January 3rd, 2009


"I've Got a Cunning Plan"

I caught a bit of Blackadder's Christmas Carol on BBC America over the holidays and realized that for all my recent adventures in Britcom watching, I'd somehow managed not to see one of the classics that everyone has been recommending to me since the late 1980s. With no more new episodes of Gavin & Stacey or The IT Crowd to tide me over and Phoenix Nights not yet available in the States, I decided to rectify this situation at once and rent the entire run of Blackadder on DVD.

My favorite season was Blackadder II, with Miranda Richardson as a completely batty Queen Elizabeth I. Here, I think, the writing and comedic timing were at their height. The weakest season, in my opinion, was Blackadder Goes Forth, which takes place during WWI. It just felt too modern too me, and I think Blackadder works best as a costume play involving smarming one's way past the nobility, rather than a somewhat MASH-like antiwar, frontlines comedy. Still, there's great stuff to be found in all four seasons. I especially liked it whenever Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson from The Young Ones showed up, and of course the sight of a young, spry, slapsticking Hugh Laurie is a pleasant reminder of his comedy roots in this age of House M.D. I was also happily surprised to see a fresh-from-Doctor Who Tom Baker show up in one episode as a crazy boat captain!

I'm waiting on the 1999 special Blackadder Back and Forth to show up from Netflix, and then I will have seen the whole run.

However, as much as I like Rowan Atkinson in this, I still have no interest in watching Mr. Bean. That just looks like crap to me.

Alan Moore's Exit Interview

At a holiday party last month, a friend of mine lent me his copy of Alan Moore's Exit Interview by Bill Baker, telling me that as a writer and a fan of Moore's work I'd find it fascinating. And I did.

I've been a fan of Moore's since this same friend turned me on to graphic novels in college. While I've hardly read everything Moore has done, what I have read is extremely impressive. I think his run on Swamp Thing in the 1980s was genius, and his standalones The Killing Joke, V for Vendetta and Watchmen are revolutionary. I think The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the one of the best comics of the new decade. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I believe Moore is a genius. A mad, mad genius.

Alan Moore's Exit Interview is essentially eighty pages of Moore telling interviewer Bill Baker exactly why he's giving the middle finger to the comics industry -- mostly DC -- and going into seclusion to write and publish only what he wants to write and publish. He doesn't even want them to send him royalty checks anymore. And from the stories he relates here, it's hard to blame him for his anger. Granted, we're only getting his side of the story, but DC really seems to have fucked Moore over so often and in so many ways that it's almost hard to conceptualize. It's a rude wake-up call to me as a writer, a reminder that even if you're the biggest moneymaker in the stable, a publisher will still try to dick you over to get as much money as it can for itself. In the book world, this usually takes the form of a subsidiary rights grab. In comics, or at least in Moore's experience, it seems to be a lack of creator ownership or control. Moore doesn't own Watchmen or V, and won't until DC puts them out of print, which they have already brazenly told him they will never, ever, ever do.

The story of the lawsuit surrounding the film of Extraordinary Gentlemen is worth the price of the book alone. Some nutjob accused 20th Century Fox of stealing his screenplay idea of having (completely different) literary characters solve crimes, and even worse accused the studio of phoning up Moore and having him just rattle off the comic book as a way to hide their theft! (Ah, if only Alan Moore could actually write that quickly!) Then things turn even crazier when a Fox executive jokingly emails the plaintiff that that is exactly what happened, and the studio is forced to settle the lawsuit, which is tantamount to admitting wrongdoing. Which it may have been, for all Moore knows, because it was the studio's idea to shoehorn Tom Sawyer and Dorian Gray into the movie, and Moore himself wonders if they may have come from this other fellow's script.

So if you're interested in comics, Alan Moore, writing, publishing, and the constant battle between artistic integrity and commerce, I highly recommend Alan Moore's Exit Interview. As I mentioned, we're only getting one side of the story, but in the showdown between a giant, faceless corporation and an artistic genius I'm liable to take the genius' side every time.


The new Doctor has been announced for the season after David Tennant retires from the role. Not only is it not one of the impressive names that had been recently floated as possibilities, but I can't even begin to list all the reasons why the choice feels ridiculously bad to me, or why the words "one more season before cancellation" are echoing in my head.

Did the Beeb send down a mandate that they needed more tween-age girls watching the show?