Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The Return of Pyramid-Head!

Well, there we have it.

I hit the London MCM Expo at the weekend and, if anything, they'd managed to ratchet up the weirdness factor by several degrees over last year. The Pyramid Man (smartly dressed guy with wire pyramid on head) was back - oh, my yes. I was behind the Markosia stand when I saw him, and tragically without my camera for the moment, but he was there alright. I'd love to know what his deal is.

Rich Johnston managed to get to the gig, bringing his very own live-action Baby Boomer for good measure. Minor drama almost ensued when the tiny vandal got under the table and came within an inch of dragging the entire display onto the floor. Tragically, this inspiring display of artistic self-expression was cut short before reaching fruition.

I've come to appreciate the advantages of effective marketing at these gigs. In a former life, I earned part of my living pitching magic tricks from a stand in Hamleys (apparently the world's finest toy shop). Working the magic stands taught me lot about handling crowds, almost none of which is applicable to sitting at a comics convention signing books. However, with Nic and Ferret scouting for me, I ended up signing more books in an hour than in all my other signings combined. Well, maybe not - but I was surprised at the level of interest the book was getting.

The cosplayers really pushed the envelope this year. I'm so used to the ubiquitous Stormtroopers that I hardly even see them anymore, but I was still overwhelmed by the range of deep-seated personality disorders so painstakingly displayed. Particular highlights included the six-foot, middle-aged Pikachu, the fully functional Dalek sporting (perhaps unwittingly) an Afro Samurai sticker on the back of its head and the teenager in full Nazi uniform and cat ears. Yes, you read that correctly.

Glad as ever to escape with our lives and sanity, Nic, Ferret and I fled back to my place where I was scheduled to do a photoshoot for one of Ferret's quilt projects. Now, I really hate having my picture taken, but I'd promised to do this and Ferret's work is truly exceptional. No idea what to expect, but it was fun anyway. When we went to her show a while back, Nic fell in love with a piece called Decadence - so at the weekend we bought it. Check it out below and, while you're at it, visit Ferret's website for more information.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Still Too Old For This Shit?

Well, I'm off to the London MCM Expo at the weekend - apparently to sign copies of Starship Troopers. Still not used to that yet.

Should be fun, though. I went to this thing as a semi-impartial observer last year, and it's certainly a friendly convention. Should be a good chance to catch up with a couple of the people I met at Bristol, too.

Now, if I can just avoid getting roped into any cosplay competitions, everything should be fine...

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Food For Thought...

Al Schneider, one of my big heroes in magic, once wrote the following:

First there is a discussion about the importance of magic as a technology. I do not perceive myself as an artist but an engineer. The primary point of this discussion is that a magician must first be a technician then an artist. An artist can entertain but will not necessarily be a magician without studying magic as a technology.

As an exercise, try replacing the words "magic" and "magician" in that passage with "comics" and "comics storyteller".

Just a thought, really.

Monday, 12 May 2008

BCE Report Day Three: Con-clusion (ugh)...

So then - there's knackered, and there's convention knackered.

Nic and I kicked off Sunday with a double-shot of Geek Syndicate panels. First up was the "GS vs. Tony Lee" spot, in which Tony was quizzed on pretty much all aspects of his secret origin and subsequent assault on the industry. Interesting stuff, and Tony always holds a crowd's attention.

Directly after this, Tony turned the tables by hosting the UK podcasting panel, featuring representatives from the Geek Syndicate, Comic Racks, Birds of Geek and Comic Book Outsiders. There were several other podcasters in the audience, too, including Matt from the truly brilliant Quiet! Panelologists at Work. It was a killingly funny hour, and will be well worth checking out when the recording is released.

Nic had the first of three geek moments when she realised that the person she was sitting next to was Paul Cornell, but she had a mission to accomplish today and managed to remain pretty focused on it. You see, Manny from Whatever Comics had asked Nic to get an Adam Warlock sketch from Jim Starlin. This was serious business, and not to be undertaken lightly.

After a thirty-minute wait in line at Jim Starlin's table, Nic reached the front and managed to get two sketches - one for Manny and one for herself. Disaster almost struck when all of Jim's pens seemed to run out of ink simultaneously, but I was able to swoop in and donate a Sharpie to the cause. As far as I know, he still has it, and I'm hoping to use that fact as leverage at some point in the future...

Next up on Nic's hit-list was David Lloyd. Again, everything went alarmingly smoothly and she came away with a really nice V mask sketch from him. While this was going on I got a call from Insomnia's Crawford Coutts, asking me to get to their stand so I could take part in an interview with David Monteith of the Geek Syndicate. At precisely the right moment, Stephen Downey happened past and we were able to blast David full in the face with our Cancertown pitch. Hopefully, some of this was coherent enough to make it into the finished episode.

By this time it was getting on for 4pm, so I made my way back to the Markosia booth for my second signing session. Sunday was quieter than Saturday in general, but the crowds seemed more comics-focused than they had the previous day so I actually ended up signing more books this time around. I got a chance to talk to Cherie Donovan (who had completely lost her voice by this time) and Ian Sharman from Orang Utan, and met Karl - a regular from the Geek Syndicate forums who does what sounds like a fascinating talk on the science of super-heroes.

I also finally got to meet the legendary Tommy Castillo. He's a cool guy and an outstanding artist. Of course, by now I was so exhausted that I was barely able to string ten words together in sequence, but I hope I made some kind of sense.

That's about all she wrote for this year's BCE. Now I've got a couple of weeks to gear up for the London MCM Expo. It's a wild event with a lot of very serious-minded cosplaying going on, but I know I'll be there because I'm already listed on the website and the internet has never lied to me.

BCE Report Day Two: Con-catenation

Yup, today was pretty much everything it was cracked up to be. My friends Ferret, Tet and Robin showed up early and were a great source of moral support throughout the whole day. It honestly makes a huge difference going into one of these things with a couple of allies. Nic, of course, was her usual fantastic self.

Got an interesting mix of freebies in this year's giveaway bag. Everything from a history of the city in graphic novel form to a Heroclix Batman model. With a little judicious weeding, Nic and I sorted out the stuff we wanted to keep and kept our luggage-hauling to a minimum.

Finally got to meet Stephen Downey, the artist on Cancertown, face-to-face. Get this: the guy spent most of the convention sitting behind the Insomnia stand, actually working on the art for the next chapter! Now, that's an impressive level of concentration! He's a great guy with outstanding enthusiasm and talent. I know I've said it before, but I'm damn lucky to have fluked the chance to work with him. A year from now he's going to be well up in the big leagues.

The Insomnia stand seemed to be getting a lot of interest from the convention crowd, which can only be good news. Apparently, the 14-page Cancertown preview went down very well.

Also got a bit more information on the potential new gig I mentioned on Friday, Seems like a very intriguing project...

I checked out the Ardden Entertainment table, and got chatting to Richard Emms. Their Flash Gordon #0 is very impressive, and serves as a perfect vehicle for Paul Green's phenomenal art. They've been having a great deal of success with this so far, and I'm really excited to watch Paul's career continue to gather momentum. I still get a massive kick out of telling people that my Bad Blood story arc was his first published comic. Sadly, he wasn't able to make it to the convention, but I took every possible opportunity to spread the Paul Green legend to anyone who would listen.

Another potential gig fell into my lap today. All I can say right now is that I'm definitely going to be chasing this one...

Nic and I caught the Orang Utan panel, and had a great time there. These guys are really living the dream, having gone from a creators' collective to a full-blown publisher in no time flat. Great stuff.

Other notable players for the day included Tony Wicks and Martin Buxton, AKA Comics To Die For. These guys are producing some really interesting material, such as Last of the Chickenheads, Jack in the Box and the awesome Crowman. Check out Nic's reviews of some of their books on the Whatever Comics forum.

Ferret got talking to Bryan Talbot about the idea of using one of his designs for a quilt. He seemed intrigued, and quite open to the idea. If this comes to fruition (and no-one ever got rich betting against Ferret), it'll be a staggering piece.

I spent an hour or so on the Markosia stand, signing copies of Starship Troopers for anyone I could lock eyes with. I still find this a disorienting experience, and occasionally have to stop myself from going instinctively into my Svengali deck pitch from my days on the magic stalls at Hamleys. The Markosia guys are an absolute riot, and Harry Markos himself has just about the most determined and professional mind I've encountered in comics. I'm always impressed by people who have a clear idea what they want to accomplish, and then set out making it happen. Really nice guy, too.

Glenn Carter stopped by for a chat about Troopers while I was signing. He's written a couple of storming reviews for Bad Blood, so I was particularly pleased to see him. You can check out his assessments of issue #5 and issue #8 on the Comics Village website.

Can't leave off without mentioning Martin Fisher, a writer I met as a result of Insomnia's Layer Zero project. Martin's got a ton of ideas in his head and the drive to see them through. Definitely one to watch out for.

More later, including tales of Jim Starlin, David Lloyd and my very first podcast interview.

Friday, 9 May 2008

BCE Report Day One: Cosplaying With Fire

Right - I'm sitting in a nicely air-conditioned hotel room in Bristol with a massive bag of Minstrels and the kettle on, and I'm just about starting to regain my inner peace.

It shouldn't surprise many of the four or five people who occasionally read this blog that I am instinctively wary of cosplayers. They're great people, but they move in very different circles to me, and I'm generally lucky if I can recognise one character out of every dozen.

Anyway, fortified with an outstanding steak from "La Grotta" (one of my two favourite restaurants in the world), Nic and I hit the Ramada tonight to check out the Orang-Utan Comics Film Night. I got a chance to catch up briefly with Harry Markos and the Markosia Crew, and several other guys who were polite enough to pretend to almost-but-not-quite recognise me. Before we knew it, we'd wandered into the wrong part of town and wound up in the middle of a cosplay competition. I have now recalibrated my understanding of terror by three full points.

After the ordeal (in which a child dressed as a dog won a well deserved award in a category whose criteria I utterly failed to comprehend) we went pinball-style through the hotel bars, bumping into people and trying to give them reasons to care who we were. Fun times.

Had an enjoyable chat about movies with the mighty Barry Nugent from the utterly superb Geek Syndicate podcast, got talking to Stacebob from the also-brilliant Comic Racks and generally had a very cool time.

On a closing note, I'll say this: if you hang around Tony Lee for any length of time, shit starts to happen. Tony's a sort of professional lightning rod and, simply by standing next to him in a bar, a random spark connected and I've kinda been offered a very intriguing gig. More on that if anything comes of it.

Okay, three quarters of a bag of Minstrels later, I'm about ready to turn in. Back tomorrow, where the shit/fan dynamic looks set to get really interesting.

Nah, I can't back that up. I'm just looking forward to a fun day at the convention.

Bristol and/or Bust...

So, right around midnight after the hottest day of the year, my stairway floods. No warning, no explanation, just a steady flow of water coming out of the ceiling and raining down on my newly installed carpet. It lasts for about an hour, then stops. Called the the so-called emergency plumber, only to find that the "24 hour service" he advertises only counts if you ring between 10am and 4pm on a weekday.

Fuck this, I'm off to Bristol. I'll leave the flood damage and plumber head-busting to Future Cy. He loves all that stuff...

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Yup - Still Awesome!

Just spotted another review - this time for the concluding part of my first Starship Troopers story arc. So, between that and the bacon sandwiches I've woken up to this morning, I'm having a pretty great Saturday.

If you're interested, feel free to read the review here.
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