Showing posts with label Alan Davis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alan Davis. Show all posts

Sunday, 14 April 2013

ICFD Cover of the week - 14 April 2013


This week's cover is that of The Knights of Pendragon (vol 1) #4 from October 1991. Art by Alan Davis.

People in packing crates, eh? Dai Thomas makes an unnerving discovery about Omicorp's operations in foreign climes...

Davis was responsible for the first five covers for Knights of Pendragon, each of which were pretty striking, and also used as adverts in other Marvel UK titles of the day, for the most part as uncoloured artwork.

Knights of Pendragon was a brave project, in many regards. I mean aside from the use of Captain Britain (Who by no means plays as large a part as some covers might suggest) the cast of the series was primarily bigger names' supporting characters and characters created purely for this book. The first few issues, in fact, are pretty much Dai Thomas working on his own, and even as a familliar character to Captain Britain and Excalibur readers he was hardly what you might call a big name, by any means.

But that's not what Knights of Pendragon was about. It wasn't a traditional Superhero book. It had roots in folklore, myth and legend, obviously, but it was also a little bit high concept. This notion that across the centuries, whenever the land is truly, catastrophically, threatened, a primal force rises up to make Champions of ordinary men and women, is in some ways a quite traditional Fantasy concept. Yet at the same time, the modern world setting, and the issues it also explores (of environmental concerns and multinational corporations) are really rather cleverly and sensitively done. This was far more than the standard 'Caped Good Guy fights Nefarious Villain' story, that was for sure.

I love this cover because rather than being that of a standard superhero comic (with the traditional poses and framing thereof) this looks far more like that of a pulp crime novel, set in somewhere exotic. Which was very much the tone of Knights of Pendragon at this point. The less said about how the second volume turned out, the better, arguably. But the first run remains an absolute classic, in my book. And a concept which it still surpises me that Marvel haven't tried to revive somewhere in the past 20 years.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Alan Davis artwork for The Daredevils #11 sells for £3299.

I was recently alerted to this auction by a couple of blog readers, and actually bid on it myself until it passed beyond my price range.

What we have above is the original Alan Davis cover art from The Daredevils #11. The final issue in the series (The story continued over in the pages of Might World of Marvel) in which Captain Britain and The Special Executive realise that even fighting together they cannot kill The Fury. There are casualties. The outlook is bleak.

Here's how it looked in production.

The level of detail in Davis artwork is incredible. The coloured version really doesn't do it justice. It truly is THE iconic cover of the Mooe and Davis run, without any shadow of a doubt.

Needless to say I would have loved to have it. Unfortunately I was outbid, and the auction ended at midday today, at a fairly sizeable £3299 (around $5185). It was a private listing, so I have no idea who won it. But whoever they are they've got themselves some truly beautiful artwork there.

Brilliant stuff.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

ICFD Cover of the Week - 27th January 2013

This week's Cover of the week is from Captain Britain (Vol. 2) #10, from October of 1985. Art by Alan Davis.

I apologise for the somewhat grainy quality of the image. I have had to go searching online for this one, as sadly this is a comic which went 'missing' from my collection at some point during the 1990s, most probably having ended up junked of jumble saled by well-meaning parents. By that point I wasn't too upset, as I had the coloured version of the story inside collected in the 'Before Excalibur...' paperback. Although on reflection I might have to go about tracking down a copy at some point.

I've actually returned to this cover after having recently been revisiting Warren Ellis' Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis series from a couple of years back, which despite being an X-Men series very much goes back to the concepts laid out in this Captain Britain story.

The cover shows the Captain in this weird face paint version of his costume, fighting a Crocodile, which is part of a pretty messed up hallucinogenic dream sequence. Behind them we see the scarred and scaled face of Joshua N'Dingi - 'Doctor Crocodile' - former member of the RCX and also the man responsible for said sequence. On the left hand side his more human face, on the right the cybernetics which saved his life.

I remember this issue for one quite specific reason.

It was a bit messed up. :)

Granted, probably not by today's standards. But when I first read this story, as a much younger kid, it bothered me. I really wasn't old enough to fully understand some of the themes in play, but I was certainly able to grasp that there was something dark and vaguely adult here which made me uncomfortable. Something I'd also experienced with odd issues of Eagle or 2000 AD, at that time. Rereading it in my teens of course that was exactly the same thing which interested me, but you know how that goes...

Basically, in this issue, Brian has received a phone call telling him that his older brother, Jamie, is being held captive by a local Warlord in the African nation of Mbangawi. But all is not what it seems. Upon arrival the Captain is gassed, and sent hurtling into a greatly disturbing hallucinatory vision quest, led by a disturbing Dr Seuss style ape creature. Seemingly naked, with a likeness of his costume painted on, he runs from giant elephants, wrestles crocodiles and chases this ape creature, whose narration reveals details of Jamie Braddock's involvement with all manner of unsavoury pursuits from sex trafficking to the slave trade...

It's pretty dark, all in all. 

And then, faced with the facts and being a Superhero, Captain Britain beats down his Brother's captor and chooses to turn Jamie over to the authorities, right?

Well, actually, no. He's so disgusted with Jamie that he sides with the guy whose supposed to be the 'bad guy' and leaves his own brother to a life of hallucinatory torment.

The end.

Pretty unsettling stuff, no? It certainly blew my young mind at the time. It definitely was not the kind of thing which I had come to expect from Marvel's American stories. It was all pretty heavy, and for years I actually found myself trying to rewrite my own 'headcanon' of events, it had bothered me so much. But it also guaranteed that I have returned to this issue a number of times.

The fallout of this issue was later explored during Claremont and Davis' run on Excalibur. For me it's an incredibly important issue, both in terms of understanding Brian and also understanding the Braddock Family dynamic. Much as though a number of writers have tried to portray Brian as a 'perfect superhero' with impeccable, faultless moral values, it's honestly not true. Sometimes he does make harsh decisions. Sometimes he sides with the guy you are supposed to think of as the 'bad guy'. There's always very definite and strong sense of logic behind it, and his decision is ultimately justifiable in the grand scheme of thing. That doesn't mean that it always has to be 'nice,' however... :)

Either way, this is a cover which will always evoke a strong memory for me. Long after I actually still possessed a physical copy of the issue itself.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

ICFD Cover of the Week - 20th January 2013

This week's cover is the slightly time worn cover to my copy of The Mighty World of Marvel (Vol2) #7, from December of 1983.

Creases, scuffs and all...

Yeah, I did debate removing those while touching up the contrast levels, but opted not to in the end. I like to think it gives it character. :)

The Mighty World of Marvel (As a British publication) first ran from 1972 to 1977, before changing its name to 'Marvel Comic,' and later 'Marvel Superheroes'. It was an anthology title, in the British tradition of such, which reprinted US material featuring mainstays like Spider-man, The Hulk, The Avengers and X-Men to rotating in runs of Nick Fury, Tomb of Dracula and even Planet of the Apes reprints later in its life.

This second volume began in 1983, primarily as an opportunity to reprint a number of specific US limited series. Sadly, it actually only lasted 17 issues, but reprinted early 80s runs of things like Vision and Scarlet Witch, Cloak and Dagger and in this case the justly classic Chris Claremont and Frank Miller Wolverine limited series from 1982.

I usually use this feature to display original UK cover artwork, which readers outside of Britain and Ireland may not have seen before. But this week I decided it might be interesting to showcase how US art was sometimes incorporated into the covers of UK reprints. At its base this is Miller's cover to Wolverine #3, with the image moved the bottom right of the cover, allowing space to add info on the other strips included to the left side of the cover.

The Alan Davis Captain Britain panel has then been added to the cover, along with a brief list of other content. Oddly Miller's image goes uncredited.

MWOM #7 has a couple of landmarks moments of its own though.

For one, you'll notice the 'Featuring The Daredevils' tag under the logo. The Daredevils was a Marvel UK anthology title which ran from January 1983 until November of the same year. It was designed to be more of a 'mature readers' title, reprinting slightly more sophisticated and pulpy material such as Frank Miller's Daredevil, Alan Moore's Night Raven text stories, and a few select Spider-man tales. It was also the home Alan Moore and Alan Davis' Captain Britain stories...

The Daredevils folded with #11, and became part of The Mighty World of Marvel with this very issue. Ironically, the only character who truly didn't survive this transition was Daredevil himself. :)

The second part of Jamie Delano's Night Raven text story 'Quiet Town' appears in MWOM #7, but the other landmark this issue supplies is through its Captain Britain strip. Remember, this was the first outing for these Alan Moore and Alan Davis stories, in their original black and white format. When The Daredevils was cancelled their Jaspers Warp storyline was well underway. This issue's strip, 'The Candlelight Dialogues,' is set in a concentration camp in Sir James Jaspers' newly created anti-superhuman world, and it actually serves as a pretty solid introduction for new readers to Captain Britain. But it's the campfire framing of the story which is of particular note. And the introduction of a certain chain-smoking teenager.

That winged girl (On the left in that final panel) is none other than Meggan Puceanu (Later 'Braddock' through marriage) in her very first Marvel Comics appearance. Sure, she doesn't look a lot like she does these days, in this early formative stage, but that's her. A Moore/Davis creation, yet to truly take shape.

If you actually find an issue or two of Mighty World of Marvel knocking around, it's well worth holding onto them. Granted, I had to adjust the contrast a lot to take the yellow out of that page I scanned, but the sturdy card stock covers have weathered an awful lot better than much of my older Marvel UK comics. The coloured pages from the Claremont/Wolverine stories also look pretty nice in that larger UK page size ratio.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

That Excalibur artwork - Now with Added Colour!

About a week ago I posted up artwork from an Alan Davis Excalibur Poster, which showed the transition period between the original line-up and larger roster of the second major incarnation of the team. In a rather clever way.

Well, last week I received an email from a Janet-Elizabeth Black, who happened to still have a copy of the Poster this artwork became, and was kind enough to scan me a copy of it. So here it is, in full colour.

You should be able to click through for a larger version. The colours appear to be credited to Paul Mounts, whose name is added beneath Mark Farmer's in the finished poster. 

As you can see it also bears the 'Mutant Genesis' logo, which was the name of the X-Men Office initiative which featured the launches of Chris Claremont and Jim Lee's adjectiveless 'X-Men' (Still technically the best selling comic book #1 of all time) and Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld's X-Force. It was a big deal. The moment where the X-Men truly became a regimented line of books, with a very specific identity.

It's important to remember this, because much as though Excalibur seems to be passed off by many people these days as just this quirky little off-shoot book, that nobody ever read, this poster comes from a time when that very much was not the case. Back then it actually sold pretty well. Certainly well enough to be considered to be part of this X-Family 'Event'. 

It a really nice piece. Thanks for sharing, Janet.

In related news some of you might like to go over to Mark Farbrother's Blog, The Throne of Otherworld, where he's posted up a bit of info about the planned but abandoned Technet mini series from 1993. There even appears to be a small amount of artwork. Well worth a look.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Early 90s Excalibur art by Alan Davis

Recently I discovered that appears Tom Brevoort of Marvel Comics runs a Tumblr account by the name of The Marvel Age of Comics . It's a Tumblr where he posts up pieces of original artwork from Marvel's past, from pages and concept art, to one off pieces by specific artists. This piece by Alan Davis (And inks by Mark Farmer) was posted up at the weekend, and there was no way I couldn't share it...

Click to open a larger version.

What I love about this image is that not only does it feature the brilliant original line-up of Excalibur, as drawn by one of its creators, but it takes on a whole other dimension when you realise just who's standing in the background. Some are more obvious than others; the distinctive mask of Micromax looming giant-like over Cap's right shoulder and the blades on his back give away Kylun behind Rachel. And then you start noticing a theme developing...

On the left hand side that is clearly Widget, in its final evolution form. And that weird bug-like mask behind Brian and Rachel is the same one Cerise was wearing when she crash landed on Earth. That only leaves one figure unaccounted for. It looks like they're wearing a hood. Was Feron wearing a hood when he first appeared...?

So yes, basically what we have here is Davis drawing the first incarnation of a team he co-created standing in front of the characters who would go on to form the line-up of the team as it was when he ended his tenure on the book. 

How awesome is that? :)

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Merry Christmas from It Came From Darkmoor...

From Captain Britain vol 2 #14 (December 1986)

Story & Pencils by Alan Davis, Inks by Mark Farmer, Colours for the collected edition by Steve White.

This is the final page from the final issue of the second British Captain Britain series. A landmark issue. A watershed moment.

The many panels of this page would be picked up on in future issues of Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants and Excalibur in the US, but this was the final page of the British produced Captain Britain comic.

But that is not actually my reason for bringing it up, here. I've come back to this issue in particular because (And I know that this is somewhat of a rarity these days) a Christmas Issue. Marvel UK did not do many of those, but this story (For me at least) captures the spirit of Christmas in a way which is so very typically British.

'Should Auld Acquaintance...' begins on Christmas Eve with Brian and Meggan setting in front of an open fire flowing right through to the chimes of Midnight on New Year's Eve; covering the whole of Christmas Week.

(And for the benefit of American readers here in the UK it really is a week, not just Christmas Day. Outside of Retail most Offices close down for Christmas week. I kid you not.).

It has everything. From old friends dropping round unannounced...

To scenes out in the snow.

From children opening presents on Christmas Morning...

To reunions with Loved Ones... with a little Christmas magic.

From trying to find that perfect Party Attire...

To that frantic dash as the clock chimes twelve on New Year's Eve.

And, in the spirit of the New Year, two men who have never seen eye to eye find common ground, agree to bury the hatchet, and look to the future.

2012 has been a funny old year. I'm glad to have reached the end of it, and I'd like very much to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Go home. Eat, Drink and be Merry. Spend quality time with your friends, family and other loved ones. Yeah. Even the ones you don't necessarily get on with so well.

Because it's Christmas. Let this be your watershed moment.

May Santa bring you everything you wanted, and may 2013 bring you even more.

And I'll hopefully see you back here in the New Year. :)

Mark (Sword)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Guilt & Forgiveness



From The Mighty World of Marvel #14 (July 1984)

Plot and Art: Alan Davis
Script and Letters: Steve Craddock
Colour: Steve White

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A curious Marvel NOW teaser.

You know about Marvel NOW, right? The big Marvel comics relaunch? They play this game of delivering one word teaser adverts for books they're about to announce, with the surnames of the writer and artist above them.

So for Iron Man, launched recently, they went with the word 'Invincible' and the names Gillen and Land. For The relaunch of Thunderbolts they went with 'Lightning,' and the names Way and Dillon.

And so on.

Well today, via iFanboy, circulated this new teaser image.

Which certainly appears to bear the names of two of my favourite Captain Britain creators - Paul Cornell and Alan Davis.

And naturally, if you put two creators with a shared history of working ON Captain Britain, there can be only one choice of property.

That's RIGHT!

Wolver... ine? Oh. Okay.

Or at least that is what the sound effect 'Snikt' generally refers to at Marvel.

Now we don't know for certain that it is Paul Cornell and Alan Davis. It's not... impossible for this to be a book by Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and... Willow and Star Wars Actor Warwick Davis.

And in that case I think I'd have to buy it for shits and giggles, if nothing else.

But the odds are that it is them involved. As for what the book will actually be about? As to whether or not it will be a Wolverine book? We'll see. But one thing's for sure, with those two names likely to be involved I shall be following this one pretty closely...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Panel Beatings: Show Yourself!

From: Originally printed in The Daredevils #1 (January 1983). This coloured version from X-Men Archives: Captain Britain #2 (August 1995)

Words: Alan Moore
Art: Alan Davis

Friday, 12 August 2011

We WILL be seeing Captain Britain again shortly, and Clan Destine next year.

It's been quite a while since we last saw Captain Britain in current continuity. I mean Steve Rogers even offered him membership of The Avengers last year, but nothing really came of that.

We have been very lucky recently that Rob Williams has been incorporating him in his mini event The Iron Age, in which there is an excellent story revisiting Cap during the famous Jaspers Warp storyline by Alan Moore and Alan Davis (And a little bit from Dave Thorpe too). But that has been a retro appearance. I think many of us had been worrying that both he and MI13 had been forgotten.

Well, luckily that seems to be changing...

The following question recently was asked and answered on Tom Brevoort's Formspring account:

Well, that sounds promising. Any appearance would be great after all this time. However, I think a few people were a little concerned that Mr Brevoort's comment may be in reference to The Iron Age, which obviously is still in progress. So, another poster queried that recently:

So, there you have it. And if Tom Brevoort is willing to go on the record to say something really IS going to happen this time, it's going to happen.

The only questions are how, when and where. So keep an eye out for that.

There's also a bit of an update this week on a project I've actually been following 2008. Some longer standing reader will remember that a few years back Alan Davis announced that while Marvel would not be continuing with his ClanDestine series in a traditional form he was going to continue the story of the Destine family in the form of a series of Annuals. Well, after that last post I put up on this it all went a bit quiet again. Alan Davis was being given other projects at Marvel, and it seemed those annuals had to go on the back burner for a while.

Until now.

In this week's Comic Book Resources column with new Marvel Editor in Chief, Axel Alonso, the following little titbit pops up:

Finally, Colduo is looking for some news on a favorite Marvel creator. "I have just picked up the Killraven mini series that Alan Davis did a few years back and thoroughly enjoyed it, great story. It reminded me of how much I enjoy his work and the fantastic talent he is. Are there any plans for Alan to have him write and draw another mini-series? Anything would be great especially anything with Captain Britain or Clandestine?"
Alonso: I'll turn this one over to the dulcet tones of Tom Brevoort. I've gotta get my hair done.
Tom Brevoort: It's a good time to be an Alan Davis fan, Colduo! Not only has Alan illustrated "X-Men: Schism" #4, the climactic issue of that mutant-dividing series, not only will he be joining Ed Brubaker for a storyline in "Captain America" in a few short months, but Alan has also written and illustrated a trio of connected Annuals that will be hitting the stands in January and February! They feature, respectively, the FF, Daredevil and Wolverine, and while each one can be read individually, they also connect to one another to form a larger mosaic. And Alan's ClanDestine characters play a major role in all three stories, which together serve to reveal one of the most long-wondered secrets in the Clan's recorded history: what became of Vincent?

 That final snippet, once again, coming from Tom Brevoort. So January 2012 is the time. And you heard it, we're finally going to find out what happened with Vincent. I honestly cannot wait. It's been a long time coming.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Missed Marvel UK creators at Cons this year? This may help.

Two things that I have regretted this year, whilst moving house and working ridiculous hours, is that I haven't been able to get out to as many Cons as I'd initially planned. Especially this year, when I knew that in at least two instances there was going to be appearances made by certain Marvel UK creators whom I have not yet had a chance to meet. Firstly, I'd seen fliers stating that Captain Britain creator Chris Claremont was going to be at Bristol Comics Expo. Now even in this day and age, that was a pretty big deal. How often does he come to the UK, these days? I had to make that. It was in May. I could do that...

Yeah. I failed to make Bristol...

I'd also been hearing really good things about Sci-Fi London. I'd been hearing names like Gary Erskine (Artist on Knights of Pendragon and Warheads), Dez Skinn (Former Head Editor of Marvel UK, in the 70s), John Freeman (Former Group Editor of Marvel UK, editor on Doctor Who Weekly, and writer on the Real Ghostbusters comic), Simon Furman (Creator of Death's Head and UK Transformers legend),  and Dan Abnett (Death's Head II and Knights of Pendragon). There was word of a proper Marvel UK Panel! How could I miss that?

Yeah. That was in May, too. Didn't make that either...

Luckily for me (And if you missed them, for you also) there is some consolation here. Alex Fitch presents a weekly radio show about comics, on London's Resonance 104.4 FM, by the name of Panel Borders. Not being a London resident I can't pick it up live, but Alex does also put out his shows as Podcasts. And in recent times there have actually been several of those which will probably be of quite a bit of interest to regular readers.

For one, Alex managed to get an interview with Chris Claremont at Bristol. You can find that one HERE.
It's quite an interesting interview. A little guarded from Claremont, but it does touch on his British roots, Captain Britain, and also his continuing want to work with Alan Davis. Well worth a listen. Many of you might have read interviews with Claremont before, but hearing him actually speaking, certainly for me, adds a different dimension to some of his past interview comments. Take a listen.

Alex also chaired the Marvel UK panel at Sci-Fi London! And therefore the whole panel has been recorded, split into two Podcasts, available HERE and HERE. It's a really good panel, which discusses Marvel UK right across the three decades of its existence. One very interesting dimension discussed here though, and which I don't tend to cover as much on this Blog, is Marvel UK's licensed titles from the 1980s. I don't tend to cover those as much, because their characters are not so transferable into the present, and aren't strictly speaking the property of Marvel UK. But it cannot be denied that titles like Transformers, Thundercats and even The Real Ghostbusters, were huge sellers. Certainly larger sellers than the vast majority of titles in the modern American market, that's for sure. I cannot recommend listening to this panel enough.

Other Podcasts available from the Archive, which you might be interested in from a Marvel UK standpoint, include, a great spotlight on Captain Britain, from last year, which includes interviews with both Paul Cornell and Alan Davis, interviews with David Lloyd (Artist on V for Vendetta, ad Night Raven),  Mark Buckingham (Mortigan Goth: Immortalis, Marvelman and Fables) and another interview with Paul Cornell and David Hine which technicaly is rooted in their work for DC, but is also worth a listen.

So, that's three days and four Blogs. I'm getting there guys, but please bear with me... :)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Clan Destine - a brief Update

Going back to Autumn 2008, some of you may remember that I ran a story on the future of Alan Davis' Clan Destine (This one, in fact) coming out of that years Mid Ohio Con, which Davis attended along with oft collaborator Chris Claremont. This was the news that unfortunately that year's Clan Destine mini had not pulled enough readers to justify Marvel giving it another go, and that Davis would therefore be trying to continue his story in a series of three Annuals (A Fantastic Four, a Daredevil and a Wolverine.

Well, now we're in 2010. 2009 went by without any news on the subject. I kept an eye out for ANY books which Davis worked on, in hope of a Destine family glimpse, but sadly no. To be honest, with the end of the year approaching it had started to pass out of hope and mind. I had the opportunity to ask Davis about the series in person, at BICS in October, and totally forgot until afterwards.

But quite by fluke the other week I got to talking on the subject of Clan Destine with one of the 'Vocal Minority' on Comic Book Resources - who asked me about that very article from 2008. So, I went looking...

Davis has continued to work for Marvel, where he has an exclusive contract for work, over the past year. Mostly covers and one shots for other writers. I loved his work on X-Men: The list, the rough sketches of which he had with him at BICS. But with the advent of Chris Claremont's X-Men Forever (A book picking up from where CC left the X-Men titles in the early 90s) and Louise Simonsen's X-Factor Forever (Very much the same concept, but with her and the original X-Factor series)over at Alan Davis' forum some people were questioning if an Excalibur Forever, could be that far behind, courtesy of Davis...

Unfortunately, for us hardcore Excalibur fans, Davis suggests there are no such plans from his point of view:

If there are any plans, I won’t be involved. I’ve decided the Wolverine Annual will be my last writing for the foreseeable future and I’ll go back to being ‘just’ a penciller!

Just' a penciller!? I think most of us would agree that Alan Davis is more than a cut above being JUST a penciller. The guy is a living legend.

But would that be the same Wolverine annual he mentioned back in 2008> Why certainly...

The annuals have been delayed because over the last eighteen months Marvel asked me to work on the other projects and covers which significantly slowed progress. I have completed the Fantastic Four and Daredevil Annuals—and hope to continue the Wolverine Annual during any downtime on the six part series I’ll start to pencil in January.


As I have said elsewhere, my first priority has always been family and one of the factors that determined which projects I took on has been how the deadlines will impact my family. In the last couple of years my work took a back seat because both my children got married in 2008, with all of the usual upheaval and celebration, and our first grandchild arrived in 2009. I’ve had a terrific couple of years. However, what I discovered was that, with the added distractions of one-offs and covers, it is difficult to build or maintain the necessary momentum to write and pencil a book. I realised I needed to make a choice.

Although I have had offers to write for other artists on balance I prefer to work as a penciller with a writer rather than seeing my story drawn by someone else.

I’m sure Marvel will announce the mini-series in due course.


And I can absolutely appreciate where he is coming from. That's a lot of big family stuff all coming in a relatively short space of time. And while I would still be more than willing to read an Alan Davis comic with artwork from another, I can quite understand why he would prefer not to do that.

So that's the state of play. Two out of three annuals are ready. One more still on the go. Keep your eyes peeled throughout 2010. I doubt that, in the current market, these are books which will be given a huge Marvel fanfare. But any fan of Clan Destine would be a mug to miss out on them.

I've been meaning to do a proper charting of the Destine family tree for the Blog here. Hopefully in the next couple of months I'll get a chance to do that, because I love that book. The Destine's were always such a unique family, and the way in which they could be inter-weaved into pretty much any period of Marvel history has always seemed to me like a very much untapped potential.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

The ICFD BICS write-up - Part 2!

Yes. Because frankly I couldn't fit it all into one blog. Not even close. For the first half Click Here.

So, where were we?

Oh, yes. So we've covered a few panels from Saturday. But the other side of the Con Experience is obviously the chance to actually meet creators. To get things signed, to get sketches done, and hopefully get a chance to actually talk to them. Some my attempts to do this did not go according to plan, this year. In 2008 it was far easier to find people, because we had a handy dealer hall diagram, numbering up who was where. Not so this year. Which meant that while I had things for Gary Erskine and Charlie Adlard to sign, I actually didn't find THEM until the Sunday. And at a point where I then discovered the stuff I had wanted them to sign... was in the back of the car.


But of all those creators present I was absolutely determined to meet Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. These guys, to me, were such a huge part of comics while I was growing up. Captain Britain and Excalibur were THE keystone books that brought me into reading comics, there was no way that I was going to miss out on getting a sketch off Alan and have Mark ink it.

Much was said last year about the organisation of the queueing at BICS. I'd have to say that by and large it wasn't so bad this year. That said it's pretty unavoidable really that if you want to get something sketched by a big name artist you will have to queue. 2 hours in fact. I'm not grumbling! Some of the best chatting that I get to do at Cons comes from queueing in this manner. And in fact, while queueing I actually finally got to meet Dave Williams.

Dave is involved with the "Waiting for the Trade" podcast, and was a fellow ardent supporter of Captain Britain & MI13. Whenever I know know I'm going to be at an event like this I like to encourage people to come and say. And so it was this morning that Dave and I had exchanged an odd set of Twitter posts:

ukdavew: For those at BICS who might want to say hi. Today I'm bedecked in my Nightwing tshirt and if I summon courage will be handing out wftt cards

theswordisdrawn: @ukdavew Sound. For all #BICS attendees I will be in a Thundercats T-Shirt with a striped shirt on top. This is all very covert, no?

ukdavew: @theswordisdrawn covert embarrassing as going up to the wrong guy and asking if his sword is drawn? No

The man has a point.

We've spoken to each other a few times online, but it's always great to actually put a face to the name, as well. The British comic convention going crowd are not actually as big as you might imagine. It's always great to go to one, recognise somebody you've spoken to before and exchange stories. This is all part of the Con experience.

Great to meet you Dave. And thanks to the other who did say 'Hi' but who didn't actually introduce themselves by name. It's always reassuring to meet people who are actually aware of the blog. I get a fair bit of positive feedback online, but actually speaking to people in the outside and real world is brilliant. I'm glad you enjoy it.

So, Davis and Farmer! I was determined to get a sketch done, as opposed to having them sign something. This was because you never know how a creator might want to do things. I've known some guys to say 'Sketch or Sign - one or the other, but not both'. And that really would have crushed me. and so, and partly due to the weight it would have added to my bag, I chose not to bring my Captain Britain Omnibus with me. Or indeed my ClanDestine hardcover - which I could not find on the day. This I regretted terribly.

Especially when the guy two ahead of me produced his Omnibus for Davis to sign. It certainly seemed from Alan's response that this might have been the first time he'd actually seen the finished article. He explained to that guy that the introduction of his at the front of the book was one which he originally wrote for the 2001 collected addition of his and Alan Moore's run (Also collected in this volume) which marvel rejected at the time. I didn't get to hear clearly why. So I'm not going to post up what I thought I heard in error. But it really was fantastic to see Davis looking over this volume - a collection which many people thought would never come out.

From left to right: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer and also Pasqual Ferry, visible at the far right of the table.

When Alan Davis asked me what I'd like him to sketch I think I kind of confused him a little. Here he was through most of the afternoon being asked to draw Thor, Wonder Woman and other mainstream big hitters of Marvel and DC.

And then I turn up.

And ask him to sketch The Fury.

To which he said just replied 'Sure' and got on with it. When he handed the sketch to Mark Farmer, Mark kind of queried "The Fury???". "It's what the gentleman asked for," Davis said. I think they were both a little confused by the choice. I really wish that I'd had time to explain the Blog to them, and give my usual spiel. But to be honest, by this point they'd both been doing this solidly for 2 hours, in the kind of heat which required the show guys to bring a fan in as Mark Farmer began inking the sketch. I didn't want to push my luck to be honest.

So, to add to my growing collection of obscure Marvel UK Con Sketch requests (I say collection - it's really only two sketches so far)I now have another. And frankly how could I not get Marvel UK's finest art duo to add to it? To me The Fury, in its original form, represents one of the most disturbing adversaries to have ever have appeared in comics. It's a part organic machine, with only one purpose. It kills superhumans. That's all it does - but it never fails in doing it. It doesn't stop, it isn't weak to superpowers, it heals wounds, it doesn't feel, it doesn't question, it doesn't let up. The universe it was born into was destroyed but somehow it managed to survive.

The Fury can't be reasoned with. It doesn't monologue its plans to a hero before it tries to kill them. It just stares on, through that odd looking optical display, and the snuffs out the life of it's target. I don't think you can even call it Evil, per se. It just does as it's programmed to. And that, for me, is what makes it such a damned special adversary. This thing killed Captain Britain, remember. That's not an easy thing to do.

And so here it is - the finished article (Click to Enlarge):

And I'm pretty bloody chuffed with it too.

Needless to say that actually took up most of the Saturday afternoon. But we did manage to get in for the judging of the Cosplay competition, hosted by Irma Page, and judged (And you had to think they knew what they were letting themselves in for) by Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood. (For anybody who has not heard the infamous drunken panel which they did at Bristol Comic Expo this year you can find it HERE. Surprisingly this one podcast cannot be found on iTunes). When asked what he had in his hip flask, early into the panel, Dan replied that "It ruins Mothers". Which should probably hint to you at the tone of the proceedings. :)

Click to enlarge.

This panel really was far more fun than it deserved to have been, and really was the perfect end to the first day. In this one panel we were introduced to the perviest Spider-man I have ever seen, a mute but determined Pink Ranger, a rather worry Tank BOY ('I'm taking Tank Girl back... for the... boys?') and a small child dressed as Anakin Skywalker who had the courage to shout down his own Dad during his questioning!

But the overall winner was the guy who had come dressed as the Smallville version of Green Arrow. He'd actually gone to some quite considerable lengths of contacting the guys who made the bow for the series, to get the design specs for it, and to get the costume design. A costume which was, he admitted, stitched together by his (Long-suffering?) other half in the audience. Complete with the comedy detachable codpiece - which I'm sure you can all appreciate created much mirth.

So that was Day One. Largely focussed around queueing. We were determined to spend as little of Day 2 doing that as possible, and to get to see the rest of the con (Which my wonderful other half had done on Saturday, whilst Fliss and I queued for Davis). So we drove back down the M6 to Warwickshire to plot out Sunday, returning the following morning.

I was wearing a striped shirt and Space Invaders T-Shirt should it please you to knows this...

Of course Day 2 of a con will always be a little different to Day 1. Day 1 you've got all the adrenaline flowing. You're ready to take on all that it throws at you. Until by the end of the day you're actually pretty knackered. It should be noted that this is the first photo we have of BICS this year, on Saturday morning.

Three friends, too enthused by the concept of a Weekend Pass wristband and a goody bag, to even thing just how corny an 'All-foe-one' style photograph might look when posted up on this blog.

But compare the level of boundless enthusiasm captured in that photo at the start of Day 1, to the following photo, taken by my better half, at the very start of Day 2.

Take a long hard look at this man. Look at his bemused expression. That is the look of a man who has been broken. A man who has not had time to shave in order to get here this morning. A man who's bag is already too heavy from books he wants signing. A man who's feet still have not forgiven him over the Davis queue scenario, and who only got a minimal amount of sleep last night. Look at him. Pity him.

That said Day 2 actually went very well. We began by sitting in on the Adapting the Classics panel, held by Steve Green, and with Ian Edginton, and some of they guys from Classical Comics and Self Made Hero (best know for their Manga Shakespeare). Quite an interesting panel. I do admire both of these companies, for what they do, although I've always felt slightly sorry for Classical Comics in a certain respect, because their output is kind of directed by what happens to be on the syllabus for British schools that year.

I mean I'm sure there are some guys working there who are really itching to do a fully bloody bloody adaptation of Titus Andronicus, with at least one death occurring every few pages just as they occur on stage. I bet they're relishing just how to show Tamora, queen of the Goths, being served her sons, backed in a pie!

But, no. 'They've asked for Romeo and Juliet'. :)

As some of you are probably aware I come from a theatre background. I used to be a paid actor, and I have a degree in Theatre. Coming from Warwickshire, birthplace of Shakespeare, those plays are in my blood. But I bloody HATE Romeo and Juliet. I think it's a terrible play, over-analysed by generations of terrible academics ensuring that it stays on every English syllabus in ever school. And I hate them just as much for doing that. While the mores grisly and complex plays don't get covered.

Actually, while it's almost ten years ago now, both H and I used to talk about doing graphic novels which told stories spilling out of the pages of a number of Shakespeare's plays. It was started in part, I think, because I was on a real Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead kick, but some of those ideas, especially H's were actually pretty good. We really aught to go back to those at some point.

We stayed (once again in those same bloody seats) for the Michuru Morikawa panel. Now I really did not know what to expect of this. I'm not really very versed in Manga. Some of the genre and sub-genres Manga has to offer intrigue me, others just confuse me. But I stuck around to see this and was very pleasantly surprised. Michuru Morikawa seems to primarily draw illustrations for younger readers, although her style is a real kind of, almost stream of consciousness, of childhood thought and games. It was quite inspiring to hear her talk actually. She came across as being incredibly down to earth, and even stated that she refused to spend more than a pound on any given item of art equipment. I think that H was quite inspired by finding out that she uses the same kind of gel pens she does.

But the real highlight of this panel came via Michuru Morikawa primarily being here to publicise the graphic novel she had recently finished drawing for Insomnia Publications called Buskers.

Buskers is written by Jeymes Samuel, and is unusual in as much as while this is the graphic novel of Buskers, it is also currently still in production as a movie(

Morikawa told the audience that while she was illustrating the graphic novel of Buskers she was not actually shown anything about the movie in progress. No casting information, or production photographs. She also pointed out that while she had been receiving scripts by email from Jeymes Samuel, she'd never actually met him.

Which was about the time where Samuel himself raised his hand in the audience to Morikawa's left, and introduced himself. I'm sure he'd planned that, but to her it was a total surprise. Samuel explained how he had picked Michuru Morikawa from a whole host of other artists shown to him. She was the one he thought was best suited to the job, and that he had wanted to Buskers as a graphic novel separate to the movie.

It was a little surreal, but a really nice moment for the Con. And it prompted me to go over to the Insomnia stand when I had a moment a get Michuru Morikawa to sign me a copy, as you can see from the cover scan above.

With two panels under our belt we figured it was long overdue time that we went around the dealer hall PROPERLY.

Something very interesting had happened at BICS this year. Several months before the con there had been rumblings from several small press companies and creators that while they would be attending BICS this year they would not be booking a stall. They weren't happy with a price rise this year. I had worried that the result of this would be a rather sparse looking dealer hall. And that would not be good.

Luckily that wasn't the case. While it is fair to say the number of stalls was a little less than last year, and a little disappointing that Panini UK in particular were nowhere to be seen this year, what this actually resulted in was that BICS 2009 really was the Year of the SMALL PRESS GUY. In previous years some small press guys have often found themselves only able to get a small plot in foyer. But with more space next door, this year, it meant that there was far more room to get them far better exposure. And they really rose to the occasion, with some truly ingenious ways of attracting buyers' attention and maximising their opportunity.

Take the numerous creators who had banded together to form The Manchester Comix Collective. More people, more capital to get a good stand. And they got a good location, too. Nice guys. I hope they did some good trade last weekend.

And I still have my (Now slightly crumpled through being in my pocket most of the weekend) Fetishman Pound:

Both sides of a Bank of Fetishman One Fetishman Pound note (Click to Enlarge - Pun probably intended).

A great way of publicising a book which isn't out yet, whilst drawing attention those which are for sale. Anybody whose sales pitch is 'It really is just one joke, pitched at lowest possible denominator' gets may backing. Because one gag it may really be, but it still makes me laugh. We bought all their back issues, actually ;)

If you're not easily offended really do check out their website:

Other guys who parted me with my hard earned cash over the weekend included the guys at Accent UK, from whom I bought several of their titles including The Wolfmen, which I forgot to pick up last year. 1960s London underworld - with werewolves! How could I not?

I also made a trip to the Markosia stand, where I picked up Rich Johnston's The Flying Friar (Which I was looking for last year, but totally forgot about until it was too late) and H picked up a copy of Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood's Hope Falls. Both of which I would very seriously recommend. And I also wish I'd gone with my instincts and picked up Cancertown and Burke and Hare from the Insomnia stand, as I have been hearing quite a bit of positive talk about both since the con. Will have to look into acquiring those.

We also totally forgot to go back to the Handknit Heroes stall. We had to credit these guys with unique sales pitch. Get a comic... and a knitting pattern. We seriously wanted a pair of knitted goggles, for the kitsch value alone. But alas, as with so many things you look at during a con, there's always a few which you just don't remember about until after the event. That's why I like to add links to these reports and pick up as many business cards as possible.

Another example would be the guys from Robosteel. These guys make sculptures of sci-fi characters out of cog, pipes, ad other metal object hand-welded together. The Optimus Prime statue currently on their homepage was at BICS. It was HUGE, you could hardly miss it. They had some really nice smaller sculptures, of which intended to purchase one. Again, forgot, sadly.

But aside from the Dealer Hall there was one last thing I wanted to make sure we did before leaving. This would not be a complete BICS without me bothering Paul Cornell to sign something! Last year, you may remember, it was #1 of Captain Britain & MI13. This year I was going for something a little more ambitious. Paul's Wisdom trade, and also all three trade volumes of Captain Britain & MI13 (Still can't believe it's gone.) We had missed Paul the day before, as while he was doing signings we were stuck in the queue for Alan Davis. So we were determined to arrive in good time for the Sunday signing. However, much as though we arrived to join the queue in good time, there was a bit of a problem.

You see the tables in this part of the foyer seat 3 creators comfortably, with room for 3 queues. The session before was supposed to be Mark Buckingham, Howard Chaykin and Andy Diggle. Unfortunately, Andy Diggle had been delayed on the Sunday. He hadn't arrived, and was posting apologies for the delay on his Twitter feed. So at that point there had only been two people at the table. However, the queues for both Chaykin and Buckingham were HUGE. And both like to chat while they sketch, which is great while you're getting your sketch of course, but does slow up the line.

Add to this that due to the demand for Alan Davis and Mark Farmer the day before, they had agreed to turn up early and make sure more people got served today. They took the far right of the table, taking the number of creators at the table to four and starting an even BIGGER third queue.

Then, of course Andy Diggle DID arrive, full of apologies, but with very little time of his signing session remaining. The was no queue for him, now, and with four people at the table he had to find another chair, and tried to squeeze in where there should have been, but now wasn't, really space for him. By which point those who WANTED Diggle couldn't get to him anyway, due to space taken up by the other three queues.

We're now into the next signing session's allotted time. We're still standing to the left of these queues, waiting for that session to begin. We say 'Hi' to Paul Cornell as he arrives. But as he does arrive he's got nowhere to sit. Only Paul, Alan Davis and Mark Farmer are supposed to be here. But now there's FIVE creators ALREADY at the table. Howard Chaykin is effectively in his seat. Chaykin's clearly not intending leaving any time soon - and would YOU challenge Howard Chaykin. I bloody wouldn't! ;D

They may have closed queues for both Chaykin and Mark Buckingham, now, but with the number of people left to be served they're still going to be awhile.

Andy Diggle eventually gives up, and says his goodbyes to those around him. But while Diggle may have vacated a chair there's still not really room for Paul Cornell to get in at the table. There wasn't room for Diggle, in the first place.

But it's okay Chaykin's queue has now finished! So surely he's going to vacate his seat now? Yeah?

No. Apparently not yet...

So in the end Paul very kindly decided to throw caution to the wind and do some signing the other side of the table, instead.

Who needs Chaykin?

Which is why we still maintain that Paul Cornell is one of the nicest blokes in comics. Four trades signed, and a bit of chat about Captain Britain, and the man didn't even HAVE to sit down to do it! He's always very approachable, and a real asset to the panels he does.

Thanks Paul. We really DO appreciate it.

(And a request to the organisers: Next year would it be possible to have a permanent staff member marshalling the queues? Things got a bit hectic this year, and there wasn't really anybody official around, to ask what was going on.)

Well that's about it on the subject of BICS 2009. Once again an incredibly enjoyable weekend. Great to see everyone. And I cannot impress enough on people how inspiring I found it to be, talking to all the small press guys. In the current comics climate, and in particular this last 12 months, where the big guns have almost shut up shop on smaller titles in favour of a drive towards Event only comics to see so many people being organised enough to produce such good Small Press product, and to see such incredible enthusiasm tied to their doing it, has just about reassured my faith in Comics.

Thank you, Guys. This was your year, and you bloody well deserved it.

I hope that BICS really does continue to grow, with the funding now helping them out. As I've said before this is the perfect location for this kind of event.

I'm glad that while I only managed to find him very late into the day, I DID finally get to meet Marvel UK back-up strip legend, Lew Stringer, who despite being on his way out of the Con was still willing to have a very quick chat. Lew tells me that while the editors at Marvel UK always told him that his Combat Colin strip was popular, he never saw any letters confirm the fact. That IS a shame. I know for certain that a younger version of myself wrote to the Transformers letters page quite specifically praising the strip. And from the emails I received after running the recent A to Z article I was not alone.

Thanks, Lew! We DID appreciate it.

Before I sign off though, there is one question I would pose to others who attended BICS this year. The programme for this year stated the following, in blurb for the final panel of the day:

"Including exclusive news about BICS 2010 and a prize ceremony for our 2009 competition winners".

I was at this panel. That did not happen, to my knowledge. Anybody else know differently?

Okay, that really IS it now. But as always feel free to discuss any of this report, and your own experiences, in the comments section below.

Thanks guys


The ICFD BICS write-up!

(For last year's BICS write-up Click Here)

BICS! Yes, I said 'BICS'! The Birmingha-

Oh. No. I must correct myself. As of this year it is no longer the 'Birmingham' International Comics Show. Things have evolved a little. A proper funding grant, now, for a start. And so, as of 2009, it is now a far more inclusive BRITISH International Comics Show.

(And frankly what better place to hold a big British con. This was always my argument, in the early half of this decade, over the English National Football Stadium. Yes, eventually they opted for rebuilding London's Wembley stadium, but Birmingham always seemed like the much fairer venue, presenting most sections of England with only a couple of hours to drive to the National Stadium. And Birmingham is the Second City, after all.)

But how, I'm sure you're wondering, did this effect this year's BICS? Did this new found financial status spoil BICS, like a lottery winner who lets it all go to their head? Well... no. Change the name all you like - This was still BICS! And don't worry. I still bloody loved it.

Now I know that there's been a fair bit of negative discussion online about the launch party last Friday night. I'm not going to dwell on that. I'm sure that if you want to you can find reports elsewhere that cover that. I'm just going to talk about the show.

Once again Millennium Point in Birmingham was the venue, and as I've said before it really is a great venue. The Theatre space on Level 2 is given over to signings in the foyer, and all manner of talks and events occur in the theatre itself. And then upstairs (Providing you can get the two way escalators to work in your favour) the whole of Level 3 is given over to signings, stalls and a fairly large Dealer Hall.

Apologies for the shaky quality of this photo, which utterly fails to convey the size of the hall...

Moving in waves around the third floor, and outside to entertain the queue, far more hired cosplayers this year. (You could spot the hired guys - they had Show Security with them...).

He IS The Law. But The Law does need a minder occasionally...

Judges DREDD and "MINTY" patrol the Dealer Hall, keeping order...

There was even a booth to have your photo taken with certain characters at certain parts of both days. Although, I do have to wonder about a zombie nurse and a group of The Joker's Goons who we saw wandering about on the Sunday (Sadly I don't have photos of them). They didn't have Show Security with them when we saw them, but looked a bit well produced not to be professional. The thing was that they really freaked a few people out - especially kids. Can't help but wonder if they might have been a little bit of a mistake. I thought I might have been the only one to notice them, but then I spotted a few others mentioning the same, such as Matt Badham in his write up for Down The Tubes (Down The tubes round up. I wonder if they were hired or not?

Anyway, back to the show. The Saturday kicked off with a panel called Found in Translation led by Paul Gravett (You may remember him from last year, where he was showcasing his book "The Leather Nun & Other Incredibly Strange Comics" which is exactly what you'd imagine it is...) with a couple of other guys from Cinebook ( who specialise in translating comic books for printing and publishing into English. Mostly from Europe, but they did also concede from Canada. French speaking Canada, obviously. ;)

It's a shame really, that this panel being the first of the day inevitably started a little late, and therefore had to be rushed to conclusion. (In fact we were waiting outside the theatre with Paul Cornell, hoping that somebody would come and unlock the doors, for a few minutes before it began). I didn't grab any of there books at the con itself, but will inevitably be looking through their website. Titles such as The Chimpanzee Complex, XIII, I.R.$., and a perhaps more faithful Arthurian legend adaptation (Which I do now forget the name of) did pique my interest. Good work guys.

In what would now become our permanent seat for most of the day, we then stayed on for the Comic Artists Flip Out panel. This was a lot of fun last year, and unsurprisingly that didn't change. Having drawn my lucky ticked (191, if you're really wondering) I sat living in hope of getting a sketch from one of the artists flip chart pads this year. Returning this year were Staz Johnson and Mark Buckingham accompanied by British Comics legend Alan Davis. Unfortunately for Alan he had been given a flip chart bard whose legs did not seem to want to stay extended, and it took about ten minutes to get them gaffer taped into a working position. ;)

Click to Enlarge:
Left - Mark Bucking and his wife Irma Page.
Middle - Staz Johnson (left), Alan Davis (middle) and Mark Buckingham (right) prepare to start.
Right - All three at work (Notice Alan has swapped boards now) with Organiser James Hodgkins in between Alan and Staz.

As per usual this panel had its laughs. Most notably a request from the audience for Staz to draw JSA stalwart Wildcat, which Alan Davis rather humorously jumped in to complete because it didn't look right, and Staz' rather wonderful "Lobo/Gene Simmons/Staz' Neighbour," which got a fair few laughs also.

Mark Buckingham drew a really beautiful Snow White, which my better half really wanted, but sadly did not win (although this did result in her buying a hardback of Fables at BICS purely on the back of that, which can only be a good thing), and I had my fingers very firmly crossed for the sketch an audience member requested of Davis for Saturnyne. No joy. But them's the breaks. I was going to queue for Davis later, anyway.

This was followed up by the 70 years of Marvel Panel, done in association with David Monteith and Barry Nugent's Geek Syndicate Podcast (

At this point H, Fliss and myself were musing that we hadn't moved from these seats for an hour and a half, and that we really aught to go and have a look around the rest of the show soon. Paul Cornell, who had been sitting in the row in front of us for the duration of the previous two panels turned to us, shrugged, and said 'I guess I'd better do my bit now'. And the panel was underway.

Representing Marvel for this panel was Paul Cornell (Dark Reign: Young Avengers, Wisdom, Captain Britain & MI13), Andy Diggle (Thunderbolts, Dardevil, and most notably DC's The Losers), Alan Davis (Excalibur, X-Men, The ClanDestine, Captain Britain), and Mark Farmer (Usually inking Alan's work. And he's exceptionally bloody good at it, too).

From Left to Right: Barry Nugent, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Paul Cornell, David Monteith, Andy Diggle and...

Oh. Yes. And one random audience member. Apparently somebody due to appear had not turned up, and so that lad on the right, Sam, was randomly picked from the audience to sit in for them. Although some of the audience may have wished he hadn't been.

'Precocious' would be the polite way of describing him...

That panel itself actually turned out to be very interesting as, completely unplanned, a kind of divide seemed to develop between Marvel Past and Marvel Present. Especially on issues such as the Disney takeover and the concept of Digital Comics.

Paul Cornell and and Diggle remained cautiously optimistic about the buyout, Cornell pointing out that DC have always been able to keep a low-selling title going for much longer with Time/Warner's 'money and might' behind them, and that now Marvel will be able to do the same, such as "...a low-selling title like Captain Britain" he joked.

He also pointed out that while some might worry that Disney might interfere in terms of content, that this is the same company who owns Miramax films, who made Pulp Fiction, and that he think all that it will really mean is that Marvel have 'Better distribution channels and more money behind them'.

And I'd have to agree with that. In all honesty can you say that Disney have ruined Pixar? Or the ABC network? The people at Disney are not idiots! If it's not broken they won't fix it. They'll help use it as a way of doing the things they can't do through the standard Disney name, more dynamic and adult orientated things. But they won't stuff it up.

And seriously, if they could find alternate distribution channels to Diamond alone that would be a Godsend!

Mark Farmer, in the other hand, believed that while it was early days yet, that there might be cutbacks from this. His concern would be that Marvel might start dropping titles as a result. Others on the panel couldn't quite see the logic on this, but Farmer overall tone seemed to be that anything could happen at this stage, and that it would be wiser to be prepared for both alternatives. Or at least that's what I took from it.

Audience member Sam suggested "How about a Deadpool vs the DC Universe?"

To which Andy Diggle replied "I'd happily write that, Alan would you draw it?"

Mr Davis did not seem quite so interested in that idea. :)

Just in case you'd forgotten which panel this was.

When the panel was asked a question on the subject of Digital Comics this too threw up some interesting points.

Andy Diggle described right now as the 'pivotal point' we'll be looking at in the years to come, where the transition from 'Dead-Tree Media' to 'Portable Digital Media' occurred. Not talking so much bout desktop PCs, though. He mentioned Apple developing a tablet PC screen, and Microsoft also, and he believes that when you can have a portable device, the size of a paperback book, where you could have access to Marvel's entire back catalogue, then comics will 'explode' onto that device. Because he believes that comics are perfect medium for such a device.

And I'd have to say that I 100% agree with that. I've been talking this up for several years, on forums and elsewhere. It was so incredibly encouraging to hear an actual creator sharing that opinion.

He also pointed out that "...the slightly more backward looking guys at some of these companies, will say that 'Oh, nobody will want to read comics on a screen,' completely blinkered to the fact that thousands of people already ARE reading comics on screens. You know, the wholesale piracy of all of our work... and we don't get a shred of royalties for any of it, because people are downloading it for free".

This genuinely is the situation, now, as I see it. Very much like the issues experienced with illegally downloaded MP3s back in the 90s. Only here there's no central site, like Napster, that the industry can get at. But if there is one thing that I think that should demonstrate to comic book publishers, it's that - illegal or not - there IS a market for digital downloads of comic books. If all the publishers could just get around the table, with somebody willing to produce an iTunes for Comics (Much like Rantz Hoseley has been trying to do with his Longbox application - then not only could that piracy be actively turned into profit, but it would also help to lower the overheads for many titles which printing and distributing through Diamond is making very difficult these days. The reason so many titles are costing $3.99 is not purely down to greed, you know. Taking some smaller titles digital could actually make them a far more financially viable option.

Alan Davis took a slightly different viewpoint, though. He was concerned that once a whole back catalogue of comics were to join that of all cartoons and movies, there might be a real danger that the younger generation might stop entirely. He believes that many of the younger generation just don't really care, that they expect things to just be brought to them by the TV. He told the audience that a few years ago he was running a Scout troop, and had one week brought along a big box of comics (Mostly titles he'd worked on) which he told everyone that they should feel free to take. Apparently, while a few came over and looked at them, nobody actually took any of them - not a single comic went.

Andy Diggle pointed out that he couldn't give a lot of his comics away either, but he thinks that it's subject matter that doesn't appeal to kids. Davis seemed to agree with this. He remarked that when he first started to do conventions like these they were filled with kids. Not so any more. And he believes that this is because DC and Marvel have somewhat ignored them.

This point also ended up linking back into how Digital Distribution might be able to change that.

But, of course, it wouldn't be a Marvel panel if some idiot didn't bring up the subject of Marvel UK.

By 'Some Idiot' I really mean 'Me'.

I listed some guys like Salvador Larocca, Bryan Hitch, Alan Davis and Dan Abnett, pointing out that all of these guys had gone on to have great careers in the industry, but had been given an early break through Marvel UK. I asked the panel whether they thought it would be a good idea to once again have original British based Marvel material being created over here.

Andy Diggle replied first, saying that as a British creator he'd love to see Marvel UK back, but that he wasn't sure that there was enough of a market for it here alone, in a world were you really have to sell internationally. And that 'Once you're selling something internationally, then it almost doesn't really matter where it was originated'. He pointed out that he works for Marvel in New York, but he's based in England, and he artist could be based in Spain, Croatia or the Philippines. It's really kind of global, now.

Of course back in the 80s and 90s, during Marvel UK's heyday, it really wasn't.

Mark Farmer also pointed out though, that "Marvel UK was a kind of handy Training Ground, as well. I know it sounds like I'm demeaning their output, but it was a place you could learn - the same as 2000 AD - make mistakes, take the work into the Editor, have it pointed out to you what's wrong, hopefully correct it, and then start getting little bits of work. That's how I started, I'm sure many others did as well".

This was the kind of reason I wanted to raise the question. So often at British cons there is a habit to only mention 2000 AD as being significant in shaping the careers of British creators. History is, after all written by the winners. If 2000 AD had fallen in the early 90s, and Marvel UK had survived, I'm sure that we would be seeing a things almost entirely from their perspective also. But I personally, as I'm sure you've all realised by now, prefer not to let Marvel UK be forgotten.

Alan Davis went into far more detail on the subject of Marvel UK. He added that "... it wasn't just Marvel UK, because 'Marvel UK' was a company. Both times Marvel UK was producing new (Original) material, Paul Neary was at the helm. The first time, when I got to do Captain Britain in the 80s, Marvel UK didn't want any new originated (material), and Paul actually scrimped and scraped, stealing from other budgets, to make enough to do one five-page story a month. And it blossomed from there, because of the success.

"Then Paul came back again, when Marvel (UK) had it's last run, and got up to 26 titles. But Marvel UK was the first victim of the 'Comic Implosion'. Not because it was doing the most badly, but because Marvel had to trim some fat, and Marvel UK was an easy thing to trim off.

"But, in the same way when I think of 'working for a company' I don't think of 'working for the Corporation' as much as I do 'working with an Editor,' Marvel UK should be seen as Paul Neary. Because he was the person who uncovered all the the talent, the one who went to Spain and found people like Carlos Pacheco and Salvador Larocca. He went along to all the conventions looking for people. He certainly was the person who gave me my break. And I think you need someone like that, rather than a company".

You see folks, I know that I mention it - both here and on forums - but Marvel UK did give the industry a lot more than people often credit it for. Don't just take my word for it. Take Alan Davis'. Take Mark Farmer's. Back in the mid to late 1990s I remember Marvel editorials raving about how they'd uncovered the likes of Larocca, Pacheco, Sharp, Cheung and others. And I couldn't help but think, 'Hold on! No. You didn't do that'. I was hoping that asking this question might get Paul Neary brought up in discussion. I totally bought into what he told the readers he was trying to do in the early 90s. And to be honest, he WAS doing it. It was just a shame that at the point that Marvel UK's output was reaching its finest stage was also the very point at which Marvel US started cost cutting. Such an incredible shame.

Anyway, I think I've covered this panel in some pretty hefty detail now. If you want to listen to the panel in its entirety, and I promise I've only really touched the surface here, then you can download it as a podcast from the Geek Syndicate site HERE. Do it. It's well worth the effort.

But before I move on completely, I'd just like to mention that during this panel I was in for a bit of a shock when a certain slide popped up in the background:

Hold on a second. Haven't I seen that SOMEWHERE BEFORE?

Yes, that's right. That's my Captain Britain & MI13 Needs YOU! poster, which I knocked up before the book launched. It was created using the original cover to #1, with the John Lennon likeness which was eventually changed. I had a word with the Geek Syndicate guys afterwards. They were quite amused. Barry had put the slides together, and had no idea that it wasn't an official Marvel poster - which I take to be the finest of compliments!

Okay, folks. I'm actually going to break here. This report has become much larger than expected. So I'll return with Part 2 shortly. In which I bother Alan Davis for a sketch, get a broader sense of the con, and raise my metaphorical glass to the Small Press guys.

See you shortly...