Hello World Yourself

Welcome One, to Version 1.0 of my new website, and to it’s companion, awriterwhodraws.com, which is about the comixing jobs I do.

I’ve taken the path of test trading after 15 years of doing this sort of thing for the sake of doing it. I have grand plans, but for the present, I’m treating the process as a level up made of delicious gold rings for athletic hedgehog.

Tomorrow, I part for the 2d Comics Festival in Derry; an event combining schmoozing and boozing with a family-orientated experience and not a pain line inbetween. I’ll be looking for young artists who would do with a break and want someone to feed them promise, sharpies, brushes and a piece of digital equipment or two. (Yes, there are dividends) And if I’m fortunate, talented colleagues will co-mix it up too. I’m keen to take away three or four page mini-portfolio copies of sequenced art, and pin-downs for future use with clients.

The event gets into high gear from Friday evening, at the club above Sandino’s Bar. Before that, several workshops presented by quality talents Gary Erskine, Garry Leach and Rufus Dayglo. Anticipating the same enthusiasm from the weekend crowd, I’ll be setting up table at The Diamond (Wetherspoons) from 5pm on Friday, for a few drinks and some food. I’d quite like you to join me, be it for a social casual or to talk shop. Yes, you can hold your comics samples up to my face while I brandish a burger and a beer. Alan Moore wouldn’t let you away with that sort of behaviour.

That’s The Diamond (Wetherspoons), 23 The Diamond, Derry, County Derry, BT48 6HP – near the Verbal Arts Centre, from about 5pm on Friday.

I will bring the hat.

Photo c. Chris Ledger

Comicking: The January Ashcans

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

Welcome to an occasional collection of comics art, news, snippets and stories of note. Once a month, I’ll bring the easter egg extras that don’t make it to my regular columns, but are a tasty treat nonetheless.

Black Books

Is an independent literary fair, part of the cultural regeneration of Northern Ireland, within NI Culture’s Out To Lunch festival. This weekend Paddy Brown will be manning a stand there, selling work from the North and South, now including Blackshapes’ Phil Barrett.

Keep a look out for special guests!

Eggheads
On Tuesday this week, Paddy completed recording at BBC Scotland for an episode of the knowledge based quiz show, Eggheads along with fellow Belfast comics creators on his team: Stephen Downey (CANCERTOWN) and PJ Holden (JUDGE DREDD) Eggheads features four rounds of specific knowledge followed by a fifth on general knowlege. Teams compete against an Eggheads team of boffs and brainiacs. (PJ’s photo from the BBC lobby here.)

When Eggheads had a cartoonist team appear on the show in October last year, a series of knock-outs and a tense tie-break resulted in a win for The Cartoonists. Could it be that the targeted recruitment of more cartoonists just several weeks after means the Eggheads are out for ink blood or yoke? Be careful guys! Downey confirms this edition of Eggheads had Jeremy Vine hosting, which means it will air over the Summer or Autumn.

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Battlefields: Happy Valley is the latest wartime offering from Garth Ennis, published by Dynamite. An air squadron taking on The Third Reich in 1942, over the industrial centre of the Ruhr. Apparently the story made PJ cry.

A panel from Happy Valley is replicated in PJ’s short autobiographical comic drawn in an hour that’s got a great Eddie Campbell quality to it.

Oh Mr. Robinson and His Quango…
Belfast politics are in the news this week as it’s transpired MP Iris Robinson has resigned. She’s had some rather serious mental health issues, undeclared business contracts, lots of cash and the 19-yr old waiter. In the fall-out, her husband the First Minister of Northern Ireland has stood down from his post until the enquiry reaches it’s findings. Oddly, the region’s newspapers are mostly lacking selections from political cartoonists. Here’s some contributions from Stevie Lee on Tuesday, firstly with Peter’s replacement MLA Nigel Dodds and then with Martin McGuinness and replacement First Minister Arlene Foster

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Announcing the dates of Derry’s 2D Festival, 2010 David Campbell writes,

“2D, although we are late on the go this year, is happening and will be on from the 3-5th June, in the Verbal Arts Centre and Sandinos, with a similar format to previous years. We are working on guests and contentat the minute and will be publicising the dates as much as we can from here on in, so any help with that is appreciated. Be glad to have you along as an exhibitor again if you’re up for it.”

There are few better ways to spend a weekend than in this real community event and rational for hedonistic partying. It’s the fourth annual festival and last year there was critical debate, Bryan Talbolt, David Lloyd, sketches and workshops for children, dancing and blurred vision. David, my answer is Yes.The 2D website can be found here.

On the subject of Irish political cartooning, do check out these lovely sketches on David’s blog.

There Was More Than One Gunman

Never far from critical clarity, Dubliner John Robbins ruffled a few feathers on the indy comix scene in 2001 with the release of Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll. The tract explored the motivations of self-publishing cartoonists, and their agendas in product contents agendas through a short repeated question: “Why do you do it?” In many ways, Closing Shots strikes and cuts the small press in much the same way as Roland Barthes’ Death of the Authordeconstructed the culture of writing and the merit of the act when bound to coded referencing of other texts.

Shortly after publication, the text was carried at Bugpowder.com and for a while open to comments and criticism. It’s still a solidly articulate and insightful prose with a directed ire towards contemporary mainstream storytelling. Valuable for discerning reviewers, critics and mostly, thinking creatives on the scenes.

In November, a revised edition was uploaded. If the original on Bugpowder is the ‘Shock’ tract for thinking critically about the comics you read and create, the new edition is the ‘Coax’. Yet perhaps more damning, certainly more directed and appearing clearer: much more relevant to a generation online were alternative transforms to new mainstream.

“Oftentimes there is a misconception among small press creators that they are rebels with suppressed talent, struggling against the might of the inferior mainstream and producing work of greater substance. This romanticised view also alludes to a notion that any production of material beneath the small press umbrella is somehow underground in nature. ”

In requests I publish an interview on the piece, John has stated he prefers the work to speak for itself. John’s new website, Downright Bockedy, is here.

The Baillie Train
David Baillie, author of The Indiscriminate Device and Tongue of the Dead has been blogging from Hôpital Avicenne in Paris, were he and Daniel Goodbrey have been working on something interesting,

“Mr G had been approached by virtuoso architect Valerio Ferrari about a proposed art installation in a Parisian hospital. His  idea was that it would take the form of something like a web comic, but one that would be navigated by physically travelling through a space rather than clicking in a browser.”

More about it on David’s blog where he goes on to document his trip from Paris on Tuesday to a big important meeting at BBC Scotland. (Not for Eggheads, no)
Still, if you want conspiracy, I heard rumours of a meeting of other 2000AD types thereabouts….

The Beagle Has Flown
My stage directions for a renewed British Comics Awards ceremony featured on Alltern8.com last month. It met with confusion from editors and a resounding silence from readers who viewed it in healthy numbers. On the same day the piece saw print, it was to be joined by that of another high profile comics  journalist confirming that there have been developments in The Eagles story. Just before it was put on the back burner for verification purposes.

Escape
Last month, Paul Gravett announced the return of Escape. Here’s what he told me in an email on Monday,

“it is early days and we’re not planning many books to start with. There will be the Escape anthology returning for graphic short stories.”

Escape has a special place in British comics history. Indeed it featured a wealth of talent and over the 19 issues helped to launch the careers of Eddie Campbell, Dave McKean, Neil Gaiman and Jamie Hewlett among others.. Interesting times ahead: the story is here.

Oli Who?
Professional indy comics activist of London Underground Comics, Oli Smith, is writing Doctor Who. According to the recent official Doctor Who Magazine (DWM), an audiobook ‘The Runaway Train’, presumably voiced by Matt Smith and Karen Gillian may be due out this June. In fact there’s already an Amazon entry for it.  The following month sees the release of his first full-length novel, “Nuclear Time” as part of the BBC New Series Adventures. He’ll also be putting some of those comic scripting skills to good use on DWM.

Stalking Sean
I appear to be stalking Oli’s cohort, Sean Azzopardi, whose work ethic is off the scale lately. He’s contributed pages in the shape of “My Only Friend” (oposite) to ’69 Love Songs’ A strip blog interpreting songs from the album of the same name by The Magnetic Fields. (Amazon link) There are also some fantastic contributions by Hum “Lew” Davies, Ton Humberstone, Elizabeth Jordan and a host of others.  A wonderful find.
Sean has also been spotted taking part in the 100 Days project: a creative concept to create something beautiful to make the world a better place. Ahh, that’s nice. Sean is posting his creations at his Phatcatz website.

Oh, and you can read my review of Sean’s action fantasy story, Necessary Monsters right here on Alltern8.com

All this exposure, it’s an arrest waiting to happen.

Radio Resonating Comix
Over the last few years Resonance FM, a London community arts radio, has allowed comics journalist Alex Fitch to present his rather excellent show, Panel Borders. In that vein comes the Alternative Press Hour, a monthly show “dedicated to comix, zines and DIY culture” featuring Gareth Brookes and Jimi Gherkin. The first show features interviews with London Zine Symposium organiser Edd Baldry and Mike Lake, co-founder of Titan Distribution and Forbidden Planet. Broadcasts this Friday (15th) at 9pm and should probably be online by Monday.

Finally, it’s just been announced that Darryl Cunningham’s Psychiatric Tales is to be published in collected form in the US, by Bloomsbury. If you’ve not seen this, it’s worth a look and here it is.

If you have an area you’d like to see covered, or a story to share, I can be emailed at drew.luke(at)gmail.com on correspondence marked ‘Comicking’.

I’m also on TwitterFacebook and right here on Alltern8.com My loud new webcomic, Don’t Get Lost, is updated Thursdays.

Comicking is published most Tuesdays, except for next week as I’m taking a holiday.

(Archive)

Sheridan Cottage Updates

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

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

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

That Gorramm Boycott

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

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

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

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

London Underground Comics

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

Other Venues

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

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

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

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

Maps At The Crossroads

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

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

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

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

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

Where did Jack Brodies Go?

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

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

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

Growing Your Own Comics Festival

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

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

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

Notes On Content

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

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

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

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

John Stuart Clark (aka Brick)  http://www.brickbats.co.uk/ 
Polyp http://www.polyp.org.uk/
Cartoon Kate Evans http://www.cartoonkate.co.uk/
Kate Charlesworth http://www.katecharlesworth.com/
Luke Warm http://autografix.com

Dan Lester

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

His final piece in this series is due soon.

Comics At Markets

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

Bics 2008

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

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

Infinity & Beyond, 31 Castle St, Shrewsbury, SY1 2BQ. The mail order website ishttp://www.infinitybeyond.co.uk/store/home.php

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

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

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

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

The Jam Factory Oxford

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

Out of Office 

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

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

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

-Love and Well Wishes
Andrew Luke
Comics Journalist on Sabbatical