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Monday, August 08, 2016

Your thoughts about conventions

As I've attended so many comics conventions over the years I'd be very much interested in hearing your thoughts about such events. Things like...

Do you prefer the larger events or the smaller shows? If you've never attended a con is it simply down to distance or other reasons? 

Which one was your first convention? Did it live up to, or exceed, expectations, or disappoint? Do they satisfy what you'd like from a convention, or do they fall short in some areas? Is there anything you'd like to see more, or less, of? 

Are there guests you'd like to see at events who never appear to be on the guest lists? Any subjects you'd like to see discussed at comics panels that aren't often covered (if at all)? 

No comments slagging off any guests or organizers though, please. Let's just be enthusiastic and/or constructive. Or just talk about your memories of favourite comic cons of the past. Over to you...


Manic Man said...

slightly debatable in the term but I have never been to a comics convention.

1) for various reasons I don't travel too far from home, atleast without a good enough reason. most Cons are outside the area I like to travel too (for me London is a long way away), but I only live in Hastings).

2) I am no good with large crowds.. kinda.. I can deal with them if I don't HAVE to deal with them (like paying no attention. I'm involved with things meaning I'm walking down the middle of the road with crowds of over 25 thousand looking at me, I just pay no notice to them.

3) I'm very much a "if its a comic con, I want it about comics with only minor bits on comic related spin-offs like games, films etc". Because of the way the industry seam to work these days, ones I've seen are more film, tv and games con with comics as the side line, much like how some comics in the 90s started to notice the comics were making either a little or no profit but were a good source of material to make into games, films, tv shows etc.

4) While I haven't been to comic conventions, I have attended events similar and often find disappointment. top end prices for middle to low end stuff, people looking like they aren't really there for fun but to be noticed or to make money (okay, there are a lot of people there for fun but, I was more talking about stall holders etc).

that's just my limited points of view.. and since I'm.. well, a depressive among things, it's probably not as valid as some one that is more open to things.

But it's always good to get a range of feedback from people. Hope it's.. of some interest

paul Mcscotty said...

I’m not big on conventions to be honest Lew but I do toddle along to them from time to time. Personally speaking I am not interested in meeting comic creators (although I do like to see what they look like) my main interest is in back issues and decent dealers. I would only attend a convention based on distance now ie about 30 miles of Glasgow and if I wasn’t doing anything else (I like my football)… or was allowed to go lol.

My first conventions were in the early 1990s at the Mitchel Library in Glasgow and this was and still is the type of thing I like ie small. Medium sized with a focus on selling a good range of old US and UK comics and annuals with the occasional creator – that ended (as a regular event) a good few years ago and I haven’t been to many since, the last one was in the ARCHES” in Glasgow a couple of years ago and although I got a few good old comics it was not (imho) a great event. Large conventions like Memorabilia (the SSEC, Glasgow) were fun at first with the massive venue creators, film stars, comic creators etc and for the first 2 years lots of good comics but it dropped of (drastically imho) after that and I ended up just walking around the place looking at tables full on Manga. To be honest I don’t think I’m in the age range they (understandably) are aiming for.

Lew Stringer said...

Of the 11 cons I've been to/will attend this year, 7 have been all-comics with no film/tv guests, Manic, so there is still a good balance around. I can appreciate how they could be uncomfortable for you personally though and that's fair enough.

Phil, you're right that some are mainly aimed at people younger than us but most events I've attended do attract a wide age range. Some even older than us! :) True, not many shows sell old comics now, although there was a good mixture in Bristol on Saturday, with one dealer selling US and UK comics from the 60s and 70s at reasonable prices.

I must admit that if I wasn't a guest or working in the industry I'd limit myself to one or two cons a year. Although if I'd never become a cartoonist I'm not sure I'd still be interested in them at my age, but who knows?

Hedley in Detroit said...


Salutations from Detroit

We took our Grandson (10) to the Motor City Comic Con in April and all enjoyed the experience.

Since my interests sit primarily with original British cartoon art from comics in the 50s and 60s there wasn't much for me to see. However we did find a batman feather sketch that had been blocked before heading in to a computer which was interesting enough to buy.

I have certainly hoped that a visit to the UK would coincide with such a show.

Oh, and we did get photos with the Sharknado Dude, saw Batman and Robin, wandered through numerous comic book stands and stuck around for about 4 hours with those in heavy costumes. Afterwards our Grandson said he wanted to go back next year but would need to dress up as a super hero.

Lew Stringer said...

Glad you all enjoyed it, Hedley. I see a lot of families at conventions these days. And more women too. That's an improvement from the cons of the 1970s and 1980s when attendance was almost entirely 20 something male.

Unknown said...

Hi Lew,

Well, my first Con was Bristol in around 06, I think. A real treat as a I got to meet the likes of Simon Furman, Geoff Senior, Andy Wildman, Martin Griffiths and yourself - that was a great con, being a child of Marvel UK. It was also a time that big name US folk would still come over for that show.

I really enjoyed both Kapow shows - they really got a great balance of star power and panels and events that really kept a comic focus - even with the movie related events.

I like the London Super-Con too, a nice comics focus - but can't help it needs 'more' to keep the audience there all day / weekend.

I've done San Diego three times and each time the gloss has worn off a little more - last year it really did feel like a big trade show, more than ever, and all about selling the audience something. I think it needs to regain that element of celebrating comics and pop-culture, so there's something more than just opportunities to spend $$$ - perhaps it could go more towards Angouleme. But then - which company is going to put something on where they aren't selling folk something or other?

Tony Howson said...

Bit of a trend here as I'm not big on cons either. Not that I've been to very many - I've never even made it to Thought Bubble which is practically in my backyard. I've had tickets once or twice but work always gets in the way.

I did enjoy a con in Brum several years ago - BC 2011 I think it was. I couldn't tell you what the headline events were but I enjoyed wandering round talking to some of the small press guys and picked up some cheap Spirit and Sgt Rock archives from one of the dealers. There was a guy with a table full of old girl's comic original art which was tempting. Also met Hunt Emerson who had just released a single, Josephine.

So that was a pretty good day but generally comic cons don't hold the same appeal for me as music festivals. One's a solitary hobby, the other is a social event (or maybe I just like overpriced warm lager and women who haven't showered for a week).

Having said that, it would probably have done me the world of good to have attended a few cons back in my teen years. Might have encouraged me to pursue the arts rather than commerce.

Lew Stringer said...

Sorry to hear you're not keen on comic cons, Tony. I do meet lots of people at cons who read my blog so perhaps they'll comment later.

Russell, 2006 sounds about right for Bristol, although I attended most of them. I might go to Super Con next year if I can get an invite or a pro pass.

I've never been to the States, but I have been to the Angouleme festival in 1990. Some of the UK events, such as the Lakes Comic Art Festival, are following the style of Angouleme to some extent, and it's attracting the general public as well as the fans, which is good.

Dan Whitehead said...

I've only seriously started going to conventions in the last few years, and there's definitely a lot more variety than people think. The big ones - the Showmasters and MCM conventions - are definitely following the San Diego model of using "comic con" as a catch-all title for general geek/pop culture stuff - although even at those I've found enough genuine comic stuff between the Harry Potter actors and Funko Pop toys (neither of which I have a problem with).

I take my kids, and for them it's just a fun day out. My little girl likes the cosplay and atmosphere, my teenaged son just enjoys wandering around with his friends, looking at stuff.

For me, it's all about the guests and the indies. The ones I've enjoyed best - such as The Comics Festival in Birmingham - pushed those to the forefront. Meeting people whose work I've enjoyed (or who I've been lucky enough to work with) is always a pleasure, getting a sketch or something signed. And I always make a point of using my money to buy new comics from creators I've never heard of.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for commenting, Dan. Yes, I think there's definitely more variety at cons these days, which has attracted a wider range of people. I think the bigger cons, which focus on film and TV, have benefits for comics too. I've met lots of people who wouldn't normally attend a comics only event but they become intrigued by seeing our comics and try them out.

Stevie Robinson said...

I love comic-cons but am becoming disenchanted with the "bigger" shows. Their inability to monetise comic guests means that the "Comic" in Comic-cons are becoming few and far between. The most enjoyable ones for me recently have been the smaller scale, with higher number of comic guests. I love tv/film guests, but will no longer attend even local cons that don't have a comics presence. Living in Northern Ireland mainland UK events are hard to get to. The Irish Sea is an expensive stretch of water.

Lew Stringer said...

I'm hearing that from a few people now, Stevie. The shows might not make money out of us directly but comic guests do add to ticket sales, and if those guests are dropped, and people like yourself stop going, it will have an effect eventually I think.

Sean Kleefeld said...

My first convention was probably around 1983-84. A local show in the Cleveland area called "Saturday's Child" -- it was basically just Holiday Inn ballroom with a couple dozen dealers, no guests to speak of. I enjoyed it and returned subsequent years, but I largely thought of it as a really big comic shop.

The first "real" convention I attended was Mid-Ohio Con in 1985. John Byrne was a special guest, having just announced that he would be revamping Superman. It was a huge show in a county fairground building, which I recall likening to an airplane hangar. I remember being kind of awestruck at the time. I was a big fan of Byrne's Fantastic Four, and I was eager to meet him but the autograph line ran the full length of the building so I opted against it. (Or, more likely, my parents coerced me out of the idea.) It was the closest big show I could get to for many years, but it still wasn't especially close, so I only went another 5-6 times over the next 15-20 years. My biggest interests were in trying to find good deals on old comics and meeting some big name creators. I also swang by one of the earlier Wizard World Chicago shows towards the end of that time.

Beginning in about 2010, I started seeing people I knew when I'd go to events. In 2013, I attended the Festival of Cartoon Art and practically kept tripping over people I knew from online. I found myself enjoying people's company more than the events themselves, and I switched my focus at conventions from looking for back issues or getting autographs to just connecting with people. I go to maybe 5-6 shows a year now, mostly local to the Chicago area. The ones I enjoy the most are those where I end up chatting with people for a long time. Either old friends that I'm reconnecting with or new folks (often creators) who we just happen to get on pretty well. At smaller, more independent shows, I try to find pick up some new comics from new creators, partially as a way to support them but also to find new ideas.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for sharing your memories, Sean! That's a very good point about the social aspect of conventions. When I went to my first comic marts in 1977/78 (smaller than conventions and with no guests) I didn't know anyone else who was into comics. Some people at one table struck up a conversation with me and it led to a group of us meeting up every Saturday and we all became great friends. I still see some of them regularly.

I've made many good friends over the years by going to conventions. The social aspect is the most valuable and important part of these events I think.

Anonymous said...

I've never attended one of those conferences so I have no idea what they offer. They look very informal from the photographs. I have to ask, don't you all run out of things to debate? The English comics "industry" has all but died, so what do you talk about? Or are the seminars related to upcoming American comics ( of which there are still many ) ?

I agree with most of the speakers here in that I have no interest in "meeting the creators" any more than I'd be interested in meeting the engineers who put my car together. I'm only interested in the end result which is the story, and only comics from before 1990.

Lew Stringer said...

The conventions are very informal, Anon. (They're not 'conferences' by the way.) It sounds like your perception of cons might be very different to what they're actually like. We don't really have seminars. Some events have panel discussions where various creators talk about their work. Some have workshops, explaining the nuts and bolts of creating comics. Most events have signings, where readers can meet the guests.

I accept that you and some others might not be interested in meeting comics creators, but thousands are, and it's a pleasure for us to meet the readers too.

The main thing is, comic cons are relaxed and fun social events for people with a shared interest. And, yes, we still talk about upcoming British comics. They're not dead yet!

Colin Brown said...

Good to meet you at Bristol on Saturday Lew. That was the smallest I've been to but one of the most enjoyable. I tend to go to get books signed by my favourite creators and usually it's just a signing after a panel/interview. Bristol was the first one I'd been to in which the artists were sitting at tables and you could approach them. I can't believe I spent about 45 minutes in the presence of John M Burns, my comics hero. But I found myself impressed by others who I hadn't heard of. Lee Garbett seemed happy to chat and let me watch him draw a cover for a fan. The event has made me want to seek out more like that.
My first was UKCAC in London in 1986. Stellar line-up - Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, Gil Kane, Chris Claremont and many more.
I occasionally go to the big MCM type ones but just for a wander and a look round. Some dealers sell stuff from the sixties ands seventies and it's nice to see toys / books I used to have. I've been to Kendal twice but only went down for the day to for specific events. Not going to be able to make it this year due to work.
After the Bristol experience I think I'll stick to the small to medium sized events.

Lew Stringer said...

Nice to meet you, Colin. All of the shows I've done this year were like that, where we have our tables for one to one conversations. Yes, it was good to see John Burns there. One of the true greats!

That 1986 UKCAC one was great. I liked all the UKCAC events. I think I missed the last one though. I stopped going to cons for a couple of years as they were getting very downbeat with people saying the industry was dead. That was around 1999. The industry is still here, and cons have a happier atmosphere now.

Anonymous said...

"Con" might mean conference or convention, we simply don't know. Here's a thought, wouldn't the time spent talking about comics be better spent rebuilding the shattered English comic industry? Imagine going into a newsagents and seeing new comics again!

Lew Stringer said...

Comic Con has always meant Comics Convention, Anon, but thanks for your comments. As for new British comics, check out the graphic novels sections of Waterstones, Foyles, comic shops, or see what's on offer at comic cons.

Anonymous said...

Rarely attend conventions anymore, but medium-sized shows such as Charlotte's (North Carolina) HEROES CON can be so much fun. Almost the same number of industry guests as bigger shows like SDCC or NYCC,in a far more relaxed enviroment where interaction with friends and colleagues is possible.

Lew Stringer said...

Sounds good, Unknown!

Rods Toy Box said...

The main thing that puts me off going to many is the crowds. When it is so packed I can barely move I find it hellishly uncomfortable. I'm not the most patient person for queuing for long either.

Rods Toy Box said...

Oh and everything at cons seems to be over priced.

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