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Tom’s fault

Brian Hibbs

I haven’t been writing lately for maybe a million reasons: been lazy; Ben’s started school again, throwing my schedule back into adjustment; Mercury is in retrograde; I fucked up in posting something, and have been gunshy since; trying to focus on my actual business (the one that makes me money); I’m just not feeling oh so much of the current output of my biggest partners; I’m just a very very bad man — take your pick, they’re all part of it.

I’ve actually mused on “shutting down” this site — well, I wouldn’t get rid of it altogether, but maybe it’s time to admit that hoping that people will write for free (since advertising pays about $20/year to each contributor) doesn’t really fit the internet in 2010. I dunno.

(though, Jeff and Graeme’s podcasts are pretty awesome, damn it)

But Spurgeon “called us out” today, and made me feel bad enough about it that I thought I should at least post SOME kind of review while I try and figure out how to get my groove back, so here is a trio of books from this week…

5 DAYS TO DIE #1 (OF 5)

HEROIC AGE ONE MONTH TO LIVE #1 (OF 5)

Ah, here’s to synchronicity: two weekly five issue mini-series that share a common theme spelled out in the titles, arriving exactly the same week (in a five Wednesday month)

Before I talk about content, let me note that weekly almost-anythings are not the greatest sales idea in the current climate — absent some sort of retailer protection (like partial returnability or the like), such things are utterly and completely doomed to have insignificant orders and support, and almost certainly aren’t going to make them up in reorders because of the mechanical realities for most retailers in restocking. Because of how we do reorders, there’s basically no chance of me getting restock on a (theoretical) sellout of #1 before #3 arrives, and FOC (in the case of the Marvel series) doesn’t work either because we’re currently FOCing #4 this week… and #1 has been on sale for (as I type this) 41 minutes now.

Plus, most retailers really don’t like or want mini-series, especially short short ones like 5 issues — we have every expectation that the collection on these is going to come much sooner than later, so why stock any inventory on the periodical? There’s no real way to make any money of it, especially on a weekly series (see previous para)

In the case of Marvel’s, specifically, I also want to call out how the book was solicited — as “HEROIC AGE ONE MONTH TO LIVE #1 (OF 5)”. The actual object that shipped? No HA branding anywhere to be seen, and it is suddenly called “1 Month 2 Live” (thanks, Twitter!), which really scans as a Long-I “live”, and sounds more like a popstar live tour than anything else. When checking in the books yesterday afternoon, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t find the book on the invoice (alphabetically “1” comes before the letter “o”… let alone the letter “h”) — it took me a couple of minutes to puzzle out what the original title should have been.

Anyway, yeah, same basic premise involved in these two books — a guy living an unhappy life finds out he’s terminal, must figure out a way to deal with that.

In the IDW version, we’ve got a pulpy crime take — Writer Andy Schmidt gives us the hardboiled stuff, and Artist Chee goes all monochrome with it (though, really, the book is in color, just seldom more than one per page), but I found my credibility strained from post-diagnosis moment one — the protagonist is told he has five days to live, IF he stays in bedrest; otherwise he’s likely to die faster. Plus, if that wasn’t enough he has whiplash too. So of course he gets into a physical altercation in under 5 minutes, and is shown in a violent shootout later that day… but to no ill effects.

More generally, I wonder how often someone is told they have a month or under to live when they have no symptoms otherwise — the IDW take at least gives a somewhat plausible explanation of a car accident, but we’re meant to beleive in the Marvel take that he’s had terminal cancer for a while, just didn’t know it. That doesn’t actually happen, does it?

The Marvel version, which will, strangely, have five different creative teams over the five issues (say goodbye to a satisfying TP read, then!) is, this issue, by Rick Remender and Andrea Mutti. Remender’s script is unremarkable, but moves things along briskly, and Mutti’s art is very “Marvel house style”: reminding me of, mm, Paul Ryan, maybe. Because it is a Marvel comic, in the Marvel Universe, of course the protagonist gets superpowers (from, ahem, being force-fed medical waste by central-casting junkie/robbers) — though, in a pretty uncanny bit of plothammering, one of the robbers turns out to be working for the “big bad”, and doesn’t realize he’s hunting for the protagonist…

Both comics were competant, if uninspiring, but I think I liked the marvel one a smidge more — in the IDW one I just couldn’t get past the in-an-accident-gets-up-and-is-fine staging, while that’s a fairly natural superhero trope. Plus the Marvel one was a bit denser of a read. But they’re both, essentially, OK stories.

NAMOR, THE FIRST MUTANT #1: So, here’s the thing: if you want a monthly ongoing regular comic series to work (and this is billed as a monthly, ongoing book, not a mini), then you need to introduce your protagonist clearly, establish a goal (or goals) for them, and show us thier supporting cast and world so that we have a reason to want to come back for the next issue (and the next FIFTY after that!)

What you kind of don’t want it to do is start off in the middle of another crossover, and spend all of your time dealing with what appear to be unimportant plot points from that crossover while not really establishing anything about your protagonist whatsoever.

Like: what’s all that (in the title) about Namor being “the first mutant”? That’s not mentioned or referenced especially in the text, nor does it seem to be particularly relevent to anything that’s going on in the actual plot. I mean, you and I know what they mean by that, because we’ve been reading comics forever, but I can’t imagine what a theoretical “new” reader would make of the supposed setup here at all.

If you haven’t read X-Men comics in the last few weeks, I’m not sure that you’d get what Namor’s doing, or why it would be important — he’s trying to get Dracula’s severed head? Why? THIS comic doesn’t tell you.

The “supporting cast”, such as it is here (I can’t name one character involved, less than 8 hours after reading it) are generally unlikable, and don’t like/respect Namor at all, who is portrayed, as usual, as a complete asshole, anyway.

While the art by Ariel Olivetti is terrific (as usual), I can not, for the life of me, understand who this book might be aimed at, other than absolute X-completists who will feel compelled to buy it because of the word “mutant” in the title.

(which, by the way, even Marvel doesn’t seem sure what the book is called — the indicia and cover agree on “Namor: the First Mutant”, but the “next issue” page seems to believe it is called “X-Men: Curse of the Mutants — Namor”)

Either way, as a discrete unit of entertainment, this was, well, EH, I guess, since I’m not hot on utterly unlikable protagonists; as the first issue of a monthly, ongoing series? AWFUL.

VERONICA #202: There’s a new cute boy in town… and he’s GAY! That’s pretty much all there is to this, other than lots of characters trying to trick/punish Ronnie for her vapid selfishness. Which is fine.

There’s really not much in the comic about being gay… which is really probably fine, given the target audience of Archie comics. Really, I am more interested in the possible socialogical ramifications of “America’s Most Wholesome Teen” comics having a gay character WHERE IT IS NO BIG DEAL.

It shouldn’t BE a big deal, duh, obviously, but if I had to point to one thing in the whole universe that makes me think that all fifty states will recognize Gay Marraige in my lifetime, I might offer this as Exhibit One — the absolute and complete casualness that everyone (well, except Ronnie, but that’s because she’s frustrated she can’t get at Archie through the new kid) accepts and welcomes the gay character suggests to me that the cultural shift already happened, and it is just a matter of time before the laws of our land catch up to it.

The problem with the comic, to me, is that the New Gay Kid, Kevin Keller, really doesn’t seem to have much going for him characterwise. In fact, they make the really really weird decision to have his most notable characteristic to be precisely that of Jughead — he can eat a whole lot (but, I guess, not get fat) — in fact, he has several eating contests with Juggie to really underline that. Oh, and I guess he likes texting (presumably to his boyfriend, but it is underplayed) Ultimately, I don’t see where this character goes next, or what role he plays that Jughead couldn’t handle just fine.

I’m so not the target audience for this — I’d personally call it pretty EH — but I have to admit that Archie has got me looking at more Archie comics in the last year than I’ve read in the prvious decade, combined, so they must be doing something right Mamoroneck…

That’s what I have for you today, Tom — as always, what did YOU think?

-B

58 Responses to “ Tom’s fault ”

  1. PLEASE!If you shut down the site do not let it take the podcast with it!

    That is all.

    Thank you.

  2. “…but we’re meant to beleive in the Marvel take that he’s had terminal cancer for a while, just didn’t know it. That doesn’t actually happen, does it?”

    Yeah, it does. Pretty frequently in fact.

  3. But what will I obsessively check while “working”? You can’t shut down the site Brian – there are very few I laugh out loud at (its OK – I’m in “charge” at the place I “work”).

    Seriously though, Savage Critics has entertaining, smart reviews, critiques, etc. without sounding snobby/full of shit/holier than thou/fanboy crazy. And most of the people responding do as well. Most.

    Its a good group – please keep it up. Now get yer kid to school, make some money at your store, and let’s make fun of some of the Man’s “literature”.

    Oh, and sorry DC stomped on your balls about the Superman post.

    Double oh, thanks for the great reviews (even though all featured protagonists are either dead or homos. Can I still say “homos”? Its really just shorthand for homosapiens).

  4. I’d super appreciate it if people would have any conversations they might want to have here, out in the open — I’ve gotten like a dozen emails about this one, and while I appreciate people speaking up, this isn’t something that needs or really wants private conversation.

    The site *isn’t* shutting down, I’ve just mused, and to myself at that up until this moment.

    For Pete:

    Fair enough, then — I’ve thankfully never encountered a situation where an otherwise healthy-seeming person is suddenly told they’ll die in a short time frame… outside of movies. Hope I never do, either!

    -B

  5. You’re right, Brian–you don’t go from completely healthy to dead from cancer in one month. There may be persons that have received a cancer diagnosis and died a month later but I guarantee you they were already sick or had some kind of symptoms.

    Incidentally, I don’t know if the comics makes this clear, but the USA Today article I read states that the character’s new powers mutate an existing undetected cancer thus explaining the short time frame.

  6. Hey, I sent one of those dozen emails! I just wanted to say, “Go Team Savage Critics!” I stop by at least once a day because I am lonely– I mean, I am sad– I mean, because I love the site and reviews so much and am always looking for new ones, whether they show up daily or weekly or biweekly. If I were a millionaire I would set up a special fund to pay a regular salary to Abhay, Tucker and Jog to make fun of and/or review superhero comics here more often.

  7. My uncle was diagnosed with cancer just after thanksgiving and died before Christmas — he had been feeling a little crappy beforehand, but was happy and active. Doctors said they had never seen such as aggressive case. So not, sadly, impossible.

    The writers for this site are the Expendables of comics. They all have their own sites or have vanished, like Hyacinth. Keep the parts that work!

  8. I feel it incumbent on me to say that my previous post is based on the understanding that “feeling fine” and “being healthy” do not necessarily go hand in hand.

  9. Bring on new reviewers! This isn’t the JLA – a core Big Seven that’s otherwise unrecognizable – this is the, uh, Avengers, where anyone can join as long as there’s a Cap or Thor around (Iron Man’s still a dick).

  10. Absolutely bring on new reviewers. For whatever reason the contributors have moved on to other projects. Keep Graeme and Jeff, of course. Let Tucker and Abhay pipe up whenever they feel like it, link or re-direct to Uzumeri and Wolk, let the others (I’ve never seen others but I assume they exist by their nifty icons) go onto an archive page.

    I’m sure you’ll have no lack of reviewers auditioning but I’ll toss my hat in for sure. How’s that for an unsolicited (unwanted?) application?

  11. I’ve been following the Savageness since the CompuServe forum days, and it’s been a little sad at how the reviews have fallen by the wayside. I honestly don’t mean it critically, since it’s free and all, but when the last month has been nothing but shipping lists and ads for Podcasts…well, that doesn’t exactly make for destination surfing.

    What do I miss? I used to love the actual Savage Critiques (Amazing Spider-Man EH, Superman CRAP, etc.). A quick list of fast takes with a few comments tossed in for the truly good or awful books went a long way in the old days. I don’t require essays every time (not that I require anything at all), but I do trust your judgment (and that of a couple of other reviewers here), so warnings about Crap or exultations of hidden treasures are much appreciated.

    Again, I know it’s free. I know nothing is owed at all. I just enjoy reading critiques of people whose judgment I trust–long or short form.

  12. It’s not like the current guys are the ones who make this site. Those guys make their OWN sites, or other sites where they actually get paid. If that’s where their priorities lay, then frankly they’re not worth it. If Savage Critics is just charity to them, we’re better off without find.

    What this site needs is people who love for the medium trumps monitary concerns and motivates them enough to write in a weekly format.

    It really shouldn’t be that hard.

  13. Gah, that post was full of errors that don’t make any sense. It’s been a long day.

  14. I think you’re being terribly unfair, Michael, but I have a small, ever so slightly problematic suggestion:

    Customers.

    You all saw that fillum from the FP store in NYC, right? A series of vox pops covering what people were there to buy, how they approached their collecting, etc.. I thought it was an interesting, even charming study of the habits of “real” comics readers.

    You could rip that off!

    I mean, this is, at least in some way, an online extension of a real-world comic shop, right? Shipping lists, contact information, retailer diaries, etc.. Why not extend that, with customer reviews?

    How you would organise such a thing, I don’t know – some kind of bookstore-style comment cards, maybe (transcribed during hours twenty-five and twenty-six of a twenty-four hour day, obviously!) – but even a scribble on a postcard snapped on a cameraphone (arglebargleredbullnursemepills) and uploaded here would be a start.

    …or possibly a stop. Or a gimmick. Or fun! Hooray?

    //\Oo/\\

  15. I really do understand time constraints…especially with a young child around. These days with a two year old and both my wife and I working full time, I don’t have time to READ more than a couple comics a day. Heck, as much as my younger self would hate to admit it, there are weeks when I don’t even finish the small pile I buy these days. I can’t imagine trying to raise a wee one, exercise, work full time, cook AND writing a review of all the comics that come out in a week.

    I can understand the thought of shutting things down–I mean this is essentially a free service which doesn’t really drive much business to your store. It does provide some level of internet presence, though.

    No real solution–though it would be interesting to start a topic on the blog where the readers could put their own reviews. Something like ‘DC THIS WEEK’ with a list of titles that the readers can throw their reviews in the response section. You could also tag your one word, Savage critique on them to get discussion going.

  16. It’s shameless self-promotion, but I too would review for The Savage Critics for free, should you ever consider shaking up the roster. For sheer love of the game. If we’re using the Avengers analogy, I can be Justice or Firestar. ;-)

    Justin Giampaoli
    13 Minutes
    http://www.thirteenminutes.blogspot.com

    Senior Reviewer
    Poopsheet Foundation
    http://www.poopsheetfoundation.com

  17. The Veronica review gave me a flashback to Chasing Amy…

    That’s just one reason I’m throwing my hat in and saying you guys should stick around. Also: Abhay.

  18. Basically, if Paul O’Brien can do this every week, and do it amazingly well, there’s no excuse for SC having almost a dozen reviewers and not one approaching O’Brien quality and consistency.

  19. “If that’s where their priorities lay, then frankly they’re not worth it. If Savage Critics is just charity to them, we’re better off without find.”

    Duuuude!
    Fair play to the guys – if you write about comics for a couple of sites, the one’s that pay are going to get priority, even if they love the one that doesn’t – that’s life.

    “there’s no excuse for SC having almost a dozen reviewers and not one approaching O’Brien quality and consistency.”

    Abhay is consistent in his quality and consistently inconsistent on when and what he posts.

  20. I don’t understand why not paying contributors wouldn’t work for the internet in 2010. To my mind, the internet devalues content. Because of the internet, people in the arts work for less. I’m not saying that’s right. I think it’s awful. But I think people chomping at the bit, saying they’ll write reviews for the site if you ask, explains why that occurs.

    I would discourage bringing on new reviewers. The people assembled currently are some of the best. Partly, that might be the cause of the scarcity of content. I would rather read reviews than listen to a podcast of people talking about comics, or that thing on Techland where Graeme and Douglas talk about comics in a chat style format. But I understand that reviews are hard to write, especially if you are holding yourself to a higher standard than a lot of other people on the internet seem to hold themselves to. Being considered “the best” means you can’t just throw snap judgments out there- Even though I would love that as I think their tastes largely align with my own.

  21. Brian N

    What do we really like these sites for?

    The best is subjective as is ANY review of material. Those assembled can pass the material through more lenses but at what point do you determine the value of that opinion when it is A) rare and B) in a format not to your liking?

    I would argue that a paucity of material is a cardinal sin.

    This site has that problem.

    I love the podcast but I need a car trip or some in depth yard work to enjoy it. I like the occasional Abhay rant and I love Brian’s shipping list. It helps me organize my week. But for the “comic review” fix this site just doesn’t fit that description right now.

    It’s not up to Brian to harangue and get these critics to write material for his site. If anything, if Brian feels like it, I think Savage Critics should turn itself into a freelance site which he edits. Send it to him, if he prints it then have fun in the comments section. If he doesn’t, better luck next time.

    Or let the site develop into something else entirely. Who says it needs to be what it was – if you follow my thinking. Next evolution and alla that.

  22. “I would argue that a paucity of material is a cardinal sin.”

    Exactly. Even Graeme’s measely two-paragraph accounts of each large chunk of Claremont’s X-Men were better than nothing, as it encouraged discussion about the material.

    What strikes me as sad is that Brian seems more willing to let the site whither and shut it down than to address the main problem – that there isn’t enough material – and actually do anything to correct it. He’s so determined to keep Savage Critics as “The Site Where Abhay Occasionally Posts” that he doesn’t seem to realize the addition of new reviewers won’t have any effect on whether or not Abhay decides to post. If anything, I’d think getting weekly reviewers would make the others feel guilty for slacking so badly (and if not, well, it’s not like they could post any less frequently).

  23. The one thing I expect, NAY, am ENTITLED to, is FREE and TIMELY internet content!

  24. Seth,

    I’m starting to think the only thing I’m entitled to is that snarky response. Yes, just throw up your hands. It’s all for nothing.

    “No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

    Savage Critics drew me in with content, a good comments thread here and there, and interesting people with opinions I respected.

    Savage Critics keeps me coming back in the hope I find that from time to time.

    Is it wrong of me to want more of that? Wrong to even think I might contribute some of that?

    All this supposes that Brian wants to do this – to ride herd on a pack of people with varying and strongly expressed opinions – when he’s got kids to raise and a business to run etc etc.

  25. nothing lasts forever.

  26. What strikes me as sad is that Michael Aronson bitches and moans whenever one of the Savage Critics (usually Abhay) writes something that isn’t tailored personally to his tastes, and then he throws just as much of a hissy fit when there are no reviews at all. And when there ARE reviews, he hijacks those comment threads to whine about how there aren’t any reviews anymore. And it never seems to occur to him that most of the writers for this site do it as a hobby
    and they have much more important concerns than whether he is satisfied with the frequency and content of their posts.

    If anything, I’d think getting weekly reviewers would just provide Michael Aronson more opportunities to gripe about how they aren’t writing down to his level.

  27. HERE’S A REVIEW FOR YE:

    Clint: IT IS OKAY. But it doesn’t really solve any of the problems with resepct to the lack of original British comics on the newsagent’s shelves. It’s reprints (or preprints, in the case of Kick-Ass 2) plus *some* first-run comics. And for £4, I got Turf, Nemesis and a little bit of Kick-Ass 2, which is about £3 less than I would have spent on the individual comics, even if I was interested in buying them, and I kind of wasn’t, really.

    The first comics I’ve read by Mark Millar in about two years, Nemesis is so utterly overpowered by his dialogue style. The art was very nice, but the spectacle left me cold. The reliance on wide panels – especially on the page in the shop, where there was a lovely opportunity to do two half-sized panels, which would’ve given the sequence a nice rhythm – didn’t help. And the President was a white guy! How 2008!

    I tell you, though, having been really pleasantly surprised by the Kick-Ass movie (and having not read the book), I was not disappointed by the, okay, it was a bit eye-rolly, sequel intro strip.

    The articles were pure filler, the interview with Jimmuy Carr aside. They coulda put more comics in there! More comics by people who aren’t on the telly! Plus, there was a moment of casual racism in one of the pieces that I found jarring and regrettable.

    I like comics, and I like buying the Simpsons/Futurama reprint magazine when I’m on the road, or SAD EMOTICON, even though I find them a bit rubbish and too expensive. These comics are like Burger King – lots of empty calories, but low emotional commitment. I can see myself treating CLINT the same way – it is great value for money, even if I didn’t really cotton to a lot of the content. Oh! Do you shit? This would be a good book to shit to! (/Stewart Lee (who should be writing for this book))

    BEST THING: I bought it in the (nationally-dominant chain) supermarket, about six minutes from this kitchen what I am typing to you from, and not the newsagent, which closes early, or the comic shop, which is over forty-two minutes from here. The girl on the till looked at the cover like she didn’t know what it was, and why should she? But it was the cover, not the cunt joke. So, BIG TICK.

    HAPPY NOW.

    //\Oo/\\

  28. I would love to not pay for Matthew Craig reviews on this site.

  29. That was a one-off, J-Dawg! I have no interest in talking about other people’s glories,* or writing anything that doesn’t get me closer to my own comics empire!

    (* – the actual reason I gave to my tutor when, on inquiring about doing Ancient DNA work, he said I should really be writing for New Scientist, on account of how awesome I was at writing about the Science of Jurassic Park. He actually said “if I was your Dad,” which was just freaky…)

    Stream-of-consciousness comments and occasional outbursts of coruscating profanity it is, then.

    //\Oo/\\

  30. No no-pfarthings for you, then.

  31. OK, so I’m coming in late, I have nothing to add about the continuation/demise of the Savage Critics, and I could probably find this out elsewhere, but: Since when is Namor a mutant? I thought he was a hybrid, which isn’t the same thing. Marvel has so debased the term mutant – which has an actual, biological meaning – that I don’t think it means anything for them but “individual with cool powers who didn’t get them through a serum, an accident, or technology.”

  32. “/Stewart Lee (who should be writing for this book))”

    Has Stewart Lee written comics? He’s not a big name over here, but I found myself really obsessed with his stand-up at the beginning of this year, at least the stuff that I could find on youtube– his later stuff, especially that special that concludes with the apple store sketch. He just did a podcast with Marc Maron about a month ago, too. Has he done anything for comics over there, 2000AD or whatever? I remember seeing that thing he did on one of those Charlie Brookers show on genre television, those British teen horror shows in that psuedo-review of Skins he did; seems like he’d be up for it.

    Jimmy Carr, though…??? Well, I guess not everything translates… (What I’ve seen of Jonathan Ross has been o-kay– he doesn’t seem very consistent though. I got his comic when it came out– still on my to-read pile though).

    Carr’s a quiz show guy, too, right? I don’t get your whole quiz show thing, either– I kinda like the Rob Brydon show ABOUT the quiz shows a *little*, but… I don’t think we really have those over here.

    Is there anything besides Thick of It going on sitcomwise over there that’s at all impressive? I couldn’t get into Gavin & Stacy– that’s the last thing I remember getting a lot of hype…? I heard that the new Jessica Hynes was good, Lizzie & Sarah, but I haven’t made time for it; plus, I’m way behind on Peep Show or I’d always meant to try to catch up on Ideal, which I heard got better. I remember reading a couple nice things about that show with the maid from Not Going Out– Miranda or something…? Not Going Out is not a good show though…

    Oh, also, also, also: was that movie by the Boosh guys good? What was it, the Bull and the China? The Cupcake and the Bull? The Chinese Cupcake and the Cup of Cider? It had a name that was like a thing and another thing. Was that good?

    I guess what I’m saying is: Can we just turn this website into a site where we talk about what’s going on in British comedy?

  33. Well, I think the only people who are going to buy a Namor book are going to be people ridden for nostalgia for an era long before their birth, people who already know what a mutant is, but probably mainly people who are going to know that Namor showed thirty years before the X-Men and is only a mutant now because then they can put him in X-Men books that already have a lot of people who aren’t mutants. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense, no.

    But Archie, yeah, that’s pretty shocking to me. They used to have Archie comics about Christian witnessing. Not that there’s anything mutually exclusive about tolerance and Christianity, but it means that the issue has passed the far inner pop culture gates in a hard-to-describe way.

    Also an independent stage play by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa featuring the Archie characters in 2003, called “Archie’s Weird Fantasy”, presented Archie as a gay man struggling to come out of the closet. Archie Comics successfully pressured the theater director to change the names of the characters for its first run, but I think that had less to do with Archie’s sexual orientation and more to do with how small Atlanta stage companies can’t usually afford to hire lawyers.

  34. As for the site. It’s Mr. Hibb’s site to do with as he wishes, I reckon. I enjoy it very much from the regular contributors up to all the commenters. But it is Mr. Hibb’s and The Gang’s thing and if it goes away I’ll just be glad of the misty watercolour memories it has left me. In the meantime since I have little enough time to enjoy its content myself I can fully understand the difficulties Mr. Hibb’s encounters. So yeah, do what thou wilt, O Mr. Hibbs!

    Stewart Lee? Awesome sauce. He has a great book out from Faber called “How I Escaped My Certain Fate…” It has all his routines in with massive footnotes explaining and adding layers to the jokes together with a bit of autobio. It’s well worth a punt. Also his TV series is coming back! Huzzah for Stewart Lee! Selfishly, I don’t want him to write for Mark Millar Monthly though, because then I might want to buy it. I doubt even I could resist the combination of Lee’s cerebral comedic stylings and a feature on Hot TV Moms.

    Please note: I do not now, nor have I ever worked for Stewrt Lee Inc.

  35. “I don’t get your whole quiz show thing, either”

    It’s waht we have instead of “Oh Dad, You Are Such A Dad, Aren’t You, Dad. PS: I have Breasts Now” sitcoms.

    They’re cheap to make, require little in the way of experimentation or risk, and allow funny people to be funny in a way that is both structured and not so.

    It’s chewing gum for the eyes that doesn’t involve laughing at the deluded, the unfortunate, or the educationally subnormal, as well.

    Gavin and Stacey is fantastic. It comes from a tradition that leads back to The Fast Show and before, in that it’s Catchphrase Comedy, but with personalities instead of aphorisms. See also “Grandma’s House” and “The Royle Family.”

    Rob Brydon is great. “Marion and Geoff” is the place to start. If I had a TV show, he’d be in it (I have already wrote a part for him in one of my comics: see if you can work out which one!).

    Haven’t seen The Bull movie, but go you straight to Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace if you haven’t already, and thence to Man To Man With Dean Learner. You would think that a six-foot-four man with an old-fashioned shaggy afro wouldn’t be much of a chameleon, but the Richard Ayoade of The IT Crowd is a totally different person to the Richard Ayoade of the DeanVDverse.

    Matt Berry’s Snuff Box. The “Fuck You” sketch series is the story of my life.

    Stewart Lee hasn’t written any comics that I’m aware of. His website has that Chain Reaction interview he did with Alan Moore, though. gofasterstripe.com for his DVDs.

    Miranda – a straightish translation of the radio show, with some rather self-aware moments. She does a good tumble, as well. I have a superhero story for her, someday, if she wants to play one.

    I hear good things about The Inbetweeners.

    The Great Outdoors – a sitcom based around ramblers – is also pretty good, if a little gentle. It’s very British, in that it is about frustration, chip-cheeked denial, and kagouls. Cast drawn from Spaced, It Crowd, Gavin and Stacey and Grownups, which you should probably avoid. It’s like Skins, but funny on purpose, and really, not all that funny.

    (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen Skins)

    The other stuff that’s on just now is aaalll righttt. Rev (Thick of It fellow, Peep Show woman, Miles Jupp!) was surprisingly good, Doc Ock has a sitcom that I haven’t watched, there haven been a few pilots of varying but fair quality, and Mongrels. Mongrels is about urban vermin – JUST LIKE SKINS AHAHA HAHAH AH AS YOU SEE WHAT ME DO THERE – and is okay.

    (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen Skins)

    That Mitchell and Webb Look is still great after all these years, although they took the piss out of the end of Blackadder Goes Forth – which, yes, fine, sitcoms that do sad bits offset self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness can eat a whole bowl of cumpkins – then went and did a sad ending of their own. So fart on it.

    Armstrong and Miller, I finally got into with the last or last but one series, plus the Timeghost podcast. My friend was in one of the sketches. My friend even had a speaking part!

    And then there’s Serafinowicz, of course. I used to hate him on sight, because he played so many bad guys (opposite Dylan Moran and sadly-no-longer-with-us Kim Pine-alike Charlotte Coleman). My Mum loves him because he was in an advert for Super Noodles where he licks his plate and puts it back int he cupboard. I was away at University while it was showing, and I think she imagined that I would be living in much the same way. I did eat noodles every lunch for a month, this is true. But I ended up developing such a severe case of food poisoning that, well, sixteen years later I’m still not right. SO FUCK YOU, SUPER NOODELS. I mean, there you go.

    The Peter Serafinowicz Show, I;m sure you’ve all seen. That’s where the Pink Vader helmet comes from, I think. It’s a great series, with pretty much zero filler.

    I think that’s it. Tittybangbang is the only one I can think of that probably hasn’t made it over there on DVD. I really liked it, though – and we all missed out on a great Wonder Woman in Lucy Montgomery (but not a great Tom Cruise). *chuckle*

    Of course, radio comedy is another story ENTIRELY…

    //\Oo/\\

  36. (aside: actually, they’re often exactly the same stories)

    //\Oo/\\

  37. Oh, fuck, Pete versus Life! Pete versus Life! The guy from the shop in Shaun of the Dead, yeah? The young chewingman. Him! He’s a dick! And things happen that through his social ineptitude and lack of foresight often backfire! Like Larry David, but with sexy ladies! And the twist is, because he’s a sports journalist, his whole life is being commentated on by sports commentators and often surprising special guests from the real world of realness! It’s like Scott Pilgrim without the ziggurat!

    (it is not like Scott Pilgrim without the ziggurat)

    (but it is pretty good. Missed the last two episodes, though. I mean, I don’t watch the sports channels the visual style references – I guess the US equivalent would be some kind of Fox Sports…? But the elements of statistical analysis and tangential fact-citing are, I think, something all men can sympathise with.)

    //\oo/\\

  38. And speaking of funny bastards from video games journalism coming in here to kick comics in the baws: BURNISTOUN.

    G-Dawg: you have to see Burnistoun.

    //\Oo/\\

  39. And LIMMY’S SHOW. Abhay, Graeme – LIMMY’S SHOW.

    (And I’ve got a superhero show for him, too)

    //\oo/\\

  40. STILL GAME!

    )(that’s the last one)

    //\Oo/\\

  41. Can we get John K (UK) on board? He’s the guy who made the epic “a dead cat is a coward’s weapon” joke. It could be Hibbs, Abhay, and John K UK. I think Hibbs would be more like a referee trying to contain the crazy!

  42. “As for the site. It’s Mr. Hibb’s site to do with as he wishes, I reckon.”

    I’m guessing the reason a comments section exists is to throw in our opinions, not to state the obvious.

  43. Hey Michael Aronson, is it okay if I just take the bit where you chide me for my stating of the obvious by, um, you yourself stating the obvious as intentional? We could call it irony or something.

    I think you know what I meant i.e. Hibbs and the combat happy Joes of Savage Critics have no obligation to me as far as I can see. But I thank them for the content they do provide when it does appear. That may appear obvious too (as well as being like vinegar in your eyes) but I prefer to think of it as being polite. Comments can also be used to express appreciation, I think.

    Chris Hero (and I hope that is your real surname) – thanks, but I think you need a bit more than one joke. I’ll buy you a pint sometime though for being so nice.

  44. “And the President was a white guy! How 2008!”

    In the issue of Wizard that Mark Millar edited, Millar said that Obama was going to be the President and the ending was originally going to have Nemesis having killed him and holding the President’s head at the end of the first issue (because Millar thought it would be a funny contrast to all the comics devoted to Obama), but editorial and/or legal convinced Millar not to do that scene.

  45. “is it okay if I just take the bit where you chide me for my stating of the obvious by, um, you yourself stating the obvious as intentional?”

    Huh?

  46. i’ll write for free!
    i haven’t blogged consistently for some time now, but i would get back on the interwebs if YOU asked me to.

  47. Acespot, if you want Brian to let you write reviews, first you have to change your name to Abhay Khosla.

  48. Comment section derailed!

    “He has a great book out from Faber”– Oh, that sounds amazing. Footnotes!

    “Rob Brydon is great.”– I liked Brydon a lot from the Tristam Shandy movie, which is I guess where I first saw him. He has a new show with Coogan coming soon, too, right? Something to look forward to.

    “straight to Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace”– I think that’s properly caught on among American comedy nerds, at least in LA, though I don’t think it’s ever aired here. I haven’t seen those guys in much else, besides Richard Ayoade, but that show is such genius. Ayoade in it is one of my all-time favorite guys. I just completely bought that character.

    (Tried to watch Skins– I know an awful lot of Skins fans– couldn’t get into it, though… didn’t have the time for a long show like that…)

    “Rev (Thick of It fellow, Peep Show woman, Miles Jupp!) was surprisingly good”– Watched this on your suggestion– this WAS good. I don’t know if it was FUNNY but I liked it; liked the look of the show; like that actor; married, inner city reverend is a surprisingly decent premise. That Richard Dawkins conversation at the end didn’t really work, but I like that bit with the construction workers a LOT; all felt real. Nice show. If they can add some comedy, that could really be something… Those shots of him just biking around the city– TV should just look like that.

    “Pete versus Life!”– watched the first of these on your suggestion, too. There’s funny there but the “sportscasters comment on life” bit is hacky– it’s been done way too many times. NBC tried it about 5 years ago, with that rich kid from Clueless and Road Trip in it. They executed it well in a few places though; raunchy is fine. Some of the over-the-top “he behaves cluelessly” stuff though (the rape alarm) was not for me. A little too Worst Week of My Life, which I didn’t think worked entirely either…

    Will definitely check out the rest of this stuff; thank you so much for all of the great suggestions!! It’s fascinating to me how much more into sketch comedy you guys are to us– I don’t know why that is other than that you guys had Python (which is not a bad reason, I guess).

  49. Oh, wait: Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace was on our Adult Swim programming block– they brought that over, Boosh, Look Around You. I forgot about that. I’m really enjoying Children’s Hospital on that channel, though it’s hard for me to get excited about anything on TV that isn’t Mad Men or Louie right now…

  50. I would swap aaabouttt five of any of the half-hour comedies on British telly this week for the chance to do or have one animated comedy of the quality of

    (oh, fuck: you think I’m going to type American Dad!)

    Harvey Birdman or Venture Brothers.

    We just can’t seem to get that stuff on the screens. Edited episodes of The Simpsons? Sure*. Family Guy on a loop? Andrew McCarthy. Archer, Ugly Americans. Original British animated series? Easier to film them with real people.

    Oh, fuck a duck! Manstrokewoman (Nick Frost), Swinging, Spoons. Three practically identical-in-theory perithirtysomething sketch shows. Three different casts. All fantastic. Swinging has the sexophobic sex therapist series, which is a hundred million times funnier than it sounds, Manstrokewoman has the most consistently funny writing. Spoons was The Other One, I think, but still fantastic.

    There’s a children’s programme called “Sorry, I’ve Got No Head,” which is by and starring many of our finest sketch/stand-up comediand. But here’s the twist: it’s entirely for children. It’s classic British sketch comedy without profanity, without sex jokes, without pissy old ladies and merkins.

    And it’s fucking lovely. My favourite sketch is the School with one pupil. The guy to look out for in that cast is Marcus Brigstocke. I can imagine half the people who hear him hating every word he says, but the other half will love him. The thing to look out for, if you’re not into the proselytising soap boxery he sometimes pumps out is the radio series “Giles Wembley-Hogg Goes Off,” which is about the wonderfully naive clodhoppery of an upper-class twit abroad.

    Last one, and it’s an old one – Absolutely. Made at the turn of the ’80’s/’90s, it’s often surreal, often terribly dated thing – even though a lot of the dated stuff still plagues us today – but it is so bloody funny. Frank Hovis, The Little Girl, Don and George, Callum Gilhooley. They’re just names to you. But god on a bike, you could put so much of that stuff out today, and it would still be funny.

    (c.f. Philip Bond’s Wired World, which still feels fresh, fashion aside)

    (which, you know, I don’t know is necessarily a good thing. But good shit is good shit, right?)

    (and you might dig Time Trumpet and The Wrong Door, too, come to think of it)

    (wow, we really do produce a lot of these things. If only there were more comics…)

    //\Oo/\\

  51. * – we used to get Futurama on terrestrial TV – the channel that shows Simpsons. They bowdlerised it in such a haphazard fashion that characters would jump and stutter like an old CD, just so we wouldn’t have to hear a dirty joke.

    Of course, then, Hollyoaks would come on and it would be like watching an FHM spread.

    Anyway, I complained about it. And got gently patronised.

    Fast-forward to last Tuesday, and SMALLVILLE.

    Now I flipping hate Smallville. But I never miss an episode. I hate every fanwanky nod to DC “continuity” (I could not bring myself to read that Tiny Titans comic for the same reason. And it marred my enjoyment of Brave and the Bold.), I hate the non-motion, the lazy melodrama. The Justice Society! For the love of pete! Flipping Watchmen done right, eh? Only, for some reason, Hawkman is the only one of these old bastards never to age! And suddenly after five years, somebody remembers that Chloe’s mother is mentally ill! Clap clap clap.

    I mean, yes, I love Erica Durance, she’s the only good thing about it, she’s the best Lois Lane ever, blag blargal bar. And despite it all, I love Cassidy Freeman, who has been playing with quiet menace the only lesbian supervillain – oh, Scandal and Knockout. Never mind – but suddenly, after two and a bit years, suddenly Everything You Know Is Wrong, and I’m all like, goddamnit!

    Zod. You Bawr-sterd. NEE-UWL BE-FOWAH ZHOD. I hate him and I love him, and every time I watch it, I am reminded why bringing back Kryptonians en masse (or at all) is a really stupid goddamn thing to do. Not even Justine Batman could make that work.

    Where was I?

    Oh! They edit that, too. If you see it in the daytime, it’s edited, so that all the punches are cut out – most of the violence, actually – and our precious little minds are well and truly protected from goddamn Superman.

    Only last week, they edited the night time version, as well. Now, I’m pretty sure they do that as a matter of course, but the edits to last week’s show – the one where The Sandman is kidnapping the Kandorians, only it’s not The Sandman, it’s a NODNODWINKWINKGASMASKGLEE – were of such violent and ragged quality that the whole climax of the show was ruined. Seriously, it was like reading a comic that an angry slobbering dog has had a go at.

    Anyway, I gets me dander up, and I write another blistering letter of complaint – knowing full well that they were probably going to enjoy it. (I mean “ignore,” but I have to respect the typo.)

    Next day, I get a response. “Sorry you felt bad, yes it was the edited show, don’t call us.” I don’t think it was supposed to sound so dismissive, but what, really, were they going to do? Change their editorial policy?

    But the kicker – the absolute kick to the cock – the thing that made me wonder if they weren’t just fucking with me:

    The sender was a superhero.

    The name on the email – I won’t share it with you – was the secret identity of a C-list Marvel Superhero. And not a common name, when I think about it.

    It was like recieving an email from fucking Razorback.

    So it’s not all great, is what I’m saying.

    //\Oo/\\

  52. I just saw Stewart Lee live the other night, bought his new book the next door, it’s the closest to an autobiography you may get, it will be text book reading for a new generation of comedians I imagine.

    On the topic of Skins, Stewart Lee’s interview about it by Charlie Brooker is a perfect encapsulation of why I do not have any interest in it.

    Also, I am old and my kidneys are filled with sand.

    Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe/Newswipe is of course amazing. You Have Been Watching is crippled by tv gameshow format.

    While in Edinburgh last month I saw Simon Munnery, his sketch show Attention Scum! is up on youtube, well worth watching.

    British comedy wise The Inbetweeners is the best thing in ages. I haven’t caught up with the IT Crowd, currently watching Life on Mars.

    American shows: The Green Room ep 3 is fantastic (Dana Gould/Andy Dick/Brendan Burns/Andy Kindler guest).

    Australian: Frontline is pretty great, predates the Office but is comparable in style, with a media focus.

  53. Now that my kid gets me up at the crack of fucking dawn everyday, we watch the Canadien (see: On-topic! It’s a territory still, right?) teen soap-opera edgemont. So sweet. One of the main girls is a young Kristin Kreuk (see: On-Topic!) who was Lana Lang on Smallville. I had to do some internet searching to figure out where I recognized her from.

    As for British comedy
    A) Abhay, how do you find/watch these shows? Sometimes on FO, I see y’all talk about things like Thick of It, or some of the more obscure Herzog documentaries. When I try and track it down, (I am totally internet stupid, the only thing I can think to try is Netflix) they don’t have it. I am totally curious how Matthew can reccomend a show to you and then three comments later you have already seen it. Does Beverly Hills just have the most kick-ass On Demand ever? I live in New Orleans, and all I get is Treme, which has bored me to no end.

    b) re: Steve Coogan. I don’t remember where I read this, but there are some funny ass comments from Courtney Love about that guy out there in the inter-ether. She is super fucking bitter about the fact that all of her drug problems are his fault. ALL OF THEM! He has apparently made it his mission in life to wait for Courtney to check out of rehab, and then hang baggies of meth over her head like mistletoe.

  54. (I kind of was curious about those Smallville JSA shows… I like the JSA but I’ve always been pretty okay with never having seen an episode of Smallville… It was just that initial ad campaign always flashes in my head– it was, like, Superman with his shirt off in a corn field, showing off his pecs to the corn… that ad campaign: not really targeted to me…)

    “Australian: Frontline is pretty great, predates the Office”

    Oh, that does sound good– sounds like a Canadian post-Larry Sanders show called the Newsroom I was obsessed with in the early 00’s (though I heard the creator Ken Finkleman ran it into the ground in the later seasons– strange guy; sort of inspired in equal part by Shandling, Fellini, and Chris Morris, which is not always the best combination…)

    “Abhay, how do you find/watch these shows? Sometimes on FO, I see y’all talk about things like Thick of It, or some of the more obscure Herzog documentaries”

    I’m no Herzog expert like Tucker or Joe– Joe’s obviously the guy to ask about Herzog. But most all of Herzog is on Netflix on demand– it feels that way, anyways. He’s certainly made some good ones.

    As for British comedy generally: Youtube has oodles of stuff. Youtube is– it’s really getting difficult to remember a time when Youtube didn’t exist. And except NBC, most people aren’t very hostile or they don’t have the time or budget to take things off that site. Entire episodes of many, many thing end up on Youtube. A guy like Charlie Brooker, say, whose work can be cut into smaller pieces– there’s oodles of Charlie Brooker on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHun58mz3vI got linked here and there this year, say). Most of his Screenwipes are on youtube, say– entire episodes! The Stewart Lee bit on Skins that’s been mentioned is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd-szRoYe_E. Not a funny bit but… (Stand-ups– unbelievable tons of stand-up on there). (It’s the first place I go when I hear about a new band anymore…)

    (Though I don’t think that zombie show Brooker did is on there– Dead Set…? I *liked* Dead Set. If Walking Dead can be as good as Dead Set, dang, that’d be pretty good… Though Dead Set was fast zombies, which…)

    And then beyond that– you know: there’s people who put things on the internet in a less authorized manner, which also makes a great many things accessible. There are entire invitation-only websites that are nothing but British television– I don’t belong to them, but… I suppose there are moral issues there, but…

    You know: I’ve seen things on the internet where it’s American teenage girls who apparently watch nothing but Korean soap operas… You can build the culture you want on the internet, which… is complicated because… what does culture mean then, but… You know…still!

    Really, if you can find out about something, anymore– it’s on the internet SOMEWHERE. When I was a kid, you’d have to HUNT for things, or do without. Or just not know about things. But… That era seems done but maybe I don’t understand all that net neutrality talk enough…

    But comedy’s one of those things– only a few people can REALLY do work that’s worth seeking out. Comedy’s just too damn hard. Statistics say some of them are going to live outside of the country, so… Or after the Office– when the Office was broadcast over here– I remember just thinking, that a show like that didn’t just come out of nowhere. That’s not how art happens– you know, there were a zillion punk bands before the Sex Pistols or the Ramones– they just didn’t know they were punk bands yet. After the Office, I found Spaced, and once I found Spaced, shit…

    Plus: there’s always market forces pushing for mediocrity. Like: there’s not really a mass audience for most of this stuff– no one was in any hurry to broadcast the Thick of It before In the Loop hit. Like: there’s too much to just rely on BBC America, or that might not ever make it to BBC America. And some of the stuff BBC America selects is just … incorrect choices (My Hero– what were you guys thinking with My Hero??? 6 series!)(Or that godawful show about the stewardesses…?). But there isn’t a mass audience for MOST of the stuff I wind up nerdy about, so, yeah, the internet…

  55. Aaahhh- Youtube. That does sound like a good place to start. I have watched oodles of Jackass stuff on that Youtube thing, you would have thought I would have checked that on my own. But no…

    Spaced I liked. My wife puts on the DVDs every time she cleans. Even though she’s seen the whole series fifty-leven times, still goes back.

    As far as internet morality is concerned, well, I don’t have a lot of personal problems with all that. I tend to lose everything I own once or twice a decade, and most of the stuff I get off the web, I already owned at one point or another. I actually have a harder time thinking of new stuff to check out, as opposed to being overwhelmed by the availability of new choices. If I find something new I like, it just tends to make me look out for anything new that the creator(s) might put out in the future. Which I then buy. Seems like effective advertising more than the nebulous bread-stealing I often see it characterized as.

    I understand, intellectually, that Latrell Sprewell has a family to feed and all that. You’d think those rims of his would be able to support a lil’ one or two, but what do I know.

  56. Or that godawful show about the stewardesses…?

    Oh, Jam! I know you did not just disrespect THE HIGH LIFE!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsayV15X9y0
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=913FwxM-9MM

    Oh, Dearie Me! Graeme probably knows where you live!

    “Superman with his shirt off in a corn field, showing off his pecs to the corn”

    Ah, now, I’ve seen Lois doing this in promos for the next series. Not with her top off, obviously, and frankly she looks more exasperated than distressed, but seeing as the whole series has really been The Secret Origin of Lois Lane, I figure this is where she finally Lanes up.

    And My Hero…in our defence, the first episode was really good? And the nurse was really hot? And the Doctor character was in the JLA: http://www.jla.co.uk/presenters/hugh-dennis

    (Hugh Dennis’ OUTNUMBERED is very popular over here, although I cannot attest to its quality)

    //\Oo/\\

  57. Ever since Channel 4 started their own 4oD Youtube channel, shows have been getting yanked across the board. The Thick of It, Snuff Box, & Nathan Barley were all on until about a year ago. It doesn’t help that they block it here in the US. So thanks for the torrent references I guess.

    Brooker’s shows and oldies like BrassEye & The Armondo Iannucci Show are still up as are Marenghi & Man to Man.

    Gavin & Stacy and Green Wing get raves from the Mrs. but just feel like other shows I have seen and abandoned. Free Agents is good, not terribly ha-ha funny though. Niles from Buffy says dirty words a lot. No Heroics wasn’t bad, it had a fat Nathan Barley who couldn’t get laid. That guy is writing The Runaways movie for Marvel now.

    I tried The IT Crowd and could barely make it through an episode, waaaay to broad & laugh-tracky. A horrible pile of ticks and voices.

    every few months I remember 15 Stories High is up and watch one or two then forget again.

  58. “Oh, Jam! I know you did not just disrespect THE HIGH LIFE!”

    No– it was a Sky show called Mile High. It was like half-soap-opera, half-drama, half-*terrible*-comedy, which … doesn’t even add correctly, mathematically speaking. Was that Alan Cumming in those High Life clips, though? There was more than one show about flight attendants…?

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