Living and working in Ireland this year, Team RAZARHAWK found themselves ideally situated to swan on over to the 2D Comics Festival in Londonderry last month. Except, that is, for the 5 hour drive from our location in County Galway!!! Still, with so many great comic creators attending, the effort had to be made.
I should point out that we weren't exhibiting RazarHawk and were there as punters only. Despite this, we still managed to sell a copy of issues #1 and #2 to comics writer Tony Lee! (Not bragging or owt)
So, after a 5am start and a non-stop journey through the beautiful Irish countryside, I gotta admit we were a little underwhelmed at the scope of the convention in place at Derry's Millennium Forum venue. Compared to what we're used to it all seemed a bit, well, small. Given the steps we took to get there early enough to cram in a full day of comic goodness we were left wondering how we were going to fill the time until the evening panels that we wanted to attend.
We really shouldn't have worried!!! As is always the case at conventions, you never have time to fit everything you want to do in, and once we got chatting to some awesome people about their awesome comics, the day escaped us.
First up was 'School Of Bitches' creators Alan Stealth (best name in comics!) and Dhalia. We'd sort of crossed paths with these guys at the Cardiff Expo back in February, but this time around we got in a solid chat about all things comic creating and self-publishing. They were seriously cool guys and I'm looking forward to seeing more of their comic as the intriguing issue #1 keeps its cards very close to its chest, but offers so much potential.
Moving on I caught the eye of the perpetually cheerful Mike Collins through the dense throng of fans crowding his desk and managed to share a few words with him by shouting over said crowd. It always seems to be this way at conventions with Mike, but having a professional acquaintance with him through working on some of the same animation productions, I know that I'll get to see him again soon enough, so we left him to it.
Just around the corner from Mike we stopped at the desk of Darren McDaid, founder and designer of 'ABeadsCStart'. As well as being a top bloke, he's hit on a really great little niche idea of pixelating images of, well, anything really, but mostly popular comics and games characters and then using that pixelated design as a basis to create key rings, jewellery, trinkets and art pieces by melting coloured beads together. He had a table stacked so high with cool stuff that after handling amongst other things a Dexters Lab piece and some pizza slice earrings, Dani just couldn't choose what she wanted there and then, so we promised to come back later.
Down the corridor from there, we managed to catch Glyn Dillon during a quiet period, so Dani plucked up the nerve and asked him to sign her copy of 'Nao of Brown' that she'd brought with. He obliged not only by signing, but painting a watercolour of Nao on the inside cover, which was amazing to watch. During this, Glyn's table mate Warrick Johnson-Cadwell returned and sketched a mermaid on all fours (?) on the copy of 'Shore Leave', his latest art/sketch book, that I bought. After chatting to the pair about movie options, meditation, wanting to slap Nao in the face, rock/paper/scissors and thumb war (Glyn Dillon is undefeated - his hands are massive!), we gave them each a copy of RazarHawk for a bit of light reading on the flight back to the UK.
Heading downstairs, we sauntered up to the equally awesome table of Tony Lee and Dan Berry. Me and Dani are fans of Dan's comics/art podcast 'Make It Then Tell Everybody', and I'd seen him draw an awesome picture of Bane with a tambourine earlier on and wanted something equally awesome. I also had a secret agenda to give Tony Lee our last copy of RazarHawk, as I had attended a really inspiring storytelling seminar by him at a comics event called 'Launch Pad' two years ago when me and Dani were just starting our comic venture. Now that we've completed the first RazarHawk storyline i thought that having Tony Lee read it would be a nice way to bring it back to where it started. And who knows, maybe we could get a quote for the cover. So, after a great chat with the pair, buying Tony's new 'MacGyver' comics and a couple of Dan's books as well as a fancy sketch by Dan of RoboCop rocking out with guitar and wearing brogues, I gave RazarHawk to Tony Lee and mentioned the Launch Pad seminar. Proving himself a class act and a true gent, he actually bought the comics for our standard convention price of £2 each. Very cool.
Just down the line from Mssrs Lee and Berry was the table shared by Emma Vieceli and Kate Brown. Dani chatted to Kate Brown and bought her sumptuously arty looking 'Fish + Chocolate' book. You'd have to ask her what they talked about 'cos I was too busy blagging Emma Vieceli's head in as to when we'll see more of her creator owned series 'Dragon Heir'. I bought the first volume of this two years ago after a seminar by Vieceli at the same Launch Pad event that I saw Tony Lee, and subsequently devoured it on a loch-side holiday in Scotland. It's a project close to her heart and she's itching to get back to it as soon as possible, but she's lucky enough to be riding a wave of paid work right now, and looking at her art it's not hard to see why.
Two tables on again sat a guy and a girl flanked by banners that read "Roller Grrrls Sketchbook" above a badass image of a roller derby in full swing. It looked so cool that I had to enquire further. As it turns out, the sketchbook is a taster of their forthcoming self-published comic book series 'Roller Grrrls'. Chatting to the couple we found out that for a good while now they had been wanting to tell a story with a cast of strong female characters and had previously been developing a genre blending Space/Western idea about a group of characters (y'know, leader, pilot, weapons specialist, medic etc) travelling the frontiers of human space in a cool ship, picking up dodgy smuggling jobs and avoiding the law. Then, Joss Whedons 'Firefly' tv series came out. So they abandoned the idea and eventually discovered the world of roller derby, which captured their imaginations. The two comic creators were super enthusiastic about the project and rightly so if the sketchbook is any indication of the quality we can expect. A collection of character designs, colour tests, pencil roughs, layouts, posters and even teaser story strips for the comic, the sketchbook is beautifully printed in large magazine format, which, growing up with Marvel UK comics, I'm a total sucker for. US comics still look weird to me. Anyway, impressive preview art aside, what really sold me on picking up the first issue when it's released in July is that the couple want to tell really strong character driven stories about everyday human problems and emotions, all set against the backdrop of roller derby. We told them about RazarHawk as this is very similar to what I've got planned for the comic now that the first introductory storyline is finished - human level stories and concerns against a big budget sci-fi action backdrop - and that the biggest influence on my storytelling is Jamie Hernandez' 'Love and Rockets'. (An early title idea for RazarHawk was 'Love and Robots'!) As the guy acknowledged his shared love for 'Love and Rockets', I clocked his name tag - Gary Erskine. Holy Shit! At that point I really wished we'd had another copy of RazarHawk to give to them as I think they'd dig it. Ah well, I'm sure we'll cross paths again, and I look forward to that day as we had such a great time talking to these guys. Thanks Anna and Gary for capping off a day of awesome comic chat.
In a bit of a daze at how much awesome we'd taken in, we didn't really know what to do next. But I was snapped back to urgency whenI noticed many of the creators packing up. The afternoon had flown by! Simon Furman and Geoff Senior had already left their table, which was a pisser because I wanted a sketch by Geoff and he doesn't frequent comic conventions very often. I'd also previously noticed that Simon had some original Marvel UK Transformers comics for sale that are missing from my collection. It would've been an awesome thing to add these to my collection by buying them from the very guy who wrote them. Ah well.
As Dani debated buying 'The Man Who Laughs' graphic novel from David Hine (she didn't in the end because he was engrossed in his laptop and she didn't want to disturb him), I legged it to Cam Kennedy's table. I really wanted his sketchbook, but the queue around his table was ridiculous all day. I got there and found him completely packed up and pretty much out the door, but being a top chap he graciously signed a sketchbook for me and was on his way.
Heading back upstairs to exit the venue, we walked back past the ABeadsCStart table. With all the awesomeness we'd taken in, I'd completely forgotten about going back and I think Dani might have too. Darren had done such a good trade that his table was pretty much empty, except for the Dexters Lab piece. Score!
So, with an hour or so to kill before the Transformers panel at 'Sandeinos' pub across the road we wandered Derry looking for food and found 'Build-a-Burger'. Once I found out that they do a burger with gummi bears in I was sold.
Back at Sandeinos we walked in to the tail end of the comic themed pub quiz and met up again with the 'School of Bitches' lads, whose quiz team managed to claim 2nd or 3rd place, I can't remember which. After the quiz was an enjoyable veteran filled panel guest starring Herbe Trimp about the Transformers legacy, and finally an off-kilter panel about "keeping it real" with some upcoming indie comic creators, and guest starring… Herbe Trimpe. He was ace and brought a good level of humour to the panels.
And then it was all over - a long day that had nonetheless flown by and was chock full of awesome. Time to head back to the B&B to rest up and face the inevitable post-convention blues.
If you're ever in Ireland/Northern Ireland and can make it to the 2D Comics Festival, I'd strongly recommend that you take the opportunity. It always features a really strong line up of talented comic creators that is hard to believe given that the event is free to attend!!! We had such a good time that we're seriously thinking about exhibiting RazarHawk next year.