Wednesday, 4 March 2015

When Eagles Soared.....

Stumbled upon this link in the essential Down The Tubes blog of a time when Accent UK were mentioned alongside Brian Bolland, Jonathan Hickman, Kevin O'Neil, Frank Quietly, Warren Ellis, 2000AD and The Walking Dead etc, whatever happened to them?

This was 2010 and the award of best British Black & White Comic Book  for Dave West and Marlene Lowe's wonderful Whatever Happened To The World's Fastest Man? I remember it well as the awards were announced overnight at the MCM London's show at the sprawling Excel Centre which I think was only the second time that we had exhibited at? It was crazy stuff and when the award was presented and displayed on our table the following day, the comic, like the Eagle itself flew off the table.

Mike Conroy (Eagle Awards coordinator) presents a happy Dave

It was a rather special moment and the reviews and interest in the book that followed were a great reward for the hard effort in its creation. The award brought a great spotlight on the book and generated some media interest at the time and led to a Brazilian edition, translated into Portuguese!

The book's still a great read today and sells steadily. Dave of course has written several titles since but was recently re-united with artist Marlene (now Starksfield) Lowe for the engaging Jigsaw Girl  back up story in issue 1 of Stephenson's Robot which has been well received in recent reviews.

An extract of Marlene's stunning Jigsaw Girl artwork

Sadly the Eagle Awards, the UK's longest running comic awards, ceased in, I think, 2012 but left behind a rich heritage of capturing the comics zeitgeist, certainly they gave us a boost at the time and I know that Dave has a fondness for the trophy received, just watch his face light up if its ever mentioned..... 

The Comic and The Eagle!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Accent UK a Go-Go!

Well the Accent UK tour bus is properly revved up after Dave & Gary - and WesterNoir issue 5's debut at last weekend's enjoyable DemonCon show in Maidstone - see Dave's report and a few pics here.

Next up for us is a new Birmingham show, The Comics Festival in April at the Cricket ground in Edgbaston which is shaping up nicely as you can see at their site . In fact I was recently told that there are now around 50 comic shows and festivals in the UK alone which is incredible compared to a few years ago when Accent UK started when literally there were only 2. The influential Bristol International Comics Festival and the much smaller Caption in Oxford - we'd sadly missed the old London based UKCAC shows which had finished a couple of years before we started. Later these shows were joined by the equally important and enjoyable BICS, (Birmingham International comics Show). Of course all things come to an end and both Bristol and BICS are long gone and I've lost track of Caption which itself has had several committee and venue changes.

The Accent UK 2014 table spread - will hopefully be very different in 2015!

This range of shows makes it really tough to decide which ones to do, particularly as we try and do at least one European show as well, although we've now 'dropped' the US from our schedules as the economics are not just there. Sadly costs are a very important factor in our decisions, you of course want an enjoyable time at a show, catching up with friends, making contacts etc but if you're not covering costs then its difficult to justify, and with so many choices, you're perhaps best to try elsewhere.

The Accent UK table in Helsinki September 2014

Our biggest cost is usually accommodation as sometimes we, rightly, make a weekend of it with our families but its sobering to see that for theses prices you could perhaps attend a show in Europe instead! It was with these thoughts that we made a fairly radical change from our 2013 to 2014 show schedules which, as reported, thankfully paid off with record sales and some great experiences, exciting contacts made, new creators and opportunities discovered.

                                     The buzy Accent UK table at Copenhagen 2010 with Tales Of WesterNoir                                             Pedro Lopez, Fanny Bystedt and Man of Glass creator Martin Flink
Thankfully that all made selecting our 2015 show schedule much easier as we intend to return to most of the show attended last year, dates and table availability allowing. You'll see therefore that our provisional tour schedule is now available on the right of this blog including a very welcome return to probably our favourite show on the planet, Copenhagen Comics. This will be our 6th time at this bi-annual festival, where it took time for us to grow and develop and audience - of course totally breaking my above advice on 'covering costs'! - but we now have many friends over there and hopefully have sustained a readership of our books, justifying the expense, plus its so darn fun!

As well as the above mentioned Birmingham Comic Festival, the other 'newbie' on our list is Aberdeen's Granite City Comic-Con, which I'm really excited about since this is real close to my North-East of Scotland hometown and where I worked after first leaving school all those years ago! It's even closer than the recent Dundee shows which I've really enjoyed and, sadly with family commitments can't make this year, so to say I'm fair-tricket is an underestimate!

All this means that sadly its unlikely we can attend other shows at the moment, (but never say never!), its going to be another busy year and we need new books to sell! At the last look though, we have six books currently in production for release this year - in addition to the newly released WesterNoir 5 - including this wee one which is gathering steam.....

Another preview panel of Matt Soffe's Zulu Re-Mastered colouring!
Blimey indeed!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Robots & WesterNoir in Maidstone!

Coming up this weekend is Accent UK's first convention appearance of 2015 as Dave and Gary return to sunny Maidstone for this Sunday's Demoncon 9!

Sadly my passport doesn't cover trips that far South but the chaps had a blast last time and are delighted to be returning, giving them a good chance to chinwag on all things WesterNoir with one or two exciting developments bubbling along. The most imminent is of course Issue 5 which is hoped to be launched at the event, print delivery allowing.

This issue, as Dave and Gary teased some time ago, really turns things on their head as we learn more, a lot more about events behind Josiah Black's actions, I'll not say more but look for this cover either at Maidstone or a show near you soon!

For those who were unable to attend Leeds Thought Bubble Festival last year, Demoncon will also be the next place to pick up WesterNoir's spin off 'Tales Of' series and Stephenson's Robot, both of which were successfully launched in Leeds.

And if you need any further incentive, here's a link to a very timely review of Stephenson's Robot from Down The Tubes stalwart, Jeremy Briggs.

Don't worry if you can't get to Maidstone as Accent UK's 2015 tour itinerary is starting to take shape and details will be posted here or at Accent UK's own site very soon.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

ZULU Dawn!

Isandlwana - April 2014 (photo by Craig Mitchell)

Today is the 136th anniversary of the major conflicts of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879, first the devastating defeat of British forces at Isandlwana by the Zulus and on the same day, into the early hours of the 23rd January 1879, the defence of Rorke's Drift by a British garrison hopelessly outnumbered by Zulu impis. The dramatic events not only resulted in heavy loss of life but had serious consequences for both sides leading to the destruction of the Zulu Kingdom and way of life, and questioning the expansion polices at the heart of the mighty Victorian British Empire.

Yours truly with the distinctive Isandlwana behind (April 2014)

As you will know if you've visited my blog before these far flung events have had a profound effect on me (and others!) all these years later which is difficult to explain. There is something deeply moving about an indigenous people's defence of their realm against an unjustified imperialist invasion and the difference in weaponry and technologies at their disposal. Just imagine for a minute answering your monarch's call to fight against professional soldiers armed with the very latest modern weapons, when all you had were decades old spears (assegai), clubs (knobkerries) and shields.

Haydn, Craig, Paul & I after successfully climbing Isandlwana (April 2014)

In the Zulu's favour were their familiarity with the terrain, sophisticated tactics, discipline and an unnerving loyalty to their King, despite any misgivings they may have had. However, despite these qualities there were huge losses amongst the Zulu's causing their King, Cetshwayo, to seek peace with the invaders, despite 'scoring' several victories over the British. The embarrassment of those victories though sealed the Zulu's fate as the British poured every resource at their disposal to finally crush the Zulu's resistance some 6 months later, setting fire to the royal homestead at Ulundi (Ondini) and eventually capturing and exiling Cetshwayo from his kingdom.

Meeting young Thandeka Zulu at Rorke's Drift (April 2014)

However the bravery of the Zulu's struck a chord with the British public who clamoured for information on these 'noble savages' who had stood up against the empire's might. Eventually Cetshwayo travelled to London where he was feted by the media and granted an audience with Queen Victoria at Osborne House. He was, in time, returned to his Zululand throne, but heavily curtailed in his authority and influence, the previous might of the Zulu kingdom was never again seen.

A panel of Matt Soffe's dramatic colouring from the re-mastered comic!

The interest in all things Zulu has echoed down the years since 1879, most famously for my generation in the movies Zulu, (which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014) and Zulu Dawn, leading directly to me creating my own comic books based on events at Rorke's Drift and of course visiting the battlefield and Zulu Kingdom sites in 2010 and 2014. This interest continues with new Zulu related comic work being prepared alongside a brand new 're-mastered' collection of my Water Cart Rescue strips being coloured for the first time by the very talented Matt Soffe, who has previously contributed colours to several Accent UK books.

More of these projects will follow in the weeks ahead but I just wanted to mark today's anniversary and, as I always do on this day, pay respect to those who lost their lives all those many years ago.
The Zulu Memorial at Rorke's Drift (April 2014)
The British Memorial at Rorke's Drift (April 2014)

Monday, 19 January 2015

2014 US Comic Show Analysis

I see that Heidi MacDonald of the always interesting, The Beat, has posted the results of their team up with The Devastator news site for an analysis of US comic shows from 2014. You may recall that they first did this last year based on replies from 46 exhibitors returning surveys which I linked to here, this year there were more than 100 responses so makes for a more informed result.

The full survey results and commentary are contained in a detailed report on The Devastator's main site here  and makes interesting reading, albeit a little harder going, given that there's so much there but they've retained their sense of humour in their concise and witty commentaries on each show.

So if, like me, you like looking at numbers and charts this is the place to go, particularly for those comic folks trying to plan their 2015 schedule of which US comic shows to apply for. There's still nothing like this for the UK or Europe that I've seen so this is the best that's out there and is still interesting in weighing up the economics of exhibiting.

For ourselves at Accent UK Towers, we've moved our attention away from the US and Canada for a bit, concentrating in the UK and Europe as we hopefully further develop our own audiences. We've already mentioned that a 're-think' of our own show schedule (thankfully) resulted in a boost in sales as we swapped uneconomical shows for more rewarding ones and we're again applying the same principals for 2015, which shouldn't be quite so radical as last year which saw us make some 6 or 7 changes to our itinerary. Watch this space for further details when available.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie

2014 Moments in Comics

To finish the 2014 nostalgia, here's my favourite comics & graphic novels from last year. I made it too late to contribute to Forbidden Planet's 'Best Of' articles where I was one of many featured last year, so here's a short summary of what stood out to me;

COMMANDO: Great War Stories by George Low & Keith Page, covers by Ian Kennedy

This year, I’ve eagerly followed D C Thomson’s longstanding title as it ambitiously embarked on a monthly tribute to the range of ordinary characters caught up in the extraordinary events of The Great War. The pocket sized Commando format is perfectly suited to these tales across the many theatres of war often highlighting lessor know combatants and conflicts. The stories are necessary stand-alone but, through cameos, contrast the idealistic enlistment dreams of a young newspaper boy with the experiences of those already at war. Although the tales are not the graphic accounts of a Charley’s War or a White Death (see below), they are no less effective in bringing the stories of ordinary soldiers to a wider newsstand audience and that should be praised. Expertly written and illustrated by George Low and Keith Page behind exceptional new Ian Kennedy covers these are well worth seeking out and hopefully will be collected on the series conclusion.

WHITE DEATH by Robbie Morrison and Charlie Adlard   

Sticking with the First World War, this is the recent Image Comics re-release of the indie classic to tie in with the war’s centenary. Set in 1916 on the Italian Trentino mountain range it is unflinching in its portrayal of those soldiers caught up in the desperation of war. The futility of conflict is expertly played out through the eyes of a small group of Italian soldiers as their struggles with the enemy and their nihilist commander are dwarfed by the dangerous mountain terrain. The quieter moments really stand out with carefully chosen dialogue and images reflecting the horror of the soldiers experiences without being preachy. Not an easy read for sure but an important one, well deserving of its hardcover re-release from two of the UK’s leading talents.

MULP: Sceptre of the Sun #1 by Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton

An absolute delight and a charming contrast to not only First World War stories but all other comics I’ve encountered this year. An anthropomorphic pulp adventure full of mice, mystery and exotic locations, what’s not to like! In the best adventure traditions, it’s rollicking fun with an Indiana Jones vibe as our heroes meet by an (alternative) Egyptian archaeological dig where their finds are under dangerous threat from spies working for a mysterious benefactor. Matt Gibbs clever and quick moving script allows Sara Dunkerton plenty of opportunity to show off her artistic skills with many dynamic locations and action scenes. As a fun first issue from two new creators this promises to be the start of something special.

Honourable mentions to Letty Wilson's delightful WEIRD MOOSE which I witnessed being created at Glasgow Comic-ConTop Shelf’s authentic American Civil Rights Movement book, MARCH, Jonathan Cape's SALLY HEATHCOTE: SUFFRAGETTE, Images Comics entertaining MANIFEST DESTINY and enjoyable indies BLACK FEATHER FALLS and HALF HANGED MacNAGHTEN from Soaring Penguin and Uproar Comics respectively.