1 Mar 2012

London Super Comic Convention: The Voyage Home

Now we've had a chance to settle back into reality, here are some thoughts on last weekend's events:

Matt C: Having been there on the first day of the inaugural London Super Comic Convention I can say without hesitation that it should be classed as a success. An impressive selection of guests, a huge amount of tempting merchandise, and a general feeling of enthusiasm for the medium permeating throughout the air meant that the Paradox crew left the ExCel tired but elated.

The major draw was, of course, the presence of Stan ‘The Man’ Lee, and various ticketing/queuing criteria meant only two of our group got our photos taken with the legend, while just one of us had a signature and a guaranteed space for Stan’s panel. Having been one the two to get a snap with him, I can say it’s one of those surreal, amazing moments that occurs all too infrequently throughout life (as my bemused expression in the photo demonstrates – and no, I’m not making it available for public consumption!). Obviously he was getting paid a significant amount of dough for his appearance (allegedly £120,000!) but even bearing in that in mind, you have to admire the amount of energy Stan put in to making himself available to his fans. I’m sure there are not many 89 year-olds kicking about that have that kind of stamina!

If you couldn’t get close to the former chairman of Marvel Comics there were plenty of other creators scattered about who, on the whole (mentioning no names!), were happy to chat to anyone who approached them. What people figured out fairly quickly was that while there were signing sessions organised throughout the day, most creators had their own table, so stopping my for an impromptu visit meant queues could often be avoided (although signatures were a little easier to get hold of than sketches!). Brief chats with Mike Carey, David Petersen and Fred Van Lente were are as far as I got this time, but seeing how easy it was to access these guys means next time I might bring a few books for potential signing.

Stewart R: Arriving at the event some 30 minutes after doors opened, three of our number breathed a sigh of relief that we were holding tickets that allowed us to speedily walk past the monumental queue that had formed, spanning the entire length of the gargantuan ExCel building (and then some) while the poor remaining trio had to join the throng and start counting the minutes and the paces. As to be expected with a debutant event there was a small amount of teething trouble revolving around what our differing passes allowed us to do in terms of expedited entry, but it didn't prove to be a blood-boiler and it's the kind of thing that can be ironed out with experience by organisers as the years go on. Before long we were all within the hall and within moments had spotted the much-mentioned Marvel legend partaking in his first signing session of the day.

I'd prepared myself to not see anything of Stan Lee for the entire day, having not purchased a VIP ticket and not being too keen on forking out for a photo with the legend, but there was something incredibly uplifting about spotting a godfather of comics sat only metres away as we collected our passes and wandered into the massive heart of the London Super Comic Convention. Essentially I, and everyone stood in that hall, creator, exhibitor and fan alike owed an awful lot to the 89 year-old sat diligently scribbling away - as he may have done some 50 years earlier to different ends - and by jove, I think we were all intent on celebrating what makes our hobby so great! I immediately did a tour of the entire hall to gather my bearings, establish where some of the best bargains might be found and locate those creators that I was hoping to collect a signature from.

The first thing I noticed was the number of people who had dressed specifically for the occasion; cosplayers were out in good numbers and the variety of characters was impressive, almost to the point where I was wishing I'd joined in (thankfully the logistics of the day meant I took the sensible choice). Everyone had put in a terrific amount of effort and no one was shy for the cameras, or afraid to chat about who they'd come as, even when dressed as the most villainous of comic book characters. Galactus was certainly the highlight for me (possibly robbed by Doctor Victor Von Doom at the inaugural Cosplay Contest) along with a convincing Hope and rather cute Valkyrie, and I have to say I've spent a good few minutes pondering on who I might possibly attend as should the mood catch me in coming years.

Matt C: I’ve never really paid that much attention to cosplaying before but I have to say I was mightily impressed by some of the costumes being paraded around, and being a red-blooded male I certainly didn’t have a problem seeing the likes of Black Cat and Supergirl strutting their stuff! Ahem. When I wasn’t being, er, distracted by Scarlet Witch or Catwoman, the merchandise was where it was at. No matter how much cash you came with, chance are you burnt right through it. There was just that much great stuff on display. A bunch of Captain America issues (for the most part, 50p a pop) ended up in my bag along with other miscellaneous items and to be honest I could have easily kept going if I didn’t have any self-restraint, along with the fact that I needed to carry my haul around me all day (thank God they had masseurs on hand – yes, really!).

I’m reluctant to bring up any criticism as this was a first time event and it was such a resounding success, but if I was to pick something it would be the spacing between the aisles that resulted in regular human gridlock (not pleasant when you remember that certain comic fans aren’t especially concerned with body odour!). There was a massive empty space in the hall that could have been utilized but this is a minor quibble and not something that would have me clamouring for my money back. I would also say the panels (the ones I could get into at least!) didn’t really appeal too much, but I can imagine once word gets out and there’s (hopefully) and increased creative attendance in 2013 (apparently, the organisers have said the have someone comparable to Stan lined up!) we’ll be looking at much more variety, a lot more high profile guests and maybe some genuine exclusive announcements when LSCC returns next year. And yes, I most definitely will be back for more!

Stewart R: I'll echo Matt's concerns with the spacing of the exhibitor aisles as it really did get far too cosy at some points which seems a little crazy considering the space available. With just about enough room for five people to stand next to each other from one side to the other there were some uncomfortable bottlenecks and jams, especially when everyone is carrying bags and dragging cases bulging with comic book purchases. That is however, an issue that only ever gets fixed with time and considering the evident popularity of the London Super Comic Convention - it’s estimated some 8000 people turned up the first day! - and general amount of space that can be available in future years should they return to the ExCel, I suspect this might well be addressed next time around. In any case I was still able to get all 'elbows out' at certain points, digging through the long boxes and returning with some early (#4-12) X-Men Vol 2 issues for 50p a time, as well as a couple of missing Silver Surfer and Green Lantern Corps comics that I'd a suspicion were missing from my collection.

My favourite random moment of it all had to be when myself and James R were just strolling past the exhibitors and publishers lined up along the far wall, stopping not a couple of feet away from Nick Roche drawing a Transformers commission for someone. Having stood there for a couple of seconds I turned around just in time to see a young boy, maybe 8 years old, look to the ceiling, yell ‘IDW, YES!’, fist pump in triumph and then bound up to the stall. That little display of mirth-inducing excitement captured the feeling of the crowd and staff perfectly; this was a day about celebrating comic books, in the company of other fans, one living legend, real-life twins dressed as Scott Pilgrim and a guy in a homemade Thing suit, and I don’t think that anyone in that hall hadn’t done their own little mental fist-pump at some stage since they entered that room.

Looking back through this review it seems a little unfair that we’ve mentioned any slight problems or niggles about this event. What I’ve brought away from my very first London-based comic convention is the memories of a truly superb day. There were so many smiles upon faces on either side of a table or longbox, there was a brilliant buzz hour after hour in the mammoth hall, and even when it came to spending a few minutes outside relaxing by the water in the sun there were still comic book fans wandering around, all soaking in the day with great enthusiasm. In these incredibly testing times for the industry that we love it’s heartening to see the organisers of the London Super Comic Convention make such a success of a weekend at their first try, keeping it simple and fun and ensuring that as the Paradox Comics Group stepped out of the ExCel Centre at the end of the day we all pretty much turned to each other and said ‘Same time next year then?!’ Oh yes please!

1 comment:

ian walker said...

Nice to see everyone had a great time.
Having never been to a Comic Con myself I can't really comment on what it's like but I did watch Bleeding Cools coverage of it and I must say for me I wasn't overly impressed.
There seemed to be lots of wasted space and for me it looked like it was spaced out like the markets I used to work at as a kid,and from what I could see there weren't any big displays stands anywhere just what I would call market stalls.
I'm sure there was a great atmosphere there but for me standing around in queues waiting to get something signed isn't for me,or even sitting at a panel,not when I can get most of what's happening in the comic world off the net.
The only bit that would really interest me is the dealers section,buying back issues e.t.c.
I know some will say don't knock it till you try it and maybe I will at some point attend one of or all of the British Comic Con's,but at the moment I'm putting aside the cash for the San Diego Comic Con next year.
But again it's nice to see everyone had a good time and maybe I could tag along with you guys at some point to one of these.