THE countdown is well under way to the first ever Lakes International Comic Art Festival, running from October 18-20, with Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre playing the central role.
From far and wide dozens of the biggest names in comic art will descend on the town.
However, for one of the top creators - it’s just a short jaunt down the A6.
From the studio in his Milnthorpe home, which he shares with his wife Janette (also and artist) and three children, Sean Phillips skilfully crafts drawings that feed the imaginations of comic fans across the globe.
Iconic superheroes such as Batman, Spiderman, Judge Dredd and the Uncanny X-Men, have been brought to life with the fine point of Sean’s pen.
As well as collaborating with fellow authors and artists on comics for household names Marvel and DC, the internationally-acclaimed artist is also renowned for co-creating crime comics Criminal and Fatale, which have legions of loyal followers across the globe.
His creative partner on crime-noir favourite Fatale – a female protagonist with supernatural powers - is leading American writer Ed Brubaker, receiving his scripts by email.
“Ed’s the screenwriter, I’m like the director, casting and looking at each shot, interpreting the script.
“Modern technology means that I can enjoy living in South Lakeland and still collaborate with fellow artists in the US and meet the deadlines set by publishers wherever they are in the world.”
The hugely-successful 24-page Fatale books are published monthly and have been nominated for six Eisners awards, the comic industry’s version of Hollywood’s Oscars.
Fatale has given Sean a mighty measure of creative and personal freedom - a luxury that artists working on the big American titles are often not afforded.
“Having that freedom is liberating,” Sean points out.
“Ed and I are the ones who decide who lives and dies. Whereas with characters such as Spiderman you know he’s always going to win.”
Born in Cambridge and brought up at Haverhill, in Suffolk, Sean became hooked on the adventures of Marvel superheroes such as Spiderman and the Avengers, and began drawing his own comic characters with his first strip published in a local newspaper when he was 12.
Three years - and few false starts - later he was a regular contributor to girls comics such as Bunty and Judy which he continued to do while studying graphic design at college in Preston.
Next was a real magic moment - a meeting with an American comic editor in London which opened the doors to start drawing for Marvel and DC on Batman, Spider Man and X-Men and 2000AD’s Judge Dredd.
Though his passion lay with superheroes, Sean credits working on girl’s comics for developing his realistic style of drawing that has become his trademark.
He adds: “Although I had drawn some superheroes, drawing these soap opera style stories of real life people doing real life things stood me in good stead for the work I do now in the crime stories, which are essentially real-world types of stories with loners in leather jackets frowning a lot. But I’ve never been able to draw ponies!”
Sean is a patron of the inaugural Lakes International Comic Art Festival and says the festival is just not for hardcore comic fans. “There is a wealth of things going on and something for everyone whether you are a fan of the political satire of the Guardian’s Steve Bell, the raucous humour of Viz or Peppa Pig.
“One of the best things about LICAF is that it is taking place across the town. Most comic conventions take place in huge hangar-like conference centres so the fact that people will be able to experience comic art in locations such as the town hall, Brewery Arts Centre and the library will give it a really special feel and hopefully encourage the whole town to get involved.”
Sean is also looking forward to a get-together with his partner in crime Ed Brubaker who is also taking part in the festival.
“This will be Ed’s first visit to a comic event in the UK and I’m looking forward to showing him round the Lakes. It’ll be a quite a contrast to LA,” observes Sean.
Meanwhile, an exhibition of Sean’s art will be appearing in the Brewery’s Sugar Store Gallery from Sunday, October 6.
Also, to tie in with his Brewery exhibition and the festival, Sean releases The Art of Sean Phillips on October 16, a hardback tome, that covers his comic creativity from his early teenage years to the present. A lavish, career spanning retrospective, which packs enough artistic oomph into its 312-pages to propel it up The Times bestsellers list.
As for the day job, Sean is clearly driven: “I love it. There’s nothing else I’d rather do.
“I look forward to Monday mornings to get to work."
More than 70 writers and artists feature in the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, which runs from Friday until Sunday, October 18-20, and includes some of the world’s biggest names in comic art, reflecting the diversity of comics, including biography, political cartoons, journalism, satire, superhero comics, comedy, adaptations of historical novels and innovative new storytelling.
As well as Sean Phillips, guests include American writers Ed Brubaker, and Kurt Busiek, Charlie Adlard the artist on The Walking Dead, Simon Thorp and Graham Dury who created Viz, American comics journalist Joe Sacco, cartoonist Posy Simmonds, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra who created Judge Dredd, plus festival patrons Bryan and Mary Talbot creators of Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, the winner of the 2013 Costa Biography Award.
The programme features more than 50 events of different styles, including meet the creators (presentations, live drawings and interviews), panel discussions, a film programme, exhibitions, workshops, our version of a marketplace/artists’ alley, and a dedicated Comics Family Zone.
There will also be a comic art trail through Kendal Town Centre with the windows of more than 30 shops and other businesses packed with comic art.
For tickets and further information telephone the Brewery box office on 01539-725133 or visit www.breweryarts.co.uk and www.comicartfestival.com.