comic con

Dan's Blog: MCM Debrief

For my part, I spent Sunday cosplaying as white trash.

The very first year that Steve and I appeared at the MCM Expo the event fell upon the same day as a Millwall game. It’s not a detail that I would remember were it not for the fact that it meant that my first experience of the con was sitting on a packed tube full of confused skinheads and teenagers dressed as cats. There has probably never been a more perplexed railway carriage anywhere in the world and I found myself developing an instant fondness for this oddball of a con.

I mention this story first because really the teenagers dressed as cats (and Pokemon and cardboard boxes and pretty much anything else you can imagine) are the heart of MCM. That’s not to say they are the only audience there (in terms of floor space, it’s probably the biggest comic con in the UK) but at its very core the event is about people who say the word “random” a lot, cutting loose and having fun. As a result, MCM has always had a kind if energetic buzz about it that you just don’t find anywhere else and it’s this buzz that is the key to why this year’s event was so successful.

MCM has taken some flak over the years for its rather diverse (random, you might say) range of exhibits. While other cons focus on comics or movies or trading or whatever, MCM goes for a bit of everything but in times such as these it’s exactly that kind of diversity that you need. If you’re only going to go to one comic con then the obvious choice is the one that lets you see as much as possible. MCM is not so much a comic convention as a convention for the sort of people who like comics. It’s a subtle distinction but one that breeds the kind of extremely loyal fanbase that descended in droves upon the Excel Centre last weekend.

Shot of the convention floor. It’s very hard to convey the sheer scale of the event.

For our part, we were taken completely by surprise by just how busy the con was. We brought our usual hefty amount of stock, expecting it to last the entire event (especially given a slightly disappointing audience turn out at Kapow) but instead found ourselves completely sold out of copies of Moon by 5pm on Saturday. The result was that Steve had to scurry back to Essex on Sunday morning, while I tried to learn how you sell prints of characters from a book you don’t have (turns out, you generally don’t). By 11am we were back up and running however and went on to smash our all time sales record by some way.

Moon #1 completely sold out.

I should mention, in the interests of fairness, that we had a much better pitch than at Kapow, being as we were right next to the auditorium and the booth for ASDF (who I’d never heard of before the weekend but who I’m pretty sure most teenagers would readily kill for.) This naturally translated into better sales but the fact that we took more than twice what we made at Kapow and paid less than half for the table left me pondering whether we’ll keep Kapow on our calendar next year.

Organisation wise we’ve got no complaints. Comics Village (who run the comics side of the event) have gotten very good at pre-show communication this time around and having every table get a small blurb in the program was a nice touch. Despite the huge crowds, there was always a volunteer on hand when needed and they were (as has always been the case) extremely helpful and friendly.

The aftermath. Huge thanks to everybody who bought the book and to those who have sent us such kind feedback on it. You guys are awesome.

The one part where the organisation fell down slightly was in the execution of the Eagle Awards on Friday night. The Eagles themselves are probably a topic for another day but the very low audience turn out was a bit of a shame. Steve and I certainly appreciate being able to hog the free beer but I can’t help but think that if they were properly publicised and perhaps held on the Saturday night, the turn out would have been far better. We ran into only two non-comics industry people at the awards and they confessed that they’d only found the event by chance. Given the announcement about the demise of the Eagles, I wonder whether the lack of publicity was a deliberate move to send the awards off quietly with an eye to focusing on next year’s new “MCM Awards.”

The Eagles is but a small part of the overall event however and a low turnout for one small part is not enough to spoil the experience of what was in all regards a fantastic convention experience.

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If you picked up a copy of Moon #1 at MCM then we’d love to hear what you think. Send us an email at btbcomics@gmail.com or let us know on facebook or twitter!

Dan's Blog: Kapow Debrief

I was pretty tired in this photo. If you have a chirpier one of me, please let me know!

Kapow’s something of a special convention for us. The con’s first outing last April was also the first time that Moon saw action at a major convention and Kapow 2011 remains one of my highlights from last year. In the end Kapow 2012 turned out to be something of a mixed bag, not awful by any stretch but certainly a very different to last year.

It was pretty hard to get a sense of the overall vibe of the con as we were kinda tucked away in the new Artist’s Alley on the upper level but on the whole the atmosphere definitely seemed somewhat muted compared to 2011. That’s not to say that people weren’t enjoying themselves but the electricity which permeated the air last time was lacking and the audience numbers certainly looked to be down (though this is pure speculation).

Ultimately I think you have to put this down to the decision to postpone the convention until May in order to allow Marvel Comics to attend (they were a little busy in April with a certain movie). This move placed Kapow exactly a week before one of London’s other Goliath cons, MCM and just 2 weeks after the Bristol expo. To be fair, all three cons have slightly different audiences but cramming them all into one month was always going to force fans to pick one or two and both Bristol and Kapow appear to have been hit by this (though, let me again stress that this observation isn’t based on concrete attendance figures).

The Kapow Floor begins to fill up.

One thing that wasn’t lacking was the work that the guests and exhibitors themselves put into the event. Of the few events I got to see the Lucha Britannia‘s wrestling shows remain the highlight for me. Wrestling shows at comic cons have become a pretty common sight but the Lucha Britannia guys put on by far the best show I’ve seen in this country and I heartily recommend that you catch one of their shows if you get the chance. Jonathan Ross also continued to carve out a reputation as the ultimate convention guest, at one point even diving into the ring to help the good guy wrestlers win the day.

Lucha Britannia

Reactions to the new Artist’s Alley seemed to be kinda mixed too. Some people enjoyed the quieter atmosphere as it allowed them to talk to fans without clogging up the isle and certainly for the fans who found their way up there it offered a lot of opportunities to spend time meeting creators. Of course the down side is that not all the fans found all their way up there and because the layout didn’t funnel people directly past tables, it was tough for exhibitors to strike up conversations and ultimately sell books.


 In all honesty, use of the upper levels of the business design centre was inevitable given how crowded the main floor got during the day. I take some issue with the price that was charged for the tables in the Alley, given that they were always going to be inferior to the main floor in terms of sales. Other cons justify the existence of these less desirable plots by renting them to small press publishers and creators for a reduced rate. It’s a deal that works for everyone as you essentially get what you pay for. Kapow’s stance has always been that they don’t do small press and everyone pays the same for a table. This was fine last year, we paid a premium sum but we got a premium table in a premium location. This year however I can’t help but feel that we paid way over the odds for a less desirable location. Die hard critics will leap on this as “another example of Kapow stiffing small press” but I’m not sure I see it in quite such extreme terms. The Artist’s Alley was a new venture and it takes a year or so to work the bugs out of things like that. Jumping to conspiracy theories serves nobody and it’s far better to offer organisers constructive feedback than jump down their throats. So here’s the feedback, Kapow: The Artist’s Alley works, it’s a good addition but it’s too expensive and you need to make it clearer during the booking process that it’s located on the upper level…oh and if you could book even more luchas, that’d be great too.

While we’re on the subject of feedback, I want to offer one additional thought. Kapow, your wristbands suck. They look like creepy, escaped hospital patient bracelets and they are scratchy as hell (my poor wife has the scars to prove it and that’s just from rolling onto my arm in her sleep during Saturday night). Give exhibitors lanyards. Lanyards are cool, you can take them off at night and they sound like the name of a family from Game of Thrones. There’s no reason not to use them.

Scratchy scratchy!

On the whole, the weekend was a lot of fun for us. Despite the disappointment of our table, we sold reasonably well, met a lot of incredible Moon fans (seriously, you guys are incredible) and had a lot of fun. I want to send out some congratulations to Band of Butchers artist Rob Carey who not only successfully launched his Lightning Strike project but (justifiably) had big name editors drooling over his artwork. Never get tired of seeing people I know get recognition they deserve. Also want to give some thanks to Stuart Gould from UKComics for coming through again with some amazing print work for us. If you make comics and you don’t use Stu for your printing then you’re possibly mad.

Kapow closes down for the night.

I now have four days to “relax” by doing my day job, meeting with my film writing partner Jim Eaton to work on our next big project and finalising the new Unseen Shadows comic I’m doing and then it’s off to MCM for three more days of madness. I’ll be live tweeting the Eagle awards from @danthompson2099 on Friday and given how much free beer they gave me last time, this should be something that’s worth tuning in for.

Well done, Kapow for pulling off the difficult second album. There were some logistical issues but every fan I spoke to had a cracking time. Here’s to another year of a very unique convention.

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BTB Awards: Best Convention

This was, in all honesty, about the toughest category that we’ve had to face in the process of putting these awards together. Before launching Moon earlier this year, Steve and I’s experience with comic cons could at best be described as “limited” and the past 12 months have been something of a culture shock. We’ve had some great experiences and some not-so-great ones (though it should be said that on the whole it has been almost entirely positive). The UK convention scene is incredibly varied and knowing how to go about ranking these events has proven to be something of a challenge. The two events that we’ve chosen to recognise are about as far apart as its possible to get but in their own ways I think they both demonstrate some of the best aspects of what conventions have to offer.

Winner – Thought Bubble

Thought Bubble is a week long sequential art festival which is held in Leeds every year. The comic con portion of the event runs for two days across two convention halls. Very much a fan run convention rather than a commercial venture, Thought Bubble focuses on the artistic aspects of comic books and tends to lean more towards Indy books and UK publishers. That isn’t to say that TB lacks big name creators, this year saw appearances from the likes of Gail Simone (Batgirl, Secret Six), Kieron Gillen (Uncanny X-Men) and Adam Hughes (Catwoman).

The odd thing about our love for Thought Bubble is that we very nearly didn’t go. Beyond The Bunker is London based and while that’s great most of the time (I can actually see the Excel Centre from my window) it means that trekking up to Leeds for a weekend is quite an expensive venture. They say that publishing Indy comics isn’t about the money and, while that’s true to an extent, it’s also true that you only get to print your next comic if you make a profit on the last one. Blowing a chunk of our summer’s profits on an adventure up north seemed like a risky play so close to the print bill for Moon #2.

In the end what convinced us to take the plunge was the astounding amount of goodwill towards the con that flowed from almost every creator we met. At every con we visited we bumped into people who raved about Thought Bubble at every opportunity and, having now attended it ourselves, I can see that they were exactly right to do so.

Me holding down the fort in between sprinting into town for more change

What makes Thought Bubble so good is the way it flawlessly balances scale with intimacy. At two days in length and two halls in size, Thought Bubble is just as big as its London counterparts and its guest list is easily as impressive (more so in many cases as the London cons tend to focus on film and tv guests). You could quite happily skip every other con and walk away from TB with a comprehensive convention experience. At the same time though, the event still feels like an intimate social experience where you share a pint with the creators, attend panels on niche subjects and discover a range of incredible Indy books. It is this combination of size and soul that make Thought Bubble such a joy to attend both as an exhibitor and a fan and it’s a worthy winner for this award.

Runner Up – Kapow!

At the other end of the scale lies our runner up, Kapow! The Mark Millar backed mega-con held its debut event this past April at the Business Design Centre and promised to bring the San Diego experience to the UK.

Kapow certainly lacks the intimacy of Thought Bubble. It is (by its own admission) entirely focused on big names and big companies with small creators offered almost nothing in the way of incentives to attend. But what it lacks in small town charm it makes up for in raw star power and polish. With the likes of John Romita Jr, Frank Quitely and Jonathan Ross in attendance as well as booths for several major publishers and studios, Kapow absolutely delivered on its promise to provide something new. While many cons this year had a great atmosphere, nothing could match the sheer excitement and electricity that permitted the air at Kapow.

Kapow 2011 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London

Sure, there were teething troubles – a somewhat unbalanced guest and badly managed queues succeeded in putting a few noses out of joint – but given how ambitious the project was, these are perhaps acceptable niggles for a first show.The thing that Kapow really shares with Thought Bubble is in how vocal its supporters are. While there seems to be no shortage of people who were happy to write off the con in absentia, I have yet to meet somebody who attended it and didn’t have a great time. Much like its surrogate father, Mark Millar’s convention isn’t subtle but it sure as hell kicks ass.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXLAFP1C1Co&w=560&h=315]

Check back tomorrow for another BTB award!

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Top 5: BTB Photos

Since we do like to snap a picture or two on our big Moony travels, we thought it would be cool to share our top 5 photos from the past year’s adventures. Enjoy!

5. Moon and Ray Live!

This was taken at the launch party for Moon #1. Actor Lee Ravitz is the artistic basis for Moon’s stoic partner Ray Barton and he was good enough to take a few minutes to help guide Moon through the first instalment of their adventures. I can’t help but feel that reading your own comic is kind of cheating, but what the hey. (photo my Imogen Banks)

4. The Saddest Moon That Ever There Was

When we attended the MCM Expo this past October, we brought the Moon head with us and encouraged fans of the comic to put it on and pose for photos. Some were extremely willing, some were scarily willing, some (like this poor chap) were rather less so. He remains the most patient man I have ever met.

3. Moon Has Arrived!

This photo may not seem like much, but to Steve and I it’s one of the most important ones we’ve ever taken. This is issue 1 of our first comic, freshly opened one cold March morning, along with the confirmation for our first convention appearance. The 200 first edition copies seen in this photo sold out within a few weeks and have gone on to become minor collectors items. We even heard of one fan who had a copy framed in her baby’s nursery!

2. Moon Cub

We’ve had quite a few sketches of Moon drawn for us by other creators over the last year. In all honesty, I could have posted any of them as they’re universally wonderful but this sketch of Moon as a lion cub by Matt from Moo & Keo is particularly great due to it’s total silliness. It’s also about as close as we’ll ever get to cracking the cutesy market.

1. Beyond The Bunker Launce Night

It seems silly to post a picture of ourselves (albeit with other people) in this list, but it’s the nature of those people that makes this one worthy of sharing. From left to right in the middle we have Alistair Reith (artistic basis for Shades Rodriguez) Drummond Bowskill (without whom we would have struggled to put the night on at all) and Lee Ravitz (artistic basis for Ray Barton). The BTB launch night was an absolute tonne of fun to put on and the number of people that turned up was simply staggering for a new indy comic. We intend to do the same again for Moon #2 but sadly we have to find a new venue as the old one won’t have us back after we blew up their sound system and woke up the neighbours. It was about as appropriate a way to kick off this grand adventure as I can think of and this photo pretty much encapsulates that feeling for me. Oh, Steve and I are in there too, but you don’t have to look at us if you don’t want to.

For more photos (including lots of cosplay ones) click HERE!

Thought Bubble Video

You’ll probably remember us raving about how nice a time we had at Thought Bubble last month. Well film maker Anne Holiday also had a lovely time there and has made this excellent short film about the festival. It’s absolutely worth a look as it really captures the spirit of one of the UK’s best conventions.

You can even catch a (very) brief glimpse of me in the background as I desperately attempt to remain concious following the previous night’s party.

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Thought Bubble 2011 In Pictures

Well it’s now a week on from Thought Bubble 2011 and I figured it was high time we got our pics up online. In all honesty I was sceptical about TB when we booked it. I was pretty certain that the social side would be fun but the cost of trekking up to Leeds for 2 days had me worried about whether it would prove to be a very expensive holiday rather than a smart venture for the book. I’m happy to say that my fears were unfounded. Not only was the social aspect of the show everything we’d hoped for, but the good people of Leeds took Moon into their hearts with as much relish as their Southern cousins. The event itself was incredibly well organised and the general vibe was amazing too. We returned smiling, exhausted and very happy to have not only helped launch Tales of the Fallen but to have brought Moon to a whole new audience.

But enough of that, on to the pictures!

One of the real highlights of the show was getting to walk around Leeds itself. It's a genuinely lovely city.

The full set of collectable Moon badges that we debuted at the con. These are only available at live shows.

One of several sketches that Steve drew for our awesome fans.

Unseen Shadows: Tales of the Fallen rolls off the press.

 

Me holding down the fort while Steve wandered the freezing streets, handing out flyers. (Photo by Jon Lock)

Gloriously under-dressed at the Casino on Saturday night.

Myself, Martin Conaghan and Peter Rogers during the Unseen Shadows panel. (photo by Vicky Stonebridge)

Band of Butchers being discussed in the Unseen Shadows panel. (photo by Vicky Stonebridge)

Picked up some great books at the event but my favourite take away was this gift from Rob Carey: an original page from Band of Butchers. It's going on my wall.

The local Roller Derby team gets their skates behind Moon.

The girls were a huge help in drumming up interest in the book over the weekend. We repaid them by ruining this perfectly good photo with the addition of our idiot faces.

Thought Bubble has without a doubt become one of our favourite experiences of the year and it’s a con we’ll definitely return to. Lovely city, lovely people, lovely comic con.

Now onwards to 2012!

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Moon Returns to Kapow Comic Con!

We’re very happy to announce that Beyond the Bunker will be returning to the Kapow Comic Con next May!

Launched by Kick Ass/Ultimates writer Mark Millar earlier this year, Kapow has already secured its status as one of the UKs top comic cons. It’s a grand day out and (unlike some other cons) is designed to appeal to both hardcore fans and casual fans alike. It’s a fantastic event and we’re really excited to be a part of it.

The Kapow website is in the process of being updated ready for the event but keep one eye right here on the bunker for updates on the guest list and other Kapow related news!

Kapow 2011 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London

See you there!

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MCM Expo This Weekend! Batman and Cosplay and Moon, Oh My!

If you’re at a loss for something to do this weekend then we at the Bunker would strongly suggest that you come check out the MCM (Movies, Comics & Manga) Expo at London’s Excel Centre! With competition cropping up from other major cons, MCM have pulled all the stops out this year and it honestly looks like it’s going to be a fantastic day out. You’ll be able to play all the latest games (including Arkham City), watch the many splendid (and not so splendid) cosplayers parading their fancy outfits and of course pick up a copy of Moon! There’s also a chance to meet Batgirl/Secret Six writer Gail Simone, Dr Who writer Tony Lee and tonnes of other guests too.

Last time we went to MCM we met a robot who liked comics. If you come then you could meet a robot who likes comics too!

 

MCM is a fantastic show and the sheer number of things to do there is utterly mindblowing. If you’ve not been before then give it a go. I promise you will not regret it!

We shall be at the Beyond the Bunker stall in the Comics Village so please do drop by and say hello. We will have the usual comics, badges and limited edition DVDs available plus you’ll be able to ask any questions about the forthcoming release of Tales of the Fallen.

If you’re not able to make it then you needn’t feel left out as I’ll be tweeting the days events all through the weekend. Just follow me on twitter to join in!

For details and directions CLICK HERE! See you there!

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The Best Costumes of Dragon Con 2011

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYDrwujtV2A&w=640&h=360]

 

We’re in the process of gearing up for another round of conventions this month and if there’s one thing we’ve come to love about cons it’s the level of detail that the cosplayers put into their outfits. At LFCC in July we had a wonderful conversation with a Stormtrooper during which he managed to be utterly charming despite us not being able to understand a muffled, crackly word he was saying.

With that in mind I thought I’d share this video of just how elaborate cosplay can get when you let the Americans have a crack at it. This was filmed at Dragon Con in Atlanta earlier this month.

You can buy the music from iTunes and (if you’re so inclined) there is a link at the end of the video to a twenty minute(!) version of the video.

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TWO Major Convention Appearances This October

Following a couple of phone calls today, I’m pleased to announce that we will be attending both the Entertainment Media Show and the MCM Expo this coming October! These are two of the biggest geek/comic cons in the calendar and we’re very excited to have Moon as a part of them.

The first port of call in our autumn tour of the capital will be a return to Earls Court on the 1st & 2nd of October for the annual Entertainment Media Show. Guests this year include John Hurt, Alex Winter and Mother Effing Bossk! EMS is a chance to meet the stars of geek film and TV as well as browsing hundreds of stalls selling everything from comics and artwork to swords and robots. Check out our gallery of photos from the London Film and Comic Con in July for an idea of some of the great stuff and cool costumes you’ll get a chance to see.

It’s also only £6 to get in so it’s well worth it if you want a fun day out with some mates and don’t want to break the bank.

You can find details and tickets at their WEBSITE

Not long after the madness of EMS we’ll be heading to the other end of Londinium for our second appearance at the MCM Expo. MCM takes place at London’s Excel Centre from the 28th until the 30th October and is about as big as UK comic cons get. Over 60,000 people will descend on the con over a few days, clad (well many of them at least) in some of the most elaborate costumes ever conceived by the mind of geek. The show will be hosting panels and demos of all the biggest comics, games and movies of the coming year so if you want to get ahead of the game then this is the place to go.

You’ll probably want to book a weekend pass for this one as the Comic Village alone can take a whole day to properly explore.

There’s also wrestling.

Full details can be found HERE

It’s gonna be a busy month!

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