One of our intrepid team made it to to Enniskillen for the latest Comic Festival, an event where professionals relax with fans in a wonderful atmosphere, celebrating classic and current comics…
There is something so nice and easy going about Enniskillen Comic Festival. Perhaps it is that fans gently gather in bars, enjoying a few drinks with professionals. Perhaps it is the evening panels in Oaken surrounding, perhaps it was the focus this year on the Battle Action Special, regardless of the ingredients. Whatever the reason, the Festival welcomed a wide variety of comic luminaries, all happy to sign comics, chat about favourites, draw sketches with smiles, while showing and selling their art, and all with a genuine warmth and friendship.
The return to McCartan hall in Enniskillen was good, even if, due to COVID concerns, there was a tightening of the breadth of the event, but this brought a focus and strength to the Festival. People really enjoyed the event in this leaner form, travelling from up and down Ireland, from all over Britain, and from as far as France.
Garth Ennis, one of the guests, has written all the stories in the Battle Action Special, available in comic shops now and bookshops in September, and in doing so, achieved something really impressive, adeptly presenting to readers a selection of fine stories.
These tales demonstrate his dynamic writing ability, each story very different, uniquely enjoyable and reaching into the history of Battle Action – but with an authenticity and accuracy that feels perfectly familiar. Combined with an incredible line-up of artists, it offers the readers an exciting read. Johnny Red’s “Nina” in her own story and Glory Rider meeting Hellman are inspired developments that everyone seemed to welcome.
During the event, Garth Ennis was on hand, signing away, and his queue never really waned. He was generous with his time, happy to sign all the comics presented, but also engaging in discussion with readers about comics they appreciate. Next to Garth was Dave Hunt, editor of Battle from the 1970s into the 80s, and such a gentleman, talking about his approach and desires for Battle under his stewardship, to bring writers and artists to the comic. Then there was PJ Holden, not only an artist in the Battle Action special, but also working on Garth’s series for US publisher Aftershock Comics, The Lion and the Eagle. PJ is such a good spirit, always so cheerful but busy, another of his projects with Garth, Stringbags, proving very popular from what I could see. His artwork looked stunning, and it was great to have the a chance to see his line work up close in portfolios to hand.
Keith Burns also has some of his incredible artwork available for fans to browse, and was busy signing Commando comics. Nearly 30 have been published so far, and they’re all so distinctive, and stunning. His work for the Ladybird History series, alsodemonstrating his fully painted art, is further evidence of his brilliance, and why he is an award-winning aviation artist whose art has been shown in many venues – and is so popular with history fans. His ability to capture the moment of action, to give that sense of place, that instantaneous moment of sheer exhilaration is visible throughout, and wonderful to appreciate up close.
There was so much engagement, although Michael Carroll may need to get a special award – he signed a full collection of 2000ADs featuring his work for one fan. We reckoned it was 125 comics, but he was pleased and excited, and the chat about “Proteus Vex” continues; he was happy to discuss this popular science fictional story.
A number of fans had also managed to get the Judge Dredd Megazine 445 and and thus had access to multiple Maura McHugh stories, in what is a bonanza of Judge Anderson in this month’s issue and supplement. Will Simpson was torn between Game of Thrones and forty years of comic art, with copies of Warrior being signed in between Hellblazer and Arya sketches. There was so much laughter from such an accomplished artist, and he had some of his fully painted art and pencilled story boards on hand, welcoming fans to look at this incredible pieces. Will continues to be one of the nicest people in comics.
Declan Shalvey was on hand, too, and continues to complement his incredible artists skills with great writing. He had the preview of one of his latest projects, Old Dog, available, and I was pleased to pick that up. Declan’s comic, Time before Time with Rory McConville and Joe Palmer, by the way, is a cracking read, and issue 12 has PJ Holden art – so that was some lovely synchronicity!
It was also nice to chat to Rob Williams, as I had wanted to get OUT from AWA comics signed by him, a dark story set in the last days of the World War Two. I like his war comic writing, and hope we get more of it.
There was something unexpected about the dealers, by luck or design, too. Many of those comics on sale were very affordable, and there were fans who were selling their collections, more for space than profit, and were generous in pricing and genuine in their encouragement. Copies of titles such as Battle, Warlord, Victor, 2000AD were on offer, hundreds of them at three for a £1, Annuals, boxes and boxes of them at £2 and thousands of US comics at 50p each and graphic novels for a fiver. This was very popular, and younger readers were given very special deals, and free comics abounded.
It was good to see Laurence McKenna and the Sector 13 team, Belfast’s 2000AD fanzine, on hand, and I was impressed with their continuing good work, while David McDonald of Hibernia Comics was selling Blazing Battle Action, too, reprinting David Bishop’s articles on Battle, along with his own. He continues to be an amazing source of reading material, working with Rebellion, and his publications are popular.
It was also fascinating to consider that Oliver Pickles from Rebellion, who edited the Battle Action Special, and who was here to help with the special launch of the comic, was a mere four feet from David Hunt. The significance was not lost on fans. Oliver, Rebellion and Garth have bridged a gap for so many, who have yearned for war comics, and, together with the artists they have really delivered. The Battle Fans Facebook group, and interest in the genre, is flourishing, and it’s clear that creators and fans have found a seam of gold.
For me, the star of the show was possibly Mike Dorey, the veteran artist who has drawn for Victor, Warlord, Battle and, of course, is renowned for his work on “Hellman of Hammer Force” for Action. He was cracking out pieces of art for fans, all their favourites, and was obviously enjoying his return to Enniskillen, now with a number of stories recently published in the Action Special and again new work in the new Battle Action Special. Mike has worked on so many characters and stories – he drew Rogue Trooper, Cadman, Heinz Falken, Kurt Stahlman and Moses Rayker, and so fans were keen to meet him.
Saturday evening saw a panel in the evening at the wonderfully labyrinthine Blakes of the Hollow pub. Garth, Keith, PJ and Mike Dorey, were on the panel with the hilarious Michael Carroll asking the questions, and there was some serious discussion about the importance of the Mark II Hurricane.
Everyone wanted more stories inspired by Battle, and there was much talk of future hopes and desires and the audience seemed very satisfied. Pints were pulled, measures poured and everyone chatted at the bar. There was the chance to speak to people who had not been seen for years, to ask how it had been, but also to talk comics and of course, for those who had taken the chance to read the Battle Action Special, to discuss how impressive Patrick Goddard’s work is,
As I saw a car depart on Sunday morning, those loading it weren’t looking forward to a fourteen hour journey home, but all had enjoyed the Festival, and the appreciation was so evident.
Fans love getting comics signed, sketches and the opportunity to buy art, as well as hear talks, and Enniskillen provides this, with fine engagement and a wonderful social scene.
Many thanks to Paul Trimble, Chris and the team for for a cracking time.
• The Battle Action Special is available in all good comic shops from 8th June 2022 and from bookshops, including AmazonUK, from 14th September 2022
• Blazing Battle Action has a limited print run, so get it while you can here – www.comicsy.co.uk/hibernia| Perfect bound | 76 Pages, plus colour cover. full colour interior
This book is sent from Ireland and all postal charges are charged extra and at cost at check out. Please allow three weeks delivery to the UK and Europe, four weeks for US Asia and Africa and six weeks for Australia, New Zealand and South America. Delivery is usually much quicker but delays do happen. Irish orders can be expected within a week
• Daniel Fee interviewed the guests at Enniskillen Comic Festival – and you can watch it on YouTube: Garth Ennis, Rob Williams, Mike Dorey, David Hunt, Declan Shalvey and Gavin Fullerton, Keith Burns, Kevin Mc Hugh, Michael Carroll, Angelica Comics, PJ Holden and showrunner Paul Trimble
One of many guest posts for downthetubes.