This weekend, Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th May sees the Bristol International Comic & Small Press Expo. Spread over two sites as well as two days it promises some excellent events both in the mainstream comic event and in its Small Press and Manga section.
The most interesting aspect of this year’s event, for me at least, is a chance to sample some of the truly excellent small press publications that have been produced in the UK over the past year.
Once the preserve of the dedicated creator, slaving to produce a labour of love that could only find an outlet in self publishing, the internet, and the falling cost of publishing has seen rise to a new wave of creators. There is a huge range of small press comics out there; some are still the products of people whose voice would not be heard otherwise, others are mainstream comics in every sense, other than distribution.
Pick of the panels is on Sunday at 4pm in Panel Room 1 discussing this very notion, ‘Small Press, Big Ideas.’ An absolute must attend for fans of up and coming creators.
With the falling cost of producing comics and the rise of the internet as a tool for marketing and distributing them, it's becoming more and more viable for creators to publish mainstream, commercially viable comics by themselves. These books share little in common with the more artistically driven labours-of-love that are traditionally associated with the small press so is it right that they are all classed under the same banner? We will examine whether there is a difference between a true small press book and a mainstream book that is printed in small numbers. Is it damaging creators and limiting ambition by creating an artificial underclass of comics? Is it time for up and coming creators to abandon the term 'small press' and just make comics?
The panel will consist of:
- Cy Dethan (Cancertown, Slaughterman's Creed)
- Nic Wilkinson (Slaughterman's Creed)
- Peter Rogers (The Interactives)
- Richmond Clements (FutureQuake)
- Steve Penfold (Moon, Fallen Heroes)
So to my selection of the best of new creator comics to found at Bristol.
Top of the list, not just for Bristol, but for this past year are two titles, Sugar Glider and Spandex. Conveniently for those searching them out they are sharing table 47 to make it so much easier to get your essential purchases.
Spandex is, as the blurb says, like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s not just a marketing slogan, this really is a fresh take on that fine old staple, the superhero team. Underpinning the unique selling point is some of the best storytelling you will read in the world of comics and beyond. Creator Martin Eden gives his superteam a depth that will have you laughing, crying and punching the air. I did all three while reading Spandex, sometimes all at the same time. It’s no mean feat to do that with so many characters. Spandex really is something you should be checking out if you’re a serious comic fan.
Spandex 4 launches at Bristol, which means you’ll get a chance to see it before I do, and I hate you for that. This is the beginning of a 4 part mega-epic called ‘O.M.F.G’ which features the vicious attack of Lez Girlz.
Competing with Martin for elbow space at table 47 will be Daniel Clifford and his and artist Gary Bainbridge’s excellent Sugar Glider and Sugar Glider Stories.
Daniel and Gary have created in Sugar Glider a teenage heroine that is that rarity of all things, a truly believable British Hero. One of the things that made Stan Lee’s Spiderman set a new standard for comic writing was the equal importance given to the teenager behind the mask. No longer where the lives of the alter ego’s dull and predictable, they were now every bit as important, and well written as the hero’s themselves.
Peter struck a genuine chord with the readers of the comic and what they saw of themselves in his life was what drew them in and helped to take comic books to a much wider audience. It’s not hyperbole to mention the world of Sugar Glider in the same breath. It really is that good.
Clifford and Bainbridge create a world so grounded and so real that you can’t help be drawn into it. With such a finely realised backstory it’s nigh on impossible not to be rooting for Sugar Glider when she takes to the Newcastle Streets.
They manage what may have seemed impossible by matching the quality of that first issue in its sister publication Sugar Glider Stories. This introduces us to the world of Vigilance, a British crime fighting team. There’s tons going in here and they deliver so much packed into one issue. The quality is kept up for every page too.
Clifford and Eden will also fighting it out over the best badge at the Expo award – Clifford’s excellent Vigilance badge up against Eden’s risqué and controversy courting ‘I like Pussy.’
My favourite comics full stop from the past year, not just from the world of the small press, if you only buy two things then it should be these two.
There is plenty of other good stuff going on around the Expo too, so if you’re going, then make sure you have deep pockets and plenty of spare luggage space. Others to look out for include.
‘The latest exciting and historically incorrect issue of SGT MIKE BATTLE: THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO! Set in 1940 and shows how Sgt Mike Battle saved the British troops at Dunkirk, saved the RAF from the Luftwaffe, saved London during the Blitz, saved the entire country from Nazi Invasion and helped the King overcome his speech problems! It is greatest war story in the history of the world, a story that some are describing as ‘The Kings Speech’ directed by Michael Bay. Yes, it is that good.’
SGT MIKE BATTLE: THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO! #16 is only £1.50 for 36 pages of freedom-loving fun.’
For more information go to www.sgtmikebattle.co.uk
Sgt Mike Battle is wonderful politically incorrect fun. Any comic that has Talibandroids in it gets my vote and amongst the killing and murdering you may just learn a thing or two about current affairs to. Senseless killing, education and massively good fun Sgt Mike Battle doesn’t really have any peers that I know of out there in comic world. Not that it would matter if he did, he would probably just ambush them and wipe them out Mike Battle style.
Look out too for Bevis Musson’s wonderful Dead Queen’s Detectives too. If he makes it, it’s all a bit up in the air at the moment. So if you see someone trying to flog comics out of a cardboard box, stop for a second and if it’s the Dead Queen Detectives buy one.
Where else can you get beauty tips from a lonf gead monarch and a regal investigation into the neds in the park? Irreverent, funny and money well spent. He gets thrown out of the Expo before you see him, go check the comic out at: http://bevismusson.livejournal.com/251861.html
Sci fi comic goodness next with the launch of Nich Angell’s 7string. A ‘cosmo-musical adventure about a boy with a guitar sword. It is sci-fi fused with fantasy with a heck of a lot of action and will give you a whole new world to explore.’
It’s a great opener to the saga as Nich gives us a unique take on the cosmic forces that surround us and the one boy that can harness them and use them to save the world. Beatifully illustrated it’s one to watch. More about 7string and Nich’s work at his website www.nichangell.co.uk
Steve Penfold will be there too before and after his panel appearance with the rest of the Beyond the Bunker team and will have the last few remaining copies of the first issue of Moon – a hugely enjoyable tale of a cop with the moon for a head. Other than that I’m only going to say that it’s action packed, enormous fun and has some of the finest banter you’ll read this year. If all of that doesn’t make you want to search it out then shame on you.
Find them at Hall 1, table 53 or at http://beyondthebunker.com
Something different again (that’s the joys of the world of small press) with the premier of ‘West – Stray Bullets’ featuring a host of indie comic stars helping out creators Andrew Cheverton and Tim Keable in this collection of tales from the West.
Have a peek over at their website www.angrycandy.co.uk
There is a mainstream Expo going on too, and it too has some highlights:
You can celebrate the 25th birthday of the seminal classic Watchmen with artist Dave Gibbons and colourist John Higgins have teamed up to create an exclusive anniversary piece available only at Bristol. If you needed any further reasons to buy it, then it has been produced to support the Draw the World Together charity. There are only 75 prints available and you can also enter a draw to win the original artwork too.
Another highlight of the mainstream event is the chance to buy a limited edition, signed and numbered print of the world’s greatest genetically modified Infantryman, the glorious Rogue Trooper. It’s his 30th anniversary this year, which only makes me feel even older.
Self Made Hero will be there too, with their sumptuous Lovecraft Anthology amongst other delights from what is possibly the finest collection of graphic novels available at the moment. I don’t think there is one thing from their slate that you won’t lust after when you see it.
Wrapping up my pick from the mainstream side is the launch of Print Media Productions Strip magazine. Issue Zero is being given away free to visitors and is a sampler of what we can expect from the new monthly venture.
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