For the longest time I really hated Funko — or what I’ve learned, is that I specifically hated Funko Pop figures. I did finally break down and get some earlier this year, when they released a James Bond series — I never see Bond figures, so couldn’t help myself. Since then, I’ve gotten used to seeing them on my desk, and don’t mind the aesthetic as much as I did. What I didn’t know was that Funko started out being inspired by 60s tiki culture and bobble-heads, and that stuff was really cool. I learned this from the documentary about Funko that’s on Netflix, that’s pretty entertaining to watch — just like the Toys That Made Us series, it’s fun to learn how all of these playthings came to be. It’s an impressive rise to see, and the fandom that accompanies it is pretty nuts too. I’m still not a complete convert to the Funko Pop — I am eyeing the Twin Peaks figures now though — but I do quite like all of those original bobble-head figures they used to produce.
Well, I’ll start off by saying that I’m someone how actually had a good time reading the book, an act that seems to have become undefendable. As for the movie, I thought it had its moments and that overall I found myself having a pretty fun time with it. I think my main criticism is that it sorta leaves behind the heavy 80s nostalgia of the book — which is what I liked — to go all over the place. I did think it was pretty great to go heavy on The Shining though, that was pretty fun.
The latest Hitchcock film I’ve watched is The Man Who Knew Too Much, which is another one of his films that I remember quite liking. Watching it now I still enjoyed it — and just like for Marnie, the fact that I forgot how it ends made it that much more enjoyable — but as is the case for a lot of these older films, they tend to include a lot of cringe-worthy and casual racism, and this one has quite a bit of it, and it makes it uncomfortable to watch. I don’t know if that scene with James Stewart in the restaurant in Marrakesh– awkwardly sitting at a table, washing his hands, and handling his food — was supposed to be done for laughs, but it sure isn’t funny.
The third movie in my Hitchcock marathon is Marnie, not necessarily one of his better known films, but one I remember liking a lot — and of course it doesn’t hurt that it stars Sean Connery. What’s great here is that I had really forgotten how the story went, so I was pretty shocked by the ending, which actually packs quite a punch for a film done back then (mid-sixties). Well worth watching.
I’ve been watching Hitchcock films on Sunday nights, and after kicking it off with Vertigo, my second pick was North by Northwest. It’s still really great and I enjoyed it a lot, but the thing that really hit me while watching is is the sheer number of perfectly composed shots (like that the shot of the UN building, above) — such a master.
This week I bring up a wonderful series by Christophe Blain called Isaac le Pirate. It tells the story of Isaac Sofer, who initially sees himself as a painter, but ends up joining a pirate crew, which then leads to odd and sometimes grim and sometimes humorous situations. The love of his life also sees her story told while he’s away – as he struggles to get back to her – and we get to meet some other interesting characters as well (like Jacques, Isaac’s partner-in-crime, who gets a book named after him). The series is made up of 5 books, and although it’s never been said that it’s over, all 5 were released between 2001 and 2005. It’s well worth reading for its mix of humor, drama, and high sea adventure. I’ll also recommend Blain’s Gus series, set in the wild west.
Les aventures de Spirou et Fantasio is one of those classic series that most kids who grew up reading BDs have read – I loved the series so much that I even named my first dog “Spirou.” I continue to read the main series through its creator changes – with my favourite runs being by Franquin (1-19, 24) and Tome & Janry (33-46) – but what I’ll highlight this week is a spinoff series that started a few years ago. Referred to as “Le Spirou de” (The Spirou of) it’s composed of one-shots done by different creators who are allowed a more personal take on the characters. There have been 13 releases so far, and highlights include Yann’s Le tombeau des Champignac, Emile Bravo’s Le journal d’un ingénu, and Lewis Trondheim’s Panique en Atlantique – but they’re all really fun reads, and I love reading these “alternate” takes on such classic characters.
Yesterday, in the weekly team newsletter I help produce, I started including a “bandes-dessinées” (Franco/Belgian comics) recommendation column, and figured why not share it here too. Here’s what I started with.
I love the sequential arts, and have found myself reading comics, manga, and bandes-dessinées (BD) my entire life. After half a life spent in Japan, I drifted away from the world of BD, but since moving to Montreal I’ve been diving back into that world, discovering interesting new series, while also re-reading some of the classics – and I get all of these from one of our nearby libraries, since we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Mordecai-Richler and Marc-Favreau libraries. Each week I’ll highlight one of these series – and yes, they’re all in French, but even if you struggle with the language, comics are a great way to practise your reading skills (and some of these may have English editions as well).
For this first column, I’ll bring up Thorgal, a series I’ve been devouring in recent months. It’s a fantasy series – with a touch of sci-fi – that tells the story of man who is raised in Viking culture, but later discovers that his roots lie elsewhere. Written by Jean Van Hamme (XIII, Largo Winch, Wayne Shelton) with fantastic art by Gzegorz Rosinski, there are 35 books in the main series so far (Van Hamme handed over the reigns to Yves Sente from the 30th volume), and a few spinoff series as well. I never got into Thorgal when I was a kid – I think I found it too dark at the time – so this was my first time reading it, and I love it. I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy, but the stories here are epic, with ongoing storylines that keep you looking forward to the next book, and the sci-fi inclusions are fun too.