San Diego Comic Con Cosplay

Back in the old days of comic conventions we used to have a fancy dress competition which would normally be won by one of the few women entering, or by some bloke wearing the inside of toilet rolls on his arms to pretend to be Mr. Fantastic. Invariably it’ll all be a bit naff and fun with the occasional time of it being something very good indeed.

Then in the 21st century fancy dress vanished to be replaced by the juggernaut of cosplay as fancy dress and play-acting was consumed by capitalism, but it’s hard to be too cynical as after all, this is (done right) essentially just another form of theatre which brings me to the Masquerade Ball at San Diego Comic Con. The ball is the Oscars of cosplay with a touch of Glastonbury Festival, so seeing as things are a bit shite in the world have a shufty of these videos to cheer yourself up a bit.

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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.

Educating Geeks

I’ve been reading comics, following the industry and even working within the industry for five decades. Over these decades there’s been bubbles of not just unsustainable economics, but of popularity so there’s the post Star Wars boom, the 80’s boom brought on with works like Watchmen and Dark Knight, the 90’s speculator boom and the 2008 onwards boom we sit in today that started with Iron Man but didn’t hit a real head of steam til 2011 once the recession was clearing. So here we are in 2018 with comic conventions happening more often than EastEnders is broadcast and shops opening up everywhere.

Today’s conventions are a mass of multimedia and masses of casual punters who come because they may enjoy the Marvel films, or something else superhero comic related because let’s be blunt, this is the driver here.

The above picture is from an MCM convention in London. Right now in the UK the MCM conventions are the daddies of the industry, and conventions are very much an industry with people jumping on board to make large sums of money from them. Well, some make a decent living from them, many don’t as they see the pound signs and forget how to run a decent show. The cosplay model for conventions is now here to stay in some shape or form, but the issue I have is it reduces the medium of comics to reference material for costumes. Essentially comics are a sideline to all the other stuff you’ll see at a convention.

Now this isn’t all the fault of organisers. I know of some organisers desperate for comic dealers but in a vicious Catch 22, I know of dealers who won’t do these shows because there’s no money in them. At a time when comic related media is the dominant one in terms of output and in culture, there’s a disconnect between comics as a medium and the vast masses of folk coming into the scene who may like Iron Man but can’t stand, or can’t afford, the comics. Now there’s ways dealers can help. Selling comics priced at decent prices is a start. I’m tired of dealers moaning of a crap show when all their stock is at guide price, or overpriced. Then again con organisers need to push the comic side of things better as there’s some ”comic cons” that have absolutely nothing to do with comics.with the exception of the name. Turning up at these events it’s clear this is just late capitalism at it’s worst.

2018 is 50 years since the first ever British comic convention. It’d be nice if we took a moment to educate people and help them understand, get, and enjoy comics. As retailers we’ve got to make sure we don’t price the curious out. Let’s all play a part in educating people so we can ensure the industry, and the medium, continues onwards for another 50 years.

What I thought of the Bristol Comics Expo 2014

Last weekend was the Bristol Comics Expo. Last year I decided I was a wee bit harsh in my opinion of the event, so what about 2014?Well this was another year of coming back into the world of retailing for a few days only and it started on a farm somewhere just outside of Bristol loading a van up with lots and lots and lots of comics.

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This is the lock-up on the farm which also had some old army trucks which if done up properly, would make fantastic festival trucks.

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Anyhow, we loaded up and headed to the location which wasn’t in the Passenger Shed by Temple Meads, but in the Future Inn next to Cabot Circus in Bristol city centre. This was also a good location with a lot of footfall from passing shoppers, not to mention it’s near Old Market, a part of the city with a ‘vibrant’ culture that isn’t as gentrified (yet) as Stokes Croft. When we got to the Future Inn, the tables hadn’t been set up which wasn’t a problem as we were fairly early, but it was clear then with an empty room full of tables not put in their final positions that space would be tight, which considering the organisers had sold around 1,000 tickets this means things would be tight.

We finished unloading. Threw covers over our stuff and headed to a lovely cafe in Old Market  called the Whole Baked Cafe for what was a smashing lunch, and after being dropped off at my local for a few cheeky pints in the sun of the afternoon, I headed home for an early night to prepare for the weekend.

Next day saw what was going to be a problem. The convention itself was on the sixth floor of the hotel, so getting fanboys and fangirls to walk six flights of stairs isn’t going to happen so the lifts could only take eight people at a time, which meant when the doors opened at 10am, there wasn’t a big huge rush as there had been in years past. Instead there was a slow trickle of people coming up eight at a time which meant that it wasn’t really til 11am that things started getting busy, but when things did get busy the problem we’d predicted the day before happened and bottlenecks happened everywhere.

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Things were steady though, not too mention there wasn’t a lot of comic dealers, but there were a lot of small press tables offering some interesting stuff, some predictable stuff (I’ve seen enough Gothic comics to last me several lifetimes) and some utter rubbish.Also, the guests were crammed in so Michael Golden, James O’Barr and Arthur Suydam were wedged in among the toys and cosplayers and there were a lot of cosplayers and kids.

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Things got very busy by midday on the Saturday and the room we were in became horribly hot and stifling, plus having several hundred comics people in a hot room together meant things were exceptionally ripe after a while, but people were still milling around and more importantly, buying things.

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As the afternoon progressed, I managed to sneak off with a couple of lads I know from the Comic Book Resources forum, which meant nipping to the bar for some beers, some chat, some moaning about the forum reboot and a chance to take in what was going on at the convention which was a cosplay contest with the worst PA system in the world.I left the lads to carry on drinking as I nipped to get some coffees in what was now a minor gale outside, which had ripped some roof tiles off Cabot Circus which meant the flow of people had stopped as the police closed the street off. As I returned to our tables with coffees the room was quieter, but still steady but trade was slow as it was too hot and those people with wheelchairs or prams didn’t hang around long because it was difficult for these people to get around the limited space in the hotel.

I did spend time watching Cabot Circus getting blown apart by the wind and the sun breaking over the skyline of Bristol.

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Eventually the day ended and I was able to join my friends for a few wee drinks after the convention. not to mention tear myself away from the view I had most of the afternoon which was this.

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Now although we were drinking, fairly loud and pretty pissed, the hotel bar was, well, quiet. There were people who were hanging around for the few events on that evening, but the familiar faces which brightened up previous Bristol conventions were missing. A bar at a British convention is the lifeblood of that convention but no professionals, no dealers (present company excepted) and only a small, but fairly cheery core of fans mingling with the hen and stag nights which were passing through the hotel. I decided to leave when the idea of shorts was passed around as my liver can’t deal with that anymore….

Next day was drizzly and overcast as I walked from my flat on the Gloucester Road to the hotel. It was pretty miserable. there also wasn’t the large queue to get in that there was on the Saturday. A few people mingled around with the organisers and their staff, but not an awful lot of punters. Yes it ticked over, but there were vastly fewer people mingling around on the Sunday, which to be fair, is always a quieter day but not this quiet.

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We decided to knock it on the head around 3.30 as it was going to be a nightmare getting out down the lifts otherwise, so we managed to get the tables emptied and the stock loaded up, which meant we could grab a quick drink, say our farewells and head off to grab the end of the football in my case as the Expo closed with a meek whimper.

So what did I think of the Expo? Compared to last year, it wasn’t as good. The smaller location was a pain and although it was nice to have a bar onsite (the previous location didn’t) it was the only real advantage of the hotel which really didn’t know what it had on it’s hands. It’s also sad to see and event which is has the bloodline of UKCAC as this convention was created to replace UKCAC in 1999 with the current organisers only being custodians of something which should be vastly more important on the British convention circuit.

Instead it’s plugging along. It’s better than a few years ago, but the potential is being wasted away. It’s as if you’ve been given Manchester United to play with and you’ve decided to make it into Bristol Rovers because you don’t see the potential of what you have in your hands. The lack of creators from the British industry is also worrying. Yes, the small press creators should be applauded, encouraged and given the space to grow but people also want to meet and see people who are working for Marvel, DC, 2000AD and everything else out there.Now I know guests cost money, but Bristol was a weekend away for some creators who saw it as a jolly with mates. Excluding those mates and instead, focusing in the smaller aspects of comic publishing restricts the potential.

On the other hand, the fact it attracts so many people for what is essentially a glorified mart. It’s a delight to see kids buy comics as it is to see so many women get into comics, and not only that, get into the cosplay aspect (or fancy dress as it was back in the day) of fandom as it is now.

Bristol was at one point, the only game in the country for comics conventions of any major scale. It’s now a small player in a scene which is increasing every year, so it has to play smart, and in some cases it is. I wish though it realised the potential and returned to it’s former glories.