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A Secret Meeting
Last night I went to a SECRET MEETING! All right, it wasn't hugely secret, and the main reason I don't want to go into TOO much detail at the moment is because I don't want to JINX it, but that doesn't sound quite as exciting as SECRET MEETING does it?

So, this SECRET MEETING took place at the very nice Queen's Head near Kings Cross. I have been there several times and always seem to end up at the table next to the LOO, which is handy for the LOO admittedly but also a bit close to everyone going in and out. I'd actually turned up a bit early so thought I'd be able to NAB somewhere a bit nicer, and when I entered it looked like the pub was pretty much empty, but on closer inspection every other table had ONE person sitting at it, waiting for others to arrive. THE CHEEK.

I was soon joined by my SECRET CO-CONSPIRATORS, one of whom I have done LOADS of collaborations with and the other I have done SOME, but mostly shared bills alongside. Who could they be eh? It is SECRET! We were gathered to discuss an IDEA for a THING we might do later in the year, and the main reason I wanted to mention this at all (apart from it being dead glamorous and intriguing, obvs) is to say how much FUN it was. THORTS and IDEAS flew around the table as we developed a decent idea of how the aforesaid THING would work, what would be IN it, where it would happen, and even how we would work it up and PRACTICE it. The three of us are all VETERANS of doing STUFF, so it was a thing of joy and wonder for us to use our ROCK ADMIN skillz in this way.

We concluded our business with TASKS to complete and things to think about, with a general idea that we would discuss online and then gather properly in the summer months to DEVELOP the thing itself. All being well we will have DATES and VENUES by then, at which point I shall be able to reveal proper details of what it's all about, but all I can say for now is that if it works it will be GRATE! You heard it here - SECRETLY - first!

posted 17/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Today is the launch day for ANOTHER book about superheroes/supervillains and data which features ME banging on about Doctor Doom, for LO! Superheroes and Digital Perspectives: Super data has just been UNLEASHED by Rowan & Littlefield!

The book "examines the intersection of the superhero genre and issues of the internet, data, and digital media to provide not only a posthuman study of the superhero, but also an examination of the ways in which the superhero acts as a lens for our interactions with technology", which I think is all you need to know before running - not walking - to your local interweb connection to buy a copy. It's basically a collection of essays compiled by Sarah Young and Freyja McCreery where various BRANES look at superheroes and data in different ways, with me bringing up the rear with an overview of the METHODOLOGY what I used in Data and Doctor Doom. The postie hasn't turned up with my copy yet, but I am EAGER to get my paws on it, as it looks GRATE!

Like all academic books this one has taken several YEARS to get to this point - I've got two or three other chapters in other books that are at different stages of the process, so apologies in advance if the next year sees a DELUGE of me talking about SUPERHERO DATA in various collections. Over the years I've gotten all excited about various Calls For Papers and for some reason it looks like everything's coming out at around the same time, which to be honest is Quite Good Fun!

I'm off to the letter box now to look out for postie!

posted 15/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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If You've Never Lost At Wembley
On Sunday I travelled across the teeming metropolis of London to distant WEST London for a very important occassion. For LO! I was off to meet PALS for Peterborough United's glorious return to WEMBERLEY!

We were playing in that most prestigious of ALL trophys, The Bristol Street Motors Trophy. Yes, that's right, the trophy that other teams hanker for MOST OF ALL, otherwise known as The EFL Trophy, such is its wonder. Actually, it used to be called The Johnstone's Paint Trophy when we LAST won it ten years ago, and I think this succession of well-known and highly esteemed sponsors tells you exactly how prestigious it is. A LOT.

I met our CREW in Wolfpack, an Actually QUite Nice bar with TAPS aplenty. Originally we'd been meeting in the pub next door, but when the main group arrived they had discovered Peterborough MP Paul F Bristow in situ. Bristow is not what you would call popular in his constituency, although he was one of the Popular MPs who supported the likes of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, so perhaps the two are linked somehow. Anyway, as soon as they saw him they ALMOST IMMEDIATELY turned around and left (after spending 10 minutes not getting served at the bar) in DISGUST. It is in these ways that REVOLUTIONS begin.

We had a delightful couple of hours in Wolfpack trying out some of their fine BEERS before it was time to head off to the TOOB and thence to Wembley Park and the walk to the stadium itself. This bit was DEAD EXCITING as there were literally THOUSANS of Posh and Wycombe Wanderers fans making their way, all in very high spirits. I had been to Wembley THREE times before, once for the aforesaid Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final and twice for League One play-off finals, and there is a different atmosphere for the two, probably because the play-offs decide the entire next year of your football life, and possibly beyond, whereas OBVIOUSLY the GLORY of winning The Bristol Street Motors Trophy lasts FORVER.

There was a very long queue to get in, partly caused by slightly exhaustive SEARCHING but mostly due to people not being used to big stadiums where you have to follow detailed instructions for the correct GATE at a football match. Still, eventually we DID get in and soaked up some a) atmosphere b) BEER before the game. Weirdly I didn't see ANYONE there I knew apart from the aforesaid CREW, but did see HUNDREDS of other people in Posh shirts. I haven't lived in Peterborough for DECADES but I did hope for at least one Person I'd Been To School With But Is Somehow Now Looking Much Older.

We went through to find we had FANTASTIC seats with a FAB view, sorted out for us by a PAL who I shall not name but who done us PROUD. We were dead close to the pitch and it was exciting and WEIRD to watch players you see every couple of weeks at London Road dashing about at ACTUAL WEMBLEY, especially as the game itself was very similar INDEED to what we usually saw i.e. Posh having 99.99% of the possession all the time but never actually seeming to do much with it. The whole game was thus rather FRUSTRATING as for the vast majority of it we had approx 300,000 corners but 0 goals, and the dread prospect of going into EXTRA TIME started to loom. Nobody likes EXTRA TIME even in the most exciting games, and this was not one of those.

Well, it wasn't until the 85th minute when, after the MILLIONTH attack on goal we actually managed to score! There was jumping, there was shouting, and a general joyous feeling of relief across the Fenland end of the stadium... for about three minutes, at which point Wycombe scored to equalise. FLIPPING HECK. Cue further shouting, lots of running around on the pitch, also shots, hoofing, and then yet another corner. "We are rubbish at corners" I muttered, as is my WONT and also RITUAL - my theory is that if I always say that then FATE will try and prove me wrong, and LO! it may not have worked the previous 300,000 times but this time it DID and led to Harrison Burrows scoring a WONDER GOAL in the 92nd minute!

Joy was ALMOST unconfined, as there was then another approx MONTH of added time before the referee FINALLY blew his whistle and it was all over and we had won at Wembley! AGANE! We stood around doing some GRINNING and CHEERING and then turned round to see the presentation of the PRESTIGIOUS TROPHY just above us in the royal box. For some reason there didn't seem to be any Actual Royalty there, which was fine with me as it gave space for a clearly DELIGHTED Barry Fry and then a whole bunch of EXCITED players. It was lovely!

Eventually it was time to go, and we wandered off back to the tube station singing that old folk song "If You've Never Lost At Wembley Clap Your Hands". The way things are looking we might be back in a few weeks for the League One play-offs, so I hope that song continues to ring true!

posted 8/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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A Great Change In The Force
A couple of weeks ago I UNVELIED the cover and title of a new compilation set to be called "Oadby Wan Kenobi". The general IDEA was that it would be a FREE GIFT to celebrate the 200th issue of our newsletter, The Last Working Day Of The Month, what is due to come out next month.

Since then, however, my THORTS have changed - all, I believe, in a GRATE way. What happened was that I started going through the various tracks I'd assembled, re-mastering and occasionally mildly editing some of them, and then working out a running order. Whilst doing that I found myself thinking "Hang on, this is actually pretty good". I mean, OBVIOUSLY this is a) hugely modest of me and b) true of ALL my mighty OUVRE, but I was Quite Surprise by how much I was enjoying listening to these tracks, partly because I hadn't heard some of them for over a DECADE but mostly because the running order was working so nicely with the instrumentals spaced out across the tracklist.

The more I thought about it the more I realised that I'd like to UNLEASH it a bit more widely, so that the tracks could be heard by ALL. Yes yes all right and I also had daydreams of songs like Alan getting onto TIKTOK and millions of wholesome teens working out choreography WHAT OF IT. However, I very quickly realised that there was a big problem with doing this i.e. it was called "Oadby Wan Kenobi" and the cover used an actual picture of Ewan McGregor slapped onto a screenshot off of Google Street View. Quite apart from the fact that I do not want to annoy DISNEY - owners of both Doctor Doom AND Donald Duck - I was pretty sure that emubands, the people who I use to upload my stuff to streaming services, would also have some problems with this.

THUS I made TWO fateful decisions. Firstly I went the whole hog and revised the title to something even DAFTER but less LEGALLY PROBLEMATIC, and secondly I conducted a PHOTO SESSION to prepare the BELOW as the brand new and revised cover for the album which will now be called Oadby Wonky Knobby.

This new version should be UNLEASHED on all streaming services on Tuesday 30 April, which is when the 200th edition of the newsletter will be out, and it will ALSO be available as a Pay What You Want download on our Bandcamp page, so that those in the KNOW can still get it for free. I hope everyone will be DELIGHTED by this new turn of events - I know I certainly am - and I look forward to a) the aforesaid legions of teens "body popping" to Open Top Bus Tour and b) George Lucas getting in touch about a new Disney+ series about someone (ME) trying to Project Manage updates to Empire security systems.

posted 5/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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Unfold at Sunfold
Before our previously mentioned trip to Bournemouth I had had another ADVENTURE last week, heading out WEST to distant Weston-Super-Mare to play at the first day of UNFOLD #6. This was the sixth iteration of Mr Steve Morricone's twice-yearly festival of ROCK that takes place in The Sunfold Hotel, what he and his family run, and it was GRATE!

After a slightly delayed but otherwise Perfectly Acceptable journey WEST I stomped through a very WINDY Weston to find The Sunfold nestling happily right next to the seafront, like an ideal DREAM of what a seaside lodging house should be like. When I got in I found KIT and GEAR being loaded in and Steve dashing around SORTING things - I have known Steve for a LONG old time* in The Krazy World Of ROCK through his membership of The Scaramanga Six and, especially, Being 747, which made it NORMAL to see him ORGANISING things (it reminded me of how he, Paul and Dave had to DASH AROUND like looniez setting up and taking down the Technically Quite Involved set-up for their Edinburgh Fringe shows) but then WEIRD later on when he was checking people into rooms, serving up the (DELICIOUS) buffet, taking drinks orders, and generally being MEIN HOST. He was very very good at it!

Soon it was SHOWTIME and, after a soundcheck with Celebrity Soundman Stuffy From Out Of Stuffy And The Fuses (my SECOND celebrity soundman after being soundchecked by Mr Pete Dale at Going Up The Country some years ago) it was time for me, as first act on, to step forward and do THIS:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • Clubbing In The Week
  • Bad Back
  • Hey Hey 16K
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine
  • The Perfect Love Song
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • I must admit that I was quite NERVOUS at the start, partly because people were still arriving and saying hello to each other and partly because I am so UNUSED to singing through a PA, and I thus made a HORRIBLE mess (not for the first time) of the lyrics to Hey Hey 16K. However, a few songs later I had managed to CALM DOWN a little bit and actually got INTO it, remembering for the MILLIONTH flipping time that, in this situation, it is always better to do a couple of QUIET songs rather than trying to BELLOW your way through. I should write that down somewhere!

    With that all done it was time to further relax, chat to various people (including pals Mr G Jones and Ms E Pemberton), thoroughly enjoy Gurgles, Cowtown and Memorials who were all on after me, and also thoroughly enjoy the BEER that the aforesaid Mein Host was serving up. It was an all-round lovely evening, and certainly the best time I have ever had in the LOUNGE of a bed and breakfast, and also brilliant to see the Morricone brothers again - HOORAH!

    (* later in the evening I asked Mr Paul Morricone, also in attendance, how I DID originally know then. We both puzzled over this for ages without satisfactory answer - I'd seen The Six a couple of times, and we'd palled around quite a bit in Edinburgh, but by then we knew each other anyway. It is a ROCK MYSTERY!)

    posted 3/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Return To Bournemouth
    Last Saturday afternoon myself and The Attractions On My Pier set off for the SEASIDE, for LO! we were heading south to Bournemouth again!

    We'd last been to Bournemouth just over a year ago and liked it a LOT so decided to go all over again. One of the BEST things about this plan was that it was PEASY - we didn't have to catch a pre-designated train (let alone a PLANE) in either direction, and thus could set off whenever we wanted, which is exactly what we did. The aforementioned Cushions On My Seat even UPGRADED us on the way there, which on South Western Trains means sitting in basically a Small Room, like you are in a carriage on a STEAM TRAIN. It was ace!

    We stayed once again in the Holiday Inn, which was a DELIGHT, despite us having multiple issues with towels missing, windows not opening, windows not closing and so forth. This meant we had a similar number of interactions with the staff, who were all a) lovely b) Quite Young, and so it was like being helped by the Just About Grown-Up Children Of Friends. Every time one of them came to the room to MEND something I wanted to tell them a mildly inappropriate story about what their parents had been like at their age.

    On our first full day we headed out to Hengistbury Head for a walk in the gorgeous sunshine. We were not the only ones to have this idea, as pretty much EVERYBODY within ten miles who had a DOG had thought the same. There were LOADS of happy dogs of ALL breeds and, sometimes, of very similar breeds in what appeared to be EITHER a family of people who also had a family of big shaggy dogs OR meet ups of owners. It was a lovely day and we ended up walking all the way back to Bournemouth Actual along the sea front. This was INCREDIBLE as it is literally Miles And Miles Of Golden Sandy Beaches like something out of an ADVERT or possibly a BEANO SUMMER SPECIAL, all kept in fantastic nick and looking lovely. It wasn't warm enough to sunbathe (although we did see someone doing exactly that, in a bikini) but I can only imagine it being wonderful in the summer.

    The next day featured another, slightly shorter, stroll in the other direction along the beach, and then a go on The Bournemouth Big Wheel. As The Windows On My Observation Deck commented, this was UNLIKE The London Eye in that it got going at a noticeable, though still gentle, speed, so you really FELT like you were moving around in a big circle. We were both VERY BRAVE!

    There was also some DINING involved along the way but mostly we spent our mini-break AMBLING ABOUT and just having a nice time, to such an extent that when we got home it felt like we'd been away for a whole WEEK rather than just three nights. I guess part of this is due to the fact that we'd been BEFORE, and so didn't need the one or two days at the start working things out, and also the PEASY journey meant you weren't lopping chunks of time off trying to get to AIRPORTS or whatnot, but either way it was GRATE. Who knew going on holiday in the UK could be so much fun? Would recommend and, hopefully, REPEAT!

    posted 2/4/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Sophisticated Soiree
    On Thursday night myself and The Pages In My Chapter were back at The King & Queen, not for a Totally Acoustic, but rather for a BOOK LAUNCH!

    For LO! when one does a BOOK, like what I have done (have I mentioned that I've got a book out?) it is DE RIGEUR to have some kind of launch event. The few such affairs that I have been to before have involved decadent things like free drinks and CANAPES and even sometimes free BOOKS, but I decided to ESCHEW all of these bourgeoise elements. Also, there was a budget of precisely zero quid for the whole thing, so I thought I'd just have A Bit Of A Do instead.

    THUS I sent out invites to various people, including not only Glittering ROCK Chums but also people from the world of Comics Studies AND from my work at UAL. In the weeks leading up to it this decision came to the forefront of my BRANE, as I have never really mixed up these aspects of my LIFE before. Some comics people ALSO work at UAL and interact with my department, but I don't think any of them have ever been to an actual GIG by me before either, so it was all going to be a bit of an EYE OPENER for all concerned!

    Also, the fact that it was an INVITES affair, rather than a usual gig, seemed sensible when I set it up that way but then came to PREY upon my mind, as ONLY the people who I'd specifically asked would know it was happening, and as I started to receive the Apologies In Advance that always come before these sort of events I began to wonder if anyone was actually coming. PANIC!

    Happily, people DID come and the room upstairs gradually swelled to a very comfortable plumpness, with pretty much every seat filled and a DELIGHTFUL atmosphere ensuing. I spent the pre-gig half hour wandering round like an SOCIETY HOSTESS, introducing people from my different WORLDS to each other. I must say, I can see why these SOCIETY HOSTESSES get such a kick out of it, it was really good fun, although still a bit weird seeing someone from ROCK engaged in in-depth conversation with people I see on TEAMS nearly every day.

    Eventually it was time for me to get up and do the LAUNCHING, which consisted of a twenty minute talk in which I tried to explain the "An Empirical Approach To Transmedia Studies" part of the book's title. I was a bit all over the place to start with, as I kept getting freaked out by seeing combinations of people that I'd never seen together before, but got into it fairly quickly and, I think, managed NOT to waffle on too much.

    The BEST bit was after that when I opened the floor to questions. I had not expected people to ENGAGE here, but BY GOLLY did they ever and some ASTONISHING questions were asked which frankly BLEW MY MIND. It turns out I know some RIGHT BRAINBOXES and DEEP THINKERS who asked things I'd never even thought of before. It was amazing!

    I finished off by doing a few songs - The House On The Borderland (making its live DEBUT), My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once (seemed appropriate for the occasion!), It Only Works Because You're here and Boom Shake The Room. It all seemed to go all right, although again it was STRANGE bellowing these out to people I variously work with!

    With that all out of the way it was back to the SOIREE, with further conversations breaking out all over the place and more IDEAS being lobbed around. It is a lovely thing to talk about all this firstly AT people and then WITH people - I am really really hoping to be able to do more of this sort of thing in future, with or without Arts Council CA$H!

    It was a flipping BRILLIANT evening I must say, and ruddy wonderful to see everybody there. I'm doing an ONLINE version on Tuesday evening next week which is open to ONE AND ALL, so if you'd like to come along to that please register for it on Teams, otherwise I hope to be getting out and about to do this some more later in the year, as it was GRATE!

    posted 15/3/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Voucher of DOOM
    Regular newsletter subscribers will doubtless have been ASTONISHED - and hopefully also DELIGHTED - today to have recieved a special MID-MONTH edition of the newsletter. It's called "The Last Working Day Of The Month" so does tend to come out on that particular day, but I felt it worth UNLEASHING a counter-intuitively-dated version this time because it contains a VOUCHER CODE, valid from today until 11 April, which gives a DISCOUNT on the price of my oft-mentioned book Data and Doctor Doom: An Empirical Approach To Transmedia Characters.

    For LO! by entering the discount code YTY9B7afrAJKRp when you buy it from Springer Nature you can get 20% off! BARGAIN! Well, sort of a bargain - it's still about SEVENTY QUID with the discount, but I think the idea is that the voucher is a way of persuading library purchasers or University finance departments that it's good value (WHICH IT IS). So, as ever, if anyone knows of any such people who could be persuaded thus, please persuade away - in theory, the more copies that get out into the world THIS way the more likely it is that they'll do a more reasonably priced version next year.

    Meanwhile, if you're interested in finding out (EVEN) more about what's IN the book, I'm doing a (FREE!) online launch event on TEAMS on Tuesday 19 March at 7pm UK time. This will take the form of a CHAT with International Comics Studies Legend Professor Roger Sabin, who knows a thing or two about it as he was one of my PhD supervisors. It is, as mentioned, FREE, but you do need to register in advance. Do come along if you can, it'll be dead interesting honest!

    posted 14/3/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    By The Arts Council Denied!
    You find me today slightly DEFEATED but also almost entirely UNBOWED, for LO! A Thing What I Was Hoping To Do has been REFUSED!

    The Thing What I Was Hoping To Do was an Arts Council "Developing Your Creative Practice" grant which I wanted to use to pay for MENTORSHIP and some TIME to allow me to Develop My Creative Practice in a new and exciting way, but ALAS the Arts Council said "No". Usuaully I would say that this was not entirely unexpected as I have NEVER had any success whatsoever with this sort of thing, but this time around I thought I was in with a chance, as the IDEA was dead exciting and, I thought, right up their alley.

    The aforesaid IDEA was to try and bring together two different aspects of my PORTFOLIO CAREER (hem hem) into one NEW thing, those being my decades of experience of ROCKING OUT and my more recent experience of Talking About Comics. With the latter I have been very conscious of the fact that putting together a conference presentation takes AGES but then you only do it once to a room containing about 20 (delightful) people. In many ways it's like putting together a FRINGE show except a) it's a bit shorter and b) you only actually do it ONCE, rather than taking it around the country to SEVERAL rooms containing about 20 (delightful) people EACH.

    "AHA!" I thought to myself, "but what if I could somehow find a way to do a presentation about comics that was a little bit longer and that I could then take around the country for the aforementioned ROOMS?" I thought this thought quite a lot, but kept running into PROBLEMS. For one thing, where are the people who would come and SEE this sort of thing? I am highly concious that my usual lovely audiences who have flocked (YES FLOCKED) to see me have come to hear Bellowed Songs With Humorous Insight and not necessarily to hear about how transmedia characters function across time and different media types. Also, people who DID want to hear someone talk about that sort of thing would not necessarily be AWARE of my previous OUVRE so wouldn't know about it to come.

    Now, I know there are NETWORKS of places that put on gigs by those Science Comedians you have nowadays, and there are blogs and podcasts and even radio shows that deal with them, but I have absolutely no idea how to get INTO them, nor what sort of thing they would want to be presenting (i.e. do you do ten minute BITS, or full shows, or what?). Again, my experience is all in ROCK with a tiny sliver of FRINGE, so I wouldn't know where to start.

    THUS the grant bid was to get me some time with a couple of people who DO know about That Sort Of Thing, to help me get some INSIGHT into how these other worlds work and, to paraphrase a grant application process title, Develop My Creative Practice. As I say, it seemed to me that this was PRECISELY what the scheme was set up to do, and despite ALL my experience of This Sort Of Thing I had managed to get quite HOPEFUL, so when the email came yesterday I must admit I experience THE GLUMS for a couple of hours.

    However, supportive emails from some of the people who'd help me write the bid PLUS some extremely supportive THORTS from The Figures In My Spreadsheet back home cheered me up CONSIDERABLY and I'm now ready to go again with the NEXT round of bids. I'm also looking at ways I might be able to do SOME of it off my own back, but either way I will not be DAUNTED by this setback (well, not too much anyway) and you can rest assured that, at some point, the world will THRILL to tales of how random stratified sampling can be used in the digital humanites, twenty (delightful) people at a time!

    posted 12/3/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Late Late (Comics) Reviews
    A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about buying some more Graphic Novels (i.e. COMICS) and then remembered that I have the facilities of the entire UAL LIBRARY at my fingertips. The University Of The Arts London is - hem hem - the foremost Comics Studies institution in Europe IF NOT THE WORLD (though we like to keep this to ourselves) and so it is PACKED with comics!

    THUS I decided to have a go at finally reading some of The Best Graphic Novels Of All Time. Obviously I know which are widely accepted as The Best SUPERHERO Graphic Novels Of All Time (Watchmen, Dark Knight etc etc) but I am not quite so well informed about OTHER types (apart from Maus and Perseopolis which you would be pretty hard pressed NOT to be aware of everyone banging on about). THUS I did myself a bit of reading and checked a bunch of alleged CLASSICS, and my THORTS upon them are recorded below.

    Blankets by Craig Thompson. This was QUITE NICE and ALL RIGHT but to be honest I didn't see what was so special about it that it got into so many lists of GRATE graphic novels. It's a memoir of a romance that takes place in American High School and a Christian Camp and some SNOW.

    Black Hole by Charles Burns. I did not like this AT ALL, partly because it is BORING and partly because it was hard to work out who was meant to be who, as everyone looks IDENTICAL and talks THE SAME and is A BIT DULL. It was, in fact, very like a HP Lovecraft novel i.e. mysterious and unpleasant things happen to some characters you don't care about, except here set in and around an American High School (again).

    Nimona by ND Stevenson. I flipping LOVED this one, it is GRATE. I had never even heard of it before looking at Best Of lists but I'm glad I did as it is FAB. A young girl (OR IS SHE?!?) teams up with a supervillain (OR IS HE?!?) and end up saving a city (OR DO THEY?!? Yes, they do). It looks a bit like Kate Beaton, who I also LOVE. No high schools at all in this one!

    Moon Cop by Tom Gauld. This wasn't on any lists but I saw it in the library and liked the look of it. NB I had completely forgotten that libraries are just like bookshops EXCEPT FREE and that you can just wander aimlessly along the shelves picking up stuff you fancy (I also got a book of Ronald Searle Cartoons using the same method). "Moon Cop" was BRILLIANT - when I mentioned my article Why Aren't We Talking About The Beano? on twitter a while ago (the one with the POSH COMICS cartoon in it) someone MISTAKENLY said that Tom Gauld was POSH COMICS, but this is NOT SO - his stuff, including this book, is full of WIT and ACTION and DELIGHT. All right, his usual cartoons MAY appear in The Guardian and be LIKED by people who otherwise go on about Posh Comics, but it is actually dead good. Unlike...

    Rusty Brown by Chris Ware. To be honest I went into the library to get "Jimmy Corrigan" and unwittingly picked this one up because it looked the same. Either way I thought it was long past time for me to try and ENGAGE with Chris Ware as loads of people go on and on about him but I must confess that I did not get very far. It was all right for a bit, although GOODNESS ME it would be nice if Americans would GET OVER HIGH SCHOOL as yet again that's what it's all about, but after reading it for about 18,000,000 years I found I was only about a quarter of the way through and SOD ALL had happened, and that sod all had happened to NOBODY INTERESTING. I did like the GRAPHIC DESIGN, but what really tore it for me was how difficult it was to read. By "difficult" I don't mean it was CHALLENGING MENTALLY or that the Narrative Bit Deep To My Very Core, I mean "difficult" as in the lettering was SO VERY TINY in places that it was almost impossible to read, and once you'd got together a MICROSCOPE and HIGH WATTAGE LAMP in order to do so it turned out to not be worth the bother. I did not enjoy it, so stopped!

    Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Yes yes I know, this is NOT a non-superhero book, but I had got it for REFERENCE for a PAPER wot I am writing. Still, it was a blessed relief after Rusty Brown, even if it does feel more and more HOKEY every decade when I read it again.

    This then is my EXTREMELY LATE comics review. If anyone knows of any ACTUALLY GOOD non-superhero graphic novels published more recently please do let me know, ESPECIALLY if they do not feature American High Schools!

    posted 5/3/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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    Oadby Wan Kenobi
    I mentioned in a blog last week that I was having a bit of an old THINK about what to do for the 200th edition of the newsletter. I said that I'd had an IDEA and since then I have been doing some WORK on it, reaching the point where I can reveal some DETAILS.

    The current plan is to follow the procedure of previous anniversary newsletters and release a SUBSCRIBERS-ONLY compilation album, similar to what happened with Like A Braunstone Cowboy and Hibbett's Hoover. I've been doing a bit of digging around and have realised there actually IS about an album's worth of solo material lying around, comprising various SINGLES and compilation items PLUS some unreleased material from AGES ago, mostly recorded when I was attempting (and failing) to break into the world of Music For Adverts. Usually our compilations either have my NAME in them (e.g. Hibbett's Superstore) or are AMAZING Star Wars/Leicestershire puns (e.g. Forest Moon Of Enderby) and as my LAST output was called The Unearthly Beauty Of MJ Hibbett I thought it was best to go for the George Lucas/Daniel Lambert angle. THUS I can now proudly present to you the cover art for "Oadby Wan Kenobi":

    It will amaze and astound you to discover that that cover was made by ME, all on my own, without a team of designers and photoshop engineers. INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE!

    Also incredible is the fact that the name of a major character in a ginormous multi-movie franchise has a RUDE WORD right there in the middle of it. And one at the end, really - how on earth did G Lucas get away with it, and how on earth did I PERSONALLY manage not to make reference to it on the cover? IRON SELF-DISCIPLINE is the answer to the latter.

    Anyway, I'm currently working through the tracks to pick the BEST ones and formulate some sort of tracklist order. Issue 199 of the newsletter will be out in a couple of weeks (NOT at the end of the month, for reasons discussed last time) and I estimate that the double century celebration will thus be out on the last working day of APRIL, giving everyone ample time to sign up for the newsletter if you haven't already. It is, I feel, going to be GRATE!

    posted 28/2/2024 by MJ Hibbett
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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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