The event that became the Dundee Comics Day (DCD) began at the University of Dundee in 2007 with the two day academic conference entitled ‘Biff! Bam!! Crikey!!!’ in 2007. Run by Dr Chris Murray (below) of the university’s Department of Humanities, DCD has since settled down into an annual Sunday slot in the last weekend of October as part of the university run Dundee Literary Festival and has picked up Phillip Vaughan of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art And Design (DJCAD) as a co-organiser along the way.
This year the title was ‘Crossovers On Infinite Platforms?’ to show how comics interacted with and drew from other mediums, and this was part of an overarching ‘Heroes and Villains’ concept from The Centre for Scottish Culture that was running at various Dundee locations throughout the month of October 2014.
As in previous years the “Day” itself expanded into two days with a comics workshop and a screening of the film Antman at the Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) venue plus a Q&A session on the Dundee originated Saltire graphic novels (reviewed here on downthetubes) happening on Saturday 25th October. This was followed on the Sunday by a zine fair in the university’s Bonar Hall in the morning (organised by the Dundee Literary Festival and so was not purely small press comics), followed by an afternoon of comics talks in the next door Tower Building. Using the Baxter Suite with its large windows rather than the DCD’s usual windowless lecture theatre gave the day a mixture of natural light and the sound of stormy high winds whistling around the outside of the building.
First up was Woodrow Phoenix talking about the creation of his ‘big book’ She Lives. This is the 1 metre square, hand drawn, one-off, silent comic that resulted from his determination to create the largest bound book that he could and which was displayed as part of the British Library’s ‘Comics Unbound’ exhibition earlier in 2014. She Lives is a sequel to the 1935 horror film The Bride of Frankenstein that begins with the Bride surviving the end of the film.
While this had come across as something of an oddity at the British Library, to hear Woodrow talk about his initial idea followed by his creation of prototypes to see if the book was technically feasible and then the amount of work and patience that went into the creation of something that, so far at least, will not see any other form of publication was quite fascinating.
Woodrow ‘hosted’ several readings of the book during the day during which he invited the audience up to read the book as he turned the pages and commented on various aspects of both the story and the physical book.
Next up were husband and wife graphic novel team Andrzej Klimowski and Danusia Schejbal who talked about their adaptations of Scottish author Robert Louis Stephenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Polish author Stanislaw Lem’s Uranium Earpieces and The Sanatorium of Dr. Vliperdius published together as Robot, and Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, all of which have been published in the UK by Self Made Hero.
This talk which was chaired by Chris Murray also covered the couple’s work on their own autobiographical book Behind The Curtain which covers their lives in Cold War Poland and is due to be published in March 2015 again by Self Made Hero.
They were followed by the more familiar husband and wife team of Bryan and Mary Talbot who admitted that it was their fourth literary event is the last two or three weeks, which included being in Kendal for the Lakes International Comics Art Festival the previous weekend.
With Bryan’s Lakes slide show running in the background, chair Stephen O’Donnell took first Bryan through his comics career before the pair talked about their collaborations, the Costa Award winning Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes and the recent Sally Heathcote: Suffragette that they had worked on with Edinburgh artist Kate Charlesworth. Bryan was even able to get a plug in for his soon to be released Grandville Noel, the fourth book in the anthropomorphic series.
While the pair had been in Dundee as part of the Scottish Book Trust and Literary Dundee’s Comics Lab 2014, which had been running in the same building over the same weekend, they were a late but welcome addition to the DCD schedule.
The final guest of the day was writer and editor Pat Mills who valiantly avoided the obvious 2000AD and Charley’s War themes and instead talked about creating mainstream 1970s and 1980s weekly comics for IPC to “The Formula”.
While this may be seen by today’s creatives as pandering to the lowest common denominator it must be remembered that titles such as 2000AD, Battle, Action and Misty sold in the hundreds of thousands each week to a late primary and early secondary school audience.
Pat’s experience of editing such titles showed him, initially by trial and error, what stories were popular and what were not for each segment of the readership and allowed new strips to be tailored to the readership’s tastes. He also talked at some length on his desire to bring back girl’s comics for a young audience initially with reprints of certain stories from Misty comic. Those of us with daughters and nieces around the 10 year old mark will know how difficult it is to get girls’ adventure comics for that age range so Pat’s enthusiasm to get such books onto the market is to be applauded.
When this year’s Dundee Comics Day was initially announced there was a feeling that it was getting a little tired especially after the big audiences of 2012 to see Grant Morrison and his artistic collaborators and 2013’s big turn-out of science-fiction comics guests, however despite the lower audience turn-out this year it remained its usual mixture of interesting panels with relaxed mingling of guests and audience members between them.
There are more details on the Dundee Comics Day as well as photos on their Facebook page.