15 May 2012

Bristol 2012: 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: And we’re back.

First things first, the Bristol Expo is an entirely different beast to the convention I attended over a decade ago when Kev F. Sutherland ran things and it really was the premier comics related event in the country. It’s not even close to being that now, and that became readily apparent during the rather amateurish way access to the Expo was managed on Saturday morning (if you could find it – once the queue dissipated there was barely any exterior evidence that it was taking place!). Bristol has always had a reassuringly ramshackle element to it, but that didn’t bode particularly well. Fortunately, once inside the venue, it felt like things were back to normal again after the split between the Expo proper and the Small Press contingent over the last couple of years. As an aside, I have to say that the Small Press being spread out meant the unique buzz I felt wandering around the Mecure when it was all bunched together wasn’t quite there, but I can’t deny it was good to see things back under one roof again.

There were a lot less people milling about than years gone by, and several dealers were heard mumbling about not being impressed by the attendance. I will say it was a lot easier to get to those back issue boxes during the early hours of Saturday morning than it has been in the past at the venue, but then I can selfishly say it meant I could scoop up plenty of bargains (I went on a bit of nostalgia-triggered ‘80s Marvel miniseries spree!). How this bodes for next year, and whether dealers will turn up if there are more lucrative options elsewhere, remains to be seen, but one thing that is probably an obvious reason for the reduced footfall is the lack of heavyweight creators. Not that the likes of Alan Davis or Ian Churchill are nobodies, but this was the most sparsely attended Expo for the creative community since I first started going. There were a lot of good people selling their wares at the show, but like it or not you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that big names bring in big crowds. If there’s a future for the Bristol Expo (and I do so hope there is) then they really need to work hard on this aspect of their line-up to draw people in, and if it means moving away from the traditional May slot to distance the event from Kapow, so be it. (See the Bleeding Cool article here for more on this side of things).

Put all the arguments and discussions to one side (although feel free to chip in your thoughts in the Comments section below) I had a whale of a time this year. I got to ask Roger Langridge whether he had any work lined up for Marvel, completely oblivious of the internet reaction over his recent statements regarding the Big Two (he still signed Snarked #0 for me, although he wouldn’t reveal what his secret IDW project is), I had a good chat with the thoroughly nice chaps behind Kill Shakespeare, Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col (who should have an exciting announcement for fans of the series soon), and finally picked up my copy of Things to Do In A Retirement Home Trailer Park from Nye Wright (with a nice pic to accompany his signature, resulting from a reoccurring argument across the weekend over Spielberg’s worth as a filmmaker!). So a lot of fun had with old friends and new, and plenty of money spent (including some treasures from the Cinebook catalogue that I’m excited to read!).

Andy H was also in force with his Paradox stall and in between scouring the other dealer's boxes (where one of our number nabbed a copy of Avengers #1… yes, that Avengers #1!) various members of the Paradox Comics Group chipped in to help him flog his goods, giving some of us the chance to see what it was like the other side of the table and remind ourselves what a generally nice bunch of folks comics fans are (as if we didn’t know that already!). If there’s one thing I missed it was the existence of any panels that really appealed to me (except the Kill Shakespeare one which I didn't get to after losing track of time!) and that’s another thing that really needs to be worked on going forward. It seems a long time ago now that Dan Didio was whipping everyone into a frenzy about Blackest Night!

I don’t know what the future holds for the Bristol Comic Expo. There are a lot of people who really want it to succeed but there needs to be a reassessment of what it’s trying to be so the focus can then move onto creating an event that brings in a wide and varied group of people, both creators and fans, who love a wide and varied medium that has a broader appeal than some give it credit for (look at the Avengers movie knocking over box office records for just one piece of evidence for that). I hope to back for the Expo in 2013 but it’s not the dead certainty it used to be.

Watch this space.


Loop said...

Glad you guys had fun, I missed coming along, although as it was a hot day I'm kinda pleased i didnt have to put up with the smell of a hundred sweaty comics fans.
Hope to come along next year.
see you all soon

walkeri said...

May I ask what grade and price the Avengers #1 was,if that's not being to forward of me.
Nice to hear everyone had a good time.

Matt Clark said...

It's not my place to say as it wasn't me who picked it up. I will leave it up the the purchaser to decide whether he wants to post details.