Toby Johnston is eleven years old, and he attended this weekend's Nottingham Comic Con. This marks his first published work for Bleeding Cool. And, yes, he is my nephew.
First Comic con ever – First time in a convention centre- Best time ever! There were a bunch of friendly comic authors to meet when I walked in the door; but I'll get to them later. A centre, (with occasionally live music) was littered with posters, each representing some sort of huge comic event that had happened recently or was happening and people cosplaying Marvel, DC and Star Wars.
The first author I met was a guy named Piers Baker. He is the creator ofOllie and Quentin, a 4-panel strip which is about a seagull called Ollie and a lugworm named Quentin; initially featured in the RNLI magazine Storm Force. Despite the obvious food chain differences, they make a hilarious duo with comedy, pranks and lots of laughs. He is bringing this comic strip into the UK after being syndicated in the America. It was his first comic-con too and I'll be watching out for him at my next event.
Next, I saw Roger Langridge, (I'm sure he needs no introduction!) who is currently working on a book about his character from 15 years ago called Fred The Clown. This was one of his first characters, but Roger stopped dictating his adventures 10 years ago.
However, Fred has recently been started up again in a new series called The Iron Duchess. Also, Roger Langridge sketched me (and other visitors) his character's headshots or body shots – I chose a Muppets' picture and he drew perfectly a headshot of the crazy drummer Animal in under 5 minutes! He started with the eyes and I asked if he always started the characters from the same point. With Miss Piggy or someone with a prominent feature, like her snout, he starts there, on others, it depends. There was also a panel in which the previous two and next authors were talking about their comics, their style and their thoughts on the British all-age comic scene – showing kids that Marvel and DC are not the only comic companies out there; Adventure Time and Phoenix were two mentioned.
The Etherington Brothers are a regular duo featured in the Phoenix, a British all-ages comic that is published weekly and is approaching its 200th issue. They first were in the DFC, which was the Phoenix's predecessor, then they created Long Gone Don and Von Doogan for the Phoenix. Both of them are genuinely nice people, with approachable personalities and a spirit to inspire the next generation of comic authors. They really drew me in because of their passion and ideas about young comic writers and books aimed at all-ages, spending ages chatting about their work. They regularly visit schools and give courses on comic-making to the children there – I'm going to chat to my English teacher about getting them in sometime soon!
Robert Deas was my next stop, another Phoenix regular, who draws Troy Trailblazer. This is a comic about an 'Indiana Jones in space' who started out as a space archaeologist but slowly matured into a hero who solves off-earth problems. He draws straight onto the computer, and not always on paper first!
This talented artist only told us the following spoiler about his new work: 'There is a big twist at the end of this series of Troy Trailblazer– so watch out!'
Also, I visited Steve Becket, a regular artist for the Beano. He showed me some concept artwork for his strips and also, he gave us a glimpse of his DreamWorks work: A Home Comic! This is a perfectly humour-filled comic about 'what happens after the movie?'
Both comics balance humour with topic and a perfect, funny style. Another Comic-con newbie was his son – lots of us about in Nottingham today !
Finally, we stopped off at the stall of Duncan Fegredo, who draws the 'Hellboy' comics about a demon who wants to fit in with humanity so he cuts off his horns and goes to fight mythological villains and monsters. The newest Hellboy book he is drawing is in the same style as the previous book– The Midnight Circus. When I asked what he would recommend outside of Marvel and DC, he recommends Hellboy to all die-hard comic fans – I couldn't expect anything else I suppose!
This first Comic Con has left me reeling. It has opened my eyes to the wider universe of comics and characters. This is an amazing experience and I would recommend it to anyone who is reading comics and has never been before. The cosplay is brilliant, the comics are brilliant, the talks are brilliant and the whole thing is BRILLIANT!!!