Ever since I first opened the pages of Moore and Gibbons’ classic Watchmen and fell headfirst into the intoxicatingly creative anarchically unique world of comic books I’ve been fortunate enough to attend countless cons. But for some reason known only to the pop-cultural gods, I’d never made it to the gloriously geeky extravaganza known as the International Comic Expo. However that all changed on Saturday 9th September when I made my way into Birmingham for ICE 2017.
I rolled into the convention rooms with a smile on my face and my big hat atop my head; wasting no time I zoomed down the isles to where the rows upon rows of indie creators were sitting behind tables selling their passionately crafted wares. The first talented individual whose work caught my eye was Dublin-based writer and artist Anthea West. I picked up a copy of her spine-chilling and perfectly paced horror anthology Sleep Tight, as well as a beautifully rendered print. Take it from me, if Anthea’s creations are anything to go by, Ireland’s independent comics scene is strong indeed.
I then turned the corner and had the pleasure of meeting Steve Poulacheris, co-creator of the wonderfully psychedelic Vanilla Magazine. I was drawn over to the table by the magazine’s main feature, an interview with iconic writer and Northampton’s foremost magician Alan Moore. But after a quick glance through it’s pages, I realised that was just one of the many jewels to be found in Vanilla.
I snatched up my copy and spent the following afternoon relishing every page. It was bursting at the margins with exquisitely crafted comic strips, articles, interviews and artwork; all of which was produced by Steve, his co-creator Andy Williams (who I met and chatted with later that day) and their talented band of counter-cultural cohorts. A great mag that would leave anyone with a penchant for psychedelia hungry for more.
From there I made my way over to the signing table of Freddie E Williams II, the internationally acclaimed comic artist who has illustrated such titles as He-Man/Thundercats, Legendary Star-Lord and my personal favourite miniseries of 2016, Batman/TMNT.
Meeting Freddie was a true thrill, above the hubbub of the con we talked about the Turtles and some of their best incarnations as he signed my copies of Batman/TMNT. I tried not to geek-out too badly whilst telling him how much his work inspires me and he was even kind enough to give me an incredible print of Leo, Raph, Mikey and Donnie fending off the Foot Clan.
Oh yeah, and we also discussed another outlandishly cool thing that I look forward to telling you all more about in the very near future.
Another highlight of the event was checking out The Geek Syndicate’s panel featuring the co-creator of The Walking Dead and current Comic Book Laureate Charlie Adlard, co-founder of Time Bomb Comics and veteran writer Steve Tanner, emerging indie talent Jane Straw and author and artist of Elsie Harris Picture Palace, Jessica Martin. Barry and Dave filled the room with their trademark blend of nerdy knowledge and unbridled hilarity as they and their guests presented a S.W.O.T (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) Analysis of the British comic book scene.
They covered countless topics over the course of their talk, from the ghettoisation of comic shops and the lack of mainstream advertising, to the reasons why the UK is yet to embrace this particular art form in the same way that Europe has. They then asked why the powers-that-be in comic publishing and retail don’t stock titles by genre and how much easier life would be if they did. But the funniest moment of the talk came when Charlie Adlard went into a rib-tickling rant about Hollywood stripping our favourite superheroes of all their tongue-in-cheek charm and turning them into stone-faced sticks-in-the-mud.
This marvellous convention also gave me the chance to catch up with and meet some mates including artist, writer and renowned hat-grabber Al ‘The Astral Gypsy’ Davison who made my mom’s day with a fantastical watercolour. I finally got the chance to meet The PxD himself, Pete Davis and chat about his amazing artwork on The Axeman Cometh. I also swung by my ol’ pal Stu Perrins’ table to see what was new in his extraordinary imagination, and of course, I couldn’t help but check in with the ever-energetic reporter Olly MacNamee. After Olly and I refuelled with some snacks, he introduced me to Joel Meadows of Tripwire Magazine. I’ve admired Tripwire’s array of creative content for years and it was great to meet and glean some inspiration from one of the brains behind the remarkable mag.
I could write all day about the fun I had that fine Saturday in Birmingham, but I’ll sum it up with a simple statement…
There ain’t many comic cons as cool as ICE.