RIP Len Wein

Writer, editor and comics creator Len Wein has passed away at the age of 69, which is far too soon. He leave behind a massive amount of not just important creations (Swamp Thing with Berni Wrightson and Wolverine with Herb Trimpe and John Romita Snr to name the two big ones) but some truly great comics work. For me, my first exposure to Wein was Justice League of America #100 and this great Nick Cardy cover.

Wein wrote the JLA from this issue to #114, and these remain some of my favourite superhero comics ever not just because they’re enormous fun, but for me, these were the first superhero comics I read that even had a hint of doing something more than just stringing together fight scenes. It remains a vastly underrated run.

His Marvel work in the 70’s helped entertain me massively, especially the joy filled fun that was Marvel Team-Up.

A nice fun run on Amazing Spider-Man,

And a long run on The Incredible Hulk which is where Wolverine first made his début.

It’s worth noting that if Wein hadn’t brought Wolverine into the new X-Men in Giant Size X-Men #1, the revamped X-Men might never have gotten off the ground and failed and Wolverine would be a minor character that once popped up in a few issues of the Hulk’s title.

Instead though, Wein made the masterstroke of sticking Wolverine into the X-Men and unleashed a massive fan-favourite for decades to come.

As an editor he’s responsible for helping Alan Moore and Gave Gibbons Watchmen into the world.

Overall Wein gave comics more than he’s probably appreciated for. Without him DC may never have hired Alan Moore in the first place and all that British talent DC mined from the 80’s to today. Wein changed the mainstream comics industry in the US and UK massively and his passing is a loss. Yes, we can dwell upon shite like Before Watchmen and later work, but let’s not dwell there and choose instead to remember his work for helping kids like me have some entertainment over the decades…

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Trying to understand the Twin Peaks finale

The return of Twin Peaks came to a conclusion this week and to say people are polarised is, well, a massive fucking understatement. Trawl the internet and you’ll find people praising it or decrying it in around equal numbers, but the agreement is that nobody actually knows what the series actually meant, but watching the final two episodes something clicked in my brain: A DC Comics series from 1985 has a hint as to how to understand what David Lynch and Mark Frost have done here.

From here on in lies spoilers. Be warned.

Crisis on Infinite Earths was a DC Comics mini-series designed to tidy up DC’s convoluted continuity that had built up over the decades, and to destroy all the multiple Earths into one. Central at the core is the idea of parallel Earths separated only by ”vibrational frequency”. These different realities all had an Earth where something is different, or history developed differently, or even history moved at a slower, or faster, rate than ‘our’ Earth. Basically the idea of parallel worlds is a tried and familiar concept in science fiction and Lynch and Frost are playing with these concepts so remember that what we’re seeing is a story being told. Sounds obvious but there’s a point where certain characters in season three become aware they’re in a story and I’ll get to that point in a minute.

In the Twin Peaks finale, Dale Cooper travelled back in time to the point where Laura Palmer was murdered and stopped it and in doing so created a parallel world where Laura never died.

Cooper creates a doppleganger Earth by his actions and remember, we’ve been told all series this is about doubles and duplicates, and not just that. From the opening shot it becomes clear we’re watching something that isn’t just not in chronological order, as this scene could easily slot into any of the final two episodes.

The series has always played with dopplegangers and played scenes that could be from any time in the character’s lives.

However the opening scene of season three sets out the road map. Whether one can interpret it to give us a clear road map is a matter of some debate, but the story of the finale shows Cooper saving Laura Palmer ensuring she’s never murdered and everything that comes after that event changes.

But ‘Judy’ is still around even though BOB is destroyed so Cooper’s job isn’t over so he and Diane travel to another world where they become Richard and Linda. Cooper changes to become a strange hybrid of himself, Dark Coop and Dougie Jones even though he’s still doing his mission which is to find Laura, something he eventually does except she’s not Laura, she’s ‘Carrie Page’, but even in this reality she’s corrupted (Laura was created in Episode 8 to be the opposite of BOB) by violence but she’s still alive.

By the time we get to the final shot it’s clear the evil of ‘Judy’ can never be escaped as ‘Carrie Page’ remembers who she is and what was done to her.

The reality Cooper and ‘Carrie’ are in could well be ours, or it could be a dream within a dream as alternate realities open up where Laura is brutally murdered, only to be saved by Cooper who is then thwarted by the ultimate evil, ‘Judy’ in an never ending cycle of evil defeating good as they move from one Earth through the frequencies forever. Cooper can never win. Laura will always die. Evil will always win but good (in the shape of Cooper) will always fight it.  The End.

Of course this is one theory and anyone with half a brain can work out a way for this to carry into a season 4, but if Lynch and Frost want to end on a grim, scary but oddly positive note (good will never give up fighting) then this is it. If they want to carry on there’s enough for them to come back and carry on telling their story, but part of me would like it to end now with the mysteries (and there’s enough to fill dozens of blogs) continued. Twin Peaks season 3 is a unique piece of television that challenged the very act of watching television and as such making more of it challenges the point of it so I’d like it to end with all these loose threads dangling forever.

The making of ‘Day of the Dead’

George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead is probably his most underrated of his zombie films. For me I’ve always loved the film for not just the fact  it’s the goriest thing you’ll ever see but because it has a weight no other zombie film since Dawn of the Dead, and to be blunt, no other zombie film since comes close to it.

It is hard to see how a divided, angry, emotionally drained, group of people grouped into their own echo chambers against a single-minded menace is relevant today, but somehow Day of the Dead has more to say as the years go on. This making of documentary dates from 2013 and is fantastic. It also serves as a reminder of Romero’s talent and I only wish we’d had more from the man.

Anyhow, chow down and enjoy…

The UK government wants disabled people to die

I recommend people read this blog titled Disabled? You May Be Sanctioned For Being Too Ill To Get To The Jobcentre because it is vitally important. The short version is that the Tories are imposing such a hard regime of sanctions upon people that they’re killing themselves to escape it, and as usual it’s the disabled getting the worst of the impact.

Since the Work Capability Assessment was introduced by Labour in 2008 after being proposed by Alistair Darling in 2001 there’s been a stream of disabled people being forced into work when they’re clearly not fit. When the Tories came back into power in 2010 they upped what Labour had done by bringing in things like the bedroom tax (thankfully mitigated in Scotland by the Scottish Government) but for a decade now the disabled have first been slowly demonised, and are now essentially being hounded out of existence by the British state, a chunk of the media and the population who look through the disabled like we’re invisible at best and all the positivity after the 2012 London Paralympics have been flushed down the toilet.

Instead we’re not at a place where the United Nations damn the UK government for their treatment of disabled people and the media barely registers it, and the population at large are unaware of the reality of so many people’s lives. There is a body count. Nothing is done because the disabled are seen as either ‘spongers’ or sort of magic cripples wheeled out to provide some entertainment and boost faux national pride at sporting events.

We now have people like Dominic Raab given high office rather than being kicked into the gutter where he belongs, and with no sign of austerity ending thanks to Brexit, things will continue to get worse. Some MP’s warn of a ‘human catastrophe’ but none will say what this is which I think is a concerted effort to let people die as after all, the British government is out to kill hope itself and without hope just what is the point of a daily life struggling to just exist let alone actually form anything like a life?

Which brings me to my point. I’ve only been disabled 18 months or so. I’ve not had a life of struggle but what the Tories are doing is inhumane bordering upon genocide and I don’t use that word lightly. My question to you, the reader, is what are you going to do to help people less fortunate, less able than myself to fight back to exist? The time for words and politics is over and we need to ensure what’s going on stops so are you happy to tolerate this or are you going to join us to fight the state from forcing people to early graves?

Avoiding Twin Peaks spoilers…

The return of Twin Peaks has been a disturbing joy and the last two episodes are broadcast tonight in the US, which means a day tomorrow of avoiding spoilers before being able to sit down in the evening and soak in two hours of whatever David Lynch has in store for us. It can’t however beat this moment from Episode 16 can it?

Or realising that he’d turned David Bowie’s character into someone/thing floating in a tin can.

Then there’s Episode 8 which is the single greatest bit of telly in the 21st century.

Or the music which has been superb.

And how Lynch and writing partner Mark Frost have strung together the original series, the film, Fire Walk With Me, and strung them all together  for an 18 hour film that may, or may not, come to a satisfying end, assuming of course it does end. There’s no guarantee it will end or even whether it’ll come back if it doesn’t.

But whatever, this has been extraordinary telly at a time when that phrase is overused. What Lynch has done is challenge the viewer to actually watch what’s going on and if they don’t get it, I don’t think he gives a single fuck and in an age where the audience is spoon fed answers, and people demand art is exactly as they want Twin Peaks has been a fantastic surprise.

Now there’s only two hours of it left and I’m now going to avoid spoilers by avoiding the internet til tomorrow night when I’ll have the chance to finish off something unexpected and glorious…

Silence is golden.

Watching Scotland play in Scotland is more difficult than it should be

Last night I was feeling a bit peaky so went home to watch Scotland play Lithuania in a World Cup qualifier which if lost, meant Scotland had no chance of qualifying, if won then it kept it us with a shout. Turning on STV I found them showing the England game and after slipping into a mild coma listening to Ryan Giggs dazzle us with the fact he’s got the personality of rice paper. No Scotland game to be seen.

Now since moving back to Scotland this is something I’ve encountered before and frankly, it is extraordinary. I’ve been in France and Sweden where their respective national broadcasters broadcast games of this importance, but in Scotland you need to sign up to a subscription package or scour the internet for a stream. It is frankly ludicrous a Scottish based broadcaster doesn’t show Scotland national matches on free-to-air TV, and that isn’t an opinion which is mine alone, but tens of thousands others share. As for STV, their word on this is this Tweet.

So here’s the problem. ITV as a network buy the England rights, but feels it isn’t worth buying Scotland (or indeed Wales and Northern Ireland) rights. The BBC have been priced out the market and the SFA doesn’t give a fuck about fans anyhow. Now Westminster could legislate to ensure Scotland gets their football on free-to-air TV but that ain’t ever going to happen so we endure England playing Malta is a game so turgid and without tension it could be mistaken for a dead bird lying in the gutter.

This isn’t a good situation if we want to get future generations excited about the game. A child may watch this and think ‘I want to do that’, go out and become the best footballer they can, but if you only have Scotland games subscription only then you keep many kids away from the game as after all, kids aren’t going to go to the pub to see the match and if the national broadcasters don’t give a fuck why should they? It’s a crap short sighted, fuckwitted decision that reduces the national sport into an afterthought and it shames the Scottish media that there isn’t more fuss about it. Then again after nearly a year of being back in Scotland I have to say the Scottish media can always be there to let you down.

Bad Comics Journalism: John Boyaga and the ‘Caribbean Dancer’.

Bleeding Cool is a website offering ‘Geek’ news, so comics, films, that sort of thing. Most of the time the comics stuff is fine as it follows the same breathless sort of line in comics ‘reporting’ that scars the industry like a Chelsea smile. Sometimes it happens to be very good, most of the time it’s just reporting press releases or posting about a trailer for a film, etc. Usual sort of stuff for a ‘Geek’ site. It also has a line in clickbait that makes me wince at best. Angrily swear at my laptop and feel annoyed at worse. Every now and then it posts something so shite, so inane and so representative of the utterly shoddy state of what passes for ‘journalism’ on these sites, that I feel the red haze but not enough to make a big deal about it as after all, this shite is everywhere.

Then I read this piece about actor John Boyaga dancing with a woman at the Notting Hill Carnival and felt like my soul had died a bit in the time it took to read. There’s a thing in journalism called the ‘some arsehole doctrine‘. Essentially when a ‘journalist’ is struggling for a piece they will call on what some arsehole said, spin a piece, pocket the cash (or in Bleeding Cool’s case the exposure and a packet of crisps) and in the process curl out a piece of clickbait which does its job of driving traffic to a site and winding up other arseholes in a sort of Human Centipede of arseholes where they all feed off each others rage at the original thing that Some Arsehole said.

Now let’s move on from the fact that everyone goes to carnival (be it Notting Hill, St Paul’s or wherever) to get wasted, listen to liver-shaking dub reggae, and grind. Even the Old Bill.

Now the problem isn’t the sort of joy-sapping outrage by some arsehole who can’t distinguish real life from fiction, but the fact that Bleeding Cool thought it was fit to publish rather than say, actually doing journalism rather than being a ‘Geek’ version of the Daily Mail.

If Boyaga and a woman want to grind then what the fuck business of anyone but those two people? If some arsehole wants to get outraged about it rather than feed their social disconnect just ignore them after you’ve called them an arse. If a website reports on it then we’re talking of barrel-scraping inanity in the never-ending fight for clicks.

But I’m not annoyed by all that. I’m annoyed by how little journalism matters in the ‘Geek’ world having been cast aside like a used condom as sites and contributors fight for ad revenue or the possibility that Marvel, DC or another company pick them up for a position.  Barring the odd example here and there there’s no such thing as comics journalism, and the position of Bleeding Cool as a sort of Private Eye for comics (a position the editor has quoted several times) is rubbing salt in the wound as Private Eye’s journalistic reputation stands proud after decades.

The problem is that Private Eye does work that changes things. Paul Foot’s work on the Lockerbie Bombing is just one example. Reporting whether an actor does something a bit rude only makes people think lower as they become polarised as their thoughts rattle around in whatever echo chamber they inhabit. It is, to be utterly blunt, fucking depressing, to think that critical thought and reporting in an industry not especially well known for these things is left to some arsehole to pick up what another arsehole said and make something from it.

So remember the next time you see faux outrage from a ‘Geek’ site about something it’s probably the Some Arsehole Doctrine in full force. The answer is don’t click on it. Ignore it. Walk away. It’ll help in a small way in making the world better and if enough of us do it then things might actually change, but I doubt it.