Not having done this kind of activity for the general public before we were unsure of what the turnout or the response would be. Conventions are one thing, but presenting comics as an artistic medium for all ages in public libraries, how would that be received?
Well, it was received fantastically, I'm pleased to say. The turnout was very impressive, we were extremely busy all day, and it was great to see such a wide range of ages, genders, readers, creators, students, old-hands and newcomers all celebrating comics in such a hands on way.
Essex libraries are doing a great job of bringing comics to the attention of their readers. Not only did the libraries we visited have very large, well stocked comics sections, but, in an attempt to widen readers' horizons have created "if you liked that you might like this" stands with selections of novels, non-fiction, comics, audio books which is great for finding out about things you otherwise might never have heard about. They are also working very closely with local schools and youth organisations and comics are often the perfect starting point for encouraging young people into reading.
We spent the day talking about the company, ourselves and the medium, while also managing to fit in a bit of talent scouting and some creative workshops with the younger visitors, including suggesting an opening line of dialogue for the six-foot standee of Crosshair from Cancertown, based on his appearance, 'Cages Consequences' which entailed writing a short story about two people trapped in a cage, and the likely repercussions of their forced partnership and the "Create A Hero or Villain" art challenge. By entering any or all of these, visitors were able to get a grasp of the various skills involved in the creation of a comic book.
We were particularly surprised by one kid of around ten who spent a long time talking to Cy about Cancertown - a book that is, as we explained to the adults accompanying him, completely unsuitable for someone that age.
Cy was able to assure him that the Corpsegrinder could indeed beat Crosshair in a fight (a fact that he'd somehow deduced from their relative positions on Paul Cartwright's incredible cover) and that Crosshair's arm would in fact grow back if the Corpsegrinder pulled it off (which actually does happen in the comic!). It wasn't just the questions he asked though - it was the understanding of narrative structure, conventions of the medium and character definition that he already had unconsiously at his fingertips. That's a kid with a future in the business right there.
Luckily we had the idea of blanking out the more colourful language in the sample chapters we'd brought along on the train on the way there, but there was another young visitor who spent most of the afternoon trying to guess what the words might have been. It must be said he had a very rich vocabularly and well developed command of the "creative swear" - and he was mostly right on most counts until someone overheard him and put a stop to it.
Special mention has to go to nine-year-old James Marshall, who brought with him a short Doctor Who comic he'd created from scratch. As Cy said at the time "From a structural standpoint, this little gem displayed a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of layout, pacing and dialogue. He really seemed to have an instinct for leading the reader's eye around the page.Seriously, if you'd seen the way he'd put this comic together you'd have been impressed too" In a stroke of genius, the organisers were somehow able to conjure up an award for James in the form of an official Doctor Who sonic screwdriver. It was well deserved, and he seemed pleased.
I had the great luck to meet a fantastically talented young artist named Rachel Gater who is off to study art full time later this year. I was looking for the right artist to illustrate a poetry piece for Layer Zero:Choices. It is a very unusual piece of work and needs exactly the right touch artistically. Having chatted to Rachel in the morning and been blown away by her enthusiasm I gave her my email and asked her to get in touch. By Monday I had an mailbox full of perfect images and we signed her up right away. Sometimes the stars just align like that. Watch out for this one.
Insomnia's and C2D4's works will be making an appearance on library shelves, and in their ebook catalogues very soon.
Based on the success of Saturday we've already been invited to do more events like this, so maybe one day we'll see you there.
A huge thank you to all the library staff, especially Annastasia Ward, Robert Coelho, and Darren Smart.
And finally a very special mention for Councillor Iris Pummell who's hard work and belief made the whole day possible.
Damaged Goods News
This week Damaged Goods and Layer Zero:Choices writer Richard McAuliffe has been interviewed by Jazma Magazine.
Have a read about what he has to say about "Porn Stars vs Demonic Chickens", how he got into comics, his work on Baby Boomers for Markosia, and take a look, if you dare, at the ebook preview of The Caretakers Uncannily Nasty Tales (it should be noted that this one comes with a severe language warning!) which was what he was doing, crouching somewhere in the dark, when we found him.
If you want to stare still more into the heart of Richard's darkness then we will be putting an ebook preview of the first story from Damaged Goods online in the next few weeks. I have just had the final art files from Mark Chilcott and they are outstanding.
Oh, go on then, here's the first page, unlettered: