The tubes were kind enough to us otherwise; the venue simultaneously very easy and quite difficult to find. The third door we tried took us in to where above the groundling scuffle of the variably scruffy comiceers a grand octagonal space shot up three stories tall, each storey banded with a lethally narrow gallery, closed and sealed for health and safety reasons, lined with shelf upon shelf of slump-spined old books, looking like the obsolete media leavings of our new pixellacious world. Above the top gallery, busts of important poets stared down with serious plaster scowls, impotently deriding the rising tide of seedy, canteeny scruffiness, while above them the names of philosophers (Far Too Serious for busts) engraved into unadorned plaster, gleamed dustily in the barely-bright grey winter light filtering in through the window at the apex of the cupolla.
It should be intimidating, but instead it just has the friendly antiquity of a much-loved library ... and wouldn't this make a great venue for a big-scale wire-fu showdown? Dramatic leaps, improbable perches, fast-patter of flying books as they improvise missiles ... those weirdly science-fiction chandeliers/air conditioning units could probably impale a bad guy ...
Back to earth, name-badge collected for the first event on the comics calendar this year; more like luggage tags, really, I felt like baggage waiting to be taken away. But I expect all the little enthusiastic webcomiceers with their well-maintained grins and eager-beaver colour-printer wild and wack zine-comic-things promoting all their kindamanga.com web comics didn't feel like that at all. No, it's just me, old comics aunt that I am.
Auntie ran into collaborator #1 almost at once, though, selling Fimo dolls of her characters. I'm such a sucker for small, cute things (probably because they don't remind me of me). She had good news about the deadline, glammy colour covers, a shiny smile ... one quick circuit and hi-to-friends and brief consider on talking to new people before looking for a bolthole. I only get waylaid a few times on the way before the Naked boys persuade me behind the abandoned corner of a table belonging to theregoestokyo. Actually, I didn't take a lot of persuading.
And for the day, what to say? There was a panel, which was good, not so many punters which was less good. People got prizes, I sold a few comics, and had a long conversation with a guy called Wilbur (a pro looking to diversify) who wanted to make money out of it. I'd seen his work before ... collaborator #2 dithered through the social ramifications of my last bit of bad behaviour but I eventually steered him onto better topics like his latest comic and his baby daughter. Lots of people seemed to be talking about their kids; I'm getting more graceful at playing the neutral observer.
I also avoided any further bad behaviour which made me wonder if the dryness of the venue hadn't been a blessing in (very good) disguise. I did, however, get mouth ulcers from drinking too much 7up.
For the afterparty, we found an upmarket gastropub with swanky pie and mash and sat around drinking cider and taking weird photos of each other until everyone started to flicker and go out to catch trains buses bikes back to Birmingham Oxford Camden, following after the people from the North and further who'd not made it to convention closing time before having to dash off into the vagaries of weekend transport.
We left after three pints; Dave the Anarchist was going to Magical Americaland to start a new life as a Linux guru and I really did fancy getting to his party (in Oxford) in time to say "bye", which we did. And to say, "pagan moot, really?", "Mike Myers will never be the true cat in the hat!" and "wow, pisco really does go well with champagne, who knew?"
Well, I'm always been on at people to run more small-press comics events and this sort of thing is exactly why. Yay to Patrick Findlay for scoring a such fantastic venue and running a super-cool event. Again! Again!
Um, yeah. New camera.