Colm Wood – Countdown to Dublin Zine Fair (3)

The Dublin Zine Fair takes place at the Scooby-Doo SupaFast building this weekend in Great Strand Street (just off Capel Street)
It’s a weird looking place going by the exterior photo. I imagine it as being in an alcho alley, painted with wet smoked tobacco. Inside though, bright open spaces, the essential scenesters, an accumulation of entrepreneurial energies in their crossings, trailing in distantly observed alien cultures to create a patchwork planet. With complimentary olives.This week I’m talking to those comic creators attending the Fair, and today I sat down with London visual artist, Colm Wood.

Hi Colm,  You’re an English  comixer crossing the Irish Sea to Dublin for The 2012 Zine Fair. That sounds like a big deal.  How would you introduce yourself and your work to someone at next weekend’s event in the Smithfield area, who has never heard of you before?
Im not sure, actually. My comics dont tend to be long stories, just short, often rude bursts of nothing, which often make no sense to others, so I try to make them look nice. I find I enjoy illustrating, and comics is one way of doing that, so I try and vary what I draw on or what I make. I would tell people to expect a mess that they will hopefully like.
What sort of relationship do you have with your punters and fans?
Not really anything to be honest! Im very bad at keeping up with people, I tend to involve myself alot with work, most of which never sees the light of day. Im hoping to improve on that.
What are you looking forward to most about the event?
Well, I’ve been working on other projects not relating to comic work, so I’m just looking forward to being at an event again! Also its meant I’ve forced myself to spend more time working on illustrations, and that’s always nice.
Anything you’re dreading?


Honestly, it’s hard to dread an event filled with great artists and attended by great people!
And finally – any message for the people out there, reading this, wishing that they too were a smooth, relevant and attractive comics creator?
Kind of you to say, I’m probably not the one to ask! But most people I know that illustrate or produce work tend to illustrate or produce work for its own sake. There’s a chance they don’t realise that they too are smooth, relevant and attractive.
Colm Wood – The Scientist

Colm Wood – The Scientist

 You can view more of Colm’s shapes at and check out his comics and illustrations at

Click through for website.

The questions in this interview were built from models
supplied by London’s bounciest superhero, David Baillie.

Anto Dillon – Countdown to Dublin Zine Fair (4)

In preparation for the great self-publishing fair this weekend (11th-12th August), I’m running a series of interviews counting down to the event. I’ll be talking to comics creatives and publishers who don’t grab the headlines, but continue to produce quality regularly.


Two (reformed) pages from Cycling in Dublin, drawn by Anto McFly.

Hi Anto, hope you’re well!
I don’t really know you. Everyone I know, knows you.  ”Loserdom,” some say, “it’s been running for twenty years and it’s brill. And you Andy, you still spend too much time masturbating over your Zoids collection.” Bearing in mind there are others out there who masturbate while thinking about Zoids, Brevilles and Sinclair C5s….ah no wait. I’ll start that sentence again. How would you introduce yourself and your work to someone at the SupaFast Building next weekend, someone who has never heard of you before? Does it has comix?

My name is Anto I produce Loserdom zine with my brother Eugene. We produced the first issue in June 1996. The production schedule is fairly sporadic, we’ve produced 22 issues of Loserdom altogether. We’re working on the next issue at the moment. Loserdom is a punk zine espousing the do-it-yourself philosophy, it features stories, articles, interviews with bands or different people who we like, find inspiring or might have something interesting to say.

I do most of the writing, while Eugene does the artwork and comics. There are comics in Loserdom they mostly feature the adventures of the Loser Bros (Anto and Eugene), either true life experiences or skits of various films. The last issue #22 featured a 28 page comic called The Punk Connection.



What can you tell us about your experience with these fairs and your relationship with the punters?

Anto:I’ve had stalls at various fairs over the last few years: the last Dublin Zine Fair, the Dublin Anarchist Bookfair, the Independents’ Day fair (which I’m involved in organising), Summer Edition, London Zine Symposium and a fair in Belfast. Doing stalls at fairs like these is a very enjoyable way to meet fellow zine and comic producers as well as people who might be interested in reading and buying Loserdom.

The Effects of Planet Of The Apes, by brother Eugene Dillon.

The Effects of Planet Of The Apes, by brother Eugene Dillon.

What are you looking forward to most about the event?


I’m looking forward to picking up new issues by other zine and comic producers, discovering new zines hopefully as well as meeting up with friends who I’ve known over the years of producing Loserdom, fellow producers themselves or perhaps enthusiasts/ supporters of D.I.Y./independent press.


Losercore Anarchy by Euguene

Losercore Anarchy by Euguene


Anything you’re dreading?

Nothing about the fair itself that I’m dreading, but I’m gonna miss my fifteen month old son Seán who I’m usually with every weekend and who won’t be in Dublin this weekend.

And finally – any message for the people out there, reading this, wishing that they too were a young, cool and sexy zinester?

Just do it! If you’re interested in producing comics or writing a zine, go ahead and do it. Don’t wait to perfect the first issue, spending months, years on it. The best thing is to get it out there, learn from it and get working on the next one.

You can read some of the Dillon Bros’ articles, comics and funny odds n ends at and keep a look out for them this weekend.


Click through for website

The questions in this interview were built from models supplied by London’s bounciest superhero, David Baillie.


Elida Maiques – Countdown to Dublin Zine Fair (5)

The first this week with a series of brief interviews with five or six, perhaps, lesser known Irish comixers attending the Dublin Zine Fair on 11-12th August. Hope for a  countdown illustrating just how rich the zine scene is in supplying new and different comix.

Godot Waiting – Elida Maiques on the web folks!

Godot Waiting – Elida Maiques on the web folks!

Hi Elida, hope you’re well! I have to confess I’ve only seen your work over the last year or so, out of the corner of my eye. You seem to be in with all the hip kids and their trends. How would you introduce yourself and your work to someone pondering the mysterio SupaFast Building, location of the Dublin Zine Fair this weekend?

Although born in Spain, on the Mediterranean, my roots are growing deep in Ireland. First infected by the comic virus as a child, I started publishing my own in 1999, with my brothers.

My comics range from plain silly to poetic. I cannot sustain the poetic too long, it all becomes stoopid by page 2.

You’ve been to sell a few comics at festivals now. How’s your relationship with the customers been?

Fantastic, people in these fairs and festivals tend to be curious and more informed than myself, so you always learn something. It is also very cool to catch up with your fellow comic book creators.

Avalanche by Elida Maiques

Avalanche by Elida Maiques

Next weekend, what are you looking forward to most?


Meeting the gang of Irish comic book creators, selling a pile of SLOW 4, my new comic; hopefully buying Stray Lines if it is out yet, and taking home a small heap of brand new comics to read.


Godzilla is so sexy – Elida Maiques

Godzilla is so sexy – Elida Maiques

How do I pronounce your surname?

Maiques [My-Kes].

Anything you’re dreading?

Losing my teeth, that would be dreadful.

Having done it before, with a hill and a bike, now I’m trying to quit that habit.

And finally – any message for the people out there, reading this, wishing that they too were a young, cool and sexy comics creator?

Hahaha. You just made my day.

I can only tell you what seems to work for me:
Don’t sit on your ideas; they grow better out there.
Just write and draw, sign your work and publish it proudly. Then do the the next one.

Cheers, Andy. [Update – Oh wait, I’m Andy. G o l d f i s h.]

Thanks to you, Andy, looking forward to seeing you in the Dublin Zine Fair!

Elida is a contributor to Romantic Mayhem, and the forthcoming  Gods and Monsters of Tomorrow multi-media project with a bunch of other Irish comixers. You can see more of her pretty pics at


The image above is hyperlinked to the Zine Fair website. The questions in this interview were built from models supplied by London’s bounciest superhero, David Baillie.


Normative, ha! What does normative know?

I am Andrew Luke.



Last month, I visited Nerdtopia in the leafy student district of Belfast’s Stranmillis Road. They were all out of Deli-Lite sandwiches, so instead, I’d a gourmet sausage roll made for the Sultan himself.

It was the morning after Q-Con, an enormous sci-fi and gaming thing, a village. We maintain being wrecked due to this pressurised stint of business, and not the Jack Daniels controlling our neurologies.

I love coffee; the dirty damage of any writer but frankly I’d been up since 6am working on my latest commission* and deserved a soothing addle of hot cocoa hyperdrive.


Nerdtopia Coffee Manager John, quite lovely. Please keep him in work.


Nerdtopia Says Eat Cake  – The coffee making area is perhaps Nerdtopia’s greatest flaw. Not for the vanilla, caramel and chocolate syrups, the size it takes up in the small premises; an industrial length box perhaps ripped from an ice-cream shop.

Around about is a booth for four, round two-person tables, a set of comfies and throws, a reader shelf and accessible pinboard. This informs the realisation I’m sitting in a community space. A business sure, but it feels inclusive, almost organic. The shop has it’s backbone of regulars, explains John, “but we get all ages in here. Many are locals just looking for somewhere with a bit of colour.”


This is Chris, the store manager. Out the back of the shop is a large room ideal for workshops and signings, used by gaming groups on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They open a little later then.


The comics selection is one black case of about eighty books built of Judge Dredd, Batman, The Walking Dead and Warhammer. They also have on sale key rings, die-casts and brushes; board games, tobacco cases and the United Rizla Papers of Benetton.


The Nerdtopia flyer, with £1 off any large tea or coffee. Hot! They also do a 10% student discount.

In my dream scenario, comics readers are treated as the over 25s and allowed to mix strips, beer and daylight if they so choose, without awaiting allocated convention days. We’re all responsible drinkers, except for the Whovian cosplayers. The next best thing is this social model of selling coffee with comics. The late Jack Brodies in Camden sold Dr. Octopus and orange juice, and I’m told Plan B Books in Glasgow has Satrapi and Sumatra, and that Dublin City Comics and Collectables does Kickass and Kitkats.

I’d taken the 8a there, but it’s really a ten minute stroll back to the city. First, the bladder must be emptied and John points me out to the back room. Then another doorway. a tall enclosure stretching to the celing, it’s outer walls on each side an assuring police box blue welcomes me to travel the streams with the technology within.

Nerdtopia are located at 86 Stranmillis Road, Belfast, BT9 5AD. Here’s a link to their Facebook page.

*Andrew Luke is currently finishing writing the Looking For Work series of books for the Social Security Agency of Northern Ireland.

Interview with Gar Shanley About New Book ‘Romantic Mayhem’

With the release of a new anthology of Irish comics along the theme of romance, I pulled up a candlelight and soup for a date with editor and publisher, Gar “Uncle Fugger” Shanley.

Andy Luke: You’ve assembled sixteen Irish artists to pull together 52 pages of love comics. From my view, it seems they’re drawing on the heritage of the genre. Is this fair, and was the subject matter a nod to the musicality or populist appeal of the theme, perhaps lesser tapped among today’s zombie market?

Gar Shanley: The genre of the romance comic seems deader than a zombie which I think is a pity because they were popular and, had they survived, they would have played a part in keeping comics from being as purely associated with sci-fi as they are today. Romance comics might have advanced and matured (as sci-fi comics have done …um …maybe) and who knows what could have come of it. What really interested me about these comics was the way they pandered to the (supposed) concerns of young girls. Such sensitive stories, often involving a heroine who worries about how she is perceived by others or what some boy thinks of her. It’s very different to the gung ho of boy’s fare of the time. Interestingly, there is a notable difference between U.S. romance comics and British ones from the late 50s to 60s and early 70s. The British heroines are often quite confident and, despite their better judgement, have fallen for some hapless twit who needs sorting out. I recommend Valentine Picture Library for anyone interested. Some of the stories found there are actually very funny in a ‘laughing with’ as opposed to a ‘laughing at’ way.

Anyway, I thought the genre would be a good jumping off point for an anthology but contributors were free to take things in any direction no matter how tangential. Most stuck to the familiar conventions though. The collection is eclectic but coherent. Everyone gave it their best.

Collectively, we are known as National Tragedy. That’s the imprint name dreamt up by Hilary and Ian over coffee. We might do another anthology or two or fifty or none. We’ll see. If we do the theme/jumping off point will change each time.

AL: It’s a more-ish, representing collection of Irish comics artists; trusted names known by ICN readers. Elida Maiques was one I didn’t know and her weblog has some very pretty pictures giving a fashion item element to the package. Knowing Phil Barrett and Deirdre deBarra are in there, I think this would appeal well to readers of Solipstic Pop or Phonogram. How surprised were you (knowing the artists), by what they added to the dreams in your head? What were the group’s influences?

Elida Maiques

GS: With my own collaborations and Tommie’s great cover I wanted to stick to a recognisable send up of the genre’s conventions and provide a few pegs from which to hang the overall collection. I thought that way the others would veer off in all sorts of directions – although I did not prompt anyone to do so. However, everyone had a good look at the Digital Comics Museum and Cover Browser and we all ended up coming from roughly the same place, which surprised me. Contributors brought their own thing to their tales though – John gave things a modern realist twist and Cathal added a large dose of Douglas Sirk. Mindpuss brought the very bizarre body horror (he’s an odd un and no mistake) and Elida did a Fellini on it. (I don’t really see her work as “fashion item” myself. I think it’s very surreal, imaginative and just plain good. You should try and pick up her own mini-comics at Independence Day). Deirdre and Paddy took the look of the original fare and stuck authentically and perfectly to it, not overselling the gag element. Archie brilliantly combines the old romance style with the old EC style – proper narrative art storytelling from him too. Luke F. is probably the guy who thematically ran furthest with the ball, as in right off the pitch and down the road. I like his two pages a lot. He’s unique. Hilary and Ian provide a splash of vibrant spacious ker-powness/lushness amongst the denser content. Al and Davy bring an old school IPC touch which really adds to the eclecticism and Philip did a great job illustrating and very cleverly designing John’s text story. Last but not least, for me the biggest laugh comes in a promo for cigarette filters courtesy of National Tragedy ad man Papa Hotel.


AL: If I’m at launch party at 18 Candem Street Lower in Dublin on  Saturday April 14th from around 7pm I can get a copy. Or at the Independents’ Day Zine Fair on Sunday April 22nd. Or 2d in June. How else may I get hold of the book?  There a few different editions?

GS: There’s no online shop yet but contributor Paddy Brown (you should see his on the nail take of the 60s/70s Brit girl’s comic in RM) will be selling it in Belfast and we’ll get it in as many comic shops as possible. The first run is 300 only and also there is Archie’s excellent deluxe Blurb format. The regular edition is a cheap and cheerful affair. Nothing fancy production value wise. I’m thinking of future editions that will be a bit more fancy pants but a few quid dearer. Part of the reason I proposed this anthology was that I heard of a means by which we could get something involving a lot of colour put together for half the usual price. It’s an experiment of sorts.

AL: How much of the style of your weblog Fugtheworld has worked it’s way into the scripts, and can we expect to see the beloved Uncle Fugger blog in book form some time? It would sit very nice next to a Charlie Brooker collection.

GS: There’s a bit of Fugger in my four RM collaborations but I was trying to keep to the more conventional side of my creative self. That doesn’t mean I was compromising, I was just working that way because it suited the project and I love the results (I’m very fuckin lucky to work with artists like Deirdre, Paddy and Archie). I am likely to do anything on the blog. was actually originally a comic called Fugger but there wasn’t that much of a response to it in comparison to the others I’ve done. The blog has a regular following, nothing massive. I’m thinking of putting something together for regular readers of the blog to send off for. I was recently inspired by a small exhibition of the work of Howard Finster. I’d like to do some comics in that style and also rope in some old friends of mine who used draw amazing comics many many moons ago. We’ve discussed it. I think the next comic I do (anthologies aside) will be Fugger. Not sure if I’ll collect the blog together as a book soon. It’s there if you want it for free. Fugger in print would be original and mainly illustrated material.

Thanks Gar. To see a preview of Romantic Mayhem, check out the accompanying weblog.


What is Comic Barcamp? [By Gar Shanley]

The following is a piece written by Gar Shanley to help promote the Comics Barcamp Belfast event of 2011. Half of the piece is an interview with me so I’ve taken the liberty of reprinting it here, HOWEVER, you should all visit Gar’s website as he is a very funny man, and a pleasant man too.



I awoke in the dead of night to find Andy Luke at the bottom of my bed again. “I’m thinking of arranging a Comics Barcamp”, he whispered. “What’s a Barcamp?” I asked.


He answered: “ describes it as ‘an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants who are the main actors of the event.’

He continued: “A barcamp isn’t a bunch of creatives getting pissed in a pub, though there’s room for that. It’s a conference, very structured. The rules are that you must learn something or go somewhere where you can. More importantly everyone must contribute something. This could be a talk, a ride to the destination, crash space, breakfast, t-shirts, headed notepaper or time. There’s a lot to a barcamp, also different ways of doing it. The central crux is knowledge transfer and pooling.”

“So basically, everyone shows up at a destination, says what they would like to do and a roster/schedule is drawn up?” I said.

Andy nodded and elaborated: “I’d like to do a piece on comics writer pitching, and if someone asks, I’ll talk about my external funding experiences. Schedule expectations are fluid. People can register their interest in presenting a particular subject online before the event. It is not until the morning of the camp, where this is fixed on an open grid structure – a wall-plan in the reception lobby of the day’s events which will run across two conference rooms. Arrive at a reasonable hour and you get to pick your slot. So in short, it’s disorganised until it isn’t. A central organising committee should shape organically. Barcamp is in the hands of you.”

I asked Andy where such an event could take place.

He answered: “Blick Studios on the Malone Road is a lovely arts conference centre at an affordable price. Neither date nor venue are fixed at this time. The biggest issue among my concerns is sponsorship. Ideally, no money should change hands. Donations are investment. So perhaps Forbidden Planet might donate the £100 for one of the rooms, and 50 or 100 of their bags to hold conference packs. A local graphics company might donate £50 for the second room and some headed notepaper. An arts shop might donate note paper and pens etc. Traditionally, barcamps work on a tiered sponsorship system with the biggest sponsors being rewarded a higher marketing profile through the event as in bigger logos on name-badges. ”

He went on: “The venue ideally has wi-fi. It’s possible that the organising committee could operate through a back-channel web-chat. IT Barcamps have a lot of activity with central twitter hashtags, presenters providing their informal sessions in the form of an online powerpoint, document etc. The event could be live-streamed to remote goers.”

I asked Andy if this kind of event has this been done before in relation to comics.

“I don’t know if anyone’s ever done a comics barcamp before,” he answered. “ The socially structured Caption is the closest I can pinpoint. If there’s a comics stall, it’ll be communal but I think this might be where rucksack sales come in.”

Andy then concluded by saying: “I would like to invite some local professionals outside of comics work to re-grow the populism. Obviously, comics folk are lovely people, jubilantly casting off chains of solitude – but sometimes as we do so we get our own heads up arses. I blame the drink. Guinness!”

Then Andy vanished, as if he was never there, and I was left thinking the idea was ambitious but equally doable, Andy’s idea sounded like a very good one. Watch this space for further developments.

If you are still uncertain as to what a Barcamp is exactly watch these lovely people:

And here’s a useful links by Andy:



SHERIDAN COTTAGE SPECIAL: Caption – Away with the Fairies

The French have Angouleme, were a whole town literally is populated by comics types. Americahas the San Diego Comic Con, a bustling business strip, sea of traffic, sales booths and sponsored panel events. The British have Caption, which is 150 people on Oxford University grounds, or a suburban community centre. Each year Caption is a different festival, through its adoption of a different theme, yet those who try it once re-attend in future years. Treasured by professionals and hobbyists alike, Caption is seventeen years surviving. This year their theme is ‘Away with the Fairies’ and I figured it were a good time to round up a few of these regulars and email them about the mechanics of attending and running Caption.

escape caption

The Escape panel: Woodrow Phoenix, Ryan Hughes and Paul Gravett. Photograph by Daryl Cunningham

Jenni Scott (comics journalist and academic), was part of the original committee, and after a five or six year absence returned, to help ease in a new committee and out of a love for the event. Sharing houses with members of those committees afforded her the ability to use, “a whole infrastructure available to them, a bunch of contacts, and a history; and of course various war-scarred veterans of CAPTION-running that they could ask for help or hints”.

Andrew: The experience as both a show-runner and a punter has given you a great vantage point.

Jenni: That last bit could easily be a disadvantage; we all have our own feelings on what CAPTION is really all about, and I think in the hand-over from one committee to the next that’s something that’s always run the risk of changing and mutating and the concomitant risk of in-fighting. I say risk — each group brings its own unique feel to it, and that’s a strength — but a new committee could have aimed to make CAPTION much bigger, for instance, and while that would be a laudable intention I personally would have had doubts as to its feasibility and desirability. It’s amazing that CAPTION has done as well as it has, in successfully handing over the running of the event not just once but twice.

Andrew: What advices can you impart from occupying those two roles, that those in similar areas might bear in mind ?

As far as advice to others is concerned, well. I suppose it would come down to the following things, most of which were covered by Jeremy in an article in the SpaceCAPTION1999 programme. 1) Find a good, laid-back venue with enough different spaces that you can have reasonably separate events at the same time. 2) Make sure it’s on one site (the split site at GlasCAC 91 was the reason we did CAPTION in the first place) and make damn sure it’s got a bar (absolutely vital — you can have a minimal con at a pub perfectly well, but don’t try having a con without a bar. Ever. Even in America.) 3) As far as organizers are concerned, get a good group of you together and make sure you meet fairly regularly — you will prompt each other into doing stuff and thinking of new ideas. 4) Just bloody do it. Even if it’s not perfect, it will be better next time, probably, and it will have actually happened as opposed to never quite.

Dan (Hartwell) was chairman of Caption between 2006-2008. I ask him about the public face of Caption, he doesn’t really see that as a necessity.

“Caption is already almost an institution, so it doesn’t really need the dynamic publicity of a brand new con….I’m not really one for hanging out on message boards and the like anyway, I just prefer face to face interactions really. It’s not about basking in the glory, as long as people come and have a good time I’m happy”.

Jenni backs this up with an anecdote about a panel with a Surrealist theme in a previous year, chaired by a chair. Caption is shaped as much by its attendeesas its committee. Its they who fill several A2 scribble pads, design tarot card sets, attend and explore creativity through workshops and make 24 minute comics. Panel discussions are intellectual, business, or entertaining hyper-ego. Somewhere else, a Reduced Theatre company delivers The Invisibles in ten minutes, “bloated and decadent take on Grant Morrison’s super-hip series featured rampant baldness, scrumpy snakebite smart-drinks and a chorus of bloodthirsty mutant badgers.” Or perhaps men wearing crash helmets beat each other senseless with six-foot cardboard cut-outs to the music of James Kochalka. In the bar, I could easily wind up chatting to D’Israeli or Monkeys Might Puke’s Dan Lester, or the Kirbyesque Martin Hand. Within ear-shot of Karrie Fransman, who has just been picked up by The Guardian broadsheet, Douglas Noble, Al Davison, or Rich Johnston. Its this attitude of professionals and hard-working hobbyists sitting together informally which has earned Caption so much respect.

Andy Luke Caption Jam 2008

Myself, taking down a Jam exhibition at Caption 2008. Photograph by Damien Cugley.

Local autobiographical cartoonist behind Alleged Literature’s TWS, Jeremy Dennis,

Andrew:  I’m guessing you must have barely broken even in those days with low admission costs, 10% sale or return and non-profit auction  It seems these were conscious choices ?

Jeremy: Caption is and always has been a non profit making event. The original pot was raised by all the committee members putting in £10 as a founding membership. When we found at the end of the day (it was a one-day event in the early days) that we’d not only raised a substantial donation for the London Cartoon Centre with a very successful charity auction, but also made a considerable profit, we tried to give the profit to the LCC. They requested instead that we run a similar event the following year, using the proceeds, so we did some research, got some advice and ran it again the following summer. We made some mistakes, and lost quite a lot of money, but the excess from the first year bailed us out — starting Caption’s heavy year/lean year pattern where a cheap but popular convention would subsidise a more expensive convention the following year with lots of guests or whatever. Of course, we don’t set out to make money, but I’d still like to say thanks to the many members, supporters, workers and friends, whose generosity has kept Caption afloat and solvent — which, as far as I’m aware, it always has been.

Caption Away With the Fairies

Selina Lock with her partner, Jay Eales, is one half of Factor Fiction Press, and has been to a fair few small and large comics festivals, as a stall-holder and a guest. When Caption’s previous committee announced its retirement in 2005, Jay, Selina and myself joined Dan in being the first to ensure it survived.

Selina: Prior to getting involved in comics I’d had been part of online Pratchett and Doctor Who fandom since 1996. Blimey! This included participating in, and organising lots of real life meets. I’ve made some really good friends through fandom, so it’s always been a big part of my social activities.

Andrew: As a fan and show-runner, what does Caption do differently that you’re particularly pleased with and how rewarding is that as a part of your life beyond 2000?

Selina: One of the things I love about Caption is that selling comics is not the main focus of the event. It’s more about creativity, having a go at things and celebrating creativity. Every other comics event we attend involves us sitting behind a stall selling our comics, which can be great and is essential to getting our work out there. However, Caption always gives us more of a chance to chat to other creators, attend panels and workshops and lounge around the bar. That’s why we’ve attended every Caption since 2000, and why we volunteered for the committee when it looked like Caption might disappear. Of course, we don’t get much chance to lounge now we help run it!!

Dan Hartwell echoes Selina’s words of self-empowerment through investing energy in a worthwhile endeavour,

Dan:  Finding out if I was capable of doing something like this, I was very happily relieved to find that the last two Captions went down well. Here’s hoping the this one comes off without a hitch too.

Over the years Caption spawned around twenty-five issues of a magazine, and has organised several mini-showings of its events around town. I’ve used Caption to work with other storytellers, and in August, to host a one-month showing of ten cartoonists an Oxford art gallery. Its also a great place to rig up ideas promote attitudes of creative energy, respect, fun and profit share for cartoonists. “Caption is a celebration of the medium and a chance to catch up with old friends”, said Oli Smith, co-author of Bloc.

This year the ‘Away With the Fairies’ theme includes events hosted by Asia Alfasi, Garen Ewing, Sarah McIntyre and Jimi Gherkin. Caption 2009 occurrs in Oxford at the East Oxford Community Centre on 15-16 August. For more details see and

Its also worth mentioning that Jimi Gherkin is managing the Alternative Press Festival 2009 which happens in London between Wednesday 29th July – Sunday 2nd August 2009. Together with Veri Ceri, Gareth Brookes and Peter Lally theres a load of stuff happening. The event includes an anthology including the works of Mark Pawson and Roger Sabin, film screenings, talks and live music from Resonance FM. For more information visit

alternative press festival 2009 alternative press fair 2009

The Birmingham International Comics Show and Community Collaboration: The Shane Chebsey Deal pt.2

Over 2008 I wrote weekly for, 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.


Continued from last week…

Andrew: The Birmingham International Comics Show is going into its third year now and you’re one of the co-organisers of this. I’m guessing for the folk who don’t ‘get’ small press and indy comics, this might seem like an alien jump, from selling photocopied black and whites to playing host to Mike Mignola and introducing Hunt Emerson on stage. For the sake of those folks could you tell how you got involved in this and explain the role you play and the structure of something at this level?

Shane: Well Andy, as you might know, in 2002 I sent out questionnaires to a few hundred comic fans asking them what they would want from a smallzone convention. I wanted to do a little event in Birmingham exposing the small press to a general public totally unaware of its existence.
However, I never completed this project and then Pat Findlay came along and did a great job with the first couple Web & Mini Comics Things, and I put the whole thing on the back burner, while at the same time being very inspired by Pat’s simple yet successful formula for a small press event.
Then in May 2006 I got chatting with James Hodgkins at Bristol and we discovered that we both wanted to do a show in Birmingham.
He knew the mainstream side of things and I knew small press and Indy, so along with Andy Baker who knows how to put on events, we decided to do one show that was more than just a big comic mart.
My reason for being involved is to promote the medium of comics, especially UK comics, and even more especially small press comics.
It was my idea to give self publishers the discount on tables, and my idea to give them equal footing to promote their books in the main hall.
Some people don’t like it, but I feel very strongly about it.
So to answer your question: To me, doing BICS is just an extension of what I try to do with smallzone.

(l-r Shane, James Hodgkins and Andy Baker by Declan Shalvey)

Andrew: I might think with your engagement with the comics shows and the emergence of LUC and hopefully its legacy, Smallzone might be powering down some?

Shane: Smallzone is still growing, but I am being pickier about what titles I’ll carry these days, simply because of the workload involved in stocking stuff I know won’t sell.
I think the LUC method is a very effective way for new publishers to try out their books without having to go through the smallzone route, so I really encourage folks to use the stall and support what Oli is doing.

LUC is almost like the perfect training ground for self publishers. It’s an opportunity to get direct feedback on their stuff for a very low price not to mention get a good indication of sales potential.

The Smallzone website works really well, despite the naff design, and I have some regular retailers who buy stuff from me, so Frontline is the next big project I’ll be expanding on after BICS has finished this year.
I’m also developing lots of stuff at Scar Comics at the moment which will see the light of day next year.

Andrew:  Frontline….that’s the Smallzone Distribution Catalogue? I understand it’s on CD nowadays. I’ve not seen a copy, could you perhaps tell us a bit more about it – and of the comics in there that have you particularly excited?

Shane: The new incarnation of Frontline is still in development. I want to get it right, so you’ll have to wait and see on that one I’m afraid.

 Big festivals like BICS are off-putting to me. I find there’s not enough coat hangers, air conditioning and seating. Mind you, I think you’re playing the game, with space between tables, interesting venues, a coffee area, and a big bar festival night. Still, will I ever be satisfied? Apart from that you and a number of the people are utter gems, why should I pay my admission fee this year ? How is BICS helping to build my moon on a stick?

Shane: Hey… BICS isn’t for everyone, I know that.
We basically put on the kind of show we’d love to go to ourselves, and invite like minded folks to join us for a very small entry fee when you consider what’s happening at the show. Hell… the goodie bags alone are worth more than a weekend pass!

Over 50 self publishers will be exhibiting this year, and we have made sure plenty of press will be attending so that Indy creators (and everybody else) get lots of exposure.

As well as the two large exhibition rooms there are events running all weekend in the Theatre, plus discounts on the Dark Knight at the IMAX.

miniportrait - shane chebsey

It’s a big show by UK standards (bigger than Bristol this year), so we have to charge for stuff as it’s totally self financed, but we think we offer very good value for money. Where else can a family of 5 meet their heroes and be entertained for a weekend for just £35?
Also, even though it’s a big show, we like to think it’s a very personal show with a friendly atmosphere.

Unfortunately even with the air conditioning turned up to full – as it was last year – 1500 – 2000 people in one room is going to be a bit on the warm side.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a major convention where this isn’t the case.

As you know I’ve been involved with both Caption and LUC recently, and I was thinking lately to the trajectory that comics festivals are on. One of the better ideas I could come up with as a workable model was to adopt a Page 45 style publicity approach. For example, having rising talents like Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and The Comics Village Outlaws appear headlining on flyers with, say Chris Claremont or Joe Quesada further down the billing. (The rationale of course being, that the fans of those guys will inevitably seek them out)
After my snide remarks in this column about A-listers potentially being funded by small pressers, I notice you’ve got the notorious Dave Sim Ladykiller in this year. This seems an acknowledgement of the importance and validity of a whole portal of indy and smallpress publishers.
I guess that’s a long way of asking where you see the festival scene in this country as going ? Is there room for new takes on it, new frequencies and durations, and in what shape might others be having a go?

Shane: We don’t have Dave Sim, but I think Bristol are looking at getting him next year. Small pressers don’t pay for A – lister’s hotels and flights, we do.
The table money raised by exhibitors whether they be small press or big press all goes to the cost of hiring the venue. That’s how much it costs, so we work out a table price based on that cost.

The Pro UK names who support the show pay their own way too, which is something not all folks realise. The support we get from folks like Duncan Fegredo, Charlie Adlard, John McCrea, Liam Sharp, Tony Lee and Staz Johnson is priceless.
These guys have a passion for comics which goes far beyond doing them for a job.
I think it’s fine to give Smaller creators top billing if your show is supported by say the art council to help you promote your agenda. For us that’s not an option as we need numbers through the door to make our money back, so we need the big names in big letters.

The 2D show in Derry did a wonderful job of highlighting small press (hell they even had me as a guest… that was a shock I can tell you), along with bigger names. They had money put into it to do just that, with support from the Arts Council and local government. Unfortunately Birmingham City Council are not interested in supporting BICS for reasons I’m not at liberty to go into here. To cut a long story short, they asked us to jump through some hoops and we said stick your hoops up your ass.

Andrew: Hey Shane. I’m not boycotting BICS. I gave it days of agonising exposition. Leaning against a stained glass window, hand to my temple.

Still, table prices are too steep, and they have been for years. BICS makes concessions and reservations for small pressers and there’s a global recession on. Over years other jumping jesus upstarts will come along and say no to excessive fees. I’ll certainly never attend the Thing Show as a dealer. I know your views are generally anti-boycott on this matter, and I’ve asked my readers something maybe you can answer. Is there room for negotiation? Possibly in trade for duty service, or swaps?

Shane: I guess my previous answer sort of covers that question Andy. No one has to pay the table prices, if they don’t want to exhibit. That’s how much we have to charge to at least break even.
Have you seen how much it costs to exhibit at a major book fair?

We do cut deals with folks. If a publisher brings a guest along with them for example we give them a big discount, or a free table. If an attending pro does a panel for us, we might give them a free table.

I think big shows are important and help bring attention to creators, and I think small events are equally important as they also help build a creative community as well as sell comics and there’s a place on the convention calendar for both.

Chebsey Pub Thing 2006Above: Shane at the Post-Thing Pubmeet 2006, with comics journalists Barry Renshaw and Leon Hewitt in the background. Photo by Andrew Luke.

Shane: Interesting about your comment on The Thing. I’m not sure really what happened there, but it almost seemed like folks didn’t like the idea of Pat earning money for all his hard work. Overall he’s done a great job of raising the profile of small press comics, and I really think he’s due some financial gain for that.
Or is there something more?
Sorry mate you are the one asking the questions here. Continue…

Andrew: My problem was never with Pat making a financial gain, or to lay it out properly ‘a wage’. The biggest problem (of which I have a few), was the wage gap. With Pat making around £5,000 on dealers tables per event, half of which may total towards the following years costs. A large percentage of exhibitors don’t meet half of their £60 table costs.

Quite frankly I’d much rather you, Hodgkins et al made a wage on BICS. There’s a genuine investment by you guys on a grassroots level over a period of time. You’re decently respectful to a number of artists, a large number of whom speak about it, and who have gone on record. If you were to do ‘something less’, eg. resorting to mean spiritedness, condescending attitudes or conscious misrepresentation… well it would be far more difficult to organise a collective of artists.

It must be a very stressful process putting together BICS – there’s a cast of hundreds who will help make the event over the weekend. Could you single out ten names who have been at the forefront of helping put BICS together ? Sheridan Cottage will take responsibility for any bruised egos omitted in the week before the festival.

Shane: This is going to sound really conceited, but 90% of the work behind BICS is done by the three Organisers. We are all control freaks! 🙂
We have had help from Paul Birch, especially with proof reading 2006 – 2007, and also with press. We also have volunteers on the day, whom I suspect would prefere to remain nameless.

We are indebted to Mike Alwood and Dave Morris for advice and assistance, and to those special guests who make the show more than just a mart, I think they all know who they are.
Thanks to Hunt Emerson, and Michael Wright at DC must be given for various reasons, and also to the two Daves at Nostalgia and Comics – Birmingham’s local comics shop – who have been strong supporters of the show since day one allowing us to adorn their large windows with huge BICS posters each year.
I could go on, we’ve had amazing support from all areas of the industry since we started doing these shows, but the thought of attempting a comprehensive list, and then forgetting somebody terrifies me.

Andrew: In the times that we’ve known each other as major comics network people, I’ve drifted away from comics to maintain my own sanity and creativity. This has occurred with a number of other folk in this area in the last decade. Yet you’ve remained a constant figure on the scene. How do you do it? Are you on some sort of reality sanity practice that we all should know about?

Shane: I guess you have to look at why people get into the small press scene.
For me it’s a simple matter of loving the medium, and having a clear aim in everything I do, that has never changed.
That aim has never been to make money, so I guess I’ll never be disappointed.

Andrew: Thankyou Shane Chebsey, who has as you reckon has been quite accommodating given BICS is but a few weeks away at time of interview. Over the course of our interview I asked Shane if he could find me a gophering job to keep me out of trouble, so I’ll maybe see a few of you around.


The Birmingham International Comics Show is a proper big grand UK comics festival managed by Shane, James Hodgkins and Andy Baker. At a glance it features such luminaries as Dave Gibbons, Neil Cameron, John Cassady, Charlie Adlard, Dean Ormston, Sean Phillips, Chris Weston and  and Oliver Lambden. Theres also the grand return of one of the more entertaining scenes in UK comics festivals – Hunt Emerson and the Black Country Cats on the Friday night stage. By clicking on the image you can view more details of the events, order tickets and find places to stay. The event has a new e-forum too which I expect to be filling up any time now. And to find out more about buying comics online and through the post, theres another below.

Next Sunday, is a write up of my experiences organising the Caption Comics Collective at a gallery – with a list of pointers for folk considering similar. Its far from light hangover reading, its potent, though do come around. Goodnight.

No Barcodes Comics Market / Mike Allwood, and Comics Village at the Bristol Expo

Over 2008 I wrote weekly for, 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.


Welcome to Sheridan Cottage, updated nearly weekly through to June. I’ve been looking at social and economic aspects of comics as typified through festival and distribution. Today, the small and large – from the growing phenomenon of the mini-comics-con to a look at Comics Village at the Bristol Comic Expo, and an interview with organiser Mike Allwood.

The London Zine Symposium takes place next Saturday in London where people can buy their word and pic tonerifficks and exhibit one comic or zine free of charge. And I guess there’s nothing to stop you dealing discreetly and politely out of backpacks, or talking to members of the public about your wares. There’s online radio, workshops, readings, exhibitions, walks and talks to entertain. Filmscreenings and screenprintings. That’s Sunday April 27th at The Rag Factory, 16-18 Heneage Street, London E1 5LJ. There are more details on the website

The Brighton Artists Book Fair at The Phoenix is up this Friday 24th May, and if you can’t make that the exhibition runs accross Brighton from next Saturday (26th) until June 7th. More details at

Hot off the presses
, the comics entrepreneur pragmatic Oli Smith announces No Barcodes, the Camden Comics Mini-Con from 10-6pm on Saturday 31st May. Featuring cheap food, glorious scenery (see video for more on this). sketching tables, entrance is free, and exhibitors a small fee. There’s also an after-drinks event. If you’d like to exhibit, email camdencomics at hotmail

Press release available here
Facebook Event listing here

BICE website header

The Bristol Comic Expo runs from the 9th to 11th May this year, and will feature a number of high profile guests and events ( for full details). Comics Village will be on-site with their very own room, opening at noon on Saturday when there’s a comics-related family fun day of sorts. An expo treasure hunt, Guess the Stack O’ Comics, and Design-a-character competition all offer prizes in The Comics Village Fete.
Comics Village Mayor Craig Johnston, “design a brand new character, or a new interpretation of an old favourite, colour in the template and have it pinned on the wall. The judges will pick their favourites and the winners can choose from a large selection of prizes kindly donated by Diamond UK. Colouring pencils and templates will be provided at the Fete, and prizes will be awarded in various age categories”
Theres also a Bric-A-Brac table;
Craig: the cupboards have been cleared out and the shelves are now bare. Superheroes, manga, SF, from hardcovers to paperbacks, it’s a chance to sample something different, to try something new, for a low cost.

The Sunday will retain elements of this at the Village, though feature a more critical edge with a Sheridan Cottage panel, possibly with representatives from Caption, Bugpowder, London Underground Comics. Expect it to include discussion of small venue/large venue, unionisation, and tickling analysis. I’ll also be distributing a special print-only edition of Sheridan Cottage – a biting manifesto that will bring critical cries of “that’s uncalled for”, “that’s harsh, man”, and “Well he kinda has a good point – maybe this is the way forward”. Copies of my comics and the collected Sheridan Cottage print book will be available throughout the weekend. Stay tuned…. If you’d like to be involved contact CraigJohnsonEsq at aol dot com or myself at drew dot luke at 

I’ve traditionally kept a low profile at the Bristol Comics Expo so I thought an interview with organiser Mike Allwood might help put the event into perspective.

Andrew Luke: Who is Mike Allwood ? A google gives me someone associated with ‘weed management’, and I know you’ve been involved in comics for absolutely ages.

Mike Allwood : Weed Management? That is what Bill and Ben do is it not?

I did spend over 12 years working in Bristol Comic shops albeit I was involved in shows before then. Now I do not work in the industry, I’m semi retired and am back working with an Interior fabrics company.

The show is a ” hobby” if you like, love doing it and will do as long as it’s FUN to do.

Andrew: How many years have you been running comics events ? Could you take us through a speed history as a participator and as an organiser with some hint to depth and scale ?

Mike: 1ST show was in Taunton 1992 Sci Fi & Fantasy Fair, all of 10 tables and one guest artist!
In 1998 UKCAC had closed its doors and Kev Sutherland suggested that maybe Bristol would be a good place, so Comics 99 was born and we worked together till 2004 when Kev went off to work for the Beano and his school work shops. I took over the show, changed the name to Comic Expo and have been running the show since.
I have over the years been involved with Sci Fi Cons, Doctor Who shows, Marts, the Animated Exeter Festival for the last 4 years, produced the only Arthur C. Clarke convention in 2004. Shop signings etc etc.

Andrew: Can you let us in on a few basic statistics ? What sort of region of footfall have you traditionally seen at this event ?
Mike: Last year over 3,000 fans turned up! Best yet. Previous attendance was circa 2,000 plus.

 How many dealers tables are there ?
Mike: We have over 200 tables and 25 Booths

Andrew: How many of these dealers tables are small pressers tables ?
Mike: I have around 50% off the hall as Indie Press, now we do not use the small press and have not for a couple of years, the standard is waaaay beyond the old term of small press which has that 90s Photocopy feel about it, so we coined the term UK Indie Press.

Andrew: Is there a variation on table prices ?
Mike: Yes Indie Press pay ½ of the Dealer rate

Andrew: You’ve got a film night, and there’s the Eagle Awards dinner for those who can afford it, but can you tell me about the other deliberately inclusive social activities ? What’s the bar atmosphere like for example ?

Mike: We have the ART JAM on the Sat night as an alternative to the dinner. We do not try to have too much organised events outside of the panel programme. There are plenty of Clubs, Bars and much more in Bristol to do!

Andrew: What’s coming up at Bristol new this year or of particular choice in personal recommendation ?

Mike: The HUGE Manga spotlight, we have creators from Japan, China, Germany, USA and Sweden this year. The Panini X factor talent search is new and the winner gets to see his / her story published by Panini. Really there is a packed programme, over 30 hours of talks, events, interviews and I believe one of our best line ups. The 3 headliners, Jim Shooter, Walt Simonson and Jim Starlin are all on stage at some time over the weekend for 1-2-1 interviews.

Andrew: The Expo has a very open-door attitude to the under 16s: kids in for free, 12-16 yr olds for a pound. Do you see much of a move beyond the perception that 30somethings are ‘the last comics generation’ ?

Mike: Yes and No, The fan base is getting older, a lot of us did start reading in the silver age and we’re still around!  Getting the Next Gen long is vital to the show and the industry, what better than free or a £1 way to do that. For the 1st time this year we have DC Thomson along and we have seen adverts in Dandy and Beano, another 1st for the show.

Andrew: How does festival management structure break down in terms of people ? (Is there a shared consensus of responsibility ?)

Mike: Every man for himself! No the show is pretty much what I say I would like to see at a show. Then the team have their say and then we all agree I was right in the 1st place!

Could you talk a bit about the promotional steps involved related to the expo ?

Advertising is the key on as many levels as we can manage to do, Adverts this year in CI, Neo, Sci Fi Now, Imagine FX, Markosia comics, 2000AD. Huge local press coverage in the lead up. We know the hard core comics fan will be there, it’s the Schools out reach programme, the What’s on guides etc to spread the word! Even local radio, newspapers…..
The website is vital as is all the net based groups, we have the support of a preview site and the comics village in getting the word out across the net.

Andrew: Do you manage to turn a wage for yourself by the festival’s end ?

Mike: That would be nice, but no. The show covers its cost and that is the UK is as good as it gets, Yes the US shows with 70-80,000 fans have full time teams …we get 3,000.
As I said I do not even work in the industry anymore but the support from the Pros / Publishers et all is FANTASTIC. It makes putting the show on a pleasure and I get to meet all my favourite creators!

Andrew: Would you agree that the DIY small press comics scene is predominantly representative of the productive UK comics industry ? And if so how do you go about catering to this ?

Mike: The Indie Press guys in the UK are in my opinion are 2nd to none. That is why half the hall is turned over to these guys. I will cap the number of dealers but will never, while we have space, turn away a Indie creator. I could turn the show into a big mart with guests, but that’s never going to happen at Bristol. They produce work of such quality and the opportunity to work in the Pro UK market are slim, so what a way to showcase these talented people.

Could you tell us some more about the Diamond UK day and how small pressers could plug themselves into that ?

Mike: The Diamond Day is aimed at the shops and stores, so not really for the indie press. However Diamond have taken space in the main hall, for the 1st time ever just so they can talk to the Indie guys. Again a sign that the Indie press is a force to be reckoned with in the UK!

(There’s word to the contrary from an unrecalled source – To book a place at this small pressers should email Mike Hollman at hmike at diamondcomics dot co dot uk  More details here – Andrew)

Andrew: What sort of comics do you yourself enjoy ? And are there any products or projections you’d like to give a mention to ?

Mike: …Time at the moment is tight and I am going “retro” with my current buying, the DH Magnus reprints ( did you know Walt Simonson has done the Con Book Cover this year, it’s Magnus and yes he’s my all time fave character!)
Dan Dare from Virgin is a delight to read, Death of the News Gods from DC has been superb.
The show will give me the chance to catch up on so many titles, last year I returned hone with long box of Indie, mainsteam , Manga and some cheap Batman packs!
Talking retro I am so looking forward to the new Flash Gordon!

Andrew: Are there any words of advice you’d like to give out to folks planning promotions of comics within a public venue ?

Mike: You have got to WANT to do it. I have been involved,  albeit the voice of caution at the end of a phone ! with Birmingham and the Inverness shows and more than happy to talk about all aspects of running Comic Conventions. Creator based is and always will be my remit. I said above 30 plus hours of events at Expo.

Andrew: Are there things you’d change about the festival that you’ve not had the time to implement this year ?
Mike: This year, well no would not change anything to be honest, after 10 years I would Hope / Think / Pray that the mix is good to go. A lot of the familiar but a few new tangents being added, More Manga, Film Night, DC Thomson along, Diamond talking to the Indie guys. Got to shake it a bit…It’s going to be fun!

Fuller details on the Bristol Comics Expo as and when they emerge at