Looking back at Lawless 2019, looking forward to Lawless 2020!

Lawless 2020By Richard Sheaf

As the guest list for Lawless 2020 has now been released, I thought I should collate my thoughts on my inaugural trip to the 2000AD and Judge Dredd-inspired event last year, which has spread its programming remit far wider than the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic…

Before going to the 2019 Lawless comic convention I hadn’t been to a comics event in Bristol since, ooohh, the late 1990s. My curiosity about attending Lawless 2019 was its subtitle – “A celebration of British comics”. The convention was evolving from its previous Judge Dredd focus into a broader remit.

Sounds good to me, I thought.

Of course, Lawless has been expanding its comics coverage for a while now. The death of Carlos Ezquerra on 1st October 2018 led to the convention taking another creative swerve, as the sub-title for the show became “Tribute to Carlos Ezquerra”.

Regarded as a good shout by fans, I decided to head to Lawless last May, a small scale event, although big in ambition. By comparison, the event followed the week after Oldham Comic Con, a huge, free show, in a huge venue that can hold thousands of people, and the place was crawling with kids and families. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s amazing and without such shows it’s hard to create the comic fans of tomorrow. But Lawless is not like that. Not all. It costs to get in (£25 in 2019, £30 in 2020) and there’s only a limited amount of tickets, so this isn’t a con that’s attempting to convert people into comic fans. There’s nobody there who’s just popped their head around the door to have a look at what’s going on. Nah, Lawless is very definitely at the other end of the comics convention spectrum.

Just part of the Carlos Ezquerra Art Exhibition at Lawless 2019

Just part of the Carlos Ezquerra Art Exhibition at Lawless 2019

Lawless 2019 - Carlos Ezquerra Art Exhibition - Judge Dredd

Lawless 2019 - Carlos Ezquerra Art Exhibition - Strontium Dog

Lawless 2019 - Carlos Ezquerra Art Exhibition

In fact, the set-up made me think of a really old school comic convention (not that I went to many conventions like that). In 2019, you got three main rooms – one for talks, one for the dealers (and small press creators) and one for you to meet the artists / writers. Simple, really simple. And it’s in a hotel, so plenty of people just stay over and can just pop to and from their room whenever they need (which was necessary when you see the size of some of the trolley’s that people are pulling around, all filled with books, comics and original comic art). Plus there’s a bar, a really big bar space near the rooms.

Then, add a really committed Facebook group into a mix and the actual event feels like that group has come to life because so many people make a weekend out of the (one day only) con.

Plus the cosplaying Judges (and a few other characters) but mainly it’s Judges. Lots of Judges.

Hang on! That’s 400 words already – and I haven’t even mentioned the creators who were there – Steve Austin, Abi Bulmer, Lee Carter, John Charles, Mike Collins, Boo Cook, Dan Cornwell, Simon Davis, Tom Eglington, Henry Flint, Ian Gibson, Patrick Goddard, Alan Hebden, John Higgins, Sally Jane Hurst, Jock, Clint Langley, David Lloyd, Steve MacManus, Colin MacNeil, David Roach, Dylan Teague, Kek W, John Wagner, Chris Weston, Paul Williams and Glenn Fabry. Phew, think that was all of them – but there were so many of them it was hard to keep up with who was there.

Lawless 2019 Convention Booklet - Cover by Mike Collins

Lawless 2019 Convention Booklet – Cover by Mike Collins

Lawless 2019 Convention Booklet - Signed Lawless 2019 Convention Booklet - Sketch

Anyway, that’s about 30 creators and about 200 fans. What a fantastic ratio! We’re talking really short queues at everyone’s table, there’s plenty of time to talk to creators and plenty of time to go to a talk and not worry about losing your place in a queue to meet someone.

In comparison, the previous convention I’d been to (the 2000ad 40th Anniversary event) had required what felt like a level of military planning on my part, because there were so many people I wanted to meet, working out where I was supposed to be on the day. So, a breath of fresh air and a great, great selection of creators to meet.

Plus there were talks (and a chance to see a whole documentary about Carlos Ezquerra). With the focus of the show being Carlos, the first talk featured three people who’d worked with him – John Wagner (Judge Dredd), Steve MacManus (ex-Tharg) and Alan Hebden (the writer on Major Eazy). Steve recalled Carlos as being such a self-deprecating man, wreathed in cigar smoke who would always ring up and want to talk to “Shteve”.

John on the other hand was “Yon”, who recalled trawling through DC Thomson comics looking at ‘their’ artists and seeing Carlos’s work on “Chained to his sword” in Wizard. To tempt a very nervous Carlos away from his gainful employment with DC Thomson, he had to promise to keep Carlos in work for the rest of his life! So John’s was a man of his word there.

Alan picked out his work on “El Mestizo” for Battle with Carlos as being his favourite work with him. Alan actually said he didn’t want to do a western strip – but Carlos did!

Steve loved the caricature work that Carlos was able to do on the Tharg stories – “…the way he got BURT01”. John confessed that his favourite wasn’t Judge Dredd “…as once I saw it I hated it – but I was wrong”.

Moving on to their other memories of Carlos, Steve recalled that Carlos didn’t suffer fools gladly. John knew that Carlos didn’t want to pick his way through a lot of words in a script (so he always wanted to see his reaction to an Alan Moore script!) and Alan recalled that he and Carlos liked “El Mestizo”, but the readers didn’t so the story had to end.

Lawless 2019 - Carlos Ezquerra Art Exhibition - Al's Baby

John eulogised about his love for the “Al’s Baby” strip, a very different strip for Judge Dredd Megazine, highlighting Carlos’s humour and his initial work on learning how to use computers to colour his work. He also loved his work on “Bob the Galactic Bum,” with Bob being WC Fields and he had a lot of fun writing the strip.

The most poignant anecdote of the session was what Carlos said to Alan Hebden at the 2000AD 10th anniversary party – “I come so I’m not forgotten”. It seems hard to believe that an artist who is so entwined with the DNA of 2000AD could ever think he would be forgotten by those readers and, as the convention proved, he hasn’t been and won’t be.

If my recap of Lawless 2019 has  whetted your appetite for a Lawless day out in 2020, then perhaps I will see you there this year – Saturday May 16th 2020, tickets on sale at the end of January.

The guest list for 2020 has already been released and includes great creators. Highlights for me are the chance to meet David Pugh (making a rare convention appearance), Mike Dorey – plus we’ll be treated to the launch of David Roach’s much-anticipated Masters of British Comic Art – plus much more.

It sounds like it’s going to be another great day!

• Lawless 2020 Saturday 15th May 2020, Doubletree by Hilton, Bristol Web: lawlesscomiccon.co.uk | Facebook

Lawless Comic Convention is a British based not for profit comic convention organised by fans and for fans

• PLEASE NOTE Tickets for Lawless will only be available on the door (priced at £40) if they don’t sell out in advance (priced at £30) – and they will probably sell out in advance so keep an eye on the event’s official web site at lawlesscomiccon.co.uk

• Check out my photo features on Lawless 2010 on my Boys Adventure Comics Blog here, here and here

Buy 2000AD books and collections from AmazonUK

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