A few words about Hillsborough

The Hillsborough inquest verdict came through yesterday, and it completely vindicated what the families of those 96 dead have been saying for 27 years that their loved ones weren’t responsible for their deaths. In fact the authorities failed and then spent decades systematically covering up the facts so the idea that ticketless Liverpool fans rushed gates, or were drunk or were pushing others to their deaths (if you let a crowd into a confined space they’re going to push ahead, so that’s not the fault of the people, but those that didn’t read the situation properly) have been shot down in flames yet a cursory look at Twitter today reveals people still push these lies and frankly, offensive bullshit.

Throughout the decades the people of Liverpool and fans of Liverpool F.C took reams and reams of abuse and insults. In fact the lies started piling up quickly with that infamous Sun newspaper cover which today’s Metro scathingly parodies with brilliant effectiveness.

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I wrote at the start of this inquest of how the 96 should be remembered, but now the truth has been exposed it’s hopefully a matter of time before people face criminal charges, but they’ll be people who’ll escape legal action who deserve to be remembered in their part in all this.

I hope I’m wrong but Kelvin McKenzie will probably avoid any legal action (some are talking of him being charged with perverting the course of justice and aiding in a cover up) but his role in the cover up and smearing of the living and dead should never be forgotten. The uncharacteristic silence from a man who talks shite in the same way the rest of us breathe is deafening, but I don’t imagine it’ll last long.

Then there’s Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s former press secretary who blamed the disaster on drunken Liverpool fans and didn’t mind telling people that.  There’s Boris Johnson, who leaped upon the people of Liverpool in this column in the Spectator in 2004, that was partly written by Simon Heffer.  I could mention Jack Straw who decided within five weeks of Labour coming to power in 1997 that there wasn’t a need for a new inquiry.

There’s also the thousands upon thousands of Keyboard Warriors who’ve bravely slandered the dead from the safety of anonymous user names on message boards and social media for most of this century. Most of all though it’s The Sun’s role in ensuring that the lie got embedded from the off that’s going to be remembered for as long as this story drags on. There’s many good reasons never to buy The Sun, but this is by far the biggest because it’s a matter of solidarity and well as hurting an organisation that contributed in making people’s lives hell for 27 years and slurring the names of the 96 dead fans.

A lot of people and organisations are going to be consulting lawyers today and they’ll be worried, even scared of their own future but I have no sympathy. If you played a part in helping this develop from a grotesque act of negligence to a criminal cover up then I hope you get your day in court.

I missed the verdict unfold live yesterday as I was going through my own personal drama but when I did eventually see the images from yesterday I was struck but the sheer sense of relief and the dignity of the families, who have been fighting this from generation to generation. Hopefully the fight ends with this generation and justice is finally served.

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One year later…..

A year ago I started writing this blog around the same time Margaret Thatcher finally stopped breathing, so two good things happened at the same time…

In that year I’ve written a lot of guff, some ok stuff and the odd thing I’ve been proud of. I leave it to the reader to skim through what I’ve written to work out which is which but I reckon I’ve done more good than bad, so at this first anniversary I’m looking forward to what’s coming up in the near future.

  • I hope to finally lay the beast of the Daily Bale to rest. I’ve not continued blogging about this because frankly, it doesn’t deserve to take up more of my time than it has and I’ve also done my bit to get the fucking thing in court. This isn’t to say I’ll never return to it, but after Joshua Bonehill’s sentencing, I’m leaving it.
  • My series of Glastonbury blogs have been great fun to write and I’m working right now on my history of 2005’s festival and here’s a wee clue for the title of the blog..

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  • Comics!! I’m planning something shamelessly nostalgic for Glaswegian comic fans of a certain age. I’ve also enjoyed doing my reviews not to mention my odd rant about the state of comics
  • Rants! This seems to have been something judging from the general views I’m getting that makes up what people want to read, so I’m working on a sequel of sorts to this blog about Stokes Croft in Bristol just in time for the third anniversary of the riots…

I’m also going to do some more ’20 best of lists’ as I’ve done with horror, SF and comic films with probably documentaries being next, though I reserve the right to change my mind on that. I’m also going to do some more odd stuff, some of which may be a wee bit more of the personal biography I’ve been threading through a lot of my blogs.

This means I’m finally going to tell the time I reenacted this…………

So thanks for the last year, it’s been different!

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…

Bitter Sweet Symphony part two/ Battle of the Planets

Last time I outlined a brief history of comic shops in Glasgow which is really a small part of a larger story about the rise of the direct market in the UK as more and more specialist comic and SF/fantasy shops grew across the country. Now there’s better people than me who have outlined the death of the newsstand market in the US and the history of the direct market as a whole in the US.

The UK direct market was slightly different in that American comics were still available in newsagents til the late 90’s thanks to Comag and Moore Harness, who finally kicked the bucket four years ago. The direct market was different in that you finally got the non distributed comics that were so hard to get in the UK, and you got them relatively cheaply so this is where there was a gap in the market and with Titan Distributors you had the first organised distribution system across the UK as opposed to the patchy methods of getting comics in directly to the UK in previous decades that was at the whim of the major companies like Marvel or DC.

There was also the problem that there was a lot of crooks in the distribution game so it was a front to launder money for gangsters or to distribute porn, which was the case in the US as well as here in the UK, but the point we pick things up here is the early 80’s when Titan Distributors are the main supplier to comic shops across the UK. That wasn’t to say we’re talking the million pound industry we have today. There was probably only two or three dozen shops across the UK by the middle of the 80’s, not counting the Virgin Megastore comic shops which sold comics and magazines like Fangoria to the record buying public.

Titan had a nice monopoly in that in those days in that you had to buy from them even though there were more than a few dealers voicing concerns that there could well be a conflict of interest as Mike Lake and Nick Landau who owned Titan, also owned Forbidden Planet in London and should they want, they could easily open FP’s across the country selling comics at less than any other shop.

But they didn’t. Lake and Landau both made it clear often that they wouldn’t open a shop where they had an existing Titan customer, so that ruled out Glasgow, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham and basically every major British city.

The only problem as I mentioned in passing in the first part that Titan deliveries would turn up a week or so after being released in the US, which wasn’t a huge problem in those pre-internet days but deliveries would often turn up with comics that the SF Bookshop in Edinburgh would get but AKA in Glasgow wouldn’t and vice-versa. Then there was the fact Titan could charge what they wanted within reason seeing as they had a monopoly and this meant American distributors looked at the UK with envious eyes, and slowly and surely they made their plans against Titan.

Mile High Comics made some attempts to distribute directly to shops in the UK, but the problem was they didn’t have a warehouse in the UK, so you ordered directly from their warehouse in the US and they packaged and shipped to the UK. This was basically what some dealers had been doing with them prior to Titan anyhow, but they opened the door before Bud Plant Comics made some attempts to piece the UK market and based on the West Coast of the US, they had a little bit more success but again, without a UK warehouse they were fighting a lost cause. Titan just made sure they didn’t fuck up, or put their prices up too high in case it alienated customers.

This changed when Neptune Distribution came on the scene in 1986. Neptune was set up by three students at Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) who lived at 67 Barclay Street (more on this address another time) by the name of Geoff Fry, Sarah Hunter and Martin, who’s last name completely and utterly escapes me. It was Geoff though who was the comics geek, while Sarah and Martin were not readers. Sarah and Geoff were also seeing each other which is not important at the minute.

Geoff was the mastermind behind the operation and considering it was run out of their small living room in Barclay Street, they had a base of operations not to mention Geoff was smart enough to make contact with Bud Plant in the same way that Lake and Landau had made a connection with Phil Seuling’s Seagate Distributing at the start of Titan’s operation in the UK. This meant that Neptune could shift comics quickly and store some stock in what became the stock room, or normally, one of the bedrooms upstairs as Sarah and Geoff now shared a room.

The main problem for Neptune wasn’t to capitalise on Titan’s flaws, but to convince shops they weren’t a a risk or unreliable like the few other  distributors who tried to break Titan’s monopoly. The break was John Byrne’s Man of Steel, which was DC’s big Superman relaunch in 1986.

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Neptune managed to get this title to the few shops it had as customers three days before Titan. It sounds like no big deal at all, but it helped from stopping people go to the competition in either Glasgow or Edinburgh in AKA’s case. It was a nice way of getting one up that one of the biggest comics of the year was on sale before anyone else had it.

Neptune used that success to grow the business and they gained shops in London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leicester, Sheffield, and across the UK fairly quickly over a period of 8-12 months as the direct market erupted after a huge amount of mainstream publicity over creators like Alan Moore and Frank Miller, and work like Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns and Maus. Shops were springing up everywhere and there was a battle starting to brew between Neptune (the bright young challenger) and Titan (the undisputed champion) mainly to gain business but Geoff had it in his head to take on Mike Lake due to the fact he’d went away after a meeting with him utterly hating him. Plus this was the 80’s and the height of Thatcherism so Geoff wanted to crush Mike Lake because he was more successful than him.

By the end of 1987 Neptune had grown and was continuing to grow as they moved from the house on Barclay Street to a warehouse in Enderby, just on the outskirts of Leicester and near the M1. This was Neptune’s big advantage over Titan in that they could reach the shops in the Midlands and North of England quicker than Titan who only did van deliveries to London shops while Neptune did van deliveries not only to London shops, but across the Midlands.

When I moved to Leicester and started work for Neptune the intention was not for me to stay there, but go to run a Manchester warehouse which would supply the North of England and Scotland, while Leicester would supply the Midlands, and the London warehouse in Staines  would supply London and the South East. There was also a vague plan to expand Neptune’s US operation which was at that time, sharing a Bud Plant warehouse in Brooklyn in New York.

The situation at the start of 1988 is Neptune eating away at Titan’s market, with Titan trying to get as much of it back as possible while Mike Lake and Nick Landau still saying that FP will not expand outside of London to any city or town where there’s an existing Titan customer.

So we’re up to the point in 1988 where Geoff comes into the office shouting  at me saying ‘what the fuck do you know about Forbidden Planet opening in Glasgow?’…..

Next time, the Glasgow Comic Shop Wars….

Crocodile Tears

A brief interruption from what would have either been a long post about my early life, or a bit more on how comics were distributed in the UK during the 70’s, but It was Margaret Thatcher’s funeral today and one last mockery is in order.

I’m meaning this picture especially:

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If anything sums up the sheer black horror of today then it’s this picture. You’ve got Cameron’s millionaire wife looking up to make sure she’s on camera, Cameron himself looking like he’s having a deathwank orgasm for Thatcher and Osborn’s pathetic crocodile tears.

I’ve seen Tories refer to Thatcher since she died as their ‘second mother’ which is actually pretty bloody scary when you think of how people like Osborn see her, and how many are trying to pretend she was more than what she was.

Personally I’d have chucked her in a skip and got G4S to take away three weeks later when they got their arse in gear. It’d have been a fitting way to sum up her legacy rather than an utter cunt crying for a myth and the press wanking over Thatcher’s granddaughter.

So as a proper memorial for Thatcher lets have this memory of her posing with her close personal friend and mass-murderer General Pinochet.

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Does anyone sane actually shed tears at the funeral of someone who supported, and supplied a murderer and a tyrant?

No, it’s only sociopaths like Osborn and those soulless Tory bastards today.

Next time it’s back to comics, or a bit of biography or maybe some filth.

Ding Dong or How I Got To Be On Margaret Thatcher’s Hitlist and Didn’t Ask?

You normally have an introduction first, but that’s going to be my second post now I seem to have returned to blogging/ranting/moaning and it’s highly topical to write about Thatcher, not to mention this is something very few people have ever found out about me so let’s dive in shall we?

Back in the Glasgow days I used to do the odd job for a local Glasgow character called Bob Shaw. No, not Bob Shaw the sadly departed SF writer but someone who was instrumental in the early days of Glasgow’s SF fandom in the late 70’s, not to mention being involved with the early days of Glasgow’s comics fandom. However that story is one for another time so back to me doing odd jobs for Bob.

I was around when I was 15 or 16 when I started doing some work for Bob, and this consisted of either making badges or handing out flyers for Scottish CND which would result in Bob giving me pennies for my work but I’d known Bob since I was 12 (another story for another day) and I’d asked him if he’d any work going while picking up some comics in his shop he co-owned in the West End of Glasgow. So it was mainly making badges in his flat not far from his shop on Woodlands Road that made me my cash, but sometimes I’d go round shops in the area handing out CND fliers and posters so it’s this that we need to focus on.

So one day while taking a break from making badges in his flat I was looking out his window and commented that a car parked outside his flat was always there. Bob replied that he knew fine well they were always there as they were Special Branch. He also said they were tapping his phone and he was being followed because he was seen as an ‘extremist’ due to his CND work & that I was probably on the list now too.

I went home that night thinking nothing of it, and it wasn’t til a month or two later that I was coming home from school in my final year of school that I noticed that I was being followed by a car. Now the reason this stood out is new or newish cars stood out a mile in Possilpark in the early 80’s but it didn’t seem threatening and it didn’t follow me all the way home. I noticed it a few more times over the next year, but by this point I’d left school, gotten involved with the Glasgow comics scene very heavily, started going to gigs and generally being a teenager so distractions were everywhere, but I was on a list someone as an activist in Thatcher’s Britain and that gave my little socialist heart some pride.

Fast forward to February 1990, and I’m now living in Leicester working for Neptune Comic Distributors and living in a nice wee flat with a mate, and his girlfriend who was from Derry. I was also kind of ”friendly’ with her sister who lived just round the corner and with a lot of the Irish community who drank at the late and lamented Pump and Tap.

I was dispatched one weekend toLondon so I could chat to some of our customers at Neptune, and see if I could get any new ones, so that meant drinking with the lads at Comic Showcase when it was still based in Neal Street in Covent Garden, and normally these weekends would mean I’d wander round  the old Westminster Comic Marts.when they were based in the Westminster Central Hall near Parliament, but there was a gig at Hammersmith Odeon I wanted to see (Mick Hunter and Mick Ronson if I remember right. Or the Godfathers), so I stayed in London over the weekend and spent a lot of time drinking in Camden and Kilburn.

I came home on Sunday, passed out and went to work on Monday. On Tuesday there was an IRA bomb that was exploded in Leicester which disrupted the city and obviously set my Irish friends teeth on edge as they were expecting a knock on the door as being Irish under Thatcher was a criminal offence it seemed. We joked in our flat that we’d get that knock too.

Then we did.

All three of us were questioned individually, so the officer who interviewed me started reeling off bits of my previous history including my history with CND and the fact I was arranging to go drinking with friends in London in the mainly Irish areas which is the point that I had a file sitting around with my ”extremist’ history on it, but our phone in the flat was tapped and the others also had Special Branch files with their movements.

We were questioned on and off for the next three weeks until it became clear we weren’t IRA terrorists or sympathisers but this basically shat us all up. We were frankly terrified the state not only had files on us all but were monitoring our movements, listening to our calls and still seriously thought we could be blowing people up.

I tried hard to get access to these files, the police records in Leicester and Glasgow, plus the extent of just how closely we were followed but most of the time it was a dead end, or a ”fuck off” or once or twice some very veiled threats.

The reason I mention this and start this blog off with this is that I’d not thought about this for 20 years or so until a conversation this week with someone who said that Thatcher only went after people who ‘were a risk’ and she never targeted people for ‘their politics’. Well I’m hardly the only example but I’m still an example of how she used the police and security forces to target anyone she didn’t like because of their politics, nationality or anything she saw as being something of the ‘enemy’.

She divided people because she wanted to ‘weed’ people out be that a boy making badges for CND or someone who was Irish, or in a union, or gay, or black or anyone who wasn’t for her. She was a Libertarian in name only and was really a hard authoritarian who set the ball rolling for our civil liberties being slowly removed by  Major, then Blair, then Brown and now Cameron and Clegg. That’s part of her legacy.

Now that’s out my system I’ll do a proper introduction to what I intend to do with this blog tomorrow….