Remember Cyborg and Muton?

Back in the 1970’s Action Man still ruled the hearts and minds of boys all over the UK, and in the mid-1970s the only other real contender for the crown were the range of Mego action figures. I loved both as a kid but the other day I was tidying up my Ebay sales/purchases and stumbled down a rabbit hole to rediscover Cyborg and Muton action figures.

Produced by Denys Fisher based off a set of Japanese toys which in themselves were Japanese offshoots of the fantastic Captain Action figure of the 60s. Released to a pre-Star Wars crowd, the backstory for the set of toys was wonderfully dark even for those Cold War days of constantly worrying about nuclear doom.

The figures featured interchangeable limbs, as well as vehicles, and they looked like nothing on earth having been adapted from Japan which at that point, was still a relatively alien culture to Westerners.Had Denys Fisher used the toys as they were in Japan it’d have been a lot weirder for kids.

The toys didn’t do well, partly because that larger size action figure was relatively expensive and secondly Star Wars ruled all. Once that film came out nothing could stop it and it’s sales of merchandise outweighed all others so Cyborg, Muton and the lesser known third figure, Android, were swept away to become barely remember things of nostalgia in the 21st century.

There was a legacy. The figures were shrunk and renamed the Micronauts but that’s a whole other story…

Advertisements

RIP Norm Breyfogle

The definitive Batman artists on the late 80’s and most of the 90’s, Norm Breyfogle, has sadly passed away at 58. Norm was one of those Batman artists who pop up every decade to redefine the character and indeed, if you’re around 30-40 and started reading comics as a kid then Breyfogle’s Batman is probably the first version you saw.

I loved Breyfogle’s work. It dropped at a time when DC Comics took risks, even with their prize cash cow Batman, who at that point in the late 80’s with the first Tim Burton Batman film was enjoying success like never before so dropping Breyfogle as the main artist in Detective Comics, DC’s secondary Batman title then written by Alan Grant and John Wagner was a comfortable mix of the old and new as Breyfogle took inspiration from the likes of Neal Adams, Carmine Infantino, Nick Cardy, and then newer artists like Alan Davis and Todd McFarlane, but quickly developed a style purely his.

Throughout the 90’s Breyfogle made Batman his own, and with Alan Grant they carved the last great version of Batman before the character turned into someone who could do anything, beat anyone and the idea of a detective fighting evil in his city slipped away.

With writer Alan Brennert he drew Batman: Holy Terror, an alternative version of the Batman myth where Bruce Wayne has been brought up within the church in a story which published today would probably cause merry hell. In fact I doubt with America swinging so far to the right that a company like DC would even commission this.

Breyfogle went to great heights in the 90’s and it’s forgotten he was one of Malibu’s Big Star Names when they launched the Ultraverse with his own title, Prime, being one of the flagship titles.

In the 2000’s things changed. DC sacked Alan Grant from the Batman titles while Breyfogle’s art didn’t fit a DC establishing a house style and a changing editorial structure which Grant in particular was a severe critic of. This left Breyfogle in some barren times before in 2014 he suffered a stroke and was left crushed upon the rocks of the American healthcare system.

After I had my own stroke I chatted with Norm a few times on social media and did my own wee thing to raise his plight but from conversations it was clear a mix of worry about finances and post-stroke pain (something that without painkillers leaves you in constant chronic pain when it hits) but there was always humour and a will to do better. Sadly he’s no longer around to spread his humour and at 58 left the world far, far too early. He leaves behind a body of work I hope is reappraised as be some of the very best superhero work of the last 25 years, and I hope that his death highlights the problems comics professionals have with working without a safety net, especially in a country like America. If anything that may mean no other professional has to struggle as Breyfogle did and that’s a good way to remember a man who gave so much to the industry.

The needed return of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared

I’ve mentioned before that the web-series Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, is a work of genius from Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling. In fact I’d say it was the best piece of satire produced in the UK this decade and just miles ahead of most things produced on traditional television. Six short episodes and it’s done leaving behind hours and hours and hours of videos on YouTube trying hard to explain the series with varying levels of success.

Well, last week a trailer for a new series landed on YouTube and it is a thing of wonder.

There’s little to nothing known about the new episodes beyond a pretty sparse statement, however a trailer suggests new episodes are coming sooner than later. In the meantime go check out the existing six episodes and lap up the twisted glory of the series.

A quick word for Labour in Scotland

Labour’s leader in Scotland, Richard Leonard. is reminding everyone he still exists by coming out with a new policy of not just opposing a second independence referendum (not unusual and it’s entirely their right) but by the act of having this in the UK manifesto would mean a future Westminster Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn would block any second referendum. Of course this comes a few days after Corbyn had said he’d have no problems with a second referendum being held but who expects Westminster politicians to be consistent?

The problem is for Labour is that the Scottish Government has a mandate for a second referendum voted for by the people of Scotland, Holyrood and sitting there waiting to be used once we’re familiar with what Brexit looks like which right now looks like a mess.

So we have a UK Labour leader who will back self-determination anywhere on the planet, except Scotland, and his Scottish team leader blocking not just the will of the Scottish parliament but of the people themselves. Added to Corbyn’s obvious pro-Brexit credentials we have a situation where Labour are fighting on the same ground as The Tories in Scotland, which hasn’t done them any favours in the past but hey, Leonard thinks digging in is a smart idea when polls show Labour in Scotland to be back where they were prior to Corbyn partly because people are tired of them doing shite like this. It also places Labour in a position where they say whatever happens, Scotland is better off under a Tory government, even one as cruel and psychopathic as this one.That won’t wash with former voters, or the younger voter attracted to Corbynism who supports independence and who are now realising that trusting diehard Unionists isn’t a smart idea.

In October we’re told that Nicola Sturgeon will make a statement as to what she’s going to do with this mandate now that Brexit is becoming clearer. The smart money is she’ll be pushing for a Section 30 order (the piece of legislation that makes a second referendum binding) which throws up a can of constitutional worms as the Tories will probably refuse it, so Labour need to be careful as to what side it chooses.

The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire

One of the threads of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 was of breaking the construct that is the UK in order to end, or at least damage, the UK’s vision of an unequal society held together by a network of Old Boy’s Networks, privilege, inequality, and of course, our network of tax havens which enable the wealthy to remain wealthy while pumping out money which should be paid in taxes so services collapse and austerity continues.

Indeed, since the end of the Second World War, the UK has ensured it remains at the centre of global tax evasion. As we prepare for Brexit (which will make things worse or better depending on what side of the divide you lie) here’s a splendid documentary directed and written by Michael Oswald which is fascinating and horrific at the same time as it goes from the end of empire, to the City of London and up to today where the UK’s elite ensure their wealth is secure thanks to a system both main Westminster parties have helped build over the decades.

This isn’t easy watching but it should be essential viewing for you to understand what happens in the UK just under the surface.

Where we all stand with Brexit

In the light of Theresa May realising that the position of the EU that they’ve been making perfectly clear since June 2016 and the cold, stark reality of her arrogance and failure hitting like a brick, mixed with Jeremy Corbyn’s complete failure to act as an opposition as Labour becoming a self-ingesting arse added to UKIP not even bothered to pretend they’re not a far right party and the far right as a whole waiting for Brexit Day like a five-year old waits for Father Christmas, the situation is, well, fucked.

We now face a ‘no deal’, which bluntly means if you’re poor, sick or vulnerable and can’t afford or don’t have a contingency plan then you’re going to suffer in a way that makes the last decade of austerity seem like a nice holiday.

Myself, I need a cocktail of drugs to live. If there is a lengthy disruption in the drug supply so I don’t get what I need for say, a month I’m likely to drop into a coma, assuming I’ve not had a stroke or worse in the meantime. If you’re a diabetic then after a month of no drugs you’re likely to be dead. At least we’ll avoid the food shortages or worse, the cheap disease ridden imports of meat we’re likely to get with a no deal Brexit so I’d look into vegetarianism assuming we get enough people to pick crops seeing as most immigrants that would have done that have left the UK because of the racism that’s openly flowing since June 2016.

Meanwhile psychopaths wait for the right time in Ireland, Gibraltar faces complete destruction of its economy and Scotland cannot bide its time much long for a second independence referendum. All because people in England, and specifically the Tory Party are bigoted cunts.

So we’re fucked. There may be a way out with Andy Wrightman’s court action that makes clear the ECJ can rule whether Article 50 can be revoked, but seeing as neither the leader of the Tories or Labour have shown any political will to push this avenue should tell us how fruitful that’ll be at a UK level. But here’s the thing. At some point all of this will find some form of resolution and those who caused it, or those who enabled it, and those who failed to do anything to stop it are going to be held culpable at least by history and all those lives decimated and destroyed will weigh upon them.

Til then we’re fucked.

Four years after Scotland fucked up

Four years ago the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the UK based upon a multitude of false promises, and in doing so Scotland lost all power it once had as no longer could it stand on its own but then the UK held the EU referendum where England and Wales voted to leave, while Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar voted to remain and now the Union stands ready to rip itself apart from its contradictions.

Barring the diehards, nobody pretended in 2014 things would be honey and unicorns upon independence, but the ability to shape Scotland’s future would be in the people of Scotland’s hands as opposed to whatever Tory or Labour PM who would see Scotland as votes and/or resources to exploit when they need to.Few expected a Tory victory in the 2015 General Election which meant few expected an EU referendum in 2016 and nobody expected us to be in the fucking disaster we’re in right now with Brexit looming and jobs, even lives at stake.

In short Scotland fucked up in 2014.

Some things were good. A creation of a genuine socially aware, progressive left wing grassroots movement which wasn’t hijacked by SWP types/snobbish lefties more interested in their own advancement/wankers was fantastic. Discovering the flaws in the media being another highlight. In fact much of the referendum campaign was artfully pinched by Corbyn’s Labour A Tory Party we can’t get rid of tha

But the last four years has been grim. A Tory Party we can’t get rid of and an official opposition too busy with cleansing itself to bother fighting the Tories, and of course Brexit which Corbyn clearly wants anyhow. So we’re left with Theresa May; a totally useless PM who sadly is the last thing standing against the far right of her party gaining control and power. Scotland lies in the middle of this all because four years ago it fucked up.

There is a mandate for a second independence referendum, and Nicola Sturgeon has been wise not to use it when it could have been easy to do so, but at some point this parliament it’ll need to be used and indeed, it could not just give Scotland a route out of the UK, but an end to Brexit itself in the aftermath.

What we have to do next is ensure we don’t fuck up ever again because the fact is Scotland votes to stay in the Union again and independence is over for generations.