As a kid back in nineteen bow and arrow I spent much of my childhood reading comics, dreaming about writing comics and, in my early teens, writing to fellow comic-lovers around the world.
And I do mean around the world. We only had snail-mail back then (a time when owning a pocket calculator was the height of tech savvy ). But somehow (okay, playing truant from school every day, since you ask) I found time to build up a network of some forty-plus pen-pals, all comic-lovers, many in the most improbable places.
It was hard enough finding American comics in the UK back then, but somehow they reached every corner of the globe and I was exchanging letters with fellow teens everywhere from the US to Uganda, from Canada to Cameroon, from Italy to Indonesia.
And what really struck me back then, when our Brit music was mostly unknown even in the USA, let alone Europe, Angola or Afghanistan, and television and film from different countries rarely travelled… what really struck me back then was that reading, the love of books and comics, and the love of writing, knew no geographical bounds. Literature was universal.
Of course, back then the realities of analogue distribution meant there wasn’t the free exchange of culture I dreamed about as a teen, and that thwarted my early ambitions to become a global author.
And it would be cough-cough decades later that digital, combined with the rise of smartphone-driven social media that made digital an everyday tool for everyday folk anywhere in the world, began the cultural event I call the Global New Renaissance.
Regulars here at TNPS will have some idea of just how global, and just how much of a renaissance, is happening right now, but I barely have time and energy enough to scratch the surface of the true level of change happening around the planet as art and culture, in all its manifestations, becomes a truly global phenomenon, quite unparalleled in human history, with consequences we have barely begun to grasp.
Take the Dhaka Comic Con, which opened this weekend (just a week before the month-long Bangladesh Ekushey Book Fair).
From the Dhaka Tribune,
What sets UJCC apart from other conventions in Bangladesh is its adherence to the fundamental element of pop culture – comic books.
And pop culture, for those of us who write genre fiction at least, is what it’s all about, be it comic books, thrillers, horror or romance novels.
Regular book lovers will be there at Dhaka this weekend along with the comic lovers, not least for the 20% discount deal being offered by Bangladesh’s largest bookstore chain, PBS.
And lest we think, this being Bangladesh, where western ebook retailers fear to tread, that this is an analogue comic con, where everyone is partying like its 1999, ponder that, alongside the superheroes and the fun comics, there will be a PS4 tournament of Injustice – Gods Among Us, courtesy of Thwip!, and some virtual reality cricket.
And yes, of course, good old comic studios.
Marvel? DC? Well, no, although there will be plenty of visitors dressed up as our American heroes Iron Man, Superman, Spidey, et al.
But it will be local comic book studios taking centre stage at Dhaka.
Dhaka Comics and Mighty Punch Studio will be leading the show, along with the event organisers Unmad, the longest-running serialized satire magazine in Bangladesh, and Jamil’s Comics & Collectibles (JCC), the sole authorized comic book retailer in Bangladesh.
The Dhaka Tribune reports event organiser Akm Alamgir Khan Jamil (of Jamil’s Comics & Collectibles, of course) as saying new features at the Dhaka Comic Con this year include,
an exhibition housing some of the most seminal works in comic books and exquisitely-crafted statues will be on display … 40+ stores offering a plethora of pop culture merchandise (and) action photography, with dedicated photography teams and backdrops.
If, like me, you haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of getting to Dhaka this year, then at least join me in raising glass (or a half coconut in my case, here on the gorgeous beaches of West Africa) this weekend in a celebration of pop culture in Bangladesh.