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Hey, what's with the giant Arno? How did that happen? Well, if you will recall the little description Beedoo! wrote for the dragon version of me on the front page, she accidentally turned him into a giant dragon, and only started working on that minor problem when their relationship had progressed a bit further. That's not to say that her solutions are in any way permanent, reasoned out, or even safe, and they seem to exhibit minor hitches like wearing off from time to time. The only solid guideline for whatever size dragon is available today seems to be: "whichever is funniest."

Anyway, last weekend was the weekend of Haarlem Comic Days. This is an annual thing in Haarlem, in which a lot of Dutch, but also foreign comic fans converge on the city of Haarlem, where old and new comics are sold in stands, themes are discussed, and generally stuff happens. This region of Europe is blessed with a vast crop of comics, in fact, though most Americans will not have heard of such classics such as Asterix, Donjon ("Dungeon"), Suske en Wiske, et cetera... Whereas America seems to go for superhero comics, European comics rather tend to go for the comical and absurdist, and they have shaped me accordingly.

I have always had a soft spot for comics. As a child I would visit my grandparents every week, where I would read two or three 'new' second-hand comics that my mother bought for me at the market. Nowadays, I really only read the excellent Donjon series, but I enjoyed leafing through all those wonderful comics immensely.

Going by the picture above, they apparantly even had a giant comic specially made for dragons (or perhaps the near-blind?).

The popularity of Haarlem Comic Days really surprised me, as the only reference I have for comic vendors are Bookman's Used Bookstore, with their single magazine rack of comics, and the Gathering's dealer's room vendor. The Gathering, for instance, was one guy with one table of comics on, under, and behind his stand. Picture this little stand, and multiply it by four times, and you'll get an idea of the size of some of the stands, which varied from one to six tables. Now picture these tables and stands covering a large, open plaza (Haarlem's Great Market) and lining several of the surrounding streets, plus taking up all the room in a 3-floor convention center. It is IMMENSE. The comics themselves are highly diverse, old and new, and not really something you see much of in the States... Whereas we Americans tend to focus on the occasional collection of comic strips, or superhero comics, and the hipper crowd now getting into manga (Japanese anime in book form, for those of you unfamiliar with the term), U.S. comics seem to be aimed at the younger crowd with little variace. European comics run the gamut of genres, from mystery to horror, to Donald Duck (an all-time Dutch favorite, bigger than Mickey Mouse...) and Tin-Tin. I was even a bit scandalized to see comics prominently displaying nude women... probably not just artistically. ;p

Arno and I were a little concerned about the weather when we left the apartment for the Comic Days. There was a constant drizzle and haze throughout the day (hence Beedoo!'s umbrella), but this did not seem to stave off the crowds, and vendors often had awnings and fly-sheets to keep the moisture off the comics, and the convention center was quite cozy, considering the vast number of people in there.

I myself was a little cowed by all the mainly Dutch literature all over the place, what with me not knowing enough Dutch to entirely appreciate the goings-on, but I did manage to find a book of Simon's Cat, which (aside of the cover notes) contained only pictures, no text. Arno found two for himself, and we spent the rest of the evening looking at them all.