Western civilisation might fall because people can’t wash their hands

We live in a culture where people, adults, have to be told how to wash their hands. Actual bloody adults who have no idea how to wash the shite or piss off their hands and with the coronavirus, we have people panic buying toilet paper and hand cleaner.

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Can you imagine it, civilisation brought down because people don’t wash their hands.

We’re fucked as a society aren’t we?

 

What I thought of Doctor Who season 12

Jodie Whittaker’s first year as the Doctor was patchy at best, shite at worst. Not as bad as  Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, in the seventh season but bad so much was riding on this season. The main criticisms for me were an overcrowded Tardis, a Doctor barely allowed to develop regardless of how hard Jodie Whittaker grafted to make some awful scripts fly while the programme was directionless with new showrunner Chris Chibnall seemingly lost now he’d got his hands on his childhood love.

Then they all went away, had a think and came back this year with a bang with a two-part story which brought back a truly crazed version of The Master played by Sacha Dhawan channeling Anthony Ainley a lot of the time and then we had the return of Captain Jack and a totally new Doctor in the shape of Jo Martin which created plotholes and canon anguish for fans but it turns out Chibnall had a card up his sleeve.  For those of us of a certain age Tom Baker was our Doctor, and one of his, and the programme’s finest stories is the Brain of Morbius, a retelling of Frankenstein not to mention a serial which featured a lot of new lore for the series, including this.

For 44 years there’s been a running argument about who those faces are after the Hartnell Doctor, with some saying they’re previously unknown incarnations to some saying they’re the faces of Morbius or just it was something to lengthen the scene so they just took a load of pictures of the crew and slapped them in. Yet the dialogue makes it clear, ‘how long have you lived Doctor?’, and it really is a push to make these faces anything else but related to the Doctor so how does that work?

And after 44 years Chris Chibnall explained that (yes, they are previous incarnations of the Doctor) as well as tiny little plot points only the uber fanboy cared about. It was an audacious bit of housekeeping that made me laugh, yet I’m not sure it worked yet. I’ll have to watch it again however this entire season has been a vast improvement. Better scripts which gave Whitaker some work, plus the Tardis crew were less annoying. Sure, there were some awful scripts but overall things moved in the right direction even if Chibnall has now done a reboot and tie up plot points at the same time. Has it worked? I dunno, but it is getting people excited for the programme but I do wish it was just well-done stories of the Doctor’s travels rather than universe-altering plots every season.

Basically things are moving in the right direction. There’s still rubbish though Jodie Whitaker is turning into a very good Doctor, if she gets the scripts. Hopefully her third year sees that happen more consistantly.

I’m now off to watch that last episode again, just for a laugh!

RIP Russ Cochran

If you’re a casual comics fan the name Russ Cochran will never grace the same ‘geek’ documentaries or films that lay homage to Stan Lee or Robert Downey Jr, but Cochran is quite possibly one of the most important figures in comics who sadly died this week.

Cochran’s massive contribution is carefully caretaking, and releasing the work of EC Comics in formats which do the work justice. The giant hardback box-sets are the easy sign a comics fan is not just an historian but a lover of some of the best comics ever made.

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Cochran was a comics fan who loved EC Comics, as well as the work of Carl Barks who started the entire idea of releasing comics in carefully curated editions with serious academic as well as artistic intent to preserve them for current and future generations.

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These editions were, and still are, massively expensive but Cochran also released EC reprints in a variety of formats more affordable to the average fan.

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Cochran’s contribution to comics as a medium and its fandom is immeasurable. These comics will teach you storytelling, design, scripting, everything and they’re great but for many in the 70’s and 80’s these were how people learned their first steps into the industry.

My dream is that before I die to have a full set of EC’s comics. I’ve got around a shelfload, with the Mad books being some of the most well-read comics I own. Thanks to Cochran making these things available maybe one day I will.

How many pages of comics did Jack Kirby draw?

Today most mainstream comics artists struggle with a monthly schedule, but back in the day, people like Jack Kirby would draw pages a day, especially in the early days of Marvel. So lets have a wee look at who did draw pages in huge numbers…

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Kirby drew nearly 18,000 pages of comic art but he’s topped by John Buscema who was also one of those artists who’d just work and work, but they’re all topped by Curt Swan who again, drew and seemed to draw Superman for a century. Swan was again, solid and reliable and looking through that list is looking at a list of artists who (mostly) hit their deadlines, put out in many cases splendid work, and could draw comics, not pin-up pages.

As Todd McFarlane has said, some artists today are too busy drawing pin-ups while failing to put the work in to build up a body of work that will stand the test of time and fashion. Even someone as painfully dull as Don Heck carved his place in comics history and will be remembered in 100 years while <insert hot artist this week> will maybe hit a footnote.

A lesson then for upcoming artists is to put the work in. Because if you don’t in 30 years time you’ll still be hacking out pin-ups while the other person who did do the graft is doing half the work for twice the money.

Look at the state of this year’s Reading Festival lineup

I mean just look at it?!

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Apart from the lack of female acts, or indeed, women in any act, the lineup is just fucking dreadful and as for Saturday having Gerry Cinnamon and Liam Gallagher together on a lineup is literally asking for hordes of mouth-breathing wankers to congeal on-site in puddles of their own vomit, piss and blood.

I dunno why I’m still so bothered by this sort of thing. Yes, Reading played a massive part of my life in the 1990’s and early 2000s with quite literally some of the best days of my life lived there. There was always going to be a day when Reading passed to a new generation but to feed this new generation masses of shite (with the odd nugget of gold) was not what I thought would happen. Just for a start, looking back to past years there were more women playing most years.

Since the early 2000s the festival has been more about money than music so the headliners are safe. Nevermore will they throw on Lee Scratch Perry at 6pm or Kevin Rowland in stockings singing Whitney Houston songs.

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Reading is now a big corporate machine. It makes sense to ensure it remains safe, and isolated from things like scary new bands or women because that might be something new and exciting as opposed to Liam Gallagher squawking out Oasis songs to the middle class wealthy children of folk far removed from Gallagher’s working class roots.

Ah well, I still have memories…

Do Brexiters know why they wanted to leave?

The UK has left the EU, though for the next 11 months we’re in the transition period which means taking all the EU’s rules without making any contribution to them. Brexiters though were overjoyed because they were getting something back but few could articulate how how it’d change their lives, assuming it’d change them at all. Fewer even realised there’d be no real effect on their lives til 2021.

/But overwhelmingly, Brexiters who’ve drunk the Kool Aid by the litre are like these two.

Now these women have been lied to. They’ve also not been taught to think critically, so they soak up the consensus opinions of the bubble they live in. They’re also thick. They were easily used and manipulated, and you know, sometimes people need to deal with the fact they’re thick.

But no, leaping out the shadows are middle class liberals piously defending these people.

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I’m sure many can but most won’t because we all know racism, xenophobia and a sense of ethnic nationalism drove Brexit to this point and beyond, but here’s people who are defending these people who’ve opened the door to the wolves. It’s always the nice, middle-class liberals who can ride things out who first fall in with awful things like Brexit hence why many are saying they ‘accept’ what’s happened as if you would morally sell your soul out to do such a thing under any other circumstance.

But this is what always happens. The fight is lost from these people so any fight back against Brexit and what it stands for will come from the sidelines in England at least. However you don’t defend people so stupid, so thick that they’ve voted sanctions upon themselves for no real genuine reason. They deserve contempt.

A tour round Sparta Press in 1977-an amazing bit of comic book history

The internet can still be a wonderful thing. The bit of footage I’m posting here is of a tour round Spartan Press in 1977, which to most people sounds incredibly boring but to comic book fans above a certain age especially, it’s the Mecca of comic books as this is where nearly every American comic book was printed for decades.

When I worked for Neptune Distribution in the 80’s and early 90s I was totally familiar with Sparta, as we’d get their boxes all the time. For us in the UK, this would be a Friday when we’d get our shipment from the US before picking them for shops across the UK. Many a week would end up with me down the pub covered in newsprint, but DC Comics and Marvel moved more and more of their titles to other printers who could do better justice to the art in their titles. The problem with Sparta Press is their comics are wonderfully bits of nostalgia but cheap newsprint fades with time, so take say, a Daredevil comic drawn by Frank Miller in the late 70s and its likely to look dull and faded. Better printing stock and techniques made Sparta obsolete.

So to have this video pop up in my recommendations is a joy. This is deep pop culture history so enjoy…

A quick word about the Question Time leaders debate

Last night, arguably the four most powerful politicians in the UK (there’s an argument for Arlene Foster and Nigel Farage to be included to make it top six) were questioned by an audience in Sheffield for the BBC’s Question Time. Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Jo Swinson, and Boris Johnson were all robustly questioned, on the whole mostly fairly too. It won’t decide the result of the election but it will have made some people’s minds up, and educate themselves about these leaders.

Chaired by Fiona Bruce on one of her better nights, saw her bring Jeremy Corbyn upfront first. Corbyn is used to speaking to crowds of like-minded people and noticeably struggles when challenged on his opinions, or his policies. Here he had to deal with the two things that most challenge his credibility; Brexit and antisemitism. In both he came out looking evasive as the idea of him being neutral in a second EU referendum (note to the guy in the audience, Harold Wilson was never neutral in the first European referendum, at least in the way Corbyn is pretending to be should he get a chance) when he’s a devout Brexiter, and the mounting antisemitism in Labour is driving people away from Labour and is affecting him directly.

On answering questions on policies and sticking to a line, Corbyn was good but sometimes brittle trying to put forth his view and this isn’t an uncommon thing for him but here he did fine, but one can see again why he’s kept within a bubble. He just needs to convince voters he’s trustworthy enough and that’s a major problem of all parties this election.

Next up was Nicola Sturgeon who started oddly nervous and amazingly waffled far too much as again, she was outwith of her normal place in Scotland and faced with an audience of people clearly ignorant of Scotland, it’s politics or even of devolution, she had to do a lot of heavy lifting. Eventually, she didas she made clear her party’s position in potentially supporting Labour though shied short of saying she’d demand a Section 30 order (the act needed to transfer power from Westminster to Holyrood) but made it clear the decision is Corbyn’s. That was hard to explain to the Corbynistas in the crowd who were clearly of the ‘why can’t you just shut up about independence now and wait til Jeremy lets you have you’ school of many an English Labour supporter.

Sturgeon showed though why she’s First Minister and one suspects the Lib Dems thought Jo Swinson was a Sturgeon in waiting, but from the minute Swinson came on she was on the ropes and singularly failed to defend her record, or her party in any convincing way at all. This campaign has been brutal for the Lib Dems who’ve seen support bleed away. Sure, they’ll pick up MP’s but Swinson is a liability which after last night is probably something senior Lib Dems now realise. I’ve seen a load of woeful leaders in my time and Swinson is waaaaaaay down there with the worst.

Then Boris Johnson comes on, opens with a lie and carries on lying much to the anger of the audience who were by now, clearly not going to give any politician time of it was clear they weren’t speaking truthfully. Johnson isn’t a complex, flawed figure but a blustering, not too smart upper class blagger who is being caught out, but has enough behind him with Brexit and a shamefully weak Labour Party opposing him to push him over the line but fuck me is this man unworthy of being a leader. You can see why the Tories are keeping him away from people, especially the likes of Sturgeon who’d skewer him but Johnson is a shambles. A failure of a human being but propelled to where he is by his class and his father’s connections. A racist and bigot who somehow leads a charge against the elite he’s part of.

We are, in short fucked and Corbynistas wonder why we want independence in Scotland?

So with just over three weeks to go things could change, but what is clear that for now, the priority is get the Tories out but I fear it won’t happen.

My top ten horror comics:5: Yummy Fur

Chester Brown is not a comic creator to get on too many vapid ‘best of’ lists on YouTube channels obsessed with superheroes, but he’s not only a bloody genius, but his work is among the most challenging you’ll read in the medium today. His comic, Yummy Fur, started as a surreal work of horror along the lines of David Lynch, especially Eraserhead.

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His story, Ed the Happy Clown, is a work of such demented genius that the story deserves to go into as clean as possible, but be warned, this is not an easy read. It will however be worth it as you’re caught between horror/comedy/revulsion.

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It’s also worth pointing out that each edition of the collected Ed the Happy Clown has been revised in some way by Brown, so each edition comes at you in a slightly new way, but the original edit as it were are in those early issues of Yummy Fur.

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Brown’s latter works leap between autobiographical work that is often challenging and leftfield work such as his adaptations of the Gospels. His book, Paying For It is the sort of work that other creators would find hard to put to paper but he does, and the challenging questions it raises will be argued about for years. For me though, the story of a happy clown and the things he encounters will forever live with me because of the images and ideas Brown uses. It’s a work that needs to be read.

Martin Scorsese and comic book films

Martin Scorsese is without doubt the greatest living filmmaker of the last 50 years. He’s made some of the best films I’ve seen, not to mention at least five (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Wolf of Wall Street) are in my top 30 favourite films with even a duff Scorsese film like The Aviator still being more interesting than most other films released at the time.

Scorsese has a new film out, The Irishman, and Empire interviewed him. In it he talks about the Marvel films and says this.

“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese told Empire. “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

This has made Marvel film fans cry ‘oh so he’s jealous’ and other such pish because we’re again at the point where dribbling man-babies can’t deal with even the mildest critique (and Scorsese is right they’re like rides in a theme park, and no, they don’t touch upon the human experience in the way many of Scorsese’s films do) of Product they enjoy. With this also being the week the new Joker film opens (which looks as if its literally lifted huge chunks from Scorsese) there’s a debate to had how the genre can develop, but let’s be clear here, we’re talking about films based on superhero comics. There’s many a great film based on comics out there but the issue is the superhero comic is by action, a juvenile genre.

This does not mean superhero comics films can’t be fun or touch upon the human experience on a superficial level, but Raging Bull they ain’t.  They’re there to entertain which they do most of the time, but hold up Avengers: Endgame up as something meaningful then you really have experienced a shallow life.

And there’s your problem with superheroes. They were never designed to be anything but escapist power fantasies which is what many a writer since Alan Moore and Frank Miller especially has explored but that’s it. You can however use the characters in different ways and maybe Joker shows how to do this cinematically (I haven’t seen it yet) but until the genre develops as the likes of Moore hoped it did, it’ll never do so in comics.

For the record there is nothing wrong with entertainment being superfical. I enjoy that as much as anyone but the fact is your diet shouldn’t consist of purely sweeties. You need something more susstantial at times to help you grow and there’s your problem with fans crying over these comments; they only consume Product and not art.  A mix is fine and healthy, sticking to one isn’t.