By Jeremy Briggs
For many the highlight of the comics year in Scotland in 2010 was the appearance of writer Alan Moore at the Edinburgh International Books Festival talking about his work. Despite being a late addition to the programme, once the news of his talk got around the event sold out rapidly and drew a surprising number of Scottish faces that were familiar from various other events around the country including artists, writers, bloggers and convention organisers.
While not as busy as 2009, 2010 still had a wide variety of comics events taking place north of the border that were open to the general public from talks to exhibitions to workshops.
Small press writer and artist Malcy Duff’s comic art was part of the Telling Tales exhibition at the Pelican Gallery in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. This opened on Wednesday 20th January and ran until the end of March. Free copies of his RIE comic where available from the exhibition.
Thursday 28th January marked the official launch of Edinburgh based Insomnia Publication’s Burke and Hare ‘biographical’ novel. Writer Martin Conaghanand artist Will Pickering first attended a signing of the book in Edinburgh’s Forbidden Planet International shop before moving to the Edinburgh Central Fine Art Library where they gave a talk about their work on the book.
Graphic novelists Metaphrog, who are writer John Chalmers and artist Sandra Marrs, gave a Create Your Own Comics workshop for teenagers at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow on Sunday 31st January.
Saturday 6th February saw French artist and writer Michel Rodrigue give a talk in Edinburgh’s Blackwell book shop on the subject of Drawing For Comics. As the artist on both the Clifton and Cubitus series of French albums, he showed how he created his artwork by drawing both the retired secret agent and the anthropomorphic dog before signing and sketching English language Clifton books for the attendees.
Friday 26 February saw writer Mark Millar talking on the subject of his comic books and graphic novels, such as Wanted and Kick-Ass, being turned into films by Hollywood at the Glasgow Film Theatre as part of the Glasgow Film Festival’s Great Scots strand.
Dundee University’s D-Con manga and anime convention took place at the university over the weekend of 6/7th March. This was the second year that the free convention had taken place after its successful debut in 2009 and its attendance over the two days was in the region of 2000 people.
As part of the Glasgow Aye Write! Book festival artist/writer Bryan Talbot and writer Denise Mina talked about their graphic novels to Stuart Kelly at the city’s Mitchell Library on Friday 12th March.
Hi-Ex returned to Inverness for its third year over the last weekend of March with more comics guests than on their previous two years put together including artists Charlie Adlard, Asia Alfasi, Gary Erskine, Simon Fraser, John Higgins, Inko, Cam Kennedy, Colin MacNeil, Sarah McIntyre, Jim Medway, Alex Moore, Gary Northfield, Graeme Neil Reid, Tanya Roberts, Michel Rodrigue, Dave Shelton, Gordon Tait and Stephen White (Stref), plus writers Michael Carroll, Al Ewing, Ferg Handley and editor Morris Heggie. The two day convention made over £2300 for the Children First charity. (Read the downthetubes review here)
After a series of school workshops during the month, Metaphrog rounded off March with a free public talk about their work at Forfar library on the evening of Tuesday 30th.
On Saturday 3rd April the first Glasgow comic mart of the year moved from its traditional location of Hillhead Library along Byres Road to the Queen Margaret Students Union. As well as the usual selection of comic and graphic novel dealers, many of the Glasgow small press creators attended to sell their publications under the banner of Underground Overkill.
The Changing Rooms Gallery in the Tollbooth in Stirling held an exhibition entitled A Narrative of Montage from April 10th to 22nd. This included the comic strip artwork of Jean-Pierre LaPeyre from The Fruitbasket Collective.
Saturday 16th May saw Metaphrog give a comics workshop at Aberdeen’s King’s College as part of Word 10, the Aberdeen Writer’s Festival, having already appeared in the school’s festival earlier that week.
Writer and editor David Bishop gave an evening talk at Greenock Central Library on Thursday 13th May to launch the library’s new reading scheme based around 300 different graphic novels. The library then began a 10 week long Saturday morning course by David Newbigging discussing graphic novels.
The second week of May also saw the charity Children in Scotland sending 25,000 copies of a comic to every Scottish school to encourage pupils to take part in their school councils. The comic, entitled Councils of the Galaxy, was illustrated and co-written by Edinburgh based artist Tobias Cook.
Edinburgh’s small West Port Book Festival was joined by artist Frank Quitely on Friday 25th June for a free talk on his work which includes WE3 and All Star Superman. Writer and editor David Bishop chaired the talk.
The Edinburgh Film Festival doesn’t normally feature in the yearly comics review but on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th they screened the French live action film adaptation of Lucky Luke based on the series of French language graphic novel albums written by Morris and illustrated by Asterix artist Rene Goscinny.
The Royal Highland Show also is similarly not normally connected with comics but this year Waverley Books used it to launch their reprint book, The Very Best Of Black Bob: The Dandy Wonder Dog, on Saturday 26th. Former Dandy editor Morris Heggie, who compiled the book and wrote the introduction, was there to sign copies.
Sunday 27th saw the Dundee Comics Day of the Dundee Literary Festival take place at Dundee University. The fourth year of this event took the theme of comics creation with a selection of creators talking about their work. Manga artist Nana Li gave a workshop while artist Alan Davis, designer Rian Hughes, writer Pat Mills and editor Dez Skinn discussed their careers.
Also on Sunday 27th, slightly further north, artist, writer and former Marvel UK editor Tim Quinn gave a comics workshop followed by a talk on his career in comics at the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.
Artwork from Oliver East’s Berlin and That book published by Blank Slate was exhibited in the JA Sinclair Gallery in Edinburgh from Sunday 11th to Saturday 17th July. The gallery, which appeared to be a bedroom in a private flat, was only open by appointment.
From Monday 12th to Thursday 15th July, artist Kev F Sutherland ran a series of half day Comic Art Masterclasses in eight Lothian and Central libraries. The libraries involved were Denny, Bonnybridge, Larbert, Falkirk, Meadowbank, Slamannan, Grangemouth and Boness.
The Oxfam Book Festival held ‘Issue 2’ of their Edinburgh Comics Event at MacDonald Road Library in the capital on Saturday 24th July. As in 2009 this consisted of panel discussions, lead by publisher John McShane, with artists Frank Quitely and John Ross, writers Gordon Rennie and Ferg Handley, and editors David Bishop, Morris Heggie and George Low.
The Edinburgh Zine Fair returned to the Forest Café in the capital’s Bristo Place, where it had been held in 2009, on Saturday 31st July with its usual eclectic selection of small press zines and comics.
The Computer Training Academy in Dundee’s City Quay ran courses of various lengths during August for aspiring comics and computer games artists with artist Gary Erskine amongst their tutors.
Despite the then recent collapse of the book’s publisher Insomnia, writer Martin Conaghan and artist Will Pickering ran a graphic novel workshop on Saturday 14th August in Edinburgh’s Blackwell’s bookshop based on their Burke & Hare graphic novel.
The Edinburgh International Book Festivalreturned to Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens between 14 and 30th August. The number of comics events at the BookFest was down on previous years but included a discussion between political newspaper cartoonists American Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury fame and British Steve Bell, creator of The Guardian’s If. which was followed up by two further Steve Bell discussions, one with fellow political cartoonist Martin Rowson and the other with writer Alan Moore. This was backed up by a talk on political cartoons over the years by the curator of the Tate Britain’s Rude Britannia exhibition, Cedar Lewisohn.
The festival also ran three comic art workshops for different age groups of children taken by Shaun the Sheep writer Glenn Dakin, and artists Garen Ewing and Sarah McIntyre.
The penultimate weekends in August, 21st and 29th, brought the big two day collectables fair, Collectormania, back to the Braehead Arena outside Glasgow. As in previous years the fair included many comics and graphic novel dealers while comics and manga characters were represented in its Cosplayer costume parade. In addition to the usual TV and film guests, Doctor Who artist Al Davison attended and signed and sketched his books and comics.
In what was perhaps the most remote location of the year, Saturday 4th September saw former Marvel UK editor Tim Quinn return to Scotland to give another comics workshop and talk on his career in comics, this time at the An Lanntair Arts Centre in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.
On Saturday 25th September the second Glasgow comic mart of the year returned to the Queen Margaret Students Union. Again the usual selection of comics and graphic novel dealers were in attendance along with many of the Glasgow small press creators.
Meanwhile further south on the same day, having been at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August, DFC artist Sarah McIntyre returned to Scotland for the Wigtown Book Festival. She ran an art workshop which was open to all ages in the Stena Line Children’s Marquee.
Having seen the benefit to other shop chains to have Manga mini-events, Forbidden Planet International in Glasgow held a two hour long Manga evening on Monday 11th October luring Glaswegian otaku to the shop with the offer games, quizzes, 20% off stock and a special welcome for any cosplayers who wanted to come along. Due to the size of the shop this was limited to 50 people.
With the release of their latest book Louis – Night Salad, Metaphrog hit the road with a round of talks and workshops. These began in Stornway on the Isle Of Lewis with a comics workshop at the Nicolson Institute on Thursday 28 followed by a similar workshop for adults in the An Lanntair Arts Centre on Friday 29th. They then travelled to Tower Mill in Hawick for the Eildon Tree Festival where they gave a talk followed by a workshop on Saturday 30th October.
Metaphrog continued their travels with a trip to the Imprint Book Festival where, having designed the cover for the festival’s programme, they gave a sold out talk on their work at the Burns Monument Centre in Kilmarnock on Tuesday 9th November.
The bi-annual Auchinawa convention, which covers all types of Japanese popular culture including manga comics, took place in Edinburgh over the weekend of 19th to 21st November. It proved to be so popular that, as in previous years, it sold out all its 350 places very quickly and had to operate a waiting list for cancellations.
The Manga evening that was piloted in the Forbidden Planet International store in Glasgow in October was obviously successful enough that it was run again in Glasgow and was also rolled out to virtually every other FPI store in the UK including the Edinburgh and Aberdeen shops. The three Scottish stores all held one hour events on the evening of Monday 22 November.
Plan B, the then new graphic novel shop in Glasgow, held an informal evening on Friday 26th November for customers to meet and chat to local artist Frank Quitely and almost as local writer Mark Millar. In this case informal meant drinks and chat rather than autographs and sketches.
Friday 28th November brought Metaphrog to Glasgow where they gave a talk at the Centre For Contemporary Arts about their new graphic novel and their creative process as part of the three day French Scottish Book Fair: Words From Across The Water.
On Saturday 4th December crime writer and playwright Denise Mina braved the snow to get to Plan B in Glasgow to talk about her work. This was followed by a question and answer session after which she signed copies of her graphic novel A Sickness in the Family.