Monday, 4 December 2017

Comic Cons and Sales - A short rant.

Selling at Conventions - A Short Rant.

Hmmmm.....sales techniques. 

From the point of the buyer?

I wonder what has got me thinking about this? Could it be the Christmas songs being rammed into my ears like a Prime Minister fucking a pig's mouth? Could it be the pause in the convention season that allows me to take a step back and look at what a car wreck this year has been? (LSCC anyone?) Could it be the deluded 'Best Of...' Lists that I have been reading and the one that I am sitting in this coffee shop ruminating for myself?

All the above I suppose.

(They have just started playing Shakin' Stevens!)

It is a common subject that we go to on the pod about people sitting behind convention tables looking like they really don't want to be there. But what I dislike even more than lazy sales styles is the shallow, transparent and fixed grin behaviour that accompanies the 'Hard Sell'. 

Here are a few short examples. 

As I am lazy and lack style in any way at all I used to wear gig T-shirts a lot and especially in the time off I had and often at the weekend spent at Comic Conventions (are we still calling them that? I don't think I've had the memo yet...) These gig T-shirts are like Spanish Fly to mouthy and pushy comics sellers. Here are some things I have experienced through my own sartorial idiocy.

'Hey! If you love metal (I don't and for those simpletons out there The Grateful Dead are not a heavy metal band!!) you'll love this short horror anthology.'

'Is that glam rock? (It wasn't, it was a Boosh T-shirt) Come read this man, you'll love it!' (I didn't).

'YEAH! Flash (nope, Mage). Read this man!' (This was at an American convention so I feel that I can forgive them a little - look at who their President is!!)

So, tip one in the Xmas season. Don't wear gig T-shirts. These desperate drongos will latch onto anything they perceive as a talking point and try and engage you with it. It's like some kind of fight or flight response that they shout whilst the white dribble gathers at the corners of their mouths.

Don't take a comic from the hands of the seller. This is something that REALLY annoys me. A stall holder will push a book into your hands. Someone in some donut headed TED Talk or 'How to Sell Old Rope...' Book told the world that if you put a book in someone's hands they are more likely to buy it. This may in fact be completely true as there are a lot of people out there with the brains of a Corbyn voter but it is also just plain bumptious. On occasion I will verbalise this with 'Have it back' and it will also put my back up no end. People may buy that particular comic but trust me they will avoid you at all costs at the next event. Stop it. Just stop it now. 

(Christ... Paul McCartney!)

Try not to be rude to customers. This would seem obvious but as exhibited on every single occasion I have attended a convention it is a fact that is blindly missed like an adult at a Tory sex party. I once stopped at a table owned by that bloke from Soaring Penguin (I can't remember but think his name is Anderson?) I picked up a book to look at and he literally shouted 'Not that one! (he then made that harrumph noise). I put these ones out for people to look at!' Not sure how you sell books at your stall but I'm sure this can't be a good idea? This was a few years ago but was enough to put me off this guy since. (Answers on a postcard).

Don't pity sell. More common than you may think. 'I'm just trying to pay for the table and do this for fun.' Is a phrase I have heard quite a lot recently. It's probably more honest than some of the other attempts I have described but still seems a little off? I don't feel guilt much (especially because with some of the city shit I have done in the past) but some people will walk off feeling bad. Is that something you wanted?

What else.... Oh yes. The top of the crimes are the groups who are out the front of their tables and you have to swerve like those charity chuggers on Camden High Street.  Not only are they annoying but they will also put me off heading back to that particular isle of the Con and thus affects the sales of those poor fuckers with tables around them. We all know who does this......It's the comics equivalent of a North African street market where you have to wear dark glasses to avoid having a 'Calvin Klein' belt forced into your hands. You try to give it back but all they want to do is sell, sell, sell all over your face. (INTERNAL SCREAM).

Do I have a solution? No not me. But I can tell you what I feel comfortable with.

Be nice. Be friendly. Be prepared to make small talk. Ask the attendee about themselves and don't just talk about yourself.

If someone pauses at your table do what my pal Vince Hunt does. Say hi. Ask if they are having a good time and tell them they can have a read if they like. This will get you more good-hearted sales and these people will come back for a chat and possibly a sale at the next event.


Many thanks for reading....

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Comics Panels - THEY ARE FUN!!

Hi All,

Myself and Nick Prolix are running a weekly mailer. This is an article that caused a lot of conversation a moth ago when we ran it. In an effort to get a few more people on the list it is reprinted here for your pleasure.

Sign up over at


An Idiot's Guide for Running a Comics Panel.

Yes. I'm not an expert. Who of us is? I've moderated around forty panels in the last five or six years at various venues and also over the last thirty something years attended hundreds. Even when you have a great guest they can be a gamble as to whether they are engaging or even just plain interesting.

Here are just a few things that have occurred to me over the last year or so.. Take 'em or leave 'em. I don't have a Scooby Doo what I'm talking about at the best of times...

A panel is at it's heart a communication between the moderator and the guests and also communication between the guests with each other. There is a definite energy in the room that you have to work off. Email the guests at least a day before with a couple of sample questions and ask them if there's anything they'd like to cover. I've opened group DMs on Twitter in the past so they can get to know each other beforehand.

I would suggest that as people wait for it to start that you update them. 'We'll be getting started in five minutes or so, later I'll be asking for questions from the audience'. That sort of thing settles people down. Panels rarely start on time as people are late, the mics don't work, people are chatting. Be relaxed, it's all good.

I love comics and I try to get that across. I smile and joke and try to get over what should be a fun event for those attending and appearing. But when you are standing out there trying to extract answers from some guests you have two pieces of armour:

1. Research. Know who you have on your panel. What they have worked on, what they are working on now (and most importantly) what they have coming up and if they can talk about them. Make sure you have read their work as they'll often throw a couple of tests your way.

2. Prepare more than the number of questions you think you'll need. It's a cold hard and uncomfortable silence if you are standing in front of a crowd lost for words. Allow these questions to head off in a couple of directions if required. I like to throw the odd fun one in there if the mood needs lifting. ('If you could draw a celebrity into a story who would it be and why? or 'Who would you love to see X beat the crap out of? - that sort of thing).

Keep the energy levels high. Some people love the sound of their voice. Some think that they are the only person who knows what they are talking about. And, let's face it, some people are just plain unfunny and not very charismatic. I'm a great believer in the host being on their feet. The focus of the audience should be on the people they have come to see and the host usually isn't the draw for them (although some think that they are the celebrities - lost in a Keith Lemon like malaise of deluded belief that they are liked and admired).

I love talking about comics and with the right guest you can get them all stirred up by asking about their influences. If they bite you'll all get lost in their nostalgic memories of comics and creators they loved and admired growing up.  It's a good little tip to get the juices flowing.

Comics professionals whilst normally great company can sometimes be a strange and occasionally obtuse bunch. I have witnessed a few who make use of arrogance and pomposity to hide their lack of social ability or just plain absence of confidence. One artist I recently interviewed could literally suck the air out of a room from the very start.  But, and this can be a hard pill to swallow on occasion, try and remain positive. I watched a car crash of a panel a few years ago where the guests were just plain rude to the moderator and kept ignoring the questions and holding their book up to show the audience. My advice would have been to move on to future projects at that point and then arc back to what you wanted to originally talk about ten minutes later..

When manoeuvring around your discussion it's also a good tip to let them promote (but not over promote) a favourite or current project/kickstarter they have. This little tickle on their ballsacks (other parts are available) is often enough to get them enthusiastic about other areas of the conversation.

If you have a number of guests on the same panel then don't just ask the same question down the line. Ask it from different angles depending on who is next up to answer. On a recent panel about 'Breaking Into Comics' I asked what tips they might have. One of the guests is an editor so I switched the inquiry to his field of work when we reached him to 'As an editor what tips do you give when you view a portfolio?' It keeps the audience engaged and stops guests trotting out prepared statements. Bump onwards between the guests, jump around between the order you ask the questions.

Different types of panels and approaches apply for different events. Who are the audience. High Brow? Some people love the 'influence' question and swim in a sea of 'the more obscure the reference the cooler you are'. Watch out for fake french accents and indie darlings.

Hardcore fans? Be afraid. When I have run 2000 AD type panels the fans are ferocious. You get something wrong or show any form of weakness they're on you like a pack of jackals. Chewing you up, spitting you out and chuckling as they do it.

Family audience? No swearing! (I find this difficult) Parents are actually quite forgiving but that doesn't stop me feeling mortified when I let the odd bomb slip.

Small Press? In my experience attendees at these events will quite often know the speakers and be there to support them. That's something you can play on by offering more than the usual amount of questions to the audience.

Spotlight panels can be fun but will drill down into the subject a little bit more than is asked for by your average convention punter. These panels are generally personality specific and require a lot of research. I was lucky enough to be asked to run the 'Pat Mills Spotlight' panel at the 2000AD 40th Anniversay Event. You really have to be an expert for these. Do loads of research and try if possible to watch/listen/read their other previous (especially recent) interviews. Try and offer something that these have not.

Don't make the questions obvious. I co-chaired a panel a couple of years ago and the other host wanted to ask 'Where do you get your ideas from?' (yes, seriously). Ruminate a little on what you think will work and keep notes. Hone down some of the more insightful stuff, showing that attention to the details will help with the answers.

This is very important. Make the questions short. Long questions are both boring and often designed for the interviewer to show how supposedly intelligent he/she thinks they are. The guest will also lose track. There's nothing worse than hearing a loooong question to which the guest (thinking they are hilarious) answers it with a 'No' or 'Yeah' or even a 'Sorry, what was the question?'

Let the guest talk about subjects they feel comfortable with. Probe their answers and discuss what they are aiming at. But don't look for that bit of dirt ('So, why did you try and kill Jim Shooter?) that will only accomplish the panel getting mentioned on Bleeding Cool (and nobody wants that).

Above all make it an event that everyone in the room will enjoy (including you). I don't get paid for these but really enjoy running them. There's nothing better also when you get a 'thanks dude' from an audience member.

Many thanks for reading.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

In Review - 'Dog Days' by Anja Dahle Overbye.


Created by Anja Dahle Overbye.

Published in the UK by Centrala Books.

72 pages - Black and White interiors - £9.00.

The Story - This book draws inspiration from North-Western Norway where the creator grew up. 'Dog Days' is a phenomenon that takes place in the late summer. According to folklore this is a period that is especially hot, muck floats to the surface of the water, the food goes bad and dogs are more prone to go mad. It is during this period that the reader meets Anne, who is mid-way between her childhood and the dawning of adolescence. It is the stifling hot weather that affects her relationships with both her friends and her family.

Anne's best friend Marielle wants to hang out with the slightly older Carrie. When the two of them strike up a friendship Anne is left out. She is too young to make new friends at the youth club and too restless to find anything else worth doing that summer. What will happen to Anne during these Dog Days....'

The Review - I've reviewed a few of Centrala's books during the last few years and enjoyed them all. From the soaring urban beauty of 'Chernobyl - The Zone'. To the nutty artistic experimentation of 'Old Farts' What I have found out during my investigation of their titles is that they produce some weird-ass comics, weird enough to fit in nowhere that is currently going on in the UK scene. And for this fact I await the release of each of their books with high interest. And to a forty-something English man this book is one of the weirder reads.

'Erm, well, I'm going to meet Carrie tomorrow too. She's a bit older than you, so it's maybe not much fun for you if you come along? I'll call you later.'

But weird is good right? Weird can open your eyes to the plight and circumstances of people and events that had never and probably never would occur to you without the intervention of fiction and in this case black and white biographical comics. This is a book about girls in Norway. I, sadly, have never visited Norway. But I was once the same age as Anne, Marielle and Carrie. I experienced the pains of growing up and apart from what you knew or thought you knew. We have all experienced the cruelty of teenagers to each other. This is a book that explores the problems of adolescence and the anxiety and loneliness of the individual at that age. The sweeping wave of nasty jokes and taking sides and wanting just to belong echo on almost every page. One particular sequence where Anne is climbing up a hill and keeps being hit with a branch by the other girls is particularly heartbreaking. She refuses to be put off and you can see that she wants to be their friend no matter what. At certain points I found the cruel jibes hard to read as they seemingly became the first act in a horror movie where you expect a creature would arrive and exact revenge on those bullies. This of course never happens but you do feel a creepingly sickening mood affecting all those in contact with the girls. 

An awakening and realisation comes to the characters in all manner of ways. They experience the death of a neighbour, the creepy and possibly abusive advances of a sunbathing man and the chance of failure. This is a book with depth and realism. I found it affecting and disconcerting.

The art has a pencil like quality to its quirky and almost amateurish panels. This is purposeful and allows for the connection with the young and inexperienced characters portrayed in the pages. This comic won the Norweigan Comic of the Year Awards in 2016 and I can see why.

One small niggle would be the lack of flow in places to the conversation and it's translation. It loses a little of the nuance in the snark through some obvious short-cuts. In a way this adds to the other worldly quality to how the girls speak but I would have liked it to feel a little more naturalistic in places. 

It is a book I suggest that you explore if you are brave enough....

Find more out about Centrala at and on Twitter @icentrala

Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

In Review - 'white.NOIR' issue 1.

White. NOIR - issue 1.

Written by Matt Garvey.
Art by Dizevez.

Self Published. Full Colour.

The Story - A man wakes up in a crashed car that has apparently veered off the highway and hit a stag. You can tell that it has his this animal as it is sticking out of the windscreen. This man walks through the snow and cold to a local town. Once there he collapses and is cared for in a bar by the plaid shirt wearing locals. They call the sheriff and things get a little more complicated.

The Review - I was chatting to Matt recently over a coffee and he told me that this is a story that he has been wanting to write for a while. He had an image of a man coming to in a car with a stag's antlers sticking in through the windscreen and after working with artist Dizevez decided he had found the perfect person to carry out the art duties.

Straight out the bag I am taken by the cover. Simple and iconic but also hints at story and mood. This is probably the best cover I have seen in the small press scene for ages. A round of applause for whoever designed that beauty. Take note Small Press!

This is a story that follows the rules of Noir. Nobody is purely a hero or a villain, the sheriff has his own selfish agenda and as it turns out there is a beautiful woman who sets many of the events in motion. Matt dwells within the snowy visuals for just the right amount of time for the art to breathe on you and chill your bones. That long walk to a local town is dealt with beautifully and results in a look up at a blood red sky as the protagonist reaches the town sign. Matt is playing well in this duplicitous thriller sandpit it occurred to me when I saw that stunning visual. This is a story with both style and depth.

The scenes that deal with the flashback are mostly dealt with in black and white and at moments seem a little bit too washed out for my tastes. The use of narrative relevant splashes of colour however jump starts you out of the lack of richness in the visuals. I say this but need to point out that the very last page of this first issue is brilliantly realised and the use of facial acting is about the best you will see in comics, outstanding show-not-tell by the writer and the artist. I am treading very carefully here as not to spoil some of the story beats. 

This is also a first issue that has a lot of story packed in yet never seems overly rushed. Moments are left to ruminate and give weight to them. There is much to ponder and dwell on in this first outing.

I have read all of Matt's comics up until this point (I may even have written a cheeky intro to a collected hardback edition he put out last year) and I think this is the best written of the bunch (although I do have a soft spot for his series 'Chunks'). This falls squarely in the Ed Brubaker / Sean Phillips style of storytelling and for that I loved it and cannot wait to see the next issue.

Hurry up! I want to see where this goes....

Find more out at or follow him on Twitter @MattGarvey1981

Look at some more art from Dizevez at or follow her on Twitter @DIZEVEZ

Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 20 November 2017

A Comic Cover.

A Comic Cover.

One of the most popular Pods we have done recently was the episode about comics covers. So I thought that I would choose a cover and talk about it. I chose the cover to The Invaders Vol 1 issue 11.

I find the idea of a comic cover a fascinating subject in our little hobby. It acts as an advert, a sales pitch and an object of art all in one go. You get one go at selling the insides of a comic through what is displayed in (usually) one image on the front of the comic. It's that combination of art and sell, sell, sell that is an interesting crossroads. In many ways it stops us comics fans getting too pompous with our art snobbery. Especially back when this was produced 

I decided to take the plunge and try to explain to him why I liked a certain cover. What measurements should I use in my explanation? Art is completely subjective so how do I measure my love for something? The cover I have chosen is from Invaders issue 11. A comic that was printed and released just prior to December 1976 and features an image by Jack Kirby.

Ah... Jack Kirby. One tick.

Kirby is up there for me. I suppose it's his dynamism that really catches me. That image of the villain on the cover, swooping in a completely illogical way through a wartime hospital ward. All the story is squeezed into one page.

It features Captain America, Bucky and the Sub-Mariner. All classic Marvel characters. That gets it a second tick.

Marvel remains my favourite company. And the so-called Bronze Age is my favourite period. A time of weirdness and experimentation. This new at the time series had Nazi Vampires and reanimated Norse gods. I saw it as the Avengers with some added crazy based in WW2. The fact that the series also often featured a British hero called Union Jack was also a big draw to this London born and bred fan.

So, what am I really saying here. Nostalgia I suppose. It's an easy go to and never that simple. But one of the reasons that this cover came to mind was the good memories I had of it as a kid. Back in the 1970s we grew up reading comics. We didn't decide that it sounded like a cool hobby and get into reading them in our twenties (that is seemingly a modern crime!) Myself and my pals would all be reading Captain Britain or The Mighty World of Marvel and when we could get our hands on them we'd also read some American monthlies. One of my mum's pals lived nearby and her son was my age. I thought he was a bit of a wanker but at least we could both enjoy comics together. Then one day his mother decided she didn't want comics in the house and handed his collection on to me.

This included Invaders issue 11. I still have it. It is now scruffy and dog-eared and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Fucking glorious!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

In Review - 'Out of Nothing' - Daniel Locke with David Blandy.

Out of Nothing.

Created by Daniel Locke and David Blandy.

Foreword by Professor Brian Cox.

Full Colour - Hardback - 248 pages - £16.99.

The Story - 'Surreal sequences take us from Gutenberg's printing press to Tim Berners-Lee's World Wide Web, Grand Master Flash and more. Spanning millennia, this ambitious graphic novel explores humanity's inherent 'dreaming mind' and its impact on our world.'

It is also the story of a little blue-skinned alien girl who wanders through the events of time.....

The Review - I often ask a creator the question of why they choose a particular subject or period to make a comic about. It doesn't apply here because these two guys decided to make a comic about every time, both past present and future. This is a brick of a book. It is full of big ideas, the biggest in fact. And places us smack bang in the middle of those ideas as they formed. It is intelligent and thoughtful yet also colourfully fun and dreamlike.

'These humans are no longer just scurrying across the surface.... they are beginning to change it.'

Through the history of the Universe and Planet Earth in particular we see many events. We see the science of the creations and we see that comparable and inseparable to this science is the art of nature and of man. Through art we see the world around us and through the scientific developments of man we see the investigation of physics and biology and chemistry and in the intricate evolutionary designs we see the patterns of artistic beauty. This is a book that makes a whoosh as it pulls you down the time stream. From prehistoric fights with lions to drinking in a cafe in Paris to the sand clouds of Mars.
Out of Nothing makes use of time and space both in the narrative and in the style. Whole pages and sequences are allowed to develop in front of your eyes. We see the strands of DNA hang in the air, the lines of connectivity of the web, the clouds of a nuclear explosion and many, many more. I barely remember turning the pages as the scenes move along with intelligence combined with bright star fields telling us the history of the world and full colour comics.

Locke and Blandy use a guide. An otherworldly blue-skinned female child. She can seemingly go anywhere at any time. Each time jump is prefixed with her eyes opening to a scene. She finds herself in Mainz in 1450 in the workshop of Johannes Gutenberg or watching Braque and Picasso discussing art in the Paris of 1907 and then (in one of my favourite sequences) in the 1970s in New York City dancing to a funk DJ when the 'Get Down' hits. Through this alien girl we get both perspective and a wry winking humour. 

'When two human minds really connect, something truly powerful happens...'

The art is simplistic when it needs to be and then shifts gears and pacing to present more complicated images. The faces of the characters have an indie animation style to their often goggle eyed intensity but you are never at a loss to know who is who. At moments we can laugh at the ridiculousness of the human condition and some panels are played for both gravitas and laughs all at once. Don't think this is an overly serious book, it has big issues at it's heart but is done with a playfulness that makes you want to return to read a bit more.

On page 153 there is something that happens. History is given a little tiny nudge. It raised a smile......

I got to go last night to the launch party for this book at 'The Cube' in Shoreditch (many thanks to Zoe from NoBrow for inviting me) and got to spend some time with the two Daniels. They were both hugely excited about the book finally being released and spoke to me with grins on their faces about tackling such a big subject. They have been friends and comics creators since meeting at University. We spoke about the process of creating something and also the process of observing its formation, standing back and looking at what you have done. It wasn't lost on us all that being at a launch party is itself part of this chain of events.

They described their little blue-skinned guide as both a Muse to figures in history and also the aforementioned observer. She is the glue that holds their story together. She is also be great fun to write and draw.

When I was talking to these two guys I could see the passion they had for their project. They both spoke about the artistic process and their particular take on it with a refreshing thoughtfulness. I'll be looking for more from these guys from now on.

This was the last book launch of the year from Nobrow and yet another triumph. Geis, Dalston Monsterzz and now Out of Nothing. Bloody hell! How much better can their catalogue get? A big thanks to Sam, Zoe and Emma for keeping me in the loop and letting me see some of the best comics out there. Roll on 2018!

David Locke is an artist and graphic novelist based in Brighton. Much of his work has been informed and shaped by the discoveries of comtemporary science.

David Blandy is an artist who works with the image in the digital world; highlighting our relationship with popular culture and investigating what makes us who we are.

Find out more about this book and grab a copy at or follow them on Twitter @NobrowPress

Many thanks for reading.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

In Review - 'Mann's Best Friend' Sophie and Scarlett Rickard.

Mann's Best Friend.

Written by Sophie Rickard.
Art by Scarlett Rickard.

Published by Gluepot Books.

Full Colour 164 pages. £14.99.

The Story - Terry Mann has a dead-end job, a raft of mounting bills, an annoyingly needy sister and an inordinately large dog called Eric. One day whilst minding his own business at his office he is called in and suspended for a theft he claims that he did not commit.  He get's drunk and stupidly annoyed with Eric and does something he shouldn't have. 

What will come out of this spiders web of emotions and fraud....'

The Review - Occasionally I stumble across a book that hits a chord. A book that I want to shout about because it deserves a much wider audience. This is one of those books. I devoured it on a long train journey back from Wimbledon Comics Arts Festival last weekend. It's not a short read but I managed to read it without putting it down - a mark of quality in the Esmond household!

I am old now and past (mostly) blokeish posturing so I don't mind saying that I am a softie. I also a big fan of dogs. I have a dog and he wanders up to me when I get home every single day. I won't watch movies like 'Marley and Me' because I know I'll end up a gibbering mess. So when I met Sophie and Scarlet this weekend and they handed me this book I was straightaway onboard but as I read it my stomach was in knots. I was shouting at the book 'Don't do that!'

It's OK, it all ends up pretty much fine towards the end of the book (kind of) but it had me worried and invested and emotional and embroiled in this comic. It is genuinely compelling. The quintessentially English small-town characters are written with warmth and skill. The book works as a drama, a mystery and creeps up on you with a love story that is in places platonic and elsewhere romantic. People are people and that is perhaps the highest praise I have for both the writing and the art.

One of my favourite scenes is where a couple are chatting and a phone keeps ringing in front of them on the desk. They don't want to answer and the panels switch backwards and forwards to them talking and the screen of the phone. 'Mum' calls or Terry's boss and so on. This was written with some excellent pacing. It's easy to a certain extent to show a man punching someone or a spaceship crashing or a submarine surfacing but to keep that pace up and make it interesting in a scene just about a phone ringing and the implications of that small moment is really the sign of good writing and art.

Scarlet in the art department feels like an indie comics version of maybe Posy Simmonds with some of the more iconicly simple facial features of Scott McCloud. She works well with the intimate personal moments and also weaves in a landscape that you feel familiar with. A couple of the early pages seemed like she was trying to cram a bit too much into a panel but this soon shakes itself out to some beautiful spreads and a gorgeous double page spread towards the end that I would happily have on my wall at home. Just gorgeous stuff.

Come on Esmond.... stop blubbing....

But seriously. Buy this book. You'll love it.

Head over to and follow these creators on Twitter @GluepotBooks

Many thanks for reading.