Dublin Comic Con – Convention Centre Dublin, 6th and 7th of August 2016
You know when you board a plane in London, bound for Dublin, and people are wearing the trappings and paraphernalia of comics fandom, that you are amongst friends. A cursory question confirmed the shared destination and suddenly it’s as if there is a tangible gravitational pull that Dublin Comic Con has attained.
In its second year now at the Convention Centre Dublin, the event had considerably increased its space by utilising the 2,000 seater purpose built auditorium space and the adjoining foyer, while by the time I arrived on Sunday morning a lot of the talk was of 10,000 people in attendance on the Saturday. A phenomenal amount.
(Frank Stephen and Alan with the Cap)
Kevin Eastman proved incredibly popular and the mix of TV and film personalities were in demand with the fans, Paul McGann being exceptionally cordial, enjoying those dedicated to works he appeared in. I was on hand with the Dublin Worldcon 2019 bid, (dublin2019.com) giving away free books and comics, promoting local and worldwide conventions while we were at it. This gives one a fabulous view of the crowd, staying in one place as people come and go, and I was astonished at the level of cosplay on display. We also had a selection of authors signing on the Saturday, a neat addition to the long list of guests.
Without doubt, when I watched John Halissey climb into the legs of an Iron Man Hulkbuster suit, I was stunned and excited at the same time. As the torso and then the head was lowered creating a huge ten foot tall gargantuan, it was clear that in the space that was available, movement would be limited, but John limbered up and moved into position, kids dwarfed by this costume, for photo opportunities.
From San Diego Comic Con to London Film and Comic Con, C2E2 to Wondercon, I have never, ever, seen a cosplay as impressive as this. It was unreal, both in its scale and its attention to detail. John had a laptop handed in via the ‘armpit’ of the suit, along with speakers, so that ‘Iron Man’ could blast out, as kids queued to get their photo with this phenomenon. Some older than the average!
This one moment totally secured in my mind some of the differences here at Dublin Comic Con. There is a huge creative community here for some reason; props, sets, displays. Fans of making, building and displaying large dioramas and displays are really at the fore here, and fans love it. The calibre is top notch with a number of interactive experiences, paying bottle tops to go into a different world for a few moments, or climbing astride the back of a Dewback in Tatooine, crafted to an incredible level, as well as the prop displays, many built with a level of precision that can only impress.
Comic characters have transcended Movies and TV and are ubiquitous in our culture today, but it is nice to see unique and creative cosplaying, so when a strange dragon creature walked by, entitled Obsidian Dragon Cosplay, I realised that there is so much to be proud of going on here.
(Obsidian Dragon Cosplay)
I was pleased to see local creators who are now working for the large comic companies, Ruth Redmond, Stephen Downey and Nick Roche, signing and sketching. Indeed, my good intention of going up and saying hello or engaging was thwarted by the continual crowd around their tables, in the brief time I did get to look around.
Finding new comics, though, is always something that makes a convention that little bit nice, and so when my friend Carol Connolly advised that there was quite a good selection of new small press offerings in the artists’ alley, I went on the hunt and was rather pleased with what I found, although this is just a representation of what was available, but I will give a few words about each.
Area 9 by Kiara Lee.
This is a perfectly square-bound manga, printed as it should be, from right to left. I was quite taken with the very beautiful cover and also the quality of production. The story is smart, clear, focussing on three teenagers who come together, in a way because of the title, Area 9, a research facility surrounded by a huge wall that finds cures for dangerous viruses. With a hint of an apocalypse in the background, we follow the fifteen year old protagonist, Toshiba, who meets another fifteen year old, Bomb, who wants to destroy the facility, and soon they meet more characters that lead to intrigue and personal challenges. It is delightfully well drawn and laid out, and was created initially online, then brought to print some time ago. I was really well pleased to find such a professional level of manga on sale, the styles renowned with manga flowing easily from the hand of the artist. I snapped it up. Kiara is also exceptional in coloured manga, and I recommend her deviant art.
100 Times by Edward Kerr and Katie Fleming.
I was unsure of the look of this book. That is okay, I think it is important that there are comics that I am not sure about, or keen on, as that means there are others who love them that are reading comics and this means there is a level of diversity indicative of a media that is spreading. This comic, though, took me by surprise as I really enjoyed it, it is exceptionally clever. Described as ‘a slice of life’ with a werewolf, it is a wonderful comic, telling the story of Myran and Quill. Myran goes to a place he never expected to go, a club called ‘Howl’, but is soon drinking with Myran and stays for one more. That leads to them living together and Myran dealing with living with a Werewolf, which is in many respects exceptionally well done, being gently insightful whilst also dealing with the compromise and consideration of a relationship. There are some nice moments, when Myran meets Quill’s pack and learns how he became the alpha, and of course Quill meeting Myran’s Gram Gram.
The comic traces its origins from two D&D characters of the same name, and we are presented with a short comic from this setting, with typical tavern being the location of many stories, and so we see Quill and Myran in a different setting and, indeed, in a different relationship. I loved this comic, I often think that when a reader can find metaphor and nuance within the writing, that there is a maturity and pleasure within its reading, especially when it creates thought as this beautiful comic does. In my youth this comic would have been scandalous, a relationship with a werewolf, but sure now, that’s grand, no-one bats an eyelid.
The Phantom and 80th Anniversary special from Lighting Strikes and Dublin Comic Con, edited by Eoin McAuley with proceeds donated to Dublin Children’s Hospitals. www.lscomics.com
This fully licensed comic printed to the highest comic book standard contains six short stories, varying in length, and two articles presenting quite the cornucopia from the world of The Ghost Who Walks. It is quite an impressive homage to The Phantom and indeed an excellent introduction for new readers, while enjoyable to established fans. The two longer stories, ‘The Magician’s Hoard’ by Sean Hil, Cian Tormey with colours by Chris O’Halloran and lettering by Robin Joes and ‘On Phantoms Trail’ by Derek Keogh, Johnny McMonagel with colours by Ashwin Chacko and again lettering by Jones, were nicely delivered with neat artwork. Both shared a common epistolary element in that journal or diary writing formed part of the narrative, which was a subtle link, and they were cleanly drawn in both cases, a nice flow to the panels and well told comic stories. The shorter pieces, all written by John O’Reily, also pass muster, and I was well pleased to be reading articles about King Features and Lee Falk. www.lscomics.com
The Hellion written by Feargal Keenan, pencils and inks by Katie Fleming and Colours by Triona Farrell.
Another incredible find of the Convention, I picked up issues #1 and 2 of The Hellion. A Dublin based teenage superhero, Nick, with some regenerative abilities, fighting criminals as The Hellion, in a world where super heroes and villains do exist. Classic stuff, although it had an incredible sense of place, the language, characteristics and setting feeling all really good and placing it squarely in modern Dublin. The character of Nick has a normal life around his crime fighting, but it also feels grounded, modern and less clichéd than normally occurs in superhero comics. This may be due to the interesting interpersonal relationships that exist in the first two issues, and also the nature of the realism of the family and friends round the protagonist. Some elements, such as the Garda (police force), are portrayed quite well, and there is a lovely sense of humour to it all. There is really clever use of social media technology and terminology, reflecting the importance of ‘likes’ in this modern word, but the writer skillfully using systems called Stumblr, Skitter and Head Space which explain while staying slightly off-kilter from our own, non-cape world.
(Triona and Feargal)
The artwork by Katie Flemming is very nice, the line work is neat and her range of expressions and indeed stances for The Hellion is impressive, combined with the beautiful and lush colouring by Triona Tree Farrell it really creates an overall exceptional small press comic. When there is an attention to detail that sees the Dublin Bus seat moquette design replicated, one knows that the care that went into it is strong, and indeed, such a detail is indicative of the passion of excellence which makes this comic such a good find and enjoyable read.
The Gaurds written by Shane Ormond with art by Kevin Keane, lettering by Alice Coleman, editor
I wasn’t ready for the level of darkness and violence in this comic, and must admit it is a really excellent read. It feels like it should have been published by Vertigo, at their height.
Set in Dublin we meet Kate, and her story is fascinating, but she ends up succeeding. She is a detective in The Gaurds, the Irish Police force, but her work against the darker side of society leads to her getting into some trouble. An excellent sense of propriety but impatient with it, she gets demoted and sent to work with a Sgt Mick Lonnie, a hefty thick-set greying guard, who wears the bright yellow but investigates crimes that have crossed the boundaries of what we know as normal.
Despite this slight jaunt into the supernatural, the crime and corruption is continuing. I have to say the level of sinisterness, violence and imagination used to show the hurt and pain inflicted is impressive. There is a hard boiled edge to this story, and it is presented exceedingly well.
The neat artwork is of a very high standard, with excellent layout and really pretty perfect colouring. The two page introduction to Kate is some of the best comic storytelling I have seen, tight and perfectly sequential, allowing the reader to very quickly grasp where a character is at.
This square-bound comic is nicely done, and is only the first part of the story. I’ll be looking for the second part. Kate as a character felt real, even if she was wandering into the imaginary and places where people do not belong. A fabulous comic.
Julie Nick‘s Pulp Stories.
Julie Nick writes and draws two nice vignettes in this comic, in what feels like a pulp war setting. We follow two heroes as they engage in two very different fights. The first, Edith, is on board a train that is steaming towards its doom, but laden with gas-masked bad guys, fighting as a timer ticks down. It is cleverly written, and despite its brevity we get enough of a story to show what is going on. The second story stars Nancy, wearing a jump suit, goggles and tight skull cap, who infiltrates a castle with the intention to destroy the evil base.
Now this story contains some comic work that really impressed, presenting the route that Nancy takes, cutting away parts of the building at an angle that is perfect, I have to say. It was a double page spread that I savoured for some time, and further layout smarts allowed for speed, direction and angles to be shown in the following pages, all of which helped give the story a lovely quick sense of pace, which was needed.
Between my excitement at the stunning cosplay and then the wonderful afterglow of decent comic reading, I was well pleased with Dublin Comic Con and cannot wait for next year’s event.