Sunday, 28 February 2016

Not The Comics You're Looking For?

Ah well that was a shame, Accent UK exhibited for the first time at Bolton Comic-Con and.....erm didn't do very well! Maybe we were due a blip as the last two years have seen our show sales markedly increase so maybe we were getting a little complacent about things?

All set up and waiting for some sales!

When you do have a setback you tend to analyse things a bit - and Dave and I had plenty of time to chat things through. We couldn't fault the organisation or the venue, both of which were excellent and well suited to the event, nor could we say that they had too many exhibitors. We didn't do an exact count but there must've been around 60 - 80  other vendors so not too swamped and both our table's aisle and the hall in general were pretty easy to navigate around so it wasn't like we were in a bad spot or anything.

The well laid out hall - can you spot Dave?

The trading floor (taken from the handy upstairs chill area)

Nor could we blame the attendance, which is generally the reason for not doing so well at some shows. In Bolton's case we had a steady stream of punters throughout the day - they had a staggered early bird/general ticket system which gave a spike in numbers for the first few hours - so despite the cold weather, they must've approached their expected 3 to 4,000 attendees? That sort of level would normally guarantee that we did well but it took almost 3 hours to make our first sale (!) and we ended up selling only a small fraction of our modest expectations of what we would expect to sell from that decent level of attendees!

Some of the other vendors, original art & steampunk weapons!
A retro gaming arcade area which seemed popular

What went wrong then? Well looking around before opening, there strangely were precious few actual comic exhibitors or vendors. Including ourselves, we counted only 3 indie comic creators plus 3 or 4 invited comic guests and no back issue dealers, so not a big comics showing amongst the many toy, print, canvas, merchandise, jewellery, greeting cards, cupcake and fudge sellers! There were also a couple of authors, including our delightful table neighbours, Nat & Phil Gosney, (check out her Wolf Born saga here!) so quite a varied range of exhibitors really.

And that may have been the problem as almost straightaway we realised that while punters seemed happy to browse the toys and merchandise etc, we and our comics were being ignored. Now we're used to having a slow start to shows but usually we have a fairly constant stream of browsers and chats with folk even if they choose not to buy or say they'll return once they've seen the rest of the show. At Bolton, we weren't even having browsers, it was as if we were selling something so alien to what they were looking for, they didn't even give us a second glance! We laughingly likened it to when you're at the supermarket and you unexpectedly see a double glazing salesperson who you then do your best to ignore! But it was worse, imagine those double-glazing folk being ignored at a window conference, that's how we felt, comic creators being ignored at a Comic-Con!

One end of the hall with movie props and Big Hero 6 cosplay!

Now of course it could just be us and the quality of our comic books but the fact that people weren't even looking at our table and our 15 year experience exhibiting tells us otherwise. It seems that folk were generally there for a day out and buying whatever merchandise or cakes took their fancy and actual comics were low down their priorities. And of course there's nothing wrong with that, certainly the families and punters we saw all seemed to be enjoying their day out among the colourful displays and cosplayers, just they didn't seem to be particularly interested in comics themselves?

Thankfully we had a few late browsers and finally made some sales ensuring we at least covered table costs with a little to spare. An unexpected bonus was meeting Gary and Team from Player 2 Comics & Games who are now stocking our comics in their Widnes and Liverpool stores, so there was value in attending the show. That said, we'll think twice about trying these again but are glad to have had the experience and at least we won't have to squeeze any further shows into an already crowded comics calendar.

Dave's view on things is here 

Thursday, 11 February 2016

1 Down 14 to Go!


Well the 2016 comic convention season is well and truly underway, Dave and Gary kicked things off last weekend with their successful trip down to Maidstone's Demon-Con, (which you can read about on their blogs here and here) and this Saturday we set up at Bolton Comic-Con!

Bolton is a new one for us but being a local one we thought we'd give it a try hearing good things about it's inaugural show last year so we'll see how we get on. You can find out show details on their facebook page here.

We'll take our full range of books but after a stock take we're getting pretty low on some, Zombies2 sold out last year and Who on Earth is Thaddeus Mist? won't be far behind it....

 ....and perennial favourite, Robots anthology is now down to it's last couple of  boxes so will also likely sell out in the first few months of the year. We normally don't reprint - last year's Zombies was an exception - so if you do fancy any of these, best grab them when you see them.    

If you've been keeping an eye on our convention list on the top right you'll see that we've a total of 15 planned at the moment for this year, with most of these already confirmed, so it promises to be a very busy one indeed, hope to see some of you around on our travels and maybe we'll surprise you with a new book or two!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Comic Cover Roughs!

It's not all Holidays and Zulu's on here you know, I am also working hard on a couple (yes, there's more than one!) comic projects at the moment. One is a short collection of some of my adventure strips and is more advanced than the others, so much so that it's time to think about the cover!

I initially had a very simple design in mind which would just use snippets from the various interior artwork which would probably be fairly easy to pull together. But maybe 'easy' is another word for 'lazy' and I thought that a brand new cover would be more appropriate.

What you see above then is literally the back of an envelope when I scribbled down a couple of ideas a few days ago. It's important to do this as ideas tend to go as quickly as they come and it's frustrating to forget them so a quick scribble on whatever is handy will do the job.

I returned to these scribbles a few days later and decided to prominently feature only one of my characters on the cover, ideally in a suitable pose representative of his story and the contents.

I quite liked this but to fit in both the planned logo and contents list, I'd have to think carefully on where best to place the figure, while (hopefully) remaining in a dramatic and representative pose. That's where thumbnails come in to quickly get down a variety of poses to see which works best;

Each one is very loose, a little frantic and takes only a few seconds to do. They're a couple of inches square each, all squeezed into a single page of scrap A4 paper. The idea is not to be precious over it,  it's not about the quality of the drawing, it's about looking at the shape, style and layout and seeing which best fits your ideas. You can do dozens of thumbnails sometimes but it's best to give yourself a time limit otherwise you may find you don't do any actual drawing!

I liked several of them but as often happens I liked the movement of the first one best and decided to work that up into pencils on A3 Bristol board that same day, which didn't take too long. Normally I do nip out to the Copy Shop to duplicate my pencils before I start inking - it's an old habit of mine, mainly so I have a copy of the drawing so in theory I can go back to it if I ruin the original inking! On this occasion though we had a busy day lined up (wee bit of shopping, tea out and cinema - the disappointing Dad's Army this time!), so I didn't get a chance and rather than lose time today, I just dived into the inking before nipping out to the Copy Shop just before it closed.

I'll post about the pain, joys of inking another time,  but here is the cleaned up, reduced, scanned copy to compare with the thumbnail above;

It's maybe a little different and possibly lost some of the 'urgency' afforded by the quick thumbnail, but I'm happy that the image works in the context of what I need. It'll soon be coloured and have logo, text and bits n bobs added to it as the collection is assembled and announced - more of that to come later -  but this hopefully shows an honest evolution of a simple cover which, surprisingly for me, only took only a few short hours to produce over a busy weekend!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Oh Vienna!

  snow vienna

We are lucky in that we usually sneak away for a few days in January and this year after pricing up a trip to London we found that for almost the same cost we could zip across to Vienna, so that's what we did. We'd never been before and hadn't really done a huge amount of research but we had a lovely time, even with the cold winter weather!

vienna tram

We basically got ourselves a 72 hour travel pass and, by tram, bus and metro ventured around the inner and outer city doing a wee bit of exploring and sightseeing. There was plenty of choices for museums and culture but we really only had time for one and chose the (upper) Belvedere  home,  of amongst many other fine pieces, Gustav Klimt's famous The Kiss, which was a real thrill seeing the original.

winter belvedere kiss vienna
The impressive approach to the upper Belvedere, a former palace

Klimt Kiss

We couldn't but help be impressed by all the impressive architecture and compared to most other capital city's, just how quiet and clean it all seemed.

The Austrian Parliament building (designed by a Danish architect apparently)

St Stephen's Cathedral

Vienna was also famously the setting of Carol Reed's Third Man movie, based on the Graham Greene novel and starring Orson Welles and while we didn't venture on a tour of the sewers we did visit the Prater amusement park, which is still dominated by the Wiener Riesenrad Ferris wheel, which prominently features in one of the movies memorable scenes.

orson welles third man


There was also a special ice skating event, Wien Eistraum, ('Vienna's Ice Dream'), that had just opened where thousands of skaters made their way round a specially constructed track in front of the town hall, surrounded by log cabins serving up delicious fresh cooked food and beer, it reminded us of Manchester's Christmas markets but more relaxed!

ice skating

We enjoyed wandering around and had fun trying the local food and drink - the coffee houses and cake are as superb as we'd heard and the Ottakringer beer wasn't too bad either. Although we didn't visit the Opera, we did enjoy an evening concert of Mozart, Strauss, ballet and operatics in the chamber room of another former palace so we got a wee flavour of Austrian culture that Vienna is of course famous for, even if I couldn't get that Ultravox song out of my head!