The ”neo-Nazi” who organises comic conventions

The Scottish politics website A Thousand Flowers revealed information in regards Andy Kleek, the organiser of ”Comic Con Scotland’‘ to be held this November in Edinburgh. Essentially, Kleek is a supporter of the EDL, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon AKA  ‘Tommy Robinson’ (who is such a wussie he blocked me on Twitter for this) and all they stand for.

To quote the site;

In August 2017, the anti-racist campaign group Hope Not Hate exposed Kleek as having attended a rally organised by Robinson last June to stir up division in the wake of the Manchester attacks. The event saw hundreds of far-right thugs descend on Manchester city centre, clashing with police and forcing a Sikh group running their regular stall providing food to homeless people to flee in the face of racist abuse.

The full story, along with screenshots is here and I advise you to go there and read it if you plan to attend, or exhibit at the show in November, or if you plan to attend the Harry Potter themed event he’s organising in Edinburgh. I should also make it clear that this event is not the Edinburgh Comic Con held in April. I’ve got nothing but praise and support for that show, and I’m disappointed that people have vandalised posters advertising one of the better shows of this type in the UK.

There are several issues here. First one up is whether you as a consumer want to give money to an event that may fund the activities of an alleged neo-Nazi. I tend to trust what the guys at Hope Not Hate do, and if they’ve provide proof then the word of Nick Lowles and his team (and in the spirit of full disclosure I should say I’ve fed them information in regards a case in the past) then that’s enough for me. Your money, your choice. I’ll keep mine in my bank account.

It is your moral decision what to do here.

Next issue is this, again quoted from A Thousand Flowers;

Comic cons have emerged as a cash cow for events organisers over the last few years with huge public interest in sci-fi, fantasy and comic books, fuelled by recent on-screen hits. Unlicensed Harry Potter themed merchandise and events have also – as anyone who has visited Edinburgh’s Old Town over the last year can testify – become a magnet for those looking to cash in.

Over the year in the UK there’s literally hundreds of comic conventions. I can remember when there was only one big one, and a handful of smaller marts. At one point 20 years ago it looked for a while that the unbroken run of large comic conventions that started in the UK in Birmingham in 1968 was to end. Then Iron Man came out in 2008, and the rest as they say is history.

We’re in a bubble right now. I don’t think it’ll ever return to the days where a handful of us sat in a hotel bar in Manchester considering how to keep the British convention going, but at some point things will go ‘pop’ and a lot of the dodgy show organisers will head off back to whence they came as will some of those selling stuff to cash in on the ‘geek’ boom. Again, it is your choice to do with your money as you will but if I was Kleek I’d perhaps make my logo less reminiscent of this one.

So to sum up. It seems the organiser of a comic con in Edinburgh has a less than pleasant set of political beliefs, which I disagree with but it is his right to hold. However I can choose not to support his events, and I can also make it so folk who read this blog make the same choice.

Again, you are the consumer. Choose wisely.


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…