If you think that the comics convention landscape in North America had exploded in the last decade, the UK convention calendar is doing its best to match that level of excitement as established shows evolve and expand, smaller shows streamline and become slicker, attracting bigger and bigger crowds, and new events being added to the listings every month.
To make an impression in such an exploding market takes something ambitious and eye-catching – and that’s exactly what Portsmouth Guildhall in collaboration with Tripwire Magazine are attempting to do with the two-day event, Portsmouth Comic Con, being held in the historic location on the South coast of England, in just a few months time (Saturday 5th / Sunday 6th May 2018).
We caught up with Tripwire’s EIC Joel Meadows and Editor-At-Large Andrew Colman to find out what they intend for the show – and why they feel Portsmouth Comic Con has the potential to stand out from the pack.
AEISD: Take us back a bit. What was the initial genesis of the show?
Tripwire: We were approached a little over a year ago by the CEO of the Guildhall with a view to organise a professionally run American-style convention, focusing on pop culture and comic art. Once we visited the venue and spoke to its highly experienced staff, we immediately realised that this was a great opportunity to create a show.
AEISD: Starting up a new convention in 2018 is a bold and risky move. Why do you think that the Portsmouth Guildhall approached you to put the show together? How do you feel has your experience with running Tripwire helped you to shape and organise the show?
Tripwire: Two and a half decades of running the magazine and now the website has given us enormous insight and knowledge of the comic industry and pop culture in general. We have also been very lucky in cementing relationships with some of the most celebrated talent and movers and shakers in the business. We believe that, thanks to our decades of expertise, knowledge and contacts plus our understanding of what makes a good show, that we were the right people for the task.
AEISD: Located right in the centre of Portsmouth Town Centre, just back for the Quay and right in the hub of it all, setting the event at the Guildhall makes perfect sense but there’s plenty of locations in this historic city that could have held Portsmouth Comic Con. Why do you think the Guildhall is the perfect venue for this show?
Tripwire: The Guildhall is quite simply one of the best and most versatile venues in the country. It lends itself to many different sorts of live events and can cater to a cross-section of audiences. Also, the staff have vast experience in event planning and hosting, putting the venue firmly on the map.
AEISD: I’m a Southampton lad originally, so even I know that Pompy isn’t exactly known for its explosion of pop culture! Why do you think Portsmouth needs a show of this kind?
Tripwire: The north of England is well-served by the likes of Thought Bubble and The Lakes, but the south of England lacks a definitive comics and genre show that is immersive, international and professional to the level of the shows we mentioned. Additionally, because of its proximity to major metropolitan areas, it has a tremendous catchment area. Portsmouth, and the Guildhall also have their place in pop culture.
AEISD: I’ll take your word for it! For the layman off the street, what do you feel is the general remit of Portsmouth Comic Con, in a nutshell?
Tripwire: The general remit is to provide a quality, interactive experience for dedicated aficionados and those with a passing interest. We hope to replicate the American style of convention with a more British twist.
AEISD: Bold ambition, but there’s a lot of shows trying the same. What do you feel is unique about Portsmouth Comic Con?
Tripwire: The quality of the guests and the attention to detail means that this will have all the hallmarks of a classic show but with a more relaxed flavour. Also, the involvement of the university, which happens to be on our doorstep, will add another dimension to the event.
AEISD: What experience do you feel you want to give every convention goer who attends the show?
Tripwire: We hope that the convention goer will get to experience all facets of the comics experience and will walk away having gained something from the show as well as being entertained.
AEISD: A convention in 2018 can’t exist on the basics alone. What else will be on offer at the show for visitors who have interests that intersect with comics?
Tripwire: We have secured the Gosport Steampunk Society, who will be hosting various events in the basement of the venue and there will also be a cosplay competition with prizes for the winner.
AEISD: Which guests are you most proud of attracting to this debut show?
Tripwire: We are proud of all of our guests but if we had to choose, we would pick Louise and Walter Simonson, as they haven’t crossed the water for a show in a decade. We have tried to reflect the diversity of the current comics industry in our line-up.
AEISD: Impressive. And with such guests on the invite list, you’re obviously looking to really make your mark on the convention scene here in the UK. How much do you see this as setting out your stall for future shows?
Tripwire: Obviously we are ambitious and plans are already afoot for a second show where we can expand on this initial outing. We are starting as we mean to go in and we intend this to be a regular fixture in the UK convention calendar.
I’m not going to lie, I have a vested interest in the success of Portsmouth Comic Con, as 1. I want to see all comic cons in the UK succeed and flourish, as that can only be good for not only the fandom but also the creative industries themselves – feel the love, baby! – but also, 2. I have been invited down to Portsmouth Comic Con to host a number of their panels (details to come, closer to the date). I think it has the potential to become a major player in the UK convention circuit and I wish Portsmouth Guildhall, Joel and Andrew all the best.
With the high calibre of creative talent, panels, photo opportunities, quizzes, cosplay and interactive fun this convention has to offer, Portsmouth Comic Con promises to be one of the largest regional events of its kind, celebrating the art of comics, illustration and the worlds of TV and film.
Tickets for the show are now available, including an Early Bird offer, at http://portsmouthcomiccon.com/tickets/. And keep tabs on Portsmouth Comic Con by following our own Event Page for the show, as well as checking out the events official webpage and social media (Facebook and Twitter).