The San Futuro Chronicles

Well, this time I’m aiming for a winge-free comics article… between issues, there’s been a crazy fortnight in California (see elsewhere for details) but it’s good to be back somewhere with history & plant-life. Big surprise comics-wise, was that the States isn’t that much better off that we are… okay, so there are more “dubious” comics on their shelves, but the good dubious stuff seems to find its way over here eventually, and the British small-press style comics (for suitably good examples, see Cosmorama, Over The Edge, and Behold the Hamster) don’t appear to have an American equivalent. Way up on the good side was the opportunity to pick up on issues of Liaisons Delicieuses, Butterscotch, Faust and other items that are a tad rare this side of the Atlantic.

Other comics-related blurb from States-side was the opportunity to meet Adam Warren (Dirty Pair artist); Lea Hernandez (Colourist on Silent Mobius & 3×3 Eyes, plus letterer for Appleseed, Lum & Pineapple Army); & Colleen Doren (who painted the comics version of Anne Rice’s Master Of Rampling Gate) and to see (albeit from a distance) such manga/anime luminaries as Johji Manabe (Outlanders). Ah… that’s better… a nice spot of name-dropping always boosts the ego a notch!

I suppose that it was fairly certain that I’d fail to avoid wingeing, so here’s a little whine about two titles I’ve really looked forward to this year: the collected Eddy Current; and The Master Of Rampling Gate. Why the whine ? Principally because their publishers didn’t realize just how good they were. Both these titles disappeared from shops immediately they appeared… Yup, the whine is because I missed out on them. If you spot a copy of either of these somewhere, drop TC a line and discover just how appreciative this little ‘zine can be… [Late note: I’ve now got a copy of Master Of Rampling Gate!]

Anyway, down to business… what interesting little beasties have I got copies of, of late…

Okay, I lied, I haven’t necessarily got copies of the things that I’m listing. First up is the Vampire Lestat Graphic Novel (i.e. all the issues from the comic-book series in a single bound volume)… if you liked the original novel, I’d hope you would like this… personally, as I liked this, I bought all three of the books (Interview With The Vampire, Vampire Lestat, Queen Of The Damned). Both Queen Of The Damned and Interview With The Vampire have been started as 12 (?) issue painted series and look to be following very much in the mold of Lestat. Highly recommended if you like Anne Rice’s stuff…

Griffin is another painted work… a mere six issues of it, but in the chunky square bound three-quid a pop DC mega-format. Totally different to the vamp-horror stuff, it’s the old staple of “realistic” super-heroes. Griffin himself was grabbed as a recruit for an alien army, loaded with super-powers and set against the alien’s enemies. Eventually (try 10 years later), he misses the folks back home and decides to give up fighting for the aliens. The aliens are peeved. Cue mayhem. With a “banana-headed” alien side-kick for Griffin, this is a nice combination of serious comment on how naughty it is to “piss off for multiple years and not expect anyone else to have changed when you come back” [not a real quote…] and a light-hearted “men with big weapons trying to zap each other and causing major collateral damage” super-hero blast. I like it, but it looks nice, so I would.

OMAC is not at all painted. It is however in the aforementioned DC mega-format. In fact, it isn’t even in colour (what a swizz!). Those of you who’ve bothered to plough through this rubbish before will, however, realize that I quite like black-and-whites. This isn’t an exception. Plot-wise it’s probably as close as I’ve come for… a while… to reading a straight-forward superhero comic. The author may not regard it as that, and it’s probably a nice step left-of-field but up to issue 3 (of 4) there’s been little really intriguing newness about it. Nice though.

Now for a real goody… Billi 99. I’d looked forward to this for a while when it came out, and so far have not been disappointed. It tells of Billi & her fight against crime in the future as Toledo, a vigilante type. Toledo was originally her (foster) father’s pseudonym/alter-ego but after his murder, Billi’s out for revenge and to kick society into shape. Again b&w, Billi 99 shows (what appears to be…) wonderful use of zip-tone. Nice looking, original(ish) plot, female-lead for a change, if you haven’t tried it yet… give it a go. (P.S. Again in the mega-format, but from Dark Horse, not DC!)

Badlands is an interesting tale, black & white standard 30-odd-pages-and-two-staples-in-back format produced by Dark Horse and telling of a chap hired to assassinate Kennedy. Not the most original plot-line ever maybe, but very nicely done. A pleasantly unpleasant read, unfortunately dashing on for the sixth & final issue.

Time for a spot of manga I guess… Outlanders has now finished, so go out there and grab the collected editions as it’s essential reading (so says the TC crew!). Taking it’s place chez TC as “The whole house is buying the blighter” title is Midnight Eye. This tells of a private investigator (Goku) who gets grabbed with a mushed right eye and gets given a computerised replacement that can access the databanks of any computers worldwide (far-fetched maybe, but not that much so for manga!). Then it’s back to the PI business and lots of major baddies. Three issues in (of six I think), and well worth the mega-format pennies. Finally manga-wise, try 3×3 Eyes, a mystical tale of a “girl” with three eyes from Nepal (or was it Tibet) who links souls with a human (to save his life) while hunting for a statue of what appear to be Siamese triplets so she can become a human. Somehow it doesn’t seem as confusing in the manga, and is a lively romp with invisible demons and the usual “human” touches (even from inhuman cast members!)

A subject rarely touched on here now rears it’s head… the comic strip!! In particular, Calvin & Hobbes a marvellously, wonderfully, orgasmically brilliant strip. I’ve read it for a while in Comic Relief, a compilation of the best strips from American newspapers, and have finally splashed out on some of the books. Buy someone (preferably yourself) these books as a Christmas present. Even TC readers need a laugh now & then! [P.S. Buy Comic Relief while you’re at it. The strips are great, and it has a nice line in “weird” news articles too…]

Night Of The Living Dead can’t really need an introduction to TC readers, but it’s now coming out in a nice mega-format comic-book. Art’s decent. Story follows the original (So far! One issue down, more to follow).

Before signing off on the comics front, a brief comment regarding the lack of derogatory reviews: In brief… I like what I like and what I like gets reviewed (as Zirk would possibly say!). There are things out there in comics-land that I wouldn’t enjoy and hence don’t buy, and things that I buy and discover belatedly aren’t my thing. These I don’t review because I don’t see any reason to put people off buying any comics – all cash spent on comics helps support the companies that produce the stuff I like… the more straight stuff that gets bought, the more weird stuff will be around for me to gloat over.

Surprise! Not the usual SFC material at all here… having been to the London Film Festival lately, for various oddities that our illustrious editor didn’t see, here is the first (and probably last) selection of SFC film reviews…

Volere Volare is a movie from Maurizio Nichetti (who did The Icicle Thief). It tells the unusual tale of a man who dubs the sound onto animation; his brother who dubs porn movies; and a call-girl who doesn’t seem to do sex, but does some very weird fantasies (at one stage a chef coats her in chocolate… mmm… hmmm!). Eventually, the animation gets too much for him & he starts to turn into an animated creature himself. The animation is great, the plot is weird, and anyone who can cope with a spot of indescribable oddity should try it!

Next up… My Own Private Idaho. Directed by Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy), this is not a cheerful movie. It tells of a narcoleptic rent-boy searching for his mother, and his assorted friends. A vaguely awkward movie to watch, but TC readers after another different “different” movie may find it worth a look. (Honest! I liked this! It’s worth seeing! But expect a pretty dark movie…)

Additional down-beat stuff comes in the shape of The Violent Cop, judged by our editor as the most seriously “down” movie he’s seen in a long while. No cheer at all in this story of a hard Japanese policeman. His mentally retarded sister goes out picking up guys in discos, he beats criminals… ostensibly because they deserve it, but maybe he enjoys the punishing too much. Not light, not fun, more worth having seen than seeing.

Pure weirdness and an off the wall crime tales gives us Blood And Concrete (starring Billy Zane of Twin Peaks fame, and a seriously sexy, seedy Jennifer Beals (as the director said afterwards… we won’t mention the “F-movie”)). A not entirely (but fairly) straight forward tale with a hyper-addictive love drug, and various folks hunting for it. I liked it, not sure if Jim did though!

Delicatessen is: post-apocalypse; set in a single building, with the title’s delicatessen downstairs, and various lodgers upstairs; has a circus clown as the hero; stars the hearing-aid wearer from Diva; was directed by Jeunet & Caro (apparently of French comic fame… not that I’ve heard of them, gaping knowledge gap that this no doubt is); and is about cannibals. It plays like a cross between Brazil and God-only-knows-what. It’s being released over here in the new year. Again odd, again funny, again worth seeing, but this time French, not Italian.

That was the films… then there were the videos. Within the festival, there was a series of screenings of electronic (i.e. video/computer-generated) sequences. These varied from the abysmal to the stunning. Over Christmas (or possibly sooner), Zbigniew Rybczynski’s The Orchestra is to be screened on Channel Four (plug! plug!) – anyone interested in innovative use of video should see this. It’s generally excellent, but gets a bit weary when you spot the political message. Stunning visuals anyway – try it & see what you think. Other “highlights” included Behold, I Come Quickly: The Strange Revelations Of Reverend Swaggart… a marvellous rapid-cut sequence of scenes from before, during and after the discovery of Rev. Swaggarts belief in the hand-job-of-God. Similarly, there was Tunic, a Sonic Youth video with tacky Karen Carpenter references (bound to stir up all socially normal mundanes out there). Panspermia must rank as the best of the computer animation seen, magnificent use of computing power. I need to see more of this sort of stuff!!

Even weirder… this isn’t really TC territory at all… book reviews! However, there aren’t too many of them here and there is an excuse. After visiting the U.S. of A., I felt a need for more holiday and went hunting interesting travel books. The most interesting book on America I found was Into the Badlands by John Williams. This book is also a tour around American crime fiction, visiting authors and settings of assorted books. A flavour of the areas, the people, and their books are all provided by this (need I say highly recommended) paperback. One result of reading this was the hunting out of books by Andrew Vachss (Flood & Strega) and Carl Hiassen (Tourist Season, Double Whammy and Skin Tight). The A.V. books are good fun, but I found two in rapid succession a bit too similar – with a wider time gap between them, I would have no doubt enjoyed the second one more.

No such problems with the Carl Hiassen, three 500 page (or thereabouts) books in a couple of weeks and all enjoyed thoroughly. Very dark humour, a very sharply observed set of (weird) characters and marvellously warped story-lines. You owe it to yourself to read his books (Skin Tight is the best written (and most recent) of the three, but is unfortunately only available as an (expensive) American import at the moment, the other two have been published over here… Tourist Season is a Futura paperback at £3.50). If serious book reviews appeal (not reviews of serious books you understand, but proper reviewish bits with column-inches devoted) hassle the editor!

Ta ta for now…