Preaching the law of diminishing returns

Don’t you just hate it when you get started on a series, and you like it? Quite a bit, even if there are things about it that you’re not quite sure about? So you get the next in the series, and the next – and they’re still good, but not quite as good? And by the time you’re on episode/book/season 6 out of a total of 8, you realise that the series is actually not very good any more, in fact, it pisses you off – but you’re so far into it, you want to know how it ends? Of course you could just find out from Wikipedia, but it wouldn’t be the same. So you get the last one or two parts of the series and hate yourself for it when you read them.

It looks like this is pretty much what is happening with me and Preacher, the comic by Garth Ennis. I enjoyed the first one or two books quite a bit; yes, there was a deeply adolescent streak about the humour, but I liked the ambivalence of the plot and characters, and I liked the mythical/religious background. I liked that it asked many of the right questions.

But then, as the series went on, it dropped much of the ambivalence, became more interested in cheap shots, facile ultra-brutality, trying to shock those that are easily shocked, and trying way too hard at that. Book by book, the characters became less interesting, the morality more cloying and more reactionary. This was one Preacher who was getting decidedly self-righteous.

And now I’ve got the first eight books – of nine, that is. Of course I’m going to get the ninth book, but not primarily because I need to know how it all ends.

Nope. I’m making sure that I’ve got all nine… so then I can sell it better on eBay. At the very least, I can get some of my money back. Yee-hah!

P.S.: In case this entry bored you, feast your eyes and ears on this:

Look at the size of those eyebrows!

It’s dangerous to go back to the things you enjoyed as a kid after decades, because chances are that you’ll want to tear out your eyes and lobotomise yourself rather than know that, boy, did you have crap taste when you were young!

Going back and watching the ’50s version of 20’000 Leagues Under the Sea isn’t nearly as bad as it could be. There’s still a lot in the film that works: many of the special effects, if not up to scratch nowadays, still have a certain realism, so that the film still looks pretty damn good. This is helped by the underwater scenes and the colour art direction which won an Academy Award. (Makes you wonder what other Academy Awards they gave back then – Best Racist Caricature in a Motion Picture? Best Gratuitous Use of a ‘Funny’ Seal Sidekick? Best Repeated Underwater Performance of Toccata & Fugue As Bach Never Wrote It?) The film’s atmosphere is still cool, and the kid in me still thinks it’d be fun to be on the Nautilus, at least if that Nemo guy stays off the organ playing for a few hours.

At the same time, I never noticed just how clunky the dialogues and much of the acting were. Not that I expect Dostoevsky from a Jules Vernes adventure movie, nor did I think, “This film could do with more Lee Strasberg-type performances…” But at times you wonder whether Richard Fleischer ever bothered  to direct his cast. I know that Peter Lorre can do better, as can Kirk Douglas… and James Mason mainly works due to his eyebrows and his snobbish British accent, which makes lines like “I am not what is called a civilized man, Professor.” quite funny – you expect him to follow this with, “Now let us have a snifter of brandy and read some Shakespeare, shall we?”

And the trained seal and that insufferable “Whale of a Tale” song are evil, I tells ya! Eeevil!

P.S.: Speaking of Captain Nemo, perhaps I should take a day or two to write a blog entry on Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier. Very little Nemo in that one, though… Shame.

The League, back when things were happy (in a dysfunctional way)

Hellboy is other people


I like Mike Mignola’s Hellboy – both the comic and the character. I like the audacity of having a character called “Hellboy”, because most people wouldn’t dare… They’d be afraid of looking silly. Mignola doesn’t seem to be afraid of that. In fact, he embraces the silliness that is in the concept, and he turns it into an asset – by making Hellboy a fascinatingly human character. One that struggles with the knowledge that he’s the key to the Apocalypse, but by and large Hellboy is more concerned with things like pancakes.

More pamcakes

Mignola loves his mythology, folklore and the supernatural – but he’s not infatuated with it, to the point where he can laugh about it. To Hellboy, agent of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, the supernatural is mainly an annoyance: daemons with ancient grudges, monstrous creatures, insane immortal monks and hags in huts on chicken legs are all in a day’s work for the guy, and one gets the feeling that he’d rather sit down and have a beer with most of the goblins and ghouls he encounters… but no, they choose to misbehave, so it’s clobberin’ time. Because if you sit around twiddling your thumbs, before you know it, some wolf decides it’s about time to gobble down the moon, and all that jazz.

Even more pamcakes

Yesterday I got the latest Hellboy collection, The Troll Witch and other stories. It’s entertaining, but like all of the short story collections it lacks the punch of a sustained narrative. It doesn’t show us any new sides of the big red guy with the filed-down horns. Instead, it sometimes feels a bit like an indulgence by Mignola. It’s like he’s recently read about this cool character from Malay folklore, so he does a little vignette: Hellboy meets (and fights) the Penanggalan. However, even if the story was just about Hellboy sitting around, reading the funny pages and watching TV, I’d read it – because I’ve fallen in love with Mignola’s expressionistic, woodcut-like drawings. They may take some getting used to, but I find they add both to the humour and to the ominous and eerie elements. But enough talk – more pamcakes!