The major movers and players in the modern comic convention scene have a tricky tightrope to negotiate: on one hand, they have to deliver a quality event, featuring invited guests from all walks of pop culture, as well as comics, without pissing off the dedicated fan who doesn’t want to see their cherished interest sidelined or mis-represented. On the other, they also have to meet the ravenous demand of an ever-growing con culture which is swelling ever larger, year after year.
One convention that has come dangerously close to tipping off that high-wire act with its previous efforts is the London Film & Comic Con from Showmasters, held at the Olympia in the Capital, over the weekend of 29th-31st July. The headline event of its ever expanding roster of conventions across the UK, and two weeks after San Diego, the Summer edition of LFCC is always going to get its fair share of attention. Here, Neil Patel cast his opinion over the areas of London Film & Comic Con that caught his eye – especially the Comics Zone…
All pictures: (c) Neil Patel – check out the rest of Neil’s Flickr gallery for this event.
Neil Patel: If you ask anyone who’s been to London Film & Comic Con in recent years, chances are you’ll hear tales of a horror story. “It’s the worst con I’ve been to!” “I’m never going back there!” “Massive queues, cramped areas and the staff didn’t seem to know what they were doing!” Yet, for all the gripes, the event still manages to draw in the crowds. When I attended last year, I found I could hardly move on the First Floor as it was filled with various dealers and exhibitors on Friday.
This year was no different. Aside from the vast presence of actors and actresses from genre TV and film, Showmasters have been attempting to capitalise on various sectors of fandom with varying levels of success.
You end up ticking off the constituents that make up a modern comic con. Aside from a massive signing hall, there’s a Gaming Area (admittedly, which looked comparatively empty): check. A Young Adult Authors area: check. You want a Manga Zone, you got it! And finally, there’s the Comics Zone, which is run by comic writer Mike Conroy.
The Zone this year was made up of a mix of small press and indie exhibitors, featuring an impressive line up and including the likes of Todd Nauck, Steve Englehart, Mark Verheiden, Dave Johnson, Tim Truman and Dave Ross. These could be found alongside European creators such as David Baldeon, Ramon Rosanas and Ariel Olivetti, and alongside home grown talent which included Jamie Delano and Gary Frank.
Whilst at the show, I managed to speak to Dave Johnson, who talked quite candidly about his convention experiences. “My limited aspect of this show is, it’s not been too bad. Sizewise, it’s a pretty damn good show – yes, it’s more for the celebrities and other things, but I’ve been to worse and I’ve been to better so it’s right there in the middle, I guess.”
For regular convention goer, Leo Sunderland believed the show was “a vast improvement on last year as far as layout and organisation goes, while communication between organisers to creators and fans still needs work. I never thought I’d get to meet Takeshi Miyazawa so they delivered guest wise.”
The Comics Zone was very busy at times, especially on the Saturday, as JUDGE DREDD co-creator Carlos Ezquerra had attracted his usual large queue of dedicated fans, a queue which was non-stop as he signed and sketched for fans at a booth complete with props from the 2012 film. Aside from such attractions, there were also panels and talks by various creators. SPIDER-MAN / DOCTOR WHO cover artist Todd Nauck gave a lively talk about his craft as well as he revealing that he wanted to be an actor, had he not chosen the path to becoming a comics artist. Lucky for us, then!
This year also saw heralded the return of former Vertigo editor Karen Berger, attending not only to give portfolio reviews to eager creatives but also help promote the upcoming Image Comics mini-series, SURGEON X, which sees her much-anticipated return to editing duties and working alongside writer Sara Kenney and artist John Watkiss.
In a retrospective Vertigo panel, she spoke about the early days of the imprint of DC Comics, alongside the likes of Andy Diggle, Peter Hogan, Dave McKean, David Lloyd and Jamie Delano, and how the imprint changed all their lives. Berger regaled the audience with a couple of wonderful anecdotes, including the tale of how she and David Lloyd went out for drinks with friends during her talent-scouting visits to the UK in the ’80s – unfortunately, she often couldn’t get served because she didn’t have ID to hand!
This year, it seemed that Showmasters had listened to the various complaints leading up to the event, and that had reached boiling point on the various message boards and social media, and, in making efforts to tackle these issues, made sure that the convention itself felt a lot more spacious at the Olympia – I can say, from personal experience, these efforts were very welcome, amongst many con goers like myself.