Neill's Mo-Bot High comic reads well for kids and adults alike; it features a girl named Asha who starts at a new school and discovers all the kids have apps in their mobile phones which enable them to fight illicit giant robot tournaments. Asha's thrown in at the deep end as she walks into the schoolyard and her phone automatically downloads the programme; she has to battle for her life against the school bullies' robots (with no idea of the strange role the dinner ladies play in all of this). Find out more about Mo-Bot High and see Neill and I battle it out in a London school. Neill's based in Oxford, and starting to get active in school events, where the kids go crazy over his live drawing and robots. Speaking of which, the marvellous Etherington Brothers, of Monkey Nuts renown, are also the most charismatic events people on the planet and were buzzing with energy at BICS.
Neill Cameron, FPI reviewer Richard Bruton, Lorenzo Etherington, Robin Etherington
And I got to meet Simon Tofield, creator of Simon's Cat animations and cartoon books. Hurrah!
Always great to see Jason Cobley, writer of the DFC's Frontier strip (illustrated by Andrew Wildman). And I was chuffed to see Sammy Borras come up to my signing table with a homemade Vern and Lettuce coffee mug.
Jason Cobley, Sammy Borras (mangazebra)
Thanks so much to organiser Shane Chebsey for setting me up with a signing session! I needed to go to Cheltenham in the afternoon for another festival, so I couldn't manage working a table, so I was incredibly grateful to Shane for the morning slot.
Overall, I was so glad to be at BICS, catching up with people was lovely (if rushed). But I'd forgotten just how male and hard-core superhero/2000AD the crowd there is, so my signing session was a bit odd and filled with tumbleweed moments. At the signing event, I sat next to a very nice artist named Mahmud A Asrar who had an enormous queue of people - all men - waiting for him to draw them pictures. But they didn't seem to be the rather jolly crowd I know from indie comics, they were fairly stony-faced and not even particularly fanboyish about Mahmud's work, just putting in orders, like they were going to turn around and sell the picture on Ebay. I could be getting it totally wrong, but I couldn't help thinking, these aren't my people. Even when they were bored and standing around waiting, their gazes didn't even flicker to my books. Which I find weird, because I would have at least idly looked at anyone's work if I was just standing there. I saw two girls go by that I thought might be better candidates, but when I greeted them, they just stared at me; one of them said, disdainfully, 'We only read Death Note'. Ah.
I sold about two comic books to adults at the table, but a lot more picture books to people who had kids in tow. I did much better after I'd packed up and was walking around talking to people; a lot of them snagged me to buy a copy of Vern and Lettuce, but it wasn't the easiest gig I've ever done. I wish the festival had more female-friendly and kid-friendly material; I think I did much better when I had a table where dads could come and have their kids do a craft activity for 20 minutes or so. Note to self. Still, lovely to see everyone, and a big thanks to the organisers for all your very hard work! And for inviting me!
Edit: Having said it was such a male crowd, I did pick up a lovely cardboard-bound book by recent art-school graduate Jane McGuinness, a charcoal-illustrated orkney folk ballad called The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry. And I got a very promising looking mini comic from Beano artist and DFC contributor Laura Howell, titled The Bizarre Adventures of Gilbert & Sullivan: Vol 1, 'Crime and Punishment'. I caught a glimpse of Oscar Wilde on the first couple pages, look forward to reading this one. Besides those two books, I picked up a copy of Lorenzo Etherington's Deluxe Collection sketchbook, Simon's Cat: beyond the fence by Simon Tofield and Brave Ewe World by Tpcat, a rather strange and lovely sheep comic I thought I could give to Vern when I got back home.
Edit 2: And speaking of stuff for kids, a kids area is what I'll be doing at Thought Bubble in Leeds on 20 Nov! Hope to see you there! Gillian Rogerson (writer of You Can't Eat a Princess!) and I will be setting up our big Space Station: fun for the whole family ...lots of tentacles, googly eyes, drawing, general alien mayhem.
Diary note: Monster making for kids on Mon, 25 Oct, 3pm in the Children's Section of Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road! They're putting on two days of events called Fearfest, which should be great fun. Do come along!
More about the Cheltenham Literature Festival later, I'm still reeling from all the excitement of it! ...So much so that I really should have gone to bed about two hours ago, but I'm still buzzing.