The Year in Review: Scottish Comic Events 2009

Hi-Ex 2009 Poster - SmallBy Jeremy Briggs

For many attendees Hi-Ex is the highlight of the comics year in Scotland but it is far from being the only comics event that the Scottish public can participate in. 2009 proved to be an extremely busy year for comics events north of the border that were open to the general public, with a wide variety of talks, exhibitions and workshops taking place…

JANUARY

After a quiet beginning, January ended with a new free graphic novel released in Edinburgh. The One Book – One Edinburgh reading festival had published new graphic novel adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson novels Kidnapped and The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 2007 and 2008. In 2009 they teamed up with the Glasgow Aye Write book festival and a considerable number of English councils, including Bristol, to present Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s dinosaur adventure novel The Lost World. As part of this BCDP (Bristol Cultural Development Partnership) commissioned Darwin: A Graphic Biographywhich illustrated the life of naturalist Charles Darwin and was written by Eugene Byrne and illustrated by Simon Gurr. This was given away free to Edinburgh and Glasgow residents beginning in Edinburgh on Saturday 31 January.

FEBRUARY

From Central Scotland to the Highlands and with the inaugural Hi-Ex comics expo disrupted by February snow in 2008, the heavy snows in the week before Hi-Ex 2009 no doubt caused more than a little concern for those who were planning long journeys to get to Inverness on St Valentine’s weekend. However the roads were open and the second Hi-Ex, held on the weekend of 14 and 15 February, went with barely a hitch. Artists Gary Erskine and Graeme Neil Reid and writers Al Ewing and Michael Caroll paid a return visit whilst artists Frank Quitely, Leigh Gallagher, Dave Shelton, Asia Alfalsi, Inko, Chie Kutsuwada (Chi-Tan), Al Davison and writers Alan Grant and Ferg Handley all attended their first Hi-Ex. Although attendance was slightly down on 2008 the credit crunch didn’t seem to be biting too deep as the amount raised for Scottish charity Children 1st was over £1600 – more than double the previous year’s total. (Read the DTT review here)

MARCH

Thursday 5th March saw the opening of an exhibition of the work of artist and designer Dave McKean who has illustrated such books as Batman’s Arkham Asylum and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. The free exhibition at the Backdoor Gallery in Dalmuir Library near Glasgow included original inked and painted artwork as well as collages and prints of his digital imagery. It was open for three months.

March also saw the first of the various Scottish literary festivals taking place. On Sunday 8 March in Glasgow the Aye Write festival brought ex-Beano and BeanoMax editor Euan Kerr from the hallowed halls of DC Thomson in Dundee to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow to give an illustrated talk on the history of the Beano comic from 1938 onwards. He was helped out by Morris Heggie, author of the History of Beano book, Thomson’s archivist and a former editor of the Dandy, plus Minnie The Minx artist Jim Petrie, while no less than Dennis The Menace himself put in an appearance for the children in the audience. All three men then signed copies of the book before moving on to give a Beano workshop to a sold-out audience.

The following Saturday, also as part of Aye Write, Broons and Oor Wullie writer and DC Thomson managing editor David Donaldson gave a history of Scotland’s first comics family as well as presiding over a Broons quiz for the festival attendees.

Slightly further north on Wednesday 18th March, artist, writer and former Marvel UK editor Tim Quinn gave a talk in the Millbank Theatre in Thurso on his life in comics entitled Argh! I was Spider-Man’s Editor. Two days later he presented his talk and took a comics workshop at the Festival Theatre in Pitlochry.

Thursday 26th March saw the Metaphrog graphic novelists John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs lead a graphic novel workshop for young teenagers at the Johnstone Library in Renfrewshire.

Finishing off the month and on Saturday 28th March artist Yishan Li ran a manga workshop and signed copies of her Manga Females Clip Art book in the Borders store in central Glasgow.

APRIL

April brought the regular twice yearly Hillhead Comic Fair to Glasgow on Saturday 18th April with its comics and graphic novel dealers.

MAY

May continued the literary festivals with Word 09, the University Of Aberdeen Writer’s Festival, featuring the Manga Shakespeare titles published by Self Made Hero. On Saturday 16th May Chie Kutsuwada (Chi-Tan) made her second Scottish event of the year and, as artist on the manga version of As You Like It, lead a two hour workshop on manga character design and drawing techniques. This was followed on the Sunday by comics historian Paul Gravett chairing a discussion on the Rise Of Manga. This again involved artist Chie Kutsuwada as well as Self Made Hero publisher Emma Hayley and Kiriko Kubo, judge of the Japanese Embassy in London’s Japan 150 manga competition which had marked 150 years of the signing of the Ansei Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and the United Kingdom in 1858.

Hi-Ex’s own Vicky Stonebridge began the first of a series of How to Draw Manga workshops for children beginning on 15th May at Gairloch Library while her paintings and comic art were on display at the Lochcarron Fire Station for a week beginning on Sunday 31 May as part of the Highland Open Studios Trail 2009.

Starblazer Exhibition PosterJUNE

Vicky Stonebridge’s series of How to Draw Manga workshops continued at Gairloch Library on 8th and 10th June.

As part of the Creative Showcase at the Roxy Art House in Edinburgh on Thursday 11th June, Edinburgh’s Napier University ran a free Writing for Graphic Novels workshop presented in part by writer and former 2000AD editor David Bishop. This acted as a taster for the university’s MA in Creative Writing which began in September 2009 and included a module in writing graphic fiction.

After their successful team-up with the Dundee Literary Festival in 2008, the third Dundee University Comics Conference, Timeframes, was also a tie-in with the final day of the Festival on Sunday 28 June.

Taking place in the well equipped D’Arcy Thompson Lecture Theatre in the Tower Building of Dundee University on Sunday 28th June the event, organised by Dr Chris Murray of the University’s English Department, had a line-up of guests that gets more impressive each year and covered a wide range of artists, writers and editors. In addition to the presentations, the conference hosted the opening of a public two month long exhibition in the university’s Lamb Gallery featuring DC Thomson’s much loved science fiction digest, Starblazer. The title’s former editor Bill McLoughlin and artist Keith Robson opened the exhibition as well as giving a presentation on the title.

Among the other presentations during the day, former 2000AD editor David Bishop remained on the science fiction theme for a presentation on Alan Moore’s 2000AD stories and well as giving a workshop on writing graphic novels, while Manga Shakespeare artist Emma Vieceli discussed her adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Academic Dr Mel Gibson discussed the graphic novel Alice In Sunderland by Bryan Talbot while the keynote speakers were writers Alan Grantand Warren Ellis who, as well as giving talks to the audience, answered questions and signed books for the attendees.

JULY

The month began with Glaswegian small press comics artists John Miller, Adam Smith and Rob Miller doing a signing the Deadhead comics shop in Edinburgh on Saturday 4th July to promote their titles Khaki Shorts, Secret Agentand Super Tales.

Having presented graphic novel workshops earlier in the year aimed at teenagers, over the three days of 7th to 9th July John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs of Metaphrog did a series of six summer workshops in libraries for 8 to 12 year olds on how to create their own comics. These took place in Dalmuir, Parkhall, Balloch, Alexandria, Dumbarton and Clydebank libraries.

Wednesday 8th July saw Vicky Stonebridge hosting a Comic Art Drawing drop-in session at the Merkinsh Arts Centre, Inverness, before virtually taking up residence in the Dingwall and Ullapool libraries for a series of six workshops at the end of July on drawing comics in both traditional and Manga styles.

Continuing the library theme, Oxfam held their Scotland In Comics event, part of the first national Oxfam Book Festival, in Edinburgh’s McDonald Road library on Saturday 18th July. Writer Ferg Handley of Commando and the UK Spider-Man and GI Joe comics and David Bishop, at his third comics related event in Central Scotland in six weeks, talked to the audience about their careers as well as donating items to an auction for the charity. Crawford Coutts of Edinburgh-based publisher Insomnia Publications also took part in the panels along with Milkand Dandy artist Stephen White and the day was compared by John McShane.

Rather further north on the same day artist D’Israeli, also known as Matt Booker, did a signing at Aberdeen’s Asylum Books and Games comic shop to celebrate the business’ tenth anniversary.

AUGUST

August began with Kirkcaldy’s Kingdom Of Adventure role playing games and comics shop hosting two comics related signings. Saturday 1st brought two 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine “droids”, writer Al Ewing and artist Colin MacNeil to the shop while the next Saturday the shop hosted Dan Dare artist Gary Erskine.

Meanwhile in the capital, the Edinburgh Filmhouse cinema ran a five day summer school from 3rd to 7th August entitled Comic Capers for 7 to 10 year olds. Edinburgh small press artist and writer Malcy Duff took the children through the creation of their own comics characters and then helped them create a story and a comic for them to take home at the end of the week.

Former Beano artist Kev F Sutherland brought his similar, although much shorter, Comic Art Masterclass to ten City of Edinburgh libraries between 11th and 21st August as part of their Tales Of The City project. In these he worked with school age children to produce a comic with them in two hours at the libraries in Granton, Muirhouse, Corstorphine, Blackhall, Morningside, Moredun, McDonald Road, Central and as far out as Kirliston and South Queensferry.

Further north on Thursday 6th August, Vicky Stonebridge returned to Dingwall library with her ‘How to Draw Comics’ workshop.

Edinburgh Book Festival 2009 LogoAugust saw the return of the Edinburgh Book Festival to Charlotte Square Gardens in the capital with a wide selection of events. The two weeks worth of events began on 15th August with former Dandy editor, DC Thomson archivist and author of The History Of The Beano, Morris Heggie, former Beano and BeanoMAX editor Euan Kerr and Minnie The Minx artist Jim Petriecreating a new Beano inspired character with the help of the children in the audience.

Writer and artist Mio Matsumoto gave both a talk and a Manga workshop based around her graphic novel My Diary while academic Dr Mel Gibson discussed the theme of Visual Literacy, Learning and Graphic Novels. Political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe talked about his life and work while fantasy writer Neil Gaimanjoined crime writer Ian Rankin to discuss their graphic novel work.

Artist Gary Erskine returned to the Book Festival to give a workshop aimed at teenagers on creating comics, while writer and editor David Bishop took this year’s comics writing workshop for adults. Writer Tony Lee took the children’s comic writing workshop, while Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers of Metaphrog took a general comics creation workshop. Scottish writer Mark Millar gave a talk on his graphic novels which include Wanted and Kick-Ass, while the comics events concluded with Chie Kutsuwada’s manga art workshop.

The Glaswegian small press comics creators returned to Deadhead Comics in Edinburgh for an all day signing session on Saturday 22nd August. Artists and writers John Miller, Adam Smith and Rob Miller were this time joined by Dave Alexander, Jim Stewart, Curt Sibling and Dave Gordon of small press titles Khaki Shorts, MacBam Brothers, Nexion, Ganjaman, Total Fear and My Excess.

The last weekend in August, 29th and 30th, brought the big two day collectables fair, Collectormania, back to the Braehead Arena outside Glasgow. As in 2008, the fair included many comics and graphic novel dealers while comics and manga characters were well represented in its Cosplayer costume parade.

SEPTEMBER

After the Local Heroes graphic novels exhibition in the National Library in Edinburgh in 2008, across the road Edinburgh’s Central Library caught up in 2009 with a free exhibition centred on the graphic novel Milk. Milk was created by Stref, otherwise known as artist Stephen White, who has worked on the Dandy amongst others and was published by Edinburgh based Insomnia Publications. Original artwork from the book, as well as from Stephen’s past work, was on display from 4th to 30th September in the library’s Fine Art Gallery.

Dundee’s Mills Observatory hosted an exhibition which featured the original art of DC Thomson’s science-fiction digest and the sculptures of artist Trevor Gordonthat the artwork had inspired. The free exhibition began on Wednesday 9th September and ran until 30th November.

Metaphrog continued their graphic novel workshops with two for late primary aged pupils in the Cultural Centre’s library in Bellshill on Tuesday 29th September.

OCTOBER

Saturday 3rd October was a busy one for comics events. At the Wigtown Book Festival, writer Alan Grant talked to the audience about his work on Batman, Judge Dredd and adapting Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped for the One Book One Edinburgh reading campaign in 2007.

In Glasgow the Comic Fair returned to Hillhead on 3rd October with its usual mix of comics and graphic novel dealers as well as a selection of the Glasgow small press titles along with their creators.

Kirkcaldy’s Kingdom of Adventure role playing and comics shop ran their 24 Hour Comics Day from 3rd to 4th October when customers were challenged to create a complete 24 page comic in a single 24 hour period.

Back at the Wigtown Book Festival on 4 October, writer David Donaldson talked abut his scripts for The Broons and Oor Wullie for The Sunday Post, scripts that he has been writing on and off since 1962.

National Poetry Day on Thursday 8th October saw the launch of Metaphrog’s adaptation of the poem The First Men on Mercury by Edwin Morgan as a four page, full colour comic. This was commissioned by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies and over 32,000 copies were given away free on the day to Strathclyde’s school children plus some where available to the general public. Meanwhile on Friday 23rd October John and Sandra continued their Graphic Novel Workshops with one for children at Kirkliston library near Edinburgh.

Continuing his promotion for his first graphic novel, Dark Entries, author Ian Rankin gave a talk at the Waterstone’s shop in Edinburgh’s East End on Thursday 15 October which he followed with a book signing.

Meanwhile in Glasgow, Adam Smith of the small press title Khaki Shorts had an exhibition of his comic artwork on display in the 13th Note music venue and café near the Tron from Monday 12th October for two weeks.

NOVEMBER

Saturday 21st November saw former DFC artist Sarah McIntyre doing a reading in the Box of Frogs bookshop in Wigtown from the children’s book that she had illustrated, Morris The Mankiest Monster. She followed by a signing and a Make Your Own Monster workshop for the assembled children.

Wednesday 25th November saw German graphic novelist Mawil, otherwise known as Markus Witzel, and French graphic novelist Lewis Trondheim appear at Glasgow’s Goethe-Institut. They discussed their work, which is based on daily life, with Glasgow School of Art lecturer Marc Baines. In addition to the talk the Goethe-Institut put on a free exhibition of the two artists work beginning on Saturday 21st November and on Saturday 28th November they held a free comics workshop conducted by Mawil and Baines.

DECEMBER

Writer Jamie McMorrow and artist Garry McLaughlin launched The Abortion, the first of their planned series of twelve small press horror comics, at a launch party on Saturday 5 December at the Old Hair Salon venue in Glasgow.

Ian Rankin’s Dark Entries graphic novel signings continued with atwo hour signing at Edinburgh’s Forbidden Planet International on Thursday 10th December, his third signing to promote the book in the capital in five months.

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