Well better late than never, as they say. Here at long last is my review of this year’s Birmingham International Comics Show held for the second year running from the Millennium Point exhibition centre in Birmingham.
I bid goodbye to Bentley and the other dogs and set off for the convention with the weather very warm and sunny. I arrived late afternoon at Chrissie Harper’s to pick her and Paul Gravett up and then mosey on along to the launch party. I also met her dog, Fred, a delightful little fellow, who seemed to take to me straight away.
Chrissie showed me some the latest comics she had got and also some fabulous original artwork including an original page by Jack Kirby from his story “Street Code” in the Twomorrow’s book, Streetwise, a cover she commissioned from Gene Colan, as well as a pencil portrait of David Bowie and a pencil portrait of Orson Wells by the fantastic Mr. Colan and another version of the aforementioned Mr. Wells by David Lloyd and an original pencil drawing by Jack Kirby…
This is the first ever time to actually hold a piece of paper held and drawn on by the man himself, I had held the framed page from Street Code at this year’s Bristol Comics Convention in May, but had never before now handled a piece of actual board in this way.
If the convention had ended here I would have had a great time. Anyhow, the three of us continued on into the city. I parked the car and on the way to the hotel we met up with buddies, Lew Stringer, Mike Collins, Dave Windett and a few others, and after booking into the hotel and leaving my gear in the hotel room, we set off for a meal at the Thai restaurant I had attended last year at BICS.
The meal was again beautiful and I highly recommend it if you are ever in that neck of the woods. It is directly across from Bennett’s on Bennett’s Hill and well worth a visit. The inside is very nicely and tastefully decorated and a joy to eat inside of and the staff are very, very pleasant.
Well we left the restaurant and went along to Bennett’s for the launch, where I met up with loads of folks, a list of which I will get to in a second. On stage were Liam Sharp on vocals, Charlie Adlard on drums, Phil Windslade on guitar and Paul Birch on bass…they looked the part and sounded…LOUD!!! MY ears still haven’t really recovered, but a great time was had by all.
Now the folks I met included, Harry Marcos and his business partner, along with Dez Skinn, Tony Lee, Simon Wyatt, John Anderson, Kev. F. Sutherland, Laura Howell, Rufus Dayglo, and of course Liam, Charlie and Paul fresh from doing their rock star bit on the stage, and Mike Molcher, and Wakefield Carter, with whom I had a great lengthy conversation with about their involvement with the historical re-enactments as pike men and musketeers, etc, which proved very enlightening and interesting.
I left the launch party around 1:00 a.m. fearing a night of staying up most of the night, which would have been great, except for the fact I had been doing more mad hours again that week, to enable me to go along.
The next day, I met up with a guy at breakfast that I had been speaking to via the Internet, without realising who he was, hiding as he was being dark sunglasses, having spent a little too long at the party…see that’s what experience of such events warns you of. He told me about his work and that he was exhibiting. As he set off to freshen up, before going to the con, I said I would pay a visit to his stand. It wasn’t long before Dave Windett, Mike Collins and a few others arrived for breakfast, just as I was leaving to get to the convention hall itself. They asked why I hadn’t joined them in the bar…I mentioned dark glasses and set off for the con.
Upon arrival I met up with Staz Johnson, Lee Townsend and spoke for a while with Brian Clark of Crikey Magazine and his gang of merry men. I had a look around the convention halls, something I haven’t done for years and spoke to Clive at Classical Comics, the guys from the DFC comic, which is looking very good, Alasdair Duncan, on the Insomnia Publications stand, before heading off to matt Yeo’s Bulletproof stand where I had been asked to sketch for an hour from 12:00 noon.
I had a brilliant time producing sketches of their character, Marren Kane onto the specially printed blank sketch covers of Bulletproof issue #2 for loads of folks that stopped by. I also did a sketch of Jack Kirby’s Darkseid for a guy, whose name I sadly cannot remember. It was whilst at the stand that I met up with Claire Green for the first time. A massive fan of the Dreamstone cartoon series and comic books, which I drew she is a delight to speak to and is now the proud owner of four Dreamstone issue #3 pages. I am glad they now reside in a good home.
Following this, Lew met up at the stand and we went for a drink in the café, where we were joined by Nigel Dobbyn. We chatted for a while and then I went back into the hall where I met up with Jon Haward, who showed me the finished black line work for John Stokes’ Classical Comics work due out very soon. The Inking is nothing short of perfection. I for one cannot wait for its release.
I had one of my not-to-be-missed chats with David Lloyd, one of the true gentlemen of comics and a joy to be around, who was then joined by Mike Collins.
I also met up with the guy from breakfast at his stand and upon seeing the work, realised it was Hal Laren from my Smallzone network. I got two of his comics off him, which I read at home the next day, and I plan on reviewing soon. Leaving his stand I went across to the Cinebook stand, which is a joy for any lovers of European comic art, where I met Olivier Cadic. There I saw some of the best comic book work I have seen in years and was reminded that there is some really incredible stuff out, sometimes swamped in a sea of mediocrity.
I was also really pleased to be able to spend the longest time for a good number of years speaking to Al Davison, at his stand. We chatted about his latest works and his shop Astral Gypsy and Wizards Keep and Believe in Dreams and stuff in general about life. Al is the comic creator I have known for the longest, having met at my first comic convention, which I attended with my younger brother, Chris, back in 1979 at the Birmingham Metropole hotel on the NEC complex. It seemed fitting that we would chat again for a while at the same city.
I had planned and stated on the Internet that I would be leaving around 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., but in the end I left Al’s stand at around 4:45 p.m. I found the weather had finally broken when I eventually left the car park, it was now 5:15 p.m., by the time I was turning off the car park on my journey home.
The weather was awful on the drive back north, but the motorway was pretty clear with traffic and I arrived back, without stopping, in time to go to visit my Mum and Dad to check on how Mum was doing, before going home to unload the car, freshen up, get changed and walk across the cul-de-sac to our good friends and neighbours Chris and Susan’s Ruby wedding anniversary - the reason I had to cut the convention short.
The two days of Friday and Saturday were incredibly full of stuff to do and folks to see, but what an enjoyable experience.
I would like to thank all those that stopped by the Bulletproof stand to chat and ask for a sketch, all those that stopped me to chat throughout the two days, all the professionals that took time to catch up and Claire Green for making the special trip to view the artwork. If I have neglected to add you to the list then please accept my apologies for that. The pleasure was all mine.
Thanks to all the BICS organisers, Shane, James and Andy – well done you guys!!!
I look forward to next year.
In the meantime here are a few photographs from my time there.
The Proud owner of the Darkseid sketch
Paul Gravett and Dan Berry
These are great for protecting your comics collection
The Cinebook - The 9th Art Publisher's stand
David Lloyd and Mike Collins
Brian Clark and the "Crikey" Gang