Our canny man James heads to the Canny Comic Con
Look, it’s real simple: if we the consumer don’t go or don’t buy things which are pretty cool, then at some stage they won’t exist. Although this is in no way the only motivator I had on Saturday as I boarded a train for a journey of over three hours, it was at the back of my mind.
So, I headed to Canny Comic Con; as the Forbidden Planet man said to me, it’s the first time there has been a Comic Con in Newcastle in years and years, and it was well worth the journey.
Although Newcastle itself was wet and grey, the short walk from the station to City Library was colourful, with markets and German sausage and reindeer and all things Christmasy leading to the modern and airy structure that is Newcastle Library, five floors of free entertainment and learning.
And today a free comic convention.
At Berwick Hall in the library, a space for such things as this event, I waited a moment, as the amount of people was incredible. A talk was changing over, and so with the ebb and flow of the crowd, I took my time to take in what was going on.
At the front of the hall a number of tables were together, and a continuous all-day comic art workshop and competition was going on, with cleverly produced entry forms, so that a grasp of what goes into a comic book character could be gained by children.
Around the hall were a mix of well-known retailers, and I was pleased to see that Paul Scott had Omnivistascope 7 available. This diverse collection of interesting comics written by Paul is of course for me a continuation of sorts of his previous publication, Solar Wind.
Bryan and Mary Talbot were present. Bryan was showing some amazing artwork, and had just given a talk about Grandville and the anthropomorphic tradition, and I was pleased to see much interest in ‘Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes’ , Mary Talbot’s interesting biography of her young self, intertwined with the early life of Lucia Joyce, daughter of the more famous James, with the art by Bryan. Lucia Joyce is a tragic character, who was institutionalised at the age of 28 and spent nearly half her life in St Andrews Hospital, Northampton, dying at 75. I could talk about Lucia more, about how mental instability was dealt with in the 1930s and what it must have been to be the daughter of someone as chaotic and revered as Joyce, but the book charts her and Mary’s coming of age, linked in many inexplicable ways.
As I move along, children push by, delighted to be getting a sticker, as they are taking part in the ‘awesome sticker quest’ where child-friendly stalls give out stickers and the kids’ section upstairs also gives them a sticker, and so this visual treasure hunt gets them a prize.
There were a lot of children here, which I didn’t see at all as a bad thing; I do think that children need to reclaim comics, or maybe find ones they like, but it was good to see Roger Langridge comics available for 50p, and an ominously huge Judge Dredd was handing out pristine copies of 2000 AD from 1986, a good vintage I felt.
Other professionals included Doug Braithwaite, Al Ewing, Suzy Varty and Gary Erskine.
A comic that caught my eye was Those of No Class by N, a twenty-one-year old student studying illustration at Falmouth. She had a comic and a lovely concept and gallery book for sale. The comic is a stunning, fully painted affair and possesses a production quality that is rare amongst small presses. Apparently ‘Those of No Class’ is a comic about segregation and prejudice set on a not-so-distant planet. It ‘follows a human protagonist discovering and coming to terms with a world that doesn’t want him’ and I was well impressed by it. The artwork is fully painted with real style, and there is much to the story and I liked both Fay and Khern as they came together. The first Chapter and part of the second are available free online.
My goodness. Is this one of the comics of the year for me?
Onwards and I came across Crumpet Time Comics or more to the point Jack Fallows. I spoke to him about his anthology comic, Costume Party, he explained that ‘it’s kinda about identity. Some people liked it, others said find a story. Every strip and illustration is about identification, some semi-autobiographical but generally a melancholy feel.’ I like the look of this one, and also spoke to him about his ongoing series Big Bang. The comic ‘is about a mysterious disaster that strikes a city and we follow small groups of characters as they deal, or choose not to deal, with what’s going on.’ The setting is a nondescript Western city and it’s on its third issue, the second issue having a very interesting foldout sub piece about a character called Albert, and the third issue being a digest size story of the life of a bus driver called Dennis.
There was a huge table of small press offerings, a number of other artists, and overall I was well impressed with the Con. I caught up with Stacey who was helping Alex to run the con, and she said she was extremely happy, not just with the con, but the huge support that the library gave them, and also the amount of young people who had come and I could see why.
It was definitely worth the jaunt.