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Christian

One In A Milligan

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Christian    781

I'm not sure. Milligan has had a number of bad comics in his time, but most of those comics include company-owned properties (which is where HB would fall). Otherwise, I've enjoyed pretty much everything that Milligan has written. It's not totally Bond's fault either. After all, she was also editor with Milligan on Shade, which was one of his best series. So, just because Bond allowed Milligan to get away with a lot of bad ideas on HB, it doesn't mean that the two haven't worked together on projects that turned out much better.

Like I said, I'm willing to give Milligan another chance on Kid Lobotomy. I do think that a lot of the superfluous elements running through the book were supposed to be Milligan throwing in as many cues to Shade as possible. I'm guessing trying to grip readers by saying, "Remember how great Shade was? I bet this book can be just as great! Give it a chance!". So, he'll move away from that and start to tell a more coherent story.

Eh, it's not as if there are that many interesting comics being published right now. Marvel and DC are in the doldrums and seemingly only sinking more with each attempt as a "new big direction!", Vertigo is dead, and even Dark Horse doesn't have much of interest in 2017. Morrison isn't that active now. Image is about the only comic publisher willing to do anything interesting with the form, and that's if the creators decide they want to actually finish any of the book they're working on. So, it's not as if I don't have time to give a chance to something like Kid Lobotomy, and can just drop it if it doesn't end up working.

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dogpoet    487
7 hours ago, Ixnay by Night said:

You are right about Morrison taking the same approach, fuck look at something like Nameless as an example, but I never get the sense that he loses his way in the narrative while throwing out all the random ass ideas.  I don't have the same confidence in Milligan.

The comic where all of the weird shit is clearly tied to cabbalistic notions about the qlipoth and the stuff that happens underneath reality?

Milligan hasn't done anything that grounded and coherent since the Minx was cancelled fifteen years back...

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Christian    781

Yeah, I don't think you can say that about Milligan....Just off the top of my head: Greek Street, The Names, Britannia, The Programme, a bunch of his "work-for-hire" projects for Marvel or DC....

They've all been very grounded and coherent reads. Sometimes they aren't worth reading, but there was certainly nothing random about any of those books. The Names was, of course, an exception on the quality side, as it's very much worth reading, and probably the best Milligan has done since back then.

I wouldn't give Milligan's Hellblazer even the credit of calling its problems lack of "coherence", considering that the problems were issues like Milligan deciding that Gemma turning in to a psycho bitch (because she's a woman, see!), and thinking she was raped by her uncle were good plot ideas. They're not lacking in coherency, they're just outright pisspoor ideas.

Probably only the final issue really lacked being coherent, with the vague ending.

Although, the fact that Milligan's Hellblazer wasn't grounded is certainly a caveat that helped his run end up so horrible.

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dogpoet    487

I'll say what I want about Milligan: if he gives me the money I wasted on his Hellblazer run back, I might stop doing so.

:tongue:

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Christian    781

You know you needed it to complete your collection.

Besides, where else in politically correct modern-day comics can you see a main character's ex-girlfriend being mocked and demeaned for putting on weight, a 10-year old girl revealing her undying love for a 40-year old man, and a demon simulacrum of said main character revealing that he lusts after his niece? Not even Frank Miller is giving people that sort of rot for their money in 2017!

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16 hours ago, dogpoet said:

The comic where all of the weird shit is clearly tied to cabbalistic notions about the qlipoth and the stuff that happens underneath reality?

Milligan hasn't done anything that grounded and coherent since the Minx was cancelled fifteen years back...

God, the Minx!  I forgot all about that series, some sweet sweet Sean Phillips art on that one.  It's the series he left Hellblazer for, wasn't it?

I wasn't trying to say that all of Milligan's comics have been incoherent gibberish, because as Christian points out most of his works are pretty straight-forward, I just thought Kid Lobotomy was absolute nonsense that needed a firmer editorial hand to keep its focus.  You said that his Hellblazer suffered from piss poor ideas instead of lack of coherency, that's absolutely right, and had Bond been willing to slap some editorial sense into him maybe some of those ideas wouldn't have made it past the plotting stage.  

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dogpoet    487

My diss of Milligan obviously wasn't as clear as I thought, so I'll try to clarify. I wasn't saying that Milligan's stories were incoherent messes, or that they didn't individually have a straightforward (and sometimes rather dull) linear plot, just that he spent the bulk of his run following each story with another that had no real connection to the one before apart from the protagonist, who was more or less sidelined in a couple of them anyway. There wasn't any of the underlying connections across the whole of his run that Carey or Jenkins (or even Diggle, Azzarrello or Mina, come to that) had used to structure the individual storylines as a connected narrative when read as a whole. Milligan's run was more what Bruce Sterling calls an "and" story, imo: this happens and then that happens and then something else happens and in the end none of it really connects up enough to work as a story with any sort of point to it. The piss poor ideas Christian mentions are definitely part of the problem with that as well, as he wouldn't have had to keep churning out such a constant torrent of crap if his run had been a bit more structured at a deeper level.

:tongue:

I think there was quite a gap between The Minx being cancelled (2003?) and Milligan taking over on Hellblazer. He spent the best part of a decade writing exclusively for Marvel in between, unless I'm misremembering: I'm pretty sure he was doing his lengthy run on X-Force/X-Statix after he'd abandoned DC when the Minx got cancelled. (Seagle and Delano, who also both got excellent series cancelled at the same time were a bit less sniffy about doing something else at DC immediately after The Crusades and Outlaw Nation were cancelled.)

ETA: You meant that Sean Phillips left Hellblazer to draw The Minx, nothing to do with Milligan, didn't you? My mistake.

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That's a great sum-up of Milligan's HB run, actually.  Every story just chained into one another, yet still lacked an overarching narrative.  It was exactly like you described, this happened and then this happened and then this happened etc...

You're right that Milligan had a lengthy break from Vertigo after the Minx, though I don't remember if Greek Street was before or after his Hellblazer run started.  He migrated to Marvel and did some pretty awful work on books like Elektra and X-Men.  X-Force/X-Statix was of course the exception, because it was pretty great.

Man, Outlaw Nation and The Crusades were both such wonderful reads, I remember reading those monthly and it was like a one-two punch of them being cancelled near simultaneously.  Seagle in particular had real bad luck with Vertigo titles getting pulled out from under him.  House of Secrets, The Crusades, American Virgin, probably others that I'm forgetting...

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dogpoet    487

I'm not sure, but I think he was already the current writer on Hellblazer when he did Greek Street.

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Christian    781

I'm pretty sure he was too. I believe that his run on Elektra was before the Minx got cancelled (maybe before Milligan ever started writing the Minx, in fact). Yeah, that was a really bad book, but I highly doubt that Milligan cared much about working on Elektra, and that it was probably just a quick pay-check for him.

The X-Force/X-Statix series was really, really good. I love that book. I'm fine with him going to Marvel if we got something like that out of it.

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dogpoet    487

I think he was probably still doing Shade when Elektra came out: it certainly looks like a mid '90s superhero series, right down to the Deodata art and pleas for more ultraviolence on the letters page. He did some X Men stuff at the same time as Elektra, iirc, a Cyclops miniseries or something.

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Christian    781

Yeah, he was doing some "work-for-hire" stuff at Marvel in the mid-1990s, while still working with Vertigo.

There was an Archangel one-shot, which was bizarre in that it was in black and white (which was a real rarity for Marvel), and played up like some sort of avant-garde-type comic that would have fit in at a place like Vertigo....yet, there was nothing in the contents of the comic to warrant any of it. It was a pretty poorly written, completely random one-shot. I don't know what Marvel was thinking. I doubt it was because of Milligan's name either, as he was writing other random stuff for Marvel at the time, so they weren't playing it up as "Vertigo darling Milligan pens an Archangel story" either.

Yeah, The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix (with artwork by John Paul Leon). I quite enjoyed that series. It featured Cyclops and Phoenix going back in time to the Victorian era and witnessing the origin of Mr. Sinister. I was a fan of that mini-series.

Then, there was a Magneto mini-series, which unfortunately was also very bad (even with some nice Kelley Jones art). Milligan writing a Magneto mini seems like it would have merit, but this was during that time when Marvel thought that introducing a younger clone of Magneto with amnesia (called "Joseph") would be a good idea, so it isn't the actual Magneto.

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Speaking of Milligan, did anyone else read his Image series with Leandro Fernandez, The Discipline?  I made it to issue # 3, and it was another series filled with some weird psycho-sexual stuff about a woman contracting monsterism from an immortal demon lover like it was an STD.  Very weird, but interesting and with beautiful art by Fernandez.

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dogpoet    487

I've got the first collection of that. It's more like The Names than some of the other dribble Milligan was squirting out of his arse at the time, but there's very little story there underneath the nice art.

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Christian    781

Eh, I wouldn't say it was anywhere close to The Names.....I found it to be a very missable series. I didn't find it worth following after the first issue.

Speaking of our buddy Milligan though, he's going to be returning to Marvel in January to write a Legion series. That character should be right up Milligan's alley. The last Legion series, by Si Spurrier, was well worth reading. Hopefully, Milligan can get something close, but even more surreal, than what Spurrier did with the character.

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Balthazar    179

Loving the Milligan discussion. I picked up the first issue of one of his recent books which was a bit of an erotica. I wasn't sure how I felt about it but tracking the following issues were difficult for me so I may just pick it up in trade. Did anyone read it? How did you feel about it?

I also loved his Greek Street and was disappointed when it ended. But I always felt like one of the odd men out who enjoyed it while others were heavily underwhelmed. I'm looking forward to his Legion run about to start for Marvel.

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dogpoet    487

Returning to Kid Lobotomy, it's obviously Milligan in hipster mode, but it does raise a few interesting questions, though I suspect these aren't the deep and profound questions about the nature of reality and the self Milligan seems convince that he was raising. Instead we get:

Why does Milligan keep namechecking Burroughs when he's very obviously trying to do Ballard here instead? What philosophical underpinning there is to the story a lot more JGB than WSB, particularly the fact that a lot of what the protagonist sees clearly isn't there at all: when Burroughs wrote an icky bug, it was at least as real as everything else in his routine.

Is the notion of an unqualified and self appointed brain surgeon being played for laughs or treated as being a scary notion? Milligan needs to pick one or the other and stick to it for long enough to make it work as one then switch to the other, because trying to do them both at once doesn't seem to be working very well.

Is there any point writing cliffhangers when the protagonist has probably imagined the whole thing?

How is Shelly Bond managing to write even smugger and more self important op-ed puff pieces than she did at Vertigo?

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Christian    781

The bug references were obviously meant to be a nod to Kafka, not to Burroughs.

I think the repeated namechecking of Burroughs is meant to give readers the feeling that what Ixnay was criticizing in Kid Lobotomy is his trying to work in the same cut-up technique style as Burroughs.

Otherwise, I'd agree with your complaints about Kid Lobotomy. The book has a lot of issues, but shows enough promise that I want to stick around to see if Milligan can get it all sorted out.

The "is he serious, or is this all for laughs?" problem was part and parcel of the problem with Hellblazer. I think Milligan's taking things less than seriously can work better in his own title, which might be planning to go in an absurdist direction (after all, Kafka didn't always take the "scary notions" in his stories totally seriously either, as life is absurd, and Milligan was namechecking Kafka quite a bit also), rather than in HB, where it was just jarring to everything that had come before with that character. It was more of a character assassination in HB.

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dogpoet    487

He's obviously referencing one story by Kafka a lot, yeah, but apart from a few imaginary beetles, all he's doing with that is is adding it to the family dynamic between him, his sister and his father, which doesn't really amount to much, or serve any function besides stressing that he's read Metamorphosis and thinks Gregor Samasa's transformation might have been a metaphor for family issues. Burroughs' cut up novels, on the other hand, are full of crawlies of all sorts. I also find the use of Burroughs, who was writing from a very rigid and structured philosophical standpoint, as somebody who can be cited as a progenitor and/or excuse if you want to write completely random stuff with nothing underpinning it at all a bit distasteful, but I suppose that's all the old Bill has been to a lot of writers since the '60s, so Milligan's a long way from being the worst offender over that one. Seeing a load of irrelevant stuff pasted into a story where it does nothing besides looking odd described as a cut up still bugs me, though.

(That said, the "Burroughs technique" here involves cutting the bits that are causing insanity out of somebody's brain and having the surgeon assimilate them, which is rather more Burroughsian than most of the shoddy pastiches of the easiest bits of Burroughs' style to mimic but it's not even close to approaching Neal Stephenson's more or less hard sf novel about how language is too a virus from outer space, though.)

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Christian    781

Saying what you did about Milligan's usage of Burroughs, the same easily applies to Kafka. A majority of time when someone wants to emulate Franz Kafka, they write a story where a person suffering from self-loathing/societal ostracization ends up transforming in to an insect. So, once again, Milligan is hardly the worst offender.

As if that were the only story that Kafka wrote, or as if he had an entire short story collection made up of stories about people turning in to insects.....

I believe he plans to go somewhere further than that with the Kafka (just as you said his pastiche of Burroughs isn't completely lacking in merit), considering the phone call scene. I'm hoping that Milligan is going somewhere further with that, and it wasn't just a "crazy scene, because it's a crazy book!". As I said, it's too soon to judge this book by this first issue, which could end up sinking in to pointlessness, but also shows enough promise that it may end up being one of Milligan's better series.

Milligan is familiar with Kafka. He did an adaptation of "In the Penal Colony" back in that old A1 anthology comic.

Although, since we're name dropping better outside usages of such, I will say that Kit Reed's hilarious homage to Kafka, in a story where a cockroach's metamorphosis in to a human ends in his suffering from self-loathing after the transformation, is a completely acceptable pastiche.

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dogpoet    487

I said that dropping Burroughs' name to try to force an analogy with the brain operation he invented was less embarrassing and misguided than a lot of the witless pastiches I've seen, which isn't quite the same thing. Also, it's entirely possible that he's just invoking the old Bill to justify his comic being all over the fucking place as though that makes it something as worked out as Burroughs' cut ups and fold ins, which is not exactly commendable. As far as influences go, Ballard seems a lot more relevant than either Kafka or Burroughs. The big cliffhanger ending, for instance, owes a lot to Ballard's The Man On The 99th Floor (and may well have his sister standing in for that story's big spoiler next issue) and the fixation on medical technology, the media as a vector for insanity, and mental illness as a survival tool is very watered down Ballard indeed.

:tongue:

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Christian    781

No, there isn't a great deal of Kafka's influence to be found in the first issue, which is why I said that he was probably planning to go somewhere with it. Since this is the first issue, and all. Regrettably, Milligan did not include his entire plot in the first issue, which I know is a much more commonly used technique in serial literature.

I'm not sure he was trying to force an analogy with Burroughs, so much as it was word-play, something of which Milligan used to be quite good at, and would often engender a chuckle.

"The Burroughs cut-up technique" as a radical new form of surgery is also just a play on words.

I thought that the name-dropping may have been used as an explanation for what he was doing in the first issue, which Ixnay objected. Rather than attempting to pastiche Burroughs, I felt he was doing a number of more pastiches of his own Shade comic book in this first issue.

Also, it's not as if Ballard wasn't heavily influenced by Burroughs.

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dogpoet    487

Ballard admired Burroughs work enormously, but it had very little (if any) influence on his own fiction.

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Christian    781

Really? Other than the fact of Burroughs' influence on the entirety of post-modernism, of course, right?

So, the "media as a vector for insanity" isn't something that you could trace back to an influence by Burroughs? Burroughs with his "language as a weapon of control, how it can be manipulated for an agenda"?

Or, how about Dr. Benway as an influence on the "fixation on medical technology" aspect from Ballard?

I'm not saying that Ballard is just a copy of Burroughs, or anything like that. Ballard had different aims, especially differing are the two views of technology. I think it's hard to claim that Ballard didn't take any influences from Burroughs.

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dogpoet    487

Ballard and Burroughs were near contemporaries, and had influences in common. Poul Anderson, and Fred Pohl, both of whom displayed a pointedly scathing approach to the media in their fiction from the '40s and '50s are particularly germane here. '50s SF is loaded with attacks on the evils of advertising and the conspiracies behind the media, and Ballard and Burroughs both loved that stuff. Burroughs blatantly swiped material from Henry Kuttner and Poul Anderson among others, while such influences on Ballard are more subtle.

It's worth bearing in mind that Ballard had already started to experiment with nonlinear form and structure before reading Naked Lunch, completely lacked Burroughs' obsession with addiction as a metaphor for capitalism and wasn't very interested in conspiracy theories. Doctor Benway is a gloriously absurd and over the top parody, and bears no resemblance to any of the medical staff in any of Ballard's fiction who are all very grounded as characters. Burroughs was, at heart, a satirist which Ballard definitely wasn't, and as a result Ballard's characters are far more realistic (or at least mimetic) than Burroughs' over the top grotesques. Ballard was fixated enough on medical practices and technology to go to medical school, and Empire of the Sun makes it fairly clear that this (along with a lot of the recurring imagery in his other fiction) was a childhood thing, rather than an influence from a character Burroughs introduced in a novel after Ballard had already been publishing fiction for three or four years. There's a lot of the new wave SF writers who were very influenced by Burroughs indeed, but Ballard isn't one of them. 

And as for Burroughs influencing the whole of post-modernism: are you taking the piss? 

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