BEAR ALLEY BOOKS

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Comic Cuts - 18 May 2018

I had an e-mail during the week that gave me a bit of a lift: someone from a library in the US asking how they should classify my Forgotten Authors books... as a completed series or one that's ongoing. Well, as I have no plans to stop at three and am a large chunk into volume four, I can happily confirm that it's ongoing.

I'm still... still!... writing about W. N. Willis. Last time I mentioned him I was struggling my way through some of the dozens of court cases he managed to get himself involved in. The big problem I had was that reports of each trial were picked up by a huge number of local papers, but it might take a week or two for the same news to filter through, so every search I did would bring up hundreds of hits, but if you tried to follow the story chronologically, it was often impossible as reports appearing in one area might be one or two weeks behind reports appearing in another.

The solution was to choose a couple of good sources and rely on them for the full story. I've downloaded 434 newspaper clippings at the last count (I've read a lot more than I've downloaded!) and the essay has over 100 footnotes because I'm determined to make sure I get everything straight, first in my head and then on paper. I've had to divide the essay up into chapters, with each chapter containing a number of sub-sections which will hopefully make reading easier and so I can refer back to text. The damn thing is going to look like a Choose-Your-Own Adventure by the time I've finished. The current word count is over 28,000 and I still have blackmail, a stabbing and a malicious prosecution to write up.

We were out on Tuesday to see Tim Key who started his tour this year at Colchester Arts Centre. Megadate. It was superb, from start to finish... indeed, from pre-start because Key prowled around the stage and amongst the audience ahead of the show starting, smiling, winking, indulging in a little conversation. He was off the stage when the show began, the ring of a bicycle bell signalling the show's start. A soundtrack kicked in that was to run the whole length of the show, Key describing to the audience the events of a bizarre blind date in London that took in Madame Tussauds, bowling, the Shard, the Planetarium...

Conversational tones give way to shouting and return again to conversation. He leaves the stage and a brief film plays before Key returns to banter and hector the audience with more of his paranoid yarn. Will she... won't she... return his texts? Will he find his lost credit card? Discovering the answers is pure pleasure. His discipline is astonishing, the narrative intercut as he plucks cards from a pack, each of them a poem that will end up strewn on the floor.

When you say that you've seen a comedian perform... well, this truly is a performance. It might even be art.

American TV networks are in the process of announcing which shows they will be renewing for another season and which shows are coming to an end. The results aren't looking so good for genre shows that I have quite enjoyed.

The big loss might be The Expanse, coming to a close after three seasons, although there's a chance that it might survive as it is independently produced and shown on SyFy. Another broadcaster might pick it up. I've yet to see Season 3, but the first two seasons were a solid attempt at grand scale space opera and had remained faithful to the books.

I'm hoping that someone might step in and save Hap and Leonard, which has been a favourite of mine for three seasons. Come on Netflix / Amazon Prime – if you're going to save just one... no, two shows, make it The Expanse and Hap and Leonard.

Some shows (like The Americans) were due to end, so there was no surprise that they weren't renewed, and a few others have already been announced (Dirk Gently, Dark Matter, The Mist, Jean-Claude Van Johnson).

Other fallers include The Crossing (which I have yet to watch), Designated Survivor (I enjoyed Season 1 but have yet to watch Season 2), Quantico (which was very silly but I quite enjoyed the first season, but have yet to catch up with seasons 2 and 3) and Lucifer (both Mel and I liked the first season, but we came to it quite late and haven't had time to watch the other two). There is a #savelucifer campaign, but I gather that the series wraps up nicely, only to have a huge cliffhanger drop right at the end. Who knows what will happen... after all, Fox cancelled the comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine and it was immediately snapped up by NBC.

I've only seen one season of the latter, which I thought was OK. Ditto Veep, which has also just been cancelled. I've only seen one out of seven seasons due to my reliance on box sets turning up in charity shops for a lot of my American TV viewing. For instance, I picked up the first season of Revolution on Saturday, a post-apocalypse actioner produced by J J Abrams' Bad Robot which seems to have been generally positively received. I have a bunch of other post-apocalypse / post-alien invasion shows to work through before I get to this one (Falling Skies, Colony, Defiance), but as it only cost £3 for five discs it was too good to turn down. This is my argument for owning about 200 DVDs that I haven't had a chance to watch.

One cancellation I can understand is Marvel's Inhumans, which we watched without a huge amount of enthusiasm. When your two lead characters have almost unstoppable powers you should write a show that shows them off. Sadly Inhumans chose the "kryptonite" route, making Black Bolt (whose voice can shatter worlds) dumb and giving Medusa (the redhead above who can control and move her hair) a haircut. So with two lead characters neutered of their powers, and a bunch of miserable second-raters in tow, that left a giant CGI dog as the only thing worth watching. Or not watching, which was the option most people chose.

X-Files won't be making another comeback. Probably not a surprise as there were only a handful of good episodes spread over the two seasons of its return and still no resolution to Mulder's quest.

I've also learned that Gotham, one of the best shows on TV of the past few years, is to end after season five. This Batman prequel was always going to have a shelf life as Bruce Wayne actor David Mazouz was 13 when he started and will be 18 when it ends. The show has lived up to its name and not been wholly about Batman. The two main characters are police detective James Gordon and the rise through the criminal ranks of The Penguin from sidekick to crimelord. Other characters weave in and out of their storylines, with not one of them a misstep. We're watching season four at the moment and it is still funny, shocking and surprising.

One I'll be happy to see return is Happy!, which is a blackly humourous, bloodily violent and utterly barking show about an ex-cop looking for the daughter he was previously unaware of before she was kidnapped. I didn't realise that it was based on a graphic novel by Grant Morrison & Darick Robertson, which I'll now have to look out for. That explains why the plot is so off the wall while the violence is sprayed right up the wall. There's a bizarre fantasy twist: the daughter's invisible friend, a flying blue unicorn named Happy, is sent to find her father and lead him back to rescue her. This will not be everyone's cup of tea. Something happens in the first 30 or so seconds... if you don't find it funny, the show's not for you.

No book covers this week, but if you scroll down I've posted a few more comedy flyers that I've picked up over the past couple of years. Things will be back to normal next week, hopefully. Instead, here's a picture of the shortest diversion ever:

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