Sometimes I hate being a man. It seems churlish to complain too much, of course: being a straight white man in the west is pretty much like winning the birth lottery and I have done pretty well by it, despite being lazy, stupid, ugly and unfriendly. I'm not conflicted by it, I'm cool with having a penis and a beard and a beer belly and all that, and I manage the psychic balancing act of having deep respect and admiration for my female friends and colleagues while maintaining an appreciation of a fine set of tits without too much inner strife.
No, the one big downside of being a man is other men. Other men are, by and large, a pack of colossal wankers. It's been pretty clear to me since I was old enough to notice that 99% of men are stupid, close-minded bullies, with narrow interests and little of interest to say. In the interests of fairness, it's worth pointing out that I don't necessarily have a lot of respect for most women either - I'm an equal opportunity misanthrope in most regards - but if you want to find the source of most everything that's toxic and horrible in western culture, you just have to take a look at men's magazines.
It was not always thus. There was hope for the genre for a little while when I was a young man. In the 80s, by the time Playboy had resolved its schizophrenic profile by plumping squarely for the dark side, and when men were properly cowed and shameful about the centuries of puke they'd vomitted onto the world, there were a handful of magazines that abandoned the pin up principle and began looking at the world in an interesting way. Arena and GQ are the ones I really remember, but there were a host of others that presented a vision of masculinity as something intelligent, self-confident and urbane without having to pander to the lowest common denominator.
Well, no one ever got rich doing that, did they, and so in the 90s, the shit-head arsehole man resurfaced in the shape of Loaded and Maxim. Once more, boring stuff about thick-headed sports stars, vacuous air-brushed supermodels, yobbish leisure wear, reader's girlfriends and career criminals filled the pages of the male press, and anything brave or exciting or true or interesting was driven out by the usual craven macho man shit.
A similar thing happened to comedy at the same, eloquently described by Stewart Lee in his book How I Escaped My Certain Fate:
Suddenly, sport-loving scumbags began to comprise a significant percentage of any comedy [read "magazine"] audience. I think it was Fantasy Football and the introduction of football as a subject into Alternative Comedy that ultimately destroyed the values and the unrealised artistic potential of the Alternative Comedy community which I so desperately wanted to contribute to as a teenager. Indeed, all responsibility for the collapse of the entire sixties, seventies and eighties counter-culture in Britain can probably be extrapolated from Fantasy Football and laid at the door of Baddiel and Skinner, who shared a flat, and presumably a door, at the time.Baddiel and Skinner can't take the the blame for entire change in male culture at this time, but they were certainly a symptom of the process that led directly to Nuts and Zoo. Any hope for masculinity we might have had was destroyed. Men retreated into infancy, into the comforting mediated corporate catharsis of sports, into the Oedipal obsession with big breasts, and crude, fatuous non-humour.
All of which brings us to the launch of CLiNT, the new comics magazine from Titan Publishing edited by Mark Millar.
I've discussed Millar once or twice here already. I greatly admired the first couple of volumes of The Ultimates, enjoyed Old Man Logan well enough, and Civil War ... well, I didn't think it was the complete crap that some people said, although it wasn't great, was it? On the other hand, Millar will always suffer my ire for being one of the architects of the destruction of 2000AD with his rancid Robo Hunter update and the horrendously mis-judged “Summer Offensive” (with Grant Morrison of all people!) I didn't think much of his work on The Authority, and his later volumes of The Ultimates have entirely lacked the spark that made the first ones so fresh and interesting (this is partly because the whole Ultimates concept has degraded into just another dumb supers universe, perhaps a topic for another day).
He was mentored by Grant Morrison in his early career, a writer I greatly admire (he's earned forgiveness for his part in the Summer Offensive by going on to be the best writer of super hero comics working today, including Affable Al Moore), but it's safe to say that none of Morrison's cleverness ever rubbed off on him. I think he has a good instinctual sense of story telling, and he understands what shape a story should be and what notes it ought to hit along the way, but he's basically stupid. He doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference between a good idea and a shit one, he's happy to load his usually well-structured work with clichés and tired situations that he values as much as the clever ones. When he does accidentally hit a good idea his work can be brilliant, but when he doesn't it's predictable, affectless and dull. He's kind of the Noel Gallagher of comics writing.
|Cos all ten-year old girls LOVE Karate Kid.|
|Yeah, we all know exactly what you're doing, that's the problem.|
|Phwoar, look at the size of those ballons!|
You don't get many of them to the pound, missus!
|Rex Royd begins with two security guards fighting a |
kind of lobster man...