Well, technically I was back Sunday night. It's a long story. Long story short - my infuriating monitor (See earlier Blogs) finally gave up the ghost just after I'd managed to transfer all the photos and scans over to it on Sunday night. And so, while this entry was started then it's taken this long to get it out via my Laptop and a touch of swearing.
I had a really great weekend. The Birmingham show is in a really good place right now. It's big enough to be able to attract people like Cassaday, Coipel, and Golden to appear but still on a scale which gives you the chance to actually get things signed by, drawn by and actually speak to the guys. Which of course I did.
I didn't make it to the launch party sadly (Due to late work and travel) so I missed the wonders of Liam Sharp and Charlie Adlard's "Giant-Sized Band-Thing". Luckily, for you and I Liam has posted up some YouTube links over at Millarworld. Go to YouTube and search for "Giant-Sized Band-Thing" or click on the link below to experience for yourself what Mr Sharp describes as:
"The worlds most talented group!!!
Uhm, y'know, artistically that is. In that we can all draw a bit... :b"
Giant-Sized Band-Thing, Live at the launch party
So... it wasn't until Saturday morning that my two cohorts (Hannah and Fliss) and I entered the fray, accompanied a little later by our 2000 AD fanatic, Mike. The Thinktank was a pleasing venue, despite being possessed of some of the weirdest escalators you'll ever encounter. Escalators which appeared to be possessed of a rather temperamental mind of their own. They appeared to go both up and down at will, and never the right way when you wanted them to - leading, rather annoyingly to my missing the first 5-10 minutes of the John Cassaday/Olivier Coipel panel.
Although, to be fair, so did Olivier - that man was in demand, on Sunday! ;D
I had planned to take a hell of a lot of photos across the weekend (By MY standards of documentation) but as it turned out the total number clocked up on the camera was very conservative. Largely because we went to most of the panels in the theatre over the two days (And I feel that there's possibly nothing more off-putting to somebody speaking in front of an audience than a stray camera flash). That said we did try to get a few shots from Saturday morning's Comic Artists Flip Out sketch session, of which the following is the clearest.
From left to right that's Doug Braithwaite, Staz Johnson, Mark Buckingham and at the far end Shane Oakley who filled in for Doug, when he had been delayed.
This session was a lot of fun, with the audience being given raffle tickets on entry, taking requests for sketches from the audience, and then a number being drawn for who'd receive each each sketch. Now it is true that it seemed that Shane Oakley did not truly know how to draw some of the requests fired at him - but his renditions of Iron Man and the Hulk were brilliant fun to watch in progress. As was Mark Buckingham's Doctor Octopus "Look, no hands!" toilet sketch - which Fliss was lucky enough to win.
In the afternoon we decided to go and bother Paul Cornell for a signing. Arming myself with a copy of Captain Britain & MI:13 #1 (Well, what else would it be ;D ) and Fliss with her copy of #5 for signing, that's exactly what we did.
Now granted Paul was at a slight disadvantage that while he was signing he also had John Cassaday to his right doing sketches, and there was a bit of confusion in line as to exactly who was queuing for whom. But amongst the many people queuing up with Astonishing X-Men and Planetary trades I was very pleased to see plenty others with issues of Captain Britain & MI:13, Fantastic Four: True Story and Paul's Wisdom series – which pleased me in particular, due to those being sported both in singles and in trades. I loved that series, and while it has taken a while for the good word to spread about it I'm very glad to see that it has.
I'm sure you'll all be pleased to hear that Paul comes across as being just as nice a bloke in person as he does in interview. We did give him a bit of a conundrum in signing Fliss' cover (#5, brilliant though it is, is largely black. As was Paul's pen ;D ) but he was a good sport, signed my cover, and was even good enough to pose for this rather cod photo.
And yes, that is John Cassaday on the left of the photo. Oh and please note:
It's "Mr. Sword" now. Paul says so. Show respect accordingly. ;D
Cornell later joined up with Dave Gibbons, Mark Buckingham and Doug Braithwaite for one of the highlights of the weekend, Geek Syndicate podcast's Brits in American comics panel. In which we discovered a number of things - including Dave Gibbons' lesser known past, posing as in house superhero Big E, for Tornado magazine. It was actually a pretty interesting panel providing some insights into the British Invasion of American comics (Although as Gibbons pointed out in many ways it wasn't so much 'an invasion' as American publishers contacting them, with some very fair incentives). In many ways it was a shame that this one was limited to 45 minutes (As were all the panels). When you get four creators such as these in a room together you really want to give them as long a time as they're willing to offer. There were still several hands up for questions as time was being called (Mine included) and another 15-20 minutes would have allowed for that.
A lot of praise was given for 2000 AD here, and while that's great I did want to counterbalance things a little by bring up the subject of Marvel UK. Mark Buckingham had worked for M:UK as had Doug Braithwaite (As was mentioned briefly) and I had wanted to ask how effective a route into the American market they felt that had been, and as to whether they thought how much of its passing had been a factor in the eventual decline of the British comic Industry through the 90s.
For those interested - and I think it might be of some particular interesting to some of our American readers - Geek Syndicate have put the whole panel up online as a podcast. You can find it on their site (http://geeksyndicate.libsyn.com/), or via searching for Geek Syndicate on iTunes.
Mow, Going back to Mark Buckingham, yes, he did indeed work for Marvel UK. He's far better known for his work on Fables, Hellblazer (and Marvelman, for those with longer memories) but I decided to go and surprise/confuse him by queuing up on Sunday morning and asking him to sketch something slightly more obscure - which is largely how I introduced myself. He seemed quite curious as to what the request might be, but when I mentioned it was a character from a book he did with Nick Vince he very quickly realised what I was talking about.
"Ah! Immortalis," he replied, rather enjoying the word. I knew from there that my request was okay. ;D
Regular readers of this Blog will probably know of my enthusiasm for Mortigan Goth. Back in 1993 Marvel UK did a short line of more adult focused, Vertigo style books, under the sub-imprint of "Marvel Frontier Comics". Mortigan Goth: Immortalis was one of the books which was part of that. You can read more about the character here: Who the hell is Mortigan Goth?
Mark said that it was nice that somebody still remembered the character. I think he was quite surprised when I told him that Mortigan had actually been referenced a couple of months ago in Captain Britain and MI:13 (It's in #2, if you were wondering, when Wisdom, Spitfire and John encounter Excalibur for the first time). I chatted for a while with Mark, his other half and Manolis Vamvounis of Comic Nexus (Whom I've spoken to many a time online, and even judged in Comixfan's Supervillain Idol contest earlier this year, but amusingly neither of us actually realised we were talking to each other until after the con.) as he drew the sketch. He came across as a genuinely top bloke, and said that he would have no problem with my displaying the sketch on this blog. So here it is (Click to enlarge):
Not bad, eh?
Other highlights of the weekend included the John Cassaday and Olivier Coipel panel (Again, I wished they'd been given a little more time), Paul Gravett's Incredibly Strange Comics (If you are a fan of sites like superdickery.com, you'd have loved this) and watching the two heats of the BICS 2000 AD pitch competition. It really was a great weekend all round. I was utterly knackered by the end of it, of course, but that's all part of the fun! A big thanks to Shane Chebsey and the guys for organizing this one. I look forward to next year.
One more item of news though. Going back a couple of Blogs you'll remember that I was talking about the (Sort of) announcement that Marvel would be putting out a Captain Britain Omnibus in 2009. Well, on Sunday I got talking with the guys on the Panini UK stand, and specifically the guy who is currently editing the Captain Britain: Birth of a Legend volumes which reprint the earliest Captain Britain continuity. Embarrassingly, in the days since the con I have completely forgotten this guy's name. Embarrassing because I spent a good twenty minutes speaking to him (A tall guy with long brown tied back brown hair, and eyeliner) about Captain Britain, Death's Head, the upcoming Dragons Claws trade even Night Raven (Which apparently cannot be collected right now, due to copyright/creative problems he didn't feel it would be professional to go into).
We got talking about the Captain Britain reprint trades. Vol 3 will be out shortly, and they are going to be collecting the Black Knight/Captain Britain stories Steve Parkhouse and Steve Dillon did for the UK Hulk Comic. I then brought up the subject of the Captain Britain Omnibus, saying that of course we don't really know what that's going to be collecting.
To which he responded that he did, because Marvel US had called him the previous week asking for the files! You see, as many of you may already know, a lot of the Marvel UK original art for many books simply doesn't exist any more (A fair chunk of artwork also ended up being chucked out when the Marvel UK imprint years ended, and the office was cleared out) and so the guys at Panini have been working really bloody hard to find original issues of Captain Britain, scan them and clean them up for publishing. And they've been doing a great job.
So what does this mean for the Omnibus? well, I guess it depends what material Marvel US already have and when they intend to release the book. Panini have been putting out a Captain Britain trade one a year for the last three. The scanning of all this past material is still very much a work in progress. We'll have to wait and see just what turns out to BE in the omnibus, but if scanning is underway for those Black Knight and Captain Britain stories (Especially with the two being reunited now in Captain Britain and MI:13) I think it's a fair bet that Marvel would be pretty likely to include them.
My own personal reckoning is that if we see a Captain Britain Omnibus released very early into 2009 I would imagine it to probably cover all of the Captain Britain Weekly and Super Spider-man and Captain Britain stories, and finish with the Marvel Team-Up issue with Spider-man (Written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Byrne). If the Omnibus is released a little later into the year we'll almost certainly get those Hulk Comic stories and maybe more besides (After all, Marvel do have the David Thorpe/Alan Moore/Alan Davis stories which follow, as they follow directly on and They've reprinted them before in the 90s).
It's not a definite answer, but it's a bit more info in the right direction. In the meantime the Panini volumes collect a lot of good stuff, and American readers may be able to purchase them through Amazon.
Anyway, that's me for the time being. I received a fair few sage nods from people at the Birmingham Show - Which either means I may have seen some of you, or simply that I'm the kind of person people like to nod sagely at. I'm not sure which. But if you were there I hope you had a good time.
Speak soon folks