This weekend Comic Conventions headed north of the border to celebrate the Scottish passion for comics. In fairness, it was probably long overdue, but when the gracious offer came through of free lodgings, it was a quick visit to Easyjet’s website and the next thing you know we were on our way from the south west of England to the city of Glasgow for what was the second year of the convention.
The first thing that hit you about the convention was the venue. It was…weird. It really was a deconsecrated church with a small back room; a frozen shrine to the talents of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. In many respects, think of a normal convention in reverse. The main area of this convention was the area you gathered around to listen to the creators and guests on a variety of panels whilst the small area contained a few retailers and later on, a couple of tables (a story for later!). There was a second room over the road which was the size of a small village hall with some more retail and small press tables present and another couple of tables for signings and sketches tucked into the corner.
This was a bit of a downside to the event. You had to be a fan of the panels to get the best out of the convention. Yes, some are great and really interesting, others perhaps don’t pique your curiousity giving you (at other conventions) the choice to return to the main convention area until someone else came along. Here, there wasn’t really anywhere you could do that, it was very much a case of standing in the small retailers room or being in the talks or sitting on the wall outside when it wasn’t raining. For sure, they had some great guests though but you couldn’t help think that given a better venue, a lot more could have been wrung out of the event and the guests.
The retailers area
There was also a bit of a feeling of disorganisation, for instance, what was Jim Starlin going to do when he wasn’t timetabled to do a signing or a panel? The answer was to find a table from somewhere and get him sat down in the small room where he quite happily chatted, signed and sketched for the bulk of the time he was there. He really gave his all to the event in the end and I think everyone got something out of him. He was joined later on with Rufus Dayglo who again, worked tirelessly producing sketches for the crowd. The two of them, along with Karrie Fransman’s excellent crowd interaction with her special cards, made the small room the hotbed it should have been by their presence, yet there was a feeling it was more accidental than intended.
The panel at the altar
The panels were good though and very entertaining. Some highlights were Frank Quitely, Jim Stewart, Dave Alexander and James Devlin waxing lyrical about a variety of things along the lines of, “what would you do if you weren’t involved in comics?” and the ilk. Quite entertaining replies about designing graves and driving vans followed. Other panels saw the legend that is Jim Starlin joined by Eddie Deighton of ComX and Rufus Dayglo, the latter filling the room with colourful language, freely sharing his thoughts and opinions on the whole Jack Kirby debate with the audience, which was quite amusing in itself. The conversation attempted to look at the cosmic, being Starlin’s forte, but frequently went off topic. Starlin did reveal he was working on something at the moment (and later on that day accidentally told me how it was going to end too!). The panels were good and interesting, well led by the likes of Mike Conroy skillfully getting the best out of the guests and featured quite a few British comic legends such as Alan Grant and John Wagner entertaining the audience.
Rufus Dayglo, Karrie Fransmann and Jim Starlin
The day culminated in a visit from the current master of comics himself, Grant Morrison. For a convention that was quite small, to have such a guest was nothing short of phenomenal, no doubt helped by the Scottish connection. I am certain that this was the big draw for most people with the room being rammed and the huge surge at the end of the panel for people wanting things signed. The panel itself was fun with Grant and Frank “Vinnie” Quitely bouncing off each other talking about their upcoming comics and their continued collaboration together. Grant was fantastic in the end, happily signing away for what seemed like hours and cordially chatting with the people in the queue, ensuring everyone who waited got what they wanted. A true superstar, yet honouring his Scottish fanbase all the way ’til the end.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
So, the first day ended. Day two was much the same as the first, but with less people in attendance in general and it was a quieter experience, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing especially as we were all beat after the first. Despite feeling a little disappointed at the start, as the con moved on it got and felt much better. It seemed a bit disorganised, but I am certain that they will learn lessons from this year’s event and put in the little touches that will make this even more successful next year. The sketching and signing felt difficult given the little available space and the venue…let’s just say that for this con to move on, it needs to start with a physical move as well as a metaphorical one. The catchment between Glasgow and Edinburgh, not to mention the northern areas of both Scotland and England, should mean that the people deserve bigger and I am sure that John and Sha could find and fill another venue. We’re not talking convention centres, just a room that’s slightly more coherent, better laid out and that lets the con breath a little. Given the immense talent to come out of Scotland and the intense camaraderie that the Scottish people posess, I am sure that the guests will come and make this an event up there with the best across the isles. In the end we had a really good couple of days and got everything that we wanted out of the event. I found the Scottish people to be among the most friendly that I have met on my travels, whether they were friends, long time local legends or international superstars, they just had the most amazing, laid back and friendly approach and it was refreshing in an increasingly cynical world. Would I go back? Most definitely.