Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Belfast MCM.

Just back from another fabulous Con in Belfast.
This is a Con we never expect to make money on, the cost of flight and lodgings etc always mean we'd have to sell more books than we can possibly get into our 23kg luggage allowance, but we have such a good time it's always a Con we try to get to.
This year we nearly missed it as our friends, Steve Tanner and Paul Birch were organising a Con in Birmingham, but that fell through and we jumped at the chance to go back.
Arriving early Friday morning we took our time getting to the venue, spending the morning in the city, made easier by Colin's decision to hire a car this year.
We've got setting up the table down to a fine art, made even easier due to the reduced stock and lack of banners and other props. Gary Erskine was there already and had already planned out the weekend, which saw us that night sitting in a pub with a troop of 2000AD fans, most of whom were also involved in a Cosplay group (dressing up as Star Wars characters in the main I think). I know I'm getting old when I struggle to hear what is being said to me due to the noise... errr ... sorry .. music, but I was amazed to find many of the group were IT professionals and of a similar age.
A very enjoyable night that ended up with us chatting with Glenn Fabry and offering to chauffeur him to and from the event over the weekend. It's strange when you meet someone whose work you have admired over the years. You worry that you won't like him and that that would somehow make you see his work differently from then on. This was not the case with Glenn though, he's a really nice bloke and fun to be with.
Hopefully this is some kind of salute, acknowledging
quality and not them showing us where the door is.
Saturday saw good sales, and by mid day I'd sold out of all the copies of the WesterNoir Trades that I've taken. They are quite big books and I had to balance numbers of these with the other comics, a copy of the trade taking up the same weight as 5 other books.
This didn't trouble a number of people though as they still bought copies of issues 5, 6 and 7, saying that they'd order the trade through the post.
Colin would often wander off, I spotted him at one point
chatting to Gary Erskine at the other end of the
Comic Village.

Saturday night we caught up with Gary Erskine and Jenika Ioffreda for tea and chat, which is becoming a bit of a nice habit.
Sunday morning it was great to see a few customers who bought the trade on the Saturday rush over to the stall on Sunday to get the rest. We had one of our busiest Sunday mornings ever I think.
Meow.
Sunday was as busy as Saturday and it felt to me that the whole event had a better attendance and more energy than last year's.
I caught Moon artist Steve Penfold admiring his own work....
All in all we had a great time.

Colin hadn't noticed his passenger...
Monday morning, following the fire alarm going off twice in the Premier Inn, was a slow start but we made it into the city again to find the Ulster Museum closed and The MAC art gallery changing all of its exhibits, so we went shopping and tracked down The Comic Guys great new store.

Yep, a really nice weekend. We'll be back.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

New WesterNoir art cards.

We've produced (well, Gary Crutchley did all the hard work) four sketch cards, from the covers of 3 issues already in print and one yet to be published, and it's not Issue 8.
Here's the first.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

MCM London... lots to think about.

It was another busy weekend for Independent Comic creators across the land as they descended on London for the first of this year's London MCM events.

We were fortunate to get two tables, as we have too much stock to squeeze onto one, and as always I was stunned by the quality of work on offer to those people who would wander through the Comic Village, whether it be on a mission to get to a particular publisher / creator or wondering what on earth the Comic Village was all about.

For us the MCM events are where we shift most of our comics these days. Diamond Distribution are proving more and more difficult to navigate and it's almost impossible dealing with stores direct, apart from those in your local area.

There has actually been a lot of talk on the web at the moment about events, and MCM events in particular. Jon Lock over at Afterlife-inc.com and Joe Glass over at Bleedingcool.com both talk about the diminishing market that we are experiencing.

Yep, making your own comics is tough.
Getting them into people's hands is even tougher.

We have also experienced a dip in sales this year. Last year for us was our best ever, by some way, and this year we are back to 2015 figures.

Why is this ?
Is it a slump due to the uncertain times we live in ?
Is it due to the large areas of space that effected footfall flow over the three days ?
Is it because some Independent publishers had too many tables ?
Modok probably knows the answer,
but isn't telling.
We had decent sales over the weekend. We expected to do about two thirds of last year and that is pretty much how we did.
The MCM events are not like Thought Bubble. At Thought Bubble it's all about returning customers. People who turn up every year and know what they want to pick up.
MCM we've found is always about new customers. Sure we get those who return, and sometimes in a happily large number, but this is very patchy and unpredictable. I don't think many, if any, of the people who go to the MCM events are pure comic fans. A good percentage are interested of course, but most are there for the spectacle and to spend money on 'stuff', whether that's comics, t-shirts or a signature from their favourite member of Firefly (yep ... she was there).

So, all the potential customers are people who are wandering through the Comic Village looking to pick up something that catches their eye, peaks their interest.

To me it's a matter of your product and simple mathematics.

  • If your books don't interest them then they won't buy them.
  • The more competition there is the less of your books you'll sell.
  • The more competition there is the more these potential new customers will be spent up by the time they reach you.

What annoyed me more than anything this year was the lack of ethics of some of the other publishers. I walked past one publisher (who had a good number of stalls) to be told that the writer was better than Alan Moore ... I was told (when asked what comics I read) that there was WesterNoir in their books. Basically they were lying. Telling you what they needed you to hear, so that if you weren't that knowledgeable about comics in general you;d be convinced that this was what you were looking for. Whatever it was you were looking for. And from the count of comics sold, they were pretty successful at it.

The bottom line is that the more books these guys sold, the less money the customers had for any other books.

Steve Tanner, of TimeBomb comics, sold boxes of his new Flintlock books because he's hit on something that appeals to the people who wander past his stall. He doesn't have to pretend his writing is better than Alan Moore. The characters and the artwork, and what Steve says about them, are sufficient.
Unlike the aforementioned publisher, Steve can be honest because his books are good enough to interest people on their own merit.

The Minion was impressed by the Independent Publisher who seemed to
have studied the Trump rule book... and refused to talk to me...
I got a photo with him anyway.
Jon Lock in his article (link above) talks about the price being a possible driving force. He suggests we all get together and agree a standard price. Sorry Jon, that's probably illegal as we live in a free market and competition is what it's all about. That said, our books are typically cheaper than Steve's but he probably sold more of his over the weekend than we did of ours.
Not because of the price, but because his concept / product is more attractive to the MCM customer.

As to Fan Art ... I'm not a big fan (excuse the pun). It's also something that is illegal as the people producing it have not paid the owning company for the right to do so. I'm fine with artists selling their own paintings of elves and werewolves, but Wolverine ? Sorry. That's illegal. There's always a danger than one day Disney will turn up and shut the whole show down due to copyright infringement. Hopefully they'd do it in an imaginative way though ... get someone Cosplaying Kingpin to bring the Desist papers.

So, I think a good Comic Village will be one where :

  • There's a healthy mix of genres of independent comics.
  • Publishers / creators are honest.
  • There's a healthy proportion of comics /  artists selling their own work.
  • There is no Fan art.
  • There's a good number of artists drawing portraits 
  • The prices vary as much as the publishers want them to.

The customers will then decide what they want to buy and will do so.
I used to love watching Monkey as a kid,
he's aged really well I think ...
I guess immortality does that for you.

The Banner Story.

We've been noticing of late, mostly at the MCM events, that the people who pass our stall think that we're a publishing house, and don't realise until we get into conversation with them, that
Colin and I are actually creators too.
We need, we realised, to re-establish our own names within the Accent UK brand and help bring out the fact that we've written almost all of the comics on the table, and drawn some of them too.
So, what better way of doing this then to retire some of our banners and produce some new ones that highlight this fact.
I turned to Andy Bloor of course to help me pull mine together.
What to put on it though ?
I wanted Stephenson's Robot, Josiah Black, Jigsaw Girl, something from Strange Times ... hmmm ... that should do it.
I routed through my comic files and sent samples off to Andy for him to work his magic on.
Sorting out suitable images ... images that showed enough .. images where the character wasn't cut in two by a panel or some other character ... not easy. I had to use Gary Crutchley's Jigsaw Girl for example as I couldn't find one by INDIO! that fitted what I had in mind.
It looked pretty good, but Andy had dropped the Samuel Close image that I'd sent him, in his time travelling bubble...
Andy thought it too distracting and I found that I had to agree.
I also asked Andy if he could make Kingdom's smoke fade into The Leyton Angel's wing, which might look nice.
What Andy did though was to fill the space with Eddie Doyle, which seemed only appropriate as it was the comic with him in it that won the Eagle Award.
I like this one a lot, so I sent it to Colin and Gary for feedback.
Gary, rightly, pointed out that saying I was 'Artist' implied that I'd drawn all of the images on the banner, not that he had a problem with it himself. Whilst I'd love that to be the case I didn't want to mislead anyone, and more importantly I didn't want to face people asking me to draw Kingdom (Stephenson's Robot) just like on the banner.
I decided it would be best to change it.
Also, I was concerned that my name, being half way down the banner, would be obstructed by people standing behind the table, and so asked Andy to move it to the top.
The result still has me smiling.
I love it.
Thanks Andy.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Stephenson's Robot Issue 4 is nearing completion.

Yep, it's true.
And here's the cover just to give you a hint at the events it'll contain inside...
..oh yes.

Accent UK got two pages in Comic Heroes.

This month's copy of the Comic Heroes magazine has an article where Miles Hamer interviews me across two pages in the Indie Spotlight section.
It's great that magazines on the shelves of stores like WHSmiths dedicate pages to show your average shopper that there's much more going on in the world of comic books than the 20 Avengers or Justice League books every month.
I do feel that the market is changing.
I confess that I was once a Marvel Zombie, well more specifically an X-Men Zombie, Spending my entire comic budget on the ever increasing line of X-Men related books every month. As I've always been employed I was able to increase my budget a little to accept the odd crossover event, but one day I realised that actually they actually weren't very good. There were a few gems at the time, Bill Sienkiewicz's run on New Mutants for example, but a lot of them were actually very similar and the stories overblown in what felt like an excuse to bring in as many characters as possible, to get me to buy more comics than I wanted.
One day I just stopped.
I picked up Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller), Marvels (Alex Ross), Weapon X (Barry Windsor Smiths's version) and Elekra Assassin (Mr's Miller and Sienkiewicz again).
I actually enjoyed them. Cover to cover.
I read that Marvel sales are slipping whilst Image sales are up on a lot of their books, Saga being a great example.
I think the days of dedicated fans are over,
I think the big two killed them off by greedily trying to drag more an more of their money out of them, throwing out that weren't very good, quantity over quality.
I'm old enough to remember when there was one X-Men book. I don't have the time or the inclination to count the number out these days.
I get my Marvel fix from the thoroughly enjoyable movies,
I'm sure I'll pick up a Marvel and DC book now and then, but it'll be because they've had great reviews or are recommended by someone, not because Wolverine is in it.
So, rant over, it's great to get at least our name out there in a magazine like this.
Distribution is a challenge but we're trying to crack that by doing as many shows as we can across the country.

Kinder Egg Surprise.

Well I got tempted to pick up one of the Justice League special Kinder Eggs last week, and true to the advertising I was surprised...
... to see that for some reason the Wonder Woman toy (I didn't get her, I got The Flash) has been given a beard. Very strange, Superman has managed not to get a beard.

Then my mind started working overtime and I pictured a Freak Show Travelling Carnival version of the Justice League where Wonder Woman was The Bearded Wonder, Superman was The Strongman and Batman was... The Batman of course.
This must have been done already.
Surely...

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Comments on Strange Times Book 2.

I just received these words from Michael Lindal Andersen, who asked where book 2 of Strange Times was every time we visited the Copenhagen Comics event... This year his 6 year wait was over...

I just finished Strange Times a few days ago. Only took about six years. Anyhoo. I really like the kind of science fiction that it represents. The more cerebral kind, where science doesn’t equal magic. I think you pulled it all together quite nicely at the end – avoiding the big action-y showdown, where everybody fights and stuff explodes. Even though one of the characters tries to form a superhero team. That made me smile. It means you are better than Mark Millar, who ends all his stories (clever, not so clever and most often rather stupid stories) with everyone fighting… again. So there is that. Not sure what an action scene drawn by Dave West would look like, truth be told. Your style in art seems to pull the story in the right direction. So yes. I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t look or feel like any other comic, I have ever read, while at the same time it feels like all the (good) science fiction, I have ever read. Yey.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

A trip to the National Army Museum in London.

Well, I confess that I knew what I'd find on display in the National Army Museum in Chelsea, London.
Accent UK co-founder Colin Mathieson had been keeping me up to date with progress on a project that he had taken on, producing a comic that reflected how 'War' had been represented in comic books through the years.
The museum has had an amazing face lift. All the exhibits are informative and well spaced out. I wandered through a number of areas looking for Colin's comic, it wasn't in the War Paint exhibit but as my eye spied the 'Society and the Army' exhibit I knew that's where it would be.
As I entered the area I could see the comic in pride of place.
The pages of artwork had been printed into laminated pages that themselves were fixed securely to the table ... drat ... no way I was going to sneak off with it then.
The colouring from Matt Soffe and the change in format page by page by Colin really gave the reader the sense of the passage of time, and true to any comic, there was a theme flowing across the pages that brought them all together in a poignant way.
It was great to see Colin's work on display in a museum, as part of a large exhibition that will be there for many years to come. I really can't think of a writer/artist in comics today who would have produced a more thoughtful and accurate comic.
As to the museum itself, wow, very impressive. I thoroughly recommend a day trip. I was also pleased by the friendliness of the staff, and they had Earl Grey Tea in the Cafe 😁.

Liverpool MCM

This was the second MCM event in Liverpool.
No road race this year meant that our expectations were that there would be less confusion and congestion ,,, so more customers.
Saturday did feel busier and we found there was good interest in the whole range of books we had on the table. Plenty of return customers and as is always the case with MCM events, plenty of new ones.
There were plenty of Cosplayers parading around and a few, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind above, and the costumes certainly liven up the whole event.
I'm not sure who Frank was calling but it was great to see something from one of my favourite films.
Sales on Saturday were very healthy, not quite as good as last year but still pleasing.
Sunday, as is always usually the case, was quieter for us. We talked to a lot of interested people, comic buyers and general passers by and the table was rarely quiet. Sales were less but the day passed quickly and we enjoyed it.
It was good to see Steve Tanner of Timebomb comics at his table, and for the meal on Saturday night. Steve has had a couple of operations on his eyes over the past month and we did wonder if he'd make it, or it in fact it was wise for him to do so. There he was though, the same old Steve, doing what he loves to do, selling his comic (which has a Robot in it ;o).
We had a great time and I even found out who wins the Game Of Thrones.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A new Wolfmen review.

It's amazing that people are still discovering these books for the first time, and enjoying what they find. Check out a new review over at Pipedreamcomics.co.uk. A very fair review, I had always intended the second book to be told in the first person from Jack's girlfriend's perspective but it just didn't work out.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The Risk of playing Risk.

Well, last time I was at Colin's he got the Risk game out and then proceeded to beat Scott and me over the course of a couple of hours.

I'd played it a couple of times before over the last decade, but was very rusty. As I played however a plan of attack formed in my mind.
Next time, I promised myself, would be different.
And 'next time' arrived.
Colin got the Risk game out.
I chose Green again.
I implemented my strategy.
I stuck to it.
My strategy worked.
My Green army swept across the board.
Pushing the Blue and Orange armies out of Europe and down through North America into South America.
Where I finished them off.
Scott knew it was all over but Colin still looked for a way out.
Bwahahahahahahahahahaaaaa.

Copenhagen Comics 2017

Every two years there is a Comic event in Copenhagen that started way back in 2004. We've been to every one. Not because sales are always fantastic, we only sold about 10 books at the first one, but because we have made so many friends over their and enjoy seeing how they're all getting on.
This year the Con had moved from the usual nice warm June to a pretty cold and damp late February. The venue had increased its costs and so a move to a more 'off peak' time slot made it affordable for the organisers. The usual questions arise when anything changes about a Con anywhere, will the change put customers off coming ? Only time would tell.
When we planned our trip we were the usual 4 man team. Colin and Scott (above) with Gary Crutchley and myself. Tickets were purchased, accommodation sorted. Holidays booked with our day jobs sorted, well, almost. It turns out that Gary's company had instigated a new Holiday Booking process, which seemed to translate to 'All holidays cancelled'. Gary had to drop out. It's a real shame that company's treat people like that. Accent UK would never do such a thing :o)
We did actually consider a replacement...
...but Mr. Normal was busy that weekend.
Arriving just after lunchtime we took our comic laden suitcases to the venue and offloaded. Well, actually we transferred our clothing to a backpack and left the suitcases under the tables.
As usual we were set up in no time, so checked into the hotel before making the trip back to the venue for the launch meal.
Colin, Oyvind (Norwegian), John Anderson (Canadian based in the UK),
not sure who is at the end of the table, Kim (Dane) and Arnie (Icelander living in Copenhagen)
It's always amazing to meet so many people from across Europe, the Copenhagen Con is certainly a draw (excuse the pun) for people.
From the UK there was Garen Ewing and Tom Gauld in attendance. Garen seemed to be at his table and sketching all day. Tom was attending panels and sketching but I never saw where. Both were enjoying themselves and remarked on how friendly the Danes were and how relaxed, and yet well run, the Con was.
Saturday then was usual for the Copenhagen Comics Con, and supported something we learned at our first event. It starts slow. There's no queue to talk of waiting for the doors to open. That's not the way they roll. By 1pm though it was pretty busy and we were selling well.
Colin and Martin Flink were busy sketching for people, another difference in Denmark is that people tended to wander off and come back for the sketched edition of the comic rather than queue. All very relaxed.
There was more interest in Stephenson's Robot this visit, last time we had the single issue and the presence of issues 2 and 3 certainly got people looking, and buying.
Colin sketches for a customer who did like to watch the artist at work,
the vast majority of the attendees were drawn to a presentation / discussion about
comic themed movies but sadly, for me, it was in Danish.
Sunday was pretty similar to Saturday.
The attendance felt about the same, sales were about the same and we had a really enjoyable time.
Sunday night we were invited back to Arnie's for a meal with his family, it's amazing how the two girls had grown in the 18 months wince we were last there, they remembered us though, mainly I think due to my separating thumb trick :o!
Monday was our chance to unwind a little and catch up with our good friend Soren Pedersen.
We got the train out to his town, a bit like a suburb in the UK, and enjoyed a meal and chat with him and his wife Bibeke.
We had a lovely meal at Esthers Spisehus and enjoyed a funny moment when Colin thought the lady owner's name was Esther. Ah well, that what happens when you make assumptions. Esther was the name of the street or area. As always, it was great to catch up with Soren (who used to own one of the Comic shops in Copenhagen) and spend the afternoon talking about all sorts, this year we discovered his passion for deer paintings, ornaments and ... even a large head (which he said he is looking after for his son ... we'll see if it's still in his house in 2 years).
And then it was Tuesday, and time to leave the city we have come to know so well.
With its bikes...
... it's store statues...
Colin proving he's not keen on dogs, even if they're made of resin.
its wall artwork (I don't think the word graffiti does them justice)...
its strange Dr. Who-like sculptures...
video
And now copies of the WesterNoir trade in Fantask...

Looking forward to the next show.
We may be going back next year for Arnie's Art Bubble event... let's say that we're very tempted.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Tales Of WesterNoir #3.

Issue 3 of Tales of WesterNoir is almost ready for the printers.
This is the special Willows Fall issue, which tells a huge piece of the backstory of Josiah Black. Gary Crutchley and I do the writing honours as always, and as always we have some talented artists helping us out.
Three new artists in fact : Ian Ashcroft (who produced the art for the cover), Gustavo Vargas Tataje and Chris Przygrodzki.
All work wonders bringing the stories alive in a larger edition than is the norm for the Tales comics.
The comic should be available at the Liverpool MCM event on the 11th and 12th of March.
See you there.

First Glasgow visit of the year.

As my daughter is currently studying at Glasgow University I'm expecting to see quite a lot of the city over the next 4 years.
Last weekend was a flying visit, it's a long train journey from Euston, but it's been a while since I saw Jemma last so it was good to be able to pop up there even if only for a couple of days.
It was great to see that Jemma is really enjoying her course, and that the lecturers and tutorials are bringing her on in leaps and bounds. She always been passionate about her subject but she's growing in confidence and knowledge each time I see her. I'll have to keep on my toes in order to keep up.
The visit was over too quickly of course but I'll be up there again before I know it.
Hopefully it'll be a little warmer next time though.