Scumbags and Saints

A column article by: Regie Rigby
It was a blog post from a friend that alerted me to the catastrophe. There are no tickets left for the Bristol Comics Expo. None. Nix. Zip. Nada. Not a sausage. As I’m sure many of you have discovered with the same feeling of sinking horror, if you don’t have your tickets already, then you’re not going. It came as a blow, I can tell you. Bristol has been the premier event in UK comics since its inception in 1999 when it took over from the late lamented UK Comics Art Convention. I haven’t missed one ever, not even last year, when Bristol Weekend* fell between my dad’s death and his funeral. I still made it over for the Saturday, and found it to be a great comfort. So to not manage to get around to buying tickets for this year’s event before they ran out is more than a mere oversight. It’s a personal disaster. It’s my fault entirely, of course. The organisers made it clear ages ago that because of issues with the venue (the giant engine shed that has usually held the dealers’ hall is out of action this year and there just isn’t anywhere else in Bristol big enough to fill the void) the Expo would be a small event in 2009 and that as a result places would be limited. They’ve even had a sort of “availability countdown” on the website to alert people to the ever decreasing reserve of tickets. I just wasn’t paying attention. Fortunately for me, however inept I am, the organisers are brilliant. When my predicament became clear to me I e-mailed them to ask if there was a “returns” system in operation. It was a public holiday in the UK last weekend, with most offices being closed for Easter on Friday and Monday, so I wasn’t expecting a quick response. In fact, Mike Allwood the head honcho, e-mailed me back within twenty minutes to say that there was nothing he could do about the weekend, since the venue wasn’t going to get any bigger, but that there were a few “Sunday Only” tickets left if I’d like one of those. I damn near bit his hand off, and he arranged for a paypal invoice to be sent. The man's a living saint, so far as I'm concerned. He went out of his way on a Bank Holiday Weekend for no other reason than to be a good guy. So, I guess I will see you in Bristol, if you’re going. Essentially, this is all just a long winded way of saying THANK YOU to Mike and his team. That’s what I call excellent service – and well above and beyond the call of duty. We are very lucky to have such people in comics, and I don’t think we show our appreciation enough. Speaking of Bristol**, one of the very first comic creating type people I met there was the Eagle Award Winning Andy Winters, the creative force behind Small Press outfit Moonface Press. Long standing readers of this column may well recall my reviews of previous releases such as Devilchild***, Hero Killers**** and the brilliantly gritty espionage thriller Septic Isle, which in my view should have been a much much bigger hit than it was.***** Well, one of the more welcome things to drop through my letterbox in the last couple of weeks was the latest offering from Andy’s pen, this time illustrated by Declan Shalvey, Andy’s collaborator on the award winning Hero Killers. Clearly their partnership produced great results last time they worked together – and this time they’re in full, glorious colour! Better than that, the fruit of their hard work revives a character I already know I like. Tim Skinner – Total Scumbag featured in a short story in the anthology Shriek! a year or so ago, and the concept struck me as both simple and brilliant. Essentially, Tim is a bit of a bastard. I mean, he’s not evil, he’s just not very nice. But, like so many bad people, he still has good things happen to him. One specific good thing that happened was that on the death of his uncle, Tim inherited not only a house, but his uncle’s massive comic collection. I’m sure we all appreciate how brilliant that would be, but there’s something a bit special about this collection. You can get inside it. Tim Skinner can step into the stories, interact with the characters and move from one story to another at will. Can you imagine the fun you could have? So can I. So can lots of people, and I’ll acknowledge the whole “person can get into stories” idea is hardly new. There’s a twist here though. Tim Skinner is a total scumbag. He doesn’t go into stories and have fun adventures. Oh no. He goes into stories and fucks people up. But that’s not the best bit. The best bit is the fact that one of the things that really winds Tim up is one of my own personal pet hates. The fact that when characters die in comics, they refuse to stay dead. When we first meet Tim at the start of the book he’s busy rectifying this situation with the aid of a sniper rifle. You gotta love that, you really do. As the satire continues nobody is safe from Winters’ acid pen. In here we have characters reminiscent of Judge Dredd, The Boys, Power Girl and (as they say) many, many more. The charicatures are cruel, sharp and totally totally spot on. I don’t laugh out loud often, but I laughed out loud at this. If you have even a rudimentary knowledge of contemporary comics, for a mere £2.50****** you’re going to have the most fun you’ve had with a comic for some considerable time. Rush to your comics dealer and demand a copy at your earliest opportunity.
Just a quick reminder – I’m still running the London Marathon on April 26th in memory of my dad and in aid of the charity Brain Tumour UK. If you would like to support me and help this worthy cause there is still time to drop by my just giving page. All sponsorship, no matter how small, is gratefully received and will be put to very good use finding effective treatments for this most silent and destructive of cancers. Thank you. *Trust me. If ever an event deserved capital letters, it’s Bristol Weekend. **Sorry, this is a really lame link. Bear with me, it’s been a long week… ***Speaking of which, when are we going to get another instalment of that? ****With which Andy won the aforementioned Eagle. *****For the reasons why it wasn’t, see last week’s comments about Diamond and availability. ******Or $3.99 USD or Three Euros. (My laptop doesn’t seem to have a Euro symbol. Hmmm. I have a Euro Sceptic keyboard…)

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