The long lost days of the comic book exchange

I’ve spoken about the world of buying comics in those days before the direct market but I’ve only touched upon the glorious world of the comic book exchange which is outlined from an American viewpoint in this lovely piece here.

An exchange is exactly as it sounds. You’d take your comics there and exchange them for more comics. As a child in the 70s there were two I went to, one on Maryhill Road and the other tucked away near the entrance of Partick Subway station. Both were inhabited mainly by older men thumbing through the magazines I was never allowed to go near as a child but I was allowed to go through the boxes of comics on the floor which were a mixed bag to say the least. Made up of British and American comics, as well as new and older comics from the 1960s and earlier so I’m talking comics like this.

I remember picking up Silver Age comics in abundance for a few pence each, or if they had a stamp on them from that particular shop, you could exchange them for other comics. This is why you’ll find comics from that era with stamps of bookshops on them so you can pick up Silver and Bronze Age books which were once in shops ranging from Paisley to Poplar. True, the 5p (or whatever price) on them is nowhere near what these books are worth now but for years this was one of the main ways people could buy, and collect comics in the years before the direct market came together in the 1970s.

The direct market and gentrification were two of the main things which wiped out so many exchanges during the 80s as after all, why spend all that time raking through unsorted boxes of comics on the chance of getting a bargain when there was a speciality shop where you could get new and old comics at the same time? Sure, some collectors did that but hunting down comics is a tiresome job. Then there were the areas where these shops were being modernised, which often meant gentrified so these places were either knocked down or replaced by something appealing to an entirely different market. In the 21st Century the likes of eBay not to mention most people think any comic is worth a fortune (reality is most comics aren’t) the idea that one could walk into a strangely smelling shop and pick up anything for 10p or less is insane but for a few decades there we could do that and it was wonderful…

Just what is Red Wolf’s mask made of?

I was bagging up some 1970s Marvel titles the other day and was reading them as is often the case, which is why an hour-long job becomes a day’s job.Early 70’s Marvel titles are especially hot right now as most Silver Age titles race out of the price range for many collectors, so the focus now is more affordable 70s books. However, speculators are still pushing those prices up as everyone thinks <insert character here> will be popping up in the MCU.

One especially obscure title was Red Wolf a character first making his debut in The Avengers.

Back then, Marvel didn’t just publish superheroes but a variety of children’s, horror, western and humour titles. At this point in the 70s, they were trying to diversify from a mainly white male cast of characters, so in comes Red Wolf, the first Native American superhero/vigilante.

With his trusty sidekick, the wolf called Lobo, Red Wolf stumbled aimlessly into his own title written by Gardner Fox, and they’re generally awful comics. The one thing is though that his mask is well, made of a skinned red wolf, and here’s the moment where I assume Lobo works out what his master’s mask is made out of.

Superhero comics in the 1970s were weird…

Scotland will not be independent in my lifetime

I hope I’m wrong but nearly nine years after the 2014 referendum where the Yes side lost I cannot for the life of me see how we progress towards independence of any kind. The independence movement has been shattered thanks to a multitude of reasons and the SNP, the party formed last century to gain Scottish independence, has done nothing to push us forward to independence in eight years, even though they’ve won multiple elections and mandates for it.

Every election since 2014 has been about ‘giving us the mandate to push for a referendum’ yet nothing really has happened. A vote for the SNP was supposed to stop Brexit happening to Scotland yet here we are, ripped out of the EU against the majority will and the Scottish government hasn’t done the one thing that might see us on a pathway back to the EU. We asked for a Section 30 from Westminster (the mechanism where we can hold a legal referendum) and that was refused. The plan was to have a de facto referendum in October this year yet that’s now not happening with the SNP now kicking it down the path to the next UK general election, or maybe the 2026 Scottish elections. I assume we’ll hear at some point of it being kicked further down the road to 2029 as an eternal carrot dangling in front of indy supporters who are convinced there’s a super secret plan for independence. The blunt fact is there isn’t.

And now we have an entirely manufactured dispute over the massively flawed Gender Recognition Reform bill which sees Westminster interfering with the decision of Holyrood, yet the Scottish government were warned of legal issues during the process of consultation and of massive, glaring holes in the bill. It is perfectly clear many of those who proposed the bill haven’t thought of the issues having closed off debate so we end up with things like this astonishing car crash of an interview with Maggie Chapman (who is an elected official in Scotland taking about O Levels which don’t exist in Scotland) of the Green Party.

So either the Scottish government went ahead with a bill not having scrutinised all the issues around it clearly and have spat out a mess of a bill which has thrown themselves in conflict with Westminster. Basically, incompetency has seen them in this conflict. The other option is they’ve cynically used this to manufacture a conflict with Westminster to push support for independence on an issue, which at best, is wildly divisive beyond the realms of independence in Scotland. Both options end up throwing the rights of women, children, disabled people and people with dysphoria under the bus.

Let’s not think the Tories are acting either in the best interest of vulnerable groups. They’ve been handed a potential tool to attack the Scottish Government and its competency with and they’re going to use it. From reading what lawyers are saying (as opposed to the reams of people who are just giving uninformed opinion on all sides) this is going to end up at the UK supreme court. We’re in the midst of the worst crisis for people for cost of living in a generation and that’s been put aside by many in order to push, or oppose, this.

We’re in a bad situation and I think this article by Robin McAlpine sums up my feelings. This paragraph hits home and hurts to agree with as at one point I believed the dream that we’d have a socially equal and fair leftish independent Scotland in my life. Instead we have a mechanism designed to keep a political class, and their activist backers, in power.

Last week’s announcement of ‘Green’ free ports by the Scottish and Westminster governments should have been the final straw. Selling out worker rights but sticking a ‘green’ label on it to Greenwash it should have been the sign that neoliberalism has fully taken hold in Scotland, and although the Scottish government does do good things to tinker round the edges, there are far too many underlying problems that can’t just be blamed on our restrictions we have placed on us as part of the UK. So I’ve resigned myself to the thought that independence as a reality is out our reach thanks not just to Westminster clinging onto us and our resources, but thanks to the main party who was dedicated to the cause putting that cause aside to concentrate on keeping, and expanding, power.

I want to be proven wrong. I want to be made to look stupid. On the basis of the last eight years I don’t think I will. There is no ‘secret masterplan’. There is no strategy for indy. There’s not even an effort to unite or even lead the independence movement. There’s just a never-ending promise that in the next set of elections, maybe, perhaps, the SNP will ask for a referendum which leads to to finish off by quoting McAlpine one more time.

He’s right. The SNP aren’t going to deliver independence now they’ve been hollowed out by careerists. Alba are a joke even if they’re committed to indy. Labour and the Lib Dems are controlled by London. The Greens have become a complete mess controlled by anti-intellectual/scientific zealots and the Tories can fuck off as far as a party can fuck off. This limbo might of course end after the current actions of Westminster, but as said, this is going to end up in courts so this will drag on for months, if not years. Long enough to keep things going til the Tories have to hold an election and are voted out for a weak and disappointing Labour government.

Please let me be wrong. I fear I’m not.

40 years of The Daredevils

The early 80s is an astonishing time for comics as the direct market saw an explosion in publishers and a start of a decade that’d see comics as an art form and an industry change forever. Here in the UK we’d seen what 2000AD was doing to bring through exceptional creators on a regular basis as a pool of talent was tapped.

In amongst all this was Marvel UK who’d turned from a company focusing on UK reprints of US Marvel comics to introducing new strips when Dez Skinn came on board. This gave us Alan Moore and David Lloyd on Doctor Who backup strips, and Moore and Alan Davis doing a highly successful run on Captain Britain. In fact for me, Captain Britain is a prime example to show Moore’s development as a writer as if you look at the strips at the start of his run and then at the end there’s a fantastic leap in quality & style as he moves towards the writer we know today.

In 1983 Marvel UK produced The Daredevils, a monthly anthology titles featuring Captain Britain, plus reprints of Frank Miller’s Daredevil, and John Romita drawn Spider Man stories.

Also included were articles, including some written by Moore about comics, fandom and the scene overall. For many people, this was their first introduction to comics fandom as they found out there were people like you across the country not to mention conventions and marts where you could go buy comics and meet these people. It was in short, a revelation but over the years it’s slipped into an underserved obscurity when the history of comics in the 1980s is written.

So 40 years later it’s time to ensure The Daredevils claims a rightful place in comics history, and if can pick up back issues (they aren’t cheap I’m afraid) then do so as these are an essential part of comics history.

The Judge Dredd Playstation One game is a lost gem

Judge Dredd is the most famous, and most successful British comics character eclipsing Dan Dare and Rupert the Bear by some way, and like anything successful, it’s a thing which has been milked for good and bad. Back in the 1990’s a Playstation game was released when the PS1 was very hip, very trendy and very brilliant so a Judge Dredd game hit the shelves in 1997.

Looking at it today it seems like a fairly decent light gun shooting game which at the time, there was quite a few out there, however, it is the cut scenes which fans should look at. Not only are the costumes spot on but they’re filmed using virtual sets and are way better than the Stallone version but it feels like Dredd. Sure, the game itself isn’t special, but the cut scenes are fun.

Have a look.

This is the beginning

And we’re back in a new year which will hopefully be a better one overall. There are some green shoots of recovery sitting there waiting to sprout this year which I intend to enjoy and take advantage of.

Covid and the constant crisis many live in now after over 12 years of austerity is taking a toll but let’s hope we see both coming to an end this year, and let’s hope of larger chinks of light this new year.

So don’t get too drunk celebrating the New Year. Don’t eat the yellow snow and lets embrace the New Year with a fresh start for all of us.

Happy new year everyone!

This is the end.

This time between Christmas and New Year is actually my favourite time of the holidays as the bombardment of Christmas is over, and now I don’t drink, I don’t have to panic about what pub, club or vague shithole I was due to meet my mates. There’s been a bad run of deaths of people who meant vastly different things to me across my life so Vivienne Westwood was the heart and soul of the Punk ethic that affected me most of my life; Ruggero Deodato who directed Cannibal Holocaust which gave me one of the most visceral experiences watching a film in my life, lastly Pele who was a genius on the scale of a DaVinci in his field.

Overall though 2023 was another year of Covid hanging around like a bad smell, and of course the Tories completely screwing the UK up even further, while it becomes even clearer any chance of Scottish independence is light years away. Meanwhile my health has been up and down not to mention I failed to get a Glastonbury ticket for what would have been my 25th festival so overall although 2022 has some fine points, it overall can get fucked.

And with that I wish everyone a fine New Year. Let’s all see this year flushed down the toilet of time and make sure we never have its like again.

Merry Christmas

Another year rolls nearly to its end and we face Christmas again in the spirit of the times. For many people it has been a tough, terrible year but for many it’s also a year where they’ve managed to come out the other side which means another Christmas which for many will be a hard one this year with things like the cost of living crisis making things worse. But we have, hopefully a few days grace from that for everyone.

I hope this Christmas is a good one for you all and that Father Christmas brings you everything you need or want.

Terry Hall RIP

When I was a kid in those blissful pre-teen years where you’re still being moulded as a person one of my retreats from the weekly grind of school and all the misery (I got over that but that’s another story) that then brought me was music. Sunday night especially was Top 40 night so I’d take a radio into the bathroom for my weekly ‘big bath’ where I’d proceed to turn into a raisin soaking in the bath listening to the charts. One Sunday they played this and everything changed.

I didn’t know what this was. It sounded unlike anything I’d ever heard in my short wee life but everything about it was wonderful and I needed to hear more. So back in those days searching out music was a task but I wanted to hear more from this band, and especially the singer who had a style all of his own.

That single was the only thing I managed to get with my humble amount of pocket money being mainly taken up with the purchase of comics I relied, like hundreds of thousands of people, on taping songs off the radio so I’d have a tape always in when listening to the radio, ready for it to go when a song came on that I liked always hoping the DJ would shut the fuck up and just play the song but it never happened.

Time moved on and another Sunday rolled around and there was I in the bath listening to the radio when yet again, something came on which literally changed everything.

See I was too young for Punk. I was aware it happened by 1980 but it wasn’t something I tuned in on til later in my teen,s but this, dear me, this tuned right into my brain and whatever I had that one might call a soul. It was everything I needed to hear and it opened me up to all manner of music, especially Trojan Records and everything they put out. It showed me working-class life could be part of modern music in a way which wasn’t preachy and it shaped my brain at just the right age. It helped make me, well, me and leading it was the voice of Terry Hall.

Hall became next to David Bowie and Jack Kirby for me as idols who shaped me for my life to come in the sense they helped me in all the good ways. When The Specials ended I was distraught but quickly after came the Fun Boy Three and we all saw Terry having fun in a different way. How could anyone not love singles like this?

And Our Lips Are Sealed helped introduce me to The Go Go’s which also opened up a world of American female-led guitar bands. There’s Terry Hall again opening up new worlds for me and so it went for the rest of my life. Terry Hall would pop up with something, or with people his music influenced, so here he is popping up in a No Doubt video.

Of course in the 21st century it was Amy Winehouse who made it clear where her influences came from while helping introduce The Specials to a new generation.

I didn’t get to see The Specials til the 30th anniversary tour when they played Cardiff. It remains a gloriously fun and messy night/morning that lives long in the memory.

Now at the age of 63 we lose Terry Hall in a blow that feels cruel as not only is 63 no age to go these days, but it felt like he had more to give and I’d always wanted to see him again at a Glastonbury or elsewhere but that’s never going to happen now. As soon as I read the news I was instantly cast back to those days of sitting in the bath in awe of The Specials and part of me will forever be that wee boy discovering a world of music he never would have had it not been for Terry Hall.

Thanks for everything Terry. You will be badly missed.

About that Reading and Leeds Festival 2023 lineup

I mean, just look at this.

Back in the late 1980s Reading Festival revamped itself in a way which stood apart from the years where Status Quo and Bonnie Tyler walked the main stage. It was wildly successful in a way which saved the festival giving it such a ridiculously successful decade in the 90s it had to expand to a second location in Leeds. As someone who spent much of the 90s going to Reading it provided me with a chance to see many of the 90s best acts ranging from Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine, Ash and Nirvana. It was indeed the glory days.

Sure it was commercial. All festivals are and always have been but it stuck to a certain type of act with the Sunday generally reserved for a load of American rock bands who never had a chance to play to the size of crowd Reading would give them. In short, it took risks as well as cashing in on the Act of the Day. This though is the logical extension of the gentrification of the festival over the last two decades.

Reading was always a bit rough. It was the end of summer blowout where a mainly working-class crowd could meet, see acts they love and get utterly battered before autumn and winter dug in. That began slowly to change in the 2000s and has slowly moved away from alternative music and culture to the mainstream and with the festival market being somewhat saturated it has clearly decided to take another path which is to sprinkle Acts of the Day into a heady mix of up and coming bands with some, well, dubious headliners for a festival like Reading. I can safely say there’s never been a headliner with their own brand of frozen pizzas before.

For a generation, it may be time to move on as it was mine during the 2000s when I decided it really wasn’t the festival for me anymore. However, I can empathise with it hurting because Lewis Capaldi and Imagine Dragons are headlining a festival with such a pedigree as Reading, especially as it seems to be moving into the same sort of lineups as Bestival and Latitude.

Still, it will sell out because there are enough suckers out there wanting to see the face of a frozen pizza brand sing.