Thursday, 3 April 2014

Comically beyond convention...

So It was only going a matter of time before I wrote something about comic conventions. They are a ludicrously wondrous thing of beauty which, without fail, every time provides me enough material to write a sit-com series, well perhaps not a series but at least one amusing pilot that radically drops off after episode 2. Having just attended the London Super Comic Convention (LSCC) at Excel, last weekend and come away from it thoroughly buzzing from the enthusiasm of the creators I met, I felt like the time to share this vibrance is now (please be prepared for further cliched, comic-book style one liners)

So a quick bit of history, I consider myself very fortunate to have quite an intimate experience of these occasions that spans exactly 10 years starting with Bristol con 2004. Initially I attended on the payroll of a comic publisher (AP Comics) as an irritatingly enthusiastic book seller and then the following year was very fortunate to add comic book writer to my CV. I must confess that I have been riding on the success of this same publication ever since. I’m not complaining, if people still come to conventions and want to buy my book, I will very happily attend to assist in promoting book sales. I hastily add that I have written more books and that they are very much in the pipeline, however, due to various industry constraints the process is just a little slower, although every bit worth waiting for. 

Things have changed though, if you had you asked me about conventions back then, I would have pulled a face. I would have told you that they were just a communion of middle aged men attempting to recapture their youth. I remember seeing children at a convention was a rarity, which felt wrong. The venue should have been infested with gangs of grotty boys chasing a Dennis the Menace mascot, whilst their Dads eyed up the Desperate Dan impersonator who was eating an actual giant cow pie.  I knew that as a young woman attending this testosterone filled and sadly also un air-conditioned event, I was a rare commodity. I recall one bookseller giving me a £2 discount off my Stars Wars trade paperback, £1 for each of my fine breasts. Enough of this though, this isn’t a rant about sexism, I haven’t got time. 

However, more recently thanks to the influx of manga and anime, we now have the delights of cosplay (short for costume play) where mainly kids but delightfully lots of adults too, painstakingly recreate their favourite character’s outfits, wigs, makeup and props to wear to the convention. Never will you see such a stunning array of bespoke costumes, the good, the bad and the frankly blue peter in their efforts. Anyone who is familiar with any manga book knows that the girls wear giant high heels, wear few clothes and carry ginormous weapons and these are slavishly recreated. At a convention you will find yourself queueing for the ladies with Supergirl, Emma Frost, Wonder Woman and Xena: Warrior Princess. You will observe Lara Croft desperately attempting to dislodge the paper mache machine gun rather unfortunately stuck in her tights.

I recall one year at Excel in London, the centre security staff felt the need to repeatedly make the following announcement: ‘As you leave the centre please cover your imitation weapons or you will be arrested' 

One year, Hammer horror star Christopher Lee attended, however to obtain his autograph it was compulsory you purchased a copy of his album of music, that he had conducted. You cannot make this shit up. 

It was the same year I came across the ‘free hug’ phenomenon that involved wearing a sign around your neck that read, you guessed it, ‘free hugs’ and consequently there were lots of strangers having an impromptu cuddle. I remember initially finding it a delight to behold but after being accosted by several individuals of questionable hygiene wanting hugs, the novelty swiftly wore off. 

I witnessed grown men having heated arguments over who would win a fight: Captain America vs Iron Man. Ridiculous. Everyone knows it would be Iron Man, because he’s made of iron obvs!

Last year The Baby Show was running alongside in one of the other exhibition rooms, so there were a barrage of rather confused looking pregnant ladies warily eyeing up the Storm Troopers and Power Rangers attempting a conga line down the central hall way. 

My favourite site is always when an entire family have dressed up. I saw one family that came as The Incredibles in immaculately created costumes. This is just a tiny glimpse of the random beauty you will observe at a comic convention.

So not only has the demographic of comic lovers appropriately widened in terms of age, but also there are lots and lots of WOMEN and not just dressed as Trinity from The Matrix (or was she Cat Woman?) but actual creators, artists, colourists, writers and comic book lovers.

Generally in the UK, comic book sellers and therefore the readers tend to shy away from the brilliant Indy publishers out there favouring Marvel and DC before anything else. However, in this new digital age, talking to some of the artists to finally to hear the words ‘level playing field’ was a breath of fresh air. Finally a real platform to transport some of the incredible British comic book talent is being created via the forums of digital media. 

So now I can tell you with pride about the how comic conventions will always hold a place in my heart, with no face pulling or comments about testosterone levels. I am also pleased to say I have got my hands on some beautiful and innovative new titles which I will be reviewing here soon. Watch this space.

A photo of the turnout for my book signing *tumbleweed*


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