by Alex Hern
I’ve just got back from the inaugural comics gosh!p meeting at Gosh! comics (see what they did there?) in Soho. It’s basically – well, it is a book group. But for comics.
I cannot quite believe it, but this really does seem to be one of the only ones in the whole city. There’s the alternative comics (it may even be comix) reading group, but… well, when you start actually labelling yourself as alternative, that’s never a good thing. The paper they are affiliated with, The Comix Reader, is good, but a bit arsey for my liking. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’ll just have, like, a 48 panel story of someone getting a kebab.
Look, I like kebabs as much as you (well, probably a bit less than you), but there’s not a whole lot of narrative drive in them, you know?
Comics Gosh!p (which is run by Thinking Comics) is hardly mainstream; their thing is that each month we discuss two books, one famous one and one small press. Which meant that we started this month with Watchmen and Tozo.
I’m not going to try and summarise our conversation, which was wide-ranging and had about fifteen people involved in it, except to reemphasise a couple of points I made. Specifically: Watchmen is a terrible first comic. Seriously, people, stop recommending it to people who’ve never read comics. I know, it’s great, maybe the greatest. I know, it was the first you comic you read (it was for me, too), and I know, no-one finishes it and feels underwhelmed.
But it’s a comic which is full of references to comics history. It is, more than anything else, a comic about comics. So why the fuck would you recommend it to someone who’s never read a comic? Would you recommend Inception to someone who’d never seen a film? Braid to someone who’s never played Super Mario Brothers? Do you think Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead should be read before Hamlet, or after?
More to the point, you are robbing them of someone great. Sure, you can reread it, but you can only read it for the first time once. Obviously. And I am so pissed off that I will never get the chance to experience that first time in as full a manner as I could. Instead, I raced through it as a mediocre murder mystery. What a waste.
Beyond that there’s Tozo. Which is brilliant. The whole thing is drawn in a beautiful – pastiche? It seems unfair, but think that’s what it is – of Hergé’s style. I should have checked, actually; its creator, David O’Connell, was there, and spoke very eloquently on his creation. You should probably read it. It’s free.