Looking Back at Lawless 2024

Luke Williams headed to Bristol for this latest fun-filled 2000AD event…

Lawless 2024 - Banner

Lawless, the 2000AD-centric convention (though not exclusively Tharg-inspired) is ten years old this year. It has survived moves in location, a name change and a pandemic. For what is a very niche event, it attracts some very big names, and a lot of them, this year’s is no exception. World-renowned creators from the golden age of the Prog are regular attendees, as well as more recent creators who have made it big over the pond after getting a leg up from Tharg. Notable were return appearances from Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland, and late addition Garth Ennis, in his first appearance at this con.

Although dominated by 2000AD, other publications have a presence. Team ’77 have a sizeable stand, and are a sponsor, and Rewriting Extinction are this year’s chosen charity, publisher of the Rewriting Earth anthology, plus there is the odd well-established creator that hasn’t actually appeared in the Prog, although there are likely to have been published in one of the myriad of 2000AD associated publications.

The venue is easy access for trains being a short walk from Bristol Temple Meads railway station. Cars – well, if you can navigate Bristol there are a number of car parks in close proximity, but it ain’t cheap to park.

Arriving from South Wales by car in plenty of time with a Saturday only ticket, my buddy Richard and I were faced with a queue that snaked from the convention area past the bar, to the toilets. Thankfully, attendees were processed quickly, efficiently and without fuss. For your £35 per day entry fee, attendees received a nice biodegradable Lawless goody bag containing a glossy programme, an issue of The77, a Shaman Kane mini comic from David Broughton, a Lawless print by Judge Dredd / H.M.S. Nightshade artist Dan Cornwell, fridge magnet and pen, handed over by a very pleasant Red Shadow of Action Force fame. (Baron Ironblood was minding The77‘s merch’ table. Which was nice).

Lawless 2024 - The77 team. Photo by  Dave Wynn, with thanks to Steve Bull
Lawless 2024 – The77 team. Photo by Dave Wynn, with thanks to Steve Bull

Squeezed into two days, Lawless has a packed programme. The convention areas is split into five areas, reception / admin, the panel room, the creators room, dealers room , gallery room, and of course the corridor which I’m sure is just there for somewhere to put the queue for Brian Bolland’s table.

Our first stop was the creators’ room. Time was short so a quick dash around to get our bearings, suitably impressed and in awe of some of the wares on display we dashed off to the first panel “Creating Judge Death and Friends”, with the aforementioned Mr. Bolland, Mike McMahon and John Wagner.

Lawless 2024 - Judge Death and Friends panel
John Wagner, Mick McMahon and Brian Bolland. The panel was hosted by Stacey Dutton-Whittle
John Wagner, Mick McMahon and Brian Bolland. The panel was hosted by Stacey Dutton-Whittle

The room was pretty packed. We found seats at the back but which meant occasionally I strained to hear the conversation. A recurring problem throughout the day was the sound quality and volume at the panels (although likely exacerbated, due to my advanced years and my abuse of that particular sensory organ), combined with the competition from the enthusiastic hubbub from the main hall, penetrating the thin walls. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining panel, even if the subject deviated quite quickly subjects covered included how would Dredd die, potential crossovers with other characters, Mr. Bolland advocating a crossover with Rupert The Bear (inspired by his Masters of British Comics cover) and naming MC1 tower blocks. 

In a touching moment, Brian Bolland took time to express his admiration for Mike McMahon’s work. I’m not crying, you are. 

Toward the end of the panel, a troop of kilt wearing Judges march in, drilled by a very authentic looking Max Normal. The Judges line up in front of the guests, and lift their kilts to much hilarity. Rather than have the audience miss out, they then do a 180 and flash them too. Thankfully, their modesty is securely in place and each has a letter attached to their undies, spelling out Lawless. The panel know when they are beaten, and call it quits.

In a quick dash around the dealers room, alongside the art, action figures comics, books and prints I clock the perfect merger of two of my favourite things – Lego and 2000AD, a full size (ish) Lawmaster and more impressively for me, a model of the Cursed Earth Landraider (sadly not full size).

Lawless 2024 - LEGO Cursed Earth Landraider
Lawless 2024 - LEGO Lawmaster

I left Richard considering how to spend his hard earned and returned to the panel room for “On The Write Track” a discussion on comics writing with Michael CarrollIan EdgintonRob Williams and the unbilled Robbie Morrison. What followed was an entertaining 45 minutes of anecdotes, hints and tips on writing and what to do and what not to do, how to pitch, a discussion on whether a social media presence is necessary, occasionally frustrating artistic partners, the importance of the artist and never to trust them, and dealing with a taciturn Tharg. 

Lawless 2024 - Ian Edginton, Rob Williams, Michael Carroll and Robbie Morrison
Ian Edginton, Rob Williams, Michael Carroll and Robbie Morrison

Richard and I reunited and headed to the gallery room. Here were wonders. Artist and art historian David Roach had curated this year’s comic art exhibition from his own collection and needed to be seen to be believed. Mike McMahon “RoBusters”, “Slaine” Double Page Spread “Cursed Earth” pages, Massimo Belardninelli “Inferno” and DPS “Flesh” pages by Ron Embleton, a classic Ron Smith “Blood of Satanus” page, Brian Bolland “Judge Dredd”, Joe Colqhoun “Paddy Payne”, Carlos Ezquerra “Strontium Dog” and “Judge Dredd” John M Burns 2000AD work and newspaper strips, a Garry Leach “Dan Dare” page, Mike Western’s “The Sarge” – and a fantastic collection of covers from War Picture LibraryCommando and their ilk. The list goes on and on, truly amazing.

Lawless 2024Lawless 2024 - Exhibition curated by David Roach
Lawless 2024Lawless 2024 - Exhibition curated by David Roach
Lawless 2024 - Exhibition curated by David Roach
Lawless 2024 - Exhibition curated by David Roach
Lawless 2024 - Exhibition curated by David Roach
Lawless 2024 - Exhibition curated by David Roach - art by Ron Embleton

Next in the Panel Room, and flying by the seat of their pants, Simon Fraser and Edie Nugent delivered the “The Great Dante Read Through”, recording in front of an audience, with special guest, co-creator of Dante, Robbie Morrison. 

Lawless 2024

“The Adventures Of Nikolai Dante” is one of the more recent classic strips of 2000AD. The panel and recording go well, husband and wife Simon and Edie have great chemistry, as you’d hope, and Robbie gave some insights into the creation of Dante, including the revelation that Simon wasn’t his first choice for Nikolai (potentially awkward!).

After a very limited vegetarian option lunch from the bar menu (chips or nachos), up next was the “War! What Is It Good For? Comics!” panel with guests Garth Ennis – the one man war comic revival machine, and collaborator, artist Keith Burns, along with Mike Dorey and PJ Holden. The artists discussed their process in ensuring that their hardware they draw is a realistic as possible, from computer 3D modelling to building plastic model kits to get every angle and detail right. 

Inevitably, the subject turned to the Ennis led (if not edited) revival of Battle Action (as covered here), with a quick rundown on what to expect (including a contribution from noted US writer Brian K Vaughan on a revival of “Kids Rule Okay”), the influence of Commando the difference between the IPC war comics and DC Thomson war comics and the debt that British comics owe Pat Mills and John Wagner.

Back in the Creators ‘room, there were lots of ways to spend your money, but like all cons, there’s just not enough time to speak with everyone you want to speak to. The77 take up the back wall, with Tharg of the classic period Steve McManus pride of place just off to the left. Almost every artist’s stall has prints or original art with many sketching, writers have books and prints to sign. I leave the hall a few hundred pounds poorer, but culturally richer (thank you Mr Weston and Mr Doherty). Everyone is approachable, everyone wants to talk.

Lawless 2024 - David Roach

Our final panel of the day is “David Roach: The Best of British”. David has an original comic art collection of around 1000 pieces and is an acclaimed artist and author – his Masters of British Comic Art is indispensable for anyone who has even a passing interest in the subject. Interviewed by Stacey Whittle for the next 45 minutes, he turns comic art collectors green with envy on his finds in the eighties, on purchasing “Cursed Earth” pages direct from Mike McMahon for the price of an LP today, on his labours in drawing together material for the Rebellion Apex editions  horror stories of the fate of original comic art at the hands of publishers, and working with some of his heroes. Mr. Roach is a truly in love with the medium, and his collection inspires him in his own comic strip work. 

Before we depart, I summon up the courage to meet a personal hero of mine, Garth Ennis. I join the remarkably short queue, and not having planned this very well, I don’t have anything to sign and he has nothing to sell, I offer some over earnest fanboy admiration verging on the gushing, he compliments me on my Stront’ t-shirt. We exchange pleasantries and I hurry away before I say something stupid. He’ll be in the UK a lot this year, so if another con’ this year wants his as a guest, perhaps they should get in touch with him…

Judging () by the programme, Day Two looked pretty damn good too. A guest spotlight on Garth Ennis, creators talking of big robots, a 2000AD art droids panel, Liam Sharp and Chris Weston discussing their mentor Don Lawrence, and a discussion on book design, featuring Wagner, Carroll, Pye Parr and Jim Campbell. More fool me.

If there is a criticism, it’s that the Creators Room is a little snug. Ideally, there’d be more space. It can get quite cramped in there. Kudos to the moderators of the panels I attended, Stacey Whittle and Simon Belmont, warm, funny and kept the conversation flowing, and to the management and organisation of the event, if there were problems (sound is a minor gripe) I didn’t see them. If you can do it, go for the two days. This year had an extra event for VIPS on the Saturday evening including an award ceremony which no doubt turned into one big party.

In short, if you are a 2000AD fan and can only afford to go to one con’, this is the one for you.

Luke Williams

Lawless returns in 2025. Check the Lawless Facebook Group for the latest news – and there’s an album of panel recordings here, for those who couldn’t make it

All photos courtesy and © Luke Williams, unless otherwise stated

Categories: 2000AD, British Comics, Comics, Events, Exhibitions, Features, Reviews

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  1. In Pictures and Review: Lawless 2024 – downthetubes.net

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