Thursday, 18 September 2014

Stephenson's Robot is at the printers.

Oh yes.
Issue 1 of Stephenson's Robot, co-created with Indio! and Jon Ayre, with art from Indio! and Marleen Lowe has finally gone to the printers.
You can see from the cover above that Andy Bloor has exceeded anything he's ever done before on the design of this book. It looks gorgeous.
This full colour comic will be launched at Thought Bubble, if not at the London MCM, and will blow people's minds.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Helsinki Comic Festival.

When we were approached by Maura Manninen at the last Copenhagen Comic Convention we were a little unsure. We'd struck it lucky at the Copenhagen Conventions, making a good number of friends over the years and also meeting a lot of very nice English speaking customers. The question was 'Would Helsinki be anywhere near as good as Copenhagen for us ?'
We're nothing if not adventurous though and so decided that the only way to find out was to pack our bags (mostly with comics) and get over there. And this time we had three bags as we were being joined by co-creator, co-writer and artist on WesterNoir, Gary Crutchley. This was to be Gary's first Con overseas so we were secretly hoping that it'd be a good one for him.
The Festival itself was to be spread over two and a half days, two and a half very long days, which meant that we had to fly out on Thursday and fly back Monday, if we were to be at the entire Festival. We decided to stay an extra day though, so that we could enjoy the city, and so were to come back on Tuesday (very early).
My Thursday started at 5am,leaving the house and setting off in the opposite direction to Manchester Airport at 5.30am in order to pick Gary up from his house. Arriving 30 minutes early meant that Gary didn't have time for breakfast (I didn't feel too bad as I'd not had any either) but it did mean that we were pretty much on schedule for arriving at Colin's at 7.15am. A quick game of ''Weigh the bags on Colin's scales to get as many comics in as possible and not exceed the 23kg limit'' and we were soon in a taxi heading for the airport.
At the airport the bags weighed in at 22.7kg, so not too bad at all.

A short flight with not too much tilting (Gary hates it when planes tilt) and we were in Helsinki, which was 2 hours ahead of UK time.

We quickly settled into the hotel, Arthur, and as quickly settled into our first pint. I bought the first round and was a little shocked at the price. 24 Euros for three beers. Beer certainly isn't cheap in Helsinki. We took our time drinking it and then we set off to find the venue, tomorrow we'd be lugging a whole load of comics there so it's always best to know where you're going.
The venue was very central, a large marquee that was a stone's throw away from the train and bus stations. As we wandered around inside looking for an organiser it was a hive of activity, people setting up tables and people from the comic stores carrying in a large number of crates of comics. We decided we'd best leave them all to it and went to find somewhere to have tea, ending up at a place called O'Leary's and having a burger. We stopped off for another beer at the local pub, this time it was Colin's round. We all sauntered over to the bar.
'What's this beer like ?' Colin asked the barman pointing at a beer tap on the counter.
'It's Finnish.' was the reply.
'Oh', said Colin, that's a shame. 'What about this one then ? Do you have any of that left ?'
The barman looked at Colin in that confused way that people have when someone has said something that makes absolutely no sense.
'I think he means it's a local beer Colin,' I suggested, ' It's Finnish not finished.'
'Oh,' Colin was catching on, 'Can we have three pints please.'
We drank the pints, chatted about comics, Helsinki and about the Festival and wondered how it would go for us. It's a Festival that's been going since 1979 but this was the first time they will have come across Accent UK.
A reasonable start to the Friday, not too early as the Festival started in the early afternoon, and stomach's full of hotel breakfast, laden with comics, we set off again for the venue. It was hot. Not the weather you'd expect this time of year in Finland, so we paced ourselves a bit. On arrival, and after a quick discussion with one of the organisers, we were soon stood behind a quite large table. We had arrived. We had a table. A good start. We set up pretty quickly, as we do these days, we're pretty practised at this type of thing, and then we wandered around, meeting Germans, Latvians and Italians, as well as Scots (yep) and the Finnish organisers. As always I was impressed by the quality of the books on display, and whilst there were a good number in Finnish, there were plenty in English, which was a good sign.
The Festival started and had pretty good footfall for a Friday afternoon. We sold some books and were feeling OK about things and then around 6pm (the first day went on to 8pm) it got busy and we were meeting a lot of interested people and selling a good number of books.
We wandered out at around 8.30pm, pretty tired but feeling good about things. We'd brought quite a lot of comics with us and it looked like we'd not be taking most of them back with us again.
We decided to eat at an Italian restaurant, which was on the way back to the hotel, although Colin was keen on exploring, and very nice it was too, although a little difficult to fathom at first. Everything was charged to a plastic card which you settled on exiting the place.
We decided, as it was between the Italian restaurant and our hotel, that we'd have a last drink of the day in what was becoming 'our local'.

The one with the local beer on tap.
Through some crafty maneuvering in the restaurant, it was once again Colin's round (the beer in the restaurant was slightly cheaper), and with confidence this time he approached the bar, pointed at the tap that last night had poured the local beer and said,

'Three pints please'.
'It's finished', replied the young barmaid.
'Yes, I know', replied Colin, 'and very nice it is too'.
The barmaid just looked at him in a bemused way, and smiled. And waited.
Colin's confidence started to erode.
I leaned close to him.
'I think it's run out', I whispered.
'Oh', he exclaimed ... 'err ... well ... we'll try some of that,' he pointed at a random beer that had Thor in the name and whilst she was pouring it we told the barmaid what had happened the night before and how we were confusing the word 'Finish' with 'finished', she found it quite quaint. Brits abroad.

Saturday saw a reasonably early start, a decent hotel breakfast and a slight detour through town, seeing us arrive at the venue about 30 minutes before the 'doors' opened.
It was on this day that we met Eduardo Serradilla who knew a lot about most things, and was taken by our WesterNoir and Wolfmen books. He gave us some tips on how to sell to the Fins and also, after a good chat, left telling us that if he liked our books then he'd post a review of them up on his news-website (see previous post).
The day went really well, we chatted to the other creators around us and I managed to get a couple of sketched books from the very talented and very nice Tony Sandoval, who only sat at his table for about 2 hours a day, as he was enjoying the local attractions, maybe a little too much.
It was on Saturday that we reached a landmark for Accent UK. We sold our '1000th Convention Comic Book in a Year', and despite there still being two more scheduled Conventions to go. A great moment that had to be captured...
It was also on Saturday that a good friend of ours, Hugleikur Dagsson, stopped at our table, Completely dumbfounded that we would be there. His expression was classic. He looked at the table. He looked at us. He looked at the table again. He looked at us and said, 'It is you guys. What are you doing here?' Great to catch up with Dagsson as always, and try to learn the name of the latest volcano causing problems.

Saturday night we had tea with Luigi and Nadia (MalEdizioni), the Italians who had the table next to us, and declined the offer to meet up with Tony later and 'party'. A very nice evening in a restaurant that had a tractor theme, I kid you not, ended up with us all having a drink in a local bar before going our separate ways.
Sunday was not as busy as Saturday but busier than Friday and saw us meeting with Eduardo again and his wife, Elena, who had loved WesterNoir (I think Eduardo preferred The Wolfmen). We had a great chat about the books and were invited to visit Eduardo's EC Comics exhibition in the local library.
Whilst the Saturday was from 11am to 8pm, the Sunday finished at 6pm. Long days but not slow and whilst there were quiet periods, they didn't seem as long as they do at most UK cons. Consequently by the end of Sunday we were all shattered. Good job then that we returned to the hotel with far fewer books that we had carried from it only a few days before.

A quiet night, we ate tea back at the hotel, popped out for a pint (or two) in 'our local' and then crashed, trying to recharge batteries.
Monday was a day for doing tourist things. To get a feel for the city to see if it was somewhere to bring our families, and to buy them a few presents. We were to meet Matt Boyce later for a meal, Matt being a good friend of ours from the UK who was presenting at the event had suggested that he knew somewhere 'cheap but good'.
Helsinki is definitely somewhere to bring our families. It's a great city with plenty to do. We popped in to see Eduardo's great little EC exhibition and bid him farewell,
we bought some presents and we met Matt as arranged. After the very good and cheap food, we ended up in a surreal British pub, with manikins wearing flat caps in the window and darts boards on the wall.
A very nice evening where Gary and I thrashed Colin and Matt.
An early(ish) night as we had to be up at 5am to get the bus to the airport for an early flight home.
So, Helsinki. Would we go back ?
We certainly would. Both for the convention and for a family holiday.
A new favourite destination.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Spanish newspaper reviews Wolfmen and WesterNoir...

I'm just back from the Helsinki Comic Festival (full report to follow) where, amongst many other great people, we met Eduardo Serradilla who, apart from being very knowledgeable and passionate about comics (amongst other things), also writes reviews for a Spanish newspaper, Eldiario.es.
Eduardo loved the covers to WesterNoir and The Wolfmen and took copies home with him on the first day promising that if he liked them then he'd review them for the Eldiario.es website. 
He popped over to the stall the next day and showed us printouts of the reviews, with the overall comment that he, and his wife Elena, loved them.
Sadly the Wolfmen review is in Spanish only but Eduardo talked at length about how much he loved the way that Andy's art flowed like a movie.

A weekend of Dungeons and Dragons.

A couple of weekends ago we celebrated the 50th birthday of a very good friend of mine, Dave Knight, by hiring a house in Alton and spending the whole weekend playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Gary selected the venue purely based on the photo of the dining table...
A perfect setting for us to go adventuring from.
And he was spot on. The whole house was an ideal setting, from fireplace to tiled floor.
Vince, who I hadn't played with for a long time, was Dungeon Master, and took us into White Plume Mountain with nothing but our many years of experience and a magical item or two.
Dungeon Master Vince holds his head in his hands as Shaun (far left)
changes into a Penguin (he played a Druid) to save the day.
We had a great weekend though and won through, only once having to spend all of our hard won treasure on resurrecting the Dwarf (it seemed only fair as the Magic User had caused him more harm than the two Kelpies who took him underwater).
Let's hope we get to do it again sometime, maybe at the next 50th Birthday celebration,
Did I mention that I played the Magic User ? No ? I'd probably best not then.



Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Helsinki here we come.

I'm off to the Helsinki Comic Festival tomorrow, for Accent UK's first attendance. We've thought about it for a few years and this year was the year we could no longer resist.
You can find out more about it over at www.sarjakuvafestivaalit.fi/in-english.
The Accent UK team are myself, Colin and Gary Crutchley.
Should be fun.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The last page of Strange Times 2.

Well it had to happen eventually.
I'm just finishing the last page of Strange Times Book 2.
People have been very patient and very gracious, coming up to me at Conventions and asking if Book 2 was available to buy yet, only to be told, once again, that it was nearly finished.
Well, not for much longer.
I'm very happy with how it all resolved itself, and it may seem a strange thing to say (as I'm writing it) but that's actually how it feels. These strange little characters have kind of told their own tale as the book has gone along. I started each page knowing where I thought it would go and quite often found it taking a slightly different path.
Challenging me to hold the story together.
I've really enjoyed travelling it with them.
But, it had to end and end it has.
So, when will it be ready ?
Well, a very good friend has offered to proof read it for me (Thank You Claire), even after having read Book 1 :o).
Once that's done it'll be over to Andy Bloor to work his usual magic for me and pull it all together, injecting some nice design elements, as he as with the cover.
...and then it's off to the printers.
I'm considering having it available for Thought Bubble, but I've another book being launched at Thought Bubble already, of which I shall tell more soon... should I launch two books at the same Con ?
Oh, why not :o)

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Bumbling B and onwards.

I've had some really nice comments on my Bumbling B figure (see previous post) from Samantha Bryan and the people that are members of her Facebook group, which is really encouraging, and also from Jennifer Collier over at Unit Twelve on their Facebook Group.
So, I'm feeling even more determined to have another go.
This time though I've designed him around something I came across in a local antique fair.
An old fire extinguisher, resting on an A4 page for scale.
Which has some really nice features...
...a nice attachment, or two, for tubes, and I love the label on it...

...which calls it an Extintor Liliput, almost implying it's actually some horrible device for killing little people, so maybe it wasn't a fire extinguisher as sold to me.
Anyway, the figure I'm going to try and create around this will look something along the lines of...
He'll be from another planet and the costume will be his spacesuit, needed to keep him alive. I think he'll wear a mask, to hide his identity, although he is the only red skinned individual around and hardly likely to be trying to live amongst us unnoticed.
It'll no doubt take me a long time .. but I'll post his progress now and then.
Wish me luck ..