15 years ago we protested against the Iraq War…

Back in February 2003 people from all over the UK marched to protest the then proposed invasion of Iraq. About a million or two of us took to the streets in London on a cold later winter afternoon to march through the city to hear a number of speeches in Hyde Park and to show that we, as the people of this country, won’t stand for what was proposed being done in our name.

It was an amazing day. As the Channel 4 report says, there was a mix of people, and as a painfully ill Mo Molam pointed out, the war was indeed used as a recruitment tool plus as we know, from the war came ISIS not to mention an almost permanent state of war in Middle Eastern countries and radicalisation of the likes we’ve never seen.

Yet that march and those like it across the UK and the world, should have sparked a Golden Age of political involvement. Indeed it did have political consequences in that it helped along such divergent political events like the election of Barrack Obama to the Scottish independence movement as people tried shrugging off the old order to try to create a new, and better one. The facts are that for all our marching, speeches and protests it was for nothing. Tony Blair got his war thanks to enough Labour MP’s as well as Tory support, and we’re still there 15 years later.

As for the glorious mixture of people on those Stop The War marches, they’re all gone after the SWP & their ilk managed to take a broad, vibrant coalition from all political viewpoints and change it into one that served them. On that day 15 years ago in London I met people from Labour, Tory, Lib Dems, Greens and across the board. There were kids who knew exactly why they were there articulating themselves brilliantly and the general feeling of change was for many, lost.

But we marched to hear speeches and to be honest, most of us only heard these speeches on the TV news later because it took so long to get from Paddington to Hyde Park, and also because the sound was crap so you’d hear Tariq Ali through crackle while hoping the wind changed direction. The fact is most people wanted to hear George Galloway’s speech even though people like myself knew him to be a hypocrite at best, he could articulate what many of us thought that day. Thing is looking back, none of the speakers had much to lose. Galloway, Tony Benn and Tariq Ali were the main speakers and they were doing what was expected of them. Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t a big name back then and once he made his speech remained with Labour on their back benches rather than quit as many did. These folk didn’t put their entire career on the line as then Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy did.

The media savaged Kennedy. People in has party who wanted to go to war gunned for him after this. He stuck to his guns, voted against the war and in the 2005 election managed to grab a huge amount of support from people who saw Tory and Labour as two sides of the same coin. Kennedy’s actions were essential because there was an argument for invading Iraq along the lines of intervention in the Balkans in the 90’s. I sat with mates in the pub who were agonising over what to support because they knew (as we all did) that Saddam was a monster.  It was Kennedy’s rational argument for the law and decency that swung so many people to the cause. His subsequent treatment by his party and untimely death left a hole in UK politics that’s been replaced by people unfit to call themselves ‘liberals’.

I digress slightly…

Even if I’d had some sort of future knowledge o events I’d still have marched in 2003. It needed to be done and a line needed to be drawn. It didn’t work, but we needed to try because if we hadn’t tried we’d have failed everything, and everyone. The aftershocks of this can still be felt today with things like Brexit where people voted to leave to have their voice heard to the general distrust, even hatred, of mainstream politicians.

But still, for one cold day in February 2003 we felt the world was going to change for the positive. If only it had.

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Shoot to kill

There’s been yet another mass shooting in the US. Yet again people are asking for ‘prayers’ even though by now people should realise either god doesn’t exist or s/he is an utter fucking bastard. People there are having the same old debate about gun control/mental health and of course the usual suspects are saying ‘now is not the time’.

My only answer to this is this Tweet below from a girl who attended the school and who has lost friends in the mass shooting.

What will happen is some outrage for another week, maybe less, til the next mass shooting and the cycle goes on and on and on and on while this becomes normalised in a society that fetishes the gun.

Will it ever change? I don’t think so, or at least it won’t until one of these mass shootings gets close to someone in a position of power and seeing as a mass shooting happens in America once every 2.5 days then chances are that’ll happen eventually and even then they’ll still be asking for thoughts and prayers.

I despair as there’s solutions there from an actual healthcare system that’s a service not a business to gun control, but nothing will be done and in a few days we’ll have moved on before we’re outraged again and somewhere in America multiple coffins that are too small for adults will be ordered again…

About the Star Trek: Discovery finale…

I’ve mentioned previously how much I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek: Discovery and how against a core of fan’s howling at the moon, it has managed to actually do something different with the Star trek formula. This week was the final episode of the first season and from here in there’s spoilers.

The last half of the first season has been superb. Based in Star Trek’s Mirror Universe where baddies are goodies and vice versa, this allowed the writers to play with the idea of what is Starfleet and what are the principles of the Federation. Plus it had Michelle Yeoh fighting…

That kick Yeoh does at 1.22 is, well, more than impressive for someone of 55. Anyhow, everything was set for a fantastic finale then I saw Akiva Goldsman’s name smeared over the credits like dripping phlegm. Goldman is the man who brought us Batman and Robin, and who’s writing C.V is peppered with shite. Shite which makes Hollywood money so he’s managed to get into a position beyond his actual talent and thus was the finale of Discovery placed into his hands.

It was to be utterly nice; average. If I was being honest I’d say I was utterly let down by it mainly because it was badly written. The main plotline of the Klingon War was finished too quickly and characters barely had time to breathe as the episode tripped and stumbled to a close which didn’t feel earned. We’ve followed these characters (And I think what Discovery has been great at is introducing new characters into Star Trek that are more than variations on a theme, plus in Stamets and Tilly they have a pair of fantastic characters to build on, while Doug Jones is doing tremendous work as Suru.) through hell, and them *poof* everything’s solved and we’re onto the cliffhanger.

Before I get to that cliffhanger I can’t make it clear how much of a shame this was. It could have been better as opposed to alright at best but now they’ve told the big over-arcing storyline in the first season I hope they learn from their mistakes in their second. Build on the characters more and give the bridge crew more to do than just look over their shoulders at Suru but that cliffhanger. Again, spoilers, but if you’ve read this far you probably don’t care by now.

At some point they would have to deal with being in the same era as when Pike captained the Enterprise, but to my surprise they’re going right into it now and isn’t that a lovely looking Enterprise?

So with the promise of big things in season 2 Discovery I hope improves, learns from mistakes made and becomes better because we need a good, positive bit of Star Trek so now we’ve got over the grim war, we can build up the positive vision of the future we could all do with dreaming about.

A quick word of appreciation for The Rocketeer

One of the joys about picking up collections of comics is finding the gem in the rough. This time the gem wasn’t the most expensive item, but The Rocketeer graphic novel.

Written and drawn by the late Dave Stevens, this is a comic that has a core cult following but in the history of 1980’s comics that changed how the industry works, not to mention how comics were perceived by people outwith our little comics ghetto, The Rocketeer never gets a mention.

Originally published by Pacific Comics, The Rocketeer was the first big success of the then small, but growing, independent scene that was taking advantage of the expanding direct market. Stevens was a genius and is also the man most responsible for the Bettie Page revival in the 80’s.

The Rocketeer helped prove independent comic publishers could have a hit, and proved creators didn’t need Marvel or DC to be successful. Sadly Stevens was a tad, well, slow, so it took years to get his story out but it was worth it as it is a work of art with every panel a clear labour of love.

Stevens even managed to get his character onto film with a perfectly respectable and even underrated film adaptation in 1991.

Since Stevens untimely death other people have attempted to carry on the story with IDW publishing some decent story but they’re nothing like that original Dave Stevens story which remains, and always will be, a complete joy.

A few words about the lack of comics at comic conventions

The other day I was out for lunch and had a wee chat with former UKCAC organiser Frank Plowright about a number of things but the state of comic conventions came up, in particular how over the last decade or so a ‘comic convention’ can often have little or nothing to do with comics outwith of film or TV related material. In effect the source material, and an entire medium is being relegated to feed the film/TV industry not to mention giving cosplayers something to do.

We’d both agreed that back in the distant past conventions where as much about hanging out with mates you may only see at cons or marts than it was about running a business, and indeed, I find it hard for people to get dewy-eyed about someone of the San Diego styled cons that have sprung up in the last decade as having attended some of these cons, it’s clear the organisers are looking only to capitalise on the current bubble we’re living in.

Which brings me to this article on Bleeding Cool. Titled Putting the Comics Back Into Comic Conventions, makes a crucial point early on.

Well, I understand “comic-cons” are now popping up everywhere, and this is my problem. Everyone thinks they will get rich doing this — well, unless you have money, great and loyal help, and luck, it just don’t work that way!

It doesn’t. I’ve done thousands of marts/cons over the decades as punter/trader/organiser and the one’s where it’s being run as a cash-grab are the ones that tend to be terrible. Then there’s the lack of comics at marts/cons. Now I get that the current bubble means both traders, organisers and punters will come into the scene but again for the last decade, comics have been relegated down the ranking behind the cosplayers and bubble tea sellers.

Then again the type of person going to cons have changed. Back in the day we’d work our tables then drink the bar dry and in the cases when Titan used to run a free bar at UKCAC, people would ensure Mike Lake would have a small heart attack at the bill. These events would in effect be 48 to 72 hour marathons and indeed even up to the mid 2000’s at the Bristol Expo’s there’d be folk in the bar til whatever hours in the morning. Part of this change in culture is down to the fact that the entire scene has grown so the core of British fandom isn’t effectively there for the comics or they just do buy into the culture we had in the 80’s to 2000’s.  Then again that drinking culture was uniquely British as Frank told me the story of how one A List American comic book writer from the 90’s found it incredible that we’d drink ourselves to death while running/attending conventions.

Change tough is good. I’m enjoying in my older age how several organisers are professional so you don’t have the sense they’re winging it, or even though these are operations which are run as full-time business’s there’s no sense that they’ve no love for the medium at all. There are organisers who could not give a fuck and are clearly just interested in charging silly money for punters and dealers in order to cash in while the bubble is still unburst.

But bubbles do burst. In my 35 years plus in the industry I’ve seen at least three come and go with the one constant being that if you’re selling comics and your con/mart is built round comics, and you’ve got a love of what you’re doing then you’ve got a better chance of riding the bad times out than someone just throwing an event into a poor venue and ramming it full of cosplayers. So I appreciate where things are and how things have changed but it’d be nice to introduce a new generation to how it used to be…

A short history of black superheroes on film

With Black Panther opening this month there’s a massive wave of excitement at a high profile black superhero having their own big budget film but T’Challa isn’t the first black hero to get on film.

First up is 1997’s Steel.

I know the trailer looks shite but trust me, the film is much, much worse.

Next up is Michael Jai White in Spawn, also from 1997 and marginally less shite than Steel, though not by much.

The less said about Halle Berry’s Catwoman film the better.

There’s also the likes of Hancock and err, Meteor Man to be briefly mentioned and discarded.

There are of course the odd one’s out with the first two Blade films which were actually really good. The first one apart from being a bloody good action film had much to say about class and race in its own wee way.

And the sequel was all about Guillermo del Toro having a shitload of fun.

Sadly, the third film was rubbish so moving on, can you see now what if you’re white there’s plenty of superheroes that look like you on the screen, but if you’re not there’s a small handful of mainly rubbish films and the odd two that stand out so for a large section of the population, Black Panther is a big deal.

We’ll no doubt see companies turn out more films featuring black heroes, and indeed, the Black Lightning TV series  is doing some good work but before we don’t see films like Black Panther as unusual there’s still a load of work to be done.

I’m waiting though for my 200 million dollar Brother Voodoo film.

Did Elon Musk rip off the 1981 Heavy Metal film?

Elon Musk’s Space X program had an astonishing triumph yesterday as their Falcon Heavy rockets worked perfectly and he managed to send a Tesla roadster into an orbit that will take it round Mars and into the solar system for millions of years. He;s even managed to put Flat Earthers to shame with pictures like this below that show clearly the Earth is a globe.

But the image of an astronaut in a convertible isn’t a new one. Here’s the opening on 1981’s film version of the comic magazine Heavy Metal.

So does Musk owe Dan O’Bannon’s (the creator of the story and sadly no longer with us) family a few quid? I dunno but I reckon he’s got the cash to chuck them a wee thank you for putting O’Bannon’s idea into reality.