Dundee is a strange city to drive. The traffic system seemed determined to get rid of us, and once we eventually did find parking, the multi-story car park had no pedestrian exits- we escaped out of the traffic ramp in the end & found the Hoppo youth hostel which i thoroughly recommend, the private en suite room was as good as any hotel room, but half the price. We were early so popped into a local pub... another strange adventure, of course this was Halloween weekend so we were greeted by a cowboy blues band and some drunken green masked pirates in jeans and thongs enjoying chasing each other around in a somewhat metro' way. This was all Before we met the rest of the comic contingent who had gathered for Dundee Comics day, things got weirder thereafter!
Dundee Comics day is organised by Dr Chris Murray ( and team, Phil, Gill & others ) who runs the Mlitt in comics at Dundee University. Its a fantastic event, great friendly atmosphere, great guests and interesting talks.
Paul Gravett gave a shortened version of a fascinating talk about the history of comics and '1001 Comic Books you must read before you die' a brand new gorgeous book that he has edited. There is an incredible variety of comics out there internationally much much more than people popularly think, some really inspiring and beautiful work.
John Wagner had spent the day touring Dundee with friend & journalist Mike Donachie, they'd found the house with the shed that it had all started in with Pat mills, where they used to sit and write! John talked about the need for wannabe writers to get themselves recognised in the massive pile of unsolicited submissions. How strong characters were the key to good storytelling. He also talked about the pros and cons of writing partnerships and took lots of questions about the Dredd film, why Button man hasn't been filmed yet and about the aging Dredd issue.
Robbie Morrison - Comics taught him how to tell stories. He'd read of how a spider bite gave super spider powers, nuclear exposure turns you big and green and soon realised that reality isn't like that. He wanted to tell stories that reflected more reality, the human and emotional content. Dante was conceived to create a different type of character for 2000ad, 11 books and 16 years later we are drawing to the stories conclusion that Robbie always knew would happen, he didn't want a character to go on and on past the point where the writer no longer remembered or cared about the story. He feels guilty about how much Dante has suffered, and warned of more suffering to come ( NOoooo! I love Dante ! )
Colin McNeil ( a regular Hi-Ex guest ) started his talk by explaining how uncomfortable as an artist he is at talking in public and how much better he'd be with a blackboard showing things visually. However his passion for subjects he cares for is always apparent. He talked about the influence of boys war comics on him as a child, this was the generation that didn't talk about the war, these stories showed him what had happened to the previous generation and members of his family. He dislikes the word 'hero' as it is generally a propoganda term. Colin feels he is not really a comic artist but an artist who just happens to draw comics ( one i relate to ! ). His main early comic art influences are Carlos Ezquerra, Cam Kennedy and Mike MacMahon. He also enthused about how as a small child he'd had the opportunity to see Rembrandt's Night Watch painting close up behind the ropes and how the colours and brush work had stayed with him. I love Colins work he is an artists comic artist!
Cam Kennedy ( another Hi-Ex guest ) was a very entertaining speaker, regaling us with tales of his early years drawing in France and subsequent move to Orkney. He talked about the Scottishness and humour in the comics he's worked on. Cam also loved drawing machines, spaceships and tanks, coming from generations of engineers. While the Star Wars comics were a fan favorite, Cam was never a fan, he got sick of "drawing a big rug and a dust bin", though he pitched the Bobba Fett series which was witter by Wagner as he enjoyed that character. He also told the audience the famous Kenny Who story.
Frank Quitely ( another previous Hi-Ex guest )- gave a personal and inspiring talk about his work and the influences on him. He never made any distinction as a young person between comic art, album art, poster art and fine art, he was surrounded by books and art books and drew from all of them. He'd always doodled sequential breakdowns of motion like football or fight scenes without realising how it connected to comics. He explained that for him, when we hear a story it is in moving pictures in our heads, the artists job is to select the correct freeze frame to put the story on paper. His first published work was of course on Scottish 'scatological slapstick' comic Electric soup, where Frank satirised the much loved Broons with 'the Greens' . This is when he first adopted his pseudonym, which had "seemed really clever when 19 or 10", and had also been to hide what he was doing from parents etc. He'd worked for years in comics before an editor at DC questioned his storytelling layouts, what had previously been intuitive them became an obsession as the drawing took second place to the storytelling and he learnt everything he could from Scott McLeod and many others. While convalescing recently from back problems which stopped his working he has dreamed up some wonderful sounding personal projects. I look forward to seeing them happen!
Basically all these folks are brilliant, and many of them will be coming along to Hi-Ex 2012. Many thanks to the Dundee comic day team for organising this great event and having us along. I always love hearing how other artists especially my comic heroes ( sorry Colin ! ) relate to their art.