For such a small country, Scotland has long maintained a great influence over the comics industry - at least that part that reads in English at least - from the long-running Beano to modern day maestros Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, not to mention every Judge Dredd and Electric Soup in between.
Scottish comics are thriving, with sold out conventions in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, the first Masters in Comic Studies at Dundee University, and small press success for many.
Yet despite Scotland's illustrious history and a reputation for funding national endeavours, the country lags far behind our European cousins in taking comics 'seriously'. While comics are now winning Costa Awards and elbowing review space in the UK newspapers, the popularity of "wham! pow!" headlines is still high, and negative publicity the more frequent outcome.
This Monday, the Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance (SICBA) introduced Scotland's first comic symposium, Issue #One, drawing together speakers from academia, the comics industry, and beyond to discuss - with a willing audience - "the future of Scotland’s comic book industry".
If there’s one thing that’s changed in the word of comics, for both readers and critics, it’s the huge market shift towards digital over the last decade. As comics have become more and more mainstream, from superheroes on our cinema screens to award winning graphic novels in book stores, the medium has embraced the potential of digital distribution in a way that took many by surprise.
As an ex-bookseller, comics as physical objects are something I’ve been quite stubbornly defensive of. But as an avid webcomic fan, and someone rapidly running out of space in my house, I was starting to come around to the idea of digital comic reading. I’d tried a Kindle for reading books and it hadn’t quite stuck – yet another piece of tech to lug around – but the iPad seemed pretty attractive, with the added bonus of being able to read full colour comics on a screen that did them justice. And the iPad mini looked particularly tempting.
So I figured, why not give one a whirl?
Some bumper comics content in this month's issue (#89) of SciFiNow magazine, featuring my interviews with comic legend Bryan Talbot on all things Grandville and a history of the graphic novel in the UK, and with Jean-Marc Rochette and Benjamin Legrand on the hit film Snowpiercer based on their co-creation.
Legrand is the writer of the second and third Le Transperceneige (Snowpiercer) books, while Rochette is the artist of all three, and both men have had unique access to the film which stars Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton and is directed by Bong Joon-Ho (The Host, Mother). We discuss everything from the editing woes of the Weinstein distribution to Rochette's art techniques, and there's a short guide to some other European comics that are a) ripe for adaptation and b) absolute must reads!
Talbot is of course the creator of an astounding number of classic comics, from Luther Arkwright to Grandville and every Alice in Sunderland and Tale of One Bad Rat in between. Chatting with Bryan was a real highlight of my interview work thus far, and I hope my feature does justice to a man who is far too modest.
The first English translation of the acclaimed French graphic novel, Snowpiercer (Le Transperceneige), is published in the next few days by Titan Comics and I was lucky enough to get one of the early review copies in order to write the main review for The Independent on Sunday earlier this month.
Snowpiercer is without a doubt one of the greatest sci-fi comics ever created, and a personal favourite of mine. I'm thrilled that it was given such a high place in the paper, and that the editor picked one of my favourite pages to illustrate the print version.
I would like to correct the various defamatory remarks and factual inaccuracies regarding myself in the latest interview with Alan Moore.
It's time for an always subjective Best of the Year article, but I thought I'd do things slightly differently this year - mostly because there were so many great comics out in 2013!
There are no doubt some real gems that I've missed, and reading the various Best Of lists presents a great opportunity to stretch my reading muscles. Perhaps I can provide an equal service for some. And so instead of a numbered list, which doesn't really work within an entire medium that spans so many forms and genres, I present my very own awards. Tongue firmly in cheek, but nonetheless, these Comic Book Grrrl Awards are highly prized indeed - and redeemable for one Sailor Jerry's and Coke if you can find me.