ICE 2015 Logo

Cool as ICE! A Review of the International Comic Expo, Birmingham, 2015

ICE 2015 LogoEngland’s second city was the location for the latest and possibly the coolest comic convention on the circuit and Jon Laight was there for downthetubes…

The International Comic Expo is held in the centre of Birmingham and organised by Shane Chebsey, an artist, rock star and, more importantly, a huge comic fan who wanted to bring a Comic Con to Brum that was purely about comics. In just its second year, the convention already has a reputation of hosting some huge names in the comic industry reading like a who’s who of artists, writers and comic legends. His mobile phone contact list must be worth a fortune.

Held in “The Studio” just off New Street, ICE was spread over three levels of the building, which made sure the punters got a good workout as well as nicely splitting up the guests and exhibitors into easily recognised groups with one or two special guests popping up where you wouldn’t expect!  I got there nice and early and made a quick dash up and down the stairs to check out the battleground before putting a plan into place to ensure I got as much comic goodness as possible.

Resisting the gravitational pull of the huge stars on the top floor, I made my way to the second floor packed with exhibitors…

Kris Carter, Jim Bampfield and Dan Harris, creators of Lou Scannon. Photo: Jon Laight
Kris Carter, Jim Bampfield and Dan Harris, creators of Lou Scannon. Photo: Jon Laight

One of the noisiest tables that grabbed my attention was the Lou Scannon creative team. Kris Carter, Jim Bampfield and Dan Harris proudly (I think) fly the Welsh flag and it’s easy to see that their humour is translated straight to their comics.

The Lou Scannon series is a comedy sci-fi story praising as well as having fun with all our sci-fi favourites. Definitely worth picking up a copy over at www.louscannon.co.uk and their new project Bruce Outback (the Australian Time Travelling Detective!) is coming out soon.

Jonny Pearson and Rees Finlay. Photo: Jon Laight
Jonny Pearson and Rees Finlay. Photo: Jon Laight

Lots of exhibitors travel vast distances to make some conventions but it is always good to have local talent involved and that’s what artist Jonny Pearson and writer/ publisher Rees Finlay are. Relatively new to the indie scene, Rees Finlay is churning out some great stuff as well as producing the very popular The Indie Project Quarterly (available free on DriveThru) featuring lots of comic strip one-shots and music/game/comic reviews.

The main push for these guys were High Priestess #1 and Damnation: The Ultimate Edition. Both written by Rees with Damnation drawn by Jonny, they feature some great characters as well as highlighting contemporary issues (Damnation) such as mental illness.

Rees is a busy boy featuring on lots of podcasts and his work is well worth a visit over at www.damndirtycomics.weebly.com.

Jessica Martin. Photo: Jon Laight
Jessica Martin. Photo: Jon Laight
John Royle. Photo: Jon Laight
John Royle. Photo: Jon Laight
Sarah Millman. Photo: Jon Laight
Sarah Millman. Photo: Jon Laight
Mike Collins. Photo: Jon Laight
Mike Collins. Photo: Jon Laight

Also on this floor of huge talents were some established names promoting work and doing sketches for the steady stream of fans making there way round the small but friendly room. Actress and comic creator Jessica Martin was showing off her newest creation Vivacity, a story following silver screen actress Vivien Leigh in which she does a wonderful job of dramatising in comic form the life of the famous actress. Jessica is working on a “top secret” project with one of the big comic publishers – so stay tuned for that some time next year.

Regular convention guests John Royle and Mike Collins were also in good form sketching some amazing work. Both are very busy working on commissions and working with European writers on projects that are to be released in the next few months. Bloomin’ nice blokes, as well.

I had a really good chat with Sarah Millman as well who was exhibiting her excellent, crowd-funced graphic novel The Heart of Time. We spent a few minutes talking conventions and all things comics and she told me that Issue 5 in the Heart of Time series is out in December which should be top of anyones list. Keep an ear out for her on the Awesome Comics Podcast in a few weeks as well.

Lew Stringer. Photo: Jon Laight
Lew Stringer. Photo: Jon Laight

Onwards and upwards to the next level and the first guest I spoke with was Lew Stringer. A British comics veteran, it’s hard to pick out a comic or person he hasn’t worked with. Thankfully he is planning on bringing back several characters he has drawn in the past and the first one of these is the fantastic “Brickman” in Brickman Returns, available now. Broken down into single page chapters, it pokes fun at the superhero genre in a brilliantly drawn and written comic with a rich vein of British humour throughout.

Head over to www.lewstringer.com to catch up with his latest work and you can order Brickman Returns by emailing him at lew.stringerATbtopenworld.com to find out the price of the book including postal delivery. Brick not included.

David Millgate. Photo: Jon Laight
David Millgate. Photo: Jon Laight

Directly Opposite Lew was the artist David Millgate, who was sharing a table with Baden James Mellonie (Edge of Extinction) and we got talking about the convention and what he was up to. The first few words had me hooked…World War Two, Monsters, Football!  What’s not to like!

His next project is called Jackboot and Ironheel, a four part series to be published by IDW. Set during World War 2 it follows British pilots and gunners vs Nazis and giant monsters… perfection!

The artwork in his picture is an original piece and will be one of the covers in the series.

• Follow David on Twitter @davidmillgate

All Knightz (Felisha Mason and Wayne Riley). Photo: Jon Laight
All Knightz (Felisha Mason and Wayne Riley). Photo: Jon Laight

All Knightz (Felisha Mason and Wayne Riley) are convention regulars and some of the nicest people I spoke to during the convention. With plenty of comics coming out from the small press publishers including Hard Wired, Red Tiempo and Night Soul they were also selling plenty or prints and merchandise with their books.

For any new exhibitors who are wanting any tips or advice on how to have a successful con, Wayne will help you out no end. I treated myself to some first editions and even got an A3 print with the original as part of the deal. Head over to All Knightz on Facebook and prepare to be entertained.

Artist Grant Richards. Photo: Jon Laight
Artist Grant Richards. Photo: Jon Laight

Before we move up to the top floor, I want to introduce you to a guy I met for the first time on the day. Grant Richards had travelled up from Wales to meet with some of the editors in attendance and see what was required for him to break in to the industry as an artist.

As seen in the pic, his original art is truly breathtaking (this one not for sale much to the chagrin of many punters during the day) and it can only be a matter of time before someone snaps him up. He was the only unpublished artist to feature in the recent Judgement in Cardiff exhibition, and there’s an interview with him here about his work on the site.

A true gent and an obvious talent. Find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @grantrichards or find him on Deviantart and be blown away with his work.

John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. Photo: Jon Laight
John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. Photo: Jon Laight
Joe Rubenstein. Photo: Jon Laight
Joe Rubenstein. Photo: Jon Laight
Dan Berry, Charlie Adlard and Jon Laight
Dan Berry, Charlie Adlard and Jon Laight

The top floorat ICE  was something special. For a reasonably small (but perfectly formed) convention, the guest list was the envy of any massive ComicCon that would normally get the headlines.  Each and every guest made time for the fans, talking and sketching which made the atmosphere so relaxed and friendly it was hard not to break into song in Disney fashion.

2000AD and Judge Dredd writer John Wagner and a rare appearance from Carlos Ezquerra had most fans drooling, especially as Carlos was effortlessly sketching as well as signing books. Just down the way were Jordie Bellaire and Declan Shalvey, chewing the fat with all the punters and signing anything that was placed in front of them with a friendly story or two.  In the little annexe across the way, a comic fans dream team were sketching and selling work in a vortex of activity.

Andy Diggle, Joe Rubenstein, Ian Edginton, Ian Churchill, Rachel Stott and Bob Layton – to name just a few – were showing what a convention like ICE can do for the comic industry with all of them being open and friendly with one and all. Almost brought a tear to my eye. Almost, honest.

Further round the room was the fan favourite Charlie Adlard, signing away and showing how fast he can work with sketches galore… and how fast can that man work! In the time most artists have set up their work station and pens, Charlie can sketch and ink a piece ready for printing!

I also had a good chat with Dan Berry. An all round top bloke who is busy getting ready for the the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival which has already been featured on downthetubes.net. The 24 hour challenge is in his capable hands and is sure to be a huge success.

I wish I could mention everyone I met during the day. The exhibitors ranged from first timers to long time veterans but the overriding theme was that the British comic industry is getting stronger and stronger through the supportive network that is being established at events like these.

The ICE convention is still new but from the response and feedback that Shane Chebsey was given, next year’s convention will be recognised as a must-do for exhibitors, guests and visitors alike.

• For news on future ICE events visit: https://internationlcomicexpo.wordpress.com

Read Jon’s review of the “sister” comic creators event Comics Uncovered here

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Jon Laight
Jon Laight

Worcestershire-based Jon Laight is the writer and creator of Brethren Born – due to be released soon after a successful Kickstarter campaign  earlier this year. The comic is a collaboration with artist Phil Knibbs and follows the story of vengeance carried out by the mysterious hero Newton in a sci-fi/superhero adventure. 

Jon has also launched Level 8 Comics (www.level8comics.com) to help promote and support Brethren Born, as it’s continuing story as well as provide a platform and source of information for small press creators. For any further info or to contact Jon head over to the following and he’ll get back to you as quick as you like!

email: level8comicsATgmail.com

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