The trouble with Corbyn

I’ve voiced concerns about Jeremy Corbyn a lot of late, especially since seeing him at the Pyramid Stage at this year’s Glastonbury Festival where I saw a crowd cheering on someone who I think is setting people up for an almighty fall. I’ve never been able to fully pin down just quite what the problem with Corbyn is outwith of the fact he’s not what he pretends to be and Labour are still a party mired in policies of austerity and a faux radicalism that just tweaks round the edges while keeping the establishment machine in place.

Alan Bissett manages to articulate everything I couldn’t in this video from the excellent Phantom Power. It’s an excellent, and damning, critique of Labour and especially Jeremy Corbyn in relation to Scotland and is essential viewing.

Fighting Nazis in the 21st century

In the US right now there’s a load of actual real Nazis meeting and marching in Charlottesville with actual real life armed militia marching with them. It is by any stretch of the imagination an ostentatious display by white supremacists that’s resulted in one anti-Nazi protester being killed so far. I say ‘so far’ because I’m astonished more people haven’t been killed.

Terms like ‘alt-right’ are essentially meaningless. They’re Nazis. Call them that. Groups like the National Vanguard are just Nazis and here’s where we have to stop agonising about how to deal with them. We don’t tolerate them. We fight them, and we don’t sit around like some of the ‘radical’ left agonising about whether violence is wrong or how much guilt we should have for the situaton getting here. We know Donald Trump encourages these people and has made it easier for them to grow in his short time so far as president and we know good people have died while the far-right grow and become empowered, and this is what we’ve got to remember: Trump has empowered them, just as Brexit & it’s cheerleaders like Nigel Farage have over here.

At this point people should read Umberto Eco’s essay titled Ur-Fascism, because we’re living in the age where it has finally become real again and not something of Eco’s childhood. What we’re seeing in the US and UK is Eco’s Ur-Fascism, and that scares me that we’ve let it get to a point where we need to fight not just a bunch of National Front arseholes, but vast swathes of the country who are turning to a form of fascism that is endorsed by those in power.

Back in the early 90’s the NF tried to make one last push to start the race war they were wanting. Groups like the Anti Nazi League stopped them because black, white, whatever race, religion, background united to fight them; often literally. I myself carry scars from those fights back in the days when I lived in Nottingham and we’d have to stand our ground against them. We beat them. Sadly the job now is harder and it won’t help if people aren’t prepared to perhaps get their hands a bit dirty because I look at pictures like the one below and think the young folk surrounded by actual armed Nazis are among the bravest people I’ve seen.

Those people standing in the middle of a crowd are amazing.That’s who we need to be in the days.months and years to come because sitting in Byres Road cafes worrying about the structrual problems of racism isn’t going to stop the prick with a Union Jack tattooed on his arm from beating up Asian shopkeepers. Let’s be blunt, we’re in a fight and the time for polite discussion is gone.

And the problem is the same over here in the UK. We know Neo Nazis pose a larger threat than Islamists because this is what the authorities tells us, but it barely gets reported outwith of the odd mention. If we don’t actually stop this by fighting the Nazis where we can, and making an argument for a multicultural, progressive society (and those on the left leaping on the Brexit bandwagon to get Labour into power aren’t helping one bit) we’re fucked. So lets take it back to basics, unite, argue, fight and win together and remember, punching Nazis is good for the soul.

Lets all have a thermonuclear war!

Seeing as Donald Trump is now running his foreign policy as if it was a clip from Robocop, it seems that those of you under 35 or so now have a wee snifter of what those of us slightly older put up for most of our lives. Welcome to the fear and tension of a potential nuclear war.

These days Millennials will Tweet and maybe write an angry blog about how nuclear war is a sign of the patriarchy while sipping a craft beer, but back in the day we had art like this.

Or we’d confront the fear in comics such as this Marvelman tale..

But until the Netflix generation does their own version of Threads they won’t experience the cold sweats of waking up thinking the streetlight is a nuclear blast. That was fun back in the 80’s.

So for those of you not familar with this fear; welcome to the party. For those of us who’d forgotten it, time to dust off your Protect and Survive tips to pass down to the younger generations as we all unite in fear that a pair of cunts could doom the world before we even get to the end of the new Twin Peaks.

Now that would be the end of the world!

Attack of the West End Trendies

I live in a nexus of places in Glasgow. One of those places is the West End of the city famed for people with accents that pay homage to the idea of being from Glasgow and ‘West End Trendies’, that is people like this that Limmy takes the piss out of in the below video.

Or indeed, now trendy and famous comic artist Frank Quitely in his Electric Soup days with his Wendy the West End Trendy strip.

About a minute’s walk from my flat is Finnieston, the trendiest of all West End trendy areas where one can quite literally wade waist deep in people drooling about this week’s new craft ale or that antique dress they saw. It displays the sort of pretension that makes Stokes Croft in Bristol look like Chelmsford on a Saturday night when Chelsea are at home.

On the whole these slaves to fashion are relatively harmless, but I’ve been warned of the ”ironic’ Buckfast drinker since coming back to Glasgow, and today on the train home from work I saw one in the wild for the first time.It was a sight to see someone in their best hipster jumper sip from a bottle of Buckfast while braying at his equally repellent friend brayed back at him. Fortunately I had to get off before I threw up my pelvis but seriously, if you’re ‘ironically’ drinking Buckfast then you’re just a bit of a dick. I can just about tolerate all the other bits of wankiness, but this whole ‘let’s play at being poor’ shtick is a game for pricks.

Next time I get sniffy at people who stand around by entrances looking lost while blocking the way in/out. Grrrrr…..

For a revolution to succeed it needs to be more fun than the alternative

There’s lots of people saying their piece on the Scottish Independence movement’s civil war with some wise comments, and in the case of Ross Greer of the Greens, some less than wise comments. Even Greer makes good points but it strikes me as more like someone demanding an ideological purity in the Yes Movement with all this talks of people being ‘cast out‘ and the demonisation of ‘older white men‘ than someone writing a piece asking for this civil war to end.Greer points at others with snobbish glee and doesn’t seem to realise that in doing so he’s given the opponents of independence exactly what they want.

And then there’s no sign of this dispute ending…

Part of the problem is that there’s some on the left who see independence not just as something that needs to be done in a certain way, but that they should be at the centre of it. Or to quote Orwell, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents. I want independence because I want free of the confines of the British state to create a better, fairer country for everyone. I won’t get that if we don’t win independence and we won’t win independence if we’re busy trying to make it clear that only a certain type of independence is desirable. That won’t help anyone as it won’t happen.

I, like hundreds of thousands of independence supporters are frankly, fucked off with all of this when right now there’s a clear battle to be fought and people suffering. Now,I’m not suggesting people like each other but perhaps people could put aside their own career prospects and dump the faux purity for the battle we’re in? We don’t fight as one we’ll never get anywhere and frankly for a revolution to succeed it needs to be more fun than the alternative, and right now the independence movement isn’t fun but some are offering sage advice.

Fact is the Unionists love this. They’re the only one’s who benefit from this, barring of course, the occasional media career of some fighting to show themselves more pure than anyone else. So I think people need to ask what they’re doing here. Do they really want self-determination and a better place, or do they just want to endlessly whine while allowing the real bastards to get away with what they’re doing to people right now?

Sean Young’s Making of Dune

Another David Lynch related blog but this one is pretty short and sweet. Sean Young was one of the stars of Lynch’s Dune, Lynch’s only real ‘failure’ but I film I highly regard as something unlike any other science fiction film of the time, or indeed, since. It doesn’t quite work but it is less turgid than the book which I’ve never, ever liked however it does create a future which is utterly alien and familiar at the same time.

Turns out Young had a Super 8 camera with her and here’s a brief video of her home movies from behind the scenes filming Dune. Enjoy.

Is a monopoly on comics distrbution in the UK a good thing?

‘Geek’ culture is an a zenith right now with comics now seen all over the place, but back in the distant days of the 1980’s things were different. Comics were still very much a minority medium, and the comic book a niche product for mainly children and collectors; however by the late 80’s the seeds of today’s ‘Geek’ culture were sown when the UK’s direct market exploded after the boom created by work such as Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, and in the run-up to Tim Burton’s Batman film, the industry hit what was considered by some at the time, as a peak.

Before I go on it is best to explain things in a bit more detail which may get a wee bit dry so stick with me here. The direct market in the UK took years to build up as comic shops slowly appeared (albeit normally as parts of a wider SF/fantasy bookshop) during the 1970’s in cities like London, Bristol and Edinburgh. In the early 1980’s comic shops started to really spring up with the growth of the American direct market, thanks partly to Titan Distributors ensuring there was a distributor of American comics based in the UK. In the mid-1980’s a number of competitors to Titan sprung up so there was nothing like the monopoly we have today where you only get your new comics via Diamond Comic Distributors.

American distributors like Bud Plant and Mile High dabbled with direct distribution to UK shops, but the issue was one of logistics. It wasn’t til American distributor Glenwood Distributing started air-freighting comics direct from the printers that it became possible to consider actually beating Titan at their game as they just relied mainly on sea-freight, or shipping comics from a third party outwith the printer. For the UK this meant that from 1985 onwards there were a number of distributors pushing to break Titan’s grip on what was a growing market in the UK, however it was Neptune Distribution run by Geoff Fry based in Leicester that broke the deadlock. As an ex-employee I go into details of Neptune’s history here, so go read those blogs for a more in-depth history of Neptune’s rise and fall, but what is important here is that by 1987 Neptune were knocking great big chunks out of Titan’s grip on the UK market.

Here’s where I get to something that’s a tad controversial. Titan and Forbidden Planet were linked by having the same owners in Mike Lake and Nick Landau creating an obvious conflict of interest. After all,how do you stop a distributor delivering to your customer base first potentially taking more business away from your company? Simple solution; start expanding the Forbidden Planet chain. This ended up causing a battled between Neptune and Titan that I outlined here. Then the editorial below was published in Fantasy Advertiser, published by Neptune and sold in Forbidden Planet. This was written solely by Geoff Fry but to this day I stand by the jist of it.

neptune-conflict-of-interest

When Mike Lake apparently read this in FP’s store then in New Oxford Street, apparently he went off his head with rage because this one editorial nailed the problem with having a distributor also acting as a retailer. They could use what should be confidential information to buy a business advantage in an area and they could unfairly compete with other shops by offering prices at wholesale prices (this happened when FP opened in Bristol in 1993) ensuring they undercut the competition. It should also be pointed out that publishers were not aware of this conflict of interest. I know of at least three retailers who pointed out to people from DC and Marvel what was going on, including one case where Mike Lake was asked to leave a DC retailers meeting when it was pointed out he also represented a distributor.

As I’ve outlined in my blogs Neptune did what it could to try to level the playing field but after Neptune’s implosion and subsequent purchase by Diamond the UK market started to be, frankly, less diversified than it is now to the point of being less adventurous. The reason for this is simple. Once Titan/FP had its hands round the neck of the market it squeezed so smaller titles that they or ourselves at Neptune may have taken on were dropped. Some shops also couldn’t compete with having a wholesaler who also acted as their main competitor which led to shops closing across the UK in the 90’s which to be fair wasn’t just the fault of FP/Titan as the speculator bubble of the 90’s burst taking a lot of people and businesses with it. In 1992 after swallowing up the corpse of Neptune, Diamond bought out Titan leaving the UK market to be served by one distributor deciding what they stock which in effect unnaturally shapes the market in the same way that say, having Virgin Trains running a train network on the basis of profit unnaturally shapes the market.

The title of this blog asks if a monopoly on comics distribution a good thing? It clearly isn’t. We’ve seen an industry grow beyond belief in the last decade with ‘geek’ culture being smeared everywhere yet the retail market in the UK has been shaped in the most unnatural way to barely any yelp from most of the so-called ‘journalists’ of the British comics scene who are more interested in self-progression so for decades have let this rotting sore in the industry fester. True, one or two have touched on this in the past and the Forbidden Planet situation but it remains one of those things that folk like me talk about in bars and coffee shops with others of our generation wistfully wondering why it all went so wrong when it could have went so right.

For me a more diverse, interesting industry comes with wholesalers who will play fair let alone taking risks as we’re now in a state where the Diamond catalogue is a minefield of variant covers and tedious new superhero comics with little new or exciting because once a monopoly is secure you can do anything. Yes, shops like Page 45 in Nottingham and Gosh! in London do what they can to show the comics industry is a diverse thing, but while there’s only one distributor we have a situation where any diversity is hard to find and if you’re a small press publisher then it can be a struggle to be discovered. Although digital helps for some, it doesn’t for most which means for new British talent it’s either hoping 2000AD accept you, or but some stroke of talent/luck your comic finds a market because as sure as shit isn’t likely that Diamond will distribute your book or FP will bother to stock it.

It’s impossible to turn back the clock but it is possible for the future to be changed. How that changes depends on what we all do as fans if we’re fed up of a monolithic monopoly controlling distribution. I’m not offering solutions here, but consider this a call for people to consider what’s best for the future as at some point this bubble is going to burst as all bubbles do and for our industry to remain interesting and diverse we need to shake the system up in a way that shifts power from the large corporations to the independent retailers, the creators and the fans or the future is bland, boring and fucked.