Tuesday 20 February 2024

Speak Your Brain! Part 72. Of Hype and Disenchantment.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon

The Steve Does Comics Megaphone
Image by Tumisu
from Pixabay

Can you hear it?

In the trees? In the babbling brooks? In the air around us and upon the breeze?

Why, no. You can't.

That's because there's nothing to hear.

Wherever we traipse in the unending forest that is the internet, there lurks nothing but dread and silence.

But why?

Because there is not yet anything to say.

But, with any luck, there soon shall be.

And that's because, at the centre of that forest, we've stumbled, once more, upon the feature that even the squirrels themselves have learnt to fear. The one in which I keep quiet and whoever finds this site gets to decide the day's topic for debate.

That debate could be about anything that tickles your fancy or peels your potatoes.

Therefore, hesitate ye not, brave wanderer and announce that topic in the comments section below.


Matthew McKinnon said...

OK then...

Who have you gone off, and when? A writer or artist, ideally one you fervently followed, who you eventually thought 'hang on a minute...'.

I'll start with my Frank Miller..

From the legendary DD run onwards, peaking with 1986/87's glut of top notch stuff, I was a crazy Frank Miller fan.
It was all great to me.

Then around 1990 there was Hard Boiled and Give Me Liberty and the first, episodic, Sin City story.
The first issue of GML was terrific - exactly what you'd hope for. Then issue 2, which I bought at the same time, seemed to nosedive badly. It was the first inkling of things to come.

I never like Hard Boiled, not even the art [great details, no storytelling skills].

I thought Sin City was OK at first - but again, nice art but such a pastiche of a pastiche that it was hard to connect on any level.

Then throughout the 90s there was a regular stream of GML and SC books, each of them as dull and repetitive as the last. I had a big clearout at the end of the 90s and sold them all [excepot for GML 1 and SC: That Yellow Bastard, which I quite liked].

I think the last straw was 300. I stopped buying that after a couple of issues. I picked up Dark Knight 2, and while I appreciate it tried to take a different route to its predecessor, it failed miserably. And the massive gap between issues 2 and 3 in order to let Frank Miller insert post-9/11 material into a stupid comic book really killed it for me.

I haven't bought anything of his since. I read a friend's copy of DK3 - it was OKish, but seriously pissed me off when it led Bruce Wayne to the Fountain Of Youth to rejuvenate him for further adventures.

The End.

Anonymous said...

Mid-70s - the Panavia 200 MRCA - Britain's super-dooper multi-role combat aircraft (made with several other European countries). That aircraft was hyped as the greatest thing since sliced bread! Entering service, it had concrete ballast in its nose-cone, as the radar was inoperable - along with other serious shortcomings!

In 1979 - high quality glossy comics were outdated trash! The Marvel Revolution would sweep all before it, with its cheaper paper, tiny panels, and myriad stories, with very few pages! A big disappointment, until said Marvel Revolution eventually produced some fantastic comics, later on...

1982 (?) Disc cameras were the future - easily load the film, motor wind, automatic exposure - automatic everything. Unfortunately, however, the pictures disc cameras produced were rubbish!

Mid 80s - The Ford Sierra - a space age car of the future. The reality - not at all how it looked!

Can you think of any products - of whatever kind, or description - whereby the massive hype was let down by a disappointing first outing, for said product, until the kinks were ironed out?


Anonymous said...

Oops - sorry, Matthew!


Matthew McKinnon said...

Philip -

No probs! Let's do both.

Matthew McKinnon said...

Philip -

I have been scanning in old photos from the 1980s, and I can confirm that the pictures Disc Cameras produced were shockingly bad. Focus, colour, definition - all terrible. Like selling people the worst quality 16mm film to take their pictures with.

In a similar vein, phone cameras were dreadful for a good few years. I have little videos I shot as late as the mid 2000s that are unwatchable. And horrible photos.

Any new MAC OS. It seems like Apple release Beta versions nowadays and just fix the problems with the next OS rollout, which has its own bugs and so on and so on....

I was thinking about bendy buses the other day. A very London-centric thing [although they had them in San Franciso last time I was there]. They never fixed the problems with them though, did they?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Matthew.

As regards comics, writers/artists I've gone off don't spring to mind.

However, regarding science fiction...

As a teenager(with a 2-D world view), I used to love Robert E. Heinlein, as a writer. Now, as an adult(in fact, even a couple of years after I'd read him), I think Heinlein's ideas are total garbage - and feel Heinlein hoodwinked my naive teenage self!


Anonymous said...

Matthew - I think Sheffield had Bendy buses in the late 70s/early 80s! Steve's memory will be sharper than mine!


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Matthew’s question is tricky. So many comics creators (and musicians and bestselling authors and film directors etc) that I’ve been a fan of, they’ve had a hot streak where I thought they could do no wrong, and then suddenly, BAM! — their work just plain sucked, as if their talent was a finite resource that somehow just dried up. I saw this happen so often that in my early 20s, I was convinced that this was practically an immutable law of the universe.

Of course, this is nonsense. Any creative artist who is even mildly prolific is going to produce the occasional dud. No one can hit a home run every time they step up to the plate. Usually an artist will have their hot streak interrupted by a few bombs, then recover and continue to do good work (if not always consistently).

Like John Buscema — there was a time in the early 80s when it seemed like he just didn’t give a crap anymore. We got years and years of dull, formulaic Conan, seemingly cranked out on auto-pilot. It was depressing to see. And then for whatever reason, it looked like he got his mojo back. Starting with the excellent Wolverine serial in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS that he pencilled and inked, he seemed like his old self, his work was vibrant and exciting again. Not all of his subsequent jobs were consistently at that level, but a lot of them were. It was nice to see that he could still bring the fire when he wanted to.

But sometimes….

Take Bernie Wrightson: Good lord, his brilliant Swamp Thing and other early works for DC, those incredible b/w Warren stories, that mind-boggling, monumental ILLUSTRATED FRANKENSTEIN — and then, pfft. Burnt out. He would occasionally show a momentary flash of the old Wrightson magic, but rarely at anything like his earlier level.

Or Alfred Bester. Wrote dozens of excellent short science-fiction stories and two amazing classic novels in the 50s. Returned to writing fiction in the 80s and it was all pretty much awful.

But it’s all subjective. Using Matthew’s example, he and I agree on some of Miller’s hits and misses, disagree on others. We both like THAT YELLOW BASTARD but I like most of the Sin City stuff more than he does. I didn’t care much for RONIN, 300, GIVE ME LIBERTY, or HARDBOILED. DK2 was a major disappointment.

Good topic, Matthew!


Steve W. said...

Matthew and Phillip, thanks for the topics.

I can confirm that Sheffield had bendybuses many decades ago. I can't remember there ever being any problems with them and, as far as I can recall, they were very popular - in Sheffield, at least. I do recall that, when they were later introduced in London, the media there seemed to be in a state of panicked hysteria about them but I don't have a clue why.

Matthew McKinnon said...

It was because they weren’t very effective on the crowded, warren-like roads of London. And they cost a lot. And seemed an unnecessary change from double-deckers.

Anonymous said...

I remember, when your stop was coming, Bendy bus dynamics were challenging - like maintaining your balance on a surfboard (not that I've ever surfed!) The London Route-master bus was an icon, I suppose!


Anonymous said...

We have bendy-buses in Brisbane but have mostly very wide roads. I'd image they'd be a nightmare on a lot of London's roads. When I was driving there last year I was warned never to accidentally cross into the bus lanes, as the cameras issue automatic fines. Nice. And whilst Im at it, the St.Paul's temporary contra flow system didn't work either. (I solved this by yelling at the sky and shaking my fist. That certainly showed them!).

Most of my later career let downs are musically based. A lot of my favourite 80's bands split up and then re-formed without capturing their original spark. Morrissey, Tears for Fears and Soft Cell all spring to mind. Obviously Morrissey didn't re-form with himself, but seemed to release increasingly duller pastiches of his earlier material. Probably as much my aging as theirs...

With respect to Phil's question, I've increasingly become a second generation purchaser with a lot of new technology. Give them a chance to iron out the bugs.


Redartz said...

For Matthew's question, I really can't come up with anyone. As b.t. noted, most creative folks have their ups and downs. My own preferences tended in the opposite direction; when young there were several artists whose work I didn't appreciate (Gil Kane, especially). But over time I came to love them; perhaps it's like vegetables- you learn to like them (ok, I never learned to like lima beans).

As for Phillip's topic- I'll continue the camera angle (pun intended). When still a young goofball, I loved photography. Had a boxy GAF camera that did a decent job. Then Kodak came out with the 'pocket camera'- you may remember, it used a small drop-in cartridge (110 film, if memory serves). They were convenient, but like the disc camera, the image quality suffered noticeably. During the pandemic, I took time to transfer all my old negatives onto the computer. My 35mm slr shots worked out fine, the GAF instamatic negs were...ok. But those 110 negatives were barely usable.

Anonymous said...

Interesting questions!

This is just Charlie’s opinion, so don’t kick me off the planet!

Kirby’ art peaked around 1972 and then…

Neal Adams’ art peaked around the time he was working DC and Marvel in the early 1970s and then….

Chaykin’s art was nice on Scorpion for Atlas comics, was solid but could be unintelligible on Captain Flagg, but when he did DC’s Blackhawk miniseries i could not finish it and threw the whole lot on the bin.

McSCOTTY said...

I have to agree that even as a massive Neal Adams fan that I found his work from his Continuity days ( possibly before, anyone remember Skate Man?,) became err less interesting.

Kirbys art wasn't great after he left DC. His storytelling was never really good it was his amazing imagination that made him a legend..

Music. I used to enjoy Johnny Rotten /Lydon but soon after the first couple of PIL albums he became a bit of axsell out hack.

Anonymous said...

DW, I too have been let down by multiple musical acts. Honestly, that’s mostly where my dubious theory of artists having just a few ‘good’ years came from. As I said above, it’s obviously nonsense, but back in the day, it seemed to happen A LOT.

Cheap Trick’s first four studio albums were great. After that, they had a number of good singles, but making consistently good albums was suddenly beyond their abilities . The Cars — two brilliant albums followed by the baffling and dull ‘Panorama’, then a partial return to form on the uneven ‘Shake It Up’ and ‘Heartbeat City’ and then two really lackluster albums before they quit for good.

Van Halen’s first two albums rocked really hard, but their stuff leaned very ‘pop’ after that.

Queen, ELO, Kiss, Alice Cooper, all had a number of consecutive albums that I liked a lot, then gradually declined and eventually stopped making good albums altogether. Queen was especially disappointing — the full-on disco album ‘Hot Space’ was their ‘Jump The Shark’ record, after which they never recovered.

It happened with authors too. I was a big fan of Stephen King’s writing in the late 70s / early 80s, but at a certain point his track record had become very inconsistent, with more bad books than good IMHO. I think THINNER was the last one I enjoyed.

Elmore Leonard’s string of consistently taut, quirky thrillers from 52 PICKUP through LA BRAVA was interrupted by the routine GLITZ, BANDITS, FREAKY DEAKY and KILLSHOT, but some of his later books were very good. I especially liked GET SHORTY, RUM PUNCH and OUT OF SIGHT.


Anonymous said...

I think Kirby’s work waxed and waned throughout his career. In general, I agree that his 70s Marvel stuff wasn’t as consistently excellent as the best of his earlier Marvel works or his Fourth World and Kamandi stuff, but it was still fairly strong. The first few issues of THE ETERNALS are pretty amazing and I know Sean here is as big a fan of his 2001 comic as I am.

The first two issues of MS. MYSTIC may have been the last Neal Adams comics that I thought were up to his usual relative standard, but not his best work. Art-wise, at least. Writing-wise, well….

Chaykin’s art on AMERICAN FLAGG is very good and it’s probably his best comics writing. Unfortunately I always feel like he’s making me work too hard to fully enjoy it. His overlapping word balloon technique is irritating and hard to follow — half the time I can’t figure out which character is actually saying what. It’s as if he’s doing the comic book equivalent of a Robert Altman film or something. His Blackhawk and Shadow mini-series are both too ‘try hard’ edgy for my taste, just vulgar, sexist and mean-spirited.

I think Jim Starlin peaked on Warlock. His Darklon stories in EERIE relied too much on routine space opera/ science-fantasy tropes but were still visually exciting. I didn’t much care for his DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL graphic novel and I didn’t like Dreadstar at all. For me, that was his ‘Jump The Shark’ comic.

As for Phillip’s question, I tend to be a late-adopter when it comes to tech stuff, so the bugs are usually worked out by the time I jump in.


Anonymous said...

Phillip! Charlie, like b.t. Is a late adopter for tech. Hence i do not really dwell in the land of “buyers remorse” unlike, say, my uncle who had $1000s wrapped up in Sony’s beta and not vHS. But that is not exactly your question since Beta did work.

Anyhow, as a military guy, we were around a lot of stuff you described.
- Chinook helicopters used to have mid-air collisions… with themselves flying alone.
-M-16s used to foul up with dirt.
-The M551 tank could be parachuted but the gun sights would be totally fubar after hitting the ground. It did weigh 50 tons IIRC.
- UH60 Blackhawks invented a purpoising maneuver and suddenly would dive into the ground. (That may have been the genesis of concern with radio and eventually phone signals affecting avionic equipment, not sure). Man we used to give the Blackhawk pilots a lot of sh!t over that LOL. Good times!

Anonymous said...

Charlie - I, too, am a late adopter - my first mobile phone (a dumb phone) being purchased only a couple of months ago! I was also Johnny come lately ("the new kid in town..."), as regards digital cameras! Indeed, the outstanding Betamax was the Commodore 64 (or maybe BBC Micro), to the VHS's ZX Spectrum!

I also thought the US had more money to spend on testing, compared with the UK, that always did everything on a shoe-string budget!

Interesting stuff...by the M551, I suppose you mean the Sheridan. I'll look it up in a minute!

The S-67 Blackhawk was charisma on rotors - not like the ugly modern Blackhawk. Giving that name to the modern Blackhawk's like giving Luke Cage's name/title to Josten!

Elon Musk's moon rockets (despite all the hype) keep malfunctioning. The Apollo rockets had their problems too, but at least they sorted said problems out in the end!

Checked - M551 is the Sheridan!


dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

I'll chuck in four names that were great to start with but that later died in me, none of them related to comics:

– K J Parker, fantasy author. First four trilogies and three standalones were great. No dwarves or magic: just good stories in a medieval setting with the odd twist. But he's written some novellas since then that are too magicy for me. And I gave up on his latest trilogy after the first book. Nothing magicy but there were so many bonkers twists that it felt like he was making it up as he went along.

– Joe Abercrombie, another fantasy author. Everything was great up to a point. Again no magic but just a medieval setting. And all very dirty and gritty with blood and shit and bad language. Then He came out with a trilogy that seemed to be aimed at YAs rather than his target market. And when I heard that his latest trilogy had lots of feminist messages in it, that was me done.

– Dire Straits. Talked about these in the last post. Brothers In Arms was the anticlimax ever after Love Over Gold and the live album that came in between.

– ZZ Top. That lil old blues band from Texas. I started with Eliminator and then discovered all their older stuff, which Inthoughr was amazing. But from Eliminator onwards, they must got worse and worse until I finally gave up on them. In retrospect, Eliminator was the beginning of the end, dumping the Southern Rock instrumental versatility and replacing it with something loud, fuzzy and chrome plated.

Anonymous said...

Phillipe- yes, the M551 Sheridan parachutable tank. Just to be clear, i am referring to the 551 that fired Shillelagh missiles. It did not have the typical oong 105 MM gun. (Funny- an unworkable, expensive US missile system given an Irish name? Usually we use names of dead presidents and extinct indian tribes.)

I never fired a Shillelagh but i did fire its replacements called TOWs which were jeep mointed and Dragons which were schlepped and LAWs which are smallish.

Ahhh the good old days when being a russian hater meant you were on the right side of things and would go to heaven.

Anonymous said...


As little kids (ages 4-7?), my bro & myself were tanks nuts (aircraft even more so.) Due to Action Man, & Top Trumps & Ace Trumps.

Like the Sheridan, the French AMX-13 light tank also had missiles (the SS-11), albeit not barrel-fired!

Aged 4/5 (?) my favourite armoured vehicle was the Dinky FV102 Striker, which fired missiles (I lost them, and must have snapped the turret mounted gun, too!) Like TOWs, its swingfires were wire-guided (the real missiles, not the Dinky ones!) I couldn't wait until Christmas, to see if Santa would get me the Dinky FV102 Striker, and spotted it hidden under my parents' bed!

As a little kid, all the kids' books, etc claimed the British Chieftain tank was the best. Nowadays, people say yes, it was the best in its day, but only if its crap engine (British Leyland garbage) failed when it was in a good firing position! 1970s hype inconsistent with reality, yet again!


Anonymous said...

The UK's impotent Trident missile launch, in the press today - I suppose - also paints the UK as an international laughing stock, just like the contrast between its 1970s hype & the reality.


Anonymous said...

And just when you thought the world might have stopped laughing at Britain over those two warships colliding off Bahrain, Phillip.

Maybe over the rest of the year the Americans will distract the globe and get more of the laughs though, as they seem determined to have a second Biden/Trump election...

Anyway, let downs that don't match the hype... How about leaving the European Union? Obviously the politically correct gloomster Remoaners were never going to be positive about it, but even a fair few Leavers don't seem to be too impressed by their new found freedom since the Irish ruined Brexit (you're welcome).

I don't know why anyone had a problem with 'bendy buses' - when Livingstone was mayor it was actually easy and fairly cheap to get around London.
But then his gobshite of a successor spent nearly £300 million on a new, inefficient version of the old Routemaster to clog up the streets instead. Still, in fairness to Boris Johnson, I suppose at least that meant you could see the 'we send Europe £350m a week' on the side of the buses from a distance during the referendum.


Anonymous said...

Sean -

There's a song, 'The Day We Went To Bangor'.

Add a word - The Day We Went INTO Bangor!

Absolutely hilarious clip, by the way. I wonder why the mainstream media didn't show it? Hee, hee!


Anonymous said...

Agree with Matthew on Frank Miller. And with what others said about Wrighton, Adams etc. I suppose artists fall back on habit as they get older, especially with drawing comics being so labour intensive.
Full marks then to Barry Windsor-Smith for his recent 'Monsters'. Hard to think of a precedent for someone of his years coming out with anything like that.

b.t., yeah, I like Kirby's 2001 a lot, the series as well as the adaptation.
Although his post-DC work is something of a mixed bag... not because of any obvious decline in his skills, but there's a bit of a spark missing in a fair bit of it. Like he was (understandably) demoralised finding himself back at Marvel.


Anonymous said...

Phillip, apparently it was a re-wiring error during a recent repair, so the ship unexpectedly went into reverse instead of going forwards.
You'd think they'd double check these things. Still, at least the navy caught the dodgy nuclear reactor repair before anything happened...



Anonymous said...

Sean - Maybe the navy's bolt-bodger could work for Boeing - he'd be a dab hand at making 737- Max doors!


Anonymous said...

First of all, Matt-
It's my opinion that at some point Miller lost his damn mind.
b.t.- I think you're right, Big John Buscema did start, uh, taking it easy. Who could blame him? He himself said that he hated drawing buildings.
That's why he liked Conan.


Matthew McKinnon said...

MP -

I think Miller was victim of a decade of no editorial oversight whatsoever. That was the 90s.

I think he lost his mind around the time of 9/11 [understandable but unfortunate]. Then he got a surprise second wave of fame and creative freedom after Sin City the film was a hit. Jesus, they let him write and direct 'The Spirit'!
I think at that point there was some chemical assistance going on that was the icing on the cake.

He does seem a little bit more grounded these days though, and apologetic for some of his nastier statements from the recent past, but his talent is burned out.