So, there’s a comics convention coming up in July that I’ve been looking forward to all year. “Oh, San Diego?” I hear you ask. Nope! I’m talking about Glasgow Comic Con! Sure, the climate ain’t as sunny as SDCC, but for the past two years my hometown con has put on a hell of a show. In 2011 and 2012, the event was held in the Mackintosh Church Arts & Heritage Centre, a lovely venue full of character which I personally enjoyed, as it was so unlike your typical convention hall. However, the downside was that it was way outside the City Centre, so getting there was a bit of a chore. But for the third annual Glasgow Comic Con, running from Saturday July 13th to Sunday July 14th, the organisers have switched to the Centre for Contemporary Arts, better known as the CCA: a cracking, upmarket venue with a brilliant location right in the heart of the City Centre. Things are primed for this year’s convention to be the best yet!
As an independent creator, there’s one thing in particular that makes me really like Glasgow Comic Con. Yes, the show has had its share of high-profile guests – with the likes of Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Jim Starlin and Mark Millar all making appearances over the past couple of years – who are game for panels and signings. Yes, there are bargains on back issues and graphic novels to be found in the exhibitor area. But last year, something that has stood out to me is that, perhaps more than any other con I’ve attended, the “star attraction” seems to be local creator-owned comics. Last year, there were many reports of quick sellouts of sizeable amounts of stock from numerous indie creators, with a recurring problem (and a good one to have!) being pros selling out of all their stock by the end of the first day or the start of the second day and have nothing left to offer even as fans kept on coming up to their table looking for stuff to buy. I personally had my most profitable convention ever at last year’s show, and I’ve exhibited at Thought Bubble and New York Comic Con. I had some of the easiest pitching experiences in my life: I have a little blurb rehearsed in my head that I cycle out on punters on the convention floor, but often at Glasgow Comic Con I’d only make it as far as “Hi, can I interest you in my comic, The Standard?” before they’d cut me off with a “YES PLEASE!” and put money in my hands. There were folk who just started at one end of the show floor and went through every small press table, buying something from everyone. There’s something about the Glasgow comic fanbase that has a strong interest in supporting local talent, it seems. It’s reflected in the prominent, popular “local” sections in our comic stores.
Given the highly positive experience of last year, there has definitely been a buzz around the thriving Scottish comics community over the past several months, a feeling of just about everyone working away on something in hopes of getting it ready in time for the con. I for one love it that the debut of the latest comic from this local creator or that is feeling like an event and an attraction that will be drawing people to the convention. Of course, I’ll be there as a pro and an exhibitor, but as a reader, the thought on getting my hands on the latest work from Neil Slorance or Craig Collins is a major draw.
Bearing all this in mind, we return, in a roundabout way, to the purpose of this feature. I want you all to be as excited about the wealth of Scottish comics being showcased at Glasgow Comic Con as I am, so I want to do a rundown of the diverse range of creator-owned comics debuting at the show. I firmly believe there’ll be something for every comics fan available. Let’s get started!
Selfishly, I am opting to begin by promoting myself! I shall take that as a perk of being the guy to write this thing! For me, The Standard was the comic that started it all. My first experience attending a convention in any sort of professional capacity was Glasgow Comic Con 2011, where The Standard #1 was nominated at the Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards (or SICBAs) affiliated with the convention. Fast forward to 2012 and I had a table at the show, and The Standard went from being an award-nominated comic to an award-winning title, with me earning the Best Writer trophy for issue #3. As mentioned above, I had a hugely successful con, with my graphic novel collection of the first 3 issues of the series proving to be a big seller. And now, a year later, after much demand, The Standard #4 will finally be ready to make its debut at the con!
We’re just putting the finishing touches on it now, and I have to say, I’m so proud of the work everyone has done on this. From a scripting perspective, I’d say it’s a leap forward from the previous three issues. Jonathan Rector’s artwork is perhaps the best it’s ever been. Mike Gagnon is settling very nicely into his role as permanent colourist – the first person to last more than one issue in the role! And Kel Nuttall continues to deliver consistently ace letters. I’d definitely say The Standard #4 is the best of the series thus far…. and Glasgow audiences will get to read it before anyone else in the world! We’re currently pencilled in for a worldwide Diamond release in October, but attendees at the convention will be able to pick up their advance copy in July, a whole 3 months earlier! Not only that, but this will be a Glasgow-exclusive edition, with a new cover by Scottish artist Iain Laurie drawn specially for the show. It’s still in development, but here’s a sneaky peek:
But that’s not the only comic I’ll be debuting at the con…
Chris Connelly has some form at Glasgow Comic Con. He was one of the aforementioned small press success stories last year, with his debut comic Reality War selling out in record time and marking the young artist out as an emerging creator of note. It was at Glasgow Comic Con 2012 that the two of us really got to chatting about the possibility of working on a comic together. And from those discussions came Bad Sun.
For those of you unfamiliar with my previous conversations about the comic, Bad Sun is a sci-fi comic set in a future where an alien race known as the Tchairabuns have migrated to Earth, and have now been living amongst us for some 30 years. While most stories may adopt a setting of New York or Los Angeles, or maybe London, to show how the world would react to such an event, Bad Sun is set right here in Glasgow, Scotland. It’s not a locale used often in sci-fi tales, but I think the local angle will be highly appealing to the comic fans attending the convention. The story centres around Lennidasz Cowan, a Tchairabun adopted in infancy by human parents who forged a trailblazing career in the police force, and who now finds himself appointed the leader of a new taskforce dealing with human/Tchairabun relations in Glasgow. In this role, he has to deal with both the machinations of a Tchairabun extremist terrorist group and the anti-alien prejudices felt by some of the city’s human population and even his own team.
The first issue of this new 6-part miniseries will be on sale at Glasgow Comic Con, and contains both a 24-page main story, drawn by Chris Connelly, and a 5-page backup tale drawn by Jason Mathis of School of the Damned fame. We’re packing in the content here! Both Chris and I will be at the table selling the book, so come along to meet the co-creators and pick up the first chapter of what could be my most ambitious comics narrative yet! Chris Connelly will also be selling original art and prints, and doing commissions most likely, so you won’t want to miss that!
That leaves one more book of mine to promote…
AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE
Iain Laurie has good form at Glasgow Comic Con. Back in 2011, he was award-nominated for his stellar work on Roachwell, where I first became a fan of his. In 2012, he didn’t have a table or an official presence at the show, but I did buy off him my copy of Iain Laurie’s Horror Mountain, which ended up being the best thing I got at Glasgow Comic Con 2012. Now, at GCC 2012, I’m pleased to report that Iain Laurie will be tabling with me and Chris Connelly, doing commissions (an original Iain Laurie sketch is near the top of my con wishlist) and helping me sell copies of the first issue of And Then Emily Was Gone, the 5-issue miniseries we have co-created.
And Then Emily Was Gone begins with Greg Hellinger, a man who sees monsters. Formerly a police detective with the Missing Persons Bureau, renowned for his ability to find people thought lost forever, the visions Hellinger is afflicted with have left him a broken man. But then a 17-year-old girl called Fiona shows up at his door. Her best friend, Emily, has gone missing, and Fiona has reason to believe only a man of Hellinger’s unique skill set can help her. So begins a journey to Merksay in the Orkney Islands, a strange place where horrible things are happening…
The benchmark Iain and I often talked about while developing this comic was Twin Peaks. We wanted to capture that weird, slightly off-key vibe, permeated with a cloud of dread hanging over everything. I think this simultaneously manages to be both Iain Laurie’s most mainstream work and my most bizarre and out-there. It’s an unusual comic, to be sure, but one I’m highly proud of. I’ve said it until I’m blue in the face, but it bears repeating that I am unbelievably excited to be working with Iain Laurie, particularly on such a subtantial project, and I quite simply cannot wait to share it with you.
And thus ends the self-promotion! This is by no means all about bigging myself up, as I’m just one of several local creators showcasing work at Glasgow Comic Con. For starters, And Then Emily Was Gone isn’t the only debut featuring artwork from the venerable Iain Laurie.
Iain Laurie reunites with Craig Collins, who paired with Laurie for Roachwell in 2011 before making a splash with his Haunted Bowels at last year’s con, for a new anthology of strange tales. In the convention’s three-year history, Craig Collins singular creative voice has already made him something of a fixture. The unique visual stylings of Iain Laurie have proven to be a worthy match for Craig in the past, so I’m keen to see where that collaboration takes them with Metrodome. The actual plot remains elusive, beyond the vague teaser of “The Fight for Survival, The Battle for Ultimate Victory!” But considering the talent involved, this is already a guaranteed con purchase for me.
Guaranteed to have a major presence at the con is Black Hearted Press, Glasgow-based comics publisher and also the organisers of the convention. They have a veritable slate of quality projects primed to unleash on con attendees this July, both established brands and exciting new titles. Let’s take a look at what they have in store…
THE SCHOOL OF THE DAMNED
Arguably the flagship title of Black Hearted Press, The School of the Damned has already proven successful enough to sustain its own spinoff title, The Children of the Damned. Played like a love letter to the classic Universal horror movies, the series focuses on a school of monstrous misfits derived from the iconic horror archetypes of that cinematic golden age, set against the backdrop of WW2-era Nazi Germany. I’ve spoken fondly of the series myself in earlier reviews, with its mix of clever plotting by John Farman and lush artwork first from James Devlin in issue #1 and then Jason Mathis in issues #2-#4.
With The School of the Damned #5, launching at the con, we welcome a new art team to the fold in the form of Thomas Crielly and John Howard. I’ve had a glimpse at some of the stuff these guys are doing, and it is lovely stuff, living up to the high benchmark set for the visuals on this series by their predecessors. This issue, the penultimate chapter in the series’ first arc, promises a major character death and a beast of a cliffhanger, and also boasts the jawdropping cover by the mighty Alex Ronald seen above. I presume the rest of the series thus far will also be available, and I heartily recommend that horror fans check this quality series out and catch up on the story so far.
‘Great concept; good characters; intriguing storyline; art and writing up to the task – terrific!’ – Ian Rankin
On the opposite side of the spectrum from the Gothic stylings of The School of the Damned, and a testament to the diversity of their lineup, comes Laptop Guy. Originally a comic by cartoonist Sha Nazir about the adventures of the eponymous laptop-headed protagonist, this series relaunch sees Nazir return on art duties while joined by writer Jack Lothian. The series has been reinvented as a metatextual, very loosely “biographical” comic about a fictionalised version of Sha Nazir and his struggles to make the previous incarnation of Laptop Guy, here characterised as an utter turd of a comic: “Failure has a new name,” reads the tagline, “And that name…. is Laptop Guy.”. I’d call that harsh, as I found the original Laptop Guy to be a charming book, and I know people who speak of it fondly, but it does make for a funny conceit to build the narrative around. This is billed as a “sitcomic”, a term I’ve had in my head for ages and am so pissed that Sha got to capitalise on it before I could, and having got a sneaky peek at the issue, I can confirm it does bring the funny, and shades of the movie Adaptation. At the very least, Laptop Guy #1 is more successful than its fictionalised counterpart! The first instalment of this relaunch will be available at the con, so check it out for yourself.
‘A guy with a laptop for a head… Weird and funny. – Bill Bailey
Another offering from Black Hearted Press, this one is truly bizarre. It’s a violent, surreal tale, starring legendary comics writer Alan Moore. And Alan Moore. And Alan Moore. And Alan Moore. And Alan Moore….
You get the idea. Issue #1, which I picked up at the convention last year, began with the real Alan Moore going about his misanthropic daily life, only to be confronted by an army of murderous parallel dimension Alan Moores out to eliminate him. And things got weirder from there. This year, writer Ross Leonard and artist Brian Rankin are back with a second helping, as issue #2 debuts in time for the con. I have heard whisperings of cameos from other famed comic creators, too! The solicit describes Maximum Alan as “a comic trip unlike any other”, and no one can argue the uniqueness of this oddity, that’s for sure! I thought this was a good laugh, and I’m sure the second chapter will be more of the same. Look out for it at the show!
The final Black Hearted Press book to be featured at Glasgow Comic Con, and perhaps the one I’m most looking forward to. The high concept behind the series just sounds brilliant. With the fall of the British Government and society in ruins, a new and powerful political party takes the reigns in this dystopian vision of a future Britain. The Austerity party’s first act is the public execution of the British Royal family… by their own hand. From there we launch into what seems to be “The King’s Speech meets Battle Royale,” which promises to make for a brutal, controversial, eerily relevant comic experience. John Farman has some big ideas for this one, and all the artwork I’ve seen from John Howard suggests he’s a real talent of note worth keeping an eye on, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a breakout hit of the convention
Black Hearted Press are a veritable juggernaught of Glasgow comics, and as you see will have a wealth of material on offer at the con. But there is a wide selection of other creators also showcasing their comics at the show.
The Glasgow League of Writers is a great network of creators based in and around the city, who meet fortnightly for a kind of writer’s circle for comic to read and provide feedback for each other’s scripts. It’s an invaluable creative resource, one I’m proud to have been a founding member of. At last year’s Glasgow Comic Con, our debut anthology, creatively titled GLoW 1, was another of the con’s sell-out successes. That first volume was on a superhero theme. This second volume, with the similarly creative title of GLoW 2, has switched genres to horror. With a wider stable of writers and artists contributing, and a higher quality of storytelling all round, I’d say those who picked up the first anthology at last year’s show and enjoyed it definitely won’t be disappointed by this follow-up.
I’ve got two stories in GLoW 2: “Floorboards”, drawn by my old friend James Fairlie, and “Open House”, drawn by my Bad Sun collaborator Chris Connelly. And there’s also work from a whole range of new and established Glasgow talent. Be sure to head over to the GLoW table and check it out!
Speaking of GLoW members…
NO MORE HEROES
A little anecdote I never tire of telling is that, at the very first GLoW meeting back in 2011, the very first script on the agenda was Gordon McLean’s No More Heroes #1. Back then, it was clear Gordon was writing something special, and since then we’ve seen that first draft script grow into a 4-issue miniseries, we saw the original roughs and sketches of artist Caio Oliviera, and then we saw it all blossom into a complete comic. And at last year’s SICBA awards, No More Heroes walked away with the coveted award for Best Comic. Since then, the remaining issues have been released, and now the conquering hero returns to Glasgow Comic Con with the complete series in tow.
The story only got better with each passing issue, so Gordon and his comic must surely be considered front-runners to make lightning strike twice for awards glory. It really is a fantastic series, a dark twist on the superhero genre that sees a hapless Everyman dragged into a murky world of violence and villainy after his dismissive response to what he believes is a prank call results in the suicide of a famed superhero. Whether it’s catching up on the whole series or scooping up any issues you missed, this is a highly recommended purchase for your Glasgow Comic Con visit!
THE MIND PALACE
Luke Halsall is another founding member of the Glasgow League of Writers. Perhaps best known for his journalistic work for Geek Syndicate and his prose work that has found quite the following on the Kindle market, his comic work has mostly been limited to shorts in anthologies. The Mind Palace marks Luke’s first foray into a substantial solo comics project, an anthology piece filled with various shorts, all written by Luke and drawn by a wide range of artist, covering a variety of genres but unified with an uneasy weirdness of tone. Luke is notorious for his iron-clad pitching abilities on the convention floor, so whether you plan to or not, expect to leave Glasgow Comic Con having bought a copy of The Mind Palace, along with an odd sock and a bridge.
I’ve also heard reports that Luke Halsall will be debuting another top secret comics project at Glasgow Comic Con, drawn by Villainous artist Graeme Kennedy (who will also be selling Villainous alongside writer Gary Chudleigh). Keep your eyes open!
VAMPIRE VIXENS OF THE WEHRMACHT
Two years ago, artistic wunderkind Alex Ronald made everyone’s eyeballs explode with his stunning artwork in Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht, a story being serialised in the Wasted anthology. He ran away like a bandit with the Best Artist SICBA that year, and has spent the time since even further honing and refining his craft to the point where not just your eyeballs, but your whole cranium is at eruptive risk from exposure to his perverse visual delights… as Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht is back, this time not just as an anthology short, but as a full, self-contained oneshot!
Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht features the wartime adventures of a gorgeous Nazi Vampire defector and a pompous British Army chaplain as together they take on Hitler’s occult horde. It’s boobs, blood, guns and gore with political correctness thrown out the window. That’s the setup, and that’s really all you need, isn’t it? Ridiculous, high-octane exploitation, with Nazis, vampire, Nazi vampires, and more cheesecake than you can poke a stake at. And it’s all held together by Alex Ronald’s stunning painted artwork, chanelling the likes of Alex Ross and Jon J Muth. Alex will be tabling at Glasgow Comic Con, where he’ll be offering Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht with two variant covers, in a volume boasting an introduction from none other than Mark Millar. This is sure to be a hot item at the show. I know I’ll be buying it!
TEAM GIRL COMIC
One of Glasgow’s most popular indie comic exports, Team Girl Comic has found fans all across the UK. I for one saw them make a killing at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds last year. The central conceit of Team Girl, as the title might suggest, is that it’s a comics anthology created entirely by female cartoonists. Their open submissions policy has seen a diverse range of content in past issues, with a few schoolkids even contributing from time to time, but quality stalwarts such as Gillian Hatcher and MJ Wallace remain a recurring presence in the series. Their latest issue - Team Girl #8 - will be available at the con, as will earlier issues, I’m sure. These books seem to go down really well with the all-ages audience, I’ve noticed, though that shouldn’t be taken to mean kids only: there’s enough charm and smarts on display for readers of all ages to enjoy.
However, I’m pleased to report that Team Girl Comic won’t be the only offering from the talented Gill Hatcher…
BUNNY BEHIND THE MOON
Part comic, part children’s storybook, Gill’s latest project looks quite simply delightful. Wonder is a little schoolbunny with unusually long ears. One day these ears start to receive strange messages – someone appealing for help. Could it really be a bunny astronaut lost in space? Wonder must use her intelligence and bravery to rescue the bunny behind the moon. Packed full of adorably-drawn bunnies, this book is set to overload your “Aaaaaaw!” sensors, and should prove a great showcase for the skills of Gill Hatcher as she moves from the collaborative Team Girl network into a project where the spotlight is all on her. I remember reading an early draft of the script for the book way back when at a GLoW meeting, and thoroughly enjoying it, so I’m highly anticipating seeing the finished product. I expect it to do very well at the con.
BIG IN JAPAN
Another talented new creator who’ll be presenting at Glasgow Comic Con is Morag Kewell. I knew Morag as one of the Hope Street Studios crowd, though I thought of her as more of an artist of models and crafts like hand-made jewellery as opposed to comic illustrations. But it turns out Morag has multiple strings to her bow, as at the Dundee Expo earlier this year, this comic book travelogue of her trip to Japan proved to be a big hit. I had thought of Neil Slorance as the undisputed champion of the comic travelogue, but it seems like this sub-genre is a growing niche on the Scottish comics scene. It’s a nice demonstration of how comics are a medium, not a genre, and any kind of story – including non-fiction stories – can be told in the format.
FAT-MAN AND RIBBON
I gave the #0 preview issue of this fun superhero parody a positive review back when I read it, but said that it was really just a teaser, and that the proper issue #1 would be the real test of the book’s quality. And now, Fat-Man and Ribbon #1 is set to launch at Glasgow Comic Con. When Matthew Charles Marlowe, C.E.O. of the world renowned clothing empire Fat Men, Inc., is suddenly confronted by the dastardly machinations of sinister and powerful forces of anarchy he has but choice: become the hero his city kinda sorta needs! Set in the fictional, future capital city of Scotland, Metro Scotia, Fat-Man and Ribbon is a semi-autobiographical tale of justice, adventure, intrigue and hetero life partnerships. Written by Martin Ferguson, and with wonderfully crazed artwork by Andrew Docherty, I am expecting to be entertained!
Written and drawn by Craig Longworth, Cosplay Killers has been cropping up in comic shops all over Glasgow, and now Craig will be bringing the first issue to the city’s native comic convention. The book’s about a ragtag group of misfits enacting violent retribution on a “hit list” of what they feel to be the worst of society. It’s Craig’s debut comic, from what I understand. I remember the excitement and terror of trying to put my first comic out there with The Standard #1 a couple of years back, so kudos to Craig for diving in with Cosplay Killers. It looks like suitably bonkers small press fun!
But I’ve saved perhaps the best for last…
THE AMATEUR ASTRONOMER’S JOURNAL
I’ve been interested in Neil Slorance’s work since his collaboration with writer Colin Bell on Jonbot VS Martha. It has a quirky, cartoony cuteness to it that contains a surprising amount of expressiveness once you get into it. But where Neil truly came into his own was with his aforementioned travelogues, Nine Lines of Metro and Seven Days in Berlin. Making the jump from artist to cartoonist, Neil added another string to his bow, showing his art could be more than just cute and funny, it could be poignant and even heartbreaking, and pack surprising emotional wallop. I was so impressed by Neil’s 2012 output that I’m now automatically invested in anything with his name attached, meaning this announcement of a move from non-fiction back to fiction for Neil is highly intriguing to me indeed.
Incorporating some of Neil’s real-life passion for science and astronomy, the plot of The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal is likely evident in the title. But Mr. Slorance promises a bit of “sap” (his word) too, so I’m preparing for a tale that’s bittersweet and moving and brings all the feels. This will probably be my first purchase at the show, and it’s a debut I’m anticipating more than most Marvel/DC stuff on the horizon. Check it out for yourself to see what all the fuss is about. And while you’re at Neil Slorance’s table, be sure to pick up his earlier books, and maybe get a sketch from him while you’re at it. He really is a nice, talented fellow.
So many great creator-owned comics for you guys to buy. And that’s not including the other awesome comics from Glasgow creators I know to be in development, but which sadly won’t be ready in time for the show. Stephen Sutherland and Gary Kelly’s pulse-pounding thriller Neverending, Garry McLaughlin’s mind-boggling sci-fi epic Gonzo Cosmic, and the top secret new collaboration from Colin Bell and Neil Slorance… each one of these not being available for me to get my hands on at Glasgow Comic Con is devastating in itself, but all three of them being absent is quite simply heartbreaking. I’ll keep my eye out for all three in the hopefully not-too-distant future!
Hopefully this highly lengthy piece has demonstrated just how much talent there is in the Glasgow comics scene. There is a rich selection of creator-owned comics set to be featured at this year’s Glasgow Comic Con, a lineup so strong I’d willingly match it up against the small press corner of any con in the world this year. If you’re a comic fan in Glasgow, you have no excuse: get yourself to Glasgow Comic Con, CCA, July 13th-14th. If you’re a fan of quality independent comics from further afield, on the other side of the UK, hell, the world… you should make the pilgrimage to Glasgow for this show. Come join us, you can sleep on my couch!
Tickets are available to buy from the CCA or Plan B Books, or online at the official website. Get yours now! This show is gonna be the baws, and as both an exhibitor and a fan, I can’t wait.