June 7th, 2002


comics 2002 (reprise)

It's just a ruddy great barn of a room, big enough to take a few trains, no bar, just a place where they've set up some tables to sell water and overpriced cheese sandwiches, no meeting rooms, just a couple of places where someone divided off a corner of the warehouse with prefab walls. It's just like one of those old London comic marts, which always had a few good things going on, and space to drink coffee, except for twice the size. And with serried ranks of playstations, x-boxes and gamecubes, all showing the new Spiderman game.

...but only twice the size, and that's what really comes as a surprise. Yes, there were always slightly fewer people than before every year, but this is a major lurch downwards in numbers. Or was it just that there wasn't a bar at the venue, and that everyone was up at the City Inn (where the guests were staying) where they could get cold beer and avoid R2D2. Not that I have anything against R2D2, per se, but Star Wars is Star Wars and comics are comics.(Speaking of which, I got a free copy of the Phantom Menace graphic novel in my convention bag. Oh cheers, just as the memory was beginning to fade ...) That said, if the subculture as a whole is fading, it wasn't showing in the small press, which was full of bewildering number of new people, old people, people I met while I was drunk, people I should have been shmoozing with, young people, pretty people, lovely people, terrifying rock gods!!! ... and all the others, of course. The comics ranged from shiny to tiny, and though I was largely cashless, we still fetched up with a great many.

The Goodman twins (David and Arthur) have plans afoot and buckets of teeny, funny minis, some designed to be folded and sent through the post which is fun. I also chatted to (and photographed) Selina Lock, who's just brought out a really great anthology called The Girly Comic which she has printed in her room on a colour laser printer, wow! it looks great, as well as being a technological leap, and the anthology has lots of great people in it (Lee Kennedy and Terry Wiley, anyone?) as well as lots of new people, too -- My Poison Pen Pal, by Barry Williams and Paul Harrison, struck a special chord! Not online, I don't think, but it has a page in the current Borderline if you want to see some pictures. Also had a chat with Gary Spencer Millidge, creator of Strangehaven, wondering if he'll ever come back to Caption. Interesting talk: he reveals to me that he never felt really comfortable among the small pressers. "I really am in it to make a living," he says, "I want to take it all the way, be properly commercial. Lots of the other creators, even the more successful ones, they're happy to go so far but no further. Not me. I want to be a commercial success. And the feeling I got at Caption was that that wasn't what a lot of people were about, that people disapproved of that." I'm fascinated, and we chat for a bit, but all to soon he has to talk to another fan. He looks like he's doing well, though, really very well.

We spend an abortive half-hour looking for lunch, but thanks to truecatechresis's parents' generosity with croissants at breakfast this morning I'm not hungry, which is just as well as there doesn't seem to be any pubs near the station that're selling food. I run back to the Con, leaving the hardier souls to forage further afield. I go and look for Terry Wiley, but he's nowhere to be seen. Apparently he's off with his friends from sissyfight (an online slapping game where he finds his girlfriends) so we'll probably not be seeing him. Instead I track down Matt (Brooker -- also known as D'Emon D'Raughtsman D'Israeli) and he shows me the awesome stuff he's been doing for defunct online one-stop comics shop, Cool Beans. He's a bit out of pocket over the whole fiasco, but has plenty more work, and seems happy enough, doing Sandman sketches for German fans. I found Anna and Karen Ruben drawing and eating sandwiches (I think) but they had run out of comics yesterday, a shame as I'd sent my copy of their brilliant colour mini of tough-talking, straight-shooting fairies to Canada for a Christmas present. I heard that a bit actually, Jez (Higgins) had also run out of TRS but chatted to wild-eyed me, anyway. He had a table full of ultra-cheap Kirby madness (Cherokee Crash, Boom Wargods of Atlantis) so we bought a few I liked the covers on which made no sense but who cares! Sense is not what these comics are about! And then there was Zulu, and other stuff, too, by Colin Mathieson, who had (like me) done a strip about meeting Eddie Campbell. Lot of that going around, I suppose. A really nice guy -- turned out, he too had accidentally called him Alec. It's incredibly hard not to; you're looking at this guy, you know him, he's a few years older, admittedly, but dammit, that's Alec McGarry standing there ... and even though you know logically, that that's Eddie, what are you going to call him? Yeah, Alec.

He wasn't at comics 2002. I don't really know who was -- the only total fan-conversation I had was with Paul Grist ("Just had to tell you, Jack Staff is completely brilliant, I *really* enjoy it") but even that probably doesn't count as I do know him.

So, yeah, Comics 2002. Not so bad for an event held in a barn. For the leading event of the UK Comics Scene? Erm ...

[incidentally, I didn't even scratch the surface of the pile of comics we got this year -- so more will probably follow]
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