I made a fleeting and greatly enjoyable visit to BICS (Birmingham International Comics Show) this weekend, chatting to a handful of folks at Friday night's launch - good venue, good beer prices, we could hear ourselves talk, and I got a hotel room literally 100 paces from the bar - and on Saturday afternoon.
Although I didn't catch any talks, I managed to fill three or four hours of Saturday with solid comics talk around the tables.
The movie, Pulp, which had dressed one aisle of the dealer room as a film set, with fake comic artists sat behind fake comic displays, was a nice buzz. The chance for costumed fans and geeks to appear in an actual real life film is the sort of thing that would have made my head explode with excitement as a kid, and I hope the kids there felt the same.
I didn't see many kids there, ie under-18s, but I'm told that they were around and if so there was certainly more stuff for them than before. In particular the new titles from the DFC library, which will be going to the top of my list of recommended reading for schools (top of my Things-to-Find list were graphic novels & comics suitable for primary school kids, and Mo-Bot High and Monkey Nuts are perfect). Good talk with the Etheringtons about art classes in schools, they've been very proactive working with kids, doing the double of getting kids enthused about comics and (the bit I miss out on) then selling lots of books to them. Genius, more of that please.
Another very positive stand was Poot! comic. I was pretty sure I'd not seen Poot! since I was was working for the comics that shared a shelf with it in the early 90s (the Viz-alike titles Gas, Brain Damage, Zit, UT, remember them?). And I was right. The guys had run Poot as kids, folded it when the bubble burst in 1991, got proper jobs as accountants and the like and, last year, revived the comic for fun. And now, after a dozen issues, they have a distribution deal with Seymour, they've been accepted by WH Smith's travel outlets, and are currently selling 16,000 copies a month. On newsstands. I don't know about you, but I find that one of the most heartening stories in comics I've heard this year. An independent publisher is selling a comics magazine, printed on paper, in good old fashioned newsagents, and people are buying it.
Their starting point was simply looking at the shelves, seeing that Viz was the only funny comic there, identifying a hole in the market, and filling it. They're not making a fortune, but they are paying their contributors, breaking even, and enjoying themselves creating and publishing comic strips. If others could replicate this success I'd be delighted, and I get the feeling it's possible.
With these stories, and the tables of exciting looking new comics and art - I loved the manga style pictures drawn on sheets of cardboard and selling at a tenner each, a genius mix of comics and art, I love the guy who etches classic comic covers into sheets of copper and sells them as book covers, and I adore poring through Phil Clarke's pages of 1960s and 1970s comic art by everyone from John Burns and Don Lawrence to Joe Colqhuhoun and Jesus Blasco. Of course I never buy any, but I like to know it's there.
So, a fab time, and I'm sorry I had to rush away so soon. Did I miss something good on Saturday night? And are we all having fun with Jonathan Ross today? Let me know.
Anyone else have BICS thoughts, and did we all come away as re-enthused about comics as I did?