Reviewing The International Comic Expo (ICE) 2015

By Olly MacNamee

press passWith so many comic book creators all under one roof and over two days, as well as a bulging slate of panels, workshops and signings, something had to give.

I went for the panels on the Saturday, fitting in the odd interview in-between. As a result, I didn't get to see as many of the exhibiting creators that I would have liked, with my first day on the floor a bit of a blur. There was a lot to see and a lot of talent over several floors and, I hear, they doubled footfall through the door from last year. I did get to bump into the likes of Ian Edginton, Matt Brooker (on the stairs, but that counts, right?), Charlie Adlard, Jessica Martin and Mike Marts. But, the likes of John Wagner, Carlos Esquerra, Steve Yowell and John Royle evaded me, as there was so much to go see. This was a comic con, to paraphrase Keats, plump and budding with comics, comic book creators and camaraderie o'rbrimming.

But, for me, the panels were where it was at this year. Being able to listen to the likes of Joe Rubinstein, regaling the fans with his stories of fallouts with Gil Kane, or Bob Layton bombastically reveal his super-power behind his success: business sense in spades, was a great way to spend my afternoon.

Bob LaytonRubinstein, a laidback New Yorker, spoke of his career to date. His time as part of the Crusty Bunkers, an art collaborative which included the like of John Byrne and Roger Stern, before he moved on to professional work for the Big Two. What resonated most with me was his fond recollection of Marvel (who he was exclusive with at the time) allowing him to ink his good friend, Don Newton, after Don had passed away. I remember buying that issue of Infinity Inc. as a young teenage and knowing this was Don's last work. I loved his art on that, and his work on Batman, but came to his work quite late, as I was a young'un at the time. A lot of greats were lost at a time when I was just discovering comics.

But I digress.

CrimeSyndicateFollowing on from Rubinstein, bounced in Bob Layton, as big and bold a character as he is a man. As is right and proper, Layton spoke enthusiastically and proudly of his time on Iron Man and how his life-long love of cars helped him realize a more credible Iron Man and the tech world he inhabited. He remembered his time at Valiant (another life-long love), a land-grab sale to Acclaim and his steady transition into Hollywood, where he sits today. You'll have to wait for my exculsive interview with the man, later next week. When you are fortunate enough to sit down with a guy like Bob, you don't want to leave and 45 minutes later (and, don't forget, I have to transcribe that) I had to stop for fear of taking up any more of his time. I can only apologise to Ian Churchill for freezing him out of the conversation, much to my shame. Next time, Ian, I hope?

Mike Marts was a gent, but both he and I thought he was booked in a few days too early; given his recent AfterShock Comics reveals this week. But then, it gave me a great opportunity to talk to him about his career so far, which you've read already, right? It certainly was a full day from start to finish.

Sunday and Comics Uncovered served up breakfast as well as a varied menu of workshops and seminars covering all areas of comic creation and production.

Dave GibbonsDave Gibbons delivered an entertaining session covering tips on producing art for comics, working through a script and breaking the written word down into comic book panels. Adding to the entertainment was latecomer, Bob Layton, who was only too happy to heckle Gibbons, with the quick witted Gibbons giving as good as he got, as the ribbing went back and forth.

DC Group Editor, Jim Chadwick, laid out the art of pitching to DC. Have passion, know your anatomy and make the mundane interesting. Drilling in on the specifics, Chadwick advised would-be artist to avoid including pin-ups in their portfolios. Keep it balanced, suggesting the inclusion of pages that separately showcase dialogue, a sense of setting and action sequences over about a dozen pages. Show 'em what you've got, in other words. And no old work, they want to see only your most recent, give 'em your best. Oh, and be reliable. The tardy and the lazy can soon be forgotten.

mike collins

Jumping from these sessions I grabbed Dr Who artist/storyboard artist, Mike Collins, giving a breezy, informative and practical look at the skills of storytelling. Taking the daring and diverse ideas from around the room, Collins illustrated how ideas could come to life as comic book art in many different ways, considering the page in filmic terms; camera shots, angles and, most importantly, movement. Collins had once had to rely on this when once working on an issue of Batman that was mainly set in an interrogation room, and no Batman. So, he made the objects in the room focuses points. The ashtray and how character would relate to such mundane everyday objects.

And with that an a few interviews under my belt it was time to pack it up and pack it in. For me, a busy, breathless two days with some personal milestones achieved. And isn't that what a good comic-con, like ICE, can offer; a place to meet the elder statesmen, the young Turks and the alternative.

My booty? A limited edition Stan Lee signed canvas of iconic Iron Man No.126 that became even more limited (one of one, I believe) after Bob Layton signed it graciously (given he doesn't get a penny form these none too cheap reproductions) as well as a great sketch of The Crime Syndicate from Phil Winslade. I didn't really need much more than that, as a geek of simple tastes. Job done, weekend made. Even on returning to my car and finding the starter motor had given up on me, the smile couldn't be wiped off my face. Surely a sign of a good weekend, I think.

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 olly.macnamee@blogspot.co.uk. Or don't.

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.

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