December 10th, 2013
A thought occurs to me as I drag my sickly drunk head back to Glasgow from the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds: aren’t DECADENCE comics all a bit super-boyish in the end?
My throat too hoarse to speak with due to Saturday night shouting and Sunday con hustle, my brain so detached from its immediate environment that at one point I have to croak at Mister Attack to ask if we are in fact going backwards, the only thing I am able to do properly is comics. And so, I read through Lando’s Olympic Games, taking in page after page of landscapes that look as bare and arid as my larynx feels, squinting at the characters in survival suits, loving every second of it but questioning myself all the same.
“He’s just ridiculously on, isn’t he?” Mister Attack says.
I wince my agreement and keep on flicking.
It’s the survival suits that give me pause. As I shift out of Olympic Games and into a couple of comics by Stathis Tsemberlidis, Neptune’s Fungi and Epicurean Paradox, my drunken brain starts to worry that the spacesuits are emblematic of an attempt to build a stylish fictional identity, a barrier between person and world. My earlier thoughts about this aesthetic being “super-boyish” already seems glib and reductive to me, even if I can see where this thought came from. Something about the collision of cool influences, the sense that you’re reading the works of people who read only right comics from France and Japan, combined with a knee-jerk panic that aesthetics this good must in some way be suspect.
Where did I get the idea that comics could be cool? That they could communicate with the world while seeming at ease in it? From Brandon Graham, maybe, or perhaps just from The Internet.
Why would an encounter with these values provoke scrutiny? Perhaps because these comics do not reflect the values associated with my own formative experiences of the medium, bound up as they are with alt-comics and (sub-)superhero stories that mirror my own awkward, convoluted brand of self-reflection a little bit too clearly.
Comics scholars more erudite than me can argue about which specific artists have influenced Lando, Stathis and co, and armchair psychiatrists can deal with my issues at some later date – in this moment, my bleary brain is only capable of tracking where the lines on my face are going, rather than where they come from.
November 29th, 2012
The Beast Must Die: So frazzled, bedraggled and maybe even bedazzled we all arrived safely back from this year’s Thought Bubble 2012 comics festival in Leeds, which once again proved itself to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience for everyone. It gets the tone just right – an even balance between mainstream and fringe, with the small press rubbing shoulders with industry pros. Girls, boys, seasoned fans, neophytes, kids, pensioners, cosplayers and the just plain weird, the TB crowd is diverse, good natured and one of the best aspects of the whole affair.
Attending something like Thought Bubble also reminds you first and foremost why you love the artform, a welcome shot of 4-colour adrenaline to enliven even the most message board weary fan.
The Mindless Ones were there in pretty full effect, with Andrew Hickey, Gary Lactus and myself joined by Legendary Weapons Bobsy & Illogical Volume, as well as Mindless Cadet, Mister Attack and the living juggernaut that is Plok. We were positioned on the right hand side of the newly christened New Dock Hall. Andrew was selling his arsenal of wonderful music and comics books, as well as a new volume of his short stories. Lactus had the collected full colour beauty of The Amusing Bros and Andrew & Steven in Knights Of The Realm, and I was touting Cindy & Biscuit, including the brand new 56 page issue no.3. Mr Attack had his comic Everyone’s Felt Like This Once for sale, and Bobsy brought along a free comic featuring both the current PM and Lord Horror no less. Together we formed like Bruticus and set about ensnaring the public.
On a personal level I don’t think I could have had a better time of it. The reception that Cindy & Biscuit received was heartening, and I sold almost everything I took with me. What was especially gratifying was the breadth of customers I had – I sold a lot to kids this year, which was ace. It’s great to think of them reading mys stuff at home, and I just hope they were all appropriately thrilled, amused or spooked by Cindy & Biscuit. Lots of nice people said lots of nice things about it too, from comics pro’s to fans who bought earlier issues the previous year. All in all I was pretty damn chuffed.
It was great chatting to friend of SILENCE!, Al Ewing, whose gift to us was surely the best comic con exclusive that has ever been. He and his lovely friends were all most accommodating to our frazzled selves in the hotel bar on Sunday evening. It was as nice to see Kieron Gillen as ever, and I enjoyed talking to ace 2000AD scribe Rob Williams about Low Life. I was too nervous to speak to John Wagner, and certainly too nervous to ask him to say ‘I AM THE LAW’ in his stentorian Hibernian brogue. We happened to be on the table next to British comics catalyst Paul Gravett, along with comics artist and scholar John Miers and his lovely partner Megan, who co-runs the Comica Festival with Paul. Paul was his usual enthusiastic self, and did the circuits with his usual charm and aplomb. John and Megan were also excellent company, and truly sympathetic hangover buddies on Sunday. John’s comics are here and info about Comica is here.
Add to that the thrills of our ongoing experiment in listener alienation with our SILENCE! Thought Bubble special, the epic drinkery at the post TB Saturday night bash at the Leeds Corn Exchange, and you have a pretty full weekend. As I stated earlier, the atmosphere at Thought Bubble is open, friendly and enthusiastic. I can’t rate it high enough, and will certainly back next year.
But really, I hear you pretty much scream, FOR THE LOVE OF AQUAMAN, WHAT ABOUT THE COMICS???????!