It’s now a few weeks since the wonderful inaugural Lakes International Comic Art festival in Kendal but the memory is still fresh.
The Lakes event has been set up to create a large scale celebration of comics comparable to the annual Angouleme festival in France. I’ve yet to go myself but I hear it is fantastic.
Kendal in the Lake District is a tourist beauty spot and lent itself perfectly as a backdrop to this folk art occasion. The event was well attended and the Premier Inn where we stayed even had their reception manager dressed up as Catwoman, keeping in the spirit of things.
The main hub of the weekend was the Clocktower where there were exhibitors selling small press comics, graphic novels and signing sketches. There I caught up with John Anderson from Soaring Penguin who was drawing up a nice crowd around his table, which included the new Ellen Lindner 20’s mystery “Black Feather Falls“. I also stopped for a chat with Emma Vieceli (Vampire Academy and Manga Shakespeare artist) and was amused to find out that she, like myself, will be treading the boards this Christmas. She’s going to be playing Nellie Forbush in “South Pacific” and I’m going to be Fairy Godmother in “Cinderella” at the Churchill theatre in Bromley.
One of the best things about the festival was the range of talks and panels. The first one I went to was by Trina Robbins, a legendary American comics creator and historian. She spoke about her beginnings in the Underground comics scene back in the 60’s with feminist scenarios and hippy styled characters. Trina is a petite, feminine lady but it was hilarious to hear her recall giving Robert Crumb hell for his misogynistic portrayals of women in his strips. She also spoke about her book “Pretty in Ink” which highlights some of the great rediscovered women cartoonists of the twentieth century. I was delighted to see beautifully rendered stories of Gibson girls and flappers every bit as well drawn and witty as the ‘boys’ stuff.
I also had the pleasure of meeting her husband Steve Leialoha who is a well known artist and inker for the big American comics. I’m honoured that he has inked my first comic strip which is in the recently published Thought Bubble anthology.
Other high points of the weekend were Bryan and Mary Talbot‘s talk on “Sally Heathcote Suffragette“, illustrated by Kate Charlesworth, which took us through the creation of this fabulous historical fiction about the suffragette movement. Bryan Talbot‘s own exhibition, which I went to, was breathtaking. He is a genius and humble with it. When I complimented him on the exhibition he said “Oh yes… they’ve set it out really nicely, haven’t they?” The whole lakes event is largely due to his and Mary’s tireless banging the drum for the comics world. That subject was the focus of an entertaining panel which included Paul Gravett and Posy Simmonds.
Sean Phillips, a big art hero of mine, was heavily involved in the whole event. He lives locally and I was delighted that there was a chance to see him in conversation with comic artist Pete Doherty. The talk was illustrated with lots of retrospective work including a precocious rendering of a horsey story for girls in the ‘Judy‘ comic, done when he was fifteen. His self deprecating comment that the art director had drawn in the horses was endearing. And here he is all these years later creating gritty, sensual visuals for ‘Fatale‘ and still precociously talented.
I shared the journey home with emerging graphic novelist Katie Green whose memoir ‘Lighter than my Shadow‘ is fast becoming a classic. By coincidence she was talking at Laydeez do Comics the following day, where I had a chance to buy a copy. It is deceptively simple… a painful story rendered in child like style but extremely powerful. I couldn’t put it down. It is good to know that after speaking her truth she is now following her heart’s desire… illustrating children’s books.
And so another little comic adventure ended, I look to reporting back from the big one… Leeds Thought Bubble.