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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Grandville is coming!

October 2009 will see the publication of Bryan Talbot's new graphic novel Grandville. Described as an anthropomorphic steampunk detective-thriller on the Bryan Talbot fansite, the book will be published by Jonathan Cape in the UK, Dark Horse in the USA, and numerous other publishers across the world.

Bryan has been a familiar figure in the comics industry for decades, from his early work in the underground comic Brain Storm Comix, through to his epic The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, his more recent graphic novels The Tale of One Bad Rat which admirably dealt with the subject of child abuse, and Alice in Sunderland which told the story of Alice Liddell, Lewis Carroll and Sunderland in a dreamlike mixture of history and myth.

Although Bryan has worked in mainstream comics too (such as a stint on 2000AD) it's to his credit that the writer/artist has always striven to follow his own creative path independently of the fickle tastes of media fads. In this regard Bryan has remained faithful to his "underground" roots.

A video trailer for Grandville should be visible below, if the code works on this blog. If not, you can view it by visiting:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bristol International Comic Expo 2009 report

Better late than never, here's my brief review of this year's Bristol International Comic Expo which took place over the weekend of May 9th-10th 2009. Basically, I enjoyed it very much. More so than in previous years in a way, although all the Bristol Cons I've attended have been great. The event this year was much smaller due to the Commonwealth Museum not being used, but to my mind that added a positive aspect to the show, and it was a more intimate and friendlier experience. (Again, not to disparage previous Bristol events which have never been less than warm and welcoming.)

The main event was at the trusty Ramada Hotel, with the combined Small Press Expo over at the Mercure Hotel a short walk away. To me it seemed that the Mercure was the event with the biggest dealer's room, but perhaps it was deceptive as it was a brighter room. I only toured the Small Press Expo quickly, intending to revisit on the Sunday, foolishly unaware that it was only a one day event, unlike the two-day mainstream comics event at the Ramada. (I understand the 2010 Small Press Expo will cover two days.)

I wasn't scheduled for any panels this year so apart from a brief impromptu sketching session it was more of a socialising and networking event for me this time. As always these events are good to catch up with colleagues and friends in the industry and it was a pleasure to see my old mate Kevin O'Neill back for his first UK convention in 15 years! Kev was in fine form and it didn't seem like last century since we'd last chatted. Speaking of which, the reason for Kev's visit was to promote the latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book Century:1910. Together with writer Alan Moore (who sadly wasn't present at the Expo) Kevin has once again turned out a cracking comic book. A review will appear on this blog soon.

Another top buy at the Expo was Tales from the Crust, the second Comic Pie publication from Laura Howell. This 28 page humour comic is absolutely brilliant, loopy, charming, and most importantly funny. It also shows Laura's versatile cartooning skills and how easy she masters various styles. The strips originally appeared on Laura's website in her frantic Strip-A-Day-Spectacular but it's nice to have them in a convenient comic. If you like Laura's work in The Beano and Toxic you ain't seen nothin' yet. Visit her website at and buy Tales from the Crust NOW!

There's Laura in the photo above, flanked by Hunt Emerson and myself. Who says Beano artists can't look intimidating? Grr!

Another new British comic out now is The Sisterhood, published by Time Bomb Comics who had a table at the Small Press Expo in Bristol. Written by Steve Tanner and illustrated by Dan Barritt this is the third title published by the company, and the first in full colour. (Previous comics being Ragamuffins and Dick Turpin by Tanner and Andy Dodd.) It's a very professional looking comic and the only gripe I have is the colour repro is a bit too dark. (Photoshop colours often look better on screen than in print.) But that's something that'll improve with experience and only a minor niggle. Visit to order yourself a copy of The Sisterhood and the other Time Bomb comics.

Here's Time Bomb Comics publisher Steve Tanner at the Expo with his wife Suzanne...

After chatting with Steve and Suzanne I continued through the dealer's room and met Karen Rubins who was selling her new comic Urban Beasts...

I knew Karen from previous events and enjoyed the Dark comic she'd produced with her sister Anna. Karen's work has improved considerably since then and Urban Beasts, with its modern Manga influence, is an interesting little comic. Karen will be holding the proud post of Comic Illustration resident at the Victoria and Albert Museum from July to December this year. Urban Beasts No.1 can be purchased from

From what I saw at the Small Press Expo I felt that "small press" was a misnomer. Not only have production standards improved since the days of cheap photocopiers, but as a major title such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was being promoted there then "small press" was highly inappropriate. Perhaps "Independent Comics Expo" might be more suitable for the 2010 event?

Over at the Ramada, the Panini Comics stall seemed to be popular, with editors Brady Webb (above) and Ed Hammond (behind Brady) selling copies of the new Captain Britain and MI13 trade paperback, amongst their other books.

Panini UK are really on the ball these days and the Captain Britain book has been published in the UK before the American edition. And why not? It may be collecting an American Marvel comic but it is written by a British writer, and Paul Cornell was on hand to sign copies at the event.

As always, Mike Collins (above) was very much in demand for sketches and seemed to be drawing non-stop at the Expo. Mike's one of the hardest working artists at these events and always attracts a crowd eager for drawings. In the photo above he's drawing Captain Britain, and coincidentally Mike is the artist on the Captain Britain and MI13 Annual out this summer from Marvel. An international creator, Mike also freelances for a Norwegian publisher and book four of the thriller Varg Velum (Hevneren Fra Solbris) is out now in Norway.

Dapper Dave Gibbons was at the Expo, affable and amusing as ever, and the Who Watched the Watchmen panel was a great way to spend an hour. Dave, along with Watchmen colourist John Higgins, and Bob Wayne (Vice-President Direct Sales for DC Comics) took us through their enjoyable post-movie anecdotes and background info on the comic.

I can thoroughly recommend Dave's book Watching the Watchmen - a substantial 272 page hardback from Titan Books which conscientiously takes us through the production of all 12 issues of Watchmen in a highly entertaining manner.

I bought several other comics at the Expo, and I'll be covering those in another blog post soon, when spare time permits.

Thanks once again to Mike Allwood and his colleagues for running another highly satisfying Expo. It's easy to take these events for granted but when one considers that prior to comic conventions most UK comic creators of previous generations never even met or knew each other one can appreciate just how invaluable these shows are for moralle and establishing lasting friendships. Take a bow Mike! You're one of the most important people in the industry.

Next year's Bristol International Comic Expo will be slightly later on May 22nd - 23rd. Bookmark their website at for future details.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Conventions of the Past - Part 2

Concluding the retrospective of bygone conventions here's a few more pics from the past starting with a visit to the Angouleme comics festival in France, in January 1990. Each year the festival paid tribute to a guest country and 1990 was Britain's turn. Around 50 or more various UK comics creators jetted over to Angouleme for the three day event. Here's me trying to look a bit French and sophisticated, standing beside one of the intricate exhibits based on the work of Schuiten and Peeters... Marvel UK were among the exhibitors at Angouleme 1990. From left to right here's John Freeman, Amanda from marketing (sorry, forgot her surname), Helen Carter, Steve White, and Dan Abnett... I seem to recall it was raining most of the time during the French visit but to prove there were some brighter times here's Brad Brooks drying out in the sun in downtown Angouleme... With comics being highly respected in France, every shop window in Angouleme was promoting the festival and various comic albums. Even the boutiques... ...and the Lucky Luke burger bar was giving away free burgers to comic professionals! Here's David Hine and wife Vicky back in 1990 enjoying a drink in a bar at Angouleme... Moving through the years, and further North, it's been a pleasure to have been a guest at several conventions in Norway. Here's a great shot of some of the other guests who were there for Raptus 1999 in Bergen. No, it's not a publicity shot from Lost, but a photo taken on a trip around the fijords that the Raptus organiser kindly provided for us. From left to right, the legendary John Buscema, Stan Sakai (creator of Usagi Yojimbo), Patrik Norrman (creator of Swedish strip Bacon & Egg), Arild Wearnes (festival organiser), Jonas Darnell (creator of Swedish strip Herman Hedning), Jim Toomey (creator of Sherman's Lagoon), and, squatting, cartoonist supreme Sergio Aragon├ęs (Groo the Wanderer, Mad magazine). Two years later, again in Norway, here's Raptus 2001 kicking off with fans in costume parading around the streets of Bergen... That same day, Too Much Coffee Man creator Shannon Wheeler was scheduled to sketch in the town centre sponsored by a coffee company, but Shannon couldn't make it to Norway so Mike Collins and I stepped in to provide numerous coffee-related cartoons. The crazy world of comics eh? In 2001 Bergen's Avalon comic book store had the inspired idea to ask visiting artists to provide an illustration on a wall inside the shop. Here's Jeff Smith (creator of Bone) and Mike Collins (artist of numerous strips including Judge Dredd) sketching out their work. A partially completed head shot of Nemi by Lise Myhre is already on the wall... A while later, and here's Mike and I adding colour to our illustrations. My contribution is Benny from my Suburban Satanists strip... Later still, our work is done. Jeff Smith's Bone alongside a Lee Townsend Hellblazer illo, with Mike's completed Batman and a Dave Windett bat cartoon rounding it off... A year later (2002) Don Rosa added an Uncle Scrooge in an appropriate position behind Bone... Here's Don Rosa at Raptus 2002 illustrating Donald Duck, projected onto the screen as he draws. (The Disney characters are immensely popular in Norway.) Some of the crowds who attended Raptus 2002... Another year later, and at Raptus 2003 Arild Waernes (right) presents an award to top cartoonist Arild Midthun. (Don't worry. Not everyone in Norway is called Arild.) At the same 2003 convention here's Nemi creator Lise Myhre and myself chilling out at the post-event evening get-together. The inimitable Kev F Sutherland (UT, Beano, lots of stuff) is in the background... Back to Blighty for this 2006 shot of a very busy Bristol Comics Expo. There's more images from this convention at this website: And finally... later that same year, in December 2006, the very first Birmingham International Comic Show saw Shane Oakley, with John Reppion, and Leah Moore promoting their Albion comic... I hope you've enjoyed these images from previous conventions. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Conventions of the Past - Part 1

I thought it might be appropriate to take a look back at a few UK comic conventions of the past. British comic cons have been running since 1968 and I attended my first one 30 years ago in 1979. Blimey indeed! I didn't even own a camera to take pix of the 1979 event (which was in the Metropole Hotel in Birmingham by the way) but I did snap a few with my new cheap point n shoot camera in 1980. This event was in London and organized by Marvel UK. In an attempt to attract the crowds they invited guests from tv, film, and comics. (The sort of multi-media event which is common today, so they were ahead of their time.) In his satin tights fighting for your rights here's someone at the 1980 event dressed as Captain America... ...and at the same event, actress Jacqueline Pearce (star of Blakes 7 and Hammer movie The Reptile) picks up a few awards... Two years later in 1982 a convention was held in London again, this time with comics back as the central focus. Here's a young pre-Watchmen Dave Gibbons perusing the items in the dealer's room... Years before Cosplay, fans in costume were a rarity at UK Cons, but that never stopped merry Martin Forrest from dressing up as Doctor Midnite. (Martin was a superb fan-artist, contributing to several fanzines of the period including my own Metamorph.) Here he is in character thwarting a ham sandwich in 1982.... ...and I suppose it's only fair that I reveal how I looked way back when too. Here I am at the same Con with moustache, bomber jacket and tinted specs, managing to look at least five years out of fashion even for 1982... Moving on another two years, here's Alan Moore in '84 at a convention in Birmingham winning what is possibly his first Eagle Award. (This would be either for his work on Warrior or The Daredevils, or possibly both.) At the same 1984 event here's Kevin O'Neill who, in memory serves me correctly, was collecting an Eagle Award on behalf of Pat Mills. (Although I could be mistaken and he could have deservedly won one himself that year of course.) Just behind Kev is Manhunter / Thor artist Walt Simonson who was presenting the Awards, and in the background is Eagle Awards organizer Richard Burton... Again at the 1984 Con, here's Marvel UK editor Bernie Jaye receiving the Eagle Award for The Daredevils comic (a groundbreaking UK monthly which featured lots of Alan Moore material including fanzine reviews, Night Raven text stories and of course Captain Britain by Moore and Alan Davis)... Here's Bernie with that very Eagle Award. In those days it was a certificate, but later events saw it evolve into a trophy... The same 1984 Convention saw fanzine editor Martin Lock launch his Harrier Comics company with Conqueror No.1 written by Lock with artwork by Dave Harwood... The final pic from 1984 shows American Flagg creator Howard Chaykin (on the right) with colourist Leslie Zahler on the left and a fan in a very good home made Flagg costume... Moving forward through the mists of time we stumble into 1987 and a UKCAC (UK Comic Art Convention) event in the heart of London. Here's the lads from Viz making their only appearance at a London comic convention. Left to right is Viz cover artist Simon Thorp, writer Graham Dury, and Viz co-creators Simon and Chris Donald... The UKCAC organizers often tried to instigate friendly conflict on the panels and joining the Viz lads on the same discussion were a group of Oink! contributors. As it turned out, we all got on well as most comic creators do. Left to right is Chris Donald; moderator Theo Clarke; me in Oink! T-shirt "hogging" the mic (can't resist a piggy pun); artist Ed McHenry; artist/writer David Leach... A relaxing trip to the bar is a tradition after a convention and here's a surprised looking Hunt Emerson with Chris Donald and Chris' wife Dolores in a London pub... More old Con pix soon! (Or not, if enough bribes are received. ;-) 
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