Being a comic book collector is kind of like being an alcoholic. I was one myself. I've been on the wagon for about three years now. It started in the 1970 with horror comics such as Psycho and Eerie. I remember my mother being worried that the violence in them would ‘affect my mind’. She was kind of relieved when I moved onto Marvel and characters such as Spider-man, Hulk and Dr Strange. But this was just a dalliance. My true collecting started in my teens with Batman.
Over the years I must have spent thousands of pounds on collecting the various Batman titles. Rooting through back issues at comic book fairs and seedy second hand shops. It wasn't the Dark Knight himself that appealed to me but the pantheon of villains. Mad Hatter, Riddler, Scarecrow, Two-Face, Penguin and of course The Joker, the most genuinely scary bad guy in comic book history who made Hannibal Lecter look like one of the Care Bears.
When you are an uber-fan of something (with me it was Batman and was and still is Dr Who) you get possessive of the characters. I hated all of the
Hollywood film versions of
Batman because they strayed too far from the comics. The 1990s Warner Brothers Batman the Animated Series with is dark,
mature plots and stellar voice artist cast (Mark Hamill as The Joker, Roddy
McDowell as The Mad Hatter, Paul Williams as the Penguin) was a bench mark in
animation and storytelling. But subsequent series such as the recent The Batman have been marked out by lazy
animation, stupid scripts and infantile character redesigns.
I became so much of a Batman purist that I stopped reading the comics when the quality of righting on them nosed dived. My beloved comics were being mutilated by hacks who had no knowledge of the characters. The straw that broke the camel’s back was Kevin Smith’s odious Cacophony. Written so badly this single comic made me decide to go cold turkey. I gave up comics. All those years of collecting gone in a flash. I wrote a letter to DC comics that was sad rather than angry in its tone, explaining why I would never read another Batman comic on account of them treating both their readers and the characters and their creators with such disdain. I sold my massive collection (with the exception of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s peerless The killing Joke) and used the cash to finance an expedition to
in search of the orang-pendek, an unknown, upright walking ape (but that’s
You see what I mean about the obsession of comic book collectors. I’m supposed to be reviewing a film and I've not even mentioned it yet! It’s turned into a lecture on comics!
But as a recovering comics addict Electric Man struck a chord with me. Jazz (Toby Manley) and Wolf Mark McKirdy) are two shambolic comic geeks who run Dead Head Comics in
Edinburgh. They owe their
landlord £5000 and if they don't get it by the end of the month they are out on
their ear and the landlord is turning the shop into a fast food joint called
Unbeknown to them local criminal Uncle Jimmy (Fish) has just murdered his comic book collecting brother and made it look like suicide. Jimmy will inherit his brother’s vast comic collection including the jewel in the crown, a mint copy of Electric Man issue one from 1937 worth £100,000. Jimmy’s plot is to flog the comic to an American collector (Mark Mc Donnell) so obsessed with Electric Man that he dresses as the character and even had his name changed to Edison Bolt, Electric Man’s alter ego.
The pair are due to make the sale at a comic book fair in
Edinburgh were Jazz and
Wolf are trying to sell their wares on a stall. Electric Man Issue one is
swiped by a kid and in the ensuing chaos ends up in the Dead Head Comic stall.
Wolf’s estranged girlfriend Victoria (Emily Lockwood) has returned after a year of separation to see if she can steer her former partner onto a more stable career as a chemist (girls have never understood comics). Left alone in the shop Jazz finds the holy grail of comics in among his own stock and realizes that if he can sell it their problems are over. He equally realizes that the comic does not belong to them.
Enter the lovely Lauren (Jennifer Ewing), niece of the violent Jimmy. She claims that a will bequeathing all the comics to her is hidden in EM1. In the meantime Uncle Jimmy and Edison (dressed as his hero and wielding a taser) have realized were the comic has gone and are on the hunt for it (and quite willing to use extreme violence). Our comic geek heroes have to save their skins and preserve the priceless print. Swaps, double dealings and chicanery are the order of the day.
Electric Man is the antidote for painting by number, cookie cutter Hollywood junk. It is sharply written and wonderfully acted. Fish of Marillion fame stars as the hulking Uncle Jimmy showing himself to be a fine actor as well as a musician.
All in all Electric Man comes across as a kind of wonderful hybrid of an Ealing comedy and an episode of The Comic Book Presents. Its cast are relative unknowns and the film is all the better for it being a breath of fresh air all round. This film shows what can be done on a tight budget with a good script, actors and imagination. I only hope it isn't lost in the sea of grey, bland big budget pap like so many other independent films are.
Buy the movie
Check out Fish at Gonzo
Buy the movie
Check out Fish at Gonzo
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