|You couldn't miss the 'Fest in the picturesque town of Enniskillen|
Where do I even begin? I'd never been to any form of Comic Con before Saturday and I have to say this has given me a taster that I wish to follow up on. Lew Stringer told me in the pub that night (there's a sentence I never thought I'd write and I'm thrilled to be able to do so) I'd chosen the best possible introduction for these events, as the Enniskillen Comic Fest is pure comics, not movies and television too. It's smaller than others because of this, yes, but that also lent itself to organiser Paul Trimble's fantastic get together in the aforementioned pub, something which also happened last year. I'll get to that further down the post but first, what about the event itself?
OINK! PART ONE
I didn't attend on the Friday but the artists were mainly out at schools that day and in the evening there was a special 2000AD event to celebrate its anniversary. I decided I wanted to stay in the town on Saturday instead because of the gathering afterwards so I went down that morning. I arrived in the gorgeous surroundings of Enniskillen Castle and really didn't know where to begin and just walked into the first building I came across, inside which the first person I saw was this fine fellow:
|They say you should never meet your heroes. They're wrong.|
After chatting away to Lew online for a long time now it was great to finally meet him in person and he was a gentleman through and through. I'd brought my original Oink! Book 1988 with me to ask both Lew and Davy Francis to sign, which will hopefully be the start of collecting a lot more signatures from the comic's contributors, and Lew graciously did so and then I asked for a sketch. But what to ask for? Well I couldn't decide between two of my favourite comics characters but that ended up being a good thing because now I've a piece with Oink!'s Tom Thug and Combat Colin from Marvel UK's Transformers and Action Force comics together!:
Mesmerising to watch!
It may seem like a silly thing to say but I was so surprised at just how effortless Lew made this look. He's been drawing them for decades now so obviously that'd be the case, but to see this come together right in front of me from a blank page, to simple pencils, to the structure forming and the inks taking place, then the little dots and details for those finishing touches... superb! It was a feeling that'd return when watching all the artists throughout the day. I love this piece and it'll be up in a frame as soon as I can get one to do it justice.
We chatted a good bit and suddenly I found myself in a conversation between myself, Lew and Nigel Parkinson. As you do!:
|Nigel Parkinson himself!|
Nigel won't need any introduction for anyone who grew up on British comics or who may be reading The Beano today. I can very happily report he's an absolute delight in person, very approachable and chatted away. Any time I returned to this building throughout the day Nigel had families around him, their kids excitedly watching him draw Dennis, Gnasher or The Bash Street Kids. In fact it was great to see so many children and families at a comics-only event, obviously they know there's still a UK industry here producing output for kids... of all ages!
OINK! PART TWO
I took advantage of arriving early by running about and getting some photos of those who attended, have a few chats and get my own requests in first. My obvious next stop after Lew had to be Davy:
|I'm no good at this selfie malarky. Here I am with Davy,|
Jenika Ioffreda and my oddly shaped neck.
Davy was doing caricatures all day for free, with a bucket for any donations people wished to make to the local NI Hospice charity. I'd originally came to request a Cowpat County drawing but how could I do that when an Oink! artist could draw me instead? At a few points throughout the day I came back to say hi again (and to see Jenika above) and would simply watch, stunned as Davy took a quick look at whoever was in front of him and knock out a dead-on cartoon likeness in a matter of five minutes. He wouldn't even sketch them out in pencil first, he'd just go straight in with the ink (using a pen with ink pot I should add). I was delighted with mine and Davy even added a couple of little details for this Oink! fan:
|New blog logo is coming.|
He even drew the Nintendo NES that was on my t-shirt (you can see it in the photo with Lew up above) and has me standing in a cowpat, complete with splatting effect. Brilliant. I asked him if I could use it as part of my blog's header too and he enthusiastically said yes, so expect that redesign I promised recently to happen soon. You can also see in the photo the book I carried around with me and here are the first two signatures from the Oink! team, ready for more to be added over time:
So that's Oink! covered, now how about the rest of the Fest? Well, next to Davy in the photo above is Jenika Ioffreda, an Italian independent comics creator based in London. Jenika's part of the table was full of wonderful drawings of a certain little black cat, the star of Vampire Free Style, her self-published six-part comic series.
CAT WITH THE CREAM
Jenika was doing caricatures too, though in a completely different style to Davy's. When I write up the first issue of Vampire on the blog soon (all part of the new blog being relaunched soon, folks) you'll see the marvellous, natural art style of Jenika's which is mesmerising to look at in the comic. This was the style of her caricatures too and just before asking for one I thought of something different and asked if she'd be able to do one from a photograph on my iPhone. But not just any photo, a photo of someone in particular who I look after from time-to-time for a friend. You'll see below:
|Jenika and her display of simply gorgeous art!|
|Jenika drawing the caricature for me of...|
|... Smudge the cat! I love it and so do his owners!|
Jenika was an absolute delight to speak to both at the Fest and in the pub that night. Can you believe this was her 166th comics convention?! That's just insane but it's great to know the comics have proven popular, as they most certainly deserve to be. As I said I'll be showcasing Vampire Free Style soon here on the blog and will definitely be investing in the rest of the series.
Let's take you on a quick trip around the Comic Fest now. I tried to take as many photos as I could and I did share a selection on Instagram as the day unfolded, but here's more from various different parts of the day:
2000AD had a large presence with Judge Dredd's co-creators John Wagner and Carlos Esquerra (top) having large queues throughout the day. I decided at the last minute to not take a rather large and heavy book for them to sign and I instantly regretted it when I saw them in person! I'll not make that mistake next year.
Other art bots included Cam Kennedy and Ryan Brown (middle, with Ryan MIA), as well as Clint Langley (bottom) and Ian Richardson (featured at the end of the post). Also in attendance were Peter Duncan (who recognised me from this blog, something I'm not used to yet!) and Mark McCann of the impressive Sector 13 fanzine created by a bunch of talented Northern Ireland fans.
The Joe Dredd festivities continued with Andy Manson attending with his brilliant selection of screen-used weapons props and costumes from the 2012 movie Dredd. Andy was getting interviewed when I was there so I never found out we could actually try them on! Stevie Robinson of the Other Worlds Than These blog got to do so though, the lucky bastard.
Independent comics and self-published titles were out in force! I was amazed at the array on offer; a hugely exciting mix of talent and top-quality reads for any true comics fan that's for sure (top). As the day moved on the individual buildings inside Enniskillen Castle became a little cramped at times, but not uncomfortably so and it all added to the atmosphere. Great to see such a brilliant turnout for an event solely about the comics.
OFF TO THE ISO-CUBES (THE PUB)
I've mentioned before on here the Belfast 2000AD fans who meet once a month in the city (Belfast Sector House 13: The Pit on Facebook) who I used to meet up with for a few pints. Through them I've seen some great cosplay outfits and Enniskillen didn't disappoint either. While I unfortunately didn't get to see what the always-fantastic Joanne Alexander was wearing, after lunch with the creator of Tom Thug (something else I never thought I'd say) I did get the chance to grab a few photos with this bunch, including Simon McKnight who is a gentleman in real life but here is a rather terrifyingly convincing Dredd!:
|To whoever took this photo thanks for the choice|
of angle. Great shot!
At the end of the afternoon was a charity auction but I had to nip off to get checked into my B&B for the night, rest up for a bit (it was a draining day, but in a good way) and get ready for heading back into the town for a bite to eat and some beer on the top floor of local pub, Blakes. Of course I just had to lay out my stash from the day on the bed to get a snapshot. I hadn't intended to spend that much but there were just too many goodies on show!:
From the top: My Oink! Book 1988 with Lew's and Davy's signatures, Lew's 7 Ages of Fan, character ensemble and Combat Colin artcards signed by the man himself on the day, an issue of Wildcat for the collection, Sector 13 fanzine, superb Action comic Hook Jaw canvas made with actual pages of an issue, my Smudge caricature and a signed #1 of Vampire Free Style, signed Cam Kennedy print, Dennis the Menace fan club badges given away by Lew and Nigel, my own caricature by Davy and the Tom and Colin sketch from Lew. I'm a happy comics fan!
So then the day came to an end and I found myself in the bar with people like John Wagner, Carlos Esquerra, Cam Kennedy and many, many more all mingling around. I even got to meet former 2000AD writer and editor Steve McManus briefly (thanks for the introduction Lew) which was just one more surreal moment to add to the list that day.
But probably the greatest highlight of the entire day can be seen in the photo below:
|Lew Stringer, Ian Richardson and Yanick Paquette... with me(!)|
Unfortunately this photo was taken after Jenica had moved tables but I can tell you now I haven't laughed this much and this hard in a long, long time! Lew needs no introduction, Ian is a superlative 2000AD artist (who also just happens to have worked for Dark Horse, Marvel, DC, Image and others) and Yanick has amassed a simply stunning catalogue of work for Marvel and DC, including award-winning Swamp Thing art and Ian also showed me some of Yanick's Wonder Woman work... wow. Just... wow! It was brilliant to finally meet and hang out with Lew and we chatted for a long time, Ian had some great stories to tell (about San Diego and Tijuana in particular!) and Yanick was simply hilarious the entire night; I was sore from laughing at one stage! Completely honoured to have had so much fun in this company.
The day has given me the hunger to visit other cons, although I have been warned I've probably picked the best one to start with so it may be a very tough act to follow! Thanks to Paul Trimble for the event itself and for arranging my being able to attend the nighttime gathering, thanks to all the guests who attended and made our day and obviously to all those I've specifically mentioned throughout this rather lengthy post.
To end I just wanted to say to those individuals who stopped and chatted about Oink! when they saw my book it was wonderful meeting other pig pals in person after writing this thing for a few years now and I hope you're enjoying the blog. So a big shout out to Pieter Bell, Andy Boal and the other super-friendly gentleman whose name I'm so sorry I've forgotten (Action Force/Combat Colin man!), you also helped make the day an unforgettable one. (Aha! One blog comment later and I can name that man as John Vaughn. A pleasure to meet you!)
Finally, when two blogs (and 20-year friends) meet for the first time in a few months at a Comic Fest strange things can happen...
ALL THE LINKS YOU COULD EVER NEED:
If that photo hasn't put you off, check out Stevie's superlative Other Worlds Than These blog.
Lew's Blimey! blog is still the top blog for classic comics and the latest info on new British fare.
Nigel's artwork can be enjoyed by young and old alike (and everyone in-between) over at The Beano.
Jenika's fantastic creations are available at her site, the Neptune Factory.
Check out Northern Ireland's own 2000AD fanzine Sector 13 too on Facebook.
While there nip over to Belfast Sector Housing 13: The Pit for info on the next meet!
Obviously, last but most importantly the Enniskillen Comic Fest has its own Facebook page which you simply must like for all the latest photos and, later on in the year (hopefully) the first news of any future event.