I'm home now, following a heart attack and an angioplasty. I had a stent fitted, which is apparently a little bit of titanium that keeps your artery open, one small step closer to being Wolverine. On Doctor's orders I am now attempting to do something that anyone else who is self employed will be unfamiliar with - Rest. I'm officially supposed to be not working, and it's made me realise that I had slipped into a lifestyle of never not working, often not getting paid, but never not working. So it's been a good opportunity to stop, kick back and watch a few movies, read some books and comics and take stock of my existence.
After much soul searching and self examination, I have come to one inescapable truth - I really, really don't like having heart attacks.
So I've now gone into a predictable health obsessed frenzy of watching everything I eat, drinking pints of filtered water and reading articles on kidney function. Cheese and coffee are now distant memories. Pizza is something other people enjoy. It's not a very interesting diet, but I do want to stay alive at least long enough to see how the latest Star Wars trilogy ends.
I also realised that my love of books has become more a love of buying and owning books without actually ever reading them, so I have a big pile next to me now and intend to spend at least a week catching up on all the things I've been putting off reading. Just finished PG Wodehouse's Something Fresh (still very funny even after 100 years) and started Ernest Cline's Armada, after really enjoying Ready Player One a few months ago. Also catching up on films - finally watched Heartbeeps, an Andy Kaufman vehicle from 1981, which was a massive flop but I quite enjoyed.
Also watched Nine Lives, which isn't nearly as terrible as everyone seems to think, didn't realise until it began that Barry Sonnenfeld directed it, it's not quite Citizen Kane, but a fun family film and easily the best film I've seen where Kevin Spacey turns into a cat. Today I will be revisiting the classic "Warlords of Atlantis" that I last saw at the cinema in the late seventies.
More realising. It comes with having time to actually stop and think. I realised I spend too much time doing jobs just for cash. I know this is how most people live, but I'm going to really concentrate on doing work that I enjoy, and dumping a lot of the writing and art work that makes my soul shrivel. I'll almost certainly earn less, but I figure the reduction in the household cheese/pizza/coffee bills alone should save me a considerable amount.
Unfortunately I had to cancel a couple of appearance at conventions following my recent heart attack (Did I mention enough times already that I had a HEART ATTACK!!) The Hull Comiccon and the Blackpool Comiccon fell within my "must not leave the house" period, apologies to anyone hoping to see me at either of them. The organisers of both were very gracious about me cancelling, but I still feel bad, I don't like cancelling.
My Doctor said I should be fine to be a guest at London Super Comiccon (LSCC) at the end of August, where I'm doing a "100 years of Jack Kirby" panel on the Saturday. This will be in panel room 3 at 15:15 on the Saturday, not quite sure what format or content it will have yet, but I do know two important things - I will be giving away some Kirby prints and vintage Kirby comics to appreciative members of the audience and it will be the Greatest Comic Con Panel of All Time!
I was going to drive down with John Watson, but now we're both coming on the train, maybe one day John will learn to drive. For the rest of the con I'll be sitting in the Artist Alley upper deck with John Watson on table #116 in between Chris Weston and Dan Slott. It'll be nice catching up with old friends and chatting to people. LSCC is one of the very few remaining Comiccons that is ALL about comics, with tons of comic artists and writers as guests, so if you love comics and want to come to a proper comiccon, then do so. And come say hello. And come to my Kirby panel. And buy one of John Watson's superb sketches.
See you there.
Tuesday, 1 August 2017
I loved "Vision On" and "Take Hart" as a kid. Apparently it was suggested to Tony Hart that the programme be called "Hart Attack" and he vetoed it, saying it sounded too aggressive, also it was insensitive and heart attacks were no laughing matter. Take Hart ran from 1977 to 1983 and was replaced by "Hart Beat" from 1984 to 1993. By 1990 though sensibilities had relaxed, Tony wasn't in it and didn't have a say and a new programme called "Art Attack" began on CBBC.
In 1990, I was a bit old to watch Art Attack, but I'm absolutely sure I wouldn't have been even slightly offended by the title. After last Thursday however, I'm leaning more towards old Tony's way of thinking. Tony knew what he was talking about. It's no laughing matter. I'm 46 and I had a heart attack.
46. Reasonably, that's about 50 years too young to have a heart attack. As anyone who has seen me recently will know, I am in my absolute physical prime. I've been used as a reference model for superheroes (OK, it was Armstrong, the fat one from Archer and Armstrong), but still, I'm relatively fit, I don't smoke, I don't drink much, I try to go for walks in the fresh air. Just goes to show what a silent killer high blood pressure and heart issues can be. I don't feel ill now, apart from the occasional heart attack, I've never felt better, but the medical experts beg to differ, so I'm paying attention. I have a morbid and totally irrational fear of needles, but happily, having constant injections, cannulas and blood tests is slowly curing me of this. I still squirm like an 8 year old girl, but this is an improvement on screaming, hitting the nurse and then fainting.
I'm still in hospital, awaiting an angiogram and possibly an angioplasty and maybe a stent. The staff here are exceptional, doing a great job with good humour, obviously I'm saying this in case any of them read this so I will get preferential treatment, but nonetheless, it's true. They have a wonderful, sometimes dark and surreal, sense of humour, which I guess comes with the job, especially Marian, who has a promising future as a stand up comic. I'm on a ward with four beds, two of which have so far had Paul and Andy in, whose conversation has kept to hanging onto my sanity. It's a weird experience though, having people do everything for me, there's no mental stimulation of any sort, and nothing to do for hours, it's very much like being back in the Civil Service.
Most of my work is on hold, so apologies to all the people waiting for me to do things (although I do have a laptop and wifi in hospital I'm supposed to be resting) but hopefully I will be back on my feet and normal service will be resumed very shortly.
Here's some good basic advice though - take your meds, listen to your doctor, look after yourselves.
Monday, 19 June 2017
Trafford Comic Con was organised by POD Events, who’d invited me after I was a guest at their “Hollywood comes to Blackpool” event last year. I’d presumed it was at the Trafford Centre itself, a massive shrine to consumerism just off the M60 in Manchester, but it was actually just next door at an indoor sports arena. A nice sized venue, and if anyone fancied a quick game of five-a-side, there were a few pitches all marked out. Also handy because my family could go shopping while I worked. I got there far too early, so set up and had a wander around.
The atmosphere at the Trafford Con was lovely, lots of families, lots to do, well organised. There was the usual trader’s hall, selling film, sci-fi, fantasy and comic related merchandise. Quite a few tables selling actual comics too, which was a nice change. Lots of Funko Pops, a tombola, sweets and someone selling picture frames made out of cut up comics, that always upsets me a bit. I hate to see old comics butchered. Quite a sizeable trader’s area though, about the size of a football pitch. Actually, exactly the size of a football pitch, it was on a football pitch. So, as you walked round looking at Star Wars figures you were on artificial grass, which added a surreal outside feel to the place.
The guests were lined up together away from the traders, a couple of Stormtroopers (the always friendly Sandeep and David Santana), the legendary Michael Henbury (Labyrinth, Star Wars, Harry Potter), Matthew Dale (Dr Who, Star Wars) and a couple of comic guests, both called Russ – me and Russ Leach (Dr Who Adventures, How to Draw the Marvel Way). A shame they couldn’t invite Russ Heath and P. Craig Russell and called it RussellCon...
Crucially, we were looked after well by the support staff. A constant flow of drinks, snacks and meals were on offer. The organisers rope in local cosplay groups to help out, so I also have the added bonus of having my lunch delivered by a zombie bride. She was very friendly though. The events on the main stage were MCed by cosplayers too, so a female Riddler (sorry, I can’t remember her name…. she did a great job though) interviewed Russ Leach, it all added to the carnival atmosphere of the event.
The artists and actors were lined up along one wall to the left of the main stage, with a tiered seating stand to the right, so we got to watch every single event, which was a diversion, but a bit loud sometimes. I gave a Jack Kirby talk in the morning to a small but enthusiastic crowd, and Russ Leach did a Q&A in the afternoon. The “Two the Hilt” guys who I’d seen at Sci-Fi Scarborough a few weeks back did a lightsabre demonstration, they are always pretty good and it was cool having the chance to see the full show right in front of me while I sat and sketched for people. We got to see the cosplay parade in all its glory too, mini-Stan Lee was there with his Mum again (still no sign of a mini-Jack Kirby), I didn’t see who won though, but they were giving out trophies that looked pretty groovy. POD awarded each of the guests a rather cool glass engraved trophy too, which was a nice touch, it now has pride of place on a shelf next to my trophy for coming third in the Hull Comiccon Quiz.
On top of the traders, us guests and the main stage, POD also organised a few photo areas, with a Tardis, a very realistic Davros and Daleks, A dragon, a dinosaur, Captain America on a motorbike, that sort of thing, it was the stuff that Snapchat stories yearn for. There was a retro gaming area too with tournaments. There were probably other things I missed, there was some sort of “Survival Challenge” going on that people were talking about, but I only had a quick look round, it was such a large space, there were still quite a few areas free for people to hang around, it didn’t feel crammed in. There was loads going on I didn't see, or mention here, so a good day out, not one of those comiccons you can see in ten minutes.
In saying that, it was a bit quieter than anyone expected, not empty by any means, the stand in front of the main stage was busy all day, but there was no queue of people waiting to talk to me, just people coming over to see us every so often, which was unusual and slightly damaging to my ego. Some suggested that the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester had made people reticent to attend large events like this, and apparently, there were quite a lot of people who paid for tickets but never turned up, which was a shame. Although this meant there were next to no queues for any of the guests or events, so great for people visiting the con. I spent most of the convention just chatting to Russ Leach and his son, and the magnificently hairy Matthew Dale, with sporadic chats to people wandering past. The atmosphere was very family friendly, more so than most conventions, lots of families, lots of kid friendly activities. It’s always a bit odd to see little 6 year olds girls dressed as Disney princesses having a photo taken with zombies, none of them seemed scared, although one zombie did look a bit nervous when Rapunzel tried to pull his ear off.
Slightly disappointed no-one organised a cosplayers game of football, watching Captain America tackle Dr Who, weave past Harry Potter, pass to Harley Quinn and shoot at Darth Vader in goal would have made a great video. Maybe next time….
Thanks to Neil, Steve and all at POD Events for doing such a fantastic job of organising it. Check their webpage for future POD events.
I'm having a break from comic cons for July while I finish the book I'm writing with John Watson. Any day now.....
Then back in the saddle for August at the following events-
6th August 2017Hull Comiccon
12th August 2017
Blackpool Comic Con
25th to 27th August 2017
London Super Comic Convention
Tuesday, 6 June 2017
|Lightsabers in the mist at Swindon Comic Con|
I didn’t go with the ray of sunshine that is John Watson this year, my brother-in-law Keegan came to help instead, so there won’t be a Watson counter-blog contradicting the events in mine. Don’t worry though, we are going to LSCC together this year and that’s guaranteed to be 3 days of solid hilarity.
Swindon. I’m still not quite sure where it is, but I drove to Hull first to pick up Keegan then down the M1 and veered off right to Swindon, so it’s somewhere West of London. Swindon has more roundabouts than cars, including one giant roundabout that had five little roundabouts inside it. Once you enter the labyrinth of roundabouts, it’s very easy to spend a couple of days just driving round around in never-ending circles. It’s a miracle anyone ever leaves, I imagine some people just run out of petrol driving around and around and just abandon their cars and set up rudimentary settlements on the grass circles inside the roundabouts. With the help of my co-pilot Keegan though, I did manage to find the convention. For the second year, the event was held at the Steam Railway Museum, so if you like trains and comic conventions (and who in their right mind doesn’t?) this was a pretty great combination.
Now I like Swindon Comic Con, there are so many film/tv/sci-fi/comic conventions in the UK now, this one does stand out as different, in a good way. For an independent convention outside London, it has way more guests than you would expect, with an emphasis on TV and film, but still a decent number of writers and artists, not to mention quite a lot of wrestlers. They also have a real emphasis on raising money for charity, with several causes benefitting.
It catered really well for all ages with things like a Princess area for little girls, with several Disney princesses sat in zones where the kids could chat to them and have photos taken.
There was a Virtual Reality gaming area, a Jedi academy and various zones with models from Dr Who and Star Wars. Outside they had loads of cars and props from movies. So, if you were bringing little ones, it wasn’t just rows of tables, and this obviously worked because I’d say I saw more families wandering round at this con than any other I’ve been to.
We drove down Friday night, and bought the world’s most expensive drink in the hotel bar before we retired for the night. We arrived too late to set up Friday, instead getting up early and driving 5 minutes down the road to STEAM – the Museum of the Great Western Railway. The artists and authors were all lining a wide corridor in front of a beautiful old steam train, while the TV/Film stars and merchandising were in the main hall. So I didn’t really spend much time hobnobbing with celebs, although Chris Barrie did walk past on the way to the toilet and Martin Roberts had a brief chat as he walked by.
Actually, I say that, but one other thing Swindon Comiccon does quite well is integrate guests and punters in the after party. For a separate ticket, people can attend an after party, where all the guests are invited. It’s held in some sort of social club/village hall. They had food, a DJ, a charity auction and raffle, and it was a nice chance to have a proper chat with people. It was also slightly surreal seeing actors from Red Dwarf and Eastenders doing the Macarana with a couple of Zombies. Barry Britain from Britain’s Got Talent provided some entertainment too, I’m not quite sure what it was he did, I felt like I missed it, maybe I was at the bar, he seemed like a friendly chap though.
Saturday was busy in the main hall but quite quiet for us, but the organisers made an effort to fix this with extra signage and more doors open and it really picked up on the Sunday.
In the main hall they had most of the remaining actors from ‘Allo ‘Allo and George and Mildred, Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Trevor and Simon, Hannah Spearitt and Andrew Lee Potts from Primeval, a ton of Star Wars supporting actors and several wrestlers. Something for everyone really, which is where Swindon excelled, it did it’s best to provide a good day out for people and it showed on the faces of the people attending and the atmosphere of the whole weekend. People had a good time. As a last minute guest they also actress Rosie Jane, who plays new companion Bill Pott’s Mum in Dr Who, a nice addition from a very recent show.
I spent most of my time at my table, sketching and agreeing with people who pointed out how talented I am, so didn’t really get chance to speak to many of the other guests properly. I always forget to take photos of sketches, although last year I did take quite a few. It's such a shame because I know John Watson enjoys seeing them. I do have one of a Batman I did for a little boy though. At least you can tell it's Batman.
In the Author’s and Artist’s alley there were some familiar faces, Dr Who artist Grant Perkins, Lee Townsend, Lee Bradley and his enormous stand, and some new ones. Nathan Pegler has some rather nice pastel art, unusual to see an artist doing sci-fi images in pastels, Keegan bought a print of a Borg cube that he did.
On the table next to me was Basil Waite and an entourage of several followers. They just made me feel old bouncing around singing and getting excited about absolutely everything, but it was nice to see their enthusiasm and cheerfulness.
As usual, I forgot to take many photos, so thankyou to Keegan for sending me some. An old friend, Stewart, was there with his two boys and he kindly sent me a photo of me where I look like I’m asleep at my table.
At least two people, yes TWO, at Swindon mentioned they read this blog. So hello to both my readers. As usual, there were some pretty impressive Cosplayers, not least of which some 8 foot tall transformers and the lady Chronic with her baby Bluntman.
On the Sunday we walked in with Jet from Gladiators, who I didn’t recognise despite the fact she hasn’t aged since 1992. As I said, much busier the second day and I did a ton of sketches for people. Keegan is a budding artist too and did a few sketches on the fly too, this was his Deadpool and Groot. I expect he will receive a call from Marvel any moment now.
|Keegan's Deadpool and Groot|
Thanks to Skywalkers Promotions, Luke and all the other organisers/staff/helpers/guests for doing such a great job, and everyone who came to my table to buy stuff, get sketches and have a chat. If you live anywhere near Swindon, I’d wholeheartedly recommend giving Swindon Comic Con a try next year.
My next Convention is next weekend in Trafford, Manchester, the Trafford Park Comiccon. I’ll be giving a talk on Jack Kirby, come along if you can!
After Trafford I'm having July off to finish the book I'm writing with John Watson (see his latest blog), then I have the following guest appearances in August-
6th August 2017
12th August 2017
Blackpool Comic Con
25th to 27th August 2017
London Super Comic Convention
12th August 2017
Blackpool Comic Con
25th to 27th August 2017
London Super Comic Convention