In Review: Malta Comic Con 2015

Malta Comic Con 2015 - Group Image

Guests and Malta Comic Con 2015 team. Photo: Carl Farrugia Photography

Despite some organisers concerns over a change of venue, Malta Comic Con 2015 proved a roaring success for organisers, with numbers up 30 per cent on last year from around 1400 to over 1800 attendees. Based on what I saw as a guest, the event, enjoying its seventh year, delivered the goods in terms of providing a platform for both Maltese comic creators – many promoting their own self published books – and offering international guests alongside them, who included the likes of Britain’s Asia Alfasi, Gary Erskine, Boo Cook, Simon Davis, Mark FarmerClint Langley, Pye Parr and the wonderful Tim Perkins.

Sean Azzopardi post-convention, at the National War Museum in Valetta. Photo: John Freeman

Sean Azzopardi post-convention, at the National War Museum in Valetta. Photo: John Freeman

Guests have a very different experience of a convention to attendees, but the Comic Con team, led by Chris Le Galle, made us feel very welcome and we had some time to explore some of the island’s attractions on either side of the event. (I won’t go into detail here, but I doubt there are many who have enjoyed a Boo Cook-prompted road trip to a Neolithic temple that included an angry wasp, a bus service that takes user on more diversions than anything Stagecoach can throw at you; or experience a tour of the National War Museum, where Sean Azzopardi suddenly broke into a zombie impression).

Mibdul - the first graphic novel to be published by a mainstream publisher, due in 2017. (thanks to Gordon Rennie for the tip)

Mibdul – the first graphic novel to be published by a mainstream publisher in Malta, Merlin Publishers, due in 2017. (thanks to Gordon Rennie for the tip)

Along with meeting Maltese comic creators, it was also fascinating to see what comics were on sale in newsagents (many British imports), and learn about publisher plans on the island, which include the launch of the very first graphic novel, Mibdul, written by Teodor Reljic, drawn by Mark Scicluna in 2017 by Merlin Publishers.

For the most part, the Maltese comics community is one of enthusiastic and dedicated self publishers, who on finding no-one wanted to publish comics on the island in the past, went and did it themselves. They’re aided in this, I’m told, by the continued existence of high street print shops, and there’s no doubt that Malta Comic Con itself provides a vital focus to promote comics to the wider Maltese community. News teams were certainly in evidence, and the island’s best-known and most-read newspaper, The Times of Malta, gave the event plenty of coverage both in the run up to and during the weekend.

Independent coverage of the event also came from the likes of Shad Engkilterra, who has his own YouTube channel where he’s posting mini interviews about Creativity with convention guests, including Greek creator Christos Stamboulis and others, and quickly reported on one of the launches at the weekend  for the Examiner.com – S.T.EA.M. Island Under Siege, from Maltese creators Ashley Eric Pesche and Peter Magro, which took them three years to complete and is an inventive action horror graphic novel we reported on here.

The event also included several workshops for aspiring creators, interview panels mediated by Orbital Comics Chris Thompson and several art exhibitions.

Thanks to organisers Wicked Comics NGO status, there was support too, from the Maltese government itself, with Culture Minister Owen Bonnici  putting in an appearance over the weekend, as did the Spanish and Irish ambassadors. The Irish Embassy also happily tweeted news of Irish creators appearances, who included animator and illustrator Clíodhna and Danny McColgan, writer of the self-published adventure comic Big Bastard, now in its third issue.

I was delighted to meet Malta's Culture Minister Owen Bonnici at Malta Comic Con. It's great to see government support for comics like this. Photo: Christopher Muscat

I was delighted to meet Malta’s Culture Minister Owen Bonnici at Malta Comic Con. It’s great to see government support for comics like this. Photo: Christopher Muscat

Boo Cook chats with a fan at the event. Photo: Carl Farrugia Photography

Boo Cook chats with a fan at the event. Photo: Carl Farrugia Photography

The audience for my small but perfectly formed comics editing panel on Sunday.

The audience for my small but perfectly formed comics editing panel on Sunday.

Along with comic creator appearances, there was plenty of inventive and entertaining cosplayers (although their takeover of the toilets to put on make-up and adjust contact lenses was, on occasion, frustrating!), a good mixture of stalls (I firmly resisted buying the tempting vintage Dan Dare collections edited by Mike Higgs), a steampunk jewellery stall, figure sellers, a computer gaming area, a board games area (the Valetta-based gaming society actually owns its eighteenth century meeting house).

Malta Comic Con 2015: Main Hall

The Main Hall in the “Magazino” venue was packed with plenty for comic fans to enjoy. Photo: Carl Farrugia Photography

Artists Alley at Malta Comic Con 2015. Photo: John Freeman

Artists Alley at Malta Comic Con 2015. Photo: John Freeman

Here’s some snapshots of just a few of the guests at the event…

Malta Comic Con 2015: Dean Fenech

Photo: John Freeman

Dean Fenech is an Australian-born, Maltese-based comic creator who self publishes his own book, Apocalyspe Rocked, launched in 2011. As yet, most local publishers don’t feel there’s enough demand to publish comics here in Malta, although this will change in 2017, so comic creators are doing it themselves. The Malta Comic Con raises awareness of their work.

• Check out Dean’s work over on http://deanfenech.com

Inspired by local culture, music and other art forms, Mark Scicluna works mainly in illustration and concept art, varying his distinctive style from sketchy character designs to highly detailed graphics both in traditional and digital media. He’s responsible for several book illustrations and has won two Illustrator of the Year Awards at the Malta National Book Awards. Currently working as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist for Malta Today, he’s working on a book project  that’s out in 2017 – Mibdul, the first graphic novel to be published in Malta by a major publisher, Merlin Publishers, written by Teodor Reljic.

Check out his work at www.markscicluna.com and his web comic, “A Space Boy Dream”: http://aspaceboydream.com/comic/a-space-boy-dream. He launched his latest comic, The League of Extraordinary Underpants at this year’s Malta Comic Con, a hilarious humour title evocative of the work of cartoonists such as Hunt Emerson.

Malta Comic Con 2015: Tim Perkins

Photo: John Freeman

British comic creator Tim Perkins is something of a Malta Comic Con veteran, and as in the UK, well versed in keeping all ages happy with his comics classes at the event, where he al;so launched his new comic, Dinoswords. His experience of the event helped newcomers like myself rapidly relax into its laid back nature. Tim’s currently working on the second volume of Worlds End, and the pages look positively gorgeous. There’s some big news coming our way from Tim, hopefully before Christmas, so watch this space.

• Check out his work and books at www.wizards-keep.com 

Malta Comic Con 2015: Gary Erskine and Jenika Iofredda

Photo: John Freeman

 

Gary Erskine is a comic book artist currently living in Scotland with his wife Mhairi who I’ve known since Marvel UK days when he drew the first volume of Knights of Pendragon and early issues of Warheads. His numerous credits over the past 25 years include Star Wars, Avengers Vs Thunderbolts, Judge Dredd and series including Grindhouse, The Massive, Crossed and War Stories. When not working for industry or teaching he is the writer and co-creator [with Anna Malady] of the roller derby project ROLLER GRRRLS

British-based Italian creator Jenika Ioffreda has been reading and drawing comics for as long as she can remember and and self publishes her award nominated, wonderful comic book series Vampire Free Style. The series has sold over 5000 copies in comic conventions over Europe, has been praised by reviewers, has a well-deserved loyal following and has been requested as a set dressing for This Must Be The Place movie.
She’s currently an extremely active presence in the European comic conventions circuit and is working on a new comic project “Midnight Tea” due to be released shortly.• Her official website is at www.neptunefactory.com | Facebook page: www.facebook.com/vampirefreestyle
Malta Comic Con 2015: Ashley Eric Peschel and Peter Magro

Photo: John Freeman

Maltese creators writer Ashley Eric Peschel and artist Peter Magro are the creators of the wartime horror adventure S.T.E.A.M. Island Under Siege, a softback graphic novel that’s taken them three years to complete, which we reported on here. For more on the project, check out their Facebook page.

Malta Comic Con 2015: Simon Davis

Photo: John Freeman

Simon Davis began working in comics in the early 1990s, mainly for 2000AD. Among the many characters that he has drawn for them, he is probably best known for his work on Sinister Dexter with Dan Abnett, Stone Island and Ampney Circus Investigates with Ian Eginton and Black Siddha and Slaine with Pat Mills – the latter his current project, working on completing ‘Psychopomp‘, the third instalment of Slaine: The Brutania Chronicles. 

For more on his work visit his Facebook page

This is just a very small taster of who was at the event, with a fine mixture of guests from across Europe that included Flavia Anemone de Benedetta, Gianluca Maconi, Guillermo Ortego, Marianne Galea, Mark Farmer, Michael Dialynas, Mike Krome, Nicolas Keramidas, Pye Parr, Sabine Rich, Sean Azzopardi, R2-D2 maker Tony Dyson and many more. Overall, it was great fun and offered a fantastic insight into the vibrant Maltese comics community.

My thanks to organisers Chris Le Galle, Christopher Muscat, Samantha Abela, Mark Ellul, Kenneth Micallef and the head of helpers and leading team Juan Mario Farrugia, Christian Debono, Stacey Saliba, Christine Gellel, and Fabio Scicluna who worked all year to bring this show together and helped make myself and other guests so welcome in Malta.

But most especially, thank you to everyone who attended and made us welcome, we hope you all enjoyed the event as much as we did being there. It was wonderful to meet so many talented creators – from Malta, from around the globe, and those Maltese aspiring to want to write and draw their own comics. I wish the Malta Comic Con team the very best of luck in all their future endeavours!

• The date of the 2016 Malta Comic Con has yet to be announced: bookmark their web site at www.maltacomic-con.com | Find them on Facebook | Follow them on Twitter @MaltaComicCon

• Wicked Comics, the organisers of Malta Comic Con, are a non profit voluntary organization aimed at promoting the comic culture both in Malta and abroad. They’re  a bunch of hardcore Comic fans with a penchant for writing, drawing and organizing events. Comics are both their passion and lifestyle.

• More photography from the event here by Carl Farrugia Photography | Facebook – Comic Con Day One | Facebook – Comic Con Day Two | Facebook – Comic Con 2015 Cosplay | Web: http://carlfarrugia.com

Malta Comic Con 2015 – My Assorted Pics of the event on Flickr, a Day Trip to the Hagar Qim temple with Boo Cook, Simon Davis, Sabine Rich, Mike Krome and Pye Parr, lizards, exploring Valetta with the Comic Con team. If you need reference for guns, swords and a World War Two motorbike, this album is made for you!



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