Okay so somehow, involving a coincidence of times and schedules and my wife speeding through surburban London to Putney train station in time for me to head west, I managed to make my way to Caption, the UK's longest running comic convention, for its twenty-second year, for the final day, only a couple of hours late.
It's a unique convention in that the comic book creators who attend far outnumber the non-comic book creators. And to be fair, even they have a dabble. That's part of what Caption is about, a democratisation of the form, the realisation that everyone can create comic books and find their own inspiration.
Al Davison takes this very literally, espousing the skill of creating a dream like state in order to inspire a new view of the world, or people, of ideas. It's something I have dabbled with myself with varying success but Al uses this skill, something he found he can conjure up after a bout of blindness, at will in his work. His panel on Automatic Writing touched on this and it's something I hope to talk to him about more in the future.
Of course Caption is also about placing that inspiration on paper, photocopying it, stapling it and placing it alongside on a long table. But more over it's become a place to relax, to meet old friends, make a couple of new ones and, well, chill. And draw.
Caption is currently held in a Community Centre at the top end of Oxford's Cowley Road. It's a little smaller that the San Diego Convention Center, although it is a few years older. And there are plenty of facilities available. Which was handy because Caption, it had seemed, had failed to get their alcohol license sorted in time for the show. A British con without a serving bar? This really was a very unusual show. Thankfully there were local pubs and a supermarket. Cue people's bags stuffed with cans and bottles of various descriptions.
Though mine had little space after I'd loaded up with some of those fine comic books, including this little beauty – a box set of mini-comics in the shape of a bear that perches upon your shelf in a most pleasing manner. A feel another Thing Of Beauty column coming on. A new Jeremy Dennis comic, Sean Azzopardi books, a new Girly Comics and the Girly Comics hardcover collection.
In the dry bar I also came across one of the less-well-known participants in the Marvelman/Miracleman saga, Matt Brooker, better known as D'Israeli, or on occasion D'Israeli D'emon D'raughtsman who talked about the small amount of colouring he created for the Neil Gaiman/Mark Buckingham arc. Not yet contacted by Marvel, he did seem pleased on hearing of the deal and the hope that his work on the book will see a more prominent airing. He's currently working on more Stickleback for 2000AD with Ian Edginton, a comic strip I really should write about. It is rather remarkable.
I also made it to a talk by Jay Eales with Mark Stafford and Jamie McKelvie, talking about the approaches to their current work, Cherubs and Phonogram, before descending into a free for all, digital comics and Longbox, how colour affects a work, how libraries are better than downloading and new reveneue streams opening up. Other panels well received included Sarah McIntyre talking about the shared space by comics and illustrated books, Asia Alfasi on her experience in manga and the Mad Scientists and Rampaging Robots late night quiz did sound a lot of fun.
I haven't been to Caption for a few years. I'd forgotten how enjoyable it can be. I'll be back next year for the whole thing – and hopefully bring a couple of you with me.
Twenty-three's the charm, right?
That's Sleaze Castle/Petra Etcetera's Terry Wiley buying toilet paper. The centre had run out. See? It's just like San Diego.