London SP Expo 2011

The UK Web & Mini-comix Thing is gone, but the London SP Expo is here to replace it! It’s run by the same people who started the Bristol SP Expo, which is a few years old and now runs over two days.

Anyway, the first one was held yesterday and I went to sell my comics. I didn’t get issue 4 of the Red, White & Blue finished in time. Even though my new year’s resolution was to take it bi-monthly, and the cover still actually says “Jan-Feb 2011” it’s still not done! I’d like to blame a cold I had late last month, but really I was just too lazy. I did have one new production, in the shape of issue 1 of The Trident. I finished this last year and it’s an unofficial continuation of the Sexton Blake Library and Boys’ Friend Library, ie one long text story. The first is about Sexton Blake in World War 1, I sold an amazing two copies! XD

But before setting out to the convention I had to make a “colours nailed to the mast” T-shirt to wear. Using rubbish print-yourself iron-on transfers, it didn’t go well. But then again it only had to last a day.

 lonsp11_01.jpg

First print a mirror image… (my dad inevitably had to point out that it was “wrong” in case I “hadn’t noticed”)

 lonsp11_02.jpg

Get yer amazing Tesco value t-shirt, and a mum with an iron

lonsp11_03.jpg

One not-burned-down house later… The E was the corner I peeled the paper off first, and some of the red went with it. Also the far corner wasn’t stuck down.

 I’d been intending to stay up for “as long as it took” to finish issue 4, but it had got to 9 at night and I’d still not finished the (20,500 words so far!) Sexton Blake story, and not even started on the 5 pages of Tigers of Punjab (the three of issue 4’s short Speedway story took all of January). Anything produced that quickly wasn’t going to be any good, so I decided to not produce it at all and leave issue 4 out. The Sexton Blake story could do with some big tweaks too, if it’d printed it as-is it would have been very rambling and bland. So instead I packed what I had, printed the strips for issue 4 that did get finished, and went to sleep at a decent time.

lonsp11_04.jpg

Stuff packed. I have some display stands this year!

lonsp11_05.jpg

The finished material in a display book. I need to take my printer’s colour management in hand… things that are supposed to be darkish grey are almost-black purple! It will be sorted out for when the actual comics are printed.

As it NOT traditional for my comic convention trips, the transportation ran perfectly smoothly. Nobody had dropped a match at a station or anything. (Actually the fire that closed Cambridge station last year really was huge and could be seen over most of the city, plus a tall former mill was in danger of collapsing onto the station. But at the time I didn’t know that XD).

lonsp11_06.jpg

Had to use the “London Overground”, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I just thought it was a funny nickname for the parts of the Underground that aren’t actually underground (which is a surprising amount of it, actually). But the Overground is actually a seperate train with it’s own lines.

lonsp11_07.jpg

Packed with convention-goers, as you can see.

lonsp11_08.jpg

Is that some blue I see?

After arriving at New Cross station, apparently near Millwall stadium (they weren’t at home, I doubt supporters of a club with a reputation for hooliganism and long-haired comic con goers would mix!) I predictably got lost. At least the Thing was on a straight road from it’s station, even I can’t get lost on a straight road XD. I found the venue pretty much at 10 o clock when the event was opening to the public, though for the first hour it was pretty much just the exhibitors, still. Several wandering around and chatting to people they knew.

lonsp11_09.jpg

What I could see. Opposite me were several DFC contributors. To my shame I never got that comic, but will certianly be getting The Pheonix, it’s “replacement”. Even if I hope to have emigrated by then I still will!

I just took lots of pictures… all of the architecture!

lonsp11_10.jpg

Wanna see a huge organ?

lonsp11_11.jpg

 All ceilings should look like this

lonsp11_13.jpg

Balconies

lonsp11_14.jpg

The top, sadly the windows are obscured by this horrible modern lighting rig. They ought to use ornate chandeliers. I’d love to be in this room alone when it’s raining heavily.

I also set up my table. The new stands make it look a lot better, but I really need an A5 one for The Trident (and, when it’s done, The Dragonfly). Also I’d hoped to have the A6 sized penny comics in a seperate box all jumbled up (the different stories will be different colours), but I’d only got one finished (-_- and that was a reprint) so into the stand they went as well.

lonsp11_12.jpg

I later made a seperate notice pointing out the price of the penny dreadfuls which got a bit more attention XD

After that I took a quick run around the hall to look for the stuff I wanted to buy especially, but as I was in a hurry I actually didn’t see any of them. I did see  Yuri Kore but she didn’t have any new books out. But if you haven’t got the two she had released then buy ’em! One of them won a competition organised by the Japanese embassy!

lonsp11_18.jpg

How do they work?

At 11 I phoned up my girlfriend, who is Japanese. I’d not had any contact with her since the earthquake but she said she was fine, just that she had to walk home from work which took 10 hours O_O. I also found a yen in my change bucket and gave it to some anime fans behind me. From about 11 on people actually started arriving and browsing. Though I didn’t make any sales til gone 12 I did give out a few hastily-made (they always are) free flyers.

There was also no less than three film crews wandering about at one point! Well this is in a university, I suppose the media studies students wanted to get their “interviewing” badge. “for some strange reason” they didn’t interview me. Oh well, I only would have said that a story paper that ended in the mid-1920’s was the best comic ever.

lonsp11_15.jpg

“You’re sure that’s not a Tribble”?

As the day went on I handed out a few more free flyers, though oddly enough still had a few left. People won’t take shoddily-produced rubbish with silly puns in it even if it is free! No less than three people who came to see me had actually heard of Sexton Blake! The story paper revolution gains momentum, comrades! Around 1 I went off for food and then a longer wander around the hall. I found all the stuff on my shopping list, including (finally) some issues of FuturequakeOmnivistascope (both near-professional quality publications inspired by 2000AD’s heyday) and some Starscape productions, including the Starscape Storypaper! It’s A6 sized but what can ya do. It’ll while away some time at work. “For some strange reason” the guy at the Starscape stall thought I’d be older. Well I do mainly collect comics from before World War 2.

I also got the first two issues of Non-repro (a seperate post about this will be made eventually!). This came about when somebody posted on the forums of Sweatdrop Studios (a seperate post about them will be made eventually!) saying “Why isn’t there a regular UK manga anthology?”. The people who came to produce Non-repro said “Why isn’t there a regular UK manga anthology?” and made it!

Aand I also got “The Comix Reader” – 24 tabloid-sized pages on newsprint for a pound! There’s all sorts in it and some is not for children. Encouragingly it says “Issue 1” so unlike the similarly-formatted Gothic there will hopefully be many more!

I got heaps of other stuff too, and ought to blog about some of it eventually. I want to treat all British comics the same, whether they be million-sellers or photocopied pamphlets!

lonsp11_16.jpg

Free advertising! Where’s me discount?

lonsp11_17.jpg

Buys

Eventually the day came to a close. I’d spent a good 50-odd quid all in coins and sold about 10 comics, so my case was considerably heavier on the way out! One of the rules of this con, unlike the Thing, was that we had to help put away the tables and chairs too. I was half expecting a load of whinging and moaning and sudden development of bad backs, but actually everybody was making themselves useful and actually doing it. Then again contrary to expectations the majority of people at the con seemed to be working class, when you’d think a bunch of “creative types” would be airy fairy and middle class. Oh well, comics were always too good to be wasted on the likes of them!

 lonsp11_19.jpg

My real name is tarquin wetherby but I used my cleaner’s name to blend in.

Then it was time for the journey home, which was similarly uneventful. I’d used cheap Tesco deodorant which didn’t last the distance, luckily the trains weren’t crowded and stereotypes about comic con goers remained unproven to the public at large XD. Wierdly when I arrived at Ely station it was soaked and smelled like heavy rain, but the train had not passed through any rain, and my dad said our village hadn’t had any either. Very narrow band!

BICS bits

A few years ago i went to the Bristol comic convention two years on the trot. On both occasions i only decided to go the day before and thus was extremely tired and spend hundreds of pounds on train tickets and last-minute hotel bookings. Mind you the first year i went the hotel i got was actually closer to the convention than the official hotel.

Anyway, i decided to revive that tradition by deciding to go to the Birmingham International Comic Show less than 24 hours before the doors opened! Though i sensibly left out the hotel booking and just went for the Saturday… Birmingham doesn’t take the whole day to get to, after all. I also wore a black armband in tribute to Jose Maria Jorge.

In another tradition of me going to comic events i took NO pictures whilst there, so instead i’ll take a look at some of the comics i bought.

bics10_01.jpg

Selected bits and pieces. I actually left out another one i bought there that i have been slowly collecting for a few years called Vampire Freestyle. It’s good so read it.

 Realms

 bics10_02.jpg

Fantastic cover, whoever designed this knew what they were doing.

A strange one this, a group who were selling some superhero type comic were giving it away for free. It dates from 1998, when self publishing was still just about in the photocopying and mail-order era, and when internet-capable computers were still not quite within the reach of everyone. To reinforce this fact it actually has no email address or website on it. The authors have actually put in a postal address to send comments and feedback to!

Oh, i suppose that isn’t “strange” after all, if they didn’t have a computer! Right, then, what about the stories – those are strange!

bics10_03.jpg

My normal camera, itself from 2002, has given up the ghost at last so i have to use a more modern but far inferior one. The blurriness really doesn’t bring out the quality of this artwork.

The stories are very eerie horror tales, most of them have almost no dialogue and bizarre endings. The artwork is fantastic – very dark with acres and acres of hatching rather than solid black areas. It’s also very big and bold, this is an A4 sized comic yet has at most about 4 panels to a page.

Comics Forum

bics10_04.jpg

A cover that would not disgrace a traditional British adventure annual!

The Comics Creators Guild is a sort of trade union of comic creators large and small (though mainly small!). They produce this book yearly. It’s not a half tabloid sized hardback like “proper” annuals, but you can’t have everything. It’s a real mashing together of disparate styles and genres within. Some familiar small press names like Space Babe 113 pop up regularly. These books are always worth buying!

 Alison’s Room

bics10_05.jpg

Wooooo

I recently joined the forums of Sweatdrop Studios, a Cambridge-based comic creating group that i had somehow not had any contact with all these years (and who i ought to do an article about!). I bumped an old thread saying i was going to BICS and was anybody going – i got a reply from Yuri Kore. So i went to talk to her and bought this!

It’s an eerie horror story about a girl who believes that a monster lives in her wardrobe, and that if she doesn’t play with her dolls it will come out and get her. Her father is also dead and people blame her mother for the death. Various other characters pile on the pressure, scheming and backstabbing – all the while the monster in the wardrobe grows stronger and stronger. You can tell this won’t end well!

bics10_06.jpg

Fantastic artwork once again. Also the book is tightly bound so i used the very professional journalistic device of “my hand holding the page open”. Come to think of it why didn’t i scan this? It’s not like it’s going to be damaged by being put in the scanner unlike the 100 year old bound volumes i’m normally delving in to.

London Calling

 bics10_07.jpg

A familiar look? If not, why not!

A new comic with art by Keith Page – who also works for Commando and recently completed The Iron Moon, a story about the British Space Empire of 1897! I actually went to BICS to get The Iron Moon (and some sushi), but the printers hadn’t come through in time (and i had a devil of a time finding the sushi restaurant too). Instead i got this, published by Time Bomb Comics who state that they specialise in “one shot” books.

The story in this is actually a little confusing, as it uses a character called Charlotte Corday who first appeared in a webcomic that i haven’t read. So searching that out first is recommended. The story revolves around Charlotte going on a secret mission in London, whilst trying to maintain psychic contact with her superiors in France. Also her enemies are vampires. And the police are after her with some odd listening equipment. And another police deparment want to fight the vampires… phew.

The story is also framed by a section set in a flooded modern London with Charlotte “making up” the story with her children. The actual story appears to be set in the late 1940’s – which means lots of lovely cars!

bics10_08.jpg

Oh and did i mention her commander is a skeleton?

The back of the book says it’s for “all ages”, though really i think a “12” rating would be better. Mind you there’s no end of cultural references in it that will fly over the head of anybody not between the ages of about 40 and 60. Or else people like me who just live in an idealised version of the past.

Anyway, here’s the first page of that webcomic i haven’t read yet: http://dennisthedonkey.blogspot.com/2009/10/story-begins.html

Poot!

The image uploader has decided not to work for the picture of Poot… hurrah. Anyway it was one of the multitude of Viz ripoffs of the late 1980’s that died out within a few months (except for one called Smut that somehow lasted up until 2007, though i have no idea how, not even Borders stocked every issue… and it wasn’t funny). However now Poot is back!

Compared to Viz, Poot is more… silly. That might seem a bit strange since Viz has a bit of a silly reputation itself… but Viz also does some pretty vicious satire (like The Modern Parents) that i couldn’t see appearing in Poot. Mind you they do ridicule Macs and iGadgets a lot… which is a good thing.

I had a bit of a chat with them, but if i may i’ll hand over to Kevf off the Comics UK forum:

Another very positive stand was Poot! comic. I was pretty sure I’d not seen Poot! since I was was working for the comics that shared a shelf with it in the early 90s (the Viz-alike titles Gas, Brain Damage, Zit, UT, remember them?). And I was right. The guys had run Poot as kids, folded it when the bubble burst in 1991, got proper jobs as accountants and the like and, last year, revived the comic for fun. And now, after a dozen issues, they have a distribution deal with Seymour, they’ve been accepted by WH Smith’s travel outlets, and are currently selling 16,000 copies a month. On newsstands. I don’t know about you, but I find that one of the most heartening stories in comics I’ve heard this year. An independent publisher is selling a comics magazine, printed on paper, in good old fashioned newsagents, and people are buying it.

Their starting point was simply looking at the shelves, seeing that Viz was the only funny comic there, identifying a hole in the market, and filling it. They’re not making a fortune, but they are paying their contributors, breaking even, and enjoying themselves creating and publishing comic strips. If others could replicate this success I’d be delighted, and I get the feeling it’s possible.

Of course Titan ought to be trying to replicate that success by publishing Roy of the Rovers Volume 1.

I bought the latest issue, and also the “pilot issue”, which has much of the content of issue 1 (of the new version, not the one from the 80’s!) but a few different strips and layouts… might be worth a few bob one day!

Crikey!

bics10_10.jpg

Ten pounds worth… but ‘worth’ a lot more!

Excitement abounded on Comics UK when it was revealed that a new magazine about British comics was to be released. Many people, including me, took out subscriptions… but were a little disappointed by the presence of several mistakes and also waffle-filled articles in the early issues. I allowed my subscription to lapse and largely forgot about the magazine (despite joining it’s forum and talking about Doctor Who on there, ahem). Until it was suddenly announced that issue 16 would be the final one!

Anyway, as a penance i bought several issues from the Crikey stall, and they certainly show a lot of improvement over the early ones! There’s also a nice article about Spaceship Away in one, and several ones that focus on some slightly more obscure comics that had my ebay bid finger itching.

I still feel like i ought to do more, mind you. Like start my own magazine about comics! Mind you it’d probably just regurgitate posts from this blog, come out once every decade, and only be available on one day of the year.

In all, a decent convention. Next up (maybe) is the London MCM Expo, the last weekend in October. This time i’ll try and remember to take some photos!