Author Archives: David Sandford Ward
One of my earliest memories is staring, with abject horror, at an image of a large, slick worm with razor-sharp teeth thrusting out from the page through a man’s burst and bleeding chest. My father owned an illustrated version of the Alien script, and it was full of photographs from the film. I knew I shouldn’t have been looking at that book; it was a taboo. This was my introduction to the creations of Hans Rudolf Giger, the Swiss surrealist painter who died yesterday, tragically, in hospital after falling down a stairwell.
Giger spent most of his life bringing nightmares to life with intensely disturbing subjects and landscapes that gave pleasure through their utter wrongness. You’d find landscapes of dead babies, flesh-like deserts, gateways to terror, and creatures of unknowable horror made even more disturbing by their all-too recognizable genitalia. His paintings, particularly those framed in his biomechanoid phase, reminded me of industrial music: layers and layers of strangeness that could be viewed on macro- and microcosmic levels. There was also a very dark sense of humour in a lot of his work; through the twisted and brutalized forms were comical faces and situations – from Timothy Leary’s open, laughing mouth and brilliant, maelstrom-wrought eyes to a porcine, lascivious Aleistar Crowley wearing a dunce cap. Every time I look at one of my Giger books, I spend a lot of time looking at every painting. I discover something new each and every time.
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Thor is a twit.
He’s boastful, arrogant, temperamental, and downright stupid. His half-brother, Loki, got the advantage on him more times than not, and Thor’s ususal response was to hit him with a hammer or come crying back (well, ok, screaming and yelling – that’s more manly, after all) to the Allfather, Odin. I can’t blame Loki for playing games with the Asgardian; he kept falling for them. He was quite possibly the easiest Mark in Norse myth, and for the trickster Loki, a source of endless entertainment.
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Perhaps it’s due to my early reading life furnished in horror, but for as long as I can remember, I have been intensely aware of my inner conversations and thoughts, because I never know who might be listening. I don’t believe in psychic phenomena, and I’ve never seen or experienced anything to dissuade me from this opinion, but I also don’t claim to have an in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of the mind or the brain’s physiology. I suppose I remain both open- and closed-minded on the prospect.
I blame Stephen King for this – some of the first novels I ever read were by him and surrounded the nature of psychic power: Carrie, Firestarter, and, of course, The Shining. In fact, I think it may be The Shining that made me really consider the idea that someone could actually hear my thoughts. While hardly a visceral terror, I find the notion of someone impinging on my mind to be a horrifying concept. I’ve always loved King’s approach to psychic power; instead of a godlike power akin to something you’d find in the pages of X-Men, King’s psychics run a whole spectrum. Some have next to none; some just have a glimmer; some shine.
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After a hiatus of over two years, I decided to go to the movies last Saturday. While I both adore watching and going to the movies, for some reason over the past twenty-four months, I was plagued with apathy when it came to the silver screen. The last film I saw in the theatre was X-Men: First Class, and while there have been plenty of films that have come out in the past two years that I’ve been more than a little interested in, I simply wasn’t able to kick myself in the ass and get to them. Well, apathy be damned – last Saturday I went to see the amazing The World’s End.
Andy recently gave this a good, though not rave, review on Biff Bam Pop, and I was a little surprised about how lacklustre he found the film. Of the three films in the self-styled Cornetto Trilogy (coined by writer-director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost – they comprise Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End), I’m starting to think that The World’s End is my favourite of the three. Given my love for Shaun of the Dead, I do not say this lightly.
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In 1984, an unassuming technophobic geek from Vancouver named William Gibson penned one of, if not the, seminal works of what would later be called cyberpunk. The book, Neuromancer, was a tale of computers, espionage, and artificial intelligences that took the science-fiction world by storm, winning both the Hugo and Nebula awards. He had also written a number of other short stories, which were later collected in the book Burning Chrome, and one of these stories, Johnny Mnemonic, was later made into a film of the same name in 1995.
I saw Johnny Mnemonic around its release, and it was bloody awful. Barring a few interesting bits of music, the film is one catastrophe after another, and it makes one’s teeth itch regularly throughout. The other day, for some masochistic reason, I decided to re-watch the film for the first time in almost twenty years to see if it was quite as bad as I remembered. It did not disappoint.
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In October, we will see the release of the remade Carrie, this time starring Chloë Grace Moretz in the titular role and Julianne Moore as her religious-zealot, overbearing, and abusive mother. I am cautiously optimistic about this upcoming film, as I feel both Moretz and Moore are singularly gifted actors who will likely bring something very interesting to the roles, never mind the special effects, which will almost certainly eclipse those in the last twenty to thirty minutes of the 1976 original.
Given the new film is coming out in the next few months, I decided, for the first time in many years, to re-watch Brian DePalma’s take on Stephen King’s first (well, first published) novel. I wasn’t disappointed. Despite the feathered hair and, in terms of today’s displays, rather lacklustre effects (even for the time, the effects are pretty cringe-worthy in places), it still holds up as a terrific supernatural thriller encased in a horrific tale of adolescent abuse, both at the hands of Carrie’s peers and her mother.
75 years ago Action Comics #1 hit the newsstands, which means that today, for all intents and purposes, is Superman’s (née Kal-El of the planet Krypton) birthday. Happy birthday, good sir! As a Canadian, I also cannot help feel a bit of pride about this auspicious day – while created in the United States, one half of the team that dreamed up this mythic icon, Joe Shuster, was a Canadian. Yes, Jerry Siegel was American, but we Canadians take what we can get. (Perhaps we should look at Superman’s creation as an iconic representation of the partnership between our great nations, but even I have to admit that’s stretching the envelope pretty thin)
Anyhow, our esteemed editor, Andy Burns, asked me to say a few things about the Boy in Blue today, given it’s his birthday, and I said “Yes, for sure”, despite not being a huge fan of the series, the hero, or the DC Universe as a whole (not to say I don’t like these things – I’m just more of a Marvel boy). Why? Because Superman was my first introduction into the world of comics, just like he is for so many other fans, or one-time fans, of superhero comics. Superman is the superhero, after all; there was never anyone like him before, and there’s never been anyone like him since (all other attempts have been, at best, pale imitations – even Captain Marvel, who is the magical manifestation of the science-based Superman, never achieved the canonical status of Superman). The American dream made manifest, and a god amongst men, Superman is the dream to which we all aspire, even if we don’t really want to admit it.
Back in about 1980 (could have been as early as 1979 or as late as 1981), my father gave me two oversized comic books: Superman and Captain Marvel. Both contained origin stories and adventures involving the two caped heroes. Yes, I enjoyed the Captain Marvel stories (S-H-A-Z-A-M!), but it was the huge, almost-as-tall-as-me, Superman book that I kept returning to. In rich blues, reds, and yellows, Superman pummelled the bejeezus out of whatever Lex Luthor threw at him, and I loved every second of it; that well-worn, pages-falling-out, tome turned me into a comics fan for life. I was fascinated with his origin story (he’s from OUTER SPACE – what kid doesn’t like aliens and dinosaurs?), and his humble upbringing on a lonely Kansas farm before heading to the Big App…Metropolis as the über-nerd Clark Kent (no one in their right mind, even children, could understand how a suit and pair of glasses hid him from prying eyes, by the way, but it made for good fun) were terrific bookends to the madness and mayhem of Superman knocking Luthor-powered robots with his bare fists.
It was a glorious book, and a glorious introduction to the world of comics, and for that I thank you Messrs Siegel and Shuster, my dad, and above all, Superman.
Until earlier this week, it had been nigh on fifteen years since I had seen Alex Proyas’s take on James O’Barr’s The Crow. When it first came out in 1994, I was at the height of my goth days, and I thought it was the coolest film I’d seen in years. I lost count how many times I watched it between 1994 and 1995, read and re-read the comic, and even based a non-player character I had in an active Vampire: The Masquerade campaign on Eric Draven (played in the film by Brandon Lee, who, tragically, was killed during its filming). And then there’s the soundtrack: a number 1 album on Billboard’s 200 in late May of 1994, the soundtrack is a snapshot of early-to-mid 1990s alternative rock, with songs from Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots (whose “Big Empty” was a huge single itself), Rage Against the Machine, Rollins Band, Pantera, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Violent Femmes, The Cure (whose “Burn” introduced legions of fans to The Cure, even though they’ve never performed the song live), etc.
Basically, the film was pop-goth-pr0n, and I sucked it all up. If you’ve ever read the original comic, this isn’t surprising; O’Barr’s clearly influenced by the music of The Cure, Joy Division, Iggy Pop, and Bauhaus – you can practically hear the soundtrack when flipping through its pages.
Anyhow, fast-forward almost twenty years. While I did drown myself in The Crow for a couple of years, I think I decided it was actually pretty silly (apart from the film’s soundtrack, which I still love), and I gave up on it for the best part of fifteen years. It was only by chance that I decided to hit “Play” on Netflix earlier this week and give it another watch.