Escapism 2020/2021 pt1a: What I read

So as part of my new year’s ritual, let’s talk about some of the things I read in the last two years, beginning with The New Gods by Jack Kirby. I never got the thing with Kirby.

I knew of him, I’d read a couple of his comics, I knew the huge influence he’s been on Marvel in particular, superhero comics in general, now also movies, and lots of artists (even working in other genres). I also knew how he got fucked over by the publishers he worked on. But I never got the thing. Until now. Still not sure I can put it in words, but reading one of the comics he made after rage-quitting Marvel and getting the freedom to do whatever he wanted at DC was kind of an eye-opener. The storytelling was solid, if not amazing, at least from a this-was-made-in-the-early-70s perspective, and I suddenly saw some line work that reminded me of other artists who must have been inspired by him. There’s also a general feel to his drawings that I’ve been aware of but I can now appreciate much more.

A few years ago I started re-reading the Dune series. I’ve now gone through Children of Dune and God Emperor of Dune. I’m guessing a lot more people have been reading the first book now since the movie was such a success, but I hope they don’t stop after the first book. I remember thinking back when that it was with God Emperor of Dune that it got really interesting, and I tend to agree, still, 20-something years later. Not going to go into more details than that to avoid spoilers. But I also got it into my mind that I should try some other books by Frank Herbert, which I did:

Whipping Star is linguistic sci fi at its finest, in my mind. Second in Frank Herbert’s sabotage series of one short story and two novels (The Tactful Saboteur, Whipping Star and The Dosadi Experiment), written parallel to the first couple of Dune books in the 1960s and -70s. I see echoes of this one in many other works of mostly sci fi/speculative fiction, but I had never heard of it before I stumbled upon it now. I’m very glad I did, because this should be seen as much as a classic as Dune is. The Arrival (which I’ve only seen as a movie, not read the book) comes to mind as a comparatively dumbed-down exploration of some of the same concepts. Language, how different species might experience time differently, how we might approach understanding each other. Don’t get me wrong, I liked The Arrival (even though as a comics creator I can’t see whay they wouldn’t try to communicate with images), but Whipping Star is so much more of a mindfuck. In the good way. You need a bit of patience, because everything isn’t clear from the beginning (same goes for the short story, The Tactful Saboteur, which I found in Eye, a collection of short stories by Herbert). But the main characters understand even less, and it clears up during the course of the book.
The first main conversation lasts for about 50 pages, and if you like the way Herbert writes dialogue in Dune, for example, then you need this. It is such a treat!
The Dosadi Experiment, the third and final part, brings more alien culture clash, also handled interestingly.

Destination: Void is a story about the first steps in the journey of a generational spaceship. You know the kind where the journey takes longer than one lifespan, so the passengers need to either be frozen or prepared to let the trip last for several generations. I’ll be talking more about the genre in a future post about movies/TV, specifically Aniara, Human, Space, Time and Human and Avenue 5. Destination Void differs in that it’s about a planned trip, not an accidental one. It’s also written by Frank herbert, so expect some interesting concepts in the relations between the small crew and the ship’s brain-based computer. There are three more books in the series, so at some point I will go on with those.

More sci fi, but much much older: The Book of Enoch is an approximately 2300(?) year old sci fi/horror(?)/fantasy story. Some would call it mythological or religious and they wouldn’t be wrong considering it’s one of the background works of Judaism/Christianity/Islam and even canon in some branches, like Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity.
To me, it was more interesting to read it as really old sci fi, and it might even have been written that way originally. In any case, it is one (of many) example of the apocalyptic genre that was a thing mostly for a few centuries around 2000 years ago. There’s some cynical politics in there, a bitterness over all the evil the writer/s saw around them, and a hope that the wrong-doers will be punished in a utopian final judgment. An event where all sins will be forgiven, but there’s simultaneously no salvation for the sinners. I guess the absolution is only available for the good guys who might also have sinned, while the bad guys are eternally fucked. A mix of wishful thinking and commentary on the times it was written.
Part of the book is the story of when a bunch of angels (100 of them, 10 main leaders who are named) decided to go down to Earth to marry human women. And of how they were punished for it. The most well-known thing about this (as mentioned in passing in Genesis) is that they had children with the human women. Children who grew to be massive giants. What’s less known is that not only did they have angel/human hybrid kids, they also taught their wives about medicine and other things. And they taught the human men how to make weapons and armor and work with metal, and astronomy, astrology and so on. Their punishment was for all this, not only the procreation. Granted, the greatest sin was that they had defiled themselves by being with human women. But the writer probably also didn’t like war. Or science. Or medicine. Or giants. Or especially women. I’m not sure if this should be read as conservative/nostalgic or as a cathartic curse on contemporary mainstream society, with their wars and all those other things.
Parts of the book can be read almost as a Lovecraft story, with dream sequences and these cosmic beings procreating with humans and names like Azazel, Araqiel, Zerachiel, Chazaqiel…
Another interesting thought: If you see this as sci fi, you might see religions as fandoms, sacred texts as shared universes. Think of the Bible as if it was the Marvel comics universe. Different writers contributing to stories about different characters and events, some dealing with supernatural powers, all set in the same universe/timeline (while for example the Olympian pantheon is an adjacent fandom within the same genre). There have been in-group discussions about what’s canon and not, how the fandom should be organised, what themes are important in the stories, who counts as a true fan etc.
When I thought of it this way, it made a bit more sense as a historical/social phenomenon within human culture. That was part of what made me interested in the Book of Enoch to begin with. I wanted to see how it would feel to read such a text if I saw it as a really old sci fi book. I must say it does work quite well.

Speaking of HP Lovecraft, I finally managed to get all of Alan Moore‘s Providence, so I re-read The Courtyard and Neonomicon, since they are all part of the same story.

Alan Moore is easily one of the best and most interesting contributors to the mythos based on Lovecraft’s stories. Providence is at the moment quite hard to find (or it was, until the compendium edition was released recently) but well worth the effort. It was frustrating but kind of fitting since much of the story is about the main character trying to find a book. Each issue of the series, at least the first ten, is part comic, part entries from a notebook/journal written by the main character. It fucks up the reading rhythm a bit, but gives some extra insight into the character when you read his after-the-fact interpretations of what you’ve just read in the comic, as well as some events that weren’t shown in the comic pages. It shows how oblivious he is to certain elements, but also gives some insight to some of the context.
For example, the main character is homosexual and has several sexual and/or flirtatious encounters during the course of the story, but even when he writes about them in a journal only meant for himself, he takes care to use neutral pronouns or insinuating that the person was female, probably because it’d be dangerous not to do so IF someone else would happen to read it, even though he comes from what seems to have been a pretty open gay culture in New York in the years around 1920.
As usual, Moore does his research and uses it in his worldbuilding, setting the story against the backdrop of a world war, prohibition, the fear of communists following the Russian revolution etc.

Also as usual, he uses the sequential nature of comics to enhance the storytelling, which I won’t go deeper into here. If you read it you’ll understand. He incorporates the prejudices of the zeitgeist and of Lovecraft himself and lets it enhance the horror. Lovecraft did this as well, but Moore flips the perspectives. Instead of the otherness of everyone except White men being one of the sources of horror, here it’s the process of othering that is part of an oppressive background to the more cosmic elements. Which is a simplification, but I believe that to be a basic intention in the way Moore deals with those topics while adapting someone like Lovecraft.
A friend of mine, French artist Alkbazz, posed the question at one point: what would the world be like without Lovecraft? It made me realize how far his influences reach. How many writers and artists haven’s been influenced by him? No, not by him but by his works. An important distinction considering how much he was a child of his times and how racist/sexist/homophobic those times were (think the 1980s but much worse, less insightful and closer in time to some massive examples of genocide. If you grew up in the late 1900s you’ll probably know what I mean). But the contributions Lovecraft made to the horror genre, in many ways grounded in the fundamental realization of how insignificant we are in the cosmic scheme of things. Insight that probably derived in part from the scientific discoveries of the time and how the public consciousness moved in a more secular direction. We had to come to terms with a world where we weren’t chosen by God, where we weren’t at the center of the universe and if Gods existed they either didn’t care or had no respect nor concern for us because we were like tiny faceless inhabitants of their fleeting dreams.

I think that has to be enough for today. I have things to say about more things I’ve read, but I’ll let you rest a bit before continuing. So…

To be continued…

Comic Strip World Championship launch stream

Last Tuesday, Fanzineverkstaden hosted a video panel introducing the 2021 Comic Strip World Championship.

Harri Filppa and Sami Nyssölä came from Oulu, picking up Mari Ahokoivu and Peter Snejbjerg from Copenhagen on their way to Malmö, and we had a really nice talk in front of the cameras.

The deadline is already over as I post this, but the stream remains. Hope anyone who wanted to join got a chance to do that, and may the best strip creator win!

In case you don’t know…

Mari Ahokoivu was published by CBK a few years back (Find me in this city and a bunch of issues of CBA). She also recently released Oksi, which looks really nice.

Peter Snejbjerg has worked on lots of stuff for DC/Vertigo, such as Starman, Books of Magic, The Dreaming etc, as well as his own Marlene (Mareridt in Danish).

Sami Nyssölä made books like Learn Finnish without studying, 24 days – a Refugee’s Journey (which we have a few copies of for sale, just not in the webshop yet) and most recently Be Finnish Without Suffering.

Harri Filppa is working with the Oulun Sarjakuvakeskus (comics centre) and is one of the main organizers of the Oulu Comics Festival. He’s also made the graphic novel Death Did Us Part.

And of course there’s me

DUNE (2021)

The line between those who love the new Dune movie and those who didn’t much enjoy it seems to often go between the ones who read the book/s and those who didn’t.

What does that say? Did the movie do a bad job of introducing a new audience? Or is it that the ones who read the book/s see details in the movie that others miss because they’re not used to looking for such details in a standard movie these days? I don’t know, but probably the second option.

Anyway, here’s an illustration from someone who did read the books and who definitely enjoyed the movie:

Ok, there were things I missed in the movie, like that dinner party in the beginning, and also a small scene with a fountain that highlighted the arrogance of flaunting riches in a context where those riches aren’t luxuries but necessities of life. I would also have added a funeral before ending part one, but I do understand that the movie is still long enough and just because I wouldn’t have minded if they added another hour, everyone might not enjoy it as much.

And the visuals in combination with the music and sound design kind of made up for the details I thought were missing. It also got a lot of nuances just right (can’t say which ones because spoilers).

My personal history with Dune is that I read Frank Herbert’s 6 books 20-25 years ago and they’ve been a huge inspiration for me since. I’m currently re-reading them (will soon get into God Emperor of Dune).
I didn’t like Lynch’s movie, but the TV series worked better. My main problem with it is that it ended before they got into the final 3 books, which to me are the most interesting parts.
I would have liked to see the Jodorowsky version, but I’m also glad it never got made since it would have been a massive misrepresentation of both the book and the point of the whole series.

I just found out there’s a place in the Sahara desert called Arrak.

It is a complicated series of books to turn into movies. it’s very much driven by dialogue and inner thoughts, often both at the same time, from multiple characters in the same scenes. Could a combination of dialogue and voice-over work in film? Plans within plans, conversations within conversations? Probably not.
Could the politics of body fluids and water as both life-sustaining and currency be handled as subtly and still an ever-present concern in film? They make attempts that I think work fine in the movie, and there’ll be more room for that in part 2 where Fremen culture will be more of a thing.

I hear that part two has now been officially greenlit, which is of course good news. I also heard that the second part would be more focused on Chani, which is an interesting approach. It’s not exactly how it’s done in the book, but it might be a useful way to do it.

I must also recommend that you check out more of Frank Herbert’s writings. There’s another, shorter series, starting with the novella The Tactful Saboteur and continuing in the books Whipping Star and The Dosadi Experiment. It’s also great, but I won’t talk about that now.

GBG 2001

Last week was the 20 year anniversary of the Gothenburg riots. Thought I should say something about it. Sorry for the Swedish. Sometimes I just need to write in my native language…

Som barn fick vi lära oss att demokrati var bra. Allteftersom vi växte upp märkte vi att det fanns luckor i den etablerade demokratin. De som hade att göra med Migrationsverket, Försäkringskassan eller för den delen arbetsmarknaden i stort, såg att demokratin, tanken om att folket skulle styra, inte nådde alla delar av samhället, inte nådde alla som befann sig i samhället. Det gick att se ganska tydligt att EU inte var ett helt demokratiskt projekt, att Polisen inte styrdes av folket, att storföretagen inte svarade till några väljare utan bara till ett fåtal väl bemedlade ägare och att valutainstitutioner som IMF, Världsbanken etc inte var delaktiga i demokratin trots det stora inflytande de har över våra liv.

Men det fanns ändå de av oss som trodde på demokratin som koncept. Som ville utöka den till något som på riktigt började likna ett folkligt medbestämmande. Rörelsen kan sammanfattas som den utomparlamentariska vänstern och kunde inbegripa allt från anarkister och autonoma kommunister till fackföreningar och Attac (vars egentligen enda fråga rörde något så ödmjukt som att valutahandeln kanske borde beskattas).

Den rörelsen kom till Göteborg i juni 2001 för att protestera mot ett EU-toppmöte (som dessutom besöktes av George W Bush), en del av en global proteströrelse som tröttnat på det demokratiska underskottet och som trodde på att en annan värld var möjlig.

Jag var en av dem. Jag stod utanför Hvitfeldtska som var barrikaderat av Polisens containrar. Jag kom till Reclaim-gatufesten på Vasagatan i tid för att höra att Polisen hade skjutit någon. Jag var med i en av svensk historias största demonstrationer som stoppades av Polisen på vägen ner mot Svenska mässan där toppmötet hölls och tvingades tillbaka upp på Avenyn där jag strax efter såg gatstenar falla som jämna skurar över poliserna och tänkte på alla gånger jag sett eller hört om den motsatta situationen, där Polisen (så sent som bara några veckor tidigare i Malmö) brukade skära av demonstranter från varandra, definiera en grupp som ”farlig” för att sedan gå lös med sina batonger, stoppa in folk i bussar och köra dem ut ur stan eller låsa in dem på polisstation. Eller de senaste dagarna när de hade gått loss på folk både på Hvitfeldtska och på Reclaimet, när de satte tonen för hela situationen. Jag tänkte på de gångerna och kände en stor lättnad när jag såg att de för en gångs skull blev tvungna att backa.

Jag var på Järntorget som spontant hade fyllts med folk i protest mot att Polisen skjutit och misshandlat människor som vid det laget kanske hade dött eller åtminstone var nära döden. Vi var ganska noga med att skilja på rykten och bekräftad fakta, men bland det som klassades som rykten var det lite osäkert vad som var sant, vad som var desinformation eller överdrifter och vilka fakta som undanhölls. När jag och min vän som jag spenderade de flesta av dagarna med lämnade torget möttes vi av poliser som spärrade av gatan precis bakom oss, och just där och då var jag helt säker på att nu skulle de gå in och spöa på alla som var fast inne på torget. En helt logisk känsla med tanke på vad vi sett dagarna innan, men just den här gången blev det inte så. De höll torget flera timmar tills något av befälen helt enkelt tröttnade och gav order om att de skulle släppa torget och gå därifrån. Strax efter det hörde vi via telefon hur de istället (fast inte Polisen utan Nationella Insatsstyrkan) attackerade Schillerska gymnasiet där en del av aktivisterna skulle sova sista natten innan de åkte hem. De gick in maskerade och med automatvapen, drog ut folk halvnakna och tvingade ner dem på asfalten i regnet. Hade de börjat avrätta folk där och då hade jag i den situationen inte blivit förvånad.

När allt detta hände blev jag inte lika chockad som många andra blev. Mitt förtroende för ordningsmakten var så lågt vid det laget, efter flera dagar av massiv repression, och ett par år av att ha varit politiskt medveten innan detta hände och ha hört om hur Polisen ganska regelbundet misshandlade vänsteraktivister i samband med demonstrationer, gatufester och liknande. Jag hade sett det med egna ögon även om jag vid det laget inte blivit drabbad av det personligen (mer än i andra hand när vänner råkade illa ut). Jag visste att sånt hände i andra länder och hade släppt tanken om att det aldrig skulle kunna hända här.

Och sedan kom jag hem från Göteborg. Pratade med personer som inte varit där. Och såg den bild de hade sett av vad som hänt. De kommande veckorna spelade jag in allt jag kom över av TV-rapporteringen på video. Timma efter timma av nyhetsinslag, analyser och debatt, där jag inte kände igen mig i något alls av det, förutom ett inslag i Uppdrag Granskning (och några deltagare som släppts in i något debattprogram och fick utrymme att säga något vettigt). Allt annat var katastrofrubriker, misstänkliggörande, påhejande av polisen, socialdemokrater som gav dem blommor för deras insats, finvänstern som tog avstånd från kravallerna, högern som krävde av alla som hade minsta koppling till vänstern att de också skulle ta avstånd, rena lögner om vem som gjort vad och varför. Köksredskap som beskrevs som vapen i brist på riktiga vapen för att rättfärdiga polisinsater, den mytologiska tyska terroristen som polisen låtsades leta efter men som aldrig fanns, det totala demoniserandet av demonstranter, skönmålandet av poliser och tystnaden om alla delar av protesterna som inte handlade om våld. För där fanns massor av föredrag, symboliska manifestationer, organiserande, diskussioner, folkkök. Saker som antagligen skulle upplevas som positivt av de flesta men som inte fick någon uppmärksamhet alls för att det inte passade in i narrativet.

Det fanns de som trodde att de osynliggjordes på grund av kravallerna, men jag är rätt säker på att de inte hade synts annars heller. Medialogiken säger att vänstern är våldsam och kastar sten och om det inte händer finns inget nyhetsvärde. Det fanns också de som fortfarande hade en tro på ett Sverige som inte betedde sig som en polisstat, där den tredje statsmakten var objektiv och socialdemokraterna var partiet på folkets sida. De kände inte igen sig i hur de skildrades och de kände inte igen samhällets reaktioner. Men även om jag inte kände mig lika förvånad så har de där händelserna, inte helt enskilt men tillsammans med sin större kontext, ändå till stor del format mitt konstnärskap och mitt författande som serieskapare. Ansiktslösa horder av våldsamma poliser är inte bara vanligt förekommande utan finns ofta där som ett självklart inslag. Det är helt enkelt så det är. Ibland kommer jag att tänka på att det kanske inte framstår som lika självklart för dem som inte var där, i Göteborg i juni 2001.

Den sommaren var det vi som var Terroristerna, och det är frustrerande nog svårt att klandra dem som inte var där om de gick på det, för det var i stort sett den enda bilden som fanns. Det backades upp av osedvanligt långa fängelsestraff för de som åkte fast. Lite som att budskapet var: om du beter dig som att Sverige vore något annat än världens mest framstående och demokratiska land, då måste du straffas extra hårt så du lär dig att så är det faktiskt inte. Polisen i andra länder kanske gör fel och använder övervåld, till och med Polisen i Sverige förr i tiden kan eventuellt ha gjort det, men inte här och inte nu. Vet hut, gå till ditt rum i fem år och tänk över vad du gjort.

Sommaren 2001 slutade den 11 september. Efter det var det inte längre vi som var Terroristerna, men inte för att vi fått upprättelse eller för att mediebilden skulle ha hunnit nyanseras nämnvärt utan bara för att uppmärksamheten drogs åt ett annat håll.

2019 pt5/3: entertainment culture as escape culture: Playing

Enough about comics and movies, I’ve played games!

This year, I’ve finished Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, in that order because I guessed (correctly, imo) that MGS4 was more of an ending to the whole series. While The Phantom Pain was technically the better game and I was enjoying it a lot, I think story-wise I liked MGS4: Guns of the Patriots better. The themes of PTSD and peace vs war and governments vs nation-free armies have been present through all of the Metal Gear series, but in this one they were taken to the next level. Not to mention the question of nuclear weapons that’s always been part of these games. Something I can relate to, having grown up in the 80s. I was never really into most of the specifically 80s culture, but the threat of mass extinction in a nuclear war was kind of looming a lot in the background.
Are there still un-unravelled (ravelled?) conspiracy threads left over after all these games? Probably, but I feel satisfied. Are there still game functions I haven’t explored, and reasons to go back and play them some more? Definitely.

Death Stranding – best walking simulator/multiplayer/building sim I’ve played. Yet also none of the above and also foremost a massive fetch-quest with an increasingly engaging story. If that’s what you need in your life, this may be your thing. If that sounds horrible, this still might be your thing. Or not. In any case, it’s the best short description of the game I can come up with.
The way I played it, I spent maybe 10% of the time on the story and the rest on travelling around, delivering orders and building structures, which I have a feeling is a good way of doing it, because it gives you more of a connection to the game world which makes the story more engaging. But how you play it is pretty optional.
It’s also a deconstruction of videogame concepts that we’ve taken for granted for the last 30+ years, like carrying stuff, or killing/dying/getting extra lives. Also how you watch the final credits. Since inventing stealth mechanics in the first Metal Gear game, Hideo Kojima has always been innovative in his games, and he doesn’t disappoint in that area.

I died more than twice, I can tell you that. But yes, this is another game that came out this year which deals with dying and being resurrected within the game’s internal logic. Being a sucker for meta stuff, this of course appealed to me. It’s also visually beautiful and the fighting mechanics are perfect and traversal feels really great and it has that typical From Software worldbuilding and I already look forward to a replay after I’ve finished it.
I’ve worked my way up to the final boss (in one of several possible storylines), and I still have a bunch of minibosses to deal with, so I will probably finish it next year.

After finishing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I got into this game which I had tried a bit earlier but kind of underestimated. I more or less wrote it off as one of those cash-grabs relying too much on a brand name instead of delivering something original. But it was much better than expected and I spent quite some time thoroughly exploring its postapocalyptic world.

How do I enjoy this game? The whole premise is based on gender stereotypes in a story of moral dilemmas I’m having a hard time identifyig with, but still! It’s a game about relationships, where you go through characterization episodes and puzzle episodes which all take you through a drama and I just find it interesting even though I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone other than for curiosity reasons.
Another point is that it’s a game from Studio 4°C who also gave the Tekkonkinkreet anime (based on Taiyo Matsumoto‘s excellent manga Black and White) and a bunch of other stuff, so there’s that…

Illustration for CBA vol 44

Probably half-way through this nazi-killing, alternate-timeline, political comment/gore-fest. I think that sums it up. Light-hearted entertainment.

This was a great surprise. At first glance it seemed vaguely interesting but I decided to skip it. Then I got it as a birthday present and it turned out to be amazing! I know it’s been divisive and for some reason some people don’t seem to like it, but I couldn’t say why. The controls are well-balanced (not sure what I exactly mean by that but sure, why not?), the setting and mood are intriguing, the story is cool and there is this Finnish(/Scandinavian?) humor here and there which is hilarious and probably the thing that sold me. And you get superpowers and, maybe the most important part, you get Threshold Kids, the children’s TV show to end all children’s TV shows!

At some point I’ll have to finish Dark Souls III and Bloodborne. Even though I like From Software’s game design and Lovecraftian themes and world-building, I still haven’t finished any of them…

Speaking of interesting game development studios, I replayed Ninja Theory‘s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice recently in order to get the platinum, and I have to mention it again because you should really play it. It’s great, and has psychological depth, and looks really great, and the fighting is occsionally epic, and the sound design is amazing!

Evaluation from MGS4…

2019 pt4/3: entertainment culture as escape culture: Watching

Some movies/TV shows I’ve watched this year… These are the ones I have something to say about, if only sometimes short comments.

Killing (Zan)
This one is easily up there with my favourite samurai movies, like Seppuku, Samurai Rebellion and Twilight Samurai… The thing they have in common is probably that they don’t glorify Japan’s past feudal society but rather are critical towards them, or at least come at them from a different angle. This one is no exception, and does it brilliantly. I’ve followed Shinya Tsukamoto as a director since I saw Tetsuo: The Iron Man and I would say that this gave me just what I was hoping for when I heard he was going to do something in this genre. This one is closer to some of his later works, though, probably closest to Fires on the Plain if I’m to compare it to another one of his.

Gemini Man
Ang Lee
making a Will Smith action movie with sci fi elements. While the action is very well executed, the focus is more on the emotional aspects of the situation.

Best DC movie so far. The only good one since the DCEU started and it completely exceeded my expectations. Between this and the Doom Patrol TV series, it looks like some gold can be found after all in that pile of mud.

John Wick 1-3
I liked the first one when it came as a competent action movie, but didn’t think much of it. Kind of disappointed with the second one so when I saw the third I didn’t expect much more than a nice-looking action film. It didn’t catch my attention at first, I thought some details were a bit dumb, some fights were well-made but kind of boring, but then something happened and I started to re-evaluate the whole series. Not sure if this is intentional, but when I started to watch them as some variation of angel movies (God’s Army is probably the best example for comparison), they suddenly worked much better. It suddenly made sense that they could kill people in a crowded station and no one would really notice, because these assassins aren’t operating quite on the same level of existence as the rest of us. And then, somewhere in the middle, there’s this fight that is a total homage to John Woo when he was at his peak (The Killer, Hardboiled) and I was all in.

The latest one from Bong Joon-Ho. It seems to have been hyped quite a lot lately, which it deserves. Kind of in the same genre as Borgman, Kynodontas, and Funny Games, except they’re not really in the same genre and they doesn’t even have the same feel to them. Anyway, nice one about class and class consciousness.

Pretty much a Swedish version of The Wicker Man (the original one, that is), but not actually Swedish. Not sure what else to say about it, it’s probably best to go into it with no preconceptions. I’ve already said too much already.

Ad Astra
Heart of Darkness in space, but without the colonialism. I’ve seen some criticism of this movie. Sometimes from people whuo had seen the trailer and were disappointed because they got something more slow-paced. Some (a lot) of the sciemce is also wrong, but it doesn’t bother me this time, and most of it can be explained away by pointing out that they’re using future tech that is obviously way more advanced than what we have now, amd their in-movie explanations of things are nvague enough that you can claim that when they call something “laser”, that’s obviously just what they call something that is completely different from a laser. And anyway, the point is the trip into the dark loneliness, not the scientific accuracy. It’s not Gravity, where what they get wrong is the point, and even the title, of the movie. Or Passengers, where the entire plot hinges on science and logic that doesn’t work.
Does it miss some point by not including the colonialism of the original? Maybe. Apocalypse Now used the Vietnam war as a stand-in for the Belgian Congo of the original book that both movies are new takes on, while Ad Astra seems to skip out on that aspect. On the other hand, you should be able to see Ad Astra as its own thing and then it should also be judged on its own terms. Would I still think like this if I’d read the original? I’m not sure. I did read Catherine Anyango Grünewald‘s/David Zane Mairowitz‘s comic adaptation, but that also has its own take on the story. So maybe I just don’t know enough to make this call.
In any case, I really liked this one.

Sion Sono is doing some interesting movies in general. This is probably the most interesting one I’ve seen since Strange Circus. Meta film about a woman in a yellow room with lots of sexual and violent tension? That doesn’t cover it but I don’t think I should say anything else. If you like Sono, this is probably for you.

MCU and other superhero movies…
Captain Marvel managed to do feminist superhero much better than Wonder Woman was even close to doing, while Avengers: Endgame completely failed on that front, in ways that could maybe have been justified by internal logic, but weren’t. I don’t even need to consider gender to be disappointed. Sure, I liked some things they did, but why the focus on the original Avengers team when there are so many other characters that could have had bigger roles? We know the Russos could have handled it. And after all that build-up…
Glass was ok, but had some weird comments that make me think that Shyamalan tries to seem like someone who knows and cares about comics and wants to do something original with the genre. But he only almost succeeds because he doesn’t really know what he’s doing with it. Other than that, if we disregard comics and see it as part of a movie genre, it manages to be a bit different and unexpected and a quite ok movie.
Brightburn had some potential that it didn’t deliver on, but if you want to watch Superman told as a horror story, this is just what you want to see.

Some more movies I don’t have a lot to say about but that I watched and found worthy of mentioning here:
Velvet Buzzsaw, Sorry to Bother You, Us, BlacKkKlansman.
Just watch them and see what you think, I’d say…
I mean, I could also probably go on and have some thoughts about TV series like Russian Doll, Killjoys, Futureman, all of them great sci fi series with different approaches, but I’m sure others have already said stuff on the internets and I’m tired at the moment and need to make some food before finishing Death Stranding, so…

How to use this lists (and the other entertainment culture as escape culture posts):
If you see me liking some things you also like, and if I seem to like them for similar reasons, then see the rest as recommendations. If you hate all the things I like, then maybe see the rest as warnings. It’s not a fool-proof method, but it’s a good start. There are always intersections between what we like or hate and what other people like or hate, you just need to learn to navigate the cultural landscapes in order to find the stuff that speak to you.

Coming up next: games!

2019 pt3/3: entertainment culture as escape culture: Reading

Entertainment culture is escape culture but do we break free?

I guess the answer is: “yes, temporarily”(?). It’s nice to have somewhere interesting to hide while the monsters of Fascism and Capitalism eat the world around us, and it’s a great privilege to have this escape hatch.

I learned in school that privileges are meant to be used. Whenever us kids didn’t like the school food, the grown-ups told us to “think of the children in Africa”. Because as we know, all the children in Africa are starving (this was the 1980s, but I guess this image more or less prevails). I did think about them, but I could never figure out how they would be helped by me forcing myself to eat food I didn’t like. It should be the other way around. I’d gladly share my food, which I figured would help more. Maybe they meant that our food would taste better if we were thinking about someone else suffering while we ate? That doesn’t seem right either.

What I think now is that they meant that growing up in a rich country made us privileged, and it was somehow our duty to enjoy those privileges (even if we didn’t find them that enjoyable). I’m still not sure what to take away from that experience, but there’s probably a lesson about subconscious(?) racism in there somewhere.

Anyway, I’ve read books!

Some of them (a few) were even without pictures…

Considering how long it takes me to read a book, maybe I shouldn’t re-read old stuff, but I figured it was time to see if Frank Herbert‘s Dune series was still as good as I thought half a life ago. Maybe treat it lika ritual ayahuasca trip that you should do once in your youth, once as an adult and once when you’re old? Anyway, I got through Dune and Dune Messiah, which was a good start. And they are still that good. I’m planning to also read some other stories by Herbert in the near future, so I started on Eye, a collection of some of his short stories.

I got hold of Jeff Noon‘s Pollen, the sequel to Vurt, but it wasn’t as good as the first part and now I’m not looking forward as much to when I find Automated Alice, even if I do like the concept of these books as sci-fi sequels to Alice in Wonderland and if I find it I’ll probably read it.

Also decided to give Stephenie Meyer a chance with The Host. It did have some nice concepts, but also some elements I wasn’t as fond of, or rather there was some untapped potential that I would have liked to see further explored. In any case, I’m glad Kinga got me to read it.

That’s it for the lesser kind (text only) of books. Here’s some comics:

I borrowed and tried out some of Jeff Lemire‘s books (Sweet Tooth, Underwater Welder, Royal City, etc), but the ones I like most are the ones with, in my opinion, the best art, like Black Hammer (Dean Ormston) and Gideon Falls (Andrea Sorrentino). Both of which actually turned out to tackle the same subject in a way, but from different angles.

Also borrowed and read some of the new Ms Marvel by G Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, etc. Kind of feel-good fun superhero story. I can understand why it got all that attention when it came.

A Walk through Hell is one of the few horror comic that work quite well. Psychological, religion-inspired horror set in a socio-political context, by Garth Ennis. He treats identity politics quite interestingly here, kind of making fun of it while simultaneously validating it in the story.

Speaking of well-written stuff… I finished Paper Girls by Vaughan/Chiang and The Wicked + the Divine by Gillen/McKelvie. I recommend both of these books from Image Comics, especially… No, I’ll just recommend both. Paper Girls for the time travel, The Wicked + the Divine for the recurring gods (it’ll make sense if you read it).

I read the Secret Avengers run by Brubaker/Ellis/Remender. When it comes to Marvel, I was never as much into Avengers as I was into X-men. But I follow where the good writers take me, so now I ended up here. And with the exception of X-men Red, what recent X-comics I’ve read were really not that great. They finished the storyline with the young time-displaced X-men a few years late, because that story never made sense, and what they did with the Uncanny X-men: Wolverine & Cyclops (Matthew Rosenberg) was just stupid. Killing important and not-so-important characters off-panel just because they could, then pretending that it had any kind of emotional impact didn’t work for me at all. There were also all these references to previous events, but the characters seemed to be written as if there had been no character development at all since the early 80s. I’m well aware that I’m picky when it comes to this stuff.
On the other hand, I felt that X-men Red, written by Tom Taylor, tried to do something new. Updated conflict-resolution that was less about Heroes punching the Bad Guys and more about finding new ways to break that pattern and build a better world. Too bad they didn’t let that one go on for longer.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m too old for this shit, but I am part of a generation that never really grew up, after all. And I can also blame it on my line of work. Anyway, I’m looking forward to Jonathan Hickman‘s run on the X-titles, which I haven’t started reading yet.

Instead, I read Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four/FF and I’m thinking of returning to his Avengers/New Avengers/Secret Wars before I get to the Dawn of X stuff. See if there is a thread to follow through all of it, since he’s working himself through all the major Marvel group titles. Fantastic Four is another titles that I’ve hardly read. After John Byrne‘s run, I’ve basically only read the one by Millar/Hitch and a miniseries by Grant Morrison. Which was all good, I’m just not that interested in the characters themselves as much as I am in well-written stories.

Speaking of going back to well-written stories… I hadn’t realised how good some of the things were that I missed in the 00s/early 10s. I knew there was some potential in the Marvel Knights line, for example, but I had missed the whole Daredevil storyline by (mainly) Bendis/Brubaker/Diggle. It’s actually one long story that took them something like 10 years to get through to the end. Admittedly, the Bendis/Brubaker parts of it were better than the finish, but those were really good. Also of course the David Mack installments, but that was never a surprise.

Speaking of Brubaker and Marvel comics of that era, I’ve also started reading his Captain America, and am not disappointed. It’s kind of weird how it took me so long to discover Brubaker, but on the other hand I could never afford getting everything I wanted, so I had to ignore some stuff I would potentially have liked. It worries me a little that some of the titles I’d like to catch up on now are starting to be hard to find.

One of those hard-to-find comics seems to be Alan Moore‘s Providence, which disturbs me like an unnamable thing lurking in the doorway. Hopefully I’ll find them some day.
What I did recently read by Moore, however, is Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, his “final” Superman story from around the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths (mid-80s). This was also the first Superman story I ever read as a kid (first superhero story, even). It truly scared me as an 8(?)-year-old, though it didn’t scare me off from the whole genre, and I had these vivid recollections of it when I read it now. I even destroyed my copy back then, so this was the first time I re-read it since maybe 1987…

Did you know that DC started an imprint in the 1990s called Milestone, with Black superheroes, by Black creators (or at least non-White)? It’s another one of those things I was aware of and curious about, but couldn’t afford to explore back then. I recently found one of the miniseries from that era, Wise Son: the White Wolf, by Ho Che Anderson. It was obvious that I missed some context since it was about a character connected to the other Milestone titles that I hadn’t read, but you can’t really go wrong with HCA, and it still felt like he brought some of his own stuff to the story.

On the subject of CBA-connected creators… One of the artists of the upcoming CBA vol 47 is Francisco Sousa Lobo, whose The Care of Birds (published by Chili Com Carne) I got at CRACK! this summer. It’s about a bird-watcher who “is to paedophiles what bird-watchers are to hunters”. A slow-paced story that I’m not entirely sure how to describe, but that I enjoyed in all its mundanity.

Also at CRACK!, I got André Coelho‘s Acedia (also from CCC). We never published Coelho in CBA, but he did a piece of fan art for one of my Piracy is Liberation books, and we’ve collaborated on some projects without ever meeting (unless I’m forgetting something). Anyway, I’ve always liked his art, and this was no exception, in a darkly hallucinatory story of sex and mental states.

Speaking of CRACK! and Novo Doba and European underground comics… Penis Tutorial is a book made in silk screen in several colors by Bernharda Xilko, printed at Matrijaršija in Belgrade.
I got it at Novo Doba and it was probably what pushed us over the edge to make us actually do a book in silk screen (mine and Kinga’s Sleep Paralysis, which we admittedly haven’t printed yet, but we plan to, I promise!). Beautiful book, lots of over-sized dicks. Very colorful.

At some point I think I need to find a way to edit/publish an anthology of antifascist comics. But I want it to be fictional stories with antifa sensibilities rather than yet another “this is what Fascism is about”. So I went and got The Antifa Comic Book: 100 Years of Fascism and Antifa Movements by Gord Hill, which is a very informative book about what Fascism, and Anti-Fascism, is about. So exactly the thing I didn’t want for my planned anthology, but apart from that it was good. Really focusing on the antifascist movements in a way that you don’t see much of in the mainstream, where the only acceptable antifascism basically ended with Hitler in 1945 and everything since then has been too violent or deemed unnecessary. This book shows pretty clearly that it’s far from unnecessary, and it shows what happens when antifa movements (of any kind) fail.

By the way: Did you ever think about how lucky we are that Hitler invaded Poland and that the second world war happened? Because it wasn’t the Holocaust or persecution of Jews and others that made the Allies fight against Nazi Germany. The only problem they had with Hitler was his territorial aspirations, so if it wasn’t for that, the racism and the Holocaust wouldn’t have been seen as such a big problem. After all, that stuff was in part inspired by the segregation politics in the US, which we of course know is the Greatest Democracy ever. I think that’s an important thing to remember when trying to understand our current Liberal/Capitalist democracies and how they deal with (or don’t deal with) today’s Fascist (and related) movements.

See now what happened. Here I am, trying to speak about comics and it ends up on the subject of Fascists again. Fucking Hell, they’re everywhere these days.

I know this is part 3/3, but there still are 2 more to come. Watching tomorrow and Playing after that. So stay tuned if you’re interested in what I have to say about some films/TV/games…

CRACK! 2019 + some recent stuff

I’m soon going on vacation, this weird concept that you get when you have employment, where you spend some time not working at all. Employment is rare for me, so it still feels like some kind of novelty. And it won’t be completely without work since we have a CBA release/exhibition on July19 (work being defined as when you do things with a purpose other than pleasure/relaxation, not to be confused with employment where you also get paid).

So I thought I should make some small summation of what I’ve beem doing lately. I should say ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ since most of what I do is done in the context of one or more of the collectives I’m part of within the Hybriden constellation…

Let’s start at the chronological end, with this year’s CRACK! festival (June 20-23) where I was with Kinga Dukaj and Luddvig Melin to represent AltCom/Hybriden/Wormgod/CBK/Tusen Serier and ourselves as artists. If you don’t know, this is one that I’ve been going to every year for the last decade or so, except last year. Which was probably good, because this time it felt better than it has for a while. Less people than usual, but I got some of that magic back, where you meet new people who do interesting stuff, old friends that you only see once or a few times a year (depending on which festivals you go to) who also do interesting stuff, you see lots of cool art, you make some yourself, you’re in this small piece of a possible future/squat paradise on earth called Forte Prenestino to share in the evolution of the comics/printed art underground. It’s a source of inspiration for AltCom and for a lot of what I do and how I do it.

Idyllic breakfast with background reminder…

Our cell:

The theme for this year was APERTO (OPEN), similar to the NO BORDERS theme of AltCom 2012, so that fit us well considering what we’re usually publishing.

One of our neighboring cells

On June 22 there was also a huge demonstration against evictions of squats as well as against raised rents in general. CRACK! has a natural connection to this since Forte Prenestino is a squat since 1986. I didn’t go to the demo myself because I can’t handle being out in the Italian heat for that long, but rumor says it was a manifestation of around 100 000 people.

I was asked to make a sticker or something for the demo, but I found this and couldn’t imagine doing it any better.

I also have to say, without going into details, that the crisis management from the festival organizers is very commendable. They managed to turn an incident into an assembly of around a hundred artists to discuss what had happened. In the end some people disrupted the meeting and I’m not sure where they will go from where it ended, but I fully trust them to handle it in an intelligent way that is respectful to many different aspects of the whole situation.

A while ago, we opened a new permanent exhibition at Hybriden, with works that have been produced at Fanzineverkstaden by its members and/or workshop participants. It was also, finally, the official release event for Fosfor, our zine distribution system.

The Lore exhibition is still up, with material related to the theme of the latest issue of CBA. The best bet if you still haven’t seen it is to go this week (Wed-Fri 11-15 + Sun 12-15). After that, Hybriden will close for the summer except for the opening of the Qtopia exhibition on July 19 (at Hybriden). As I write this, we’re actually in the final stages of finishing to files for CBA vol 45: Qtopia to send off to the printer.

We’ll be back in August at Fanzineverkstaden, open weekdays between 15-21, with lots of new workshops coming up during the fall, so keep an eye open for that. And do use the place, because it’s a great opportunity to print stuff and try some new ways for self-publishing, and you never know how long it’ll last (except we know we’ll be here for at least another year). We also brought home some examples from CRACK! to use for inspiration.

And speaking of things that are being printed as we speak… My contributions to the upcoming Wormgod book, After the ends of the world 2 by me and Susanne Johansson, have largely been produced at Fanzineverkstaden in between my regular working hours. More on that later, but here are a few of the pages from the book that I also showed as prints at CRACK!

Captain Marvel!

Went to see Captain Marvel this weekend. It was a standard MCU movie, which is quite a good standard when it comes to mainstream superhero movies; it means it was good and enjoyable and probably works best when seen as part of the overarching story.

AND it managed to be a feminist movie in many ways that the somehow acclaimed Wonder Woman totally botched (which is something I will get into in a future post).

Captain marvel is of course its own movie, and I wasn’t comparing it to Wonder Woman while watching, but the comparison is valid since they’re both the first female-led solo superhero movie from Marvel/DC respectively.At least during the current generation of superhero movies since the genre is now almost synonymous with major blockbusters.

In any case, I’m very happy that they didn’t throw away all the feminist potential in the way that Wonder Woman did. I also hear it did well financially, which is of course important since our entertainment is in the hands of Capitalism and they need to make a profit if they are going to continue doing stuff that is anything other than the tried and safe. So I guess thanks to all the small-minded people who did their best to sink this one but probably only helped by drawing attention to it.

2019: the future approaches

I have no idea what to expect from this year.

Me, shimmering…

I heard that human society has maybe two decades left before we’ve fucked things up too much to go back. But so far, let’s get on with things, business as usual:

CBK has one new CBA at the printer now and at least two upcoming volumes, with accompanying exhibitions, already planned out. First up is CBA vol 43: Corners, the last issue of 2018 which will be released at some point soon. Then we have CBA vol 44: Lore, still with a few days left before the deadline for submissions. The call for submissions for CBA vol 45: Qtopia will be announced soon. Hopefully I’ll have time to make some short story for at least one of them, but we’ll have to see about that.

It’s still a bit unclear how the budget will look for Tusen Serier, but with any luck we’ll be able to publish a book or two this year.

And I’m desperate to do some Wormgod stuff. I have plans that I’m excited about but it’s too early to talk about them so far. But it would be foolish not to use it now that I have access to Fanzineverkstaden, which will be my main focus in 2019, as it was last year.

Aand I guess that’s about it, unless something unexpected comes along. I’ll try to keep you posted on anything interesting…