COMIC CHARACTERS INVADE BIRMINGHAM
By Ann Evans
Photos by Rob Tysall of Tysall’s Photography
It was a battle of the super heroes. Judge Dredd, Iron Man, Hawkeye and many more heroes and villains from Marvel Comics went head to head with DC characters Batman, Cat Woman, the Riddler and Green Arrow and more
The ferocious battle – which actually went no further than growls and grimaces, took place at Edgbaston Cricket Club in April at the inaugural Birmingham Comic Festival organised by authors Victor Wright of Geeky Comics and Steve Tanner of Time Bomb Comics.
To say it was a success is putting it mildly. More than 2,000 people of all ages flocked to the event held in April, which saw a host of talented comic book writers and artists from the UK, Europe and the USA descending on the city. Amongst them, Italian artist Lucio Parrillo, who has produced art for several Marvel titles including The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Deadpool and Thor. And New York Times best selling American author and multiple Bram Stoker award winning author, Jonathan Mayberry. Plus dozens more fantastic writers and artists of Marvel, DC and other comic publications and films.
More than 100 exhibitors took part, displaying a diverse range of publications, rare books, original art, jewellery and merchandise. There were competitions, panel discussions and interviews. You could even have your photo taken on the Simpson’s sofa. And for those who love their comic characters to the extreme, cosplayers were in abundance in full regalia dressed as their favourite character.
I’m always fascinated by craft artists who create their own unique fashion accessories based around their favourite comic characters, and was stopped in my tracks at the first stand where Cat Woman and Captain America were displaying their wares.
In fact it was Jesse Leese and her mum who told me, “It’s called Geeky Jewellery and it’s acrylic. I design it on the computer and then cut it out of acrylic sheets. I used to work at an auction house in the jewellery quarter of Birmingham so having that back ground plus being inspired by comic characters has led me to making this.”
The atmosphere of the event was great fun, with the cosplayers not just dressing like heroes and villains, but acting like them too. And throughout our chat with Jesse, a large and scary character known as Bane from the Batman comics was lurking nearby. Then there were a couple of hooded, shiny-eyed Jawas, as seen in Star Wars films who were particularly authentic, causing mischief and mayhem throughout the day.
The organisers had catered really well for indi authors, publishers and illustrators. It was a great opportunity to chat to these talented artists and find out how they got into writing and drawing. As for the art itself, some of it was truly spectacular with many excelling in the sci fi, fantasy and horror genres.
We stopped to talk to a variety of artists, such as A S Charles who describes his books as urban fantasy meets Film Noir with a dose of humour thrown in. He said that he’s been writing since childhood and first published in 2012.
We enjoyed an entertaining chat with Scottish writer James McCulloch and artist Janine Van Moosel who work together on creating a wide selection of very dark and horrific books.
Chris Sides and Chris Travell chatted to us about their indi publishing business, Red Shift Press which has been producing their own books since 2009.
Another writer and artist team were Sam Roads and Kat Nicholson who were launching ‘A Better Tomorrow’ – a Silicon Heart graphic novel.
An eye catching demonstration going on was The Body Paint project which is voluntary non profit organisation. They run three projects throughout the UK. One in the South East, one in the Midlands and one in the North West. The idea is for artists, models and photographers to work together, learning from each other, sharing knowledge and getting experience whether it’s with face and body painting, modelling or photography.
A spokesperson for the project said: “It’s people of difference ages and different backgrounds and it gives everyone the opportunity to do these things and learn more. It’s also confidence building and it’s in a safe environment. We set a theme such as super heroes or mystical creatures and it’s amazing what they come up with.”
A number of the cosplayers and the exhibitors were also raising money for charity. Duff Man and his wife Jill, who works on the cancer ward of a local hospital were inviting people to have their photograph taken on the Simpson’s sofa with giant-sized Simpson characters in aid of Cancer Research.
And then there was the Judge Dredd Drinking Society – who were partaking of some liquid refreshment, who were there raising money for Dogs Trust.
It was altogether a fantastic day, and a lot of people will be looking forward to Victor Wright and Steve Tanner’s next Birmingham Comic Festival – including myself and photographer Rob Tysall.