Sunday, 4 June 2017

If rain makes Britain great, then Manchester is Greater

I didn't want to write this.


My usual thing is picking up some old British comic and mocking it from my smug, high-minded, 21st century libtard perspective.

The last time I had to write about something serious it was because cartoonists were attacked. Which came within my purview.

Now, I know you don't need some idiot blogger telling you that terrorism is bad. Or even that you feel it more when it happens close to you. You are a human.

I mean, probably. I don't know. I could set a Captcha here to test you, but I'm willing to trust.

Anyway, the attack in Paris in January 2015 was specifically against artists. Which felt personal. 

Then on the 22nd of May 2017 a suicide bomber walked into a music venue in Manchester and killed 22 people.

Now that really felt personal.

I was born in Manchester and spent almost all of my life here. I love this city and have studied its amazing history.

Also: a friend of mine works at the Manchester Arena and was alarmingly close to the blast, escaping with nothing more than cuts.

I really like that guy. He makes awesome cosplay weapons.

So why not write about it?

Two things: This is a comics blog.
Should I crowbar in a link to the comics history of Manchester and say it's relevant? Seems a bit naff.

And everyone else wants to seem like they care. No, I mean it, really care. So what if I do?

However I do care. Enough to want to scream at people. And out of all the things I do, this is the platform with the largest audience.

(Brilliant 80s comic Oink! was conceived by people mostly from the Manchester area, including Marc Riley and Tony Husband)

On the day after the attack, here was my response on the Facebooks: 
Yep. I'm old enough that I primarily use Facebook. And I've now given you my real name. And left in the number of likes and shares, desperately hoping they'll impress you, internet stranger.

(Marc Riley created Harry the Head and Dr Mooney (he's completely looney) but is best known as a DJ for Radio 1 (as Lard,co-presenter with Mark Radcliffe) and now 6 Music and can be seen with Bowie and Viz here)

Manchester's history is truly impressive. 

(Tony Husband is probably best known for creating Yobs for Private Eye but was also responsible for Horace "Ugly Face" Watkins and the weekly cartoon in the free paper we used to get)

The character of this city is built on standing up to authority and protecting the weak.

(Current Beano artist Kev F Sutherland lives here and runs comic art masterclasses for schools. He also performs regularly as The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre)

It's where Engels wrote his treatise on the conditions of the working class, Emmeline Pankhurst began the suffrage movement and Anthony Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange.
(The cartoonist Adam Caldwell recorded four years of his life here in his web comic "The Everyday". In at least one he drew himself in my regular comic shop, talking to my friends. The very shop where I bought the printed issues of The Everyday)

It's where the industrial revolution began. Something which changed the world forever. It's also where Rutherford split the atom and Babbage built the first computer. We're also quite proud of graphene.
(In the Marvel Universe, the Manchester Gods appeared in the Arthurian realm of Otherworld demanding that realm should change and modernize. Camelot and Avalon had remained stuck millennia behind the Britain it was meant to represent. They created various sites of mystical power across the UK, in Manchester it is at the Hacienda and in Northampton it's in Alan Moore's greenhouse)

During the American Civil War the people of Manchester stood opposed to slavery and in favour of emancipation, in spite of knowing that it would drive up the cost of cotton, the main resource on which the city depended. Abraham Lincoln himself wrote a letter to the people here which can be read on his statue in Lincoln Square today.

(In the DC Universe Manchester Black is a cocky little gobshite who is the leader of a superhero team called The Elite. Intended as a commentary on The Authority they stood opposed to Superman and his "old fashioned" method of superheroing.)

In 1819 fifteen people were killed and hundreds more injured at a political rally the became known as Peterloo. It inspired Shelley to write "The Masque of Anarchy" and cartoonist George Cruikshank to create a pamphlet called "The Political House That Jack Built".

(It sold over a hundred thousand copies and was created using a new printing technique which combined wood (used for printing images) and metal (for text) presses which saved costs and enabled a much wider distribution. For the first time in history words and pictures appeared on paper together)

1996 an IRA bomb took out a sizeable chunk of Manchester town centre without stopping us getting on with our lives. We got a much nicer Arndale Centre out of it. I still miss the Corn Exchange, mind. There's a plaque on this defiant post box.
(There was a Manchester-based artist working for DC comics at the time whose work on the latest issue of Robin was being posted back to New York (imagine a time when we relied on the postal service for such things!) and got delayed due to being in that post box. There was an editorial in DC comics of the time about it. However I can't find any record of it now and am cruelly separated from my 90s collection at the moment so can't look it up. If anyone knows who the artist was, please tell me in the comments)

A spirit of defiance is what binds this city. 
While the Bee has become the symbol associate with the recent tragedy - there's an amazing amount of beautiful graffiti art that's popped up around town incorporating it and everywhere I go I see tattoos and t-shirts - I prefer to stick with my choice of Manchester's patron saint: Maharajah to elephant.

Seen here in a painting by Heywood Hardy called "The Disputed Toll", Maharajah was walked from Edinburgh to Belle Vue zoo after an altercation on the train he was meant to ride there in.

I won't go through his whole story here but it is fascinating. Suffice to say stories of his journey became legendary, particularly what happened at that toll gate, and he was given a hero's welcome and declared Mancunian.
In 2015 the artist Oliver East recreated the walk Maharajah took and produced a graphic novel of his journey called "Take Me back to Manchester". I haven't read it yet because I've been working on my own version of the story. You can find his work here.

Thank you for everything Manchester. We love you.

I didn't even mention the music or the sport.