Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2014

The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal.
Having been away from the convention circuit for a couple of years for various reasons I started doing a few shows this year to get back into the swing of things and I really enjoyed attending The Lakes International Comic Art Festival last weekend (17th to 19th October). I didn't make it to last year's event but I'd heard only positive things about it, and this year's festival certainly lived up to that. 

As one of the guests I'd been sent a lot of useful information from the organisers which helped a great deal. When I arrived in Kendal I made my way to the liaison point, where Guests Co-ordinator Sandra Wood greeted me and organised a lift to my guest house. I was pleased to see that my old pal Mike Collins (now storyboard artist on Doctor Who) was staying at the same digs and the guest house was very friendly and comfortable.

That evening Mike and I walked into town for the complimentary Festival meal at the Brewery Arts Centre, meeting up with other comics guests such as Panini UK editor/writer Scott Gray and John Freeman (also an editor and writer) who runs British comics news site Down the Tubes. After which we went to see John interview Dez Skinn at the library on his creation of Doctor Who Weekly (which was celebrating its 35th anniversary that week). 
Strangehaven's Gary Millidge being camera shy.
Unlike most other UK comics shows which are confined to one building, the town itself was involved with the festival and the events took place in several venues throughout Kendal. Also, the 'Windows on Comic Art Trail' had displays in windows of local businesses in the town centre, and banners for the festival draped across the street. 

As most comics folk work from home, often in isolation, we always enjoy a get-together at such events. Therefore it was no surprise to find most attendees ending up back at the Brewery Arts Centre bar in the evenings. Over the weekend it was great to catch up with David Leach, Gary Erskine, Davey Jones, Woodrow Phoenix, Debbie Tate, Robbie Morrison, Dave Gibbons, Jessica Martin, Kev F. Sutherland, John McShane, Gary Millidge, John Short, Doug and Sue Braithwaite, Gary Northfield and many others, including Eddie Campbell and Frank Plowright who I hadn't seen for many years. Good to put faces to names too, by meeting people such as Russell Willis and Jeremy Briggs. 

Next day, I was scheduled to do my presentation at 10.30 on the history of British humour comics so it was an early start to get ready. Although I'd been on many panels over the years this was the first time I'd done a solo presentation since one I did in Norway in 1997 (which wasn't great due to nerves I must admit). Therefore I was a bit anxious but the professionalism of the festival staff put my mind at rest and they'd set up the power point to run as smooth as silk with the 95 images I'd provided. (Thanks guys!)

The audience were let in, Hunt Emerson introduced me, and I was off. Off to a bit of a croaky start unfortunately as some dust irritated my throat but that was soon sorted and the presentation went ok I think. We'd called it 100 Years of Fun but in actuality I covered over 140 years in 60 minutes. A bit of a whirlwind journey through time, I started with the 19th Century titles The Glasgow Looking Glass and Funny Folks and ended on a positive note with today's comics including Joe Matthew's new one, Funny Monsters. I don't know how well I did compared to previous historians such as Denis Gifford and before him Barry Ono, but I hope people enjoyed it. 

Nigel Parkinson and his colourist Nika were in the audience so it was excellent to meet up with them afterwards and have a slap up feed at the local chip shop whilst talking comics.

Later in the afternoon my next gig was the Cowboy Henk vs Combat Colin 'live draw shoot-out'. Cowboy Henk being the creation of Flemish artist Herr Seele. As we were setting up it was good to finally meet Festival Director Julie Tait, as we'd previously only communicated by e-mail. Usually at these 'live draw shoot-outs' two artists have a friendly competition, drawing at desks as their work is projected on screen for the audience to see. Herr Seele, who is an extroverted but very interesting character, instead chose to start with a power point presentation of his work. I didn't mind this at all as it was fascinating to learn about his history and the development of his popular Cowboy Henk character. 
Herr Seele.

With the presentation over, Herr Seele (real name Peter van Heirseele) set to work painting a huge cubist image of Cowboy Henk while I drew characters projected onto the screen. Hunt Emerson was interviewing both of us as we worked. Probably the most surreal event I've done at a comics show but I enjoyed it and I think the audience did too. Afterwards I did a quick sketching/signing session. 

The weather on Sunday was quite wet and after my scheduled sketching session in the Comics Clock Tower I met up with Psycho Gran artist David Leach for lunch and a visit to the Magnificent White Elephant Emporium. Inside were the Viz lads Graham Dury and Simon Thorp and their bizarrely brilliant How a Viz Comic is Made lo-tech experience. Knockabout's Tony Bennett was also there so it was good to have a chat with him too. Woodrow Phoenix was on another table, displaying his giant book She Lives, a silent comic story. A book so big he had to bind it himself using the largest paper size available, and drew the story in the book itself, therefore exhibiting the original art. See it yourself in the photo below...
Woodrow Phoenix.

There were a lot of events going on over the weekend, giving visitors plenty of choice. There were talks and presentations by people such as Dave Gibbons, Joost Swarte, Rian Hughes, Sean Phillips, Gail Simone, Charlie Adlard, Audrey Niffenegger, Becky Cloonan, Mark Buckingham, Bryan Talbot, Jeff Smith, Metaphrog, Emma Vieceli and others, plus exhibitions, dealers rooms, workshops, and more. The great thing was the diversity of comics, and the fact that this was entirely a comics-focused event, not part of a multi-media show. (Hardly any cosplayers too.) I'm sure that many curious members of the public who drifted into the Comics Clock Tower must have learned at least a little more about comics during the weekend, and that can only be a good thing. 
The superbly designed 52 page programme.

I was hugely impressed with the professionalism of the festival and the warm, friendly enthusiasm of the very helpful festival team. If there were any hiccoughs in the running of the event it certainly didn't show as far as I was aware. My thanks to Julie Tait, Sandra Wood, Jenny Graham and the whole team for a very enjoyable weekend indeed. The Lakes International Comic Art Festival has a positive and invigorating vibe about it, proving that comics in the UK are far from dead, and that they now appeal to a wider cross-section of people than ever before. 

Official website:
http://www.comicartfestival.com/

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TV21 No.243: The return of yesterday's brighter tomorrows

The brand new issue of TV21 turned up today, just as it used to on a Wednesday back in the 1960s. Colonel White is back in charge of the letters page and all the strips begin new adventures. John Burns' Lady Penelope is particularly exciting, and it's good to see Gerry Embleton drawing Stingray.

In case you hadn't already read my earlier blogs on the subject, this issue of TV21 is a special one-off edition that is part of the package of goodies within the Supermarionation box set. The concept of this comic is that it's issue No.243 of TV21, dated September 13th 2069, - the issue that one imagines might have been published in 1969 had Joe 90 comic not merged into its pages. An issue of TV21 from an alternate reality if you like! 

The Brains behind this brilliant idea is editor Martin Cater of Network, the company responsible for the excellent box set. Assembling a team of comic creators he has constructed a 24 page comic that perfectly echoes the TV21 of yesteryear. It's even the exact size of those early editions and carries the same story logos that were designed in the 1960s. The content though is all-new! 

The strips include all the Gerry Anderson shows produced in the 1960s, so in addition to Supercar, Fireball XL5, StingrayThunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet plus Zero X we also have Joe 90 (who never appeared in the first series of TV21 until the relaunched merger with his own comic) and The Secret Service (which never previously appeared in TV21 at all). There's also a pitch perfect Agent 21 strip by Brian Williamson and a Zoony the Lazoon strip by myself, plus a Project Sword prose story. Graham Bleathman is also on board with a new cutaway of the Mars Space Probe.

It's good to see my old friends Mike Collins and Bambos contributing good stuff, and Antonio Barreti's Secret Service is a spot-on sixties homage, but I'm sure they'll forgive me when I say the highlight for me was the centrespread strip, - Lady Penelope by John Burns! The veteran artist is still a master of his craft and these pages look so authentically 1960s that for a moment I felt I was back in that decade. Rest assured though that this is definitely brand new material! 

John Burns isn't the only veteran artist involved, as Martin Asbury has contributed a two page Captain Scarlet strip and Gerry Embleton is back at the helm of Stingray! Embleton's style may be a little looser than it was but the skill is as sharp as ever. This is good stuff!

The comic even comes with a free gift in the form of six postcards of TV21 covers for the following few issues! Sadly those issues do not actually exist, but wouldn't it be great if they did? 

Lest we forget though, this issue of TV21 is only available as part of Network's Supermarionation box set and the main content of that set are the blu-ray discs with a brand new documentary, selected episodes in High Definition, and Stephen La Riviére's book Filmed in Supermarionation. For the full details see Network's website here:
http://networkonair.com/shop/2038-supermarionation-box-set-pre-buy-5027626708146.html



It's been an absolute pleasure to contribute to the history of TV21, - my favourite adventure comic of my childhood, and certainly my favourite comic of this year! For one day, the brighter, optimistic 21st Century is with us once again. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Christmas comes early to Beanotown!

The Summer Specials are still in the shops but now there's also The Beano Christmas Special No.1 alongside them! The 64 page squarebound comic features a mixture of brand new material and reprint, plus various puzzles and activity features. It also contains a sheet of 21 free stickers. 

All the main Beano characters are included and the special kicks off with a new, nice looking six-page Dennis the Menace story illustrated by Nigel Parkinson...

I drew a couple of festive activity pages for the comic too. One of which is Who Ate All the Mince Pies?...

All the reprints are relatively contemporary; Tom Paterson Minnie the Minx and suchlike. No classic 1950s-70s material. This is a bright, fun, stocking stuffer, not a trip down memory lane. Well worth it though for Beano fans! The Beano Christmas Special 2014 is out now, priced £4.99. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

GRINDHOUSE!

Remember I mentioned that I was working on strips for a U.S. publisher? This is the comic. Alex de Campi's Grindhouse returns for a new 8 issue run next month, and I'm over the moon to announce that Alex commissioned me to produce single-page humour strips as back up funnies for some of the issues. 

Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out is an eight issue series published by Dark Horse Comics which will feature four two-part stories across the run. No.1 features Slay Ride written by Alex de Campi and illustrated by R.M. Guéra. On her website, Alex describes says "It gets down to business really fast. This is a very brutal, uncomfortable, and spare / silent story"

...and on the back page will be my humour strip as part of the Li'l House of Grind concept that Alex came up with. My brief was for something like the old trashy grindhouse horror/exploitation movies. The result: Kung-Fu Cheesecake, with script, art, lettering by myself.

I've been commissioned to produce four single page complete strips for the comic, which will appear in issues 1,2,7 and 8. Brand new twisted characters for a mature readership. Kung-Fu Cheesecake is one of the weirdest characters I've created. I'm drawing the page for issue 2 this week which features another new comic-horror creation. Really enjoying this!

Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out No.1 is scheduled for publication on Wednesday November 12th, priced $3.99. Available in comic stores in the USA and UK but to make sure of your copy, place an order today! Mature Readers rating.

To read a preview of Slay Ride, the main strip by Alex de Campi and R.M. Guera, see Comic Book Resources here:
http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=24144

To visit Alex's website, where you can learn more about her great comics and see a finished preview of R.M. Guéra's striking cover for issue 1, click here:
http://www.alexdecampi.com/

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ron Turner's SPACE ACE Volume 3 published

John Lawrence, longtime fan of the late artist Ron Turner, has published another collection of classic 1950s strips by the illustrator. Ron Turner's Space Ace Volume 3 is an A4 sized 40 page softback book featuring four complete stories featuring the comics character Space Ace. 

The strips originally appeared in Lone Star magazines and annuals in 1958/59 in black and white. For this collection, artist John Ridgway has carefully restored and 'colourised' them. More than a simple case of colouring, John has breathed new life into the strips. The results are very impressive indeed.

The book also contains a three page interview with Ron Turner regarding his work on Space Ace, and a two page letters column. 

This is marvellous stuff. The plots and hardware may seem somewhat dated perhaps but that's irrelevant to collectors and enthusiasts of Ron Turner's artwork. In fact it's part of the attraction of such material. We really need more old strips archived like this before they're forgotten forever. 

Ron Turner's Space Ace is a labour of love for John Lawrence. Although the price may seem slightly expensive it has to be remembered that the print run is very limited and that this is a non-profit venture. The printing and paper quality is excellent and its sturdy laminated cover makes the book look very classy indeed. 

Copies are available priced £8.95 each (UK), 13GBP (Europe), 14GBP (International) including postage and packing. Order your copy via PayPal at:
spaceace.54@virginmedia.com


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