I read with great sadness this week that Chaos City Comics owner Derek Watson has died following a long illness. As a sci-fi and comic book fan myself, Derek and Chaos City were regular fixtures to my visits to St Albans. In fact, it was the only store I just HAD to visit whenever shopping in the city centre or visiting Verulamium Park.
I always looked forward to conversations with Derek. He had such a wonderfully understated passion for what he did. Whether he was advising on new (or old) titles for me to check out, or helping advise my young daughter on introductory titles. He was always friendly, and incredibly generous with his time. Derek’s advice over the years has led me to read some fantastic stories that I would otherwise have missed out on. In particular, I recall with great fondness giving a copy of my first published book to Derek. His enthusiasm and interest still remains a wonderful memory of that time. Such was my respect, I felt I had somehow got a mark of approval following his kind feedback.
In my view, Derek was a pioneer. So many people are now aware of the plethora of comic book heroes on the big and small screen; from The Avengers to Big Hero 6 . They are now part of the fabric of mainstream popular culture.
It hasn’t always been that way. Apart from the blockbuster characters like Superman, Captain America and Batman, most characters survived under the radar. Existing for decades because of the enduring love that pioneers like Derek had for them. Conversation by conversation, recommendation by recommendation, these stories and characters were kept alive and reached new audiences every day. There was always an authenticity to Chaos City Comics. Not because comic books were cool (because being a geek hasn’t always been chic!) but because of a passion, a sense of community and a shared love for stories that are now defining mainstream cinema – and will continue long after Hollywood loses interest.
So farewell Derek and thank you. Or should I say..Excelsior! You will be missed.