A break from conventions

I’m currently taking a break from conventions for a number of reasons, with Melksham Comic Con back in August being my last for what was planned to be a year out. There are a number of reasons for that including travel, health and, yes, money. In short, I can’t drive because my left eye is underdeveloped and I don’t really have any sense of depth perception, making driving extremely dangerous for me and everyone else on the road, so I’m reliant on public transport or my other half giving me a lift. The former is tricky due to living in a remote, rural, village and the latter became much more of an issue after we had kids. Health wise, since needing some time off work years ago for stress, anxiety and panic attacks I now get severe stomach cramps, short of breath and other unpleasant symptoms when I’m under significant stress. As much as I love conventions and the community, there can often be a pressure to sell enough to cover your costs, to be able to print the next book, to be able to attend the next show. I’m not a salesman, far from it. I’m a socially awkward high functioning autistic (Asperger’s Syndrome) who often wears a paper-thin mask of staged confidence and bravado. Finally, money. I’ve covered some of it above and the rest I’ve talked about in detail in a previous article. In short, you have to treat self-publishing like gambling, yes there are wins and occasional jackpots but you should never spend money you can’t afford to lose. Right now, I need to rebuild...
Fan Art & Fair Use

Fan Art & Fair Use

Disclaimer: This is going to be quite a long post.  The creation of this article has taken quite some time due to the amount of research involved.  Whilst it was initially planned to be as objective as possible, I will be calling out certain practices I believe to be illegitimate.  I am not a legal professional and am presenting my limited understanding of the subject matter.  I will be presenting both facts and opinions. An Introduction Fan art is something that you’ll see on many artists’ Instagrams, Facebook pages and convention stalls.  At it’s core, fan art is arguably the ultimate expression of someone’s love and adoration of a particular series, franchise or Intellectual Property (IP).  There’s no doubt that fan art can come from a good, well-intentioned, place and be born of love, however it’s also fair to say that fan art can be damaging to an IP holder and there could be legal consequences, especially if the fan art’s being sold. A common response from the fan art community is that they’re legally protected by Fair Use.  I’ll be taking an in-depth look at Fair Use (sometimes referred to as Fair Dealing, Free Use or Fair Practice) to try and determine whether any protection does exist, or whether it’s a widespread misconception amongst the community. There are many arguments for and against fan art, as well as a number of different approaches employed by various companies to both tackle and support it.  The issue stretches across more than comics, covering movies, TV shows and video games to name but a few.  In addition to reviewing the law,...
Review – Afterlife Inc. Volume 1: Dying to Tell

Review – Afterlife Inc. Volume 1: Dying to Tell

With the Kickstarter for Afterlife Inc. Volume 4 over halfway to it’s funding goal (hurry, the campaign ends on September 26th), I thought now would be a good time to have another read through the book that started it all and give my thoughts. A disclaimer before we begin, I’ve met Jon Lock, the man behind the series, several times on the indie comic circuit and following several convention after parties I’m relatively confident I can call him a friend.  At the very least, we’re pals according to Facebook so I am likely to have some personal bias. On to the review! Afterlife Inc. follows the exploits of Jack Fortune, a now dead con-artist who saw a business opportunity.  His company, the titular Afterlife Inc., promises to make death a new beginning.  The first book introduces us to Lock’s carefully crafted world, characters and some of it’s lore through a series of short stories. The first of these does a fantastic job of conveying the basic premise.  By following a pilot’s death and first meeting with main character Jack, Lock gives himself a proxy, a character that the audience can project themselves into.  This allows for Jack’s explanation of death, the world of the Empyrean and the mysterious “Calamity” to feel natural instead of coming across as force fed exposition. The remainder of the book hops across different styles, settings and formats.  For example, there’s a black and white, film noir-esque, detective story, an Alice in Wonderland tale that flicks between comic panels and full prose pages, as well as a mostly black and white, seemingly manga inspired, entry centred around Sherlock...
Melksham Comic Con 2016

Melksham Comic Con 2016

Two weeks ago, I launched Unfamiliar Skies at the ever amazing Melksham Comic Con!  I can confidently say that Melksham celebrated it’s fifth birthday in style with it’s usual combination of hilarious panels, an impressive focus on comic-related guests and exhibitors, as well as what’s possibly the greatest team of staff members of any convention – the mighty Brians! The Panels As an exhibitor, I didn’t attend many panels.  That said, I did participate in this year’s Comics In Just A Minute, hosted by the Paradox Comics Group.  The panel certainly lived up to it’s legendary status, seeing high levels of attendance and frequent hilarity.  It’s been a staple of the show for a number of years now and I sincerely hope it remains that way!  To see how I got on, check out the video below: I also hosted a panel of my own, Economics of Indie Comics.  While I was recording it, my camcorder sadly decided to die halfway through.  If you’re curious, it was based on an article I’d previously written on this very site, which you can check out here.  It was definitely educational. While I didn’t attend any other panels I’m relaibly told that the annual Pictionary contest was a good time for all, Sonia Leong ran some high quality manga workshops, and many interesting topics were discussed over the weekend, such as reboots and the constant deaths of superheroes.  Despite it’s small size, Melksham continues to utilise the space available in the nearby town hall, as well as the King’s Arms pub (a new addition for this year), to offer a wide variety...
Putting the Con in Comic Con

Putting the Con in Comic Con

How much comic content does an event need to have before it can call itself a “Comic Con” and what should count as “comic content”?  It’s a very heated discussion within the UK indie comic scene at the moment as we see more shows crop up than ever before. Some of these events have heavily advertised TV and movie guests, as well as replica Batmobiles, DeLoreans and Game of Thrones… thrones, while having very few, if any, comic creators, back issue sellers and actual comic books and graphic novels.  This has left a sour taste in the mouths of many creators who feel that the title “Comic Con” has become an umbrella term for nerd and geek culture events. I can’t help but wonder why that seems to be the current state of play and I’ve certainly seen frustrations from both convention organisers and artists.  Naturally, I am somewhat biased as a creator but I’m going to try and be as objective as possible. What’s Gotten People Angry? As previously mentioned, several events which have labelled themselves as Comic Cons have had very little to do with comics.  I’m going to show some specific examples, though I have obscured usernames, avatars, etc. as I have no intention of starting a witch hunt.  I must also stress that I am not commenting on the quality of these shows. Here’s a convention organiser admitting, on their Twitter account, that they don’t read comics apart from the Beano.  Their event has “Comic Con” in the title.  As you can imagine, this caused quite a stir, with the main question simply being “How can you run...