Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Megacity Undercover: Low Life - The Deal (#1750-1761)

"The alternative was reality which simply hurt too much" - Dirty Frank

Let's finish out this month of 2000AD flavoured goodness with another of my favourite characters, Dirty Frank.  Frank is a Judge who works in the "Wally Squad", the undercover Judges of the Megacity One judicial system.  Frank is also severely mentally ill, he refers to himself in the third person and often sees visions and hears voices, and yet he's one of the best and most incorruptible Judges there is.  In the previous Low Life arc - Hostile Takeover - that incorruptabiity was tested when he discovered that most of his fellow Wally Squad were in bed with the organised crime bosses of the area of the city the operated in, The Low Life. As the affair unravelled, another Wally Squad Judge Aimme Nixon, a somewhat troubled and conflicted woman was taken by the yakuza of Hondo Cit and it very much looked like she had handed the yakuza the Low Life on a plate as the rest of Frank's former friends and colleagues were either arrested because of his investigation or killed as the yakuza took over ousting the former crime bosses with some ruthlessness.  The storyline ended with Frank's career as a Judge hanging in the balance as the panel of Judges reviewing the events decide what to do with him now the Wally Squad has become so utterly compromised.  This story picks up from there as Frank makes the titular deal to keep his job if he alone can bring Aimee Nixon back from Hondo Cit a mission that is as surely as suicidal as take the "Long Walk".  This storyline is collected in Megacity Undercover Vol. 3.

Just a quick note, throughout this story Frank is being followed by a persistant hallucination of a Judge with "SJS"  (Special Judicial Squad) on his helmet.  They are the internal investigations department of the Judge system and you can find out more about them here.  Anyway, let's begin.  Frank is sleeping and suffering a nightmare which ends with him surrounded by samurai and a man say "We have taken everything from you... your home... your friends...your life. Come. Take it all back".  But all Frank can say is "I can't.. I'm scared" and the man stabs him while Dredd says to him "because it's not death... is it Frank?" and Frank smashes his way out of the sleeping tube he's in.

We then cut to Frank, clean and tidy in his Judges uniform listening to the assessment and judgement being passed upon him.  He is told that although his achievements in a highly dangerous arena are impressive, his "eccentricities" had made his superiors think it was time to end his tenure as an active Judge in the past and only the intervention of his Wally Squad handler had saved him.  However with his handler revealed as corrupt during the yakuza takeover of the Low Life  now it isn't the finest endorsment.
The Long Walk?
The speaker says it has now fallen to them to decide whether he should be allowed to return to his undercover duties.  Does he think that his eccentricities can be curbed to fight departmen standards of practice. 

Frank: "Dirty Frank - ahem - Judge Frank believes his actions as a Judge should speak for Dirty Frank."

Judgement is then passed. He will not be returned to undercover work, a "clean slate" is needed in the Low Life.  And as his more "esoteric character character traits" can't be ignored and he is found to no longer be "mentally competant to hold the badge."  His tenure as a Judge is now over and he has the option of taking the "Long Walk" if he wishes.  Frank intially does decide to do that and as he walks towards the gate leading out to the Cursed Earth, he stops right on the edge, turns and says "Dirty Frank has a deal for you".

We rejoin Dirty Frank sitting on a commercial flight to Japan's Hodo City aimably telling a terrified woman his theories about destiny and death and what might be the final thoughts of everyone if the plan crashed or extra-dimensional zombies ran amok inside, before thoughtfully confessing "Dirty Frank has never had sex."   As the plane reaches Hondo Cit we get a flashback to the deal he offered.
Arriving in Hondo-City, Japan.
He told the panel of Judges that he'd be dead in days after taking the Long Walk. He says although it is a noble end for a uniformed Judge, he is Wally Squad.  He deserves his own "unconquerable undercover challenge" and sending him to Hondo to infiltrate the yakuza's operations within their own Low Life and bringing back Aimee Nixon would be his.  What do they have to lose?  One Judge says it would be suicide, Frank says so is the Long Walk, so once again "what do you have to lose?" And so they accept.

He leaves the airport and is distracted by his first vision of the SJS Judge and a hover car runs him down. "This is all mildly disappointing" he thinks to himself as he lies in a pool of blood.   He sees angels in the sky and is about to "ascend" when a large man grabs him and a woman tells him to get Frank in the roadster before the Judges get there. Frank is chucked in the boot and as Frank contemplates the pain he feels in his legs and abdomen they drive off and he finally passes out.
Rescued by Yukiji and Mini-Inamoto.
He wakes briefly to see a masked surgeon standing over him "but mostly there is nothing... nothing but relief". Then he wakes again to the shouting of a the woman who abducted him saying "you just give up an lie there?  Their first move is enough to beat you?  You come here just to die?"  Things go dark for Frank again as he just thinks "yes."

Finally he wakes properly to find his shattered legs have been repaired and he is sporting bionic leg braces.  He stands and follows the woman out of the recovery room and she says that the yakuza have infiltrated every part of Hondo Cit life including the Judges.  If the ones at the airport had got to him he'd be dead by now.  They new he was coming and the hit-and-run was an assassination attempt.  She introduces herself as Yukiji:

Yukiji: "There is not a walk of life in this city where someone is not 'one of theirs'. No one can be trusted.  My name is Yukiji.  Ex Hondo-City Wally Squad. The yakuza tried to murder you with a drunk cab driver, Judge Frank. They didn't even bother sending  a hitman. What do you intend to do about it?"

When he explains why he is here, she can't believe that he is alone.  That they have sent just "one pungent, overweight, slow, mentally ill, one-eyed, pungent..."  She says that in Japanese, Frank imagines that the word she said twice was "handsome".
Yukiji lays it all out.
He then finds himself in a sumo wrestling ring with small balls attached to his body facing a sumo wrestler also covered in balls.  They start wrestling as Yukijo says they saved him because they think he can hurt the yakuza.  She tells the sumo wrestler to finish Frank in Japanese, while Frank says he's flattered by her romantic interest in him.  She furious yells, "Kill him! Shut him up for Buddha's sake!"  He says he hopes she doesn't mean it, she tells him the stakes are "bigger than your annoying little jokes Judge Frank."

We then see that their wrestling is being projected into huge kaiji monsters via the balls attached to them using futuristic motion capture. Yukiji then tells Frank a familiar story.  Her Wally Squad was infiltrated and taken over, honest Judges were betrayed and murdered, so she and her friends deserted and went underground in order to survive.

Yukiji: "The yakuza could not be fought.  They were simply everywhere.  They are this society.  We are no longer Judges. We are criminals to be shot on sight.  We are a resistance. And a pitiful one at that."

They here Mega-City One was sending a Wally Squad Judge to infiltrate the operation and they expected a "Super Judge". They knew he would be targeted the moment he arrived in Hondo, so they risked their lives to save what turned out to be a "useless, pathetic old fool."  He must prove he is worthy of their help or there'll be one more dead Judge on the streets of Hondo.  At that, Frank knocks down his opponent then waves his bum at him saying he's "hitting him with my giant atomic lizard tail".
This is awesome.  I want this to be real.
Later she and another ex-Wally Squad take Frank to the Kaiji wrestling arena, his job is to fight well enough that a Mr Kadokawa who is a patron and talent scout of the circuit, to select him for his personal kaiji wrestling team.  Down in the ring under where the monsters battle, Frank has the motion capture balls stuck on him again and faces off against his opponent.  The monster he chose was "one that encapsulates the heroic and noble heart of the pantheon- dwelling warrior that is Dirty Frank".  It's a six-eyed thing that exudes oily residue.
Frank's avatar.
He thinks to himself as the fight begins that if he does get picked he'll be entering the inner workings of the yakuza and his intial misson goal will be complete.  But the idea of impressing the man sickens him, the man is criminal scum that invaded his city, murdered his friends and tore his life apart then only sent a drunk driver to kill him because they didn't think he was worth anymore.  "And Dirty Frank is supposed to impress him?" he thinks angrily and he smashes his monster's fist down through the ring and through the ceiling of the room he is in.   And his monster takes ahold of Mr Kadokawa and then they run off through the streets, Frank closely followed by the monster he is still controlling.

Kadokawa: "You are still wearing the motion-capture balls, you fool!  The amorphous and gooey giant monster mimics your movements!"

Frank: "How often have we all heard that sentence before?"

Kadokawa threatens Dirty Frank saying he'll track down and kill Frank's family, even relatives he didn't know he had.  So Frank drops him and demands to know who headed up the yakuza invasion of Mega-City One's Low Life saying he'll use Kadokawa as a "kaiju monster enema" if he doesn't 'fess up where he is.

Kadokawa tells him it's a mansion called "The Espers" in Otomo province.   Dirty Frank thanks him, the shoves him up the monster's bottom anyway for threatening his Uncle Heinrich.  Then the monster is fired on and lots more sumo wrestlers with their own monsters come chasing after him.  Frank runs, "Dirty Frank robo-legs don't fail him now!"  As he runs the SJS Judge tells him he can't run forever, sooner or later he's going to have to do "the deal."
Aimee Nixon.
Frank runs into a blockade of Judges and scrapes the balls off himself which causes his monster to collapse on them and allow Frank to make his getaway.  We then cut to Aimee Nixon she is being congratulated for integrating so well into the yakuza's business.  The man asks if she is content, "I do not need to concern myself with your loyalties?"  Aimee says he doesn't, "would I lie?"

We then join Frank with Yukiji and Mini-Inamoto, the huge guy who bunged him in the boot of the hovercar, buying tickets for Otomo province.  Yukiji is somewhat annoyed with Frank's rather direct approach to gathering information as well as grudgingly congratulating him on his swift grasp of Japanese.  Frank says, "Dirty Frank rides the daffodil ointment with great aplomb".

Yukiji: "You play the insane buffoon very well so others underestimate you. It's an excellent Wally Squad tactic. I respect that.  But you can still be hugely stupid it seems."

She tells him that she and Mini-Inamoto are risking their lives for him, then gets annoyed that Frank doesn't seem to be listening.  Actually he is seeing the SJS Judge again and it's distracting him.  She asks if when he boarded the flight to Hondo did he honestly expect to survive.  "Good question" responds Frank.

They arrive and recon the mansion, it is heavily guarded.  Yukiji asks Frank if the person he is after is worth it even though he must know she is dead "in one form or another."  Frank says they came to his home, killed his friends and "took away the only thing Dirty Frank knew or could ever be good at."  Mini-Inamoto finally speaks, saying Frank is there for revenge.
Frank with a hard choice to make.
As the others sleep for a bit. Frank then has a talk with the SJS Judge hallucination.  It encourages him to do a deal, Yukiji and Mini-Inamoto are on the yakuza's Most Wanted list.  If he sacrifices them he could get into the house that way.  He tells Frank he knows he's be thinking it, it's the way the world works.  If anyone wants something badly they have to make sacrifices, it's just the way the world works.

SJS Judge: "Corrupt Judges.  Turncoat Judges.  Wally Squad pretending to be something they're not.  Breathing lies like air. There's no idealists in this world.  Not right or wrong.  Just what you are willing to give up to get what you want."

The SJS Judge goes on to tell him to walk up to the gate and tell them where the other two are, it'll be the only way he gets past the gaurd.  Frank takes the "Long Walk" to the front and tells them he has something important to tell them.  But instead of giving up the two ex-Judges he says it's about Aimee Nixon.

Inside the mansion, while several guns are pointed at him, Aimee says it's good to see Frank again. The man in charge is Masahisa Yamaguchi, the man in charge of the Mega-City One Low Life, "albeit from a considerable distance."  Masahisa says how did he find them and what is he doing to Aimee.  She doesn't answer right away until a large man holds a knife to her throat.

She then spins an epic yarn about Frank being the Low Life's secret crime boss.  Masahisa tells the man to let Aimee go and the guards to put their guns down, he says any Mega-City One operation would have to be cleared with the Hondo Judges and as they aren't aware of the reasons Frank is here, Aimee might be telling the truth. She goes on to say that Frank took her under his wing when she joined saying anger could be her cover like madness was for him.
Aimee bluffs on a lethal hand.
One day she was shown that Frank and his crew were so good at pretending to be organised crime they became the organised crime of the Low Life.  She agreed to his terms of joining his team with extra creds in their pockets until his ideas became too eccentric. He was breaking his own first rule and bringing down too much noise and had to go, so she contacted the yakuza to suggest a "buyout of our very profitable organisation".  She was taking Frank to a hit when the yakuza stepped up their aggression and interupted her plan for him.

The large man, Daichi, demands to know why she didn't tell them before, she had said that she was the "big man".  Aimee yells at him that she gave them the Low Life didn't she?  She sold them every connection they had. Masahisa tells them to stop:

Masahisa: "Aimee Nixon has been an exemplary pragmatic and driven ally... after our intial somewhat unpleasant disagreement on terms. Her knowledge of the inner workings of the Low Life has been vital to our operations in Mega-City One."

He says it is an intriguing story, then shoots Frank in the leg.  Aimee babbles that Frank could work with them, he has connections she could only dream of.  He'll make the Low Life more profitable for them.  Masahina shoots Frank again saying "I believe that is a lie."

As Frank writhes on the floor in pain the SJS Judge taunts him, saying that his whole "wacky insane-for-laughs act goes out of the window when you're about to die."

SJS Judge: "That is. If it is an act. Strange Frank. Here you are about to check out and you look terrified it's true. But not because you're about to take a bullet between the eyes. I asked you once what you were scared of.  So what are you scared of Frank?"

Aimee starts sweating profusely, Masahina says this is a pivotal moment for her.  He says she has impressed him and excelled in the yakuza the way she has.  Frank is part of a past, "and your past is dead and gone."
Aimee has to choose.
He says that she needs to embrace her future and commit to it.  So her choice, ask him to spare Frank and their business relationship will be at an end.  Tell him to fire and she will have his total respect as a peer and her star will continue to rise within the yakuza.  He says he is freeing her of a life of conflict, "peace can only be achieved by coming to terms with who we truly are."  He says she knows the answer and has always known, so who is she really?

As the SJS Judge looks on with a bowl of popcorn, Frank pleads with Aimee to save his life, not for him but for her.  She turns away saying "drokk you Frank. Drokk you for coming here. Kill him".   Before Masahina can fire though there is a barrage of gunfire which takes out all the guards and Daichi.  Masahina gets up and sees who it was and finds the dead bodies of Yukiji and Mini-Inamoto who launched the suicidal attack.
Aw, I liked those two.
Frank stands thanks to his robo-leg braces and grabs Masahina saying their names and how they thought he could hurt the yakuza. Yukiji told him to prove that he was worthy of their help.  He then declares Masahina under arrest and for all those he killed in the Low Life and all he killed here, "the sentence is death" and he breaks Masahina's neck. He goes over to Aimee who has sustained a wound to her side and has passed out and he picks her up and carries her out of the mansion and into the countryside.

The SJS Judge tells him he's on his very own Long Walk. Also he looked like a "cold-blooded, super-assassin badass back there".  He could have arrested the guy, but what he did looks awfully like "revenge".  Frank says he'd never had made it out with him as a prisoner, "so Dirty Frank delivered judgement within the statutes of the law." The SJS Judge then says he thinks he knows why Frank didn't go into the Cursed Earth.

SJS Judge: "That place is chaos - and you've got enough of that rattling around in yer smelly head, right? You claim you're an idealist.  But really you bought into the law because you need it. It's what tethers you.  Because you know, without it..."

Frank silences him and says the pandas he can see are trying to communicate using the power of pointing. There is a yakuza hovercar racing behind him.  He puts down Aimee and faces down the car with a gun.  His legs are riddled with bullets but he manages to take the car out. Unfortunately another one is approaching and he is out of bullets.  Then Aimee stands up and takes it out with a rocket fired from one of her bionic arms.  She starts dragging him saying she misses the Low Life.
Aimee wants to go home.
We then get a description of what happened next from Dirty Frank's case notes.  They had found a roadster by trading with a local farmer "in return for some magic beans" and were trying to figure out how to get out of Hondo, Aimee knew too much and could not be allowed to leave. The airports were under heavy guard. Frank was in shock from the pain in his legs and hallucinating, although he managed to tie up and gag the SJS Judge hallucination. Actually the roadster was probably stolen by Aimee, for a greater good, "yet another deal." 

Frank: "For a second Dirty Frank wonders if he wants to live on in a world where idealism is either extinct or never truly existed.  Then he started giggling.  And Aimee passes out".

The roadster goes out of control, they roll and spin off the edge of the freeway as Frank contemplates that in such a postion humans beings will desperately grip onto something, anything "for Dirty Frank it was the purity and clarity of the law.  That was, and remains his totem.  Without them he would simply be... well... insane."

Aimee crawls out of the crashed roadster which as landed on top of a train followed by Frank.  She starts to walk away saying she can't come back with him, "we both know what I am.  They'll send me to Titan".   He crawls after he as she says she hopes he'll make it.  He manages to grab her ankle and dangles her over the edge saying "You.. Are... Under arrest!"
Oh shit Frank...
She points one of her arm guns at him saying she'll do anything to survive, "That's who I am!  I'm the Big Man, remember?"  Frank points out that if she shoots him she'll go under the tracks.  He pulls her up and as they face each other, she shoots him in the chest.  This enrages him and he lunges at her and begins choking her.

Frank: "You!  You betrayed Thora and Mortal! You betrayed the Low Life! Dirty Frank was your friend!  Dirty Frank trusted you!"

The life starts to drain out of Aimee and the SJS Judge reappears and tells Frank he actually likes him and so just this once "I'm going to do you a solid.  Look up".  And Frank, in a spash of vivid colour sees his badge shining in the sky, "oh.  Thank you." he says tearfully.
*angelic chorus*
He lets go of Aimee and when the Hondo Judges try to arrest them, he dives off the train with her saying "corruption has no authority over idealism... not today at least".  And they land in the sea.

The story wraps up with a taxi driver delivering Frank and Aimee to the Mega-City One embassy.  After urgent medical treatment he and Aimee were snuck out of Hondo-City before news of them still being alive could reach Hondo ears. Aimee did a deal to avoid Titan for an Iso-Cube instead.  She was able to give information on the yakuza in Hondo and the Low Life.

Dirty Frank thinks how he felt no accomplishment or joy at returning successfully.  He'd lost another friend and Yukiji and Mini-Inamoto's death weighed heavily, also bullet holes "really bloody hurt, it turns out".

Frank: "He also had no idea if he would be welcomed back into the Justice Department upon returning home.  Beloved justice, that which saved him.  But he was alive, and he was Dirty Frank.  He knew this.  Not many of us can say the same"
Anothre deal and Frank returns home to an uncertain future.
And that brings this arc to an end.  There is a downbeat one-shot set at Christmas which sees Frank back at work but suffering insomnia and PTSD on top of everything else, and losing yet another friend on top of all he's lost before.  The rest of Mega-City Undercover volume 03 is a Lenny Zero story, someone I haven't talked about before because I skipped the first collection.  Check out a future UK comics month to catch that one.  Anyway, this arc is superb.  It manages to juggle a lot of gags and surreal situations with genuine pathos and in-depth character study.  I've said before that Dirty Frank is one of my favourite characters and it's because he is mentally ill.  To often mental illness is treated as something that equals evil, check out Batman's rogue gallery for many examples. But Frank is rigidly moral, cares deeply about his friends, idealistically devoted to the principal of the law and although his condition results in some amusing jokes and situations you never feel like he's the butt of the joke.  You're always pulling for Frank to succeed and despite being the most unlikely hero ever, that's exactly what he is, a mentally ill hero.  Speaking as someone who suffers from mental illness, it's a breath of fresh air to see it being shown that if you find the right niche in life you can survive and thrive even under the often debilitating symptoms of whatever mental illness that is afflicting you.  Of course the whole thing with the visions of the SJS Judge is Frank arguing with himself, recent events have shaken him but just when he is about to kill Aimee in a furious rage his own pysche comes to his rescue and reminds him what's important.  He is Dirty Frank, that's all he needs to know.  I also enjoyed the fun Japanese stuff, all the various cities of the Dreddverse are a mish-mash of current cultural stereotypes and satirise them mercilessly. The art by D'Israeli is amazing, full of warmth and humanity, he is able to draw daft stuff like kaiji wrestling as well as the minutiae of facial expressions and body language beautifully and writer Rob Williams also deserves praise for his continuing work in exploring Dirty Frank's character as part of a fast paced and exciting story.  Highly recommended stuff.


  1. Your comments about mentally ill characters reminded me of something; but then when I thought about it, it became even more relevant. I was thinking about your point that mental illness so often is equated with the villains. And that's often in a very cliched way (schizophrenia = split personality etc.). There was however an admittedly great character called Crazy Barry (and Little Mo). Don't know if you remember him? He was the judge who had the little blue demon talking to him telling him want to do. Of course it transpired the demon was just an aspect of his personality (based on childhood trauma). It was the SJS hallucination that reminded me.

    Frank seems to be a more sympathetic reiteration of that character. It's almost a flip. Mo was always telling Barry to overcome his natural impulse to do the right thing, whereas SJS is the other way round. I wonder if the writers were thinking of that story. (There are a few other parallels like the mission to another country etc.). It does feel maybe they're trying to make 'amends' for the earlier rather stereotypical portrayal of mental illness. Having said all that, Barry and Mo were bloody brilliant characters.

    As for the story here overall, Hah, I'm glad someone else saw the big monster sumo thing and immediately thought "We could have that now!!!"

    Frank is an interesting character. I like it when they explore the complexities of being a judge. I won't repeat ramble my stuff about the perils of undercover work. But it's handled well here. The paranoia, the danger of going native, and how to maintain the mask (and becoming the mask). It's also nice to get out of MC1 every now and then. Although can we just once not have Japan as Yakuza and Godzilla :-). I'm just relieved they didn't have some schoolgirl in a sailor suit flashing her pants. Then again, the world of Dredd has always really been cultures as seen from Britain rather than the real thing. Fundamentally it's a satire so I suppose we must expect some exaggeration. And it probably says more about UK attitudes that the actual cultures being portrayed.

    Frank though is possibly the most sympathetic portrayal of a judge since McGruder. Although she's probably my favourite judge anyway, so I'm biased,

  2. varalys the dark28 June 2017 at 20:04

    You've just written what this was missing, said girl in a sailor suit flashing her pants. Points off for that rob Williams. Yeah it's stereotypical stff, but hasn't that always been the way with the various Cits? I mean wasn't Brit Cit itself the most ludicrous parody of stiff upper lip British charicatures, Sov Block was all communist brutalism and I seem to recall much supping of Guiness when Dredd went to the Emerald Isle.

    I don't recall that character of which ye speak, but he does sound intersting. Part of the problem of a mental health illness that includes paranoid psychosis (*waves*) is always resisting every day the urge to jump on the nearest person and smash their face into the pavement until their brains leak out their ears. The spider in a cowboy hat type thing always whsipering in your ear to do it. And alshtough asshole is not a menatl illness, quite a few traits do crossover I'm afriad to say. That's why I find it so good they gave Frank the anchor of blessed justice, if you have an anchor, you can cope. Mine is my family for example. They literally keep me sane.

    McGruder is great. I always liked how she never shaved off her beard after returning to take control in the aftermath of Necropolis.

  3. That would have been even funnier if you'd said *waves axe*. I can't wait until we finally meet up. The great thing about hanging out with me is, if you do suddenly bludgeon me to death everyone will just go "Yeah, fair enough"

    There's obviously a few crossover traits as you say. Although I don't think they're statistically significant. In terms of 'signal to noise' I think the number of non mentally ill assholes and the number of mentally ill people who are perfectly lovely cancel out. And I say that despite, or perhaps more because of, my experience in the criminal justice system and doing mental health tribunals. I do have a few funny stories from that. In the interim though, you like macabre stuff so you might like this one.

    I've only represented one genuine serial killer. He's called John Sweeney. There are a couple of documentaries about him on YouTube. They all contain some pretty big inaccuracies but they give the general picture. He was a guy who basically axe murdered his way round Europe. Then he'd chop the people up and dump them in canals (as you do). He was also a phenomenonally talented artist. Ironically that's how they convicted him. He left clues in his paintings. And just to give you an idea of how hard he was, the first time he was caught the police shot him in the head. However he escaped from the hospital (perhaps unsurprisingly the police had let their guard down a bit) and *removed the bullet himself*. With long nose pliers and a screwdriver. He then remained on the lam for a further five years. But anyway the solicitor went to see him to check he was happy with everything (they liked clients like that). They asked what he thought of me. Honest to god (the solicitor took great delight in telling me) his answer was: "Alan's great; but he's a bit weird".

    I'm not gonna pretend I don't love that. He tried to give me a painting after the trial (I'd managed to get the murder charges dropped so he just got 8 years for an attempted murder) but the police wouldn't let me have it. As it turned out they were right to keep on to the pictures for the reasons mentioned above and he was later tried for the murders and convicted (not me representating this time I hasten to add).

    But yeah, sailor girls (why is that the school uniform there?)

  4. varalys the dark30 June 2017 at 08:20

    That's a really cool story! Fascinating also I lol'ed :)

    I know you're right about mentally ill, I guess I know that when my symptoms started up I was a pretty vile person and only learned to become a good person during years of intense therapy. But I freely admit it could just be a coincidence, because I had such a fraught relationship with my father and that impacted on everything and four years of counselling was what got me to deal with those feelings properly so it was then easier to chemically treat the symptoms of mental illness.

    What I love about Dirty Frank is that his mental illness is part of who he is, take it away and he wouldn't be Dirty Frank. One of the biggest breakthroughs I had during treatment was the realisation I would never "get better" and that for better or for worse, being mentally ill was an important part of who I was. So you stop fighting it every step of the way and just make sure you can represent yourself the best you can with it. And hey it can also be useful, my manic phases are when I get a tonne of writing done for example. My meds stop them going into full blown psychosis like they would in the past and I can use the energy to get shit done. Depression still sucks, but explaining to people why I'm feeling like I am helps and I just have to ride those episodes out best I can.

    Anyway, to change the subject. Japanese school uniforms. From what I recall, after the war there were a lot of schools set up by Catholic missionaries which also brough over the uniforms. While the religion didn't take (about 1% of Japanese are Christian) the uniforms stuck, with in many cases the sailor suit being an evolution of that look, as enshrined by the anime "Sailor Moon."

  5. Glad you liked it. I was slightly concerned that it might have inspired you :-)

    You know my thoughts about the arbitrary definitions of mental illness versus personality. Obviously anything that causes you hurt is a bad thing. But like you say, it's also what makes you you. I'm guessing you've seen the Stephen Fry documentary? It is weird though that there's such a stigma. If you had diphtheria or a broken leg you'd get nothing but sympathy (unless you'd done it in some daft skateboard accident; then I'd just laugh). But people act like it's contagious. Mind you, I was doing a mental health tribunal where a magpie kept landing on the window ledge behind the chairman. I have that thing where I have to salute them. I was trying to be discreet but after about the 40th time I wasn't half getting some looks. There was a bit of a risk that I might not be going home, never mind my client.

    But I can see why you like Frank. Some of my mates have told me about the 70s thing where they'd yell to everyone in the house "Come quick; there's a black guy on TV !" It must be even nicer when it's a realistic depiction. It seems to me that even supposedly sympathetic portrayals get a bit cheesy. Like how all autistic people are Sherlock Holmes style geniuses. And that's before we get on to the brooding melancholia stuff. Without dismissing your experiences though I find it hard to believe you'd be vile. I can understand that symptoms can cause problems, but it's like how flu makes you sneeze on everyone. Sure it's not necessarily peasant to be around at the time; but it's not a judgment on the character of the person; or at least it shouldn't be.

    Mind you, the tumblr kid romanticising of mental illness does bug me a bit. It's like they want all the 'glamour' and mystique but none of the consequences. You're not some Byronesque tortured soul, you're just a knobhead teenager. Just paint your room black and listen to Sisters of Mercy like everyone else did. But 'dark triad' seems to be aspirational now. Of course if they wanted proper triad traits they'd torture animals, set fire to things and piss the bed; so I suppose we should be glad they tend not to do that.

    Apparently sailor suits were all the rage in Europe as kids clothes before the war too. Heh, there's a posh girls school down here that I had occasion to visit (on business, wasn't in the bushes with night vision goggles). But their uniform is like the tartan miniskirt, white blouse, little socks thing. I did accidentally blurt out to one of the governors "Blimey, who designed your uniform; Japanese businessmen?". Luckily he only kept the angry face for a few second than started laughing.

  6. Just in case you ever want to cosplay

  7. varalys the dark30 June 2017 at 23:15

    Argh big comment eaten again.

    Well to sum up, I was saying that if you could wave a magic wand and cure me of the chemical imbalances in my brain that cause my illness, I would refuse. I have spent so much time integrating how I cope with them into how I relate to the world that if you changed that I would be so fundamentally changed as a person that I would have to start all over again. Yeah it often sucks, but life sucks for a lot of people, at least I know why my life sucks and how I can deal with it now works for me.

    I have never encountered the Catholic Girls School uniform in the wild, we had a Cathloic school in Buxton but they kept way clear of us rabble from the comp.

    I have also cosplayed in the past, but as the Jackie Chan character from the videogame Tekken 3. Of course ;)

  8. Aww I'd like to have seen your full comment. But I do love what you say about you being you. I can I think totally understand that. Personal identity is such a weird concept. It ties in with all sorts of stuff. Even that time travel duplicates thing we were talking about. There are some interesting conundrums explored in fiction. Especially when we get into the various ways personality can be altered. But it all comes back to who is fundamentally you. The mind just boggles thinking about it really.

    I've never got the Catholic schoolgirls thing. Maybe because I used to be surrounded by them. Ironically it was when the girls got to wear their civvies that they suddenly became fanciable. My old school is in the process of being demolished. Someone went in and took a load of brilliant photographs. They're quite creepy. Got that abandoned asylum vibe about them. I almost get that horror movie trope looking at them where you suddenly see it as it was with all the people milling around.

    It was a posh grammar school when I went there (although it had just merged with the girls school) so obviously we were banned from mixing with the oiks from the nearby comp. Apart from the traditional end of year fight of course.

    I'll check out the Tekken character. I've always quite fancied getting a yellow and black shirt. So it channels the iconic Bruce Lee outfit but without being too obvious.

  9. varalys the dark1 July 2017 at 17:13

    I believe we're all works in progress really. Probably why I find people who are open to admitting they might be wrong in something or interested in fighting out more the most interesting as freinds. The type of people that WHTM shows us is that so many people end up emotional stunted and insistent that everything they know is right. Boring and sad. But at least the site also attracts a commentariat of the other extreme so I haven't lost my faith in humanity :P

    My secondary school was a boys and girls school divided into an upper and lower for each gender. They started integrating them onto the new combined school on one site but youngest first so I ended up not getting to be pally with boys again until sixth form. Both my secondary schools were immediately knocked down and had housing estates built on them. Make of that what you will.

  10. I'm always very wary of people who believe they're definitely right, or even if they speak in absolutist terms. 'Certainty' very much makes me 'side eye' (to use another term I picked up on Mammoth). Of course there are some things you'd need a heck of a lot of evidence to make me shift position. So I do use the definition of 'fact' that's 'something so well established that it would be unreasonable not to consider it true in the absence of overwhelming evidence to the contrary'. Also some things are just axiomatic, or 'self evident' as our colonial friends would say. You can have interesting philosophical discussions about why it's wrong to torture a dog (to use an example from the classical world), but at the end of the day, if you are going to do that then I hope you have a good dentist.

    Hmm, if everywhere I'd been was subsequently raised to the ground and buried I would start to feel a bit picked on. Now though you've got me thinking, as you usually do. Hitler's bunker is now a kiddies playground. So is Fred West's old house. In fact I can think of a few other examples too. I appreciate the sentiment, but it doesn't half feel like the set up to a horror film.

    Mind you, when I was little I found out from the local kids that the previous owner of our new house had committed suicide there. I asked my parents if that was true. My dad just said "Yeah, houses where there's been a suicide or a murder are always cheaper" in the same casual way that someone might advise you that it's better to buy rail tickets on a Thursday. You can see where I get my Yorkshireness from.

  11. varalys the dark2 July 2017 at 08:18

    Yeah, absolutely certainty does make me a little uncomfortable. Although obviously their are deep felt moral beliefs you will want to defend. I tend to think we're all works in progress and people who have deliberately arrested that development are those who make me side eye as well.

    When I lived in a bedsit in Manchester the rest of the bedsits were full of mainly old men, two of whom passed away while I lived there. Cold winters and no heating, lethal combo.

  12. Are there any other examples of hero(ines) with mental issues being portrayed empathically? The only one I can think of immediately is Sherlock Holmes. His characterisation is all over the place of course. But it does seem, either by accident or design, he's manic depressive. Of course we have the modern interpretations where he's on the spectrum somewhere. But that doesn't really tally with the books. He can be a bit anti social in those, but he's also portrayed as having fantastic social skills when he wants to. His ability to get on with just about anyone is one of his defining traits. Hence his superlative undercover skills.

    Conan the barbarian also is arguably Bi polar. But so was Howard. And Conan was pretty much his alter ego.

    Apparently Judge Anderson was later retconned to have always been struggling with PTSD from a troubled childhood. I'm not familiar with those stories though. So to me she'll always be the bubbly semi hippy chick who wound Dredd up so much (although he came to very much respect her).

    But McGruder will always be my favourite. And yeah, loved the beard. Never was sure whether she was quite as loopy as she appeared at the end or whether that was just a bit of obfuscation so people would underestimate her. She kept it up to the end. But that might just have been her commitment to the role. She was always the cleverest person in the Dredd universe.

  13. varalys the dark3 July 2017 at 11:13

    Although I pointed out Batman's rogue gallery as examples of the mentally ill being treated as dangerous. I've also read stories that offer more sympathetic takes on them. Gotham Academy has treated the "baddies" with a more understanding attitude. Making one of the kids the daughter of a so called super villains, as well as having another kid being a man-bat and a good guy too has added some nuance to people who generally only exist for Batman to beat up. But otherwise, I'm struggling to think of mentally ill characters in US comics.

  14. To say something about the Marvel side:

    I heard some good things about the latest run(s?) of Moon Knight. I mean it's questionable as that guy has either severe mental issues or is the avatar of a lesser god (he is also pretty much Batman if he dressed in all white).

    Legion's treatment fluctuated a lot throughout the years... but there are stories where he is sympathetic.

    More ambiguously mentally ill people... Loki shoved bipolar symptoms (including suicidal thoughts) in some newer more nuanced stories focusing on him.

  15. Or he (MN) could be both... I mean comicbooks, who says that divine avatars need to be neurotypical?

    Also "showed" not "shoved". I can't type.

  16. varalys the dark3 July 2017 at 19:20

    Moon Knight, how could forget him? My favourite incarnation of the Cockroach in Cerebus was a parody of him. Mind you the Roach was nuts whoever he was being, and generally played for laughs in his insanity. But he was harmless and mostly just vexed people, so I put him in the Win column.

  17. Speaking of undercover policing and mental health issues, my mate is being interviewed on Newsnight tonight about his experiences.

  18. And I've just remembered you don't have a telly. Like all the best people. :-)

  19. Damn I actually could have seen it as I was at mums this past week, but I didn't check the comments yesterday. D'oh! Anyway, I am back home and can log into my blog properly again so I should get the first of this months posts up in the next 24 hours.

  20. Apparently they've bumped him anyway for a feature on the new Dr Who (a girl?!). But might be tonight.

    Actually, saw the last Dr Who. Very good. And yet another 'Lesbian ex machina' ending. :-)

  21. I'd rather male PoC be the Doctor than a woman myself. Still I'm open to a woman too, and a woman PoC could be best of all.

    I like the idea of a lesbian ex machina ending. But I still REFUSE to watch Moffat who. On this I am standing firm.

  22. Heh, you sound like Mrs Slocolmbe. Which is a good thing. She was well cool.

    It is the second time though a companion has been brought back from the dead by sapphic superpowers and gone off jaunting round the universe together. Bill was much more likeable than Clara though.

  23. It's all about the lesbians. Still I do tend to see lesbians as the "safe" option from LGBTBBQ. One cool thing about the forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery (I mean I'm just jazzed at Michelle Yeoh in it as another Captain) is it's getting an openly gay human male character in the main cast. Bryan Fuller who is showrunner is gay himself so I expect a nuanced portrayal. Let's see how the famed (HA!) Trekkie tolerance deals with him. I say HA! because when he was working on Voyager and they had publically mooted having a gay character he got loads of hatemail for even the suggestion.

  24. "showrunner is gay himself so I expect a nuanced portrayal."

    Heh, I can't help but think of Russell T Davies though. At times it seemed we were one step away from "There's strange happenings tonight on Hampstead Heath as the Doctor and Captain Jack face their biggest challenge yet. Can they score some poppers before hitting Heaven...". I loved though how he made gay seem so joyous. I don't subscribe to the 'gay agenda' theme, but he certainly makes it look fun.

    But yeah, ST today (by which I mean in the last 20 years, god I'm getting old!) seems a lot less 'daring' than in Roddenbury's day. It's like it means well but always chickens out in the end. In the first series we did see guys holding hands in the background. But pretty soon it's Riker curing lesbians (I'm giggling now thinking of that quote). So will be interesting to see how the new series handles it.

    And also what happens with Dr Who under Chibnal. Assuming that Phoebe lass is getting the gig. I don't know anything about her, but I've always been very happy with the new series casting choices. So I have no doubt she'll be very good. I was reading some of the comments though. It's already people saying the series is ruined. One person was seriously talking about burning his merchandise collection. It does amaze me how pent up some fans get. I genuinely can't understand it. That's not from some 'PC' perspective. It's like, I can see why people don't like Moffat even though I'm cool with him. But I literally can't fathom why 'eek a girl' is such an *emotional* issue, rather than just 'i think it's a bad casting choice', like if they had an American doctor. I know there's meant to be that geeky guys are *awkward* around women thing, but it's the hostility I don't get. I suppose what I'm trying to say is, I could understand seven year old traditionally geeky boys being a bit bewildered by a woman and not being able to relate because they see the doctor as a surrogate they want to identify with. But grown up guys actively hating? That just baffles me. It's this general 'male spaces' gatekeeping thing that's cropped up lately. I just don't get it. Ee, when I were a lad and they put some woman in one of our programmes we just fancied her!

  25. I'm a huge fan of many franchises and when they take a turn from what I enjoy, I do what I did with Moffat Who and just stop watching. I just didn't want to be hate-watching and bitching about it every week. Yeah it's bizarre.

    You know Star Trek TNG is thirty years old this year. To celebrate I'm delving back into the murky world of TNG comics. Oh it'll be Such Fun.

  26. Eek, I can remember exactly where we were when we watched Encounter at Farpoint and trying to decide if we liked it or not.

    I'll retreat to your new post and hope that doesn't make me feel ancient.

  27. I watched Farpoint, and decided I didn't like the new series. I checked back in around about halfway through season 3 and changed my mind and now it's pretty much my fave sci-fi show of all time.

    It's been a while, did my new post break you? It was a bugger to try and condense.

  28. Heh, yeah, did a bit. Another one with lots to process. And unfortunately real world interfered (was genuinely shocked today when someone said it was Thursday. Would have sworn on my life it was only Tuesday! Maybe I keep getting kidnapped by aliens?)

    But initial thoughts now up.