Wed, 16 Nov 2011
Comica Fair
Renaud Dillies - Bubbles and Gondola

I went to the Comica Independent Comics Fair on Saturday and had a good time checking out a lot of obscure and interesting stuff. It really took me back to the time I used to buy and read comics a lot of comics.

The fair took place in the Bishopsgate Institute, packing everyone into a large hall, with a stage at one end showing artists drawing live, projected on a big screen.

It was also busy (which was good to see) so you had to squeeze through the rows of tables carefully, trying not to get in the way of other people squeezing through. Many of the tables were shared between two or more individual artists, writers or publishers (often one person being all three). Every table was very different. It was a perfect opportunity to meet and chat to artists of all types.

There were a few professional publishers there, with professionally produced (and gorgeous) hard backed graphic novels, but most people were there as self-publisher, small scale and self-produced.

A big difference now from what I remember from years ago is that the quality of the printed material is much higher, and the cost and ease of production has dropped so much, that it almost seems like a golden age. A lot of the people I spoke with did a fair amount of their art on the computer using Adobe Photoshop. Mostly, this means they start the drawing in the usual (traditional) manner on paper, then scan and finish on the computer.

Much of the professionally printed and distributed material is of a very high standard now as well.It used to be that the French or Italian comic books were often of a much higher print quality (paper, binding etc.). This is no longer the case. It's astonishing to see how much care and attention is placed on some books produced here or the USA.

I bought a hard-back graphic novel by Uli Oesterle called Hector Umbra. It's a beautifully produced book published by Blank Slate Books, all in colour. For a few pictures from the book, see a blog by Alison Sampson called SPACE IN TEXT.



Philippa Rice - Futuristic Dwellings (detail)

Part of the charm of a lot of self-published material is that people play and experiment with the media. Maybe things are not slick but they're fun (and still well printed). Sometimes, the packaging of the comic is almost as important as the content, things such as fold-outs, wrap-arounds etc. Comics, small and large, prints, screen-prints, posters, toys, badges and all sorts of things.

It was great that the artists themselves were there and happy to discuss the work they've done, how they actually produced it and what it means. A suprising number of girl artists as well and quite a few from overseas currently working in London (especially Japan and Korea).

All in all, an interesting afternoon out.

On a related note, Gosh Comics have a book signing this Friday, with Black Slate artists, including Uli Oesterle (creator of Hector Umbra). Details here. Gosh used to be opposite the British Museum but moved to Berwick Street a couple of months ago. I never thought much of it, but the new shop is excellent.


Fri, 11 Nov 2011
Kindle Reading

My new Kindle has been great.

I've only bought one book so far but read it without any problems. The Kindle's easier to hold than a book in many ways, especially one-handed page turns. Since then I've read a few M.R.James ghost stories, downloaded from Project Gutenberg, and stuck some PDF's on it (just testing).

The PDF format is not great for a device like the Kindle, you have to zoom and pan around the page, so it's treated more like a large image than a text document. However, if you set up your Amazon Kindle preferences, you can enable emailing a PDF to your Kindle account and, by making the subject of the mail "convert", Amazon will convert the PDF to Kindle format and transfer the converted document to your Kindle wirelessly. Once converted, it reads (almost) like a normal Kindle book. There may be a few odd formatting issues, but the result has been perfectly readable so far.

I have also discovered a wonderful free service that has made a huge positive difference to my Kindle experience. This is a web browser add-on called Send to Reader.

I installed this add-on in Mozilla Firefox, downloaded via the Firefox Add-Ons dialog. Once you have created a Send To Reader account and set up the service, you can add a new "Send To Reader" button on a Firefox toolbar.

Pressing this button will send the web page you're viewing to your Kindle for reading, converting it to the normal Kindle format on the way. This means that you can easily get interesting web pages onto your Kindle for later reading.

The service will obviously work best when the web page is mainly text but the results I have had so far have been great. I hope that I can push stuff to the reader this way, rather than stack lots of web browser "tabs", in the (often vain) hope I'll find time to come back and read it (if I remember). Once it's on the Kindle, I can read it in bed.

Perfect! This made my day.