Sunday, 21 September 2014

Making of a Cover

To accompany Accent UK WESTERNoir series, we've decide to bring out a sister book.
It'll be called Tales of WESTERNoir fer all those stories and tales we just can't fit in the regular book.
The first issue is well under way and, fingers crossed, will be on sale at Thought Bubble this coming November.

So with that in mind I thought I'd show alla you folk just what we did to create the cover.

                                                         Started with an idea I had...

                                                                   That progressed....

                                                                   ...and progressed....

                                           ...trying to workout how the demon would look.


 Then I start inking in Manga Studio...

trying to get it just how I want it...

 ...until I'm pretty satisfied with the results...


I then pass over to Matt Soffe (artist, colourist, all round terrific chap, visit his blog here: - ) to put a heap of colours to it.
This makes my flat art come alive with such vibrancy.

When Matt has finished with it, we pass it on to Andy Bloor (demon designer,who is also a talented artist in his own right, visit his blog here: -  where he works his magic.
This version just didn't quite hit the mark though.
Dave and I thought the flames at the bottom distracted a bit from the image. loved the font and title though so we decided to keep that...

So Andy went away and had a quite think and came up with this version...which Dave and I liked a lot.

Andy thought about it some more and came back with another version with little tweaks here and there. Dave and I took one look at it and decided...
We have our final cover.
Which, we think looks just amazing.
Don't it.

Friday, 19 September 2014

A weekend in Helsinki (the final part)

Dave West, Colin Mathieson and I had just spent the past three days
attending our first Helsinki Comic Festival and loved every moment of it.
But now it had come to an end and we were packing the few books
 we hadn’t sold, away into our suitcases.

We said our goodbyes to all our new friends
(most of whom I befriended on Facebook, by the way) and left the
Marquee tent to return back to our hotel.

Each of us had huge grins on our faces. It had been a terrific convention.
But we were shattered and planned to have a quiet meal in the hotel restaurant
and then a  visit to our “local” for a celebratory pint or two.
Where, we found that on Sunday evenings all the drinks are half price.

We had worked extremely hard the past three days and sales had certainly reflected that.

Almost 180 books sold, 80 of them WESTERNoir and 7 books completely sold out…

How good was that? Big slap on the backs all round I’d say.

Definitely mark this one down as a most successful Festival.

Monday Morning: -A day of sight-seeing and we have a plan…of a sorts.

See the city proper

Visit a nearby Hotel where the art of Israeli artist Ruta Modan is on display.
She is the critically famed artist who published the graphic novels Exit Wounds
and the Property. (Colin fancied a looksee).

Visit Eduardo's E.C Exhibition

Meet up with Matt Boyce. A friend of Dave and Colin’s from the UK who,
along with Maura Manninen and a few other organisers of the Festival, we had plans to eat with.

And…oh yea, buy a few prezzies for our loved ones back home
(So they wouldn’t think too badly of us for leaving them for 5 days).


So, first things first and we set off to find this hotel with the artwork on display…

And it takes a while but with a bit of initiative from Dave we find it and we also
stumble across a comic shop, filled to the brim of wonders and delights.
Just a pity the store owner was so mono-syllabic.

We do a circular tour of the streets and a small harbour of Helsinki and
find ourselves back at the Academic Bookstore that we had visited on Thursday.


By this time, dave and Colin had sorted out presents to take home,
but I hadn’t…getting a bit worried if truth be known…It wasn’t that there was much choice…there was loads, but most of it was just so damned…expensive.

 Just as we were about to enter the Bookstore someone taps me on the shoulder.
I turn around an lo and behold Eduardo is standing behind us. A broad smile on his face.
He was out and about doing errands and had spotted us.

He offered to buy us a drink in the bookstore café (and he wouldn’t take no for an answer),
to which we graciously agreed, but not before he led us to a secluded corner of the bookstore to show original drawings of “Lucky Luke” (Lucky Luke is a Belgian comics series created by Belgian cartoonist Maurice De Bevere) on display.

 Something I had missed on our previous visit.
We sat, drank our coffee and chatted for a bit, unfortunately he couldn't stop long,
as he had to get back his exhibition. But he did show us the art books he had
written on Tim Sale and Terry Dodson and they were lovely.
He also pointed me in the right direction to buy Karen a little gift...

By going underground.

Seems there are shopping areas under the stores, that all connect, so when the
snows are heavy everyone travels underground to carry on shopping.
Clever huh?

The past few days we'd noticed a couple of important facts about the Finns: -
Most of them speak English, they like their comics, they favour body art,
piercings and partial shaved heads...
And they like their hats...

Something Colin and I were trying to get Dave to know...
to help with his old man image...but no matter how good he'd look in a bowler,
trilby, fedora or even a flat cap, he just wouldn't go for it...

Apparently his head is just too big...and the fact that milliners make hats for
big-headed folk just wouldn't sway him.

Pity...maybe we should ask Jemma (Dave's daughter) to convince him to get one before the next convention.

So, we decided to head back to the hotel and pack, because
we were on an early flight Tuesday morning...real early, but not
before we made a short detour to have a look at Eduardo's exhibit.

We found it easily enough (it's very well sign-posted) at the back of the local music
 library on the first floor above the Post office and Supermarket.
Small yes, but perfectly formed exhibit about E.C War Comics and the
Korean war in particular and how Frederic Wertham used these comics to try to ban them all.
Absolutely fascinating and Eduardo certainly knows his stuff.
We were there for at least an hour but the time came when we had to say our
 farewells for the final time and return to our hotel.

Packed and ready to go we made our way to our "local" one final time while we
waited for Matt and Maura.
Unfortunately Maura and her fellow festival organisers couldn't make...
They were too exhausted after the past couple of days (understandably so),
but Matt was still up for it, and he led us to a small restaurant that,
although not much to look at served the most delicious food.
After, he took us to an authentic British pub (with some rather strange Mannequins in the window)
where the four of us played Darts for the rest of the evening.

That's more less the end of it.

We caught our flight home (granted we were the very last to board the plane...
and Colin did have his name called out over the tannoy...
He was discussing the merits of Finnish chocolate to a shop keeper and got carried away).
There was very little turbulence...but there was tilting (there's always bloody Tilting)
and we touched down in Manchester half an hour after we had left Finland
(There is a two-hour time difference in our favour coming home).
As a thank for letting me  tag along I bought them both  an
English breakfast on a Bap and two hours later I'm walking through me front door.

Straight in to the loving arms of Karen who, I'm glad to say seemed to have missed me.

Would I go back?

Well, Dave and Colin have already penciled a return visit in their schedules
in 2 years time  when they'll have a least another 7 books to sell.
And if'n they're happy that I tag along, well that's all to the good.

Otherwise I'm tempted to visit next year for a mini break with Karen.
See all the places I missed this time,and there was a lot I can assure you.
She's certainly agreeable to the idea...but probably not when there's a
rather large Comic festival being held at the same time in the centre of the city.

Mores the pity...

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Trip to Helsinki (part 2)

The Finns, it appears, like their comics.

As Colin, Dave and I found out when we attended the Helsinki Comic Festival.

It’s been a regular event in Finland since 1979 and this year’s theme was German comics and
Queer Comics which was slightly disconcerting as none of Accent UK books are in German
or have any gay characters in their comics.

But as we found out on the first day of the Festival, that didn’t matter because the Finns like their comics…
ALL types of comics.
Walking to the venue on Saturday morning the three of us had more of an idea of what to expect,
although none of us was relishing the nine hour day ahead of us…
Just like doing a full shift at me regular day job…

On the flight across, Colin and I sat in front of an Australian couple, who we chatted to while
waiting in the baggage collection area, as you do. We casually mentioned the reason for our
visit to Helsinki. They, on the other hand, were just passing through to elsewhere.
They have their own computer software business and jet all over the world to their many customers…
Over 40 weeks in the year they said…

They were also comic fans and were quite interested when we mentioned the Comic festival,
 promising to call in and see for themselves just what all the brouhaha was about.

To be honest none of us expected to see them again, but it was a pleasant surprise
 to see them just as the doors opened standing in front of our table, wanting a chat
 and looking fer stuff to buy.
Well, suffice to say we supplied them with pleasant small talk and a fair few books
and sent them merrily on their way to see what other delights were to be had.
They seemed pleased as punch walking away with copies of WESTERNoir (books 1-4),
 World’s Fastest man and Robot Shorts

Which is what we like to see; -satisfied customers.

It was a little later when we were first visited by a true western enthusiast.

Now  Dave and I thought we had guaranteed sales, what with the Western anthology
and WESTERNoir on the table. We talked Western comics in general, Jonah Hex,
 Joe R Lansdale whom he had met (an all-time favourite author of mine I’ll have you know)
and Spaghetti westerns. Hell, we even rated “Once upon a Time in the West” as our
all-time favourite western. So it left both Dave and myself scratching our heads
in confusion when he just stopped talking to us and walked away…
Empty handed.

Just goes ta show, ain’t nuthin’ guaranteed…’ceptin’ Death and Taxes.

Not that we were scratching our heads for too long as a small thin gentleman walked
 up to the table and quietly introduced himself: - Eduardo Serradilla Sanchis: -
enthusiastic Comic reader, movie buff and Journalist for the Canaries Ahora: -
Gran canaries premier digital Newspaper, where he reviews movies and comics
in his regular column.

 Seems he’d walked around the Festival and after noticing Accent UK’s table and
books had decided that the two books that stood out to him this year
(he’s been a regular visitor to the Festiva lfor the past nine years) were WESTERNoir
and Wolfmen. He wished to chat to Dave and me about the books and possibly
do reviews for his column.

I’m afraid I got carried away chatting to Eduardo about all sorts of stuff.
 He had interviewed Tim Sale, Terry Dodson, Jim Lee and Ray Harryhausen,
 How awesome was that. I was fascinated in what he had to say.

So, it was a good hour later before he finally said his goodbyes and I could join
Colin back at the table. Eduardo left with the four books of WESTERNoir and
 the 2 books of Wolfmen, promising to return on Sunday if he had any more questions,
 but not before introducing us to his wonderful wife Elena…a lovely lady who
speaks six languages and has just begun to learn Korean.

Just before they left us, Eduardo imparted us with some useful knowledge
on how to interact with the Finns. Something we acted on immediately and which proved
extremely helpful in selling our books.

By the end of a very long day we were all shattered but pleased on how the day had gone…

Targets were smashed, records broken and a lot of books sold…

More than any of the Danish conventions Dave and Colin had attended
(and a fair few of the British ones to boot!!)

We sold out of several titles including Dave’s “Robot Shorts” and “Strange Times” and
Colin’s "Zulu" books which pleased them both, no end.

I was happy to see that we’d sold a heap of WESTERNoir…in fact, of the twenty sets
of all four books that we’d brought; we only had five sets left…

Not only do the Finns love their comics
it seems they also love Westerns.

And…we still had Sunday to go.

Tony Sandoval: -our Mexican neighbour had already left for a picnic on a nearby island
with his girlfriend…

So, we asked Nadia and Luigi if they would care to join us for dinner ,

which they accepted and off we trotted to find an eatery that Colin had heard so much about…
one with a tractor theme.

Yup…you heard me right…

A tractor theme as we found out when we entered the restaurant…
There were tractors dotted all over the place.
Also,quite bizarrely pin-ups from the 50’s and 60’s of naked ladies plastered on the walls of the gents.

Sunday morning: - And after a walk around a nearby lake and local market
(there was time, because the venue didn’t open till 12 noon), we set off with the remaining stock that we had left in the hotel to face the final day of the festival.

We re-stocked our depleted table and watched as the doors opened and people once
again flocked inside.
Not as busy as Saturday it was nonetheless a steady day of sales.
We continued to sell well and I had to sit and do more sketches as the one’s I
brought with me were all gone.
Dave and I did collaboration on a couple of them: I drew ‘em and he toned them up…
Quite the team we made.

True to his word, Eduardo and Elena returned early in the afternoon.
They had both read all the books and Eduardo had written reviews for both
WESTERNoir and Wolfmen. An English and Spanish version for WESTERNoir
but just a Spanish version for Wolfmen, with links to the Spanish website where they
had already been posted…talk about efficient.
(And you can read the WESTERNoir review if’n you go an earlier blog post of mine).

Elena had loved WESTERNoir and had gently scolded both Dave and me that
we hadn’t finished more issues. Eduardo was very taken with the cinematic art
and feel to Wolfmen and was at a loss why no-one had approached Dave for the movie rights.
Something Dave and Andy (Andy Bloor: -Artist and Co-creator) must have
discussed on numerous occasions.

They couldn’t stay for long (places to go, people to see), but before they left we
promised Eduardo that we would visited him at his Exhibition of E.C Comics
in the local Library.
Elena also offered to help with any Spanish translations I might need for any future books
(seems my Spanish in Book 4 was a little…”Clunky”)which I will definitely do, should the need arise.

When they left we were once again visited by our “Western Enthusiast” friend that
we had chatted to the day before. He had bought his copies of English translations
of Finnish Western comics, which I have to say were quite impressive.

But, he still walked away from our table empty handed.

The next customer did buy one of our books…WESTERNoir issue 4…

Hmmm, what’s all that about…If’n you what to see what a book and character is all
about wouldn’t you normally buy the first issue…
Seems you don’t.

A highlight for me was when a guy came to the table and after picking up all four
issues of WESTERNoir and the last copy of the Western anthology admitted that
he worked a popular western comic of the 90's’called  Punaniska which is the
Finnish for“Redneck”. A book I’m not familiar with but I've been checking it out on the web
since I got back and I'm liking very much what I'm seeing.

He was very much taken with my art which gave me a right old boost in the ego, I can tell ya.

Just before Closing time our “western enthusiast “returned for a final time to say his farewells.

Still didn’t buy anything though…Oh well, his loss I say.

And then, just like that, its 6 o’clock and artist, writers and stall holders are packing
away their wares.
The festival is closed and finished for another year.

And we join them in packing our remaining books into empty suitcases…
A helluva lot less than we initially brought.
                                                                          End of part 2

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A trip to Helsinki. (Part 1)

Fer a while now AccentUK (that’s Dave West and Colin Mathieson to all those
 reg’lar readers of this here Blog) have been planning to attend the major Comic festival in Helsinki.
It’s the largest festival in northern Europe and has bin going since 1979.

 A long time fer sure.

I decided to tag along and see fer myself just what goes on at one o’ these shin-digs.

Any trip has gotta be planned well and this was no different.
Dave was to pick me up at 6.30 Thursday morning and then we were to drive to Colin’s.
There we would take a short Taxi ride to the airport.
Dave was keen to be going so got to mine a bit earlier: -
6 A.M. Luckily I was up and about, so while he had a coffee I finished packing a heap of sketches in my bag.

He almost got the surprise of his life as Karen (my beautiful partner) came downstairs to say goodbye.
Thing is, she didn’t realise Dave was there and she wasn’t wearing much at all…
It was fortunate I heard her coming down the stairs and managed to warn her of
Dave’s presence before she reached the bottom of the stairs.
She soon scarpered back up to the bedroom where I joined her to say my goodbyes.

Then, we were off to Colin’s, talking all things WESTERNoir and comics in general.
Forty-five minutes later we arrived at Colin’s where they loaded me up with a selection
 of their books.I now realized why they were keen to have me along…

I was to be their “comic mule”

Colin’s weighing of the suitcases was nothing short of inspired as, loaded down in books as we were
all our bags came just under the individual limit of 23KG...
A short taxi ride later, the bags checked in…the three of us pass through
security with no problems…it was now time for a full English breakfast before we fly.
Well, it had been such a rush to get here that none of us had eaten.

Now, the older I get the more I less like to fly. I mean 300 tonnes of metal hurtling
through the sky just ain’t natural is it? But I’d taken a herbal remedy to combat
the anxious feeling, so I’m feeling Ok (except when there is turbulence,
or the plane tilts…I ain’t too keen on the tilting) even, when the flight is
delayed for an hour over a broken light.

It’s a balmy 21 degrees when we touched down in Helsinki two and a half hours later.
Definitely not the norm for the time of year but none of us was complaining.
Pre-warned that taxis were very expensive we hopped on the airport’s
own bus for the thirty minute journey into the city centre.


And that’s where we were dropped off, right by the train station, not five minutes
from the Hotel where we were stopping.

Credit certainly goes to Colin fer organising such a well planned trip.

After dumping the suitcases in the hotel room, first order of the day was
to find the venue in which the Festival was staged…and that took next to no time indeed.
The other side of the train station and another five minute walk…

 A huge Marquee tent had been erected slap dab in the middle of a pedestrianized thoroughfare,
and people were already milling around and setting up their stalls, well the bigger ones anyway,
although the Festival wasn’t scheduled to open until 4o’clock Friday afternoon.

That sorted, we go and search for something to eat, ending up in an American sports bar,
chock-full of TV’s peppered around the room showing a Hockey match between Finland and Russia.

It’s here we find out just how expensive food and beer is in Finland…
it came as a bit of a shock I kin tell ya. I began to wonder if’n I bought enough cash with me.
After dinner we strolled around looking for a pub closer to the Hotel, which we found easily enough (just across the road from the Hotel in fact) and settled down to chat about the forth coming Festival.

Dave and Colin had no expectations at all of how many books they’d sell.
The nearest comparison they had were the Danish conventions they’ve attended.
So, with thoughts on what tomorrow would bring, we head back to the Hotel and
settle down for the night.

To make the trip as cheap as possible, Colin had booked a single room fer the three of us,
not that I mind of course…
He did warn me that a certain somebody does snore extremely loud
 (no names mentioned…Cough coughDave).
Luckily I’d bought some earplugs at the airport and damn me I was sure glad to have ‘em…

Friday morning and after a hearty breakfast we set off to the venue loaded
with about ¾ of the books we had brought.
We find a table in the international section and set up.
Now Dave and Colin have been doing this for over ten years and they’ve
got setting up down to a fine art…Ten minutes…tops and we’re ready to have a
looksee at who else is attending.
There’s a load of exhibitors, not only the Finns but quite a few international folk: -
Italian, German, Latvians, Australian, Mexican an’ more besides.
Seems like a real popular festival to visit, an’ no mistake.

 It was not due to open until 4o’clock that afternoon so with plenty of time to spare
we decided to have a wander around the city and see what delights it had to offer us.
And I have to say…from the brief stroll we did that Friday afternoon it has a lot to offer.
We’d planned Monday to be a sightseeing adventure but from the bit we saw on
Friday afternoon we were all much taken with the place.

 Especially, when we happened across a very impressive Academic Bookstore (Akateeninem kirjakauppa)
Selling books and graphic novels in Finnish and English...slightly more expensive than in Britain, because they charge VAT on their books but nonetheless a mighty fine store indeed.

We arrived back at the venue with time to spare before it opened to the public
and we introduced ourselves to our immediate neighbours. Nadia Bordonali and Luigi Filippelli an Italian couple, who publish a whole range of good-looking books under their MalEdizioni banner and Tony Sandoval, a terrific Mexican artist currently working in Germany.

After a quick chat, the doors (or in this case the tent flaps) open and within five minutes the Marquee is filling up with comic-hungry folk. It’s not too long before we make our first sale, then another and fact we have a steady stream of customers until the festival closes for the day at 8 P.M.

Having a quick tally of the afternoons sales, Dave and Colin are pleasantly surprised
to find just how well we had sold. We leave the marquee and mosey off to
 find something to eat, quite optimistic about what tomorrow might bring.

                                                             End of Part 1                       

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Another review for WESTERNoir.

Whilst in Helsinki last weekend (and there will be a post about it coming soon)
we met Spanish journalist Eduardo Serradilla Sanchis.
Wonderful chap, enthusiastic comic lover and all-round terrific bloke.
We spend a fair bit of time in his, and his equally wonderful wife Elena's, company.
He was interested to chat to Dave and I about comics, films, Ray Harryhausen,
WESTERNoir and Wolfman.
He was also kind enough to review both WESTERNoir and Wolfmen for
Canaries ahora (Gran Canarie's no 1 digital newspaper)
And here it is in all it's glory.
Go and have a read, you will be glad you did and while you're there have a look at
other comic reviews by Eduardo.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Helsinki Comic Festival

Off to Finland tomorrow with Dave West and Colin Mathieson to
attend the Helsinki Comics festival.
Apart from the fact that I don't like the flying part I'm looking forward to it.