Yesterday I spent the day at Kettering's inaugural NICE comic book convention held at Wicksteed Park and organised by the guys who run the Close Encounters comic shops in Bedford and Northampton. It is the first comic convention I have attended since the London Super Comic Con in February and the first show that I have spent time at as a dealer in two years. Brendon, my former business partner and best bud, bought a couple of tables to get rid of some of the comics and graphic novels that he had accumulated over the past year or two and I volunteered to help out on the stall. This led to massive amounts of nostalgia as it had been so long since we had worked together in that capacity and I had always considered us a Dream Team of sorts. I have missed our weekends away at conventions, making money, talking about all things geeky with other nerds and generally having the most fun! All that was missing yesterday was Dan, who was the third amigo during our first couple of years doing cons. What I didn't miss was the stress of having to make sure that we made a certain amount of money to cover the bills and whilst other dealers were stressing about whether or not it was worth the time, money and effort to come, me and Don just had a laugh knowing that nothing major was on the line and that was truly NICE!
I am a member of a forum called the CON MEN, which is a group of geeks that visit as many Conventions as possible, collecting sketches and autographs and generally having a laugh. It was great to finally be able to meet these fine gentlemen and I must say almost surreal when I arrived at half seven in the morning to find that the queue for the event was made up of at least 90% CON MEN!!! I wore my t-shirt with pride (even though I seemed to be the only one). Amongst this rag tag group of rapscallions was Mat Guy, founder of Con Men and one of my co-hosts on the Hero Talk Podcast. I talk to this guy (pun very much intended) every week, so it was great to finally meet him face to face! I'm looking forward to meeting James and Dean at future events.
The big draw for the show and what was supposed to be the highlight was Alan Moore's first appearance at a comic convention in 22 years. For the cost of donating a graphic novel to the Northamptonshire Libraries, we had the privilege of attending a panel in which Mr Moore would talk about his experiences being a writer and give a Q&A to the fans. Brilliant! I get to do a good deed by donating to a good cause and I get to finally hear one of my heroes speak. This will be great! I had always been a defender of all things Alan Moore. Controversy seems to follow him around, but I always respected his opinions, his convictions and of course, his work. I boycotted Before Watchmen and was in complete agreement that he was screwed over by DC.
And then I heard him speak...
He began by saying that he wasn't there to be a part of the comic side of the convention and that he would be giving us advice about reading and writing, but instead he spoke for an hour and ten minutes about his experiences reading and writing comics. He complained about the "inbreeding" within comics, how creators being comic fans themselves primarily, take too much influence from the comics they loved as children and that this is a bad recipe for good comics, and then he went on to talk about wanting to recreate his childhood memories whilst writing both Superman at the early part of his career and Tom Strong at the latter end. He openly admits to avoiding all comics and the industry on whole, but talks trash about creators whose work he probably hasn't even given the time of day. The his feelings for the industry on whole is like "bitter ashes" he said during his promotion of the appearance at the show itself, though he gleefully spent plenty of time promoting his new Edgar Allen Poe inspired comic, Providence, which is due to be released by Avatar. I entered the talk as an Alan Moore fan boy. I left knowing what an unadulterated hypocrite he is, which makes me sad. Does it make me lose respect for him? Yes. Will it make me lose respect for his work? Not his early stuff at least, but I doubt I will be rushing out to pick up any of his new releases.
The final straw for me was when he began lambasting Stan Lee and attempted to quote Stan in his interview with Jonathan Ross for the Steve Ditko documentary as evidence why Stan wasn't very NICE. I have seen this documentary four or five times and can say with unequivocal doubt that Moore misquoted Lee with his rambling tirade against the industries greatest creator. The people that continue to preach that Jack Kirby did all of the hard work, therefore he is the creator of the Marvel Universe, all need to take a chill pill. Stan came up with the ideas, he is the inventor. Nuff Said! Kirby did a few books, Ditko did a couple, Bill Everett did some, Don Heck did some, Gene Colan too. Stan came up with ALL OF THEM!!! And edited. And wrote them (even if it was only tightening up Jack's "clunky" scripts). And promoted them. And wrote the Bullpen. He was the life and soul of Marvel and it's deep rooted characteristics all belong to Stan. I'm not saying that it wasn't a joint effort, but it damn sure wasn't Jack Kirby and Jack Kirby alone!
All in all I had a very NICE time. It wasn't the biggest or flashiest convention I have ever been too, but it was the most fun I have had at a con in a long time. Even the Alan Moore ending couldn't sour my time spent with some incredible people and I can't wait for NICE 2 next year!