Four Days in Poland
I just got back from Poland last night, having spent four very full days there on a signing tour. Well, I thought it was a signing tour, but actually it turned out to be something slightly else. My Polish publishers, MAG and Egmont, invited me over both to attend PolCon (Poland’s science fiction convention) and to talk to Polish media about my writing. So it was only at PolCon, on the Saturday, that I did any actual signing: the rest of the time I was doing interviews, exploring the two cities where I stayed (Warsaw and Lodz) and meeting the people who publish my work in Poland.
It was a great trip, all told. It was packed with incident, or at least with interviews. I did about half a dozen each day, with TV, radio, websites and print media. Then at PolCon I also did a panel, a Q and A and a big signing session. At times it felt a little hectic, but the people who were looking after me, Greg (my translator) and Patricia (from Egmont’s PR department), were adept both at keeping the schedule on track and at finding times in between the interviews to show me around and keep me fed and watered.
The first two days were in Warsaw, and the bulk of the interviews were done there. One highlight was meeting Lukasz and Mateusz, two very nice guys who work on the Marvel website there. None of my Marvel work is translated into Polish yet, but it’s available in English, and we had a long and very enjoyable talk about X-Men continuity and where Legacy is going now that it’s Rogue’s book rather than Professor X’s. Lukasz and Mateusz are working on a comic book of their own, in a photo-realist style, and they gave me a print of the first page, which was very cool. They also gave me a bottle of Dubrozka vodka, which contains a blade of grass allegedly urinated on by a bison. I haven’t tasted it yet, but I’m looking forward to doing so tonight.
I had a chance to walk around the old town area of Warsaw, with Greg as a very able and entertaining guide. He turned out to be extremely well informed about Polish history, and opened my eyes to more than a few things I didn’t know or hadn’t thought about – the fact that Poland had once been an elective monarchy; the various medieval partitionings of the country and the way its borders had fluctuated even into the 20th century; and the fact that Margaret Thatcher is widely viewed in Poland as one of the good guys, because of the support and encouragement she gave to the Solidarity movement and her intransigent opposition to the Soviet bloc.
Another highlight of the Warsaw leg of the trip was dinner on Thursday night – traditional Polish cuisine in an old town restaurant, where I got to meet my two hosts, Jacek Rodek (of MAG) and Tomasz Kolodziejczak (of Egmont), along with their wives Kasia (who met me at the airport and planned my itinerary) and Joasia. Both Jacek and Tomasz had been comic writers before they moved into publishing, and we talked comics and sci-fi for three hours, finally moving from the restaurant to the Browarmia bar, where I discovered that Polish stout is both better and stronger than Polish lager.
On Friday night, after more interviews, we took a train to Lodz. This is where Patricia was born and raised, so she decided where we should go in the intervals between interviews and panels. We walked up Piotrkowska Street, which has some of the most beautiful art nouveau buildings I’ve ever seen, and some magnificent sculptures, to a pizza parlour where a sign (in Evrit) read “only Hebrew spoken here.” The pizza was served in the Lodz style, with several sauces on a garnish tray – garlic, chili, tomato and basil – which you can spread on the pizza to enhance the experience. It was, I have to say, spectacularly good pizza: Patricia, who is very proud of her home city, says it makes the best pizza outside of Naples.
Back to PolCon for more interviews, including one with Trashka and Lukas, who turned out (after I spent several minutes happily insulting the rock band Pantera and the comic I once wrote about them) to be hardcore Pantera fans. But they forgave me, and Lukas, who could have folded me into a paper plane without raising a sweat, very kindly didn’t.
I want to share one moment from the Q & A. Tomek, who was hosting, began with a quote from Lucifer. He showed me the relevant page, which was from the third issue of “The Morningstar Option,” and alarm bells began to ring as I tried to remember the original English dialogue. “So, Mike,” Tomek said, quoting verbatim, “welcome to the sweatstain principalities of Eastern Europe.” After pretending I had another appointment, and being pushed politely but firmly back down into my seat, I explained, red-faced, that it was a demon who’d said that, and demons are good at sowing discord. The audience laughed their collective and individual legs off.
To summarise, anyway: a really enjoyable time, that went by very fast. MAG and Egmont looked after me very well, and Greg and Patricia, if you’re reading this, I’m hugely grateful to you for making everything feel so effortless when I know damn well it wasn’t. It was great meeting you and hanging out with you. I hope we can do it again some day…