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New Podcast! The X-Cast – Stefan Petrucha on The X-Files Topps Comics (Season 2 & 3)

This was fun.

I occasionally guest on The X-Cast with Tony Black, discussing The X-Files. I’ve been very proud to be part of the show’s discussion of individual episodes and also to participate in its ambitious beginning-to-end podwatch. However, this episode is particularly exciting for me, because it’s an interview that I managed to organise with Stefan Petrucha.

Petrucha was the first writer to work on the X-Files tie-in comic books published by Topps, and he wrote the book through the second half of the second season and through most of the third, before departing the book. Working with artist Charles Adlard, Petrucha crafted some of the most ambitious and most exciting tie-in comics ever. Highlights include A Dismembrance of Things Past, Silent Cities of the Mind, Feelings of Unreality, Falling and Home of the Brave.

These were stories that were very much in the mould of what was being published by writers like Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman over at the Vertigo imprint at DC comics around the same time, bold and ambitious narratives tackling big existential ideas within a genre framework. In some ways, the comic seemed to signal where the series would go in its fourth year; trepanning, militias, existential questions about overlapping realities.

I’m very happy with the interview, and very thankful for Stefan’s generosity with his time. You can check it out here, click the link below, or just play it from this post.

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The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #8 – Beyond the Sea (Review)

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

Beyond the Sea is more than just the best episode of the first season.

Beyond the Sea is one of the best episodes that the show ever produced. Airing half-way through the first season of The X-Files, Beyond the Sea demonstrated exactly what the show was capable of doing at that point in its run. It was a television masterpiece, and remains one of the very best episodes of an extended nine-season run. More than Ice, more than E.B.E., more than Darkness Falls, Beyond the Sea is the unqualified success story of the show’s first season.

Sea change...

Sea change…

This makes the decision to adapt it as part of the Season One line a relatively risky endeavour. The last two episodes adapted as part of the series – Space and Fire – are unlikely to rank highly on any fan’s assessment of the show’s first year. This was not a bad strategy. If the comic book adaptations were good, like the adaptation of Space had been, then it was a success story for everybody involved. If the comic book adaptations were not great, as was the case with Fire, then it seemed unlikely that anybody would care too much.

Adapting the season’s strongest episode was a bold creative decision. It seemed highly unlikely that writer Roy Thomas and artist Sean Scofield could compete with the episode written by Glen Morgan and James Wong and directed by David Nutter. The best case scenario for an adaptation of Beyond the Sea would be to serve as a reminder of just how wonderful the television episode had been, rather than a comic book that was memorable in its own right. It was very much a situation where the best possible outcome was not messing it up.

Haunting visit...

Haunting visit…

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American Vampire, Vol. 3 (Review)

This October, to get us in the mood for Halloween, we’re taking a look at some awesome monster comics. Check back in every Monday this month for a review of Scott Snyder’s American Vampire Saga.

Scott Snyder’s American Vampire continues to barrel towards the present, with this third volume in the saga exploring the secret history vampires during the Second World War. As great as the series is, I do find myself feeling just a little bit sad with every step that Snyder takes towards the present day, as it means the series is one step closer to being over and done with, finished. I have no doubts that it will read astonishingly well from cover-to-cover when that happens, but it doesn’t mean I won’t miss watching Snyder’s exploration of American history through a darkly fantastic lens as it unfolds.

Jump on in…

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American Vampire, Vol. 1 (Review)

This October, to get us in the mood for Halloween, we’re taking a look at some awesome monster comics. Check back in every Monday this month for a review of Scott Snyder’s American Vampire Saga.

In the end, though, it’s all about giving back the teeth that the current “sweetie-vamp” craze has, by and large, stolen from the blood suckers.

– Stephen King’s introduction to the collection

Stephen King, who wrote the origin half of this collection based off Scott Snyder’s notes, remarks in his wonderful foreword, “Here’s what vampires shouldn’t be: pallid detectives who drink Bloody Marys and only work at night; lovelorn southern gentlement; anorexic teenage girls; boy-toys with big dewy eyes.” American Vampire seems to be a strong rebuttal to all those modern and soft depictions of the blood-sucking monsters we’ve been swamped with over the last decade or so.

If that isn’t enough to at least interest you, then I don’t know what will.

Ch-ch-ch-changes…

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The Death of the Author: The Impact of Off-Screen Behaviour on On-Screen Antics…

The rather convolutedly-titled Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho will be arriving soon, the director’s Vertigo was recently named by Sight & Sound as the best film of all time and the British Film Institute is running a season of the director’s films. (There’s even a nice blu ray box set being released in October.) However, this focus on Alfred Hitchcock has, naturally, brought some focus on to the less pleasant aspects of his character. October, for example, will also see HBO airing The Girl, a documentary exploring his relationship with Tippi Hedren. She has some choice words on his character.

“I think he was an extremely sad character,” she said during a panel discussion of HBO’s upcoming The Girl, which recounts her troubled relationship with the director. “We are dealing with a brain here that was an unusual genius, and evil, and deviant, almost to the point of dangerous, because of the effect that he could have on people that were totally unsuspecting.”

Of course, such accusations and allegations are by no means new, but it does raise an interesting question about those masters of cinema. Even for those of us who resist the supermarket tabloid gossip about engagements and break-ups and cute-sounding-couple-nicknames, is it ever possible to divorce filmmaking from the person either in front or behind the camera?

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Y: The Last Man – The Deluxe Edition, Book V (Review)

In an effort to prove that comic books aren’t just about men in spandex hitting each other really hard, this month I’m reviewing all of Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Y: The Last Man. In April, I took a look at all the writer’s Ex Machina.

You know, I think I’m not entirely sure what to make of the conclusion to Brian K. Vaughan’s superb Y: The Last Man, which wraps up here after sixty issues. It’s strange, as if the saga wraps up almost more than I expected, while still remaining the wonderfully intimate adventure that roped me in from the start.

Colour me sad that it's coming to an end...

Note: As we’re reaching the end, expect spoilers. Lots of them. And big ones too. If you want a recommendation… well, go read one of the earlier reviews, or just pick up the first collection and give it a shot.

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Comics for Grown Ups?

We’re a bit late to the party, but this week we’ll be celebrating the 75th anniversary of DC Comics, with a look at the medium, the company and the characters in a selection of bonus features running Monday through Friday. This is one of those articles. Be sure to join us for the rest.

Comic books are what Neil Gaiman once famously described as “the medium that’s always confused with a genre”. The fact that they are typically populated with spandex-wearing superheroes has led to a bit of a pop culture stigma around the medium, as stories about grown men in their underwear pounding each other are the only stories that could be told in that format. Anyone even loosely familiar with the history of the genre will know better, but I’ve always imagined comic books having a hard time fitting in to popular culture in the same way that books or film or television do. So can comic books ever really draw in that elusive adult audience?

Smoking? In a comic book? That will not stand!

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Alan Moore’s Run on Swamp Thing – Saga of the Swamp Thing (Books #1-2)

Before Alan Moore was the superstar writer of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V For Vendetta, Watchmen or even From Hell, he was a writer at DC Comics. While he wrote some truly fantastic Superman stories (collected in the well recommended deluxe edition of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?), he was most famously associated with a run on Swamp Thing. When he took over writing duties on the title, Swamp Thing was a series on the verge of cancellation. Which meant that he had a huge amount of freedom to work on the title, with the capacity to do just about anything he wanted.

It isn't swamped with continuity...

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