Thing 2010

I remember the first Thing I went to, back in 2005…  I’d been reading fanzines for years and producing my own A Cheery Wave from Stranded Youngsters, but didn’t know so much about DIY comics aside from REET!, its Hull-based precursor Lobster and a few titles found in the small-press section of Gosh! (does anyone remember Living Room comic?) I think I’d found out about the Thing from a flyer in Gosh!, and it introduced me to a wider world of underground publishing. I took along a few copies of my brand new Amusing Paper and I swapped and bought comics from Richard Cowdry, James Nash and Paul Rainey, all of whom are still doing comics now… I remember being a bit in awe of them. These days I’m used to being on the other side of the table and am possibly becoming a jaded old veteran!

It was a tired Team Twelve Eyes that set up stall in the Great Hall at Mile End on Saturday morning – neighbour Hugh ‘Shug’ Raine had travelled down from Yorkshire through the night, while I was just a little sleepy after being out to see art-rock-band Youthmovies the previous evening. My comic-making spirits had been perked up by reading the final issue of Phonogram, but it was a slow start to the day. My first sale was achieved through friendly desperation. “Feel free to browse my comics. Please?”

When Joe Decie arrived and we set up our shared table, I had trouble fitting on all my comics and postcards; if doing the Thing again next year, we might have to expand to our own tables as our range of titles grows. Oddly, though, I’ve found that while I have more issues on offer at each Thing, I’ve sold fewer comics in total. I suspect this is due to there being fewer Thing attendees rather than a decline in my product quality…

The hall certainly seemed less busy than previous years, and perhaps its visitor numbers have declined due to the number of other events at which it’s possible to buy small press, increase in Thing entry cost, or lack of so many ‘big name’ exhibitors this year such as Kate Beaton or Rene Engstrom. Or maybe potential new visitors just didn’t know about the Thing – I hadn’t seen any flyers in comic shops this year, and while it’s hard to gauge how much it helps to advertise, it wouldn’t do any harm.

A major attraction in favour of the Thing though, for exhibitors and visitors, is the themed Anthology produced every year, to which all are encouraged to contribute new work and which is sold cheap at the event. This year’s dinosaur-themed book is a whopping 131 pages, containing more dinosaurs than is entirely sensible, and is well worth a read.

I had a quick scout around the other tables and was pleased to see plenty of products new to me: especially impressed by a glossy mag full of weird illustration by John Miers and an odd little zine called Melon Shrub which drew me in with its eccentric drawing style and clever use of colour. I also bought the latest instalments of David O’Connell’s fantasy detective story Tozo, Paul Rainey’s Milton Keynes-set time travel epic There’s No Time Like the Present and Shug’s comedic end-of-the-world series Find Comet, Hit Comet, Watch Comet, Sleep. It’s obviously effective to publish continuing stories!

A new addition to this year’s Thing was the Dino-Saw-Us passport game thought up by Lizz Lunney and Timothy ‘People I Know’ Winchester. Collecting our stickers seemed popular with kids of all ages. It was also a good way of getting people to stop at our table while we attempted a sales pitch! Most common response: “I’m just browsing, I’ll be back round again later”.

Team Twelve Eyes were pleased when customers actually did come back when they said they would, and when one gent bought a big pile of comics from each of us. He even brought a checklist of previous purchases, so he’d know not to buy the same issue twice.

After a long day, we showed our faces at the ‘Schmurgencon’ (a rival convention/ pub gathering, thrown by mystery Norwegian ‘Schmurgen Jonerhaffs’) before retiring to the traditional Post-Thing Thing for beer and burger and talk with various comics creators, taking in bad puns, dangerous print techniques and Shoe People. We were also treated to free copies of an International sampler comic from German publishers Zwerchfell, which looks and even smells great. Thanks!

It’s always good to see folks and their new wares; so while not a vintage Thing, it was a Thing worth doing.

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