I would like to start by pointing out I am not ranting. It seems that, if you have an opinion and try to get it across it is seen as “ranting”. The “ranting” I do tends to be fairly tongue-in-cheek but I guess people don’t get it because there is no “smiley” after humour.
Believe me, if I ranted you would know it.
I need to also point out that I have attended and sold at zine and comic events for over thirty years. I’m not some wide-eyed newcomer who expects to earn a fortune. I know the business and in thirty years have been quite happy that I make back table costs and a small profit,
Neither do I expect to have people worshipping at my feet. Particularly with the Small Press I like the fact that you are –or were- always taken as one of “the folk” who produce and sell zines. It was very informal, swapping ideas, talking about all aspects of the Small Press.
I go into events never expecting to make money. I don’t think “I need to sell £15 worth to cover table cost, £x for travel and I’ll set the money I want to make today at £xx!” That is not how it works.
What I did expect at the BCZF –at which I actually was the only comicker- was to have a good chat with creators and people attending the event.
My attending was to support a Small Press event in Bristol. Simon, one of the organisers is a very nice fellow and as helpful as you would really want a helpful person to be!
It was not about making money –my books were being sold cheaper than a lot of Small Press books at the event and, basically, at cost. I was just going to get my money back on anything sold and no profit.
So, let me begin….
I arrived at the event location, the Station, at around 11:10hrs –the Station is a really nice place for an event and I’d hope that someone organising a comic mart might one day look at this place. Okay, a few people seemed to be freaked out that they had to use unisex toilets. I’m 57 years old and I’ve lived in Germany and travelled through Nederlands, France and Belgium. It takes more than that to phase me (and something was going on in one cubicle that we’ll not talk about). The Station is a lovely location.
So, met Simon who told me where my table was and that there was a name tag on it –so I looked and found! “Hello. How’s it going?” I said to one zinester I had met previously. “Yeah” he muttered as he turned away. Okay, maybe had had a bad night. The guy on the table next to me was setting up. “Hello –I’m Terry, how’s it going?” Response: “nngh. Okay.” I began to think that I might need to drop the “how’s it going”. So the other chap next to me turns up with his mate. I say “Hello” and nothing. In fact, I began to suspect both were deaf after another attempt to be friendly.
I then realised that my t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase: “Jim Fixed It For Me To Meet Rolf Harris” might have been a bad idea. I’ll point out here that that last sentence was dark, satire. Of a kind.
So, I spotted someone who had friended me on Face Book and went to say hello. I got a grunt and a turned back. Yes, I did check that my trousers were not undone. I then spotted another FB ‘friend’ so went to say hello and made a nice comment about the display on the table. “Yeah. Right” and he then walked off.
I checked my shoes. No, I had not stepped in anything obnoxious. Trousers WERE done up. My breath was okay. My biggest shock was that someone I had more than a few email chats with as well as friendly exchanges on Face Book just totally blanked me twice when I said hello.
Don’t call me paranoid but I was beginning to suspect that the problem might be me.
My sign (on MY table) declaring cut prices for the BCZF on all books was repeatedly knocked over by the next table who seemed happy to just leave it as it ended up but I consigned this to “wasn’t aware what he had done” on those occasions. A “right on guy” I’d met at previous events just totally blanked me and apart from “Hi” would not talk to me.
So, I thought I’d just get on with what I was there for –to “press the flesh” of the punters (insert “smiley” here).
It was really weird. I think I spoke to five people over six-and-a-half hours and those were quick, short outbreaks. People stopped at my table to stretch over to pick up and read zines from the tables either side of me. A jokey “Hey, there’s some nice books here, too!” was either ignored or got a scowl. Maybe the t-shirt with “I Have Ebola” on it was a bad idea.
It was almost as though some kind of force field smoothly moved people to either side of my table. But I did get some people checking out the books. The Dr Morg Trilogy cover got more than a few views. Some people even flicked through the book.
I would now like to quote some of those comments:
“That just looks weird”
“mutter mutter mutter weird mutter mutter”
Then came the man who was flicking though the book –and I do mean “flicking” as though the rapid movement of pages would produce a moving image of some kind. So I said: “It’s quite an odd book but I’ve had some good responses from readers outside the UK….” Nothing but a quick look at me. “There’s some black humour and there is a complex story there –and I played around with design—“ A response:”Yes. And then there is this” –it was almost spat out as he pointed at the page. The man pointed to one page out of over 50 which has a silhouette of a devil-winged foetus and the caption reads “We gave it our DNA”. That was, it seems, totally offensive and he tossed the book back on to the table as I said, perhaps he might like to go through it and take a careful look. No.
Then several people pointed to the GoBo book and made muttered private comments. Later a young woman told me that it looked like a character from a movie…Sylvester Stallone?
At one point my two neighbours, in loud voices which was odd as they had been quietly talking all the while, said “At least we’re not in it for the money!” and burst out laughing. There was another comment later on that made it quite apparent that it was a reference to what I had written about people in zines not being in it for the money but for fun.
The books I sold were not mine but placed on the table for me to sell. My actual sales were a £1 Black Tower taster and a copy of GoBo bought for a lady’s “young brother” –as it was intended for general readership and to raise a smile no problem.
In all, I made a HUGE loss. Normally I wouldn’t care but even people I knew were nodding and saying “hi” and going to other tables to buy.
Now, GoBo and Mr Morg were getting looked at a lot but it seemed to be the opinion that there was nothing similar to Black Tower books at the event. A LOT of sub-Manga, some nicely produced books and a great deal of not well drawn books. As I have pointed out over and over again, the quality of the art does not matter in zines but everyone seemed to be using two styles that were similar and it didn’t look good.
But the major shock to me was how, when I told people I was based in Bristol I got blank looks. I was not the only one there! I did mention having worked in comics and zines since the 1980s and the look I got from the man next to me!
Some French girls were overheard by someone I know and they seemed to think some of the books on my table were European!
The overall opinion, though, is that I am too radical for the kids. Yes, I’m putting that on a t-shirt.
So, my books don’t fit in with comics. They don’t fit in with today’s zine people. And the opinion of one person who is a proper fine artist was that my books were unlike others at the event carries far more worth because he would be looking at things visually.
Face it, even at my age I’m too radical. Some people find it hard to pigeon hole me.
But after years of promoting and pushing the Small Press, yesterday killed it for me. Reviews yes but that’s it.