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Friday, October 02, 2020

Comic Cuts - 2 October 2020

I'm still working on my John Burns article, which I'm hoping to have finished by the end of the week. One reason it's taking a little while is because I decided to write it in a slightly non-linear way so, while it covers the whole of John's career, it doesn't read like an obituary. Yes, the magazine will include an obits. section, so I'm trying to vary the tone of the features; it's one of the reasons I'd like to have more contributors so that there are a number of different voices in the magazine.

I'm using a list of John's favourite strips as a through-line and then weave in details of how his career progressed over the years. In fact, one of the reasons I'm spending so long on this is that I keep getting distracted digging out and reading old strips. I pulled a couple of annuals out of a cupboard and was reading 'Guardians of the Reef' and an episode of 'Wrath of the Gods' on Monday. On Tuesday I finally found my copy of 'Danielle', some 'Modesty Blaise' and some girls' annuals, so that kept me busy for a bit, and on Wednesday I dug out copies of ESPers, James Bond: A Silent Armageddon and Sable & Fortune. Today (Thursday, as I write) I'm on the look-out for a box of Heavy Metal to see if I can find some of the MI9 strips he did for that paper. I've already dug out the one issue of Penthouse Comix I have with John's work but whether I can find anything useable is another question.

I managed to post a few items up on EBay and I'm pleased to say that about half of them sold first time around. I have much more to go, and I was meant to do some scanning and listing at the weekend, but it didn't work out. Instead, I had a hair cut on Saturday and spent time chatting and catching up with friends over an online board game, and Sunday just seemed to disappear. I remember trying to sort through a load of podcasts in the morning and chatting with my Mum, dozing off after lunch and waking up a couple of hours later. By the time I'd caught up on some e-mail, it was dark, Mel was back from her parents and we were finishing off the last episode of Cormoran Strike that has been sitting on the Blu-ray box for some weeks. The day was over before I had a chance to scan anything.

I'm reviewing it below the pic, and there will be spoilers, so hop to the end if you want to avoid them.


This is the fourth of the adaptations of Robert Galbraith's (J. K. Rowling's) novels, released to coincide with the release of Galbraith's fifth novel and therefore against a background of a backlash against that novel's reputed transphobia. I'm no expert, but those complaining about having a crook dress up as a woman are surely reducing transvestism to an act of dressing up and they really ought to be looking at their own perceptions and prejudices. They need to learn that it's about more than wearing the clothes of the opposite sex. I think a lot of the coverage was wilfully ignorant as it allowed the writers to take a poke at the BBC for adapting her novels. It is no surprise that the most negative reviews appeared in the Mail on Sunday and The Times.

The action picks up immediately following the end of the third novel adaptation -- broadcast 30 months ago in early 2018 -- with Holiday Grainger's Robin Ellacott about to marry the awful Matthew (Kerr Logan). Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) has raced to the church, disheveled and beaten, wondering why she has not responded to his calls and texts. Matthew had deleted them and having Strike hovering around the outskirts of the wedding doesn't bode well for a happy ceremony or honeymoon.

A year later, Robin is now an equal partner in the private investigation firm of C. B. Strike. Arriving at the firm's Denmark Street office (above 12 Bar Club at 26 Denmark Street... Forbidden Planet was at 23 Denmark Street for many years), the two discover it has been broken into by a disturbed young man, Billy, who babbles about a murder while waving around a bloody knife he has used to carve a cave-painting style drawing of a horse on the wall. The incident leads them to investigate a group of left-wing radicals.

A second case involves the blackmail of an M.P., Jasper Chiswell (Robert Glennister), the head of a family who despise him and are despised by him – except for his dead son, whom he worships, but who was (of course) awful. Chiswell is being blackmailed and, as the two investigations merge, it seems to involve the death of a young girl (an incident seen by Billy when he was a boy), on a chalk horse at Uffington. Cormoran and Robin discover a grave, but no further action appears to be taken by the police. Could it be a cover-up?

When Robin goes undercover at the Houses of Parliament to trap one of the blackmailers, the show descends into Spitting Image territory of ghastly MPs, horny aides and competent secretaries. The other blackmailer turns out to be Billy's brother, Jimmy, who is also a cartoon radical.

Thankfully the two leads are engaging enough to carry the four episodes. Robin is suffering from PTSD following an attack she suffered in the third series, but Cormoran's missing leg is now barely an inconvenience, except when he's chasing someone. Robin ditches Matthew (who is conveniently having an affair) and Cormoran is dumped by his girlfriend, making the "will they? won't they?" soap opera standard a big part of the story. Meaningful looks and long hugs are as far as it goes, but don't be surprised if they get together at some point down the line.

I've enjoyed previous adaptations. This one, like the book, was longer. Unfortunately, twice the length didn't add up to twice the fun, but it was OK. I was just hoping for better than OK.

(* The column header this week is from El Capitan Trueno: La reina bruja de anubis, which, sadly, has never been translated into English – I did these few panels for your reading pleasure.)

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