Scotland in the spotlight at this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Saltire - Legend Eternal - art by Alex Ronald
Saltire – Legend Eternal – art by Alex Ronald

Kendal’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival has played host to creators of many nations – and this year, the Scots will be among the nations in the spotlight over the Festival weekend in October.

The weekend-long Festival will give visitors the chance to meet and greet some of Scotland’s best-known comic creators, (and those of Scottish ancestry) such as Superman artist Frank Quitely, Judge Dredd and Star Wars artist Cam Kennedy, veteran Commando and Eagle artist Ian Kennedy, 2000AD writers Alan Grant and John Wagner – as well as meet newcomers and rising stars such as John Ferguson, creator of Scottish superhero Saltire, Monty Nero and the Festival’s youngest guest, Drew Marr.

Also at the event will be Phillip Vaughn, Senior Lecturer in Comic Studies at the University of Dundee and accomplished game designer, comic artist and consultant on this project, will discuss the rise of Saltire and the politics of national identity with its creator and author, John Ferguson.

Author and comics expert John McShane will also be on hand, on stage interviewing many of the Festival’s international line-up of guests – and the Comics Clock Tower will play host to many talents from north of Hadrian’s Wall.

At the CCT Xtra in the Shakespeare Centre, midway between the Brewery Arts Centre and the Comics Clock Tower, there will be a room dedicated to bonnie old Scotland and the bothy of creators, established and new, who have made such an impact on the world of comics. These include Gary Erskine, John Ferguson, Ian Kennedy, Cam Kennedy, Frank Quitely, Drew Marr, Robbie Morrison, Monty Nero and comics editor Deborah Tate.

Look out, too, for a Scottish-themed food concession and some terribly cliched activity.

“Sadly, no bagpipes,” says Festival director Julie Tait, “but at least one well known guest will be wearing a kilt!

“Joking aside, our guests reflect the huge range of talent Scotland has working in the comics industry,” she continues. “We’re honoured to play host to such amazing talents, from ‘old hands’ to so many rising stars.”

Tickets for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, running Friday 12th – Sunday 14th October 2018 in Kendal at various venues across the town, are on sale now from the event’s web site.

• Web: www.comicartfestival.com | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Podcast 

Sonic the Hedgehog's female ally Amy got a Scottish makeover for Sonic the Comic thanks to Deborah Tate
Sonic the Hedgehog’s female ally Amy got a Scottish makeover for Sonic the Comic thanks to Deborah Tate

Meet the Guests…

Saltire creator John Ferguson - and friend...
John Ferguson

John Ferguson is the creator of critically-acclaimed series Saltire, which launched back in 2014. Since then, publisher Diamondsteel Comics has received award nominations for Arts and Culture, Best British Comic and What’s On Book Of The Year among others.

The series centres around Scotland’s first comic book superhero, while the dark and gritty world of the main character is a pseudo-history of the country and its mythology.

Gary Erskine
Gary Erskine

Gary Erskine has worked in the comic industry for over twenty five years for Marvel, DC Comics, Vertigo, Dark Horse Comics, Image, IDW and other companies with writers Mark Millar, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis and Grant Morrison on books including The Unwritten, War Stories, The Massive with Brian Wood, and Grindhouse with Alex De Campi, with characters as diverse as Judge Dredd, Starman, Dan Dare and Captain America.

Recent work includes the companion graphic novel to the Frontlines series of sci-fi novels by Marko Kloos, written by Ivan Brandon for Jet City Comics. He has also contributed a short story to the successful Metal Made Flesh series for Subversive Comics, working with writer Cy Dethan called “The Final Piece Of Me”.

His work on licensed titles includes art on Doctor Who, Star TrekStar Wars, The Terminator and Transformers. He mentors film students on storyboarding, teaches workshops at schools and libraries and is currently writing and publishing Roller Grrrls. Current work includes Incendiary.US and Zachariah Gunn: Dakota.

Gary has also provided storyboards and concept design work for the games and film industry and also works commercially with clients including D’Agostini, SONY, EA Games COLORS, Team GB British Cycling, J League and the Joshua Agency.

Gary also hosts character design workshops for schools and teaches storyboards for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and more recently provided workshops for the Prince’s Trust.

Alan Grant
Alan Grant

Recently busy adapting Mark Hamilton’s trilogy of novels, Neothink into graphic novel format writer Alan Grant‘s numerous credits include “Judge Dredd” and “Anderson PSI” and “Mazeworld” for Rebellion (the latter soon to be published in a new collection); Batman, Lobo, The Demon and more from US publisher DC Comics; The 1812 War, Channel Evil and Tales of the Buddha (before he got enlightened) for Renegade; and Kidnapped and Jekyll and Hyde for Waverly Press.

He’s also written various short stories, novels and movie/TV scripts, three children’s books and a couple of graphic novels based on LEGO characters, and worked behind the scenes on the Bionicles film.

Cam Kennedy
Cam Kennedy

By any standards, the creative output of Glaswegian artist Cam Kennedy is impressive. From DC Thomson’s Commando comics (at over number 5000, one of the longest running series in the history of comics) to “Judge Dredd”, Batman and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and then for a few years being part of the comics legacy of Star Wars, Cam’s unique style and painterly approach to his art place him among the finest of artists in the world of comics.

Two of his own favourite projects were the adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped and Jekyll and Hyde, which he worked on with fellow guest Alan Grant

Ian Kennedy
Ian Kennedy

Born in 1932, Ian Kennedy grew up in a Dundee surrounded by wartime airfields which resulted in a burning ambition to fly with the Royal Air Force. Unfortunately, a severe and lasting ear infection put paid to any chance of realising his much cherished dreams. He admits now, that he probably would have been a “lousy” pilot anyway, so his long career in illustration can be viewed as more than just an unsatisfactory alternative!

On leaving school in 1949, he was taken on by DC Thomson & Co. as a trainee illustrator, spending the next five years with what he describes as “a most talented group of experienced professionals” whose invaluable influence laid the foundation for what was to be a lengthy, fairly successful career in commercial art. Incidentally, his first professional job was inking in the black squares in the Sunday Post crossword!

Having married in 1953, and a son coming on the scene the following year, an increase in income became imperative, so Ian went freelance, working initially for Amalgamated Press on the Knockout then inevitably, shortly after, getting back with DC Thomsons.

Since those early days, he has been fully occupied during what he terms “The Golden Times”, of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, with work appearing in quite a variety of publications – Knockout, Air Ace, Battle, Commando (drawing 1500+ covers), Hotspur, Wizard, Warlord, Football Picture Monthly, Judy, Bunty, Blake’s 7, M.A.S.K., 2000AD, on characters such as Judge Dredd and Dan Dare, to name but a few!!

In the meantime, he has maintained his abiding interest in aeronautics, producing the covers for RAF Leuchars’ Annual Airshow Programmes until the onset of computer designs in 1998.

Now in “semi retirement”, Ian still accepts commissions as well as enjoying a new career meeting fans and friends, old and new, at various comics events which will, this year, include his first visit to Lakeland – a date he is looking forward to with much anticipation.

Drew Marr
Drew Marr

Drew Marr is this year’s youngest Festival guest, the publisher of Gold Lion Comics, who’s very says he could not be more excited about his first visit to the event and will have a special role in the announcement of the new Comics Laureate at the Festival.

A regular at DeeCon, his work includes The Rehabilitation of Doctor Eye and he’s a regular at the Dundee Comics Creative Space where a group of kids create new characters and come up with fun stories.

“I’m very excited that I have been invited to the Lakes and I am really looking forward to meeting other comic book writers and artists,” he says.

Frank Quitely started his career in his native Glasgow, writing and drawing “The Greens” for the independently published Electric Soup. This lead to fully painted strips for the Judge Dredd Megazine, black and white shorts for Paradox Press, and coloured shorts for Vertigo.

He has worked on a number of one-shots, limited series, monthlies and graphic novels, notably Flex Mentallo, The Authority, New X Men, Sandman; Endless Nights, We3, All Star Superman and Jupiter’s Legacy.

Still based in Glasgow, he has come full circle, and is back to writing and drawing his own independently published material.

Dundee-based Monty Nero writes and draws comics – including X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Death Sentence with Mike Dowling for Titan Comics, Hollow Monsters, the digital comic @MontyandZuzu with Zyzanna Dominiak, and various other stories for Marvel, Delcourt, Vertigo and 2000AD.

He has a Masters with Distinction from The University of Dundee in Comics and Graphic Novels, where he won the Duncan of Jordanstone prize, researching how the verbal and visual elements of comics combine to elicit emotion.

Robbie Morrison. Photo: Deborah Tate
Robbie Morrison. Photo: Deborah Tate

Scottish comic book writer Robbie Morrison grew up in the villages of Linwood and Houston, but as no one outside of Scotland has heard of them, he usually claims he’s from Glasgow.

In a 24-year career, he has scripted the adventures of iconic characters including Judge Dredd, Batman, Spider-Man and, most recently, Doctor Who. He is perhaps best known to date for the Eagle award-winning “Nikolai Dante” saga for 2000AD from 1997 – 2012, now available as graphic novels.

He has created many other popular series and characters, including Blackheart, Drowntown, Shakara, Shimura and The Bendatti Vendetta, and has worked with some of the most respected artists in the business, including Dave Gibbons and fellow Scot Frank Quitely.

Currently working on his first novel, Robbie is also the writer of the acclaimed World War One graphic novel White Death, co-created with Walking Dead artist and current Comic Laureate Charlie Adlard and recently featured in a French documentary film. “Without a Trace”, a short follow-up to White Death, will appear in Traces of the Great War, a new anthology of illustrated stories for NOW 14-18 launching at this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

Deborah Tate. Photo: Trevor Hairsine
Deborah Tate. Photo: Trevor Hairsine

Deborah Tate is uniquely placed within comics, partly due to her experience in both the creative and business sides of the industry. She left Haverstock Comprehensive at 16 for a publishing career, starting as Marvel UK’s office junior. She spent eight years under the guidance of Marvel’s Financial Controller turned Managing Director, Robert Sutherland, rising from accounts clerk to MD’s secretary to Syndication Manager. Sutherland was to play a pivotal role, becoming a lifelong friend and mentor until his death in 2018.

Tate decided to switch direction to editorial/design, also training as paste-up artist and letterer. For two years she was taught how to put comics and annuals together by hand, on titles which included The Real Ghostbusters, Thundercats, Spider-Man and Care Bears. She’s perhaps best known to some as Sonic The Comic’s longest serving editor, guiding the title for five years (two as assistant), and she later launched the official CiTV comic for the ITV network.

A champion of both green and gender issues, Tate persuaded publishers Egmont (formerly Fleetway Publications) to print STC on eco material. In 1997 it became the first comic in the UK to be printed on 100 per cent recycled paper. After questioning copyright holders Sega over what she saw as their bland female hedgehog character, Amy, Tate radically transformed her from a shrinking violet in a minor role to a savvy heroine with her own on-going series (scripted by Beano and VIZ veteran, Lew Stringer).

25 years since its 1993 launch, the much-loved STC had such an impact that a loyal fanbase still exists, with many former readers inspired to create their own unofficial online version.

Scottish influences abound in the seven-part Sonic the Comic strip
Scottish influences abound in the seven-part Sonic the Comic strip “Bravehog”, which Deborah conceived (obviously based on the film Braveheart), scripted by Lew Stringer, with art by Mick McMahon. “Commissioning a non games based story was taking a risk as it was going against the original concept,” she notes. “I’m also chuffed that Sega gave me the go-ahead to get their female hedgehog character, Amy, redesigned – so she mainly wore a green kilt thereafter!”

Tate has represented Malaysian artist Tan Eng Haut, as well as Mick McMahon, whom she regularly commissioned on STC, and later represented on his return to 2000AD.

She has edited, consulted, art directed, PA’d, researched, lettered and scripted for various companies including BBC Worldwide, Marvel Comics and Redan Publishing and Random House/Jonathan Cape, and also created and wrote a comedy script for Tundra’s Glory-Glory football comic, about an obsessive Scottish football supporter and his long-suffering wife which featured art by the late Steve Dillon.

John Wagner
John Wagner

Comics writer John Wagner is best known for his work for 2000AD, having co-created Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Robo-Hunter and many other memorable characters. His Paradox Press graphic novel A History of Violence  was adapted into a major film.

His latest project (with co-writer Alan Grant and artist Dan Cornwell) is Rok of the Reds, the strange and wonderful tale of the world’s first alien footballer. An homage to the comics of their youth, the Rok of the Reds graphic novels will be on show during the LICAF weekend.

Tickets for the Festival are on sale now.

• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival will be back in Kendal 12th – 14th October 2018

• Web: www.comicartfestival.com | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Podcast 

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. 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.

Let us know what you think about this story

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.