Back in 2014, when this site was still young and I was just introducing myself to you all, I decided that I would share the first misadventures of a collective that I was part of: a gaggle of giddy nerds from across t’pond, known as the SDCC UK Attendees Group. This post showed that there were people out there that were willing to rack up quite the air miles, simply to bask in the glow of Nerdvana… and create some Anglo-American Special Relationships of our own.
(You can read about those heady days, here: while I might repeat some of it hear, I do go into a bit more detail about that initial spark of this amazing collective of people.)
The Group, back then, was some two hundred strong, all coming together and bonding in a way that I simply couldn’t have envisaged when I put the thing online, late on a Wednesday evening, on a whim in 2011. Now, in 2016, we number three hundred members and, while that may not seem like an incremental increase from when the Group started, you may have to take a couple of things into consideration.
Firstly, you have to remember that the UK convention scene has grown exponentially over the last few years, all of them looking towards the modern North American model and adopting and adapting it to their own. And, with the same financial constraints on creatives as much as attendees, many talents from this side of the world are making sure that events here are as worthwhile as their U.S. brethren. Thought Bubble, Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, London Super Comic Convention, London Film & Comic Con, NICE, the many MCM Expo shows held up and down the country… The options grow and grow every year, meaning that, once you’ve had your SDCC hit, you can – at a very big push – feed that fix at home.
But mostly, it’s bloody hard to attend San Diego Comic-Con when you’re coming from abroad. The flights, which are extortionate. The finding of somewhere to stay, which isn’t going to bankrupt us. The value of the pound, which hurts more and more with every passing year… It’s no wonder that we have had members join the Group, with the intention of crossing of SDCC from their bucket list and making the trip a once-in-a-lifetime event.
And then there are the lunatics amongst us, with the itch well and truly under our skin, seemingly willing to bankrupt ourselves to try and make it a regular affair. But let’s not talk about my crushingly depressing level of debt right now – let’s concentrate on the positive!
All of which means that, for the most part, we do have a revolving door of Group Members – some parting ways as they recall the happy memories of SDCC’s gone by and those joining to take the insights and advice that we can share to make the upcoming journey that much easier.
This actually has the benefit of making the SDCC UK Attendees meetups all that more interesting in that, while there are the afore-mentioned hardcore that it’s great to catch up with, the gatherings are also made up of plenty of fresh blood, many meeting everyone face-to-face for the first time. It’s quite the adrenaline rush, walking out into the Hilton Gaslamp Firepit and bonding with a whole bunch of strangers you call ‘family’.
It’s not like we can miss each other, though – the lobster-pink tans of Brits, fresh off the plane and getting acquainted with the Californian climate, is pretty easy to spot. And then there are the t-shirts and hoodies that a large number of us wear, acting as markers to see each other in the crowds and as yearly souvenirs of our trip. And boy, have we spoiled ourselves rotten with the artwork of these things.
As you may recall, I cheekily adapted the SDCC logo for the Group when I set it up, firing up Photoshop and exchanging the ‘eye’ for that of a true UK comics icon: Judge Dredd. It was rushed, it was there almost as a placeholder and it became quickly adopted as the default logo for the Group. Fair enough: just make sure 2000AD never finds out, right?
(For the record, they are aware of what I did, as are Comic-Con International. Our unspoken agreement? Just keep it between ourselves, okay?)
This was back in 2011, for the 2012 Comic-Con. A number of the Group took it upon themselves to have the logo printed up on tees, something which utterly blew me away when I saw a bunch of us parading them around San Diego that summer. For 2013, though, I thought I’d take the t-shirts and the logo up a notch, approaching Leigh Gallagher (2000AD) to provide us with an original piece that we could use as an ‘icon for the year’, based on a Brit-relevant character as voted for by the Group. What came out of that was a truly STUNNING piece which hangs on my wall to this day: a John Constantine headshot which I think of whenever I think of the characyter, it perfectly sums up the playfulness and the darkness of Constantine. It’s amazing.
But it only got better from there. After the 2013 convention, I got to talking to award-winning artist Sean Phillips (HELLBLAZER, THE FADE OUT) on social media; intrigued by our proposition and tickled by the challenge of drawing just a headshot of our chosen character for 2014 – X-Men’s Professor X* – Sean delivered what I later found out was his very first work done digitally. With the psychic bolts emanating from that bald pate and with a steely piercing stare to camera, it’s distinctively Professor Xavier and it’s something I really need to get printed up on high-grade paper and have the man sign someday.
(* Yes, I’m fully aware that Professor X is a New Yorker, born and bred – the Brit connection here, of course, being the actors that have played him in the films: Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy.)
How the hell were we going to top that?! The character chosen by the Group for the 2015 logo was Gandalf, namely Sir Ian McKellen‘s portrayal of the wizard for Peter Jackson‘s LORD OF THE RINGS films. Now, that’s tough – taking this to an artist with the restrictions of effectively doing a portrait piece was going to be hard.
What did we get? We got a MIND-BLOWINGLY gorgeous piece, created for us by MARINEMAN/SUPERGIRL/DEADPOOL artist, Ian Churchill, who I met at London Super Comic Convention that year. Not only did he provide what I think is a beautiful rendition of McKellen for us to use, the man also then raffled off the original artwork within the Group to raise money for his chosen charity – Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw) – which was a wonderful touch. Basically, on this one, everyone was a winner.
What logo have we got planned for 2016? Watch this space.