Bristol Comic Expo 2012 Review
It was that time again when some of the cream of the UK comic scene got together to meet up in Bristol for the annual expo. Before we get into this, cards on the table, I like and will probably always like this expo. Nothing like impartiality in a review but I promise I will report as I find! Returning to the old railway shed after making do with hotel function rooms for a couple of years, the event promised to be bigger than ever with exhibitor tables selling out. The size of the venue does not indeed disappoint and accommodated a mixture of artists, small press, trade stands and even a Nintendo gaming stand in one corner showcasing the 3DS skills alongside a Wii or two. It was a shame that Denny O’Neil couldn’t make it due to ill health and also that John Watson was missing from the line-up but there was still plenty to get your teeth into across the weekend with some (as always) very impressive small press offerings that frankly put some of the major players to shame. The small press at Bristol really is excellent and the dedication of those behind it unwavering, returning better quality year on year.
The Expo was quieter than usual though, no doubt due to the lure of Kapow the following weekend and London Comic Con the week after that. Hell, most of us are still recovering from London Super! The fact that May seems to have become convention month with loads on offer, some conflicting with each of the others dates really hasn’t helped. As Paul Grist said, it has slightly diluted the attendance of people and I am inclined to agree, there’s probably the same amount of people going to conventions, just that they’ve got more picky. On the positive side though, it meant that if you were there to get sketches, then you were indeed in for a treat across the two days.
First port of call was the exceptionally talented Lee Garbett who quickly filled a queue of eager sketch hunters and didn’t fail to disappoint. His sketches were of the highest quality and deserving of such attention from the baying crowd which will put him at the top of the sketch hunting list for sure at upcoming cons. There was of course the ever excellent John Burns alongside Phil Winslade and Boo Cook, all three offering sketches in their own unique styles. Lee Bradley alongside Paul Grist and Ben Willsher offered up quite a few alternatives and Dylan Teague and Luca Erbetta finished the table off with their own, cool individual styles with Luca producing some amazing painted sketches. Also sketching away in the main area was Neil Edwards and Ian Churchill who always bring that bit of superhero flair to the cons, further joined (replaced in Neil Edwards case) on the Sunday by Ben Oliver. Over at the Reed Comics table was the old stalwart Simon Bisley alongside Mike Ploog. For some reason, Simon was actually about almost all day Saturday and even there Sunday morning. A first maybe? Who knows, but you can always count on him to be lively, that’s for sure, and there was one or two empty bottles building up on his table over the course of the day so I guess he was keeping the bar entertained in the evening. Ian Edginton and D’Israeli completed the double act with D’Israeli producing the star sketch at the con (of course, only in my opinion, see below!).
There were quite a few others about, Alan Davis, Mark Buckingham, Gary Erskine, Paul Cornell, David Hine, Shaky Kane, John Higgins…you certainly weren’t spoilt for choice and if there was ever a con where you wanted to actually meet these people, it is the Bristol con where every artist seems to have time to chat and socialise (again, not necessarily good for business though!). It’s a good feeling and a good vibe, most of the attendees would end up in the Ramada bar and almost every single one came sans ego which is always a real bonus. These people are human and the smaller cons like this remind you of that, it’s refreshing and something the likes of Kapow could learn from. The corporate treadmill can be quite damaging to an industry that has a hardcore of fans, orbited by future potential fans lured in by big movie franchises. A bad experience is the difference between a standing order or never visiting a comic shop again.
All in all a good weekend was had. Yes, it could have been busier, I am pretty sure the organisers would have liked it to be so, but in a laid back sort of way, we didn’t mind. We do though lament the schedule for the conventions at this time of year and hopefully this won’t become a casualty of too many cons and not enough guests.
The Bristol Expo doesn’t pretend to be a huge London Con and, in our opinion, is all the better for it. Whether it survives long term, we aren’t sure, I don’t know that they had the footfall this year to make it viable again. This is the longest standing convention that I personally have attended, only missing one in the last 10 years so to see it go will be a real shame. Tickets already mentally booked for next year (if it runs)!