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Friday, November 24, 2017

Comic Cuts - 24 November 2017

I'm back on track with the Fifty Forgotten Authors book, with another essay in the bag. Not the one I intended to write, but another interesting one, nonetheless, which was prompted by a question from someone who stumbled onto Bear Alley in search of some information. His enquiry sent me on  a day-long dig for information, at which point I thought I had enough to make an interesting essay on the author. Next week I'll try to get back to the piece I was actually planning to work on, which I started writing three weeks ago!

The new essay brings our total to 24 essays and 104,096 words. The cover for the first ebook is nearly done, but I'll wait until next week to post it here.

I was doing the research with a certain amount of trepidation. Odd as it may sound, doing research can take you into one or two dark corners of the internet and I've always been a big fan of No Script, which blocks a lot of unwanted javascript and flash. On a practical level, it also saves me a lot of hanging around waiting for my elderly computer to catch up, as I'm not wasting bandwidth on pop-up windows, promos and auto-playing videos, or putting my computer at risk from malware disguised as advertising.

Firefox, my favoured browser, had a major update last Tuesday and it knocked out the version of No Script I used. So I cautiously kept going while we were waiting for the guy who created No Script (yes, it's just one guy) to catch up, which he promised to do by Sunday. To cut a long story short, I picked up a bit of a bug.

Thankfully, it was easily isolated and removed by Windows Defender. However, just to be on the safe side, I ran a full scan on the computer that took almost 24 hours to run and discovered that there were a couple of other low-level bugs on the system. Again, they were isolated and removed. But it just goes to show that, whether you're being careful or not, it's easy to pick these things up without knowing it and I don't think it's out of place to be reminded every now and then to do a full scan on your computer; you can leave it running in the background while you work and even let it run overnight. And if you're using Firefox, Seamonkey or other mozilla-based browsers, go and grab the new version of No Script that is now available.

With Mel away for the weekend at a show, I had the house to myself, so I thought I'd watch a show that I know she wouldn't be particularly interested in. I've been a big fan of the Marvel Universe shows on Netflix since the start of Daredevil back in 2015, and followed them through Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders... and now The Punisher. Thirteen episodes dropped on the Friday Mel was leaving for Reading and I had my evening all planned out.

The plan was to sit in front of the TV and not move until I'd watched a bunch of episodes. And then do the same Saturday evening, and then do the same Sunday.

I've never been one to binge watch shows before, although I did used to watch 24 at a rate of knots, and often the only way to break the cycle was when I needed to put in the next DVD. Working from home can sometimes work against you and I suspect 24 was responsible for me seeing 3 o'clock and 4 o'clock in the morning more often than deadlines ever did. I'm not so keen on those kind of late nights these days and tend to wander off to bed around eleven or twelve.

So... The Punisher. The first episode seemed disconnected from the rest of the series, with Frank Castle spending the bulk of the show knocking down walls on a building site. I was waiting on a work-related accident that would send Frank to Casualty, the British TV series that show-runner Steve Lightfoot used to write for.

Once we got into the meat of the series with episode two, I was gripped and the show didn't let go. Yes, it's violent, and, yes, Castle is a "judge, jury and executioner"-character that a peace-loving lefty like me should despise. I'd argue that (a) Frank Castle is a damaged, mentally unstable psychopath, and his actions are seen to have consequences that no sane human being would risk; and (b) it's a TV series based on a comic and not to be confused with real life. If you can read Judge Dredd and still not kill anyone, you should be able to cope with The Punisher.

Relentless killing machines is a trope that seems to be popular at the moment, with films like John Wick and Atomic Blonde appearing in the wake of movies that had almost comic levels of violence (Crank, Smoking Aces). If you were to ask me why I think these films are appearing now, I'd say that there are a lot of angry people out there who feel they have no control over what's happening to them—prices rising, debt rising, interest rates rising, the pound at a historic low, the economy tanking, idiots in charge who couldn't negotiate their way out of a wet paper bag, idiots in positions of power who, if they were in any other job, would have been fired and escorted out of the building. All these things slowly erode your confidence and when that happens, the man shouting "We're gonna take back control" the loudest can seem like an option. So the guy is a snake-oil salesman, but he's saying what you want to hear and he even has a couple of ideas about who it is you're taking back control from.

Frank Castle is an extreme character who looks like he's in control, but actually isn't. He's so driven that he actually doesn't have control over his actions because he acts and reacts in anger. It's only because of his special forces training and years of weapons practice, that he can act on his revenge fantasies and not get killed. Otherwise he'd just be a teething baby with a Kalashnikov.

I really enjoyed the show and managed to finish all thirteen episodes by the wee hours of Sunday morning. It won't be for everyone, but that's TV for you. I've seen people complain that it's slow, but it's in those slower moments that you get to explore the characters. Also, each episode is around 55 minutes, whereas on network TV in the USA, an hour-long show is often under 40 minutes, so watching it, sans advertising, as you would on a DVD, can make these Netflix shows feel a lot longer. Not a problem if you're used to hour-long shows on the BBC, where not every second of the show has to drive the plot forward.

Random scans... well, they have to be on the subject of revenge.

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