Lots to talk about this week, so let’s crack on with it. In lieu of the usual strained folderol, here’s a quote, the meaning of which will become clearer as this week’s episode unfurls.
“Excellence in the great things is built upon excellence in the small.”John Updike
Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.
Editor Rob takes the floor.
‘On this day forty-five years ago, the first issue of a new comic arrived in newsagents. Designed to take advantage of the increasing public interest in science fiction as Star Wars rolled towards UK shores, it became, and to an extent remains, a very British cultural phenomenon.
‘2000AD launched with Dan Dare on the cover, sharing space with a plastic frisbee (the legendary Space Spinner). The strips inside were a proper slumgullion: analogues of popular TV shows and movies (M.A.C.H. 1 as a cheeky copy of The Six Million Dollar Man, Harlem Heroes featuring a weird blend of the Harlem Globetrotters playing a jet-pack powered version of Rollerball); gritty near-future apocalyptic tales (Invasion! showed an incursion on UK shores by very lightly disguised Russians faced down by a cabbie called Bill Savage) and Ray Bradbury-style lunacy (Flesh is still a favourite of mine, with time-travelling cowboys harvesting dinosaurs for hungry 23rd century diners in the Jurassic era). Oh, and that old favourite Dan Dare, brought bang up to date with the psychedelic stylings of Massimo Belardinelli.
‘And we haven’t even mentioned the best-known member of the crew, Judge Dredd, who started in issue 2 and hasn’t missed a week since.
‘Imagine that lot in the hands of a dreamy, impressionable and already space-obsessed 9 year old. Readership, I never looked back.
‘I still hold a subscription to the comic, digital now. Admittedly my faith has not been untested. In the late nineties it became nearly unreadable as it chased different trends and evaporating audiences. Like many readers I assumed, come the title date, the comic would fade quietly away. But thanks to Oxford-based publisher Rebellion who took over in (yes!) 2000AD, it has roared back to loud and lunatic life, still anarchic and gleefully satirical. 2000AD’s influence spreads wide—an early home to most of the best-known comic artists and writers of the end of the 20th century, whose work now colours Marvel’s cinematic work and a thick fatty wedge of modern pop culture. Look deeply enough at the way we portray the 21st century, and you’ll see Tharg looking back at you.
‘I’ll stop gushing. Here’s an interview with the current editor, and an invite to an online convention in March featuring some very well-known guests. Splundig vur Thrigg!’
While the Ninth Art Desk is still open for business, let’s take a look at this great strip by Mallorie Udischas-Trojan describing her experience with a social media pile-on. Well worth a read if you think the best way to deal with such things is simply to switch off notifications for a while…
One more from the Ninth Art desk then we’ll move on, promise. We are, as has been mentioned on many occasions, huge fans of John Allison. His Bad Machinery strips, which introduce most of the current cast of books like Giant Days, are now hosted on GoComics and are available for free. Go ahead and immerse. It’s worth a few days of your time.
Ok, you can unclench, we’re done with the comics stuff. Ever wondered what it would be like to be on Mastermind? Wonder no more. Spoiler alert—just as terrifying as you’d imagine.
The English have a way of taking global cuisine, covering it in gravy and claiming bagsy on it. Chicken tikka masala, for example—a fine example of Birmingham’s cultural heritage. But there are some exports from our fair isle which have been given the reverse twist and shunted into international waters. What, as a thought exercise, do you think Mexicans call salsa inglesa?
Shakespeare’s Sister. Now that was a band. Their remarkable goth/glam stylings were a solid lock on many of the Music Desk staff’s Dixon-branded tape decks when they were but youngers. In an appropriately rambling chat with The Guardian, Marcella and Siobhan give us the skinny on the influences behind and making of their greatest hit. Altogevvah nah, once you’ve larded on an excess of eyeliner and squeezed into a spangly catsuit—‘you better…’
Thor Harris is a dude. Stocky of build, luxuriant of hair and beard, heart as big and solid as the furniture he crafts with his bare hands. Oh, Thor’s also one of the finest percussionists on the planet. Here, he outlines his tips for living a good, noble life which won’t leave you feeling like you’re missing out on the good stuff…
The Readership may recall we mentioned a food-replacement product called SquarEat which boiled yer meat and two veg down to pucks of plasticky goo. Doesn’t sound that great, but we shouldn’t judge without experience of the product. Hence the link below, where writer Ellis Brookes bravely takes the plunge. We’ll spoil no further—although you may want to have a glass of water to hand to help tamp down the gag reaction. Dig in.
Noir is becoming a bit of an overused phrase, applying to everything from boxset to podcast which features a vaguely grubby, morally ambiguous crime-based subject. Cut Crush Anne Billson argues that the term has a much narrower framing and should be applied as such…
We think this is The Bit Of The Week, the one you should read before all else. Taking on OCD, HIV and the music of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, it’s a ride you’ll be happy you took. We dedicate this one to X&HTeam-mate Rob Maythorne (just because of the music). Love you, man.
It has been over twenty years since any member of The Cut Crew tramped the streets of New York. When the opportunity presents itself again, we plan to take this thigh-twanging wander around some of the finest lobby art available to the adventurous cogniscenti. If you’re a fan of mid-century American art, there are many treats to be had here—and all for free, too!
Aaaand finally. We refer you back to the Updike quote at the top of the post as we invite you to watch surrealist master Luis Bunuel make a dry martini. Pay attention. It really is about the simple things.
Readipop (also known to locals as The Real Reading Festival) is finally back in the field (Christchurch Meadows in The Cut’s home manor of Caversham to be precise) this July. A heady mix of local bands, 90s stalwarts and a generally-applied Mellow Vibe, it’s a grand few days out. One of the headliners is Badly Drawn Boy, who knows how to bring the sunshine. This track, the opener from his hit album The Hour Of Bewilderbeast, hit a nerve unexpectedly when it popped up on The Custom Cut Musical Algorithm and brought on a sudden attack of the wobbly lip and blurry vision. Not great at 80mph on the M4. We survived to tell the tale. If you’re in the mood, it would be great to see you. Look out for Editor Rob rocking his cowboy hat.
Don’t engage too closely though. He might start talking to you about comics.
See you next Saturday, shiners.