Returning for a third successive year to Birmingham, Shane Chebsey and his gang of outstandingly dedicated gang of friends, family and volunteers, once again offered up a two day event with something different happening on both days. Our intrepid reporter Olly MacNamee reports from The International Comics Expo 2016.
The Saturday was a comic-con pure and simple, for the fans, while the Sunday, traditionally now, focussed on how to break into comics with a series of talks and workshops that introduced would be creators to the ins and outs of creating comics hosted by professionals form the industry. For me, the Sunday also gave me the chance to sit back a little bit, relax and catch up with friends old and new.
As well as a long list of guests that included Joe Pruett (Aftershock Comics), Carl Potts (you name it, he’s done it, but for me he will always be associated with Alien Legion), Rob Williams (Suicide Squad), Peter Milligan (Shade The Changing Man) and so many more, once again it was a convention that allowed people to wander down The Studio’s labyrinthian corridors, lifts and stairways in search of their favourite comic book creators.
With the convention split across a number of floors allows fans to move in a manner that meant there were never many queues around even the busiest of creators tables and I found I was able to simply rock up to the likes of Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Gary Kurtz (y’know, he did a little thing called Star Wars back in the day) and John Wagner (I can stop mentioning what people have done now, surely? We are all fans after all, right?).
Obviously, these are MY highlights and nowhere near as varied as I would like to admit, but you can’t be in more than one place at once and so, I had to be meticulously selective with my time. And, apologies to my daughter, who had to spend most of the day being ignored by me as I rushed around trying to sit in on panels and get to particular creators for my own nefarious means. My Cursed Earth hardback wasn’t going to sign itself now was it?
Still, as regretful I was not to have spoken to as many people as I would have liked to, I did okay. Sitting in to listen to the Gary Kurtz headed panel exclusively announcing his new venture, The Chimeran, was a fanboy buzz, but the concept – hybrid animals bred to serve, so to speak – was a winner with the packed room of fans. Well, it does have an excellent pedigree (see what I did there) given the other people involved: primarily Emmy-nominated producer (Lost Treasure Hunt), Richard Bazley, who had the original concept for this pre-apocalyptic story, Paul Goodenough (How To Train Your Dragon) and Simon Furman (Transformers). It was like Hollywood and come to Brum, what with Steven Spielberg being in town too, filming his sci-fi film, Ready Player One. Even the weather gave that allusion too.
Following that was a quick round of catching up and generally taking it all in, floor by floor, creator by creator. And, it’s a testament to Chebsey and his usual bunch of nutcase that, even at my Quicksilver-like speed, I didn’t even scratch the surface of what was on offer throughout the day. If I’m honest, my lapsed Catholic guilt always kicks in when I have a plan of who to see, to say hello to, and to simply jump in front of (which I did just the once when writer Peter Milligan was on his way out the door) but it still fails. Goddamnit!
The Sunday, as I said, was a more relaxing affair. Well, I did leave my daughter at home; after all, she’d met her idol, Charlie Adlard, but don’t tell my other half she’s reading it! I’d be soon turned into simply a Dead, if that was to get out.
Once again, the quality of workshops were Oscar worthy, with Peter Doherty offering masterclass on colouring for comics, Dark Horse editor, Philip Simon, offering advice on how to approach editors and New York Times Best Seller, Tony Lee, giving a seminar on writing for comics; just a taste of the diversity of talks, masterclasses and seminars on offer throughout the day.
It was a busy, packed and fun weekend made all the better for the good company I was able to keep.
Of course, while I write this from the enviable position of ‘press delegate’ (blagging it since 2014) I get to see behind the curtain, so to speak, but I will always feel like a fan gatecrashing the party and a a fan, I once again remind you all, get in there, get involved and say hi to whichever creator is your favourite. I have yet to meet a creator who hasn’t been generous, friendly and appreciative of their fanbase. You don’t have to have a big gob to speak to them. They don’t all bite.
And, I must give a special thanks to Charlie Adlard, Richard Bazley and Rob Williams who were gracious enough to lend a little something each to prizes for my school’s Reading Week on October. Oh, and Paul Goodenough, for his sneak peek at The Chimeran comic too. For your chance to get your own copies, head over to their Facebook page now.