Now in its second year, Kapow! Comic Convention converged on London UK this past weekend. While a bit of a comic novice, I’ve been seeing more films of late either based on comic books, or inspired by the format. So I spent an afternoon at the convention, wandering the aisles, attending panels, and getting a sneak preview of an upcoming film.
According to Gillian at the UK blog Comics Anonymous, the UK is only now just coming out of the comics closet. She told me this when I expressed surprise that Kapow wasn’t much larger. I don’t want to say that as a negative; the few times I’ve been to Fan Expo, for example, I’ve found it far too big to handle. On the plus side, Kapow is big enough to see a wide range of work, yet small enough to be incredibly friendly. Everyone I talked to, from artists to writers to shop owners, was happy to answer my (I’m sure very amateur) questions. There were large and small vendors, and an artists’ alley for aspiring comics creators. There was also a wrestling ring, where various versions of Kick-Ass and Spider-Man duked it out.
Rufus Sewell was on hand to introduce the red band trailer and a few choice clips from his upcoming film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Based on the novel of the same name, the film is, well, pretty self-explanatory from the title. Before he became president, Honest Abe discovered the existence of vampires, their desire to take over America for themselves, and his destiny to wipe them out. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Day Watch, Night Watch), what I had seen so far was pretty impressive, both in art direction and action. Unfortunately, the clips were shown in 3D with some pretty fancy new glasses that have computer chips to supposedly enhance the experience but didn’t work (not just mine; most of the audience’s.) It was preferable to watch a slightly fizzy picture rather something sometimes green, sometimes red, and still fuzzy. The clips were of Lincoln’s first kill, confession to his future wife, and an attack on a vampire nest. Like the trailer, they all look amazing. Benjamin Walker is a solid Lincoln and Sewell is in his element as the head vampire baddy. Not having read the book, I hope there is some attempt to use the vampires as a metaphor for the situation in the US at that point in history, rather than an easy cash grab of name recognition.
One of the biggest (if not the biggest) UK comic names these days is Mark Millar. Two of his series, Wanted and Kick-Ass, have already been made into films, and a third, Supercrooks, is in preproduction. A panel featuring Millar, artists Frank Quitely and Dave Gibbons, and Supercrooks director Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) was extremely popular; Millar unveiled a few pages from upcoming comics Jupiter’s Children and Hit Girl. Millar is a great writer, and the various artists he works with all find a unique style for each different comic. I picked up the first two issues of Secret Service, which are great fun. Millar, Quitely and Gibbons were all very funny and friendly, giving interesting advice to aspiring comic writers and artists about the joys and realities of the career path. Millar and Vigalondo also talked about the film of Supercrooks, including revealing their dream cast, which apparently includes Bradley Cooper and Jon Hamm. Someone call these guys now.
Vigalondo also participated in a director’s panel with Gareth Edwards, who is directing the upcoming reboot of Godzilla, and Jeff Wadlow, who is helming Kick-Ass 2. They each had insights on the task of adapting comics to the screen (as opposed to novels or original scripts), the joys and difficulties of creating moving images when there is already a visual reference, and their own paths, inspirations and advice.
There were several panels that I wasn’t able to attend. Actor Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) apparently gave a very funny interview about his work; Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead, Running Wilde) launched a new comic project; footage was shown from the new Amazing Spider-Man movie; and Warren Ellis drew a huge crowd. As a newcomer to the comic world, this was a great place for an introduction, and it piqued my interest to the point where I now know the best comic shops in the city. Next year I plan top attend the whole weekend.