2000AD : 40 Years of Thrillpower Festival
Seth unpacks, takes stock and counts the pennies after a whirlwind weekend of thrillpower.
So. Now that it’s been and gone. Was it any good? Was it worth the money? The travelling? Did it live up to the anticipation?
Back in October, we bought two tickets. the enhanced £95 one for me and £40 for Mrs Seth. This was my birthday present. Nicely timed, as it’s almost 31 years since I first started getting 2000AD regularly.
We decided to make a weekend of it, travelling up from Llanelli Friday afternoon straight from work. We’d stay the night before and the night after and go to the Cartoon Museum on the Sunday. Having more money than sense we decided to stay in the Novotel.
The journey up wasn’t the greatest, the M4 is a doddle, but that last stretch off the end into Hammersmith is a pig. London traffic eh? My directions usually go something like this :
“London – easy – that’s at the end of the M4”,
and it kind of goes downhill from there, I never learn. Having said that, I find getting lost means you get to know your surroundings and we had an interesting tour of Hammersmith; we took in Charing Cross hospital and a number of side streets before Mrs. Seth had a brainwave and pointed out the patently obvious slip road that would take us to the hotel.
I don’t do “planning” really, so the parking rate of £1.50 an hour came as a bit of a shock. Getting out of the car park on foot was its own challenge. Lifts weren’t available to us, we should have checked in first, durrrr.
Finally, we get to reception, I see a few familiar faces. Mr Bisley passes me twice and I see a couple of faces I recognise. Facebook faces, so I don’t really know them.
Any road up. Off to bedfordshire, absolutely knackered and off the beer, we skipped socialising and slept until morning.
Breakfast. Prior planning and preparation prevents pisspoor performance. Or in other words, make sure you have booked breakfast for two. Between my rubbish directions and now this, things have not started well this weekend.
Around 8, we head downstairs to pick up passes. Sean Phillips gets to the queue before us. Now I’m in a quandary, questions race through my mind. Do I speak to him now? Is that okay? Is that done? Is that against protocol? I might not get a chance to speak to him later. Is it actually him? What if it isn’t? And then he’s gone.
The queue for registration is next to nothing. But the queue for the venue is already forming, some familiar (Facebook) faces are at the front. We haven’t had breakfast yet, and I think I would be pushing my luck if I asked if we could join the queue now. I check out the contents of my goody bag. If I’m honest I feel a tad let down – I didn’t get the Chris Weston or Sean Phillips prints, but the T shirt looks pretty cool. Some nice freebies, though most I already own.
But it doesn’t matter, I’m here. My ideal comic convention. First things first – food.
Breakfast itself is a sumptuous repast,but I’m distracted. I feel like a 12 year old again, soooooooooooooo excited. I try to stuff myself full of veggie sausages, mushrooms and hashbrowns, but my stomach is a in knot, not helped by my star spotting. John Wagner and Colin MacNeil are on adjacaent tables near the till. Simon Bisley settles down a few tables from us and orders coffee (decaff). Chris Weston strolls in, John Higgins and Sally Jane Hurst sit on the table next to us, and I pass…….
at the breakfast bar. I jabber excitedly at Mrs Seth, who by now is already inured to my enthusiasm.
Verily, my cup of geek runneth over.
Calmly, we pop back upstairs until 10. I say “calmy”, my inner 12 year old is running around like a 12 month old spaniel overdosed on cocktail of caffeine, e numbers and Red Bull.
“Yeah we’ll go down about 10 love,that’ll be fine”
Whereas inside I’m actually saying
Down we go. Directed to the back of the queue by the droids (in their human guise) passing Andy Diggle on the way and just in front of the guy dressed as Satan from”Anderson, Psi Division” – the first, but certainly not the last, cosplay of the day.
FINALLY! In we go. Turn right and make my first purchases within 5 minutes. Up until then I hadn’t realised that I wanted – nay, NEEDED, enamel badges in the shape of Sam Slade’s Robometer Cutie and Ro Jaws. On to the next table, Pete Fowler’s Nemesis which I had planned on buying , but slow it down, I’ve only budgeted so much. Marshal Law at the Unbox Stand?!?!?! Hell yes. If that wasn’t a prototype I’dhave bought it there and then.No self control. Perhaps I should hand my wallet to my wife.
On into the main arena, dog legging to see the 2012 movie Lawmaster.
I find myself standing on the tables between Sean Phillips, Duncan Fegredo, Steve Yeowell, Iain Kennedy and Simon Fraser. I lurk by Sean, he seems busy, head down. I finally cough up the courage and have a chat which like most of my other conversations during the day starts off with
“You’refabyourareiloveallyourworkandI’mnotaweirdohonest” (perhaps not the last bit). He’s got some oringial art for sale, and dangerously for me, a debit/credit card reader.
Original pages of Devlin Waugh art you say? Oh god. he also has an assortment of Megazine and New Statesmen covers. Um, ur, ahh, I’ll have a think and come back. In the meantime, I score my first sketch ot the day – Devlin Waugh. Sean says the price includes a book, he has copies of the “Criminal” and “Kill or Be Killed” collections on the table. I’ve got them all in the floppies, but pick a book and Sean signs it. I shake his hand (making sure my palm is not sweaty) and thank him.
In the meantime, Mrs Seth has hit on an ice breaker question. Explaining that the 6’3″balding middle aged nerd beside her is some what overawed in meeting his heroes, she asks whether Mr. P ever feels the same way. He confirms by gesturing behind him and reverentially says ” Jesus Redondo”. I’m reassured, we move on.
That went well. Top bloke. I hang around Duncan Fegredo’s table, but lurking is not an advisable tactic. I recommend speaking to the creators to get their attention.
We move on to Simon Fraser. Simon is dressed very smartly, he is very friendly even when I forget the complete name of his Lily “something or other” strip (Lily MacKenzie). He has some lovely “Nikolai Dante” pages for sale, but before I part with the readies I pause and decide to wait and see. Mrs Seth asks the “hero” question. Simon leans across the table and points right
“Ian Kennedy”, he almost whispers.
I agree, and we have a brief conversation about the covers he painted that adorned the annuals we had from our parents as kids. This IS going well.
By now, as my youngest step son put it on my return I’m like a “fat kid in a sweet shop”, I don’t know where to turn next, quick stop off to the 3A table, photos for my mate Rich’, mental note to start saving for Satanus and Johnny Alpha.The queues for John Wagner and Pat Mills are already snaking back over to the art and autograph sections. Dave Gibbons’ rivals it. But wait! Colin MacNeil!
Colin is proving popular as well, queuing takes a while, but it’s worth the wait. He is lovely, very chatty and draws a lovely (and now prized) Dredd head for me. He’s surprisingly tall. I’m conscious that there is a longer queue forming behind me,so we try not distract him too much from the sketch. His already friendly face lights up more when he shares his hero, Chris Foss. He regales us with how pleased he was when at a conversation Chris Foss had heard of him. John Smith sidles up to the table and leafs through some of Colin’s pages. John Smith, one of my favourite writer droids. Shall I speak to him now? and I replay the indecision I ran through in my head earlier. Before I make a decision he’s gone again, off to Lee Carter’s table.
The queue for Mills is still very very very long. Okay, no worries, I’ll catch him later. I know he has loads of signings today, I’m bound to see him later. But I do know time is short, so I rule out queuing for King Carlos and John Wagner, I’ve met them before and there are guys here who I haven’t met before.
We do a circuit and stop off at Clint Langley’s stall. I do my usual combination of jabbering and fawning. he has some original art for sale, pretty reasonable prices as well. Gorgeous “Ro Busters” pages and a fab’ Slaine Warp Spasm. We have a chat, and say how much we like that this is all 2000AD, not diluted with other comics, this is what we are most interested in.We thank him for his time and shoot off,so many things to do, people to see with so little time. I haven’t started on the panels yet.
Queue for Pat Mills? Still huge, try later.
Legends panel with Mick MacMahon, Cam Kennedy, Alan Grant and Dave Gibbons. Thoroughly entertaining, even with the occasional lapse in conversation. The compere speaks faster than Chris Rock on speed. Dave Gibbons can talk for Britain and Cam Kennedy has a dry Scottish wit.Good stuff.
I bite the bullet and go back to Sean Phillips to get my Devlin Waugh page. The Meg’ cover has gone, as has my first choice of Devlin. Never mind, I choose another, out comes the bank card, and a small portion of the kids inheritance is exchanged for a 25 year old piece of comic strip art. It’s gorgeous – the kids will understand.
Mrs Seth needs a drink. We’re tight so she pops off for supplies to our room and takes Devlin with her. In the meantime I bite the bullet and join the queue for Dave Gibbons (My stalker tendencies have manifested themselves having already filmed him drawing whilst waiting for Colin MacNeil)
The queue is already quite long. I tap the shoulder of the guy in front of me and ask him if this is the queue for Gibbo’. Yup, at least he hopes so. We get chatting, he is Chris from Essex, he’d already been to Gosh! yesterday to meet Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill. He’s also made some advance purchases, and picked up his beautiful commission of a reclining Anderson drawn by David Roach. Fantastic piece of work.
Chris’s budget sounds bigger than mine (and my budget grows twice during the day) and he is far more ambitious with what he’s after. By this time the chap behind us has joined in the conversation, and if you are reading this, I’m really sorry, but I never got your name.
Chris, unnamed guy and I are in deep conversation, comparing notes, what we are going to ask Mr. Gibbons to draw for us (Rogue? Dredd? Batman? Charlie from Ro Busters?) Our successes so far and tips for “bargains” etc. that can be picked up during the day. Mrs Seth returns, and we get the non-geek’s perspective of these events. The 3 of us (geeks ) agree that it is important to secure our stuff (fireboxes at home etc.), Mrs Seth smiles and shakes her head. Discussion moves onto music, particularly the work of Mark E Smith and his (not very) popular beat combo “The Fall”. Our argument fails to win over my wife.
Chris gets to Dave and asks him for a Dredd. When it’s my turn, Mr Gibbons is exceedingly chatty, he says his current project is his autobiography. I watch as he sketches “Old Red Eyes” (old head) relieved that he didn’t take offence to my supplying him with reference (it was his own artwork at least), I hand over cash – Dave is collecting for the Hero initiative. Unnamed guy had come to my rescue and lent me an immaculate edition of ABC Warriors book 1 for Dave G to use as reference for his rendition of Hammerstein. I hand the ABC Warriors book back to its owner and thank him. Whoever you are, thanks again and I hope you got as cool a sketch as I did.
The wait for Pat hasn’t got any better.No worries, looooads of time. Let’s go see John McCrea.
Criminally, though happily for me, no one is at John’s table. Plenty of artwork for sale, but I apologetically ask for a Tommy Monaghan sketch, explaining that “Hitman” is one of my favourite comics ever. If you are reading this as a fan of 2000AD , and you haven’t already, you need to read Hitman. I leave him to it, he’s got a few sketches to do.
Next stop PJ Holden. I stop for a chat, tell him how much I like his Battlefields and Rogue Trooper work and ask for a Rogue Trooper sketch, handing him my sketchbook. Politely, and helpfully, he explains that actually, my book is not the best and advises the best way of preserving the work I have gathered already. He happily poses for a photograph with the fruits of his labour. A true gent. More “Hunted” on the way.
Time is marching on. Mrs. Seth is starting to look at her watch. There is the little matter of a rugby game on today. She is determined not to miss it. I briefly consider my options, and decide to stay downstairs during the Wales / England clash. My country might need me, but I need Thrillpower more.
I complete another lap of the venue, taking in the Strontium Dog fan film stand. Impressive props, a lot of love has gone into this.
Quick jaunt past Glen Fabry, he’s “quite busy”. Carlos’s queue is amazing, not letting up. No sign of Pat’s queue dropping at all. He’s got loads of signings scheduled, plenty of time to see him.Steve Yeowell is busy sketching, but he stops for me to jabber at him for a bit and ask him for a “Zenith” sketch. Hang on, no, change of mind, “Steve, sorry to mess you around, would you draw Archie instead please?”. He agrees, I grovel obsequiously, leave and pause at Steve MacManus’s table, before realising I really wouldn’t know what to say to the great man and head off again.
I notice that Cam Kennedy has set up just around the corner from John Wagner. Queue isn’t long. Plan – see Cam, go see Pat. No worries. Turns out to be one of the longest waits of the day. Cam’ draws a Rogue Trooper for me, and I show my appreciation by talking to the chap in the queue behind me,. I’m genuinely sorry, Mr. Kennedy, that was very rude of me, the sketch is amazing, thanks.
Knackered, I take a trip to our room. Mrs. Seth is watching the game. Wales are ahead – wow! I have a bite to eat and head back down. Just a little late for the John Smith signing – dagnammit.
Back around the venue, a weary John Higgins offers to close his eyes and draw Dredd for £20. It’s that stage of the day.I go for the cheaper option John drawing with his eyes wide open. I buy a page and we have a quick chat about “World Without End”. I can’t believe it’s over 25 years since it was first published. As a bonus I buy a Dredd page from him for £30., it was close it might have been a “Hellblazer”.
A quick scout around the venue, I notice Rob Williams has gone. A hand written sign declaims:
“Rob Williams has left the building”
I ask his table mate Laurence Campbell whether he’s gone to watch the match? Yup, he certainly has.
Back upstairs, I drop off my latest purchases and go down to finally joining the queue for Pat Mills. Except I can’t. It’s been capped. Arrrrgh! I am Homer Simpson to Pat Mill’s Mr. T (“I’ll go a little later, I’ll go a little later”). I try to get into the Mili Com venue, but to no avail. so off to the editors venue in the the Tir Nan Og stage. Burt, Digl-1, Mac 1 and Cyber Mat, regaling us with tales of editorship, interjected by a tale of the creation from Chris Lowder (Jack Adrian) from the Cursed Earth strip. Robbie Morrison sits next to me. I wonder what he thinks of all this? Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby are in the audience as well. Leaving, Mrs Seth shouts for me. “Where’ve you been? I’ve rung you 19 times. They added a few spaces to the Pat Mills queue. I’ve had one the droids shouting for you in the other room”
Mrs Seth asked the droid if he fancied being a teacher,”He had a lovely loud voice.”
My consolation was getting a seat in the premiere of “Search/Destroy”. The film is introduced by Harvey from the Doghouse as a recruitment film. Not sure about the guy who plays Alpha’s voice – that’s not the voice I hear in my head, but everything else is cool. Amazing attention to detail, great work and captures the spirit of the strip.
As I leave the Milli Com room , packing away has begun. I pass Pat Mills heading out of the building , Elvis like. Fleetingly I consider calling after him.
Sensibly, I decide against it.
I head back to the room, off the booze at the moment, tired but happy, I notice John Smith in the bar. I interrupt his conversation with a furtive apology, nervously mumble something about being a fan and loving his work. He mishears me and I physically shrink by a a foot. I repeat, shake his hand, and head off.
Back upstairs I take stock and do some quick mental calculations, stopping halfway. Don’t think about how much I have spent, just savour the day and my haul.
Pity about Wales.
Breakfast the following morning is just fractionally less thrilling than the day before. Chris Weston joins the queue behind us . I say “hi” and witter about the Sensitive Klegg “sketch” I bought from him along with the John Cooper “Johnny Red” page he sold me.
Leaving the breakfast, I spy Mick McMahon, not missing this chance.
Packed, paid up, in the lift to the car park. The doors open and we come face to face with John Wagner.
“Car Park” says John as if to answer an unspoken question, like the most curmudgeonly doorman in the world.
“Uh huh” I think. A fitting end, shown the door by Mr. W
What a weekend.
So, Rebellion – next year? 🙂
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