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Blog Archive: April 2022Newsletter Day
Strew the streets with bunting! Call out the Red Arrows! Give the local urchins 47p and a bag of crisps! For LO! today is that most wondrous day, long-awaited and much missed - it's NEWSLETTER DAY!.
This is a holy day what has been much in ABEYANCE as late, largely because I haven't really had much NEWS to share. Well, I personally have, OBVS, but I like to think that the newsletter contains only content relevant to the world of ROCK. THUS I haven't sent one since November last year, and before that not since June, because what with COVID and the PhD there hasn't been an awful lot going on in that direction.
To be honest there hasn't been THAT much going on THIS month either, but there ARE a couple of gigs coming up and I do have news of The Solo Album to share, so I thought I was justified in sending it out. I was also able to include some news about releases from other Validators too, which I would highly recommend you seek out.
I'm hopeful the newsletter will be coming out slightly more regularly again now. There's the aforesaid solo album to bang on about, and there's this OTHER THING that I've been working on for approx 17 MILLION YEARS which I'm hoping will come to fruition soon as well, and there may even be further GIGS too. I can't promise that this'll all have reached a point of Newsletter Unleashment by the NEXT Last Working Day of The Month, but I can promised that you'll be one of the first to find out if you simply join the mailing list!
posted 29/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Back To League One
Fans of SPORT, particularly PROPER SPORT, will be very much aware that Peterborough United were relegated this weekend from the Championship to League One i.e. from the second to the third tier of English football. When it was finally confirmed several people got in contact to commisserate, which was very much appreciated but thankfully unnecessary.
For LO! what I have witnessed of Championship football this season has not been to my liking. For one thing, it is MEAN-SPIRITED, in that these nasty bigger teams have deliberately and with malice aforethought been significantly BETTER than poor old Posh, even when they have known full well that we have only just arrived in their league. It would have been POLITE for them to take this new arrival under their wings, show them around the TIER, maybe give them a few free goals just to get them started, but OH NO. Apparently that is TOO MUCH BOTHER for these Fancy Dans.
Worse still, I fear that the Championship is rife with CHEATING. On a number of occasions I have noted play which has led me to suspect that many of these teams have been PRACTICING beforehand, sometimes even TOGETHER, working out what they are going to do with so-called "set pieces" well in advance of the game itself. I may be wrong, but I think there may even be SECRET SIGNALS used to indicate where a ball is going to be kicked, and sometimes I think they may even be moving in some kind of FORMATION.
This is, of course, very much against the TRUE SPIRIT of PROPER FOOTBALL which is to HOOF it as far as you can and then for everybody else to chase after it. In these darkened times we need this pure form of IMPROVISATIONAL SPORT and I must say I am very much looking forward to it being re-instated and - most importantly - RESPECTED next season. Then, and only then, will FOOTBALL itself be the winner!
posted 27/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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The Ikon Gallery
Last week the Dates Of My Annual Leave and I went up to Birmingham to see some a) pals b) ART. Executive summary: all were GRATE!
Once we got to Brum we met aforesaid pals at the Ikon Gallery, an amazing SPACE that (according to The Internet) is a former school that has been re-done (according to our party) in a really lovely way. Within it there were THREE (3) exhibitions, all of which complied with my stated preferences for such things i.e. they were short and they were dead good.
The first was my favourite, "Shadows In The Sky", a collection of paintings by RENAISSANCE painter Carlo Crivelli. Whenever you go to a big gallery you see LOADS of religious paintings from back when they used to be hung up in churches, but these ones were AMAZING as he kept playing around with the 3D. I am vaguely aware that this was around the time they worked out how to do perspective, and there sure was a lot of that going on, but he also messed around with painting objects to look like they were in FRONT of the main picture e.g. a PICKLE lounging around over the top of the bottom of a picture of HEAVEN or a bunch of APPLES strung across the top of another one, casting a shadow on the sky (hence the exhibition title). It was HEADY STUFF, although as tends to be the way the Gallery Descriptions made it LESS easy to work this out, with phrases like "paradoxically unthink" etc etc.
There was also a small MODERN ART bit which was supposedly "interacting" with the other stuff. This seems to be Quite The Thing for art galleries these days, and always comes off (to connoisseurs like what I am) as A Bit Of A Stretch and Probably Just How You Get Funding. In this case there were some OBJECTS lying around, including a discarded sheet, leaning broom and old boilersuit that initially looked like just a bit of a mess. It was VERY What The Daily Mail Thinks Modern Art Is, although once you got up close and deciphered the description you COULD see a point to it, it just didn't seem to have any relation to anything else. MUCH better was a side room with two paintings by Audrey Flack that were "After Crivelli". They sort of were, but were also DIFFERENT, and also Quite Good.
There were only about 12 exhibits all together, so we were full of ART THIRST and ready to go to the NEXT exhibition, which was "Under The Vast Sky" (I've only just noticed the SKY THEME here), a retrospective of embroidered pieces by Sámi (Swedish) artist Britta Marakatt-Labba. It was DEAD GOOD. The basic idea was lots of long tapestries showing the indigeounous Sámi people of Sweden with scenes of LIFE in general. I thought it was going to be a bit Stern but it was all done in an DELIGHTFUL way, like one of those big centrefolds you used to get in the middle of a Beano Summer Special with hundreds of people dashing about getting up to different things. It wasn't in the STYLE of Leo Baxendale, but it certainly felt like it was in the spirit, with STORIES everywhere. I liked it!
Again, it wasn't really helped by the gallery guide, which seemed to have been written before the placing of the ITEMS were finalised, but again it was ALL GOOD and also BRIEF, so we still had energy left for the FINAL item, which was an "immersive classical experience" called "Lusitano Remixed". Someone had done a new version of a CHORAL PIECE by Vicente Lusitano, got together a choir, and then recorded it with a seperate microphone for each singer. Each recording was then played out of a seperate speaker, so as you walked around the room you heard each individual singer, as if you were in the middle of the group. Whether you'd WANT to be in the middle of a Classical Choir BELLOWING it out is a question for another time, but it was an AMAZING experience to wander around in, and this time the gallery notes (on a big sign on the wall) were DEAD INTERESTING and helpful. More like that please!
It was, in fact, a pretty flipping GRATE gallery experience with THE ART being fab. If you happen to be in The West Midlands I would HIGHLY recommend popping in!
posted 25/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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City Sculpture Tour
On Easter Weekend myself and The Works In My Gallery went out to look at Sculpture In The City, a (usually) annual thing where the City Of London has loads of ARTWORKS scattered around it. We have done this several times and it's always lots of fun, and we were ESPECIALLY excited about it this time as there hadn't been one last year.
To be honest, my favourite aspect of it is following the MAPS and finding our way around The City, which is a MAD place where ginormous skyscrapers poke out from behind the remains of tiny ancient buildings, and hidden alleyways and miniature squares are never more than a couple of minutes away. It's a great excuse for EXPLORING round places you wouldn't normally go, although as we HAVE been there many times on previous sculpture trails it was ALSO like revisiting old HAUNTS, and many was the time we said "This is where (sculpture we remembered) was that other time!"
As ever, the sculptures themselves were a mixed bag. Some were FAB, some were INTERESTING, and some were HARD TO FIND. The one we both like most was near the start, Silent Agitator, a big CLOCK based on an Industrial Workers of the World union illustration (NB you can read about it on the link!). Others we liked included Cosmos (dark metal slats that were multi-coloured when you went inside them), Orphans (lots of abandoned paintings facing in on each other so you could only see the backs), Symbols (a recreation of historical LGBTQ+ flags) and loads of others. It was great - each artwork was like a REWARD for finding your way around!
Weirdly, The City was DEAD BUSY. We popped into Fenchurch Street Station (a WEIRD station at the best of times - it's LIKE a mainline station but has no links to any tube lines and it's HIDDEN down an alley) for some CRISPS and there were loads of people going back and forth, and also all around everywhere else. The City is meant to be DESERTED at the weekend - the shops certainly seemed to think so as they were nearly all shut (hence going into the station for crisps) so what was everyone doing?
Anyway, it was GRATE to be back, foraging about for ART. More of this sort of thing please!
posted 22/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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A couple of weeks ago I did something I have not done for YEARS - I bought a copy of a music magazine!
Decades ago, yea verily in the 1990s, I bought TONS of them - Select, Q, Vox and then the NME and Melody Maker and sometimes Record Collector if I'd read all of those - but I gave it all up when THE WORD closed down, as that was SO much fun to read that it made what was left of music magazines seem RUBBISH. I've occasionally flipped through one in Smiths while waiting for a train, and have very very occasionally bought a copy of Mojo when it's had so much Macca/Beatles that I couldn't resist, but otherwise they have fallen into the dark pit of Things I Used To Do In The 90s along with Setting The Video, Going To Nightclubs and of course Generalised Moping Around.
HOWEVER, I had good reason to change this policy recently as I'd seen on Facebook that Mr Bob Fischer (formerly of Radio Tees and various GIGS) had done an interview with all-round ROCK LEGEND Mr John Otway, so after a bit of hunting around I SOURCED a copy of
The rest of the magazine is a STRANGE experience though, as it feels very much like a PRETEND magazine featuring PRETEND bands, like set dressing on a movie or something. Even the cover is like this - it's meant to be LINDISFARNE, who I know are REAL, but I am sure that the image they use includes Ade Edmonson and Jody Comer (with her Jesus beard on), so I have a distinct idea that the LOT of them are actors.
Inside there are features on HUNDREDS of bands that I have never ever heard of. I'm quite used to this being the case with The Young People's Modern Music, but even THEN I've got some idea of the most famous ones due to TELLY and listening to radio, but with Bands Of Yore I've always thought I've been fairly knowleadgeable. However, Shindig seems to be focused specifically on bands NOBODY has ever heard of. There are whole features on acts who basically recorded a couple of singles which were released only at 3 gigs and THAT'S THE LOT. It turns out there is a whole HOBBY of going looking for these incredibly obscure self-pressed records that were put out in the 60s and 70s (and later) by people nobody's ever heard of!
WELL. I'm sure you can picture my DELIGHT at discovering that this is A THING. Obscure releases by acts that hardly anybody's ever heard of? I wonder, how long is it until they get to the 1990s? I have a LOT of tapes, singles etc etc that are IMMENSELY obscure, and once the spotlight turns to the 2000s I have several metric TONNES of same! What I am basically saying here is that everybody should go and fill up in my online store RIGHT NOW before the "cratediggers" (technical term) turn up and everything starts to sell for A MILLION POUNDS on eBay. Treasure that copy of Say It With Words, it could pay off a MORTGAGE in a couple of years. In which case, I'll be buying a few HOUSING ESTATES!
posted 20/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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As you may have detected, I recently completed my PhD and am now Officially Doctor Hibbett. I am by nature a humble soul rarely in search of the spotlight so I haven't really made a big thing about this, and so when people say to me things like "Have you changed your passport details yet?" I smild kindly and say that I haven't. Not least because it costs about SEVENTY FIVE QUID and requires new forms to be filled in and takes AGES. But mostly because I am so humble.
However, I did notice that my bank debit card was going to run out soon, so thought I might as well update THAT as they were going to give me a new card ANYWAY and not because it also meant that if anyone happened to see it I could say in a very casual way e.g. "Oh yes it DOES say Doctor Hibbett doesn't it shall I tell you about my thesis?" It would, I thought, be a simple process with no downsides.
This was INCORRECT. First of all it took AGES to get them to actually DO it, as you can't simply change your title on the bank app and have to go into an Actual Branch, then when you DO find a branch that is actually OPEN you have to a) negotiate BANK BOUNCERS who don't seem to want to let anybody in b) wait for AGES c) discover that the only person who can actually DO it is "out to lunch" at 4pm so d) you then have to try again the next day. This I did, and the second time it all went all right, at least once I'd talked my way in and waited twenty minutes until they'd remembered I was there. I'd been told that I needed to bring PROOF, but when I finally sat down to sort it out all they asked was "What sort of Doctor are you?" I stumbled a bit and said "Er... a doctor of philosophy? Not a medical doctor!" which seemed to be the right answer.
All, I thought, was well, and a few days later my card arrived with DR HIBBETT written on it which was all very exciting and fun... until I went out to USE it and the flipping thing DIDN'T WORK! I then spent AN ENTIRE HOUR going round and round on the bank's APP and PHONE LINES trying to speak to someone about it. I recited my date of birth and mother's maiden name to various ROBOTS so many times it became like an INCANTATION to summon up a Surprise Birthday Jumper. EVENTUALLY I got through to an actual HUMAN and began by saying "Just to let you know, I have spent an HOUR trying to get through and I know this isn't your fault, so sorry in advance if I am TERSE" (or words to those effect) which made me feel a lot better. It was weird talking to AN HUMAN after an hour of ROBOTS, so i had to remember not to Pronounce. Every. Word. Clearly. No, CLEARLY. CLEARLY! Right, date of birth is ... (and so on).
She worked out that my card was BROKEN so I had to have ANOTHER one ordered. I was a bit perturbed by this, as I needed to use it for spending MONEY (I live in Fancy East London where loads of places don't even CONSIDER taking CA$H) but she pointed out I could add the card to the APP on my phone, and could then be one of those people who casually wave their phones around in shops and GET stuff. This I did, and it has been... all right? It's nice when it works, but it's a MASSIVE pain in the wotsits when it forces you to LOG IN and then wait five minutes for the flipping APP to start work. Also, it doesn't say "DR HIBBETT" in big letters on my phone! Still, these I suppose are the REWARDS OF HUBRIS, and if nothing else makes me relieved that I DIDN'T try and change my passport!
posted 18/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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I'm currently busily working on a SOLO ALBUM, gathering up a bunch of songs from the past few years that haven't been recorded due to a) THE WORLD b) me being busy with the PhD c) OTHER. I've so far got six in a Rough Mix state (which I'll probably go back to in a while and FIDDLE with), five others in various stages of DOING, one other that I need to sort some drums out for as a starting point, then a few others that I MIGHT have a go at if levels of Being Bothered rise slightly.
So far I'm having quite a lot of FUN, but it's taking quite a bit longer to DO than previous solo albums. There are various reasons for this, but the main one is that I am doing loads of it in MIDI. For instance, where previously I would get my bass guitar out and lay down some HOT LICKS on a track in about 10 minutes, this time around I'm doing it all on MIDI. This specific change is for several reasons, notably that my bass playing is a lot less EXACT than it used to be so doing it on the computer means I have a better chance of getting it in time! For other instruments, like KEYBOARDS or PIANO, I'm doing it this way because I don't actually OWN keyboards or pianos, and so I can THUS piddle about to my heart's content creating things without having to go into an Actual Studio.
Some stuff I'm still doing LIVE - guitars, ukelele and vocals mostly - but the upshot is that everything's taking a bit longer as I have to THINK about it a lot more. I used to be able to pick up an AXE and pretty much have a song worked out in a couple of goes, but with MIDI I'm spending HOURS staring at the piano keyboard graphic and trying to make imaginary chord shapes with my hands, thinking "What note is THAT meant to be?"
It is NOT EFFICIENT at all, but the nice thing is that not having a clue what I'm doing is leading to all SORT of new and (hopefully) INTERESTING sounds. Whenever I listen to some of my very early recordings, especially the VOON back catalogue, they're full of all sorts of SOUNDS and THINGS that I have no idea how they were made. OBVS this is partly because it wasn't just me doing them, but still, there are things there that have no right to be when they were made by two or three YOUTHS manhandling a four-track recorder and a drum machine. The NOISES I'm getting now from the MIDI thingy are not quite as RUM and UNUSUAL as those, sadly (very little is), but there's blips and bloops and all sorts that I wouldn't normally do.
Having said all that there is still a lot of SHOUTING and UKES and CLANGY GUITARS, so it is not an entirely New Direction or anything, and when it's mixed properly I imagine most of it will be noticeably different only to me. I've even found a way to make MIDI speed up as it goes along, so it will still have that aspect too!
As I say, I'm about half way through recording it now, so it'll be a while before we're looking at release dates or anything, but as soon as they're available I shall be letting you know!
posted 14/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Some Light Reading
Since finishing my PhD (did I mention that I'd... oh, I have?) I have treated myself to some READING. I do like a good old READ but for the past several years most of it has been EITHER academical works OR Other Research for the OTHER big project I've been doing for the past few years - a project what I hope to be able to REVEAL properly in a few months.
Anyway, that's all been a bit like homework, so since finishing up I have been going through and READING some of the books that I've added to my KINDLE over the years but never had time to read. This included "The Wheels Of Chance" which I got ages ago in the middle of my HG WELLS MANIA but never actually got round to reading - I'm glad i did, as it was Quite Jolly. To be honest it did feel like a tiny bit of a cash-in on "Three Men In A Boat", but I liked that also so didn't really mind.
The BIG book which has been sat on my Kindle for a while, however, was "The Silmarillion". I think I got it after I watched all the Hobbit films a couple of Christmases ago, and ever since it's been sat there LOOKING at me, DARING me to read it. I've never really had the time until recently, but once I'd handed in my OWN mighty tome (with it's own huge wodge of appendices) I thought I'd give JRR Tolkien's a go.
CRUMBS! To my utter amazement, I really really enjoyed it! It was a bit of a slog to start with, getting used to the Quasi-Biblical way everything is written, the huge list of NAMES all the time (which CHANGE too), and the first few chapters being all about a bunch of annoying GODS swanning around, but once you get into it it's surprisingly relaxing. I started to let the lists of names and places just wash over me after a while, and it turned into a very pleasant stroll through various woods, towns and dread domains, occasionally pausing for a BIG FITE. And I tell you what, JRR Tolkien doesn't half write an exciting FITE. I remember reading "The Hobbit" for the first time and being dead excited during the (SPOILERS) massive battle at the end when all the different armies pile on, and there are LOADS of these in "The Silmarillion". It's also quite good fun when places from THE FILMS get mentioned, and you get to feel Very Slightly More Clever for remembering them.
Best of all, it's one of those HUGE books where the last quarter of it is appendices and indexes that you don't actually need to read (I am not likely to start narrating an audiobook of it so don't really see the point in reading page after page of pronunciation guidance for a totally made up language) so when you get to 50% of the way through you know you're actually much further.
I finished it the other night and FLUSHED with success I thought "Right! Now I'm going to finally read the Lord Of The Rings Appendices too, and then - SOD IT - go back to the start of The Hobbit and do THE LOT!" I then DID read one of the appendices (the one about what a nice time the members of The Fellowship have with their lives when it's all over), and next morning rose with a clearer vision i.e. "No I won't be doing that just yet thanks. Maybe next time I go on holiday."
It was dead good thoigh and, after spending 6 years in the enormous complicated storyworld of the Marvel Universe it was quite fun to dip into the enormous complicated storyworld of Middle Earth. Something a bit lighter next though - I'm thinking MIDDLEMARCH!
posted 11/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Sorting Out My Corpus
So, last time I was on about how I chose Doctor Doom to be the focus for my PhD (what I have, by the way, now finished) and then worked out what "The Marvel Age" was in order to set some criteria for the CORPUS that I'd look at.
"Corpus" is an excellent word which basically means "a collection of books and stuff" where, in my case, the "stuff" bit was mostly comics, cartoons, radio shows and games. In order to put it together all I needed to do was find every single appearance by Doctor Doom in any of these texts between the dates I'd settled on. PEASY right?
IT WAS NOT PEASY. The first thing I had to do was search The Grand Comics Database for every comic Doom appeared in during this time. Well, actually, the FIRST thing was to look at the various different databases and realise that GCD (as the cool kids call it) was the best one, THEN download it onto my own server, THEN work out how all the table fit together, and THEN search it for the aforesaid appearances.
Doing that showed me that the GCD is not necessarily entirely reliable or consistent. It's a wonderful resource put together by hundreds of different people over many years, which is all very excellent but unfortunately means the quality of the data varies HUGELY, as does the decision making processes. For example, generally speaking the people entering the data DON'T add in information about every single advert or the contents of letters pages, but some DO, which meant that I had to go through checking every single result to make sure it actually WAS a story featuring Doctor Doom, rather than an advert of an image in a letters column. Such things ARE valid items about Doctor Doom (and the source of some FASCINATING ARTICLES hem hem) but weren't what I was after here.
Another problem was that not every appearance by Doctor Doom was recorded, at least not as Doctor Doom. One HUGE example of this was his appearances in Not Brand Echh, a "humour" series (i.e. ripping off "Mad Magazine") using Marvel characters published in the 1960s. Doom appeared in LOADS of issues of this, but was "hilariously" referred to as "Doctor Bloom" in most cases (I have no idea why) so did not come up in my searches, despite appearing on the COVER for some of these. I only realised this when I was reading through the corpus and noticed a single issue that HAD been logged as "Doctor Doom", so had to go back and check through THE LOT to find more. On the plus side, this led to a FASCINATING PRESENTATION about how it all worked!
None of this was PEASY as I say, but it was a flipping DODDLE compared to what came next. As far as I know there isn't a database of cartoons, books, radio shows etc etc which allows you to search by character names (iMDB does some of this but by NO MEANS all, and it's expensive!) so I had to just GO LOOKING for them. This involved a WHOLE HEAP of Googling and LOTS of going back and forth over the course of the PhD as new things kept on popping up. Some of these turned up too late to be included - most HEINOUSLY I missed an actual NOVEL starring Doctor Doom called (inevitably) DOOMSDAY - but in the end I got myself a PhD Corpus of 266 texts, of which three were newspaper strips, six were radio shows or similar audio-only recordings, six were games, 15 were cartoons and all the rest comics. You can see a big list of them - along with all the other items I collected which were didn't make it into the final corpus - over on the MARVEL AGE DOOM site.
This was a LOT of comics, games, books etc etc to get through, and I soon realised that it was WAY too much, so I used A Stratified Random Sampling methodology (which - FEAR NOT - I shall not go into here) to narrow this down to a representative of 69 (nice) texts. I then set out to EXAMINE them!
How I did THAT is a whole other story which I shall save for a whole other time, as I think that's probably about ENOUGH for now. Basically it was DEAD CLEVER but also QUITE HARD and took FLIPPING AGES. Further details can be supplied on application!
posted 8/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Last time I was discussing - IN FASCINATING DETAIL (NB there is a lot more detail which is slightly less fascinating) - what I meant by "Character Components" for my PhD. This time, as nobody has actually begged me to stop yet, I thought I'd explain how I chose the CHARACTER what I looked at and the TEXTS what they appeared in.
As many will be aware the character I chose to look at was DOCTOR DOOM. I was looking for a character who travelled widely throughout the Marvel universe but did NOT usually have his own series, so that what I'd get from looking at their stories was a cross section of all sorts of DIFFERENT texts with different creators, rather than just focussing on lots of comics/cartoons/other stuff by the same people in the same format. Doctor Doom sprang to mind because a) he totally does that and b) he is in a lot of stories that I love, notably from the John Byrne run on "Fantastic Four" and especially in stories like This Land Is Mine! and Interlude.
I had a look into this idea and it turned out to be a GRATE one, as Doom appears all OVER the place, and though he does get his own series a few times (usually shared with another character) these very rarely had a consistent creative team and never lasted long, so I knew I'd get a good variety. ALSO he popped up in a surprisingly wide range of other formats apart from comics.
I knew the bulk of my CORPUS (i.e. the list of comics etc that I was going to be looking at) was going to be IN comics, and so I'd looked at various databases that I could use to generate a starting list - as I would later discover, there are several comics which Doom appears in where he's not listed in these databases, and there are all the OTHER media where he appears that don't tend to list character names, so this would always be a starting point rather than a definitive list. I knew I could search these databases for comics with Doom in, the only problems were that a) there were flipping LOADS of them and b) there were more and more all the time. I was going to need some sort of CUT-OFF point for the texts I'd look at!
One way to do this would be to arbitrarily say "THIS date and no more!" but that's not hugely satisfactory for a PhD thesis where ever tiny flipping thing has to be justified. What I needed was a DATE RANGE and the obvious answer was to try using THE AGES system. This is the process whereby comics are split into AGES, so "The Golden Age" starts with the first appearance of SUPERMAN in Action Comics #1, for instance, and then "The Silver Age" takes over with the first apperance of the updated version of The Flash in DC Comics Showcase #4. This is all widely agreed and PEASY... until you get to "The Bronze Age" which starts...um... somewhere around 1970-1972, unless it doesn't (some people say there's no such thing, others that it should be something else) and then that ends... er... at another point, when it's replaced by the Dark Age. Or the Modern Age. Or Iron, Heroic, Platinum, Rust, Steel etc etc etc - basically there are as many proposals for what comes next as there are people vociferously arguing about it in comic shops/pubs/basements/online discussion forums.
None of this was much use to me, as I needed ACTUAL DATES, so I went looking for something else and found "The Marvel Age". This is a period which, like the "Silver" and "Golden" ages ALSO has a comic as its definitive starting point - Fantastic Four #1 - but then ends somewhere vaguely around the end of the 1980s. I did a lot of research into this and found that NOBODY had ever tried to formally define what "The Marvel Age" actual MEANS, even though hundreds of articles, books and wotnot had USED the term. Actually defining it sounded very much like a UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO KNOWLEDGE so that is what I set out to do.
I won't go into TOO much detail about how I did this as a) even I have to admit it is not TOTALLY fascinating and b) I've got a paper coming out (hopefully) later this year which explains it and I do not want to give SPOILERS. The short version is that I used something called "The Production Of Culture Approach" to define it using COVER DATES for comics with specific Editors-in-Chief, so that it started with "Fantastic Four" #1 (cover date November 1961, edited by Stan Lee) and ended with all Marvel comics with cover dates of October 1987 (the final month where Jim Shooter was credited in all Marvel comics as "Editor-In-Chief"). Using editors meant I could ALSO use this process to define three SUB-PERIODS of "Creation" and "Chaos" and "Consolidation", and using COVER DATES meant I could clearly and easily say whether ANY comic should be up for inclusion in my corpus, and then place it within a sub-period.
That is a VERY short version of how it all worked - I am always ALMOST TOO EAGER to explain further, and indeed DID do that last year at Factually Inaccurate Stand-Up. The upshot is that it gave me a GRATE way to select comics and a NEARLY AS GRATE way to select other texts (which don't have cover dates, but still have SOME sort of date) as well.
Next time I'll try and talk as briefly as I can about the CORPUS what I selected and what I actually DID with it. And then I might just go and have a little lie down!
posted 6/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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Today I am continuing the entirely UNASKED FOR explanation of What My PhD was about - last time I was on about CHARACTER COHERENCE (what makes a character the character they are and how much that changes over time and media types) so THIS time I'm going to try and BRIEFLY explain how this can be measured.
SO to measure how a character changes we first need to know what we're measuring, and this basically boils down to their CHARACTER COMPONENTS. This is an idea put about by all sorts of people, so a big chunk of the thesis was me doing a LITERATURE REVIEW (which involved, of course, a Literature Search with a range of keywords) of current thinking, from which I got four basic categories as follows:
CHARACTER-SPECIFIC - what they look like, how they speak and what they're called.
STORYWORLD-SPECIFIC - the world around them, including other characters, previous events, and common objects. NOTE that some characters carry these around with them from world to world, such as Sherlock Holmes usually having a Watson with him, or Superman usually having the explosion of Krypton in his origin.
BEHAVIOURAL - how the character interacts with the storyworld, what their motivations are for behaving that way, and how other characters see them. This one was particularly KNOTTY to work out, as most other SCHOLARS who had looked at this just went "How they behave is... um... how they behave" and didn't explain what that actually meant.
AUTHORIAL - finally, it turns out that it matters who "authored" the character, both in terms of the ACTUAL creators (so in comics that's writers, artists, letterers, editors etc) and who we're TOLD are the creatores (whether that's corporate entities like Marvel or Disney, or pretending that, for instance, Mary Shelley had anything to do with the film Mary Shelley's Frankenstein).
These broad categories all had SUB categories as mentioned above which I called DIMENSIONS, and put together this gave me a THIRTEEN DIMENSIONAL MODEL (yes I know it is very cool) of Character Components. With all that sorted out I then devised a way to EMPIRICALLY MEASURE these i.e. a way for ME to measure them which give the same results as if someone ELSE did it, rather than relying on personal opinion. For some aspects this was pretty peasy - for instance, for "Other Characters" I just listed all the characters who appeared in a particular text - but for others it was a bit trickier, such as finding a SURVEY I could use to measure "Personality Traits". I don't want to go into all this in too much detail as a) it is QUITE COMPLICATED and b) I'm hoping to publish this bit as a Proper Book!
Anyway, once that was sorted out I developed a method for entering data on each component, set up a data entry system to do so, and then set about finding myself a CORPUS. In other words, I needed to work out which TEXTS (comics, cartoons, TV shows etc etc) I was going to look at. This turned out to ALSO be quite tricky but also - IF YOU ARE ME AT LEAST - dead interesting, so I'll save that for NEXT time!
posted 4/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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What's The PhD About Then?
Since finishing my PhD (which, by the way, I have) many lovely people have congratulated me, some even willingly without me hanging around saying "I HAVE FINISHED MY PHD" in a casual way until they did. Very few (to be precise: 0) people however have asked me what it is ABOUT. I take this to be a delightful indication of everyone being POLITE - "he's probably had enough of talking about it after all this time" they assume, "so let's not bother him about it, despite us all desperately wanting to know because it is almost certainly incredibly interestimg."
For this kindness, much thanks, and in my gratitude over the next few blogs I'll try and do a VERY QUICK (honest) explanation. The title of the thesis was "Doctor Doom In The Marvel Age: An Empirical Approach To Transmedia Character Coherence", which is a) clearly the coolest PhD Title EVER but b) a bit much to get your head around in one go, so the best bet is to split it up into PARTS. For this reason, I'll just do the "Transmedia Character Coherence" bit today - it's the last bit in the title, but it helps to explain everything else!
So, "Transmedia" relates to stories that are told across different media types e.g. "Star Wars" is a classic transmedia storyworld ("storyworld" means the world the story happens in) because characters who appear in the main films also appear in the TV shows and the cartoons, and it's the same versions of the characters throughout. I say "classic" because when Henry Jenkins coined the term "transmedia storyworlds" he was explicitly talking about single storyworlds e.g. the world of Sherlock Holmes is not really transmedia in this way because the TV shows, cartoons and movies are BASED on the original novels, or more often the characters IN them, but do not interact with them or each other and INDEED tend to contradict each other.
HOWEVER! Plenty of people (including me) think this doesn't really work, as under the original definition transmedia storytelling doesn't really exist e.g. the old Star Wars novels USED to be part of the transmedia storyworld but then were REMOVED from it and shunted into their own seperate storyworld. The storyworld of the MOVIES still contains all the planets and people and idiotic Jedi idiots, as well as the ability for light sabers and hyperspace to exist but also the HISTORY of the stories that are deemed to be part of it, whereas the old books contain very similar things, but the HISTORY is different, and so some of the people, planets etc might be too. The Jedi are still idiots though, that is a CONSTANT.
Similarly "Doctor Who" is SORT OF Transmedia, but the books and games don't always necessarily exist in the same storyworld as the TV shows. Going further, there are some characters who clearly ARE Transmedia, in that they hop about all over the place and are clearly meant to BE the same character, but don't appear in the same storyworld. Lara Croft is a good example of this, as she is always Lara Croft except that her HISTORY may change in different games, books or movies, or the way she LOOKS, or what her motivation is etc.
This gives us what Jan Noel Thon calls a "Global Transmedia Character Network", in this case consisting of ALL the various Lara Crofts in one network of LARA CROFTNESS (THAT IS WHAT IT IS CALLED). They all relate to one another, and changes in one version may then influence the other e.g. if Lara Croft develops a new bit of backstory in a movie then that might get integrated into a future game.
A GRATE example of this is Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, who originated in the Superman radio show (which was NOT in the same storyworld as the comics) and proved so popular he made his way over to the comics storyworld too. More recently, Harley Quinn first appeared in a Batman cartoon show, but then was SO VERY POPULAR, especially for CosPlayers (I have been to a Comic Convention and can confirm this!), that she soon started appearing in comics and, eventually, ALL THE FILMS.
All of these different versions of characters can be different to each other in all sorts of ways, but there must be something that makes each of them THAT character. For instance, the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Sherlock Holmes is clearly NOT meant to be the same character as the one played by Basil Rathbone - they look different, behave differently, and exist in different time periods - but they are still definitely Sherlock Holmes because they share traits like other characters (Watson, Moriarty etc), motivations, past adventures and so on. The degree to which they are the same character is, broadly speaking, what I mean in the title by "Character Coherence" - how much they are the SAME from one version to another, or INDEED within the SAME version over time. The Marvel comics 616 universe version of Peter Parker, for example, IS meant to be the same character, but over the past 70 years or so he has varied considerably over time, in different series and at the hands of different creators.
SO - how do you work out HOW MUCH the character changes? That's the NEXT thing!
posted 1/4/2022 by MJ Hibbett
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