Three years ago this afternoon, on a rather bright and sunny Easter Sunday in Greenwich, the Dr said, "Oh, go on then".
It seems a world away now. There was no Droo on the telly, I’d yet to get inside the Stockwell Moat Studios, and we lived in an underground flat with poo seeping up through the floor. Ah, happy days…
The commemorative wossname for a third anniversary is leather, according to my extensive research (no, not Wikipedia but page 55 of Schott’s Original Miscellany). But what to get the Mrs, who already has cat suits and whips?
After some lateral consternation, I settled on 300 – Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s lavish comic-strip version of the battle of Thermopylae. Well they’re wearing leather shoes and shields. It’s also Greek stuff, which the wife likes, and comics is what we enthused about the first time we met.
It’s a graphically violent, lurid story, a tiny band of macho warriors going against all the odds. Miller’s style – which I first saw in Ronin – is stark and shadowy, with crudely hewn figures carved into the page, spattered with gore and muck. The story moves quickly and is unrelenting, piling up the Spartan mythology. They crack butch jokes in the face of misery and their training is more like torture.
For something so epic and steeped in history it’s not unlike the recent Commando collections, tough men being hacked to bits for the edification of children. It also reminded me of the hard-edged violence and humour of some of my favourite old Judge Dredd.
But it’s also a fun way to crystalise in my brain things I’d sort of gleaned in bits and pieces. I now understand how the battle played out, and know the Persian King Xerxes for more than being the "X" in Edward Lear’s alphabet rhymes.
Some concern that it might be read as don’t-negotiate-with-the-black-foreigners, and the Spartans’ lust for the glorious death that echoes in the heavens and history is never problematised as religious fundamentalism. No, it’s Xerxes seeing himself as a God that is hubris.
But it’s richly told and incredible looking, and we now both want to go see the film. The Dr muttered something about it being "visual culture" and so relevant to her work. Which also means we can claim the tax back on the tickets. Woo!
Thinking of graphic comics (if you see what I mean), A. leant me Marvel Zombies, which is one of the maddest lends yet. It’s about an alternative universe where zombie-ism wins, and undead superheroes eat the whole world up. Colonel (nee Captain) America has half his head sliced off and Peter Parker eats his wife and his auntie. There’s also some fun stuff as the zombie heroes try to keep the hunger in check by re-eating stuff that falls from the jagged holes in their bodies. Nice.
It’s a vicious and funny one-off, packed full of comics continuity that mostly passed me by. But having always felt that Marvel was a bit goody-goody, this is a joyously guilty pleasure.