Tuesday, August 09, 2016


Penguin have just published the first unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Please Please Me has not yet hit the record shops. 

Camelot has not quite fallen. 
A new issue of the Daily Bugle has just come out.

The headline says that Spider-Man is a menace to society; the headline always says that Spider-Man is a menace to society.

A group of crooks are robbing a jewelry store: a group of crooks are always robbing a jewelry store.

The light of the spider-signal illuminates a wall.

The robbery is disposed of in literally one blow; and the crooks are left hanging on the end of a spiders-web, to be found by the police who always arrive a moment too late.

These are the moments when there are no problems and you can just revel in being a superhero. Punishing property crime with physical violence. Sport and performance art and public service. Joy through strength.

The next scene is in the offices of the Daily Bugle. 

Peter Parker is flirting gently with Betty Brant. J. Jonah Jameson is coming out of his office and yelling at them that is a newspaper not a lonely hearts club. Peter offers him photographs of Spider-Man stopping the jewelry heist. J.J.J says that they are worthless, but takes the pictures. Peter knows he’s being robbed, but takes the money.

The next scene is at school. 

Liz, who Peter doesn’t care about, flirts with him, to annoy Flash. Flash tells Peter to stop hitting on his gal. Flash calls Peter a bookworm. Peter calls Flash a bonehead. The rest of the day is mostly test-tubes.

The next bit is mostly web-slinging.

Peter swings around the city on his spider-web, partly to clear his head after school, partly in the hope he might find some more criminals to assault. Near Lady Liberty, he bumps into the Torch and they scrap like schoolboys for a bit. Thor whooshes over head. 

Finally, he goes home.

Aunt May is worried that he has been doing something dangerous. Peter reassures her that he has just been studying but she makes him go to bed with a glass of warm milk anyway.

And next issue will be exactly the same.

There are worlds that you carry around in your head and revisit whenever you like. Going to them is less like memory or nostalgia: more like prayer or meditation. I don’t think that they are ever real places, although they might possibly be memories of real places: granny's house; the grass bank at the end of the play-ground; your first big-boy bed. I don't think that they are usually well realized secondary worlds like Middle-earth, either. You have to do at least half the building yourself. They are usually very small. Small enough to hold in your hand and see the whole of.

The first one was the Hundred Acre Wood, obviously, and the last one was that very specific box where the man with the very specific scarf played chess with a robot dog while a pretty lady didn't quite approve. The ones I have forgotten or grew out of (the Bandstand, the Common, the Lab and the Moon) do not count, because the point of these worlds is that you never forget them and never grow out of them. 

I suppose that if I lived in New York I wouldn't know I lived in New York. I lived in London for 20 years without realizing it. You probably imagine me being woken up by the chimes of Big Ben and me taking a morning walk around Hyde Park and passing the Queen on her way to buy butter for the royal slice of bread.  But the supermarket and the high street and the park and the school are much the same as they would have been anywhere else. The buses really were red and I really did see businessmen with rolled up umbrellas and bowler hats getting off the tube at Blackfriars. 

Are there Christians in Bethlehem? Are they surprised each year at Christmas that the big story is happening in their town? Or do they just kind of assume that everywhere is Bethlehem? Or do they think of Christmas as their own local thing and feel surprised when they find out that people sing Oh Little Town of Bethlehem in East Barnet and Gotham City and Forest Hills? 

Children in Czech republic have never heard of Good King Wenceslas.

There was an English comic called Buster aimed at people who found the Beano too sophisticated. It had an item called the Leopard of Lime Street about an English boy who had been bitten by (no, honestly) a radioactive leopard. The editor of the school magazine tried to make Leopardboy out to be a villain even though he was a hero. 

And in a way, isn't that more like Spider-Man than Spider-Man itself?

New York is a village. The Daily Bugle is the local news-sheet. Spider-Man is a small time local celebrity. There is one school and one police officer. Nothing in the outside world matters very much. 

Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

Forest Hills is a real place. I looked it up. It is about as far from the Statue of Liberty as my house was from Nelson's Column.

When I say that I lived in London I mean that I used to walk up the hill to the train station, and change onto the tube, and walk down Oxford Street, past the theater which had always been showing Jesus Christ Superstar right up until it had always been showing Les Miserables past mucky cinemas and swish film industry offices and find myself in Dark They Were and Golden Eyed, the first comic shop in London, and if I shut my eyes and breath I can almost smell the joss-sticks, and taste Japanese mecha construction kits and hear the rows and rows of perfect shiny American comics in plastic bags....

But that was later. The first comics didn't come in bags and weren't priced in cents, they came in tabloid sized English black and white reprints and cost five pence. Five new pence, in fact. Which was, we were always being told, one shilling in real money. The Mighty World of Marvel had Hulk and the Fantastic Four; Spider-Man Comics Weekly had Spider-Man and Thor; the Avengers had the Avengers and Doctor Strange. Those were the golden years when you got a whole 20 pages of Spider-Man every week. (Later, they added Iron Man and cut Spider-Man's page count.) There were adverts for FOOM and an intelligent letters page and a Bullpen Bulletin with a photo of Stan the Man, the whole peritext of 60s Marvel flowering again in England in the swinging 70s.  It turns out that they were being edited in America by Stan Lee's brother Larry.

And before that, the story persists that boxes of unsold American comics were sometimes used as ship’s ballast and dumped in the UK. It is certainly true that American comics arrived in the UK randomly, unpredictably, non-sequentially; and you found more of them in sea-side towns than in cities. I once found a copy of Teen Titans #1 in a bucket and spade shop, six or seven years after it had come out. It had a yellow price sticker stuck on it by the shop keeper, over the dollar price, as if it was a tin of baked beans. The comics that you could buy in respectable shops had a UK prince printed on them, 25p, maybe, four for a quid.

And before that, an inconceivably long time ago 1968 or 1969 Spider-Man and the X-Men and the Fantastic Four had been reprinted in comics with names like Smash! and Pow! Where the British Marvel of my visionary gleam had played on the hipness and exoticism and sheer bloody American-ness of the comics Smash! and Pow! packaged the Yank characters in the style of an English comic book. 

Imagine me, nine or ten years old, devoted fan of Spider-Man Comics Weekly but without anything like a complete run, in one of those indoor markets where there are butchers shops, fabric shops and shops that sell misshapen biscuits and shops that sell second hand paperback books and then buy them back off you thumbing through a box of comics and coming across, as if from a parallel universe, a copy of Pow! or as it may be Smash! with a reprint of a Spider-Man story in it. 

A Spider-Man story I had never seen before. A story of Spider-Man before I knew him. A story so ancient that Peter Parker still wore glasses, and Betty Brant still had that frankly ridiculous hairstyle. 

We came in in the middle: Jameson already having a tantrum; Betty already hiding behind her desk; Spider-Man already having the time of his life fighting the Vulture, even if he was risking it.

This was how Spider-Man was before I came in. This is how Spider-Man will always be. This is where Spider-Man starts. This is how Spider-Man always was. 

New York is a village; Jonah is a monster, but we can laugh with him; Flash is a bully, but he does no harm; Peter and Betty are happy...for a while. 

We have finally reached the first issue of the Amazing Spider-Man. 

A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
Andrew Rilstone

Andrew Rilstone is a writer and critic from Bristol, England. This essay forms part of his critical study of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original Spider-Man comic book. 

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider supporting Andrew on Patreon. 

if you do not want to commit to paying on a monthly basis, please consider leaving a tip via Ko-Fi.

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Amazing Spider-Man was written and drawn by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and is copyright Marvel Comics. All quotes and illustrations are use for the purpose of criticism under the principle of fair dealing and fair use, and remain the property of the copywriter holder.

 Please do not feed the troll. 

Saturday, August 06, 2016

The Amazing Spider-Man #7

The Return of the Vulture

The Vulture

Named Characters: 
Flash Thompson, Aunt May, Liz Allan (non-speaking); Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jameson

Peter Parker’s school sports coach is called, er, Smith. (He is mentioned but doesn’t appear.)

Failure to communicate: Ditko draws the school kids tossing a ball around dressed in sweaters, collars and ties. Lee describes this as “volley ball practice” and has Peter “asking the coach to be excused”. Although Peter tells Aunt May and Betty that he sprained his arm playing volley ball; Lee has missed the point that the Flash thinks the he's got his arm in a sling because he caught the ball awkwardly.

Peter Parker’s finances: Jameson offers Spider-Man $12.50 for his photos of the Vulture (rather a pay-cut compared with the years rent he got for similar pictures in issue #2).

Aunt May’s Medical Insurance: May can afford to take Peter to the doctor to have his arm checked out.

Spins a Web, Any Size:  Spider-Man is able to create a full size web parachute, in mid air, capable of supporting him and the Vulture. 

The iconic image of the Ditko / Lee Spider-Man is the Gemini face: half Peter Parker and half Spider-Man. Sometimes, it is just there to remind us that Parker is Spider-Man. But sometimes, more subtly, it represents the conflict between Parker and Spider-Man: the times when Peter would like to do one thing, but Spider-Man has to something else.

It may be that the divided face came about because of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s divided vision. Lee wanted a book that was mostly about Spider-Man; Ditko wanted to give equal time to Parker’s academic and domestic life. The Gemini mask was Steve's sop to Stan: these scenes are about Spider-Man, even if he isn't physically present. We have seen that the published texts display a very visible tension between the guy who is only interested in the fight scenes and the guy who is more interested in the set up and the consequences. The split mask embodies this creative conflict: the conflict out of which Spider-Man was born.

In the very beginning, Parker and Spider-Man are pretty much the same guy; Spider-Man is simply Parker in pyjamas. But very rapidly, they become divided. When Peter Parker puts on the mask, he becomes confident to the point of arrogance; but when he takes it off he is full of angst and self doubt. He removes the mask before despairing that he's been defeated by Doctor Octopus in #3; he actually puts his glasses back on before delivering his "Oh, God, what is the point!" soliloquy at the end of #4.

But here, at the end of the first full year of Spider-Man comics, Spider-Man and Peter Parker seem to have reached some kind of an accommodation. The young man who takes the trouble to notice Betty’s perfume is a wholly different character from the one who sulked because Sally preferred dances to physics talks. The hero who goes up against the Vulture with his arm in a sling is a different person from the one who quit because Doctor Octopus pushed him through a window. Even the jokes have improved. He says that he is sledging the Vulture; but they come across, less as arrogant taunts, more like laughing in the face of danger. They are even quite funny.

- You forget, I have wings!
- You'll need a harp, too, by the time I'm done with you.

He is not done being a jerk: far from it. His two worst moments are still to come. Is he growing up? Did he basically just need a girl-friend? Or is "Bugle Peter" a compromise between Peter Parker and Spider-Man; in the way that "Smallville Clark" combines the best attributes of Superman and Kent? We’ve seen Peter Parker reach the lowest point imaginable after the death of Uncle Ben; we’ve seen him weeping and crying out to God because life is not far and no-one understands him. But today, he muses to himself about the problems have having a double identity, and decides that the worst thing is not loved ones being murdered or the media printing lies about you: it is in fact...having to change clothes several times a day. (Maybe he should ditch the waistcoat-and-tie look?)

But if Spider-Man and Peter Parker have made their peace, or at least politely agreed to differ, so too have The Writer and The Artist. This issue is a testament to their truce. If Writer Guy wants the comic to be all fight, fight, fight and Artist Guy wants the comic to be about poor Peter Parker’s tortuous life, then hey, why not smash the two worlds together and have Spider-Man fight the Vulture in the offices of the Daily Bugle, right under the noses of Jonah and Betty?

Amazing Spider-Man #7
Almost the whole Spidey myth, in a single image.

Ask a comic fan to tell you which page sums up the golden years of Spider-Man and I guess most of them would show you Spider-Man lifting the heavy machinery in issue # 33; or one of the big spreads from the first annual; or perhaps Peter Parker realizing who the Burglar is in the very first episode.

But it seems to me that if you want to know what made Spider-Man great, you have to look no further panel 4 on the final page of this issue. Peter and Betty in profile. Peter, in his nerdy blue suit and (for the very last time) in his nerdy specs. Betty’s weird, alien eye-brows and bee-hive hairstyle (which won't much outlast the specs.) Her colour co-ordinated shocking pink dress, lipstick and ear-rings. (Ditko never managed to make Spider-Man's costume consistent, but he remembers to draw in the ear-rings in every panel.) It could be a scene out of a romance comic: but Betty and Pete aren't film-star glamorous as they would have been had Kirby been drawing them. And for once, the dialogue is perfectly in tune with the picture. 

They guy who has just single-handedly defeated the most dangerous super-villain of them all (this month) with a broken arm: “I’m afraid I’m just not the heroic type.”

The girl, who’s been flirting with him for three months “Neither am I! Maybe that’s why I like you so much, Peter! At least you don’t pretend to be what you’re not.”

I was a little tempted to say that the think bubble “Boy! If she only knew!” is redundant. God knows, Stan Lee sometimes drops in redundant speech bubbles. But in this case, it’s necessary. It turns the panel into a single work of art, all ready to be blown up and screen-printed and made sense of by someone who has never even heard of Spider-Man. It’s the verbal equivalent of the Gemini-face; the invitation to enjoy being in on the secret; the little whisper saying “this is ironic”.

And the next frame is even better: it made me want to stand up and cheer when I read it. Peter has hardly moved, Betty had turned round and is looking at us, as well as at him.

Amazing Spider-Man #7: 
Betty's reaction: note scary vampire eyebrows!

“Peter, sometimes I get the feeling that you’re laughing at a secret little joke that’s all your own.”

On the cover, Stan identifies the selling points of the issue: “Spider-Man. As you like him. Fighting! Joking! Daring!” Spider-Man, joking. Some of his one-liners aren't too bad. But Betty has correctly spotted that his whole life is a joke.

What was it he said, all those years ago? “Some day they’ll be sorry. Sorry they laughed at me.”

The story itself is a game of two halves. Lee obviously thinks that bringing back the Vulture is a selling point — he trails it in the previous issue, which is more than he does for Doctor Octopus — but I doubt if anyone was really that excited. The Vulture can fly, and he steals things, which isn’t that interesting a modus operandi for a baddie, although it does allow Ditko to have some fun with tall vertical panels. But I’m inclined to think that the slightly lackluster villain is just what makes this issue work. We don't want an ultimate foe with ultimate jeopardy in a story which is creating a new status quo for the character. We want to see Spider-Man enjoying himself. Fighting villains is fun. Fighting villains is performance art. Fighting villains is a game. A dangerous game, of course, but still basically a game. 

The story follows the by-now established formula: a preliminary fight in which Spider-Man is over-confident and loses; a second, more prolonged confrontation, in which Spider-Man keeps his wits about him and wins. Vulture breaks out of jail and steals some jewelry; Spider-Man assume he can use his Anti-Magnet-Inverter to defeat him again; but the Vulture has fitted an Anti-Anti-Magnet-Inverter to his wings, and literally knocks Spider-Man out of the sky. The onlookers think he’s dead; but actually, he’s only sprained his arm. Spider-Man goes back against the Vulture with his arm in a sling, and after a big fight, literally pins his wings together with his web.

The wrinkle is that Parker has gone to sell Jameson photos of the first battle with Vulture just as the Vulture has decided to diversify out of the jewelry business and instead and rob J.J.J’s pay-roll. So while Spider-Man is fighting for his life, Jameson is crying out “My files! My ledgers!” and Betty is complaining that her workplace has turned into mad-house and hidden behind a desk. Peter Parker's life is no longer a distraction from the fight scene: it is where the fight scene happens. And this is the formula from now on: Spider-Man's battles and perils will always in some way be about Peter Parker's life.

Which is how we get to the final scene. 

Go and read the last two pages and tell me that they aren't two of the most perfect comic book pages ever produced. Look at the "camerawork" on page 20: how we go from looking at Jameson and Spider-Man in profile; to a back view of Spider-Man to a close-up of the heroes face. And then the punch line: a back view of Jameson, crying "no, you wouldn't dare" (while we can't see what Spider-Man is doing) and a 180 degree flip, so we can see Jameson's face and understand the joke: Spider-Man has webbed his mouth shut.

Once he’s changed clothes, Parker finds Betty still hiding behind the desk, and sits down with her. They look at each other. They look at each other in close up. They both turn their heads and look at Mr Jameson. And the camera pulls right back, and we are left with the boy with his arm in a sling and the girl with the weird haircut bantering to one another. This is much more effective than the first-pangs-of-the-mysterious-emotion-we-call-love guff that Lee is going to subject us to next month. It’s two kids who really like each other. 

We probably didn’t need the closing caption ("We admit it! This isn't a typical ending for a typical super-hero tale!"). I don't know whether Lee is saying "Look how clever we've been" or "I'm sorry, I really couldn't prevent Steve from doing this". But it hardly matters. I have a sense that when Peter says "Mind if I join you?" to Betty, Stan is saying "Mind if I join you?" to Steve. For a while, the split is resolved. This is what Spider-Man is going to be from now on.

But this isn't a happy ending. This is the very opposite of a happy ending. Peter is lying to Betty: not merely lying by omission, like he does to Aunt May, but actually directly misleading her. Betty is being naive -- she knows that Peter Parker is a paparazzo who specializes in photographing dangerous criminals. But still. When she tells Peter that she likes him so much because he’s so unheroic, don’t any warning bells go off? Has he never read Cyrano de Bergarac?

I have said some harsh things about Stan Lee, which he fully deserves. But Stan Lee is the voice of Marvel comics. When he stopped being actively involved in Marvel, around 1970 Marvel lost its distinct voice. To be a fan of the Marvel Comics of the 1960s is to be a fan of Stan Lee. Steve Ditko, while never a good an artist or as great a visionary, was a better story-teller than Jack Kirby ever was. His stories have structure and pace and foreshadowing and ends which actually get tied up. And his pictures have atmosphere and a sense of place and a twisted imagination which holds everything together. 

Sometimes, when Lee is pulling one way and Ditko is pulling the other, you end up in a place which neither of them could have reached alone. But there are days — pretty much every day from Amazing Spider-Man # 7 to Amazing Spider-Man #33; the whole extended summer of my ninth and tenth years — when they are pulling in exactly the same direction; a single, gestalt creator. And then what you have is not just Lee plus Ditko, it’s Lee to the power of Ditko. Lee plus Dikto, squared. There will be better issues of Spider-Man than this one: but never, I think, one that is more perfect. 

What was it Bob Dylan said about Strawberry Fields Forever? “It’s greater than the sum of it’s parts. And the parts are pretty good!”

A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
Andrew Rilstone

Andrew Rilstone is a writer and critic from Bristol, England. This essay forms part of his critical study of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original Spider-Man comic book. 

If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider supporting Andrew on Patreon. 

if you do not want to commit to paying on a monthly basis, please consider leaving a tip via Ko-Fi.

Pledge £1 for each essay. 

Leave a one-off tip

Amazing Spider-Man was written and drawn by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and is copyright Marvel Comics. All quotes and illustrations are use for the purpose of criticism under the principle of fair dealing and fair use, and remain the property of the copywriter holder.

 Please do not feed the troll. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Why, Despite Everything, Supporting Jeremy Corbyn Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense

A Pamphlet

The real fun is working up hatred between those who say "mass" and those who say "holy communion" when neither party could possibly state the difference between, say, Hooker's doctrine and Thomas Aquinas', in any form which would hold water for five minutes.
           The Screwtape Letters

Here are two jokes.

This one comes from a twitter feed called Maomentum. It has been widely circulated by opponents of Jeremy Corbyn:

Over the next few days it is crucial that we fight, and fight, and fight again, to save the party we have loved for the last 10 months!

This one comes from a website called The Daily Mash. It has been equally widely circulated by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn:

A BRITISH political party, founded over 100 years ago by socialists has been 'infiltrated by socialists', it has been claimed.

The Labour Party, started in 1900 by self-confessed socialist Keir Hardie, has seen a 'suspiciously large influx' of people who believe a lot of the same things as he did.

A senior Labour official said: "These people are clearly very interested in politics, but for some reason they haven’t joined the Conservative Party. It would appear they are really into redistribution of wealth, nationalisation and the welfare state. It’s all very sinister."

Jane Thompson, who joined the Labour Party recently, said: "At first I double-checked to make sure I wasn’t an MI5 agent.

"I’m pretty sure I’m not, though MI5 can do all kinds of weird things. Anyway, the most likely explanation is that I now believe the Labour Party could potentially do things with which I actually agree.

"Also, I was a member from 1981 until 1994. At that point I decided it wasn’t really for me any more. Something must have happened.”

And there you have it. The whole thing. The whole argument laid out in black and white.

On one side, people who think it is ridiculous that people have strong convictions about a party they have only recently joined. On the other side, people who think it is ridiculous that they are being called communists (and worse) for holding perfectly mainstream socialist views. One side quite sure that socialism is going to destroy the party; the other side unable see any point in the party carrying on if it isn’t mostly socialist. 

The Maomentum joke invokes the spirit of Hugh Gaitskill, who told the 1960 Labour party conference that he would fight, fight and fight again to save the party he loved. The party he loved had just voted against Britain having its own weapons of mass destruction which he thought (and I paraphrase here) made them unelectable. Granted, the issue of WMDs is one that can cut across left/right divisions: Nye Bevan, famous non-nudist and socialist saint, ended up in favor of them. But still: the quote that’s being invoked is about saving the party from socialism. Or at any rate, from too much socialism. 

Momentum is an internal pressure group which supports Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership; Mao Zedong was a Chinese Communist who believed that peasants were the vanguard of any revolution. The point of calling the feed Mao-mentum is to imply that supporters of Jeremy Corbyn are Maoists. 

I don't think it is possible to be a Maoist and a Trotskyite at the same time. But supporters of Anyone But Corbyn throw words like Maoist, Communist and Trotskyite at anyone slightly to the left of them. It's a bit like a Church where people say “You damn Calvinist!” and “You bloody Papist!” as if they came to the same thing.

When I complained to one of my traditional Labour friends about their use of the word Trot to describe anyone to the left of them, they pointed out that I sometimes use the word Blairite to describe people to the right of me. Has it really come to that? Is insinuating that a comrade is secretly working towards world communist revolution really as bad as insinuating that a comrade supported the last Labour prime minister but one? Some of my Labour friends really did support Tony Blair but I never even met Leon Trotsky and shouldn't think I would have liked him very much if I had. The real equivalent of calling a Corbynist a Trot would surely be calling an Anyone-But-Corbynist a Stalinist.

For the avoidance of doubt: I mean that both insults would be equally silly.

I do get where the Stalinists Anyone-But-Corbynists are coming from. I really do. Another Labour friend quoted the “I will fight, fight and fight again…” Tweet at me after I had pointed my own Twitter feed to a recording of The Red Flag. I entirely agree that this was a silly thing to do. The guy who has sat in the back pew every Sunday for 60 years must feel pretty pissed off with the keen young convert, bouncing about the pulpit asking why everyone else doesn't wear their Rosary in the bath. (It was the Dick Guaghan version: White Cockade, not Tannenbaum.)

I paid £3, according to party rules, to become a registered supporter of the Labour Party and cast my vote in the last leadership election. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader – in that very hour – I became a full member of the party, for something like £60 a year. I admit that I saw joining Labour in the much the same spirit as joining Amnesty or joining Liberty or joining the Bob Dylan fan club. I was indicating my support for a particular programme, committing some money to the cause, promising to vote with the party in elections; and lending them a little extra "clout". In return, I expected to get some information, preferential booking at concerts, a membership card and secret code book. Tens of thousands of us joined in the same spirit, giving the party a not insignificant financial boost. I grok that, since hardly any of those ten thousand came to meetings or volunteered to do electiony things during the election, the Stalinists long-term activists find it very hard to think of us as actually having joined anything at all. Someone said that it was hardly fair that someone who joined a party yesterday should have the same say in choosing a leader as someone who has been pushing leaflets through doors for the last twenty-five years. I agree. So why do the rules say one member one vote rather than one activist one vote? 

I believe that if I wanted to become a Quaker, I would simply start attending Meetings. After a certain amount of time, someone would approach me and ask if I wished to become a member of the Society. Not the other way round.

My background is Labour; some of my earliest memories involve my parents running Labour campaigns from our front room. My grandparents where party activists. Tony Benn famously said that the Labour Party owed more to Methodism than to Marx: I was raised Methodist. I feel an emotional connection with the Left that I don't feel with other secular causes. I know I ought to care very much about environmental issues and human rights issues and freedom of speech issues. I still don't really understand what fracking is, but I am quite clear that I am against it. But I don’t feel it in my heart. But talk to me about the Tolpuddle martyrs or Mrs Thatcher and the Nottingham miners or Jeremy Hunt and the junior doctors and I'll become emotionally engaged. There is power, there is power in a band of working folk, and all that that entails. I was really quite proud and excited when we Librarians went on strike for a whole day last year.

I supported Labour 1987 and 1992. The '82 election was a month before my 18th birthday. But by 1993 I had formed the opinion that John Smith's shadow Home Secretary was a swivel-eyed lunatic (because of his political exploitation of the grotesque James Bulger murder). When Smith suddenly died in 1994, I said the the cleverest thing I have ever said in my life. "Oh God, please, anyone but Tony Blair." 

For the next 20 years I switched between voting Liberal, Green, various flavours of Independent and not bothering to vote at all. I watched with some amusement as Tony Blair's name became a slur and an insult even inside the party in the name of which he had single-handedly won three elections, and tried terribly hard not to say "I told you so". I said that it would take a Clause 4 moment to convince me that Labour was no-longer the party of the Warmonger. When that moment unexpectedly came I posted off my membership fee. Earlier this year we had elections for the local council and the Mayor of Bristol. For the first time in my life, I felt I was voting for a party that I really believed in and which had a real shot at winning. 

But here's thing thing.

I don’t understand what it would mean to love a political party, any more than I understand what it would mean to love a refrigerator or a wellington boot.

There are people who really like doing politics: who think that door knocking and leafleting and standing outside cold polling stations is almost as much fun as waiting on railway stations for a train number you haven’t seen before. There are people who really like doing church: running sales of work and arranging flowers and colouring in pictures of Zacheus the tax collector in crayon. And there are people who really don’t. Saintly people like C.S Lewis say “Aha, the very fact that I don't like church proves that going to church is the pious thing for me to do. Doubtless God invented it to challenge my intellectual pride." The less saintly of us find that we can't quite remember the last time our bottom had contact with a pew. But surely, those of us who don't regard putting leaflets through doors as the most fun a young Trotskyite could have on a wet Sunday afternoon are still entitled to some input into the political process?

I do sometimes wonder if perhaps political parties are maybe just a little bit too obsessed with leaflets. You have no idea how many came through my door during the Referendum. I wonder what difference they made? Certainly no-one reads a slogan about how many millions of pounds the E.U wastes on banana straightening devices; or indeed, how many pretty babies the Liberal candidate has, and says "Very good point! I shall shift my allegiance forthwith!"

You may say that I am disengaged from real politics because I only read about it in the newspaper and write about it on the internet, if you want to. You may call what I do "clicktivism" if you like. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov started his career publishing a fanzine called Pravda which I believe is still going. Maybe if he'd done it on a blog it wouldn't have counted.

Some time ago I was approached by a nice young man selling copies of a magazine called The Socialist. He said that it used to be called Militant. The Militant group, he explained, had once been part of the Labour Party, but they decided to leave in the 1980s because the party had become too right wing for them. I must admit that this is not exactly how I remember it happening.

When I told this story to my Communist friend he said "But that's the whole trouble with the Left. In an internet age, they are still standing outside railway stations trying to sell newspapers."

What is a middle-aged Trotskyite to do?

I can sign up to the Labour party, as a £3 supporter, a £25 supporter, as full member, and vote for the leadership candidate who believes in the things I believe in. But this, say the Stalinists activists is entryism: I am not a real member and Corbyn is not a real leader. Some of them will go so far as to call me a cancer that needs to be cut out or an infestation which needs to be cured.

OK, then: I can become an activist myself: go to my local party meetings and volunteer for committees, argue for socialist policies; nominate socialist conference delegates and above all try to ensure that there is a socialist candidate standing at the next election. But this makes me, in the eyes of the Stalinists moderates the very devil. Reselection is the great taboo. I think I understand some of the bitterness. The fear is that 150,000 new members will turn up at the little hall where you've been having meetings for the past fifty years and announce that because Mrs Miggins doesn't support unilateral disarmament vociferously enough she will henceforth be relieved of her tea-making duties. 

I tried to explain this to my Apolitical friend. "I don’t see the problem" he said "Of course someone shouldn’t automatically be able to remain an MP for life if members of their party don't agree with them any more." 

So then, I shall go away and start my own Trotskyite party; or give my vote to the Greens, or to Respect or to some worthy independent. But the Stalinists Labour loyalists will come to me in 2020 and say "It is self indulgent to waste your vote on a party of protest. The Greens and the Liberals and Respect are free to say whatever they like, content in the knowledge they will never have to implement their promises." Some go so far as to say that the UK is irreducibly a two-party system and it is almost undemocratic to vote for someone who isn't one of the two main parties.

So for me the choice is Corbyn or nothing.

My MP, Thagam Debbonaire has published an open letter which credibly accuses Jeremy Corbyn of (at the very least) catastrophic managerial incompetence since he became Leader of the Opposition. This puts some meat on the bones of the "unelectable, unelectable, unelectable" mantra. Please read it.

Some of Ms Debbonaire's arguments I find a little weak: Corbyn's position, that the government should honour the result of the referendum and withdraw from Europe (even though he personally favoured staying) is highly consistent with his belief in democratic mandates. The fact that the majority of people in Bristol voted Remain is neither here nor there. And I fear that "I want a Labour Government more than anything" is meaningless. I don't want a Labour Government on any terms: not one which get into bed with Donald Trump, bring back hanging, or make people pay to see their doctor. "Oh, but that could never happen." No: no it couldn't. And yet the Iraq war happened: and water is privatized and students have to pay to go to university.

The letter is refreshingly free from words like Trot and leftie and communist and I am sorry if I associated myself with people who were using words like traitor and turncoat when Thangam resigned from the shadow cabinet. The claim that Corbyn is incompetent is serious and important. "The reason I voted 'no confidence' in him as leader is because I have no confidence in him as leader" she writes. You can't put it much more clearly or fairly than that.

But although this letter has helped me understand why some people support Anyone But Corbyn it hasn't persuaded me to change my position.

Back in August 2015, Alastair Campbell told Labour voters to support Anyone But Corbyn  in the first leadership election ("no first preferences, no second preferences, no any preferences") because he would be a leader "of the hard left, for the hard left" and would therefore be unelectable. In September, Roy Hattersley wrote in the Guardian that "half the Labour party is deeply opposed to (Corbyn's) policies" (*) and that before an election can be won there would have to be "a formal and public renunciation of many of the policies on which the leadership election was won." Again, it was the policies he appeared to have the problem with. Tony Blair affected not understand how anyone could support a Corbyn because, look we all yes agree that y'know socialism is yes wrong.

I do not say that the complaints about incompetence are untrue. I do not say that they are not deeply felt and sincere. Clearly, our man Could Do Better in some respects. But they are not what this is about. This is about politics.

Before I nailed my colours to this particular mast I had not understood the visceral, gut level hatred that some on the Right feel towards what I would call Socialists and what they would call Trots. I don’t know whether, like Mrs Thatcher, like Melanie Philips and indeed like my Fascist friend J.C Wright they honestly believe that Jeremy Corbyn and John Smith and Billy Bragg and me are part of a literal Communist plot to bring about the end of civilization or if it is simply rancor about the 1980s and Militant and the SDP and Tony Benn. (Roy Hattersley talks about the guy running Momentum as having been one of Tony Benn's "henchmen". I didn't know that National Treasures had henchmen. Do they have secret underwater bases and bat signals as well?) I am inclined to think that Corbyn could abolish poverty and bring peace to the middle-east and some of the older Labour Party members would still be unable to forgive him for being a founder member of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. 

I do not hear any voices in the Anyone But Corbyn camp saying “We like Corbyn. We like his clarity, his authenticity, even (in a funny) way, his charisma. We like the fact that he can pack out halls and that tents full of hippies cheer the mention of his name. We (subject to the normal disagreements which all politicians have with all other politicians) agree with Jeremy. We want what Jeremy wants. But — here’s the hitch — we’re not convinced by his managerial abilities. We don't think he's up to handling the day to day running of a party and eventually a Prime Minister's office. What we want is for Jeremy to carry on touring the country making speeches, firing people up about socialism and the new politics, but for someone else to be actual Leader of the Opposition." 

What I have heard, from the beginning, is the chant "unelectable, unelectable, unelectable." And frankly, it is worth twenty five quid of anyone's money for even a small chance of the newspapers having to print headlines which say UNELECTABLE MAN ELECTED in 2020. 

When they say he's unelectable, what they mean is "he's a socialist". That was clearly the opinion of Campell and Blair and Hattersley from the very beginning. He's unelectable because he's a socialist; socialists are unelectable because The People never elect socialists. If we concede that point, it follows that we can never have a socialist government -- or even a socialist opposition -- ever again. Politics can never again be about conviction; it can never again be about candidates saying to voters "I believe in this because it's true, and I want you to believe it as well, and here's why." Politics will always be about candidates second guessing what The People believe, pretending that that is what they believe, and pretending to believe something else if The People change their mind. 

We know what The People think. The People have just voted to crash the British economy and break up the United Kingdom because they think that will magically make all the brown people go away.  I don't think that it follows that Labour should start putting out anti-immigrant mugs and anti-immigrant tee shirts and start carving anti-immigrant slogans on chunks of marble in order to position themselves alongside the xenophobia brand. I think Labour needs to start telling The People that they are wrong about this one.

I don't think that The People are stupid or evil. I think that The People are mostly not very interested in politics so if you keep on telling them the same story over and over again for long enough they'll end up sort of kind of assuming that it's true. So someone has to start telling them a different story. Someone has to use every tool of propaganda and advertising and rhetoric to say "It isn’t the immigrants that are making you poor, you chumps, it’s the Tories and their economic policies." 

Right now, The People would not elect a socialist prime minister. OK. But how would it be if the Left stopped fighting among themselves and started to make out a case for socialism.

When did we last try that?

This is the last throw of the dice. If we lose this one, then no-one will make the case for socialism again in my lifetime, and I and thousands like me will simply be excluded from the political discourse. Jeremy Corbyn is not the best standard bearer socialism could possibly have. But he is the best one currently on offer. And he does have conviction and moral authority and authenticity and a funny kind of charisma and he speaks from the heart. I really did see young people pushing their way to the front of the crowd to have their picture taken with him. 

How much do I like him? Seven and half out of ten. 

Baby steps. First, a socialist leader. Then, a socialist opposition. Then, a socialist prime minister. 

And then, of course, comes the tricky bit.

(*) Not true, incidentally. Hattersley meant that Corbyn received plurality, but not an overall majority, of votes from Labour Party members, disregarding registered supports and Union affiliates: 49.59% of the votes. But it by no means follows that the remaining 50.41% were deeply opposed to his policies. Many of them will have had him as their second or third preference; and many more will have said "I agree with Jeremy Corbyn's policies, but I don't think that he has what it takes to be party leader."

1: The author acknowledges that everyone is bored with this topic now and would rather he was was writing about Spider-Man

2: The author acknowledges that this article will annoy all sides of the argument equually. On the plus side, think how much writing he'll be able to do when all his friends have stopped talking to him.

3: The author acknowledges that this article was abandoned before Anyone-But-Corbyn's big speech, and is therefore already out of date.

4: The author acknowledges that the court will give its judgement in about an a hour and a half, very probably making the whole question moot.

5: The author acknowledges that he stole this joke from David Eggers.

6: The author thanks bloggist, musician and dinosaur discoverer Mike Taylor for doing the Ditko mash-up.

7: Oh, and the title is a head-nod to Francis Spufford. If you haven't read his book then you ought to.

This blog is supported by my Patreon backers. If you like what I write, you agree to pay £1 every time I write something. It's a good socialist principal. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."

"You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"

"No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."

"Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."

"I did," said Ford. "It is."

"So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't people get rid of the lizards?"

"It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."

"You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"

"Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."

"But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"

"Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?"

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Last chance to register as a Labour supporter and vote for that nice Mr Corbyn. (or someone else, if you are a big fan of nukes and austerity.)

We have to win this one, or it's a choice between a Lizard and another Lizard for the rest of our lives.

No more anti immigrant mugs!


Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Amazing Spider-Man #6

Face to Face With the Lizard

The Lizard

Named Characters:
J. Jonah Jameson, Aunt May, Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, Liz Allan
+ Curt Connors, Martha Connors, Billy Connors

Like the Hulk, the Lizard wears purple trousers after his transformation; although unlike the Hulk, this appears to be the sartorial choice of his human counterpart.

On the cover, the Lizard’s white lab coat is also purple — either due to an error, or because red/blue green/purple is a good combination in cheap four colour printing.

The Lizard appears to have no teeth.

Although he’s an iconic villain, this is the Lizard’s only appearance in the classic era. (Connors appears as a supporting character in #32.)

Connors’s son Billy definitely knows about his father's affliction; although when the Lizard returns in issues #44, he appears not to.

As a monster story, it’s kind of okay. As a Spider-Man story...

Amazing Spider-Man #4 (Sandman) seemed to have nailed the Spider-Man formula: it achieved a perfect equilibrium between The Writer (who wanted big fights between the Hero and a monthly Challenger) and The Artist (who wanted realistic stories of a guy saddled with weird powers). It interleaved the high-school story and the super-villain story and made the Fight Scene interesting by showing us the goodie and the baddie using their powers in a series of ingenious attacks, defenses and counter-attacks. But it appears that neither Lee nor Ditko quite realized they’d produced the definitive Spider-Man tale. Issue #5 and issue #6 represents a different conjectures about what a Spider-Man story ought to look like.  Neither of them quite work.

A Florida swamp is being terrorized by a lizard, known as The Lizard. Near the swamp lives Dr Curtis Connors, an expert on lizards. To no-one’s great surprise, it turns out that The Lizard and Connors are one and the same. Connors is an amputee and thinks it is unfair that human beings can’t just grow new limbs when they need them. He uses Science to brew a Potion which gives him a new right arm, but unfortunately it has the side-effect of turning him into a giant lizard. For reason which are not explained it also makes him talk like Thor. ("Begone! This swamp is mine!")

Comic book Science is a form of sympathetic magic, so the idea that a Potion brewed from lizards gives you new arms and legs but also turns you into an actual lizard makes a good deal of comic book sense. Harder to swallow is the alchemy of "powers". It seems that individual species — and indeed whole taxonomic categories — have irreducible essences which can be transubstantiated to other individuals. So the radioactive spider-bite transferred the "powers" of the Spiders to Peter Parker; and the lizard potion transferred the "powers" of all cold blooded creatures on earth to Curtis Connors.

On page 16 we see Spider-Man using his wall-crawling ability to run up the side of an old Spanish fort, and The Lizard climbing after him. It looks to me as if The Lizard is just scaling the wall (picking out foot and hand holes in the brick work) but in fact, it’s all to do with his Platonic essence. “Hah! He forgets there are thousands of different kinds of lizards on the earth, and I have the powers of ALL of them! Has he never seen a gecko lizard slither up a wall”. Similarly, the Scorpion is able to cut through spider-webbing with his fingers because he has the “powers” of a scorpion and scorpions have claws; the Sub-Mariner is able to electrify his body because he has the “powers” of all fish and they serve eels in sea-food restaurants.

The whole logic of the story depends on there being something unnatural or uncanny about The Lizard. Peter Parker has little difficulty in accepting the existence of space aliens, flaming teenagers or giant green monsters, but he finds the story of an intelligent lizard in a swamp a little too far-fetched. Jameson says outright that The Lizard doesn’t exist despite Parker having taken photos of it. Connors den is decked out with retort stands and test tubes; and he himself (even in his monster form) wears a long white lab coat. Spider-Man (being at least half way through his chemistry A level) is able to decode his notes and brew up a new Potion which turns The Lizard back into a human being. But no-one regards Connors as anything other than a black magician. “I tampered with forces of nature which must not be tampered with!” he exclaims, before burning his books and breaking his staff. Well, burning his books, anyway. It's not that his experiment had an unexpected result, or that he stupidly didn't think through the consequences: the idea of using Science to restore lost limbs was against the natural order of things. Like picking apples in Eden or trying to steal fire from the gods. Frankenstein was a necromancer.

The bulk of the episode — pages 6 - 20 — takes Spider-Man out of New York altogether, sending him to Florida to fight The Lizard. It’s hard not to see this as a last-ditch attempt by Lee to force Ditko to turn in a superhero comic. Lee probably reasoned that Ditko couldn't very well fill the comic with characterization and human interest if Liz Allen, Aunt May, Flash Thompson Betty Brant and Spider-Man are a thousand miles apart.

J. Jonah Jameson, on the other hand, flies all the way to Florida with Peter Parker ("It’s such a big story that I’m going with you”), confirming our sense that Amazing Spider-Man has become the Peter and Jonah Show. This is the third consecutive episode which has begun with J.J.J bad-mouthing our hero. It's a potentially good set-up for a story:  how many sit-com episodes have involved sending two characters who don’t like each other away on a field trip? But, as so often in these early issues, nothing really comes of it. We ought to have seen Parker and Jameson forced to make conversation in a hotel room during a power cut, or Spider-Man and J.J.J. forced to cooperate to escape from the Lizard. In fact, Jameson might just as well have stayed at home: Peter gives him the slip as soon as they arrive in Florida, and the remaining 12 pages is a monster story in which Spider-Man doesn't get out of costume once.

Ditko does manages to smuggle a bit of soap-opera in, a 4 page sequence in which Peter Parker goes to the museum to find out about lizards and finds Flash and Liz already there. (Museums are a sort of olden days version of Google.) Wouldn’t you know it, though: some thieves try to rob the museum and briefly take Liz hostage. Peter has to change to Spider-Man to rescue her. This sequence has no actual connection with the main plot, and it’s very hard not to think that Ditko dropped it in as a pretext for reminding us readers that the supporting cast still exist. 

As we've seen, Stan Lee’s dialogue and captions sometimes get out of sync with Steve Ditko’s art. There is a minor example of that in the museum sequence: we see two hoods walking through the dinosaur exhibition; Peter Parker clocking them with his spider-sense; the crooks spotting that he’s spotted them and grabbing Liz at gunpoint; and Spider-Man knocking them both out with a single punch. (”Ugh! Oof!”). Nothing in the pictures indicates what they are doing in the museum: for that, we have to read the speech bubbles. The crooks say “No-one saw us take the idol’s ruby”; a few panels later Spider-Man says “It’s the guard! He’s chasing those two! He saw them steal something!” and the crooks say “Okay, so you saw us grab that ruby…”. It’s very odd that we don’t see the idol or the theft; and very odd that Ditko doesn’t show us the crooks trying to conceal a gem. It’s very odd indeed that Spider-Man says that he sees guardS chasing them, even though there is no guard in the picture. It is pretty clear that Stan Lee looked at the pictures, didn’t think it was clear what was going on (which, indeed, it isn’t) and made up the story about the jewel heist after the event.

But this is as nothing to the counter melody that Lee plays during Spider-Man's big fight with The Lizard.

The plot, as expressed in the pictures, is simple and satisfactory. The Lizard is terrorizing the Swamp. Spider-Man realizes that The Lizard and Curt Connors are the same person; and uses Science to make a potion that will turn him back to his human form. The challenge is how to get The Lizard to drink the potion, which Spider-Man ingeniously solves by grabbing The Lizard and forcing it down his throat. Spider-Man doesn’t hand Connors over to the authorities because he hasn’t broken any laws. Breaking the law is a big thing for Stan Lee. He keeps saying Doctor Doom isn’t really a baddie because there is no law against trying to conquer the universe. Surely the real point is that Spider-Man lets Connors go because he isn’t responsible for what he did when he was in his lizardy form?

This doesn’t seem to be exciting enough for Lee so he adds a sub plot. During the big fight, The Lizard is shown to be being followed around by three big alligators. I don't think that you or I, just looking at the picture, would have thought that needed much explanation: of course a big intelligent humanoid lizard would have alligators as minions. But Lee feels the need to explain that the Lizard Potion not only turned Connors into a Lizard; not only gave him the Powers of every kind of Lizard;  but also gave him  mental control over Lizards. Even better, he is going to spill his Potion into the swamp, which will turn every lizard in the world into a super-lizard under his mental command which will enable him to (Evil Laughter) RULE THE WORLD!

I suppose this follows on a bit from the “alchemical” idea that Connors' has transferred some kind of distilled essence of lizardyness to himself. I suppose that Stan Lee thinks that increasing the “hazard” automatically makes the story more exciting, so he upgrades “I have to defeat the monster and return the nice scientist to his right mind” to “I have to defeat the monster and return Connors to his right mind or else he will conquer the world.” I think it is unnecessary, and confuses a simple story. None of the pictures remotely suggest the conquer-the-world angle. Ditko shows us Spider-Man physically snapping photos with his camera; and clearly shows Spider-Man holding a flask with the antidote Potion in it. But at no point do we see The Lizard's conquer-the-world Potion. Surely if Ditko had known about it, there would have been a dramatic scene with the Lizard holding a flask over the swamp and Spider-Man grabbing it in the nick of time?

Once again, Spider-Man is not primarily motivated by a sense of duty or altruism. He goes to Florida because Jameson challenges him to fight the Lizard (as Spider-Man) and because he needs the money for the photo-assignment (as Peter Parker). Once again, he starts out acting from honest self-interest and only gradually becomes entwined in situation in which he has to a good thing.

Spider-Man initially thinks that The Lizard is “publicity mad”; where Jameson thinks that Spider-Man will not challenge him because he is more interested in “making a rep” for himself in New York. But when Peter Parker comes up with the pictures, Jameson (having traveled all the way to Florida to get them) declares that the whole thing is “some sort of publicity stunt” and refuses to pay for them. Once again, we appear to be talking about competing sports stars or TV personalities, not heroes and deadly menaces.


On page 6, Parker nervously tells Betty Brant “I’ve been wanting to ASK you something.” We can guess what he wants to ask her: after all, only last issue he suddenly realized how he felt about her. On his return from Florida, he phones her up -- at some point in the last year, he has grown into the kind of guy who confidently asks girls to go out with him. But when he finds out she’s working late, he immediately asks Liz to go out with him instead. Which, if he’s honestly just realized that Betty is seriously interested in him and he’s seriously interested in her is a fairly caddish thing to do.

The Sandman story ended with Peter Parker carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, declaiming to God about the curse of his powers. Issues #5 and #6 have lightened up considerably; with mildly ironic sit-com style endings. #5 ended with Flash Thompson having become a hero to the other school kids, despite having made a complete idiot of himself. This issue ends with Peter half-smiling when he finds out that Liz doesn’t want to go out with him...because she thinks Spider-Man is going to call her. (Spider-Man called her "blue eyes" when he rescued her in the museum.) Parker still thinks that it's not fair when everything doesn't go exactly his own way, but instead of God, he now blames a phenomenon he calls luck. “I’ve got nothing but luck, and it’s all bad”; “Only a guy with my nutty luck could end up being his own competition.”

Believing in “bad luck” is a way of reading malice into the ordinary process of stuff happening; it can also be a form of self-sabotage. Some pop psychology suggests that people who believe that they are lucky are the ones who are good at grasping opportunities when they come their way. People who believe in bad luck think they are helpless in the face of set-backs. But it isn't a very serious explanation. People mainly invoke luck when they are throwing dice or betting on horses. You could, perfectly reasonably, say that it was “bad luck” that meant that a crook who had once passed Parker in a corridor just happened to murder the person he loved most in the world; but it would be a trivial way of talking about a serious event. Amazing Fantasy #15 would have been a very different comic if it had ended with Parker winking into camera and saying “My luck’s running true to form…”

The grim tragedy of Stan Lee’s groundbreaking character has become a comic tick. You can almost hear the waa-waa-waa sound effect in the background. We have four or five months of happy endings to look forward to before everything turns depressing again. 

Summary of Peter Parker's Photo Career, So Far:

Issue #2 - Sells pictures of Vulture for tens of thousands of dollars

Issue #3 - Doesn’t bother to photograph Doc Ock

Issue #4 - Sells (fake) pictures of Sandman for an undisclosed amount

Issue #5 - Sells pictures of a fire in Doom’s base for an undisclosed amount

Issue #6 - Fails to sell pictures of Lizard.

Does Aunt May have an independent source of income? What, indeed, was Uncle Ben’s job? Did he have a pension? May has no savings, having to pawn her jewelry to pay the rent in issue #2. Having spent all the money from issue #2 on rent and kitchen equipment, are May and Peter wholly reliant on the Sandman pictures to pay general living expenses? If so, how can Parker even contemplate college?

A Close Reading of the First Great Graphic Novel in American Literature
Andrew Rilstone

Andrew Rilstone is a writer and critic from Bristol, England. This essay forms part of his critical study of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's original Spider-Man comic book. 

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Amazing Spider-Man was written and drawn by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and is copyright Marvel Comics. All quotes and illustrations are use for the purpose of criticism under the principle of fair dealing and fair use, and remain the property of the copywriter holder.

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Dear The Right

This kind of thing makes me raise my voice, roll my eyes and use dismissive body language. I trust you can personally guarantee it won't happen again this time around?


Thursday, July 14, 2016

A voter writes...

From: Louise Brown 
Sent: 04 July 2016 
To: Membership; 
Subject: [UK Labour Party] 

Is it still possible to register as a supporter and vote in the next leadership election?

Dear Louise

Thank you for your email.

There is no leadership contest. The Labour Party’s rules state that in the event of a leadership election being called the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee will set out the rules and guidelines of the contest at that time, including rules for members and supporters. All members are eligible to vote in internal elections. Supporters may be able to vote subject to the NEC's approval but at present we are only accepting Affiliated Supporters, which you can sign up for at support.labour.org.uk. 

Kind regards,

Ben Markham
Membership Team
The Labour Party

From: Louise Brown
Date: 14 July 2016
To: Labour Membership

My query was expressed as being about the rules for the next contest whenever that might be.

Events have as I anticipated overtaken my query. 

Given the ever changing rules any answer would be sadly pointless. 

I voted Labour for the first time ever this year. 

Partly because I was impressed by the Bristol mayoral candidate but also because I believe Jeremy Corbyn was offering a real alternative based on actual political beliefs I could support and a more thoughtful and reasoned approach to the issues. 

I found his balanced approach to the issue of leave/remain far preferable to the misrepresentations and hysteria from elsewhere. 

I am a former Liberal Democrat supporter and have never seen myself as "left wing". However I believe in voting for the good of the whole of society not myself or my socio-economic group. 

For example I am happy to pay more tax if it leads to a society that is wealthier overall by providing a decent standard of living for all rather than just those of us fortunate enough to be able to buy healthcare, education etc. 

The behaviour around the recent referendum has highlighted that there are many people who feel angry, frustrated and frightened. 

Many of my formerly non-political friends who broadly share my views on the need for a fairer and more caring society and a more adult approach to politics were considering  supporting labour under Corbyn

I have spoken to many people from the legal profession and several doctors who were considering a Labour vote for the first time. 

However the current shenanigans by MPs who appear determined to oust Corbyn have left me and many I have spoken to disappointed. 

Can they not see that his appeal is not just to the left but to those of us who do not necessarily define ourselves politically but have become increasingly disillusioned with the current government's failure to address the problems of social and financial inequality, diminished access to justice and the problems faced by the NHS to name but a few.

However the most recent events e.g. the almost surreal new rules on members/supporters and voting apparently designed to ensure that only the more wealthy supporters vote have left me feeling that the current PLP is not something I could support.

My enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn and what he stands for remains. 

The majority of your MPs have sadly misjudged the situation and squandered the most exciting opportunity for many years

Yours in disappointment 

Louise Brown. 


Results of Labour Leadership election, Sep 2015

Labour Members :
Jeremy Corbyn - 49.59%
Next most popular candidate - 22.69%

Affiliated Members (Trades Unions, etc)
Jeremy Corbyn - 57.61%
Next most popular candidate - 26%

Registered Supporters -- so called "£3 members")
Jeremy Corbyn - 83.76%
Next most popular candidate - 7.97%

Overall results:
Jeremy Corbyn -  59.5%
Next most popular candidate - 19%

Overall results with "£3 members" eliminated:
Jeremy Corbyn - 55.9%
Next most popular candidate - 27.17%

Last year I joined a political party because I liked and agreed with the leader and wanted him to have a shot at being PM. 

This I now realize was a shameful thing to have done. 

What is the solution? Perhaps political parties should be like the Christian Union, with detailed statements of orthodoxy that you have to sign before you are allowed to vote. Perhaps they should be like the I-Spy club where you get a coupon each time you go to a meeting, and are only allowed to join when you have 26 stickers. Or just go back to the old system, where the local party nominates the candidate, and the MPs chose the leader? 

I don't know. We certainly can't carry on letting people like me join parties because we like and agree with the leader and want him to have a shot at being PM.

I am sorry for what I did. Like a recovering alcoholic, I should have known better than to start paying attention to current affairs again. I take it too personally.