The Thunderer (excerpt)

"I love how objects and characters change their appearance
entirely from frame to frame... but Van Loon's turned this
seeming handicap into a virtue..."
Stephen Drennan, ByPass Small Press 'Zine more reviews

Borin Van Loon: The Thunderer
'The running dogs of capitalism – the bourgeoisie – will be crushed by the power of the people; collectivisation holds the key to true worker power in the context of–' It was at this point that the door to the staff area and workroom at the rear of the library burst open, crashing against the nearby wall. Several hooded and caped figures ran into the quick reference area causing the internet terminal screens to fade to a cold, opalescent blue as they passed. A lady in a flowered hat whom Angela recognised as Mrs Wilberforce, secretary of the local Women's Institute, fainted away as she sat at one of the computers. Angela thought that she saw a mist of frost stealing over her inert form.  

All this happened in a flash and Dickon, having been interrupted in mid-sentence, suddenly plunged after the figures and the three black horses which had cantered after them, overturning a couple of occasional tables and a small sofa. A toddler in the children's library left the pile of books he was sitting on to read, squealed and bolted for his father who was reading a newspaper at one of the tables. The man's head was determinedly buried in his paper and he refused to be distracted from the football scores. By the time the intruders had reached the automatic doors to the street, Dickon was gaining on them and Angela, despite her state of shock, was drawn after him. A leaflet spinner went flying scattering multicoloured paper in every direction during the parabola of its trajectory. The outside ramp for wheelchair access to the library proved the downfall of the last of the hooded figures who tumbled onto the pavement and was trampled by the, by now, galloping horses. Dickon checked his progress for a second to note that the garb was muddy and completely empty save for a little vapour escaping from the sleeves.
'I thought I'd seen the last of these fiends,' breathed Dickon, loud enough for Angela to hear as she ran up to him. They looked up to see three of the black figures riding off on two of the horses, two together on the first. The third horse was lurching and snorting, its eyes wild, with its bridle tangled in the ornamental Magnolia at the corner of the building. It was the work of moments to free the tack and Dickon, soothing the beast with a muttered incantation, suddenly mounted the saddle with practised grace and snapped 'Come on' to Angela below. As he pulled her into the saddle behind him, Angela thought to herself 'Thank goodness I put on an A-line skirt this morning.'
eye cutaway
Original, signed artwork for sale: click here.
if you want the whole story, buy a copy of Borin Van Loon: Bart cover 3'The Bart Dickon Omnibus' by clicking here.
And as a bonus tantaliser, below is a passage from the forthcoming full-length Bart Dickon novel: "Bart Dickon's Descent Into Hell" (just waiting for that juicy author's advance from one of the Publishing Houses Of Repute - or even one of the publishing houses of ill-repute...)

Bart Dickon, The Ideologically-Sound Etc., sat in a room with neither door nor window, employed in a favourite passtime. He leaned back in the comfortably upright armchair, supported in his lumbar region, head on the high back, arms resting evenly on the buttoned red leather with legs crossed, relaxed. He then took careful aim at a spot hign on the rear wall near the corner, crossed the big toe of his langorously dangling foot, then swivelled his lower terminal extremity upwards at the ankle. Like a fisherman making a cast, like a bowler delivering a deft googly, like an expressionist painter creating a telling stroke of the brush, he brought his foot down and flicked his big toe over its neighbour at the nadir of the swing. From the tip of his elegantly brogued shoe his toe extended forwards in slow motion, still clad in its silk sock and leather. The bulge of his toe resembled the shperical form of a billiard ball moving smoothly over the baize, steadily growing from the stem behind it. This extrusion of Bart’s terminal limb softened the bone, elasicized the skin and surrounding coverings. Bart’s gaze remained transfixed on the chosen spot on the wall and as the toe met the angle, it bounced in a precise angle into the corner, bounced again on the celing then against the wall and continued acoss the room. Bart followed his distended toe’s progress as it passed diagonally above his head and out of sight. He calculated the soundless percussion of toe and wall behind him until the trajectory came once again into his purview.

Like a piece of chewing gum stretched by a small child from mouth to extending fingers, the bulbous part of his big toe maintained its progress undiminished, drawing in its wake the slim tube of the remainder of his lower digit. Unlike the aforementioned unpleasant and insanitary comestible, however, the toe did not get ever thinner, did not sag and break in a sticky, stringy mess. This was but the beginning of the sport. Controlling the speed with the angle of his foot, Bart relaxed his muscles a little a raised it slightly. The toe started to speed up and make more dramatic angles on the walls. The skill was to avoid hitting one’s toe, or rather the trail of one’s toe, from a previous bounce. Soon a positive cat’s cradle of toey substances festooned the upper room until the big toe struck the bottom of the picture rail and sped downwards to floor level, from whence it bounced towards the ceiling. ‘Hah!’ muttered Dickon as he adjusted the speed and mentally bisected the angle his toe made with the floor. ‘Tricky...’ as yet the extended toe had not come too near to his own static figure, but his head now darted to the left to dodge a possible impact from behind; the toe whistled past his right ear. At one point the toe bounced in steep angles between floor and ceiling creating a cylindrical filligree all around his chair and Dickon knew that it was time to stop. Raising the tip of his foot in a definite manner, the snookering bulge stopped in mid-air and rapidly retreated back into itself. Retracing its pathway like a film run in reverse, the whole creation took several minutes to rewind until his shoed foot regained its customary shape and substance with a satisfying ‘flup’.

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Loon Comix Archive


"Else heard include fat include. Final may, must, hunt front body floor. Use like represent clear dark numeral surprise. Out learn might root noun. Day these die war toward same. Over hot under just. Go forest hot. How lost dog, there. Wave voice continent time lead give. Use must early notice thank ground. Interest fun, fast."

The above passage is a plot device from "The Thunderer" short story in 'The Bart Dickon Omnibus'. Doubling as anonymous note and incantation in the story, the text is taken directly from a spam email received by the author. Anyone unfortunate enough to be bombarded by avalanches of junk email may know the nature of some of these tedious mailings. In recent months some seem to have taken on an eccentricly philosophical bent with little truisms and badly typed aphorisms before hitting you with the hard sell about nubile females, erectile dysfunction and counterfeit Rolexes (eh?). The above snippet of concrete poetry was copied and pasted exactly as it arrived. Not that I read all the thousands of spams, of course.


The picture of the dissected eyeball above reminds me that the printed version which accompanies 'The Thunderer' in the Omnibus book is a bit more blurred. The reason? Technology, of course. Putting the constituent parts of the book together on my eMac machine, I prepared those text-based pages (around six) in AppleWorks6 - the word processing / draw / paint / spreadsheet program which comes with the Mac. Assuring myself that my printer, Five Castles Press in Ipswich, used Macs in their studio (they were handling the imposition of the pages for reproduction), I felt that all data would be transferable. As I toiled through the one hundred or so scanned TIFFs, retouching and checking the quality of every pixel and level of contrast, these text pages were the least of my worries. Little did I realise that the studio had installed 'G5' machines - mine's a G4 -  and those witty chaps at Apple have made the AppleWorks software non-retrospective, even though they're both running the OSX operating system. This meant that all my careful spacing and formatting went haywire. Sending via email attachment and by disc didn't solve it, nor did the time-consuming job of exporting it to Word for Mac and rebuilding all the subtleties (like getting the story to fit within the allocated page-count!). Neither Simon at Five Castles Press nor I were happy with the quality of the images. Now, I don't use fancy PageMaker of Quark programs, but I was most disappointed with Apple for their lack of care of Mac users - something for which they have hitherto been famous. What did we do? Back to basics: print off the best quality obtainable from my laser printer, deliver to Simon by hand and he scanned the pages at high resolution and placed them as pictures! We got a decent result, but this eye continues to stare out at me as a stark reminder of the limitations of this brave new world. I remember when you could do a paste-up, shoot it on a process camera with no edges or cut-marks showing and print it.

Update (Nov. 2006): Nick Snode emailed: "The AppleWorks and G4 or G5 shouldn't really have been a problem.
OSX has always had, built into it, the capability of creating PDF files. Admittedly there isn't much control over the specifications for final output but the end result should be more than adequate for litho printing. Certainly better than scanning laser copy print-outs. As PDFs embed all the images and fonts, page reflow would not have happened. Nearly all printers can take PDF files and impose them correctly for their presses. Why Five Castles Press didn't suggest this, I don't know. Like you I sometimes yearn for the days of repro cameras but paste-ups on a drawing board... never!"

I came across the answer while browsing 'The Missing Manual: Mac OSX Panther ed.' by David Pogue (bless him). You bring up the document, select Print to bring up Print Dialog Box, click Save As PDF... button and presto! As Nick says this would have saved me a lot of trouble if the printer had mentioned it.


Ah, the progress Mankind has made in the last twenty years. Time was, you could stroll down your local High Street and browse through the shelves of your local bookshop. This was clearly an outdated method of disseminating an archaic format to the patently baffled; after all, who needs bays of books of all sorts, shapes and sizes selected on the whim of a bookshop owner and conforming to desires and whims of local book-buyers. Having published, 'The Omnibus', I needed, obviously, to try to get it in front of the discerning public of yore. However, I found to my dismay that a chain called Waterstone's (not even runby this cove Waterstone apparently and owned by a record chain!) has a stranglehold on virtually every bookshop in the country. Once one has a seller's account with Waterstone's, one is the proud owner of the right to approach the Manager or graphic novel buyer in every shop they own in the country. They look at your sample copy, decide to buy it (obviously) and place an order for one copy on their computer. This is then routed via Nielsen BookData (who sell you the batch of ISBNs - you can't buy just one [they used to be free] - for a very reasonable 70 odd) to Gardners Books, who then mail you an order. Or rather they should, but several orders placed in this way never show up. Then you sort out an invoice, carefully wrap and post the copies to Gardners, who open the package, sniff the contents, return three because they got a little damaged in the mail and send the rest to the Waterstone's branch which placed the order. This is clearly a very green way of working, no waste or unnecessary overheads and very efficient. Lord.

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