BPREVIEW: Drink and Draw @ Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (Edwardian Tea Rooms) 22.04.16

Drink and Draw @ Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 22.04.16Words by Olly MacNamee

Simon Myers and Nigel Hopkins’ doodliscious Drink and Draw returns to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) on Friday 22nd April – in conjunction with the wider Birmingham Comics Festival, which runs throughout April.Main with web colour bcg - lr

And, as such, it will be taking on a superhero theme that asks attendants (nearly 500 pencil-wielding patrons last time) to imagine they’re superheroes and to depict how they received their powers. A great idea with the potential for both serious and stoopid secret origin stories to spill forth onto the page.

Oh, and as always, it’s free.

Pencils and paper are provided in large amounts – at an event that encourages all and everyone, no matter how limited an artist you may be, to get involved, get merry and get sketching.

I attended the last one (somewhat more squiffy than initially planned) and couldn’t help noticing a wide section of Birmingham’s art communities were in attendance, from comic book artists to graffiti greats.

Indeed, both Drink and Draw organisers are artists in their own rights, with Simon Myers having recently created some great album cover parodies for several Dr Who comics. Some of Myers’ work is still available from Nostalgia & Comics and Birmingham’s own branch of Forbidden Planet.

Drink and Draw starts at 6.30pm and runs through to 10pm, with snacks and drinks available from the Edwardian Tea Room – the part of BMAG where the event is being hosted. And judging from last time, I’d get there early to find a seat.Edwardian Tea Rooms - Birmingham Musuem & Art Gallery

And if you’re still stuck for an idea, following the event’s superhero theme, soak in Birmingham Review’s handy guide to secret origin stories:

Step One: Have your hero lose a loved one (or two)
The loss of a loved one is a solid backstory for many a superhero. Spidey lost Uncle Ben to an ungrateful thief, the Hulk’s mother was killed by his father, whilst Superman was even more unlucky – losing both his Kryptonian parents and his adoptive parents, the Kents. And yet, Supes never went all mean and moody. Unlike Bruce Wayne, who only lost one set of parents but was scarred for life. If only he’d had the child therapy he so clearly needed.

Step Two: The costume
The costume should reflect your character’s powers. Whether it’s the wings on Flash’s mask, reminiscent of the winged helmet of Hermes – the messenger of the gods, or the funky webbing of Spider-man’s outfit; let the bad guys know what they’re up against.

Drink and Draw characters - web coloursStep Three: The arch-enemy
The arch-enemy is usually, in some ways, the dual opposite of the hero, as best summed up in the weird, twisted relationship Batman and The Joker have always had. Two mad men in suits, with at least one of them recognising their madness. But then, as a billionaire, who would dare tell Batman that he’s, well, bat-shit crazy.

Step Four: Anything is possible
Let your imagination (and a few beers) take the driving seat and have fun with your ideas. The history of comics has shown us that even the daftest of ideas can be long lasting. Look at superhero names such as Bouncing Boy (who can inflate his body up to beach ball proportions), Matter Eating Lad (who can eat all matter) and Sun Boy – all members of the goofiest super team I’ve even had the privilege of reading, The Legion of Super-Heroes.

Drink and Draw takes place at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (Edwardian Tea Rooms) on 22nd April, between 6.30pm-10pm. Entry to the event is free.

For direct information, visit http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/whats-on/edwardian-tea-rooms-late-drink-and-draw

For more from Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, visit http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag

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INTERVIEW: Mike Carey / M R Carey

Words by Olly MacNamee / Pic of Mike Carey @ Charlie Hopkinson

Warning: This interview contains some spoilers for M R Carey’s book The Girl With All The Gifts.

With an impressive writing career in comics, as well as a growing sideline as a novelist and screenwriter, Birmingham Review caught up with Mike Carey at Waterstone’s in Birmingham City Centre – talking about his new novel, Fellside, his previous novel and soon-to-be film, The Girl With All The Gifts, his comics, heaven, hell, and how ‘we think we live in the real world’.

Olly MacNamee (OM): I like the multiple perspectives you present in The Girl With All The Gifts. Is this a narrative technique you adopt in your new novel, Fellside?

Mike Carey (MC): It is, although in the first draft it was a single point of view.

OM: Was that Jess, the prisoner at Fellside?

MC: No. Actually it was Sylvia Stark, a very minor character in the novel; an evil, obsessive nurse who tries to kill Jess right from the outset. I chose her because she’s tangential to the story, someone who is looking onto the tragedy that unfolds and a tragedy she doesn’t understand, or her own part in it. But it didn’t really work because it forced me to talk around Fellside by M R Careycertain things, and delay certain reveals, so I recast it with multiple points of view. Yes, it’s the same kind of storytelling device as The Girl With All The Gifts, but it isn’t in the present tense, like Girl.

I was very concerned not to do a follow up to Girl; the same kind of flavour, the same kind of storytelling. I wanted to branch out a bit and it is a very, very different book. Fellside is a ghost story and, as such, the balance between the real world elements and the fantastical elements is different in Fellside. If you take away Alex, the ghost, Fellside is a prison narrative – in some ways reflective of other classic prison based narratives, with familiar character types such as Harriet Grace, the woman who runs all the rackets in the prison, and Dennis Devlin, the corrupt warder…  What I wanted to do, also, was to say something about the present state of British prisons.

Private prisons, sadly, are the future because they are so cheap compared to the public alternative; it takes it off the government’s books and places it into the hands of corporations who pick up the tab. The cost of such as system is that you then get the perverse incentives of Capitalism kicking in. You are talking about companies whose product are prisoners, and so they can only increase their profit if they either have more prisoners or if they keep their prisoners for longer. So these companies will be lobbying the government to change the law, to put more people in prison and for longer time too.

OM: Were you aware of these issues before researching for Fellside?

MC: It’s part of the reason why I chose a prison setting, although there were lots of other reasons too. For example, claustrophobic settings, I love them. I love settings where a small cast of characters are forced to interact with each other. The military base in The Girl With All The Gifts is another such place, Fellside even more so. From a dramatic point of view it’s irresistible.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M R CareyOM: Fellside is a thought-provoking novel. Is this something we could do with more of in comics? After all, your work on the Vertigo comic Lucifer looked at the notions of free will, whilt your other Vertigo comics’ series, The Unwritten, looked at the very nature of reality itself.

MC: Well, when I come up with an idea, it’s always characters and a setting first, and then I build the story. I’ve learnt the hard way over thirty years, for me it’s the only way that works. If you start with the story you end up with two-dimensional characters, you build the story around the characters. So I’m never consciously thinking of themes that my story will address.

Having said that, I don’t think you can write without it coming from your perspective, from how you look at the world around you. In The Unwritten that is an exception, as we definitely set out to write a story about stories and the extent to which stories are the only things that really matter. Ambrosio says in the first issue that stories are the only thing worth dying for. We have a more radical position even than that: stories are the only thing there is. We think we live in a real world, we don’t. We live in stories about ourselves in the story of the real world. There is a lot of psychological research to suggest that the self, our sense of self, is a narrative.

OM: Of course, our first lessons in morality come from fairy tales and folklore when we’re just toddlers. Your Lucifer is based on concepts explored by Milton in his epic narrative poem, Paradise Lost. And whether William Blake wanted to create a hero out of the Devil in his book, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he did. What is it about character of Lucifer that draws writers to him?

MC: I think Lucifer is powerful figure because he’s got such a wide range of possible meanings. I think that all myths that survive do so because you can apply them in so many different ways to life and your own life.Lucifer by Mike Carey

Lucifer starts off as the adversary to God, the embodiment of the darker impulses in our nature. The moment you do embody him the more he becomes attractive and glamorous. You are thinking, ‘actually, he’s pretty cool.’ Milton does not set out to make a hero out of Lucifer in Paradise Lost. He’s supposed to be the bad guy but he’s the most interesting character in the story. In Books 6 and 7, the War in Heaven, it’s basically heroic fantasy with Lucifer the big guy holding the biggest sword, like Conan. You end up rooting for him.

OM: Finally, it was announced recently that the TV series of Lucifer will be renewed for a second season. You’ve written the screenplay for the film adaption of your novel, The Girl With All The Gifts – would you be interested to write the odd episode of Lucifer?

MC: Damn straight. I would totally do that and do my damndest to sneak in a story from the comic book series. I think American networks will go with known American writers with proven track records, but you never know.

M R Carey’s Fellside is available now in hardback, whilst his previous novel, The Girl With All The Gifts is available in paperback. Mike Carey’s comic book work is also available as trade paperbacks.

For more on Mike Carey / M R Carey, visit http://mikeandpeter.com

BPREVIEW: Mike Carey signing @ Waterstones – City Centre (High St) 09.04.16

fellside2Words by Olly MacNamee

On Saturday 9th April at 6.30pm, graphic novelist & author Mike Carey (X-Men, Lucifer) comes to Birmingham’s High Street branch of Waterstones – signing to sign copies of his latest novel, Fellside.Main with web colour bcg - lr

The Mike Carey signing (or M R Carey as he is known as a prose writer) is a free event, organised in conjunction with The Birmingham Comics Festival. For direct info from Waterstones, click here

Carey’s writing career has seen him writing for Marvel (Fantastic Four, The X-Men), Rebellion (2000AD) and DC Comics offshoot Vertigo (Lucifer – now a FOX TV series). Amongst the comic book fans of this world, he’s something of a name.

Carey is much more than a comic book writer though and has also found the time to forge a successful career as an author – hence this signing of Fellside, a thriller set in a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors.

Carey’s most notable prose work to date is arguably his 2014 novel The Girl With All The Gifts, which is currently being adapted into the film She Who Brings Gifts, starring Glen Close, Gemma Arterton and Paddy Considine. The film was partly filmed in the mean streets of Birmingham itself last summer, when a portion of Brum’s streets were turned into a facsimile of a dystopian future.

Arguably, Carey is as well known as an author as he is a comic book creator – and probably about to become even better known once She Who Brings Gifts hits cinemas later this year. I will always fondly remember the time I met Neil Gamain on his tour for his novel American Gods, back in the day. It’s doubtful I would ever get such a chance again, and this signing could be a similar one-off opportunity to meet Mike Carey.

M R CareyThe M R Carey signing a free event, but it will be ticketed and I’d make sure you book before venturing into town.

Having made his name as a comic book writer, I expect this will be more intense than your average signing – with plenty of comic book fans ready in the wings with arms full of things to be signed. You may find yourselves standing in a slower moving queue than expected.

Either drop into Waterstones or phone and reserve your ticket on 0121 633 4353. Alternatively, you can tweet your request to @waterstonesbham

For more information, visit https://www.waterstones.com/events/meet-m-r-carey/birmingham-high-street

For more on Mike Carey / M R Carey, visit http://mikeandpeter.com/

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BPREVIEW: The Birmingham Comics Festival @ Edgbaston Cricket Stadium 23.04.16

The Birmingham Comics Festival @ Edgbaston Cricket Stadium 23.04.16

Words by Olly MacNamee

On Saturday 23 April, The Birmingham Comics Festival comes to Edgbaston Cricket Stadium. And now in its second year, the guys behind The Birmingham Comics Festival have a grand plan for the future of the event – building on the success of the 2015 event and spreading their wings and influence across the whole city. No longer just a comic-con but a full blown festival, a number of satellite events have been scheduled to spread the word and grow the event.Main with web colour bcg - lr

They clearly want to leave an endemic mark on the city for years to come. And in making many of these events free to all, they are certainly thinking beyond the capitalist confines of simply profiteering, but at bolstering and sustaining the thriving comic book culture within the city that has always been here, though subsiding, like Batman, in the shadows in recent years.

The main event itself, The Birmingham Comics Festival, runs from 9am (for Early Bird ticket holders, or 11am for everyone else), over two halls. You will be able to take it all in, with one hall having a firm focus on comic book creators and comic book exhibitors and vendors, and the other showcasing other exhibitors of sci-fi, cosplay, gaming and the like.

The Birmingham Comics Festival @ Edgbaston Cricket Stadium 23.04.16Along with these more established names, there will be the chance to delve into the vast and varied world of indie publishing, with several comics launching at the festival. Having covered cons for nearly three years now as a roving reporter of geek culture, and a self-confessed aficionado, more and more I find I am drawn to these indie titles and the diversity they offer in terms of storytelling and subject matter. For me, these cons are about finding those hidden gems, or stumbling upon tomorrow’s Neil Gaiman or Amanda Connner.

So have a sneak peak at a few new titles ahead of publication: Steve Tanner from Time Bomb Comics, will be debuting his Flintlock comic, set in the 18th Century, Planet Jimbot will launch their new comic, Samurai, as will local first timers, Joe Krawec and Angus Medford with their book, Blood. There are, of course, far more than these names to salivate over, so why not take a look at the complete list – click here.

And, if your love for pop culture is not simply as a devourer of the four coloured page, there are other sights to see across the day, with one of the big pulls guaranteed to be the chance to have your photo taken with The Tumbler, from the much-loved Christopher Nolan helmed Batman trilogy. Originally touted as a ticket only opportunity, it was soon realised that demand was far too large to ignore. You can’t say they haven’t listened to their fans, at least.The Birmingham Comics Festival @ Edgbaston Cricket Stadium 23.04.16

There’s plenty to do, and that’s before the panels have been announced, which will run throughout the day and will probably take on a diverse range of themes if last year’s panels on superheroes and films, women creators in comics and a panel on 2000AD, are the litmus test to go by.

Oh, and there will be cosplayers too. There’s always cosplayers. They bring an added element of fun and frollicks to the whole day. Why not get dressed up yourself and join the party.

Tickets are still available, and many of the events leading up to the big day are free.

For a full list of satellite events, click here – with a few highlights below.

Laydeez Do Comics @ The Victoria 04.04.16

Admission: free / 7.30pm

A regular meet up with guest speakers of the female variety (but not exclusively) sharing their passion for comics and their own work within the field. This time round guest speakers will be artist Verity Glass (cover artist for Titans Comics Dr Who as well as IDW’s Independence Day comic series), Coventry-based cartoonist and illustrator Caroline Parker and Birmingham writer and editor Paul H Birch.

For more info, visit http://www.thevictoriabirmingham.co.uk/


Quiz Night @ The Victoria 06.04.16

Admission: free / 6.30pm

Again at The Victoria Theatre Bar, and supported by Nostalgia and Comics, Birmingham’s longest running comic book emporium, is the return of the intensely competitive Quiz Night. The winner gets to walk away with an original piece of artwork especially commissioned by one of the big name artists present at the festival. Last year’s lucky winner took away an original Hulk drawn by Mark Buckingham (Vertigo’s Fables) and inked by Mark Farmer (who I will always associate with his partnership alongside artist Alan Davis on Marvel’s Captain Britain).

For more info, visit http://www.thevictoriabirmingham.co.uk/


Mike Carey signing @ Waterstones – City Centre (High St) 09.04.16 

Admission: free / 6pm

Mike Carey, or rather M R Carey when wearing his author’s hat, is in town and signing his new novel Fellside at Waterstones on the High Street. Expect a range of fans there for his novels (The Girl With All The Gifts is about to be released as a major movie adaptation starring Glen Close and Gemma Arterton) and his comic work (Lucifer, Fantastic Four and X Men).

For more info, visit https://www.waterstones.com/events/meet-m-r-carey/birmingham-high-street


Creating Comics workshops @ mac April

Two courses, two different demographics.

Firstly, there is the child friendly Creating Comics workshop, on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th April at mac (11am – 1pm) aimed at children aged between 8 – 14. And, if they can talk their parents into it, an hour later at 2pm, there will be a screening of The Iron Giant to round off a busy day.

Then, there is the more intense adults’ course, starting on April 15th and running every Friday (7.30pm – 9.30pm) for 13 weeks costing £120/£96 with concessions. Both are hosted by Chris Hamilton.

mac is a popular venue for the middle classes of Moseley and beyond, so be warned, if you want a place get in there quickly otherwise you may be disappointed.

For more info, visit https://macbirmingham.co.uk/event/creating-comics-sc217/


Drink & Draw @ Edwardian Tea Rooms, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 22.04.16

Admission: free /  6.30pm

Hosts Simon Myers and Nigel Hopkins return to the Edwardian Tea Rooms in the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, providing the theme and the pens, pencils and paper. Expect a comic book related theme I imagine. A huge number of willing participants turned up last time (I’m talking HUNDREDS of people) and there are already over 600 people showing interest in this one. A hugely popular evening and a great setting too.

For more info, visit http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag/whats-on/edwardian-tea-rooms-late-drink-and-draw


The Birmingham Comics Festival comes to Edgbaston Cricket Stadium on Saturday 23rd April, running from 9am-6pm.

Tickets are priced between £10-£25 (advance), for direct info &online ticket sales, visit http://www.thecomicfestival.com