Friday, December 11, 2020

Comic Cuts - 11 December 2020

I've had a week away from BAM! issue 1 because I've been dipping my toes into issue 2. There were a couple of obits I needed to write, both of which involved quite a lot of research — I may have been writing about comics for forty years but there are still vast gaps in my knowledge that I have to fill to write anything — and a couple of features I'm either writing or helping with needed some attention.

It all added up to a busy but enjoyable week. I find it harder to multitask these days. Mind you, in the days of Comic World I was rarely dealing with features longer than a couple of thousands words, whereas some of the material I'm writing for BAM! is three times that length. And you know me: the information density is almost at saturation point in everything I write. Except here at Comic Cuts.

Thankfully, one thing that has come to a close is the long-running saga of my eBay problems. When I set up eBay, it required sellers to register a bank account, which I did. But I must have screwed up something, which was never discovered because I had any payments paid into, and paid any fees from, my PayPal account. Now eBay wants to move everyone to direct payment into bank accounts and I've had nothing but trouble.

They tried to pay for a sale on November 25th, which bounced. Over the next few days I made a number of attempts to set up the link manually, and, when that didn't work, set up internet banking so that I could go through the automated set-up. When that didn't work I contacted eBay to figure out the problem. One was that their partner firm in things financial doesn't like Mozilla Firefox, which is my preferred browser. Thankfully, I have more than one, so I was able to walk the guy on the end of the phone through the automated set-up as I was doing it... eventually reaching a point where I had to manually type in the old bank account number, which it rejected.

It's likely that I mistyped the number during the original set-up of my account, but without knowing what the mistake was — and the guy in the call centre helping me couldn't see that deeply into my account — there was no way to fix the problem. It required the tech team to delete that account so I could set it up again correctly. It took a couple of phone calls, the last of which got some results. I think it's OK and finally I'll get paid the £1.22 that they tried paying me on the 25th and which they've tried to pay every two or three days since. The total is nearer £50, so a handy sum to have just before Christmas.

Another bit of good news. I did a colour test for BAM! and it came back looking good. In fact, I did three tests on various weights of paper and they all came back looking good. I've picked one — not the cheapest, but not the most expensive — and that should put the magazine in a price range that's affordable. I was also asked during the week whether the mag. would be available in other formats, and the answer is yes. I'm still working out how to do this. Sometimes being a one-man band can be a pain in the backside: the mechanics and logistics of putting this together isn't nearly as much fun as writing it!

I'm reviewing The Boys below the pic. There are spoilers for season two, so jump to the end if you don't want to know what happens when you hit a whale with a speed boat.

Based on the comic book series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, The Boys debuted on Amazon Prime in 2019 and earned some stellar reviews for its irreverent, cynical take on the superhero genre. Another Ennis strip was also running at the time, Preacher, noted for its bloody violence. The Boys promised to out-Preacher Preacher on that count and set out its stall in the opening moments of episode one when super speedster A-Train collides at super-high speed with a girl on a street, leaving her boyfriend holding her disembodied hands and covered in her exploded innards.

Offered $45,000 compensation, Hughie (the boyfriend) instead teams up with Billy Butcher to expose the corrupt world of superheroes. Butcher's aim is to bring down the leader of the Seven, the golden boy of superheros, Homelander. Surrounded by PR people and advisors and protected by a vast corporate entity that has been built around the Seven, Homelander is a narcissist, showing little sympathy for the people he is meant to be protecting. Other members of the Seven have their own problems with jealousy, drug dependency, corruption and addiction to sadism.

The Boys (the small team led by Butcher) have been framed for the murder of Madelyn Stillwell, who manages the superheroes at Vought International, but are still determined to prove that heroes are made, not born, thanks to a drug named Compound V. They obtain a sample thanks to Annie (aka the superheroine Starlight, recently inducted into the Seven) and soon it is being reported across the media. A PR disaster in the making, it coincides with a film of Homelander scything through a terrorist with his laser eyes and accidentally also killing a nearby citizen.

Butcher discovers that his wife Becca, whom he thought dead at the hands of Homelander, is alive and now has a son by the hero. Held in a secure location, he tries to free her, but she refuses to leave. As he begins to show some powers, Homelander wants to raise his son as a hero. Frustrated at every turn, his lashing out aggravates Maeve, his supposed closest ally amongst the Seven, whom he outs as a lesbian. It also attracts the newest member, Stormfront, who helps manipulate and raise his media profile. Flattered by her attention, the two begin an affair.

Annie, meanwhile, discovers that Stormfront is, in fact, Liberty, a former hero who committed a racist murder years before and is now emerging with a new identity.

Even this brief summary reveals that the show is becoming more openly critical of its central characters, both corporate and individual, and the political parallels with what is happening in the US at the moment aren't being disguised. Having the racist Stormfront (who shares her name with the white supremacist website) teaming up with the all-white Homelander isn't a coincidence. That Vougt has parallels with Disney (who produce all the Marvel movies) isn't a coincidence. That the show was broadcast in the  run up to the US election probably wasn't a coincidence either.

The show still has moments that are over the top (a whale meets a motorboat in one scene and the results are unpleasant) but I would say that a strong stomach isn't now the prerequisite it was for the first season of The Boys. A very deep black sense of humour is what you need and a deep cynicism about the American obsession with superheroes.

In the wake of Watchmen, which used its complex plot to explore themes of racial inequality and conflict, and now having The Boys shine a light on current politics, maybe it's time for someone to look seriously at bringing Marshal Law to our screens. If anyone could out-Boys The Boys, it's Pat Mills & Kevin O'Neills' superhero hating "cape killer".

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