Posts Tagged ‘Lemmy’

2000AD and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Artist Kevin O’Neill Dies Aged 69

November 9, 2022

I was saddened to learn of the death on Monday of Kevin O’Neill, one of the great British comics artists behind many of the favourite strips in 2000AD over here and DC Comics and other publishers in America. O’Neill was the co-creator, with writer Pat Mills, of the Robusters, ABC Warriors and Nemesis the Warlock strips in 2000 AD, the galaxy’s greatest comic. Robusters was about a robot disaster squad, led by Hammerstein, an old war droid, and Rojaws, a foul-mouthed sewer robot, who formed a kind of double act. The squad was owned by the dictatorial Howard Quartz, alias ‘Mr 10 Per Cent’, because after some kind of disaster, only ten per cent of him – his brain – was still human, housed in a robot body. The penalty for failure or simply upsetting the boss was destruction, and the pair were always on the verge of being pulled apart by the sadistic but thick robot bulldozer, Mekquake. ABC Warriors was a continuation of Hammerstein’s adventures, first in a world war against the Volgan Republic, and then on Mars and a far future Earth, as the leader of an elite squad of robots dedicated to fighting evil. Nemesis the Warlock was a weird sword and sorcery strip set in the far future. The surface of the Earth had become a devastated wasteland and humanity had retreated underground. Renamed Termight, short for ‘Mighty Terra’, it was a medieval society ruled by an evil order of warriors, the Terminators, that hated and feared intelligent alien. Led by their Grand Master, Torquemada, Earth regarded such aliens as demonic and waged a war of extermination against them. O’Neill’s art, which is angular and geometric, was suitably Gothic and horrific, creating a nightmare variety of alien creatures. His art was so horrific, in fact, that later, when he was working on the Green Lantern Corps, a superhero comic for DC, it put the wind up the Comics Code Authority. This had been founded in the 1950s during the moral panic over comics. It was supposed to judge whether or not a comic was suitable to be read by children. Although it was supposedly voluntary, in fact all children’s comics had to be submitted to the Authority as otherwise the mainstream newsagents over there wouldn’t carry them. The writer, Alan Moore, who also created the cult strip about a future Fascist Britain, V For Vendetta, took the unusual step of contacting the Authority. Would the comic get approved if various changes were made? No, they replied. It wasn’t the strip’s story; it was the artwork. It was totally unsuitable for children. This became something of a source of pride and amusement to O’Neill and the other creators at 2000 AD. So grim was his art that rumours started circulating that he had an occult temple in his basement and drew only at night. These were completely false. On the other hand, a fan once told his fellow 2000 AD artist, Dave Gibbons, that O’Neill’s art gave him nightmares which he could only cure by looking a Gibbons. When O’Neill wasn’t traumatising people with his serious strips, he made them laugh with Dash Descent, a parody of the old Flash Gordon serials. He also drew the Tharg’s Future Shocks strip which a court later ruled had been plagiarised by the film maker Richard Stanley for the film Hardware. This was set in a decaying city in which a scavenger in the radiation deserts finds and brings back the remains of an experimental war robot, the B.A.A.L. His artist girlfriends reassembles it and it then goes off on a frenzy of killing. Hardware is a cult film, which stands up even now, three decades after it was made. Highlights include cameo appearances by Lemmy, as a water taxi driver, and the voice of Iggy Pop as a radio announcer. It’s just a pity Stanley didn’t work out a deal with 2000 AD first. He also contributed in other, minor ways to the comic. He created the look of Tharg, the comic’s alien editor from the star Betelgeuse, and introduced the credit cards telling readers who the writer, artist and letterer were, quite against the publisher’s policy. But this allowed the people, who actually created the strips, to gain the proper recognition and respect for their work.

O’Neill left 2000 AD for work with the American comics companies. He and writer Pat Mills created Metalzoic for DC. This was another robot strip, set on a far future Earth where an ecology of robot animals had developed and taken over, and followed the adventures of a tribe of robot ape men and the human woman they had rescued. It still is one of my favourite strips, but sadly flopped, though it was later reprinted in 2000 AD. O’Neill was far more successful with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, written by Alan Moore. This had the idea that the great figures of 19th and early 20th century SF, Fantasy and Horror – Alan Quatermaine, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde, Captain Nemo and Dorian Grey – had formed a kind of superhero group. It was filmed with Sean Connery as Quatermaine. Back to causing gleeful mayhem, O’Neill and Mills created the violent, nihilistic Marshal Law. This was an adult comic set in a near future San Francisco. Devastated by an earthquake, the city was renamed San Futuro, and plagued by warring superhero gangs. The superheroes had been created to fight in a war in South America. As a result, many of the survivors had returned to America mentally and physically scarred, some turning to violent crime. Law was the member of a small anti-superhero squad, moved by a deep hatred of superheroes. He uttered phrases like ‘They say I hate superheroes. They’re wrong. Hatred is far too bland a word for the way I feel about them’ and ‘I’m hunting heroes. I haven’t found any yet’. Mills hates superheroes and has very left-wing politics and poured that into the strip. It commented on recent developments in genetic engineering and the patenting of GMOs, insane CIA plans to overthrow Fidel Castro and other South American left-wing regimes and how America trained the sadistic torturers for the continent’s Fascist dictators. There was also an overt feminist critique of the genre and the fictional glamorisation of the real horrors of war. The Marshal’s opponents were vicious parodies of various superheroes. Despite its grim premise, it was a hilarious strip, although the humour was pitch-black. It was too much for one publisher, however, and moved from one to another. It has now been collected into a single album, although sadly without the crossover strip featuring the Marshal fighting Pinhead from Hellraiser.

Outside of comics, O’Neill apparently published his own fanzine, Just Imagine: The Journal of Film and Television Special Effects. I also remember him being credited in Starlog for designing the aliens in the Disney film, Return to Witch Mountain.

I met O’Neill extremely briefly at the UKCAC 90 comics convention, 32 years ago. From what I can remember, he was a short, slightly built chap in a T-shirt championing solidarity with Nicaragua, whose left-wing regime was under attack by the brutal Contras funded by Reagan and Thatcher. He was drawing people’s favourite characters for them on badges supplied by the convention’s organisers. But he was an amazing artist, producing very high-quality drawings in a blur of speed. There are a series of videos of him speaking at various comics conventions about Nemesis, Marshal Law and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where he appears as short, jolly fellow with a great sense of humour, chortling over the daft incidents he’s experienced during his career.

In a separate interview, also on YouTube, Alan Moore commented on his art, praising him as one of the greatest British artists of all time. Moore remarks that O’Neill’s celebrated for his robots and aliens, but not for his humans. But Moore considers that he is brilliant depicter of humans as grotesques, and in that sense is one of the best artists since Hogarth. It sounds like something that should go in Private Eye’s ‘Pseud’s Corner’, but in my opinion it’s absolutely correct. Particularly as Hogarth produced sequential art himself as the kind of precursor of comics. I strongly believe that comics artists, or at least the very best, are insufficiently appreciated. I think they can be as good as serious fine artists. Way back in the 90s I submitted a piece to one of the art magazines arguing that comics artists like O’Neill and Jack Kirby were artists, whose styles meant that they should receive the same appreciation as those of the Soviet austere style, Francis Bacon and H.R. Giger. The Nemesis the Warlock strip had scenes of pure body horror. In one of the two precursor strips that launched the character, Killerwatt, Nemesis and Torquemada chase each other down the teleport wires, in which people are transported electrically similar to the telephone. At one point they have to cross the Sea of Dead Souls, a nightmare morass caused when a gooney bird, a massive mechanical bird, sat on the wires. Those unfortunate enough to be there when it happened are turned into a mass of hugely distorted body parts, such as giant feet with eyes. It resembles the scene of the ‘shunt’ in the 80s horror movie, Society, where members of America’s elite class are portrayed as predators who can twist and distort their bodies into any shape whatsoever. The Shunt is an orgy in which they melt down into a similar morass of bodies to feed off tramps and other members of the lower orders. Society’s a great film if you like that kind of ‘orror, but came out a few years after Mills and O’Neill got there first.

There have been a number of great obituaries for him at Bleedingcool and on 2000 AD’s website. These give the reactions and messages of grief and appreciation from the other comics creators. The 2000 AD page gives a full potted biography and examples of his truly amazing artwork.

RIP great man. May your art continue to shock, amaze, amuse and inspire.

Kevin O’Neill 1953 – 2022

https://bleedingcool.com/comics/kevin-oneill-the-man-the-comics-code-tried-to-ban-has-died-at-69/

In Memoriam: Comic Artist Kevin O’Neill 1953 – 2022

Starmer Takes Labour to Far Right with Appointment of Yvette Cooper and David Blunkett to Shadow Cabinet

December 1, 2021

Well, Starmer has had his cabinet reshuffle, and as Mike and the good folks on Twitter are saying today, the poor, the unemployed, the disabled and immigrants should beware. Because he’s just made Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary. Cooper previously had the job from 2011 to 2015 when, according to Damian Willey, she was all but invisible except for the times she deigned to give us all the benefits of her views on immigration. In 2014 she denounced Tweezer’s immigration bill as too soft on it, the same bill which caused the illegal deportation of the Windrush migrants. She also wanted to stop immigrants and asylum seekers claiming child benefit for children living abroad, and her voting on immigration is comparable to Priti Patel’s. Daniel Grigg summed up just what her appointment means on this issue: “Nothing says couldn’t give a toss about migrants’ rights more than promoting David Blunkett and Yvette Cooper. So this is Labour now is it?”

The vile woman was responsible for the introduction of the Work Capability Test in 2008. These were subsequently kept in place by those Tory monsters, Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVile. Kahlisee is right when he says, “In policy terms, it would appear Cooper has more in common with the Tories than she does with Labour values.” And other Tweeters described how Cooper’s fitness for work tests would dock points from the disabled for the following:

Amputees using their stumps to lift objects.

People being able to walk using an imaginary wheelchair.

People with speech problems who can nevertheless write down what they want to say, and deaf claimants who can read it.

On international issues, she voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq five times, 14 times voted against an inquiry into it, voted eight times for the use of British armed forces in overseas operations, and also voted to replace Trident with another nuclear missile. She and Ed Balls also flipped their homes three times. Ed Poole said of her appointment: “Yvette Cooper is an ableist nightmare. Among other things. If you need any more evidence that Labour is finished as a force for equality, democracy, socialism or just plain human decency her promotion is it.” And Julie Harrington said, “Labour is now a hard right party.”

And then there’s Starmer’s appointment of David Blunkett to his ‘skills council’. This has proven something of an embarrassment as the internet never forgets, and his critics were able to find a clip from years ago in which Blair’s former cabinet minister made a homophobic slur about legendary Queen singer, Freddie Mercury. Aaron Bastani posted a piece on Twitter which seems to be an extract from a longer film about Queen or Mercury. It begins with members of the band, including awesome axeman and astrophysicist Brian May, describing how hurtful some of the comments were when their friend and bandmate passed away of AIDS in 1991. This is followed by a clip of a much younger Blunkett on some kind of panel show saying that he didn’t want people idolising Mercury because of his ‘bizarre and perverted lifestyle’.

Now you could be generous, and argue that this is not homophobic but just fair comment about rock and pop stars. Gay, straight or whatever, pop music, especially Heavy Metal, is associated with debauchery and excess. Sex, drugs and rock and roll, as the old saying goes. I can remember the rumours going around college that the name of American rockers, WASP, was an acronym standing for ‘We Are Sexual Perverts’. Other suggestions are that it also stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, or, as their lead singer answered a question about it on a chat show, ‘We Aren’t Sure, Pal’. Some of us can also remember that momentous occasion in the ’90s when Motorhead’s Lemmy got a letter of complaint and an apology published in one of the Brummie papers. They claimed that he’d hung a woman upside down from a cupboard for a day during about of rock and roll debauchery. No, corrected the late Mr. Kilminster. It was three days, and he tied her to a bed. The newspaper was happy to print apologise and print the correction. Which must be one of the few instances where someone has written to the press complaining that their article about them has made them appear less degenerate and degraded than they want to be known.

It may also have been a clumsy attempt to point out the dangers of getting AIDS through promiscuous sex. Part of the problem was that at the time there were parts of the gay community that were extremely promiscuous. I can remember one of the gay journos on the Observer writing an article about it back in 1984, with the detail that there was a self-group, Orgiasts Anonymous, in either LA or San Francisco. The group was set up to like Alcoholics Anonymous, but to help talk gay men out of going to the bathhouse every time they felt the overwhelming urge. Not that the dangers of catching the disease was limited to gays. It also affected promiscuous straight people having unprotected sex, as well those who caught it from their partners and haemophiliacs from contaminated blood products. It would have been possible to make a comment about the dangers of excessive sex without sounding anti-gay. But Blunkett didn’t. His comment about a ‘bizarre and perverted lifestyle’ sounds like the standard denunciations of homosexuality.

In fact Mercury’s sexuality really wasn’t all that remarkable, and not what he was celebrated for. The 1980s had seen the appearance of a number of openly gay and gender-nonconforming pop stars – Marc Almond and Jimmy Summerville with the Communards and Bronski Beat; Boy George of Culture Club, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Marilyn and the Pet Shop Boys. I can’t remember if Elton John and George Michael had come out of the closet by the time of Mercury’s death. And Mercury didn’t, as far as know, have the reputation of being the most promiscuous of them. There were rumours, for example, that either Almond or Summerville, I forget which, had had to have their stomach pumped following various shenanigans with a rugby team. I honestly don’t remember any such rumour about Freddie. And I think there were probably far more angry headlines in the Heil and other right-wing papers about Marc Almond and Frankie’s relax video than I ever remember about Mercury. People didn’t idolise him because of his sexuality or lifestyle, although I did notice than there was a fashion among young gays at the time to dress like him. What people celebrated him for was what he was: a superb performer with an incredible vocal range that even now few others can match.

Mercury passed away thirty years ago, but is still a towering presence in British pop music with legions of fans, many of whom will not have been best pleased by Blunkett’s denigration of their hero. As I doubt will many gays and their allies. Tony Blair was the Prime Minister who set the ball rolling for gay marriage with the introduction of civil partnerships, and this makes Blunkett’s comment seem very homophobic after the intervening years. And if Bastani hadn’t forgotten Blunkett’s views on Mercury’s death, you can bet others won’t have either. Quite apart from the other vile policies Blunkett shares responsibility for as a member of Blair’s cabinet.

Starmer has appointed as part of his team people who have caused untold suffering to the poor, the disabled, asylum seekers, immigrants and been responsible for the destruction and looting of an entire country, Iraq, for the benefit of the oil industry and multinationals. These are good reasons for anyone concerned about the massive growth of poverty and inequality and real imperialism and exploitation to despise Starmer and what he is turning the Labour party into.

Get Starmer, Cooper, Blunkett and the rest of the Blairites out before they do further damage.

isttps://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/11/30/starmtrooper-cooper-new-shadow-home-sec-will-compete-with-pritipatel-in-race-to-the-right/https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/11/29/starmers-reshuffle-disaster/

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Trailer for Movie of HP Lovecraft’s ‘The Colour out of Space’

November 8, 2019

I found this trailer for a forthcoming movie version of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, The Colour out of Space, over on YouTube. It stars Nicholas Cage and is directed by Richard Stanley.

Lovecraft was a master of cosmic horror, and the creator of the Cthulu mythos about malign, alien gods that seeped down from the stars untold aeons ago. Although they were banished from Earth by the ancient Elder Races, they are constantly seeking ways back. And when the stars are right, and the sunken city of R’lyeh rises from the deep, Cthulhu, the bat-winged, octopus-headed god will rule over a mankind reveling and killing. And in untold aeons even death may die.

The trailer says it marks the return of Stanley to directing. This is welcome news. He made an excellent film about a berserk robot going on the rampage in a decaying future, Hardware, back in 1989.  2000AD sued and won for plagiarism, as the film’s plot appeared to be stolen from a short story from comic, ‘Shocc!’, drawn by the master of macabre art, Kevin O’Neill. This was about an explorer, who finds a war robot and gives it to his girlfriend. It then comes back to life, and goes on the rampage. The film has cameos with Lemmy, a member of the Goth band The Mission, and Iggy Pop as the DJ, Angry Bob, and the soundtrack includes Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’, The Mission’s ‘Power’ and Pil’s ‘Order of Death’. There’s a reference to the earlier film in the trailer. A shot of the family’s kitchen shows a framed Biblical quotation, ‘No flesh shall be spared’. This was also used in Hardware to explain the B.A.A.L. robot’s genocidal mission to exterminate all humanity.

Stanley disappeared from directing movies, although he continued to make documentaries and pop videos, after the debacle of a version of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. Stanley originally intended it to be a relatively low budget film, but the studio wanted a big star. Stanley chose Marlon Brando. Big mistake. Once in the movie, Brando proceeded to do his best to wreck it through bizarre demands and massively arrogant behaviour. There was a documentary made about this whole shambles a few years ago. One of the actresses provided an example of Brando’s weird, cavalier attitude to the film. She went to him to ask the great Hollywood star for acting tips. He told her to carry on doing whatever she liked, because it didn’t matter as the film would be shut down in three weeks anyway. He also asked a member of the production crew if they should ‘f**k with’ one of the producers. When the man asked why, as the producer was a good guy, Brando made a very lame excuse. It’s pretty clear from this that Brando didn’t have any respect for the film. With costs and time overrunning, Stanley was sacked, and a veteran Hollywood director brought in instead to salvage something from the mess. The result apparently is a competent film, but it’s not the really amazing movie that would have appeared if Stanley had been able to complete it according to his vision.

It’s a pity that there was that plagiarism case between 2000AD and Stanley over Hardware. 2000AD want to produce films based on their characters. Two films have been made of ‘Judge Dredd’, but both have performed less than expected at the box office. The most recent, 2012’s Dredd, starring Karl Urban, was a critical success. There’s too much enmity there, but I’d say that if anyone could direct a great movie based on 2000AD’s cast of heroes, Stanley is the man for the job.

Looking at the trailer for the movie, it seems to have rejected Lovecraft’s original plot for the Hollywood cliche of a happy American family that moves into a rural area, only to find something sinister and threatening. It’s a long time since I read the original story, but I don’t think it’s the one Lovecraft wrote. Still, it looks like it could be a really good film, even if it is somewhat less than faithful to Lovecraft.

And to show everyone what Stanley’s Hardware was like, here’s a video for Pil’s ‘Order of Death’ using clips from the film from Hert Zollner’s channel on YouTube.

Enjoy!

Robot Heavy Metal Band Sing ‘Ace of Spades’

October 6, 2019

More robotics now. I’ve put up a number of pieces about the German all-robot heavy metal band, Compressorhead. I found this video on YouTube yesterday of them playing Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’. They’ve done it before, but this time they’ve got a robot singer for the vocals. As he was in the late 80s SF movie, Hardware, about a war robot going berserk in a devastated future, I feel the late, great Lemmy would have loved it. It even begins with a dedication to him.

The whole style of the piece reminded me of the old ‘Robusters’ strip in 2000AD. In one story, the two heroes, Rojaws and Hammerstein, go to ‘Greasy Gracie’s’, a robot cafe and nightclub. There, as the robotic clientele drink their pints of oil – what else? – other robots dance the light fantastic while a robot band plays hits like ‘I Am Your Automatic Lover’. A few years ago, writer Pat Mills revisited this story. In this version, the two are still helping robots flee Earth and human oppression. However, the strip also draws on the Black experience during slavery and segregation. The Black slaves on the plantations developed the Cakewalk dance as a parody of the airs and graces put on by the White overlords as a piece of very conscious social satire. So robots, the slaves of the future, parody humans by mimicking them dancing. Thus Rojaws and Hammerstein climb onto the stage to perform ‘We Ain’t Got a Barrel of Money’ before the joint is raid by the human police. One of the characters, a robot resistance leader, is a blind bluesman.

‘Greasy Gracie’s’, from ABC Warriors: Return to Robusters, Pat Mills writer, Clint Langley, artist, Annie Parkhouse, letters, (Oxford: Rebellion 2016).

Fortunately for human artists, robots aren’t so intelligent yet that they can actually write songs, except through programmes written for them to produce music like particular artists. But in Compressorhead, Mills’, O’Neil’s – who was the first artist on the ‘Robusters Strip’ – and Clint Langley’s vision of a robot nightclub is coming close to reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awesome! Robot Band Compressorhead Has a Singer At Last

February 25, 2018

As readers of this blog will have gathered, I’ve an interest in robots and robots as musicians. Compressorhead are an all-robot band from Germany, who play Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music. They started as purely musicians without a singer, but have at last built one. He’s called ‘Mega-Wattson’. The robot rolls around on caterpillar tracks, has a structure where a human’s eyes would be that resembles sunglasses, and, as a singer, has a massive mouth full of teeth. Oh yes, and he has a Mohican that raises and goes down in emphasis to what he’s singing. The band also sports a new guitarist and backing vocalist, ‘Hellga Tarr’. Her name seems to me to be a pun on ‘Hell Guitar’. She is very definitely female, as they’ve given her a waist and plastic boobs.

The song’s Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’, and it’s dedicated to Lemmy!

Here’s the clip from YouTube:

This does, however, remind me of piece from the 2000 AD strip, ‘ABC Warriors’, in which the ‘Meknificent Seven’ of robot warriors for truth and justice discuss their favourite bands. It ends with Hammerstein saying that everything was rubbish after Led Zeppelin.

It’s from A.B.C. Warriors: The Volgan War – Volume 3, by Pat Mills and Clint Langley. I don’t agree that everything after Led Zeppelin was rubbish. And this is pure rock and roll. Rock on!

And one of the comments is also funny. One of them suggested that after this, there’ll be Cyborgs banging around down in the mosh pit.