A SWARM of Spidermen and a deluge of Judge Dredds will descend on Sunderland for its first comic book festival.
As well as the classic comic book heroes, Sunderland Comic Con will celebrate a new wave of emerging comic artists and graphic novel authors.
Although Wearside already has an annual Japanese animation convention, this event will be the first large-scale festival dedicated to comics.
Celebrated comics illustrator and writer Bryan Talbot, from Ashbrooke, is patron of the event and says it’s long overdue.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “I’ve been going to comic book conventions for 30-40 years to places like London, Bristol and San Diego, and now I get to be involved in one that’s a five minute walk from my house.”
Bryan, who wrote and illustrated multi-award winning graphic novel Alice in Sunderland, said: “It’s a relatively young artform. The first book marketed as a graphic novel was back in 1976. Over the years the industry has grown and now there is a huge canon of quality material in a variety of genres.
“Graphic novels are the only area of book sales which is actually growing. One thing that has also changed is the comic book generation, where once it was just 14-year-old boys at these events, they are now popular with adults with equal amounts of men and women attending.”
Organisers hope that around 1,600 people will flock to the event on August 9 and 10 at Sunderland Software Centre in Tavistock Place in the city centre.
It’s being brought to the city by Sunderland Live and Black Hearted Press who produce Glasgow Comic Con, Scotland’s number one comic book festival and one of the top five in the UK.
The two-day event will include talks, signings and live sketches from internationally famous comic writers and artists, some of the UK’s leading independent comic book publishers, as well as press exhibitors, comic shops, toy shops, photo opportunities and more.
Sha Nazir, art director with Black Hearted Press, said: “There will be a good balance of comics and artists people recognise, such as Nigel Parkinson from The Beano, as well as new talent which is emerging. We also hope this event will inspire more talent in the North East.
“It would have been obvious to stage this event in Newcastle but it’s more interesting to do it in Sunderland. It’s more central for the North East, plus it’s very similar to Glasgow. They are working class areas with a history of industry which has led to a deep-seated desire to make things, whether that be shipbuilding or comic books.
“I’ve worked here before with stage design at the Empire and workshops and I’ve always found it an intriguing place. I have a soft spot for Sunderland and I want this to become an annual event here and to put it on the map.”
Jessica Regnart, creative development manager at Sunderland Live, said: “It’s fantastic to have such a creative and unique event come to Sunderland.
“From the feedback we’ve had, this is an event that the people of Sunderland really wanted to see and we think it will be something that will prove popular and grow over the years.”