Monday, 30 June 2014

Frankenstein Reimagined

A Bernie Wrightson illustration for Frankenstein

There's obviously lots of versions of Frankenstein made for screen and our iconic imagery of the monster comes from those, especially the early product of Universal Pictures - Boris Karloff in particular, but perpetuated by the likes of Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster.

I wanted to draw your attention to an alternative presented by master comic artist Bernie Wrightson. I've only come across his work in the last few years, but Bernie has been drawing since the 60s and is notable for contributions to the House of Mystery and House of Secrets comic lines. Possibly more significantly, Bernie is a co-creator of The Swamp Thing, along with writer Len Wein.

However, what I want to highlight is his illustrated copy of Mary Shelley's work Frankenstein. This was the original novel reprinted with 50 of Bernie's illustrations, which are inspired by the original text rather than any modern re-imagining by film studios. Bernie drew these in his spare time over the course of 7 years, a labour of love that came to fruition in 1983. The results are striking.

Returning to his love of the monster in 2012, he teamed up with horror writer Steve Niles (prolific in his output, but probably most known for vampire series 30 Days of Night) to produce a sequel to Mary's story in the format of a comic. The release of these issues is unbearably slow, but each is such a treasure. In the 2 years since the series started, there have only been 3 issues, but I encourage you to track them down if you can.

A double-page spread from Steve Niles & Bernie Wrightson for Frankenstein: Alive Alive!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Frankenstein started it

I have the pleasure of knowing a few writers and it's very interesting seeing them explore their craft, explore each other's craft, support each other and strive to be better writers. One such friend, Dan Carpenter, writes a blog that he uses to study individual components of writing and writing influences (amongst other things). He once wrote about the one book that inspired him the most to be a writer, Iain Bank's The Wasp Factory. He then asked fellow writers to blog about theirs and form a blog trail. Although all interesting, the one that stood out for me was David Hartley, with his obsession (probably too strong a word) with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Have a read and be inspired by their love for these works.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Sophie Lancaster Foundation

On 24th August 2007 Sophie Lancaster was murdered for being a goth. Since then her mum, Sylvia, has been on a crusade to "Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere".

And it's working. A large number of people are now aware of Sophie and know of the Foundation, supporting it by organising events to raise money, wearing a SOPHIE wristband, or just donating a few pound.

These funds are used for educational purposes (in schools, but also in police forces), to promote tolerance and to push for parliamentary change with regard to hate crime (to include 'alternative subcultures' or to reference 'lifestyle and dress code' as defining factors). As a result, Greater Manchester Police have been logging hate crime against alternative subcultures since April 2013.

Sylvia has just been awarded an OBE for services to community cohesion.

You can find out how to support at

Monday, 9 June 2014

Punk Spirituality (Part 3)

Malcolm McLaren's Cash From Chaos

by Kolyn Amor

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Genesis Chapter 1 Verse 1
A definition of chaos (theory): “When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.” Edward Lorenz
Sounds a bit ‘punk’…
What’s ‘punk’? 
A dictionary definition:

“Something or someone worthless or unimportant
a young ruffian; hoodlum
an inexperienced youth
a young male partner of a homosexual
an apprentice, especially in the building trades
a boy (prison slang).”

Take your pick!

Meanwhile, a long time ago, in a city far, far away…

“On 6th November 1975, in support of a pub rock group called ‘Bazooka Joe’, ‘The Sex Pistols’ performed several cover songs at St Martin’s College, London. According to observers, they were unexceptional musically aside from being extremely loud. Before the Pistols could play the few original songs they had written to date, Bazooka Joe pulled the plugs as they saw their gear being trashed. A brief physical altercation between members of the two bands took place on stage.
Steve Jones declared, ‘Actually we're not into music. We're into chaos’ (February 1976)”.
By the way, the bassist in ‘Bazooka Joe’ was some guy called Stuart Goddard… Ring any bells?
No? Well, he went on to change his name to Adam (his first wife changed hers to Eve) Ant. 

More of him later...

Meanwhile, something’s started in the true capital of chaos with the 24 hour party people…
“On June 4th 1976, ‘The Sex Pistols’ played Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall to a small room of people. It was one of their first gigs outside London” (the lesser pre made mall - not that I’m a biased, bitter Northerner!) “Like the saying about the first Velvet Underground LP, nearly everyone in the audience that night went on to have a cultural impact on Britain (and beyond).
“A band emerged. The guy who took centre stage took the mike, took your mind. A swagger to make John Wayne look a pussy.” (I know that feeling having had a certain piece of body modification recently!) “A sneer so dismissive of everyone and everything, of God and civilisation in just one pair of twisted lips.” Anger is an energy after all and you always hurt the ones you love…
“That place was real life; that place was the clearing in the undergrowth where meaning and elucidation live…” 
“And God said: ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” 
Genesis Chapter 1 Verse 3

God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform... The Ultimate Performer?

“But they knew nothing - they just knew their world would never be the same again. A past obliterated and No Future.”
Alpha and Omega. The Beginning and The End (possibly the best track by ‘The Doors’):
“This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end”

(Don’t forget The Beginning as well).

“There to greet us was Malcolm McLaren, dressed head to toe in black leather – leather jacket, leather trousers and leather boots – with a shock of bright-orange hair, a manic grin and the air of a circus ringmaster; though there was hardly anyone else around… Look at the photographs of the gig and you can see that everybody in the audience was dressed the same way, like a Top of the Pops audience. There were no punks yet. So Malcolm – he looked like an alien to us…”
Ever felt stranger than feeling like a stranger in a familiar place? I suspect Jesus felt a bit ‘E.T.’ in that way - wanting to just phone home, even though He could’ve clicked His long fingers at any point, but He’s too loved up.
“We just stood there, stock still… Absolutely, utterly, gobsmacked.”
The day I met God I got carried away.
“Back on Manchester’s inscrutable streets I find a tatty leaflet stuck on a Peter Street lamppost telling me that the Sex Pistols will play the Lesser Free Trade Hall. They are not the saviours of culture, but the destruction of it – which suits me quite perfectly…”
Chaos. Anger. Destruction.
Flipside/B-side (you used to be able to do that with a long lost article called ‘a record’):
Creation. Love. Order.
I promised to return to Adam - the Ant rather than the first man, but maybe there’s a connection somewhere. You decide.
He wrote a song - in an angry punky way. You might find it challenging. You might find it blasphemous. You might find it liberating.

That sounds a bit like my faith…

“Day I met god
 I got so carried away
 Day I met god
 I got so carried away
 Not with the vision
 But the streaks in his hair
 Not with religion
 But the size of his knob

 The day I met god
 The day I met god
 It was pissing with rain
 And we went

 Day I met god
 I got so carried away
 Day I met god
 I got so carried away
 Not with the vision
 But the streaks in his hair
 Not with the vicars
 Or the nuns or the priests

 The day I met god
 The day I met god, the day I met the big boy
 It was pissing with rain
 And we went

 And the herald angels sang
 Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
 Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh....

 We were coming back in the van
 From Milan
 And I saw God
 Right there.”

Cash from chaos? Write your own cheque!

(But sign it: ‘God’)

Monday, 2 June 2014

Punk Spirituality (Part 2)

I was discussing this subject with a friend last week, who raised some interesting points. Punk isn't necessarily good quality, which is not the same as saying it's bad - Sex Pistols were not virtuoso musicians, but still produced a great sound. The lo-fi nature of punk is encouraging insofar as it means the focus of punk spirituality can be on content and drive, not necessarily on presentation. For me personally, if I want to do something I usually want to do it to the best of my ability, but that takes time and effort and I don't always have the necessary resources (physical and/or mental) - that may mean I don't do something, because I don't feel I can do it well enough.

May be I should be influenced by punk a bit more and accept that a lower level of quality is sometimes a good thing. A few of my friends thrive on the energy of being late and delivering at the last minute - the pressure of that situation can release creativity and remove mental blockers. It can also mean there's not enough time to get hold of the ideal set of resources, which forces compromise - to look at it another way, this forces even more creativity to come up with alternative solutions, which as a result may be better than what was first considered. So may be lo-fi output is ok...but for me the end result still has to be good somehow, otherwise it's all a bit rubbish.

Also, punk is chaotic, which is another source of its energy. When thinking about applying this to worship, it seemed like punk worship should contradict a formal, linear, led worship. It should present worship in a way that is unpredictable, unplanned...led by the spirit, not by ourselves. In this respect, one could say the Quakers are punk, which is not something I thought I'd ever consider. They wait in silence until someone is led by the spirit to say/sing/do something. This means every service 'should' be different, random, unpredictable.

Another approach is to curate worship, something Jonny Baker wrote a book about. This is to set up a range of worship points and allow people to engage with those in their own way. This method allows everyone to make their own worship trail, with each person therefore worshipping in a different way all at the same time.

Finally, a combination of these elements that Sanctus 1 has tried successfully a number of times in the past, is a DIY service. This is where a number of props are brought together and the first 2/3 of the service is spent by the congregation making the service. Split into manageable sizes, each group can focus on a particular service element. The last 1/3 of the service is where those elements are brought back together and played out as the formal worship.

What do you think - are these ways of worshipping that fit with a punk aesthetic and logic? What other ways of worshipping might punk inspire in us? Leave a comment below...