Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Demon Book 1: Hell's Hitman (#40, #42-49, The Demon Annual #2) PART ONE

"That's the wonderful thing about evil, you see.  There's absolutely nothing to hold you back" - Asteroth

Well this is my two-hundreth book covered for this blog so to celebrate here is some vintage Garth Ennis and a look at the first volume of his run on DC's The Demon series back in the 90's.  Ennis was in the middle of a well receieved run on Hellblazer when the opportunity to take on writing duties for a second series came up.  Unfortunately it was all superhero stuff, which folk should know by now, Ennis is no big fan of.  Then a chance to write The Demon came up, he jumped at the chance and along with artist and regular collaborator John McCrea he gave us his take on Etrigan, a demon who is bound to the soul of an immortal man called Jason Blood.  Jason Blood can summon Etrigan to take his place on Earth with the rhyme "Gone, gone O Form of Man.  Rise the demon Etrigan" and is replaced by a yellow, cat-like demon with great power who speaks entirely in rhyme.  Created by the legendary Jack Kirby, Etrigan fell into disuse until Alan Moore, as part of his general revamping of DC's magical characters in the pages of Swamp Thing, bought him back and made him popular again.  Ennis writes very positively of the impact Moore's writing of Etrigan had on him in his introduction to this collected volume and his whole run is dedicated to showing just why Etrigan should be feared and respected as he had undergone some badass decay in the Alan Grant run which came before.  We also get the introduction of Tommy Monaghan in The Demon Annual Bloodlines special.  I've covered the whole Hitman spin-off series before on this blog, but will include the recap of his introductory issue again so the rest of his appearances in this book make sense. Also as ten issues in total are collected here, I've split it into two parts which means the short "Hell's Hitman" arc will be resolved in my next post.  There are some leftover plot threads and characters from Alan Grant's run on the book, which has not been collected, but Ennis incoprorates them gracefully into the storylines rather than do a full continuity reboot.  Jason Blood/Etrigan are also now based in Gotham City, a wretched hive with opportunities for helltastic fun aplenty. So without further ado, Ennis and McCrea's The Demon (if you're wondering where issue #41 is, it was a fill-in involving neither Ennis or McCrea).

The book begins with a biker gang invading and descrating a church.  The leader, Johnny Basterson makes an offering of his soul to summon a demon called "Brandor".  Johnny convulses then reveals to his gang that Brandor is now in control of Johny's body much to their delight as this will make their gang the top one now.
Heeeere's Johnny, I mean Brandor.
Next day, Jason Blood investigates the church and finds evidence of the demon summoning, so he summons Etrigan to take his place and investigate.  Etrigan uses his magic flame to summon another demon from hell to give him information.  As he does so he remenisces about his time leading a gang down in hell.

His summoning brings forth a demon called "Rectomm", leader of an opposing gang and somewhat pissed at Etrigan for slaughtering his gang, eating his brother, fed his mother to the Hell Gerbils of Acheron and stole his girlfriend.  He calls Etrigan a "Felcher" and I can't believe Ennis managed to get that reference into a PG rated comic!

Etrigan punches him a few times and threatens him with more violence if he doesn't give up who has taken over Johnny.  We then cut to Brandor/Johnny and his gang riding through Gotham on their way to the cathedral.  On a roof is Etrigan watching:

Etrigan: "But there's hellspawn in Gotham - I must do what I can - 'cause this towns for no demon.. save Etrigan".

He goes to the cathedral where Johnny/Brandor plan on opening a gateway to hell.  Usually a holy place would be somewhere Etrigan cannot go, but because Gotham is such a faithless town he can enter.
One way to exorcise a demon.
He knows Brandor from his old gang days, and flies down and starts killing the gang members with his hands and his flame.  With them all dead, Johnny/Brandor makes a run for it on his motorbike.  He runs Etrigan down with it and makes another pass, but Etrigan recovers and grabs it, then reaches into Johnny/Brandor's mouth and pulls Brandor out:

Etrigan: "You've had your fun with your messing about.  But now it is time to get the hell out."

Etrigan then bites Brandor's head off and turns his attention to Johnny.   He blasts him with his flame, burning Johnny to a crisp while quipping, "here comes the toast rider."  Back in hell, the biker gang resign themselves to more boredom, while on Earth a grinning Etrigan walks away from the fires his flame attack caused, "don't leave priests dead and churches defiled.  Or you'll meet one who is truly wild."

Now The Demon Annual #2 and it's a Bloodlines special.  Bloodlines was DC's 1993 line wide attempt attempt to create a whole batch of XTREME '90's heroes.  As we see in this chapter, aliens feeding off people's spinal fluid accidentally trigger superpowers in a small minority of people instead of killing them.  The roster of heroes it produced was pretty lack lustre, only Tommy "Hitman" Monaghan made any kind of an impact getting his own brilliant series a few years later.  The rest of the Bloodlines heroes fell into obscurity and were bought back to be killed by Superboy Prime in Infinite Crisis.

Tommy gets his spine chomped.
Tommy is introduced waiting to perform a hit, but before he can, one of the aliens called Glonth attacks and kills his mark, then comes after Tommy and slurps his spine too.  But Tommy survives and is rushed to hospital, he awakens to find his eyes are now black pools and that he can see through people down to the skeleton and is overwhelmed by their thoughts (he later gains control of these abilities and can turn them on and off at will).

Tommy escapes the hospital and goes to his friends Pat's house to get tooled up.  He then declares himself "not Tommy, Pat.  Hitman".  But this ID is rarely used again.  He's tends to be referred to as "a hitman" rather than "the Hitman" which he later declares an embarrassing name in his next appearance in The Demon: Hell's Hitman arc and it would be dropped completely along with the red scarf he wears for his own series.

The man he was going to kill before it munched his and Tommy's spines was a mobster called Rober Dubelz. His conjoined twin sons Moe and Joe was revenge on the monster and Tommy and pit out a contract on him.  Tommy decides to crash the funeral and deal with the twins.  As he observes the guests arrive he sees Jason Blood, trying to read his mind leaves him shaken.  Glonth then crashes the wake and so does Tommy. 
Glonth vs. Etrigan
Jason switches places with Etrigan and starts to fight Glonth hurling insults at him constantly as they hit each other with cars and so on.  Tommy's battle spills over into Etrigan's and he gets knocked down, but manages to rally and kills Joe Dubelz one half of the twins before also turning on Glonth. 

Glonth now outmatched, flees, while Moe Dubelz bellows that he'll have his revenge on Tommy. Tommy and Jason Blood both leave the funeral and Tommy tries to read Jason's mind and is shocked at what he finds.

Jason Blood: "It's not always a good idea to go peering into the dark.  Sometimes you might not like what you see."

Tommy: "And sometimes, Mr. Blood.  Sometimes, you ain't got a choice."

And the Annual ends.  It's a great intro for the character of Tommy, and establishes characters and plot threads that get picked up three years later when Tommy gets his own series.

The "Hell's Hitman" arc starts next in Jason Blood's flat, on the sofa are two living cushions Harry and Katarina who are a couple (these are leftovers from Alan Grant's run).  Katarina wonders why Jason is so broody, Harry says that it's because of Etrigan.  Currently Jason is defying Etrigan's request to manifest and help him take down a demon called Asteroth.

Etrigan: "So pay the piper Jason Blood! Or I'll turn thy mind to boiling mud! I'll scream all night, and then all day - 'til for a rubber room you'll pray!"

But Jason calmly calls Etrigan's bluff saying if he drives him mad he won't be able to say the words that allow Etrigan to walk the Earth.  He doesn't want Etrigan fighting an arch-demon in Gotham because of all the collateral damage he'll cause.
Jason, the cushions and Etrigan.
Etrigan says he's "the good guy from hell".  And Jason gives in and says the words.  Katarina wonders why they work together and Harry says both have been looking to find a way to be free of each other for a long time, ever since Merlin first joined them together.  Then they smooch.

We then cut to Asteroth, a demon in a natty suit who knows Etrigan is coming now. His human right hand man draws his gun for taking on Etrigan but Asteroth has a better idea of how to deal with him, guns being useless against demons.  He orders the "commandos" to be put in position.

Etrigan in a hooded cloak, is attempting to go undercover to get information on Asteroth's whereabouts in a bar.  But everyone in the bar pulls a gun at the mention of Asteroth and the barman fires a shotgun in Etrigan's face.  Which does nothing to him.  Etrigan burns the flesh off the mans arms then tears his way through the bar.  When everyone is either dead or unconcious, he neck-lifts the barman and questions him again.

Etrigan wants to know where he is and what he is doing and why everyone was protecting his anonymity. The barman says Asteroth moved in a couple of months ago and has been undertaking some twisted killings as he established himself in the underworld.  He is located in a place on "twelfth and third", so Etrigan sets off to confront him.
Remiel and Duma.
Now, this comic takes place while Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series was still in main DC continuity and so currently Hell is being ruled by the angels "Remiel" and "Duma".  Duma doesn't speak at all.  They are watching things unfold and Remiel says Etrigan is going to make a mess of things, but this means he'll be more receptive to the offer they'll make him.  Duma says nothing.

Remiel: "By the creator! Why did I have to be exiled with him?  What was wrong with the Angel of Intriguing Converstation?  Or even the angel of amusing anecdotes? Even the Angel of Scrabble would be better than this!  But nooo I had to end up with the Angel of Silence!"

Heh.  Now we return to Etrigan who makes his assault on Asteroth's base.  But Asteroth has prepared.  There are priests and choirboys there, the priests throw sharpened crosses and holy water at Etrigan and the choir sing, bringing him pain in his head.  Asteroth masquerades as an honest businessman who has made big donations to a televangelist's church to get this holy protection.

Etrigan, stabbed by the crosses and with patches of skin melted off by the holy water, manages to blast his way out before his head gets chopped off.  On his knees outside, he says the words, "G...g..gone Oh wretched Etrigan... Take refuge now in form of man".  And he returns to hell with Jason Blood back on earth.
Holy commandos give Etrigan serious pain.
Remiel and Duma approach the somewhat angry Etrigan and say they want to give him a job. They want him to actively hunt demons and ghouls etc that are on earth.   First take down Asteroth then go after the rest, be "Hell's Hitman".  Etrigan is extremely taken with the idea, especially as it's going to make Jason Blood's life more miserable than it already is.

We then cut to Jason bidding farewell to a man called Randu, saying Etrigan's new role means he's lost all hope of ridding himself of him.  He tells Randu to take Harry and Katarina and leave, "goodbye old friend".  Now he has to inform his sort-of girlfriend Glenda, which he does via an ansaphone message, telling her to never call or come to his home again, "don't look back."
Etrigan triumphant.
As he stares miserably out of the window, he says the rhyme "No future now, in form of man... so rise triumphant, Etrigan".  Etrigan leaps from roof to roof as he gloats and says the hell's hitman job will give him carte blanche to cause as much devastation as he likes.

Etrigan: "And Asteroth fills me with mirth! He thinks he'll bring Hell on Earth? He doesn't know me very well - for I'm the one!  I'll give 'em hell!"

We then cut to Asteroth musing about how tommorrow he's going to finish the summoning of Gotham's demon, "the blackest of the city-demons" by creating the final part of the "Lodestar Daemonique" and that he will then have his "Hell on earth."

He's interupted from his reverie by the Reverend Frukker, it's his "Church of the Blessed Televangelist" Asteroth has been donating large sums to which has gained him the holy protection he used against Etrigan.

We then see Glenda trying to get in contact with Jason Blood, but instead she is faced with Etrigan.  And he has some news for her; she's pregnant.  When she and Jason slept together, although they took precautions, Etrigan intefered and now she's up the duff with Jason's kid much to Etrigan's glee as he has yet another way to make Jason's life a misery.
Glenda gets the good/bad news.
We then see him taking a group jacuzzi in hell with his fellow demons, including one readers will recognise - Baytor.  As Etrigan gloats at how he's ruining Jason's life a lady demon appears.  She is "The Lady Smegma" a triple buttocked demoness.  And she and Etrigan have been intimate as well, and she too is expecting a demon child now.

Etrigan: "For Blood is lonely, cold and hurt, as low as he can go... But, Etrigan was never one to put on half a show!  A thousand years of hate have I, a charnel rose that's bloomed... and I plan to see this man well and truly doomed!"

Back in the mortal realm Tommy Monaghan is using his mind reading skills to win at poker.  Etrigan comes calling, Etrigan wants his help in taking on Asteroth.  Tommy says he'll do it for twenty thousand dollars, which Etrigan reluctantly agrees to and they make plans to hit Asteroth the next day.

Back with Glenda and she finally gets to talk to Jason after letting herself into his flat. He tells her that he's cutting ties because of Etrigan becoming Hell's Hitman which is going to mean increased danger to those around him.  She blurts out that she's pregnant, which renders him speechless.  Then he says it makes no difference.  He can't break his link with Etrigan though he's searched everywhere for a way to do it that won't result in his real age of one thousand, one hundred and fifty-seven years suddenly catching up with him.  Even though Glenda loves him, he can't even bring himself to hold her now.
O Jason U so moody.
Tommy meanwhile is looking for some extra information on Asteroth and finds the villains Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee being menaced by a gang which he takes out.  Dum and Dee helped Asteroth get established but then he dropped them, Tommy takes them for a drink while they fill him in some more.

Etrigan is back on earth and goes to Jason's flat where Harry the cushion is back without Katarina.  Apparently she fell in love with Randu's couch, so Harry had Glenda bring him back to Jason's place.  Then Etrigan feels something in his cloak's hood and yanks out a goofy looking creature which hitched a ride back from Hell.

In Noonan's bar, Dum and Dee are telling Tommy about all the places Asteroth has had people buried in concrete with symbols scratched in the concrete afterwards.  They've been placed all over Gotham all equal distance from his base in the centre.  Tommy read their minds and finds out they want to take over once Asteroth is dealt with and they'll kill Tommy as well.  They ask to come along and help and Tommy agrees knowing to be ready for them once it's all over.
Drinking with Dee and Dum.
We then see Asteroth with a map of Gotham which he has drawn a five pointed star.  Each point is where the "sacrifices" have been contained.  His right-hand man asks who he wants for the final sacrifice and what's it all for.  Asteroth says to get anyone, it doesn't matter, and he's doing this to awaken "The Gothodemon."

Tommy, Dee and Dum investigate the site of where Asteroth had one bunch of people buried in concrete, it has weird symbols scratched in it.  Tommy uses his X-ray vision to confirm there are bodies inside, "better call The Demon" he says.

Etrigan is currently in Jason's kitchen talking with Harry the cushion, he also has the weird, goofy thing stuffed in the microwave and is repeatedly frying it (it's immortal). He's punishing it from escaping from hell via Etrigan's hood, but the thing says he wasn't supposed to be in hell in the first place. 
Asteroth practising his eeeevil act.
Etrigan then leaves and we cut to Asteroth in his demon drag, declaring "quiver mortals as I eh..?"  He's interupted by his right-hand man and quickly turns back into a man in a suit.  "Don't you ever knock?" he says petulantly.  He tells him to gather the Choir Commandos and bring them Saint Jack's cemetary, then to round up every low-life he knows for extra protection.  He's going to raise the "Gothodaemon" and after that it won't matter who knows what he is.

Meanwhile Reverend Frukker is giving mass, and lined up is Etrigan who grins and blasts all the ministers and so on standing round the Reverend.  When Frukker says this is holy ground and he shouldn't be here, Etrigan sneers a religion based on squeezing money out of it's congregation is not holy.

Then he grabs Frukker by the nose and tells him Asteroth is a demon.  Frukker doesn't believe him, Etrigan just says:

Etrigan: "If this demon's word you doubt then seek your charming buddy out... you think he's just a business boss.  See what he thinks of the Holy Cross."

He then transforms into Jason Blood and asks if this is where he makes a donation. Later Tommy over hears the right-hand man recruiting criminals to help out.  He decides to take them out and flings the right-hand man through a car window and jams a pistol in his mouth.

Tommy says nothing as the man tries desperately not to think about where the final showdown is taking place.  But the location "St. Jacks" leaks out and grimly Tommy pulls the trigger decorating the car interior with blood.
Interrogation, Hitman style.
We are then told every city has a demon.  Built on Indian bones and fed blood until it almost choked.  I wonder if the writer of Gotham By Midnight had this story in mind when it had Gotham menaced by a monster made up of the resentment of the dead of Gotham.  Very similar idea.  We are then shown a montage of people murdering others and the Gothodaemon "laps it up."

We then have a quick check-in with Jason and Glenda, she yells at him for putting on his cold self to her. Then says the baby and she will do just fine. "You know the way out" she says as she turns away.  He leaves, thinking how much he wants to say he loves her and will protect her from Etrigan, but he knows not to make promises he can't keep.

He becomes Etrigan again, who prowls the roof tops towards St. Jack's cemetary.  Already waiting there are Tommy, Dee and Dum.   Etrigan arrives and shoos Dee and Dum away, then yells at Tommy for getting drunk on the job and tries to cut the money he's going to pay him to five thousand.  "The deal was twenty" insists Tommy.

Then Frukker shows up and races towards Asteroth.  He holds up a crucifix to him and Asteroth is merely bemused.  Frukker stammers in embarassment and Asteroth leads him inside the church, then Frukker hands the crucifix to Asteroth who absently minded takes it.  And his hand and arm burst into flame.  "A-ha!" says Frukker.  "Oh-ho!" says an furious Asteroth who transforms and punches Frukker so hard it breaks his neck and kills him.
Asteroth's true nature discovered too late.
Asteroth then has him buried in concrete as the final sacrifice.  Out in the graveyard Etrigan realises his plan has gone wrong (the other holy people didn't see Asteroth transform like he wanted) and rehires Tommy who puts his fee up to thirty-thousand.  Etrigan tells him to take out the commandos and Tommy blasts them to bits with a grenande launcher.

Etrigan is pleased by this, someone runs in to tell Asteroth what has happened but he says it doesn't matter.  The final sacrifice has been accepted, "The lodestar is complete! The gate is open! Rise the Gothodemon!"  And a huge black shape rises over the church.  "Fifty-thousand!" says Tommy and here on that cliffhanger we take our leave for a while.  To be continued.
The Gothodaemon arises...
Now THIS is how you depict Etrigan.  If you suffered through my posts on the Demon Knights trades you'll recall I had a huge bone of contention with how Etrigan was portrayed.  Either a dupe of Madame Xanadu or Lucifer's butt monkey, he came across as a somewhat dim thug who's visual depiction sexed him up and made him way to human looking.  Ennis and McCrea gives us an Etrigan that loves making people's lives a misery especially Jason Blood's, here a man who's long life has been ruined by his joining with Etrigan.  McCrea's depiction is all spikes, sinewey muscle, and curling capes, and his poses are angular, awkward  and animalistic.  Etrigan's rhyming isn't as eloquent as Alan Moore's version, but I get a kick out of a more pop culturally aware Etrigan myself.  The introduction of Tommy Monaghan would of course go on to be much more important when he got a series of his own (and Etrigan guess starred in one arc), he makes a nice foil to Etrigan, able to go to places Etrigan can't and help do his dirty work for him.  Ennis handles Remiel and Duma amusingly although with respect as well and annointing Etrigan "Hell's Hitman" gives the following stories structure and goals after the intial Asteroth arc is done with, and I'll be wrapping that arc and carrying on with the rest of the collection in my next post in a few days time.


  1. Hmm, I'm not so keen on demon stuff
    I really think we've had enough
    Hellboy is great; he's lots of fun
    But do we need another one?
    Ah well anyway that's just my gripe
    There were some things that I quite liked
    The art was cool; I'm was impressed
    So old school and Kirby-esque
    So overall my view would be
    That whilst this ain't my cup of tea
    The art was cool and there was some witticism
    So I'll be gentle with my criticism
    I'm less interested anyway
    In the comics themselves, as what you say
    Your review as always was brilliant stuff
    And you get extra points for "up the duff"

  2. *stands and applauds*

    I wish I could write a rhyming response and turn this into a poetry slam but alas, not my area of expertise.

    You might enjoy part two a little more, it has a military story in it, Garth just has to get one in somewhere. Also I protest, Etrigan predates Hellboy by decades!

    John McCrea off the leash like he is here and in "Hitman" is a huge fave of mine. I was super surprised when I read "Troubled Souls" and he'd done the delicate ink n'watercolour art for it.

    I like to throw Briticisms and Northern slang in every now and then to confuse my US readers. If I can get even one using the word "mither" my work wil be done ;P

  3. I wish I could reply in rhyme
    But that would take just too much time
    Since from now in in I'll stick to prose
    And that'll have to do I suppose

    My apologies to poor old Ertigan. Although I once got dragged to a theatre and amused myself by my insisting to a rather pretentious theatre buff that Hamlet was just a rip off of the Lion King. (I do genuinely believe that Taken is just a rubbish remake of Commando though. It doesn't even have a seaplane in it)

    Mither is a great word. My mum uses it a lot. Usually whilst she's insisting she isn't mithering me about something. (Honestly mum I'll get round to it, you don't have to remind me every 6 months). My mum is great I hasten to add.

    I think your small town superhero should have Northern catchphrases. That'll go down well in the US market. Lot of Anglophiles there. You seen 4 Lions, the excellent film about the northern terrorists? Gotta love a Yorkshire suicide video.

    "Eh up yer kaffir bastards!"


    "What were wrong with that?"

    Troubled Souls was a brilliant strip. Again it was like it was from a completely different comic. Genuinely grown up without being forced. Paradoxically that might be because it was written by an actual young person rather than an old fogie (who was probably younger than I am now) trying to relate to 'the kids'

    Ooh, I'll have to get my mate Marty (the 50 Dead Men Walking chap) to read your review. Be interesting to hear his take on it.

  4. "Troubled Souls" was written by a 19 year old. Yeah. When I found out Ennis is only four years younger than me it blew my mind a bit. So he was juggling his work on 2000AD, the Megazine, Hellblazer and The Demon in his early twenties. Pretty amazing really.

    I haven't seen "4 Lions", sounds hilarious though, I like a bit of black humour me.

  5. Kate Bush wrote 'the man with the child in his eyes' when she was 14!

    4 Lions is brilliant. It's both hilarious:

    "You can't win an argument just by being right"

    But also deeply poignant and a very real depiction of the inane and often farcical nature of domestic terrorism.

    But back to these young whippersnappers, remember that bloke who's severus snape was older than us when he made his debut in Die Hard. Yoofs have no concept of taking your time and delayed gratification, so there's plenty of time for us.

  6. Alan Rickman!

    (How could I forget someone called Alan?)

  7. Yes, I'm actually enjoying being in my 40's. I like to think I've matured like a fine wine. Getting back into comics has helped, makes me feel young at heart ;)

  8. Indeed; and we're of an excellent vintage to start with.

    In a way I'm doing the supposedly typical Capricorn thing of immaturing as I go on. I was a pretty sensible youngster and I've always been an 'anchorman' in my circles. (I can drop like 5 acid tabs but still be the one who says "don't worry officer, I was just taking this lot home") But I'm definitely getting more frivolous all the time. I'm quite happy about that.

    Basically my closest friends and I found a place and lifestyle we were very comfortable with around the end of the 80s and stuck with that. New friends fit that mould too. We're all 20 odd year olds in (physically perfect of course) 40 something year old bodies.

    I get the feeling you're like that too.

  9. I've definitely learned to enjoy life more. So much of my twenties and thirties was tied up with mental health struggles that now I am on a decent medication regime and that all the therapy I have had have put me more at ease with myself, I definitely saw my 40th birthday as the dawn of a new era of Me. I guess I had to deal with all that Scorpio angst :D

  10. I'm glad you're happy. Sorry you had to go through all that; but we're all the products of our experiences and you seem to have turned out pretty cool. Do you mind if I steal "Scorpio Angst" as the codename for one of my supervillain plots? (or maybe the title for a 1990s coming of age movie; with Michael Mann directing. Cool visuals and lots of brooding)

  11. Heh steal away! Funny thing is both my sisters are Scorpio as well and they have managed to avoid being such horoscopial stereotypes, oh well. I'm year of the Tiger as well, so a fairly emotionally explosive combo platter there.

    One of the things therapy has taught me is to not look back and regret anything. Like you say we're all products of our experiences and I am just philisophical that I must have needed to go through all that stuff.

  12. Gosh, you're so inspirational! When you said about your sisters my mind got wondering. After my initial thoughts that Manchester must have suffered from regular power cuts every January I then though 'Ah, so maybe they're *not* really Scorpios"

    So now I want to do a detective story where all the clues that reveal the mystery are really rubbish.

    "My suspicions were first aroused when she claimed to be Scorpio, but wasn't particularly self analytical; then the Professor claimed his alibi was that he had been to a Liza Minelli concert that evening *but I later heard him whistling!*"

    Uh oh, I've got a really important task that *must* be done by 4pm today or else; but now I'm stuck on this :-)

    "You claim to have overheard the conversation whilst you were in the shower? But isn't it the case that you are in actuality French!"

    *hangs head*

    "Zat ees true"

    (And by 'rubbish' I apparently mean 'wildly offensive' :-) )

  13. LMAO, I actually think that qould make for a pretty good detective story. When I do read fiction, the only non fantastical stuff I read is crime fiction and I mainly watch crime telly, so much so that I can generally predict whodunnit within the first five mins. I can garauntee your clues would not be something I could predict :)

    I have to confess I am the only true born Mancunian out of my siblings although they live there and I don't now. I've often joked I can thank Edward Heath and the Three Day week for my existence though :D

  14. I'm not a big fan of crime fiction for the reasons you know. Must confess though to a soft spot for "Murder, she wrote". Primarily it's for that grammatically correct comma; but I also love Angela Landsbury. She plays it perfectly with just the right amount of silliness and she's so lovely. Bit like Peter Falk in Colombo. There was an interesting interview where he said he played Colombo, not as the master manipulator we all assume, but as a cop who was reasonably competent but genuinely befuddled. Watching them with that interpretation in mind gives them a whole new dimension.

    Anyway finally finished for the day. Luckily spotted the judge had neglected to add the usual "by 4pm" to that order so not in contempt. Hooray!

    Think I've earned an evening on the sofa.(none of my Cornish friends will surface before Spring now anyway.)

  15. Love "Murder, She Wrote" it's delightful. I think every actor in US Equity appeared in that show when it was on. Though you can usually guess whodunnit as being the most famous (at the time) person in it. Mind you Cabot Cove was a dangerous place to live, all them murders. I know they moved her to New York for her last couple of seasons but the show lost that small town charm I thought then.

    I must admit I never got into Colombo, although it's interesting that he might not have been using obfuscating stupidity after all...

  16. Delightful is the perfect word. Someone worked out that Cabot Cove had a murder rate 87 times higher than that of Caracas. I do like that there's a story where they comment on that and also how suspicious it is that Jessica is a death magnet but also the one who finds the 'evidence' pinning the crime on someone else.

    Mind you, Coronation Street seems a disproportionately dangerous place to live; even by Manchester standards.

  17. I'd like someone to crunch some numbers and see how Cabot Cove's murder rate stacks up against St. Mary Mead and Midsomer's.

    Yeah I remember that episode, always fun when a show indulges in a bit of lampshade hanging over stuff the audience will have made jokes about.

    You know I lived in Manchester (Rusholme betwixt Platt Fields and Birchfields Park) for the best part of a decade and came across no crime at all. Whereas in sleepy Macclesfield the block of houses I share a communal yard with played home to a major weed growing operation. We had the cops standing guard for several days while CSU did their thing, was very exciting!

  18. Heh, I'll have to send you an email about certain aspects of Cornwall sometime. The headlines here are either 'cat still missing' or 'gruesome murder'; there's no in-between. The chief constable on Scilly *was* a cat until recently.

    Lampshade hanging is something that I'm fond of. I'm working on some ideas for my project. It's meant to be a deconstruction after all. Mind you it's also a love letter to the Sanbaggers and that has the best deconstructions/lampshades on the ship genre of all time. I think it's the page quote on its tvtropes entry.

  19. Yup

  20. I've never heard of that show and now a) I want to see it and b) Greg Rucka (a writer I greatly like) has done a comic book heavily influenced by it.

    Both are now on my Christmas list!

  21. Also, I did live in Plymouth for a couple years post Manchester and always used to contrast the somewhat grim Mancunian local news with the Devon one ("Oooh Butter Goes Up Again", "Aren't Policemen Getting Younger" Scandal etc). It helped that we had SKY and on our service, EVERY regions BBC was listed separately so if I wanted to I could jump between reports at will.

    I like the idea of a cat in charge. Living as I do in a benign femline dictatorship I imagine it made for an efficient ruler.

  22. It's a brilliant piece of drama; it's pretty much flawless in every aspect. I think you'd very much enjoy it. It's very entertaining but if you want to put your media expert hat on it has some very interesting observations about gender.

    It also subverts every cliché going. For example there's one character who's a classic pompous twit and a thorn in the side of the main protagonist (I know technically you can only have one, but hey). However in an episode where he's set up to cause a problem for the main guy he immediately (and correctly) sees right through it and sides with him. He might be a bit of an idiot but he's good at his job. And like all the characters he's so well rounded and developed hes actually quite loveable.

    It's also very funny. Budget consideradtions are a running thread. There's one incident where they have to do the classic bag swap with the CIA to transfer some documents. Trouble is that whilst CIA have the budget to buy the genuine article MI6 can only afford a knock off version from the market, so it has the wrong logo.

  23. Mowgli (the chief constable cat) was considered highly efficient. It was claimed he could just tell if someone was guilty by sniffing them (miscarriage of justice being an alien concept down here)

    But Scilly cops are pretty chilled. There Facebook page usually carries announcements along the lines of

    "and if the missing items are returned before Tuesday we'll go along with your version of how you just "found" them"

  24. If it wasn't for the fact it's Xmas in two months and there are a zillion birthdays in the family this time of year I'd be clicking the "Buy" button on the complete "The Sandbaggers" right now. I always enjoy putting one of my analytical hats, although I find my feminist hat more comfortable because it's more focused and I don't have to deal with concepts like semiotics. I remember trying to explain to one of my sisters about the whole "Signifier + Signified = Sign" and managed to confuse myself by the end of it.

    Cats can be clever sods. Biff knows that if he hears me taking pills out of packaging that I'm going to be eating something and will whine to come in and hopefully "share" it. He's a big fan of cheese, though has perfected a great eye-roll when I bring out a veggie pasta salad. So I am sure Mowgli's detection skillz were bang on.

  25. Well Judaism is a complex topic so I can see why you'd avoid it.

    There's plenty to get your feminist teeth into ("Femfangs"?) in Sandbaggers. There's actually a lot of in story discussion on the subject; especially when the first female Sandbagger is recruited. And again every expectation is subverted. She's a wonderfully deep and complex character. Also the subject of asexuality is touched upon which I seem to recall from one of your Lovecraft posts is a topic you're interested in.

    "Are you sleeping together?"

    "Sleeping? Yes"

    The whole issue of sexuality and sex generally is very well handled I think; but of course it set out to be the anti James Bond so it's an obvious target for deconstruction.

    Ah, animals and cheese. I always wondered how Becki got such great pictures of her dogs. It was a nightmare with Sas.

    "Sas. Over here. Look this way"

    "What? There's something behind me you say?"

    Anyway turns out she just puts (vegan) cheese on her head.

  26. I'm really looking forwards to seeing it now. I find Asexuality in fiction interesting because it feels like it's taken over from homosexuality as something to be pitied and patronised, like ace folk are only that way because they haven't met the right person. It's not seen as a legitmate sexual identity, just an excuse for people who can't get laid.

    My cat will eat a wide variety of things, from bacon scrounged from my mum's sarnies to chocolate cake left out while the cuppa tea cools down. But I cannot imagine how much he'd make my life miserable if I decided to eat vegan cheese! :D

  27. Now here's something then. They published some of the scripts as books. They're identical to the TV episodes. Except for one line.

    In the episode there's an exchange about the head of department and the MI6 in house psychologist.

    "Is she a lesbian?"


    However the book, and presumably the original script adds

    "But it may be that she thinks she is"

    It's unclear now whether that omission is significant. It might not even be deliberate. It's something perhaps to ponder on in a 'meta' sense. Within the story though there's some interesting discussion on all this. Including whether it's a matter that should involve the psychologist at all.

    (The psychologist thinks not, but the head of department thinks *every* aspect of the agents personalities is a legitimate area of concern, just for operational consideradtions)

    The programme delves into all sorts of areas like that. Be interesting to see your take on it.

    Sas would eat just about anything except broccoli. Especially if gravy was involved. One of my friends was horrified that I just used her to clean dishes and plates.

    "Please tell me you're at least going to rinse that before you put it away"


  28. Come to think of it there are all sorts of things you'd be great at analysing.

    Various characters reactions to the thought of a female Sandbagger. The whole culture of sexism and attitudes to women and beliefs about the roles the fan fulfil.

    The Laura character herself
    Is she asexual?
    Is she just avoiding entanglements because of the nature of the work, or the attitudes of others.
    Is it just a particular person she doesn't want to get intimate with and what might be the reasons for that?

    Then theres Burnside (the lead character) and his attitudes.

    Is he just a misogynist, and if so is that generally or because of a previous relationship. Does he hold sexist stereotypical views about womens capabilities or acting through benevolent sexism and being protectve. Or does he have valid reasons for his actions and is he actually quite progressive (or merely pragmatic and exploitative)

    These issues are all raised brilliantly and you're left to your own interpretation. The answers aren't rammed down your throat. Even the characters aren't sure.

    There's all sorts of stuff like that (there's a blackmail issue involving homosexuality that has the characters discussing relevance and attitudes)

    It's a very cerebral programme, theres one (small) explosion in the first episode and it's like they've gone "right, that's out of the way, don't expect anything more like that"

    Theres also an interesting exploration of the 'honeytrap' concept. What makes it especially great is its employed to make Burnside lose a bet that he can give up smoking.

    (by his bosses and subordinates, they're just annoyed how smug he can be about self discipline)

  29. To whet your appetite in the interim

  30. We'll definitely have to exchange emails about it when I get it. if I don't get it for Xmas, I'll grab the complete set in January and I'm gonna check out the "Queen and Country" comic spiritual successor as well. My poor wallet!

    As for pets and their appetites, Biff expects to be offered the chance to sample whatever you are eating. When I take him over to mum's for a few days round the holidays he'll slurp up left over gravy and likes chili flavoured stir-fry liquid leftovers too. To amuse myself I'll cook up egg noodles with soy sauce and butter and dangle the noodles like string for him to eat. Funny thing, I do eat seafood on odd occasions and he dislikes fish intently. Also he refuses point blank to eat wet catfood (oh the wars we had over that), and only eats kibble. I freaked out about that at first but read up that as long as he has plenty of water a dry diet is just fine.

  31. One thing I quite often ponder is why animals like particular foods (all the other great questions like 'why are we here?' seem to already nabbed by others).

    But animals like a lot of food they'd never encounter in the wild (I'm assuming there's no such thing as pizza trees?) and whilst Biff appears to be an exception how often do cats hunt tuna fish or even sardines?

    How do they even know what's food? Sas would show no interest if I opened a pack of razors, but she could detect a crisp packet opening at 3 miles.

    It can't just be emulating what we like, otherwise she would eat broccoli.

    It's all very intriguing.

    It is funny how fussy they can be though. Sas once sniffed suspiciously at filet mignon; and that's a hound who would happily eat cow poo. She once did have a few attempts at drinking paint until I explained that not every tray I put on the floor was for her.

    The noodle game sounds fun. I loved watching Sas eat spaghetti. She was just so cute. Sluuuurrrrrrp.

    Oh, if you do get those comics please don't review them! I'm deliberately avoiding them so I'm not influenced in any way.

    But I'd love to natter about the series with you.

  32. It's strange isn't it? Between me, my mum and my two sisters we own six cats. Biff is the only one with such omnivorous tendencies. When I take him to mum's he'll sit with us during meals and eat titbits while her two cats just stick with their normal food. Which he ignores because wet catfood is yukky. Cats are obligate carnivores which means they have eat a diet very high in meat protein, luckily dry catfood is basically everything they need. Interestingly if you are rich and feed cats a diet of say steak and fish you have to buy extra bonemeal to add to it because cats need it for digestion (it being included in wet and dry catfood). He's never been a mouser thank god. One of my sister's cat is basically a friendlier Greebo and likes to leave half eaten rats on the living room carpet. Bleaurgh.

    When we had our dog when I was growing up she totally knew I was the soft touch when it came to begging for food. I'd find her head resting on my thigh and huge soulful brown eyes looking up at me. How could I resist?

    I'll definitely be picking "Queen and COuntry" up, but I shall not cover them. Got plenty already roughly planned for the first half of next year. I've just had a burst of writing which has pretty much taken me up to the new year. I would like to post more a month, but it would be very easy to get ahead of what I could afford to buy so seven or eight posts a month seems to work out best.

  33. Cats are funny. I'm very much a dog person, but I do like them. They have very interesting personalities. Funnily enough anti social cats seem to have a special attraction to me. One of my friends has a very aloof cat but he's always quite happy to sit on me. Possibly it's because I just leave him to it and don't attempt any sort of interaction.

    Another couple of mates have a great cat called Oscar. He's huge and only got one eye. He just looks so dignified and stoic, like a retired badass.

    I used to catsit for my previous neighbour. She had three of the buggers. She's really funny cause she's ever so posh (but very lovely) and she fussed over them terribly. Making sure they all get their individual preferred meals at the time they like. When I looked after them I'd just dump the requisite food in three bowls and let them sort it out themselves. On one occasion though I saw her outside and asked when it was they were going away.

    "But we've just got back"

    Uh oh. Boy did those cats give me some glares. We lived on a farm though so if they can't fend for themselves for a few days it's a poor do. Some of the food they got though sounded really tempting. Wish someone would ply me with venison and mushrooms.

    I like doggy muesli though, it was indistinguishable from the posh stuff from the farmers market. One of our local shops does hand made dog ice cream (That tastes disgusting though, notwithstanding it's called things like 'rabbity ripple')

    I fancy a writing binge. Been really frantic at work lately but hoping for a minor lull soon. And I'm really looking forward to seeing the new stuff on your blog.

    Need to plan something for Samhain. Was going up to see and old flame, but can't fit tjat in now, which is a bit disappointing (she couldn't decide between Catwoman or Silk Spectre, although she had an idea about me painting myself blue.) Guess it'll just be a cold shower and hanging around with some pagan friends as per usual.

    (I actually kinda enjoy that though)

    Oh and emailed you some embarrassing pics.

  34. (wow I zonked out early last night)

    I hope the painting yourself blue wasn't part of some Doctor Manhattan cosplay! :O

    Cats can be legendarily fuusy about where, when and how they get their food. No wonder you got the evil eye. Aain I am lucky, Bif's one neurosis is he can't bear to see the bottom of the bowl, so I have to keep it topped up to overflowing. He was tiny when I got him, really runty so I wonder if he had to fight for his time on the nipple as it were. You wouldn't think to look at him now, he's a huge, saggy old beast not a runt at all.

    If circumstances ever allow me to have a dog in the future (mainly I think if I shack up with a dog lover) I'll totally be treating it to doggy ice cream, what a great idea.

    I like to take full advantage of the urge to write because I know I'll flop into a "can't be arsed" phase and want to keep my blog regularly fed without feeling obliged to write something up.

    I enjoyed the pics :D

  35. Unfortunately it was. "You have the hair for it". (maybe so, not sure about the body though). I'm also not very keen on painting myself blue. I once painted myself red and it took 4 days to totally wash out despite innumerable showers. It looked like Carrie in there but it just wouldn't shift. And that had only been the bits that showed.

    Yeah, catlogic is weird. Like the only drinking from dripping taps thing. They have a strange relationship with water. A friends cat likes to prowl on the edge of the bath. She slipped in once. Trust me, panicky ball of razor sharp claws in your lap is not an experience to seek out, no matter what Hellraiser might lead you to believe.

    (oh, and responded to your email btw)

  36. Painting yourself is a pretty heavy commitment, I'd probably wear a zentai suit instead.

    Catlogic is indeed weird. Biff sometimes like to sit at the end of the bath and stare at me which is distracting when you are trying to have a relaxing read. The cat I had previously would sometimes try and climb into my knees while I was bathing (small bath) he was extremely dim though.

    Also during the summer Biff never drinks the lovely fresh water I put out for him, he goes and slurps it out of some nasty puddle somewhere. It's amazing that the only times i've needed to take him to the vet in over a decade was for neutering and getting his jabs up-to-date.

  37. Sas was a puddle monster too, maybe it just tastes more interesting? She also used to like hanging out when I was in the bath. She'd try to eat the bubbles then go on big sneezing fits. She'd be sneezing out bubbles everywhere. It was pretty cute (although I'd usually cop for a face full of dog snot, sneezing on me was one of her things, but I miss that now)

  38. Awwww, it's amazing how much you miss the daft stuff your pets do when they are no longer with you. My previous cat was dim as I said and used to climb small trees then wail because he couldn't get down and I'd have to stand in the street with a broom and sort of poke him down while passer-bys side eyed me. Fortunately Biff has never been much of a climber.

  39. Yeah, Sas and I were together for 16 years and we had a lot of (mis)adventures over that time. We were as daft as each other though so it was a good partnership. And with a bit of temporal distance near death experiences become funny anecdotes. But I do miss the little things, like the head on lap thing you mentioned.

    I also loved how she'd bomb down the lane to meet me after work. Then clatter straight into my knees cause it was dark.

    I did spend a lot of time extracting bits of stick and bone from down her throat though. It was just so cute how cooperative she was.

    "Right Sas, you know the drill"

    Then she'd just open wide whilst I went in with the long nosed pliers.

  40. Yikes, good thing she was so cooperative! Biff is the only cat I've ever known who'll let me fiddle around with his head, so I can check his teeth without a massive fight.

    He's also pretty sweet about meeting me when I get home from seeing the family. He's either waiting by the door if he's out or if he's in, he demands a "kiss" before he goes out.

    I don't want to think of life without him. But my first cat made it to 19 so fingers crossed he can beat that.

  41. It was a pretty common occurrence so I think she just got used to it. Our relationships with animals are amazing though. It's so sweet like you say when they say hello to us like that. Such a privilege. I always get soppy about animal/human bonding stories. If you ever need to make me blub just show me one of those videos of dogs meeting their humans coming back from service overseas. I also love reunion stories like those guys with the Lion. I'm sure Biff will be good for a long while yet. Cats are effectively Time Lords, what with that 9 lives thing. (Note also that mix of seeking companionship with alien aloofness)

    I've just been reading up about animal intelligence. There's a great case of an octopus who was escaping from his tank, unlocking the tank to the other exhibits, *eating* the other exhibits then relocking the tank so it took them ages to figure out where they were disappearing to. I do like octopuses.

  42. Oh I've seen that lion video too, I may have shed a tear or too as well. Interesting you say cats are Time Lords, when I was young in Doctor Who Magazine they did a series of articles filling in some Time Lord history, in one of them they had cats being Gallifreyan in origin and bought to Earth by accident and they could originally regenerate to hence the nine lives. I'll have to dig those magazines out at some point, I'd like to cover the sixth Doctor comic strips at some point.

    Biff is of rugged Devon farm cat stock so I hope he can beat the current record age of a cat which is 36!

    That's brilliant about the octopus, I remember hearing about one that simply escaped, but manipulating a lock like that is amazing stuff. And sneaky too.

  43. Gallifreyan/Devonian stock should put him in good stead. I've got a nice pic somewhere of a very old donkey on her birthday. I'll have to dig it out for you.

    Cats regenerating is a wonderful concept. And it makes so much sense. Id like the idea that they've been manipulating all human history for their own benefit. It would explain how often they crop up as deities and all the laws to protect them (violin strings are *not* made out of catgut but the original manufacturer spread that story to retain a monopoly knowing that there was a general taboo about harming cats so no-one would even think of going into that business)

    On a totally unrelated subject, you ever seen a martial arts film called Redbelt?

  44. I wouldn't put it past the Furrinati to have been working behind the scenes all this time!

    I haven't seen a film called "Redbelt", any good?

  45. Cats and dogs are awesome. Etrigan is awesome and more Hitman is awesome too!

  46. This is a weird film. It could have been so good, but just isn't (worth seeing though). The fundamental flaw is its such a mish mash. It's like a weird chimera of a really serious Channel 4 Arts Council film and a Steve Austin direct to DVD action flick.

    The film's main characters are a martial arts instructor, his policeman best friend and a lawyer.

    The first thing that made my eyes boggle was the pivotal introductory scene. the lawyer walks into the dojo to report that she's bumped a car in the car park. The cop however tries to take her coat. Now despite the fact that's eyes screaming for hi to stay away and not touch her he still tries to grab her. She grabs his gun and accidentally shoots out the window.

    The thing is, the cop 'lets her off' of the 'attempted murder' charge and that's how they all become friends. And it's treated within the film that that was such a noble thing to do and that she really was at risk of prosecution.

    Now perhaps such blatant unreality could be forgiven in a lesser film. But later on (now she's become the guys lawyer to thank them) there's a a copyright dispute and it's possibly one of the most accurate portrayals of a legal dispute I've ever seen. The law is spot on, as is the way the parties negotiate. It's clearly either written by an actual lawyer or they've had one explain exactly what happens. So it's such an incongruity.

    Then there's the actual martial arts. Throughout the film every depiction is spot on as is all the explanations and teaching. But then the final climactic fight is just ridiculous chock socket stuff and ends when the hero does that running up a wall thing to escape a hold.

    And as for the overall plot. On one hand it's a brilliantly complex tale of personal interrelationships with well developed and complex characters, but then everyone turns into cartoon charactures. The central premise of the film seems to be about a guy trying to maintain integrity and his personal moral code in the face of all life's hurdles. There's a really interesting film there about whether trying to apply bushido on modern business is admirable or naive. And the villains are initially complex. Arguably they're not villains at all. Their initial 'crime' is just commercialising martial arts for TV. Our hero won't fight in their contest because he thinks it's dishonourable. Fair enough. But the big 'twist' is that the baddies are applying WWF wresting type scenarios to MMA. All the other fighters are quite cool with that because it means they get paid won or lose.

    Now I've always loved films where the baddies have an equally valid point (the original Rollerball being an apposite example here) and that's how it is for most of the film. But then at the end it's treated like they want to drown puppies or something and everyone suddenly treats the main character as a hero for 'exposing' the bad guys (as opposed to suing his ass for ruining a perfectly legitimate commercial venture that he himself had originally signed up to)

    So that's basically it. It just can't decide what it wants to be. It's a shame because it has some great actors and performances. And David Mamet is a wonderful director. If he'd just have done what he's good at and made this a character study it could have been a very good film, but then it's like he's thought, can't have a martial art premise without a big fight at the end so,best tack one on, despite it making no sense even in the context of the film so far.

    I once heard a great description of a Girls Aloud track. "This is what happens when your song is written by three different people who've only ever communicated by blackberry". This film feel like that.

  47. Now from that recap it does ring a faint bell. I haven't much gone in for western martial arts films but this sounds intriguing despite the flaws. I am always prowling the shelves of my local CEX so I'll keep an eye out for it now if I can pick it up for a quid or less it might still be worth a look...