Friday, March 16, 2018

Comic Cuts - 16 March 2018

With Mel away for the weekend, I settled back into the couch and watched the second season of Jessica Jones. I am not a huge fan of superheroes per se, preferring Batman over Superman... a well-trained and gadget-assisted human to an alien who, let's face it, shouldn't have any problem pounding the crap out of any villain he faces. Hence more and more stupid reasons why he can't just beat them into a pulp, which is how you end up with a whole rainbow of colours of Kryptonite.

I was never a fan of  Marvel's heroes but eventually found a title that I liked when they relaunched Daredevil back in 1998. I thought Frank Miller's time on Daredevil was interesting, but the revamp was genuinely brilliant, with Brian Michael Bendis at the helm. It was one of the few comics I kept reading in the 2000s, along with those of another Daredevil alumnus, Ed Brubaker.

Because it was Bendis, I picked up Alias when it came out in 2001-04. It was around that time that I gave up buying monthly comics entirely, but I still have a soft spot for that kind of comic noir and I haven't wholly given up the habit, although I now just pick up the very occasional graphic novel, mostly those by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: Criminal, Fatale, The Fade Out.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to Jessica Jones, star of Bendis's Alias monthly. As a fan at the hardboiled end of crime fiction and of the original comics, I watched the first season of the TV adaptation with a certain amount of trepidation. Thirteen episodes later I was able to breath out again and applaud the fact that they had done justice to the character. I still think the first series of Daredevil, which was broadcast a year earlier, is the best of the Netflix Marvel Universe shows to date, although that was down to Vincent D'Onofrio giving a mesmerizing performance as Wilson Fisk. I don't think any of the shows—Punisher, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders—have put a foot so wrong that I haven't been able to watch the whole show.

Season 2 continues the languid pace that these Netflix shows have adopted. They tend to be 50 minutes or so in length, which is quite a bit longer than the average American TV series where an hour is actually only 38-43 minutes between the adverts. A lot of character building falls by the wayside as the show shrinks; you have to use a shorthand to tell the audience who you should like, so if Character A shows a photo of their wife/girlfriend/child to someone else, Character A is almost certainly going to be slaughtered in the not-too-distant future and you'll feel sorry about it because at the back of your mind you're thinking "What about his poor wife/girlfriend/child?" Anyone mistreating a wife/child/animal is not a character you should have sympathy for. If a crime drama opens with a jogger or a dog-walker, a body will be found 30 seconds later. Shorthand.

So, the extra time makes the series seem a little slower than most American TV. Also, the character of Jessica Jones is in a grey area that most TV shows don't like their lead characters to inhabit. She's bolshy, antisocial, obsessive, a heavy drinker who makes bad choices when she's drunk, unhappy, uncertain and unrepentant. She stepped over a line in the first season and she's still dealing with the consequences of her actions, and she continues to deal with them throughout the whole run of 13 episodes, rather than have her problems neatly wrapped up in an episode or two, a line drawn under them so they can be ignored from thereon.

I loved the dialogue, the darkness, the voiceover... it's the best hardboiled show I've seen in ages and, thankfully, the superheroics have been kept down to a minimum. The producers have managed to create fascinating shows out of flawed characters (The Punisher was also excellent, Iron Fist less so). I just hope they can keep it up in Luke Cage season 2 and Daredevil season 3, which are both due later this year.

I'm also looking forward to the next season of Legion, which was one of the better entries to the rash of superheroes appearing on TV. It was written by Noah Hawley, who has also written and produced Fargo since 2014, making him perhaps my favourite US TV creator at the moment. Apparently, he's writing a standalone series based on Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle at the moment, so that's something else to look forward to.

There are a few Marvel tie-in shows that we haven't caught up with yet: we did see the disappointing Inhumans, but have yet to watch The Gifted or Runaways. Oh, and Agents of SHIELD is back, so that's something else to catch up on. I'm not giving up on the DC televerse shows (Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and newcomer Black Lightning) but I really haven't had a chance to watch them. And we're only days away from the new Krypton series.

Now that Jessica Jones is finished, the show I'm looking forward to most is Hap and Leonard. The first two series (based on the first two H&L novels by Joe R. Lansdale) were brilliant and I'm hoping that the third can keep up the same head of steam. I need you all to find this show and watch it, discuss it, advertise it and promote it. I don't want there to be any risk of it not finding an audience.

When I'm not watching the TV, I'm looking at another screen and I think I now have a good idea of what will be included in the next Forgotten Authors volume. The contents should look something like this: 'Mysteries of the House of Harrison & Viles' looks at the stories of publishers Edward Harrison and Edwin Viles, the latter the author of the longest-running penny-dreadful, Black Bess; the essay also includes information about an author I believe to have been nicknamed 'Blueskin' by a critic of Harrison and Viles. As a kind of P.S. I'm also including a shorter piece on Walter Viles, younger brother of Edwin, who had a very tragic career.

Next up, two pieces that tie-in with the Bracebridge Hemyng essay in volume two, as we look at two of his brothers who were also authors: Dempster Heming and Philip Heming. Then there's Mrs. Frances Campbell and her daughter, Phyllis (Angel of the Mons) Campbell. W. Keppel Honnywill is another tragic story, while J. Weedon Birch was an author who caused my late friend W.O.G. (Bill) Lofts many hours of fruitless searching.

Bill spent even more time on trying to locate authentic information on a writer known as Michael Storm, ultimately without success. So I'm including here essays on two authors who wrote as Michael Storm, one who wrote as Michael Storme, and one who ghosted stories for the dead first Michael Storm in secret as they were sold to the publisher as being newly discovered tales from the deceased author's estate.

And that should bring the book in at about the same length as Volume 2, roughly 65,000 words, plus an introduction. Because I've switched some material around, I think that will also leave roughly 20,000 words of material already written that I will carry forward to Volume 4.

No random scans this week as I'm trying to work up a really nice cover gallery for you all to enjoy. Hopefully I'll also have some news for you next week of some comic projects that are coming up. There's a few really cool books due in the next few months.

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