“It’s important to keep shouting about comics and comic creators!” Iz McAuliffe talks Cardiff Independent Comics Expo (CICE)

This July the comic creators of Wales will all be congregating in the Masonic Hall in Cardiff for the annual Cardiff Independent Comic Expo (CICE). Alongside fantastic guests such as 2000 AD stalwarts like Jon Davis-Hunt and Henry Flint, will be some of the most exciting small press creators going, including some who aren’t even from Wales! We catch up with event organiser Iz McAuliffe to find out more about this year’s next must attend comic convention.

The Etherington Brothers will be one of the guests and will be selling their incredible Stranski art book!

Cardiff Independent Expo is taking place on the 8th of July, can you give us a quick overview of what we can look forward to and what guests you will have on the day?
Iz McAuliffe: This is the 6th Cardiff Independent Comic Expo, and the 1st with me as sole Producer after Mike Allwood retired from the scene after last year’s show.
The format is very similar to previous years, with a selection of UK-based guests and a whole host of brilliant small press and indie comic creators/publishers/traders.  We’re the only show in Cardiff with at least a 90% Comic-specific content – something I’m very proud of.  We also have a retro-gaming area hosted by Cardiff Geek Party, a panel programme and a kids activity area.  Guests include Vertigo’s Jon Davis-Hunt, who has recently finished the first arc of Clean Room by Gail Simone and is now working on The Wild Storm with Warren Ellis… Jon also happens to be one of the nicest guys in comics 🙂 I’ve also got 2000AD favourites Ben Willsher, Henry Flint, Lee Carter, and more.  Oni Press’ Sarah Graley is joining us, as is Marvel UKs Simon Williams.  I’ve also got the brilliant illustrators Si Gurr and Godmachine, who’ve both worked in comics too, and kids favourites The Etherington Brothers

Are you having panels and events on the day, or is it all about the creators?

IM: Yes! Panels are returning this year – we had a panel-free show last year, but it’s an element of cons that I think are really important – to give more of an insight into some of our guests and creators.

This year I’ve got 4 panels, 1 talk and 1 live sketching event lined up: the schedule (and participants) is due to be announced in a few days but I can tell you we cover: creating small press comics, gaming art, 2000AD, delving inside the creative process, and a digital marketing skills guide for creators.

Our live Sketch-Off is a first for Cardiff. It’s the only event that carries an additional cost to ticket entry, but that’s because it’s in aid of Hero Initiative. Everyone attending has to buy at least 1 raffle ticket for £1 (but they can buy as many as they want!!).

We will have 3 artists sketching simultaneously over an hour (each sketch has a time limit of 10 minutes), with every sketch raffled off throughout the draw.

Every £1 will be going to the Hero Initiative – an amazing organisation that one of my heroes, Steve Dillon, supported massively. There will be a donation bucket for the Hero Initiative on our front desk throughout the day too.

As we can guess from the name, you have a real emphasis on comics and indie creators, so why is it important for you to fly the flag of indie comics at a time when a lot of ‘comic conventions’ are relying on tv and film guests to get punters in through the door?

IM: I think you nailed it in the question – it’s important to me (and my fellow indie con organisers) to keep shouting and shouting about comics and comic creators when a lot of ‘comic cons’ now rely on TV and film guests. There’s obviously a massive audience for that type of event, but personally, I’d prefer them to be branded ‘pop culture cons’ but they never will be.

Our show always has been, and always will be about comics and its creators. Mike Allwood started Cardiff off in 2011 (with me in tow), after running Bristol Expo for more years than he probably cares to remember. I learned from the Master! He taught me that If you love something, shout about it, and get more people interested, then they can shout about it too.

The Trolltooth Wars’ Gavin Mitchell and PJ Montgomery will be among the small press guests in attendance

Are you in a position where you can curate who you have attending, or do you just have an open door policy for creators?

IM: My only stipulation for any exhibitors applying for a table, is that they have to be comics, art or comic-related – with priority going to indie comics creators. Comic/manga-related merch is welcomed, as are independent comic traders.

I’m very keen on welcoming exhibitors new to the scene, and this year I’ve invited 2 BA courses from a local university to exhibit (BA Illustration and one more TBC) – and next year we will hopefully have a cohort visiting from the MA in Comics and Graphic Novels at Dundee University – they’re the next generation of the comics scene…

We sold out of exhibitor tables quite quickly this year, which is great, so I’m operating a Waiting List and trying to re-jig the floorplans a little to fit more people in – it’s been very heartening to have such interest in a little indie convention J

You’ve taken over from Mike Allwood this year, so have you implemented anything new for this event? Or was it all about keeping things constant?

IM: I’ve definitely kept largely to the Allwood template, but I have added more exhibition space, and I’ve brought the panel programme back. Last year I introduced a kids activity table, where kids could create their own superheroes, and that’s coming back this year too.

I’ve introduced a retro gaming area this year – a chill-out area where Cardiff Geek Party have 8 consoles and a tonne of games to kick back with.

Where can people get tickets from, and find out more info? Can people get tickets on the day?

IM: Online tickets are available online until June 30th at £5.50 (under 12s go free with a ticket holding grown-up!)

Yes definitely – tickets will be available on the day, at a slightly higher price than online.

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.