Thursday, 15 January 2009


Today pop culture and politics collide as Spider-man gets Barack Obama to the inauguration on time. As an aside before continuing on my hilarious banter, what is the verb for giving someone an ‘induction’ at work. Do you induce them? Anyway, Spider-man and Barack. I love that this charming nod to Barack’s admission of collecting Spidey comics has been beheld by the strongest team behind Spidey in years. They’re writing him so well and even though he exists in an alternate reality to our own, there are knowing asides to real-life politics and worldwide events. There was a beautifully written issue about superheroes helping to find dead bodies in the Twin Towers. In the run-up to election 08, there were Colbert for President signs dotted around the Marvel universe. Every now and then there is some clunky nationalistic propaganda, like the recent issue where Flash Thompson is an Iraq war veteran, which was murky in its thoughts on the war. It was hard to read as a ‘support the troops in spite of the war’ situation as it descended into ‘shoot the brown guy’ histrionomy.

I spoke to my local comic emporium yesterday about grabbing the special Obama cover. Tim answered the phone, I told him who it was and he said that if I was phoning about the Obama cover he’d hang up. He was furious, he said. Ever since Metro and a few papers had run stories on the Obama cover, not that he cared for politics he reminded me, loads of non-comic readers had come out of the woodwork and demanded the comic, driving its price up to £40 on eBay, for a comic that isn’t even out yet, for a comic where the main 24 page bit is some filler guff with Betty Brant. He ranted at me about the lack of respect people in the real world had for comics thinking they were a commodity because of Barack Obama. And what, he wondered, had Obama done for the world yet? Whereas Spidey was changing lives all time. I stifled a laugh, allowed him his seat of ignorance and resolved to preach from the political pulpit when I visited him on Thursday to buy my Obama/Spidey team-up comic.

Meanwhile, in the real world of fiction, I’m coming to the end of my latest draft of the Kenya book with the definite feeling that I want to move on creatively while my agent submits it. I need a creative breadth of fresh air. Even though each edit is carefully studied and thought about, I have read the source material about 400 times and I’ve existed in this book’s universe for so long that it’s draining me. It probably does still need some more work, but maybe it’d be nice with an editor. I’ve been racking my brain for the fragments of a new idea to come together, ploughing the fringes of my conscious and subconscious mind for strands and webs and links to come forth and claim a surface film of a plot and turn it into a world-beating collection of important thoughts, weighty themes and awe-inspiring events. It didn’t come. I made furious notes on my thought process. Notes that didn’t really mean anything. The notes comprised sets of linked unanswered questions that if I had the answer, I wouldn’t be stuck trying to hang the plot together. The more I re-read my notes for inspiration, the more the unanswered questions took hold of me, made me feel inadequate.

So I went out. Between putting off an edit of the final chapter and not quite having the idea for the new project there, the best thing to do was leave the house and get some fresh air. In a pub. With a beer. And some stand-up comedy. From a comedian I really admire, so much so I scared them by running after them down the street to say ‘what up, I dig your material dude.’ Not a good look. Obviously, a month of being tugged in with a laptop, a dying Mac battery, TV on the Radio’s back catalogue and a hot water bottle has destroyed me. I just about managed an awkward exchange with this stranger and they left feeling perplexed bemused and scared. I left feeling elated at talking to someone who’s talent I admire about nothing much, having a two pint beer buzz and the sultry allure of fresh air.

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