Happy Birthday, 2000AD!

Matthew Badham and David Baillie went to the 2000AD 30 year birthday bash last month. They’re just beginning to remember what the hell happened…

2000AD 30th Anniversary Party

Dave Baillie: Almost two weeks have passed since 2000AD’s 30th birthday bash in London. Firstly we’d like to apologise for the delay in getting this write-up to you. Our main excuse is that we’ve actually just woken up from it.
We also had a bare-knuckle cage match style battle to see who would write it, and, well, we can’t remember who won. So we’ve decided to combine our talents.

Matt, you told me on the way there that you were hoping for weirdness. Were all of your expectations met?

Matthew Badham: I wasn’t hoping for weird. I just thought it might be weird, but it wasn’t. It was fun. What I found interesting was how much it followed Andy Luke’s (www.andyluke.livejournal.com) model for a lo-fi comics convention. You basically had a bunch of creators who were at different stages in their career, pro, semi-pro and small press, and a bunch of fans (I count myself as one of the latter). There was a flattened hierarchy in that anyone could talk to anyone (the club setting engendered that feeling) and I found myself slipping into idle conversation with Glenn Fabry of all people.

Of course, later in the evening I geekgasmed all over Robbie Morrison, John M Burns and Rian Hughes, which wasn’t fun for them. Having said that, post-geekgasm, I did have a very nice, and civilised, conversation with Robbie Morrison about Nikolai Dante, writing and 2000AD in general, although I suspect that was because he’s too much of a nice guy to tell even the most slavering fanboy to piss off.

I’m glad I went, not just because I got to the 2000AD Bash, but also because I got to hook up with yourself and Bridgeen Gillespie, and because we bumped into Mark Stafford (www.hocus-baloney.com) at the Cartoon Museum (www.cartooncentre.com), who gave us a preview of the Cherubs project he’s doing with Bryan Talbot (his art looks way cool.)

I really felt like we got a bit of an overview of the comics scene in this country and it gave me a new optimism, if not for the industry, which is in as bad a state as it’s ever been, with young creators producing cracking work on the back of deferred payments, then for the creative side of things, which seems very healthy indeed. And we also managed to hook up with the aforementioned Andy Luke, which is always a pleasure. What did you think?

Mike Carroll and Matt Smith, 2007

Author Mike Carroll with current Tharg Matt Smith at the 30th Birthday Party for 2000AD at Madame JoJos in London. Photo courtesy Mike Carroll.

DB: Well I suppose we turned the two-day trip into a lo-fi comics convention – book-ending the party with the mini-con in West London with Andy and his mates and a visit to the Cartoon Museum the following day. Next time you’re up for a DIY comic festival let me know and we can mix it up again!

I enjoyed the fact that the party was an open event, and there’s really no reason it shouldn’t be. I often laugh when you see, at comic conventions, some pro holding court and everyone fawning over him, and there’s almost a barrier between them and any fan that wants to say hello. None of the 2000AD fans at the party seemed very star-struck — I suppose they knew everyone there already. It may have been different if John Wagner or Carlos Ezquerra had made it.

I knew a lot of faces there, but I was chuffed to stumble across Rian Hughes, whose stuff I’ve been keen on since I was about twelve. And I don’t think I’ve spoken to Glenn Fabry before (although I talked more with his missus than him).

My favourite new meeting of the night was a chat with Colin Wyatt – who was the art director on 2000AD at the start of the 1980s, taking over from Kevin O’Neill. He had great anecdotes about his long, successful career as an artist, the days when Eagle sold a million copies a week, and working with Disney, which were all eye-openers to a young whipper-snapper like myself with barely wet toes. His current gig is Thomas the Tank Engine – I popped down to the corner shop today to check it out and it was, of course, lovely.

I thought the music might have been the highpoint of the evening though. I regret forever not dancing to the Escape from New York Theme. Although I wouldn’t have known what to do to the Terminator 2 theme. It might be worth pointing out that the DJ was a PC, an mp3 collection and a line out to the speaker system.

I noticed that most people didn’t start dancing until the free bar ran dry, although I suppose by that point most of the ‘droids’ were pretty well-oiled. I’m so glad I followed your lead and switched to drinking water. Especially since you have a father’s body clock and only need five hours sleep whereas I’m a lazy bohemian who needs fourteen hours uninterrupted kip just to function!

So what’s your fondest memory of the evening? (Apart from freaking out John M Burns?)

MB: Yeah, Rian Hughes. All I kept saying to him was, “Rian Hughes – Dan Dare. Rian Hughes, you did Dan Dare. Dan Dare. Dan Dare.” I hope he realised that I meant it as a compliment.

Well, we must have enjoyed it. We forgot to take photos.

I think the whole reverse agenda thing really works. Have the convention in the bar in the evening (where it tends to end up anyway). Leave the days free for people to explore and find inspiration in the host city. It was almost as though we hooked up with people while we were there and ended up having our own ‘mini-panels’ at various places around the city.

It seems to me that it was no accident that we started discussing the possibilities that comics offer for formal experimentation and my disappointment with British small pressers for not embracing those possibilities when we were in Tate Modern.

The only problem is that this model excludes the kids (but they seem to have been excluded anyway).

Oh, and people could sell/swap their comics out of their bags rather than have to stump up for a table.

My favourite moment: don’t know.

Least favourite: Bridgeen kneeing me in the balls for no apparent reason.

DB: When you kept repeating, ‘Rian Hughes… Dan Dare,’ I thought you were just telling him he had a big chin. And the only photos I have are of you and Bridgeen kicking off the dancing. You pioneers, you!

Your ‘reverse agenda’ idea rocks (although I dunno if I understand the terminology). You could set up meeting points at various places (e.g. from our own — the Tate Modern, Cartoon Museum and some pub in Shepherd’s Bush) where people could chill, chat and reflect. I was actually thinking the following day, I wish we’d had those discussions in a panel… Or on a blog… (I’m writing these ideas down).

And there’s nothing here that excludes kids yet — I mean they’d probably have to come mob-handed or with an adult anyway to undertake such an adventurous day out. Any older than that and they probably have fake ID already.

How many people do you reckon were at the bash, hoping to pick up work? I get the impression that most of 2000AD‘s readership actually fancies a stab at creating for it, too.  I mean, do you think anyone pitched Tharg a Future Shock in the gent’s for example? And if so, did Tony the Toilet Attendant point out the plot holes?

MB: Maybe I should have said reverse timetable. But you get the idea, don’t you? Days free with evenings in a bar (or a café that sells booze so non-drinkers can chill or even another venue entirely). How many times have you been to Bristol? Probably never, because you’ve travelled to the city, done the Festival and the bar and then gone home, if you see what I mean.

I think we should start to knock this on the head as it’s getting quite long. Anything to add, Dave? Oh, and we haven’t described the venue. Will you do the honours? Do you want to say something about the rather excellent comics museum in London? Oh, and it’s worth noting that Rebellion were flogging stuff from a table. I’d be interested to know if they sold anything.

DB: Actually, I lived in Bristol for the summer a few years ago, and I often disappear from the steamy craziness of the annual comics expo to wander round town and get all misty-eyed recalling my youth. But yeah, in general I completely agree. I didn’t see much of Birmingham last December, for example.

The venue was awesome. I love pokey dive bars – and despite Madame JoJo’s being the premiere drag artiste venue in London, that’s exactly what it is. I believe the 25th birthday party was at The Ministry of Sound, which I’ve never visited but it sounds to me like an air hanger. Events like this should be in small, dark locations – so all the weirdos can smell each other and know they’re safe. (And I’m allowed to say that, since you’ve just outed me as a weirdo.)

If anyone is in London anytime soon, either because you live here or you’re visiting, and you have any interest in cartooning or comics you really need to do yourself a favour and visit the Cartoon Museum on Little Russell Street. I think I can speak for Matt too, when I say we were both in comic book heaven.

As well as having a few Hogarths that I could have spent hours staring at, they had some lovely original cartoons by H. M. Bateman and William Heath Robinson as well as 2000AD art by Ezquerra, McMahon and Kev O’Neill.

All in all it was a really fun couple of days and the perfect warm-up for Bristol. If anyone reading this is going to be there please do say ‘hi’ to me and Matt — we’ll be the ones being harassed in the corner for calling 2000AD fans freaks…

2000AD-LogoMatthew Badham is unwell.

David Baillie (www.davidbaillie.net) is a writer and artist from the wrong side of the tracks. He was born the same year 2000AD first appeared and plans to have his 30th birthday party in a pokey dive bar, too.

• There are photographs of the event on this thread over on the official 2000AD boards. Thanks to Mike Carroll for the use of his.

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