Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 Comics !
Forbidden Planet's 2013 logo
Inching towards the end of the year and I'm pretty pleased on the whole with 2013, although it really zoomed by, but maybe that's just my age!

Anyway last year I posted my favourite comics of the year (see 2012 here) but as the eagle-eyed may  have noticed that the, always interesting, Forbidden Planet blog have already done the job by asking me to contribute to their annual 'best of' postings which you can read here.

It is quite an honour to be included so thanks to Joe and Richard for the invite and it'll be interesting to see what the 'poll of polls' will reveal about what caught people's imaginations this year. Looking at my list, my 'best-of' and honourable mentions were all graphic novels and perhaps more oddly, all my choices were by a single writer/artist creator and also all ones that I'd been fortunate enough to meet at various comic shows I'd attended, probably just coincidence but the truth is I do most of my buying at shows these days as a great way to both discover new works and meet creators in person.

Anyway here's my full choices with a page of their interior art to encourage you to check them out for yourself if you haven't already;

The Nieuport Gathering - Ivan Petrus

Sailor Twain - Mark Siegel


The Great War - Joe Sacco

Cursed Pirate Girl - Jeremy Bastion
 Gigantic Beard That Was Evil - Stephen Collins

 Pachyderme - Frederik Peeters

There was a great many more that I enjoyed last year including finally catching up with Posy Simmonds Tamara Drewe, Cinebooks excellent Scorpion and Spooks series, re-reads of Charley's War and new to me 'discoverys' Kings in Disguise and Freddy Lombard.
I once again didn't read any traditional 'pamphlet' comics from the so called mainstream publishers, but instead picked up and enjoyed new works from the likes of Doug Noble, Rob Jackson, Connor & Lizzie Boyle, Ellen Lindner, Jim Alexander, Boulet and latest find, Jessica Martin and no doubt others that slip my mind at the moment.
There is thankfully a host of great comics out there and hopefully you've found some time to catch up with some of them yourself, if not what are you waiting for!

Best wishes and See You in 2014 !

Friday, 13 December 2013

US Comic show exhibitor analysis
A taster of The Devastator's analysis - its much clearer on their site!
(click the above image for link) 
The always interesting Beat blog has a great link here to The Devastator's analysis of recent comic shows from an exhibitor's sales point of view. This is a rare if not unique occurrence and for anyone interested in comics, festivals and a bit of clearcut comment is fascinating.
Being a US site it of course concentrates on American shows of which only the Emerald City Con in Seattle is one that Accent UK have exhibited at (and it has to be said we found it slow) but its still pretty useful. The site's compilers are at pains to point out that the analysis is based on those exhibitors who responded to their survey, some 46 in total, so the results are not overly scientific but interesting nevertheless.

It would be interesting to have a similar UK survey but as recently commented on, sales, while obviously important are not always the only factor which determines if a show is successful or not. Certainly for us while our Seattle sales were disappointing we were breaking new ground with our first US show and had we been able to follow up, we may well have grown our audience there, similar to what we achieved with our European shows in Copenhagen and almost achieved with New York's MoCCa but its a difficult thing to sustain on available resources, particularly now that our 'home' UK market has a vibrant convention scene of its own.

Enjoy the article and analysis and perhaps give your own findings some thought?

An eager looking Accent UK in Seattle 2010
Howard Burke of Seattle's Zanadu Comic shop has a surprise Accent UK vist
(Zanadu were already stocking our books - Yey!)
Dave made a few new friends on our Seattle trip including the famous Pike Market Pig !

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Mandela Salute!


The loss of Nelson Mandela is certainly touching the world and rightly so, certainly one of the immense figures of our modern age who influenced so many people and effected a massive change in his troubled homeland.

While visiting South Africa in 2010, I witnessed a nation still very much finding itself in terms of economic and social parity but from what I learnt from others who had lived under/with apartheid, even this 'imbalance' was a million years from that experienced a relatively short time before. In fact one of our party whom was making his first return to South Africa since those troubled times was quite emotional after chatting to, joking with and having photos taken with one of our young female guides stating that such open friendliness between white and black would just not have been possible and may well have lead to imprisonment or worse.

Sobering thoughts indeed and while difficult for us coming afterwards to fully understand we can all of course appreciate the difference Mandela made and he will of course be long remembered.

While not himself a Zulu - (Mr Mandela's father was a chief with the Thembu tribe, part of the larger Xhosa nation who along with the Zulus are probably the best known of South African's tribes) - I'm sure I can be forgiven for posting the above salute from a Zulu warrior.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Happy St Andrews Day

Well I thought it would be good to do another wee sketch of David Livingstone for his bi-centenary on this St Andrews Day but while I did this last night unbeknown to me sad events were playing out in Glasgow, so I think any celebrations will be somewhat tempered.
Our thoughts with all who are affected.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thought Bubble Moments!

Thought Bubble 2013 is that-a-way!
Gosh that was quick, the weekend's Thought Bubble festival in Leeds brought Accent UK's long year of comic shows to an end and was a suitably good way to wind down 2013.

Given the problems the organisers had with fulfilling exhibitor table requests, the addition of a new hall in vacant shopping units gave everyone who wanted to, the opportunity to exhibit, for which the organisers deserve thanks in responding to the unprecedented demand. However the question was always going to be whether this demand would be matched in increased attendance and spend to warrant the extra investment?
Thought Bubble 13 Crowd

On this point, and purely on our numbers and observations, I would say the jury's still out. Its hard to say but would reckon that attendance was pretty similar to previous years which of course meant with even more exhibitors, people's spend was spread even further. Its not surprising therefore that our own sales were down from 2012, but in fairness we had a host of new books last year which helped boost our sales to a record tally. With only a couple of new things this time we expected a modest showing which is exactly what we had, although we still comfortably beat 2011's sales, so it's not all bad.

Most exhibitors I spoke to were similarly 'okay' with things with no-one saying they had done amazingly good or bad, just 'okay' and in fairness for a cold November weekend at the end of a busy convention year that's not too bad really, considering everything else the show had. 

Colin eagerly mans the AUK table - note Dave's lego boxset centrepiece!

A close up of Dave's lego set of Accent UK comic characters - can you find them all?

And that's the key thing, much like the recent Lakes event, its not all about the numbers, its as much about the community and social aspect as you catch up with familiar faces and discover new works, this combined with brisk early sales helped remind us that despite the table booking problems, Thought Bubble is still the place to go for the best mix of professionals, independent and small press creators and arguably the UK's best comic show in an increasingly crowded market.

That said, I don't envy the organiser's job in planning for next year when they'll be keen not to repeat the online exhibitor lottery but presumably they won't have the option of those vacant shop units?
Anyway back to this year and Dave and I had a blast in catching up with old friends and chatting to new and repeat readers of our books. Once again Gary Crutchley was able to join us and work his sales patter to ensure that his and Dave's Westernoir series be the top seller with the latest book 3 outselling everything else by a good margin!

Dave and Gary happy with Westernoir's Thought Bubble reception

Sadly Dave and I again failed to see any of the programmed talks and events - thats' none in the 7 years we've attended which is a shame especially as we'd greatly enjoyed the talks we caught at The Lakes recently. Mind you with a show the size as this you can't hope to see everything and certainly that was something I heard people repeat time and time again that it was 'too big' and they couldn't absorb it let alone buy everything they liked as there was just 'too much'!
Thom Ferrier (Ian Williams) & Me catch up
During my little escapes from the table I did manage to track down a few of the books I was looking for and a few that I'd not heard of before - see my 'haul' pic below - including an enjoyable book previously unknown to me, 'The IT Girl' by Jessica Martin based on the silent movie actress, Clara Bow. Its well executed and despite being a little short is a promising debut from the impressively enthusiastic Jessica, who has only recently entered the comics field after a varied and interesting show biz career!

Other highlights was again meeting Frederik Peeters this time for his new sci-fi series Aama from Self Made Hero which I am looking forward to reading especially after his previous excellent Pachyderme book which I had a lively discussion with Gary Spencer Millidge about as we tried to second guess its meanings and imagery - great fun!
Gary Spencer Millidge & GM Jordan strike a Thoughtful pose!

It was discussions like that throughout the show with numerous people - too many to list - that makes Thought Bubble special as most comics people will be there and its a great chance to catch up and chew the fat and with the show being so late in the calendar there's very much an end of term feel to it as you say your goodbyes and reflect on the close of another convention season.
Neil Cameron during his 'Draw an Awesome Robot' workshop
One final bit of very welcome news was when old comics pal, Neil Cameron told me that our very good friend and very deserving talent, Garen Ewing had won the British Comic Award for Best Young People's Comic for his Complete Rainbow Orchid book! Great stuff, we're all delighted for you Garen and will enjoy seeing you squirm with embarrassment with all the plaudits coming your way! You can read Garen's own report here and here's the full list of the 2013 award winners.
I'll let Dave say more about Thought Bubble at the main Accent UK blog but for me, after a fairly indifferent expectation about the show, I was pleasantly surprised and reminded how special Thought Bubble really is and I sincerely hope they can come up with a workable solution to its exhibitor popularity so no-one who wants to be there misses out, lets see what they come up with?

The 2013 TB haul and I still missed out on a couple of books!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Loading up for Thought Bubble!

Excellent timing sees another great review of Gary and Dave's latest WesterNoir issue by Jeremy Briggs at the Down The Tubes site here with this fantastic concluding paragraph;

WesterNoir is one of the best small press series being published at the moment and Book Three maintains the high standards of the previous two while not sticking to any plot formula. The stand-alone nature of the stories means that new readers could read this one as easily as any of the other books in the series but, with their combination of strong writing and impressive art, it is worth seeking them all out.

So if that doesn't make you want to mosey on down to the Thought Bubble Comics Festival in Leeds this weekend then have a wee gander at a sample of the sketches which Gary has produced for the special limited sketch and print WesterNoir packs!

The Accent UK posse will be at Table 14 within the main New Dock Hall sandwiched in between Image Comics and Ian Edginton with our full range of books and goodies - hopefully see you there!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Moments on the Radio!


Okay forgive me for being a wee bit 'starstruck' as earlier today I had my name read out on BBC Radio 2 and a question I'd raised asked of author Joseph Boyden who was being interviewed about his new book The Orenda!
Hey okay in the scheme of things its pretty minor but I'm pretty chuffed to say the least and impressed that the 'interactiveness' of such things actually works!
I'd been listening to the Simon Mayo show early evening when my ears pricked up during his Book Club feature when the author interviewed mentioned the Iroquois and Huron tribes of Southern Canada and their interaction with the Jesuit priests being the setting of his new novel. While no expert, I'd an interest and awareness of this subject after visiting a reconstruction of a site founded by the Jesuits during our trip to Canada last year. I listened intently and became more interested in the story being described but I'd missed the author's name and wasn't sure of the book's title so logged on to the BBC Radio 2 website and found that I was listening to Joseph Boyden describing his new novel, The Orenda.
I then noticed the BBC's invitation to 'interact' with the programme by texting or emailing the presenters so while thinking 'yeah right' I bashed off a short question name checking the Sainte-Marie among the Huron site we'd visited and asked if the author had drawn on its location at all? Well you can imagine my complete shock and surprise when mere moments later, Simon Mayo name checked me and read out my question! Even more pleasing was that the author was not only familiar with the location but that it had indeed featured in his thinking as the story's "ground zero" setting - gulp!
You can hear the clip yourself here for the next 7 days - try around the 1:22:10 mark - and you can also read an extract from Joseph's book here!
Yep I was - and still am - pretty flabbergasted about this, maybe its just me as not being part of the smart phone/twitter generation, I'm not used to this instant interaction but hey I'm impressed, thank you Simon Mayo and BBC and I reckon the least I can do is buy Joseph's book now!

One of our 2012 photos of the Sainte-Marie among the Huron site
Some chap drafting an email to the Simon Mayo show in Jesuit times!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Remembrance Days

Well with Remembrance Sunday today and the armistice anniversary tomorrow, I like the nation have been in a rather reflective mood so dug out Accent UK's very first anthology book from back in early 2003 after our first meeting in a former cotton mill in Stockport, appropriately enough on armistice day, November 2002.
The book itself is long since out of print and I've had to scan the pages from my contribution from my file copy so apologies for the quality reproduced here. It was an interesting time for all of us involved born out of the very early comic shows in Bristol, although sadly there seems to be only Dave West and I left from the contributors list, still involved in the British indie comics scene today?
For more information on Remembrance Day and the Poppy appeal, see the British Legion.   

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Comiket Moments

The Quiet Comiket Accent UK table
Well that was a little disappointing, we made the long way down to London last weekend for the twice yearly Comiket Comic Fair show as part of the ongoing Comica Festival and well it was slow, very slow making for a long day, made worse by various train delays on the return journey meaning that I didn't get home till well past midnight,when of course I turn into a pumpkin - not recommended at Hallowe'en time!

The quiet hall
On the upside we met up with Gary Crutchley, stalwart artist on Accent UK's WesternNoir series, on arrival at Euston who joined us at the show. Its always good fun catching up with Gary and his infectious enthusiasm for comics in general and the WesternNoir series in particular and, with Dave, I was delighted to see a preview of Book 4's art which is almost complete and promises some real surprises. Book 3 has just had another great review here and Book 4 should be ready to make its splash around March next year when the new convention season gets underway, until then sorry you'll have to wait!

Gary Crutchley & Dave West pass the time (Add your own caption HERE!)
Back to Comica and this was the second show at Central St Martins College just behind Kings Cross Station London following the one back in April where although there was clearly some signage problems that show was a resounding success, being our best ever showing at Comiket. We therefore had high hopes for this one and despite again having signage problems and a change in the interior layout we weren't unduly worried by the slow start as things had picked up last time, however the 'kick' never came and things remained very slow throughout the long day to its 7pm finish. In the end we sold less than 1/2 what we had in April and although covering table costs we were well short of covering our travel costs down.

The live drawing parade with Takayo Akiyama

Everyone we talked to had a similar slow day but it was difficult to pinpoint why as the show had its usual talented guests bravely undertaking the on stage live drawing parade and eclectic mix of exhibitors but despite being free to enter it didn't have the attendance we'd experienced last time. Maybe a lot of students hadn't returned from half-term (do College students get 'half-term'?) or maybe it was a wider comic show fatigue, certainly the calendar is far more crowded than ever before and much of the exhibitor's talk was about the recent success of both The Lakes and last weekend's London MCM show where apparently 88,000 folk attended!

Whatever the spectre of other shows, Comiket remains unique in its eclectic mix, celebration and optimism of the comics medium and is a really friendly show with a pretty decent soundtrack too, so we really hope this was a one-off blip. In any case there were exciting plans announced for 2014 with Comiket's Spring outing likely moving to May or June to coincide with a new exhibition of British Comic Art which Paul Gravett (and I think John Dunning) are curating at the British Library with it planned that the Comic fair will also take place at the library!!
The full Joe Sacco Great War panoramic 'tapestry' at full length!
That exciting news and the great time we had in catching up with many good friends and familiar faces of the UK comic scene - including the recently returned world traveller and friend of Accent UK Cliodhna Lyons (and a host of others that there isn't enough room to cover), that and as always the glimpse of one or two potential interesting new projects, made the trip to London and Comica worthwhile - phew!

Unfortunately Blurry Col, Cliodhna & Dave