In a welcome change from selling at conventions, I hopped along to Dundrum in Dublin this weekend, where Dublin International Comic Expo was being held. The yearly event is run by The Big Bang, a comic book store based in Dundrum Shopping centre, where it has hosted appearances by talent scouts from the comic book industry as well as many other important pros in the business. CB Cebulski from Marvel Comics was present, checking scores of portfolios by many hopefuls (including myself, whoops), however Eric Stephenson from Image could not make it to the event.

What truly pulled people into D.I.C.E. was the free access to the indie comics and regular toy/comic stalls at the entrance of the convention – there was however an extra charge to see the panels and the rest of the giant convention area, where the professional comics stars, both writers and artists, were at their own tables talking to queues of fans looking for sketches/signed stuff. Among the hall, I saw the presence of some RTÉ cameras and microphones; to my belief they were filming events at the convention over the weekend.

All the guests were ready and present for the panels that were held in the nearby cinema (it had appropriate seating in one of the screening rooms), and I made it to at least four panels over the weekend. The first one was The Rise and Rise of Irish Comics, which featured Irish creators who made it big recently, via their success with companies such as Atomic Diner, Marvel Comics and O’Brien Press, and also speaking about their ventures with TV appearances, video game art, upcoming works and Kickstarter projects. Dave Hendrick (along with artist Luca Pizarri, invited on stage) announced their newest graphic novel project with O’Brien Press called Queen of Storms, a story based on the life of pirate queen Grace O’Malley, due for release in Summer 2014.

The second panel I attended was The Business of Creator Owned Comics, whose guests included Stephen Mooney, PJ Holden, Doug Braithwaite and Becky Cloonan, who’ve all successfully had their own original creations published by major comic companies willing to back their work, versus just merely getting credits on mainstream comics. They also touched upon promoting work via retailers, by means of sending them free samples and listening to their advice if they can/can’t take comics. Another topic that was brought up was the concern about artists working for free, and while there was some advice that a project ‘done for exposure’ will earn someone else money instead, there can always be negotiations worked out if said project will viably make a profit.

The Big Bang arranged a special deal with some of the restaurants next door to the venue to offer a discount on meals if people presented their convention wristband (offered to attendees who paid their way in), which was a nice boon for local businesses over the weekend. I spent the rest of Saturday making the acquaintance of many convention guests and showing off Finn & Fish alongside my newest work. I picked up some comics too, one of which I plan to review soon!

On Sunday, I attended another two panels, the first being Not Just a Boy’s Club: Comics Are For Everyone. This panel featured topics such as women’s representation in comics, as creators and as well as characters within the industry. There was a wonderfully equal number of male and female speakers, with Paul Cornell stating that he does not appear on comic panels if there are no female creators in the lineup. Other topics included representation of  people of colour and various sexualities, and the sometimes nasty backlash from bitter, entitled (often male) readers, among other amazing stories and epiphanies. Afterwards I’d asked Kieron Gillen if female character led comics/creators were less marketed or sold, akin to the pattern found in female-led video games. With his experience as a video game journalist as well as a comics writer, he stated different ugly reasons for this: it’s more fear (games) versus inertia (comics) within those industries when it comes to the lack of female characters getting the spotlight.

The last panel I attended was The 2000 AD Panel, which turned out to be a very funny event, with anecdotes from Michael Carroll, PJ Holden, John McCrea and Si Spurrier. It was friendly banter about how they got started with 2000 AD and their early failures – on a hilarious tangent about 2000 AD’s success in Northern Ireland and the era it was in on the series’ release, the panel agreed that Judge Dredd was a representative of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

D.I.C.E. is hugely recommended for those who want to take their comic portfolio and rub shoulders with the pros, as everyone seemed to have a great and informative time. There’s plenty of people to chat to concerning the industry, as well as plenty of interesting stalls and indie comics to have a pooch around! I’m considering getting a table for myself next year, so fingers crossed!