This past weekend many big figures from the world of comics descended on Scotland for the 4th annual Glasgow Comic Convention, which this year boasted a stunning line-up of professional talent, including Gail Simone, Howard Chaykin, Eric Larsen & many others from across the planet.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend (something that I fully intend to rectify next year), despite Glasgow being my spiritual ‘comic home’, & having once been my ACTUAL home for five years.
& while many an eye will have focused on the high-profile guest list year, it was not the established ‘names’ (as great as they were) that had me wishing I was at the event.
Watching the tweets/posts/myriad general communications over the two days (especially news that my pals & amazing human beings both Colin Bell & Neil Slorance cleaned up at the Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards (SICBAs), with their book Dungeon Fun making an unprecedented clean sweep of the publicly voted categories) & knowing of several peers & close friends involved in comics who were attending & in some cases releasing new work, my real desire was to once again be in & amongst the vibrant & inspiring self-published/small press scene that is ultimately responsible for my own continued attempt to create my own books.
Before I elaborate on that, I’d first like to do a bit of reminiscing, if you’ll allow me…
Back two years ago, before I ever really got all up in this making comic jazz, I attended Glasgow Comic Con 2012, kindly brought along by several of my already-creator friends from the Glasgow League of Writers (GLoW). They were releasing the first of what ended up being two group anthologies, along with several individual members slinging their own wares, & I was lucky enough to be invited along for the ride.
From left-to-right; Gordon McLean, Chris Connelly (front), Gordon Robertson (back), Gary Chudleigh, Graeme Kennedy, Colin Bell (back), John Lees (front), Me.
Amongst the bunch were several folk already making names for themselves in the UK indie scene, & since that time several of those pictured above (as well as others present at the event but not in the photograph) have continued to build reputations, & to produce some of the best of the UK indie comic work out there, with some even venturing ‘mainstream’.
In 2012 Colin & Neil took along physical copies of their pre-Dungeon Fun collaboration, the web comic Jonbot Versus Martha (which saw my first ever attempt at comic writing with Jonbot into Mystery), & John Lees was still hand-selling (& doing so like a demon) the early issues of his series The Standard, the final two issues of which were available for the first time at this year’s con, with his new series And Then Emily Was Gone with human horror machine Iain Laurie launching worldwide on the direct market via Comixtribe later this month.
& speaking of The Standard; this year’s convention featured exclusive covers for the final issues drawn by Chris Connelly, who back in 2012 had his own book Reality War nominated for a SICBA, something also true of John himself, who went on to win best writer that year. Gordon McLean took a gong too, winning best comic for No More Heroes (drawn by Exit Generation‘s own Caio Oliveira), a victory he followed up by completing the self-published series to rave reviews.
Gary Chudleigh & Graeme Kennedy were still in the process of rolling out their début series Villainous in 2012, & since have been involved in books such as iHero (Graeme on art alongside Luke Halsell; another GLoW alumni) & Plagued: The Miranda Chronicles, which Gary launched at this year’s event through Black Hearted Press with artist Tanya Roberts.
Since the picture, Gordon Robertson successfully headed the efforts to the revive several classic DC Thompson characters, including Leonie O’Moore & I’s effort with Scarlet Star earlier this year, & founded the 9th Art Award, of which he is currently director, & that is all in addition to also founding the Comics Vs Cancer fundraising initiative.
In addition to those pictured, other GLoW members present at the 2012 con, or who were part of GLoW at the time, such as the aforementioned Luke Halsell, Garry Mac & Stephen Sutherland, were out in force with new projects in 2014. Luke has put out a number of books, including his latest Out of Time, that launched this past weekend, while Stephen sold out of the colour editions of the first issue of Neverending, his first series.
Garry is of course the mastermind behind the mind-bending beauty that is Gonzo Cosmic, & also currently artist on Freak Out Squares with yet another GLoW graduate & close pal of mine Harry French, plus in between times he was good enough to work with me on a short for Grayhaven Comics, amongst other projects.
& even in covering all those names, I think I’ve only really shown a fraction of the talent that has grown in Glasgow since the time that photo was taken.
Clearly, it isn’t only a West of Scotland thing; this year I bitterly regret not having been able to attend to see the launch of Reel Love by Owen Michael Johnson (via Dogooder Comics; Colin Bell’s own imprint). Owen is a total rising star amongst indie creators, & someone who I feel privileged to have got to know since I started along the path of producing comics. Though not Scotland-based, he & many others in the wider UK community see Glasgow as a go-to event, as evidenced by the palpable buzz & sense of excitement surrounding the convention, something I can only see growing year-on-year.
But the real message of this rambling post is this; Doing it yourself MATTERS.
All the folks mentioned have gone from strength-to-strength as creators in the two years between events, & they didn’t do that through waiting for a ‘break’, or just talking about making comics. No; they put their shoulders to the yoke of what can be a taxing & trying process, & they got stuff done, & this weekend you could walk into Glasgow Comic Con & see (& buy) the evidence of that for yourself.
I look on this picture & I do not reminisce; I take inspiration. I see hard work & inspiration acted on resulting in reward, with the three award-winning writers in that photo & scores of self-published comics sold by all involved, & other factors, such as the ever-improving quality of those spoken of across that time, being testament to that.
& I also hope & am sure that among those attending Glasgow Comic Con 2014 there will have been others potentially interested in making their own work, who’ll have photos of their own to look back on, & realise where it was they’ve come from, & where they hope to go.