How I Spent March 2017

MarsAside from an unfortunate incident when I slipped up on some mashed potato and bashed my knee on the pavement (first time for everything I s’pose) March wasn’t a bad month for me.

The comic’s been coming along okay; right now I’m tugging and tweaking at the first issue, which is mostly in the bag but not 100% satisfactory (current task: redrawing a character’s head so she’s not awkwardly staring at two people while they have a snog.) Still on track to have it taken to Kickstarter this year.

Been getting stuck into my attempts at prose fiction, too. Even if none of them are accepted by publishers, I’ll eventually have enough for a small-press collection of my own. Might pick up a few readers, who knows?

Films wot I did see: Hidden Figures, Moonlight, Logan, Get Out, The Viceroy’s House. Good movies all.

Finally, I’ve been beavering away on some articles to be published in April and beyond. Here are a few of the topics:


Another Look Back at Amazing Stories 

AmazingGyrohatsThe third part of my Amazing Stories retrospective is now live.

This time we’ve gone back to June 1926, when the favoured subject ts were the end of the world and the wacky creations of eccentric inventors. Plus: the Gribbs Mule Reverser!

I’m having great fun writing this series, and I’m proud to be doing my bit to help preserve SF history. My only hope is that I manage to get the articles out at a faster rate in future…

Logan: Wolverine Does His Revision


It has often been pointed out that the superhero film occupies the space once held by  the Western. There are key differences between the two genres, of course: superheroes will never be quite as ubiquitous as Westerns once were, for example, as a typical superflick requires a sizeable effects budget while B-grade oaters were made using little more than horses, extras and dust. Another is their distinct relationships with genre revisionism.

Broadly speaking, Westerns started out as simplistic white-hats-versus-black-hats affairs; but later came revisionist Westerns, which offered more thoughtful takes on familiar conventions. Superhero comics followed a similar trajectory, but not so much superhero films: although revisionism exists in this field, it is far more erratic.

If we take 1978’s Superman: The Movie as the starting point for superhero blockbusters, we find that the cycle began with an odd combination of earnestness and camp. 1989’s Batman strove to present itself as a serious superhero film, in contrast to the 1960s incarnation, although its sequels later returned to camp. Spider-Man and The Avengers are light-hearted, but in a manner that is largely true to Silver Age Marvel, without the wink-wink irony that characterises the Adam West Batman. The Nolan/Snyder/Goyer Batman-Superman cycle attempts (with varying degrees of success) to be a complex and literary treatment of their source material, and are perhaps the closest in spirit to the revisionist Westerns. Topping it all off, we have out-and-out parodies like The Incredibles and Deadpool.

Each of these films is faced with the same problem: they all have source material that will look a bit silly if faithfully adapted for the screen. Some, such as The Dark Knight, try to avoid the sillier aspects of their sources. Others, such as Deadpool, treat the whole thing as a joke.  Still others, like The Avengers, try to rekindle that childlike mindset where the silliness didn’t seem so silly.

X-Men, which kicked off the current wave of supermovies back in 2000, is something of an oddity in this respect. It apparently did not realise that its subject matter was a bit silly, and ended up playing a frankly daft storyline entirely straight. Later films in the franchise took different tacks, however, as when First Class embraced colourful kitsch. And with Logan, we have a superhero film that really, really wants to be a revisionist Western.

Spoilers follow.

Continue readingLogan: Wolverine Does His Revision”

School Memories: Triggers and Transamerica


The ongoing discussions about safe spaces in academic environments has got me thinking about incidents from my own teenage years.

One of the A Levels I took was Film Studies (yeah, yeah, I know, cushy number) and I remember a paticular class where our teacher showed us clips from the film Transamerica, in which Felicity Huffman plays a transgender woman. I can’t remember the exact context, but I think it was part of a discussion about how independent films can deliberately subvert expectations.

The first clip was from Huffman’s point of view, as we saw her hand rifling through cosmetics. The teacher paused and asked us how we expected the main character to look; a student replied “sort of… pretty, like”. The clip resumed, and the teacher paused it just as we saw Felicity Huffman’s reflection in the mirror (Huffman is cis, but through make-up and presentation, emulated the look of an awkward, not-quite-there trans woman). Several members of the class let out a collective “ugh!” at the sight of her face.

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March 2017 Belladonna Issue Now Available!

Belladonna-Horror-Mag-March2017Do I hear a shriek of pleasurable fear? I do indeed! The new issue of Belladonna must be out!

Available for purchase hereBelladonna‘s tenth issue is again bursting at the digital seams with delights. This time you will be treated to interviews with Elena Vladi of the heavy metal band Red Queen, indie auteur Michelle Nessk and The Devil’s Candy star Ethan Embry, a hearty endorsement of Netflix’s Dead Set, a look back at the fairy tales that creeped us out as kids, an overview of the hottest characters (both male and female) in video games, plus the usual reviews of horror films past and present.

My own contributions are an article on the Top 15 Horror Comic Heroines (YOU WON’T BELIEVE NUMBER 8! Mainly because she’s got a knob) and reviews of Bizenghast and Blood Queen. Fun for all ages!

“Ban Anime Now”: Geekdom’s Love-Hate Relationship with Censors


Today I was idly thinking about the anime forums I used to hang out when I was a teenager, and a specific controversy suddenly popped back into my head…

Back in the early 2000s, a petition entitled “Lets Save America – Ban Anime Now” began circulating. I don’t know when it was first created, but has copies going back to 2002.

Continue reading ““Ban Anime Now”: Geekdom’s Love-Hate Relationship with Censors”

Edible Bootleg Transformers

transfsnack1I have no idea if Transform-A-Snack exists outside of the United Kingdom, but here, it’s a national institution. For the bargain sum of 30p, you get a packet of Transformers! That taste of cheese and onion! It’s a Transformer… that’s also a Wotsit!

Well, that’s the idea, anyway. Long have I seen Transform-A-Snacks on newsagent shelves, but now, for the first time, I have picked up a packet for myself to see just how well the premise pays off…

Be warned, Golden Wonder. You may have impressed generations of 5-year-olds, but now, Transform-A-Snack is being interrogated by a critic of more discerning taste.

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Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Child Abuse: Cover-Up or Exploitation?


Marion Zimmer Bradley, feted author of feminist science fiction and fantasy, was a child molester. As far back as 1999 there were accusations that Bradley had enabled the crimes committed by her husband, convicted paedophile Walter Breen; the charge was led by Stephen Goldin, whose stepson was one of Breen’s victims. But it was not until 2014 that the full extent of Bradley’s complicity was made public. This happened when Deirdre Saoirse Moen contacted Bradley and Breen’s children and received a first-hand testimony from their daughter Moira Greyland stating that Bradley was not merely an enabler, she was an active molester herself.

Continue reading “Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Child Abuse: Cover-Up or Exploitation?”