Tuesday, 28 June 2016


It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.
- Oscar Wilde

Philip Larkin stuck it out in a library in Hull.
- Nick Cave

:  So, what did you think of Hull?

Him:  Hull.
The authors.

Me:  Yeah.  Hull.

Him:  City of Culture 2017.

Me:  Indeed.

Him:  In the middle of the countryside.

Me:  Kind of…

Him:  Only discovered twenty years ago.

Me:  That’s everywhere cursed in America, isn’t it?  Haunted American mansions…

Him:  “Why, that must’ve been over twenty years ago.”

Me:  Ha!  Well…  We were at the Hull Comic Con 2016-

Him:  Not the 2017 one.

Me:   No, not yet, ‘cause that whole time machine experiment’s not working out for me.  Did you enjoy it?

The Him makes a small sound.

Me:   I’m going to write it properly in the bit underneath all this.

Him:  I understand.

Me:  What was your favourite part of the day?

The Him makes another small sound and then appears to stop working.

Me:  Welcome return for the Sea Badger there.

Him:  What was your favourite part of the day?1

Me:   Seeing you enjoying Norman Lovett so much, I think.  I really enjoyed the Russell Payne talk about Jack Kirby-

Him:  Yeah.

Me:  I thought that was really good.  I enjoyed the Doctor Who Comics panel too.  I had fun with that one.

Him:  Did you?

Me:  Yeah.

Him:  It was weird because you looked visibly distressed.

Me:  Did I?
Me by Him.

Him:  No.

Me:  I got accused of being a rock star.2

Him:  Yeah.  Because you couldn’t hold the mic properly.

Me:   That’s the way I used to hold a mic.

Him:  Doesn’t surprise me.

Me:  The problem was the substantial height difference between myself and one of the guests.

Him:  Do you wish you were a rock star?

Me:  No.

Him:  Then you could’ve just written a song instead of doing this recording.

Me:  Well, someone has suggested that I should’ve opened with a song that we used to do, just to warm the audience up.  I don’t know if an acapella version of Eating People is Wrong3 would-

Him:  I would’ve walked out.

Me:  Of course you would’ve.  You enjoyed Norman Lovett, I think that’s fair to say?

Him:  Yeah.   I think you enjoyed all of it.

Me:  I did.  I thought Simon Fisher-Becker’s talk was extremely entertaining.  I really want to see that again.  Unfortunately, due to the sound problems I couldn’t quite hear everything, but that wasn’t anyone’s fault.  Just one of those things.

Him:  That was because of the bar.

Me:  Yeah, the performances were taking place in the same room as the main bar area.

Him:  That’s just asking for trouble.

Me:   Well, it’s going to happen isn’t it?  There’s not much you can do about it.  The organisation was excellent and we should do a big shout out to District 14.

Him:  Yeah.

Me:   They did a fantastic job.  It had a great atmosphere. 

Him:  I think they only let people in who would add to the atmosphere.

Me:  We got a Hull cab, didn’t we?

Him:  Yeah.

Me:  But we went along to the second company because the first one looked like the introductory paragraph of a Clive Barker story.  Or Thomas Ligotti anyway.

Him:  It certainly did look like something out of a detective story.

Me:   The work that’s gone into some of the costumes that people were wearing…

Him:  Yeah.

Me:  There was screen accurate stuff.  What would you have said were the best ones?

Him:  The Stormtroopers.  It wasn’t just the costume, they were standing there and they were incredibly still.  Made me uneasy. Whenever they’d slightly move – it was really unsettling.  We walked past the Stormtroopers several times, but as for the other cosplayers, we didn’t get to see too much of them.
Me:  You’d glimpse them as they were going past.

Him:  I’m not gonna lie, bringing your own parrot is-

Me:  Oh yeah!  The pirates with the parrots!

Him:  Having an actual parrot adds a lot.

Him by Me.
Me:   Rev said that during the Norman Lovett panel the parrots were heckling.

Him:  First parrots and then frogs.  He didn’t have a good day as far as animals were concerned.

Me:  He was somewhat distracted by the audience, but the audience were somewhat distracting.  It was terrific.  Really relaxed and fun and we got to meet lots of nice people.  Actually, there wasn’t anyone unpleasant there, I would’ve said.

Him:  Well, you don’t tend to wander up to people and go, “Hello!  Are you an unpleasant person?”

Me:  They usually announce themselves, don’t they?  “Hello!  I’m a terribly unpleasant person and I’ve come to make your life miserable!”

Him:  Ha!

Me:  And we got to meet Rev!

Him:  We did!

Me:   Well, me for the second time without realising it.

Him:  And this time, he didn’t realise it.

Me:   Yeah!  He walked straight past us.

Him:  Just thought we were someone else.

Me:  I do look like Adric.

Him:  You don’t.  You can try, but you don’t.

Me:  Who do I look like then?  Oh – that got answered, didn’t it?  Cedric Diggory’s Dad.

Him:  Yeah.

Me:   I look more like a cat reading a comix.  I did have something to end with but I’ve forgotten it.

Him:  I thought that was it.  I was going to sit here and be silent.  And then you come out with, “I don’t know how to end it now.”

Me:   That’s what I was going to say!  That’s only the second convention we’ve both been to.

Him:  I didn’t go to the first one.

Me:  You did.  That’s the one you met Lis Sladen at.

Him:  Yeah, but I’m certain I didn’t go to a convention.  I’d remember that.

Me:  It was a long time ago.

Him:  Were there only about five people there or something?

Me:   No, it was busy.  Anneke Wills was there; she got roped into doing the raffle.  Peter Miles was there.  And Andrew Beech.  You spent a while talking to John Barrowman’s aunt.

Him:  I did?

Me:   Yeah.

Him:  “Hull Comic Con 2016!  Reminiscing about previous comic cons!”

Me:  Well, that time we were there as guests and this time we were there as staff.

Him:  We didn’t get paid.

Me:  We got t-shirts and pizza.  What am I talking about?  We weren’t guests at the first one!  We were-

Him:  ‘Guests’.

Me:  Wouldn’t it be nice if bodies like British Rail and the Department for Work and Pensions referred to people as ‘guests’ rather than ‘customers’?  And on that bombshell.

Him:  What noises do you want to make?

Me:   I’m typing it.

Him:   We always make the noises though.

Me:  Alright.  Do a parrot.

The Him does a parrot.

Me:  That’s the noise you always make, whatever the animal!

The Him does another parrot.

Me:  Do a Dalek in distress.

Him:  No.
From here you can see forever.  And Killer BOB, if you squint.

1.  There’s really not much to add, but that’s never stopped me before, so...

We caught the helicopter from the Arctic to Edinburgh, then clattered down the coast on the mainline.  I read more than I’ve managed in months, while the Him healed damaged pixel kingdoms and saved untold digital generations.  Or something.  He certainly didn’t get any sleep.

The journey went smoothly and we glided in Hull’s welcoming embrace right on time.  Rev strode up to meet us – he’s a lot taller, and more Wildling, than he appears on podcasts – but overshot by a few feet.  We met District 14’s Steve and Claire, who gave us a lift back to Rev’s Memorabilia Manse where we’d be crashing.  The Him went straight to bed, while I gaped like a wannabe Maester at Rev’s pretty-damn-impressive Library Walls before totally failing to sleep.

Convention day came and went in a bit of a blur, but here’re my impressions.

Hull’s the friendliest city I’ve spent more than a night in.  You get the taste of a city’s personality the moment the train doors slide open and, well, there’s a reason I put quotes at the top, so let’s talk about conventions instead.
Rev's Memorabilia Manse

Comic conventions’ve become big business as a direct result of pop culture – specifically Watchmen, but that’s a rant for another book – and they’ve mutated as wider society’s moved into a new chapter.  There’s a lot to be said for comparing conventions to other occasions where large like-minded groups come together, football matches, concerts, revolutions and so on.  It’s tribal and it’s comforting in a tribe if you feel you belong.  T-shirts that proclaim an interest aren't really a personality substitute, they're an easy way of spotting potential allies in a scary world with a default setting that favours chaos and food chains.  It’s no wonder that uniformed individuality shifts products.  Of course, anything truly subversive will eventually get absorbed into the overall body of established and acceptable behaviour.  It’s partly how our culture inoculates itself against both change and memetic threats .  Taken in small enough doses, an immunity is built.  Failing that, you can always shout, “What’s that?” and switch mugs while they’re distracted.

The Hull University building was huge enough to contain its own Waterstones.  That tells you everything.  Me and the Him picked up our t-shirts, changed self-consciously in the toilets – another echo of being in a band – and then wandered the building getting our bearings before the doors opened to leak a steady, and seemingly relentless, river of folk.  The sheer variety was astonishing.  It felt like every demographic was represented.

I introduced myself to the guests whose microphone moments I was down to moderate, kidding myself this was to set their minds at rest.  Truthfully, it was so I could get to my fallback strategy of letting the audience ask the questions as quickly as possible.  To a one they were friendly, cheerful, polite and-  No.  I’m not going to get too gushy just yet.

First up was the Doctor Who Comics panel.  I introduced Rachael Smith, Russ Leach and Lee Sullivan, bantered briefly and then threw them to the audience.  The audience weren't hungry and threw them back.  This caught me on the hop, so I moved on to asking the questions that I wanted answers to.  This seemed to work, so I stuck with it for the rest of the day. 

Adam Cheal’s talk about getting started creating and publishing comics was eye-opening and sensible; the ‘really attractive, thin and intelligent’ Russell Payne gave a beautiful presentation about Jack ‘King’ Kirby’s work and legacy; despite being fruitier than maybe one or two audience members were expecting Kate Russell’s, reading seemed to go smoothly from where I was standing: in another nudge to the day’s theme this was next to the mixing desk.

The Him and I collected our free pizza and chatted about the atmosphere.  There’s a lot of talk about safe spaces on campuses that misses the point.  Hull Comic Con 2016 however, truly represented a safe space on a campus.

And that’s as gushy as I’m getting, so here’s Rachael Smith’s portrait of us as cats instead.

The Authors As Cats by Rachael Smith.
Executive Producers: 
Steve and Claire 

Lovely to Finally Meet: 
Fan in the Bath and the Fan in the Bathlettes 
The wonderful Tony Hitchman 
Hull University Staff 

Special Thanks: 
District 14
All the staff and guests of Hull Comic Con 2016 – humanity at its finest

2.  Those blinding days’re done, ma’am.  Gone forever.  They were good while they shone though, here’s some proof (if proof be need be). 

3.  In answer to that question you don’t remember asking, it would’ve sounded like this.