Thursday, August 20, 2015

STGCC 2015: An interview with Ms Lin Koh, Assistant Project Director for the Pop Culture Cluster of Reed Exhibitions

Ever wonder what goes on behind the running of STGCC and how they choose which guests to invite? Well, the answers are right here as we managed to score an interview with Ms Lin Koh, Assistant Project Director for the Pop Culture Cluster of Reed Exhibitions, who gamely answered our questions…

1. Reed Exhibitions took over STGCC in 2010. How has the market grown in these 5 years?
We observed that the market has grown over the years and underscoring this trend is the continuous growth of STGCC since 2010. From 50 exhibitors in 2010, this year’s STGCC will host over 200 exhibitors from 13 countries. We have also seen a 42% growth in attendance numbers from 2010 to 2014 while our Facebook following has expanded from 9,750 in 2010 to 36,000 in 2015.

[according to its 2013 press release, the attendance for STGCC 2013 was 40,000, an increase from 35,000 in 2012.]

2. How far ahead do you plan for the next STGCC?
We typically start brainstorming on the strategic plans for STGCC and project how we want to shape the show three years ahead, while project management for the next edition usually kick starts right after the current one!

3. How do you decide who to invite as guests?
Input on who will make up each year’s guest list will be collected from our counterpart, ReedPOP USA, feedback from fan surveys, the blogger community, followers on our STGCC Facebook account, as well as through research by our content team and conversations with our exhibitors. From there, we will narrow down a list of pop culture personalities, a good mix representing the Eastern and Western spheres of comics, toys, games, manga, anime and cosplay.

4. STGCC attracts attendees from Asia and Southeast Asia. Currently, Reed is also going regional with Indonesia Comic Con, ICC - what prompted this move?
Indonesia is a big market with a lot of potential, in terms of population as well as the very strong pop culture community, and we have a local office there with the capabilities to leverage the opportunities there. We also see a lot of potential in other Asian countries, with rising demand for conventions from fans. There is also a growing pool of artists from the Western and Eastern hemisphere who are more open in venturing into new markets in Asia to grow their fan base and spread their love for art. Under the ReedPOP portfolio, we have also launched Shanghai Comic Con this year, so do stay tuned for more updates for new shows under ReedPOP.

5. As the Assistant Project Director for the Pop Culture Cluster, can you give our readers an idea of what goes on typically in a day of prep for STGCC?
For me, my day typically starts at 9am, and sometimes at weird hours as we have regular t-cons with our USA office to share updates for STGCC. My morning is usually spent tackling all the emails that cover sales, marketing and operations. After which, I start running through the to-do lists with my assistant project manager to identify urgent items that need to be “attacked”. In the afternoons, I will be leading project meetings with the team to go through the action points by each team member to ensure work is on track. We also like to stay well-connected with our fans and hence I work very closely with my marketing team to plan the online and social media content on STGCC’s website and Facebook. This is to ensure that our fans get updated with the latest news, announcements of this year’s pop culture personalities, exclusives and new products launches from our exhibitors and all the exciting things happening at this year’s con! The day gets busier as we lead up to the show but we all enjoy the adrenaline rush putting together Singapore’s biggest pop culture event of the year.

6. What role does STGCC play in the development of the local comic scene? How does it promote local writers, artists, publishers?
STGCC provides established and rising local talent in the pop culture scene – from artists to illustrators to toy designers – with a platform to showcase their craft to local and regional fans as well as companies in the industry. Each year, we see an increase in the number of exhibitors at Artist Alley, a dedicated space at STGCC for creative talent in Singapore and the region to showcase their works. From 166 artists from 12 countries in 2014, this year will have over 170 artists from 11 countries participating in Artist Alley. Local writers, artists and toy designers can also gain great exposure to the many local and overseas companies taking part in STGCC, as well as influential pop culture personalities, and provide them with opportunities to network which can pave the way for tie-ups and partnerships.

This year, STGCC will host a local comics panel with Kelly Bender, Lim Cheng Tju and Elvin Ching as they touch on topics on the past, present and future of comics making in Singapore. Fans will also not want to miss on a special SG50 collaboration between STGCC and talented local artists like Tell Your Children, Keh Choon Wee, Ong Ean Keat of Keatopia, Mas of Wanton Noodle, Ziqi of Monster Little and Caramelaw A.K.A Sheena Aw as they design an array of custom Munnies in celebration of Singapore's Golden Jubilee. These custom Munnies will be available for bidding at a silent auction at STGCC, where all proceeds raised will go to child welfare organisation, Club Rainbow. C.B. Celbulski, Senior Vice President of Creative & Creator Development of Marvel Comics and talent scout for the publishing giant, will also be doing a portfolio review at STGCC. More details will be announced soon, so stay tuned to the STGCC website.

The pop culture scene here is burgeoning and we definitely see STGCC continuing to play a strong role in its development.

7. Are there more people in Singapore reading comics, collecting toys and playing games as a result of STGCC?
We are definitely seeing more interest on the ground as seen from attendance numbers growing stronger each year, solidifying STGCC’s position as the must-go event of the year for industry players. Through our conversations with our key exhibitors, such as Toy Baze, The Falcon’s Hangar and Simply Toys, they have shared that there has been increased demand for their products through their participation at STGCC over the past few years.

8. It's a few weeks before STGCC 2015 - how hectic has it been?
We have been burning late nights but it is all worth it for the fans to make sure we put up a good show, do expect a lot of fun at STGCC 2015!

Photos courtesy of STGCC.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

STGCC 2015: Garrie Gastonny and friends

Garrie Gastonny is coming back to STGCC. This time, he will be travelling with friends, Yusuf Idris, Sami Basri and Iwan Nazif. Also coming are Is Elfandiary, Dika Toolkit and Yasmine Putri (Storm Lion).

I got the chance to get these goodies from him at Popcon. He obligingly drew Red Sonja and Darkseid. So make sure you grab this 2015 sketchbook at STGCC. Limited edition of 150. While stocks last. You can also get him to sign your copies of A1 and Supergod.

Now if only I can get him to answer my interview questions...

Interview with Ian Gibson

Ian Gibson is a legend in UK comics. Not only was he responsible for many a memorable run of Judge Dredd and Robo-Hunters in 2000AD, he was the co-creator of one of the most iconic female characters in comics, Halo Jones. Born in 1946, Gibson came to prominence with his strips for 2000AD, including The Ballad of Halo Jones, written by Alan Moore. Like many others in the UK, he would draw for American comics like Mister Miracle (DC) in the 1980s, but it was not a happy experience. Since then, Gibson has kept himself busy with projects in the wings, waiting to be released at the right time.

What struck me most about interviewing Gibson is his sense of humour. I hope we get to see his new comics soon. Thanks to Kenny Chan for the link up.

1. For your longtime fans, what have you been up to? Any new comics, writings?

I'm no longer fighting with deadlines. I'm working slowly on the Lifeboat project and playing with ideas for other things I've written. But they are all big projects, so I have no release dates for any of them.

2. You have been associated with drawing/creating strong female characters. Was it intentional? (you have talked about the influence of Heinlein)

The 'female lead' aspect of my work is, I suppose, somewhat influenced by Bobby Heinlein - from Podkayne of Mars to Friday, etc. Plus I never really enjoyed drawing big muscle bound dudes.

3. You worked for IPC Girls Comics Group in the 1970s. Can you tell us about those early days of girls comics in the UK?

When I started in comics there was no science fiction being published in the UK. So I had to look elsewhere to get work in other genres. First it was horror; then it was love stories and girls' adventures, with a sprinkling of oddments in between. I don't know who the writers were because in those days we were all 'anonymous'. But one of the other artists working through the same agency was Romero doing love stories etc. I worked with Blas Gallego as a way into girls comics as the editors thought my girls were too skinny!

You see, Blas Gallego was living in London at that time while I was too. So I had the chance to go and work in his 'studio' amid the clouds of smoke from his cheap cigarrettes! He was working on a variety of girl's comics that included stories like 'Sugar Jones' as a comedic piece and some girls' drama adventures. I was doing the pencils and Blas was inking the finished art. The editors at IPC girls comics had looked at the 'test' piece I'd done for them (I think it was for Mirabelle) and they declared that my girls were too skinny for their tastes. So working with Blas allowed me to work 'under his cover' without their complaints.

The readership for these comics was all young girls as far as I know.

4. You also drew the Bionic Woman story in the 1977 Annual. Do you remember much of that story and how did it come about?

The Bionic woman stories happened because the editor asked me. I think the writer was Steve Moore. I'd worked with him on other projects and he liked to take me out to small cinemas that showed Toshiro Mifune classics. So we had a good rapport for the stories. Sadly the second annual cut the budget and as a result I had to work in just two colours for much of the scripts. I think I got the Bionic job after I'd done some work on a Kung Fu annual and then that lead on to working on the Invisible Man annual too.

5. You created Halo Jones because you felt the female characters in 2000AD then were like 'men with tits'. Has the portrayal of women in comics improved since then?

Halo doesn't seem to have changed the face of comics very much. For instance the big hue and cry over the Milo Manara Spiderwoman cover. But if you look at any of the American comics the hypocrisy level is high, as most of the time the girls are thrusting their bosoms and wearing skin tight costumes and usually posed in a provocative manner. I think Manara was pointing this out in his own way, maybe?

But despite the clingy state of the costumes there is never a nipple in sight nor, perish forbid, and sign of a 'camel-toe'!

6. What was the experience like drawing for American comics (Mister Miracle for DC) in the 1980s?

I really liked the idea of working on Mister Miracle as homage to the legend of King Kirby. Sadly the writer had other ideas and the scripts betrayed the character and cheapened the story. So I spent a lot of time changing the scripts where I could to take out the flim flam. But eventually the editor asked if maybe they could recognise the stories when they got them back from me. My response was that if the editor had been doing his job I wouldn't have to change anything. This resulted in them dropping me from the series!! Their loss!

7. Still, there was the Steed and Mrs Peel (1990) series with Eclipse and written by Grant Morrison which I like a lot.

The Steed & Mrs Peel series was supposed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the TV show. And the release date was set for that anniversary. But all of the publicity came to naught as a certain American general decided that Desert Storm would start on the same date. So nobody noticed that it was the Avengers anniversary! You could say we got covered by a cloud of sand..? All to support a 'resource war' that was as illegal and disgusting as the ethnic cleansing of the native American peoples.

But I did rather enjoy working on the characters of Steed and Emma Peel. I also had fun with the 'back-up' story by Anne Caulfield. When I saw that the script started with Emma's hubby crashing his plane in South America, I decided, even though it wasn't in the script, to pay homage to the delightful Mayan Codex memories I have of studying pre-Columbian cultures. So I began the story in the style of a Mayan Codex and gradually integrated modern comics into the mix. I had a lot of fun!

8. Halo Jones is tied up in a copyright mess. But any chance of you returning to Judge Dredd or Robo-Hunter one day?

I don't think 2000 are interested in giving me any work after I quit half way through the Samantha Slade story. I got fed up with the quality of the stories and eventually it came to a point where I just couldn't stomach it any more. I told the editor 'Alan has beaten me! Not even I can turn this into entertainment!!' I haven't heard from them since.

9. Among the many characters you have drawn, which character did you enjoy working on the most?

My all time favourite character was Annie Droid which I wrote for the Times Saturday editions. A story called Millennium Bug, at the turn of the century when everyone was in a panic about the change of date on their computers. But very few people ever saw it.

10. Any update on Lifeboat? The premise is fascinating. How did you come up with this story idea?

The Lifeboat project started a long time ago. I was helping a friend get a start as a writer, and took him down to the Brighton seafront to chat and get inspiration. There I ventured into the Lifeboat museum and was fascinated by the displays and thought it would be great to celebrate their work by writing a story about how someone decided to start a lifeboats in space facility. From there the story took various turns and twists until I came up with the current version. It's a long and convoluted saga that will take years to finish.

[In another interview, Gibson explained the premise of Lifeboat:
‘combine “What if Romeo and Juliet had had a child?” with a ‘space’ version of the American War of Independence, where asteroid mining colonies are trying to break free from the Empire. Father becomes head of the Imperium; mother becomes Queen of the colonies – child raised by aliens. And it gets more complicated from there on in!’]

11. Is there a story you want to tell and an existing character that you would like to draw?

I have a filing cabinet full of the scripts I've written; some started; some complete; some just ideas. Destiny is one of my favourites. But sadly some games company has just brought out a game with that Title. So that could be a problem. Like the Halo game that appeared 'coincidentally' just after Halo Jones was popular..?

I have so many projects that I need another lifetime to get them all done!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Popcon 2015

Popcon 2015

What is it?
According to the organizers: POPCON is the biggest pop culture convention in Asia that is dedicated to celebrate and appreciate the professionals, artists, and creators in the creative industry, focusing on comics, games, toys, films, and animations.

Popcon Asia aims to encourage and support the creative industry ecosystem, as well as to become the platform for networking and collaboration among creators, brand, government, media and other stakeholders to grow the creative industries in Asia.

When is it?
This year, Popcon Asia will be held for the 4th time on 7-9 August 2015, which will be attended by visitors from various countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, Japan, France, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, and Philippines. This event is a joint project between creative companies such as Revata, Fabula, Kibar, Kreavi, Layaria, Pionicon, and Plastic Culture.

Where is it?
Assembly Hall, Jakarta Convention Centre.

Who are going from Singapore?
Jerry Hinds (SupaCross)
Evangeline Neo (Evacomics)
Shawn Siow and Mark Koh (Silent War)
D’Creativeaholic (Wackymons)

For them, it’s their first visit to Popcon, although a few like Shawn, Mark and Jerry had participated in the first Indonesia Toy Game and Comic Convention (ITGCC) last year. It was a positive experience for them.

Shawn and Mark: It was very interesting. The best experience about attending such overseas event is of course meeting their local artists and letting people other than your own country know about you. It’s the best chance for networking and relationship building with artists of different backgrounds.

Jerry found ITGCC a bit slow in general and the entrance fee was too high for a small event with no big names present. Hence he was pleasantly surprised that he was able to sell many books & commissions.

Most of the artists do not have their books on sale in Indonesia, with the exception of Eva whose book is translated to Bahasa Indonesia and published by Elex Media. At Popcon, she will be participating on a comic panel on the second day of the convention, The Climate and Condition of ASEAN Comic Industries, which will discuss and assess the potential and possibilities of collaboration between South East Asian countries in order to strengthen the position of ASEAN comics as cultural and commercial product within the global market as a whole. I will be moderating the session, which also includes artists from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

In general, the artists felt that attending overseas conventions has been helpful for them. Eva, Shawn and Mark was at Comic Fiesta 2014 in Kulua Lumpur last December. Shawn and Mark explained: As Singapore is a small country, attending only local events has a tendency to recycle the same group of supporters every year, and once you reach a threshold, it is hard for the others to notice your work. One of the best ways to show your art to a wider audience is through such overseas events, besides the Internet. This allows a very good chance for us to increase our supporters and making our work known to other countries. And by meeting other creators, it opens up many possibilities for collaboration.

So if you happen to be in Jakarta this coming weekend, do look out for them at Popcon. And also drop by Akademi Samali booth as there will be some Singapore comics on sale - Gone Case, Benjamin Chee, AnnaRex, Funics and Epigram Books.