The UK is utterly fucked.

A kakistocracy according to Wikipedia means…

A kakistocracy is a system of government that is run by the worst, least qualified, and/or most unscrupulous citizens

Yeah, that pretty much sums up where we are today. This week has shown how fucked we are, which isn’t to say we weren’t warned. We were warned by people three years ago that the EU referendum would end is carnage as the government would be faced by whatever deal the EU would give us thanks to the red lines of the UK, or walking away with no deal. Of course, the Brexiters (and Lexiters because they’re also sharing responsibility for this)  lied about a ‘Norway type deal‘ they had no intention of pushing for if the referendum had been won.

No, the referendum was forged on blood and soil nationalism mainly by the right, and the left leavers who in the end provided the thin majority Leave had. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and all the other bastards drooling right now about getting the supreme power no government should have are in a good mood because they’re weeks away from getting what they want, and what comes after that will be a living hell for many of us.

True, opposition parties did finally get together this week only to be outplayed by Boris Johnson proroguing parliament to force through Brexit without any debate, which again, was on the cards according to many months before Johnson became PM. It is a massive gamble, but we know that the last time Johnson was involved in a massive gamble, he won. However had Jeremy Corbyn not been clearly pushing for Brexit for years before realising where it would actually lead (and he still clearly thinks it to be a good idea, just not done by the Tories)  under Johnson, and Jo Swinson not acted like head girl and demanded everything, we might have had some unity when other opposition parties have been struggling to unite the opposition against Brexit.

And there’s also the point that every single MP that voted for invoking Article 50 knew no deal was the default, as well as they knew the UK’s red lines were impossible for the EU to budge on and that we’d end up with a real chance of leaving with no deal. Every one of those MP’s are responsible in part for where we are but the main culprits are those behind the leave campaign who are benefiting from this. We know the referendum was corrupt and we know the UK’s electoral commission is an absolute bag of shite just as we should know by now the UK’s democratic systems aren’t fit for purpose in the 21st century. Leavers knew that, hence why they’re winning and we’re still making twee signs to wave at demonstrations in the hope the Guardian prints the picture.

Fuck that. The time for niceness is over. We have unfit people running the UK leading us into a very British form of fascism based upon nostolgia of a time, and of a people, that never existed. I’ve mentioned Umberto Eco’s essay, Ur-Fascism before  but now if you read it, and tick off Eco’s 14 signs of fascism, the UK ticks every single one. This is where we are.

It will get worse. Johnson isn’t a final destination. He’s more of a Moses figure to bring what comes next because we know Johnson fails often, and that his allies now will happily cricify him when needed. Nigel Farage talks of a forthcoming Tory/Brexit Party alliance, which of course would place Farage in a safe seat, then a place at the cabinet table. Where do you think we’ll go when the UK government is effectively a UKIP government having its strings pulled by disaster capitalists and the likes of Putin and Trump?

Which is why the time for polite protest is over. Fucking fight. Take to the streets. Shut stuff down. Make it uncomfortable for those in power. Don’t go into the night quietly because we know where this sort of thing leads and right now, where we end up will be something many of us won’t survive.

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Wizard magazine and the 90’s speculator boom

The 1990s now seem like a Golden Age  The Cold War was over and the sheer insanity of the post 911 world was far, far away. For comics the decade started with an explosion as Marvel had found themselves a handful of creators including Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, and Erik Larsen who were able to draw in hundreds of thousands of sales while expanding the market. By the time these creators create Image Comics people normally making money off the stock market were buying hundreds of copies of Spawn #1 in the hope that one day they’ll make millions off them.

spawn1

Marvel and DC tried to catch up, and other new companies jumped onto the bandwagon throwing money around like water to cash in because this wasn’t going to end right? Like any bubble though, it was due to burst and when it did lots of people from publishers to retailers to speculators to ordinary fans. When the shit hit, it didn’t spare anyone. By 1995 the party was well and truely over but was there one thing that helped drive this insanity?

Sort of. Wizard Magazine certainly has some blood on its hands.

wizard1

Wizard was a mix of articles, interviews and art but really it was about the price guide it published each issues of ‘hot’ comics. From 1991 to 2011 it pushed out some, well, awful content, as well as pushing out all the ‘hot’ comics you could swallow. In reality Wizard was a sewer which helped bloat the industry to the point where certain books were selling for vastly over-inflated prices purely off the back of a Wizard mention.

Take one book, Rai #3. Today it’s a 15 buck book but realistically you’ll be lucky to get more than a few quid for it. Back in 1993 it was 50 quid plus partly because of low distribution, but mainly because Wizard told people it was a ‘hot’ book.

Rai-3-May-1992

In fact Valiant Comics were overall heavily pushed, but so was Image to the extent where Wizard and Image were ridicuously close in the early years and people literally were buying dozens of copies of comics hoping they’d be worth money but are now barely worth 50p.

Wizard gamed the market  which is bad enough, but people working for Wizard also advertised their comic shops in the magazine, so they’d push issues in articles with a handy ad on the facing page selling these comics for an ‘exclusive’ price. Effectively it was a con and they got away with it even after the bubble burst in the mid 90s. The damage however lasts until today, but thousands of shops went burst not including companies and even though DC made it through thanks partly to having what seems now to be an amazingly diverse series of books; Marvel were fucked. They’d went from bathing in cash in 1990 to the verge of bankruptcy in less than a decade. Everything that could be sold was trying to be sold (one of the reasons Marvel/Disney have an issue with film right lies in this time), and job losses were rife in the company. They managed to just turn things round starting in 1999 but the revious half decade was by now scattered with casualties as speculators deserted as fast as they came.

I saw dealers vanish between conventions/marts at the time. Stories of people making huge punts on runs of Valiant and Image meant when the shit hit, that they’d maybe at best get a third of their investement back. People coming to cons selling what they though was a valuble collection ended up being burned and there were piles and piles of unsold comics in warehouses everywhere.

The reason this comes to mind is because of the excellent YouTube channel Cartoonist Kayfabe (who are Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg) talking about Wizard, and this video especially where they cover their dubious business practises.

I’d recommend watching those Kayfbabe videos about WIzard as they are an amazing document of a time in comics where a new comic could literally be worth four or five times the cover price, maybe more, within days of release. I mean, we’ve learned our lesson now and we’d never do that again.

Why the direct market monopoly has damaged comics

Back in the 1980s the comic book direct market was seen as a saviour of the industry. Comics were struggling to compete with this new thing called video games and shipping comics directly to comic shops seemed liked the best way forward. I explain here more about the history of the direct market to give you an idea of what it is but basically it is the one thing most responsible for how the comics industry looks like here in 2019.

And it is probably one of the major reasons why the industry today is so damaged.

To explain; the direct market today is run by a monopoly. I‘ve explained this and the history of it before, including my own wee part in shaping the industry back in the 80s so if you want the full story regards the below image, click on the link.

neptune-conflict-of-interest

I write this as we’re at a time when comics are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Spider-Man was the subject of a recent big story but few media outlets spoke about the comics because why should they? The characters and ideas have been absorbed into the mainstream but they didn’t bring comics with them. Comic conventions are held over the world every single week with very, very tenuous connections to comics and shops are opened up by people who see comics as a sideline to Funko Pops or games. Yet none of this bubble would have existed without comics.

And again, we can look at the direct market for part of the reason. Monopolies are not good so Diamond have a clear shot at goal but they miss because the industry is unable to move to cope with change because a monopoly is a juggernaut. Shops have product pushed upon them, and Diamond’s rules over minium orders affects publishers and retailers so  if you ever wonder why variant covers are still a thing, it’s because publishers use them to hit thresholds that mean Diamond can list them which in turn means dealers take punts on unseen titles that means dealers run a gamble on every order.

Seeing as dealers have to order months in advance and there’s no sale or return because this is the direct market, not the newsagent industry, means this locks dealers into a Kafkaesque hellscape every month with the Diamond order form turns up trying to work out what covers will sell, and what won’t.

The obvious solution is to open up the market and create competition, but this isn’t the 80s and the Big Two, Marvel and DC, aren’t going to use anyone else so the fact is we’re in a massive comics bubble where what was designed to see the industry free from the shackles of distribution has instead locked us into an ongoing battle for survival. My solution would be for regulators to break the monopoly but that’s been tried both sides of the Atlantic and shot down, so I know no other industry where a single company controls all the market and is even tolerated by some.

Which means we’re not screwed but if you wonder why the industry is loaded with comics that are all sort of the same, or why shops are often parades of products that range from the quality to the tacky or why comics aren’t punching their weight, then look at the industry at the top and you’ll find the answer.

Though this doesn’t let shops off the hook. More of that another time.

Saving Spider-Man

Sony and Disney have been unable to continue their agreement over the use of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so from now on Sony will be making Spidey films starring Tom Holland. Cue outrage from fans promising boycotts and petitions.

Yet if half of these people pick up a comic they’ll be able to get what they want.

spidey1

And of course, by 2022/3 after a few duff films the deal will be back on or Disney will have bought Sony as they swallow the world of media whole.

And the new James Bond film is…

No Time to Die. It’ll be the last film starring Daniel Craig as Bond, and I hope it gives him a good send off as Craig has been excellent.

 

But a new Bond film brings criticism from the regressive right wing who see attempts  to make Bond fit in better to 21st century tastes, and from the wokiestwoke of the left who see Bond as a sexist dinosaur who should be scrapped. Both miss the fact Bond is a fantasy, and that he is a bastard. That’s the point. You couldn’t be a state-endorsed killer if you were a nice guy but the cold, chilling thug of the books would find it hard to operate in the 21st century.

Plus the spectre of John Wick looms over every single action film these days. A film where a brutal killer is out for revenge because his dog was killed resets the action film and so Bond has to change to reflect that while at the same time still being recognisably Bond. The films have sort of done it, but not as well as Warren Ellis’s recent run of comics which managed to marry every version of Bond out there into a 007 for the 21st century.

But a new Bond film brings the same old bleatings from people who haven’t realised that Bond has changed, and that as a character he’s not going away while there’s billions to be made and stories to be told.

 

The crushing misery of the welfare system

Last night I came home to a large brown envelope that contained a letter and form from the DWP asking me to be reassessed for my Personal Indepndence Payment (PIP) which I frankly need to  carry on doing basic things like live. I wasn’t expecting this til early next year so to be put through this process now when things are fragile sent my anxiety all over the place to the extent that although I eventually calmed down after getting a friend to help me fill it out during the week, I was sick and dizzy so ended up in bed just after 9 last night.

The reason I’m dreading this is the process is designed to put people off  and the system itself if you do apply is deliberately gamed against you, not to mention the Tory government would rather you die than claim. So complaints have went through the roof, and a seeming endless trail of people have taken their own life or left bereft of hope after reliving past traumas.

Now for those of you outwith the UK the process is this; you fill in a form and return it to the DWP who then give a judgementas to what you’ll be awarded monthly. Sounds reasonable enough yeah? Except the initial screening process may well be with a medical professional the final assessesment is by someone with no medical training somewhere buried in the system. These people work in a performance based environment so they work to targets. Get seen on a day when they’ve given plenty of awards and you could be refused only for it to be revoked after appeal months and months later. There’s also the fact the system is designed for you to relive trauma every three years.

I’d hoped the new Scottish system would have been devolved in time but sadly not, and as an aside if anyone screams ‘NATIONALIST’ to folk like me who see an independent Scotland as the only way many of us are going to be free of living with fear then I point them to this and say this is what the UK is doing to people. Tens of thousands are dead thanks to a system unfit for purpose and things are only going to get worse thanks to Brexit which adds another edge to this as the carnage that awaits us from that will directly affect people like me.

So wish me luck. I’ve been quietly dreading Brexit, but having this happen while that happens is going to stretch me thin.

50 years of Woodstock

Half a century ago the modern idea of a music festival was born with Woodstock. Sure, there’d been festivals before in the US, and in the UK which sort of looked like the modern festival but Woodstock wrote the book.

wodstock

No Woodstock, no Bath Blues Festival and no Glastonbury. Reading Festival wouldn’t have become what it did, and the entire free festival scene of the 70s to mid-90s wouldn’t have existed. Music over the last 50 years would have sounded very different indeed.

Of the even itself we have endless testimony from the half million or so that attended the festival, but we also have one of the best documentaries ever made with Michael Wadleigh’s extraordinary Woodstock.

Thing is I find most of the music tired and deeply, deeply of its time but then a Janis Joplin comes on, or Sly Stone or  Jimi Hendrix who did this wonderful act of subversion.

For a while it seemed the entire hippie movement got it right and the establishment lost, which of course it did. Establishments’ change and shift slowly from one generation to the next, but the hippies could only go so far, and anyhow, once Charles Manson and Altamont happened, the hippie dream was skewered not to mention by 1970 the hippie was fully absorbed into the mainstream to be marketed to like any other demographic.

Woodstock itself turned into myth but truth is it seems to have happened more by accident than plan as subsequent attempts to revive it in years since with varying results. Woodstock 99 is generally considered to be a complete disaster and is now the subject of a fascinating podcast, Break Stuff. Attempts to hold a 50th anniversary concert this weekend failed which is probably for the best.  Preserving what was done 50 years ago is more important than a cash grab featuring acts who couldn’t care less about the history or the ideology.

And it’s best it does stay wrapped in myth. The grim realities of half a million people needing a shite does not make for golden memories, so let it stay undamaged as some bit of history that helped shape the following half century ways the hippies there that weekend could never have wished for in their wildest dreams.