Bristol International Comic & Small Press Expo report

News Matthew Sheppard
26 May 2010 - 06:39

Matthew Sheppard visits the Bristol International Comic & Small Press Expo, and meets some of his 2000AD and V For Vendetta comic artist heroes in the process...

This weekend saw the Bristol International Comic & Small Press Expo giving fans a chance to meet creators, and creators a chance to meet publishers.

The con is held across two hotels. The Ramada Plaza plays host to more mainstream publishers and creators, while just around the corner, the Mercure Hotel houses the small press.

I've been attending Bristol for a number years and it's a fantastic opportunity to meet and chat to some of the best names in the industry today. Over the course of the weekend guests included Marvel writer/artist Alan Davis, British comic legend Pat Mills and guest of honour was X-Men scribe Chris Claremont.

Now, I've been reading 2000AD for the majority of my life and one of the main reasons I attend is getting sketches from numerous artists who have worked for 2000AD over the years. This year was no exception, including a Judge Dredd picture from V For Vendetta's artist David Lloyd, Clay of The Losers from Jock and a picture of myself and my wife by Walking Dead's artist, Charlie Adlard. She's a zombie attacking me!

Getting the chance to see the artist's work is another highlight. Some are very delicate, building the image up using pencils then inking, others more robust and frenetic, working with permanent markers and Tipp-Ex, all the time willing to chat and listen to the fans and occasionally letting slip spoilers of things to come.

Also at the Expo there are panels throughout the weekend on various topics. I attended Pat Mills giving a talk on his French book, Requiem Vampire Knight. For those unfamiliar with Pat Mills, he's one of the founders of 2000AD and has written numerous great stories including Charley's War, Nemesis The Warlock, Slaine, Defoe, and Marshall Law.

Requiem Vampire Knight has proved very successful in France and now English language versions of Books One and Two have been released, so his talk was geared around them but diversified into comparisons of how the French, British and American comic markets differ.

Listening to Pat it's clear that he is very passionate and involved in the characters and stories he creates. The artist on Requiem Vampire Knight is Oliver Ledoit, whose art is both disturbing and beautiful at the same time. I later picked up both books and got them signed by Pat based on the discussion at the panel.

The next panel was a discussion on The Losers, a DC/Vertigo comic by Andy Diggle and Jock that has been turned into a movie starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans and Zoe Saldana. The Losers are a military unit in Afghanistan betrayed whilst following orders and then try to find the truth behind their betrayal. It's good, very good, and I'm hoping the film will catch the very stylish and clever feel of the comic.

Now, when I say ‘discussion' and ‘panel' it all sounds very formal and organized. It's not. As with most things over the weekend, it's all very informal and very quickly turned into a question and answer session with Andy and Jock discussing The Losers, their work in general and future projects.

Highlights included their slightly surreal experience of travelling to the set of The Losers and seeing characters they created walking and talking and scenes recreated from the comic on the big screen. They also went on to reveal an idea for a very interesting mini-series called ‘Snapshot' where the lead character finds a phone that belongs to a hitman and contains pictures of his work.

The session ended with a very quick competition with prizes of some promo items, the best of which was a copy of Cougar's trademark hat. The question was ‘What is Cougar's real name?'. Andy then decided it was unfair, as he had never actually revealed it before! An audience member asked him what it was and Andy told us. That same audience member then answered and won the hat for sheer cheekiness!

The final panel I attended was the 2000AD panel, which again, was a very informal question and answer session. Unfortunately, Tharg was a bit under the weather, but writers Al Ewing, Rob Williams and Tony Lee and artists Leigh Gallagher and Dom Reardon coped brilliantly. Questions about the difference between writing for American and British comics, the strengths of 2000AD, new projects that they were working on, the problems with getting 2000AD out in the US, the exclusive US trade paperbacks release from Simon & Schuster in June, just how good 2000AD is at the moment, and from Tony Lee, every time you don't buy 2000AD a kitten loses its wings!

Several times throughout the weekend I made way across to the Mercure Hotel where the Small Press contingent of the Expo was based. Small press comics are normally self published comics and fanzines.

Two titles I always pick up every year are West by Andrew Cheverton and Tim Keable which is a Western tale of loner Jerusalem West, very much inspired by the films of Leone and Eastwood, and Futurequake which is a science fiction anthology comic.

The rest is a random browse never quite knowing what the next exhibitor will bring: Samurais, zombies, superheroes, comics, t-shirts, prints and cupcakes. It was all there. It's a vital part of the weekend and should you be at Bristol next year, don't miss having a look.

Last, but certainly not least, it wouldn't have been a weekend without the exhibitors. Com X had a large presence with writers and artists doing signings, as did Rebellion who had special offers all weekend and two competitions to win exclusive pieces drawn by Leigh Gallagher each day.

Reed Comics had Simon Bisley and Mike Ploog signing and sketching throughout the weekend. All this was accompanied by retailers and publishers selling their books and comics, usually with discounts.

Then, to round off the weekend, you get all the things that can only happen at a con: Al Ewing doing a Keith Harris and Orville impression with Tharg's head, seeing live music from Mine Power Cosmic with Charlie Adlard on drums and Phil Winslade on lead guitar and Cougar's real name, Carlos Sanchez.

Can't wait for next year.

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