Monday, 16 March 2015

COMICS SUCK! - Swamp Thing #34 (March 1985)

30 YEARS AGO - March 1985
SWAMP THING #34 (DC Comics)
By guest reviewer Tony Maim
"Rite of Spring"
By Alan Moore (w); Steve Bissette (p); Jon Totleben (i); Tatjana Wood (c (I would never normally credit a colourist but throughout her run on this series, her use of palettes really helped to create another level to the artwork, never more so than on this issue.)); John Costanza (l) & Karen Berger (e)

“Rite Of Spring” was widely know at the time as “the one where Swamp Thing has sex issue”.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a psychedelic love story between two beings who want to have some sort of communion between themselves but are fully aware of the difference of their forms.

Abby Cable’s husband, Matt is in a coma with no hope of recovery (this is due to being possessed by the spirit of her insane uncle Anton Arcane.) She finds Swamp Thing deep in the Bayou and confesses that she wants to move on with her life and reveals her deep feelings for Swampy. He finally tells her that he has also been in love with her for years. They kiss and although she likes the taste of lime, Swamp Thing reminds her that she can never have a physical relationship – him being a muck monster don’tcha know – Abby replies that she can live without that.

For a reply, Swamp Thing pulls a tuber from his body and asks Abbey to eat it. As it takes effect, her mind is blown – as is ours – as we take a trip into the “Green” and share Swamp Thing’s perceptions of the world around him. Their thoughts start to intermingle, blurring the lines between separate personalities and feelings. Abbey feels all life and creation that exist at a base level and also how the interconnection that Swamp Thing shares with nature is at once beautiful but brutal. At this point, the prose is flowing like a storm filled river being carried along by some of the most innovative artwork you are ever likely to see contained in a comic page.

Abbey slowly comes out of her experience and the story ends with a kiss. Be careful if you read this – you may never look at a comic again without feeling that you have seen what can be done within the printed page but somehow nothing quite measures up to Swamp Thing 34.

Thanks Tony!

Well, after having their minds thoroughly blown by the greatest creative team in comics's greatest single issue, it was time for the youth of 1985 to take another heavy trip in the form of this brand-new album:

Trouble [Image source]
Arguably a step up from their legendary self-titled debut later known as 'Psalm 9', Chicago doom metal pioneers Trouble's sophomore album 'The Skull' found the band tighter, more confident and with a clearer sense of musical direction. This is the moment where Trouble truly helped to define what Doom Metal would be, more so than their first effort. Though this album is now exactly 30 years old, it's surprisingly NOT dated.

Arguably, Doom as a style of heavy metal is founded on the principle of living in the past. The early slow doom metal bands like Trouble, Pentagram, Candlemass, Witchfinder General and Saint Vitus emulated the mood, atmosphere and riff-based heaviness of Black Sabbath at a time when speed and thrash metal bands were citing the Brummy legends as an influence and some metal bands were moving the entire genre into extreme territory. So it's with some sense of irony that 'The Skull' sounds shockingly fresh today given its inspirational pedigree.

That freshness comes from ignoring popular trends. Riffs, melodies and low bottom heaviness combine for a classic, possibly even timeless sound. The unadorned nature of the music is what keeps it fresh. No moog overlays, or trendy styles of singing / playing, just heavy music that sounded good in any era. It's a formula that can't fail. It wasn't the first doom record, it wasn't even Trouble's first record but this is where the doom sound began to coalesce into something that new fans of the genre might recognize today.

Speaking of which, the band continues to this day, more or less. Actually, no less than two bands directly carry on the legacy from this album. Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin the dual guitarists from this album continue as Trouble with former Exhorder / Alabama Thunderpussy vocalist Kyle Thomas and new drummer Mark Lira. Together they put out the band's ninth album 'The Distortion Field' in 2013. Meanwhile, longtime Trouble vocalist Eric Wagner and drummer Jeff "Oly" Olson joined forces with longtime Trouble bassist Ron Holzner (though he wasn't with the band when they recorded 'The Skull') and newcomer guitarists Matt Goldsborough and Lothar Keller to release their incredible 'For Those Which Are Asleep' album in 2014. The name the band recorded under? The Skull.

Sonic Youth - 'Bad Moon Rising'
Another album released in March '85 was the first of a series of albums that also helped to shape an entire genre of music ... actually when you think about it Sonic Youth's 'Bad Moon Rising' album didn't just help define the burgeoning noise rock hurricane of which, they were the eye, one could also make hay claiming it as the first true grunge album. But perhaps that's a conversation for another time.

So there you go, after having undergone a double dose of "mind-blown" with Swamp Thing and Trouble, it was time for something else. Something quite the opposite of all this high-falutin art. It was time to take in the trash with Friday the 13th Part V. This movie holds a very special place in my heart. It was one of the very first movies I can remember watching with my uncle, along with April Fool's Day and Basket Case. That final scene with the spikes has stuck with me my whole life and while watching this film was the first time I can remember seeing boobs. My life has been one big pathological shame spiral ever since.

Friday the 13th Part IV promised to be the Final Chapter. Don't take my word for it, it's in the title. But less than a year later, the producers of the series were rolling in enough money that they felt it was time for A New Beginning. The story picks up where Final Chapter left off, fast-forwarded a few years into the future. Tommy Jarvis, the boy who killed the unkillable killer at the end of Part IV is older (played by John Shepherd, Corey Feldman played the younger version in the previous film) but traumatized by the events of that night. He is taken to Pineway Halfway House in the back of a padded wagon. He is severely withdrawn, bordering on catatonic and really into his masks, which he makes. As the story develops and thanks to conscientious editing, the audience is left to wonder whether or not he's taken up the mantle of Jason Voorhees, who as we know, died in the last film. From there the storytellers never once let plot get in the way of murder or boobs.

You can tell by some of the larger-than-life characterization and heart-string-plucking back stories of the kids at the halfway house that the filmmakers were going for a Stephen King feel with this one. Obviously, King is a generational talent, uniquely suited to blackly comic horror, but in 1985, how was anybody to know just how special he was or how inimitable? Ultimately, King's recipe produces cheesecake in the wrong hands and those hands were a-bakin' extra-time on this one. Still, Friday the 13th Part 5 is not without it's charms.

I doubt anybody fooled themselves into expecting high art, but when you go into this movie expecting farce, it ends up becoming quite enjoyable in its own right. A steady diet of cheesecake will impact the health but once-in-a-blue-moon samplings can remind us how delicious indulgence can be. Did somebody say robot mime dancing?

Po-faced slasher fanatics avoid this movie, it's every slasher cliche amplified with reverb, but that's just what makes it so delightful. The target audience was youngsters at the drive-in, but many of the young characters seem outdated for 1985 standards, take the two leather-jacket wearing greasers for example. There may be something timeless in the hot rods, leather and blue jeans look but the writing and performances are so rigidly "rebellious" that their mutually insulting dialogue comes across like pointless bickering between adolescents. And there ain't no doubt what's going to happen to them once Greaser #1 goes into the woods to take a dump and Greaser #2 is left holding the monkey-wrench at the broken down car.

"Ooh yeah!"
A New Beginning pandered to what the producers thought audiences wanted and to be fair it was commercially successful, and was better than some of the Nightmare on Elm Street films that were coming out at the same time. For slasher purists, this film is a turd and as terrifying moods go it's a faaaaar cry from the 1980 original that launched the franchise, but for those who can appreciate the funner aspects of the subgenre ... it's okay. It is well-lit and beautifully shot and it's got an ending so ridiculous you will question where horror ends and comedy begins.

This movie was directed by Danny Steinmann, written by Martin Kitrosser and David Cohen and also starred Melanie Kinnaman and young Shavar Ross.


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