Rob Curley is a pioneer of Ireland’s booming small press and independent comic book scene

The cover of 'Crimson Blade'.

BEYOND the high-street newsagent shelves stocked with X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, and 2000AD comics exists a vibrant world of independent comic creation throughout the length and breadth of the land, but very much concentrated in Dublin.

The last couple of years have seen an explosion in the comics industry here as Irish artists and writers are seeing their work in Marvel and DC titles, as well as 2000AD, while there many more self-publish their work.

Recognising the increasing scene of self-publishing, comic store Forbidden Planet Dublin announced its first ever Small Press Day event for this Saturday, July 9. The cream of Ireland’s small press scene will be out showcasing the diversity of comics work published in this country at the spacious Filmbase centre on Curved St.

Among the many exhibitors showcasing their work and skills, as well as participating in discussions, is Rob Curley, a pioneer of small press publishing in Ireland. Having opened the independent comic store Sub City with his brother Brian in 1994, Curley is intimately involved in comic book culture.

In 2003, he he founded Atomic Diner Publications.

“When I was younger I always had notions of doing my own comics and then maybe ten years into the shop I just decided I’d like to maybe come up with my own ideas,” says Curley of his foray into self-publishing.

“I was doing a degree in social science at the time. Part of that was American history. I was into that so a combination of my love of comics and of history the first one I did was Freakshow, which was based in New York in the 1950s and it was my kind of take on Americana of the time. It went quite well.”

Curley’s enthusiasm nearly got the best of him. He began printing 5,000 copies of his comic thinking it would be an easy sell.

“I realised that’s not how it goes,” he reports. Current print runs are around the 500-1,000 mark, and Curley finds it easier to keep it on a small scale and distribute it himself.

But the market for comics is a growing one. Having opened an outlet in Galway, Sub City will open another on Dublin’s Mary St to coincide with Small Press Day.

There is also a growing appetite for comics that aren’t just concerned with superheroes; Atomic Diner as well as other small press outlets reflect that in the variety of styles and genres published.

Indeed, many of the country’s most successful comics makers got their start in small press. Declan Shalvey, Will Sliney, Nick Roche, Stephen Mooney, Stephen Thompson, and PJ Holden all started out that way.

Many received their first break through Curley, the writer of the Crimson Blade series.

While there have been many conventions held here, Curley regards Small Press Day as a significant milestone in Ireland’s comic evolution. “It’s great to highlight the talent and show people beyond the comic community there is an indigenous community out there,” he says.

“One, it’s important that people can cut their teeth on it, learn their trade. I think even more important than that that it’s a place where people can express their own ideas through the art of comics. I guess once people do get taken up by big industry, even though it’s a goal of a lot of people, their own creativity in a sense goes out the window because they just have to abide by the company line. So I guess for Small Press it is a place where a lot of creativity happens.”

  • Forbidden Planet presents Small Press Day 2016 on Saturday, July 9, at Filmbase, Temple Bar, Dublin


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