Taylor Lilley has worked in security and recruitment, but nowhere has he felt as at home as London’s Orbital Comics, where he can now be found connecting comics lovers with the titles they’ll enjoy. He regularly contributes to the weekly Orbiting Pod podcast, interviews creators, and reviews comics, while secretly crafting a second career as an enigmatic author of “serious” literature. By which he means comics. He can be found on Twitter @capelessT, and you can find the Orbiting Pod at http://www.orbitalcomics.com/podcast/

In this article pop culture king and all round wicked guy Taylor Lilley describes his experience of the Malta Comic Con 2011:

“Beautiful Mediterranean island + comics = big fun! The Malta Comic Con experience was only my second con, the first being Kapow, and though Kapow was a hoot, Malta was better. Partly this is because I was staying in the hotel with all the creators, and got to have numerous wine or coffee fuelled conversations with them, something I imagine isn’t possible at Kapow without serious persistence, a relaxed attitude to privacy laws, and anti-steward spray! But partly this is because Malta is animated by serious enthusiasm for comics, in all their forms.

Held in an old armoury, the main entrance being stairs designed to be mounted by knights on horseback, atmosphere was built-in to the setting. But beyond being a beautiful venue for an artistic gathering, the choice of site showed that MCC is designed to add to Malta’s cultural wealth rather than distract from it, as it was impossible to visit without becoming curious about the surrounding buildings, the conflicts that have shaped the island, and the rich history of Malta itself.

This added a dimension to the convention, which presented an inspired range of comic genres and representatives from multiple nations. I was ashamed to have been unaware of the manga-derived work Sweatdrop Studios are doing in my own country, and found it fascinating to view their works (and buy their very cheap prints and sketches) alongside more traditional superhero fare from fellow countrymen Jon Haward and David Lloyd, or the American institution Michael Golden. MCC’s true gift is to unite big names like these with small-press self-publishing creators from France, Italy, Cyprus, and, yes, Malta!

The Malta week-end re-affirmed my belief that whatever your preference, be it for superheroes, spies, fairytales, vampires, action, or more introspective, expressive works, there’s just something about words and pictures together that speaks to everyone! All of which was brought into focus through a series of panels where we had the rare opportunity to hear from a charismatic Maltese scholar of comics; Dr. Gorg Mallia alongside veterans of the Big Two publishers, discussing everything from comics in education to the impact of digital availability of the form. It was evident that the organisers of this convention, unlike those of some of the larger, more US-focused conventions, were enthused about the full range of comics’ capabilities, and determined to explore them all with the attendees. The convention crowd seemed receptive to this too, it’s overwhelming youth showing that Malta’s next generation is artistically minded, eager to learn and to create. This is a lovely counterpoint to some other cons, which sometimes fail to convey the excitement of comics to youngsters, and are instead populated by jaded older generations of comics fans!

The sheer range of Maltese fare available was mind-blowing, from the remarkable Steampunk stylings of the Pilot anthology (created by a group of talented and ambitious young women) to the grittier, more adult work coming from WICKED COMICS, through many weird and wonderful portfolios in-between. Whatever the work being produced, the common thread linking all these artists was their dedication to the comic medium as a way of telling stories and inspiring thought. This openness of approach extended to the hosting of the con, which I could only describe as like being adopted by Malta for a week-end. No question was too trivial, to request impossible, despite the mountain of man-hours these folks put into organising the show. I still think warmly of the reception I got in Malta, and wish that a little more of that family spirit was evident in the British comics community. Hopefully, since I’ve subjected every artist and writer I’ve met since my return to a litany of Malta-love, MCC will be able to infuse more and more creators with it’s goodwill this year, and every subsequent year.

I came back to a rainy UK feeling challenged, that the talent and dedication on display at MCC forced me to ask myself what stories I wanted to tell, and what I could do to get them told. I can’t wait to go this year, and soak up the creative energy all over again!”

Wicked Comics would like to thank Taylor Lilley for his kind words and assure the public that no bribes other than those of a lewd nature where offered to Taylor in return for his article.

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