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

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