Friday 22 May 2009

Forthcoming Attractions

Now that Bristol is out of the way and The Sisterhood:Morningstar is launched it's back to getting future Time Bomb Comics further along their way to future publication. Of course, that doesn't mean The Sisters are forgotten about - the one-shot has a listing in the inaugural Haven Comics! catalogue that's out this month and it will be interesting to find out how much comes out of that. Unlike Diamond's Previews catalogue, which for good or ill is still the main industry advance comics showcase, Comics! is purely designed for those comics buyers who
want something other than what the Big Guys can offer. Haven's customer base is exactly the sort of crowd who'll take a gamble on something a bit different, and there's a great range of varied publishers - including Time Bomb! - featured over the catalogue's 100 pages. Obviously we have a vested stake in Haven's success but apart from that as a comics reader it's something I want to personally support and see flourish, and it would be great to see Comics! regularly sitting next to Previews on the comic shop shelves before too long. Of course, that can only happen through reader demand, so please badger your local comics emporium to sign up with Haven and have their Comics! catalogue available.
Moving to the future Time Bomb has a number of projects on the boil, and we can now announce our remaining 2009 releases:
First off we finally have The Furies graphic novel, written by Steve Tanner with art by Andy Dodd. This was trailed on the back covers of Ragamuffins and Dick Turpin and the Restless Dead, and we now have a fixed October release date to tie in with the British International Comics Show in Birmingham. Time Bomb's first graphic novel has been a long time coming, much longer than most people realise.
You see, The Furies was the first major comic that Andy and myself first collaborated together on nearly 25 years ago, and it finally seeing print form in full is something that we've both wanted to happen for a long time. Ten chapters long and set in 2012, it's an apocalyptic tale of good, evil, and that grey area in between where most of us spend our lives, with a fair few dollops of the old ultra-violence throughout.
I personally think we're taking a gamble with this one - this is predominantly the work of two teenage creators inspired by 1980's comics, and is very different in tone and style and ability from what each of us do now. I'll freely admit that some parts of it make me cringe today but apart from a few tweaks to make it more contemporary and smooth over a couple of plot cracks it'll be published warts and all!
The other release is Bomb Scares, our first horror anthology. Also coming out for BICS, this features work from Andy and myself as well as a range of other artists and writers who have made themselves known to us over the last couple of years. Some of them are currently working on longer project's for us but a lot of the work in Bomb Scares is by very talented individuals who deserve to be recognised but just don't have the time in their already busy schedules to produce lengthier works for us - so short stories are an ideal compromise.
Anthologies seem a cormerstone of the UK comics industry these days (with Accent UK chunky yearbooks surely setting the standard) so it seemed fair time to throw Time Bomb's anthology hat into the ring as well. Horror comics have also traditionally flourished in the anthology fomat, from the notorious EC titles in the 50's and Warren's 60's and 70's monthlies to Steve Bissette's disturbing Taboo series in the 80's and 90's. Recently Accent UK's Zombies collection published a couple of years ago has been their most successful to date, so it seems comic fans love horror comics and I'm hoping they love our take on the format too!
And isn't Bomb Scares the most perfect title for a horror book from a company named Time Bomb Comics anyway?

Friday 15 May 2009

SPExpo Report

Going down to Bristol on Friday for the SPExpo, we didn’t really know what to expect. Would the split with the smaller publishers being in a separate venue make a big difference? Would the reduced numbers of tickets made available have a massive impact on footfall? Would Bristol be turned into a war zone as thousands of disgruntled fanboys rampaged through the city centre fuelled with the fury that they couldn’t just turn up and buy their tickets on the door? The answers, as it turned out, were yes, yes, and no.

The separation of the two events made a huge difference. This was no more evident than on Saturday morning when a steady line of people were queued outside the Expo’s Ramada venue in breathless anticipation whereas the SPExpo’s queue was non-existent. As us little guys were setting up our tables at SPExpo we were exchanging nervous glances, and the same question was on each of our minds: was this going to be a washout? Ninety minutes after official opening brows remained furrowed as the Mercure remained mostly empty and reports were coming in that the Ramada was packed.

Slowly however, the SPExpo kicked into gear, and whilst it may never have quite achieved the full throttle of its sister event, the SPExpo chugged steadily along in a most enjoyable fashion. The venue was wonderful. Time Bomb was in the bigger of the two rooms; a light, airy space that was only spoilt by lack of air-conditioning, that problem was sorted out once some bright spark actually enquired about switching it on. Footfall was steady throughout and those that were there seemed to enjoy themselves. Whilst never anywhere near capacity the SPExpo attendees were definitely the more discerning comics fan with much broader horizons than their spandex-devoted brethren who eye indie comics with suspicion as they scuttle past on their way to their next mainstream fix. So while numbers were low, sales were steady, and the majority of exhibitors – including us - seemed to at least cover their table costs and then some. In fact we had a more successful one day SPExpo this year than we did at the two day Comics Expo last year.

Our launch of The Sisterhood: Morningstar went well, with some good reviews already received, and sales were also brisk for Dick Turpin and the Restless Dead – quite a few sold to people who’d heard of it over the past few months and wanted to see what all the fuss was about for themselves. Several people came up to us to tell us how much they enjoyed our highwaymen versus zombies one-shot they’d picked up at BICS last year, and the smiles and anticipation when we told them about our forthcoming vampire-themed Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague one-shot were great to see.

Only one aspect of the SPExpo fell flat – the after-show party/disco which couldn’t really compete with the usual Expo Saturday night at the Ramada. Comics fans and creators are much more drinkers than dancers it seems, and after an hour at the SPExpo party we went off to the Ramada ourselves.

The SPExpo was a one-day affair, so Sunday was spent in pure comic fan mode enjoying what the main Comics Expo had to offer. The first thing that struck me was how small and cramped it all was – such a contrast to the spacious SPExpo the day before. Those indie publishers that had been lucky enough to secure a table at the Expo were in a tiny room at the arse end of everything and whilst it was good to finally catch up with Accent UK, Futurequake, Smallzone, Factor Fiction and Moonface Press they did seem in retrospect to get the grubby end of the stick, and that some of them felt they may book into the SPExpo next year instead really said it all. To be honest I had forgotten how tiring conventions could be if you’re an attendee and by mid-afternoon I was just flaked out in the bar feeling a bit knackered and missing a table to sit behind - admittedly part of this could have been due to the previous night’s extended drinking finally catching up with me!

Over the weekend probably the biggest negative was how little awareness there seemed by Comics Expo ticket holders that the SPExpo existed. Signage and directions for the SPExpo at the Ramada was few and far between, and exterior signage at the Mercure was non-existent. So over the weekend we heard tales of fans who had no idea the SPExpo was running, where it was or how to get there. Several people (including some of the pro’s) didn’t realise the SPExpo ran for just one day and so had structured their weekend to check out the Mercure on the quieter Sunday. The announcement that SPExpo 2010 will be a two-day affair will at least address the latter but the organiser’s of both really should get together and get something in place that will better drive traffic between the two venues.

Of course the whole point of both the Small Press and Comics Expo’s are comics themselves, and between the two events there were also some great new titles to be had including but certainly not limited to:

Westerns – the latest Accent UK anthology book which is up to their usual fine standard and to me their best so far.

Tim Skinner – Andy Winter’s latest which surprised me when I heard that it was turned down by Diamond and now that I’ve read it that decision has flummoxed me even more.

Cancertown – Insomnia’s much awaited graphic novel by Cy Dethan. I’ve yet to read this one but it was easily the talk of the weekend as shifting 200 units of a £14.99 graphic novel in a weekend is no mean feat!

Atrox – Giovanni Spinella’s horror anthology published through the Comics Creators Guild with a beautiful cover and some genuinely disturbing tales.

Finally, despite the niggles Mal and the Fallen Angel team really did a cracking job of organising the SPExpo with a much shorter lead time than is usual for these kind of events and Bristol 2010 is a weekend I’m already looking forward to!

Friday 1 May 2009

Countdown to SPExpo

It's been a while since I last posted. Unfortunately a good 2 weeks of April were wiped out when my laptop motherboard decided to blow up, thus ensuring that while the fault was identified and summarily repaired I had no internet access or access to any PC files, folders and applications either. This meant that a lot of things were forced to grind to a halt, but we're now back on track.

This time next week Suzanne and myself will be clambering aboard a train headed for Bristol, with the combined Comics Expo and SPExpo looming. Above is the latest promo poster about the event released by Fallen Angel, and it's good to see the Time Bomb logo utilised so well again. Obviously a full report will follow but this looks like it will be a great weekend, with lots going on and proof that the UK comics industry is far from stagnant. Both shows have been announced as being sold out, which is a first for a UK comics convention unless anyone can correct me otherwise - which should indicate a healthy attendance but could also mean that the hotel venues have been subjected to some over-zealous health and safety restrictions. I do predict though that a lot of fans will be just turning up on spec, unaware all tickets have gone and geting quite upset if they've travelled across the country only to be refused access. Hmmm, I wonder how much unwanted Expo passes are going for this week on ebay?

In Time Bomb terms we're all set for the Saturday trade, piles of The Sisterhood:Morningstar await the train journey, and our promotional postcards and t-shirts arrived last week. The Sisterhood artist Dan Barritt will have his own table at the show so that gives us a useful opportunity to double our presence - and no doubt on the Sunday I'll be roaming the Expo to try and get some more interest and sales. Or just spend it in fan mode and send Suzanne to do that.

The only sour note is that Diamond USA have rejected The Sisterhood for distribution. Given the current climate and recent Diamond decisions (Eagle-award winning Andy Winter's latest one shot was also rejected, somewhat incredulously, as well as Classical Comics' The Tempest being pulled after solicitation) it wasn't unexpected, but Diamond UK still seem interested to make the book available to UK shops so fingers crossed for that. The Sisterhood will also be available through Haven and Smallzone, so not all gloom and doom.

Submissions continue to roll in, some great, some not so much, and following Bristol we hope to make some announcements about some forthcoming projects that are now very close to being green-lit. One in particular - Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague - I completed the script for this week and has already been assigned an artist; expected sometime in 2010, Andy Dodd will naturally be providing the illustrations for a second slice of horrific historical featuring the notorious highwayman.

Finally, returning to the subject of SPExpo, if you are one of the lucky few who has secured a ticket and is coming along please make sure you drop by our table and say hello. Obviously we might give you a bit of hard-sell while you're there but much of the fun of these events comes from seeing old friends again and making new ones and enjoying all that the UK comics scene has to offer.

See you in Bristol!