Thursday, 28 February 2019

Masterclass.

Iterations Of I. The Good, The Bad and The er..Not So Good At Being Bad..if you follow me. Poor Missy, you spend a lifetime doing the wrong thing and just as you do the right thing, you get killed by you. The two of him/her make being bad seem so much fun. Terrible role models but marvelous chums. And who's best chum has not tried to utterly destroy one at some time or other...

The Daffodil Man.

Oh My Sainted Aunt, look what the doctor Who Figure Collection is about to release. The Daffodil Man from The Terror Of The Autons. When I was a boy and I first saw this character giving out plastic daffodils, which later horrifically suffocated any one close enough to smell them, I was filled with the heebee jeebies. Those big baby shaped heads with a smile that goes nowhere near the eyes, the bright tasteless clothes, eek its the stuff of nightmares.
             That story has a lot going for it in terms of seeds of dread. The horrible homunculus doll, scrambling about when it warms up. The black plastic chair that swallows anyone who sits on it, folding about them and crushing and suffocating them. The Master using a phone line coming to life and strangling The Doctor. And the eerie van full of daffodil men sitting together not speaking or making a sound.
               The Daffodil Men want you to know they love you.
               Why its enough to give a chap, or chapette, bad dreams.

       

JunJi Ito's Frankenstein.

....Off course we all know that it is in fact Mary Shelley's Frankenstein but by all creative standards junji Ito has brought something new to the "workshop of filthy creation.". The book has been in print for two hundred years, been adapted for the big screen countless times over the decades, each time re-introducing this tragic and ultimately thought provoking story of a singular genius railing against the forces that shape life and death. Startling, brilliant and intense are just a trio of superlatives I lay at the feet of this remarkable and visionary artist.
             This is a hypnotically disturbing take on a tale that manifestly has the ability to unman reason in the face scientific and spiritual hubris. More than at any period in the publishing history of Mary Shelley's book the tale of the young genius Frankenstein holds a mirror to society and the monsters that we create and allow to run amok. This version of the story really gets down and dirty in the filthy muck of creation as Frankenstein dismantles corpses and reanimates the jigsaw results. It is a gruesome practice and is difficult to observe, for Junji Ito pulls the reader right in. It is quite loathsome at times, in much the same way as some find the work of Giger. Even in the less graphic moments, consider; page#41, a grave yard caretaker is going about his business when he hears a noise from one of the crypts. "Wh..whos there?" he asks and out of the shadows, into the torch light, without saying a word, steps Frankenstein the sepulcher creator. He has something slung over his shoulders, a suggestion of stolen limbs, giving off God only knows what stench. But it is his eyes staring from that pale haunted face which most alarms. They are the eyes of a man who has raked his hands through the buried remains of the deceased, buried in a fever of corrupt flesh that can not bring forth anything good. It is a striking image, one that causes the caretaker to scream in fear.
               It is a superb sequence, one which takes the reader on a trip down the highway to hell.
               The Catholic side of my brain is waving a finger at me in admonishment.
               The hand made monster is hideous, clever and cruel as only a man can be. It is a towering monstrosity which suffers much and inflicts much suffering, especially upon its creator and those he loves, both walking a dark path filled with pain.
                Mary Shelley's book is a bleak vision, reflecting many of the hardships endured and witnessed by its young author. No one gets out alive. The savage conceit perpetrated by the arrogant scientist bringing forth all the monsters of the Id.
                Frankenstein is a story that has been told over and over and over again, it has been adapted to the point where sometimes it feels only loosely connected to the source material. Junji Ito introduces us to a breathless new vision of Frankenstein yet remains utterly faithful to the original.

The Secret In Vault 13.

Well, this has to be, for me anyway, the most surprising Doctor who book I have read for some time. I came to the book , as a collector of Who related things, with the impression that since the book was aimed at younger readers and set in the most recent television iteration, it would be specifically aimed at the most casual of readers. And as such, it may not  have as much in it to recommend those readers who are longer in the tooth. which just goes to show how skewed such preconceptions can be. While it does not exclude more recent fans there is much to delight those who are more long term devotees of the television show we know to be the best ever on the box.
            And also how easy it can sometimes be to overlook wee treasures that might be right in front of ones face.
             For those who are more long running fans of Doctor Who one of the most striking differences between it and all that has gone before was the absence of continuity references, either to past series and sometimes even between on going episodes. It was surprising then to find so many in this wonderful book by David Solomons, it is blooming bursting with them (and I use the word "blooming" advisedly with regard to the way David Solomons uses the alien tech in his book, a notion of biomechanics that owe as much to the old 2000AD biogs or a more beautiful form of Giger's grown instrumentation.) yet these references in no way historically weigh down the narrative they in fact broaden it in a witty and entetaining way. at times I almost heard the voice of "the book" as it is known in Hitch hiker circles (universally wide ones..) as I read some of them.
             Damn fine funny writing.
             This would have made such a fantastic seasonal story. Christmas day, New Years Day, Saint Patrick's Day, Tom Bakers Birthday, whatever..
             I really enjoyed this doctor Who book, from start to finish. it felt like a charming meandering fun epic, one that deserves to be read by a wide demographic beyond the usual Who fandom.
             Its a proper adventure in space and time with the children's character adults adore.
             And to think it all starts with a talking petunia...

YOUNIT.

My chum Connor met the lovely Ingrid and was kind enough to get this lovely signed photograph for me. He was much taken with this gracious and very talented young lady. I imagine she felt pretty much the same about him, Connor being such a gentleman and talented writer and artist.
             He and I are going to form a spin off group from UNIT called YOUNIT. Some one has to deal with the Alien incursions in Northern Ireland.
              Mond you, to date they have all been the most amazing friendly visitors.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

The Complete Ghost Stories Of Charles Dickens.

In the foreward to this lovely collection of Dickens ghost stories,written by the iconic Peter Haining, we learn that the young Charles Dickens had a nurse maid who rejoiced in telling him yarns that were of a macabre and supernatural bent. One can imagine a wide eyed and night time terrified young novelist afraid of every shadow and every creaking floor board. Her storytelling certainly proved to be a gift for life.
             These might well be considered ghost stories but they are not necessarily scary stories, not when judged against the heart stopping terror to be found in most modern horror. Some of these stories are not even conventional by Victorian standards of the macabre. Some even contain elements of what could be considered proto-science fiction. Others have a rich vein of humor running through them, humor which lends itself to being spoken aloud. One feels quite Dickensian rattling them off.
              The most well known of the stories is off course A Christmas Carol, a story that will stand the test of ages. My newly discovered favorite, for me anyway, is The Goblin Who Stole A Sexton. It is a spooky yarn constructed in much the same form as that classic Christmas tale of misery and its unearthly rewards, but uses goblins instead of ghosts. Instead of the miserly Scrooge we have a misreable undertaker who's only joy in life is burying the bodies of others and gloating about the misfortunes of others. He is pulled into goblin hell from the snowy graveyard and is judged before Old Nick in much the same way Old Scrooge was. It is so dark and so joyfully macabre I could not help but think what a treat it would have been to hear it read and performed by the man himself, as I have no doubt he did.

               There are twenty stories in all, ranging in length from one page to the admirably proportioned, yet none outstay their welcome. This is a great book for any time of year, despite the seasonal theme, not just for Christmas, a spring heeled Victorian puppy which will grow as the years go by in preciousness, as the yarns between its covers become ingrained in the readers mind.
               What the Dickens, indeed.
     

Chameleon Circuit on The Blink.


               Oh dear, looks like the Tardis chameleon circuit is on the fritz once again.In this particular location in Belfast the best camouflage would have been an Off Licence or a Winemark.
               It would have blended right in.