I wrote a blog last week about how the Bristol Comics Expo was basically, fucked, or at best in a coma trying to find a way forward. Well after the weekend I have to tone down my opinion because the weekend went very well in terms of takings and of firing me up for a Big Idea (more of this another time) that dropped into my brain over the weekend.
This isn’t to say I though it was a success rather it was a vast improvement upon last year’s complete fiasco and when you’ve hit the bottom it’s easier to come up than go down and really it was the crowd that made the weekend work, rather than the exceptional organisation. It wasn’t really a comics convention either as the amount of comics dealers numbered no more than ten but most of these dealers were horribly overpriced which was great as we cleaned up but this was my view for two days….
First the problems:
You can’t market an event like this on the cheap or on the fly, or hoping that a big lump of luck drops in your lap and a large London convention is cancelled. Sticking flyers in local shops & stickers on lampposts is crap and before anyone thinks ‘oh what does he fucking know’ may I point out I was helping organise conventions in the 80’s, signing sessions and events in Bristol in the 90’s and have spent a lot of the last decade in various sales and marketing jobs.
I know my arse from my elbow basically.
They need to listen and they did. Just not enough and frankly the business over the Halo Jones print, and the stubborn attitude alienated too many people. Also, as much as I don’t want any more comics dealers there next year for entirely selfish financial reasons you can’t run an event of this size with depressed looking small press publishers wondering how they’ll pay their hotel bills after a poor show. I only really saw a few who were always buzzing and busy. Most of the small press tables ranged from being alright to dead so simply put you can’t rely upon these people to fill out the hall and hide the fact a lot of comics dealers were very, very fucked off last year.
Listening is a great skill. Few people know how to use it though.
On the good side, the amount of kids were astonishing and utterly brilliant. I love seeing these kids get excited at picking up a Hawkman comic for 50p because they’re thrilled at the cover..
That was great to see that and it happened dozens of times over the weekend as kids were enjoying the thrill of comics in all shapes or forms. well, what comics there was on sale.
And this is where I admit I’ve been suffering from Old Man Syndrome wishing for the old days. Yes, kids today probably don’t have the understanding of the medium as they did when I were a lad but that’s to do with a massive lack of good retailers out there and while splendid retailers like Page 45 or Gosh! there’s also a lot who aren’t. I even had a chat about Herb Trimpe with one lad who couldn’t be more than 20 something, and I’ve blogged how much how much I loved Trimpe’s work when I was a kid so that was fantastic.
Then there was the women and girls. I also saw a girl going through our stock with a pissed off looking boyfriend when it’s normally the other way round. In 30 years of going and working behind tables at cons I’ve never seen that before. It was brilliant! The dressing up aspect as well was something I’ve always been cynical about as I’ve always though of Cosplay as a wee bit sad, but seeing a girl no older than seven or eight dressed as Storm and having the time of her life was great. It’s a release and a shield. I didn’t get it because I’ve become old. Time to stop thinking like an old man.
It was also funny to see a vastly younger and new crowd rather than the same old faces, which isn’t to say I don’t like the same old faces, I do, but new people at these things is wonderful even if some of them are just a bit too forced for my liking but then again so was I 25 years ago.
So, the positives were wonderful but there’s a lot of work needing to be done. Having video game competitions might be fun for those playing them but being stuck in the same room as it for nine hours isn’t fun. More about actual comics on the programme as well as some American guests would be good but this seems to show the lack of knowledge from the organisers about comics and their limited contact book.
The conclusion is this was more like it. It’s still not the sort of thing I’d love to run in Bristol (I might blog about that sometime) but it’s getting there. Slowly.