Monday, 10 July 2017

Punisher MAX Book 6: Barracuda (#31-36)

"I was in no mood to fuck around" - Frank Castle

Sing hosannas!  After nearly two years I can finally bring the ten volume Punisher series written by Garth Ennis with various artists to a close.  If you've been following this blog for a while, you might recall I had to skip volumes five and six on my romp through the series as they were out of print and insanely expensive.  Thankfully the series got omnibus reprints fairly recently and so the missing two volumes are finally in my hands.  I've did Book Five: The Slavers a while back and now I am looking at Book Six: Barracuda. This volume introduces the MAX version of Frank's ultimate nemesis. We saw him killed in Book Nine: The Long Cold Dark, but here he's at full power.  He's a large, muscular black man, fiercely intelligent, with a savage sense of humour, he's also an assassin for hire and will do anything for a paycheck.  He's almost as skilled at fighting and gunplay as Frank and has the advantage of being younger than him.  Frank in this story is on the trail of corporate scum, taking him to Miami where Barracuda waits to take him on.

We start at the end, Frank on Barracuda's boat looking down at sharks and dead bodies churning amongst bloody water.  Then we return to the beginning.  Frank is on the trail of some particularly potent cocaine.  He kills the last armed man in a gang hideout thinking "the trail eventually led to these boys". Before he can leave the scene of the massacre he hears cries coming from the bathroom.
Frank finds Stephens.
A naked man, his hands bound is lying down in there.  Seems the gangsters took turns using him as a fucktoy.  He tells Frank where the coke is, while moaning one of them made him do some off his balls.  The man pleads for protection. Frank tells him the police are coming.  The man he's in serious danger.  Frank says  wait for the police, then he uses a white phosphorous grenade to cover his escape.  As Frank leaves the man yells he "can't talk to fucking cops!"  Frank tells him to try the Feds and leaves avoiding the police thinking "and that would have been that. But..."
We then cut to some businessmen at a party.  A younger man, Dermot is telling the older man Harry that something has happened that is "serious shit".

Harry: "What I meant Dermot, was why you didn't come to me the instant this faggot developed a conscience? Since when do you handle shit like this yourself?"

Dermot says he wanted to show some initiative and Harry leads him into his office where his wife is snorting coke and refuses to go and mingle in the party, but Harry sends her on her way.
Dermot and Harry.
Then he grills Dermot, it turns out a man called Stephens was going to blow the whistle on their whole operation, so Dermot called Enrique to kill Stephens as he's Dermot's coke connection.  He didn't expect Stephens to still be alive when he asked Enrique to kill him a week ago.  Now he's had a tip from the D.A.'s office that Stephens is in jail after being pulled out of a scene of a massacre.

Harry facepalms and asks Dermot if he realises "how badly you fucked up here?"  He tells Dermot could have been bought off, or talked round but Dermot decided to get criminals involved.  He asks what precinct Stephens is in, it's the sixty-third.

We then cut to Frank enjoying a burger in a diner which is playing the news on the TV.  It reports on the shooting of a Puerto Rican drug gang and how only one man survived.  He's been taken to the sixty-third precinct where they will question him after his symptoms of shock subside.  As the radio waffles on about an anti-Punisher initiative, Frank ruminates how that was his reward for stepping on the wrong toe investigating the slavers.

He watches the story on TV and suddenly sees a policeman called Billy Lacarda walk past the camera.  After writing two books so in-depth about the mob he was accused of having ties to them, he kept his badge just about but his glory days were over.  He remembers Stephens (for it was he) pleading not to be left to the cops and decides with Billy Lacarda showing his face again, well it was time to investigate more closely.

Using a fake ID he goes to the sixty-third precinct and bluffs to the desk sergeant saying he was hoping he could get a couple of minutes with the prisoner.  The sergeant says he's in luck there's been a delay with the paperwork for Lacarda to take him out of the city. He says he'll buzz Frank in when he wants to see the prisoner.
An assassin approaches Stephens.
As he walk down the steps to the cells, Frank wonders how far Larcarda has got with his bluff as he won't be waiting for paperwork.  He's down where Stephens is, and the police man down there is refusing tp allow him to take Stephens without papers.  Lacarda says it's a "fuckin' formality".  But the policeman stands firm.  Stephens pipes up saying he's ask for a lawyer and not gotten one, the policeman says they'll hold him until his story checks out.   He was at the site of a massacre with no ID or personal items which is very suspicious.

Lacarda tries to bribe the policeman with money, but that doesn't work.  So he pulls a gun and hold it to the policman's throat.  Then Frank sounds the fire alarm.  He knocks Lacarda out with one punch and tells the policeman to swap positions wth Stephens and he locks him inside.  He then drags Stephens away how says " so you... do you like believe me now, is that it?"

Using white phosporous grendaes he gets him and Stephens out of the precinct in the chaos that ensues, helped along by people evacuating because of the fire alarm. He ponders Stephens and thinks "thing was.  He probably thought that meant he was safe."
Back with Dermot and Harry, Harry puts down the phone having been told Stephens is gone and Lacarda has been arrested.  He has lost a valuable asset trying to clean up Dermot's mess. He then tells Dermot he doesn't know much about the Punisher.  But he's dangerous and a big gun requires a big gun in return.  He picks up the phone and says to Dermot, "I do not do what I am about to do lightly". He gets through to Barracude who picks up the phone, tells the out-of-it looking woman to keep sucking his dick then make some eggs, and then begins his conversation with Harry which ends this chapter.

Later we see he is on his boat, smoking crack with a woman and has a large pet snake.  It bites the woman, so Barracuda picks it up and smashes its head against the mast.  The woman dies from the poison and Barracuda just says "shit", tips her overboard and sails off.
Meet Barracuda.
In a diner, Frank is grilling Stephens saying he'll never leave him alone unless he spills what he knows.   Stephens asks if he has heard of "Dynaco".  Much to his surprise Frank hasn't, "we were on the cover of Time!"  A few years ago things were different, they were shittiest energy company in the world. Wall Street thought they were a joke.  Then Harry Ebbing came along.

He first fired ninety percent of the workforce, then got the rest to actuall work together.  He turned them into a team with two golden rules, "always stick together, and if you've got a problem, always take it to him first."  It worked and their stock went through the ceiling, the parties they had were legendary.  Frank asks how they managed it.

Stephens: "Harry found out... and I shit you not here. This is legal... that you could base your accounts not on your actual profits, but one what you expect them to be. Simple as that.  You like the sound of one point two billion for the quarter. Go with it.  Knock yourself out."

Frank says, well if it was legal what's the problem?  Stephens says the next thing they were planning was anything but.  We cut to the Dynaco executives on a sking retreat.  Dermot manages to piss Harry off and he skis off.  Harry's wife then asks Dermot if he has ever fucked a trophy wife before.
Stephens spills the sorry tale.
We return to Stephens and he asks Frank if he recalls the blackouts in Florida last Fall just after a hurricane.  Dynaco's stock went up when the grid got fucked up by the weather "power was all of a sudden at a premium".  Dermot brought an idea to Harry, him being Harry's "golden boy", put simply they were going to black out Florida. It would never be the whole grid at once, it would look random and the price of power would shoot up again.

It was at this point Stephens spoke up saying that crippling the infrastructure like that would be illegal.  He said they could get into so much shit if they were found out.  But the rest of the executives looked at him and he realised it was "time to shut the fuck up".   However he refused to and told them that soon Dynaco's profits would come out and "the projected terms we'd been trading under would be worthless.  That behind all his alpha male bullshit, Harry was desperate for capital."

Stephens: "And I guess at that point I was less scared of him than I was of going to jail.  Either we shitcanned this right then and there, or I'd call the F.B.I."
The next morning he was taken hostage my Enrique's gang.  He admits other shady stuff that happened before, like a hooker O.D.'ing at a party, one of the guys being caught in a coke bust and being released the same night, which is how he knew he wouldn't be safe with the cops.

He wonders if Harry is just carried away, creating sheer chaos and making it work for him no matter what the cost, "so long as it turns a profit." We then cut to Dermot dressing after having had sex with Harry's wife Alice.  She is teasing him saying was the reason he was so quick because he imagine Harry standing behind him telling him what to do. He grabs her by the throat and she laughs saying "that's the fucking spirit...!"  He demands to know if she wants him to fuck her, "that'd do for starters cowboy" she grins.
Barracuda, taking care of business.
We then cut to Barracuda driving in an open top car, a humvee full of men stops next to him and Barracuda opens fire on them with an assault rifle. He then gets out and asks one of the survivors where his money is.  When the man says he swears he has the money and begs for his life, Barracuda doesn't shoot him, he stuffs him in his car boot.

Back with Frank, he has left Stephens "mewling into his breakfast".  There was no way to get Dynaco investigated legitimately, not on Stephens' evidence alone.  But leaving Stephens behind "that was my first mistake."  Back in his safehouse he wonders if this is something he should be concerned with at all.

Frank:  "Then again, if Dynaco went ahead, Florida would have a body count. So that decided that."

He decides to get a public confession from as senior a figure as possible. Find Ebbing and put the fear of God into him.  There was a major shareholders meeting in Miami which seemed like his best bet.  His second mistake was thinking he could find what weapons he needed once he got there. Later when he was beaten, cut and bleeding, with a shark closing in on him, "I remember thinking just how wrong you can be."

We then cut to Harry on the phone to Barracuda who tells him that his target is in Barracuda's neck of the woods.  And Barracuda spots Frank walking across the airport floor, "you know, somehow I 'spected the muthafucka be taller".  Frank remembers back to him thinking he could get this done quickly and not need to hire a car, "stupid and sloppy".  His mind wandered in the car and he didn't react fast enough when Barracuda rammed the taxi and sent it careering into a tree and Frank passes out, "I'd have to say I deserved it".
We then see Dermot on the phone to Alice, she asks him to talk dirty to her, "no time like the present cowboy".   He does so, she asks him to say what he'll give her, he says "I'm gonna give you the whole four inches."  Thankfully we then return to Frank, bound in the boot of Barracuda's car, but he always has a small knife secreted in his sleeve for just suck instances and cuts himself free, then when Barracuda opens it boot he attacks him.
He also has concussion and his vision keeps blurring, but keeps fighting Barracua jamming the small knife into Barracuda's right eye.  They keep fighting and Frank finds an axe and slashes Barracuda's right hand cutting off his fingers, all this does is cause Barracuda to say, "it is on muthafucka.  It is on."

We then cut to Dermot and Alice walking along the beach and she admits to being "a real fucking bitch".  She says Harry doesn't fuck her he just has her bend over the bed and stares up her ass while he jerks off.  How charming.  She says before the married he shake her hand after sex and thank her for a wonderful evening, "you know who else was into that? Hitler."  She says she stays with him for the money, Dermot whinges about how Harry treats him., a "stupid shit one minute and son the next".  Alice says she knows the combinations to his safe and she used it before they came to Miami.

Back with Frank and Barracuda, they are grappling fiercely. Frank wraps some barbed wire round his neck and starts choking him.  Barracuda headbutts him and gets free.  Frank punches him and knocks out one of Barracuda's front teeth.  Barracuda grabs some wood and smashes it over Franks head and Frank falls to his knees as Barracuda tells him he has somewhere he has got to be.

Harry and Dermot in Harry#s office overlooking the beach. He says Alice likes it, "nothing but the best for the little woman". Dermot asks him what he's going to says to the shareholders.  Harry says he won't tell them they plan to black out the Sunshine State..  They've hired a boat and they'll take them for a pleasure cruise.  He'll get them drunk and tell them they are about to enter the "most exciting phase of the operation yet".  Top secret of course.  He tells them their "little problem" had followed them to Miami but he got a call from a most unexpected source.  And Stephens shuffles into the room.

Barracuda is now on a boat with Frank tied up again with Horace, the gangbanger he had in his boot too.  Barracuda tells him a story about the first time he saw a shark eat a person, savage shit "but hard to stop watchin' knowumsayin'?"  He tosses Horace into the sea.  He then tells Frank he has his fingers on ice, but Frank tells him that destroys the nerve endings so the can't be reattached. Barracuda picks Frank up saying "that a fact. Guess the muthafuckin' joke's on me, huh?"  Frank thinks as he sinks into the water that he's in the worst shape he's ever been in and still be conscious.  Then a shark starts bearing down on him.
Texting'll become a pain now.
Frank manages to free his legs and thinks to himself that from what he knows about Great White Sharks is that they don't much care for human flesh and once they take a bite they go to find something better, "Trouble is. Being tasted is nowhere near as gentle as it sounds."  And now and then you'll run into one that does enjoy snacking on humans. Frank surfaces and frees his hands.  Barracuda fires a shotgun at him telling him "shit's against the rules, muthafucka!" Frank then gets a hold of Horace and brings him to the surface.

We cut to Harry, Dermot and Stephens. Dermot is angry that Stephens is still alive. Apparently Stephens was the one who told them the Punisher was targetting them and when he was to arrive in Miami.  Stehpen then tearfully says he so sorrry to Harry.  He says he should have come to Harry with his fears.  Harry asks if he thought calling the F.B.I would be morally correct. Because he would have lost everything he had for the satisfaction of knowing he did the right thing.

Harry: "Oh Jesus Christ Harry.  That's the life I want back..!  I don't want to be out in the cold.  I don't want to be alone... I want it to be like it was.  With the guys. With the team. I'm sorry Harry.  I truly am.  I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
He drops to his knees and when Harry says it's OK, he wraps his arms round his legs and thanks him.   Dermot scowls and when Stephens leaves to get cleaned up, he says to Harry he can't believe he's doing this.  Harry says Dermot created a very dangerous mess that's cost a lot to clean up.  When Dermot says fuck you to him, Harry backhands him and says not to talk to him like that, "you stupid little cunt".  And he walks off.

Then we're back with Frank.  He holding onto Horace as the shark circles them and Barracuda looks on with glee. Horace tries to bribe Frank to help him, but when he admits to being a gangster.  Of course Frank won't stand for that and jams Horace into the sharks mouth.  Frank then dives under the boat as Horace gets chewed up thinking "Horace played his part to perfection".
Then we rejoin Dermot, Stephens and Harry sitting outside a restaraunt.  Dermot is pissed and when Stephens tries to talk to him, he calls him a "faggot" and to not talk to him.  Harry tells them about Barracuda who he met when he was convicted twenty years ago of insider trading and sent to a maximum security prison.  He bribed Barracuda who was also in there to protect him from the other inmates.  He maintained contact with him over the years, "a mutual beneficial relationship."

And we are back with Barracuda sailing his boat back, thinking Frank is dead as well.  But Frank is hanging onto a tire hanging off the side of the boat. On the shore, Harry introduces him to Stephens and Dermot.  Barracuda makes a joke about raping them, then shakes hands with the terrified pair.  Harry dismisses Stephens then sits down with Barracuda.  Noting Barracuda's missing fingers he says he'll double the agreed fee.  Barracuda asks him what he wants him to do next?

Frank crawls into a small pier, it took him a hour to get that far and he stands thinking he has nothing left inside him.  He staggers towards a small hut, but then he collapses thinking that Barracuda will find and kill him and he'd have to kick the shit out of Barracuda in hell.
Alice and Dermot having soapy fun.
Dermot and Alice are having sex in a jacuzzi. He says he was told to take a walk by Harry and Alice says, "so you took a walk up here and fucked the shit out of his wife, that ought to teach him a lesson."  Also a lesson for cuffing him round the ear, "like I was a goddamn ten year old."  He rages about Harry forgiving Stephens, and how he can't take any more of his bullshit. Alice asks if they are going to do the thing they talked about.  He says yes, and as they climb out of the jacuzzi we see Barracuda, armed with large blade standing outside of their room.

He walks inside shouting "naughty muthafuckin' children...!" He tells them Harry knows his wife has been up to something and now he's going to kill them.  Alice begs him not to saying she'll do whatever it takes as long as he doesn't kill them.  This gets through to Barracuda and he stops for now telling them to get room service to bring him some pancakes.

Frank is still out cold, but slowly comes round to find a seagull has crapped on his face. He staggers to his feet thinking "fucking birds".   Back with Barracuda sitting with Alice and Dermot eating his pancakes.  Dermot's been having Alice followed for a while.  He also admits he has no loyalty to Harry, either they make him and offer or he does his job saying Alice was "spreadin' it for his buddy Dermot".   Alice and Dermot's plan is they are going to get Harry busted for his plans to black out Florida then Dermot will take Harry's place.
Well that was convinient...
She has access to all of his notes in his handwriting, copies of all the memos he was too arrogant to get rid of.  Harry will have to resign, the shareholders won't let Dynaco go down with him.  She tells him about the boat the shareholders will be on tomorrow.  After the boat leaves Miami she going to send a press pack to the TV station so Harry will get fucked and Dermot will reassure the shareholders and they'll side with him "the end."  Barracuda is impressed, he says he's going to finish his pancakes then have a chat with Harry.

Frank meanwhile has made it to the shack and luckily for him it's one of Barracuda's safehouses.  It's full of guns, medical supplies and food.  He patches himself up, eats some food and reflects on what happened.  He realises Barracuda was hired by Harry, he decides to take Barracuda's boat "motor over to Miami.  Find them. Kill them. Then go home.  Nothing clever.  Nothing subtle."

Barracuda is reporting back to Harry. He lies to him about what Alice was doing the previous night, she was just clubbing and showed no interest in the men who approached her.  Harry thinks that's strange as he has photos showing she's "sucked at least half the cocks in Manhattan".  Barracuda says maybe she's turned over a new leaf.  Harry says that's unlikely.

Barracuda says why did he have him follow her when he knows what she's up to.  He says so he can get revenge on some of the men she's been with, "she has no idea how many of her one-night-stands I've sent people to visit".  He doesn't tell her because he wants her to be happy.  He is twice her age but quite devoted to her, can't satisfy her and can't abide the thought of the men who can. Sitting behind them, listening in is Frank who thinks, "nice".

Harry tells Barracuda he wants him on the boat with the shareholders to keep an eye on her.  He says he has something to annouce and he doesn't wants any distractions.  Frank thinks this must be the Florida plan. He decides rather than hit Harry and Barracuda there and then, he'll sneak onto the boat in the hope he can take down the entire Dynaco operatin. He leaves to go get tooled up while Barracuda and Harry talk.
Dermot murders Stephens.
Dermot and Alice are having frantic sex in the toilets when Stephens walks in on them.  He tries to run but Alice jumps on him and holds him, Dermot adjusts himself then starts punching Stephens. He starts chokng Stephens saying he won't sya anything about what he saw.  He rages at him and accidentally ends up killing him.  Alice tells the shocked Dermot to call Barracuda.  She leaves and Barracuda arrives saying he is impressed, saying "you Wall Street fucks play kinda rough, don't you?"  And he tosses Stephens body out of the window while asking Dermot if Alice is "nasty".  Dermot says yes and then Barracuda says:

Barracuda: "Only thing 'bout a ho lets you do anything is sooner or later you done it all. You look at this bitch got no kinda limits at all,  An' you start to hate her for it... I mean you fuckin' despise her man.  Knowunsayin'?"

Later on the yacht, Dermot is annoucing to the shareholders that Harry will be joining them soon so everyone grab a drink and enjoy themselves.  Alice and Barracuda are watching and Barracuda says that Dermot is "some smooth shit".
Alice says he learned from the master.  Barracuda says he learned so well he going to replace him. Alice notes the ships crew is staffed by Dynaco security, she says he always keeps his people around him.  Barracuda says if you know the right man "it makes all the goddamn difference in the world.".  She says meaning him and he says who the fuck else?  Dermot appears and Barracuda leaves him and Alice to talk.  Dermot says Barracuda is going to take Stephen's body to the Everglades and let the alligators have him.  Dermot says he's a useful guy to have around.  Alice says he's incredibly niave.  Barracuda is the most dangerous man they'll ever meet and they are going to have to kill him.
Frank enacts his plan.
We then cut to Frank swimming back to Barracuda's boat after having done something to the underside of the yacht.  He says Dynaco wouldn't hand over Barracuda and Harry, so "they made a fight of it.  What followed was their tough shit". Physcially he's still suffering, his stitches keep opening, his head still pounding, he's spitting out blood clots and pissing red.  Meanwhile Harry is being told the press want to talk to him, so he goes to meet them saying it'll be a chance to fly the Dynaco flag.

The final chapter begins with Harry running from the huge number of reporters.  He gets into his helicopter and tells them to take off.  On the yacht they are watching the expose of the plan to black out parts of Florida to increase the company's share value.  Down in the bowels of the yacht Alice starts coming onto Barracuda as she starts sucking his cock, Dermot creeps up behind him and hits him over the head.  Meanwhile the panicked shareholders are wondering where Dermot is.
Dermot takes on Barracuda.
Dermot keeps beating Barracuda until he collapses.  He then throws him into the sea.  He is angry that Alice was giving him oral sex.  She says it was the only way she could think to distract him.   When she accuses him of taking his time to find his balls, he angrily grabs her by the hair and drags her into a small room.  They start having sex and Dermot's phone goes off.  Alice answers it, as Harry tells Dermot to get his act together, they are an inch away from total ruin.  Alice just says to him, "He's fucking me Harry...!"

They spot a bomb Frank planted and Dynaco's men disarm it. Dermot then smartens himself up and goes to meet the shareholders saying Harry has to go, but isn't the company bigger than just one man?  He continues his speech saying Harry's mistakes were his own, after taking this hit they'll dust themselves down and come back stronger than before. "We are Dynaco" he concludes, "This is absolutely nothing".  Then a bomb goes off, "there were two charges" narrates Frank.

He had planted one on the outer hull.  If the one inside had gone off as well the ship would have sunk immediately.  He radios the yacht saying he wants to talk to Harry, Dermot answers saying Harry is not aboard the ship.  Frank says they need to give him Harry and Barracuda and then give themselves up to the F.B.I.  Dermot says Harry is no longer part of the company and he doesn't know who Barracuda is.  Also they found his bomb in the engine room, "you really are a fucking idiot, Punisher" says Dermot.

He goes on an epic rant saying they are not some tangible thing he can defeat with bullets, he says if they blacked out Florida would anyone give a shit? They do it, the stock goes sky high and the shareholders get a return on their investments, "what they care about is doing business."  No one will stop them because everyone who counts is on our side.

Dermot: "So why don't you leave us alone, and go and kill some fucking nigger drug dealers?"

But then Barracuda appears and climbs off the back of the yacht and to Frank yells that the charges are live and to set them off.  Frank presses the button and there is an huge explosion on the boat.

And the yacht asplodes.
The ship sinks and the people on it are left floundering in the water, and this attracts sharks.  Dermot leaves Alice to get eaten.  Frank shoots him anyway. Barracuda tries to climb onto the boat Frank is on saying they're on the same side now.  Frank shoots him thinking, "what's the only thing more dangerous than a Barracuda?" And a shark approaches as Frank turns and sails back to shore which brings this volume to an end.

I have to admit, this is probably the weakest of all ten collected trades of this run.  There isn't enough Frank in it and he's an odd fit for a story about corrupt corporate shenanigans.  Harry's fate is left unclear after the major role he played in it.  He's last seen opening the helicopter door on the way to the yacht.  Suicide?  Who knows.  That said, the introduction of Barracuda is extremely well handled, and we can see why he's such a match for Frank.  He's a brute but he's not a mindless one, his weak point mainly being his overwhelming arrogance.  And you can see why he concocted such a vicious revenge plan for Frank as seen in volume nine, "Long Cold Dark". Dermot and Alice are a pretty loathesome pair, Dermot especially deserved getting blown up, shot and then eaten by a shark.  You can see why he is so bitter in some ways, but it comes out so self-pitying and whiny.  Of course his treatment of Stephens was pretty appalling too.  Stephens being pretty much the only likeable character in this tale, and after all he goes through you have sympathy for his reasons in betraying Frank and wanting his comfortable life back. Goran Parlov is definitely the best artist Ennis collaborated with on this run, and you can see why they went on to do Fury MAX together after this. Anyway, this finally brings my look at Punisher MAX to a close.  There is the prequel mini-series Punisher Born to come at some point in the future, but now I can close the book on one of the best mature reinventions of a classic Marvel character.  It's been one hell of a ride.


  1. Yey, the Punisher! He's pretty much my favourite regular character that you cover (from the US anyway). I'll actually try and comment on the story for once rather than going into interminable anecdotes (although I've got one in reserve should it be needed)

    First the artwork. Really liked it. Had that realism thing but with just enough slight exaggeration to give a visual edge to the characters, especially Barracuda. That's a good look. He's suitably impressive and intimidating without falling into 'scary black man' territory. Was it definitely tne same artist all the way through though? That panel where Frank is in the toolshed seems a little bit more 'ragged' compared to the rest.

    As for story, at first I went 'oh no, not drugs'. I have quite strong opinions on the war on drugs so I find it very hard to root for the protagonist if that's what he's battling. So I was glad when it expanded a bit. I actually like the white collar crime angle. I don't want to get all anarcho-syndicalist, but it's a rarely explored theme. Batman can be a late stage capitalist wet dream, beating up the underclass on behalf of billionaires everywhere, so it's nice to see a bit of working class hero stuff.

    Not sure of the timing of this strip, but there's definite parallels with Enron and tne water and power shenanigans in california and texas here. Basically the villains scheme is pretty much what they were doing. And they'd have gotten away with it had it not been for those pesky kids (actually they fucked up by leaving it one day late to transfer some debt between companies)

    As Frank rightly points out though, white collar crime of that magnitude can have real world casualties. Even though hospitals and essential services can have backup generators the blacking and browning out of energy supplies has dire consequences when done on that scale.

    Frank was starting to push the badass normal beyond its limits a bit here. The dialogue might acknowledge the pain and damage but that's not really reflected in his subsequent actions. People can ignore tremendous amounts of pain, but there gets to a stage where the body's just too broken to function. Similarly with Barracuda. Don't care how mean you are, losing and eye and some fingers is going to slow you down a bit.

    But it's a bit of a pantomime I guess and it's *just* about within the realms of possibilities to carry on despite those level of injuries. As part of the self defence thing I've seen plenty of vids of people fighting despite broken limbs and gun and knife wounds. Although that's usually down to drugs or adrenaline. If you're suitably hyped you don't even bleed, it's a chemical and physiological thing, yey evolution! Although in those circumstances you wouldn't expect to have the wherewithal to make quips.

    Some suitably karmic comeuppances. Although the plot was perhaps a bit flat. I'm not one to use the word 'problematic' but one aspect that doesn't sit right with me is frank taking on women, especially when they're just normal ones with no special combat skills. There's a paradox here. You know I'm a big one for harumphing at gender stereotypes when it comes to combat. I think both on fiction and the real world women can make damn good fighters. But I still have a real distaste of M-F violence, no matter how bad the baddies. Even the horrible trafficker bit sat uneasy with me. The irony is it's not that I had any problem with her, or women generally, getting their just deserts. It just feels weird a guy doing it. It's like Frank should have a female sidekick maybe? Strangely she could be just as vicious as him, but it would seem ok somehow. Hmm, I can maybe do some self analysis on why that might me, but perhaps you might have some ideas being the gender roles and media expert?

  2. It is interesting the whole male on female violence issue that can arise from comic strips. Someone pointed out when The New 52 relaunched Barbara Gordon as Batgirl there was a policy that she ONLy fought female supervillians so she wasn't in danger of being physically outclassed which I think writer Gail Simone chafed quite a bit against as somewhat insulting. Now as a woman I don't actually mind women getting their just desserts from a man it's interesting though that in Book 8 of this run "Widowmaker" we not only got a woman taking on the Punisher's role and murdering the women who betrayed her but she also rapes Frank. Now that's messed up. Then she kills herself with the implication that only Frank can deal with the utter horrible emptiness of his life now, which transitioned nicely into Book 9 where he discovered he had a daughter and began to realise just how much he had lost himself over the years.

    Rambling, but I firmly understand why male on female violence is seen as a upsetting, but and especially when you get into the Supes, if Wonder Woman is going to kick man-ass, Superman should be allowed to kick woman-ass. Although Superman is such a gent he'd find another way. Batman is less gentlemanly.

    So in short, there's a whole mess of cultural assumptions in the west that still see women as needing protection and men defending their honour. It's one of those places where feminists and MRA's have similar complaints, of course MRAs are dicks about it, so whatchagunnado? Oddly, I never saw myself EVER as someone in need of protection, but have always played the protective role in relationships, even when I was dating a bloody soldier! I once got into a physical altercation with a man who threatened my girlfriend, with the help of a 2 by 4. I'm not proud of that, I was only just starting to deal with my rage issues and bullying is my personal "Berserk Button" but there we go. So I can understand the urge to want to see women protected and well, culture needs to change really. Sorry if that's abit waffly, I'm running on fumes here, >_<

  3. Now this all very interesting. I don't think you were rambling actually; you make perfect sense. I'm probably going to ramble a bit though because I've got so many conflicting thoughts flitting around my head. So this might be a bit stream of consciousness.

    I suppose I do have a slightly schizoid view on this. I think though I can discuss it in terms of context and history. So on the one hand I have my thing about kickass women, both real and fictional. I don't think for one second that women aren't capable of physicality and defending themselves or others; or even just generally being badass. But at the same time there's the unfortunate societal reality that women suffer violence from men at a much greater level than the other way round. I know women sometimes do commit violence against men, but I don't buy for one second that 'conflict thingy scale' or whatever it is. You know, the one that equates a wife pushing her husband with a husband battering her senseless? So I don't think it's so much I've got old fashioned attitudes (although no doubt there is a bit of that going on, you know the 1930s style heroes I like, although I also like those 'tough broads' of the same genre). But I think that real life zeitgeist influences my distaste. It's why it's funny when Amy slaps the Doctor bit would be horrific the other way round. It's not that there's any innate disparity between them (if anything Amy is the more physically capable) but it's the background of how things play out in the real world. It's all to do with genuine threat levels. It's similar to why a girl hitting on a guy may be different to the other way around. The likely consequences of rejection are totally different.

    I also think maybe it's why it's ok for you to have no problem with a female baddie getting beaten up by the hero, but for me it's a real 'eww' factor. It's like you have the equivalent of n word privileges. I'm not articulating that very well, but luckily I know you'll get what I mean and be able to articulate it better for yourself.

    So it is a weird one. I know better than most that women can handle themselves. Although of course they're socialised not to to an extent. But the 'equal lefts' thing is one of my major berserk buttons. It's one of the most nauseating things I find about the MRA lot. And that's saying something considering what else they come up with. So that's a huge dichotomy for me. On the one hand I know women are more than capable of taking care of themselves. But on the other I think guys who hit women are the lowest of the low.

    Of course we get into things like average body size etc. But I don't think that should be emphasised top much. With unskilled people it might be a factor but with a modicum of training it becomes practically irrelevant.

    It's interesting you feel bad about defending your girlfriend. I find it totally admirable. Not just because of my thing for women being capable. But also I think it was both morally justifiable and indeed the completely correct thing to do. I know you hate bullies, but there you were standing up to bullies. There's no moral equivalence. I can also understand maybe it frightened you that you were capable of that because of the implications, but again, it was completely the proper response for anyone if they had the wherewithal, so you mustn't judge yourself.

  4. (had to split this, waffled so much)

    To get back to comics, I'd love to know more about that other Punisher story. Is it on your blog (it's difficult to search on my phone). If it is I'll read it and comment back here. But generally I don't have any problem with women using violence against women in the media. Although I have a general thing that it's more 'heroic' if the protagonist is the underdog.  Even karmic justice needs to be a bit of effort. A protagonist who totally outclasses an opponent can seem a bit of a bully. Unless of course the baddie is a bully themselves. Then that 'see how you like it' justification kicks in.

    I should probably have mentioned I'm talking here about 'normal' characters. Superhero stuff is different. Then it might as well be Tom and Jerry. It's so far removed from reality that all the context stuff doesn't apply.

    There are some fascinating issues here though around 'chivalry' and benevolent sexism. And you know I do have 'dulcea effect' tendencies. That no doubt feeds into my views. I also have my distaste about bullying. But at the same time I certainly don't see women as always helpless damsels. Hmm, it's complex.

    I'll ponder further but in the interim those are my initial, and not fully worked out, thoughts.

  5. I've done all ten volumes in the series now, there was just that I skipped vols. 55 and 6 because, no joke, they were going for over £50 each. Thankfully the omnibus reprints brought them back down to under a tenner, but that's why theres a gap. They are all tagged as The Punisher, if you check the tags at the side, obviously that includes Franken-Castle and his appearence in Fury MAX, and it's in reverse order which is a bit of a pain, but they're all done now. I think you would find Book 8: WidowMaker interesting especially in light of our convo. But it's also probably the darkest in the series, have some nice cat pics on hand :D

    I'm not sorry I defended my girlfriend, but I wish I could have been more diplomatic about it because I ended up frightening her and my inability to deal with my anger properly was one of the reasons we decided to stop being a couple but we stayed friend if that makes sense.

    I was ruminating about this earlier today and I have been single for a good while now, happily. But when I was dating I didn't have a single girlfriend who was taller than me (and I'm only the average 5'6") and because I lifted weights and have more muscle in my upper body normally (even now I have to wear men's shirts to get ones that fit right across the back) even untoned than the average woman maybe I was seen as more of a protector than girlfriends normally are. Ah I'm not sure, lesbian dynamics can be odd and I never realised I seem to have a "type" until today lol. I should start wearing a fedora and saying "M'lady" when I tip it. :D

  6. "Lesbian Dynamics" would be a good name for one of those Charles Atlas style fitness regimes. Bop the beach bully and end up with the girl. Or maybe the corporation in a sci-fi film. Churning out terminators that look like Sandi Toksvig.

    I'm sorry to hear about what happened with your girlfriend. I'm glad you're still friends though. Stuff like that is tricky. Inter-personal violence is sometimes described as the 'universal human phobia'. People genuinely exhibit all the phobic symptoms. So it's unsurprising it can be a bit scary; and even to the person using it. They're often more shocked than anyone. Overt hostility even makes me uncomfortable. Like if I can feel something brewing in a pub I'll generally exit the scene, even if it's nothing to do with me. Having said that, you know about my white knighting episode, and I've sort of used body language to 'disuade' people. But that's always been very non-agressive if that makes sense. You obviously feel the adrenaline rising, but it's not like I see red or anything. I guess I'm lucky though in that I'm quite big so often that's enough. Strangely I've never got involved with anything on my own behalf. But I suppose I'm not an obvious target. It's been things like in London when people might be about to try something on the tube like hassling folks. There's some handy techniques that can de-escalate that. Like the pose where you cup one elbow in your hand and raise your finger near your face. If you just smile at them and raise a quizzical eyebrow, weirdly that puts a lot of people off. Try it in the mirror, see what you think.

    It is such a shame though, I think you'd make a very good protector, and I'd have thought that would be a very attractive quality. But maybe we're back to the gender roles thing. I don't want to suggest I'm beating girls off with a stick, but it's funny how my slight blokeiness seems to go down quite well. I get told a lot that women feel safe with me. That's possibly a sad indictment on what women have to put up with in society. Although, or maybe especially, that's not just safe from external threats when we're out at night, it's horrific how many women have had trouble from guys they were actually involved with. I like though that even girls I barely know will ask me to walk them to the tube station for example. I think that feeds into my Dulcinea effect tendencies I mentioned. But is there maybe a different expectation of women? Like strong women are seen as unusual and possibly therefore a bit scary, even by other women? Again, you're the expert here so I'm curious as to your thoughts.

    And speaking of breaking gender stereotypes, I'm going to read that widowmaker post now. I am very intrigued, and I think it might tie in a bit with what we're currently discussing. And it keeps everything on topic in relation to your actual post. But I was just discussing how I love how your blog gets me thinking with someone the other night.

    (oh emailed you on something btw)

  7. She'd previously been married to a bloke who hit her, so when she said I was giving off the same vibes and scared her sometimes I was pretty horrified and that's when I started on anger management. The anger is still there boiling merrily away but I don't vent because that only makes things worse, I just try and meditate it away and watch my body language. Unless someone wants to fuck with me, then I make myself look big. Another thing i just realised is all my exes started out straight as it were, so I dunno maybe I was giving off a manly aura or summat and that initially appealed. I've often joked I feel like a heterosexual bloke trapped in a woman's body. I think it goes back to something my mum has always said, "I didn't raise girls, I raised humans". It's funny though that both my sisters settled down with men they met at uni while I've had a fairly rackety personal life before deciding to stay single for a while and have a cat. I do like your idea of Lesbian Dynamics, an army of Sandi Toskvig warriors would be awesome.

    Enjoy the Widowmaker post, I'd be interested of what you make of the rape scene at the end. I don't think Frank would feel he'd been raped, but if a man forced himself on a naked, shackled bleeding woman we'd be screaming rape to the rooftops so I didn't want to brush over it.

  8. Heh, you remind me of The Cat in Red Dwarf. "Hmm, best make myself big" *stands on tiptoes*

    That is a real bummer though about your gf. I can see how she could be over wary, maybe even some triggering in the clinical sense of the word. I don't think anger per se is necessarily a bad thing. A lot of social justice attempt were motivated by righteousness anger. But as mentioned before its something we're either programmed or socialised to be nervous of. There's actually an offence 'affray' that's commited where your hostility towards a person may scare uninvolved passers-by, and that's from the Norman French 'affrayer' which means to terrify (same root as afraid) so it's a pretty old concept. I'm glad you're all chilled now though, externally at any rate. But that's because it'll hopefully make life easier for you, I don't think a capacity for anger in itself reflects at all badly on you as a person. At the risk of TMI, I actually find certain expressions of anger quite attractive (in every sense), like when it's addressed towards animal abusers. I just see it as part of that assertiveness trait that I admire. Shows a certain strength of character and passion.

    *Loved* the Widowmaker story. Apart from anything else it was an interesting plot covering areas not often explored. Ironically the only other thing I can think of that comes close is those "henchmen's widows" cutaways in the Austin Powers films. But so often the effect on the villains' families falls into what about the mouse? territory. It's pretty common for stories just to 'wrap up' once the big bad is taken down and completely ignore the endor holocaust implications. Narratively that makes sense; but it was great here to see that form the hub of a story. And it also handled the 'first dig two graves' aspect of characters motivated entirety by revenge really well by distaff Frank showing us what might have been. It's given me loads to consider about frank generally that I'll probably come back to in relation to the Barracuda story. As for 'that' scene, well I've sent you quite a lengthy email with some background thoughts that I'll let you consider before maybe addressing here.

    Overall though I think Widowmaker ties with the traffickers for my favourite frank story.

  9. I was quoting Red Dwarf, Cat was very well observed. Cats unlike dogs rarely get into physical altercations that hurt each other, it's all posturing until one backs down.

    Heh, good thing I also speak fluent TV Tropes. :D As for anger, yeah I've made my peace with it and it's been easier to live with since then. I away it's almost comforting to have it there to pull on if I need too. It makes me a lot braver I think, but I hope if I get into a future relationship it doesn't become an issue again.

    Glad you enjoyed Widowmaker, it's really dark sad stuff. I've responded to your email about it. One thing pained me about it was how could her older sister do that to her? I have such strong protective instincts towards my family I found it hard to comprehend, but then I'm not in the Mafia! I must admit the part where she beats her older sister to death with a baseball bat gave me chills.

  10. "What happened to all the fish?"

    "Somebody ate them"

    I loved early season Cat.

    Heh, we are basically heading towards that 'Darmok' TNG episode with our Tropes talk aren't we? I'll have to try a comment sometime that's entirety references.

    As for Widowmaker, hmm, sisters. I can see perhaps why you especially find that plot so unrelatable and disturbing. I suppose within the story she's sort of justified both morally and, more perhaps, psychologically. There should be a special bond between sisters; and it might be expected the older sis would look out for her kid sister. So what happened was maybe such a betrayal, in both a personal and general human sense, I can see how she might snap. And of course her final fate may be a clue as to how broken and conflicted that left her.

    And I guess it's a bit of a mafia trope "If one family won't kill you the other one will" to quote the Sopranos.

    (Drawing pin in the bus shelter btw)

  11. Early Cat was incredibly well observed, Grant Naylor must have both been cat people I think. One thing all cat people know about cats is that we love them because they are complete fuzzy gits!

    I've introduced my family to very useful terms from TV Tropes, I think "Narm" and "Nightmare Fuel" being the two most useful.

    Anyway, I think Widowmaker is an amazing story, it's just shocking on a sisterly level that the older sister would care that much about Keeping Up Appearences like that to betray her little sister lie that. I actually think little sister was pretty justified in her response too. Sad that it didn't bring her any peace, that was the first volume of the run to make me blub at the end.

  12. I did like how in the early series he was just a two legged cat, with an appropriately feline personality. And even the way he moved. The later characterisation was quite funny too, but he seemed just a vain but dense human. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I love the bit in the book where he's in better than life and just assumed everything was going right because he deserved it.  I love Danny John Jules as an actor anyway though. He's in Scum (*two* of my favourite films) and of course Maid Marion.  I'm sure you know that grant naylor originally ran the character of the cat past Craig Charles because they were concerned it was a racist stereotype. Craig said no, but could he be Lister, and the rest is history.

    Tropes is one of my favourite websites (although I only have like two anyway). It's such a good resource but also I love the style. Funnily enough my only contributions are the Krav article and that snippet about the cat.

    Widowmaker covered the mob wife lifestyle so well. Not unlike the Sopranos. And I can believe someone could get so wrapped up in it they'd put 'family' before family. That 'thing of ours' does attract a certain personally type. I have mixed feelings about the fate of the 'heroine'. Was it a waste? The sad climax (in multiple senses I guess) of a tragic tale. Or a merciful release? Or even just the only logical conclusion having achieved all that was needed. I think that's why it's such a good contrast with Frank. It's like a 'what if?' Frank could have believably also chosen that option after obtaining justice for his family. It's interesting to consider the 'public service' element to his quest. Is it more noble that he's not just looking out for his own family, but also ensuring no one else (or at least a subset) never has to go through the same experience? is it purely selfless then? He doesn't seem to derive any pleasure from his actions, but is there a degree of satisfaction? Or is it just a grim but necessary task, like cleaning out an old she'd? I'll ponder further.

    One aspect of course we've peripherally touched on but not addressed directly is Frank's achilles heel, women in peril. I'd not consciously noticed that til it was explicitly raised in the story. But is that perhaps why I'm especially drawn to him? It's like the animal abuser story. Something else for me to think about too. But as always be very interested in your thoughts on this.

    (responded to your email btw)

  13. Aaaand I'm back, stupid Talk Talk. My net was down for a few days. It's still being cantankerous as well, so if I disappear again, that's the reason. I should have been doing some writing but I am treating this month as a semi-holiday. That said hopefully a new post will be ready in the next couple of days.

    TV Tropes is a brilliant resource, I've learned to enjoy anime and manga a lot more since it explains a lot of the Values Dissonance between what we'd expect in the West and what we see/read in Japanese media.

    As for the end of Widowmaker, it is sad. But the way things had been set up (her cancer returning being one), she sort of went out on her own terms. It's sad and makes us examine Frank's mission more carefully, but I don't think it could have ended any other way. Mind you it leaves Frank shaken enough that he has nightmares of his own in the next book, so there's that.

  14. Yey, you're alive! Blooming Talk Talk. And I'm happy to go along with that explanation. The fact your abscences are always exactly the same period by which the police must either release you or charge you is obviously entirely coincidental.

    Yeah, it's those meta type things that makes Tropes all the more enjoyable. I like the general media topics, but the ones that delve into more cultural and sociological elements are really educational. That badwomensanatomy thing you put me onto is a bit like that. Some of the examples are of course bewilderingly funny, but I really enjoy the more serious articles that look at taboos and history/mythology.

    I'd completely forgotten about her illness. That does put an additional slant on things. I can see the almost 'tears in the rain' sense of closure and going out on her own terms with the satisfaction of a job well done.

    Must confess I do sometimes muse on what I'd get up to if I was told I had a set time to live. I could really see myself going out in a blaze of justice. Lot of abusers out there that seem beyond the law, so why not? Hopefully though that situation won't arise. Be some canned hunters and others though in for a bit of a surprise if it did. (I'd try to be entertaining about it though; maybe reference a few tropes, and the odd Gary Larson cartoon)

  15. Heh, you reminded me of a conversation me and mum had last week about how we could both be awesome serial killers because we watch so much crime drama. Then I said if I was going to lose it I'd just start hacking people up in broad daylight, and she paused and then said "me too." :D

    badwomensanatomy has actually been something of a learning experience for me as well. As someone whose never had hetero leanings, nor the desire for children reading about all the travails straight women, or any woman who wants a kid have to go through has been a bit of an eye opener. Helps the commentariat is amusing and cracks down hard on trolls as well.

    I'm afraid if I found out I only had a limited time to live I'd make love not war. Just try and cram as much sexytimes in as possible.

  16. Heh, you and your mum are awesome!

    I guess that's sort of the CSI effect. I'd be a pretty good criminal. I suspect most criminal (in whatever sense) barristers would be. I think I've mentioned about how that TV series got written? I'm very 'forensically aware' though. To the extent I do have a few 'perfect' crimes planned (for entertainment purposed only!). I've never been suspected of any crimes I'm glad to say. But I once had a situation where the police turned up to tell me a client had been murdered and I "was the last person to see him".

    I was pretty emphatic with the police that if he'd been murdered then at least one other person had seen him after me.

    I think though maybe I should do a 'forensic awareness for feminists' course. For women who are fed up with being abused or harrassed. And have a sideline woodchipper business.

    Oh yeah, if I was on borrowed time I'd certainly be filling my boots in that regard too. They're not necessarily mutually incompatible though. I know a lot of lasses who'd be happy to tag along if I was taking out a few poachers. Hmm, now I'm actually getting tempted to smoke more. :-D

    You're definitely not missing out on the kids thing. One of my new mum friends was asking recently about haircuts to stop new tyke from yanking it. She's just put up on Facebook how great the new cut is as it also means she spends less time washing puke out. Gosh, I'm feeling broody already (not).

  17. That "forensically aware" thing reminds me of an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. There's a man who the two cops know is a hitman, but he disposes of the bodies in such meticulous ways they can't be tied to him. So the cops tell him that they found the latest body and it was missing a tooth. This sends the hitman into a fit of tearing his garage apart trying to find the tooth he missed. When the two cops visit him next day he's sitting completely broken amongst the wreckage of his garage and pretty much 'fesses up. Of course there was no missing tooth, he dun got mind screwed into incriminating himself.

    Now you're tempting me with some avenging action as well, there's plenty of animal abusers out there I'd like to deal Justice too. Like the extreme wing of the RSPCA.

    Funnily enough, I do really like kids. Always have done. Twelve year gap between me and baby sister and my first GF had a four year old I spent watching grow up. And I adore my two nephews, can't wait to start corrupting them (mwahahahahaha). But never had even the slightest pang about wanting one of my own.

  18. Heh, you got me thinking about whether such a trick would actually be legal. In English law any confession arising out of it probably wouldn't be admissible in court. Police don't have to disclose all the evidence they have, but they're not allowed to lie about the state of the evidence. Probably be even tougher in the US as they have that 'fruit of the poison tree' doctrine, so any evidence that arises as a result of the lie is also inadmissible (we don't really have that). But one of the reasons I can't watch legal dramas is stuff like that. Law and Order though is usually quite good on nerdy legal stuff.

    TV Tropes has some good stuff about 'artistic licence: law'. The irony is, you can still get good drama or even comedy out of getting the law right. You don't have to do the Perry Mason thing. My.Cousin Vinny is the oft cited example (that's spot on both legally and procedurally). One of my Bar School tutors was the legal advisor on The Bill. He was very proud of the fact the producers were sticklers for getting every detail right. Apparently some of the actors got to the stage they actually knew the technical procedural stuff as well as any real copper. That's probably why it was so good, they spoke the lingo very naturally. Due to the way the shooting and broadcast schedules turned out, The Bill started using the new caution before the actual police. Heh, so really it's '20 minutes into the future' sci-fi.

    Hunting animal abusers is as you know a bit of a thing with me and (a surprisingly large number of) some friends. And of course it's a popular trope in the whole jungle genre. Hmm, are there any urban animal rights comic hero(in)es? Some PETA style granola girl, who's only achilles heel is she won't stop banging on about veganism? Mind you, there was a brief lived Sheena reboot that had her up against fracking. I'm all for eco warrior stuff, but that seemed to be pushing it a bit. "In next week's episode our leopardskin bikini wearing heroine takes on the local council in a planning meeting about windfarms. Will she file the relevant Section 106 conditions in time?!!!"

    Mind you if there's one thing the star wars prequels showed, it's that kids love legislative procedure.

  19. Oh Criminal Intent definitely played fast and loose with the law. Their poor ADA was always trying to get them to behave themselves a bit better, it was pretty funny.

    I can't think of any urban animal rights hereoes, the closest I can think of was the bit in the Midnighter trade where he and Bwana Beast teamed up to take out some canned hunters unleashing mutated animals in the city.

  20. You've just reminded me that I need to email the CPS tomorrow about something, cheers. We don't have a district attorney system as such, but the CPS does now work a lot more closely with the police during investigations than they used to in terms of providing advice. The CPS is a relatively new phenomenon though (well, mid 80s). Prior to that the police were responsible for prosecutions so it's taken a while to shake that off. Jurisdiction friction and all that. I once went to some court way out in the sticks and the local police inspector actually did the prosecuting in court (they're technically not supposed to any more but there's no actual law against it). I expressed my surprise. But he said he was going to offer us a really good deal so was I going to make a fuss? I said no and we ended up sat in court with tea and biscuits chatting to the clerk, who actually sentenced my client. Now that is unlawful, but hey, saves disturbing the judge (he'd approved the sentence).

    Mind you had something very similar in one of the main London courts. I was doing a rare bit of prosecuting. The (famously grumpy) judge was in the middle of a really tedious hearing when he suddenly asked "Why are you lurking here?". I told him it was for a breach of an order, the defendant had said he was going to plead guilty, and probation said they'd be happy for him to do a bit of community service. So the judge said "right, stand up young man...where is the defendant?"

    I said he was outside somewhere with his brief. The judge said to tell them the sentence! Not entirely lawful either, but pretty efficient (judges love pointing out it.costs £30 a minute to run a crown court) and nobody was going to object. There's a lot of that sort of thing goes on. We call it "The Ways and Means Act". Basically that means we ignore the actual law so long as everyone agrees not to appeal. Saves a lot of messing around.

    The only new animal avenger I've encountered recently is someone called Ya'Wara. But I don't know a lot about her. She seems to be a DC equivalent of Shanna, even down to the leopard companions.

  21. Fascinating! I like hearing about the ins and outs of the law. As I have said before, mum dearest was a prosecution lawyer so I got to hear all about that side of things when she came home and we had dinner.

    Interestingly speaking of negociating sentences there is a US crime show called Major Crimes which is all about nailing the guilty by arranging not to go through a court case, they have a District Attourney watch the interrogations with them and she tells them what laws she can and cannot get them under. It's a great show too, well worth checking out. Got a great woman leading the squad, she was the President in Battlestar Galactica 2003.

  22. Probably the most fascinating aspect of the law is how boring trials can be. We don't have many maverick judges left (curse you court reporters) but there was a great one called Barrington Black (his claim to fame is he was the Yorkshire Ripper's solicitor). But in his room he had two documents framed on the wall.

    One was a letter he'd written to a newspaper that had praised a courtroom drama for its realism.

    "I have to agree. I found it so realistic that 10 minutes into the programme I was already asleep."

    The other was a letter from the Lord Chancellor's Department bollocking him for writing the first letter.

    Officially we didn't have plea bargainimg here (the theory being no one should be pressured into pleading guilty just on the basis of what sentence they might get), but it always went on behind the scenes. Now it's been put on a more formal basis. CPS aren't supposed to take part in interviews. The idea is that as 'ministers of justice' they're supposed to remain detached. But as mentioned, they are a lot more proactive now in getting involved with investigations at an early stage. It's usually all done by phone and email though, just to keep a bit of arms length.

    I liked president roslyn, notwithstanding the email scandal (that was her wasn't it? I get confused)

  23. Heh, that Judge sounds cool. Did you ever watch the first season of Murder One back in the nineties, which was an entire 26 episode season based on just one high profile case? That always seemed to be taking pains to depict the trial process truthfully and yes having picked it up on dvd last year it is quite boring in places, but an interesting sort of boring if that makes sense.

    Of course, every state in the US seems to have differing legal systems. Major Crimes is based in LA so for once LA is actually standing in for LA.

  24. Oh he so was. I once appeared in front of him on a bail application for my client who was a real old school blagger. Bank trucks with sawn-off shotguns and balaclavas. I said, whatever the nature of the alleged offences, he had to be given bail because the other three had.

    "Well what idiot granted.....Oh. Well tell him he'd better bloody turn up to the trial"

    I *loved* that series. Especially as it starred a thuggish looking lawyer with a shaved head. But yes, it was superbly accurate. Apparently they were going to do some more but I don't think that happened. Shame. Of course it was on the back of the OJ trial. Remember watching that every night to the wee hours. That recent drama series about it was brilliant. Very much in the vein of murder one (now I'm trying to remember that word for when stuff feeds back on itself). It worked because it was a pantomime about a very serious subject, as was the actual trial.

    I'm quite good on California law. I studied for the bar exam with Becki. But then it clashed with that international advocacy course so I thought I'd better do that quick before they realised they'd invited the wrong Alan.

    You actually take two exams. You do the State bar but also the Federal bar, because they have local law but also 'national' law.

    Interestingly the term 'political correctness' originated as a legal concept. I was being politically incorrect by saying national rather than federal back there. The US doesn't have a national government, the politically correct term is federal government.

  25. Oooh, me and the folks were discussing the term Politically Correct the other day. I can tell them where it came from no, cheers!

    There actually was a second season of Murder One, but the bald guy- Daniel Benzali - wasn't kept on. Also they did three cases of around eight episodes instead of just the one. It wasn't as good, hence no more seasons.

  26. The colloquial sense of the phrase arose amongst Chinese communists, especially during the cultural revolution and the Korean war. I'm not sure how it was introduced here. Possibly originally a dig at lefty politics? Like comparisons to re-education camps? Brain washing has the same origin. It's a literal translation of a Chinese term that has a more nuanced meaning. A sort of personal 'Year Zero'. Like starting with a clear slate.

    But here's me telling the east Asia expert :-)

    Chinese phrases are fun though. Gung-ho means 'hard charging'. Kung Fu is another one. Literally it means spare time, but it's more 'a skill acquired through practice' so it can be applied to all sorts of things. When we use it in martial arts it should really be annexed to a particular style like San Soo or Wing Chung. Incidentally Wang Chung (like the band) means yellow bell. That's the Chinese equivalent of middle c in music.

    How's that for geekery?

  27. Fascinating, from what I recall the term Political Correctness gone mad started being used in the early 90's by the right-wing press to bash us leftie, but I didn't know of it's origins at all.

    I have to admit, I do wallow in East Asian media, although I'm on a massive anime kick right now. I'm quite proud of the fact I'm learning enough very, very rudimentary Japanese to know when subtitles are a bit off. That said, I probably watch dubs and subs about evenly. Dubbing has gotten really good now for anime, and some shows I actually prefer the dub voices. Which is sacrilege! There's fascinating commentary on one episode of an anime I like which is all about the problems of adapting scripts to fit the mouth movements and still stay true to what's being said.

  28. "urban animal rights heroes"

    Damn, now I have trauma flashbacks to a Beasts of Burden story. I mean it's not exactly the right genre*, but there is at least one story in that series dealing with this kind of human evil.

    * Supernatural adventure/horror comic, also "Oh, come on, how scary can something featuring cute/fluffy animals be?! VERY.". Published by Dark Horse, pretty much in the category of "a one-shot drops once a leap-year".

  29. You know I have a soft spot for badly dubbed chock sockey movies. Especially when it's the same guy who dubs everyone. There's a deleted scene in Kill Bill with a fight like that. Sometimes when we're sparring we pretend we're in one of those scenes. "You dog. You killed my father. Ha, ha.......ha, ha". We also do all the sound effects.

    I read somewhere that it's the better quality anime that causes problems because they're more accurate with the original lip movements. And isn't that why stuff like power rangers has all the masks so they can dub for different markets? The fight scenes being common to all markets and just the everyday scenes being filmed with local actors?

  30. Most anime is very well dubbed now, I often check by running the subs at the same time and am always impressed at how they can stay to the spirit of what has been said. One of the main problems seems to be that the majority of Japanese sentences end with open mouth vowel sounds, so some jigging around that has to be accomodated. I've been watching anime since the 90's and really dubs and subs has improved massively since then. Helps they have stopped editing them because of the western idea animation = kids stuff.

    Malitia: That comic you speak of sounds interesting, I wish to know more!

  31. The first 8 page mini-comic of Beasts of Burden is up on Dark Horse's website apparently as free to read (it's so hard not to spoil it):

    I have the 2010 trade (Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites ... and I just noticed the pun, ARGH!) collecting those first 4 super-short comics, and the 4 issue mini they had after that (it was pretty much 4 standalone tales with some loose connections). According to wikipedia ( ) 3 more one-shots (one of those a Hellboy crossover of all things) and 3 mini stories came out since then, but those weren't collected yet. ^^;

  32. It's about a group of dogs (some honorary... so cats) protecting a town from evil forces. :)

    Especially the story titled "Lost" (Beasts of Burden #2) is famous/infamous from the series. Or as it's also known the "ghost puppy" one.

  33. Cool, thanks very much for that. Looks right up my alley, and I foresee a purchase in the future now. :)

  34. @ malitia

    That sounds interesting. I'll check out the free sample tomorrow. I do like animals as protagonists. It's especially interesting when writers really get into the psyche of the non human characters. I suppose Watership Down is the epitome of that. But it takes real skill to portray minds that are so dissimilar to our own on some ways; yet still make them relatable and sympathetic.

    Of course there's nothing wrong with animals effectively having human identities and/or traits too. Animal Farm is obviously just an allegory, but you do care for the characters as animals to an extent. (Poor Boxer, *sniff*)

    Black Beauty is a surprisingly engaging book too. I guess you know it was written to promote animal welfare by showing how shitty horses of the era had it.

    On a related note, there's now a cartoon of (British version) Dennis the Menace. It's really good but they pronounce Gnasher without the hard G. Way to ruin my childhood BBC!

    *Posts angry screeds to Internet*

  35. I can tell you that although this month is my sortof holiday I do plan on putting up at least two more posts and the one I am writing right now is the Mouse Guard prequel story. They can be a bit heart rending. Although We3 is the one that always makes me blub like a wuss whenever I can steel myself to read it again.

  36. I can splain 'holiday' to you if you're having trouble with the concept. But Mouse Guard was an interesting alternative to so much of the regular comic fayre so I'm curious as to how it all started.

    We3 was so sweet but heartrending. Thinking about it more, it seems a spiritual successor to Secret of Nimh. So it's no wonder I got something in my eye. But it is a good example of that thing mentioned above of writers really getting into animals' psyches. You know one of the motivations for my animal abuse berserk button is that thing that they can't understand why humans are being so cruel to them when all they want to do is please. We3 really tapped into that.

  37. Hey I feel I should be writing somethng, I'm just being lazy and slow, so it is a sort of holiday! The Mouse Guard book explores the backstory of The Black Axe who was a wizened old guru character in the two books I have covered so far. It's just as lovely as ever, the man is slow about his work but the results speak for themselves.

    Yeah, like me and you Grant Morrison is a real anger towards animal abusers. He actually appears in person at the end of his Animal Man run to speak to the audience about animal rights and being a vegetarian and so on. I think We3 is his real masterpiece, perfect artist and writer in lockstep and full of real emotion and lacking some of the meta he tends to use as a distancing tactic.

  38. There is a sort of meticulousness about mouse guard. It's the same sort of vibe as when you see some old craftsman making something by hand. Hard to put into words but 'not rushed' is the nearest description. And that comes across in the story. There's nothing particularly exciting or thrilling (although it is a good tale) but it's got an attitude of not being bothered about what's in vogue or how current trends are driving the market. It's very comfortable in its own skin. Unapologetic maybe? It seems like the epitome of that advice that you should always write something you personally enjoy and not tailor it to what you think the audience wants. You get the impression he'd have been perfectly content if the only copy in existence was on his own bookshelf. And because of that it feels like a privilege to read it.

    And speaking of writing from the heart, well Grant obviously does have a bit of an ego. And he's certainly somewhat more preachy. But it's clear animal rights is something he's passionate about so you forgive him. In a way I guess he's co-opting a pre existing genre and titles to get the message to an audience as a bit of a bait and switch. Fair enough though.

    It's interesting the use of popular characters to promote a cause. I wonder how affective it is? For example when all the anti Mexican stuff was going on in the US election, I just found myself thinking, surely you'd want to be on the side of Machete? Or at least Michelle Rodriguez. Who incidentally is another animal rights activist. She's in Sea Shepherds. Whom I have a bit of a fondness for because of their rather no nonsense approach. Why bother with petitions when you can just sink whaling ships?

    Come to think of it, that Ya"Wara character is meant to Latina. That would be a good role for Michelle. Might even make it to the final reel then.

    (If I made a film with Michelle she'd survive all the way to the end but there'd be a post credit scene where a piano falls on her)

  39. Well I have posted my look at Mouse Guard: The Black Axe, so enjoy! Now it's 0300 and my brain has shutdown. I'll try and be cogent later today >_<