30 November 2012

Disconnected Thought

Alexi Conman was at Thought Bubble 2012. As usual it was far too big and amzing for his tiny brain to comprehend.

He thought the 2000AD panel was good, you can listen to it here.

He thought the British Comic Awards were good. Read more here. Alexi hopes they will grow and prosper in the years to come.

Also, Alexi was very pleased to see his latest work in print in a quality new anthology. Disconnected Vol. 2 from Disconnected Press sees Alexi teamed up with the brilliant Nadine Ashworth for 'Plans', a quiet story of aspirations and regrets and the contrasts between the dreams of youth and the realities of ageing.

Alexi is pleased to report that the book looks great and the tales featured have a real sense of being subtly off-kilter. Themed around unusual events in small towns, the book has a good range,generally veering towards darker stories, but Alexi thinks 'Plans' sits in there quite neatly.

Alexi suggests you click here to find out more aboutDisconnected Vol. 2 and here for opportunities to purchase this fine publication.

11 November 2012

Connecting with Disconnected

Alexi has been working on a story in the upcoming anthology Disconnected Vol. 2 from the excellent people at Disconnected Press. His story is called 'Plans' and has fabulous art by Nadine Ashworth.

Alexi was interested to hear last year that Lizzie and Conor were setting up Disconnected to publish some high quality comics anthologies - and he was delighted when he was invited to pitch for their second Disconnected book. The theme (things askew in small town settings) was so intriguing but so hard to pin down that it took a lot of thought for Alexi to come up with a story he was happy with, but eventually he managed 'Plans', a story of aspirations and regrets and the contrasts between the dreams of youth and the realities of ageing.

Disconnected Vol. 2 will be out at Thought Bubble and you can read a little bit about Alexi and Nadine and the story and the book by clicking this link.

15 May 2012

Con Report: Bristol Comic Expo 2012

Alexi was at the Bristol Comic Expo at the weekend and thought it would be worth doing a little report about it, since he enjoyed it more than any convention he's been to for ages.

There were several notable factors coming into the Expo this year: there had been a bit of shuffling around of the folk running the event, the main exhibitor room was back in the big hall beside the train station after three years away, and Bayou Arcana (a book that Alexi had scripted a story for) was launching.

In many ways, it wasn't massively different from previous years, but a lot of little things, mainly by luck, cumulatively made it very enjoyable for Alexi.

The new layout of the Expo was certainly pleasing. Having the majority of the exhibitors in the 'Brunel's Old Station' hall (as they had been on Alexi's first vist to the Expo, in 2008) was much better than cramming them into various rooms across two hotels. The hall (or shed as it's generally referred to) is a large, light, airy room, which meant more space to wander around and a more satisfying browsing experience for Alexi as a punter. Combined with the fact that there seemed to be many exciting new books on sale and a high level of quality across all the publications on show, the result was that Alexi came away with a massive stash of new comics.

The talks and panels in the Ramada hotel round the corner also benefitted from the extra space afforded by being separated from most of the exhibitors. It made the environment more pleasant (quieter, cooler, less stinky (except when Alexi was around)) - and there was a pretty solid programme to get stuck into to - more of which shortly.

Of course, also high among the positive factors was the usual social element, and despite his neanderthal grunting and terrifying visage, even Alexi had a great yak on with many excellent folks in the Ramada hotel bar about recent and upcoming projects and comics nonsense in general. There were also various other minutae that somehow contributed to how enjoyable it all was - a particularly comfortable stay at the hotel, the weather being lovely and sunny without being stultifyingly hot, even the catering in the shed was surprisingly good.

Alexi will admit that this general good feeling was enhanced by the fact that although there was still constant bustle, it wasn't quite as busy as in previous years - yes, the layout change helped, but it was also noticeable that there weren't quite as many creators and fans attending. Aside from the economic climate, this can almost certainly be attributed to the proximity (temporal and geographic) of other comic conventions. Kapow is next weekend and MCM Expo is the weekend after - and although Bristol was once 'The' British comic convention, it's now no longer top of the pecking order. Comic creators (of all levels) and fans understandably have limited amounts of time and money and are forced to make choices.

The apparent result, unfortunately, was that some exhibitors found the going a little slow, commercially, in comparison to their costs. This happens after every convention - creators who, for whatever reason, don't do so well - but there does seem to have been a bit of a muttering above the norm. It's perhaps understandable when fans have stated that the reason why they weren't there was that they'd chosen to go the London cons where there may be a greater concentration of 'big names' (particularly those from the U.S.), so the creators themselves end up going where they think there'll be the most fans, and a little bit of a vicious circle ensues.

Much as he sympathises, Alexi didn't have a table and wasn't really aiming to sell anything other than a few copies of Into The Woods, so slightly lower punter numbers didn't trouble him directly (quite the reverse!). In terms of creators, there were still loads, from established pros to small press, and the fact that there weren't, for example, any Marvel or DC editors there wasn't a concern at all.

In fact, a lack of presence from big publishers may have had a positive effect on the panel content. For example, the Expo regular DC/Vertigo panel, which in the past had sometimes perhaps been a little too focused on advertising upcoming releases to fanboys, got a fresh twist as creators Paul Cornell, Ian Churchill and Mark Buckingham were by joined by noted comics bloggers Cheryl Morgan and Stacey Whittle to discuss a broader range of topics than usual, particularly fan reaction to 'The New 52', and it turned out to be free-flowing, relaxed and insightful, with lots of interaction with the audience.

Similarly, the packed 2000AD panel (which can now be heard in its entirety here) seemed to go down well, a really good-humoured and positive celebration of 'the Galaxy's Greatest Comic' that again balanced daft banter and thoughtful wisdom from creator droids.

For the first time in a while, Alexi also stumbled upon an 'unexpected gem' panel. 'Strip for Action' was Mike Conroy hosting John Burns and Syd Jordan talking about their experience working on long-running action comic newspaper strips. It wasn't a genre that Alexi knew much about, but he found hearing these immensely experienced creators talking (about how they got into these comics, their working techniques, the nature of the business, how it changed, and so on) fascinating and very engaging.

There were also plenty of panels with younger creators launching their books and Alexi caught a few of these. Kronos City and Clockwork Watch both came across as interesting projects worth checking out, but of course, the most significant one for Alexi was the Bayou Arcana panel.

Alexi wasn't heavily involved in the development of the book (a lot of which was done on Facebook, which Alexi is not on) so he was happier cheering from the audience. However, a gajillion members of the creative crew did a grand job in both filling the stage and presenting and discussing the book. There was a buzz about the book throughout the weekend and Alexi was certainly impressed with the quality of the finished product, so he's hopeful that there will be plenty of copies being read in the near future. (Alexi even signed a few. But not many. If you got his signature, your copy is SUPER VALUABLE.)

On the topic of producing work for anthologies, Alexi saw a great panel on Sunday morning: 'Anthologies - Telling Tales', which featured Rob Davis, Dave Evans, Richmond Clements, Nic Wilkinson, Stacey Whittle, Barry Nugent and Jimmy Pearson, in a discussion of the appeal and challenges of anthology comics. This included their personal experience as editors, thoughts about the format and tips for anyone hoping to do work in anthologies. Having worked with most of them, Alexi was pleased that they didn't urge people never to work with him.

Despite Alexi's enjoyment of it, the Expo wasn't pefect, there were some things that could have been improved, mostly the usual topics - advertising and signage, admin and ticket sales; plus there was a band on on Saturday night who were pretty decent but way too loud to stay and listen to (Alexi is not an old fogey, the band really were just too damn loud) and again, there was a lack of info about who they were, when they were on, etc.

All in all though, a decent convention which Alexi really enjoyed.

In terms of questions raised about attendance and the tension with Kapow and MCM, Alexi just thinks this: some people may prefer a convention with a guest list that is topped with actors from Doctor Who and stand-up comdedians, at which one has to barge past thousands of morons while looking round tables, but Alexi does not. He doesn't care about people off the telly. He likes a bit of space. It's not to say that he has no interest in Kapow or MCM, he'll probably go to one or both at some point, but considering that Thought Bubble is almost certainly the best organised and most indie-comic-centric of the new breed of rapidly expanding comic cons and Alexi has even found that that has gradually become a bit too sprawling and hectic for his tastes, then Bristol will continue to hold more appeal than Kapow or MCM.

Some commentators have questioned whether there are too many comic conventions around the UK. Alexi refutes this. Horses for courses is what he thinks it's all about. There's scope for a massive range of events of different types and sizes, and it just takes a bit of common sense in scheduling to ensure they're well spaced out.

The trick of course is making sure that they're financially viable for all concerned. If Bristol isn't going to have quite as many visitors as it once did, meaning that creators don't sell as many comics, then reducing table costs (and ticket costs to encourage visitors) would hopefully make it more viable. If the costs of the hotel and shed could not be met with lower table and ticket costs, then there may be a decision to be made - change venue, or try and lure the punters back and get big again without increasing costs.

Perhaps it's about finding an identity. Perhaps Bristol has to choose between trying to fight with the massive multimedia behemoth events or aiming to be the largest of the more UK-comics-oriented middle-size cons (like Cardiff and Hi-Ex). Alexi hopes they choose the latter. If they can replicate the visitor experience that Alexi had, while making it a better experience for the stallholders, then Bristol will continue to have a strong and lasting appeal that other conventions will struggle to match.

** UPDATE: apparently ticket sales (i.e. punter attendance) was substantially up on the last few years. Alexi suggests you take all pontificating about "low turnout", both here and elsewhere, with a pinch of salt! **

4 May 2012

Into The Woods Review Quotes Round-Up

As mentioned here previously, a couple of months ago, Cardiff Comic Expo saw the release of Stacey Whittle's Into The Woods anthology of fairy stories. Since then, this fine comic seems to have had more reviews than any other book that Alexi has been involved with - and almost all have been very positive. People have even seen fit to say positive things about Changeling, the story that Alexi scripted. In light of this, Alexi has pulled together a few quotes from and links to these reviews, to convince you that if you haven't purchased it yet, you should do so immediately (a mere five quid, plus £1.50 p&p, from the Aye Saw Comics Big Cartel page).

You may notice that most reviewers seemed a unnerved by 'Changeling' - and Alexi is delighted by this! Stacey wanted original stories that reflected the eeriness of traditional fairy tales, so Alexi tried to write a story that was creepy and dark but not explicitly gruesome. Conor Boyle then made the magic happen and drew it dang good (with a couple of panels that even give Alexi goose pimples). Alexi's not really a big fan of horror but is definitely thinking of doing more work in the 'subtly terrifying' vein.

Alexi genuinely enjoyed all of the other stories and art in the book and thinks it's a strong and well-put-together collection, so one of the nice things about the reviews is that each seems to highlight different favourite stories from the book. However, due to laziness (and not wishing to reproduce complete reviews), the collection of quotes below are about the book as a whole, or where mentioned, the Changeling story specifically. Read the full reviews for more info and context - but beware, some do contain spoilers.  ['ITW' denotes quotes about Into The Woods as a whole; 'C' denotes quotes about 'Changeling' specifically]

ITW: "the standard here is very high, upsetting the cliché that one should not expect high calibre work from a small press anthology, and the variety of styles makes it all the more pleasing"
C: "a very dark story. I wondered whether the writer had contemplated this story being a reflection of modern post natal depression, or whether it's just a very unnerving story, either way, I thought that although it is not uncommon as a subject, that it was portrayed very well."
James Bacon at Forbidden Planet

[Note: yes, the postnatal depression theme was intentional and Alexi is very pleased that readers seem to be appreciating this angle on the story]

ITW: "The standard of recent [UK indie] anthologies is continued here with some stand out performances and some brilliant editing. If you are a fan of fairy tales or anything slightly creepy this is for you."
C: "a strange beast ... the story works very well with some great use of panel structure"
Luke Halsall at Geek Syndicate

ITW: "a wonderful collection ... a joy to read and absorb ... a round of applause must go to its editor Stacey Whittle ... my hope is that this is only volume one and that there will be a second volume"
Jenni Newman at Small Press Big Mouth

ITW:"a well-balanced anthology with a consistently high level of work throughout"
Lizzie Boyle at Lizzie Boyle Says

ITW: "definitely worth picking up. It’s a very good-looking little book which justifies its £5 price, and I’d recommend it to fans of dark fairytales- think Guillermo Del Toro, Fables, etc"
Graphic Scenes

ITW: "The reason that you should buy this book is that it is really very good indeed, and testament to the deep rich vein of talent in the UK small press scene. I loved it."
C: "a DEEPLY disturbing and creepy tale... Of all the stories within this one easily made my flesh crawl the most, and is most certainly the one you’re best advised to read while hiding behind the sofa"
JamesMOMB at MOMBsite

ITW: "You get fantastic modern fairy tales and as a bonus you get some up and coming writer and artist names to keep an eye out for in the future."
C: "a heartbreaking tale with amazing artwork by Conor Boyle"
Dave Probert at GeekPlanetOnline

ITW: "artwork is decent throughout ... an interesting read"
C: "my favourite of the anthology... a story that was altogether much more subtle, and much weirder than any of the others"
M. Allen at Everything Comes Back To 2000AD

ITW: "a great opportunity for writers and artists to flex their creativity to bring us something we haven’t seen before"
C: "clever, clever stuff and the best of the bunch"
Orlok at Everything Comes Back To 2000AD

ITW: "a really impressive little anthology, and well worth the £5. Hopefully this will lead to more stand out anthologies from editor Stacey Whittle"
C: "a tightly plotted uncomfortable story that will stay with you long after you've finished reading"
Laura Sneddon at Comicbook Grrrl

ITW: "I liked the way that all nine tales had different art styles and ideas ... I think there was a tale for everyone within this collection"
Raimy-rawr at Readaraptor

ITW: "lots of really good stuff in there ... a really well done book"
C: "oh my god, it is so goddamn creepy"
Burnt Weiners podcast, ep113

1 March 2012

Eagle-y anticipated

The final round of Eagle Award voting is now open (until 2nd April). Two comics featuring the work of Alexi Conman have made the final list of nominations!

FutureQuake and Zarjaz are both nominated in the the 'Favourite British Comicbook: Black and White' category, and since Alexi scripted 'Little Things' and 'Scientific Progress Goes Bosh' in FutureQuake #19 and 'Fat Chancers' in Zarjaz #12, he is pretty chuffed (particularly with the FutureQuake nod).

Now, there's a lot of talk that the awards maybe aren't representative of comics in the UK, and Alexi normally has a lot of time for that point of view and would gladly discuss what form something celebrating the diversity of British comics could more helpfully take and the pros and cons of fan voting and so on and so on - but currently he doesn't care BECAUSE HE GOT NOMINATED WOOHOO.

Anyway, if you haven't already, Alexi suggests that maybe you should take these nominations as evidence that you should purchase these fine comics and read them as soon as possible.

Incidentally, Alexi has been in an award-nominated anthology before.

In other news, Alexi was at the Cardiff International Comic & Animation Expo.

He was mainly helping flog Into The Woods, which went very well, and it was nice to chat to several of the creators involved. He did manage to catch the 2000AD mega panel - which with nine guests and two hosts was the biggest comic con panel he'd seen, but it was also a great good-humoured and enlightening look at how the creators themselves see the Galaxy's Greatest Comic on it's 35th birthday. He also indulged in the usual drunken-ish chatter with many superb people and thoroughly enjoyed himself.

21 February 2012

Into The Woods Out

Alexi Conman will be at the Cardiff International Comic Expo this weekend. Amongst other excitement Stacey Whittle will be releasing the Into The Woods anthology there. As previously mentioned, Alexi contributed to this publication - a story called 'Changeling', with art by Conor Boyle.

Having now seen the finished product, Alexi can assure you that it is of the highest quality, an excellent collection of original fairy tales, from the chilling to the heart-warming, featuring an outstanding cover by Andy Bloor and Steven Howard as shown above. He urges you to purchase a copy. If you're not at Cardiff, try and catch Stace in person or visit the online shop.

1 February 2012

Bayou'd be mad to miss it

Another project that Alexi Conman has contributed to that should see publication later this year is Bayou Arcana (Volume 1: Songs of Loss and Redemption), edited by Jimmy Pearson and published by Markosia.

Bayou Arcana is a 'southern gothic' fantasy/horror anthology of linked short stories (each with a different creative team) about a magical swamp and the community of escaped slaves who've made their home there. To make the structure even more complex, the creative teams are all made up of male writers and female artists to hopefully give the book an interesting and balanced artistic dynamic.

Alexi scripted a story called 'Tohopka', about a half-Hopi emotionally-repressed bounty hunter of that name, who sets out to capture the escaped slaves. Alexi is very pleased that the story is being drawn by Vicky Stonebridge, who has a really vibrant art style with a genuine sense of magic that will suit the book perfectly. With a host of other great talent involved, the book is sure to be a winner and Alexi is very much looking forward to seeing it complete.

For more info (including ordering options), Alexi urges you to visit the Markosia website.

3 January 2012

Wood you believe it

Although Alexi failed to conquer the world in 2011, he maintains that goal for 2012. One of the comics projects that he's involved with that will be released this year is Into The Woods.

Conceived of and edited by the stupendous Stacey Whittle (of Small Press Big Mouth fame) with design and production by the astounding Andy Bloor (of Accent UK fame), it's a really varied anthology of fairytale stories, ranging from the light and fun to the dark and eerie.

Alexi scripted a four-page story (somewhat towards the dark and eerie end of the spectrum) called 'Changeling' for the book. As the completion deadline approached, things were looking uncertain for this little tale (due to a couple of changes in the project's artist roster), but at short notice, to Alexi's immense approval, one of the most hotly-tipped artists currently working in the UK small press stepped in - Conor Boyle. Aside from being ruddy good, he's lightning fast and turned in some great pages that Alexi thought made a tricky story work really well.

In addition to 'Changeling', the book features seven more stories:
  • Nic Papaconstantinou, Bevis Musson and Filip Roncone - 'Amber And The Egg'
  • Richard McAuliffe and Sara Dunkerton - 'Red Riding Hood'
  • Scott Harrison, Lee Grice and Filip Roncone - 'The Madness From The Sea'
  • Daniel Clifford, David Wynne and Ian Sharman - 'The Black Shoes'
  • Lee Robson, Simon Wyatt and Filip Roncone - 'The Lang Pack'
  • Ollie Masters and Valia Kapadai - 'Time For A Change'
  • Matt Gibbs and Alice Duke - 'Samhain'
  • Stu.Art - 'Blood & Sacrifice'
Plus pin-up/cover art from Graeme Howard, Vicky Stonebridge and Andy Bloor & Steve Howard.

Having seen much of the finished material, Alexi is mightily impressed with the high level of quality that's maintained throughout and urges you to pick up a copy when it's released at Cardiff International Comic & Animation Expo on 25th-26th February.