(Making) Underwater Billiards – The Whitaker-Wright Story

With the kind permission of Gar Shanley, publisher of Courageous Mayhem, I’ve been allowed to print my strip therein, Underwater Billiards, with the purpose of pulling back the curtain on it some.

Courageous Mayhem was a satirical take on the boy’s adventure comic. My own drug of choice was the 1980s Eagle, and the photographic Tales
of Suspense stylings of The Collector. So, we have The Archivist, played by myself aged 25, aged to look closer to my current years, and then called Reverend Hal F. Wallis, a satire of Frederic Werthram. Throw nothing out!

The story came out of my study of white collar crime in England from 1870-1940, and was first teased out of me by Stephen Downey for a (sunk) project about the Titanic. This is where we get the mention of Lord Prirrie, the chairman of Harland and Wolff, who later bought and lived in Witley/Lea Park, and there are parallels between both projects that amuse my inner ghoul.

Lord Prirrie

underwaterbilliards1

Looking at the similarity between my art and references, I may as well have done a photo comic! I especially like how the aerial views swirl in the same way as the staircase.

Spiral Staircase - Map A

Map A – The Spiral Staircase

Searching Flickr for Witley Park or Lea Park turns up a lot of images. It’s bad practice that I can’t credit authorship to the ones included here for I just didn’t index as I collated. You can find a lot of good image links at the bottom of this Hegarty Webb blog post, The Gentlemen of the Lake, as well as a lot of the textual detail on this case.

Billiards Room - Map B

Map B – Billiards Room

Had it been convenient for Gar, I’d have constructed this as a double-page spread, and explored the Witley Park island layer by layer. Time was getting on though, and I’m quite pleased with this strip which I put out quite fast.

underwaterbilliards2

Boathouse - Map C

Map C – The Boathouse

In the centre of the page 2, we have Whitaker-Wright and one of his visitors Lord Dufferin. Dufferin once owned most of Bangor, County Down, where I spent many a year. Many parts are still named after him, including the bedsit bowels Sufferin Avenue. Further down the page, Sir James Reid, physician to Queen Victoria. Wright was Reid’s financial adviser and a close personal friend.

wright and friends

Above: James Whitaker-Wright, Lord Dufferin and Sir James Reid

Whitaker-Wright earned his fortune much like Bottomley, through a series of investments and bankruptcies. He set up companies in America, Canada and Australia, taking advantage of the mining rushes of the 1880s and 90s. Using dodgy tactics and slipping his creditors, the odd success gave him enough to go ahead.

Island - Map D.png

Map D – The Island

My favourite reference was the Guerilla Exploring Blog, where a bunch of extreme archivists snuck in through ‘closed to the public’ to capture the goodies. This was really the only way to gather information on the park, and the commentary they provide allow me to connect all the photographs that I have to form a significant map of the place. See?

The House to The Island - Map E

Map E – The House to the Island

underwaterbilliards3.jpg

I’m surprised looking back on this that I try to reign myself to telling the story details over this last page, and the scandal of Whitaker-Wright in just two panels! There’s a lot more detail to the man and I recommend you use this post as a jumping off point for some further reading. I certainly appear to be a lot more interested in the visuals, and I like how the patterns on panels 1 and 6 repeat.

Mersey and Isaacs.png

John Bigham (Lord Mersey), and Rufus Isaacs (Lord Reading)

And of course, there’s a return to the Titanic theme. Cos that’s what boys want, right? Eight years after Whitaker-Wright died, Isaacs, Lord Mersey (who tried Bottomley on several occasions), headed up the official inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic. The chance to include Rufus Isaacs was  also especially delicious I’m sure, as he formed a focus for another of these scandal cases.  In 1912, as Attorney General, Isaacs was embroiled deep in the Marconi shares scandal. His brother Godfrey was Managing Director of Marconi US. Rufus bought shares cheap before markets opened, selling some onto Chancellor Lloyd George and Master of Elibank Alex Murray in on the deal. The three sold their shares only days after The Titanic sank, as Marconi share prices went through the roof, netting themselves a small fortune.

Newspaper journalists Hillaire Belloc, Cecil and Gilbert Chesterton got wind of a scam and used their newspaper to pursue a war against Isaacs. There was a full parliamentary white-wash which let the Chestertons be sued for libel, Rufus Isaacs got a promotion and the scandal ruined Britain and Marconi’s chances of a global domination of radio. That’s just by the way.

You can buy a copy of Courageous Mayhem in ebook format from this link ere.

The story of Horatio Bottomley is recounted in To End All Wars; a 1st print softcover has been published recently.

On Sale Here! Best of Irish Comics – Courageous Mayhem

Courageous Mayhem is a boy’s own adventure style compendium, a veritable who’s who of the Irish comics scene and I’m pleased to host the first website to offer this marvelous comic for sale.

Cover Courageous Mayhem

btnbuynow_s

 

PRINT VERSION (P&P INCLUDED) 8 EURO / £6.75 UK

btnbuynow_s DIGITAL DOWNLOAD  3 EURO / £2.53 UK

BUY EXPANDED DELUXE EDITION AND SEE PREVIEW AT BLURB.COM

My new strip ‘Underwater Billiards’ sits in the eighty-four pages alongside the critically acclaimed Paddy Lynch (Big Jim), Alan Nolan (And The Blood Flowed Green), Phil Barrett (Where’s Larry?) and Patrick Brown (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). There are the adept mystics of comicking like John Robbins (The Well Below), designer Archie Templar (The Pants Of), and editor/publisher Gar Shanley, author of Fugger, one of Ireland’s best comedy blogs.

Like any good adventure comic, Courageous has true facts and wild fantasies above and below the waves, in the streets and the fields. There’s bicycles, bombs, biplanes and bikes and The Bible. You can see the full-listing of contents at the Irish Comics Wikia page.

Order now though, your country is depending on you!

NB: AFTER PURCHASING DIGITAL YOU WILL BE REDIRECTED TO A PAGE WITH A SINGLE LINK WERE YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE PDF. GOOD LUCK!

CM_montage_page

EVENT REVIEW: Morrison’s Superhero Renaissance, Academic Conference 2/2: Lightning

Grant Morrison And The Superhero Renaissance was an academic symposium held at Trinity College Dublin on 14-15 September 2012. The conference was organised by Dr. Darragh Greene (UCD) and Dr. Kate Roddy (Trinity) In the second of a two part column, the Andy Lukes of different timelines commune to call forth their notes and  memories of the experience. You can read the first part of the report here.

Katie Chaos’s Joker-like rampage across Dublin betides woeful hangovers upon those who accompanied her trail. It was 4am when we got in. I went to sleep resigned to missing the early presentations, and remembered Gar Shanley told me foxes congregated outside the room were I slept and cried like babies. Gar lives almost entirely on boiled eggs, and so restored me to health, fit to return to the Long Room Hub for the second day of the conference.

Morrisonposter

GOOD AND EVIL

 

Muireann O’ Sullivan’s ‘God is Dead: Long Live Superman!’ discussed the sociology of fan culture. It looked at the relationships between gods, man and superheroes to find an inverse relationship between the first two and latter two. The talk apparently looked at Morrisonian characters in terms of faith, (“these heroes are creations in man’s image, rather than humanity being created in God’s), and belief, and why the superhero genre is so magnetic while rejecting conventional religion.

O’ Sullivan’s peer at Trinity, Nicholas Galante looked at the author’s use of Christian religious symbolism in ‘Our Father, Who Art in Gotham.’ It seems to have been largely a study of Arkham Asylum, looking at character shifts relating to each situation within the chaotic, illogical environment that the book examines.

Dr. Will Brooker (Kingston University London) was good enough to forward me his paper, ‘The Return of the Repressed: Grant Morrison’s Batman RIP’ . It describes a particularly stimulating work of collection (52 worlds), and integration: Morrison sews together the differing tones, including 1950s and 1960s stories Batman might like to forget. Tales of The Dark Knight encountering pink tentacled monsters, UFO aliens, The Joker with his helicopter which looks just like him, Bat-Mite, and others, in a manner which would probably have turned Frederic Werthram onto cannabis. Brooker informs that sometimes these came as dreams or hallucinations or X-Files adventures, but have been re-pushed by Morrison to sit alongside the inter-weave of the works by Miller, Moore, Grant and O’Neil, and create a new conservatism. Just as with the ‘Spectrum of Supermen’ discussed by Will’s student Philip Bevin on Day 1, Morrison treats Batman to a “Prismatic Age”, as suggested by Duncan Falconer. This was a great paper, so I’m going to take the opportunity to quote from it some.

“Morrison returns Batman and Joker not to a single earlier era, but to something more complex: a matrix, a network, a conversation between past and present…… Rather than containing him, neutralising, deadening and dampening his meanings, as the title Batman Rest in Peace initially suggests, Morrison digs up the character’s past and encourages a sense of unrest, of activity, diversity, carnival and liberating uncertainty. The story’s central protagonist is still a Dark Knight and grim vigilante, but we – and Batman – are never allowed to forget the rest, the repressed: the rest of the Batmen, shattered, scattered and surrounding him, in every rainbow shade of the spectrum, like ghosts from alternate earths and other histories, like fragments of a magic mirror, in a halo of mosaic pieces.”

RainbowBatman

HUMANITY AND SUPERHUMANITY

Two more papers on All-Star Superman: Jennifer Harwood Smith looked at the narrative were solar poisoning saw the man-hero make farewells to his loved ones, intertwining the senses of the personal and the epic.  The Trinity speaker also spoke of Superman and history and how this informed relationships as death approaches.

Shaun Treat from the University of North Texas explored the supermythos ret-con in myth and commodity, as “a quasimystical medium for expanding consciousness, altering perceived reality and exploring themes central to the human condition.” Morrison’s Utopian MystiFiction in the “holy alien trinity of Kal-El, Clark Kent and Superman.” This was a gripping piece, and I think it addressed my problems with Arno Bogaert’s notion on Day 1 that realistic, pro-active superheroes are on “a slippery slope.”

“the holy alien trinity of Kal-El, Clark Kent and Superman operates as a global Lacanian fantasy wherein the power of the story ennobling humanity to being/becoming/be stronger than we think ourselves to be also demands we accept and channel our inner-Ubermensch. Because Superman is a fictional meditation upon the Nietzschean and Fascistic potentialities of the Ubermensch fantasy, a desirous circuit that is inspired by rather than inspiring the ambivalences of the human condition for what Henry Jenkins finds is a multiplicity of ‘becoming’. Morrison invents a fantasy that inverts and mystically re-shapes our conditions for ‘reality’ as a ritual enactment of invented fictions. In short, within this Utopian Mystifiction of Morrison, readers are invited to become participant co-authors with a SuperGod who is dreaming the promise and perils of all humanity…and ourselves.”

INTERLUDE: LUNCH

There was a great camaraderie amongst the twenty odd attendees, and a sharing of tales and tips. I perched myself on the sidelines though, having broken the rule of Con gatherings: Don’t drink heavily on the night of Day 1. Darrin O’Toole mentioned a local group of comic creators were having a launch party: the Lightning Strike people, and I’d promised to look in, so the two of us took to the streets.

lightningstrike cover

After twenty minutes of maze-work we hit upon the art space/shop type venue, marked out by beautiful girlfriends, Victorian adventurers (hello, Ciaran Marcantonio), and storm-troopers. Large comics arts pages graced the walls by a fellow who might
give the super-improved Stephen Downey a run for his money, and I discussed a project I was pitching, and our mutual plans on distribution and profile-building. A quick goodbye inside, yelling at Ger Hankey, “You and Me For IDW” before returning to the conference. Ger talks about his contribution, Hybrid, and the launch, in interview with Ciaran Flanagan on the great 2dcast earlier this week. Ger’s art featured heavily in the promo material, re-interpreting the Lightning Strike character collection for publicity. Although I adore his 1980s-ish Transformers stuff, his approach of mostly drawing with ten year olds in aim doesn’t appeal to me. Lightning Strike looks to be an incredibly diverse anthology with painted Vertigo Hellblazer stylings of intrigue, steampunk people riding dinosaurs, and monkeys, just because. So yes, toss aside your scepticism and pick up a copy.

MASCULINE IDENTITIES

And so I managed to miss most of the second leg of Day 2 as well. I was really looking forward to hearing from Tim Pilcher, an ex-editor for DC Comics when they were operating in Londonduring the 90s. A friend of Grant, we’d swapped our own Morrison stories, and some of these may have been recounted in his talk on the author’s use of playing multiple personalities when in front of the media lens. ‘Transvestitism, Transgenderism and Transformative Personalities in the Life and Work of Grant Morrison’ also looked at ‘liquid personality’ and a malleable sense of self across his characters, manipulated by internal or external forces, including Morrison for use on himself, as noted above.

morrison-fluid-personalities

Dr. David Coughlan from the University of Limerick gave us From Shame Into Glory. The subject was the hyper-masculine; armoured against the feminine, yet read as expressing shame and inadequacy. Coughlan spoke of “the idea of diffusing the hard body” present in Animal Man andFlex Mentallo, and the life defined by shame, guilt, fear and hatred in the character of Ned Slade in The Filth. Slade’s secret identity is that of a paedophile, but he is a super-cleansing hero dedicated to his cat. The Filth, according to Coughlan, examines the superhero’s part in redeeming man from shame “through the interactions of perversion and policing.”

META

Charles Stephens from Texas A & M University presented Morrison Meta-Continuity Within the DC Universe: Creativity as the Ultimate Superpower. Touching upon many of the themes of the conference so far, he also brought in more view to Seven Soldiers and Final Crisis, and the subject of continuity. Charles looked at the subject of Grant’s metafiction avatars, and the movement by other authors and contemporaries to do likewise. My memories of this are hazy – this may be when we discussed John Byrne’s run on She-Hulk (around the same time as Animal Man #26), but my notes tell only that I should read the book on Jerry Siegel, ‘Men of Tomorrow’and Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine, which picks up where Dawkins left off on The Selfish Gene.

Clare Pitkethly (New Zealand?) presented Alienated in the pages of a Comic, on the subjection of his characters to comic book textuality. Inhabited by alien discourse are his characters, while Morrison in his comic assumes the role of language himself (through means of his proxies and signifiers) The characters and their environments take on “self-reflexivity” qualities recurring.  acquiring “a distance from the illusory worlds around them”, yet become aware of this. Language speaks the speaker (written from somewhere else), and characters are spoken by the author.

The final talk was by Roy Cook of the Universityof Minnesota. Royis the author of The Art of Comics which we should  for in paperback shortly, and a contributor to Pencil, Panel, Page a comics theory blog. His talk sounded frivolous, but in fact was fun and infectiously brain-occupying. The Writer and The Writer guided us through The Death of The Author in Suicide Squad #58. Written by John Ostrander, the Squad was joined on three or four pages by Grant Morrison, as visualised in Animal Man #26, with the power of prophecy, events unfolding on his word processor. Until blown up. Cook’s theory is that Old School Ostrander is having some fun poking at the young hipster writers with their kooky ideas and fancy literary foppery. But, he remarks, here’s where it gets interesting. “This issue forces us to re-conceptualise the relationships between the author as creator and the author as meta-fictional construct within his own creation, at least when this creation is a massively fictional universe like the DC continuity.” Rob then goes on to lay out five universes:

1. Wily E. Coyote, Road Runner cartoons

2. Crafty, Wily E’s Animal Man avatar and Chas Truog, who precedes Morrison and appears by paintbrush.

3. Grant as The Writer, along with his house, nearby parks and paths (visualised through Truog’s interpretation of course), appearing in Animal Man #25-26.

4. The Writer’s appearance in Suicide Squad. Technically,John Ostrander’s avatars for Grant and Chas, filtered his own perspective.

5. Our world, were everybody above and everything mentioned exists.

The-Writer

Closing

Dr. Chris Murray summed up the conference was  “a rich view of Morrison’s oeuvre and his techniques.”

Someone suggested Moore was a guru, but yet an old school teacher standing at the front and instructing, while Morrison was an escatonic new ‘we’ll all be friends’ teacher.

There was chatter about the rise of writers along Morrisonian lines.

Speculation we would yet see a diverged Superman, and coalesced Batman.

Consensus: to learn about continuity, go to Morrison.

Two things we didn’t talk about at all: the Kathmandu experience, and Quitely and Morrison’s conversation with the stranger who dressed and looked exactly like Superman.

Two things we did talk about: The Black Zoid saga, and what Grant might have thought of all this – that he’d be interested, surprised, but mostly amused.

It was a fantastic few days of thinking, learning and cooking academic esteem.  I’m really glad it happened.

I got back to Gar’s place and we had a good old bitch, while eating more healthy boiled eggs. We watched his award-winning Foxes, which was fantastic and very creepy, and I enjoyed my first views of Cloverfield, and The Mist.

Thanks to Darragh, Kate, Gar and everyone who worked so hard for such a unique weekend. I hope Dublin has another comics barcamp or conference in 2013.

Andy Luke would like 1,000 readers to check out his great comic, Optimus and Me, so he can justify  publishing the beautiful colour sequel, The Moods of Prime, on his website for free. He’s currently working on strips for Courageous Mayhem, including ‘Underwater Billiards: A True Story’, due out in Winter 2013.

Interview with Gar Shanley About New Book ‘Romantic Mayhem’

With the release of a new anthology of Irish comics along the theme of romance, I pulled up a candlelight and soup for a date with editor and publisher, Gar “Uncle Fugger” Shanley.

Andy Luke: You’ve assembled sixteen Irish artists to pull together 52 pages of love comics. From my view, it seems they’re drawing on the heritage of the genre. Is this fair, and was the subject matter a nod to the musicality or populist appeal of the theme, perhaps lesser tapped among today’s zombie market?

Gar Shanley: The genre of the romance comic seems deader than a zombie which I think is a pity because they were popular and, had they survived, they would have played a part in keeping comics from being as purely associated with sci-fi as they are today. Romance comics might have advanced and matured (as sci-fi comics have done …um …maybe) and who knows what could have come of it. What really interested me about these comics was the way they pandered to the (supposed) concerns of young girls. Such sensitive stories, often involving a heroine who worries about how she is perceived by others or what some boy thinks of her. It’s very different to the gung ho of boy’s fare of the time. Interestingly, there is a notable difference between U.S. romance comics and British ones from the late 50s to 60s and early 70s. The British heroines are often quite confident and, despite their better judgement, have fallen for some hapless twit who needs sorting out. I recommend Valentine Picture Library for anyone interested. Some of the stories found there are actually very funny in a ‘laughing with’ as opposed to a ‘laughing at’ way.

Anyway, I thought the genre would be a good jumping off point for an anthology but contributors were free to take things in any direction no matter how tangential. Most stuck to the familiar conventions though. The collection is eclectic but coherent. Everyone gave it their best.

Collectively, we are known as National Tragedy. That’s the imprint name dreamt up by Hilary and Ian over coffee. We might do another anthology or two or fifty or none. We’ll see. If we do the theme/jumping off point will change each time.

AL: It’s a more-ish, representing collection of Irish comics artists; trusted names known by ICN readers. Elida Maiques was one I didn’t know and her weblog has some very pretty pictures giving a fashion item element to the package. Knowing Phil Barrett and Deirdre deBarra are in there, I think this would appeal well to readers of Solipstic Pop or Phonogram. How surprised were you (knowing the artists), by what they added to the dreams in your head? What were the group’s influences?

Elida Maiques

GS: With my own collaborations and Tommie’s great cover I wanted to stick to a recognisable send up of the genre’s conventions and provide a few pegs from which to hang the overall collection. I thought that way the others would veer off in all sorts of directions – although I did not prompt anyone to do so. However, everyone had a good look at the Digital Comics Museum and Cover Browser and we all ended up coming from roughly the same place, which surprised me. Contributors brought their own thing to their tales though – John gave things a modern realist twist and Cathal added a large dose of Douglas Sirk. Mindpuss brought the very bizarre body horror (he’s an odd un and no mistake) and Elida did a Fellini on it. (I don’t really see her work as “fashion item” myself. I think it’s very surreal, imaginative and just plain good. You should try and pick up her own mini-comics at Independence Day). Deirdre and Paddy took the look of the original fare and stuck authentically and perfectly to it, not overselling the gag element. Archie brilliantly combines the old romance style with the old EC style – proper narrative art storytelling from him too. Luke F. is probably the guy who thematically ran furthest with the ball, as in right off the pitch and down the road. I like his two pages a lot. He’s unique. Hilary and Ian provide a splash of vibrant spacious ker-powness/lushness amongst the denser content. Al and Davy bring an old school IPC touch which really adds to the eclecticism and Philip did a great job illustrating and very cleverly designing John’s text story. Last but not least, for me the biggest laugh comes in a promo for cigarette filters courtesy of National Tragedy ad man Papa Hotel.

romantic-mayhem-the-thief-flyer-web

AL: If I’m at http://romanticmayhem.wordpress.com/the launch party at 18 Candem Street Lower in Dublin on  Saturday April 14th from around 7pm I can get a copy. Or at the http://independentsdaydublin.blogspot.co.uk/ Independents’ Day Zine Fair on Sunday April 22nd. Or http://2dfestival.com/ 2d in June. How else may I get hold of the book?  There a few different editions?

GS: There’s no online shop yet but contributor Paddy Brown (you should see his on the nail take of the 60s/70s Brit girl’s comic in RM) will be selling it in Belfast and we’ll get it in as many comic shops as possible. The first run is 300 only and also there is Archie’s excellent deluxe Blurb format. The regular edition is a cheap and cheerful affair. Nothing fancy production value wise. I’m thinking of future editions that will be a bit more fancy pants but a few quid dearer. Part of the reason I proposed this anthology was that I heard of a means by which we could get something involving a lot of colour put together for half the usual price. It’s an experiment of sorts.

AL: How much of the style of your weblog Fugtheworld has worked it’s way into the scripts, and can we expect to see the beloved Uncle Fugger blog in book form some time? It would sit very nice next to a Charlie Brooker collection.

GS: There’s a bit of Fugger in my four RM collaborations but I was trying to keep to the more conventional side of my creative self. That doesn’t mean I was compromising, I was just working that way because it suited the project and I love the results (I’m very fuckin lucky to work with artists like Deirdre, Paddy and Archie). I am likely to do anything on the blog. http://Fugtheworld.blogspot.com Fugtheworld.blogspot.com was actually originally a comic called Fugger but there wasn’t that much of a response to it in comparison to the others I’ve done. The blog has a regular following, nothing massive. I’m thinking of putting something together for regular readers of the blog to send off for. I was recently inspired by a small exhibition of the work of Howard Finster. I’d like to do some comics in that style and also rope in some old friends of mine who used draw amazing comics many many moons ago. We’ve discussed it. I think the next comic I do (anthologies aside) will be Fugger. Not sure if I’ll collect the blog together as a book soon. It’s there if you want it for free. Fugger in print would be original and mainly illustrated material.

Thanks Gar. To see a preview of Romantic Mayhem, check out the http://romanticmayhem.wordpress.com accompanying weblog.

Romantic-Mayhem-cover

Barcamp Jeopardy Day 2: Fantasy Football League

In order to secure the future of Comics Barcamp< I posted yesterday details of emergency chat sessions using LINK DELETED new chat room.

Today’s times are Saturday 2:30 – 4:30pm, 6:30pm – 8pm, or for any two people who want to take the initiative, whenever they like.

In this thread, Stephen Downey picked up on a suggestion made earlier,

If you really want to to make a final push Andy I would suggest making a list of what you think people would be good at and send them a personal email asking if they’d like to do a talk on it. A personal phone call would probably be even bette as people are less likely to say ‘no’ in person ;P

I’ve already done this in some cases. But it does miss the point a little: that this is the responsibility of everyone who wants to come. That aside, I have been going more mental than usual lately. As the comments don’t allow pictures yet, here is Part 1 of a non-comprehensive speculative barcamp.

barcamp main new page 1 barcamp main page 2 barcamp main page 3 barcamp main page 4

I know a number of you creatively. Some quite well, some in passing. Many of you I don’t know personally. I don’t know what else you studied, what your day job is, what your life outside of comics takes in. Among these skills are additions to Barcamp.

barcamp main page 5 barcamp main page 6

 
At this point I think it’s begun to get too empathic. I’m going to follow this today with another set of visuals. Hopefully, a system overview of Barcamp answering the other questions raised here and a recap.

What is Comic Barcamp? [By Gar Shanley]

The following is a piece written by Gar Shanley to help promote the Comics Barcamp Belfast event of 2011. Half of the piece is an interview with me so I’ve taken the liberty of reprinting it here, HOWEVER, you should all visit Gar’s website as he is a very funny man, and a pleasant man too.

Barcamp

 

I awoke in the dead of night to find Andy Luke at the bottom of my bed again. “I’m thinking of arranging a Comics Barcamp”, he whispered. “What’s a Barcamp?” I asked.

 

He answered: “Barcamp.org describes it as ‘an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants who are the main actors of the event.’

He continued: “A barcamp isn’t a bunch of creatives getting pissed in a pub, though there’s room for that. It’s a conference, very structured. The rules are that you must learn something or go somewhere where you can. More importantly everyone must contribute something. This could be a talk, a ride to the destination, crash space, breakfast, t-shirts, headed notepaper or time. There’s a lot to a barcamp, also different ways of doing it. The central crux is knowledge transfer and pooling.”

“So basically, everyone shows up at a destination, says what they would like to do and a roster/schedule is drawn up?” I said.

Andy nodded and elaborated: “I’d like to do a piece on comics writer pitching, and if someone asks, I’ll talk about my external funding experiences. Schedule expectations are fluid. People can register their interest in presenting a particular subject online before the event. It is not until the morning of the camp, where this is fixed on an open grid structure – a wall-plan in the reception lobby of the day’s events which will run across two conference rooms. Arrive at a reasonable hour and you get to pick your slot. So in short, it’s disorganised until it isn’t. A central organising committee should shape organically. Barcamp is in the hands of you.”

I asked Andy where such an event could take place.

He answered: “Blick Studios on the Malone Road is a lovely arts conference centre at an affordable price. Neither date nor venue are fixed at this time. The biggest issue among my concerns is sponsorship. Ideally, no money should change hands. Donations are investment. So perhaps Forbidden Planet might donate the £100 for one of the rooms, and 50 or 100 of their bags to hold conference packs. A local graphics company might donate £50 for the second room and some headed notepaper. An arts shop might donate note paper and pens etc. Traditionally, barcamps work on a tiered sponsorship system with the biggest sponsors being rewarded a higher marketing profile through the event as in bigger logos on name-badges. ”

He went on: “The venue ideally has wi-fi. It’s possible that the organising committee could operate through a back-channel web-chat. IT Barcamps have a lot of activity with central twitter hashtags, presenters providing their informal sessions in the form of an online powerpoint, document etc. The event could be live-streamed to remote goers.”

I asked Andy if this kind of event has this been done before in relation to comics.

“I don’t know if anyone’s ever done a comics barcamp before,” he answered. “ The socially structured Caption is the closest I can pinpoint. If there’s a comics stall, it’ll be communal but I think this might be where rucksack sales come in.”

Andy then concluded by saying: “I would like to invite some local professionals outside of comics work to re-grow the populism. Obviously, comics folk are lovely people, jubilantly casting off chains of solitude – but sometimes as we do so we get our own heads up arses. I blame the drink. Guinness!”

Then Andy vanished, as if he was never there, and I was left thinking the idea was ambitious but equally doable, Andy’s idea sounded like a very good one. Watch this space for further developments.

If you are still uncertain as to what a Barcamp is exactly watch these lovely people:
WHAT IS A BARCAMP [VIDEO]

And here’s a useful links by Andy:

http://wikiworldbook.com/blog-325-Learning-Barcamp-and-Comics.html

comicsbarcampbelfast.pbworks.com

THE END.

 

Comicking: Small Faire

This was my first column for the now defunct Alltern8.com, dated December 9th 2009

Pete Gravett stood facing the map of the British Isles on photo glass, ten by twenty wide in his study suite. Electron Orange lights illuminated the cities of London, Birmingham, Bristol and Palookaville. Technology to be proud of, live internet feeds delivering realtime updates to his 4D comics arts events calendar. He’d noticed the constellation change these last months, spread out to smaller areas in Exeter, in Telford, Leicester, Richmond and Inverness. This had been going on before that, he thought, accelerating since the Sean Olilamden’s stint at Camden market. The celebrity endorsements and music videos made the Camden set a YouTube sensation and their handmade comics led to them being mobbed by teenagers in a manner reserved for Jagger and Lennon. That populist wave continued with Jimi Gherkin, a folk singer, who would recruit an entire picturebook festival as his onstage accompaniment.

“Point of Sales Mode. Increase parameters to Maximum View”, requested Gravett.
“POS View is in Beta Mode. Buffering…”

The lights flickered briefly. From those representing monthly marts, SciFi, Fantasy and RPG Cons, a manifestation outward, multiplying in number. Recognisably mapping out the number of speciality stores, bookstores, libraries, then all over the NASA hardware display, a swarming. A church basement here, a pub there. His palm hovered over the screen for details on new locations. A workers’ co-operative, a market stall in a northern industrial town, car boot sale and a village fete. The whole country was filled with lights. As it began to map out the PubCons, the machine threatened to overheat.

“Shazam”, he uttered. “Its like some crazy Socialist revolution.”

The internet makes available once again the populist comics form for a mass readership. Through access to news and reviews we can determine ordering printed matter. Or find a bookstore or a comics festival within travelling distance. In recent years, the prices for self-publishing cartoonists selling their wares at these venues accelerated well above the £30 mark. The following Table Prices Controversy led to a split between cartoonists among a class income lines, resulting in an official boycott and numerous unofficial non-participation acts. Some self-publishers saw that one of the solutions was small fairs. In 2008, the collective London Underground Comics sold small press comics at Camden Lock Market almost every Saturday of the year. In 2009, Jimi Gherkin’s Alternative Press held a week long fair, three one-day events and ‘twinned’ with eleven or more other events within the community. Unsubstantiated reports have reached me that Gez Kelly of Golden Orbit, distributor at some of the monthly marts of four-colour boxed backing board comics, has begun to specialise in independent products. Add this to the news that a wing of Forbidden Planet International is running a trial small press section in its Birmingham store and access to original new British comics is increasingly fitter.

As a cartoonist and promoter of the form this gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. In the last fortnight, I presented at two small fairs and saw a lovely selection of comics from independent producers.

Dublin Zine Fair 2009

When I left Ireland in 2005, there was a ragtag of sporadic comics publications and an occassional event, little to call it a ‘scene’. By the time I returned, it was more public, more pro-active. Last weekend, I accompanied Paddy Brown, author of partwork mythology, The Ulster Cycle, from Belfast to Dublin. We were attending the second yearly Independents Day in The Co-Operative Food Building in the Newmarket area.

Publicity-shy cartoonist and ex-reviewer John Robbins briefly made his second festival appearance in a decade and help us set up our stall. I met lots of active small pressers whose names I didnt know, which I’m inclined to think is a good thing. Differing from the cosplayers of traditional Comicon standard, the venue was populated by sexy anarcho socialist feminist zinesters with dreads and piercings and tarots and woolens. Behind my swearing robot comix collections was a Vegan cake stall and next to us, the sale of Palestinian hand crafted items by the Irish Solidarity Group. Not a Stormtrooper in sight! This gave me happy memories of Camden, dealing comics to a varied crowd who hadn’t necessarrilly come in search of them. I was selling around ten comics an hour and my voice became hoarse.

Some local self-publishers I met included Gar Shanley, Luke Fallon, and Deirdre De Barra whose ‘Found’ deserves special mention: a beautiful silent comic about isolation, connection and ascension which delivers love straight to the reader. I also picked up the American “Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf: A sex education comic book” which has a responsible and friendly attitude and an illustration style rooted in zines. Long-running Irish punk zinesters Loserdom were there, and they’d managed to get Jimi Gherkin’s Zine Collective stock on their table. Convention afficionado Cliodhna Lyons even appeared for fifteen minutes to pass on some stock, having flown from attendance at the Leeds Thought Bubble comics event the same day.

With a few copies exchanged at days end, Paddy and I packed up and drove out to Belfast for Phase 2 of our plan.

black box market 2009

The Black Box is a pub and nightclub on Hill Street in Belfast, which once a month opens its doors to a market. Exhibiting is free, though donations are expected. Organisers Helen and Ryan Darragh state,

“we have limited space. So we really have to work it out on the day. We try to do our best by each stall holder.”

Paddy and I laid out our comics and those given to us in Dublin, such as the works of Edition Book Arts, a collective made up of Paddy Lynch, Katie Blackwood and Phil Barrett. We attracted a crowd who were delighted to learn there were so many Irish cartoonists producing their own wares.

A cornucopia of wares presented browsers with varied choices. One exhibitor had Playmobil and Star Wars figures dangling from key rings. Local poet Christine Morrow manned a table were bus route images had become badges and Happy Mondays gig posters showed up on sustainable carry bags and mugs. The Handmade Brigade sold tea-towels with stitched in obscenities, which in their own way were quite amusing. Across from us a vinyl record seller told me he enjoyed the welcome opportunity, his usual sales route through Ebay having begun to dry up. Next to him Dale Mawhinney, a local painter who adapted some of his poems into comics. Across, an Anarchist collective who had Spain Rodriguez’s graphic novel, Che, proudly displayed under Karl Marx’s Capital. About ten of the twenty tables sold a few comics. None were quite so concentrated on the form as ours or the traditional collectors stall manned by Scott, Ron and Karen from The Sunnyside Comics Podcast.

During the day Davy Francis stopped for a chat. Davy worked on Oink! And his round and squiggly humour strips such as Cowpat County were an inspiration to me growing up. We were also joined by Danny Pongo, my co-writer over the last month on humour piece, Santa: The White Paper. As it was my birthday, Paddy and Danny took me for drinks after we’d packed up and we admired the unveiling of a new mural-in-progress nearby of celebrity caricatures.

black box market 2009a

As I write this, my email box dances with chatter about the next Black Box Comics Market, an accompanying website and a mini-comic collection to give out free to interested parties. In addition to the market on the first Sunday of the month, theres an additional date on January 17th there withBlack Books, as part of the Out To Lunch Arts Festival in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. In England, Jimi Gherkin has already confirmed the similar 2010 Alternative Press Fair for February 13th from noon to midnight at the St. Aloysius social club, Phoenix Road, London.

Theres a thing about the buzz of so many different people at these small fairs that gets my enthusiasm rising. It happens in a way I don’t get at comics conventions were the public have paid an entry fee and are surrounded by four-colour noise. I like the variety of zines
and baked cakes and comics just fitting in with other stuff, rather than isolated to a hall of their own. Where theres nothing special about comics, theres everything special about comics.
Further comics events throughout the year can be found at Paul Gravett’s always excellent Events list.