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.
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.
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”
“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/
Cartoon Kate Evans http://www.cartoonkate.co.uk/
Kate Charlesworth http://www.katecharlesworth.com/
Luke Warm http://autografix.com
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.
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
Comics Journalist on Sabbatical