The best Comic Con…Why is Enniskillen Comic Fest just so good?

James Bacon headed to Northern Ireland for this year’s popular edition of a hugely popular comics event…

The gang's all here! Comic creators anf fans gather during Enniskillen Comic Fest. Photo: James Bacon
The gang’s all here! Comic creators anf fans gather during Enniskillen Comic Fest. Photo: James Bacon

This year’s Enniskillen Comic Fest was another huge success. In the picturesque town of 17,000 people, comic enthusiasts had travelled long distances from all parts of Ireland, Britain, and Europe. The fans know it’s a special event, and worth the journey. Indeed for those returning the smiles and recognition is knowing, while the welcome is fabulous.

Perhaps it’s the pace, the relaxed and natural friendliness, the breadth of comic creatives, the effort made to be accessible to all comics readers. Enniskillen Comic Fest succeeds in bringing young readers, new readers, small press, professionals and legends together and when the chat, sketches signings and sales are finished, everyone is welcome to share time together and chat further.

Mick McMahon, Alan Davis, John Higgins and Cam Kennedy were amongst a serious selection of amazing guests. Mick was sketching Judge Dredd: the Picasso of 2000AD delighting fans with his detail and particular style. He is amazing to watch, and very particular, and so engaging. I did not realise that Mick’s Dad was from Dundalk and Mom was from Cavan, and how they met in England while his Dad was serving in the British Army

James Bacon with Cam Kennedy
James Bacon with Cam Kennedy

Cam Kennedy is always such a delight to be around, and I was so pleased to see that he had some original art available, real treasures for fans, and he was in high demand all weekend. It was amazing to see his reaction to early 1970s Commando comics that featured some of his earliest work.

Brian Bolland and John Higgins at Enniskillen Comic Fest 2024. Photo: James Bacon
Brian Bolland and John Higgins

John Higgins’ “Sketches” caused serious consternation: these are incredible fully-inked portraits, with white used so skilfully and beautifully, and as ever John was happy to chat as he worked.

Alan Davis at Enniskillen Comic Fest 2024. Photo: James Bacon
Alan Davis

Alan Davis was working in pencil for those who wanted sketches, and the detail was amazing, and he was happy to sign so many comics, and full of chat. I took the opportunity to ask him about the recently passing of Paul Neary, who I had never met, and it was good to hear him remembered so well and nicely. 

Enniskillen succeeds in attracting guests of all levels, and I was really pleased to see the amazing work of Katie O’Kane, , whose striking work really appeals to me: she captures action so well, and I love her dynamic interpretations and portrayals, and was pleased to see so much new work in what I describe as her “painterly style,” it is stunning.

Donna Black was also present and I am always very impressed with her work, there is such a beautiful brilliance to her style. I do think that Donna’s work shows the particular type of brilliance that Dave McKean has.

Pye Parr and Anna Morozova at Enniskillen Comic Fest 2024. Photo: James Bacon

Anna Morozova had a selection of art available for fans, and I noted that there was a hint of temptation and excitement about her table as she mentioned that she is working on a project that she cannot announce. Fans are yearning to know more, and hoping that the news will come soon.

News had arrived, though, about Petrol Head being optioned for a movie, and co-creator Pye Parr was in fine form. Sketches of the eponymous character were in high demand, and plenty of congratulations offered, and hopes for himself and Rob Williams with this fabulous comic published by Image.

This year saw The Steve Dillon Exhibition display over 50 pieces of original work in a nice designated space, an incredible selection. I was very taken by the Heartland page, and delighted to see new additions to this incredible travelling exhibition that strives and succeeds in both remembering Steve Dillon so beautifully, sharing his astounding work. It was great to see a page from Skreemer, a Six Pack Dog Welder cover, some stunning Hellblazer pages and a Hitman pinup page. The pleasure and joy of seeing “Judge Dredd: Emerald Isle” pages up close, the colours and the inking, is phenomenal and Tanya Celine and Lisa Lynam’s enthusiastic and genuinely loving approach to the work comes across and is shared as fans appreciate the art.

  • Lisa Lynam and Tanya Celine, organisers of the Steve Dillon Exhibition at Enniskillen 2024
  • ABC Warriors, art by Steve Dillon. Photo: James Bacon
  • Hellblazer art by Steve Dillon. Photo: James Bacon
  • "Judge Dredd - Block Mania" art by Steve Dillon. Photo: James Bacon
  • "Judge Dredd - Emerald Isle" art by Steve Dillon. Photo: James Bacon
  • Preacher art by Steve Dillon. Photo: James Bacon
  • Skreemer art by Steve Dillon. Photo: James Bacon
  • Six-Pack art by Steve Dillon. Photo: James Bacon

An addition to the exhibition is a wonderful range of t-shirts and prints which were in high demand. Tanya mentioned the exhibition hopes to be at Thought Bubble, so that offers a future chance to fans.

Local engagement was high, and this was clearly to be seen in the variety of people coming in, while there were many long term fans, the number of children and younger readers was astonishing and really sets the con apart. There is no entry fee, free copies of 2000AD and The Dandy greet children as they arrive. Dressing up in costume was common.

There was also a generosity and kindness that pervades and creates an atmosphere at Enniskillen. I saw one fan lamenting that they had not had a chance to get a Mick McMahon comic out for the event, to get signed, and another fan handed them a 2000AD with a classic McMahon cover, so they could have it. This was common, and I know that one professional was gutted they did not have a Star Wars: Dark Empire comic to get signed by Cam Kennedy, and suddenly a fan had a spare!

John Higgins had a selection of 2000AD comics with classic Judge Dredd covers from the 1980s on the table, also for free. There was much chat about “Dreddnoughts”, which John has done some incredible work on, his Megazine covers clearly being cherished by fans seeking signatures and this series really has captured the imagination.

There was chat too, about 2000AD’s “Proteus Vex”, written by Michael Carroll, who was also at the Festival. There is some sadness that it’s coming to an end. It is a really excellent example of great science fiction from 2000AD in the 21st century and I cannot wait for the collected story as it will be the perfect gift

I have thoroughly enjoyed both “Dreadnoughts” and “Proteus Vex” – they are so different and yet so entertaining. I look forward to seeing how the latter comes together in the end.. 

Tommy Ferguson was present, promoting next year’s Eastercon, the National SF convention running now for over 70 years, but being brought to Northern Ireland, and Belfast, for the first time in its history. A strong guest list including Rebecca Roanhorse, Derek Landy and Lauren Beukes amongst others, proving of particular interest.

Enniskillen Comic Fest 2024 - Jay Snyder as Sandman. Photo: James Bacon
Jay Snyder as Sandman
Barry Slevin as Deadpool and Joyce Slevin as Harley Quinn at Enniskillen Comic Fest 2024. Photo: James Bacon
Barry Slevin as Deadpool and Joyce Slevin as Harley Quinn

Jay Snyder was impressively dressed as Sandman, while a tag team of Joyce Slevin as Harley Quinn and Barry Slevin as Deadpool entertained with their theatrical antics and everyone wanted a photo with them. They were representative of those who wanted to get the cosplay on for the festival. 

David McDonald of Hibernia Comics was on hand, with some incredible reprints, and excited fans with news that he hopes to bring fans “Glory Knight” by John M Burns from June. David’s work in this area, in conjunction with Rebellion is absolutely brilliant, as it makes comics available and is something fans want to see.

Likewise, I was delighted to meet Brian Hickey from Totally Toys, who is on the team working on the Treasury editions of the Action Force stories from Battle. I recall vividly Baron Ironblood, Muton, The Red Skull, and loved the Z-Force tank from a distance. It was cracking stuff. I am chuffed that these stories are being reprinted, starting with Battle Action Force Treasury Edition Volume One – Red Tide Rising, with work by Gerry Finlay-Day and Geoff Campion, amongst others. 

Ruari Coleman at Enniskillen Comic Fest 2024. Photo: James Bacon
Ruairí Coleman

Ruairí Coleman has been working on Captain Marvel, and I noted that there were a number of fans hoping for a Marvel character as a sketch. His work is really strong and he uses shading and delicate line to great effect. I was pleased to hear that Astonishing Times Volume 2 from Dark Horse was on the way, as Ruairí took on some of the writing duties while continuing with the art on that series.

The Sector 13 Comics team were out in full force. Editor Peter Duncan was joined by Paddy Brown and Lawrence McKenna, and the table was shared with Bob Curran, Turlough Lavery and Ryan McVeigh. On offer were four brand new comics. As previously reported on downthetubes, three of these are for the benefit of NHS Charities Together: Whapp! a 32 page, oversized ‘summer special’, Yow! an A5 digest 52 page comic, and Splank! A 112 page A4, softcover. There are some fabulous people involved, from Alan Nolan to Steve MacManus.

Sector 13 Comics team at Enniskillen Comic Fest 2024. Photo: James Bacon
Sector 13 Comics

Added to this is the new anthology S13. This anthology title is to be themed, and first is Anno Domini, 1900, an A4 64-page comic which imagines how a Victorian-era version of 2000AD might have looked. With contributions from Kek-W, John Smith and Julia Round, it really looked stunning. All four comics are available from Sector 13 Comics here.

Sector 13, in many ways, are like Enniskillen Comic Fest: they are broad in their approach and strive to be of the highest standard, looking to breath of stories. The quality of the writing and art really shows, and Peter was happy to share that they had sold around 200 comics over the weekend – unsurprisingly, as they are doing outstanding work.  

Will Simpson was in fine form, and continuing the theme of incredible availability of really lovely art, had some huge pieces available to purchase, the opportunity for fans, unique here. Will gets invited to many many conventions, the combination of brilliant comic work and years on Game of Thrones sees him in demand, but he regaled fans with the joys of the Thessaloniki Comic Con, which he’d recently att, which sounded amazing.

Alan Davis and Mick McMahon were the “Legends” who Micheal Carroll interviewed on Saturday night in “Blakes of the Hollow”, a fabulously labyrinthine multi-levelled Victorian pub with one of the hand carved doors depicting scenes from Game of Thrones. We were in the gothic-styled atrium space, all dark wood, and it felt like a social cathedral. Mike and Alan shared their paths into comics and discussed aspects that enjoyed. After the interview, everyone chatted, and then all were welcomed as the crowd adjourned to a local hotel for drinks into the early hours, everyone sitting together. 

The weekend was brilliant, really lovely and relaxed. The pace is so pleasant, and it is truly a family event but cracking for collectors too. The lack of pretensions and posturing is noticeable, it’s a humble festival run by an enthusiastic team led by local fan Paul Trimble, who strives to develop the festival. The presence of the Steve Dillon Exhibition was a great addition, but it is the atmosphere, the warmth of it all and aspects that are fleeting but really nice that make this one of the best comic events to attend.

James Bacon

• Enniskillen Comic Fest will return in 2025 – Follow the Facebook Group for updates

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