Andy H: We came. We saw. We had a great time! The Bristol Comics Expo is the one show I will always try to get too and despite some early reservations about the reduced size this year, I had a lot of fun.
Matt T: The Saturday didn’t start particularly well though, as the much-feared bottleneck at the Ramada Hotel entrance seemed to become a reality with the queue barely moving for the first 10-20 minutes. Fortunately the blockage was then removed and the group breached the hall!
Stewart R: This was my first convention of any kind, let alone a comic convention, so diving into the boxes early Saturday morning was something of a daunting task; I hadn’t prepared a list of any back issues that I required and also there are some individuals out there who go at the task with the intensity of a starving squirrel looking for last years' nut harvest! Once I had figured out the correct protocol I got stuck in with some gusto and managed to find some bargains.
Matt C: Sometimes even the trusted list can fail you: I managed to pick up a run of the 1980s Ka-Zar The Savage series only to discover when I returned home that I’d bought many of the same issues last year. Oops! Still, a passing Green Lantern family sure cheered me up!
Matt T: I found a fair few back issues - some superb EC stuff and the Marvel MAX run of Terror Inc - but my lack of an actual list meant I didn’t really fill in any gaps. To be honest there wasn’t really enough stock there to manage as much as previous years, so I think I chose correctly by just seeing what took my fancy.
Andy H: I did find it easier to navigate the dealer tables this year meaning there was more of a chance to compare prices and remember where you had seen the better deals. I generally forget where I’ve seen what in a bigger venue!
James R: But while the reduction to the one venue made for a much-reduced amount of dealer space - and it certainly felt the poorer for that - on the other hand this year's panels and guests were outstanding; special praise goes to Dan DiDio of DC who was a whirlwind of information & enthusiasm and answered all questions with insight and candour.
Stewart R: DiDio and Bob Wayne were terrific at promoting DC's forthcoming projects during their presentations, asking almost as many questions of the eager audience as we did of them. DiDio in particular exudes such infectious zeal for his company's properties that even I, a dedicated Marvel reader for the most part, will be looking at DC's catalogue with a keener eye this coming summer.
Matt C: Both Saturday’s DC Nation and Sunday’s DC Universe panels were made memorable by DiDio’s extraordinary passion for the company and their characters. He was certainly far more animated than his prior appearance a few years ago and Stewart R probably wasn’t the only Marvelite who came away ready to add several DC titles (and not just Blackest Night) to his pull-list.
James R: We were also treated to a great Vertigo panel with Mike Carey talking about his upcoming series The Unwritten, and without giving too much away, I have to enthuse - YOU MUST GET THIS BOOK! From the ashcan edition that was distributed, and from Carey's own comments about what to expect, I firmly believe that this is going to be the next landmark series from Vertigo.
Matt T: Matt C virtually commandeered the Vertigo Q & A session, asking some very valid questions, not just randomly rushing the stage and shouting down the mic…
Matt C: Surely I’m far too reserved for that?! I did indeed feel compelled to ask a few questions (it’s the only chance I get each year and there wasn’t exactly a sea of hands in the air!) and one of those questions did prompt one of the panel to reveal that Jason Aaron had been meeting with someone in Hollywood (they couldn’t remember who, unfortunately) about turning Scalped into an HBO show! (I won’t reveal who said this, but if I tell you the panel consisted of Bob Wayne, Jock, Mark Buckingham and Mike Carey you can probably hazard a guess).
James R: My personal highlight was the Sunday Who Watched The Watchmen panel – it was an enthralling hour with Dave Gibbons & colourist John Higgins taking us through the construction of the comic, and then giving us an insider's peek into the making of the movie - I was in fanboy heaven!
Stewart R: Meeting the 'talent' is something I've never really experienced before but the number of recognisable names dotted around various signing and sketch tables meant it was likely that I would be able to let the inner fanboy out briefly. Into the story steps Mike Carey, writer of my favourite X-Men stories of the past several years and, as James R said earlier, of the promising new title in The Unwritten. A quick trip to a back issue box later and I returned with the appropriate X title (X-Men #190 for those interested - a great cover and a great read) for a signing and brief conversation.
It makes a big difference to see the individuals responsible for creative output in person and explaining their drives, motivations and hopes for their respective works. I've come away from this exciting and educational weekend with a broader view of what the comic industry entails and has to offer, as well as a renewed passion for seeing what else there is to discover.
Matt C: What’s great about the Bristol Expo is that not only is there an opportunity to talk to artists, writers and editors during the day but there’s also the option of the hotel bar in the Ramada: this is where both fans and creators congregate in the evenings, meaning you may just end up chatting away (drunkenly in my case!) to folk who work on the books you buy every week…..
Andy H: Somehow a small group of us ended up talking with Dan DiDio until the wee hours of Sunday morning and what a cool way to spend the evening it was! We spoke about all the things you would expect too (no he didn't give us any spoilers, which I think is a good thing) and considering how often he must talk to people about the same things he was never anything less than enthusiastic. He spoke with such pride and confidence about the comics DC produce that I was definitely impressed. I think Dan has had some negative press in the past but the man I met came across as a top bloke who made an effort to meet the people that buy the books. A very entertaining evening and I'm sure I will bore people with it for some time to come!
Matt T: The only real negatives for me during the weekend were the space confines - as the busier periods made the main foyer feel like a busy nightclub (with less music!) -, the aforementioned lack of dealers and a frightening amount of people dressed a Pikachu. By no means a disaster, but a return to a bigger venue is surely needed to make the Expo worthwhile long-term.
James R: Would it be better with more dealers? Definitely. Would it be better with more panels of the calibre that we experienced? Undoubtedly. But was it a great weekend away with some very good friends? Always. Roll on next year and we'll hopefully see you there.