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Friday, April 03, 2020

Comic Cuts - 3 April 2020

Week two of Goatmageddon – they're coming! Look to Llandudno if you don't believe me – and I'm pleased to be able to share a bit of good news. After a fairly lazy, laid back weekend, I began prepping for the next book I'm going to work on when, for the first time in a fortnight, the door bell rang.

Proof copies of the three books I have been waiting on. Finally.

The crowd, both of us, went wild. All three looked pretty good and Bear Alley Books was back in business, which, I don't mind telling you, is a huge relief. As if to let us know everything was going to be OK, when we stepped out for a walk on Monday we saw a rainbow arcing over the whole of the neighbourhood.

I've spent the past couple of days going through the books with a fine tooth comb. Except I had to go pick up a prescription on Tuesday, so trekked off to the local pharmacy, twenty minutes walk away. The streets were as quiet as they have been for the past couple of weeks, with little traffic and almost as little footfall from passers by. Approaching the pharmacy, I could see a queue extending back to the junction and as I approached on the other side of the road, I began to realise that it extended around the corner and down the road. I joined the queue around 9.45 and eventually got back home at 11.45, having queued for an hour and a half.

Not that it was a chore. Everyone was very friendly and we were chatting like old friends within a few minutes. The only point where the conversation dried was when I dared to suggest: What if we discover that football is irrelevant during this lockdown? What if everyone discovers that there are enough football matches already recorded that they can rebroadcast? You could have channels dedicated to your favourite team only ever winning..." This was met with stony silence and then a guy standing a couple of people down just said: "No... I love football, me," and we all carried on discussing whatever the next topic was.

When it came to picking up her prescription, the woman next to me said she didn't really want to leave. "It's the first adult conversation I've had for a week," she told us, explaining that she has been stuck in the house with two young children.

Albert Uderzo obit, as it appeared in Saturday's Guardian
At the pharmacy we discovered that my new medical card had been sent to me with the wrong name printed on it – Molland instead of Holland – which meant I had to pay for my prescription rather than getting it for free. That meant a chunk of the afternoon was wasted on the phone as I tried to get a new card sent. I did get through to talk to the right people and hopefully that will be sorted out and the card delivered before I need to go to the pharmacy again.

Back at home, I've been reading through the three new books that will be available shortly from Bear Alley Books. The best news is that the Hurricane and Champion update requires no more work and  came out perfectly. The other two will require a little bit of tinkering, but not much. As of me writing this (Thursday afternoon) I've sorted out the text of Rocket and need to slightly adjust the cover so that the text rests on the spine more centrally (it was about 1mm out); the Eagles book requires a short piece of text to be reset as, for some reason unknown, it came out a bit mangled. It's fine on the PDF I sent in, mangled on the printed proof. Should be easily fixed even if I've no idea what caused the problem.

Next step: finish tidying up the last bits of the books, resend them to the printers over the weekend, get payment pages set up at Bear Alley Books, cobble together a few little adverts to go up on Facebook and on the Bear Alley blog, and then, Goat-willing, people can start ordering copies. I'm not letting this goat thing go! Personally, I welcome our new overlords and the dawning of the age of Capricorn.

I'm taking a look at The Mandalorian below the pic, so skip to the end if you don't like spoilers.

I've been wanting to see what all the fuss was about for some while and I have to say that it was worth the wait and worth the watching.

At only eight episodes, the show doesn't outstay its welcome. Its the show that Solo should have been, but the movie blew its chance. Unlike some, I don't mind the movie as it stands, but it's no more than a reasonably made (it's Ron Howard, after all) sci-fi actioner with money thrown at it to make the special effects effective. What I wanted was the film that it could have been: if you're going to make a science fiction comedy western, make Maverick rather than Wild Wild West. We're unlikely ever to see the Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the original directors) version of Solo as (I think) they were taken off the movie before they finished shooting, but it would certainly have been interesting.

(I'm thinking here of the Brian Helgeland-directed Payback, which was taken out of his hands and re-shot and re-edited to make the lead (played by Mel Gibson) more viewer-friendly. This was based on one of Richard Stark's (Donald E. Westlake's) Parker novels (the same one that was made into the classic Point Blank) and was a disaster when originally released. Subsequently there has been a Helgeland "Director's Cut" made available, which is vastly better than the version that reached cinemas.)

Mind you, the script for Solo didn't exactly offer any surprises – did we really need the origin movie that showed how Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon and how he did the Kessel run in twelve parsecs? Something with Han and Chewie at their peak would have been nicer. The original Star Wars dropped everyone into the middle of a story and succeeded. We don't need everything to begin with an origin story.

The Mandalorian proves my point. We know nothing of his origins as the show opens, nor do we get any clues to his identity or origins as we progress through the story.

And, more good news, turns out you can make a light-hearted action western set in the Star Wars universe, as Disney+ have now found out to their advantage. It would be wrong to say the new streaming service was launched off the back of this – they're Disney, after all, and they also own Fox and the Marvel movies as well as Star Wars – but I think it would be fair to say The Mandalorian was the most anticipated new show.

And it certainly lives up to that anticipation. A bounty hunter is hired on a frontier planet to capture an unnamed asset – fifty years old, but otherwise unidentified – to be found on the outpost world. The client (played by Werner Herzog) is clearly Imperial and protected by Stormtroopers. Despite this, the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) accepts the off-the-books commission.

On the planet, the Mandalorian is led to the asset's location by a farmer, Kuill, tired of the chaos that bounty hunters have brought to the area in search of the target. Overlooking a heavily defended encampment, the Mandalorian spies a robot bounty hunter, also on the same mission; they work together to rescue... a tiny Yoda-like baby. When the droid tries to take the child's life, the Mandalorian blows a hole in it's circuits and returns to his ship with the child.

There are encounters with Jawas and a battle with a monstrous Mudhorn before the Mandalorian returns to Nevarro and delivers the child and receives his generous payment. However – there had to be a "however" or you wouldn't have a story – he returns and saves the child, only to have every other bounty hunter in the city hired to prevent him escaping.

I loved it. Maybe it's the circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment, but this is comfort TV, like settling down in front of a John Wayne western you've seen twenty times already but, you know, if that's what you're in the mood for, you can do no better. The Mandalorian is a pair of space opera slippers, well-worn as far as the plot goes, but a snug, comfortable fit for these trying times.

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