I went to the Birmingham International Comic Show and all I got was…

Crikey Magazine Issue 2— a fab day out seeing some great comics people, the chance to talk about ROK Comics, announce the winner of the $10,000 ROK Comics humour competition as judged by Beano editor Alan Digby and pick up some terrific indie comics, a copy of the new British comics magazine, Crikey, and get lost in Birmingham’s three-tier shopping complex, the Pallisades, on the way to the thinktank where the Birmingham International Comic Show was held.

Apart from the single lift that was the only way to get out of the event, and the heat, BICS was great!

We hope to have a more detailed report on the event later from Leon Hewitt which will appear on the main site, but for me this was a great day out and it was just a shame my schedule didn’t enable me to be there for the whole weekend. (Still, if I had been there the whole weekend I wouldn’t have met the two ladies who were desperately trying to set to Southampton to board their transatlantic cruise to Barbados – I hope they made it – or the incredibly self-assured lady working away on notes for her appearances at Professional Beauty North in Manchester who proved a great travelling companion from Birmingham and diplomatically put up with my clumsy attempts to eat a pasty with decorum and dropping a picture frame on her foot).

But for me, the one day (Saturday) was good fun even if I was up at 4.45am to get there for the day’s events. Dan Dare artist Gary Erskine was on hand to show fans some of the pages from the first issue of the new Virgin comic, which look great, a fine blend of Frank Hampson homage and modern storytelling techniques. I had a brief chat with Markosia’s Harry Markos to talk over some ROK stuff and plans to add Lexian Chronicles and Eon to the ROK Comics service, and talk to Tony Bennett from Knockabout, who tells me sales of Yesterday’s Tomorrows are going very well, driven of course by Rian Hughes great art and Grant Morrison’s Dare story – I’m under no illusions that my Science Service strip is a strong reason to buy this beautiful collection of Hughes art.

I also bumped into John Reppion and Leah Moore, who are busy with several projects for Dynamite, Mike Collins, who I’m doing some commercial comic strip work with for a company called Cardium, Dave Windett, who’s just done me some brilliant, fun designs for a new ROK project (and whose jaw dropped when I told him the potential extent of it!), Lew Stringer (trading views on the new BBC Robin Hood Adventures comic), the team from Classical Comics who have just launched their fantastic looking Henry V book, Daley Osiyemi and David Bircham, energetic creators of the soon-to-be-a-film Brodie’s Law, and shared a break with cartoonist Steve English who I later announced as the winner of the ROK Comics Humour competition (press release later!).

I also shared a few minutes with the talented Andy Winter of Moonface Press, Andy Dodd and Steve Tanner of new indie Time Bomb Comics, Hunt Emerson, looking no worse for wear from what everyone told me was a great gig by his band at the opening party, Andrew Wildman, Phil Clarke and ooh, several others, not least of which was a modest Paul Eldridge who seemed bemused his “Secret of Stonehenge” strip had come third in the ROK competition.

As usual, the indie press were out in force. Pressed into my hands, in no particular order at the event were Ragamuffins #1 from Time Bomb – a finely printed first issue of a tortological time-tweisting tale I’m going to have to re-read to see if I can make sense of – but full marks to artist Andy Dodd for coming up with some amazingly psychedelic time travel scenes and Steve Tanner for creating a set of intriguingly weird characters battling to hold the universe together as time itself unravels.

Another gem from the weekend is the Judge Dredd 30th Anniversary Special, a special book from the creators of the 2000AD fan title Zarjaz. This is a gorgeous, fun collection of Judge Dredd tales spanning the future cop’s entire career, wrapped in a cover by Boo Cook. Fave strips for me from this compendium of strips are The Zoove by Al Ewing and Oliver Redding – classic one shot Dredd comedy – and Time Trial by Colin J. Dinnie and David Gray, with te original Judge Dredd from early issues chasing a perp across time and encountering today’s Dredd as portrayed in 2000AD. Ace.

The Judge Dredd 30th Anniversary Special, costs £3 plus postage of 50p: Send a cheque to: Zarjaz, 57a Langney Road, Eastbourne, BN21 3QD (Cheques payable to Underfire Comics), Or pay by Paypal to: zarjazcomic@yahoo.co.uk

Another fun item you should try and find is Shiznit, published by Clamnut Comics, a full, free colour mini comic packed with some of the funniest strips I’ve read for a while, like Hate Extravaganza and Classic Joke Theatre. It’s all wickedly funny and well worth seeking out.

The Shiznit is a free, full colour pocket sized comic magazine which aims to kickstart an indigenous comics industry in Eire. It’s mainly available throughout Dublin City Centre and with a few outlets in Cork, Galway and Belfast or you can download copies from the Clamnut web site as PDFs.

The second issue of Crikey!, (www.crikeyuk.co.uk) the British comics magazine (£3.99 from all good comic shops) comes with a free thunderclapper gift and is crammed with articles on classic British comics. This issue includes features on DC Thomson’s The Broons, the TV21 Daleks strip, artist Ron Embleton and much more, lavishly illustrated and a must for any British comics fan.

If you were a fan of Ian Wheeler’s Eagle Flies Again fanzine, and have fond memories ofr British comics of the past, this is a must buy.

Another nice item reflecting the enthusiasm and drive of British creators is Power Less, the product of Better Feelings Films — #0 was on offer together with a live action version of the comic on DVD. The art looks great. More info at www.betterfeelingfilms.com/comics.

I’ve barely scraped the surface of the indie titles at the event and not touched on the many panels and guest talks – I’ll leave that to Leon – but it was great to catch up with so many creators and publishers and comics fans, however briefly (and yes, I know I’ve missed some folk out this time round).

Suffice to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my all too brief visit to the Birmingham International Comic Show and look forward to the 2008 event!

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: British Comics, Events, Reviews

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