Saturday, November 4, 2017
There and back again with the bloody Moomins
I fucking love travel.
I love the strange city streets and familiar airport lounges. I love struggling with the local language and resorting to grunts and pointing. I love the subway systems of all the world's big cities, and how convenient and easy they are to figure out. I love the culture and the history and the people and the architecture and the food.
Oh my god, the food. In the past month, we ate steak in Argentina, tea in Versailles and ramen in central London. In Copenhagen, we scoffed the best cake I've ever eaten, some smorrebrod and snaps for lunch and an eight-course meal at a Michelin star outfit, all in one day. We ate Max Burger with extra cheese in Oslo, devoured lemon chicken in Hong Kong and I discovered that I'm more Swedish than I thought, because the traditional meal of mashed spuds and meatballs turned out to be the kind of brilliantly boring meal I grew up on. We also ate at three different Moomin cafes, because the lovely wife thinks they're adorable.
The museums and art galleries and sites of great history are all well and good, but I can still taste that smorrebrod and snaps.
I love it when things get a bit rough.
Getting lost in the rain in Finland and jumping on a tram illegally to get out of it, and then delayed flights and long hours trying to get the bloody airport wifi working. Under-estimating distance and and overconfidence in overcoming the jetlag leading to more grim death marches around the city streets.
It's all a pain, but it all becomes a great story when you get back home again. You forget all the bad shit, and it all just becomes another story.
I love being out of contact. We still have wi-fi in all the hotels, so it's easy to keep up with all the news. Still checking every morning to see if we had a government back in NZ, or to see if there is a new Closer Look video from , or to follow the massive shit-show that has followed the inevitable fall of the odious Harvey Weinstein, but it's just checking in, there isn't time to follow all the latest developments in everything.
There's too much to do in a day to sit around and read all the latest hot takes on international geo-politics, or the latest announcements from Marvel and DC. Instead, I catch up on everything when I get back - the day allocated for jetlag issues is spent binging on all the dorky news I can handle and it takes hours to get through it all, but by the end, it's all just a bit hard to find anything I really give a shit about.
I mean, I saw a bunch of websites telling me that the forthcoming crossover between the original Battlestar Galactica and the rebooted crew was something to get excited about, but it wasn't. It really wasn't. Nobody needs that.
And shit yeah, I love looking for comic shops on the far side of the world. There were always going to be some I looked up before we left home, but just the ones in England - travelling around Scandinavia, I only looked up the local stores when I arrived in town.
And I stumbled across a couple completely by accident, but after years of prtending to stumble across comic shops all over the world, the lovely wife never believes that any more. But it's true, I don't pretend not to know if there are new comic shops in the latest town we're passing through, because I know I'm never fooling her. But then I am instinctively drawn to the parts of town that do have comic shops, so we inevitably accidentally run into them. Our first night in Stockholm, we go to this sweet little restaurant in Old Town, and I'm scarfing down the lingonberries when I see a shop with a bucket of Vertigo comic back issues across the road. She's never going to believe that's the accident it really was.
Still, I go to the wool and craft shops with her, and she puts up with my dumb comic shop obsession, and it all works out. Even though I regularly have that thing of walking out of shops disappointed by the way the medium has got away from me, I still seek them out.
And I find the stores in Norway and Denmark were clean and precise and had very, very few actual comic issues, relying instead of some primo collections, trade paperbacks and hardbacks. And it wasn't hard to find Finland has a humongous amount of translated material, dating back decades and decades, and I spent so much time convincing the wife she didn't need one of the innumerable Moomin comics, until I was forced to admit that I had already ordered her the ultimate Moomin book as a Christmas special.
But oh man, I went hard on the comics when I could, and found crucial back issues and weird comics all over the world.
In London, there were missing 2000ads and the issue of the comics journal with the Dylan Horrocks interview and gross old Judge Dredd Megazine yearbooks from the early nineties. I was hugely disappointed that I couldn't find Pat Mill's terrific 2000ad memoir in the main Forbidden Planet story on Shaftsbery Ave, although the shop at the Cartoon Museum came through, as always.
In Helsinki, I get completely fucking lost in an underground mall complex in the centre of town, looking for a comic/gaming store that proves to be another clean and dull outfit, but then I find this second hand store with a back room full of comic goodness, and I come away from there with a book about the brilliant Nick Cardy, the long, long desired You are Margaret Thatcher by Mills and Emerson, and an Excalibur comic from 1990 I'd never seen before.
And everywhere, there were Silver Surfer comics and Batman annuals from the early nineties, and loads of odd random bronze age stuff, from here and there.
It doesn't stop there. There is some surprisingly cheap Dan Clowes in Stockholm, which is always welcome, but all I take away from Oslo is the memory of that fucking park with the weird statues and a book about gritty horror novels from the seventies and eighties.
I can't even remember where I got the Jim Aparo Brave and the Bold comics, but it was somewhere along the way. Same with the BPRD, Johnny Red, Stray Bullets and Lazarus comics that fill out irritatingly itch gaps, as well as the long-term projects like Peter Milligan's Shade The Changing Man and Hellblazer comics.
I only ever bought one issue of Shade brand new off the shelf ,and have been hunting down the rest of that series since the early nineties. I'm only nine issues away from getting 'em all, so that's probably a couple more overseas trips away.
They get fuckin' heavy, these things, but I never, ever complain about how hard it is to drag all these comics from airport to airport, from one side of the world. That's my choice and it's worth the shoulder ache.
The day we got back from a month overseas, I went straight to the last day of the local annual comic convention and loaded up on even more comics, desperately flipping through comic bins before the jetlag really kicked in. I dragged this heavy-ass shit around the world, I'm hardly going to stop now.