Reasons to be a Miserable Sod


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Brian Haberlin is my editor and artist on the monthly Spawn comic. He has an incredibly annoying trait. The guy is always smiling. Who knows why? He has deadlines coming out of his ass – permanently! He should be looking constipated… …or diarrhoetic maybe. Not perennially happy.

The other day I had an e-mail from him that described me as “a big whiner!” That got me to thinking that maybe there is something genetic going on here. Brian was born with the Happy Gene. I got the Curmudgeon Gene.

An excuse to plug Spawn!
Preview art by Brian Haberlin from issue #170.

I know I’ve spent previous columns whingeing, but hey, it’s my column, my rules. Here’s a random list of things that are getting on my tits right now:

First and foremost the bloody dollar has hit an all-time low. Those of us who are working for the Yankee Greenback are now getting less than 50p for a buck. As those of you who spend time in the States as well as the UK will know, prices are pretty much dollar for pound. A twenty-dollar meal will cost you twenty quid in London, a thirty-dollar pair of jeans is thirty quid. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that we have to work twice as hard as the bloody Yanks to make a living. (I’m grinding my teeth already)

Little-know fact: comic-book letterers cut-and-paste from the writer’s script straight into their lettering program. That means that, whereas in the old days letterers would actually read the scripts and check spelling and spacing, now every error goes through to the finished art. Which in turn, means we writers have to learn to spell. Yeesh!

Independent comics have been ghettoized at Forbidden Planet. I don’t know if this goes for the entirety of the FP Empire but in the London branch indies are now displayed separately from the big-selling titles. I know in some shops it’s a good thing to have a dedicated section for Independent comics. The audience for Love and Rockets or Phonogram is very different to X-Men or Green Lantern. But what Forbidden Planet have done is to cram all the indies onto a few shelves in piles where you literally have to go on a dig through the strata to uncover the title you want. Not exactly conducive to browsing.

It’s actually worse than that. It’s not precisely a separation of indies from mainstream.  It’s a segregation of indies that don’t sell from everything else. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Conan, Walking Dead and so on still share space with the Marvels and DCs. Here’s where it gets personal. My colleague and good buddy Frazer Irving and I have both recently begun publishing a monthly comic from Image. Frazer’s Gutsville (written by Si Spurrier) and my own Strange Embrace. Last week as I perused the shelves in Forbidden Planet, I noted that Strange Embrace had apparently sold out, while there was still a small stack of Gutsville sitting on the shelf. Hah! I admit I allowed myself a moment of triumphalism. The moment was brief. Behind me in the freshly allocated ‘Dregs of the Indie World’ section was a pile of Strange Embrace. The copies had not been snapped up by eager buyers, just re-located to the seamier side of town.

Help the underprivileged escape from the ghetto.
Buy this book! Art from Strange Embrace #2 – in stores next week.
If you don’t see it, demand it!

This week, not only was Strange Embrace still on the wrong side of the tracks, it had – and please forgive the mixing of metaphors here – slid down to the sub strata. No longer visible… buried beneath the landfill of another week’s dumpster-full of glossies.

There’s a dull pain developing behind my eyes, and I’m only halfway through my list of gripes…

Advance orders for Strange Embrace: Don’t even want to talk about it!

The Marvel mini-series Silent War, from Frazer Irving and myself, is now complete. We’re both very pleased with the result. It has been a great collaboration for both of us and with editor Steve Wacker. After Steve’s recent association with DC’s 52, we like to think we’ve done our bit to help restore Steve’s reputation.

Apart from a few nitpickers the reception for Silent War has been very positive. Ah yes, the nitpickers…

Here’s how to get the American Marine Corps baying for your blood: call them soldiers. I kid you not, they get very, very upset about it. I’m actually quite annoyed at myself because I knew this. Somewhere in the back of my mind that arcane piece of knowledge regarding Marine sensitivity was lurking. It was very remiss of me to let it slip by when I had the Marine staff sergeant address his recruits as soldiers.

The error has now been added to my Wall of Shame.

The Wall of Shame (also The Wall of Brilliant Ideas,
Useful Phone Numbers and Tasty Recipes)

Also on this wall is a list of phrases that I have sworn never to use again, ever, ever, ever… Phrases that are as irritating as the screech of nails on a blackboard. I may have used them in the past, but I hereby publicly swear never again to use the words “It ends here…” or “Stand Down.” The latter is now quite casually used as a catch-all phrase to replace a whole slew of expressions. In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen it used where the following would have been far more appropriate: “Hold your fire!” “Okay, you can stop banging his head against the wall now. He’s dead.” “Run away!” “Whoops! Wrong planet!” “Fuck off and leave me alone!”

We’re talking impoverishment of the language here, people.

Returning to Silent War, there is one comment I’ve noticed popping up again and again. My ending was apparently ripped off from the Sopranos. Can I just point out that when that last episode of the Sopranos aired, the script had been written for ages, drawn and sent to the printers. And really, would I be dumb enough to rip off the most popular TV series in the history of the planet? So soon after it aired?!!

What really annoys me though, is that I’m only halfway through series four of the Sopranos. I avoid all reference to plot developments, whenever possible. I’ve been shutting my eyes, stopping my ears and humming loudly every time the ‘controversial’ ending is mentioned. And now that’s screwed because I know the whole thing ends with—well I don’t want to ruin it for you too so…



Speaking of The Void, have you ever noticed that if you stare long enough into it, you’ll see, way down there in the darkness, a bunch of people gathering, staring back up at you, yelling “Jump asshole!”

One more thing before I go. The smoking ban. On July 1st smoking in public places was banned in England. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a filthy habit and shouldn’t be inflicted on other people. However, I have discovered that the law also covers private houses used by more than one person as a place of work. As a freelancer I use my home as my place of work. So does my partner. You know what? I’m breaking the law right now. So this is how it feels to live life on the lawless margins of society.

Living dangerously in Tooting

Next week something else. As for this week’s column…

…it ends here…


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