Better late than never, here's my brief review of this year's Bristol International Comic Expo which took place over the weekend of May 9th-10th 2009. Basically, I enjoyed it very much. More so than in previous years in a way, although all the Bristol Cons I've attended have been great. The event this year was much smaller due to the Commonwealth Museum not being used, but to my mind that added a positive aspect to the show, and it was a more intimate and friendlier experience. (Again, not to disparage previous Bristol events which have never been less than warm and welcoming.)
The main event was at the trusty Ramada Hotel, with the combined Small Press Expo over at the Mercure Hotel a short walk away. To me it seemed that the Mercure was the event with the biggest dealer's room, but perhaps it was deceptive as it was a brighter room. I only toured the Small Press Expo quickly, intending to revisit on the Sunday, foolishly unaware that it was only a one day event, unlike the two-day mainstream comics event at the Ramada. (I understand the 2010 Small Press Expo will cover two days.)
I wasn't scheduled for any panels this year so apart from a brief impromptu sketching session it was more of a socialising and networking event for me this time. As always these events are good to catch up with colleagues and friends in the industry and it was a pleasure to see my old mate Kevin O'Neill back for his first UK convention in 15 years! Kev was in fine form and it didn't seem like last century since we'd last chatted. Speaking of which, the reason for Kev's visit was to promote the latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book Century:1910. Together with writer Alan Moore (who sadly wasn't present at the Expo) Kevin has once again turned out a cracking comic book. A review will appear on this blog soon.
Another top buy at the Expo was Tales from the Crust, the second Comic Pie publication from Laura Howell. This 28 page humour comic is absolutely brilliant, loopy, charming, and most importantly funny. It also shows Laura's versatile cartooning skills and how easy she masters various styles. The strips originally appeared on Laura's website in her frantic Strip-A-Day-Spectacular but it's nice to have them in a convenient comic. If you like Laura's work in The Beano and Toxic you ain't seen nothin' yet. Visit her website at www.laurahowell.co.uk and buy Tales from the Crust NOW!
There's Laura in the photo above, flanked by Hunt Emerson and myself. Who says Beano artists can't look intimidating? Grr!
Another new British comic out now is The Sisterhood, published by Time Bomb Comics who had a table at the Small Press Expo in Bristol. Written by Steve Tanner and illustrated by Dan Barritt this is the third title published by the company, and the first in full colour. (Previous comics being Ragamuffins and Dick Turpin by Tanner and Andy Dodd.) It's a very professional looking comic and the only gripe I have is the colour repro is a bit too dark. (Photoshop colours often look better on screen than in print.) But that's something that'll improve with experience and only a minor niggle. Visit www.timebombcomics.com to order yourself a copy of The Sisterhood and the other Time Bomb comics.
Here's Time Bomb Comics publisher Steve Tanner at the Expo with his wife Suzanne...
After chatting with Steve and Suzanne I continued through the dealer's room and met Karen Rubins who was selling her new comic Urban Beasts...
I knew Karen from previous events and enjoyed the Dark comic she'd produced with her sister Anna. Karen's work has improved considerably since then and Urban Beasts, with its modern Manga influence, is an interesting little comic. Karen will be holding the proud post of Comic Illustration resident at the Victoria and Albert Museum from July to December this year. Urban Beasts No.1 can be purchased from www.itchpublishing.com.
From what I saw at the Small Press Expo I felt that "small press" was a misnomer. Not only have production standards improved since the days of cheap photocopiers, but as a major title such as League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was being promoted there then "small press" was highly inappropriate. Perhaps "Independent Comics Expo" might be more suitable for the 2010 event?
Over at the Ramada, the Panini Comics stall seemed to be popular, with editors Brady Webb (above) and Ed Hammond (behind Brady) selling copies of the new Captain Britain and MI13 trade paperback, amongst their other books.
Panini UK are really on the ball these days and the Captain Britain book has been published in the UK before the American edition. And why not? It may be collecting an American Marvel comic but it is written by a British writer, and Paul Cornell was on hand to sign copies at the event.
As always, Mike Collins (above) was very much in demand for sketches and seemed to be drawing non-stop at the Expo. Mike's one of the hardest working artists at these events and always attracts a crowd eager for drawings. In the photo above he's drawing Captain Britain, and coincidentally Mike is the artist on the Captain Britain and MI13 Annual out this summer from Marvel. An international creator, Mike also freelances for a Norwegian publisher and book four of the thriller Varg Velum (Hevneren Fra Solbris) is out now in Norway.
Dapper Dave Gibbons was at the Expo, affable and amusing as ever, and the Who Watched the Watchmen panel was a great way to spend an hour. Dave, along with Watchmen colourist John Higgins, and Bob Wayne (Vice-President Direct Sales for DC Comics) took us through their enjoyable post-movie anecdotes and background info on the comic.
I can thoroughly recommend Dave's book Watching the Watchmen - a substantial 272 page hardback from Titan Books which conscientiously takes us through the production of all 12 issues of Watchmen in a highly entertaining manner.
I bought several other comics at the Expo, and I'll be covering those in another blog post soon, when spare time permits.
Thanks once again to Mike Allwood and his colleagues for running another highly satisfying Expo. It's easy to take these events for granted but when one considers that prior to comic conventions most UK comic creators of previous generations never even met or knew each other one can appreciate just how invaluable these shows are for moralle and establishing lasting friendships. Take a bow Mike! You're one of the most important people in the industry.
Next year's Bristol International Comic Expo will be slightly later on May 22nd - 23rd. Bookmark their website at http://www.fantasyevents.org/index2.html for future details.