In attempting to reach the genuine psychological reason for the popularity of detective stories, it is necessary to rid ourselves of many mere phrases. It is not true, for example, that the populace prefer bad literature to good, and accept detective stories because they are bad literature. The mere absence of artistic subtlety does not make a book popular.
Webcomics, they’re a tricky beast.
The spiritual successors to daily newspaper strips, given the entire scope and resources of the World Wide Web in which to spread their wings. Just keeping up with a tiny fraction of what’s available can amount to a full time job and, for luddites like me, they represent a unique problem: I want to read them, but books are just so darn nice!
Luckily, some very nice people (publishers, mostly) have collected some of top webcomics into print editions. Here are five of my favourites:
Ellerbisms by Marc Ellerby (published by Great Beast)
Ellerbisms came out in 2012, but the comic itself began way back in 2007 and charts Marc Ellerby’s own life, specifically his relationship with Anna: the girl he never thought he could have, then had and ultimately lost. Autobiography is a common genre for webcomics, the daily, or near-daily, nature of them being a great way to chart day-to-day experience. What sets Ellerbisms apart is the charming honesty of its warts-and-all storytelling. Ellerby himself is not always the hero here, but that doesn’t mean he’s the villain. There are no villains in this story, there’s just life. This honest account is tied together by Ellerby’s disarmingly simplistic artwork: simple lines construct amazingly expressive faces, with quirked eyebrows and slight frowns saying so much more than words could, the art belying the raw emotional punch this comic carries.
It’s my project to see every film he ever made - and without splurging box-set style, but instead to eke them out across the decades. I go for a new one every few years, as I'm in no rush to deny myself future pleasure. So it should come as no surprise that, a couple of years ago, I was filling in time by reading Todd McCarthy’s excellent biography of the man, Hollywood’s Grey Fox. From it, I learnt that Hawks had been part of Douglas Fairbanks' circle of energetic young men.
So then I searched out a Fairbanks biography, which was pretty remarkable, and then that led me to my first encounter with Frances Marion, named as one of his screenwriters and a close confidant of Mary Pickford.
Naturally, I then happened upon another book in a remainders shop, Joseph P Kennedy’s Hollywood Years, about JFK’s father - a banker, film producer, US ambassador and Nazi sympathiser. It contained an incredible story about Frances Marion and her husband’s ill-treatment at Kennedy’s hands. So I then picked up that author's other biography, this one about Frances Marion. Without Lying Down is so called because Marion spent her whole life looking for a man she “could look up to without lying down”.
I was completely sold on her.
Understand, I did not want anything that followed from that. Like everyone else, I wanted only to be left alone, to get on with things. I was not someone who would push themselves forward. I was happy to stay in the background, to live a simple life, but I couldn't ignore facts.
The editor of this magazine [Ray Bradbury], under the impression that I am still one of that queer tribe known as science-fiction fans, has asked me to write an article. I am no longer a science-fiction fan. I'm through! However, I have decided to do the article and explain with my chin leading just why I am through.
A Rescue from Darkness
The girl sat alone, burdened by forgetfulness and incomprehension. That she was a prisoner was not in question, but the reasons were lost to her, just as she in turn was lost to the darkness. The ever-present silence weighed heavily on her slender shoulders, at once oppressive and maddening. How long had she been here? How would she escape? Questions needed answers, answers lost in a mind that failed to recall the subtle and the obvious. What was her name? Why was she here?
The first to hit the news, of course, was Zombie Elvis. To the delight of loyal fans and conspiracy theorists, he emerged from his Memphis tomb looking very well-groomed for a corpse, hips dipping and swaying as he tried to walk. Security cameras and cell phones caught his first steps, right up until he began feeding.
Jadwiga found the apartment in Kraków through a chain of email exchanges, eventually contacting another Canadian who lived abroad. A single bedroom, wifi and utilities included, close to the sights. Much cheaper than a hotel and more reliable than a hostel.
The most interesting thing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens has to do with the cultural moment into which it was received. I don’t mean that it has been greeted so rapturously by fans and cinema-goers, that it has already earned a shedload of money, that it is set fair to overtake Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time—we could all see that coming a mile off. I mean the acute and often panicky paranoia about spoilers this release has occasioned. How angry people get! Spoiling Star Wars became suddenly one the worst things a person could do, just below genocide and just above admitting a fondness for Coldplay.
[Editor's note: ...which is probably the right time to say - "contains spoilers".]
This week's guest is author Kim Curran, helping us end the year with a bang! Take it away, Kim...
2015 has, in many ways, been goddamn awful. Just an endless barrage of humans being utterly shit to each other. Quite often social media is criticised for bringing out the worst in people, of stoking the already ravenous fires of hatred and fear. Studies have shown angry posts spread the fastest across social channels and we all know there’s something about the anonymity offered by the internet that turns even reasonable people into trolls. And then there’s the smuggery. Oh, god, the smuggery.