By Olly MacNamee
Shane Chebsey, along with his personal super team of volunteers and friends, organized the welcome return of ICE in Birmingham and certainly knew how to put on a show. With guests galore and so many panels over just the one day event, my only real problem was not being able to be in more than one place at once. I wish I could have channeled by inner Jamie Maddox, but couldn't so I had to be selective at the impressive stellar schedule, which often meant ducking and diving in and out of one panel to attend the next. All the same, I think I did well to attend the ones that I did and enjoyed each and ever one. Looking back at my notes form the day's panels there began to emerge a singular narrative that tied them all together, more by accident than by design on my part anyhow. If I ever wanted to produce a comic book (and who amongst us, dear reader, doesn't), I now had a roadmap at my disposal to help guide me to that goal should I wish.
From hearing about the editing process involved in making comics as explained by long serving DC editor extraordinaire Joey Cavalieri (Future's End), to discussions on writing techniques and helpful advice given by the prolific and entertaining writer Tony Lee as well as soaking up top tips on drawing and laying out a page effectively – the first from attending a master class on portraitures delivered by the one and only Steve 'The Dude' Rude,(helped by local girl and sometimes anime model, Abbie Bowen) the latter given by the very humble Rufus Dayglo (who had plenty of his wonderful Tank Girl art with him to share with the attendees). Along the way, I got to meet some new friends and pick up the odd new independent title I look forward to reviewing in the coming days.
Hosted in the centre of Birmingham at The Studio complex on Cannon Street, it was like stepping into the TARDIS, with a labyrinth of pristine rooms of all shapes and sizes spread over a number of floors as well as a beautiful garden terrace like bar that doubled up as a Green Room for guests and delegates. The circular windows that were often part of the smaller rooms' decor also added to the TARDIS like feeling. It's my understanding that after the doors closed, the party continued into the dark hours of the night. It was a great find by Shane and ideal for the size of the show too. Make that regret number two. I was just too pooped out to go back for more, but already regret it. Ah well, there's always next year, right Shane?
As for the booty, while I walked away with a copy of IDW's Doctor Who collection 'Dead Man's Hand', signed by the aforementioned Tony Lee and artist Mike Collins, who was also in attendance, I also gained a signed B&W print of all the Doctors – again signed by Collins – as well as issues number 1 of acclaimed small press title It Girl by Jessica Martin and newcomer Squatters given to me at the Rufus Dayglo talk by its writer, Eli Mamane as we briefly bonded over our shared profession of teaching and our means of escape from said profession given the government's continual tinkering with the education system at the detriment of pupils nationally. But, it was my daughter that managed the best haul of the day, bagging two sketches, which included a manga inspired portrait by artist Yishan Li, an Adventure Time poster as well as three Lucky Luke albums from Cinebook's wonderful line of books. I am always astonished at how little Lucky Luke is appreciated outside of France and am on a one-man mission to let as many people know how great these books are. If you look at a certain tax-dodging book seller on line, you can pick them up as cheap as chips, for the same price as a 22 page American comic in some cases. I prefer to support tax paying businesses myself.
I was there at early doors and left dead on 5.30pm and I still felt like I wanted more. This was a two-day event done in one, never once losing its focus on comics and both the creators and fans that drive this industry. Add to this event the recent Leicester City con, the MCM cons that bookend the start and end of the year at Birmingham's NEC and the Midlands certainly has a lot to offer the comic book reader. With one more major con this year, so far it's been a blast covering them and meeting such avid fans and creators. All in attendance were happy to chat about all and everything. Interesting, egoless people brought together through the hard work of a small group close friends.
Shane, you did the comic world proud, as did your team, Lucy, Fletch, James, et al. Oh, and Fletch, thanks once again for the lovely little comic called Stay (by Adam Hyde) for my daughter. She was thrilled and loved it; a great end to a great day. See you next time.
Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn't know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at email@example.com. Or don't.