Thursday, 21 July 2011

Crazy Experimental Japanese Animation: OORUTAICHI - Hamihadarigeri

My buddy Ralph Kidson shared this fanatasic Japanese animation with me. It's brilliant! Underground Comix sensibilities and superb experimental music! WOW!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Amazing Animations! Chad VanGaalen

Chad VanGaalen - Peace on the Rise (OFFICIAL VIDEO) from Sub Pop Records on Vimeo.

Two great psyechedelic animation music videos, which are like animated Underground Comix!

Chad VanGaalen "Molten Light" from Sub Pop Records on Vimeo.

Friday, 15 July 2011

One Dead Hen by Charlie Williams: Book Review

One Dead Hen is the fourth book set in the small, grim northern town of Mangel. The backdrop is a typical send up of a small working class town, where prosperity left a long time ago. Boredom and frustration, a fear of change, busy bodies and gossips, petty criminals, mean and stubborn judgemental types. All is rife in Mangel along with many distinct characters.

I heartily recommend, if you haven't already, reading the other three books first, starting with the excellent 'Dead Folk' which establishes many characters who appear in this book. The protagonist of these stories (who also narrates) is Roy Blake or 'Blakey'; an ageing ex club doorman who has now retreated from the world and has hit on hard times, although he has his own ways of convincing himself otherwise.

Blakey is a brilliant comedic anti-hero; unable to see what goes on right under his nose, confused, delusional with a hair trigger temper, overly sensitive, macho, clumsy, a fantasist, and simply not too bright. At times he is a sympathetic oaf or underdog with visions of grandeur, but he also switches to the hulking thug, who when riled, doesn't know his own strength. He is also a dangerous character with a much darker side, with more skeletons in his closet than a killer from Narnia. Blakey is unpredictable and events sometimes trigger him into homicidal rage, hallucinatory mental illness or reliving past trauma. But Blakey is a survivor, and no matter what life throws at him he always seems to wriggle free and come back for more. “If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough” as the country song goes.

At the start of One Dead Hen, we glean from an article from Mangel's local newspaper, that a serial killer is on the loose, decapitating women and taking their heads, and the police are non the wiser. The book is interspersed with these informative local rag pieces which not only amuse with their amateur journalist commentary, but also help the reader piece together what is really going on (as Blakey doesn't have a clue).

Blakey also discovers from Doug the shopkeeper (a recurring character like many of the 'old guard' in Mangel), that a mysterious and 'classy' woman (from Blakey's past) is trying to track him down.

When Blakey is called in for questioning as a murder suspect, he meets a new D.I. from the city, who has different ideas than the yokel bobbies. Inspired by this meeting and also by watching hours of TV cop shows (Miami Vice and The Sweeney being two of his favs), Blakey decides he will solve the Mangel Murders on his own and become a police detective.

As he tears through his surroundings like a bull in a china shop, Blakey's “investigations” force him to cross paths with Nathan; the owner of the 'Paul Pry', Mangel's unfriendlisest pub. Nathan, a recurring character, is sinister and extremely devious, a sly authoritarian who seems to know everything that goes on in the town, and who tries to manipulate all who he encounters. Blakey, who secretly fears the pub landlord (although would never admit it) aims to ask him who is behind the murders. But as always, with Nathan, any help given requires a huge cost in return...

The books are rich with humour, mostly due to the matter-of-fact way that Blakey tells the story, his phrasing, and the way he often understates things. But the humour is often twisted and dark, sometimes pitch-black, and the story can quickly turn from the absurd to the serious and outright horrific.

In this book it is the lead women characters who bring the sobriety into the plot and who try to reveal to Blakey what is really going on, which Blakey, being Blakey, cannot get his head around.

Williams plays with satire, stereotypes, and at times even slapstick, but then unsettles the reader by bringing in elements of gritty realism or grisly horror. Simply put, the author has the ability to tickle your funny bone one moment, before quickly cutting into your marrow the next.

I found One Dead Hen to be, after all the humour and antics, the bleakest and most nihilistic of the books so far; Mangel no longer seems like the laughable town from hell, but now hell itself, and anyone who stays too long is either damned, cursed or slightly demonic to begin with. It's a place where innocence and hope is slowly strangled from all those who stay (or return).

The book digs deep into Britain's rural psyche, as folk horror and old superstitions are added to the contemporary mix of a town whose inhabitants are literally going nowhere.

The end of the book packed a deliberate and devastating gut punch. Williams makes it painfully clear that Mangel is a place where dreams are crushed, opportunities missed, and that the outcomes and pay-offs you'd like to see rarely happen. In that way the book is unsettling and all the more real. 

There's also something excruciatingly painful and tragic in the way that Blakey exercises poor judgement, is distracted when someone is relaying revelatory information to him, or when he trusts the wrong people. The reader may be banging their heads against the table or shouting “Oh Blakey no, no, no!”. But at least the bouncer sleuth is mostly oblivious to these facts.

The author has taken a bolder stride with this volume, as he shows that Mangel is largely a corrupt man's world, a crumbling fortress of chauvinism and misogyny. Blakey himself is positively unsympathetic at moments in this book, his usual forgiveable frustrating stupidity replaced with downright callousness and hypocrisy at times regarding those who are close to him. It is these changes that make you care about other characters, such as Rachael; a true friend to Roy who sees the good him in, and the little boy within the lummox, but now, for once, she is the one who needs his help. Blakey however appears to be a character more lost and further from redemption than ever before.

The finale leaves things open for a fifth book, and no doubt after this one, I will be eager to see what happens next, but I will proceed with caution...I think my laughter will now be tinged with nervous anticipation, daring not to hope that those deserved of good luck will have better fortune, and those beyond contempt will meet some kind of karmic justice. In Mangel's world it's not wise to hang on to such hopes.... Still, on the bright side, Alvin's Kebab shop apparently does the best doner and chips you've tasted. Proper chips mind.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Review: Cold Sweat Day Dreams by Jonathan Ridley

This is a nicely produced and very unique self-published book. A4 size, perfect bound, 64 pages, quality printing. If you're not familiar with Jonathan's work, then you're in for a treat. To my mind, the talented Mr Ridley is producing some of the most original and interesting work in UK underground comics.

Like all good Underground Comix artists, Ridley does what he wants. This collection skips around genres and styles like a half-man, half-kangaroo mutant playing hopscotch.

The art has a lot of influences but remains it's own boss; there's doses of outsider art, satirical cartoons and caricature, and underground comix sensibilities, and some nice painting here and there.

The first three stories revolve around the themes of seaside tourist towns, although don't expect cheery family fun and postcard humour, this is a much darker trip.
In "Summertime" a family go and visit such a town in search of fun. Instead they pass by and interact with various seedy and disturbed characters; the just-released-from prison skinhead psychopath who acquires a job dressing up as a giant ice cream. The haggered, dried-up racist old crone who wheels herself around casting scorn and spitting vitriol wherever she goes. The burberry hatted chav gangs; skulking around the arcades up to no good. And I won't go into the horrors of the arm wrestler... The story ends with a great surreal twist, which finishes off this wordless and funny dark comedy very nicely.

"All Punched Out" is a twisted tale of Dave, an alcoholic Punch & Judy puppeteer whose wife has been having a string of sordid encounters with men, of which he is painfully aware. After acting out his marital problems with his puppets to a family audience whilst shitfaced, Dave loses his job and returns to his caravan early to discover his wife in bed with his best friend, a particularly sleazy clown. This scene has a particularly funny moment, where Dave gets slapped around the face with a prosthetic cock.

Needless to say, this does not bode well for Dave, and he quickly spirals down into a pit of alcohol abuse and psychosis, where his projections onto his puppets go one step further with terrible results... If you're a fan of League Of Gentleman or Psychoville, then you'll really enjoy this black comedy horror show.

My favourite strip of the book is "The Knotts Family", a startling real-life tale of John's experiences of being sent off to boarding school at the age of 8, and being placed in the 'care' of The Knotts clan; a bunch of cruel and sadistic bullies, who run the school as a fearful fascistic regime. They inflict brutal mental and physical abuse on the children, particulary the weaker and more sensitive ones. Jonathan brings this story home really well in a personal yet matter of fact way; he does not look for sympathy, nor rage with anger anymore, rather the comic seems like a cathartic process and also a rude awakening to the viewer of how institutional child abuse can go on for years totally undetected by adults. What is also impressive is that Jonathan did this as a 24 hour comic, and manages to pack so much raw storytelling into it's pages.

Other strips include the third of the seaside strips; a more serious approach to showing the lost and damaged souls he observes, an untitled story set in a post-apocalyptic world which includes a giant predatory mutant bird, and a macabre tale which is reminiscent of Victorian horror-meisters, classic Hammer and in places has the gargoylish qualities of  Rory Hayes' horror work... All in all, a great collection!

You can view Cold Sweat Dreams in it's entirity and also checkout sample pages of Jonathan's upcoming graphic novel "Knotts" (at much longer & more in depth exploration of his boarding school years) here

The Shit Ship EDL: "Star Jerks"

So here's a cartoon I've just completed for Def Homo- sapien's blog "Star Jerks" which is a sci-fi parody of the EDL (the English Defence League). For those who don't know, the EDL is a neo-nazi group who hate islam (members are made up of soccer hooligans, BNP, National Front, Combat 18, Northern Irish paramilitary terrorists, and perversely, with support from right-wing zionist/ pro-israel groups)... Unfortunately many of it's members are not very bright, and actually believe they are not racist, that they're just typical englishmen standing up for their country by getting drunk, wearing england football shirts and marching and shouting moronic hatespeak at anyone who crosses their path. For those not familiar with the UK, Stella Artois is a rather nasty lager which is nicknamed "Wife Beater". I thought it would be fun if the U.S.S EDL was powered by Inta-Stella "Wife Beater" Warp Drives.... The Muzlamic ray guns reference applies to a very funny youtube video where an EDL member is interviewed by a TV reporter which you can watch here. Def's intro to the blog parodies the original Star Trek intro: "Race! We make it a big deal! These are the demos of the shit ship EDL; Its ongoing decision, to go on a march. To violently harass innocent women and children. To boldly give it all that, before running quickly away..."

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Onanistic Horror!!!

I presume this month's funny old comic cover illustrates the "sensation" of masturbating under the influence of particularly strong psychedelic drugs whilst riddled with Catholic guilt... See how his own subconscious is so disgusted at his sinful pleasures, it's made him think that his own hand will kill him (the finger chaps look a bit like angry and judgemental catholics too). I've heard of the term "beating the meat" but this takes the biscuit! May this be a warning to all you sex and drug crazed beatnik deviants out there... DON'T DO IT!!!