I Have Two Thumbs And I Don’t Care: Thoughts On LFCC 2014
This column is respectfully dedicated to the memory of both Lou Reed and Tommy Ramone.
(Thanks to the chap who give me his ticket, without whom, I suspect this column would be a fountain of seething rage, bile and a potential lawsuit waiting to happen. Thank you, Sir. You’re one of The Good Guys.)
‘You know what? I don’t even care anymore. I don’t care if you have a table, or a creator or even have a ticket. I’m not gonna check your hand for stamps. Just go in. This whole weekend has been a mess from start to fucking finish. Go in, start a riot, I don’t even fucking care anymore!’
(Overheard said by LFCC Volunteer. Around 3:30pm, Sunday.)
Well, it’d be difficult to write this as THE defining column on LFCC 2014, as I suspect my experience was quite different to others. I was neither there in my role as FA Online Writer (Ta to those of you who’ve called me a Comics Journalist, but I’m still not sure what that means, So I’ll stick with ‘Writerist Of Stuff’ for now.) nor Retailer, but simply as ‘Bloke who wanted to have a wander about and catch up with mates’. Saying that, there are obviously a few things that need to be said. I’ll drop in previews of things I saw, but it’s going to be far from an extensive list.
My LFCC experience began without my even being at the venue on Saturday afternoon while I was at work. I usually have my Facebook account switched on while I’m there for shop orders and such, but had left it unattended for a bit. My Inbox was at something like 20 messages when I returned, all about being stuck queuing at LFCC and general outrage concerning having to wait literally hours to get in after being told tickets would be available on the door. It took a fair amount of time to convince people to actually post their problems on the official LFCC Facebook page rather than, you know, telling me. Not a great deal I can do, there.
This whole experience of trying to get into a show obviously falls under the umbrella of ‘No, you need to rethink this.’ and not in a way that ends up charging people more money to hang out with Stars, either. Nor do I think lengthy statements on Facebook explaining that it looks like you’ve screwed up but really you haven’t is particularly helpful. Whatever the possibly totally reasonable justifications that might have brought this situation about, the end result is still hundreds of people in a queue in the heat for hours. Having read through the message boards, it seems a fair percentage have rightly put the blame at the door of Showmasters, pointing out a similar occurrence only a few weeks at the Newcastle show. For others, it’s entirely reasonable that if this is the first experience of a comics convention, they’d assume they’re ALL like that.
What was a nice change, for this particular collector of the Odd, the Rare and the Wrong was how much the comic dealers went outside of their comfort zone to bring along stock outside the usual ‘Silver Age & Modern Variants And That’s It.’ fare that gets bumped along from Mart to Show to con and back again. A wander around at LFCC helped me find back issues of Mars Attacks, Solo, various odd Vertigo comics I never thought I’d see again, and the total highlight (for me, anyway.): The Topps Mars Attacks Baseball Special.
I realise that tables were hella expensive and obviously the need to make that outlay back asap is paramount, but if every dealer has the same stock, then I ‘m just going to go looking at each table until I’ve worked out who’s got the cheapest copy of Superior Foes Of Spider-Man Skottie Young Variant, buy it from them and that’ll be it. Breaking that standard and bringing in more diverse stuff at the cost of a box of Secret Invasion/Dynamite variants has to be a step in the right direction. Special shout out to Incognito Comics for only charging me a pound for the super rare Generation X: Undeground Special.
Ivy Doomkitty looks even more stunning in the flesh than in pictures. That is all. Hubbah, also.
Then there was my continuous signing conundrum.
A thing that happens when you get old is that you realise people are just…people, really. For my sins, I’ve been lucky enough to meet most of the people I’ve really wanted to talk to in this life and more often than not, put them in a cab home due to my drinking Orange Juice while they necked pint after pint trying to keep up in conversation with me. While there are still a few I’d like to get to have a chat with, the idea of paying £30 upwards to do that is just sheer anathema to me.
Saying that, I was sneaky enough to hang about George Romero and be utterly astounded by just how on point, how aware and bright George remains. I totally regret my decision not to get something signed by the Master Of Zombie/Political Analogy. Next time, George.
My other signing regret is someone who I absolutely admire the hell out of, WWE Diva Lita, AKA Amy Dumas. People always refer to Mick Foley or Chris Jericho when talking about the Great Wrestling Writers, but Amy’s book title is one of the great biographies that explains exactly what’s going to happen to you. I wrote a review of it here, if you’re interested. I would have done it, for no other reason except she’s utterly gorgeous, but there’s something incredibly inhumane and weird about paying to talk to someone for a short period of time and write their name on a thing that I just can’t get my head around.
This is probably the same reason that I’ve never paid for sex.
You know, dear reader, one tries not to assume one is…stupid. Whenever faced with an obstacle, I try to work out all the possible solutions before asking for assistance. It helps create the veneer of competence at least. So I followed the crowd into LFCC, skipping the queue with my Early Bird ticket and steeled myself for…the smell of fandom. It’s really a thing. Within 10 minutes of wandering about, I was accosted by Jon Anderson of Soaring Penguin fame, who called me over to his table. (More on this in a bit.) Now, obviously foolish, I assumed because Soaring Penguin were in the main hall, so were all the other comic creators. It’d just be a case of searching around to find the likes of Simone, McCarthy, Rude, etc.
Obviously, I was wrong.
Literally three hours later, I received a text from a comics creator, saying ‘Come find me in the Comics zone when you’re ready.’ The conversation went something like this:
‘Come see me.’
‘Love to. Where are you?’
In the Comics zone?’
‘Where the fuck is the Comics Zone? I’ve been up and down this place looking for it for the last three hours.’
‘It’s in a different building, come out and turn left.’
‘A…different building. Right.’
Eventually, I found it, but not due to any information posted around the site at all. No signs that said anything along the lines of ‘Be aware that comics guests can be found here and this is how to get there.’ When I finally arrived at the Comics Zone, I was taken aback at how ill-attended it was. There was never more than one or two people at anyone’s table, which was great for me, as it gave me a chance to catch up with some old friends and even make some new ones for a bit, but it must have been a staggering financial blow for people who’d paid to book tables for the benefit of…basically looking awkwardly at the people opposite them for two days. Some of the Indy tables were buried behind the only entrance to the room, and I’ve seen various reports of creators just packing up on the Saturday and going home because there was no real point in staying.
Again, this is something that really can’t happen again. If I were on that side of the business and I knew, coming in that I’d be essentially ghettoized in a different building with no indication whatsoever for the public to understand that I wasn’t in the main hall, I wouldn’t bother attending a Showmasters run event. I imagine the information was in the £5 programme, but If my potential income was depending on everyone buying said programme, I’d give the whole thing a miss.
Saying that, I did get a chance to check out some awesome new things at the show. Here they are:
Gary Erskine has the lovely Roller Grrrls Sketchbook out for sale at a fiver. Hit him up at his Twitter for copies.
Brendan McCarthy is working on the upcoming Dream Gang for the new volume of Dark Horse Presents, which ships in August.
Bryan Talbot: alongside promoting current critical darling ‘Sally Heathcote‘ is also looking forward to Dark Horse releasing ‘Arkwright Integral’, a new HC collecting both ‘Luther Arkwright’ and the follow-up ‘Heart Of Empire’ along with an interview with Steve Bissette and other goodies.
Soaring Penguin:has a number of projects coming up, but I was most excited by ‘Meanwhile…,’ a new anthology featuring Krent Abel, a new strip by the ‘Man Who Laughed’ team of David Hine & Mark Stafford and NEW STRANGEHAVEN! IN COLOUR, NO LESS!
Steve Rude currently has prints for sale available through him
Then there’s the Stan Lee thing….
I’m guessing if you’re reading this column, the chances are you have an opinion on Stan The Man. He’s the Angel who invented Marvel to some, the Demon who screwed Kirby to others, He will always be a source of debate that’ll never die to this business. I suspect we’ll never know the exact truth behind the birth of the Marvel Universe. An absolute indisputable fact, however, is that Stan Lee is a 91-year-old man. Not a particularly sturdy looking one, either. I’m fully aware that the closest to actually travelling to The Marvel Universe most of us will ever get would be spending some time, no matter how brief, with Stan.
But, again, Stan Lee is a 91-year-old man, and as many of us might want to touch the hands that wrote Spider-Man, The X-Men, The Avengers, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, we have to recognise that a 91 Year Old Man is only capable of so much and we ought to accept that he can only do so much over three days. IF he is passing out during photo sessions or just plain exhausted, the morally correct thing to do is NOT increase his workload, regardless of whether he says he can do it, but to ask him to honour as many bookings as he’s physically capable with and offer full refunds to those who’ll have to be disappointed by the fact that Stan is, ultimately, only A man. Not an ATM for convention bookers.
Finally, a bit of sentimental slush.
I’m unsure quite why this struck me, but I was wandering about post con from pub to pub, seeing people dressed up as their favourite characters, dancing, singing, touching, hooking up. It was incredibly sweet and touching to see, and I turned to my mate and said ‘Lou Reed was right, wasn’t he?’
And he looked at me and smiled ‘Yeah, yeah he was.’ He predicted all of this. Everyone just getting together, hanging out, being cool, being whoever they wanted to be, doing what they wanted. The Straights can harrumph, pretend to read and look uncomfortable with people behaving out of the approved patterns, but they’re free to just…go home. Home to their vanilla sanctity. Lou saw it all coming I just wish he was here to see it.’
‘Raises glass as the sun sets over Earl’s Court
Somewhere on the District Line, I hope Jenny made it here.
Oh, and to my emergency beard. Thank you, you were amazing. And so was I. We’ll do it again one day.