THE THING 2007 REPORT

Okay, a week has passed since the 17th of March 2007. A day that will live on in infamy for all those who were at the right place at the right time. Yes, I'm talking about the UK Web and Mini Comix Thing 2007 and, I think it's high time that someone pays tribute to this remarkable...er....thing.

The day began like any other. No wait, I got up at the ungodly hour of 7am. Let's start over.

The day didn't begin so much as hit into me with the weight of a ten ton truck. Groggily, I heard my phone alarm ring, taunting me, mocking my inability to have a lie in on the most sacred of all lazy days. The next hour or so is a blur. I remember something about toothpaste and there was definitely some toast in there at some point. Anyway, when I came to, I found myself propped up in a train, ticket in my hand, on my way back. Back to London. Back to the very University I'd studied at. If Christopher Lloyd had jumped onto the train at the next stop and told me we were going "Back to the Future!", I wouldn't even have flinched.

Anyway, so I was going back to London, but for a brand new experience. You see, despite the fact that I actually used to go to the University where the Thing was taking place, I'd spectacularly managed to miss going to it, all three years I was there (although in my defence, I didn't know about it in the first year). Well, no longer! It was time for me to infiltrate this breeding ground of geeks and comic junkies and find out the terrible truth that lies within the heart of every webcomic. As Julius Caesar once said "I came, I saw, I thing'd".

Oh wait, that was Ben Paddon which leads me to the ghoulish gang who would be joining me on this mission into Mordor. Seriously, the A-Team has nothing on these guys.

First up, all the way from the badlands of Luton was Ben "Squirminator2k" Paddon, a man with whom I've collaborated both in the past, present and future (wrap your head around that one!). You may remember Ben from his fantastically funny webcomic, Fried, which was tragically cut down in its prime. Thankfully, Ben is working on a new project called Jump Leads (which I myself have contributed to) and was on the lookout at the Thing for an artist to help bring his twisted dreams to life. He even had a t-shirt specially made for the event with the words "Jump Leads needs an Artist" emblazoned on it (something that would come back to haunt him, later in the day).

My other co-conspirator was an unassuming chap by the name of Pooka. Pooka is a mystical being that resides on the internet, only being allowed to venture into the world of mortal men on special preordained days of the year. Thankfully, today was both the day of the Thing and his very own birthday which meant that his power was doubled allowing him to loom over me and Ben, like a goliath (which was great for getting the attention of exhibitors when in the Thing itself). Anyway, random rambling aside, you may remember Pooka from some of my Movies movies. He played the iconic part of Hardy-Boy on more than one occasion and immortalised the part of Square in the It Makes no Sense Flash pilot.
Anyway, with the full force of a fully operational Death Star behind me, it was time to press onto the Thing itself. I quickly bypassed the lengthy train journey via teleport and, within seconds, me, Ben and Pooka were firmly within the heart of the Con.

The first thing that I noticed about the Thing was that it was in the Great Hall. The Great Hall is great, especially when it's full of geeks, ninjas and comic obsessed uber-fans who would trade their first-born for a chance to shake hands with Stan Lee. Fortunately, there was no Stan Lee here, so no baby trading antics took place.

The best way of describing the Thing is to imagine one of those old events they used to have at school when you were a kid where everyone would be selling random crap, while sitting at tables that were way too big for them. Of course, here the kids were replaced with random webcomic-drawing adults, meaning that the tables seemed a far more reasonable size. Also, some of the random crap here wasn't all that crap! In fact some of it was pretty good.

One thing which was spectacularly good was the Thing Anthology which only cost 50 pence despite its formidable size. A lot of the reason that the Anthology was so spectacular can be found on Page 62, which is the first ever time that the Rooms gang have been in print... ever! The rest of it is pretty hit and miss but at such a low price, it was well worth the money.

It should be noted here that the tickets for the Thing were old Thing 2006 tickets, with 6 crossed out and replaced with 7. They tried to rectify this embarrassment by giving us new Thing 2007 tickets when we got there but by then, the damage was already done (and wasn't helped by the discovery of a table stacked high with Thing 2006 carrier bags. Did anyone even go last year or were the event organisers just insanely optimistic about attendee numbers?)

Anyway, once we were into the Thing proper, we walked around surveying the various abominations on offer and even stopping to chat to one or two of the exhibitors. The main items on sale appeared to be books, badges, CDs and artwork, with a few t-shirts and hats thrown in for good measure. Sweets and cakes were also in high supply, although these were free and being used to tempt small children into making unwise financial transactions. Some of the exhibitors were delightfully proactive in grabbing us and trying to force their products down our digestive tracts, which showed initiative but rarely yielded results (I tended to just help myself to the free stuff, unless I knew the comic already).

Less successful were those exhibitors who decided to just sit there in the desperate hope that the attendees would come and talk to them. I mean, I'm not madly confident myself, but surely the idea is that if you've got something to sell/promote, then you need to actually interact with people. You're not going to get anywhere if you just sit and wait.

Of course, there was one guy who just sat there reading a comic and didn't seem even remotely interested in being there. Somehow, I doubt he shifted much merchandise, although I did help myself to some of his free stuff.

About half way through, we decided to pop out of the Thing for a while and help ourselves to some grub from the local pub. Having been in there before, I assured Ben and Pooka that they were in for some quality cuisine at low, low prices. Of course, having said that, the pub proved me wrong and served up some rather unappetising fare which wasn't worth the money we paid for it. Ah well, you live and learn.

Returning back to the Thing, we decided to take a second tour of everything on offer. At some point in the day, I purchased a CD from the Gunnerkrigg Court guy and a book from Scary-go-Round's John Allison as I read both comics and wanted to support the artists. I was also talked into buying a badge for some comic I don't read from a random girl, as I was stood in front of her table at the time (Pooka and Ben were talking to someone on the next table along) and it was only 20p.

Speaking of which, I think I should've engaged with the comic creators a bit more and told them about my projects. Ben did this a lot more than me and I felt a bit useless as I hovered around nearby, waiting to move onto the next bunch of tables for the cycle to begin again. Having said that, I did get into one or two conversations and managed to plug my comic a little bit (although I doubt that the people I talked to actually checked it out later). Anyway, maybe it was just as well that I didn't go into self-promotion mode too much. After all, I was there as a visitor not an exhibitor.

Moving on...

Somewhere amongst the confusion that was the Thing, we stumbled across a remarkable fellow who was prepared to draw sketches for visitors, absolutely free! Unable to resist this kind of offer, me and Ben decided to put his talents to the test. Ben asked for an anthropomorphic gumball machine riding a warthog into the sunset which caused much eyebrow raising but, to his credit, the artist had a go all the same. What he came up with was a stunning picture of an anthropomorphic gumball machine riding a donkey with the donkey thinking "Blackpool gets weirder and weirder". Not exactly what Ben had asked for but damn impressive all the same.

Anyway, next it was my turn to ask for a sketch. I decided to go for a scene from Rooms that I wasn't able to actualise when I was drawing the "Coconut Shells" storyline. Yep, that's right, I'm talking about the Parrot's historic battle with a monkey named Trevor. I described this by asking for a parrot in army gear fighting a monkey in the jungle. This caused even more eyebrow raising and the immortal line, "I don't know what you guys are on, but I want some" to be uttered. Despite this, our poor condemned artist went on to pull another stunner out of the bag, furnishing me with an awe inspiring picture of a parrot with an army helmet and grenade locked in a bitter battle to the death with a humongous gorilla.

Of course, it's my duty to share this slice of awesome pie with you, the Rooms reading public. So here it is, with the joke speech bubbles, that the artist guy put in, intact (there will be an edited version without speech bubbles put in the Extras section of the site, on a more permanent basis):

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To be honest, that was the highlight of my whole day. Watching the speed and ease with which this artist created such wonderful drawings and actually owning one which I'd requested was fantastic and something that most professional artists would have charged a lot of money for. It was great to have that opportunity for free and really left me in an upbeat mood for the rest of the day (not that I wasn't feeling positive before but this really boosted my spirits).

Anyway, that's about it, really. But before I wrap up, I may as well share with you the fact that that Weebl guy is a bit of a jerk. Ben wanted to buy one of his t-shirts and tried to engage the guy in some humorous banter due to the fact that the guy was messing around with a tube on his arm. When Ben attempted this, 'Weebl' looked at him as if he was some kind of pond slime and then started talking with the person next to him at the table, ignoring Ben who'd been in the middle of talking to him.

Seriously, if you're trying to sell stuff then it's a good idea not to treat your potential customers like they're beneath you. But then again, I guess when you're as well known as someone like 'Weebl', you don't really need to be courteous to get custom. Which is a shame as there were a number of exhibitors at the Thing far more deserving of that kind of status than him.

Oh, and Ben accidentally semi-flashed some girl while trying to show her his Jump Leads t-shirt (which was concealed under his jacket). It was hilarious. Especially as I'd warned him that this kind of thing might happen, earlier on in the day. Oh, that Ben, eh? Will he ever learn?

Keep on Thingin' guys. I'll be back next year to terrorise you all.