Archive for the 'Events' Category

27th Nov 2008

Con sketches

At the Con in Dublin at the weekend there was this nutcase called Mark who was getting people to do sketches of all the characters from the X-Men as played by Christopher Walken.  Mark’s Walk-Men sketches, including ones by Adi Granov, Nick Roche , Declan Shalvey, Barry McGowan, Bruno Letizia, and a bunch of others whose signatures I can’t read, can be seen on this thread at Millarworld.  Here’s my Jean Grey:

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24th Nov 2008

Con Report

The Dublin City Comic Con went extremely well, after, it has to be said, a fairly shaky start.  I arrived in Dublin on Saturday morning, tried to checkin at the hostel I’d booked a bed in, and when asked for money, discovered I’d left my wallet at home in Belfast.  The con organisers were very understanding and were happy to let me off paying for my half of the table until Sunday, after I’d made the trip home and back again.

First time I’ve been to a con as an exhibitor rather than a punter.  I was extremely lax at taking photos, I’m afraid.  Here’s a shot of my half-a-table taken on Friday:

I was sharing with Tommie Kelly, creator of the excellent webcomic Road Crew, and his glamorous assistant Vanessa:

Met a bunch of people I’d previously only met online, reaquainted myself with some people I’d  met at 2D, and made the acquaintance of a few people who were entirely new to me, and embarrassingly got Stephen and Aidan, who I know from the monthly Belfast comic creator pub meets, mixed up on a couple of occasions (sorry).  Stephen Coffey unveiled his secret weapon, Barry McGowan, who’d painted his comic Rosemary Herbb: The Return in a style that looked like a tighter version of 2000AD‘s Simon Davis.  Declan Shalvey and Andy Winter launched their hilarious one-shot comic Tim Skinner: Total Scumbag, which among other things includes a wicked parody of Garth Ennis’s The Boys and a novel version of what Judge Dredd, sorry, “Magistrate Grudge”, looks like without his helmet.

The launch of the collected edition of The Ulster Cycle: Ness was a great success – I shifted more than half of my initial print run, and several of the people who bought it on Saturday came back on Sunday to say how much they’d enjoyed it.  (The quality of the printing, by The Fallen Angel, was also complimented, deservedly so.  Thanks Mallory.)  I made an impromptu appearance on a panel for newly launched small press books and did it reasonable justice I thought.  I’m not quite ready to launch the book online, but I will shortly once I figure out how much I’ll need for postage and can get a PayPal button sorted.

Edited to add: Tommie’s put up his own report and photos (including one of me looking pregnant).

Edited Tuesday 25 November to add: Declan Shalvey has his report up.

Edited Wednesday 26 November: link to Andy Winter’s impression.

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21st Nov 2008

The Dublin Comic Con is tomorrow

This weekend I shall be nerd-networking.  I have half a small press table at the Dublin City Comic Con at the Park Inn Hotel in Smithfield Square, Dublin.  Apart from the couple of people who bought copies from Lulu before I withdrew it from sale there, this will be the first opportunity to buy a copy of The Ulster Cycle: Ness in book form!

I’ll be sharing a table with Tommie Kelly, creator of Road Crew (a very funny webcomic about a rock band’s roadies) who’ll also have wares to sell, so if you’re attending, be sure to say hi (and buy stuff).

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21st Oct 2008

24 Hours Comics – post script

Well, I did it. I completed 24 pages of comics, plus a cover, within 24 hours.  It’s called “Something”, on the grounds that, well, I had to call it something.  Once it’s scanned and I’ve figured out where to put it, I’ll post a link. Here’s a photo of the first three pages, taken when I had no idea where it was going, just drawing images as they occurred to me:

The event was held at Catalyst Arts, a studio/gallery space in an old converted industrial building of some sort, and was organised by Catalyst’s co-director Fionnuala Doran.  I’d met Fionnuala once before, at the 2D Comics Festival in Derry in June.  A few days later I ran into her working at Waterstones and struck up a conversation.  Except, as it turned out, it was actually Fionnuala’s twin sister Aideen, and she had no idea who the hell I was.  Bit embarrassing.  Aideen, who’s also a co-director at Catalyst, showed up to help out for a while, but didn’t do a comic like Fionnuala did.

The other person I knew was Andrew Croskery, who’s a regular at the Belfast comics pub meet in the Garrick on the first Thursday of every month.  Here’s Andrew hard at work on his comic, “The Four Seasons”, which from what I could tell depicted Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter as bickering sisters.  Looking forward to reading it properly.

Everyone else was new to me, and I’m having a hard time keeping their names straight in my head.  Here’s a wider shot of the studio:

That’s Andrew again in the foreground, Michael just behind him, And on the sofa, Vicky on the left, and (mind completely blank) on the right  There were others drawing, and quite a few others who dropped in to offer moral support.

I think my experience drawing without pencils probably stood me in good stead.  Jonny (not pictured) had never drawn a comic before, and I think completely misjudged how long it would take him, starting off with tight, detailed pencils on full-size, ruled-out boards.  By the middle of the night he’d got maybe four or five pages done, and realised he’d never get it finished that way, so he had a few hours kip and started again, drawing at A5 directly in brush and ink. He got seven pages done like that and they looked gorgeous – if he’d taken that approach from the start he’d easily have got a 24-hour, 24-page comic done.

We had a webcam link-up with the Dublin event, in the far more salubrious surroundings of the Central Hotel.  Here’s a link to a message board post with some of Cliodhna Lyons’ photos.  As you’ll see, nobody in Dublin spent the night drawing with their coat on with the hood up and wrapped in a duvet, as hotel function rooms are a bit warmer than artists’ studio spaces in converted industrial buildings.  Not that I’m complaining.  I’m pretty warm blooded.  I just wish I hadn’t had to sleep on the floor.  Getting a bit old for that.  Next year I’ll bring a camp bed or something.

Anyway, the webcam link was a bit awkward because although we could both see and hear the Dubs, they could only see us, because they’d neglected to bring any speakers (and not, as initially thought, because we didn’t have a microphone).  We started by holding up handwritten notes, and the Dubliners did the same until we pointed out we could hear them fine.  We ended up using some kind of text chat thing, although I couldn’t type fast enough to have proper conversations, but never mind.  Later on when I was half-asleep I’m pretty sure somebody was using it to tell Dublin dead baby jokes.  Anyway, hello to Cliodhna and Kyle and “Declan” and the rest.  Liam and Craig of the Comic Cast have done a special edition podcast interviewing some of the Dublin participants.

Oh, and we had a barbecue.  Catalyst has a balcony where they’ve rigged up a barbecue out of an old wheelbarrow.  We ate well, largely thanks to Andrew, and some of his mates who couldn’t stay but brought food anyway. That looks like Andrew on the left, the guy in the middle is Richard, who was one of the participating artists, and bending over to his right is Maria, who’s from Germany, didn’t do a comic, but subtitles sporting events for the hard of hearing on German TV for a living.  In the background are two more moral support people whose names have gone, but their presence was appreciated.

Hopefully it’ll be an annual event and get even more popular.  Roll on next year I say.

Edited on 6 November to correct a certain degree of confusion over names

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18th Oct 2008

24 Hour Comics Day

No webcomic roundup today, as I’m busy at the Belfast 24 Hour Comics event at Catalyst Arts. The idea is to draw, from scratch, a 24-page comic in 24 hours. We started at about 10.30 this morning and I’m taking a wee break having completed 11 pages of my comic, provisionally titled “Something”, but will probably have a proper title by the time it’s finished.

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09th Jun 2008

2D Comics Festival and small press comics

Got back last night from the second 2D Comics Festival – the first I’d actually been to – in Derry, and a fun and fascinating time was had.  Ireland, north and south, is clearly home to a great deal of comics creativity in the pro and small presses.  But I came out thinking, maybe I’m ahead of the curve?

Back in the 90s I was part of a small press comics scene that was based on a bunch of cartoonists producing little A5 photocopied pamphlets and “selling” them – or at least, exchanging them with each other – by post.  Some of us would go to conventions and actually take money, but I doubt many of us kept count of how many we’d sold and how much we were making.  I know I didn’t.  Our print runs were tiny, and our outlay was also tiny – so even if we made 100% profit it would barely have bought us a round of drinks anyway.  We weren’t, in short, in it for the money.

There are still cartoonists like that.  Some are true amateurs, doing it for the love in formats, genres and styles that will never be commercial, while others hope that, after honing their chops in the non-money-making sector, they might be able to produce a body of work they can parlay into opportunities in pro publishing – just like back then.  Professional printing is now within financial reach, so hand-stapled photocopied booklets are giving way to quality paper and full colour covers, even full colour interiors.  But even a short print run, professionally printed, costs a fair amount of money up-front, and making any of that back involves lots of legwork distributing the thing to shops.  The outlay is bigger, but the expectation is still not to make any immediate money out of it.

The odd thing is how few seem to be considering the web as a way of getting their work seen and read.  A fair few small press cartoonists have websites, but you can’t read any of their comics on them.  But it’s by far the cheapest way to get work out there, to, potentially, a huge audience.  And rss aggregator sites like Google Reader or Bloglines or any number of others, which allow you to keep track in one place of when all your favourite blogs have updated, make it as easy to enjoy long-form serialised comics as one-off gag strips or self-contained short stories.  But people aren’t quite on board with webcomics just yet.

It’s the way forward for small press cartoonists though, I’m convinced of it.  And when a trendsetter like Warren Ellis is throwing his weight behind it – his and Paul Duffield’s excellent ongoing sci-fi series Freakangels – maybe people are going to start paying more attention, and realising the possibilities.  I hope so, anyway.

The other way forward for small press cartoonists is print-on-demand.  In the old days, the set-up costs for printing were so high you needed a substantial print-run to make it worth your while – far too many for one person to be able to sell – and you’d be left stuck with boxes full of unsold comics.  Digital printing has put and end to that.  There are now a number of companies on the web who’ll print you one copy at a time if that’s all you need, and allow readers to buy copies online, only printing as many copies as have been ordered.  The up-front costs are really very small.  When the current storyline of The Ulster Cycle is finished, I’ve long intended to publish it as a book using one of these services (although I haven’t decided which one yet).  It’s a model that suits the small press extremely well.

Aside from all this musing, 2D gave me the opportunity to meet lots of interesting and talented new people (you’ll notice my “Irish comics creators” blogroll down the left hand side of the site is now quite a bit bigger) catch up with some equally interesting and talented people I already knew but hadn’t seen for ages, buy some comics off them and/or watch them draw.  It was only a shame I had to leave so early to catch the train back to Belfast.  I think next year I’ll have to plan it a bit better.

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