Changes, weddings and all 'round Gloom!

A column article by: Regie Rigby

There are some changes in comics* that simply don’t work. I’d talk about the obvious example at some length now, but I’m afraid I still can’t talk about Batman’s new direction without either foaming at the mouth or punching walls** so I think it best that I continue to leave that particular subject alone for a little bit longer. My instant and total rejection of the whole “Death of Bruce Wayne / Return of Bruce Wayne / Batman Inc” lunacy has, as previously noted, attracted some criticism from people who suggest that I am keen to set characters in aspic. I’m prepared to accept such appprobrium to a degree – I have long been an advocate of not trying to fix things that aren’t broken, and making sure that any repairs that are necessary. There are however some changes that do work, and work well. You can spot these changes easily, because they’re the ones that stick. Take the relationship between Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson***. As regular readers may recall, I haven’t read Spider-Man regularly for some time, although ol’ Web-Head was the first character I followed closely and he retains a special place in my heart. As a teenager I related to the geeky, bullied Parker and as a massively romantically unsuccessful**** teenager I positively gloried in the fact that he was with the beautiful, popular and otherwise gorgeous M-J. I still have a bit of a thing for redheads… So when they got married in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 back in 1987 I was delighted for them*****. As a change to a character’s life, marriage is pretty much the most profound change that can happen, but I went with it because it worked. Peter and Mary-Jane had a believeable relationship which developed over time. They had their ups and downs, and heaven knows there were any number of badly written and ill-concieved storylines about them, but at the core of it all, their relationship remained a solid centre in the midst of all the idiocy. So, in spite of the fact that getting hitched seemed like the last thing he’d ever do, I was rather sanguine when I learned of the impending nuptuals of John Constantine. I like John. A lot. I discovered him when I was twenty, and he was just about to celebrate his fortieth birthday. In fact, Forty was the first Hellblazer story I ever read. It tells the tale of his impromptu party in which he cavorts with the Lord of the Dance, gets Swamp-Thing to cause a rather weedy****** cannabis plant to grow to excessive proportions and pisses on the Phantom Stranger’s shoes. Back then John was shacked up with the almost impossibly lovely Kit, who provided a pleasingly normal counterpoint to the occult madness of John’s demon haunted life. Their break up was another major change in a character’s story that I didn’t object to. I was sorry to see Kit go of course, but it was an entirely believeable turn in the course of their relationship – John couldn’t change however much he loved her, and however much she loved him she couldn’t live with him the way that he was. Sad, yes. But absolutely the way so many relationships end. The arrival in John’s life of the young alchemist Epiphany Greaves made for some interesting character development. She was young – half John’s age – confident and very clear about how she felt and what she wanted. Constantine’s initial unwillingness to get involved was understandable – however flattering it is for us middle agers when a younger woman shows an interest, there’s always the voice of middle age telling us not to be so bloody stupid – it’ll all end in tears and you’re old enough to know better. The fact that she’s the daughter of a notoriously psychotic and violent east end mobster probably added to the caution – Constantine has always been cleverer than he is horny, which is why he’s still alive. Their relationship wasn’t rushed, but developed slowly over a number of story arcs in such a way that everything seemed logical and organic – always a mark of a change that’s likely to last. So the proposal, when it came, made sense – the logical conclusion to a series of events. Perfect. Obviously, this is John Constantine we’re talking about, so I don’t believe that their union will be problem free, or even necessarily long. But so long as the changes that happen continue to make sense I’m sure I’ll continue to enjoy them and for now, I’ll raise a slightly belated toast to the happy couple and wish them a long and happy life together. Which brings me to the recently married Tony Lee, writer extrodinaire and all ‘round good chap. Tony is an old friend of this column, and I would like to take this opportunity to wish both him and Tracy a long and happy life together too. I suspect that their chances are significantly better than those of John and Epiphany, but then they’re both much nicer people and so deserve it more. And yes, I know that’s a terribly clunky link, but publically sending the happy couple my best wishes wasn’t the only reason I wanted to talk about Tony, because there is yet more excellent news to relate. If you’ve been reading FoolBritannia for a long time you may well remember my enthusiasm for one of Tony’s early successes, his first collaboration with Dan Boultwood. The Gloom was a glorious pastiche of nineteen forties adventure serials. You may remember that I advised you to read it even if you had to sell a kidney in order to do so. The advice still stands. However, you can probably save yourself an internal organ now, because as of February 1st, and every Tuesday thereafter, The Gloom will be serialised over at MTV Geek. If that wasn’t enough, it’s going to be better than before. Re-drawn. Re-dialogued. Benefitting from the development that both Tony and Dan have undergone as professionals in the intervening years between The Gloom’s first appearance and now. See, another example of my ability to embrace change! I haven’t been this excited about a new comic for ages, except perhaps the new series of Doctor Who from IDW, coincidentally also penned by the writing colossus that is Tony Lee. Lee’s previous work on the good Doctor featured the tenth incarnation of the character, as portrayed by David Tennant. It was hard to get hold of over here (I think there were UK licensing issues or something), but it was utterly fabulous – fabulous enough in fact that I reckoned his stories would have worked as episodes of the actual show – perhaps the highest praise a comic adaptation can receive and certainly more than could be said for a couple of the actual episodes of the show. Of course Tennant has moved on now, and on the telly we have a new Doctor, portrayed by the strangely old for his years Matt Smith, and this new series will focus on the exploits of this eleventh******* incarnation. If Lee captures Smith’s anarchically bonkers spirit as well as he did Tennant’s effervescent enthusiasm it should be a hell of a ride – and while it might well continue to get hold of on this side of the pond, with The Gloom freely available at MTV Geek you still have a kidney to spare! *and elsewhere too, of course… **And I’m only exaggerating by the tiniest amount here, trust me. ***Later “Mary-Jane Watson-Parker”, of course. ****And I really really was. *****This all happened slightly retrospectively for me, since I didn’t actually start reading American comics until 1988. This annual was one of the first back issues I ever bought. I still have it. ******No pun intended… *******and according to official Time Lord lore, penultimate

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