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HI-Ex comics event draws fans back


By Margaret Chrystall


Comic convention HI-Ex returned.
Comic convention HI-Ex returned.
Exhibitor from the trade stands at HI-Ex, Jenny Macdonald. Picture: Callum Mackay
Exhibitor from the trade stands at HI-Ex, Jenny Macdonald. Picture: Callum Mackay

COMIC convention HI-Ex returned to Eden Court after a year’s gap – and drew a similar-sized crowd to previous events, co-organiser Vicky Stonebridge revealed this week.

Star Wars stormtroopers, zombies and comic fans in Japanese manga costumes mingled with families, comic creators and artists at the two-day event.

The programme included discussions, drawing workshops and an early viewing of movie Electric Man which at HI-Ex 2010 was just an idea in the imagination of the film-makers.

Vicky said: "Saturday was great, but there were fewer people around n Sunday, so in future we might look at moving the event to a Friday and Saturday – or making it a one-day event."

Dressed up for HI-Ex, Jazmine Collet. Picture: Callum Mackay
Dressed up for HI-Ex, Jazmine Collet. Picture: Callum Mackay

The self-financing event is not able to access public funding, but this year, Vicky said, it was more difficult to get donations from private companies.

The recession also saw buyers slower off the mark snapping up merchandise at the comic trade tables.

"We did sell the same number of tables.

"And I think we broke even – just. But in the weeks running up to the event, we were literally selling tickets to have the money to print posters.

"So a lot of it is homespun.

"We fall between the cracks for funders because we are not a charity and I don’t think they understand what we are doing. There is a perception that comics are not important and just for kids. but they are all about art, literature and creativity."

One big success from the comment form feedback, Vicky said, was introducing events to cater for those into "cosplay" where fans dress up as their favourite characters with social networks now also uniting fans.

Kevin Gio Logue of UpRoar Comics. Picture: Callum Mackay
Kevin Gio Logue of UpRoar Comics. Picture: Callum Mackay

Vicky said: "Young people in the Highlands into cosplay can be isolated as they have nowhere to get together with like-minded people. There were lots of comments in our feedback saying they had loved the chance to get together."

On Saturday, one of the discussion events had a panel of guests looking at British and Irish comics.

The guests included Irish writer Maura McHugh, ROK Comics editor John Freeman and writer and artist MontyNero.

They had also been asked to offer tips to fans of new comics to look out for.

Maura recommended a new writer she had come across called Leann Hamilton who had adapted the Irish legend of Finn mac Cumhaill in her Manga-styled comic Finn & Fish, about the hero and his sidekick, a salmon.

And MontyNero’s Death Sentence starts to be serialised in the May 10 edition of comic Clint.

the time-consuming work of gtting word out there on Twitter nad other social networking sites about their work. And John Freeman reckoned the best route was to treat your work as both a creation AND a product!

But MontyNero confessed that although he does look at the many digital comics now out on the web, he still doesn’t think of them as "real" comics.

"For me the charm still is putting down on paper stories and pictures that bring characters to life."

The rise of celebrity culture and the pressure for the comic creator to be a performer, was a new pressure, the panel revealed.

Maura named one comic artist she knew who had reluctantly turned up at a big comic convention only to head for home a few hours later, desperate to get back to his drawing!

They also discussed the different attitudes to comic culture in Europe and the UK.

John said: "The Europeans have a much more visual culture, whereas here it is much more literary – I blame William Shakespeare!

"When Jean Giraud (Moebius) died recently, the news was carried on the front page of La Liberation, one of the biggest papers in France.

"I don’t think that would happen in Britain."

But the guests felt that the comic – or graphic novel – was starting to be more widely seen with Shakespearean plays and Scottish classics such as Jekyll and Hyde being turned into graphic novels.

And mainstream writers like Ian Rankin had been invited to create work to become graphic novels.

John Freeman said: "I think we are gradually becoming a more visual culture. But in Third World countries nowcomics are used to get across public health meassages. In America, the US Army use them to get across messages like ‘don’t do this with a grenade!’."

But as someone trying to get publishers interested in a comic he’d created, MontyNero revealed how soul destroying it could be.

In character for HI-Ex, Amy Methven. Picture: Callum Mackay
In character for HI-Ex, Amy Methven. Picture: Callum Mackay

"Trying to get Death Sentence out there was difficult for the comic retailers to buy a book, someone has to go into a shop and ask for it before they will stock itBut if it’s a new comic, then no-one will ask for it if they don’t know about it.

"That is why I went with Clint and it will be serialised in every issue for a year, then it will be published all together after that.

"By then, hopefully, there will be enough interest that the shops might order it in."

Later on Saturday, fans of MontyNero’s had a fascination insight into his work, as they were able to watch him create his art using digital art to build up pictures.

As he pointed out, though working with digital brushes and effects, you still had to know about proportion and anatomy so that figures looked real.

Seeing the time and skill layering up many different shades and effects to create an amazingly believable-looking skintone for a character’s face, made you appreciate all that went into the art of comics – and rush off to the trade stands to buy some stunning comics. MC

HI-Ex comic fans – from left – Karoline “Lolita” Beigley, Zoe “Kakashi” Brown and Frances “Sheik” Taylor-Smith. Picture: Callum Mackay
HI-Ex comic fans – from left – Karoline “Lolita” Beigley, Zoe “Kakashi” Brown and Frances “Sheik” Taylor-Smith. Picture: Callum Mackay


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