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Back In B3ta
I got a lovely surprise on Friday afternoon when the venerable b3ta newsletter fell through my virtual letterbox. In amongst the usual MELANGE of jokes, remarks, links, games, and so forth was a mention of my book!

Have I mentioned that I've got a book out?

Anyway, this was DELIGHTFUL, not least because it continued my general theme of thinking about the release of THE BOOK in exactly the same way as an ALBUM. Letting people know about it through high-quality opinion-forming IMPACTFUL journals like b3ta is a key point of any promotional campaign, and even if it doesn't lead to anybody BUYING a copy it is GRATE that people at least know it EXISTS. I mean, it costs just shy of NINETY QUID so I am not expecting a queue to form outside Virtual Waterstones, but still, hopefully people who are interested will lobby their local LIBRARY (academic or otherwise) to buy a copy. As I understand it that's how Academic Publishing works, with DEALS later on and, if all goes well, an ALMOST REASONBLY PRICED soft cover further down the line.

There have, however, been SOME sales. Or possibly ONE. For LO! as mentioned in b3ta, I noticed the other day that it was recorded as having entered THE CHARTS! It was in at around number 9,123 in the Amazon Popular Culture Chart, which may not sound like much until you realise that this is THE TOP TEN (thousand)! WHOO!

It's all a bit daft, but I do remember how much FUN it was a few years ago when I self-published Storm House and it ROCKED back and forth through their Science Fiction charts. Back then the whole IDEA was to do freebies and special deals to try and push it up the charts as this meant it got favoured by THE ALGORITHM. THUS I had an EXCITING week or so watching it nudge up various specialist charts, and even get to the TOP a couple of times, but it is a slightly different prospect this time, for reasons discussed above. Still, it was FUN to see someone somewhere had bought an actual copy, and I'll be hitting refresh on an hourly basis waiting to see if and when it happens again!

posted 26/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Pip Blom
Last night I went to a GIG - an actual YOUNG PEOPLE were there TOO gig - to see Dutch Indie-types Pip Blom. It was GRATE!

The gig was happening at Heaven nightclub which is somewhere I have not been before. More to the point, it was also not LIKE somewhere I have been before, which felt WEIRD. Normally the gigs I go to happen in a) a Festival b) a massive arena like the O2 c) a former theatre like The Scala or d) the back of a stinky old pub. THIS one was happening in a SUPERCLUB situated underneath a MASSIVE railway arch which was very confusing because not only did I not know where would be best to STAND but also I did not know where the LOOS were. I have got used to knowing where the loos are and did not like the change!

When I DID find them the loos turned out to be Gender Neutral which meant there was a BIG QUEUE and once you got in there was a woman guiding you to the correct cubicle - it was like when you go to the self-service tills in the supermarket, except the doors did not have numbers on. If there had been a suggestion box I would have suggested it! Also odd was that there were fed-up looking men in high vis roaming around with MOPS the whole time we were there. They would occasionally mop a tiny bit of floor that nobody was standing on, and then move on, looking DOLEFUL. I have no idea what that was about, but they definitely LOOKED official.

Myself and Mr M Sutton arrived just in time to see the last few songs by the support band, who were Not That Good. It wasn't really their fault, I think they had just ascended to Support-Ness far too early, not least because each member was CLEARLY meant to move on very soon to be in entirely DIFFERENT bands. The bass player (who was ACE) should be in a 70s ROCK band, the guitarist should be in a Rolling Stones covers act (90s version) and the singer had clearly spent a lot of time listening to someone else's Libertines records. Personally I'd go and see the bass player's band, as he looked like he was having a LOT of fun!

After a very short intermission Pip Blom came on stage, BANG on time. Say what you like about these modern young people, but they sure do ABIDE FULLY by stagetimes, and I support them in this action! They started off with one of the songs from the new album which seem determined to Forge New Paths and Not Sound Like The Old Stuff, which is GRATE for them, but was a bit of a dissapoint for me when I bought the new album (AFTER booking these tickets!) as the stuff they are boldly striding away from is the stuff I really LIKE! However, after a few songs it all started to GEL and ROCK OUT (I blame the soundman for the early sound issues - I would have turned to STARE MEANINGFULLY at them, as is my wont, but again I had no idea where the BOOTH would be here) and they became FANTASTIC.

For some reason they reminded me of Teenage Fanclub, perhaps because they too have - SHALL WE SAY - a certain STYLE that makes it hard to tell songs apart to begin with, but then once your brain CLICKS into it they are suddenly playing a whole SLEW of BANGERS. I had been doing my pre-gig DUE DILIGENCE of listening to all three albums on rotation and this meant that once the aforesaid CLICK had CLUNKED I knew pretty much everything they played, and I do not mind admitting that this resulted in some frenetic GENTLE ROCKING FROM SIDE TO SIDE. The hysteria reached such high levels that Mr Sutton even bought a VINYL from the Merch stand, where we were served by PIP BLOM'S MUM. This was lovely, even if it did mean we had to persuade ourselves that, as the mother of the person on stage, she could not POSSIBLY be our age. Imagine!

It was, all in all, BLOODY GRATE, and I shall soon be diving back into the albums (especially the third one) for a reappraisal from "really good" to "really REALLY good". Also, I look forward to going to ANOTHER gig at some point inside a MASSIVE STONE ARCH. I shall know where the toilets are next time!

posted 22/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Delaying A Double Century
For many years this time of the month has been a time when I have consider matters newsletter-related. In my giddy heyday of ALL OUT ROCK ACTION, when I was doing 50+ gigs a year and flinging out albums and singles at all angles, this would be a process of EDITING, trying to ensure that the levels of CONCENTRATED THRILLPOWER were not too high for my gentle readership. In recent years this has changed to a consideration of whether there was ENOUGH new stuff to justify bothering people, as it feels a bit SPAMMY to send out an email every month which basically says "You know those gigs I told you about last time? They're still happening!"

However, in recent months there has been another, more NUMERICAL, consideration. For LO! if one was to look at the newsletter archive one would see that we are rapidly approaching the TWO HUNDREDTH EDITION! This, I think, is pretty darn impressive, and I would very much like to mark the occasion in some way. The trouble I have had is HOW.

For the one hundredth edition of the newsletter I UNLEASHED a whole ALBUM of cover versions which I had accrued over the years. Then for issue 150 I gave away an album of ODDS AND SODS that had similarly built up over time.

Since then, as stated, things have SLOWED somewhat. Yes, there have been ALBUMS and SINGLES here and there, but pretty much everything that's been RECORDED has been released, and I don't even have a SLEW of unrecorded songs to knuckle down too. I do have a couple of BOOKS that have been written and not released (yes, more than just the DOOM one!) but those are sort of waiting for other occassions, so I've not been entirely sure what to do. However, through the process of making this admission an idea HAS occurred to me which, if I can get it sorted out, should be a suitable mark of the double century. It is a Quite Good idea, but will need some DOING.

THUS I have formulated a cunning plan for MOVING FORWARD. Firstly, there will NOT be a newsletter at the end of February but there WILL be one in the middle of March so that I can share a VOUCHER that makes my Dr Doom book slightly less ludicrously expensive. That means that the 200th issue will in all likelihood be towards the end of APRIL, giving everyone who has not done so as yet PLENTY of time to subscribe in order to claim their GRATE Free Gift.

I think we have a plan!

posted 20/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Reading Actual Books
This week I have been reading an ACTUAL REAL BOOK. Actually, I've been reading TWO - I’m Sorry You Feel that Way by Rebecca Wait and Good Pop, Bad Pop by Jarvis Cocker. SPOILERS: they were both good.

It's unusual for me to have ACTUAL BOOKS on the go because I have very much gone over to the way of The Kindle. This is partly because I live in a very small flat, and so Actual Real Books soon PILE UP and would have to be escorted en masse to the charity shop several times a year, but also because I really really like having a whole BUNCH of books to choose from. For example, on Tuesday night I was going to Peterborough for an abortive attempt to watch FOOTBALL - the massive rainfall that took place at lunchtime was "unexpected" and apparently continued to be for the rest of the afternoon. SOME* (*me) would say that it was pretty bloody EXPECTED and so was the dismal state of the pitch BUT I DIGRESS. Beforehand I was worried that I only had my REAL BOOK with me for the journey, and so would have nothing else to read if I finished it en route. With the Kindle I would have had a whole LIBRARY of books to choose from, but with only an Actual Book I would be stuck. As it happened I DIDN'T finish it, and also spent most of the journey home FUMING over having spent nearly a hundred quid to basically go to the pub, but STILL, the point is I normally wouldn't buy physical copies of books but did here, for REASONS.

I got a physical copy of "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" in case the person who had read reviews and suggested it to me wanted to read it too. These reviews had said it was "HILARIOUS!" and "The Funniest Book I Have Read All Year" but I must say it really really wasn't. This reaction may partly have been because I'd just re-re-re-re-re-read Molesworth, which IS very funny still, but mostly it was because the story was tragic and moving and gut-wrenching and not very funny at all. I did really enjoy it, and the much-mentioned-in-reviews Joke About Peterborough WAS a really good one, but by the end I was thinking "why on earth did they choose to promote it like this?" As I say, it was dead good, but not at all what was promised.

And then I bought the physical copy of "Good Pop, Bad Pop" because it had loads of pictures in it, and The Kindle is REALLY BAD at coping with books with pictures. I'm really glad I made that decision as the Actual Book is GORGEOUS, beautifully designed, with the imagery perfectly integrated with the text as PART of it rather than an added extra. The text also was GORGEOUS and really nicely written. I guess you would EXPECT that of Jarvis Cocker, who has a beautiful way with words in his songs, but previous experience reading Books Written By Britpop Lead Singers had warned me that they don't always work as well in PROSE as in SINGING. This was very much not the case here, as the whole thing was beautifully and ENGAGINGLY written from start to finish.

More than that though, the story that he was telling was ACHINGLY familiar to me, and probably to Anybody Else Who Has Ever Been In A Band. For LO! despite calling itself an "inventory" and having a CONCEIT of being about items he finds in the attic, it is really a MEMOIR of his life and especially BAND life, and it is EXCELLENTLY done. All the way through I kept thinking "HA! I remember doing that" with things like playing his first concert in SCHOOL, or being absolutely terrified going out FLYPOSTING, or one day suddenly realising you didn't have to write jokey songs or boring songs but could actually write about REAL STUFF, or having different pubs for different sorts of bands, or... well, LOADS of it really.

Also really lovely is the fact that there is SO MUCH of that stuff because Pulp took SO LONG to go from Local Band Playing Local Pubs to Massive Band On Telly. It all finishes WAY before they got famous, so I'm hoping that the (surely inevitable) second volume will go into ENORMOUS detail about How Bands Actually Work and the general Hanging Around-NESS of it all. Having said that, I don't really mind what he writes about - it was so BEAUTIFULLY WROTE that I could happily read whatever he fancies typing! MORE PLEASE!

posted 19/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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A Walk In The Park
On Tuesday I went for my regular (almost) daily stroll in my local park. I don't like to go on about it, and in fact very rarely mention it, but my local park is THE OLYMPICAL PARK which is also where I live, which is totally brilliant and amazing but, as I say, I do not like to harp on excessively.

One of the many GRATE things about it is that it basically as a FREE COMIC SHOP in it, or at least it does for me. As a member of staff at University of the Arts London I have access to the various college libraries, including the one at London College of Fashion, which opened up in its new building in the Olympical Park last year. That means that I go past it every time I have a walk (and can indeed see the glowing "UAL" sign from our flat), and after a while I realised that meant I could ORDER books from the library system online from ANY college and then a day or so later pick them up on my stroll. It is frankly SUPER and has recently led to me getting a bunch of The Greatest Graphic Novels EVER (according to various lists) what I haven't read and having a look.

THUS I popped in to return UAL's copy of Blankets by Craig Thompson (REVIEW: Quite Good, goes on a bit) and found that all was in TUMULT and EXCITEMENT as things were being set up for the 2024 Postgraduate show. Hoardings were being erected, signs were being affixed, models were being directed to audition studies, and all was nerves and expectation.

As I wandered through all this I looked round a corner and saw three or four people standing in a doorway all wearing their outfits for the show. WALLOP. I was suddenly hit by one of them there PROUSTIAN RUSHES as I got a massive blast of remembering being at SCHOOL doing the dress rehearsals for various PLAYS and CONCERTS. I've not thought of it for decades, but all at once I was back there on that exciting afternoon when, if you were in THE PLAY, you didn't have to go to lessons and instead could lurk around the assembly hall getting costumes put on ready to try out in the final rehearsal. I could SMELL the DUST and CLEANING FLUID of the school hall, and my stomach went all a-flutter with the NERVES and SPECIALNESS of it all. I hope those KIDZ getting ready for the Postgraduate Show were getting to feel something similar, it was/is AMAZING.

After that I headed off towards the shops, and walked past one of those Boston Dynamics DOGS. One of THESE:

Goodness only knows what it was doing lurking around near the edge of Westfields - there were some blokes operating it and some schoolchildren gathering around to pat it, but that was about it - but there it was within 20 feet of a Pret A Manger. I've seen it loads of times on telly and have been vaguely spooked out by the Stop Motion way it walks around, but now here it was in real life looking... well, sort of normal really. I guess this is how SCIENCE FICTION blends into normal life - three or four years ago I was constantly AMAZED to find myself doing Teams call that felt like a SUPERVILLAIN CONFERENCE, but now they are just part of daily work. I guess ROBOT DOGS will soon go the same way but for now, with my shopping list in my pocket, it felt like something from THE FUTURE.

Nothing else happened on the rest of my walk. That was more than enough!

posted 14/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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My Fantastic Four Movie Hot Take
Yesterday the cast was (FINALLY) revealed for the Fantastic Four movie, along with an exciting IMAGE from Marvel Studios which gave us EITHER a very vague idea of what it would be like OR an excuse to SPECULATE WILDLY. I am about to delve into very much THE LATTER, but before I do I would like to point out to THE WORLD'S MEDIA that I am very much one of the most qualified people in THE WORLD to talk about this sort of thing for LO! I am literally A Doctor Of Doctor Doom (who all right they haven't officially cast yet, but still) and am thus ready to speak my wise words to the world. Barry Norman! Michael Parkinson! CALL ME!

Anyway, for those who don't know yet, the main cast have been revealed as him from The Last Of Us (Mr Fantastic), her (not her, HER) from The Crown (Invisible Woman), him from the last series of Stranger Things (Human Torch) and him from That Chef Show I Haven't Watched (The Thing). In other words it is very much the cream de la cream of your streaming shows, and I for one am all up for that. Tey may not look exactly how I persoanally visualise the FF (I visualise them as the John Byrne version) but from what I've seen I am pretty sure that they can all do THE FUNNY STUFF which is such a vital part of their stories. I also like the way that the original reports go on about them all having won or nearly won Oscars!

My favourite thing - well, all right, my SECOND favourite thing - is the setting, as it's clearly meant to be in the sixties. This makes HUGE sense for numerous reasons, not least because those original Stan and Jack stories that are some of the BEST ones are FROM the sixties, and I have a feeling they wouldn't make quite as much sense if someone tried to update them for Modern Times. We've already HAD several attempts to do that, notably with the boring early issues of Ultimate Fantastic Four and then in the NOT AS BAD AS EVERYONE SAYS Josh Trank film which was, as the name suggests, not as bad as everyone says, but then also not really a Fantastic Four film at all.

Also it's not going to be an ORIGIN story, which is a blessed relief as we've now had that THREE times, with the Sony film with Captain America as Human Torch that is ALL RIGHT and the Roger Corman movie which very much IS as bad as everyone says making up the numbers. Some origin stories are Quite Good (Spider-man's especially) but most are DULL, with the GOOD STUFF usually coming much later on in superhero runs - the aforesaid Stan and Jack run doesn't really get going for a few years, but when it does IT REALLY DOES, so hopefully that's what the movie will aim for. ALSO if it IS set in the sixties that means it doesn't have to worry about fitting in around all the OTHER movies - my personal DREAM THEORY is that it all takes place in another universe, and then they meet everyone else in SECRET WARS when their world has an incursion with the main MCU. This would of course involve Doctor Doom, in which case everything is WONDERFUL.

Anyway, the look and feel that one can GLEAM from that image and logo is my second favourite thing about it, while my MOST favourite thing is the simple fact that it includes THIS character:

It's H.E.R.B.I.E.!! Or as those of us who prefer not to spend our whole life typing in full stops know him, HERBIE! This is the FF's robot servant who WINDS UP The Thing no end - a GRATE example of this can be seen in Marvel Fanfare 15 as discussed AT LENGTH on my Doctor Doom blog - and almost invariably turns EVIL. He was originally thought up to replace the Human Torch in the (absolutely terrible) New Fantastic Four cartoon series, but then wended his way into the actual comic and has been around in various versions since. He would fit in perfectly with the sixties VIBE (despite not appearing until the seventies) and would join the exulted ranks of characters like The Guardians Of The Galaxy or The Eternals or Werewolf By Night who you would never in a million years have expected to show up in an actual movie but then DO.

Suffice to say then that I am QUITE EXCITED about the possibilities of this film being ACTUALLY GOOD. All we need now is for them to properly cast someone as Doctor Doom. If we're going to go for someone in one of the big streaming shows (that I have 75% watched) then surely the answer is obvious - it's got to be him from Welcome To Wrexham (not him, obviously, the otheer one) hasn't it? Or if not Rodney From Only Fools And Horses From Frasier! You heard it here first, True Believers!

posted 14/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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A Day At The Seaside
On Thursday myself and The Crest Of My Waves headed SOUTH to distant Brighton, there to play a gig for Mr J Walsh, longtime all-round good guy and promoter of the This Machine Kills Wasps evening. We met with Mr S Hewitt upon arrival, and then after some readying we variously arrived at The Quadrant pub, home to The Folklore Rooms where the gig was set to happen.

As soon as I walked into the gig room I was ASTONISHED to find it was UTTERLY RAMMED with people. James had told me that tickets had SOLD OUT but I assumed that meant about 20 people (it may surprise the casual reader to know that SOLD OUT gigs are not something I am hugely familiar with) not the SEVERAL THOUSAND what had crammed into this tiddly upstairs room. It was so full that all night long the body heat of everybody kept setting off the fire alarm!

The idea of the night is that there is COMEDY in the first half and MUSIC in the second which, as James's new and exciting catchphrase put it, means "a jarring shift in tone". I must confess that, as I watched the first half, I was rather worried about how I would get on as people WHOOPED and CHEERED with laughter - I mean, I do sometimes get a LARF but nothing like that, so what was I to do? It brought back memories of playing mixed bills many moons ago at the Edinburgh Fringe and my position as Not A Comedy Act But Not Dour Either leading to CONFUSION and Perplexed Faces in the audience.

However, it all worked really well because a) the other acts in the second half (including James's new band The High Churches being ANNOYINGLY GOOD for a first performance) did all the hard work getting people round and b) it turns out that a big chunk of the audience were from The Brighton Folk Choir who were quite happy to switch from one to the other and, INDEED, join in if they could.

Thus it was a rather more RELAXED version of me who went on and done THIS:

  • Fire Drill
  • I Did A Gig In New York
  • Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • I'd already been planning to give Fire Drill its DEBUT in the Live Arena, but as you can imagine I was VERY excited to have it available to me due to the BODY HEAT-induced fire alarms that kept going off. It was also nice to get I Did A Gig In New York out of the cupboard after a little while, and it was ALSO also nice just to do a gig again at all. I LIKED it. A LOT!

    After I'd finished, the evening concluded rather spectacularly with the singing of a Cornish Sailing Song - the reason I know that half the audience was from the folk choir is because they all JOINED IN and it sounded MIGHTY and WONDERFUL!

    After that I had a chat with The Prudens who I had not see for nigh on two decades. It was GRATE to see them, and especially GRATE to be able to go "Oh yes, all my gigs for the past twenty years have definitely been this busy." The evening fully ended with a bunch of us - including International Rock Star (retired) Mr Chris T-T - having a good old YACK and a few beers. It was ACE!

    The next day myself and The Chips With My Mushy Peas and I had a delightful SEASIDE day. We went down to the seafront and had a good old walk back and forth in gorgeous sunshine and then, on the advice of the aforesaid Mr T-T, popped into No Catch for some Vegan Fish And Chips. It was very nice, although WEIRDLY I then spent the rest of the day paranoid that I had somehow eaten FISHBONES. My conscious BRANE kept saying "No, Vegan Pretend Cod does not have bones in it" but an ANCIENT MEMORY from when we used to have fish and chips as kids had been awoken, so I guess that shows how much they'd got the taste right!

    It was a rather wonderful CODA to an actually really lovely trip. Gigs are GRATE!

    posted 12/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Book Is Here!
    Yesterday morning there was the sound of tinkling academic sleigh-bells, the gentle rush of scholarly snow on the breeze, and a general feeling of faculty festivity in the air, for LO! Santa Academic Books was on his way!

    There was also then a knock on the door, because Santa Academic Books had delegated this particular stop-off to one of the elves who work at the Royal Mail. I didn't mind this subsitution as either way it meant that a box full of BOOKS had arrived. MY books!

    Normally by "MY" books I mean books what I have bought, but here it means books what I have WRITTEN, as it was a delivery of my COMP copies of Data and Doctor Doom: An Empirical Approach To Transmedia Characters, which I am fairly certain I may have briefly mentioned recently. As AUTHOR I get six "complimentary" copies (they all said they liked my haircut HO HO) and this was they.

    The journey to get to this point has been LONG and, towards the end, slightly FRAUGHT with issues of PROOFING so I was a little trepidatious about getting and actual book out to look at, but when I did I was AWED by its IMMENSE BEAUTY. If you don't believe me here is a picture to prove it:

    It is even MORE GORGEOUS inside. It did take me a little while to build up the courage to open one for the above-mentioned reasons of FEAR after all the proofing problems, but once I did COR I was amazed how lovely it looks. I was especially surprised by how COLOURFUL it is - I don't know why, as it was me that chose the pictures and made the MANY MANY GRAPHS, but still I was delighted by how LUXURIOUS it looked. I'm still not brave enough to actually READ it mind you, not least because I have done that about 17,000 times over the past few years.

    It is entirely wonderful to have it though, even without reading it, as it marks not only the climax of about six years of WORK researching and writing it but also an ENTIRE LIFETIME of wanting to have my own book published. And now I DO! I mean, yes, I did release my NOVEL Storm House a few years (and thanks again to everyone who bought it!), but I did that all myself. This one has been through GATEKEEPERS and PEER REVIEWERS and is (theoretically anyway) available in SHOPS!

    It is thus a very happy Hibbett who sits and GAZES upon this wondrous object, which is finally actually a REAL THING. I suppose at some point I've got to go out and try to persuade people, or more realistically University libraries, to buy it, but for now I think I'm going to just sit and LOOK at it for a bit longer. It is GRATE!

    posted 12/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    It's Release Day! Week!
    Ring the bells, sound the horns, and unleash the killer robots, for LO! it is a time of GRATE celebration because my much-mentioned BOOK, Data and Doctor Doom: An Empirical Approach To Transmedia Characters is finally, properly, in real life and actually, PUBLISHED!

    It was officially published a few days ago, in fact, and I got official notification of this from the publishers on Tuesday. That in itself was a bit of a relief as the day before I'd replied to an email asking me for my bank details so that they could PAY me, and a small part of me wondered if it could have been some incredibly niche SCAM, with crimelords targetting unwitting Academic Authors. So far this has not been proven to be the case, but I am on my guard.

    Apart from that worry I have been in a slight DAZE about the whole thing, as it doesn't quite seem realy. I guess this will change when I eventually get an actual proper physical COPY of it, but for now I have the above weblink and a PDF, which is very nice but not hugely dissimilar to various versions I've had for the past few months.

    In many respects it is thus HUGELY SIMILAR to an old-fashioned ALBUM Release Day, as that is also the culmination of months - YEARS - of effort, including the same sort of struggles with gatekeeprs and especially production companies, only to end with the vague feeling that Something Has Happened. It's also similar to Album Release Day because I've been sending out a SLEW of emails to tell people about it, to which LOVELY replies have been accrued. That bit's been very nice!

    On top of that there's also an air of WAITING. When an album or similar comes out there's hopefully a gradual trickle of people playing it on the radio and people buying it online, followed (if the ROCK ADMIN has been carried out properly) by some GIGS. For the BOOK it is kind of the same, with the online book launch next month (register now!) but not so much SALE$ as a) that part is nothing to do with me and b) it's likely to be only libraries actually BUYING it at the moment, and it will take WEEKS if not longer for them to start doing it. Any REVIEWS will also take AGES, as people will need to sit and READ it!

    I'm trying to continue this comparison further by trying to get some PUBLICITY going, with facebook posts and trying to get some COVERAGE, and if there's anybody out there reading this who EITHER would like to talk to me about it on their podcast/website/network television spectacular OR knows a contact in same who MIGHT, then do please let me know. It's taken me about seven years to get to this point, and I'd like to have a good old go at getting people to actually READ it now it's finished!

    posted 7/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Watching old Doctors Who
    This week I have somehow found myself watching some OLD Doctors Who. I am not sure how it happened.

    All right, I am pretty sure I DO know and, as ever, it is largely down to Mr RT Davies, who UNLEASHED the whole lot of it on the iPlayer a while ago and then LURED in those of us with weak resolve by also adding EDITED versions. This was a dirty rotten trick because it turns out that cutting out about 60% of old Doctors Who makes it a LOT easier to watch here in Modern Tymes. Some OAFS might say that there is some old Doctors Who that would benefit from cutting about 100% but I DISCARD them.

    INDEED to my surprise I Quite Enjoyed some of them - Patrick Troughton, it turns out, is dead good - so was already WEAKENED to the prospect of watching more. However, it was only when a Work Colleague revealed that he had been watching some of the Peter Davison era that I thought "Why not give it a go eh?"

    Now, I must admit that this was not my first DELVE into the archive. Several years ago I watched a great big WODGE of Sylvester McCoy on the archaic DVD format - this was almost entirely because I had been given Mr Andrew Cartmel as my MENTOR on my MA course and, in preparation for meeting him, I thought it would be good to GEN UP. As it turns out he did NOT spend an awful lot of time mentioning aspects of his MASTERPLAN nor casually name-dropping cast members (although he did a tiny bit and it was AMAZING), preferring instead to be an all-round TOP MENTOR and also to give me GRATE ideas, also GRADES (HOORAH for him!). However, watching the McCoy era on DVD did make me realise how BRILLIANT it was ... so long as you squinted a bit.

    What I mean by "squinting" is that you have to narrow your MENTAL EYES a bit and try and see the show as it was MEANT to turn out, not how it DID. If you concentrate you can see that the script writers (and aforementioned script editor) had some AMAZING ideas, and that (most of) the actors and (most of) the designers were trying REALLY REALLY HARD to make something good. Unfortunately they were THWARTED by a budget of 2p per episode, the insistence of the BBC to light everything as if it was GOING FOR GOLD, and the need to FILM it at the same SPEED as Going For Gold, so it looks somewhat ROPEY throughout.

    With this all behind me I came to the iPlayer one evening and thought "Oh go on, let's have a look" and after some WANDERING through the aforesaid Archive I fell upon Season 15 i.e. one of the GOOD ONES with Tom Baker in. I have very very vague memories of The Tom Baker era, and indeed one of my earliest memories is of Jon Pertwee turning INTO him in That One With The Spiders, and I'd recently thoroughly enjoyed re-reading the comic strip version of The Star Beast, but I'd never been drawn to re-watch any of his stories.

    Actually, I had re-watched ONE story, and that was "The City Of Death" after a GIG in Middlesbrough many years ago. I was staying at the house of Mr Bob Fischer that evening and when I asked him what was a GOOD old Doctor Who he chose to extract that one from his LIBRARY. I must report, dear friends, that drink had been taken and I was not prepared for quite how INCREDIBLY SLOW the whole thing was. When The Doctor says "Hey Romana, let's go to the other gallery on the other side of Paris" I was expecting them to CUT to the other gallery, and not to have to watch them WALK THE WHOLE FLIPPING WAY across town. It took AGES!

    It was with all of this in mind that I settled myself down to have a go at watching "Horror At Fang Rock", starring T Baker as The Doctor and L Jameson as Leela and CRUMBS it actually was PRETTY GOOD. I mean, yes, the main baddy was a WET BRUSSEL SPROUT but otherwise it was quite tense and interesting and also GOOD FUN. SOme of the acting was a bit rum, but COR Tom Baker is bloody brilliant in it (even though I did keep expecting him to say "RAY BLOODY PURCHASE") and having only a very very hazy idea of the story meant that it was full of surprises.

    BUOYED UP by this I then decided to watch the next one which was "The Invisible Enemy". Some of the acting in this was even rummer and the special effects even rummer still, but it remained good fun and also VERY VERY SILLY INDEED. When the Doctor BIGENERATED at Christmas many Grumpy Old Doctor Who Fans were heard to complain that this was somehow "silly" and "didn't make sense" and "not like proper Doctor Who." In "The Invisible Enemy" there is an episode where The Doctor gets infected with an alien bacteria so they make a temporary CLONE of him and Leela (which takes about 20 seconds and not only has their memories BUT ALSO CLONES OF THEIR CLOTHES). The Cloned Doctor pops out to get a gizmo from the Tardis that then SHRINKS THEM TO MICROSCOPIC SIZE. They then get INJECTED INTO HIS OWN HEAD where they are chased through his ACTUAL BRANE by Mr Ronson from Grange Hill, including a bit where they stop and watched The Doctor's DREAMS of DORIC COLUMNS. At the end of all THAT the clones get destroyed (leaving behind a knife and a bit of curly hair) and the alien bacteria gets extracted and DE-REDUCED so it is THE SIZE OF A LARGE CHILD and looks like A SPACE PRAWN which is then WHEELED around and put in a booth with some EGGS or SOMETHING to "BREED" and then The Doctor blows it up and steals a DOG.

    It is utterly utterly UTTERLY ridiculous but also FUN. I've now started on "The Image Of Fendahl" where clearly the director said to everyone "Do the stupidest accent you can think of, so long as nobody else is doing anything like it" but a couple said "We are 1970s accents and can only do Drunk Couple At A Golf Club Accent, can we stick with that?" and he reluctantly agreed. MY WORD but you hear that a lot in these old shows - I remember watching "The Children Of The Stone" and EVERYBODY talked in the same hateful BUMPTIOUS manner, as if they were about to give the award for Most Improved Putting and had decided to make a few off the cuff remarks first. It's GHASTLY!

    However, despite all of that, old Doctors Who are extremely MOREISH. Each episode is only about 23 minutes long and about 10% of that is the titles and the last 60 seconds of the previous episode, so they do not take long. I fear I may be in this for the long haul, and it is a very long, and VERY SILLY, haul indeed!

    posted 6/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Echo and Gen V
    I have been watching TWO (2) superhero TV shows of late, which have in some ways EXEMPLIFIED the different approaches such shows tend to take.

    The first of these is "Echo", which to my surprise I really liked. It is one of those "Gritty" and "Realistic" shows, which is a way of saying "Really Quite Violent" without actually doing so. I always find it DERANGED when programmes like this are called "realistic" because they are utterly and entirely NOT. I am very happy to say I have NEVER been in a situation involving gunfire, NINJAS, high-powered kicks to the face or leaping/being thrown off tall buildings, whereas the kind of daft decisions, humorous confusion and awkward interactions you see in supposedly UNREALISTIC shows like "She-Hulk" is pretty much my ACTUAL LIFE.

    I did watch "Jessica Jones" and the first couple of episodes of "Daredevil", for instance, but in the rest of the Netflix Marvel shows passed me by completely, with the general rule being that if I want to spend time with something dour and humourless I can go and read HR policies. THUS it was, as I say, a surprise to find myself really quite enjoying "Echo". Maybe it was the fact that it started with a mighty big chunk of MYSTIC WOO (technical term) that made me think it wasn't ALL going to be people frowning and hitting each other, but once it got going it was Quite Good. I was also RELIEVED to see that they'd actively involved the Choctaw Nation in it, rather than MAKING STUFF UP, and so perhaps that made me relax into it more than I otherwise would. Superhero Comics have a VERY DODGY INDEED history of making non-Christian religions part of origin stories, so knowing this one was at least grounded in the people themselves made me less trepidatious to see it on-screen.

    The only problem remaining was that it was still a show where Very Unpleasant People do Very Unpleasant Things to each other. I usually get turned off these because the shows in question always try to make you sympathise with and applaud characters doing horrible things to innocent bystanders, so here it was ALSO good that the solution to the whole series would not have been out of place in SQUIRREL GIRL i.e. some actual healing, without saying "No no, it was fine that you beat up and murdered all of those people, because you did it all for your own child."

    These issues and FEELINGS are pretty much the OPPOSITE of what I've got out of "Gen V" which, for them who don't know, is a spin-off from "The Boys", the FAMOUSLY violent and messy comic series in which pretty much EVERYONE is a complete arsehole who goes around doing horrible things to EVERYBODY. This big difference here, I think, is that it is all done for LARFS and THE SATIRE. "Gen V" is not quite like that as the main characters are Actually All Right, which feels a bit WEIRD sometimes as the world they exist in is STILL "The Boys" with VERY VERY VERY graphic scenes and MAD uses of super-powers for intensely gory scenes, but once you get used to it it's quite NOVEL to actually care about how they get on, and it makes the EXPLOSIONS OF GORE more unexpected.

    It also remains ACTUALLY FUNNY, which is weird for a show where everyone seems to spend half their time covered in other people's blood. It is in fact a very 2000AD way of doing this sort of thing, which I guess isn't surprising because the original writer Garth Ennis did lots of his early work there, but it's still nice to see that it has made it across into another media intact and THEN into a spin-off too.

    Maybe the biggest TAKEAWAY from all of this is that there ARE two such different superhero series a) on at the same time b) being GOOD, especially in what must be at LEAST the tenth year of every Media Twit Everywhere telling us that "Superhero Fatigue" has set in and nobody wants to watch them anymore. This is ALWAYS said because the aforementioned Media Twits think we should be watching either Boring Documentaries, Dreary Dramas About Posh People OR Yet Another Gangster Film, but it's still good to know that good, honest, plucky artisans like (checks notes) Disney and Amazon are still carrying on with the genre. More power to them I say, and also another series of both please!

    posted 1/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Newsletter Day
    Today is, FINALLY, the last working day of a very long January which means it is also time for our newsletter The Last Working Day Of The Month to be UNLEASHED upon a waiting world.

    This month's edition is FACT-PACKED as ever, including the thrilling news that my gig in BRIGHTON next week is now SOLD OUT!! I was astonished to hear this, not least because my gigs in Brighton are often pretty much the OPPOSITE of SOLD OUT, although usually they are not under the Promotional Auspices of Mr J Walsh, who has clearly done a GRATE job. I am now redoubling my PRACTICING to ensure an excellent show for the waiting (I assume) THOUSANDS.

    However, the main aspect of the newsletter that I wanted to draw people's attention to was the formal announcement of the online book launch for my book Data and Doctor Doom. The event is happening at 7pm on Tuesday March 19 on TEAMS (because I know how to work TEAMS) and will be a) FREE b) DELIGHTFUL. It's going to be a DISCUSSION between myself and all-round Comics Studies LEGEND Professor Roger Sabin. I am RIGHT looking forward to it as it will be a chance to BANG ON FOR AGES... I mean, DISSEMINATE MY RESEARCH, and am hopeful a few people will come - I mean, it appears that these days my gigs are SELLING OUT so I guess I should just ASSUME that MILLIONS will come, but just in case it would be lovely if anyone interested could register please. I promise to shut up after about an hour of it!

    posted 31/1/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Winter Lights, The Wembley Years
    Last week myself and The Bulb In My Lamp went to London's fashionable Canary Wharf district of London to see yet more ART.

    The ART we was going to look at was the annual Canary Wharf Winter Lights festival, where they put up light-based artworks all around the ESTATE like one of those Art Walking Tours that you get but at NIGHT. It is usually dead good and so we have gone MANY times over the years, and this time it was similarly ACE but also SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT.

    The difference was like going to see a BAND who you used to watch in a tiny pub years ago, but who have now gone on to be HUGELY POPULAR and are playing in MEGADOMES. When we first went to see The Winter Lights there was hardly anybody else about and no directions, so part of the fun was trekking around with the map trying to find them. This time there were THOUSANDS of people following a very clearly defined ROUTE, with big signs everywhere telling you where to go next and security staff telling you when, and when not, to cross the road on the way. To be perfectly honest, I really LIKE the ORIENTEERING bit and felt like it had lost a bit of FUN being so hugely organised like this, but even a KING OF INDIE like me had to admit that it did mean you could actually FIND everything.

    Also, the artworks in the past have sometimes been a bit VARIABLE. One of my constant notes of complaint in previous years has been that some of them were PIDDLY and better suited to a small gallery than standing out in the night, but this time around the exhibits were VAST and worked extremely well with crowds of people milling about GAZING upon them. The ones that were still Not So Big had been put inside in the Crossrail Place Rooftop Garden, so that all worked pretty well too.

    SIDEBAR: isn't it nice that the Crossrail Place is called CROSSRAIL Place? It's like one of those ancient signs that refer to a long-lost river, or a bus stop named after a pub that isn't there any more. In the space year 2124 I expect TOUR GUIDES to be explaining to FLOATING BRANE CHILDREN that it's named after the working title for the Elizabeth Line. They will probably then ask what THAT is, and have a lengthy lecture about what it was like before everyone ASCENDED TO A HIGHER PLANE, MAN.

    Anyway, putting my MANICS FAN quibbles about the growth of the festival aside it was a lovely evening out, and the EFFICIENCY of the whole thing meant we raced around without getting COLD. It also must still have been PRETTY GROOVY because a) we were there and b) so was Internet Pioneer Dave Green, who it was delightful to see on the way round. We even got to go to MALLOW for our tea afterwards, it was GRATE!

    posted 26/1/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Deep Political Football Analogy
    I have not been going on about The Football on the blog here of late, but rest assured I am still GOING and this season very much ENJOYING the antics of Peterborough United. Indeed, things have been pretty GRATE lately, in that we have not only been WINNING but also Playing Quite Well, two things that do not always go together or, INDEED, sometimes happen AT ALL.

    Of course, there were NAYSAYERS at the end of last season who foolishly doubted the club's assertion that they wanted a Fresh Young Squad. Some even claimed that they were just selling off the older players for CA$H and buying in cheap youngsters, but I for one never had any doubts and anyone who says otherwise is just making it up and almost definitely doesn't have it in writing.

    The most noticeable thing about this season's bunch of players - apart from the aforemented fact that they actually sometimes WIN games - is that they do a lot of Passing It Around. This may not seem unusual to people who watch The Premier League as Passing It Around would appear to be one of the basic requirements of any football team, but it turns out that you actually need a bit of SKILL to do this properly, especially when some LOUTISH opponents try to rudely get in the way. THUS below the Championship this practice has a tendency to go Very Badly Wrong Indeed, as players kick it to totally the wrong place so that the other team gets the ball instead. It's fine, because the other them usually cock it up themselves almost immediately, but does lead to Terrible Problems if your team ever has to play someone vaguely better.

    THUS long-term supporters like what I am have become used to the proud tradition of HOOFING, where a player simply HOOFS the ball as far as it will go and everyone runs after it. It is a NOBLE craft which I have come to appreciate, so when our lot first began this new-fangled Passing It Around I found it put my nerves on edge. "HOOF IT!" I would shout, but luckily for all concerned they did not take my advice - although I'm sure that, AS EVER, they went back at half-time and reported my views to the manager, who will have taken them into due consideration before deciding to stick to his original plan. It is a good thing he did, for LO! it actually seems to work!

    The only problem remaining is that it can be a bit frustrating to watch your team just Passing It Around between themselves for ten minutes at a time. After years of HOOFING you begin to YEARN for someone to just whack it in the vague direction of the goal, in the hope that some lone MAVERICK will have managed NOT to be offside and then have a go at scoring a goal. In olden tymes this was joyous and delightful when it worked, but the problem was that it almost never did, especially in the vast majority of my lifetime when Ivan Toney wasn't playing for us. However, it turns out that Passing It Around works VERY MUCH INDEED to the extent that we are currently in the automatic play-off places and look to be in with a chance of staying there.

    The reasons I mention all of this here in such excessive detail are twofold. Firstly, it is nice to have the chance to SHOW OFF about us winning for once, and secondly because it reminded my somewhat of the currect political situation, where most of us see Kier Starmer on telly being Sensible and A Bit Dull and Not Really Saying Much, and everybody sits at home shouting "BE RADICAL!" or "SAY RICH PEOPLE ARE AWFUL!" or whatever because it would be a lot more exciting to watch. However, as we know from past experience, this almost invariably goes horribly wrong and they end up losing 3-0 to the bloody Tories again, whereas doing it THIS way seems (so far) to actually be working.

    Having said THAT, however, I note with interest that the a) much beloved b) successful c) radical manager Mr J Klopp has just announced he'll be leaving Liverpool at the end of this season, COINCIDENTALLY just before we (FINALLY) have a General Election. Coincidence? Or harbinger of the J KLOPP FANCLUB becoming a political party? If so, bring me my laser surgery and teeth whitener and SIGN ME UP!

    posted 26/1/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Looking At Some Drawings
    At the weekend myself and The Ratings Of My Ebay Account went to The British Museum to see not one, not two, but FOUR art exhibitions. Yes, we ARE dead fancy! These were all taking place in Room 90, which is the big room at the top where they show items from their collection of DRAWINGS and similar. We go there a lot because it is GRATE, and this time was no exception.

    The first exhibition - Superb line: prints and drawings from Genoa 1500–1800 - was (SPOILERS) my favourite. As the name suggests it was SUPERB, featuring a TONNE of GORGEOUS drawings which we got thoroughly ABSORBED in. Whenever I see these sort of RENAISSANCE SKETCHES (which I do a lot of due to the above mentioned being dead fancy) I am always STRUCK by how much they look like pencils for COMICS, full of exciting dynamism and also loads of them hashed lines what they all do. What I am saying is that it was DEAD good and my only worry was that the rest of the exhibitions would be a bit rubbish in comparison.

    My FEARS were endorsed by the next one - Gesture and line: four post-war German and Austrian artists - which was... well, it was exactly what it says. The BM (as we cool kids call it) tends to follow the MUSEUM RULE of putting something Not Hugely Helpful as the MAIN part of the title of the exhibition, but with a second part that actually describes what it's about, and they are generally pretty good at it. Anyway, after the FAB drawings we'd just looked at this one felt a bit like an Exhibition By Your College Art Lecturers. It was All Right, and if they were in the pub round the corner afterwards you'd be nice to them, but hey, it wasn't THE RENAISSANCE.

    After that, however, things picked up again with The genius of nature: botanical drawings by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (see previous remarks RE: titles). This was a very short selection of pages from a BOOK what someone had made for a LADY in the sixteenth century of various fruit, veg, and animals and it was LOVELY. When I think of MEDIEVAL DRAWINGS (as I so often do) I usually think of stuff like the drawings on the front of PAMPHLETS with very basic images and big thick lines but these were like something out of a TEXTBOOK or LADYBIRD BOOK, and were amazingly GLOWING with colour all these centuries later.

    Finally we had Ed Ruscha: roads and insects which I initially TUTTED at as the first few pictures were of some IMAGINARY ROADS what he had drawn. "HARRUMPH!" I harrumphed, but the second half of this similarly BRIEF batch of ARTWORKS was some FANTASTIC drawings of whole bunchs of INSECTS crawling across the page. It doesn't sound that amazing described like that, but there was something about them that made you just SMILE at all the LIFE going on in them, also the way he'd made it look so REAL but also quite comical and cartoony. There's a picture on the Exhibition site which conveys it a BIT but in real life it's much more FUN. I retracted my HARRUMPH with immediate effect.

    Basically it was DEAD GOOD and if you're nearby I'd thoroughly recommend popping in. The insects and fruit ones close this weekend, but the others are up for a while yet and, as stated, there is always something worth seeing there, and it's also very much FREE so you can't lose!

    posted 25/1/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Why Aren't We Talking About The Beano?
    After banging on the other day about all the books and articles that I've had to PROOF lately I can at least let you know about one of the above that has not only been PROOFED but also actively PUBLISHED!

    This is my article Why Aren't We Talking ABout The Beano? what was published last week in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. If you have access to Taylor and Francis publications (i.e. if you work at a University or similar organisation OR are an Eccentric Billionaire who enjoys reading academic papers) you can read it on the journal site, but if NOT there is also an Open Access version available to download from UAL's research repository. It is the same TEXT either way, but the "official" one looks slightly fancier!

    The article is based on a presentation I did at the IGNCC conference in Cambridge during the summer, about the fact that Comics Studies deliberately avoids even mentioning The Beano (and The Dandy, Buster, Whizzer & Chips etc etc). Not only does it PROVE this fact (with STATS!) but then goes on to give some reasons why this might be before concluding with a call to actually do something about it.

    I tried to write it in a fairly straightforward, not wantonly academical way that doesn't require HOMEWORK (something which I fear cannot be said of my BOOK!) because it's about something that I think is Quite Important and so would benefit from Wider Reading. The Beano is a huge part of our national identity and after 85 years of publication it has touched the lives of most people in the UK, so I think it's deserving of investigation. The same applies for all aspects of popular culture really - we seem to spend most of our time discussing works or art that very few of us ever engage with rather than the ones that have had a direct impact on millions of people's lives. I have a dark suspicion that this is to do with CLASS and that "popular" things are deemed unworthy by the posh people who rule our lives, but even saying that out load sounds KRAZY, right?

    I reckon it's worth a read anyway - as you can probably gather I am quite PROUD of it and would very much like it to be READ, so do please have a look if you can!

    posted 24/1/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Just Joans At The Lexington (again)
    Last weekend I went out to a GIG! An actual gig! "Gosh", you are probably thinking, "I wonder what gig it was? Probably something really underground and obscure that challenged the very boundaries of 'music' and definitely not a band he's seen HUNDREDS of times."


    All right, it was The Just Joans who I went to watch, for their now SURELY TRADITIONAL annual spot at The Winter Sprinter at the Lexington. Spoilers: it was LOVELY.

    I'd had quite a busy day ALREADY before arriving, as I'd been to leafy CHARLTON earlier in the day to see the mighty Peterborough United continue their radical new plan of WINNING games, and then to meet Mr S Hewitt for some FINE DINING before heading up the hill to The Lexington. When we went in we IMMEDIATELY bumped into PALS, notably Mr J Osborne and Mr R Kirkham, and there followed some delightful yacking away to people like it was the early 2010s or something when we used to do this sort of thing all the time.

    Sadly that meant I didn't go upstairs until the other bands had finished but, after pausing for the DEFIITELY TRADITIONAL quick hello to Mr J Jervis on the merch stand, we settled ourselves in for what turned out to be a FLIPPING BRILLIANT gig. This year "The Joans" as we cool people possibly call them were in full band formation and as such were SURPRISINGLY FUNKY, although I don't know why I say "surprisingly" as they are like that pretty much every time I see them that way. I guess it's that you don't expect people who sing songs of SARDONIC MISERABLISM to ROCK OUT quite so much, and yet they continue to do so.

    As ever they played THE HITS, and as ever they did them at the end with everyone singing along which I feel is the CORRECT way to do such things. There were also quite a lot of new songs too which sounded FAB, and it was also noticeable that Katie seems to be a) singing a lot more of them b) BELTING them out rather excellently and c) doing more of the Between Song Chat. It was GRATE!

    Afterwards we milled around chatting to yet more chums, some of whom I hadn't seen for YEARS, before heading downstairs to find myself in a SCENE FROM HECK. The Lexington has a club night upstairs straight after the gigs on Saturday, so the downstairs was PACKED with a room full of Indie Types who'd just come out of the gig and also a room full of Other Types who were waiting to go into what I assumed to be a DREADFULNESS-THEMED DISCO upstairs. Mathematicians will note that that is TWO rooms full squashed into one room, so I decided to end on a high note and just go home.

    It was a VERY high note though, as the gig has been ACE. I look forward to doing exactly the same next year!

    posted 23/1/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Problematic Proofing
    You find me today up to my EYEBALLS in PROOFS. Not proofs of POLITICAL CORRUPTION nor of SPACE LIZARD CONSPIRACIES, but - even more excitingly - of Academical Research.

    For LO! After spending a good chunk of last year WRITING various books, book chapters and articles I have spent the last couple of months PROOF-READING a whole heap of them. I would say that this was the main reason that I haven't done much blogging of late, but I must admit I have also been investing time in Christmas, Watching Telly and also Peterborough United!

    However, it is true to say that re-reading and correcting this stuff has taken a LOT of effort and time. This was especially the case for the BOOK of my PhD, which has been a TORTUROUS process. It had already taken many YEARS to get it done - not just doing the actual PhD itself, but then re-jigging it for the book, then re-re-jigging it and writing a whole new CHUNK after the peer-reviews, then doing various re-writes myself to get it sparkly and ready to roll. After that though I thought it would all be plain sailing. All that was required was for it to be typeset and then for me to have a quick glance over to make sure it all looked OK and then we were AWAY for publication and plaudits.

    That is NOT what happened. The proofs came back to me in December and almost immediately I realised something had gone Very Wrong Indeed. The first chapter I read through was suddenly LITTERED with commas, as if the old spellchecker from Windows 3.1 had made a ton of "suggestions" and someone had just clicked "ACCEPT ALL". To begin with I thought it was just Publication style, so that for instance any sentence that started with e.g. "Thus I went and did something clever" would be changed to "Thus, I went and did something clever" which ALL RIGHT I suppose I could handle but then EVERY opportunity for a comma was used so that, it sounded, like, it was, being, written by, someone, completely out of, breath. The most EGREGIOUS example was when a sentence was changed from "Later chapters will show (something dead clever)" to "Later, chapters will show (something dead clever)" which makes it sound DERANGED.

    I spent a couple of FURIOUS days going through like this, coming to HATE this OPUS what I had wrote before deciding to just GIVE UP and ask them to have another go. It took me a while to get to this point because I had heard stories of people having to deal with similar issues, but eventually I realised that this was WAY more than usual - it helped that I had also had proofs for a book chapter too the same week which was LOADS better, so I knew this wasn't normal.

    Happily for me the publishers were fine with it and the proof-reading company DID have another go so that I was eventually able to get the latest version sent off a couple of weeks ago. All of this means publication has been delayed, probably until early March now, but it's at least back in progress. When it finally DOES come out though I shall be PANICKING about any errors that I still missed, even after all these goes!

    posted 18/1/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Marvels
    On Monday night I went to see two entirely different films at the same time. One was a disappointing box office flop that heralded the end of a massive franchise, the other was one of the most successful films of the year and exciting and fun and PROPER. And guess what chums? THEY WERE THE SAME FILM!

    For LO! I went with my Oldest Pal and Going To See Marvel Films Buddy Mr S Carter to see "The Marvels" and it was GRATE! There were a couple of bits that weren't quite as exciting as the other bits, but overall it was VERY FUNNY and full of GRATE characters and EXCITEMENT and STAKES and also just the right amount of links to other Marvel films that made those among us who are Massive Marvel Geeks (in this case 100% of us) very happy without bogging the whole thing down. Best of all it was less than two hours long i.e. THE CORRECT LENGTH FOR ALL FILMS. Also best of all, it had a musical bit, excellent CATS, and Iman Vellani being BRILLIANT throughout.

    However, all of the press about the film has been massively negative, claiming that it is a FAILURE despite the fact that it remains one of the best selling movies of the year, with a MUCH bigger audience than other supposedly successful films like Napoleon or the latest film in the Martin Scorcese Gangsterverse. And as I say, it is also FAB film. So how can this apparent anomaly EXIST?

    Call me KRAZY but I think there are TWO (2) factors at work here. The first one is possibly the worst i.e. a combination of SEXISM and RACISM. For some stupid reason there is a hardcore of superhero "fans" who HATE the idea that WOMEN can be in superhero movies or indeed that people of colour can be, as if these two audiences have not been part of comics ever since the start. THUS a film with THREE women in the lead roles, two being women of colour, and a director who is ALSO a woman of colour is enough to drive them NUTS, claiming all the while that OF COURSE their rabid dislike is nothing to do with any of this and what they're ACTUALLY complaining about is "diversity" being used to replace previous characters with the same name. For instance, the fact that Carol Danvers is called "Captain Marvel" is a terrible thing because Marvel ALREADY had a character called Captain Marvel, and the existence of another ENTIRELY MORE FAMOUS character at Fawcett with exactly that name for several decades before is neither here nor there.

    The other factor is MASSIVE GENRE SNOBBERY from the type of people who have been saying "Audiences are beginning to tire of superhero films" ever since IRON MAN 2. To them the fact that "The Marvels" had a lower opening than other recent Marvel films is entirely due to this prophecy finally coming true and not because JUST FOR INSTANCE it came out right after the end of the Hollywood Strikes and so has not exactly had much time to be hyped up. NO, it is because THE PROLES are finally realising that they didn't actually like superhero movies after all and what they really want is yet another fifteen hour long gangster movie or a year-long epic about A FAMOUS WHITE MAN written and directed by another FAMOUS WHITE MAN.

    Obviously I am BIASED in favour of Superhero Movies and want them to keep being successful so I can keep going to see them, but that doesn't mean I think they're all good - "Eternals" was a load of old rubbish, for instance, and "Black Adam" was an offence to THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE, second only to "Sex Lives Of The Potato Men" in the list of Worst Films I Have Ever Seen At The Pictures - and it certainly doesn't mean they're the only type of film I ever want to see. Also, I am fully aware that Films I Like are not necessarily the same as Films Other People Like. However, the way this particular film has been reviewed and anti-hyped does seem to be particularly EGREGIOUS and an example of two unpleasant factors in our current cultural discourse coming together to AGREE with each other in a manner that Quite Frankly I do not like.

    So I say unto you this, gentle friends: if you get a chance do go and see "The Marvels" as it is DEAD GOOD. And also, although you may have been SPOILED for the mid-credits scene, there is more super-geeky stuff to it than I had realised before going in, and they ALSO do one of the best mid-credits scenes EVER before the credits even begin. It is FAB and I recommend it to you!

    posted 6/12/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    New look/Old story
    I was intending to explain the NEW LOOK for the website today, but then Shane McGowan passed away so before that I think I am duty bound to share this VIDEO of me explaining how The Validators briefly met him (and Nick Cave) whilst on TOUR some years ago:

    This story is entirely true from start to finish, including the FACT that both Shane McGowan and Nick Cave left before we went on - the only possible explanation for this is that they were NOT READY for the INTENSE ROCK we threatened and so went home to bed. THUS we stayed out later than both of them COMBINED! Also, Emma still has his sunglassess!

    Now that solemn duty has been completed, a quick explanation of the website redesign. Part of the reason is that I've been meaning to make it slightly more ACCESSIBLE and easier to read on a phone for a while, so have tried to follow GUIDELINES to do so. However the MAIN reason is that I'm putting in an application for an Arts Council grant. I'll tell you the details when I find out whether I GET it or not, but the salient point right now is that the application needed an ARTIST'S WEBSITE. Obviously this IS that, but the header "MJ Hibbett & The Validators" makes it look more BAND-Y, whereas the application talks about the band stuff I've done AND the Steve stuff AND solo things AND Academical Publications, so I did a minor RE-BRANDING to make it reflect all that properly.

    I mention this so regular readers are aware that The Validators have not been CANCELLED, nor has Steve been deemed insufficiently WOKE, and that everything is still exactly where it always was. The only person who really suffers in this re-design is ME, really, as it's made the site much more ALL ABOUT ME which, as anyone who knows me will realise, is not the sort of thing I like AT ALL. But I will bear it, for the cause of ART!

    posted 30/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    How We Used To Publish
    You find me up to my NECK in Academical Activities this week, although this is at least an improvement over the past few months when I have been up to my very EYEBALLS in it. It's almost as if all academics set the same DEADLINES i.e. a week or two before they finish teaching for the year.

    In order to avoid DEADLINE DOOM I have been following a radical and revolutionary plan i.e. I started doing things EARLY so I'd have plenty of time to get them done in. This has been GRATE in that it means I've been able to get a whole load of things sent off without MASS PANIC and ALL-NIGHTERS, but also a bit fatiguing in that it feels like there is a never ending procession of STUFF to write. Still, I am now down to one (1) grant bid, one (1) article to re-write and one (1) book to proof read before Christmas. NOTHING CAN GO WRONG!

    The aforesaid article is my first one in an PRINT journal for about twenty years, and it has made me think about how very far it has all come since those days of glory spent co-writing (NB usually spellchecking) STATS articles at the University of Leicester. These days if you want to read an article or a book or whatnot it is DEAD EASY, especially if you WORK at a University because you can just go into your library systems and order something or indeed just GET it online. For example, the re-writes for this particular article involve getting references from another book and article, and so on Monday I went downstairs from my desk (NB in the office, sadly there is not a library in my building - WHICH IS WRONG), wandered along a book shelf and GOT the book, then went online and DOWNLOADED the article. It was peasy!

    Things were VERY different back in the previous century, when access to articles was a PRIZED TREAT. I vividly remember my first proper job as Administrative Assistant in Psychiatry for the Elderly at Leicester General Hospital, where one of my Daily Duties was to open deliveries of new journals and stack them on the massive bookshelf in the entrance hall. We used to get LOADS of journals, including one that always had HIDEOUS and GRAPHIC images of some awful GENITAL INFECTION on the cover, but mainly standard ones like the BMJ. The shelf was handily and deliberately placed opposite the entrance to the LOO so people were forever wandering over to get something to READ whilst on the lav. My desk faced the shelf so I would look JUDGEMENTAL at those who chose THE ANNALS OF GENITAL INFECTION.

    Then as now, research departments in medicine wrote a LOT of papers with a LOT of authors on them. If you could get one or more Famous Professors to be a co-author it would help get you published in a fancy journal, so my aforesaid boss was involved in LOADS. That meant that having access to previous research was important, but sometimes it was really hard to get hold of. We didn't have the interweb AT ALL back then - when I started we were still using black and white monitors! - so the only way to GET stuff was to write a LETTER to the person who wrote it, asking for a copy!

    I was thinking about that all of a sudden the other night because my brain went "HEY! If I have an article in a print journal maybe they'll send me FIVE COPIES of the article!" I can't remember what these were called, but it was a whole THING when the journal used to send the lead author five (i think it was five anyway) copies of their article as a special little leaflet so that they could send it to people who asked. It was my job to reply to these article requests, enclosed the paper with a pre-printed University of Leicester compliment slip, and also to monitor how many we had left - POPULAR ones would run out really quickly and I'd need to make a trip down the corridor to the photocopier under the stairs to do some more.

    It's weird that all of those memories should suddenly come dashing back, but CRUMBS it doesn't half make me appreciate how much EASIER all of this sort of thing is nowadays. If I'd had to write off for every article I needed for my PhD I would have been RUINED by the cost of stamps!

    posted 28/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Doctor Who Unleashed
    Like pretty much everyone of my ILK and TYPE I have spent the past year getting Quite Excited about the new series of Doctor Who. Most of the general TV and media focus has been on David Tennant coming back but I was more thrilled at the idea of The Great And Wonderful RTD returning, although when I actually WATCHED the show (diligently un-spoilered slightly later on Saturday evening) it took me a while to get back into his particular style of Doctor Who i.e. him going "HERE IS THE MESSAGE EVERYONE! AHA!"

    However, once I had accepted that that is actually part of the GRATE JOY of any RTD show I settled in and enjoyed it very much indeed. INDEED my views on how it worked can be summed up in this excellent comment made by Mr T Ewing on The Socials, which I shall quote in full:
    I don’t think I’d really anticipated what a good fit RTD adapting Pat Mills would be - both enormously vibes-driven writers (in my day we called it thrill power) with big subtext-is-for-cowards agendas behind that.

    That is SUCH a PERCEPTIVE and CORRECT thing to say that I have now been thinking about it for two whole days, gazing at it in wonder!

    The actual EPISODE, however, is not the reason for which I write this here blog, OH NO. What I wish to speak of instead is "Doctor Who Unleashed" what came afterwards. This is the new version of "Doctor Who Confidential" where they talk about aspects of the making of the show, except as far as I can remember that previous version did not have a Larky Presenter doing the presenting as if Everything Is Just A Terrific Laugh. I know it marks me out as someone in LATE YOUTH but my goodness, why does everything have to have some tedious twerp of a comedian or comedian-alternative in it these days, pretending a) not to be as posh as they patently are b) making a virtue of being HALF-ARSED about everything.

    This half-arsedness was especially noticeable when they talked about the ROOTS of this particular episode i.e. in the Doctor Who Comic story done by Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons over 40 years ago. I was VERY happy to see this being discussed, but ANNOYED by the extremely half-arsed description that said "Pat and Dave wrote the original Star Beast..." NO! Pat wrote it, Dave drew it FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE. Also there was a list of stories they had "written", and these "stories" included "Judge Dredd" AND "2000AD". UM. That's not quite right is it? It was ALMOST AS IF they could not be BOTHERED to spend 0.2 picoseconds actually checking it and getting it CORRECT because - hey guys! - being half-arsed and feckless is NATURALLY HILARIOUS.

    ANYWAY. This colossal GRUMP was then COMPLETELY DISPELLED by the WONDERFUL thing that happened next, as we saw Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons visiting the set to see what had been done with their original creation. They were both a bit overwhelmed, with Dave Gibbons talking a LOT and Pat Mills WEIRDLY SILENCED, which is something I would not have thought possible. He is KNOWN as being AN FIREBRAND but here he seemed to be lost for words - I mean, maybe they edited out a long speech about THATCHER or something, but he seemed genuinely moved by the whole thing.

    The BEST bit though was when a CLEARLY EXCITED David Tennant came running up, OBVIOUSLY DELIGHTED to meet Pat Mills and David Gibbobns, grinning all over his face and then REELING OFF a COMPLETE and CORRECT list of all the stories they had done in Doctor Who comic that he had loved. It was LOVELY, entirly FULLY-ARSED and also SINCERE and, to be honest, probably how an awful lot of the rest of us would have reacted, given the chance. It completely made up for all the effected casualness that had come before.

    After a couple of minutes David Tennant wafted off back to work, leaving Mills and Gibbons - and also HIBBETT - rather moved by the whole experience. It was lovely - more of this please!

    posted 26/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Social Media Portfolio Expands Again
    There was a time long ago when getting onto a new social media platform was a thing of excitement and thrills, a rare event like getting a new Doctor Who are having a new Prime Minister. These days it feels like an almost daily occurrence, like... well, you get the idea.

    Such thoughts have come to mind because (thanks to an invite from the excellent Mr W Pilkington) I have signed up for Bluesky! "Ooh," I thought as I began to log in, "How is this going to work then eh? What new delights await?" and the answer was the same as it was with Threads, or Mastodon, or Instagram, or whatever else we've gone through in the never ending journey to replace Twitter i.e. that it's always fun spending ten minutes picking PALS to follow, and then it's great the following day when they follow you back, but then... um... it's all sort of like Twitter but with less people. There's also less MAD ADVERTS for things that a) I don't want b) twitter is now actively telling me not to look at, but still - it definitely feels like the glory days of about ten years ago are gone and there is now nothing like Twitter As Was.

    And to be honest, that is FINE with me. I now spend a lot less time of an evening GLOMMING through my twitter feed and a lot MORE time doing wholesome things like reading ACTUAL BOOKS. There was a short period when it felt like Twitter was democratising access to THORTS and IDEAS, when the likes of you and I had as much chance with going VIRAL with something as any celebrity, but that was pretty quickly stamped down on. Weirdly, for one as ROCK AND ROLL and COOL as what I am, I now find that the only SOCIALS I really look at is flipping FACEBOOK, just to see what various PALS are up to.

    Anyway, all of that is to say that if anyone else is on Bluesky do please come and say hello and I will inevitably follow you back so that we can enjoy each other's company for the next fortnight or so until something ELSE radical and exciting turns up that looks almost exactly like Twitter. OR, perhaps, maybe, someone somewhere will FINALLLY listen to THE KIDS and gives us the FUTURISTIC BRANE HOLOGRAMS what we have so long been calling for. Come on Elon, get with it Zucks, give us what we want and if you get a move on we'll even let you advertise shoes that we already own on it! AND BOXES OF VEGETABLES!

    posted 20/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Lion Who Never Roared
    Last night The Beer In My Bottle and I strolled through mythical Maryland to get to The Wanstead Tap, there to watch Mr M Tiller present a talk about his new book The Lion Who Never Roared.

    As we know from STATISTICAL FACTS I have gigged and toured EXTENSIVELY over the years with Matt, and during those times he has a) always been a DELIGHT b) often spoken of the story of Jack Leslie, a legendary Plymouth Argyle player who was called up for England but then suddenly had the call-up denied by the FA once they realised he was black. Telling this story has been a long-term project for Matt, starting off with a SONG but then transmuting into co-founding The Jack Leslie Campaign, which set out to erect a statue outside Argyle's ground and ended up not only doing THAT but - incredibly - managing to get the FA to award an honorary England cap to his family.

    The story of the story has ITSELF been quite an amazing thing, not least because the campaign was trying to put UP a statue recognising racial injustice at a time when other statues of slave owners were being torn DOWN, and this evening was a bit about that, but mostly going into more depth about Jack Leslie's life. I knew the outline of what had happened to him but Matt took us through a FASCINATING pile of details, Painting A Picture of what life was like for him back in the first half of the twentieth century, when he was the only black player in the football league.

    There was also a GRATE bit at the end when he got Jack Leslie's granddaughter up to talk about her Grandad, followed by QUESTIONS which included thoughts about the family, discussion of ongoing racial injustice in sport, and, at the end, an in-depth FOOTBALL STATS discussion because, after all, you cannot have any discussion of football without a massive STATS discussion. Matt handled it all with APLOMB and we were VERY PROUD, especially when a MASSIVE QUEUE formed to get him to sign it - that never happened when we did gigs together!

    queue of people lining up to get Matt Tiller to sign a copy of his book

    The desire to BUY was so strong that they actually sold out of copies before I could get one, although HANDILY it is very much available in All Good Book Stores and indeed direct from the campaign. I would highly recommend it as an ENTHRALLING and also IMPORTANT story what needs telling... and has been!

    posted 17/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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    Grown-Up Conferencing
    Last week I spent a couple of days up in distant LEEDS, there to attend the Comics Forum conference. Short version: it was really good fun and/but felt dead GROWN UP.

    The good fun part is easy to explain because it was a coming together of UK (and a few other) comics scholars to present and talk about COMICS. The Comics Studies community is exceedingly welcoming and full of ENTHUSIASM and VIM so it is always GRATE to be once more among them, especially when I get to do a presentation myself, as I did this time. It was called Three Generations Of Dennis The Menace: How Gok Wan created a new storyworld superpower and was all about how a change to the Dennis The Menace storyworld eleven years ago led to The Beano finally entering the equivalent of The Bronze AGe in US superhero comics. One big chunk of it was some MIND BLOWING revelations about continuity in Beanotown which I trailed rather heavily throughout the talk. SO heavy was this trailering that I started to worry that I might be over-egging it, but the eventual reaction was well worth the wait. If anybody wishes to experience this experience please ask me about it next time you see me in a pub and I will be DELIGHTED to share!

    The grown-up part was partly to do with the FACT that I didn't JUST tit around showing off (although OBVS I did that) but also talked about Proper Things both Comics and REF-based. However it was also to do with the dawning realisation that I was now NO LONGER one of the new young kids who were just getting stuck into their their PhD. When I HAD been in that position lots of lovely people listened to me talk about MY research, so now it was my turn to talk to THEM about what they were up to. This felt GOOD and was also EXTREMELY INTERESTING - people doing Comics Studies PhDs are doing some FASCINATING stuff!

    While I was there I also popped round the corner to the venue that used to be Carpe Diem, a place we had played MANY times back in the day. It was almost entirely different to how it had been back then, with far fewer underage drinkers and fights, but a lot more Street Food and Craft Ales, although weirdly the raised area where the stage had been set up was still in place. It was actually really nice and I went there TWICE for some lovely pizza and some Surprisingly Delicious alcohol free IPA.

    Back at the conference I also had various CONVERSATIONS about the next PROJECT what I am thinking up, which will be based around my BOOK what is coming out next year, which I guess is even MORE grown-up than the rest of it. It was an all-round DELIGHTFUL couple of days anyway, and it's made me PINE for the next one!

    posted 13/11/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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