Birmingham Comicon 2011 – a little roundup and a guest report from Matthew Craig…

Published On September 2, 2011 | By Joe Gordon | Comics, Conventions and events

Well I didn’t make it to this years Birmingham Comicon – Molly’s birthday weekend took precidence I’m afraid.

Mark Millar didn’t make it either, flu to blame. So no word of what he and Dave Gibbons were rumoured to be announcing. However, all the mentions I’ve seen on facebook and twitter seem to be saying prettty much the same thing; that this slightly reduced Birmingham convention (it’s usually two days in the bigger venue of Millenium Point) was a massive success, very friendly and very busy.

There are lots of very nice messages about it on the BC2011 Facebook page, Lew Stringer’s done a write up over at his blog, Accent UK (finally) launched their new Predator graphic novel and had a great show, and Tony Lee had this to say on Twitter:

“Am home, finally decompressed from BrumCon. One of the best in years, easily best UK con so far for friendliness and conversations. Nice!”

(Pic of the dealers room at the Birmingham Comicon 2011, picture from Lew Stringer’s blog)

Like I say, I didn’t make it down this year, but luckily Matthew Craig stepped into the breach with his con report below.

Matthew’s the creator of many fine, fine comics, many with a distinctly Midlands setting, including his latest; Both Sides.

Ladies and gentlemen……Matthew Craig:

(Matthew Craig at Birmingham Comicon 2011. Photograph from the Flickrstream of Neil Patel, who also contributes his write-up at his website.)

2011BC was a pretty great show, with a lot of familiar faces on both sides of the table. There was a steady stream of visitors throughout the day, with healthy queues for signings by Dave Gibbons and Dougie Braithwaite. Unfortunately for me, the queues were just that little bit too far from my table to be considered fair game for my sales pitch. The crowd skewed a little older than Thought Bubble might, but with all the families and young (primary-age) kids, it also skewed a little broader in age range. The venue was modest and cosy, reminding me at first of some of the Manchester marts I attended in the previous millennium, but there was plenty of room for everyone.

(There’s that She-Hulk Matthew mentions – photo from Jon T Law’s Flickrstream)

There were a few cosplayers, collecting for charity and flying the flag for spandex seamstresship. My favourites were She-Hulk, who showed a remarkable commitment to her verdant persona, Cyclops (a hero spoiled for me forever by Jamie McKelvie’s moustachioed defacement), and The Spirit, who I may have accidentally addressed by name. We had a good chat about Eisner and his indefatigable signature creation, which left me with some novel insights into the character.

(And here’s Cyclops, photo sent along by Dave Lloyd)

The range of exhibitors seemed to me to be a fine slice of the British indy comics scene. Some notable London and Northern names were absent, as were a couple of major UK publishers, but the Midlands comics scene was well-represented, and there was plenty of fine indy fare for readers with a taste for novelty. I enjoyed the best one-day and whole-con sales I’ve seen for a good long time, and gleefully dished out comics and sales pitches to whoever stopped by.

(Detail from Will Kirby’s Tuk-Tuk – expect more about this very soon)

I didn’t get much of a chance to circulate, but that wasn’t such a problem, as people seemed willing to deliver. First among these blessed travellers was Tony Hitchman, who dropped off a couple of free four-page A4 maxicomics. These were jolly as hell, consisting of harsh economic realities and parodic pin-ups. Next up: Will “Chamonkee” Kirkby, whose Tuk-Tuk was a sumptuous (again, A4) full-colour electrostatic odyssey through the lives of two anthopomorphic arthropods on the make. Will’s art is furiously sharp and dense, and the colour, rich and expertly applied, makes Tuk-Tuk a complete package in every respect. My only wish is that someone can get this to a publisher with pockets so it can be mass-produced to bring the price down.

(Page 1 from Ryan Taylor’s new Grinning Mask issue 2)

Ryan Taylor, the only comic book creator with sideburns better than mine, stopped by to swap for a copy of his new comic The Grinning Mask 2. The unnerving cover suggests a surreality to proceedings, but I wasn’t quite so prepared for Ryan’s excellent clockwork plotting, moving between three discrete but parallel strands while also dropping in two-page horror stories in the classic style. Fans of Douglas Noble will very much enjoy The Grinning Mask.

(It’s Just Josh by Josh Clarke)

At the table to my left were Josh Clarke and Wayne Hughes. I picked up a copy of Josh’s first book (online here) at NEC Memorabilia fair in the Spring, so I swapped one of my comics for Wayne’s anthropological fantasy comic Sabre. The art is pleasantly charming, in a classic indy comics style, but watching Wayne sketch (with ink and brush, not bingo markers like I used to use!), I can already see how much his art has improved since finishing Sabre #1. Wayne’s introduction to the comic tells of how it grew out of a desire to enhance his existing artistic portfolio with a finished product, a notion that to me seems both rewarding and logical.

(Tinpot Hobo Issue 1 by Jack and Adam Lawrence)

Briefly enticed from behind my table by a banner on the other side of the room, my final swap/purchase was Tinpot Hobo, by Jack and Adam Lawrence. A richly-imagined science fiction universe in the Firefly/Moonrunners/Farscape vein, Tinpot Hobo finds a naive young woman seeking to redeem her family name in the company of a dodgy courier and his crew, while an outlaw does whatever it takes to evade capture. Tinpot Hobo is Jack’s first creator-owned comic in some time, having previously worked on “Lions, Tigers and Bears” for Image, and his own series Darkham Vale. His art is right at home in the American scene, being delightfully amiable and lightly cartoony, in the Wieringo-Nauck-Brooks vein, and while the world he and Adam have created will feel familiar to sci-fi buffs, the characters are equally well-defined, holding the reader’s attention admirably.

Despite the proliferation of new cons and expos (mostly concentrated in the capital), and the deserved success of the mighty Thought Bubble, I feel that the Birmingham con is important for a number of reasons, above and beyond my own obvious biases. It serves a community of loyal, open-minded readers, quite distinct from the people who attend events such as the Birmingham Zine Festival, who can’t (and shouldn’t have to) splash out forty quid to travel down to London or up to Leeds. It offers a relaxed yet lively atmosphere. And best of all, as with her white rose sibling, the focus of BICS is squarely on Comics. Marvel Comics, DC Comics, British Comics.

And whatever problems people might have had with the show in the past, it’s worth supporting BICS in whatever incarnation it takes next. A one-day version might well ameliorate some of these problems, rebuilding and focusing the energy of the con in the way that made Thought Bubble so much fun these last three years. A cheaper venue would help, although that’s easier said than found, and the proximity of the Holiday Inn to New Street Station is hard to sniff at. But whatever happens, the Birmingham Comicon should not be allowed to fade away.

(Matthew Craig’s new comic – available at his webstore – he’s far too nice to mention it himself!)

Thank you very much to Matthew Craig for the great convention report. Make sure you go and have a look at hiss website for some great Birmingham comics and have a read of this – Matthew’s in need of a few good artists right now!

I can only support what he says about the real need for an ongoing Birmingham convention of one sort or another. And as usual I think we should all be thanking con organisers Andy, James and Shane for doing this year in, year out. See you there next year!

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About The Author

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk's chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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