We are currently living through the second golden age of comics, their influence is everywhere, and never has more money been generated by this industry - whether through actual comics and books, film or TV tie-ins or the widest possible range of toys, merch and memorabilia. There are 3 big annual conventions in London, and this one (LSCC) seeks to distinguish itself by being overwhelmingly about the actual comic books and the artists and authors that make them.
I’ve read comics all through my life, from English Beano, Dandy, Viz, Commando, Starblazer and 2000AD, through French and Belgian - Adventures of Alix, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Smurfs, Tin Tin etc. through a variety of American mainstream and indy from Mad to Heavy Metal, Marvel, DC and CrossGen, through to the more mature Image, Vertigo, Top Cow, Avatar, Dynamite, IDW and Dark Horse imprints.
There used to be a time when a successful series relied on stereotypical superheroes - and mostly males, but the current breed are taking comic narratives and art onto wider and higher plains. There’s material on lesbian BDSM (Sunstone), sexual misadventures (Sex, Sex Criminals), and an enormous variety of series covering from the most mundane and low-brow to the highest level existential exploration - traversing every genre and trope, usually along a number of concurrent dimensions and often concurrent titles.
Anyhow, even though there were gangs of colourfully costumed people roaming around the ExCel venue in every direction, and other areas that the show covered, my focus was primarily on ’Artist Alley’ which featured no less than 123 gifted individuals. Living in Central London, my principal comic emporiums are Forbidden Planet, Orbital Comics and Gosh! - all withhin relatively short distance (ish) of each other - so I was pleased also to be introduced to ’A Place in Space’ (APIS)(Croydon) who had the best retail space at the show.
Anyway, onto Artist Alley - where a number of individuals caught my eye, none more significant than genuine legend and genuinely nice guy Ron Marz - who was the chief staff writer at CrossGen when I started reading his work, since then he has worked for pretty much all the major imprints and keeps turning out amazing character-led narratives of the highest order. I spoke to him briefly at this table about various titles he was working on (Ravine Vol 3 won’t be out until middle/late 2016). He has possibly new issues of his ’Shinku’ series forthcoming, as well as his ’Samurai’ series, indicating that he was still very much in love with the Japanese mythology he first worked on for CrossGen’s series ’The Path’. I had not been aware of his Samurai series and thus procured both volumes from him, he admitted that it was probably his favourite work, and it does contain his usual excellent narrative, with superb art from Luke Ross. Ron also recommended his new Jon Carter / Warlord of Mars series for Dynamite, and hinted at great things forthcoming from Dark Horse.
I actually started at the very first table of Artist Alley and watched with some bemusement the snaking queue leading up to Jonathan Ross’s table, not to take anything away from Wossy, he has done sterling work for the industry, but he hardly compares with Ron Marz who had much less traffic to his table - there’s no beating TV celebrity I suppose - Jonathan was there promoting his new Image trade paperback ’Revenge’. Yet the first artist to catch my eye was Mike Krome, best know for his cover-work for the Zenescope imprint, which was new to me at this show. Mike had some amazing prints for sale, including the above Daenerys and Khal GOT special. I told Mike I really wanted to buy an art book of his work, similar to ones I later procured from Jamie Tyndall and Sabine Rich - Mike should speak to those about how and where they got theirs printed. For now, if you are interested in Mike’s work, you can buy a number of prints also from his Etsy store. Before I spoke to Mike, I had just bought the first volume of Shahrazad from APIS - on the Big Dog Ink imprint, I picked it up because it had amazing art, funnily enough by Mike Krome himself! - and he did not even mention it ...
The second artist I took note of was Paolo Pantalena, funnily another artist associated with the Zenescope imprint. He also had a number of prints for sale - principally cover / splash visuals, he also had a sketch book, where I would have preferred a full-colour art book. One of Paolo’s standout prints was this recent one of Felicia Hardy (Black Cat) (above), from an edition of just 100. You can buy Paolo’s works from his Pant Studio site.
I next encountered Jamie Tyndall, the third artist associated with Zenescope - he was certainly more commercially astute than most, having a number of art book volumes available - I bought the three he had, he said volume 4 was being re-printed, and number 5 was imminent. Jamie had lots for sale at his table, including 2 amazing metal plate prints, including one of the above Assassin’s Creed Sisterhood visual. Most of Jamie’s output can be purchased from his eponymous website.
Another artist who had a wonderful art book on sale was Sabine Rich, the above ’Sirens’ visual also doubles as the cover art for her ’Sirens of Art’ book. Sabine is one of those extremely gifted artists who is both a great illustrator and a supreme colourist too. There are a variety of mediums employed in her book, including Copic pens, watercolours and of course digital art. I learnt a lot about the science as well as art of comic creation at this show. Traditionally, you could have as many as 6 different specialists working on a comic issue - author / narrator, layout artist / designer, penciller / line-artist, inker, colourist and letterer - with sometimes several personnel in each roll. The modern template seems to be moving more towards self sufficiency where sometimes just a single or a couple of individuals fulfil all roles. Sabine’s art is available from her Sabine Rich Art store on Storenvy.
On the subject of Colourists, two of the very best were present at the show, both great illustrators in their own right too, but most certainly the go-to favourites for top drawer colouring. I am of course referring to Ula Mos and Nei Ruffino. Both have an amazing knack of getting just the right level of detail and light, they are masters of luminosity, layering and saturation. They are in almost constant demand across the spectrum of different titles and imprints. The above Dark Shaman visual is for Zenescope, line art by Mike Krome. Ula has worked with all the above mentioned artists.
I foolishly did not spot Nei Ruffino at the show and missed out on obtaining her brand new ’Fallen Angels’ art book, which is imminently on sale on her own Organik Mechanic website. Nei Ruffino is the colourist for Shahrazad, for whom she also designed the above cover art. It seems half the artists at the show are connected with each other, and a large part at this show were connected with Zensescope Entertainment. You should also look out for Nei’s own series - the much lauded ’The Secret Life of Crows’.
Another big presence at the show was exclusive-to-Marvel artist Mark Brooks, best associated with work on Spider-Man, X-Men, and most recently Young Avengers. He produced the above Black Cat Copic pen sketch live at the show!
Eisner award-winner Cameron Stewart had some amazing prints for sale, including the above work ’Lizard’. You can view his award-winnig digital comic at Sin Titulo Comic, prints are available from his Big Cartel store.
I must not forget to mention Kieron Gillen either of ’Uber’ and ’The Wicked + Divine’ fame, both series which I’m enjoying enormously, both feature bold vibrant art, like the above page from Wicked + Divine by artist Jamie McKelvie.
I came away from the show particularly inspired about all forms of comic book art, and was encouraged to investigate further the output of Zenescope especially, which for me was the big winner at the show, also Big Dog Ink (for Shahrazad etc.), Ellipsium Entertainment, Roughcut Comics and Pilot Comic Anthology. I’m also determined to make this show a regular feature in my calendar. You need to take plenty of cash with you, as the artists don’t take credit cards, in fact only very few of the retailers at the show accept plastic.