Sunday, 19 October 2014

A weekend in Whitby.

With all the recent activity at 50th birthday weekend celebrations, Comic Conventions overseas and the Kate Bush event, it was really nice to spend a relaxing weekend with my wife.
We decided on the other side of Britain and booked a hotel room in Whitby, or Dracula fame.
We got very lucky with the weather, which is still unseasonably sunny and warm. Well, it is warmer than the seasons we've grown up with but maybe it'll be the norm for the next few generations.
Whitby is a great little seaside village, with a good history of fishing, a lovely beach and some really nice walks. The beach is a sharp decent from the hotel we were staying at, but this did mean that we had a great sea view from the hotel window.
As usual my photos focus mainly on objects that are rusting, I'm not really sure what is is about decaying metal that draws me to it, I think it's the colours and textures, but drawn I am.
And what with all that salt in the air, the seaside always provides lots of source material.
Jane and I spent Saturday wandering along the beach, popping into a Vintage Fair that happened to be on, and wandering around Antique and Curiosity shops.
Tea was a great Fish and Chips meal for me. I always get some Fish and Chips in when I visit the coast as it's always the best in Britain, with the fish being so fresh.
But I didn't brave the sea.
I think this is probably the first year in a long time that I haven't taken a dip in the waters around the UK. I jut never managed to get to a beach during the summer, and as warm as the sun was last weekend, it was not having the slightest effect on the temperature of the sea. Well, it felt freezing to me anyway.
On the Sunday we took a trip to Robin Hood's Bay, which is glorious but a challenge to get to as it's a steep walk down to and a steep walk back up from. It's well worth the climb though. A beautiful little village with some lovely little restaurants facing out over the coast. Wonderful.
Stopping off at Filey before heading home completed the weekend.
Very relaxing and lovely to get away from it all and just wander around and relax. It's a different pace of life on the sea front. All that energy of the sea never seems to make it beyond the waves breaking on the shore line. The towns and the people in them move at their own pace, a much slower and more relaxing one.
It is infectious.
You don't feel like rushing around.
You just feel like becoming part of it all.
It was a shame to have to leave it.
But it'll be a pleasure to go back to.
To recharge batteries and be able to remember that it is possible to just slow down.
Even if it is only for a short time.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Tales of WesterNoir.

Gary and I decided that we wanted to tell more tales set in and around the events that take place with WesterNoir, but didn't want to take Gary away from his main focus, busy as he is on issue 5 of Westernoir.
So the idea was born that we'd create a comic to accompany it, but this time we'd both write separate stories and get some of our favourite independent comic artists to illustrate them.
And so Tales of WesterNoir was born, and the first issue is now complete, with Andy Bloor once again bringing his design talent to the book to help it stand out from the crowd.
The book will be launched at Thought Bubble on November, with Issue 5 of WesterNoir launching at the first con of 2015.
Art by Gary Crutchley, colours by Matt Soffe
and design by Andy Bloor ...
I'm lucky to get my name on the cover...
You can see the cover's evolution over on Gary's blog.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

An evening with Kate Bush - part two.

My last post has received some feedback, as you'll see from the comments.
Seems I came across as a little selfish...
Keeping, and wanting to keep, too much to myself...
Not sharing.
And I guess the people who posted the comments are right.
So, I'll share more of my Evening with Kate Bush with anyone who wants to hear it...
And yes, I do hope that you all get to sample the crazy genius that is Kate Bush in your living rooms in the not too distant future.
I'd say that I'm quite a visual person, but I also love music. I love strong lyrics but also a good tune.
For me a good film has a good balance of story, cinematography and soundtrack.
A good concert has a good balance of songs, performance and interaction with the audience.
From the moment that Kate Bush lead a line of musicians onto the stage I was captured. Even that simple procession spoke to me that this was all going to be choreographed.
The first few tracks (I forget the number ... was it 5 or 6 ?) that followed were typical concert fodder however and I forgot about anything but Kate, her voice and her presence, Kate standing out there on her own, band behind her and a sea of welcoming fans in front.
And I relaxed.
Her voice is still great.
Her confidence boundless.
And then the whole thing turned on its head as a video was projected onto the back screen. Was this then to turn into a mixture of music videos, interspersed with Kate singing live ? No. The whole thing turned into a... well I don't know what to call it really, a story in song ?
Theatre ?
Theatre centred around a drowning woman, reflecting on the loss and the impact it'll have on loved ones, with The Ninth Wave from her Hounds of Love album carrying us along.
I'm a visual person and my eyes were drawn to the skeletal fish characters that trawled the stage, looking for lost souls maybe ? The huge sheets of material being moved on the stage floor contributing to a feeling of being adrift, at sea with the drowning woman, and the little scene where she almost 'ghosts' her presence in her family home is... well.. it was all quite consuming.
I was completely captivated.
'Hello Earth' indeed.
And then, to a standing ovation Kate announces that there would be a short break.
I remember thinking... 'Wow, there's more'.
I remember exchanging a few words with Colin sat next to me as we both tried to come to terms with what we'd just experienced.
What I should have been doing was clearing my mind for what was to come.
The second 'Act' was inspired by the music from the more recent Aerial album.
The fish were replaced by birds, but mostly projected this time, although a raven's wing does feature.
There's also a life sized (well the size of a young boy) artist's manikin who enters through the biggest pair of doors I ever seen (on stage or elsewhere) and I was completely absorbed once again. The Sky of Honey picks us up and carries us aloft.
There was just so much to take in.
I was fooled at one point, I'll say no more on that as hopefully you all will be too when you watch then video... almost a slight of hand trick .... a magicians misdirection .. and Kate is certainly that, a magician conjuring with words, music and theatre.
And then it ended.
I felt exhausted... so I can only imagine how she felt.
Kate did come on to do an encore, and we were all singing along to Cloudbusting, but by then my mind was full. I was trying to make sense of some of the things I'd seen and was marvelling over others.
So...was this a good concert ?
No.
It was so much more than that.
It felt like I've been to a couple of musical theatrical performances, with some songs at the beginning to introduce you to the performer (not that Kate needed any of course) and a couple at the end to help you get yourself into a state where you could be trusted to be able to walk down stairs and cross busy streets with some awareness of your surroundings.
Even so, people milled around outside the venue, almost reluctant to go home.
Wanting to keep hold of the experience for just a little longer.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

An evening with Kate Bush.

I still remember when, back in 1978, I came across Kate Bush.
I used to watch Top Of The Pops every week in the hope that they'd have something on that I'd like, but I was into bands like Pink Floyd, Rush, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin ... well .. you know the sort of thing, and such occurrences were rare.
I used to watch, with a kind of amusement, that people would buy the stuff that got in the Top 10, and felt somehow superior in that my taste in music was obviously better than the average person's.
So, imagine my surprise when Kate Bush danced strangely around the stage (I was used to Pan's People) and gave a rendition of Wuthering Heights that I just couldn't get my head around. What had I just experienced ? I'd never seen, or heard, anything like it. And, yes, I was 15, and I'll admit that there were things other than her music that attracted me...
I'd never bothered with buying Singles before, I just bought albums, but I headed off to a Record Shop in Sydenham and bought my first 45. I played it quite a few times and was mesmerised. And then came Hammer Horror and I was completely hooked.
The Kick Inside shared my record box with Pink Floyd, Rush and the rest and got as much airplay as any of them.
Over the years Kate has produced records that, to me, have always surprised and delighted. She's one of those artists who seems to reinvent themselves with each record and yet somehow keep their stamp on it. You just know who it is. If I'm honest I never quite got '50 Words For Snow' but that's probably because I've not given it a chance, there're just so many great Kate Bush tracks on my iPod to listen to.
I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I'd get a chance to watch her live, and was as surprised as everyone else when I learned that she was going to do a concert. I was even more surprised when Colin emailed out to say that as a member of her Fan Club, he could get tickets.
Both tickets had Colin's name on them and he had to show a
photo id as we went in as a way to try to prevent tickets touts.
Would I be interested ?
Hell Yes !
Me before going in.
And so, on the 13th September there I was. Sat next to Colin in Hammersmith's Odeon (as was) waiting for the curtain to rise on what was sure to be an experience to remember for the rest of my days; Before The Dawn.
The view of the stage from our seats.
We were asked not to take photos during the performance, which everybody had heard about before they arrived. In a way it was nice to be able to just sit back and enjoy the event and not worry about trying to get that photo that would capture it.
And then the curtain went up.
And so did everybody in the audience at the sight of Kate Bush walking onto the stage.
I've been to a number of concerts in my day but I've never experienced the wave of affection that washed down on Kate. I think that if she'd belted out a few tracks and left we'd have been happy and talked about how good it was for years to come.
The interval ... a curtain came down with a bird's feather on it ... 
What happened though was... well... undefinable.
Kate started with a few well known tracks and I must confess that I settled into my seat thinking that we'd get to sit through her back catalogue... which I'd have enjoyed.
But after 4 tracks the whole event took on a different persona.
It became a stage play... a musical... it mixed the feel of music video with stage musical... it had theatrics... it had crazy creepy costumes... it had holes appearing in the stage floor... it had a huge door... hell it even had a life sized artist's manikin.
During one act a lot of leaf like confetti blew across the lower seats ... 
It was crazy...
It was mesmerizing.
Even the programme has pages that cannot be opened, but the page numbering tells you that this is by design and not error, these pages are to be secret in some way.
And for me the whole event will remain a secret.
It was something that I will talk about for years with anyone else who was lucky enough to be there but you really had to have been there and experienced it to discuss it at all. Any words I try to use just wouldn't capture any of it, and so I'm not going to even try.
It should be a secret kept by those that went.
And I'm sorry about this, but I hope that no DVD of the event is ever produced ... that only those who were there get to experience it... a personal memory to take to our graves with us.
And it was over ... and people milled around...
stunned by what they had just witnessed.
You can see part two of my report on An evening with Kate Bush- Part Two

Saturday, 27 September 2014

I came across these goggles in an antique shop...

They looked familiar so I picked them up.

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.