Caption Art Notebooks

Back in 2008, I was curating an exhibition in the Oxford Jam Factory showcasing some of the artists that take part in the yearly comics festival, the ‘Caption Collective’ as we were somehow dubbed. Jeremy Day (nee Dennis) helped me with the running, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey designed us a rather awesome flyer.

About that time I was using Oxford Brookes University print shop for getting my comics reproduced. Mark always managed to deliver exactly what I wanted: a simple A5 booklet with good alignment, stapling and a reasonable price.  Knock off paper and card would be bound together to produce A5 notebooks which sat at the desk for customers, either for free or for a donation to the charity box. I swooped a few ot these and several made their way to Caption.

The first drawing is by Jeremy, the last is signed. I’m not sure who the rest are by. Tell me and I’ll update this. Put in a decent bid and I’ll send you the notebook and send the money to Caption Alternative Comics Art Festival.

Jam Book 01 Jam Book 02 Jam Book 03 Jam Book 04 Jam Book 05 Jam Book 06 Jam Book 07 Jam Book 08 Jam Book 09

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 SPECIAL: Caption – Away with the Fairies

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

escape caption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy Luke Caption Jam 2008

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

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

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

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

Caption Away With the Fairies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alternative press festival 2009 alternative press fair 2009

23 Things About Running Comics Arts Collectives in Public Galleries

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Enlisting Artists for a Group Show

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Opening Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometime after the Morning After The Morning After

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

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

Closing Day

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

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

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

– Andrew Luke

State of the Union

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

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


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

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


(scrumbles up paper)

(leans on desk, writes furiously on next sheet)

(emerges wearing a beard)


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

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

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

Quick summary of the lessons to be learned:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A proper cloakroom to raise funds

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

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

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

*dons an Ian Paisley mask*

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

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

Boycott Caption !

– Andrew Luke, circa August 10th 2008

Grow Your Own Comics Festival

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.


(Originally written 11 March 2008)

Creating a comics festival is piss-easy. When I initially pitched this column to 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.


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 !