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Darkly Dreaming Demographic.

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Welcome to Bat Country, breakdown of the first issue.

I wanted to do a breakdown of the first issue of Bat Country, try to make some sense out of the whole mess that is Bat Country, try to lay that whole twisted bag of snakes out, and if you’ve read any of it, you know this is going to be a long one.

If people would ask me what I wanted to achieve with this book, I don’t really know if I could sum it up in a few words. But I guess the closest thing I could say would just be a fear of open spaces. I wanted to cultivate and exacerbate my fear of the outside world. That’s basically what the title means; the world is full of carnivorous flying rodents that want to suck your blood.

Basically I’m just trying to make excuses for why this comic makes no sense ha-ha. It’s told from the perspective of someone who can’t see in straight lines, everything enters his brain differently and since he’s the narrator of his own story, the narrative is unreliable.

So the first page I get my sneaky twin peaks reference in to Big Ed’s Gas farm (I’ll look a right twat if that’s wrong now ha-ha) and get into my thing about sugar, I’m sure if I was some hypersensitive writer for the guardian I’d call it ‘sugarshaming’ ha-ha. But since I’m not I tend to think people associate lots of sugar with childishness, as if growing older means you no longer see a reason to enjoy ‘the sweet life. I wanted to introduce Ransom as a character that relished in his childishness and was almost petulant in his reaction to people trying to shame him into conforming to their own way of thinking.

TLDR: Motherfucker like his coffee sweet.

I think maybe a year or two ago, I began this strange fascination with cooking shows or just food shows in general. I watched come dine with me just to watch absolute cunts sit and try to withstand each other for a few evenings in a row, talking shit about each other in the backroom. There was something delicious about uncomfortable silences shared by complete strangers who had never the less grown to hate each other over the course of one evening ha-ha. English people like myself have such an acquired taste for awkwardness.

Then I started to watch Man VS Food, for those that haven’t watched it, it’s basically a show about a chubby American fellow going from town to town taking up eating challenges. Eating a giant burger or a colossal omelette or something, or a really hot curry. I really enjoyed it for the food (I love food) and the competitive nature, it was just a fun show.

But this was when I was little more social justicey, so I started to spin my Marxist (did away with those thankfully away, just a nice empty space now ha-ha) and it made me think this show was everything wrong with America. It was decadent, ‘people are starving’ I said to myself as I watched this pudgy American stuff his face with a hotdog the size of a skateboard.

I was both in awe and disgust with America and the American way, a fine line between love and hate indeed.

One of my many fantasies is that of walking the earth like Cain in Kung fu, I’ve often thought about just walking, getting into some adventures and just travelling. Then to hit the ground realising I have no money and my shoes are made from inedible canvas. The realities of it were just too glaring, how would I eat, how would I make enough money to travel and survive? But then I realised that in America those two things could coincide. In the wondrous USA you can be paid for eating, so something that could have been just a throwaway piece of plot filler became almost the crux of the story.

On a whole the basic joke of the story is that it’s almost as if to America thinks it can reach enlightenment through eating. Purely by how much they eat and how much of science they honed of gluttony.

This was going to by my satirical comic poking fun at the American dream, the hypocrisy of modern culture and capitalism and religion and all that good stuff. But after a while those things started to bore me and realised that trying to force people to think like me through a comic made me as bad as the assholes I was critiquing, so I cut that shit out. Now I just want to make people laugh and make them think and deliver something so fucking out there, they’ll never forget.

Diagnosis love is another reference to Twin peaks, well the first season, which is my favourite. It had this soap opera running in the background of the occasional episode, the story of which was cheesy but was a mirror of what was happening in the show. I really liked the feel of it and how it added another layer to story, making it seem self aware. I initially was introduced by this; I don’t know what you call it really in Max Payne 2. The idea that you can’t tell if you’re mimicking the art or it’s mimicking you. Obviously Max Payne must have copied it from Twin Peaks.

I suppose in a way a part of me wanted to mock most other webcomics where this type of storytelling isn’t intentionally cheesy and ridiculous ha-ha. It’s there to contrast the goings on in the ‘real world’ but mirror them just enough to seem relate-able.

It’s choked full of odd references, Night of the Hunter, Wild at heart, dune, Beetlejuice, I want to get across to the reader that outside to Ransom is literally an alien planet, these diners in the middle of nowhere are like ‘safe spaces’ from all that nature trying to get him.

Liberty or the cowboy is another matter all together; I guess he’s a reference to the Big Lebowski in a way.

The first issue that makes me cringe is the dialogue; yeah my own dialogue makes me cringe. I wanted to copy the style of Max Payne, Address Unknown and Twin Peaks, so essentially I wanted the dialogue to be as cheesy and as hackneyed as possible. I want it to feel fake and strange and just wrong, like a 90’s TV show. And gradually if people keep reading that’ll fade away and it’ll grow with the reader. It’s very much, I hate to say like Natural Born Killers (I hated that movie), the style, the critic of American culture. That niggling feeling that all that freedom and all that space gives you. I can’t help feeling that that feeling is intoxicating and addictive and the reason for all the evil in the world and all the good.
People can be so free they feel trapped, they have all this power to do whatever they want but they stay where they are, pacing back and forth in a cage of their own making. Or they toss it all away like Ransom and burn out rather than fade away. That’s conflict we have here, that’s what I think American culture is, ultimate freedom driving people mad, I don’t think it’s a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact.

Now the second part of the story, some paranoid people are actually being followed. Now I can’t hope to hide this, this entire scene was inspired by my favourite scene in Mulholland Drive, the hitman scene. I thought that scene was so funny, I couldn’t resist. I really love that film and I feel robbed that it wasn’t turned into a full TV show as it was intended, I would have really loved to have seen more from that bungling hitman. I can’t help feeling if Netflix existed in the 90’s Lynch would have been even more popular than he is and not this cult god we admonish him as now.

This scene where the henchmen are going through his apartment is a back story hint, the story of Bat Country just like Twin Peaks starts in the middle. The reader will have to work back as the story moves forward to understand why Ransom is on his journey and who he’s running from.

I got a lot of influence from Silent Hill 4 the room. That game really stuck with me for the voyeuristic nature, and its dreamlike interpretation of agoraphobia. Despite it bombing I found it really intriguing. Another influence is Oldboy, but that might be too spoilery ha-ha.

I was listening to the new Nick Cave album when I wrote this scene and for some reason I decided to put lyrics from Higgs Bosom Blues directly into the scene, don’t ask me why.

Ransom is on a journey, he’s trying to find the American dream and these two bumbling killers are following him.

He wakes from his dream for a minute then he’s back in it again harder than ever. The idea for this comic sort of came from the idea of the idea of the hero. What is a hero? To me a hero is a normal person who has no regard for themselves whatsoever, they’re not afraid of pain, they’re not afraid of humiliation or getting things horribly wrong. And that’s what Ransom tries to be.
I wanted the combat to be real and disgusting and brutal and just… messy and Florian really delivered with this scene. He really captured the brutality and the inelegance of an actual fight, no kung fu bullshit, no gimmicks, just blood and cuts and tooth and nails.

…and then it ends as abruptly as it started. I wanted the first issue to be a snapshot, a glimpse into this dream world, something that would make someone want to dig deeper and discover the underlying meaning. But shit, I’ve rambled enough.

Just go read it already ha-ha.
http://tapastic.com/series/Bat-Country

Blue Velvet

It sounds more and more pretentious every time I say it but one of my biggest influences when I write right now and in the creative process in general is David Lynch.

Which is odd to say it’s pretentious because Lynch’s work, I find remarkably unpretentious, so distinctly odd without necessarily trying to be, just unrestrainedly uncommon and intriguing. Every one of his films and Twin Peaks is almost like someone took the idea of film making or a tv show and handed it to an Alien and he made his own interpretation that was like what had come before but so drastically but indescribably different. Something you just couldn’t put your finger on but it was rolling around in your brain itching in the corners of your eyes and just couldn’t get it.

I’m not a lifelong fan, I had seen the Elephantman and Dune but I think I was too young to have been caught up in Twin Peaks at the time of its release and those two movies are probably the worst ones to watch in retrospect. Both films are constrained by one being true and the other being based on a sci-fi novel.

So he slipped through the cracks, while I was quite happy with my Tarantino’s and my Scorcese’s and whomever else grazed my adolescent movie palate.

Until I saw a film that really struck an odd note with me that sticks with me even now and no it wasn’t actually by David Lynch *plot twist* it was by Jennifer Lynch, his talented daughter. The movie was called Surveillance, a really haunting off kilter thriller, I love even to this day. But what really stuck with me was the sound track.

The music was haunting and jarring and really something else, I couldn’t help tracking down the soundtrack and finding my favourite song from the film which was called ‘Speed Roadster’ written and performed by… David Lynch.
Who was this alternative/electro/country sounding singer I’d never heard of but couldn’t get enough of; oh what he’s the director’s father? And he’s a writer/director (/among other things, painter/actor) as well? Wow.

Then rather ashamedly I started to put together the dots and I had heard a lot of talk about I think True Detective and how it was ‘like twin peaks’ which in some respects is true. It does capture that haunting sorrow of the unavoidable nature of life and the boundless horror of the unknown (a little Lovecraftian in that respect too, despite it being based on the Yellow King mythos). I may be rewriting my own history here, I can’t be sure, so instead of watching True Detective I watched Twin Peaks (And then eventually True detective) and I was captivated, a little bored/confused at times but I had to keep watching.

There was just something about it, something that made me want to laugh but also cry bitterly and it held me in this state between sorrow and a drunk sort of happiness and each emotion seemed to feed off the other and deepen, the depths of the humour dug larger holes for the sorrow to hide and when the credits rolled over Laura’s face you remembered why you were here.

Frankly I was amazed that such a compelling show could be written about one murder, I can hardly concentrate long enough through an episode of csi or the walking dead where the cast drops like flies.

It was amazing that one fictional person’s life could touch so many people in so many different ways and although she wasn’t technically a character, Laura was the show.

So I initially got into David Lynch not even knowing he made films or tv shows, I just thought he was a weird old guy that made cool music. I loved introducing my brother to Lynch because we watched all his films together and I can’t remember if we watched the Twin Peaks movie Fire walk with me first or not but he hadn’t seen the show before watching. There’s this bit where some weird shit happens and my brother turns to me expecting me to know what the fuck it means because I watched the show and I was like; ‘Dude, I don’t fucking know’ and it was pretty funny.
I was told it didn’t matter if you watched the movie or the show first but I’m glad I watched the show first because it completely depicts Laura’s murder, something I think should never have been done.

In the classic Poe style mystery, the greatest mysteries are the ones that go unsolved.

But producers and ratings and money and bing bang boom, they ruined the whole mystery and then the show limped on after until it eventually keeled over with the help of Billy Zane??

Season 2 in my opinion is a complete clusterfuck, I hold out hope for the reboot, but I intend to keep my expectations as low as possible and coddle myself in the warm embrace of my favourite Lynch films, Blue Velvet being one.

The thing that separates Lynch from any other of my influences is that I not only learnt a lot about story telling from him but also about the creative process in general. I think it’s in a Tom Waits song (Of which the name escapes me) where he says David Lynch told him that he had to sit in a comfy chair and close his eyes and wait for the big one to come along.

Although he may have been alluding to his transcendental meditation woo of which I am not subscribed (I can sit in a chair with my eyes closed without paying like ten quid a month to some swami or whatever) as a fan of Lovecraft this struck a chord with me.

There’s a part of me that is deeply sceptical of woo, all things woo but there’s another part that believes that stories are located in a river in a different dimension and when we close our eyes and concentrate we can catch the odd big fish.
All stories are essentially the same in structure but the core principals of the story come from somewhere else, they’re pieced together from dreams and movies and conversations and some ultra-terrestrial other or just plain pulled out of your ass.

But sometimes I can’t help feeling that I’m not creating stories, I’m just uncovering something that was already there or giving life to something long dead and that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, despite it most likely being bullshit it gives me a nice Lovecraft boner, like I’m in my own story and some ungodly horror is going to burst into the room and tentacle rape me.. what was that noise? On the stairs, it can’t be…*gasp* my eyes, my ey..*indiscernible screaming*.

Check out more strips at Jeffrey Dahmer and Greg the comic strip
And my Lynchian mystery comic here Bat Country

Walk the Earth like Pookie in Three Ring Samurai.

Forgive me in advance for the rambling nature of this blog, I really don’t have a plan, I just have two words ‘Kung fu’.

For those not familiar with it, Kung Fu is a tv show with David Carradine playing a half Chinese half American boy raised in a shaolin temple after both his parents are killed by a tyrannical Emperor.
The story is based around his travels to seek out his family in America after his master is killed he must flee china wanted for killing the emperors son in an act of hot on the spot vengeance for the unwarranted killing.

He travels America looking for his family, evading the snare of the emperor and getting into scrapes and adventures, meeting interesting people along the way. With each new adventure a piece of his teachings is called upon to assist him and make sense of a world he’s only just coming face to face with.
Secluded all his life Caine is as a child with the fighting skills of a shaolin priest, through a series of flashback his past is brought to light to help him overcome and decide on certain courses of action to aid him in his adventures.

~

I initially watched the show out of the blue, maybe as some form of research for 3 Ring, I know I definitely shamelessly ripped a lot off for the issue plan, I borrowed a lot of ideas and I in an upcoming arc and I decided to completely parody the montage of Caine’s training in the shaolin temple and make it Pookie’s ridiculous clown training, I just couldn’t resist.

I really, really loved the style; the way the story was structured in the first season was perfect, calling on back-story applying it to current plot. It worked really well because you learned more about him every episode in a way that felt very consistent. And every episode you learnt a valuable and somewhat touching lesson.

It padded the main plot nicely as we learned about Caine throughout his various adventures and then kept us interested in the search for his brother and the threat of the Emperor on his heels and for a guy that had never done kung fu before kung fu David Carradine isn’t half bad as an actor or a fighter coming from someone who knows kung fu. He wasn’t amazing and he did use a stunt double in season one I believe but ditched that for his own stunts in later seasons.

Long story short I loved the show and I wanted the same feel for 3 Ring Samurai, I wanted every arc to be a self contained movie, something that engaged people and had action and drama and suspense and just enough thread of main plot to keep people reading but not enough to overwhelm them.

Sadly the second two seasons of Kung fu really fell short for me and I must admit I almost breathed a sigh of relief, I’m not proud to admit I take pleasure in the downfall of other but I think a lot of people feel shadenfreud a lot more than they’d like to admit. I was relieved to see the show fall because to live up to that, for it to continue at that level of quality would have rendered my endeavours to emulate it seem futile.

I don’t blame the show for this, I blame the times and the idea that writing staff are disposable, they chose to change the writers for season two and with the nature of television in the seventies I feel like they had to make it more consumable for people to watch as re-runs.

Tv wasn’t like how it is now with netflix and the internet, you couldn’t choose to watch a tv show whenever you wanted, and watch them in order, you watched them when they were on, in the order they were on and if you missed an episode you had to watch it in a rerun. You couldn’t just buy the boxset on dvd.
So each episode had to be standalone and almost interchangeable in terms of the timeline of the story so someone could watch any episode in any order and still keep up and enjoy the show.
This change of writers and restructuring of the show is a noticeable decline in cogent plot and although I watched each season through it didn’t measure up in any shape or form to season one.

I don’t know why but my mind keeps drawing back to Twin Peaks and the dire mistake of revealing the mystery around the death of Laura Palmer half way between season two which without a doubt killed the show. Lynch himself said he never wanted to reveal the mystery and I and Edgar Allen Poe would have agreed that the greatest mystery is one that goes unsolved. It was the fault of the producers of the show that forced him to reveal the mystery and then have the show limp on to the end without much a hook to keep the show going.
It’s almost amazing to even think that an entire tv show could be framed around one murder or one person’s life like Kung Fu. But it can because people themselves can be unsolvable mysteries.
And every time the credits rolled over Laura Palmer’s picture I would feel a pang of sorrow for the mystery of her life and even more so for the tawdry reveal of that perfect mystery and then the shop bought replacement mystery awkwardly wedged in its place.

I think if Kung Fu were re-made today it would be an incredibly feat but also a really rewarding one, (Note to self, call Keanu Reeves ;)). This is the golden age of television where the possibilities for stories and budgets and scope and acting talent are virtually limitless and at a time where there is so much pressure on the structure of films and now games it’s really necessary.

So please forgive the faux fanboy ranting, I just wanted to give some perspective to the narrative structure and style of 3 Ring, think Kung Fu meets Fallout 4 haha.

Peace out people.

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