Thursday, September 27, 2007

FAC 424

June 4th 1976. Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. A gig attended by 42 people. Inspired, they would go out and perform 'wonderous deeds'. The band playing that night? The Sex Pistols.

This is the story of Factory Records, as told by Tony Wilson, the man vauguely at the centre of everything the company did. A novelisation, based on a screenplay, based on real life events, written, as fiction, by the man involved in the real life events. As John Ford said, 'when the truth becomes legend, print the legend.'

FAC 51 - The Hacienda, a trendy New York style night club built in centre of Manchester. It ate all the money Factory ever made and became the official home of the 'Madchester' scene in the late eighties, the birth of Rave culture.

FAC 73 - Blue Monday by New Order. The biggest selling 12 inch single in UK Chart history. Factory lost money on every copy sold because the sleeve was so expensive to produce. In other words, the more copies they sold, the more money they lost.

If you know what I'm talking about great, if you don't, that's fine, but you should probably read more.

Monday, September 17, 2007

In Search of Steve Ditko

Running as part of BBC Four's comics season, last night Jonathan Ross hosted a show about the work of comic artist Steve Ditko - co-creator of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Ross was on his best behaviour clearly humbled by a subject he feels genuine passion and enthusiasm for. It was enjoyable to see Ross drop his guard and unleash his inner-geek, his undimmed love of comic books a welcome reminder of the joys of a good story, told well, with interesting characters. The show also helped restore some of the mythological power these stories had when they belonged solely to the world of comics, before an endless conveyor-belt of limp franchises flattened them for mass consumption, ironing out their edge, imagination and personality, turning them into 'just another blockbuster'.

Ditko is an odd character. Elusive and enigmatic, he is the Thomas Pynchon of the comic book world, refusing to be photographed or filmed. He is deeply right wing, his views having been strongly influenced by philosopher and sociologist Ayne Rand and her theory of 'objectivism'. After Ditko left Marvel this began to inform his art prompting him to create stranger and stranger characters, such as, 'The Question' and 'Mr. A'. Characters Neil Gaiman described as being in the tradition of “beautiful, pure, American barking madness”. Mr A. a character who operates in a world where "there is white, there is black and there is nothing in between."

And unlike so many of these types of shows the people Ross interviews were interesting individuals. They were people involved in the industry, people with real opinions and a few entertaining and informative words on their subject. This included Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, both great comic book writers in their own write. Along with various other writers and artists involved with Marvel over the years. There was also a surprisingly candid interview with Stan 'the man' Lee, co-creator of Spider-man, in which Ross dared to ask the difficult questions.

Informative and entertaining, presented with real energy and warmth, this was a treat.