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.

The strange sexless word of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The other night I was watching Avengers: Infinity War on Blu Ray and totally enjoying it as much as I did at the cinema. As is always the case I watched the deleted scenes and a wee thing stood out. Firstly watch the scene of Vision and the Scarlet Witch fighting Thanos’s Black Order in Edinburgh.

That line from the Vision about staying in bed and the Scarlet Witch’s smile is a cheeky little reference as to what Wanda and the Vision have been doing in Edinburgh apart from drinking in every pub in Rose Street and eating kebabs. Here’s the deleted scene; spot the incredibly small difference…

It’s only a few frames and it’s a longer shot on Wanda’s smile after VIsion’s ‘we should have stayed in bed’ comment, but those few frames change Elizabeth Olsen’s smile from a knowing one to a bit of a dirty ‘phwoar, I’ve got a super-powered sexbot’  kind of smile. It then dawned on me that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a chaste universe where people smile at each other or make jokes, but nobody, well, actually fucks. Hell, there’s barely any kissing let alone anything that might make Thor’s hammer twitch.

But it wasn’t always like this. Back in Iron Man in 2008, Tony Stark is shagging anything with a pulse, to the point where it’s hinted that he’s doing the deed with his pole-dancing staff.

There’s an attempt to set up a romance in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, but it isn’t helped by the lead pair of Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman having zero chemistry togehter onscreen, and Branagh concentrating on the more Shakespearean/Kirbyesque aspects of the story, while Captain America being the eternal virgin was a nicely hinted part of the characters sacrifice in WW2. ”He never came home for the girl” was loaded with meaning.

Through to Iron Man 3 there’s still a feeling that the people inhabiting the MCU live like normal people with the same urges but then once Disney have bought Marvel, the films become more celibate, sure there’s a longing glance between Bruce Banner and the Black Widow but it doesn’t go anywhere. Captain America might get a snog but he’s going to get nothing more than that. Sexual relationships don’t exist in the MCU (unlike the Marvel television shows, especially on Netflix, where characters are at it all the time) and have been replaced by this 1940’s style of interactive human relations where there might be a glance, or an odd cheeky line but no pants are ever dropped. It’s a very Disney, very bland vision. The one part of the MCU that stands out is the Guardians of the Galaxy, and this video from Lindsay Ellis explains some of the complexities going on in these films.

Two films where the expectation of Quill getting the girl has been dangled in front of us, and it’s never happened thanks to some very clever writing from James Gunn. Sadly much of this is wasted in Infinity War for the sake of the plot, but it shows there’s still room for emotional complexity in a series of films aimed for a family audience that’s action orientated.

I understand why the MCU films are like this. Marvel are now owned by Disney  and they need to reach as large an audience as possible but in creating a formula (and the MCU films as entertaining and fun as they are, follow a strict formula) they’ve created a strange sexless world that can be as violent as they can get away with for a 12A certificate but human relationships are limited to side-glances and marriage plans.I’m not saying the MCU should become like the Netflix shows, but perhaps rounding out the characters may make them a bit less 2-dimensional and a bit less Disneyfied because right now Disney is in danger of homogenising our entertainment and that isn’t a good thing.

UKIP voters fight for the right to bum dogs

In a YouGov poll a quarter of UKIP voters support the idea of having sex with a dog. I’ll let you digest that for a second.

SNP and Lib Dems are the least inclined to look at an Alsation and think ‘hmm, sexy’. UKIP voters are the most likely to look at a pug and think ‘I want that slobbering on my hard Brexit’. Tory voters are only slightly less turned on by a Great Dane than a UKIP voter while overall a quarter of voters would like to lay into a Labrador which is terrifying. Next time you go to vote, have a look at everyone else there as a quarter of them would like to indulge in bestiality.

I guess they’ve gone to the dogs…

The strange case of infeasibly large breasts on comic covers

Due to recent circumstances the majority of my weekly comic reviews are going to be ditched, or moved to That’s Not Current, the site I also write for, but I’ll still keep the odd thing here like my Crossed, Miracleman and Providence reviews which I know from looking at my stats a lot of people read, and hopefully enjoy.This blog I’m going to keep for all the fun cancer and stroke stuff, plus the odd rant like this.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading comics or scouring the weekly lists on Comixology and as for this week there’s nothing especially interesting out, but one thing caught my eye.

This cover for a comic called Tarot.:

Tarot-97

Apart from being poorly drawn and tiresomely derivative  (seriously, there’s tens of thousands of covers like this that have been printed over the years) how on earth does that poor lassie go through life without serious backache?

I mean look at her; she’s got two watermelons attached to her chest (with optional blood dripping off her nipple) and from what the odd ex-girlfriend or friend who has large breasts have said, it’s a chore at times having essentially two large bags of sugar growing out of you.

It’s obviously sexualised for people with a certain peccadillo, and I’m not adverse to the odd bit of cheesecake myself, but the fact that this sort of thing is still being published is depressing. Now I’m not doing a Guardian columnist thing here and saying they should be banned, but if you’re buying this to have a cheeky wank in the year 2016 and you’re above the age of 14 then for fucks sake guys have a wee word with yourselves!

Party Monster is a film that changed my life

I’ve mentioned briefly before that Party Monster, the 2003 film starring Macauley Culkin as the real life ‘club kid’ murderer Michael Alig is possibly one of my favourite films of all time.

Party Monster Quad (Page 1)

This article on the Vice site got me thinking about the film and just indeed, what it did for me the first time I saw the film back in 2003 when I first saw it at the Stockholm Film Festival.

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The thing that changed it for me was the realisation I didn’t need to give a fuck about what others thought about me. It’s a silly thing but I spent years worrying whether I’d  live up to other people’s expectations but seeing the antics of drug crazed murder Michael Alig as played by drug crazed Macauley Culkin somehow resonated with me to finally get myself secure in the knowledge that I’ll be fine, even if I wasn’t a drug-crazed murderer, though I have been known to be drug-crazed every now and then…

It’s funny how one thing, one work of art, or anything can trigger something isn’t it?

What I though of ‘Whipping Up A Storm’ by Natalie Rowe

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Natalie Rowe is a Bradford born dominatrix who had some very interesting clients in the 80’s onwards, and Whipping Up A Storm is her story from a wee girl in Bradford dreaming of fame and fortune, to a head of an escort agency called Black Beauties who would service the needs to the rich and powerful in London, and indeed, in other parts of Europe. In the UK she’s famous for causing a bit of a stir about her relationship with current Chancellor George Osborne, and this picture of her and Osborne at one of her parties in her flat in London.

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The book tells Rowe’s story in more or less sequential order from her youth in Bradford through to her moving to London in the 80’s, then her success in building up her business selling sex to the rich and powerful and ends at some point in the 90’s where to say the very least, she’s lived a life and a half by then.

Throughout the book Rowe does make you confront your feelings about prostitution as it’s the case her that I never get the impression 99% of the time that Rowe is being exploited by anyone. She comes over far too strong a person for that, and the argument is that she and her agency provided a service which a variety of customers more than glad use, and it’s these customers that provide some of the humour of the book as frankly, some of them are powerful, but pathetic figures desperate to relive some of that domination they had in the places likes Eton where they grew up. I’ll not reveal too much but my personal favourite is Mr. Twist, and although his personal peccadillo made my eyes water Rowe makes one particular story of him leg-crossingly hilarious.

But the money shot of this book is George Osborne, the man it seems is destined by the Tory Party to succeed David Cameron as Conservative leader, and he hopes, the next UK Prime Minister. Even when she first meets Osborne as part of a group of three exceptionally posh, not to mention wealthy friends she’s wary of him, and although she indulge in a bit of S & M (on a professional level) with him (he likes dressing in rubber pants) she feels he’s not an especially nice, or indeed, a decent person.

Osborne frankly comes over badly as a spoiled, entitled rich kid that thinks he’s destined for big things but fails to relate to the working class of poor because as a good Tory, these are not Osborne’s people. He also comes over as a damaged person but almost psychopathic in his dealings with people which is something that even a casual observer can see. Then there’s the drugs and there’s a lot of drugs (he calls them ‘naughties’) consumed by Osborne in the course of this book.

If you like political gossip, biographies and a big chunk of social comment (which runs through this book whether Rowe meant to or not) then Whipping Up A Storm is an essential read. Yes there are problems with it. A good editor would have tightened up the narrative plus a proofreader would have cut out the spelling and grammar mistakes but this is a self-published book via Amazon so don’t expect that same level you get elsewhere in those regards.

Otherwise this is a cracking bit of gossipy, scurrilous muck-spreading that reminds the public that the  reader that those MP’s who proclaim to be morally superior are probably being buggered senseless, or being whipped by someone like Natalie Rowe who’ll charge them a rather large sum of money for it.

The book is available via Amazon and can be bought here. Do so, it’s worth a tenner just for the Osborne stuff by itself….

People are finding this blog for the search term ”what is fucking?”

I’ve had some odd search terms that people have used to find my blog here over the two years I’ve been doing this. Some are fine, some are a bit sick (seriously) some are funny but one keeps coming up over and over again and that’s this term…

whatisfucking

That’s right, people are putting ‘what is fucking’ into Google and finding my blog. Now what they’re probably finding are blogs about politics, or comics, or just general rants but a detailed blog outlining exactly what fucking is won’t be found here. So who is doing this at least half a dozen times a month? Is it kids? Is it people trying to find the town of Fucking in Austria?

So this blog is a plea really to ask just what you people are trying to find? Are you children then in that case ask your folks? Are you Christian fundamentalist virgins wondering why your trousers get tight while looking at the weathergirl on the telly? Are you just gone in the head? What?  I’d like an answer as I’m clearly being treated as an expert thanks to the power of Google, though that could be the fault of my habit of fucking swearing a fuckload in a lot of my fucking posts? I dunno.

This post then is a lightening rod for all you strange, strange people. Please tell me the reasons without making my skin crawl if that’s possible….

Ireland has voted Yes to gay marriage

It’s not quite official yet but it looks as if the people of Ireland have made a giant leap for equality and voted for gay marriage to be legal. Asked the question  “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” the answer for most people seems to have been ‘yes’.

That’s a remarkable thing considering how much in the lock of the Catholic Church Ireland was which makes this image the most appropriate for this day.

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Well done Ireland, you’ve given all the right people a kick up the arse and you’ve made things better for people. You can’t ask for any better than that.

Love Me Tender

I love the film Wild At Heart from the moment I saw it at a cinema in Camden in 1990 during the short time I lived in London. It is in my eyes probably the most romantic film I’ve ever seen, which is probably a sign I needed (and indeed probably still do)  serious mental evaluation more than anything else. Apart from being stunned by another brilliant film directed by David Lynch, I was just taken by the end scene where Nicolas Cage as Sailor Ripley leaps across cars to find his girl Lula.

Here’s that very scene…

Well after that I had it in my head that sometime, someday I would do that to a girl I liked, (being younger, fitter and dafter than I am now) and see if she also believed in individuality and personal freedom as Sailor Did. Sadly if you tried leaping on cars to proclaim your devotion to a girl in London in 1990 you’d end up probably shot, beaten to a pulp or locked up, so it wasn’t til the following year when I’d returned to Leicester that one night I drunkenly decided to reenact the end of Wild At Heart towards a young lady who’d caught me in her gravitational pull.

That night after too many pints of Guinness I was walking back home in a crowd with her and decided (as one is want to do when you’ve drank a skinful) to leap on a car, proclaim my love or at the very least, my lust for her, and hope she goes for it. Well, I lept on an old Vauxhall, spat out a drunken version of Love Me Tender in a Nic Cage-esque drawl and after she stopped laughing she seemed touched, or at least was scared enough to humour me in case I went Full-Cage. Thankfully she seemed to pity me for long enough to also want to throw herself at me and that wee fling lasted a jolly few months before it imploded like a bad Nicolas Cage film.

The lesson I suppose is there is no lesson when it comes to Nic Cage films and girls. What did you expect? Something meaningful?