October has seen me explode (well, that might be a slight exaggeration) into social action after a fairly quiet year (except for Edinburgh in August), the reason being that my son is now six months old and starting to get to grips with the world, and allowing me to venture out a little more.
Salleck owner and publisher Eckart Schott met me at Düsseldorf airport and we took the train (accidentally the slow train) to Essen, then a taxi to the Hotel Bredeney where we'd be staying for the weekend. Eckart had already been there for two days as Comic Action had started on the Thursday - a four-day show. At dinner I met Eckart's friend and stand-helper, Klaus, and his lovely wife Denise, and another Salleck guest, amazing Italian artist Elena Pianta (there to promote the second book in German of Don Camillo and Peppone - there are five in Italian).
Opening up the Salleck table for business on Saturday, and first sighting of
Die Regenbogen Orchidee: Die Wette.
After a very good breakfast (Germany does very good breakfasts) we all got the bus for the short ride to Messe Essen where Spiel '13 and Comic Action was taking place. The show was absolutely enormous - three massive halls, mostly dedicated to board games and gaming, but with a small comics section, perhaps something a little like the MCM Comic Village - well, smaller I'd say. Despite that, there was an artists' alley, and also some big publishers, including Panini and Carlsen.
Most of my day was spent at the table, signing and sketching, though I did get to look around the huge venue a couple of times. The range of board games was huge and varied, and several big areas were set out for people to play-test new and favourite board games. Stalls demonstrated their wares, sold dice, figures, puzzles, cards, comics, live role-playing weapons and armour, and toys. The place was heaving with people of all ages as well as families. It was quite a long way from the Games Day conventions I attended at the Royal Horticultural Society Hall in the mid-eighties.
One of the playing spaces at Spiel '13.
On Saturday evening we (Eckart, Klaus, Denise, Elena and I) went to Habana - a wonderful Cuban restaurant on Zweigerstrasse. Eckart was an excellent host to Elena and myself - he really believes in looking after his artists and I'm very grateful for his generous hospitality. Back at the hotel, while I made my way to bed, many of the Spiel '13 attendees were just getting down to a serious night's game-playing, using some of the function rooms until past three in the morning.
Sunday at Comic Action was more of the same. It was lovely to meet so many German comic readers - without exception they were courteous, polite, and interested in my work and I was made to feel very welcome. It was great to share a signing spot with Elena as well. Like me, she did not speak German, though unlike me, she did have a second language: English (and every German I met could speak English too). Her sketches - many straight into ink - were masterful, and she was excellent (and funny) company for the weekend.
Salleck signings: Christoph Heuer (doing some lovely Roman character watercolours), myself, and Elena Pianta.
Sunday was our leaving day and fellow Salleck comic artist, Agata Bara, kindly made sure Elena and I got on the correct train at Essen back to Düsseldorf airport, where Elena flew off back to Italy, and I made my way back to a very windy and rainy UK - luckily not being delayed by the incoming storm. (My first job when I got home was to go out in the dark, blustery and rainy night and wrap wire round one particularly troublesome fence panel which always blows out in high winds).
It was a very nice trip, and I must say a big thank you again to Eckart for having me over for the launch of Die Regenbogen Orchidee - I'm very honoured to have it published in German, and by Salleck Publications.
Publisher Eckart Schott sketches in and signs a copy of Die Regenbogen Orchidee, and me and fumettista Elena Pianta with our books.