Thursday, March 04, 2010

Two Princes

I didn't really start supporting Tottenham Hotspur because my family did. I supported them because they had a cool name. Hotspur... conjures up so much. Likewise, when I decided to follow a Scottish team, I opted to follow Stenhousemuir, because they have got such a cool name! It occurred to me that the strangest things hook us in. Some things just have a profound effect on us and that's it - game over - we're hooked, despite seeing all the reasons why we shouldn't be.

I was born into a Labour family, so it was always taken for granted that I'd vote Labour. Yet, if you follow the logic applied above, the better odds would have been on me being a follower of the Monster Raving Loony Party. Yet, despite them having Screaming Lord Sutch, they didn't have Michael Foot. As a teenager, who would today be erring towards a floating voter, I wanted to make my own mind up about politics and that meant deciding which of the old fuddy-duddies appealed to me the most.

Oddly enough I was attracted to the man who looked like Gollum's Granddad and his sidekick, the erudite one with the big eyebrows. If two people this strange could represent the UK then I wanted to be on their side. I then started to agree with their policies and the die was caste.

Aged 96, Michael Foot died yesterday. He led Labour to a landslide defeat. He had one thing that divided him from many politicians today - he actually cared about his country and its people. He also identified Thatcher as a very dangerous person long before the rest of us realised it.

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Mentioning comics the other day sort of inspired me to revisit some nostalgia, which meant ripping open the sealed box of comics that didn't get sold when the boiler went tits up. I figured the best place to start was at the beginning...

The first American comic I ever bought with my own pocket money was Swamp Thing #1 (which along with a Doors record being the first single I ever bought, is pretty cool!) and while I've sold that comic (not for the first time), I kept hold of the trade paperback collecting the first 10 issues. The 10 issues that I've always believed were shining examples to modern comics creators of how the art should be done.

Revisiting something like this is like going back to a place you grew up in but have rarely returned to. It's familiar, but a lot has changed. Reading Dark Genesis is a little like that, but it also has more of that, 'I really used to think this place was the bee's knees, but its just really a load of rubbish' feel to it.

The artwork, by Bernie Wrightson, who for years has been classed as my favourite comics artist, is patchy at best. The covers were outstanding and many of the big frames and splash panels could be hung on any wall; but the rest of it is poor, often rushed and doesn't really convey a story. But that might have something to do with Len Wein's unbelievably awful scripts. Yes, some of the ideas in the first 10 issues were ahead of their time; conspiracy theories, strange and mysterious organisations and that whole American Gothic kind of feel, lifted Swamp Thing above most other comics being produced at the time. But one feels that all Wein was doing was trying to weave some story around all these cool images that Wrightson was knocking out. I can imagine Len walking into Bernie's studio and saying, "Hey, I love all those freaks you've drawn, let's see if I can come up with stories we can use them in."

So, many many years after last reading them, I realise that these examples of comics genius are actually pretty crappy. There is an inconsistency in them that makes recent TV series Heroes look positively Shakespearean and it ends up being so clich├ęd and contrived that you wonder how people got jobs as editors at DC in those days.

The weird thing about Swamp Thing was that Wein & Wrightson's replacements, David Michelinie and Nestor Redondo probably did a far better job of conveying a story than their illustrious predecessors and at the time I regarded issues #11 through to #22 better in many respects than the first 10 (although Wein didn't actually leave until #13). From that point on Swamp Thing just got very silly, culminating in Alan Moore's reinvention of the character that made fanboys' orgasmic at the faintest whiff of it, but I still regard as just an excuse to pour a drug-addled stream of consciousness onto an unsuspecting nerd arena.

Of course, much of this might have to do with the fact that I hate comics with a passion now and would struggle to find any good out there. But that's not the case; there are still some comics that float my boat; but it appears that I might have sold them in favour of comics that I thought still floated my boat...

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I apologise if I'm beginning to sound like an old scratched record but I am getting royally peed off with this never-ending winter. Yes, I know that the beginning of March is still winter to everyone bar the Met Office, but we've had 5 days in Northampton since the 14th of December where the temperature has risen above 5 degrees and those days have felt positively sub-tropical. Now I understand how people in Northern Norway can walk around in T-shirts at 0 degrees and look comfortable...

The latest Met Office monthly forecast has this cold weather remaining until the end of the month, with uncertainty about whether we'll see our airflow return to its predominant westerlies or if we're going to remain under the blanket of colder air.

But the thing about this weather that is really hacking me off more than anything is the growing number of people saying to me, "Well, we should get a good summer, we deserve it."

Um...

Since when did what we deserve have any bearing on the weather? It's not like we can will the weather into doing what we want, otherwise we'd have willed this bloody awful winter away and be basking in temperatures of double figures!

What we'll get is what we'll get and all the forecasts in the world probably won't get it right. The chances are, however, with El Nino having already made the Vancouver winter Olympics the warmest in memory, it will have a similar affect on our climate, just as it did when it went as high as it just has, 7 years ago. Cool, cloudy, quite wet and uninspiring; that's what we'll get, you mark my words and by the time October rolls around everyone will wonder if Global warming is just a huge media conspiracy - not that it is, but take someones warmth away for long enough and they'll revert to encouraging a short term panic.

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Today's entry was brought to you by the word 'cool' (which I overused to enormously cool levels!)

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