18 Jan 2010


So we're now in the second decade of Cobblerkhan! The beginning of these bold new 'teens deserves a blog. I've been working away these past few months - summer is always the busiest time - and haven't had the chance to write much. So here's a kete full of odds and ends I've been reflecting on recently

Comics-wise, there hasn't been that much to excite me. At Marvel, Dark Reign is segueing into Siege, and what will probably be a six-month fight scene. After that, there's some talk of what they're calling the "Age of Heroes", and how it's going to get all old-school - none of this Milleresque, angsty crimefighting, but rather a return to old-fashioned "cape" style heroes. Sounds interesting, but one wonders how this connects to Disney's recent acquisition of the House of Ideas. Could it, perhaps, result in a literal 'Disneyification' of the Marvel Universe? Or does it suggest a renaissance in superhero comics?

There was one joke about that I heard bandied about when The Mouse took over. "What next," the fanboys fumed, "will we get Miley Cyrus as Squirrel Girl?". You have to be a bit of a nerd to get that one, so let's just say it's meant to be mean. But bizarrely enough, I could totally see it working. Indeed, there is a small but (very, very...very) devoted fanbase pushing for that project.


Squirrel Girl is a highly divisive character - I and many others love her as a clever critique of superhero comics, and a welcome relief from the self-importance of so many characters. But an equally convinced chorus insist she's a unfunny joke who's been taken way too far - Mary-Sue at her worst. Comparing her to Miley Cyrus - confining them both in the same cultural ghetto - was their idea. I think they were actually missing the point entirely - this is meant to be fun, goddammit. An amazingly parodic Squirrel Girl movie - with the GLA of course - pitched at both kids and adults could be great. It also just so happens that one of Disney's most popular flavours-of-the-month is a good match for SG, both in character and appearance.

The biggest problem? Studios hate interesting and strong female characters, especially superheroines, and every filmic depiction of them is a despicable flop. The worst imaginings of those fanboy critics - the kiddisation of their comics - would probably be realised. I cannot divine exactly why Hollywood insists on sabotaging movies about superheroines, but they always do, and I could see this SG project go the exact same route. But if there's a positive thought, it's that Disney - ironically - could change the game entirely, and produce a movie about the most unlikely of superheroines, which actually works. For what it's worth, I'd go see it.

In other comics news, Alan Moore is working on a Cthulhu project. Oh yes, it is going to be intense. Moore has dwelled deep and at length in Lovecraft's dark mind, and he knows it well. This new series - entitled, with classic cheekiness, "Neonomion" - has a lot of promise. It has an unusual (and appropriately unsettling) feel to it - like it's "Alan Moore's X-Files". There has been a preview released, with the promise of the first volume following soon. This brief interview scene drops more than a few hints for fans of the Mythos.


The name Y'golonac - "the Defiler" - is exciting. That slimy horror was an invention of Ramsey Campbell - the man who first wrote England into the Lovecraftian world. Y'golonac is the god of depravity - and not just our earthbound, mundane sadism, but all depravities conceivable throughout the universe, including those of the most insane alien minds. He has no head and jagged mouths on his palms. Not a nice fellow. The scariest part? His worshipers in our world are many and widespread...

The lloigor, R'yleh, and Zothique are all keywords, recognisable through the Cthulhu-speak. They draw on the work of a number of writers who contributed to the Mythos. I suppose Moore is really just showing off here! This comic promises a lot, and - along with the second instalment of LOEG:Century, means there's at least two awesome Alan Moore comics I'll be reading this year.

Now Cobblerkhan is always about the comics, but there are two other things I love which will be blogged about this year. Firstly, a look at TV shows I like, and secondly, stuff that really creeps me out.

To get through the stress of the busy holiday season, I sat and watched all 26 episodes of "You Rang, M'Lord?", having not seen it since 1993. This was the last of the Croft/Perry Brit-coms. Their celebrated legacy - including "Dad's Army", "Are You Being Served?", "It Ain't Half Hot Mum", "Hi-de-Hi!" and "'Allo 'Allo!" - pretty much defines British TV comedy of a certain era. It was high camp, with ludicrous plots, eccentric characters, and as much innuendo as could be vigorously stuffed into thirty minutes. But along the way there was some serious commentary about British society.

YRM'L was the best example of this satirical slant. It was the least successful of the Croft/Perry shows - mainly (I think, anyway) because it focused far more on characters and storyline, than gags and jokes. I always felt they shouldn't have had a studio audience - although it did add to the period feel somewhat. The whole show - while still having the hallmarks of the cheerfully lowbrow, 'musichall', Croft/Perry style - was really too intelligent for its own good.


One character from this show was - and remains - a huge favorite of mine. Cissie Meldrum was the eldest daughter of the show's aristocratic family, or 'upper set'. Among this bunch of hypocritical prudes and superficial snobs, she was the only one with a conscience. She took great care of the servants - treating them as human beings, unlike the rest of her family. She was also a staunch Socialist and reformer who eventually became an MP and manager of a worker's collective. Also, she was a bally good-looking woman (a Dalton-era Bond girl!).

The whole joke with her - of course - was that she was gay. That was never said outright, but was - in the old Croft/Perry manner - constantly hinted at. In her very first lines spoken on the show, she mentions her long-standing hatred of dresses - except, she says with relish, when her "chum" Penelope wears them. But really, the satire here was in her father's prudish obliviousness, and the whole farcical nature of "don't ask, don't tell". Naturally, Cissie's warmth towards the maid Ivy provided a lot of scope for misinterpretation.

Her whole appearance is modeled after Radclyffe Hall, the most famous lesbian and female cross-dresser of her time, and who like Cissie was a staunch advocate for human rights and reform. Later on, Cissie would become an aviatrix - which in the 20's seems about as 'out' as a gay woman could get. The remarkable thing here is that she is, most likely, the first lesbian to ever appear in a British TV series. The sympathetic and highly likable portrayal of her does Croft/Perry, and the lovely Kate Rabett, a lot of credit.

Now for the creepy stuff.

Cracked produce some great lists, and their recent 5 Creepiest Unexplained Broadcasts was a doozy. It probably could have run to as much as 50; there are a lot of weird broadcasts around. For one thing you have numbers stations. These are mysterious radio broadcasts, from various places around the globe, either reading out various numbers or just broadcasting some trippy static.

They're like something out of "Lost" - a "found", cryptic modern artifact like the Dharma stations. The fact they seem to have become more active since the end of the Cold War makes it even more intriguing. All sorts of florid and imaginative scenarios are possible.

Then there's this guy, and the "Max Headroom Pirating Incident". Whatever was going on here, this always freaked me the hell out. Further review has led me to two conclusions. Firstly, he was a disgruntled ex-employee of WGN, with skills and nouse to get some revenge on them. Either that, or he was a hacker/TV pirate of some sort making a point to himself and his peers. He makes various comments which suggest this was all a big in-joke to somebody. I'm amazed that, years later, absolutely nothing is known about the perpetrators. They could never have anticipated the Internet, and I bet the fact it's now a viral oddity must be quite weird for them.

Lastly, here's one they left out, but I rank it as the Creepiest Unexplained Broadcast ever.

I've blogged about the legend of lost cosmonauts before. This recording is posited to be proof that the Soviets lost a lot of people - including this woman - and never officially attested to it. It certainly has its debunkers, but even they never actually deny this is a genuine recording - they just say it's misunderstood. I don't know how that blood-chilling transcription could be misunderstood, though.