The ”neo-Nazi” who organises comic conventions

The Scottish politics website A Thousand Flowers revealed information in regards Andy Kleek, the organiser of ”Comic Con Scotland’‘ to be held this November in Edinburgh. Essentially, Kleek is a supporter of the EDL, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon AKA  ‘Tommy Robinson’ (who is such a wussie he blocked me on Twitter for this) and all they stand for.

To quote the site;

In August 2017, the anti-racist campaign group Hope Not Hate exposed Kleek as having attended a rally organised by Robinson last June to stir up division in the wake of the Manchester attacks. The event saw hundreds of far-right thugs descend on Manchester city centre, clashing with police and forcing a Sikh group running their regular stall providing food to homeless people to flee in the face of racist abuse.

The full story, along with screenshots is here and I advise you to go there and read it if you plan to attend, or exhibit at the show in November, or if you plan to attend the Harry Potter themed event he’s organising in Edinburgh. I should also make it clear that this event is not the Edinburgh Comic Con held in April. I’ve got nothing but praise and support for that show, and I’m disappointed that people have vandalised posters advertising one of the better shows of this type in the UK.

There are several issues here. First one up is whether you as a consumer want to give money to an event that may fund the activities of an alleged neo-Nazi. I tend to trust what the guys at Hope Not Hate do, and if they’ve provide proof then the word of Nick Lowles and his team (and in the spirit of full disclosure I should say I’ve fed them information in regards a case in the past) then that’s enough for me. Your money, your choice. I’ll keep mine in my bank account.

It is your moral decision what to do here.

Next issue is this, again quoted from A Thousand Flowers;

Comic cons have emerged as a cash cow for events organisers over the last few years with huge public interest in sci-fi, fantasy and comic books, fuelled by recent on-screen hits. Unlicensed Harry Potter themed merchandise and events have also – as anyone who has visited Edinburgh’s Old Town over the last year can testify – become a magnet for those looking to cash in.

Over the year in the UK there’s literally hundreds of comic conventions. I can remember when there was only one big one, and a handful of smaller marts. At one point 20 years ago it looked for a while that the unbroken run of large comic conventions that started in the UK in Birmingham in 1968 was to end. Then Iron Man came out in 2008, and the rest as they say is history.

We’re in a bubble right now. I don’t think it’ll ever return to the days where a handful of us sat in a hotel bar in Manchester considering how to keep the British convention going, but at some point things will go ‘pop’ and a lot of the dodgy show organisers will head off back to whence they came as will some of those selling stuff to cash in on the ‘geek’ boom. Again, it is your choice to do with your money as you will but if I was Kleek I’d perhaps make my logo less reminiscent of this one.

So to sum up. It seems the organiser of a comic con in Edinburgh has a less than pleasant set of political beliefs, which I disagree with but it is his right to hold. However I can choose not to support his events, and I can also make it so folk who read this blog make the same choice.

Again, you are the consumer. Choose wisely.


Come to Rutherglen Comic Con this Saturday and buy comics from me

This Saturday at Rutherglen Town Hall, in (oddly enough) Rutherglen, is this year’s comic con.

So if you want some Alan Moore Swamp Thing’s, or some godforsaken Doomsday Clock comics, or what little Black Panther related comics I’ve got left after the buzzards on Ebay stripped me bare, then come on down on Saturday. I’ll be near local artist Gary Erskine who’ll be drawing comics I assume.

Anyhow, come spend money on Saturday!

A few words about the lack of comics at comic conventions

The other day I was out for lunch and had a wee chat with former UKCAC organiser Frank Plowright about a number of things but the state of comic conventions came up, in particular how over the last decade or so a ‘comic convention’ can often have little or nothing to do with comics outwith of film or TV related material. In effect the source material, and an entire medium is being relegated to feed the film/TV industry not to mention giving cosplayers something to do.

We’d both agreed that back in the distant past conventions where as much about hanging out with mates you may only see at cons or marts than it was about running a business, and indeed, I find it hard for people to get dewy-eyed about someone of the San Diego styled cons that have sprung up in the last decade as having attended some of these cons, it’s clear the organisers are looking only to capitalise on the current bubble we’re living in.

Which brings me to this article on Bleeding Cool. Titled Putting the Comics Back Into Comic Conventions, makes a crucial point early on.

Well, I understand “comic-cons” are now popping up everywhere, and this is my problem. Everyone thinks they will get rich doing this — well, unless you have money, great and loyal help, and luck, it just don’t work that way!

It doesn’t. I’ve done thousands of marts/cons over the decades as punter/trader/organiser and the one’s where it’s being run as a cash-grab are the ones that tend to be terrible. Then there’s the lack of comics at marts/cons. Now I get that the current bubble means both traders, organisers and punters will come into the scene but again for the last decade, comics have been relegated down the ranking behind the cosplayers and bubble tea sellers.

Then again the type of person going to cons have changed. Back in the day we’d work our tables then drink the bar dry and in the cases when Titan used to run a free bar at UKCAC, people would ensure Mike Lake would have a small heart attack at the bill. These events would in effect be 48 to 72 hour marathons and indeed even up to the mid 2000’s at the Bristol Expo’s there’d be folk in the bar til whatever hours in the morning. Part of this change in culture is down to the fact that the entire scene has grown so the core of British fandom isn’t effectively there for the comics or they just do buy into the culture we had in the 80’s to 2000’s.  Then again that drinking culture was uniquely British as Frank told me the story of how one A List American comic book writer from the 90’s found it incredible that we’d drink ourselves to death while running/attending conventions.

Change tough is good. I’m enjoying in my older age how several organisers are professional so you don’t have the sense they’re winging it, or even though these are operations which are run as full-time business’s there’s no sense that they’ve no love for the medium at all. There are organisers who could not give a fuck and are clearly just interested in charging silly money for punters and dealers in order to cash in while the bubble is still unburst.

But bubbles do burst. In my 35 years plus in the industry I’ve seen at least three come and go with the one constant being that if you’re selling comics and your con/mart is built round comics, and you’ve got a love of what you’re doing then you’ve got a better chance of riding the bad times out than someone just throwing an event into a poor venue and ramming it full of cosplayers. So I appreciate where things are and how things have changed but it’d be nice to introduce a new generation to how it used to be…

What I thought of Doomsday Clock #2

DC’s Doomsday Clock started off last issue it provoked a strange reaction from the majority of comics media in that it was all strangely positive, though this series of articles by Chase Magnett made a great case against the comic while explaining the problems with it from  it from an ethical point of view. Thinking it’d be worth seeing how Doomsday Clock is developing I dipped into issue two.

We pick up with Ozymandias, Nu-Rorschach and Mime and Marionette. The latter two are a sort of generic Joker/Harley Quinn type of DC psychopath who seem to be here to show off how Geoff Johns can write ‘crazy and dangerous’, but in the verisimilitude of Moore and Gibbons Watchmen these would be characters who’d  be shot by the police but Johns has to build them up as ultra scary baddies even though this weakens Johns point that Watchmen was the well of all these characters. As said last time, in fact it was those trying to copy Moore’s prose and who only took the violence away from Watchmen that made the industry worse.

Anyhow we have a flashback to them raiding a bank, when Dr Manhattan’s shows up and doesn’t kill them because…

Yes, it does look as if Manhattan doesn’t turn them both into tomato soup because he’s clocking her tits out but this mystery is why Ozymandias freed the both as he searches for the missing Dr. in hope of saving the world and to do so they all pile in NIte Owl’s Owlship, Archie, which has been converted to follow Dr. Manhattan however the nukes have started falling.

Meanwhile in the DC Universe (I suppose all this is now the DC Universe) Bruce Wayne has some issue with Lex Luthor, as well as Gotham protesting Batman while Geoff Johns shoehorns something in he heard on the news.

The group makes it through into the DC Universe, and we find out Nu-Rorschach is Malcolm Long’s son Reggie.

We then get what DC have been wanking themselves into a fury to achieve for nearly 30 years as Watchmen characters walk the streets of Gotham City!

Nathaniel Dusk was a great series DC did back in the 80’s by Don McGregor and Gene Colan. Not content with dragging Watchmen through the mud, Johns drops this in here hinting (well, making an obvious bloody reference) to something important in the plot and dear god, this is all plot. Every page is dense plot dripping from the page with no time for characterisation or any form of subtlety which by the time we get to Lex Luthor and Ozymandias swapping cringe-worthy dialogue with each other has left the building.

That isn’t what people came for. They came to see Nu-Rorschach fight Batman!

Which is teased for next issue, but this issue features the return of the Comedian who shoots Lex Luthor, while the text pieces tell more about the backstory. No characterisation of course, just more big, bleeding, juicy chunks of plot.

All Doomsday Clock is, is plot. As an example of the sort of comic Moore and Gibbons were satirising in Watchmen, and what followed as lesser talents tried to ape the success of Moore and Gibbons.Doomsday Clock works as fan-fiction because lets all be honest here; that’s what this is. There’s no attempt to deliver a greater meaning outwith of ‘wouldn’t it be cool if X met Y‘ and while that can be fine, watching the industry cannibalise itself this way isn’t good.

Reason being that if you’re an up and coming writer, or any writer in any stage of your career with a Great Idea, and you happen to work for DC why the hell would you deliver it to them when you’re watching them dissect the work of the biggest writer in comics of the last 30 years? Doomsday Clock isn’t even a very good comic as I couldn’t care less about any of the characters on display. Nu-Rorschach is probably the most interesting as there’s still something to find out about him but Johns will flatly just deliver those revelations as plot points spelled out tediously on the page.

As an example of corporate comics unleashed, Doomsday Clock does what it has to. Here’s the Watchmen characters in the DC Universe. That’s it.It carries a pretence of trying to be something greater but as said, this is fan-fiction that has managed to give DC clout over its main competitor Marvel (who to be fair, are shooting themselves in the foot constantly) and make themselves lots of money which is the point of all this. So when you cheer on Batman and Nu-Rorschach fighting (or not) remember the purpose of this isn’t to create, but generate product to keep shareholders happy and people in a job who were running out of ideas.

Superman died 25 years ago

1992 was actually a bloody good year. Things were nowhere near as depressing as 2017 but as the Justice League film vaguely entertains people and DC’s piece of Watchmen necrophilia, Doomsday Clock, is due to be released it’s worth looking back at those days 25 years when DC Comics killed off Superman in an event which summed up those times in comics.

Some context; 1992 was a year when comics were still caught up in a massive wave of popularity, and the speculator bubble hadn’t yet spectacularly burst so things that had been building up since comics became noticed by the mainstream in the mid to late 1980’s were now in it’s late capitalism phase. By 1992 Image Comics were a very, very, very large thing with Todd McFarlane’s Spawn proving itself to be simply gigantic in terms of sales which left Marvel and DC trailing in their wake. Marvel decided to pump out mountains of new titles each with variant/gimmick covers (sound familiar?) while DC also did variants, their main tactic was the Big Event and the biggest of the Big Event was the death of Superman. To say DC milked this is an understatement. When Superman #75 was released it came in the standard cover not to mention the bagged edition which came with a Superman black armband.

There was also the scare platinum edition which was exactly the same as the bagged edition but a different colour…

Comic shops were rammed full of people buying the issue just because they thought this was a special issue, but of course us fans knew that it was a gimmick and that Superman would be back. He was back within the year.

The news reports at the time tell the story of a massive possibly profitable comic for collectors and this piece is all about the cash.

And this piece featuring former Marvel editor Jim Shooter and John Byrne hits the nail on the head.

The death of Superman was always a cheap gimmick; probably the cheapest and biggest in an era of cheap gimmicks, but it gave DC enormous publicity, not to mention when the speculator bubble burst, it’d picked up enough readers for it to sail through the worst days of the 90’s in better shape than Marvel who came close to going out of business.

At the time I was working in the industry in Bristol in the vaguely legendary Comics and CD’s on the Gloucester Road, and we had so many copies of this we thought we’d have to eat them. We had boxes upon boxes of them. Some we even had shipped sea-freight (I need to do a blog about how comics were shipped to the UK in detail soon) to us, and we shipped them back to the US where dealers had run out. It was lunacy. In 1993, DC Comics broke Bruce Wayne’s back and gave us a new Batman and the lunacy carried on.

In 1994 the comics bubble finally burst. The speculator boom imploded, comic companies died, shops went bust, and as said even Marvel teetered on the brink yet here we are 25 years on still talking about a cheap gimmick and how the ripples from that event can be seen today.  Last weekend in Kilmarnock I sold a set of the death of Superman that had been lurking for 25 years in a box somewhere because for all the horrible blandness of the comics, they’re still a part of history that’s still ongoing and we have no idea how it’ll end.

Come to the Kilmarnock Comic Con and give me your money

Having dipped my toes into the water with the abortive Barrowlands comic con back in April I now roll my trouser legs up and go in deeper with the Kilmarnock Comic Con this weekend.

There you’ll be able to buy from me such wonder such as this…

To this if you want a key Silver Age issue featuring Marvel’s pisstake of the Justice League..

Or all the real Justice League comics you can eat…

And lots of quality Silver Age like this wee beauty drawn by Wally Wood…

So come along. Tickets are only a quid for entry which is so cheap that means you’ll have lots of money to spare to spend on my wonderful, and reasonably priced stock of comics. You never know, I may have even settled on a name for my wee operation by then…


100 Years of Jack Kirby

It’s the San Diego Comic Con (well, it’s barely a comic convention than a media whorefest) this weekend, and the convention is celebrating Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday with a fantastic programme cover recreating one of his Jimmy Olsen covers from back in the 1970’s.

I’m glad they’re doing this as quite simply had there not been a Kirby all those people drawn to ”geek” culture would have drifted elsewhere. No Kirby, no Captain America, no Fantastic Four, no X-Men, no Iron Man, no Avengers, no Thor, no Mister Miracle, no Groot, no Nick Fury, no SHIELD, no Darkseid, no Black Panther, no romance comics, and in fact, the entire American comic book industry not to mention modern culture would look entirely different.

So well done to San Diego for driving the point home. No Kirby, and comic conventions would probably just be full of middle aged men buying back comics they sold when they were in their 20’s, and verbally wanking over Barry Smith’s Conan. Actually…

Anyhow, we should celebrate Jack Kirby and I hope the attendees this weekend make Jack proud.