Friday, June 28, 2013

Wicked Comics Present

The Mighty MaltaComicCon Comics Workshops

Hi Folks,

Well, here as promised, at long last, is the Blog I was planning on writing next upon my return from the comic art workshops. It’s a big one again, so grab yourself a brew and a snack and settle down to another of my Maltese missives.

I checked my essentials for one last time, passport, tickets, money, camera, mobile, bag – I was set, but, due to the previous day’s events, it didn’t feel like a regular trip out to my friends in Malta. I felt so bad leaving Margaret, so soon after losing Morgan.

The taxi arrived and I had to focus on the trip ahead. I gave Margaret a kiss and told her I would text her to keep in touch and then I was off. In no time at all Naz, the taxi driver had me outside departures at Manchester airport. There had been little traffic at such an early hour in the morning, although despite holding a conversation with the driver all throughout the journey it remains very much a blurry period still my thoughts were still back home if I am honest.

I was quickly through customs, as I only had hand luggage for this trip and after buying a bag of Werther’s Originals boiled sweets for the descent of the plane sat awaiting confirmation of the gate to go to. My only thoughts at that point being Margaret, Morgan and whether my bag would go through the gates without question of the size, in that order. I let my wife know I was waiting in departures.

We boarded the plane Flight EZY1997 and again I sent a text message to Margaret to tell her. We set off about ten minutes early and made good progress with the flight. What was to become quite an important part of my time on this particular trip began on this very flight. We were offered a menu and I chose option 2b, which consisted of a Bacon Baguette, a Box of Boxer Chips (crisps to us English folks) and a can of Pepsi. The bacon baguette was delicious and far better than I had anticipated, which made it all the more enjoyable.

Luckily I was sat next to two gentlemen a father and son, Ashley and Jess and we chatted throughout the journey, which helped to take my mind off things for a while. In fact Ashley bought a copy of first volume of Worlds End from me for his children, which he asked me to sign. We continued to speak as we cleared customs and then once at the gates arranged to email each other upon our return home.

In no time at all I was through customs at Malta airport and through the gates to meet up with Mike, who took me to the hotel in Valletta where I was staying. The weather was glorious, sunny and hot, but then again I was in Malta, not England. As we drove towards Valletta I once more sent a text to Margaret to tell her that I had arrived safely. I could tell from the replies she was busy trying to hand feed Morgan’s puppies and was really upset.

We arrived at the British Hotel a little too early for me to book in so I left my bag in the luggage storage room and Mike and I went up the (not quite) millions of steps from the hotel to the venue at the top a short distance away. It was a couple of minutes walk away really, but the heat and the many steps made it seem to take longer. Inside the St James Cavalier we went to the Inspirations café. We sat on the terrace in the sunshine (definitely a mistake on my part) and chatted. My first drink being, a Kinnie.

After about a hour at most Mike said it might be wise to sit in the shade. So we continued our chatting under the shade of an umbrella, until it was time for him to return to work – he had after all taken some time off to pick me up.

Back at the hotel my room was ready and I was taken up to it along a labyrinthine network of corridors and steps. The hotel is one of the first to have been built in Valletta, the Capital City of Malta, back around the mid sixteenth century. It is said it was “Built by gentlemen for gentlemen.

I had a room at the front of the hotel overlooking the spectacular views of the Grand Harbour. It is one of the largest natural ports in Europe and is also a hub in the centre of the Mediterranean. During my time there I saw fishing vessels from huge trawlers, through mid-sized fishing boats to tiny two many boats, both engine and sail driven. There were schooners, speedboats and yachts of all ages, shapes and sizes moored up all along the coastline.

Out to sea and occasionally sailing past the window below me were huge transport ships loaded with shipping containers. These dwarfed the smaller fishing vessels, especially the tiny two man boats.

All of these were dwarfed in size by the magnificent cruise liners, which passed below my window and looked like small floating cities.

The first morning I walked out onto of my balcony and looked across the harbour and saw a huge wall of moving glass I wondered what I was looking at. This was followed a short while later by a second. They looked like sea-worthy skyscrapers moving at pace across the waters.

All day every day whenever one looked out there was something else to see. It was brilliant.

As I unpacked my bags I went to put on a T-Shirt and looked at my arms in the mirror – I had only been in the sun a short time as I chatted with Mike in the café, but I looked like I was wearing a Maltese Flag or a Union Jack. I was red on one side and white on the other. OMG what a mess. A short time later I could feel the heat coming from my arms and my neck too. Luckily it wasn’t sore, so that was a good thing, but I looked like I had a base colour of red for a tattoo on my arms that was awaiting the drawing in black and other colours adding. I sat and opened the box of chips/crisps and ate those – as it was now early afternoon.

Before setting out on the trip, I had arranged with one of my students, Owen, from the Fantasy Art Unlimited course, which I run on Wednesday evenings, and who has an apartment in Malta to meet up with him and his wife, Jean on Thursday at some point as nothing else was planned for me until the evening when I was being taken for a meal by the organisers. He had been wanting to time one of their trips out with one of mine for the past three years, but up until this particular one had been unsuccessful.

I was taken back to their place, which is lovely, and situated in St Paul’s Bay and I spent the afternoon with them, ending with a light meal of a Tuna mix Ftira, which is a kind of Maltese Bagel and a couple of glasses of the local brew, Cisk, around mid-afternoon. We had a great time and arranged for me to get in touch again the following morning if nothing else had been arranged and they would meet up with me again.

That evening I was taken to a restaurant by two of my Maltese mates, Fabio Agius and Chris Muscat. We went to a place called Tal Kaptan on the waterfront in Qawra, a short ten-minute walk or so from the hotel. I went for a Maltese style pizza and more glasses of Kinnie. It was a great evening where the guys and I spoke about all sorts of things. It was a chance for the guys to ask me about how my career started and how the book was coming along and our families as well as the meaning of life… LOL.

By the time we looked up again it getting late and so the three of us walked back to the hotel. I returned to my room and things had been fine up to that point as I had been busy, but then my thoughts drifted back home and to my wife, Margaret and our little dog Morgan. It hurt like mad and so I turned on the TV and looked at the notes for the sessions, going over it all in my head to try to think of something different. At last I drifted off to sleep to wake again a few hours later with the sun beaming in through the drapes.

Friday morning arrived and I sent Margaret a text message before showering.

There was nothing planned for the following day until the evening again, and so I sent a text message to Owen and shortly after breakfast in the hotel restaurant I was walking along the seafront in Ta' Xbiex, whilst Owen sorted his Maltese car documentation for the year at Atlas Insurance. There were all sorts of boats moored up here and as I walked along in the searing heat I took the chance to take a few photos. I sat on a little bench and checked my messages, still no reply from Margaret, so I sent another.

We went for a drink in a little café and again I chose a Kinnie, which is fast becoming a favourite drink of mine, whilst out there in Malta and then he had to take his wife for a appointment at the hospital, arranging to meet up later that afternoon as there was nothing on my agenda still. Owen took me back to Valletta and then off he went promising to get in touch that afternoon, as soon as they were free.

I had time to kill and it was lunch time by now and so I took a walk around Valletta passing by the Le Bistro Anglais restaurant where Mike had found his three escapees, David Lloyd, Jon Haward and me back in 2011, when the three of us celebrated the arrival of the first graphic novel. I checked out a few other restaurants and then decided to go back to the Inspirations café and have something there.

I sat and checked my messages and seeing there was still no reply from my wife I sent a message to my daughter, Joanne to see if she had heard from her.

Checking out the menu I decided on Chicken Mix, Sweet Corn, Mushrooms & Cheese Crispy Fajitas, but there were also Pastizzi on the menu, both the ricotta and the pea versions. So thinking they were the same size as the ones I had eaten last year, I ordered one of each of those too.

The meal arrived with a pint of Kinnie and I looked at the two plates of food in front of me and knew it had maybe not been one of my better ideas as the Pastizzi were huge.

As I was about to start eating I received a message followed shortly after by a second. The first was from Margaret to say she was still upset, but fine and that she had been busy feeding the puppies every two hours. The second was from Joanne, more or less saying the same thing. I replied to both and then looked once more at the food in front of me.

I did manage to eat most of the meal and then waddled down the millions of steps back to the hotel to recover… LOL.

The promised text message arrived from Owen and in no time at all I found myself walking along the waterfront looking up at those magnificent and massive cruise liners as I made my way to the lift to the Barracca Gardens, which are very close to the venue and where I was to meet up with him and Jean.

Having had lunch for two, I decided it was wise to only have a soft drink and an ice cream. They told me all about their exploits in their years spent visiting and then living there part time for the past few years and I have to admit they were quite the ambassadors trying to get me to do the same… LOL.

Well, the time passed quickly and it was now time to meet up with my other Maltese friend, Chris Le Galle, who had arranged to catch up with me around four thirty. So the three of us made our way to the venue were I introduced everyone. Wishing them a last goodbye until our mutual returns to England (Owen is out for a few weeks – the lucky man) Chris and I went back to the Inspirations café and a couple of drinks – this time Cisk and a few hours of chatting.

We talked about all sorts of things, but we spent a good portion of the time discussing this year’s coming convention in November – December. It sounds exciting and I know from experience it WILL BE. I can only say that the guest list, as yet unannounced, is another cracker. The problem the guys now have is there are so many people now wanting to take part in the event, both internationally and locally, that they now have creators queuing up to attend each year. The venue only has so much space and all of that is utilised by the convention over the weekend. It is however one of those nice predicaments – at least so many folks realise just how great a convention this one is.

As with Mike, I spend a lot of time discussing family, work, and every subject in between, as well as the meaning of life with Chris and sometimes, so enjoyable is the time spent together. We get so deep in conversation that the world is whizzing past us so quickly without us noticing that we are not inside a TARDIS… LOL

I received a text – it was from Mike. I looked at the time and we had once again overrun our time in the café. I was supposed to be at the hotel to meet him for the evening meal. Chris and I exchanged goodbyes and I dashed back down the steps to the hotel. Luckily it is very close and so in moments I was with Mike and Fabio. I asked them to give me five minutes to change and freshen up. I sent another text message to Margaret and then we were on our way.

I was taken to a nearby restaurant in Valletta called Nenu the Artisan Baker, which is situated at The Bakery, 143, St Dominic Street. The entrance has a glass floor, which overlooks a scene from the traditional Maltese bakery, as it would have appeared in years gone by. Once down the stairs to the restaurant one is greeted by traditional Maltese banners, walls adorned with farm implements and video screens depicting the scenes of traditional Maltese baking from years gone by. It really is a lovely place to eat and spend time with friends. We ordered drinks and of course I had a pint glass of Kinnie. Already inside were Chris Muscat and Samantha Abela.

The guys ordered a starter for us all to share, which consisted of Maltese Bread, obviously baked by the bakers here themselves accompanied with a series of dips – beautiful and crisp.

For the main course I had Ross fil-forn, bil-fwied tat-tiġieġ, bejken, ċanga, tadam u bajd, which is a slow baked long grain rice with chicken liver, bacon, beef, tomatoes and eggs. It was unbelievable and I have to admit I could eat this every day and not get fed up.

After the main course I chose one of the specials, which was a deep-fried Strawberry-filled Ravioli drizzled with a strawberry sauce and icing sugar. It came on little wood platter and what made it extra special was that it was laid onto a layer of icing sugar in the form of the stencilled word Menu.

We chatted for a while following the meal and Fabio took me to where we could see a better view of the one we had seen upon entering the restaurant and he further explained the concept of the restaurant and the way the baking was done in the past. As his family have been bakers and my own grand parents and father where also bakers and confectioners this proved to be especially interesting.

Then, after taking a few photos, we parted ways until the Saturday and or Sunday Workshops and Mike and I went off to a bar he wanted to take me to, The Café Jubilee. Inside it was full of art nouveau prints on the walls. The ceilings were covered in old newspapers, shelves and the tops of cupboards, etc were full of all manner of knickknacks and the air was filled with wonderful ambient musical choices. I mentioned to Mike that in another time it could have been full of beatniks, hippies or art students.

We stayed and chatted for one drink and then we made our way back to the hotel.

As I made my way through the hotel to my room, it began to hit me that I had been there for two days, spending most of that time eating and drinking with friends, whilst at home Margaret was hand feeding Morgan’s puppies and once more I felt awful and really sad that our lovely little dog had gone.

Like the previous evening I once more looked at the session plan although I didn’t need to as I have done these kind of workshops for so long I knew what I was going to be saying. I was just going through the motions and trying to concentrate on something other than the thoughts I was now having.

With the TV switched on once more I awoke to more early morning activity on the waterways as more boats and ships sailed past my hotel balcony. The sun was still shining, but there was far more in the way of cloud, but nothing like back home in England.

Once showered and dressed I ate breakfast and then made my way to the venue for the first of the workshops. It was hot in the venue, but I soon acclimatised myself to the heat inside the medieval fortress. At the venue Chris Le Galle and Chris Muscat met me in the cinema, where the workshop was to take place, followed by the children attending it.

The session was packed with information and I think the high school children seemed to have as much fun as I did, judging from the smiles throughout. They brought along examples of their work, which was nice to see. I had taken handouts to give to them during the session, which I felt complemented the workshop itself. They produced some great little sketches and provided some great answers to my questions too. The workshop was split into morning and afternoon sessions allowing time for lunch in the Inspirations café. The morning sessions concentrated on the actual basics of sketching and drawing, the importance of thumbnail sketches and the basics of storytelling.

When lunchtime arrived I had Risotto Messicana; a rice dish made with meat sauce, spicy sausage, red kidney beans & green peppers. I had been spoilt the night previous and seeing something similar plumbed for that. It was delicious.

On the way back from the café as we walked up the ancient stone steps inside the St James Cavalier, used by medieval knights astride their horses in times gone by, and approached the middle and main walkway section of the upper levels of the venue I met someone I knew from back home, a Maltese lady called, Mary. I had known she was visiting her family in Malta, but it was a surprise to see her along with her sister, Sylvia and brother-in-law, Paul at the St James Cavalier. Mary knew I was going to be out at the same time as me and decided to track me down to meet her family if she could find me at the venue itself.

I asked Chris if there was anything planned for straight after the session and, as there were no plans until later in the evening when I would be taken out for a meal once more, I arranged to meet up with Mary and her family after the workshop.

As we got to the cinema we were told the second half of the workshop would take place in the Studio Shop, which is downstairs at the end of the main corridor in the venue. This is also where the video games section of MaltaComicCon is held.

The afternoon session concentrated on the aspects of plotting, laying out the panels, page construction and piecing all the information together to create a comic from start to finish – concept to printed comic or graphic novel/album.

It was an enormous amount for them to take in, but one, which I feel they followed easily enough. There was time allocated at the end of the workshop for any questions and answers and then it was over for the day. Workshop 1 was complete.

Trying to cram so much information into a one-day crash course isn’t easy to do, as you have no idea how receptive each group will be and there are far more in depth sessions open to those who attend my weekly Fantasy Art Unlimited course on Wednesday evenings back here in the North West of England. That said all of the basics were looked at and a list of suggested folks to check out – artists and writers like, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Frank Frazetta, John Buscema, Gene Colan, Barry Windsor Smith, Bernie Wrightson et al, as well as a check list of suggested books and websites to check out too.

The rest of the work, following on from the workshops would need to be done by the students themselves as they continue to practise, practise, practise and then practise some more. As I always tell any students, there is no magic button that can be pressed to enable them to create like the professionals. The magic will only appear if they do indeed practise all day every day for the rest of their lives.

Well, with the session finished I met up with Mary and her sister and brother-in-law where I introduced them to Chris Le Galle. Chris had to go home, so we exchanged pleasantries until the following morning and the rest of us walked to the nearby San Giovanni Café, which for regular readers of my humble little Blog will know is now the venue for the MaltaComicCon Friday evening meal and chill out party. This is where all the guests get to chat with each other, on the night before day one of the conventions.

It was a little cloudy, certainly compared to the two days previous and Mary mentioned the weather had followed us both from England. She had wanted to have me meet her sister and husband for a while and they were keen to learn more about the reasons for my visits to Malta and all about the Worlds End books that Mary had told them about.

Time was limited however as they had to go along to the hospital to visit their brother, so no sooner had they checked out a copy of the first book and listened to me regale them with tales of the yearly convention then it was time to part company.

It looked a little overcast as we walked up towards the venue, but after saying our farewells and, as I headed back towards the hotel, leaving them to continue on their way, the sun once more popped its head out of the clouds and that’s pretty much the way it would remain for the remainder of the trip.

Back at the hotel I showered and got changed, ready for the meal. Outside I could hear loud bangs, which sounded like cannon fire, except these went on for too long, unless Malta was being invaded once more – then out across the bay I could see in the distance the tell-tale signs of fireworks. I would learn later from Mike that it was now the Festas season and this was a normal occurrence, especially in light of the fact that there were great firework manufacturers on the island.

As I sat there, I sent a text message to Margaret, who was still very busy trying to hand rear Morgan’s puppies. I decided to wait for Mike outside the front of the hotel, taking some more photos, whilst I did so.

In no time at all Mike arrived and we walked down to the waterfront, where we went to the Tal-Kaptan once more. This time around I ordered Jamaica Joe, which consisted of Fusilli with chicken liver, bacon and sweet corn tossed in port wine and finished with cream, washed down by – yes you guessed it – a pint of Kinnie. Just thinking about it has my mouth watering again.

It was later in the evening when we arrived, around nine-thirty or ten or so and we spent ages talking about all sorts and a long period about our mutual experiences of things that go bump in the night. By the time we realised pretty much everyone had left the area and we were given our bill. We continued to chat as we made our way back to my hotel, chatting all the while.

Again things were fine until I entered the labyrinth to my room and my thoughts returned to home, my wife and Morgan. Once more I put on the TV although I wasn’t watching anything it was just low background noise to me. I checked the session plans again, although, like before, I needn’t have bothered as it was all in my head already – it was just something to do. It was around 1:30 a.m. or so and I went out onto the balcony to take a look over the harbour again at all the lights. Then I lay on the bed and at last managed to doze off to sleep.

As usual in Malta I awoke to the sun peeping in between the curtains. The morning ritual of getting ready was once more adhered to, but this time it was not followed by the ritual of breakfast. I didn’t feel like eating, which is unlike me, as you may have guessed. I pulled myself together and sent a text message to both Chris and to Mike to tell them I was on my way to the venue and with that I again started to mount the millions of steps to the top and the venue.

It was a glorious day once more and I was grateful for the shade that the close proximity the stone buildings afforded me as I made my way, slowly upwards. I was hot, but not as hot as I would have been, carrying my bag, if it had been in the direct sunshine. And so it remained until I reached the summit, when the sun was suddenly directly above me and it was still only early morning (I make it sound like a mountain – honest it felt like one in that heat – check out the photos).

Inside the venue I was met once more by Chris Muscat and Chris Le Galle. Everyone I had heard from had eagerly awaited this workshop, as this had been a pay to come along venture. I had received a lot of correspondence from those on the list of participants and those who were not able to attend. I was early, so I could get a feel for the room and set up, although there was little to set up in reality. The flipchart was in place as were the marker pens all that remained was for the students to show.

The attendees did indeed start to arrive, full of smiles and anticipation. I hoped they would feel the same way once the sessions had finished.

Once everyone on the list had arrived, Chris Le Galle gave a brief introduction about me to the students and then we were off.

I always go right back to basics whenever I do these kind of workshops. On this occasion, because I knew there were professional and semi-professional artists, as well as students, I decided it was wise to explain that I was aware I was speaking to some folks that were already working as artists. I also said that I wasn’t going to be showing them how to create comics, but I was going to show some possibilities on how comics can be made.

This was a workshop about creating comic books and graphic novels, however, so most of what they would see and hear would probably either be totally new to them or else they would be aware of, but that would suddenly make sense when put in context.

The workshop proved to be exactly that. The folks there, including the organisers were very responsive to the content and gave excellent answers to my questions and also asked some great questions of their own. It always helps, however that I empower folks on my workshops and courses with an inability to make a mistake, as I apply their answer(s) to the question(s) giving it/them context.

During the morning sessions I introduced the group to the different ways I show folks how they can look at basic shapes and scribbling as opposed to the usual methods in most art books on the subject, which want folks to deconstruct objects into boxes and tubes, etc. This introduces a whole new way of looking at constructing drawings. I constantly give out the names of other artists to look up to see how other people approach or have approached these methods and others too. My Jedi art-trick was part of the morning mix too, as usual. It always goes down well and today was no exception. Apart from anything else it finally breaks any hitherto unbroken ice and creates the final atmosphere of fun, which helps to generate the creativity inside the groups.

Lunchtime arrived and the cost of attending the workshop included their lunchtime meal at the Inspirations café. We were treated to a marvellous spread of various rice dishes and pasta dishes and as usual the food was top-notch stuff. It gave a further opportunity for everyone to chat outside of the workshop, which also helped to break the ice for the folks attending it. People tend to be quite shy at these kinds of events and I always try to alleviate those kinds of feelings as soon as possible, so opportune moments like lunch, etc are an excellent way to do that with the staunchest proponents of shyness.

The afternoon session consisted of looking at character design and the importance of the look of characters, a section on storytelling, which also saw me, once again, giving out various comic creators names and a series of handouts to check out once they got home.

I work in a very organic way and it’s always fun to do these kinds of workshops, especially when I don’t plan on drawing specific things. I draw what I feel like at the time, which gives the whole workshop a very spontaneous feel to it and shows what I am trying to achieve with the folks in front of me.

Looseness and a lack of fear of making mistakes, alongside a need to experiment is the goal and it always amazes me, even now after doing this kind of thing for so long what I can get the folks there to do, once they start to believe in themselves – regardless of age.

A day to cram in all the information I usually compress into a 30 week long period is not much, but the information I give out was fast and furious and I was pleased to see that the response throughout the day was excellent.

I ended the workshop with the usual Question and Answer session, which gave both the attendees and the organisers a chance to ask me questions about creating comic art and writing that they otherwise wouldn’t get or a chance to normally, as time is usually tight at the conventions, despite my many visits there in the last few years.

Once this was done, Chris Le Galle thanked me on behalf of everyone and then one by one each was called out and presented with an official certificate signed by the organisers and myself. It was also the perfect opportunity for the organisers to commemorate the event with photos of the folks receiving their certificates from me.

Then, as folks came up to me personally to thank me for the workshop, I showed copies of Worlds End – Volume 1 – The Riders on the Storm and the Worlds End – Colouring & Storybook to them. I had also taken a small portfolio with me containing copies of the pencils, which were finished up to press and some finished pages for Worlds End – Volume 2 – A Hard Reign’s Gonna Fall, which everyone seemed eager to look at, especially those who already possessed the first graphic novel.

I sold a copy of the Colouring & Storybook to one of the attendees, Angele Galea who also asked me to sign it. I hope she joins in the competition, which gives folks an opportunity to win a prize with the winner working for Wizards Keep on a fully paid for colouring gig on a future Worlds End project. I’ll be writing a reminder Blog about the competition very soon.

Once all the attendees had left and I had packed up the few items I had brought along it was time once more for the farewell hugs to the members of the Wicked Comics gang until later on in the year, when we will hopefully meet up once again for more fun and frolics. Then it was back to the hotel for a shower and spruce up and then I was ready for one last meal in Malta with my friends. Yes, folks, more food… Is it me or does there seem to be a running pattern here in this particular Blog post?

Whilst I waited in my room, to pass the time before going for the meal, I sent another text message to Margaret, telling her all about the day and that I would be with her again the following afternoon. The sun blazed down as I stood on the balcony overlooking the harbour and below me the daily movements of the boats and ships continued. I remember wondering where the outgoing ships and boats might be going.

The time passed quickly and I soon found myself in Mike’s car as he whisked me away for the meal with both he and Samantha. It was as I have previously mentioned the festas time in Malta and, as a consequence of this, the road ahead, which he wanted to use, was cordoned off by the local police as a procession took place, so we had to make a detour. As usual Mike indicated different points of reference to me, adding any historical notes to the places.

Unfortunately the road he used next was also cordoned off, which forced Mike to make an even bigger detour. Now in context, Malta is such a small place that the distances we are talking are miniscule relatively speaking – but it makes the same kind of discussion in the USA all the more relevant – what we in England think of as good distances to my US friends are mere stones throws away.

Well, eventually, in relative terms, we reached our destination, Medina and a lovely restaurant called Sharma, situated in an ancient building in a quiet side street in Casa Magazzini, which, to quote the restaurant themselves, offers an eclectic mix of traditional cuisines from India, North Africa and the Mediterranean. As with everything I have seen in Malta this place was different and simply oozed atmosphere. It was built out of the normal Maltese stone and stands but scant miniscule footsteps from the same square I have spoken of before shown in Game of Thrones. The one in which we see Ned Stark taken prisoner.

Upon entering the restaurant doorway one feels like this could very easily be from some medieval film set. Large drapes, wooden furnishings, stone walls and stone flagged flooring create a superb ambiance and immediately turn this into a great eating experience and one hasn’t even seen the menu yet. It also made me feel the urge to buckle my swashes, grab my sword and swing from a chandelier like my hero, Errol Flynn.

We were taken to our table and drinks were ordered, water was the beverage of choice that evening – for the three of us – then we chatted as we perused the menu, which looked to have some great food amongst its pages.

Mike ordered a series of starters for us to have whilst we waited for our main courses, which consisted of Salatah Mashwey (a mix of grilled vegetables mashed into a dip, mixed with olive oil & spices) and Baba Ghannoush (an eggplant dip with garlic, tahini & olive oil) these came served with loads of flat bread, very much like Naan breads, which where cut into small slices.

For a main course I was undecided on either an Indian or Arabian dish, although they also serve Mediterranean dishes too. I decided on Beef Madras and Pilau Rice. It is making my mouth water as I finish off writing this piece and I have already eaten… LOL.

We stayed long after we had finished eating; talking about all manner of subjects and then it was time for the inevitable and the trip back to the hotel for a final time. On the way from Medina we stopped off just across from the St James Cavalier, whilst we waited for Samantha’s Mum to arrive to pick her up. She had an early start in the morning teaching her class of children. A last good bye to her and we se off down the road the short distance to my hotel.

Sitting in the car outside the hotel, we chatted for ages, as is not the usual custom with Mike and I and then Mike asked if I minded if we stood outside the car, whilst he had a smoke. I had been mulling over the idea, as we talked, of showing him the pages to book 2, as I hadn’t had the chance to do so earlier and so asked if he wanted me to go and get them or take a look at them in the room, once he had finished his cigarette.

Soon afterwards we found ourselves looking at the open portfolio discussing the new pages. Everyone that looks at this new book seems to be saying the same thing to me – there is even more detail in the pencils, more expression on the faces of the characters, more emotion, in fact more everything with this book, which is great and something I am so happy to hear from folks.

Mike stayed for a while longer after seeing the new artwork and then with work on the horizon a mere few hours away now it was time for me to go back down to the front of the hotel to give a last wave goodbye, as his car sped off down the road. This gave me a while on my own to make an almost final pre-flight pack of my hand luggage.

I went downstairs to take some last photos inside the hotel and some of the nighttime harbour scenery outside the WiFi area balcony and then it was time to get a little sleep before the sun rose, which it was already getting ready to do.

Morning arrived almost before I got to sleep and then it was down for one last quick breakfast and a final text message sent off to Margaret to let her know I was about to begin the trip home.

I handed my keys into the reception desk and thanked the person on duty for my pleasant stay there and checked out. Then I went out into the morning sun that beat down from above and the short walk up the five million steps – I swear they were breeding – to the offices where Chris Muscat was already working.

I popped my head around the corner of his office as he had asked me to do the previous day and let him know I was ready to leave. I must have looked hot or Chris was just doing what the guys do all the time there with their courteousness as he took my bag from me and carried it to the car. We walked down the road away from the St James Cavalier towards the main car parks and bus station to where his car was waiting for our trip to the airport. We discussed the differences in the cost of keeping a car on the road in Malta compared to doing so back home here in England, and how the trip and workshops had gone amongst other things.

Then there was just time for a final farewell until November and in no time at all, because I was carrying hand luggage only, I found myself whizzing along through customs, followed by a short stop off in the duty free shop for a friend of mine back home. Then I was soon sitting onboard the plane after only a short period of time in the departures lounge. My time in the departure lounge, however small, was one in which I could hardly keep my eyes open. I guess it had all caught up with me.

I sent a final text message from Malta airport to Margaret explaining that I would text her again upon landing and then I found myself on flight EZY1998 heading back home.

I have to admit that despite it being a morning flight and beautiful sunshine outside my window seat I slept for most of the journey, awaking only upon reaching the edge of the French coast as we approached the English Channel. Far below the clouds were broken and I could see a small boat just to the south west of the Isle of Wight. The Captain spoke over the aircraft tannoy and shortly afterwards we found ourselves descending to our ultimate destination, Manchester airport.

Surprisingly, and the first time ever after any of my previous returns from Malta, I was greeted with warm and brilliant sunshine, as I waited for the train back home to Blackburn. I had seemed to do what I had set out to do and that was to bring some sunshine back with me, to share with the folks back home. I made my way through customs in no time at all and then continued through the airport to the train station below.

I sent another text message to Margaret from the station platform to let her know I had landed safely and within less than half an hour found myself on a train to Bolton. I changed trains there and continued on my way to my final destination, Blackburn.

I sent another text message when I was a short distance away to Margaret who was there to pick me up when I arrived at the station. She was so sad still from the loss of Morgan and despite all the work she had been doing trying to keep all of Morgan’s puppies alive, still found it hard to believe she was gone. Now all the sadness I had bottled up whilst in Malta was coming to a head for me too.

It was a great trip and one I am so happy to have been asked to take part in, despite the immense overhanging sadness I was feeling during my time there, but that is testament to the folks out there who looked after me, as always. The weather was wonderful, although the Maltese guys thought I had brought our English bad weather with me, the food was exquisite and the company I kept was sublime, as always. The conversations we had during my stay were excellent and certainly gave food for thought.

I’m really looking forward again to the convention in November and December, later this year. By then I am hoping the second volume of my graphic novel series will be fully drawn and on its way to completion with perhaps some of the pages painted – fingers crossed.

My special thanks go out to Mike Quinton, Chris Le Galle, Chris Muscat, Samantha Abela, Fabio Agius and my other Maltese friends once again for their warm hospitality and for being given the opportunity to run the workshops, which I hope will prove popular enough to create more of them.

In other words, for all you comics fans out there, MAKE MINE MALTA!!!

Next up:

I’ll be sharing some exciting news on my forthcoming appearance at this October’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

This will be followed by more information regarding my appearance at this year’s forthcoming MaltaComicCon Blog.

This will lead into a Worlds End Colouring & Storybook competition reminder Blog.

And then some more artwork from Worlds End – Volume 2 – A Hard reign’s Gonna Fall… Honest…

Until next time, have fun!

Tim Perkins…
June 28th 2013