Archive for the ‘Reports’ Category

Thoughts on Thought Bubble

November 23, 2009

Last year’s Thought Bubble was a treat: a convention which happily combined all elements of comics, bringing new talent to a new audience, and rewarding its guests with an exclusive after-party in a local casino! It was definitely an experience worth repeating.

Thought Bubble is part of the month-long Leeds Film Festival, with its own series of films programmed to tie in with the event, so each year I’ve gone up to Leeds a day before the main convention and taken the rare opportunity to catch some anime on the big screen. This time I went to the Hyde Park Picturehouse, a 95-year old cinema, complete with one tiny ticket booth, a tuck-shop style kiosk, and even a balcony – all on a street corner in a residential area! It took some finding, but I got there just in time to see ‘Angel’s Egg’, from 1985. Unfortunately I missed the introductory talk, which might have been helpful; the film didn’t have an easy story to follow, with very little dialogue or action. But like an animated David Lynch film, it successfully drew me in to its eerie mood, and left me with some weird images sure to stay in the mind. Not a film to munch popcorn to, though. The brand new ‘Summer Wars’ was more enjoyable, and I’d recommend it highly: I didn’t think the premise of boy-meets-girl-and-fights-computer-virus too promising, but the story is gripping, emotional and funny in turn, and the animation is just awesome, contrasting more traditional Manga styles with crazy game-inspired visions.

On Saturday, the convention included several panel discussions, guest signings, workshops and competitions, but for me it was all about the small press comics. I was sharing tables with Hugh Raine and Joe Decie, and arrived first to set up stall in good time. Unfortunately I found when Hugh arrived that I had the wrong table, and had to quickly move all my things! We had a good spot between the We Are Words & Pictures band and John Allison of Scary-Go-Round and Bad Machinery fame. There was a steady flow of crowds around the convention hall: occasionally our alley would seem empty, then a few customers would pop along at once and huddle around the tables. As at MCM Expo, we could amuse ourselves by cosplay-watching (best sights: the Penguin with a big stick-on beak of a nose, and the cardboard Transformer girl), and our spirits were kept up by visits from friends and by free Red Bull! I was pleased to meet some repeat customers from last year, a girl who laughed at every page of my Animal Paper, and a guy who asked to interview me for a student documentary… although I just managed to babble a lot about nothing while waving my hands around a great deal.

It was good to meet up with comic friends from all over: honorary member of our twelve-eyed comic team Dale O.F. came from Ireland; Audrey & Julia Morning brought sweet zines and comics from Scotland; I also had a chat with the Paper Jam collective from Newcastle and the comic-creating students from Glyndwr University in North Wales. And of course there were a lot of tourists up from London

I bought a good batch of comics, including the new issues of music/magic series Phonogram, Marc Ellerby’s Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter, Banal Pig’s Ethel Sparrowhawk, and a newspaper-format anthology from We Are Words & Pictures.

After the convention and a home-cooked meal from my friends (thanks Chris & Naomi), it was time for some drinking, drawing and dancing at the Thought Bubble after-party. I was obliged to do a little jumping about to ‘Can I Take U 2 the Cinema’ by Kenickie, ‘Broken Face’ by Pixies, and ‘Where’s Me Jumper?’ by Sultans of Ping FC… it was just a shame the music couldn’t have been louder! There were some big sketch pads by the bar, on which various reprobate artists scribbled things that included a zombie Charlie Brown and a naked Asterix

Before long it was 3am, and since the room seemed to have turned into a 1970s disco I decided it was time to go get some sleep. The next day I enjoyed the Christmas market in town and a couple of beers in the North Bar, decorated with cartoons by Dr Simpo, before heading home. Thanks to the organisers, customers and friends – I’d do it all again next year!

Are You Zine-Friendly?

November 14, 2009

I went along to the Zine Friendly night at the Foundry on 12th November, an Alternative Press evening organised to promote the launch of the Zine Friendly blog. It’s a new venture which encourages venues and events to be ‘Zine Friendly’ by selling small press publications or allowing creators to promote their wares, prospectively opening the scene to a brand new audience. As zine guru Jimi Gherkin says, a lot of people these days don’t know what zines are, even if they have an interest in music or alternative culture, because there are so few places to come across them. The world of zines is wide, interesting and creatively empowering, so it’s something to be recommended.

The basement of the Foundry was host to a communal zine stall, tea and cakes, and a cardboard robot which visitors decorated with sketches, doodles and Pavement lyrics. I caught up with some comics friends and bought a new issue of Browner Knowle – a series of observational fiction by Paul Ashley Brown, this one featuring an introspective artist and a failed romance – and I was even lucky enough to get home in just over an hour, which was better than my failed attempt to get a train to Comiket last Sunday….

Comic Village, in Manga Country

October 28, 2009

It’s strange the things one has to do to try selling comics. Just because I enjoy making funny books, I have to spend weekends in university halls with geeks, or art spaces with hipsters, or in an enormous exhibition centre full of children in fancy dress. But hey, it’s good to meet your public…

So on two autumnal mornings I make my way to London with a big bag of comics, and follow the costumed youngsters to Docklands, to join the Comic Village, a growing part of the twice-yearly MCM Expo. Though MCM stands for Movies/Comic/Media, the Excel Centre seems mostly full of manga and games, and the comic creators are overwhelmed and sometimes mutually bemused by hordes of these cosplayers.

Perhaps the one thing we can all agree on about cosplayers is that they certainly have enthusiasm. This is shown by their shrieking on packed trains, their rushing off the DLR to join the long convention queue, and by the lengths they go to in dressing up. There’s an amazing display of outfits: zombies, schoolgirls, pokemons; a few characters I recognise from Studio Ghibli productions, and many who I look at and have no idea who they are; a Tinkerbell, a Buzz Lightyear, a Silk Spectre and a Tom Baker (but not THE Tom Baker, although he was actually there, I didn’t get to see him!); a Mario, a Wally, a Princess Leia. Some of these costumes are wrong in many ways. Some of the homemade outfits are quite impressive (flashing lights!), some not so much (a cardboard box!); but these people probably deserve respect for going out in public dressed like that…

The cosplay also livens up our people-watching as the audience pass by our table, and helps to keep the weekend enjoyable while not being especially profitable. The main thing these people want is of course Manga, and my characters just don’t have big enough eyes! But my table buddy Joe Decie managed to keep up a good patter for drawing in customers, and this makes our sales at least respectable. Through our sales pitches I know now the story of Joe’s Hourly Comic off by heart, and I’m sure he’s equally au fait with my subject matter (animals! robots! demons! people!), but you have to talk about your comics in order to get people interested, even after you’ve caught their eye with a cute postcard of a cow.

I was pleased to sell a copy of Animal Paper on the idea that it would be good for colouring-in, and to sell a copy to a furry dinosaur whose money I had to help out of her clumsy paws. I was also pleased with my own purchases and enjoyed seeing the comics friends as usual, discussing such subjects as “How much should a creator charge for their comics / How can we take our comics to a wider audience / Do Smurfs have tails?”

So all in all it was worth a visit, for sight-seeing and for shopping; while our own trading appealed to a minority, I’m glad to have the chance to sell somewhere different. Thanks for putting on a good show!

At the Comic Convention…

October 13, 2009

Here’s a strip I drew after the UK Web & Mini Comix Thing back in March!
I’ve exhibited there for the last two years and it’s always a busy fair, and it’s interesting to get reactions to your work from the customers and other cartoonists…

Among the goings-on, two small boys asked me to draw their picture while I was still half asleep (not my best work!), while an older guy flicking through my comics was reminded of his youth, and one girl seemed to be there for the Web Thing rather than for the Mini Comix! Twelve Eyes Comics Team Shug, Joe Decie and I compared self-portraits with Sarah McIntyre (illustrator of the marvellous Morris the Mankiest Monster) and I amazed Shug with my daring drawing technique…

I don’t draw myself too often, but had made an exception for a guest strip in Mallard fanzine, a regular anthology of text and comic fiction. Well worth checking out for Tom England’s spare and effective scenes of imagined middle age, Chris Leahy’s dense and intriguing serial and Joe Baddeley’s amusing stick men!

Alternative Press

August 31, 2009

I must give a mention and thanks to the organisers of last month’s Alternative Press Festival. The Festival involved several different events held over five days in London, and launched the Alternative Press anthology ‘Publish You’. Publish You is a great, glossy, nicely-bound and smartly-designed paperback including work from a variety of artists working in small press – some of my favourites being Hugh Raine, Scott Jason Smith, James Nash, Banal Pig, Kate McMorrine- actually, there are too many to list here. But it’s well worth taking a look for yourself and it’s available from a lot of bookshops in London (see here), or online here.

I went to two of the week’s events, Collaborama held at a cool arty pub called the Miller in London Bridge, and the Alternative Press Fair at St Aloysius Social Club near Euston. It’s always invigorating to see the diverse creative wares on show and to get a good reaction for my own work, and it’s given me a renewed enthusiasm for producing my own comics.

While the Fair was a more traditional day of selling behind tables (and a successful day it was), the Collaborama was as its name ought to suggest, an event designed to encourage collaborative work in small press. Leeds’ Footprinter collective brought their Risograph machine and copied 300 issues of a zine created on the day by small press makers and fair attendees.

I drew an animal for the zine… though as some pointed out I could have drawn a Tibetan leader.

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The event also included live music from London’s own Antifolk collective, who were as to be expected great in parts, and the evening ended with the Resonance FM orchestra playing a selection of laptop improv and a composition based on the character of Fu Manchu, which was appropriately sinister and melodramatic (I particularly enjoyed the comical guitar riff played each time the criminal’s name was spoken, cutting in like a violent fanfare). The music was accompanied by visuals from a selection of artists, interpreting what they heard and projecting live onto the walls. As a live experience this was especially effective and dramatic to watch when some started colouring over what they had already done, thereby destroying previous work – working only for the moment instead of creating a piece of work to keep. Adding live music, or live poetry / spoken-word performance as the organisers had at an earlier evening, and encouraging the audience to participate, really opens up the creative potential and the audience appeal of these festivals.

Keep an eye on comicsandzines.wordpress.com to see what’s next in store, and get involved!