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!

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