Saturday, enjoyed a marvellous night in the bar at Comic Expo, the annual UK comic convention which has taken place in Bristol since 1999. This is the event's 10th anniversary, which sadly went uncelebrated, (It is also the 30th anniversary of my very first comic convention, my best mate Steve and I have attended a big do at the NEC in Birmingham in 1979. This went even more uncelebrated).
The Saturday night's drinkathon with fellow comics professionals is always the high point and this year, apart from a brief visit to the Small Press event, comprised my entire con. The main Expo was sold out in advance so, according to the website, nobody was going to be able to turn up and get in on the door. I hadn't been sent an invitation as a guest which I'd kind of got used to expecting (apart from enjoying 21 years in the business as a professional comic writer and artist, I was also the reason the Comic Expo takes place in Bristol in the first place, having created it as Comics 99 and run or co-run it until 2004), and frankly couldn't face the possible indignity of having to face a stranger at the front desk and run the risk of coming out with the phrase "don't you know who I am?", so I gave the Ramada's daytime event a miss.
The impression I got at the bar was that I hadn't missed much. The photos of the exhibitors seemed to be familiar publishers from the previous year, but fewer in number. The most exciting material had always been on the Small Press tables, and those I'd already enjoyed round the corner at the Mercure hotel. But it seems that the down-sizing of the event, losing (through circumstances beyond the organisers' control) the Empire & Commonwealth Museum has had a very damaging effect. Without the bulk of traffic that comes with an event open to browsers, and without the Small Press benefitting from proximity to the big boys and vice versa, most people sold less stuff. I wait to be corrected on this, but certainly every person I spoke to who was trying to sell their wares sold less of them that at any previous Bristol show. Other items, like the Charity Art Auction and Awards ceremony, were also missing, but maybe I'm the only one who thought they were needed in the first place.
I even heard a rumour, which I very much doubt, that the organisers plan to do without using the Empire & Commonwealth again next year. If this is true I would be very disappointed, as I'd imagine would this year's exhibitors who might think twice about paying for a table again if they face the prospect of such low sales.
Anyhoo, the night in the bar was fabulous, and I spoke drunkenly and endlessly with far too many people to recount. Possibly my favourite conversations were with Simon Bisley (possibly the first time we've ever spoken, what a brilliant bloke) and Glenn Fabry (one of those very drunken "you're my best mate" conversations that everybody loves), and I confess I got a little buzz from those people who would insist on mentioning how much better it was in my day (selective memory is a great thing, much of my event-running left a lot to be desired).
I bought (or was given) a few comics, the very best of which was Laura Howell's Tales From The Crust, she's a genius of whose talent I am actually jealous. The Goodman Brothers' Square Eyed Stories 22 and The Banal Pig Landscape Anthology came a close second, the rest were all brilliant cos all comics are in some way or another.
Now, where do I go to read everyone else's memories of the weekend?