DERRY DIARY

Right. Derry’s 2D comic convention. Overall impressions, very favourable. Small, yes, but well attended and enthusiastically managed throughout. Finding its feet, yes, but quickly shaping up into a very nice event indeed. But let’s rewind. For those of you not glued to my each and every blog entry, 2D was a three-day event staged at Derry’s Visual Arts Centre (VAC) and Sandino’s bar (more on that later). In attendance, guest-wise, myself, Garry Leach (Miracleman), John McCrea (Punisher), Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Will Simpson (Vamps), Kev Sutherland (Beano), Mike Collins (Dr Who), Rufus Dayglo (2000 AD) and PJ Holden (2000 AD). Nice, varied line-up. Days one and two were aimed more at schools with day three (the Saturday) open to the public at large. The first day (Thursday), most of us guests were still en route to Derry. Kev Sutherland was the sole creator on duty on that day and his travelling comics masterclass the order of business. The rest of us made a brief appearance that evening as competition prizes were being doled out to students who’d created their own comics strips (a gallery of which were displayed in the VAC, along with many pieces of gorgeous full colour art from Will Simpson). Nothing much else was expected or demanded of us on day one other than eating and drinking (the latter at the aforementioned Sandinos bar). We duly obliged. Being a canny convention organizer, VAC’s artist in residence David Campbell supplied us with ‘beer tokens’ to ‘spend’ at Sandinos (a partner in the whole convention weekend). The look in the eyes of the creators (mine own included) as these were passed out was akin to biblical awe, proving just how shallow and easily bought we comics professionals are. The next day (Friday), we were on duty at the VAC from the get-go. By this point we’d got our bearings and realized that Derry, while undeniably impressive to look at with its inner walled city, was not as big as we’d thought, and we could easily stroll to the VAC from our B&B (where before we’d been piling into taxis). Anyway, first talk/workshop of the day was loosely titled ‘character design’ and after a few stumbling sentences from my fellow professionals and I we just sat back and let the kids draw. Actually, we wandered around and passed on what we hoped were useful tidbits of advice, while trying desperately to decipher the local accent (and often failing). Lunch was followed by another talk/workshop, this one entitled ‘working from a script.’ I led this one off by running a Powerpoint presentation I’d put together with artist Nick Roche for a previous convention in Belfast. This charted the evolution of a page (from Transformers Spotlight: Shockwave) from plot to script to thumbnails to pencils to inks and colour/lettering (for those versed in IDW Transformers and remotely interested, the featured page was the one with mammoths on it). Without Nick in attendance, Garry, John, Charlie and others offered commentary on some of the more art-centric stages of the presentation. That done, the kids got down and drew again, this time fashioning (with varying degrees of commitment) a page of comic strip. By 5PM the (school) day was done, and after stuffing a pizza down our necks it was on to Sandinos for the evening events (naturally attended by those of an older age bracket). Two discussion/Q&A panels were scheduled: ‘working with licensed properties’ and ‘breaking into comics’. I compered the ‘breaking into comics’ panel and then sat in on the ‘licensed’ panel (naturally enough). Setting the whole thing in an (upstairs) bar with plenty of (beer token-friendly) lubrication was a stroke of genius. The discussion, er, flowed with a good-natured ease, featuring much hilarity and general subversiveness. I think everyone, guests and creators enjoyed the evening. This all wrapped up around 9PM, after which we all headed downstairs for the rest of the evening. It was packed, and from then forwards Sandinos was re-named Sardinos. Saturday dawned with a few sore heads. Thankfully, we weren’t on duty until 1PM, so there was a recovery period in which some of us prowled the city walls (in a sightseeing kind of way). The afternoon was spent at VAC, meeting and greeting those who’d turned out to see us (more than any of us had expected). The artists sketched furiously, while I sat serene and signed any copies of Transformers thrust at me and reviewed a few portfolios. That done, it was back to Sandinos for the evening session of panels. This time the general topics, though we strayed from these often into digressions (rants), were ‘the state of the comics industry’ and ‘comics to movies.’ I compered both panels this time, though took pains to drop the upcoming Transformers movie into the proceedings at every opportunity. Other than a (verbal) wrestle with a persistent heckler and damaged eardrums from Kev Sutherland booming in my ear via a microphone, things went exceptionally well. The evening/weekend wrapped up with an extended session in Sandinos’ upstairs nightclub, and then it was home (for most of us) the next day. I have to admit, I went to Derry with some foreboding (and a sense that I really should have stayed home and finished the script for Terminator Infinity #3, which had, by that point, run late). I felt at best it might be disorganzied and at worst desolate (in terms of attendance). I couldn’t have been more wrong. The whole event ran like clockwork, and yet there was never a sense of being herded here and there, and plenty of people (of all ages) turned out for all the events. Credit to the organizers, in particular David Campbell and Aisleain McGill, for pulling together a very unique and well-rounded/thought out weekend of comics and chat. The whole thing had an air of a relaxed social gathering, making it somehow less wearing than most conventions. All I can say is, if you can make it Derry next year (as the next event is already on the way to being scheduled), do so. It’s a classy event, with something for everyone (though they really need to bring in more dealers!) and I imagine it will just get bigger and better. I’m looking forward to it already.

6 Responses to DERRY DIARY

  1. Hello Simon,

    Cheers for the positive reports on our small (but perfectly formed) 2D Comics Festival. I’m sure I speak for everyone here – both attendees and organisers alike – that we vastly appreciate you and your fellow compatriots making a showing and bringing to the city/town/village (?) a weekend of comics, culture and craic!

    We hope you all collectively observed that there is a healthy appetite (and thirst) for the Comics Industry in general in this (arguably remote) part of the world. All here were very happy to get to meet, chat (and have a laugh) with those who are at the top of their game, in an industry that we consider to be alive and very, very well, thanks to the motivation, enthusiasm and professionalism of all the guests who attended.

    Roll On 3D!

  2. Orin Thomas says:

    Enjoyed the really long entry. Good to know you can be bought with beer tokens!

  3. Emma says:

    Hi Simon,

    Glad to hear you had such a good time in Derry. It was an absolute pleasure to meet you. Looking forward to next year!

    Emma x

  4. bassbot says:

    hey Simon, what will you be doing when the TF movie comes out?
    Just working? In the UK or US?

  5. simon furman says:

    Hi Bassbot,

    I’m not sure where I’ll be. Funnily enough, I think I’ll be in UK when the movie opens in America and in America when the film opens in the UK! Hopefully I can snag an advance screening at some point.

  6. simon furman says:

    Hi Emma,

    Great to meet you too. Already looking forward to next year’s Con.

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