Breaking into Comics Then and Now: Panel at the MCM London Comic Con 2019 – with Duncan McAlpine, Jarrett Melendez and Howard Mackie!


Here at this panel at the MCM Comic Con 2019 it’s hard to tell whether the crowd are primarily aspiring creators here for advice or fans of and here for the panellists. Serious aspirants are likely to have built a portfolio of repeated advice – will this panel deliver more of the same or are there any hidden nuggets to be unearthed?

Either way, this panel is about breaking into comics in different eras so for the comic fans generally it’s going to be as much an insight into different eras and creators as the advice fest some will be here for.

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Representation in Fantasy: Panel at the MCM London Comic Con 2019 – with Zen Cho, Tasha Suri and RJ Barker!


It’s Saturday afternoon at the MCM Comic Con at the Representation in Fantasy panel with Zen Cho (author of the Sorcerer Royal books, moderating), Tasha Suri (the Books of Ambha) and RJ Barker (The Wounded Kingdom).

Representation is of course very much the subject of the moment yet, as they tell us, both Zen and Tasha have been on double digits of panels on the topic.


So the air is light and the more informal with a sense of yes it’s important and we’re pleased to be here but we’re just going to enjoy it rather than have the same conversations again.

Zen is Malaysian, as is the protagonist in her second book, and her first concerns a black man, Zacharias Wythe the titular sorcerer, in 1800s London where she now lives. Tasha toured India as a child, the setting of her books being inspired by India’s medieval period. The protagonist of RJ’s Wounded Kingdom Trilogy is disabled and RJ explains that he’s chronically ill, suffering from Crohn’s disease which affects his joints, his own experiences informing those of his characters. Tasha, clearly a fan of the series, notes there are comparatively few assassinations and RJ shares how he loves a 1-star Amazon review he received, the reader saying they ‘bought a book about assassins and all they do is talk about their feelings’.

Much laughter.


Tasha expresses the view that it – writing and perhaps the discussion of it – becomes very limited when it’s just about diversity. She mentions Seth Dickson’s The Traitor and how the interesting, distinguishing thing about his female protagonist – beyond not being straight – is that it’s a case of accountant as hero: she uses economics to manipulate an empire’s fiscal supply chains and so its destiny. From that the panel share what their day jobs are conjuring whimsical speculations of what a fantasy protagonist might do with similar expertise. Zen’s a product lawyer, Tasha’s a librarian (and yes, there are a few fantasy librarians out there)… RJ was a tax inspector before becoming ill and half-jokes that he’d love to write of a fantasy tax inspector.

SF and Fantasy, as Tasha notes, have always been doing progressive things and while this panel is the more whimsical, it’s perhaps highlighting how from a considered intention for representation, characters have been emerging who are innovative and interesting beyond their ‘non-heterogenous’ identity. On the other hand in recent years there’s been a lot of dragons (I remember chatting some years back with Gollancz’s Gillian Redfearn who predicted the phenomenon, noting them as the new vampires). Tasha, it’s clear, isn’t keen on dragons. RJ is at least dragon ambivalent.

The panel do seem to be enjoying themselves and, before we get too deep into dragon over-representation, Zen reminds the panel that, from chatting ahead of it, they were going to talk about toilets. Well why not? Fantasy draws to some degree or other from history and, as Tasha raises, do you know how many people died of dysentery? (I’m almost surprised no audience member calls out with some riff on the meme from US educational game The Oregon Trail where the player is informed upon failure ‘You have died of Dysentery’.) RJ notes how his series begins in a toilet: ‘They start in the shit and end up as kings’.

Zen raises how readers expect certain things in fantasy novels, and are okay with some but not others. People seem happy with violence. Even, Tasha notes, violent sex – but not swearing.


‘People did know how to swear,’ she goes on. But is this plain prudishness on a reader’s part, or is it something to do with fantasy’s grounding in history and the use of contemporary expletives challenging the all-important willing suspension of disbelief? One for another panel maybe.

The floor is opened to the audience, and the panel receive a question on representation in terms of antagonists which Tasha answers emphasising that ‘if you have an evil lesbian you have to have a nice lesbian’ – or at least a differently representative protagonist.

They move on to the pitfalls of representation. RJ notes how a fan was disappointed there weren’t more difficulties faced by his character, though of course his work is about how they get over and around their disability. As Tasha raises, you can build a world that reflects the injustices of ours where you can actually perpetuate those injustices. And dystopic elements of fiction can be overplayed where more subtle prejudice regarding day to day interaction can be the more powerful, like a loving gay couple being unable to hold hands in public.

This segues into how outsider protagonists aid the reading experience in terms of communicating the setting, whether unfamiliar or outrightly fantastical. Zen’s protagonists travel to a less familiar cultures and, as they discuss, readers identify with the character’s journey in experiencing a different place, learning of it as they do. It’s a film technique, RJ notes, close shot to wide shot: start on the main character and pull out to the world. Of course the author is the expert on their setting, by background, research or invention. Tasha tells us how her editor noted a character motive that doesn’t exist outside of India where her work is set so she had to build in an explanation. Editors, RJ says, are unsung heroes.


And perhaps that’s a useful ending point: representation, like the saturation of dragons, might ironically have become almost over-represented in an authors’ panel itinerary, but only because of a previous dearth which does require correction. Either way it’s an ongoing cultural conversation between the authors who creatively represent, editors who contextualise for best effect, and readers seeking new novelistic realities. Oh, and convention-goers who get to enjoy a very different kind of panel on the subject of representation.

As long as things are moving forward.

Tim Bayley




Check out more Panel coverage on Carabas here!


Rebels and Empires: The Future of the British Comic – Panel Coverage of the London Book Fair 2017

11.30 on Day 3 of the London Book Fair 2017 and we’re at the Rebels and Empires: The Future of British Comics panel. I arrive as host Bleeding Cool’s Richard Johnston notes that in the panelists left to right we have a “history of British comics right here”.

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Graphic Novels: The Last Ten Years (and the Next) – Panel coverage at the London Book Fair 2017

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the Cross Media Theatre is so packed – this is only one of two panels ton comics / graphic novels this year. But SelfMadeHero MD Emma Hayley, writer David Hine, Nibbies Bookseller of the Year nominee Gosh!’s Steve Walsh, and host Panel Borders broadcaster Alex Fitch recline rather more comfortably and are ready to go.

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CECAF 2016 – A Gallery of Cartoon and Comic Art

LE - Jun - CECAF 2016 Having missed it in previous years we just had to get along to this years CECAF, the Crouch End Cartoon Art Festival, even if – as was the case – it was one of our classically late arrivals. CECAF, created by Sean Azzopardi, features as part of the Crouch End Festival though is very much it’s own thing and, as we discovered, really is a great mix of creators indie and mainer-stream, all sharing a real love of the scene and medium.
If you weren’t aware of it, couldn’t make, or were just even later than us (!) here’s a look at the books and folk at CECAF 2016 with Web and Twitter details: explore, discover, follow and enjoy!

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A Coffee with… Pat Mills at the London Book Fair! Part 3

CA - LBF - PM 3 We were lucky enough to catch 2000 AD creator Pat Mills for a coffee at the London Book Fair and got to chat about so much great stuff we had to split it into three articles! If you want the first it’s here and you can click through to part 2 here. Otherwise read onwards on what we chatted on Slaine, Celtic consciousness and myth, and comics and Scotland!



There’s nothing particularly controversial in suggesting 2000 AD went through a problem patch in the 90’s but I mention here only because of something particular Pat says of what went wrong. “It lost a new generation of kids. It became too cool. It’s a reminder that your boss should be a 12-13 year old kid”. Read the rest of this entry »

A Coffee with… Pat Mills at the London Book Fair! Part 2

CA - LBF 16 - PM2 We were lucky enough to catch 2000 AD creator Pat Mills for a coffee at the London Book Fair and got to chat about so much great stuff we had to split it into three articles! If you want the first it’s here… Otherwise read onwards on what we chatted on Slaine, Celtic consciousness and myth, and comics and Scotland!



We’d just been chatting on ethical concerns and subversive writing. With no diversion from this we move on to what is undoubtedly my favourite of Pat’s comics and characters: Slaine. Read the rest of this entry »

A Coffee with… Pat Mills at the London Book Fair! Part 1

CA - LBF 16 - PM1 When I spotted 2000 AD creator Pat Mills was visiting the London Book Fair for a panel I dropped him a line to see if he fancied a coffee beforehand. As happened he did so we met up at the decidedly pink London Book and Film Week area and, happily, we were still going after an hour and a half.
Well the imminent Graphic Galaxy panel [article imminent] which we were both attending as panellist and audience brought things to a close but not before I’d scrawled enough notes for a worthy if overlong article – so I figured I’d cut it into three.
Here’s the first…



CA - LBF - PM - ABC Warriors cover CA - LBF - PM - Slaine cover Pat’s been scripting two of his classic strips and characters for 2000 AD – the ABC Warriors and Slaine – the latest of which have just seen, and now are seeing, print within those pages. But what else is he working on? The answer is Requiem: Vampire Knight which he’s created with Olivier Ledroit on art duties who Pat commends as one of the top French artists of today.

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A Coffee with Abaddon & Solaris at the London Book Fair…

CPP - Rebellion Publishing Jonathan Oliver was brought into Rebellion to help found the Abaddon Book imprint and also work on 2000 AD’s range of graphic novels. When Rebellion purchased Solaris from BL Publishing he became Editor-in-Chief of both, running them with editors David Moore and Jenni Hill (now of Orbit Books). Jonathan and David, along with Rob Power (Marketing / PR) were good enough to spare some time for a coffee at the London Book Fair so I could dig a little more into what they’re about and what’s in the pipeline…

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A Coffee with… Deborah Install at the London Book Fair!

CBJJ16 - Feb - A Robot in the Garden I’d spotted The Robot in the Garden in the Bookseller previews and made sure to include in our February Book Recommends. When I caught on Twitter that its author Deborah Install was attending the London Book Fair today I dropped her a line to see if she had time for a coffee and chat and we arranged to meet.
It turns out we’re both sitting in the London Book & Screen  Week area – just different one’s. Usefully they’re opposite across from one another on the National Hall Gallery so a wave from one of the pod chairs to the especially pink area where I’m sat and we’re good to go.

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Women in Comics: Is the Graphic Novel Industry Failing to Recognise Female Creators? Panel at LBF 2016

CA - LBF - WiC - by @nazeli_kk
Inclusiveness and representation is very much on the radar of the comic industry right now, yet this panel is not simply the next discussion of this topic as relates to women. Rather it’s been convened in response to ‘the Angouleme controversy’. We’re helpful primed on entrance to the LBF by the Bookseller Daily, which includes Tom Tivnan’s interview with Emma Hayley – MD of Self Made hero – who is chairing the panel.
‘A case study in how to balls up a book festival,’ says Tom of January’s Angouleme International Comics Festival (not the LBF!) It’s a perfectly apt description. Of 30 comic creators on the longlist for Angouleme’s Grand Prix lifetime achievement award not one was a woman. A boycott was roundly called for and supported: Male creators withdrew and it was hardly an appealing prospect for the hurriedly added women creators. Nor would it have helped that the festival director’s response was “There are not many women in the history of comics”(!) CA _ LBF - WiC - Angouleme

So Emma chairs the panel which is made up of Myriad Editions MD Corinne Pearlman, Mediatoon International Rights Director Sophie Castille, freelance author Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveller’s Wife), and comics creator Hannah Berry (Britten & Brülightly, Adamtine, Livestock). Read the rest of this entry »

A Coffee with Hodder Editor Anne Perry at The London Book Fair!

Logo Hodderscape In the interests of openness I should probably note that this is more of ‘An absence of Coffee with’ Anne Perry: it being the afternoon of the third day of the London Books Fair we’re both already highly caffeinated and we decide to coast on what we’ve already imbibed rather than risk any top-ups. Apologies if anyone feels cheated by this (or that that’s cheating) 😉

Anyway the London Book Fair is a lot of different things to a lot of different editors. For some it’s selling international rights and translations of their titles. Anne Perry is no less busy, though she’s more on the other side and on the lookout for acquisitions; but for her the LBF offers a rare opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the Atlantic. It makes all the difference being able to connect face-to-face with those people you know more by e-mail in this or any other industry, so I’m grateful she has a bit of time to talk. Read the rest of this entry »

A Coffee with… LEAH MOORE!

CA - LM - Electricomics ASPE Seeing that Leah Moore was at 2015’s LBF I was hoping she might have time for a coffee after the Comics Go Digital panel. Fortunately she did; less fortunately those outrageous slings and arrows one faces when launching a website can set things back and, with the great stuff we talked about, this was one casual interview I wanted to give proper time to. Besides which what we talked then is no less relevant now, so we’re pleased now, belatedly, finally, to present A Coffee with Leah Moore.

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A Chat with JOHN MCCREA at LSCC 2016!

LSCC - Mythic #8
After the Miracleman panel at LSCC I manage to catch Mr John McCrea at a comparatively free moment.
I’ve been aware of John’s work from early collaborations with top writer Garth Ennis on, for example, Troubled Souls. Their partnership continued over the years with Hitman, The Boys, and Dicks, though DC have just recently re-released their run on The Demon. His latest endeavour is MYTHIC with writer Phil Hester from Image Comics and, quite aside from the fact that mythic fantasy in the present day is very much my bag, it’s brilliant to hear a bit more from ‘behind the scenes’.

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Catching up with TPub & Neil Gibson at LSCC!

LSCC 16 TPub 2 I first met Neil at last years London Book Fair, and was treated to an insight into the rather unique comic enterprise of TPub. It was no surprise to find they were exhibiting at LSCC 2016 and I’d arranged to pop by and learn more firsthand of where they were since then.
I manage to catch Neil in a lull. TPub have sold a whole bunch of Twisted Dark and – when more potential customers come near – it’s easy to see why. On the one hand there’s a small photo display of TPub fans you may have heard of. Who? Well a certain Samuel L Jackson if you’ve heard of him? A Mr Frank Miller? Simon Pegg anyone?

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A Coffee with… KARRIE FRANSMAN! At the London Book Fair 2015

CPP - Karrie Fransman Until the panel I’d just attended, of which Karrie Fransman was part, I was rather unaware of her broader work beyond her first and second graphic novels. What had intrigued me most, which I’d heard about in a meeting with one of her editors at Jonathan Cape, was her work for the Red Cross which, I later discovered, won Broken Frontier’s Best One-Shot 2014 award.
Karrie was good enough to agree to a post-panel coffee and interview and, amongst many other things, this was something I was particularly keen to hear about and the first subject we talked about.

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