We talk through a webcomic - Emma Vieceli and Malin Ryden's Breaks. Plus, we pick through the results of a recent Vue survey about comic-to-film adaptations. Which were the best? Which were the worst? There are some... surprises.
Well, we learned a lot of stuff this week, including the answers to questions I’ve been asking in these very recaps! How old is Hook? Indeed, he’s ‘like 300.’ What does Hook do all day? Throws darts at Granny’s. Where is he living? On a bench by the waterfront, I guess. There are some cute moments, but anything good about the episode is overwhelmed by the deeply irritating plot the show is setting up to keep Hook and Emma apart, which is disrupting two years’ worth of character development.
Look, this episode really annoyed me, so let’s just get through it.
We open with what turns out to be a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from Brad Dourif as a previous Dark One, Zoso. He fights with an old man who looks suspiciously like this, and who easily defeats Brad Dourif. The old man, who claims to be the ‘sorcerer’s apprentice’ says no one will ever get into the mysterious box that (thanks to ep 1) we know holds the sorcerer’s sorting hat. One ironicut later, we watch Rumplestiltskin open the box and smile grimly at the hat.
Opening credits: a terrible CG broom marches across the title screen. Oh, god.
1. It is really, really awesome! And there's a lot to do!
Like, vast. And it gets really crowded, really quickly. Going to something like a panel, or a big signing, or even trying to get to the Marvel booth, is a time commitment. I can understand the people that gave up hours to stand in a line (seriously - and it isn't like the lines are absent of entertainment), but we chose to keep wandering instead. There are whole swathes of NYCC that went completely unvisited by us.
We scraped the surface of the iceberg. And what amazed me was how so much of it was free - demos, panels, signings, conversations, shmoozing, browsing, previews, whatever. Some of the best fun we had was in the spontaneous stuff: getting our photos taken for Greendale Community College IDs, for example. The con isn't cheap, by any means, but it is (theoretically) possible to entertain yourself on a budget once you get inside.
Last year, Mark Charan Newton introduced us to the Sun Chamber's star (sorry) investigator: Lucan Drakenfeld, who, alongside his ruthlessly efficient friend Leana, managed to stop a series of hideous crimes in the nation of Detrata.
The Drakenfeld series - a fusion of Golden Age detection and modern epic fantasy - now continues with Retribution, in which Drakenfeld and Leana tackle a new case... in a new country. We managed to pull Mark out of his allotment long enough for him to answer a few questions...
Pornokitsch: The action of Retribution moves from the ancient culture of Detrata to the wilder, only recently ‘stabilised’ country of Koton. You’ve mentioned that Detrata was inspired by the Roman Republic; what influences went into developing Koton?
Mark Charan Newton: There were still a handful of Classical influences in Koton, but it was more of a deliberate contrast against those more formal structures. That contrast came from, to borrow from Borodin, those people "In the Steppes of Central Asia". I wondered how it would be if more nomadic cultures were not forced, but encouraged via a ruler to adopt a more Classical culture as their central political philosophy. With that loose inspiration in mind, bits and pieces were grabbed from elsewhere in history, but this was one of those more consciously made-up and/or fantastical peoples. A thought experiment.
PK: How do you create countries with distinct atmosphere and personality while still making them part of the same world?
MCN: That was always part of the plan from the first book, to create those distinct countries, but the answer comes in two parts. The first is that it was more about keeping creativity fresh than anything else. I love creating new cities and new landscapes in particular - it’s part of the fun of being a fantasy writer. That’s what I need to keep me writing, in a sense.
Someone on Buzzfeed posted 18 top dating lessons from Mr Darcy. Yes, that Mr Darcy. There are lots of gifs of Colin Firth and Matthew Mafadyen, in period costume, scowling. It's very cute and very positive... and completely wrong. Here are the real dating lessons that we can take from a book written nearly 200 years before dating was a thing.
1. If you like someone, boss him or her around.
2. If you don't like someone, insult that person. And also everyone that person cares about.
3. If you're attracted to someone, double down on the insults and bossiness. This may seem counter-intuitive, but you've got an end-game in mind.
4. Are you really rich? It helps if you're really rich. People are very forgiving of the rich.
5. But do remember that people are occasionally very unforgiving of the rich. Practise acting a little self-conscious about all your money; this will make you appear humble.
The Kanamit were not very pretty, it's true. They looked something like pigs and something like people, and that is not an attractive combination. Seeing them for the first time shocked you; that was their handicap. When a thing with the countenance of a fiend comes from the stars and offers a gift, you are disinclined to accept.
I don't know what we expected interstellar visitors to look like - those who thought about it at all, that is. Angels, perhaps, or something too alien to be really awful. Maybe that's why we were all so horrified and repelled when they landed in their great ships and we saw what they really were like.
The Kanamit were short and very hairy - thick, bristly brown-gray hair all over their abominably plump bodies. Their noses were snoutlike and the eyes small, and they had thick hands of three fingers each.
They wore green leather harness and green shorts, but I think the shorts were a concession to our notions of public decency. The garments were quite modishly cut, with slash pockets and half-belts in the back. The Kanamit had a sense of humor, anyhow; their clothes proved it.
I’m just going to say it: Kate Bush is the Angela Carter of music.
For both, the following apply: people who have been exposed to her work are left changed and will cite her as an inspiration at every turn; a generation above or below may never know of her and the loss is entirely theirs; her fans have a cult-like love for her; she always knew exactly who she was as a creator, as an artist; no one will ever be able to work out just how she did what she did. Visceral, earthy and effortlessly charming, both Bush and Carter are iconoclasts who have informed so much music and writing that it is impossible to measure the breadth of their influence. They’re also both genre artists.
Kate Bush isn’t someone you can listen to without having your attention torn away from everything else - she’s never going to be background music. She’s never written a conventional pop song, even when she wrote a conventional pop song. She uses disruptive rhythms, changes key all over the place and sings with ferocity even when she’s whispering. You can’t not give her your ears, your eyes and probably your soul too. Even when she couldn't possibly have known who she was or who she wanted to be as an artist - at age 13, 16, 19 - she still somehow figured it out in a secret way, a way that allowed her to retain creative control over her work and win almost each battle with her recording company. It’s quite something that Kate Bush always got to do what she wanted to, that she could make a commercial label like EMI release an album as strange, as surreal and as esoteric as, say, 1984’s The Dreaming. Maybe it was the 80s. Maybe she just had better contracts drawn up for creative control than Prince did back then. But it’s a feat in itself to be able to control your career the way she did at such a young age.
New York has a bookstore or two. We spent a lot of time at Forbidden Planet, Argosy, The Strand and a literary-y one that I can't remember. Plus (see below) a lot of scouting trips to various Barnes & Nobles.
If it weren't for the fact that we had limited bag space, it would've been absolute carnage. Instead, there was some rather ruthless shopping triage going on. I shed a lot of tears.
Ed McBain's Tricks and McBain and Craig Rice's The April Robin Murders. American hardcovers are stupidly expensive. Walk into Barnes & Noble and a McBain hardback will be in the $30 range. Alternatively, for $20, you have your choice of signed, hardcover first editions from Argosy. It was tough just to pick one.
The April Robin Murders is a fun little item - and a Book Club Edition - but it has a terrific cover, and despite being a BCE, is a lot closer to the original publication (1959) than any other copy I've got (all 1970s or later reprints).
John D. MacDonald's Darker than Amber and Time and Tomorrow. No reason for these, except that I didn't have these editions and, with JDM, that's all the reason I need. Amber is a second printing of the US hardcover, and I like the cover (which is basically a reworking of the Gold Medal assets). Time and Tomorrow is another BCE, this time collecting all three of JDM's SF novels (none of which are particularly good, but, whatever.)
Megan Abbott's The End of Everything and The Fever. I knew there would be signed copies of Abbotts book's somewhere in the city, and walked into every bookstore - including every branch of B&N we passed - to find them. The Strand was the answer, and I'm delighted to have signed firsts of one of my new favourite authors.
Ben Winter's The Last Policeman. The only book we got at NYCC - direct from Quirk. It is signed (on a bookplate) (and like the 1,893,597th printing), but, quite keen to read it so, hey...
Also - thanks to the One Comic Podcast - I have a newfound sense of purpose within comic book shops. I took advantage of that in Midtown Comics. After 10 (argh, 20!) years of not buying individual issues, I now have a reason to browse again. Huzzah! Picked up a few singles (Wytches and Sabrina), which will and/or have featured on the podcast.
The loot from NYCC specifically was almost entirely art - we picked up some neat (super-cheap and wonderfully kitschy) old film posters and a load of prints of various shapes and sizes (from, amongst others, Tom Kelly, Dillon Boy, Emma SanCartier and. We even bought a proper shoulder-slung poster tube... only to discover it was the wrong size. But still, shoulder-tube!
…based on the poster I spent several minutes staring at in the Tube station on the way to work yesterday.
1. How do their masks stay on? Seriously, they’re wrapped around the turtles’ heads as gently as a warm towel laid across your face at a spa. They look like a stiff breeze could blow them away. Weirdly, because the CG is just good enough, and because the fabric of the masks has been rendered very realistically, the effect highlights rather than disguises the uncanny valley of this film’s CG.
2. In our age of gritty reboots, doesn’t the original color scheme look a little… naff? I mean, really; the turtles are now all dark green and brown and… there’s, like, a dark grey background and they’re all scowling and angry, even happy-go-lucky, pizza-twirling Michelangelo, and yet. They’re still wearing bright happy colors. Also, Donatello may be wearing… glasses? In addition to his stupid ‘I’m the inventive one!’ headgear? What else can we learn about the turtles' personalities and characters from this poster? Leonardo likes to wear sticks on his chest. Michelangelo is looking up and to the side; clearly he's the group's dreamer. Also he's short. He's probably the funny one. Donatello = inventy. And... tall? And as for Raphael...