Many people are not aware, but in another 10 years in 2025, we will be celebrating the bicentennial of the publication of what is currently considered to be the first ever comic, the Glasgow Looking Glass. Published in 1825, this was the publication that started what I consider to be my favourite hobby.
As a result of this, I thought that I would look at what the world of comics is like now. And to my mind, it is a great place to be. It may not be the world of comics that I had in my youth, but if that was the case, I would be desperately worried, as a static entity tends to decay rather than maintain or grow.
So what bits do I miss from the heady days of the 1970’s? Well, the fact that so many great comics were available at every newsagent. You could walk in to your local newsagent and find many titles such as the humour comics such as Beano, Dandy, Whizzer and Buster, adventure comics such as Battle, Warlord, Victor and 2000AD or girls comics such as Tammy, Bunty, Jinty or Blue Jeans. Not that I ever read the last four you understand, but I have put them in for comparison purposes. But when you consider what little competition they had, it was unsurprising that comics held sway for most of the 1970s. And while I understand that the comics I knew from my youth could not last forever, I still wish they could have printed another issue or 10.
Space Invaders and Pong only began to make their presence felt in the late 1970s and they were harbingers of a culture change that few of us suspected. And the process accelerated through the 1980s until today when electronic entertainment is big business and comics almost feel sidelined. But are they truly?
Now, this is why I think that this is one of the best times to be a comics fan. In 1989, I picked up my first independent comic. This was published by a small company in Glasgow and reached across Scotland. This was Electric Soup and I picked up issue 10. The first comparison was to think of it as a Scottish Viz, but it was so much more. We had a send up of the sectarian idiocy that was rife in Scotland, and still rears its’ head all too often, in Billy Pope. There was an exploration of the growing “stoner” culture in Rocky McBlaw. Just sheer hilarity and blood with the Wildebeests. Another mickey take that ripped Miami Vice and many of the po-faced police dramas in Polis Story. The MacBams were a Scottish variant of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Tunnock McNulty and HelmetMan were another pair of comic characters. And then we had the story that launced a certain Frank Quitely on his meteoric rise to comic superstardom, The Greens. If you can get the Scottish humour and willing to put up with a wee swearie from time to time, then get it. In fact, I think that Electric Soup could do with a post or three of its’ own.
But that was 26 years ago and why does it impact on my thoughts that today is a great place to be for comic fans? Well, last night, I was able to chat with Dave Alexander, one of the creators of this comic and I had a great time. I was also able to chat with Big Jim “Ganjaman” Stewart (that’s a post for another day too) and Jon Haward. 26 years ago, I would not have known what these guys looked like, let alone been able to meet them, except at random events and that would only happen if I caught the right magazine at the right time. Not only these illuminaries were there, but there were also Jim Alexander, Will Pickering and Eli Winter of Planet Jimbot. And we also had Patt, another comic creator with some lovely art. He did a flattering sketch of yours truly which I think took a few pounds off me!
I also got a couple of sketches from a pair of up and coming artists that have got to be going somewhere. Chris Connolly and Thomas McWilliams, that is some nice art you two have done. I don’t think this sketch truly does justice to Tom’s work as his style is very reminiscent of Jim McCarthy
Tonight (3 July 2015), I am heading back to Glasgow for the opening meet and greet of Glasgow ComicCon and I hope to meet a few more of our current artists and writers. And then, I will be at the convention proper on Saturday and Sunday.
And if that is not enough, we have DeeCon in Dundee in April, Edinburgh ComicCon a week later, Aberdeen ComicCon in late May and Dundee Comics Day in October. All great chances to meet artists and writers. Also, great for picking up new comics and getting them signed. And all this is just in Scotland!
Add to that, we now have comics treated as a serious subject for study by academia. Admittedly, the three main UK proponets are Chris Murray, Phillip Vaughan and Mary Talbot. But they are still three wonderful minds to have fighting your corner.
I can’t say it often enough. It’s a great time to be a comics fan. And if you think not, then you are not looking in the right places!
And a few other pictures from the July Scottish Comics Society nights for your delight.