Barry Windsor Smith interviewed about ‘Monsters’

Barry Smith is a bit of an enigma in modern comics in that he keeps his public announcements to a minium which for much of the last decade means he’s said nothing. Now his greatest work Monsters is out and it is the book which tops off an astonishing career from a Jack Kirby clone to this amazing work.

Here’s a rare interview with the man for the Comix Experience site and it’s worth your time.

The aftermath of the 2021 Scottish election

The Scottish election was won by pro-independence parties in the shape of the SNP and the Greens. True, the SNP failed to get a majority by itself but the Holyrood sysyem isn’t designed for single parties to win majorities, so this result is what was expected to happen but the narrative a second independence referendum hinged purely on a SNP majority started early.

There was never a tight contest. This was a lie but it is now the mainsteam UK narrative as the sheer, blind unthinking fear of Scotland becoming independent has been unleashed the last few days with even the eldtritch horror of Gordon Brown stomping around giving the same statements we’ve heard for ages.

The fact is an independence referendum is a long, long way away. The earliest we’re looking at is 2023, realistically 2024 as the SNP have said they’re fine with letting the Covid recovery happen, then putting together a bill, then waiting for the electoral commision to agree on the terms of the vote, including the question then give at least 6 months time to campaign and we’re looking some time just before the next Westminster election. This assumes as well of course there’s little legal action as the UK government are likely to dig in hard so we could see a second referendum going beyong autumn 2024.

Yet even so there is a blind panic because the Unionist side know that there’s 20-30% of the electorate who are ‘soft’ no voters last time who are more open potentially to voting yes this time, plus the demographic is changing as older no voters pass away and younger voters come through who are likely to vote yes. A good campaign for independence and a bad one for the Union means Scotland leaves the UK to stew in the forthcoming insanity of the Tories running riot so for now expect to see delaying tactics pushing this vote back til the next Westminster election, and beyond.

Basically we’re in a big, bloody mess and it’ll take a hard push to get where we need to go just as the post Covid world begins to shape around us and the reality of Brexit kicks in for most people.

Japan’s Resident Evil Village ad campaign is genius

Resident Evil Villiage or RE8 was released this week to much acclaim but the advertising campaign in the UK, and much of the world was what you’d expect with scary adverts playing up the usual aspects of the game. Meanwhile in Japan they were for a bizarre, and quite wonderful campaign with all the main baddies of the game featured as puppets. It is quite brilliant.

Enjoy.

What I thought for The Suttons

COMICSCENE REVIEW – “THE SUTTONS” by PHIL ELLIOTT – ComicScene Comic Club

Back in the 1980s there was a surplus of outstanding quality comics in a diversity of genres, many of them are now lost in the folds of history and the dominance of the Watchmen/Dark Knight/Maus narrative of history. One of those comics lost was Phil Elliott’s superb strip, The Suttons. Running from 1985 to 1991 it tells the story of a young couple, Julie and Dave, living an ordinary life in Maidstone adjusting to becoming parents and bringing up their first child and more.

It would have been easy to have elements of grimness in this pandering to the comics of the time then, and indeed, now, but Elliott keeps everything gentle, with some of the strips being genuinely touching and bursting with a humanity, not to mention decency, that just makes you feel good reading them. That’s the joy of these comics; they’re just about an ordinary middle class couple living a nice life and it’s a perfect read. It is a crime Elliott had to crowdfund this collection as a publisher should see the quality in front of them but it seems crowdfunding is the only option for some creators.

The collection is available by emailing Elliott directly at phil@elliott-design.com

2021’s painful Scottish election campaign

Being a political geek this year’s Scottish election campaign should fill me with excitement but with days to go I have to say this campaign is one of the worst campaigns I’ve seen in any election which speaks out as to how awful the thing is. Part of the problem lies with the opposition parties who haven’t a dash of vision or opportunity between them, but the SNP, as well as the Greens have also fought a frankly rubbish campaign in what is a vitally important election for Scotland and one which should beckon independence but won’t.

This election should be about not just the right of the people of Scotland to hold an independence referendum when they want, but also about holding to account the government as well as the opposition, but instead, it’s become a tiresome slanging match with Tories slanging SNP, SNP slanging Alba (Alex Salmond’s pro-independence party) with Labour’s dreary ‘hey guys let’s stop fighting but not really‘ approach. There is also a paucity of ideas not helped by the inter-party squabbles of some SNP and Alba supporters. I feel sorry for my fellow countrypeople in this vote trying to make their mind up.

As for myself I don’t think the SNP will use yet another mandate to fight for independence, far too much for them to lose, plus the Greens are happy in their current relationship so another indy supporting party isn’t a bad idea and indeed, many of those piously attacking Alba now were fully supportive of RISE (another attempt at an indy supporting party) last time around. As it stands my main vote will go to the SNP because there’s a very good candidate to vote for, but my list vote is up for grabs as voting SNP on the list is a waste in Glasgow, voting Green means supporting some policies I strongly disagree with, and Alba is a whole can of worms, so either I’ll hold my nose and vote for one of them or leave my list vote blank. This is not how it should be days before the most important Scottish election in my lifetime when we should be pushing hard for independence before Boris Johnson and the Tories strip devolution apart while further destroying people’s lives.

The return of the big event comic

30 years in the making, Barry Windsor-Smith’s Monsters is out and I’m a third of the way through and so far, it is truely extraordinary.

May be an image of book and text that says 'BARRY WINDSOR SMITH MONSTERS'

I’ll be reviewing Monsters once I’ve finished reading and digesting it but it struck me that in this day and age when comics are in such the public eye that so few books like Monsters are coming out. Sure, there’s plenty of excellent books coming out, not to mention some fantastic reprints of classics, but works that aren’t just ‘product or a sideways pitch for a film or TV series swamp the market. Some of these latter works are fine but many are trying too hard for a media deal so the creator/s can put comics behind them while here’s a work meant for comics.

As fans of the medium we should be doing more to shout about these immense works from the rooftops because Monsters, and works like it, are going to improve and better the medium while the latest ‘blue chip key’ or Marvel/DC event book will do the exact opposite.

What I thought of Falcon and the Winter Soldier

The Marvel Cinematic Universe must be like living in an ongoing hellscape rather than a world of wonders. Mad gods can wipe half the universe out of existence, while enhanced people and super-powered individuals stomp round the planet caring nothing of borders and international treaties, and you don’t know if giant alien craft are going to come crashing upon you. You would literally be living in terror, yet here people live in a mix of normality or an unsettled refugee.

Then there’s the entire character of Sam Wilson who we first see acting on behalf of the US armed forces, and I assume the US government, in doing slightly dodgy things in the Middle East, but by the end of the series he’s rewriting what it means to be Captain America while being a tool of that nation’s colonialism. He’s no more a hero than John Walker who for much of the series is painted as a villain but in reality, this is a normal human being asked to fight people with superhuman abilities, and his unpreparedness costs the life of his partner who is Fridged as soon as the show can.

On top of this there’s the shonky pacing and plotting of the series. This series feels like a film expanded to nearly six hours so there’s so much padding with characters literally just standing there spouting exposition in flatly shot scenes which reminded me of how soap operas look To be fair some of this horrible disjointed feel can be put down to the break in production because of Covid 19. That said, it could have lost a couple of episodes and been better for it.

It is enjoyable junk fun if you don’t think about the horrible contradictions it throws up, or how the writers struggle to see the world without an American lens on, but like WandaVision before it this was a way to get Sam into being Captain America while pushing the MCU plot along a bit. Unlike WandaVision it was not as good and less cohesive as a work in its own right. Next up is the Loki series which does at least promise a break from the norm of the MCU.

One last thing, vast chunks of this series, including dialogue, was lifted from the works of people like Mark Guenwald and Ed Brubaker, but beyond a small credit hidden away these people, or their surviving families, get nothing even though Disney/Marvel make millions from these things. I’d assumed Disney were paying creators but it appears not to be the case. I wish MCU fans were as passionate about creator rights as they are about how cool Sam’s new costume is…

Boris Johnson wants you to die

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The worst possible thing about this headline is that most of us can very much imagine Boris Johnson saying this as the UK has over 125k people dead now and one of the worst death rates on the planet. Yes, The Daily Mail is a vicious rag pushing to cheer on their next champion as Johnson has outlived his use, and his possible replacements are far more terrible, but for now we’re governed by a man who treats most people with contempt and the terrible thing here is we can all hear Johnson saying these words.

This is the sort of dystopia we’re living in and yet,people still cheer Johnson on as some sort of champion of the people. We’re totally fucked.

Jim Steinman’s Batman musical

The sad news about the death of Jim Steinman obviously brought out memories of listening to Meat Loaf as a kid, mainly because of the Richard Corben cover of Bat Out of Hell, and being a young person developing his own tastes I thought if the creator of Den did a cover for someone then it has to be ridiculously over the top which of course it is. Steinman changed the career of so many from Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler, through to the Sisters of Mercy where he helped rewrite the sound of Goth to include big pompous drums and guitars that lives on til today.

However the thing that slipped from our grasp was a musical adaptation of Batman, specifically Tim Burton’s Batman film from 1989. Sadly it was not to be, however the music lives on in all its OTT glory.

Sit back, turn it up and enjoy…

Support your local football team

By now the reaction to a European Super League featuring the richest teams in Europe (who are not the best teams in Europe) is overwhelmingly negative across the UK and Europe. The clubs involved are being threatened with being banned and fined from their home leagues, and the players banned from playing in international tournaments such as the World Cup.

Yet this has been coming for 30 years since football was beginning to be gentrified. Once people any local love for their teams and instead supported the most successful club out there, or that one Derek from accounts mentioned once in the pub, we’ve had a generation brought up in thinking football is just like picking out a nice pair of socks or the bottle of wine you’ll neck this evening. By the time Sky sunk its hooks into the game and working class fans of these ‘elite’ clubs were priced out, and once the stakes were raised once the likes of Manchester City started playing the game with cheats turned on all it needed was one last push to convince these clubs to break away.

That seems to be the Covid pandemic. Clubs are playing to empty stadia which has killed the atmosphere, but people are still watching games which means buying subscriptions which means the audience is there. These club owners don’t care about the fans, just the chance to make money which means a European closed shop and a worldwide audience of people who don’t care about the histories of these clubs. They just want the team they’ve been marketed to aggressively that they ‘support’ to win.

Now these clubs may back down which is unlikely but possible. It could end up with these clubs gaining a monopoly over the Champions League for a few years before this idea returns in five of six years time but the gauntlet has been thrown and UEFA, FIFA, the English, Spanish and Italian FA’s plus broadcasters and governments need to react fast before it becomes too late.

There is however one thing you as a fan you can do which is support your local side. Not your multinational franchise that charges 25 quid for a burger and chips at half time and a tenner for a bottle of warm mildly alcoholic piss,but your local side where you can a pie and a pint for a tenner, and you’re welcomed because they want and need you to survive. Throw the gentrified clubs away, see who your local club are and give them support. They might not win each week, they might play crap but you’ll be supporting an important part of the community and not a billionaire who just wants your 30 quid a month because it means they can buy the Moon or something like that.

Go back to the roots, turn your back on these clubs and find out that actually, things are not too bad on the front lines of being a football supporter where a result means something to everyone in the stadium. Give it a try.