Friday, October 29, 2010

MaltaComicCon2010 – Part 02...

A review of the second Maltese Comic Convention...
Hi Guys,

As you guys now know I was going to call the subtitle of this little series of Blogs “The Windett Curse” and I guess by now you realise why...

Well, eventually, around a half hour later than scheduled the lights were given new life and the children were allowed to come down the same historic steps trod by mounted knights on their chargers in days long since gone and I wondered if "The Windett Curse" would have stopped even those brave warriors in their days of yore...

The children had been very good as they waited patiently to come down to the session, especially in light of the fact they were little more than toddlers. In fact they were so young that the workshop for this group is certainly much different to the normal types of workshops I deliver either at venues like this, or in schools, or colleges, or universities.

The organiser of the workshops, Olivier, who actually arranges all the students for me need not have been unduly concerned about the children as they seemed to enjoy themselves as much as I did, despite the extended wait, especially one young lad called Joshua, who spent most of his time actually holding his piece of drawing paper on the flip chart beneath my drawings. In fact he even had me draw a jelly fish just like he had shown me to, which was great fun to do. I was joined this year by localised artist and ex-pat American, Susan Waitt and she enjoyed the sessions too. It was great to see her perspective on the sessions, as she has worked as a Disney artist and children’s book illustrator.

When the workshop was over the next session for the slightly older children was ready to take place, albeit a half hour late too, because of the earlier delay, but all now seemed to be running smoothly, so maybe the curse had finally been warded off...or at least that was the hope.

With the older group we were able to help them to understand how to create characters and what was important to do this effectively. The group of children were very enthusiastic and produced some very nice work. I hope some of these students will go on to become the next generation of Maltese comic artists in the making and who knows we may see some of their names in the funnies in the future...I sincerely hope so.

Well, once the second session had finished I found myself for the first time that first day sitting at my table, which I was sharing with Inez Kristina Baldacchino – the winner of my Wizards Keep – Worlds End Manga competition last Christmas. There was a great constant flow of folks looking at the stuff on display and it was nice to chat to the visitors too. I had not been sat down for more than a half hour, or so, before I was being whisked off for lunch at the Inspirations cafe/restaurant. I was ready for something to eat by this time and decided to go for the mozzarella and cranberry wraps, which came with a small side salad and was delicious. Pizzas were the order of the day for most of the guys and everyone seemed to enjoy their food, which looked equally nice.

The gang included, Liam Sharp, Dave Windett (yes I suppose I was a little worried – would the kitchen catch fire, or the waiter trip with our meals before they reached the table – the usual things, but...) Sean Azzopardi, and John Bamber. I am still unsure why Renee and Claudio did not join us, but Gary Erskine I know had decided to carry on sketching without taking a lunch break.

I had not finished my meal when Mike Quinton arrived to take me to the workshops, so I hurriedly ate the last morsels and then it was off to work once more, this time to work with the adults showing them how to create lots of different characters. Susan was already there by the time I arrived with Mike and of course I guessed it was just a case of it being that “The Windett Curse” had struck again...after all last year’s meals did not coincide with the workshops and there seemed much more time to eat and check out the other guests, etc. I certainly never had to don my running shoes between events, so I figured it had to be Dave and his curse.

This workshop went down amazingly well with the guys coming up with all manner of characters, once they realised that they could not make mistakes in the session. I think Susan got more into the swing of things with me too by this third session and certainly took a more active part with it. She even had the guys create a conglomerate-type drawing, which consisted of a few volunteers from the group of students drawing parts of a character in a follow-my-leader kind of way.

Susan even had me tie up all the loose ends that the students had created in their individual parts of the drawings by adding my touches to the drawing. It was a wonderful session and one which certainly went down with the more mature guys there. It was the first time we had tried an adult session in Malta, as last year we just catered for the children at the event. I would like to see this trend continue with workshops for both age groups like this, covering even more aspects of what we do as comics creators.

By the time this session, which had run over due to Susan and I opening the floor to questions, it was around five o’clock in the afternoon and there was only an hour of time at the tables before we found the convention closing for the day. Before it did however I found myself sketching for fans and signing more copies of the new Golden Lizard graphic novel.

One guy, called Martin, had travelled all the way from Germany to attend the convention and in my honest opinion just shows its increasing popularity as an annual event by both comics creators and the fans too. He asked how much I charged for artwork and I told him I didn’t charge for sketches.

He then said he would like me to draw him a picture of Ralf and Lord Gralltharr from my Worlds End graphic novel, but as a commission and not a free sketch, I tried several times to say I would draw the characters for free, as is my normal practise, but he told me he wanted more than just a sketch and would like it in colour, if at all possible.

Undeterred he insisted on having a more finished sketch produced and so I relented and started work on it, fitting in quick sketches and signing books and selling T-Shirts and other stuff I had taken along this year in between times to try and keep as many folks happy as possible.

As I was producing the piece of artwork I was told the President’s wife had arrived and would be coming around to speak to us all shortly. We were each due to give a gift to her and I took out the collection of stuff I had brought along to Malta for the presentation. I was extremely honoured to meet her and wondered what the difference between our countries was that had the President’s wife attend in an official capacity in Malta and yet in all my years of attending conventions in the UK had never seen any such dignitary. Okay the size of the country could have something to do with this, but I think it is something more, perhaps a pride in the people of Malta, which was obvious in this ladies eyes as she went around the convention speaking to all the artists and other exhibitors.

My only regret is not having a personal photo of this part of the event, but with all that was going on with folks wanting sketches and signings and to buy things it all happened so quickly that the chance was sadly missed.

It had been a whirlwind exercise that day and yet had only seen “The Windett Curse” rear its head once at the cafe/restaurant and even then not enough to make one think that the curse was still doing its rounds, although I realised that there was still time as the evening was only early and we were not meeting back up as a group until the after party at around 9 o’clock.

The trip back to the Hotel was uneventful and was already lulling us into a false sense of security, or at least it was with me. The travel between venue and hotel being some half hour to three quarters of a hour in length travel time, always gives the group time to both relax and also get to know each other better and is a great ice breaker, even for the battle hardened amongst the ranks. The only one amongst our little troupe of fellow creative minds that was finding this difficult was Claudio who was suffering from a throat complaint – something I hope has now been cured.

Once back at the hotel it was time to freshen up again and having reclaimed our room keys from reception we went to the lift, or elevator, as the Americans say. Well the lift was only large enough for four folks really and yet six of us entered it. We closed the doors, pressed the relevant numbers for our respective floors and then...nothing.

We repeated our actions and still nothing. We took turns to see if miraculously one of the group could find the mystic combination required to move the lift from its present point of origin to complete our respective journeys, still nothing.

We pressed the emergency alarm and nothing sounded, it was all to no avail – Yes, you guessed it “The Windett Curse” had struck again, but with a serious side to it now, as Dave actually does suffer from claustrophobia. Not more than a few moments had gone by, but it was enough to make the tell-tale signs of the phobia manifest themselves. So without further ado, John Bamber switched places with Dave and began using his shoulder and arms to prise open the doors.

Thankfully no other guests witnessed the mass exodus of five comics creators and a big comic fan/collector hurtling out the lift, or rather being pressed out of it by a now sweating and panicked Dave, which must for all the world have looked like a herd of prancing wildebeest, without any of the majesty and finesse shown by those graceful animals. We decided to take the stairs and continued to laugh about it all the way to our rooms.

Cleverly Renee and Claudio had managed to avoid this little episode by retiring to their rooms slightly earlier, which by now seemed like it had been a great idea – especially poor Dave.

We arranged to meet up at the small bar at the side of the reception area, sometime later which would again gave us time to relax and chat some more.

Well one shower, several text messages sent back home and a change of clothes later and I found myself taking the stairs (hey, I wasn’t risking the curse on my own, guys) down to the reception from my room on the second floor and the small bar/cafe there, where I met up with Dave and Sean and soon Gary and Liam, Renee and Claudio. I bought Renee, Claudio and myself a drink from the bar, everyone else already had one and then we decided to go along and see if the party was ready to start. We tried the bar from last year’s after party, which was on the same floor, but at the rear/side of the hotel, but no one was there – it was in darkness.

Now I know what you are thinking it was “The Windett Curse” again, but you would be wrong if you thought that this time around as it was just in another bar area on the top floor. We met up with the organisers, other local artists and other folks along for the party and by the time we had had a drink from the bar the seven of us decided to go along for something to eat, as by now we were all ready for an evening meal.

We soon found ourselves down the street from the hotel, only a couple of hundred yards at most, at a Kebab house where we chose our Kebabs and sat down to eat. It was still warm and we ate outside and chatted, as we watched the evening world go by in Malta.

Now there had been a rumour that we were to have a Karaoke that evening, so you can imagine my shock when none turned up...Yes, “The Windett Curse” - yet again!!!

So without uttering a single note of a song we continued to chat with all the organisers and fans that were either staying at the hotel, or at least had come along to the after party.

Part way through the evening, as the storm clouds returned and the anticipation of further rain ran amok amongst the ranks, we decided to go outside onto the balcony, where it would be cooler, if only a little. It was still warm, but the clouds had gathered again in a crescent around the entire island. Well the drinks and conversation continued to flow, but in a very civilised manner and then someone told us that there was a pool area above the balcony we were outside on, which was at the very top of the hotel and from which they had been watching the lightning storm but seeing far more than from the balcony upon which we now stood.

So off we all strode, well the seven of us anyhow, up the stairs to the upper roof area, which was mostly in darkness and made us all aware that the swimming pool was very close to the walkway we now traversed.

The lightning show was absolutely amazing with little or no thunder and to my mind was very reminiscent of the scene in Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the UFOs cannot be seen, but the light displays diffused by the clouds gave the scene an eerie feel to it. We watched for absolute ages whilst the light show flickered and danced all around the island from every side.

Liam decided he wanted another drink and so disappeared for a while which made us think he had decided to stay and chat downstairs with everyone else.

Then he returned and as we were in the shadow of the rooftops he called out to us to see where we actually where. He then told us the reason he had been gone for so long was down to the fact the doors had been locked behind us when we had come to the roof area to watch the lightning and he had spent most of the time away from us trying to attract the attention of the bar staff, or anyone at the party by banging on the door. The trouble was his knocking had obviously sounded like lightning, so for a while he had been ignored... Yes, it was yet further evidence to me of the existence of “The Windett Curse” and its presence amongst our ranks.

Well by this time I was shattered and in need of a sleep, something with which Liam concurred, so soon afterwards we found ourselves going our separate ways to our rooms and certainly for me some much needed sleep.

Once there I turned on the fan/air conditioning unit and after sending another text back home in answer to one I had received soon found my head hitting the pillow and then I was in the land of the Sandman...

Below are more photos of the trip I took this year up to this point:

I’ll post more details of this year’s even bigger convention along with lots of photos, in my third, giant sized and final Blog about MaltaComicCon2 tomorrow...

Until next time, have fun!

Tim Perkins…
October 29th 2010

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