Matt T: Three days, two nights, four panels attended, a few hundred pounds spent and 52 comics bought. Bristol Comic Expo by the numbers sounds pretty straightforward, but this weekend was pretty much the opposite of that. The convention centre (or, hotel) was all the better for the expanded floor space, making far more room for back issues. This was the main focus for myself as, with few gaps to fill, I was after some new blood to fill my comic boxes. In the end I left with far, far more than I intended but still pretty happy. A huge stack of John Ostrander's Suicide Squad, some Steve Niles titles, a few issues of Criminal and some mid-Nineties Spider-Man amongst others. There was a fair amount on offer for those wanting to root through the boxes for it, and in spite of the warm weather the crowd was of good nature. There were a several people playing a touch of dress up, the majority of which were teenagers out for a little more than a bit of attention, and a couple of familiar faces floating/waddling around.
In terms of comic book creators Kieron Gillen and Paul Cornell were both engaging and humorous on their panels, as was David Hine. Bob Wayne was as entertaining as ever leading the DC panel, giving little away without being annoyingly evasive. The MMMS (excuse me if I forget what it stood for!) collected Marvel creators old and new making it just about the closest thing we'd get to an official Marvel panel, even if we didn't get a whole lot of insight into how Marvel is run. Chris Claremont provided the odd look into how he crafted one of the classic X-Men runs, coming across as an American equivalent of Victor Meldrew, showing how a long-running contract with a publisher can sometimes be a blessing and a curse as he revealed the only reason he got to do X-Men Forever was because he had two years left to run on his contract. Finally the Vertigo panel, which could have been interesting, were it not for the obnoxious, arrogant and frankly childish presence of Simon Bisley trying his hardest to get himself fired. While the rest of the panel, with varying degrees of success, attempted to carry on in a professional manner, he attempted to hijack every answer or statement with a spurious, often offensive comment seemingly for his own amusement.
To end on a positive note I really enjoyed seeing some old friends, grabbing some comics and generally drinking in the impressively geektastic atmosphere of Bristol once more. Till next year!
Stewart R: And let the post-holiday blues commence! Nah, I'm just kidding, I'm still buzzing from what was an intriguing and entertaining weekend away with the many members of the Paradox Comics Group. In best road trip fashion there was an unfortunate mechanical mishap - hope the car's feeling better Brett! - to start the proceedings but being a fairly practical bunch we were soon speeding westwards to Bristol's welcoming arms.
Friday night is usually a time for checking in, grabbing a meal and then heading to the Ramada bar for a brief spot of talent-spotting (not the luscious lady type I'll add) as the various guests mingle on the eve of the convention. A keen eye had me spotting Chris Claremont wandering about the bar area and thus began the geek-fest that was the Bristol Comic Expo. Once the tickets were in hand Saturday morning it was a leisurely dash to the longboxes to grab those precious bargains or must-haves before any other sticky fingers found their way to them. I managed to snap up seven of the eight issues of The Sentry mini, the first eight instalments of the '80s Power Pack series and a dozen or so issues of Scalped, all for less than £3, and that was just in the first two hours worth of 'thumbing'!
Of course it's not all about the longboxes, and there were plenty of panels, signings and indie presentations scattered across the two sites. I actually did manage to get into the Claremont panel which was certainly interesting but revealed just how weary Mr Claremont seemed with the industry after many years of forging his career. The DC panel, chock full of talent, seemed a slightly quieter affair without the ball of energy that is Dan Didio, but Bob Wayne compared things with a sense of friendly fun, even having a poke at yours truly when I asked him whether he missed being able to read through a DC comic without already knowing what the reveal or surprise is going to be. Apparently the word 'crikey' doesn't tend to form part of the regular vocabulary of DC's Vice President of Sales!
Saturday also included a platoon of various Stormtroopers acting as security to an ever so slightly misshapen Darth Vader, and also a bizarre introduction to Simon Bisley at the bar as he tried to order a shot, any shot, from the barmaid at 11.45 in the morning. Of course there was more Bisley to come the following day when he appeared to be committing career suicide in the Vertigo panel as Shelly Bond and company looked on in bemusement as he interrupted, bumbled and swore his way through the hour even when politely prompted to shut up. A big 'well done' goes to Shelly as she managed to remain composed throughout.
The Merry Marvel Marching Society (there you go, Matt T!) was a tremendous amount of fun as Rob Williams, Kieron Gillen, Paul Cornell and Neil Edwards proceeded to discuss everything from Mary Poppins becoming a Thor villain to sending Daredevil - "leave him alone, he's blind!" - into space, and I dare say that that hour sits proudly atop the panel leaderboard for me. The sheen of my first visit has certainly worn off but what has remained is a darn fun weekend away and glimpse into the inner workings of the comic industry.
Matt C: It wasn’t a vintage Bristol Expo, but even a below par Bristol Expo is nothing less than enjoyable. How can a weekend surrounded by comics goodness be anything but fun? I guess, following Dan Didio’s enthusiastic presence last year, there was a definite lack of anyone matching his infectious energy. Chris Claremont was the ‘Guest of Honour’ for 2010, and while his panel was interesting there was a noticeable undercurrent of bitterness (for whatever reasons), and he was more engaging when talking about the state of the comic industry rather than his work on X-Men Forever. In fact, talking about where comics are at now, in 2010, often provided the most enlightening discussions on all the panels I attended. For example, it was a bit revelatory to hear the creators in the DC panel (Lee Garbett, Paul Cornell, David Hine) say that they’d previously never believed they’d read comics in any other format other than monthlies or TPBs until they got a look at the iPad. It was a sentiment echoed throughout the weekend – whether you like the idea or not, it seems the iPad has changed a lot of minds and will dramatically alter the way we consume comics.
The best panel for me was the sparsely-attended Elephantmen talk headed by Richard Starkings, with Ian Churchill and Boo Cook as his wingmen. Starkings was thoroughly engrossing with his topics ranging from the Elephentmen comic to his past in the industry to what he saw in the future. Great stuff! The most disappointingly panel was, sadly, the Vertigo panel, although I must stress that Shelly Bond struggled valiantly to keep things on track. Unfortunately, Simon Bisley felt it necessary to derail the talk by constant interruptions, puerile jokes and what seemed like a general disregard for what his fellow panellists had to say. A grand shame considering how excellent the panel was last year, and how much extraordinary work the imprint is currently putting out.
Spending wise, I achieved my aim by keeping the number of back issues I picked up to a minimum. Several Thor and Thing comics from the ‘80s and a couple of miscellaneous bits and pieces kept my total under twenty quid. I did venture over to the Small Press Expo over at the Mercure Hotel and picked up several indie books that I’ll be taking a more in depth look at soon. It’s a part of the Expo I’ve sort of neglected before, but I’m glad that I had a proper look around this year.
James and Ross from Creeping With Armstrong were making their presence known, trusty microphone always to hand, so keep your eyes, or ears, peeled for their forthcoming podcast on the Expo. Let’s hope they keep the drunken ramblings of certain people (ahem) on the cutting room floor!
That’s it for 2010 then. The dates are booked in for 2011’s Expo (thankfully putting those ‘last one ever’ rumours to bed) so it’s time to start counting down the days until then!