Sunday, 23 September 2012

NICE to see you, to see you NICE!!!

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!

NICE was also an amazing opportunity to catch up with so many people that i hadn't seen in a while. Most of my former customers were in attendance, so it was great to see what they were all up to. It was also brilliant knowing that for most of them, their passion for comics was still alive. Almost all of the members from my book club were in attendance and even though I see them all every month, it is always good to be able to spend some extra time with them. They in particular were the backbone of my customer base, for which I will be eternally grateful! Also, making their Kettering town debut were many of the dealers, publishers and small pressers that I have made friends with over the years, so catching up with them was NICE too!

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 highlight of the weekend for me though was hanging out with my good friend and creative partner Hal Laren and talking to people within the industry who were generous enough to give their time and advice to a couple of upstart creators on the verge of breaking into an industry that we love. A HUGE Thank You has to go to David Hine, Emma Vieceli, Kate Brown, Adi Granov and especially Harry Markos for all of your words of encouragement, advice and help with our future endeavours. Hal and I are ready to shock the world!

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!



  1. Well said man. Very true about Alan Moore, i did leave the session feeling a bit disheartned, however it was great to see him in person, especially after his 25 years out of the spotlight. Being my first proper comic con, i really enjoyed the whole experience! I met lots of new fellow comic lovers, purchased a large variety of comics, got to meet a few very talented comic artists, and enjoyed a great day spent with some awesome people! Can't wait for next years dude!

  2. Great post as always Mario but the way i see it, it was a joint collaboration between Lee and Kirby as well as Ditko during those days.

    1. I agree Neil. That is what I believe too, but there are a tonne of people out there that just want to erase what Stan Lee did as the driving force behind Marvel, making him the bad guy. Moore was out of order for what he said... in my opinion that is :)

    2. Hey, Mario - great post and a real shame about Moore - I know you seemed pretty stoked to be seeing him ahead of the event.

      Likewise feel that Stan The Man seems to get the bum end of the deal in many people's eyes, although I've always thought that without him on the scene we'd be missing so much of the great comics heritage ... how's about we all give people credit for what they have done - wouldn't the (comics) world be a nicer place for that?! Or is that just me being naive?!

      Couldn't make NICE this year, but sounds like it'll be worth a visit next year ... haven't attended any type of con for years, so would be good (as an ageing collector!!) to see what's what.

      As always, thanks for your thoughts, my friend ... and pleased to hear the 'being a dealer' expereince was still a good one for you, Mario - in my humble opinion you were one of the best I've ever done business with.

      Catch you soon, buddy, G x

    3. Hey G,

      Was a shame to not see you there, though I know you are working hard at the moment. I don't think you are being naive at all and I agree with you 100%, everyone should get the credit that they deserve and there should be less bickering about it. Maybe in an alternate dimension.

      Let me know if you are still on for coffee later in the week? And Thank You as always for your kind and humbling words! They always mean alot to me!

      M X

  3. I'm annoyed that I was unable to attend NICE due to work commitments, would have loved to have been there, but I am glad that I missed out on the Alan Moore talk. I have to say that I am not very surprised to hear that he upset and annoyed a lot of people with his negative attitudes towards the comic industry. You yourself know my views on him from our lengthy arguments Mario, lol. I am sorry, however, that you had a bad experience meeting one of your heroes.


  4. Hi, I'm interested in getting in touch with the 'con men' - having seen them at numerous cons this/last year. Can you provide details? Thanks, Jo