2000 AD : 40 Years Of Thrill Power Festival
11th February 2017, Novatel Hammersmith
This was an incredible convention.
The atmosphere was fantastic and vibrant, everyone was so excited, and the only complaint was deciding what to do as there were important choices to make and too much to do!
Arriving on Friday was a great plan. The bar was full of creators, relaxing, meeting one another and meeting fans. Opportunities to say hello to old acquaintances arose, as did the chance to meet new ones both fans and professionals. Everyone mingled and the evening was a lovely long one.
I met Kelly Kanayama who is a PhD researcher writing a book about Garth Ennis, although duties at this con included moderating John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. Micheal Carroll introduced Eoin Coveny and Ryan Brown, both over from Ireland, and part of quite a substantial amount of creators who had travelled to be at the con, including Dani from Athens which is further away than Andorra I learned.
There was laughter and lots of picture taking, and generally the atmosphere was very welcoming, indeed. I kept meeting so many fellow fans whom I did not know, who all seemed happy and friendly to chat and engage and were just excited by being there.
On Saturday morning, alarms went off in the bedrooms. I had gone to bed, in the wrong bed, although this was apparently rectified at some stage. Hilarity struck as Steven Dean, a hardcore comic-collecting fan who was attending as part of our group, was keen to get down and join the queue early. His keenness was a violent disruption to precious sleep and recovery. It was 7.34 when the social media pinged back as our brave recon reported…. There are six people here.
Indeed fans were sharp and at the con in time, by 8.30 there was a well-managed queue waiting to get into the festival, a wide desk of helpful ‘Droids’ ably assisted and sorted out people with their various packages and it seemed very organised.
A Justice Department archway led one into the main festival space. Entering that though brought one into the main hall, where everything was taking place. It’s like a sensory and fan overload!
There was just too much fun and fantastic stuff to take in. Which legendary creators queue should one join? Does one want a sketch from Ezquera or Gibbons or a signature from Wagner or Mills? Do I watch D’israeli drawing or listen to the talk? A signature from Mick McMahon on an amazing model of his version of Judge Dredd?
Rebellion made a good call to cap this event at a thousand people. The festival had sold out, and was capped at that number of people; this was a good decision, even if it meant there were far more folks who wanted to be there who couldn’t. Simply more would have inundated the event and made it unmanageable. There are only so many creators and so much space, and that was hard for fans who had missed out.
The set up was not what I was expecting but it worked really well. One area had a variety of spaces, two discussion rooms, a signing area, a live drawing space, display space for a Lawmaster and host of props, and a Sláine bar. Spacious feeling and well laid-out, it was just right.
The space was needed as at 10am the crowd moved in. Certain queues and tables were bee-lines.
There was so much ephemera, collectibles and desirables. Much more than I’m cognisant of. Planet Replicas with their weapons and badges and small perfect metal badges for £2. threeA toys with Ashley Wood’s renditions of various characters seems to cause much excitement. I learn that this fervour is about a number of San Diego Comic Con Limited edition figures of Judge Fish, The Gronk and Mongrel from ABC Warriors. It’s seconds after the doors open when these sell out and threeA Toys likewise sell out of everything except a print before the end of the morning. These are lovely creations, one of a number of companies who have the licence to produce such models and again, one is conflicted by the procurement of collectibles that will make any shelf look good.
Prints are popular although I personally spend much time perusing the original artwork on sale.
threeA have some and next to them Vice Press have a wide range, The queue is forming there, too, and there is a palpable demand.
While prints have really become quite a thing, I turn around and get confronted by a similar queue at Colin McNeil’s table. Colin has black and white pages, some on traditional heavy comic card and some on Paper, at £60 and £30 respectively this is astounding value. Blood Emeralds, Reclamation and Insurrection art all vie as favourites. It’s beautiful stuff. One can actually see pencils and ink underneath blacked shadows perfecting the image; it’s amazing to see that an image is simply just not a shadow but rendered so intricately. Fans pore over the work, taking it in, looking to buy a piece of 2000AD artistic history.
Soon enough MacNeil is busy sketching and signing, but the availability of such art work is so tempting, indeed demand is such that he quickly takes coffee breaks, when he can.
There are about seventy tables here, including the Rebellion ‘Nerve Centre’. Some fifty eight creators have tables, and I note a few extra squeezed in. Nearly all the artists have a selection of artistic wares to choose from. John Higgins has original Judge Dredd and Hellblazer art, as well as postcards, a pre-order for a new book and prints, while Glenn Fabry has some lovely prints from Preacher, a selection of comics, some of which are quite limited, and of course, all are signing away, or sketching. This is the tone of the day, a £10, £20 or £30 sketch makes an original bespoke piece of art by a favourite immediately available for most pockets.
Artwork was available at an incredible range of prices, I spent a long time lovingly looking at fully coloured Judge Dredd Necropolis pages by Carlos Ezquerra at £650 a page. Considering their size and detail, and damn beauty, they are worth every penny. Some artists were being clever. Boo Cook had a great selection of work available, as well as his lovely fully painted Sláine pages. He had inks at a variety of prices, and he also brought along a stack of rough pages, ourtlines that would later go on to form pages, that included maps of Celtic lands, or colour roughs of covers, and sketches which I thought were a very kind price, no charge! Lots of lovely things for every depth of pocket, not just those fortunate enough to have large wallets.
Carlos Ezquerra, Dave Gibbons, Cam Kennedy, John Wagner and Pat Mills seem to compete at having the longest queues at their tables. Mills was in cracking form. There was much laughter in the queue, as fans tried to gauge how long it would take to get to the head, ‘everyone’s having a chat’ and Pat was engaging with new and old fans with gusto. Pat had a new book out, co-authored with Kevin O’Neil set in the publishing world in the 70s but crime fiction. Entitled Serial Killer: Read ‘Em and Weep, the setting is a comic office, and the villain is dreadful, and lazy.
There was a time when you’d be happy with T-shirts. Now badges, cufflinks, jewellery, prints, posters, 3D instantly rendered statues, different statuette versions of Dredd by given artists, hoodies, games, all available and fans enjoying their purchases, or signature. Some fans had brought along special comics. I met Laurence who had a Prog 1 that he wanted to get as many signatures on as possible. There is such a vast body of work to choose from, many had particular things they wanted signed, but were also willing to show to others in the queues or at the bar, so some quite interesting curiosities turned up.
Steve MacManus was along and had issues 1 of Action and Battle for sale, along with a host of other comics and mags, photos of himself as Action Man and Tharg, and he proved to be quite the character, very pleasant and engaging and happy to chat to fans. His tenures on various comics marks him as important, and he had copies of The Mighty One: My Life Inside the Nerve Centre, a memoir by Steve MacManus for sale, and had a banner promoting a forthcoming tour.
The cosplay was something else; there were no shortage of Judges, Mega City and Brit Cit, a Cal-Hab Judge with a cadet from Mega-City, Judge Death, PSI Judges, a De Marco and then some more unusual ones: a Rogue Trooper, Armitage, Deadman, Hewligan, Durham Red, Harvey from the Doghouse, Hammerstein and Vegas Carter from Flesh. And a Rorschach, which made me smile.
I was searching for Hilary Robinson. Hilary now in her 70s was listed as attending and I was rather excited to at last meet this writer. Unfortunately, Hilary was not along, but in her stead, her daughter Galina Rin was present. Robinson is from Northern Ireland, and wrote ‘What’s Up Doc?’ for the 1988 2000AD Summer Special, which was drawn by John McCrea. Robinson also created Zippy Couriers and Medivac 318 for 2000AD amongst other work, but never signed away the rights to the stories. This created an issue at the time, and there was litigation involved, and despite retaining rights, her involvement with 2000AD ceased.
Nigel Dobyn, who drew Medivac 318, was also on hand and Galina was promoting a shared multi media project that Hilary and Nigel were participating in. Death in Gloria is a multi media rock band created through the circuitry of an A.I. unit called Okami and the imagination of Galina herself. A graphic novel accompanying this is a narration of the stories, songs and the voices of the characters. The debut journey, and the art is very space operatic in look, but entitled The World Onboard, which is due out later this year. I was intrigued and the art sample that was being given away was really nice.
I thought about the kindness of Hilary Robinson being invited, the hatchet buried, and welcomed at this celebration. It was not the only purposeful act of kindness that I heard or saw occurring at the festival.
I noted that Simon Bisley gave away sketches at the end of the day to three fans who had been patiently waiting, as the festival closed down around them. Glen Fabry was quick at processing ‘signatures’ with the co-operation of fans who wanted sketches, so as to cause minimum delay, all round. There were limits to how many items a fan could get signed at the nerve centre, but fans who were perplexed and torn, often had help to hand, with other fans, not interested in a given creator, helping out.
Cam Kennedy stepped into a signing session, unexpectedly, and a fan reported that cards from ‘epic years’ were liberally and freely distributed by a fan to fellow fans so they had things to get signed.
Artists were very kind, and I saw John Higgins and PJ Holden going above and beyond for customers of original art, while photos with creators were very common. There was much debate about whether Sláine was pronounced Slain, or Slawnyah. And some hilarity.
At end of the day there was a screening of a Strontium Dog fan film. This was packed out, and received a huge amount of applause. It was very good for a fan film. The essence of SD was throughout. You could feel how they had utterly taken the imagery and pace from the comic to the screen. Elements that you’d think would not have translated well, worked neatly and overall I was well impressed.
There was no shortage of good will throughout the day. I watched Pat Mills’ queue get closed off and people were good-natured about it, and staff were kind and honest about setting expectations.
The staff were indeed excellent. I saw one lady who had had her wallet stolen two days previous to the festival, trying to figure out how to present ID. The staff were super accommodating and indeed found a way to confirm her. There was a calm quietness about most volunteers and staff at the Festival that was welcomed, everyone was very pleasant, and accepting. It really made a big difference, as did having all the staff clearly identified.
Owen Johnson, Mike Molcher and the team did a massive job. This was a fabulous celebration of all things 2000AD and they did a really professional job of facilitating a superb event that people could enjoy, while maintaining a friendly and welcoming ambiance and foster an atmosphere of excitement and enjoyment. It was a terrific day.