Not conning you...

A column article by: Regie Rigby
If, a few weeks ago when I posted the Reboot column you heard the rustle of a new leaf turning over, then over the last few weeks, you probably imagine that you’ve heard it turning back again. “He’s late again!” I hear you thinking. And you’re right. It was pointed out to me a couple of days ago that in fact you haven’t heard from me for six weeks – and even now I can’t help noticing that this isn’t Wednesday, Truth is, I’ve been hit by the insanity that is the dreaded “start of the new school year” which hasn’t just been madly, stupidly busy, but has also left me so tired as to be near comatose at the end of each day. After the long summer when I could keep whatever hours I liked having to be up by half five in the morning every day, and then work without a break until five in the afternoon turns out to be even more exhausting than I remember. I’ll get used to it – I do every year – but for now I’m falling asleep rather early in the evening, which is a problem when writing the column tends to get slotted in to my schedule between eleven o’clock and midnight… This of course is no excuse, and if you’re sitting there thinking “Oh dear, job pressures, what a shame, get over it” I am in fact in complete sympathy with you. It isn’t good enough, and I’ll make sure it won’t happen again. Apart from anything else, when I vanish for long periods of time I miss stuff. B.I.C.S. for example. The newly re-monikered British International Comics Show took place a couple of weeks ago. I missed it because I had some family commitments the same weekend, but by all accounts it was every bit as good as last year. Which I also missed… In about a month, the travelling circus that is comics trundles into my neck of the woods though, when the fine city of Leeds plays host to The Thoughtbubble Festival, and I shall certainly see you there if you’re going. Unlike B.I.C.S. which is expanding all the time, and was certainly much bigger this year than the more established Bristol event, Thoughtbubble is a tiny affair. The These smaller events are becoming much more common in the UK, which must surely be a source of great joy. Back in the day, I can’t remember any. When I first started reading comics, the only Con I was aware of was the late lamented UK Comic Art Convention. In the mid-nineties I seem to recall the brief appearance of a sister event, the Glasgow Comic Art Convention, but by the end of the nineties both U.K.C.A.C. and GlasC.A.C were no more and the UK scene was looking pretty empty. The subsequent flowering of the UK Con scene, led by Kev Sutherland’s Bristol event, which continues under new management, has been both a surprise and a delight. There was a point in 1998, when U.K.C.A.C. bit the dust, that I thought there would never be such a gathering again. I can’t tell you how glad I was to be wrong. You see, there is something truly wonderful about a Con. As comics readers we take an awful lot of flack from the more mundane members of society. They choose to portray us as boring, lonely sad cases with no mates and no social life. The Con gives the lie to that stereotype in the most pleasingly emphatic way. Speaking personally, I’ve always regarded comics as a community, and however fabulous letter columns* and the internet** might be there really is no substitute for being in the same room with people who care about the same things you care about. Of course to people elsewhere in the world, this concept will hardly be new. I’ve always had the impression that in the US in particular there are “small”*** events all over the place, and my European contacts tell me that this kind of comics related get together is pretty common on “the contintent” too.**** So I guess that really, the question needs to be “why are we only now developing this tradition in the UK?” The truth is, I have no idea. In a nation that couldn’t support a comics convention in Glasgow – one of its largest cities – how is it that the Hi Ex festival can now survive in Inverness, which might well be the capital of the highlands, but still remains a pretty small place in the grand scheme of things. It’s a very good thing that makes me very happy. Wherever you are in the world, conventions***** are an unquestionably good thing. If there’s one anywhere near you, go and check it out. You won’t regret it. Not that you don’t sometimes get the occasional moment of oddness at these events, because wherever people interact with each other there has to be a measure of oddness in the mix. For myself I’ve always had a fascination with fans in costume. While I’d have rather eat my own lungs than take part, one of the highlights of the old U.K.C.A.C. event was always the costume parade. I’ve talked about these before, and I’ve certainly mentioned the unfortunate incident of the stiffy in the Flash costume… Then there was the one and only time they tried the same thing at Bristol – perhaps the moment when I realised that while this was an event to fill the void left by the demise of U.K.C.A.C. it was never going to be the same. My last memory of it was of a large man dressed as Martial Law advancing towards a small child while ripping off a long strip of gaffer tape.****** Far more impressive though, are the people who show up in costume and stay that way all day. These people are nothing short of heroic. It takes a lot of guts to make yourself stand out as a geek in quite such an obvious way, although when you think about it we’re not the only fan community to do the dressing up thing – fans of sports teams the world over have a habit of wearing their team’s shirt after all. In the grand scheme of things that’s not really a lot different to dressing up as Batman… Not sure? Well, if you need a little convincing, you could do worse than check out the newly released Cosplay Fever, the latest project from those old friends of the column at Ablaze Media. It’s a photo celebration of everything that’s brilliant about the costume wearing conner - check it out, I’ll be talking about it in more detail in a couple of weeks. Next time though, I’m afraid I’ll be back in rant mode, because I just spent over a hundred quid on comics in three short weeks. That’s a bad thing… *Remember them? **That’d be us… ***And of course “small” US events have a tendency to make the “major” UK events like Bristol and B.I.C.S. look pretty tiny. ****Our European cousins do the major event thing pretty well too. I can’t imagine that there’ll ever be anything in the UK to touch Anguoleme. *****Or festivals, or Expos, or whatever the hell else you choose to call them. ******As is so often the case this was not nearly so wrong as it sounds – they were in the process of making a superhero costume out of bin liners…******* *******Oh, alright then…

Community Discussion