| Art

Kapow! Comic Convention: BDC, London


Way back in the nineteen seventies super hero comics were only for the lonely (males). Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons nails the stereotype perfectly: bad hair, lousy posture, bad hygiene, and a sneering condescension for civilians not ‘in the know’.

Conventions in those days were just an excuse to charge an entrance fee to comic junkies so they could buy American imports and crude merchandise from professional dealers. These overpriced shopping events were ‘enlivened’ by discussion panels, where creators answered inane questions from star-struck fans or mumbled in-jokes aimed at fellow professionals. Charisma free hosts introduced clips from upcoming comic related movies and low comedy was provided by out of shape exhibitionists wearing home-made costumes.

a few more female punters, some eye wateringly expensive fetish items, a sprinkling of minor celebrities

Forty years on at the Business Design Centre in Islington and unfortunately not much has changed. Just a few more female punters, some eye wateringly expensive fetish items, a sprinkling of minor celebrities and the antics of La Lucha Mexican wrestling (cool in a crowded nightclub – flat in such a huge convention space).

Joe Quesada, the head honcho of Marvel, talked smugly about protecting his franchises, which were mostly created fifty years ago by the genius of Jack ‘King’ Kirby while on the flipside gifted outsider Warren Ellis announced that he was bored with writing comics and quitting the field for greener pastures. Neither speaker managed to raise a flicker of genuine excitement from either themselves or the audience.

These people should be on top of the world right now, so why is such a big event on their calendar as dull and predictable as a trip to a Westfield mall? After all, their once despised art form now dominates the media landscape. Franchise movies such as Avengers Assemble, Kick Ass and the Batman series break box office records. Comic creators win Pulitzer prizes and write TV shows or best selling novels.

Comic creators win Pulitzer prizes and write TV shows

Star names such as Alan Moore, Grant Morrison or Neil Gaiman receive literary plaudits for their ‘graphic novels’ lining the shelves of bookstores and public libraries but, despite all the heat on the industry they love, the fans en masse still act like lonely consumer slaves who seem awkward and ill at ease in the company of their peers.

Reading a comic book is a solitary pleasure where the reader can swim, at his or her own pace, through a graphic universe of stimulating ideas. If you’re genuinely interested in the medium my advice would be to stay away from crowded convention halls and settle down with a copy of the brilliant The Bulletproof Coffin by Kane and Hine, The Secret Service by Millar and Gibbons, The Twelve by Straczynski and Weston, or Dan the Unharmable by Lapham and Ortiz.

The real magic of comic books takes place inside of your head.


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