This starts out as a convention review and deviates into ruminations on the creative impulse. You have been warned. Get out, while you still can.
Yesterday I hauled ass to Newcastle for the annual Canny Comic Con - held in the City library. After the mega-event that was Thought Bubble, I have to admit I didn't expect an explosive show out of this one. Boy was I wrong.
With winter raging on, this gig - hosted by the wonderful team of Alex and Stacey Whittle - was a genuinely warm surprise. This was a free event. This was a small event. But this was by no means a 'cheap' event, or one of limited quality. There was an authentic joy about the days proceedings. It all seemed...well, effortless. At least, that's how it appeared. A lot of hard work went into making it so relaxed and friendly. To Alex and Stacey, as well as all the staff who volunteered, you have my highest recommendation.
Happiest point-of-view: Coffee, Comics & Copics.
Let's put this straight up front. This was my first solo show. Previously I had hitched a ride on the Accent UK circus-train. They are the best. All my con experiences with them have been astounding (and freeing, as I was able to dementedly flit, bat-like, around the other stalls). Although I was primarily there to sell the company's book, at Canny Comic Con I was on my own.
I. Freaking. Loved. It.
This was a great deal to do with having such talented and supportive table-buddies like Tom Boyle, Gary Bainbridge, Andrew Waugh, the ever genial (and forever smiling) Daniel Clifford (seriously, the guy's teeth are perfect) beside me.
Manning a table alone is HARD WORK. You don't get to coast. You can't wander off to stare at other people's comics (at least, not for the most part). You are there to meet the people you do all this for: comic book readers. Although I've been writing comics for a while, it wasn't until the last couple of years that I felt it was time to actively sell my material to others. This was partly to do with self-confidence (first attempts were, and should be, pretty embarrassing for creators who seek to develop) and partly to do with fear. I can't express accurately how energizing it is to have others lay down money to read your work.
Despite refusing to get my hopes up, the copies of Thaddeus Mist I brought sold out! Thanks must go to the last-minute-purchase gentleman for my clean slate. People seemed to really dig the book, many commenting on the design by Danielle Horton. My favorite response seems to come from Northern folk: "It's like a proper book, isn't it?"
I also secretly loved sketching the Turtles, Ben 10 and Dennis The Menace for the young ones. There were loads of them! Many of them weren't old enough for our book, but it's really encouraging to see children at shows like this. They are the ones that are going to be buying the best-selling comics of the future (with jetpacks!) after all, so best to get on their good side.
In the family.
Brilliant chats were had with Al Ewing and Bryan Talbot, both of whom offered sage advice.
One of the highlights, however, for me (and this is totally unrelated to comics) was meeting a real-life Thaddeus Mist - Dr. Charles Davis: international adventurer and gin sampler (as his facebook page will attest) - the nom de plume of reenactment agent Andy Davis. Shortly after the show he left his condolences for the death of a fellow eccentric. He was a joy to wax lyrical about reenactment (the trick, with the Victorian's is to wedge one's tongue firmly in one's cheek), fiction and the British Empire (a topic synonymous -at least in my head - with my grandfather, who traveled in search of Bengal tigers at a young age). As I type that sentence and think on that meeting it appears to perfectly symbolize what making Thaddeus (and writing for me in general) is about; that weird blurring of the lines between fact and fiction - what we live and what we choose to create.
Dr. Charles Davis: International Adventurer & Gin Sampler
Without getting all soft and cuddly about it (I'm a sickeningly sentimental blogger at the best of times) I believe art and writing are the only forms of practical magic currently available us - beyond the realms of scientific discovery. Meeting a flesh and blood character called Charles Davis, whom I am convinced would have sat down for opium and biscuits with a character I created, gives me a strange shiver of delight. The wall between our two worlds is only so thin...
I haven't even had time to write about the utter genius that was Thought Bubble (more in my end of year round-up) before another convention comes along!
I'll be a guest at the Canny Comic Con in Newcastle tomorrow - Saturday 8th December - it's my first show with a table, so I'm pretty jazzed for it. Much thanks to the ever-welcoming Stacey Whittle and Alex for letting me join the party.
Canny Comic Con Cuttlefish
The Canny Comic Con is a free event held at the Newcastle City Library, and seems to be an affair for the whole family. Hope to see some familiar faces there!
Wow, that was really something. Been out of the game a while on this blogging post for various reasons, one of which being that the last two months have been hoovered by finally finishing 'Who On Earth Was Thaddeus Mist?' for Accent UK. I did my first big piece of press for the book over at the Forbidden Planet blog
"Eminently literate...irresistible adventure, magic, and a touch of horror" - Burnt Wieners
"A book that soars above any comparable British anthology" - P.M. Buchan, Starburst
"Atmospheric" - Steve Yeowell (Zenith, The Invisibles)
When I started up this (not entirely sane) venture two years ago it was summer-time in Oxford. Now, down the line, it's winter in the North of England. It's been an amazing (if stressful at times) journey, and all that remains is to send this baby out into the world and have people read it, and hopefully enjoy it. This may happen at some events that I'm planning but for now Thaddeus's public life begins at Thought Bubble sequential art festival next week! I'm beyond hyped for this show. It's arguably the biggest con in the UK, and a great place to showcase new work. I have some fun and possibly dangerous things planned (not strictly comics related), so do hunt out the Thaddeus action this weekend.
It's also a wonderful excuse to spend time with some of the outstanding creators, writers, artists, journalists and friends that I've had the joy of meeting in the last couple of years since I started out in the comics business. I'm excited to meet new faces as well, so if you're planning on attending Thought Bubble, I'll be manning the Accent UK stall at Table 50 of the New Docks Hall for both days. Conventions invariably consist of running around like a maniac to cram in everything you absolutely MUST do, but I'm always just so buzzed to be at a convention (this may have something to do with the coffee I'll be slugging from a cup the size of a bathtub), I'll always chat so please make yourself known, even if it's in the bar afterwards. Especially if it's in the bar afterwards.
And then that will be it! 'Who On Earth Was Thaddeus Mist?' will be where it should be: in the hands and heads of its readers. My relationship with it will be over.
Leaving me to press on with some new creator-owned material...some of which I will be shopping around the convention for advice and abuse from my peers.
Got some fireworks in the shed for next year, primarily a new piece of filth with my buddy with INDIO as well as putting to bed the first chapter of my most personal comic; Reel Love. Here's a taste.
It's been a long, wonderful road. The funeral for Thaddeus Mist arrives at Thought Bubble in Leeds for the arts festival on the 17th-18th of November. We're just putting the finishing touches to the book, and it is looking utterly gorgeous. Also, the first volleys of serious publicity are getting under-way, beginning with the quarter page ad (above) that will run in the premier issue of Offlife Comic - a free (and brilliant) sequential comic anthology due to drop in comic stores, arts cafes and other hip emporiums in the next week or so.
As anyone involved in making their own comics knows, the most important thing (after getting the stuff finished) is ensuring your book is on the radar, in the hands, on the brain, of THE WORLD!! It takes a lot of time, effort and energy to do this but it's worth it for those supporters who turn up at signings, order the books, and talk about the work. Long and short of it, conventions are a banging excuse to make new friends and catch up with old ones!
Towards the end of this month the Accent UK crew and myself will be mailing PDF copies to contributors for a final proof-read, followed by our friends at podcasts, blogs and press in the UK and abroad, near and far! If you are such an individual get in touch with us and we'll hook ya right up.
My October is to be devoured by the final push but I'm ridiculously excited to hit Leeds and finally bury this sucker!
On Saturday August 18th all the hard work of the last four months paid off when Megacon Carlisle lifted off the ground. I was one of three organizers for the event (bookseller Levi McGinchley and events wunderkid Graham Barke were representatives for Waterstones, who hosted the event in association with Diamond).
Held at the Richard Rose Academy in the centre of border city Carlisle, it was our intention to unite the various tribes of popular culture fans for one event. This was without doubt the biggest thing I've ever put together, but after supportive friends had encouraged to 'just do it', I found the experience exhilarating. I will be writing more extensively about Megacon Carlisle with ComicBooked but this is my personal blog, so you'll be getting my personal response.
We made a few mistakes which I'm sure will be rectified for next year but I believe - on the whole - myself, Graham and Levi did a good thing, both for ourselves and the area. From the reports I'm gathering, a lot of people had a great day.
Highlights for me included moderating a panel starring artist Sean Phillips (Fatale, Incognito, Marvel Zombies), former 2000AD editor Andy Diggle (The Losers, Daredevil, Green Arrow: Year One), and Jim Alexander (Gabriel, Birds of Prey, Amongst The Stars). These were our headlining guests so it was incredibly nerve-wracking to step up to the plate and try and get them to open up and divulge some industry secrets. It really was an honor.
I also got to catch up with Stacy Whittle (SFX, Into the Woods anthology) to record an interview for her podcast which I greatly enjoy. Due to having so much to organize I didn't get to catch up with everyone I wanted to but those creators who I admire as professionals and friends proved a joy in the moments I got to chat with them - writer/illustrator Mal Earl; Sha and John from Black Hearted Press; Colin Bell, who's currently working on the brilliant Detective Space-Cat; my friend and colorist Matt Soffe and a hundred and one other amazing comics professionals who I'm sure will be furious I've forgotten as I type this.
As a side-note, you can always rely on cosplayers and for their dedication and energy at any convention.
My favourite part of the whole day was seeing my friends from Disconnected Press and Accent UK. Novellist and 'Thaddeus Mist' contributor Max Deacon and Disconnected's Conor Boyle (who is also my collaborator on Thaddeus) joined Colin Mathieson, Dave West and myself for the Accent UK panel.
Having previously felt the comic-book pulse of Carlisle I knew there were some wannabe creators out there (some of them still in school!) and so we tweaked our discussion to how to create for yourself and begin down this beautiful but treacherous road that is making comics. Having so many turn up to this panel, consisting of my favourite writers and artists, was humbling, and it remains the highlight of my comic career so far.
We also gave out some Megacon exclusive Thaddeus Mist prints designed by Mal Earl for those cheap bastards that just wanted free shit! I jest!
At which point Accent UK sped off to sell lots of books and Conor sketched until the sun was going down. After the convention a few of us his The Circle bar to talk comics and argue about whether Raiders is better than Temple (Max: Temple, everyone else: Raiders).
Lizzie and Conor Boyle are true heroes of mine, and they give me hope that this industry is not the poisonous snake-pit some have reported, but an arena for craftsmen and artists, who work hard and play hard (I'm billing them both for paracetamol in the wake of my hang-over). In short, good people who make comics all day.
I personally want to thank every single person who made Megacon Carlisle possible, from the biggest artist to the dude who drove the Yu-Gi-Oh bus; students like Conor's superhero gang who helped lug stock and attend Richard Rose, to Tommy at the Imagination Station comic store on Bank Street for publicizing the event months before without ever seeing reward. From me, thank you all.
I wasn't getting paid a penny for my work by Waterstone's, but financial reward (perhaps foolishly) wasn't my main motivator for staging Megacon Carlisle. Comics kept me alive when I was a teenager living in a village just outside Carlisle. Thanks to the support and allowance granted by my parents I would make weekend pilgrimages from my cottage in Kirkoswald to the not-so-bright lights of the city to pick up my weekly stash of comics from Imagination Station. These first formative experiences are chronicled in my article 'Welcome To Planet Nerd' which can be found at Tales From The Parent's Basement
It was on these train rides to my comic book treasure that I would find chance encounters with other comics fans like Ian (who I was delighted to bump into at Megacon after literally ten years had passed!). We would debate about how Batman was going to order the chaos of No Man's Land; how Ultimate Spider-Man was, like, our generation's Spider-Man!; how much we just heart-breakingly, passionately loved comics. Cumbria, for those who don't know, is an incredibly rural area; villages miles apart, attractions scarce. It was 10-minute conversations with other kids about movies, music, comics, EVERYTHING that made school more bareable, self-harm more preposterous, life less painful, as if someone had taken to printing multicolored dots all over it and plastered it with ten foot high letters so that each bully-punch came with a KA-POW and each chance encounter with that girl you kinda-sorta fancied at school was laced with Poison Ivy pheromone.
That's why I organized Megacon. To make other young kids (and they made the convention for me) feel like they weren't alone and that they should have a comic collection if they need one.
Risking life and landslide, I decided to haul ass to Glasgow last weekend for the Glasgow Comic Con. A relatively small con in its second year, the event was hosted by the boys from Black-Hearted Press in the Mackintosh Church on the outskirts of the city.
I lost an hour or so in Hope Street Studios, but when I returned Jim Starlin was signing, and the gentleman happily chatted and signed issues of 'Death In The Family' that I remember hiding for fear my mother would spy the battered carcass of Jason Todd, skin and circus colors in ribbons, and ban me from reading them. When I look back at that artwork, dated by fashion and yellowed with time, what I remember is the intensity of the reading experience.
Highlights also included discussing the thyroid problems of Grant Morrison's cat (with the man himself) and getting an informal portfolio session with Eddie Deighton from Com.X. Eddie gave some great advice on what I was doing right in my art but - more importantly - what I was doing wrong, and I managed to pick up some of their output (Seeds and BlueSpear). So far I've only read Seeds by Ross Mackintosh, but it impressed me, concerning itself with tackling a potentially overwhelming grief with good humor and domestic ritual (look out for the recurring hand-soap motif). All in all, quite hypnotic.
Unfortunately I missed people I wanted to catch up with (Colin Bell of the wonderful Jonbot vs. Martha and Detective SpaceCat - who I'm happy to report did a sterling trade) and Jim Alexander, due to lanyard malfunction and scheduling duels. But hopefully that can be rectified at future conventions. Glasgow is an exciting place to be right now if you're a comic creator, and if I have to develop a functional Boom tube, I will be in attendance next year.
Thanks to John and the rest of the team at Blackhearted Press for a great time.
I've neglected you, dear blog, for far too long. Spinning plates like a crazy-person but until I get chance to give you much needed attention, a quick scan from Reel Love, work-in-progress/labor of love/fool's errand of the moment.
This is really a plug for my good pals at Accent UK. Editors will be arriving in New York next weekend to show off the goods at Mocca (Museum of Cartoon and Comic Art, for those not in the loop).
I believe their new title 'WesterNoir' is being printed in time for the event. I've seen it and I can attest that it's pretty freakin' excellent.
This will also be the only convention the higher ups at Accent UK will be attending this year, therefore the only chance US fans can get a glimpse of the mega-graphic novel 'Who On Earth Was Thaddeus Mist?' before proof and review copies are sent out prior to release.
Dave West himself it taking some samples and previews to the event so if you ask him nicely - and perform the secret hand-shake - I'm sure he will welcome you into a smoky gentleman's club and unveil some of the mysteries...
...or get him really drunk and he'll probably tell you how the whole thing ends, and sing a Bowie Station to Station track until you both get thrown out!
So, I started writing and drawing a new comic book.
This one kinda came out of nowhere. I had been having idea-sketches happen for a while with these characters but had no clue my brain would force me to work on it so soon. I don't want to tell too much because I'm not sure there's much to tell yet, I'm not sure what it wants to be (I work that way) or how long. I'm not sure whether I'll self-publish or look for someone to put it out. It's a really personal story with ten foot witches and ray-guns. Absolutely all of it is true.
It also has a tentative title, but knowing me (I decide pretty quickly and stick with it) that is going to be the final title; Reel Love. It's about having a relationship with the entity of cinema, as told from the point of view of the art-form. It's got people I've known and people I want to know.
I've been working on it purely for fun, as a sort of experiment, and for some reason those always turn out to be projects I rate most highly. A lot of my time is taken up making sure Thaddeus Mist happens, but I've managed about ten pages of this in downtime before working on new scripts. Writing and drawing together, it's a much more intangible and rewarding process than I was expecting.
Zombies 2 (featuring 'Fever Dreams' by myself) is now available to pre-order through your March Previews catalogue. Get your candy ass into your local comic store and order one, pronto. Indie comics do not survive without people like YOU laying down the benjamins. We appreciate it more than you will ever know.
The artist team on 'Who On Earth Was Thaddeus Mist?' have been working hard to bring the whole thing alive in recent months (and a comic book is never really alive until an artist magics them out of thin air with just paper and ink). I thought I'd take this opportunity to share how excited I am. Every single one is knocking it out of the park.
Thaddeus Mist by M.D.Penman
Over at his blog, the brilliant Grant Perkins has done a marvellous pin-up for the book. http://thegrantperkins.blogspot.com/2012/03/grey-britain.html
I believe the plan is to release a smaller volume of pin-ups, process notes, and other juicy material to coincide with the release of the main graphic novel. There were so many great artists and friends that for whatever reason (scheduling, length etc.) couldn't make it into 'Thaddeus Mist' so it would be great to still have their work feature in some way.
Also over at Rhys L Reed's blog you can see the thumbnails for his contribution to the comic. Find those here: http://applejackandreed.blogspot.com/
Rhys I met at Thought Bubble last year and knew right away that he'd be great for this. His art is just amazing and gives a texture and whimsy that the book was lacking before he jumped onboard.
Finally, Conor Boyle gives us Thaddeus Mist...
Conor is the main artist on Thaddeus Mist (our narrative frames the other stories - almost like flashbacks). It's been a true joy working with Conor, and so far I've been humbled by his work-ethic. Everything I've thrown at him art-wise he has embraced, and even brought more to the table than I'd imagined, making suggestions and making even a hack and a pretender like me look much, much better than I am. On top of this, Conor's stepped in to oversee the art direction on the book, in order to make sure the transitions and stories mesh together correctly (no easy task when there are so many artists involved in telling one continuous story). Follow the dude on twitter (@pencilmonkey), read his blog, generally worship at his feet. He is a damn fine artist.
Thaddeus Mist features in issue 374 of Starburst magazine (The Walking Dead cover) and there will be some attention given to Accent UK books in an upcoming issue of Comic Heroes, thanks to Rob Power. Comic Heroes is a great magazine I've been reading for a while so it would be nice to have Thaddeus Mist feature in there at some point in the future.
We're still shooting for a tentative release at the end of summer (but with comics, I've learnt, many things can and will go wrong. In short, don't hold ya breath, folks! If the Mayans are right we'll all be toast before this baby hits the racks!)
It has been way too long since my last blog post. So now's a good a time as any.
I skipped over to Prague in February. Having worked on 'Who On Earth Was Thaddeus Mist?' for a good few months it was time to take a break.
Prague has a lot of history, and it was a thrill to get to know it a little. There is a great cafe/bookshop called The Globe that does the best coffee and apple strudel I've ever had. If it were not frowned upon by nutritionists I would do this 24 hours a day. Without even stopping.
We went to the National Theatre to see a Czech play (yes, it was a magnificent building - no, I didn't understand what the actors were saying), tried to find the landmarks mentioned in my favourite book: Michael Chabon's 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay', took pictures, and generally tried to blend in (not easy when your pronunciation of Czech sounds like you're coughing up a particularly troublesome furball). Being a fan of Mike Mignola, witches and general spookiness, I got a huge kick out of the Charles Bridge...
...and the Old Synagogue, in the rafters of which the famous Rabbi Loew is rumoured to have hidden the Golem, monstrous and enchanted figure built of clay taken from the banks of the river Moldau..
...but the Nazis were evidently shit at looking, because in every tourist cavern my girlfriend found a million of the little devils in the form of adorable keychains, notepads and other delightful novelty items.
Prague's a great friendly city, and I left completely inspired.
I've been working full-tilt through December and January to secure artists for the Accent UK project 'Who On Earth Was Thaddeus Mist?' It has been a crazy, challenging but ultimately rewarding experience (at least on the writing side, there's still so much to do!) When I cranked out those final words on the script I emerged feeling like The Thing - it's taken a while to come back to the real world.
For a full low-down on the project, there is a lovely press release from Dave West on the Accent UK blog. http://www.accentukcomics.blogspot.com/
The book, in my hands and trying to weave all the threads together, has become a kind of Gothic novel - more intense and intricate than I had originally anticipated. It includes all the Victorian flavours that my fellow mad scientists have brought to the table; gentlemen's clubs, and lavish balls, and (as any Victorian drama must contain) diabolical secrets hidden in the family! I'm genuinely having a blast, as exhausting as I'm finding the organization. I am completely proud of it :)
It's been super-awesome working collaboratively (something I always get a kick out of) and I've added a ton of these co-conspirators into my links. Check them out they're truly talented folks, and they taught me a LOT about storytelling, and making comics, and working on something with a team rather than a duo.
In other news, 'My Maker & I' (delayed until this coming year) is the book Burnt Weiners most look forward to in 2012!! (see link right). Their show is great - you can never have enough dick jokes...or can you? - they clearly have fun and I almost snorted my cereal hoops across my monitor a couple times. I'm honored the book got a mention with them, it means a lot.
Taking some time out the next few days to recharge, then jumping back into something new.
But first, I am totally dying to watch the new Muppet's movie. Two words...fart shoes.