Götterdämmerung

In Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Götterdämmerung, is the final act. It means ‘Twilight of the Gods’. That’s relevant because on Saturday morning I went through to Edinburgh and the news-stands were full of papers heaving with the threat of war, in particular the nuclear kind, or the realisation one gets at 8am in the morning when your brain processes the reality of what’s going on which is something like this train of thought; ‘ohmyfuckinggodtheresaloonintheWhitehousewhomightactuallyfuckingdoit!’ . Or to put it more succinctly…

So what the fuck is going on? Is Donald Trump mad enough to actually use nuclear weapons and will North Korea be mad enough to push a madman far enough to do it? Will Putin step in and what about the wave of far right authoritarians in Europe from Erdoğan in Turkey through to Le Pen in France and Farage and May here in the UK?  Where does Brexit fit into what’s going on? Is there a grassy knoll I can hide behind?

It does feel like it’s either a massive series of unconnected events which makes me a paranoid conspiracy theorist (which means I should move into a basement somewhere and live in my own filth) or there’s a load of stuff going on and various people/groups are taking advantage of what is a breakdown of the old social and economic order which has placed us in a time of chaos. So a twilight of the old ways as it were. Whatever is going on one thing is clear; we’re living in a future dystopia that if this had been written about in the 90’s would have been dismissed as bollocks. Trump in the Whitehouse? Aye, right. UKIP a powerful force? Oh fuck off. The far right on the rise across Europe? Oh fuck…

As future dystopias go this is more the 1984 type than the Threads type, but it doesn’t seem it’ll take much to push it towards that which as someone who lived through the 1980’s scares the crap out of me. See, we went to sleep with nightmares of nuclear wars which bled into every aspect of 80’s culture from film to comics to music which at times was positively Wagnerian in its scope.

We’re never going to grasp what’s going on because everything is just too huge and our minds aren’t built to process the scale of it in the same way that we can never see the entirely of a fractal shape or all of our life at once. We can only pick and choose what it is we want to see and how we want to interpret it, but either consciously or unconsciously we dismiss the scale of what we’re looking at. The reason I’m probably more scared now than I was in the 80’s is there’s too many wild cards out there and there’s a lunatic in the Whitehouse, the Kremlin, North Korea and smaller (but no less worrying) lunatics across the world, including our own Theresa May, who are driven by ideology, faith and an uncritical way of thinking. Reagan and Gorbachev look like giants compared to these people who seem to be intent on taking us down a path where we end up in caves drinking our own urine as it’s the least radioactive liquid available.

This is an unstable time where we’re governed/ruled by unstable people influenced by populist, hard/far right religious views from all the faiths you’d like to imagine.If this is the twilight of an age then lets make it the end of these people rather than us or democracy. We have to ensure things like Brexit, and people like Trump and Putin don’t walk us into the end unchallenged. We’re in a fight and it won’t be nice, easy or simple and it will involve many on the left, especially the liberal-left pulling themselves out of their echo chambers too. Because the stakes here are massive and quite frankly I’m not keen in spending my remaining decades on this planet living in fear of what may happen if one of these lunatics goes that step too far that takes us beyond the twilight and into the night.

A word about the Edinburgh Comic Con 2017

Last weekend I did my first comic con/mart in Scotland since 1994 at the Barrowlands in Glasgow, and even though I broke even, not to mention even made a bit of cash, my opinion of the Scottish comic convention scene was a tad tainted after the clownshow of the Barrowlands event.

This weekend is the 2017 Edinburgh Comic Con. Friends told me that last year the event had several thousand people and that as a show, it was actually fun, something most conventions/marts aren’t these days.Now my impression of the Edinburgh comics scene is somewhat tainted by the memory of several attempts in the 80’s and early 90’s to get events going there which ranged from stillborn to disaster.

So myself and a couple of friends left Glasgow Queen Street station (another first, as the last time I travelled from Queen Street was 20 years ago, and it’s also the last place in Scotland I threw up in a public place) at around 8.30am on a Saturday morning which is a time where Queen Street is one of the few places in Glasgow showing any signs of life. After a short, painless trip (last time I went on the train around three months ago I was in agony as my stroke recovery/slipped disc meant I was in agony) to Edinburgh Haymarket we disembarked, and headed towards the Edinburgh International Conference Centre; one of the better conference centres I’ve been in over the years. Remembering the last time I was in this part of Edinburgh it was 1987 and it was quite literally something from an Irvine Welsh book, I was a tad shocked by how obviously affluent this part of Edinburgh now is. Maybe it’s because I’ve become accustomed to the relative poverty of Dennistoun, but this was like stepping into a much, much colder and windier Bristol.

Anyhow after a wee walk up the hill seeing cosplayers walk past us dressed as Spider-Men, stormtroopers and countless Harley Quinn’s, we joined a smallish queue around 9.30ism. We then realised there was another queue for early entry advance sales and that the ‘small queue’ we joined was now a long queue snaking round the corner of building and way, way back. Upon entering it was clear the venue was rammed, and we quickly entered into a very large hall full of stuff.

This was one of the more recent type of show based upon the San Diego/American comic con concept as opposed to the old school type of con where everything would be split up, or in the UK, would circle round the bar. As bottle of beer were a fiver here the bar was less than a focus, plus the fact there were so many kids with their families meant there weren’t many drunk creators/fans walking around.There was however thousands of people. So much so that my attempts to scout comics dealers, as well as buy cheap stock for my own business, meant it took me nearly three hours to see everything I wanted to.

In fact here’s a picture of the show at around 2pm, four hours after opening.

That’s from the ‘artists alley” entrance and as you can see there’s still a healthy number of people circulating in a hall that’s pretty huge. I couldn’t get the space to stand where I took this picture until around 2pm because it was constantly rammed.

I hooked up with John McShane and Steve Montgomery for a mini AKA Books and Comics reunion cup of tea (we are getting old) and a wee chat about the various comics we all bought (a nice old Charlton E-Man and some Adrian Tomine books in my case) before eventually I headed off back to Glasgow having had a perfectly cracking day out at a show I had low expectations for but left knowing that I have to get myself in there in the dealers room next year as all the comics dealers (bar one, but they’d priced comics on the back and were overpriced)  ranged from a few punters to being so busy it took me hours to get near enough to get a good shufty at their stuff. Some of the other stalls featured some good stuff as I picked up a few mini-comics from Neil Slorrance’s stall, and among the toys and merchandise there were a few people selling art. This ranged from being alright, to simply appalling and I wondered how on earth some people had the gall to sell what was piss-poor work.This is something that niggles me but right now there’s nothing I can offer as an alternative quite just yet…

All in all the show was well run, friendly, well-lit, clean and had a good cross-section of the ‘Geek Scene’ (I despise that expression and use it only under duress) of today though it had a clear and straight focus on comics which from my point of view was perfect. I could only manage the one day but as a two-day event this seems to be a case where good advertising, a decent guest line-up, and just making an effort paid off as I’m hearing today is nearly as busy as yesterday. This is what a modern comic convention should look like. Yes, I do long for the days where British cons were all about the bar, getting drunk, buying some great comics and meeting mates. With the cosplay element, as well as the increase of families some of the old drunken fun is gone but a new audience is coming through with an enthusiasm for comics that I knew was there. With Scotland also being a tad isolated due to geography it means these events will bring the crowds, if done right.

Next year I’ll be back and I hope to be selling this bright, young crowd all the comics (and other stuff) they didn’t even know they needed…

Do Marvel have a diversity problem?

Marvel vice-president David Gabriel recently said that Marvel Comics are suffering a sales slump due to the fact they now publish a diverse line of comics featuring people of all sexes, races and ages. As this Vox piece says, the truth is somewhat more complex but that was lost in the outrage from all sides when this story broke into the mainstream from the comics ghetto.

What do we mean by ‘diversity’ though? Well, this is the Marvel Universe in the 1970’s into the 1980’s.

Here’s a poster of the Avengers in the 90’s.

To put it bluntly the Marvel Universe is a white one.  Sure there’s the odd green skinned hero and blue mutant but black characters, or anyone non-white, are thin on the ground. In short it doesn’t reflect the world of today and that’s a problem if you want to pitch to as wide an audience as Marvel did in the 60’s.

The Marvel Universe today is better. There’s Ms Marvel, Moon Girl and a load of other characters that expands what the Marvel superhero universe is and many of these characters are in decent to good books, but for people like Gabriel the sales figures are what’s important and they don’t add up.Which brings me to the point that this isn’t an issue for comics as a medium, but the superhero genre which may have had over the last decade undreamed of exposure, but that’s never translated to sales.

This Cracked article touches on some of the reasons why this is the case. Some of it will be painful reading as the point that Marvel can say ”we have an <insert minority here> character! Why are you moaning!?’ is going to resonate. For years Marvel did this with the Black Panther before they actually started creating other black characters but even then that was mainly to cash in on the 1970’s Blaxploitation craze.For me though the issue is accessibility. There’s no point coming up with say, a Muslim Ms Marvel if you’re rebooting the series with a new number one every other year, and your entire superhero universe has a massive crossover event once a year. People may have more disposable income in 2017 but people have limits.

If you want to have read all of 2016’s Civil War II with all the crossovers then with titles priced at $2.99 to $3.99 (or for the UK, somewhere between £2.00 and £3.50) then you’re paying hundreds to keep up with an event where to be blunt, most of the series is shite. You may pick up a few issues but finances and tedium dictate that you bin the rest so you leave only the hardcore fans to carry on. Which is another point as if Marvel pander only to the core fan (as DC Comics are doing) then they’ll never grow and develop to take advantage of the fact their films are making billions having been seen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

So the hard facts are that Marvel are the creators of their own problems. Yes, it’s a tough market but making it harder for readers doesn’t help so it isn’t a case that Marvel has a diversity problem which causes them sales, it has a problem with making easily accessible comics for all ages. Until it gets to grips with that and at the same time it stops pandering to a decreasing, ageing core then it won’t be picking up the readers it could, and indeed, should.

UKIP voters fight for the right to bum dogs

In a YouGov poll a quarter of UKIP voters support the idea of having sex with a dog. I’ll let you digest that for a second.

SNP and Lib Dems are the least inclined to look at an Alsation and think ‘hmm, sexy’. UKIP voters are the most likely to look at a pug and think ‘I want that slobbering on my hard Brexit’. Tory voters are only slightly less turned on by a Great Dane than a UKIP voter while overall a quarter of voters would like to lay into a Labrador which is terrifying. Next time you go to vote, have a look at everyone else there as a quarter of them would like to indulge in bestiality.

I guess they’ve gone to the dogs…

Ruth Davidson defends the ‘rape clause’

Since moving back to Scotland I’ve been subjected to the full-on Ruth Davidson (Scottish Tory leader) experience. This is a typical piece of jolity from Davidson’s well-oiled media machine.

Ruth Davidson is being presented as the soft, cuddly version of Toryism. She’s the Tory you think may be alright. She’s just a jolly person. Look, she’s on Have I Got News For You so she can’t be all bad right? Davidson is, as said, a Tory that sits at the right hand of Theresa May.

This brings me to a despicable piece of legislation called ‘the rape clause’. Here’s MP Alison Thewlis making clear what it is the Tories have made law.

We think the policy on limiting tax credits to the first two children is appalling and tantamount to social engineering, but to put a woman who has been raped in a position where she needs to declare that to a government official is just abhorrent. This also stigmatises the child involved, which is surely against the UN convention on the rights of the child.

The Tories have been playing down this policy since it was made law last week but with the local elections weeks away it is worth realising that when they say in Scotland that they want to ‘get on with it’ it means stuff like this.

Ruth Davidson has been mysteriously quiet on defending the clause which is most unlike her but today she Tweeted this.

The spokesman’s comments can be found here.

Davidson is hiding behind a spokesman, failing to make any personal defence of it as somewhere deep down there’s a realisation the thing is indefensible but as a Tory, she’ll defend it. This is the reality of the Tories, even ones with fluffy media profiles, that if you scratch the surface it won’t take much to find out what they really are and what they really stand for.

So vote Tory in May if you support putting rape victims through hell. That’s what they stand for and this is the vision of the future that Ruth Davidson wants for all of us.

So I take my good fortune…

The weekend just gone I had a table at the Glasgow Sci Fi, Cosplay and Comics con at the Barrowlands in Glasgow. I worked out this was the first comics related show I’ve done in Glasgow since the 1994 GLASCAC and the first one I’ve done since 2015, the first one on my own since 1991 and the first one since my stroke and cancer diagnosis. It was also the first time I’ve been in the Barrowlands since seeing The Pogues in December 1987. That’s a lot of firsts for an event which frankly, was shite but provided me with as many positives as negatives.

Firstly this was a last minute decision just over a fortnight ago so it took me two weeks to get my stock together instead of spending a few months doing it so I start in the summer/autumn proper I’ve done the hard work now and thanks to the weekend I’ve learned about the differences in the Glasgow market as opposed to the Bristol/London market. I now know what I need to do, what I need to buy to have stock which nobody else here in Scotland has (at the right price) and what I need to do to diversify so I don’t just grab comics fans.I haven’t found out everything yet but I will sooner than later hopefully.

As for the Barrowlands show it was a poorly advertised event which rather than bringing in the projected thousands, brought in (and I’ll be nice here) around 500 tops. Most of them were cosplayers who on the whole, don’t spend money on comics, and indeed, from the complaints of fellow stall holders, don’t spend money on anything. Still, come Saturday morning I was set up in the iconic Barrowlands (which looks more or less as it did when I was last in it in 1987) ready for the hordes to flow in!

Here’s the version with added roll and square sausage being digested.

So, the doors opened and trickle of punters came in. Now I’d brought a load of recent stuff, DC Rebirth, Marvel, variants, Walking Dead and any Harley Quinn I could get my hands on. On top of that I’d brought a load of cheapish Silver and Bronze Age which I thought would barely shift. Oh how wrong I was as the first customer bought so much Silver Age that he nearly paid for the table costs. ”Happy days’ I thought as if this was the start then this would be a cracker. Sadly it was a blip. Yeah, a few decent deals happened but the Barrowlands is a club/venue. It is dark. We were in a dark corner and the organisers had failed to lay on additional lighting.Effectively customers were reduced to blind men trying to find a snowball in a snowstorm.

Sunday saw the same problem even though many traders had pointed it out so some harsh words by myself finally saw some light on the Sunday which helped.but when there were so few customers there it was essentially a tactic of Corbyn-like proportions.

Around 25 years ago while I was working at the not-even-remotely iconic Comics and C.D’s in Bristol we did a show on a bank holiday Monday in Milton Keynes. It is by far the benchmark of ‘worst events ever’. We still managed to walk out of that in profit because all the traders walked rather than pay for their tables. This wasn’t that bad but the thought of demanding table money back crossed the minds of several traders this weekend judging by the looks of some very ashen-faced folk on Sunday afternoon.

Still, it was fun. This time last year I was wondering if I’d still be alive in a month’s time. Now I’m looking at display units, premises and taking someone on as a permanent helper/driver. I’ve done some networking, refined some ideas and hell, I’m even venturing to Edinburgh at the weekend to do some investigating. From thinking of what coffins I’d look good in to whether I’ve got enough Harley Quinn comics in less than a year…

Would I do another show by the same organisers in the Barrowlands? No chance. I now need to sit down with a list of shows in Central Scotland, work out what I would like to (and can) do, then take it from there. It was a dip in the water. Next time I’ll go up to the knees and see if I can rely on more than good fortune to hake it all worthwhile…

Comics fans in Glasgow; come and give me all your money this weekend!

A few weeks ago I mentioned that after a long, long time I was heading back into the world of comics? Well, this weekend I’ll be trading at the Glasgow Sci Fi, Cosplay and Comic Con http://www.glasgowscc.co.uk/at the iconic Barrowlands in Glasgow.

I’ll be having a selection of lovely comics from the 1950’s to today, including variant covers. Lots of pointless variant covers but hey, the kids love them!

So what am I calling myself? Well, Companies House has issues with me digging up the AKA Books and Comics name and I don’t really want to spend more than the £12 it’s cost me to make a limited company to untangle that mess. Then I had a brainwave, realised that hurt too much and remembered another bit of my past which (cutting a long story short) leads to the answer.

Welcome to Neptune Comics and Books.

Yeah, I got me a logo and everything!

So, this weekend Glasgow folk, even from outwith of Glasgow, come to the Barrowlands, see some cosplay, see some guests and mainly, spend some money with me and get yourself some rather splendid comics…

What I thought of Providence #12

Thoughts about #1#2#3,#4#5#6#7#8, #9, #10 and #11.

Finally. The last issue of Providence. It seems like a lifetime since this series started but we’ve reached an ending and what sort of ending do we have? Well, it starts in the present day with people discussing the work of Robert Black.

Events here take place after Moore’s previous Lovecraft work, Neonomicon, and here it seems a Lovecraftian hell has enveloped the world as the FBI try to solve the mystery outside their window. I will say that if you’ve not read Neonomicon then do so now because you’ll be utterly lost.

This world is a dark place though Black’s book may well be a guide to getting out of it.

Moore handily drops in some exposition for readers to explain what’s happened just in case you’ve missed it by now, and in fact much of the early part of this issue is establishing what’s passed so we can understand what’s happening in the now of the comic’s timeline.

Once at Miskatonic University we see the madness that’s been unleashed.

Dreams have melted into our world not to mention a nativity is about to happen.

As said, you really need to have read Neonomicon because if you haven’t by this part of Providence #12 you may as well cut the grass or paint the ceiling.

There’s an ending here to all of Moore’s Lovecraft-inspired work for Avatar that leaves it hard to see where it could go next as things are pretty final here. It’s a bleak, sad ending that’s also rewarding as the only ending that could work and be faithful to Lovecraft’s work is something as painfully bleak as this.

Overall Providence isn’t Moore’s best work as being tied to the (in my eyes) poor Neonomicon holds it back from becoming a truly great Moore work but this is definitely in the second tier and now completed, may well improve that rating when I get round to read it in a single sitting with the rest of Moore’s Lovecraft work. This work has made me learn more about Lovecraft and even Moore himself as this is a work that reveals much of how Moore sees creative fiction, even reality itself. This is a work to reflect upon and you really don’t get that much in comics these days…

Theresa May fights the War on Easter

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has taken her time out of her busy trip selling arms to Saudi Arabia to comment on the frankly astonishing story that the National Trust have axed the word ”Easter” from their annual egg hunt. Disgraceful you may say. ”Islamisation” you may drool. It’d certainly at least be odd.

If it was real of course. It isn’t.

eastermay

 

On Cadbury’s website the word ‘Easter’ is everywhere. The campaign people are being offended by is just part of a larger campaign and anyone spending more than a second looking into this would find this out.

Now Theresa May could have said ‘no comment’. She could have laughed it off. She could have said ”I’ll look into it” and find out the truth. No, she said;

“I’m not just a vicar’s daughter, I’m a member of the National Trust as well,” she told ITV during a visit to Amman, Jordan. “I think the stance they have taken is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know what they are thinking about frankly.”

This is the Prime Minister getting outraged about a non-story in a country where human rights abuse are insanely numerous. This frankly is insane. She’s in a country where if you tried to celebrate Easter you’d be imprisoned or worse and she’s jumped blindly onto a argument generated by far right commentators who’d get offended at anything.

Consider this; if May jumps blindly into this fairly trivial piece of bullshit, imagine what else she blindly jumps into without thinking?

Do the middle class hate the poor?

Being signed off work recovering from a stroke and cancer means long periods of staring at the internet for some enlightenment to pass the hours of unrelentless tedium. The other day I came across an article on Cracked which in amongst the clickbait often prints some superb stuff. This one was entitled ”5 reasons why the middle class doesn’t understand poverty”. It used to be called ‘5 ways the middle class are taught to despise the poor” which was a tad harsh, but then again truth often is.

It’s a fascinating read as this is an American perspective yet it is as much relevant to the UK as it is across the Atlantic so take point 5;

We’re Constantly Told That “Money Can’t Buy Happiness”

If you’re poor you’re told that money isn’t the cure for all your problems. It isn’t, but if you’re sitting on a tenner for a fortnight it’ll certainly make a lot of your problems go away, and then you’ll be happier. As we live in a capitalist society this is what we have to do, and if you’re middle class you maybe aspire to climb the social ladder but you really don’t want to be poor. There’s a sense of entitlement in being middle class for some, and if you end up poor you may well end up saying it wasn’t meant to be like that.

Yet if you’re middle class you get to define what poverty is to you.You get called ‘‘JAMS’‘ by political party leaders You’re still listened to. If you’re poor, I mean, really poor, you won’t be heard and most politicians couldn’t care less about you. Sure, Nigel Farage says he cares for the common man but this is someone who at first opportunity took his chance to sit in front of Donald Trump in a golden throne and weld himself to his anal sphincter. After all people like Farage didn’t get where he is today by doing ”menial” work!

Which brings me to the next point…

We’re Taught To Associate Low-Paying Jobs With Failure

Look how many times you hear people sneer about ‘shelf stackers”? I’ve done it. You’ve done it. I looked up a job at Tesco’s here in Glasgow and looked at the hours. They suck. You do a job like this, you lose control. Your life is in the hands of the company you work for. No cheap last minute holidays in Paris or New York. No sneaky weekends in the country. You have to work, and anyhow, you won’t be able to afford to do anything anymore glamorous than a bottle or seven of WKD at your local neon clad bar.

If you’re in a job that doesn’t pay well and just about keeps food in your stomach and a roof over your head you’re struggling. But you’re in a ‘menial’ job. You stack shelves!! You pack lorries!! Can’t you do something productive like being a ‘content provider’?

Fact is we need supermarket shelves stacked. We need lorries to be packed. These aren’t ‘menial’ jobs but vitally important and in fact, there’s a very good argument that jobs like ‘content providers’ are in themselves, not just needless, but actually menial but if your family has bought you an education you take things for granted.

There Are Always Certain Things We Take For Granted

I once worked with a girl who had never paid for her own bills in her life. Her dad paid for everything. She took everything for granted and never worried about say, deciding whether to eat or pay that bill sitting on the bed that needed to be paid a month ago.

Then again the problem is that in 2017 communities are no longer as mixed as they once were. Or as Cracked says.

We Don’t Witness Poverty, So We Don’t Understand It

I recently moved back to Glasgow from Bristol to recuperate from illness. I went to a part of the city for physio back in January and was shocked by the level of poverty I saw. I’d been so long away from this level of poverty that I’d forgotten that it existed, and in fact, my own personal definition of poverty was redefined.

See the class structure used to be like this.

Now it’s more like this.

Unless you see the bottom end of the chain you’ve no idea what it’s like. You want to be near the top and you don’t want to take too much shit as after all, that’s for further down the line to do.

It’s harsh but unless we understand poverty we can’t fight it. It becomes then an abstract concept that can be shifted depending upon whoever’s single definition of poverty is. It’s why government redefine the meaning of poverty as after all, if people are born near the bottom it’s in the interests of the traditional left (Labour) to keep them there (with maybe some tinkering at the edges to make it look as if they care) in order to keep promising the world. If you’re the traditional right (Tory) then you don’t give a fuck.

So we have the sight of politicians arguing whether people are poor because they’re ”just about managing” while millions aren’t managing but for many of us we’re the victims which brings me to Cracked’s last point.

We’re Taught To See Ourselves As The Victims

We all do this. Empathy is hard. Understanding is hard. It takes time, energy and selflessness to understand and empathise with people. Remember the EU referendum last year? Remember all those people with pretty decent lives moaning about how the ‘EU was crushing them’ who are now probably moaning about not getting as much for their Sterling when they go for their overseas holiday? Yup, they thought themselves as victims because it’s easy.  If you’re brought up with a sense of entitlement and in effect, your own echo chamber within your own class you can imagine going up but down? Nah. You’re the one being penalised because you’ve got two cars, or having to cut holidays per year to two is terrible and politicians see that, sense votes and swim in for the kill.

Do the middle class as a mass hate the poor? No, they don’t. Many can empathise and many do understand, but a large section do and worse, people who have climbed up the centipede have pulled things up behind them so they hate what they’ve left behind. With Brexit coming up many people may well find themselves slipping down the chain as things implode, but the fact is in the days, weeks and months ahead people are going to have to do some serious soul searching to work out what to do and that will mean attitudes will have to change. If they don’t then most of us will be at the end of a human centipede being fed the shit from those wealthy enough to ride out what’s coming.