If you have a Tory friend…

It’s been fashionable of late for folk to say they’d never have a Tory friend, and this has caused much outrage with Tories who can’t see why people wouldn’t want to be friends with the rape clause, Trident, austerity, supporting likes of themselves. I mean who hasn’t been monged to fuck on coke when you literally have the fate of millions in your over- privileged hands?

When one looks at a Jacob Rees-Mogg, Ruth Davidson, Boris Johnson, Ross Thompson, Michael Gove or Theresa May its easy to see inhuman monsters often hiding behind a carefully constructed media profile designed to hide what they really are, because they often are monsters. If this seems hyperbole, ask down your local foodbank or your disabled neighbour what they think of what the Tories have done. Contemptible people deserve all the contempt they deserve.

Yet there’s something wrong about people closing themselves off to those of the right who aren’t lunatics. The old social conservative types who still exist who don’t vote for the modern Tory Party, or indeed anyone that doesn’t derive from whatever form of political and idealogical purity drives you to fight potential allies or friends rather than the Tories. People need to be exposed to a variety of views and opinions, and sometimes you may be friends with people who have opinions different to yours or mine, but we should be able to talk to them without closing them off, climbing into safe spaces or failing to actually understand the basic rule in life that people think differently but they’re still people like all of us.

That said, there’s no excuse for extending the hand of decency to Tories. They gave that right up so it’s perfectly fine not to be friends with Tories, but not to just burying yourselves in your own personal echo chamber.

A view from the wanktrench

The writer David Quantick came up with the expression ‘wanktrench’ the other day.

It’s a wonderful expression for those people stuck hard in their echo chamber that it’s become a, well, wanktrench endlessly spouting wankery for whomever can be bothered listening. This seems to be the way society is going with people spouting wankery, increasing to cuntery from their muddy digital trenches, so there’s Lena Dunham talking wank,  Donald Trump talking nothing but advanced cuntery, and of course Brexit means we’ve got folk embedded in their sticky wanktrenches firing out volleys of wankery and cuntery  from Theresa May’s Brexit means Brexit, to Jeremy Corbyn’s jobs first Brexit to whatever racist wank the likes of Nigel Farage or Jacob Rees Mogg is pushing.

So be prepared for views from a wanktrench because we’re leaving the age of enlightenment for the age of wank and yes, I’m pissed off with it all.

55 years of Doctor Who

Doctor Who has been with us 55 years now and it’s in a place where its under attack from critics for having the first woman playing the Doctor in the shape of Jodie Whittaker, or it being to ”SJW”, and all the usual pish from bitter, sad incels but it is still the same programme it’s always been. It’s the Doctor having adventures in time and space with his/her companions.

Right now the programme is readjusting to the post Moffat era of overblown,needlessly complex storylines to the new Chris Chibnall era where each episode is a story unto itself. Effectively the programme has gone back to basics and although some of the scripts are frankly, shite, there’s some wonderful ideas being put of screen as the programme again (as the programme has done many a time over the last 55 years) finding its feet as it finds a new audience.

Doctor Who is a programme which has a loose formula and when it deviates too far, or becomes tired, it’ll revert to it before it finds its feet again and moves on. This is where we are now. Everyone seems to be waiting to see how things go before kicking (hopefully) up a gear to develop plots and ideas which won’t turn off Countryfile viewers while keeping fans, young and old, happy.

But as the programme aims towards pensionable age it persists onwards so happy birthday and here’s to another 55 years where people will be arguing whether a  radioactive mutant should play the Doctor or not.

RIP Nicolas Roeg

Nicolas Roeg, probably the best director the UK produced post WW2, has passed away and with him goes a type of film-maker that we’ll never see today. Roeg’s films were too arty and audiences today are too dumb or impatient and frankly, someone like Roeg would never be allowed to develop as he did.

Roeg made some of my favourite films, from the still bizarre Performance featuring a clearly fucked up Mick Jagger, through to the amazing Walkabout (and yes, Jenny Agutter is imprinted on my brain) and the weird, dreamy documentary Glastonbury Fayre, the story of the 1971 festival.

If he’d just made those thee films alone he’d be still a director of importance, but he then went on to direct Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, the criminally underrated Bad Timing as well as Insignificance, and The Witches.All of these films are astonishing but The Man Who Fell to Earth and Don’t Look Now  are works of sheer genius.

On top of that how many directors have a pop song about them? J.J Abrams eat your heart out!

With Roeg’s passing an era is over. His work remains and as a body of work it is remarkable but there’s going to be nothing else to add to it and that’s the tragedy when we lose unique creative people like Roeg. He’ll be missed greatly.

Thanksgiving

This week is when Americans celebrate the near genocide of indigenous people by eating too much, drinking shite beer and watching dull games of American Football before going out on Friday to rip each others lungs out as they try to get a cheap George Foreman grill on Black Friday.

Thanksgiving is an odd holiday looking at it from this side of the Atlantic. It’s basically a secular harvest festival adopted to be something else and celebrate the aforementioned near genocide of an entire set of people. But here we are and for good or bad, its influence lurks like the smell of rotting meat in the background.

So this is a good excuse to roll out Eli Roth’s excellent fake trailer for the Grindhouse film, and enjoy what is probably the best thing Roth has done.

The legacy of Stan Lee

Now that Stan Lee’s death has sunk in, the conversation turns to his legacy which considering that some of his obituaries are crediting him with the likes of Captain America, the time for this to be made clear is now.

The first thing to be said is that Lee’s position in comics is unquestioned. Without Lee, comics today would be very, very different and as for Marvel, they’d have went bust without Lee’s work in the 60’s. There also isn’t any question that Stan Lee helped create iconic characters now worth billions or that his dialogue helped sell Marvel Comics, or that he was a very nice man as anyone who met him can testify to.

No, the issue lies with ownership. Stan was always the publishers nephew and an exceptional companyman for Marvel even during the times he wasn’t welcome in the 90’s in the company he helped build.Stan claimed ownership of everything to the point where it became a joke in recent years.that Stan would have claimed credit for the Bible if he was around.

The issue of ownership is important because  while Stan was alive he never gave people like Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko the credit they deserved. Sure, he’d give them credit for being great artists but never actually the credit they wanted, and because when Stan was interviewed especially after the 70s, it’d be no more than a promo film for Stan/Marvel, journalism failed. Except one time when Jonathan Ross interviewed him.

One of the reasons Lee’s claims to have essentially thought all the Marvel characters up and then gave them to an artist to fill out is nonsense, is partly because we can look at Lee’s post and pre peak-Marvel output and see how thin it is creatively. She-Hulk amounts to Lee’s one lasting post Jack Kirby/Ditko/etc creation. The main reason is the weight of evidence from not only co-creators but those staff who worked at Marvel, not to mention artists who came in after the peak 63-66 period of Marvel.

The site Comic Book Historians has an excellent listing of Stan’s, well, bravado and liberal application of what he created, and it’s pretty damning. Also in the week of Stan’s death, Howard Chaykin’s splendid history of comics, Hey Kids! Comics. released it’s fourth issue…

This issue deals largely with its version of Stan Lee. Its pretty brutal in places. Funky Flashman levels of brutal.It’s also essential reading as Chaykin’s comic is a telling of all those stories creators tell each other that never hit the history books…

So what’s Stan’s legacy? Is he a jocular grandad who built a universe from an amazing spurt of creativity over six years or was he always the companyman working to ensure the creations now worth billions stayed safe with the company? Was he someone who could make a wee boy’s year by signing a Hulk comic for him or was he someone who didn’t especially care about giving his co-creators the credit they deserved?

Fact is, it’s all of the above. Stan’s legacy is going to be a complex, and probably messy one. The truth is comics wouldn’t be the same without him, but the truth is also he wasn’t the creator he made himself out to be and that complexity is going to make some people reappraise Stan, but that’s probably a good thing. If it gets the names of Stan’s co-workers out there and helps give a more accurate picture of Marvel’s Silver Age before all the men and women involved pass away then that’s a good thing and that can be Stan’s legacy.

How to draw comics the Marvel way

How to draw comics the Marvel way is probably the best ‘how to’ book for beginners to learn to draw comics, and not just superhero comics Produced by Stan Lee and John Buscema, it’s a step-by-step guide to well, draw comics the Marvel way.

Back in the late 80’s a companion video was released featuring Lee and Buscema. Stan was just coming out of his Funky Flashman phase while Buscema was nearing the end of his career but his talent as one of comics true greats is clear. The video is a relic of the time but it’s still one of the best guides out there, plus Stan’s wig is amazing.

The clanging chimes of Brexit doom

The Tory cabinet has agreed a draft withdrawal from the EU, so basically the shit that’s been coming since June 2016 is about to hit big time. Assuming Theresa May survives the week, this deal won’t make it through the UK Parliament as Brexiters on the right will vote it down and Lexiters on the left will vote it down as they want a no deal scenario, while everyone else will be put in the position of voting for a deal which is wank. As we’re running out of time (Article 50’s clock is ticking) there’s only a handful of possibilities left, with the two most likely being…

1/ Theresa May clings onto power til the spring when we leave the EU with no deal and merry hell breaks out.

2/ A General Election is called. Labour get the most seats but not a majority which they would have if they dealt with the SNP/Greens/Plaid but the Bain Principle is too strong, so they’ll say they’ll extend negotiations but they can’t. So as Corbyn wants to leave, merry hell will break out with another election likely shortly after this.

There’s one glimmer of hope. The Scottish Parliament launched legal action to see if Article 50 can be reversed unilaterally. That decision rests in the hands of the ECJ and we’ll find out on the 27 November. In short; we’re fucked unless the ECJ rules we have a chance to reverse this lunacy. If we can even then that requires leading figures in the Tories and Labour to reverse their lifelong opposition to the EU.

So, there’s a glimmer but really, we’re fucked. Of course those political leaders on the right and left won’t be but hey, who thought they actually cared in the first place?

RIP Stan Lee

Stan Lee is dead at 95 years old. For me Stan is eternally wearing an open-necked shirt and a bad wig as he sailed through the 1960’s into the 70’s.

The first time I met Lee he looked like this. That was waaaaaaay back in the late 70’s when he came to the UK (something he did often as his wife Joan was from Newcastle) to sign copies of Hulk Weekly.

By this point Stan had barely written a word of comics in years but every Marvel comic opened with the legend, Stan Lee Presents… so us young folk assumed Stan was still there working away but by 1979 Stan was at best a figurehead as he pushed all of Marvel’s characters to a variety of film and TV studios, with at best varied results. However I’d also grown up saying ‘Stan and Jack’ because the idea of separating Lee from Kirby during a still astonishing period of creativity during the 60’s that saw Marvel develop from a company going out of business to a cultural phenomenon.

Kirby and Lee’s Fantastic Four remains the peak of what Marvel could do in the 60’s. The first 101 issues contain no filler. Every issue drops a new character, or concept or story that’s simply glorious and instead of spending a year developing an idea to death, Kirby and Lee would use two or three issues at most before moving onto something else. Take the run from FF Annual #3 with the wedding of Reed and Sue through to #44’s introduction of the first Inhuman, to #48’s introduction of Galactus and the Silver Surfer, ‘the sublime story This Man, This Monster in #51 and the introduction of the Black panther in #52.Any single issue would be something for most creators today to hang their C.V up on. Kirby and Lee were firing them out monthly.

Stan Lee helped shape me. Marvel’s tales of two-dimensional morality were great and with the visuals of a Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko or Wally Wood they were perfection. Of course I wasn’t to know that Kirby, Ditko, Wood, etc were being ripped off thanks partly to Stan’s myth-making. I only cared about the comics which brings me back to that first time I met Stan. He was everything I expected. Charming, witty and bigger than Galactus.  He may have spelled my name wrong but fuck it, Stan Lee signed my comic!!A decade or so later someone nicks it.Ah well.

Second time I met Stan was at one of the UKCAC‘s in London. He wasn’t a guest but was in town and heard there was a comic convention on. I remember Mike Lake and John McShane sticking their head into the free bar which Titan Distributors stuck on for dealers on the Friday evening telling everyone that ‘fucking hell guys, Stan fucking Lee is outside signing stuff’. Carrying as much free beer as one can, I stuck my head out the door and yes, there was Stan fucking Lee signing stuff. By this point I was aware of the stories that circulate both in and out of public domain but fuck it, there’s Stan fucking Lee reducing dealers, distributors and assorted hangers on to drooling fanboys. I mean I knew what he’d done to Kirby and Ditko especially, I knew he didn’t have anything to do with creating characters he still carries a co-creator credit on and I’d read Kirby’s vicious caricature of him; Funky Flashman, which featured a pathetic Roy Thomas trying to convince Stan to hand over the family jewels to him.

But Stan had a way to make you forget the stories and swallow the myth whole. This is basically what Stan’s done for the 21st century; sell the myth of Marvel and now he’s passed away and it’s impossible to tear apart the man from the myth that he’s spent 60 years cultivating.

So what did Stan actually do?

Without a doubt he sold Marvel Comics. The Fantastic Four would be an interesting alternative to the Challengers of the Unknown and probably sold well enough, but without Lee’s lines of dialogue punching up Kirby’s art, not to mention Lee’s careful stewardship of Marvel during the 60’s, we’d not have billion dollar films today. In fact superhero comics might not have lasted into the 70’s as DC’s superhero revival of the late 50’s was losing steam by 63, and they had to adapt to the world Marvel created. And Lee saw comics as an art form; a medium to tell stories that can’t be told any other way or to cultivate talent which couldn’t be cultivated in any other medium. His attempts to mainstream Underground Comix of the age testifies to that.

Stan Lee took what he had to push comics, and in a stab to the Gamergate crew, pushed a liberal agenda of basic human decency in editorials which spoke to us, the reader. it made us feel good about ourselves and for many of us having hard times or looking to escape, Stan sold us what we wanted. He gave us joy. The same sort of joy a wee boy getting a Hulk comic signed felt all those years ago.

There’s going to be a time and place to give Stan a real tribute that is warts and all the complexity that come with it. All that can be said for now is that for those of us with a long history in comics, Stan is a complex figure but his passing may not come as a shock. 95 is a good age, but with Lee’s passing another link to those early days of comics from the Golden to Silver Age is gone.

So lets remember Stan the showman. Stan the Man.