Reviewed by Nevs Coleman 20-Oct-14
Meanwhile…, one of the more eclectic anthologies of the 1990s, has returned, from Soaring Penguin. Nevs Coleman casts an eye over the first issue of the new iteration.
Eeeh, blimey, it’s like the anniversary of Punk all over again, innit? So many great things coming out of the woodwork across all media. New episodes of Elvira and Twin Peaks are in our future, we’ve seen the return of Stray Bullets, Zenith, and Miracleman over the last twelve months, and obviously we’re here to look at Strangehaven, which is returning as part of Soaring Penguin’s new anthology Meanwhile… A return in itself from – but before we get there, I’ve noticed a resistance towards these returns.
Usually these comments are made with an invisible eye roll, a sneer and the inevitable pairing of “Oh, how dare they remake this thing?” and “I guess there aren’t any new ideas left, huh, Hollywood? Huh!” Except I think the problem isn’t inherently to do with the very notion of remakes. I don’t have any problems with remaking anything myself, I’d rather some ideas and stories remained in circulation and even if the remake isn’t as strong as the original, it means more people are being made aware of the initial concept.
I’ve been thinking about this a bit, and I think the problem is this: Most of this material literally wasn’t produced for a long shelf life. When Ditko was producing Amazing Spider-Man, there was no thought of trade paperbacks, omnibuses or such. This stuff was dropped off at the newsstands, bought and chucked away.
Equally, all the film classics were made the same way. Get your The Harder They Come, your Pink Flamingo, your Evil Dead, your Easy Rider into as many cinemas as possible, because once that run was over, that was it. No VHS, No DVDs, No Blu-Rays. No retrospectives in Sight and Sound. Done then gone. Forever.
Obviously this is totally different now, and I’m still amused that my local W.H. Smith has Miracleman collections in stock, and while it’s a great thing we live in a time where so many of these things are easy enough to come by, it has created a new problem. When you get old enough, you start to see new things entirely by their influences.
I first noticed this when watching the band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and thinking “Hold on…. aren’t The Jesus And Mary Chain still going?” Once you start down that road, you start seeing the genealogy of everything and while everyone has start from somewhere, this becomes a problem. Everything looks like identikit recreation of things that have come before.
Previously, pre the archiving of everything, this was fine. You could recycle the art styles, the storylines, the musical trends and such and most people simply wouldn’t be aware that The Hangover is American Pie is Police Academy is Porky’s is M*A*S*H, etc., because they barely knew the previous films existed. Now we’re aware of everything, and I can imagine that makes life a little difficult when you’re essentially a stand up comic doing Bill Hicks riffs and changing the punchline from “Debbie Gibson” to “Miley Cyrus”.
I don’t have an answer to this, but I suspect something’s going to give here. For every return full of both promise and quality, like Little Nemo: Return To Slumberland, every genuinely clever twist on older material like Bates Motel, or every Frost/Lynch coming back to Twin Peaks, quite a lot of what is to come is going to be spinning the wheels. After all, how many times can Peter Parker and Mary Jane explain to each other why they’re not shagging any more or suchlike. Eventually Marvel will post one “This Year: The Death Of The Hulk” too many and the collective audience will shrug and say “Heard it”. Perhaps then we’ll see more of a focus on finding older properties and reprinting them at a decent price point and less clickbait-style storylines.
Me, I’m just hoping to see Big Dave and Honkytonk Sue reprinted by someone before I die. Preferably each with a Milo Manara cover.
So, yes. Meanwhile… is back. Shout Out to John Anderson at Soaring Penguin for literally coming to visit me at work to make sure I had a copy, and Mark Stafford for, er, the other thing. It’s honestly a toss-up between Meanwhile… and the relaunch of Dark Horse Presents for Best Anthology of 2014. The return of Stafford & Hine on their new series It’s A Bad, Bad Place! reads like Raymond Briggs and Hunt Emerson in a vicious, funny mood is a great thing that made me laugh coffee through my nose and there’s new material from Sally Jane Thompson, Chris Geary, Yuko Rabbit and the winning strips from this year’s British Library and Arts Thread Comics Unmasked competition. That, for a fiver, is not bad going and the first issue is on your shelves soon.
The return of Strangehaven is the star of the show, though. Gary’s nailed his storytelling down to Ultimate Ninja Form since issue 8 of the previous series, and he wasn’t exactly a slacker then. There’s a hell of a lot of story in this first chapter, with everyone being reintroduced and a fair chunk of new story as well, so n00bs won’t be lost and people who’ve been waiting to see what’s been going aren’t having to wait for everyone else to play catch up.
Read more about Strangehaven in this interview with Gary Spencer Millidge.Tags: Gary Spencer Millidge, John Anderson, Mark Stafford, Meanwhile..., Soaring Penguin