Over 2008 I wrote weekly for ComicsVillage.com, during a very exciting time in the UK comix scene..
My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.
In a change to my previously planned column, I’m going to look at a mini-comics in pubs, in the recent model of The Gladstone Mini-Comics Con, and a virtal model, The British Webcomics Piss-Up, before going on to consider the aspects of the casual comics pubmeet trend.
The title for today’s column comes from Stephen Caldwell who among other things, once suggested ‘Igor Guiness’ as a psuedonym for Garth Ennis. I recently enjoyed a few jars with him at recommended bar The Angel, St. Giles WC2, mixing pop and politics.
The Glastone Mini Comics Con
To re-cap on last weeks,
“A free entry festival held in a pub featuring “Glenn Fabry, Paper Tiger Comix, Dr Parsons, The Bedsit Journal, Danny Noble, The Sound Of Drowning and many more comics creators from Brighton and beyond!” It had comics for sale, drawing workshops, drink promotions, live workshops and animation screenings.”
Paper Tiger Comix Sean Duffield has a review of the festivities on his weblog, though I thought I’d ask him a few questions to get more than a partial picture of the day’s events.
Andrew: How did the genesis of the event come about (whys, hows) ?
Sean Duffield: We were fortunate that the second-in-command manager of the Gladstone, the lovely Melissa Cox, is a comics fan and suggested running the event. We had a couple of meetings between her and 6 of us local comic bods and we got together a rough plan of the event, which would include comic workshops, live music, animation screenings etc.
Andrew: How was it organised, on the day (venue, costs, any other information) ?
Sean: The event was totally free, for the punters and for stall holders. So big cheesy grins all round. We’d flyered previously and Melissa and her boyfriend John had put up posters and flyered also. John deserves a medal in that he had been up all night before the event getting animations shows ready and then on the actual day went into to town to flyer outside David’s Comics.
Andrew: How did you feel about the day and what worked so well and what didn’t ?
Sean: I felt the day was a great success. There was a laidback , friendly atmosphere, quite a few people turned up throughout the day, especially after about 2pm. During the day a lot of kids and adults alike enjoyed doing the fill-in-the-blanks type drawings provided by Mark Stafford. These were displayed on the wall. The only thing that didn’t work was the Glenn Fabry signing. He unfortunately was only there for about 20 mins and had gone by 2pm. I understand that he had his kids with him and couldn’t get a baby sitter and they had been playing up and gotten quite bored and restless so he had to leave. Nobody was too disappointed though, and it was good that an artist of his calibre turned up and supported the event. David’s Comics also provided some Fabry related books for signing purposes.
The bands in the evening were fantastic and very different. There was a hardcore punk band, and acoustic singer set, an experimental improvised fusion band which was really mad, and a rock & roll /punk/ experimental duo of duelling, drums, guitars, singing and primal rage. I missed the last band (i left about midnight) as i was off for the Tibet Demo the next day.
I really think the merging of comics, music, workshops etc in an environment where non-converts can come in and see something completely new to them is the way forward for small press and alternative comic people in this country. The fact that it was in a pub didn’t hurt either! Melissa and John said they would be up for doing Quarterly events such as this in the future which would be very welcome.
Sean is the editor of Paper Tiger Comix #4, a High quality 100 page perfect-bound book, 21 track music CD, pin badge and art cards. Its available from www.papertigercomix.com for only £5.50 (£6.99 in the shops!). Also in the late summer, look out for “WAR” an estimated 240 page book with music compilation with over 60 artists from 15 countries. Proceeds will go to Campaign Against Arms Trade.
The British Webcomics Piss-Up (April 23rd)
The British Webcomics Piss-up is a day of comics activism in practice. Integration into interwebs,building cluster and community. The ‘Piss Up’ in question is a virtual one, a toast to E-Nglish Comics. I emailed project originator Ed ‘Bollox Comics’ Bowley and the new co-ordinator, Jon Scrivens, also the artist behind ‘Little Terrors’.
Andrew: How did the event come about ?
Ed Bowley: What initially inspired the event was when I was touring around various webcomics, I noticed on the links page for one website that it linked to Scary-Go-Round. The caption next to the link said, “One of the best British webcomics around. In face, I think it’s the only British webcomic around.” This shocked me, but then, upon reflection, it’s not that surprising. It’s not overstatement to say the webcomic market is predominately American/Canadian. Ask anyone their top 5 webcomics and there may not be a British one in there at all. The British ones would have a hard time sticking out with the webcomic world already so highly populated. Around the same time, there were reports in the news that people in the UK were complaining there wasn’t enough celebrations for St George’s Day, especially when compared to St Patrick’s Day. So I put the two problems together to form one answer. Make St George’s Day a very fine excuse for a Piss-Up! A British Webcomic Piss-Up! An event for British webcomics only to raise their awareness with a collaborated effort and cross-promotion. There is no “English Pride” in the BWPU. It is intended as “a good excuse for a piss-up” much in the same way as St Patricks Day.
The BWCPU has three criteria: the authors must be either currently residing in Britain or British-born, upload their strip on April 23rd and notify the web hub, and adhere to the theme, which this year is ‘Castles’. Bowley and this years organiser Jon Scrivens are presumably excluding non-Brits so as to keep a cap on organising the advertising of the event. All those taking part in the BWCPU event are given free advertising on the website, on a alternating basis.
Andrew : Do you have a list online of who traditionally takes part, and who is taking part this year ?
Ed Bowley: On the website for the BWPU, it lists all the individual webcomics agreeing to take part. It was a bit difficult to get the ball rolling, but now the event is quite well known in webcomic circles and given a great deal of support. Not always from British websites either. Comixpedia/talk and VG Cats are a couple of the supporters over the years. Even if they can’t take part, many of the very popular British webcomics still promote it, such as Scary-Go-Round, Beaver & Steve and Afterstrife. It’s very well received and I have had many emails of thanks from contributing websites saying the BWPU has given them their best day of hits/traffic so far.
Jon Scrivens: In previous years its usually been some of the better known UK webcomics involved. Each year from a contributor standpoint I’ve gotten some great publicity as a british comic, something I’m sure people don’t often think about with webcomics. (The past three) I have seen my hits spike for the day I got involved originally as I was trying to write my webcomic Little Terrors as a typical zombie infection story but with a British twist, I was tired of everything being focused souly across the pond. The site will be going up this week with the starting list of creators taking part, more will be added as people join the Facebook group and respond to my mails.
Andrew: Can you tell us anything about the physical piss-ups this year? Will there be pub-meets outside the suggested one at Camden that might compliment this?
Jon : The lads down at London Underground Comics do a great job at pulling in the punters on a Saturday so it seemed a great place to have it near, (especially as Oliver Lambden of Tales from the Flat, an often involved creator is often down there). Depending on the feedback on the Camden one I think it’d be a task for next year to get creators in other Cities and towns involved in physical pissups.
Andrew: Isn’t there a risk that the comics might become institutionalised in, if you excuse they syntax, a virtual comic space, that doesn’t really proliferate itself to other areas ? Or would that be to miss a point of the flexibility open to web-users ? Are the artists taking part bringing something into it with their own audiences and disparate non-comics heavy readership?
Jon: Webcomics as a whole don’t have a real community for them, there is several news sites but never a real focused point for them, that’s the benefit and curse of webcomics. I’ve found for touring UK small press and comic shows in the last year that there is a community, based around print comics, so i feel it would really be something beneficial to online creators too, to egg each other on from other sides of the country.
To join with this years event, contact Jon dot Scrivens at gmail with your name, the title and URL of webcomic, with ’St George’ as your subject line. All the web comics involved with be added to the main list on the front page of this site. Closing date to join is on the day of the event, Wednesday 23rd April. Check out the Facebook group for more details and the possibility of other real world piss-ups.
“Authors taking part in the Piss-Up can submit one 200 pixel wide x 350 pixel tall image of their own design to link to their own sites anytime they want.”
Theres a strong tradition of pub meets in the Uk which probably grew out of sci-fi fandom. I tried running one in Belfast which was hit and miss, I’ll pop into the one in Oxford which is high times.
What worked for me in starting one of these was a notice in my local comics shop with the location, an illustration indicating beer and comics, and a time. It ran on Saturday afternoons, the Oxford one runs on Tuesday evenings. A look around at venues in central locations and chatting with bar staff as to footfall provides likely information. Don’t get too upset when only a few folk show up. Even popular pubmeets get that. Chances are you’re probably getting the best more tuned in folk, peoples plans change, and word will spread. A few comics casually on the table (maps) for face unfamiliar.
Best success seems to be built on working with pre-established friendships and of course, making an invite open. Email, twitter and other sms songs help keep folk in the loop. Sometimes a venue might get invaded by a hostile pub quiz or become a sporting event.
Seems to me a good idea might be for someone to set up a sort of blogroll to cover these. I’m thinking, one blog entry list, revised and re-edited every few months. Submissons are accepted from a regular pubmeet attendees (some pub meets may not wish to be discovered), and the new information integrated into the list. Why a blog and not a website ? Because this is the simplest quickest way of doing it. It may take one person two to three hours a year and be a valuable sustainable social networking tool that over-rides clique mentality. A handy side feature along the lines of Gravett’s events link list. Good for visiting cartoonists in your area.
And remember, comics aren’t everything.
Andrew Luke has written lots about comics, self-published over thirty, and is the subject of a recent interview with the hugely popular Alex Fitch of Resonance FM’s Panel Borders, were he can be heard talking about his life with comics. He’s recently returned from a demo with a multitude of communities outside the Sudanese Embassy, were it was very cold and an ugly policeman tried in vain to imitate Russell T. Davies in cartoon form. If you’d like to contact the writer of this piece please get in email or paypal at drew dot luke at gmail dot com. Or leave a comment below.