A word about the Edinburgh Comic Con 2017

Last weekend I did my first comic con/mart in Scotland since 1994 at the Barrowlands in Glasgow, and even though I broke even, not to mention even made a bit of cash, my opinion of the Scottish comic convention scene was a tad tainted after the clownshow of the Barrowlands event.

This weekend is the 2017 Edinburgh Comic Con. Friends told me that last year the event had several thousand people and that as a show, it was actually fun, something most conventions/marts aren’t these days.Now my impression of the Edinburgh comics scene is somewhat tainted by the memory of several attempts in the 80’s and early 90’s to get events going there which ranged from stillborn to disaster.

So myself and a couple of friends left Glasgow Queen Street station (another first, as the last time I travelled from Queen Street was 20 years ago, and it’s also the last place in Scotland I threw up in a public place) at around 8.30am on a Saturday morning which is a time where Queen Street is one of the few places in Glasgow showing any signs of life. After a short, painless trip (last time I went on the train around three months ago I was in agony as my stroke recovery/slipped disc meant I was in agony) to Edinburgh Haymarket we disembarked, and headed towards the Edinburgh International Conference Centre; one of the better conference centres I’ve been in over the years. Remembering the last time I was in this part of Edinburgh it was 1987 and it was quite literally something from an Irvine Welsh book, I was a tad shocked by how obviously affluent this part of Edinburgh now is. Maybe it’s because I’ve become accustomed to the relative poverty of Dennistoun, but this was like stepping into a much, much colder and windier Bristol.

Anyhow after a wee walk up the hill seeing cosplayers walk past us dressed as Spider-Men, stormtroopers and countless Harley Quinn’s, we joined a smallish queue around 9.30ism. We then realised there was another queue for early entry advance sales and that the ‘small queue’ we joined was now a long queue snaking round the corner of building and way, way back. Upon entering it was clear the venue was rammed, and we quickly entered into a very large hall full of stuff.

This was one of the more recent type of show based upon the San Diego/American comic con concept as opposed to the old school type of con where everything would be split up, or in the UK, would circle round the bar. As bottle of beer were a fiver here the bar was less than a focus, plus the fact there were so many kids with their families meant there weren’t many drunk creators/fans walking around.There was however thousands of people. So much so that my attempts to scout comics dealers, as well as buy cheap stock for my own business, meant it took me nearly three hours to see everything I wanted to.

In fact here’s a picture of the show at around 2pm, four hours after opening.

That’s from the ‘artists alley” entrance and as you can see there’s still a healthy number of people circulating in a hall that’s pretty huge. I couldn’t get the space to stand where I took this picture until around 2pm because it was constantly rammed.

I hooked up with John McShane and Steve Montgomery for a mini AKA Books and Comics reunion cup of tea (we are getting old) and a wee chat about the various comics we all bought (a nice old Charlton E-Man and some Adrian Tomine books in my case) before eventually I headed off back to Glasgow having had a perfectly cracking day out at a show I had low expectations for but left knowing that I have to get myself in there in the dealers room next year as all the comics dealers (bar one, but they’d priced comics on the back and were overpriced)  ranged from a few punters to being so busy it took me hours to get near enough to get a good shufty at their stuff. Some of the other stalls featured some good stuff as I picked up a few mini-comics from Neil Slorrance’s stall, and among the toys and merchandise there were a few people selling art. This ranged from being alright, to simply appalling and I wondered how on earth some people had the gall to sell what was piss-poor work.This is something that niggles me but right now there’s nothing I can offer as an alternative quite just yet…

All in all the show was well run, friendly, well-lit, clean and had a good cross-section of the ‘Geek Scene’ (I despise that expression and use it only under duress) of today though it had a clear and straight focus on comics which from my point of view was perfect. I could only manage the one day but as a two-day event this seems to be a case where good advertising, a decent guest line-up, and just making an effort paid off as I’m hearing today is nearly as busy as yesterday. This is what a modern comic convention should look like. Yes, I do long for the days where British cons were all about the bar, getting drunk, buying some great comics and meeting mates. With the cosplay element, as well as the increase of families some of the old drunken fun is gone but a new audience is coming through with an enthusiasm for comics that I knew was there. With Scotland also being a tad isolated due to geography it means these events will bring the crowds, if done right.

Next year I’ll be back and I hope to be selling this bright, young crowd all the comics (and other stuff) they didn’t even know they needed…

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12 thoughts on “A word about the Edinburgh Comic Con 2017

  1. Not a great review, bit of a kick in the teeth to the artists at the event who were great in my opinion. I just think the writer is rather jealous that they could not make the cut to sell at the event or that they have no talent for drawing. As I can tell from this blog post they have no talent for writing!

    The event was well organised, really good fun and really enjoyable. It had a great family atmosphere and was a brilliant day out. My family and I really enjoyed it, got some brilliant comics and some fabulous artwork.

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  2. Hey! I’m the writer, I have an about page and everything!

    No, I’m not ”jealous”. I know I can’t draw. I know my attempts at art look like drunk spiders having an epileptic fit, however I am able to point out good and bad art. I pointed out the bad art.

    Now, by your metrics you must be the bestest artist in the world ever ‘cos you luved the art. Or is this door marked ‘critical thinking’ forever locked to yourself?

    Because I’ve pointed out that some of the artists on display were poor (and I’ve been working at cons, marts, not to mention working in the industry on and off for 35 years) isn’t a slur on the show which if you’d read my piece, I point out was rather good.

    So fine, dislike what I wrote, but shall we agree that life isn’t simple black and white and that perhaps not all opinions are equal?

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  3. I hope you don’t work in the industry now, would hate for you to have to work alongside people who’s art is “simply appalling”.

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  4. If you get a table next year can you let us all know who not to buy things from? I for one will not want to support your efforts to slander other traders.

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  5. Here’s a truth-most of the art submitted to comics companies are ‘simply appalling’.

    You don’t learn or develop by blind praise, neither do you by blind negativity. Now, I could have pointed out individual examples of some of the rubbish that was on display but I didn’t. I left that in the mind of the reader.

    And as said, this isn’t a phenomenon limited to the Edinburgh show; it’s something that’s sprung up over the last 20 years and as an industry we should be calling out people who are not just poor, but presenting work which are copies of other people’s work. To be fair, I didn’t spot any of the latter at the weekend but that doesn’t preclude those type of works being there.

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  6. I’m not ‘slandering’ anyone. I’m giving my opinion based upon 35 years of working in the industry from retail to publishing.

    If my opinion so offends you then offer your own informed opinion.

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  7. Guys, if this line ”This ranged from being alright, to simply appalling and I wondered how on earth some people had the gall to sell what was piss-poor work.” offends you personally when I name nobody then perhaps you can outline what work you thought was excellent and if anyone’s work was poor?

    I didn’t feel it fair to single anyone out, and if you’d bothered delving into my background (all of it lies bare and naked for all to see in horrible gory detail) you’ll see I’m not coming to this from a position of ignorance. This doesn’t mean I’m ‘right’, it just makes me a tad informed. Now I’m not having a go at the organisers as it’d be unfair to criticise them as taste is subjective but let me hear your defence and see what your informed opinions are.

    As said in my replies, this isn’t a problem for just one show, this is not even a problem across the UK, it’s everywhere and artists won’t get better by blind praise, or worse, the ones just copying others won’t get called out by places like Bleeding Cool who are very good on pulling that aspect of shows up.

    So perhaps look past the perma-rage and offer something better when trying to make a point?

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  8. Taste is subjective but to say some of the art was appalling / piss poor would suggest taste wasn’t a factor. The art must just have been genuinely bad on some fundamental level? That being the case you are criticising the organisers given that they sold the tables to those artists?

    ‘You don’t learn or develop by blind praise, neither do you by blind negativity.’

    Agreed. Your criticism of pretty much all the artists in the trade area is blind negativity however. Your thoughts on how they could improve would no doubt be welcomed. Personally I would be happy to hear your views.

    ‘as an industry we should be calling out people who are not just poor, but presenting work which are copies of other people’s work. To be fair, I didn’t spot any of the latter at the weekend but that doesn’t preclude those type of works being there.’

    I agree again especially on the point of copying others work. I don’t think calling out is that best way to put it. Lets encourage them to improve and discourage the copying of others work. Celebrate those who don’t copy and push them forward. Those who copy from other artists for any reason aside from studying should be warned its a dangerous path to take that only leads to frustration and lack of identity as an artist. Although it is obvious that copying and selling another artists work is wrong to you and I not everyone seems to share that instinct.

    If artists who are not particularly good want to spend money on buying a table at a convention for the experience / feedback they are free to do so as long as event organisers let them. Sadly if you didn’t spot any copies of artwork you must not have seen all the tables.

    Those are some of my thoughts as it is an area I’m passionate about and would like to see positive improvement in.

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  9. Al, how on earth can I be criticising the organisers (and for transparency’s sake, I know one of them, but that wasn’t the reason I gave the show a massively overwhelmingly positive write-up) for having people there who’s stalls were frankly selling poor (in my informed opinion) art? As long as people aren’t doing anything illegal (and Edinburgh ASFIK didn’t have anything which was lifting work from elsewhere, which is something that shows in the UK and US seen organisers crack down on artists ripping off other people’s work) then organisers can take table bookings from anyone that fits their remit.

    You pays your money, you take your chance.Some of the stuff there was good, some wasn’t, some were awful. The only artist I single out is Neil Slorance who is a fine cartoonist. I don’t name anyone else, and it wouldn’t have been fair for me to do so and although I can understand why there were a few people pissed at what is a passing remark, I don’t get some of the blind rage (and I’ve deleted those as frankly, I have zero tolerance for that shite since having a run-in with the far right four years ago) as again, I liked the show which in a market where the San Diego/cosplay model leads to far too many poorly organised shows is a godsend. The fact it was actually focused round comics as opposed to cosplay or ”geek” culture was also a great point.

    However, at some point artists are going to encounter editors if they want a job in comics. I’ve worked with, and sat with editors over the years. My ‘simply appalling’ comment is kids stuff.I made a passing comment based upon what I saw. Most of it was at best, average, some of it was good, some of it was poor to the point where I wonder how they made their money back.I’m only a passing traveller in comics these days, but if you want a job in the industry you need a tough skin and you won’t get anywhere if you can’t actually draw comics. If you want to be an illustrator then great, but look at your work and work out how to be better!

    I’ve seen people go up to Marvel and DC editors back in the UKCAC days being told they should give up trying to draw comics. It’s destroyed people but only until they realise they can do something else better. Now I understand people at a show like Edinburgh are trying to supplement or make a living (hence why I didn’t single anyone out for negative criticism) and if there’s a market for what they’re selling then fine, people can fill their boots. We are in late capitalism here.

    But if people want to be better then be prepared for harsher than the passing comment I made in a swishingly positive review of an enjoyable show.

    Still, thanks for the informed comment Al, It’s nice you’ve engaged.

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