In a bid to attend every comic event known to man, Comics Anonymous visited the recent Hi-Ex! comics expo in Inverness. For a while now, many of the people we’ve spoken to on our travels have said that Hi-Ex! is one of the best cons of the UK calendar – so we figured we’d try it out for ourselves. Here’s Craig and Gary’s take on the weekend.
We’ve been to several comic events over the past year, from cons that pull out the big names to those that focus more on the creators regardless of how well known they are, and Hi-Ex! fits nicely in the middle of all of these, offering a family friendly weekend for those who love comics. Guests, exhibitors, programming and location all came together to provide a relaxed and chilled out time. Hi-Ex! is one of our favourite con-weekends so far.
The con location, Inverness’s Eden Court, was probably the best we’ve been to for a comics event. An open space for exhibitors gave plenty of room to wander round and peruse the offer from artists and vendors without feeling like you were in someone else’s way when you stopped for a quick gab. Outside the main hall, the bar and restaurant areas had plenty of room for some much needed downtime between panels, or a chance to sit and chat with fellow con goers. The panels were excellently presented in the building’s main cinema, with good audio and visual capabilities (which you might not think are hugely important, but if you can’t hear a panel, what use is it?). For the short periods where we did see some sunshine, the courtyard outside was an excellent spot to get your photo taken with some of the impressive cosplayers in attendance.
There were plenty of panels on offer, with a good spread of topics, such as which Scottish and Irish comics you should be reading, with panellists Montynero (Death Sentence writer) Maura McHugh (Jennifer Wilde writer) and John Freeman (STRIP Magazine editor). During this panel was plenty of discussion about the great independent work coming out of the UK and Ireland and the struggles they face getting noticed when media coverage focuses heavily upon film and videogames over comics. There was also strong praise for last year’s release of Blank Slate Book’s Nelson which many agreed was a great inspiration for those vying for success in the industry.
The Comics Anonymous team were volunteering at the con, willing to help out at the drop of a hat, and we were invited to make our views known as guest panellists. Gary stepped up at the Expanding the Universe panel, where the main topic for discussion was the place that prequels and sequels can play in the world of comic books. Also up for consideration, was whether or not this was even a good idea. The resulting consensus was that, although some (probably ALL) prequels/sequels are money-spinners (which pretty much every comic release is) if the content was written or drawn well then the panel was all for it. Both the panel and audience discussed the soon-to-be-released Before Watchmen, the most significant addition to the prequels debate. A contentious point for all, with an equal split of for and against spanning the Hi-Ex con and the world of fans beyond. There was then a session considering prequels and sequels which we thought sucked, or which improved the vast media of comic books and comic book films. A who’s-who of “bad” films would appear to split the audience in the same way as the forthcoming Watchmen releases.
Also on offer were panels about Celtic Comics, exploring the importance of keeping local mythology and dialect alive through the use of comics, as well as Comics in Education, featuring our own Linsay Powell. Dr Chris Murray, head of English at Dundee Uni, chaired this discussion and, while there was some debate over the need to tailor comics to target a specific sex or age, all were agreed that comics have an educational value far beyond the stereotypical view of ‘less words means easier to read’.
When not featuring in panels, most of the artistic guests could be found in the main hall working away at some impressive commissions, but still friendly enough to stop and have a quick chat with us. Gary Erskine told us about the excitement around his upcoming Roller Girls series, which will deal with real people in real situations. John Higgins (colourist on Watchmen) was there to promote his new Razorjack graphic novel with artist Sally Hurst (review soon) but also whispered the details of one horrific pin-up he did of The Boys for Garth Ennis: our lips are sealed.
There was plenty of Small Press goodies on offer also, which we couldn’t help but buy. Gillian Hatcher (of Team Girl Comic) and Adam Smith (of Khaki Shorts) have a new joint double feature comic, Taxidermy Tales, which debuted over the weekend, and we were also keen to check out Hi-Ex! organiser Richmond Clement’s book Turning Tiger.
The nominated charity for this years Hi-Ex! was Children 1st. There were some amazing donations from artists, writers and other companies that had attendees all a-buzz, with thoughts of adding a show-piece to their collection. Saturday’s auction and Sundays raffle raised £1907… and the Comics Anonymous team were fortunate enough to come away with some impressive prizes. (Although Craig really wanted the Tanya Roberts con-poster sketch, so if the winner’s selling…)
There were a few folks who won more than their fair share of prizes, much to annoyance of some members of the hall, but the whole event was summed up in the fun around this and booing and heckling soon gave way to cheers. A clear indication of the family vibe throughout the weekend.
Back in 2009, David Barras & Scott Mackay were in attendance selling t-shirts, prints and artwork in an attempt to raise funds for their indie film, Electric Man. It premiered in the US in 2010 and two years later at this year’s Hi-Ex they returned with the finished article, shown for the first time in Scottish cinemas. Given the Comics Anonymous intrigue for all things ‘indie’, we made time for one of the showings.
The film focuses on a rundown comic book shop (filmed in Deadhead comics, Edinburgh). owned by Jazz and Wolf,In desperate need of cash and with a landlord breathing down their necks, the owners Jazz and Wolf set out to get five grand quick. Cue Lady Fortune in comic book form, when a rare copy of ‘Electric Man #1′ seems to slip itself into their geeky hands. Of course with any rare find like this, there’s always someone else desperate to get their hands on it, whatever the cost. We see the former owner’s brother, daughter and a crazed American fan all clambering to get their hands on the precious find.
From here we get a chase-caper as underhanded tactics play-off and keep us guessing just what the hell is going on and who does the issue really belong to… Oh yeah, and will they save the comic shop? I can’t divulge the ending as that would surely ruin any enjoyment you may get from watching the film yourself. What I will say though, is that this indie film manages to treat comics with the respect they need (OK, maybe wrapped up in a comedy) but the nostalgia and excitement that comes from holding that special issue in your hands is VERY real.
Strong consistent performances and enough comics shown in the scenes that you can pick out your favourites and the ones you want to own. No surprise then that screenplay got itself a BAFTA nomination. The plot is comedy without being too silly… Well, not Benny Hill silly anyway. Humour and heart are present throughout. Electric Man is a fun indie film that should hopefully see more cinema time in the future.
Overall the weekend was a huge success, for both the organisers and the punters, and we’ll be looking forward to hearing about HiEx 2013 – see you there?
Craig @hastiecraig & Gary @gjwatson85
All photos courtesy of Fiona Watson Photography.
Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment