Monday, March 21, 2005
The Thing Two
Got back sunday around 5.30pm after a great weekend at the UKWebcomixthing 2. A bigger venue and a bigger crowd this time, Pat is to be congratulated on mounting such a successful festival. His photos of the event and clips from the videos can be found on the official site at www.ukwebcomixthing.co.uk, and a handful from my digital camera by clicking on the photo right.
Once again I was amazed at the amount of new faces from the webcomix scene that for some reason you wouldn't get to see at the Bristol events. Curious as to why there is such a difference in exhibitors, but I'll come back to that later.
Leon and I managed to get to hotel on friday night just before 10pm, and spent a bit of time trying to get something to eat before settling on a local chinese takeaway. Took advantage of the 2am hotel bar while giving into geekdom, discussing narrative structures in between catching glimpses of the new Doctor Who trailer. Couldn't help but think when Chris Eccleston speaks to the viewer at the start: "You want to come with me? You want to come with ME?", it sounds almost like he's offering someone outside for a punchup. "You looking at my TARDIS?" Couldn't help but also notice the amount of billboards advertising the new series next weekend, absolutely everywhere. Good to see some proper investment in the show.
Getting to the venue for 9ish the next morning, setting up quite quickly and catching up with the likes of Andy Winter, James Redington, Jay and Selina, Frazer, Nick Jones, Gary Spencer Millidge, Pete, Brodies Law blokes and many more, and getting to know some new faces as well. I did intend to get some actual drawing done in the morning before the panels, still beavering away at our TWELVE submission, but couldn't really get into it, instead started doing sketches for people (Colin D, your Judge Death is still here!) and had a walkabout a bit. Had a really positive chat with Pulp Theatre lads, Daley and Dave, discussing how popular their Brodies Law has become and the great response they had at the San Deigo con. Again, these lads are producing material of such a high standard, theres no question they'll make it big. With these and the many others in the last two years, the UK press just continues to grow. Anyone who says there isn't a Brit comics industry is blind and just talking shite.
This was a fact reinforced by those creators on both panels I hosted, while Leon and Bridgeen manned the fort. The first at 1pm, covered indie print publishing, and included Mardou, Nick Jones, Roger Langridge, Aaron 'Smurf' Murphy, Paul Rainey, and Colin Dinnie stepping into the breach as a last minute replacement. Since the self-publishing panels we do often cover the basic how-to's, I wanted instead to concentrate on the motivations of the creators in their work and how they both their comics and UK press as a whole developing.
Beginning with questions posed from the website, emails and message boards, we then opened it out to the audience. The second panel at 2.30pm focused on webcomix specificaly, with Kat and Dave of Two Sides Wide, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Bunny, Weebl, Madson and John Allison on the panel fielding queries.
With the webcomix scene itself something of a new territory to me, I was amazed firstly about the number of readers these creators have on their sites, with up to a million individual visitors in a month. That's such an incredible figure that any publisher would kill for. Not to mention the level of interest and interaction with the readers themselves in forums, message boards, fan fiction, and buying merchandise. I realised there's lessons to be learnt from the webcomix model that would do well applied to the printed variety.
Sales wise things were constant, selling a majority of what we had brought with us and the boxes once more being filled with review copies for the next REDEYE. Lots of interest in the next issue and nothing but positive feedback on the new design.
After we cleared up, dropped things off at the hotel and had a quick pint over discussing Philip K Dick's mental state, we headed back to the Half Moon Wetherspoons in Mile End, meeting up with Shane Chebsey, Dave Baillie, Sean Azzapardi, and many others for a fantastic night, best I've had in ages. Had a massive sketching session, with closing time coming far too soon.
A massive thanks to Dave and his suffering housemates who put up with us after the pub closed. With many a whiskey in hand we stayed up till 4.30am until making moves back to the hotel, grabbing a few hours sleep before the paltry hotel breakfast and checking out.
All in all it was a great weekend but over far too soon. Like the Bristol events it was like a mini holiday catching up with friends and talking about comics, but unlike Bristol it highlights a whole other section of comic creators who are often unheard of in general comics press, and who are perhaps more influenced by the manga way of storytelling than by the traditional American way of comics. And maybe there lies their strength: these webcomix creators are reaching audience numbers unheard of in printed comics. They're doing things the way they want to without conforming to any conventions or clinging to any old school rules of what makes a comic, without the worry of print costs and distribution. They're motivated more by the creative process, by the fact they CAN do it rather than monetary reward.
Maybe the future of comics is a mix of both online and printed formats. Until the development of digital paper reaches the point it's as widely available and as cheap as real paper, people will always want something tangible to hold, something they can own. At the same time thanks to the widespread prolifiration of internet access, millions are able to read them. If a way can be found for creators to still recieve an livable income from their work online, maintain widespread access to the work, and still provide the physicality, the ability to own a copy of it, then I believe the comics industry will continue to thrive, as it needs to adapt with new technology and new opportunity.
Anyway, thanks again to the panellists, to the customers, to the exhibitors, and to Pat and his helpers for making it all work. Check back for more photos as they come in.