If memory serves me correctly this year was my 8th Bristol Comic Expo in 9 years, pretty much evenly split between being a punter and being an exhibitor. I was actually a sponsor in my first year in my own name, having originally paid on behalf of The Philistine Fellowship a short-lived collective of creators which was kind of a precursor to Orang Utan Comics. Anyway I was there again this weekend and thought I’d give a potted round-up of how it went.
In an ideal world I would have been in Bristol from Friday night, but sadly my finances won’t quite stretch to two nights of Ramada bar prices these days. So instead I was heading on the train from Cardiff early on Saturday morning, which in itself made a refreshing change from driving the last few years. It was great to have so many of the Orang Utan team manning our tables this year and we were joined by PJ Holden on ocassion too who was sketching and extoling the virtues of miracle berries . At different times across the weekend we had myself, Ian Sharman, Simon Wyatt, David Wynne, Yel Zamor, Holly Rose and special guest Luciano Vecchio on the table. When I look back at the last five years it’s amazing to think how many people have worked under the Orang Utan banner and how big the hardcore central team has become.
As ever with Bristol I got to see lots of people I know pretty well but I also got to meet others for the first time. One of these was Sugar Glider creator and twitter buddy Daniel Clifford, who gave me a copy of his band’s album – Squares, very good, and I picked up A4 Comics presents from him too. I also got to meet Luciano, who has been hard at work on The Interactives for almost two years on and off. It was great to meet him in person and to get to talk more about the book and for him and Yel (part cosplaying as girl7) to get to meet too. On a rare trip over to the Ramada I caught up with Harry Markos and talked more about The Interactives’ release, it’s such a great feeling when your publisher is so energized and excited about your book. Meeting someone I was in school with who was there with 501st Garrison added an extra surreal element to proceedings too.
Our panel went well this time around and was a natural successor to last year’s, plotting the changes to OUC, the work Ian and I have on for other publishers, David’s role as the new FTL Editor and also looking ahead to more graphic novels as part of our development plan. Scott Grandison from Comic Book Outsiders did a great job as host and interviewer as ever. After the show closed and I’d eventually convinced the hotel that I did indeed have a booking, the Orang Utan crew headed to The Colosseum for food with Dexter’s Half Dozen creators Jamie and Dave from Bearded Skull Comics before heading to the Ramada bar. The Ramada bar was the usual blur of drink and conversation, I got to meet Andi Ewington and Matt Timson properly for the first time and caught up with fellow Cardiff Comic Creators Mike Collins, Jon Rennie, Kat Nicholson and Dylan Teague. Although I didn’t get to see Rob Williams, Patrick Goddard or Lee Grice sadly.
As tends to be the norm Sunday began with a hangover and ended with a replacement bus service. Once again we had a very full table and although sales were a lot slower than the day before we still had a good time. It was great to catch up with more creators and to spend extended time with the OUC core team too. I got to meet Dylan Cook for the first time, which meant I could thank him for his pin up contribution to The Interactives as well.
My second panel appearance of the week was on the Small Press Big Ideas panel with Cy Dethan, Nic Wilkinson, Dan Thompson and Rich Clements talking about whether the notion of small press is relevant or outmoded in 2011. It was an interesting and thought provoking debate and as someone who has always preferred the term indie to small press I found the whole thing fascinating. It was also a great chance for all of the writers working on the spin off comics to Barry Nugent’s Fallen Heroes to be in the same place. I’ve read an email from Nic tonight which outlines the masterplan for these books and it’s all very exciting indeed.
Highlights for me this year revolved around The Interactives, having the whole team together in person was great. Yel has been helping Luciano by giving him some tourist information for the rest of his inagural European trip. It looks like he’ll be exploring the London of The Interactives and possible Stonehenge, before heading to Paris and Amsterdam. He let me choose two of the original pages to take home with me before he left and that made my weekend they look phenomenal and will definitely be getting framed to go up on the wall. And by far the funniest thing had to be seeing Ian Sharman trapped in the Mecure Hotel glass disabled lift. When we’d all stopped talking photos and laughing we did actually get someone to help him get out, honestly. More than anything Bristol has always been the convention where you get to see everyone, catch up and have a few drinks and it certainly delivered on that note. Next year I have a feeling that a return to The Shed will make it one of the best Bristol’s yet. Here’s hoping.