Sunday, 23 November 2014

Thought Bubbled 2014!

TB14 with the new TB TeePee!
And relax, or maybe I should say stop smiling as that's all I've been done since last week's wonderful Thought Bubble Comic Arts Festival in Leeds, or TB14, to give it its hip tag!

Accent UK have been lucky to attend and support each and every Thought Bubble since its modest 2007 start in Leeds Town Hall basement and while its had its up and downs, (which I commented on last year,) at TB14 everything really seemed to come together to finally deliver the potential the show has long promised.

Build it and they will come....TB's TeePee!

Now don't get me wrong, Thought Bubble has always been one of the most enjoyable and inclusive comic conventions/festivals in the UK but rather strangely, for us, has never produced the level of sales that other, less celebrated shows have. A lot of factors affect this and while Dave and I are experienced enough not to purely judge the success of a show on sales alone, it has been a puzzle and we've often deliberated whether its down to location, attendance, competition or maybe just fatigue, coming as it usually does, at the end of a long convention season.

Inside the TB TeePee - Travelling Man stall

Well whatever the reasons, TB14, blew all our doubts and expectations away, it may have been the innovative new layout - hello TB Teepee! - an increase in numbers or maybe, just finally our range of books 'clicked' with its audience but our sales started briskly with many return readers and steadily carried on the whole weekend. A quick tally at the end of Saturday surprisingly revealed that we'd comfortably thrashed the whole two days of TB13, and by the festival's close we'd more than doubled last year's numbers!

The Accent UK table stock at the start of TB14

Most 'long-time' exhibitors we spoke to were similarly happy but one or two and a few of the newer ones were more restrained in their praise with some table placements and guest queueing said to be problematic for some. I suppose the truth is that with an eye-watering 400+ exhibitors, most with new books, the TB14 competition was fierce and sadly punters have only limited funds so there will undoubtedly be a few casualties, which maybe applies to us too in our previous TB outings?

Certainly I know that despite having a few wanders around I missed seeing lots of people that I'd hoped to catch up with and again failed to see any panels or any of the guests - with a brief exception of White Death's Robbie Morrison and The Goon's creator Eric Powell - which perhaps indicates the scale to which TB has grown.

The new books on the table - note WesterNoir book 4 sold out!

New books always seem to go down well at TB, and this year Accent UK had two, Tales of WesterNoir and Stephenson's Robot, as well as the latest WesterNoir issues which had debuted earlier in the year. Dave and I were again joined by Scott and WesternNoir artist Gary Crutchley, who's enthusiasm is contagious and grin grew bigger and bigger as the WesterNoir sales continued, selling out of the latest, Book 4 on Sunday afternoon.

Andy, Dave and Scott raring to go!

Our table neighbours this year was none other than Andy Bloor, Wolfmen artist and Accent UK book designer, who with writer and fellow AUK contributor, Mo Ali were launching their debut book Midnight Man which seemed to sell very well at the show. On the other side was familiar convention face and another talented AUK contributor Richy Chandler who is really prolific at the moment and one of the UK's rising stars. Further down was another rising star, Sally Jane Thompson, but such was the busy nature of the show, other than a wave and smile I didn't get the chance to chat.

Ed Murphy and Jim Alexander share a moment
Letty Wilson and fellow Dundee Mlitt in Comic Studies graduate Nathan Langridge

I was though able to catch up with many familiar faces at the show and for once won't attempt to list them all but special mentions for recently 'discovered' creators Danny McLaughlin and the Irish Uproar  Comic Crew, Neil & Anna of the Scottish Treehouse Comics Crew, fellow Dundee graduate, Letty Wilson (who was selling the terrific 'Weird Moose' comic I saw her draw page by page at Glasgow Comic-Con in the summer!), Erin Keepers and the delightfully talented Sara Dunkerton (more of whom in a later post!) who were all enjoying making their Thought Bubble debuts. Also pleased to catch up with new comics dynamo Jessica Martin who launched her Vivacity book and the returning talented Portuguese trio, Andre Caetane, Ines Galo and Antonio Silva.
 
Portuguese artist trio of Andre, Ines and Antonio who we'd first met at TB13


Meanwhile here Gary Spencer Millidge & Col share a moment

Returning TB stalwarts included Sean Azzopardi, Matt Brooker (D'Israeli), Mark Buckingham, Gary Spencer Millidge celebrating Strangehaven's welcome return, Selina Locke & Jay Eales, Gary Northfield and the unexpected appearance of the awesomeness of Bridgeen Gillespie whom Dave and I had somehow missed last year and promptly fell out over her last Kate Bush pocket mirror - only joking Bridgeen, I think Dave's going to surprise me with it for Christmas!

Mark Buckingham & Gary Crutchley catch up!

I should look happier here - see the gaps of sold out books!

I could go on but for Dave and Gary's thoughts on the show go here and here and there will I'm sure be lots more reportage out there for those who want it. Needless to say, we had a great time and for us, TB14 has finally cemented its position as the UK's most important and fun pure comics show, well done all concerned, a perfect way for us to finish the 2014 convention season.

The obligatory TB14 haul photo!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Tatton Park Moments of Reflection

Tatton Park's WW1 Commemorative Flame

The centenary of the outbreak of World War One has quite rightly been in the spotlight allowing everyone time for reflection either on their own or as part of an organised event.

For someone with a lifelong interest in history and military matters I too have spent much time reading and reflecting on the conflict and its legacy. This interest and my close connections with Tatton Park lead to me earlier this year joining a small research team and contributing to an exhibition held there to commemorate the war and its impact on the estate, its workers and of course the Egerton family.


The exhibition took its "We Will See it Through":Tatton Reflects 1914-1918 title from a rousing recruitment speech given by Alan De Tatton, at Knutsford town hall shortly after the wars outbreak - no mean feat given that at the wars declaration he was enjoying a spa break in Germany and initially held captive!


The preparation for the exhibition was both challenging and rewarding as we slowly uncovered many fascinating stories and from an original concern about whether we would have 'enough' material it soon became clear that the worry would be about what to leave out. Sadly, even in a sizable display room, there wasn't room to include everything but we included some fascinating exhibits both from Tatton's collection and through loans and donations from relatives of those connected with Tatton at the time.



Sadly I don't have any close-up pictures of the display items - sorry!



There weren't photos of some of the featured estate workers, so I provided these images


The children's colouring & reading table proved very popular!

The exhibition was appropriately opened on 4th August 2014, the centenary of course of Britain's declaration of war 100 years before. Coincidentally the date was also Maurice Egerton, Tatton's last Lord's, 40th birthday. Tatton had also been chosen as one of the focal points of the local council's WW1 commemorations, under its Cheshire East Reflects banner. This saw the installation of an eternal flame in its grounds which was lit by Tatton's MP, chancellor George Osborne in a special commemorative event on the 4th August which I attended.



 


As Tatton's 2014 season draws to a close, preparations for the forthcoming Christmas event are underway, meaning that our WW1 exhibition has now closed. Research though continues and it is planned that the exhibition will return, updated at a future date as commemorations reflect the wars duration.

Given the exhibition's closure and today's armistice date I thought it timely to show a few of the exhibition and the commemorative flame images here. Thanks again to everyone who contributed to the exhibition and for the many poignant visitor comments and memories received which gave a deeper meaning to this year's commemorations.  






Sunday, 2 November 2014

Coming soon.....


Well there's Thought Bubble just round the corner now to draw this year's successful comic convention season to a close. The plan is for Accent UK to have two new books launched there as befits the UK's most complete comic show in terms of just about everyone in the UK's independent comic community being there, so we'll see.

Just waiting for confirmation that they're good to go before all is fully announced although if you check out both Dave West and Gary Crutchley's blogs you'll find pretty of clues I'm sure!

But try these in the meantime;





In the meantime the word on Dave and Gary's WesterNoir series continues to spread with a new review of the first three issues by those fine folks at Travelling Man right here. What more excuse do you need to pick up the books yourself? Well if you buy these at Thought Bubble, not only will we also have issue 4 but Gary should have new exclusive and original sketches for those buying the first 4 issues!

Oh and I think that Accent UK's long time friend, artist and designer Mr Andy 'Wolfmen' Bloor will be our table neighbour as he launches his and Mo Ali's (another AUK contributor!) new book, Midnight Man!


Either way mossey on down to Leeds and table 46 in New Dock Hall on 15th and 16th November for a real good time, you hear!


Friday, 31 October 2014

'Naked' comic covers for Hallowe'en -!


From the vaults, please enjoy these 'naked' Accent UK comic covers for Hallowe'en !

Shane Oakley's Monsters cover from, gulp, 2006!
Steve Bissette's Zombies (2007)
Shane Oakley again, Zombies back cover (2007)
Andy Bloor's menacing Wolfmen (2007)






Thursday, 30 October 2014

MCM London Comic Con Moments


Well that was fun, Accent UK returned to London's MCM Comic-Con last weekend and had a pretty cool time. Our appearance at the earlier May show produced record sales and really opened our eyes to the behemoth that these shows have become. This time felt busier and its since been confirmed that some 110,000 fans flocked to the Excel centre, which certainly explains the epic sandwich queue!.
 
MCM is all about Cosplay - see this wonderful Disney Group!

That said, we were a little down on sales, selling just over 75% of May's record and at times, despite the crowds, the Comic Village felt a little quiet. This is probably explained by the fact that the show has grown even bigger and, I think, used at least one more of the Excel's huge exhibition halls than last time. This, like the recent MCM Manchester show, is actually a welcome move, allowing more space for people to move round so there are less of the problematic 'bottleneck's early MCM's were known for. However there is just so much to see now that it is a challenge to get round it all and of course, fans have limited funds so can't buy everything they see, even if they want too.
 
These were a fun couple - Steampunk Golden Syrup Soldiers!

This was pretty noticeable in the Comic Village where more so than last time folk wanted to have a good look round first before committing to buy and who can blame them, with so much to see.  Thankfully we had several folk who did just that and returned, some even after queueing at the crowded cashpoint machine to ensure they had money for our books, which we are very grateful for.

Our Zombie 2 cover model turned up!
Steampunk cosplayer Xander Boo


We also had several returning readers who had picked up and enjoyed our books for the first time at the May show and wanted to see what else we had so again thank you!  Actually this, bizarrely, may also explain why sales were down from last time as in fairness we had no new books to offer since May. This may also be the reason why there were several exhibitor notable absentees from the May show, who without new product, may have decided to skip this show in the increasingly crowded UK convention calendar? Although sales were slower than May, they were still our 3rd highest ever, comfortably above our previous best ever figure from 2010, so we're certainly not going to complain!

Accent UK banner competes with The Hobbit during the London MCM set-up

But as happens, this opens opportunities for others and our immediate table neighbours were all, I think, first-time MCM exhibitors; Charlotte Franks 'Made by Anxiety', Lissy Raine 'Lillyluft' and Elizabeth Querstret, a fine friendlier bunch you couldn't hope to meet! There were many others so apologies if my geriatric head can't recall all the names or website links! Actually, amongst Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool's prompt MCM reporting is a pretty comprehensive file of all Comic Village exhibitor tables on the Friday afternoon here  so you can see some of the awesomeness for yourself!

Scott set for Friday business

Rich's photos were from early Friday afternoon just after the show opened when Scott and I had barely arrived and were still unloading the car. We'd had a reasonable drive down but things always take longer than you think so it was a wee bit of a last minute panic to get registered, wristbands, parked, located and set up but that was down to us not the excellent organisation I hasten to add. Although vowing to leave earlier 'next time' I may not need to as MCM announced that next year's London shows will be over 3 full days, presumably meaning Thursday set-up's where in theory you have all day to drive down and unload etc. While this makes perfect sense for the show I didn't really get a chance to discuss this too much with fellow exhibitors and punters so we'll see how this goes. Our Friday afternoon sales were pretty modest it has to be said despite there being pretty good crowds - maybe between 6,000 and 10,000? Well, Mr Harry Potter himself,  Daniel Radcliffe was there don't you know!

It's not a 'proper' comic-con without Stormtroopers!

There was actually quite a full programme of panels, talks, media announcements etc which took part away from the show floor in various conference suites that the Excel offers. I don't know if this was a new aspect of the event but helped keep those queues and disruptions to a minimum even if it did mean that sadly we didn't get to see anything. I believe that as well as Mr Radcliffe, Brian Blessed and comics giants, Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons - and Accent UK contributor! - Kieron Gillen were also in attendance but I failed to spy any of them on the show floor afterwards.

Mr 'Time Bomb Comics' Steve Tanner works hard






Everything else went smoothly, Scott and I caught up with Time Bomb Comics Steve Tanner who we had arranged to share a Greenwich apartment, being as the Excel hotels had either sold out or got incredibly pricey. It's always good to catch up with Steve and share recent comic show experiences etc and find out about the brand new Birmingham Comic Festival next year that he's co-organising, and we're committed to attending.

It was amazing the transformation when Steve Tanner took his jacket off!

Dave and Jemma arrived by train the following day - after Scott and I had done all the hard work setting up it has to be said - and a jolly time was had by all! Accent UK has always been a bit of a family affair but it is a real delight to Dave and I to be able to regularly escape the table for a look around or a cuppa, knowing its in good hands, so thanks Scott and Jemma for your hard work, although both of you probably did your best to spend as much at the show as we took in!

The Mathieson Team Pose!
The West Team Pose!



















Socially we were pleased to also catch up with long-time friend and comics guru Chris Dingsdale who joined us and Steve for a meal and a few Saturday night beers and then that was more or less that. There were several other fine folks we caught up with at the show, including Jenika Ioffreda who was launching her delightful Vampire FreeStyle collection, Gary Erskine, set to go on the much anticipated RollerGrrrls comic, Jeremy Biggs's mighty expanded Subversive Comics line and the irrepressible Stuart Gould.

Dave's the one in the silly hat.....

We've really embraced the MCM series of shows and by combining them with carefully chosen, more 'traditional' comic shows Accent UK have enjoyed our most successful year ever! So thanks to all concerned and we will definitely return next year with plans already made for a bigger Accent UK MCM presence!

Unlike this excellent Cos-player, with MCM shows "There can be more than one!"