Thursday 4 February 2010

As predicted,

I've forgotten what the long post I had brewing was, the one I mentioned back on 21 January. I think it was something to do with the curious appeal of old books, but now I can't remember what it was I had to say on that subject. Fuckin' 'ell. Then again, evidently it wasn't even interesting enough to stay in my brain for very long, so I doubt it's any great loss to the world.

I need a piss.

Fewer and Fewer Comics

Diamond Comic Distributors – these days (pretty much) the sole distributor of American comic books – continue to do their bit to help out in my ongoing quest to cut down on my comics consumption. In January we had the snow, which disrupted deliveries, and this week there was this little announcement:

Dear Customer,

Due to a serious accident involving the truck transporting Marvel Comics

titles from the printer to Diamond's Distribution Centers in the US,

several Marvel titles were damaged or lost.

Please see details below for the approximate percentages

that Diamond UK expect to fill in this week’s delivery.

We hope to have an update later this week

as to when we expect the balance of these titles to fill.

As a result, orders for several Marvel titles that are

scheduled to arrive on February 4th will not be filled in full.



55 % DEC090432 SIEGE #2 (OF 4)

66 % DEC090433 SIEGE #2 (OF 4) DELL'OTTO VAR

77 % DEC090434 SIEGE EMBEDDED #2 (OF 4)




Lo and behold, when I went to the comic shop today, they had no copies of Iron Man (that and Siege were the only comics I wanted from that list). So that's one more comic I won't be getting anymore (I was losing interest in it anyway). Thanks Diamond!

As for Siege, I read that on the way home on the train, and all I could think was, meh. There's a tedious extended battle, complete with lots of glowering and posing; a standard-issue dismemberment (de rigeur in comics these days); a standard-issue call to arms; and the expected missteps in continuity (Captain America is handed a briefcase – containing, I would guess, Tony Stark's Iron Man armour – and told by Jarvis the butler that he has reason to believe the owner of the briefcase is near the battle in Oklahoma; except Cap would already know that, 'cos he saw the incapacitated Tony in Oklahoma in a recent issue of Iron Man). Still, Olivier Coipel's art is kinda purty.

Rather more excitingly, the new issue of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal shipped this week, which is probably my favourite comic right now, and streets ahead of just about anything else in 'mainstream' comics at the moment, with the possible exception of Ex Machina, which, also excitingly, I managed to blag a copy of the issue I missed the other week. Thanks Rob!

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Ooh look.

I've installed a little page-view counter. There it is, just below my glorious portrait. Actually I only intended for it to be on my log-in page, but it's showed up on the blog itself, and now I don't know how to remove it. So we'll just leave it there, and watch the numbers... er... stay where they are now, probably.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

The Lookout

I've been trying to think of the name of a movie comics writer Ed Brubaker raved about in an issue of either his Criminal series or his Incognito miniseries, a contemporary noir from 2007 that Brubaker reckoned was one of the best films he'd seen in recent years. Of course, typically I couldn't be arsed to dig through my comic boxes to find the relevant issue, but I was sorting through and throwing out old magazines at the weekend, and I came across a review I'd torn out of Sight & Sound... and I think this is the film:

So I've bought the DVD on eBay for the princely sum of £4.16 (which is about 50p cheaper than Amazon). It's directed by Scott Frank, who wrote or co-wrote various rather good films, including Get Shorty, Out of Sight and Minority Report. The Lookout is also written by him, and it's his directorial debut. We'll see if it's any cop when it turns up. Can't be any worse than Ripley Under Ground...

Ripley Under Ground Movie Review

So I watched the Roger Spottiswoode film version of Ripley Under Ground – co-written, incidentally, by Donald E. Westlake, alias Richard Stark – and it ain't that great. There are all sorts of problems with the movie – Barry Pepper's performance as Tom Ripley is decidedly lacklustre (physically he reminds me of a young Gary Busey, but with none of the intensity or magnetism or, apparently, acting ability); Willem Dafoe as art collector Murchison is pretty bloody awful – but the main issue is that Tom is effectively neutered. The decision was evidently taken to make Ripley Under Ground (the film) standalone, but the problem there is, by removing Tom's backstory, you get no sense of the awful things he did in The Talented Mr. Ripley, and his general lack of conscience in doing them. The best that Spottiswoode and co. can come up with for Tom in the movie is that he's a bit of a rogue and a bit of a chancer. That's not the Tom Ripley we know and love (or indeed loathe).

And so, logically, I can see why they also took the decision to make Murchison's murder... not a murder. In this film, it becomes pretty much an accident – because this Tom clearly hasn't killed before, so he has no impetus to start doing so now. He gets in a fight with Murchison when Murchison uncovers the forgery and deception at the heart of the story, sure, and he hides the body, but he doesn't actually kill him. In fact, Tom doesn't kill anyone in the movie. That's a major piece of the Ripley psyche removed right there, possibly even the most important piece: his willingness to kill to preserve his way of life, and his almost total lack of conscience about killing (with the exception of Dickie Greenleaf – maybe).

Once you remove that aspect of Ripley, that murderous thread of self-preservation born of the sense of entitlement he has for a better existence for himself, everything else falls apart, which is why the film doesn't work. In the end it's actually left to Tom's girlfriend-cum-wife Heloise to take up the potential criminal mantle, because now it makes no sense for Tom to do so (her eventual taking control of events is slightly foreshadowed throughout the film).

It's not all bad, mind. Ian Hart (who would go on to play Tom Ripley himself in a series of BBC Radio 4 adaptations of Highsmith's Ripliad) is quite good as painter/forgerer(erer) Bernard, and Tom Wilkinson is eminently watchable as the police inspector, Webster (Wilkinson is always great, as anyone who's seen his performance in Michael Clayton can attest); there's a nice bumbling sequence where the two of them are driving round the English countryside trying to find the house where Ripley, Jeff Constant and co. have hidden the body of Derwatt, the painter Bernard's been forging. But as a result of the meddling with Tom's character and motivation, what you're left with is a mildly entertaining but essentially toothless movie – and definitely not a genuine Ripley flick.

Latest Arrivals

Rather excitingly, there were two – count 'em, two – packages waiting for me at home yesterday:

That's a first UK edition of Fletch and a first UK edition of Confess, Fletch, the sequel. (And that's my hand holding both.) Except, on closer inspection, Confess, Fletch turns out to be a book club edition. Gah! What was I saying about the internet being trustworthy? Ah well, never mind. It was only a quid, and aside from the "BCA" logo on the case spine (but not on the jacket) and the lack of a price on the front flap, you wouldn't know the difference. It must've been a book club run-on from the first edition, as the inside bears the Gollancz logo and no mention of it being a book club edition. It'll do me. (Unless I change my mind and get another copy... there seem to be a few cheap ones on AbeBooks... no... must resist... that way lies MADNESS.)

As for Fletch, that's definitely a first edition, but it's ex-library. However it's in nice condition, no pages removed, the only evidence of it being ex-library a small "Cumbria County Library" stamp on the copyright page (and it's price-clipped of course). So I'm very pleased with that one. I started reading it last night; I read most of the Fletch novels years ago (borrowed from the library, natch, so those yellow Gollancz covers are very familiar), and re-reading it now it surprised me how close it is initially to the Chevy Chase movie, Fletch coming across in the book as quite the wise-ass. And it is as description-light/dialogue-dense as I remembered.

In other book news, I've got my eye on eBay on a 1949 Penguin edition of Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male, and elsewhere on the web on a 1944 British Publishers Guild edition of the same novel. I'm also toying with getting a first Pan edition of From Russia with Love, and keeping my eye out for old editions of Richard Stark's The Hunter (or Point Blank, as it was first published in the UK to tie in with the Lee Marvin film) and Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me (now made into a film by Michael Winterbottom, of 24 Hour Party People fame). And I'd quite like to get my hands on a copy of Joe Haldeman's The Forever War. It piqued my curiosity when I was working on a book about cult books recently.

On the reading front, I polished off Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island in short order. Really enjoyed it, but without spoiling it, it does leave you with a slight feeling of what I like to call Boxing Helena Syndrome. If you know that film, you'll have an inkling of what I'm on about (although Shutter Island is nowhere near the level of utter shitness that Boxing Helena resides on). Currently I'm reading Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train, which, like many of her books, I initially struggled to get into, but now it's starting to grip. And I've begun another Bond, Moonraker this time, which starts with a great description of Bond's day-to-day office life when he's not on assignment (according to the novel, he only has a couple of assignments a year).