The end of the World Cup

Today is the World Cup final of what has been a very good World Cup. It isn’t up to Spain 82 or Mexico 86 in terms of a classic mix of great football and entertainment, but it’s better than Italy 90 (strip away World in Motion and actually talk about the football, you’ll find most who can remember a poor competition) or the averageness of the last few competitions.

Today sees France play Croatia. France should win but Croatia could easily pull off a shock which isn’t bad for a country¬† that hasn’t even existed for 30 years yet. But what of the next World Cup in Qatar?

The next World Cup isn’t going to be held in the middle of winter for northern hemisphere teams, and also in the middle of league and cup seasons. It’s also going to be held in stadia built on the blood of thousands of dead workers in a country where holding hands in public could be problematic. Imagine the fan parks in punishing heat or players growing tired quickly because they’re playing in a desert in a country run by strict authoritarians who care nothing for human rights.

Sod that.

So I’ll be back for the World Cup in 2026 in Canada, Mexico and the US who by then, will have purged themselves of Trumpism.

Hopefully today’s final is a classic because I think quite a few fans will be boycotting Qatar, but for now lets celebrate today’s final and personally, I’d love Croatia to win it, but France will likely win it. We’ll see…

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Why most Scots won’t support England

Another World Cup is nearly over which means for Scots (as well as the Welsh and Northern Irish) don’t have to put up with being told by people (who all seem to only pay attention to football every major tournament) who elect themselves arbiters who what people should do in relation to supporting football teams. This time though it has been totally unbearable in Scotland as media commentators trip over themselves to display how glorious they are by saying they’ll support England. Take this nonsense from Stephen Daisley as an example of this.

This is of course an example of the cringe; but before the Anyone But England argument comes from England fans hurt that not everyone will support England, especially people from the three countries of the UK used to be downgraded, insulted and ignored (If you’ve you’ve ever called the UK ‘England’ then you’re a dick) but this isn’t about hating the English, but the bullying, sometimes patronisingly smug attitude that places England at the centre of the galaxy.

It boils down to not supporting your biggest, and oldest rivals (Scotland/England is the oldest rivalry in football) so Celtic fans won’t support ‘Rangers’, Spurs won’t support Arsenal, Man City won’t support Man Utd, and on. If you then say ‘ah, but we’d support our nearest neighbours’ then I ask you how many English folk will be supporting France tomorrow in the World Cup Final?

But really it’s the entitlement and the way that England transforms into a place where if you’re not from England, it becomes deeply unwelcoming and in the case of this week, dismissive and insultingly so of opposition. Roy Keane hit the nail on the head.

Yet this year England had a likeable, decent man as manager and players who never seemed as arrogant or entitled as previous teams. Gareth Southgate represents the more civic side of England you rarely see these days, especially since Brexit, and England’s ethnically and culturally diverse team is a step in the right direction. Imagine had Sam Allardyce dragged a team to this World Cup. It’d be like Nigel Farage’s wet dream.

So good luck to England in the third place playoff. You’re learning but you need to remember it isn’t always about you so come on Belgium!

Return to Glastonbury’s past

Glastonbury Festival in 1993 was one of the very first I went to and lives in the memory as it was in the last years before the TV cameras and celebrities poured onsite often like cold sick, and the festival lost the chaotic element where one could literally turn a corner to walk into any sort of show you could imagine. Or possibly get mugged if you took a wrong turn after dark. It was that type of place back then. This does mean that it is incredibly hard to get footage of bands let alone anything else from these years but stuff does come up and here’s a load of footage of bands including Porno for Pyros who seems to be filmed near from where I was standing.

In fact the same channel is a bit of a goldmine with footage of the Beastie Boys from Glastonbury in 1994.

And that quite glorious Pretenders set from the NME Stage in 1994 also.

I love old footage like this as although it is rough, it manages to capture something and this is needed as we all get older. However the absolute discovery is Tao Jones, at the 1997 Phoenix Festival. Never heard of them? That’s because it was David Bowie performing under another name and yeah, it’d catch people out. People like myself who didn’t realise he was playing the dance tent so like hundreds of other legged it across site in order to try to get in what was by now, a pretty crammed tent.

So enjoy, and do so before these videos get possibly taken down.

 

 

A World Cup favour…

Please Croatia, can you beat England.

Because if I hear cries of ‘It’s coming home’ every time I turn on the TV, or see that in the UK media I think I may lose whatever mind I’ve got left. I also can’t bear the jingoism that’ll come if England play either Belgium or France. It’ll be unbearable, so please our Croatian cousins, go out there and do small counties like yourselves proud!

Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man is the only one that really matters

Steve Ditko’s death brought to focus the saying that his Spider-Man is the only true one and everyone after him is a bloke wearing a costume. That’s borne out by the fact that since the early 80’s every single writer who has taken over control of the character always mentions Ditko as an influence but the Peter Parker of today (a wealthy industrialist) is nothing like Ditko’s nebbish, freakish, sad little loser of a boy learning to interact with people and become a decent man who does the right thing.

Peter Parker isn’t a hero when Ditko and Stan Lee (I’ll leave how much involvement Lee had in Spider-Man to others but the title read more and more like Ditko as it progressed isn’t something that should be up for debate) start telling his story but he develops as the title moves on. Even so he’s always struggling with his heroism and the fact he’s a nobody; a loser.

Which brings me to Amazing Spider-Man #33.

Its here that Ditko’s Spider-Man becomes the hero he’s been building up to being, and yes, it’s that few pages of art (forget about the script, it only gets in the way) that over the decades has become so iconic that it can tell Spider-Man’s story in a few pages.Peter Parker is still disliked, even hated but he’s getting better by the end of Ditko’s run.

When Ditko left, Spider-Man carried on and although talents like John Romita and the great GIl Kane turned in some amazing work, they weren’t Ditko producing this odd wee title about a hero who doesn’t think he’s a hero, and in real life is hated by everyone but his aunt.

Other creators have tried; none succeeded. That’s Ditko’s legacy for Spider-Man.

 

Losing Steve Ditko

In one week we’ve lost Harlan Ellison and now, Steve Ditko. Both were uncompromising but whereas Ellison was vocal in defending his actions and work, Ditko was the exact opposite often to the detriment of his career.Ditko’s death hurts and I think the tributes pouring out for him are all so touching because although Jack Kirby was a genius who created a large part of the Marvel Universe, it was Ditko who created much of what Kirby didn’t.

Ditko was a reclusive to the point where the only pictures we have on him come mainly from one photo session in the early 1960’s. He spoke through his work and he did so in a way no creator working for Marvel or DC could today.

I wasn’t aware of Ditko as a kid. I was reading American imports of Spider-Man but this was the late John Romita, early Gil Kane run so it was through his DC work I was most familiar with him. Especially his creation, The Creeper who to this day I adore still.

It was though Marvel UK’s reprints I got to lap up Ditko’s Spider-Man and then his Hulk and Doctor Strange which blew my tiny little mind.

But it’ll be Spider-Man he’ll be remembered for and I’ll always remember his splash pages from Amazing Spider-Man annual #1.

It wasn’t til the 80’s that I became aware of how some fans as well as large chunks of the media were pushing the line that Stan Lee had created Spider-Man by himself, something Ditko addressed in his self-published comics.

Ditko never compromised. He could have but if you’ve read any of Ditko’s work you’d realise Ditko wasn’t about compromise. A is A. Ditko’s political beliefs would never let him sell out and it’s Ditko’s politics married with his visuals that made him unique. As a Guardian reading lefty, I should be repulsed by Ditko’s often hard right Ayn Randian philosophies but I’m fascinated by them, and in what it inspired Ditko to create.

Indeed, his politics was essential in creating the idea of his Peter Parker as an outsider, which set him aside from others in the era of Vietnam War protests.

When Ditko left Marvel it was here that things get interesting. His work for me at DC and Charlton is incredible with the aforementioned Creeper, plus the Blue Beetle and The Question standing out.

I’d come across Ditko’s work in the 70’s and loved the weird oddness of it all. I especially loved Killjoy which ran as a back-up in Charlton’s E-Man.

Although Ditko returned to Marvel in the 1980’s he left to work alone on his own comics published by Robin Snyder, and again, he’s still not compromising.

Ditko has been with us drawing comics for over 60 years and he never stopped creating, or doing what he wanted to do. Now he’s gone and we’ll never get Ditko’s worldview of right and wrong, good and evil or just what he thinks will thrill or astound us anymore.

He’ll be missed. The unique always should be.