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…

 

 

 

About that ‘cancel culture’ letter

A letter condemning cancel culture signed by over 150 academics, writers, journalists and others. In 2020 this shouldn’t have to happen, but it has and although the statement is as anodyne in defence of free speech as possible, it’s been causing controversy as people say there’s no such thing as cancel culture while at the same time rallying behind calls to cancel people listed on the letter.  The letter itself can be found at this link.

Thing is instead of an open debate we saw what the letter is talking about play out in real-time with people posting just why free speech is under threat, and why a certain aspect of the left has decided to be just as authoritarian and censorious as certain aspects of the right. As an example, the actress Jodie Comer was revealed to be dating a supposed conservative which has seen the most appalling screeching nonsense about how she’s Satan incarnate, and of course guilty without trial, evidence or indeed, sanity from her accusers.

There’s the element of witch-hunting here, and certainly, there’s an obvious joy from some that they can wield such power (I’d recommend Jon Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed to see just how dark cancel culture can get) that a young woman like Comer can wake up to a stream of frankly, insane bullshit about her private life. Then there’s the reaction of people who think Person A is guilty by association so they hold or advocate the views of Person B who they don’t like. Remember when Johnny Depp was attempted to be canceled due to domestic abuse allegations which eventually ended up showing that in reality, Depp was the victim rather than perpetrator? Now that’s readily forgotten as people support Depp in his legal action against The Sun but for a while there it seemed like the internet had crucified Depp.

Problem is when we now spend so much time living online and everyone is a cop trying to police people for wrongspeak we have a situation where there is no debate. When that spills into the real world, especially in an academic context so that debating opposing views is shunned, or worse then we’re diving headfirst into a dystopia where everyone has to conform for fear of cancellation and all that brings.

So personally I’m done with being associated with an illiberal section of the left who want to control rather than convince, and that lives are simplistic things where people should only associate themselves with other like-minded people. Ideas are not exchanged, therefore they’re never challenged and we leap on this course of anti-intellectualism as this culture war between the hard right and left knock chunks off each other. I fear for where things are going and I’m not convinced there’s a way to pull back however, the only chink of light is the majority of people still find this alien which is why so many of these types on right and left, have major problems when entering the real world. Hopefully sanity will prevail.

 

Sam Raimi versus UK censors on live TV

Back in the 80’s and 90’s there used to be a late-night talk show called Central Weekend, shown on the ITV network but based in the Midlands. It was an odd magazine format that would switch from deeply serious to flippant on the turn of a heel. Back in 1987 they had Sam Raimi on to defend not just his two Evil Dead films released at the time, as well as being the mouthpiece of anti-censorship.

The argument is bizarre. At one point Howarth is arguing for parental control while saying that parents are so weak they can’t exercise control over their children and it’s the fault of folk like Sam Raimi but being a Nazi, which is one of the arguments used.  Of course the likes of Howarth have never seen all the film, and also people argue that people see films just for kicks which is basically the entire fucking point of any entertainment.

Raimi spent most of the early part of his career in the UK arguing for his films and in this, he looks weary as he realises that he’s being set up as the fall guy. The amount of venom thrown at him by the like of Howarth over the years would wear anyone out but the fact is Raimi is now one of Hollywood’s most respected directors and the Evil Dead films are regarded as classics, with the first being respected across critical boundaries while Howarth is best remembered for being a homophobe who was roundly skewered by Chris Morris on Brass Eye.

 

The latest outrage against South Park

It is 2020. People are still blaming South Park for all the ills of the Western World. This time instead of the rabidly illiberal censorious right screaming about the show, it’s the rabidly illiberal censorious left in the shape of writer Dana Schwartz.

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There’s a series of Tweets, with above being her first, and the next being her last, but she’s ploughing a furrow dug often since the programme started in the late 90’s.

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The problem is her final message is wrong. Yes it is a very political show, but the message is that often there is nothing that can be done in terms of a simple, easy solution. The character of Kyle especially (often to be said to be the closest in terms of actual beliefs for the creators) pours out hard solutions but is mocked by others because people from the left and right don’t want complex answers but easy ones that fits their own worldview. Which is where Schwartz is as the show doesn’t fit her worldview so she threw out this attempt to basically ‘cancel’ it.

The problem is by blaming South Park from everything from the alt-right, to Trump to the current culture wars is that simple solution. An airy wave of the hand and all your problems are gone. Who needs to understand the socio-economic problems caused by the collapse of industry which has led to an alienated working class who feel isolated and ignored by all the traditional politics out there, hence why many are looking to outsiders for answers. Sadly that gives us Brexit and Trump partly because the left as a whole has advocated the discussion to the right in favour of purity spirals and identity politics rather than creating a narrative where the alienated working class see a way out.

So instead we’re stuck with people being offended by a show nearly 25 years old that’s attacked people from all political backgrounds and while it often misses a point, or gets it wrong, it serves a purpose as a satire of the times where anything is open for debate. Because you don’t like hearing what it has to say is not a reason to ‘cancel’ it, which makes me glad that Schwartz’s attempt to do just that fell flat but these attempts at censorship attack liberty itself, and sometimes liberty means people hearing or seeing things they don’t want to hear or see.

Cancel culture and Contrapoints

This is going to involve a lot of backstory, so start at the top.

Cancel culture is a thing. To shorten it as much as possible, it’s described on Wikipedia as this;

cancel culture, describes a form of boycott in which someone (usually a celebrity) who has shared a questionable or unpopular opinion, or has had behavior in their past that is perceived to be either offensive or problematic called out on social media is “canceled“; they are completely boycotted

This has been around basically forever but in the age of social media where people live within their echo chambers where one has to be 100% pure ‘canceling’ someone can be weaponised to people even within their own community who’ve done incredible amount of work to make things better, or to make the case for these people. It’s one thing to say, cancel Harvey Weinstein and ostracise him, but it’s another to ‘cancel’ someone with a different opinion or opposing view. That’s where it becomes controlling, censorious and even cultish as the political and moral point being made is that a voice/opinion challenges their worldview so much the person must not just be expelled, but they, and even their friends, must be destroyed.

Which brings me to Contrapoints.

Contrapoints is a YouTube channel run by Natalie Wynn. It’s partly about her transition which has been very public, but it’s one of the few interesting leftish American YouTube channels as Wynn throws around ideas, and yes, sometimes finds the American left somewhat lacking. She also has spent most of her time online tacking the far right who have been attacking her pretty much constantly so she’s used to being attacked online, the pile-ons and all the usual crap one expects from the far right.

As her videos rack up millions of views, Wynn makes a good amount of money from them. Not enough to retire, but enough to do what she wants so ‘canceling’ her hits her directly in the pocket, which is what the far-right have tried to do, but what would prompt those supposedly of the left to attack her, and attack her friends in a manner so viciously that she was driven off social media.

And this is where you need to go watch Wynn’s last video and watch til the end…

There’s a lot to take in there. The main facts are that Wynn said something which upset a section of supposed ‘progresives’, she apologised where appropiate but made their case because views aren’t illegal because you disagree with them. I disagree with a chunk of what Wynn says but at the same time I’ve learned from them because unless you’re an out and out Nazi you don’t get your opinions silenced because it might upset people.

And what’s remarkable is at the end of the video Wynn outlines what the reaction to her feature length essay will be almost perfectly. The reaction was vicious and to repeat, didn’t just target Wynn, but her friends but this is not uncommon as this happens to someone it seems daily at least as they’ve committed some thought-crime against a section of people who will not budge. We live in an age where everyone is policing someone, and acting as judge, jury and supposed executioner as some of the threats Wynn and people like her get are terrifying.

It is as David Baddiel says:

There are many types of trolls, but they fall into two basic (and much overlapping) types: those who hate from a position of hate and those who hate from a position of self-assumed goodness. We tend to think of them, in the caricature, mainly as the former, as basement-dwelling incels angrily spattering the internet with abuse for lolz, but it is actually the latter who are far more prevalent and significant. No one has ever been cancelled by the former; you can’t be erased and destroyed by punks, but you very much can by furies, mobilising to take you down in the name of right.

What happens is people pick a tribe, and rather try to seek solidarity with others or find commong ground by listening to others we have an urge for purity that’d scare anyone. Overwhelmingly it is women being subjected to this, though men and transwomen like Wynn suffer huge levels of abuse, doxing and worse thanks to how social media has weaponised politics, identity and culture in a way the days of the early internet where we interacted on moderated message boards. Now with nothing to stop us there’s unrestricted blind hate being spat out all the time at people followed by ‘cancelling’ people which means destroying as much of someone’s life as you can legally.

We live on a ‘planet of cops‘ in a world Orwell warned us about. Where someone can be ostracised partly by people within the same community as them but without any understanding of their positon or show of solidarity. It must be purity and if there’s no purity then people must be cleansed until there’s nobody left because the thing is with these people they will find ‘fault’ anywhere because one doesn’t find reason when we’re in a witchunt.

I have no idea where this ends but it won’t end well if we end up being ruled by people on hairtriggers policing your entire life online reducing privacy, free speech and debate to nothing. Because if they can come after someone like Natalie Wynn, they can come after anyone.

The genius of Robert Crumb

First time I saw any of Robert Crumb’s work I was very young and had an instant negative reaction to it. It was, to me then, utterly repulsive but I was used to superhero comics and nothing more challenging than the best of that genre. I must have been around 9 or so because shortly after 2000AD came out, and it acted like a comics education as I expanded my tastes to the point a few years later that I read more Crumb, and this time saw the genius in his work.

Some of it was still repulsive, some of it would come these days with ALL the trigger warnings one can get on today’s ‘woke’ culture, but Crumb tells truths and sometimes it hurts to see people tell the truth. I suppose this is why I grew more and more into Crumb’s work as it truly is comics meant to be read by adults with an open, critical mind.

Interviews with Crumb are fascinating things.Over the Christmas holidays, a new one emerged and the interview is a wonderful thing from a man now able to look back at a long career and still tell truths. Have a look and see someone who still struggles with some of the work he’s done, and sometimes doesn’t care because that’s how it should be.

So, enjoy and go search out Crumb’s work. It will be the most extraordinary, often challenging, work you’ll ever read.

Hunting down the video nasties

I blogged years ago about the hunt to find comic books as a kid, and that back in the day could be a nightmare, but when I was older the hunt for horror films surpassed it mainly because you could be imprisoned for owning some of these films. After the insanity of the Video Nasty moral crackdown, owning a copy of say, Zombie Flesh Eaters could get you thrown in prison.

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So people found ways to get past the censors, and the police which meant an underground network sprung up of bootleggers who’d supply you with dodgy copies of videos which were as clear as being in the middle of a foggy thunderstorm, but still had enough there to give you an idea of the gory antics going on. Here I highly recommend Jake West’s excellent documentary, Video Nasties: Draconian Days, for more about the times in the 80’s and 90’s pre Labour’s post 1997 liberalisation of British society.

As an aside, it is worth praising Tony Blair’s government for that brief period from 1997 to around 2001 when censorship was rolled back, which coming after decades of often extreme censorship at a state level it seemed like a new beginning. Sadly that wasn’t to last long after 9/11 but I digress…

That period in the 80s and 90s saw fanzines spring up which featured small ad listings in the back, as well as swaps, and although I got some films that way the main way I managed to get my uncut sex, gore and violence was through comic marts in London. As I was working these events I managed to get first dibs on some quality gore, not to mention the holy grail of bootlegs; the laserdisc copy. This meant uncut pristine clear copies of classics like Canibal Holocaust.

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Things were good if you were a fan and could get to these events, but this was still Tory Britain so at various shows you’d see customs and/or the police going round tables busting dealers and seizing tapes. Some dealers were prosecuted and a few served time for selling videos, with tabloids leaping on the ‘video nasties sold to kids’ angle, which actually never existed as these dealers weren’t that stupid. Thing was there was no way legally to see these films outwith of the odd private showing, or film festivals like Shock Around the Clock. That involved going to Kings Cross which in the early 90’s was a dark place if you went down the wrong streets, but if you knew the right places it really was home to the best fun you can have. Now it’s all Harry Potter tours and tourists getting the Eurostar.

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But a scene emerged though that time which has went on to bigger things. Not to mention that post 97 many of these films people could have been prosecuted for were now becoming legal. I can now pick up a copy of Last House on the Left without fear of prosecution easily or in the age of the internet, I can download a copy in seconds without heaving my fat arse off my couch. This is all great but I miss the hunt, and I miss the thrill of doing something illegal which stuck a knife in the eye of censors who were out purely to blame something for the problems they caused in society.

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And now in 2019 we’re on the verge of another wave of censorship with hard/far right wing authoritarian strongmen/women eying up what they can to control the public, or at least, blame Thing A for the fact that they’ve fucked everything up. You’d think we’d learn but hey ho…

However I miss those days. They were fun, you got to meet interesting people and saw great (and awful) horror films in places you really probably shouldn’t have been, but dear me, it was fun and we don’t get that sort of fun much anymore.

Trying to catch a Black Kiss

I’ve been asked loads and loads to expand upon my series of blogs about Neptune Distribution and the UK comics scene of the 80’s and early 90’s when things were changing so rapidly, This is a shortish story about Howard Chaykin’s infamous erotic horror comic Black Kiss and the state of censorship then, and indeed, now not to mention the way history has been rewritten…

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Black Kiss was a 12-issue mini series from the mind of Howard Chaykin published in 1988 by Vortex Comics. Billed as an ‘erotic horror story’, it promised to be one of the biggest selling independent titles of the year as Chaykin was hot off his revamp of The Shadow for DC, plus he’d recently returned to rescue American Flagg! after his departure some years previously. At this time he made up part of a trio of creators (Alan Moore and Frank Miller being the other two) who would be vocal about censorship in comics, and especially the situation at DC which was becoming censorious with a threatened ratings system.

The late 80’s were a hard time. Hard right wing governments were in place in the US and UK with both pushing a hard line in censorship, though the UK didn’t have a constitution to protect it from the worst of the censors demands.  In the middle of this we were trying to ship comics into the UK which were to be blunt, filth. Wonderful, glorious filth not to mention splendidly violent (which didn’t seem to trigger customs as much) but what customs were especially looking for was sexualised violence. Black Kiss was full of sexualised violence, plus it was published sealed in a plastic bag so it was literally targeting itself out for customs.

Customs then was a bit like playing Russian Roulette. On a good day and in certain airports, you’d be able to ship anything passed without a problem. On bad days they’ll have you sitting there for hours, maybe eventually releasing your entire shipment, sometimes not. Sometimes they’ll keep a box. Sometimes they wouldn’t give a fuck. What was weird working for Neptune was our boss Geoff was a rabid Tory and Thatcherite, but he was also against censorship so we’d bring stuff over that our competitor Titan wouldn’t, and in the case of Black Kiss they’d had their shipment held at customs while ours sailed through. Happy days!

We would do a number of things to get our copies through. We’d wrap them in newspaper, or hide them in a box of Disney comics (”Oh Mickey, what are you going to do with THAT!!’), or we’d distract customs while I lifted a box from the to be screened pile to the screened pile.  We risked our freedom for comics!

It didn’t always work. Customs would open up boxes, rip open a copy and decide that one erect penis was obscene (they’d already nicked a copy of Love and Rockets for showing an erect penis around the same time) and to this day I can’t work out why most societies have an issue with erections as half the planet has had one at some point, and the other half has some experience with them so in comics made by adults for adults there shouldn’t be an issue but it was a red flag to customs.

Black Kiss did indeed top sales charts in the UK regardless with Chaykin proving himself a creator at the top of his game again, but in the years since both Chaykin and Black Kiss have been airbrushed from the history of the time. Histories of the time will mention Watchmen, Dark Knight and Maus, but not Black Kiss because I imagine most modern comics historians find it seedy or something.  However the mainstream today is full of comics that would make Chaykin’s book look tame in terms of the sex and especially the violence. Sure, there’s no erections or such but it stops short of being honest enough to be pornography plus there’s a glossy sheen to the violence, especially sexualised violence, that even makes an auld liberal like myself often baulk.

What we did though at the time was to push what was and wasn’t acceptable to bring into the UK because the truth is we struggled all the time with bringing comics into the UK because some arsehole in customs might play things by the book, or someone decided that a title should be seized because it had a zombie or tits on the front, or in some cases, zombie tits on the cover. The more middle class of you reading this might be thinking ‘ah well, it’s only the exploitation market’ but the fact is adults have the right to read what they want, and some genuine works of art (and I consider Black Kiss to be such a thing) were caught up in this government led witchhunt. Had there only been one distributor of comics to the UK as there is today then we may not have had these challenges to the system shipped in, and in fact things today would be different.

And for all the faults of today I’d rather we as adults choose what to read or watch rather than have to play games so people can make their own minds up.

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…