Last weekend I went to the launch of Kapow. To ka-what? Kapow. A comic con at – wait, wait don’t click that back button – London’s Business Design Centre in Angel, that plans to be an on-going yearly event.
Kapow aimed to bring some ‘American glamour’ to a UK comic book event. A place where comic fans, top writers and artists, publishers, filmmakers, genre TV shows and games get to meet and talk.
And you know what. I loved it. Even the queuing. Which took up about 50% of the two days I spent there. We queued to get in. We queued to meet comic book legends. We queued to see film exclusives. We queued to get out.
The ambassador and ‘fixer’ for Kapow was Mark Millar, the creator of Kick Ass. A little Scottish guy with a big, honest and playful personality, Millar seems to have cornered the market in “Why hasn’t that been done already?’ ideas. And seems so prolific he must make it hard for others to keep up. At Kapow he even announced a new book called Super Crooks – about criminals who are so sick of being beaten by American super heroes, they move to Spain to start a new crime spree.
Jonathon Ross (a huge comic book fan) was also a key ambassador for Kapow. Kicking off the day with a fun and funny Fans Vs Pros game show. As you can imagine sexual innuendo and obscure characters were in abundance.
Two of the more inspirational panels: Creator Owned comics (Books with original characters put out by creators under their own steam. E.g. Super Crooks) and How to Break into Marvel featured Frank Quitely, Dave Gibbons, John Romita Jr, Andy Diggle, Jock, Leinil Yu, Ian Churchill, Kieron Gillan, Adi Granov as well as Millar. If you don’t know who those people are Google them.
Those panels were interesting for me as they drew parallels with how we work at Albion and how we judge people seeking jobs. The digital world makes it so much easier to get known. Don’t wait to see someone. Don’t just email and expect an interview. Start publishing your own comics online. Start your own site. Start your own company. Get friends to draw them. Get weird digital or real life projects going. Make online connections. Build your own network of talent. If enough noise gets made around you then the right people start taking notice. All advice, that for me, rings true.
Adi Granov summed it up in one word: Quality. That’s the linchpin. You can know as many people in the industry as you like. You can blag your way in. But if the quality isn’t there you won’t last two minutes. The others agreed. Stating that they continue, even now, to push the quality of their work. Making it better for themselves, not the money or fame.
In fact, while these people have become so well respected and famous within the comic book (and entertainment) world they’re also incredibly normal, humble and respectful of the people who showed up to see them. Which was great to see.
There’s also a big British contingent in modern American comics and this was on show. And even with the American polish, Kapow had a very British sensibility. Albeit slightly hung-over one, well can you get more British? I felt this was an event put on by friends. Guys who literally go down the pub together, who’re fans themselves that love and talk about each other’s work.
Back to queuing. I waited for an hour and a half to get John Romita Jr to sign my copy of Kick Ass. He’s like The Fonz. When I finally met him, he told me I had to go out shopping with my wife, sit quietly, help carry bags and then take her out for a nice meal, to make up for her having to queue with me to get his signature. Emma liked that. Even when we saw him later on he remembered us and talked to us even more. So… that’s why the wait was long. He actually spent time talking to everyone. And then I suddenly felt the time queuing wasn’t wasted. Which, if you know the moody-glass-half-empty me, is hard to believe.
I managed to get Dave Gibbons to sign my copy of Watchmen. Watched Joe Cornish talk about Attack The Block. I got issue #1 of one of my favourite books Ultimate Wolverine Vs Hulk signed by artist Leinil Yu (written by Damon Lindelof who made Lost and you all watched that). I also saw a great little interview with Frank Quitely which had him talking about how he draws on the bus on the way to his studio. Again, I could relate. Although I’m usually coming up with lines for Cuervo POS.
There were tons of other panels and screenings. I never got into Thor or Green Lantern – the two big films this year. Instead I spent time going round the many stalls of comics, artists and toys. Now, other than a Transformers’ G1 Megatron teasing me, I was drawn to the 2000AD stand. A British magazine going since the 70′s that I’d so far ignored, to the real comic fan’s horror. But I was determined today of all days to be opened up to it.
Never have I met people enjoying the content they put out so much. These weren’t sales people, but fans who were just keen to talk about and recommend stories I would really like. Could I be tempted? After a few page turns it seems I could. Kapow Ka-ching.
So why am I talking about a comic con here? Well, in my mind comics are such an influential, creative medium. Whether digital or printed. And it was great to go to a celebration of that. They are fuelling and have fuelled for many years the ‘more credible’ film industry. Road to Perdition? Comic book, oh yeah. It’s an industry made and upheld by struggling creative people who just want to make high quality, rich and emotive work. And yet it’s still considered niche or silly by many. And ignored by others. At Kapow, I overheard one 10 year old seemingly well-adjusted boy saying “I feel normal for once”. Forgetting the fact he was running about pointing a Green Lantern ring at people, why did it take a Comic Con full of like-minded people to make him feel this?
Comics, whether you’ve notice them or not are a huge part of pop culture. Superman is one of the World’s most well-known brands. The Dark Knight was a huge success story. The Kick Ass film was independently funded and found a big audience. Kapow itself was full of people from all walks of life (and their patient partners), some who were new to comics and curious, not just the typical ‘comicbook guy’.
Yet a lot of people still scoff at the ‘funny pages’ and refuse to read books with pictures. As for me, the ideas that pour out of comics amaze me on a regular basis. What would happen if all the men in the world suddenly died (Y the Last Man)? Or what would happen if Superman landed in Stalin’s Russia (Red Son)? Or what would happen if a preacher, who’d lost his faith, was possessed with the offspring of a demon and an angel and was pissed off at God (Preacher)? And I’ve only been reading for a few years.
Hmmm… I had no real point to make when I started writing this. I had some time to kill and wanted to share. Is this a review of Kapow? Is it a discussion on how most creative industries seem really similar in practice and process, no matter what their creative output? Is it my not-so-subtle way of twisting the arms of the people who read this blog to like comics? Or is it just a proclamation of how geeky I really am? I don’t know. As you’ve seen I have no answers or conclusions as is customary.