PETER HOOK: VAN STORIES

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“Anyone who’s ever written a book or made a film about Joy Division, unless they were in that van or car with us, they don’t know anything about it.” – Peter Hook

While his new project called Peter Hook and the Light has not been convincing, his gregarious personality makes his new definitive statement on the Joy Division experience a persuasive read. Hook seems like a guy ready to talk anyone’s ear off about his part in the Joy Division story and aims to showcase these stories with a bit more of a joyous feeling than previous versions. I suspect that the book wasn’t written so much as transcribed from him chatting away about it all over a few pints of beer.

Some of the highlights include Hook explaining his true and ultimate role in Joy Division, being their DRIVER. There are 4 van stories in all (“yes it’s another poor-old-me-in-the-van-story coming up, but it’s my book”) that point to the fact that he was the only one who owned a van, so he transported all the equipment. PAYED to get it fixed when it broke down and PACKED all the equipment while everyone else was drinking, having a good time and chatting up the girls after shows. This is the last of the van stories.

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I was worried about the van not making the journey. Knackered it was. We’d lost the petrol cap and someone not me – had replaced it with a rag to stop the petrol evaporating. Trouble was, the rag was merrily disintegrating and every so often would block the filter on the carburetor and stop it working. I could always tell when it was going to happen because the van started to slow down gradually, which it had been doing on the way to London that day.

I was seriously doubting the van would make the trip. It was going really slowly, about thirty miles an hour top speed. We were pottering home. Next to me Terry fell asleep. I looked in my mirror and could see Steve but he’d dropped quite far behind; there was just me and him on the motorway, as it often was in those days, especially in the early hours of the morning.

We’d just joined thM5 when I started to feel sleepy. The next thing I knew there was this huge bang and the van suddenly shot forward so hard that my head hit the divider and for a second I was seeing stars, just barely aware of thinking that the carb must have suddenly cleared because our speed suddenly increased, at the same time feeling the van spin around and the pain. That and squealing tires.

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I must have been dazed. Because when I got my vision back we were sitting on the hard shoulder, facing the right way and I thought I was dreaming because a forty-foot lorry was sliding down the motorway past me, sideways on its tires screeching as it drew to a stop right across the motorway, blocking all three lanes. The next thing I saw was Ian Curtis running down the motorway chasing a drum that was rolling away – a drum that should have been in the back of my van. My head was still learning when Ian arrived at the window carrying the tom. Are you all right, Hooky? Are you all right?

Turned out the forty-footer had hit us at about seventy miles an hour, shunting us and sending us spinning in two complete 360s; it had taken out the back of the van, snapping the back axle and flattening the rear doors. My cab bass had come shooting out the back like a comedy coffin, straight under the wheels of the forty-footer.

I spent the rest of the night being held back from punching the lorry driver, who was from Manchester but wouldn’t give us a lift back there. It wasn’t really until the next morning when I woke up – that the reality of it all hit me: the van was history. It was an ex-van. It had ceased to be. No more driving the van for me. From then on Twinny, Terry or Dave Pols drove a hired van, and every night after a gig I lived it up with the rest of the band in the bar boozing and trying to pull girls. On one hand, it was absolutely magnificent. On the other hand I ended up an alcoholic.

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BLACKLUNG: COMICS REVIEW

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“I enjoy doing all these crosshatching details, you just got to do it for the love of it. I once got a letter from a guy who said he loved my crosshatching more than he loved getting stoned. Its things like that that make it all worth it.” – Robert Crumb

Context: I first heard about Chris Wright on the Comic Books are Burning in Hell podcast (an episode entitled Violencia!) and picked up his book called Blacklung. It’s his first major work and there isn’t much of him other than a smaller comic called Inkweed from Sparkplugs books, which I now need to hunt down.

Story: A bookish sixteenth century teacher finds himself accidentally aboard a ship of bandits who partake in a level of violence and comradery that opens his eyes to a different kind of human interaction, suffering and violence. The captain of the ship – taken over by a delusional vision of reuniting with his dead wife in hell – commits as many evil acts as he can. And as the crew falls into an abyss of violence, our main character slowly finds himself fitting in.

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CARTOONING
Influences and background: Wright’s drawings take their cue from older cartoonists like E. C. Segar and Frank King. Parallels can also be seen in a piece like Louis Riel, but maybe that’s only because he shares some of Chester Brown’s same influences. As an image maker, film seems to be a big thing with Wright as we see glimpses of Bergman and Peckinpah seep into his tale, but I can’t help but sense some of Cormac McCarthy and Melville’s imaginings have found their way in this as well.

Look and feel: Wright is a great character designer. His world is inhabited by Jim Henson-like fuzzy balloon beasts that give off the feeling of being bendable and solid at the same time. An interesting contrast is achieved when these puffy creatures engage with and inhabit the more realistic background elements that frame the story.

His line is not about elegantly inked curves but the metallic scratch of a nib pen scraping against the tooth of the page. These scrapings show a unique command of composing gradients, were blacks are mixed in with various tones of greys that are a compendium of obsessive cross hatchings.

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At the core of Blacklung is an affirmation to explore the limits of extreme violence through harsh imagery. The cartoony style used throughout creates a strong contrast against the violence that allows it, at first glance, to be more palpable. But he soon takes advantage of the elastic and bendable nature of his characters as the imagery drives forward into mutilations, lashings and torture, pushing the limits of what can be done to a human body.

The abnormally oversized book allows for Wright to physically pack in more panels than we usually see, and from my understanding the question of size also got in the way of him finding a publisher. The book needed to be printed big.

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WRITING
Wright sticks to a pretty simple plot and works within the action-adventure-pirate genre, but allows for a pretty loose narrative that ends up focusing more on character behavior then plot. The book does build up to a climax and has all the elements needed to satisfy someone looking for a story with momentum (although some have found the ending’s resolution lacking, which has not been a problem for me). Infused in the text are biblical overtones that pack the dialogue with a heaviness … no doubt Melville and McCarthy are living in these pages in one form or another. And in a Deadwoodian fashion, curse words and insults are aplenty. I am always fascinated when a story finds a way to pull me in and get me involved and engaged with unlikable, mean characters. I’m not sure I sympathize with the outcome for most of them, but I was surprised to have such an affection for the cast on repeated readings.

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Favorite page: Part Empire Strikes Back, part belly of the whale – a man is stuffed into the water beast after being found guilty of keeping a woman on the boat and using her for his own sexual pleasure. This is the first encounter the main protagonist (and the reader) has with the crew, setting the chaotic tone that will eventually overtake the story. Albeit being grotesque, there is something attractive about its dreamlike imagery.

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Favorite panel: A big bulky character called Sweany is the dark centre of the story and where Wright can really unleash his ugliest depictions of man’s unconscious sadistic impulses. Sweany reminds me of Blood Meridian’s main character, but without the moral codes. Here we see Sweany – calm and collected, after torturing the captain of a ship and his crew – slowly adding to his trophy, one tongue at a time. (I can’t help but be reminded of how my family used to decorate our x-mas tree by slipping popcorn together in a similar fashion).

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Criticism: The characters in the story can be broken up into archetypes (strong character, smart character, naïve character, weak character). Not a bad thing, but at times it was hard to keep track of who was who. Especially when it came to a few of the “big /strong” characters. I had to make quick sketches of faces so as not to be confused when certain references were made.