Monday, May 30, 2016


Following on from the tragic shooting of the 17-year-old male gorilla named Harambe at Cincinnati Zoo, it seemed appropriate to post this story, originally commissioned for the magazine 'Monika'. Isn't it about time we stopped keeping gorillas in captivity?

This remarkable photo is one of the most famous images taken by the distinguished photographer and cinematographer Wolf Suschitsky.

Back in 1979, he sent me a print of it as a gift with a very sweet note after I told him the story I am about to relate and it now sits centre stage above my gas fire in my work room, framed in black - a haunting image of my totem animal.

I was a kid back in the fifties when I saw Guy at London Zoo. For his whole life in captivity he was the zoo's main attraction, much-loved and famous from his numerous tv appearances. Like a giant hairy Buddha he sat there staring back at me, an extraordinary unearthly being.

The experience stuck.

The basics of Guy's story are well recorded. Born on 30th May 1946, he was captured in the French Cameroons and arrived at the zoo on Bonfire Night the following year (hence his name) as a tiny baby, weighing 231bs (10.4kg) and holding a small, tin hot-water bottle. A Western Lowland Gorilla with the delightful Latin name of Gorilla gorilla gorilla, he grew to a massive size. According to the archives of the Zoological Society of London, at his heaviest in 1966 he weighed 34 stone (215kg), stood 5ft 4in tall (1.1m, with knees bent) and had a 9ft (2.7m) arm span. His neck was 36in (0.9m) in circumference, bigger than an average man's waist.

He was introduced to Lome, a female gorilla, in the late '60s, but they never mated. His favourite foods were cucumbers, melon, pineapple and dates. He had a big fan club, members of which would send him cards on his birthday. The Heatons, from Leeds, regularly spent a week of their annual holiday with him. When small birds flew into his cage he would pick them up, gently examine them, and then set them free.

Freedom was something he never experienced himself, and his celebrity led to his death from a heart attack in 1978 while undergoing surgery. The operation was to deal with infected teeth, rotted from all the sweets fed to him by tourists. What an ignominious end for such a grand creature. 

In a strange way, Guy's death changed my life and consciousness, coming hard on the heels of my discovery of Peter Singer's book ‘Animal Liberation’ and the Animal Liberation Front. At that time I was working as Dick Tracy, investigative journalist, for the NME, and was one of the first journalists to write about ALF activities. It is hard to grasp now how strange these ideas and actions seemed at the time. 

Fired up with new feelings and emotions, it was a small step for me to produce a badge (through `Better Badges', main producer of punk badges at the time), a black and white beauty that had a picture of Guy on it, and the word 'Animal Liberation'. It was a hit. 

While I continued to write animal pieces for the NME, I could see this was a much bigger story, and it was then I invented 'The Beast', which began life as two four-page supplements in International Times before becoming a magazine in its own right. The first issue, unsurprisingly, had Guy on the cover. 

The magazine, which I produced with Michael Marten and designer Mikki Rain, ran for ten issues over two years (1979-1981) and was, in retrospect, a pioneering effort, coming as it did at a new phase in the growth of a movement for a change in our attitude towards animals that is now global in extent. Amazingly, the whole set of the original magazines have now been carefully digitised and can be read in total online.

Together with my colleagues Mike Marten and John Chesterman, I also produced two animal books in this period - a beautiful photo book entitled ‘Weird and Wonderful Wildlife’ and a modern-day bestiary called ‘A Book of Beasts’. Strangely, it happened that both books were published in the same week, and just as I was on the brink of setting out to do some publicity work on them, came the news that Guy the Gorilla was going to be put on exhibition -stuffed - in the Natural History Museum.

A chill went through me, and I knew I was going  to have to do something. Which is why on a brisk autumn day in November 1982, I was standing outside the Museum with my dear departed friend John Chesterman, handing out protest leaflets that I had produced and written on the sad story of Guy, an item that also ran as a piece in Time Out.

Then I was ushered in to do a live interview for Radio 4 alongside someone from the museum who obviously had different views on the subject. We were positioned in front of Guy - a painful experience and, I felt, yet another ignominy.

Of course, times have changed. The idea of housing a huge gorilla in a tiny cage for all its natural life would now be unacceptable. The growth in our understanding of primates over the last 30 years has altered our relationship to them. We now know how genetically similar we are to apes, and how intelligent they are.

The current conservation status of Lowland Gorillas is 'critically endangered'. Estimates from the 1980s put the total population in seven Central African nations at fewer than 100,000. The number remaining is now believed to be less than half this, due to disease and hunting. Good news came in August 2008, when the Wildlife Conservation Society revealed the discovery of more than 125,000 and of these gorillas, previously untallied, but the species as a whole remains vulnerable to the Ebola virus, poaching and deforestation.

According to Wikipedia, there are 550 Western Lowland Gorillas in zoos worldwide, many captive breeding programmes underway. In fact there's even an online stud book.

The spirit of Guy still haunts me. He stares at me from the photo, the shadow of the bars on his face, a constant reminder of the plight of animals in our modern world; also of fugitive personal memories and past emotions. Those were important times. 

By a set of fortuitous circumstances, when writing this piece, the opportunity arose for a phone interview with Wolf Suschitsky, now a remarkable 100 years old. [Now 103]

Source: United Nations of Photography
Principally a cinematographer of some 25 feature films, of which the best-known is ‘Get Carter’, he always carried a still camera and his photos have been exhibited internationally. On the phone he sounded bright and sprightly. He has a sharp memory and a voice that still retains a distinctive Austrian accent. 

He was happy to recall his memories of that day in 1958 when, then aged 46, he took his iconic shot of Guy. He told me that at that time he was working as an assistant to director Paul Burnford, who was making a series of zoo films. Wolf took advantage of this to start shooting portraits of the animals, which zoologist Julian Huxley (brother of Aldous) liked very much. They later together made a book about mammals entitled ‘The Kingdom of the Beast’. According to Suschitsky, Huxley said Guy "was the most magnificent animal he'd ever met."

"I was helped by Mr Smith, head keeper of the Old Monkey House, as it was called. I put the lens of my Hasselblad through the bars and the keeper was there with a big iron bar to keep Guy away, in case he went for me, because he could reach out about three feet.

"Guy was sitting at the back of a terribly small cage and the shadows of the bars were on him. After a while I had to reload my camera, and the keeper said, `I'll just go and get him some more grapes to keep him in place where he is' and he put that bar, which had a hook at the end, onto the cage.

"While he was away, Guy came slowly forward, picked up the iron bar and took it into the cage and put it in front of himself. And when the keeper came back, he immediately said: 'Give me that bar'. No reaction at all. 'Give me that bar'. No reaction. Third time, Guy picked up a sweet wrapper and brought it to the keeper. He was very intelligent, of course, and knew exactly what was wanted, and eventually he gave it back."

In an interview with The Guardian about this picture, Wolf Suschitsky described Guy as a "marvellous ape living in a tiny cage... I don't think he was happy - I don't see how he could have been".


In 1931, Robert J. Sullivan permanently loaned the zoo a female gorilla named Susie. Captured in the Belgian Congo, Susie was first sold to a group of French explorers who sent her to France. In August 1929, Susie was transported from Europe to the United States aboard the Graf Zeppelin accompanied by William Dressman.

After Susie completed a tour through the United States and Canada with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Sullivan purchased Susie for $4500.00 and loaned her to the zoo. Dressman, who stayed on as Susie’s trainer after she was loaned to the zoo, taught her how eat with a knife and fork and orchestrated two performances every day. Susie was so popular that on her birthday on August 7, 1936, more than 16,000 visitors flocked to the zoo. Susie remained one of the most popular animals at the zoo until her death on October 29, 1947. Her body was donated to the University of Cincinnati, where her skeleton remained on display until it was destroyed in a fire in 1974.

 Gorilla Shooting Sparks Memory of Infamous Brookfield Zoo Incident 

Many Chicagoans remember that on Aug. 16, 1996, a small boy climbed a railing and fell 18 feet into the gorilla den at the Brookfield Zoo. An 8-year-old female gorilla named Binti Jua made national headlines when she picked up the unconscious boy and protected him from the other primates. The act of kindness came as a surprise to many of the guests who said they feared Binti Jua would maul the 3-year-old. The boy, whose identity was never released, made a full recovery, and Binti Jua's heroic deed caught on camera gained her national attention. Binti was named Newsweek's Hero of the Year and one of People magazine's most intriguing people of 1996.


2016 is the Chinese year of the monkey which seems darkly appropriate due to the fact that China will, in the next few years, be leading the world in medical research using non-human primates and is soon expected to launch a major brain project to take advantage of this animal resource. The Generalist was alerted to this situation by an article entitled 'Monkey Kingdom' by David Cyranoski and an accompanying editorial comment in a recent issue of the journal Nature

Cyranoski begins his piece by journeying to the Yunnan Key Laboratory of Primate Research, located an hour's drive out of the city of Kunming in Yunnan province in south-western China Opened in 2011 it has become 'a Mecca for cutting-edge primate research'. 
 Inside the gated compound is a quiet, idyllic campus; a series of grey, cement animal houses stack up on the lush hillside, each with a clear plastic roof to let in the light...its inhabitants are some 1,500 monkeys, all bred for research.
 These 'gene-edited monkeys' are being used for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy, autism and Parkinson's Disease. The dream of Ji Weizhi, the director at Yunnan,  is “to have an animal like a tool” for biomedical discovery.

 Elsewhere in China, over the last decade a network of hi-tech primate facilities have been built in Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Guangzhou.

In 2011, 'primate disease models' was adopted as a national  'big science' development scheme and, three years later, 25m yuan ($3.9m) of funding was allocated to the Kunming Institute of Zoology to enable it's monkey facility to double its population of cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) to 5,000. Cyranoski reports:

'Zhao Xudong, who runs the primate-research facility, says that the plan is to “set it up like a hospital, with separate departments for surgery, genetics and imaging”, and a conveyor belt to move monkeys between departments.'

The Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai also has plans to expand, increasing its population of 600 Old World monkeys to 800 in 2017 and  its 300-strong marmoset colony.

Macaques are the predominant monkeys used for medical experimentation in China. Although wild populations  have declined, in the period from 2004-2013, the number of macaque breeders trebled to 34, resulting in an increase from 9,868 to 35,385 macaques available. The farming of marmosets, another monkey popular with researchers, has also risen. 

“Governments and politicians don't see this, but we face a huge risk,China will become the place where all therapeutic strategies will have to be validated. Do we want that? Or do we want to stay in control?”
 - Erwan Bezard, director of the Institute of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Bordeaux in France, has already set up Motac, his own primate-research company in Beijing.

Over past decades, Europe and the US have led the way in the use of primates for neurological research into brain functions and diseases, because of their similarity to humans. The dramatic rise in cases of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's  and other degenerative brain conditions has increased demand.

However, in the West,  primate research is strictly controlled by a matrix of regulations, is very expensive and highly controversial. One geneticist tells  Cyranoski that it costs $6,000 to buy a monkey in the US and $20 per day to keep it; in China are those same costs are $1,000 and $5 per day.

As a result, Nature claims that, in Europe, the number of monkeys used in medical research has declined by 28% between 2008-2011. 

 Nature's editorial claims that 'the German federal government, like most European governments...  has no strategy for the primate research and testing that will be needed to move many candidate therapies into the clinic...[because] primate under pressure from campaigners and politicians.'

The Netherlands voted [in March 2016] 'to revisit a 2013 parliamentary question on whether and, if so, how the country could end primate research within a decade'.

In the US, Harvard Medical School closed its primate facility in May 2015 for 'strategic' reasons. 

[According to a report by David Grimm in the  magazine Science, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is to convene a workshop this summer to review the ethical policies and procedures surrounding work on monkeys, baboons, and related animals. This follows on from NIH’s decision to end controversial monkey experiments at one of its labs and the termination of its support for invasive research on chimpanzees.]

As a result, many Western scientists are now concerned by the near monopoly China may soon have in using primates for disease research and drug testing. One likes the situation to CERN: scientists from all over the world will have to travel there to take advantage not only of the ample supply of primates but also of advanced imaging tools, genetic engineering and editing techniques. These, combined with new reproductive technologies, says Cyranoski, are 'making monkeys a more efficient experimental tool.'

The Nature editorial raises the fact that:
'Chinese researchers’ freedom from animal-rights pressures will probably continue for the foreseeable future, but it is not a given. To maintain that support, and to make it easier for researchers elsewhere to form collaborations, they will have to show that they are abiding by principles that guide the international scientific community — that monkeys should be used only when necessary and in as small a number as possible.
'...government agencies must also consider the views of society at large, which, as our understanding of monkeys’ capabilities and commonalities with humans grows, is ever more strongly against research on primates. This is a valid perspective and needs to be balanced with the societal benefits that can be gained only through primate research.'

'...the immunity that China's primate researchers have had to animal-rights activism could start to erode, warns Deborah Cao...People are starting to use Chinese social media sites to voice outrage at the abuse of animals, Cao says.'

The Generalist has been in correspondence with the leading authority on animal law and animal rights in China is Professor Deborah Cao, a linguist and legal scholar at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Amongst her many books are two works in Chinese -  'Animals are Not Things' and While The Dog Gently Weeps'  - and this excellent book in English 'Animals In China', published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. She was named one of the top 200 most influential blog writers in China in 2012.

Before going on to examine the book as a whole, there's interesting material here on the medical use of non-human primates and other lab animals..


According to statistics from the government's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) about 12 million animals are used for scientific purposes in China each year, including mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs and primates. Cao writes:
 'Regulatory regimes and guidance for the humane treatment off animals used in research exists, but in a grey area or a black hole from which little information escapes to the public'
Cao suggests that there is a two-tier system: experiments with animals whose results they want to get published in international journals and publications. This is the motivation to ensure these are carried out within a legal framework. But, says Cao, there is a second level of 'ordinary animals' which are used for teaching and research purposes and they have no legal protection under the existing law. The number of these are not recorded.

The first official document and policy in China that uses the term 'animal welfare' is MOST's 'Guidelines for the Human Treatment of Laboratory Animals'. (2006). Amongst other things these define what constitutes animal abuse and the penalties for non-compliance. There is 'little information available', says Cao, as to whether these rules are enforced, nationally or locally. 

According to a report in the China Daily'  a Chinese official 'found it hard to believe that no one has ever breached the rules but that 'no facilities have been punished for animal welfare and ethics violations.' Interestingly the official also reportedly said 'that because of huge pressure from animal rights groups, more foreign companies have been shifting their animal research into China. He says: 'China would never become a haven for inappropriate animal experiments in the name of science.'

 Cao quotes one article by a leading scholar working in the area of animal research in China [Jin, Meilei Chinese Bulletin of Life Sciences. 2012] who notes:
'that there is a lack of management rules for cases of cruel killing of laboratory animals in China; animal carers and laboratory technical staff can cruelly kill laboratory animals wilfully with impunity. This scientist also says that violations of laboratory animal ethics occur; acts such as removing animals' eyeballs to take blood samples and breach of euthanasia requirements are still commonplace; there are also emotional conflicts between laboratory animal carers and scientists, with the former forming emotional bonds with animals they raise and with scientists ending their lives.'

Li Feng's photo of caged monkeys in a med lab in Hubei province was the winner in the Animal Category of National Geographic's 2007 Best Global Photos. Cao writes:
The award-winning photos of a photojournalist Li Feng accidentally revealed laboratory primates living in conditions that violated China's regulations. It turned out that the laboratory where the primates lived and the photos were taken in Yichang City, Hubei Province, was an unlicensed and thus illegal laboratory. Before the photos were taken and published, no one had looked into the facility. There was no public report that the facility was penalized after the disclosure that it was operating outside the law although the prize-winning photos were widely publicized and reported. According to Chinese media reports, more than 30 Chinese institutions are now accredited by the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC).'
 Cao reports that there has been an increase in research institutions and pharmaceutical companies from around the world who are not only outsourcing their animal testing to China but are also buying laboratory animals from China at a fraction of the cost charged by Western suppliers.
  • More than half of  the laboratory primates bred in China are exported overseas. Crab-eating macaques, long-tailed macaques and rhesus macaques are the main species of laboratory primates bred and used in China. 
  • China is the leading supplier of primates to the USA, exporting more than 10,000 labora-tory monkeys in 2013, or 56 per cent of the total. The cost of raising a monkey in China is about half that in the USA.
  • In 2007, Shanghai built a laboratory animal production base, the biggest in China, as a public platform for laboratory animal services, and a company, SLAG Laboratory Animals Shanghai, is said to have produced 1.1 million laboratory animals in 2007, an eightfold increase over the previous decade.
  • In the mid-1990s, China exported about 3,000 laboratory primates each year. The figure has since risen to over 30,000 a year, making China the biggest country in the world for laboratory primate export.
  •  There are around 35 government-approved companies in China that breed laboratory primates. According to the SFA, the number of laboratory primates for use and sale in China each year is close to 40,000. 

'A victory for animal advocacy was recorded in 2014. China Southern Airlines, a state-owned carrier, decided to stop transporting live primates for experiments on all its flights. An international animal NGO, PETA, campaigned against international airlines' transporting live and other primates for research.
'In 2013, PETA purchased shares of China Southern Airlines so that its representatives could attend shareholder meetings and lobby company executives, but the airline announced its policy change before PETA initiated action.
'Now no Chinese airlines are shipping primates to laboratories overseas. due to the halt by many commercial airlines to shipping laboratory animals, Western research facilities and pharmaceutical companies increasingly rely on charter flights.'

Bear bile protest roars into Beijing

Protesters of bear bile extraction staged a demonstration dressed in furry costumes in downtown Beijing, March 24, 2012. Chinese bear bile producer Guizhentang has been under fire for in recent weeks since it was revealed it planned to expand its bile production. The company's last IPO attempt in February 2011 floundered amid fierce public opposition. Bear bile has been used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine to cure eye and liver ailments for nearly 3,000 years. [Photo/CFP] 

'I was one of the oblivious Chinese; born, bred and educated in China many years ago, until an American family member asked me to contemplate the pain that animals might have experienced in Chinese cooking. Animal pain is everywhere in Chinese daily life but most choose not to see. However, this is starting to change.


'Chinese love animals - they love them to death, literally. They love to eat them, to kill them, to taker them in medicine, to wear them, to watch them in entertainment, to make an exquisite art form of them in ivory and other carvings. In the process, they drive some animal species to extinction or to its brink. They also cause the living ones extreme pain and suffering before eating them. Unfortunately this is part of Chinese culture, an otherwise great human civilisation, a country with the longest continuous history on earth.
 These powerful statements by Deboran Cao form part of the introduction to her valuable book that, for the first time, gives readers and activists in the West, a powerful overview. 

She begins with 'Happy Fish and Royal Workers; Animals in Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Law'. Every Chinese person has an animal zodiac sign and the Chinese language is full of idioms and sayings with animals. In the Western world, we believe we are separate from nature and superior to the animals. In Chinese philosophy,  there are no distinctions between human and animal; both are united with all living things in one cosmic pattern. Yet animals are serviceable for human needs and enterprises.

Chapters 3 and 4 cover Wildlife Law and Wildlife Crimes. Due to China's insatiable greed for elephant and rhino body parts, both species face extinction.

Chapter 5 is hard reading. In China there is no national law protecting domestic animals against cruelty, the only major country in the world today that does not have such laws.
It is well known that there is a trade in cat and dog meat. What is new to contemporary China is is the word 'pet' and the practice of keeping companion animals. In 2007 there were an estimated 11 billion pets in China, mostly birds, fish and reptiles. One more recent estimate is that there are 27 million pet dogs and 11 million pet cats.

In the chapter Working Animals, as well as the lab animals already discussed, Cao covers wildlife in Zoos and Circuses, and the fur industry - China is now the world's leading supplier of furs and fur garments.

In many ways the most interesting chapter of all is 'Chinese Animal Lib: An Emerging Social Movement.' Cao writes:

'China is undergoing a movement of an entirely different kind - an animal liberation movement...This emerging moral awakening and personal participation in helping and caring for animals in the last few years can be gauged in a number of ways [which she lists].
'Almost all of these [actions] 'are through animal NGOs, homeless animal rescue shelters and private individual volunteers, and all are recent phenomena, still very new to most Chinese and still controversial. Nevertheless, the Chinese 'animal liberation movement' or ' animal protection movement' is a movement for the better. Unlike all previous movements and campaigns in modern Chinese history, it is apolitical...This marks a fundamental difference between this movement and all other movements and campaigns in contemporary China.'
'In short, the animal protection movement in China is still in its infancy. as the great social reformer John Stuart Mill wrote, social movement normally experience three stages: ridicule, discussion and adoption. In China, the animal protection movement is still in the initial stage.'

An important book for our times.


Professor Cao was also the co-editor with Steven White of this other recently published book. Here is an extract from the introduction:
'In our increasingly interconnected and wired world, some of the biggest global stars have been nonhuman animals. On blogs, on Facebook and all around the Internet, claws and clicks go hand in hand or paw in paw, with the furry claiming cyberspace.
'In 2014, one of the most emailed stories on the New York Times website was about the biology of cats. According to media reports, there has been a sharp rise in the proportion of American dog and cat owners with provisions in their wills for their pets, with nearly one in ten now making such arrangements. One of the most fervently embraced documentaries of 2013 was 'Blackfish', shown over and over on CNN. And these are not just "feel good" stories about cute and cuddly animals. They are about animal suffering, animal science, animal intelligence and cognition, animal behaviour and social life, animal welfare in law, and above all, animal dignity, rights and justice...

'These topics are not academic jargon but increasingly entering the popular cyber parlance. In the meantime, apart from stories and images of animals going viral in traditional and social media around the world, significant legal battles are being fought on behalf of animals, for instance in the International Court of Justice in the Hague and in the courtrooms of New York. At the end of 2013, a team of lawyers were filing writs of habeus corpus in New York on behalf of four captive chimpanzees, as part of the Nonhuman Rights Project. At the other end of the world, in Australia, a group of animal lawyers, scientist and scholars were gathering to discuss animal law and animal welfare, the result of which is this edited book...

'The impetus for the symposium...derives from a sobering reality: despite the developments in animal protection law over the last 200 years and, in particular, the developments in the legal front over the three decades, animal cruelty is not decreasing but increasing world-wide. We are witnessing the globalisation of animal cruelty...

'Animal cruelty is increasing in terms of scale and in more varied forms, for both domestic animals and, increasingly, for wildlife. Factory farming, which originated in the West, has now been introduced to developing countries and is expanding rapidly; wildlife is being used and abused for various kinds of human consumption on an unprecedented scale, especially in Asia, and we are facing the real possibility that African elephants and rhinos may become extinct in the next decade; indiscriminate killing of different species of animals occurs every so often on a massive scale due to health scares and panic fuelled by a fear of the spread of disease... In an age of globalisation, a global solution through international cooperation and communication of animal matters is essential to deal with animal cruelty.'

 The first section of this multi-author book focuses on developments in animal law and the need for an international protection treaty addressing the welfare and protection of animals.
The second part examines  animal protections laws in Australia, South Africa, Israel, Brazil and China. There is also an essay about protecting the protection of cetaceans under US law.

The editors conclude:  'If we are on the cusp of a major re-evaluation of human and nonhuman relations, if animal rights and protection are to constitute a major social justice movement of the twenty-first century, lawyers and scientists, for their part will need to be part of a cooperative, creative and committed push for change. This book is an intellectual contribution to this project.'

Saturday, May 28, 2016


This valuable book, published by Savoy Books in 2013, arrived unexpectedly a week or so ago, a gift from the mastermind behind the project David Brittain, long-time friend who I'd lost touch with for much too many years. Amongst his other achievements David edited Creative Camera for a decade, worked on tv documentaries and is currently a Senior Lccturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. More  relevant is his fascination with the work of Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), the Scottish sculptor and artist who is widely considered one of the pioneers of Pop Art. His earlier book 'Eduardo Paolozzi: The Jet Age Compendium. Paolozzi at Ambit 1967-1980' [reprinted by Four Corners Books in 2009] was followed by this second book, published the same year David was Guest Curator of 'Space Age Archaeology: Eduardo Paolozzi and Science Fiction' at the Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art [July-October 2013].

New Worlds was an important British science fiction magazine with a long and complex history. It began in 1936 as a fanzine called Novae Terrae, was renamed New Worlds  in 1939 when John Carnell became editor and was first published professionally in 1946 by Pendulum Publications, who produced three issues before going bankrupt the following year. As a result, a group of science fiction fans formed Nova Publications, who produced the first new issue of the mag in mid-1949 and published it monthly until Issue 20 (early 1953) when there was a hiatus caused by a change of printers. A year later, the magazine was acquired by McLaren & Sons, resumed a monthly publication schedule. 

Then in 1964, it was acquired by Roberts & Vinter, who appointed Michael Moorcock as editor. When R&V had financial problems at the end of 1966, Moorcock was able to continue publishing the magazine independently - thanks to an Arts Council grant obtained by the SF writer Brian Aldiss -  until 1970 when New Worlds reached Issue 200 and Moorcock was no longer able to financially sustain it. It is this four-year period which is the focus of David Brittain's book. 

In pure SF terms, Moorcock's reign focused on the 'New Wave' of science fiction, which pushed boundaries and was open to experimentation. Of equal significance was the expansion of the format of the magazine, from a small paperback size to an A4 mag with bold graphic covers, thus providing opportunities for imaginative layouts and graphic design and a canvas for artwork, photography and illustration.

Moorcock's invention of Jerry Cornelius, a shape-shifting, counter-cultural, time-travelling character was featured along with J.G. Ballard's 'condensed novels' - both influenced by Burroughs' whose cut-ups pointed the way towards so much of the experimental fiction of the period. Many other important writers and artists found a showcase here.

Both the Pop artists and the New World writers were interested in technology and how it was shaping the future, a future that seemed to have already arrived with the Space Age, computers, new media, global communication, alongside assassinations, civil unrest, the Vietnam War and rapid social change. All this proved fertile ground for writers and artist alike and the London scene provided opportunities for social and artistic collaborations and crossovers.

This book is a seminal work that connects a fizzing ecosystem of creativity and casts fresh light on the collage of concepts and ideas  that were captured in the New Worlds net. Rick Poynor  has done a first-class job in writing the book's intro essay and John Coulthart 's book design is imaginative and impeccable. He presents the wealth of visual material - a combination of many exciting Paolozzi prints and a wonderful cornucopia of  cover-shots and illustrations from the magazine - in an interesting and effective manner. David Brittain tops and tails the book, setting the scene and purpose up front and presenting interviews with many of the key characters at back, including  Christopher Finch the magazine's Art Director. In addition, there are several Appendices featuring extracts and essays by Moorcock, Ballard and Paolozzi. All in all, a time capsule which seems totally relevant to the present day.



A few short words: Mike Moorcock refers briefly to the geographical proximity of New Worlds and Frendz, the underground paper I worked on with Jon Trux, who knew Moorcock very well and introduced me. Mike's memories of that time are slightly conflated. He says:
 'We didn't share an office with Frendz. They were a few doors down in the same terrace. We shared typesetting machines and other equipment. They all sat round a big table bullshitting and getting stoned and somehow putting out an issue. Some were very good. Not all were readable. Red type on red paper was a famous decision. They were a commune at that time. some of them eventually broke away and became an efficient publishing outfit.'
 Frendz was based at 305/307 Portobello Road just above the flyover. The paper closed at the end of 1972. That last year was when Hawkwind were regular visitors as was Barney Bubbles and Mike. They were all really kind to us younger guys and there was a real musical/graphic/textual crossover going on. Frendz was never a commune but yes, we were a ragtaggle crew, young, often stoned.

 Two of my most visceral memories are sitting in the front seat of Hawkwind's big transit van next to Mike, after a gig in West London which also featured Mighty Baby, completely tripped out having been invited to take a swig from the bottle of orange juice in the dressing room which was spiked with the old LSD. Coming back into London with Mike at my side was a pure spaceship fantasy. On another occasion, the late and wonderful Robert Calvert brandishing a sword in Mike's front room.

Sometime later, four of us moved to an office at 2 Blenheim Crescent where we produced 'An Index of Possibilities' and many other books and magazines. That's where the round table came in. We had an IBM typesetter and a large process camera. 

Much later, in 1979, I met Mike in LA and we had a meal in a Mongolian restaurant. He slipped my name and Jon Trux's into his wonderful book 'Mother London'. Mike was always generous, a huge talent, and we admired him tremendously - still do.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


This is one of the only times I have been interviewed by the national press. In this case by Lisa Markwell for a piece for the short-lived Sunday Correspondent , which first appeared on 17th September 1989 and closed on 25th November 1990. Photo by Anne-Katrin Purkiss. The text of the piece, which was published on 17th December 1989, reads as follows:

GREENPEACE Books was set up four years ago by ex-journalist John May, at a time when public interest in the environment was beginning to flourish after Chernobyl. In a half-timbered room overshadowed by a Norman church in Lewes, Sussex, May has been quietly producing such titles as The Greenpeace Book of Antarctica, The Greenpeace Story and the newly published Greenpeace Book of the Nuclear Age. Yet in those four years, May has never been interviewed, nor his books reviewed in the national press. 

However his Antarctica has become the definitive work on this isolated but endangered area. The British Antarctic Survey keeps it on its ships and the New Zealand government bought 2,000 copies for distribution to its personnel. To May's dismay, though, it has been described as a "coffee table" book, a term he finds incomprehensible. 

On the other hand, he is visibly excited by having The Greenpeace Story in a children's book club brochure alongside the Kylie and Jason annuals. "Every book is an action" runs the official slogan of Greenpeace Publishing- and every teenager who buys a book is another potential activist. 

For an environmental activist, May is, by his own admission, more of a journalist than a campaigner. He smokes incessantly, and his office is littered with magazines like The Face and Fame. He reads "a hell of a lot of newspapers and magazines", which he clips assiduously for reference, but he gives no more than a cursory glance to the new batch of green publications, dismissing most as "rubbish" both in aesthetic terms and subject matter. 

The British press has been unable to absorb the changes in the public's conception of green issues, he says. "They're either very lazy or unable to overcome a series of stereotypes that they themselves have established. They think that environmentist (I hate that term anyway) still means sandals and beads." 

John May was a journalist for 15 years before he established Greenpeace Books., His first book, An Index of Possibilities, published in 1973, was a fore-runner of today's "New Age" magazines - a British answer to the American Whole Earth Catalogue. He went on to collate a book of "curious facts", one of scientific photography and, in a link to his work at Greenpeace, two books on animals, Weird and Wonderful Wildlife and The Book of Beasts

Rather than simply capitalise on the media preoccupation with the green tag, May is leading Greenpeace Books in a different direction. "One of the areas we're getting into is comics because comics are going to be a major form of communication in the next 10 years - as they already are in Japan and Latin America." May read a report which claimed that students at Harvard don't read books any more. He surmised that most people have no time to read - and that subjects like new legislation and economic policies need to be made less convoluted for the public. "Comics are one of the ways to do that. I think its going to be an enormous growth area." 

To compile The Greenpeace Book Of The Nuclear Age, May was obliged to call on expert help to interpret the "ancient gobbledegook" that both military and civil reports use. A catalogue of nuclear accidents from the 1940s to the present day, it makes fascinating, if alarming, reading. 

The book's launch in November was, fortuitous, as May explains: "We joked that something might happen to coincide with the launch, but the announcement that Britain would be putting a freeze on building nuclear power stations was rather more than we'd anticipated." 

The Greenpeace Story is sold in seven countries, and Antarctica, published last year, has sold over 150,000 copies in 11 countries and is now reprinting in every one. "I think this is a new area of publishing, a growing one and we are exploring the possibilities. As far as I can see, there's no end to them." 

With Greenpeace already up and running in Russia, and getting   an office in East Berlin, prospects look good. "Britain is very irritating. It's a useful country to be. based in because of systems and connections. At the same time it's politically barbaric, socially inept, culturally weak, inward looking, nostalgic and sexually repressed . . . one could go on and on. I think what we need in this country is glasnost and perestroika UK." 

May adds a disclaimer to his brusque comments: "None of the things I've said should be taken as representing Greenpeace's official line. They allow me to be something of a free-thinking soul within the framework, and in the books there is a section which presents Greenpeace's particular official position. I haven't disagreed so far . . May is currently researching a book on dolphins - a project which already has 15 interested international, publishers, but which is also one that may find him back on the coffee tables.'

footnote: We never did publish any Greenpeace Comics but we did get Dave Gibbons the illustrator/letterer of Watchmen to do a cover and centrefold for a Greenpeace Record that was released in Russia and then around the world

Here are two environmental comics from THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE: 

Net Profit (1974) by Michael J. Becker and Shelby Simpson.. produced by ECOMIX for PROJECT JONAH - a Non-Profit International Effort to Save the Whales and Dolphins.

Concrete Celebrates EARTH DAY 1990: with stories by Moebius, Charles Vess & Paul Chadwick. Published by Dark Horse Comics in Milwaukie, Oregon

I'd been turned onto the new wave of comics and graphic novels by meeting Alan Moore  and Art Spiegelman in London in 1987.

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More than 25 years since the Green Comics post (above) and my first introduction to graphic novels, THE GENERALIST is now making contact with the best publishers in the field and will be reviewing stand-out titles across a wide spectrum of content and style. These first two treasures will give you a hint of the delights to come.

SMH Winner LogoSelfMadeHero is a class act and leafing through their catalogue reveals a rich treasure trove of titles. They describe themselves as a 'quirky independent publishing house committed to producing ground-breaking work in the graphic novel medium.' They appear to have certainly succeeded in their aim. They both commission new work and publish works in translation.

IRMINA is a substantial hardbound book with 266 pages of graphic story-telling which demonstrates in no uncertain terms the importance of the medium. Based on her grandmother's diaries and letters, Barbara Yelin has crafted a personal story that has depth and resonance, set in the fully-realised landscapes of London, Oxford, Berlin and Barbados, in the years leading up to the rise of Nazi Germany.

Irmina comes to England to train as a foreign language secretary, meets Howard - one of the first black students at Oxford University - and their friendship as two 'outsiders' blossoms into love. Forced to return to Berlin through personal circumstance, they lose contact and Irmina is drawn into a marriage with a husband who is a rising Nazi star. Her personal adjustments to these unfolding events enable the reader to gain a real sense and feeling of how and why the women of that time suppressed their feelings and stayed silent. Some 40 years later, an unexpected letter leads Irmina to the coda of the story which is full of new landscapes, emotional depths and dimensions, leaving the reader full of thoughts and reflections on the journey one has experienced.

The novel is realised with a sharp pencil and muted colours that suit the mood of the story and the times - browns, greys, blues and blacks and pink skin tones. Red begins to appear and becomes more dominant as the Nazis rise to prominence. In the final section, green signifies a change of mood. Yelin captures characters brilliantly and brings them to life with a subtlety and realism that speaks to the heart. We move from tightly-packed white-framed comic style pages full of dialogue, thoughts or penned diary entries to unexpected and wonderfully realised full-screen city visions or white pages with vignette illustrations, small windows into this other world of the past. Everything is carefully judged and well-paced in the service of a powerful and moving story that deserves the recognition and acclaim  it has received.

NobrowEstablished in 2008 by Sam Arthur and Alex Spiro, two friends from the famous St. Martin's School of Art, Nobrow, this a lively imprint that, in their own word, 'has sought to make great design, ground-breaking art and narrative, luscious production values and environmental consciousness central to its mission.' Now a team of 14 or more, their catalogue of titles under the Nowbrow or Flying Eye imprint all look engaging; the latter is aimed strictly at kids whilst Nowbrow books are more adult but for the kid within.

Certainly that's how I felt when experiencing 'Geis: A Matter of Life & Death', the first volume of a trilogy of adventures by the highly talented Alexis Deacon. The book is described on the back as a 'supernatural historical fantasy' and begins with the death of great chief Matarka who, in her will, has set out the rules of a contest to see who is fit to take her place. The word Geis is Gaelic and means a taboo or a curse. Little do the contestants, seen all together in the first full-page frame, seated round the body of their late chief, realise what is in store - namely hair-raising adventures and encounters with beasts and ugly spirits.

Set in a medieval  landscape  full of dark forests, huge castles and half-timbered houses, this is a truly magical piece of work, full of remarkable surprises. Often, on turning the page, one's breath is taken away by the sheer ingenuity and beauty of this imaginative tale. There is a lot of humour in the cast of quirky characters and the whole is realised in a cinematic style, using a wonderful palette of rich colours that add depth and interest to every page. I'm already itching to read the next two volumes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


This is the greatest documentary on Marlon Brando to date and it's hard to see how it might be bettered. 

The film-makers who, previously had made the wonderful 'Searching for Sugarman', were already signed up to do the documentary, were researching it in cooperation with the archivists of the Marlon Brando estate. but as yet had no clear idea how it would be done.

One of the questions that they asked the archivists was what new material do you have that hasn't been seen or filmed before. 

By chance at that time the archivists were unpacking a lot of boxes which contained hundreds of audio recordings that Brando had made during his life with dictaphones and cassette recorders, most of which had never been heard before.

This raised the question as to whether it would it be interesting to use these tapes as the narrative voice for the whole film. This idea gained traction because,after a certain point, Brando gave very few interviews and strenuously tried to protect his private life and the private life of his family. They weren't sure whether it would work and the 'Making of..' short film shows the extraordinary amount of effort that not only went into transcribing all the tapes but also tagging all the subjects and points of interest. 

The basic narrative arc of Brando's life is already well-known. He shot to fame with 'A Streetcar Named Desire', gained cult status with 'The Wild One' and won the Best Actor Oscar for 'On The Waterfront'. He went on to make a significant number of other greats but circumstances and bad judgment led to a decline in his fame and fortune. His triumphant second-act return in 'The Godfather' and 'Apocalypse Now' sealed his legendary status.

The film-makers have used this trajectory but keep looping back to this childhood as his first 12 year or so were marked by the abuse he received from his alcoholic father. Embedded in this sensitive child were tropes that haunted and scarred his adult behaviour. His was an extraordinary life, Shakespearean in its scale and grandeur, lived in the glare of a thousand paparazzi flashbulbs. Like Gaugin and Robert Louis Stevenson before him, Brando was drawn to Polynesia where he created the ultimate hideaway on the remote atoll of Tetiaroa.
Since his death in 2004, few would doubt that he should be considered the greatest modern film actor. 'Listen to Me Marlon' is a moving tribute to a main man.




This essay by Susan Mizruchi the author of 'Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work' (W.W. Norton, 2014) was posted on on April 3rd 2014. It says some important things about Brando's social conscience.

Marlon Brando was born ninety years ago, and though he is best known as an icon of the 1950s—the Biker in The Wild One; the New Jersey longshoreman in On The Waterfront—and 1970s—the Godfather; the subversive Colonel Kurtz ofApocalypse Now—the man behind the image would have been very much at home in 2014.  
Brando was devoted to innovation: one of the first in Hollywood to own a personal computer, he used his private island in Tahiti to test methods of sustainability, from ocean-farming and discovering new food sources to air-conditioning via seawater technology.  
An avid reader of popular science, he recognized the democratizing potential of the information age to reach across cultural boundaries. It was Brando, for instance, who insisted that the southern air force pilot he played in Sayonara (1957) marry his Japanese lover at the film’s end, anticipating that their prospective offspring—“half Japanese, half American, half yellow, half white, half you, half me” – would become commonplace.  He was equally ahead of his time in the 1960s when he became the first leading actor to play, in profoundly sympathetic terms, the role of a closeted homosexual military officer in John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).
Brando and Dylan
But there was no aspect of our contemporary culture that Brando knew better than the power of the press and the destructive nature of celebrity.  Launched into fame unexpectedly at the age of twenty-three by a bravura performance on Broadway as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1946), Brando was thoroughly familiar with the costs and benefits of stardom.  Brando’s disdain for the celebrity that transformed his life was motivated by his bohemian tendencies and democratic politics.  Like Emiliano Zapata, whom he played in film, Brando believed that the masses were doomed when they projected their own power onto idealized objects of worship.  No one was worthy of such idolatry—least of all actors and entertainers.
As was his habit when something interested him, he collected dozens of books on media and censorship for his personal library, which numbered over 4000 volumes.  In an interview on the Today Show in 1963, Brando lamented that his refusal to share his private life with the “a multimillion dollar industrial complex” of gossip had made him “an enemy of the people.”  Still, he never stopped celebrating the exceptionality of America’s free press.
Indeed it was Brando’s basic faith in American values and principles that led to his outrage when they were violated.  This included the threats posed by government surveillance, whose dangers he recognized, from first-hand experience.  Brando’s vast FBI file extended from the 1940s, when he was helping to raise money for the Zionist Irgun (an offshoot of his performance in Ben Hecht’s A Flag is Born), through the 1950s and ‘60s, when he was among the first white actors to be part of the Civil Rights movement (one of the first among white actors to do so).  He was an ardent activist for Native American justice from 1963 to the end of his life.  His willingness to participate in acts of civil disobedience to publicize Native American grievances and claims made him a target of phone tapping and gained him visits from FBI agents.
Thus, Brando befriended Senator Frank Church, not only because of Church’s ongoing participation in hearings on Indian Fishing Rights, but because of his inquiries into the operation and abuses of U.S. intelligence agencies (published in 1975 and 1976 as the “Church Committee Reports”).  Noting his long discussions with Church, Brando marveled at how close the United States had come to “having a police state under the control of the FBI.”  Such insight went into his reading and preparations for his role as the renegade Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (1979), a movie portraying the horrors of Vietnam. 
Sacheen Littlefeather at the Oscars 

Brando’s commitment to alleviating injustice and his contempt for celebrity coalesced powerfully in one of the most notorious but misunderstood events of his career: turning down the Academy Award for best actor in his role as “The Godfather.”  Brando knew the world would be watching the Academy Awards show on March 27, 1973, which was why charges that he should have appeared himself to turn down the award on behalf of Native Americans, missed the point.  The replacement of himself—the ultimate Hollywood icon—with an unknown Native American woman was designed to give Native Americans the worldwide audience he had been struggling for over a decade to provide.  It also supported his longstanding critique of a profit-driven media and the base cravings it fed.  The situation was ideally suited to redress Brando’s complaint that people ignored the problems of Native Americans, while feasting on every titbit they could get about Hollywood stars.  If he won the Academy Award, he could force them to listen to what he believed they should hear.  “It was important for an American Indian to address the people who sit by and do nothing while they’re expunged from the earth,” Brando later explained, “It was the first time in history that an American Indian ever spoke to 60 million people.  It was a tremendous opportunity and I certainly didn’t want to usurp that time.”
Brando’s films will endure for generations to come.  What we have begun to learn since his death in 2004 is how much this had to do with the values and aspirations of the man who starred in them. 

We've all got our memories of Brando and, for me, several of these are bound up with my time at the NME working as Dick Tracy. The first came when I was asked to run the film section and I wrote my first ever film review -  'The Missouri Breaks' starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson and directed by Arthur Penn - which was published on 19th June 1976 when I was 26.

 THE MISSOURI BREAKS is the latest example of that breed of nouveau Westerns which began with Butch Cassidy and was picked up by Peckinpah's Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. The hallmark of them all is a brace of super-stars backed by a top director. They combine authentic backgrounds with '70s jive to produce a new kind of synthesis between the Old West and the New in the same way that modern country bands have kept the notion of the frontier alive. 

For my money Missouri Breaks is the best of the bunch. Set in Montana of the 1890's, the Breaks in the title refers to the badlands around the Missouri river where rustlers and other assorted outlaws eke out their last days of their life-style. Nicholson plays Tom Logan, the chief brain of an ornery hunch of good-natured horse thieves who are making a bare living snatching horses from David Braxton, a wealthy local rancher. 
Braxton, a cultured cattle baron with a library of 300 volumes of English literature and a passion for law and order decides he's had enough when he finds his ramrod hanged from the same tree he had used to string up one of Nicholson's gang. He hires a regulator to wipe them out. 
Marlon is the regulator Lee Clayton, a character as far away from the standard notion of a hired gun as it's possible to get. Always immaculately dressed and soaked in lavender water, his cultured, even gay, exterior hides a humourus psychotic who carefully snuffs out his victims with quiet pride. 

Original film still. Nicholson and Brando were neighbours in LA for many
years. When Brando died, Nicholson wrote an article for Rolling Stone. He said; 'Marlon Brando is one of the great men of the 20th and 21st centurries, and we lesser mortals are obligated to cut through the shit and proclaim it.'

Brando plays this quirky character for all it's worth, talking whimsically to his horse in a soft Irish Brogue, dressing up as a vicar and a pregnant woman to trap his victims and generally stealing scenes. Although he doesn't appear until some way into the film and is on screen almost less than any of the other characters, his presence is felt throughout. Add ten more stars to the Brando legend. 
Nicholson, by contrast, is equally good but distinctly more low key. He plays the character of Tom Logan as an outlaw with a warm heart, a quick wit and a likeable smile. After he robs a train, him and the boys buy a ranch right under the nose of Braxton, and while the gang are away rustling horses from the Mounties in Canada, he falls in love with Braxton's daughter Jane. 
This. is where some of Nicholson's real class shows through. Love scenes are notoriously mawkish, but Nicholson and the beautiful Kathleen Lloyd play them like's there's no tomorrow. 
Their relationship is funny. and believable, and there's a lot of chemistry between them. All in all, Nicholson earns marks for sensibly allowing Brando to strut his stuff while exploring the full range of his own character. 
While we're handing out the credits, a word for the script which is a real boneshaker. I'll admit to being biased towards Thomas McGuane who I rate as one of the best American novelists. but he has really excelled himself this time. The whole plot and characterisation is fast, funny and unexpected and ,there are enough smart-assed one liners to keep NME letter writers in album tokens for a year or more. 'He's more slippery than snot on a Doorknob' is among the . gems.
Penn, the director, once again proves his professionalism. and skill and adds more credits  to his already impressive track record which includes The Left-Handed Gun, The Chase and Bonnie and Clyde. Bordering on the realms of he metaphysical, packed with incident and marvellous conversation, and backed against some beautiful scenery, The Missouri Breaks successfully combines taste with box office potential. It is the best Western you'll see all year.'

The next story is more impressive. Its about the time when I almost interviewed Marlon Brando. 

It was 1977 and Brando was in Britain filming Superman. For some weeks or maybe months I was in touch with the press department of the film studio trying to tie something down. My strategy was simple. I said I didn't want to talk about the film, rather the interview would focus on Brando's involvement with the American Indian Movement (AIM). First it was in, then it was off. This happened several times and, during this period, I moved house and was out of touch with the office for some five days (no internet, no fax, no mobiles - how did we manage). When I got back to the office a week later there was a message for me that Marlon Brando was waiting for me at a hotel room in central London. I went into a small room full of grey filing cabinets and kicked the shit out of them.

Original film still from EMI Press Pack

My final story connects with Apocalypse Now. I had been documenting the troubled progress of the movie for more than a year I would say and I arrived in Los Angeles in late 1979 the week that the movie was opening on Hollywood Boulevard. I'd just arrived at Barry's flat, fresh from the airport. It was mid-afternoon and I was introduced to Lance (I think it was) who was lead singer of The Motive, a punk band that Barry was managing. Lance was born on Hollywood Boulevard and later took me on a special guided tour. Anyways up, I was just getting a cup of tea down me and trying to acclimatise after the long flight when Lance said did I want to watch Apocalypse Now.  I said sure I was thinking of going to the cinema to see it while I was there. He said "no man, I've got it here" and he put on a pirate video of the film that had somehow been sneaked out the studio. When I heard the whirr of those helicopter blades my paranoia levels started to rise ! That night, helicopters with searchlights were patrolling the skies of LA. As someone told me: 'San Francisco is the jungle but LA is the zoo.'

Producer-director Michael winner discusses a death scene with Marlon Brando on the set of 'The Nightcomers' [Films and Filming. 1971] THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE