Monday, October 06, 2008

Mick's BICS.

Well, Birmingham International Comics Show went by in a flash, didn't it? It's in its third year now, and it keeps getting better. It's certainly more slick and better organised , less malodorous and in a nicer venue than its Bristol counterpart, but it's still not quite got the vibe that the Brizzle expo has. Like Sting says, though, I'm sure it'll come eventually.

Andy Winter and I were there to flog Septic Isle, we got there fairly early on Saturday morning (after we'd had 'a night on the pop' on Friday) and discovered that our table was the first one people would see as they came in. However, we weren't in the main hall, so it turned out ours was the first table people would ignore as they rush past to go and meet John Cassaday. Just after we set up and had a coffee I got a phonecall from my friend and fellow MC2-er Laura Howell asking me if I could help them carry their stuff up from the car. I dutifully go down and offer my services and get roped in to carrying someone else's stuff, leaving Tim (Laura's partner) standing there in the car park like a spare prick. After I carried the other lady's stuff up to the exhibition hall, I rushed back down to see poor old Tim struggling with three big wooden boards and helped them carry it all up after all.

My good deed done for the day, I sat back down behind our table and got ready to meet the punters. We shifted a few copies of Septic Isle, but it wasn't exactly flying off the stand. Our stall was directly opposite a large projection screen, which, at about eleven o'clock, started showing an extended trailer for ITV2's crappy sitcom No Heroics. It showed it again and again and again and again. Not really helping us with sales. Jean-Paul Sartre once said that hell would be being stuck in a room with your friends for all eternity. Well, he was wrong. Hell is being sat opposite a loop of a really unfunny trailer (and besides, I like my friends. Most of them, anyway. I think you have to put Sartre's comments into context. His mates were French, after all.) The trailer was completely inappropriate anyway, as it was a room with quite a lot of young children in it, and the trailer had references to drug use, masturbation and someone said 'fucking' in it too. Andy, bless him, had a word with Shane (one of the organisers and a really nice bloke) about how annoying it was, he agreed with us and it promptly stopped. The sense of relief amongst the row of stalls we were in was palpable.

The other thing I've noticed after going to a few of these things in recent years is the change of the type of punters that are coming to the cons. When I first started going there were very few females attending, there are certainly more attending these days. Admittedly, a lot of them are girlfriends being dragged along by their nerdy other half (like my girlfriend, who I've not mentioned so far, but she did come along with me, bless her, despite us both being up to our eyes with our house-moving) but there are a lot of genuine female fans coming to the conventions.( I know there has always been genuine female comics fans out there, they just didn't seem to come along to conventions). There tends to be a lot more families coming along too, which is also a good thing.

But there are also the cosplayers. The ones at Brum tended to be of characters I'd heard of, the Bristol con tends to get the manga/anime freaks dressed as characters even I've not heard of, as nerdy as I am, and the costumes at Brum tended to be of a very high standard. There were some professional dresser-uppers there too, special mention must go to the guy dressed as the Heath Ledger Joker, as he did really look like him (or 'fucking creepy' as my lovely other half put it) and, though I wasn't looking, obviously, the lady dressed as Harley Quinn looked nice, too. There were also people dressed up as Dan Dare (although his eyebrows weren't the same distinctive shape as Dare's; things like that are important to me. I know, it's an illness, I can't help it!), Batman and some of the Thundercats.

Our friends Jamie and Theresa turned up a bit later, moaning about how poxy it is to get around Birmingham. Theresa rescued my girlfriend and they went off shopping. I later got a text from Heather telling me that Geri Halliwell was signing books in Selfridges. I asked one of the cosplayers who was dressed as Green Arrow (Connor Hawke, not Ollie Queen) sitting opposite us if he could actually use the bow he was carrying around and if he minded going to the Bullring to fire a few bolts at Ginger Minge. He looked at me like I was mental. He's dressed as Green Arrow and I'm the mental one. Figure that out.

Later on, my ex and my youngest daughter turned up, and I was shocked to discover it had cost them fifteen quid to get in. I reckon that's a bit steep. As good as the con was, there's not enough for the casual punter who is just there to buy stuff to look at or do that's worth that much money, and that got to hurt the stallholders if the punters are already a tenner lighter before they go in.

During a fag break (it took ages to get downstairs and outside for a smoke, the expo was three floors up) it was too windy for my poxy lighter to work, so I borrowed a lighter from another 'snoutcast' and got chatting to him about Brum's metal legends Sabbath and Priest, Bill Hicks and how us smokers are treated like criminals amongst other things. Then, on the way back up I found out that I'd been talking to the fairly famous artist Frazer Irving. He's a cool guy.

Generally, the Saturday's trade was steady, not spectacular, but it'd been a fun day, and it's always nice to meet up with the people you only see at these conventions.
After we all packed up for the night, we planned to meet up in town for a meal and a drink, so Heather and I headed back home so we could get changed (the thing I find weird about the Brum comics show is not staying at a hotel, it doesn't feel right going back home after a day at a comics expo) watched a bit of telly (still not sure about BBC1's Merlin) and headed back out to the city centre and met up with Jamie and Theresa, Andy and his old mate Rob, and Keith Burns (like me, a former StripSearcher and he's also the talented artist of Blood Psi) and we all went for for a big-ass burger at the Handmade Burger Company, which is on the canalside just behind the ICC. The meal was great, but the onions in it kept repeating on me and led to me doing foul rotten flesh-smelling mini-burps all evening. It's surprising how popular this makes you. Afterwards we decided to go for a pint or three, so it was up to me as the only Brummie to decide where to go. I plumped for the Tap and Spile, as it was close and doesn't have dance music drowning out any attempt at a conversation. The problem is, however, that particular pub is a bit of a dive. And it takes ages to get served. And you have have to listen to the other patrons talking about snuff movies at the bar while you're waiting. Besides that, though, it was okay and we all had a good evening. Whilst I was in there I bumped into two old schoolmates of mine and was cheered up by their distinct lack of hair. Okay, they might have better careers and all that stuff, but at least I can still ask the barber for 'a little off the top' and not worry about it!

At the end of the evening, Heather offered everyone a lift back to their hotels (she's poorly, bless her, so she decided not to drink and therefore could drive) so we traipsed through the little bit of Brum that most resembles Gotham City (Broad St.) to the car park at Brindleyplace (that's not a typo, it is all one word. When Birmingham City Council rebuild and rebrand stuff, they like to remove the spaces from names. The 'Bullring' is another example) where we were stuck in a logjam of cars. We waited nearly an hour to get out of the sodding place, but we had great fun bitching about all of the other drivers, who really were total cocks. Not so much fun were the rotting flesh belches, which are even less amusing in a car full of people. So, even though it took our friends over an hour to get to what was basically a ten-minute walk away, we were all in good humour (although I am slightly worried over one friend's admission that he fancies Rupert Everett. I think his wife might be, too) and looking forward to the Sunday.

After a very slow start (probably because of the weather. It was pissing it down as usual) Sunday was a good day for us. We sold loads more on the Sunday, very unusual as Saturday tends to be the biggie, normally. So much so, in fact, that all the initial print run of Septic Isle is now all gone. (Don't worry, there's about to be a second printing for our dispatch to shops and websites) I even managed to leave our table for a bit and have a proper look around and buy some tie-in tat as gifts for my offspring. The nice lady at the Forbidden Planet stall liked my T-shirt, it had cartoon versions of the characters from Monkey on it. She wasn't the first. I had comments about my T-shirt all day. I very rarely get nice comments about what I'm wearing from strangers, but I obviously impressed a few of my fellow nerds. Actually, whilst at the Forbidden Planet stall, a man passed by with the copy of Septic Isle he'd just bought, so I asked him if he wanted me to sign it for him. He checked the photo in the back to see if it was actually me that drew it, then he ran off to get a pen, and eventually I signed it. I always dreamed I'd be signing my comic books at Forbidden Planet; This was good enough for me!

I did a bit more sketching on the Sunday, and people seemed genuinely pleased to get my amateurish scribblings with their purchase of Septic. One bloke asked me to do a sketch, so I did him one of Marley, the protagonist from our book. He also asked me to write who it was, sign my name and date it, and he also took a picture of me doing it. As he'd bought our comic, I thought it was the least I could do. I reckon he was going to put the book and sketch on eBay('signed by the artist! photo verification!) I think he'll probably get about 12p. He obviously thinks I'm more famous than I actually am. Which is not very famous at all. Still, good luck to him. I just hope he doesn't spend all of the 12p in one go.

Other highlights from the Sunday include: My mate Jason getting work from DC after a portfolio review. That's great news, he deserves it as he's so talented. I finally got hold of the Frankenstein comic adaptation from Classical Comics, despite my own problems with that particular publisher, because my friend Declan Shalvey illustrated it, and it looks tremendous, and it's a good read, too. Had a chat with the FutureQuake guys, and it was good to see Dave 'Bolt-01'Evans telling off his son for being too nerdy. Bloody right too. The Joker looky-likey was back in a nurse's outfit on Sunday, and the girl who was Harley came back dressed as Lara Croft. she looked nice, apparently, but I wasn't looking, of course. Joining the professional dresser-uppers for the Sunday was a guy dressed as the Brandon Routh Superman. You know, the one with the burgundy cape and the too-small 'S'? He didn't really have the build for Supes, but fair play to him. My girlfriend told me how she shared the lift with him at one point, and at every floor, someone got on and said 'cape not working, then?'. On every floor. Brummie humour. Best in the world. Serves him right for not actually being able to fly.

Trade died a death after about half four so we decided to pack up. Heather went and asked around in the main hall to see if they had any spare boxes for our move. She got some too, so now, when I do move this weekend, I'll be carting my stuff round in boxes with 'Batman figural bank' and 'Sinister Six Vulture med statue' printed on them. Even my house move has become a nerdfest!

Still, it was a good convention. We had a great weekend, but now I have to turn my attentions to packing up all my various shite and shifting it to my new abode, so this'll be my last post for a bit, as I don't know when I'll next be online. I'll see you all on the other side of the move. Ta ra a bit!

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