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Blog: A Week In Beanotown

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I spent most of last week up in Dundee, where I was attending The Eighth International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference. My original plan was to go by TRANE but that turned out to be SO heinously expensive that I ended up FLYING instead. I flew from London City Airport, which is INCREDIBLY easy to get to (14 minutes by DLR from my house!) and LUDICROUSLY straightforward to get through. I had to go back to the check-in desk just to check that I really COULD waltz through as quickly as I was!

I was on the first flight from London to Edinburgh and so the waiting area was FULL of Businessmen, doing Business and reading Business News. Not only was I NOT reading The Business News I was also NOT even wearing a tie - I was THE BAD BOY of the Departure Lounge!

Getting to Edinburgh was the quickest part of the journey, as the leg from there to Dundee involved lots of waiting for trains and trams and then, when I arrived, a DELUGE of wind and rain. I'd left that morning ready for the sort of summery weather we'd had in London, so was VERY glad I'd packed my brolly and jumper!

Once I'd got myself checked in at The Holiday Inn ExpressI wandered across Dundee to my first session. As I strolled through town I couldn't help notice that it was Actual BEANOTOWN. DC Thomson, publishers of The Beano and The Dandy, are still based in Dundee, and it rapidly became clear that this was where the LOOK of many of their characters had come from, especially those drawn by Dudley Watkins. I saw Oor Wullie (aged about 30), several members of The Broons and half of Lord Snooty's gang on the way, then was served in a newsagent by Desperate Dan!

Once I got to the University I got my badge, went to a Keynote Speech, and then headed for my first actual Seminar. Five minutes in I thought "Hang on, this isn't about comics podcasts, this appears to be... COMICS FORMALISM!" and had to hastily sneak out and into the next room. Here I managed to ANNOY people with a question about Comics Ages (some people get Quite Upset if you try to use fan terms like "Golden Age" and "Silver Age" in academic texts - I asked why this was the case when, for instance, Music Historians use similar terms like "Jazz" and Punk") which was fun, before heading to the PUB with my fellow student Mr T Yu-Kiener. I'd missed the first day as I'd had to do my talk at RNUAL, so Tobias filled me in on what had happened so far. We were then joined by various other TYPES and there was DISCUSSION on ISSUES before I had to face the fact that I'd been up since 5am and had to go to BED!

The next day also started early, as we all got on a BUS at 9am to be driven to GLASGOW where we were going to look at an exhibition called Frank QUitely: The Art Of Comics. Franky Quitely HIMSELF gave us an introductory talk and then we all went into the exhibition itself which was a) ENORMOUS b) UTTERLY BRILLIANT. Mr Quitely was hanging around the gallery chatting to people, but I knew from previous experience that it was best for me NOT to try and talk to him lest I end up GIBBERING and telling him "YOU ARE BRILLIANT!" fifteen million times before being dragged away. It truly was GRATE though, he is a flipping genius at comics!

After a CHIPPY LUNCH we got on the bus again and went to Clydebank, where we we meant to be looking at another exhibition called Comics Invention, which was Quite Good, but spent more time looking at one about LEGO which was in a rather lovely converted swimming pool at the back of the gallery. There was TEA and CAKES and WINE but also a bit too much TIME so a large subset of the convention went down the road to a PUB. It turned out to be VERY MUCH a locals' pub, but the locals were also VERY FRIENDLY and, I like to think, many new and surprising friendships were made!

The journey home took about TWO HOURS which was approximately NINETY MINUTES longer than was comfortable, bladder-wise, for much of the demographic involved. When we got back to town I headed home to attempt a SKYPE CHAT with The Comics In My Rack. I had been away for a LONG old time by this point and I must admit that I was really MISSING her, so even though the low quality Holiday Inn Express wi-fi meant we couldn't use VIDEO and had to say "OVER!" at the end of every sentence to deal with the time delay, it was a MUCH happier Hibbett who went to bed post-chat than before!

THURSDAY was the big day, for LO! I was doing MY presentation! I took the morning off to practice and I was glad I did, as I was VERY nervous. In the course of my ROCK career I have spoken at LENGTH to all sorts of people, but this was the MAIN academic conference for comics and the audience would ALL know more than me, so at least knowing my talk would be the right LENGTH gave me one less thing to worry about. I was EXTREMELY conscious of the need to stick to my script and NOT start waffling and/or making extra JOKES, and I mostly managed to do so, although i DID make a couple of extra GAGS when I knew I was getting some LARFS. At some point I need to convince myself that the point of Academic Presentations is NOT to get as many LARFS as you can, but I am not quite there yet!

The other talks in my session, concerning Harley Quinn and Ms Marvel, were GRATE and I was astonished to realise that part of the reason I like the latter so much may be because her stories follow Silver Age storytelling outlines really closely. Most questions at the end were about Ms Marvel, though somebody did ask me about the fact that one of the images I'd shown appeared to be Doctor Doom quoting from "Candide". "Could you talk around that?" they asked. "No," I said. I hadn't got a RUDDY CLUE about "Candide" and thought it likely that several other people WOULD, so chose not to risk it!

At the end a whole heap of people came over to give me HOT TIPS for other sources of FACTS, which was ACE, and then I had a chat with the other presenters and ended up missing the final Keynote of the day, so instead went to have some TEA and DECOMPRESS. Whilst I was eating Professor R Sabin i.e. my Supervisor texted to ask if I fancied a PINT so I went and joined him and a group of DELIGHTFUL types for a few beers nearby. This was LOVELY and was made all the more so when I wandered back to the hotel at 10pm in DAYLIGHT (Dundee is NORTH!) through huge crowds of very very happy Little Mix fans, who'd just left a CONCERT. The Police trying to marshal them away looked TERRIFIED by the hordes of small girls, Mums and Aunties, and I had a LOT of sympathy for them!

Friday was the FINAL day of the conference and, though I'd THOROUGHLY enjoyed it, I was very much ready to get home. I went to some more interesting talks, chatted to a few people (Comics Studies seems to be a VERY small field, also a FRIENDLY one) and even got RECOGNISED for my Alan Moore song! I skipped off before the final session in order to collect my bags and then attempted to send out the newsletter but was FOILED by the aforementioned crappy Holiday Inn Express wi-fi, so had to go to a (very nice) cafe over the road to do it instead. It's a very First World Problem, but CRUMBS the relief of getting decent wifi again is like taking off a heavy rucksack full of ROCKS after a ten mile hike!

The train from Dundee to Edinburgh was RAMMED, and then when I got on the tram to the airport I found myself once more surrounded by Little Mix fans, this time going TO a concert. Edinburgh itself seemed to smell of STINKY CHEESE for some reason but thankfully the airport did NOT, so I once I'd been through Security and so forth I settled down for a nice relaxing PINT. Unfortunately this was a bit TOO relaxing, as when I emerged they were doing the FINAL CALL for my flight, and I ended up having to run and got on the plane as The Last Passenger. Once again, I was THE BAD BOY!

I finally got back to That London and was DELIGHTED to find that The Wings On My Plane was WAITING for me as I came out of baggage reclaim, which was FLIPPING MARVELLOUS. As Mr F Sinatra so wisely sang, it's very nice to go travelling, but it's oh SO much nicer to come home!

posted 3/7/2017 by MJ Hibbett

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