Thursday, 28 March 2013

Coast to Coast Comics!

Exciting few days ahead as I embark on a mini comics tour to the East Coast of Scotland and the Dundee Comic Expo over Easter (snow permitting!), followed closely by a trip to the East Coast of America and New York's MoCCA Festival!

And if that's enough its then only a couple of weeks until we return to London and the always enjoyable Comica Festival, but last time I checked London wasn't on the coast, let alone the East coast, so that doesn't really count as part of this Eastern seaboard tour!

I doubt I'll have a chance to blog between the shows but I've posted recently on both the Dundee show and MoCCA, so check those posts and their respective sites for full details and latest news on guests etc, but if you are in the area for either - or both! - check them out and be sure to drop by the Accent UK table.

In fact, if anyone is able to say 'hi' to me at both shows they can have a Free Accent UK comic of their choice, surely that's worth the expense of a transatlantic trip!

The Dundee show is the first time Accent UK has exhibited in Scotland and being so close to 'home', quite exciting for me. As Dave has difficulty finding his beloved Earl Grey Tea North of Cheshire, he won't be making the trip so I'll be 'flying solo' at a show for I think the very first time so we'll see how that feels!

You'll find me in the College Hall of the university's Tower building on Table 5, which is along the right on the tiny map below!;

We'll be making our third visit to MoCCA, (see here for my summary of last year's show) and as in previous visits, I'll be joined by my son Scott who will I'm sure keep me from getting lost but sadly Dave can't make this one as the 'heat' hasn't quite died down from his antics last time - this is what happens when a gentleman can't find a decent cup of tea in the big apple! In Dave's absence I doubt I'll be much help to Scott in deciphering the NBA Basketball games we should see on the pub TV but at least there should be less snoring this time! 

Anyway for those who can make it, the MoCCA table plan has been revamped from previous years and talks I think now held upstairs and a cafe downstairs.We'll be on E150, which you can see below if you're eyesight is good!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Westernoir Book Two Reviewed

The ever reliable Down The Tube website has a great review from Jeremy Briggs of the second issue of Westernoir which I really should draw your attention to!

It includes the following quote;

"Anyone considering writing or drawing their own comic title could do a lot worse than buying, reading and analysing just how this book is written and drawn, as well as how the package as a whole is presented to its reader, because they are bound to find something in here that would improve their own work."

Gosh high praise indeed! Well done chaps but doesn't mean you can rest easy with Issue Three which is shaping up to continue and dare I say even improve on the high standards!

At the moment, Westernoir is only available directly from our website or from us at shows and festivals, but when issue four (and the first story arc) are complete, the separate issues should be listed with Diamond and available to order worldwide through your local comic retailer.

If you can't wait that long it is worth checking out artist Gary Crutchley's blog for sneaky looks at forthcoming pages and his creative process, such as this unlettered one from Book 3!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Happy Birthday Dr Livingstone!

It's the bi-centenary today of the birth of David Livingstone, one of the greatest Victorian explorers and one of my personal heroes.

He is a fascinating character from humble origins, largely self-educated while working in a Scottish mill, qualifying in medicine to achieve his aim of becoming a christian missionary in China, diverting his attentions to Africa after meeting the esteemed missionary and fellow Scot, Robert Moffat, (who's daughter, Mary, Livingstone later married). Moffat fired his imagination with tales of the untouched central region of Africa where the smoke of a thousand villages indicated a population where the gospels had not yet been preached.

A fiercely determined man driven by ambition to preach beyond every other man's line, successfully journeyed and mapped out vast parts of previously undiscovered Central Africa (to Europeans at least!), famously including the Victoria Falls which he named after his monarch, - ignoring its indigenous name of Mosi-oa-Tunya, The Smoke that Thunders.

The impressive Ray Harryhausen designed Livingstone statue at Blantyre
(Mr Harryhausen's wife is Livingstone's Great Granddaughter!)

He denounced slavery and advocated new forms of health care, education and commerce with the aims of the African people trading on a level playing field, taking their place alongside 'developed' nations.

His ambition ultimately cost him and his family dearly with both his wife and subsequently himself dying in the Dark Continent but not before his fame and discoveries had ensured his legacy, one that continues today, particularly in modern Malawi where he is fondly remembered and celebrated.

I could say more but for a full insight into this remarkable man's life I highly commend Tim Jeal's excellent biography Livingstone, which has recently been revised and re-issued.

The 'single end' tenement birthplace of Livingstone at Blantyre, now run by The National Trust for Scotland, housing special exhibits and artifacts alongside a small learning centre, cafe and gift shop!

Also recommended are trips to his birthplace in Blantyre, (in the grounds of the now demolished mill) and Edinburgh's National Museum of Scotland who currently have a special commemorative exhibition. We have been very lucky to visit both these special places recently and are well worth a look - noting though that the NMS's exhibition only runs for a few further weeks to April 7th.

For further information on the year long planned celebrations both in the UK and Africa, keep an eye on the interesting Livingstone 200 website.

Monday, 11 March 2013

MoCCA 2013 - Who Are You?

Getting excited now, we're all booked for the forthcoming trip back to New York and the MoCCA comic festival! We really enjoyed last year's show meeting the likes of Jason and Tom Gauld but this year sees some changes with the show now under the control of The Society of Strip Illustrators who took over MoCCA last autumn. Thankfully the handover and communication has been very good with little apparent disruption to its organisation.

While they hadn't made any inital radical changes to the show, the last few weeks have seen things gathering pace with the preparation of a specially produced shows brochure, now called a 'journal' featuring an image and blurb from each exhibitor, so look out for ours based on the cover gallery below.

They have also started a tumblr feed which is regularly featuring exhibitors (including a certain Accent UK back in January which I somehow missed!) and news on the show including the inaugural Awards of Excellence to be awarded at the show whose announcement of has (finally) got the US comics reportage excited in the event!

The essence appears to be that heavyweight (in terms of comic industry stature!) judges, Karen Berger, Gary Groth, Nora Krug, David Mazzucchelli and Paul Pope will stalk the exhibitors hall on the Saturday, select their favourite publications, debate them and that evening announce the winners of the most outstanding work on pressure then!

The show runs the first weekend in April and this year's guest of honour is Bill Griffith of Zippy the Pinhead fame!
(Zippy [who else?] the Pinhead by Bill Griffith)
I only really know of him from his entertaining section of Ron Mann's late 80's comic documentary 'Comic Book Confidential' which among other things showed said live action Zippy in his bestest housecoat out shopping and generally being happy while singing that annoyingly catchy tune, "I'm Zippy - Who Are You?". It will be interesting to see the man behind the man himself!

Bill Griffith has also recently been mentioned by Robert Crumb through a collection of Robert Crumb's interviews and comments on other artists and various cultural figures such as Jack Kerouc, Jean Paul Sartre, Hugh Heffner (!), Moebius and others. For a fascinating insight into Crumb's thinking and much, much more see the excellent 'Crumb on Crumb' collection here.
Did I mention that we're getting excited about MoCCA!!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Comica Confirmed but Thought Bubbled !!

Well no sooner is LSCC finished that we can confirm that we will return to London on April 20th in the latest of the very fine Comica - Comiket Independent Comic fair!
The show is a long running one organised by comic stalwarts Paul Gravett, Peter Stansbury and Megan Donnelly and always a delight to attend with a fun atmosphere, live drawing and music soundtrack to browse the best of the UK (and sometimes further afield)'s independent comic scene.
This time sees a change of venue to the new Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design just behind Kings Cross station which looks interesting. The event has had a few change of venues over the year but each one adds something else to the mix and the change of scenery seems to help spread the comics word by each time growing the audience so no bad thing, check their website nearer the time for who's attending and full information and we hope to maybe see you there? 

Thought Bubble 2013 art by Alice Duke (@aliceduke)
One venue you now won't see us at unfortunately is this year's year's Thought Bubble comic festival in Leeds following its record sell out of exhibitor table space in only two hours! This all happened during our trip back from London the day after LSCC when the tables went on sale and sold out  a good hour quicker than our train journey home!
The organisers were also taken aback by the speed of the sale and have been very sincere in their subsequent communications and are looking at other options to try and accommodate those who like us have missed out, so you never know there may yet be a chance.
Accent UK had been ever presents at Thought Bubble, going back to the very first show in 2007 in the basement of Leeds Town Hall, where there was a modest but enthusiastic bunch of punters and exhibitors dodging the bewildered wedding guests above while gratefully receiving cakes and smiles from the organisers. Since then of course Thought Bubble has grown into the most respected comics show in the UK with an unrivalled diversity and inclusive guest and exhibitor list - this year already boasts's Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba alongside Hope Larson, Fiona Staples and more  -  so it is with great sadness that we will not be part of this year's show.
We had launched three (count 'em!) new books at last year's show and were working to launch at least one, hopefully two at this year's event so are now looking at our release schedule and what other events may be available and will update when we have further news.
We'll keep an eye on things and if we don't make it this time will hopefully will return in 2014! 
Dave West and Andy Bloor at TB 2008 (thankfully I can't lay my hands on the 2007 photos!)

Sunday, 3 March 2013

LSCC - Moments of Discovery!

The latest movie & comic crossover?
Personally my LSCC highlights were catching up with familiar faces of Accent UK readers and fellow UK indie-folks including Steve Tanner and his Time-Bomb Comics family, the energetic couple that are   Conor and Lizzie Boyle, (that'll teach you Conor to try and put me off when I'm being interviewed!), The Goodman Brothers, Comic Book Alliances Jordan, John Maybury, John Anderson (who's Soaring Penguin Press imprint have a very ambitious Peter Pan project gathering steam for a May launch, check here) Shane Chebsey, Charles Cutting (Congratulations on getting the first part of 'Carter' published!) Richy Chandler, Jenika Ioffreda and no doubt a few others that I may have missed!

Splash page from PS Artbook's Bryant & May Casebook!
My other highlights, apart from the marvellous cosplayers and the chaps at Diamond, was catching up with one of my favourite UK comic artists, Keith Page, perhaps best known for his distinctive Commando book work for D.C Thomson and recent Charlotte Corday graphic novels London Calling and Iron Moon (with a 3rd in the works from the afore-mentioned Time Bomb comics!). He was at the wonderfully friendly PS Artbooks booth promoting his graphic novel of Christopher Fowler's popular detective series, Bryant and May - The Soho Devil, of which I eagerly collected my pre-ordered signed slipcase edition (Thanks Nicky & Peter!).

The book looks great and Keith was a real delight to talk to, easy going and knowledgeable on his history as he and I discussed the Zulu Wars. He also happily agreed to do me a wee sketch in my copy of the Iron Moon book that I'd brought with me, which features a small platoon of the British colonial period soldier I'm so fond of. We chatted so much that Keith put a little too much detail into the drawing which he was gracious over and out of respect I won't show here, but I thought it fun and capped off a memorable meeting, thanks Keith!

The book I had perhaps most anticipated at the show was Jeremy Bastian's Cursed Pirate Girl recently collected from Archaia and Dave and I were lucky to spot him at his table very early on the Saturday morning. Not wanting to 'peak' too early I almost turned away thinking we'd all weekend to see him and his wonderful book but thankfully we started talking to Jeremy and both decided to pick up a copy there and then while it was quiet and he had a chance to sketch in them.

A Page from the insanely detailed Cursed Pirate Girl!

Luckily we did as when I caught up with him the following day he said that he'd sold out of all the books by the Saturday lunchtime, leaving only his gorgeous prints which were also very popular. I was delighted for him as he has an amazingly detailed line work to his art which he said takes him an age to produce - an average comic page can take up to a week! - so he deserves all the success that comes his way. He was such a nice chap too and is keeping good company with last year's LSCC guest, David Petersen, contributing to his Legends of the Mouse Guard book. 

A very happy Jeremy Bastian on the Sunday
One of the hoped for joys of attending any show is the discovery of something so good you can't believe you've never heard of it before, sometimes of course, exhibiting yourself, you don't get the chance to look round and head home with nothing particularly new. Thankfully at LSCC we didn't have far to go as we found ourselves next to one Ivan Petrus who had travelled from his native Belgium to showcase the English translation of his quietly wonderful book, The Nieuport Gathering.

Ivan at his table with Dutch & English banners of his 'Gathering' book 
Nieuport (or Nieuwpoort) is located in Flanders and played a vital role in the Battle of the Yser, part of the First Battle of Ypres but don't worry if, like me you're not overly familiar with the detail of this 1914 conflict as Ivan's book cleverly explains what you need to know without being laboured.

The book is based on the true fates of three soldiers, a Belgian, a Brit and a Frenchman during the horrors of the First World War. The factual tales are themselves absorbing but the clever 'framing' device which Ivan uses to bring their stories together lifts everything to a higher level and drew a genuine emotional response from this reader.

The book is lovingly illustrated by Ivan himself in a somewhat simple art style, reminiscent perhaps of children's books, but I have certainly never seen a children's book tackle so effectively this difficult subject. In any case Ivan's art is enhanced by some deft colouring and washes which together with its hardcover and textual pieces provide a quality and informative book.

Great examples of Ivan's artwork from ACC Distribution - click image for their website and larger images
Ivan's book and colour dedications received a lot of attention over the weekend and he was pleased with how things had gone with this being I think his first 'proper' UK convention after previously successfully launching the book in Belgium, France and Holland. The First World War remains an unusual subject matter for a comic book but seeing it at LSCC alongside the various indie and artist alley titles on display was a healthy reminder of the true diversity that the comics medium can offer.

By a further happy accident we found that Ivan, together with friend and noted Belgian archivist Patrick Vanleene were also staying at our hotel so we were able to carry on our interesting conversations about comics, history and the state of Belgian and Scottish football! Actually I should note that although he was too modest to say so himself, Patrick is quite an authority in the field of World War One research and was, after the show, going to the National Archives at Kew and had also been one of the advisers to the Parade's End T.V series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC's Mr Sherlock himself and forthcoming Star Trek baddie!). Apart from being a good friend of Ivan's, Patrick had also translated one of the soldiers diaries featured in The Nieuport Gathering.

I felt suitably inspired by talking to Ivan and Patrick and hope to meet them again in the future with Ivan promising to return to LSCC next year with a new volume in his World War One series, featuring the equally fascinating story of Elsie & Mari - the young British nurses who volunteered for the Ambulance Corps and ended up in Flanders themselves, I can't wait and neither should you!

Friday, 1 March 2013

LSCC Moments 2013

Well that was fun, the Accent UK crew are now rested after attending last weekend's second London Super Comic Convention or LSCC to you and me! 
The event was held at the huge Excel Centre in London's Docklands and do you know what, it was pretty good, great guest list, plenty of attendees, well organised and even better than last year's sales. Although it didn't feel quite as busy as the inaugural show this may have been as the hall seemed bigger and there were many more dealers and exhibitors, obviously attracted by the positive reports from last year's amazing show.
Zombies 2 Cosplayer Undead Mousey!
And maybe that was the only problem, last year of course had the wonderful showman Stan Lee in attendance and his presence, energy and enthusiasm infected everyone to such a level that there was a palpable excitement in the air, something that I (and most other UK comic veterans) had never felt at a show before and that buzz had heightened expectation this year to unrealistic levels.

The result, for me anyway, was that the show was perfectly good and decent in every way except that nagging feeling that something was missing, which it was after all, in that there was no central focus or sustained buzz. Whereas in the first year, Stan's charisma and the crowd's positive reaction to him rose to fill the sometimes cavernous space of the large hall, this time sadly it often just felt that you were in a rather large hall. This should though not be seen as a criticism of the LSCC organisers as in the 12 months since the first show, I've had many conversations with various comic-related people and not one could come up with a credible suggestion as to who on earth could possibly follow Stan? Now we know the answer was what we had all sadly suspected, no-one can.

Scott & Dave spot Colin's new hat under the table  
Our Accent UK blog has our good friend Chris D's take on things but I will add that while the show was perhaps missing that magic spark, it was still one of the, if not the best guest-lists of comic creators assembled in the UK for a long, long time. I can't list them all but they included, legends Neal Adams, George Perez, Roy Thomas, Herb Trimpe, Bill Sienkiewicz, Bob Layton and current hot contemporaries Simone Bianchi, Mark Buckingham, David Finch, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Dan Slott (who happily signed for hours and hours both days with queues that would have done Stan proud!) delightful table neighbour Lee Garbett, together with UK legends Brian Bolland, Alan Grant (who I congratulated on his work on The Loxleys and The War of 1812 - which made my best of year list - and he said there may be a sequel which I'm excited about), David Lloyd and John Wagner (who I discovered is a fellow Manchester United fan!). Check out the LSCC's own website and other reports for the awesome full list of guests and spot your own favourites.

Happy Cosplayers bag Westernoir for birthday present! 

The event staff I spoke with all seemed happy enough too and were fairly confident that LSCC would return in 2014 and that is really great news for everyone connected with UK comics. While it may not have had the razzmatazz of the first show, the event has quickly become an important and welcome addition to the UK calender and what better way of starting the year's schedule!

I'll follow this event overview with my own personal LSCC highlights tomorrow!

Colin & Tripwire's Joel Meadows show Dave how many hours the slow train home takes!
(or of course it may have something to do with Tripwire's deserving  kickstarter campaign!)