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Phil Gillam: Shrewsbury comics festival set to be a real page-turner

Phil Gillam | Published:

My childhood – just like that of millions of others – revolved largely around flapping through the pages of comics, reading the speech bubbles and studying the artwork, becoming absorbed in the adventures unfolding.

Comics that bring back so many memories

How would our hero escape this time?

How is this terrible villain to be defeated?

And please don’t make me wait until next week’s edition to find out what happens next!

Anyway.

All this is leading me to say how much I’m looking forward to an exciting new festival taking place in Shrewsbury in June – Comics Salopia.

It promises to be a big, international, free-entry festival taking over the entire town of Shrewsbury, celebrating the medium of comic art in all of its forms with some of the biggest names in comic art attending. A whole range of fun, inclusive and inspiring events for all of the family is being planned.

Venues include the Castle Grounds, the Dana Prison, Shrewsbury University and the Museum and Art Gallery, which is hosting an exhibition by local superstar-artist Charlie Adlard of Walking Dead fame.

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Visitors can also enjoy film screenings, Jedi fight training, face painting, a small press comics market in The Square, an interactive Judge Dredd event, live music, boat trips, a Zombie Walk, a Cosplay competition (in which participants wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent favourite characters) and live art events all weekend.

Of course, down through the ages we’ve had detective adventure comics, cowboy comics, war comics and horror comics.

Other titles have focused on science fiction, amazing space adventures or time travel.

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And there have been comics based on film stars (Laurel and Hardy, John Wayne, Danny Kaye, the Three Stooges) or TV shows (Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Star Trek, Dr Who).

Then there are of course the thrilling, colourful universes of Marvel and DC, populated by the most dynamic superheroes who – in recent decades – have taken over the big screen: Spider-man, Iron Man, The Avengers, Batman, Superman … the list goes on.

Most children will have their favourite comics – and most adults will have fond memories of rushing home from the newsagent with the latest edition of their favourite title.

In Britain, for generations, we had The Beano and The Dandy, and boys of a certain age will never forget The Eagle.

Girls would enjoy titles aimed directly at them: Bunty (which ran from 1958 to 2001), and Judy (1960-1991). The same publishers, DC Thompson, later launched Diana, Mandy, Debbie and Suzy.

I’m not sure how much of this rich heritage and social history will be reflected in Comics Salopia, but I have no doubt the festival will be a lot of fun.

The team behind Comics Salopia comprises Jane Mackenzie (festival chair), a local champion of literacy and the arts; Shane Chebsey (festival director) who has been organising successful comic conventions, conferences and festivals since the first Birmingham International Comics Show in 2006 at the historic Custard Factory; and Charlie Adlard (festival patron), a world renowned comics artist and co-creator of The Walking Dead series.

I should say at this point that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to an interview with Shane Chebsey on the excellent Shrewsbury Biscuit podcast the other day. One of the things he said that hit me between the eyes was: "I’ve always wanted to do a festival in Shrewsbury. It’s my home town. I love it. It’s the perfect place to have a festival.”

Quite right, Shane – and with yourself, Jane and Charlie at the helm, it should be a winner.

Charlie, it must be said, is a veteran of the comic industry and has worked for all of the major publishers both here in the UK and overseas including Marvel Comics and DC Comics.

Over the years he has also worked on some of the world’s most well known characters and franchises including Batman and a huge run on the X-Files.

More details? Visit Comics Salopia at comicssalopia.com

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