Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Wednesday, 2 September 2015



spiderAmongst the ruins of my life –
the hedonist crouches, arachnid,
in the long shadows.

I do not believe in ghosts
but I believe in you.

20 November 1983

I’m not afraid of spiders. I have no great love for them either but I try to avoid killing them. I used to read The Amazing Spider-Man from time to time but he was never a favourite. For starters I wasn’t a fan of Ditko’s art; he couldn’t hold a candle to Jack Kirby. That, of course, was back in the day. Once Todd McFarlane got his hands on the web-slinger in the eighties it was a different matter. This poem’s not about spiders though. They’re just a metaphor. I’ve just written a dozen poems for F. over a few shorts weeks and most of them not very good (which is why I’m not sharing them) although they serve as reminders for me of what was going on with us. This one is not for F. but it is about her, about us anyway.

Probably one of the last things you’d call me would be a hedonist. I can, and do, enjoy stuff but pleasure is something that tends to go off quickly in my experience. In my new book I describe a father and son as follows:

Both struggled with the concept of joy and what little things did give them guilty pleasure—the adjective is really superfluous as all pleasure was synonymous with guilt—they each felt the need to internalise; it was certainly not for sharing with the world. And so the two of them would settle in front of their respective television sets, watching with the selfsame look of intense concentration on their faces and never so much as crack a smile, shed a tear or pass comment on the proceedings, belching and breaking wind excepted. Pleasure was an aside, something that came along the way and rather surprised each of them when it did catch them unawares.

Both characters are called Jim but neither’s me, not all me; both contain elements of me; both are exaggerations of me, caricatures. There is some truth in the above quote though and I’ve always been a bit envious of those people who could let themselves go and not pay for it in the morning or even ten minutes later.

Spiders also make an appearance in the new book but I’ll leave that excerpt for ‘Arachnophobia II’ (#577).


Kirk said...

In between Ditko and McFarland (and a few others) there was John Romita Sr. That's MY Spider-Man artist!

Jim Murdoch said...

I’ve nothing against either Romita’s work, Kirk. Junior also did some great work on Spider-Man too (see here).

The reasons I highlighted Kirby and McFarlane is that I have two strong memories concerning comics. The first was buying Forever People #1 back in 1971. The second was twenty-odd years later. I remember wandering into John Menzies and picking up a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man several years after I’d quit collecting comics—Christ knows what caught my eye—and it was one of the first of McFarlane’s run. I was blown away and that was me off the wagon again. I stuck with him for a while—I’ve still got all his early Spawns—but after a few years I gave up again. It was the expense. It was fine when comics were 35p but at the end I was spending £30 a month and not even reading most of what I bought.

I always bought comics for the art; the storylines were secondary. One of my prize possessions is a hard-backed copy of Dave McKean’s Sandman dustcovers. Favourite comic book artist? Probably Bill Sienkiewicz.

Kass said...

"...all pleasure - synonymous with guilt." - As Nessa from Gavin and Stacey, would say, "I feels it."

Spiders are easier to believe in than ghosts.
Succinct and apt poem.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’d never really considered this a religious poem, Kass, but after reading through ‘They’ (#571) just now before posting it I can see some common ground. Last night I watched a TV programme about three women who struggled to extricate themselves from the cults/religions they were involved in. The word “cult” is an emotive one but all you have to do is look at the Catholic Church—and who would suggest they’re not a fully-fledged religion?—to see how it uses guilt and fear to control (or at least to try to control) its members. What I hate about all social groups is how they invariably gang up against the individual. The two states vie against each other: you’re either yourself or you’re one of the boys.

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