16 05 2014

I was asked to write a TV column for Hot Press a few weeks ago. The title says it all really, kids. Here’s a reprint.




Ever since I was a child I’ve had a fascination with all things frightening and creepy (think Count Dracula and demons from the eternal pit rather than Eamon Dunphy in drag there, folks). For years I’ve been positively thrilled and terrified in equal measure by macabre tales told via the medium of film, novels and comic books. In recent times, the humble tellybox has also become relied upon to provide solid instalments of spooky stories too and this rekindled love affair between horror and the small screen has yielded some pretty spectacular results, I have to say.


Though I am still currently mourning the end of the sublime, Jessica Lange-led American Horror Story: Coven, the present mainstream fascination with the darker side of life means that there have been plenty of programmes to keep me contented while I wait for the Hallowe’en debut of Freak Show, the fourth chapter of the series. One of those shows is Bates Motel on Universal.


Telling the story of a teenage Norman Bates and his mother Norma (altogether now- “MOTHERRRRRR!!”), series two of this prequel to the Hitchcock film Psycho has just started at the time of writing and I’ve been soaking up every minute of this diabolically good drama. Set in modern day America, it’s essentially a dark love story between two psychologically damaged characters. One of my favourite things about the programme is the handling of future serial killer Bates’ origins as we’re not quite certain if Norman has always been, well, a psycho, or if his mother made him this way. At least not at first anyway….


Speaking of Norman’s dear old ma, Vera Farmiga lights up the screen as the misguided, occasionally mental Norma. In some ways, Bates Motel is her show as she steals every scene she’s in. Despite playing a character with more mental problems than Jay Z (yes, that would be 100 or so), Farmiga makes her sympathetic and funny and thanks to her performances you almost forgive her controlling, borderline incestuous ways. With a third series already confirmed (sorry, I still can’t quite bring myself to use the American term of “season”), it’s looks like Bates Motel will be open for business for the next few years and I can’t wait to see where it all leads to.


Just as I was welcoming a new show in through the doors of Castle McFee this fortnight, I have also been bidding one adieu. Fox’s The Walking Dead drew to a close recently and while some have been moaning louder than the titular cadavers over the final episode of series four, I must admit I’ve been enjoying the continuing journey of Rick, Michonne et al.


Admittedly part of that reason is due to a feeling of loyalty for the source material, ie-the Image comic penned by Robert Kirkman and drawn by Charlie Adlard. I’ve been reading the book since my brother handed me the first issue ten years ago (it’s now valued at $10 000 and yes, I am insanely envious over this matter), and although the mainstream success of the TV translation has surprised and slightly bewildered me, it does my cold, black heart good to see a then unknown comic become a pop culture phenomenon.


But back to the TV show. After weathering the storm that was series two (seriously, if Rick’s son Carl had followed orders and never the left the house I swear nothing would have happened during the 13 episodes other than farmer Hershel licking his lips a lot and talking about the Baby Jesus), the fourth instalment has been an enjoyable affair. Informed by the source material more than ever, I liked getting to know some of the group of survivors a little better and without spoiling anything for those who haven’t watched the final episode yet, all I’ll say is let’s just hope Rick Grimes’ gang hasn’t eaten the meat at Terminus by the time we rejoin them for series five…


Walking Dead Artwork

11 06 2012

As few days ago I managed to get my hands on an original sketch by Charlie Adlard (artist of the Walking Dead comic, which is published by Image, if you didn’t already know…). Intended as a birthday present for my brother, I have to say I’m quite proud of my “zombie with a party hat and balloon” concept, so I thought I’d post it up here as I know a good few Dead Horse readers are into comics as well.How amazing is this???

Oh, I’ll also let you all into a secret. Our Martin owns every single issue of the Walking Dead (all first editions) and his collection is worth thousands. One day I plan to stealthily steal them all from his long boxes without him knowing and sell them on to fund my Eddie from Iron Maiden back tattoo.Don’t tell him that though, eh…..

Walking Dead Airs on FX Channel On Nov 5

13 09 2010

You may remember a few weeks ago where I wrote about the Walking Dead spin-off TV show (if not, here’s a handy linky Well, it looks like Sky viewers in the UK and Ireland will be able to watch episode one of the series on Nov 5, a mere six days after it airs in Yankland. NOICE!

Trailer for the Walking Dead

25 08 2010

Back in 2000, my brother ordered issue one of a comic called Battle Pope by a then fledging writer named Robert Kirkman. Loyal sort that he is, our Martin then proceeded to buy anything that came out under the Kirkman name for the next ten years (and counting) as he loved the concept. In 2003, the beardy scribe was still pretty much an unknown when he released issue one of the Walking Dead (and Invincible) but both titles have since gone on to be worth a small fortune on the back issue market.

The Walking Dead in particular eventually clicked with the masses too and as soon as I read the first six-issue arc I loved the story of Rick Grimes as much as my big bruv and even went through a phase of buying people volume one of the trade/hardcover in a bid to convert them to the epic zombie saga.

Seven years on, and the Walking Dead is a million times more popular than is ever was and has just reached issue 75. This October, the cult will probably grow even bigger with the debut of the spin-off TV series and here’s the 5 minute trailer below. Yes Martin, you were right all along…

NB: For maximum effect-listen to the Sword’s new album ‘Warp Riders’ while watching this.

Spider-Woman: the Verdict!

4 09 2009

It’s now been 24 hours since I first saw the Spider-Woman motion comic. 24 hours since I watched a piece of story-telling that’s intended to revolutionise the medium I know and love forever. So what did I think, True Believers? Well, it was an extremely under-whelming experience altogether. Don’t get me wrong-Bendis’ writing and Maleev’s art are tpyically top notch, it’s just that the execution doesn’t do them justice.

My main problem (as always) is with the voices. Jessica, Spidey and Agent Brand just don’t sound the way they do in my head. Plus I spent those ten minutes wishing I could just hold the fucking comic in my hands rather than be spoon-fed the events via my lap-top. I guess it all boils down to this under-current in comics today where we “have to find ways to up-date the medium.” Well I think that’s balls quite frankly. What exactly is so wrong with picking a book up off a shelf and (shock horror) using my own hands to flip the pages. As an art-form and a piece of literature-comic books are pretty much perfect.

I think it all comes from this inherent feeling in most fanboys that they have to justify their love for 8 Ball, Captain America, the Walking Dead or whatever to the mainstream. By making “digital comics,” it gives the medium a kind of false elevation that helps the unenlightened get past their “comics are for children” mentality. Well I say fuck ’em. If they’re too ignorant to accept that stories about men who turn in green monsters when they get pissed off can’t have multiple layers of story-telling then that’s their loss. We don’t need the wankers anyway.

You see I’ve never felt the need to apologise for liking comic books. Yeah, the Daredevil story ‘Guardian Devil’ still gets me a little teary, the Rick Jones “bachelor party” in Incredible Hulk #417 is some of the wittiest writing I’ve ever read and the Ultimates is possibly my favourite book ever. If you’re the kind of person who turns their nose up at that, then I can guarantee you’re a bell-end. When I was growing up there was always someone trying to take the piss out of my interests-but it’s never bothered me too much. Hell, I’ve even got an Incredible Hulk tattoo as well as two Transformers on my arms, perhaps unwittingly sending a big two fingered salute to the snobs.

So yeah, Spider-Woman the motion comic then. Will I be viewing future episodes? Aye, I probably will. But do I think this will be the future of the oldest form of story-telling in the world? Not a chance. It’ll probably be adopted as a piece of genius by all those who clutched the Dark Knight film to their chests, begging the mainstream to see comics as “valid literature,” but this writer doesn’t think the medium needs to be changed in the first place. Besides, all the best art, music and literature was created by outsiders and as long as comic books are viewed with disdain by the clueless, then that is when they’re at their most vital.

And The Winners Are…

19 12 2008

Traditionally in the land of features journalism things start to wind down in the month of December. Record companies send you endless best of compilations, magazines and papers only ever want to post end of year polls and no-one really seems to give a toss. Don’t worry though, you’ll be glad to know the young McFee is still working his heiny off (is that how you spell heiny?) right up until Christmas Eve Eve because I’ve been lumdered with some horrible deadlines this year. So to make up for the lack of Dead Horse activity this week, here’s my top ten comics of the year that is currently published in this month’s AU.

And The Winners are…


As we wave a cheery goodbye to 2008, your trusty comics correspondent casts his eye back over the last 12 months and picks the top ten books of the year while also picking highlights from ‘09’s calendar because we’re dead clever like that. If you feel there’s anything missing from the list let us know via



Top Ten Comics of 2008

Captain America (Marvel)


Ever since writer Ed Brubaker took over the reigns penning Marvel’s Star Spangled Avenger (and soon to be film star in 2010) Steve Rogers has never had it so good. Well, apart from the fact that he was gunned down in public in issue 25 and is now as dead as Russell Brand’s career at the BBC. Still, with a new Cap in place courtesy of his former WW2 side-kick Bucky and an epic plot involving fake presidential candidates, unborn babies and a schizoid Red Skull, Bru ensures that even though it’s now 25 issues since we last saw Steve Rogers we’re still glued to this must-have book.


Hack/Slash (Devil’s Due)

Hack/Slash is an independent comic starring Cassie Hack and her best friend Vlad. They’re slasher slayers (try saying that one after a few Brandy Balls) and each issue they hunt down serial killers who refuse to die while wearing skimpy clothing and looking all hot and shit  (and that’s just Vlad we’re talking about). This year the ongoing series just got better and the characterisation, jokes and gross out moments are spot on every time. Add that to the fact that the recent Hack/Slash Annual featured former AU cover stars the Suicide Girls and you have a guilty, but great read.


Hulk (Marvel)

After the events of last year’s World War Hulk, Marvel bosses decided to give the title a reboot, start it off with a new number one and enlist Heroes’ producer Jeph Loeb as writer and Ed McGuinness as penciller. It could’ve sucked harder than an over-zealous porn star, but thankfully, with the introduction of the rather mental Red Hulk (whose identity is still a mystery) it has turned into one of the most successful books of the year.


The Walking Dead (Image)

Robert Kirkman’s zombie epic continued to shock readers in 2008 and after the gruesome events of the recent issue 50 it’s hard not to see why. By focusing on the people rather than the dead, Kirkman’s book is as compelling as it was when it was first launched in 2003.


Secret Invasion (Marvel)

Secret Invasion was THE event in this summer’s comics calendar and the ride isn’t over yet in this eight part mini-series. The story revolves around the shape-shifting Skrulls who have infiltrated Earth and intend to take it over and the Marvel heroes’ struggles to find out who to trust. From the reveal of Spider-Woman being the Skrull Queen to Ms Marvel getting shot by a returning Nick Fury this series has had us hooked.


Action Comics (DC)

It hasn’t been a good year for DC fans, but Geoff Johns’ and Gary Franks’ Action Comics is the pick of the publisher’s roster. The long running Superman title made the headlines a few weeks ago after they killed off Clark Kent’s Pa and this was just one of the many jaw dropping moments from the must read book.



Blue Monday (Oni Press)

Blue Monday is an independent mini-series about the life and loves of high school student and Britpop loving Bleu L. Finnegan. The black and white, manga influenced comic is all about teenage kicks and is a great purchase for those who enjoy comics with as little spandex as possible.



Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Dark Horse)

When the mega-successful TV series ended with series seven, Buffy creator Joss Whedon decided that he would continue to tell stories about his characters on the printed page. Series Eight has been a huge success and hasn’t lost any of the invention and wit that fans loved originally and the sight of a skinless Warren is worth admission price alone.



Fantastic Four (Marvel)

When it was announced that the super-star team of former Ultimates writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch were to once again pool their talents for Marvel’s first family, I’m not ashamed to say I gave a little yelp of glee. After some first few issues that were rockier than the Thing’s under carriage, FF is now firing on full cylinders and shows no signs of slowing down.



The Boys (Dynamite)

Garth Ennis’ Marmite book about a black ops team who police super-heroes has been a great read this year. Pulling no punches, the title has already had hamsters living inside super-hero Blarney Cock’s nether regions, zombie teens, super-powered gay orgies and features more swear words than a night out with the Osbournes. Not for the faint hearted….