Saturday, October 18, 2008

Birmingham comic expo

On the 4th of Oct I went down to Birmingham for its comic expo experience. I got up at 5am to catch a train in Newcastle which would get me there at 11. Not an excellent start to the day which didn’t help seeing as I was recalling my experience at Bristol. Bristol wasn’t a bad experience but I had been overwhelmed and hadn’t taken the criticism I’d received very well.
I spent the train trip doing sumdokus and talking to a male prostitute who hated working out. Apon arrival the usual British weather welcomed me and I cursed myself for having forgotten to bring a hat and coat. Once at the venue (which was held at a place called ‘Think Tank’ and was a sort of science museum/ cinema/events complex) though I was happy that I didn’t have to cart a coat around as well as all the comics I picked up.
Immediately the difference between the Bristol expo and the Birmingham expo were apparent. Most notablely the lack of stormtroopers, the more intermate space and far less people. Birmingham’s expo is only a couple of years old but it has had really good write ups and has been getting bigger each year. It’d be a shame if it got too popular and became like Bristol but that’s the price of success, I guess.
As I walked around I saw many of the same small press stalls that were in Bristol. There’s a lot of talent here but as always the production values varied wildly. If only people could count on sales and put more money into their production. In the end though it’s the quality of the art and story not how flashy it looks.
I started to wonder what I was going to do with my self for 6 hours when over the loud speaker came an announcement for all those who wanted to get their work critted in front of an audience. Get slammed in front of a bunch of people I don’t know? Why the hell not? Sadly I was second last in the queue and missed out but I managed to corner Gary Leach afterwards. He gave me a good old thrashing but I was prepared this time.
Colin Wilson had told me last year that when presenting work to editors and pros to only show your most recent work and to not make excuses. I put this into practice at Bristol but wasn’t really ready then.
Gary was very thorough and basically said I shouldn’t be making the mistakes I’m making so I felt pretty good about that.
During the crit session a familiar face from way back when in the late 90s appeared. When Impact Record was still the best shop in the world. James Pearson, one of the guys from the comic desk, got up to have his work critted. I found him afterwards and found out that he mainly wants to be a writer and is actually doing quite well. He’s living in Brighton now and laments the loss of one of Canberra’s finest institutions.
After all that I was feeling much invigorated and went and showed my stuff to Duncan Fregredo. There is not a nicer man than Mr Fregredo. He basically said all the same things as Gary Leach but chatted on in such a pleasant way about anything and everything. He was sitting next to Sean Philips who has some nice things to say too.
Duncan was then nice enough to give me a little scribble of Hellboy. Great guy.
After lunch and a bag full of comics I went to see a debate about which was the greatest comic ever made. Watchmen, The dark knight returns, Liaka, From Hell, Cerebus: High society, Akira, Alice in Sunderland, Batman year 1, Maus and many others were pitted against each other by various comic creators. The comics were paired up, two creators discussed their pros and then the audience voted (with little thingies we had attached to our seats) and one comic was knocked out. Despite Frank Miller being called “batshit crazy and Akira being the first comic to truly bring anime to the west Watchmen still won. I believe mainly because it is in the public eye at the moment. It is a fantastic comic but it has dated a bit and the art isn’t as good as it could be. (If Dave Gibbons had done it when he was doing Rogue Trooper it would have been fantastic.)
Finally I went and got my portfolio reviewed by Mark Chiarello, art director for DC. He immediately asked who my influences were, told me that they came through in my work and that it was a relief to not hear the names Jim Lee, Todd Mcfarlane or names to that effect (I can’t remember who he said). He was suitably impressed and said if I sent him my website address he’d pass it onto the guys at Vertigo. He told me not to expect anything and I don’t but never the less it was great to have the compliment.
A great experience all in all and a crying shame that Australia can’t keep it’s local talent to make such great shows at home. Mark said that he had been invited to go to Armageddon (or Supernova. He couldn’t remember which) but said that the distance was too far to travel. And that’s the problem. How can we expect to invite pros over for a weekend and have them not dizzy from jet lag. We’ve got to build ourselves up and let the public know that Australia has a fine body of creators. Keep going Arvi and everyone else keep Doujicon alive.


M.Emery said...

hey enjoying your posts, especially like how brutally frank you are with your experiences, i imagine some people would gloss over things a bit. anyway hope its all going well!

The said...

A nice read, Mr. Bonin. It takes guts to be critted like that. Good luck with Vertigo, mate. That just may work out yet.

Bobby.N said...

This latest con sounded much more productive (& enjoyable) than your Bristol outing. The creators who you spoke to sounded like an invaluable experience for you Tom. Good stuff.

Yes, it is a shame we can't get the bigger names over here in Oz... but who knows what the future will bring.

I'm half-way through reading 'Watchmen' myself, and though I'd put it off for quite a while (just because the stubborn side of me resisted all the fanfare surrounding it.) - I must admit that Moore & Gibbons have put together an amazing, mature & complex story. It's apparent (even in the first chapter) to see how far removed Alan Moore is to the homogenized writing style of most other comics... and thank goodness. And, Im surprised how much I actually adore Gibbons' cartooning (As well as the colouring in the book... go figure?). He's really great, and I'll be sure to keep an eye out for the 'rogue trooper' stuff he did. If it's half as good as the art of Watchmen, then it should be fantastic.

Keep doing the work Tom, talking to people and completing your comics. It sounds like your doing all the right things. Most people don't put in the focus & effort that you're putting in - and invariably come up short in the rewards they expect of the medium (and in your case 'industry'), so keep hitting that gong.



Tom Bonin said...

Cheers guys.
I always want to tell my experiences a frankly as possible. If I can't be honest on this then I'm not going to be honest with myself.