Friday, February 20, 2009



I'm afraid I'm going to burn out. Not on life or anything like that, but on the Tomorrow series of books by John Marsden.

I'm about midway through the fourth book of the series right now, and I only started them a few weeks ago. None of them are that long (I think the longest thus far has been 280 pages), but that's still quite a lot to read.

I picked up the first book in this young adult series, Tomorrow, When the War Began, at an otherwise somewhat disappointing free store just before xmas (but still, yay free store!). I'd heard the title before, but had no idea what it was about. Did I even read the back, or did I just take it to add to my towering pile of books?

To the great astonishment of everyone (or at least me) it soon got taken off the pile (I was probably procrastinating doing something else) and I began reading the story of teenaged Ellie and her friends hanging out in small town Australia. They flirt, they argue, they get mad, they make up, they make out, they worry, they cry, they're teenagers.

In the middle of a war.

Australia's been invaded by an unnamed Asian country, who want some of the luxury and resources for themselves. Ellie and her friends were out camping in the bush when the invasion happened, and they return to civilization to find everyone in town has been rounded up and held captive. They don't know what to do, and, for the first time in their lives, there's nobody to tell them.

They survive (there's seven books, of course they survive!), and became guerillas, waging their own war against the invading army. Yeah, it's somewhat ridiculous, but they don't all become Rambo*. It's done with enough skill that the things they do seem to at least be plausible, and most of what they do is just surviving. As the series progresses I can only assume that Marsden was doing more and more research into what armies, and people in war zones, actually did.

Ellie and her friends feel a lot realer than a lot of stuff aimed at kids (or teenagers or whatever). They drink, they fuck, they fuck up, and apart from Ellie (or at least that's who I presume the sequel series "The Ellie Chronicles" is about), you don't know who's going to survive. In fact, at this point I'm reasonably certain that all of her friends are going to die at some point. But while they're alive, they have personalities, and they grow and change. Frequently this growth isn't in the best of ways, as they end up killing more and more people, but the world they're living in is scary place, and I have no idea what I'd do in the same situation.

Okay, so the premise doesn't really make sense. It's never explained who's actualy invaded (China? Indonesia?), and the goal of moving a shit load of Asians to Australia doesn't work, as I'm pretty sure that the country couldn't support a population twice as large. (Am I wrong? I'm sure I read somewhere that there were increasingly frequent droughts that were making it super hard for farmers to, well, farm.) The rest of the world (except New Zealand and New Guinea), more or less ignore what's going on.

I only wish I'd found these books when I was younger, as I'm sure 14 year old me would have loved them, but I'm going to keep reading them anyway. Sure, they're a little predictable at times, but I want to find out what happens to Ellie and her friends. Plus maybe I'll find some information that'll be useful if Canada ever gets invaded.

*I find it kind of funny I make references to movies I've never seen.

Bonus "review" of Milk (the movie):
It made me cry, but I didn't think it was that good really. Still, important historically.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Essential X-Men vol. 7

Oh, the X-Men. Mainstays of the comics industry for decades. They have, at various times, been the best selling comics around. X-Men #1 from 1991 is still the best selling comic ever (at least in America), having sold eight million copies. Currently, under the title "X-Men: Legacy," it sells sixty something thousand copies a month.

But I'm not reading X-Men #1, or even X-Men: Legacy #222. I'm reading Essential X-Men volume 7, which reprints Uncanny X-Men comics from the mid 1980s.

Marvel's Essentials are huge, black and white books reprinting of older comics. When they started the line in the late '90s they were reprinting things that could be considered "essential," or at least good/important: the original Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, and the 1970s relaunch of the X-Men. The fact that they've since printed things like Marvel Saga (really?) indicates the line has more or less become Marvel's attempt reprint every comic they have ever published from the '60s to the '80s.

And you know what? I fully support this idea. Essential Godzilla may have been terrible, but at least I found out for myself that it was dreadful ("How could a Godzilla comic be bad?" I foolishly asked myself, three issues of Godzilla fighting cattle rustlers later and I knew). Other comics, like Super-Villian Team-Up, may not be essential, or even good all the way through, but they're still fun enough to be worth reading.

Of course I haven't read as many of these things as perhaps I should have. Some Spider-Man, the aforementioned inessentials, and a whole lot of X-Men.

In the last year I've read five of these things, from Essential X-Men volume three all the way up to volume seven. These collect over one hundred issues, annuals, and crossovers from 1982 to 1988. That's a whole lot of X-Men comics (but possibly less than were released last year).

The dialogue is kind of clunky, sometimes the stories don't make any sense because I'm not reading New Mutants or X-Factor or some other random title from the 1980s, and the team in the latest volume is made up of a fairly ridiculous group of mutants (an unpowered Storm, Dazzler, Longshot, Rogue, Psylocke pre-Asianification, Havoc, and Wolverine). I'm reading comics about a character created to tie into a disco record that never came out. (

And yet I want more. And I'm totally excited because next volume is when they move to Australia. Maybe Jubilee will appear!

Of course, a lot of the appeal of this comic is...not nostalgia exactly, as I've never read these comics before, but excitement as I'm reading all the adventures of these characters that were referenced in other comics I had read.

I started really reading American comics when I bought an issue of Warren Ellis' Excalibur (about super heros in the UK). It was the first American comic book I'd read _and_ enjoyed enough to want the next issue. The next month was the Age of Apocalypse crossover, where all the X-titles spent four months telling stories set in a post-Apocalypse-tic (hah) world. I became hooked on the X-Men as only an 11 year old could be. I eventually tracked down every back issue of Excalibur (they weren't that expensive as nobody really cared about them).

Actually, that's not even true. I was already hooked on the X-Men, through the cartoon I watched on TV every saturday morning. I just hadn't found any comics I'd liked up to that point. I did however read around eight young adult novels that featured retellings of older X-Men and Wolverine comics. They were filled with characters I didn't recognize, they were so forgettable to everyone else who read them I can't even find any reference to them online, and yet I read them over and over again.

But now I'm reading the actual comics those stories were based on. I know what's going to happen to these characters. I know Storm will get her powers back, I know Nightcrawler isn't going to die, I know Dazzler is going to struggle to have a point decades after disco has stopped being popular. But I still want to read these comics to find out how they got to the points where they are today (or rather, in the mid '90s, because I can't be that bothered with current X-Men comics). And while I wouldn't pay $3 an issue, I will pay, well, less than a dollar an issue for these trades. Of course this is because I don't care it's not in colour.

Marvel's just pulled the colour plates out of these, so it's just the original inked pages, no toning or anything, and I assume it looks fairly different from how it was originally printed because of that. I think the Art Adams annual that leads off this book actually suffers from being in black and white. How about the regular artist? Well, it's Mark Silvestri I guess, but his longest consecutive run is four issues, while fill-ins come from Barry Windsor Smith, Alan Davis, Rick Leonardi, Jackson Guice (twice), Bret Blevins, and Kerry Gammill (in only fifteen issues!). Despite this, it all generally looks pretty good, and perhaps current editors could learn something from the '80s, as except for one (the last in the issue, which was a random fill in issue), all the other issues moved the story forward.

So should you read it? Well, probably not as your first X-Men comic. It's dated, and perhaps incomprehensible (though sometimes that's appealing). But really, it's five or six hundred pages for $16.99, which is one of the best deals in comics, and if you think it sucks you can use it as wrapping paper or a colouring book or something.



Laya, Witch of the Red Pooh

[I wrote this for jejulife, but they never ran it.]

Art and story by Yo Yo

Published by Tokyopop (English, two volumes) In Korea it appeared in Young Champ magazine.

Korea may be full of comic books, but it can seem like all of them are just translated imports from Japan. So where are the Korean comics? Thankfully it recent years a variety of publishers have been releasing Korean comics (Manhwa) in English, so now you can find out what the country has to offer.

After reading Laya, Witch of the Red Pooh I really wished that there was magic in the world again. I wished that I could have a friend who could cast magic spells and make magic potions and let me stay at her house indefinitely after I burnt mine down. I wished I could do magic myself, but I'd probably be just as lazy as Laya.

Laya is a witch; not a wizened old crone as usually seen in Western stories, but (as you probably already know from the cover) a young, cute witch. She's also very lazy, with still lazier friends who hang around her house distracting her from getting her job done.

Laya's friends include Puss, her cat who talks, walks around in boots, and is constantly smoking or drinking when he's not sleeping. Snowy the Crow, who has to stay in the form of a cute boy or Laya will kick him out. And Niky, another witch who can't go home because she burnt her house down.

The stories are pretty silly, and usually about Laya procrastinating doing witch work like making magic potions, trying to use magic to make her life easier, or the characters being incompetent in some way or another. Each story is only about four pages long, but a surprising amount can happen in those pages, and each character's personalities really come across well despite the limited space.

Most of the humour is pretty understandable without any knowledge of Korea, though the occasional joke my go over your head if you don't know anything about the country. (You might wonder what the name Digo Re is funny, until you realize they meant "Re" to be the family name, not the last name.)*

The artwork varies quite a lot; the best stuff being nice and detailed, with lots of work put into designing the clothes the characters are wearing and the backgrounds. Then there's the sorta super deformed stuff, and at the bottom is the rather poorly drawn stuff that seems to have been drawn when the artist was horribly behind on deadlines. Yet the occasionally bad art doesn't detract from the comic itself, instead it (somehow) still manages to be enjoyable.

While all the dialogue in the Tokyopop edition is in English, the sound effects have been left untranslated, allowing you to practice your Korean alphabet, or completely ignore them as the case may be.

At around 120-30 pages both books are a bit shorter than your average comic from Tokyopop, but both are still totally worth picking up if you're in the mood for something cute and funny.

*Re Digo = ready go.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 15, 2009



I've been meaning to read Wastland since it first came out, however I was living in Asia and didn't have a chance to.

I read the first issue when the writer and creator, Antony Johnston, put it on a torrent site (and hey, it's still on the website). And I and picked up a couple of issues from a dollar bin in Australia in 2007, but this is my first time reading through the opening arc.

Of course, I was a bit nervous about reading the first collection after waiting so long: What if it wasn't any good? Thankfully, it is.

Wasteland is set 100 years after "the big wet," a so far (as of the first volume) unexplained disaster that pretty much wiped out society. There's still some technology, and people still have communities, but they're barely hanging on it the desert like world they're living in.

The story follows Abi and Michael, two people with spooooooky powers (Abi can heal people, and Michael is a telekenetic), who don't seem to age, and can't remember where they came from. Abi's living in a town (and seems to have been there for quite some time), and when Michael shows up one day, disaster soon follows. Sand eaters, weird mutant things (?) who speak broken english, attack destroying the town and killing much of the populatoin. Thus, the entire town (or what's left of them) head off to the nearby city of Newbegin. Getting to the city isn't eash, and they're attacked by various monstrous creatures and run into other problems on their way. Of course, once they get to the city they're not that much better off.

Newbegin is where the story really gets political. It was founded by Marcus, another seemingly ageless person with superpowers, 80 years ago and is run by a schemeing council (like all good cities should be). The council is trying to deal with the Sunners, members of a religious group who worship the sun. They're the lowest caste around, and many of them are slaves, but that's not good enough for Marcus, who wants to enslave them all.

By the end of the first trade the reader will probably be left with a lot of questions, however it doesn't seem like everything's being made up as it goes along. Instead I feel as though Johnston has a pretty good idea of where his story is going.

The world Johston has created is pretty immense, and it's clear he's put a lot of thought into the back story. He probably has a timeline for the full 80 years of Newbegin, a fair amount of information on the different religions, how they formed and how they act, what technology is still around and why it's still there to be used.

Art wise Wasteland is pretty good too. It's pencilled, inked, and grey toned by Christopher Mitten, and I think he does a good job. I really like the backgrounds he does for the cities (and most other stuff for that matter). His people generally look good, though his women look a bit too similar so far, though there haven't been that many, so we'll see what happens. My one big complaint is probably with the grey tones, which at times seem a bit excessive. I know there's only so much you can do with a black and white comic, but I guess I'd prefer to see a bit more black, and a bit less computer fading.

Wasteland is planned for 50 issues, and it's just about halfway there now. If you want more information, check out the website, which even has songs recorded for the comic, as well as lots of other information.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 13, 2009


Future vampire

Movies I have seen (not so) recently

Back to the Future
So, to make this vaguely comic book related, the co-writer of this movie was Bob Gale, who has written a number of not very well received comics. I remember his Daredevil run being pretty bad.

So yeah, Back to the Future. It's regarded as a super amazing sci fi comedy, it's okay.

Michael J. Fox travels back in time to when his parents were kids. Oh no! He's messed up the timeline, he has to fix it before he can go home.

I guess seeing this when I'm 25, instead of like 10, probably doesn't help that much. Perhaps what really hurt this film is that I generally only watch terrible movies in which people shoot each other because of some cyber based thing. And this had none of that! Hell, there's decidedly little tech in this at all, since once Fox travels back in time he spends most his time interacting with high school students, while the time machine is fixed by the professor character off screen.

Parts of it were decent, but iunno, I guess it didn't appeal to me that much. I doubt I'll watch the sequels.

Shadow of the Vampire

This is one of those films I'd wanted to see since it first came out, but just never got around to it.

It's based around the idea that the actor who played Count Orlok in the 1920s German film Nosferatu, is in fact a vampire.

I saw Nosferatu (and the '70s remake) in a German film course in university, hell, I probably wrote essays on it. Though that doesn't mean I remember much of it. I do remember some of the scenes that were in this movie, so I guess that's good?

While I think the idea for this film is amazing, the actual end product kind of disapoints me. It doesn't seem to know if it's being a comedy or a sort of horrific drama or what. The characters just seem to wander around and interact occasionally, doing things for reasons that weren't revealed to the audience. Maybe that's a critique of the films made in the 1920s? Maybe I just watched this film a week ago and can't really remember what happened?



Thursday, February 12, 2009



I love the post-apocalypse. A lot. I read post-apocalyptic books. I read post-apocalyptic comics. I watch post-apocalyptic movies. I dress up like post-apocalyptic people.

Wastleands falls ino the first category. It's an anthology of post-apocalyptic stories that run the gamut, like all anthologies, from "pretty good" to "I didn't finish reading it." Still, the stories offer up many different versions on the same basic theme, showcasing a variety of possible apocalypses and outcomes.

Some of the apocalypses shown were caused by natural disasters, some by manmade disasters, some we don't know what happened. They're set immediately following whatever happened, to hundreds of years afterwards. Sometimes they're optimistic about how society will rebuild itself, and sometimes they think we're about a day away from reverting to complete savagery. Sometimes we have reverted to complete savagery.

So what inspired all these creators to write these stories? Why is this a type of story that people keep coming back to? Do they expect this to happen? Do they want it to happen?

For the stories set immediately in the aftermath (where "immediately" means "people alive now are still alive"), I assume there is some amount of "this is what I'd do." Or at least, "this is what I hope I do."

Or perhaps the people that write these stories hate current society and want it to collapse, Unabomber style.

Or maybe, they love our current society, but think this sort of future is inevitable. In his introduction editor John Joseph Adams says that while there was a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction written in the '80s, there wasn't as much written in the '90s. However since 2001 there's been a resurgence. This seems to imply that much post-apocalyptic ficiton is a creation of fear.

Until the Soviet Union collapsed people seemed to think that a third world war, leading to the collapse of civilization, was inevitable. In comparison t that, the '90s became an era of optimism: technology for everyone! The internet will save us all! Of course, none of it was true (even then), but in the last several years, a culture of fear has again become prevelent, leading to more stories about futures devestated by wars against "the other," and the aftermath.

Stories in Wastelands can be split into two broad categories. The pessimistic stories generally feature lone characters trying desperately to stay alive in the immediate chaos following whatever happened. They're about mobs of people banding together and destroying what's left of civilization. About society collapsing into nothing.

The optimistic, and I use this term broadly, are when there may have been a huge drop in the world's population, people might be incredibly poor, there might be barbarians at the gate (not always, or no more than certain parts of the world today at least), but there's still communities (even if maybe nobody trusts each other, and even if they're barely managing to survive), and there's usually still technology, somehow.

I suppose if you got to the technological point of self functioning robots being prevalent, they could probably run for quite a while. And those same robots could probably keep power plants and the like working, so once you get to a certain level of technlogy it's easy enough to keep it stable.

But we haven't reached the stage of self functioning robots yet, so how would we deal with an apocalypse. How soon would we revert to earlier technology? A book on that subject is Earth Abides, which is about the slow decay of technology, even when society is rebuilding itself after massive depopulation. In Earth Abides, which probably covers 60 years or so, finding food becomes the most important thing, and farming, hunting, and gathering become the most important skills for people to have, more so than reading or other things we now learn. Of course, that book was written 50 years ago, so it's perhaps not as applicable in a world today.

Still, while the current generation would probably use books and the like to learn how to farm properly (or do anything they didn't know how to do), would the second? Or would they just learn from doing? The second seems more likely. If most of your time is spent on survival, everything else becomes less important.

The idea of community becomes incredibly important. If you were in a relatively stable society, probably not that large, you'd know everyone else, and your entertainment time would probably be spent with the other people. Thus reading doesn't really become a passtime.

Sometimes post apocalypses are seen as fun. No more work. No more rent. Just hanging out with your friends and looting shops. For many people, this is pretty much the ideal life, unlikely as it may be.

But more frequently they're depressing. Threads pretty much destroyed the mode a post apocalyptic movie marathon I attended (the rest of the fare had been things like Hell Comes to Frog Town).

One thing I would like to see more of, and that I will probably end up writing myself, is the idea of explorers. In the direct aftermath, going through people's, still more or less whole. houses, and just hanging out. Most stories set in abandoned cities tend to have them looted entirely years before. I guess people hanging out in abandoned cities isn't a story in itself, just the setting for one.

I've gotten offtrack. It's an anthology. It's about the post-apocalypse. You probably already know if you want to read it.

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?