I toured with the Jazzabelles

Saturday 13th February
Listening to ‘Snake Oil’ performed in audition at the Island Arts Centre, Lisburn, which has great acoustics. The show is centred around three very talented singers: Ella (Claire McCartney), Prissy (Beccy Henderson) and Vera (Nuala Davies), the Jazzabelles. Their rise to the top of the 1950s Belfast swing scene is hampered by a cashflow problems from their manager, Vince, (excellently portrayed by Stephen Beggs), who’s not all he appears.
The Lisburn rehearsals are a particular treat, great lighting and sound giving clarity to the voices enunciating the details. Some rehearsal nerves on opening in Omagh were dropped by the time we made it to an excited crowd, similarly on the second date, Antrim, the air sizzling with cheeriness.
The Lisburn soundman tweets and ticks across the mikes. On a stage with clusters of collaborative talk on music and props, the drummer checks his cymbals and an actress sits in the armchair from Prissy’s home, studying a mobile. Then, we’re backstage for top and tails of each scene, and I’m facing curtains, imagining a radio play, flashes of backs of legs. Then the last few notes of a song and from wings, Debbie McCormack (stage manager) and I scramble on with sheets and phones or an eight track, or ‘that’ armchair.

And that was my last day as stage-hand on a musical, across Omagh, Antrim and Lisburn; dressing rooms, fridges, biscuits, stunning frocks and formal wear, pretty dress for prettied people. The tour has ended, for now. Unfortunately I was too ill to cover the Downpatrick and Armagh dates, but seamless cover had been arranged. The musical was booked out, thanks to coverage by folk like Culture Northern Ireland (Article: Listen to a Preview Track from Nick Boyle’s New Musical) and Discover Northern Ireland’s Ten Things To Do list. Paddy Brown got me into this, himself a singer, actor, and stage-hand, and Debbie, I also know from self-publishing comics, was a splendid talent to work with. Thanks to all the crew and venues for giving me this excellent opportunity.



Link: Paddy Brown blogs about the promotional image

and HERE he blogs about the tour with a trailer.

Jazzabelles L to R - Nuala, Beccy, ClaireJazzabelles L to R – Nuala, Beccy, Claire, Source: Jazzabelles Facebook page

The Invisible Artist: Youtube with Subtitles

The Invisible Artist: a contemporary history of Belfast’s comic book culture is a 2011 TV documentary written and presented by Andrew Luke and directed by Carl Boyle for Belfast station NVTV. Patrick Brown was interviewed, and also provided much of the research that went into the film. Other interviewees include John Killen of the Linen Hall Library about his exhibition, The Unkindest Cut, of political cartoons about Northern Ireland in the 20th century,Davy FrancisJohn Farrelly, Jim McKevitt, owner of Atomic Collectables, P. J. Holden and Stephen Downey.

Subtitles are exhausting. Your feedback is still appreciated.

Wanna Hear a Joke? [TitanCon Comics]

During TitanCon, I hosted a paired down version of the Magnificent ComicBook Factory with the assistance of Rich Clements and Paddy Brown.

We were up against an all-star Game of Thrones panel in the first slot of the day. I’d no plan, hardly anyone showed up so there was a fair bit of stress and slack. As it happens, that’s a good combination.

First up, the lovely Siobhan McKenna:

BEAKERS by Siobhan McKenna


Jon Pot,

FART JOKE by Jon Pot


Paddy Brown:RUNNING MESSAGES by Paddy Brown (1) Rich ClementsTHE INTERVIEW by Rich Clements

May CheungTWO FISH by May Cheung WHY DID THE CHICKEN by Andy Luke


Weekend Blog

As described in The Code Is This, I’ve spent the last few days bumming around my newly found beauty spot, writing Half Baked Alaska, a ripping adventure-drama-comedy I’m co-authoring with Neill Stringer. The plan is to try for a long run at this one, so the first part will debut on this weblogsite in about a month’s time.

Today I’ve been building http://theblackpanel.blogspot.co.uk and am happy to report the shop now has sixty comicbook titles from Northern Ireland and the Republic, which you can order at the click of a button.

Just in time for me and Paddy Brown to take the stock back to the re-opening of The Black Box’s Bazaar tomorrow (Sunday)

Come, say hi.  Help me decide what goes up here tomorrow.

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 DIGITAL DOWNLOAD  3 EURO / £2.53 UK


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!



Workshop / Bacon Sammich of Doom

TitanCon, Belfast’s premier Game of Thrones festival starts tomorrow, with a drink andbook readings at McHughs. As noted, I’ll be trying out an idea I’ve been working towards for a while, The One Day Magnicent ComicBook Factory. (link courtesy of Hilary Lawler, ICN)

The Facebook group for The Magnificent Factory is here. Please don’t tick the yes box if you’ve no intention of going to the con. We recognise the neediness of people like that, but it doesn’t mean they get fresh custard.

There’s also a new edition of the rewarding 2d podcast up. Last weeks featured an interview with my wing-man, Factory assistant, and Irish comics nexus, Paddy Brown. This time, you can hear an interview with me, as Ciaran Flanagan and I talk about the most important issue facing the country right now: Will I and Ger Hankey be working on IDW’s Transformers comic?

Now, What do you get when ten plus comixers from different backgrounds put together a silent story about a fight past deliriums and pop obsessions to prevent oneself from dying?

All words and pictures copyright their respective creators. Thanks to the ADF people for accommodating.

BACON SAMMICH OF DOOM creators at the Arts and Disability FOrum

The Magnificent One Day Comic Book Factory at TitanCon

A little known fact of making comics is that the creator prevaricates. Just then I went out to see if my wheelie bin has been returned, to avoid writing this. Many creative works are generated from a spur-of-the-moment thought or set of actions. Focussing on one idea, is where it’s at. I’ll admit to time excess on a project, but my best works are undoubtedly the ones I just did quickly.

I’m good at this. Here’s what I think we should do.

I’ll tell you how to make comics in fifteen minutes. And for another fifteen, I’ll talk about creator’s rights and self-publishing. Then you spend an hour on making a page of your own. If you want to pair up, you can run your work to two pages. We’ll work in biro as it’s speedy and less messy. Paddy Brown, or PJ Holden will be around to offer support. No ‘To Be Continued’, no pin-ups; sequenced visual/textual story – is the way. When the clock stops, it’s over.  You’ll sign a form saying I’ve a one-time right to reprint your work and as you saunter around the convention. I’ll be doing just that. Within two hours, a limited edition anthology comic featuring your creativeness, for free. How’s that for hey presto?

What a lot of fun.

 The Magnificent Factory makes it’s debut this year at TitanCon, Europa Hotel, Belfast, 22nd September.  You can read more about it on their website, and join the Facebook group for TitanCon and one for The Factory.

You can help me anticipate the publication by pre-registering as an author at this facebook link or that email. Please don’t if you won’t. We’ll be making an 11am start at Castle Black.
Numbers are inevitably limted, though there will be an in-session registration.

To clarify:  All artwork will be returned within two hours. Print runs may vary depending on size of event and budget. If event organisers decide the book is for sale, it shall be to cover print costs, with profits donated to charity, and time-frame limited to the event itself. (For TitanCon, we’ll be donating proceeds to Action Cancer)

If you’re further afield, The Magnificent Comic Book Factory will be visiting Galway in February 2013.

ps The workshop hosted by myself and Downey as part of Bounce! was an incredible busting success. Watch this space, stephendowneygallery.com and the ADF.ie for more news.

ComicsWest con report

Photos by Paul O’Mahony from this place on Fissbook

A fairly new comics convention is NUI (University) Galway’s ComicsWest. Organised by one of the biggest societies on campus, the event had a trial run last year and a visit from Warren Ellis in Spring. The best way to get there is to let Paddy Brown drive you, through the natural monument range of Sligo. The stuff, as he said, you can’t do justice to on film. The train journey can be quite pretty, but I’ve no info on planes. Warren Ellis cursed, but he does. Galway is a long oul run.

I’m going back, I say, surely as Roj Blake meant it. The event itself comprised a day of comics and zine makers selling, with some neat stuff like art zine For Flip’s Sake, Kearney and Browne’s relationship book, The Man With No Libido,. Derry’s producers of Zombies Hi  made maybe it’s con debut,  and they give me some good chat on distribution. There was also the obligatory appearance of work by master infilitrator, The Phil Barrett Machine. (He’s in your room; now.)

Nice to see David McDonald there too, who I owe £3 for the Doomlord collection.



Colm McElligott (Committee Host), Conor Keville and John Smith at ComicsWest. Next, Some people are engrossed by our comics, some reckon it is the best cake anywhere in Galway. My long-suffering giant, Paddy Brown, mans the fort. And that might be Hibernia Comics’ David McDonald to the right.

Paddy Brown at ComicsWest

Tea and coffee was on tap, and more provided biscuits than mankind was meant to have. The Society’s reading library was laid out on five tables surrounded by plenty of comfy chairs and lent a nice atmosphere to the occasion. Out back an animation suite had a few animations playing, and a live screening of The Invisible Artist, the film I wrote with Carl Boyle about forty years of Belfast comics creators. (It’s not online until next year, but if you wish you can buy a copy now for £10-£15 from Northern Visions’ website.)  The video room had been the locale of the pre-event gathering, and the reminder that the 1960s Batman movie was actually….bloody awesome. Jim Carrey’s Riddler written by Janet Scott Batchler? No. What weighs six ounces, sits in a tree and is very dangerous?  A sparrow with a machine gun! Yes, of course. Frank Gorshin, Lorenzo Semple Jr., Bob Kane.

NUIG Reading Room Writing for Comics

I hosted a piece on Writing for Comics in the art room upstairs. Followed with organiser  David Burdon  presenting a joyous piece on Science and the Superhero with some scrutiny on propaganda for good measure. Organisers confessed the event could have been better promoted, foot-fall was decent. Few hours dinner break didn’t harm pm panel attendance noticeably. So Mike Carroll, Maura McHugh, Paddy Brown and I sat taking questions from Eoin Butler Thornton and possibly Leigh Ashmore. Very relaxed, very interesting, one of the better panels I’ve sat on. Sure, they all read 2000AD for girls while I preferred adult comics like Transformers, but we had the flow of a symphonic jazz quartet. Someone made cookies.

ComicsWest is set to be one of Ireland’s great cons of the future. It’ll quickly gain the reputation that 2d, Hi-Ex and Caption have for prog innovation and I’d posit the reason for this: the event is well laid out, the people are very pretty and the organisers work well as a team. Very well. The university supports them, the social chemistry is gold, and the attendees are involved. There is of course a post-script to this, but for all intents and purposes, my con report is done. We must go next year.

The social connect was evidenced by me the night before in the bar. I educated the kids on the greatest superhero fight ever: Batman Vs Green “One Punch” Lantern. Eoin and I bonded over shared love of The Wire, and as a guest they were in awe of, I got some free reign to slag off Battlestar Galactica. I’d elected to spend the night in Colm’s free cot. An option that was curiously unavailable the following night after he disappeared from the pub and there might have been some girl involved I’m not sure for no verification documentary evidence is available but at least he got shome. Item A, the empty bottle of Southern Comfort, has now been removed. It was drank by myself, Leigh, Eoin and a third committee member as we spun yarns and shared declarations of mutual awesomeness in a house in the hills. Paddy managed to find me the next morning, and drive me to the emergency Breakfast Shop and all the way home.

So, plan out your trips to festivals be a lesson. Because they might just be too fantastic.

Photos by Paul O’Mahony from this place on Fissbook


TitanCon links Fandom, Indy Comics and The NI Economy

Last night I attended the press launch for TitanCon which “promises to be the biggest SF and Fantasy literaty, media and gaming convention in Northern Ireland”.

Initially run as a non-profit event for fans by fans, it has benefitted from part-funding by Arts Council NI. The move came wth the Council’s interest in HBO’s Game of Thrones which has given the city a strong economic and tourism boost.



A three day series of events, the third day, a Game of Thrones Coach Tour has already been sold out. Friday festivities overlap with Belfast’s free Culture Night and including walking tours of the city and in McHughs Bar, readings from Ian McDonald, Guest of Honour and winner of the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for The Djinn’s Wife (2006)

The event on Saturday costs £10 admission and is held at The Europa Hotel. It includes tabletop gaming and RPGs, as well as a fighting workshop, and the launch of Boyd and Bradshaw’s “Guards! Guards!”, the Discworld boardgame with the blessing of Terry Pratchett. Local authors T.A. Moore and Peadar O Guilin will also be in attendance, along with film-maker George Clarke, of Battle of The Bone.

Miltos Yerolemou and Kristian Nairn, who play Syriio and Hodor respectively on Game of Thrones will also be in attendance. In contrast to some other conventions, photos with guests are not charged for, and attendees are asked to make a donation of their own choice to Action Cancer. Will Simpson (Batman, Dredd, Hellblazer) was one of the storyboard artists on Game of Thrones. His appearance gives perspectives on local involvement and behind the scenes representation.


Simpson, began working in comics with his contribution to the Belfast indy Ximoc in 1980, with the strip Cuchulainn the Hound. TitanCon looks to reward that with the recognition of two other independent cartoonists as guests. Paddy Brown, a fellow author of the Cuchulainn tales in the form of The Cattle Raid of Cooley, has been active in comics arts and media since 1994′s A Virtual Circle. His cartooning and comics research has been internationally recognised by the respected Lambiek encyclopedia, and closer to home, by academic Paul Gravett and industry magazine Caption. There are unconfirmed rumours one of Brown’s illustrations are to feature on the front page of the official programme. I began creating comics several years after Brown, with contributions to a number of journalistic bodies, the acclaimed Caption and Barcamp un-conferences, and winning the UnLtd Millenium Award for my work on Absence. (See my CV at the footer for a fuller picture)

There’s also a fourth link to the world of comics. TitanCon has scheduled an evening with The Wireless Mystery Theatre. The Theatre “transports the audience back to the Golden Age of radio… as they present radio plays live on stage” The group has received some critical acclaim and includes Reggie Chamberlain-King, an occassional contributor to the online comics and mixed media site, Talesofthe.com. When announced at the press conference Ian McDonald reached to the person sat next to them and whispered, “they’re very good”.



McDonald told the assembled reporters and representatives from the Arts Council and NI Screen to “There are a lot of fantastic science fiction roots in NI Culture: CS Lewis, James Shaw.. I ask that you support today’s local writers, be it in cinema, novels or comics.”

With the direct market and the growth of self-publishing having shattered the UK and Irish comics industry, TitanCon‘s adoption of the form at this crucial time is noteworthy.

The event is run by Brotherhood without Banners (a George RR Martin fangroup), Studio NI (Northern Ireland’s largest arts and culture group), and The Other Ones (a Belfast science fiction and fantasy society). Studio NI celebrates it’s 7th anniversary as part of the weekend’s festivities.

The Black Panel Diaries

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

In 2008 I assigned myself to fledging London Underground Comics at Camden Market. I’d just taken to weekly writing for Comics Village. The column was Sheridan Cottage, and it felt like the best comics journalism. In that same spirit, this space once a month I’m chronicling similar: selling homemade comics at a free public market. The Black Box is a club venue in Belfast’s Cathedral Arts Quarter. It’s attached coffee shop is renowned for its finest pizza, says Paddy. Over the following months it wil play host to some of the Belfast Nashville festival, The Vagina Monologues, and gigs by The Fairport Convention, Luka Bloom, and PJ Gallagher. On Sunday mornings it also seems to double as a church social function. Weird. No time for either, I’m trying to sell my grandmother for an electric blanket and a packet of cigs.

black panel

The Black Box gives us chairs and space for a donation. It seems their interest is represented in genuine altruistic community promotion. When the Good Friday agreement spun and arranged post-war Ulster back in ’95, a ‘Peace Dividend’ saw city investment grow and a £1 billion regeneration of the Laganside. The Black Box is in this area that’s steeped with literary history. We’re selling comics from thirty-ish creators across Ireland. There’s a full list on the blogspot I set up.

Ok, time for a smoke.

It’s a cold Sunday at 1pm and my trade route in the new brick streets is blocked by a speaker and a group of student types. He’s talking of how three decades of Troubles created an attitude were no-one goes inside or even near the thriving Arts Quarter that they pushed so much money into. Proving his labelling theory, he leads them away.

It’s quieter today although my emergency heating bill is topped up, helped by giving away free mini-comics. Young and old come chat with us. Malachy Coney and his colloquial folk-tales are the subject of a few of these chats. Davy Francis, Will Simpson, Garth Ennis, PJ Holden, and John McCrea. For years, Coney too, has been an authentic Northern Irish known league comics creator. His four book Holy Cross series relayed the experience of Northern Ireland life even better than Ennis’ acclaimed Hellblazer: Heartland. The first Good Craic Comics gives the same poetic flavour with a decisive foray in the adventure genre of a local character. Mycroft Moriarty travels iconic Belfast landmarks: the city hall, the Ulster Museum and it’s sarcophagus, well-known culture spots of the old surviving the renewal.

The second issue of Good Craic Comics has been finished a few years, but funding body NI Arts and Culture rejected Coney’s application. What may have affected the decision was the author’s preference for a local printer rather than out-sourcing to cheaper England. The decision was appealed. Some wonder if there’s something about Mal’s type of comic they just don’t want to publish? Or was it part of the £400 million allocated to building a shopping complex to look like it was created by Michael Bay?

I sell a final comic and must make good on my pledge to copy up a new one for next month. Five copies, says Paddy. We quickly scriblle out the poster for ‘Playing with A Full Decker’ but it’s forty minutes to pack up. Another NI Culture endeavour at the Box, Black Books, is to run fortnightly and we’re invited along for the ride. So Feburary 23rd, we’ll be back again. Camden it ain’t, but there’s something there.

Mal Coney on the Irish Comics Wiki
Cue & Ehh? Interview with Mal.