Comic Convention

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.

D
x

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!

More Geek Interviews From PULP

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdepnicjFWE&w=853&h=480]

 

We’ve talked about the upcoming comic movie, Pulp before and I’m pretty sure that we’ve showcased a few of their rather funny geek interviews. Well they uploaded a few new ones to their youtube channel this week so if you’ve been enjoying them so far it’s probably time to pop back over to their site and have another look.

The interviews are conducted at genuine comic cons and include a mix of fans and well known faces answering the burning questions that every comic fan needs answered.

You can see all of the videos here.

D
x

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!

D
x

Stan Lee is Coming to The UK!

UK conventions have been trying to secure an appearance by Stan Lee for longer than many of us have been alive but it seems one of them has finally pulled it off! London Super Comic Convention announced last night that the Fantastic Four creator will make his first UK convention appearance in 40 years at their show next year!

Lee joins an already star studded line-up of creators including the likes of Brian Bolland, Steve Epting and Duncan Fegredo. In LSCC’s own words:

“Organisers of The London Super Comic Convention 2012 are going all out to make the inaugural event unique and special for all attendees, by giving them a unique opportunity to interact with Stan, who recently celebrated his 89th birthday and created many of the most enduring comic book characters and pop culture icons of the last 50 years

Attendees can look forward to having their comics signed, their photo’s taken and watch Stan “The Man” in action on guest panels.”

In a year that will see no less than four mega comic cons taking place in London, the announcement of Stan Lee is a major coup for the newcomer of the bunch. A lot of cons can boast impressive guest lists, but Stan Lee is in another category all together.

London Super Comic Convention takes place at the Excel Centre on 25th & 26th February 2012. There will be no tickets on the door so if you want to meet The Man then you’ll need to book in advance on their website.

Needless to say, Beyond The Bunker will also be there.

D
x

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!

D
x

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!

D
x

 

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!

D
x

 

 

 

 

What is The Super Comic Convention?

Ever since we got word that a non-MCM event would be taking up residence in the Excel Centre next February there’s been a lot of speculation about the identity of the newcomer (I say a LOT of speculation, in all honesty the topic has been mentioned once or twice and then dropped again because there was no new information to go on). We knew it was going to be comics focused, we knew Harry Markos (of UK publisher Markosia) was involved and that MCM were a bit peeved. Now though, with tickets on sale, the organisers have started to offer up a little more information. In an interview with Bleeding Cool the mysterious group of anonymous backers came clean on some of the events goals as well as tackling the question of why it exists in the first place.

“London Super Comic Convention is being organised by a number of people that have been brought together for the express purpose of providing what the UK has been lacking – a comic convention with not just 2 or 3 American guests, but with a substantial amount of American creators spanning the decades, from 60’s through to present day. As such and given the enormity of the task, the collective encompasses individuals from both the UK and US, who have both financial acumen and experience in different fields, with one common denominator – All are comic fans, who want nothing more than to have a UK show that can go toe to toe on a guest list basis with the larger American Shows, and have a show that truly rivals its American counterparts..”

If that statement sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost the exact same statement that Mark Millar made when he announced Kapow! back in 2010…it’s also very similar to some of the claims made by MCM in this year’s publicity. It seems that if you want to sell a comic con to a British audience then you better damn well make it as American as possible.

So how does the new kid rack up against it’s competitors? Well for all the similarities in marketing, there are some key differences between Kapow! and SCC. For a start the newbie is about 4 times the size of Kapow in terms of raw floor space (though anyone who’s been to the Excel will tell you that just because they have the space, doesn’t mean it’s actually filled with anything).Secondly, while Mark Millar revelled in the film and game aspects of Kapow, SCC’s organisers have promised 100% comics and nothing else. This of course raises the question, are there enough convention going comic fans to justify filling the entire Excel with them? I hope so, but I suspect that they’re going to have dip into the Manga market quite heavily in order to do the numbers they want. Finally, if the SCC cabal are to be believed, they have a budget at their disposal that would make other comic cons weep. For all it’s killer line up Kapow did suffer from having very few American creators (Leinil Yu and John Romita Jnr apparently paid for their own flights to attend the con) and while it’s perfectly possible to produce an A list line-up without going abroad, there’s a lot of people who would pay good money to meet the likes of Brian Bendis and Matt Fraction.

Oddly enough, despite sharing a venue, MCM may well suffer less than a lot of people think from the encroachment of the new dog. For a start MCM isn’t really a comic con (shock horror). Sure it has a comic section, a very nice comic section, but it’s far from the focus of the event. MCM is about Manga, Cosplay and gaming and the comics are there as an icing on the cake rather than any kind of major jammy filling. Secondly the MCM events take place in May and October, well clear of SCC’s February show. If anything we should be sparing a thought for the poor Cardiff Comic Con who have suddenly found themselves with a juggernaut of a con taking place on exactly the same day as them!

The MCM and the SCC target crowds do overlap, but I’m not sure it’s quite as big as some people are making out. Despite fears that Kapow would dilute the attendance rate for existing cons, 2011 is shaping up to be a bumper year for convention attendance across the board. With geek culture on the rise, I don’t see the market as being at saturation point just yet. If anything the addition of a major con in the normally bare spring may help to stir up interest for events throughout the year.

So what about SCC’s own merits? Well the lineup so far is solid (but the first names announced always are) however the continuous references to “stars of the silver age” sets of a few alarm bells for me. Getting in the guy who drew Superman 30 years ago is fine if those were landmark Superman comics, getting him in because you can’t afford the guy who draws Superman now, not so much.

But that’s speculation. Right now the presence of a major con with apparently bottomless pockets seems largely positive to me. If done right it will draw in new fans, offer another chance for creators to get their books noticed and force the other cons to stretch for new levels of success. If it fails, well there’s still a whole year of cons to enjoy.

As for whether we’ll be attending, that will have to wait and see. Exhibitor prices haven’t been released yet, but once we know those, we’ll have a better idea of whether we can expect to see Moon kicking in the doors and demanding the shady council of SCC unmask…or more likely, buying novelty T-Shirts.

D
x

Day 1 of Kapow: Lesson Learned. Leave Frank Quitely alone.

Day 1 of Kapow came and went very well frankly. I have decided to leave Frank Quitely alone tomorrow and I will allay my suspicions that Dave Gibbons stole my pens. My suggestion that Brendan McCarthy doesn’t look much like his picture was a master stroke in introductory conversation. I will now appear in a Marvel comic book (by tomorrow) on a page with Dave Gibbons (artist on Watchmen) as well as The Guinness Book of Records (whenever that’s out). I was given a stick of rock by a child care assistant in a low cut top who got it from a burlesque dancer from the Isle of Wight. I gave it to a Scotsman. Oh, and we sold some books.

That is all.

GIVE ME BACK OUR PENS, GIBBONS!!

(None of this will make any sense until Monday when all will be revealed – possibly with pictures but needless to say its all going very well.)