My uncle died this week. Or maybe it was two weeks ago; I don’t know. He was 49 years old, and although we hadn’t been on good terms for a few years, he was a big part of my childhood – indeed, aside from my parents, it’s difficult to think of another human being I’ve actually known who has had such a profound influence on my development as a person.
It wouldn’t be right to say he introduced me to comic books – that honour probably goes to the Batman animated series and the associated media. But he did introduce me to Chris Claremont’s X-Men run, which is a huge deal when you’re seven or eight years old. This was many many years before the Hugh Jackman movies and back when Marvel superheroes – if you can imagine such a time – were virtually unheard of in the UK, and even in the US were probably a niche cultural unit.
Perhaps more importantly, he was later responsible for exposing my impressionable mind to Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, and a further alt-cultural smorgasbord in my teens. It’s not every day the person who got you into Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Camille Paglia, Saki, Neil Gaiman, Iain Banks, Angela Carter, Oscar Wilde, the Marquis de Sade, 70s Tom Baker era Doctor Who, Quentin Tarantino, Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Ken Russell (especially The Devils), and V.I.M.’s sub-bass club classic Maggie’s Last Party passes away. I remember having to consciously fight against his influence in my early twenties to develop my own independent intellectual arena, but a lot of these writers and artists I still love and still view through the critical lens he lent me.
As I mentioned, we hadn’t patched things up when he died after a stupid argument a few years ago, and I don’t have any lessons to impart on that front. When I knew him best he was funny, witty, and was able to say very intelligent things that could genuinely shock you into a different way of thinking about a piece of low or high culture. The circumstances of his death are deeply saddening to me and I wish one of us had picked up the fucking phone years ago.
Well, there it is. The base goes on. Rave, rave, rave against the dying of the light.