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.


”Herb Trimpe: We Love You!”

I’m a massive fan of Herb Trimpe. Ever since starting this blog I’ve made this clear over and over again, and although back in the day it was fashionable in some quarters to mock Trimpe’s art, I always stood by his work until the recent trend is to praise his work. Trimpe for me drew the definitive version of the Hulk. Kirby’s Hulk was fine, but Trimpe made his Hulk capable of more than just rage and angst. His work with Marie Severin is just wonderful.

I even loved his Captain Britain.

However Trimpe’s later work from the early 80’s onwards suffered because he was drawing everything it seemed as editors picked someone reliable and able to hit deadlines. By the 90s he’d drifted into doing whatever he could and became a bit of a lost figure amongst the Liefelds, McFarlanes and Lee’s.

So imagine my surprise to come across this from 1970 when Trimpe was well and truly in his prime. Made as part of a college project,”Herb Trimpe: We Love You!”is a fantastic bit of archive featuring not just Trimpe, but footage of the Marvel Bullpen in 1970.This is a piece of prime history about an artist who deserves greater acclaim than he got when he was alive.

The cold economics of running a comic shop

A while back I came across this video YouTube. It’s worth a watch, even if it is a tad annoying.

While watching this it became clear folk don’t understand how to run a business, and although the video is full of Millennial bullshit (”use an app”)there are points to be made, so let’s take a look at the pull list.

The pull list is a staple of the comic shop I’ve worked in three big comics shops in Glasgow, London and Bristol and each one ran a pull list more or less along the same lines. Customer comes in, says ”I don’t want to miss another issue of Reagan’s Raiders, can you keep it aside for me?’

So when the next thrilling issue comes in, you put it aside for your customer and when s/he comes in they’re chuffed because they’ve got their thrilling adventure comic. Sounds great and mutually beneficial? Well no, the problem is you as a shop are providing a free service for your customer which sounds great, but customers will not pick their books up regularly. That’s fine if you’ve been made aware of it at the start; for one example I had a customer in Bristol who said he only comes into Bristol once a month who ordered quite a bit of stuff, mainly Marvel and DC. Fine, you have a good day when they come in but you’ll have people who don’t tell you and their comics mount up.

One week in Bristol I counted near a grand of comics sitting in people’s lists. That went down by the end of the weekend but that’s a grands worth of stock sitting there unable to be sold, or in some cases, gotten rid of because you’ll never sell it and end up carrying it around for decades.

My solution to this is making the pull list a membership scheme. You pay a sum dependent upon how many comics you want to put aside so if you do a runner leaving us with a load of unsold, and unsellable, comics, we’ve at least had something off you.Today I’d go further and set up a direct debit, and if need be, a mail order so we’d not only get the money but ship the comics which means freeing space. If you think that’s harsh then perhaps running a business isn’t for you because the pull list can bring shops down and here’s the thing, most people open up a shop based upon their collection and a hope to make somewhere really fun for your mates and like-minded people to hang out but if nobody is spending money then ultimately all you’re doing is paving your way for bankruptcy.

Everything you’ll do to run your shop is going to involve thinking how it’ll help make you money. Sure you can do all the things you’d like when you’re secure or at least, stable, but I’ve seen shops go bust when they’ve ran out of ideas or when the collection runs out, or they’ve just sat there on their arses sneering at punters rather than working out how to keep in business because running your own business is hard and you don’t want to make it harder, so sometimes you’ll have to do things which make you seem harsh but unless you’ve got loads of capital behind you, you’ll need to think how to utilise things like the pull list or branch into markets new and fresh. And no, I don’t mean wargaming or a wall of Funko Pop figures.

Ask yourself what’s your unique selling point; what is it you do that no other shop of your kind in the area does and how can you draw and keep customers. Also customers have to have realistic expectations of what your shop can do. Explain to them that ordering comics is often a guessing game.

Take for example the variant cover. It is a plague. DC, to be fair, are actually good with their variants but everyone else is a shitshow where ordering 10 extra copies of Title Z, means you might get a comic that sells for loads on Ebay but you’ve taken a hit in order to get it. So consult with your customers but show them how complex it can be but just getting them to look at Diamond’s order form but sometimes everyone (bar a few) are going to miss out on things like the variant of Batgirl #23.

Which brings us back to the pull list. It can be the spine that holds your shop together only if you’ve got it turning over regularly, but you have to at some point deal with the cold realities and economics of running an independent comic shop or you’ll go the way of far too many shops.

Who writes the narrative of the history of comics?

From the very start of comics as we’ve known the medium for the last century or so, people, and companies, have claim credit for creating characters which they didn’t. The main reason this has happened is money, then ego in order to propel their own career and in the process create a narrative that’s often adopted to become the mainstream view. The best known cases of this are Bob Kane claiming he created everything about Batman, and the likes of Jerry Robinson or Bill Finger (who actually came up with most of what we know as Batman today)  were just hired hands helping Kane out. Complete bollocks of course.

Then there’s Stan Lee who has seemingly been claiming creative ownership since his first pubic hair grew, though this is something he inherited from his uncle Martin Goodman. So over the decades people have been fighting to get the credit they’re due but the narrative is something they often have to fight against.

The video below is from San Diego Comic Con this year and it features a discussion which may well only be of interest to the hardcore comics freak like myself, but it’s a fantastic discussion of history that really does make you question the narrative of history.

Return to Glastonbury’s past

Glastonbury Festival in 1993 was one of the very first I went to and lives in the memory as it was in the last years before the TV cameras and celebrities poured onsite often like cold sick, and the festival lost the chaotic element where one could literally turn a corner to walk into any sort of show you could imagine. Or possibly get mugged if you took a wrong turn after dark. It was that type of place back then. This does mean that it is incredibly hard to get footage of bands let alone anything else from these years but stuff does come up and here’s a load of footage of bands including Porno for Pyros who seems to be filmed near from where I was standing.

In fact the same channel is a bit of a goldmine with footage of the Beastie Boys from Glastonbury in 1994.

And that quite glorious Pretenders set from the NME Stage in 1994 also.

I love old footage like this as although it is rough, it manages to capture something and this is needed as we all get older. However the absolute discovery is Tao Jones, at the 1997 Phoenix Festival. Never heard of them? That’s because it was David Bowie performing under another name and yeah, it’d catch people out. People like myself who didn’t realise he was playing the dance tent so like hundreds of other legged it across site in order to try to get in what was by now, a pretty crammed tent.

So enjoy, and do so before these videos get possibly taken down.