Kapow

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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Moon Hits Kapow!!

Of course Moon will be at Kapow! (Wouldn’t be Kapow if we weren’t quite frankly). We will be bringing Moon 1 to a whole new batch – and anyone who already has a copy will get a free badge if they come by the table… and sketches will be available as well!! How about a picture of you and Moon?! Eh?!

Stop by for news on Moon 2!

Moon 2 will be out soon!! Watch this space!!

OMEN 1.5 inks for OVERLOAD

Little while ago Martin Conaghan, writer of Burke and Hare (graphic novel) and Fallen Heroes – on which work on Issue 3 is about to begin – asked if I’d help him out. His colleague Geoffrey D, Wessell had a short story involving a monster designed by Jacen Burrows no less to be released in the new OVERLOAD.

I know nothing about OVERLOAD – except that it’s an anthology publication (Indy) and this is the first issue so there’s an element of blind faith involved here.

However the script itself is a bit marvellous and a bona fide dream for an artist. Never get the chance to draw the whole world!!

Moon 2: Page 17 pencils

Page 17 of Moon 2 in all its ‘leaden’ ‘glory’ presented for your perusal. Work on Moon 2 is continuing apace and is looking really rather good for the extra effort. Many, many pages are already back from Iv’s South American palette. She continues to teach English to 11 different schools so is achieving an incredible feat by putting out any Moon pages at all. We remain as ever in awe of the lass.

But what is going on here? Both characters from the previous book and new to the series having a fight about something. But what? And what does it have to do with Moon?

We’re not telling you. Sorry. Maybe stop by the Moon table at a future con (perhaps not Kapow or MCM – sorry as it might not be available by then) or attend the Moon Launch and we’ll reveal all for a measly £3.50. Stop by anyway!!

In the meantime – why not grab another copy of Moon 1? Seriously – one for the week, one for Sunday best.

Preview Omen for Overload (Available at Kapow!)

Some time ago I was contacted by Martin Conaghan (Fallen Heroes, Burke and Hare) to see if I could help him out on a publication called Overload. I still don’t know that much about Overload except that it’s an anthology title for creatives and will be launched by Martin – and others – at Kapow.

I agreed, automatically assuming that it’d be fine and I could mix it into my usual timetable. This turned out to be more of a struggle than I anticipated (I rarely have a timetable) but when I read the script by George D. Wessel I knew it had to be done.

Add to this the fact that Jacen Burrows created the main creature that appears in the story and I can confirm it is 6 pages of the most intense writing I’ve ever dealt with.

To tell you what else is in it would spoil it, however Fenrir, the creature Burrows created before he got famous some time ago, is the least of events that take place in the short strip. Part of a big anthology with a host of other talented artists (some of their previews will most likely be posted here over the next few weeks) it should be worth a look.

Having not seen anyone else’s work on the project there is no way for me to know if my work is up to scratch but based on word from Mr. Conaghan I’d say the line up is incredible (worryingly)…

Comics, Controversy and Joe Quesada. Full Kapow Guest List Announced!

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.

If you want to learn more about Joe Quesada’s work then you can check out his Practitioner’s article and you can buy tickets for Kapow itself from their website.

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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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Kapow Comic Con Line Up Announced!

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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXLAFP1C1Co&w=853&h=480]

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,

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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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