Now I’ll let you into a (probably well known) secret. I’ve been on convention hiatus this year. A break from the mill after several years attending as both a punter and seller. This is not necessarily entirely by choice though. Had LSCC not changed its date to a rather inconvenient weekend and stuck to Feb or March, I am sure I would have been there. I missed other more local events due to a conflicting calendar, work commitments and holidays. It’s probably fair to say I’ve missed conventions in more way than one this year.
So then a local event for me, 20 minutes from my front door in my home town of Birmingham. A city that is transforming from an 80s concrete wasteland into the cosmopolitan ‘place to be’. Don’t just take my word for it though, even the Americans are getting in on it. Unfortunately though, I’ve got the kids this weekend because the wife’s at work. No bother though right? Kids love comic con don’t they? Well yes, except that ICE is a true, genuine, bona fide comic con.
Why would that be a problem though? “Isn’t that the point of this site?”, you all cry in synchronous harmony. Well, no, it wasn’t ever really the intention at all. This site was set up to list Comic Conventions or, perhaps more accurately, “Events that sell and promote comics as a medium”. The term though has now been utterly misappropriated, possibly through the growth and media hype of San Diego, and has now seemingly come to mean, “most anything other than comics” for a string of events popping up all over the UK (at a town hall/leisure centre likely near you). There have been events with “Comic Con” in the title over the last few years that have not had a single comic in attendance. Events that are anything but comic cons. For example, an event recently promoted with “Comic Con” in the title promoted further a game show contestant as the main attraction. “Chase” that one down if you don’t believe me.
What’s all that got to do with ICE though? Well, ICE promotes comics. It brings over international comic book stars. It draws in UK comic book creators. It brings together the comic community and gives it a platform for promotion. It actively promotes small press alongside the big names. People who go there like and read comics.
IT’S ABOUT COMICS!
Point made? I hope so.
There in lies the problem I had though: ICE is a true comic con. Consequently, dragging around a five and seven year old is a lot more difficult than, say, the MCM events, with all the attractions associated with popular culture to keep the youngsters occupied. Which meant I was always on the clock.
No less the worse for it though as it turns out. ICE is not a big event and doesn’t pretend to be something it is not. It is though a great ambassador for Birmingham, the home of the first ever UK comic convention (1), and the UK comic scene in general (alongside other excellent events such as NICE, The Lakes, True Believers, ECC and so on). Guests drew from the most venerable and affable Dan Slott, to the only UK appearance of John Tyler Christopher. From the amazing painters, John Bolton and Glenn Fabry, to the genial sketch machine of Charlie Adlard, with Freddie E Williams thrown in to boot. There was much small press to be had and lots of back issues to rifle through. There was cosplay, which can be contentious at events like these, but it was never overwhelming, never took itself too serious and added to the fun rather than frustrate genuine comic book fans. It was enough to lift the event rather than dominate it, something other events could learn from.
And the kids? I managed to survive just shy of two hours with them, no mean feat I assure you. To my utter surprise, after walking around the convention for the second time, my oldest actually shocked me by asking to buy comics rather than toys. Outstanding! He then further surprised me by asking to get his first ever autograph, completely of his own volition, from Dan Slott, intrigued by his presence. It was wonderful.
I am already booking next year, and if you are a comic fan, you should too.
(1) Flashback to 1968: Art from the very first British Comics Convention http://downthetubes.net/?p=21972