This Weekend: Glasgow Comic Con 2015!

This coming weekend at the CCA Glasgow, from Saturday 4th July to Sunday 5th July, Scotland’s comics scene will be celebrating one of the highlights of its year, with the milestone 5th Glasgow Comic Con!  I have fond memories of the first Glasgow Comic Con I attended back in 2011.  I wasn’t exhibiting or selling my wares, I was just there as a fan.  But the first issue of my debut comic, THE STANDARD – back when it was just a self-published comic released locally in Glasgow – was nominated for a SICBA, and I’m aware that this show was the first time many people became aware of me as a comics creator, meaning this was the beginning for a lot of the things that have gone on to be a part of my life: from career path to the friends I’ve made.  And with each passing year, no matter if I’m also attending Thought Bubble or New York Comic Con or anywhere else, Glasgow Comic Con always manages to be my most profitable convention, because of the passion and enthusiasm of Scottish comics readers in supporting local talent.

Me with some Glasgow comics pals in 2012. So young, so full of hope...
Me with some Glasgow comics pals in 2012. So young, so full of hope…

And that brings us to this year, where I’ll be returning to the show, with my debut series, THE STANDARD, complete, and my follow-up comic, AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE, also complete.  AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE is nominated for a SICBA Award, for Best Graphic Novel.  You can vote for us here.

I’ll be tabling at the show, along with AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE artist Iain Laurie, at the Art Studio venue.  We’re on Level 1, at Table 68:

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But we won’t just be selling our wares and hobnobbing at the SICBA awards ceremony.  You’ll also be able to find Iain and I at the “Owning Your Own Work!” panel on the Level 1 Workshop Room from 1:15pm-2pm, where we’ll be joined by Emma Beeby, Monty Nero, Gordon Rennie and Shaky Kane, talking about our various creator-owned comics projects.

On Sunday, Iain will be participating in the Big Comic Draw event.  I, meanwhile, will be participating in the “GLoW Goes Global” panel at 2:15pm-3pm, where I’ll be joined by my pals Sam Read, Harry French, Colin Bell, Garry Mac and Gary Chudleigh.  We’ll be talking about the writers group that has been running in Glasgow since 2011, of which I was a founding member, and where each of us have gone in our careers since contributing to the collective.

Glasgow Comic Con is always a fun weekend, and I’m sure that will be the case this year too.  If you’re attending, come along and say hello!

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REVIEW: The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal

With Glasgow Comic Con approaching, you can expect many of my upcoming reviews to likely be dominated by the latest offerings of the Scottish independent scene.  As mentioned in my recent preview of the con, one of the comics I was most excited about checking out was The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal, from cartoonist Neil Slorance.  After first coming to my attention with his fun artwork on Jonbot VS Martha, Neil really put himself on the radar with Nine Lines of Metro and Seven Days in Berlin, his good-natured autobiographical travelogue comics that I marked out as among the best creator-owned comics of last year.  The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal is a return to the realm of fiction, with a oneshot that has scooped up multiple SICBA award nominations.  Does it live up to the hype, or does it buckle under the weight of expectation?

I’m pleased to report that the answer is very much the former.  The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal is a delight, another elevation from an emerging comics talent who continues to refine his cartooning style.  At first glance, with his noseless, smiley-style faces and his handwriten lettering, Neil Slorance’s work may appear rough and simplistic, and that may have been the case in his earliest output.  But now, particularly with The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal, I think it’s clear that Slorance has a structure and evolving style all his own.  Like Art Balthasar or Dustin Nyugen’s Lil’ Gotham stuff, or even the more adult output of Jeff Lemire or Matt Kindt, there is an appearance of looseness and simplicity, but it follows its own internal logic, and is actually finely crafted with a grasp of pace and storytelling that can not just be replicated by any layman.  Right now, Neil Slorance’s work sits nicely in the realm of small press, with a charming, personalised touch to the handcrafted physical product, but with a bump up into the production values I feel like his style could also settle nicely into a more mass-market comic publication.

Similarly, the story is ostensibly straightforward, about a young woman who escapes the stress and bustle of the big city to enjoy a quiet night out in the countryside stargazing with her telescope.  But Neil Slorance has mastered a discipline I shall hereby refer to as “the ninja feels,” where you think you’re reading a slight, cutesy adventure, only for a powerful amount of heart and pathos to sneak up on you and turn the whole thing into a surprisingly emotional reading experience.  See, this isn’t really about astronomy at all, no matter how much of the book is taken up with “this star is cool” and “that planet is interesting.”  It’s about loneliness, and the isolation that can so often be a part of adult urban life, and the ways we try and capture the happiness of our simpler childhoods.  This may be projection, but the wording of the woman finding “her dad’s old telescope” or remembering how her dad “used to take her stargazing” gave me an impression that her father was dead, and this had been left to her.  But even if that’s not the case, there’s still an argument for how we lose that intimacy with our parents as we grow older and can never quite recapture it.  Our protagonist’s loneliness is brought into starker relief by a blighted love story filtering through the periphery of the tale, one whose resolution should soften even the hardest of hearts.

The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal is the most accomplished work yet from a cartoonist I’m enjoying more and more.  His reputation has quickly flowered on the Scottish comics scene, and I think he’s now well-positioned to connect with a wider audience.  His offbeat brand of sweet slice-of-life is something the comics world can always use more of, and I eagerly await bigger projects from Neil Slorance and the bigger audiences they will deservedly attract.

AmateurAstronomersJournalThe Amateur Astronomer’s Journal is available to buy in print from Neil Slorance’s online shop, or digitally for Kindle.

Glasgow Comic Con 2013: A Creator-Owned Comics Preview

So, there’s a comics convention coming up in July that I’ve been looking forward to all year.  “Oh, San Diego?” I hear you ask.  Nope!  I’m talking about Glasgow Comic Con!  Sure, the climate ain’t as sunny as SDCC, but for the past two years my hometown con has put on a hell of a show.  In 2011 and 2012, the event was held in the Mackintosh Church Arts & Heritage Centre, a lovely venue full of character which I personally enjoyed, as it was so unlike your typical convention hall.  However, the downside was that it was way outside the City Centre, so getting there was a bit of a chore.  But for the third annual Glasgow Comic Con, running from Saturday July 13th to Sunday July 14th, the organisers have switched to the Centre for Contemporary Arts, better known as the CCA: a cracking, upmarket venue with a brilliant location right in the heart of the City Centre.  Things are primed for this year’s convention to be the best yet!

As an independent creator, there’s one thing in particular that makes me really like Glasgow Comic Con.  Yes, the show has had its share of high-profile guests – with the likes of Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Jim Starlin and Mark Millar all making appearances over the past couple of years – who are game for panels and signings.  Yes, there are bargains on back issues and graphic novels to be found in the exhibitor area.  But last year, something that has stood out to me is that, perhaps more than any other con I’ve attended, the “star attraction” seems to be local creator-owned comics.  Last year, there were many reports of quick sellouts of sizeable amounts of stock from numerous indie creators, with a recurring problem (and a good one to have!) being pros selling out of all their stock by the end of the first day or the start of the second day and have nothing left to offer even as fans kept on coming up to their table looking for stuff to buy.  I personally had my most profitable convention ever at last year’s show, and I’ve exhibited at Thought Bubble and New York Comic Con.  I had some of the easiest pitching experiences in my life: I have a little blurb rehearsed in my head that I cycle out on punters on the convention floor, but often at Glasgow Comic Con I’d only make it as far as “Hi, can I interest you in my comic, The Standard?” before they’d cut me off with a “YES PLEASE!” and put money in my hands.  There were folk who just started at one end of the show floor and went through every small press table, buying something from everyone.  There’s something about the Glasgow comic fanbase that has a strong interest in supporting local talent, it seems.  It’s reflected in the prominent, popular “local” sections in our comic stores.

Given the highly positive experience of last year, there has definitely been a buzz around the thriving Scottish comics community over the past several months, a feeling of just about everyone working away on something in hopes of getting it ready in time for the con.  I for one love it that the debut of the latest comic from this local creator or that is feeling like an event and an attraction that will be drawing people to the convention.  Of course, I’ll be there as a pro and an exhibitor, but as a reader, the thought on getting my hands on the latest work from Neil Slorance or Craig Collins is a major draw.

Bearing all this in mind, we return, in a roundabout way, to the purpose of this feature.  I want you all to be as excited about the wealth of Scottish comics being showcased at Glasgow Comic Con as I am, so I want to do a rundown of the diverse range of creator-owned comics debuting at the show.  I firmly believe there’ll be something for every comics fan available.  Let’s get started!

THE STANDARD

TheStandard04_18pSelfishly, I am opting to begin by promoting myself!  I shall take that as a perk of being the guy to write this thing!  For me, The Standard was the comic that started it all.  My first experience attending a convention in any sort of professional capacity was Glasgow Comic Con 2011, where The Standard #1 was nominated at the Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards (or SICBAs) affiliated with the convention.  Fast forward to 2012 and I had a table at the show, and The Standard went from being an award-nominated comic to an award-winning title, with me earning the Best Writer trophy for issue #3.  As mentioned above, I had a hugely successful con, with my graphic novel collection of the first 3 issues of the series proving to be a big seller.  And now, a year later, after much demand, The Standard #4 will finally be ready to make its debut at the con!

TheStandard04_05pWe’re just putting the finishing touches on it now, and I have to say, I’m so proud of the work everyone has done on this.  From a scripting perspective, I’d say it’s a leap forward from the previous three issues.  Jonathan Rector’s artwork is perhaps the best it’s ever been.  Mike Gagnon is settling very nicely into his role as permanent colourist – the first person to last more than one issue in the role!  And Kel Nuttall continues to deliver consistently ace letters.  I’d definitely say The Standard #4 is the best of the series thus far…. and Glasgow audiences will get to read it before anyone else in the world!  We’re currently pencilled in for a worldwide Diamond release in October, but attendees at the convention will be able to pick up their advance copy in July, a whole 3 months earlier!  Not only that, but this will be a Glasgow-exclusive edition, with a new cover by Scottish artist Iain Laurie drawn specially for the show.  It’s still in development, but here’s a sneaky peek:

IainLaurie4CoverBut that’s not the only comic I’ll be debuting at the con…

BAD SUN

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Chris Connelly has some form at Glasgow Comic Con.  He was one of the aforementioned small press success stories last year, with his debut comic Reality War selling out in record time and marking the young artist out as an emerging creator of note.  It was at Glasgow Comic Con 2012 that the two of us really got to chatting about the possibility of working on a comic together.  And from those discussions came Bad Sun.

For those of you unfamiliar with my previous conversations about the comic, Bad Sun is a sci-fi comic set in a future where an alien race known as the Tchairabuns have migrated to Earth, and have now been living amongst us for some 30 years.  While most stories may adopt a setting of New York or Los Angeles, or maybe London, to show how the world would react to such an event, Bad Sun is set right here in Glasgow, Scotland.  It’s not a locale used often in sci-fi tales, but I think the local angle will be highly appealing to the comic fans attending the convention.  The story centres around Lennidasz Cowan, a Tchairabun adopted in infancy by human parents who forged a trailblazing career in the police force, and who now finds himself appointed the leader of a new taskforce dealing with human/Tchairabun relations in Glasgow.  In this role, he has to deal with both the machinations of a Tchairabun extremist terrorist group and the anti-alien prejudices felt by some of the city’s human population and even his own team.

The first issue of this new 6-part miniseries will be on sale at Glasgow Comic Con, and contains both a 24-page main story, drawn by Chris Connelly, and a 5-page backup tale drawn by Jason Mathis of School of the Damned fame.  We’re packing in the content here!  Both Chris and I will be at the table selling the book, so come along to meet the co-creators and pick up the first chapter of what could be my most ambitious comics narrative yet!  Chris Connelly will also be selling original art and prints, and doing commissions most likely, so you won’t want to miss that!

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That leaves one more book of mine to promote…

AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE

coverIain Laurie has good form at Glasgow Comic Con.  Back in 2011, he was award-nominated for his stellar work on Roachwell, where I first became a fan of his.   In 2012, he didn’t have a table or an official presence at the show, but I did buy off him my copy of Iain Laurie’s Horror Mountain, which ended up being the best thing I got at Glasgow Comic Con 2012.  Now, at GCC 2012, I’m pleased to report that Iain Laurie will be tabling with me and Chris Connelly, doing commissions (an original Iain Laurie sketch is near the top of my con wishlist) and helping me sell copies of the first issue of And Then Emily Was Gone, the 5-issue miniseries we have co-created.

Page3And Then Emily Was Gone begins with Greg Hellinger, a man who sees monsters.  Formerly a police detective with the Missing Persons Bureau, renowned for his ability to find people thought lost forever, the visions Hellinger is afflicted with have left him a broken man.  But then a 17-year-old girl called Fiona shows up at his door.  Her best friend, Emily, has gone missing, and Fiona has reason to believe only a man of Hellinger’s unique skill set can help her.  So begins a journey to Merksay in the Orkney Islands, a strange place where horrible things are happening…

The benchmark Iain and I often talked about while developing this comic was Twin Peaks.  We wanted to capture that weird, slightly off-key vibe, permeated with a cloud of dread hanging over everything.  I think this simultaneously manages to be both Iain Laurie’s most mainstream work and my most bizarre and out-there.  It’s an unusual comic, to be sure, but one I’m highly proud of.  I’ve said it until I’m blue in the face, but it bears repeating that I am unbelievably excited to be working with Iain Laurie, particularly on such a subtantial project, and I quite simply cannot wait to share it with you.

Page7And thus ends the self-promotion!  This is by no means all about bigging myself up, as I’m just one of several local creators showcasing work at Glasgow Comic Con.  For starters, And Then Emily Was Gone isn’t the only debut featuring artwork from the venerable Iain Laurie.

METRODOME

Metrodome1Iain Laurie reunites with Craig Collins, who paired with Laurie for Roachwell in 2011 before making a splash with his Haunted Bowels at last year’s con, for a new anthology of strange tales.  In the convention’s three-year history, Craig Collins singular creative voice has already made him something of a fixture.  The unique visual stylings of Iain Laurie have proven to be a worthy match for Craig in the past, so I’m keen to see where that collaboration takes them with Metrodome.  The actual plot remains elusive, beyond the vague teaser of “The Fight for Survival, The Battle for Ultimate Victory!”  But considering the talent involved, this is already a guaranteed con purchase for me.

Metrodome2Guaranteed to have a major presence at the con is Black Hearted Press, Glasgow-based comics publisher and also the organisers of the convention.  They have a veritable slate of quality projects primed to unleash on  con attendees this July, both established brands and exciting new titles.  Let’s take a look at what they have in store…

THE SCHOOL OF THE DAMNED

SchooloftheDamned5Arguably the flagship title of Black Hearted Press, The School of the Damned has already proven successful enough to sustain its own spinoff title, The Children of the Damned.  Played like a love letter to the classic Universal horror movies, the series focuses on a school of monstrous misfits derived from the iconic horror archetypes of that cinematic golden age, set against the backdrop of WW2-era Nazi Germany.  I’ve spoken fondly of the series myself in earlier reviews, with its mix of clever plotting by John Farman and lush artwork first from James Devlin in issue #1 and then Jason Mathis in issues #2-#4.

With The School of the Damned #5, launching at the con, we welcome a new art team to the fold in the form of Thomas Crielly and John Howard.  I’ve had a glimpse at some of the stuff these guys are doing, and it is lovely stuff, living up to the high benchmark set for the visuals on this series by their predecessors.  This issue, the penultimate chapter in the series’ first arc, promises a major character death and a beast of a cliffhanger, and also boasts the jawdropping cover by the mighty Alex Ronald seen above.  I presume the rest of the series thus far will also be available, and I heartily recommend that horror fans check this quality series out and catch up on the story so far.

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‘Great concept; good characters; intriguing storyline; art and writing up to the task – terrific!’ – Ian Rankin

LAPTOP GUY

On the opposite side of the spectrum from the Gothic stylings of The School of the Damned, and a testament to the diversity of their lineup, comes Laptop Guy.  Originally a comic by cartoonist Sha Nazir about the adventures of the eponymous laptop-headed protagonist, this series relaunch sees Nazir return on art duties while joined by writer Jack Lothian.  The series has been reinvented as a metatextual, very loosely “biographical” comic about a fictionalised version of Sha Nazir and his struggles to make the previous incarnation of Laptop Guy, here characterised as an utter turd of a comic: “Failure has a new name,” reads the tagline, “And that name…. is Laptop Guy.”.  I’d call that harsh, as I found the original Laptop Guy to be a charming book, and I know people who speak of it fondly, but it does make for a funny conceit to build the narrative around.  This is billed as a “sitcomic”, a term I’ve had in my head for ages and am so pissed that Sha got to capitalise on it before I could, and having got a sneaky peek at the issue, I can confirm it does bring the funny, and shades of the movie Adaptation.  At the very least, Laptop Guy #1 is more successful than its fictionalised counterpart!  The first instalment of this relaunch will be available at the con, so check it out for yourself.

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‘A guy with a laptop for a head… Weird and funny. – Bill Bailey

MAXIMUM ALAN

MaxAl_1_reprint_layoutAnother offering from Black Hearted Press, this one is truly bizarre.  It’s a violent, surreal tale, starring legendary comics writer Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore….

You get the idea.  Issue #1, which I picked up at the convention last year, began with the real Alan Moore going about his misanthropic daily life, only to be confronted by an army of murderous parallel dimension Alan Moores out to eliminate him.  And things got weirder from there.  This year, writer Ross Leonard and artist Brian Rankin are back with a second helping, as issue #2 debuts in time for the con.  I have heard whisperings of cameos from other famed comic creators, too!  The solicit describes Maximum Alan as “a comic trip unlike any other”, and no one can argue the uniqueness of this oddity, that’s for sure!  I thought this was a good laugh, and I’m sure the second chapter will be more of the same.  Look out for it at the show!

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ROYAL DESCENT

The final Black Hearted Press book to be featured at Glasgow Comic Con, and perhaps the one I’m most looking forward to.  The high concept behind the series just sounds brilliant.  With the fall of the British Government and society in ruins, a new and powerful political party takes the reigns in this dystopian vision of a future Britain. The Austerity party’s first act is the public execution of the British Royal family… by their own hand.  From there we launch into what seems to be “The King’s Speech meets Battle Royale,” which promises to make for a brutal, controversial, eerily relevant comic experience.  John Farman has some big ideas for this one, and all the artwork I’ve seen from John Howard suggests he’s a real talent of note worth keeping an eye on, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a breakout hit of the convention

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Black Hearted Press are a veritable juggernaught of Glasgow comics, and as you see will have a wealth of material on offer at the con.  But there is a wide selection of other creators also showcasing their comics at the show.

GLoW 2

Glow2The Glasgow League of Writers is a great network of creators based in and around the city, who meet fortnightly for a kind of writer’s circle for comic to read and provide feedback for each other’s scripts.  It’s an invaluable creative resource, one I’m proud to have been a founding member of.  At last year’s Glasgow Comic Con, our debut anthology, creatively titled GLoW 1, was another of the con’s sell-out successes.  That first volume was on a superhero theme.  This second volume, with the similarly creative title of GLoW 2, has switched genres to horror.  With a wider stable of writers and artists contributing, and a higher quality of storytelling all round, I’d say those who picked up the first anthology at last year’s show and enjoyed it definitely won’t be disappointed by this follow-up.

I’ve got two stories in GLoW 2: “Floorboards”, drawn by my old friend James Fairlie, and “Open House”, drawn by my Bad Sun collaborator Chris Connelly.  And there’s also work from a whole range of new and established Glasgow talent.  Be sure to head over to the GLoW table and check it out!

Open_House_Page_4Speaking of GLoW members…

NO MORE HEROES

NoMoreHeroes4A little anecdote I never tire of telling is that, at the very first GLoW meeting back in 2011, the very first script on the agenda was Gordon McLean’s No More Heroes #1.  Back then, it was clear Gordon was writing something special, and since then we’ve seen that first draft script grow into a 4-issue miniseries, we saw the original roughs and sketches of artist Caio Oliviera, and then we saw it all blossom into a complete comic.  And at last year’s SICBA awards, No More Heroes walked away with the coveted award for Best Comic.  Since then, the remaining issues have been released, and now the conquering hero returns to Glasgow Comic Con with the complete series in tow.

The story only got better with each passing issue, so Gordon and his comic must surely be considered front-runners to make lightning strike twice for awards glory.  It really is a fantastic series, a dark twist on the superhero genre that sees a hapless Everyman dragged into a murky world of violence and villainy after his dismissive response to what he believes is a prank call results in the suicide of a famed superhero.  Whether it’s catching up on the whole series or scooping up any issues you missed, this is a highly recommended purchase for your Glasgow Comic Con visit!

NoMoreHeroes3aTHE MIND PALACE

MindPalaceLuke Halsall is another founding member of the Glasgow League of Writers.  Perhaps best known for his journalistic work for Geek Syndicate and his prose work that has found quite the following on the Kindle market, his comic work has mostly been limited to shorts in anthologies.  The Mind Palace marks Luke’s first foray into a substantial solo comics project, an anthology piece filled with various shorts, all written by Luke and drawn by a wide range of artist, covering a variety of genres but unified with an uneasy weirdness of tone.  Luke is notorious for his iron-clad pitching abilities on the convention floor, so whether you plan to or not, expect to leave Glasgow Comic Con having bought a copy of The Mind Palace, along with an odd sock and a bridge.

MindPalace1I’ve also heard reports that Luke Halsall will be debuting another top secret comics project at Glasgow Comic Con, drawn by Villainous artist Graeme Kennedy (who will also be selling Villainous alongside writer Gary Chudleigh).  Keep your eyes open!

VAMPIRE VIXENS OF THE WEHRMACHT

VampireVixens1Two years ago, artistic wunderkind Alex Ronald made everyone’s eyeballs explode with his stunning artwork in Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht, a story being serialised in the Wasted anthology.  He ran away like a bandit with the Best Artist SICBA that year, and has spent the time since even further honing and refining his craft to the point where not just your eyeballs, but your whole cranium is at eruptive risk from exposure to his perverse visual delights… as Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht is back, this time not just as an anthology short, but as a full, self-contained oneshot!

Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht features the wartime adventures of a gorgeous Nazi Vampire defector and a pompous British Army chaplain as together they take on Hitler’s occult horde.  It’s boobs, blood, guns and gore with political correctness thrown out the window.  That’s the setup, and that’s really all you need, isn’t it?  Ridiculous, high-octane exploitation, with Nazis, vampire, Nazi vampires, and more cheesecake than you can poke a stake at.  And it’s all held together by Alex Ronald’s stunning painted artwork, chanelling the likes of Alex Ross and Jon J Muth.  Alex will be tabling at Glasgow Comic Con, where he’ll be offering Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht with two variant covers, in a volume boasting an introduction from none other than Mark Millar.  This is sure to be a hot item at the show.  I know I’ll be buying it!

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TEAM GIRL COMIC

One of Glasgow’s most popular indie comic exports, Team Girl Comic has found fans all across the UK.  I for one saw them make a killing at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds last year.  The central conceit of Team Girl, as the title might suggest, is that it’s a comics anthology created entirely by female cartoonists.  Their open submissions policy has seen a diverse range of content in past issues, with a few schoolkids even contributing from time to time, but quality stalwarts such as Gillian Hatcher and MJ Wallace remain a recurring presence in the series.  Their latest issue – Team Girl #8 – will be available at the con, as will earlier issues, I’m sure.  These books seem to go down really well with the all-ages audience, I’ve noticed, though that shouldn’t be taken to mean kids only: there’s enough charm and smarts on display for readers of all ages to enjoy. 

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However, I’m pleased to report that Team Girl Comic won’t be the only offering from the talented Gill Hatcher…

BUNNY BEHIND THE MOON

BunnyBehindTheMoonPart comic, part children’s storybook, Gill’s latest project looks quite simply delightful.  Wonder is a little schoolbunny with unusually long ears. One day these ears start to receive strange messages – someone appealing for help. Could it really be a bunny astronaut lost in space? Wonder must use her intelligence and bravery to rescue the bunny behind the moon.  Packed full of adorably-drawn bunnies, this book is set to overload your “Aaaaaaw!” sensors, and should prove a great showcase for the skills of Gill Hatcher as she moves from the collaborative Team Girl network into a project where the spotlight is all on her.  I remember reading an early draft of the script for the book way back when at a GLoW meeting, and thoroughly enjoying it, so I’m highly anticipating seeing the finished product.  I expect it to do very well at the con.

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BIG IN JAPAN

BiginJapanAnother talented new creator who’ll be presenting at Glasgow Comic Con is Morag Kewell.  I knew Morag as one of the Hope Street Studios crowd, though I thought of her as more of an artist of models and crafts like hand-made jewellery as opposed to comic illustrations.  But it turns out Morag has multiple strings to her bow, as at the Dundee Expo earlier this year, this comic book travelogue of her trip to Japan proved to be a big hit.  I had thought of Neil Slorance as the undisputed champion of the comic travelogue, but it seems like this sub-genre is a growing niche on the Scottish comics scene.  It’s a nice demonstration of how comics are a medium, not a genre, and any kind of story – including non-fiction stories – can be told in the format.

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FAT-MAN AND RIBBON

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I gave the #0 preview issue of this fun superhero parody a positive review back when I read it, but said that it was really just a teaser, and that the proper issue #1 would be the real test of the book’s quality.  And now, Fat-Man and Ribbon #1 is set to launch at Glasgow Comic Con.  When Matthew Charles Marlowe, C.E.O. of the world renowned clothing empire Fat Men, Inc., is suddenly confronted by the dastardly machinations of sinister and powerful forces of anarchy he has but choice: become the hero his city kinda sorta needs! Set in the fictional, future capital city of Scotland, Metro Scotia, Fat-Man and Ribbon is a semi-autobiographical tale of justice, adventure, intrigue and hetero life partnerships.  Written by Martin Ferguson, and with wonderfully crazed artwork by Andrew Docherty, I am expecting to be entertained!

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COSPLAY KILLERS

CosplayKillers1Written and drawn by Craig Longworth, Cosplay Killers has been cropping up in comic shops all over Glasgow, and now Craig will be bringing the first issue to the city’s native comic convention.  The book’s about a ragtag group of misfits enacting violent retribution on a “hit list” of what they feel to be the worst of society.  It’s Craig’s debut comic, from what I understand.  I remember the excitement and terror of trying to put my first comic out there with The Standard #1 a couple of years back, so kudos to Craig for diving in with Cosplay Killers.  It looks like suitably bonkers small press fun!

CosplayKillers2But I’ve saved perhaps the best for last…

THE AMATEUR ASTRONOMER’S JOURNAL

AmateurAstronomersJournalI’ve been interested in Neil Slorance’s work since his collaboration with writer Colin Bell on Jonbot VS Martha.  It has a quirky, cartoony cuteness to it that contains a surprising amount of expressiveness once you get into it.  But where Neil truly came into his own was with his aforementioned travelogues, Nine Lines of Metro and Seven Days in Berlin.  Making the jump from artist to cartoonist, Neil added another string to his bow, showing his art could be more than just cute and funny, it could be poignant and even heartbreaking, and pack surprising emotional wallop.  I was so impressed by Neil’s 2012 output that I’m now automatically invested in anything with his name attached, meaning this announcement of a move from non-fiction back to fiction for Neil is highly intriguing to me indeed.

Incorporating some of Neil’s real-life passion for science and astronomy, the plot of The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal is likely evident in the title.  But Mr. Slorance promises a bit of “sap” (his word) too, so I’m preparing for a tale that’s bittersweet and moving and brings all the feels.  This will probably be my first purchase at the show, and it’s a debut I’m anticipating more than most Marvel/DC stuff on the horizon.  Check it out for yourself to see what all the fuss is about.  And while you’re at Neil Slorance’s table, be sure to pick up his earlier books, and maybe get a sketch from him while you’re at it.  He really is a nice, talented fellow.

AmateurAstronomersJournal1So many great creator-owned comics for you guys to buy.  And that’s not including the other awesome comics from Glasgow creators I know to be in development, but which sadly won’t be ready in time for the show.  Stephen Sutherland and Gary Kelly’s pulse-pounding thriller Neverending, Garry McLaughlin’s mind-boggling sci-fi epic Gonzo Cosmic, and the top secret new collaboration from Colin Bell and Neil Slorance… each one of these not being available for me to get my hands on at Glasgow Comic Con is devastating in itself, but all three of them being absent is quite simply heartbreaking.  I’ll keep my eye out for all three in the hopefully not-too-distant future!

Hopefully this highly lengthy piece has demonstrated just how much talent there is in the Glasgow comics scene.  There is a rich selection of creator-owned comics set to be featured at this year’s Glasgow Comic Con, a lineup so strong I’d willingly match it up against the small press corner of any con in the world this year.  If you’re a comic fan in Glasgow, you have no excuse: get yourself to Glasgow Comic Con, CCA, July 13th-14th.  If you’re a fan of quality independent comics from further afield, on the other side of the UK, hell, the world… you should make the pilgrimage to Glasgow for this show.  Come join us, you can sleep on my couch!

Tickets are available to buy from the CCA or Plan B Books, or online at the official website.  Get yours now!  This show is gonna be the baws, and as both an exhibitor and a fan, I can’t wait.

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2013 Preview: Bad Sun

Thus far, all the comics projects I’ve previewed in this series have already had some degree of exposure.  The Standard, The Oxymoron and the GLoW anthologies have all been publicly promoted and available for sale in one market or another.  Even Black Leaf had a little preview book that I made up for handing out to editors and publishers at cons that some folk have had a look at.  For the remainder of the week, though, we venture into the unknown, as I get to announce two brand new comics that I’m currently writing, set for release in 2013.

The first of these is Bad Sun, co-created with artist Chris Connelly.  The story behind this is quite interesting, as instead of me coming up with a story idea then seeking out an artist, in this case the artist came first.  I’d gotten to know Chris via having mutual friends on the Glasgow comics scene, and hanging out together at cons and events.  His award-nominated comics debut, Reality War, had been another big success story of Glasgow Comic Con, and currently holds the record as Scotland’s fastest-selling indie comic ever, I believe.  We worked together on the GLoW 2 short featured on yesterday’s blog, and from there thought it would be fun to work on something bigger.  So, Chris asked me to come up with ideas for stories for him to draw.  That was an interesting challenge for me: after my beginnings of working in comics, where trying to find artists for your script was a titanic struggle, now I had talented artists approaching me looking for a partnership!  I came up with a couple of ideas that didn’t grab Chris’ interest, but then one sunny afternoon (a rarity for Glasgow, I know!), while digging up soil in the garden, the idea for Bad Sun came to me, and I knew it would be a great fit for Mr. Connelly.  I refined the idea, pitched it to him, and our collaboration was decided!

Lennii1This handsome fella is Lenniidasz Cowan, better known as Lennii.  He’s the protagonist of Bad Sun.  He’s a policeman in a future Glasgow not entirely unlike the present-day version.  And, as you might have noticed, he’s also an alien.  In the not-too-distant future, an alien race known as the Tchairabun arrive on Earth.  A portion of their population had escaped from their dying homeworld on a ramshackle armada of ships on a one-way journey, settling on Earth as their final destination.  They landed all over our planet, being treated differently by different countries.  In Glasgow, they were pretty much accepted and integrated into society, but even as our story begins, 35 years after their arrival, they still carry the stigma of being second-class citizens.

Lennii here is something of an exception.  Raised from infancy by a human family (hence the “Cowan” surname), Lennii was granted many of the opportunities denied his Tchairabun brethren, enabling him to enjoy a good education, and an opening in his dream career on the police force.  After excelling in his duty, he has found himself recently promoted to Detective Inspector, placed in charge of a new specialised unit specifically focused on Glasgow’s Tchairabun community and human-Tchairabun relations.  Torn between the outside threat of an enigmatic Tchairabun extremist group known as Red Kroara and the interior challenge of an all-human team under his command that may resent taking orders from an alien, and set against the heated political backdrop of a nation divided over the Tchairabun right to vote, Lennii also has to wrestle with dark secrets and personal demons that threaten to destroy everything he is fighting for.

For me, sci-fi is at its best when it uses the future to say something about the present.  The prejudice the Tchairabuns endure certainly holds some parallels to stuff going on in the world and even in Glasgow specifically today.  Of course, while I wanted to tell a story that’s culturally relevant, I still want it to be a rollicking thriller with badass action sequences and tense set-pieces, so hopefully I’ve captured that balance.  Narratively, this could be the most ambitious comic story I’ve attempted yet.  Like The Standard, it will be a 6-issue miniseries, but the complexity of the plot and the sprawling size of the supporting cast is going to make it a challenging juggling act that I hope I can pull off.  Also, for me, setting the story in Glasgow was a crucial aspect of the story.  We’ve had so many future visions of New York, or Los Angeles, or even London, why not my beloved home city of Glasgow?  This is a city with interesting, unique architecture and character that has not yet been explored to its fullest potential in fiction, certainly not in comics, and I want to do my part to amend that.

The first issue of Bad Sun has been written, and is currently being drawn up by Chris Connelly as we seek out a colourist and assemble together a pitch document for submitting to publishers.  But whether it’s lined up with a publisher by then or we have to self-publish a preview run, one way or the other look for Bad Sun #1 to make its debut at Glasgow Comic Con in July.  With the story’s strong Glasgow connection, how could we not debut it there?  In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here’s a sneak peek at the pencils and inks of the first two pages.  Some excellent, career-best work by the fantastic Chris Connelly, if I do say so myself!

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REVIEW: Nine Lines of Metro

With Glasgow Comic Con approaching, I’m really on a kick for local indy comics right now.  I’m of the opinion that Glasgow’s comic scene is as rich and diverse as anywhere, and there is a real wealth of all kinds of talent to be found here.  As proof that comics can take all kind of forms, take the subject of this review: Nine Lines of Metro, written and drawn by Jonbot VS Martha artist Neil Slorance.  This is a comic travelogue.  It might seem like an unusual choice for a comic, but as I’ll explain in my review, it actually works really well.  As I’ve said repeatedly before, comics are a medium, not a genre.

Nine Lines of Metro covers Neil’s recent trip to Barcelona.  And by recent, I mean VERY recent: he returned home on 31st May 2012, and I was able to buy the finished comic on the shelves of my local A1 Comics now at the end of June, less than a month later.  That’s one of the most impressive things about comics: how direct and current they can be, and in this comic in particular it lends vividness and immediacy to these captured moments in time.

When done well, a travelogue gives you a tangible sense of place, and in that sense the comic medium in fact lends itself very well to the format.  Perhaps even more than a photo, Slorance’s drawings of the various landmarks and locales he visited show us not just the places, but his experience of them, making this an all-the-more personal journey rather than just a tourist brochure.  I’ve mentioned before how simplistic Slorance’s artwork is, he himself calls it “childish”, but somehow even with this rudimentary linework, you really do get a palpable sense of Barcelona, or the Barcelona experienced be Neil Slorance, at least.

That “childishness” also reflects in the writing, with an opening of, “hello, I made this book while on holiday at the end of may 12: I hope you like it.”  With the short sentences, and the almost entirely functional account of his experiences, it almost reads like a primary school report: “My summer holiday.”  This only becomes a problem when the writing occasionally slips into primary school grammar, with commas, periods and even capital letters at the start of sentences and names falling by the wayside.  Apart from these hiccups, ever, I think this is a deliberate device, as though the book initially seems very simplistic – “This happened on the first day of my holiday, then this happened on the second day of my holiday,” etc, etc – over the course of its modest 22 pages Nine Lines of Metro unfurls hidden depths, and surprising poignancy.

This is embarrassing to admit, but when I got to the end of the book, I had a lump in my throat, and I didn’t know why.  Looking back through it again, perhaps it’s because I find Neil’s experiences relatable.  I recognise that feeling of being down on yourself, and needing to get away to somewhere else to come out of your shell and be the you that you want to be a little more.  Or perhaps it’s because the ostensibly happy story of Neil’s great holiday to visit his friend Morv is laced with a subtle sadness, as all holidays have to end and eventually you have to go back home.  Neil smiling as he says farewell to Marv, and that smile gradually fading over the course of his time in the departure lounge and transition into the plane leaving Barcelona in the last page is really understated, so much so it might not even have been deliberate and I’m reading something that’s not there, but I found it to be quite powerful.  Or perhaps it’s just because this is such a nice, touching book.  Though the brief moment of connection with Lisa at the festival is perhaps the standout sequence of the comic, ultimately this is a platonic love story between Neil and Morv, an unashamed celebration of how great it is to have a friend that you’ll always be close to, no matter how far away they are.

If you were to see Nine Lines of Metro on the shelf, you might be inclined to overlook it.  A rudimentary skim through the interiors might make you scoff at the roughness and apparent lack of detail.  But you’d be wrong.  This is actually a beautiful wee book.  Inspiring, too.  It makes me tempted to try doing my own comic travelogue the next time I travel somewhere.  Though I doubt I’d be able to do it as masterfully as Neil Slorance does here.  Highly recommended.

Nine Lines of Metro is available to buy locally in Glasgow, or from Neil’s Etsy store.

REVIEW: Taking Flight

I’m sure I’ve talked plenty before about how exciting the comics scene in Glasgow, Scotland is.  As the writer of The Standard, I like to claim a kind of weird dual citizenship, where on the one hand I will proudly include myself as part of the ComixTribe family, and talk about what an honor it is to have a fraternity with the quality American comics under that banner.  But at the same time, I also like to claim that The Standard is part of a diverse, exciting lineup of indy and small press comics emerging from Glasgow.  From School of the Damned to Villainous to Team Girl Comic to No More Heroes, and so much more in between, the home of such comics greats as Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Mark Millar has no shortage of promising talent.

And that brings us to Taking Flight, a comic book oneshot that sees a union of two such Glaswegian up-and-comers.  The writer is Stephen Sutherland, a new face at the city centre’s Glasgow League of Writers meetings who is making his debut with Taking Flight.  The artist is Garry McLaughlin, who is well known in the local scene both for his DIY Comics workshops and 24 Hour Comic Book Day events, and for drawing such comics as Old Folk’s Home and Good Cop, Bad Cop.  Knowing both talents as I do, Taking Flight is a collaboration I’ve been keenly anticipating for a while now.  Does it live up to expectations?

I think I’ll start with the contribution of Garry McLaughlin, given that he was more of a known commodity going into Taking Flight, and already earned some critical plaudits for his earlier work.  It’s interesting to see the evolution in McLaughlin’s style.  I’ve seen Frank Quitely comparisons thrown thick and fast in previous evaluations of his work, and I’m sure plenty of artists would be happy to carve out a career as a “Quitely-type”.  Not so for Garry McLaughlin.  With Taking Flight, there is a move away fom that Quitely vibe as McLaughlin works to develop his own artistic voice.  His style here is tighter, with meticulous attention to scenery and the establishing of location.  The story is set in Glasgow, and despite no indicating landmarks, somehow the setting just feels specifically like Glasgow.  His characters are heavily stylised, but McLaughlin still makes skillful use of body language to hammer home the emotional requirements of the narrative.  McLaughlin is also the letterer of the comic, and his contribution in this regard is largely flawless… save for one embarrassing slip-up in the inside back cover afterword where he spells his own name wrong!

McLaughlin’s art is ably assisted by colorist Kieren Smith.  It’s interesting, for with all the talk of Garry McLaughlin often being compared to Frank Quitely, Smith’s colors remind me of the slick work of Jamie Grant, Quitely’s collaborator on All Star Superman.  And speaking of Superman, the coloring ensures that his shadow hangs over this story, with flickers of red and blue peppered throughout.  I love it when the coloring is used to enhance the story being told in its own way, rather than just to fill in the artwork with whatever colour will do.

The other half of the equation is that of Stephen Sutherland.  As much as McLaughlin has proven himself, Sutherland is a bit of a wild card, even amongst afficionados of Glasgow’s small press comics.  But there’s no need to worry.  As it turns out, Sutherland is Taking Flight‘s secret weapon, delivering a story that’s filled with heart.  The twist on the superhero is a clever one, and oddly believable too.  This is a world where superheroes exist, but are hampered by today’s suffocating health and safety/compensation culture, too afraid of lawsuits and criminal damage claims to help the ungrateful sods who will then turn around and sue them.

But this isn’t a story of plot and ideas, of immersing us in a wider world of superheroics.  It is, at its core, a very personal, character-driven story, as we follow the trials of one man, Michael, and his struggles to find his way in life.  The story soars by tapping into his emotions, and making them our own.  We can relate to the stifling frustration he feels at being unable to cut loose with his powers.  And when he does let go, the comic soars, concisely capturing the magic of flight, how breathtaking and exhilarating that would be.  Perhaps my favourite part of the comic is Michael’s relationship with his girlfriend, Rosie.  It would be so easy for a writer to mine that relationship for conflict, to have Rosie be unaccepting of Michael’s powers and have a ready-made arc where she sees the error in her ways.  But Sutherland bravely makes her absolutely supportive and loving, and makes her Michael’s strength, the voice pushing him to better himself.  This is a real skill for Sutherland, I think, as in his scripts for an upcoming project of his, Everlast, he similarly depicts a positive father/daughter relationship.  There’s an openness and an optimism to this approach that’s really refreshing.

So, all told, I’d call Taking Flight a success.  For Stephen Sutherland, it is an incredibly promising debut, and for Garry McLaughlin, it marks a transition into more mature, substantial work.  I’m eager to see more from both.

Taking Flight is available to buy from eBay.

My Week in New York: The End

Another 7am start, and I got out of bed and showered with a heavy heart, knowing that this day would mark the end of my holiday in New York City.  After a hearty fry-up breakfast to set me up for the day, I went up to my room and packed my bags.  As it turned out, this was quite an ordeal.  Fortunately, my mum had suggested packing a hold-all bag inside my suitcase that I could use as an extra bag if I couldn’t fit all my stuff in my case for the return journey.  And even with the hold-all as a second bag, it was a tight squeeze.  After much struggling, I had to give up on trying to get the Swamp Thing toy packaging (this great pulp mould of Swampy’s head) into my suitcase, having to leave it behind in the hotel room to get trashed.  But eventually, I had everything packed, and my hotel room emptied.  I was sad to exit the room for the last time, leaving my keycard on the table as I went out.

I went down to the front desk, and checked in my bags for the day: my flight wasn’t due until 11:05pm, and there was little point hauling my suitcase around the city for several hours.  The folks at the Comfort Inn were good enough to put all my bags in storage, freeing me up for a final day of shopping in NYC.  I picked up three T-shirts from Old Navy, two more pairs of skinny jeans from Levi’s, and a new jacket from Macy’s.  So, one good thing about my trip to New York was that it got me a whole new wardrobe, head-to-toe.  All I neglected to pick up were underpants and socks.  Oh, and a hat.  My friend Jamie keeps on telling me I need to start wearing a hat.

When I was done shopping for clothes like a normal human, I then resorted to the much more geeky/fun pursuit of comics hunting: as if I hadn’t already had my fill of comics!  I started the day by kicking myself, because I had intended to go back to Midtown Comics’ booth at NYCC on Sunday and pick up an Ex Machina Deluxe: Volume 1 hardcover, but it had slipped my mind completely.  So I decided to start my search for it at Jim Hanley’s Comic Universe.  For doing the signing, I had been given a 20% discount card for the store, valid for a year.  Since I was about to travel back home to Scotland, I figured it’d be now or never for making use of it.  Unfortunately – perhaps because it was Comic-Con season – Jim Hanley’s stock of graphic novels was sorely depleted, so much so I couldn’t find any book I was looking for, and I had a whole shortlist I ran through in my mind.  I eventually settled for Shade the Changing Man.

An aside on this theme of stock trouble: why does America hate John Constantine?  Is it because he’s English?  At Midtown Comics, Forbidden Planet, Jim Hanley’s, even New York Comic Con, the stock of Hellblazer comics was abysmal.  I say, without exaggeration, that Forbidden Planet Glasgow has the widest range of Hellblazer trades I’ve seen anywhere in the world, in my admittedly limited experience.

But back to my Ex Machina search.  Midtown Comics had a much wider range of books available, but still no Ex Machina Volume 1.  I had to make the long walk to Forbidden Planet (the New York one, the Glasgow one would have been a long walk indeed!) to finally get the elusive hardcover.  While in Forbidden Planet, I also picked up Elk’s Run, an early story by Joshua Hale Fialkov that I’ve heard great things about.  So, worth the trek out!

In amidst this search, I had lunch at Goodburger (where I took two bites of a Badcookie before promptly chucking it in the bin), and stopped in various shops selling jeans.  I figured I’d check out the range offered by folks other than Levi’s.  But I was promptly reminded why I’m not normally fussed about shopping for clothes.  The prices were crazy!  Diesel was charging several hundred bucks for a pair of their jeans, and their jackets required an investment of over $1000!  For $1000 I could fund an issue of a comic, or wear a jacket with a trendy label.  Crazy, I tells ya!

With time moving briskly on, I made a final stop at a souvenir shop to pick up some sparkly tat for family back home, then headed back to the hotel.  I got my bags, and was sure to tell the staff I had greatly enjoyed my stay, and would happily return next year.  And it’s true.  I really don’t have any complaints about the Comfort Inn Convention Center, it would definitely get my recommendation for anyone thinking of visiting NYC to attend the Comic-Con next year.

My last view of NYC before entering Penn Station... goodbye, Big Apple!

I had scoped out the journey from the hotel to Penn Station, figuring out the quickest, most efficient route to take by foot.  I thought I had it all sorted.  But it turns out that journey feels a lot longer when hauling a heavy suitcase and an even heavier hold-all bag.  I did eventually struggle my way into the station, and got my ticket to Newark Airport.  Agonisingly, I had to walk a couple of circles around the station trying to find the exit onto my platform, due to confusing signs, but I did finally manage to get on my train, and it was time for the journey home to begin in earnest.

I arrived at Newark International Airport a few hours early, and I must say it’s a lot less intense departing from the place than it is arriving there.  Less people with guns eyeballing you, at least.  I did, however, experience some confusion trying to find the check-in point.  I’d go upstairs, and someone would tell me to go downstairs, then when I got downstairs someone would tell me to go back upstairs.  Have I mentioned those heavy bags I was hauling around?  But eventually, I found the British Airways check-in tucked away in an obscure corner of the airport.  There was a nervous moment where I had to check if my giant, bulging hold-all bag could count as hand luggage.  I slid it into the little “your bag can be no bigger than this” frame.  It sat on top of it for a few ominous moments, before slowly sliding down into place.  I just made it, it would seem.  That could go in the overhead carrier, and the backpack on my bag could count as the “briefcase or small bag” I could put under my seat.  Technically, I was within my right, but when I was taking up three little trays with my stuff while going through security, or huffing and puffing carrying this heavy hold-all around the airport, I kept on worrying someone would stop me and tell me to check my bag in.

I grabbed a quick dinner nearby my gate, figuring I’d set myself up and avoid depending on dodgy airplane food.  When I arrived at my gate, my heart sank to discover my plane was delayed by nearly one hour.  Not disastrous in myself, but I had to catch a connecting flight at Heathrow, and suddenly that changeover was looking very tight indeed.  I passed the time by reading some more of the Starman Omnibus, and watching this old lady just walk in circles endlessly.

Eventually, the time came to board the plane, and I watched in quiet amazement at the number of people unable to follow simple instructions and wait for the number of their row to be called out.  This always fascinates me.  I’ve been on planes enough times to know how it works.  They’ll shout for people with small children, then they’ll shout for people in business class, then they’ll shout for people in rows 30-25, then rows 30-20, then rows 30-15, then say everyone can join the queue.  So why then, every time, is there always someone from row 2 front of the line, moaning and grumbling when they’re told they have to wait before getting on the plane?  I just don’t get it.  Whether you get on the plane first or last, YOU WILL BE SITTING ON THE SAME SEAT, AND YOU WILL BE LEAVING AT THE SAME TIME AS EVERYONE ELSE!  You’ll be on the plane for long enough as it is, why rush to get on sooner and be on it even longer?  Calm down, take a seat, and wait until you’re called!

When I got on the plane, I found I was sitting next to a 2 year old flying for the first time.  Cue lots of squirming, whimpering, and trying to undo his seatbelt, get out of his seat and run away.  He kept on grabbing my arm, looking up at me as if expecting me to aid in his escape.  Sorry, kid, I just wanted to sleep.  I’ll admit, though, once we took off the kid quietened down, and wasn’t any trouble at all.  In fact, he promptly fell asleep, and his mother carried him over to an empty row of seats behind us and laid him out.  It didn’t take me much longer than that to doze off, and I ended up sleeping through the majority of the flight.

When he landed at Heathrow Airport in London, I was informed that my flight to Glasgow would be boarding in five minutes.  I don’t see what the point of them telling me this was, as I still had to go through the agonising procedure of crawling through their security.  Heathrow is surely the worst airport I’ve ever been to.  When I stopped there back in 2004 I had to deal with massive queues bigger than any I’ve had to experience in any other airport, and this year I went through no less than 4 security checkpoints.  While Newark managed to all this stuff in two stages, Heathrow dragged the whole process out over two floors, and all the while I’m hearing the last boarding call messages for my Glasgow flight blaring over the speaker system.  Better yet, when I get through security the tanoy system starts shouting, “JOHN LEES, HEAD TO THE DEPARTURE GATE IMMEDIATELY!”  How embarrassing.  And here’s the kicker: after all that paranoid security, I walk up to the gate, and they say, “Are you John Lees?”  I reply with, “Yes,” and they just give me a boarding pass and usher me onto the plane without even looking at my passport!

I get on the plane, the last one to sit down, and I become that person I hate, the one I silently tut at, assuming they’ve held up my take-off while they shopped at duty-free or whatever.  Only, it seems it wasn’t just me that held the flight up.  After all that hurrying and stress, the plane then doesn’t take off for 40 MINUTES!  It turns out there was a bit of a hold-up with the take-offs, and they had to wait for an opening.

When we belatedly took off for Glasgow, it was a nice, short flight.  I just had time to read a couple of chapter of Ex Machina before our descent began.  And I was home, back in sunny, rainy Glasgow!

At the airport, I went to baggage claim, and to my dismay, there was no sign of my bags.  Going to the customer services office, I was told that due to the tight connection, there had been no time to load my bag into the plane.  Erm… how about that 40 minutes when we were just sitting there?  However, they told me by bag would be sent over on the next flight, and took my details.  Fair enough, my bag arrived at my home a few hours later.

I’d had an overnight flight, and it was now Tuesday afternoon in Glasgow.  I called a cab, and in no time at all, I was home.  New York already felt very much in the past tense, and it’s funny how quickly a vacation like that feels long gone.  But I was happy to see my family again, and enjoyed catching up with everyone and sharing stories of my time away.  This was an absolutely amazing week – I’m already planning on a return visit in 2012!