So, where were we?
Oh, yes. So we've covered a few panels from Saturday. But the other side of the Con Experience is obviously the chance to actually meet creators. To get things signed, to get sketches done, and hopefully get a chance to actually talk to them. Some my attempts to do this did not go according to plan, this year. In 2008 it was far easier to find people, because we had a handy dealer hall diagram, numbering up who was where. Not so this year. Which meant that while I had things for Gary Erskine and Charlie Adlard to sign, I actually didn't find THEM until the Sunday. And at a point where I then discovered the stuff I had wanted them to sign... was in the back of the car.
But of all those creators present I was absolutely determined to meet Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. These guys, to me, were such a huge part of comics while I was growing up. Captain Britain and Excalibur were THE keystone books that brought me into reading comics, there was no way that I was going to miss out on getting a sketch off Alan and have Mark ink it.
Much was said last year about the organisation of the queueing at BICS. I'd have to say that by and large it wasn't so bad this year. That said it's pretty unavoidable really that if you want to get something sketched by a big name artist you will have to queue. 2 hours in fact. I'm not grumbling! Some of the best chatting that I get to do at Cons comes from queueing in this manner. And in fact, while queueing I actually finally got to meet Dave Williams.
Dave is involved with the "Waiting for the Trade" podcast, and was a fellow ardent supporter of Captain Britain & MI13. Whenever I know know I'm going to be at an event like this I like to encourage people to come and say. And so it was this morning that Dave and I had exchanged an odd set of Twitter posts:
ukdavew: For those at BICS who might want to say hi. Today I'm bedecked in my Nightwing tshirt and if I summon courage will be handing out wftt cards
theswordisdrawn: @ukdavew Sound. For all #BICS attendees I will be in a Thundercats T-Shirt with a striped shirt on top. This is all very covert, no?
ukdavew: @theswordisdrawn covert yes...as embarrassing as going up to the wrong guy and asking if his sword is drawn? No
The man has a point.
We've spoken to each other a few times online, but it's always great to actually put a face to the name, as well. The British comic convention going crowd are not actually as big as you might imagine. It's always great to go to one, recognise somebody you've spoken to before and exchange stories. This is all part of the Con experience.
Great to meet you Dave. And thanks to the other who did say 'Hi' but who didn't actually introduce themselves by name. It's always reassuring to meet people who are actually aware of the blog. I get a fair bit of positive feedback online, but actually speaking to people in the outside and real world is brilliant. I'm glad you enjoy it.
So, Davis and Farmer! I was determined to get a sketch done, as opposed to having them sign something. This was because you never know how a creator might want to do things. I've known some guys to say 'Sketch or Sign - one or the other, but not both'. And that really would have crushed me. and so, and partly due to the weight it would have added to my bag, I chose not to bring my Captain Britain Omnibus with me. Or indeed my ClanDestine hardcover - which I could not find on the day. This I regretted terribly.
Especially when the guy two ahead of me produced his Omnibus for Davis to sign. It certainly seemed from Alan's response that this might have been the first time he'd actually seen the finished article. He explained to that guy that the introduction of his at the front of the book was one which he originally wrote for the 2001 collected addition of his and Alan Moore's run (Also collected in this volume) which marvel rejected at the time. I didn't get to hear clearly why. So I'm not going to post up what I thought I heard in error. But it really was fantastic to see Davis looking over this volume - a collection which many people thought would never come out.
From left to right: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and also Pasqual Ferry, visible at the far right of the table.
When Alan Davis asked me what I'd like him to sketch I think I kind of confused him a little. Here he was through most of the afternoon being asked to draw Thor, Wonder Woman and other mainstream big hitters of Marvel and DC.
And then I turn up.
And ask him to sketch The Fury.
To which he said just replied 'Sure' and got on with it. When he handed the sketch to Mark Farmer, Mark kind of queried "The Fury???". "It's what the gentleman asked for," Davis said. I think they were both a little confused by the choice. I really wish that I'd had time to explain the Blog to them, and give my usual spiel. But to be honest, by this point they'd both been doing this solidly for 2 hours, in the kind of heat which required the show guys to bring a fan in as Mark Farmer began inking the sketch. I didn't want to push my luck to be honest.
So, to add to my growing collection of obscure Marvel UK Con Sketch requests (I say collection - it's really only two sketches so far)I now have another. And frankly how could I not get Marvel UK's finest art duo to add to it? To me The Fury, in its original form, represents one of the most disturbing adversaries to have ever have appeared in comics. It's a part organic machine, with only one purpose. It kills superhumans. That's all it does - but it never fails in doing it. It doesn't stop, it isn't weak to superpowers, it heals wounds, it doesn't feel, it doesn't question, it doesn't let up. The universe it was born into was destroyed but somehow it managed to survive.
The Fury can't be reasoned with. It doesn't monologue its plans to a hero before it tries to kill them. It just stares on, through that odd looking optical display, and the snuffs out the life of it's target. I don't think you can even call it Evil, per se. It just does as it's programmed to. And that, for me, is what makes it such a damned special adversary. This thing killed Captain Britain, remember. That's not an easy thing to do.
And so here it is - the finished article (Click to Enlarge):
And I'm pretty bloody chuffed with it too.
Needless to say that actually took up most of the Saturday afternoon. But we did manage to get in for the judging of the Cosplay competition, hosted by Irma Page, and judged (And you had to think they knew what they were letting themselves in for) by Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood. (For anybody who has not heard the infamous drunken panel which they did at Bristol Comic Expo this year you can find it HERE. Surprisingly this one podcast cannot be found on iTunes). When asked what he had in his hip flask, early into the panel, Dan replied that "It ruins Mothers". Which should probably hint to you at the tone of the proceedings. :)
Click to enlarge.
This panel really was far more fun than it deserved to have been, and really was the perfect end to the first day. In this one panel we were introduced to the perviest Spider-man I have ever seen, a mute but determined Pink Ranger, a rather worry Tank BOY ('I'm taking Tank Girl back... for the... boys?') and a small child dressed as Anakin Skywalker who had the courage to shout down his own Dad during his questioning!
But the overall winner was the guy who had come dressed as the Smallville version of Green Arrow. He'd actually gone to some quite considerable lengths of contacting the guys who made the bow for the series, to get the design specs for it, and to get the costume design. A costume which was, he admitted, stitched together by his (Long-suffering?) other half in the audience. Complete with the comedy detachable codpiece - which I'm sure you can all appreciate created much mirth.
So that was Day One. Largely focussed around queueing. We were determined to spend as little of Day 2 doing that as possible, and to get to see the rest of the con (Which my wonderful other half had done on Saturday, whilst Fliss and I queued for Davis). So we drove back down the M6 to Warwickshire to plot out Sunday, returning the following morning.
I was wearing a striped shirt and Space Invaders T-Shirt should it please you to knows this...
Of course Day 2 of a con will always be a little different to Day 1. Day 1 you've got all the adrenaline flowing. You're ready to take on all that it throws at you. Until by the end of the day you're actually pretty knackered. It should be noted that this is the first photo we have of BICS this year, on Saturday morning.
Three friends, too enthused by the concept of a Weekend Pass wristband and a goody bag, to even thing just how corny an 'All-foe-one' style photograph might look when posted up on this blog.
But compare the level of boundless enthusiasm captured in that photo at the start of Day 1, to the following photo, taken by my better half, at the very start of Day 2.
Take a long hard look at this man. Look at his bemused expression. That is the look of a man who has been broken. A man who has not had time to shave in order to get here this morning. A man who's bag is already too heavy from books he wants signing. A man who's feet still have not forgiven him over the Davis queue scenario, and who only got a minimal amount of sleep last night. Look at him. Pity him.
That said Day 2 actually went very well. We began by sitting in on the Adapting the Classics panel, held by Steve Green, and with Ian Edginton, and some of they guys from Classical Comics and Self Made Hero (best know for their Manga Shakespeare). Quite an interesting panel. I do admire both of these companies, for what they do, although I've always felt slightly sorry for Classical Comics in a certain respect, because their output is kind of directed by what happens to be on the syllabus for British schools that year.
I mean I'm sure there are some guys working there who are really itching to do a fully bloody bloody adaptation of Titus Andronicus, with at least one death occurring every few pages just as they occur on stage. I bet they're relishing just how to show Tamora, queen of the Goths, being served her sons, backed in a pie!
But, no. 'They've asked for Romeo and Juliet'. :)
As some of you are probably aware I come from a theatre background. I used to be a paid actor, and I have a degree in Theatre. Coming from Warwickshire, birthplace of Shakespeare, those plays are in my blood. But I bloody HATE Romeo and Juliet. I think it's a terrible play, over-analysed by generations of terrible academics ensuring that it stays on every English syllabus in ever school. And I hate them just as much for doing that. While the mores grisly and complex plays don't get covered.
Actually, while it's almost ten years ago now, both H and I used to talk about doing graphic novels which told stories spilling out of the pages of a number of Shakespeare's plays. It was started in part, I think, because I was on a real Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead kick, but some of those ideas, especially H's were actually pretty good. We really aught to go back to those at some point.
We stayed (once again in those same bloody seats) for the Michuru Morikawa panel. Now I really did not know what to expect of this. I'm not really very versed in Manga. Some of the genre and sub-genres Manga has to offer intrigue me, others just confuse me. But I stuck around to see this and was very pleasantly surprised. Michuru Morikawa seems to primarily draw illustrations for younger readers, although her style is a real kind of, almost stream of consciousness, of childhood thought and games. It was quite inspiring to hear her talk actually. She came across as being incredibly down to earth, and even stated that she refused to spend more than a pound on any given item of art equipment. I think that H was quite inspired by finding out that she uses the same kind of gel pens she does.
But the real highlight of this panel came via Michuru Morikawa primarily being here to publicise the graphic novel she had recently finished drawing for Insomnia Publications called Buskers.
Buskers is written by Jeymes Samuel, and is unusual in as much as while this is the graphic novel of Buskers, it is also currently still in production as a movie(www.buskersthemovie.com).
Morikawa told the audience that while she was illustrating the graphic novel of Buskers she was not actually shown anything about the movie in progress. No casting information, or production photographs. She also pointed out that while she had been receiving scripts by email from Jeymes Samuel, she'd never actually met him.
Which was about the time where Samuel himself raised his hand in the audience to Morikawa's left, and introduced himself. I'm sure he'd planned that, but to her it was a total surprise. Samuel explained how he had picked Michuru Morikawa from a whole host of other artists shown to him. She was the one he thought was best suited to the job, and that he had wanted to Buskers as a graphic novel separate to the movie.
It was a little surreal, but a really nice moment for the Con. And it prompted me to go over to the Insomnia stand when I had a moment a get Michuru Morikawa to sign me a copy, as you can see from the cover scan above.
With two panels under our belt we figured it was long overdue time that we went around the dealer hall PROPERLY.
Something very interesting had happened at BICS this year. Several months before the con there had been rumblings from several small press companies and creators that while they would be attending BICS this year they would not be booking a stall. They weren't happy with a price rise this year. I had worried that the result of this would be a rather sparse looking dealer hall. And that would not be good.
Luckily that wasn't the case. While it is fair to say the number of stalls was a little less than last year, and a little disappointing that Panini UK in particular were nowhere to be seen this year, what this actually resulted in was that BICS 2009 really was the Year of the SMALL PRESS GUY. In previous years some small press guys have often found themselves only able to get a small plot in foyer. But with more space next door, this year, it meant that there was far more room to get them far better exposure. And they really rose to the occasion, with some truly ingenious ways of attracting buyers' attention and maximising their opportunity.
Take the numerous creators who had banded together to form The Manchester Comix Collective. More people, more capital to get a good stand. And they got a good location, too. Nice guys. I hope they did some good trade last weekend.
And I still have my (Now slightly crumpled through being in my pocket most of the weekend) Fetishman Pound:
Both sides of a Bank of Fetishman One Fetishman Pound note (Click to Enlarge - Pun probably intended).
A great way of publicising a book which isn't out yet, whilst drawing attention those which are for sale. Anybody whose sales pitch is 'It really is just one joke, pitched at lowest possible denominator' gets may backing. Because one gag it may really be, but it still makes me laugh. We bought all their back issues, actually ;)
If you're not easily offended really do check out their website: www.fetishman.co.uk
Other guys who parted me with my hard earned cash over the weekend included the guys at Accent UK, from whom I bought several of their titles including The Wolfmen, which I forgot to pick up last year. 1960s London underworld - with werewolves! How could I not?
I also made a trip to the Markosia stand, where I picked up Rich Johnston's The Flying Friar (Which I was looking for last year, but totally forgot about until it was too late) and H picked up a copy of Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood's Hope Falls. Both of which I would very seriously recommend. And I also wish I'd gone with my instincts and picked up Cancertown and Burke and Hare from the Insomnia stand, as I have been hearing quite a bit of positive talk about both since the con. Will have to look into acquiring those.
We also totally forgot to go back to the Handknit Heroes stall. We had to credit these guys with unique sales pitch. Get a comic... and a knitting pattern. We seriously wanted a pair of knitted goggles, for the kitsch value alone. But alas, as with so many things you look at during a con, there's always a few which you just don't remember about until after the event. That's why I like to add links to these reports and pick up as many business cards as possible.
Another example would be the guys from Robosteel. These guys make sculptures of sci-fi characters out of cog, pipes, ad other metal object hand-welded together. The Optimus Prime statue currently on their homepage was at BICS. It was HUGE, you could hardly miss it. They had some really nice smaller sculptures, of which intended to purchase one. Again, forgot, sadly.
But aside from the Dealer Hall there was one last thing I wanted to make sure we did before leaving. This would not be a complete BICS without me bothering Paul Cornell to sign something! Last year, you may remember, it was #1 of Captain Britain & MI13. This year I was going for something a little more ambitious. Paul's Wisdom trade, and also all three trade volumes of Captain Britain & MI13 (Still can't believe it's gone.) We had missed Paul the day before, as while he was doing signings we were stuck in the queue for Alan Davis. So we were determined to arrive in good time for the Sunday signing. However, much as though we arrived to join the queue in good time, there was a bit of a problem.
You see the tables in this part of the foyer seat 3 creators comfortably, with room for 3 queues. The session before was supposed to be Mark Buckingham, Howard Chaykin and Andy Diggle. Unfortunately, Andy Diggle had been delayed on the Sunday. He hadn't arrived, and was posting apologies for the delay on his Twitter feed. So at that point there had only been two people at the table. However, the queues for both Chaykin and Buckingham were HUGE. And both like to chat while they sketch, which is great while you're getting your sketch of course, but does slow up the line.
Add to this that due to the demand for Alan Davis and Mark Farmer the day before, they had agreed to turn up early and make sure more people got served today. They took the far right of the table, taking the number of creators at the table to four and starting an even BIGGER third queue.
Then, of course Andy Diggle DID arrive, full of apologies, but with very little time of his signing session remaining. The was no queue for him, now, and with four people at the table he had to find another chair, and tried to squeeze in where there should have been, but now wasn't, really space for him. By which point those who WANTED Diggle couldn't get to him anyway, due to space taken up by the other three queues.
We're now into the next signing session's allotted time. We're still standing to the left of these queues, waiting for that session to begin. We say 'Hi' to Paul Cornell as he arrives. But as he does arrive he's got nowhere to sit. Only Paul, Alan Davis and Mark Farmer are supposed to be here. But now there's FIVE creators ALREADY at the table. Howard Chaykin is effectively in his seat. Chaykin's clearly not intending leaving any time soon - and would YOU challenge Howard Chaykin. I bloody wouldn't! ;D
They may have closed queues for both Chaykin and Mark Buckingham, now, but with the number of people left to be served they're still going to be awhile.
Andy Diggle eventually gives up, and says his goodbyes to those around him. But while Diggle may have vacated a chair there's still not really room for Paul Cornell to get in at the table. There wasn't room for Diggle, in the first place.
But it's okay Chaykin's queue has now finished! So surely he's going to vacate his seat now? Yeah?
No. Apparently not yet...
So in the end Paul very kindly decided to throw caution to the wind and do some signing the other side of the table, instead.
Who needs Chaykin?
Which is why we still maintain that Paul Cornell is one of the nicest blokes in comics. Four trades signed, and a bit of chat about Captain Britain, and the man didn't even HAVE to sit down to do it! He's always very approachable, and a real asset to the panels he does.
Thanks Paul. We really DO appreciate it.
(And a request to the organisers: Next year would it be possible to have a permanent staff member marshalling the queues? Things got a bit hectic this year, and there wasn't really anybody official around, to ask what was going on.)
Well that's about it on the subject of BICS 2009. Once again an incredibly enjoyable weekend. Great to see everyone. And I cannot impress enough on people how inspiring I found it to be, talking to all the small press guys. In the current comics climate, and in particular this last 12 months, where the big guns have almost shut up shop on smaller titles in favour of a drive towards Event only comics to see so many people being organised enough to produce such good Small Press product, and to see such incredible enthusiasm tied to their doing it, has just about reassured my faith in Comics.
Thank you, Guys. This was your year, and you bloody well deserved it.
I hope that BICS really does continue to grow, with the funding now helping them out. As I've said before this is the perfect location for this kind of event.
I'm glad that while I only managed to find him very late into the day, I DID finally get to meet Marvel UK back-up strip legend, Lew Stringer, who despite being on his way out of the Con was still willing to have a very quick chat. Lew tells me that while the editors at Marvel UK always told him that his Combat Colin strip was popular, he never saw any letters confirm the fact. That IS a shame. I know for certain that a younger version of myself wrote to the Transformers letters page quite specifically praising the strip. And from the emails I received after running the recent A to Z article I was not alone.
Thanks, Lew! We DID appreciate it.
Before I sign off though, there is one question I would pose to others who attended BICS this year. The programme for this year stated the following, in blurb for the final panel of the day:
"Including exclusive news about BICS 2010 and a prize ceremony for our 2009 competition winners".
I was at this panel. That did not happen, to my knowledge. Anybody else know differently?
Okay, that really IS it now. But as always feel free to discuss any of this report, and your own experiences, in the comments section below.