Sunday, 28 September 2014


I have for some time had a couple of long term retirement plans for my old age. One was to move to a lighthouse and wait for the world blinding meteor shower and the attack of The Triffids. The other was to move to Knotty Ash and seek out a job helping out  in The Jam Buttie Mines with the other Diddymen. For I have always felt spiritually one of Doddy's Diddy Men. I have always certainly looked like one.
           For some time, after The Good Friday Agreement, I have also thought Northern Ireland should adopt Ken Dodd's excellent song Happiness as the new Northern Irish National Anthem. I long for the day The Northern Irish Assembly stands as one and belts it out together. Not actually waving tickling sticks in the air.
That might detract from the credibility of such an august institution.
            The greatest gift that we possess.
            Wise words from a wise man.
            Ken Dodd.
            A master of laughter.
            The world needs you now more than ever.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A Dark Night In 1981

Oh Boy, was going through some of my ma's old things,found this wrapped up in a copy of her birth certificate, a drawing I did for her of all us running about Etna Drive on a Halloween night all those years ago.
I can see myself and my best pal Fergie and my brothers and sisters knocking around O'Connor's Alley. We loved the dark nights and would come in mucked to the eyeballs. It was a traumatic year for me 1981. I was beaten up fairly regularly (for being "fruity", what can I say, I was, I still am.) but worst of all Tom Baker regenerated into Peter Davison. My Hero fell off a bloody big Radar dish and left a big Doctor shaped dent in a field. He also left a big Tom Baker shaped hole in my life. 
Do Kids run the streets on Halloween Night any more?Trick or Treating, dressing up as scarecrows and tramps basically anything that will allow old clothes to pass for a costume. Modern peer pressure being what it is they probably insist on full Iron man outfits that actually work or avatar outfits in which they may actually download their personalities. Its a different world and expectations are so much higher and dare I suggest it...unrealistic.Or maybe not.Maybe to want and dream about it is enough. Maybe the world just dreams bigger these days and a plastic devil mask will not do the trick or treat anymore.
I am so glad this wee piece of artwork against all the odds survived our house burning down. Or our house being burnt down to tell it as it was.
 Now that really was a dark night.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Paperback Rider.

Daft Punk have not got a new Tuba player ; this is the only way to travel these days; Speeder Bike!Safety first off course.

O Captain!My Captain!

               Tom Baker has been on this planet for Eighty Years. An infant in Galifreyan Terms.
               From the highest table top and with respect I proclaim his genius.
               The first season of stories he did with the lovely and wonderfully talented Louise Jameson for Big Finish Productions were just fantastic. More than just a slice of nostalgia re-embraced. These were stories that stood on their own, done with the best possible talents attached and easily strong enough to stand as canon. The season he then did with the much missed Mary Tamm and the joyous John Leeson exceeded my expectations on so many levels. I have just finished the last story in another season of The Doctor's and Leela's travels together( Zygon Hunt; thrilling and a great pay off to another great run!) and I already just want to listen to them all again. (What companions they were with ones foot in the air.Which is to say whilst recovering from surgery and not some swarthy personal habit of mine.). Yet just when you think it could not get any better this appears on the thin blue horizon;
For those who remember Philip Hinchcliffe was the captain of the Good Ship Who and steered it through what many consider to be a Golden Age. He seems such a modest fellow that he would acknowledge that Who probably more than any other television show is best served by the adage The King is Dead Long Live The King; thus allowing it to enjoy much more than one Golden Age. That said he did bring so much to the table in terms of a rarely equaled eye to a Gothic and most arch form of storytelling that literally gripped the imaginations of millions. Those long ago Saturday tea times were dark indeed and not just because of a seasonal Saturday wintery frisson. Those stories still echo in the halls of our shared imaginations.
             Now the talents that cemented that period in the annals of fantastic-dom have come together once again. I cannot wait to hear what a feast they will have crafted for our ears.It is timely. With this lot it is always timely.
             Always wanted and always needed.
            The best of times is the here and now.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Detective 1945.

Hard Boiled Boys and Girl from Northern Irish bubbling talent pool Daryl S. Lucy Shaw and Tommie Kelly deliver a slice of Noir crime drama that satisfies and surprises in equal measure. Detective Joseph roberts has returned from action in The Pacific  where he was witness to and also responsible for the sort of war time atrocities that can change a man forever. Where a man's soul can become damaged by the horrors of life in the meat grinder. Yet imagine returning home to discover the steel and stone canyons of New York concealing horrors of its own. In this jungle there is no beast so fierce as man. Daryl S and his team rediscover this lost world and breath color into its black and white palette. Its a thundering 45 blast of a first issue that echoes a glorious pulp heyday in a new and invigorating burst of storytelling. To my old eyes all involved in this fine new comic are much too young to speak the world weary tones necessary to talk Noir speak convincingly yet they do so with aplomb.
           I met Daryl S at the Drawn In  Comic Workshop I spoke at in the Crescent Arts Center and I am dazzled to see him carry through an idea he was almost giving voice to then from inception to completion. From a first lonely line on a blank challenging page to this lovely perfectly formed comic book. The seed that has germinated in this wonderful blossom of a Black Dahlia was just taking root in Daryl's imagination then.
We discussed script writing and in particular that night how to construct a flashback sequence that would not confuse a reader, how to use past tense as part of an on-going tale without too bold a stroke, that a readers brain would assimilate without them being aware of it. I can now see the sequence he was having a problem with that night but in the reading I assimilated without being aware. Just as he intended.
              Also how refreshing it is to see a comic where the characters have actual human features. Where the young and the old share panels in a way that is increasingly rare in comics, in television and on the cinema screen. It takes courage to show ordinary human beings in an industry dominated by Olympian physiques and perfectly constructed profiles. Where all the main characters look as though they have been grown in the petrie dish of a central casting agency or a modelling agency. At times I fear the media have assured the frightful vision of Logan's Run and we live in the time of Carousel. At least on television and in cinema.
               Daryl has assembled a nice creative team to make his vision a reality. Lucy Shaw's script is Raymond Chandler Sharp and his colorist Tommie Kelly brings a pulp fiction adult wash to the proceedings. Their confidence in their abilities ensure this is not a pastiche of the period but a worthy addition to the black mountain of crime fiction. It is hard to believe that this is this creative teams first effort together as they hit the ground running and prove themselves a trio to be reckoned with.
                This is only the first issue and should you, the discerning tasteful person you are, get the chance please do not hesitate to take a walk down the mean streets of Detective 1945.
                 You will be in the best of company.
                 Noir dont get no more noirish than this.

Hyde Post Script.

I have a few versions of The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mister Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson but my favorite has to be this amazing version illustrated by the equally amazing Gerard Gibson. It feels so authentic you could almost believe he haunted the rain slick night time streets of Edinburgh to capture the fever dream atmosphere of the two stories contained in this volume. And if you knew Gerard , as I am fortunate enough to know Gerard, you could almost believe he would. Scribbling in his sketchbook by the light of a hand held oil lantern.
           As something terrifying, and as yet unseen and perhaps not meant to be seen, looms up behind him.
           Knowing Gerard he would whirl round and do a quick pencil sketch.
           Forgetting to be terrified.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Hanged Man.

(From my sketch book/Beyond Black)Some one once sagely advised me You Can Only Play The Cards With Which You Have Been Dealt. 
                                               Bullocks I Say, rip them up and make your own.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Sophisticated Boom Boom.

(From my sketchbook)Conor Mc Gregor Vs. Diego Brandao, UFC Fight Night, Dublin 19th July 2014.
                                   First Round; Boom!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Two Minds For All Seasons.

It says something for the enduring impact and influence of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mister Hyde that people continue to use the phrase " a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character " with such knowing casuality despite probably never having read the book. Admittedly it has been adapted and even updated on so many occasions on the cinema screen and on the more intimate television screen the central character, or central characters, have become as familiar to all as Dracula or the Frankenstein Monster. But then many people drop terms such as "Freudian" or "Schizophrenic" without ever having turned a page in a psychology book. We maybe absorb a vague understanding of these words general meaning and use without really foundation. The verbal equivalent of throwing carrots at a dartboard and expecting them to stick. With few exceptions root vegetables make poor darts.
           There is a lovely double bill dvd with two movie adaptions of the novel. One from 1931 starring Frederic Marsh and another from 1941 with Spenser Tracy in the lead roles. The Tracy one I remembered from a Saturday Night Horror Double bill many many moons ago. The other was a new experience for me. A new experience from 1931. I turned this viewing into a trilogy of adaptions by rewatching the television mini-series Jekyll updated by none other than Mister Timey Whimey Stephen Moffat. The lead role, or is that roles, taken by none other than the Northern Irish actor James Nesbitt who cranks up his inner bonkers and delivers a performance that is as sympathetic as it is disturbing. Nesbitt/Moffat's Hyde is a beast who revels in his time. A man who will wrestle a lion just to see if he can. I am suprised this show did not do for Stevenson what Sherlock has done for Conan Doyle. Watch Mark Gatiss masterful turn in it as Robert Louis Stevenson himself in a time slipping sequence that pre-empts other more recent crowd pleasing and show storming moments in both Doctor Who and Sherlock.
               My favorite though of these three versions is the one from 1931; with Frederic Marsh doing the two hander. It is off course a little stilted given the period in which it was created but it must also have been quite shocking for a mannered and less worldly audience. Marsh is quite a handsome gentleman, one who also has an aura of decency and integrity. Yet his hyde is also a mad fiend, an appetite unleashed, his wickedness cruel and directed. The two performances are utterly seperate, there is nothing of the macabre Hyde in Marsh's Jekyll. the two sides of this one man look and sound and move differently from each other. The first night Hyde steps out of the shadows of Jekyll's restraining Id is a joy to watch. He revels in his time abroad, throwing back his head in  a rainstorm to drink in what the heavens dump down on him. If you enjoyed the shot of Heath Ledger's Joker sticking his head out the window of a stolen police car after a long night of anarchy and murder, you will understand this moment. Marsh's Hyde is both comic and hideous by turn as he torments and tramples over the very things his black heart desires.
                 The first draft of Jekyll's story is one of the great lost books of literature. During a spell of illness Stevenson finished it, lapsed into a feverish sickly sleep, during which his wife first read then burnt that copy. So appalled was she by its contents and fearing for their moral standing should the book see print. Stevenson wrote the draft the world has come to know from the freah memory of its creation.
                 I wonder if anything was lost.
                 The existing version will never be lost, with richer variations and adaptions in other mediums to keep it alive and sustain its vitalness. Weither that be the monstrous invisible and unstoppable creatures of the Id brought to life by the super technology of the Krell in Forbidden Planet or the anti-matter aliens of another universe crossing over on Zeta-minor in Doctor Who The Planet Of Evil it is capable of  endless interptretation.
                  The duality of man's nature and our fascination with our own dark side will see to that.
                  Lets face it; if Hyde were alive today he would have his own reality television series;
                  Living The Hyde Life.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Quatermass And What Waited Beneath.

 (Alien art from my sketch book) Martian; a word long worn out long before anyone turned up to claim it. Professor Bernard Quatermass mentions this to his colleague Rooney as he ruminates about the human race's possible origins as the genetically engineered offspring of visitors from the red planet a very long time ago. Only someone who can wear a bow tie with that degree of casuality could make  so bold and sweeping a claim without sounding like a boobie-babbler.
             It is a line from the television series Quatermass And the Pit which starred Andre Morrell in the title role. And what a superb Bernard he was. Looking and sounding every inch the brilliant and far sighted scientist who built The British Rocket group with his own bare hands. This man was one of the original pioneers of the space race. A brilliant maverick thinker and self made man. At least in the hands of his creator Nigel Kneale he was and who can fail but to get behind a maverick. I know I like to. He was a sharp dresser too wearing bow-ties that required no quirky defense for their presence beneath his chin. In space no one can hear you say BOW TIES ARE COOL. Bernard Quatermass knew something instinctively The Doctor himself only learned after hundreds of years defending a town called Christmas; COOL IS NOT COOL.
             Up to this point Quatermass had experienced two  deadly encounters with life forms not of this earth. On this occasion his creator Kneale pitted him against something which turned the whole notion of earthly origins on its head. It really was a fantastic script that delivered insights and terrifying thrills with Mozart precision. Not a note out of place. The world as we know it has changed so much since this series was transmitted in weekly episodes from monday 28th December 1958 through until Monday 26th January 1959, attracting record viewing figures along the way. Literally holding a breathless and terrified nation in its grip. Imagine hurrying back from the pub to catch the episode as it was going out. The sense of anticipation that came with knowing if you missed something when it went out you just were never going to see it again. Even after all those years and those changes that script holds up.
               Hammer Films brought us back to Hobb's Lane later in the sixties for a truncated movie version of that same story. I remember it from one Saturday night long ago, knees drawn up beneath my chin watching the story flicker and unfold on our black and white television, science wedded to horror in a story set in the London Underground and on one of the great fictional haunted streets. It had me from the opening credits as a jigsaw skull formed about the title with an afterglow generated by some satanic pit. It segues into the sight of an old London Bobbie on patrol, a trustworthy Dixon Of Dock Green dander, eyeballing a local moggie also on a patrol of sorts, a grey cat, at night all cats are grey. He clip clops, distinctive Hammer footsteps, towards the entrance of Hobb's Lane Tube Station, where we follow the sounds of some working class blokes digging in the dirt,laying a new section of line, unearthing a series of skulls that tell a tale five million years untold.
                  I SUPPOSE IT IS POSSIBLE FOR GHOSTS..LET US USE THE WORD..TO BE PHENOMENON THAT WERE BADLY OBSERVED, WRONGLY EXPLAINED observes Quatermass thoughtfully as the background information and history recorded in Hobb's Lane begins to tell a very long ghost story indeed. From the very start we see ordinary folk beset by he extraordinary. Yes there are archeologists, rocket scientists and military leaders but there are also brickees and Cor-blimey squaddies looking into an abyss whose origins are as dark as the gulfs of space which seprate worlds. Distances which are not perhaps intended to be crossed. In this story we witness the shotgun wedding between science and superstition whose feral offspring run rampant through the streets of London.
                   There are four Quatermass stories in total, and there have been different versions and interpretations of these over the years with no actual definitive version. Nothing wrong with that,a good idea can have a certain elasticity. My personal favorite is The Pit. The television version, its length and believable performances with assured direction and production values produced something of breadth and quality that stands the test of time well.
                    Time will also tell if there are to be anymore versions.
                    Stand Up Bernard Quatermass.
                    Your Planet needs you.

Monday, 1 September 2014


Just finished reading a proof of CARSICK the new book by Director/Writer John Waters. Holy Moley talk about Car trouble.The book is a true account of his own recent hitch-hiking experiences when he sets out from one of his homes in Baltimore to another of his homes in San-Francisco. Off course this being a John Waters book you will appreciate there is so much more to it than the above description. The book is split in three parts;
             THE REAL THING.
Each segment recounting what its title suggests. The first chunk being a series of best possible scenarios which entail amazing coincidences and startling encounters with wonderful pay offs. Serendipity is the word of the day and the kick in the step of the happy traveler. You would hitch-hike everyday if they all turned out the way these do.
             The second chunk is an unrelenting saga of degradation and humiliation. Murphy's law is but a harmless by-law compared to the horrors John Water's imagination lets loose upon himself. If anyone doubts the interior existence of the John Waters of old and his ability to make you gag on a monstrous notion ought to struggle along with him on the ghastly leg of his journey across America, A couple of bits made me groan and feel a little light headed with revulsion. Ah,just like the good old days.
               The last third of the book is the actual real world journey Waters undertook. He is a man in his mid-sixties now, a place in space and time he talks about with disarming honesty. That is an old face staring back at him from motel and restroom mirrors. Yet he is still full of the bear and enjoying life. Mindful that some of his beloved chums and dear friends are no longer so. Indestructible youth is behind him but the indomitable spirit of the natural born weirdo still rages within him. I have often felt that the spirit of man is like a scowling pacing monkey locked in a cage he did not build that occasionally throws poo at you and you just have to learn to duck.
                And to laugh.
                And laugh you will at this great wee travel book. There are even those who might read the first segment and think surely that belongs in the second segment because that reaction in itself is quite funny and altogether human. Something I have always loved about the peculiar stable of actors and actresses, performers and  personalities he surrounded himself with in his movies and probably in his life. Surely one of the most bizarre assemblages of talent in any medium. My own favorite of that talent pool being the extraordinary Edith Massey. That wonderful face and that wonderful voice, quite unlike anyone I had ever seen before in a movie.
                 BABS,WHERE DO EGGS COME FROM?
                 Tennesse Williams never wrote dialogue like that. The things John Waters had pop out of that woman's mouth. I have sometimes wondered how they met, John and Edith, what strange cosmic alchemy drew them together to produce something like The Egg Lady. There is a beautiful coda to their relationship in this book, one I will not spoil by saying too much.
                  Anyway, you ever feel like looking for car trouble that covers the waterfront check out Carsick.
                  Parking on a bookshelf near you. Sometime soon.

The Dragon At the Foot Of My Bed.

(From my sketch book) I have been recovering from surgery. Just getting one of my wonky legs fixed. Look what showed up at the end of my bed late one night. I opened my eyes from a deep sleep and tried not to act as if there were anything to get alarmed about, feigning a quiet middle of the night casuality, as you do. It did not speak or make a sound mirroring my own casuality. Jet black eyes challenged me to hold its stare.            GO RIGHT AHEAD. YOU WILL NOT WIN. I WHO HAVE HELD A STARING CONTEST WITH THE MOON. THE PALE COMPANION BLINKED FIRST.
             I do not believe lizards communicate by speaking but the words were there and as I said it did not speak. The words were just there, the way air is. The ward was very quiet, it was the early hours, although I could hear the oxygen machine used by the poor old guy in the bed next to me. The man in the bed opposite turned restlessly in his sleep and mumbled something( I suspect he was mumbling TOMORROW BELONGS TO ME as he had been showing me photos earlier on his phone of his prized knife collection including his favorite; a Hitler Youth knife.)   I could also hear the night nurses going about their duties and some instinct told me they were not seeing this visitor. This visitor from the lost world. The one that sits next to ours waiting to be found. Was this a visit from Blake's Ghost Of A Flea? Or just another Beast from my Id I asked myself. In complete control of my inner monologue if not my visual cortex. They do come stomping out occasionally baffling me with their unnatural gaits and their otherworldly inflections. Like people from Greenisland or Doagh.
             I dozed off without saying anything but came around to find a nurse checking my fluids and my blood pressure.
              She smiled and her face became a beacon of understanding.

Na-no,Na-no,Sweet Prince.