What I thought of Glasgow Comic Con 2018

Yesterday I attended the eighth Glasgow Comic Con (GCC) as a punter, not a dealer so I was able to soak up the atmosphere more than usual, and the atmosphere this year was 30c heat which for Glasgow is unusual to say the least. I primarily went to catch up with friends but I also wanted to see if there was any Kirby, Wally Wood or EC stuff I could pick up for reasonable prices and amazingly, I managed to pick up a few bits of Kirby cheapish.

As for the con, GCC is based upon the old school style of comics con where comics are at the fore, with a dash of cosplay. It also managed to bring in young kids, as well as the Millennial audience, though I will say it was somewhat lacking on the programme for us older folk. I have to say though the heat was sometimes too much, and the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow isn’t a good venue for this sort of event, especially if you’re disabled and have to spend time waiting for lifts so you could meet friends in the cafe or the main convention floor. The organisers did stick up signs saying that could people respect the lift is there for folk who can’t climb the large amount of stairs but too often was the lift held up with people who just couldn’t be arsed walking down stairs.

This brings me to the biggest problem with the GCC. It’s clear too big for a venue which isn’t fit for purpose for an event like this and I’ve been in worse venues over the thousands of cons I’ve been to, but this wasn’t fully fit for purpose. Rooms were often too crowded and corridors crammed with people which meant cosplayers standing there being photographed caused bottlenecks. The Royal Concert Hall is a fantastic venue and the GCC is a good event, but they don’t fit each other though the panel room was lovely and cool.

This is during the panel where The Punisher gets a Queer Eye makeover, and indeed throughout the day this corner provided an oasis of cool and calm to watch the days panels.

I had a few wanders round the self-published/small press tables and there was some splendid stuff there, with the comic Escape From Coatbridge raising a few laughs for the title alone, but nothing really stood out spectacularly I am glad to see the small press scene in Glasgow to be as large as it is.

If I’d not forgotten my drugs (suffering from chronic pain isn’t fun in this weather) I’d have probably stayed on but as the day wore on all the people left were the cosplayers, and some of the guests tables were looking barren of visitors which considering there were people of the calibre of Ian Kennedy and Leila Abdelazaq was a pity.

Glasgow can accommodate a proper comics convention of the type we used to organize back in the day,  however GCC needs to work out whether to stay a one-day event crammed into a venue that doesn’t work for it or see if there’s somewhere in Glasgow it can fit into, and even whether it expands into a second day but it does need to grow, develop itself so it can set itself aside easily from the MCM con or the one-day events held across the West of Scotland. I’d like to see it develop.

On my way home the con did throw up one more treat.

That’ll be Pikachu getting the bus home to Coatbridge I assume.

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The Brief History of the British Comic Convention part three: Public Image Ltd

A small group of people are sitting in a bar in a hotel in Manchester during the last UKCAC in 1998.For 30 years in the UK there’s been at least one annual large comic convention somewhere in the country, but at this movement there’s nothing planned for 1999 and the only people who seem to care are the half dozen or so people sitting nursing their drinks on a Sunday afternoon. A comment splits the onrushing gloom…

”How about we tag onto a Babylon 5 convention?”

It is at this point the British comic convention hits its lowest point. But lets go back to part two and the end of the 1980’s. Comics are everywhere. Alan Moore and Robert Crumb get name-checked on pop songs. Channel 4, BBC Two and the broadsheet papers start taking an interest in the growing and developing medium. Books like Watchmen and Maus are compared with the best of modern traditional literature. Conventions and marts are bursting with attendees. Shops are opening up at a dramatic rate as the direct market grows to accommodate this new, excitingly engaged audience who have a thirst for every genre from superheroes to SF, to horror, indeed, anything seems the limit as 1990 comes.

The British comic convention grows too. There’s now a Glasgow Comic Art Convention to complement the London based one, and smaller conventions and marts are all over the UK.

Comic publishers start springing up with the most successful being Image Comics who arrive on the scene in 1992 publishing a dynamic, if somewhat intellectually thin, set of superhero/adventure comics that cater to the growing speculator market.

Image were a speculators wet dream.Comics that came out one week would increase in value the week later by nonsensical amounts, so potentially you could make 1000% more than you paid for a comic. So companies started making comics ‘more collectable’ with special and variant covers at the expense of any sort of quality. The ‘Imagefication’ of mainstream comics brought the speculator into comics in droves and as more and more product was pumped out to be valued instantly higher than it should be. A bubble was forming that couldn’t last.

In the meantime the British comics convention was at its peak. More and more one day events were springing up from Gloucester to Cardiff to Newcastle to Belfast and of course, UKCAC and GLASCAC were running along nicely.

Then the bubble burst.

The industry couldn’t cope with the amount of product being pumped out and in fact, the industry was in a slow decline from around 93, but by 1996 the comics industry was in an awful place. Companies were going out of business, and Marvel (who were pushing out million selling comics at the start of the decade) hit a hard decline that saw them nearly going out of existence. Comic conventions and marts also suffered as the speculators moved onto whatever else they did which meant retailers had boxes of unsold copies of comics with special/variant covers and nobody to buy them.

In 1998, UKCAC moved from London to Manchester, while the Glasgow conventions were now long gone. For those of us who were there it was a fun event, but the feeling it was a wake hung around which leads us back to a bunch of us sitting in the bar contemplating latching onto a Babylon 5 convention in order to keep the idea of a large British comic convention alive.

Other ideas did come to the fore, including one which involved organising a show in Nottingham as London was too prohibitive in terms of cost. Things looked bleak as shops closed weekly while the marts in London and elsewhere were a struggle to turn a profit if you were a retailer but some light was at the end of the tunnel for the British comic convention.

1999 wasn’t just the last year of the old millennium, it was also in many ways the beginning of where we are today with the modern comic convention and it all started in Bristol.

The Brief History of the British Comic Convention part two: London Calling

In the first part I briefly covered the birth of the British comic convention in 1968 in sunny Birmingham and the development of the British comics scene during the 1970’s. By the 1980’s the comic convention had settled into a pattern which would look somewhat more familiar to a post-cosplay era attendee than they may think with the panels, and of course dealers room, supplemented by the fancy dress parade

The 80’s opened with a variety of conventions and marts, including the Westminster marts in London which were a hub for fans and professionals to meet, with often fans crossing the line to become professionals themselves thanks to meeting the right people. These marts were also a hunting ground for organisers of the Glasgow comic marts in the 80’s who would lure the likes of Alan Moore or Steve Dillon north of the border with the promise of curry and beer.

By the mid-80’s it was clear a massive wave of talent was forming in the UK, and for conventions boom times were approaching. In 1986 the Birmingham Comic Art Show appeared which I’ve written about before.

Meanwhile in London, the UK Comic Art Convention (UKCAC) was also coming into its stride having a few years to find its feet, and audience. It quickly became the leading, and indeed, only large comics convention to be held regularly for the rest of the decade.

UKCAC’s influence is felt today by countless numbers of people probably unaware of it ever existing. If people hadn’t went to these conventions then they’d never have worked in the industry, or at least, found it hard to break into the industry. It was a crucible for future generations, plus they were enormous fun for pro, fan, retailer, or anyone casually attending in what was a boomtime for comics as a medium.

By the end of the 80’s everything looked peachy. Comics were getting the respect they deserved and the British industry ruled the world. The last decade of the millennium looked bright for the comic convention which had grown out of humble roots to something that promised bigger things as comics became more mainstream, and hey, the direct market was growing and that could only mean more sunshine ahead.

Next up, the 1990’s and it all goes tits up.

I’m asking a small favour

Not for me, but for a mate. Tim Pilcher is someone I’ve known for a long, long time from the days of Comics Showcase in London, and is the co-writer of How Comics Work with Dave Gibbons.

The book is nominated for an Eisner as is Deconstructing The Incal co-edited with Alex Donoghue. The Eisner’s are the comics industries big awards dished out each year at San Diego Comic Con, and Tim would understandably like to be there but finances say otherwise. So he’s crowdfunding in an attempt to get there this summer.

Tim’s one of the good guys in British comics and it’d be a shame if he never got his trip to San Diego to hopefully pick the Eisner up with Dave Gibbons, so chuck a few quid towards Tim and the world will be a wee bit better.

Come to East Kilbride Comic Con tomorrow and buy comics…

Tomorrow is the East Kilbride Comic Con held at East Kilbride central library. It is the night before a show and I am shockingly still bagging and pricing.

So come along tomorrow and make it all worthwhile for me, and oh, as it’s Free Comic Book Day, everyone buying something gets a free comic from a mystery box while stocks last…

 

Everybody in the Place-Edinburgh Comic Con 2018

Last year I visited Edinburgh Comic Con as a mere punter, and being suitably impressed, took a table for this year’s event as I continue to build up my wee comics business since relocating back to Scotland after several decades. This would be by far the largest show I’ve done in Scotland since 1994 and a chance to kick-start things up a gear, so after some planning and some serious searching to throw in a few dozen or so comics that I’m certain would never have been offered on sale in a show in Scotland, I was ready.

The Friday before the show involved driving. That thankfully was being done by my friend Doug, but as we whisked between Edinburgh and Glasgow to pick up my stock and head back to a damp, foggy Edinburgh it hit us that as a capital city, Edinburgh was doing all it could to make it impossible for anyone unfamiliar with the city to find anywhere as there were no street signs, which added to the fact there was roadworks everywhere and on top of that there was a thick fog, what should have been an easy task was made a chore. Eventually we found the B&B I was staying at which was in 1975.

But it was a nice place that was decently priced in a city that knows how to extract cash out of people. Even more eventually we found the exhibition centre where the show was to be held. Once there some incredibly helpful staff unloaded the van and I proceeded to set up. That was pretty painless amazingly.

Here’s me looking cheery with the stock looking pretty bloody good if I don’t say so myself.

I really do look knackered, but then again I’d just spent a night sleeping in a bed from the 1970’s.

So that’s ten boxes of back issues, a box of variants, two boxes of Silver and Bronze age, a wall full of creamy goodness and loads of stuff under the table waiting to fill a hole.

The doors opened for advance ticket holders at 9.30am. Normally at a show I’d not expect any sort of surge til a good half hour, and as this was only a handful I was happy that I wouldn’t have to run around like a lunatic for a while and I could catch up more with Andy, a former AKA Books and Comics person who was helping me over the weekend.

Wrong. The table soon became busy, then hectic, then rammed as wave after wave of people descended to buy comics. Lots and lots of comics.Obvious titles like Deadpool, Walking Dead and the Avengers were selling but across the board and as for the Silver ad Bronze age, they were selling well. Now I wasn’t overpricing, or religiously adhering to the guide price. I wanted to make money but I also wanted to shift books so everything was priced to sell and sell they did.

That evening in the pub chatting to former AKA people, Steve Montgomery and John McShane I didn’t really manage to grasp just how well I’d done til the next morning when my table looked different.

At least a box of back issues had been sold, the wall flash was different having sold so much off it, and I could bring the packs off the floor. All in all the table looked good and things were going well.

The above is the table on the Sunday morning before the doors opened, and being where I was meant that people could see I sold comics quite easily. It was also open so I could chat, talk and pitch so easily it was an actual pleasure to work the show. Ok, there wasn’t a huge Avengers: Infinity War event, but frankly the film (which as of writing isn’t even out yet) has had such an obvious effect in getting people, especially kids, interested in comics (not bubble tea, or whatever tenuous link some shows and traders have with comics) as a source of entertainment and as a medium. The latter is important because while this book is happening the more kids who see comics for a medium to be explored the better so a huge thanks to organiser James Lundy and his crew who ensured that as a show, the medium of comics was dominant.

Edinburgh Comic Con proves a point that you can not just run a very, very good show in Scotland of this size (in 35 or so years of attending shows this is one of the best I’ve attended) but if you’ve got the stuff (and you know your comics) then you can draw people into the medium. And by the end of the show I was three boxes lighter, knackered and ready for a lot of time in bed sleeping.

I’d like to say more about the con but I can’t. I barely saw the show but what I did was full of people enjoying themselves, and best of all, reading comics. Even better than that, comics they’d bought from me…

Now, the next step in this wee journey. More on that another time but next year I’ll be back at Edinburgh in a much larger operation so more folk can get some comics that may well spark them to become a dealer, or even a creator so we have a next generation of fans who love the medium.

 

Coming Down

This weekend was the Edinburgh Comic Convention. In the 35-ish years It is one of the best organised shows for dealers I’ve attended. I am right now though, a tad knackered and I’m waiting for pizza so a full report will come soon but right now it’s a case of food, sleep and coming down from what was an excellent show.

So, laters.