16 May 2008

Bristol 2008: The Voyage Home

Now we've had a chance to settle back into reality, here are our thoughts on last weekend's events:

Matt C: As always, the Bristol Comic Expo seemed like it was over before it began, zipping on by in a semi-drunken haze as the old wallet took a battering. But, while the bank balance may have lost a few digits, I did return with a great selection of comics and more than a few fond memories. There are still a few organizational issues with the running of the Expo itself, especially when it comes to the much-anticipated panels (yet again, the absence of a laptop scuppered the DC panel slightly – is it that difficult to sort these things out ahead of time?) but usually the people involved overcome the obstacles and work with what they’ve got in a generally good-humoured and approachable manner. Still, what was possibly my favourite panel with Walt & Louise Simonson could have done with a bit more preparation on the interviewer’s part as it didn’t really move the couple past their experiences in the 70s (which, meant of course, no mention of Walt’s seminal run on Thor!). Luckily it was still all fascinating stuff and I made it my mission to rectify the lack of insight on the Norse God Of Thunder personally – more on that later!

Matt T: This year did seem to whip by at a furious pace. Maybe because I had a list, which I barely managed to touch, but also because there was plenty to see and do around the main exhibition hall. As ever the panels were occasionally disappointing, mostly due to who wasn’t there rather than who was, but there were some excellent highpoints. Walt & “Weezie” were enchanting, with Mr Simonson being particularly entertaining on the DC panel (he and Mike Ploog need a radio show!), and Dave Gibbons and Budgie’s Hypotheticals panel was a laugh. My eyes were opened to a fair few smaller titles and independent publishers, mainly due to them spotting my name badge and dragging me over to their respective tables in the hall. Still, I got free comics so no complaints there! Met some cool people, had a fair few beers and got significantly weirded out by the amount of people in costumes. I spent a wedge of cash, but my stack of classic comics is now growing to a more impressive size. And the Eagle Awards were…..well, did anyone go?

Matt C: From what I hear the Awards overran terribly and they didn’t get to announce all of them (although the results are now up at the official site). A few brews in a public house down the road meant we didn’t get to see any of the “ceremony” (I use the term lightly!) this year – by the time we got across to the venue it was all over, people standing around chatting and beginning to disperse. Two of those people were the ones I promised myself I would try and talk to this year: Walt & Louise Simonson! It took a while to pluck up the (Dutch) courage, and I probably embarrassed myself by showering them with praise, but the absolute highlight of the weekend for me (and I suspect, a few others) was being sat round a table with the rest of the Paradox Comics Group (and friends!) while the Simonson’s held court. Walt even graciously went back to his hotel room so he could grab some pages of artwork for his forthcoming 96-page hardcover, The Judas Coin, which – based on what we saw - looks like it will be something very special indeed. I made up for the fact we never got to hear Walt talking about Thor during his panel by personally asking the man himself – and then probably embarrassed myself once more enthusiastically thanking him for one of my childhood favourites! (And, yes, he signed my copy of #380!) The nicest couple in comics, methinks!

Matt T: The Simonson’s talking to a table of us mere geeks was one of those crazy moments that probably wouldn’t happen at another con, expo or convention. Walt needed the slightest invitation to start spinning a yarns about the old days, and how little they knew of the comics industry that would grow around them. The way he talked about Stan Lee and other legends completely humanised the people I’ve worshipped growing up. And seeing the aforementioned artwork first hand in such an early stage proves just how much work goes into a page before it even sees colour or text. The fact that Walt still does his own lettering is superb, and so indicative of his old school roots. Watching Matt C gather up the gumption to go and talk to Walt was one of the highlights, although I have to confess to a couple of visits to both the bar and the men’s room before I wandered over! Saturday night was - as it always is - a completely unpredictable and unforgettable evening of madness and many, many beers. The Paradox Group was in full form, with even the new additions to the fold doing themselves proud amongst some of the luminaries of comicdom. Sunday was a lot quieter than the day before, and thank God for that - the sheer heat of the room on Saturday was enough to scare even the most hardened fanboy away. While sat outside breathing some fresh air, I overheard one female fan queuing up saying she had just popped out on her lunch break only for a member of staff to announce that a one-in-one-out policy was in effect!

Matt C: “Enough to scare even the most hardened fanboy away”?! I must be made of stern stuff then because no matter how hot it was inside the exhibition hall (and, boy, was it hot!), nothing could keep me away from the boxes! I kept within my budget this year (baby on the way and all that!), so while I did resist temptation to keep on picking up more comics, I was very happy with what I came away with. The entire run of Camelot 3000 for under four quid, Barry Windsor Smith’s Machine Man miniseries, the Armour Wars Story arc from Iron Man, to name but a few. One thing I’m kicking myself over is the treasury-sized adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey by Jack Kirby– if I had snapped it up when I first saw it instead of mulling over a potential purchase for five minutes only to find out someone else had nabbed it, it would’ve taken its rightful place in my collection. Oh well, I did get some of those Silver Age DC books with the bonkers covers, and I’m particularly happy to have picked up the first appearance of Super-Fatso (see pic)! As to when I’m going to get around to reading all these comics, well, that’s another matter entirely!

Matt T: Like Matt C, I missed out on a couple of important comics, including the first issue of the Streets of Poison arc in Captain America due my own poor memory. Jay Faerber’s little known Iron Fist/Wolverine mini should be a good read, and I picked up a few odd books here and there including a reprint of EC’s Vault of Horror #5, which is very odd indeed I filled out my Amazing Spider-Man collection too, getting issues around the same era as #350, books I used to pick up on very rare occasions at Plymouth train station (my only source of comics growing up!). This is one of the major advantages of a weekend at Bristol; revisiting childhood memories by rediscovering lost stories and classic comics. My wallet may be worse off, but I’ve got stacks of nostalgia to enjoy!

As for Bristol Comic Expo 2009, well it already looks like it’ll be too good to be true. The legend that is Darwyn Cooke will be gracing us with his presence, and I’m sure that will make both James R and Matt C geek-out big time! The man behind The New Frontier and the recent relaunch of The Spirit has shown his impressive skills in both art and writing, making him a real standout talent. Hopefully he won’t “pull a Shooter!” (might have to trademark that) and drop out, as I’m already looking forward to next year!

A big thanks to event organizer Mike Allwood for being so accommodating and getting me my press pass so late in the day, the Paradox group (Andrew B, Andy H, Mike S, Simon M, James R, Matt C and the mighty Rob N) for keeping me amused and entertained, and all the various folks I met during a fantastic weekend. See you guys next year!


Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed Hypotheticals - it's always fun putting it on, and it's great to know people enjoy it...

Unknown said...

No worries Budgie. And Mr Gibbons doing his best gameshow host/devil's advocate impression was excellent!