The future shines brightly on 2000AD

Today I wanted to chat about my favourite comic for a bit, as not only has it been a while since I last did, but the landmark Prog 1900 will be arriving on my doorstep this Saturday, bringing with it the return of two series’ I’ve sorely missed – Kingdom by Dan Abnett and Richard Elson (I recently got my hands on the first novel adaptation of the series too, Fiefdom, written collaboratively between Dan and his wife, Nik-Vincent), and Stickleback by Ian Edginton, a man whose second name I’ve been spelling incorrectly until now on this blog, and D’Israeli. And if the return of these two stellar series’ wasn’t enough, a new Dredd epic by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra will be beginning too. Nice, eh?

This means you can expect a review of that Prog, and maybe when they’re done, some of the series’ (Greysuit is also returning after a fairly lengthy hiatus and should be interesting) too. Definitely the latest epic at least, seeing as I imagine that it’ll either be the last major Dredd arc for the year or the one story leading us straight into the next epic, Dark Justice of Prog 2015, or possibly even both.

Also coming up on the blog, I wanted to talk about comic books themselves and how well I think the various companies publish them. It’s something I’ve wanted to talk about since the moment one of DC’s trade paperbacks pissed me off with its awful binding (I believe it was Batman: Hush), but it was receiving a free copy of Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu Earth Vol. 4 earlier today for getting my letter published in the most recent issue of the Megazine, #352, that made me want to write about the subject soonish, as it suddenly occurred to me while skimming through the book how comfortable and easy it is to read compared to a DC or Vertigo book. On the subject of those two companies, I may even bemoan advertisements in single issues and how much those two take the piss there too.

But back to the subject at hand – 2000AD’s future.

The comic’s in an interesting position at the moment. In fact, it’s been in an interesting position for quite some time. My first subscription started shortly after I started buying the comic regularly with Prog 2006. It had only one major low in that whole time in my opinion, which was the weeks in which Stalag 666 endlessly dragged on. A horribly generic story with some poor early art by Jon Davis-Hunt that did nothing to help, I really didn’t like it. Not enough to go insane and send its writer, Tony Lee, my shit smeared on an angry letter, but I consider it my major low point with the comic.

Then my subscription ended several weeks into the year 2009 and I didn’t bother to re-new it or buy the comic from a nearby WHSmith again. Those first however-many weeks of 2009’s Prog’s didn’t impress me. As I recall, the series’ running at this time besides Dredd were Strontium Dogs, the second story arc of Greysuit, Marauder and something else. Whatever that last one was, Strontium Dogs was the only thing keeping me happy week to week (even the Dredd tale by Wagner wasn’t doing it for me), and seeing as this was all following closely after Stalag 666, I thought that the comic was maybe losing its steam, which is why I decided that I could always start again years later, which I have done. But as it turns out, the comic wasn’t losing its momentum at all.

Okay, so a second long Tony Lee scripted tale, Necrophim, actually started shortly after I left and seems to have been as well received as the first (so not very well at all), but allow me to list some of what I missed that was utterly incredible.

– If I had remained subscribed for another two fucking weeks I would have saw the start of a new Low Life story arc, possibly still the best in that series to date: Creation, the story in which Rob Williams decided to draw focus away from Aimee Nixon and to Dirty Frank instead, his iconic hairy, smelly and weird undercover Judge who refers to himself in third person in conversation with other characters. Also, D’Israeli became the new leading artist of the series after Simon Coleby and Henry Flint before him and he knocked it out the fucking park. You can probably see where this is going.

– Nikolai Dante picked off from where I left – at what was probably another amazing cliffhanger or plot twist by Robbie Morrison in other words – and continued to be incredible for the next couple of years, before ending as spectacularly as promised in 2012, or so glowing reviews suggest. Fuck.

– Savage returned and you can’t go wrong with that action-packed series. Neither can you with Zombo, an over-the-top, completely mental comedy by Al Ewing and Henry Flint that’s rapidly become a fan favourite and for good reason: it’s genuinely funny and has been raised the crazy stakes with each new story.

– Cradlegrave by John Smith and Edmund Bagwell, one of my personal favourite comics of all time (it really needs a review, come to think of it) and certainly one of the best stories published in 2000AD, not to mention proof that horror can actually work within the medium, started the week after these two and I fucking missed it. Goddamnit.

– Skip forward a few weeks and the latest series of Defoe started where Slaine: The Wanderer ended. Skip to the last stretch of the year and the latest series’ of Kingdom and Shakara came and went as all the while Dredd was continuously excellent and Wagner secretly built towards the Day of Chaos storyline and I missed it all damn me to hell.

Not a weak year at all, is it? And hopefully this little list highlights just how consistent 2000AD can carry itself week to week, which I personally believe it has been doing since at least I started collecting it, though was probably doing so years before I started, especially whenever Matt Smith took over as editor.

Now, where is all this going?

Well, in just these last few years, especially after the success of Dredd 3D, 2000AD’s made a number of small but interesting decisions. When I initially collected the comic, they changed the logo to what we see today with what’s technically two different logos at once, and then while I was not collecting it (it looks like this went on between 2011 and 2012) they changed it again briefly, and I have to say that I actually preferred this version of the main logo they’d been using, where the Prog number was clearly visible underneath in a small rectangle at the top of the front cover instead of down at the bottom now (on either the left or right hand side – so it’s not even consistent, much like the spines of their trade paperbacks, ho ho ho!). Whatever the case, they’re changing it again with Prog 1900.

Well, I say “they”, but it’s the work of Pye Parr, their graphic designer, who’s been fooling around with some of the graphic novel releases and has designed the upcoming and gorgeous looking Zenith collection, which I’ll be talking about again shortly. This new design, he said in a fairly recent podcast, is intended to emphasise the logo they’ve returned to after 2011’s small change – and to be fair, whether I liked the brief replacement or not, they have been using this one for years now – and to really sell this as their brand the way Marvel and DC’s are instantly recognisable, and to really stick to it this time, and put it everywhere: their graphic novels, merchandise, anything media-related – even the Megazine will apparently have it.

This is all in an effort to make the comic appeal to wider audiences, especially overseas in America where they’ve been releasing their Dredd 3D-set stories, as well as Brass Sun, and now Jaegir, all three of which have emphasised the logo very clearly, and with the issue number underneath. Only on Saturday will we be able to tell if this is what will happen to our beloved Progs, but I’d be delighted if it were the case, as I think these look smashing. It would mean this small top left corner of the Prog would block the art, where previously the purpose of the two logos was to let the art run wild, covering one logo but not the other (not always, mind you, much to some people’s dismay), but I wouldn’t mind at all, especially if it ends up serving a greater good. It was pointed out in the podcast I mentioned that, flicking through a collection of these comics, it’s hard to find the Prog you’re looking for since the number’s always moving, so I’d welcome a consistent look for that too.

Anyway, let’s stop talking about the logo and move on to these US-sized comics themselves, shall we? These have been done in the past several times, but I neither know how successful the Eagle books and other stuff were nor care – that was the past and this is now, and right now it’s 2000AD themselves doing the publishing of these three. And my honest opinion of the job they’ve done so far? Well, they’re excellent, the quality of these things being through the roof, and rightly so. What better way to sell these overseas than to use eye-catching, high quality covers and excellent paper stock, and to only interrupt the tale in each with a measly two adverts, letting the story and artwork inside do the talking? Nothing’s better. In fact, the only way these could be any more fantastic is if they followed in Image’s footsteps and included back papers for letters, articles or whatever else they could think of, which may not be a bad idea if they decide to release more stories like Jaegir, where some background on the universe could help new readers settle in.

So what about sales figures? How are these things doing? Well, truthfully, not much has been said about the latter two series’ at all, but the former has been doing well enough with Underbelly alone that that story’s entering a third printing this October, and they’re confident enough with its sequel, Uprise, which is currently running in the Megazine, that they’re releasing limited variant covers for its two issues – the first also released next month by the way – in further efforts to “test the waters”, I suppose (because these things do sell).

The somewhat negative aspect to all this is that the stories being published right now – and potentially others in the near future – are not the monthly comics of the US, but reprints collecting what are actually weekly instalments into one part. This is all fine and well for the Underbelly and Jaegir one-shots, which are very self-contained tales and paced perfectly for that number of pages, but it was never really the intention for Brass Sun to be collected in 32 page instalments, was it? It’s very much a weekly comic – just look back at the third series finished in Prog 1899 with its cliffhangers nearly every week (and while you’re at it, do the same for some of the other series’ that have been running recently too) – and much of what could next be reprinted will only be the same.

Of course, they’re not going to change the Prog to a larger monthly comic for the sake of this, so the next logical step is obviously to attract readers to the weekly comic itself, to bring them over to a style they’re unfamiliar with, perhaps done best by getting them invested in some of the series’ the comic’s ran in the past. But you can’t exactly force on it on them either by continuously releasing stories like Brass Sun not perfectly suited to monthly instalments, can you? No doubt there’s good stuff to be found that could work but then you’re also running risk of dropping new readers in the middle of nowhere like Jaegir. What might actually be an interesting experiment, come to think of it, would be to release 32 page collections of Future Shocks featuring either the writing or art of those people who went on to become hugely successful with American audiences after their work on the comic. Or you could try a different approach, and this is where IDW enters the room.

For those of you not in the know, IDW is a US publisher probably best known for their incredible Artist Editions, books which reprint entire stories with scanned pages of their original artwork in their full, glorious size, and when it comes to series’, Locke and Key and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles seem to be their most popular titles. Although I’m not sure exactly when they started working in unison with 2000AD (I could in fact swear that I’ve read their main series before in digital format years and years ago, although I could just as easily be confusing the artist with a spin-off older than IDW’s that he or she maybe also worked on?), they have a stake in the comic of their own now.

Their main emphasis is on Dredd, releasing their own line of stories that put a new spin on the universe. Frankly speaking, this is what sounds like the worst of what they’re doing, by all accounts some pretty terrible stuff that isn’t doing a good job at selling the universe. However, they’ve also been releasing issues collecting the “classics”, with brand spanking new colouring. They have…pretty…terrible covers, but at least it’s pushing stories like The Apocalypse War out to new audiences, right?

But what really seem to be doing the best job at introducing new audiences to the world – and seemingly are the best that IDW are publishing, according to most fans – are Matt Smith’s scripted takes on the character, a Year One re-imagining of Dredd’s origins, but in keeping with the spirit of the character, and now a similar concept for Anderson in a new Psi-Division series. And then there’s Douglas Wolk’s Mega City Two, the only one I have read, but one that I can tell you is absolutely amazing and well worth checking it out.

What’s great is that it’s not just Dredd getting such nice treatment. Both Rogue Trooper and Sinister Dexter are getting good attention paid to them, the former similar classics reprinted in new colour, but both entirely new series’, which are apparently pretty good. But it’s the fact that both still even exist, aren’t cancelled, that gets my hopes up for other series’ to join them in the future because let’s face it: neither of those are the best we have to offer, are they? Whatever the case, it all helps get 2000AD out to the uninitiated at the end of the day, doesn’t it? Who can complain about that?

Christ, I’ve talked this long about IDW and haven’t even mentioned the bloody fantastic hardcover collections they’ve been releasing for Dredd. For one, the re-coloured Apocalypse War has a rather nice book, and Judge Death will seemingly follow (hopefully with a less horrific cover, mind you). But the real cool ones are the Complete collections focusing on three artists: Brian Bolland, Carlos Ezquerra and Cam Kennedy. Oh yes, these are nice, and the first two even have some lovely signed, limited editions in slipcases and everything. Cor!

Actually, I lied – I didn’t forget these at all. It’s just the perfect segue I needed to talk next about 2000AD’s own selection of hardcovers that they’ve been pushing out the door.

It’s kinda funny, but somewhere in this blog, very early on I think, I complained how 2000AD were strictly all about the trade paperbacks. Those are pretty nice with their sewn binding of course – I wouldn’t have bothered mentioning a potential future blog entry if they weren’t as comfortable to read as I say – but I felt that they were really missing some attractive shelf pieces, especially books with not-shit spines, and yet was completely unaware that they actually did already have a few, with more on the way.

I won’t list them all, but from the Volgan War’s 96 page hardcovers with their overblown Clint Langley artwork with additional pages and no gutter loss whatsoever, to art books like Slaine: The Book of Scars and The Art of Judge Dredd (and it looks like we’ll be getting a Judge Dredd Sketch Book soon too, compiling unseen artwork); from the Mek Files reigning superior over the Complete Case Files and similar books with proper reproduction of the Prog’s whilst actually managing to live up to the promise of being, you know, complete, to consistent spines (I had to mention them!); and from a few signed and limited edition books to the upcoming Zenith, Brass Sun and Daily Dredd collections to decorate your shelves with in similar oversized formats of the above, 2000AD have simply never published books this bloody good before.

And if you can’t tell, I really, really want more like them, especially as many of these put the inconsistently designed paperbacks to great shame.

And, well, I may have gotten my wish. We’ve very recently found out that Hachette Partworks, a company who has been releasing two large Marvel collections for the past couple of years in fairly high quality hardcovers (considering their price), are starting a new series for the world of Judge Dredd, and oh my god, it looks amazing. It’s all well and good to recommend new fans try reading the Complete Case Files Vol. 5 first and see how they like The Apocalypse War, or to instead try America, or Origins, or even the recent Day of Chaos – because the strip is surprisingly easy to jump into at any point – but you know what’s an even better than those options? To be introduced in style, in the form of sexy hardcovers, with back papers discussing the history of the comic and its creators, with recommended further reading to help ease you in elsewhere. That is better.

Not exactly sure when these are coming out, but after some brief debating, I subscribed for the free gifts myself. They’re being given a trial run of the first four books listed on their site and here’s really hoping they take off, because I imagine if they’re successful enough, they stand an even higher chance of reaching an American audience than all of the above I’ve mentioned, simply because of that Marvel series they run.

Does all of the above cover everything?

I think so. No, wait. While I was gone the comics also went digital – the good DRM-free kind no less – and e-novellas are being released with hopefully many more to come.

Okay, I think I’ve discussed everything I set out to now.

The purpose of all I’ve talked about so far – not mine, but 2000AD’s I mean – is to really sell all the amazing and wonderful series’ outside of Judge Dredd that they have, to really attract newcomers to the weird and brilliant stories we’re so fortunate to be used to but that they’re not, and I think this opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities for the future if they can truly draw in this bigger audience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy about the state the comic’s in now, but I can’t imagine how many more talented creators would jump on board if they suddenly found out about the comic and what excellent stories and artwork these people could bring us. Nor can I imagine how much the production values of both the regular comic and the Megazine could increase by, not to mention the collected books themselves. Wishfully thinking now, if you’re jealous of Marvel and all their great films, just imagine what some of our favourite series’ could look like on the big screen.

At the end of the day, make no mistake: whatever happens – whether their attempts to reel in this different crowd are successful or not – it’s an exciting time to be a 2000AD fan and there’s simply no better time to jump on board if you’re not one already.

Taking control of my life with a little help from Fight Club

Incredibly, here is another blog entry so soon after the last. I can almost not believe it myself either, no. So of course, the fact that I’m writing this so soon to my complete disbelief means there’s one small caveat: it’s one more entry in which I talk about multiple things at once, rather than picking a topic and making it the focus for the day, crossing out the other choices in the one or two entries after. The difference this time is that, though these thoughts seem unrelated, they all came to me from reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club these past few days, having finished the majority of that novel today in my back garden in the sun.

Let me now preface this post before you go any further, because as I sit here working out what to say next I think this could end up as a weird and definitely lengthier entry than usual. It’s all there in the title. This is a post in which I’ll be talking about Fight Club; how it related to me on a personal level; and how badly it has made me want to really push forward with what I want to do with my life. Tying into the way that I felt I understood the book on a personal level, maybe I’ll also briefly mention how it’s made me think, “Fuck it, independence it is!” when it comes to the Scottish referendum in only nine days time.

If none of that sounds interesting to you then you’re best leaving now.

For those of you who are interested and still here, a refresher on my depression, which I last discussed here, is probably necessary, so skim-read that before going any further with this.

The thing I find quite fascinating about that entry is that I skim over what I call “an atomic explosion of all the emotions I had been keeping buried”, even though it’s actually pretty important. Long story short: in my first University course, I made no friends whatsoever, knew in my heart that it wasn’t what I wanted to do, told my parents, and when they didn’t believe me, exploded into messy tears that had my father crying too in private. It was an ugly situation to say the least, and the first of several mental breakdowns, leading me to an even more interesting detail I picked up on as I re-read this.

Despite having a breakdown of even bigger scale since then, and fairly recently too, it doesn’t seem like I’ve discussed that on this blog at all, even though it’s even more important. Longer story short: after these many years of depression, I recently hit the bottom of the pit when my parents finally saw through the facade I’d been hiding behind, and came rising out of it in my worst breakdown to date, loud and violent and furious at them, the world and myself; but in doing so came to accept that, yeah, I had been fucking things up for years now, but to hell with that – that shit ends now – and so came to confess to my parents that what I really wanted to do with my future was simply write, which felt great to get off my chest and since then I’ve been mostly happy. 

Weird that I didn’t talk about this on the blog though, isn’t it? Especially since I mention writing, amongst similar career choices, as part of a list I showed to my parents in my last year of high school, a list they then rejected for the most part, which I attributed to being one of the biggest roots, the source of my depression. Where I could’ve been more specific is that the list as you see it is actually in order. So I mostly wanted to be a novelist, then a comics writer or artist, and then a teacher of either English, Art, History or primary school kids.

This is all very crucial in understanding who I am.

Stay with me.

Now. Why is this recent breakdown important?

Well, it resulted me in reminding my parents of a list I wrote in high school, eventually telling them that what I’ve wanted to do most of all in my life, for as long as I can remember, is write. My reasons for this I also skim over in that blog entry, strangely enough. Vaguely I mention a small classroom of six students, actually Advanced Higher English in my last year of high school which I insisted I sit against my previous teacher’s wishes and then passed with even higher flying colours than before. Vaguely I mention two notebooks I filled with writing as a child, actually my very first attempts at writing novels, aged somewhere between seven and ten. And vaguely I mention my lifelong interest in creativity, though only name the drama classes I attended and this blog, actually having been so obsessed with more creative pursuits that I used the anonymity of the internet since I got my first computer to upload anything and everything wherever I could, these accounts with writing and art sadly forgotten or lost for the most part, and I couldn’t even tell you what could be re-discovered in the loft.

Vaguely I make this whole angry case for myself but ironically don’t face the subject head on, continuing to do exactly what I criticised myself for doing my whole life when compared to my sister, doing exactly what landed me in the whole sorry mess in the first place – fuck all.

So why writing?

No more dodging the question. 

No more dancing around a real answer.

Bite the bullet.

Put your cards on the table.

Open the fucking door. Say, come on in.

Why writing?

Because I enjoy it. Because it gives me satisfaction. Because I like words. Because I enjoy making sentences of words. Because I enjoy stories. Because I have stories of my own I want to tell. Because telling these stories through writing is the only way I know how. Because I enjoy telling these stories. Because I love my imagination. Because it’s a vast and huge and bottomless ocean of possibilities and it’s mine and no one else’s. Because this is how I’ve always felt since I first wrote and drew anything and realised each and every one of us has the capacity to do something amazing that makes us happy with our lives.

Because this is how it is.

Because I don’t want to do your boring, mundane, life-sucking job each day, you fucking vampire – I want to do what makes me goddamn happy and writing is the one thing that never fails to make me happy.

Fuck your promises of meeting me at the top of the ladder. You’d only step on my fingers when I reach the final rung. Fuck your money. It’s dirty, unclean, stained with the sweat of other hands that brought it there and I don’t want it. Fuck your rules. They’re stupid and I won’t live by them. Fuck your key to eternal happiness in exchange for a handshake and signed agreement to do what I’m told. You’re too late – I know what makes me happy.

This is my goddamn life and I won’t let you fuck it up.

So step aside because you’re in the fucking way.

None of this is meant directly at you, reader. You could be anyone, which is amazing. Me, I’m twenty two years old, but you could be fifty. Sixty. Thirty three. The same age. A teenager. Ten. A girl. A boy. Gay, straight, bisexual or asexual. Maybe you don’t even know yet.

You could be black or white. Transgender. You could be a friend or someone I don’t know and you could be from anywhere in the world. Maybe you’re Asian or maybe you’re Russian. An American, Indian, Italian. Scottish like me, or maybe English, Welsh or Irish.

Maybe you’re married or a widow or alone. Maybe you’re in your first relationship. Maybe you’ve never been in a relationship. Maybe you have lots of friends or maybe you have none. I don’t know you, so I don’t mean you any offence. 

But maybe you are living in the disillusionment that you’re doing what makes you happy, yet know in your heart that that isn’t true at all. Maybe then I’m talking to you in a way and, depending on who you are, then maybe I do mean you offence, I just don’t know.

But the most incredible possibility of all is that you could be someone who knows exactly what I’m saying, who at the moment they found this blog entry thought that it was about goddamn time they made a difference with their life. Someone who is sick to death of others holding them back or blocking their way, maybe kept on a leash like me by parents who want to raise you in their perfect image.

And maybe now you’re saying, no.

No, I won’t let you do this to me.

No.

Step aside, get out my way.

This is my life and I’ve picked which road I want to take and I will not look back.

Not for your empty promises. Not for your money stained with dirt and the sweat of hands it was passed through. Not for your shitty rules. Not for a handshake and a lie we’ll convince ourselves is true as you hand me a rusted key.

None of that means anything to me, so I won’t take it. Starting today, I’m in charge, I’m my own boss and I know what I need and I’m going to do everything in my power to get it, and if you’re against me then you either need to get out of my way or join me.

Now stop.

To cut all this ritualistic chanting short, this is what Fight Club taught me, though I suppose “brought me to terms with” is the better expression.

When I first started reading the book, I told my Facebook pals how it reminded me a great deal of some of my favourite novels, namely Trainspotting, The Outsider, The Catcher in the Rye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and more. It was therefore no surprise to me then, after finishing the book and heading to Chuck’s website, that amongst his recommended books was Trainspotting itself and a few others that hadn’t occurred to me but certainly are very similar, such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Great Gatsby.

The point is: all these books resonate with me in some way on a personal level. These are the kind I re-read many times. Hell, they’re the only kind I read at least a third or fourth time and they’re the best in the world, and now this joins their ranks.

It’s a quotable book, just as all of the above are. At the start the narrator tells us that our life is “ending one moment at a time”, that “you are not special” but “the same decaying organic matter as everything else”. Yet in the end, speaking to a doctor who he calls God, he says this: “We are not special. We are not crap or trash, either. We just are. We just are, and what happens just happens.” Although not perfectly optimistic, it’s a remarkable change in character. And lets not forget that even though the book is filled with much more cynical lines, it’s also filled with many truths too.

Take for instance his sudden idea that “maybe self-improvement isn’t the answer, maybe self-destruction is the answer” to his unchanging life. Read some of the first paragraphs of this entry and you’ll realise that I had a self-destruction of my own – a massive mental breakdown at the end of which I revealed all. Stepped behind the curtain reluctantly and angrily in the mask of someone else; came out from behind it naked and as a more honest and happier individual, my true self.

Yet like I said, I’m not perfectly happy, not yet, just as the narrator at the end of this novel doesn’t get a happily ever after either. Consumerism is a big theme of the novel and it again it’s something that struck close to home. In the past I’ve chatted to myself about buyer’s remorse on this blog, having indeed done so fairly optimistically in a post more recent than that of my depression talk, though I realise now that that was actually complete naivety on my part. If it hasn’t been obvious since that entry’s publication then let me make it clear: the amount of books I’ve purchased since then has increased tenfold. And only on Tuesday night did I make the most ridiculously huge single purchase of them all, and in finishing Fight Club the next day did I stare in horror at my bank account and realise I didn’t need any of this.

Another quote: “The things you used to own, now they own you.”

But what can you do about it? Me, I’ve shit to sell. A lot and lot of shit to sell. Shit I don’t want, shit I don’t need. It seems insanely well-timed that sometime in the near future even the house I live in will be sold and my family and I will be moving to another.

That’s the other thing you can do about it – start again. I really do quite like the idea of self-destructing and resurrecting from the ashes a new person, a more positive person, a better person. And so starting now I tend to really seize this forward thinking attitude. The total annihilation has happened, the depression’s in the past, and now I am going to do everything I fucking can towards the future I want.

Start by getting rid of the shit I don’t need and replacing them with the things I do.

Make sure I write every single day, more than now, more than ever.

Start that novel I know I want to write, see it through to a finished first draft.

Re-write those short stories I know are good and send them somewhere.

Write that Future Shock I know I can muster up and send it to 2000AD’s offices.

Sure, get rejected – but never give up.

Never stop.

You know, there’s a moment in the video game Portal 2 where the player hears the founder of Aperture Sciences, Cave Johnson, voiced by the wonderful J.K. Simmons, hilariously taking the popular phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, and turning it on its head. It’s a side-splittingly funny moment as he eventually threatens to make a combustible lemon, but he also has a point too. Furiously, he yells, “When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade – make life take the lemons back! Get mad! […] Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons!”, and though brilliantly funny, it actually makes sense too, doesn’t it?

But as tempting as it is to leave you there, with a good quote from something completely unrelated to the rest of this entry, demanding you take charge of your own life like I will of mine, I will instead end this post with a final quote from Chuck Palahniuk, probably my favourite in all of Fight Club and one which best sums up my past in relation to where I stand now. And make no mistake – a stand is what this is and I for one don’t intend to fall to my knees any time soon, and neither should you.

Take control and don’t stop until you’re bathed in that light that once seemed so far away.

“For years now, I’ve wanted to fall asleep. The sort of slipping off, the giving up, the falling part of sleep. Now sleeping is the last thing I want to do.”

 

– Jordan

Wot I’ve been up to

It’s safe to say at this point that I won’t be getting back into the consistent swing of things so easily, a further two weeks having passed since my last entry on this blog in which I listed assorted thoughts. And guess what? That’s what this entry is too. Hopefully I can discuss a specific topic next time I hop on here. As you’ll have seen from previous entries and now this one, it’s not like I haven’t been doing things. So hopefully, perhaps just maybe, I’ll hone in on a particular subject for a change.

For now, though, here’s something that’s better than nothing: a list of stuff that I’ve been a-doing in my abscence.

Playing video games has been a recent time sink once again. One game out of those I’ve been playing that I’ve seen through to its completion has been RAGE, a game I may or may not talk about in the future. After finishing it I did go to Facebook and annoy my pals with a mini-essay on my thoughts on the game overall, which is nothing unique to be honest, hence why I may not bother giving it a serious write-up. It’s basically like this: in the end, I thought it was a pretty great first person shooter / weird racing hybrid that I would heartily recommend on the sole basis that you simply have to see these incredibly designed characters and the world – but it thankfully has great gameplay too, the game only being a small let down in areas from the limitations holding this gameplay, which involves a number of surprisingly great mini-games to play between all the shooting, back from being used to its full potential. Oh yeah, and it has an ending so shit that I fear Kane and Lynch 2’s equally abrupt ending may actually be better, which is saying something.

But even though none of those thoughts are exactly unique, I may write an entry anyway, if only so I can gush over the incredibly detailed world and those characters that, though with little depth, I find much more memorable than your average video game character, simply because they’re all so well designed, perfectly voice acted and look terrifyingly real. Trust me when I say that the first friendly NPC you run into, sad, sad Dan Hagar, is a character you’re unlikely to forget any time soon after playing this.

Other characters you’re not likely to forget any time soon either can be found in Season Two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which I completed in two days. Despite some scepticism that it could best the amazing first season of that series, the developers battered my expectations to smithereens and nailed it yet again. So now I’ll have to get all doubtful about the third season instead. Anyway, although I may not write an entry on the game per se, I may do so about episodic titles in general, and what my thoughts are on them. In this title’s case, I only bought it as it went on sale with the fifth and final episode released, which is what I tend to do with all episodic games, the exception being Kentucky Route Zero, an uncompleted game of only three acts out of five, but a game I’m tempted to write an entry on on why it’s already one of my favourite games of all time.

Perhaps, too, I’d like to talk about modding as a great advantage of PC gaming, seeing as several of those games that I’m playing right now are running one or more mods. On the one hand, you have the purely aesthetic mods that bring games fully to life, such as the Absolute HD mod I’m running for Doom 3 that ups the already great atmosphere, and Ice Enhancer 3.0 that has turned GTA IV into an astonishingly beautiful thing indeed. And on the other hand you have mods that vastly improve the gameplay of some titles, and here my example would probably be the George Romero mod for State of Decay, which I wrote about to my friends, who seemed rather impressed by my description of how this and a few other smaller mods turned the game into a much more challenging survival experience.

Oh, and speaking of survival, now that I’ve been playing the alpha of a game I Kickstarted called The Long Dark, I may talk about my interest in that genre, and why it is there are so few good games in it like there are in horror. Or maybe I’ll just talk about this particular survival game, which is unique in that it doesn’t have you fighting off zombies or anything. The closest thing to an enemy just now are the wolves that roam the landscape, but it’s the weather, if you can believe it, that will really kill you, the game – of which this is the first in a series of – pitting you against a brutal winter in what I think could very possibly be a realistic manner by the time the game’s finished. It’s got a number of other realistic mechanics besides its rather smashing weather simulation, so fingers crossed that they don’t fuck this up, as I think we have a very interesting game on our hands here.

It’s not the only game I’ve been playing which I helped Kickstart – Neverending Nightmares and Interstellaria are two more. But although I’m quite happy with the latter, the former’s actually been a bit of a disappointment, though instead of being too negative, I’m waiting to see what the small team of developers can do to improve it for release before passing judgement. Anyway, as I’ve funded a few other games, maybe Kickstarter or crowdfunding in general will be another topic for another time.

Moving on from video games, I’ve been watching stuff too if you can believe it. My main focus until a few weeks ago had been The Shield, a show that I’m hoping will remain consistently good until the end, but the latest season of Doctor Who has of course started, with Peter Capaldi, one of my favourite actors of all time, taking the role. Although I’m loving his much darker Doctor compared to the previous three, I do feel like the writing is fairly inconsistent tonally, the third episode on Saturday being particularly unusual.

They clearly want to make him a much harder man to read, and they’ve had some great scenes reflecting this -my favourite of which was a scene in the first episode where the Doctor seems to recognise his new face (Capaldi’s portrayed two characters in the universe before, once in the main show, and once in Torchwood) and then breaks into a monologue about his angry-looking eyebrows, describing them as “attack eyebrows” as he gets up in a homeless man’s face and frightens him – but it appears they desperately want to keep the juvenility of previous incarnations, which I frankly don’t think is working so well, especially when trying to do an almost all-humour episode like the third in this new series. Humour’s essential to the show, of course, but I’d think that, with a character like Capaldi’s, we’d be past some of the sillier stuff, focusing instead on the sarcasm we’ve seen his Doctor use a few times already instead, a sense of humour much more in line with his grumpier personality.

Then again, Moffat couldn’t make it to the end of the first episode without dropping to his hands and knees and seemingly begging the female side of the fan base not to abandon the show because they’ve replaced Tenant and Smith with someone much older. Yeah, that was a pretty terrible scene, the kind of thing that displays a lack of confidence in my eyes. For fuck’s sake, please don’t do that again.

Criticisms aside – and I could make some more, like how utterly pointless the dinosaur was in the first episode – I’ll continue watching. I may not be as big a fan as my dad or sister, but I do enjoy the show quite a lot. And it looks the fourth episode is a horror one, my favourites, so I’ll be seeing how that goes.

Finally, I’ve been reading, also shockingly enough. At long last I completed the Harry Potter series and…well, I’m not sure I enjoyed it. Although I suggested it would be something I’d write an entry about, I’m not entirely sure I will, as I’d frankly, and rather harshly, not wish to spend any more time on it. Indeed, I told my Facebook friends how I deleted the long rant I’d been writing in favour of what was basically: “It was all kind of crap in the end.” Apart from getting kids like me into reading at an early age, I’m honestly not sure what the big deal about the series is. It’s predictable; often very boring; poorly written a lot; and often frustrating. Although I never found this annoying, the friend I wrote annotations for on George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series once confessed that he found it irritating how whole pages could be spent by the author talking about food. This makes me wonder how he’d feel about seven whole books spent by nearly an entire cast of characters calling a shitty villain You-Know-Who or He Who Must Not Be Named. Fucking terrible.

Oh fuck it, let’s move on before I can’t control myself and burst into a rant. Having just finished this quite recently, I’m now reading Fight Club, which is a great fucking book. Not sure I’ll talk about it though, if only because I feel like I’d need to write an essay or two explaining the different ways in which it’s really quite brilliant. It is, however, one of those books written from the interesting perspective of a protagonist with a unique voice; and it’s also one of those books with such clear intent, both at being layered with more than one meaning, and with the intention too of making you ponder the questions it raises; and I love both of these things in a book. It reminds me of Trainspotting, The Catcher in the Rye and the only Cormac MacCarthy book I’ve read so far, No Country For Old Men, all at once, which I did not expect. I dunno. Maybe something to talk about, maybe not. I highly recommend reading it though.

As for comics, sure, I’ve been reading ’em; but what I’ve actually found is that my collection is growing at an alarming rate such that I’ve other stuff besides 2000AD to pay for, thankfully at least on a monthly basis. Oh, and speaking of monthly payments, 2000AD’s leading character, Judge Dredd is getting a partworks collection, which is pretty fucking great. The company that are publishing the books (only four at first, and more if it takes off) have done the same for Marvel in the past and I own a few of these. They’re well worth it, being surprisingly high quality hardcovers with unseen extras, also the confirmed case here. That they come in these nice hardcovers is what’s really sold me, despite owning many of these Dredd stories being collected already in one book or another. Indeed, if there’s one problem with 2000AD’s line of books, it’s that there simply isn’t enough hardcovers. The trade paperbacks are of great quality and all, putting the likes of bigger companies such as DC to shame, but they’re horribly designed and stick out very poorly on a shelf. So a well designed collection like this with even greater paper stock is right up my alley. Here’s hoping they’re a success.

And I think that will wrap up this post. God, I shudder to think how long it’s been – I can’t see the word count on WordPress’ slightly new design for writing these posts. But that’s not bad for an hour, is it? Hopefully quite promising of more to come, and perhaps then on a more regular basis. Until next time then.