To many punters and turf accountants who are often found at Ladbrokes and William Hill and other fine betting shops, Cheltenham will always be known for racing but it’s also home to many festivals of culture from food and drink to music and literature. In fact the New York Times mentioned last year “as a town enjoying a cultural renaissance.” So it wouldn’t come as a surprise that the town has it’s very own yearly comics show.
Since it’s inception in 2013, True Believers Comic Festival has been held at the racecourse and this was my first time at the event and at Cheltenham. It was going to be a slog of a long walk from the train station to the racecourse the organisers knew that and for the first time they arranged a bus which takes con goers like myself to the event all for the princely sum of £1 which went to charity.
With a plethora of good comic book dealers, the festival had guests currently working in mainstream comics including Paul Grist, Ben Oliver and Dylan Teague. TBCF17 marked the debut of artist Matilda Dawes who after “a year of really dull work in a catering agency” decided to become a full-time artist.
“I’m first time exhibitor at True Believers and also ever! My first con and I like it. I think it’s a good atmosphere a few exhibitors I spoken to hope it would be busier but it’s busy enough for me and it’s got nice people. I like being on the balcony I know I shouldn’t because technically you get less footfall but you get a nice view. I like the way it’s organised as well. It was a very quick response on emails with my questions, they’d reposted things that I’d posted on social media. I started researching comics and graphic novels for my final major project at university, I finished last year and the first con I went to was London Super Comic con it made me want to be part of this world because it’s very welcoming and everyone is very passionate because you have to be! You’re not going to have enough drive to get through the amount of work you need to do.” Said Matilda.
One of the many publishers there was Wrench Productions a company set up in 2015 by writer Cliff Jones and artist Andrew Richmond, who unleashed Wings of Terror, an ode to Caroline Munro, Sinbad Hammer Horror and Amicus films. Alongside Wings of Terror, Jones has written Bizarre Dimensions, which is drawn by Graham Puttock and Richmond. It’s an enjoyable strange first issue that truly lives up to the title. Each tale is introduced by Cinema Insomnia host and comic writer Mr Lobo and the first issue came with an autograph from the US cable TV star. In fact Wrench Productions might just be the UK version of Warren Comics.
This year there’s a massive explosion of comic cons around the country but some shouldn’t even be called comic cons. The organisers behind True Believers ensured that guests, exhibitors and attendees like myself made me feel welcome. The art collector in me bought sketches and commissions and comics. The spacious Centaur hall was perfectly equipped for a convention; there was a room for a panel and a catwalk which was made for cosplayers who took part for a competition. TBCF draws its real strength from small press and indie publishers with each table displaying an amazing range of creativity from the UK comic scene. True Believers kicked off the comic convention season in style.
I’m a believer as Micky Dolenz and co once sang.