While North American Con Wars of the past (and present) are pretty well established fact, the UK doesn’t seem to have any such issues. To wit, they just scheduled three of the biggest shows of the year on successive weekends. First up was the just past Bristol Comic Expo, followed by KAPOW! this weekend and then the London MCM Expo the following weekend. All three have/had very different guest lists and focuses; one observer informs us the timing is probably just because no one thought to look at the rest of the schedule. But that’s not all. THe UK also has shows in Birmingham, the indie-themed Thought Bubble in Leeds, and all those great Comica events that last for a month in in London. So yeah, no dearth of comics to dos in Blighty!
That said, the Bristol show will always hold a special place in The Beat’s heart as it was there, nearly 10 years ago, that we met our future husband! Beat Special Correspondent Jimmy Aquino was on the scene this year to report, and though we don’t think he met his future husband there—unless there is something he’s been hiding all these years—he did have a typically fun time. Here’s his report—check out his photo set on Facebook:
The Bristol Comic Expo was held in Bristol, UK this weekend on May 12-13 at The Passenger Shed in Brunel’s Old Station. I was over to cover for my podcast COMIC NEWS INSIDER and The Beat as well as see friends. I’ve attended Bristol Expo 2 previous times. First in 2008 when it was the train station like this year. And again in 2010 when it was split between the Ramada and Mercure hotels. I was happy to see it back in the station as it kept everything (except for panels) in one place. When I first came back in 2008, it was the biggest comics show in the UK. Now, with the massive proliferation of other shows, some feel it has been hurt by this trend especially since there are literally 2 more in a row in London. I still found it quite a vibrant show with lots of great UK talent exhibiting. From small press unknowns trying to make a name to the big names in UK comics, it was a great array of comic folks.
To me, this is the UK COMICS SCENE. Not the big crazy American scene that obviously showcases great American talent. I came over to find/interview/etc. the local talent. Some complained that there was no American presence (ahem!) but I feel it’s not necessary. Denny O’Neil was scheduled to attend but had to drop out for health reasons. I know I speak for many when I say that we wish him a speedy recovery. I know it’s fun for comics fans to meet some of their idols from across the pond but I think it’s also great for them to meet their local heroes. And many were there in the form of big creators like Ian Edginton, D’Israeli, Al Ewing, John Higgins, Simon Bisley, Paul Cornell, Gary Erskine and others. Fan favorites like Marc Ellerby and Adam Cadwell also. Rising star Val Kapadai was also in attendance. So many more great creators too numerous to mention. (Go to the official website for the list).
I traveled the floor with an idea of some interviews I was going to do but really just explored each row discovering new books/talent that I hadn’t heard of. And boy howdy, did I! So many great comics out there. I’ll put up the interviews in 2 podcasts this week. Interviewees were: Adam Cadwell (Blood Blokes) and Marc Ellerby (Chloe Noonan), Al Ewing (Zombo, Judge Dredd, Jennifer Blood), Dani Abram (The Pirates! animated), Gavin Mitchell, PJ Montgomery and Joe Glass (Stiffs, The Pride), Harry Markos (Markosia comics ), Joel Meadows (Tripwire magazine), Jennie Gyllblad, Corey Brotherson, and Yomi Ayeni (Clockwork Watch: The Arrival), Mark Penman (Peabody & D’Gorath) and Andrew Tunney (Girl & Boy), Richard Worth and Jordan Collver (Ladies & Gentlemen), Sam Gardner and Jake Rowlinson (Sioux Warrior), and Valia Kapadai (White Knuckle).
So many more I wanted to chat with but just didn’t get the time. I implore my fellow nerds in the UK to attend this show next year to meet and explore the local comics scene. I got a big stash of comics that I am anxious to get to and will hopefully review on the podcast. Check it:
See? Who needs the Big 2?! (Just kidding. I loves them as well). Yes, I understand that big US names will draw more people and make them more money. And I’m sure fundraising is tough for the show. But I think Bristol’s future lies with focusing on the UK small press, big UK names and getting 2 or 3 big US names. It can really be like the well respected Heroes Con in the U.S. The Big 2 have no presence there but it’s felt because many of their creators show. And they really focus on independents/small press. It’s a well attended convention and respected by both pros, press and attendees alike. Bristol can become this instead of falling to the wayside as some suggest. The onus lies with the UK pros, press and fans supporting one of their own.
I talked to many of the creators attending and some had really great weekends and others not so much. This happens at every con and table location is often key. It was a well spread out convention and seemingly well attended. I don’t know the final numbers but I know it was higher than some I’ve seen suggested. It did seem smaller than previous years I’ve attended but none of that seemed to effect the enthusiasm of the fans attending. From young to old, there was something for everyone. Bristol is a great city for it as well and the Ramada is great about giving discounted rooms for the weekend.
As for panels, all were held in the Ramada conference rooms. So many good ones but I was only able to attend the big 2000AD one as hosted by MegaCast divas/good pals Iz McAuliffe and Stacey Whittle. 2000AD is making a big push to the U.S. market and I am loving it. I didn’t grow up with it but have been rapidly catching up on trades being released. There were 9 creators on the panel and it was really informative, well run, funny and just plain awesome. Kudos to Iz and Stacey for putting it together and keeping it rolling smoothly.
Autograph sessions were also held at the Ramada and fans anxiously lined up to meet some of their favorites. Other extracurricular activities included some cosplay competition and many came dressed to the Expo in great costumes.
After show, the Ramada bar was the place to be. You could grab a pint and chat with your favorite creator or just chill with your friends. As many know, I’m a huge Anglophile and have been over a few times so have a large number of pals over in the UK. It was great to see so many and hang. Iz and Rich, Monts, Nuge, Whittle, Dave Ashton, Ellerby, Cadwell, Molcher, and too many others to mention! I closed the bar down on Saturday night around 4:30am with Michael Molcher and Conor & Lizzie Boyle having great conversations about the UK comics scene.
On an even more personal note, it was great to see my Brizzle bird Milena and hang with her a bit as well. Also, old friend Kirstie from NYC moved to Bath a few years back and came in for dinner on Friday night to catch up. The Biz himself seemed smitten with her!
Overall, it was a tremedous show and I really enjoyed it. I highly recommend attending next year and keeping up with the news from it. Sure, there wasn’t any big announcements (though Mr. Ewing may have hinted something in my interview…STAY TUNED!) or huge U.S. stars, but it didn’t matter. It’s a UK show that I am glad was so UK creator heavy. Well done, Bristol! Hope to see you next year. Let’s just sort out the exchange rate in my favor this time, UK.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.