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Friday, 30 October 2009

All New UK Comic for Star Wars: The Clone Wars

tcwcomic_img1.jpgUpcoming issues of Titan Magazines Star Wars: The Clone Wars Comic are to include all-new comic strip stories specially created for the title.

The new-look 32-page comic, on sale from 12th November, will include a self-contained eight-page mini-story in every four-weekly issue and feature tales written by Spider-Man and former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco, Robin Etherington (Monsters vs. Aliens, Monkeynuts) and SF novelist and Disney Comics writer Rik Hoskin. The strips will be drawn by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artist Andrés Ponce and comic newcomer Tanya Roberts.

tcwcomic_img2.jpgAs well as a brand new action-packed comic story every issue, Star Wars: The Clone Wars Comic wil also include its usual mix of puzzles, posters, competitions, news, fun facts about all your favourite Clone Wars characters and more.

"It's not just The Clone Wars TV show that's moving into a thrilling new era with the bounty hunter-filled season two," commented editor Andrew James, "with our great new format and awesome new comic strip, there's never been a more exciting time to be a Clone Wars comic fan."

• More info and exclusive sneak peeks will feature on www.titancomicsuk.com

Comic Artist Refused Permission to Attend own Book Launch

Salem Brownstone All Along the WatchtowersComic artist Nikhil Singh, illustrator of the acclaimed Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers recently published by Walker Books, has now been held in South Africa for five months, unable to return to the UK even to attend his own book launch, due to being 'underqualified'.

Although Singh, who was born in South Africa, has been a resident of Hampstead, London for three years, the British Home Office has made the decision not to renew any Artists’ Visas. This means that international artists whose visas have expired must now reapply for a Tier One Highly Skilled Worker Visa, which cannot be obtained without a degree or similar proof of tertiary education.

Singh is just one of many victims of insane regulations brought in by the government which are restricting artistic expression and visiting artists to the UK. As we've previously reported, they are being vigorously challenged by the Manifesto Club who have launched a petition protesting at the regulations.

Despite being a published illustrator of a novel which has been acclaimed by the likes of titles such as Metro, the Financial Times and Sunday Express as well as comic legend Alan Moore, Singh was informed that, as he does not have a degree, he does not qualify for this ‘highly skilled’ visa. He was also made to take an English language test, despite having worked in the UK as a journalist for many years.

“This new legislature speaks poorly of a country previously renowned as an international nexus of arts and culture," argues Nikhil Singh. "The fact that so many academics and artists are being refused entry for such petty reasons only weakens England's cultural backbone.

"The new immigration laws have insinuated an atmosphere of creative policing that is entirely out of character with the various professions it has effected; trades whose universal spirit of free thinking, regardless of nationality, have now been subtly degraded by the very powers which should be nurturing it.”

Paul Gravett, Director of Comica Festival and author of Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life, is infuriated by the Home Office action.

“The refusal of Nikhil Singh's application for a Highly Skilled Worker Visa, resulting in his being unable to attend his own book launch at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, is short-sighted and prejudiced towards the graphic novel medium, and plainly ignores his exceptional merits," he says. "One look at the extraordinary craftsmanship of his illustrative contributions to the acclaimed graphic novel Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers would convince anyone that Nikhil is not only "highly skilled" but a truly visionary artist of international standing.”

Salem Brownstone: All Along the Watchtowers launched in a sell-out Salem Spooktacular event at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London on Saturday 24th October. Singh, who has now lost his London apartment and who has not seen his girlfriend of seven years for the past five months, is still unable to leave South Africa. He has currently spent over £2,000 appealing this process, and on subsequent reapplications which have all, to date, been refused.

• If you think the government is wrong, join the Manifesto Club's campaign in support of visiting artists at: www.manifestoclub.com/visitingartists

Related Stories


Artist Visa System Protest Launched

Visiting Artist Expelled from UK

Starblazer Revived?

starblazer-064-cover.jpgRumours have reached downthetubes that some form of Starblazer collection is in the works at DC Thomson, along with other graphic collections based on some of the company's most popular characters from a range of comics.

Although Carlton Books have published several Commando collections, we're told DC Thomson has been considering and 'mocking up' different graphic collection projects for some time: among them, Starblazer, the 1980s SF digest title whose creators included a young Grant Morrison, Mike McMahon, Steve Holland, Ray Aspden, Ian Kennedy and many others.

What's proposed is a push by DC Thomson into the "retro market", already exploited by the likes of Rebellion, Titan Books and other publishers. On the table, we're told, are reproductions of Starblazer - possibly in colour - in a bigger size, and perhaps with a new narrative... edgier and more like a graphic novel than what it was.

In discussion for some time at DC Thomson, the proposal would also showcase the work of artists and authors such as Mike Chinn, John Smith, Grant Morrison, Alan Hemus and others and artists, particularly Enrique Alcatena and Ricardo Garijo, who sadly died recently, plus the other artists.

starblazer-082-cover.jpgAs well as the republication or updating of older material DC Thomson would also seek to publish the four, as yet, unpublished 'Legends' stories planned for Starblazer before it was cancelled after over it 281 issue run.

But this is merely the tip of the iceberg, because we're also told DC Thomson want to give the same treatment to other 'superheroes'...The Black Sapper, Jack Flash and numerous others.

Will this exciting project ever get the go ahead? Only if DC Thomson's research into graphic novel publishing indicates demand for such a project, and that has only begun in earnest, we gather, in the past few months, although the Starblazer revamp project has been in development for much longer.

A Starblazer History on downthetubes

Arts Foundation Graphic Novelist Awards: Shortlist Announced

The_Spider_Moon_Show.jpgThe Arts Foundation has just announced that Spider Moon creator Kate Brown, Bill Bragg, Karrie Fransman and James McKay have been shortlisted for the Graphic Novelist awards.

Established 18 years ago, the Arts Foundation (www.artsfoundation.co.uk) has awarded over £1.5 million pounds in fellowships to artists who work in the areas of craft, fine art, performing arts, film, design and new media. Worth £10,000, their award is the biggest of its kind in the UK for graphic novels and is awarded to emerging talent for their past work and future potential.

The Foundation says the shortlist exemplifies the diversity of graphic novelists producing outstanding work in Britain today, with techniques varying from pencil and charcoal hand drawings to pen and acrylics to mixed-media.

During her time at secondary school and then on into University, Oxford-based comicker and illustrator Kate Brown became fascinated by European comic art. She was captivated by the variety of ways of portraying art and the story, so far removed from franchise comics and their restrictive styles. Kate has always found her emotions easier to express in the form of pictures and finds looking back on short fables or stories that she’s written give her a better insight into her feelings and how she relates generally to the world.

Hans Christian Andersen and J.M Barry hail as two of Kate’s major influences, an artist inspired by the idea that children’s books can work on a variety of levels for both children and adults. This dual audience is evident in The Spider Moon, a work she created for the children’s comic weekly, The DFC, which wil be released as a collection next year (see news story) and has also been adapted into a stageplay. As she began putting her work in the public arena, she was constantly surprised and fascinated by how others interpreted her work, that the role of the ‘audience’ has become key to the development of her work.

Brown takes inspiration from a variety of artforms including physical theatre, film, song writing and prose to develop work with a universal edge. "Almost 100% of my drawings are 'purpose-driven', she says. "I can’t draw randomly, I always feel way out of my depth, because everything I want to do needs to be for a comic. Same with writing. I find it near-impossible to think any other way. I realise that these things supplement work for a comic in an invaluable way, but for me... I need to have that end-goal or drive or specific vision in order for me to feel good about something I’ve done, and for it to feel like a stepping stone to something."

Kate has been published in magazines and books including Accent UK’s Western Anthology, The Girly Comic as well as The Best New Manga book. Her characters range from mystifying girls to bonnet wearing monsters. Kate’s goal is always to create work that can be appreciated by a wide range of people, that each person can take away something individual from reading the comics.

le_gun.jpgBill Bragg has been working as a freelance illustrator since 1998 and this, combined with a long-time love of reading graphic novels, led him to apply to the RCA in 2003 where he spent two years experimenting with the form and developing stories of his own. Whilst there he also founded Le Gun magazine with a group of friends, initially as a place to publish all the exciting work they saw happening around them. The magazine is now an established art annual.

An important piece of work for Bragg was a wordless novel he drew during his MA, Journey of a Stranger, inspired following a trip to East Berlin in 2004 when he had the idea of someone not being about to turn left out of their front door for 30 years. The resulting story is about a man who leaves his flat and takes a train journey out of the city for the first time in 30 years and the thoughts and memories this unearths as a consequence.

In December 2008, Bragg, who has worked for a variety of publications including The Guardian and The New York Times, started Marcel’s Appendix, a comic strip for Icon magazine which follows the surreal urban wanderings of an overly earnest architect called Marcel Salami. He's also wotrking on further graphic novels and a much longer book since 2007 with writer and fellow Le Gun contributor James Caddick.

karrie_fransman_art.jpg


Karrie Fransman, who works as a creative advertiser in Soho, writing and art-directing press, poster and TV advertisements, creates imaginative and insightful stories, describing them as  ‘creative autobiography,’ a phrase she coined to describe true tales that all to often spiral into fantasy.

Ranging from psychopaths in ballet slippers to intimate relationships with duvets, her graphic novels use magical realism to explore ways in which inner turmoil is displayed outwardly. She explains her style is influenced by people who sit on the boundary between art and storytelling.

death-do-us-part12.jpgFransman studied Psychology and Sociology at University, where she began writing her first graphic stories after reading Daniel Clowe’s Ghost World and realising that comics don’t need to be about superheroes. She has always drawn by hand and enjoys the imperfect, handcrafted feel.

Her work regularly reaches a national audience, with her fictional story, The Night I Lost My Love appearing every Monday in Times2 section. Her autobiographical comic strip, My Peculiar World was published in The Guardian’s G2. Karrie just finished building a comic sculpture entitled Death Do Us Part about a lady who, unable to let go, turns her dead husband into a hat stand.

james.mckay_08.jpgJames McKay began producing graphic novels at the age of 15, with a fantasy epic, Stormcrow. He graduated with 1st class honours in illustration and graphic design from Middlesex University in 1998 and has since then worked as a freelance comic artist and illustrator and has published books and graphic novels in collaboration with writers including Gary Spencer Millidge (Strangehaven) and Ben Dickson (Falling Sky).

"To me, any story can be a graphic novel," he told the University of Leeds Reporter paper in 2007. "I don’t feel constrained by any genre when I’m working. You can do psychological thrillers, sci fi, horror, whatever you like. I love to tell stories but I like to tell them through pictures, such as weird dream sequences and strange landscapes. To me, the text gets in the way.

McKay’s most ambitious work to date, La Cité des Secrets (City of Secrets), was presented at the Angouleme festival in France in 2006 following 18 intensive months of work. The series is now published in France by Mosquito Editions, and James attends several of the biggest French graphic novel festivals each year promoting it, and he hopes it will be published in English as well as French.

James’ theme as an artist and storyteller is the age-old conflict between civilisation and the natural world. City of Secrets is the natural culmination of his work to date; it presents a vision of the distant future, where humans have destroyed all life, along with the history of humanity’s desecration of the ancient paradise and a possible redemption. He is currently at work on the third City of Secrets book in the series, Le Chant de la Vie (The Song of Life).

McKay_citedesecrets_couv.jpgJames’ interests lie in European-style graphic novels - especially those in the areas of science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction. He is interested in creating worlds and characters that are unbounded.

As well as his comics work, James teaches the Indonesian martial art ‘Pencak Silat’, and is a keen explorer, amateur paleontologist and underwater photographer.

The finalists have already been through two selection processes. In line with the fellowship procedure the applicants must have been originally nominated by experienced professionals who deemed their work outstanding.

A panel of advisors made up of 2000AD co-creator Pat Mills, Posy Simmonds and Paul Gravett then selected the shortlist.

The public will have a chance to meet the advisors and the four finalists at a prestigious event at the ICA on Sunday 15th November 2009 from 7.30pm, part of the month-long ComICA Festival, when the increasing popularity of the graphic novel and the individual techniques and styles of the finalists will be discussed by looking at their work. This is a free event, but as places are limited you need to book your place by phoning 020 7930 3647.

The winner of the Fellowship will decided on by the Trustees of the Foundation and will be announced along with the other four awards in Textile Art, Cinematography, Jewellery Design and Puppetry on the 28th January 2010 at the Arts Foundation Awards 2010.

• The Arts Foundation: www.artsfoundation.co.uk

Matters of Convention: ComICA

ComICA 2009 PosterContinuing our series of interviews with British comic convention organisers, for this eigth instalment Matthew Badham talks to Paul Gravett of London's ComICA festival, which takes place next month (5th - 26th November).

These convention features are being cross-posted on downthetubes, the Forbidden Planet International blog and Fictions. Our aim is to give the conventions themselves some well-deserved publicity and also to, hopefully, spark a wider debate about what’s good and bad about the convention circuit in the UK.


downthetubes: Please tell us about a little about the history of your event and how it’s evolved over the years.

Paul Gravett: ComICA started in 2003 and grew out of a couple of events I’d done with the ICA (that’s the Institute of Contemporary Arts) before, including interviews with Grant Morrison and Tetsuya Chiba and a panel with Dave Gibbons, Dave McKean and Matt Smith. The ICA is a cool venue, on the Mall, just off Trafalgar Square and up the road from Buckingham Palace. It has galleries, two cinemas, a theatre, education space, cafe, bar and bookshop.

A key person there getting ComICA to happen was John Dunning, their film PR man at the time and a keen comics enthusiast, and now a published graphic novelist himself with the brilliant Salem Brownstone from Walker Books, which launched on 24th October at a ComICA Spooktacular evening at the ICA.

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Palookaville creator Seth and Chris Ware at ComICA 2004. Photo: Paul Gravett


Finally, together, John and I cajoled and persuaded Philip Dodd, director of the ICA, to let us run a pilot 10-day festival during their summer refurbishment of the galleries. They gave us the Concourse Gallery to fill, a long corridor-type space that leads from the foyer to the bar, and the use of rooms and the cinema for talks. Luckily, I knew a curator at a Spanish festival who was inviting Charles Burns, Joe Sacco and Chris Ware over and she very kindly let me bring the three of them from Madrid to London, saving on their pricey transatlantic flights. So we had three top-class guests to kick the show off.

One central idea of ComICA is to mix comics with all the other media, and not keep it sealed off in some specialist cocoon, so we got novelist Alex Garland, who had drawn his hit book The Beach initially as a comic (he showed it to me years ago on the train to Caption in Oxford), to talk with Chris Ware. They were both pretty shy frankly but it was a great encounter. Jonathan Ross also surprised many people by being respectful and knowledgeable interviewing Charles Burns.

The pilot was an astonishing success. Instead of the ICA being a deserted building site for 10 days, it was packed with the public, the talks sold out and the bookshop shifted loads and loads of graphic novels. We got some great press coverage and even had Joe Sacco on Channel 4 News. Philip Dodd rang me right after and said ‘Let’s do it again next year’, and Comica was underway.

comica_09_roeg_moore_gebbie.jpg

Nicholas Roeg, Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie. Photo: Paul Gravett


Over the years, ComICA has had some amazing guests  – Craig Thompson [creator of the highly-acclaimed graphic novel Blankets], Alan Moore (no less than three times), [French comics artist] Joann Sfar, [French cartoonist] Lewis Trondheim, the Bitterkomix boys from South Africa, [Dykes to Watch Out For creator] Alison Bechdel, Ben Katchor, [Pyongyang creator] Guy Delisle, Scott McCloud, David B. and many more.

We’ve also branched out to work with other venues like The French Institute, National Maritime Museum, V&A, BookArt Bookshop and this year no less than The British Museum, but the ICA has remained the hub, the base, and the simple idea is to try to get each ICA department – film, performance, exhibition and of course talks – to programme something comics-related during the festival.

downthetubes: How is your event funded, by ticket sales, the exhibitors, a grant, some other means or a combination of these?

Paul: The ICA continue to support ComICA amazingly, through their arts funding and providing the venues, technology and staff. Of course most ICA events are ticketed, so that’s the main revenue stream. From the start, Philip Dodd recognised that something was happening in comics, something they had to engage with and embrace, to be there first, ahead of their big artsy rivals like the Tate.

We’ve also had huge help from publishers, other European festivals and various cultural institutes bringing artists over. We’ve never gone for the big comic-mart mixed with trade-fair approach, but we started a small press fair in 2007, ComICA Comiket, and that’s growing well, with London Underground Comics teaming up last year, and this year on Sunday November 8th we expand to the ICA Theatre and have several groups supporting it, from Jimi Gherkin’s Alternative Press crew to Matthew Sheret from Words+Pictures and the [East London-based] Nobrow guys.

None of this ComICA festival would happen without everyone involved at the ICA itself, from house management, tickets, reception, installation, bookshop and technical to director Ekow Eshun, Jennifer Thatcher in Talks, Tejinder Jouhal in Films, Emma-Jayne Taylor and Vicky Carmichael in Education, Jennifer Byrne in press, and everyone else who pulls together to make it go smoothly. And I must sing the praises of the team of volunteers who help make ComICA possible, including Sarah Lightman, Vasileios Sakkos, Tom Smith, Ben Le Foe and others.

In fact, if anyone reading this would like to volunteer for ComICA this November, do please get in touch via the website www.comicafestival.com!

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Posy Simmonds and Art Spielgelman at ComICA 2008. Photo: Joel Meadows


downthetubes: I understand that you run satellite events under the ComICA banner throughout the year. Can you tell us a little about these and why you decided to augment the main Comica with other panels and exhibitions?

Paul: Because too much is happening, comics are too vibrant to limit them to one festival a year, even one that’s grown from ten days to three weeks. With the year-round flexibility of ComICA events, we can welcome major guests whenever they can make it to London, from Art Spiegelman and Marjane Satrapi to Alan Moore and Joe Sacco, only a few weeks ago, to a packed house, and [Ghost World creator] Daniel Clowes lined up for next spring.

downthetubes: What are Comica’s overall aims?

Paul: To treat comics as a totally valid contemporary artform, to show where the medium is heading right now locally and internationally, and how comics can interconnect with every other artform.

In many ways, the aims, the mission, of ComICA are in sync with what Peter Stanbury and I envisaged when we used to co-publish Escape Magazine back in the 1980s – to escape, to break out from narrow definitions and formulas, to liberate comics to be anything they want and everything they can be. That’s why we’ve put Spiegelman together with Philip Pullman, Posy Simmonds with novelist Ian McEwan, Moore and Gebbie with Stewart Lee  – or this year Logicomix author Apostolos Doxiadis with Marcus de Sautoy and Ben Templesmith with Philip Ridley.

And ComICA hosts the best, from whatever field of comics, from Japanese comics, with Junko Mizuno, to American superheroes, like Alex Maleev last year and [Eisner Award-nominated] Cameron Stewart this year – quality is there in every sector of this medium.

downthetubes: Who is ComICA aimed at? What sort of punters do you hope to attract? Are you family-friendly?

Paul: To reach out to as broad a public as possible, to the fans and enthusiasts of course but also to all sorts of other people who are culturally alert and curious and may just be discovering the wonders of manga or graphic novels.  Among them are plenty of people who want to make comics themselves, easily half of them these days being women. ComICA this year is adding a kids’ workshop, Little Pencil with Sarah McIntyre. Its identity is mostly focussed on the adult audience for comics, though plans are afoot to expand the family side next year.

downthetubes: How effective have you been in getting those kind of people to attend?

Paul: Definitely effective. One of my greatest pleasures is to chat with people queuing for an event or signing and find out how they’ve got interested in ComICA. They come from all sort of backgrounds and interests and for a lot of them it’s opening up a whole world of comics culture that they are really getting into.

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Gilbert Shelton, Matt Groening and Spain at ComICA 2008. Photo: Sarah McIntyre


downthetubes: Can you give a projected (or actual) attendance figure for ComICA?

Paul: We estimate over 5,000 people now attend ComICA over the festival period and the numbers are still increasing as we link up with other major venues. The added plus is that the ICA no longer has to charge admission to the venue so a lot more people are visiting the free exhibitions and events.

downthetubes: What lessons have you learned during your time running ComICA, in terms of its marketing and advertising?


Paul: Key to ComICA’s success has been the ICA’s high profile and strong links with the cutting-edge media. People notice and pay attention to what the ICA does, so it’s been amazing working with them and getting coverage far and wide. ComICA doesn’t advertise, because our newsworthy events and guests can get us valuable editorial coverage. We know word of mouth works wonders.

downthetubes: Do you use emerging technologies to spread the word about ComICA? Do you have a website or blog, or use email mailing lists?


Paul: Yep, vital – first through my own website www.paulgravett.com and since this year through www.comicafestival.com, its own site, both doing extremely well with thousands of visitors. And we’re using Facebook now. I’ve got some great help with these from Tim Webber, who runs Read Yourself Raw, and Ben Le Foe. And the ICA’s own site always highlights our events.

downthetubes: What about print? Do you use print advertising, have a newsletter, anything like that?


Paul: Instead of a convention booklet only for paying attendees, we print a ComICA programme that gets widely distributed across London so people can pick it up and get an overview of the whole season. On top of this, the ICA always highlight Comica in their monthly agenda which gets to lots of outlets. And yes, people can sign up to the email newsletter via the Comica site to get first alerts on upcoming events to be sure to book those tickets early.

downthetubes: What’s the mix in terms of exhibitors at ComICA? Do you even have exhibitors?


Paul: As I said, that’s one aspect of traditional conventions that we’ve not gone for. Instead, the ICA’s own Bookshop stocks all the relevant books by the guest creators and since 2007 we invite small presses, self-publishers and independents to sell their wares at the ComICA Comiket.

downthetubes: What are your thoughts on the small press comics scene in this country? How do you use ComICA to support it (do you try and support it)?


Paul: Again, as above, the Comiket is an important part of the festival. We also spotlight small press creators on panels and in exhibitions such as the Potential Comic or PoCom wall that ran in 2003 and again last year.

In 2007, ComICA hooked up with The Observer and Jonathan Cape to launch the Graphic Short Story Prize, to give newcomers the chance to win £1,000, get published in a national Sunday paper and be talent-spotted by a mainstream graphic novel publisher. Last year’s winner, Julian Hanshaw, has his debut graphic novel, The Art of PhoThe Art of Pho, out from Cape next Spring. It’s a real opportunity for small pressers to get noticed.

This year we’re getting four full pages in the glossy Observer magazine for the winner’s strip – that’s great exposure and will come out the Sunday before the ComICA Festival begins, so great pre-publicity. And plenty of emerging UK talents have been nominated for the Arts Foundation’s first £10,000 fellowship for a graphic novelist  – we’re announcing the finalists at ComICA. The first of many, we hope.

downthetubes: How much are the tickets for ComICA? How did you arrive at that price? Please tell us about any concessions.


Paul: The ICA sets the prices for all its ComICA events, and there are always discounts for concessions, and even bigger discounts if you become an ICA member. We also offer reduced rates for an afternoon of three ComICA Conversations in a row. I’m well aware that ComICA can be pricey for many people so I’m pleased this year that thanks to sponsors Ctrl.Alt.Shift and The Arts Foundation we’ve got some totally free panels, you just need to book. And the exhibitions and Comiket comics fair are always free admission.

downthetubes: How much are exhibitor tables for ComICA (if you have any)? Again, how did you arrive at that figure?


Paul: We try to keep Comiket prices deliberately low just to cover costs, as low as a tenner, to give people a chance to attend and reach out to the public.

downthetubes: Do you run workshops/events/panels at ComICA? Please tell us about those and how they are organised.


Paul: Yep, the ICA now has a Reading Room and Student Forum where we’re holding an afternoon workshop with Bryan Talbot, Pat Mills and other major creators dropping in to give advice and guidance. There’s another workshop at the new Book Club in Shoreditch to design cartoon posters. Organising panels, or ComICA Conversations, is one of the most complex parts of programming the festival, co-ordinating guests’ schedules to bring amazing people together, like last year’s underground comix reunion of Spiegelman, Shelton and Spain, their first three-way conversation in many, many years.

Vital to making these work are my years of working in comics, getting to know creators, publishers and festival organisers worldwide. Getting Sacco over, for example, was possible only because he was in Europe between two weekend festivals in St. Petersburg and Italy.

downthetubes: As you’ve been kind enough to answer these questions, please fell free to big Comica up a bit. Tell us what you do well, what ComICA’s main attractions are and why our readers should attend the next one.


Paul: I really think there should be something for everyone who loves comics at this year’s Comica. We’ve teamed up again with the brilliant, unmissable Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds to bring Ben Templesmith over. As Thought Bubble run their big Saturday during the Comica season again this year, I deliberately don’t programme major events to clash on that day. For one thing, I want to get to Thought Bubble myself.

I can see the advantages of holding a one-day event like this, or the weekend approach of Bristol or Birmingham. But you never have time to see everything and everyone you want to, especially as there’s often parallel programming going on. Comica is different because it can stretch across two, even three weeks. It does kind of favour people already living in or near London who can get here easily, but out-of-towners can choose the weekends which are often the busiest parts of the festival.

Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption comic book coverI’m especially excited by Comica ‘09 because we’ve hooked up with a fantastic sponsor, the youth charity Ctrl.Alt.Shift, and I’ve helped them co-edit the first anthology comic published for Comica, Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption. It really is a first-class international anthology of reportage/exposé comics with Bryan Talbot, Dave McKean, Woodrow Phoenix, Peter Kuper, Pat Mills, Dylan Horrocks, Dan Goldman and more. Through Ctrl.Alt.Shift we’re hosting NY musician Lightspeed Champion, who’s created one story and scripted a second in the book, for a live-gig to launch the comic. And it’s great to have a month-long exhibition to promote it through the ultra-cool Shop at Lazarides gallery in Greek Street, Soho.

This show is going to stun people, situating comics alongside agit-prop graphics and the whole plethora of activist and political comics and cartoons from May ‘68 and Black Panthers to today and Sean Duffield’s forthcoming Paper Tiger War anthology and Alan Moore’s new venture Dodgem Logic (see Bleeding Cool news story, it will be on sale from Knockabout Comics).

Hoshino_Yukinobu.jpgThe other startling thing is the number of related exhibitions linking up with ComICA this time, from the British Museum’s manga show spotlighting the genius Hoshino Yukinobu and Swiss Cottage Library’s Black Powers display, to solo shows by Robert Crumb at Scream Gallery, Mayfair, Philip Marsden at Riverside, Richmond, and John Miers at The Flea Pit in the East End. Our catch-line this year is totally accurate – ‘London is bubbling over with comics!’

On top of this are the exceptional theatrical/live performance events this year: David Lloyd himself kicking off the festival appropriately on 5th November with live drawing and music with a V for Vendetta theme – it’s a free party at the ICA bar – so remember, remember, the 5th of November! Then there’s the darkly funny, adults-only Uncle Hans-Peter Party by comic artist and animator Richard Squires, where everyone in the audience has to wear an identical creepy mask, and the equally edgy play Busted Jesus Comix, based on the conviction of Florida teen Mike Diana, forbidden to draw his crazed Boiled Angel comix.

In the end, what makes Comica worth doing is having remarkable guests, like 2000AD's Gerry Finley-Day who had never appeared at a comics event before, and this year reuniting Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons with retail pioneers Phil Clarke of Nostalgia & Comics and Derek ‘Bram’ Stokes, founder of Dark They Were And Golden-Eyed, a thrill for me as DTWAGE was the first comic shop I ever visited for my 12th birthday, a life-changing experience!

It’s also so special to have Eddie Campbell over, in conversation with Arnold Brown, launching his massive omnibus Alec: The Years Have Pants, some of which we serialised in Escape and collected in three graphic novels. Eddie and I go back ages and I’ll never forget being at Ian Wieczorek’s home with Phil Elliott in Chelmsford, Essex when we were first discovering his autobio self-published stripzines.

ComICA 09’s line-up also includes wunderkinds [Fables cover artist] James Jean and [New York-based artist] Tara McPherson, thanks to the great support of Offset, the design conference in Dublin, and Reinhard Kleist talking with music critic Charles Shaar Murray about his Johnny Cash bio, and Belgian artist Willy Linthout, creator of the long-running Urbanos strip, with his stunning graphic novel about losing his son to suicide, talking with former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen. These are the sort of unique encounters that make all the hours of organising and teamwork worthwhile.

You know, these are incredible times, comics are everywhere and ComICA invites you to celebrate them together, with panache and passion.

downthetubes: Thanks to Paul for his time answering our questions and Tim Webber for sourcing imagery for us. Paul is of course also highly respected as a promoter and writer on comics culture and you can follow him via his site, www.paulgravett.com.


• Comica ‘09 Official Web Site: www.comicafestival.com.


• The winner of this year’s Comica/Jonathan Cape/Observer short graphic fiction prize should be announced this Sunday (1st November) in the Observer magazine.


More Matters of Convention by Matthew Badham

176: Oli Smith of London Underground Comics

Caption: In Conversation with Jay Eales and Selina Lock


The British International Comic Show: Interview with Shane Chebsey


Hi-Ex, Inverness: A Conversation with Vicky Stonebridge


The Bristol Expo


The Alternative Press Fair

Web ‘n’ Mini Comix Thing

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Sapphire and Steel Art For Sale

Sapphire_and_Steel_p2_152ar.jpgA page of Sapphire and Steel art by Arthur Ranson from Look-In, the "Junior TV Times" of its day, is up for sale on eBay.

Inspired by the mysterious ITV drama created by P.J. Hammond, Sapphire and Steel appeared in 76 issues of Look-In and it looks as though the page on sale may be the final one published featuring strong likenesses of actors David McCallum and Joanna Lumley who were the series stars.

The strip itself was written by the late Angus P. Allan and, like many Look-In strips, beautifully illustrated by Arthur Ranson.

The art (pictured above, final published version below) measures 16 x 22 inch (41 x 56 cm) and sees Sapphire and Steel defeat another strange entity trying to distort time.

Sapphire_and_Steel_p2_152.jpgAppropriately for this 'scare story', the auction closes on 31st October.

The art is the latest piece from the IPC Archive to be auctioned on eBay by Blase Books, part of a huge collection the company sold off some years ago. (There is of course, some controversy about this, as some artists have argues the physical art is their property, not that of the company).

Other art on offer at present include a page of Janus Stark, drawn by Solano Lopez; a 1965 Steel Claw page by Jesus Blasco; a Spider page by Reg Bunn; and several pages of art from various girls comics.

View the Sapphire and Steel item on eBay

More British comic art on sale on eBay from Blase Books

More about the Sapphire and Steel Look-In Strip

Keith Page Launches New Web Comic

Witchcraft Street by Keith Page


Witchcraft Street by Keith Page


Commando artist Keith Page, who's also working on a new steampunk comic, Iron Moon, for Spaceship Away, has just started a new web comic, Dennis the Donkey on a dedicated blog entitled "Witchcraft Street".

This is the backstory to his mobile comic strip, Charlotte Corday, published on ROK Comics, revealing just how French resistance fighter, Parisian gangster and occult enthusiast Jean Corday got turned into an invisible crime fighter that looks like a donkey.

"I've drawn the first phase of the story already (54 strips) and will be posting regularly up to around 150 in total," he told downthetubes. "Each strip is one-third of a standard art size."

• You can view the strip here: dennisthedonkey.blogspot.com

• Keith's personal blog, featuring his latest work, is at keithpageukcomicsartist.blogspot.com


• Read a downthetubes interview with Keith here

Arts for Hearts Auction Site

Frances+Cony+-+Lovingest+Dog.jpg


(with thanks to Ian Stacey): A new blog has been set up to promote the upcoming week-long Arts for Hearts auction on eBay in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital, starting on 2nd November.

The blog features samples of the pieces to be auctioned, which are are all either original paintings or signed prints, all the work of professional children's illustrators including Frances Cony (above) Korky Paul (Winnie the Witch), An Vrombaut (64 Zoo Lane) and Lynne Chapman (Class Two at the Zoo).

Proceeds from the auction, which will run for a week from 2nd November, will all go to fund research done by the transplant team at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

• For more details on the pieces involved in the auction people can visit the blog: http://art-for-hearts.blogspot.com

Bambos Goes Expo!

entrance_way.jpg


Comics artist Bambos Georgiou reports on London MCM Expo 16 which ran 24th & 25th October 2009 and is fast developing the comics element of its line-up...

I first realized that there were movie cons which included comics in their line ups when I bought a model magazine for research purposes. I have since discovered that there are huge London conventions held at Olympia and the Excel Arena, events attracting huge audiences over a weekend with cheap entrance fees of around £5. Alarmingly, they’re almost completely ignored by the UK direct sales comic market.

I attended the London MCM Expo at the Excel Centre on the Saturday and was amazed at the number of young people patiently waiting in line to enter. Previous MCMs have seen over 30,000 people through the doors over a weekend and the organizers predict even more this year!

Myebook - London MCM Expo 16 - click here to open my ebookAs you can see from the event's online guide, while there is a heavy accent on cosplay, manga and anime, there are also plenty of video games and movie companies displaying their wares. The movie and games companies use these events as promotional tools, running constant trailers for their movies and letting attendees try out their new games. Other stalls are packed with manga and anime on special offer and a suprising number of cosplay stalls selling replica costumes and weapons. (I traveled from the expo in the same train carriage as a young chap who had just bought a samurai sword, who got a few funny looks from fellow passengers).

The Comic Village section had its own stage area as well as over 80 small press and artists’ tables. The comic village does have a manga bias, which is to be expected. As well as manga publishers such as Tokyopop, Self Made Hero and Sweatdrop Studios there were Markosia, Diamond Distributors, Ilex Press, Avatar and Incognito Comics. Alan Grant was also there, promoting and selling Wasted, and Bryan Talbot was scheduled to promote his graphic novel, Grandville, on Sunday.

At the moment the comic sections of these cons seem unable to attract enough comic fans to encourage comic professionals, dealers and publishers to attend, or should that be there aren’t enough comic professionals, dealers and publishers to encourage comic fans to attend? If the MCM expo could attract a hard core comic audience it would give dealers and publishers a base from which to try and reach the much wider audience who attend.

MCM represents the latest lost generation of comic readers, which both UK and US comic companies have failed to sell their products to. This audience is perfectly at home with fantasy based action, they are a prime target audience, and they’ve got money to spend (those samurai swords were £40 a pop!).

Whereas comic conventions are, primarily, the domain of men 30 years and over the MCM was a multicultural mix of teenage boys and girls. This type of event seems a golden opportunity for the comic industry to sell and/or promote its wares to the wider audience it’s been searching for. The task of the comic industry is to find a way to speak to them in the same way that manga, anime, computer games and movies.

• The next London MCM Expos at London's Excel Centre take place on 29-30 May 2010 and 30-31 October 2010. For al the latest news visit www.londonexpo.com or for all MCM events across the UK visit www.mcmexpo.net


More MCM Reports...


On Warren Ellis' Whitechapel Forum: The MCM Aftermath Thread


""MCM is the UK's only convention that combines such a massive range of stuff in one place," comments comics creator Paul Duffield, who had a stall at the event, "and to be honest, even if you stripped away every non-comics stand in the place, the remaining stalls would still challenge (and probably beat) the other major UK comic conventions in terms of number and diversity. I think it'd be a big shame to write it off just because the comics presence is still new and overshadowed by the parts of the convention that are already well established."

5 Talented Artists we met at the MCM Expo


"After waiting in a queue that went round like a long snake, we were pleased that it was worth it. Games, anime, and comics aplenty. But the most exciting bit for us was meeting some very talented artist that were showcasing their work."

Comics Artist ChaMonkee

"I didn't sell as well as I was hoping but I had great fun running around and talking to people hanging out. The whole thing was massive and very tiring."

Comics Writer Tony Lee


MCM London in Pictures: Bleeding Cool Round Up
(We also like their "Andy Dingle" picture report)

Opening image © 2009 MCM Expo

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Mad Web Finds: Klingon TV



Described as " A transmission recently received from an extraterrestrial source. Prepare for battle...", we're with the commentators who think this may be a clever bit of promotion for the upcoming Star Trek MMO and not an early trailer for the next film.

Either way, we know it's not our usual fare but I think you'll agree it's pretty clever stuff...

DFC Collections On Their Way

Good Dog, Bad DogCollections of some of the brilliant strips that featured in the subscription-only comic The DFC are in the pipeline for 2010 release.

Due in April, March and May respectively are MeZolith by Adam Brockbank and Ben Haggarty, Good Dog, Bad Dog by Dave Shelton and Spider Moon by Kate Brown, all to be published by David Fickling Books.

MeZolith is set 10,000 years ago, when the Kansa tribe live on the western shores of the North Sea Basin, where danger is never far away. Each season brings new adventure, each hunt has its risks, and each grim encounter with the neighbouring tribe is fraught with threats. Poika, a boy on the verge of manhood, must play his part and trust the strength and wisdom of his elders. This is a tale of beasts and beauty, man, magic and ... horror.

The story is the work of Ben Haggarty and artist Adam Brockbank. Adam says comics were his first love, notably the black and white reprints of Silver Age Marvel comics that he found on the shelves of his local newsagent.

Adam spent seven years studying painting only to end up working in the film industry, first as a Storyboard artist then later as a Concept artist, working on many films including X-Men, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Tomb Raider, but it is for his work on all of the Harry Potter films that he is best known, designing creatures, props and vistas.

Kirk Bergman and Duncan McBoo are the stars of Dave Shelton's Good Dog, Bad Dog: two pedigree police, the finest canine cops in all Muttropolis. And they're never short of work. The city is heaving with cunning crooks and malevolent mongrels who would sell their own mother for a bone. Join our dog detectives as they chase leads, sniff out crime, collar the bad guys and generally get their teeth into adventures full of action, suspense and ...milkshakes. Criminals beware: McBoo and Bergman are on your tail!

Spider Moon starts with tales of a prophecy, of homelands being crushed by a falling sky, at a time Bekka and her people are facing the end of days. They must do all in their power to save themselves from the fate they believe is theirs. But destiny is like a tightly coiled snake. Which Bekka must unfurl without getting bitten...

David Fickling Books say there was strong interest at Frankfurt Book Fair for the first three titles.

"We have had a fantastic response to The DFC novels at the fair from lots of US and European publishers," says Maeve Banham, Senior Rights Manager at Random House Children's Book. "The graphic novel market is growing and publishers are keen to be a part of this."

The DFC Library will showcase a single strip from The DFC - and of course 2010 may also see the comic's return...

Success for "Discovered Authors" First Graphic Novel

Death's Door: Ignorance Likes CompanyPublishing company Discovered Authors' first foray into graphic novels, Death's Door: Ignorance Likes Company by Jag Lall, has been getting some good press worldwide and has been picked up as a teaching aid for young people.

The story touches on the issues of racism and terrorism in today's society and is inspired by events surrounding the terror attacks on London in July 2005.

When a young Sikh man is stopped by the police who they think may be carrying a bomb, he becomes struck by the situation and what they and the crowd are thinking.

In turn, the tale twists the situation to the viewpoint of the public and the media, giving a glimpse of hate and fear that encourages the final scenes. Reality constantly shifts between these nameless characters and perspectives, until the story builds to its climax.

The book, which Jag kindly sent us for this story, is a moving take on how we see each other: our perceptions of threat and how they're often twisted by our personal view of others, especially others of different cultures. Fully painted throughout, it's a moving tale that aims to break free of the current stigmas behind these issues of race and terrorism.

death_door.jpg"The book came about as an expression of the heightened fear and ignorance of ethnic minorites and the stereotype of a terrorist after 9/11 and 7/7," explined Lall when he first launched the book online in 2007. "I felt I had to get a positive message across to make society just think and take time to know who that stranger in front of them is, rather then pre-judging them by their shell.

"The book is a plea for understanding and embracing eachother for who we are rather then using who we are as an excuse for bloodshed."

Well received on its initial print release in July, Death's Door has been commended by organisations across the globe, including the United Nations Association of Canada and has been used in schools and youth groups which is where Lall says he wants to take the book further, "because I feel it can really make a positive impact."

"Death’s Door: Ignorance Likes Company is more than a mere comic but a tool that could be used in schools and youth centers to assist the fragile minded work through fury and belligerence," argues Anthony Kuzminski, a writer for Unrated Magazine. "The eye-catching and visceral images help bring the issue of racism and prejudice to the forefront in a manner that will leave you breathless."

Comic artist and writer David Hine called it "a powerfully written comic", while the late James Redington, editor of Portent Comics, called it "truly a gem", and his acclaim of the piece features in the book.

dd+side+by+side_n.jpgLall has already marketed it toward the young generation, and the East London-based New Choices for Youth Trust has taken it on as a resource to use in 'Safer Schools' Partnership' workshops across Newham Schools. Robin Lockhart, the leader behind these workshops has recommended Death's Door: Ignorance Likes Company as a "valuable resource for anyone working with young people".

Living on the borders between Essex and Greater London, Jag Lall is an artist who illustrated in both the comic book and book publishing industry and has contributed work to the Prince’s Trust as well as several Peace exhibitions. He wrote Death's Door for the youth of the world, but claims "the book has enough depth to also make an impression on adults" as "we all can change and learn no matter how old we are".

Lall hopes to get Death's Door into Schools and Education Organisations as an important resource to show the current views of society on terrorism and Race, and how with knowledge and a bit of insight, we can change that view.


Death’s Door: Ignorance Likes Company ISBN: 978-1-905108-78-7 is available from all good bookshops.

• Discovered Authors Official web site: www.discoveredauthors.co.uk


Reviews

by Anthony Kuzminski

"Artist Jag Lall has created a graphic comic inspired by the events of 7/7/05 and the forty-page comic leaves you questioning your own fears, doubts and prejudices. Encased inside this mere comic are intense lessons that anyone could learn from."

New Crikey! on sale This Week

Crikey12.jpg(with thanks to Lew Stringer): The twelfth issue of British Comics magazine Crikey! should go on sale this Friday, 29th October.

The issue includes interviews with 2000AD co-creator Pat Mills, Albion writers Leah Moore and John Reppion and veteran comic artist Frank McDiarmid, best known for his work on the humour weekly, Cheeky.

Also featured is the first of a two-part feature on Doctor Who comics across the decades (and yes, it is Doctor Who, contrary to the alarming shortening of the series name on the cover) and an interview with artist Lee O'Connor talking about his new project with Pat Mills, Stars: The Ayatollah's Son), and a feature on The Persuaders comic which featured in Countdown and TV Action in the 1970s, based on the Roger Moore and Tony Curtis TV series

Crikey! is available from branches of Borders and various newsagents across the country, priced £4.99, or you can subscribe via their website here: www.crikeyuk.co.uk/sub.html

30 Years of Viz Exhibition

Fat Slags on the cover of Viz 116In November 1979, DHSS clerk Chris Donald, his 15-year old brother Simon and old school friend Jim Brownlow put together a 12-page comic fanzine in a bedroom of the Donald family home in Jesmond, Newcastle. The initial 150 copies of Viz Comic – ‘rude, wacky, music, sick’ - sold to punters at local pubs, discos and music shops.

Within a decade, Viz had become a publishing and cultural phenomenon selling over a million copies and spawning a host of imitators.

30 Years of Viz - a new exhibition at London's Cartoon Museum which starts on 4th November - celebrates the art, irreverence and brilliant bad taste of Viz Comic. The exhibition of over 80 original drawings features all the key characters, many of whom have become ‘icons’ in their own right: Roger Mellie - The Man on the Telly, Sid the Sexist, The Bottom Inspectors, The Fat Slags, Finbarr Saunders and his Double Entendres, Johnny Fartpants, Spoilt Bastard, Suicidal Syd, Mrs Brady – Old Lady and The Modern Parents. Some characters such as Drunken Bakers and Billy the Fish - the goalkeeping half-man, half-fish – are both loved and hated by readers in equal measure.

Also on show will be a selection of classic Viz ‘tat’ including The Queen Mother’s Teeth, The Life of Christ in Cats Plate and The Elvis Presley Dambusters Clock Plate of Tutankhamen.

The Pathetic_SharksViz remains one of Newcastle’s most famous exports. Many of the characters are obviously Geordie as revealed in the way they speak, sometimes requiring readers to write in for translations. Much of the comic’s humour involves lampooning earnest features from classic British comics – strips with obligatory rhyming titles (Roger Mellie - The Man on the Telly), spoof photo-romance stories, surreal send-ups and bogus advertisements.

And, of course, there is nothing Viz enjoys more than taking a tilt at the ‘sacred cows’ of British culture like the Royal Family and celebrities such as Sting and Bono, and this talent for mockery has always delighted its fans and outraged its critics.

Since the time of Hogarth, satirists have been drawn to the human capacity for squalor, self-destruction and self-delusion. Unlike Hogarth, the Viz artists profess no higher moral purpose: their aim is to entertain not educate. As Graham Dury, one of the longstanding artist/editors admits,"We pride ourselves on the fact that you're no cleverer when you've read Viz. You might have had a few laughs, but you've not learnt anything".

Viz Gilbert_Ratchett• 30 Years of Viz: An exhibition of original artwork, 4th November – 24th January 2010

The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH Tel: 020 7580 8155 E-mail: info@cartoonmuseum.org Web: www.cartoonmuseum.org


Images from top of item: the cover of Viz Issue 116, featuring the Fat Slags by Simon Thorp; the Pathetic Sharks - Cover 126 - by Simon Thorp; and Gilbert Ratchett, 2005 by Davey Jones. Art © Fulchester Industries

Monday, 26 October 2009

Ready (For Sarah Jane And The Doctor)? Always!

The Wedding Of Sarah Jane SmithThe BBC has just five new episodes featuring David Tennant as the Doctor still to broadcast before he hands over to Matt Smith. The two part Doctor Who regeneration story is odds on to get some of the highest viewing figures for any television programme over the 2009 Christmas period, The Waters Of Mars which is due to be broadcast at some point in November, and his guest appearance the two part Sarah Jane Adventures which are being broadcast this week.

Entitled The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith, the story ironically enough takes place immediately after actress Elisabeth Sladen's real life husband, Brian Miller, appeared in the story, The Mad Woman In The Attic, as Harry the caretaker.

Having been trailed within the story of last week's SJA with Sarah's visions of the TARDIS, the Doctor will be appearing along with K-9 who has been freed from his SJA story constraint of saving the Earth from a black hole (don't ask, it didn't make much sense in the pilot either). The first half of the two parter will be broadcast on Thursday 29 October at 1635 on BBC1 with the second part on the next day at the same time. The full story will be repeated at the more adult friendly time of 1155 on Saturday 31 October on CBBC.

For those viewers who enjoy the Doctor Who and Torchwood comic strips and mourn the fact that there is no Sarah Jane comic strip in print, the BBC's Sarah Jane Adventures website now has a SJA webcomic available to read.

Details of The Sarah-Jane Adventures are available on the BBC's SJA website.

The Sarah Jane Adventures webcomic is available here.

Details of Doctor Who: The Waters Of Mars are available on the BBC's Doctor Who website.

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• Got a British Comics News Story? E-mail downthetubes!

• Publishers: please contact for information on where to post review copies and other materials: editor@downthetubes.net

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