On the last Saturday in October, I took a drive up the M1 to Bedford for my first visit to the Close Encounters comic shop. I’d been invited to the relatively new shop in the midlands of England by the brothers/owners Jeff and Bub who, as it happens, turned out to be very nice and accommodating young chaps.
The first thing that struck me was the cost of the multi-storey car park. Seven quid for more than four hours! The second thing was the location of the shop itself; at one end of a pedestrianised and extremely busy main street. In fact, I unconsciously walked towards the wrong end of the street – the less busy, seedier end where comic shops tend to be.
The third thing that struck me was how bloody busy the shop was. The ground floor – packed with toys, DVDs and computer games – was also packed with customers, many queuing up at the till. Most of the comics and graphic novels were stocked up on the spacious second level, at one end of which was a big, comfortable three piece suite. Yes. A three-piece suite. In a comic shop.
And that’s where, as the clock moved round to one’ o’clock, we were situated, supplied with paper and pens, and plied with tea and biscuits. A continuous parade of readers and fans patiently queued to have their books and comics signed and we all tried to accommodate all requests (however unusual) for sketches from the artists among us.
Jamie Delano (Hellblazer et al) and Simon Furman (Transformers) being merely writers could only sign their books, while David Hine attempted to dodge sketch requests by claiming he wasn’t an artist (simultaneously hawking his fantastic Strange Embrace trade paperback which he actually drew). The rest of us bit the bullet and sketched away – although admittedly I turned down one or two Spider-Man requests. Neither Charlie Adlard, John McCrea nor Simon Bisley turned anything down, and produced beautiful pieces at the drop of the hat. Bisley was the star turn, and kept all of the attendees, as well as his fellow creators mightily amused for the entire afternoon.
Everyone was still there, even well past the shop’s closing time of 6.00 PM. It was a truly fabulous day, superbly organised and hugely enjoyable. The brothers Chahal deserve all the credit. They sold more Strangehaven trades than I do at an average convention, which for a mere signing is very impressive. Well done guys, the way the event was organised, and seeing such a busy shop in such a great location, owned by two young lads is very encouraging for the future of the comic book shop.
[PHOTOS TO COME]
The signing begins at Close Encounters.
The shop is rammed from one ’til six.
David Hine gets animated.
The whole gang’s here.
Adlard stronger than Hulk
From left To right: Adlard, Bisley, Furman, Hine, Millidge and Mcrea drinking tea.
John Mcrea shares a joke with Jaime Delano