Sunday, 27 May 2012

KAPOW !! A knockout... two views of the weekend.

Dave's View - 'Anthologies do sell'.
Last weekend saw Accent UK travel down to London for the second KAPOW!! convention.
We've heard a lot of good things about last year's event but had failed to make it ourselves as we were at the MOCCA event in New York.
Only Colin and I were going down to man the stall for the two days and so we were a bit limited as to how much we could take with us, limited that is by what we could physically carry. Or that would have been the case had it not been for support from a company that will remain nameless (as I think they prefer it that way) who we to bring with them a box of each of our old anthologies, and Stuart of UK Comics (our printer) who was bringing 2 boxes of the new 2OMBIES. This meant that, if all went to plan, we'd actually had more comics to sell than we've had at a Con for a very long time, and most of them were anthologies, which are notoriously a bit of a hit or miss affair . The danger was, of course, that we might find ourselves carrying a lot of books back up North with us, and the anthologies are pretty heavy beasts. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Colin and I set off for London on the Friday, rather than rush down Saturday morning. There were two reasons for this. Firstly the Con started at 9am, which would have meant a very very early start, and secondly we'd agreed to deliver some stock to Orbital Comics, following a meeting for Camila at the last Comiket event.
Before heading off to Orbital we needed to lighten our load and drop off most of our luggage (comics) at the venue. Blimey. Talk about well organised. Within minutes of entering we were looking down at our table and less than an hour later we were pretty much set up. Covering the stall with a sheet as we left to keep the dust off, job done.
We set off for Orbital Comics.
After a little wandering around London's streets we were once again reminded of the value of having an ex-scout along with us. Without Scott we were hopeless and completely failed to find the store. Still, modern technology soon came to our rescue. We phoned Scott who talked us through the route and ten minutes later and we were there.
Wow, what a great store Orbital Comics is. A full room dedicated to Independent Press. We were in heaven. Camila, and the store in general, is a real champion of comics that are outside the mainstream, and only too happy to stock our books. It's a great feeling knowing that we have our complete catalogue (except the original ZOMBIES, which is sold out) available in a London store.
As we were chatting about comics with Camilla our good friend Chris Dingsdale appeared. Chris had kindly agreed to allow us to crash at his house, despite Colin's snoring issue, see, a good friend indeed.
I was tempted, albeit only momentarily, to cry AccentUK Assemble, but we were still missing a member, as artist Gary Crutchley wouldn't be meeting up with us until Saturday, and so I refrained. Well, there was also the fact that Chris would have probably clipped me around the ear.
So, first things first then... off to a pub for a pint. Which turned into a few pints and some food.
Then it was back to Chris's for a beer, some chat and a video. The video we selected was Doc Savage which we were all old enough to remember watching at the cinema. I could say that it had aged pretty well, but that would be because it was as bad now as it had been back then. Still, great fun and a film that would be all the better for a new audio track that had us doing the vocals, agfter having re-written the script of course.
Satuday, and no headache. No idea how that happened. Must have been some of that old Doc magic.
We arrived to find that all the anthologies had been delivered, which meant we had a whole load of them to sell, and a few minutes later the stall was fully stocked... and Belmat was in position.
We had a steady stream of customers all day really. We didn't do the sales we'd hoped to do but we did sell about 2/3rds of what we expected, so it was too bad.
(photo from Bleeding Cool 
- that's us in the red circle talking to some customers)
Gary Crutchley arrived with a fabulous piece of original art and we gave a raffle ticket to everyone who bought a copy of WesterNoir. Sales, and interest, in WesterNoir were very encouraging, and although it sold very well, so did all of the books. Best seller on the day was 2OMBIES, you just can't keep them down, and it was great to hand a few copies out to contributors, and see the look of pleasure on their faces.
(photo - Chris finally gets back with the coffee only to find Dave no longer at the stall)
An added bonus of these Cons is that we often find that our table is next to someone we've never met before and this time it was the team behind Mr. Who. A really nice bunch of guys who are very passionate about the industry and their work. I've not read the comics yet but they're full of extras, in the form of CDs, that relate to the comic story itself. Interesting ideas.
It was a late finish on Saturday, 7pm, but it really didn't feel it. Usually the last hoour of a Con is pretty quite but in this case we were still talking to customers and making sales pretty much up to the last minute. Great stuff.
(photo - good friend Steve Tanner's TimeBomb stall)
Saturday night say a tired trio make it as far as the first restaurant that had a spare table, were we had food and beer. Not necessarily in that order. And then it was back to Chris's for more beer and a movie. This time it was the classic Megaforce, which is kind of a merging of Mad Maz and the Bee Gees, but not in a good way. Great fun though and once again I think our dialogue script was better. I did bounce the idea of acquiring the rights to Megaforce, what a comic book that would be, but the more I sobered up the less convinced I became.
Sunday, following a cooked breakfast (thanks Chris, maybe remember the Black Pudding next time ... just a suggestion) we made our way to the event wondering how much stock we could shift to save a few back problems on the way home. Sundays are always quieter than Saturdays. It's a fact of Comic Con Life.
But there's always the exception to every rule and this Con was it.
Sunday we did better sales than Saturday and following our passing the agreed number of anthology stockover to the guys on the Orbital Comics table, we were pretty much down to only having a few copies of most books left to sell. Phew. I even had a couple of offers for Belmat, but he's not for sale I'm afraid ... I do take commissions though :o)
I did get to wander around the event a little over the two days and it certainly is impressive. The organisation was excellent, with no queues effecting us in the main area. Most of the people behind stalls seemed to have had a very good convention sales-wise and a good cup of coffee was always close at hand.
Joel Meadows (Tripwire) pulled the winning ticket for the WesterNoir original art out of the hat (as it were) and disappointingly I didn't win, but we phoned the happy winner who will be receiving the artwork very soon.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by for a chat, to buy a comic or two or to bring me food (that's you Chris).
A great event ... I'd recommend it to all ... punters, dealers and publishers alike.
We'll be back for more next year.
                                                                     Dave West - May 2012.

Chris's View - “Deeds Not Words”

Comics events used to be about as common in the UK as hard photographic evidence of the Beast Of Bodmin.
These days you cant move for them. At least not in the merry month of May at any rate.
Last week it was Bristol Expo. This week its Kapow! at the  London design Centre in trendy Islington.
Last year’s event was a good one. I travelled down from my home in North Wales for a relaxing weekend in the Capital. Stayed in Kensington (well OK at the Youth Hostel but it is very nice….) spent some time and lots of cash in the Convention Hall, attended various panels, chatted comics, met up with old friends and even made some new ones. Nice one.
This year though I was worried. Really worried.
Now I am living in our wonderful Capital City and I have offered up my digs once already to the unfailingly nice Colin Mathieson and his son Scott for the purposes of the Accent UK presence at London SuperCon.
This time however Mr M was being accompanied by the fearsome Mr Dave West.
Yes THAT Dave West. The Eagle Award Winner. The CEO. The Chief. The Genralissimo himself.
A man with an ego so large he can only talk about himself in the third person.
Thus on Friday afternoon I was informed that Dave would be arriving in the City Centre with his “people” ( well, Colin ) and I was to await instructions as to when I would be granted an audience with the great man.
Actually what transpired was that I was looking around the excellent Orbital Comics and saw the pair of them trying to sell Accent UK books to the unsuspecting proprietors. I told Orbital they were frauds. They didn’t listen and took the books anyway.
We then retired to the “Marquess of Anglesey” on Drury Lane for beer, food and then more beer.
A return to the East End was capped off by a group viewing (with beer) of “Doc Savage The Man of Bronze” (1975) or at least my German R2 DVD. A camp classic. Dave and I laughed nostalgically whilst remarking what a good Doc Ron Ely was. Colin shared that he really liked the scene where Doc takes his early morning swim. Hmm. OK.
Saturday morning; Breakfast, Underground, London Design Centre. In that order.
I have to say that on entering, the Hall was impressive. The Design Centre is as close to an ideal venue for a Convention as you will find, just beating out the Ex Cel as it is essentially in the centre of London.
Layout was similar to last year’s event but it became apparent over the course of the weekend that the organisers had listened to the comments and acted on them where necessary.
The lower level entrance floor was taken up again by the Movie promotion area – natty flat screens arranged in a circle with couches to watch the (limited) number of movie trailers on offer. The stage area was back for events and interviews. In addition this year, a full size wrestling ring had been erected adjacent the entrance signing area.
Stairs led up to the main mezzanine floor with all the dealers’ and exhibition stands. Signing tables were once again at the rear of the floor.
The upper gallery levels that overlook the main floor again featured the main panel room and also the Auditorium for movie / TV events.
Accent UK were grouped on the main floor with a number of other independent publishers. The stand was already set up by Dave and Colin on Friday. They had gained access to the Hall early. No doubt Dave West had one of his “Don’t you know who I am ?!?“ moments to gain entry. Seen a few of those down the years.
The doors opened, people arrived and within minutes the place was packed. Really packed. To the point where it was difficult to look at dealer’s stands with any success.
One of the delights about going along with the Accent UK lads is that they recognise my many and varied skills, talent and experience. I am a Professional after all in my chosen field.
Thus within no time I was going to the Concession stand for coffees and out to the nearest Sainsburys to fetch lunch because you know it’s good to feel well, “valued”.
So Kapow! was in full swing again. In truth there was so much going on that you could not possibly participate in everything. In the Hall there were dealers, signings, the stage for interviews and wrestling going on simultaneously.
The upper galleries held panels and movie previews and this hosted some independent press and an “artists alley” also.
The Saturday ended at 7pm which is perhaps a tad too long and we retired to a local Thai restaurant before returning to the East End (via a beer stop at Tescos) for a late night showing of the 1982 classic “Megaforce”.
Some films are good and some films are bad and some films though are so bad they are good. In fact so enamoured was Dave that at one point he was considering acquiring the Comic Book rights together with us lot turning up next year in lycra jumpsuits and headbands to promote the thing. Of course that could have been the beer talking. Still, miss Kapow! 2013 at your peril eh?
Sunday morning. Full English breakfast courtesy of yours truly. Dave then asked me for one of those Hotel guest comment cards for accommodation / quality / service for him to fill in before he left. Sadly I didn’t have one. Got marked down for that one. Damn.
Once again we negotiated the weekend tube closures and reached the Design centre just prior to opening at 9.30am. Stall sorted I resumed my duties and we were off and running once again.
The Convention didn’t even seem to suffer the Sunday slowdown these events usually suffer from. The Cosplay Contest was due to be staged and thus all manner of costumed characters turned up. Some looked great. Some ah.. didn’t. Special mention to the two She-Hulks though who both looked fantastic. Not sure who won but the prizes looked spectacular.
I attended two panels; The Marvel “A Cup O’ Joe” Panel seemed disorganised and not spontaneous as I think it was meant to be. Sorry guys but it seemed like a wasted opportunity to me. Better next year huh?
The DC Panel on the other hand seemed well organised, interesting and informative, In fact I hadn’t read any “New 52” material but the Panel actually made me  want to. Well done Bob Wayne, Dan Didio, Scott Snyder et al.
(I have now read  Justice League; Origin” and “Batman; A Court of Owls”. Excellent they were too and yes Dave, I know you told me so.).
So what is the verdict? Well Kapow! in 2011 was all nice, shiny and new just as the Super Con was this year but I am pleased to report that this years event was even brighter and shinier even though it wasn’t new. I spent more money than I have ever spent at an event.
It was great to see Marvel, DC and Image attending. DC even gave a breakdown of what the UK market share means to them (and it’s significant). We are getting the recognition that out valuable custom deserves.
Organisation was good, the problems from last year with queuing on the main floor for autographs had been solved. There was tons of activity going on simultaneously. I cannot imagine anyone being bored over the two days. The dealers sounded as if they did well. Accent UK did pretty good numbers and made a load of new contacts including retailers.
Proceedings closed at 3.30pm we packed up and Colin and I carried Dave’s bags out of the Hall. Fame and status carries its own rewards I guess.
Roll on next year then.
Actually I made up the stuff about Dave West if I am honest. I didn’t help carry his bags out of the Hall.
Colin did.
                                        Chris Dingsdale - May 2012

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Bristol Expo 2012 – “Room With a (déjà)View.”

I reach 50 this year and this is what my role for Accent UK has deteriorated into.
You know I used to attend, help set up the Accent UK table, chat, sell books and  drink lots of alcohol with Colin. Hell a couple times I was even a creator (of sorts).
However this year Accent UK decided against taking a stand at the Expo but Dave West and Colin Mathieson were curious to assess how the Expo would run especially as the event returned to the previous and indeed largest Venue – Templemeads.
So Colin asked me if I was attending and if so could I keep my eyes peeled and report back to Accent UK HQ “somewhere” in deepest Cheshire.
Colin actually asked me rather nicely even though I knew that Dave West at his most dictatorial had likely issued a directive to Colin along the lines;
“I know we are not going Col! So tell Dingsdale to get his arse into gear and get along there. Oh and tell him to send in a written report and to use bloody spellcheck this time!”
Mr West is not a man to be trifled with. If you don’t believe me just ask for his opinion of the 1981 “Conan the Barbarian” movie.
And then stand back.
So I checked the website and found out that the main guest was to be Denny O’Neil. Mr O’Neil is one of my Comic Creator heroes. The man who reinvented Batman along with Neal Adams and (unfairly not credited enough in my opinion) Frank Robbins, Irv Novick, Bob Brown and Jim Aparo in the late 60’s early 70’s.
Also the man who wrote one of my favourite stories; “Night of the Ninja” in The Shadow #6, which blew this (at the time) 11 yr old’s mind. And so on and so on.
That sealed it for me.
True there were lots of other guests including familiar faces who I know give up their time willingly and which the fans always appreciate but it was the chance to hear Denny speak and maybe meet him, shake his hand and offer a “thank you” for all the enjoyment he has delivered down the years that cemented my desire to attend.
Coincidentally those nice people at Lucky Target Comics were attending and after a quick exchange of emails they invited me to share their rented apartment for the weekend.
(Whilst I am writing I urge you all to check out their website and buy all your back issues from them. They are lovely, knowledgeable people who like Comics as much as you or I.
Well Sumyra is. Darren is a nice bloke for a Yorkshire man but in keeping with his heritage he kept inventing debts over the entire weekend for me to re pay to him.
Apples falling not far from trees etc spring to mind.)
I arrived in Bristol on Friday Lunchtime from London. Whilst in the course of a little sightseeing I looked for signs of the Con in the City generally. Sadly I didn’t find any. No flyers in the bookstores or street advertising.
Templemeads itself is an old Railway shed converted into an exhibition space not surprisingly close to the main Railway Station and thus well positioned for visitors to the City. As I waited for the Lucky Target crew to arrive I couldn’t find any sign of  advertising for events at the location, Comics Expo or otherwise which seems a little like a wasted opportunity given the location and proximity to commuters ,visitors etc.
Anyway Sumyra et al arrived, parked up and we eventually made our way to the rented apartment for the evening which further involved beer, a takeaway Curry and a great deal of debate about who was sleeping where. Matters were resolved following a debate that the host of Question Time would have found challenging and we all retired for the night.
On Saturday morning we found out that Templemeads isn’t the only place not well served by notices, neither are Bristol’s roads and so we arrived back at the venue courtesy of an “ahem” circuitous route.
Setting up with Lucky Target it was clear that all the Tables were booked. A very positive sign but outside the venue still no obvious sign that anything was taking place in the Centre.
Attendees started to enter the hall at 10 am. The place filled up slowly – there seemed to be a bottleneck caused by processing peoples’ web tickets so I was informed – but pretty soon there were plenty of people browsing and buying.
If you have attended the Expo before then the layout and format was familiar; dealers tables around the periphery of the room, with independents grouped together and the ever popular “artists alley” for the sketch heads.
Busy it was too. A special mention for all those creators who turn up to meet the fans ,chat and fill comics, sketchbooks with signatures and requests. I sometimes feel the creators on our shores don’t get the credit they deserve for this.
I abandoned the hall after the first hour to wander across to the Ramada hotel where the Panels and discussion group agenda is staged. Again, familiar to anyone who has attended previously.
Tony Hitchman was offering one of his (now legendary) comics quiz events. This years offering was “Reduced Heroes”. Now if you have never attended one of Tony’s gatherings, you should because you are missing something. Tony knows more about comics than just about anyone on the Planet and his events are frankly hilarious. Tony, like many others gives his time and effort each year and deserves a ton of credit.
Oh and I won the quiz. So there. (and yes it was hilarious!).
(Oh and before I forget Tony and co author Steve Bowkett have written a Teachers Resource book on using Comics as a teaching aid called “Using Comic Art to Improve  Speaking, Reading and Writing” – its on -  I had a look – very impressive. Tony is an ex Headmaster – there, EVERYBODY knows now!!)
The remainder of Saturday passed, the hall was very busy and we eventually packed up at 5.30pm to go off into the City for a Thai Meal and a far too short evening in the local hostelries. My old partner in crime Mr Mathieson would have been ashamed. Really ashamed.
Sunday was more of the same. Traditionally the Sunday is slower and quieter and this one seemed no exception. I helped set up and then made an early exit to return to London after a leisurely lunch in the City Centre.
On the way back I mused that the last 12 months has seen Comic Conventions, Gatherings, call them what you will change in the UK. We have seen the rise of the more media orientated event with Kapow! and The London Super Con. I attended both and enjoyed both immensely.
At Bristol there seemed to be a lot of talk as to whether the event would continue. I hope it does. Yes the event is well established and yes Templemeads looks a bit tired in comparison to ExCel and the London Design Centre but the whole thing is still very enjoyable. I don’t know how the dealers fared but it seemed like a success to me.
It's possibly the equivalent of that old sweater you pull on when you get home from work.. Familiar and comfortable but still high on your list of favourites. The organisers deserve a lot of credit for all their hard work.
Finally I never got to meet or listen to Denny O’Neil, He couldn’t attend due to illness but that didn’t matter, the event was good regardless.
Get well Mr O’Neil maybe you can come to next years maybe?
And you’re still one of my heroes.
                                                                                                               (report by Chris Dingsdale)

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Every purchase of WesterNoir at Kapow gets you a chance to win...

this ...
... and I've just been told that I'm not allowed to enter ... how is that fair ? Oh .. right .. I see ... drat ...
a wonderful original image from series artist Gary Crutchley.

ZOMBIES 2 will be avaliable at Kapow this weekend.

Yep, it'sbeen  a close run thing but 2OMBIES will be available from the Accent UK table at this weekend's Kapow Comic Convention.
It's been a while since we've launched two books at pretty much the same time, the last time being ZOMBIES and The Wolfmen if I remember correctly, and although Westernoir was sold at the Mocca event in the USA a couple of weeks ago, this is the first UK Con that will see it.
Looking forward to catching up with readers and creators alike ... if you're at the event then be sure to come and say hello.
You'll recognise us as we'll be the table with Belmat on it ...

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Accent UK will be at Kapow next weekend.

We have a table at next weekend's Kapow Comic Convention.
We failed to make it last year as it clashed with Mocca, but this year we have no such problem and will be there with all of our latest books, so do pop over and have a chat.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Mocca 2012

We really enjoyed last year's Mocca Fest, and did so well that we booked a table for this years event there and then. Of course, there's always a worry when you do really well at a Convention that it might have been a 'one off', and that a return to the same event might not be anywhere near as successful, but we'd decided to just go for it and see what happens.
Arriving a day before the event allowed us to check out our favourite stores from last year, top of the list being The Strand (the mother of all book shops),
(photo - outside The Strand)
but rather than restricting ourselves to NYC itself this year we decided to hit two Brooklyn comic stores as well. The idea being that we get to meet the store owner, or manager, and tell him, or her, about Accent UK, showing them some of our books and hopefully leaving them with a good impression.
Having walked across the bridge we found Bergen Street Comics pretty easily, and a great little store it is as well. Mostly independent comics and some nice artwork on the walls it had a really nice feel to it. We had a nice chat with Cassy and following her recommendation we decided to take the Subway to the second store, Desert Island, rather than walk.
Where Bergen Street has a very modern feel to it, Desert Island is all heart. I didn't spot any Marvel or DC books at all, and Gabe (the owner) was very passionate about the wealth of independent comic books he had to offer. Whilst Bergen had been interested in our books, Gabe was keen to stock them as soon as we could sort things out, which was great and very encouraging. 
Saturday, the first day of the Con, saw us up pretty early, the time difference was causing us all problems, and after moving the stock from Scott's suitcase to mine and Colin's, having a breakfast consisting mostly of pancakes and downing enough coffee to ensure that we would remain awake all day (and probably all night), we set off for the venue. 
It's strange that even after having done this event only once before it was all so familiar.
(photo - Venue for Mocca Fest)
We were there pretty quickly and setting up shop at the same table as last year.
We recognised some familiar faces amongst the other creator tables and it was great to see Moe Murdock having a table again. Justin of LUSH comics was also a faimiliar face and it was a great opportunity to discuss where he's taking his digital independent comic store, and how we can support each other moving forward. All very positive.   
(photo - Colin, Tom Gauld and Dave)
We also spent some time at the Big City Dare 2 Draw event where we had the opportunity to do some life drawing, with a super-hero twist.
A great event run by the tireless Charles D Chenet which is an ongoing charity with the aim of bringing comic art to the aspiring artists of NYC.
(photo - Charles D. Chenet and Dave)
From the evidence in front of us we were able to see that it's a very worthy cause, run by people who are doing it for all the right reasons and something that we'd like to see take off in the UK.
(photo - life drawing at Dare2Draw)
Saturday, it must be said, was a little quieter than last year. A view held by everyone we spoke to, creators and customers alike, and after a very tiring day we had only managed to sell about 2/3rds of last year's target.
(photo - Scott at table)
During the day we discovered that this year's event had clashed with Stumptown (in Portland) and the feeling was that a number of customers, and creators, had gone to that event instead. We were a little worried that this wouldn't be a great Con, as Sunday's are typically about half as successful as Saturdays, and so it was with tired legs and worried heads that we ate our Chinese meal and thought about Sunday.
We needn't have worried.
Sunday was actually a little busier than Saturday and we managed to sell slightly more. Overall that meant that we did as well this year as we had last.
(photo - Dave sketches robots)
Added to this, Gabe (Desert Island) popped by the stall and we agreed to take most of our remaining stock to his store on Monday for him to sell, which was great as we would leave 3 copies of all but two titles with him, which would lighten our suitcases tremendously for the journey home.
What surprised me was that all of our titles sold pretty much the same number of copies over the Con weekend.
(photo - happy customer with Colin's adventure comics purchase)
I had expected the newer titles, particularly WesterNoir, to sell more than older ones but in retrospect I guess all of our books were new to most of the customers, and whilst we recognised some faces from last year, coming back to buy the books they hadn't got, we had a greater number of new customers.
(photo - Brigid Alverson with Fastest man purchase)
What didn't surprise me was the support given by everyone behind tables to everyone else. A real sense of community, as evidenced by the couple behind Liberty - The Story Of The Boston Massacre constantly bringing people over to look at the Robot Shorts cards. Only going to confirm my suspicion that comics people are good people
Monday was spent getting the stock to Desert Island, spendinig more cash as The Strand, popping into an art supplies store and catching a pint of Sam Adams in a NYC bar that had the football (soccer) on. Two Manchester teams clashing on the global stage. We had to leave at half time to get our taxi but it was good fun letting the locals share our pain (United went down by a goal before we left).
One of the strangest moments was when Colin found an Ames' Lettering Guide in the local art supplies store. I'd never heard of it before but apparently they're really hard to come by, so I bought one for myself ... just in case.
Thanks from Colin, Scott and myself to everyone who stopped by the table.
Can't wait for next year...