You’ll have to forgive me. I’d forgotten.
What with one thing and another I’ve been a little out of the loop for the last two years. I mean I’ve been to Bristol – in both 2008 and 2009, but on both occasions it was a pretty brief one day stop. What can I say? I’ve been distracted. The truth of the thing is that I may have visited the con/festival/expo/wateverwere’recallingitthisyear I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to really participate.
And that’s important.
There are events that happen that exist simply so that people can visit. Things like the Chelsea Flower Show, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Wimbledon, that kind of thing. Comic cons are not like that. They are not events to be simply visited. You do not go to watch, you go to take part. To join in. Brizzle has a way of sucking you in and making you a part of it. The last couple of years have been an aberration – I did make it down for the 2008 and 2009 events, but only for one day and as I said, on neither occasion was I really in the mood.
This year I was back in full force and ready to get stuck in.
It was amazing. It helps that the weather was, once again, astonishingly good. This was the twelfth time the UK comics scene has pitched its tents* in Bristol and I can only remember rain – indeed anything other than bright sunshine – once. I’m sure Bristol must get bad weather sometimes but never, it seems in May.
Anyway. I’ll spare you the full on con report – we’ve discussed before the fact that all con reports are basically the same so apart from some specific incidents which will crop up in the general discussion let’s just assume that a good time was had by all. We’ll be spending our time over the next few weeks looking at some of the rather exciting matters arising from the weekend, both in terms of announcements, observations and good old-fashioned comic reviews.
So, on with the show!
Perhaps the most exciting announcement from my point of view came on the Sunday, in the surprisingly well ventilated talks room of the Ramada Plaza hotel. First the nominees in the main categories for the 2010 Eagle Awards were announced by Cassandra Conroy, daughter of Mike Conroy who co-founded the awards back when the world was still in black and white. I could, of course list them here, but it’s a long list, and since the voting form is online now it seems a little silly to duplicate it all.
I’d encourage you to vote though – the Eagle Awards are often explained as “The BAFTAs of comics”, a British counterpart to the Eisner Awards which are “The Oscars of comics”. That’s not so true anymore though. As Mike Conroy was so keen to point out on the panel**, although the awards are still British in the sense that they are British based and British run, since the voting went online anyone from anywhere in the world can vote.
This makes the Eagle Awards perhaps the only truly global comics awards – and that is genuinely exciting. At the moment, probably as a result of their history as much as anything else, the nominations are still very Anglo/US-centric, but I imagine that over time this might well change***.
I love the Eagle Awards – we even won one once, back in the days when we were still SBC we won the “Favourite Comics Website” award****. But that wasn’t the most exciting announcement they had to make. Indeed it wasn’t even the main reason the panel was there. Oh no – there are truly exciting things afoot!
Since their inception in 1977, the Eagle Awards have been all about celebrating and supporting comics as both an industry and an art form and now they are taking that support to the next level. The intention is to set up the “Eagle Awards Initiative” which will actively search for new talent, wherever it may be found.
Budding creatives will be invited to submit their work to an international competition, which initially will be judged by an international online jury drawn from regular comics reading types, before a shortlist is submitted to an expert panel drawn from comics publishers and professionals from around the world. The wining submission will be awarded a cash prize of a thousand pounds and will be published******, with creators retaining all rights to their work.
This really is a massive and unprecedented opportunity for individual creators, but also for regular readers and, not to get too grandiose about it, but for the medium too. This is, at its heart, a global talent contest in which every consumer of the medium can vote.******* Can you imagine that happening in a major way in any other medium? The X Factor or the various “insert country here’s got talent” TV shows are puny in their ambition by comparison.
Submissions and Jury Registration begin in a few weeks, and I’ll be watching events with interest. I want to encourage everyone reading this to get involved, because I reckon that this could be the most significant thing to hit comics since Will Eisner first picked up his pen.********
But even all that wasn’t the most exciting thing about the panel so far as I’m concerned.
At the moment the competition is restricted to people who are considered “Adult” in their country of residence – so eighteen in the UK, twenty-one in the USA and so on. But it was suggested by some on the panel that in the future that as part of the “Eagle Awards Outreach” they might in the future be able to roll the idea out to kids of school age with some sort of junior category. Can you imagine the kind if impact this sort of project could have in a school? The chance to get kids cooperating on comics internationally? The chance to get kids reading comics********* in large numbers? The chance to give the kids who don’t do sports an opportunity to compete at something they’re good at?
As long term readers of this column will know, I’m an English teacher. I’ve seen at first hand the good that can be achieved when comics and comics people go into schools. I can tell you, I left that panel on Sunday afternoon with a great big grin all over my face. It’s such a good idea that even the mere idea is enough to make me smile. If it comes off, it’s going to be so fantastic I could dance.
Right. I have a stack of comics from Bristol to read before I can review them, so if I’m going to get that done in time to post next week’s column on time I’d better go and get stuck in. You can go and vote in the Eagle Awards and I’ll see you back here next time – on time – with the first of those Bristol reviews.
*Clearly not literally.
**He’s stepped aside and handed the Eagles on to his daughter and others now, but he found it difficult not to butt in to the panel occasionally…
***Although perhaps not quickly, and perhaps not much, since the Anglophone comics market is pretty much dominated by the American industry and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
****A category in which we are not nominated this year. We used to get nominated a lot – perhaps a little game raising is required.*****
*****From me, certainly…
******As far as I can tell this publication will be in an internationally distributed publication.
*******Terms and conditions apply, naturally. Nobody who has submitted an entry to the contest, or knows someone who has, will be allowed on the jury because that would, naturally be a serious conflict of interest.
********And I mean that. If this works the way it is intended it’s going to be brilliant.
*********Hell, getting kids reading anything