In this first part I explained the early parts of my life up to around 1980 and how things were hardly caviar and champers every night, but it was alright but some big events happened in 1980 to change things as they were, and in hindsight, change the course of my life as a number of events happened which changed things.
First up was my brother Steve announcing he was moving out the family home. This caused huge arguments but the jist of what had happened was got deeply involved with FOKT, the local SF fan group and organising SF conventions in Glasgow and was moving high up in the group and in fact was in charge of organising Hitchercon 80, which was as far as I know the first Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy convention anywhere in the world in September of that year and is another story. Before that he was heavily involved in helping organise Albacon 80, the first Easter SF convention held in Scotland, which as I’ve said elsewhere this was the first convention of anything I went to. I was taken by my mother (who always had a sly interest in SF) for the Sunday and I spent my money on comics, and my time watching films before being taken home a tired and happy bunny, bu, guess what, this is another story.
The next was this meant I didn’t need to share a bedroom with my older brother James, so for the first time in my life I had my own bedroom!! This meant my books, comics, and all my other wonderful, glorious crap could be spread out in my own room which gave me a freedom I never had before.
Next was the opening of Glasgow’s first comic shop, Futureshock, which brought me in regular contact with Bob Shaw who by now was almost a family friend because of his friendship with my brother Steve and the fact I think Bob wanted to help me get out from under the shadow of my brothers, not to mention he also really hated the girl Steve started seeing now he was living in the West End of Glasgow. With Futureshock’s opening I was able to get new American comics without struggling across the city, and I was also aware that a group of comic fans also met at the Wintersgills pub but on a different night. I obviously couldn’t go as I was only 13 but a world was opening up to me.
There was something else as well; the fact Futureshock was based in the West End, meant regular trips there and exposure to the sounds of Postcard Records which to someone brought up on Bowie, and exposed to Punk was a huge breath of fresh air.
Lastly was the slow unraveling of the family unit. Steve moving out seemed to disrupt things more than expected, so James became even more quiet and weird, my father had to work even more hours as Steve was no longer contributing while my mother seemed to lose something of herself and as for myself I became less introvert
The next few years saw me go to more SF conventions in Glasgow, this time by myself and the first Glasgow Comic Mart (like a convention but over a day with no guests, just dealers) happened in the spring on 1982 and it was here I met Pete Root, Steve Montgomery and John McShane. I didn’t realise then the impact of all this because all I wanted was Warrior #2.
But I get ahead of myself. I’d become more independent which cheered my mother up, and my father was encouraging me but throughout 1981 my mother started becoming ill, and in 1982 died after a fairly long and painful bout of cancer. The aftershocks of this saw my father slowly fall apart, and over the next year or so I started drifting away and losing myself in comics, SF and music.
Bob Shaw had also split with his business partner at Futureshock and had opened Photon Books in the Candleriggs part of Glasgow, and it was here I started meeting characters like Sloane, Andrew Hope, Peter Coyle, Dom Regan, Jim Clements and a lot more weird and wonderful ones, and Rab. Dear god Rab, the human STD.
It was here I found out that my brother Steve had vanished from Glasgow after his pretty vile girlfriend ripped him, and everyone around her, off, including Bob who by this point was separate from FOKT and the Glasgow SF scene due to a run of highly personal arguments and fall-outs.
In December 1982 my father and me went to Australia thanks to my uncle paying for us to go over for a month to recover from the aftermath of the previous year. We were there in the middle of summer in a place called Wollongong which was exotic and bizarre to my 15 year old self. It was also hot, very, very, very, very, very hot. Even during the summer of 1976 I’d never experienced this sort of heat, and frankly couldn’t cope with it but I loved my holiday there as it was the first holiday I ever had and even brought back a few tectites for Bob.
1983 to 86 are pretty much a blur. A lot happened in those years; I left school, became part of the original AKA Books and Comics gang, discovered the joys and delights of the ‘Tech’ which was the bar/club part of Glasgow Tech College, went to Brighton for a weekend, became politically active, supported Partick Thistle, helped organise what became known as the ‘Eisnercon” which was Glasgow’s first real comic convention, started avoiding Bob Shaw due to the fact he appeared to be Glasgow’s leading pornographer, and did loads and loads which I will go into detail eventually on these blogs.
By the end of 86 though the family was pretty much split. James had moved to just outside Falkirk with his girlfriend. My Father had hit the bottle and was working or drinking and I was left to my own devices which eventually meant I was becoming pretty demoralised. I had tried to get into Glasgow University to do English a few years earlier but my four Highers and 7 O Grades were not enough (now, they’d get you as far as you want to go) and I stupidly turned down a chance to do a course at Stow College because I had this idea it was Glasgow Uni or nothing, so this meant I flitted from nothing, to the dole, to whatever AKA could spare.
At the start of 87, I started dipping into my comics and selling them at marts. The first time I did a Mart I walked out with £400 in cash. That was a fucking fortune in 87, so I dipped in and out of my comics and found this actually helped supplement my lifestyle as my father was spending money on booze all the time, and my brother was turning into a giant arsehole so I was on my own really.
By the end of 87 I was helping Pete Root out with ordering at AKA and I was on the phone chatting with Neil Phipps, one of the lads at Neptune Distribution who were one of the companies we used to get our comics. We were having a chat and he mentioned that they were having a right hassle getting a new member of staff, which made me say ‘well, I’d do it if I lived in Leicester’ (which is where Neptune were based) which resulted in Neil shouting this across the office to Geoff, the MD of Neptune and Geoff coming quickly on the call and saying that’d he’d pay for me to come down for an informal interview though he was effectively hiring me there on that call as we’d met at that year’s UKCAC and we’d spoken often on the phone.
I came off the call and spoke to Pete, who by now was sitting next to me behind the til asking me in Pete’s typically understated way ‘what the fuck’s all that about?’. I explained and Pete said it’s something I should think about seriously about before taking me to the pub to seriously think about it, before being joined by John McShane who advised me that it was a chance too good to turn down. Both knew my circumstances and background & I knew they were right. I needed a sharp change in direction and this was it.
So in December 87 I went down to Leicester for two days to see Neptune and Geoff, and we agreed I’d move down in the New Year and start as soon as I got myself down. I managed to find myself somewhere in Leicester to live with the help of Neil, and forgetting that you needed money to hire a van and pay rent, a loan from John and Pete from AKA to help me on my way.
My father didn’t take the news of this well. But by this time he’d found himself a widow and was calming down a bit, but my brother was a cock about the whole thing and spouted some of the most amazing anti-English spite I’ve heard from any SNP supporter. I haven’t spoken to him since.
I was amazingly sad to leave people behind, but I’d made a decision to move and there was a new generation of AKA lads (who had to handle the Glasgow Comic Wars first hand while I just stirred it from afar) coming through which was good, but I was off to sunny Leicester and the glamour it brought….
Which brings me to the end of my Secret Origin. If it seemed I was being vague, or didn’t go into detail you’d be right. Some of this is because I fully intend going into greater detail and partly because there’s some things I prefer keeping to myself and partly because the diaries I kept from back then are incomplete and my memory isn’t going to fill in all the details.
But this should give enough context for everything I blog about from now on. I’m going to try to keep an order of sorts, but I’m going to probably end up leaping here, there and everywhere so next up could be the tale of Hitchercon 80 and how amazingly nice Douglas Adams was to me, or the history of comic shops in Glasgow in the 80’s, or that trip to Brighton in Easter 1983, or the trip to a comic convention in Birmingham in 1986 which saw people drawing straws as to who’d share a double bed with Grant Morrison, or the late nights of debauchery and on and on.
You’ll just have to wait and see what comes out first.