Monday, 20 June 2016

Hull ComicCon 2016




Hull.  

At the end of the M62. Massive bridge. My in-laws live there. The 2017 European City of Culture too apparently. Not sure what happens with that if we leave the European Union.

The second Hull Comic Con was great though, just great. A one day con, just the Saturday. Probably the friendliest convention I've ever been to. I was a guest last year too, for the inaugural event, and it was pretty great then, especially for a first time con. This year the organisers built on that, using the same venue (The “Asylum” at Hull University, what a fantastic name for a comic con venue) but expanded the space they used, spreading it out over three floors.

Hull Comic Con 2016 cosplay
Cosplay!
The ground floor had all the merchandising tables and the TV and Film guests, Trevor and Simon were there with Sophie Aldred promoting their FREE audio sci-fi series Strangeness in Space. I haven't had chance to listen to it yet, but there's no excuse really is there? It's free, it's funny and it's science fiction. John Challis and Hull's very own Jon Campling was there along with his tremendous hair.

The first floor was the Retro Game floor although I never actually visited it. My brother-in-law Keegan was very kindly helping me out and he paid it a visit. It had Retro Games. 


The comic guests were on the second floor, a little out of the way, but to be fair last year the lighting downstairs had been quite murky and they put the artists next to a big window so the lighting was good. Several comic guests, so more than a lot of cons lately! Russ Leach, Lee Sullivan, Rachael Smith and Adam Cheal were some of those up there with me, conveniently opposite the room where I was giving a talk on Jack Kirby later. Initial worries that it was going to be quiet soon disappeared and it got absolutely packed later in the day, with apparently six times as many people coming compared to the previous year and a healthy turn out for my talk.

There were loads of talks too, three rooms worth, so at any one time there were two or three talks/photoshoots going on. The one on Jack Kirby was the best obviously, anyone fortunate enough to hear it was also treated to a rendition of the “Jack Kirby” rap from the Illus alum KABOOM!. LD Wilkinson put a nice photo of me giving the talk on Twitter-
Russell Payne
Jack Kirby talk at Hull Comic Con


I had a few unusual requests for quick sketches. One person asked for a “kawaii Hitler”, which I think means “a cute Hitler”. What would you do with a sketch of Hitler looking cute? Someone else wanted a sketch of an invisible Deadpool. So I just gave them a piece of paper, and they gave me £3. Odd.

As things were winding up, Simon Hickson (the one from Trevor and Simon that isn't Trevor) popped up to say Hi, probably not specifically to see me as Lee Sullivan on the table next to me was doing some work with him. Always weird meeting people whose work you admire, but he was a really nice guy and insisted on paying for one of my prints despite my best attempts to give it him. And he had a nice hat. I only mentioned it a couple of paragraphs ago, but since you probably didn't bother clicking on the link, I'm going to try again - do check out his FREE audio sci-fi series Strangeness in Space.


Keegan manning my table

The after-show party was easily the best I've ever been to. No exaggeration. I'm aware this is all very positive, but hey, I had a good time. I often enjoy the bits after a convention more than the convention itself, whether its just chatting in the bar or something more, but District 14 went the extra mile with this. There was the usual disco and charity raffle, which was fine, but they also had three events on stage, and they were all absolutely stellar quality, I'd have happily paid to see any one of them. With theatre style seating so you could buy a drink form the bar, and then find a seat in front of the stage to take it all in. First up was legendary comiccon quizmaster Tony Hitchman doing a talk/quiz on Gorillas in comics (Ape Escapism). A journey through various bizarre Gorilla based comics, covering Super-Intelligent Gorillas, Alien Gorillas, Nazi Gorillas and of course Gorillas playing baseball. 

Tony Hitchman
Tony Hitchman's "Ape Escapism" Quiz

Tony threw bananas at the audience to reward correct answers, and engraved trophies were awarded at the end. Coming third was one of the proudest achievements of my career.

Very proud. 3rd Prize.

Following Tony, actor and skilled raconteur Simon Fisher-Becker performed a slightly condensed version of his one-man show “My Dalek Has Another Puncture”. Simon has toured with this, his second show in a trilogy I think, (the first was My Dalek Has A Puncture! The last is “Let Zygons be Zygons”!!). Concentrating mostly on his role as Dorium Maldovar in Dr Who, accompanied by slides, it was a fantastic, fascinating, honest and often quite touching autobiographical/anecdotal journey. You can buy Simon's book here.

At this point I would have left feeling like it was a great night out, but then Norman Lovett did an hour's stand-up. I've seen Norman's stand up a few times, and his meandering audience interaction is masterful. I'm not sure he told a single actual joke, but it was very, very funny. A master at work.

@skaromedia did the charity raffle with aplomb. Mysteriously, the Dr Who canvas from Russ Leach and Adam Cheal's Graphic Novels were chosen by the winners before my framed original art. Must have been the poor lighting in the bar......

Add a cheap bar and pizza to this and you can see why it scored so highly. Awesome.

I also got to pick up some of Tony Hitchman's 4 page black and white comics, another blast from the past and exactly the sort of thing I don't see nearly enough of at comic cons anymore....

Tony Hitchman


Thanks to Keegan for helping me out and to all the con staff for looking after us. Enormous congratulations and thanks to the organisers District 14, and masterplanner Steve Bowman for doing such an exceptional job, I don't think I've ever enjoyed a comic convention quite as much as I did this one. Looking forward to seeing what they do next.... Find out yourself at Bridcon in October! If you live anywhere near Bridlington, I imagine that'll be great fun too.



Monday, 6 June 2016

Swindon Comic Con 2016 review

Swindon Comic Con 2016



Swindon Comic Con scored points for me this weekend for having what I think was the most unusual venue for a comic convention I've ever been a guest at. It was held in the STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway in Swindon. So I spent the last two days sitting in front a beautiful old Great Western Railway Class 4072 Train. If you happened to be a TV/Film buff, a comic fan, AND a train enthusiast, then this was a pretty great weekend out!




Great Western Railway Class 4072


Drove down with Marvel/DC cover artist John Watson early Saturday morning. When I say early I mean obscenely early, I got up at 3am, picked up John just after 4am and by 8:30am we were negotiating the baffling roundabouts of Swindon. The journey was a good excuse to discuss (argue) about the book we're writing together, and I brought up some really good, sane and relevant points about plot and characters that John is now taking on board.

For Swindon, I'd bought a particularly terrible pair of shoes, but fortunately the car park was quite near the venue, so I made it there before they fell apart..



I spent all day Saturday behind my table chatting to people, sitting between author Graeme Reynolds and John Watson and opposite artist and writer Grant Perkins, selling prints and doing sketches. John Watson gets very irritated when I sketch, as he spends an hour doing a gorgeous, photorealistic, tonal drawing for people, while I do a quick sketch that he says “looks like a monkey drew it.” I try and rise above this harsh criticism and spread a little joy with my art. Look at all these happy people-

Flash and Deadfall comiccon sketch by Russell Payne

Deadpool and Batman comic sketch by Russell Payne

Tom Baker Comicon Sketch by Russell Payne


Chatted and met some fascinating people, one that sticks in my mind is children's entertainer Jacko and his puppet Nunkey (I'm presuming that's the right way round). He wandered round terrifying everyone with a loud horn and was easily the most enthusiastic dancer at the after party that night.

Jacko and Nunkie


On Saturday night the after show party was hosted by Stu Arnold a Keith Lemon/Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator (no, seriously...) and had all manner of bizarre things going on.



You had to be there really..... but I had a lovely time chatting to some of the other guests- Martin Griffiths, Graeme Reynolds, Dave McCluskey, Grant Perkins and their partners. The organisers put on food (vegetarian option too, nice one) and there was plenty going on. A reoccurring theme of this one - there was always lots going on, you got your money's worth with Swindon Comic Con.


Trying to find our way home proved a challenge, we dropped Graeme, his wife and his newly acquired Stormtrooper suit off and me, John and Dave McCluskey  parked back at the STEAM museum so we could walk from there back to the hotel. Unfortunately, the only way we knew back to the hotel, the tunnel under the railway line, was locked and gated by now so we all went on a confused midnight ramble around the A-roads of Swindon. It was funny for the first half hour but after a while I started to get worried we'd be sleeping on a roundabout and foraging for berries. My cheap shoes barely made it. We did eventually go in one very large circle, find the car again and just drove to a sidestreet nearer the hotel. Dave left to get assaulted by hen parties and we went back to the Holiday Inn.

In the hotel bar John Watson and I bumped into the multi-talented actor and creature performer Paul Warren and we stayed up having a great chat about movies, what a nice guy! Well worth missing sleeping for.

Sunday was busy too, so again didn't really leave my table, and continued to irritate John by drawing sketches for people. On the one occasion I did leave my table, I came back to find John had hidden my pencil, but I came prepared, I brought a spare and was able to make some more people happy with my quick sketches. Thanks to everyone who came by and said hello! Special thanks to Chris who came over and remembered when I used to write for the BBC Shropshire, he knew stuff I'd written that I didn't!

John Watson Swindon Comic Con
He's about to hide my pencil


So a pretty great convention, very busy, loved the venue. I did come home to a guy on Twitter saying- “we had a 'comic' con in Swindon yesterday where there were no comic related guests, but were instead tv 'celebs' like a chaser.” which was a little unfair.



I've read a lot of criticism lately about UK comic conventions with no actual comic content, and generally, it's fair comment. There are a hardcore few comicons left that still do actually cater specifically to comicbook fans, with UK and international comic artists and writers. All organised by people who love comic books - like London's LSCC, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Leeds Thoughtbubble and Bedford's NICE comic expo, but a lot of recent ones have next to no comic content – no comic artists or writers as guests, no sign of any comics to buy. Many so-called UK “comic conventions” in the last few years have been more about TV and Film than comics. The worst ones are more like craft fairs.

To be fair to Swindon though, it did have a Comic Zone with several comic guests and there were a few decent sized tables selling nothing but comics. The emphasis was still more on the film and TV stars, props and merchandise, but the organisers also tried a lot of quite original things, they had a really eclectic guest list, easily the most eclectic guest list I have ever seen РEddie the Eagle, Zammo from Grange Hill, Boycie & Marlene from Only Fools & Horses, Eddie Kidd, quite a few of the Red Dwarf cast, Andrew Lee Potts, Hannah Spearritt....sports, TV, film,wrestling & special effects guests... Youtube stars, cosplayers, authors, illustrators, movie props & cars. Giant inflatables, Britains Got Talent performers, daleks and animatronic dinosaurs. So if you wanted a good day out with your family, I know it's a clich̩, but Swindon really did have something for everyone.

Actually Zammo cancelled, but to be fair he is well known for 'just saying no'.

Massive thanks to the organisers Luke, Mark and Nathan for doing such a great job of organising a unique convention and for looking after all the guests so well, looking forward to seeing what they come up with next year!
Green Arrow cosplay swindon comic con


cosplay swindon


See John Watson's blog for his wildly inaccurate version of events.


Monday, 16 May 2016

Hollywood Comes to Blackpool - May 2016

russell payne
Russell Payne at "Hollywood Comes to Blackpool"

Just back from POD Event's "Hollywood Comes to Blackpool" at the Norbreck Castle Hotel's Norcalympia. Had a great time, the organisers really looked after the guests, it's the little things that count- I was asked constantly if I needed anything, people brought me water, coffee and biscuits, I was given cake and they even gave each guest a nice engraved award. Ten out of ten for being good hosts, thank you to Neil, Amanda and all the POD staff and helpers. The event was not a comicon as such, but the majority of comicons aren't really comic cons nowadays, this was more accurately billed as a "Film, TV and Comic experience" and was raising funds for charity.....although ironically it had more comics on sale there there than I've seen at many comicons.

This was officially the nearest convention I've ever been a guest at. I often drive 5 or 6 hours to a con, but I can see the Norbreck Castle from my bedroom window. I was there in less than five minutes. It was sponsored by Dominoes, so I also had the slightly odd experience of ordering a pizza the day before and having it delivered with a flyer that had my face on it.



norbreck castle norcalympia
The Norcalympia


Sat with me and fellow local John Watson (also currently co-writing a book with me) in guest alley were actors Michael Henbury, Sandeep Mohan and Phil Hodges, and voice talent Marc Silk. All nice people, Marc was particularly good fun. His CV includes an astonishing number of characters - Aks Moe in Star Wars, Johnny Bravo, Scooby Doo, Pingu.... so he's good value for money - like having 53 guests in one. I did a panel with Marc and we all just sat back while he taught the audience how to speak like Scooby Doo.

Marc Silk
Marc Silk voice actor extraordinaire
Scooby-Dooby-dooooo!
Michael Henbury
Michael Henbury (Labyrinth, Willow, Return of the Jedi)

Michael had been in loads of classic movies, Sandeep had (among other things) recently played a Stormtrooper in the Star Wars:The Force Awakens movie and Phil not only had an epic moustache but is also an X-Wing pilot and an Archeologist. So there was plenty to chat about.

John and I were sketching for charity, and had a range of unusual requests. John was asking a minimum donation of £10, I was asking for £5 - some might say this means John is twice as good at drawing as me, this is clearly not true... John is actually 1000 times better at drawing than I am, but if I charged 1p per drawing then it wouldn't have raised much cash! I drew an elephant holding a sabre for someone that was going to present the drawing to Princess Beatrice (!), someone else asked me to draw their dog and quite a few cosplayers asked me to draw them in costume. One guy got me and John to both draw Anime characters for him, then left without paying, annoying. Everyone else paid up though, so we made a bit for charity which is always good. And Princess Beatrice gets a nice drawing of an elephant, hope she likes it.....

Russell Payne Ghost Rider Cosplay


Artist John Watson Russell Payne

captain america cosplay


I'd just had a particularly short haircut so was trying to avoid sitting under any bright lights, it's difficult looking down and drawing without showing everyone your thinning hair. I think some people thought I was cosplaying as Cadfael. As usual, I spent most of the day behind a table, so didn't really get chance to look round, but there was plenty going on - Jedi Academy sessions teaching kids how to use lightsabers, photoshoots with green screens, movie showings, cosplay competitions, charity auctions, model displays and loads of trade stalls.

russellpayne

The event wasn't as packed as it could have been, but it's always difficult getting word out for a first time event, and everyone that did go had a good time. All went smoothly and the guys who did the MCing (Kerry King Neale as Ursula from the Little Mermaid and Chris Kemp as the Riddler) did a fantastic job of holding it all together, working all day long doing Q&As, cosplay announcements and general enthusing.

cosplay superman supergirl wonderwoman spiderman cat woman


The music was great too, at one point they played the theme from the old Monkey TV show- "Monkey Magic". Ace. Hopefully POD can build on this year's success with their future events. As long as they have some more free cake, I'm in.

(Thanks to Darrell Till for taking photos and generally helping out!)

(left to right) Phil Hodges, Darrell Till & Sandeep Mohan

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Writing a book: Part One, Revelation

Here's a revelation. I'm nearly finished writing the first in a series of novels, co -authored with John Watson, who you may know from his work on the X-Men and Marvel's Civil War:Frontline series.

Why? I hear you ask. Why are you writing a book with an artist? Isn't that a bit like asking a gardener to do some plastering? Or ringing up Halford's for recipe ideas? I'll tell you. It's a long and fascinating story.

Well it's long.

It's been quite a few years in the making, so this is the first in a series of posts giving a blow by blow account of the lengthy, often painful journey from inception to completion. John is writing his own wildly inaccurate version of events on his own blog, so you can have fun spotting all the discrepancies. As a general rule, I'm right.

A beginning is a very delicate time”


About 9 years ago John asked me to write a comic with him. I'd collaborated before, but mostly with screenwriting, and I knew how difficult the process could be. A little difficult for me relinquishing control, but mostly difficult for the other person.

I don't play well with others.

Writing anything is such a personal battle against yourself, and such a complex tapestry of interconnected things, like most writers I enjoy writing only when the process is over, and it's best to stay out of my way before then. I find that most readers, even the fans, (not you obviously, the other ones) don't even pick up on the point of half the things I write, so the thought of someone else getting involved in the creative process who couldn't possibly understand the complexity of my narrative is an anathema to me.

On the other hand It's also unusual to find a collaborator that you can have an honest dialogue with. So much of the creative industry is plagued by sycophancy and I had no time to waste with someone who would do nothing but say how fantastic my writing and everything else I do is. I don't need someone to fulfil that role, I have my Mother. In that sense, John is the perfect collaborator, he has exacting standards and is as critical with others work as he is his own. I'd like to take this opportunity to say what a pleasure it has been working with John and how easy it has made the process of writing. I'd like to, but I can't. More on that later.

9 years ago I was freelance writing in my spare time, while working 9 to 5 for the government. Fortunately the unique structure of the British Civil Service meant that I had a lot of spare time during the day to write as well, often fitting in a much as 6 hours writing into a standard 8 hour day. The other 2 hours were my lunch break. This allowed for me to drive to John's at least once a week and chat about the comic during lunch, then drive back to work and write.


The Inferior Five


Aside from John's singular obsession with Aqua Lad, we like (and dislike) a lot of the same things in comics, Kirby, Toth, Adams, Romita. Many hours were spent creating a definitive spreadsheet of the “top 50 comic artists of all time”. I think aside from Don Newton and Kevin O'Neill we agreed on just about everyone. We also found we had a shared appreciation of the relatively obscure DC humour comic “The Inferior Five”, so we had a few chats about the direction we wanted it to take if we wrote a comeback for those characters. I'd written mostly comedy before, so was significantly happier writing something comedic rather than your usual superhero fare.

I went away and wrote a script for the first issue and a synopsis for the next five. It was mostly parody, picking at current storylines like Infinite Crisis, Civil War and Secret Invasion. You can read the full "Inferior Crisis" script here. I wanted to try something a bit new, a humour comic with proper jokes within the plot and situations, not just funny visuals and one liners. The world's first “Sit-Comic”. In my objective opinion, it was one of the greatest comics ever written. John drew up a few of the pages, they were pretty great too. Don't take my word for it, here's a few of them, hastily lettered by me just now to give you an idea of what might have been-








DC Editor Mike Carlin took one look at the idea and although he obviously could see the sublime talent behind it, told us that DC just didn't do humour comics anymore, so passed on commissioning it. Possibly a commercially wise move, the comic did revolve around an inflatable man battling a giant budgie, but disappointing after all the work we put in. In hindsight, it was a classic rookie mistake, developing a series using characters other people own.


Randomers


So the next logical, obvious step was - develop our own series. I adapted the Inferior Five script, but altered the characters. In some cases obvious rip-offs, in others we came up with new stuff. We called it “The Randomers”. Still a sit-comic, but slightly more grounded in reality than the Inferior Five. Ideas came and went. After many long chats we both decided we may as well go the whole hog and design a team from scratch rather than base it on existing DC characters, so we kept the name “The Randomers” and I wrote a new script with no inflatable men or giant budgies. It was progress. Version 3 and it was still a comic, with me writing and John drawing. This time though John had much more input into the writing, I used characters he suggested, and we spent time discussing their motivations, their personalities and how it all worked into the new plot. It was a constant process of distillation and refining. Barely anything of the original Inferior Five plot or characters remained, but when some really good was in there, I tried to keep it in. In theory, the longer we spent on this, the better it would get.

John drew up some character designs. One he did of “The Fifth Dimension” with Kirby Krackle running diagonally across the centre was particularly nice. It was starting to be a true collaboration, like comics should be but often aren't. With most modern comics the writer and artist never meet each other, often barely speak to each other if at all, and the end result suffers because of it. I wanted to do a comic where it all came together as a cohesive whole, like comics at their best can be. John was now having much more input, throwing in ideas, characters, changes, it was a proper back and forth and I could see something potentially special starting to form.

The comedy was still in there, one of John's character - “Johnny Zebra” was a gangster with the head of a zebra. In one scene he was battling “Captain A” a Czechoslovakian character. Johnny asked the Captain why he continued to persecute him and broke John Cleese's three rules of comedy and had him reply -

Because Czechs don't go with stripes.”

The merits/failings of that sublime pun were the topic of much discussion over the next few months and are probably representative of an ongoing battle – I think we're writing a comedy, John doesn't.

We had a few issues planned out and started planning covers, basing characters on people we know. We even had some photo pages mocked up in photoshop and plans for romance issues and even an issue entirely in Czech. There were t-shirts, songs, videos planned. We were going to take over the world.




In my excitement I registered a domain – therandomers.co.uk. This was in October 2009. In hindsight, not the best use of my money. In our heads it would all be ready for 2010, published by Marvel or DC the same year depending on who won the bidding war, and the film adaptation would probably be in cinemas by 2011. I'd pencilled in Chris Hemsworth to play me, with Danny Devito playing John. We still had a long way to go. The next step was a big one though, seismic, we had a revelation about the state of the industry and what we both really enjoyed creatively and it changed the whole direction of the project - dropping the comics part altogether and re-writing the Randomers …..as a novel.

Find out how that happened in part 2.



Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Supercharge colouring

Some colouring and titles I did on a Trevor Von Eeden Pin Up recently for the mighty nice people at Mighty Good Friends.





Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Hollywood Comes to Blackpool

I'm a guest at the "Hollywood Comes to Blackpool - Film, TV and Comic Experience" this May the 14th. Yep, just 4 weeks time. I never do events this near to where I live, so it'll be a nice change to just pop down the road instead of driving for 5 hours and staying in a hotel. See the Facebook link below for more info.

Fellow local and Marvel/DC/IDW artist John Watson will be a guest too, as well as some actors from the latest Star Wars:The Force Awakens movie, a Jedi Academy for kids and all sorts of other stuff, it sounds pretty good!

I'll be sketching and signing on the day and selling a few signed books and prints, so if you live anywhere near Blackpool, come down and say Hi. Tickets prices are low and it's for a good cause.




 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Fightin' Iris colouring

New story, new characters. Drawn by the tremendous Trevor Von Eedon. Coloured & lettered by the resonant Russel Payne. Part of a planned multi-feature issue, "Anthological".

Posted by Mighty Good Friends on Saturday, 22 August 2015