A new Comics Festival at the University of Hertfordshire later this month will be celebrating some of the best of British comics, with a great line up of events that include appearances by the likes of Dave Gibbons, Pat Mills, Kevin O’Neill and Gary Erskine.
UniComics will be held at the De Havilland campus of the University of Hertfordshire, located at Hatfield, just 20 miles from London. Billed as a truly accessible event, it aims to celebrate the varied art forms within and inspired by Comics and Graphic Novels.
With the comics medium now showcasing a vast degree of diversity, appealing to all ages and habitually displaying truly literary qualities, co-organiser and co-founder Danny Graydon, a film and comics journalist, says UniComics offers an ideal opportunity to be informed, inspired and invigorated by this unique art form.
Over a four day period, UniComics features a varied programme of ticketed and non-ticketed events suitable for just about everyone. Attendees will be able to enjoy a selection of author/illustrator lectures, schools and family events, film presentations and screenings, open mic sessions, theatre performances, art workshops and panel discussions.
“This festival is so different in that it showcases the transcendence of the comic art form by encompassing illustration, film, gaming and performance,” explains Natalie Fountain, Manager of UHArts and Director of UniComics Festival. “It’s an innovative approach and one that the University of Hertfordshire is really proud to present.”
“Obviously, the name immediately highlights the fact that we’re hosted by a university, but, equally, it’s to stress the sheer universality of the Comics medium,” says Danny Graydon of the festival’s name. “Right from the start, our missionwas to ensure that UniComics would be a celebration of all kinds of Comics for all kinds of people.
“The key was to provide diversity and accessibility – and we wanted the name to reflect that.”
For UniComics’ inaugural edition, the event flies the home flag as three veritable comics superstars – writer Pat Mills and artists Dave Gibbons and Kevin O’Neill – reminisce about their early careers on seminal British comic 2000AD, while Mills joins ILEX Books Managing Editor editor Nick Jones, academic Will Brooker and artist Gary Erskine to look back to the 1950’s and celebrate the 60th anniversary of a similarly iconic presence in British Comics history, The Eagle.
There’s a packed schedule for the Festival. You can be mystified by The Paper Cinema’s live music and illustrative puppetry performance, while budding comics creators can be thoroughly inspired with workshops conducted by such vivid talents as Dave Gibbons, Ian Culbard, Marcia Williams and Sarah McIntyre, and families can craft their own personal comics with our family diary comics workshop presented by Laydeez do Comics. Further inspiration – and networking! – is on hand at ComixBox, an open-mic style evening where a great line-up of artists are on the clock to show off their wares!
There’s screen fun, too, as kids can enjoy the action-packed adventure of our Ben 10 animated film screening and adults can immerse themselves in the Director’s Cut of Watchmen, based on the celebrated and award-winning graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Last, but not least, save some energy – and cash – for the UniCon comic convention, offering a stunning array of comics and related merchandise to start or expand collections, publisher stalls, panels as well as signings from noted creators.
Treating the medium with maximum respect and enthusiasm, UniComics will provide audiences with a vibrant showcase of Comics, from small press to the largest mainstream publishers, inviting newcomers to take their first plunge in to an exciting and captivating art form while providing an ample reminder to long-time fans as to why comics maintain their unique power to enthral, entertain and inform.
• Tickets for all events can be booked through the UHArts Box Office: 01707 281127 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Box office opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
The UniComics Festival is presented by University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with Danny Graydon Film & Comics Journalism, Laydeez do Comics, Herts County Council (Libraries), the St Albans Children’s Book Group and the Film Education Consortium.
We have three events that I think will be of particular interest to DTT readers:
• Architects of Thrill Power! – The Legends of 2000AD
Saturday 24th April, 6pm
Since its launch in 1977, 2000AD – “The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic” – has been at the forefront of British Comics and remains a shining light in an increasingly barren landscape. Arriving perfectly in time with the popular re-emergence of Science Fiction and bearing a punky, anti-authoritative tone, 2000AD thoroughly invigorated boys comics, introducing a collection of classic characters. For a vast array of 2000AD’s artists and writers, the comic was vital springboard to international recognition and success.
UniComics is proud to present a panel discussion with three of 2000AD’s most iconic and renowned creative stars from its formative years – founder, debut editor and writer Pat Mills (Slaine), artist Dave Gibbons (Rogue Trooper), and artist Kevin O’Neill (Nemesis The Warlock) – who discuss the early development of the title as well as their own specific and greatly-admired contributions. Hosted by Danny Graydon. Tickets are priced £10
• Weekly British Spirit – 60 Years of The Eagle and Dan Dare
Sunday 25th April, 6pm
On 14th April 1950, a new boys comic, The Eagle, vigorously introduced some wonder in to the drudgery of post-war Britain, and, with its star strip Dan Dare: Pilot of The Future, showcased a profoundly alluring fantasy of a strong and vital Britain in then far-flung 1997 that boldly led the way in the exploration of outer space.
One of the most successful comics in British history, at its height, The Eagle remarkably sold just under a million copies a week.
In celebration of the 60th anniversary of both this landmark, much-beloved title and its highly-memorable flagship character, UniComics presents a panel discussion to explore what is considered to be one of the high watermarks of British Comics history. The panel includes Pat Mills, Nick Jones (Founding editor of Titan Book’s Dan Dare library and Managing Editor of ILEX Books), Dr Will Brooker (Kingston University) and Gary Erskine (Artist, Virgin Comcs’ Dan Dare). Hosted by Danny Graydon. Tickets are priced £10
• Screening: Watchmen – The Director’s Cut (US, 2009, 186 Minutes)
Saturday 24th April, 8pm.
In an alternate 1985 where superheroes exist – and are outlawed – the world stands on the very brink of nuclear conflict. When a former colleague is murdered, an active vigilante named Rorschach begins a sprawling investigation which soon uncovers a threat that could completely change the course of history. Long deemed “unfilmable” – notably by Watchmen writer Alan Moore himself – 300 Director Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ revolutionary and award-winning graphic novel won considerable acclaim for its thoroughly impressive loyalty to the source material.
The director’s cut of the film adds a further twenty-three minutes to the story, bringing it ever closer to the graphic novel. For this special UniComics screening, the film will be introduced by Dave Gibbons.