A Life Of Fiction LXX

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

 

Drowned Memories: I don’t collect photographs. I have never relied on them as an aide- mémoire. Instead of pics of my past I used to collect comics.

Yes, I do realise that collecting superhero comics is pretty childish – in the eyes of most adults – but they entertained me. I liked to read them. Occasionally, still, if I don’t fancy reading a novel I will pick up one of my favourite comics to read. I never wanted to grow up, anyway. I would have been happy becoming a new Peter Pan. Except that I don’t look very good in tights.

I used to read the adventures of the Avengers: not John Steed and Emma Peel, but such heroes as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the rest of the four-coloured heroes who have been in that super-team. I used to read Spiderman, X-Men, Batman and loads more. Back when I had an income I used to spend thirty or forty quid every week keeping up to date with the comics which I was actively collecting at the time. I went to Nostalgia and Comics in Birmingham, the comic-book store which was closet to me. They must have had thousands of pounds off me over the years.

Buying the comics which had just been released was not enough for me, however. I had to have more. So I used to go to comic marts to pick up back issues, to fill out holes in my collection. By the time that I gave up collecting comics, in my mid-thirties, I had a collection – then – of more than nine thousand issues.

The thing is that I used to be able to read a comic and be transported back to what I was doing the day that I first read the comic. Comics were my madeleine moments. There was an issue of the DNAgents which I initially read when I was ill in bed, suffering from some very volatile vomit-inducing bug. To this day I cannot read that issue of DNAgents without feeling nauseated.

Anyway, the reason for this post’s diversion away from the subject of books and writing is because a lot of my comics are gone. I used to store my comics in a larder: a small room off my kitchen-cum-living area. At some stage, though, the neighbour upstairs had a leak, which collapsed part of the larder ceiling and sent torrents of water cascading down onto the innocent comics waiting below.

Had I noticed, at the time, what had occurred then I suspect that most of the comics would have been salvageable. But it must have been months later, when I desired a comic to read, that I discovered what had occurred. Many of the comics, even though they were in mylar bags, had sucked up the moisture, turning into solid blocks of mould and pulp, way beyond anything which I could do to save them. Issues of the Jim Starlin Captain Marvel, early issues of Thor and Captain America, all lost, and memories lost with them, destroyed by poorly executed plumbing. I have no idea what they were worth.

People tell me that I need to claim on my house insurance. But having to go through that rigmarole is the last thing which I feel like doing at this particular moment in time. I don’t like dealing with officialdom at the best of times; and even less when I am feeling depressed.

Buddhists go on about divesting yourself of your possessions, and that it is possessions which bring unhappiness. But I have said goodbye to hundreds of comics, and all that I feel is loss.

Yes, I am feeling sorry for myself; yes, I am a self-pitying fool. And I know that life goes on. But, unfortunately, it will have to go one with many memories drowned.

 

On Comics: I had not intended that this post be all about comics, but I had not intended to lose a big chunk of my collection. So I might as well continue with the theme and recommend a few comics for people to read, for those people who don’t feel that comics are only for children. For these recommendations I will try to stay clear of superheroes, anyway.

V for Vendetta: I have recommended this comic before – if not here then in my autobiography. As that book has, so far, sold nil copies, I hope that you don’t mind me raking this adapted extract from that book:

This is by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. This is available as a collected edition, but it is the individual DC comics which I possess. As time passes, this becomes an ever more important issue, with protesters on the streets wearing V masks to try to hide their identity, although I suspect that it is the far inferior movie which they are familiar with, rather than the original comic.

I won’t go too far into describing the action in the comic, apart from stating that V is a hero battling against a fascist and corrupt British state. He is an antihero, though, rather than a good guy, a person marred by what has been done to him.

I think what I like so much about this comic is that it offers hope in the same sort of terrible Britain as in George Orwell’s 1984. That was a good novel, but it was so bleak that I have never felt the need to read it more than once.

What’s Michael?: This is by Makoto Kobayashi, and is a manga. But there are no science fiction elements in this and other What’s Michael? collections. This is a humorous collection of short tales about a cat – a normal cat, not even an anthropomorphic one. It shows the massive range of manga which you get in Japan. yes, there are a lot of science fiction tales, but you also get comical tales, romantic tales, ones about playing golf. You get manga about just about anything that you can imagine. To those people who are cat people I heartily recommend What’s Michael?

   Palestine: This is by Joe Sacco, and it is about the sort of horrors which normal Palestinian people have to endure as a result of the continuing Israeli: Palestinian struggle. You might think that Israelis have it bad, with rocket attacks launched by the idiots in Hamas, but their lives are still much better than that of the average Palestinian. Yes, this comic only really looks at one side in the conflict, and its sympathies are with the Palestinians, which I know will make some people accuse the comic of anti-Semitism. But this bit of comic reportage only tries to show things as they are, and I recommend it to anybody who has not yet made up their minds about what is going on in Israel.

Moonshadow: This is a wonderful comic, by J M DeMatteis, Jon J Muth and Kevin Nowlan. It is a tale of childhood’s end, as a boy whose father came from among the stars goes out into those other worlds, accompanied by a priapic and sex-mad furry companion. The comic was originally published as a limited series, but is available collected into a trade paperback. The book is at times sad, but it is also very funny; and parts of it are more than a little rude.

Baker Street: This is another comic which I talked about in my autobiography, when I discussed my favourite nooks and comics. So I may as well restate what I said there:

This is by Guy Davis. This was by Caliber Comics, and came out at the end of the Eighties, if my memory serves me well. It was set in what can only be described as a counter-factual world. There were only a dozen issues published and, annoyingly, I’m missing one of them.

The main protagonists are a former police detective and her American friend. They live in a world which can best be described as Victorian, but with punks and goths. Zeppelins, rather than aeroplanes, are responsible for carrying passengers on international travel.

In this wonderfully drawn world a series of murders take place in Whitechapel, and Sharon – the ex-detective, the Holmes equivalent – takes it on herself to try to find out just who is responsible for them.

   Lone Wolf And Cub: This is by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. It is the comic book version of those chambara films called Babycart Assassin. In the comic the main protagonist, Itto Ogami, is forced to become a wandering outlaw, after being falsely accused of a plot against the Shogun. The Lone Wolf goes through Japan, bringing justice with the blade of his katana, while seeking vengeance on those responsible for the murder of his wife and family.

Yes, this comic is violent, but it depicts a violent time. But there is a certain economy to the art which, while a bit scratchy, is very successful at telling the tale in a dynamic way. I know that First Comics published around forty odd issues of this, translated into English, before that company went out of business. But I don’t know if there have been any collections since then.

See, no superheroes…

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