There’s a lovely welcoming atmosphere at NICE in Bedford and I got that feeling of regret… Why did I not go to this amazing comic con in previous years? NICE is, actually, really blooming… er, nice!
The promise of a good weekend began in a nearby bar as fans, professionals and dealers gathered on Friday for the weekend. There was great chat, laughter and the meeting of old friends, and the opportunity to meet new people. It’s been a few years for some, and this was evident, but also it was friendly – and I got the chance to meet established writers and artists for the first time.
This spirit continued to the queue outside the cracking venue in the heart of Bedford, the Corn Exchange, a traditional hall that was filled with tables, all about comics. There were quite a number of dealers selling a lot of comics: a great variety from 50p and £1 boxes, to key Silver Age and some really lovely to see Golden Age comics.
The range of writers and artists was just impressive.
Alan Davis proved popular, as one can appreciate and understand, and he was a delight to the fans, signing and sketching and engaging, and one could see that his duality as both writer and artist was really important, as fans thanked him profusely and sincerely. Like so many artists here he was in demand, the joy of owning a sketch was apparent and it is truly a treasured thing. He was a lovely man, and it was so nice to chat to him, and watch his skill in action.
There were a slew of talks going on throughout both days, there was a very suitable hall upstairs for them, and if that was not enough there was also The Steve Dillon Exhibition at Close Encounters, a short five-minute walk away. One never tires of seeing comic art framed and on display, and it was absolutely fabulous to see the whole of the 2000AD story “Red Planet Blues” framed and on display, and very smartly hung.
With over 50 pieces on display, Steve Dillon’s family continue to present fans with artwork that, for me at least, I have not seen previously, and it was really nicely laid out and some excellent sequences.
Laura and Tanya Dillon were on hand to chat and talk about Steve and the art, which is lovely to see. You can find out more about the exhibition here on Facebook.
At the convention, I got a chance to chat to Anna Morozova, who was busy with some amazing large pieces, and she made mention of the upcoming SMASH three-issue mini series coming out next month from 2000AD publisher Rebellion as part of its Treasury of British Comics line. Anna is working on “The Spider”, which all sounds very exciting. I’m loving their Battle mini-series so far, and have high hopes for this too, and am looking forward to seeing more of the sharp and beautiful lines that Anna brings to the stories she draws.
Anna has illustrated the main story in the first issue, which also features “The Steel Claw” and “Jane Bond”.
Written by Paul Grist, the US format comic will be out on the 25th of October. Here’s the downthetubes news story, published back in July.
I got chatting to Jacob Phillips, too. I’m really enjoying his Newburn and That Texas Blood comic series. His art is distinctive and really very clean and nice, and the stories are cracking on at a great pace. I personally like how he has so clearly made his own mark, although sitting next to Sean Phillips, his dad, they look more like brothers than Father and Son.
Matylda McCormack Sharp was also near her father Liam Sharp, and her style was in demand on blank comic books, following her recent work in Starhenge. Matylda is already working on her next project, as well as in children’s illustration. I picked up Trevor and Derrick, which is a really fun, delightful anthropomorphic story with no dialogue but a wonderful narrative, delicately told, and and with impressive style.
“I am working on the next Starhenge with Dad,” she told me, “as well as a children’s book we will be Kickstarting next year. While I really enjoy working with dad, I’m finding my own way with both children’s books and comics.” She quickly added ” I am always looking for work!”
There were so many artists to speak with, and it was brilliant to see the work being done at the con. Artist and writer Barry Kitson was busy killing every character he was asked to draw, and of course he uses amazing washes of watercolour to add the perfect element to a “sketch” which is unbelievable. Esad Ribic was also working in colour, and I asked him if he was having a good convention and his wonderful smiling response was very emphatic “It is good!”.
I also chatted with Mark Buckingham, who continues to be very productive, and he made mention of three further issues of Fables and two of Miracleman that are forthcoming. It is amazing how Miracleman is now a multi decade character, and he noted that after the Silver Age will be the Dark Age, and that they have a story to tell, one they wanted to tell, and that will be it.
Chat about comics was good, and I was delighted to see David Roach, who is preeminent when it comes to knowledge of comic art, and so lovely to talk about the art so many there loved.
What’s delightful about this convention is the vast quantity of original art that was available. Many of the artists had brought folders of art, and pages were starting at very affordable prices, published comic art at £30 is quite a bargain.
A number of dealers also had art available too, and on display. Prices on pages of course will vary, but there were some incredible pages by Alan Davis: phenomenal full page splashes of the highest calibre.
What’s interesting is that with so much available is that all budgets can be accommodated for and it was notable that I spoke to some fans who had not much artwork beyond sketches, but were entering tentatively into this aspect of the hobby, and you could see the delight in these first steps. Owning a piece of unique art, the original, framing it, enjoying it is an incredible aspect of comics, it doesn’t have to be a big splash with your favourite character, but a page you like, by an artist you enjoy and there were many starting points here.
The appreciation of comic art, the history and those involved in comics comes across at every point at this convention.
I loved chatting to Ben Oliver about his favourites and it was lovely to see Liam Sharp, and of course, other fans. There was chat about the upcoming Commando Swap meet in Colchester as one of the admins Bruce was along, and there was a team over from Enniskillen Comic Fest led by Paul Trimble, which just announced their dates in June, all welcome here sharing their passion for comics.
As ever, I found speaking to David Hine to be refreshing and thoughtful, I find his eclectic selection of writing to be consistently good across all the many comics he has penned, and I was also surprised to get chatting about UK comic fanzines with one of the dealers, Mike. These all added together to make for some delightful conversations.
It was a really enjoyable weekend, and some particular aspects are just so thoughtful and nice. There is a “Sketch Roulette” ticket where fans who book their tickets early and pay a little extra get the chance to have an original sketch by an attending artist, and that really is lovely, the availability of comics by those attending, the talks on a variety of subjects, where we get to see discussion and the really pleasant pint with fans and professionals, relaxed.
Jeff and Bub Chahal and their team did an amazing job, this was a cracking good convention and a really nice time. A definite on next year’s calendar now, for me.
As Lew Stringer noted: “Jeff gives good con!”