Monday, May 25, 2009

Burns notice

MY good friend and Blood Psi co-creator, Keith Burns, has had two great big dollops of good news recently. In April he became a dad for the first time (to James Francis Burns) and now he's working with Hitman artist John McCrea on the Garth Ennis-penned Herogasm. The mini-series is a spin-off from The Boys and my favourite line is "Come on my hump" which should give you some idea of the kind of weapons-grade filth to expect within its pages...

The first issue is out now – buy it and keep baby James in nappies!

* BRITFORCE #1 and the Brothers one-shot are now for sale in the Moonface Press shop. BritForce (written and drawn by Andrew Radbourne) is £4.50 for 64 pages and a gorgeous Glenn Fabry cover, Brothers (written by me and drawn by Andrew R) is £3 for 56 pages. By the way, just to clarify, BritForce will be an ongoing series with 64-page issues coming out twice a year. Issue 2 should be ready for Birmingham...

* ON Saturday I went to the MCM Expo at the XL Centre in London's Docklands (MCM stands for Movies Comics Media). It was the first time I'd been to one of these twice-yearly events and the first time I'd been to a con as a punter rather than as an exhibitor in years. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it – especially after the damp squib that was the Bristol Expo earlier this month.

One of the most noticeable things about the show was the fact the average age of the punters was around 10-15 years younger than at regular comics cons, with a lot more women and girls in attendance too. In fact, the show attracts many thousands of people - we were in the queue to get in for about an hour - and while that can make things a little bit cramped even in a big exhibition hall it also suggests that London really might be the best place for this kind of event after all.

The MCM show isn't just a glorified comics mart either - there are lots of signings (everyone from movie legend Tony Curtis to Warren Ellis on Saturday), advance previews of films and games and loads of cool Japanese and American merchandise it probably isn't that easy to buy elsewhere in the UK. Then, of course, there's the cosplayers. Now I know a lot of people (mostly grumpy old blokes) don't like cosplayers much but they never cease to impress the hell out of me. The hours and hours it must take to make some of the costumes alone is reason enough to cut them some slack and, to my mind, they always add a dash of colour and exuberance to these kind of events. Not sure about this weird "Free Hugs" thing they've got going on, though...

As a punter I'd have liked to have seen the comics industry represented at the show a little more strongly but apparently that's something the organisers are working on for the future. There were still quite a few comics people exhibiting their wares though, including Markosia, the Geek Syndicate podcast guys, Sean Azzopardi & Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Gary Erskine and the Tozzer boys. Tables in the 'comics village' area of the event are dirt cheap, too, so there's every chance I might have one at the next MCM show in October.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bristol: Reduced circumstances

THIS year's Bristol Expo wasn't the damp squib I was worried it was going to be but neither was it a patch on previous years. For those who aren't aware, the Expo's organisers weren't able to hire the usual big space at the British Empire & Commonwealth Exhibition Hall and had to settle instead for a variety of rooms and corridors at the Ramada Hotel. There was also a separate small press event on the Saturday at a completely different hotel a few minutes up the road.

All in all, this gave the event a very fractured feeling; the buzz you get from a great big room packed with creators, fans and colourful cosplayers sadly missing. They'd also limited tickets to just 500 which meant Expo was already less than a quarter the size it usually is.

Worse still, the indie and small press room at the Ramada was very small and stuck out of the way. There were times when exhibitors far outnumbered customers. Bizarrely, the bloke who played Greedo in Star Wars was also stationed in the room on the Saturday but he gave up and buggered off around 3 o'clock!

The other downside was that a lot of the people I most enjoy spending time with weren't around this year - Dec's beavering away on his 28 Days Later project, Keith Burns has just become a dad (congratulations, mate!) and Mick Trimble was, apparently, on his way down Saturday morning, only to be put off by the extortionate train fare from Birmingham to Bristol!

And while I'm moaning, Saturday got off to the worst possible start when BritForce creator Andrew Radbourne called to say his books hadn't arrived at the Ramada from the printer. Of course, after contacting the printer and generally running around like a headless chicken for an hour, it turned out the books had been at the hotel all along and they just hadn't been to look for them properly.

On the plus side, Moonface sales were pretty good. Not the usual numbers but far from a disaster. Oddly enough, BritForce and Brothers didn't sell particularly well but I knocked out loads of Septic Isle (the weekend's best seller), Hero Killers and Blood Psi. I also sold the last 15 copies of Tim Skinner which means there are none left until I can afford to print some more or put it up online (the latter's quite probable actually).

Having spoken to one of the Expo's organisers, it seems next year's event will again be held across two hotels rather than in the old exhibition hall. The reasoning is that it's simply too risky to put on a "big show" in the current economic climate. It seems a strange direction to take - especially as the Expos in 2007 and 2008 were the most successful yet and the event had become a genuine part of Bristol's cultural calendar. Once the credit crunch eases - next year or in 2011 - the organisers are going to have to graft incredibly hard to re-establish the Bristol Expo all over again. It's a risky strategy - especially with the Birmingham International Comics Show seemingly going from strength to strength and Leeds' Thought Bubble one-dayer garnering rave reviews from all and sundry.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pre-Bristol ramblings...

OFF to Bristol in a few hours and feeling a bit more optimistic than I was the last time I talked about the Expo here. It's probably got something to do with the fact Brothers arrived back from the printers this morning and looks absolutely brilliant. It's three quid for 56 pages with only one ad - the story and art are also pretty neat.

It'll be for sale on the Moonface website soon, too.

* APPARENTLY, there is going to be an Eagle Awards this year after all. From later on today, people can go and nominate their favourites in a host of categories here:

I wouldn't be too upset if TIM SKINNER: TOTAL SKINNER was nominated in the Favourite Colour Comicbook - British category and SEPTIC ISLE likewise received a nod in the Favourite Black & White Comicbook - British section. Just saying...

* ON the subject of Skinner, I only have 15 copies for sale left so anyone reading this planning to buy one in Bristol should probably turn up early on Saturday morning. Colour printing is horribly expensive so a second printing is very unlikely in the near future...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Newcomer sensation

DECLAN SHALVEY, who many of you will know from his work on Hero Killers and Tim Skinner, has a new gig. He's just been named as artist on Boom! Studios' new ongoing 28 Days Later series.

Not only will the title come adorned in covers by the likes of Tim Bradstreet (see above) and Sean Phillips, but its plotted by Alex Garland who was the screenwriter on the 28 Days Later film. You might remember he also wrote The Beach novel that ended up being made into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

By a weird coincidence, I once interviewed Alex – along with 28 Days Later director Danny Boyle – when I was working for men's magazine, Maxim. But that's another not actually terribly interesting story for another day...

Anyway, here's some blurb from the Boom! website...

Alex Garland, screenwriter of 28 DAYS LATER, lays out a story connecting the film 28 DAYS LATER to its sequel 28 WEEKS LATER in a new ongoing series! Focusing on Selena, one of the three survivors of the first film, as she embarks on an epic return journey to Great Britain! Co-written by HEXED and FALL OF CTHULHU’s Michael Alan Nelson and drawn by newcomer sensation Declan Shalvey.

I shall now be referring to Dec as "newcomer sensation" every time I see him and in every email I send him! It's lucky for him he isn't going to be at Bristol.

The book's Diamond order code is: MAY090724. Go and order it already!