown this year after last year's impressive package. No full size books, no plastic figurines of Hellboy or of anyone else, and neither Marvel nor DC contributed anything. In fact, once you filleted out the spammage, most of the bag was taken up by sample issues from a small comics press called Markosia. Hurrah to Markosia for stumping up the goodies. The actual content of the samples varied wildly, in quality and in the issue numbers provided:
  • Scatterbrain (issue 4, plus a few sample pages in one of the other titles) is presented entirely in one colour, a sort of dried blood russet, and the artwork is a scribbled mess that makes it impossible to tell how many characters there are and what they're doing to each other. Without some expository dialogue towards the end of the issue, we'd have no idea what's going on. In fact, even with it we're not sure.
  • Carnival of Souls (issues 1 and 3, several times, but no issue 2) is a lot better visually, and moderately entertaining, but not something we'd actively look for.
  • Midnight Kiss (between us we had issues 1, 2 and 3, remarkably) is in the next league up - we would actively look for this one, and hope to see a collected TPB some day. It's another one of those stories that plays games with fiction, which puts it in an increasingly crowded arena, but it's hard not to love what the writer's done with the world of Oz. Takes until issue 2 to really get going, so we're glad we had that one.
There was also some mock Japanese thing called Dark Mists (issue 4), but I found it too bland to describe. The only other thing of note in the bag was Hellboy: The Mole (Dark Horse Comics), a trio of short stories actually put together for Free Comic Book Day the previous weekend, but nice of them to include it for those of us who weren't able to get to a comics shop that day.

Fortunately the bag was easily supplemented by blagging freebies from the stalls inside Brunel's shed. These included:
  • apparently limitless supplies of a manga sampler book;
  • equally numerous supplies of Hellboy: The Mole (I'd already picked up a copy in the registration queue, so the copy in the freebie bag came as a bit of a surprise);
  • free Gnasher badges from the Beano stand (ahh, the nostalgia);
  • two entire books of something called The Hunter (Dare Comics, USA) that looks high quality and quite entertaining (aw, they even have flashbacks in the old four-colour style);
  • and the prize of my freebie haul, The Shiznit (issue 4).
This last item is a free (ad sponsored) mini-comic distributed in Ireland by Bob Byrne, and behind its cover (inauspiciously decked with a cutesy teddy bear and the words "Hewwo fwends!") is a satisfying mixture of furious ranting and silent cartoons. Further investigation reveals that Mr Byrne has a whole website full of this stuff, with much downloadable material, over here. He also has a full-length silent cartoon book called Mr Amperduke that I've felt obliged to order. Thoughts on this will undoubtedly follow in due course.

Naturally there was some Comic Book Mayhem. Let's see, what am I prepared to admit to buying?

Crossing Midnight, vol 2 (DC Vertigo).
Second collected volume of the story of two kids with supernatural powers in modern Japan. They were born either side of midnight after their father made a pact with the kami of all swords, and when the kami kidnaps one of them as his price, the other goes in pursuit. Much fairy-tale adventure ensues. It's all good.

Scarlet Traces
and Scarlet Traces: The Great Game (Dark Horse).
High adventure sequels to The War of the Worlds, set in a world where the British Empire is given a new lease of life through cannibalised Martian technology. I'd been considering buying these for some time.
The first starts as a murder mystery and ends up exposing the dark heart of the new Empire. The second takes the story to Mars, where the Imperial army has been waging war on the Martians for forty years in an effort to protect itself from another invasion. This is the more fun of the two books, because of the wealth of cheeky references hidden throughout, but after building up the mystery of what's really happening on Mars over most of its length, it ends very abruptly. A third book exploring the journalist heroine's discoveries and their ramifications would have been very welcome, but presumably the creators didn't want to risk not being commissioned for another book.

and Henry V (Classical Comics).
Oh yes, comic book versions of Shakespeare's plays. We're talking the full text, scene by scene, lovingly animated with added sound effects ("SMAAAAACK!").
At least part of the intention here, as we understood it from the people running the Classical Comics stand, is to make required school texts more accessible for pupils. I can appreciate this where Shakespeare's concerned - the best way to really understand his work is to see it performed, but how many kids will get that chance? This must be the next best thing, bar films, but the obvious advantage is that this needn't take up two to three hours of school time.
We bought the versions with the full original text, but they also do versions in modern English for kids who'd have difficulty with Middle English (which I expect would be most of them), and yet a third "quick" version with the text reduced down by about half for the kids with really short attention spans. The website even offers schools specific downloadable scenes from other required works of the Bard as study aids. A worthy cause in my estimation.
But more exciting for us is the prospect of some of their non-Bardic forthcoming titles: Frankenstein! A Christmas Carol! Um, Jane Eyre! Come on, Jane Eyre with sound effects!

The Lovely Jo was also able to buy - at last! - our own copy of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as illustrated by Hunt Emerson. Recently reprinted in an attractive, durable hardback, hurrah! The in-laws have a copy of this, but we despaired of ever finding our own. And a punned-up slapstick reimagining is just what that gloomy drug fiend Coleridge needed, heheh.


Ben said...

Just that first paragraph's quotient of appalling jokes makes you a Very Bad Person Indeed.

John Toon said...

It's all right, I've already had my karmic payback in car bills.