Adrian Brown, organizer of the Just1Page charity, sent us a report on the recently concluded Birmingham International Comics Show, complete with a link to an action-packed Flickr set. Sounds like for a debut it was an excellent entry into the always problematic Brit comics scene — and may actually have more of a success than the one-off in Brighton last year.
This was a debut show, originally suggested in the absence of a Brighton Expo this year, and hosted by James Hodgkins and Shane Chebsey, who’d be known to the Brit comics community (such that it is) plus Andy & Paul from the Custard Factory.
The venue is a redeveloped victorian factory which provides a base for various arts projects (Pop Will Eat Itself’s management company used to be based there) and the dance room and exhibition hall provided a smallish venue for a mix of UK small press and professional comics artists – John McCrea, Phil Winslade, Charlie Adlard, Sean Phillips and Duncan Fegredo having their own tables and artists alleys with the likes of Andi Watson, Woodrow Phoenix, Mike Collins, Dave Gibbons, Alan Davis and (i have to say) many more. There was a gallery dedicated to Hunt Emerson and you could find him and Gilbert Shelton there, welcoming and chatting to all comers.
The small press people had some successes, Dave Hitchcock nigh on sold all the self-financed hard cover copies of his excellent Spring Heeled Jack. (Check the Black Boar Press website for updates on how to pick up a copy.) Al Davison & his partner Maggie reported some great sales from their Astral Gypsy stall. Selina Lock and Jay Eales had a steady trade of their Girly Comic and Violent! new issues … women are from which planet ? Talking of which, Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen’s Phonogram did a roaring trade. As did the respective works of wee press faves David Baillie, Douglas Noble and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey. Plus Chad Solomon and Julie Pickering from Canada (& Birmingham) who
provided part of the International set – with their lovely kid’s tale of
Canadian natives: Rabbit & Bear Paws
Some have said that the attendees were the usual comics people, but surely to start an event like this the exhibitors have to see some immediate returns and new folks are hard to get to buy stuff. Having said that, my Just 1 Page sales reached an all-time low, and even free raffle tickets could not entice sales. Anyone wanting 150 copies of J1P please check in at your local asylum. But it was the first shopping day of Xmas. And it rained.
But that’s not to say I had a bad time. I enjoyed this one more than any for quite a while.
Having persuaded Lee Barnett (aka Budgie) of Hypotheticals fame to do a comics quiz with fun rounds along the lines of (British news quiz) “Have I Got News For You?” I may have regretted it when I entered the stage dressed as Robin The Boy Wonder. But that was my own idea, and the quiz went very well.
The writers: Dave Gibbons, Tony Lee and Kieron Gillen (dubbed “the new Grant Morrison” after comedy bald scotsman mix-up) narrowly lost to the artists: Mike Collins, John McCrea and Jamie McKelvie. But not until we’d had McCrea and McKelvie as Lois and Clark, followed by Gillen and Lee as Dennis The Menace and Walter the Softy (UK readers and anyone familiar with the Beano may be surprised to learn that Kieron played Dennis !)
And like many of the events in the 80 seater theatre, hilarity was delivered.
Oh, it’s worth saying that the same theatre also saw the chaotic cardboard destruction derby of the Kochalka Puppet Theatre’s “Monkey vs Robot” enactment. Only these photos can explain that one.
There was also a huge multi-artist jam tribute to Lee Falk’s Phantom, which reaches a 70th anniversary this year.
I foolishly agreed to hold another Just 1 Page 24 Minute Comic (find 25 artists, give them a script and get them to draw for 24 minute) which will appear online at some point but will be sold at the Bristol Expo in May for the charity Childline. I say foolishly but my brilliant idea to base the story on Slade’s All Time British Hit Record “Merry Xmas Everybody” worked like a dream, and many of the above artists participated, plus Sean Azzopardi and Lew Stringer.
Among the other events: Alex Toth’s son delivered a career retrospective of his father; and no doubt Paul Gravett covered the history of British comics in his excellent expansive manner.
The usual hotel exploits were dispersed by the hotel being fifteen minutes walk from the venue, but the bar of choice was Birmingham’s oldest pub, The Crown (c.1368 !) and when that got crammed with Brummie ravers, local man, John McCrea found us The Rainbow – with a reggae DJ – a genuine Brum Cultural event !