North East Connected

Wonderlands back to Sunderland for second year

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 15.15.15A CREATIVE expo that saw the eyes of the graphic novel world fall on Sunderland is returning for a second year, after gaining international recognition in 2015.

Wonderlands – the UK Graphic Novel Expo, named as a nod to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” author, Lewis Carroll – is once again taking place in Sunderland on Saturday, May 28, after enjoying success in its first year.  University of Sunderland’s CitySpace will be transformed into an eye-catching display, attended by – and featuring the work of – some of the most successful graphic novelists in the world.

The programme is being curated by Bryan Talbot, who has written and drawn comics and graphic novels for over 30 years.  His best known works include Judge Dredd, Batman, Sandman, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, The Tale of One Bad Rat, Heart of Empire, Alice in Sunderland and his current Grandville series of steampunk detective thrillers.

As well as Bryan Talbot, The Guardian’s principal editorial cartoonist Steve Bell will be in attendance at the event, along with Doug Braithwaite ­ who has drawn just about every major character in both the Marvel and DC Universe ­ and other guests, some yet to be announced, including Darryl Cunnigham (Science Tales, Supercrash), Woodrow Phoenix (Rumblestrip), Jeff Anderson (The Graphic Bible, Transfomers), Metaphrog (The Red Shoes), comics historians Paul Gravett and Mel Gibson, Una (Becoming Unbecoming), and Mary Talbot (The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia).

Bryan Talbot said that he hoped the event would build on the success of the 2015 event, and bring more people to the city.

He said: “Our first year was a huge success. Graphic novels are the fasted growing area of publishing either side of the Atlantic and we found that the event attracted people from all walks of life, keen to see the world of those who exhibited.

“We really do hope to attract a bigger audience and to share with them the wonder of graphic novels.”

The event is free to attend, and includes a number of presentations, including a talk from Sha Nazir and Laurence Grove from Glasgow University on ‘The Glasgow Looking Glass’, which is regarded as the first mass produced comic book that was published with illustrations.

Other presentations, talks and panel discussions will explore issues from self-publishing and the state of the industry at present to the history of UK graphic novels and graphic novel auteurs, those creators who both write and draw their books.

The Publishers’ Hall will also act as a base point, where people can meet their favourite graphic novelists and comic writers.  There will also be an alternative workshop schedule that will host some exciting presentations and interactive workshops that are suitable for all ages. The public will have the opportunity to develop their own stories and characters with the help of some of the novelists in attendance.

Hannah Matterson, fundraising and event development officer for MAC Trust, said: “This year, we have a really strong line-up of graphic novelists coming to Sunderland to be part of Wonderlands.

“Whether you are a fan of graphic novels, or just curious about the form, this event is not to be missed.  We’re really pleased to be bringing such a prestigious and exciting event to Sunderland.  Graphic novels offer something for everyone and we hope people come to find out more.”

The University of Sunderland’s illustration and animation students are also being given the chance to exhibit their work alongside Wonderlands’ established names, as well as having the chance to take part in further professional development sessions in the run up to the event.

Antony Eddison, design team lead and programme leader for arts and design management at the University of Sunderland, said:  ”Last year’s inaugural Wonderlands event was a brilliant success.  It was great to welcome so many enthusiasts, novices and people simply wanting to find out more about graphic novels to the University and the city. Graphic novels have the power to break down cultural, language and age barriers, they are a celebration of creativity – combining a good story with the work of talented artists and designers.  I hope even more people will come along this year, to take part, meet the artists and even have a go at designing their own novel.”

The event takes place between 10am and 6pm on Saturday, May 28.  There are still tables available for comic publishers and writers.  For more information, visit or email

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