Last Saturday I went to the Leeds international one day comic convention called Thought Bubble. It was actually part of a much bigger festival that involved lots of other art forms but Saturday was entirely dedicated to comics (and those things that seem to follow comics around, like Freddy Krugers with bouncy heads).
Leeds was quite a bit smaller than Birmingham in terms of publishers and retailers but there were just as many artists and indie stalls. There were even a couple of stormtroopers.
My mates from Newcastle had a stall (which I had hoped to put the second part of Don’t go into that Barn but it had not arrived in the post before I had to set off) so I checked their stuff first. What strikes me over here is that production values are quite high. There are very few photocopied slapped together sort of things. And even if they are photocopied people tend to find the best they can. Some people told me they had searched for months to find the right public photocopier. Also the indie guys tend to get a stall as a group. So you’ll find a table with the Manchester people, the London people, the Newcastle people etc.
Anyway after a quick little look around I noticed the pro’s corner and went over. There were huge lines around such names as Jock, Alex Maleev, Doug Braithwait and various others. I continued down the line to where I came across a fellow who’s work I had loved and hated as an adolescent reading 2000AD. There was no one in front of his desk so I went up and had a chat to Peter Doherty. You may recall from my Birmingham post that I said Duncan Fregredo was one of the nicest guys in comics, well, so is Peter Doherty. We chatted for a long time and eventually I showed him my portfolio. He pointed out lots of stuff that needed fixing but then said that they were things he needed to work on too. He explained to me a rule of continuity about sticking to one side of a group of people and the importance of good colour. Peter is a great colourist. I then bought a comic from him he did for the Grendel series several years ago. Great artist and an alright story which got better when I did a bit of research on Grendel the other day.
I then went to a seminar about the (artistic) success of comics to movies in Hollywood with Mark Millar, Andy Diggle, Jock and some other guys whose names I forget. The basic conclusion that was drawn was that comic movies are only successful if there is some one in the production team who actually gives a shit. For most people it’s just a job and if they make back their millions that’s all that matters.
Before plucking up my courage to go and talk to Andy Diggle I showed my folio to Fraser Irving, a young artist, mad as a cut snake, hired by Diggle to 2000AD when he, Diggle, was editor. He was great fun and told me that basically your success or non-success really hinges on which editors you present your work to. Fraser insisted that he would not be hired today if he was starting out. I told him about my ideas of approaching the French to which he put on a snooty French accent and said “backgrounds, where are your backgrounds? Stone? That is not stone. I want to feel the stone!” And like Fregredo he said that the money is no good unless you’ve proved yourself.
After some lunch I made my way over to Andy Diggle. He insisted that as a writer he didn’t think he’d be much help but I was asking him as an ex editor. As an ex editor he said 'go for it'. He reckoned that editors look for good story telling and said I had good story telling.
But wait, there’s more. Here’s the thing they all asked me. “Are you staying in the UK?” “No” “Bummer. ‘Cause doing the convention circuit is the only way. Building friendships and showing people your dedication and your year to year improvement.” That’s how Jock got hired by Andy Diggle.
Maybe I need to stay here, brave the grey skies, interminable wet and mold and put that theory to the test. A job in comics or happy sunny life?