The long trip to Briggadoon…

This is the last post I’ll be making for a bit as I hit the tracks tomorrow to head south to spend a few days in Bristol before heading to Glastonbury on Wednesday. Just look at the site as it is now on the webcam…

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And the sunset, oh lordy that sunset!

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So after a funeral tomorrow I get to park all the problems in the world up for around 10 days.  I frankly cannot wait to set seat in my train seat and finally turn off tomorrow afternoon, but most of all I can’t quite believe how much I’ve missed Bristol and the South West.

But I’ll be back tomorrow night and although I don’t expect to post again before Glastonbury you never know but for now, stay safe and see y’all the other side of Glastonbury Festival.

RIP Bob Napier, an unsung hero of comics

For what seems like a lifetime I’ve been working on a blog about the unsung heroes of British comics. You know, the type of folk who at best may get a passing mention in one of those articles about British comics that leaps from 2000AD, to Alan Moore and then to Vertigo often missing out the folk who didn’t just keep the scene going, but actually helped carve the foundations and build the bloody thing in the first place.

One of those names on the list has been Bob Napier, and sadly, he’s now passed away after battling illness for some years. He was a founding partner in the legendary Glasgow comic chop, AKA Books and Comics, not to mention the entire Glasgow comics scene owes him a debt because if you’re sitting in the city enjoying the scene and the ‘geek’ culture of today one of those people who built the well you sup upon is Bob Napier so raise a glass in respect to the man.

Bob was a big man. Although his other partners were in various forms more public than Bob, he was very much the driving forceand kept things sane when at times it could have went horribly off the rails. He co-founded the AKA fanzine born from drinking in the back of Wintersgills in Glasgow’s West End though to the opening of the shop in the now defunct Virginia Galleries. Although not a full time employee like John McShane and Pete Root, or an occasional presence like Steve Montgomery, Bob imprinted himself on AKA to the extent that to miss him from the history of the shop or the Glasgow scene is an injustice which sadly is far too common. Even in this piece here, Bobbie is reduced to an ’employee’ which is a slight although corrected shows how history often reduces the role of important figures. Though his appearance in a Marvel Captain Britain strip now makes him a Disney character which I think he’d have liked…

I only saw Bob a few times after the disintegration of AKA in the 90’s. As regular readers of this blog will know I was living in England, and by the mid 90’s my trips home were becoming less frequent so the last time I really spoke to Bob was when he had a wee unit in the old Candleriggs Market selling comics for prices which today would be a steal but then were pretty decent. I remember we had a chat, caught up, I bought some Flash back issues, promised we’d go for a pint with Pete Root next time I was up and with that I never saw him again apart from briefly seeing him at the Glasgow Comic Con at the Royal Concert Hall a couple of years ago which made me regret ever living up to that promise of a pint as his battle with illness had clearly taken its toll.

However let’s not end on such a note. We all live with regret but it is with Bobbies friends and families that our sympathies and attention should lie. If you can make it, his funeral is 9am on Saturday the 22 June at Daldowie Crematorium in Glasgow. Say cheerio to one of the people who did all the hard work in appreciating, loving and building up comics at a time in a city where it was hard to do so.

Cheers Bob, I hope to have that pint with you and Pete some day in an afterlife where the taps run with beer and comics…

The story of Herbie Popnecker , the greatest comics character ever

There’s a ream of comics characters who are huge today from Batman to Spider-Man but I’m betting your average cosplayer knows nothing about the greatest of them all, Herbie Popnecker AKA The Fat Fury.

But who is Herbie? Here’s a handy introductory video explaining his history and why he’s such a massive cult character.

How comics have predicted the next Tory leader

Imagine a populist Conservative MP pitching fear and hate by demonising minorities on a relentless single-minded march for power that risks throwing the UK into eternal chaos and carnage? No, not Boris Johnson but Jim Jaspers from the revamped Captain Britain strip of the early 80’s as created by Dave Thorpe and Alan Davis, and latterly written by Alan Moore.

Of course it isn’t superheroes in Johnson’s case, but Muslims, or indeed any minority, but mainly Muslims as they’re easy targets and it plays to the Tory base, not to mention the folk following Nigel Farage into whatever circle of hell they’re destined for.

And before you think that an irrational hate-filled madman would really turn the UK into a charnel house for the most vulnerable may I remind you of the bodycount piling up thanks to austerity, and with Johnson planning to leave the EU with no deal therefore enabling the sort of poverty we won’t recover from for generations, if at all, then look at this. 

In short, we’re fucked but at some point back at the dawn of Thatcherism a few people in British comics thought of just how bad things would be come the age of the populist who doesn’t care about facts or reality. They just want to bend reality to their own will and of course, their own benefit which is why folk like Trump and Farage win elections, and now Johnson looks to be following in their paths to leap to electoral glory thanks to the worst opposition in memory and an electorate which has truly fell through the looking glass.

What I thought of Heroes in Crisis

Written by Tom King and drawn by Clay Mann, Heroes in Crisis was yet another massive event title which promised to ‘change the DC Universe forever’, or at least til the end of June. It is an interesting, but seriously, seriously flawed experiment  but more on that in a moment.

The story centres round Sanctuary, a centre created by Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman designed to help superheroes deal with the physiological effects of being a superhero. Basically it’s a drop in centre for people suffering with PTSD. This in itself is a great idea as it deals with the violence intrinsic in superhero comics and forces the reader to confront the fact their favourite genre is a violent one soaked in wish fulfilment.   This would be a great chance to do something unique and original as Tom King is certainly a talented enough writer to pull it off.

Except it doesn’t. It fails badly because it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Is it a murder mystery or a psychological study of the superhero because merging both doesn’t work as all of the threads become a mess as King also throws in some threads from his Batman run not to mention enacting obvious editorial demands which ends up making the ending pretty worthless.

But is an experiment. It does try to say something different. Mann’s art is pretty good often following a 9-panel grid but again it all feels a bit empty which is a shame as DC need something to give them a hard kick in the arse and this could have been it.

What I thought of some recent comics…

For many folk who follow this blog one way or another you possibly followed me because of my reviews of comics and although I don’t have the time (or to be honest the energy right now) to pick this up again but I do miss it so here’s a rundown of some of the comics you should be picking up, and some to avoid,

Starting with…

The Immortal Hulk.

The Hulk has had long runs of quality throughout the character’s long life from the original Kirby/Lee run, through to Herb Trimpe’s long run, and so on. This latest run written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett is rewriting the character in a horror setting although still playing with the superhero genre. It owes a lot, and I mean a lot, to Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run and Neil Gaiman’s superhero work.

It is however a stunning work in its own right melding body horror. supernatural elements and superheroics. This is by far the best comic produced by the Big Two today.

Batman.

Tom King’s run initially was offputting to me but he’s developed a clear story for Batman/Bruce Wayne that’s went from strength to strength. DC suffer from producing reams of utter drivel with art trapped in DC’s sub Jim Lee house style. King’s Batman run is blessed from having artists who can actually draw comics.

The Walking Dead.

This is a title which has been treading water for some time since the introduction of the Commonwealth with the title often resembling an essay of the benefits of capitalism versus socialism. With issue 200 coming soon it was clear Robert Kirkman would pull something out his hat for that issue to rival #100’s death of Glenn and introduction of Negan.

Well he’s done that in #191 and #192 and in these two issues the entire comic is up in the air as I have no idea how the comic is going to develop from now on. Picking these issues up won’t be easy as they both are selling around the £10 mark already and look to increase once the second print hits.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

Remember the days when Marvel used to produce fun, all-ages comics that anyone could pick up? They’re more or less gone but Squirrel Girl keeps the flag flying with light, fun superheroics every issue and it is a complete delight.

Wicked and the Divine

This title was one again I was less than excited about at the start but is now clearly the best superhero based title out there today. It is however nearing the end so pick it up now and you’ll get the final days of one of this decades most interesting mainstream books.

The Green Lantern.

Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp’s revamp of Green Lantern is interesting mainly thanks to Sharp’s stunning art. Morrison is going back over old ground in terms of style and although it is readable, there’s not much going on here apart from Sharp’s splendid art.

The Avengers.

As a title, this sells like proverbial hot cakes and it should do but I’ve never been convinced by Jason Aaron as a writer and this title won’t be the book that sells me on him having one good title in him and that’s about it. Its readable but disposable rubbish.

Savage Avengers

Remember the 90’s when any old shite would be thrown out if it had a bunch of EXTREME characters who were anti-heroes so they could do EXTREME things every month? Well, this is that book but they’re doing SAVAGE things instead of just being EXTREME. With a lineup of Wolverine, Elektra, The Punisher, Brother Voodoo, Venom and err, Conan this is a shameless cash cow designed to milk the Avengers brand, the Conan IP, and the popularity of Wolverine, Punisher and Venom for every single fucking penny Marvel can get out of the punter. It is terrible but it does serve as a signpost as to how awful comics can get.

 

And that’s it. Hope this pointed you in the direction of some good books and warned you off others. I may end up making this a monthly thing, so until the next time go out there and get yourself some good comics.

Living with Airbnb

I live in the badlands between Glasgow city centre and its West End which is great as it isn’t too far to get into town and it only takes a stop on the subway to get to the West End. It’s a great location.but you do have to put up with issues of parking, noise and other such problems that come with the location in a city that’s growing.

Most of the time I can live with all of the negatives. There is however one cuckoo in the mix and that is the increasing number of Airbnb flats in the area with two in my close alone, and dozens, if not more in the wider area around me.

Now I don’t mind Airbnb. It provides a cheaper option to hotels and a more personal option to hostels which are really now used for weekend piss ups which I’ve done myself in say, weekends in Cardiff. These are money makers for pretty much every big city not just in the UK but across most of the world, but if Airbnb is better then what’s the issue?

Noise is the obvious one. I’ve been woken up this week twice by people piling back to their Airbnb pissed up or very late having just arrived from wherever they’ve come from. Now the lad who owns the flat is very nice, and does how best to ensure his guests respect the fact they’re living with people who are living their lives as normal while they party and there’s the next problem; mess. I’m tired of going to work having to step over mess created by people who couldn’t care less.

But there’s also a massive problem with the loss of community. IF you don’t know who your neighbours are from one day to another you’ll never grow a sense of community IF you think it sounds awful it is, but worse lies over in Edinburgh where Airbnb and overtourism have seen massive problems in the city. The same sort of problems that are springing up in cities across the world where Airbnb have been allowed to grow unchecked.which is going to lead to massive problems if not sorted out now. Imagine cities with areas full of transient people with no sense of community or even respect for the place they live? Because that’s where we’re heading if curbs aren’t made.

But til then I’ll be having to cope with sleepless nights and mess.

Today’s anti-Brexit cuck snowflake leftie propaganda

Today has been the 75th anniversary of D Day. So it’d only be a pinko leftie snowflake who’d use today to make a political point about Brexit!!

Eric Chardin was just 19 when he landed in Normandy. Now at the age of 94 he hopes the peace that followed WW2 will continue

“I can’t help feeling that it would be an awful shame if what we’ve gone to so much trouble to do, to collect the European big nations together, to break it all up now would be a crying shame,”

Oh.

You mean someone who actually experienced the blood and guts of actual war thinks Brexit is a bad idea? I mean, it isn’t as if he’s served weekends in the territorial army or something like that!

Oddly enough Brexiters are pretty quiet on Mr. Chardlin’s comments as if being confronted by the living embodiment of everything they aren’t scares the hell out of them as his comments are entirely true. It took decades to build a mostly peaceful, mostly united Europe that now hasn’t faced a continent wide war in 74 years and now a small group of wealthy hard/far right populists, disaster capitalists and extreme lefties are all united to destroy the work of generations built on the corpses of Mr.Chardlin’s comrades.

So remember the words of someone who fought in WW2 never time some red-faced wank guffs on about how ‘we beat the Germans’ to his equally moronic mates. These are the people shitting on the legacy of those who sacrificed everything to free Europe from the sort of fascism we’re seeing a return of.

Glastonbury Festival ban an anti Tory Punk band

Glastonbury Festival has a long history of being against the establishment and fighting against various injustices of the world. This year a punk band Kildren were due to play Shangri La, one of the late night areas of the festival. The band have a song which goes like this…

It’s clear there’s a message even if its delivered in a way that isn’t nice and middle class.and all Guardian readery. The festival has decided to remove the band’s invitation to play after a media campaign to ban them, so a band who’d have probably played to maybe a few thousand people won’t be playing and the festival cracks a little in the face of the establishment.

Of course, they’d never have invited anyone previously to play songs which celebrate the death of any Tory…

Oh.

 

Listen, I get the current climate is not a good one and that it is, sadly, turning violent, but sometimes music needs to be angry, and sometimes it needs to fucking shock us to our senses. I adore Glastonbury and have done so in the 27 years I’ve been going but this is a nonsense as the festival bends to the establishment in an act of censorship because that’s what it is. We need music to challenge us at times otherwise all we end up with is pish like The Killers playing for the nTh time…

Parasocial relationships in the 21st century

We all have a multitude of parasocial relationships but few of us actually understand what they are let alone the actual name for them. They actually aren’t bad things unless of course, your entire life is dominated by them which could explain a lot about abusive cultures on social media and multiple types of fandom from comics through to just about anything.

First of all, what is a parasocial relationship?

Parasocial relationships refer to one-sided relationships with celebrity, a prominent person in the community or a fictional character, when a fan knows everything about the subject of their adoration and feels very close to them, but there is no chance of reciprocity.

From here.

Every single one of us at some point in our lives has had a parasocial relationship. It could have been a pop star, or a footballer or a film actor but at some point we’ve all had a one-sided relationship that will never, ever be reciprocated. You see it now being used with politicians as diverse as Nicola Sturgeon, Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump and Nigel Farage so it doesn’t take a genius to work out how potentially harmful this potentially could be.

There’s three levels of relationship; entertain, intense and borderline pathological. There’s a load of academic videos out there but this set of videos from StrucciMovies is excellent and breaks it down for non-academics.

By now you should all be concerned about people who form their strongest relationships with people they’ll never meet who are pushing a hardline view at them, be that political, lifestyle or anything else that can draw someone in on an emotional level.Again, we’ve all at some point held a parasocial relationship but most of us have it as part of a series of real-world relationships that’s real, often physical and involves often dealing with flawed people who often don’t agree with everything you say which is fine. That’s how life should be as we’re supposed to encounter people, ideas and things we don’t 100% agree with or even like.

The danger comes when parasocial relationships are used not just to control people to buy shit, (I spoke about this the other day) but to shape their lives as well as removing the ability to critically think. As has been said by others, unless you’ve met someone and seen their flaws you don’t 100% know them. Just because some YouTuber with dead, dead eyes is telling you that you’re their friend doesn’t mean they are, or they even care about you beyond giving a like or hitting that bell.

Fandoms have always been slightly toxic. H. P Lovecraft for example was a troll but he was also a talent who created things but fandoms now are riddled with toxicity through so many people creating false personas in order to gain followers so there’s not this level of creativity. ”But what about <insert social media platform here>’ you may say and you’d be right. There’s tons of wonderful creative stuff out there, but there’s also mountains of shite created in the name of gaining followers and grifting money from them. I see it within the world of comics. There’s a lot of people who turn up at shows to sell their work who are awful, but because they’ve tapped into ”geek culture” which brings me again to mention late capitalism as what we’re seeing is human lives being repackaged to people to buy into and I mean, buy into.

I’ve met a number of my heroes. Some have been nothing like I imagined them. Some have been twats. Some have been wonderful people. I’ve spent lots of money over the decades on their work but I’ve moved on from the one-way relationship phase and the influence of these people but it doesn’t preclude me from having parasocial relationships at stage one. I know how to ensure it doesn’t become pathological but for many it does because they don’t have the tools to ensure it doesn’t so the young and vulnerable are especially weak at resisting what’s being sold to them be it product or lifestyle.

And here’s the point. We’re being sold to all the time. but newer generations don’t have the tools or experience to get through life so find their answers anywhere they can. Sometimes that works out but some times things don’t and that can lead down dangerous paths as people fall behind the more famous without any thought of what these people are really like or what damage is being done to people in the name of a relationship that will never be real.