With inclusion of comics at 2020: A Publishing Odyssey later this month, we wanted to celebrate the industry in Scotland. So where better to start than with an introduction to what’s going on here? Nicola Love gives us a rundown from history and stars, to creators and our jam-packed calendar.
1. We started it.
While America is home to DC and Marvel, it’s Scotland that can claim responsibility for the very roots of the medium. The Glasgow Looking Glass, published from 1825-1826, is believed to be the world’s first mass-produced comic book. If that’s not impressive enough, it’s also thought to have introduced word balloons and the use of popular comic cliffhanger “to be continued…” into literary canon. (If comics history if your thing, you’ll enjoy Comic Invention, an exhibition opening at Glasgow’s Hunterian Art Gallery from March 18th.)
2. DC Thomson have a lot to answer for.
The Dundee-based publishing powerhouse might be renowned for bring us The Dandy, The Beano and The Broons but, Oor Wullie and Bash Street Kids aside, their portfolio has included countless beloved comics over the years. There was Starblazer, Topper, Jackie, Nutty, Bunty, Twinkle and Commando – the latter of which is still published to this day – and those are just the ones we can name off the top of our heads.
3. Scotland has its share of industry stars.
A handful of the biggest names in comics started right here and continue to work in Scotland today. Writer Grant Morrison got his start in comics with a strip called Captain Clyde which was published in the Govan Press before going on to become one of comics’ most prolific writers, tackling Batman, Superman and more. Artist Frank Quitely, who is no stranger to Marvel and DC either, does most of his work from Glasgow’s Hope Street Studios, while Coatbridge-born Mark Millar, despite building his own publishing empire, is based in Glasgow, ‘commuting’ to the States to fulfill commitments as a creative consultant for Fox.
4. It’s full of up and coming creators too.
As well as the household names, Scotland is home to countless talented creatives. Glasgow’s Black Hearted Press publish everything from dystopian sci-fi series Plagued: The Miranda Chronicles to the non-fiction Mighty Women of Science, while many creators self-publish their work. Some who took this route eventually captured the attention of big publishers down south – Neil Slorance and Colin Bell, the creative team behind all-ages series Dungeon Fun, now contribute to Titan Comics’ Doctor Who series! Local conventions and comic marts are the best places to find great small press and indie titles.
5. A Scots comics fan’s calendar is always full.
From the inaugural Dunfermline Comic Con, which has sold out in advance, on 5th March to the sixth annual Glasgow Comic Con on July 2nd-3rd, there’s no sort of gatherings to celebrate the comic community. Even mainstream literary festivals have gotten in on the action, with Aye Write debuting their Aye Con strand during this year’s festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival launching Stripped in 2013. Outwith the central belt? No bother. Granite City Comic Con is a relatively new addition to Aberdeen, taking place 1st-2nd May, while the annual Dundee Comics Day is great for aspiring creators and fans alike.
Nicola is a Glasgow-based writer and journalist who has loved comics for about a decade and written about them for half that time. To paraphrase Jack Black: those who can’t create comics blog about them instead.