There’s never been a better time to renounce the bile-flinging antics of the super-hero-obsessed message board culture, and get out there and experience the true face of the British comics community.
Saturday 20th April saw Comica Festival’s twice yearly Comiket – the comics fair that showcases the wonderful diversity of output of British publishers of the pro, micro and self varieties – arrive at a brand new venue at Central Saint Martins, part of the University of the Arts, London.
As part of my ‘Small Pressganged’ column at Broken Frontier I’ve covered the ethos of Comiket in the past, including a comprehensive report on the November 2011 event at the Bishopsgate Institute here. From a punter’s perspective, however, I can never re-iterate enough the value of events like Comiket in shining a spotlight on the quite remarkable growth of material from British small press creators over the last few years, nor the focus it gives on the plethora of publishers, and graphic novel divisions thereof, that have emerged onto the U.K. scene in recent times.
What always strikes me as being of premium significance at Comiket, though, is the sheer sense of community involved. Like the Doctor taking a new companion off in the Tardis for the very first time and experiencing the wonders of the universe through their eyes, I had brought along a chum relatively new to the world of comics for her first comics mart-style experience. And what an opportunity it was to introduce her to creators whose work she’s been enjoying, to watch admired artists at work in the live Drawing Parade (we were particularly pleased to catch Oliver East and Gary Northfield but with the likes of Stephen Collins, Mark Stafford, Neill Cameron, Dan Berry, Frazer Irving, Viviane Schwarz, Hannah Eaton and more on offer we could easily have sat there all day), and to just soak in that amazing multiplicity of styles, approaches, subject matter, and methods of narrative delivery on offer across the two rooms of the fair.
Oliver (Trains Are... Mint) East sketching in copies of his new book Swear Down at the Blank Slate table (left) and Broken Frontier's own man on the small press beat, Andy Oliver, posing with a copy of 12-year-old Zoom Rockman's energetic self-published comic The Zoom! (reviewed at BF here). Photos via Keara Stewart and Zoom Rockman.
The new locale at CSM (which had hosted a number of Comica Festival events the day before on the Friday) also offered an opportunity to expand the scope of Comiket in other directions via creator interviews in the Platform Theatre, exhibition space that included the unveiling of Dave Gibbons’s response to Roy Lichtenstein in the form of WHAAT?, and drawing competitions. Adopting a purely visitor P.O.V. it has to be said that the most tangible advantage of CSM as a site, in comparison to the Bishopsgate Institute, was in ease of circulation around the stands and tables, allowing much greater access to exhibitors and markedly reducing the stress levels of the heaving and often difficult to navigate gangways of the Bishopgate. And while the opportunities for passing trade of the former location may have been lost I imagine this would have been compensated for by that crossover captive art student dynamic of CSM.
As a consumer, then, Comiket at CSM offered a relaxed and friendly environment and a welcome opportunity to wallow indulgently in positivity towards the medium. With this year’s East London Comics and Arts Festival and BD and Comics Passion at the Institut francais imminent – and Comica Festival events now scheduled throughout the year – there’s never been a better time to renounce the bile-flinging antics of the super-hero-obsessed message board culture, and get out there and experience the true face of the British comics community.
For more on Comica Festival events check out the site here. BD and Comics Passion will be held at the Institut francais in May while ELCAF comes to York Hall, Bethnal Green this year in June. And don’t forget both the Lakes International Comics Art Festival and Thought Bubble later this year.