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Friday, October 23, 2020

Comic Cuts - 23 October 2020

Finally, a bit of news regarding BAM! magazine. After a few disruptions, I managed to put in a couple of days of fairly solid work. The first issue is starting to come together, with about 40 pages laid out and many more pages written; some are still in need of artwork, while some simply need some of the artwork tidied up, which can be a slow and laborious task. One of the features I was working on this week required some lettering replaced, for instance, and a strip that's hand-lettered isn't easy to mimic.

The first issue is going to be a bit of a grab-bag of features, interviews and a couple of strips. I've tried to keep the contents broad, so we have features about a famous DC Thomson character, a little-known adventure strip from Dave Gibbons, an appreciation of an old Amalgamated Press editor, the story of how Frank Bellamy found himself unexpectedly in debt, and the history of Britain's first 'hard' SF newspaper comic strip and the creators behind it. I've already mentioned some of the other features, which include a celebration of 70 years of pocket libraries and an interview with John Burns; also I have a piece on one of my favourite comic characters, a second interview (with a current Commando scriptwriter), a look at the Marvel UK artwork of an American artist... and whatever else I can squeeze in. Someone has offered a review, and I'll be happy to run more if anyone cares to take a look at, say, recent Rebellion collections or other UK books.

Already lined up for issue two is a superb feature on Sixties style icon Tiffany Jones, a look back at the career of P.C.49 writer Alan Stranks, and the usual "and much more". So you'd better buy issue one if you want to see issue two!

There was the usual parade of interruptions. We're still trying to keep up our exercise regime, taking an hour-long walk in the morning and a second almost hour-long walk in the evening. Were dawdling and meeting people along the way, so I figure we're walking about five miles a day during week-days and our Sunday walk is about three miles. That's over a Marathon a week, which isn't bad. It has certainly been good for my weight as I've managed to shed 19 pounds the best part of 1 1/2 stone since lockdown was introduced in March.

This means that I'm no longer obese according to the NHS health weight calculator. I'm just very, very overweight! Something worth celebrating... but how?

Our early morning walks have been increasingly in the dark. Sunrise is now about 7.30 am and we've had a couple of spectacular dawns, as you can see from the photos. We are fortunate to live on a river (the Colne) where it heads out into the North Sea, so we also get some beautiful morning mists. At the moment we have huge flocks of birds migrating, including flocks of up to 50 geese. They use the river for rest (we get large numbers gathering on the banks) and for navigation, swooping low over the water in amazing formations. (Of course, every time I try to film this wonderful sight, by the time I get my camera switched on and aimed, all you see is a handful of rapidly disappearing goose butts.)

You don't need to know all the ins and outs of my rather dull life, but reality does get in the way of making these blogs packed with interesting news. The boring truth is that writing and putting together BAM! has to take a back seat to mundane things like the downstairs loo not working properly.

We've also had to deal with the wisteria that grew up the front of the house; at one point the damn thing was tangling up the gutters and growing over the windows, so we have to cut it back regularly during the summer months. I noticed earlier in the year that part of the trunk was quite rotten and had broken away from the main trunk of the plant. A couple of weeks ago, we could see branches of the wisteria starting to block the French windows at the back of the living room. Something to cut back next time the garden waste bags are empty, we thought.

Before we could do that, the whole plant broke away from the wall during a spell of gale-speed winds. The trunk was rotten through, and split apart at almost ground level. I spent most of Tuesday morning chopping it up and breaking rotten branches apart. Haven't quite finished as there is still quite a hunk of trunk still in the ground that will need to be dug out, but the council only collect four bags at a time, and Wednesday was a write-off thanks to an almost full day of rain.

Sadly, the dull bits of life have a horrible habit of getting in the way of what's fun.

Talking of which... jump to the end if you don't like spoilers.

I managed to finally catch up with with Upload, about people having themselves uploaded to a virtual retirement complex at the point of death. Our hero, Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell) is a computer whiz who is severely injured in a car crash involving his hands-free automated car. This alerts Fran (Elizabeth Bowen), his cousin, who begins to investigate what should be an impossible accident.

At the hospital, Nathan's possessive girlfriend, Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) has him uploaded to an expensive afterlife programme, Lake View, which will allow them to meet and, through programmable suits and gloves, to even interact and touch each other. As with any system, this all costs, and Ingrid is able to restrict Nathan's access to some things by drawing the purse strings tight.

Each upload is assigned an 'angel' who watches over them from their computer terminal. Nathan's is Nora (Andy Allo) and the two begin to form a relationship. Nora is also aware that certain of Nathan's memories have been corrupted he cannot remember what happened to the computer programme he was developing with his friend, Jamie... and some of the missing memory files have subsequently been deleted.

Comedy meets murder mystery meets romantic triangle meets high concept SF. With a pedigree like that, you might expect Upload to be a dog's dinner of a show, but it's far from that. No one element of the show overwhelms the others nor are there any lurching jumps between plot points; the glue is the wit and warmth of all involved. Even the controlling Ingrid has a soul, albeit conflicted between love and expectation; another example of how the show successfully walks a tightrope, as even the lead characters have highly visible flaws. Nathan is a narcissist and Ingrid is spoiled and overindulged; they are a perfect match, both obsessed with how things look rather than how things should be.

With the charming Nora aiding him, Nathan tries to restore his memories but that leads to greater complications. To see how they are resolved... well, that's down to season two. The show was renewed almost immediately, which hopefully means it got some good viewing figures. With only ten half-hour episodes (the first slightly longer), it's an easy one to scoot right through, and entertaining enough for you to want to keep going. It did cause me a couple of late nights / early mornings.


  1. Seeing this, I wondered what kind of comic related content you are after, Steve?

  2. BAM! will try to cover some of the history of British comics, their creators and characters. As you can see from the emerging contents of the first issue, I want to get interviews with creators and some in-depth features. The only limit is that it must relate to British comics, historical or current. Today's current is tomorrow's history, so I'll consider anything.