14 December 2011

Boom Bang A Bang

Alexi apologises for being somewhat late in reporting this, but the third issue of The Big Bang (a brilliant comic series by Jack Fallows that Alexi provides vague assistance with) was released at Thought Bubble. Alexi was really pleased with how it turned out. It's just a little stand-alone story examining a life spent trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. More info on Jack's blog and you can purchase it (and the first two issues) easily via Jack's Etsy shop.

It Was Canny. Special Con Report: Canny Comic Con

So, anyway, Alexi Conman organised a comic festival. Well, it was a little one. And 'curate' is perhaps a better word. And he had a lot of help. But still.

It was a one-day free event held at Newcastle City Library, it had a bit of everything - big names, small press, talks, panels, workshops, activities for all ages. You can check out more info over at the Canny Comic Con blog.

Alexi has mentioned this in various places already but to reiterate: it was a great day, lovely welcoming vibe, everyone seemed to have fun and it was thanks to the cumulative efforts of everyone who was part of it. It was all organised with zero money and Alexi is very grateful to all the people who gave up their time to get involved.

One final thing he'd like to point out is that you can do this. Newcastle had been a keen candidate for some kind of comics festival for some time (the last big comic event there was NICAF back in 1996) and it was just happenstance that the person who seemed to know the right people (or rather knew the right people that knew the right people) was antisocial idiot Alexi Conman. But it seemed like it needed doing so he asked people, and everyone was super-nice and supportive and keen, and after much planning and working out of things, it happened.

It is possible. Even if right now you've got no connection to anyone else in comics, just take things one step at a time. Try and get in touch with other enthusiasts in your area and form groups for reading or making comics (like Readers of the Lost Art and the Paper Jam Comics Collective). Start going to other big conventions around the country (there are more and more every year - check out the Comic Conventions listing), meeting people. Get in touch with awesome helpful people like your local library. Send six hundred emails. Then bang, you've got an event. And it doesn't even need to be that complex. Just start finding ways to celebrate anything about comics - because they're great and if you don't celebrate them, who will?

17 November 2011

Bubble Quake Canny Future Thought

This weekend will be Leeds' Thought Bubble Festival comic con, now even bigger and spread over two days. Alexi Conman will be there. If Alexi sees you, he will likely urge you to buy some or all of the new publications that he has contributed to, including Zarjaz #12, Accent UK's Predators anthology and the hot-off-the-press FutureQuake #19 (cover by Michael Byrne).

You can get a full overview of the issue here. It includes two stories by Alexi (TWO! It's like an Alexi Conman special! Well, not really!). These are: 'Little Things' with art by Mike Bunt, and 'Scientific Progress Goes Bosh', art by Andrew Chiu. Alexi was really pleased with how both stories turned out (one's quite creepy and one's quite daft, he leaves you to guess which is which), the art in both is excellent, and Alexi hopes the FQ readers dig them.

In other news, against all rationality, Alexi himself seems to be organising a little comic festival. If you're going to be anywhere near Newcastle on 10th December and have any interest in comics, you should definitely learn more about the Canny Comic Con.

25 October 2011

In the future, there will be quaking

Alexi Conman expects that you know of FutureQuake, yes? The long-running Eagle-nominated anthology comic, filled with quirky sci-fi stories, in the tradition of 2000AD's 'Future Shocks'?

Well Alexi is delighted that TWO stories that he has scripted are lined up to be appearing in the next issue!

Sneak peeks have been posted on the FutureQuake blog, check it out here and here!

2 August 2011

Zarjaz #12 is available now...

It's time for a bit of info regarding Zarjaz #12, which is out now and includes the story 'Fat Chancers', written by Alexi Conman.

If you're not already aware, Zarjaz is a 2000AD fanzine comic anthology. However 'fanzine' is perhaps a little misleading as Zarjaz has been Eagle-nominated (for 'best British black & white comic'), and as well as featuring some of the best small press and indie comic creators from the UK and beyond, it often also features material from establised pros who've worked on 2000AD itself. For example, issue 12 features work by Alex Ronald and Liam Sharp, along with many other superbly talented folks, so Alexi was pleased to be in such esteemed company.

Alexi's story features Dredd-alike 'Judge Dury' investigating some corpulent criminals in a daft two page story with perfect art by Luis Chichon (see below, and check out a little before/after taster of the strip on Luis' blog).

There's a link round-up for the issue on The Quaequam blog and it's reviewed twice on the ECBT2000AD blog (here and here) and in episode 61 of the ECBT2000AD podcast. Alexi was delighted to find that the reviewers seemed amused by his silly little story and impressed by the comic in general, so Alexi suggests that you may like to purchase a copy here.

In other breaking news: Accent UK's Predators anthology (which features more Alexi Conman work) has been spotlighted in Previews for your pre-ordering pleasure (order code STK449777), see the Accent UK blog for further details.

8 July 2011


Alexi suggests that you check out the info on the Quaequam Blog concerning Zarjaz #12. You will see that this forthcoming publication will include the story 'Tales of Mega-City One: Fat Chancers', written by Alexi Conman, art by Luis Chichon (sample here!) - along with assorted other 2000AD-flavour tremendousness by many talented folks and a scrotnig cover shown above (by Alex Ronald).

16 May 2011

Con Report: Bristol Comic Expo 2011

Alexi was at the Bristol International Comic and Small Press Expo 2011 and he thought it was good. He didn't have any new material on sale and there wasn't any particular BIG NEWS, but enjoyed some good panels, including:

The final outing of Dave Gibbons' and Budgie Barnett's Hypotheticals, a Bristol Expo favourite where comic pros are coaxed into giving honest answers on tricky comic industry situations in a strangely familiar alternate universe. Alexi enjoyed the balance of ethical insight and daft comedy fun, as he had done in previous years, from the brief but thoroughly considered responses of Richard Starkings to Tony Lee's excellent and curiously bath-centric alternative world opinions.

For pure humour, Alexi thought Hypotheticals was just pipped by the Just A Comic-Pickin' Minute panel. Following an almost identical format to a certain long-running Radio 4 programme, Tim Pilcher did an admirable job of adjudicating a closely fought contest between Paul Cornell, Si Spencer, Gary Erskine, and James Hodgkins, full of skill, verbosity and unnecessary personal revelations. Great fun.

Self Made Hero's H.P. Lovecraft anthology launch panel was a somewhat spookier affair. Alexi found it interesting to hear the insights of editor Dan Lockwood and contributors Ian Edginton, Rob Davis, INJ Culbard and David Hine, into why and how they tackled such iconic yet potentially difficult source material. There is no doubt the anthology looks lovely (in an indescribably horrific way) but Alexi has been slightly unsure about reading it, given the potential difficulties of adapting Lovecraft's prose style to comics. The panel discussed it openly and honestly. The big advantage of course is that Lovecraft's style can be hard going, dense and sometimes even a little rough or repetitive and adapation allowed the creators to distill the essence of the stories into much more readable forms. The disadvantage is the way that Lovecraft builds up a sense of foreboding and uses concepts and descriptions that are borderline unrepresentable (e.g. indescribable horror or a colour that has never been seen before etc.) and the fact that horror (in terms of being genuinely frightening as opposed to just making horror-themed images) is very hard to do in the sequential art medium.

Alexi was impressed with the panel's deep appreciation of Lovecraft's work (if not necessarily the man himself, who seems an odd and unhappy fellow) and their analysis of how best to represent it, so he is now keen to give the book a read and has high hopes it will terrify him.

Another sort-of launch that dealt with the challenges of using the comics medium was Screen and Page where some of the creators behind the recently-launched Tales of the Spiffing anthology talked a bit about it. Specifically, they talked a bit about the fact they were all working in animation (for Aardman) and how they had to adapt what they knew about storyboarding and animation and apply it to their new endeavours in comics. Alexi found it interesting to hear people who obviously knew a lot in their main field but were relative newcomers to comics talking about their learning experience. For example, they felt that you had more flexibility with the 180 degree rule in comics compared to film thanks to the discrete nature of panels (as opposed to continuous nature of film) but that also made it more important to be able to pick the important images to show - and then there's the difficulty of what size and formation to use to create the page layouts. Alexi found it really interesting stuff.

Another launch panel saw Strip Magazine saying hello to the comics world - an anthology adventure comic for kids too old for the Beano and Ben Ten and too young for 2000AD. Alexi enjoyed the panel, and whilst it was a shame that preview copies had got held up in France due to industrial action (boo), the comic looks like a cracking read for kids of all ages looking for some gung-ho action. The idea of doing something quite retro but at the same time quite forward-looking in filling this niche for older kids comics, using newsstand distribution, is incredibly ambitious but highly admirable.

The DFC, another recent attempt at launching a new British children's comic didn't quite make it initially (but is returning as Phoenix) but Strip is choosing to do a couple of things differently - first, in specifically being a predominantly action comic, and second in trying to reach the newsstands (The DFC was subscription only). It is however, following The DFC in aiming to produce collected albums of the the stories it runs. It is ambitious but it might just work. Alexi hopes that Strip (and Phoenix) will gain a foothold and show a new generation that comics can be something for them to enjoy.

Speaking of the influence of childhood comic-reading, one of the top panels of the weekend posed the question What's the point in small press superheroes? or rather Small Press Big Mouth's Stacey Whittle did as moderator, and Paul Grist, Matthew Craig, Daniel Clifford and Graham Pearce discussed it. Alexi really enjoys the work of all of these creators but at the same time is slightly disappointed that there are so many superheroic small press comics, so was intrigued to hear what the point was.

Despite a variation in experience and styles, the panelists were largely in agreement. They wanted to make superhero comics because they read superhero comics growing up and wanted to reflect that. Self-publishing (or, in Paul Grist's case, having Jack Staff published by Image comics) gave them the freedom to do stories where they could set the agenda, where they could show their love for the medium without being beholden to editorial control, but at the same time because they're not published by Marvel/DC, they have the difficult task of attracting that audience away from the mainstream titles or attracting the indie crowd toward a superhero book.

It's a strange conundrum. More superhero comics means more people read superhero comics so want to make more superhero comics so it continues, a vicious circle whereby one genre overshadows a whole medium. On the other hand, these guys are passionate about what they do and make great comics (often more enjoyable than both mainstream superhero material and non-superhero indie stuff). Perhaps what this points to is the simple answer that good comics are good comics and whether that's Marvel or DC or Image or other indie publishers or self-published, and whether that's superheroes or not, it doesn't matter. The important point is that people are making comics that inspire them and hopefully their audience.

A lot of that was also reflected in Com.X's It's a "yes" from him but it's a "no" from me panel, which talked about their submission review process and provided tips on pitching. What is a publisher looking for in a project? Something original that means something to the creators. What do they want to see in prospective creators? The ability to take criticism on board and develop. Alexi thought it was all sound advice and encouraging for any aspiring creator to hear.

Alexi is pretty sure there is some clever way to link all these panels together into some ultimate Bristol Expo wisdom-dump... but he can't quite manage it. Maybe he will one day.

Usual other comic con loveliness also occurred - big pile of acquisitions, late night blathering and so on. Alexi sends out mad props to all the good folk who he saw over the weekend.

6 April 2011

An arachnid and fatties

A couple of stories written by Alexi Conman will be hitting print relatively soon.

First up, in Accent UK's latest anthology, Predators, is 'Spider', a five-pager brilliantly drawn by Crispian Woolford (see a sample of his line art for the story here). Alexi describes it as a little kind of meditation on motivation in relation to predation - because he is a bit pretentious.

Next, hitting the world in an issue of top 2000AD fanzine comic Zarjaz, is 'Fat Chancers', a daft two-page 'Tales of Mega-City One' story inspired by some jokey suggestions from the editor at a post-convention night out which Alexi took seriously (he is serious about all things!). A little more info and a sample of the fantastic art by Luis Chichon is here.

Alexi predictably urges everyone to keep a keen eye out for these fine publications.

1 March 2011

Con Report: Cardiff International Comic Expo 2011

A brand new convention! The first Cardiff International Comic Expo was occurring at the weekend. Alexi was there and thought it went tremendously well. He was therefore also very pleased to hear rumours that it would be returning next year.

Brought to the world with help from the folks behind the Bristol International Comics and Small Press Expo, it was an opportunity to put Wales on the comic convention map - and Alexi is glad that it seems to have done just that. The more comic events around the UK, the better it will surely be for everyone involved in comics here.

It was a one day event, but it packed plenty in and did a great many things right. It was conveniently located all in one place (the swish Cardiff Mercure Holland House hotel), it had a fairly large dealer room (well-lit and airy), a good sized panel room (with raised stage and event staff on the door to provide info and ensure latecomers could come in quietly), good signage and organisation (announcements reminding people about panels about to start), worthwhile evening entertainment (decent local band 'Jam with RoBina') and basically had a really good vibe all the way through.

If Alexi had to criticise anything about CICE, it was only that it almost tried too hard to do a bit of everything and ran the risk of spreading itself too thinly - for example the panel schedule included panels about animation, film storyboarding, wargaming, and TV special effects. However, Alexi thought this was (a) completely understandable given that it's a new event that wanted to maximise its potential audience, (b) actually quite nice as it contributed to both the sense of scale and the sense of inclusivity, and (c) there was still plenty of stuff focused on the kind of thing Alexi was most interested in (i.e. comics).

Local podcasting heroes (and thoroughly nice chaps) the Sidekickcast led the way in the panels, starting with their own speciality 'Secrets and Lies' panel (a bit like 'Call My Bluff', based around assessing whether various possibly-spurious comic-related 'facts' are true or false), wacky fun which pitted teams of writers versus artists versus the audience - and you can listen to the whole thing right now HERE!

They later followed this up with an in-depth discussion panel where Barry Nugent and Steve Penfold talked about adapting Barry's novel Fallen Heroes from prose to comic form and the many and varied hurdles they jumped to get to releasing the first issue (which had already had a fantastic morning of sales, to the point that it had sold out before the panel had started!). Seeing how the project evolved, dealing with: going self-published after the orginal publisher collapsed, the comic-to-prose adaptation process and the geographical diversity of the creative team, it was interesting and heartening to see such commitment and Alexi wishes them well with the comic (and looks forward to seeing more of it).

Alexi must admit that he is not really into Doctor Who, but was pleasantly surprised by the Doctor Who panel. Focusing on comic and audiobook adaptations, the writers and artists discussed their takes on this enduring brand and how they had to work to adapt the characters that had already been seen on television into their own original stories whilst ensuring it all stayed within continuity.

In terms of the comics for sale in the dealer hall Alexi was pleased to see a fair bit of Welsh gear (including 10thology, Swansea Comics Collective, and European translation reprint specialists Dalen Books) and bought a decent stack of stuff.

The general boozing and yakking had a really nice inclusive feeling throughout the day into the evening which Alexi enjoyed very much (the usual greetings and mad props to all the good people who put up with his inane blabbering).

So, in conclusion, CICE 2011: great, roll on CICE 2012!

12 January 2011

Crack! Bang!

The Big Bang gets a great little feature in the January issue of The Crack (illustrious review/listings mag for North East England) - AND one of Jack's tremendous robot illustrations is used for the cover. Brilliant! See Jack's blog for the full story.