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The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic Convention? A Day out at the 2000AD – 40 Years of Thrill-Power Festival

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power Booklet

The 2000AD – 40 Years of Thrill-Power Festival took place last weekend and downthetubers John Freeman (who was drafted to run a panel about British comics, Richard Sheaf and Tony Esmond (who got to interview Pat Mills on stage) share their thoughts on the event…

A Grand Day Out

By Richard Sheaf

There are more comic conventions than ever before in this UK this year. Some weekends this summer, the con-attending fan will have to make some hard decisions about where to go for their comics-based city break.

And yet, and yet… I don’t really go to comic conventions. I love comics – but not conventions.

Sure, I went to a United Kingdom Comic Art Convention once, many years ago, and one of Kev Sutherland’s Bristol shows and, er, that’s almost it, really. I haven’t been to a comics convention in London for over a decade. Some of that boils down to cost, convenience and childcare, but mostly it boils down to a desire to, dammit, go to a comics convention like the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal or ICE in Birmingham – but in my home town. I want to meet interesting creators whose work filled my childhood with joy – and frankly, I don’t think that’s on offer at Guildford Comic-Con.

I wish it were: if it was, I’d go, but it feels like the whole “comic-con” banner gets attached to too many events these days where the comics are way down the line in terms of importance.

So, you can imagine my delight when, about six months ago, 2000AD announced that they were getting into the convention business. And, almost immediately paid my money for a ticket, for an event which at the time had no announced guests. In fact I paid my money despite not getting 2000AD as a child, so I was hopeful that the roll call of 2000AD alumni – who have worked on many British titles besides the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, would mean that the odds were that there would be enough interesting people.

In the end of course Rebellion came through with a terrific guest list, only a few of whom I actually got to meet, despite being in the Hammersmith Novotel for about six hours.

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power Entrance

Beyond these gates lurks craziness! Photo: Richard Sheaf

What did they have then? What did you miss? (Well, Bleeding Cool’s video montage, above, gives you a taste of what was going on on the main floor, for a start). I’ve got to say it seemed to be very well organised (maybe all conventions are these days, who knows?). Lots of friendly, helpful ‘droids’ making sure everything was running smoothly, artists and writers being looked after, talks that appeared to be running to time, queues were well-managed.

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power - Prints

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power - Prints

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power - Andy-Diggle

Andy Diggle

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power - Carlos Ezquerra

Carlos Ezquerra was one of the busiest creators on the day

Pat Mills was also very busy at his table, while Lisa Mills sat ready to strike down the unruly who reminded Pat about once writing a story about a blind tennis player with a single blow...

Pat Mills was also very busy at his table, while Lisa Mills sat ready to strike down the unruly who reminded Pat about once writing a story about a blind tennis player with a single blow…

One of the many busy panels at the Festival.

One of the many busy panels at the Festival.

Past Thargs gathered: Andy Diggle, Richard Burton and Steve MacManus. Photo: Wakefield Carter

Past Thargs gathered: Andy Diggle, Richard Burton and Steve MacManus. Photo: Wakefield Carter

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power - Dave Gibbons

A very busy Dave Gibbons

Secondly, the roll call of people that I got to meet was fantastic – in no particular order, I saw talking / met Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry, Jesus Redondo, Ian Kennedy, John Wagner, Peter Milligan, Robin Smith, John McCrea, Steve MacManus, Chris Weston, Jack Adrian, Cam Kennedy, Alan Grant, Peter Milligan, Mick McMahon, Simon Coleby and Carlos Ezquerra. And it could have been more – the queue was always too long for Pat Mills and Dave Gibbons and I didn’t know enough about his art to go and just strike up a conversation with Arthur Ranson. And there were plenty more creators than that, but I only had six hours!

Sean Phillips and Duncan Fegredo

Sean Phillips and Duncan Fegredo

Steve Yeowell. Photo: Richard Sheaf

Steve Yeowell. Photo: Richard Sheaf

Overall, though the ratio of ticket-holders (about 1500 in total, according to head Rebellion PR honcho Michael Molcher) to guests was great and meant that, with a few notable exceptions, the queues for each creator was always pretty short. Honourable mentions to those with long queues all day long – John Wagner, Pat Mills, Dave Gibbons and Carlos Ezquerra (who just sketched and sketched and sketched).

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power - Cosplayers

Photo: Richard Sheaf

Veteran 2000AD and Starlord writer and staffer Chris Lowder with Wakefield Carter (Photo courtesy Wakefield Carter)

Veteran 2000AD and Starlord writer and staffer Chris Lowder with Wakefield Carter (Photo courtesy Wakefield Carter)

And there were two different rooms with talks. And fan-films, including the debut of the new Strontium Dog production, which downthetubes editor John Freeman tells me is fantastic, because he was jammy enough to get his hands on a very limited edition press pack. (Lucky dog).

And there were comics to buy. And toys. And limited edition prints. And original art for sale. And cosplayers. And books. And live drawing. And I didn’t get to do the half of it – there was about two or three days worth of stuff all crammed in to a single day. You just couldn’t fit it all in, and that’s a shame, but not really a complaint. We were spoilt, that’s the truth of it and everybody there knew it.

Ian Edginton, Matt Brooker, Ian Culbard and Rob Williams discuss world building on stage. Photo: Wakefield Carter

Ian Edginton, Matt Brooker, Ian Culbard and Rob Williams discuss world building on stage. Photo: Wakefield Carter

The 2000AD 40 Years of Thrill-Power Festival was such a happy event, everyone just seemed to be cherishing the moment and to be relishing the opportunity to meet so many of their heroes and to say a very big ‘thank you’ for all the pleasure they had provided over the previous 40 years.

Overall, it was a brilliant event – well organised, well attended, loads of (iconic) creators, so much to do, happy atmosphere, interesting talks, what’s not to love? It might even persuade me to go to more conventions.

Don’t leave it so long next time, eh, 2000AD?

On Stage With Pat Mills

By Tony Esmond

Pat Mills on stage. Photo courtesy Tony Esmond

2000AD’s creator Pat Mills on stage. Photo courtesy Tony Esmond

My personal highlight of the day was getting to host the talk with Pat Mills that closed out the convention. Titled ‘CREDO! A Pat Mills Career Retrospective’, the Godfather of British Comics did not disappoint. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t have 2000AD without the hard work of this man and he covered what drove, and still drives, him to create stories, starting with a recent dream he had about the famous ‘Space Spinner’ giveaway on the first Prog (A story we wisely decided not to explore the subtext of).

Pat was incredibly engaging and spoke at length about his inspirations for some of our favourite characters. The time flew by and it was clear that the audience in the packed room were loving stories about Slaine, Invasion, Nemesis the Warlock, Marshall Law and so many of his creations.

Talk also included plans for Pat’s new ‘Serial Killer‘ novel series and where it would be going in the next few instalments. Mr Mills explained how the first book takes some cues from Battle comic, episode two will reflect the Action years and episode three may have some cheeky nods to 2000AD and its early years. (Have a look at the review here and read an extract here)

Pat Mills and friend at the 2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power Festival. Photo: Tony Esmond

Pat Mills and friend at the 2000AD – 40 Years of Thrill-Power Festival. Photo: Tony Esmond

Audience questions provided some chuckles after Pat was asked what he was reading. Unexpectedly, it turns out he is enjoying the I am Alan from Alan Partridge!

Then the big question. What is your favourite story? A long pause as Pat thought…

“Nemesis, yeah Nemesis!” which brought cheers of agreement from audience members before the talk finished on tidal wave of cheers and applause.

From The Trenches: A Blast from The Past

By John Freeman

John Higgins, John Freeman, Ian Kennedy and Jesus Redondo on stage for a "Blast from the Past" panel. Photo: Wakefield Carter

John Higgins, John Freeman, Ian Kennedy and Jesus Redondo on stage for a “Blast from the Past” panel. Photo: Wakefield Carter

Heading  to the 2000AD – 40 Years of Thrill-Power Festival, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the event, but I can tell you I thoroughly enjoyed it, and thanks to Owen Johnson, Michael Molcher, Ben Smith and a huge support team it appeared to run very smoothly.

Taking the opportunity to drop hints about the upcoming appearances of key 2000AD creators at this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival (as directed), for me the Festival was a rare chance to catch up with many old friends and fellow comic creators in the flesh.

Given its 40 year publication history, it’s no surprise that not only were there many mainstays of 2000AD at the event, many behind tables selling some gorgeous physical art, but several people I had the pleasure of working with at Marvel UK, including artist Jeff Anderson, Simon Coleby, Lee Sullivan (now working on Rivers of London), as well as chatting to writers such as Al Ewing about comics past and Nigel Dobbyn and Hilary Robinson about comics future (the pair are working on an interesting digital comics and music project).

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power - Jeff Anderson

Jeff Anderson

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power - Lee Sullivan

Lee Sullivan (and that’s Steve White in the background)

The event was so busy and so huge I decided from the outset to treat the event a bit like a wedding party – great to catch up with people like Paul Cornell and quickly discuss some extras for the Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Heralds of Destruction… but any long and sensible conversation? Forget it. Especially when it came to catching up with the likes of fellow tuber Tony Esmond, who was often distracted by wandering cosplayers (the guy with the Hewligan’s Haircut costume must have had a neck brace or something) and Awesome Comic Podcast cronies Dan Butcher and Vince Hunt, or some of the talented Zarjaz and FutureQuake team such as Richmond Clements and ever-busy letterer Jim Campbell.

So in the end I just went with the flow, bumping into folk such as Kill Screen creator Mike Garley and talking independent comics distribution ideas, chatting to Wakefield Carter about his new game project (more on that when he’s ready to reveal it) and Karl Stock about Thrill-Power Overload (I’d bumped into David Bishop with Frazer Irving and Ryan Brown the night before), and running into the Dundee gang including Phillip Vaughn and Chris Murray, chatting about comic studies.

downthetubes' John Freeman with Phillip Vaughn, Ian Kennedy and Chris Murray. Photo: Richard Sheaf

downthetubes’ John Freeman with Phillip Vaughn, Ian Kennedy and Chris Murray. Photo: Richard Sheaf

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power - Jesus-Redondo

Jesus Redondo

Within this whirlwind of encounters there was one pool of calm (of sorts) – the “Blast from the Past” panel which Tharg’s droid Owen Johnson had asked me to chair. Ian Kennedy revealed his first ever art job was blacking in crossword puzzle squares, John Higgins was more than happy to tell us he favoured working on British comics for their sheer raw energy than some US titles, proceedings were livened up by former Starlord and 2000AD staffer Chris Lowder who regaled us with stories of those comic’s early days from the audience, much to our delight.

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power - Ian Kennedy and Chis Lowder

Ian Kennedy and Chis Lowder. Photo: Richard Sheaf

And although artist Jesus Redondo spoke in part through a translator (Guillermo Ortego), I think he delivered the best story of life as a working freelance artist who was approached by a US publisher to do some work for them, to be told they had a very particular style in mind for their new project, and would he emulate the style of art they particularly liked?

When the “art samples” arrived I can only imagine the bemusement – and amusement – of this veteran creator, as the art the publisher liked so much had all been drawn by one man – Redondo.

Comics – it’s a funny business!

Thanks to everyone who helped make this Festival such as success and all the creators I bumped into on the day. Like Richard, I do hope we won’t have to wait 40 years for the next such 2000AD event!

2000AD is adding videos of the Festival’s panels to its official YouTube channel. Relive the day – or find out what went on – here

40 Years of 2000AD – Celebratory Publishing

Thrill-Power Overload: Forty Years of 2000 AD: Revised, updated and expanded!

From 2000 AD’s humble and rocky beginnings to its current position as the Galaxy’s Greatest comic, Thrill-Power Overload charts the incredible history of this ground-breaking comic. With exclusive interviews, hundreds of illustrations and rarely-seen artwork, former 2000 AD editor, David Bishop and journalist Karl Stock, guide the reader through four decades of action, adventure, excitement and the occasional editorial nightmare! Told by the people who were there, this is the definitive history of the comic that launched a thousand talents including legends such as John Wagner, Pat Mills, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Mick McMahon, Grant Morrison, Kevin O’Neill, Simon Bisley and continues with 21st Century breakthrough talents such as Jock, Rob Williams, Andy Diggle, Al Ewing, Henry Flint, Frazer Irving – and many many more.

2000 AD’s Greatest: Celebrating 40 Years of Thrill-Power!

From humorously twisted Future Shocks to the dystopian escapades of Judge Dredd, 2000 AD has inspired generations of readers and has spawned some of the greatest talents in the comics industry.

To celebrate the creative droids behind the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, a selection of writers and artists from across 2000 AD’s forty-year history were asked to choose their favourite one-off story by a fellow creator and explain why they chose it. The result is this incredible anthology featuring work by Alan Grant, Kevin O’Neill, Rob Williams, Brian Bolland, Chris Weston and Steve Dillon selected by creators such as founding editor Pat Mills, celebrated artist Jock and recent newcomer Tom Foster.

Gone But Not Forgotten

2000AD - 40 Years of Thrill-Power Lest We Forget

About John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative" who is currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 25 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary, including DEATH'S HEAD II and WARHEADS. At Marvel he wrote strips for THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, THUNDERCATS, DOCTOR WHO and co-created SHADOW RIDERS with Brian Williamson and Ross Dearsley. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. He has written comics for Marvel UK, Judge Dredd Megazine, Lucky Bag Comic, CGL (an Italian publisher), STRIP Magazine and ROK Comics; and edited some of Titan's British comics collections including Dan Dare and Charley's War. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.
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