Long before it hit the shops, everyone was talking about Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s new Image Comics series The Wicked + The Divine, about gods who incarnate into the bodies of teenagers and become pop stars for two years before dying. It’s mortality, youth, fame, glamour, and myth all wrapped up into one stylish package.
I was therefore thrilled to receive an invitation to a private launch party for the series: Wednesday, June 18, from 7:30 onwards, in London.
Suggested dress code was “finery,” to fit with the comic’s theme of gods and pop stars. I wore a black batwing-top dress printed with flaming tattoo-chic hearts and shiny black spike heels.
The party was held in the basement club of The Star of Kings, a pub not far from King’s Cross. Prints of the various gods from The Wicked + The Divine adorned the walls, so that McKelvie-drawn gods were staring at the partiers from all angles.
Each attendee got a free The Wicked + The Divine print and two badges corresponding to different gods from the series. Several prominent comics creators and geek culture writers were in attendance, including Christian Ward, Al Ewing, Si Spurrier, and Leigh Alexander. I was also told – after the fact – that Felicia Day showed up briefly, although she left before I arrived.
A DJ was playing various pop songs, but for some reason no one was dancing. People were standing around or sitting and chatting. I joined Al Ewing and his girlfriend, and was soon involved in a look back at old mainstream comics which are actually insane. For instance, UK reprints of Marvel comics used to take out all the Americanisms and substitute British terms. Spider-man would get paid several shillings for his photos (this was pre-decimalization); Nick Fury would go “to the White House – where the President lives!”; and instead of heading to the coffee shop, Beast and Cyclops would go to “the youth club,” because apparently Britain hadn’t discovered coffee shops yet.
Soon it was time for the live music portion of the evening, provided by the band Summer Camp. (They’re on the The Wicked + The Divine playlist on Spotify.) After a Gillen and McKelvie introduction thanking all of the guests for supporting the comic with their presence and hyping up the band, Summer Camp started to play. It was a little bit of Florence and the Machine; a bit of de-industrialized, more innocent Goldfrapp; and some undefinable aspect of 90s fun brought into the 2010s. A big projector screen behind the stage showed a looped slideshow of covers, panels and pages from the comic. It looked as though the gods were judging us or at least evaluating the music.
At first, everyone was simply standing there and doing the cool-person-rhythmic-nod of appreciation that indie bands often get, leaving a semicircle of space around what had been marked out as the dance floor. But I was starting to move, because there was live music happening and I couldn’t stop myself. I wasn’t alone, though; the guy behind me was doing the same thing.
“Why isn’t anybody dancing?” I shouted to him over the band.
“I don’t know!”
“We should dance!”
And we did. We stepped onto the dance floor and got funky, introducing ourselves in the process.
The lead singer of Summer Camp commented on how great it was that a) we were dancing and b) we had clearly met because we wanted to dance. A few songs went by, and we were still the only people on the dance floor/designated dance area, which everyone else was giving a wide berth. When the second to last song kicked into a higher gear, though, we suddenly found that we weren’t alone; pretty soon, the dance floor was full. The band finished their set to applause and “WHOO”s, and the pop music started up again.
From that point onwards, it was more dancing and more drinking. My impressions mostly take the form of brief mental notes, as below:
Kieron Gillen cannot get enough of Kelis’s “Milkshake.”
How does everybody know this Icona Pop song? Am I just extremely uncool?
Of all the songs that I expected to hear at a Gillen/McKelvie launch party, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” was not one of them. Neither was “Hot in Herrre.”
I should note that when “Hot In Herre” started playing, Leigh Alexander was breaking it down on the stage, which was now clear of band equipment. Now perhaps it’s genetics, perhaps it’s simply personal, but I cannot resist the combination of a stage and a shake-that-booty song. I jumped onto that stage and worked it until I started to sweat.
Dancing, still, and drinking. People had dropped their badges, so I started picking them up and fastening them to my dress. There were nine badge options in all; it seemed like a good idea to collect the whole set.
The evening closed with Kieron Gillen and Si Spurrier dancing to Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River.” I say “dancing,” but it was really more like grinding on each other/a dramatic interpretive duet. Gillen’s suit jacket had come off by this point, so it was serious.
Then closing time; shuffling to night buses, cabs, and last trains (I stayed with a friend); trying to remain conscious enough to take out my contact lenses and brush my teeth before falling asleep; and in the morning, remembering one of the best nights I’d had in a long time.