2D Comics Festival 2010

Aaron Abernethy visits Derry for 'the most relaxed' comic con festival around. Click on the link below for video interviews with FLU author Wayne Simmons, 2000AD founder Pat Mills and the guys behind Berserker Comics

2D is a comics festival. Wait, come back! Ok, let’s start again. 2D is a comics festival that is different for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s free to attend. Most of the big comics conventions are commercial endeavours, but the folks at the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry have managed to keep this particular geek-fest free since its inception in 2007.

Secondly, it isn’t really a geek-fest. Sure, there’s lots of folks dandering around dressed as Storm Troopers, and more than a handful of what look like bikers wearing Superman t-shirts that they really should have thrown out when they were only two sizes too small, but the focus of 2D is mainly on having fun.

There is usually a drawing contest (y’know, for kids!) and entertaining presentations during the day. Then atWorkshop night in Sandino’s Bar there are discussion panels, tackling whatever weighty subjects festival organiser David Campbell can dream up. This year the subjects were ‘Breaking into Comics’, ‘2000AD’, ‘Social Commentary in Comics’ and ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, for which I was on the panel myself.

To call them discussion panels is probably giving the people involved a little too much credit. The fact the sessions are held upstairs in a bar might give you an idea of how quickly they descend into heavily lubricated anecdotes and uproarious laughter. For the adults attending the festival, these truly are the highlights.

Which leads nicely into the third major difference in how 2D compares to other comics events. If you’re a comics fan, there are usually a couple of big names from the British and Irish comic scenes there, merrily sketching away (for free!) and chatting to fans in a way that they would never get to do at one of the bigger shows, simply because they’re normally swamped.

In Derry, however, there is a sense that for many of the creators it’s more of a break away for a weekend during a very busy convention season. More than one said that it was the most relaxed festival they’ve ever attended and that they’d be sure to come back next year simply for the craic.

The guests this year covered the gamut of comics. The biggest name there, undoubtably, was Pat Mills, founder of Britain's answer to Marvel Comics, 2000AD and a host of other titles. Alongside him were manga artists Emma Viechelli and Ilya, 2000AD artist Leigh Gallagher, recent Dan Dare artist Gary Erskine and Garry Leach, artist on Alan Moore’s newest version of Marvelman.

Irish creators were well represented too, with Stephen Downey, Andrew Croskery, Paddy Brown, Andrew Luke, Phil Barrett, Maeve Clancy, Paddy Lynch, Nick Roche, Stephen Mooney... everything from home-made pamphlets to, well, honest-to-goodness Transformers artists.

If you have kids with any interest at all in comics - and in the wake of Spider-Man, Iron-Man, The Dark Knight, what kid doesn’t? - you should pencil in a trip to the Maiden City next year, if only for the fact that they can get some stunning professional-level comics art created right in front of their eyes. The atmosphere and genuine good spirits of everyone involved make it an event that all the family can find something to enjoy in, even if it is only while stopping into the Verbal Arts café while on a walk around the walls.

In short, it’s a fantastic day and night(s) out. Four years down, and the little festival in the north-west keeps going from strength to strength. Just like the Hulk! Watch three videos from the festival, featuring FLU author Wayne Simmons, 2000AD founder Pat Mills and the guys behind Northern Ireland's own Berserker Comics.