A big comic expo is on the horizon and kids and adults alike are getting excited about the opportunity to meet the crew behind their comic book heroes.
Cork’s comic scene has skyrocketed in recent years with a whole host of up and coming as well as established artists setting up shop in the Rebel County.
Possibly the most experienced artist in Cork is illustrator Will Sliney who has been drawing full time for the past ten years and has worked on Marvel projects such as Spiderman, Star Wars and Fearless Defenders.
As organiser of the Cork Comic Expo, Will said it is something he would have loved to have had as a kid and he enjoys meeting young talent that may be creating or drawing comics in the future.
“The best thing about it for me is when kids realise you can do these kinds of jobs, from Cork, from Ireland. Since the last expo in 2015, a lot of parents have been onto me saying that their kids have really kept at the drawing and gone into do those kinds of courses in college so that is kind of the nicest part of it for me.”
Will, who lives in Ballycotton, said the expo will feature almost all the artists that appeared at the first one. “Almost everyone who came to the last one will be coming back because they all really enjoyed it.”
The Cork Comic Expo takes place on April 14 at Mahon Point Shopping Centre.
CORK comic illustrator Will Sliney said the next generation of comic creators are well and truly established in Cork.
“In the last few years a lot of people, especially from Cork, have kind of broken into the industry, Chris O’Halloran is now working for Marvel and Ellie Wright is a colourist who worked on a Batman cover, they are kind of the next generation of comic book artists, which is great.”
Will said there has been a definite shift in the support for artists in Cork which has helped to nurture the growing community.
“Since I started out, there was nobody I knew interested in comics, but now there is no better place to be doing it.
“The Cork City Library do a themed graphic novel every year, where they get teenagers from different schools in, different writers and artists and they put them together and they end up publishing their own book which launches every year, so they will be at the expo.
“Following on from that there is the Cork Comic Creator group that meet up every month and they self-publish their own books as well so there has never been more of a great kind of support network in place for anyone who does want to do this kind of stuff, so it is great to see.”
Compared to how it was when he gave up his job to work full time as an illustrator, Will said things have changed dramatically.
“When I started out ten years ago, no one had a clue what I really did, but now everyone knows, the characters are a lot more visible now, that has definitely helped to make things easier for people trying to break through. People are starting to realise you can do this as a job and it is possible to do it from Cork.”
Almost five years working with the comic book company Marvel, Will said his job makes him very happy.
“You are basically a big kid when you are doing it. Like I get up in the morning and I am Spiderman fighting the Green Gosling. I loved those cartoons as a kid, so just the thought that people are reading those stories that I got to be a part of is really really nice.”
Speaking about the comic book community, Will said it is a very tight-knit, positive and supportive group.
“Reaching out to ask for advice is part of the process. I remember showing my art to whoever would look at it and they were always very helpful and supportive to me, so it is only fair that I do that for others as well.
“It’s great to see seven- or eight-year-olds coming along with their artwork and every artist would give their time to look at their drawings and be encouraging. Then you have teenagers with their portfolios and you can really give them proper advice and stuff and then you see them again a year or two later and it is really rewarding to see how their stuff has improved.”
Discussing what is next for comics, Will said the future is bright. “The sale of comics has really been going up the last few years, definitely because of the movies, what has really been great has been the different types of creators and comics that are coming out of it now, like.
“It is pretty much 50-50 between guys and girls reading the comic books now and you are starting to see that on the creator side of things as well.
“It is a very fast-changing industry, something I draw will be printed in a month so it kind of reacts quite quickly I find.”
Will said he understands that talent is spotted a lot easier and quicker these days, thanks to the internet and social media.
“I always think there were millions of versions of me before me that didn’t get the chance to do it because they didn’t have social media and the internet to post my stuff and get feedback.
“Before there would never have been anything like that, the only person who would have seen their stuff would have been their buddies, it would have been impossible to get it in front of Marvel.
“So I think it has always been there, the interest and talent, and now that you are actually able to email stuff in and do work from Cork I think it is allowing it to grow and to stick at it.
Mentioning the Cork Comic Expo on Saturday, April 14, Will emphasised that the event was open to everyone. “Everyone is welcome to come along even if you only have a tiny interest.”
Speaking about artists that might be interested in coming along, Will encouraged them to bring samples of their work. “There is no better place to show your art, than to other artists.”
The second Cork Comic Expo will take place at Mahon Point Shopping Centre on Saturday, April 14. For more information visit: http://mahonpointsc.ie/corks-comic-expo-returns-mahon-point/
A colourist making shapes in the comic industry is fourth-year CIT student Ellie Wright.
Ellie, 27, is from the UK, but has been living in Cork for the past 11 years.
She has worked on James Bond, Batman and is currently working on a Sherlock Holmes series. She is in her fourth year studying creative digital media at CIT.
Ellie said she always loved art and comics, but had a almost given up on her dream of a career in art, until four years ago, when she went back to college.
“I loved comics as a kid. I collected Beano and the Dandy, weekly, but as a teenager, I moved away from comics to other things, like music and learning to play the guitar.
“I have always loved art, but I never thought I could make a career in art; people always tell you it is so difficult.
“It has taken me a few years, but I have definitely gotten work out of it and I am delighted I took the risk to go back to college.
Ellia said she went back to college in 2014 and then started to colour daily in 2015.
“I have always loved art, but I didn’t know what a colourist was until three/four years ago. I started colouring, I got a graphics tablet for Christmas and I started going online and going away and exploring the internet.”
Ellie also received assistance from the Cork Comic Creators, which she joined two years ago.
“I thought they were a lovely bunch. It was just so nice to talk to people who were interested in comics. They let me colour their covers and short stories and they gave me so much feedback on how to improve.
From there, Ellie got in touch with Jordie Bellaire a world-renowned colourist who lives in Dublin and colours with DC and Marvel.
Basically, I followed her work for a couple of years and noticed she was having a colourist workshop last summer. She put out a tweet saying if you are interested, send me your portfolio, I will narrow it down and select a few.
“Lucky enough, I was selected and did her workshop last summer. She gave me loads of great, solid advice and loads of feedback and, three months later, I started getting published work, because I just started colouring, learning new techniques and putting my work out on social media. Eventually, I got contacted by an editor and the rest is history.”
Ellie started working for New Jersey-based Dynamite Entertainment, which publishes comic books such as James Bond and The Shadow/Batman.
“My first few jobs were with them and right now I am working on a four-issue deal to do Sherlock Holmes.”
The young student also did a cover for Batman DC a few months ago and is working on another short story for Image comics.
Ellie said it is quite difficult juggling college and colourist work at the same time.
“It is very intense and exhausting. As soon as I get home from college, it is straight down to colouring and I might have a Skype call or meeting, very early in the morning, because of the time difference. A lot of the publishers are based in America, so I have to stay up late or get up early to have a meeting with them.
Then I cram in college work on the weekends. I treat college as a nine to five and the evenings are for colouring.”
Ellie said art has taken over her life. “I didn’t expect this to happen. This was a pipeline dream, it’s been amazing.”
She said the use of social media to promote her work has been vital in securing employment. “Social media is fantastic. When you put your work out there, you never know what editor or publisher is going to see it. Twitter has been great for getting me spotted by employers.”
The dedicated artist said her work ethic is very much, get stuck in and give it everything you’ve got.
“You just take every job you can get, you just say yes to everything and the end result is just amazing. To see your name in paper when it is published, it is so good.”
Up-and-coming comic creator, illustrator, and publisher, Kevin Keane, has broken into the art industry with hard work, persistence and dedication, although his dad, David, helped.
Kevin explains how he nabbed a handy spot of work storyboarding The Young Offenders series.
“My father, David, is a photographer and he was taking photos of the set for the Echo and he got chatting with writer and director of the series, Peter Foott.
“Peter was chatting with my dad and told him he went to college in Cork, at St John’s College. My dad told him I had gone there to study art and he showed him some of my work. Peter said he had been looking for a storyboarder and would like to keep it all in Cork, if possible.
“So my dad put me in contact with Peter and I met up with Peter. He liked my work and he liked me, so there we go.”
Kevin said he owes his dad more than a pint for putting him up for the job. “He’s my biggest fan. I may hire him as an agent, eventually.”
Local group, Cork Comic Creators, also helped Kevin to develop his talents. The organisation was set up in 2013 by Colin O’Mahony, Emmett O’Brien, and Chris O’Halloran, following the success of Will Sliney.
The idea was to encourage and assist the artists and writers of Cork to follow in Mr Sliney’s footsteps, and with success stories like Kevin Keane, clearly, it is working.
“The group meets once a month at the Comic Vault. Primarily, the group is a beacon for new people coming in, looking to get started. At the start, it can be a bit daunting. You don’t know where to go, you don’t know who to talk to, but the group itself are very welcoming to new people and welcoming to giving some insight into how you do it.
“There is a whole creative insight into the process that you have to learn, first, and, after that, you can go about the publishing and the printing and business side of it. We are trying to help people figure that out.”
Kevin said a number of artists started out in the group and are now working in the industry.
“We all started there, everyone who followed Will Sliney’s example. Chris O’Halloran and myself were two of the biggest members there and now Chris works for Marvel and I am have been quite successful freelancing since, so it works, basically.”
Kevin said comics are taking off in Ireland. “It is unbelievable how popular comics are getting in Ireland. You can see it clearly in Ireland, with the number of people getting involved in it.
“There is a bunch of us after making a headway with comic success and general creative success in Ireland.”
Capitalising on the popularity of the genre, Kevin set up his own Cork-based comic publisher, North Press (NP) Comics, as well as another publishing company in Dublin, called Rogue Comics.
NP Comics, which Kevin set up with another artist, Shane Ormond, put out their first graphic novel two years ago. It was called The Guards. “We actually did very well with it. I was surprised.”
The pair is looking to publish another graphic novel this year, with funding they received from the council.
This success encouraged Kevin to set up his second publishing company, in Dublin.
“On the back of that, I wanted to bridge the gap between Cork and Dublin, so I set up another publishing press, in Dublin, called Rogue Comics, with two guys I worked with previously.
“Rogue comics are, basically, the same thing as NP Comics, just a format and a place for people who want to get onto the scene. What I want to do is to bridge the gap between Cork and Dublin. There always seems to be a break in communication between the two. I don’t know why. I think it is a rivalry thing. So NP Comics and Rogue Comics are an attempt at creating an open forum for anyone in Cork or Dublin who wants help in the creative industry, I would help them.
“We would love to help as many people as possible.”