Running On Empty

I got nothing today.

I feel bad about it. I didn’t know what to write about. I think it’s because I’m more a reviewer than anything else. I love talking about things I have seen or read; it’s something I’ve always done.

When I was younger, I wanted to be Barry Norman (no relation) doing the Film programme on BBC1. What a great job: being paid to watch films and then talk about them. Fantastic.

Obviously, life didn’t work out like that, hence this blog. And the reason for this post is that I haven’t seen a film or read a comic recently for the purposes of reviewing.

Not that I’m not reading or seeing things. My commute to work means my book reading is going strong. For example, recently I’ve read:

The Thursday Next novels (funny, charming, whimsical, with a great alternate history involving George Formby becoming President of England for life, and a great way with names, such as Schitt-Hawse)

The His Dark Materials trilogy (a wonderful story, mixing fantasy, quantum physics, religion, the concept of growing up, parallel worlds, the personification of souls as personal daemons, among many other things, told in a cracking adventure)

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (a charming tale of magic and history in England in the 1800s, told in a whopping 1000 pages of Victorian-like prose)

Charlie Brooker’s Screen Burn (a compilation of his scathingly funny articles from the Guide section of the Saturday Guardian for the past five years)

Peter Biskind’s Gods and Monsters (a collection of his essays, the early ones being particularly dour politically oriented stuff that was hard to get through)

Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of Comics (a fascinating look at the creation of the comic book industry, with particular emphasis on Superman)

That’s just off the top of my head; I’m probably forgetting a few. However, writing a book review is hard, which is why I’ve never tried it (because I am a coward), so I don’t bother talking about them.

I’ve also been watching films on DVD and tape, but not to a degree to write about them: The Corpse Bride was a slim tale, told well, but not overly engaging; Red River, which took me a long time to get round to seeing, was worthy of its classic status (and I’m amazed that it was Montgomery Clift’s first film); Rabbit Proof Fence, which was worthy and well done, if a little dry; Closer, which was a good, if depressing, film that I never need to see again; The Aristocrats, an interesting look behind the scenes of the comedian, which might had more impact if I was more familiar with some of the American comedians in the film.

In the world of comics, there should be plenty to talk about but I don’t feel a connection to the mainstream action of the moment. Contrary to popular opinion, I always found the first Superman film merely watchable, ruined by the bloody annoying and stupid ending, but I don’t revere it the way so many others do, meaning that I am only vaguely interested in Superman Returns. The spoiler ending of Civil War #2 doesn’t really affect me, as the character is one that I have never been emotionally connected to, and it doesn’t feel like it will stick; all the big events that seemed design to get press attention (as this did, in the New York Post) never last, like Superman dying and Batman’s broken back. I don’t know if I’m just getting old or if it is to do with the fact that telling a good story that also happens to be the spine for company-wide crossovers, such as Civil War or Infinite Crisis, are mutually exclusive; trying to tell a satisfying narrative that sets up the new status quo for a continuing medium is tricky enough, without it being the event that the company wants it to be.

(Edit: additional note that the BBC is reporting on the Spider-man reveal here. Now I know it’s real.)

The recent elevation of the crossover mini-series to major events is a curious thing, as it is trying to be the summer blockbuster but comes off as a sweeps week stunt (the US television spectacle where, as I understand it, guest stars and major events of a series are all thrust into shows in specific months in order to get the highest ratings, as these are the ratings that dictate how much the networks can charge for advertising in their programmes). Heavy promotion in the comics and on the web, hopefully pick up some outside press coverage, boost circulation numbers, create something they think the fans will want, give the comic blogosphere something to post about; it all seems a little wearisome and a bit desperate, even if it does show some effort on the part of the two majors, other than throwing enough shit at the wall and seeing what sticks.

So, this is what I write about when I don’t have anything to write about. If only I could invest this sort of energy in writing things I want to write about …

Continue Reading