Monday, February 16, 2015

Comic Cuts - 16 February 2015

I'm writing this bonus column as I missed out a few things on Friday—my energy levels were low and by the time I'd finished scanning and cleaning the covers it was already way past my bedtime. So here's a couple of things I wanted to catch up on.

When I was writing comic cuts two weeks ago we were heading off to see Stewart Lee's 'Room With a Stew' tour. Believe me when I say this was the one time I was worried about the audience. Would we live up to Lee's expectations. Would pockets of the audience grasp what Lee was doing in the name of comedy while other areas sat, looking on blankly, misunderstanding or not comprehending the jokes.

When Lee reviews the Colchester audience, hopefully he won't have found us wanting.

I have rarely queued up for a signature. My earliest experiences with people I thought were famous were with science fiction writers. If you've been to a science fiction convention, you'll know that its difficult to tell the difference between the writers and fans as both tend to wander around freely or hang out at the bar. The only difference is probably the quality of lunches and dinners, especially if publishers are paying.

When I was 17, I attended SeaCon '79, the World Science Fiction Convention in Brighton, and found myself mixing with an astonishing array of authors who had achieved almost legendary status as far as I was concerned—people like Theodore Sturgeon, Alfred Bester, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, Robert Silverberg, Robert Sheckley, L. Sprague de Camp, John Brunner, Brian Aldiss... the list goes on... OK, a few more then: Hal Clement, R. A. Lafferty, James White, Anne McCaffrey, Joe Haldeman, Fritz Leiber... you get the picture: these were the biggest names in SF. Arthur C. Clarke sat down next to me at a talk given by Greg Benford.

Getting an autograph seemed secondary to actually conversing, albeit briefly in some cases, with these people and I carried that forward into comics—comic strip-style comics—where I must have met most people who attended a UKCAC in the 1980s or 1990s.

It seems a little odd, therefore, to be getting excited about visiting comedians and getting things signed. Maybe its because I've never come across anything like a comedy convention, so this is a rare chance to actually meet (for a few seconds) people whose careers I've followed for years.

I've actually appeared alongside Stewart Lee in a magazine. Remember Alan Moore's Dodgem Logic? I wrote a couple of articles for it including one on T. Lobsang Rampa, the fake Tibetan lama who wrote The Third Eye. The article shared space with pieces by three of my favourite comedians: Stewart Lee, Robin Ince and Josie Long. I met Ince, briefly, after one of his appearances at Colchester Art's Centre, and now I've met Lee briefly after his appearance at the Mercury.

However, rather than just getting a signature, I have plans to get the old team of Lee & Herring signing my Fist of Fun DVDs with one of their catchphrases. All I've got to do is get Richard Herring to sign "Aaaah" and I'll have it. (Sorry, to understand this you need to have watched Fist of Fun and to have a long memory.)

Also two weeks ago—follow this link to see that post—I was having a go at how terrible the piss-poor "firstsite" art gallery has been since it opened in 2011. Well, it appears I'm not alone: the Arts Council have scrapped a £2.4 million, three-year deal that they had pledged to the gallery last July. Instead, they've given them a one year special funding arrangement worth £800,000 and a set of goals to meet before they will be offered a second similar amount.

Firstsite lost £484,000 in 2012 and £400,000 in 2013. It currently has no exhibition on because apparently it takes two months (10 January to 14 March) to "help finance a new business plan".

I wonder if this is the time I should bring up my idea for a Comic Art Museum? It can't be a worse idea that what we've got at the moment and I've always thought we could do with a museum dedicated to comics. We have an amazing history of comic art and so much worth celebrating and Colchester is on a direct line out of London and a popular tourist destination due to its Roman remains and Norman castle. We have the university and language schools that bring in plenty of students. I'm almost convinced that it's worth putting together a pitch.

Tomorrow I'll be returning to Dodgem Logic. The urge to list things has become too much to suppress this weekend and I'll hopefully have a list of contents for five of the eight issues (all I have) for presentation tomorrow—the magazine really was an eclectic collection of talent.

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