Darwin's Ape to Launch Shrewsbury Comics Trail
Nine life-sized comic art installations will pop up across Shrewsbury this summer – created by some of the biggest names in the comics world
Shrewsbury is fortunate to have some of the greatest cartoonists and comics creators living in and around town, earning us the reputation as the unofficial home of the British comics industry. Living amongst us is the creator of Judge Dredd and the artist of The Walking Dead plus legends of the 2000AD, Marvel and DC Universes.
And launching at Shrewsbury Library on Saturday, July 24 , The Shrewsbury Comics Trail will showcase some of their work on nine life-sized billboards displayed at key locations around town, spanning over a mile. The artwork will remain in place for at least one year, with a comics festival returning in 2022.
An accompanying script for the trail has been written by legendary 2000AD writer and Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner, one of the most respected writers in British Comics. It has been billed as a ‘time hopping and inspiring yarn’ that delves into the history of Shrewsbury and also looks to the future.
The giant installations have been specially commissioned from a world class line-up of artists including The Walking Dead co-creator Charlie Adlard and fellow superstar artists Doug Braithwaite (Hulk, X-Men, Thor) and Mike Perkins (Swamp Thing, Captain America), alongside UK comics laureate Hannah Berry and indie comic creator Rachel Smith (Doctor Who, The Rabbit), Manga artist, Sonia Leong, and legendary Beano and Transformer artist, Lew Stringer. Also contributing are Marvel artist Jimmy Broxton and Doctor Who/Spiral Cage illustrator Al Davison.
Organised by the team behind Comics Salopia, who created Shrewsbury’s first town-wide comics festival in 2019, the trail promises to be a great draw for comic book fans – visitors and locals alike.
Comics Salopia Festival patron Charlie Adlard, will launch the trail at Shrewsbury Library with the first piece of comic art depicting Darwin and his monkey. Organisers are keeping the artworks under wraps for now, for a big ‘reveal’. Charlie created the Charlie the ape character featured on the My Shrewsbury front cover in July 2019, to promote Comics Salopia (pictured).
Charlie said: “We agreed to opt for a younger, more dynamic Darwin - far removed from the classic old version which has become somewhat of an icon - because we wanted the trail to feel fun, fast, and educational.
“Hopefully the trail will show that comics aren’t just for kids - they’re for everyone. The aim is to put Shrewsbury on the map as a comics hub. We’ve probably already got more cartoonists living here per capita than anywhere else and the list is growing!”
John Wagner lives in Shropshire, whilst Charlie grew up in Shrewsbury and has just relocated to a new riverside home with his family – and illustrator Mike Perkins, whose credits include Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man and Astonishing X-Men, has also recently moved back here from the USA.
We asked Charlie why he thinks there are so many top British comic artists in Shrewsbury – is it because he’s dragged all of his friends here?
“I’m sure I was instrumental in persuading ONE member of our comics community to live here, but I’m sure the rest were attracted by the latter. Why WOULD you want to live anywhere else?” Charlie said. Obviously we would agree!
Shane Chebsey of Comics Salopia said he was looking forward to seeing how people respond to the life-sized panels: “It’s all brand new art, all especially commissioned for this project by internationally renowned artists who cover a lot of fan bases between them. It’s a chance for people to create their own stories and be really imaginative around the artwork by doing selfies in front of the art and posting them using #comicstrail2021 – the best selfies will win prizes!
“I’m excited about getting people to engage with the art, bringing people into Shrewsbury to understand the potential of comic art and to understand that it’s not just a printed medium – it can be expressed across the whole of Shrewsbury.”
It’s hoped the additional visitors will help Shrewsbury in its economic bounce back: “The arts is what keeps people going through difficult times,” Shane added. “Everything that’s created is created by design, by art. It makes such a difference to the town when you see it bright with colour and imagination.”
There are workshops planned too, with manga artist Sonja Leong and Scottish comedian and comic strip creator Kev. F Sutherland, who will be doing ‘Beano style’ masterclasses. John Wagner, Mike Perkins and Charlie Adlard will be at the library doing signings on the Saturday. There will be an illustrated booklet about the trail available to pick up from venues across town too.
The Shrewsbury Comic Art Trail is organised by the Comics Salopia Festival and Shrewsbury Town Council in partnership with Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury BID, and The Big Town Plan - made possible by a £14,500 of lottery funding from the Arts Council of England.
ENTER THE COMPETITION!
Take selfies in front of the artwork, inserting you and your friends and family into the story. You can then post your stories onto Instagram or Twitter using the #comicstrail2021 hashtag. The organisers will pick the best stories to win special prices to be announced on the launch weekend.
- Join professional Manga Artist SONIA LEONG on Saturday 24th at 2pm or Sunday 25th July at 10am and create your own manga characters and stories on the theme of Time Travel. ONLY £5 per child. Or choose a Beano style workshop with Kev F Sutherland, also at Shrewsbury Library on Saturday. All masterclass workshops must be prebooked. For more information about these, and the rest of the trail, visit comicssalopia.com