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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ever since London Super Comic Con announced Stan Lee as their guest of honour, all eyes have been on the UK’s other big cons to see how they would respond. Well, the first retaliatory shot in the (largely imaginary) battle for convention guest supremacy has now been fired as Kapow Comic Con announced today that Marvel Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada will head up their own guest list. Now in its second year, the Mark Millar fronted convention is seen by many as the closest match (in terms of style) to the new born LSCC, so a lot of people have been very excited to see what kind of guest list Millar’s team would pull out in the face of LSCC’s behemoth of a line-up.
As well as serving as Editor in Chief for 10 years, during which time he masterminded much of the modern Marvel universe, Joe Quesada is also a hugely celebrated artist in his own right. A feature that we ran back in October, collecting a selection of his “building the cover” tweets, remains our highest ranking post (largely due to Joe himself being kind enough to give us a shout out on twitter and facebook). While he may not be a household name in the way Stan Lee is, Joe Q is a massive guest in comic book terms and a lot of fans are going to be very happy indeed about this announcement.
Other guests announced for the show include Warren Ellis (another good catch as he’s a relatively infrequent convention attendee), Frank Quitely, Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr (who apparently wrote some stuff for CLiNT Magazine). It’s not a list devoid of controversy (it is a Mark Millar project after all) and the failure (once again) to feature any female creators is unlikely to do Kapow any favours when it comes to silencing some of their more vocal critics (the con has been accused of deliberate sexism in the past). Likewise packing the top of the bill with stand up comedians while relegating writers and artists to the lower rungs could be seen as something of a cynical move for a convention that claims to be all about the comics. On the whole though, it’s a pretty solid line up and the majority of fans should be pretty happy.
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.
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.
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.
Check back tomorrow for another BTB award!
The official site for Kapow Comic Con 2012 went live today and with it came not only this rather groovy trailer but also some details of the first round of guests. Fans who make their way to the Business Design Centre in North London next May will be able to rub shoulders with the likes of Frank Quitely, Dave Gibbons, (Marvel head of talent) C.B. Cebulski and many more. Kapow spokesman Mark (Kick Ass) Millar has promised an even bigger show next year which, given how good this year’s show was, is a big promise.
There’s already some negative buzz starting to circulate regarding the lack (or rather total absence) of female creators on the initial bill but with the full line up not due to be announced until February, there’s plenty of time to rectify that. the real challenge for Kapow this year will be how it’s supposedly gold standard guest list fares against Super Comic Con’s impressive line up.
Needless to say, Beyond the Bunker will be there. So if you are thinking of giving Kapow a go (and you should, it’s fantastic) then be sure to drop by and say hi
For full listings, check out the KAPOW WEBSITE!
See you there,
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!
See you there!
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.
One of the things that really amazed us about Moon is how much people love doing their own doodles of him. Almost no convention goes by without some exhibitor or other handing us a sketch of ol globehead and over time we’ve amassed a small but wonderful collection of them. Since we’re having a little summer break from conventions we thought it was high time to share a few of our favourites from the last few months.
We’ll try to throw up another collection of fan art later in the year. If you have a pic of Moon that you’d like to share, send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to post it up!
Wow. We’ve had a whole tonne of stuff going on since Kapow so I thought the best thing to do was just chuck it all together and give you a bit of an update on what we’re up to right now.
First off, massive thanks go to everybody who bought a copy of Moon at Kapow and to those that have ordered copies of the book via the website. We were expecting the level of interest in the book to pick up a bit after some of the reviews came out but it has utterly floored us just how many people seem to want to read about our big Mooney hero. To give you an idea of where we’re at, we had predicted that our initial print run would cover us for about six months and it’s almost completely sold out in two. Yikes!
On that note, if you are thinking about picking up a copy of Moon #1 but have yet to do so then you should know that we are now almost completely sold out of “First Edition” copies. The second print run of the book will have a slightly different cover, so if collecting is your thing then you’re going to want to get your order in as soon as you can. Once the First Editions are gone, they’re gone for good. Which reminds me…I should really reserve one of them for myself.
We’ve had a couple more reviews come in this week as well. I’m going to post up a full page of links to them once the last few are in but in the mean time you may wish to know that The Void thinks Moon has “a great cast of characters” and that the Small Press Big Mouth Podcast generally loves the book (I’d suggest enjoying the whole podcast, but if you just want the Moon review then skip to around the 10min mark). The Small Press Big Mouth one especially blew me away as it’s one of the most positive reviews we’ve had so far. They seem to genuinely get what we’re trying to do here and the fact that they likened the book to The Tick makes me happier than you can possibly imagine.
Ok, well I have a tonne of writing to do if I’m going to get Band of Butchers done in time, so I must return to the laptop. Take care of yourselves Bunkerites, thanks for all the support so far and please keep spreading the good word.
I’m still recovering somewhat from the mania that was Kapow Comic Con. We got a lot of interest in the book over the weekend and it looks like we’re gonna be pretty busy for some time to come, which is rather nice. I’m pretty neck deep in work on the Clancy Wallencheck Fallen Heroes spin off this week, but I have managed to find time to upload some of the many photos from the event so that those of you who couldn’t make it can feel like you were really there.
Seems like everybody took this photo at some point during the day. It’s rare that you get such a good vantage point and can really appreciate the scale of an event like this. It also shows of just what a lovely venue the Business Design Centre really is. I know the temptation is going to be to move it to a bigger venue in years to come, but I really hope they stay put. It’s a splendid place.
The Warner Bros Stand was directly opposite the Beyond the Bunker one. This meant that not only were we driven insane by the Arkham City Trailer but we got glared at disapprovingly by Superman for 2 days straight.
One of our fellow exhibitors drew this fantastic pic of our Moon headed hero which I sat grinning at for the rest of the day. I genuinely love it when people do stuff like this, especially when it’s as good a pic as this one.
The BTB stand at the end of Saturday. We sold almost every copy of the book that we brought with us on the day (and we brought a lot of em). I probably could have retaken this one so it was less blurry, but I don’t think I’d have gotten as good an expression as Steve is pulling here. Really sums up the mood at that time.
Bidding a fond farewell to Kapow at the end of a busy day. It’s odd, I’ve been doing stand up gigs around Angel for years and yet I’ve never once noticed the BDC before. This probably has something to do with it not having a massive Hal Jordan slapped on the front of it during that time but it could also be because I don’t pay enough attention to exhibition centres.
We’ve got a few more pics still to go up (including some of the Beyond The Bunker stand itself) so check back later for those. In the meantime, if you want to really recreate that Kapow experience you can go to the BTB store and buy a copy of Moon for yourself. Always working. 😉