Saturday saw a dilemma. Not only was it my cousin's wedding day, but it was also FREE COMIC BOOK DAY at my local comic-book store (the marvellous Travelling Man in Newcastle). As my cousin was getting married at 11am, it was always going to be touch and go.
Then came the announcement; TM would open at 8.30am. Perfect. I'd get up, shower, shave, throw on jeans and a t-shirt, get myself into town. I'd get there on time - if not earlier - dawdle around the store and chat to the staff while I tucked into my free coffee and doughnut.
I did well, into town by 8.20, parked in a bay round the corner from the shop. Early, I stayed in the car for five minutes, then got out and walked round that corner. I'd expected to be first, but there were at least fifty people snaking down the street from the from door. Panic gripped my belly; would I be able to pick up a copy of Mouse Guard?
I did, of course. But where I'd expected to gain one free comic, I came away with thirteen different free titles. I bought a further two - it felt wrong to walk out with a full bag and not give anything back - including 2000AD (more on that later). As it was, the shop was packed, and I had to forego my coffee and doughnut as I was in a rush. I've no more cousins left to get married, so next year I should be a lot more relaxed (and be able to have a proper browse through all those 50p back issues...)
Much impressed me about that half hour, not just the hard-working staff. There was such a sense of community, "comic fans of the North-East unite!", a feeling of belonging to a group of like-minded individuals. Reading is something that's done in isolation, more often than not, and it's sometimes easy to forget that others do the same. Saturday, I was reminded that I belong to a group. There's no membership card, no badge (at least, not that I know of), just that love of imaginative ideas.
If you've read this blog before, you'll know I used to be into comics in a big way. That was twenty years ago, and Saturday reminded me of those times. It's good to know that, with all the technology that's come along in those two decades, the comic-book format still exists. My main interest back then was DC, specifically Batman; there was a film due out (Michael Keaton is Bruce Wayne??) and he was the superhero of choice following on from the legendary Dark Knight Returns. There was Watchmen, too - comics had grown up. But, as time passed, it felt like they grew up too much. It beacme about the art rather than the story (the two, of course, have to compliment each other), men and women drawn with disproportionate muscles, tits and ass. Too much for 'mature' me; I gave it up, to spend the money more wisely on nights out.
Before DC and Marvel, my comic of choice was 2000AD featuring Judge Dredd. It went through many incarnations in the late seventies and early eighties, combining with less successful titles such as Tornado and Starlord. It still thrives today, despite being twelve years beyond what used to be such a futuristic-sounding year; we'd all have flying cars by then, right? One of my free issues was 2000AD, and it contained a Ro-Busters story featuring Bax the Burner. Thirty years on, and I recalled it like it was yesterday. An Alan Moore story combined with Steve Dillon artwork, it's a classic (at least in my eyes), one that had me yearning for more. But guess what? The new stuff is good too. While the free issue showed accessible snippets, the latest issue is part-way through its stories. It doesn't matter; each one hooked me, and Judges Fire, Fear and Mortis are back.
I've grown up, but 2000AD has too. Creative, mature, intelligent, it's going to become a regular buy; my mum's going to pick it up for me when she does her big shop, just like all those years ago. It's the circle of life.
Oh, and my cousin's wedding was good, too.