Saturday, July 22, 2017

St Helens Comic Con 2017

A Wonky Rocket Production

Hi Everyone,

Not much in the way of Blogs of late with the current workload on Worlds EndVolume 2 and the New Creative Curriculum Comics on the go and even Bentley can’t seem to find time to write and upload his series either, with helping me out all the time.

That said, I have set aside a few moments to tell you all about last weekend’s St Helens ComicConvention at which I was a guest.

I had had a horrible head cold, which had started on the Tuesday of that week and so I wasn’t looking forward to the continued headaches, streaming eyes, blocked sinuses and nose blowing at the convention, but hoped it would clear enough to get through it all easily. Of all the times to be like this… I know. I didn’t feel particularly ill, just feverish at times and freezing at others with the above symptoms. I had packed my stuff early and for me considerably lighter if only in the number of items to be carried and not the weight itself and was all set for the weekend by Thursday evening.

With a sunny start to my arrival at the fantastic Suites Hotel, that was booked for us all on the Friday afternoon, I looked forward to having a lot of fun there in St Helens. As I got out of my car I was met by Paul Dunne, one of the main organisers and fellow guest, actor, Alan Harris, a most courteous man who offered me a drink immediately the moment we had been introduced.

I spent the next hour or so chatting about his film roles – he had a number of different roles in in the Star Wars series, with probably his most famous being the alien bounty hunter, Bossk. As we continued to chat he asked what I did and he was genuinely balled over when Paul and I told him what I did and whom I had worked for.

Eventually I checked in and went up to my room on the third floor. Wow, like the other guests said, we had been given some amazing rooms or rather suites, because we all had suites. There was a self-contained office with its own telephone and fax machine, a small dining area, a large comfy couch and coffee table with a couple of easy chairs, a bathroom, enough cupboard and drawer space for a large family, a fridge, tea, coffee and hot chocolate making facilities, complimentary water, both stilled and fizzy and a TV.  Then there was the bedroom, with its large, comfy bed, double wardrobe with dozens of hangers, more cupboards and drawers, a hair drier, wall mounted iron and ironing board, another TV and its own sink/washing area.

Oh and did I mention it was huge too. Kudos to Darren, Neil and Paul for securing this hotel for us - all the guests were impressed.

I had spent so much time chatting away the afternoon with Alan and the organisers that I only spent a little time in the room, freshening up, before it was soon time to go along to dinner.

There was still time to sit with drinks and chat to the other guests as we got to know lots of new faces, before dinner was served, however.

I sat at a small table with a drink and was soon joined by Andy Fairhurst and his good lady wife, Julie and Ross Mullan of, amongst many other roles, white walker fame. Next up was fellow comic creator, Alan Cowsill, whom I hadn’t seen in years and in true northern style we picked up where we had left off years ago, as if was yesterday and continued in that vein, especially as we were sat next to each other during the convention all the way until it was time to leave after it had all finished. Then suddenly lots of guests and organisers were upon us and we moved to a bigger seating area.

There was an amusing period whereby we bore witness to a meeting between a white walker and a knight of the night’s watch, which went off without any bloodshed – thankfully. A true Game of Thrones moment. I spent some time discussing the work of my good mate, William Simpson and his role on the Game of Thrones as their Storyboard Artist with Dominic Carter, who plays a member of the Night’s Watch on the series. What always amazes me is hearing the accents that the actors have after having seen them using different ones in their roles.

We were then joined by new comic creator, Sam Johnson, fellow comic creator, whom I was meeting for the very first time, Nick Brockenshire and his wife and the remaining organisers and the other guests that had arrived on the Friday, as some were going to be arriving early on Saturday morning.

As with the rooms the bar area was great with nice comfy seating and the staff were pleasant too, which is always a plus when on trips out like this. We were soon ushered into the dining area and I found myself seated with Alan and another actor friend of his, Ken Colley, who amongst a great acting career with many different roles in Film and on TV, was appearing in his capacity as a guest here best known for his role as Admiral Piett in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

We had each chosen the meal a few weeks previous and was it was superb. I had chosen Calamari to start, a main course of Mushroom and Goat’s Cheese Washington, served with New Potatoes, Green Beans and Gravy and a sweet of Rhubarb Crumble and Custard. My mouth is watering once more as I write this.

I spent all of the time during the meal and continued after it speaking with Alan and Ken, discussing our favourite, films, film moments, actors and actresses, storytelling and all things in between. It was the most enjoyable discussion of this kind I have had in quite a while and I hope we three get a chance to do this again in the future.

Once the two actors had retired for the evening the fun and chatting continued into the small hours – although not late by convention standards – with the remaining guests and the organisers, until my eyes streaming from my cold, only Ross, Paul and Simon remained with me. It was off to find some solace in my awaiting bed.

Setting my alarm earlier and making sure that unlike the Blackburn Comic Convention that my charger was getting power I got into bed and slept like a baby until my aforementioned alarm awoke me later on Saturday morning.

Breakfast was great, like the earlier evening meal had been. All the usual suspects were present and looked quite spritely and ready for the day ahead, despite some folks having consumed copious amounts of beer, wine and spirits the night before.

As I was going to be driving in this time, so I could get away early, I had offered to take any other guests along with me, when I had spoken with Darren earlier in the week. So, accompanied by fellow guests, Ken and young actor, Hugh Mitchell of Harry Potter fame, who had arrived quite late the previous evening we set off to find the venue at the Town Hall in St Helens. The Sat Nav got us within site of the venue, but at the back end where I would eventually end up parking, once the car had been unloaded. Luckily Hugh managed to use his phone and directed us around the one way system manually – Thanks Hugh – when we meet next the first drink is on me.

I didn’t realise there was a door leading to a lift at the side of the “more than 39” steps where people were already queuing to get in and so I manhandled one of my two holdalls (the heavier of the two) I had taken along for the trip, my roller banner and the roll on hold baggage from hell (the latter of which weighed a ton) up the seemingly millions of steps. I left the stuff ready to set up and return to the car, parked up in the car park behind the venue and returned with my second and much lighter holdall – although to be honest the only true weight had been in the roll on travel baggage.

I was soon set up and behind my table – sweating profusely – alongside, on my far left; Sam Johnson and next to me, Alan Cowsill, to my right, Nick Brockenshire and to my far right, Andy Fairhurst. The doors opened and after a very brief quiet period we were joined by the public, who seemed to come into the room we occupied in waves, although we didn’t really experience any totally quiet periods until very near the end of the convention to be honest.

All throughout the day it was great to speak with the other comic creators in the room, when we had a couple of minutes respite from the throngs of comic fans. I made most of my sales on the day to younger girls, which swung the Worlds End pendulum once again. I have always been really happy that we appeal to a great cross-section of males and females; both girls and boys and women and men.

Neil asked me to draw a Blank Cover illustration on his Princess Leia comic, which I did between speaking to folks and I have to admit to being relieved that he liked it when he came by to pick it up later. After all being a huge Star Wars fan I knew it needed to be right for him. Next up for me will be the Starscream Transformers commission for fellow organiser, Darren who had asked if I could do one for him on the previous evening.

The organisers always provide a great Green Room full of goodies to eat, drink and relax in over lunch and this one was no exception, as we were treated to a great buffet selection of sandwiches made from unsliced breads, pies, pastries, chicken, cakes, specialist biscuits, crisps and a nice selection of pop. There was so much stuff that I still can’t remember half of it now.

The people of St Helens were lovely and I had many, many people stop by to chat and also to purchase Worlds End graphic novels and lots of the other merchandise on display. It’s always especially nice to see the smiling faces of young children, as they get their books signed and sketched in.

Midway through the day Alan and I caught sight of each other, following his turn for his photo shoot and he came over and made some lovely comments about my work. He left with a signed Mouse Mat and returned towards the end of the show with a signed photo of him in the Bossk costume, which I thought was a really nice gesture.

Towards the end of the show I met up for the first time with one of the nicest people I know in comics - having previously only spoken to him on the web, Leigh Gallagher, who was there with his little son. We discussed our mutual books and I had one of the nicest compliments I have ever had from him too. Earlier this year Leigh had posted some pics up on Facebook from his latest work for 2000AD. I had at the time left comments on the pages saying how much I liked them. He told me that he had immediately upon seeing my comments contacted the writer because we were working on similar projects; my Worlds End and his King Maker.

He told me how he was so afraid we were working on such similar projects and actually apologised to me for the similarities. I told him I still thought he was doing fantastic work on it and how different they actually were. I think he was somewhat relieved by this and we both laughed about it all. If you haven't seen his work on the aforementioned series, go out and track it down - it really is superb. Leigh is a great artist and I was chuffed to bits to hear his complimentary comments about Worlds End. I am looking forward to seeing how his son colours his Worlds End Colouring & Storybook

To all those that took the time and spent their hard-earned sheckles, please know you have my eternal and heartfelt thanks and gratitude for doing so – because without all you guys there is no Worlds End or Wizards Keep or convention visits for me. I hope everyone that bought one of my books enjoys it. I would love to hear back from you all telling me what you thought after reading it.

On the Friday evening, as we were laughing and joking, Darren brought it to everyone’s attention that I had mentioned after my involvement at the PrestonComic Con in 2016 that their running of the conventions was the closest thing to the Greatest Show on Earth, Malta Comic Con. I did indeed say that at the time and I stick to it as well.

The Guys at Wonky Rockets, just like the guys at Wicked Comics know exactly how to run a great, successful convention. Here at both these events you will, if you are a guest, see no segregation, no elitism from organisers towards any of the guests. There are no A-Listers or B-Listers or any listers, except those going back to their rooms feeling a little like they are on board a ship that may be listing somewhat in the imaginary wind. Everyone is together for the pre-con run up, as well as any parties and meals. Breakfast time finds all the guests and organisers and special ticket holders sharing a repast together. All the post con activities hold the same sentiments too.

I have enjoyed, immensely, all three of the Wonky Rocket events that I have been asked along to.

I can only add that if you are lucky enough, like me, to get an invitation from these guys be prepared to be looked after, wined and dined and above all else encouraged to have great fun.

Thanks to Darren, Neil, Paul, Simon and Paul G and the rest of the Gang for everything.

Until next time, have fun!

April 22nd 2017