Sheridan Cottage Updates

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

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

sherridancottage

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

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

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

That Gorramm Boycott

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

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

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

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

London Underground Comics

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

Other Venues

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

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

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

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

Maps At The Crossroads

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

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

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

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

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

Where did Jack Brodies Go?

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

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

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

Growing Your Own Comics Festival

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

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

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

Notes On Content

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

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

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

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

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

Dan Lester

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

His final piece in this series is due soon.

Comics At Markets

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

Bics 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jam Factory Oxford

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

Out of Office 

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

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

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

-Love and Well Wishes
Andrew Luke
Comics Journalist on Sabbatical

State of the Union

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

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

sherridancottage

 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.

STATE OF The UNioN
…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 ?

(pause)

(scrumbles up paper)

(leans on desk, writes furiously on next sheet)

(emerges wearing a beard)

Well

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 yet..do 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 ?

COMICS JOURNALISM

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)

BUGPOWDER

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.

TRS2

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.

MINI-CONS

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.

CAPTION

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….

THE BOYCOTT

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.

Hahahaa

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

No Barcodes Comics Market / Mike Allwood, and Comics Village at the Bristol Expo

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

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

sherridancottage

Welcome to Sheridan Cottage, updated nearly weekly through to June. I’ve been looking at social and economic aspects of comics as typified through festival and distribution. Today, the small and large – from the growing phenomenon of the mini-comics-con to a look at Comics Village at the Bristol Comic Expo, and an interview with organiser Mike Allwood.

The London Zine Symposium takes place next Saturday in London where people can buy their word and pic tonerifficks and exhibit one comic or zine free of charge. And I guess there’s nothing to stop you dealing discreetly and politely out of backpacks, or talking to members of the public about your wares. There’s online radio, workshops, readings, exhibitions, walks and talks to entertain. Filmscreenings and screenprintings. That’s Sunday April 27th at The Rag Factory, 16-18 Heneage Street, London E1 5LJ. There are more details on the website

The Brighton Artists Book Fair at The Phoenix is up this Friday 24th May, and if you can’t make that the exhibition runs accross Brighton from next Saturday (26th) until June 7th. More details athttp://www.phoenixarts.org/exhibitions.htm

Hot off the presses
, the comics entrepreneur pragmatic Oli Smith announces No Barcodes, the Camden Comics Mini-Con from 10-6pm on Saturday 31st May. Featuring cheap food, glorious scenery (see video for more on this). sketching tables, entrance is free, and exhibitors a small fee. There’s also an after-drinks event. If you’d like to exhibit, email camdencomics at hotmail dot.co.uk

Press release available here
Facebook Event listing here

BICE website header

The Bristol Comic Expo runs from the 9th to 11th May this year, and will feature a number of high profile guests and events (http://www.comicexpo.net/ for full details). Comics Village will be on-site with their very own room, opening at noon on Saturday when there’s a comics-related family fun day of sorts. An expo treasure hunt, Guess the Stack O’ Comics, and Design-a-character competition all offer prizes in The Comics Village Fete.
Comics Village Mayor Craig Johnston, “design a brand new character, or a new interpretation of an old favourite, colour in the template and have it pinned on the wall. The judges will pick their favourites and the winners can choose from a large selection of prizes kindly donated by Diamond UK. Colouring pencils and templates will be provided at the Fete, and prizes will be awarded in various age categories”
Theres also a Bric-A-Brac table;
Craig: the cupboards have been cleared out and the shelves are now bare. Superheroes, manga, SF, from hardcovers to paperbacks, it’s a chance to sample something different, to try something new, for a low cost.

The Sunday will retain elements of this at the Village, though feature a more critical edge with a Sheridan Cottage panel, possibly with representatives from Caption, Bugpowder, London Underground Comics. Expect it to include discussion of small venue/large venue, unionisation, and tickling analysis. I’ll also be distributing a special print-only edition of Sheridan Cottage – a biting manifesto that will bring critical cries of “that’s uncalled for”, “that’s harsh, man”, and “Well he kinda has a good point – maybe this is the way forward”. Copies of my comics and the collected Sheridan Cottage print book will be available throughout the weekend. Stay tuned…. If you’d like to be involved contact CraigJohnsonEsq at aol dot com or myself at drew dot luke at gmail.com 

I’ve traditionally kept a low profile at the Bristol Comics Expo so I thought an interview with organiser Mike Allwood might help put the event into perspective.

Andrew Luke: Who is Mike Allwood ? A google gives me someone associated with ‘weed management’, and I know you’ve been involved in comics for absolutely ages.

Mike Allwood : Weed Management? That is what Bill and Ben do is it not?

I did spend over 12 years working in Bristol Comic shops albeit I was involved in shows before then. Now I do not work in the industry, I’m semi retired and am back working with an Interior fabrics company.

The show is a ” hobby” if you like, love doing it and will do as long as it’s FUN to do.

Andrew: How many years have you been running comics events ? Could you take us through a speed history as a participator and as an organiser with some hint to depth and scale ?

Mike: 1ST show was in Taunton 1992 Sci Fi & Fantasy Fair, all of 10 tables and one guest artist!
In 1998 UKCAC had closed its doors and Kev Sutherland suggested that maybe Bristol would be a good place, so Comics 99 was born and we worked together till 2004 when Kev went off to work for the Beano and his school work shops. I took over the show, changed the name to Comic Expo and have been running the show since.
I have over the years been involved with Sci Fi Cons, Doctor Who shows, Marts, the Animated Exeter Festival for the last 4 years, produced the only Arthur C. Clarke convention in 2004. Shop signings etc etc.

Andrew: Can you let us in on a few basic statistics ? What sort of region of footfall have you traditionally seen at this event ?
Mike: Last year over 3,000 fans turned up! Best yet. Previous attendance was circa 2,000 plus.

Andrew:
 How many dealers tables are there ?
Mike: We have over 200 tables and 25 Booths

Andrew: How many of these dealers tables are small pressers tables ?
Mike: I have around 50% off the hall as Indie Press, now we do not use the small press and have not for a couple of years, the standard is waaaay beyond the old term of small press which has that 90s Photocopy feel about it, so we coined the term UK Indie Press.

Andrew: Is there a variation on table prices ?
Mike: Yes Indie Press pay ½ of the Dealer rate

Andrew: You’ve got a film night, and there’s the Eagle Awards dinner for those who can afford it, but can you tell me about the other deliberately inclusive social activities ? What’s the bar atmosphere like for example ?

Mike: We have the ART JAM on the Sat night as an alternative to the dinner. We do not try to have too much organised events outside of the panel programme. There are plenty of Clubs, Bars and much more in Bristol to do!

Andrew: What’s coming up at Bristol new this year or of particular choice in personal recommendation ?

Mike: The HUGE Manga spotlight, we have creators from Japan, China, Germany, USA and Sweden this year. The Panini X factor talent search is new and the winner gets to see his / her story published by Panini. Really there is a packed programme, over 30 hours of talks, events, interviews and I believe one of our best line ups. The 3 headliners, Jim Shooter, Walt Simonson and Jim Starlin are all on stage at some time over the weekend for 1-2-1 interviews.

Andrew: The Expo has a very open-door attitude to the under 16s: kids in for free, 12-16 yr olds for a pound. Do you see much of a move beyond the perception that 30somethings are ‘the last comics generation’ ?

Mike: Yes and No, The fan base is getting older, a lot of us did start reading in the silver age and we’re still around!  Getting the Next Gen long is vital to the show and the industry, what better than free or a £1 way to do that. For the 1st time this year we have DC Thomson along and we have seen adverts in Dandy and Beano, another 1st for the show.

Andrew: How does festival management structure break down in terms of people ? (Is there a shared consensus of responsibility ?)

Mike: Every man for himself! No the show is pretty much what I say I would like to see at a show. Then the team have their say and then we all agree I was right in the 1st place!

Andrew: 
Could you talk a bit about the promotional steps involved related to the expo ?

Mike: 
Advertising is the key on as many levels as we can manage to do, Adverts this year in CI, Neo, Sci Fi Now, Imagine FX, Markosia comics, 2000AD. Huge local press coverage in the lead up. We know the hard core comics fan will be there, it’s the Schools out reach programme, the What’s on guides etc to spread the word! Even local radio, newspapers…..
The website is vital as is all the net based groups, we have the support of a preview site and the comics village in getting the word out across the net.

Andrew: Do you manage to turn a wage for yourself by the festival’s end ?

Mike: That would be nice, but no. The show covers its cost and that is the UK is as good as it gets, Yes the US shows with 70-80,000 fans have full time teams …we get 3,000.
As I said I do not even work in the industry anymore but the support from the Pros / Publishers et all is FANTASTIC. It makes putting the show on a pleasure and I get to meet all my favourite creators!

Andrew: Would you agree that the DIY small press comics scene is predominantly representative of the productive UK comics industry ? And if so how do you go about catering to this ?

Mike: The Indie Press guys in the UK are in my opinion are 2nd to none. That is why half the hall is turned over to these guys. I will cap the number of dealers but will never, while we have space, turn away a Indie creator. I could turn the show into a big mart with guests, but that’s never going to happen at Bristol. They produce work of such quality and the opportunity to work in the Pro UK market are slim, so what a way to showcase these talented people.

Andrew: 
Could you tell us some more about the Diamond UK day and how small pressers could plug themselves into that ?

Mike: The Diamond Day is aimed at the shops and stores, so not really for the indie press. However Diamond have taken space in the main hall, for the 1st time ever just so they can talk to the Indie guys. Again a sign that the Indie press is a force to be reckoned with in the UK!

(There’s word to the contrary from an unrecalled source – To book a place at this small pressers should email Mike Hollman at hmike at diamondcomics dot co dot uk  More details here – Andrew)

Andrew: What sort of comics do you yourself enjoy ? And are there any products or projections you’d like to give a mention to ?

Mike: …Time at the moment is tight and I am going “retro” with my current buying, the DH Magnus reprints ( did you know Walt Simonson has done the Con Book Cover this year, it’s Magnus and yes he’s my all time fave character!)
Dan Dare from Virgin is a delight to read, Death of the News Gods from DC has been superb.
The show will give me the chance to catch up on so many titles, last year I returned hone with long box of Indie, mainsteam , Manga and some cheap Batman packs!
Talking retro I am so looking forward to the new Flash Gordon!

Andrew: Are there any words of advice you’d like to give out to folks planning promotions of comics within a public venue ?

Mike: You have got to WANT to do it. I have been involved,  albeit the voice of caution at the end of a phone ! with Birmingham and the Inverness shows and more than happy to talk about all aspects of running Comic Conventions. Creator based is and always will be my remit. I said above 30 plus hours of events at Expo.

Andrew: Are there things you’d change about the festival that you’ve not had the time to implement this year ?
Mike: This year, well no would not change anything to be honest, after 10 years I would Hope / Think / Pray that the mix is good to go. A lot of the familiar but a few new tangents being added, More Manga, Film Night, DC Thomson along, Diamond talking to the Indie guys. Got to shake it a bit…It’s going to be fun!

Fuller details on the Bristol Comics Expo as and when they emerge at http://www.comicexpo.net/index.html

Well let the boys all sing and the boys all shout for tomorrow

Over 2008 I wrote weekly for  ComicsVillage.com, during a very exciting time in the UK comix scene. Since then, I’ve seen new ways of approaching things, changed opinions. This is the 2nd column, and focusses on the Camden Comics stall at the end of their first six weeks of business.

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


The London Underground Comics stall in Camden Market  has in the past week surprise marketed an optimistic future of British comics artists. Last Sunday morning, five cartoonists set their feel-good dancing indy spirit loose on Facebook, YouTube and several forums and websites. Director Oli Smith has set a professional series of edited clips of the playful trading community to a Beck tune.

I can’t recommend this highly enough. (link)

Then on Wednesday I get a note from Oli along the lines of, “Oh, nearly forgot. Oliver (Tales From The Flat) Lambden and I are interviewed by Alex Fitch for half an hour on Resonance 104 FM tomorrow. Could you give us a mention on Bugpowder ?”

The show is archived here courtesy of Panel Borders. 

I’m about to text him back with some smartarse response enquiring as to when he’s getting his first Vertigo book, when he follows up with “Going to meet Alan Moore on Saturday”

And before seven days in comics could pass, here they are again.

London Underground Comics feat. Alan Moore – By Oli Smith

So yeah, I bussed for London. Ran a bit late as I woke up to discover my house was on fire. Luckily the fire-crew had it well in hand and only my ashtray caught alight. Backstory: A festival I’m exhibiting at next month had so passionately involved the organiser that he’d become obsessed with me. He began sending me oddities through the mail. A Magnum P-45 assembly kit, a signed photograph of himself holding a target, pieces of a German Panzer tank. The final straw was his attempts to pay me to write his suicide note, a commission my good friend Matthew Badham encouraged me to turn down. Turns out it was my blood levels had started the blaze.

Grabbing my memos for Iranian, Chinese, Algerian and Iranian government figures and a stack of my homemade 24 hour comics (but forgetting Jeremy’s comics bah me), I made my way to the coach. Marble Arch Central Line Station, transferring at Tottenham Court; a walk to the Northern Line, then onto Platform 3, Northbound. Getting off at Camden Town is probably not the best station on a Saturday for visitors who don’t handle typically small stairways and crowds well.

Took a right or two at the exit of the stations. At the junction opposite The Worlds End pub, if I recall. Right, Towards Barclays, unless you need cash from the ATM, there are a few other cash machines further left.

Camden Comic’s stall is right and keep going. My point of destination is a big yellow font that spells out Camden Lock Market on the bridge, green and blue background.

I pass Rymans, hanging jewels, fluffies, hats and scarves across from the professional Mohawk promoters of Hair-Masters. Past the electric ball-room. There are Spanish sounds. Living lights, special lights, Bongo drums and cymbals and electric guitar and a slender lad dancing like Michael Stipe did in the 1980s, ZOOM dancing. Football scarves, and opposite is Ladieswear store Punkyfish.  Hats ! Hats ! Hats ! Gloves, Tattoo specialists. Bucks Head Pub, KFC, Mega-Giant bubbles, Tattoo piercing, Corsets, Street Art sigils. I smell doughnuts, see bananas. Dance through human traffic. Sounds of The Clash from the punk images T-shirt seller. Crossing Jamestown Road, looking at all these larger-than-life shopfront signs, I realise this is what all those radical Brit comics artists who passed through 2000 AD at some point, were drawing on, inspiration.


(Photo: Information Britain)

Over the hill onto the bridge, the quay, the sunlight and trees. Riverview bridge, canal side, bars and eateries. I spot a Holiday Inn. Last Hemp store before the bridge. A Birdyman is there every week. Past the Twiggy and Woody Allen portraits, and the Goth and Punk Market opposite.

Take a left at the oranges and chocolates, and a left again into the downstairs hall. I accidentally take another wrong turning, it doesn’t matter.

Emailing Oli Smith later in the day, I enquire as to directions from Chalk Farm Station. The stall is situated directly between the two, same stretch of road. Chalk Farm is the less busy station, with an elevator. Again, it’s a straight road towards that big muticoloured bridge. Heres Oli’s take on the landscape,

“marine ices, smell of smoke from the Enterprise, then frying from the chip shop…the roundhouse whose insides look like fairy lights, discount crockery, internet cafe, barfly indie kids, fair trade healthfood smells from coffee shop followed by esso oil, followed by shoes, and cafes, and shoes and cafes and then the railway bridge. ‘Orange Juice, freshly squeezed’ in time to trance’

Dan Lester has made it his aim to produce one new 24 hour comic a month, and two of these appear on the table. An amusing tale featuring alternating narratives which crossover to a clash between cartoon character Bruce Lee and street missionary Dave Sim. For my pick of the week, I’ll have to go with his new one, “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Zombies”, ‘cos its brill. Oliver Lambden is busy drawing away in Artist’s Corner. Oliver is a much more versatile and accomplished artist than is widely known. The stall is decorated with a few of his more colourful works, not including a piece from my previous visit which reminded me of the work of Moebius. David Baillie’s Mindy/Pool book has made a welcome return to the table. Of the twenty plus creators represented there, there’s 60% new stock since my visit a month ago. Socialising the fantastic something though always breaking off to welcome the same quality engagement with potential customers and customers.

Between one of these breaks, I ask naively, “Wheres Oli ?”

It’s not a long day for me. A shop for Eucalyptus, however go with the trader’s recommendation of the milder burgamot. The hands-on massage parlour upstairs offers a variety of affordable sessions from £10. I choose a treatment for the neurological system which has a very appealing effect on my chakra points. Then I run into Peter Lally of The Bedsit Journal. In the last two weeks, Peter has independently filled a table with small press comics he likes. He’s carrying Paper Tiger Comix, Liz Lunney (whose work includes a flipbook, Dinosaurs/Tofu and Cats), and works of an artist called Karoline who makes sweet-cute activity books for kids and adults. Grave Graham Bettany is represented, as is his star recommendation to me, Hannah Glickstein’s Skinny Bill.

Local Pete saw what Oli and the boys were doing and thought that it sounded like a fabulous and promising idea. We enthuse and agree that it does take a few socially networked folk to make it work. He remarks he didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes, and I tell him no such thing. You’re dancing, pal. His remarks echo those of the Camden Underground table manners. “Just want to offer people an alternative, to get their work out there and for people to see it. It’s nice to see people’s reactions, the looks on their faces”. As with the collective downstairs, his core customers seem to be teenage girls and women in their forties.

Peter and I feel a warm shadow come over us, we look up to a huge mop of curly black hair that turns out to be Oli Smith’s ego. “Alan Moore says he has fond memories of comics at Camden Market. He says he may just be round to see us next time he’s in the area. He likes the look of Hazy Thursday too. Compared me to Eddie Campbell though I don’t know whether I’d agree with that!”. My jaw drops and a manic laugh comes on, but Oli wants to regulate himself to normal size in case he steps on the venue ala Godzilla. I walk downstairs to continue the conversation, to the stall where new glossy cover ‘Whale Hunt’ by Ben Powis has almost sold out. I find I learn a lot about the comics I may like from looking at what the customers are attracted to. Gordon Johnston of  Virginia Gallery stops by for a chat, a dance and to deliver some free mini-comics for our clientele. These aren’t particularly deep in narrative, just amusing ideas which make the most of eight pages. Visually, he has an excellent grasp of definition in his figures, backgrounds, and panel composition. Another customer, an older gent, hands us the url to his blog, inscribed in marker and with drawings on various pieces of wood he found in a skip: cleaned, cut and smoothed up in shapes of rectangles with slots, and stars.

Whale Hunt cover illustration by Ben Powis

I only man the table for about two hours. I’m impressed by Paul O’ Connell’s The Sound of Drowning, the collection Sean Azzopardi’s Twelve Hour Shift (which I really should have bought), and Nick Hayes’ 11 Folk Songs. However, it’s the end of day, and along with the works of  Francesca Cassavotti, into the box they go. Unpacked again next Saturday, and joined by Jeremy Dennis’ Tiny Tea Comic, my print version of Sociology Comics, and goodness knows what else. With creators being offered the fair price of £3 per Saturday, it’s the closest Brit cartoonists have to a Fair Trade Comix trading solution.

Scented soaps. Green tea. Ambient mixes. Shiny trinkets. Breaking even without breaking a sweat. Comics at Camden. It’s Christmas warmth.. I daresay Spitalfields Market could benefit from something like this.

“I like the way the air tastes in the UK small press these days. Tastes of revolution”
– Oliver Lambden

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Andrew Luke

King of Comics (Jan 27, 2008)

Over 2008 I wrote weekly for  ComicsVillage.com, during a very exciting time in the UK comix scene. Since then, I’ve seen new ways of approaching things, changed opinions.

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

Grave Graham Bettany had been warned if he was drinking with Bisley he’d end up in a hotel in Amsterdam dressed in girls clothes and unable to feel his legs. The next morning he sat on the steps outside the Birmingham International Comics Show (BICS) with me – a cigarette in his hand, and Simon Bisley’s guest badge subtly rested on his jacket. “It must be an awesome responsibility to be the King of Comics”, his statement a moment floating smoke. “Still everyone gets their shot here. Everyone’s the King of Comics for a day.”

The BBC’s Brilliant Comics Britannia series propagated this publicly held myth of a dead UK comics industry. Bar the Dandy, Beano, 2000 AD and Viz, UK cartoonists only work for Stateside publishers. In fact, the UK comics industry has been booming for many years. Currently several hundred publishers are contributing and the financial health…um….this calculator worked fine when I was looking analyzing the profits of the UK defense employees.

The cracks in the system are most noticeable at big events. Case study fair – Birmingham (BICS). The average event in recent years is about £40 per table per day. (BICS gave special priority for to Indy publishers – allocating at least 30 tables and selling them at a £70 lower rate [for two days]). Split between three creators this is manageable. Equivalent to a print run of well over a hundred copies of a base 28 page black and white booklet. These publishers rarely break even on profit, as generally this means raising cover prices, and selling nearly all their product. Then there are costs of beer, sandwiches, travel, beer, accommodation, beer, meals, and time off their jobs. These contributions help to pay appearance fees for already financially capable A-listers hotel rooms, flights, manilas, coronas, and sometimes, damn selfish egos. Oddly enough, the money rarely barely stays in the hands of those who organize these events. Shane Chebsey, front man of BICS, and the main distributor for UK self-published comics over the last eight years was a little out of pocket after the previous event. As Shane told me, “You live and learn”. Organizers of previous large gigs, such as Kev F Sutherland (Comics99, 2000), and Dez Skinn (Brighton Comics Expo 2005), have also faced similar problems with being out of pocket at their events. The Thing is an exception to the festival management earner rule, were the management income is an executive wage conservatively estimated from different soures at between £1,500-£3,000. Sources close to organiser Finlay state that the paid team under him are kept to a minimum, and at a minimum wage. This figure includes outgoings, though a post-profit outgoing of hall rent (between £1,000-£2,000) and payment for the website in the year ahead maybe where this profit is going. That, and any plasma screen that’s given to him.

I’ve not the figures for the 2008 Bristol Expo to hand, but exhibitors costs have risen. For The Thing 2008 is costing between £60-£70 a table and BICS 2008 has risen to £90 for the weekend for small pressers.

There is a serious concern among commentators that the UK comics scene unwittingly slides to a vanity press situation. One example: the Judge Dredd Megazine work-for-free controversy, where editor Matt Smith offered a six-page platform to small pressers to “show off their wares and plug their titles/websites.” It’s been interpreted as exploitative, encouraging, as opportunity for advertising, as sponsorship-with-a-catch, as good CV material, and as a destructive in-road to a long-term reduction of wages for all creators. A worrying signifier that The Megazine, owned by one of the country’s top gaming companies, Rebellion, can’t even pay some of their cartoonists minimum wage.

Daniel Merlin-Goodbrey is the most exciting UK comics creator since Grant Morrison. He makes brilliant web and print comics, and at the ‘Big Futures ?’ panel at Birmingham he outlined the differences between Small Press creators supporting ‘convention’ festivals. The mini-comics crowd, involved with photocopiers and self-assembly, people who really shouldn’t be paying £40 per table per day. The second group of self-publishers adhere more closely to a business model, including monetary returns, and have better harnessed their skill. These are useful classifiers and the trend amongst festival organisers is to take account of this, though it’s not always a divisive behaviour. The panel makes some talk about comics printed by book publishers like Jonathan Cape, after higher profile serialisation in broad-sheet newspapers. These trends must surely encourage the cartoonist seeking to trade their art for cash. However my comics don’t sell that well and spurred on by the Guinness fuelled proclamations of the night before, I ask the panel why I might subsidise Mike Mignola and why I should stand for it? 2000 AD group columnist and self-publisher David Baillie answers in front of the Birmingham audience in his diplomatic way, “If the small press were to decide they wanted to boycott, or withdraw from these festivals then they simply wouldn’t happen. End of story.”

Sleazy Dan Lester at London Underground Comics - Andy Luke

UK Comics Expo 2008 : Small Pressers on Strike. The line of skinny indy kids requiring entrance via ex-Climate Camp tables loaded up with Favourite Crayon Stories. The coats and backpacks that usually hide under convention tables are strewn all along the front of the hotel, a nearby patch of green provides anchor for one of the protestor’s tents. Star guest can’t get near the entrance, a ‘Fair Trade Comix’ placard is thrust in his face, sets off his panic alarm. Hotel security can’t get past the six xerox machines blocking the door. A few of the pettier arguments of yore resurface- resurrected as horrible, bloody, punch-ups. There are small boys crying. A pensioner drops his groceries ! For those of you with faint constituents, some of these people are faking. Three minutes later, police mini-bus day trip. Fathers For Justice at the hotel windows. Familiar slacker and punk-art students, and the Scottish accent ! Handcuffs behind backs. Oh, there are a few screamers and howlers, folk raised in the land of exclamation after all. In the end though, copies of Summer Ball and Banal Pig are confiscated, creators Oli Smith, Gareth Brookes and Grave Graham loaded into the back of a van. I’m in there too – charged with very poorly impersonating Mark Thomas. A Diamond representative goads on Judge Dredd and his baton. Ironic weapon of choice too, considering the 2012 London Olympics seriously detract opportunities for Arts Council funding away from many comics festival events.

Let’s skip that relay.

Rubins at UK Web and Mini Comix Thing - Andy LukeCaption 2006 - Andy Luke

One of the main reasons for these cons is the joy that is of rich friendships, met and making. Through cons I’ve met people who have offered me a bed and tea, demanded I make myself at home while I was out on the street, and comforted me when loved ones passed away,  I’ve danced and tattooed with these people, dissected pop culture and been a listening ear after breakups. Loads of times I’ve accidentally modestly smiled at legends in human form, and discovered that the isolation of my time in Ulster was just an illusion. These and the chance to share productive talents with our friends and new faces and the outside spaces – it’s wrapped in the why we bother with ‘maybe-make-a-few-quid-ulp’. While the UK comic community is no angel, the social factor is one of its greatest strengths in this trade and club, outside the power of the medium. Placards fit right in at comics festivals. Think; you ever see one without a banner ?

Who has the time for a picket line about comics, really ? Or 197 other methods of non-violent action ?

Over the next few columns I aim to re-present varying business models creators and exhibitors should and do utilise to face the difficult and interesting years ahead. We’re towards go for a scene with air conditioning, coat hangers, and cloakrooms, gigs that positively rock, exhibitions were the cartoonist is queen, or king, or both, or their chosen states in between. Creator respect, fun, money, and rights.

There’s a Paypal button below here for myself. Please contribute as you exit if it is within your means.

  – Andrew Luke

“I’m king for a day, I’m a beautiful lay,
I’m gorgeously brave, Won’t you take me home to bed ?
I’m back in my job, I’m back in my job, every Monday morning
I’m back in my job, I’m back in my job, I’m back in my job, I was King for a day”

I’ll be using WayBack Machine to re-introduce the Sheridan Cottage series here weekly over the next few months.