The London Super Comic Convention, one of the first conventions on the calendar and certainly amongst the most significant for fans of comics (as opposed to TV and Film), has announced its dates for 2016. It will be held on the weekend of the 20th and 21st of February at the Excel Centre in London.
Wales, Glasgow and London Film and Comic Con
Three (comic) conventions and three different experiences, mostly negative. I’ll start with the worst (by a country mile).
I was warned about attending the Welsh Comic convention in Wrexham but the attraction of seeing Phil Jiminez was just too great and I ignored the advice. I checked the website before I left that morning and all was fine. Queued for over an hour to get in and headed straight for the signing area but there’s no sign of Phil. I ask some staff whose response is “who”? They contact presumably the organiser and I get some bull story about Phil cancelling the day before but time zones meant they only got the email that morning. Anyone believe that? The website even at the end of the day was still advertising him as being at the event! Your one major comic guest and you have no idea about his attendance! Trying to make the best of a bad job, I tried to find a comic seller…and there were none there! I left in disgust after 30 minutes. Folks, this is NOT a comic convention. Great if you are into cosplay or TV and film but like me in future, just ignore it completely if you want a true comic convention. I shall not be going back there again under any circumstances.
I’ll move on to the Glasgow event which has already been well covered by another reviewer. I would echo everything stated in that review but add to one point and make another. I was left completely exasperated by the failure to provide advance information about guests cancelling and failing to answer direct emails about this. It gave a very real impression that nobody cared about the customer. Additionally many were also annoyed by the advertising of Mark Millar as the only major guest left. It went from “Sunday only” to “Sunday pm only” to a signing session lasting just 75 minutes. I have to say that if I’d known this beforehand, I would definitely not have travelled even though I’d bought 2 tickets.
I really enjoyed the Edinburgh event earlier in the year and if I come back up north to any future Scottish event, it will be to that and not to the hugely disappointing Glasgow show. They have SO much repair work to do.
Finally, to the London Film and Comic Con event. The summer 2014 event was a shambles of dreadful organisation, poor customer care and great service to the god of profit. Stories have also emerged of poor treatment of some comic guests who will never return to an LFCC event. I went down to the Saturday of this year’s event with some trepidation (particularly given the stream of international comic guests cancelling) which in the end proved justified.
The really bad things about the event: 1) the horrific heat on floor one was just too much for most people. A mass of people in slow moving lines trying to get to or from the film and TV signing area amongst the poor exhibitors stands just made the whole area a hot, sweaty mess. 2) Trying to get off floor 1 to floor 2 (where the comics’ people were) was an epic task. It took me 35 minutes of queuing and standing on staircases to accomplish a task which should have taken 45 seconds and then had to repeat this getting back down again. The lifts servicing the upper floors were equally rammed. I reckon any Health and Safety officer viewing this mess would have shut down the event because it was really not safe. I dread to think what would have happened if there had been a fire.
The only good thing about the event is that people are starting to realise that this is not a true comic convention and those that are interested in the comics are not turning up. All the comic guests on floor 2 were not busy (some were obviously not happy either) so it was really easy access to them. Both Dan Slott (always affable and chatty even under the dreadful conditions he was working in on level 1) and Chad Hardin, the main comic related guests, were also easy to get to at all times. However the hell of attending this event did not really compensate.
Showmasters really need to learn event management lessons and skills from the organisers of the relaxed and totally enjoyable London Super Con and Thoughtbubble events because their summer event is anything but these things.
Showmasters boast that they run the largest comic convention in the country. They don’t. They run the largest film and TV event. The comics part is a small add on and there are a good six or seven UK conventions ahead of them in this area. I probably will not attend another LFCC event and I would advise people who want to go to a TRUE comic convention to visit any of London Super Con, Thoughtbubble, NICE, Lakes, either of the Birmingham cons or Edinburgh comic con to get a far better experience.
It’s time for honesty. Time for the GCC organisers to face a stark truth: 2015 may be a hugely significant year for the future of Glasgow Comic Con (GCC). It’s too early to know for sure, but its days as Scotland’s top event to meet comic creators may be over.
The build-up to GCC 2015 was very impressive, with imaginative additions to the schedules of previous years. Ambitiously, GCC greatly increased in size and scope, adding an extra venue and new events such as pre-con and after-con parties, screenings at the Glasgow Film Theatre, a must-see gallery showing of Millarworld art and a massive interactive project called The Big Comic Draw. It was fully intent on living up to its billing as Scotland’s Comic Book Festival.
The guest list was exciting. Legends and loyal mainstays John Wagner and Alan Grant would be returning, as would V for Vendetta artist David Lloyd for the second time. Watchmen colourist and Dredd artist John Higgins would be making his debut. The phenomenon that is Mark Millar would be signing on the Sunday afternoon. Amongst the international guests, the organisers pulled off the eye-opening coup of booking ultra-hot Spider-Gwen artist Robbi Rodriguez as the headliner, his first appearance on British soil. Marcio Takara was another major name that would draw the fans through the doors. Add to the mix Eisner Award-winning Cameron Stewart, popular con circuit regulars like Barry Kitson, and it was a guest list to make the mouth water.
GCC also continued its laudable commitment to creating opportunities for emerging and local talent, something the organisers, to their credit, have always devoted a lot of time and care to.
The positivity, however, unravelled in May with the retraction of every single international invitation, due, it was rumoured, to under-funding. Other guests also dropped out. In the end, the lengthy cancellation list read Robbie Rodriguez, Marcio Takara, Cameron Stewart, Leah Moore, John Wagner, Dan Cornwall, John Reppion, Hunt Emerson and, I was assured, others. (It was impossible to be sure about guest attendance without physically going round the four venues and taking a head count.)
There were little or no announcements or updates on either the GCC website or Facebook page. Names just quietly disappeared from posters or lists, and so many people were unaware of changes. Information on the website – which for some inexplicable reason still displays comments from the 2012, 2013 and 2014 cons – did not always match the Facebook page. Queries were usually ignored. Such was the secrecy and confusion, some fans, unsure of who was going and who was not, took matters into their own hands and contacted creators to check they were attending.
Inevitably, the cancellations, and the botched, unprofessional way it was handled, was a damaging blow, one that the event, for all its efforts, never really recovered from. One or two cancellations are to be expected at any con but this was a cull of main guests on an unprecedented scale.
On July 2, Scott Hood wrote the following on the GCC FB page (http://www.glasgowcomiccon.com/) and summed the situation up beautifully:
I was really disappointed to find out that eight of the originally advertised guests are not appearing. This leaves no North American creators at all at the convention, which is extremely disappointing compared to last year, when Gail Simone, Erik Larsen and Howard Chaykin, three legends[,] were in attendance.
I’m hoping I’ll still enjoy the convention but I’m expecting it to be poor in comparison to last year’s event.
This blunt but fair assessment received no comment. This is, unfortunately, typical. The GCC, as in other years, failed badly in terms of openness and communication with fans. They are stocking up a pool of ill will and distrust through this policy of ignoring unwelcome requests for information, especially when they relate to questions about guest attendance.
Nevertheless, the con itself was much like last year in terms of attendance, with the extra activities possibly helping to keep the numbers of attendees up. At the top level of the main venue, The Big Comic Draw project was a definite success. Its major plus was that it was truly all-ages, and many children had fun sketching out their character designs and adding them to the impressive wall display.
These pluses aside, with this shambolic episode of guest cancellations Scotland may have experienced a significant shift, with Edinburgh replacing Glasgow as the hub of comic cons. In 2014, both the Glasgow con and the inaugural Edinburgh con had excellent guest lists, although GCC maintained its status as the premiere con in Scotland.
By 2015, if you were wanting to meet international comic creators in Scotland, the only place was Edinburgh Comic Con. It really is remarkable the difference a year can make and this year’s debacle over guests makes a mockery of GCC’s claim to be the only true comic con north of the border. (ECC, incidentally, has just booked a new venue for next year, an impressive, multi-million pound conference centre, so clearly the organisers there are thinking – ominously for GCC – of bettering their own previous guest lists.)
It will be extremely interesting to see what happens in 2016. 2015 will go down as the year ECC replaced GCC as the premiere con in Scotland for high-profile comic-related guests. The only question is whether that becomes the status quo or whether GCC – the con that in the past has brought the likes of the legendary Jim Starlin to Scotland – comes back from this and re-establishes itself. Let’s hope so. Glasgow deserves better and Scotland deserves more than one con with a really top-notch guest list.
Review by anonymous