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Friday, March 27, 2020

Comic Cuts - 27 March 2020

Like everyone, I've had a week of ups and downs. Today we're sitting here looking back on last week like it was a different age.

We were expecting changes: plans were already afoot when I last wrote for Mel's workplace – and my old stomping ground, Aceville – to be shut down and for all staff to work from home. For security reasons, she had to bring her work computer home and this took some setting up as our first attempt failed because the (ancient) computer couldn't be connected to her (almost new) monitor. A trip into the office was required to get some cabling, after which everything was relatively easy to set up.

As I type, she's in her little office, working on the latest issue of one of her magazines.

On Monday, it looked like I was sunk as far as Bear Alley Books was concerned, and posted a note on Tuesday to say that the lockdown was likely to stop all my publishing activities dead in their tracks from 12 midnight Monday/Tuesday. It was unlikely that I would even be seeing the proof copies that I had sent off some days earlier, let alone be able to get new orders printed and delivered.

I posted this about 11am and was settling in to think of some ways I could generate money – it's almost impossible for a freelance writer to prove that he's unemployed and not working! – when I received a message from The Guardian asking if I was available to write a piece for them. Yes. Yes I was. It wasn't all raising glasses and party poppers as we cheered in a new dawn of financial security... the commission was for an obituary for Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix the Gaul. He had died that morning from a heart attack, aged 92.

Thankfully his death was not related to the coronavirus or I would have been feeling a little ghoulish.

That kept me busy Monday afternoon collecting information that I wrote up yesterday, a slightly sprawling 2,500 words that I sent in this (Thursday) morning. If you heard a yelp of annoyance around 10 am this morning, that was the folk at the obits desk opening my e-mail and seeing a long, long day of checking ahead of them. (I will just say that my pieces are often edited for length, as they have to fit in with other pieces on what is nowadays a single page. A lot of newspapers have slimmed down the number of pages they dedicate to obits, not just The Guardian.)

I decided just now to see whether any of the other UK broadsheets had carried an obituary. The Times and The Telegraph are both behind paywalls, but sometimes you get a free look at a few pages. So I spied the obituary in The Times and went to have a look. A notice popped up asking me to consent to having various "partners" storing and retrieving information from my browser... the usual cookie consent form.
We use the following partners to help it deliver the best content and services to you. You can consent to the companies listed by clicking the link below. You can change your mind and revisit your consent choices at any time by returning to this site via the cookies link in the header or footer of every page.
I had a look at the list of "partners" and there were 197 of them. That's 197. I didn't mistype. Out of curiosity, I randomly picked one to see what they did and chose ZighZag, the last name on the list, which took me to a security warning about potential threats of the site allowing attackers to steal passwords and credit card details. Way to go, The Times.

The good news—and there is good news even in these dark times—is that I have a paying project that I'll be starting next week. I'll hopefully have some more details for you shortly but for now all I'll say is that it ties in with a recent Rebellion release.

I had that good bit of news on Wednesday, and later the same day I received a notification that my proofs for the Rocket index and two other books had been printed and were in the post. No sign of them yet, but I expect the post office is at full stretch at the moment, with at least some staff in isolation and some routes perhaps not being covered every day. However, I'm risking taking orders again... had one today and we shall see what happens over the coming days and weeks.

The new work doesn't mean I'm out of the woods financially. Between them the two jobs will keep me going for maybe five or six weeks at best, and everything is costing a little more as cheap options are often the ones that disappear first from shop shelves.  At least we have enough toilet paper!

Of course, just to put a dampner on the good news, I have developed a wobbly tooth. My dentist's advice: "Take some paracetamol and don't chew on that side of your mouth." Over the past couple of days, the wobble has become more pronounced and the gum aches constantly. "Let us know if there is bleeding that won't stop," says the dentist, "otherwise we can make an appointment when things are back to normal."

Last night I had a quadruple whisky and that seemed to numb the pain. I've had a bottle of 12-year-old scotch in the cupboard for quite a while and now seems as good a time as any to make the best of it.


Spoilers below as we take a look at Locke and Key. Jump to the end if you don't like them.

I'm not averse to the occasional horror show on TV, and Locke and Key has the advantage of being based on a comic strip that has been generally well received – it has won the British Fantasy Award twice and writer Joe Hill picked up an Eisner Award.

The TV series takes elements from the first five graphic novels, which collected together five 6-issue mini-series published in 2008-12. Although it retains the key elements (no pun intended), the TV show is generally softer on the horror side of things than the comic, but it still has its creepy moments.

The  murder of school teacher Rendell Locke by one of his students leads his surviving family to relocate from Seattle. Widowed Nina Locke drives her three children – Tyler, Kinsey and Bode – to their father's old family home in Matheson, Massachusetts, a sprawling residence called the Keyhouse. The youngest son, Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), excitedly explores their new home, while Tyler (Connor Jessup) and Kinsey (Emilia Jones) are unhappily facing the prospect of entering a new school.

Following whispered voices, Bode discovers that a number of keys are hidden around the house... and there's a woman at the bottom of a well in the well house. Meanwhile, Tyler and Kinsey are making friends and enemies at their new school. Kinsey meets Scot (Petrice Jones) and his friends, amateur filmmakers nicknamed the Savini Squad.

After two episodes I have to confess that I was beginning to think that the show was going to be chiefly a teenage romance drama... which I wasn't particularly interested in. However, that soon dies down, bubbling along in the background, as the story gets going. Bode discovers the keys do magical things: one allows him to open a door to anywhere he can picture, another to step into a mirror universe, while a third lets them access their minds and memories in a representative world (Kinsey's, for instance, is a mall).

Bode is being tormented by the well lady, who calls herself Echo but is revealed to be Dodge, who knew the Locke's father. There are more twists to be learned about her background as the story progresses. She visits in prison and then frees Sam Lesser (Thomas Mitchell Barnet), the student who killed Randell, who now makes his way to the Keyhouse.

The storyline concentrates chiefly on the Locke children as mother Nina (Darby Stanchfield) at first seems unable to recall things that happen to her in the Keyhouse, even after being trapped in the mirror dimension. However, she starts to become suspicious of seemingly friendly Ellie, who attended school with her late husband and is now a teacher. It is Nina who discovers the grisly end of one of the nicer inhabitants of Matheson.

At that point, the end of episode five, I became quite hooked into the series and the excitement carried me through the latter half of the show.

1 comment:

  1. A paying project associated with a recent Rebellion release. TE related, I hope....