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Friday, October 18, 2019

Comic Cuts - 18 October 2019

Trying to get back into the swing of listing magazines for sale on Ebay took a bit of a knock this week as a number of obstacles stood in the way, most of them of my own making.

On Saturday, for instance, I wrote a bit more of a piece on cartoonist Donald Rooum that has rather gotten away from me and is now over 8,000 words long. Sunday I listed some magazines, but spent more time indexing them than I should have. Monday I did precisely the same thing, indexing when I should have been just scanning. Tuesday and Wednesday I managed to empty a box and scan the covers of some more books that will make their way onto Ebay eventually; at the same time I played host to my Mum and also paid a visit to a local jobs fair to see if there was any work on offer. Thursday I spent half the morning on the phone, partly emptied another box but, at the time of writing (Thursday evening) I still haven't managed to get the books onto the scanner. That will have to wait until tomorrow.

In between I've been running sold magazines down to the Post Office, took a couple of bags of books down to a local book shop, and sorted out a few more books that will either end up in a box, to hopefully be sold at a boot fair, or in a charity shop.

I used to take this in my stride and would then spend the rest of the day doing research or writing, but somehow this has taken me all my working week and I've probably only written a thousand words, plus a couple of reviews and whatever this column runs to. Most frustrating when you think that in 2017-18 I was able to write four books and post features on Bear Alley far more regularly!

However, I don't want to sound downbeat. There are a couple of things on the horizon that could get me back up to speed. One is definitely happening—I'll be hosting a panel at the upcoming "Comics Jam" event on Saturday, November 2nd. I'll post details next week. The other thing... well, even I don't know if that's going to happen. Yet. But keep your fingers crossed.

A quick note about the pictures this week. I've been playing around with filters and the effects can be quite delightful. The column header this week is from a photo I took a couple of weeks ago of a quarry that has been active since we moved here ten years ago, but which now seems to have shut down. They've removed a large structure that allowed sand to be dumped into cargo boats and shipped off down the Colne to who knows where. Well that's gone and so have most of the boats. Above is the unfiltered photograph.

Mr Mercedes... spoilers ahead, so hop to the end of the column if you don't want to know anything about season two.

With season three now being broadcast, I've finally caught up with season two. Mr Mercedes is based on the trio of novels featuring Bill Hodges written by Stephen King and the first season was a disturbing tale of a mass murderer who earns the name Mr. Mercedes when he drives a Mercedes sedan into a crowd waiting a a jobs fair. Hodges (brilliantly portrayed by Brendan Gleeson) tracks down the killer, who has been plotting another horrific homicide by setting off a bomb at an arts festival.

Before the killer, Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway), can set off the bomb, he is struck repeatedly by Hodges' assistant, Holly (Justine Lupe).

Jump to season two, where Hartsfield is in a vegetative state, lying comatose in a hospital bed, kept alive by machines. Bill Hodges watches over him, looking for signs of life, as is Antonio Montez, the assistant district attorney, who hopes Hartsfield will survive as he wants a big case to prosecute to raise his profile.

Neither is aware that Hartsfield is undergoing an off-the-books medical treatment by Dr Felix Babineau, whose wife, Cora, works for a Chinese pharmaceutical company that has run into trouble for testing drugs on prisoners. While his body remains immobile, Hartsfield is aware of his surroundings and those about him, and finds that he is able to control the actions of the nurse who bathes him and the oversized "Library Al", a gentle giant who, under Hartsfield's control, breaks into Montez's house, killing his dog and stealing his gun.

The TV series has diverged from the books, as the second novel, Finders Keepers, is an entirely separate novel, the storyline of which is picked up for the third season of the TV show. The book establishes Bill Hodges' private detective agency, as does the second season of the TV version, although being a PI proves to be an unglamorous, depressing job, mostly repossessing goods and cars from people who are desperately short of money and in need of help.

Gleeson's Bill Hodges is a growling, fly-off-the-handle, ball of barely contained anger. In the first series he was gruff, uncompromising and unfriendly; now he's fixated on the comatose Hartsfield, depressed and drinking too much... so, series one dialed up to 11. This boozy bear of a man is unlikable, but what saves the show is that he is surrounded by people who are likable... and if they are willing to forgive Hodges his rudeness and spend their time trying to keep him focused, then we, the viewers, are also more likely to be forgiving. He's not a people person, but his heart is in the right place. That keeps the character the right side of watchable.

I've not read the third book but I suspect the show didn't diverge much. Perhaps it should have as it's a very slow burn with bursts of sudden action; too much time is spent having people stare at the unmoving body of Brady Hardsfield and, while his silent internal monologue gives those scenes the pretense of dialogue, those sequences tend to drag. Introducing a supernatural element (the ability to control others' minds), veering into what might be considered prime Stephen King territory, was also a bit disappointing as that isn't what I'm looking for in this series. Still, I'm cautiously optimistic about the third season, which has already started, based on the middle book of the trilogy.

I'll briefly mention Disenchanted, Matt Groening's "new" series on Netflix, which has just concluded (after a break) the second half of the first season of twenty shows. I wasn't sure about the first few episodes, but I've grown into the characters and the world they inhabit. We watched an episode most evenings over the past two weeks and I've been looking forward to them and humming the theme tune to myself, which is always a good sign.

Princess Tiabeanie, known to all as Bean, is the daughter of King Zog, ruler of Dreamland. Her friends are Elfo, an Elf banished from Elfland, and a demon, often mistaken for a cat, named Luci. Unlike Groening's other shows (The Simpsons, Futurama), there is a linear storyline through the show which has developed characters as it has progressed and made a few major—and surprising—changes, too.

The show began with the common trope of a princess being married off for political ends, but quickly develops its own plot that is full of entertaining twists. Bean's stepmother, for instance, the amphibean second wife of King Zog and mother of Zog's heir, Derek, is dumped into the ocean for eternity; Bean's mother, the former Queen Dagmar, returns but leaves Bean in the hands of two half-siblings she knew nothing about; and the three friends all end up in Hell.

And that's in just two episodes of the latest batch.

As the episodes are only 25-35 minutes long, it's worth watching two or three before deciding whether you like or dislike the show. It won't be for everyone, but it's one that I've enjoyed. Let's hope that Netflix, who have renewed the show for a second season, don't get cold feet and treat the show as badly as Futurama was treated.

1 comment:

  1. That Disenchanted picture is a bit political, isn't it? Jennifer Arcuri, with Dominic Cummings on the left and David Cameron on the right. It only needs Mr Blobby behind the door for a full house.