100 Years of Jack Kirby

It’s the San Diego Comic Con (well, it’s barely a comic convention than a media whorefest) this weekend, and the convention is celebrating Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday with a fantastic programme cover recreating one of his Jimmy Olsen covers from back in the 1970’s.

I’m glad they’re doing this as quite simply had there not been a Kirby all those people drawn to ”geek” culture would have drifted elsewhere. No Kirby, no Captain America, no Fantastic Four, no X-Men, no Iron Man, no Avengers, no Thor, no Mister Miracle, no Groot, no Nick Fury, no SHIELD, no Darkseid, no Black Panther, no romance comics, and in fact, the entire American comic book industry not to mention modern culture would look entirely different.

So well done to San Diego for driving the point home. No Kirby, and comic conventions would probably just be full of middle aged men buying back comics they sold when they were in their 20’s, and verbally wanking over Barry Smith’s Conan. Actually…

Anyhow, we should celebrate Jack Kirby and I hope the attendees this weekend make Jack proud.

Advertisements

DC Comics films cheer up, Kong: Skull Island made me wet my pants and The Walking Dead cast laugh at us because of Brexit

San Diego Comic Con hit its Big Day yesterday with the infamous Hall H throwing out big presentations one after another. This is a day where people queue for up to a day beforehand to get in sleeping in each others sweat and filth in order to be within 200 metres of their heroes. If they’re lucky of course.

First up was Warner Brothers who came out like an alcoholic who’s just went clean and who wants to tell you about it. One of the rightful criticisms of Warner’s DC Comics films is they’re too dark and miserable to the point where Batman Versus Superman ended up being a masochistic exercise in misery rather than anything fun. So first up, Wonder Woman.

It looks alright, the WW1 setting is odd because that was a much more complex war to portray on screen than WW2 because you can’t just depict a complex war based upon imperialism as easily as Goodies killing Nazis. Still is does give it a different look though at some point even the most rabid fan has to deal with the fact Gal Gadot can’t act.

Next up; Justice League.

There’s more fun in the nearly three minute trailer than the entire of the aforementioned Batman Versus Superman, plus Man of Steel combined. That doesn’t make a great film though but this has got such a low starting point in terms of expectations a light, fun superhero film would be a masterpiece.

As for Suicide Squad..

I dunno, it looks fun but it also looks as if a committee of accountants have poured over every Marvel film of the last decade and come up with a film.

The main event for a Giant Monster fan like myself is Kong: Skull Island.

Godzilla was alright but far too dull in places. The Peter Jackson King Kong remake was overlong and tedious, but this promises less of a boring time at the cinema which a giant monster film shouldn’t be.

There were other film Warner Brothers presented but J.K Rowling can fuck off.

Marvel also produced loads of stuff but unlike Warners they didn’t release them directly online and that might keep the thousands of smelly, sweaty fans in Hall H happy, but it doesn’t stop piracy. Ah well, here’s the Doctor Strange trailer with Benedict Cumberbatch’s iffy American accent.

One of the things that’s clear is that the big media companies have honed how they use San Diego to their benefit which benefits those us sat on our arses thousands of miles away, but perhaps make the experience of those actually there a bit less special. However sticking most of the big panels online more or less within 24 hours of them happening means we can get to see things like the cast of The Walking Dead (well, a couple of them) taking the piss out of the UK because of Brexit.

Even people whose job is playing someone in a post apocalyptic world where mindless zombies eat people thinks Brexit is a bad idea…

So with that in mind I’m off to watch the Aliens 30th anniversary panel without smelling like a tramps old socks.

How Oliver Stone and Pokemon Go shows up the state of comics journalism

There’s a point in the San Diego Comic Con panel where Joseph Gordon Levitt during a panel on Oliver Stone’s new film Snowden talks about how ideas these days are disseminated in the length of the average Tweet. It is a truth. It diminishes informed debate.

This brings me to this GeekFeed.com article on this panel.

Oliver Stone revealed his thoughts on Pokémon Go today while doing a panel at Comic-Con for his upcoming movie Snowden, which is based the story of the now infamous whistleblower. Let’s just say, they were not good.

“It’s not funny,” Stone said.

Oliver Stone is probably best known for such films as JFK and Wall Street, which give what could be described as a semi-biographical take on history. The director himself also is known for not shying away from controversy. Controversy with a little bit of paranoia added for flavor. Stone had to interject on Pokémon Go after Snowden actor Zachary Quinto was asked to further his thoughts on the mobile game. Quinto had previously made fun of the app on his Instagram account, and was met with laughter from the audience.

Stone said at that point it was not something to laugh about, which probably did not help alleviate the audience’s laughter. “I’m hearing about it too, it’s a new level of invasion. Once the government had been hounded by Snowden, of course the corporations went into encryption, because they had to for survival, right? But the search for profits is enormous.”

At this point we’d like to say Stone rambled off about getting those “damn punk kids off my lawn.” However, he continued by describing Pokémon Go‘s phenomena as “what some people call surveillance capitalism,” being part of “a robot society,” and finishing his thoughts with “It’s what they call totalitarianism.”

You can read the bulk of Oliver’s comments here. Why is there not YouTube video of this panel on the internet right now so we can share the director’s old man rant with you that way? Oh yeah, that’s right. Because it’s 2016 and not many people consider him or his movies relevant anymore. Which might be why he is commenting on one of the hottest trends currently and linking it to the theme of his upcoming movie.

Well, there’s YouTube video of the panel up now and it’s actually worth around 50 minutes of your time as it puts everything in context.

Taking aside Stone’s obvious discomfort through the entire panel, his comments (at around the 40 minute mark) are thoughtful, and the idea of surveillance capitalism is a new idea we’re only just starting to define let alone be able to identify.These are big, new concepts and GeekFeed think they’re the ramblings of an ‘old man’ and that Stone’s trying to use Pokemon Go to publicise his film when as you can see in the video, he’s answering a question.

Now I’m not 100% in agreement with Stone. I do think there’s things about Pokemon Go that is concerning regarding mainly data mining, and I’m aware you can turn these settings off but how many people are even aware of the fact that games like this mine your data or how to turn them off? How is surveillance capitalism going to affect us? How will it change culture and society? There’s loads of questions coming out of this, but no GeekFeed boils it down to lazy, crap cliches and in doing so proves Levitt’s point about boiling things down to Tweet levels of debates.

This is what annoys me for what passes as ”journalism” in the comics/”Geek” world. The GeekFeed article is at best, a Tweet or a half arsed blog post. There’s no journalism here, no attempts to delve into Stone’s words, no attempt to even research the ideas. Just a lazy shite line about ‘crazy old men” ageist nonsense. It isn’t even an opinion piece because it isn’t an opinion worth listening to because at best this is clickbait.

But if sites like GeekFeed don’t inspire to do better and even fail to report basic facts they do the subjects they speak about an injustice. By speaking down to their readership they do them an injustice, unless of course they’re pitching to their readers confirmation bias in that anyone who says anything critical of something they like must be attacked because a few critical comments on Pokemon Go is a direct attack on them personally. That’s showing the emotional and intellectual maturity of a small child or a Labour MP.

If comic/”Geek” journalism is to improve into something better it needs to have people not just willing to question their own ideas, but it needs to work out what’s the purpose of what they want to do? If it’s editorialising then fine, but it isn’t journalism and if you are editorialising make it at the very least informed because if your level is ‘old man on lawn’ lines then you’re a waste of space and giving an industry with a poor reputation an even worse one.

San Diego Comic Con is a far away promised land

I’ve been critical of things like ‘Geek Culture‘ (the very name sets my teeth on edge), the way consumerism has infected comics so love of the medium has been replaced with love of buying things, the changing face of conventions, while I’ve offered what advice I can for retailers in what is whatever one thinks, a massive boom time for comics as a culture regardless of his or her position.

It does rightly deserve criticism for forgetting its core purpose which is comics and indeed, this moderately annoying video, Comic Con: The Musical from The Nerdist (as you can imagine the bile rises whenever I see that name) manages to sum up the rampant consumerism and package it in a coating of smug saccharine nonsense while ignoring comics.

There is much about San Diego Comic Con to inspire venom, and yet, I still want to go there. It’s like when I was younger when I discovered something amazing sounding called Glastonbury Festival and eventually spent every year going til illness stopped that for the time being.

I recent years it’s been quite easy to follow what’s going on via social media but that isn’t the same as being there and experiencing the sights, sounds and (sadly) smells of tens of thousands of fanboys and girls in one place. It isn’t the same as seeing a Carmine Infantino piece of original Flash artwork, or seeing Jim Steranko (I think if I were to meet Steranko I’d explode with excitement), or meeting the Hernandez Brothers. Sure, I can follow the programme easily enough, websites like this make it easy to follow what’s going on and I can look for hashtags or mentions on Twitter but it isn’t the same. I spent years reading about Glastonbury but didn’t really get it til I turned up there in a drugged up haze in the early 1990’s.

As this blog gets published it’ll be around 10.30pm UK time, so things will be starting to kick off over in San Diego. I’ll experience it second hand and live the odd vicarious thrill from afar, but I’ll not touch it, and I certainly won’t be able to do so next year. I think just once I should. That could be my mission when I’m declared cancer free, but I’d be going for the comics and I wouldn’t ever be a hypocrite and buy crap because it looks cool. Honest.

So those amassed in San Diego have fun you bunch of filthy consumerists and go look at the comics because without that there wouldn’t be anything else there.

 

A few words about San Diego Comic Con, the state of comics journalism and why I’m doing this blog in the first place..

As I mentioned in a recent blog, I’ve been following the San Diego Comic Con online partly because I’m possibly going to have to take a greater interest in comics due to a Cunning Plan I’ve been cooking up, and partly because some friends are over there and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the pictures of their trip, which brings me quite quickly to the point of this as virtually all the coverage of the Con is about the big events so you get endless coverage on blogs and sites about how Superman and Batman are being slung together in a World’s Finest type of film, or the Marvel Films panel, or even the frankly ludicrous Lego film which is a sign if ever there was any that the well of creativity is over in Hollywood and it’s now a slow running lukewarm stream of piss that you see outside of pubs in any city centre on a weekend.

rudeworldsfinset#1

You rarely if ever see anything about the thousands of people going for the fun of it as all these big events dominate to such a degree because the blogs and sites which mainly cover it want the hits these stories bring as it helps their SEO and gets them in many cases some advertising revenue, not to mention giving their site some sort of credibility, except most of the time what’s passing as ‘journalism’ is actually just churnalism. See this BBC report about the Superman/Batman film. It’s just a recycled press release. That’s it. Now I’m not going to be twattish (for the time being) enough to point out specific comic related sites which do exactly the same as many are just a single person trying to get by, or fansites, and anyhow naming the BBC for being guilty of churnalism is fine as they can take the small kick in the shins I can give, but really let’s be honest here, if you want to call yourself a ‘journalist’ and all your doing is rehashing press releases and being 100% positive about everything then all you and your site are doing is giving a company like Warners or Disney free advertising rather than telling the story and the truth of what’s happening at a particular time.

What annoys me is it’s giving this impression that all it’s about is helping making the studios money, when in fact from looking at friend’s pictures it looks enormous fun, but if the media (and this includes bloggers and comic sites)  only talk about one aspect, or let one aspect dominate their coverage as it helps with the hits and if their site or blog flies into the radar or Marvel or DC they might get a few freebies, and they might even get a paying gig.

All this is fine, but don’t pretend it’s journalism. It isn’t. It’s just free publicity. You’re representing only a part of the story of this generation, and you’re not telling the story of what should be told as you’re all too interested in the possibility of the paying gig at Marvel or DC, or possibly MTV, or even ITV4 rather than telling the everyday story of how people enjoy Comic Con for the big fun event I’m sure it is.

Which brings me again to reiterate the point of my blogging in that it’s not journalism, nor am I taking a moral high ground. Well, maybe just a bit, but in doing thing like my blogs about Glastonbury or the comics scene in Glasgow in the 80’s I hope I’m adding to the variety of voices, and in some cases actually adding an alternative voice to what has become, or seen, to be the consensus viewpoint which is normally that everything is wonderful or kewl or shite and sucks with little of no critical or journalistic practise going on. That’s the point of this as I’ve become so fed up with the idea that Glastonbury is about big bands playing in a field, or that comics in the 80’s was all sweetness and light. So hence this.

See the thing is in the 21st century when the web provides the greatest amount of information available in human history, the problem is that the same stories become ‘truth’ without being challenged because in many cases challenging those stories if you’re a comics journalist may mean pissing someone off who might give you a job. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since getting out of comics full time, or even part time around a decade or so ago is that you need to take criticism and that means criticising what you do as it helps you challenge things. Just accepting the norm is great if you want to progress but it doesn’t tell the truth and I suppose that’s what I’m trying to do by telling my little tales of what I’ve lived through.

That said, if someone wants to give me a paid job for doing this I’ll sell my soul gladly! Yeeee Haaaa!!!!! Man of Steel was brilllllllllllllliannnnnntttttttttttt…….LOL!!!!

Please shoot me if this ever happens….

Pale Blue Horizons- The San Diego Comic Con

Video

 

It’s the San Diego Comic Con this week, which if you’re a comic person like myself is the Glastonbury Festival of comics as long as you ignore Angoulême of course.It’s the nirvana for comics fans and over the last 15 years or so has moved from being mainly comics focused to ‘popular arts’, which essentially seems to mean they’ve dumped comics out the back in favour of films, telly, games, and any old tat.

Sadly this is the nature of such things as I was predicting that at the last UKCAC in 1998 that the only way for comic conventions to expand was to look into other related genres, or even open the field of comics up in a way that’s certainly not been done in this country, but that’s aside the point & a blog for the very near future.

I’ve never been to Comic Con, and at this rate I probably won’t in the foreseeable future. Til I somehow do, I live vicariously through the Twitter feed of friends there, or though films such as the one I’ve posted the trailer of above, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, which was released the other year. It’s a film worth watching as it captures some of the stress & fun of being a retailer, not to mention other aspects including being a budding artist. Now back in the late 80’s I used to see people’s portfolios at conventions due to me working for Trident Comics and on the whole, 95% of them were utter rubbish. It was that 5% we’d constantly look for, but it was letting people down in such a way that they’d not kill themselves as people were like the Skip chap in the film and they really did think they were the Next Big Thing. It was hard, but I’ve seen editors from DC or 2000AD be completely brutal, and I think that’s the best way to do it but in a constructive way.

It’s a film worth watching because the tone is overwhelmingly positive, which does means there’s not too much in the way of discussion of the negatives, but that’s not the point as it’s supposed to be a celebration. The one thing that comes out of it is how different British and American cons are, or at least, were as our cons are moving more towards the American model with is a plus and minus all at the same time as our cons have always had this wonderfully anarchic feel about them, and that isn’t referring to the organisation of them but the feel and ethics of them. Anyhow, I wish everyone well & hope they have fun because that’s what these things should be: fun!

I’ll be following this year’s Con online and wishing I was there. I probably won’t be there next year but never say never……