Small World

[ 0 ] June 25, 2018

It’s hard to explain to folks who’ve come into comics in the era of conventions the size of small cities, but comics was a very, very small world fifty years ago. American comics had maybe a couple of hundred active creative people involved, and fandom was a small (but fiercely interconnected) world. The 1971 NY Comic Art Convention, my first, had attendance of around 3,500 people, a record for any comicon to that time, even if it wouldn’t have filled much more than half of Hall H at SDCC.

This week I’m traveling to London to enjoy one of the lasting pleasures of that small world. Back in my fanzine days, I connected to a few international fans. Jean-Pierre Dionnet would provide info on the European comics scene in the days before he helped launch Metal Hurlant, and Carsten Sondergaard was reprinting some of my news in his Scandinavian zine decades before we reconnected when he was editing a local edition of Superman. But the most lasting friendships were the ones I forged with two British fans who were doing a zine called Comic Media, who also wanted to reprint some of my news gathering.

Remember that this is about a millennium before the Internet, back when long distance phone calls within a country were a big deal, and intercontinental ones almost unimaginable. Connections between people who lived an ocean apart, even in countries that (sorta) shared a common language, were pretty rare. But not among comic fans.

Richard Burton and Nick Landau were the editors of Comic Media, and both grew to be lifelong friends. Each in their own way has had a major influence on comics not only in England, but here as well. Richard served as an editorial staffer on 2000 A.D. in its ’70s heyday (he really doesn’t look too much like Burt the robot on Tharg’s staff, but…), and helped spark the British Invasion of American comics with connections he built. (He was the source of the 2000 A.D. copies landing on our desks, and if he hadn’t hooked Joe Staton up to share studio space with Brian Bolland one fateful summer, well..) And Nick went on from his time at 2000 A.D. and Marvel U.K. to become one of the founders of Forbidden Planet, and from there to build the empire that includes not only that U.K. chain, but Titans Books and Titan Comics.

I’m off to see my old friends, wander the streets of one of my favorite cities, and even doing a signing at Forbidden Planet. It’s been a good, long journey…

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