Christmas Live! (Part 4 – The Conclusion)

Previously in Panto – Deed Poll to  Prison, Thames IslandsWoolworths songs, and now the conclusion

“Welcome: To the Palace of the Mountain King!” yells Joe Longthorne. He’s cross-legged in fanciful silver ball-gown, plumes of white feathers around the collar. Sat upon The Iron Throne, a peacock’s splendour of daggers elevated upon cascading steps, he motions his head downwards to Jetfire, Heller and the others. All are caged but for John Craven.

king joffrey longthorne John Craven Betrayal

“Driving home for Christmas”, he harks, “These people are just the same as me!” Risen from his throne clapping, he ponces grandly down to meet them. He teases ruby fingernails along the bars of Jetfire’s cage. “Well, well. What have we here? A Transformer. More than meets the eye, I’ll say! Aye Eye!” he laughs now. “Well my darling. I must say I’ve never tried to impersonate one of yours. What crimes have you committed?”

“ government won’t allow me to live here, unless I work for the arms companies. But I ha-have a degree in neuroscience that could help many people.”

“I see, you’re, caught” Words tickle out as Longthorne reaches through the bars and strokes Jetfire’s arm.

“You sold us out John Craven. You’re a traitor!” yells Heller, unable to control himself.

Longthorne laughs again. A light girlish laugh, at first endearing like the best bowl of cereal then obsequious, as if steeped in milk for four days. Yet not sour.       “John is here at my pleasure. Think what we could do by ruling together John. I could dress for you and you could dress for me. Lipstick and eyeliner, oh, it’s so much fun.”

“Well, it’s not out of the question” said John raising an eyebrow and smiling.  With the same smile he shakes his hairy head like a jolly dog. ‘No’. “No, I’m afraid it wouldn’t work Joe.”

“Oh come now. I’ve dressed as hundreds of celebrities. But the truth looks so good on you.”

Miley Merrick rattles her cage fiercely and slides to it’s base. Tori reaches through. “It’s okay Elephant Girl. You’ll be noticed soon.”

“You there! Let those women go!” demands Carnacki.

“You’ve had so many identities that you don’t know who you are anymore. Who’s really in charge here?”

Heller saw Longthorne was shaken by this observation and pressed home the advantage. “Did they do to you what you’re going to let happen to John Craven? Filled full of wires and zapped with shocks to become just another tool of the State?”

Longthorne rages. “What about you Autobot? Do you think I’m just a weapon?”

Jetfire spoke with sadness.

“I just know myself. I’m Jetfire. That is who I am and I’m glad of it. I can think of nothing worse than not knowing who one really is.”

Just then the ground quakes.

John Craven rushes to the window. “Joe, it’s the London Met dressed as Boba Fett. Hundreds of them.”

Six officers enter the room and surround the prisoners as the news-reader darts behind Tori’s cage.

“Whooooo disrupts my Coronation?” asks Joe.

“Coronation Longthorne? This is bad comedy!”

It was the Wooden Blocks. Haunting mannequins, ghosts of expression. Daniel Cameron, and with him his lieutenants Neil Clegg and Gordon Osborne. “Why are these scroungers not in rehabilitative security at the Winter Snaps?”

“You serve at my leisure Daniel.” cautioned Longthorne.

“Oh?” Cameron’s face puffs like a blowfish. He turns to Neil and Gordon. “Haw Haw Haw Haw” he yawps and they echo his cackles. “We serf at his leisure?”

The words sound baby-speak, mocking, twisted.

“HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW” and for a full minute all the politicians and guards hawed.

“Joe, if you can be anyone, don’t be a no-one”, says Jetfire and there is silence.

“Who played you Joe?” asks Heller.

Joe looks over to John Craven beaming back a broad smile. He tosses bunched keys across the room.

“I won’t allow it!” yaps Gordon and stamps his feet three times. “It’s not fair, it’s not fair!”

Now see Joe Longthorne punch Neil Clegg in the face.

“Target Special Agent Longthorne!” yells Daniel Cameron.

Every heavy firearm in the room raises to Daniel Cameron’s head until he is clear of their sights.

“He’s slipped into costume!” calls one of the shock troops, aiming his weapon at Gordon. All guns turn. Everyone is still. John Craven and Tori Amos pause with those caged, watching, considering. Then, Daniel Cameron moves. He’s running off stage there, like a big yellow-belly scaredy-cat and is shot full of rapid bangs. The sound echoes around Chumberly Village Hall. You could almost run around later with your friendsand pretend to be shooting Daniel Cameron, that’s how loud it was. The London Met Boba Fett shock troopers turn on each other. Their guns are squeezy washing up bottles with water inside and they squirt shots and fall to the floor. There is one left standing.

“Joe Longthorne!” he says, approaching Neil Clegg. He detaches his cartridge from his gun and shakes it up and down then opens it by screw top. He bashes the base of it and tomato ketchup drollops out and covers Neil Clegg’s bloody nose. Then the trooper kicks him in the bollocks.

“Arghieee, that really hurt. Mummmieeee!”

Our heroic band are out, rescued, but Miley Cyrus bum-rushes the Shock Trooper into an open cage and it closes behind the two of them. Captain Heller’s gun points to the Chancellor’s head. The Surfer comes around to join him.

“Not so fast Gordon Of Osborne.”

“I knew we’d find out who’s really behind this.”

Osborne pulls his own face off. “He was inside one of those Shock Troop uniforms.” says Joe, who were beneath the mask. “I dressed him in it after I punched Neil Clegg.”

“I’m glad” says John Craven.

“Now I am free I can begin to heal this battered heart. Thankyou, my new friends.”, he says eagerly shaking the robot’s hand. “I have something for you.”

Joe reaches into his pocket and pulls out two small books, which he gives to Jetfire and Captain Heller.

“Passports: Jetfire, for your citizenship and Captain Heller – we’re going to need a good leader to take this country from the dark ages. What do you say? Will you stay and help?”

“And forget all this ever happened?” asks Heller sceptically.

“I agree. And don’t you all have homes to go to?” asks Carnacki. “Now, shoo! Off you pop! Out into the street!”

And with that the performers exit, pushing Miley and the trooper off-stage.



* * * Curtains * * *


‘Do they Know it’s Christmas?’ charges towards the speakers. It’s a cover version by Rammstein. The actors bow; we clap.


“Well Ta Gnat Thank Gad It’s Tham, In Staidddd of Yoo”


They take a second bow and throw out Punk prowls and Kung-Fu kicks.



* * * Curtains * * *






A Christmas Panto, hyperlinked in one part, two part and now 3.

Blue curtains part, we hear a long fart, draws us to the contorted Miley Cyrus on the pavement with the rest. They are sad. Behind them a grey grill front Woolworths store shot with red flame. The flames are really convincing. Not at all like that puny bright red foil cut into star shapes with pinking scissors because real scissors couldn’t be found. There is an advert in the window for an ‘Apple iSelection Box – Reduced To £249.99″. Tori Amos lifts a red aluminium can from the floor and throws it viciously across the stage were it clatters, rolls from sight. John Craven lifts his head up.

“Coca-Cola are putting people’s names on the side of their cans. They even got John!” he beams.

“That one was Jose. One of their murdered Colombian plant workers range” she admitted sadly.

Nobody spoke. They sat by that intersection of grilled up shops. Carnacki lifts the larger part of a smashed bauble from the ground. Miley Cyrus rocks to and fro beside him and he turns to calm her.

“No Miss Merrick. I wish we could go to Lapland, or Greenland. But our only hope is to stomp out this tyrannical power structure at it’s source. We must wait for the bus to Whitehall.”

“This isn’t how Christmas was in my day.” quipped Craven, sensing the darkening. “My father bought me my first knife, made of chocolate. It was an unusually warm Christmas Day, and after family time, he’d take me down to the local river and we’d test out our new fishing equipment together. We’d catch a few chocolate fish. But it was in the Summer, when we’d sail the Chocolate Seas together, that the real magic happened.”

The players are silent.

“What do you suppose is the worst Christmas song?” asked The Silver Surfer.

“The one that really gets me is that drumming song. You know, it’s really chirpy. Its as if it’s being sung by the Boys Brigade as they give biscuit tins to pensioners. But it’s all just a lead up to the central refrain.” Jetfire chokes on his words, he’s crying. “‘I wish I was at home for Christmas’.

“Stop The Cavalry by Jona Lewie.” says The Surfer, pleased at his recall.

“Its actually an anti-war song urging disarmament”, says Heller.

“And now we’re set for the firing squad. This Longthorne will want us executed surely.” said Carnacki matter-of-factly.

“You know what I can’t stand?” says The Surfer. “’Driving home for Christmas?'”

Carnacki raises his elbow and bobs his pipe. “That’s a fine song!”

“You Kiddeth Me! The tune sounds like he’s dancing up a motorway! ‘I look at the driver next to me. He’s just the same?’ It’s wretched vomit.” he snarks.

Carnacki moves uncomfortably and John Craven puts his arm around him and looked along the row.

“At least you know what you’re getting. The tune and delivery tells you it’s melancholic outsider pop, and it quickly establishes itself as having popular base appeal. Chris Rea is the poor man’s Tom Waits and he never pretends to be anything else. He’s antidotal to that other Chris – De Burgh.”

That’s a good argument. How can you not like John Craven?

The grizzly freighter Captain raises his arm and speaks with confidence. “The Band Aid one.”

Tori laughs. “It’s like ‘The Walking Dead’, that song.”

“It’ll put years on you!” smirks Heller slyly.

“Dung! Duh-Dung!” says Tori, slouching slowly to her feet. She jerks towards the front and her chin protrudes fatly. Her motions are like a zombie, screwed up mocking eyes and teeth.

“Dung! Duh-Dung!” said Heller, shrugging his dust-jackets’ shoulders out, and flapping his arms by his sides.

“Duuung!” yelled Miley.

Tori pulls a cigar from her pocket and took several puffs, rasping out, “Its Crusmus Tummm”

Heller at the edge of the stage beckons a pensioner in the front row. He pulls a large service revolver from his jacket and presses it firmly against the man’s nose.

“There’s no need to be afraid” he sings with a smile to screaming children.

“A-At Christmas Tie” sings the man visibly shaken. Heller releases him and he falls back onto his chair.

“We let in light and we banish shade!” boisterously delivers Carnacki.

Christmas Live 3

“Duuung!” yelled Miley.

“And in our world of plenty” sings Jetfire rubbing his armour breast-plate.

“We can spread a smile of joy” sang John Craven.

“Purt Yar Marand Teh Weld @ Crusmus Tum” screamed Miley Merrick flapping about like a seizure crashing into The Silver Surfer.

Like a finely honed classical ballet dancer he strides. “But say a prayer” Down on one knee, he placing elbows on the other and joins hands to meet at his face. “Pray for the other ones”

Jetfire raises his arms, and his two wings become four, rotating to form an amazing spectacle. “It’s hard, but when you’re having funnnn” His tones are those of a desperate alien and his large hands wrap over his ears which resemble over-sized headphones.

“There’s a world outside your window”, Craven hopefully offers you and Carnacki warns , “it’s a world of dread and fear.”

“Where nothing ever grows, no rain or winter snows” sing Glenn Howerton and Alison Brie. They square off in a mock kung-fu tournament. Then, the seven performers lift their feet, delivering the hook line of the song together. “Do. They. Know. It’s. Crisp. Mass. Time. At. All?” The jolly tune kicks in now and they bulk up. They clomp around the stage, dancing like exuberant mad young things wearing clogs. Miley Merrick marks the beats, drowning out the vocals.

“Bum Bum Bum Bum Bum Bum! Bum Bum Buuum Bum..” and she is the first to fall out of formation. She clatters into Woolworths and a cage falls from the shop-front. Amos and Carnacki are by other buildings, and if on cue grills by them become the backs of cages that fall from the rafters.

“What demonology is this?” calls Carnacki.

Miley is yelping and the others have stopped singing.

“Oh now look.” pleads the Surfer. “I’ve never been against Longthorne. I’m completely harmless!”

But it was too late for he too had wandered into a trap.

“Stand still!” calls Heller, just as cages fall upon the Surfer and Jetfire.

Captain Heller and John Craven stagger back towards one another. Heller looks around tactically. To the audience, back to the shops. His prison falls from the sky, boxing him on all sides. He looks through the bars at John Craven.

“Have you betrayed us? Have you betrayed me?” he screams.

* * * Curtains * * *

Christmas Live! (Part 2)

A Christmas Panto hyperlinked in four parts,such as part 1


* * * Curtains * * *


“Some say it’s to do with the opening of the Blue Peter Time Capsule. My other sources say the Wooden Blocks. You know the wooden blocks? Thatcher, Pinochet, they have long noses but not much else. Simple head, feet and frame. Except when they move. They don’t make a sound as they stomp, but as their feet lift off the ground…. it’s as if thunder scares the Poles, and the clouds plummet.”

Do you know Judge Dredd, 2000A.D.? Charley’s War and Marshal Law the comics? Pat Mills is a writer who made them. He doesn’t look sixty-four, closer to fifty. He is a little left-wing and is bluntly unimpressed with your shortcomings. He wears a scowl, dirty fair hair and a brown, light leather jacket, all of which suit him for the role of…

“Captain Drew Heller, the resistance man! The hero of Zoidstar. I thought you looked familiar.” says Tori. “This freighter pilot is the number two enemy of Whitehall.  He’s taught whole continents to rise up and influenced a generation through his graffiti.”

“So we really are in with the high risk offenders” scoffs The Silver Surfer.

The group are stood left of centre against a dirty blue painted backdrop of a river. Our eyes are drawn to their feet were Miley Cyrus rolls with her pants down on the artificial grass covering the stage.

Carnacki stands apart too, at the back under a solitary twisted tree. He looks out the distance at you, audience. To his right you can make out a seventh figure sat in darkness at a table.

“We appear to be on an island.” remarks the Victorian Ghost-Finder. “What is going on here Captain Heller? This ‘prison’, does not appear modelled on a  Panopticon?”

“It’s more Australia than Alcatraz.” says Heller roughly. “You’re familiar with the story of how they set me up?”

Brightened are the two lights on the fibreglass above Skyfire’s eyes.

“They contracted you to ferry prisoners to a planet with anthropomorphic war robots. These ‘Zoids’ picked the prisoners and your crew off, killed them. Drained of firepower the Zoids would be vulnerable to Cybersol Corporation’s military forces and their plan to capturing a working ‘Zoid’.”

Heller picks up the tale.

“However the Tories identified with Blue Zoid factions and Labour with the Red Zoids. Amidst this the Communist Party were seduced by Krark’s United Zoid Army. The mission was a failure. This was because the Zoids were on average twelve centimetres high and their weapons were imaginary. But damnit! I lost my son Griff on that job. They will pay for that.”

“Have you still got the receipt?”

“What does this have to do with our current situation?” asked Tori, noticing the single prison number on his jacket.

“We’re part of a similar experimental programme here on Thames Island. It’s really just an estuary. But we are guarded by monsters from a weird science breeding programme.”

“Thut fulm was tuh-rrible.” said Miley Cyrus and punched a finger in her nose hole.

“Tell me”, continued Captain Heller, “What recently do you know of Operation Yewtree?”

“This again?”

“Is that it?” asks Skyfire, pointing to the tree.


The Silver Surfer sighed sensing seeking something sourced spoke.

“The last I had heard the operation to arrest seventies and eighties on sexual charges led to the shooting dead of Timmy Mallett and his cousin Christopher “Big” Biggins. The Agents of H.A.P.P.Y., Figgis, Glover and Binnis also went missing.”

“Who’s that?” asked Thomas Carnacki at last, glaring at the seventh man.

They approached Prisoner Number One and the light revealed an older man, dark hair in side-shade, a broad grin and twinkling eyes. He wore a black blazer with white trim over pressed shirt and trousers.

“You’d have to ask a news-man.” he said.


There was a good height and slim build to him when he stood, and he carried himself as a nexus of pleasantries.  Then a pause and the sound of Miley Cyrus The Elephant Man slurping repeated. This carries on even as Skyfire’s recognises him.

“You’re John Craven!”

“I’ve heard of you.” said Tori. “The news reader who never lies.”

He laughed at that did John Craven, who was played by himself.

“I-I’m a huge fan. I-I’m Skyfire”, and he shook his hand eagerly.

“I know. Isn’t your name’s really Jetfire. I heard you were wrongly convicted. You may as well wear the name you’re comfortable with.”

Jetfire blushes.

“Not so fast!” called out Captain Heller in a way that causes even Miley to stop licking and pay attention.”Craven, you’re as guilty as the next news-man of the stories that you don’t report. You’re too likeable, and besides, I’ve read Watchmen – Ozymandias.”

The air is electric and the wind is wee-wee.

“Could it be you’re behind it all?” asked Heller. “Oh yes. The perfect man who evaded termination, while his generation fell around him.“

Carnacki grabbed a soggy broken bark from the ground, The Surfer squinted, even Tori twitched for her concealed jewish harp.

“Tell me Captain”, Craven responded lightly. “Because you’re a smart man. Did you ever hear about the arrest of Joe Longthorne?”

“Huh? They took him in early. Everyone knows that.”

“Well now I didn’t put that story out. Can you remember your source on the Longthorne arrest?”

Carnacki approaches Heller and stands in front of him. We see how each mirroring the other’s confusion in their expressions.

“You all remember Joe Longthorne? Of course you don’t. But try. He was the top celebrity impersonator of our age. He made his living from being a chameleon. From Brighton to Dundee, he played them all. He was at hundreds of people and places! Do you suppose a man like that wouldn’t be deep in black ops?”

“But he’s more than that. His policies flow through every channel, inform every paper, jump at the web and smudge every paper. It’s not just the 1970s Longthorne is erasing. He even had Weird Al Yankovic killed to protect his secrets. And those little babies that were murdered…”, and here John Craven appears to cry searching for their names, “Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, My god, he murdered those children in their cots and blamed it on King Herod!”

“It’s true.” says The Surfer after a stunned minute.

“Operation Yewtree arrests for crimes this man may have committed under fake identities.” Captain Heller lets the words out slowly, as if he can’t quite believe the enormity of the tragic conspiracy, yet knows it in his heart to be true. “Or to remove his opponents from the board.”

“What do we do now?” asks Jetfire.

Heller was firm.

“We’re going back.”


The island was quite small, only the length of the stage, and it seemed like the band were walking and not moving.

“Come on then Lakes Seven” urges Heller.

“This isn’t a lake, it’s the River Thames.” says Carnacki.

“No. It was a play on Blake’s Seven” he informed him.

“But William Blake isn’t here.” says Carnacki, confused.

A red spotlight illuminates the stage and a three headed monster of vile wart-eyed women with curlers on their bun heads hiss and scream. Each have necks like E.T. the extra live part 2

“Ghidorah!” shouted Jetfire.

“The Harpies!” called Tori.

“UTSH CRUSTMUSSS!” it guldered serpentine, with the voice of Noddy Holder.

In fact, it was three arms inside three cardboard tubes, each padded out with foam, masking tape and a mix of turgid mud paint. A balloon at the end of each wrinkles with photo faces of Julie Burchill, Rebekah Brooks and Jan Moir. Miley Cyrus puts her hand in her bum and producing poop flings at the monster. However, Carnacki is holding up his soggy wooden bark and Miley’s faeces strike the weapon and bounce off, assuming the form of Quality Street and Cadbury’s Roses which hurtle towards you. Then Thomas Carnacki, who can detect when there are ghosts or as is more common, a scientific explanation, well, he became aware of your presence. He is looking at your eyes right this moment, do you understand? You are looking at him and he says, “Reader, you must help me to distract this triumvirate of evil, you must say to them, we’re over here! You’ll hear them call to you, ‘Where are they?’ You must say to them “We’re over here’ and then we will sneak towards them and bang their heads. Go on reader! We depend upon you this hour. Say to them ‘Over here!’, 1…2…3….I need you to be really loud now. The fate of reality, our whole existence depends on it. Remain sitting were you are and say the words. 1…2….3… Do you see? Do you understand what is meant by this? Can I have your word that you will perform this task? I assure you no ill will or malignancy will come upon you if you do exactly what I say. Trust me now, ‘Over here!'”


The faces would be popped of Burchill, Brooks and Moir. Three dead skin minging harpies, their tiny heads would be exploded and glitter would come out.  This allows the heroic rebels a trip across three stones joining Thames Island with the bank.  Captain Heller, Jetfire, Carnacki, John Craven, all hop. Tori Amos hops, Miley Cyrus hops!

The Silver Surfer sets his board over the stones and runs across it.



* * * Curtains * * *


Christmas Live! (Part 1)

Back in 2005, I produced a gift-card for my friends for Christmas along the theme of pantomime. “Panto” is a UK theatre tradition at that time of year: theatrical childhood fables, over-bearing set design, D-list celebrities and some inter-active elements. My attempt was a success, so I vowed to make a panto comic every year and I didn’t. As the end of 2013 closed in on me, I’d still to invent something for Lynda Collins’ Belfast Writers Group competition. I’m going to run this story as a part-work over the next five days.


Chumberly Village Hall, well, it feels like 1954. There are two matrices of classic grey back and bum chairs, the size doing for children, dwarves or midgets. Take a seat now with the others. Ahead of you is a stage and a big blue curtain. Nice! You look at the people across the row and have a smile. A big blue curtain! A galaxy of stars the paper said. Smile at the people over there, oh! They’re not looking. What’s behind the big blue curtain? Somebody is sitting beside you. You’ve got something to say but, the show begins. The curtains swoosh.

The set is three advice hatches, drawn on figures behind each. A shape of a line of people stands alone on wheels. The waiting area has seasonal decorations: grey banners and doilies, fake box presents and a big grey tree. The sole living figure joins the queue wearing a specially made body of insulated fibreglass. It seamlessly covers him from dome head to boot heels. The outfit protrudes at his chest and behind in two aircraft-like wings. Underneath it’s Lavelle Crawford; he played Huell, Saul’s bodyguard, in ‘Breaking Bad’. A news broadcast can be heard through the speakers:

“Entertainers Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball were arrested today in a high profile sting in Hollywood. The comedians were jet-skiing off the warp nacelles of the Starship Enterprise near Stage 9 at Paramount Pictures.”

The cut-out people wheel slowly to stage right, as Lavelle Crawford jumbo bot shuffles awkwardly after.

“The pair are to be extradited as part of Operation Yewtree. In related news, the Metropolitan Police warn that Eddie Large is still at large.”

“Next!” comes a deep husky woman’s voice.

The robot leaves the queue and moves to the hatch.

“Mister Skyfire?”

“Uhm” he stammers, then chirpily, “Yes hello. I want to change my name to Jetfire.”

“Do you have family?” she snarls.

“J-just m-my brother is VF-1S Super Valkyrie.”

“And where does he live?”

“He’s in Pyongyang at present.”

“In the UK, Mister Skyfire”, the unseen woman spits. “You do realise that you can do this online via the UK Deed Poll Service?”

Skyfire glances at you and smiles. “That’s right.” But there is a silence: deadly, crisp, indigestable.

“Well if your brother Valkyfire is in Pyoongyang then he cannot witness you being sworn in by the Commission for Oaths, or a Justice of the Peace. So Why Mister Skyfire, are you. still. here.?


skyfire by deed poll


On a stick a cloud shakes down and Skyfire lowers his head. It follows his wanderings until two computer terminals roll to him. Skyfire sits at the nearer and his giant fingers clunk at the keyboard. His head shakes in exasperation and he clunks again. The Silver Surfer created by Jack Kirby sets up his cosmic surf-board against the monitor at the other terminal. The Silver Surfer is the slim and toned comic actor Glenn Howerton covered in Johnson’s Baby Powder and Co-Op Flour. Skyfire’s typing shakes the table and the surf board crashes to the ground.

“Enough!” cries The Surfer. “I’ve just come home after teaching at Harvard. Since my return I’ve been spat on and had to endure brussel sprouts thrown at me! Is that any way to treat a pillar of society?”

“I’m sorry. I meant no offence.” says Skyfire mournfully. “I’m trying to connect to this computer.” He points to the screen. “Would you know if I need a C2G Ultima SXGA Monitor cable (£13.03) or a C2G 4 PIN USB cable (£4.99) or a standard ethernet cable?”

“I cannot help you.” says The Surfer, who remains focussed on his own monitor. “I lectured in Elvis impersonation”

“‘What robot are you: Macross, Hasbro, Bondai? How can I answer that? Damn lawyers. I just want to change my name!”

“Whoa man!” says The Surfer, for two cops have arrived. One grabs Skyfire’s wings and the other an arm.

“Mister Skyfire you might want to come with us. We have a lot of very bad words.”

The police pull Skyfire out of his seat, fart on his head and drag him off.


* * * Curtains * * *


“Wruhcking Buhlll”

The wretched plasticine child with Art Attack hair pokes Skyfire’s head and dances back. There are four people in this dark and narrow scene. Two are sat on ledges, but otherwise the set is bare like the inside of a container.

“Elephant Man, don’t harass our guest”, Miley Cyrus is instructed.

“I’m Tori Amos”, she says, resting her hand a moment on Skyfire’s shoulder. When Tori Amos’s lawyers found out I was writing this story, papers were served, papers I’m sure Tori never saw. However at the time, I was playing “How many shredded carrots can you balance on your head?” with my friend Alison Brie off of ‘Community’ and ‘Mad Men’. Alison agreed to play the part of Tori Amos in this pantomime and told me to take the carrots off my head and find her a curly red wig.

“I’m Thomas Carnacki -Ghost Finder.” said the dark-haired man, offering his hand to Skyfire. His shirt is a purple and white floral design under a strong green Victorian overcoat and black trousers. In this instance he is played by James Marsters, a fine actor who deserves another chance after being rubbish in Torchwood. Oh he was. “Where you part of the Seventies operation?” Carnacki asks.

“My immigration papers were delayed.” Skyfire replies groggily. “I’m an autobot. I have no interest in sex. I would not be arrested for sex crimes.”

“Jazz, Sunstreaker, Bumblebee, Arcee, even Sludge of the Dinobots. There are plenty of arguments to that assertion using Karl Popper’s test of falsification and deduction”, remarks Carnacki.

“The Met are imprisoning anyone famous from the seventies.” says The Silver Surfer, once unseen, now rising from the floor.

“It’s true. Forsythe, Davison, Matthews The Chicken Man.” says Tori. “They’re treating Tom Baker like they did Edward Snowden.”

“Don’t gaze on me in that manner.” barks The Surfer. “My only crime was an addiction to Candy Crush.”

“Or being herald to a planet devourer?” Carnacki seethes. “Perhaps if you were less distracted with Facebook, we wouldn’t have a society were Blue Peter presenters were forced to go on the run! Dear Boy, might you try and understand this?”

Miley Cyrus The Elephant Man tucks her head between her bendy spread legs and pushes her back between them to a diagonal and lopsided roll. She screams and lands on the floor with Skyfire and The Surfer. Everybody shakes and the set moves as if like a van has stopped. Strong torch-light shines deep through them from a door at the back. It’s a London Met shock troop looking like Boba Fett.

“Aright you lot, on your feet! Move at, move at! You dorty swoine!”

Boba Fett smacks Carnacki’s bum with his truncheon.



* * * Curtains * * *








(Synopsis not a review, I hate those uh-rr!)

The Bill was on last night. At first thought t’was Eastenders because black couple yelling, “That’s bullshit!” There was a big man like Dara O’ Brien sneaking around The Bill under gun seige but he turned out to be a baddy when captured by Crazy Weasel Cheese Face who shot the kid and got two guns. The Other Bill were watching on camera – Skegness Bowie and Desk Lady Face. They had lots of cameras – it was The Bill with swears. Big budget. SWAT teams. The Other Bill were watching lots of screens from their Xmas Party in a pub.
Meanwhile, Dara O’Brien kneed an officer a punch. Weasel Cheese let him go get more blue towels (Weasel Cheese loved blue towels), but Dara covered them in 3×5 litre vegetable oil and set them on fire. Then I sat down to write this plot synopsis. When I looked up, all the hostages were outside in the smoke. Leather jacketed Dara punched Weasel Cheese against a car. A car! He punched him against a car.

Next: A car is spinning, and a young un has his hands up in the air. A girl is yelling at a cop. She’s like a bad un from Eastenders, but not a Jeremy Kyle bad un; only is some.

End credits: A car driving round. Different streets. Could be a taxi? Car. Driving. A Street. Drives. Pales by comparison with THE FEET.

Don’t cross-reference this, remember it like I do.

Happy Xmas Panto: The Last Noel

It’s Monday night and I’m sitting on a big comfy seat in a warm house and blonde haired women are bringing me drinks and I hope you are too.  Tomorrow I’ll be breaking out the mulled wine again and I’m looking forward to finding out more about this invention called television.

There’s been a good reception to The Last Noel, this year’s Christmas card comic which was mailed out yesterday, although some won’t be getting it until the after-holiday letterbox.  Gar Shanley said,

“It’s as if telly and panto had a baby and then that baby had a dream and you drew it.”

So without further ado I present for your enjoyment….

Xmas Panto The Last Noel

You can see the previous Xmas Panto pieces on the Comiclets page. Merry Christmas and see you IN THE FUTURE!


Hello again.

My new Christmas card selection is on sale through those luvvies at the Arts and Disability Forum in Royal Avenue, Belfast. The gallery is open Tuesday to Friday from 11-3pm, but if you see the lights on knock the door as they’re often busy working away behind the scenes.

There’s also a festive poster of Strictly Celebrity Apprentice on Ice With Bobbins And A Twitter Hashtag. And it’s rather good. If you’re not in Belfast, I’ve updated this site to include a Shop.

And here’s my newest one,

It won’t be in stock for a few days but you can advance order with other cards using the code APOC.

Elsewhere, I’ve been busy setting up Black Panel Distribution for a December re-launch. The Black Panel started by myself and Paddy Brown back in 2010 is now home to over sixty Irish comics. Check out the website for more information. If you have a shop where you’d like to stock Northern Irish comics I’m keen for you to get in touch, and I’m happy to take personal customers too.

Speaking of Paddy, here’s the results of his contribution to The Magnificent One Day Comic Book Factory back in September. And PJ Holden also threw in a piece in under an hour while tutoring.

Norma Thierfelder came all the way from Germany for TitanCon and drew this,

And an entry from Dawn Lennox (my new partner as of TitanCon)

You can read my report on the TitanCon goings-on here.

The Magnificent Factory is due to be repeated at the ComicsWest Festival, held at the University of Galway on 8-10th February. It was a great event last year and totally worth making the trip. Here’s their website.

Before that, Avalon Arts are launching the first Belfast Comics Fayre at the Haymarket Arcade on Sunday December 9th. I’ve been asked to be their “comics connect” so more news shortly. Meantime, the Facebook event page is here.

Never Mind The X-Men, Its X-Mas!

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

At this time of year, black-belts and red puffer jackets are in. However, before you congeal cotton buds for that handcrafted beard, why not consider the loving homemade gifts already for sale? Comics activists including Andrew Geczy and Matt Reynolds here at Alltern8 and others, have already compiled some lists of easy to pick up comics. The independent press offers items offers items cheaper and often so personalised that the recipient knows they’re one of a kind. And how better to have the gift delivered than right from the cartoonist’s own hand?

For the admirer of Pretty Things…

sallyannehickman 2009

Shopping at fairs, I prioritise picking up the work of Sally-Anne Hickman. Yes, always great value for money. They’re instantly recognisable, emanating sound mellow vibe covers made from wallpaper and glittery stick-ons. Lovely little things, with energetic and youthful scribblings of the author’s comic-book diary, full of character and conversation. In one of my favourites, “Have you got all your cds & things?” we get an honest, fearless and involving tale of a friendship at departure point. These are pocket-size, affordable and lovely graphic novels, all of them. You can email Sally-Anne at sallyshinystars (at)hotmail(dot)com or contact her on Facebook, a link for which can be found alongside some samples at her blog. You should be able to pick up her books for £4 or less.

druane 2010

“One Word for Everything” is a tastefully decorated collection of strips by Deirdre Ruane that should appeal to the fantasist, spiritualist and party-goer in your life, or anyone who enjoys surprises really. Deirdre describes her work better than I possibly could,

“polar bear temps. black holes in language. strange hovering artifacts. racing snails. festival dawns. selfish genes. the kitsch of the future. a caveman who dreams of aeroplanes. everyday time travel. why sex is like ice skating. why spaceships make me cry.”

Celestial festival, friendship and feel-good, melancholic and hilarious; multi-style, patterns and swirls of grace collecting strips from her fast-shifting “Wasted Epiphanies”. More details on the book at the Shop page were Deirdre will accept Paypal.  The collection costs £4.50
Other than the few sample jpegs obtained for this review, I don’t own any wares made by Richy K. Chandler. How could I recommend them for this special time of the year? Behold!

richy k chandler 2010

I have seen these up close and they’re every bit of pretty. The packaging is professionally crafted and the comics, just as much. Made of Presents! For further details and samples, check out Richy’s Myspace page. The “Cosmically Enlightened Gift Set” costs just £5 and the “Mini-Comic Box Set” is sterling value at £10, plus £2 postage and packing for each. Top tip for a tasteful gift, which is    probably too good for High Street shops everywhere.

For the Lover of Comedy….

Ralph Kidson is probably the funniest man in comics. He delivers post-modern pondering, one-dimensional veneer built to hide a variety performance showcase, bare visuals carrying superb pacing, concise character expression and obscenities, lots of obscenities. Ralph is a consummate social commentator, a snorting punk, a fantastic lover and I can count the comics of his comics I’ve been disappointed with on two fingers.

This is the perfect gift for a friend who likes edgy and relevant comedians. So why not let wish them a Sweary Christmas? *ahem*
Ralph’s tactile “Giant Clam” pocket books are a well spent £2-£3 incl. postage and packing from the Forbidden Planet shop. (123)

A few looks at quality mini-comics that won’t break the bank:

For the Artist….

Bloc by Oli Smith and Oliver Lambden

Back in June, I called Oli Smith and Oliver Lambden’s ‘Bloc’ “one of the best UK comics this year” and it still resonates. Doctor Who scribe and general independent comics revolutionary Smith says of it,

“A postmodern fairytale, BLOC is the story of a stone man washed up on the beach of a mysterious island covered in giant floating blocks…”

Indeed. In the abstract narrative within, Smith deals with themes of physics, psychics, play, philosophy and environment. Not bad for a visual instruction only script. Artist Oliver Lambden excels, whipping out strokes of Kirby, Simonson and Moebius in a work that evokes epic qualities of artistic structure. Not only do both creators significantly up their own games, but re-write comics language, stripping away its facade and celebrating it at once. The book is a tidy baige-coloured volume, classy and worked. Affordable stocking filler, definitely ideal for an artist friend. 48 pages, cost approx. £4 from Oliver Lambden.

John Robbins 2009

Iconic models and their environment also feature in John Robbins ‘Inside Outsiders’, another of the finer comics I’ve read this year. Heres his ad blurb,

“Psychosexual subtext pervades this League Of Extraordinary Toy Story as action figures undertake the perilous search for a fellow room-dweller who has fled an emotionally complicated relationship with a promiscuous Bratz doll.”

Robbins’ piece is shorter and wordier than Bloc, but equally a thriller. Its written with comedic mischief, multiple definitions, paradox, and clever pace to the proceedings. Visually, its been crafted loyally with full-figure as portrait style, lacing fantasy within reality and functionality. This excellent example for good comics is a bargain at only 1.75 Euros/$2.50 US/£1.50 UK, postage included. Adults only. Available to buy at Blackshapes Shop.

The small press has also turned out a few graphic novels of note. Some of these are available in comic shops, but before that, some which aren’t.

For the Trad Comics Action Story Fan..

Winston Bulldog

The United Kingdom has had its fair share of larger-than-life comics icons: Dennis the Menace, Roy of the Rovers, Judge Dredd and Captain Winston Bulldog. Over the mid-nineties and this decade, writer Jason Cobley worked with upwards of thirty artists to deliver tales espousing the stiff-upper-lip of Blighty: eccentric, corny, brave and dashing. Alongside his action narrative, illustrators present a highly structured British metropolis, detailed with anthropomorphic and sci-fi scenes as well as stylised minimalist solid designs that are difficult to put down. Some of the strips don’t lend themselves quite so well to the reproduction, but this package is a valuable cultural historical artefact of a generation and an essential reference point in British comics. Simple action dynamics, occasional insightful humanity and some damn fine fun. With a perfect bound full colour cover the complete 208 pages can be purchased for the bargain of £7.99 here.
For the Lover of Myth and Legend….

Ness 2009

“Ness” is the opening work to Paddy Brown’s “Ulster Cycle” comic, were figures and environment gain dimension through directional pen scores and academic research shifts seamlessly into unafraid working narrative. Daughter of the king of Ulster, Ness goes on the run to track down a murderous outlaw, with a looming war between Ireland’s kingdoms for backdrop. The mythology is complimented by Paddy’s occasional lighthearted anachronisms in the script, but the meticulous adherence to source material makes this a fun educational tool as well as a great old yarn. The A5 graphic novel, collects “the full 72-page story in black and white, plus full colour cover, pronunciation guide and seven pages of notes.” and is well worth the £4.99 (incl. postage for the UK and Ireland) payable through Paypal.
Finally, two works which you should be able to pick up pretty much everywhere:

Last Sane Cowboy

Sand and skulls and the disparate wildness of literate West. Daniel Merlin Goodbrey examines contemporary anomalies through the prism of Western genre and computer-aided minimalist projection is that of a modern-day conjurer in this collection of “Tales from an Unfolded Earth”. These tales are sociology: ‘showing’ often only one or two characters, a sense of their connections with an entire society is ominous and eminent. The meta-narratives character studies’ come with personal histories, labour relations and linguistics among flowing sequences and HD coherence. Merlin Goodbrey is best known for his pioneering work on hypercomics, its to his credit that here he accomplishes providence of something with a similar highly personal feel. “The Last Sane Cowboy and Other Stories” is a cult classic and £7 or $13 well spent.  Its published by AiT/Planet Lar and you can find it on Amazon and other places.

Phonogram TSC

Phonogram has re-fuelled my interest in comics, my love towards music and is not only one of the greatest comics being made today but also the simplest.  David Kohl is a phonomancer; he uses music to make magic and because he’s a prick sometimes that goes bad. The other main character of this book is Brit-pop, a revivalist movement linked with Kohl’s essence and rewritten, along with natural reality. In writer Kieron Gillen theres all the aspects of a fantastic music journalist, teacher, poet and creative commercial visionary with tolerable arrogance, taking his cue from Moore’s definition of magic. Artist Jamie McKelvie takes his from Grant Morrisson with designer biography sigils, smart, savvy, smug and infuriating characters. Both lads are to be awarded for bringing real, relevant, clever concepts and scenarios to the audience.  Phonogram Volume 1: Rue Britannia is published by Image and you can pick the collection up for under $10.

Enough from me, Go, load up your sleigh!