Bristol Comic Expo 2012
I need to start this off by saying I had the best time. It’s important that you note that now before I go into more detail. The weather, the city, and the fans all meant me and my booth partner Mark Penman (whose blog account of it is here) had a great weekend exhibiting at what was once the UK’s brightest and best convention, as the photos will attest.
I was already a little salted on BCE before I arrived due to admin issues my details didn’t go up on the official website’s exhibitor page for weeks, then they went up wrong. With a brand new book out I needed that info to be out there and correct so I could promote to my people.
The nearer it got to exhibition day the more horror stories I heard from creators who had made last year’s BCE their last. But I was still excited. I was coming in off a headwind of great reviews and publicity with a new book to sell, Mark had Peabody & D’Gorath merch and along with Adam Cadwell and Marc Ellerby we would be reuniting the Troublemaker Alley Gang. We had come to sell comics and take names…
Mark “Thunderchild” Penman, Andrew “2hands” Tunney after surviving the perilous journey South to Lannister country.
My only real contact at the event with anyone in charge was the ten seconds it took for a guy to hand me my wristband. I spent the weekend there and I’m almost sure nobody who ran the event has any idea what I look like. I in no way deserve special treatment but knowing who I need to see if I have problems is a necessity. If there’s a fire, theft or an encounter with a threatening fan or I just need to check times I need to be able to find someone responsible fast and have confidence they can help.
As much as I like cosplay and as charming as the teenage maids were I doubt they had the authority to track down an artist’s stolen portfolio. Happy teenage Edward Elric is not going to be able to eject anyone from the premises and it’s a little disconcerting when you realise in the event of an emergency your safety is in the hands of a grown woman in cat ears.
I have to question some of the logic of the exhibitor hall plan too. The Wii stand goes right up at the public entrance but Adam Cadwell and Marc Ellerby, two of the UK’s brightest young stars, get stuck literally at the back door? Nobody puts Chloe Noonan in the corner.
It’s important for the organisers of any convention to not forget that while comics are fun and there is a community of friends… for the exhibitors this isn’t a Drink N Draw, nor is it the university anime society, this is business. With all the traveling costs, food, hotels, taking time off work, conventions are a big investment not only of money but also time. They need to be safe, supported and able to carry out what they came to do; sell comics, meet their audience and enjoy doing it.
Setting Up; Observe how I expertly matched weird, sleep-deprived squinty eyes with Crooks & Castles board shorts for that stylish yet suspicious artist in the summer look.
All this being said I sold a ton of copies of GIRL&BOY. Our table was busy with fans and visitors. I enjoyed that it was mostly UK creators because I feel we don’t make enough of a deal about our own talent, with most conventions kowtowing to the US industry for easy exposure/blog column inches. This is the UK after all and we produce perhaps the best comics talent in the world; we should stand on our own more.
I made a bunch of new friends, met great people like Jimmy Aquino from Comic News Insider and Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery from KILL SHAKESPEARE… legends of partying, one and all. The whirlwind that is Simon Bisley even came through to buy me and Mark’s books which was a rare treat neither of us expected.
This guy collects convention sketches of DC’s Power Girl, he has like 300, this is mine. He was super polite and he doesn’t resell the work that he collects either it’s all purely for the joy of collecting, which is super cool. I had never drawn this character before.
This little lady asked me to draw her portrait. She was amazing. She also had one tooth missing at the front which I only saw at the end when she smiled.
The variety of people that were coming to our table to talk, hang out, buy comics, take photos, commission sketches and just generally enjoy themselves was hugely gratifying and speaks volumes about the diversity and strength of UK comics; you guys made the con what it was. Plus y’know, Roller Derby girls are alwayswelcome.
It was a success for me… but I suspect that was despite the organisation, not because of it. In the end it felt like a con run more by comics fandom than by comics professionals.
It’s sad really. Bristol was the first con I ever attended as a fan years years back. It’s a great place to have a convention at a great time in the year and I’d love to go back. But next year when choosing between spending money on Bristol, TCAF or one of the growing number of London conventions in the same period Bristol may well not win out for me.
Unless Thought Bubble stage a take-over.
P.S - I know it’s a con-staple for Storm Troopers to come in character and do their Empire schtick. I get it, it’s cool. But if you block traffic to our table and try staring us out we will drop you like a Skrillex chorus.