What I thought of Glasgow Comic Con 2017

I’ve attended more comic conventions and marts as an ordinary punter rather than a dealer or publisher in the last three months than I have for the last 35 years.The latest is the Glasgow Comic Con (GCC) which is a well established con having started in 2011 and seemingly growing every year.

I’ve discussed often on this blog the state of British conventions and how they split into two; the San Diego multimedia type and the one where comics are still the primary focus. GCC falls firmly in the latter type which is good as the former comes with issues which I’m not going to spend too much time on but the main one is that there doesn’t seem to be much love for the comics medium itself at these shows. This cannot be said of GCC where creators ranging from small press to established creators rub shoulders, and they do rub shoulders as the venue (Royal Concert Hall) is simply impractical as the convention has simply outgrown it.

Take the dealers room. Not a huge selection of dealers but getting through the aisles was a chore, especially if you’re disabled as I am or if you’re in a wheelchair. Now this wasn’t anything as bad as the Bristol Comics Expo in 2014 which was frankly, fucking recklessly planned on part of the organisers but put it like this; I had more people bump into me nearly knocking me over in a day than I did during the week I was at Glastonbury. Now I don’t know if they can find a hotel, and I don’t know what the place is like since the refurbishment, but the Central Hotel did us right when we organised Glasgow’s first comic convention 32 years ago. Whether it can be got for the right price is another matter but I can’t see the current venue being practical in the long term.

This aside, the convention is astonishingly professionally run. Far too many cons have staff who seem to have no skills in actually dealing with people, but this wasn’t the case here as a one-day con fairly rattled through a programme of talks featuring 2000AD creators such as Pat Mills and Fraser Irving, not to mention signings from John Wagner, Jamie McKelvie and Keiron Gillen.

The small press row/room endured the usual sub-superhero nonsense or elves (bloody elves!) I’ve been seeing in small press rooms going back decades but there was enough originality not to mention talent on display to suggest some of the folk there have a career in an industry which is utterly unforgiving and brutal. Look though to Gillen and McKelvie. I remember the Bristol con in the early 2000’s where they launched Phonogram as a sharp injection of thrilling originality from two talents who were ahead of the game. it was a breath of fresh air to see creators try hard to make something new and that for me is your gold standard if you’re an aspiring creator in the 21st century. Superheroes and fantasy are genres where you wade through them but if you do use those genres make it personal and most of all, good!

Highlight of the day was former UKCAC organiser Frank Plowright interviewing Pat Mills about all the things Pat likes talking about, though I must say Pat was very chilled when mid-90’s 2000AD was brought up.

Overall this is a nice medium sized one-day event that’s grown out of the venue and the one day and we need comics conventions that are still about comics, rather than media or cosplay. Let the megacons soak up that market and it’s nice to know all these years after a load of us kicked off Glasgow’s comic marts/cons in the 80’s that they’re still going strong today.

What I thought of The Wicked and the Divine: 455 AD #1

This one-off issue is another break from the regular storyline that takes us from the 21st century back to 455AD when the Vandal army destroyed Rome, except all isn’t as we think and we see Julius Caesar go off to fight the Vandal army by himself.

Julius is in fact Lucifer and is essentially the last God standing.

Annake chides Lucifer for what he’s done, but he’s having none of it.

He also seems to have totally sussed Annake out for the manipulative God-killer she is.

However after declaring himself emperor and wishing Rome to be a better place, things don’t turn out as planned.

As Lucifer turns out to be quite, quite mad.

Things end up turning out as we know them too but this is a story to show just how far Annake will go to end the brief lives of the Gods and what happens when a God tries to live longer than their allotted lifespan. It’s a bleak, gory and depressing vision and one that is expertly written by Gillen and splendidly drawn by Andre Araujo. This is a nice compliment to the ongoing series but without the main series the story is weaker so don’t treat this as something you can dive into on it’s own.

What I thought of The Wicked and the Divine #26


We’re well into the new reality of the Wicked and the Divine, however last issue’s ending introduced us to The Great Darkness who as this issue starts is in a fight with Baal.


This issue is one of the issues we get a load of superheroic fight scenes.

wickedandivine39Which is quite unusual for a comic so heavily built upon characterisation, but The Great Darkness has been built up as a baddie since nearly the start of the story three years ago.


After the action we find out just how bad The Great Darkness is, and it isn’t good at all.


Gillen and McKelvie make it clear the seriousness of the threat, though with the Pantheon being this dysfunctional family of geeks, arseholes and children the idea they’d do a grown-up mature decision when democracy was introduced into their group was a dream. By the end of this issue it starts to become clear why Annake was calling Laura ‘The Destroyer’ as well as how Laura isn’t a reliable, even trustworthy God.

All in all this is a nice issue that moves the plot and characters on in equal measure while the threat of The Great Darkness lurks in the foreground setting things up nicely for future issues.


What I thought of Cinema Purgatorio #4

Thoughts about #1#2 and #3.


A simply beautifully fearsome cover from Kev O’Neill welcomes us to issue 4 of Cinema Purgatorio and a very disturbing King Kong inspired story from Alan Moore and O’Neill.


In this strip Moore has Kong speaking the words of Willis O’Brien, the animator who brought Kong to life, and this creates a weirdly unsettling feeling. It’s a narrative that ends up playing out just as unsettlingly as Moore’s previous Cinema Purgatorio stories.


Next up in Garth Ennis’s Code Pru we find out more about our paranormal-Americans, or monsters as we’d know them. Turns out most of them are just like us when it comes to getting a little bit of help.


As for the Pokemon Go that’s never going to happen, Keiron Gillen’s Modded is vying with Moore’s dark stories of cinema in terms of my favourite strip here.


A More Perfect Union finally sees American civil wars soldiers and giant ants do battle at last.


Lastly, The Vast comes lumbering at the reader with more giant mutated monsters.

cinemapurgatorio21After four issues the stories are settling down. My favourites are Moore and O’Neill’s weird strips alongside Modded, with Code Pru coming up next. The other two strips are fine but I’ve grown to not be too bothered if they end, I’d be pissed off if we lost Moore and Gillen’s material, plus it’s always great to read new Garth Ennis. As we head into issue five things are looking good for hopefully a lengthy run of this wonderfully varied anthology title.

What I thought of Cinema Purgatorio #3

Thoughts about #1 and #2.


There’s something very Blue Jam about Alan Moore’s work for the increasingly interesting Cinema Purgatorio. All his stories so far have had a trippy, dark, horrific feel but are still funny in a twisted way very much like that series was so if Moore is drawing influence from Chris Morris I’m not complaining. In this issue we have Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill  sort of coming back to superheroes, albeit one in an 1930’s type serial. It’s unsettingly funny.


Next up is the Garth Ennis strip, Code Pru, which is bloody, messy and monstrous this issue as it takes a bit of inspiration from Alien for this episode’s monster.


As for Modded,it’s barring Moore’s strip, it’s the best of the comic.It’s best enjoyed thinking this as a kid’s cartoon but with more blood.


A Better Union is an odd little beast set as it is during the American Civil War and is a mix of historical war comic with some giant ants.


While The Vast treads some old ground but does so well.


Cinema Purgatorio has settled into a nice pace with all the strips hitting a good head of steam. Only Max Brooks’s Civil War strip needs to really get going otherwise it’s all good stuff that is worth looking at even if you’re not an Alan Moore completist.

What I thought of Cinema Purgatorio #2

Thoughts about #1.


The second issue of this promising anthology title again starts with Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s opening story which centres round the stars of a old Roman epic who realise they’re on a film set and more. It’s an unsettling little tale and more subtle than the first issue’s more visceral story from the pair.


Next up is Garth Ennis’s Code Pru, which after dealing with vampires last issue move onto another classic monster.


This episode expands on the world Ennis has created where classic monsters are real, and suffer bigotry and beatings from the police who despise them. It’s not especially hard to work out the analogy Ennis is spinning here.

Next up is Keiren Gillen’s twister take on Pokemon, Modded. This is a fun, and utterly bizarre strip that fits what Moore’s trying to do with the entire Cinema Purgatorio idea perfectly. It’s also gloriously fucked up.


As for the Max Brooks American Civil War story, A More Perfect Union, that takes an odd turn after nearly two episodes of building up what looked like a historical war story into something else.


As for The Vast written by Christos Gage it still remains the weakest story in the comic though it’s still a decent read.


Cinema Purgartorio is proving itself to be a successful anthology title, with Moore and Gillen’s stories in particular standing out as being odd things that probably wouldn’t work outwith of this comic. A couple of the stories need beefing out a bit but none of them are truly terrible as is often the case with anthology titles, and I’d recommend jumping on board now while the chance is there.

What I thought of Cinema Purgatorio #1


As the blurb for this new comic from Avatar Press won’t let us forget, the anthology comic is something readers in the US at least seem to be contemptuous of. In Europe we’re used to such things thanks to the likes of 2000AD and Heavy Metal, but in America in the modern era it’s fell by the wayside hence why Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill decided to bring back the concept with Cinema Purgatorio; an attempt to do something different with the format.

From the off this feels different, almost grubby as Moore and O’Neill set up the idea of one of those filthy little cinemas that used to infect the UK decades ago that’s show anything from horror films, to porn, to melodramas, basically anything. In this case it’s a worrying pastiche of old silent comedies.


Moore and O’Neill start this as a zany silent film but it quickly becomes something more real and grimmer while still keeping the conventions of silent comedy.It’s a horribly effective and disturbing story that works to set the tone, and having the stories as part of a cinematic programme dispenses with having a Crypt Keeper or Tharg type character introducing the stories.

Next up is Garth Ennis and Raulo Caceres Code Pru. A story about a paramedic, not someone you see as a leading character in comics, but this is a paramedic in a world where vampires are real…


As an establishing episode it’s pretty good, but this isn’t any more than just setting up the concept that vampires are real, people know about it and Pru’s not one of them.

The third story is Kieron Gillen and Ignacio Calero’s Modded. This is a post-apocalyptic science fiction tale set on a ravaged Earth and I’ve seen this concept more times than I’ve taken a piss in my life, This though is something a wee bit different that feels like a post apocalyptic version of Pokemon with a touch of Final Fantasy.


So far it feels very British and very 2000AD in places, especially Gillen’s story, but Max Brooks and Michael Dipascale’s A More Perfect Union gives a chance for a more American voice to be heard in this crowd of noisy Brits.

Set during the Battle of Gettysburg, A More Perfect Union is a historical tale that stands out as there’s nothing seemingly supernatural in this but there’s something interesting about the story as the historical war comic is a nearly extinct species.


It’s back to a more SF/horror tale with Christos Gage and Gabriel Andrande’s The Vast. A kind of Pacific Rim story of giant monsters and the people trying to stop them. It’s the thinnest story in terms of plot, but it’s fun stuff, even if it’s been done over and over before.


Cinema Purgatorio is a nice revamp of the anthology format. It doesn’t especially change anything here as it’s really taking the idea of the old British weekly comics as it’s inspiration but the entire thing is enjoyable, not to mention, interesting enough to read on to see where the various creators take these stories. The stand out stories are Moore’s Gillen’s and Brooks. Ennis’s story is fine but feels like he wrote it on automatic, and Gage’s is OK, but it’s nothing really special.

This isn’t a cheap comic however don’t let the cover price put you off. There’s some excellent stuff in here and it’s also nice to see artists that can draw and not just that, draw in black and white. Too many mainstream comic artists don’t seem to have grasped these basic talents.

So good first issue. Certainly interesting enough to pick up the next couple of issues. I’d give it a try if I were you….

What I thought of Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

Thoughts about #1, #2 and #3.


Last issue saw Emily try to escape using the video to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, but this issue starts in Bristol in 2008 which is a bit of a diversion to say the least. Still, Gillen and McKelvie share the horror that was an Indie night in the (now defunct) Cooler that was on Park Street in the city.


At least I think it’s the Cooler, it certainly looks a bit like it and a ‘hateful hole full of hateful arseholes’ summed what it was up quite well.

It’s probably best that you’ve read the previous issue of Phonogram as this is a tale of Laura, another member of the coven and her time in Bristol. It’s also about spotting little bits of Bristol such as the Wetherspoons used for a scene, or wondering if the houses early in the issue are in Redland or Cotham, or generally as a current inhabitant of Bristol being utterly distracted by the detail McKelvie throws in along with some fantastic layouts.


And there then follows some lovely pages of commentary of the Indie scene, before a superhero fight breaks out that I’m not going to spoil.

This is an odd little issue of the series that’s a bit of an interruption but there’s much going on here as small details are given that hint at the main storyline, and also, in the glossary Gillen confirms the club is indeed The Cooler and a shitehole it was too, but I only skirted the outskirts of the Bristol Indie scene mainly due to the astonishingly poncy arseholes that tended to smother the joy from it.

And this comic brings back the bad and good of days a decade ago. It’s fantastic for that alone.

What I thought of Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #3

Thoughts about #1 and #2.


Yes those are the flying choir boys from Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart on the cover of this issue of The Immaterial Girl.

This is important because Emily Astor has been trapped in a world of music videos by the other half of her personality Claire, but there’s one video that may give her an escape. Can we guess from the cover what that might be??


Emily’s escape takes her through the things she gave up and here McKelvie’s layouts and art are exceptional, while Gillen’s script has some fun comment about old British indie bands like the Young Marble Giants…


I get the impression here that this isn’t just Gillen and McKelvie spilling their guts about the music they’ve passed over as they’ve grown older, but on the painfully annoying snobbery of the various tribes of the British music scene.

As for Claire, she’s not going to let Emily escape easily as Emily has managed to travel back in time in order to speak to her younger self to warn her of the deal she’ll someday do, which, unsurprisingly pisses Claire off.


And then Emily ends up in that Bonnie Tyler video facing death….


If you haven’t picked this comic up then shame on you because this is fucking glorious stuff from start til finish. If you’re aged 30-50 then much of the cultural references are going to hit home, though being reminded of Fischerspooner isn’t something I especially like because they were shite.

Next issue we find out if Emily has escaped a Total Eclipse of the Heart and how much Claire has destroyed Emily’s life…

What I thought of Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #2

Thoughts about #1.


Before reading this issue it’s worth watching again Aha’s Take On Me video, or if you’re not getting old like myself, you can watch it for the first time. Either way it’s pretty essential. Even an auld cynic like myself has to admit it’s not only a still brilliant video, but it’s a pretty good bit of pop music.

That in itself owes a little bit to the end of Ken Russell’s brilliant Altered States.

Almost everything owes itself to something else and it’s something Gillen and McKelvie are only too aware of. As for last issue we saw Emily Astor’s  discarded half personality, Claire, has been living in a world of music videos and now has swapped with Emily, who now live in a world of music videos. Claire is a little pissed off as you’d expect.


So Claire is out to destroy what Emily has built up, while Emily is running for her life in an Aha video.


It’s here that if you don’t let out a laugh and smile then I’m sorry, you’re dead from the scalp down as Emily’s escape is glorious, and for those of us of a certain age that spent the 1980’s in the cinema every day nearly watching films the logo of the cinema here is a nice touch.


Back in the day if Palace Pictures released a film it was a sign of quality, I’ve even got a soft spot for Absolute Beginners.

Anyhow Emily is trying to get herself out of the deal she made but she can’t and also, she’s still being chased by an Aha video before stumbling into a Madonna video and some zombies. That’s right, it’s the Material Girl video.


The Immaterial Girl is fantastic stuff. It’s not just a tour round 80’s pop culture in the UK, but a study of what one gives up in order to gain power and influence, mixed with some fourth wall breaking action. It really is a glorious treat of a comic and I’d buy it now if I were you.