Next up in the new socially distanced world of comic conventions is Rutherglen, this Saturday the 19th at 10am, finishing at 4pm in the Rutherglen Exchange Shopping Centre.
After the last show I’ve decided a more trimmed down display works just as well as dragging 30 boxes around for a one-day show, plus the trimmed down display made me as much money for a small show. Just got to get the right stuff, so come along this Saturday and see just what I’ve got in store for you…
Last weekend I set up shop in sunny Cambuslang for the first comic con/mart since Feburary 2020, and in this case it was in the socially distanced spaces of the shopping centre which from my view over the weekend is set in 1985.
To be honest I wasn’t expecting much though I had a minium amount I needed to take to make it worthwhile, and I couldn’t take watching mates hump 20 odd boxes up and down stairs so I trimmed down stock to a minimal amount (eight boxes and a couple of back ups) for the weekend.
Lo and behold things were busy, surprisingly so for what was a small town show, not to mention most of Scotland is in Level 2 Covid restrictions which meant a lot of people will still be inside, however the weather was splendid and people did turn out. One of the things I was worried about was how Covid had affected the market and in this outing, it seems that collectors are coming out of lockdown looking to spend money so I was selling some insane stuff, including stuff I’ve lugged around for years. The Sunday was excellent and that’s the worst day normally.
But the event was more about breaking myself back into the world not to mention learning how to stand again without feeling like jelly. Today I feel like I’ve been beaten up but in a good way.
I have an odd relationship with speculators in that I don’t mind them buying my stuff, but I do have issues with the larger speculators who are inflating a bubble so alike the 90s one that when it bursts will be the first ones crying they have tens of thousands of comics, many slabbed, worth vastly less than what they paid for them.
Take as an example Comictom on Youtube. In the video below be details how he was scammed because he was buying a slabbed copy of Wolverine #1 from 1988 for $1000. This is a book which sells for 40-50 quid. He says he paid this money to stop himself missing out when the boom hits (which I’ve done, and indeed, still do) but I don’t inflate the market by spending so much over the odds.
I should feel sorry for him but I can’t. This sort of rampant stupidity sees comics priced out of the range of the average collector and takes an artform meant to be read into just another rich person’s way to ‘invest’ their money by inflating the market. This means for most new collectors the idea of owning a decent run of silver let alone bronze age is next to nothing which means the actual next generation of fans could be put off the medium because it costs too fucking much just to buy what used to be average or low value comics.
We have a responsiblity to ensure the hobby and the medium continues and it won’t if people are daft enough to pay a grand for a comic worth 50 quid!
As we slowly unravel after Covid it’s time to assess exactly how the comic market has changed in the last 17 or so months, and to say things have changed is a tad of an understatement. Comics which were barely worth 50p in February 2020 are now pulling in 50 quid plus on Ebay. Then there’s comics worth a few quid then now hitting 100-150 quid, so the story is the pandemic might not have killed off the back issue market though take also into account the work of speculators inflating the market artificially on the search for the perfect ‘key 9.8’.
Anyhow I’ve got a week or so to get my stuff together so this could end up being a lot more fun than expected…
David Anthony Kraft has passed away thanks to Covid (the toll this virus has done to the creative arts is depressing) and with that, the world of comics has lost an important figure but we’ll never see the likes again. I first noticed Kraft’s name when he started writing The Defenders which thanks to Steve Gerber’s work, had becomed one of my favourite books.
The Defenders was one of Marvel’s team books but unlike say, The Avengers, the stories were not the normal superheroic stuff with pages of fights often replaced by the weird and bizarre (as much as you could do under the Comics Code in the 70s) which also coincided with artist Keith Giffen in his Jack Kirby phase so the entire book was a crazy mix of weirdness, philosphy and superheroics with a roster which would wildly change often with one issue to the next. It was wonderful stuff. As was his run on Marvel Two-In-One, a strange wee book featuring the Thing from the Fantastic Four teaming up with another hero each issue.
But it’ll be his magazine Comics Interview he’ll mainly be remembered for.
The magazine was vastly more mainstream than the Comics Journal, so more stuff from Marvel and DC would crop up, though Kraft still kept the magazine open for all genres and publishers til 1995 when the collapse of the industry he loved affected him directly when Comics Interview was cancelled. There’s still a gap in the market for something like this which parts of the internet tries to deliver.
And now another figure from an important era in comics is gone and they’ll be missed.
It might only be a local event and relatively small but dear me, have I missed these things something chronic over the last 16 months but in a few short weeks in the sunny climate of Cumbernauld I’m back trading for a smallish two day event.
I’m still sticking to events near Glasgow barring the big Edinburgh events until things get back to full normality, whatever ‘normal’ will be in future. Subsequent events will be announced but please do turn up if you’re in the area, say hello and grab some glorious comics I’ve been waiting 16 months to sell!
If there is a single comic you must buy in 2021 it is Barry Smith’s Monsters.
Starting out back in the Jim Shooter era of Marvel Comics as a Hulk origin story it was never published there (there’s no way this could have worked then) then passed through a variety of companies over the decades before Fantagraphics grabbed the chance to publish this. Well done to Gary Groth and Fantagraphics for doing so as this is extraordinary stuff.
Telling the story of Bobby Bailey, who ends up being the obvious ‘monster’ visually but this is a book full of monsters, and by the end we see the worst of them all. However this isn’t just a ‘monster on the loose’ story but a story of families destroyed by war, and the military itself with Bobby becoming a sort of MacGuffin who motivates all the other major characters in this book. Yes, there are wee hints and traces of that Hulk story here, but Bobby is an altogether more pathetic version of what is basically a power fantasy.
In fact there’s very little to glorify here. People die needlessly or are humiliated in death with the general mood and atmosphere being hard, grim and terrible, especially when dealing with the extended scenes of domestic abuse. As said, this is not a Hulk story, but one about people trying to make their lives better and not taking the chance to do so, or in Bobby’s case he takes a chance to better himself with disastrous consequences. If all of this makes the book seem a grim read that’s right, but this is also incredibly uplifting as well as tragic Smith does put the reader through a lot here and throughout 300 pages plus of art which is among he’s finest of his career. There’s stuff done here with a pencil and ink I didn’t think capable of doing.
Monsters does have issues. The ending, although satisfying just sort of stops plus we don’t see much of any of the story through Bobby’s eyes which I can understand why does rob the story of a viewpoint. These are minor quibbles as this is a wonderful bit of comics that tops off an astonishing 50 year career of someone who started as a Jack Kirby clone before imposing his look upon Conan and then carving his path in the industry which ends with this masterwork that will be his monument for when historians talk about the industry at this time.
Barry Smith is a bit of an enigma in modern comics in that he keeps his public announcements to a minium which for much of the last decade means he’s said nothing. Now his greatest work Monsters is out and it is the book which tops off an astonishing career from a Jack Kirby clone to this amazing work.
Here’s a rare interview with the man for the Comix Experience site and it’s worth your time.
Back in the 1980s there was a surplus of outstanding quality comics in a diversity of genres, many of them are now lost in the folds of history and the dominance of the Watchmen/Dark Knight/Maus narrative of history. One of those comics lost was Phil Elliott’s superb strip, The Suttons. Running from 1985 to 1991 it tells the story of a young couple, Julie and Dave, living an ordinary life in Maidstone adjusting to becoming parents and bringing up their first child and more.
It would have been easy to have elements of grimness in this pandering to the comics of the time then, and indeed, now, but Elliott keeps everything gentle, with some of the strips being genuinely touching and bursting with a humanity, not to mention decency, that just makes you feel good reading them. That’s the joy of these comics; they’re just about an ordinary middle class couple living a nice life and it’s a perfect read. It is a crime Elliott had to crowdfund this collection as a publisher should see the quality in front of them but it seems crowdfunding is the only option for some creators.
The collection is available by emailing Elliott directly at email@example.com
The Marvel Cinematic Universe must be like living in an ongoing hellscape rather than a world of wonders. Mad gods can wipe half the universe out of existence, while enhanced people and super-powered individuals stomp round the planet caring nothing of borders and international treaties, and you don’t know if giant alien craft are going to come crashing upon you. You would literally be living in terror, yet here people live in a mix of normality or an unsettled refugee.
Then there’s the entire character of Sam Wilson who we first see acting on behalf of the US armed forces, and I assume the US government, in doing slightly dodgy things in the Middle East, but by the end of the series he’s rewriting what it means to be Captain America while being a tool of that nation’s colonialism. He’s no more a hero than John Walker who for much of the series is painted as a villain but in reality, this is a normal human being asked to fight people with superhuman abilities, and his unpreparedness costs the life of his partner who is Fridged as soon as the show can.
On top of this there’s the shonky pacing and plotting of the series. This series feels like a film expanded to nearly six hours so there’s so much padding with characters literally just standing there spouting exposition in flatly shot scenes which reminded me of how soap operas look To be fair some of this horrible disjointed feel can be put down to the break in production because of Covid 19. That said, it could have lost a couple of episodes and been better for it.
It is enjoyable junk fun if you don’t think about the horrible contradictions it throws up, or how the writers struggle to see the world without an American lens on, but like WandaVision before it this was a way to get Sam into being Captain America while pushing the MCU plot along a bit. Unlike WandaVision it was not as good and less cohesive as a work in its own right. Next up is the Loki series which does at least promise a break from the norm of the MCU.
One last thing, vast chunks of this series, including dialogue, was lifted from the works of people like Mark Guenwald and Ed Brubaker, but beyond a small credit hidden away these people, or their surviving families, get nothing even though Disney/Marvel make millions from these things. I’d assumed Disney were paying creators but it appears not to be the case. I wish MCU fans were as passionate about creator rights as they are about how cool Sam’s new costume is…