Thursday, 29 November 2012

Spidey-man is the centrefold

Welcome to Part 3 of Spidey-man Vs Gnatman and Rotten!

Do you have to be crazy to work here?  Well it certainly helps - as the place in question is a madhouse

But, not any old Madhouse  - it's a 

So what craziness will be unleashed this week, lets GO!

A Spidey-man TV show brought to you by EDSEL?!

Again Marie Severin almost exactly predicts the future - as the live action TV show "Spidey's Super Stories" would soon debut on PBS courtesy of The Electric company as mentioned previously

(Yes that is THAT Morgan Freeman, star of "The Shawshank redemption" and many many others)

But what is a EDSEL?!

Edsel was a car made by the Ford company that ended up being a complete disaster with the car line being scrapped due to very poor sales and it costing the Ford company a fortune

So at the time and for quite a while after Edsel was synonymous with  a disaster or any product that would end as the expression goes being a complete lemon

So a spider man tv show that would be sponsored by or associated with a complete disaster - Marie Severin was a savant!!!

The next panel is a return back to the assasination of Stan Lee/ Marvels style of writing - certainly in the earlier issues of the actual spider man title JJJ used to do all kinds of things which one would think should make him a total villain and there was never any real motivation for his hatred of spider man explained for quite a while

Here we get a explanation that revels in this completely by being so ridiculous it can't help but underline how poor JJJs motivation was

The last panel is a bit interesting - JJJ is going to browse through a magazine - "One I haven't already read"- but there is only one magazine to chose from and two books… this has to be a setup…

OMG (As the expression I am told goes in this modern age)

So where to start - JJJ was just previously shown picking up a magazine called "PEEK" there was just enough of a cover in the drawing to suggest that this would be a "girlie" magazine aka a very very soft porn magazine circa 1960s - where the kind of things inside would probably be around the same as thing that was painted on the outside of american planes…

But in the centrefold of PEEK we have:-

Not a woman at all, but a man (a spidey man of course)
Not any hint of revealing skin or lack of normally established clothing (thankfully)

and we have an appropriately disgusted reaction from JJJ himself

JJJ wasn't expecting THAT in the Centrefold - Thats a cue for a song if I ever heard one…


I think this is just Merry Marie offering her opinion about men reading girlie magazines (as opposed to enjoying the real thing, so to speak)

Next panel JJJ's nightwear declares - Bring back Doc Ock! - Who was possibly absent from the real Spider man comic at the time… and also ends up being a be careful what you wish for thing as we will see later

Finally we introduce the Batman (or is that Gnat man?) TV show with a excellent Commissioner good guy who is a pretty good likeness of Neil Hamilton

Quite who is with him - I am not too sure - but it doesn't look like Stafford Repp?! 


And we go full circle (kind of) as Gnatman is introduced in his unnamed method of conveyance ("Gnatmobile" anyone?!) which is pretty much an Edsel in a number of ways 

It has wheels like you would find on a bicycle, a ridiculously deco type front with crossed eyes, a very old squeeze horn (like you would have on an old Ford Model T), a old metal workers lunch box, a pair of boxing gloves, a hot water bottle and bells a plenty (this must have sounded like santas' sleigh)

Gnatman himself iss either completely oblivious or plain just don't care about anything in his path, having run over someone behind him, just struck a fire hydrant and his eyes clearly not on the road or even open

All in an effort to ignore the signal which Rotten can't help but mention and in TV terms - "the endless residuals" - hmm I wonder what Burt Ward would say to that?!

NEXT WEEK: We get an unwelcome visit from a lot of lawyers and see a very large contract get signed sight mostly unseen and we tackle the return of one James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes

Same gnat time, same gnat channel...

Thursday, 22 November 2012

You can't get changed in a phone booth

Welcome to Part 2 of Spidey-man Vs Gnatman and Rotten!

Just to clarify no, I am NOT "Crazy", "Cracked" or just plain "Mad" this place just so happens to be the place I am right now…

What is it?

Charlton Heston knows...

But its not any old Madhouse -  its The...

So how mad will we get this week?

Ah-ha whom do we have in panel 2?

Unless I am very much mistaken this is the spitting image of one James Olsen aka "Superman's Pal" and here he is apparently working for JJJ

Thats two on the inspiration for Superman Vs Spiderman tally already…

But hang on, didn't Jimmy actually meet spiderman in actual contininty?!

Yes! In the follow up cross over Superman AND Spiderman (I guess they reconciled their differences)

In which - Peter Parker quits working for JJJ and goes to Work for Morgan Edge and of course meets Jimmy Olsen in the process. To add to this Clark Kent quits Morgan edge and works for JJJ - I kid not

So another multi cross over inspiration!

Jimmy adds another reference into the pot by referring to "a nut in a red and blue cape" (who we get to see, a bit later)

But the real icing on the cake is that Jimmy is in a phone booth that is "Temporarily in order"

This looks to me like a sly dig at superman's most infamous chosen place of changing into costume - which is of course just completely impractical

There is lots of windows so you can see into the phone booth from all angles, a rather flimsy door (if there even is a door) and no real reason to be in the booth as the phone itself is normally broken or won't take change etc

The writers of "Superman: the movie" couldn't help but reference this in the famous scene with a more modern half cut phone booth, which clark kent looks at and dismisses as being far too public to change in

In the next panel, we have a "sob sister" - instead of a agony aunt who appears to have literally realised the lyrics of a song most famously sung by Ella Fitzgerald


So what do we have here? A person in a cafe / restaurant that only seems to serve one type of food, the exact same type of food that person hates and is featured in more and more ridiculous combinations repeated until the act of repeating the hated item becomes an art in and of itself

Yes that IS the infamous Monty Python SPAM sketch, with Spidey used instead of Spam…

Quite what Jughead (Of Archie comics fame) is doing in panel 2 is anyones guess?!

The third panel brings us back to the insect meme - with JJJ driving a Beetle (also referred to as a Bug) and for reasons unknown a family of insects is crossing the road

Thor is leaning against the lamp-post for no particular reason!


And finally for this week

We leap straight into an assassination of Marvels (or specfically, Stan Lees) then approach to writing with the inspired "You was winning for the first ten pages" and concluding with the surreal statement that The Lizard didn't do anything but as long as the readers don't know, its okay to carry on with the chase - of course this is said out loud so the reader is reading it...  and anyone in the story can hear it (that's Meta...)

At least I assume its the Lizard - all we get here from Spidey is "Liz" - Does that mean that in this continuity The Lizard is actually female - and called Elizabeth?

But thankfully no,  the trademark lab coat and trousers assure us this must be Dr Curt Connors or at least a man! That was a close one

NEXT WEEK, we get treated to a rather inappropriate "girlie"(read as circa 1960s very soft porn) magazine and Gnatman himself makes his ill advised debut

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Spidey-man vs Gnatman and Rotten!

Welcome To The World of Images Degrading Forever

If this is your first visit to this little blog, then you have picked an ideal place to start, as this week I embark on a completely New Project

But before I go into that, just what is Images Degrading Forever?

I hope that it’s a different approach to looking at comics, about what comics mean, how comics work.   

I do not just merely look at a comic and provide commentary on what I can see, but I also make an attempt to put myself in a similar position to the orginal creator by attempting to recreate the art

By recreating the art I inevitably look and see things in a way I probably never would by just reading the comic on its own, I mean it’s rare that someone would scrutinise each panel in relation to the other

But when one attempts to do the same drawing it quickly becomes the whole point

As for what my next project is, well let’s look back to the just completed WHAT MEN

If I was to mention duality in the context of that project (or indeed anything I have done, or even just the drawing that’s used as my picture in my twitter profile) I imagine that some of you will at least see that there is some duality there

If I was to invoke the “Theatre Faces” one presenting drama, one representing comedy and to merely say that the best antidote to too much drama or seriousness is a lot of comedy and outrageous comedy at that, then what follows makes perfect sense

It is the light that follows the dark, this is the equal and opposite reaction to the previous action

So what is it?

Let’s go back to 1981  when a few issues of the very short lived Marvel Uk Comic called "Marvel Madhouse" managed to get into my hands.

The impact of that comic and in particular issue 2 July 1981 cannot be overstated

This was my first real exposure to outrageous and / or anarchic comedy. Sure I had seen a lot of "The Beano" and "The Dandy" by this point, but I was never really interested in those, but this was something completely differnet

I had not even seen an issue of "(Tales calculated to drive you) Mad" at this point and it would be many years later that I would finally read Kurtzman and Woods infamous “Superduperman” (which served as part of the inspiration for a certain comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)

And when I read this comic, in 1981 most of what it was parodying or making fun of would have been things that I would have not even been aware of. For example I knew little of Spider man or most of the marvel heroes, comics was a very rare treat and by and large I missed out on almost any comic until I was old enough to buy my own

Another thing that I would have missed out on is being familiar with America or American history particularly in 1967 when the original material that Marvel Madhouse was reprinted was actually created –in  the equally short lived “(Not) Brand Echh” comic

But of course I knew of the Batman Tv series, given it was the literal bane of my childhood, so anything making fun of that would be very much welcomed

But that wasn’t it, it was the sheer energy of this comic, the frantic poses of the characters and the many layers of ridiculous signs, pop culture references and sight gags combined with the super compressed storytelling and the focus all on getting as much possible fun as you could into as little space as possible

It was a literal rocket explosion of a comic which has inspired everything I have done and it was created by the supremely talented and extremely underrated genius of Marie Severin

And it is simply brilliantly funny, even though I didn't have any of the deeper appreciation or knowledge to really understand it in all its magnificent glory

So with some pride and wink in my eye I am proud to try and represent :-

and as requested, this time I will blog about what I think or see in the pages - If you prefer that I not do this, by all means please let me know

As far as I know "(not) Brand Echh" issue 2 is probably the first very unofficial attempt at a marvel / dc cross over. 

It would be a few years before the first official publication Superman vs Spiderman did eventually see the light of day, but would it have ever happened if "(Not) Brand Echh" never existed?

Let's start with my attempt at re-creating the splash page:-

The Aging Spidey-Man
Of course Marvel characters can age, just at a much much slower rate than reality, Spider-man started in High School in his debut issue in 1962 before eventually graduating to college sometime in the 1970's...

But you would never expect to see a mid to late forties or over 50's portrayal of Spider-man. For one thing all the other characters would have to equally age including Aunt May…  

So the last thing spider man could ever be is aged or ageing... 

Spidey-man - Everyone surely knows it was Stan Lee who coined the rather inappropriate abbreviation of spider-man to spidey and spidey-man drives this point home as its an extension of an unnecessary abbreviation

It would actually only be a few years later that "Spidey Super Stories" would debut on the PBS children's television series The Electric Company 

and that Marvel Published a comic of the same name set in the same "universe "(actually making it part of Marvel) aimed at children ages 6–10 which actually lead to "spidey-man" being normal verbiage for children too young to know better! 

Which is ironic as the whole point of "spidey super stories" was to get young kids interested in reading and to help teach them

However you look at it, you can't help but think that Marie Severin knew the future…!

Peter Pooper
Again everyone knows Stan Lee used alliterative names, for the oft quoted reason to help him remember who was who!

Peter Pooper is just one step away from being a Party Pooper - In the real Spider-man comic one of the main (and probably still continuing) plot points is Peter Parker's perpetual bad luck, so if he did go to a party even in the real Spider man comic, its a pretty safe bet he would ruin it inadvertently - say with the sudden entrance of the green goblin

Gnat man
This a brilliant reversal and a pun in one, instead of being based on something dark, scary and gothic like a bat, the character here is based on a insect which one could equate to being even less than a termite and what did Doctor Manhattan say about termites?


It also places the character as being based on a insect or a bug, just as spider-man himself is

The costume of gnat man takes it yet another level, as he is nothing short of a monochrome court jester, complete with bells that actually jingle (as we will see)

At what point has anyone not described a child who is mischievous and trouble making as being rotten? or a rotter - This is equally just pure genius

J Jawbone Junkton
Another of Stan Lees famous alliterations twisted - a Jawbone is someone who talks a lot and junkton just is another expression for rubbish, so basically a character who talks a lot of rubbish (just like me, then)

A fink - This rather old expression means one who is disapproved of or is held in contempt  

In the splash page alone the way the characters are posed and are behaving tells you almost everything you need to know

JJJ is in the background cackling to himself (and has been given devil like ears)

Gnat man is throwing a rope up to nowhere in particualr and has no relation to anything else on the page

Spidey-man is hanging upside down, has a hole in one of his socks (yes socks, I will get back to this in a later episode) and is holding a comic

A comic which makes light of DC itself and of the number of Batman titles that was available, even back then when there was only one spider-man title (The Spectacular Spider-Man debuted in 1976)

Rotten is throwing in a bomb to explode the entire situation

Just above Rotten is a interesting sign - which we will cover in a later episode

Next week: Join me as Jimmy Olsen makes an unscheduled guest appearance...

Monday, 5 November 2012

A Vocational Viewpoint / The Decline of English Murder

“I see no reason why the 5th November should ever be forgot”

Why not you may ask?

Two View Points as to why - Both from Alan Moore

Firstly let me attempt to present “A Vocational Viewpoint” from V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Next:- A song “The Decline of English Murder” Lyrics by Alan Moore, Music by Joe Brown

"She sorts out her hair in the washroom at Preston services
Dries her hands under a notice that reads “Have you seen this child?”
And she nurses one tea for an hour in the cafeteria
Watching the truck drivers blind their fried eggs with the cutlery
And English murder
It’s all over her face
Just waiting until the right time, the wrong lay-by
There’ll be a photograph
With a bad 1970’s fringe and a look of uncertainty
Years later you’ll know the name
But not where you’ll know it from
And they emptied the terraced row with compulsory purchases
Reasoning that they would make more from the ground with the people gone
So he shuffles the half a mile to the nearest post office
When lads push into the queue he pretends he's’ not noticed them
And English murder
It’s all over his face
A low enough cold snap a high enough gas bill
You’ll skim the epitaph
And you’ll possibly notice his name like somebody you knew from school
There’ll be an off-the-peg verse where “sad” has been rhymed with “dad”
And the houses in which they have invested their city bonuses
Have increased the property prices and therefore the homelessness
Their scabby grey anti-climb paint and withdrawn amenities
In case socialising promotes anti-social behavior
And English murder
It’s all over the place
The bunches of flowers in pedestrian precincts
Your average psychopath
At least kills with a hammer or brick and not with greed and incompetence
And after two or three years maybe they’ll express remorse"

Now you have watched the videos, what is next?

You can buy a copy of the song “The Decline of English Murder” from - you can read more about the song here

You can read Alan Moore's recent interview for Occupy Times here

As far as I am concerned It's not what you do that necessarily matters it is that you remember you do have a choice, no matter what anyone else may say 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Reflecting on Reflections

In order to consider or reflect upon WHAT MEN I went into the future to see what the reactions was from anyone who read WHAT MEN and have now returned to the now in order to report the findings

However it is entirely possible that by going into the future and making these observations, what I observed has in fact changed because I was observing it?

The reactions as observed are mostly all Questions

It is a possibility that the future in which these questions may have been asked will be irrevocably changed by reporting on them in the here and now

However I did have 2 questions from people before I went into the future and they appear below you can see which ones they are - it was in fact receiving these questions that prompted the visit into the future in the first place

So the findings of these observations themselves are Questions seeking Answers, seeking the Truth

But What is the truth?

Is it this :-

A truth is truth for all, an absolute! To compromise, to give up any part of a truth is to wipe out justice, to choose some evil over the good, to renounce man’s means, reason and logic which makes his success and happiness possible! Each man must make his own choice! A is A or anything goes!

Or is it This:- ?

The truth finally reached is that there is no objective truth. “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster. And if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

Or both or something else entirely?

The answer to the question of what is the truth is entirely subjective so you will have to forgive me if I say I leave it in your hands

The same does apply to WHAT MEN to some degree given that there could be more than one possible interpretation of what WHAT MEN is

The fact that there could be different possible interpretations is the whole point. It’s not which one you chose that matters – it’s that you have the choice.

Equally you have the choice to disagree and say there is only one interpretation

Either view point is equally valid

But what about those Questions?

Ah in the now unlikely to happen in quite the same way future the reaction was basically one of seeking definition – essentially what does WHAT MEN mean or what did I want it to mean – does for example a drawing on a certain page in relation to another mean something in and of itself and or when combined with others and or the dialog, especially given the way the pages images and dialogue was combined and so on

So in anticipation of you yourself possibly asking or wanting to know the answers to The questions – here they are followed by Answers

As to if these are actually answers again I am afraid that’s another subjective question – it all depends on your point of view

If you are like Evey (or is that IV) Hammond who gives up on the puzzles and just wants to turn the page upside down and read the answers -These answers are not for you

The point is that reading WHAT MEN is hopefully a journey of discovery - you make it, and you inform it, it about your point of view or your perception of what WHAT MEN is - I merely provide the props and scenery which is all illusion

What WHAT MEN is - is whatever you want it to be

This is all after all Reflecting on reflections...

However, fell free to entirely disagree and subscribe to the just one definition point of view, thats fine with me

Please, please bare in mind all of the questions have been asked from someones subjective point of view i.e. their own personal interpretation of WHAT MEN is and not mine - your mileage may vary considerably
  • Why did you create WHAT MEN?
Perhaps because of the challenge it represented: the puzzle that was there, a knot that couldn't be untied.
  • What was the inspiration for WHAT MEN?
We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from the another's vantage point, as if new, it may still take our breath away
  • What is your moral viewpoint?
This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us.
  • Is WHAT MEN told out of order / sequence ?
Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time, when the whole design is visible in every facet.
  • Do I have to re read WHAT MEN several times for it to make more sense?

  • Is WHAT MEN an example of aleatoricism / inspired by The William S. Burroughs novel Nova Express?
Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose
  • Why is the art Black and White?
I tried to pretend it looked like a spreading tree, shadows pooled beneath it, but it didn't. It looked more like a dead cat I once found, the fat, glistening grubs writhing blindly, squirming over each other, frantically tunneling away from the light. But even that is avoiding the real horror. The horror is this: In the end, it is simply a picture of empty meaningless blackness. We are alone. There is nothing else.
  • Why Is there not an ending to WHAT MEN?
In the end? Nothing ever ends.

  • Why is WHAT MEN “Funny”?  (Ryan C Smith of SF SF fame may have asked a variation on this question)
Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense.
  • Is WHAT MEN deliberately just nothing more than ironic?
Only in the same sense that the Alanis Morissette song is

  • Why did you go into the future to find these questions but answer them now, in what is relatively the past? 
Everything is preordained. Even my responses
  • Why did you put someone not particularly clever into the role of “world's smartest man” and are you worried about the consequences?
The world's smartest man poses no more threat to me than does its smartest termite.
  • Why did you put "yourself" into the comic ?
The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world. Was Robert
  • Why did you leave it to now to attempt to explain WHAT MEN / Why was there not any blog text  explaining with the drawings as you went along as with previous projects? (Chris Thompson of Pop Culture Hound fame may have asked a variation on this question)
Do you seriously think I'd explain my master-stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? 

If you would like to make this possible future a reality then by all means don't provide any feedback

However if you wish to deny this futures existence then please do feedback, particularly if you do feel that there is only one interpretation of WHAT MEN

NEXT WEEK:- Something completely and utterly different