Review: Enniskillen Comic Fest 2019

Review by James Bacon

One of the friendliest atmospheres you will find at a comic convention, exists in the picturesque town of Enniskillen, where fans gather at a very large church hall to celebrate and enjoy their enthusiasm and love of comics.

With no shortage of children, and more fans now travelling to the event from further afield, it is developing into quite the destination. I was quickly introduced to a French Fan, and was with a car load of fans from England, and one could see and understand why this event recently received the Irish Comic News ‘Best Irish Convention 2018’ accolade.

Youngster cosplaying. 

On Friday at Blakes in the Hollow pub, fans and pros gathered to enjoy pints and chat and then compete in a Pub Quiz. The Sector 13 team were sorely disappointed to come second and it was a pleasure to meet and share a drink with the likes of Simon Bisely, Maura McHugh, Paul Cornell, and Paddy Goddard. Even better was being able to buy a round for Mick McMahon and those with him, who included Mike Dorey, brilliant artists from my youth. There was a pleasant camaraderie and engagement, and a late night of drinking, and it felt both welcoming while in many ways, uniting, as pros and fans intermingled and chatted.

The winning quiz team. Paul Cornell, Paddy Goddard and Maura MCHugh demonstrate their knowledge!

On Saturday morning, Mick McMahon started sketching at 9.45, before the official opening of this free convention and was busy, engaging and just delightful with all fans all day long.. This is a down to earth legend of 2000AD and here he was, happy to sign any comic, and continualy had a queue of fans happy to wait for a sketch, and lets be honest, McMahon is a classic artist from the earlies days of 2000AD, and so fans were exceptonally pleased with his Dredd’s and Slaine’s.

Simon Bisley was also very popular, cranking out nice A3 ink painted images, which were in demand by fans, Nick Roche was busy with Transformers and Deathlok, which he has just started on with Marvel and with synchronicity playing a part, the release of Prog 2130 of 2000AD that week with his debut as an artist for that stable, with a Rogue Trooper Story was perfectly timed and Eoin Coveney never seemed to stop drawing.

While the professionals did seem busy, there is not the long queues or clamouring brutal squeeze that one might find at some events, and it is clear that the professionals get this, and are along for a good weekend, socialising, while of course, plying their craft and wares, but there is not the high octane fan adrenalin fuelled demand intensity that you will find at San Diego or C2E2, and this is a good thing.

Sure, the island of Enniskillen is about 180,000m2, and San Diego Convention Centre is 240,000m2. There’d be a better class of Pub in Enniskillen.

There was more synchronicity for Irish creators present, as Maura McHugh from Galway was announced this week with Paddy Goddard as the team doing a new Judge Anderson story in July for the Megazine. McHugh who has worked for Dark Horse and had an Anderson story in last years Summer Special is well known in Ireland for her work on Jennifer Wilde. I was very pleased to engage with Paddy Goddard and Maura McHugh about this next story, a Judge Anderson six parter for the Megazine, while Goddard also spoke about the Wulf Sternhammer by another Irish comic book writer, Micheal Carroll.

Mike Dorey – working hard 

John Wagner was continuously busy, yet in great spirits, while Mike Dorey who drew dozens of characters from Rogue Trooper to Hellman and Alf Tupper was very busy next to Alan Hebden, who has an incredible oeuvre of work, both with vasts amount of work published in War Comics, proving that the interest there is strong. Wagner and Hebden have worked extensively with Carlos Ezquerra, who passed away last year. John Wagner had kindly brought over a selection of art belonging to the Ezquerra family and a display of very high standards was on exhibit, where fans could get close to some amazing work, while the panels were varied, there was a celebration and honouring of Carlos, which was nice to see.

With Katie, Anthea and Sam. 

As ever one needs to take ones time, and peruse carefully the art that is available. I found Katie O’Kane’s art to be quite stunning, and new to me, I was surprised at how dynamic her images were, with a level of detail and individualism that I had not anticipated. I picked up a really nice Akira print, a homage to the film as well as a Vader print that captured the essence of the cartoon version of this character, but again with a personal style with a level of visual accuracy that was pleasing to the eye.

Colin Arthurs, a Topps Insert Card artists, was working on Transformers and Star Wars sketches and has developed a number of styles since I first encountered his work, and I was well impressed with his ‘Gray Leader’ image, which is quite the trivia for fans of the franchise.

Sam Gallagher had a super note book for sale, which incorporated some wonderful gaming elements that I had never seen before, while Ian Kennedy, who was next to Calim Laird was selling beautiful pictures, a wide range was available for fans. Judge Dredd was popular, but there were incredible aircraft drawn on board and he was signing the tome celebrating 70 years of his work.

Anthea West showed me her next script briefly, which was really insightful, I have to admit that the creative process can be just as fascinating as the end product, and since I have thoroughly enjoyed Anthea’s work, I was fascinated to see this work in progress document, which naturally has a fusion of script adjustment and imagery.

There were multiple comic sellers who were local and from afar and a brisk trade was taking place in comics of the seventies and eighties. Values were very affordable, which meant that purchases were being made, I observed one purchase of 75 comics on one go. A debate did occur about dealers who do not specify their prices upon request, an annoyance to some fans who want to buy and just know the cost of the product, I did wonder is this a perennial problem.

‘Sketch’ by Colin Arthurs

The presence of so many children, a children’s activity room and kids in cosplay is a wonderfully positive aspect of the event. Dave Finn of Incognito Comics had donated comics to Outreach and the team from Dublin 2019 this years Worldcon, of which I am a part, had managed the logistics and so there were over 1,000 free comics being given away.

There was something for all comic fans, there was a large presence from The Beano, and there was a variety of talent along with local artists, fanzines and comics available, and the overall curated feel to the event, the idyllic location, the modest yet pleasant venue left one feeling so good. The family feel to the organisation, Paul Trimble’s incredible dedication and efforts and the ‘for the fun of it’ feel all made it a great weekend.

While the next Enniskillen Comic fest is expected to be next year in May, it has been announced that there will be an Omagh Comic fest in September on the 14th September.

A cracking good weekend.

James Bacon is Chair of Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon, which is taking place in Convention Centre Dublin from August 15th to 19th. For details on the event check out https://dublin2019.com/