Comparing Manga and Britcomics festivals: social community and exhibition

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.
The opening of this post was removed by Lederkraft when they set up at the old site. We hope to locate it later in the year

manga and brits

Comiket began running in Tokyo in 1975 with an estimated 600 visitors, assembling from non-profit dojinshi organisation. Held twice yearly, by 2002 Gravett states it amassed “35,000 exhibitors over the three days” and 500,000 attendees, its “summer 2002 exhibition catalog is almost 900 pages” according to McHarry. Indeed, its growth has become problematic and claustrophobic. In comparison, the Tokyo International Amine Fair has 130,000 visitors, and less exhibitors. This is probably due to Comiket’s figures deriving from ‘circles’, and corporate influence – the first two days of the four day festival are for press and industry professionals only.

Britain’s major comics festivals – BICS or the Birmingham International Comics Show, and the Bristol Comics Expo have a similar ‘distributors day’ before the weekend. The Expo, began in 2004, and had much in common with its predecessor United Kingdom Comic Art Convention (UKCAC) BICS began in 2006 and cartoonists and fans perform live jazz as part of an acknowledgement of the strong social tradition of these events. At both events, 3,000 – 4,000 attend. However, around ¾ of the 70+ exhibitors have traditionally been small pressers, hobbyists therefore generating much of the income needed.

BICS grew out of a dojinshi-like culture spurred on by Oxford’s long-running Caption festival. Since 1990, its opened doors to 150-200 attendees, one weekend a year. Other small press festivals of note are the slightly larger ,The UK Web and Mini Comix Thing which takes place one day a year in London and London Underground Comics, a high-profile group that occupied Camden open arts market every Saturday in 2008. In availability to consumers, the open market regularly allowed LUC to extend sales across gender and generational spectrums. Here, they come closest to achieving what manga as a culture has managed.

Allison remarks that the otaku assumes

“a social role within anime fan-dom community as opposed to engaging in isolated enjoyment of media and Japanese culture”

and states that meetings are vital parts of fan identities. Hill considers a transcultural mis-reading of the word, noting derisory connotations in Japan, and ‘badge of honour’ status overseas. This marginalisation may allow for “greater transcultural circulation of texts” and may form an identity transcending nationality. As LUC grew out of Caption heritage, Niigata arguably grew of Comiket, and both out of fan culture. First held in 1983, Niigata has 7,000-10,000 regularly in attendance and takes place twice monthly in the city.

giant sized band thing

Above: The Giant-Sized Band Thing is made up of comics creators Charlie Adlard (Drums), Paul H Birch (Bass), Liam Sharp (Vocals) and Phil Winslade (Guitar).They play Western rock/metal at the BICS festival each year and other events in between. This image is from their Facebook page.

For a sample, let’s measure three manga fairs (Tokyo International Amine Fair, Comiket and Niigata) and five British fairs (Caption, BICS, Comics Expo, The Thing and LUC) These fairs have sketching and signing, flyers, and image prints available. Only LUC does not have goodie bags, panels, workshops, movie trailers. Caption and The Comics Expo don’t have live music. I’m unable to present substantial information on Niigata though given attendance is greater than UK festivals discussed, yet with similar roots and approaches, it may be interpreted as having similar facets. Economic sponsorship differentiation would alter this.

The Tokyo Anime Fair according to Specky features hanging quilts with manga images, the sort of cross-medium work that wouldn’t be out of place at The Thing, along with cards, stickers, badges and varied dolls. Expensive promoter tools and screening of commercials are rarely found in the UK. Matt Hill  and others note the larger British and Japanese cons have common roots in SF fandom and anime:

“fandom should not be viewed as ‘isolated fan cultures but may also need to be linked to other ‘parent’ fandoms or subcutlures”

Media fluidity, Manga and anime jumping between places is quite integrated and not felt so strongly in the UK. That manga is read on commuter trains may be a truism, though it could be read as often cited to emphasise links between transportation and distribution. That Niigata is fortnightly may mean re-evaluating expectations, but these cultural factors should be kept in mind.

All feature animation reels to differentiating extent, and larger UK festivals frequently featured whole days scheduled to anime screenings. Stop motion miniatures are also common. Rarely a British comics con features a live video-game component, more likely a free CD demos is distributed. None of the Western festivals have martial arts ceremonies that Poitras remarks upon in the writing, Contemporary Anime in Japanese Pop Culture. Although tea ceremonies have cultural reflections in the strong trend of regionalised British comics pub meets.

Cosplay is a large part of life in Harajuku and Comiket is renowned for being one of the largest Cosplay events. Likely an event at every manga and anime festival, in the UK, costumed roleplayers are common sights at The Thing.


As I have found there is a greater cross medium fluidity and environmental input for manga festivals in Japan, readings suggest there are a number of social media trends I have not had time to look at. Differences between Manga and BritComics’ central characters make for differing relationships between reader and narrative which would make for an interesting follow-up study. Given the limitations of my ability to study the British Comiket, hosted over many weeks, a comparison of those too might be noteable.

Additional Photo Credits
Tokyo Anime Fair by Specky at Anime-Source 
Lew Stringer at his Blogspot.
Rich Bruton at Forbidden Planet

As I have the sources to hand, here’s some Further Reading

Allison, B. (Date?) Anime Fan Subculture: A Review of the Literature, Mass Communication and Society, University of Georgia. At Cornered Angel.

Craig, T.J. (2000) Japan pop!: inside the world of Japanese popular culture, M. E. Sharpe. On Google Books.

Finnegan, E. (Mar 19, 2009) Greetings from Tokyo Anime Fair, Manga Recon. PopCultureShock

Gravett, P. (2004) Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics, Collins

Hewitt, L. (2007) The Birmingham International Comics Show 2007,

Kinsella, S. (October 2005) The Nationalization of Manga, Japan Society Lecture, Brunei Theatre, SOAS, London.

Liew, Z. 2 March, 2009) Monday afternoon’s Japanese Art Festival review… CobaltCafe

McHarry, M. (2001-2003?) Yaoi: Redrawing Male Love. GuideMag.

Natsume, F/ (March 2000) Japan’s Manga Culture, The Japan Foundation Newsletter, Vol. 27 No. 3/4 CorneredAngel

Patten, F. and Macek, C. (2004) Watching anime, reading manga: 25 years of essays and reviews, Stone Bridge Press, pp.13-85. GoogleBooks

Schodt, F. L. (1996) Dreamland Japan: writings on modern manga, Stone Bridge Press, ch. 7 pp.305-341. GoogleBooks

Wilson, B. Toku, M. (Date?) “Boys’ Love,” Yaoi, and Art Education: Issues of Power and Pedagogy, Visual Cultural Research in Art and Education.

Sheridan Cottage Updates

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

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


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

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

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

That Gorramm Boycott

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

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

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

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

London Underground Comics

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

Other Venues

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

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

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

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

Maps At The Crossroads

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

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

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

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

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

Where did Jack Brodies Go?

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

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

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

Growing Your Own Comics Festival

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

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

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

Notes On Content

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Lester

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

His final piece in this series is due soon.

Comics At Markets

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

Bics 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jam Factory Oxford

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

Out of Office 

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

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

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

-Love and Well Wishes
Andrew Luke
Comics Journalist on Sabbatical

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

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

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


Continued from last week…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

miniportrait - shane chebsey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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