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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

I went to the Bristol Comic Expo and all I got was These Great Comics...

My 'haul' included The Only Good Dalek,
an intriguing preview from Corvus Press,
and FCBD books thanks to Diamond
The Bristol International Comic Expo this year wasn't the weekend I was expecting, largely because of woes caused by French strikers (see news story), but I did have a good time and picked up some smashing indie titles along with catching up with pro creators (special thanks to Lew Stringer for organising evening eats and Mike Collins for a signed copy of The Only Good Dalek!).

As usual, given that it was a working weekend, touching base with the likes of Sydney Jordan, PJ Holden, Gordon Rennie, Jim Alexander, Kev Hopgood, Leo Hartas, Jasper Bark, John McCrea, Joel Meadows, Mike Conroy, Ferg Handley, Jim Campbell, Mike Collins (him again!), Lew Stringer, Harry Markos (of Markosia), Simon Frith (of Panini UK), Tim Pilcher (Comic Book Alliance) and many others to chat about different projects, both potential and actual. This meant I was either at the STRIP Magazine table (where Kev Hopgood was to be found drawing sketches ranging from Thor to the Golden Age Green Lantern, as well as talking about his new strip, 'Lawless') or racing around trying to find people - even armed with a mobile phone, not always easy!

Kev Hopgood's 'rough' of Thor.
Inevitably then, as usual, I missed all the panels - and there was a great line-up which included Shaky Kane, David Hine, Charlie Adlard and Richard Starkings; Bryan Talbot; Cy Dethan and co talking about the brilliant-looking Slaughterman's Creed; and many more. But what I didn't miss was the obvious energy of the small/indie press creators lurking on the fifth floor of the Mercure.

While it was largely pro publishers ensconced at the Ramada - it was great to see Cinebook with a terrific display of their titles, with Orbital creator Serge Pelles on hand for signings and sketches, meet the team at Dalen Books, catch up with Harry Markos at Markosia and touch base with the Panini UK crew and the team at SelfMadeHero - I got a different vibe from the main room they were in, perhaps because it was a mix of dealers and mainstream publishers whose energy for such things is obviously tempered by the need to drum up business. At the Mercure, which did feature some pro publishers and creators such as Charlie Adlard, Sean Phillips, Com.X, Time Bomb and Richard Active Images Starkings, there was obviously that need, too - but I got the sense that there was much more fun being had in the process.

Top picks? As usual, I headed first to the Futurequake and Zarjaz stand, where the latest issues of both titles were on sale. Stand out strips for me in FQ have to be 'The Secret Origin of Suspension X' by Shaun Avery and Jim Lavery,  'A Free Ride' by John Howson and Jack Davies and 'Robo Sapiens' by Mark Smith and Steve Howard. The latest Zarjaz, and ABC Warriors special, is a must, and not just for the knock out Cliff Langley cover; 'Little Jobs' by The Emperor and Conor Boyle (Conor showed me some of his amazing work, which deserves wider exposure), but the line up is hugely impressive, including strips by the likes of Lee Robson, Conor Boyle, Mike Carroll, Ben Clark, Jim Campbell, Gibson Quarter, Kev Levell and plenty more. Track a copy down, or face a Meq Quake Big Job on you!

What else? Well, there was Martin Eden promoting his wonderful Spandex title - he had admiring fans surrounding his fans every time I tried to catch up with him, but I have read Issue 4 of this brilliant superhero-inspired title and you should track it down asap (for Ordering Info just click here).

Mirabilis co-creator Leo Hartas was also there, promoting the book (copies available soon!), alongside superb artist Huy Truong, creator of Pwanda panda.  After chatting with Leo I bumped straight into John Maybury, creator of the wonderful title The Erotic Adventures of Space Babe 113. John told me he'd had some success with his Kindle edition of the title - Issue 9 completes the latest story arc - and we chatted about maybe getting his gorgeous creation onto iPhone.

Cy Dethan, Nic Wilkinson and Vicky Stonebridge were also actively promoting Slaughterman's Creed - a brilliant new title from Markosia. Known for his horror work, and Starship Troopers, Cy's burning energy to tell great tales should be put to use by more publishers.

Matthew Craig, creator of Trixie Biker, stopped by the STRIP Magazine stand (despite being madly busy all weekend) to promote his work and ask about the Strip Spotlight Challenge (as did a lot of other creators, including Mike Carroll and Spiros Derveniotis). Trixie's a popular title which he first created back in 2003  - a superhero that not only enjoys her powers, but revels in them - check out the info on his site.

Bearded Skull Comics (Facebook link) also caught my eye. Set up in early 2007 by Jamie Lambert and Dave Clifford, they're the publishers of Dexter's Half Dozen, a World War 2 pulp/horror following the adventures of a ragtag group of British soldiers as they thwart the ever growing occult threat of the Nazis. The title's reached its sixth issue and the art style is a mix of near-cartoon and adventure that hasn't quite coalesced completely but is worth taking a look at.

I'm just scraping the surface of the impressive line up of indie pressers, though - I barely had time to talk to Andy Winter from Moonface Press, and I missed the Etherington Brothers, who had their usual impressive stand promoting their brilliant work - and Roger Langridge. Graham Pearce had a new issue of the ever-brilliant Sergeant Mike Battle on sale, and I'll try to give that a better plug later in the week. I did pick up a copy of Slumdroid from Scar Comics, thrust into my hands by writer Benjamin Dickson. With intense art from Tony Suleri, it's another title you should track down.

Basically, the mix of pro, aspiring, indie and enthusiastic at the Expo was simply stunning. I haven't been to the event for a couple of years and can see I've been missing out - it's become a terrific and accessible platform for new talent that we need more of. And we definitely need more people dressed as an Alien. Especially Aliens that you see later joining the smokers fro a cigarette - although I have to say, I didn't actually see the Alien smoking, which would have been positively surreal. (Check out some pictures over on Terry Hooper's blog).

Overall, it was a great, family friendly enthusing and energetic comics event. Organiser Mike Allwood tells me various fund raising activities raised at least £19,000 for the Prince's Trust (helped by the £900 paid for the Dave Gibbons Watchmen print art); there was a real buzz to the indie creators' rooms at the Mercure. On the downside, some creators told me they didn't cover their costs - spending no doubt hit by people being more careful with their money in times of economic depression - and the split site isn't popular with everyone, so it's great that most events will be back at Brunel's Old Station next year.

Thanks to Mike and his very hard working team for their dedication and making everything run so well, and inviting me along. If I'd had copies of Strip Zero it would have been icing on the cake!

• The Bristol International Comic Expo returns 12th - 13th May 2012 at  Brunel's Old Station adjacent to Temple Meads Mainline Station and Ramada City Inn Hotel, Bristol. 

• Official web site: www.fantasyevents.org/bristolcomicexpo

• Small Press Site: www.thefallenangel.co.uk/spexpo/bristol.htm

Other Reports...

• Blimey! It's Another Blog About Comics: Another Enjoyable Expo

• Comic Bits Online: Who Was Everyone Talking About at the Expo?
• Comic Bits Online: What Every Convention Needs

• Martin Eden (Creator of O-Men and Spandex): My Thoughts on Bristol

SFX Report by Stacey Whittle
"...first panel of the weekend was High Noon with 2000AD hosted by PR droid Michael Molcher with a packed panel of artists and creators. This panel ran into a few problems; more creators than room being the first, and no microphones which was a continuing problem for the Ramada panels for the rest of the weekend and also some technical problems. Mr Molcher manfully tried to keep the panel together, encouraging the audience to participate in 2000AD bingo (a genius idea) for prizes, but unfortunately I think the problems outweighed the plus points here."

1 comment:

Emperor said...

Glad you liked the story and, yes, Conor's art was amazing - he really went for it despite knowing that some of the detail wouldn't come through on the printed page. As you say this, and his Dark Judgement (he is currently working on the sequel for the end of the year), demonstrate he is more than ready for a larger stage. Plus he is fast too, which can't hurt his chances.

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