The comics industry is run by crooks and mobsters…

In my last blog I spoke about whether comics sales had declined, and laid out the question  ‘why have Marvel and DC failed so pitifully when the potential market is so huge?’ and said the failure of the direct market with a mix of talent/imagination being in short demand being blamed for this. I’m only partly right as the blame also lies with the big companies who act often like thugs from a Warner Brothers 1930’s gangster film.

Hyperbole right? Well not really. The entire comics industry was forged in the world of mobs and gangsters as laid out in Gerard Jones’s excellent book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic BookIndeed as late as the 80’s, the mob had a hand in the distribution pie as Jim Shooter points out in his blog.

But the direct market came along, shifted the focus of distribution from newstands to specialist comic shops, the mob were gone, and for a while it seemed like the crooks and charlatans running the industry were gone, or at the very least, reduced to a handful and the business became professional. Some creators even became famous outwith the comics bubble and some even became very rich by finding a formula and selling it to film or television to be developed.  However creativity was reduced as companies moved away from being creator focused to being focused on developing ‘properties’ created by men and women paid little to nothing who if still alive, watch corporations and their executives grow fat and bloated from their work.

If this sounds bitter, it’s because this is a sad truth of the industry. There’s the tales told at convention bars in the early hours that aren’t able to be told in public for obvious reasons of publishers doing their best to wreck people. Some of these stories are leaking out as people die, or they’re being used as part of Howard Chaykin’s splendid Hey Kids! Comics!, which outlines the history of comics that’ll never be told on a Marvel or DC film making of documentary.

Comics, or at least the world of superhero comics, are not free of old-school gangsters, but they’ve been replaced by the thuggery of the corporation. Fans of the corporation and it’s ‘property’ are a thing now as they defend corporations against the sons and daughters of those creators who in many cases died in perjury. The corporations that are now Marvel and DC have chased away creativity for formula, as a whole as there is some diamonds in the rough.

So we have an industry whose works are more popular than at any time since the American comic book was born nearly a century ago, and an industry struggling to sell comics but both Disney and Warners see comics as farms for the real money in films, TV and merchandising. Yet there’s hope. The internet has opened up comics to more people, while creators who would never get a foot in the door of the Big Two are now making themselves known through self-publishing online. People are coming into the world of comics who love the medium and aren’t just speculators who won’t be around in a few years.

Things are getting better but right now the industry is suffering development pains, so it’s down to those who can to help guide things through to we all come out the other side better than the past.

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Mickey Mouse in Vietnam

One of the sad things about the 21st century is there’s not really a political underground movement or even much of an underground scene anymore. Sure there’s bits and bobs online but most of it is bollocks with the odd exception here and there which makes a point. Part of the problem though is that there’s little in terms of the establishment to take down these days.

Back in the 1960’s the Underground scene was hugely influential in tearing down icons, especially during the Vietnam War where America and its imperialism was brought into question. One such piece of Underground media was Whitney Lee Savage and Milton Glaser’s Mickey Mouse in Vietnam. A film long lost lost if anything sums up the Underground ethics of the peace and love era it’s probably this so enjoy all 66 seconds worth of it.

Star Wars Day

Star Wars Day is sucking the joy out out of something that was, once, a huge source of joy and fun, scrunching it up, wiping it’s arse with it, and selling it back to people who really should know better.

There’s an amazing snippet at the Wikipedia article for Star Wars Day where it’s apparently considered ‘‘anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement” and this utter snippet of horror:

”Current day Star Wars fans were not the first to introduce the line “May the fourth be with you”: when Margaret Thatcher was elected Britain’s first female Prime Minister on May 4, 1979, her party placed an advertisement in The London Evening News that said “May the Fourth Be with You, Maggie. Congratulations.”[3]This reading of the line has also been recorded in the UK Parliament‘s Hansard.”

This is giving greater meaning to something owned now by Disney, and is being marketed and exploited to an inch of it’s life at the expense of anything new, original or risky because most people bleating ‘May the fourth be with you’ only want more of the same over, and over, and over, and over again until they have Wookies coming out their ears.

Where’s the next Star Wars? Where’s people and studios taking risks? Where’s the ability of fans not to give importance to something that’s a film about a boy beating an evil Empire and snogging his sister? Why try to label something with an importance and a message which isn’t there?

Star Wars wasn’t anything more than well made children’s films that everyone could enjoy but it gave meaning and hope to people because the 70’s and 80’s were bleak. It’s escapist fun and to see it being given religious meaning is frankly, bollocks, because it’s turned into a monster of marketing to geeks can be sold shite which makes Disney and George Lucas another squillion quid.

I enjoyed Star Wars as a kid. I still watch those original films every now and then to cheer me up because it reminds me of a happier time, but now it looks like that girl you fancied at school who’s grown up and become a prostitute selling herself for another hit of crack because she can’t stop.

So yesterday was one of those times where you wonder if the 21st Century is really going to be worth it if all we can do with our culture is recycle the past and weld on meaning to make it important to adults who’ve grown up and still want to enjoy the stuff they did as a kid, but don’t want to admit it’s kids stuff when really the fact it’s kids stuff is what makes it fun because it is timeless. Though it has been soiled, used and abused to the point where what made it great is a distant memory, not to mention there’s some weirdness about this whole Jedi as a religion stuff that reminds me of how cults like the Jesus Army or any of the New Age cults work.

And as for ‘May the fourth be with you’, the first time I remember anyone saying it was bearded accused sex pest Dave Lee Travis on his radio programme in 1978.

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There you go; the whole thing could well be invented by the man who popularised darts on the radio, smoking pipes, and allegedly having gropy hands round women.

So just enjoy the films for what they are. Don’t go mental for the sake of a film!

However if anyone slags off Suspira I will rip their liver out…