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

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

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

sherridancottage

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 athttp://www.phoenixarts.org/exhibitions.htm

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 dot.co.uk

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 (http://www.comicexpo.net/ 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 gmail.com 

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.

Andrew:
 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!

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

Mike: 
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.

Andrew: 
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 http://www.comicexpo.net/index.html

Down the pub with Igor Guinness (Mini-Comics and PubCons)

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

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

sherridancottage

In a change to my previously planned column, I’m going to look at a mini-comics in pubs, in the recent model of The Gladstone Mini-Comics Con, and a virtal model, The British Webcomics Piss-Up, before going on to consider the aspects of the casual comics pubmeet trend.

The title for today’s column comes from Stephen Caldwell who among other things, once suggested ‘Igor Guiness’ as a psuedonym for Garth Ennis. I recently enjoyed a few jars with him at recommended bar The Angel, St. Giles WC2, mixing pop and politics.

The Glastone Mini Comics Con 

To re-cap on last weeks,
“A free entry festival held in a pub featuring “Glenn Fabry, Paper Tiger Comix, Dr Parsons, The Bedsit Journal, Danny Noble, The Sound Of Drowning and many more comics creators from Brighton and beyond!” It had comics for sale, drawing workshops, drink promotions, live workshops and animation screenings.”

Paper Tiger Comix Sean Duffield has a review of the festivities on his weblog, though I thought I’d ask him a few questions to get more than a partial picture of the day’s events.

Andrew: How did the genesis of the event come about (whys, hows) ?

Sean Duffield: We were fortunate that the second-in-command manager of the Gladstone, the lovely Melissa Cox, is a comics fan and suggested running the event. We had a couple of meetings between her and 6 of us local comic bods and we got together a rough plan of the event, which would include comic workshops, live music, animation screenings etc.

Paper Tiger 4 goodies!

Andrew: How was it organised, on the day (venue, costs, any other information) ?

Sean: The event was totally free, for the punters and for stall holders. So big cheesy grins all round. We’d flyered previously and Melissa and her boyfriend John had put up posters and flyered also. John deserves a medal in that he had been up all night before the event getting animations shows ready and then on the actual day went into to town to flyer outside David’s Comics.

Andrew: How did you feel about the day and what worked so well and what didn’t ?

Sean: I felt the day was a great success. There was a laidback , friendly atmosphere, quite a few people turned up throughout the day, especially after about 2pm.  During the day a lot of kids and adults alike enjoyed doing the fill-in-the-blanks type drawings provided by Mark Stafford. These were displayed on the wall. The only thing that didn’t work was the Glenn Fabry signing. He unfortunately was only there for about 20 mins and had gone by 2pm. I understand that he had his kids with him and couldn’t get a baby sitter and they had been playing up and gotten quite bored and restless so he had to leave. Nobody was too disappointed though, and it was good that an artist of his calibre turned up and supported the event. David’s Comics also provided some Fabry related books for signing purposes.

War_Page72dpi

The bands in the evening were fantastic and very different. There was a hardcore punk band, and acoustic singer set, an experimental improvised fusion band which was really mad, and a rock & roll /punk/ experimental duo of duelling, drums, guitars, singing and primal rage. I missed the last band (i left about midnight) as i was off for the Tibet Demo the next day.

I really think the merging of comics, music, workshops etc in an environment where non-converts can come in and see something completely new to them is the way forward for small press and alternative comic people in this country. The fact that it was in a pub didn’t hurt either! Melissa and John said they would be up for doing Quarterly events such as this in the future which would be very welcome.

Sean is the editor of Paper Tiger Comix #4, a High quality 100 page perfect-bound book, 21 track music CD, pin badge and art cards. Its available from www.papertigercomix.com for only £5.50 (£6.99 in the shops!). Also in the late summer, look out for “WAR” an estimated 240 page book with music compilation with over 60 artists from 15 countries. Proceeds will go to Campaign Against Arms Trade.

The British Webcomics Piss-Up (April 23rd)

The British Webcomics Piss-up is a day of comics activism in practice. Integration into interwebs,building cluster and community. The ‘Piss Up’ in question is a virtual one, a toast to E-Nglish Comics. I emailed project originator Ed ‘Bollox Comics’ Bowley and the new co-ordinator, Jon Scrivens, also the artist behind ‘Little Terrors’.Bollox Comix

Andrew: How did the event come about ?

Ed Bowley: What initially inspired the event was when I was touring around various webcomics, I noticed on the links page for one website that it linked to Scary-Go-Round. The caption next to the link said, “One of the best British webcomics around. In face, I think it’s the only British webcomic around.” This shocked me, but then, upon reflection, it’s not that surprising. It’s not overstatement to say the webcomic market is predominately American/Canadian. Ask anyone their top 5 webcomics and there may not be a British one in there at all. The British ones would have a hard time sticking out with the webcomic world already so highly populated. Around the same time, there were reports in the news that people in the UK were complaining there wasn’t enough celebrations for St George’s Day, especially when compared to St Patrick’s Day. So I put the two problems together to form one answer. Make St George’s Day a very fine excuse for a Piss-Up! A British Webcomic Piss-Up! An event for British webcomics only to raise their awareness with a collaborated effort and cross-promotion. There is no “English Pride” in the BWPU. It is intended as “a good excuse for a piss-up” much in the same way as St Patricks Day.

BWPU

The BWCPU has three criteria: the authors must be either currently residing in Britain or British-born, upload their strip on April 23rd and notify the web hub, and adhere to the theme, which this year is ‘Castles’. Bowley and this years organiser Jon Scrivens are presumably excluding non-Brits so as to keep a cap on organising the advertising of the event. All those taking part in the BWCPU event are given free advertising on the website, on a alternating basis.

Andrew : Do you have a list online of who traditionally takes part, and who is taking part this year ?

Ed Bowley: On the website for the BWPU, it lists all the individual webcomics agreeing to take part. It was a bit difficult to get the ball rolling, but now the event is quite well known in webcomic circles and given a great deal of support. Not always from British websites either. Comixpedia/talk and VG Cats are a couple of the supporters over the years. Even if they can’t take part, many of the very popular British webcomics still promote it, such as Scary-Go-Round, Beaver & Steve and Afterstrife. It’s very well received and I have had many emails of thanks from contributing websites saying the BWPU has given them their best day of hits/traffic so far.

Jon Scrivens: In previous years its usually been some of the better known UK webcomics involved. Each year from a contributor standpoint I’ve gotten some great publicity as a british comic, something I’m sure people don’t often think about with webcomics. (The past three) I have seen my hits spike for the day I got involved originally as I was trying to write my webcomic Little Terrors as a typical zombie infection story but with a British twist, I was tired of everything being focused souly across the pond. The site will be going up this week with the starting list of creators taking part, more will be added as people join the Facebook group and respond to my mails.

Andrew: Can you tell us anything about the physical piss-ups this year? Will there be pub-meets outside the suggested one at Camden that might compliment this?

littleterrors

Jon : The lads down at London Underground Comics do a great job at pulling in the punters on a Saturday so it seemed a great place to have it near, (especially as Oliver Lambden of Tales from the Flat, an often involved creator is often down there). Depending on the feedback on the Camden one I think it’d be a task for next year to get creators in other Cities and towns involved in physical pissups.

Andrew: Isn’t there a risk that the comics might become institutionalised in, if you excuse they syntax, a virtual comic space, that doesn’t really proliferate itself to other areas ? Or would that be to miss a point of the flexibility open to web-users ? Are the artists taking part bringing something into it with their own audiences and disparate non-comics heavy readership?
Jon: Webcomics as a whole don’t have a real community for them, there is several news sites but never a real focused point for them, that’s the benefit and curse of webcomics. I’ve found for touring UK small press and comic shows in the last year that there is a community, based around print comics, so i feel it would really be something beneficial to online creators too, to egg each other on from other sides of the country.
BWPU

To join with this years event, contact Jon dot Scrivens at gmail with your name, the title and URL of webcomic, with ’St George’ as your subject line. All the web comics involved with be added to the main list on the front page of this site. Closing date to join is on the day of the event, Wednesday 23rd April. Check out the Facebook group for more details and the possibility of other real world piss-ups.

“Authors taking part in the Piss-Up can submit one 200 pixel wide x 350 pixel tall image of their own design to link to their own sites anytime they want.”

Comics Pubmeets 

Theres a strong tradition of pub meets in the Uk which probably grew out of sci-fi fandom. I tried running one in Belfast which was hit and miss, I’ll pop into the one in Oxford which is high times.

What worked for me in starting one of these was a notice in my local comics shop with the location, an illustration indicating beer and comics, and a time. It ran on Saturday afternoons, the Oxford one runs on Tuesday evenings. A look around at venues in central locations and chatting with bar staff as to footfall provides likely information. Don’t get too upset when only a few folk show up. Even popular pubmeets get that. Chances are you’re probably getting the best more tuned in folk, peoples plans change, and word will spread. A few comics casually on the table (maps) for face unfamiliar.

Best success seems to be built on working with pre-established friendships and of course, making an invite open. Email, twitter and other sms songs help keep folk in the loop. Sometimes a venue might get invaded by a hostile pub quiz or become a sporting event.

Seems to me a good idea might be for someone to set up a sort of blogroll to cover these. I’m thinking, one blog entry list, revised and re-edited every few months. Submissons are accepted from a regular pubmeet attendees (some pub meets may not wish to be discovered), and the new information integrated into the list. Why a blog and not a website ? Because this is the simplest quickest way of doing it. It may take one person two to three hours a year and be a valuable sustainable social networking tool that over-rides clique mentality. A handy side feature along the lines of Gravett’s events link list. Good for visiting cartoonists in your area.

And remember, comics aren’t everything.

Andrew Luke has written lots about comics, self-published over thirty, and is the subject of a recent interview with the hugely popular Alex Fitch of Resonance FM’s Panel Borders, were he can be heard talking about his life with comics. He’s recently returned from a demo with a multitude of communities outside the Sudanese Embassy, were it was very cold and an ugly policeman tried in vain to imitate Russell T. Davies in cartoon form. If you’d like to contact the writer of this piece please get in email or paypal at drew dot luke at gmail dot com. Or leave a comment below.

 

Grow Your Own Comics Festival

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

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

sherridancottage

(Originally written 11 March 2008)

Creating a comics festival is piss-easy. When I initially pitched this column to comicbookresources.com to try and secure a wage, I included a proposed two part fortnightly piece. The first part would see me announce a comics festival with no prior preparation, the second would be the review of said festival. Can you believe they turned me down ?

Okay, okay, so I like Keith Giffen too !

It is though, it really is easy.

The Caption Model

Caption is seventeen years this year. Its been there through the immediate Watchmen wave, through Fleetway’s Crisis, the comics-go-bankrupt phase, the dawn of Chris Ware, and the subsequent resurgence of the form in the present. Travelling from Northern Ireland for my first festival (Brumcab97), the clamouring support and enthusiasm about Caption was so vocal I had to attend. It left inescapable impressions in the few years ahead. Far from the backpackers converted hotel halls of masses of paper, Caption allowed for a laid-back fun social. I didnt know who any of these people were, such was the anonymity of zine roots, but I quickly got the impression it were the sort of place I could talk to a creator from Crisis, or 2000 AD or Comics International, or some hot indy trickster over a pint. There were name badges, but no tables loaded with portfolios and standing queues. Just picking up a beer and a chair and asking to join in. It were small and intimate.

My first few years I almost never joined in at the wonderful panels and workshops by the likes of D’Israeli, Al Davison, Jeremy Dennis and the greatly missed Andy Roberts and Steve Whitaker. My shame. I did however attend the presentations by The National Theatre of Earth Prime, a ten minute Condensed Shakespeare style company adapting comics classics. Watchmen in ten minutes ! The X-Men, with Magneto wearing a bike helmet and Wolverine’s sideburns represented by weetabix. Caption also had a light festival booklet with information and maps, and each year it was themed which helped to make it distinct. Oxford is also a prime location of beauty with its natural light and greenery. Also owing to (alledgedly, by the powers of Jenni Scott, weather shaman( Caption has had one rainy or bad weather weekend since its inception.

Caption has a gallery exhibition each year, encouraging creators to contribute large and small art items. There are usually auctioned off in order to fund the following years event, or to contribute towards some charitable fund. This usually occurred at the tail end of a shared meal of pizza and wine, and has a real joviality about it, due to audience participation and in the previous decade to the showman skills of auctioneer Alex Williams who manages to be highly amusing and entertaining.

Asides from the social networking opportunities offered creators theres been very retail power in the concept of The Caption Table. Rather than the traditional route of spending money on table hire and being confined there for the weekend, Caption takes your comics from you. If you don’t sell any comics over the two days, theres no loss – if you do, Caption will take 10% of your earnings. Its a very simple, fair and popular deal and a model which its most loyal admirers would love to take to other venues. The London Underground Comics  ethos is perhaps the closest arrangement in terms of establishing a financial balance, though it is more successful when comics are pitched to the audience by the creators. However London Underground Comics may just be the victim of its own success – stall staffing finds a difficult balance. Cartoonists appear to be converging on it several hours after the all important 9am set up, and the stall becomes crowded with cartoonists and newly available comics. The reluctance of comics creators and activists to export the ethos to other market venues (eg. Spitalfields) is in part responsible for a good traffic system which may become blocked.

Pubcon

My first comics festival were Brumcab 97. ‘Brumcab’ translates as ‘Birmingham Comics and Beer’.It were held in a bar, the top floor of which had been rented out by the organisers Dek Baker, Jez Higgins and Pete Ashton. There Dek sold his highly acclaimed Kirby homage, ‘Wargods of Atlantis’, colour print outs and posters decorated the walls and there were even pub quiz opportunity. I seem ro remember my first comics, ‘Brookside’ and ‘Bobs’ being sold there, the organisers were particularly excited by the free tea bag and the individually hand marked mylar bags, untidy tape and rotter brown cardboard. Although we had downstairs too, I don’t know how some fifty cartoonists managed to fit into such a small space. We did, and the body odour level were quite tolerable. Bookings were taken during the day for a nearby balti house which we left for around six. The rest of the night was a blur.

No venue was rented for the Sunday (intentionally), people simply showed up. I remember crowds of folk gathering around Mitzy (aka Jessica/Mechamitzy). In terms of energy Mitzy were the Oli Smith of his day, and could be among those credited with propagating the trend of the Brit Manga style.

This is how easy it is to organise a comics festival. Central cost here came to rent of one room in a pub, badges and posters. The event occurred on the weekend of Diana’s funeral which probably had an effect. The organisers made their overheads back very easily as the cost of a weekend was about £3 per attendee, after which they could sort transport, eat food and buy beer and comics.

Internet acceleration inclusive of social networking has made it much easier to organise an event such as this. By the time this column sees print, it will be a day or two after the Gladstone Mini-Comic Con. A free entry festival held in a pub featuring “Glenn Fabry, Paper Tiger Comix, Dr Parsons, The Bedsit Journal, Danny Noble, The Sound Of Drowning and many more comics creators from Brighton and beyond!” Did you miss it ? I will.. It had comics for sale, drawing workshops, drink promotions, live workshops and animation screenings. Have a wee think about how you might go about achieving those things.

The squatcon derivative of the pubcon is already established – utilised that Sunday in Birmingham, and at the Uk Web and Mini Comix Thing – one of the few festivals without a bar, it has become normal to adjourn to the nearby Wetherspoons as an extension to the event. Again, this would cut the cost of a festival considerably.

Its not that difficult a leap – talk about comics in a pub, pubcon. If you’re well connected, you’re well placed to announce a venue. Ideally, people show up en masse. Worst case scenario, we drink the bar dry again. Comics are dealt out of the back of rucksacs. And if you don’t know were your local comics community is- why not find out ?

(I’ve set up a map on Google for creators to put their positions on. Its open for placement, though it seems once details are entered they can’t be edited)

You’re set. Comics festival.

There are rumours of a pubcon coming out of London Underground Comics Camden sessions at Camden Market in June (2008.) The event is likely to be held at Lock 17 bar, Camden Lock, London, NW1 8AB and feature a table used for comics sales along the lines of either the Caption or standard LUC model, and perhaps a few panels and community drawing activities.

Housecon was a term used by members of the Rainbow Bridge APA in the late nineties, A few would gather, have some drinks, watch some videos and some comics. We’re full of options.

You don’t need £2k to rent a venue.

Though in next weeks column I present an alternative model I’ve been tinkering with that suggests a way of approaching just that ! And it hasn’t got quite as many words as this one !

The Reviewers Trade Principle / Were you must not DIY

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

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

sherridancottage

Idea: The Reviewers trade principle.
18 March 2008

Ordinarily a lot of small pressers might trade comics, but what if they took this further, and traded reviews ? I guarantee you, there is no difficulty in finding a publishing point for your review. It seems a very practical principle attached to giving away a free comic. For my part if anybody would like to review one of my recently published comics I’ll do the same for you. If you’ve not got my comic, how about we trade and trade review ?

Now, as I mentioned the obligatory feeling that this entails affects a full-time comix reviewer quite badly. Over the years many have gone quite mad. They roam the hills, or coffee bars of Oslo, unkempt, unshaven, howling, telling curse stories, occasionally stinking of whiskey. What if we made it a game ? Where can you get your review published ? ComicBookResources, Silverbullet, Wizard.com ? SFX ? Bugpowder, Comics Village, IndieReview ? Or how about Women’s Own, Daily Mail, Q magazine, BBC or Empire ? No seriously- that ones doing it.

I think the growth promotion a reviews trade principle offers may be a mechanism that delivers fairly distributed rewards and audiences.

Well you don’t need to look so pleased : Were you must not DIY

18 March, 2008

With apologies to seen talents: if someone does a job for you, give them credit. Namedropping and good manners. Music tells us bands rock. Community optimism attraction.

In this unordinary fifteen years were self-pressing stripzine editors and creators become a focus for an unsponsored industry in chrysalis, there are pressures. The pressure of ‘knowing’, of work to visibility, while being a man or woman at the crossroads has claimed victims. I was going to name names, chances are if you’ve been in the comics clique for over a year you know one of those. Its much better to think of them as survivors too, those nexus individuals. I don’t mean to imply that comix doesn’t nurture those who care for it, but thats what I’m implying. There’s something missing.

Those seeking to represent a broad overview of the UK comics scene cannot must not adhere to the do it yourself ethos that cartoonists and zinesters hold to. There will be no puritan work ethic here. That would empower you and others, enrich the scene, produce some vitally incredible work — but it will destroy you. And that sucks for a number of reasons. Outside of the risks to your physical and mental health, it’s a threat to the more vital lynchpin networks of comics infrastructure. You don’t wanna do that.

Shane Chebsey has been running the central distribution Smallzone largely by himself for nearly ten years now if I recall. While far from complete, this has been the main stockist of sp booklets the breadth of the UK (until Forbidden Planet’s more recent interest). Can you picture one guy running the early Diamond Distributors outside of his full-time job and family devotions ? Theres been some kerfuffle lately about whether Smallzone is functioning to creators needs adequately, hardly surprising.

A young Oli Smith (yes, he does get younger), had asked me why Shane has close to a monopoly on distribution. I told him  because he’s perhaps the only one thats been going that extra bit. Showing up to almost every con, lugging the boxes around. Doing all the mailing out. Oli, if you want to help out I’m sure Shane would welcome it. So Oli goes off and forms London Underground Comics. The stall was an instant hit, has blazed a juggernaut of publicity. This week Oli has been featured by a Camden paper in a sort of celebrity of the week bit. He does a lot of the box-lugging as well as being a well photogenic frontman ! Though now Oli is caught with the problem of being turned to by creators from far and wide. His initial hopes went along the lines of foreseeing other creative collectives setting up other stalls. In London for instance, Spitalfields, Covent Garden etc

Even a farmers market would be conquerable by two to three comics creators  I reckon !

More gets done in the small press through individuals wishing to engage in a facilitator role. While the financial reward is negligible there are a multitude of fringe benefits for the successful folk – VIP invites to exclusive events, free comics, socialising with the lurkers to the guests of honour. Thankfully through the hard labour of our forebearers many of the structures to push this industry forward are already within place. We need only to dance !

Paypal
I always welcome paypal donations at drew dot luke at gmail dot com. I think it would be a bit irresponsible of me to write a column for free on economy and not ask for your moolah. Thanks to the guys at Comics Village for their support on this.
Also,

7comicsIn7weeks

My 7 small press publications in 7 weeks challenge is completed. Pdfs are 50p and print copies are £1 ! (‘Optimus and Me’ print version sold out)

If you happen to know of any unique pieces of comics socialising or sales geez a holler on drew dot luke at gmail dotcom. Best wishes, Andrew.

 

Maps At The Crossroads Part 2

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

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

sherridancottage

(Previously, on ‘Maps At The Crossroads’)

If you fancy a more off-track London comics Day, well there’s plenty happening. At the end of last week’s column I previewed my newly constructed London Underground Comics Tube Map.  Working from St. Paul Gravett’s events guide I’ve included all the comics events taking place in London on March 22nd (15 of them !) and added information and hyperlink tags. If you fancy a look click on the links below.

A print out version is available here but you’ll need to add addresses and opening times.

You self-publishers are all aware its dissertation rush month at the  printers, right ? Good ducking and diving out there !

Map2A

The Uk Web and Mini Comix Thing did something I’d not seen in comics festivals. It encompassed the family fun day out principle. The total carnival experience. Guessing the amount of sweets in the glass case would wn you a bundle of comics, just like school fete days. And it were that generation who made the mini-comics, on A5 canvasses for bargain prices – it gave greater fresh air to a world outside of slick Americanised prints with all that were good about ceremony. Freshly struck ink everywhere, a dusty academic hall sped Blake-like through the museum transformation, accelerating into a new age representative of modernist comics. Coke and crisps and prize draws on sale ballot like, weren’t there even tombolas ? Dealers tables makes up most, if not all of the attraction, but hey, the school fete bric-a-brac table host would be unlikely signing curiosities. Bar situated five minutes down the road for the crowd.. Genius, I will miss the W&MC Thing. If you’re going there, have a great time, and exchange your cash, comics and ideas about what the future holds for selling.

The Thing took this shape and form not through one or a small group of co-ordinating individuals, but by a large group of most every exhibitor there who understands the importance of mints and cakes, and clay models and paper bags individually hand-decorated, and badges.  Comics were only ever the main attraction. I wonder this year will some ace-in-sleeve arrive with a clothing rail looking after bags and coats for 50p ? Or will these be stored if you promise to review said creator’s comic, you know it’s good. Those little 79p Glade Air Freshners planted out around the place with some hot little comics jumping out from its side. I saw a wonderful remote controlled helicopter last week – it was going to be let loose in the venue flying my team’s colours. Maybe kids have some remote control cars for smart mini-comic distribution ! Of course the entrance to the venue is very important: Christening those banners with party popper streams ! Hit the laminators ! What possible activities could over one hundred comics trade creators union possibly get up to ? Free seating for the weary.

Entrance to The Thing is £4, or £3 through advance booking. If you have any problems finding The Thing, or want to check any fine details, the website lists the contact details as stuff (at) ukwebcomixthing.co(dot)uk, or by telephone at 07745 466608. The nearest tube station is Mile End, on the Central Line

Map2B

Josceline Fenton stopped by the London Underground Comics Camden stall today with her new book, about 52pages, a hybid of manga and zine. Its called ‘Circle’ and you can get more details from her website www.mildtarantula.com Sally Anne-Hickman also dropped by with her new gorgeously crafted comic, with unique papering as she does, to give it that only-one unique quality. Both Sally and Josceline will be at the LUC Camden thing next week.

We’ve got three confirmed tables and we hope to get all of our stock out on the day. Ordinarily LUC will alternate stock, on a number of different principles – randomly, London-based creators, new stock, creators manning tables on the day. In addition to that we may have stock from Smallzone Distribution and Factor Fiction Press. Oli Smith really is a sung hero, each week he’ll go through the amounting stock in his room, carry it down the road pre 9am, tally the results at the end of the day and get in contact wth other creators to update them on the situations. It’s anybody’s guess what will end up on the tables this week given the habit of  LUC surprise guest appearances. I think I’m correct in saying that LUC is trying to discourage people leaving large stock quantities with Oli, and future stuff should be presented on the day, or at the core salespeople’s discretion.

I’ve been sworn to an embargo on some of the fantastic stories coming out of London Underground Comics, but I will be talking to people about the Beagle Awards on the 22nd. Should mention at this point that the views expressed at Sheridan Cottage are not necessarily the views of London Uncerground Comics, and are my own opinions and feelings. Here’s how I see the Camden LUC Event running, the co-administrators on the day, Oli Smith and David Baillie, their views may differ. I’ve suggested LUC Camden may be a victim of its own success, if only it were the success of its principles ! I’ve noticed a few things – avid comics readers gathering around the table may turn looser comics habituals away. I suggest you take your five or ten minutes or whatever to soak in the table spectacle if you’ve not seen it before, then wander around the market looking at the other fine goods. Alternately, the Lock 17 Bar is conveniently situated upstairs so make use of it for socialising in a warm environment. If you’d like a go at manning the table on the day, let Oli or the other regulars know and we’ll do our best to get you sorted out. None of this should be taken as gospel though. Admission is free.

Oli Smith Northern Line

For contact details email Olli at chocolatewednesdaycake at yahoo dotcom, or myself at drewdotluke at gmaildotcom. I’m happy enough to be reached by phone on 07979053419. Though please be patient as we’re most likely deep in the business of outselling hot cakes !

Speaking of cakes, the Jack Brodies Launch Party  was put back to …well creator David Bircham had been talking about March 22nd. Yep. Thats what he said. When I pointed out to him London was looking a bit comics-heavy that day, he seemed astounded. I’ve been unable to reach him for comment or confirmation this weekend. Talking to staff members though, I was told that the 22nd would have a heavy StarWars-Stormtrooper presence, and Zorro will be in attendance…..

London Underground Comics is situated halfway between Chalk Farm and Camden Town on the Northern Line, Jack Brodies is closer to the latter. Camden station tends to get very busy at certain times on a Saturday so if you’re not a fan of the mass crush I’d recommend Chalk Farm. There are ATMs en route, though you will need to backtrack a bit if coming from Camden tube station. (See previous column for more detailed instructions)
You can travel between Camden and Mile End easily as with anywhere on the tube. The Northern Line from Camden to Tottenham Court Road will allow you to change for the Central Line to Mile End.
If you’re coming in at Euston, you’re already only a few stops from those cool dancing comix selling homeboys of Alan Moore.

Map2C

Had a very nice chat with John Wilson, the Press Agent for Orbital Eastercon. The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) is connected with this festival, which is in its 59th year. Run by different committees with a long conrunning experience, John was able to tell me there will be various items on self-publishing, writing your own literature, and submissions advice fitting rooms. There may be a re-arrangement of some rooms to deal with overflow “though only very minor changes to the programme are expected  (The programme also contains a fairly good map to the hotel) For a programme highlighting the comics events of the four days see last weeks column.

Orbital Eastercon 2008 has a fairly big dealers room, fully booked, with approximately 50 tables between 30 different dealers. Various sources seem to confirm a small press presence, though nobody knows who or how many. A lot of dealers will be doing sci-fi material, as they do at sci-fi cons, but also paintings and jewellry.
You can pre-book if you do so before Wednesday. Costs are paid on a daily ticket basis. For adults, Friday, Monday (£15), Saturday and Sunday (£20) If you’re a junior you can get in for Fri/Mon. £5, Sat/Sun £10. Alternatively the four day event is £65.
On the door that price structure is £20, £25 per day for adults, and £10, £15 for children.

If you get lost or want to get a finer clarity on details John tells me you can contact him on 07811605140 or email at info(at)orbital2008dotorg. Or go here You can reach Heathrow on the Piccadilly Line.

Orbital has a public bar, as well as two or three festival only bars, one of which is a ‘Real Ale’ bar. Sounds good. I’ll of course be over at the Wetherspoons Mile End Pubcon on Saturday evening. Big questions, big questions folks. Is London ready for this March of Cartoonists, and will the bars of London survive ?

My new comic, The Party, a collection of my writings on comics from 1999-present, the eponymously titled ‘Sheridan Cottage’will be on sale at Camden and The UK W&MCT.  You may also want to pick up my ‘Play, Work, Rest and Work’ collection, ‘Optimus and me’, and my 24 hour comic, ‘Gran’.

‘A magnificent and sensitive meditation on mortality and bereavement. Won’t win an Eagle award, but should if there was any justice.’ – Matt Badham

If you’d like to donate to Andrew Luke’s pen fund I do accept Paypal payable to drew(dot)luke(at)gmail(dot)com

If you have any stories about interesting comics social events or innovative ways of selling your comics, do get in touch. Next week there’ll likely be no third part or one of my Sheridans here at all as I could do with some more holiday time. See you at the bar, or meet you at the mailbox!

Maps At The Crossroads Part 1

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

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

sherridancottage

Welcome to the first in a multi-part column looking at the build-up to London Comics in March, when three festivals, and several exhibitions run on the same day in the nation’s capital. Saturday 22nd March, here it comes.

Firstly though, a plug for myself : Comics Village can’t afford to wage me from these columns and the paypal contributions to drewdotluke at gmail dotcom have been non-existent. What’s a nickel ?

Anyway I am brilliant, and newsworthy. So heres my plug:

7comics7weeks

Weekly comics in March : Yep, that’s the empowerment of Camden people !
(I’m told Dan Lester has considered the same. Hes currently producing a 24hr comic every month in 2008)

Jack Brodies 

I write this section on a pleasing seat, with a deep coffee beside me, loud ambient working beats and a very pleasant bakery aroma. Perhaps the UK’s first ever comics shop, café and gallery, saleable frames and canvasses taste up the walls. Outside one of the staff, Ryan, takes great delight shouting, “Comics and Cakes”. The front entrance contains a rack of Brodies Law comics and collections, a poster flipcase, and customers are actively looking at about 400 different graphic novels and a selection of toys. There are no doors on this venue and its warm. It’s not the completed work as setting up shop is still going on, work is commencing on the basement section of toys and graphic novels. New comics too, I pick up a copy of the first part of the Ennis/McCrea JLA/Hitman.

Jack Brodies Comics Cafe Camden - Andy Luke

Setting up at Jack Brodies

Creator David Bircham talks about the catering aspects of this new distribution,

“We thought the idea of a themed cafe for Camden would be ideal. We are going to offer hot food (rice and jerked chicken with Coleslaw) at the front of the shop outside and a selection of deserts from our sweet pantry… I believe comic books would have greater success if placed on the high street and I am happy to provide this service, I have strong beliefs that this idea could be potentially great!”

Jack Brodies’ gallery is presently open for business with an official launch party this Saturday 15th March. No more details are available at this time, though keep an eye on Bugpowder during the week.
[Correction: The launch party has presently been postponed, due to a few difficulties, but Jack Brodies is as I writ, very much open for business !]

The name taken from the comic book character in Brodies Law, Jack Brodies is situated at 267 Camden High Street, on the crossroads with Jamestown Road.

Why am I boycotting the UK Web and Mini Comix Thing ? In a nutshell.

Clambering over the personal attacks thrown my way in forums and emails, ‘Mr. Thing’ made cautionary essential points in last week’s interview about small running costs mounting up to his bill of £3k of little things. I believe that profit consolidation comfort ability represents the problem of The Thing in lights of comix sellers there. Put that against ‘little things’of those exhibiting: cartoonists pay £40-£66 per table, £3 per assistant, £5-£40 in travel fares, £10-£20 in food and drink (or £40 as its comix and beer), and £20-£60 lets say in producing their comix and related items:some costs are retrievable, many are not. Do the maths yourself, before you enter the toll booth of ticket sales. A venue paired with friends but a clustering of market competition. I predict three people will do better than break even from the day: Pat (Mr.Thing) Findlay, John Allison (through merchandising), and an unknown third (My bet on the Rubins Sisters if they have a Dark collection up their sleeves)

At the end of the day, we’re all big boys and girls and most of us knew what we were getting into. Next week I’ll cover the travel arrangements for those who would like to attend several of these events. In the meantime, if you’re ‘locked in’, be it Camden, The Thing (or Orbital) on the dot of 3pm, don a V mask, to show some solidarity to your fellow cartoonist at another event. Alternatively, Oli Smith is a big enough media figure that his image is plastered everywhere. If you have the time why not copy and print out his image, or draw your own rendition, and get the whole punch and head-tie material to create an audience of Olis.

{What is the correct plural term for multiple Oil Smiths – A mosh of Olis ? A Live Aid of Olis ? A ransack of Olis ? A rucksac of Olis ? A parade of Olis ? A rave of olis ?)

Francesca and Oli

?, Francesca and Oli

London Underground Comics – The Camden Thing

Doors open at 9am and aren’t in the least visible until 6pm. Theres a facebook event been created and cartoonists may put their self-published comics on the tables were practical for £3 for the day. Stock is always circulated.
Comix Guests besides Oli and I probably attending include –

David Baillie (Judge Dredd the Megazine, RedEye, CI)
Leon Hewitt (RedEye Magazine)
Dan Fish (Bugpowder.com)
Shane Chebsey (SmallZone)
Tim Keable and Andy Cheverton (West)
Alex Fitch (Resonance FM)
Jay Eales and Selina Lock (Factor Fiction Press)
With more surprisers to manifest !

Above the “not four but three stalls”, and beautiful scenery of Camden is the bar and restaurant, Lock 17. Its in the line-up as the expected venue for a larger comics Pubcon Event held sometime in June is expected to be discussed in more detail at the Camden Something Event. I’ve also been hearing a lot of rumours that an alteration of the Creators Manifesto will be discussed in preparing for mounting festival charges, as well as the creation of The Beagle Awards.

Manhua


Solidly recommended by a whole host of folk including curator Paul Gravett, Chrissie Harper, Pat Mills  and many other talents. I really enjoyed this and were surprised to find Chinese comics had more in common with British and American independent cartoonists. I will be back for a second helping of the likes of this,

Theres also live drawing events and study workshops coming up in the near future. See the ever excellent resource  http://www.paulgravett.com/events/events.htm for more details.

Orbital Eastercon

Friday 21st through to Monday 24th March are the dates of this traditional fan convention event. Held at the Radisson Hotel, Heathrow, enchants with its headline guest, Neil Gaiman..

Their programme hasn’t gone up in anything other than a pdf flyer so here are the details of my sifting,

Friday 4-5pm 2000AD: A British Institution with Amanda Kear, Padraig O’Mealoid, James Bacon, SMS, Bryan Talbot
Friday 7-8pm A hitchhiker’s guide to web comics with John Coxon, Joanna McKenzie, Dave Mansfield, Andrew Ducker
Saturday 10-11am The use of mythology in fantasy with Neil Gaiman, Nic Clarke, Maura McHugh, Sarah Singleton, Liz Williams
Saturday 12:30-2pm Fantastic London with Neil Gaiman, Graham Sleight, Geoff Ryman, Pat Cadigan
Saturday 2:30-4pm Alice in Sunderland: talk by Bryan Talbot
Saturday 4-6pm Autographs session with Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, China Miéville, Charles Stross
Saturday 10-11pm A Sensation of Vertigo: How British writers changed the face of comics in 1980s with Bryan Talbot, John Medany, Mike O’Toole, Kellie Takenaka
(Theres also Torchwood Bingo !)
Sunday 1-2pm Gung-Ho Comics with James Bacon, John Medany, Maura McHugh, Alex Ingram
Sunday 10-11am Novel Discussion: American Gods by Neil Gaiman and Mattia Valente
Sunday 2-3:30pm Guest of Honour: Neil Gaiman
Sunday 5-6pm Myth, history and dream: Greece and Rome in the Sandman talk by Tony Keen
Sunday 7-8pm Writing romance for the small press (workshop) Julia Jones
Sunday 8-9pm Comics as Collaboration with Matt Brooker, Padraig O’Mealoid, Paul Cornell, Bryan Talbot
Monday 1-2pm Crisis of Infinite Civil Wars : Tony Keen, Roz Kaveney, John Medany, Mike Abbot
Monday 2-3pm Diversity in comics: Why are there so many dumb white guys? with Jon Baddeley, John Medany, Roz Kaveney
Monday 5-6pm Do comics make good movies? James Bacon, Tony Lee, Steve Kilbane, Roz Kaveney, John Coxon

More details on Orbital Eastercon through their website. 

I may yet decide to attend on the Sunday or Monday. In terms of reporting on this, a press pass has been denied to Resonance Fm’s Alex Fitch who was directed to agents for interviews.

The Uk Web and Mini Comics Thing

For five years now this has been a stable feature of the Uk comics scene. It enjoys a soft spot in creator’s hearts as in its early days it revolutionised the comics festival scene, placing the phrase ‘mini-comix’ loud on maps, and acknowledging that together with webcomix this be an area of contextually powerful significance. Obviously at £66+ I’d urge those who have booked not to bother. The Thing boasts a show of some of the more productive non-professional journal UK cartoonists doing their stuff for the likes of it. I really hope it succeeds to get some of the non-comics reading public through its doors. Of particular note is the festival booklet which is a well bound with some colour over 100 pages showcasing most of the artists exhibiting. After paying the £4 entry charge, this book is usually available for 50p which is a real bargain.

Doors open at Mile End 10 – 5pm, exhibitors can set up their crafts from 9am and are expected to be gone by 6pm.

The website has a good accommodation list at http://www.ukwebcomixthing.co.uk/2008/venue.php and ‘Mr.Ting’ has recently posted on the message boards that Travel Lodge are doing a special Easter offer of rooms from £19. I’ve verified this, go ahead and check it out at https://www.travelodge.co.uk/saver_search/search.php

Ordinarily I use Smooth Hound to find accommodation but if you’ve no luck with the Travel Lodge offer I’d recommend http://www.laterooms.com/ and http://www.hotel.com which a good source tells me offer cheap accommodation at short notice.

Undisclosed sources have told me that this years Thing may certainly be the last, which contradicts the organiser’s statement. I’m inclined to go with my sources on this one – say goodbye to the venue for me.

Mile End Pubcon

I’ll go onto chat about pub cons in a future column, but for now heres some the details.
Many of those taking part in Camden Thing and Uk Web and Mini Comix Thing will be congregating at The Mile End Wetherspoons after the close of business. (6pm? And 7:15?pm respectively)
The food and beer is cheap, the length of waiting time is appalling and the social craic is absolutely marvellous ! In previous years we’ve seen Camera Showdown, Tattoo frenzies, and prohibited leprachauning. This year should be a good one, as long as folk don’t form a picket line around the bar or chant scab.

In Part 2 of Maps At The Crossroads I’ll provide specific travel details covering travel between and around festivals, which those of you not familiar with London may find helpful. (preview) I’ll also be updating on any new news, including reports on this Saturday’s launch of Jack Brodies.

Interview with Organiser of UK Web and Mini Comix Thing

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

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

sherridancottage

 

In a last-minute deadline presser, the organiser of The Uk Web and Mini Comix Thing granted me an interview. After having my name attached to a boycott of the event, and a level of conflict between us, I’m pleased to report the interviewee was professional, insightful and brilliantly quick. For the purposes of this interview he’s asked to be referred to under his stage name, Mr. Thing. So, I’m extremely happy to be in a position to print this interview with the organiser of one of the more innovative events in comics of the last five years. It beats getting sent tank pieces through the mail.

Andrew Luke: Could you provide an introduction of yourself and of the Thing for those who may not know so much about them ?

Mr. Thing: I remember an event back in 1995? called UKCAC or something like that. I travelled all the way down from Newcastle for the day to go to that event. For me, it was an amazing thing. Basically, there was a huge room stuffed full of interesting stuff. I don’t remember too much about it but it was awesome. As such, I had this holistic subconscious perspective of a memory from a time when I was in my formative years as a comics creator.

This is the important thing. At that time for me it was very influential. That was the last year they held it. In 2003 I looked around and noted that there was nothing like that. There were small piecemeal events with, say, 20 exhibitors but they were either too far out or marginalised by the big names. I lamented the loss of UKCAC and at the same time the realisation that there must be hundreds of new comics creators, from the Internet, as well as the existing hoards of zinesters and mini comics people that would love to take part in another UKCAC type event. I was thinking about it and figured that it could be done really simply, all you would need was a hall with tables. That was it. I wanted to keep it simple, but at the same time make it scalable in that we could add to it.

The first year I went full out and had panels, artists workshops, and such, but in all honesty, they all flopped. But the basic premise was still solid, a hall full of people selling comics and it’s that premise that gives the show its current buzz. I also wanted to model the show around the American shows, MOCCA and SPX etc. They always looked so amazing. I really wanted to go to them and it was frustrating that the UK could not manage such a thing.

Another major point, the anthology. I never read it, but there was always a big buzz about the SPX anthology, I think. I really wanted to contribute to it. I contributed to any anthology I could, but because I wasn’t an SPX’er I couldn’t contribute to the SPX anthology. It was considered to be a great way to launch a career and get seen. As such, I wanted to create an anthology that would have a similar standing, something that people wanted to be in. The first two years I out-sourced that to volunteers as I was keen to allow other people to get involved, but it was a disaster, the end result was not something you would want to treasure forever. So, from 2006 I took control of the anthology back and created what is a very nice volume and a great read. People like nice comics, things that they can put on their shelves, and people like being published, it’s a great buzz, especially if you’re small time and, so, that’s where we are today.

To conclude, the show is mainly about providing interested visitors with a great experience, a hall full of creativity and exciting things. The show is complemented by a great anthology which should ideally give you a taste of everyone in the hall, just in case you miss something.

Andrew: The Thing as with you as the front-man and co-ordinator, as it were, is something of a collective endeavour. I think it’s made fairly unique by the range of homemade arts which aren’t just comics on sale and show there. In signing up, exhibitors agree to do their bit to facilitate the smooth running of the day. Could you give me an outline of the other players involved in management and how they have facilitate the events ? How much of a share of the workload at The Thing at a non-exhibitor level ?

Mr. Thing: There is no one else involved. Unless you want to count the hall owners or the exhibitors.

This is quite deliberate. You do not need a committee to hire a hall and allocate tables to comics sellers. It’s as simple as that.

However, there are other requirements, in particular running the ticket stand. The show was created on the notion that the exhibitors could each volunteer 1 hour of their time to helping out with the running of the show. This was devised originally as a two fold exercise; firstly to provide manpower to run the event, and secondly, to allow people an opportunity to get involved. This second purpose was, in a way, more important that the first because some people like to get involved. Spending a whole day behind a table selling comics, especially if your comics are not selling, can be both tiring and depressing. Allowing people the opportunity the carry out a duty for the show meant that they could get a break and gain some good experience from the event other than sitting behind their table. It wasn’t designed to be communist/socialist sharing of power. There are a lot of people out there that want to do something and the show is designed to allow them to do so. However, from the start it became clear that the show did not need that many helpers. With, say, 100 people volunteering time, only 10 were needed. At the start, we had jobs for people in the artist workshop, but people were not interested in having their portfolio reviewed and the volunteers were sitting around twiddling their thumbs. We currently have 1 full time assistant that helps out on the day, which is all that is needed really.

You have to remember that theres not a lot that can go wrong. There are not too many moving parts in this event – the exhibitors and visitors know what to do. It’s almost as easy as arranging for a piss up at a brewery.

The Thing

 

Andrew: What is new to The Thing’s offerings this year ?

Mr. Thing: There’s nothing new really, unless you count the new exhibitors, and there are quite a few of them. One of the things about the original shows was that they were populated by the same people year after year. It became quite samey, but the Thing demonstrates a considerable turn around of talent, which is good, it makes the event very different. The only major thing thats different is that t-shirts will be available.

Andrew: Can you tell me a bit about how you publicise The Thing, and the response to the audience you hope to get – the general public inclusive of families ?

Mr. Thing: The premise behind the thing is that the exhibitors publicise the event, primarily through their web sites. This was a more revolutionary concept 5 years ago, the fact that we could let everyone in the world know about the show, and even today is the major factor. Years ago this would not have been possible.

However, we do send out 5000 flyers to comics shops around the country and carry out some online advertising, but, primarily I believe that the majority of the country have their ear to the net, and because of the scale of the Thing as an annual event, I can’t see anyone with even a vague interest in comics not being aware. I think it’s safe to say that the main target audience are people with an interest in comics and creativity. I think that the show is more about creative communication as opposed to great comics and, as such, the target audience will be slightly different to say a Comics Mart event where people are more interested in plastic figurines.

It’s a very narrow vertical, but it’s a healthy one. The people that turn up are in general younger, but not not as stereotypically closeted as they might have been 10 years ago. We do get families, but I wouldn’t say it was a family show. There are no bright kiddie colours and no real parent friendly crash out facilities.

Andrew: Is The Thing profitable for yourself and co-curators ? There’s a history of comics festivals in this country barely breaking even. I’d genuinely like to think there’s some sort of end wage attached to this hard work.

Mr. Thing: The show is not profitable. Profit is determined by a return on both time and money. However, on paper the show made £50 one year, £200 another, and has never made a loss. Technically. But if you count all the petrol running about to the shops and in particular the time spent, it is not profitable. However, I find it immensely profitable at a personal level.

The show could make more by selling the anthology at a higher price, or the t-shirts at the going rate etc, but I don’t see it that way. I think that in the spirit of things the show works well and breaks even. It has a turnover of about £5k. From that there are hall fees of £2k, printing, postage, and investments such as banners, tablecloths, computers, electronics, food and a million other little things that all add up. The event generally starts the day on a loss, that has been estimated, and by the end of the day is between £50-300 in profit. But I think it’s important to quantify the term profit and I find it frustrating that so many exhibitors argue about their profit margins. A profit is something that is worthwhile. Earning £100k a year is profitable, but earning £20 to walk 100 miles is not. What I’m saying is that the ‘profits’ the show make are not profits at all.

It is an interesting perspective though. Essentially, you have to ask yourself the question, are you there to profit from the small press and web comics? There is no industry as such. People like Marvel and DC will support the major events like the Comics Expo because they support their creators and their titles. Comics shops have no interest in the market because the self made comics are not products they can sell. That is why events such as UKCAC died, they were not profitable. However, now we have another interesting concept, and that’s power. Since the Thing started I think there has been a rude awakening and the industry has actually sprung to life with events all over the place. But that’s something else.

Andrew: Whats next for comics and yourself ? Are you planning on doing this again next year ?

Mr. Thing: I think that comics have a new lease of life, mainly because of the internet. One of the things that I have always wanted to do is a print magazine on web comics. I think it would have a good interest. I know someone recently tried, but as with many things that appears to have died off. Which is indicative of the industry, it’s full of good ideas. The Thing is a good idea, but what gives it strength is the long term vision and goal.

By using a simple structure and premise, a hall full of tables, the event is sustainable. There will be a Thing next year, and the year after. There will be a Thing every year until something happens such as there are no exhibitors or a major competitor steals the market. But comics are important because they offer so much potential. They are a great form of communication and allow people to express themselves and ideas. But they are also good for developing life skills. If you get involved in comics at this level, you are not wasting your time. I often get frustrated by things that young people do, drugs, music, loafing the streets, and very few of these activities have positive long term benefits, but with comics you are learning a discipline that could earn you money. But even if it doesn’t, you can draw pictures for your kids, you have a skill, you have a platform to socialise with through over the internet.

Years ago, comics and illustration were much more a closed market than they are today. You could have been a great artist years ago and still been left to toil in the factory. However, today you can really face the world through the internet. You just have to look at all the advertising that uses comic art, animations. As such, comics as a platform for direct or indirect success offers amazing potential and, as such, has an inherent value and worth. And until they come up with something better, the Thing will be around.

Andrew: Any there experiences you’d like to share about The Thing in the context of this column’s aims? Would you recommend, say, a mission statement or financial plan ? Advice or market researches you’d suggest for cartoonists or promoters ?

Mr. Thing: Not sure I follow the question, but in short I would say, if you are involved with anything, comics, shows or real life, keep it simple. The secret to the long term success of the thing is its simplicity. And this has resulted in consistency and stability that have both earned the show a degree of respect as a bulwark of to industry. People travel from the US, Norway, Spain and most of Europe to visit the show, thats because they have faith in the event.

I think the event would have died out long ago, like so many other shows, if it had tried to be clever. I think it’s easy to envisage special events, talks, films and such, but it all costs time and money, and its easy for those things to fall flat on their face. People will laugh at the whole show if you have a special guest speaker who ends up with an audience of 1 or a group event that ends up a farce. To look at it another way. A lot of people draw up amazingly complicated web sites that are in theory great, but a year down the line they find that they don’t have time to complete it or it doesn’t work. They try to be clever. A simple yet scalable idea will allow you to expand and contract as required, and this approach will work in most walks of life.

Andrew: Any final words – thanks to people, plugs to comics you’re enjoying, things you’d like to mention in context that I’ve not asked about ?

Mr. Thing: No final words really. If you’re reading this then I hope you’re coming to the event. Get your share of the major web and mini comix experience of the year. And I would say that, it’s not just about buying comics, it’s about sharing in a great experience, indulging in a sea of creativity and wonder.

You’ll want to buy the comics as keepsakes, souvenirs and momentos of your time at the show. Because you get to meet the creators you’ll find that the value you get from the comics you buy is so much greater. As a creator, I find that what I get from this show is the desire to create and do better than all these other people. It’s infectious and you don’t have to be a comics creator to get that. You’ll get ideas and perspectives you never had, as well as comics.

a writer who draws

 

Book a ticket for The Thing. 2008 <> Donate through paypal  to Interviewer c/o drew dot luke at gmail. com

Well of course it’s not all comic shops !

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

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

One of the ways Oliver Lambden promotes his comic , is through monthly Monday club nights at Inigo, Clapham Junction (as featured recently in The London Lite.) Just one aspect of multi-varied new venues. So, I sent out a few questions to Jeremy Dennis-Day, Cliodhna Lyons, and Malcy Duff, a few of the venue versatile comix artists I know.

Let’s go !

1. You’re an exhibitionist. You love it. Pubs, cafes, community workshops, cinemas…mainly with relation to exporting your comics work and tie-ins… Which other forums, outside comics-specifics venues, have you contributed at ?

Jeremy: Zine/comics tables at gigs and festivals. Ladyfests, especially, always have zine tables. One of my maybes for a long time has been setting up something a bit like this at one of the Oxford nights. Gappy Tooth might be up for it, I’m not sure. I’m not quite sure we have critical mass, though. There need to be a few people zineing, then it takes off.

Womens, alt and underground bookshops and galleries. There are some people who run distro for this stuff, too. Obviously this a specialism — they’re not going to be interested in everything. For a bit I ran a comic with Damian a lot more like a zine, with articles and stuff, inspired by the zine scene.

Galleries, art events and expos — I’ve never moved in on the Oxford Literary Festival but I know other people in the UK have had success with this, notably Jay and Selina. For me — cultural festivals seem to be appropriately vague and I’ve put stuff into several. They need someone agitating for comics before it gets noticed as a genre, though — the Belfast one I went to had a big name comics artist on board. I don’t think this is special treatment for comics — poetry, say, can end up just as sidelined –people tend to focus on what they have demonstrations of enthusiasm and support from.

Livejournal’s a great place for comics, too — and I’m including that because unlike all the web comics places it’s not aimed at comics + cartoonists. I sell with a paypal button, the occasional mini and I do send them all over the world. It’s not loads of people, but I’ve seen other people and I know you can do better. I’m not on there for the self-promotion, though, although it’s obviously nice when it happens…

Malcy : I play in a band called USURPER which is me and my friend Ali Robertson, who runs a label called GIANT TANK.  The TANK used to be a band but has now folded.  I have done a lot of poster and album artwork for the label over the last 5 years.  Some of this was shown in an exhibition I did called I HATE ADVERTISING ( a kinda dumb title but relates to my contradictions in working on those specific pieces ) which was hanged in the Cameo cinema bar November and December 2006.

The gigs I play are organised by my best mate Ali Robertson who runs GIANT TANK, which is a record label which also puts on gigs.  We play together in the band USURPER.  Ali tries very hard to get gigs in Edinburgh (the town where we both stay) because he has to.  It is not a town which encourages an alternative unless you count drum and bass as the latest edge cut, and I ceratinly don’t.  So it’s not easy for him but he does it and has succeeded.  And like Ali I tend to look for alternatives in exhibiting my work because you have to.  I think on the art front there tends to be more opportunties than on the music front but maybe a certain type of art.  Comics still get up people’s noses which is a power and a pain at the same time.

Cliodhna : A lot depends on the type of comics you do.  Some comics only suit the comic scene – anything with spandex is usually only going to appeal to one market or with regards to alternative press comics about making comics [personal pet peeve] are not really going to find much of market outside of the standard comic scene.

All other types of comics usually have a built in “other” market that people don’t think of.  I’ve done a lot of political comics that I’ve been able to display/market at some college gatherings/socialist rallies around Dublin and submit art to socialist newsletters.  I’ve done comics about World War I and managed to dump a few copies at a small book shop focused on history books that wouldn’t normally carry comics.  I also took my comics to a number of fine art festivals.  Most art festivals have an area for artists to sell on the street – normally it’s lots of pretty watercolours and oil paintings but there’s no rule about what you can sell so I’ve brought a folding table along and set out my comics and prints.

My friend did a comic based on work by James Joyce so, as he is USA based, I brought copies over and brought them around to the various bloomsday celebrations [the biggest James Joyce festival] in Dublin one year.  The comic Fetish man works both at comic cons and also at fetish fairs.  A local Irish artist Bob Byrne started a free comic anthology called the Shiznit and he made it a slightly different size to standard mini comics and one of the reasons was it would fit in the postcard holders you find in most coffee shops.  Bob also did a mural comic as part of a skateboarding event organized in Dublin last summer.  Another Irish artist BrenB teamed up with a DJ and had a drawing/music night in a Dublin club – artists drew on one side of large pieces of perspex to the beat of the music while the audience was on other side dancing and watching the artists work.

2. What steps did you take to go about accessing these and is there welcoming environments for doing so ?

Jeremy: Usually, I’ve been approached, I’ve never been very good at approaching people — which means that they have been welcoming, yes! For the festivals I’ve usually been tying it in with workshops, which helps, as you are an attraction, and get built into the organisation that way.

Cliodhna: 99% of the time I’ve had no issues.  Most places that you wouldn’t normally see comics people are generally very up for having them particularly if they see it as something to be used as promotion for other stuff they sell.  With the James Joyce comic, it went down well as people liked seeing Joyce presented in a new way. Most book shops I’ve found are very approachable – most will give you some shelf space on a trial.  Even with big ass bookstore chains the managers usually have the power to buy stock from local writers to make a local interest shelf so no reason a local comic can’t fit on that shelf too.

Places usually associated with fine arts I find are normally the hardest to crack.  When trying to find a venue for 24 hour comics day I contacted a number of galleries that offered space for hire and one that I had even attended a 24 hour life drawing session in so knew it could be left open for the 24 hours but most were stand offish when they heard the word “comic” but they can be brought round if you’re willing to push.  I exhibited some original comic pages at a the irish craft associations gallery space in Dublin recently but I really had a blag my way into the show.

Malcy: I do believe that a certain art snobbery still exists in this country when asked what you do and yer response is the positive “I’m a cartoonist.”  Sometimes you can see faces wither and almost fall off.  A lot of people still do not count this practice as art.  That could be seen as an initial obstacle but I think it’s the opposite, it frees you.  Nothing really good and worthwhile is ever gonna come from large galleries and large institutions, there’s hints, but in the end it is the alternatives from these places, which ignore this set up even exists, that thrive creatively and will make work that is truly important.  Be imaginative and brave and seek out alternatives.  Place yer scribbles in a burn and see if the ink stays set.  People are receptive and welcoming, and approach them with that in mind.

3. What level of reward, financial and creative aid, have these venues provided ?

Cliodhna: Depends on the venue.  The fine arts venues I didn’t get the same level of satisfaction as I was use to at cons as there is less interaction with people.  With galleries theres usually an opening night but then you go away and come back X amount of days/weeks later and you need to rely on the people running the space to give you feedback.  People buying work from a fine art gallery are less likely to email you about your work then say someone buying work at a comic con is.

The same goes for book stores – unless you work in the store you can’t really hang out and see what people’s reaction to the work is so you have to hope they either contact you or those running the shop give you some feedback.  However financially you do usually sell at a higher price points in galleries then you would at a comic con.

Jeremy: Travel expenses are normal for festivals — for workshops, talks, etc. you may also be able to get a fee, but watch out, I’ve talked myself out of a few things I would have liked to do by asking for a fee. Lots of arts stuff runs on a very limited budget! I’ve done bits of journalism off the back of some things, but, again, for no pay. People on the whole don’t seem to be very keen on paying me, possibly I’m just very bad at asking.

Malcy: I find gigs that we play to be good for meeting people and when you talk with other people about your work it can be a creative aid.  It can inspire and encourage which, when you’re working on yer own a lot, is pretty important.

4. Have you any advice to comics artists stepping outside of the comics expo circuit, pitfalls they might avoid ?

Cliodhna: I would offer the same advice I offer to people doing cons – be professional and present your work to the best of your ability.  Sometimes people can feel as they are showing comic work to people who aren’t familiar with comics they don’t need to finish the work to the same standard but if anything the opposite is true.

Jeremy: People you work with will have preconceived ideas about what comics are, and these may not the preconceived ideas you expect them to have, so check.

Malcy: You shoulda stepped out long ago, so get walking.  I’ve never been part of a circuit so maybe you could tell me what it’s like on the inside.  Is it like the cars on a track you get for Christmas?

  • Donate to Jeremy Day’s whose comics are among the best on the interwebs. There may be a new collection out for March 22nd and also Jeremy will be exhibiting for a month in Oxford’s Jam Factory this August ! Has earned.

Scott McCloud’s Facial Hair – Reviewing Comics

Over 2008 I wrote weekly for  ComicsVillage.com, during a very exciting time in the UK comix scene. Since then, I’ve seen new ways of approaching things, changed opinions. This is the 3rd column, about reviewing – of course, reviewing is agency, so why not become an agent instead?

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

sherridancottage

Less of a column, more of a surmountable object for reaching the top shelf this week. Facility is the engine by which uk small press comics, maybe logically, became the uk comics industry.

The fan of fanzine is not the be all: reading through my notes from a degree module which appears to focus on film critics. I come to film studies as an outsider – I go to cinemas but once or twice a year. In the last five years I’ve seen maybe fifty films. So, as an outsider coming to films (and gosh, some people don’t watch tv!), I see things…

(This may be in conflict with my experienced tutor’s stance on reviewing)

1. Verbose brow-wankers
2. Unbalanced to fiction
3. Lacking in punctuating.
4. Obligated to mention how they’re not going to give away what happens in the film.

That’s criticism for you !

I’ll not tell any of you how to review comics. I reckon most of the people reading this have read a small file binder on the matter – the fan thing just runs out of enthusiasm, doesn’t it ? If you know what makes a review difficult to read then I’d hope you wouldn’t inflict that on others.

I’m immensely proud of the 300 reviews of comics I wrote for Bugpowder-TRS2, largely over 1999-2001. I had a lot of fun experimenting with self-expression. Also thinking TOO MUCH, deliberating…I heard a story once about a well-known comics reviewer who went mad through the action, and went to live in a remote hilly region and never again touched the area of comics. However, I prefer the story about Ralph Kidson creating a comic book on a door or doors – sad to hear about the successful buyer trying to get it onto the bus, even with the sub-thought of it being bound together with hinges.

If you want a starter for reviewing I’d suggest looking to Pete Ashton’s original TRS reviews. A practical fifty words which touched upon key features such as genre classifying,  background info, advertising, abbreviated arguments and evaluation, social and redemptive values, motivational theory. Condensed synopsis sometimes got a look in. Pete’s reviews, in retrospect, read as if he has ascribed one or two words to each of these aspects amd joined them all together. I remember reading these at the time and them coming across simple and practical.

Reviewing small press comics in the olden days happened in small press comics. A few lines to cheer for comix that caused enjoyment rescued this medium from isolation and devoted readers to new and surprising joy.

You have to decide for yourself nowadays on whether to include the purchase details of the comics, and take advice from the author on including contact details. With the small press scene being fed into progressive places of business, its not quite as simple for a commentator to include a single address. I’m not buying comics through the post as I used to, and I suspect web-people are letting that happen less and less.

Shorter column today, rather than none at all. The Camden Lock fire yesterday has us all emotionally upset. It was a terrible fuckedly inconsistent end to a day.

So anyway,

Tofu + Cats / A Dinosaur Tale by Lizz Lunney : It’s in the title, and better for a chant.

Jason Elvis – Sex Change Diaries of a Pear Shaped Boy. Rich honest human quality with a trad zine feel. Great grasps !  & speculation, commentary – Very naughty and very very funny

Club Mephistopheles by Grave Graham – 3-D comics that hit the nose, where definition is told to relax by stream-of-conscious improv and energy.

The Wrong Girl – A welcome return to friendly minutiae of social relationships stories by a master translator, Tony McGee.

Monkeys Might Puke by Dan Lester – embarassingly funny, shallow, comedy gold, miss or hit, enthusiasm, ambition, passion and devotion.

Rocket by Bridgeen Gillespie – Works on so many levels, and it’s quite worth the shiny heavier stock paper it’s been so well printed on. Black, white and greyscale merit !

Predator Vs Columbo – Not sure this is an ‘instant classic’ as Johnston states on his website, it is very good and delivers the smiles from memory. The website is http://www.virginiagallery.co.uk and you can read the piece up there.

Inner City Pagan by Lee Kennedy caused a bunch of teenage students to stare at me with envy.

Karrie Fransman’s ‘Abigail Tells All’ is a work of great merit, long resonance and deserves to be on the agenda of more readers.

Sheridan Cottage will continue building on the fortnight, at this very website. I’ll be popping around the comments section, though now I’m going to hear if I could learn a few tricks from Mark Kermode’s podcast. 

Pete’s reviews http://bugpowder.com/trs2/oldtrs2.html
Also recommend do I, http://thetenwordreview.com/ 

(I’ve read Comics Village are also keen for reviewers !)

Donate to Andrew Luke’s personal grooming fund

Andrew Luke

Well let the boys all sing and the boys all shout for tomorrow

Over 2008 I wrote weekly for  ComicsVillage.com, during a very exciting time in the UK comix scene. Since then, I’ve seen new ways of approaching things, changed opinions. This is the 2nd column, and focusses on the Camden Comics stall at the end of their first six weeks of business.

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.


The London Underground Comics stall in Camden Market  has in the past week surprise marketed an optimistic future of British comics artists. Last Sunday morning, five cartoonists set their feel-good dancing indy spirit loose on Facebook, YouTube and several forums and websites. Director Oli Smith has set a professional series of edited clips of the playful trading community to a Beck tune.

I can’t recommend this highly enough. (link)

Then on Wednesday I get a note from Oli along the lines of, “Oh, nearly forgot. Oliver (Tales From The Flat) Lambden and I are interviewed by Alex Fitch for half an hour on Resonance 104 FM tomorrow. Could you give us a mention on Bugpowder ?”

The show is archived here courtesy of Panel Borders. 

I’m about to text him back with some smartarse response enquiring as to when he’s getting his first Vertigo book, when he follows up with “Going to meet Alan Moore on Saturday”

And before seven days in comics could pass, here they are again.

London Underground Comics feat. Alan Moore – By Oli Smith

So yeah, I bussed for London. Ran a bit late as I woke up to discover my house was on fire. Luckily the fire-crew had it well in hand and only my ashtray caught alight. Backstory: A festival I’m exhibiting at next month had so passionately involved the organiser that he’d become obsessed with me. He began sending me oddities through the mail. A Magnum P-45 assembly kit, a signed photograph of himself holding a target, pieces of a German Panzer tank. The final straw was his attempts to pay me to write his suicide note, a commission my good friend Matthew Badham encouraged me to turn down. Turns out it was my blood levels had started the blaze.

Grabbing my memos for Iranian, Chinese, Algerian and Iranian government figures and a stack of my homemade 24 hour comics (but forgetting Jeremy’s comics bah me), I made my way to the coach. Marble Arch Central Line Station, transferring at Tottenham Court; a walk to the Northern Line, then onto Platform 3, Northbound. Getting off at Camden Town is probably not the best station on a Saturday for visitors who don’t handle typically small stairways and crowds well.

Took a right or two at the exit of the stations. At the junction opposite The Worlds End pub, if I recall. Right, Towards Barclays, unless you need cash from the ATM, there are a few other cash machines further left.

Camden Comic’s stall is right and keep going. My point of destination is a big yellow font that spells out Camden Lock Market on the bridge, green and blue background.

I pass Rymans, hanging jewels, fluffies, hats and scarves across from the professional Mohawk promoters of Hair-Masters. Past the electric ball-room. There are Spanish sounds. Living lights, special lights, Bongo drums and cymbals and electric guitar and a slender lad dancing like Michael Stipe did in the 1980s, ZOOM dancing. Football scarves, and opposite is Ladieswear store Punkyfish.  Hats ! Hats ! Hats ! Gloves, Tattoo specialists. Bucks Head Pub, KFC, Mega-Giant bubbles, Tattoo piercing, Corsets, Street Art sigils. I smell doughnuts, see bananas. Dance through human traffic. Sounds of The Clash from the punk images T-shirt seller. Crossing Jamestown Road, looking at all these larger-than-life shopfront signs, I realise this is what all those radical Brit comics artists who passed through 2000 AD at some point, were drawing on, inspiration.


(Photo: Information Britain)

Over the hill onto the bridge, the quay, the sunlight and trees. Riverview bridge, canal side, bars and eateries. I spot a Holiday Inn. Last Hemp store before the bridge. A Birdyman is there every week. Past the Twiggy and Woody Allen portraits, and the Goth and Punk Market opposite.

Take a left at the oranges and chocolates, and a left again into the downstairs hall. I accidentally take another wrong turning, it doesn’t matter.

Emailing Oli Smith later in the day, I enquire as to directions from Chalk Farm Station. The stall is situated directly between the two, same stretch of road. Chalk Farm is the less busy station, with an elevator. Again, it’s a straight road towards that big muticoloured bridge. Heres Oli’s take on the landscape,

“marine ices, smell of smoke from the Enterprise, then frying from the chip shop…the roundhouse whose insides look like fairy lights, discount crockery, internet cafe, barfly indie kids, fair trade healthfood smells from coffee shop followed by esso oil, followed by shoes, and cafes, and shoes and cafes and then the railway bridge. ‘Orange Juice, freshly squeezed’ in time to trance’

Dan Lester has made it his aim to produce one new 24 hour comic a month, and two of these appear on the table. An amusing tale featuring alternating narratives which crossover to a clash between cartoon character Bruce Lee and street missionary Dave Sim. For my pick of the week, I’ll have to go with his new one, “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Zombies”, ‘cos its brill. Oliver Lambden is busy drawing away in Artist’s Corner. Oliver is a much more versatile and accomplished artist than is widely known. The stall is decorated with a few of his more colourful works, not including a piece from my previous visit which reminded me of the work of Moebius. David Baillie’s Mindy/Pool book has made a welcome return to the table. Of the twenty plus creators represented there, there’s 60% new stock since my visit a month ago. Socialising the fantastic something though always breaking off to welcome the same quality engagement with potential customers and customers.

Between one of these breaks, I ask naively, “Wheres Oli ?”

It’s not a long day for me. A shop for Eucalyptus, however go with the trader’s recommendation of the milder burgamot. The hands-on massage parlour upstairs offers a variety of affordable sessions from £10. I choose a treatment for the neurological system which has a very appealing effect on my chakra points. Then I run into Peter Lally of The Bedsit Journal. In the last two weeks, Peter has independently filled a table with small press comics he likes. He’s carrying Paper Tiger Comix, Liz Lunney (whose work includes a flipbook, Dinosaurs/Tofu and Cats), and works of an artist called Karoline who makes sweet-cute activity books for kids and adults. Grave Graham Bettany is represented, as is his star recommendation to me, Hannah Glickstein’s Skinny Bill.

Local Pete saw what Oli and the boys were doing and thought that it sounded like a fabulous and promising idea. We enthuse and agree that it does take a few socially networked folk to make it work. He remarks he didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes, and I tell him no such thing. You’re dancing, pal. His remarks echo those of the Camden Underground table manners. “Just want to offer people an alternative, to get their work out there and for people to see it. It’s nice to see people’s reactions, the looks on their faces”. As with the collective downstairs, his core customers seem to be teenage girls and women in their forties.

Peter and I feel a warm shadow come over us, we look up to a huge mop of curly black hair that turns out to be Oli Smith’s ego. “Alan Moore says he has fond memories of comics at Camden Market. He says he may just be round to see us next time he’s in the area. He likes the look of Hazy Thursday too. Compared me to Eddie Campbell though I don’t know whether I’d agree with that!”. My jaw drops and a manic laugh comes on, but Oli wants to regulate himself to normal size in case he steps on the venue ala Godzilla. I walk downstairs to continue the conversation, to the stall where new glossy cover ‘Whale Hunt’ by Ben Powis has almost sold out. I find I learn a lot about the comics I may like from looking at what the customers are attracted to. Gordon Johnston of  Virginia Gallery stops by for a chat, a dance and to deliver some free mini-comics for our clientele. These aren’t particularly deep in narrative, just amusing ideas which make the most of eight pages. Visually, he has an excellent grasp of definition in his figures, backgrounds, and panel composition. Another customer, an older gent, hands us the url to his blog, inscribed in marker and with drawings on various pieces of wood he found in a skip: cleaned, cut and smoothed up in shapes of rectangles with slots, and stars.

Whale Hunt cover illustration by Ben Powis

I only man the table for about two hours. I’m impressed by Paul O’ Connell’s The Sound of Drowning, the collection Sean Azzopardi’s Twelve Hour Shift (which I really should have bought), and Nick Hayes’ 11 Folk Songs. However, it’s the end of day, and along with the works of  Francesca Cassavotti, into the box they go. Unpacked again next Saturday, and joined by Jeremy Dennis’ Tiny Tea Comic, my print version of Sociology Comics, and goodness knows what else. With creators being offered the fair price of £3 per Saturday, it’s the closest Brit cartoonists have to a Fair Trade Comix trading solution.

Scented soaps. Green tea. Ambient mixes. Shiny trinkets. Breaking even without breaking a sweat. Comics at Camden. It’s Christmas warmth.. I daresay Spitalfields Market could benefit from something like this.

“I like the way the air tastes in the UK small press these days. Tastes of revolution”
– Oliver Lambden

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Andrew Luke