Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Mr Claremont - how could you?

When comics professionals let you down.

A cautionary tale maybe?

Over my thirty something years of being a comics fan I have met numerous comics writers, artists and editors. In the majority they have been really cool.

Some of the greats who stuck out over the years are Joe Sinnot, Joe Kubert, Stan Lee, Jim Starlin and the list goes on and on and I am sure that if you read this blog you know who I am talking about. True gentlemen who care about the fan.

But my first real encounter with a comics writer was something that almost stopped me being interested in the medium. Genuinely. That feeling of rejection from this person literally made me feel that way and more.

It's a story that I have held back telling on this blog for fear of negativity. But I think it's a worthy tale with a lesson for many out there.

I often quote / hype / pimp the great comics conventions and signings that I attend but a recent sour collaboration with a high profile comics creator got me thinking about this event years ago. I won't name the recent writer as he has projects in the works that I assisted with but I am sure he knows who he is without me telling on him.

So here goes.

In 1986 I attended one of my first real comics events. UKCAC as it was known then (United Kingdom Comics Art Convention). I was fifteen years old and on holiday from boarding school. My father dropped me off and I was literally so excited I couldn't sleep the night before. It took place in the then more seedier London and this was a huge step for me being alone in the big city.

The event was a revelation for me. Comics were at possibly the highest point in the artistic scale they have ever reached and readership was still big and about to go stellar.

This was the time of Watchmen, Dark Knight, Cerebus, Swamp Thing, Warrior and all the rest. I was obsessed. This was my own private world. I had never shared my hobby. Never spoken to anyone about my favourite characters or creators. But I knew it all. I spent all my pocket money on comics. I read them and re read them. I kept notebooks full of essays and handwritten reviews. I even kept a weekly countdown of favourite stories, writers, artists and characters.

This writer was always fighting it out for the top spot with my other hero Doug Moench.

I lined up hours early to get in and shyly kept myself to myself as we stomped into the hall.

I spent all day going up and down the stairs. Desperate for some comics interaction but too nervous to attempt it. I spoke to a dealer about his stock there and signed a mailing list here. I still remember that first convention like it was yesterday. I could even tell you what I was wearing.

I remember during the day walking into a lounge / coffee area and seeing Chris Claremont. X-Men and New Mutants were my books. I adored them. I reviewed them in a notebook and felt like the characters were family. He was my writer. More than anyone else I read he spoke directly to me. I felt a juvenile kinship to his characters.

These were the days before the Internet and thinking back I don't remember knowing who the guests were. I think it was a huge surprise to see him standing there. He was chatting to a couple of guys.

I remember circling the group for ages. Trying (and I am sure failing) not to be noticed. Waiting for the conversation to break. Waiting for a speck of sunlight. The moment that I could speak to my idol.

This must have been obvious as one of the guys Claremont was speaking to pointed me out. Claremont looked over. He seemed to be inspecting me. In retrospect I must have blushed.

I remember his staring at me pompously. Literally. If you have met him i am sure you know what i mean. Time paused.

I thought that I now had to shit or get off the toilet. I stepped over and asked him to sign my programme. I handed it to him. He then to my surprise took it and turned his back on me. I think I was blurting out something about how much I loved his work.

I watched him sign it. Red in the face and mortified beyond words. And then without even turning he handed it back to me over his head without even glancing back.

I was just a fresh faced 15 year old kid.

I was so upset I went to the hall and listened to talks for the rest of the day.

I am sure to you the reader it doesn't seem a big deal. But to me it was horrific. Truly.

In my teen innocence I spent years hating myself for interrupting his conversation. I was reminded of the incident every time I opened an X book.

Of course now I realise that the bloke is just a pompous idiot who took pleasure in belittling that young version of me.

I saw him years later at a convention in Bristol and watched as he told a lady fan about his new sports car. I thought about speaking to him again. I thought about telling him how he had destroyed me. Then I thought 'Fuck it'. He sounded like a sad old bastard without my help.

Never meet your heroes? I always thought this was too negative.

Thanks to all those comics people out there who continue to be great and encouraging and enthusiastic. Don't stop.

Just think about the fans feelings.



  1. If it’s any consolation at a Con Ash and I were at last year he was sitting on his own like a tit with no one coming for his autograph.

    Also I got barked at by Howard Chaykin just walking bast his booth, I’d put him on the Prick List.


  2. Thank fuck for guys like Dave Gibbons (worth 100 of those grumpy fuckers!)

  3. I have similar stories. What is it with these guys? I have to say, though, 'modern' creators are much more media savvy. They know how important fans are and (usually) respond accordingly. At least, politely. And you're right: these kind of things make impressions that last a lifetime.