The horror of the second speculator era of comics

First of all here’s a nice video giving a basic rundown of the first big speculator era back in the 90s.

It was a glorious time for a while. Comics published a day or two ago would be hitting 50 quid and higher by the weekend. Massive amounts of money was spent by speculators and dealers, while publishers pumped out masses and masses of shite, much of it being utterly unreadable.Market went BOOM and overnight dealers and companies were dropping like flies.

Fast forward to 2021 and the market now is bloated with variant covers not to mention speculators pushing the prices of comics to the level where they’re unaffordable to most people. At least in the 90’s a ‘key book; would be expensive but you didn’t have to have a Swiss bank account to look at one. Added to the horror of slabbing comics it means vitally important, major comics will never, ever be read which destroys the purpose of what a comic is. It is to be read, and if you want, collected so you can read it again.

A mix of the Covid pandemic, a lack of conventions/marts and Youtube channels like Comictom101 are pushing this agenda at the expense of the medium. Speculation doesn’t help grow the medium or improve the quality of mainstream comics, or stop creators writing purely for their Netflix deal. It just creates a bubble and that bubble is unsustainable for collectors which is going to be dismal for the industry overall. But yet the bubble grows.

What worries me is the POP when the bubble bursts.The industry as a whole for your mainstream Marvel/DC title is not anywhere near as secure as the 90s, nor are there the same quality of creators, especially now Substack has signed consistantly selling Big Two creators leaving Marvel and DC with not an awful lot. So we shall see, but I dread the worst in a few years time once superhero fatigue kicks in.

20 years of 9/11

It is astonishing to me that 20 years have passed since 9/11, which means there are people now becoming adults who have known nothing but the 911 era and can’t remember the relative decade of peace (unless you lived somewhere like The Balkans) tyhat had taken place just before it. At the time it was very, very clear the world was going to change, yet few would have predicted the Taliban winning the war 20 years later while even more barbaric fundamentalists have emerged since then, both in the Middle East and America, while the lives of ordinary women, gays and lesbians come under threat worldwide by very different types of fundamentalism.

And all of this and more came out of that glorious autumn morning 20 years ago.

I always remember new things about it. Only this week I was telling a mate about how all the news websites went down through the sheer weight of people trying to get onto them (and this was in the days of dial-up so there were nowhere near the numbers of internet users there are today) so you had to go onto message boards to find out what information you could. For example, the Fortean Times site ended up being a great resource as news sites were crashing, but by late afternoon UK time news sites were coming back online, in a somewhat basic form. Sadly much of that digital record is lost so the best reord of how the world reacted that day is lost.

But we’re now two decades into whatever this is and there’s no signs of whatever this is ending as we have no leaders on any side capable of bringing it to an end which is why part of me sees myself worrying about this carnage probably til I die, and those born in the era of 9/11 will never know any better. .

Geordie Protect & Survive

If kids today think they can’t cope with potential armageddon, then cast your mind back to the time when armageddon could have been any minute of any day anytime from the late 50s through to the early 90s thanks to the very real threat of nuclear war. There was even a time when people not just thought they’d win such a was but also that people would survive it by stocking up on Fray Bentos pies, cat litter and remembering to wrap your nan in black bags and throw her out on the street for the council to pick up. How we got through the 80’s especially is a mystery still, but we did only to face another type of armageddon further down the line.

So people thought we’d survive and this resulted in utterly bizarre bits of fiction being peddled by governments like this bizarre, surreal bullshit in the video below. Check it Out was a kids programme, and taking a break from it’s usual stuff it decided to show us how to survive the end of life as we know it in the most children’s TV way possible.

Enjoy?

A short tale from the days of the Reading Festival

It is Reading Festival this weekend, the largest festival to take place in the UK for nearly two years since Covid kicked in. It is of course a shadow of its former self where barring the likes of Stormzy, there’s a barren roll of talent (Liam Gallagher??) on the main stages, though to be fair there’s some decent stuff if you search through the smaller stages.

Back in the day, Reading used to be the big end of summer blow out to the festival season which kicks off properly with Glastonbury, and now lasts from April through to the dog-end of September. See, climate change does have some advantages…

1999 was a pinnacle of sorts. Looking back at it now the lineup seems even better than it did at the time plus at the time I never paid to get in having gotten freebies for everyone, I mean, just look at this lineup!

The only sort of naff day was the Friday, where The Charlatans produced a glacially tedious set which was improved only by people coming running to get mates to see the insane filthy antics Nashville Pussy were doing in one of the smaller tents. That isn’t the story I’m telling though, the one I’m on about is one of the most talked about festival sets in UK history that was watched by far, far fewer people who’ve actually been in a field watching it at the time. I’m talking about Kevin Rowland’s Saturday afternoon slot.

Rowland had just brought out an album of cover versions, My Beauty, for Alan McGee’s Creation label, and it was generally being savaged by the music media though time has been kind to it.I can’t remember why, but Rowland was offered a 15 minute slot after Pavement but before The Divine Comedy so it seemed a nice fit for Rowland to play before a band with obvious Dexy’s influences, and also Rowland hadn’t played live in at least a decade so interest was high. I’d spent most of the morning and early afternoon in the arena since the ear-bursting glory of Atari Teenage Riot, but decided to nip back to the tents to changes clothes (it was by now a glorious summer day, as was all the weekend) grab some food and the rest of the crew for the late afternoon onwards.

We were camped in the field the furthest from the arena which was a trek and a half as you’re talking about the field on the far right of this picture. In years prior I’d camped relatively close to the arena so this year I was pretty remote which ended up being fine as this year was the first year of kids starting fires and generally being cunts on the Sunday night which ended up becoming a big thing in the decade afterwards.

Aerial shots of Reading Festival - Berkshire Live

So we marched through the fields on a boiling hot day, and got into the arena as Pavement were closing their set. The others weren’t bothered with Rowland, but I wanted to see it out of interest but I have to admit to seeing if there was going to be a disaster playing out on stage in front of 80,000 people. Anyhow, I grabbed myself a cold beer just as Rowland came on stage to perform You’ll Never Walk Alone (I think) first. I wondered why there were some boos and laughter, then I turned round and saw what was going on up on the stage.

Rowland was in a dress with two ‘exotic’ dancers turning out heartfelt cover versions of songs many in the audeince neither knew or cared about, especially on day two of a festival where people by now were in full festival mode and drunk. To say it was a garish sight was an understatement but I’d seen more garish on a UK festival stage in the previous decades, but this set would have went down a blinder had it say, been on a stage in the Green Fields of Glastonbury a few months earlier. However it wasn’t the repulsive sight the tabloids claimed it was, nor did it go down as badly as the music press said it did but it was a bizarre set at a festival not known for it’s tolerance of anything which wasn’t guitar based music. A crossdressing 80’s icon turning out covers pushed that to the limit, though not to the scale of Daphne and Celeste the following year.

Sadly the aftermath broke Rowland who took years to come back from that 15 minute set and much of that can be laid at the feet of those journalists drooling to lay into a celebrity but he wasn’t even the worst act on the main bill that weekend. That was the Red Hot Chili Peppers who are shite, and probably somewhere in another reality turning out 15 minute bass solos but that’s another story for another time…

No more cancer

So the other day I trotted up to the Beatson here in Glasgow to undergo some tests. I’ve been in remission but there’s still been enough of concern over the last few years to monitor things closely. Well, as of now I have a fantastically low chance of catching cancer again to the point where I’m probably less likely to get it than the man in the street, so sorry to the man in the street.

And that’s pretty much it for my cancer journey. Annual appointments for the next few years to keep on top of things and then if everything’s fine after that the GP will keep an eye on things.

Which means I now have to only worry about the stroke recovery, and the recovery after lockdown. Tiny steps all the way do lead somewhere at times…

Melting, I’m melting…

The UK is in the grip of a heatwave. I am on unofficial time out for doing things as it is too hot to do anyhting because as a country we’re not built to take this heat, nor is our infrastructure there to deal with it either, plus most of the nice air-conditioned buildings (cinemas, etc) we have are still closed thanks to Covid restrictions.

So things are melty right now which involves eating ice lollies and watching films set in the snow…

Come to sunny Paisley this weekend and buy comics!

The comics marts are coming thick and fast now, with this time the sunlight land of Paisley welcoming us all to the town for a comic (and toys, etc)at the Paisley Centre. Lots and lots of wonderful comics will be getting sold, so get yourselves down and give me your money!

BGCP Comic and Toy Market Tour: Paisley

Glastonbury in the 21st century

The BBC’s second documentary about Glastonbury this year was another one which was very good, and it makes me wish they’d let people loose on the archive to discuss more than the usual ‘Coldplay and mud’ narrative of say, a Jo Whiley film would do. This one though was narrated by Dizzee Rascal and again gave a different perspective to a festival which essentially gentrified from 2000 to 2010.

2000 was the year where every single part of the site was rammed by Friday afternoon. By Saturday afternoon parts of the site were uncomfortably overcrowded, especially main paths to and from the Pyramid to the Other Stage. By Sunday it was genuinely dangerous in areas as by now there must have been 300-500k people onsite as the fence in large sections were down, plus you had all the day visitors from the local area. not to mention David Bowie attracted huge interest. As I’ve said on many a blog about this time, getting in the festival in these days was easy so a perfect storm created this situation and there’s no way Eavis could continue. Which meant after a fallow year the festival returned with the Superfence.

There was no getting over this fence, at least not in the numbers of past years which meant in 2002 the site went the opposite way to 2000 and the place was quiet in places. You could walk round the site easily with no traffic jams. In fact it was a wee bit too empty. 2003 saw an increase in numbers as Eavis was finding his feet in this new era where the festival wasn’t quite gentrified but that was the path the festival was on. This was both good and bad in that crime decreased along with the crushes but part of the sould of the festival went with it. True, some of it has returned and is present in many of the areas but Babylon (the main stage area) is mainly for the folk now who pitch up for the weekend and never venture further than that.

Which isn’t to say there’s not great acts on the Pyramid Stage I’ve seen acts ranging from Leonard Cohen to Stevie Wonder to errr, Rolf Harris there.

By 2010 the festival had changed. A dry sunny year washed away the memories of a number of wet years, especially 2005 where Michael Eavis contemplated cancelling the festival due to the enormous amount of rain dropped on the site on the Friday morning.

Once we hit the 2010s the festival had settled down to a pattern which was one of slow expansion as Eavis would rent out neighbouring farms to expand the site, so what was once a gate in say, 2008, was part of a new camping area by 2013. Simply put the site now is huge compared to 2000 and it is entirely possible to never make an area during a festival as it is now (I think) way too big however if it wasn’t so large in size the chances of getting in decrease, so lets take the trade off.

Where the festival goes from here depends very much on Michael and Emily Eavis. When Michael’s wife Jean died in 1999 the general feeling was that 2000 would be the last one, It wasn’t of course, but as Michael is 85 the thought of what happens when there is no Michael is one many folk have been having for years. The general feeling is that Emily takes over full control though the vultures have been circling round the festival since the 90s when RIchard Branson was trying to buy into it. My feeling is it remains with Emily and the team which has grown up over the years as stopping it or selling it off would be the wrong thing to do as so many people have worked to make it what it is now which is a crucial part of the British cultural calender.

Hopefully next year the festival returns. Hopefully I grab a ticket in resales in the spring but the world would be a poorer place without Glastonbury, and frankly, I’m done with watching the festival on TV. So hopefully see you all in a field in Somerset next June, pandemics permitting…

Glastonbury in the 90s

The BBC broadcast a documentary about Glastonbury in the 1990s last night, and instead of the usual shite about Britpop (which was essentially Jo Whiley’s show the other day) it was a pretty decent history of the decade which did change the festival forever. Also having Skin from Skunk Anansie present it gave a different viewpoint which the BBC’s coverage dearly needs as their coverage is growing increasingly staid and dull.

But this was a lovely wee walk down memory lane and indeed, the 90s which I guess is increasingly like the 1960s were to Baby Boomers in that it was a decade full of change and promise and fuck me, if it wasn’t exciting living through it all, good and bad. For Glastonbury this was transforming from an underground event in 1990 to something not quite establishment by 1999 but that was the path it was on.

I’ve written comprehensively about the festival during the 1990s (just search for the blogs and you’ll find all of them, but there is a lot) as my first year was the drug fuelled mess of 92, which was when the festival was still very much an amatuer event where anyone who wanted to could get in, if they were willing to put the effort in which meant going over or under the fence, or as I did in 93 just walk in with tickets sold to me for a tenner by the security who were also in on the deal. You’d walk into the site not knowing what the next few days will bring and although Glastonbury is still like that, it has lost much of the random insanity you’d find just stumbling around in the dark. For example in 1995 I got lost finding my tent one night, and ended up going into someone else’s tent which ended up in a seriously messy night but I could never find her tent again.

And that’s the glory of Glastonbury. You can meet a complete stranger then have the night of your lives and never see or hear from them again, or they end up being friends for life. A lot of what made Glastonbury great in the 90s was these moments, especially around Joe Bananas which sold blankets mainly (I still have a few, including one I bought in 1992 when I was sleeping under the stars each night) but also ran a soundsystem as back then Michael Eavis despised rave culture seeing it tied in with drugs and gangsters. Of course this was the tabloid view at the time and Eavis was convinced by 1995 to set up a dance tent but before then it was down to places like Joe Bananas to provide the big late night entertainment.

Mathew Clayton on Twitter: "Joe Bananas Blanket Stall. Pre naughty corner  anyone wanting to carry on the party had to do it outside this stall that  sold rizlas, wellies and blankets… https://t.co/PzONxO6dlO"

Even after the dance tent started up these late night venues would just spring up much to joy of everyone. I remember in 97 walking by it early one morning (We’d camped out right in front of the Pyramid so it wasn’t too far away) to see some folk clinging on for one last throwing of shapes before their bodies broke on them.

And yes the music did change during the decade. Britpop as it originally was had arrived in 1993 with Suede headinling the NME stage which isn’t to say there were no British acts on display as those years of the early 90s were gloriously diverse with acts from a variety of different genres on display. The TV cameras arrived at a time when Britpop acts were just breaking, and in 95 they became dominant. By 97 we were stuck with crap like Kula Shaker and Dodgy as Britpop faded away though Glastonbury remained a varity of genres on the main stages in those last few years before the ‘festival band’ shat into existence by the likes of Coldplay started infecting lineups but that was to come in the 2000s…

Overall though Glastonbury in the 90s was a series of wonderful weekends spent with wonderful people in a wonderful time when wonderful things were possible. I miss those time massively and would give a soul or two to go back to those times, but life moves on and the festival in the 2000s became something else as I became someone else…

It has been two years since the last Glastonbury Festival and I am a bit lost without it

Two years ago I was in this field.

It was full of people, boiling hot and fun but right no it’s more or less empty, though it will be open soon as a campsite til the autumn but that isn’t quite the same thing as the festival in full flow. Right now on a Thursday I’d have woken up quite early, grabbed a shower plus some food before going back to where ever in the disabled field we were camping (normally low down near the entrance) to see what everyone else is up to, assuming they’re even awake. Thursdays at Glastonbury I enjoy a lot because not much is on the main stages so you can wander around taking the place in because it’ll have been a year, maybe two, since you were last there.

And now it’s been two years with a gap and in 2022 the chances of getting a ticket in the resale next spring is minimal so realistically 2023 will be my next chance and I hate that. Hopefully it won’t be but a large part of what has been my life has been denied for too long and like thousands of others, I can only hope this is the last time we have such a long enforced break.

Til then though I’ll be raking through YouTube for videos, and hoping for a wee bit of luck next spring…