So Long 2014 And Thanks For All The Comics

So this time of year (well usually a bit earlier than this), people tend to reminisce about the happenings of the prior year. I don’t usually go in for these things but felt kind of obligated as 2014 was a pretty great year for Irish comics (and my relationship with the Irish comic scene). Immediate giant disclaimer in advance: I WILL FORGET STUFF so don’t be offended if you get overlooked in my brief enough overview which I’ll divide into sections namely EVENTS, MAKING IT BIG and THE INDIES.

EVENTS

The year didn’t start out for the best in this regard. The absence of a favourite festival still stinging (oh how I loved my annual weekend break in Derry) and MCM being what it was (becoming retroactively worse towards the end of the year with its 2015 date suggestion and the various shenanigans to do with Facebook page comment deletion). I did have the pleasure of going shopping with Ciaran Marcantonio and Wayne Talbot of the Irish Pubcast and meeting up with creators like Alan Nolan (I was able to procure a copy of the SANCHO preview book from). Business certainly picked up for me at ArcadeCon as I was to be on a panel about equality (thank you Anthea West). Its name changed a few times so I don’t rightly recall what it ended up as. It was moderated by the lovely Kim Brosnan and included the likes of Maura McHugh (who I had managed to be on segment of the Pubcast with briefly before the panel) and was a very interesting discussion. I then somehow managed to get on the Irish Comics Panel, moderated by Ciaran Marcantonio, with the properly famous Michael Carroll (who I must note had an excellent panel of his own that I really wish had been recorded), Declan Shalvey, Ruth Redmond, Leeann Hamilton and Maura McHugh. It was a pretty entertaining panel to be on and was recorded for an episode of the Pubcast if you are interested in hearing it. My favourite moment, kind of caught live on the 2D Cast (great to catch up with those guys at the event too) was Declan Shalvey geeking out whilst meeting Robert Piccardo (who I had geeked out over for the majority of the weekend).

Moving on to Dublin Comic Con, and a slightly different kind of convention, I had a chance to catch up with the Pubcast guys again and a larger group of Irish creators. Also, Batman was there. Favourite moment: standing next to Stephen Mooney’s table as Kevin Conroy did his Batman voice. Of course, the real comic centred convention came in the form of DICE. I have to congratulate the team on cramming in so much star power in one event with a healthy dose of Irish star power (more on that in the MAKING IT BIG section). Keeping the free entry to the independent guys’ section was great as was the cinema screen being used as the panel room once more. I liked the new venue and it was great having some con exclusives (especially as two were for Irish creators in the form of the MOON KNIGHT trade and the DEP OF MONSTEROLOGY trade). I was also able to meet some creators that I hand’t really had a chance to talk to before (which I always like) and had a discussion about WATCHMEN with artist Gary Erskine and Maura McHugh which gave me new insight into the genius that is Dave Gibbons (and one with Hugo Boylan about something but I don’t recall such are the nature of evening discussions). I also got to hang out with ICN’s resident podcasters Ciaran Flanagan and Bobby Best and the Irish Pubcast again. It’s always great catching up with those guys.

This section would have ended there as Octocon was absent for 2014 but then a Laydeez Do Comics Event popped up for Christmas that I really enjoyed so much that I actually reviewed it so you can check that review out for more detail on that one. I suppose I should include the ICN Awards followed by my inevitable evil rise to power. In all seriousness, thanks to everyone who voted and those creators who helped me out with the HOF. That aspect was pretty fun for me. I also look forward to working with creators more in relation to the site’s content (some people have already come forward to me in that respect). There was also the minor event (major for me) of being asked to appear on the 2D Cast Star Trek Special. Those guys are alright. Also, a brief cameo at the Irish Pubcast Christmas do where I got to chat to some people I hadn’t chatted with before.

For 2015, you’ll probably see me at ArcadeCon (where I may be cosplaying), Dublin Comic Con, DICE and Octocon as I trim down the number of events. I’ll probably be geeking at The Sixth Doctor at a Belfast Con but I don’t know if any of that will make it on to ICN.

MAKING IT BIG

Irish creators did very well in the big companies in 2014. Declan Shalvey ended a great run on MOON KNIGHT. Michael Carroll had JENNIFER BLOOD trades out as well as more JUDGE DREDD work (I love his novellas – highly recommended). Maura McHugh hit the US comic scene with WITCHFINDER: THE MYSTERIES OF UNLAND. Will Sliney was having a great time on SPIDER-MAN 2099 (and all over Irish TV). Ruth Redmond was colouring up a STORM (sorry!). Nick Roche did some NEW WARRIORS work as well as debuting the creator owned series MONSTER MOTORS. Ruairi Coleman and Stephen Downey had work in TUROK (with Stephen also having some FLASH GORDON work). And Stephen Mooney had three comics featuring GRAYSON in which he got to draw Batman and some Batvillains (not that the Eclectic Micks keep score on that sort of thing. Who am I kidding. Of course they do).

THE INDIES

What I noticed in 2014, was the increase in standard for Irish books. Nowadays, you really have to produce something pretty good. The DETECTIVE 1945 creative team came shooting out of the blocks with their debut issue. A superb Lucy Shaw penned story with some great art by Daryl Shaw and Tommie Kelly. What I think made it great was that they were releasing something different to the other books out there. A gritty crime drama. (One of my suggestions to Irish creators for 2015 would be to look at what is being produced in the Irish scene and do something different). The BIG BASTARD crew continue to produce a high quality book (theirs was an impressive debut also and they maintained momentum with the follow-up issues). LIGHTNING STRIKE continues to improve issue on issue and I thought it was a smart move on their part to bring creators like Darrin O’Toole and Luca Pizzari on board as they bring their own fandom with them. I also thing it helps their artists to work with an experienced writer like Darrin O’Toole and I think sharing a book with Luca Pizzari would inspire a healthy sense of competition amongst their artists. Darrin O’Toole hit it big with his webcomic WE CAN BE HEROES with Barry Keegan and Dee Cunniffe. (This brings up another suggestion of mine to Irish creators that they should add some underlying social and political issues to their books).

I thought it was great to see more from Cork Comic book scene with Turncoat Press’s I’M AWAKE, I’M ALIVE and THE CORK HORROR comic. With the bulk of Irish comics originating in Dublin, it is good to see a new source of comic talent (and there’s quite a lot of talent). I subscribed to the CARDBOARD PRESS SUMMER SUBSCRIPTION which included a nice mix of independent books and I got to end 2014 with a new Paddy Lynch book (you can read a post written by Paddy on the book on ICN if you want to know more about it). Known creators like Anthea West and Leeann Hamilton had new, very well put together books in the form of FATE and KITTEENIES (which is just beautifully coloured). Often overlooked (but not anymore thanks to our new webcomic reviewer Ben Z) are the Irish webcomics and there was some goodies in 2014. I already mentioned a big one but Webcomic Wednesday will highlight some more for you if you want to check that out.

I think that’s enough rambling about 2014. I might do a piece on advising creators in relation to 2015 with some hints I’ve picked up from talking from creators. I’m probably just saying it here so I pressurise myself to actually write it. It usually works. It did with this one. Here’s hoping to see some great stuff in 2015!