23 November 2009

Con Report: Thought Bubble 2009

Alexi Conman went to Leeds' Thought Bubble convention and bought a substantial quantity of quality small press gear - but other than catching a smidge of Roger Sabin's talk on the roots of academic analysis of sequential art (plus a pictionary type thing in a bar later on that he couldn't see properly), he didn't make it to any talks/panels at all. LOSER!

That said, he thoroughly enjoyed himself. The lovely people of Newcastle's Paper Jam collective were across in force, as were many other folk unfortunate enough to have made the acquaintance of Alexi, and rather a lot of gabbing occurred.

The gargantuan main hall seemed even more packed than last year and the vibe was again incredibly positive, with few commercial dealers (i.e. those selling backissues, toys etc) and a plethora of small press stuff that hadn't been at other cons - hence the extensive pile of wonder that Alexi bought.

Why should this be, compared to other cons? Possibly:
(a) Location - Leeds is the only big con between Birmingham and Inverness
(b) It's one-day - although there are events on other days around it, the main con is a single day, so it packs everything in efficiently, meaning that the costs don't have to cover the use of the venue for so long, and the punters will all be there on one day, getting all their purchasing done in one go. This leads to...
(c) Affordable table rates - most folks seemed to have at least broken even.
(d) A more arty small press ethos? - this year, the more highbrow panels had been moulded into a linked but slightly separate conference on comics academia (which Alexi was most disappointed not to see more of) and the workshops that surrounded the main con seemed to encourage that sense of creativity over pure fandom.
(e) Christmas - perhaps people are just in the mood for buying a bunch of comics?

Anyway, Thought Bubble really showed how much could be packed into one day... even if Alexi didn't really make best use of it himself.

18 November 2009

A beginning...

The prodigiously talented (and depressingly youthful) Jack Fallows is set to release the first issue of his possibly three-part saga, The Big Bang, at Leeds' Thoughtbubble comic convention.

Alexi Conman provided some minimal editorial assistance to Mr. Fallows in this project (basically just offering him ill-considered suggestions and ungrounded analysis throughout the creative process) but entirely without bias recommends that anyone in the market for a blackly comic look at human foibles, arty and offbeat but unpretentious, with a vaguely Dan Clowes kind of vibe, will thoroughly enjoy this excellent comic.

It can be purchased at Thoughtbubble or probably later from Jack's Etsy shop.

7 October 2009

Con Report: BICS 2009

Alexi Conman went to the BICS 2009 convention. As of this year, 'BICS' now stands for 'British International Comics Show' instead of 'Birmingham International Comics Show', yet it was still held in Birmingham. Geographical inaccuracy is technically avoided by the fact that Birmingham is in Britain, yes, but surely the information being provided is less specific than it had been previously?

The change in nomenclature is apparently for two reasons (both of which do, in fact, seem fairly reasonable):
a) in case it wants to move or run events elsewhere at some point down the line.
b) with Bristol's con downsizing somewhat earlier this year (and for the forseable future), BICS is now the biggest of the UK comics conventions and wants to tell everyone that.

This was Alexi's third year attending, and, predictably, he enjoyed it again.
The Friday launch party was good fun, and whilst it didn't quite live up to last year's shinding due to not having comics pros playing live music (such as the tremendously-named 'Giant-Sized Band-Thing', who thoroughly rocked at BICS 2008), there was beer and a free buffet, so it would be churlish to complain.

With several long-term comics projects, non-comics projects and general procrastination in the works at the moment, there wasn't anything of a specific business-like nature for Alexi at the con, so he generously agreed to assist the champions of small press podcasting Small Press Big Mouth (if you haven't already, listen to their fine podcasts immediately! IMMEDIATELY!) with promotion. This mainly involved looking dopey, spilling coffee on them and carrying flyers around.

In between this exertion, Alexi saw some good panels. First up was the immediate success of perennial favourite 'Comic Artists Flip Out' - watching Alan Davis, Staz Johnson and Mark Buckingham sketch on flipchart pads is of course excellent entertainment in its own right, but Alexi was also fortunate enough to win a brilliant sketch of Nightcrawler, huzzah (if by some insane fluke of chance Alan Davis ever reads this - thanks Alan).

Also on the theme of live art, just before having to run off to catch a train at the end of the con, Alexi caught half of Garry Leach's live painting demo. His talk about painting techniques had been an unexpected highlight of BICS 2008, and were it not for the necessity of catching the train, Alexi is sure he'd have been even more impressed with seeing the whole process live this year.

On the WTF? front, Steve Marchant introduced what would be an interesting talk about his work in education (and a new web resource called Cartoon Classroom to increase connections between schools and comic artists) with a baffling/hilarious sort of quiz thing which involved:
a) him wearing a dress and a shower cap and pretending to be The Watcher.
b) him using "advanced Skrull technology" (cardboard masks) to transform members of the audience into The Thing, Batman, Judge Dreddd and Moonknight, before doing a sort of parallel universes quiz with each of them.
c) the contestants who did the best in the quiz (Dredd and Moonknight) having a playoff competition to see who could send an inflatable Spider-Man furthest with a single punch (Dredd).
Entirely commendable.

Slightly less exciting, but very interesting were the Geek Syndicate's '70 Years of Marvel Comics' and the Comics Insider panels, both of which talked about the future of the medium, between them covering the standpoints of creators, big publishers, small publishers, distributors and comercial outlets.

There was a lot of talk about digital distribution, particularly with regards to monthly comics (as opposed to graphic novels/trade paperbacks), and it does seem to make sense. Monthly comic sales are falling, but web distribution may be the way to get new readers in, with comics shops taking more of a role as simply specialist bookshops, dealing mainly in book-length collected material.

When Alexi can more effectively organise his thoughts, he may stick a blog post here about how comics designed specifically for devices like the iphone present their own opportunities and challenges in terms of how the medium works (e.g. how the gutter is no longer part of the visual syntax if each 'page' is basically just a panel). However Alexi finds talks like those just mentioned even more fascinating as they investigate not just one issue, but the many interlinked issues that affect 'comics' as a whole: the content and how it uses the artistic medium and how that is affected by the methods of delivery to the readers and how this is all organised functionally and financially by the industry. Difficult to fully analyse it all objectively but very interesting stuff.

Alexi generally dislikes technology, so was pleased to pick up a substantial bunch of quality UK indie and small press comics made of actual paper when meandering around the many stalls at the con. He looks forward to reading all of them. He also got drunk with some very nice folks (shoutouts to anyone actually reading this) and possibly came third in a Chinese buffet eating competition.

For anyone looking for a more inventive con report, you will almost certainly not do better than checking out the one by Cy Dethan (scribe of 'Cancertown'), done as a Fighting Fantasy / Choose Your Own Adventure thing. Brilliant.

13 July 2009

Alexi Conman is very slightly Harvey Award-Nominated

It's true. Popgun Volume 2 (which you can buy from Amazon here) has been nominated in the 'Best Anthology' category of the prestigious Harvey Awards. Alexi is trying to convince himself that this accolade is almost exclusively down to the quality of the one page story that he scripted which appeared in it...

In other news, well, Alexi has various other projects on the go at the moment, but nothing quite yet at a point to blog about.

17 June 2009

For your consideration

You want an awesome comic anthology about the Wild West? Well, why don't you order Accent UK's Western anthology, diamond order code JUN090671 ? Alexi Conman guarantees* that you will enjoy it!

You want an awesome comic anthology about choices? Well, why don't you order Insomnia Publications' Choices anthology, available from Amazon? Alexi Conman guarantees* that you will enjoy it!

* - not legally binding, but hey, he thinks it is at least very probable that you will enjoy it. Maybe you might not be in the mood for comics, maybe you cannot read, maybe you are afraid of paper, these are all possibilities that would increase the likelihood of you not enjoying these fine publications, thus making the bold statement of a guarantee of enjoyment a total folly. However, 'very probable', yes, that is more reasonable. Anyway, buy them.

4 June 2009

Alexi Conman... Draws?

Although Alexi Conman intends that this blog be focused on his comics scriptwriting endeavours, he feels compelled to mention some other related activity which occurred recently.

For Alexi, being in the process of developing unstoppable scriptwriting mad skillz of thunderous prowess is not enough! He is also occasionally developing shambolic drawing crap skillz of inept mediocrity - and some of the products of which feature in the otherwise excellent small press anthologies of the Paper Jam Comics Collective.

They recently released their fifth anthology (Robots... And That) and celebrated with an awesome launch party, with bands, films and cake. There's some real talent in the group (see the very cool flyer design above, by Bainbridge and Waugh), and giant leaps forward are being made with each release. Marvel and DC will be in their sights soon!

In other slightly off-topic news, some of Alexi's short films are looking like getting screened at various places, including at the Glastonbury Festival. Woop!

12 May 2009

Con Report: Bristol Comic Expo 2009

Alexi attended the Bristol Comic Expo at the weekend. As has been widely reported elsewhere, it was somewhat smaller this year, the economic climate being what it is. This meant the big hall near the station was out and more stuff was crammed into the main Ramada hotel area instead.

It was, predictably, a bit cramped but fortunately the Small Press Expo (that had stepped into the breach when the main Expo announced it was to downsize) really helped make up for it. Running on the Saturday at the Mercure hotel just round the corner, it provided the much-needed space for the exhibitors who couldn't get into the Ramada.

Panel-wise, due to trains and suchlike, Alexi had to miss some of the panels he'd have liked to have seen, but did catch Dan DiDio and Bob Wayne representin' for DC. They were quick-witted and likeable and it's always interesting to see some of the people who genuinely have a hand in guiding where the comics industry is heading.

Of course, one of the best things about the weekend for Alexi was getting to see the stories he'd scripted appear in the minty fresh Layer Zero: Choices and Western anthologies (from the good folks at Insomnia and Accent UK respectively). He also spent far too much money at the bar and talked a lot to some very nice people, but was disappointed to only get limited opportunity to do robot-dancing.

There were things that could have been done better - the Small Press Expo could also have been on on the Sunday and there could have been better information about where it was and what was going on there. However, this seems to have already been addressed in the planning for next year - both hotels will run both days and hopefully it should be a bit more cohesive. This does suggest that the big hall is now officially out of the picture, and if that's what it takes to make the con break even, more power to the organisers for adapting. Birmingham's BICS looks to be going slightly in the opposite direction, upping it's prices slightly to support a bigger and more adventurous con, and again, more power to them too. Every con he attends reminds Alexi what a relatively small industry this is and how essential conventions are to maintain an even vaguely unified feel to the whole business.

27 March 2009

Choose Life

Alexi Conman is fairly chuffed to find that stories that he's scripted will be appearing in TWO books being released at the Bristol Comics Expo. As well as Accent UK's Western anthology (mentioned previously), Insomnia Publications' latest Layer Zero anthology, Choices, will be unveiled at Bristol too. Wooha!

'Red Wire, Blue Wire', a five-pager with awesome art by Larry Watts, will be in amongst a whole load of other awesomeness being showcased in this fine collection. For anyone who may be attending Bristol, Insomnia are doing special convention rate deals on many of their books, you lucky lucky people.

Insomnia have really come hurtling into the UK independent comics scene over the past year or two - as well as Choices, they've got a highly anticipated new graphic novel coming out at Bristol (Cancertown, featuring an intro by Bryan Talbot) and a really substantial slate of projects coming soon, so keep an eye out for them. Their website is currently under reconstruction but check out their blog for all the latest info.

4 March 2009

Go West

The latest anthology from the fine people at Accent UK is now at the printers. It's Western (y'know, cowboys and that) themed and Alexi Conman has written a six page story, with art by the awesome Nic Wilkinson, that will be appearing in it - alongside other excellent work from UK and international talent.

It should be released on an unsuspecting public at this year's Bristol Comics Expo in May, and, fingers crossed, will be distributed through Diamond in the future. You can have a look at the contents and sample pages by following the 'publications' link on the Accent UK site.

It's a safe bet that Western will continue Accent UK's record of quality, further establishing them as one of the brightest lights in UK independent comic publishing.

20 February 2009

Con Report: Hi-Ex 2009

Alexi Conman has taken to going to UK comic conventions. He felt his name kind of forced him into it, but fortunately all the cons he's been to so far have all been great.

He thought maybe he should write some brief reviews. They'll mostly just be him saying "went here, it was awesome" but hey, it's worth saying.

Latest was Hi-Ex - the Highland Expo up in Inverness. It was lovely. Slightly smaller than some of the other UK cons, and perhaps partly because of that (although moreso because of the excellent people organising it), it had a really welcoming and inclusive vibe.

Some great panel discussions (Politics and Religion was predictably fiery), workshops (Alexi picked up a few tips from the wise duo of Al Ewing and Ferg Handley) and a charity auction (which Alexi chickened out of bidding in) made for a thoroughly enjoyable programme. Alexi would go again.

17 February 2009

The story so far: Alexei Conman in Popgun Volume 2

Alexi Conman has also been known as Alexei Conman. As Alexei Conman, he scripted a one page story (with art by the awesome Ronald Salas, lettering by the also awesome Fonografiks) that appeared in the totally awesome anthology Popgun: Volume 2 from Image Comics.

It's a whopping 470 pages of full colour loveliness with a stellar contributor list, it came out around September 2008 and you can get it now from all good comic shops, online booksellers and mystical travelling peddlers. Awesome!

Whilst he just sneaked into it with a one page filler, it was still cool to appear in a publication alongside some very big names in comics (and some names that whilst maybe not quite so big at the moment, seem likely to be very large in the near future).

If Alexi (or indeed, Alexei) was less of a technological cretin, he'd include a bunch of links to encourage you to check out just how awesome it is, but hey, you know how to use a computer, go and check it out for yourself.

The story so far: non-comics stuff

This blog is mainly going to deal with Alexi Conman's writing for sequential art, but before this gets properly started, he'd also like to mention that he has been known to dabble in other media.

Other stuff he has written includes several short film scripts that got selected for funding (which he went on to direct) and an award-winning short story.

He hopes to continue meddling in prose and film, but claims comics are his favourite medium.

5 January 2009

Alexi Conman is now on the internet

Check it out: another blog.

Alexi Conman writes things and just in case anyone was wondering "who is this mysterious fellow who writes things and what things has he written and what things will he be writing in the near future?" he thought he had better be on the internet so he can tell people.

Hence: this rudimentary weblog. It probably won't be updated very regularly and when it is, it will probably only consist of gratuitous self-promotion.

The things Alexi Conman writes are currently mostly scripts for short sequential art. He intends to write more.