My first problem with the con was that there was no schedule available before the day, besides what the opening hours were. I wasn’t willing to spend seven hours on a Saturday shacked up with people dressed as Batman. So I rolled in late, gangster-style. A talk was in progress. I recognised only one of the seven people on stage. Then I realised that it was the small press talk and I felt a bit better about my lack of recognition.
That talk soon ended and I finally got a chance to check the schedule. Next up – cosplay awards (cosplay is a fancy word for dressing up). Despite my hilarious comment earlier about people dressed as Batman, there were few people in costume. Funk dat, I thought. So I went to see what else was in the venue. It wasn’t long before I was in the pub.
The convention was held in a church hall. Some of the small press stalls were in a room at the back, but the rest were in the rear of the main hall. Understandably, the stall runners were chatting it up; talking to prospective customers and each other, networking, politicking. So the din they created was constant background noise to all the Q&As. I would realise just how annoying this was later.
Because of no-empty-hand syndrome (an inability to leave certain places without buying something) I ended up with a comic compilation which cost me £3. I got rid of it as soon as it was read, ‘twas mediocre. There were comic shop stalls in another room, though it was practically impossible to get in to see them because of the crush of people. I bolted for the pub to beer up for the comic artists Q&A.
When I returned, the only guests I recognised were David Lloyd (of V For Vendetta fame) and Gary Erskine (of Dan Dare). Frank Quitely had been stopped by airport closures due to volcanic disruption, which is a pretty good reason for absence. I don’t know much about him, but was interested in hearing him talk. Although he probably would’ve been deluged with questions about working with Grant Morrison.
The audience mic that had been used at the earlier talk seemed to have disappeared. So the Q&A started with a number of mostly inaudible Qs before a mic appeared.
Now, I understand that these people are artists (in the literal sense) and not public speakers. I don’t expect them to elucidate on their working process and verbally capture the magic of comics. But pretty much all we got was short replies and lots of ums and ahs. It’s not the artists fault, not really the organisers, but it was awkward and dull.
After another pub break (the best bit of the day) I returned for the writers talk. I turned up early, yet somehow it had already started. And everyone else except me either knew it would start early or hadn’t left since the last event. With so many seats taken, I ended up right at the back. This made the ‘small press chatter’ all the more audible, and the speakers less so. I only recognised Mark Millar (of Kick Ass fame). Millar was the only semi-interesting one of the lot, although the tone of his voice goes up at the end of every sentence (grating). The answers got harder and harder to make out, and the ones I did hear were boring. I gave up after 40 minutes and decided to explore the merch cave, seeing as most attendees were at the talks. I entered, it was quiet. Result.
I’m conditioned by CD and record fairs. If I see an old man, alone, working on a stall, I think he’s selling his unwanted stuff – I expect a bargain. It took a few minutes before I realised that these were shop representatives, selling at retail value. It was like a rubbish, virtual-reality Play.com. I watched 2000AD writer Alan Grant doing signings (curiously, he wasn’t at any talks), and Gray Erskine sketching. Colin McNeil did an unbelievably good chalk work of Judge Dredd, and next to him David Lloyd did some sketches for £10 or so. I hung around watching, failing to find something I wanted to buy (I pondered Alan Moore’s sealed book on..adult topics, but got scared of what might be inside it. Then I left. Only the next day did I consider that David Lloyd, illustrator of my favourite comic ever (V For Vendetta) was sketching on commission. I could’ve had my own personal V artwork. But I’m a diddy, so I don’t. I’m new to this whole comic con thing.