Tom King and the apology to Jae Lee

When I wrote about the whole Tom King shaming Jae Lee situation I made the observation that someone in DC’s H.R department needs to get involved, and indeed it smacks as if someone has had a word.

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King has made a very public apology, as well as removing all associated Tweets.

As I have done privately, I’d like to publicly apologize to Jae Lee for my actions a few days ago. I should’ve talked with Jae before I sent a tweet about him that put his career at risk. I made a critical mistake, and I am profoundly sorry. I will do what I can to repair this with Jae, and I will do better in the future. I’m not going to offer explanations because they sound like excuses, and I’m not asking for forgiveness or understanding. I’m just saying I see what I did, and I’m going to try to make up for it. Thank you.
I have kept up the tweets up to this point in order to show that I was not hiding my actions. I will now take them down.

Bleeding Cool makes the situation clear here. Fact is King has done all of this too late, the damage has been done and all the wrong people won’t learn a lesson as if you check online there’s still people saying Lee must have known ‘something’ because they can’t believe some people don’t live their lives online.

But for now, we have a resolution of sorts. The future will tell us how badly it affects Jae Lee.

Why did Tom King shame Jae Lee?

Tom King is writing DC’s new Rorschach maxi-series which is yet another example of them milking Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen for everything it can. Of course Moore famously wants nothing to do with DC or what they’re doing to work he doesn’t fully own himself, or with co-creators, plus the idea of making Rorschach even the anti-hero of his own series would probably leave a bit of sick in his mouth.

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There is a massive issue here of the creator’s rights. Moore has been stripped bare by DC over the years, not to mention this sends out the message that if DC Comics can fuck over Alan Moore, they can fuck anyone over. Of course, they can’t do it without the aid of creators which brings us to Tom King doing this off the back of the dreadful Doomsday Clock semi-sequel. King’s participation in this has already caused controversy outwith the creator’s rights issue, and frankly, the blurb does not fill one with confidence.

“This is a very political work.” he said in a statement. “It’s an angry work. We’re so angry all the time now. We have to do something with that anger. It’s called ‘Rorschach’ not because of the character Rorschach, but because what you see in these characters tells you more about yourself than about them.”

But this is how DC and Marvel operate these days. Things won’t change, especially in a Covid world. So last weekend during the virtual San Diego Comic Con, King Tweeted this.

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The hate group King refers to is Comicsgate, who are indeed full of hateful racists and misogynists, but they run crowd-funding campaigns for their comics which end up raising their goals. They’re awful, but this is still a tiny part of comics even if they are painfully vocal, especially with their daft wee boycotts. The variant cover King is talking about is this one.

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Lee was then promptly canceled. Boycotts were organised, and fans pushed for Lee never to get work at DC, all the usual stuff you’d expect when there’s an online swirl of shaming and canceling going on. Problem is Lee wasn’t asked by King his version of the story until the damage was well and truly done, but of course this wouldn’t have attracted any attention.  Lee was busy dealing with the death of his dog and isn’t on Twitter, nor does he know what Comicsgate is. It appears he did the cover because he drew a Cyberfrog cover back in the 90s, plus as a freelance artist it was a job.

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Which has seen people further point out the fact why didn’t King do this in the first place? Was it really so urgent that it’d not have waited a couple of days til Lee had made clear his side of things. But no, people want blood, and if he’s innocent of anything then they still want blood. For example.

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Lee was not fine. Lee will probably lose work over this. He’ll forever have the labels of racist and bigot hanging over him. People will want Lee to ‘learn’ now he’s been so publicly shamed, but Lee did nothing more than do one cover for someone. He’s not a Comicsgater, nor does he seem to want to do anything but make art, but King has used his position of power to taint Lee which means people aren’t talking about King’s next project in the light of creator’s rights, or any other criticism prior to this weekend.

In most companies, King would be facing possible dismissal. At least he’d be disciplined for what he did to a colleague. I would hope DC’s H.R department move on this and bollock the living hell out of King because we live in a time where cancel culture is real, and people know they can weaponise it against someone, or use it to get likes or detract from anything rattling in their cupboard and an ex CIA operative will have many a skeleton rattling away, and one can only imagine how Alan Moore feels about a former CIA man working on his creations when Moore’s written a comic about the CIA’s bloody history.

So we have here an example of the horror of living in the 21st century. Public shaming is fine as long as you discuss facts after the shaming is done, and if the damage lives with someone for a lifetime well they’ve learned a lesson haven’t they? This is the weird bizarro world we now live in and how amazingly toxic it has become. If I were Lee I’d be crowdfunding for legal action, and I’m guessing the reason King has backed off is he’s now fully aware he’s open to be sued, and I hope Lee does because if this is the way to stop people leaping to cancel then so be it. There’s no point asking for kindness because many of the people holding up pitchforks are those who consider themselves ‘kind’ or progressive, but are happy to destroy lives for shits and giggles because it isn’t just the right doing this, but the supposed left.

And what’s going to make this worse is that the horde will move onto their next victim probably as I type this…

 

 

 

The Wonderful, Horrible World of E. C. Comics

E.C Comics gave us the finest examples of the medium in America with some of the greatest artists to bless the medium. Some 70 years later it has an influence that lives on, which is why we need to keep celebrating it and that brings me to the online San Diego Comic Con which has a wonderful panel discussing E.C.

Have a look and enjoy.

How well is a virtual San Diego Comic Con going?

We’re well into Comic Con at Home, the online event to replace the actual event which was canceled this year due to Covid-19. It is as good as you’ll expect it to be though there’s only so much joy you can get from glorified Zoom meetings, with much of it the sort of stuff you get at the mega-conventions so you’ve got your Star Trek, and other big media ‘franchises’ (a despicable word that reduces art and culture to nothing more than a Big Mac) through to actual talk about comics at a comic convention.

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Some of it is painfully tedious. This thing for proclaiming their pronouns in introductions is complete bullshit and instantly makes the thing tedious, as are moderators who don’t know when to shut up however there’s a lot of stuff coming out for everyone even if there’s an awkwardness about it all which is of course understandable.

However SDCC could learn a few things from this. For one the on-floor exclusives in future could easily be done online, so you screen out those who’ll come for a few hours, grab their stuff before going home to bang it on eBay, or to be locked away .  Some of the huge panels could have pay per view functions to again reduce the amount of people sitting in queues to get a glimpse of Robert Downey Jnr. from 200 meters away. There’s a lot they can learn from this weekend which can open the event up, and maybe even free up tickets for people who want the weekend to explore the con rather than just follow film and TV announcements.

Or they could learn nothing and just plug on as they have been. We shall see.

Breaking slabbed comics

The new Cartoonist Kayfabe video features a Golden Age comic being cracked from its CGC cases so the guys can read it and show it off to us as that is the point of a comic book.

There will be people outraged as after all there’s a fee to get the comic rated and slabbed, yet as discussed in the video there’s a controversy as you can resubmit a comic and it’ll come back a different rating. I know of dealers who’ve submitted comics which are mint, unread comics barely touched to get a rating back of 8.0. Then they resubmit it and get a 9.8.

Now, this is all because there’s no consistency because it depends who studies your comic on the day. Also the actual really difference between a 9.2 and a 9.8 is sweet fuck all but because of the market being as it is, that potentially will be worth hundreds. If a book is what used to be called mint, you’d expect that to be highly rated but as said, sometimes this comes back in a lower rating than it should be.

Then there’s the fact comics should be read. Had that Marvel Mystery Comics been slabbed forever we’d never get to see how amazing it is inside the book. It’d just be locked away forever just sitting in a box or maybe on a wall or some kind of display.  Comics are an art form designed to be read, so it isn’t like a painting or a baseball card. Locking them away denies what they are.

And finally there’s the fact the entire slabbed comics idea is a Ponzi scheme. People are convinced this is the best way to grade comics, and of course, for only a smallish fee they’ll grade the comic for you, which then you’ll sell to fans for potentially several thousand percent more than the ‘raw’ unslabbed version of the comic. Add into the mix speculators who can drive up the price of a book on a whim, suddenly you can have dealers who’ve overordered driving up prices, which is what happened in the 90’s and is happening today.

As a part-time dealer I won’t touch slabbed books. They’re a pain in the arse to store and to transport, plus my philosophy is people should read the comics they buy, so more slabs being cracked and more comics being read is what we need in this medium. We don’t need to be swallowed alive by pyramid schemes and speculators.

The death of The Guardian

The Guardian is to shed 250 jobs as the perfect storm of Covid-19 and at least a decade of fucking up comes home to roost.  Now there is a death of print generally but The Guardian has been the victim of its own decisions from then editor Alan Rusbridger throwing the paper at the US market and changing the focus of it from a UK left of centre, often socialist newspaper with a basis in investigative journalism, into an opinion led paper rammed full of clickbait aimed at the American left while distancing itself from its roots in Manchester. Even stalwart Steve Bell is losing his job.

It is a loss. The UK media landscape needs a strong left of centre voice and this will further weaken the paper, though it shows little signs of recognising that the descent into identity politics, not to mention the close relationship to the Lib Dems while alienating readers on its position on Scottish independence, socialism, women and a number of subjects which have seen the paper pitch itself at a small clique of supposed left wingers who seem to be far removed from leftish policies.

There’s always been an authoritarian, pro-establishment streak to the paper, but it’s become a paper where different views, and voices have been thrown off to leave it as a mildly middle class liberal sludge with the odd outrider reminding us of what it once was.

I stopped buying it around the time of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, and stopped reading it around a year ago when it became intolerable in the fact their editorial lines were interfering with being an investigative newspaper. However nature does abhor a vacuum and there’s much online which has replaced it, but the one thing which is hard to replace is investigative journalism. It’s hard, long and often expensive and it will do us no good if the victim of the restructuring of the UK’s media landscape sees the end of investigative journalism.

It could still attract readers back but in the week since this was announced I’ve seen no signs of it having improved so it’ll be sad to see it damaged like this, but in reality, the damage is mainly self-inflicted.

 

 

Eight years since the London Olympics

Back in July 2012, the London Olympics were looking to be a huge joke. What was clearly a new vanity project for Labour and Tony Blair at a time of prosperity became a millstone around the neck of a Tory/Lib Dem coalition who didn’t seem especially interested in culture or sport, and a London Mayor’s office run by Boris Johnson who was making mistake after mistake in the run-up to the event.  Security was a mess, nobody could buy tickets and if they did they were either too expensive or for events you didn’t want. Basically, as soon as we hit the month of the Olympics all that was expected was a giant mess.

Friends of mine, however, were going up to volunteer for the games, and one asked me if I wanted to go up and work a few days over the event doing some work in one of the offices on-site. So I went up a fortnight before it started, checked things out, saw it was carnage and decided to stay in Bristol for the duration as although the money was good, I didn’t really want to crash in a hotel in London nor did I want to piss all the money away.

The opening ceremony was to be done by Danny Boyle which at first excited people but then leaks of the show came out making people worried it was going to be shite. The ceremony was a Friday night which for me meant finishing work around 5pm, taking a walk home, and stopping by my local pub til who knows when? It was also cold and wet which that summer had been. It’d been dismal that year with few sunny days to call even a sunny spell.

With the ceremony on live TV in the pub, I couldn’t be arsed going home as I’d not just got a beer in, but it’d be funny to take the piss down the pub with everyone else so the ceremony started and we started taking the piss. What’s all this with the sheep and shit? Then slowly the banter stopped ”(hang on is that Underworld?? Was that Fuck Buttons????”)as more and more of us were sitting around watching and listening to it. We then realised this was something quite special, so I sat down the pub watching this event unfold before nipping home when the athletes started coming out (of course grabbing a fish supper on the way) to watch the rest at home.

That opening ceremony did define something for many. It defined the myth of a working United Kingdom and also showed that out of sacrifice we did create the NHS which to this day is still an extraordinary thing to do in that shattered time just after WW2. It showed the amazing contribution to music and culture these islands have produced and it probably still is the only bit of mass theatre most people have seen. It’s beloved of middle class liberals especially as they see it portraying the UK as it is, instead of as it could be. Obviously Boyle wasn’t going to go full in with politics, and in retrospect it is extraordinary how much he did manage to put in.

But for one evening in a grim, wet July things seemed good and it seemed like maybe the UK isn’t as bad as we think. Of course reality kicked in once the Olympics and Paralympics ended, and then a few years later in 2016 the reality of the UK was spattered across our screens for all to see.

Here though is the official Olympic channel coverage of the opening ceremony. It does have some wonderful Barry Davies commentary where he’s going full Partridge but it is a great document of something special eight long years ago.

Coming out of lockdown

On the 23rd of March, I went into lockdown and because I’m shielding I’ve barely left the house barring the odd GP appointment, or a walk to the corner shop at the end of my road. Sometimes I’ve sat on the bench in the wee park at the other end of the street. As a whole, though I’ve probably been no more than 200 meters from my front door in over four months.  So I’m going a tad stir crazy.

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As long as we progress into phase 4 of coming out of lockdown on the 3rd of August I’m off furlough, back to work for a while as part-time is still an option and frankly, lockdown has seen a lot of post-stroke issues flare up so things will need to be monitored over August. Of course we could all go back a phase, or worse go back into full lockdown. With the state of Covid infections in England and it being a matter of time before these start crossing the border, it is a matter of time before the second wave which many think will kick in this winter. That’ll mean a return to lockdown.

But for now, I’m a few weeks from some sense of whatever the new normal will be. Wish me luck!

How we need Superman more than ever

There’s a push for Superman to be black to make him ‘relevant to a modern audience’ and although there’s a few good arguments out there for that, the argument hinges upon making Superman hip and relevant,  which means basically we end up moving away from the idea of Superman to something different.

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Alternate versions of Superman are fine, but they work best when they contrast with Superman himself, but the problem is people have lost just what Superman is and why he’s never stopped being relevant, and in the world we’re in today he’s even more relevant.

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Why?

He’s an alien refugee who can’t go back home as that’s destroyed, but was found by two kind, decent people who taught him how to be a good person and uphold the ideas that make the American Dream something admirable. For him, a little girls cat stuck up a tree is as important as stopping Brainiac from invading Earth. It’s all about giving something to make people’s lives better. He’s about finding people’s problems and solving them be it a lost cat or a deadly alien invasion.

And remember, when Superman started he was beating up slum landlords, speeding drivers and people who lived in the Depression-era who made readers lives more hellish than it already was. Superman’s working class, near socialist roots are perfect to update to the 2020’s, and his message of hope is what is needed in a world living with everything we are just now. In fact, there’s a hell of a lot of similarities between the 2020’s and the 1930s. We need a hero now who isn’t corruptible, and isn’t some edgelord’s idea of what he should be in 20202, so no neck-breaking, glum, grimness but someone who celebrates life and people.

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Superman right now is in a rut. The comics are poor and Henry Cavill is signing on to play Superman in cameo appearances for now as Warners have no idea how to treat the character because all superheroes have to be ‘edgy’ in some way but there’s room for honesty, decency and redefining the ‘American Way’ through the eyes of a refugee So what if he’s ‘old fashioned’. Maybe we need that in the age of Trump and Brexit?

 

 

35 years of Live Aid

Today, 35 years ago Live Aid happened featuring two huge open-air concerts in London and Philadelphia and global hunger was wiped out overnight making the world an almost utopia. Except it didn’t. So let’s be blunt from the off; as an event to help people Live Aid’s reach was limited, and although aid did get to people, it also got in the hands of warlords who bought guns and other weapons who then proceeded to murder tens of thousands of people. Bob Geldof’s successor to Live Aid, Live 8, ended up siding with Western governments allowing them a shield to back off doing anything real to wipe out Third World debt.

Of course, people giving money in 1985 didn’t know this. I bought a copy of Do They Know its Christmas? like millions of others thinking my few quid that I’d spent on a frankly shite record (which has long, long been sold off) would actually do something. I’d dabbled with the idea of getting a ticket and going down with some friends but I bluntly, shat myself about going down to London myself, spending a day in Wembley, then heading back to Victoria in the wee hours to wait for the bus back. A few years later I wouldn’t have blinked about it, but it is a regret as we had people who’d come into the shop I worked in who could have easily gotten tickets.

In those pre-internet days knowledge that Live Aid was not doing what it set out to do was in circulation, though hard to get but journalists were at least aware on both sides of the Atlantic there were problems. The problem was the narrative was written in stone. Bob Geldof was a saint, and his free-market vision of aid relief might involve giving millions direct to a butcher but let’s skim over that so we can feel good after all, it’s better to be kind than pick Geldof and Live Aid apart because they did help people?

And here we are 35 years later still being fed the same narrative. Yet for all my moral outrage at what Live Aid, and especially Geldof, is actually responsible for, I’ve been constantly drawn to the Live Aid concert itself as possibly one of those moments which helped shape the next 35 years for me in selling me the idea of large open-air festivals such as Glastonbury.

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As for me on that day, I remember having to pop into work to help deal with a delivery but managed to get away so I was home by midday to watch the start of it which then saw me stuck in front of the TV for the next 14 hours or so. I witnessed poor Adam Ant single-handedly destroy his career to Queen dragging theirs out of the gutter. Watching it back today little of it stands up musically, nor do many of these acts know how to play to a crowd of 100k. Queen was one of those exceptions as was David Bowie who was going through his megastar phase before making the horrible mistake which was his career from 86 to the early 90s. I still shudder at Tin Machine which reminds me I must tell my Tin Machine story one day…

But that day was about spectacle, not to mention the actual technical marvel of putting the thing on, and the BBC showing it to the UK in those early days of satellites. A lot of what was done that day pushed technology on so that just a few years later satellite TV became a thing and you’d see dishes go up on the sides of houses of the few who could afford it back then.  It was amazing to see things flit from the UK to US and back again. Who cares that many of the performances were poor, it was the spectacle which mattered and looking at the continuity back then it’s clear that was how it was affecting people who were there.

Of course there were some things which did happen. Most of the acts saw their careers either blow up like U2 or Madonna or come back from the dead like Queen and Status Quo. Others saw careers prolonged for a year or two longer than they should have been with Adam Ant being an exception.  Live Aid also saw how music changed for the latter half of the 80s so that these big acts dominated to the point where chart music stagnated. No wonder the breakthrough of rave and Indie music in 89 was lapped up as we’d struggled with that post Live Aid bubble.

35 years later the legacy of that day beyond the memories people have of it as a glorious spectacle is complex. Geldof has clearly profited in terms of relevance since then as in 1985 his 15 minutes of fame was well and truly up, but his move into international politics is going to either make him a saint or hang like a set of chains depending on how you’ve informed yourself. Most people though see him, and Live Aid/8 (I remember Geldof appearing at Glastonbury in 2005 being welcomed uncritically on the main stages, but elsewhere you’d be able to find opposing voices to what he was doing, not to mention that both concerts are lacking in black acts) are purely noble causes and not the complex mess it really is.

Still, musically if you’re an act looking to play a big festival you can do worse than using Live Aid as a guide as to how to do it. Queen and U2 are your guides.