Page 45 Christmas Special!
You have no idea how much we love you. No idea at all. You are our world, you make our day, and we wouldn’t be here without you. We kick off with a world-wide exclusive.
– Stephen xxx
Fluffy Visits Page 45 postcard (75 pence, Page 45) by Simone Lia.
“Daddy, this is the best shop in the world!”
I actually cried when Simone sent us the design for this postcard. I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am, or how grateful to Simone.
Page 45 has had a long-standing love affair with Simone Lia’s FLUFFY, my go-to graphic novel whenever someone asks for something cute and adorable, full of warmth and love.
I once bought a signed, framed FLUFFY bunny print for my ex-housemonkey Ossian for his nursery, knowing that when he married his fiancée Kate that they would have children, and they would be the best parents in the world. Kate and Ossian now have a baby as beautiful as they are.
FLUFFY is a comedy about the unconditional love which the young white bunny has for her adoptive Daddy, Michael. Here they visit Page 45 for the very first time, peering through our shop door, admiring Jonathan and Dominique’s window display and then gazing up at Mark’s gorgeous design for our logo.
My contribution appears to be that I left my Cuban-heeled boots on the counter. It’s a little running joke between myself and Simone: I used to wear Cuban heels, but whenever I do now there is a great deal of tottering.
I love the flat colours in multiple, soft shades of blue, then the way she’s picked out our tiles in the richest and warmest terracotta orange, a few on the ground turning yellow then olive green – such attention to detail!
This is exactly what Page 45 looks like from the outside and I hope it invites you in.
Fluffy Postcard Packs (£5-50, I Love Bunnies Ltd) by Simone Lia.
Oh dear, I appear to be in tears again.
How beautiful are these? Eight postcards, two of each design, featuring young bunny Fluffy and her adoptive Daddy, Michael. They are the stars of Simone Lia’s FLUFFY graphic novel, an acutely observed and tenderly rendered comedy in which Fluffy finger-paints the kitchen walls, gleefully cuts up loaned library books with safety scissors and sings “Kumbayah” to herself while Michael, oblivious, obsesses about the day-to-day minutiae which grind him into the ground.
Here they traipse the streets of London until Fluffy’s feet hurt, then Michael carries her home in his arms. Yes, you see, they tell a story!
“Thank you,” says Fluffy – to you when you buy them, then your loved ones, once sent. Her arms are outstretched, embracing life it all its bemusing wonder, her long white ears blowing in the breeze or maybe just by dint of her uncontainable, wholesome hyperactivity.
Such love! Such ebullience! Such kindness!
Each postcard has been approached in subtly different styles, Simone employing fine line and colour either separately or combined (see trees, clouds, bricks and skylines), along with bold, wibbly-wobbly line for close-ups.
For those who have already read Lia’s reverential and equally irreverent PLEASE GOD, FIND ME A HUSBAND!, the colour palette will come as no surprise: blues and oranges with here a lovely lime green.
Interesting, then, that there is a further decoral departure when Simone offered to create our exclusive FLUFFY VISITS PAGE 45 POSTCARD to complement this package.
Fluffy s/c (£9-99, Jonathan Cape) by Simone Lia.
Fluffy is a bunny. A bunny rabbit. She is young and exuberant and lost in her own little world as all children are. She likes to sing, if only to herself:
“Someone’s praying, me lord…
“Someone’s praying, me lord. Kumbuyah.
“Someone’s praying, my Lord….. kumbuyah.
“Oh Lord… Booby loob y loob.”
That is precisely how that verse ends. I’m pretty sure of it.
Fluffy has to sing to herself because I’m afraid that her adoptive Dad, Michael, instead of paying attention to Fluffy and so seeing the unconditional love literally played out in front of him, is distracted by all his day-to-day-minutiae that figuratively grind him into the ground. This Simone Lia presents to us in a series of cranial cross-sections, revealing Michael’s neuroses in a scientifically revealing cause-and-effect. What a numbskull!
Meanwhile Fluffy experiences all the joys of life. Loudly.
“I’ll be like the farmer in my library book. He’s good. I’ll cut him out when we got home. Can I keep this book Daddy? Can I? Can I keep the book? Daddy you never listen to me.”
Well, that’s one library book not going back in one piece!
Not only does Simone Lia has the most superb ear for dialogue (including a child’s easily distracted nature) but she’s also a great observer of interaction (or lack of it) when people manage no more than an inattentive “very good” in lieu of paying attention.
Here is the crux of the matter when Michael occasionally sits Fluffy down for a heart-to-heart. Nothing I can type will render this as poignantly as a shop-floor show-and-tell, so please ask me for one:
“Fluffy. I’m not your real Daddy.”
(Total lack of comprehension) “Yes you are, Daddy.”
“No, I’m a man and you’re a bunny.”
(Looks askew and askance, lost for words. Then…) “I’m not a bunny.”
“You are a bunny. You’re a bunny rabbit.”
(Moth agape) “Why do you keep saying that?”
“Because it’s true.”
“I’M NOT A BUNNY. YOU’RE A BAD DADDY FOR SAYING THAT.”
Fluffy then clip-clops and trip-trops off, leaving Michael alone on the couch. With a pungent bunch of bunny droppings.
Kochi Wanaba h/c (£14-99, Blank Slate) by Jamie Smart.
“In 1592, the people of our town hanged an old lady they believed to be a witch. Her last words before she died were a curse, wishing a plague of bees on our town. One year later, our town was hit by a plague of bees, and everyone was killed in a mass anaphylactic shock.”
Welcome to Bee Fest, during which the townsfolk stuff a giant bee with notes about themselves begging the bees to leave them alone, then set the giant bee on fire. This year it’s going to be particularly incendiary, especially for the small group of kids who aren’t so much a tight circle of friends as a mess of neuroses, teasing and tensions, frayed through and through, their tempers stretched almost to breaking point.
Hyperactive Lhys is in constant, sugar-buzz danger of bubbling over. Her votive offering begins thus:
“My name is Annabelle Louise, but most of my friends call me Lhys. I think it’s because it irritated me, but I’m very over it now. This is Kochi, he is my boyfriend. I love him very much he is very sexy >_< !! Sometimes he lets me put grips in his hair and make him look girly then he wakes up and shouts at me.”
“Let’s me” – love it. Virtually comatose Kochi copes by zoning out, absorbed in his sketchbook which needy Lhys is desperate to be drawn in. We only get to see inside Kochi’s sketchbook the once: it’s a self-portait, his offering for the Bee-Fest, and all he has to say is…
“My name is Kochi. I don’t really fit.”
As for Dylan and Tubby:
“I drew monsters.”
“I drew something. Not sure what. I think it’s my mother.”
She has a nice ‘tache.
Tubby is stuck upright in a hollow log and has been for at least a day. He really needs to pee. It’s the sort of visual gag Smart is renowned for. It doesn’t need to be explained. You try explaining FISH HEAD STEVE! (Oh, wait, I did.) Stylistically, however, this is a marked departure. The heads are still giant, their eyes bulging, their mouths screaming impossibly wide, but this entire book is conducted in shaded sepia pencils on coffee-cream paper as the characters roam, run or sometimes float, panel-free, across its pages. Occasionally they fade out. You’re in for a far more free-form affair.
Smart’s also famous for his complete command of the English language, abusing it atrociously, yet still it looks up to him like a doe-eyed puppy dog after it’s been smacked.
“Hey are you even listening to me? I’m talking to you. Sometimes it seems like you’re not paying attention when I talk about the traumas in my life. Mister Fozzles was a trauma…
“He traumed me.”
And God, can she talk about her traumas. Only Jamie Smart could get away with breaking one of my cardinal rules of comics which is “For fuck’s sake do not throw a complete wall of words at us on your opening pages – this is a visual medium!” Jamie doesn’t just break the rule here, he shatters and stamps it into the ground, burying Lhys’s tiny form under an avalanche of anger, a torrent of inventive invective with bugger-all paragraph breaks on the very first page. He gets away with it because it is one long delirious rant about T.V.’s Mr. Fozzles trauming young Lhys, liberally scattered with the most colourful swears which a girl of her age couldn’t possibly know. Which is funny in and of itself.
This lot are at it all the time.
“I’m sick of you too, George. Soon as you say I look like a gay sailor, everyone else agrees with you!!”
“But you are a gay sailor.”
“See? You’re all fucking sycophants. I don’t even know why I’m here.”
“I do, Tubby. It’s because you’re a weirdo, an outcast. You’re not socially acceptable. We’re all you’ve got. You’re here for the same reason all of us are. Till we find somewhere better.”
I don’t want to give too much away, but there will be monsters. There are bugs throughout – just look at the bees! (And while we’re back on the bees, Lhys’ bee costume is beautiful: one big bundle of fuzz complete with sting in her tail where really she should have put holes for her legs and feet, so she has to bounce everywhere instead.) But the biggest monster is George. You watch. You wait. Nothing is sacred.., not even Mr. Fozzles. Someone is going to get traumed.
“Lhys, don’t be stupid!”
“Oh it’s far too late for that.”
BOO! one-shot (£5-00, self-published) by Jamie Smart, Gary Northfield, Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Andrew Waugh, Jonathan Edwards, Paul Harrison-Davies, James Howard.
All seven of these reprehensible, irresponsible creators should be ashamed of themselves.
They have deliberately conspired to create a horror comic for kids which will scare the living hell out of them, giving them nightmares for years to come. This amounts to nothing short of the cold-blooded, premeditated mind-murder of minors. Kids don’t want to be traumatised! They don’t sit up late at night during sleepovers or round a camp fire telling each other gruesome ghost stories or that one about the stalled car and the escapee from the high-security lunatic asylum. (Forty years on, and I am still shaking in fright.) They don’t giggle with glee on scary rides or creep up on each other and go “Boo!”
Where are the happy endings? Whom can you trust? Why aren’t you safe at home? How can school dinners get any worse than they already are? What really happened to the Three Little Pigs when they built their house made of bricks after one of the Big Bad Wolf’s descendents travelled back through time with the following message?
“Basically, use this sledgehammer.”
I’ll tell you one thing: I will never sleep with my feet outside my duvet again.
My one consolation is that each of these seven stories was no more than four pages long. Admittedly some are more successful than others (I think this is a genuine problem when you get together as friends and no one wants to say, “Yeah, that didn’t work”), but obviously FISH HEAD STEVE’s Jamie Smart and TEENYTINYSAURS’ Gary Northfield are among the worst (by which I mean best) offenders, and if you think I will ever forgive BLACK OUT’s Andrew Waugh for his punchline, you are very much mistaken.
Now that I think about it, the worst nightmare I ever had as a kid was a recurring one: about a monster crawling up a well and successfully bribing my Mum with Chocolate Mini-Roll to throw me down the well and let the monster eat me. Kudos to Gary Northfield for undermining the one element of kids’ lives they can all rely on: their mother’s protection and judgement.
Buy Boo! and read the Page 45 review here. If you really must. Caveat emptor etc.
Origin 2 #1 (£3-50, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Adam Kubert, Frank Martin.
It really is. You won’t meet a single human being during this first issue other than Logan himself, now entirely feral following the events in WOLVERINE: ORIGIN.
Instead, in a breath of fresh mountain air, the cast consists of a wolf pack which has adopted Wolverine, its new litter holed up in a den on the snow swept Canadian Rockies, a prowling lone wolf, and a gigantic polar bear which has strayed far from its natural habitat, so finding itself at a predatorial disadvantage.
“It seemed to believe that covering its nose would disguise it from prey.
“It didn’t grasp fishing in the rivers, waiting for prey to emerge and being disappointed when it didn’t…”
Fish don’t need to come up for air.
Yes, it’s a long way from home. A very long way. Don’t you find that curious?
Image-driven, this is magnificent: sweeping landscapes, ferocious battles and some monumental full-page flourishes all coloured to delicious perfection by… hold on – that isn’t Isanove?! I can assure you that colour artist Frank Martin is every bit as good.
And isn’t that cover gorgeous? It’s even more impressive when you open the acetate overlay to reveal a surprise which evidently lies in wait further down the line. For, yes, there is an acetate overlay like the ones which decked the original issues of Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross’ MARVELS. I’d get in fast, for I suspect that won’t be true of any second prints.
The Authority vol 2 h/c (£25-99, DC) by Mark Millar, various & Frank Quitely, various.
Now that is a very good question.
In Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch’s blistering series of pyrotechnic crescendos which was AUTHORITY VOL 1, Jenny Sparks declared that they would make this a better world, whether we liked it or not. Having defended the Earth against alternate dimensions and the closest thing to God, The Authority now turns its attention to Earth’s own dictators, reasoning that if they’re going to risk their lives defending this planet, it ought to be one worth saving. Or at least one they like.
Unilaterally they decide to depose a tyrannical regime in Southeast Asia and, led by Jack Hawksmoor, they do so with military precision and a ruthless efficiency. They use that swift and effortless victory in Southeast Asia – along with the somewhat intimidating shadow of their 50-mile-high shiftship – to persuade the Russian army to back off from Chechnya and China to withdraw from Tibet.
When was the last time you saw an invasion force persuaded to retreat without a single shot being fired? You would have thought that a nation allegedly espousing democracy enough to oppose dictatorships and invade their sovereign states would welcome these moves, but the American government is far from happy.
“Just watch your step, Mister Hawksmoor.”
“Frankly we could say the same to you. Mister President.”
Hmmm. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
It was a subtle game Mark Millar played for we rooted for the liberal-leftie, anti-establishment authoritarians without at first realising that paradox. Because as liberal-lefties ourselves we happened to agree with their stance. Also, because we’d do it too, wouldn’t we? Give me virtually limitless power and I would be first to intervene geo-politically.
Millar also won our affections with extreme prescience, inventive lateral thinking and a seemingless limitless wit. Here Jack Hawksmoor asks the normally masked Midnighter what has become of his trademark leather uniform. Well, adopting a small child changes more than you can possibly anticipate:
“Baby Jenny vomited all over it and I had to order a new one.”
“Couldn’t you just have cleaned it?”
“Milk doesn’t come out of leather no matter how hard you clean. Cow’s revenge, I suppose.”
As to the lateral thinking, The Authority are first assaulted by a decommissioned Cold War U.S. enterprise, 42 levels above Presidential Clearance, which has no intention of letting The Authority get in the way of its own plans for a unilaterally-imposed worldwide Utopia, cheers. It is the brainchild of Professor Krigstein, immediately identifiable by his small stature and burning cigar as seminal superhero artist Jack Kirby:
“The kind of man who could probably have created all your favourite comicbook characters if he hadn’t been snapped up by Eisenhower at the end of the war.”
Half the fun there is identifying the Marvel characters Jack “King” Kirby did indeed create for Marvel, now perverted into a bunch of bigoted rapists etc. Start with the original Avengers and the rest may fall into place or, if you’re struggling, ask me at the counter!
Which brings us to Frank Quitely. I wish this was all drawn by Frank Quitely. Hell, I wish this was all written by Mark Millar but, as promised, we will get to that in a bit.
Artists Chris Weston, Art Adams and Gary Erskine all delivered their ever-reliable goods, but Frank Quitely was on fire: those analogues were so witty. His forms were much more burly than we’d been used to from Bryan Hitch, but that worked brilliantly: they weren’t just super-human, they were meta-human. Michelangelo did the same thing, especially to his women. I loved his constantly puckered lips too – largely the guys’. With his analogue to Giant Man he achieved in scale what Hitch went on to in THE ULTIMATES then Luke Pearson did with HILDA AND THE MIDNIGHT GIANT by bending the man down yet, even so, failing to fit the full figure into the panel. It’s deliberate, trust me: that’s how it works.
And so we come to the sadness of it all. I was very much hoping, with this material now being released as deluxe hardcovers, that DC under a new editorial regime rather than the one which went so fearfully, so destructively and so despotically awry might have corrected its irrational errors and given us a book that we could be proud to sell, rather than one which we must, in all good consciousness, be apologists for.
What you read, increasingly throughout this volume, was not written by Mark Millar even when his name was slapped on it. It was rewritten by editors. What was drawn was not what was first intended. Under the Page 45 reviews blog where this review was first published (December 2013 week four) you will find a meticulously researched if not exhaustive article on how much criminal damage was done to this work which DC could have been proud of, but which their own timidity turned into a travesty.
The worst offense is not catalogued there. DC’s worst offense, as reported at the time by Rich Johnston, was excising this single sentence:
“You just pissed off the wrong faggot.”
Did DC believe that the word “faggot” was beyond the pale? It did not. It happily printed it as sneered and espoused by a homophobic supervillain at the Midnighter’s expense, and happily reprints it all here. But when, in a scene harking back to Wolverine during X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX SAGA, The Midnighter comes to retake the English language in an act of self-empowerment (for he is gay and his beloved boyfriend has been brutally abused to breaking point), he no longer says…
“You just pissed off the wrong faggot.”
“You boys just pissed off the wrong bastard.”
It really isn’t the same.
Here is a couple of sentences from the final page of this book aimed not at the protagonists within but the people who publish it, from my original review of the final issue:
‘”Do you think we made a difference in the end?”
“God yes, are you kidding? Even with all the crap they threw at us, we completely changed the landscape over the last twelve months.”
It was inevitable: The Authority’s radical stand was bad for the business of brainwashing. So it wasn’t the world’s governments who pooled together to take them down and replace them with a version they could control, it was the multi-national corporations who control them – who hire the world leaders to protect their tax breaks and overseas interests. Obviously enough the same can be said for comic itself, and for the very same reasons.
It had to be shut down and all under the excuse, the self-serving, printed (and, under the circumstances disgustingly offensive) lie that it had anything to do with the events of September 11th. We’ve been here before, so I won’t belabour the point except to remind you that the finale to this blistering series you’ve loyally patronised with your hard-earned money is, I’m afraid, very much tainted by editorial treacheries, and the hard lesson is the same as The Authority had to learn:
Never, ever trust a fucking corporation.
Arrived, Online & Ready To Buy
Reviews already online if they’re new formats of previous books. Otherwise the most interesting will come under the microscope next week, while the rest will remain with their Diamond previews acting in lieu of reviews.
The Sleepwalkers (£8-99, Walker Books) by Viviane Schwarz
Mouse Guard vol 3: The Black Axe h/c (UK Edition) (£14-99, Titan) by David Petersen
Iron Man vol 3: The Secret Origin Of Tony Stark Part Two s/c (UK Edition) (£12-99, Marvel) by Kieron Gillen & Greg Land, Dale Eaglesham
Judge Dredd: The Restricted Files vol 1 (£19-99, Rebellion) by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Steve Moore & Carlos Ezquerra, Mike McMahon, Kevin O’Neill, Ian Gibson, Brian Bolland, Steve Dillon, Bret Ewins, Brendan McCarthy, Cliff Robinson, John Byrne
ITEM! Bryan Lee O’Malley reveals SECONDS cover and interior art, beautifully coloured. SECONDS due July 2014.
ITEM! Female comicbook professional comments on a letter received from a pathetic little man who is clearly deluded that he is witty and charming.
ITEM! Excellent, in-depth, though not exhaustive article about DC’s censorship of Mark Millar’s run on THE AUTHORITY. And by “censorship” I mean “evisceration”. It was… extensive.
ITEM! “I think this is the modern man’s version of narcissus looking at his reflection,” observes KING CITY and WALRUS’ Brandon Graham. I believe he has a point!
Merry Christmas, everybody!
This blog was prepared days ago when I was still capable of typing. If you want to imagine how it would look if it was being written right now thant his shudddd ggiv eyou some indicaschun.
– Stephen xxx