I guess any event in my hometown is going to draw more personal attention than others. Birmingham has a long history with comics and I was privileged enough to be part of that from a young age so to see more events happening locally and the resurgence of conventions again is heartwarming and most welcome. Since the announcement, the Birmingham Comics Festival seems to have taken a different slant to lots of the other events taking place across the country, the guest line-up itself is refreshing and reminiscent of the now (we believe) defunct Bristol Expos.
Keen to learn more, we set out to interview one of the organisers, Victor Wright, and find out why Birmingham and what they have planned…
Thanks for agreeing to the interview. Can we ask you what your involvement is with the comics scene?
Sure. I’ve been a huge comic book fan since 1970 when I started reading the old British pulp favourites like Roy of the Rovers, Hotspur and Victor. I soon found Marvel, Charlton & DC and have been hooked since. However, over the last few years I’ve been leaning more and more towards the independent market and reading less of the big two. As the market evolved over the 80’s and 90’s I found myself looking towards the conventions to feed my addiction – I became a regular Comic Con attendee. Over the last two years I set up my own publishing business and decided to focus on war, horror and crime as the superhero scene was already over burdened with great characters. I’d been writing stories for a long time and wanted to contribute to the great books that grace many readers’ comic boxes. It led me to write titles such as Exposed, The Lawless Ones, T.E.A.L, Esmee and Light of Darkness (based on my novels). The books were launched over a series of conventions and have been highly successful. This year I’m focusing the company on the continued exposure of the existing titles and on third party books – there are some great titles out there that simply don’t get noticed because they are not marketed correctly. Recently, I teamed up with a partner to set up the Birmingham Comics Festival – which we are confident will be a success.
Birmingham has always had a link with comics, stretching back to the first claimed comic convention in the country in 1968, my own memories of comic marts in the 80’s then through to the more recent and popular BICS event. Do you think that there are enough true comic fans in the area to support and appreciate your event?
It’s a good question, but when you consider we support the oldest comic shop in the country Nostalgia & Comics, a good sized Forbidden Planet, two major conventions a year and several smaller ones – then there has to be no doubt that Birmingham has enough readers. Not only that, we are very close to Coventry, Leicester, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Redditch and Telford – that’s a big catchment area. Besides, we are more than confident that people will be willing to travel from further afield to see our guest line up.
We’re seeing the same names at conventions and while comic folk are generally great guys, many comic fans want to meet new creators and are starting to stay away from conventions as they compete for the same, small pool of custom. However, your guest list has us intrigued. With the likes of Keith Page and Ian Kennedy you’ve gone for a more left-field line-up alongside fan favourites like Mark Buckingham. Was this intentional and do you have any more gems to announce?
Yes it was. As you have already pointed out, there are many shows bringing the same names. This is why we’ve gone for great artists such as Lucio Parrillo (Vampirella, Red Sonja) a first to the UK comics scene. To be able to meet the likes of Ian Kennedy and Keith Page is a very rare occurrence and we’ve topped this with multiple Bram Stoker award winner and New York Times winner Jonathan Maberry – who just happens to write the very successful VWars and Rot & Ruin for Image Comics. And speaking of VWars we also have cover artist Ryan Brown, again another first. So, whilst some of our guests are regulars to the UK comic scene there are some great names that have never been here before.
Cosplay is contentious and divisive yet undoubtedly big and enormously popular, are you embracing it for this event?
Yes we will be doing some pretty special stuff for the cosplayers! Shortly, we will be announcing a pre-show competition – the winner will be awarded a professional photo-shoot and VIP ticket to the show. At the show itself, there will be workshops, special panels and guest stars, plus the main show competition will be guarantying a pretty impressive prize that we feel will be worth their effort.
Tell us a bit more about the events you have surrounding the festival.
There are several events surrounding the festival. Firstly, Nostalgia & Comic’s will be hosting a quiz in the Victoria pub and will be offering their customers an exclusive opportunity to attend the show via their own special tickets. The mac Birmingham – one of the city’s major theatres will be running a series of films including Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and the Incredibles. Lee Bradley will be exhibiting his Marvel collection at Forgehill Museum and we are in talks with several other well established businesses to bring you the very best entertainment possible.
Who would be the one guest, money no object, you would like to see at a UK comics event?
Oh that’s a hard one. If he was still alive, it would have to be the King – Jack Kirby, but we’d settle for Johnny Romita Senior or Steve Ditko.
Finally, there are a ruck of conventions on our ever burgeoning calendar, literally from five to 50 in the last few years. What makes yours different and worth attending?
All of the above – plus what we’ve not told you!
And on that last note, we would like to thank Victor and wish him and all those involved the best of luck with the event. See you there!