by Peter Brewer and Riven Alyx Buckley

The dust has just settled on the final major Comic cons for the year with the last two finishing an exceptional year for UK comic conventions. There are a number of major changes already in line for 2017 and with the Brexit influenced drop in £/$ exchange rates that will undoubtedly have an effect on the budgets of Convention organisers in terms of US/European guests. I wonder if we will all look back on 2016 as the last year in a “golden age” of UK cons? NICE con gone for a year, LSCC moving to August with a smaller venue, Glasgow down to a single day, Show masters (LFCC) stating film and TV guests only on their blurb, so looking to have dropped comic guests completely ….unfortunately the signs are all there.

Anyway, 2016 ended with two bright spots. The first of them, The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, was as enjoyable and as different as always. Kendal looks to be embracing the con more each year and small wonder when you read the programme and see what it brings to the Town in extra revenue! It really is a brilliant idea to get the whole community involved in the show and the effort many of the shops go to with their window displays is well worth a walk round the Town on its own.

The only charge for convention visitors now is for attendance at the talks and workshops so you can have a relatively cheap weekend if you are really minded to. However, these are the cornerstone of the con and there is such a varied programme, attendees cannot fail to find something of interest. These are coupled with special film screenings linked to guests who introduce the films (e.g. Joe Kelley with “Deadpool” and Bryan Lee O’Malley with “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”). Where else in the UK can you find this?

There was a superb mixture of guests this year from the perennial Sean Philips and Charlie Adlard to guests from around the world such as the aforementioned Joe Kelley and Bryan Lee O’Malley, Ken Niimura, Gilbert Shelton and Jordi Bernet to name but a few. Plenty of great exhibitors one of which did a MAJOR sale of trade paper backs. What more could any self-respecting comic enthusiast want!

Next year promises to be very interesting with Mr Quick Draw himself, the amazing Sergio Aragones, already announced as a major guest. If you have never been to LICAF, do yourself a favour and get there in 2017! It really is a great experience.

Now on to Thoughtbubble. This my “home” con in that I only have to travel 30 miles to get to it instead of the usual hundreds so I always look forward to it. I must admit to being a little worried about it when I first arrived as the queue is normally about 40 yards long at that point and I was about 15th and just a few yards from the front this time! However things did pick up and there was soon the usual lengthy line forming.

There is no doubt that Thoughtbubble suffers a little from an annual repeat of the same guests and listening to the regular con goers in the queue, it was also apparent that many were only staying for the one day rather than the usual two as there were not enough new guests for them to justify both days. I suppose this has to be counterbalanced by the fact that this con is THE social event of the year for many of the guests and the fact that they want to be at the con only adds to the fantastic atmosphere at Thoughtbubble which is there every year without fail.

The Con itself was the usual feast of great international guests served up with a myriad of small and independent press stands all of which were interesting in so many different ways. The three halls were all always full with people taking in the full comics experience. The electric buzz across the three halls is so noticeable and this adds to the joy of attending the event.

I have had a minor moan in the past about the organisation of the signings in the Marquee being chaotic and poorly managed but that was not the case this year. Queues for the major attraction, Mike Mignola, were well managed and helped by the fact that Mike was a model professional turning up on time for the signings on both days. Some others, particularly on the Sunday, were late (obviously having enjoyed themselves a bit too much at the party the night before) but for some reason, this did not have the negative effect of previous years. Kudos anyway to the red shirted helpers in the Marquee who kept everything moving nicely without being too “in your face”.

Thoughtbubble and the Lakes Con could not be further apart in terms of size, format and delivery method but they are joined by the same message they are delivering, which is simply a complete love of the comics medium in all its forms. Thoughtbubble deserves to be well supported as one of the two largest comics events in the UK delivering the wide selection of international guests and the widest selection of small press at any UK show.

Great job on both Cons folks!