And the event returns, to continue eventing up your summer. Second issues are always hard for me – first issues have a level of imperative to them, which forces your choices. Second issues are where the debts you accumulated from first issue have to be paid off – what wasn't necessary then becomes absolutely necessary now, for example. But I'm fond of this one – the war of the first act rushes onwards, we show more shade and shape to the concept, Valerio and Marte continue to tear up the page, Cyclops is delightful and then we hit the start of the second act. I'm re-reading all of this, and almost analysing myself in reverse – this is what I was writing in the last months of C's pregnancy, and finishing in the first months of fatherhood. There's a lot going on in here. Thankfully, there's also big ol' fight scenes.
I just saw someone quote me, in terms of my goals, as “Can I essentially get Millar and Morrison back together and make them make out? on Scans Daily, which I have no idea where I said it, but certainly sounds like me, and perhaps will be increasingly clear after this issue.
This has been fun. It seems to have gone down well too.
There's a preview here but let's give the second page for a taste...
With the chaos of Hot Event Summer, I've got behind in mentioning covers and similar, and likely won't be doing everything in advance. Still – this has to be an exception. Mark says it's his favourite so far, and it's hard to disagree with him. It's for Immortal X-men #8. Here's the solicit...
IMMORTAL X-MEN #8 Written by KIERON GILLEN Art by MICHELE BANDINI Cover by MARK BROOKS A STUDY IN CERULEAN! Lawks! What's going on in foggy old London town in the year of our lord 1895? Well, it's only Sherlock Holmes, Mystique and Destiny on the tracks of a murderer and uncovering a truth that's significantly more sinister... On Sale 11/16
Playing with time has been a big part of the run, and this is where we go most into the historical record.
Actually, going through my notes, I'm not sure if I've ever posted the three AXE specials. I may have mentioned them, but I definitely don't think I showed the connective covers. So I will. Coo.
These happen between issue 5 and 6 of Judgment day, and are a tight focus on what certain characters are doing in a certain bit of our plot. Er... it's difficult to talk about this stuff without being spoilery, but if you want to know more, click for details.
It's been a week for deaths. Yesterday had me bursting into a surprised tears when I put on You're The One That I want and Olivia Newton John's voice came in, all confident, yearning and oh so alive, and it was just too much. C followed me into weeping a few minutes later. I have no idea what Iris made of it. Newton John someone who's been there, and present in so many moments of my life, in weird, tangential ways. I've don't think I've ever written directly about Grease, but its cameo in the final Phonogram likely says a lot – and to state the obvious, no Grease, no Kenickie. Xanadu hits the weird utopian pop part of my early memories (filed next to Super Trouper and a couple more). Hell, were I to list my early You're Not Exactly Straight memories, the video to Physical may be among the earliest. And that's a sentence I don't think I've ever written down before.
And then this morning, Raymond Briggs, the cartoonist who was a British cultural phenomena in exactly the same time and space as Newton John was getting into me. The Snowman is the one which was the big moment, but his other works are what stuck with me. Fungus the Bogeyman lurked around the house, all squalid and joyful. And it would surprise no-one that I read When The Wind Blows early, and it fucked me up good and proper. He's someone who rarely turns up in talk about serious comic creators in the 1980s. He comes from a place entirely outside comic culture, so – due to the simultaneously narcissistic and myopic nature of a good chunk of comics critical discourse- you rarely get When The Wind Blows considered in context with the 1980s comic boom.
However, I'm reminded that I gave it a shot. Back in the early 00s, Charlie Chu, myself and a handful of guest posters did a comic blog. I wrote a piece about Where the Wind Blows there, which I dig out and include below. This dates from 2002-2003 or so, I think, so literally 20 years old now. I include it in its raw state – anything a couple of decades old has some fairly obvious flaws in it, but go with 'em. I was callow, naïve and young. Or, at least, younger.
(But it's fun to see a couple of thoughts in here which have clearly stuck with me, and turned up elsewhere – tellingly, in another meditation on the bomb.)
WHEN THE WIND BLOWS
I know one thing for certain: My parents never read the blurb.
In the potted biography of creator Raymond Briggs', among explaining his many achievements, it describes how he has created several illustrated books "for children". This, it states, is his first "for adults".
When the Wind Blows was released in 1982. I was seven. It was, and I only realise this as I'm typing it right now, the first cultural item specifically designed for adults that I ever experienced. It provided my childish mind with its first real images of Armageddon.
Put aside the fantastic cover, which with its glorious mushroom cloud looming above the innocent Rich-Tea-Biscuit faced-forms of Jim and Hilda, the story's principles. As a child I knew - and it's something that I can't quite shake to this day - that explosions were cool. It's always fun to see something explode, and nothing in all creation has ever exploded with the panache of an atom bomb.
But an explosion isn't the end of the world. The bang comes, and then the whimper. When The Wind Blows is all whimper. Tellingly, in the story, there's no actual distant view of the atom bomb. When Tom and Hilda's world is torn apart, with them sheltering beneath an unscrewed door, we're presented with a double-page spread of pure white, fading to red around the edges. The next two pages, the dense panel layout slowly reinforces itself, reality returning. A voice emerges from beneath the wood: "Blimey".
We don't see the bomb for the same reason that there's that much commented problem with the woods and the trees. You need perspective to realise that and in a nuclear war, there is no place far enough away to gain perspective. You're there, at ground zero.
Now, Eighties culture, pop or otherwise, lived under the Shadow of the bomb (tm). As such, many of its artefacts can see ridiculous when cast beneath post-cold war eyes. The Paranoia that seeped through every image is just laughable. All that worry for nothing.
(Which forgets that is just an illusion of our linear lives. How lucky were we to get out of the cold war alive? We'll never know. After surviving Russian roulette, it's all too easy to shrug and claim that you were never in danger. After all, the gun didn't fire.)
But When The Wind Blow's power lingers when other comic works – say, Watchmen - are tarnished. It gains power from its non-specificity, its detail. Tom and Hilda are an average, ageing couple. Their views are somewhat conservative. They're not too bright. As the three minute warning comes in, Hilda worries more about getting the washing in than the imminent nuclear destruction. They're your grandparents, essentially.
They live in a house, in the countryside. The other characters are dismissed in the first panel when Tom gets off the bus, leaving them entirely alone. He's returning from reading the papers about the rising national tensions. Home, he follows the safety leaflets about how to construct an inner-core out of door-frames, which will ensure they survive. Much black comedy, ensues, as they wrestle with the contradictory rules - memorably, being told to close all the doors to prevent spread of fires after already using them to construct their shelter. Hilda, especially, doesn't really understand the seriousness of the events.
Then the bomb goes off.
And then, across the remainder of the book, the pair slowly die of radiation poisoning.
I'm sorry, this is nuclear war, not a murder mystery. Spoilers don't apply. It was the Human Race on the Planet Earth with the Nuclear Deterrent.
Much like Briggs' other work, it takes full advantage of the oversized European format (aka Children's Illustration Book) to provide a dense panel. The drama between Tom and Hilda takes place in up to twenty-eight panel grids, tiny painted people living their lives and saying dumb things and quietly loving. Tom feels secure in the information and wants to have a cup of tea, even though the water's been off since the bombs went up (or down, he can't remember). Hilda worries about the total mess the place finds itself in and her hair falling out.
Then, as the story progresses, Briggs takes us to a full double page spread, showing in shadowy shapes the huge machines that are mobilising in distant lands. The contrast between the microscopic tiny chatter of their lives, and the gargantuan forces that crush them is hugely powerful - and never more so than the central explosion described earlier. It was the first comic sequence to genuinely lodge itself in my mind.
It wasn't just an explosion, I realised. It was the end of the world.
Thanks to When The Wind Blows, I knew the difference.
Chrissy and Lauren were interviewed at WMQA about all things Golden Rage. I think this is the teams' first podcast interview, actually, the stars.
This is a little old, but I didn't want to link to it before issue 1 had dropped. Here Valerio is interviewed about the creation of the Hex, with a lot about their process and how they're designed. For my part, from the first rough image Valerio sent over, it was magical. It was a “Oh, this is going to work” moment.
Here's also an interview with Valerio and myself about Judgment Day, which was a lot of fun. Valerio says nice things about me. I presume he's confused me with Karen Gillan, as many do.
I'd somehow never actually watched all of early 1990s cult documentary In Bed With Chris Needham until this week, but it's everything its advocates have said. The definitive portrait of smalltown metalhead. I suspect if we ever did Phonogram 4, this was the sort of emotional terrain we'd have aspired to.
I seem to have had my head in a more early 1990s music place than usual, as I also read my copy of Geezer by William Potter (him from Cud) and Phil Bond (him from Kill Your Girlfriend), which was really delightful Britpop comedy soap opera. I've seen some mention of the word parody in context of this, but this seems too affectionate for that – I get notes of Blue Monday in here, and Phil Bond draws people at a gig unlike anyone on earth. Details here, but not actually yet available outside of the Kickstarter, it seems. I hope for the second part, and I suspect that if you've liked my stuff, you'd be all over it.
Heatwave has hit and I have a headache. This is going to be shorter than I planned. I'll do some book thoughts next week. Because, yes, I've started reading actual books again. Iris' sleep has improved to the point where we're reclaiming some adult time. C has taken in a couple of non-Baby Cinema movies. I've managed to play a couple of games – a playtest of a new small game I've written (works well enough, but definitely useful feedback to integrate), and starting a short campaign of Trophy Gold. I'm running it and it's immediately scratching every itch we want it to do.
Plus, we finished BARRY, which is just about everything. It's always been good, and now it's something else. I'm almost disappointed that there's going to be another season, as this would have been a perfect ending, and there's a chance they'll tarnish what they have. Episode 6 this season was the one which his easiest to talk about – GTA as an art movie – but there's so much in here. And also, despite everything, bleakly, awfully funny.
The above has also been made possible by the long-promised narrowing of work. I am now officially just on X-men, in terms of ongoing commitments. It's slightly more than one book, as there's always a couple of extra things to handle, plus feeding multiple artists at once, but it really is a lot less than I've been doing. I finished a first draft of Immortal X-men 10 today, which I'll be hopefully polishing up tomorrow. I need to write an introduction for a new edition of a classic on Friday, but then I'll be jumping back on all things X to see if I can get ahead of Lucas for once. His pages for Immortal 9 are coming in, and they're better with every stroke of ink.
Oh – I mentioned another short-ish thing with an artist I am committed to, and I did have the first conversation with her, and will be writing up the character descriptions so she can start noodling on some designs. I suspect this is what I'll be writing in September – which is actually my traditional month for trying to write a new project in. Heh. I'll write about that come September, and walk you through my late 20s neurogtic panicked attempts (mostly successful) to write OGNs in the 30 days before my birthday.
And now, newsletter complete, I will reward myself with a white chocolate magnum, as I am very fancy.