Wheeeeeee Biddly-Bum, etc.

I’ve been trying to unpack my joy at watching the recent return of Doctor Who, the “Star Beast” episode that pretended to be an anniversary special but was, really, just an old romp of silliness that took up an hour of television.

Part of it is, simply, that I really love Doctor Who, and have missed seeing the show for awhile; even before the recent break in broadcasting/reboot, I’d kind of lost touch with the show during the Jodie Whittaker era due to a combination of Big Life Events and not feeling particularly enamored with the writing at the time. (Really, I feel bad for Whittaker for that very reason; she was very charming in the role, but the scripts weren’t there for her.)

There’s also the fact that, in a lot of ways, “The Star Beast” was a joyful restatement of intent: a declaration that Doctor Who as a show is going to be silly, sentimental, and kind, all of which are increasing rarities in science fiction television. Russell T. Davies has plenty of failings as a writer — particularly as a writer of Doctor Who, where he tends to overindulge in the silliness and sentimentality, judging by past experience — but his focus on characters, and his affection for his characters is something that everything from The Mandalorian to Star Trek: Discovery could learn from.

It helped that “The Star Beast”’s gimmicky ending relied on something that is (unfortunately) political, especially in the UK: a non-binary character and their self-belief and the power that comes from that. Does that make me “woke,” or a “SJW” as they used to be called, to say that element appealed to be so much? So be it, but it did, especially imagining the more uptight, conservative parts of fandom getting upset as a result. It was a small moment of seeing Davies realize the power of the platform that Doctor Who grants him, and perhaps part of his (to my mind, far superior) Years and Years or It’s a Sin coming to the fore, unexpectedly.

Whatever the reason, watching Doctor Who with the family on a Saturday evening made me impossibly, excitedly, happy. Here’s to feeling this over and over again as the show continues its run in the coming years.

They May Not Mean To, But They Do

For whatever reason, I didn’t really take photos of my wandering around Glasgow on Monday morning, as I had done with Gourock and Greenock the couple of days prior; maybe because it wasn’t so early, and therefore more busy? Or that I’d had to take a train to arrive there, and therefore it felt more like a destination than a dérive? (In that there were things that I wanted to do in the city, as opposed to wandering for the sake of wandering as had been the case the two days prior, it was more of a destination, I suppose…)

Nonetheless, I found a similar sense of disorientation in Glasgow as had met me in the last two towns, despite having been there just a few months prior. (We made it there in April, and even got to walk around the west end a little; today’s wandering was far longer, and more widespread.) I walked in the directions that felt like muscle memory, only to discover locations had closed, moved, or in one case, the entire building just didn’t at all anymore. Instead, there was a passageway into an external courtyard that wasn’t there the last time I’d looked.

Even places that did still exist were different, in surprising ways: Had that building always been that color? Was that road always closed off to traffic coming in that direction? What is the “high level” of the train station, when it seems like ground level to me? And so on.

There’s been so much that I’ve enjoyed and appreciated about the Scotland stay this time around — not least of which, I stepped away from work for four days, which I very, very much needed — but perhaps my takeaway from the whole thing is that very clear sense of You can’t go home again, because so much has changed. Which only makes sense — it’s been 15 years or so since I’ve been to most of these places, and that’s a long time — but, at the same time, it underscores the ways in which I don’t belong here anymore. (If I ever did…)

He Leaves An Awful Hole, Doesn’t He?

Wandering through my hometown for the first time in more than a decade was an emotional, disorienting experience. I found myself surprised by just how beautiful it was, and in ways that I’d either taken for granted or else never even noticed when I lived there: how open the skies felt (smaller buildings, for the most part), how close I was to the river and the beautiful mountains just across the water. This was all background noise when I was growing up, of course, but after decades of city living — and I love living in cities, I should add — I found myself surprised and touched by what I was seeing.

Similarly, I got genuinely emotional seeing the house I grew up in again; I’d prepared for this back in April but didn’t manage to make it on that trip, so I’m not quite sure I expected the actual, audible gasp that I made on seeing the house again, and the flood of feelings and memories and thoughts that came with it. (They’d painted the storm door! It’s white now, as opposed to black, which just felt odd. And there’s a side stairwell because the one house has been split into two apartments, but otherwise… it’s where I spent almost 20 years of my life. It held power, and I wasn’t ready, really.)

Perhaps the strangest thing, though, was going downtown again. Downtown Greenock was never a happening spot for hepcats, but I had my internal geography based on particular memories, particular locations… and they’re almost entirely gone now. That’s probably to be expected, given that it was almost 20 years between visits… but at the same time, they’re gone and replaced by vape shops, or a multitude of To Let signs. There was a block where every second storefront was a bookmakers (that’s a betting shop, not somewhere that makes books, for those who don’t know); what I knew as a bank had been replaced by a funeral services planner. It all reminded me of something, but I couldn’t put my finger on what until I saw what had been a big grocery store when I was a teenager had become a food bank that it struck me: it was as if Bedford Falls had become Pottersville. Clarence, what am I supposed to do…?

I had walked into town in a sad, lonely melancholy mood — this was Day 11 of the trip, after all, and even though I was visiting family, I missed my family back home, and I missed home, too — but there was something about this dérive that recharged me and made me feel more grounded both in where I’d come from, but also where I am these days in life, too. I couldn’t even begin to explain why, but it was true, and I was grateful for it.

It’s Your Right, Come On And

One of the things that really became apparent during my New York trip midway through October was how little time I had to myself on a convention trip these days. When I think of New York Comic Con, I tend to think of two things: firstly, going with Chloe, which didn’t happen this time because she was recovering from a migraine that knocked her out for more than a week. Secondly, and more importantly for the purpose of this post: having the time to go wander ’round the city after each day, before heading back to the hotel to file a story or maybe two.

Really, I think back to the days when I’d be covering the show for THR, and I got to decide what was and wasn’t a good story. Sure, I’d check in with Aaron back in LA, and he’d let me know if there was something he really wanted that might not have been on my radar, but otherwise, I’d be there under my own auspices and would have the brain space that came with that afterwards.

That wasn’t the case this year, where circumstances combined to give me more than enough to think about, and more than enough to keep me busy to the point where I only truly existed in two places during the trip: the convention center, and my hotel room, where I was either writing or failing to sleep. It was a rough trip, and I felt particularly burned out when it was over.

Just over a week later, I was in London for another show, and I had pretty much the same experience for the three days of that convention, too; it’s not that I had too much to do, per se, as much as I had just enough to do that meant that I was pretty constantly working for the entire time I was awake, even if said work was occasionally monitoring livestreams or having meetings. My brain was pretty consistently “on,” which paired with jetlag to leave me pretty intellectually and emotionally wiped out by the time the show finished. When I think back to the show — which just happened last week! — I pretty much can’t remember chunks of it because I was just reacting to whatever needed to be done at that particular moment. The show happened to me, if that makes sense.

(To a lesser extent, I think I’d say the same about the New York show.)

I’m saying this not to be all, “woe is me”; I actually love my job, even when I don’t necessarily like my job. (It is, after all, a job.) I’m aware of the opportunities I’m provided, and grateful for them, even as I can be aware of the ways in which I need to do better — and those in charge need to do better — to avoid burnout and overwhelming myself with everything. I’m saying all of this to lay the context for the image at the top of this post.

It’s nothing special, of course. It’s a picture I took while going for an aimless walk on the morning I left London, when I found myself with a couple of hours and, for the first time in… maybe a week and a half(?) , had nothing to do. I went for a short walk, with no intent other than to enjoy the calm and some fresh air. I had no agenda, and it was relatively sunny, and I felt… free. I did the same thing the morning after I arrived in Scotland, a handful of days later: just walked, with no agenda, to see what happened.

I need to make more time like that for myself in the future. Trips are better when I feel part of where I am, beyond simply seeing a convention center and a hotel room.

The Comics of October 2023

As is always the case, my comic book reading was impacted by comic book conventions in October — for whatever reason, I become so busy that my brain simply can’t handle the idea of reading anything that I don’t absolutely have to. With two different con trips in October that took up a couple of weeks between them, I’m honestly surprised I read as much as I did…

  1. Catwoman (2018) #58
  2. Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #20
  3. Superman (2023) #7
  4. Wonder Woman (2023) #2
  5. Green Lantern: War Journal #2
  6. Titans (2023) #4
  7. Jay Garrick, The Flash #1
  8. Something is Killing the Children #s 11-15
  9. Captain Atom (1986) #s 1-2
  10. The Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #28
  11. She-Hulk (2022) #14
  12. Avengers Beyond #4
  13. Predator (2023) #4
  14. Warlock: Rebirth #3
  15. Captain Carter #s 1-5
  16. Captain Atom (1986) #s 3-5
  17. Captain Atom (1986) #6
  18. Captain Atom (1986) #7-12
  19. Something is Killing the Children #s 16-20
  20. Fantastic Four (2018) #40
  21. Fantastic Four (2018) #s 41-45
  22. Incoming #1
  23. DC’s Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun #1
  24. Smash! #1
  25. Empyre: Avengers #0
  26. Empyre: Fantastic Four #0
  27. Empyre #s 1-6
  28. Empyre Aftermath: Avengers #1
  29. Empyre Fallout: Fantastic Four #1
  30. Free Comic Book Day 2022: Avengers/X-Men #1
  31. A.X.E. Judgment Day #s 1-2
  32. Best of Tharg’s Terror Tales
  33. The OMAC Project #s 1-6
  34. The OMAC Project Infinite Crisis Special #1
  35. Detective Comics (1937) #s 742-756 (Start of the Greg Rucka run)
  36. Detective Comics (1937) #s 757-766
  37. Batman: The 10 Cent Adventure
  38. Batgirl (2000) #24
  39. X-Men: Before the Fall – The Sinister Four #1
  40. Doctor Strange (2023) #5
  41. Action Comics #1058
  42. Alan Scott, The Green Lantern #1
  43. X-Men (2021) #24
  44. Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War – Red Hood #2
  45. Amazons Attack (2023) #1
  46. Green Arrow (2023) #5
  47. The Flash (2023) #2
  48. The Penguin (2023) #3
  49. Tales of the Titans #4
  50. Unstoppable Doom Patrol #50
  51. Daredevil (2022) #12
  52. Nightwing (1996) #s 65-66
  53. Batman: Gotham Knights #s 25-26
  54. Birds of Prey (1998) #s 39-40
  55. Robin (1993) #s 98-99
  56. Batman (1940) #599
  57. Detective Comics (1937) #767
  58. Batman (1940) #s 600-601
  59. Detective Comics (1937) #768-770
  60. Birds of Prey (1998) #41
  61. Best of 2000 AD Vol. 4 TPB
  62. Batgirl (2000) #s 27, 29
  63. Nightwing (1996) #s 68-69
  64. Batman: Gotham Knights #s 28-31
  65. Birds of Prey (1998) #43
  66. Batman (1940) #s 603-605
  67. Detective Comics (1937) #s 771-772
  68. Azrael: Agent of the Bat #91
  69. Detective Comics (1937) #s 773-775 (End of Greg Rucka run)
  70. Action Comics (2016) #s 987-992
  71. Duke NYCC Ashcan
  72. What If…? (1989) #s 1-13
  73. Batman (1940) #s 635-636
  74. Batman (1940) #s 637-650
  75. Batman Annual #25
  76. X-Force (2019) #42
  77. Immortal X-Men #13
  78. The Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #29
  79. Scarlet Witch (2023) #6
  80. Warlock: Rebirth #4
  81. X-Men: Days of Future Past – Doomsday #1
  82. Nightwing (2016) #107
  83. Action Comics #s 1047-1050
  84. Superman: Son of Kal-El #s 16-18
  85. Superman: Kal-El Returns #1
  86. Elvira’s House of Mystery #1
  87. Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War – Scorched Earth #1
  88. The Return of Superman 30th Anniversary Special #1
  89. Batman (2016) #139
  90. Shazam! (2023) #5
  91. Supergirl Special (2023) #1
  92. What If…? (1989) #s 14-20
  93. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Special #1
  94. Birds of Prey (2023) #3
  95. Fire & Ice: Welcome to Smallville #3
  96. The Joker: The Man Who Stopped Laughing #s 10-12
  97. Batman: Three Jokers #3
  98. Icon vs Hardware #s 4-5
  99. Judgment Day: Aftermath
  100. What If…? (1989) #s 21-23
  101. Outsiders (2023) #1
  102. What If…? (1989) #s 24-27
  103. Alan Scott, the Green Lantern #2
  104. Frank Miller’s RoboCop #s 1-9
  105. Kings Watch #s 1-5
  106. Flash Gordon (2014) #1
  107. Flash Gordon (2014) #s 2-8
  108. Flash Gordon Annual 2014
  109. King: Flash Gordon #s 1-4
  110. Helium Book One (2000 AD strip)
  111. King: Jungle Jim #s 1-4
  112. Fallen Friend: The Death of Ms. Marvel #1
  113. It’s Jeff! #25
  114. Extreme Venomverse #5
  115. X-Men Red (2022) #13
  116. King: Mandrake the Magician #s 1-4
  117. King: Prince Valiant #s 1-4
  118. King: The Phantom #s 1-4
  119. Kings Quest #s 1-5
  120. The Bogie Man #1
  121. Flash Gordon: Kings Cross #s 1-4
  122. Black Panther (2021) #s 1-15
  123. Black Panther (2023) #s 1-2
  124. Danger Street #11
  125. WildC.A.T.S (2022) #12
  126. Green Lantern (2023) #5
  127. Batman and Robin (2023) #3
  128. Speed Force (2023) #1
  129. Wonder Woman (2023) #3
  130. Batman: Off-World #1
  131. Marvel 75th Anniversary Special #1
  132. Wolverine (2020) #35
  133. The Amazing Spider-Man (2022) #30
  134. Chosen #s 1-3
  135. American Jesus: The New Messiah #s 1-3
  136. American Jesus: Revelation #s 1-3
  137. The Incredible Hulk (2023) #2
  138. The Avengers (2023) #3
  139. The Invincible Iron Man (2022) #8
  140. All-Hallows Eve #5
  141. Hellcat (2023) #5
  142. Ultimate Invasion #2
  143. She-Hulk (2022) #15
  144. The Wicked + The Divine #s 1-6