Tuesday, 31 March 2015

THAT BATGIRL COVER. Not an educated, but considered, opinion:

Not an educated, but considered, opinion:

As the furore over the controversial Batgirl cover finally breathes its last, and its final death throes have more an air of resignation than violence about them, I wish to rather cruelly de-fibrillate this beast and parade its carcass across the pages of the internet to the same weary faces that were glad to see the back of it in the first place.

The subject of this cover, or rather the reference this cover pertains to, is of course fraught with very sensitive and dare I say, difficult matters to address directly, and therefore succinctly, but I'll have a go.

Having been a comic reader for over 35+ years I have experienced them in many different incarnations, styles and representations. When comic shops were dark, dusty, smelly places manned by Ygor like sub-humans is where my tales begins, which is a world away from the shining bastions of geek culture that they represent and embody today. In the days even before Pokeio and YiGiMon, in the days before PS1, let alone PS4, when games were loaded onto your computer with machine code via an audio tape at the success rate of about 1 in 4; THIS was MY universe.

Almost a self-fulfilling prophecy; my favourite character is and always has been the Hulk. Looking back I could not have seen just how much a prophetic choice this was. A thoughtful and intellectual scientist, whose life and relationships are marred by the childlike, misunderstood brute who wanted to be either loved or simply left alone by humanity, and who is the manifestation of his own extreme emotions.

Violence is not a new thing in comics. In fact it was probably what drew me to them with such enthusiasm in the first place. Watching Hulk SMASH the shit out some robot, or slug it out for 10 pages with the Thing simply filled me with joy.

Bob Laytons Iron Man #123-#124 sees Whiplash and Blizzard put through a wall at the end of a billiard table in an epic fight in a casino with the red and gold Avenger…. The panels were visual Prozac to my little neonate mind; which overflowed with whimsy and nonsense alike.

The Heavy Metal Comic/Magazine was lush with sumptuous sci-fi and fantasy art and full of very graphic violence and sexually explicit imagery; my first taste of ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll’ in a comic book format.

Call me old fashioned but I have always seen violence portrayed against women as less acceptable than against men, and not just that biologically innate sense of outrage that violence against women evokes, but even in the simple context of the fictional characters in comics.

Marshal Law was a masterpiece of violence from Pat Mills and Kevin O,Neill which had a Judge Dreddesque protagonist on the trail of a serial killer/rapist. It had a rape scene in one issue that shocked me, and rightfully so. She (the victim) was portrayed in the comic as a real person. One that had been introduced in earlier issues and who the reader had built a relationship with, and one who I dare say I had a thing for. Yes, Yes, David had a crush on comic book and cartoon characters so what? None more so, I might add, than Diana the acrobat from the D&D cartoon series of the 80s, but I digress. To see this rape, this fatal rape no less, portrayed in Marshal Law shocked me and upset me. Did I…? Would I want this comic banned? No. I was reading a story. A fictional story… and my reaction made me feel very vulnerable and very human.

Alan Moore’s masterpiece From Hell, which retells the story of the Whitechapel Murders, follows the machinations of the infamous Jack the Ripper in a work, which I think deserves one day, to be part of the literary curriculum in schools. The violence is gruesome and in context and is perpetrated against women and is truly horrific as anyone who is familiar with the history and the legend that surrounds it, will know.

Even She-Hulk’s brutal beating at the hands of Red Hulk in King-Size Hulk #1 made we wince more than once. After humiliating her, he chokes her into unconsciousness. As she is losing consciousness, he whispers he could kill her at any time… The threat stays with She Hulk and terrifies her even during her civilian moments. Very powerful stuff. But would I want it banned? No. I had read a story. A fictional story. And I felt its repercussions even after I had closed the pages. I hated Red Hulk for what he did. For making one of my favourite Marvel Characters feel that way. And again ‘yes’, I have a thing for She Hulk.

I want to 'feel'... I want evocative fiction and art. I want my emotions to affirm my life experience. The very fact the Batgirl cover was actually pulled from production is truly terrifying in the precedent it sets, as our course is pulled ever closer to the destination of Orwellian distopia. The image on the cover alludes to an event in the DC universe that happened over 25 years ago. I personally did not even make the connection when I first saw the cover. Perhaps because I wasn't looking to be offended?

I've heard some absurd arguments. Let me paraphrase what seems to be the most salient:
'The current Batgirl title is read by teens and because of this it is inappropriate to use this image on its cover.'

Ok. Lets address this complaint. I will be as impartial and honest as I can be. The cover itself is not explicitly violent or sexual, but its theme is dark and menacing. It relates to a fictional event within comics over 25+ years ago in which the Joker sexually assaults Barbara Gordon. Many comic readers are aware of the event but not all have read the actual Killing Joke in which it was published. Many readers and comic collectors will not and did not immediately get the reference to the Killing Joke when they first looked at the cover. Myself included. The current Batgirl comic is rated as a Teen+ comic book which would suggest 16+ year olds read it, or rather should read it, or at least this is the suggested minimum age demographic for this publication.
Are you seriously going to tell me that this cover. This COVER! is unsuitable for a 14+ year old audience who according to their age should not even have read the Killing Joke? Ironically less than two shelves away from this cover, there will probably be reprints of the Killing Joke which is suggested for mature readers, but which is quite obtainable by a  comic book fan of any age entering a comic book boutique. Yes. It happens with DVDs, it happens with computer games, and it happens with comics too. Younger audiences buy material that it considered unsuitable for their age group.
But regardless of this to suggest that this cover is a bad, corrupting, unsuitable image for young adults says more about the people making these accusations than it ever could about the cover image, or its creator, or its publication.

I've even heard apologists argue that: Oh it would have been a more fitting cover for Gail Simone's run on the title, but not for its current run or readership.....
What the fuck has that got to do with anything? It is a Teen+ comic book. Even if nine year olds get there hands on it, then that's not the fault of the publisher. And even if a nine year old did read it, they could in no way make any reference to the cover image and the events in the Killing Joke unless... UNLESS... they had somehow gotten their hands on a copy of the Killing Joke as well, which is way outside the licensed readership. You see how ridiculous this all starts to get? We are ultimately not even talking about the image on the cover being offensive but the reference it makes, to an event in the pages of a stand alone publication called the Killing Joke. The image in itself is no more offensive than any other of  Batgirl's previous issues.
Batgirl taking selfies in a crowded women's toilet? I find it ridiculous... Not really offensive... I might find it fun if I was a 17 year old teenager. Would I ban it? No.
Two armoured chicks on Motorcycles wielding swords as Batgirl Jumps between them. The violence here is much more palpable. The risk of harm much more distinct. But its dynamic. I quite like the cover. Would I ban it? No.
But then why would we want some cretin no more qualified than us to look at every cover of a comic book and sanitise it because they 'dont like it' or 'dont find it suitable'? Remember it was a VARIANT COVER anyway! It references nothing that happens in the actual comic. Variant covers showcase other artists depictions and work, and their portrayals of events or characters within the given Universe that they are set.

Like a blind and enraged Samson these cretins would rather pull the Temple down upon themselves and everyone else... and feel content... and perversely empowered.

It is so much easier to destroy than it is to create. It empowers people thinking they can tear something down, simply because it offends them. The truly horrendous and unforgivable thing is that most of the time it doesnt offend them, but all they see is the opportunity to empower themselves.

Should we ban this:

or this:

These pieces of art make reference to the Rape of the Sabine Women. An episode in the legendary History of Rome. Should we censor? Who should be allowed to look at these?

Or this:

The Rape of Prosepina. A sculpture which references the abduction of Prosepina by Pluto the God of the Underworld.

I have said it above, please read it one more time:

'Like a blind and enraged Samson these cretins would rather pull the Temple down upon themselves and everyone else... and feel content... and perversely empowered.

It is so much easier to destroy than it is to create. It empowers people thinking they can tear something down, simply because it offends them. The truly horrendous and unforgivable thing is that most of the time it doesnt offend them, but all they see is the opportunity to empower themselves.'

I ask you in all earnest, will you not think for yourselves? Do not let an hysterical narrative sway your mind to banning works or expressions of art simply because someone is offended, for here open the gates to Hell...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Spam-heads & Drunken farts.

Greetings Poozers,
Big D bounds once more unto the breach to give you more classic covers.
How about this for starters:

Luthor's tits! What are those people looking at? Forget that he can use his super-speed to phase through solid matter, travel back in time and break the light barrier... I mean those bystanders see that everyday. But to see the Flash with a head that rivals Gorilla Grodd's swollen helmet... I mean, I see people in red spandex with super-powers with physical deformities everyday... and I wouldnt dream of staring. Just plain rude. If I was Flash I'd punch them all to death. That'll learn 'em!
Anyone remember that fad in the 80s when being a kid meant running around and slapping unsuspecting victims on the forehead and shouting 'SPAM'.... Aaaah, happier times. Flash... you dirty Spam Head!

And for the next dose of comic-cover-goodness, here's one of my favourite Iron Man covers:

Now its great for a number of reasons. Its great because it captures Tony Stark's realisation that his drinking and lifestyle have spiralled out of control to the point where his alcoholism is ruining his life as both an industrialist and superhero. Okay thats a given. But its the expression. This expression is not brought about by this terrible revelation as he looks at his dishevelled and broken self in the mirror. No, no... Tony is only human. He's been boozing all night, he's had a kebab from the local take-away and then he's sat down to take stock of himself before having a good old drunk fuelled fart.... and the poor fucka has followed through! Thats the truth of it folks. If your a true believer, you'll believe that and you'll love me for telling you. SHAZAM!
The imprudent floating of drunken air biscuits is ill advised.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Awkward teamings...

Greetings Terrans,
Anyone remember The Champions?
No loss of kudos if you dont. They were a rather short lived Marvel team from the70s.
I mean The Defenders roster at any given time was usually a strange collection of loners and outcasts...

But The Champions? Who on Earth put these mixture of motely knobbers together?

Two X-Men rejects, a Russian defector, a stunt rider turned Spirit of Vengeance and a Greek Demi-god.
Aaah, I dont mean to be too harsh. Reality is, I own every Champions comic as I adore anything with my main man Herc in. They are fun, but lack of interest due to a run of B-list villains and awkward scripting led to its early demise. It may be worth noting that no member of the Champions (except Ghost Rider) had ever had his or her own, solo comic up to this point. In 1973 Ghost Rider got his own title,

but Black Widow hadn't been seen since Daredevil 124 and neither Iceman or Angel had been seen since X-Men 94. It wouldnt be a mega 33 years later that Hercules got his own regular title with the Incredible Hercules in 2008. Although he had, had one or two 4 issue limited series, and countless appearances in Thor and Avengers comics.
Their foes included:
Swarm - A Nazi bee-keeper whose creations had turned on him.
Pluto (that Herc's uncle, God of the Underworld, not the Disney dog)
The Porn Quartet consisting of STD Man, The Cock Ring, Herpes Simplex and Fanny Crab.
Ok... I made that last one up.
But here's a special treat.... talking of cock rings...

Just less than one half of The Champions: Me as Hercules and the lovely Kate as Black Widow. Excelsior!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

How tall is Absorbing Man and where are the Houses of Parliament?

Greetings Earthicans,
Im here again to share some more delicious comic cover imagery from yester-year to astound and baffle your heightened, but barely adequate nerd-senses.
Comic covers are a work of art. They are a piece of social history. Some are so iconic that they echo down through the ages and become synonymous with the hero they represent, standing alone as a testemant to a classic moment in comic history.
Of course, in the 70s & 80s a comic cover often had little to do with what went on inside the comic. Spidey plummeting into a vat of toxic waste on the cover, might mean that Peter Parker chafes his hands on some rather rough paper toweling during the story and Hulk being bombarded with nuclear warheads on the cover, might mean he strokes a cow in a field.
So whats this about? Maybe they get hit by a giganto-ray during the comic?.... Nah... read it... doesnt happen. They fight, they smash, they fall off...

Oooo 'ang on a minute... I can remember Absorbing Man being 100ft high and fighting Thor... Nuff said.

And here is Mr. Nasty-and-balds first appearance waaay back in Journey into Mystery 114 (March 1965)

Aaaah, 'The Stronger I am, the Sooner I die!' what a tag-line. They just dont write them like that anymore.

Anyways, Spider-Man #95 (1971), check out the cover. LOVE IT!

Watch our Bobbies go! Leaping into action without a care for their own safety and with barely more than a wobble of the tit-like appendage on the top of their heads. Look at that one in the background. He's better than Spider-Man! Im glad the rest of the world see our police force as psuedo-superhuman tit wearers. It comforts me.
And that poor thug at the front is getting his ass handed to him Rodney King style, by our be-truncheoned constabulary, while Spider-Man is dodging bullets a-plenty as the gun-toting, goons hang from the windows of Tower Bridge and ride atop the double decker tour bus, whilst making tea for their Auntie.
Tour Guide:'Please ignore the terrorist on the roof of the bus firing a semi-automatic weapon at a costumed vigilante.On your left you will see the famous St. Catherines dock, and the Inn where Charles Dickens himself penned some of his classic, Victorian literature. On your right you can see Spider-Man and some policeman kicking the shit out of some man with a moustache.... Oh and theres Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament again....Didnt we pass the Houses of Parliament on Westminster Bridge?'
Since when were the Houses of Parliament next to Tower Bridge? Ok, American comic book artists, how would you like it if I drew Disneyland next to Disneyworld...? Eh? Eh?

Friday, 20 July 2012


Greeting Earthlings.
Over my next few blogs I'll be hoping to share some classic moments from comic book history with you. First appearances, my favourite comic covers, and an in-depth look into some of comics most loved super-heroes as well as some of its more embarassing B-listers.
My comic sack is always full, and I am always eager to disemmenate its contents onto a willing audience.
Feast your eyes on two comic covers of yester-year (silver & bronze age) that I found on a rummage through said sack.
Now Ill be honest, and Kryptonian Warrior may kick my ass, but I am not one of Superman's biggest fans. Sure, I reserve an amount of pomp reverance for the icon, the hero, the legend that is he, but my vast collection sadly lacks any volume of Superman comics (I only have a measly 114 Superman comics in assorted titles).
Im even less of a fan of his long time pal Jimmy Olsen. But what can I say? This comic cover had it all for me. Batman being pressed slammed and Superman taking a nice, solid, side kick to his abdomen? OOOF! And not by an irrate Solomon Grundy, or indeed Lex Luthor in Kryptonite armour.... But by none other than Jimmy himself! What a dude.

I mean just look at Jimmy. He looks like he's gonna get all Bane on Batman's ass, and I've seen Superman take direct hits from artillery and still remain standing, but Jimmy's kick even has Superman going for a burton. I bet your just dying to know what goes on inside the comic? Has Jimmy gone mad? Is Jimmy actually saving Batman after a fall from a high building, whilst simultaneously swatting a fly on Supermans abdomen? Well tough titty. You'll never find out. It's mine, and I open my comics for NO-ONE! (Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen No.92 1966)

My next cover has something you probably thought you'd never see. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and over 6ft tall. Hmmm.... Yes, he does sound rather arian doesnt he? But who would have ever thought that Thor the mighty God of Thunder would be taking orders from Hitler himself? Yes, rub your eyes in disbelief. That is Adolf Hitler on the cover and that is Thor being his bitch.
Who'd have thunk it eh? But it happened kids, it happened... Ein, Zwei, Drei...
(Invaders No.32 1978)

Sunday, 22 January 2012


Greetings Earth Dwellers, and once more unto the breach as we arrive at the penultimate entry in my Top 5 Alternative Animated Features countdown.
The most memorable cartoon experiences come of course from our childhood, when wonderment and suspension of disbelief allow us to experience the symphony of colour, movement and sound to its fullest extent. But not all of these experiences survive a revisit.
Although nostalgia is a powerful thing, the true test is watching it again and whether as an adult you are able to embrace it as you did when you were a child. The myriad levels and depth of some cartoons are such that they can always be enjoyed with any amount of watching.
Animalympics was one such animated feature.

At its most basic, its about animals (albeit anthropomorphic ones) competing in the Olympic games. Fantastic idea to begin with, as we've all asked the questions: Who would win in a fight between a kangaroo and a buffalo? Who would win in a race between a Crocodile and a leopard? etc. All these questions and more are answered in this film. But also the voice characterisations, the subtle humour and tongue-in-cheek puns, the story of adversity, triumph, love, and joy, combine to make an animated spectacle that I have always been able to watch and enjoy since I first saw it in 1985. The cherry on the top is the masterful soundtrack that was composed and performed by Graham Gouldman (10cc Bassist) and compliments the cartoon to sublime effect.

With the Olympics here upon us, in our very capital, Animalympics is perhaps more topical than ever.
Enjoy another muscial clip from the film and Ill see you at the next blog.
Big D out.

Fire & Ice and all things nice.

A stirring score. Dark, stylised animation. Sword meets sorcery. It could only be Ralph Bakshi, and it could only be Fire & Ice.

Best known for his works: Lord of the Rings, Wizards, and Fritz the Cat, Ralph Bakshi teamed up with fantasy artist Frank Frazetta for the (1983) animated feature Fire & Ice.
Although given limited release and financially unsucessful, the film is no less enjoyable than any of the classic fantasy romps that were around at the time. Beastmaster, Conan et al.
In my opinion Bakshi's dark, brooding style coupled with the realisation of Frazetta's artwork make for a heady combination that is difficult to forget.
Of course the reason it is at my No.1 of alternative animated features is, as always, because of the lowest common denominator. A scantily clad woman. Princess Teegra.

She was the first, and probably only, cartoon character I lusted after with all the pant arousing passion that any young man could muster. Barefooted and wearing a microkini that remarkably defied all the laws of physics, she bounced around the screen with the wanton abandon of an over inflated novelty armchair.
Now I realise that Frank Frazetta's fantasy women are exactly that. Fantasy. Although porn star Daphne Rosen does bear some resemblence.

But I was young and impressionable... and, as most nerdy teenagers are, pathetic and desperately horny.
But all hornyness aside its an animated classic and a definate must for all fantasy fans.
Heres the theatrical trailer for the movie. Hopefully it'll whet your appetite and you'll go and watch it on Youtube.

If you can, watch the movie. NOW! There are some truly great moments. Pay special attention to the finale. Its essentially the Battle of Yavin, Death Star run, but through the ice trenches of Necron's stronghold, and instead of X-wings its Dragon Hawks. Fantasy-tastic!
There it is. The final installment in my Top 5 Alternative Animated Features.
Keep tuning in kids, and Ill see you at the next blog.
Big D out.