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Grand designs for comic mart

COMIC books aren’t just for kids, with fans of all ages set to descend on the Temple Gate Hotel this weekend for the county’s first comic book mart. Organisers of the event, which will feature Clare artists who have worked on some of the biggest comic book titles in the world, are hopeful this could become at least an annual occasion.
The free event has been organised by Ennis writer David O’Leary and will take place from 10am to 6pm. “This is the first time something like this has been held in Clare.

“These types of events go on a few times of the year but mainly in the bigger cities and nothing is usually accommodated for fans in the West of Ireland.

“Also, this is part of a larger appreciation of pop culture and comics and graphic novels that is going on around Ireland for  Irish Comic Book Month and most of the events for this are taking part in the larger city centres.

“I write for the Irish Comic News website and when I saw that there would be events going on across Ireland I thought, why not have something here in Ennis for the fans,” he said.

There will be three comic dealers on the day, as well as some very special appearances.

“Fans can expect to see several thousand comic books and graphic novels, along with a number of rare items, signed comics and collected editions. Then there will be a number of creators there, the highlight of which is Brendan McCarthy, who is a legendary artist in the comic world. He has worked on just about everything but most recently he has worked on Judge Dredd and Spider-Man. He is quite a coup for us to get.

“We are trying to highlight as much of the comic community as we can. We have a multi-award winning writer from Ennis, Mike Lynch, who will be there with Martin Breen, another Ennis writer. Aidan Courtney, editor and chief of Comici Gael, the Irish language anthology that comes out a couple of times a year, will be there. Then we also have a young artist living in Sixmilebridge, Aga Romanska, she is only 16 years old but is very good.”

David is hoping the event will attract Clare’s growing number of comic book fans. “It’s going to be a free event and people can expect a friendly atmosphere. We are hoping to get fans who might have lapsed coming in to sample what they might have missed over the last few years. Also, the young ones will see it isn’t just the movies out there for these characters, that there is also the material that they are based on. If it is a success, there are tentative plans to have it again in the autumn, or at least to hold it annually.

“Clare has such a burgeoning community. The four creators I have on the day are people who do travel all around the country to display their wares so it made sense to have something here for them. Hopefully, if it becomes a bit of a success it could be something we could repeat and then expand from there and maybe bring in people from further afield.

“The west of Ireland has such a burgeoning community, people from Galway, a community in Cork, there are lads from Kerry working in the UK, there is Declan Shalvey from Quin working in the US. There is quite a community out there who perhaps are not as well known on their own shores as they should be. Hopefully, events like this will get the word out there and give these people the recognition they deserve because they are hard-working people.”

Interest in the mart has been very positive, with comic books seeing an increase in popularity in recent years.

“The feedback has been quite good. Within a couple of weeks of announcing it to fans I had all these people coming to me looking to display and be a part of the day. It should turn out to be a busy day.

“The films made about comic characters have certainly helped boost the profile of comic book art but apart from the films, there has been a creative upswing, which is maybe all part and parcel of it.

“The material is now much better to read, it’s not just for kids any more. Comics are graded by age now.

“There are comics for the older age, comics for teenagers and comics for the younger ones. It’s not the niche that it used to be, it’s much more mainstream, much more accepted.

“There was almost like an underground movement in Clare for a while. Now, there are good graphic novel sections in the book shops.

“You see people reading comics on the bus or around town whereas before, maybe only five or six years ago, you wouldn’t have seen that. It’s just become a more accepted form of entertainment. Even Ennis library has a fantastic graphic novel section,” Mr O’Leary stated.

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