Saturday, 9 May 2009

Comic Expo 09 pt 2

I'm just back from my brief visit to Comic Expo and Small Press Expo Bristol. To be accurate I only went into the Small Press Expo which is in the swanky Mercure Holland Hill Hotel, where I bought some stuff and chatted to nice people who I hope I'll see again tonight. Tonight is when I'll go to the less swanky Ramada where the Comic Expo itself takes place. I've been able to keep up to speed on what I'm missing with such shots as this:
- from this Live Blog:

Doesn't seem like I'm missing too much. Later tonight I shall get into the Comics Professional Drinkathon which is, for pros of my vintage, really what the event is all about. But the daytime should be all about the public, who I like to call The Kids, meeting the creators. Whether that has indeed taken place I wait to find out. From the little evidence I've seen so far, any actual kids are pretty thin on the ground. As is the hair of the bulk of the punters. I don't think I'm being unfair to suggest this is the heaviest concentration of 40-something diehard comic fans at a Bristol Comic con ever.

I have to confess a bias here. I started up the Bristol con in 1999, as Comics 99, after the long-running UKCAC (UK Comic Art Convention) had given up the ghost. I pitched the show deliberately to attract new, fresh comic readers, rather than relying on the dwindling numbers of stalwarts. I made sure the Evening Post and Venue covered us, and designed events like the charity fundraisers (World's Biggest Comic, Deck Of Cards etc) to get us maximu coverage. The programme cover featured characters you'd recognise (Batman, Spider-Man, Dennis The Menace and Judge Dredd) who you'd recognise if you'd never even read a comic. That and the pocket-money door prices was designed to build the audience, not just for the comic convention itself but for comic readership. And do you know, I'm vain enough to think it worked.

With the help of Mike Allwood and Area 51, the event grew over the years until we started to fill the Empire & Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, and the Ramada, and often a second hotel. WE had 1000s through the door and were rightly seen as the Official Annual UK Comic Event. I gave up running the festival after 2004's events had lost me more money than I could afford, and for the next 4 years it continued to be the big one. This year, through no fault of the organisers, they've had to lose the big hall of the Empire Museum, leaving them with a much smaller place in which to work.

Gone is the Awards Ceremony (usually the big Saturday night event, presented in recent years by Mitch Benn, Simon Pegg, Hattie Hayridge, even once by Jonathan Ross and Paul Gambaccini), and I see no sign of the charity art auction (which in its best year raised £10,000 for ChildLine). Last year saw a peak in the number of folks turning up in fancy dress, but this year I've stumbled across none.

I look forward to hearing more upbeat impressions of Bristol's comic event tonight in the bar, stay tuned.

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