End Austerity Now

Today is the largest mass demonstration against austerity in the UK as a march takes place in London against government austerity, and there’s also demonstrations across the UK, including another huge demo in George Square in Glasgow.

Austerity isn’t as the Tories tell you it is. It isn’t about ‘tightening our belts’ and ‘living within our means’. It’s about scrapping the welfare state and privatising everything so the rich benefit from the debt and suffering of the poor, unemployed and disabled. It’s about turning neighbour against neighbour as they fight over crumbs while the Tories wreck the country and destroy people’s lives, and make no mistake, lives are not just being wrecked but lost to the ideological policy of austerity.It is effectively an attack upon people”s rights to live.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) is going at the end of the month.and in removing it, the lives of thousands of disabled people are going to be destroyed very, very quickly. Some might say this is hyperbole but it isn’t. In my work there are people who can no longer as of next month get to and from work, so have a choice of going on benefits or trying to make by without something that’s enabled them to live the same lives as people like myself. Of course benefits themselves are being cuts as George Osborne plans his £12 billion worth of cuts that will once and for all wreck the welfare state.

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So right now in London and Glasgow people from all walks of life are joined by unions, politicians from the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru, and the few decent and moral Labour MP’s that stand against their own party’s support of austerity and are showing that there’s an opposition to the entire idea of austerity. They’re showing the Tories we’re not going down without a fight not just for ourselves, but for all of us together.

Follow the London even with the Livestream here, and the George Square event can be seen here.

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The Future Sound of London

I came across this splendid little story called Zero Hours  about a future London where 19 year old Nicki is a zero hours contractor in the year 2023. It’s a cracking short story which along with this Channel 4 News article about property in London being bought up by wealthy overseas property buyers set my little brain ticking over. After all, London feels like not only another country now, but an entirely different world and one I’m not especially keen on.

Picture though the vision of London in this story; a city where people bid to do jobs and the lowest bidder wins. Like a lot of science fiction it’s not too far removed from probability, and with the way things are going we’ll get there sooner rather than later.

So imagine this future London, it’s not that far-fetched.

 

My Top 20 Horror Films-15-An American Werewolf in London

It’s October, the month of Halloween and what would be more clichéd than doing a countdown of top horror films, so fully admitting to being a walking cliché, I will be doing a series of blogs running down the films in my own personal top 20. Here’s the previous blogs for numbers 20, Audition, 19, Night of the Demon18, Zombie Flesh Eaters, 17,Last House on the Left and 16 The Beyond. 

As I hit a quarter of the way through my list I present to you the sheer wonderfulness of John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London.

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In the early 80’s there was a little bit of a werewolf revival with this and The Howling, a film that nearly made this list (though there is another werewolf film to come) but lost out purely because of one scene in American Werewolf that’s not in the Howling.I’ll get to that in a bit.

Here’s the Wikipedia synopsis:

two young American men, David Kessler (played by Naughton) and Jack Goodman (played by Dunne), on a backpacking holiday in England. Following an awkwardly tense visit to a village pub, the two men venture deep into the moors at night. They are attacked by a werewolf, which results in Jack’s death and David being taken to a London hospital. Through apparitions of his dead friend and disturbing dream sequences, David becomes informed that he is a werewolf and will transform at the next full moon.

 

 

The film also features a wide selection of British talent, most notably Jenny Agutter, John Woodvine, the brilliant Brian Glover and a very, very young Rik Mayall. These actors are used as the straight men to the two American lead actors mainly jokey tone throughout most of the film, though Naughton’s increasing sense of doom is so well portrayed that by the time we get to a painful scene where he attempts to pluck up the courage to kill himself in a phone box in Piccadilly Circus we’re no longer laughing.

Before all this we get a wonderfully woven story of loss, romance and of course, giant fuck-off werewolves ripping people apart not to mention a transformation scene designed by Rick Baker that’s simply still one of the most amazing bits of cinema history.

Though it needs to be compared with Rob Bottin’s work in The Howling’s big transformation scene.

Baker’s work is the better work, but his final design for the werewolf is less demonic than Bottin’s. Both scenes are great but Baker’s is the one which stands the test of time better, though Bottin’s would go onto other films, which again is a subject for a later blog in this series.

American Werewolf was one of those films everyone of a certain age seems to have seen first on ropey VHS copies & never saw on the big screen. Luckily I did see it on the big screen thanks to the Glasgow Film Theatre’s habit in the mid-80’s to often show genre and exploitation films, something many art-house cinemas tend not to do anymore. Pity.

It was also a film I saw before I ever visited London, so this is where we get to the scene I mentioned earlier. This one in fact.

I’ve been on Tottenham Court Road tube hundreds of times over the years. Every single time I’ve thought of that scene which has made me crap myself every single time as frankly, I find the London Underground utterly terrifying, sad, lonely, pathetic and astonishing all at the same time.  If by this point you only think of John Landis as a director of comedy films (as everyone did when this was first released) then by this scene you’re convinced he’s capable of more. It’s such a shame he only had one more truly great film (Trading Places) in him.

An American Werewolf in London is still a remarkable film as it ends on such a bleak, horrible note that it breaks your heart, but this is the beauty of a film that’s designed to tell a story rather than tick boxes for film executives as most horror films tend to be these days. It’s also a great bit of archive in regards London at a point of time (about a year or two before I first visited London myself) when London was a crumbling seedy but glorious  mess, rather than the playground for the rich and wealthy it is now. I dread the inevitable remake.

Til then, watch it again and enjoy a bloody great film.

Next time. Barcelona!

 

 

The March of the EDL

Today the EDL had a jolly little march through London which resulted in several arrests, including that of the EDL leader, Stephen Lennon, AKA Tommy Robinson. What was amusing was seeing Lennon martyr himself by getting arrested which was then followed by his supporters setting up a fund to pay for his legal costs, which of course will not go to any of Lennon’s mounting legal problems at all. Jings never!

I do however have a point to make in that EDL supporters seem singularly unable to actually articulate why on earth they’re supporting a group who’s goals are at best dubious and at worst are just outright fascistic in nature. The claim that the EDL ‘supports the military’ is simply a load of utter fucking cobblers as they’re not supporting the army in any way at all, and if they were then they should join up, however as most of them wouldn’t last five seconds they’d be singularly crap in any conflict. I also find the ‘but we’re working class people protecting our streets’ line to be one of the most intentionally obtuse things the EDL have ever said.

I’m from a strong working class background and I’ve also spoken about the language of race in the past, and frankly the working class are no more racist than any other class but they will be the first to feel any effects of a new group integrating itself in the country because immigrants are often stuck at the bottom of the pile along with the working class so if there’s not a lot to go around then people will blame easy scapegoats, especially if the middle class refuse to let immigrants move into traditional middle class areas.

No, the idea that because someone supporting the EDL is working class that they should logically follow them is bollocks. It’s divisive nonsense.  There is something to be said about the gentrification of former working class multicultural areas to be said, but that’s for another time. Today is about pointing and laughing at the EDL’s failure to achieve this huge street movement that will change the nation.

Their festishisation of the military is nothing but a smokescreen.  They are fascists. They are racist. They are bigots. They are to be mocked and laughed at, so here’s a picture care of Hope not Hate that will put a wee smile on your face….

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The rise and fall of the Glasgow Comics Art Convention-part one

I’ve previously blogged about UKCAC and it’s history through my eyes, but I kept talking about it’s spinoff, the Glasgow Comic Art Convention (GLASCAC) being destined for a separate  blog, so here we go…..

GLASCAC was born initially as part of Glasgow’s European City of Culture celebrations in 1990 and Glasgow  was chosen for this spin off as the city was throwing around money like confetti on anything which would bring people to the city, plus comics were huge at this point and Glasgow was a creative centre for the booming comics scene thanks to the sheer amount of creative talent often championed by AKA Books and Comics in the city.

Frank Plowright, one of the UKCAC organisers, saw a chance to do something in 1990 so he grabbed the opportunity. Unlike most conventions then, and even today, it wasn’t advertised and publicised just to the comics fan but to the wider public not just in the UK, but across Europe and the world as part of the city’s celebrations. In fact I remember seeing it advertised in Tube stations across London from the middle of 1989, and also at Heathrow and Gatwick airports. It got extraordinary coverage nearly a year before it happened in spring 1990, and to this day I’ve never seen any mart or convention in the UK get the sort of coverage that first GLASCAC did.

At the time I was still working for Neptune Distribution so the plan was to do a huge launch of the colour version of St. Swithin’s Day by Grant Morrison and Paul Grist, as well as generally pushing Trident Comics and try to sweeten up our existing customers and take the piss from those who thought we were stirring things, which as I’ve outlined before, we were.

The convention was to be held in Glasgow’s City Chambers which is to this date the most impressive, if somewhat impracticable, venue for a comic convention I’ve ever been to but it was an amazing venue with it’s gilded halls and marble staircases. Thankfully all we had were a dozen of so boxes of Trident Comics titles which we shipped to AKA who kindly stored them for us before we all made our way up from Leicester, though myself, and another lad Nigel, had to first do the regular Friday shipment of comics even though Geoff (the MD) had left for Glasgow from East Midlands airport early on the Friday morning.

This meant being driven to London, doing the shipment and then hopefully having it done in time for the teatime flight to Glasgow from Heathrow. A long day was ahead, but on what was a lovely spring day we went from Leicester to Heathrow, where we picked up the shipment of that weeks’ comics, drove back to where our warehouse (by warehouse I really mean a large room) was in Staines where we sorted out the shipment and to get it out on time so Nigel and myself could get our flight, we had to drive to the ANC depot by Heathrow Airport to drop it off by hand before being driven to the correct terminal at Heathrow and unceremoniously dumped at the entrance where we discovered we had plenty of time to get ready for our flight.

This is where I point out that flying around inside the UK at this time wasn’t as common as it is today, so as we piled into the BA departure lounge we ended up mingling with various politicians, musicians and businessmen who eyed us both with  suspicion as we looked very out of place as we were still in our work clothes which were covered in dirt and muck. Both Nigel and myself dived into the very plush toilets in the lounge to change before emerging like new men ready for the weekend ahead, though I’d decided to stay on a few days longer than everyone else to prolong thing as I hate farewells and the final day of events like this.

During the flight Nigel and myself decided to pose as pop stars going to Glasgow to play a gig, so we came up with the name The Stray Toasters after the comic of the same name just to take the piss out of some of the businessmen sitting around us who were sneering at us under their breaths. Thankfully for everyone the flight was less than an hour and we landed at Glasgow Airport in the early evening, which left us only the task of getting to our hotel  Now we weren’t staying at the Copthorne Hotel which was the convention hotel where Geoff and two of the marketing team, Viv and Adam, plus Martin Skidmore (editor of Trident Comics) were staying. No, we were slumming it at the nearby & cheaper Central Hotel which at that time had become just a bit shabby, but I liked the place and so did Nigel so we got into Glasgow city centre, made our way to the Central, checked in and found our rooms where we both changed to get ready to meet up with Geoff and the others at the Copthorne. This also meant Nigel got his first experience of Glasgow city centre which shouldn’t have come as a huge shock seeing as he was a Geordie used to going out in Newcastle, but it was fun in that short walk between hotels.

I need to also point out that in these pre-mobile days things had to be arranged just by saying you’d be in a place at a time while hoping everyone else stuck to their part of the arrangement. That’s easier said than done but it turned out that when we met up with Geoff and the others, they’d had a perfectly nice day in Glasgow while we’d be grafting like wankers in London and dashing around.

Anyhow, the first night in the hotel was about pressing the flesh and saying hello, not to mention drinking heavily. In fact most people were drinking heavily. Very heavily. Amazingly heavily. I remember drinking a lot with John Wagner who we’d gotten on-board for Toxic!, our competition to 2000AD which was due to come out in 1991. I remember seeing Nigel staggering around and at some point early in the morning deciding to beat a discrete retreat and pulling Nigel back to the Central as we needed to crash as we were due up early the next day. We did leave behind us a night of carnage as Alan Davis noted in a cartoon he did for the next UKCAC programme.

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I won’t name the person Davis references, but at the time they thought they were a huge name in the industry, and yes, this actually happened.

Moving on…

Getting up early on the Saturday was painful, but I did it, staggered to get breakfast where I found a very peaky looking Nigel turning into a huge breakfast which was a great idea. After this we’d arranged for Nigel and myself to go to AKA, pick up our boxes (yes, we did all the bloody graft) then head to the City Chambers to set up. We’d been positioned next to where John Wagner and Alan Grant were selling and signing copies of The Bogie Man and their associated memorabilia, and near AKA, but far away from Forbidden Planet or anything Titan related.

It was also the weekend where a huge Poll Tax demo was scheduled outside in George Square to coincide with one being held in London. We didn’t know this til it actually started but it gave Geoff an excuse to nip outside with me to sell copies of St. Swithin’s Day as an ‘anti-Thatcher’ comic to protesters who helped make the issue effectively sell out in it’s first weekend.

In fact the entire convention was a roaring success. Numbers through the door were huge, and not just comics people and the same old faces, but new people and kids who were there for the fun of it. That first day was simply amazing and I remember sitting with John Wagner laughing at how well the thing was going.

That night, Geoff had arranged to go out for a meal with John McShane, Pete Root and the rest of the senior AKA crowd in order to wine and dine them, but I couldn’t be bothered so I tagged along with Andy Sweeney who was part of the new AKA group who’d replaced me when I moved from Glasgow a few years earlier. I think Nigel tagged along too as we went for a meal, got a bit pissed and headed back to the Copthorne for the Saturday evening’s drinking where I challenged Pete Root to a Neptune Vs. AKA football match on the Sunday morning.

That evening was fun. Lots of good banter and in fact much more relaxed and fun than the London based UKCAC due to the lack of media whores (who shall remain nameless) trying to annoy people to get a break into comics. It was just a laugh!

Next morning I got up early, changed into trainers, etc for the footy match, and went to the City Chambers to meet Martin Skidmore and the rest of the AKA lot to walk down to Glasgow Green for our kickabout. Thing was the AKA crowd were hanging apart from a few and Martin had tried to wake up Geoff and VIv but she wasn’t answering and Geoff had been a wee bit sheepish when Martin had tried to get him out his hotel room. I remember sitting on those marble steps of the City Chambers with Martin going ‘he’s not shagging her is he?’ before we both laughed it off and headed back to our respective hotels to get change and come back to mock John McShane’s immense hangover.

The last day also went amazingly well. Frank walked around looking happy as it’d went amazing well, however we also awoke to the Sunday papers which told the story of the riots in London the previous day which concerned a lot of people as they were heading back to London that night, or early on Monday morning. I wasn’t due back until Wednesday though as I’d arranged to meet my then girlfriend of sort in London on Wednesday afternoon before heading back to Leicester at the weekend after.

The convention drew to a close with the overwhelming response being positive. Neptune had picked up some extra business. Trident had sold itself well, and we’d sold pretty much everything we brought with us. I even drunkenly abused some FP staff which was fun. It was a success but the main thing people wanted to know was would Frank do another, which he said he would but that would mean organising two big events in a year pretty much by himself.

As the Sunday progressed the convention thinned out as people left and dealers packed up to leave. Geoff and the others from work were heading back to Leicester that night so they left, while Nigel was going back to London that night as well, so I was all on my tod and now I was officially not representing the company I decided to have a serious drinking session with whomever was left. I’d went out with Andy and the bits and bobs of AKA people who were still standing, and as we walked through George Square on a stunning spring evening all you could smell were the flowers blooming. It was beautiful and then we all dived into a pint glass for the next few hours.

I woke up back in my room at the Central feeling awful, but I didn’t need to work, so I stumbled down to get breakfast, filled my plate and had a thoroughly nice day chilling out in Glasgow, though when I did catch the news about London I was starting to become concerned as it was looking like a warzone.

Tuesday was supposed to be sorting a few family things out, but I wisely thought against it and instead spent the day in Kelvingrove Park sitting around reading comics before heading back into the centre to have a final drink with the AKA crowd before heading back to London the next day.

I painfully checked out of the Central the next day, headed to Glasgow Airport with a stinking hangover, and got on my flight to Heathrow where the majority of conversation in the departure lounge was about the riots in London over the weekend. As we landed I thought I’d go into central London first before heading up to Camden to meet my girlfriend. this was mainly to see whether central London had been levelled but it hadn’t but the damage was still visible and the effects of that day ended up spelling the end of a Prime Minister, but there was something eerie about walking though a half empty London (people were avoiding the centre) on a weekday. Eventually I headed up to Camden but that’s another story….

GLASCAC would indeed return the following year, but I wouldn’t be there for a variety of reasons and wouldn’t actually return to the convention til 1992, and in fact I’d only go back to Glasgow once in that time which was for Andy Hope’s wedding later in 1990. The story of the 1992 GLASCAC and beyond is coming up in the next part so do please come back for that….

Today’s Events in Woolwich are Not An Excuse to be a Twat.

In a change to what I was going to write about  I’ve got to comment on the  violent and pointless murder of a man (at this point it’s not 100% confirmed if he was a serving soldier or not) in Woolwich in London.

The BBC are running a very good ongoing report on this on their site, while social media like Twitter and Facebook has exploded in a shower of petty ignorance, racism, fear and stupidity.

Here’s the thing; terrorism only works if you become terrorised by these acts. Yes, it’s bloody shocking to have someone run over, then hacked to death and beheaded on a London street in front of dozens of people who were standing around filming the thing and letting the murderers rant into their camera phones. 

Then there’s the frankly remarkable, insane and somewhat darkly comic Twitter feeds…

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What sort of world do we live in where someone pops out for fruit and veg and sees the third most fucked up thing they’ve seen when they see this?

But this is all an aside to the bigotry, hate and fear this attack has caused. I’m not saying not to be repulsed, or even angry but take your repulsion and your anger out on the two miserable wee fuckers who did this, Not black people. Not Muslims. Not immigrants (it seems both were actually British anyhow). In fact, anyone who isn’t the people who did this because you make it a successful act of terror but playing it up more and more.

Yes, I’m aware I’m feeding the machine and of the irony but let me tell you a secret; I’ve dodged several terrorist attacks, including the IRA’s bombing of Manchester and the very first blog I wrote here detailed the IRA bombing in Leicester in 1990, and the reaction to it. I don’t think I allowed myself to be scared, which isn’t to say I wasn’t but if you do get scared and show it then terrorists, or lunatics like these pair win. Spreading bigotry and hate is letting them win. I’ve spent my entire adult life living with some form of terrorism and trust me, being scared is letting them win.

Don’t let them win. Don’t stand back looking at this looking through a lens at the horror of it all. Don’t let eager politicians use this. Don’t let the EDL use this. Don’t let Islamist groups use this. Make a point not to be scared. Don’t let Sky, or ITV, or the BBC or the Guardian, or The Sun scare you as they drool (the false morality as they warn us of the ‘shocking images’ as they show them over and over and over is depressing) over the sort of story that keeps them in a job for another week. Don’t let bloggers scare you. Don’t be a twat.

Do be shocked, do be repulsed and do put this into perspective as it seems the pair wanted the infamy. They wanted this. Don’t let them have it. Don’t be a twat.

And with that, I’m off to bed, It’s been an odd old day.

Bitter Sweet Symphony Part Three/ The Great Glasgow Comic Shop Wars

In Part One of this series, I outlined the history of Glasgow’s comic shops in the 80’s and the second part I outlined the history of comic distribution in the UK during the 80’s, so we’re up to the point in 1988 where Geoff at Neptune comes into the office shouting  at me saying ‘what the fuck do you know about Forbidden Planet opening in Glasgow?’

Before I go on I should point out there’s a lot of memories here based upon second or third hand stories and I’ve tried to make this as fair as possible but as will become clear in this (and the next blog) I was firmly on one side but I’ll try to outline what’s second hand to me. I will also say you really need to go back and read the first two parts of this before even trying to get stuck into this.

Now that’s out the way I can get on with answering the question as to just what the fuck I did know about Forbidden Planet opening in Glasgow? The answer was nothing. I didn’t have a clue. Geoff didn’t have a clue. So he pulled me into his office and he explained what had happened.

He was speaking on the phone to Graham at Odyssey in Manchester when he mentioned to Geoff that he’d been down to the Titan warehouse in London (anyone who was a Titan customer could visit the warehouse which was in Mile End in an exceptionally unpleasant area) when he’d seen a shelf marked ”Forbidden Planet Glasgow” which sent his Manc Spidey Sense tingling. At this point I have to point out comic shop owners are the worst gossips in the world, so Graham blurted this factoid out to Geoff on the phone knowing this was an exceptionally juicy bit of gossip as AKA in Glasgow was one of Neptune’s top customers so FP opening in Glasgow wasn’t just taking on AKA, but Neptune.  I was told to get on the phone to Jim at the SF Bookshop to find out if he knew anything, while Geoff broke the news to Pete and John at AKA. Now this was early 1988 and I’d not long moved to Leicester so I’m putting this around February or March of that year and definitely before Easter which was the weekend of the 1-4 April.

Anyhow, I asked Jim the question ‘do you know anything about FP Glasgow, while explaining how we knew at Neptune’. He said he knew nothing, we chatted for a bit and then I went into Geoff’s office to hear him still on the phone with John McShane and to say that Geoff was fucked off is an understatement. This was a man prone to bursts of raging anger and his neck was going to explode like a Tesco’s bag full of beetroot, and by this point his partner Sarah was in the office mouthing ‘calm down’ to him which he sort of did before finishing the call to AKA. Then he spent an hour talking with me about what we could do to help AKA out. We weren’t going to let Titan/FP lay a few good punches on one of our best customers without coming out with steel toecapped boots aiming for their bollocks, so we came up with a plan…

Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke, a Batman graphic novel, was coming out in March.

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What if we could get it to Glasgow as the same time we would get it to London?

To explain; Neptune would get two deliveries a week from the US, one from Sparta Press from the US on a Thursday, and on a Friday we’d have the Ronalds shipment from Canada. The former would be the mainstream newsstand comics, while the latter would be the more ”prestigious’ titles aimed for the direct market. We’d get, them, take them to our warehouse in Staines, sort them and send them via ANC to arrive the next day, so Friday and Saturday for all of our customers apart from those in London, Leicester, Northampton and Nottingham. They were lucky enough to get a delivery by van pretty much hot off the presses, so there and then on the same day they landed in the UK. Titan did a similar thing but only delivered to London customers which meant we could pull a trick or two.

While we plotted and schemed in Leicester, the situation in Glasgow had erupted. It turned out that Jim from the SF Bookshop did indeed know about FP Glasgow, as he was actually going to be a partner in the shop. To say that Pete and John at AKA were upset about this is again, an understatement but I wasn’t in Glasgow when this was found out. I can only go on what Pete, John and various friends told me at the time, plus like I said, comic shop owners gossip and we were getting a fuckload of gossip about what was kicking off in Glasgow in the early part of 1988.

I’d heard that half of AKA’s customer base had left to go to Forbidden Planet, along with people like Grant Morrison, Jim Clements, Gary Erskine and several others of the old (well, it was old to me now I was a few hundred miles away) crowd who’d been lured by the bright shiny new shop and the fact it sold new imports slightly cheaper than AKA which was something a shop like FP could do if it was also owned by it’s distributor. As I pointed out to Geoff one day in the car, this was a conflict of interest and that statement opened a huge can of worms but that’s for the next blog. Back to this one.

AKA was hardly going out of business but FP opening was a huge blow, and it was taken very personally by many on the AKA side, mainly because of Jim being involved and the duplicitous circumstances of it’s opening. In hindsight Glasgow could have easily supported another shop, and FP and AKA could have easily lived together without the bad blood but the decision was made by FP and those behind it to open the Glasgow shop in the way they did.

Or basically, they started it.

In March 1988, we’d found out exactly when The Killing Joke was going to ship and it was over Easter weekend, so we came up with a cunning plan; I’d take as many as I could physically carry on the train to Glasgow which might make you think ”hang on, isn’t it easier just to have shipped it up normally as both Titan and Neptune would have got it at the same time”?

Except we didn’t. We’d made arrangements to ship 2,000 copies in by special air freight at a cost of a Lot Of Money into the UK on the same day they were printed in Canada. Neptune didn’t make a single penny of profit from those issues, and in fact much like the story about Factory Records losing thousands over the 12” of Blue Monday, this was a case of making a point.

Had it actually went to plan. Which it didn’t. The problem was that customs decided to hold  comic shipments for everyone that weekend seeing as it was Easter and they were being anal about things. Also the logistics company we used decided to ship several thousand copies of expensive comics from Heathrow to Gatwick, and then as we were driving to Gatiwck to get them (with the plan now changed that I’d get the train from Brighton!) we were told on our carphone (ooo, technology) that they were heading back to Heathrow and head back there. Basically the entire plan went to shite but Titan were also in a mess, so we’d not lost our advantage!

This was the day before April Fool’s Day. We went back to Leicester to grab some sleep, and next day went back down to grab these previous comics which we did along with the regular shipment but we knew the entire plan would only work if we got got my arse on a train to Glasgow ASAP so AKA could get The Killing Joke before FP did. After a hectic few hours which saw myself and Neil Phipps (one of the Neptune lads I’ve mentioned previously) frantically taping together boxes (the fucking thing came in it’s own stand in boxes of 25!!) of Killing Joke outside Euston on a lukewarm Good Friday I legged it to a train leaving Neil to call John and Pete at AKA that I was on my way and I’d be about six hours….

Ten hours later I finally get to Glasgow Central. I’d stood all that time. In a carriage full of squaddies. And it’d got warmer. Plus I hadn’t eaten in hours. I also wanted water. I was frankly a fucked up mess by the time I got to Glasgow but I heaved off the several boxes of comics, loaded them on a trolley and wheeled it down the platform to see a grinning John McShane patiently waiting for me among the neds and jakies milling around Central Station at this time, which was late on Good Friday. Thankfully John got me, and the precious cargo into a taxi and we sped off to his new flat in Dennistoun where I humped the comics up the stairs, dumped them in John’s lobby and promptly passed out on his couch.

The next morning saw an early rise and we got the comics down to AKA as quickly and early as possible, though I do remember demanding a couple of rolls and square sausage and all the Irn Bru I could drink before doing anything. Anyhow, we got in around 8ish, I helped John break the boxes down (I didn’t mention that in addition to carrying up 200 copies of the Killing Joke, I’d brought up two boxes of their regular delivery) and place the Killing Joke into the standing order customers folders. There was about 20-30 copies left to stick out on display, which we did so by the time Pete Root turned up at 9am, the delivery had been done and dusted and I settled in to a seat behind Pete who was manning the till and waited for customers to come in to see what the reaction was.

And the reaction was quite amazing. Titan hadn’t got their copies out in time. This was Easter weekend and that meant if something didn’t turn up on the Saturday, you’d not get it til Tuesday. Now we only got 200 copies up to Glasgow (the rest came later) but the point was people came in, saw the Killing Joke in AKA, bought their copy and went up to FP to tell Jim and those who left AKA that this incredibly long awaited comic was down the road and oh, where’s your copies?

Which was exactly as Geoff, John, Pete and myself had planned. It was an incredibly expensive, agonising and exhausting way to essentially stick two fingers up at FP and scream FUCK YOU at them but bollocks to it, this was a stunt needing to be done and it created a bit of gossip because we should know comic shop owners are gossips by now.

I went back to Leicester on the Monday, while the situation in Glasgow worsened. FP were aggressively pushing into AKA’s market share and a hell of a lot of very, very, very, very bad blood started coming to the fore. I only experienced this second or third hand but this piece sums things up well on a superficial level but the bleeding of staff and customers from AKA to FP was causing damage and although AKA was still getting the signing sessions which made it such a hub of creativity and excitement in the previous years, there was a feeling among those who I spoke to who did make the move to FP that they were going to miss out on something by going to FP.

In hindsight it was gloryhunting in the same way office bores bleat on about supporting Manchester United because they don’t want to be on the losing side, and it was seen that AKA was on the losing side from the off by some.Some people did try to bridge the gap, or just didn’t care. For me though I was increasingly occupied with the Great Comic Distributors War (more on this in the next blog) Geoff had started with Titan, plus my social life in Leicester was expanding since Neil had shown me the gloomy, filthy, glorious wonders of The Fan Club and the ritual of ‘grabbing a goth’…

This isn’t to say I wasn’t taking an interest in the rather sad civil war that broke out in Glasgow throughout 1988 and into 1989. I did, but I tried my hardest to help by doing my job well, and not to mention being involved with more stunts like the time we flew John McShane down from Glasgow to Heathrow for 30 minutes so we could dump a whole load of Arkham Asylum graphic novels we’d shipped in before Titan so we could get the book out in sale in Glasgow on the same day it landed in the UK. This one really fucked FP off in a huge way as Grant Morrison was now part of the FP crowd and this was his big book, so for AKA to get it before FP was a delightful ‘fuck you’ to the shop but it only ended up causing more bad blood, more spite and more grim depressingly bad feeling.

By the time of the first GLASCAC in spring 1990 there was a Cold War going on with AKA and FP agreeing to stay out of each others way but really, this wasn’t my war. I was involved in a bitter and bigger one with Titan while what was happening in Glasgow was important not to mention amazingly sad to me, I was at best a peripheral figure who swanned in and out of life in Glasgow only catching snippets of what was affecting people every day. It’s not trite to say that for some of us involved in the whole thing learned some valuable lessons about humanity throughout this, which for me was to stick by your mates and learn when people are lying to you. As someone who’s spent now over a decade in sales and marketing I can tell you a liar from 50 feet, and some of that skill was picked up during these times when you couldn’t trust who was saying what, so you had to pick sides. Even if I’d not went down to Leicester to work for Neptune, I’d have still sided with AKA because I’m always going to side against the independent against the Big Company.

Eventually some wounds did heal. After AKA closed down, Pete Root went to FP with his back issues and ran his business from the back of the shop. John McShane made some sort of peace with Jim and those at FP, but I’ve not spoken to John about this in over a decade and sadly, Pete died a few years ago. I’m going to do something just for Pete another time.

At the end of 1990 comics were hardly my main priority as I’d royally fucked my life up, so I wasn’t going to Glasgow, or in as close touch as I was in the previous years but still heard enough coming from there thanks to some of the newer AKA crowd but mainly the fantastic Andy Sweeney who kept me informed throughout the 90’s when I was becoming something else entirely. By the time I’d sorted myself out in the spring of 91 the Glasgow Comic Shop Wars had passed, but there’s another part to this which is the Great Comic Distribution Wars. That’s for next time……