Trump and that Puerto Rico speech

Puerto Rico has been suffering after the impact of a hurricane, and instead of acting like a president, Donald Trump has been acting like a massive prick. After weeks of criticism he’s now saying what Puerto Rico suffered is worse than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

During all this Trump made an astonishing speech where he did this when pronouncing Puerto Rico.

Apart from noting Melania’s increasingly cold, dead-eyed stare the fact is there Trump is being racist at a time when being presidential is called for. Step up comedian Peter Serafinowicz who as part of his series of Sassy Trump videos to point out how Trump sort of could have done it.

It shouldn’t take a comedian to point out how to be a leader of your country, but if Trump doesn’t want to be seen as a angry authoritarian racist arsehole he might want to take notes.


The death of Sean Hughes is a massive loss to comedy

Comedian Sean Hughes died at the age of 51 of liver failure. Apart from the personal tragedy for friends and family, the world of comedy has lost someone unique, and we don’t see people like Hughes coming through the comedy circuit these days. Hughes wasn’t trained in comedy at university as many of today’s bland comics tend to be, but lived a life which many of us of the same age lived.

I saw Hughes live a few times either at comedy festivals or places like Reading Festival, but it was his Channel 4 programme Sean’s Show that defined him for me.

His slightly cynical, dark world-view was hidden by a sense of the absurd at times, but his view of the world mirrored so many of us. At that time in the 90’s the world was changing and Hughes’s comedy helped reflect upon a world we didn’t really understand at the time but we laughed at it with Hughes.

I also liked the fact he stuck with stand-up throughout his life. Yes, he did sitcoms, panel shows and other TV appearances, but he never used stand-up as a means to an end of becoming a ‘celebrity’. I’ll always respect him for sticking to his guns and that’s why I’ll miss him. I’ll miss the fact we’ll never have his view on life at a time when we need people like Hughes.

Sexual abuse and the comics industry

The Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal continues to unfold to depressingly Savile-like proportions as the scale of sexual abuse in the film industry starts to unfold. The film industry is hardly unique. This is fairly common across most industries I’ve worked in, and I imagine most people have at some point seen something, or worse, been the victim of this sort of abuse. This is also true of the world of comics.

I’ve been in and out the industry since the early 80’s and you don’t hear the stories or rumours until you’re sitting there late at night at conventions when a few beers have opened mouths or just basically as part of the rumour mill all relatively enclosed industries have. So I’ve heard stories such as the one about the shop that shared premises with a pornographer that built a studio upstairs in the shop, or the one about the comic shop owner who would try to groom any young female customers he liked, or a whole load of stories of shop owners and con/mart organisers who were paedophiles and in some cases ended up convicted ones too. I personally saw one dealer at a convention try desperately to pay girls to sleep with him. In this case he was laughed out the convention, but this isn’t a one-off situation as I’ve heard other people doing the same crap over the years.

There’s lots of great wee stories about comic-related people that often verge into something horrible, but sometimes darkly funny. However there’s these stories which swirl round the scene and this is just in the UK but because the UK has such a small industry compared to the US the scale ramps up. Take example the stories that have circulated around Julie Schwartz. Schwartz was the man who shook up DC Comics in the 1960’s and 70’s by pushing what they did kicking and screaming into the modern age.

His position in comics is astonishing but those stories were from more than one person. Then there’s there’s what happened to writer/editor Janelle Asselin who has been a victim of threats and abuse in all her years in comics, especially when she spoke out. As she admits, the industry is a boy’s club…

Asselin also helped break the story about Dark Horse Comics editor Scott Allie, who was accused of assaulting women at conventions which is something that sadly doesn’t shock me one bit.

Things are getting better. More women are getting involved in comics but the old attitudes remain and while the big superhero publishers like Marvel and DC are essentially boy’s clubs this isn’t going away. The point is that when stories like Jimmy Savile or Harvey Weinstein breaks it should be an excuse for industries to be more open about what’s happened in the past and what is happening now, but there’s still a silence about this. Worse, there’s people who are victims being threatened or furthered abused mainly by fans of the person involved or of the publisher as they pile on the accuser.

Now I only know bits and bobs. I’ve not been full time in the industry for two decades, and I’m only sneaking back into it now, but there’s people out there who are allegedly ‘journalists’ who can help by trying to expose what’s going on but far too many of these people have one eye on themselves getting a job higher up the greasy pole, so will play along and help keep silent.

We’re hitting a potential watershed. This might be a chance to put the industry’s house in order and I hope people now come forward to ensure that abusers are exposed, even imprisoned for what they’ve done. It won’t be easy but this is a prime chance to change things and frankly, I don’t think we’ll get a better chance.

The near-forgotten glory of the Hitman and Her

Back in the days of the late 80’s and early 90’s the idea of late night television was still fresh but TV companies weren’t too clued up on what to schedule so ITV in particular would be a Russian Roulette of anything remotely watchable to anyone. Of course the people most likely to be watching telly at 2am were either the unemployed or people staggering back from clubbing.

Which leads me nicely into one of ITV’s stalwart bits of programming in their Golden Age of late night telly (1987-1993), The Hitman and Her. The ”Hitman” was Pete Waterman, then riding incredible levels of success from his PWR record label who released works from the likes of Kylie Minogue. The ‘Her’ was Michaela Strachan, a TV presenter now best known for her work on the BBC’s wildlife programming bu from 1988 to 1992 could be seen each week standing near Darren from Mansfield as he spilled Fosters down his new chinos as he drunkenly tried to dance at clubs like the Ritzy in Nottingham.

Or the horror that was the Black Orchid.

Or yet another Ritzy, this time in Leeds.

Or astonishingly at Manchester’s famous Hacienda.

Or at any dodgy club where people would drunkenly attempt to pull, sort themselves out a knee-trembler down an alley before staggering home with a kebab and a fungal infection as you collapse on your sofa just as Darren from Mansfield is seen dancing in the backed trying not to look at Strachan’s arse. The Hitman and Her acted as a mirror upon people’s lives at a time when clubs were trying to still be neon-clad hellholes that attracted your average lad and lass, as well as the new, alternative rave scene with both often colliding onscreen in all the messy glory you’d expect.

Late night telly in 2017 is a depressing mess of quiz shows designed to rip the drunk/stupid/desperate or repeats with signing because programmers think the deaf never sleep. The Hitman and Her is a reminder of a simpler age when youth culture wasn’t so cynical and late night telly could throw up simple joys such as this. The past really is another country, and revisiting these grainy YouTube videos while sober brings back the days of staggering home, sticking the telly on and falling asleep laughing at Waterman and Strachan’s ludicrous antics. But Waterman may be many things but he loved and knew his music, even rave, and Strachan was just fun but we’ll never see anything like this on TV ever again and that’s a pity.

A quick word about Harvey Weinstein

Larger than life‘. ‘I heard the stories but not first hand‘. ‘He had a reputation‘. All phrases I’ve heard about film producer Harvey Weinstein in the last few days as the scale of his sexual assault and rape has been unravelled in the American media in horrible detail. I mean, listen to the fucking prick here…

That above clip is from this incredible New Yorker piece which is some of the best journalism you’ll read this year. Fact is though, people knew Weinstein was a rapist to the extent where comedy programmes like 30 Rock joked about it.

And Seth MacFarlane more or less let it all hang out at the Oscars in 2013.

Channel 4 journalist Alex Thompson sums this all up.

Every single time a case like this breaks it turns out victims have been harassed and that people knew, and not just folk like you or me who may have heard stories down the pub, or somewhere online, but people who work with or know the person/s involved. People could have spoken out but these powerful people would have destroyed their lives as much as they ruined the lives of the people they assaulted and abused.

People like Weinstein aren’t protected by one or two people. They’re protected by an entire establishment, and although I don’t buy the line that the films he produced are ”tainted” somehow, I will say that some people who had close relationships with him over the years have got some serious questions to answer because there is fuck all chance people like, say Kevin Smith, knew nothing.

It is ultimately simple. These people profit through inflicting power. One person can’t fight them alone. We all have to. Be that Savile, Weinstein or whoever is next exposed like this because there will be another, and another and so on because I hope these people’s days are numbered. They sadly won’t be, but if we can all work to expose as many as possible then maybe someday wankers like Weinstein are relegated to history.

Genetics are not a reason Scotland doesn’t qualify for football tournaments

Scotland failed yet again to qualify for a major international tournament. Manager Gordon Strachan has said something utterly extraordinary.

“Genetically, we are behind,”

Strachan’s idea is that we Scots are too small and we need big blokes to make ourselves effective on the world stage of football. This is bollocks.This is that Scottish habit of failing to accept your own faults and failures so rather than working with what you have, Strachan comes up with bullshit.

This is what’s known as the ‘it’s shite being Scottish’ meme. It’s easy to do, and I’ve even done it myself. It is however a mortifying piece of pathetic self-pitying that solves nothing. I like Strachan, he’s funny but for most of this campaign he’s failed to pick players playing in Scotland who are in form with Leigh Griffiths being the best example. It isn’t unrelated that when Strachan starts picking him regularly we start doing well.

That though is not really the point. Wallowing in a ‘och, we can’t do this. we’re Scottish.’ really is crap and what’s worse we nurture this idea, this concept, of glorious failure and take some perverse joy in it. We’ve went from the nation that invented much of the 20th century to whining miseries in a century and you know what? I’m tired of it. We can do better, not because we’re entitled to it but because we’re capable of doing more than we think we can if we work out ways to do just that. Part of achieving that is dropping this attitude of people like Strachan or quite I few people I’ve met since coming back to Scotland.

We shouldn’t be scared of failure but we should learn from it.It seems too many have learned to take failure for granted and accept it as the natural way of things and that isn’t good enough. So Scotland, get up off your knees and do better!

DC’s Doomsday Clock shows how DC have ran out of ideas

DC Comics bring out a comic next month where Watchmen becomes part of the mainstream DC Universe. Written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, Doomsday Clock is a 12-issue series telling the story in all its gory detail.

1980’s nostalgia is all the rage, and seeing as DC have mined Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns to an inch of its life, the other other jewel it has left from that era it hasn’t mined is Watchmen. That for years was protected but after the disastrous Before Watchmen anything was on the table, or to be precise, dragging Moore and Gibbons creation kicking and screaming into the DC Universe was the last roll of the dice for DC. I say that because I imagine jobs are riding on this being a hit and having sat in marketing meetings I’m also aware of what it looks like when a company rolls that die for the last chance. Doomsday Clock is that last chance.

This weekend is New York Comic Con, and a preview of the first issue was released. I present it here as sort of evidence for the prosecution. First thing that strikes me is that Gary Frank really is a fine artist. Second thing is that Geoff Johns isn’t the writer he clearly thinks he is. Take this panel for example…

On the surface it seems fine. Except the book is set in the 1992 of Watchmen’s ‘universe’ so terms like ‘undeplorables’ and ‘echo chamber’ are a 21st century term, and one that came into common usage this century respectively. Basically from the off Johns makes the script too on the nose, too unsubtle about what he’s trying to do and we don’t get an idea of the moral and political grey porridge that was Watchmen, but we’re being informed to think in binary. I have no idea how we’re supposed to think about the return of one of the very dead characters from Watchmen.

Actually I do. Rorschach was the big fan-favourite so it makes sense for Johns to bring him back, because you just know he’s going to fight, then team up with Batman.He’s a character who Johns said is the most fun character he’s written. Moore makes it clear just what Rorschach is here…

Everything in these six pages points to a paucity of imagination, a lack of understanding of politics or ideologies beyond that of a typical American liberal, and the fact that as the last roll of the dice for DC, it has to bathe in the nostalgia of the 80’s in such a way it doesn’t give people another Watchmen, but what some people think Watchmen should be which is a superhero story.

Johns isn’t without talent. He can write but rather than forge his own original idea (And as a very, very senior figure in DC he can do whatever he likes) but instead we get this which looks to ignore the main thing that Watchmen was which was a satire/criticism on not just comics as a medium, but the industry. All the subtly dense discussion of humanity, morality and politics replaced by fan-fiction wankery and superheroes punching each other. DC are packaging nostalgia, but they’re not providing anything new, original or giving themselves new titles as good as Watchmen.

And who would create that for DC when they see what they’re doing to Watchmen anyhow?