Comics At Octocon: An Interview With Janet Ní Shúilleabháin

The next con on my schedule is Octocon which takes place from October 19th to 21st. The convention features a lot of panels discussing science fiction and always finds a place for comics in it programme. I ask returning chair Janet Ní Shúilleabháin about organising another year and including comics on the show.

You’re heading up Octocon for a second year. How’s the preparation going?

I am so happy to be chairperson of Octocon again and that nearly all of my committee from last year is making this year happen. Which means this year the meetings and work has been even more streamlined and we already have a first provisional draft of our programme up on the Octocon website.

At this stage all the planning is done and we move into prep mode which just makes me even more excited. Its a joy to be part of making the convention happen.

Octocon has a history of bringing in great comic book guests and you have a comic book guest as one of your guests of honour again for your second year in Colleen Doran. You and your team seem to value comics as a medium.

Yes very much so. Octocon values all the mediums. We discuss what we love about the stories, the characters and the concepts in scifi, fantasy and horror, across TV, Film, Animated series, Books and Comics. Comics are a very unique way of telling stories, and is very accessible to a broader range of people in a way which books may not be. We try to strike a balance so that Octocon does not under serve on Comics content and having one of our Guests of Honour being the comics industry helps with that.

Do you think comics get enough recognition in science fiction?

 I think a huge amount of comics are science fiction, after all Superman is an Alien from another planet, and we have recently had amazing stories exploring many different scifi concepts explored in comics, be it Brink in 2000AD or Saga. It is wonderful that comics/graphic novels have their own Hugo Award, which is voted upon by people from all over the world. It was inaugurated from 2009 and next year will be the 10th year of it being awarded at Dublin2019. Everyone who is attending Dublin2019 will be able to vote for the comic/graphic novel they think deserves a Hugo Award. So I think that recognition of comics as being science fiction has been making great gains.

I saw online that you picked up Sandman: Dream Country which features Colleen Doran’s art. How much do guests influence your reading habits?

I never had my own copy, I had been lent parts of the Sandman collection by friends when I was in college and being able to get Colleen Doran to sign a copy is the prefect push for me to get my own finally. I read fairly widely, but having someone be a guest, means I often will read more of their work. When we have someone as a Guest of Honour and I am conducting their Guest of Honour interview, as I am privileged to do with Colleen Doran, I will do extensive research. Which this evening is reading Finality the newly launched webcomic which Colleen has worked with Warren Ellis on.

Have you read any good Irish comics recently that you’d recommend?

I knew there was going to be a tricksy question, and this is it; for what is an Irish comic? Is it a comic by an Irish writer or artist: if so is the Star Trek: Discovery comic which Declan Shavely has done with IDW is an Irish comic and  Judge Dredd written by Micheal Carroll in 2000AD? Is it a comic which is published independently such as Fate by Anthea West? Is it a comic which has been published by an Irish Publisher such as Rogue Comics? I think this is a discussion maybe best had with a beverage in hand in the bar at Octocon, or you could always propose it as a panel for next years Octocon!

One of the things I like about Octocon is how much input you seek in relation to panels. I think that helps increase their diversity. Do you think more shows should open themselves up to fans in this way?

Well Octocon is not a show, as you put it.  Octocon is a community event, a convention run by volunteers who are part of the community, who run it for the community and it is important we get input from the community as to what they would like to see be part of the convention and offer them the chance to be programme participants. Which is why Octocon does not sell tickets, we have memberships. Any one can buy a membership join our community, have input and get involved. Which makes the weekend event a joy as we as a community to celebrate the things we enjoy.

Another important Irish comics / panel question: Does Michael Carroll have one of his top secret panels this year?

I think Mr Carroll may be best placed to answer this:

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