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Friday, September 21, 2018

Comic Cuts - 21 September 2018

After a couple of weeks of mostly pottering along post-Iron Mask, I've found my writing mojo again and I'm hard at work at another Forgotten Authors essay. I picked up a book by Alfred Duggan on Saturday, a historical novelist who had previously crossed  my path as a contributor to Look and Learn. I'd written a 400-word biographical sketch as part of my research into the history of the paper and between that and the biography on the back of the book – a Penguin paperback of Knight With Armour, which also has a photo of Duggan – I thought I'd do some digging while Mel was off at a show over the weekend.

Yes, as usual I've managed to wander down plenty of sideroads during the past few days while I've been delving into his family history. Without spoiling the eventual article that I'm in the process of writing, my internet browser history for this morning includes a variety of Wikipedia entries for contemporaries at Eton; the Eton Register; searches relating to Hackwood Park, Tattershall Castle, Bodiam Castle; searches relating to Duggan's step-sisters, including the history of the British Union of Fascists and various websites about Oswald Mosley to try and confirm rumours about his stepsisters (one of whom was Mrs. Mosley) and his mum.

There are always endless little searches for dates and places with this kind of research. It doesn't always go quite so dark, quite so quickly. My next few paragraphs are about alcoholism and Evelyn Waugh before I head into Mosley's political history. Hopefully it'll be a fun read at the end.

For lighter entertainment I've been watching Iron Fist, the latest Netflix series set in their Marvel TV shows. Over the past three years they've kept up an incredibly high standard – the first series of Daredevil was absolutely gripping and they've barely put a foot wrong since. I think it's the general consensus that of the six different shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Punisher, Iron Fist and the team-up show The Defenders), Iron Fist had the softest debut. It wasn't well liked. The best bits were being done better in other shows and perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that a programme involving zen meditation, channeling chi and stillness might lack momentum.

Well, the second series has solved some of those problems. There's more action spread over fewer episodes (10 rather than 13) and the approval rating has leapt (it's #1 in the Rotten Tomatoes chart for what they call the Sophomore Bump – how much better Season 2 has done over Season 1). It's not perfect (Danny is still an arse and Colleen should dump him; Danny's step-brother and step-sister suck the life out of any room they enter), but it's getting there. The best thing about the show: Colleen and NYPD detective Misty Knight working together. The screen really lit up when those two were together. And Alice Eve as Mary Walker made a fantastic villain... far more interesting than the one-note Davos.

We've almost reached the end of season two and therefore the end of the entirety of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, the BBC America series that ran for a total of 18 episodes. A far more creditable run than the pilot from 2010 and three episodes in 2012 managed by the BBC4 series with Stephen Mangan. The story itself seemed OK, but Mangan's Dirk was a cunning, nasty piece of work. For the new series he's played by Samuel Barnett with a mixture of confusion, naivete, bluster and blind confidence, added to a bit of wilful ignorance and leading from the back on occasions... but you don't get the impression that he's nasty.

The shows, like the novels, were deliberately obscure, building up onion-like layers out of weird details that, as the story progressed, could be peeled away. That the show only attracted a quarter of a million viewers doesn't surprise me. How do you promote a show like that in America?  It's the thing the guy who did Hitchhikers did that's not Hitchhikers. It's like comparing the popularity of Professor Challenger to the popularity of Sherlock Holmes.

Random scans are today quite random... just some scans of books I've picked up over the past few months that don't fit into any of the cover galleries I have here at Bear Alley.


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