Doing the work of Brexiters

This week has been a fucked week in politics. Boris Johnson has wiped his arse on British democracy. The Tory Party is split in two with the older, conservatives being flushed out the party to be replaced one assumes by UKIP/Brexit Party types, there are legal cases everywhere, fascism marches closer, the opposition is a mess and people are becoming scared assuming you’ve not had your life turned into hell over the last three and a half years thanks to Brexit.

But the thing you’ll remember the most about this week is Jacob Rees-Mogg lounging around on the benches of the House of Commons and the Tory Party’s insane attack on Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘chicken’ and handing out ‘JFC‘ packs to eager hacks. You’ve probably shared both stories on social media, or at the very least seen a Jacob Rees Mogg meme and had a laugh.

Problem is you’re helping these people spread their image to the masses and they don’t have to lift a finger. Their narrative & image are all important to Johnson and Mogg, as after all, both are narcissists, and both want their image spread far and wide as long as it plays to their narrative of course. These people are monsters and should be portrayed as so.

jrm

Remember, these people thrive from publicity. I’m as guilty as anyone doing this but don’t buy into the narrative of these people and don’t do the Brexiters work for them.

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How will Brexit affect the comics industry in the UK?

As it stands, Boris Johnson will be leading the UK out the EU on Halloween, which is going to affect a load of industries, as well as every single one of us living in the UK. How it’ll affect comics is not something that’s headline news but it will be affected, and it will be something many dealers, con organisers and assorted parts of the industry will not be prepared for.

The most obvious affect is the state of the pound which right now is £1.00 gets you $1.21. It is basically, fucked for an industry which is reliant upon US imports so dealers will put up prices, which means people will cut back which means less money (and less sold books) in the market. A $3.99 import will have to sell around £3.6-80 to make any money, and believe me, the profit margin on new imports is thin as fuckity anyhow so a lot of dealers are going to work hard to make the business work. The likes of Forbidden Planet will be ok, but smaller dealers could well go bust.

But that isn’t the worst of it. Right now the entire scene is in an over-inflated bubble thanks to ‘geek’ culture, the Marvel films and the fact more people than before are interested in comics, or at least the characters. That bubble has been growing since 2008 and is due to pop so if you’re a comics dealer you may survive as there’s always going to be collectors, but we’re in new ground in regards much of the ancillary industries like cosplayers, artists, or pretty much any of the oddities that now populates the modern comic convention. Bluntly put, if you offer a shit product and you’ve been skimming by on the seat of your pants now, just wait til people choose between eating and whatever you offer them. I’ve been through at least three recessions as a dealer/publisher and there are always casualties even with businesses run well, but this recession promises to hurt and badly.  I made a deliberate choice to scale back the one day events in the last half of the year so I could concentrate on larger events or the really good one day shows because all the signs are there for the bubble bursting.

For con organisers this isn’t good. The less traders there are, the less money coming in. It then becomes hard to put on a show that isn’t a glorified mart with a few bleak looking cosplayers and someone selling bubble gum flavoured Deadpool shaped chews. The actual realities of Brexit means it will be harder and more expensive to ship in guests from Europe and America, assuming guests see the UK as an attractive place to come to.

It isn’t all bad. Bubbles need to pop to clear out the chaff but this will be more than that as the UK isolates itself from the world because some racist pricks heard Polish spoken on the bus once. This will be hard, and you’ll need to think hard what you want to do to survive and yet again, my only real hope is that Scotland becomes independent because otherwise I can see things being awful for years.

The UK is utterly fucked.

A kakistocracy according to Wikipedia means…

A kakistocracy is a system of government that is run by the worst, least qualified, and/or most unscrupulous citizens

Yeah, that pretty much sums up where we are today. This week has shown how fucked we are, which isn’t to say we weren’t warned. We were warned by people three years ago that the EU referendum would end is carnage as the government would be faced by whatever deal the EU would give us thanks to the red lines of the UK, or walking away with no deal. Of course, the Brexiters (and Lexiters because they’re also sharing responsibility for this)  lied about a ‘Norway type deal‘ they had no intention of pushing for if the referendum had been won.

No, the referendum was forged on blood and soil nationalism mainly by the right, and the left leavers who in the end provided the thin majority Leave had. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and all the other bastards drooling right now about getting the supreme power no government should have are in a good mood because they’re weeks away from getting what they want, and what comes after that will be a living hell for many of us.

True, opposition parties did finally get together this week only to be outplayed by Boris Johnson proroguing parliament to force through Brexit without any debate, which again, was on the cards according to many months before Johnson became PM. It is a massive gamble, but we know that the last time Johnson was involved in a massive gamble, he won. However had Jeremy Corbyn not been clearly pushing for Brexit for years before realising where it would actually lead (and he still clearly thinks it to be a good idea, just not done by the Tories)  under Johnson, and Jo Swinson not acted like head girl and demanded everything, we might have had some unity when other opposition parties have been struggling to unite the opposition against Brexit.

And there’s also the point that every single MP that voted for invoking Article 50 knew no deal was the default, as well as they knew the UK’s red lines were impossible for the EU to budge on and that we’d end up with a real chance of leaving with no deal. Every one of those MP’s are responsible in part for where we are but the main culprits are those behind the leave campaign who are benefiting from this. We know the referendum was corrupt and we know the UK’s electoral commission is an absolute bag of shite just as we should know by now the UK’s democratic systems aren’t fit for purpose in the 21st century. Leavers knew that, hence why they’re winning and we’re still making twee signs to wave at demonstrations in the hope the Guardian prints the picture.

Fuck that. The time for niceness is over. We have unfit people running the UK leading us into a very British form of fascism based upon nostolgia of a time, and of a people, that never existed. I’ve mentioned Umberto Eco’s essay, Ur-Fascism before  but now if you read it, and tick off Eco’s 14 signs of fascism, the UK ticks every single one. This is where we are.

It will get worse. Johnson isn’t a final destination. He’s more of a Moses figure to bring what comes next because we know Johnson fails often, and that his allies now will happily cricify him when needed. Nigel Farage talks of a forthcoming Tory/Brexit Party alliance, which of course would place Farage in a safe seat, then a place at the cabinet table. Where do you think we’ll go when the UK government is effectively a UKIP government having its strings pulled by disaster capitalists and the likes of Putin and Trump?

Which is why the time for polite protest is over. Fucking fight. Take to the streets. Shut stuff down. Make it uncomfortable for those in power. Don’t go into the night quietly because we know where this sort of thing leads and right now, where we end up will be something many of us won’t survive.

Why the direct market monopoly has damaged comics

Back in the 1980s the comic book direct market was seen as a saviour of the industry. Comics were struggling to compete with this new thing called video games and shipping comics directly to comic shops seemed liked the best way forward. I explain here more about the history of the direct market to give you an idea of what it is but basically it is the one thing most responsible for how the comics industry looks like here in 2019.

And it is probably one of the major reasons why the industry today is so damaged.

To explain; the direct market today is run by a monopoly. I‘ve explained this and the history of it before, including my own wee part in shaping the industry back in the 80s so if you want the full story regards the below image, click on the link.

neptune-conflict-of-interest

I write this as we’re at a time when comics are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Spider-Man was the subject of a recent big story but few media outlets spoke about the comics because why should they? The characters and ideas have been absorbed into the mainstream but they didn’t bring comics with them. Comic conventions are held over the world every single week with very, very tenuous connections to comics and shops are opened up by people who see comics as a sideline to Funko Pops or games. Yet none of this bubble would have existed without comics.

And again, we can look at the direct market for part of the reason. Monopolies are not good so Diamond have a clear shot at goal but they miss because the industry is unable to move to cope with change because a monopoly is a juggernaut. Shops have product pushed upon them, and Diamond’s rules over minium orders affects publishers and retailers so  if you ever wonder why variant covers are still a thing, it’s because publishers use them to hit thresholds that mean Diamond can list them which in turn means dealers take punts on unseen titles that means dealers run a gamble on every order.

Seeing as dealers have to order months in advance and there’s no sale or return because this is the direct market, not the newsagent industry, means this locks dealers into a Kafkaesque hellscape every month with the Diamond order form turns up trying to work out what covers will sell, and what won’t.

The obvious solution is to open up the market and create competition, but this isn’t the 80s and the Big Two, Marvel and DC, aren’t going to use anyone else so the fact is we’re in a massive comics bubble where what was designed to see the industry free from the shackles of distribution has instead locked us into an ongoing battle for survival. My solution would be for regulators to break the monopoly but that’s been tried both sides of the Atlantic and shot down, so I know no other industry where a single company controls all the market and is even tolerated by some.

Which means we’re not screwed but if you wonder why the industry is loaded with comics that are all sort of the same, or why shops are often parades of products that range from the quality to the tacky or why comics aren’t punching their weight, then look at the industry at the top and you’ll find the answer.

Though this doesn’t let shops off the hook. More of that another time.

And the new James Bond film is…

No Time to Die. It’ll be the last film starring Daniel Craig as Bond, and I hope it gives him a good send off as Craig has been excellent.

 

But a new Bond film brings criticism from the regressive right wing who see attempts  to make Bond fit in better to 21st century tastes, and from the wokiestwoke of the left who see Bond as a sexist dinosaur who should be scrapped. Both miss the fact Bond is a fantasy, and that he is a bastard. That’s the point. You couldn’t be a state-endorsed killer if you were a nice guy but the cold, chilling thug of the books would find it hard to operate in the 21st century.

Plus the spectre of John Wick looms over every single action film these days. A film where a brutal killer is out for revenge because his dog was killed resets the action film and so Bond has to change to reflect that while at the same time still being recognisably Bond. The films have sort of done it, but not as well as Warren Ellis’s recent run of comics which managed to marry every version of Bond out there into a 007 for the 21st century.

But a new Bond film brings the same old bleatings from people who haven’t realised that Bond has changed, and that as a character he’s not going away while there’s billions to be made and stories to be told.

 

The crushing misery of the welfare system

Last night I came home to a large brown envelope that contained a letter and form from the DWP asking me to be reassessed for my Personal Indepndence Payment (PIP) which I frankly need to  carry on doing basic things like live. I wasn’t expecting this til early next year so to be put through this process now when things are fragile sent my anxiety all over the place to the extent that although I eventually calmed down after getting a friend to help me fill it out during the week, I was sick and dizzy so ended up in bed just after 9 last night.

The reason I’m dreading this is the process is designed to put people off  and the system itself if you do apply is deliberately gamed against you, not to mention the Tory government would rather you die than claim. So complaints have went through the roof, and a seeming endless trail of people have taken their own life or left bereft of hope after reliving past traumas.

Now for those of you outwith the UK the process is this; you fill in a form and return it to the DWP who then give a judgementas to what you’ll be awarded monthly. Sounds reasonable enough yeah? Except the initial screening process may well be with a medical professional the final assessesment is by someone with no medical training somewhere buried in the system. These people work in a performance based environment so they work to targets. Get seen on a day when they’ve given plenty of awards and you could be refused only for it to be revoked after appeal months and months later. There’s also the fact the system is designed for you to relive trauma every three years.

I’d hoped the new Scottish system would have been devolved in time but sadly not, and as an aside if anyone screams ‘NATIONALIST’ to folk like me who see an independent Scotland as the only way many of us are going to be free of living with fear then I point them to this and say this is what the UK is doing to people. Tens of thousands are dead thanks to a system unfit for purpose and things are only going to get worse thanks to Brexit which adds another edge to this as the carnage that awaits us from that will directly affect people like me.

So wish me luck. I’ve been quietly dreading Brexit, but having this happen while that happens is going to stretch me thin.

A week changes everything in the Scottish independence debate

Around a week ago there was the by now, usual stalemate in regards Scottish independence. Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister had made independence seem better for so many people but there was no sign of Nicola Sturgeon or her government pushing for the referendum many of us in Scotland are dessperate for. Then a new Ashcroft poll was released and since then merry hell has broken lose as the momentum is clearly towards a yes vote.

In around a week carnage has broken loose with the Unionist side in a sheer blind panic not knowing what to do. Rumours of private Tory polls swirl around with these polls showing what Ashcroft revealed, and of course Labour come wading into the debate again pushing the same lines they did in 2014 but the difference is no, few are listening. In short,  they’re scared shitless.

On the other side the Yes Movement’s divides are open and bleeding, but frankly, it needs to be done. There’s always been an awkward divide between the West of Scotland intelligentsia and the mass of working class  Yes supporters which previously was shown up with RISE, who claimed to offer an ‘alternative’ to the SNP and Greens but ended up being typical champagne leftists whose support for independence buckled when Jeremy Corbyn fluttered his eyes at them in the 2017 election.

Then this weekend gone, Wings Over Scotland said that they’d be running candidates in the 2021 Scottish elections, and seeing as Stuart Campbell is equally hated by those on the Indy and Unionist side then as you can imagine social media has become a quagmire. However the plan to target only certain seats with Unionist MSP’s is quite attractive partly as it’d hurt the amount of Unionist seats but show there’s a willingness in the Yes movement to take the fight to the enemy as it were. I’m no supporter of Campbell’s personal views outwith of independence but I fail to see anyone else stepping up to do the job he does. He’s far more effective and frankly, if we go into the next referendum playing nice we’re fucked.

But there’s a clear divide between ‘polite’ Yes supporters and the mass of mainly working class supporters who’ve in many cases never supported anything political in their lives. Now as someone who went around political circles in their youth that divide comes from the old SWP days where thet’d look at the working class as people to manipulate and if they couldn’t they’d dismiss them. One of the wonderful things about the Yes movement is that there’s no SWP types at the helm to fuck things up as they have Labour under Corbyn.

Fact is though that without there being an actual referendum to fight all the divides are showing, things are creaking as after all, some people in Scotland on the Yes side may want independence, but not right now while they’re building up their media or political career but the fact is the last few days have shown that independence is becoming a real prospect for many people who’d not have considered it previously and if we can’t become indepndent when Boris Johnson is leading the UK into a circle of hell all of its own then we don’t deserve alternatives like independence.