This is one of those conventions on the calendar that everyone seems to eagerly anticipate. As a festival it sits in a reasonably unique niche, somehow managing to attract the big names and bring in the arty types too. Small press, the trinket stalls, Olly Moss, cosplay, dealers, artists, writers…it seems to manage to hit a little bit of everything. It has always been quite well planned and executed and had a professional ring to it but with the edgy feel of being organised by artists (unlike, say, the MCM Expos that are more corporate in nature and feel). It also seems to be a favourite of the creators themselves, a last minute get-together before the Christmas lull starts and the New Year kicks in.
This year saw some slight changes to the last two but the core remained the same. There were people queuing from some crazy times in the morning to meet Olly Moss and pick up some of his prints. There were also those massively anticipating meeting Sean Murphy, David Aja, Rafael Alberquerque, Ramon Perez and Fiona Staples. Indeed, the sketch hounds were once again out in force filling up the artists commission lists often before the show had even opened. Dealers were shifting and stalls were selling merchandise, floppies and trades. The main hall was incredibly busy, a bustling tour-de-force of the curious and the queuing alike. In some respects though it was too busy. The Armouries Hall was really quite sparsely populated in comparison. And the Allied London? We’ll come back to that one. The organisers had put all the star names in one place at the back of the main room and in the corner of the New Dock Hall. The queues for people like Aja and Staples were massive and were blocking aisles all over the place. It got to the point on Saturday that you simply could not get near the top of the hall at certain times. While it’s good to see these events still busy, they didn’t use the three halls to any advantage and merely followed the same format as previous years. They really need to leave more space around the big names in future, it was tight last year and they don’t seem to have changed it particularly for this year. The queues were slightly better managed overall than last year but still impacted on the limited space. These are just niggles though really, to meet people the likes of Murphy was amazing and fair play to the organisers for getting someone of his stature in the industry to come over to the UK.
By far the biggest gripe though was the Allied London Hall. The hall was added due to the sheer demand for additional tables and it really did feel like it was ‘added’ rather than forming part of the show. The room was dark, unfinished, freezing cold, half-carpeted and misting up with concrete dust from the un-sealed floors. It was full of small press, indy artists, dealers and the crafty types along with Olly Moss and Jock at the back end of the room. Having such a draw as Moss and Jock should have been great, creating the footfall you would like to help promote your self-published comics, but the door was opened at the back of the room meaning that no-one really came walking through the hall after all, they went in and out from a different entrance. From a small press perspective it was poor and more than one person wrapped up after day one and left, not to return on the Sunday at all. Most others in the hall reported slow sales, particularly in comparison to previous shows. This was a shame as they seemed to add other bits really well, like the bar and lounge for example, but the Allied London bit felt like it was put in place to generate additional income and accommodate all the extra people wanting tables rather than be part of the actual show.
Overall the show was much the same as previous years (although I did miss the chirpy Irishman in the queue this time). Those in the big hall seemed to do really well and were very complimentary of the show and there was lots on offer for visitors. The big names were solid and almost all came through for people. The atmosphere at the show is always good and although it’s now grown quite big, there is still a feel of the smaller, more personal con about the whole event.
If this review sounds negative, it isn’t really meant to be, I did have a great weekend again and always seem to do so in Leeds. I would just perhaps question them adding the additional hall again next year as it wasn’t really ready to receive the event and it didn’t seem particularly in keeping with the rest of the venues. Apart from that, it was very much a case of, ‘as you were’.