RIP Bob Napier, an unsung hero of comics

For what seems like a lifetime I’ve been working on a blog about the unsung heroes of British comics. You know, the type of folk who at best may get a passing mention in one of those articles about British comics that leaps from 2000AD, to Alan Moore and then to Vertigo often missing out the folk who didn’t just keep the scene going, but actually helped carve the foundations and build the bloody thing in the first place.

One of those names on the list has been Bob Napier, and sadly, he’s now passed away after battling illness for some years. He was a founding partner in the legendary Glasgow comic chop, AKA Books and Comics, not to mention the entire Glasgow comics scene owes him a debt because if you’re sitting in the city enjoying the scene and the ‘geek’ culture of today one of those people who built the well you sup upon is Bob Napier so raise a glass in respect to the man.

Bob was a big man. Although his other partners were in various forms more public than Bob, he was very much the driving forceand kept things sane when at times it could have went horribly off the rails. He co-founded the AKA fanzine born from drinking in the back of Wintersgills in Glasgow’s West End though to the opening of the shop in the now defunct Virginia Galleries. Although not a full time employee like John McShane and Pete Root, or an occasional presence like Steve Montgomery, Bob imprinted himself on AKA to the extent that to miss him from the history of the shop or the Glasgow scene is an injustice which sadly is far too common. Even in this piece here, Bobbie is reduced to an ’employee’ which is a slight although corrected shows how history often reduces the role of important figures. Though his appearance in a Marvel Captain Britain strip now makes him a Disney character which I think he’d have liked…

I only saw Bob a few times after the disintegration of AKA in the 90’s. As regular readers of this blog will know I was living in England, and by the mid 90’s my trips home were becoming less frequent so the last time I really spoke to Bob was when he had a wee unit in the old Candleriggs Market selling comics for prices which today would be a steal but then were pretty decent. I remember we had a chat, caught up, I bought some Flash back issues, promised we’d go for a pint with Pete Root next time I was up and with that I never saw him again apart from briefly seeing him at the Glasgow Comic Con at the Royal Concert Hall a couple of years ago which made me regret ever living up to that promise of a pint as his battle with illness had clearly taken its toll.

However let’s not end on such a note. We all live with regret but it is with Bobbies friends and families that our sympathies and attention should lie. If you can make it, his funeral is 9am on Saturday the 22 June at Daldowie Crematorium in Glasgow. Say cheerio to one of the people who did all the hard work in appreciating, loving and building up comics at a time in a city where it was hard to do so.

Cheers Bob, I hope to have that pint with you and Pete some day in an afterlife where the taps run with beer and comics…

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