Apologies for the short review on this one as I had other commitments and couldn’t make the whole event missing out on the Alan Moore talk. For more about that, visit our good friend Mario’s blog at http://biggeeksmalltown.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/nice-to-see-you-to-see-you-nice.html where he talks about his feeling on Alan’s appearance.
So we rocked up at the venue that was the Wicksteed Leisure Park for the first comics expo organised by the owners of Close Encounters comics. We’ve talked about this before, but this year has seen a huge rise in comic conventions with our list showing this to be the 21st convention of the calendar year with still another seven to go! That’s quite something for an industry that has the big two constantly dropping titles and relaunching existing ones to muster up a few new readers and that’s despite the glut of comic book movies over the last two years.
There were two things that immediately apparent. One, there weren’t many people queuing. Fact is, the ultra secret Facebook group the ConMen made up the vast majority of the queue, even when the doors opened at 9.30am. Two, the venue wasn’t overly accessible, the car being the first and best option to get there, the other by train with a 30 minute hike from the station. Combine the 20 comic conventions before this and Thought Bubble on the rapidly closing horizon and you are going to find people having to be choosy. Combine this again with some of the increasing sketch costs (£300 for Marko Djurdjevic winning the no-prize for most expensive pencil sketch of the day) and the choosy people become choosier still.
Once inside though, the actual venue lent itself quite well towards an artists’ alley. It was a function room, long and thin that was (almost) entirely in place for the artists. Such a setup meant that the dealers area was in a series of connected tents outside and down the road a bit, with some dealers lamenting the fact that the majority of the attendees were queuing up for sketches and not spending precious money on actual comics themselves. Another downside of this setup meant that the small press were also a bit out of the way and didn’t get the exposure that they would have liked. Splitting the two probably wasn’t the best idea and I am sure it’s something that the organisers will consider when they plan next year’s event.
News quickly filtered through that four artists had stood them up. Not in attendance were Bisley, Langley, Fabry and Taylor. Reasons were not given but you couldn’t help feel a bit sorry for the organisers that they had been let down at the eleventh hour. To compound things a bit further, Djurdjevic popped his head in, took a small list and promptly disappeared for several hours, Greg Staples was several hours late and then declared he wasn’t doing sketches and Steve Dillon was nowhere to be seen. Dillon eventually made it by midday and Djurdjevic did return to his desk (but wasn’t exactly flavour of the month with some) so things started looking up. On the positive side, Granov was producing some excellent headshots and John Watson was as genuinely friendly as ever and produced some fantastic pieces. RM Guera did some brilliant bits and pieces for free (Djurdjevic take note) and Charlie Adlard, Doug Braithwaite and Ben Oliver were producing some top notch stuff and didn’t let the baying fans down. Ian Churchill shifted some original pages rather quickly at some bargain prices too, with some impressive pieces knocking around.
By the time the clock had hit about 2pm, most had got what they wanted or had names on the lists of the relevant artists and things had cooled down a little bit. Most by now had forgot the ‘waiting for the artists to show bit’ and were a little more sated than they were first thing. Some of the dealers were unhappy by all accounts. The dealer tents were on a bit of slope, which was awkward for some setting up and they just didn’t look like they were getting the footfall needed to make it a worthwhile outing. Really, they needed to be in the same room as the artists, even if they were separated out from them. At the end of the day, the room just wasn’t big enough to accommodate everything that it really needed too.
To sum up the event, it was an excellent line-up, a mixed venue with very good and very bad bits (but a bit out of the way nonetheless), some incredible sketches ranging from completely free to £300 and an amazing guest in Alan Moore. Yet despite all that, it felt like a low footfall through the door. For a first attempt it was actually a rather good effort and we did feel a bit sorry about the fact some of the artists let them down, but if this runs next year, there needs to be a critical evaluation of the location and the spreading out of the different areas for it to work better as an expo. For many fans returning on the Sunday, there was an amazing amount of sketches to be had and seemed to get the better end of the weekend.
Maybe we are suffering from too many conventions in one year, which on one hand is a good thing for the opportunity to meet so many excellent creators, but on the other it’s a financial burden many are struggling with in the current recession. Anyway, enjoy some of the sketches courtesy of our good friends, the ConMen.