This article originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #17, April 2005.
For a number of years, there was only one major comic event in the UK (and without the efforts of Kev F. Sutherland, there might have been none), the Comic Festival Bristol. Then all of a sudden there was ComICA, the Comic Festival London and the UK Web & Mini Comix Thing.
Sadly, Kev has decided to pull the plug on the London Festival, as he’s pretty much had enough of the thankless task it had become. But the new Web & Mini Comix show organised by Patrick Findlay held its second event on 19 March 2005 in Mile End on the east side of the UK’s capital city, with the prospect of a another repeat performance next year.
Attendance was most certainly up on the inaugural event, with a real bustle and buzz about the venue, which, although still within the confines of the Queen Mary University was this year held in something called The Great Hall, a little less attractive than last year’s architecturally pleasing Octagon, but with the added advantage of being larger, especially for the two excellently attended panels.
This show is different, in that it eschews the obvious Marvel/DC superhero crew in favour of mini comic cartoonists, and more radically, the ever-growing community of web comic creators. The traditional comic-book size format is hugely outnumbered by a variety of differently sized and proportioned pamphlets and books, ranging from tiny run inkjet printed minis to glossy square bound trade paperbacks, all nestling alongside laptop computer displays. There was also a workshop area and free Internet access.
From Dusk till Dark
Many familiar faces from the UK comic festival scene mixed in with the lesser-spotted web comix guys, some tending their tables, some just attending. Roger Langridge was as usual selling his artwork in order to buy new shoes for his baby, David and Daley were showing what self-publishers can do in the 21st century with their full-colour Brodie’s Law, and Paul Rainey of Memory Man fame was launching his new mini comic There’s No Time Like the Present and his web-based Book of Lists. The dapper Andrew Winter was selling his two square bound DevilChild volumes and the rapidly improving Sean Azzopardi flogged his new mini Ed.
Jon Anderson’s Soaring Penguin publishing concern had a presence at the show, looking to sign up the Next Big Thing, while Baz and crew were promoting both the anthology Fusion and the essential Redeye magazine. I also picked up the final instalment of the Rubins sisters’ Dark and the second issue of the acclaimed anthology Dusk, complete with screen-printed cover, but there were far too many fine publications and creators to list them all here.
From 24 Hours to 24 Minutes
Just 1 Page organiser Ade Brown was running around like a madman organising the highly ambitious 24 Minute Comic (yes, 24 minute); a brilliant and perfectly appropriate concept for the show, nicely twisting Scott McCloud’s 24 Hour comic concept into a real event. Twenty-four artists, each concurrently drawing a page in 24 minutes to a plotline outline supplied by Ade, all of which were completed, collated and printed for sale before the end of the day. It’s an idea that could really become the show’s focus in future years.
From Old Blood to… er, Old Blood
Also spotted wandering around the hall purposefully, the mysterious Ilya who was so busy that he didn’t quite have time to stop and chat, Andy Konky Kru with his new sketchbook of quite stunning drawings, and international superstar cartoonist Woodrow Phoenix who arrived several minutes before the hall closed at 4 p.m.
What can be gleaned from the one-day event is that there is most certainly an impressive British comic “scene” of some size and momentum, with lots of new faces appearing at each subsequent London show. The only downside is that the average age of the creators is unnervingly high, so it’s even more of a pity that the child-friendly Comic Festivals have been mothballed. It’s not only new blood that’s required (in terms of both creators and readers), but new young blood.
So best pop along to the official website at [redacted] to see what you missed and make a note to yourself to attend next year’s event, which is sure to be even bigger and better.
[PHOTOS TO COME]