100 years later the streets are lined with the dead

A century ago today the Great War as it was known then, and World War One as it’s known now, came to an end. Four years of bloody conflict saw millions die. For generations their deaths were remembered not as glorious sacrifices with many surviving soldiers refusing to wear the poppy, the symbol used for remembrance ceremonies because they couldn’t face living with the lies that took them to war. Today the act of remembrance itself is drifting away to be replaced by a triumphalist mix of British exceptionalism and imperialism that helps resurrect the lies that saw millions join up in 1914 only to die in blood, mud and shit somewhere on a battlefield.

A generation lost for nothing. They didn’t die fighting for survival as in the Second World War; they died for Britain’s imperialism and after the war to end all wars, many wanted nothing to do with fighting.

Those are the ones who came back. Millions didn’t. The street where you live could be full of those boys and men who died during that war. We’re all familiar with the stone cenotaph’s that are in virtually every British city, town and village, but do you know the names of those who died where you live?

Thanks to the website, A Street Near You, you can look and put names to buildings, assuming those buildings still stand after a century.There’s people like this near me.

Second Lieutenant Walter Daniel John Tull
Middlesex Regiment
Date of death: 25/03/1918 (aged 29)
Son of the late Daniel Tull; brother of Edward Tull-Warnock, of 419, St. Vincent St., Glasgow. Former professional footballer with Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town, he was also previously a FA Amateur Cup Winner with Clapton FC. He played more than a hundred first team games for Northampton Town before the First World War intervened.

But most are sad wee memorials for people who died decades too young.

Private Joseph Ayton
Seaforth Highlanders
Date of death: 16/04/1918 (aged 19)
Son of Jane Ayton, of 51, Dorset St., Glasgow, and the late George Ayton.

Private Robert Hardie
Highland Light Infantry
Date of death: 25/09/1915 (aged 19)
Brother of Mrs. Elizabeth Porter, of 135, North St., Whiteinch, Scotstoun, Glasgow.

With these people you have an idea of a life led, family and even community as it is entirely possible these boys know each other living streets away from each other. There’s the cases of people who don’t even have a first name which may well be lost in history.

Gunner Donaldson
Royal Field Artillery
Date of death: 16/05/1917 (aged 24)
Son of James C. Donaldson, of 89, North St., Anderston, Glasgow.

There’s around 30-40 names in a five minute walking distance of where I live. In all those names only one has a face to go along with the name. That’s the man below.

Second Lieutenant William George Teacher (HU 118927) Second Lieutenant William George Teacher. Unit: DCompany, 15th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. Death: 14 May 1916 Killed in action Western Front Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205389533

Second Lieutenant William George Teacher
Highland Light Infantry
Date of death: 14/05/1916 (aged 22)
Son of William Curtis Teacher and Eliza Rowena Teacher, of Kilarden, Dowanhill Gardens, Glasgow.

There’s a bit of information about William. We even know where he’s buried. We know he died at the height of the war. We know his death was utterly and totally pointless and seeing as most men who fought in the war didn’t have the vote, they were unable to change their future or current circumstances. Many of those conscripted were fearful of being shot or suffering the dreaded white feather which bullied men and boys into joining up.

And here we are in 2018 with the sound of Rule Britannia bouncing down the streets of the Cenotaph in London. There’s annual outrage at footballers refusing to wear a poppy because of what Britain did to their countries in the past, and Remembrance Day becomes a celebration of war, imperialism and exceptionalism for many. Meanwhile soldiers die in our streets a century on because now, as then, men (and now women) are thrown to the wolves once the British state has done with them.

We seem to have turned full circle. Imperialist songs play their tunes of glorying war as the very act of being a pacifist is again seen as ‘traitorous’. Flags are flown triumphantly while men and women die in overseas wars of conquest and their comrades return to be abandoned by the very state which sold them a lie. Of course the people who sent them to war, or bullied them to war, have their descendants today doing the same things only slightly differently.

100 years on the streets are lined with the dead and we’ve remembered little and learned nothing from their deaths. We’ve let past generations down for what? That’s what I’ll be thinking about today, not selling war as a price we have to pay because most of the time, it isn’t.

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The comics industry is run by crooks and mobsters…

In my last blog I spoke about whether comics sales had declined, and laid out the question  ‘why have Marvel and DC failed so pitifully when the potential market is so huge?’ and said the failure of the direct market with a mix of talent/imagination being in short demand being blamed for this. I’m only partly right as the blame also lies with the big companies who act often like thugs from a Warner Brothers 1930’s gangster film.

Hyperbole right? Well not really. The entire comics industry was forged in the world of mobs and gangsters as laid out in Gerard Jones’s excellent book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic BookIndeed as late as the 80’s, the mob had a hand in the distribution pie as Jim Shooter points out in his blog.

But the direct market came along, shifted the focus of distribution from newstands to specialist comic shops, the mob were gone, and for a while it seemed like the crooks and charlatans running the industry were gone, or at the very least, reduced to a handful and the business became professional. Some creators even became famous outwith the comics bubble and some even became very rich by finding a formula and selling it to film or television to be developed.  However creativity was reduced as companies moved away from being creator focused to being focused on developing ‘properties’ created by men and women paid little to nothing who if still alive, watch corporations and their executives grow fat and bloated from their work.

If this sounds bitter, it’s because this is a sad truth of the industry. There’s the tales told at convention bars in the early hours that aren’t able to be told in public for obvious reasons of publishers doing their best to wreck people. Some of these stories are leaking out as people die, or they’re being used as part of Howard Chaykin’s splendid Hey Kids! Comics!, which outlines the history of comics that’ll never be told on a Marvel or DC film making of documentary.

Comics, or at least the world of superhero comics, are not free of old-school gangsters, but they’ve been replaced by the thuggery of the corporation. Fans of the corporation and it’s ‘property’ are a thing now as they defend corporations against the sons and daughters of those creators who in many cases died in perjury. The corporations that are now Marvel and DC have chased away creativity for formula, as a whole as there is some diamonds in the rough.

So we have an industry whose works are more popular than at any time since the American comic book was born nearly a century ago, and an industry struggling to sell comics but both Disney and Warners see comics as farms for the real money in films, TV and merchandising. Yet there’s hope. The internet has opened up comics to more people, while creators who would never get a foot in the door of the Big Two are now making themselves known through self-publishing online. People are coming into the world of comics who love the medium and aren’t just speculators who won’t be around in a few years.

Things are getting better but right now the industry is suffering development pains, so it’s down to those who can to help guide things through to we all come out the other side better than the past.

Go get ‘Poisoned Chalice: The Extremely Long and Incredibly Complex Story of Marvelman (and Miracleman)’

Pádraig Ó Méalóid’s, Poisoned Chalice, his long history of the British comics character Marvelman, or Miracleman, has finally been printed and is available from your favourite non-taxpaying retailer Amazon.My copy is ordered and on it’s way so more when the Royal Mail eventually delivers it!

Remember Cyborg and Muton?

Back in the 1970’s Action Man still ruled the hearts and minds of boys all over the UK, and in the mid-1970s the only other real contender for the crown were the range of Mego action figures. I loved both as a kid but the other day I was tidying up my Ebay sales/purchases and stumbled down a rabbit hole to rediscover Cyborg and Muton action figures.

Produced by Denys Fisher based off a set of Japanese toys which in themselves were Japanese offshoots of the fantastic Captain Action figure of the 60s. Released to a pre-Star Wars crowd, the backstory for the set of toys was wonderfully dark even for those Cold War days of constantly worrying about nuclear doom.

The figures featured interchangeable limbs, as well as vehicles, and they looked like nothing on earth having been adapted from Japan which at that point, was still a relatively alien culture to Westerners.Had Denys Fisher used the toys as they were in Japan it’d have been a lot weirder for kids.

The toys didn’t do well, partly because that larger size action figure was relatively expensive and secondly Star Wars ruled all. Once that film came out nothing could stop it and it’s sales of merchandise outweighed all others so Cyborg, Muton and the lesser known third figure, Android, were swept away to become barely remember things of nostalgia in the 21st century.

There was a legacy. The figures were shrunk and renamed the Micronauts but that’s a whole other story…

Political Correctness Gone Mad!

The other day it struck me that political correctness is dead, well, the idea that political correctness was supposed to be the rules in which a society would ensure that people would be decent, nice and respectful towards each other regardless of who they were even among the left who pushed the concept in the first place.Sure, we never really had this supposed nirvana in the first place but there was a time when things were better but those days are long gone.

What happened is the rise of a number of things from ‘lad’ culture in the 90s, to events like 911 enabling people to say and do what was abhorrent based upon a ‘fight against terrorism’, to the rise of the internet and the endless search for clicks. There’s a multitude of culprits but it all boils down to people wanting to say or do what they want without any consequence, and by ‘consequence’ I mean that if you call someone a ‘faggot’ then expect some backlash to that. However most of those decrying ‘PC culture’ cry the loudest when they, or something they hold personally sacred, are the subject of mockery or attacked, showing the concept of ‘anything is fair game’ applies only to a limit defined by the individual which normally at some level attacks their identity.

And before the left sit back too smugly, things like the ongoing anti-Semitism scandal shows many in the left willing to cast aside basic concepts of respect and empathy in order to push racist tropes or to get lost in the midst of identity politics.

Which brings me to this excellent video on the subject which discusses things from an American perspective, but still counts in the overall discussion.

I think where we are is a lack of empathy. A gamified culture where people are driven into echo chambers which give rise to things like Comicsgate or that <insert religion here> is behind all the wrongs of the world.

A bit more empathy and a bit more in the way of critical thinking because political correctness was all about simple respect and empathy for everyone, and if we’ve lost that then we end up with a world we have today and that isn’t a good place to be in.

A quick 9/11 blog

Today is the 17th anniversary of 9/11. Everyone has spoken about the day over and over including myself, about how it affected them as this is the first time in history where the entire planet saw a history-altering event happen in real time both on television, and on the growing world online. There is a clear pre and post 9/11 world and the effects of that day can be tracked to the likes of Donald Trump, Brexit and the rise of extremists authoritarian cultures, ideas and concepts from the right wing, and sadly, the left but at the same time liberalism has failed having crawled into bed with the establishment.

In short, we’re in a mess and those trying to lead us out of this are few as self-interest is the order of the day. All in all the last 17 years have been awful as we’ve slid into an Orwellian state of perpetual war but everything circles back to Ground Zero 17 years ago which makes watching the raw footage of the day something I’m drawn to each and every year.

We’re a few months away from Brexit while Donald Trump drags the USA into a mess even worse than the days after 9/11, while a generation has now grown up with the events of the day hardwired into them and it dawns on me that for many people they have little or no memory of the 90’s in that weird time between the end of the Cold War and 9/11. It then slowly dawns on me that the 90’s were some sort of Golden Age; a lull before the storm as it were and I find myself wishing to return to a better time which is why many of my recent blogs focus on the 90’s.

Regardless of the reasons, I think the prospect of a better, kinder world is gone. The far right have taken their chance and extremists from all over the world have swung into action to take their one chance to rewrite everything which makes me fear of the decades ahead. I wish I could be more positive but I think the concept and idea of resistance is going to have to become common in the years ahead and I fear for what would happen should another 9/11 scale event happened in the West. So I think the one message 17 years later is to be careful of the future. We live in dangerous times.

The Fortean Review of the Year 1994

25 years ago The X Files was first broadcast and all those weird things like conspiracies, UFO’s, cryptoids and the weirdness of the Fortean world. What was, at best, something hidden in the alternative, the offbeat , became mainstream and normalised to the point where the mainstream realised there’s a lot of potential with it. Arguably this is one of the things that’s led to everyone accepting conspiracy theories as the X FIles also came as the internet was growing into the Worldwide Web, which fuelled the rise of people like Alex Jones.

But in 1994 this dystopia we live in now was a bit of SF if you’d suggested it 24 years ago. It was a different, more rational time, even with Forteana. In December of that year, the BBC broadcast one of their regular theme nights, which in this case was called Weird Night, and it is a fantastic bit of TV. The highlight of the night for me was the Fortean Review of the Year which at the time listed the various oddities of the year, but looking back at it now acts not just as a log of Fortean weirdness, but archive of what those pre-internet days looked like.

It’s worth a look just for the fainting goats. Enjoy.