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

Sheridan Cottage Special: The Coroners and Justice Bill


Killing the UK Comics Industry before it can step out of chrysalis into the success of the Japanese model?

Many have become aware of the latest controversy relating to cartoonist freedoms and sales in the last few weeks. Section 49 of The Coroners and Justice Bill which makes “illegal the possession of “prohibited images of children”. The consultation documents citation of a police raid on an individal in possession of powers, and the critical interpretation by individual police offers has grown worries. Telling tales too is the rejection of Obscene Publications Act definition of obscenity in the formative process of this “closing loopholes” legislation.

John Ozimek makes some points at The Register, worth a read.

This throws concerns. grounded, on manga translated and imported into the UK that may contain themes of sexual displays between juveniles. Certainly with mangaka’s work increasingly promoted by mainstream booksellers, if passed it will affect freedom to place orders. As recently as 1980, UK residents in Northern Ireland convicted practicing homosexuality have ended up on Sexual Offenders registers.

On The Thing message board thread campaigner GM Jordan take a more skeptical approach. Jordan writes,

“There was also the question of the use of the word ‘Image’. The Justice department told us when we contacted them about the article that the word ‘Image’ was in reference to still photographs; yet the dictionary definition is completely different. It is the visualisation of human, animal, object form as a statue, painting, photograph, film, cartoon etc”

GM Jordan’s article on how the bill may affect comics is enlightening. Jordan’s research and contrasts present an educationally based analysis. A visual from Tezuka’s Astro Boy presents virtue to me as just another student of comics, but may have a different interpretation by a Daily Mail cultureconsuming police officer. Jordan concludes with a quote from the former head of MI5, Dame Stella Rimington that supports his case. Full Article

Shane Chebsey has created an accompanying petition on The Downing Street Website.

Government Documentation

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008

Coroners and Justice Bill Section 49

Kenny Penman (on fine lines, and tilting windmills), and Paul O’Connell (on civil liberties and interpretive context) articulate onThe Comic Book Alliance group over at The Smallzone Ning Forum. O’Connell also links to the Backlash academic statement. Given the huge cross-proliferation between comics and academica, the petition by lecturers and research in cultural, media and social sciences studies this is a must read.’s Statement to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill Committee can be found at this link

The Backlash site appears to have the fullest information resources on this, given academic standards, as well as the faculty statement. As of last night GM Jordan put out this call to the ComicBook Artists Guild on The Ning Boards,

“A researcher for Jenny Willott MP has asked if anybody would be willing to go to Parliament and talk to her about the impact the Coroners Bill and Criminal Justice Act COULD have on the industry. If anyone based in London or around London is interested please email as soon as possible because we need to sort out the meeting. email: comicalliance (at)”

Opposition via lobby against the measures has been promoted via other known industry figures such as John Reppion and John Freeman The web is filled with masses of information on this.

On a somewhat related note, I recently discovered the work of Educational Activist Leonard Rifas. Off to read this promoted interview with him now.



Sheridan Cottage Updates

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 the twentieth Sheridan Cottage, and what is intended to be my final piece of comics journo-ism for some time. Nine months he says mercilessly, ah but with doubt, and oh, hope.

I’d like to say its all down to my involvement in re-launching Crisis (tipping Maxwell’s Earth) The truth is I’m sitting the final year of my degree – a mix made up of modules from Education and Human Development, History of Art, Sociology, Communications Media and Culture, International Relations and Film Studies. Oh, and Japanese.

This column went awright, didn’t it? I thought to round off I’d take a look at some of the areas I’ve covered over the run and see how things have played out.

That Gorramm Boycott

In the first column we reported on the steep issue of table costs at festivals. and the contentious and farcical effects of a small presser boycott. Before the article saw print I discovered I’d been named as a leading boycotter of the Web and Mini Comix Thing by London Underground Comics’ Oli Smith. Co-conspirator Leon Hewitt escaped with only a mild dose of ale tummy. It did get contentious though,
I take a holiday in India (6th-21st Jan)
Oli Smith tells’s Dan Fish I’m boycotting a major comics festival (Jan 20)
A thread of about 25 messages appears on the Thing message boards by the 22nd. (Organiser Pat Findlay deletes it and its not mentioned again. By then its gotten the LUC much publicity.)
Feb 2nd – I join the boycott of my own free will, concurring its a good idea.
Cliodhna Lyons and others making all sorts of assumptions about my nature as ‘mad’ and ‘scientist’.

(Pat makes another reference to emails between the two of us. Rather than his re-surfacing of these, they’re online here. Spoilers: It all ends in unpleasantness. Decide yourself.)

Instigator Oli Smith later challenges me with sabotaging ‘Low Energy Day’,
Oli was hoping to avoid overcrowding and create a social space.
Andy Luke was hoping to discuss the functionality of in a social space 
I back out, and Oli mentions it constantly, featured in Weekend Friends 2.

Can’t we all just get along ?
Next, happier times,

London Underground Comics

Approximarely a year old next week, Oli and THE Oliver Lambden among others have lined up a rather excellent looking one-year-aversary at the Prince Arthur Pub, London, Euston Station. The mart times with this years 24 Hour Comics Day, and Oli hopes the utility can fill the gap left by Gravett and ICA hosting of 24HR CMX Events. Check out the post here with the useful and informative YouTube vid.

Other Venues

A smart roundtable by Lyons, Dennis and Duff pushed the boat out further on thinking about new venues for selling comics. Jas Wilson had a rather interesting chat about this with me a few weeks ago. Jas has been shipping his book around as ‘a local product’, capitalising on community networks. Him & Her’s Smuggling Vacation is stocked at local hairdressers.

By Big Football Cup Match Day, Jas has approached landlords of his local pub about stocking copies of HIM AND HER’S somewhere prominent in the bar. I’m told half-time sales are very good.

There was also some talk about Olver and Laurence’s club nights. Some of these have been organised specifically to promote Tales From The Flat, with posters and cut-outs, and TFTF as a central image, and sales have been good. However, I did hear one tale of Oliver and Laurence showing up at a non-TFTF event and selling comics. Through word of mouth, their sales for that evening were in the hundreds. This is from a reliable source, but I’d treat it with a pinch of salt. Tasty.

For those who prefer the traditional route of shopping for comics around other comics venues I’ve also been informed that a leading comics mart dealer is seriously looking into opening mart days up to small pressers. I’m under embargo for divulging more details at present, but prep for it if you think you might like to add more exhibition tour dates in cities.

Maps At The Crossroads

Our two-part Maps At The Crossroads column delivered a snapshot of some of the comics scene on March 22nd in London, and probably generated more interest than anything else I’ve done.

I was told that the use of the Great Hall, Queen Mary University for an arts and crafts fair couldnt be arranged because of new decisions by the board of Governors relating to sales in that space. An Arts and Crafts event fell under the category of ‘non-commercial use’.  I reported that the Web and Mini Comix Thing was likely to be the last in that venue. Several months ago, another researcher got in touch with the news that the venue was now available for rent, at the price of 2,000pounds. This confirms analysis by Oli Smith.

Last weekend Pat Findlay announced the UK Web and Mini Comix Thing 2009 over at
Table costs appear to have remained the same as last year’s controversial hike.on a scale of 50pounds to 70pounds, depending on booking, and 3pounds per additional assistant. This has already generated some response on the forum.

Last year’s Thing, was, depending on who you talk to
“a great time”
“thanks for making it all possible”
“it was just dead”
“Nothing seemed to be was talking to one another….and what was with that panel ?”
“He treated us all like we were schoolkids”
“There was no coffee…for miles”
“The panel was even quite good”
“There were drawing pads on the stage”

I’ll be boycotting the Thing as an exhibitor this year. Ironically, this column will probably lead to one of the first table bookings!

Where did Jack Brodies Go?

Rich Johnston, Teacake Comics and many others were pretty excited about Jack Brodies, the Camden-based comics shop and gallery which also sold tea, coffee, pastries and cakes. In dialogue with David Bircham, he too was pretty excited. The shop looked great and aesthetically, it was a real pleaser.

David had been talking to me about the official launch party on the 22nd, and “seemed pretty excited by the buzz I’d generated, and the material I’d been linking to.” However, the line went down and Jack Brodies ceased trading sometime after March 16, 2008, less than a month after opening. A London Underground Comics source casually mentioned its closure Mid-May.

Daley Osiyemi stated, “We decided to put Jack Brodies on hold for now while we try and move the publishing side of the business forward”. (May 29) The storefront remains fully decorated with the shutters down.

Growing Your Own Comics Festival

There seemed to me to be a surge in mini-cons or ‘pubcons’ this year. Jimi Gherkin with effort has been promoting theHandmade and Bound Event in London on Saturday 8 November. Ooh, and theres also DJs and bands that evening.

Jimi’s event site has some great links for small press.

Such as the London-based Small Publishers Fair on 24-25 October

Notes On Content

I did a bit of mouthing off about political and ethical content in comics. I’ve not yet bought a copy of Cliodhna Lyons “Sorry I can’t take your call but I’m off saving the world” anthology, but it is out and available from various comic shops, Lyons tour dates and the website,

The Paper Tiger Comix War Anthology in aid of CAAT has still not been released. Its been in development for two years. Sean Duffield is likely to prioritise it if you donate some money or time to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) .

At ‘No Barcodes’ I also picked up the Do You Want To Kiss It Better?  collective’s first comic ‘Green’. “Printed on 100% recycled paper with inks based on vegetable oil from a press powered by wind turbines” It also features work by Rufus Dayglo and Leonie O’ Moore.

Truthfully, theres political agenda cartoonists aplenty if you want to find them – they just don’t bubble to the surface as often as folks more immersed in the comics community as I’ve been reading it..
So as much for me as for you,

John Stuart Clark (aka Brick) 
Cartoon Kate Evans
Kate Charlesworth
Luke Warm

Dan Lester

Dan Lester has been making good on his committment to produce one 24hr comic per month for a year. With one “noble failure” and a few close calls under his belt, a few of these are archived at his blog. ‘Who Is Dan Lester?’ and ‘Ivan’s Comic’ join ‘The New Adventures of Bruce Lee’ and ‘Broken Hippos’ at

His final piece in this series is due soon.

Comics At Markets

I’ve not yet had an opportunity to re-visit Oxford Market to sell comics, though a few dates from 17th December and another six dates over that period are open to me. Deirdre Ruane, Tom McNally and Aaron Murphy have expressed an interest in being involveed. I’ll put a flag up over when something comes up.

Bics 2008

A great success for me in terms of the social success. I got to hang with the organisers, professsionals and professionals. Socially, I was made aware regardless of whether folk have a good time as I did, that theres more of an excessive hedonism potential in large festivals. Small pressers get drunk and revel, but set them amongst professionals with established drinking records and things seem to be a little more uneven. The Friends of Shane Chebsey Foundation have asked that I not focus on  this too much. The Friends of Andy Luke League concur.

I also learned that Shane Chebsey’s Smallzone stake in Infinity & Beyond Comics, Shrewsbury, has within it ‘Heroes’, a coffee shop. Featured are a large white coffee called ‘The White Queen’ and other themed coffees and milkshakes, with names like ‘The Supersoldier Serum’.

Infinity & Beyond, 31 Castle St, Shrewsbury, SY1 2BQ. The mail order website is

Shane tells me that BICS 2008’s financial outcome this year, was that they “didnt lose any money”, and are “in the black”. Chebbo is quite “proud of what were achieved”.

“We all had a good time”, indeed. Most folk there can’t have failed to have been charmed by the two promoters of the Leeds Thought Bubble Festival, who seemed to be working every table in a calm, professional and friendly manner. I’d love to be able to make it this year.

And I got a rather awesome BICS T-Shirt for my gophering efforts.

Likewise with the charm were the reps for Derry’s 2-D Comics Festival. Local cultural sponsorship has enabled them to provide exhibitor space for free again next year. Word coming out of the event last year was quite complimentary. The date has been set (already) as (from recollection) 13-14 June, but why not drop David an email through a website visit to confirm ?

The Jam Factory Oxford

So far there has been no response from the venue regarding my interest in the institution of a written contract between them and their exhibiting artists. Anyone fancy some cyber-activism ?

Out of Office 

Expect to see a one-off Sheridan Cottage roundtable covering the issues raised here in the next six months. Co-hosted by myself and Matt Badham with a plethora of industry figures on board. In the meantime, the comments sections are still there.

I’ll be back, who knows when ? Sometimes folk need to get away from comics talk for a while. My feeling is that comics are the antidote to the rigours, and should remain in the background. Medicalisation is a dangerous game.

That said I’m anxiously anticipating my next comic pick-up, including Lamben and Smith’s Bloc. You wanna see the preview.

-Love and Well Wishes
Andrew Luke
Comics Journalist on Sabbatical

23 Things About Running Comics Arts Collectives in Public Galleries

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.


Running through August I oversaw an exhibition of the works of ten cartoonists at The Oxford Jam Factory Gallery Bar and Restaurant. With little experience in arts management and administration, I just dived in there and had a go. And it worked, and it failed, and we set examples and there are lessons to be learnt.

Friendships and professionalism are ill-suited for me to expound on the lessons I’m going to impart with examples. Particularly as the experience left me with almost as much bitterness as pride and warm glow. So treat this as a checklist, and adjust in tone relating to the number of exhibitors.


1. You should probably visit the venue a handful of times as a punter.

2. Talk to other exhibiting artists about how the gallery has treated them. Has the show been properly publicised with artists requirements met ?

3. Find out all you can about the gallery. Footfall, clientele, cost of exhibiting and how to apply. Arrange a proper professional business appointment with the gallery owner to do this, and take notes. Take lots of notes. In shorthand. Work those scribbles speeding. Keenest ear, write it all. Bring a colleague so the question-answer-dictation flow can be kept strong. How much does the venue cost and when is the money due? How much commission is to be paid per sale? When are applications due by, and what are the criteria? How tailored would the gallery be to sell mini-comics as well as originals and prints ? Do they have a web sale operation that you could tap into ? Can a full breakdown of items sold be provided so that artists individual accounting can be sorted after the group and gallery’s immmediate business has concluded ? Will the venue be used for anything else which might interfere with the space of certain artworks?

4. When you’re at the stage were it looks like a viable project, insist or demand on full documentation – a written agreement from the gallery about their responsibilites, and any compensation if they fail to deliver on their claims. Also, and this is more important, a written contract, one which details all of the fees and charges the gallery and sales there will impose upon you/your group. In addition to rent space, the big nasty VAT. My recent experiences incurred a hidden 17.5% VAT charge on sales. No laughing matter when placed atop venue space and a 30% commission. Do not rely on a gentleman’s agreement, get it in writing in advance. Also, what will the gallery impose on your selling ?

Enlisting Artists for a Group Show

With smaller venues and long-running shows its important to take into account these pointers,

5. Planning locally ? Think locally.
Local artists should always be given priority. Theyre more inclined to be able to plug in to supporting the facility’s offerings, such as on-site workshops, and ensuring the smooth running of what should never be a one-person operation (not voluntary at least) If the group is spread over areas, regionally clustered sub-groups need and should co-operate and look after one another.

6. The old adage of ‘its who you know’ comes into its fore here. Enlist your friends and those you see regularly. Go with people you can trust.

7. Inform your selection from the outset about the full details of the information you’ve gathered and what their responsibilities will be. Sharing details such as space allocated, advance planning and notification will allow the eventually assembled group plenty of parameters of movement. Construct an electronic information pack and make sure everyone understands the basic requirements of coming on board before the matter is settled.

8. Gather secondary information from your artists. Will they be available at the venue on the opening and closing days to fulfill their obligations ? Are there any holidays planned ? Other residencies or festivals or exams or work obligations theyre pinned to ? This is very important. Use your own judgement of course, but be prepared to be quite ruthless. Any problems must be dealt with as early as possible so that contigencies can be formulated. Collect phone numbers and preferred email addresses.

8andAhalf. Because I’ll be buggered if I bothered re-numbering, though this is IMportant. Again, it concerns the poobah VAT charge potential. If you have a VAT registered artist in the group, approach them about the possibility of putting the collective under their name. If they are willing to do this, they’ll be eligible for claiming all that back afterwards.


9. Even if the event is intended as a group endeavour, were weak spots appear, it assumes the form of a heirarchy. Certain individuals may be susceptible to ‘carrying the bag’ more than others. Don’t stand for it, put the foot down if needs be, and don’t stand for it.

10. Ensure that gallery fees are paid in advance, preferrably on the day of opening. Some galleries are fine being paid 14 days after the shows close. However with a group of individuals each paying a small amount, but one total bill to be met theres little room for hold ups. Its worth contacting the gallery for a bank account name, sort code and account number. In this way non-local artists can at least meet their financial obligations without having to be in the vicinity. Remember though to ensure artists confirm to you that they have made a transaction this way.

11. On workshops, tutorials, artists-in-residence. Talk to the group about these and get confirmations. Getting this set-up early will allow it to be factored into any pre-publicity and opening night announcements.


12. One or two of the artists in the group may be called upon to create a publicity image.This should be decided upon by the group as early as possible. The finalised image should be ready to be sent to the gallery two and a half to three months in advance to allow for changes.

13. It may not be necessarry to inform the public too far in advance of the exhibit. However a week before, flyers should have been well printed and posters should be in sandwich bars. If a gallery includes promotion as part of the deal, do make sure to supplement their efforts using local blogs and events listings, as well as talking to local press contacts. In our work in this area as well as the usual comics resource sites (Bugpowder, Forbidden Planet, Downthetubes and Paul Gravett’s Events Listing), I announced it on my own blog, and on Oxford’s dreamingspires community) Deirdre Ruane prepared an official press release with contact details for community arts contacts and Oxford’s DailyInfo sites. I’d also made a listing on, which has an option to put it around five other events sites.

Opening Day

14. By now frames should have been acquired very cheaply at charity shops or Wilkinsons. Hold onto the little corner edges. They can be mounted onto the wall and used to hold MOO cards or other small contact cards in. Begin your art selection process well in advance, and do not, do not leave the framing until the night before. There are revisions.

15. Make sure all artists are aware of their obligations on the opening day and that all tools required (hammers, nails, spirit levels, frames) are in the vicinity.

16. Any artwork posted in should be done so with the address double-checked, sent recorded delivery. However this detached approach is not recommended as it disengages from group participation and is an unequal distribution of labour.

17. All artists should arrive on time, not two or four hours late. However if they fail to meet schedule, don’t panic! If theres a floor plan, stick with it. If not, adopt a mercenary first come, first served get on with the job mentality. Another upside of having stragglers is that not everyone is clamouring for a small supply of tools at once,

18. Ensure that all artwork is properly labelled, with pre-prepared accompanying price label to a list for its immediacy. The gallery may provide stickers, but as with publicity, don’t wait about, and take the initiative. Make sure pricing instructions are clear. If a piece is not for sale as hung, mark as such. If prints are available, likewise. Make it clear to the gallery as to whether a sold item can be picked up immediately or should be left until the end of the exhibition. Punters should be aware of this also, tell. How much are you pricing your work at? I’d suggest enough that in total it’ll cover your costs four or five times over. Jeremy Dennis suggests, “Price it as much as you’re prepared to let it go for”.

19. Get very very drunk and or enjoying yourself on opening night. Although theres correlations between violence and exuberance you may have worked hard, done a difficult job and you should treat yourself to leaving the stress in history. Besides its much more fun than masturbation and better to talk about. We also had a visitors book and a few cheapo sketch blocks for both artists and visitors to play on.

Sometime after the Morning After The Morning After

19. Workshops, tutorials and artist-in-residence sessions are great for keeping the event live. They can act as an adoptable alternative to opening night, and help to grow the contacts made then. In terms of public awareness, it helps to ensure marker points, rather than just being ‘an exhibition thats running’. Something is happening, and happenings shouldnt run out of sight. Give some serious thought to what you are doing as an artist and utilise the venue to tie into this. A work-in-progress, for example, might be drawn on site, with pages from the booklet exhibited while you go along.

20. Continue to plan in advance. Don’t let a lack of response from one or two folk fuck up everyone else’s plans of having a good time. Jettison dependency on stragglers and move forward with whatever you can.

Closing Day

21. As with before artists should be available for takedown procedure. Its unfair to ask too much of the work to be carried by a minority. Best to find out what this entails. Does spaces were arts once hung have to be pollyfilled and painted over ?  Who provides the materials and brushes?

22. Theres a likelihood that the gallery may not be able to provide a full accounting until the day after closedown. Expect this as a plausible delay in payment. Matters between gallery and exhibitors shoulld not remain unsettled longer than 14 days.

23. The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given in creating comics, the only thing you need- “Just Do It!”. Here I’d suggest ‘Just do it. Do it very carefully, professionally and in advance. Don’t do more than you need to. Comics are never a one-man show.

– Andrew Luke

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.

Felt Tip Market – Dealing New Indy Comics To The Public, Without Doors, Oxford

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.


London Underground Comics. I’d got sick of writing about them, reading about them. Not so much my torrid affair with front-man Oli Smith, or even refusing to throw his tv out the window. They made it look sometimes easy, so armed with aspects of their approach and teachings, I resolved to man a market stall selling comics in Oxford.

Felt Tip Market 1

I’d emailed Oxfordshire City Council on a few occassions over the summer and gotten no response. The farmers market runs on Wednesdays and the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month. Other Thursdays are an antiques and collectables market, though I’d noticed dvd sellers and other traders guesting as support acts. Casual chats with traders there revealed to me I could get a half table for £13.50, equivalent in size to the Camden tables

Felt Tip Market 2
A number of artists were in town for the Caption Festival, so there I made arrangements to pick up books, multi-tasking transport costs. Andrew Stitt, Caption’s treasurer, provided the loan of a few display stands. Although I’d announced intention and requested books and stands on Smallzone’s formidable industry Ning site to a silent audience, this was no indication of what was to fall into place.

Felt Tip Market 3Pre-publicity was mostly locally based. My livejournal has a number of readers from Oxford who like comics. The local L-journal community, Dreamingspires and DailyInfo both had an event listing for ‘Felt Tip Market’. (The name came from a suggestion by Wasted Epiphanies’ author Deirdre Ruane.)

At around 7am on Thursday 21st August I wheeled my travel bag to the bus and the fifteen minute ride and walk to the vacant market stalls. These are beside Gloucester Green, the main bus and coach station. Arriving early follows background research in being key to getting a table, and upon locating the amicable manager I got placed straight away. I couldn’t possibly match LUC’s YouTube channel but I did learn from them the importance of making the table look presentable, and not overstuffing it with stock. I’d handcrafted a few small signs. ‘Comics!’, ‘More Comics!’ and ‘We also have comics!’ and ‘Locally Produced’. Caption T-shirts accompanied the comics on the table, two back-to-back on coathangers viewable from both sides. I’d dumpster-dived some polythene wrapping from Staples in case of rain. This didnt happen though there were a few times built up residue rain on the canopies above his customers and fellow traders. I’d gotten a beautiful sunny day, though next time I’ll be overthrowing the build up before laying the stock out, and moving back comics from the front.

Felt Tip Market 4


Stock shifted between 8am and 4pm:

Daniel Merlin Goodbrey’s All Knowledge is Strange – 4copies x £2 each (£8 total)
Caption Generic Stick Figure T-Shirt – 1 x £10 total
Jeremy Dennis Mini-Comics – 3 shifted, to £2 total.
Andrew Luke’s Comic Books – 5 shifted, to £4.50 total
Modern Monstrosity’s Tales From The Flat collection £4 total
Tom McNally’s Hedgemony Comics – 1 shifted to £1 total

Only John Robbins and Deirdre Ruane’s comics didn’t sell then though both attracted good interest and attention.

Seeing comics of a different  sort in a different environment is an eyecatcher in itself. My confidence in selling had grown due to the experiences at Camden. Familiar with all but Tom McNally’s works, ensured I was better poised to talk to customers about the books.

The market game can be quite disheartening if you don’t love it. Placed next to me, a very attractive lady selling beautiful handmade jewellry wasn’t taking to engaging with customers about her due self-promotion, and sadly didnt shift a thing. I’m did wonder if she found the comics intimidating. I did offer customers free comics with any jewellry they bought, a good trader has to support the local environment. Its what any artist would do.

Felt Tip Market 5

The intention of the day was akin to a test flight, gauging the response to find out whether my intuition was supported. Had I gotten a £2 donation from each artist rather than 10% SOR, a couple of us would have found it viable, and it wouldnt have been as costly to me. A number of folk I talked to reckoned that had I been running the market during semester time there’d be a hugely positive response in terms of sales. I’m inclined to agree. However much fun I had, a weekday market selling isn’t achievable with my own university studies taken into account.

Felt Tip Market 6 Felt Tip Market 7
However, I can foresee a return to Gloucester Green. I’d rather not put it so subtly – its going to be a good reading week.

Update: Andrew Luke will be appearing at London Underground Comics on Saturday 20th September and returning to sell comics at Oxford Market sometime over the next few months. Next weeks column is an interview with Shane Chebsey.

State of the Union

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.


 At Caption 2008 I delivered an address which went through about three different re-writes before i junked the whole thing – and reworked from a few headings off prompt cards. For eight minutes. To a diminished audience. This is a full Unabridged version, how it might have turned out.

…Right…ok…We had a big boycott on a mini-comics festival in March, and some people had their efforts reciprocated and others didn’t and there was a bit of nonsensical backbiting going around, and there were a few hurt emotions  And thinking about writing this, I have to wonder…do we have a union ? Well, what do youse think ?


(scrumbles up paper)

(leans on desk, writes furiously on next sheet)

(emerges wearing a beard)


Yes, A bunch of folk got together after deciding over fifty quid for a table a day was way too much. We found out the organiser of The Web and Mini Comix Thing was reeling in as little as three grand and as much as five grand. To be fair, he does a lot of work on his website  And as the Camden stall were running a table share for 2.50, and well, you know the rest. And they’ve moved way past that, leaving Postman Shark’s efforts way behind. You’re probably sick of hearing about how brilliant they are, and if not, then you should be.

London Underground Comics – the core workers: Oli Smith, Oliver Lambden, Sean Azzopardi, Dan Lester, David Baillie, Francesca Cassavetti and Jake Harold.
(begin applauding)

All the hype is true. I’ve studied LUC objectively, subjectively, intimately, as a fan, as a professional,  and  on infinte earths. If you like to get your comics to folk this is here and now the best model. Game, set and match.

Quick summary of the lessons to be learned:

Big name endorsement. Creative application to marketing
Utilisation of new media, web 2.0, whatever you want to flute it.
Just Do It.

LUC have to make clear they stop at Camden, do they go nation-wide ? Do they stop at London, which I think is the better idea.

Peter Lally opened up a stall in Camden selling mini-comics a few months after LUC did. Peter, like Oli, lived close to Camden, so this worked rather well. However in London, were the tube is a fantastic service, he may have turned a profit exploring on of the other market sites.

Oli, Oliver and I have discussed many a time the essential of LUC as an example. And if you’d like to take the most vital lesson from LUC I refer you to  Exhibit A: Your spark of creativity and hard work. Go and find your own space. I’m doing it in Oxford in two weeks and you can do it in Scotland and Ireland too.

I’m not sure we have a union, and heres why.

LUC is a fantastic idea. Seriously. Its the best idea for getting comics out there, anyone had in a long while. It was something existed in Eddie Campbell’s Fast Fiction stall, and David Bircham in promoting his Brodies Law booklets, but I’m not aware of it being done since. Nowadays we have the internet…so go out and do it ! Oxford Council never bothered to email me back.
(I did go ahead and get a table regardless, and I’ll cover this in more detail in the next column)
Go by your local market stall and ask about how to go about getting a table. Honestly, it’ll be great exercise for you. Find out who the creators are in your area and start giving them the figures. 3quid a day, meet local people.

The information needs to be shared, The British comics journalism print copy industry is lying low. Comics International, RedEye…there used to be a practice in mini-comics of including reviews of colleagues work in the back pages, & I haven’t seen anything other than ‘this is really great’ as a reference for a long while. In some ways this may be a good thing – its economical, and personal. Though how does it work as a guide ?


Cartoonists gripe about their work being ignored should look at the pecking order and their proximity to comics journalists. Are you helping these people, using them, ignoring them ?

Comics journalists: set yourself limits. If you are everyones go-to: FAIL.
And promote these limits. Cartoonists have a history of being screwed over, and comics specialising journalists maybe are just as vulnerable.

This year I’m making a trek. I’ve hear rumours of a big place in the hills were retired comics journalists hang out. There, Pete Ashton is getting a massage, Matt Badham is at the park with sandwiches and kids. Chrissie Harper I caught a glimpse of dancing.

Comics journalists need reciprocative currency. Reciprocative currency. Cash and drinks are nice. This also means things like statistics. Comics Village doesnt provide individual stats per column as a feature except on exceptional request, but it something I can easily sort out as with any blog by slipping in some simple code and accessing that. Free comics, comments, testimonials. snogging, all payment, were applicable. (SEE ME LATER sign)


Creators, you need to look into self-promotion responsibly. And if that means a few of you taking up writing copy, then so be it. Examine the sites you send stuff to, and ask can they handle something packaged this way ? I don’t want to see another non-url 1,000 word pdf with pdf image at Bugpowder. Bugpowder has no image storage facility. Perhaps you ought to try approaching your local town paper.


I think TRS is actually quite vital for a return, in print form.
There was an old habit in comics and zines of a fifty word write-up of a mini the author enjoyed reading. This doesnt happen anymore. Usually its “This is by my friend and its great !” This seems insufficient – Stop at 75 words.

I’m not a technogeek. I have bad eyesight aggravated by staring into computer screens and webcomics are always going to be a challenge for me. Theres a lot of internet going around. As bad as times have been for the British comics cartoonist, they’ve been worse for the comics journalist. I’m bowing out of Bugpowder, because people need to fend for themselves. And they will. Someone will come along and do the job I’ve been doing better. Or will there be thirty of us, maybe posting there once a month ? Or, heres an idea: Talk to people like myself, get old records from Caption, and Bugpowder, and TRS2. Googlemap the cartoonists in your area. Do you have a local pub meet ? Someone should set up a local comics pub meet blogroll.

(I recently got hold of old issues of Caption magazine, and notice this was a common feature)

Theres a price, theres always a price. But if you’ve worked bloody hard on your comics you deserve the reciprocation. From your audience, from your bank account. And if you’re paying someone hefty amounts of cash to sell your work, you are entitled as a human bean to decent respect. And journalists, make sure you get stats and your links if you want them. Thats an entitlement you richly deserve. That ones for the journalists in the room.


I think this is the way its going. Zine Symposiums, meets in Brighton, No Barcodes, Jimi Gerkin’s recent thing. Low Energy Day..Comics festivals in pubs, or in a market stall, preferrably. Think minimum budget.


This maybe my last year on the Caption committee. I have a graphic novel to work on, and a heavy degree finish.
Caption works as its a participant manufactured festival. And prior to 2006, its been made up of a synergetic local group. I think the remote organisation lacks somewhat – a cyberspace environment defeats as well as empowers group flow. The better Captions I have seen have a Site Art Direction. This works best being representative on the committee. Writers who don’t draw can bring artists on board, and they should, and not communicate that art. Maybe if you collate the findings  the festivals that live healthiest have artists as major organisational participants. (Though maybe I just be shooting off here)

Caption is very cheap to run. The venue for the weekend is costing us about two hundred quid. Perhaps the lowest financial investment since Caption began.  I would estimate, very roughly, that the 10% SOR covers about 1/2 of our venue costs.

I don’t see that Caption should get any bigger. It would take us on a very stupid path. Though theres few reasons why it couldnt regionally franchise, run on the same value systems.and norms.
Or PeRHaPs, it already does….


Before the DFC went weekly I published seven new comics weekly in March. You can buy these on the Caption table, or direct from me.


Ok, the boycott. I knew the boycott would upset people. I also knew that 50pounds to sell my own work competing with my peers in the same media, behind doors were an entrance fee is charged….     these things are what makes my comics a little bit closer to something called vanity press than the great British comics industry, which I think rightfully we represent in greater number.

It was worth boycotting The WebandMiniComics Thing, because asides from Pat Findlay’s huge net salary, and his repugnantly disrespectful attitude to artists…the Camden crew made the right choice.

Shane Chebsey and Mike Allwood are great guys. Mike, I don’t know so well. Shane is one of the true hubs of the uk industry in the last decade, and really, he should be up here.
(applause for Shane)

But the fifty pound vanity press line is still there. You can boycott, by all means. I think you should be at open market stalls. Or if you must lock yourself in the big paying festival hall were you’re competing with just your peers….work with these guys and find a real practical solution. I have a few,

How about rocking the festival line-up with the big Page 45 approach ? Again, there are egos and feelings to be considered. but I think I see Shane approaching calmly this way. Big pages, the flyers announcing BICS 2009 – Roll of Honour: Jeremy Dennis, creator of Scattered Leaves, Terry Wiley, Petra Ecetera,

Oli East – Trains Are Mint, That Band
Ralph Kidson – Giant Clam, Cerebus
D’Israeli – 2000 AD, Most Obscure Sp book Matt has done.
Oli Smith –  That Guy
Douglas Noble – Strip for Me, Giant Size Avengers
(just below him – Daniel Merlin-Goodbrey, tiny tiny font)

The Co-Operative Share Model. One off fee from tables as an inestment in years ahead with a self-generating income were every cartoonist promotes the festival because they can.

A proper cloakroom to raise funds

Your mini-comic distributed free in festival bags, which you could volunteer to help put together.

Discuss. Please don’t swamp Shane and Mike with negotiations, hit them were they love it. hit them with ideas. Neither of them turns a profit I reckon, and I guess they’d like to see you turn one. So, think about it, discuss, approach.

And if that doesnt work make a stand! Me, I’m disbanding the union.

*dons an Ian Paisley mask*

Don’t go to the San Diego Can , Fuck off to the Birmingham Show, Bristol Comics Expo Can Suck My Arse Biscuits !

*Aaron Smurf Murphy and Joe Meadows in cop uniforms come in and hall me out while I drag my feet along the floor*

Boycott Caption !

– Andrew Luke, circa August 10th 2008

Ink Blur: Dan Lester, Speed Lined Cartoonist

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.

sherridancottageThe resurgence of the comic book as an art-form in Britain has been backed by the return of the regularly published low-brow pop pamphlet. As with twenty years ago there are enough new comics published as to equal one per day. Older publishers Fleetway (2000 AD) and DC Thompson (Dandy/Beano) have scaled their product to about seventy comics per year. This new industry is by the kids, bed-sit artists sketching and inking, before heading down to their local photocopier for a new print run.

One of the more experimental processes of that underground press has been the 24-Hour Comic, pioneered by Canadian academic and cartoonist Scott McCloud. The challenge to cartoonists is to complete a 24-page comic in 24 consecutive hours. Character designs and story notes must not be put on paper, though the artist can gather research materials, and drawing tools. Breaks for sleep, food or any other purpose are counted within when the clock starts ticking. Since 1990,24-Hour Comics Days occur around the globe on weekends in October and April. Approximately 1,200 registered cartoonists took part in the 2006-2007 events, with many comic book stores lending sponsorship in the form of workspace to local artists.

The traditional image of a cartoonist mercurially rendering form and figure is far removed from that of laborious re-draws to fit industry norms and standards. The 24hr comic process is thus the perfect antidote to the stilted narrative trappings of Western comics and their franchised properties. 24hr comics are more in line with punk improvisation, echoing the disposability readers have attached to the medium. The mass practice undoubtedly delivers its share of quality. Both my own experiment and that of Londoner Sean Azzopardi were reviewed as the better comics of 2007. Professionals have been in on the action too. In previous years Neil Gaiman, Dave Sim and Steve Bissette amongst others have taken on the spontaneous activity.

Cartoonist Dan Lester: “Does thinking too much get in the way? Probably. I find I can never jump straight into the drawing. I always have to spend some time thinking about it first, even when it’s something simple, such as drawing something similar to something I’ve just drawn.”

Lester was so inspired by this method of creation that in November 2007 he extended the 24hr experiment further. He set himself a challenge of producing one new 24hr comic per month in his spare time. I asked him the obvious question, why?

“I’m incredibly lazy, and tend to get most of my comics drawn in the last week or two before a convention so I’ll have something new to sell. I’ve managed to do a full 24 pages each time so far, which makes 144 pages of comics that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. It generally helps to have a deadline to work towards, even if no one but you cares if you meet it. Which means that when there isn’t a convention looming I tend to keep putting stuff off. That’s one of the reasons for setting myself the monthly 24 hour comic challenge.”

I ask Dan about his influences and he mentions the early work of Canadian Chester Brown who drew comics with talking penises. “His early work showed a refusal to censor himself in any way, something I’ve tried to follow on in my own work. The great thing about self-publishing is there is no limit on your creative freedom. You don’t have to worry about an editor or publisher refusing to include something that they find offensive.”

Lester has already been drawing comics regularly for several years. He’s previously been best known as the author ofMonkeys Might Puke, low-brow daring, voicing unspoken thoughts and parodying dark edges of modern culture. By and large his 24hr comics have catered to a similar audience mentality. They’ve featured junkies in space, and a narrative about Bruce Lee wishing to fight everyone he meets, including a street preacher. “As I’m doing humour stuff, that means coming up with enough jokes to fill a comic. Judging from people’s reactions to the comics, I’ve been fairly successful so far.” His third 24hr book was published in January. ‘Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Zombies’ is notable for its transition as well as its competence, Lester’s penchant for grossness is freed in amongst pop horror context for audiences of more conservative tastes. It’s the sort of work that might easily be adapted for a larger publisher, and packaged as a holiday gift.

“If I was getting paid for it I’m sure I’d be capable of producing new work on a regular basis, but at the moment, like most people I know, I’m self publishing. Even if a comic sells well I rarely make back the costs.”

Dan’s work is regularly on sale through London Underground Comics, a co-operative distribution venture selling comics to the general public in Camden Market. Costs are shared between cartoonists who man the stall, meaning he pays only £3 for a Saturday showing. The collaboration has resulted in a train of publicity with endorsements from some high-profile figures in the comics industry and a distinctive power in union, financially and creatively. Dan is enthusiastic about the venture that allows people who wouldn’t normally enter a comic book store, to see his work. It also fits in well with his increased production. “It’s good to have an accessible platform for selling new stuff that’s available all year round.”

‘Death Rides A Strange Creature’, published in March, is a contrastingly tense, atmospheric murder-mystery thriller featuring two travellers on a desert landscape. It’s rendered like European minimalist expressionism, and signals new maturity and conveyance in mood in Lester’s canon. His most recent work ‘I Dream of Comics’ has recently been completed and sees Dan reach the halfway mark on his project. It’s likely to be printed up for ‘No Barcodes’, a Camden Comics festival on May 31st, by which time Dan may have his seventh 24hr comic completed. He’s also writing The Dan Lester Mysteries, were he stars as himself in a Columbo-esque role, with Oliver Lambden and others on art chores. “And then I’m sleeping for two days”, he adds determinedly.

The Dan Lester Mysteries Issue 1 was published early August. Like an expansive ice cream parlour situated next to a Bushmills distillery, Constantly surprising, compulsive thriller narrative with great pacing and perfect timing. Lester and Lambden give the best performance of their cartoonist careers so far, all behind an accomplished pulp noir colour cover by Jake Harold. Cost around 2.50 and for those of you who don’t bother with asking artists to autograph comics, this is well worth breaking the rule. Gift !

Dan Lester’s work can be found at Monkeys Might Puke and Sleazy Dan Lester’s 24 Hour Comics Blog.

The Geeks Have Inherited – Comics, Who Cares?

Over 2008 I wrote weekly for, during a very exciting time in the UK comix scene..


As the more astute of you will have realised I’ve been away entering a contest on web flexibility,which I won. Hence no Sheridan Cottage these last weeks. I’d like to thank all of you who checked by my blog. It all worked out for the best. I’d especially like to thank comics types Ben Oakes, John Robbins and Richard Barr and my dear friends outside of comics who made a decent attempt at helping me secure a win. And to Lee Kennedy and David Lloyd who made their presences felt.

This win is more rewarding than the exhaustion I’ve been feeling around the time of No Barcodes. By stating the following, I’m not stating anything obvious, surely?

Comics 2008: Across the breadth of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, cartoonists draw their comics, onto art paper, on the back of pages from the recycle bins, on the back of flyers and a few on fag packets. Emails, editing, assembly, photocopy, stapled and boxed, busses and trains to the comics festival where their fellow local cartoonists arrive. The co-ordinator is busy, but he’s glad to see them. Human traffic in doorless venue. I’d like to buy this for my gran. Oh wow, that’s what you’re working on ? Yes,  we’re here often. I think you’d really like this one. Days end, all cover table costs, some travel costs. Made a wage from making my own comics !!! Drinks ? People who don’t read comics are grown to create comics. It’s a Northern market stall town.

I’ve had a very interesting week. Productive. My work involved spending a day creating a business directory listing, and having felt (in some quarters erroneously) let down by the comics community. I took upon myself to come up with the much more worthwhile idea of recognising the potential of ethical normative institution. I’ll explain subtly what that means. One entry I loaded in the index is The Epoch Times, a newspaper aimed at the Chinese community outsideChina, where media is heavily censored. The Epoch Times content is generated by the production of a master copy on the web, from which local regions draw their content to give the paper a community feel. Distributed in 30 countries, 11 languages in print and 17 languages online. In August 2002, it was reported that 400,000 to 500,000 copies were available worldwide. Not at all like Jack Chick books then.

I also discovered BurmaNet News, another news-site created by sources outside a country of repressed media and more disgusting human rights violations.

What were even more worrying was that they had no entry on Wikipedia, either under ‘Burma’, ‘Burma Media’ or ‘BurmaNet News’. From the BurmaNet News Front Page,

“Ten thousand pregnant women among Burma’s estimated 2.4 million cyclone survivors are in urgent need of proper care, a UN official said Wednesday, as fresh questions were raised about the government’s willingness to accept foreign assistance.”

BurmaNet News has been up since 1994, yet did it show up anywhere on Wikipedia ? Not that I could see. Now this may be something to do with certain Burmese or other black ops figures and some vindictive censorship, which Wikipedia no doubt falls prey to. That would explain why certain other Burmese electronic news magazines such as Irrawaddy and Mizzima didn’t appear in any of those categories on Wikipedia either, only quoted in footnotes. Or it may have something to do with lazy-thinking spoiled nerds who have nothing better to do with their time…too orgasmed on writing up the latest episode of Heroes or Doctor Who, too obsessed with throwing a bit of voodoo the way of Warren Ellis or Dave Sim, or responding to some dumb fucking bile that offended someone on some comics forum ten years ago. And the reason that doesn’t change is that people don’t let people change. Some hang onto the tawdry trivial little verbal abuses as if it were Hitler Cheney Jong-il, by the skin of a rottweiller’s teeth. There, right there. Prioritise. I appreciate that every episode of Doctor Who is written up in twenty places on the web so I can take the slacker’s route round my degree, but that’s pretty much all it’s fucking good for 🙂

I’m sorry some of you had to read that. I will be sorry I have to read that. Maybe some sun-delirious or waterlimb deficiency painskin other-worlder will someday be sorry to read that. The world is in ruins and we had it coming.

The biggest problem with comics today is that comics invented and propagated the superhero. Too many folk involved in comics haven’t a snowball’s thought in fire of achieving something so simple in this super-powered age as some real concentrated meta-compassion for those who have not the meta.

Quote for the day from Grant Morrisson, “This shit, it’s fucking easy!”

Notes on Content – A Brief Conversation with John Robbins on The Grassy Knoll

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.


This will be my final online column until May 18th. It’s not gone. The Bristol Comics Expo will feature a new and challenging print column called ‘An integrated framework of Comics Arts Festival Management Utilising Popular Templates In Co-Operative Agenda’. Or perhaps abbreviated. In between degree assignments I may pop up on Bugpowder, the finest resource for news and current affairs in the UK independent comics industry.

Today I’m strolling off-topic of my usual look at selling and socialising with some self-indulgent agenda setting on creative content. The following is a previously unpublished piece written in April 2006, which constitutes and clarifies my response to John Robbins ‘Closing Shots from a Grassy Knoll’. If you’re not familiar with Robbins wake-up call to creators, I’d urge you to check it out here. The column below is a modified version of that previously printed in the ‘Sheridan Cottage’ print collection.

Notes on Content

Skimming through RedEye Magazine #6, snapshot of the UK comics industry, the healthiest in terms of wealth of product its been since – possibly, ever. The inclusion of centred punk work by and about Aleksander Zograf, a V for Vendetta comparative timeline, mentions of Joe Sacco and more Pat Mills satiate my desires. When this material is called contemporary it equates with relevant. Yeah, it bothers me. The examples I give are all professional, but must contemporary equal the work of someone who is at the top of the league ? Why are there no poor contemporary comics  existing in the UK industry ??  (Outside of those marginalised policy-activist circles, from topics of climate change to fundamentalist christian)

Diversity exists. From every bent of genre of superhero bunny ninja robot monkey cop dinosaur dinosaur jetpack. There does not exist reason why these elements cannot find their way into allegory on why Blair’s (Gordon’s) government never launched a proper investigation into the 7/7 London bombings. Traditionally, a cartoonist’s duty is to speak out against government-inflicted grievances, though looking at whats available, the pre-meditated illegality of tate sponsored slaughter of women and children pales in wacky zany loveable bedsit antics of a boy, a PS2 and a gun. There are a number of obstacles to cartooning contemporary from this pop junk background. Firstly, its hard. I knew for some time I wanted to draw political comics but it took about a year and a half before I was able to find some sort of political cartoonists “voice” that was graduated from my crowd-pleasing fantasy narratives of drunken pop culture celebs. Comparative to the process of learning to write and draw initially, though not as difficult as the “100 crap pages before the good ones” syndrome. I estimate this can be very off-putting for creators. Particularly if embarking on a course of cartooning aimed at a sensitive area, say for example, post-rape coping strategies featuring ninjas. It requires a level of maturity which, sweet thing, is not a universal value in comics artists. If you fail, if you turn in a sermonising patronising work of blindness, being a jerk or being a dick is going to get you told to fuck off.

In this age of information, access to points of interest grounded in the real world are obtainable like never before. Well, to an extent it is. Agents of misinformation take up the mass media with lies and diversions, a number of them are even paid high financial monthly wages and advances to do so. This is prevalent globally through centuries and decades. One only needs to study propaganda exercises such as the 1947 -1976 Operation Mockingbird in the 1980s, and its resurgence under various administrations. Recent example: Lil Bush Poo’s gross spending on public relations, such as the Armstrong Williams funds debacle. If you think these changes don’t affect Britain directly, you’re mistaken.
Robbins replies to this,

The ‘agents of misinformation’ paragraph wanders a little off-topic and perhaps inadvertently highlights the pitfalls related to crafting meaningful comics i.e. shoehorning a message or information into work in which it has no place. Incongruous digression is irksome for the reader, and worse still, can be counter productive. (I always remember that ‘Cat’ person on a Big Brother who tried to bring political activism to the show – so annoyingly out-of-place were her rants that I found myself soured to her causes.)”

“Perhaps a point worth making is that creative processes may require adjusting should creators attempt to meet your challenge. Myself, I rarely write unless I have something to say, and if I’m trying to affect change with my work then I like the entire story structured and the thread/theme established before the text part of the writing commences, which isn’t conducive to the incremental-development-of-story approach favoured by the majority of cartoonists. But then, I suppose I’ve only ever allowed for the organic aspect of comics creation to occur in the writing stage because I am so shackled by my cartooning ability; that sense of a work generating its own momentum has only ever happened for me pre-cartooning – where it’s much less painful to re-focus work that’s wandered from my central theme.”

Having attempted to sculpt my stories in this area I’ve ‘shoehorning’ and the whole process of cartoonist voice modification as Robbins suggests, awkward. ‘Off my chest’ (reprinted below) was in part brought on by shaving off my entire body hair, though only in the title of the piece have I highlighted this. Those who comment on political matters imaginatively through fixed sociable communication (Jeremy Dennis springs to mind) no doubt find insertion of political thought more flexible. Had I explained this in the strip, readers might find more to relate to. Many of my other attempts have something to say but don’t read well at all. This is a big problem with grassroots activists producing comics, many of which have an important message but are a trial to wade through. It’s the old adage of practice makes perfect, draw and re-draw, find this voice that you must have. Re-invent, its not easy, but being historically notable never is. For many of those raised on pop and South Park, this might be the way to go, Transformers in Tibet. Be careful. Metaphor and analogy and parable ? Those are the devices of writers who work without pictures.

In the moment were you wish you had been doing something else, time travelling transformers may not be able to help you. Fantasy encroaches rapidly on reality, and as representatives of dreams, cartoonists oughta exercise with responsibility those notions best benefit reality with their representing. Could it be that one small voice doesn’t count in this world ? This is your life, this is your time. Show them something new, show them something they’re not going to see coming.

off my chest 1 off my chest 2


I’d heartily recommend anything by Joe Sacco and Pat Mills’ Third World War Book One, and of course, Charley’s War. Perhaps you’d like to list your favourite politicomics or realcomix below ?

Coming up over the summer I’m looking forward to…


War anthology, by Paper Tiger Comics, in collaboration with the Coalition Against the Arms Trade ( as referenced in column two weeks ago)

“An estimated 240 page book with music compilation with over 60 artists from 15 countries.”

And Cliodhna Lyons’ anthology for a registered charity GOAL , If you’re feeling up to to a tackle to challenge, the deadline is 8thAugust 2008. The theme of the anthology is,



And fuller information the book and requirements for submitting work can be found by clicking on this link. 

Look for a new Sheridan Cottage column at the Bristol Expo 9-11th May. Comics Village will be running a fete on the Saturday with a family fun theme, and on Sunday there’ll be some panels and workshops for the grownups. If you’d like to be part of a Sheridan Cottage panel or have any other ideas for the Comics Village fete pitch some to me at drew dot luke at gmail dot com.