A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun-The ongoing story of my stroke/cancer

Today was my follow up appointment after my operation three weeks ago today to remove my thyroid and the cancer in my neck. My surgery is healing up nicely and I’ve even been allowed to shave to get rid of my increasingly shaggy Hipster beard, not to mention I can go back to doing more vigorous exercise to help my recovery from the stroke I had in February.

I got the results of all the tests they did on the tissue they took out (and they took a lot of tissue out) in my neck around the thyroid and the lump. All negative.  The cancer was centred in my thyroid so removing it and the mass has taken the wind from it’s sails and left me with some lymph node to be killed off and then that’s it. I’m cancer free needing only regular check ups

As for my stroke I’ve been wearing a cardiac monitor for the last three days to make sure the old heart is fine. I managed to somehow turn on the speaker on it on the bus the other day so I treated everyone to my steady heartbeat. That’s gone and good, I don’t really like having a Mother Box on my chest unless it’s going to make me a superhero.

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As for my return to Glasgow, the doctor has said not to do that til the radiotherapy is done. That’ll be in a month so by the end of June, start of July a window of opportunity opens and then my consultants will contact their colleagues in Glasgow and my follow up treatment (which will by this point consist of regular checks) will be transferred there.

So finally a bit of light is opening up and the life I’ve had on hold since the 19th February 2016 can resume as I’m now facing the sun rather than the dark. I’ll have just had a wee bit of an overhaul but I’m not quite done yet…….

A few words about the EU Referendum

It’s just under a month til the UK has a referendum to decide whether we stay or leave the EU, and as a campaign it’s been the most dismal, depressing bag of shite I’ve heard in some time and that’s saying something. Last night’s debate on the BBC had signs that the non Tory voices in the Remain camp should be heard more of, but the Brexit campaign still leaves itself struggling to emerge from at best, a British nationalism that’s also rooted in imperialism. That could end up being their undoing as it’s 2016. Many of us don’t think in those terms.

I’m a sceptical Remain voter. There’s massive issues with the EU but at the same time, there’s benefits to the EU, plus in a 21st century globalised society the idea that the UK (or whatever’s left of it, but I’ll get to that) could return to an almost imperial power is insane. During the Scottish Independence Referendum I did what I could from afar to join in and hoped for a Yes vote, not to mention the informed, intellectual debate from all walks of life, not just the middle class voices we always hear, was fantastic. The legacy of that still remains to be seen but it’s left a vibrant democratic discussion in Scotland.

The same isn’t and won’t be the case of the EU Referendum. Throw a stone into Twitter and you’ll hit a Brexiter being scarily mental.

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So some points:

  • If the Brexit campaign had any sense they’d have united to present a detailed, fact-based manifesto of how the UK would be after a Brexit along the lines of the SNP’s White Paper they produced during the Independence Referendum, or the Greens plans they produced, or indeed any of the dozens of proposals from people and groups. Instead we’ve got Boris Johnson talking about Hitler and bananas.
  • Once Hitler is dragged into a debate it’s rendered entirely worthless unless you’re talking of the history or WW2 or who neo-Nazis worship. If you’re repeating decades old bullshit about the EU and bananas you’ve hit the bottom and you struggle to retain credibility with the undecided who are more interested in how roaming charges will be affected, or their ability to go on holiday to Spain or France, or what rights to holiday will remain after a Brexit.
  • Replacing thought out debate with lines like ‘WE WANT OUR COUNTRY BACK’ isn’t going to win over the undecided either because that line drips with racism. Especially when the likes of Nigel Farage constantly used it in relation to making it clear that for him and a number of Brexiters this is all about immigration and getting the ‘right type’ of people that have a ‘shared culture’. Well, that’s dogwhistle racist bullshit if ever I’ve heard it and again, drips with a 19th century/early 20th century British imperialism that doesn’t belong in 2016.
  • The Tory Remain campaign isn’t much better seeing as it’s essentially using the exact same tactics as Better Together did in the Indyref. Scaring pensioners isn’t a positive tactic whoever does it and there is a positive argument to remain in the EU, yet the Tories that want to stay barely mention in instead talking in the same sort of hyperbolic tone as most of the Brexiters.
  • This really is the last roll of the dice for those that think Britain as a concept means something. Fact is, it doesn’t. If you’re campaigning to get the UK (and the UK and Britain are different things in this debate) out of the EU because of reasons of sovereignty and self-determination and you support things like the House of Lords or Westminster democracy then you’re a hypocrite. If you rail against ‘unelected EU officials’ then think the Lords is a great British institution your argument is void. I can elect MEP’s who elect these officials on my behalf. I may not like who they elect but it’s democratic. The Lords, and indeed much of the UK’s democracy isn’t and is two centuries out of date at least.
  • Britain and the UK are being used to mean different things to different people, and when people say ‘Britain’ they’re generally using that to mean ‘England’ and even then, only parts of England. This so far is a very Anglocentric debate that’s excluded Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from the bulk of debate and there’s probable good reason for that as Scotland and Northern Ireland will be voting fairly conclusively to remain. These are parts of the UK that benefit greatly from EU membership so they’d be mad to vote to leave and therefore give a Westminster government full control of spending which means it’ll be spent in the Tory heartlands, not remote parts of the UK to there where there’s no votes for Tories.
  • Labour have been useless so far. Corbyn may as well have stood aside for this referendum because it’s obvious his heart isn’t fully in it even though he seems to have finally realised a Brexit means giving the Tories free range to do what they want to worker’s rights, human rights and everything. He’s an old socialist and they want out the EU too so he’s clearly been conflicted and it’s a bit depressing he’s taken so long to suss out the big threat here.
  • No Tory cabinet minister can no longer quote things like the IFS. Regardless of the result they’re left themselves lacking in any sort of credibility as a government minister and that includes Boris Johnson who has exposed himself to more people as the crushingly inane fool he is.
  • Lastly, a Brexit means the UK as we know it is probably over. A second independence referendum in Scotland will be triggered and there’s talk of Northern Ireland and Ireland holding a referendum for reunification. Wales and England could well be all that’s left with Wales becoming increasingly bitter over a settlement that will leave them without EU funding that’s helped parts of the country develop itself. Most Brexiters however couldn’t care less it seems as long as they get ‘their’ country back.

This isn’t like the Indyref. Nobody is being energised over what started and still is a Tory Party split. Few are indulging in informed, intelligent debate. It is frankly, a quagmire of bullshit and although there are signs of a better debate from some on the Remain side the Brexit campaign is the very worst of English/British ethnic nationalism and imperialism or just lunacy that makes Donald Trump’s campaign in the US seem sane and calm.

And there’s just under a month to go of this, but it’s important people do vote on the 23rd of June and they vote to stay because the EU for all it’s many, many flaws gives us a layer of protection against Westminster and in particular, the Tory Party with the psychopaths like Iain Duncan Smith who are part of that party. This may be a miserable campaign but this decides on the future of us all.

Some of the reactions to DC Universe: Rebirth and Nazi Captain America is depressing

Yesterday saw the release of two comics. Yet another Captain America #1 and DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the latter I’ve handled with care in a lengthy blog yesterday. today sees the fallout around both comics start to congeal like fat  on a plate of a cheap full English breakfast.

For those people who missed it, or don’t especially care the jist is this. Captain America is and always has been, a Hydra agent and in the Marvel Universe that basically makes him a Nazi.

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This is of course disgusting and Marvel would never have made Cap a Nazi at all in the past.

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Oh.

This is of course a sales gimmick to get people talking about Captain America and as such, it’s hugely successful. It’ll also be overturned by no later than the release of the next Avengers film in a couple of years as the Red Skull or someone will have done something with the Cosmic Cube, or something and the status quo will return.

The problem is that writer Nick Spencer seems to have just pulled this out of thin air (having not read Captain America regularly since Roger Stern and John Byrne were the creative team I can’t say) but a better idea surely if Spencer and Marvel wanted to explore a right wing Cap would be for him to slowly become less trusting of democratic institutions, more libertarian til A Big Event pushes him to become more and more right wing. He’d still do heroic stuff but rather than being an American liberal’s caricature of a conservative , he’d be something more nuanced so Spencer really could explore what’s happening with the likes of Donald Trump than bluntly just make Cap a Nazi which is like taking a sledgehammer to a peanut?

Moving aside from my fanfic, what’s interesting to me is the reaction. It simply veers from informed comment to the insane where Spencer is receiving death threats, something no writer should have to deal with. In 18 months to two years this will be gone and forgotten like all the thousands of superhero comic plot twists have after they’ve caused people’s knickers to get into a twist. But for fuck’s sake don’t threaten to kill someone because they’ve done something to a fictional character you love, that’s insane!

As for DC Comics they released DC Universe: Rebirth  #1 which incorporated Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen into the DC Universe.

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I’ll be totally upfront for those unfamiliar with my blogs. I’m an Alan Moore fanboy that prays to a statue I made out of potatoes of him every night. He is my god!

Not really, he’s by far my favourite comics writer, but I’ve admitted his flaws and readily admit when he’s wrong, but I’m not going to send Geoff Johns or Dan Didio a death threat because they’ve done themselves a shite and called it a comic. I’ll criticise it and rip the piss out of it because that’s better than getting angry over something which actually proves Moore’s point he made around the time of DC’s Blackest Night event, also written by Geoff Johns..

The comics that I read as a kid that inspired me were full of ideas. They didn’t need some upstart from England to come over there and tell them how to do comics. They’d got plenty of ideas of their own. But these days, I increasingly get a sense of the comics industry going through my trashcan like raccoons in the dead of the night.

That comment that so outraged fans and some professionals at the time has now had the truth firmly rammed home because if DC are going back to mine Watchmen (which they are) then there’s a clear lack of creativity here that should be indefensible as with the Captain America stunt, it’s a sign that they’re running out of ideas.It’s something that should get fans rallying for a more creative, more intelligent form of superhero comic and many are, but there’s still those clinging onto the faith that DC will be right in the same way dogshit sticks to your boot.

One of those people is Anghus Houvouras. A man who bravely stood up for white people being represented on film and rallied against political correctness. At this point when people talk about ‘political correctness’ this Stewart Lee clip has to be brought in…

Anyhow, our Anghus did write himself a piece which sums up the argument of those defending DC entitled Why Alan Moore is wrong about The Watchmen. That’s right, The Watchmen, not Watchmen. From there it gets worse.

As a writer, I love Alan Moore. He is, without question, one of the most talented writers to ever grace the la bande dessinée.

The only thing anyone can sanely reply to this is ‘fuck off’.  However let’s dig our hands in deeper for a wee bit…

At some point Alan Moore became the comic book equivalent of the Old Man on his front porch shaking his fist at the machinations of the ever evolving comic industry.

This is of course bullshit. It makes it easier to disregard Moore’s often sharp comments on the American comic industry than deal with the comments themselves. Also, seeing as Moore only works for Avatar being allowed I believe the freedom to do what he likes rather than writing superheroes which he’s not done in some time then he’s every right to comment upon something he’s such a major part of. His shadow is after all cast over DC’s big event for 2016.

Trying to devalue his comments by making him a ‘crazy old man’ is frankly, a cunt’s trick. Play the ball, not the man.

And there are things that Old Man Moore has been absolutely right about.

Patronising arseholery doesn’t help.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a series of stories based on preexisting characters that Moore himself had no hand in creating. If Moore believes that Hollywood studios are lazy for taking his concepts and adapting them to film and television, isn’t it just as accurate to call Moore lazy for using borrowed characters for his own comics?

To call Moore lazy is in itself a lazy assumption. Moore’s put a lot of thought into using the public domain characters that make up the core of the League. The ones that aren’t are changed to keep them legal or so clearly parody they’d not be a case against Moore, or artist Kevin O’Neill.

And our Anghus misses the point. Moore’s point is that he as creator or co-creator deserves to decide what to do with his work, not multinationals so bereft of imagination that they mine 30 year old works in order to make money in 2016 because they know the name ‘Alan Moore’ attached to a comic will help sell it. Even obliquely in the case of DC Universe: Rebirth. That’s what Moore meat with his the comics industry going through my trashcan like raccoons in the dead of the night comment.

When DC rolled out the Before Watchmen prequel series, many fans were perplexed by how to feel.Watchmen has always been treated as sacrosanct. One of those singular works of artistic perfection that should never be expanded upon. A story told completely and not in need of embellishment. And while fans and Moore are quite clear on their position on the subject, there are those of us who are actually excited by the prospect to see more stories with these characters

Why? That story was told. Everything you need to know about those characters is in Watchmen. Can you imagine if DC had published Art Speigleman’s Maus? Would there be a demand for new stories of L’il Artie? Or something like The New Adventures of Vladek where Speigelman’s father is brought back from the dead to fight Nazis in 2016? A complete work is just that. It’s done, it’s there but let’s move on to something new rather than trying to capture something with the same characters you’ll never capture again.

Alan Moore is wrong about The Watchmen.

There’s no ‘The’ here.

The original Watchmen series was based on the Charlton Comics characters that DC had acquired in 1983 which included Blue Beetle, The Question, and Captain Atom. Originally Moore wanted to use these characters for the Watchmen series, but because they were being integrated into the regular DC Comics Universe, Moore and artist Dave Gibbons decided to created thinly veiled versions of these characters. While the names may have changed, it borrowed heavily from the iconography of many DC owned characters. That was always the intention: to create a more mature story in a familiar world. Mission accomplished.

What’s missed out here is the fact Moore initially had the idea using The Mighty Crusaders, but as the story evolved he ended up creating new characters with artist Dave Gibbons who were archetypes of superheroes who could serve the purpose of the story.

Where Moore errs is thinking that these characters should stop existing outside of the originalWatchmen series.

Trying marketing something with an existing name. Why do Coca Cola guard their property so much? It’s because it has value to them and those trying to piggy back off it are trying to buy into that value for their own gain as Richard Branson tried to do with his Virgin Cola, yet even Branson learned the lesson that the bigger beast in business will crush you. Same thing is true of DC using Watchmen without Moore or Gibbons permission, and yes, they did sign what was proclaimed a great contract at the time but as as both admit, they were stupid. It doesn’t make the points Moore’s made about exploitation of creators and creator rights any less valid.

I’m not here to throw stones,

Says Anghus, throwing stones everywhere til one eventually lands on his head.

I suppose the core argument from fans would be that further uses of the characters diminishes the original work in some way. That’s another argument I never could take seriously. The Dark Knight Returns was an amazing series. The Dark Knight Strikes Again was a hot mess. The jury is still out onDark Knight III. None of these average works have lessened the impact of the original. Much like the two flaccid Matrix sequels didn’t end up sullying the majesty of the original. Caddyshack is still hilarious no matter how terrible Caddyshack 2 turned out.

Ah, The Matrix (which ”borrowed” from Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles) and Caddyshack, giants of cinema.  But sad cash-in’s don’t diminish the original, they just make it clear there’s a paucity of creativity as companies chase money in the hope they might recapture what they had, again one of the points Moore has made over the decades.

The point is, it’s kind of nutty for Moore to think that these characters should stop existing

They’re not real. They only exist in the medium they were created for and by their creators. Plus Moore’s never said that, he just wants control of his work.

Only time will tell if it’s a good use of the characters or a pointless cash grab.

Took me 0.2 seconds to work out it’s a cash grab.

When it comes to the subject of originality in regards to Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore has a little too much glass in his house to be chucking stones.

For the nTh time. Moore’s issue is creative ownership and control. Listen to his words.

It’s not hard in the year 2016 to find out exactly what Moore thinks about creator rights or that Marvel have pulled cheap stunts to sell comics once or 300 times before. Yet people still get angry or fill a swimming pool full of pish as they repeat what they’ve read other people say in order to get clicks. It’s a total nonsense yet the real problems of mainstream superhero comics sail on and on with an imploding readership and a creative community either scared to create new works in case they’re exploited to the hilt as Moore has been, or they end up being so devoid of imagination they make Captain America a Nazi.

What people like Moore want to see is better comics with creators treated like people who end up with control of their work. It shouldn’t be a battle, and fans should slavishly leap to the defence of multinationals because all they care about is ‘their characters’.  Here’s a bit of news, if you do then that makes you part of the problem, not the solution.

What I thought of DC Universe: Rebirth #1

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It’s 2016, so it must be time for another DC Universe reboot, but this one masterminded by Geoff Johns brings back the hopeful, cheerier DC Universe that Johns apparently loves, ditching the dark, miserable one that Johns played such a major role in creating. Except as revealed in leaks last weekend, it’s nothing to do with Johns, or DC chief Dan Didio, or the miniseries Identity Crisis but rather it’s Watchmen (the book, and it’s creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons shoulder the blame according to this extraordinary comic)that  is the real smoking gun as to where DC went wrong over the last decade or so according to Johns and this already controversial comic.

Before getting stuck into Rebirth, it’s worth spending time having a wee recap of Identity Crisis. This was a 7-issue miniseries released in 2004 which was to redefine what DC’s superheroes were, so no longer were they these shining figures of hope, but instead they were darker, more ‘gritty’ and instead of fighting bad guys they were busy fighting each other. To make the point that the brighter days were over, Sue Dibney, wile of the Elongated Man and part of the jokey, fun Justice League International was raped by Dr. Light.

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It’s clear what DC were doing here as this at the time was massively controversial, and although Identity Crisis sold,  it’s worth paying heed to the comments of creator Kyle Baker at the time.

BAKER: This is a business, and all this stuff revolves around giving people what they want to read. All of the trends that you see in comics are a direct response to sales. DC and Marvel do what sells, and they repeat what sells. If the Atom is a villain, it’s because audiences respond to superheroes that have turned into villains, and that’s what they want to read. We were talking about how you have to change things over the years. Everything is a response to trends; public fantasies change as a response to trends. Someone like Captain America is created as response to Nazism. He’s a fantasy of beating up the Nazis, a fantasy of America. You could probably sell a character like that today, but that character was created because of the times, and the fantasy that people were the hungriest for. Even the name “Plastic Man” — when Plastic Man was created, plastic was this new miracle polymer. All of the Marvel characters were created by radiation, and Iron Man’s superpower was transistors, because that was hot at the time. That was what had captured the public imagination. I think the last superhero fantasy that really grabbed the public that way was The Matrix. [laughs] That fantasy of breaking out of your shitty office job and fighting crime, instead of being some cog in a cubicle somewhere. That really resonated with people at the time.

So if people are fantasizing about their heroes becoming murderers, that’s just what’s in their heads right now. That’s what they want to see. That’s what they’re dreaming of.

FARAGO: Yeah, it’s, uh —

BAKER: Weird.

FARAGO: I thought the industry was moving away from it, and there were all these signs that people wanted the noble heroes again —

BAKER: Isn’t that [Identity Crisis] the biggest book of the year?

FARAGO: Yeah, easily.

BAKER: Every time people buy it, they’re going to do another one. That’s common sense. If the biggest book of the year features brutal rapes, you’re going to have to top it next time. You’re going to have to come up with, what’s worse than that? What’s worse than raping and killing a character’s wife? We’re going to have to top that. Maybe we can cut Lois Lane’s head off and shove it up her ass. That’s what’ll be at the next meeting. We’re going to have to figure out how to brutalize the rest of the DC universe.

And they did figure out how to brutalise the rest of the DC Universe (DCU) as it veered from one major event to another and the DCU five years ago went through the New 52 revamp which made all their heroes a bunch of pricks. Superman? Prick. Batman? Prick. Green Lantern? Prick. You get the jist…

Thing is the sales of Identity Crisis were never reached by DC by the time it got to the New 52, barring a few titles like Grant Morrison’s Superman stories in Action Comics. Even then the diminishing returns for moody, grim, violent rapey, angsty superheroes were minimal, especially with Marvel’s film arm producing bright, cheery heroes who save people and act generally like superheroes. So in 2016 we come to DC Universe: Rebirth where for the last decade and everything that happened in it is blamed on Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen who created the New 52 to see what a universe without hope is like. It’s been posited this is a ”gutsy work of comics criticism’, but that is frankly, a load of fucking shite. If it was Johns would turn this so-called criticism upon himself, and his superiors who for a decade have shaped the DCU into what it is now, not a comic produced 30 years ago that still makes DC money. Maybe it’s the fact it’s a constant reminder of what DC’s lost in terms of talent and prestige that clearly annoys Johns about Watchmen, I dunno, I don’t live in his head.

The comic itself makes it clear with it’s opening 9-panel grid opening page where it’s coming from and it’s a jarring sight, but unlike Grant Morrison’s Multiversity event last year, there’s no sign of Johns having read, or grasped what Watchmen was.

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The disembodied narrator could be Johns himself speaking, and it probably is even if it’s odd that someone who helped get DC’s superhero titles in the mess they’re in is saying there’s ‘something missing’. As for the story, if you’re hoping to jump on board picking things up from scratch then forget it. This is a comic with three Jokers.

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So this is a reboot not for new readers as such, but for older readers who’ve perhaps ditched DC and this is to attract them back, which if so, is extraordinary. Why not just wipe everything out and start again from scratch rather than make it needlessly convoluted in the first few pages for anyone that hasn’t a knowledge of 75 years of DC history?

Anyhow, the narrator is Wally West, former Flash but back in his Kid Flash outfit, and he’s touring the New 52 world trying to find a connection with someone to pull him out the Speed Force so he can return to this world and warn them of some threat or other. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter. The art is so painfully bland/awful/uninspiring and reeks of the conformity of the last decade of DC’s art by numbers policy that when added to a remarkable for all the wrong reasons script, this becomes a hard package to read if you’re not a serious DCU fanboy/girl. if you are then you’ll be glad to know everything is back. Even Crisis on Infinite Earths is back.

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As said, new readers turn away now. This isn’t for you, this is for the people who lap up DC continuity like an alcoholic licking a spilled tin of Special Brew off a pavement.

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That’s the hand of Dr Manhattan who is behind the darkening of the DCU, and as you can see in the dialogue, Johns is blaming the ‘darkness’ on one thing, and one thing alone and that’s Watchmen which is remarkable. Watchmen is a multi-tiered work that acts among other things as a criticism of the darker comics which were becoming more in vogue in the mid 1980’s, a fact Johns totally overlooks here. By the end of the book it’s dripping in hope with  a cautious note that the bad times always lurk round the corner. It’s a complete artistic work.

The New 52, and indeed, the last decade of DC is as said, the decision of a number of people who’ve looked at sales figures and decided rape, violence and ‘dark’ = money. It’s a decision of a large multinational corporation and a handful of it’s employees to impose a philosophy upon it’s comics because they think running a line of superhero comics can be done by committee and accountants. The creative instinct is suppressed to ensure creators create product, not art. What Johns should be railing at is DC’s consumerist obsession with marketing a superhero universe where everything is the same, rather than as it was previously, where there was a mix, something Johns hints is returning to the DCU which may in the long run be a good thing if it actually happens. Right now it’s a mess.

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And indeed, since Watchmen DC’s taken the topic of darker superheroes on before, most notably with the excellent Kingdom Come series, but the deeper one gets into Rebirth the more insane the meta aspects become. None as much as the scene where Pandora, the character behind the New 52 is murdered by Dr Manhattan.

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Subtlety isn’t a Johns strong point here.

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That, if rumour is believed, is Ozymandias from Watchmen. Even John Constantine and Swamp Thing turn up in this jumbled, disjointed mess.

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Then when you think it’s all coming to an end at last, Johns pisses in your face again as he hammers home the point that Watchmen was really miserable as far as he’s concerned and is responsible for dark superhero comics, Simon Cowell and cancer.

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After the much publicised page of Batman holding up the Comedian’s smiley badge, there’s an epilogue where it’s driven home that now Watchmen is part of the DCU.

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DC Universe: Rebirth takes a complicated mess of continuity and makes it worse. it throws in Watchmen as a scapegoat for a decade’s worth of bad corporate creative decisions in order I presume to absolve people like Johns from any sense of responsibility for what they’ve helped create. It takes one of mainstream comics best, most respected books, a book that changed comics, brought in tens of thousands of new, fresh readers and is still selling massive amounts 30 years after first publication, and crams it into a mess of a book in order to give it a kicking.

Yet by doing so Johns proves Alan Moore’s point that DC Comics are so creatively bankrupt they have to mine works he did three decades ago to help them sell comics. This also isn’t going to fill creators who may create new, exciting works with joy or confidence as after all, they’re seeing Geoff Johns metaphorically rub his balls all over Moore and Gibbons creation while shouting ‘IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT‘ loudly at the top of his lungs at a picture of Alan Moore he’s stuck on his bathroom mirror.

This doesn’t crap all over Watchmen as a work, because that’ll always be there, and anyhow, DC’s already done that with the inept Before Watchmen crap from a few years ago. What this does is show that Paul Levitz deserves much more praise for protecting Watchmen from this sort of exploitation as it protected not just it’s artistic integrity, but showed that although DC were bastards, they weren’t fucking bastards. They are now.

DC Universe: Rebirth is trying to have it’s cake, eat it, and after it’s thrown it up force it down your throat because it’s what you want, honest. Rather than do a flat out reboot it’s chucking everything in because one has to keep the hardcore continuity geeks happy, and fuck new readers. If they’re not up with seven decades of DC history then tough. Here’s a bit of New 52, here’s a bit of pre-Crisis, here’s a bit of something new, here’s some Vertigo. It’s all there. It’s all a mess. A fresh start will piss off the 30-50 year old core readership of DC Comics, but it clears everything out. It leaves a blank slate. It gives creators freedom, rather than have to throw in a mention of say, The Killing Joke, because going back in time to draw inspiration rather than try something different and new is all they know. Didio,Johns and the others making decisions at DC are locked into a spiral where after this they’ve left themselves with two options: to do a fresh start or fiddle round the edges yet again and lose readers til it’s just a small core of bitter fans clinging on because ”their” characters are what’s important to them.

In short. This is bollocks.

Total Eclipse of the Heart-The ongoing story of my stroke/cancer

After all the drama of the recent weeks and the clogged aftermath of my surgery, things are in a bit of a quiet phase as my recovery from the surgery to remove the cancer from my neck is going fine. Though my morning drug ritual is getting to nearly double figures..

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That helps keep me alive and numbs the only real pain I’m getting which is the odd sensation of my nerves rejoining in my shoulder after the operation. Some of it won’t come back as they had to cut through it to get the larger than expected mass in my neck, but some of it is and it’s an odd type of pain as it’s like being exposed to a naked flame, but once that passes I can feel things like clothing on that part of my body.

This week though is about mopping up my post-stroke treatment so I’ve currently enjoying having a unit attached to my chest for a 72 hour heart monitor. This has also meant another session of my chest being shaved and a small unit stuck to it where for 72 hours (barring showers where I can remove it) it’ll stay monitoring my heart to see if there’s any damage after the stroke. Of course the surgery and recovery has put a strain on it but hopefully there’s nothing too menacing come Friday when they look at the results, however there is a button on it that plays my heartbeat out loud, and on the bus home I turned it on treating the bus to a nice regular heartbeat before sussing out how to turn it off.

Also, I found out there’s a Doctor Strange working at the cardiac unit of the Bristol Royal Infirmary. He sadly doesn’t look like this.

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So for the time being all is quiet. Friday is the next checkpoint as it’s not just the day my heart monitor goes back, but it’s also the day of my follow up appointment after the surgery. Hopefully here I find out the date of my radiotherapy and then whether I’m cancer free leaving me only with the stroke recovery which is going fine, so I’d be free to carry on with my life….

Comic Shop Confessions

comicbookguyWith the increasing popularity of comics, comic book related film and the crawling spread of ‘geek culture’, there’s a rise of people opening comic shops (or ‘stores’ as said by Americans) thinking they’ll make their millions, but end up going tits up. As someone with decades of experiences in retail, distribution, publishing and shopping in these places here’s a wee guide of half a dozen or so do’s and don’ts for people thinking of venturing into retail…

1/ NAMING YOUR DREAM SHOP

This is more important than you think. If you come up with a crap name then nobody is going to remember it. If you also come up with a name that screams ‘sad fanboy’ then you’re going to have a limited clientèle from the off. So no Android’s Dungeon.

2/ WHAT SORT OF SHOP ARE YOU?

Think that just selling comics is all you’ll do? Fine, but what sort of comics? You just going to sell superhero books? Fine, but that person coming in asking for the latest issue of Love and Rockets that can’t find it and is faced with unhelpful staff has just taken a steady 40 or 50 quid a month with them,

That’s a very specific example I used because it’s exactly what happened to me in a shop in Bristol. I walked in, asked about Love and Rockets, got a couple of blank looks. Asked in they have any of the recent books, got more blank looks and at that point left it, walked round to Waterstones who did have some of the recent collections and spent 50 quid there.

So the lesson is that you may think it’s a ‘silly little book’ but know your stuff. You may be turning away custom if all you’re doing is sell superhero comics. Page 45 in Nottingham and Gosh! in London have been in business for decades because they sell a diverse selection of comics alongside superhero comics so learn from them.

3/ WHO DO YOU EMPLOY?

If you open a shop and employ your mate who’s experience is reading a load of X Men comics, watching daytime telly and wanking, then that might not be the most reliable person to look after your business.

And remember, it’s a business you’re running, not a care home for your mates who can’t be arsed finding a job. Can you trust them? Do you think they know their stuff? Can they sell because I’m tired of walking into comic shops across the UK where the staff can’t actually sell what they’ve got on the shelves.

Here’s an example. 20 odd years ago I worked in a comic shop in Bristol. Some lad came in asking for a Hulk comic which we didn’t have, but I spent five minutes pointing a few alternatives out and he spent more money than he was intending to. He drinks down my local today and still remembers me selling him those Hulk comics, and in  fact still has them and reads them.

Make the effort. Don’t just sneer at people walking around the shop or constantly stare at them when they’re browsing, something I especially despise. People have walked in your shop, give them a bit of respect.

4 /DON’T TREAT WOMEN AS AN ALIEN RACE

I first took a girlfriend to a comic convention around 1992. On the Saturday she wore a not especially low cut top, but the amount of lads who would be unable to make eye contact with her as she worked our tables was ridiculous. After initially laughing it off she decided to give things a break, and this is only one story in dozens where I’ve seen women walk into shops and be treated like an alien life form.

Here’s a thing. Women buy comics too. They have money. Some even like superhero comics. So when one walks in don’t sit behind the country drooling. Make shopping a comfortable experience and don’t be a creepy wanker.

5/ KEEP THE SHOP CLEAN

You’d think people would get this, but again I’ve walked into shops where there’s a lair of dust over the back issues, or in one case in a shop in Nottingham, a thin lair of grease which I have no idea how it got there but it meant I never, ever went back to it.

It’s not much to ask to even vacuum the carpet once a day if you have one, or run a mop over the floor. People notice these things and like walking into places that aren’t as filthy as a bad fried chicken place.

6/ MAKE IT FUN

Comics as a medium are primarily about entertainment. You’ve opened a shop because you love comics so don’t sit there making your own life, and those coming in, totally miserable. Don’t sit there blaring out Heavy Metal and being miserable, throw in some enthusiasm for the medium and you’ll see people come in, stay and spend money if you do.

I hope I’ve given a few wee tips, but in today’s market where superheroes and comics are very much the mainstream, if you’ve got the right location and the right stock, you should make a good go of your shop. After all ”geek culture” is mainstream and all you have to do is get those lovely punters through your door…..

DC Comics make Watchmen part of their continuity because they’re unimaginative arseholes

DC Comics are undergoing yet another company wide revamp of their line in yet another attempt to stop declining sales as they reset a couple of previous revamps done as far in the past as 2011. DC Rebirth is going to solve all the problems DC’s been having now for at least 15 years where creatively they’re at a dead end. Sure, there are other problems such as an ageing readership, increased competition from other mediums and talent heading for companies like Image due to DC’s contracts or working conditions but at some point if you’re having to relaunch your line, or take a ”bold new direction’ every couple of years then you’re not building up confidence in the readership you’ve got and you’re essentially turning off new readers who may perhaps like Superman as a character but wonder why DC’s turned him into an enormous prick?

So in 2016 there’s another revamp, and this one is going to go down like diarrhoea on your wedding night. This overly excited Bleeding Cool article explains:

Wally West is back. There are three Jokers. The Original JSA is back. Watchman are now part of the DCU and are responsible for the loss of time???

Wait? Watchmen is now part of the DC Universe? It appears they are…

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DC have been trying to weld Watchmen to their main universe of superheroes for years. A few years back they did a series called Countdown: Arena which was publicised with a poster featuring Frank Miller’s Batman from The Dark Knight beating up Rorschach.

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DC have been clearly biding their time to sneak Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel Watchmen into their main universe for some time,  but fearing fan backlash or the (correct) accusation that they’re so creatively bankrupt that they have to keep mining what Alan Moore wrote for them 30 years ago (see also Frank Miller) rather than get their heads down and do something new and original. Then again, that’s involving listening to people, something DC don’t have form for unless it’s the small core of hardcore fans online who obsess about continuity hence these seemingly endless reboots to cater for this demographic.

Forget for a moment the fact it’s DC making a mockery of creator’s rights and it’ll make any creator worth their salt decide to avoid DC, or hold back ideas as after all, if they can fuck Alan Moore over constantly, they’ll fuck over anyone, it’s the paucity of imagination on display that’s the most depressing.

In short, DC Comics are being arseholes selling shite to wankers who’ll buy this guff up and then not see that the ever diminishing set of returns is going to end up destroying what they love. If anyone in DC had the vision, the imagination and the bollocks to try something new and think about how to cut across platforms and media to get new readers in (and those potential readers exist) then good luck to them but they won’t make things better by mining Watchmen, or by having Batman fight Rorschach because they want some bloke in his 30’s to say ‘kewl’ when they see it and buy all 12 covers of each issue they release.

Well done DC, just when you think there’s nothing left at the bottom of the barrel for you to scrape up, you’ve proven everyone wrong….