Do I risk death for Christopher Nolan?

Christopher Nolan is one of our most unique filmmakers. Barring his Batman trilogy he makes original films from original scripts for a mass audience and is given lots of money to do so as he makes lots of money. At the start of the year, Tenet, his latest film, looked the film of the year potentially.

Since then we’ve had a global disaster hit in the shape of the Covid-19 pandemic, so the idea of going to a cinema to watch a film is something I thought I’d only do again once, if, we get a vaccine. I’ve shielded most of the last six months and the idea of sitting in a Glasgow cinema with people does not fill me with joy.

However I’ve always loved cinema, and so clearly does Nolan plus the fact is if we don’t support cinema now then all that’ll happen is screens will be purely full of Disney product in the years to come so we need to support the likes of Nolan so we get these types of original blockbusters, and if Tom Cruise can get up off his arse then by Xenu so can I.

DC Comics and their dismal, dark film universe

The trailer for the new Batman film starring Robert Pattinson was released. It is dark, grim and violent.

The trailer for the new Suicide Squad game was also released. It is grim, dark and violent.

Then there’s Zack Snyder’s cut of the Justice League which is grim, dark and violent.

Now there were a few shafts of light but overall the picture DC are sending out that they’re all about the grim and the dark and the violent because that’s ‘edgy’, and yes, they might be good but making superheroes relentlessly grim and overly violent power fantasies is just depressing.

Yes, the Wonder Woman film looks fun but it stands as an aberration but surely there isn’t this hunger for relentless misery? Wouldn’t it be nice to see a Batman film where he does a cheery dance instead of punching someone’s jaw out the back of their head?

The strange world of George Galloway

Galloway is an odd figure. A once-respected (well, from some)  firebrand of the left managed to destroy his reputation and image by a succession of increasingly unpleasant steps into politics that involved him becoming the sort of person he’d once rally against. His latest stunt is to ally with Tories and Unionists to oppose Scottish independence as a talking head for the Alliance For Unity party, who are a motley mix of hard/far right types and Unionists desperate for anything to fight the rise in support for independence.

He’s somehow managed to become a figurehead for these people as he goes full Farage as he too becomes Steve Bannon and Michael Gove’s latest glove puppet. The thinking seems to be that Galloway is left-wing (which is dubious), and most folk in Scotland are leftish so the people will flock behind him and chase the Nasty Nats out of town.  The problem is Galloway has an image problem and not just related to this insanity from Big Brother.

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Galloway is the act of a desperate foe. An attempt to unify the Unionist cause behind a Farageist figure who they think will win. but many soft Unionists or genuine undecideds, or simply No votes from 2014 will be horrified at his suggestion only born Scots should vote in a second referendum, and that Scottish born immigrants in the rest of the UK should have the vote. Essentially full-blown ethnic nationalism, something the Unionists accuse Indy supporters of.

The fact is the only way it should be decided is by those living in Scotland eligible to vote. Galloway is a desperate sad act who exists only for the furtherment of Galloway and this is purely his latest grift. Remember this in the months ahead as a small minority pretend he’s some sort of giant killer.

Scottish independence is now supported by a majority

The latest polls for Scottish independence put 55% of people for, 45% against which is the latest poll which shows an increase in support since the start of 2020. This of course is good news, but if you’re a Unionist then the panic is setting in, and setting in hard because simply put if Boris Johnson is the voice of the Union then fuck the Union.

Of course it is just a poll, and the other problem is the SNP are seriously dragging their feet but the fact is people are on a clear path to independence, barring the diehard Unionists of course.

Alex Salmond’s retrial by television

On Monday night the BBC broadcast The Trial of Alex Salmond, a documentary of Salmond’s sexual offences trial of early 2020 presented by Kirsty Wark and made by her production company. It is an extraordinary film in that it was clearly made to put Salmond through a retrial by television as he was found not guilty by a jury back in March.

Salmond is a controversial figure at best. I’m drawn to respect some of the things he did (there is no chance in hell we’d be having this conversation about Scottish independence and it being so close without him) but I’ve always been wary of him which is maybe a throwback to my former Labour past. He’s what’s called a ‘Marmite figure’, but that said he’s still amazingly popular among a section of SNP supporters, even the wider independence movement. He is also incredibly unpopular with a large section of the Scottish establishment which brings me to last night’s programme.

Wark clearly assumed Salmond would be found guilty as indeed, much of Scotland’s media class did but his not guilty verdict threw a wobbly for her, so she just ended up making the programme she would have anyhow giving minor lip service to the case against Salmond being thrown out.  And here’s the thing, you and I may mot like Salmond. We might find him a bit old school but he was found to do nothing criminal but Wark ensured the viewing public was retried in public.

The reaction was hard, even from people not especially on Salmond’s side. Here’s Gerry Hassan as an example.

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I’ve never known a programme to go after a person found not guilty like this without an inch of new evidence and if we see the media go after a powerful figure like Salmond, what’s to stop them doing the same to anyone? Now there is a documentary to be made about the case, the #metto connection and how the Scottish establishment reacted to it but this isn’t it. This was a personal attack borne out of frustration that the law didn’t do what it wanted them to do so they lashed back in a way which smeared someone without the fairness of a trial.

And this is the point. If the media contains people who are able to conduct personal attacks on mainstream television thanks to the BBC then we have a justice system under attack from the powerful who don’t get what they want, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out the terrible consequences of that for a supposed free and fair society.

A few hours with Pat Mills

If there’s a single human being on the planet responsible for changing the path of mainstream comics in the UK and America, then it can only be Pat Mills, creator of 2000AD, Marshal Law, Charley’s War and as an editor guided so many people through the world of comics that his impact is going to live on decades after he passes from the world.

Right now he’s working on Space Warp, a new anthology which looks as if he’s unearthed some new artistic talents for a generation. Listening to him being interviewed by the lads from Cartoonist Kayfabe is a couple of hours of pure joy.

Watch, listen and enjoy…

How did we cope with non-distributed comics in the UK

During the ongoing Covid19 crisis comic books have suffered as much as any industry, but here in the UK there’s some worry about comics not being distributed in the UK while still being shipped across the US. This means we could end up with non-distributed comics in the UK for the first time in over 20 years which means an entire generation may have to deal with what us older fans used to deal with all the bloody time.

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What I mean by a ‘non-distributed’ (ND) is that there was no mainstream newsagent distribution, which is the definition til the late 90s when newsagent distribution of Marvel, DC and any other American publisher ended leaving comic shops in the direct market as the only way to get your comics.  Since then ND comics are now just the occasional thing, so fans in the UK haven’t had to struggle but now we’re back to a situation where comics aren’t shipping to the UK or are in such low numbers they might as well not.

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How did we cope back then, especially trying to read stories where you’d miss a part would be annoying beyond belief, especially if it was an ending. Marvel’s UK reprints helped in this regard but often you’d have to wait years to get that issue you’d been waiting to read. If you lived in a city with a comic shop you might be able to have picked up the issue you needed, or if you managed to visit a mart or a convention you’d find a dealer selling what you need. The fact is even with this safety net you’d miss issues. In fact there’s still storylines I’ve never read all of. Steve Englehart’s Celestial Madonna run in The Avengers being one that leaps instantly to mind.

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So you learned to cope. Of course companies wouljd throw problems at you like in 1981 Marvel skipped two whole months of distributing comics to the UK, so everything dated February and March of that year are ND, which is why otherwise ordinary comics are worth sometimes vastly more than the issues around them. I remember spending years filling in the issues missing, even crap like Rom: Spaceknight.

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Of course with it being 2020 and digital comics being a thing, it is exceptionally hard to miss reading an issue but for collectors it is about having the tactile joy of holding a comic in their hands, though with DC imploding that might be something harder to do in future for readers of DC. So good luck in the months, possibly years ahead. These are strange, scary and uncertain times but as comics fans we will prevail just as we did in the past.

Now off to Amazon to order that Celestial Madonna trade I’ve been meaning to read for years…

The second DC Implosion

Back in 1978 DC Comics suffered a massive implosion of titles, creators, and staff, as financial realities kicked in as DC Comics were purged to the extent where it was questionable whether DC could even exist.  Fast forward to 2020 and DC Comics are suffering a culling of staff including long-established names like Bob Harras being given their P45. Bleeding Cool have a piece on it here.

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I expected a reaction from new owners AT & T started flexing their muscles, but with Covid destroying industries everywhere, DC were going to make changes but this is harder than expected. Also titles are going to get cancelled. As the BC articles says expect the Batman, Superman and Justice League titles to be safe. I’d assume Flash, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern to be safe too.  Everything else is at risk. This isn’t that bad of a thing as DC needed a clear out of titles, not to mention some new creative directions but this is a horrible way to enact anything like that.

Hopefully this isn’t the beginning of the end of DC as a comics publisher, but it certainly is a shifting in the American comics industry of the likes we’ve not seen in a few generations.

Harlan Ellison’s guest of honour speech from Albacon 1985

Back in the distant past of 1985 there was a science fiction convention in Glasgow called Albacon which had the late, great Harlan Ellison as guest of honour. He was supposed to be there in 1984 but couldn’t come that year, so Norman Spinrad stood in for him.

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His guest of honour speech is legend among those who heard it. There was a recording made and for years I had one, but sometime in various house moves it was lost to time.  These days it’d have been slapped online but I gave up on that ages ago which is a bloody shame as it was glorious.

Well, when searching for something else I stumbled across the grail as the speech is in fact online and downloadable. I never thought I’d hear this again in my life. Some of it hasn’t dated well but the thing is a work of someone who was a genius and this is a wonderful bit of SF history.

Listen to it here.

The return of Runaround

Saturday morning used to be the preserve of kids television but these days it’s cooking programmes left, right and centre, which is the same with weekdays. Children’s TV is now relegated to designated channels but back in what feels like the distant past Back in the 1970s especially, children’s TV was an essential part of BBC and ITV’s programming and in some cases, ended up raising people. Many of those programmes though as lost to the modern world but sometimes they come back.

One of those is Runaround. Hosted by cheeky cockernee chappee MIke Reid it was an odd mix of raucous game show and pop bands of the day.

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Broadcast between 1975 and 1981 and this is an example of an average show.

Even though there was some attempts in later series to put in some educational content in the programme but nobody watched it for that. We watched it for the chaos and Mike Reid’s banter with the kids who he sometimes clearly despised in some episodes where he was probably hungover. As you can imagine, there’s no way this sort of programme would be allowed in 2020, but this is a product of the time and back then things were a tad rougher round the edges, and if anyone could work out the rules (which seemed to change weekly) then it’d make it even better.

Thought lost to time it has now returned on the splendid retro channel Talking Pictures each Saturday morning at 9am. For those of a certain age please jump on for some fun nostalgia, and for those too young for that make sure you see this amazing artifact of pop culture.