Matt C: After braving a near biblical deluge to get to Cheltenham Racecourse for the second annual True Believers Comic Festival last Saturday morning, we used our PCG clout to get a walk around the convention floor before the doors officially opened, and were presented with a very well laid out mix of small press, back issue retailers, artist/writer tables and other stalls selling comics-related paraphernalia. This short, crowd-free period gave us a chance to catch up with familiar faces such as Sonia Leong, Vince Hunt and the Big Punch Studios crew before the first fans started to trickle in and it was time to see how much stuff I could pick up within my strict budget (and getting hold of a couple of 25 year-old Avengers issues I was missing for 25p each was a pretty good start!).
I always try and balance the mainstream stuff with a few indie/small press purchases, and this time around I took home copies of Midnight Man from Bad Mother Publisher, Street Fighting Woman from Kloob Comics and the final two issues of Sentient Zombie Space Pigs from Disconnected Press. There was plenty more besides that on offer but as is always the case, time and money makes a lot of decisions in that regard for you. When not emptying out the contents of my wallet to eager vendors, the numerous delightful cosplayers always provided an enjoyable distraction, even if it was simply to marvel at the sheer dedication that goes into creating some of the costumes.
Come the end of the day it was time for me and James R to front another edition of Comics In Just A Minute, and while there were several worrying minutes where it looked like Steve Thompson would be the default winner due to being the only contestant to turn up, fortunately the rest of the brave souls (Paul Cornell, Mike Collins, Sonia Leong and Faye Simms) arrived, and the delay was soon forgotten as they all put on a great show for those that had found their way into the panel room. As she has on the last two occasions (although Paul certainly gave her a run for her money this time!) Sonia remained triumphant, making it a hat-trick. If there was ever any doubt she was the one to beat beforehand, there's no longer any question as to why she's the reigning champion!
James R: To say that we faced the elements in getting to True Believers is like saying Mozart wrote the occasional tune. It was rain that redefined the term 'incessant' for the duration of the convention, but away from the precipitation, tucked away inside Cheltenham Racecourse was a gem of a convention. What impressed me the most was two things: firstly, the size and setting of the convention - the main floor was spacious and roomy, surrounded by a lot of seating and swish facilities. Those of you who have ever trudged round a con looking for somewhere to collapse will love True Believers (a reasonably priced bar certainly didn't hurt either!).
The second thing that I really enjoyed was the mix of tables - this was the closest thing I'd seen to the old Bristol con feel, with back issues, small press and specialist retailers all giving the floor a vibrant mix I would have been happy to wander round more if we didn't have a panel to attend to! We were lucky to have a stellar quintet of guests for Comics In Just A Minute but one constant remains - Sonia Leong takes no prisoners, especially when it comes to not pausing for breath while describing Batman's utility belt!
I really enjoyed my time in Cheltenham, and I hope that when True Believers returns they get a better break with the weather, and we can gather more members of the PCG together. It's clear that the convention scene in the UK continues to grow, and alongside our spiritual home in Melksham, True Believers has got the potential to be a highlight of the comics social calendar.