Last Saturday I booked in a half day to go to a comics fair in Birmingham, which was something I used to do almost twenty years ago, including sometimes being on the other side of the table in order to sell them whilst I was at University.
It was a really strange experience – and whilst it seems that some aspects of the comics industry have changed a great deal in the last few years (i.e. city centre stores, such as Forbidden Planet now only focus on current issues, not back issues. Amazon sells graphic novels cheapest, thereby commoditising everything etc) some things just haven’t changed at all.
There were only seven or eight stalls there, some fairly large, some very small. I went really for a bit of a memory trip, to have a root around and see if there was anything that I fancied buying in sequence.
Whilst there were some of the new titles from Marvel and DC, the vast majority of all stock on show – certainly more than 50% and perhaps more than 70% – seemed to date back before I last attended one of these events. Whilst a certain type of comic enthusiast does go for silver age comics from the 60s, my own interest is just in anything remotely decent, irrespective of style.
So, having spent 20 minutes realising that there wasn’t a huge amount just waiting to be discovered, I thought I’d ask one of the guys who undoubtedly knew more than me about what had been going on for the last few decades. Effectively, I was looking for comics such as those mentioned here – from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, to Cerebus, or even decent Batman story arcs.
There was actually very little on show. There was just one recent Walking Dead issue and a couple of broken sequences for things that I may have fancied – such as Alan Moore’s Necronomicon, which is only available in trade paperback with The Courtyard, which I already have and a couple of issues from various Dark Tower arcs, with amazing art by Jae Lee.
Eventually, I just bought two sets – a full run of 1602, primarily because it was written by Neil Gaiman, and Pigeon’s From Hell by Dark Horse. So, a bit underwhelmed really.
So, back to Plan A then – which is to pick up trade paperbacks of titles such as Walking Dead, The Boys, Preacher etc as and when. There were a few of the aforementioned Alan Moore Swamp Thing books, but as hardback, UK reprints – and for some reason I just can’t bring myself to treat them quite like comics as they feel like they belong in the same category as Christmas annuals and just haven’t been presented with the care that they deserve. Sandman is another case in point – I’m reading some of my old books, alongside a couple of new ones that I’ve purchased to plug the gaps – and the new ones are beautifully presented on decent paper and have been recoloured, which makes the old ones look very dated by comparison. A purist wouldn’t care but i have to say that it does affect my pleasure of reading them, much as I wish it didn’t.
So, no plans to go to another fair for at least 20 years or so.