The comic convention calendar is burgeoning with new events year on year. When you consider the fact that were four conventions listed at the launch of this site compared to a list in 2014 of 46, you can see just how popular the scene has become.
One of the first names on the list for 2015 was the True Believers Comic Festival, a Kickstarter backed, well planned event that has one of the biggest names in comics already penned in. We spoke to one of the organisers, Stuart, to see what this new kid on the block has to offer.
Tell us a bit about the people behind True Believers
True Believers was founded by myself (Stuart), Jo Hartley and Andy Hanks. I’m the main organiser of the event, Jo (who is a nerd burlesque dancer and cosplayer) is overseeing the cosplay elements of the event and Andy (who is an illustrator and graphic designer) is responsible for all of our cool logos, images and advertising.
We also have an ever growing team of supporters and volunteers from the Gloucestershire comic book community, who are helping us keep the project on track and keeping the word out there.
The Kickstarter seemed to go well, how did you manage to reach out to people and convince them to back you?
The Kickstarter was a nerve wracking month for us because we didn’t know how much love there would be for the event. Fortunately people seemed to like the idea of what we are trying to do with True Believers and our ethos behind it and wanted to support the event, both financially and with spreading the word amongst others.
We were lucky to have had input and support from people like Jon Lock (of Afterlife Inc.) and Hayley Spencer (of The Melksham Comic Con) – who had both run successful Kickstarter Campaigns – with setting up our Kickstarter and with offering us support and advice throughout.
We also got a huge amount of support from Ben Fardon, owner of Proud Lion – our local comic shop in Cheltenham – who not only backed our Kickstarter and launched a pound per pledge campaign to help us hit our goal, but also offered us a venue to meet and talk to the Cheltenham comic community about what we were trying to do. We were keeping people updated on our progress online and through our podcast (The Nerds Who Haunted Themselves), but there was nothing better than interacting with people face to face and talking about the event with them.
I’d say 99% of the success of the Kickstarter is down to all of those people who supported it and the awesome work they did getting behind us and spreading the word.
What prompted the name? Why not “Cheltenham Comic Con”?
We didn’t want a geographical name on the event. We wanted a name that told people we were about the comic books first. The difficult thing was finding a name that was fairly iconic in the world of comics and was in keeping with the ethos behind what we are doing with the event.
We landed on True Believers because it seemed to encapsulate everything we wanted from the name and honoured all of the people who had believed in us and who are helping us make the event happen, from the exhibitors, traders and guests to all of the folks who buy their tickets.
There are a lot of conventions lately; the scene has gone from two conventions a year to something like 40 a year over the last five years, what prompted you to add another to the list?
I think it’s great that there are so many comic-con events in the calendar now because there are so many new and independent (and I mean properly independent, publishing from their bedrooms type independent) comic creators out there who have all of these events to meet and engage with new readers and fans. It’s an important thing for them and we wanted to put on an event that offers them the chance to do that at an affordable price.
The standard for comic con events has been to pull in big names from TV and film and relegate the comic book people to a small dark hall at the back of the convention centre. But there is a trend now that started before we set up our event – with things like Thought Bubble – and continues to grow in events that have been set up since that is seeing the focus put back onto the comic book side.
That’s a great thing for the creators, the fans and conventions as well, because it gets the focus back where it belongs.
Looking at the guest list so far, this does seem like a true comic con in the vein of LSCC or NICE rather than the frequently frustrating faux “Comic Con” events like the MCM Expos. Is this intentional?
Thank you, that’s great for you to say and is definitely what we were going for.
When we were putting together the guest list ideas, our rule was that we only wanted people who have worked in comics. We also wanted a balance of people who have been working in the industry for years and new talent that is just starting to break and hopefully we have achieved that.
We didn’t know what to expect when we were approaching people, being a new event, but the positive feedback we have gotten from the people we have approached has been incredible (from both the people who said yes and those who unfortunately couldn’t accept our invitation this year).
Securing someone with the pedigree of Neal Adams is quite the feat, how did you manage that?
That was a moment of madness on my part.
Like most comic book readers, I’m a fan of Neal Adams. I was listening to Kevin Smith talking to Neal Adams on the Fatman On Batman podcast and I thought how cool it would be to get him as Guest Of Honour for True Believers. And so I went and looked at his website and dropped him an email.
If I’m being honest, I thought at best I’d be able to tell people that I once received an email from Neal Adams but was thinking that it would be more likely that I wouldn’t hear anything back at all. After all, it’s kind of like the comic book equivalent of asking Springsteen to play your office party.
Not only did he reply however, but he also didn’t say no. He didn’t say yes either but he was interested in knowing more and a few emails later we’d convinced him that we weren’t insane and we ironed out the details and he said yes.
Do you have any more exciting guests lined up?
We’ve contacted a few other people and are just waiting to hear back, so we’ll see.
If there was one guest you could bring to the event, anyone, who would that be?
You mean aside from everyone on our guest list already?
I would’ve loved to have had Terry Moore over for the event as I’m a big fan of Stranger In Paradise, Echo and Rachel Rising. I would also have loved to have had Mike Carlin as a guest as well as I’m an early 90’s Superman kid. We did approach both but were unable to work it out, but it’s something we’ll be looking into again if 2015 is a success.
There are many more, but those are the two big ones for me.
Finally, in your minds, what will have constituted a successful event? What are YOUR expectations for the day?
We just want people on both sides of the table to enjoy the event. If the majority of the people who come have a good time and would like to see a True Believers 2016, then we we’re a success. It would be great to make enough money to put down on True Believers 2016, but our first goal is making sure people have a good time and get the event they signed up for, 2016 will work itself out from there.
Many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, we’ll be seeing you at the event!
Many thanks for asking them. We look forward to seeing you there.