Yeah, not that this is eons after the fact or anything...
Whilst Pete was still living in Bristol, I went over with Glyn and Stella to visit. The convention's expanded to larger premises since last time I attended, and other changes have also been for the better. We also stuck around for Eurovision partying.
Hearing rumours, I took my increasingly battered copy of End Of The Road to the con in case Geoff Senior was around to add to its signatures whilst we were there (nope, although apparently he did turn up later.) Also on the list: to pick up Phonogram and maybe get it signed (since I'd read good things about it and seen the first issue online) and get a t-shirt I'd noticed another artist selling online. Two out of three ain't bad.
The "first [x] customers" goodie bags were fairly interesting, certainly topping the last time: a Red Seas hardback b&w graphic novel from the 2000AD stable about pirates, Free Comic Book Day editions of JLA and Transformers, Happy Meal size Hellboy Animated figures, a demo CD for City of Heroes / City of Villains, a sampler for Abaddon Books (generic teen gothic fantasy), book one out of three of something called On The Road To Perdition (some kind of Capone-era gangster GN set in America), issue 91 of the kids' magazine Toxic, and — something that made me unreasonably happy for a few minutes — a Green Lantern power ring. Two, in fact, so I was able to give one to Pete... along with various other things once I'd actually looked at the bag... other people have or will be getting most of the rest as random inclusions in trades. JLA #0 was a nice standalone overview issue, though, and I'd have kept the TF issue if I hadn't already got it (reprint of the movie prequel miniseries, first issue of four and also written to be nicely self-contained, something that's rare in most comics these days. #2-4 are much less so, but there was a lot of backstory to try to cram in which'd only be touched upon in the film itself, plus license-holder limitations on content.)
We were there early enough to get bags, and some people were still setting up. The nice lady at the Reed Comics stand, who was the first person I pestered for issues / a non-existent Phonogram trade — note to self: do basic research — mentioned it'd been a good party at the Eagle Awards the night before, which gets a brief write-up at Comicon... I'm sure there was something about the alternate awards at SBC as well, but it's not the Fool Britannia column that popped out of Google. Maybe I'm misremembering.
There was no sign of the people I was looking for, so I joined Glyn and Stella (Pete went off for breakfast as he hadn't booked tickets) in ambling around the hall in a spiral pattern. Lots of manga and a fair few small creator projects made a showing, though nothing much in the way of non-generics for the really small press stuff. Someone who I think had printed out postcards of their own art was handing them out as we walked in; I still have it somewhere and recall it being good art. A surprising number of people had come in costume, encouraged by free or reduced entry prices — a fair showing of stormtroopers (who people later got photos with) and one or two well-done comic character costumes, though it's a wonder the Batman didn't pass out...
...because it was really, really hot. As well acting as crucibles of germs, conventions mean that wearing anything thicker than a t-shirt is an extremely optimistic prospect. Though apparently the first person we noticed surrounded by medical helpers was a bit epileptic rather than just heat-fatigued.
I picked up some Transformers: Generations issues (5, 9, 12) — reprints of kitsch 80s stories with new Nick Roche covers. Find of the day was a reprint of Khronicles of Khaos from the pages of 2000AD, a lovely piss-taking painted art story I've liked since reading Pete's copy years ago. Eventually found the Devil's Panties table once it was up, and got a shirt with the design I was after plus a copy of Con Artists — strips about pirate friends of the artist, and by pirate I mean the Jolly Roger type from long before Pirates of the Caribbean and internet memes about ninja/robot/pirate/monkey stuff. I wasn't really bothered by hanging around to get stuff, but I think Glyn would happily have murdered the two talkative kids in the line in front of us and eventually went off to have a smoke in the car park — which is about the only place you can still smoke in Bristol train station. It's a bit odd hearing anecdotes you've read people make before in interviews, but Jennie's got the multi-tasking of group conversations, serving people and doing sketches for others more-or-less down to a fine art by now, and it's always nice to see US creators at UK cons.
Also picked up a couple of copies of the convention cover for issue three of the IDW TF movie prequel comic and got them signed, for messageboard-goers, and a spare of Infiltration #2 signed.
None of the stands had any copies of Phonogram, at all, which rather illustrates the difficulty smaller press titles have getting stocked; even when they're quite well-known. Did eventually stumble on the creator's stall, though I have no idea if it was the artist or writer manning it, and got a set of issues and free badge. Stella picked up various self-published comics and a book of Rob & Ducky... I just got around to googling the series and apparently its creator, James Redington, died suddenly in July at the way-too-damn-early age of 28. Shit.
Couple of tips for smaller-press creators: a vertically-mounted sign of some kind, even if it's a self-printed banner or a flag on a stick, would really increase visibility. And try to blag a friend to help people who want to buy stuff as, whilst listening to creator-fan conversations is fun, I'm sure a lot of other people wander away from the busier stalls. There isn't a lot of room to queue in a convention hall.
I will review Phonogram at some point, when I can do it justice. It deserves the plaudits.
We didn't stick around for any panels this time, and were out of there before lunch. Some photos (not mine) here if anyone's interested — Jesus, I photograph poorly...
More photos and such can be found at http://www.comicexpo.net/08lastyear.html ... as usual the Comic Expo site looks like it was assaulted by a sixteen-year-old web designer discovering GeoCities in the 90s, but it's functional.
Eurovision was unusually good, helped by Finland hosting and getting Apocalyptica and circus-type performers in for the half-time entertainment. It was good to see people, and Karen did Finnish food — which was remarkably tasty, lots of fish and eggs involved and even fish eggs — and's planning to do similar in 2008 with Serbian cuisine.
Notable entries were Ireland (who appeared to have sent a pub band to make damn sure they didn't have to host again and who were either out-of-tune or drunk, but fun), France (whimsical song, crazy drummer), Sweden (glam rock, would've been my pick to win), Hungary (very pro blues band), Russia (slutty Catholic schoolgirls), Finland (hard rock, but less interesting and more stilted than Lordi), Ukraine (going for the novelty and space-age transvestitism votes) and of course the UK (utterly moronic and cringeworthy pap — a lot of other countries seem to be taking Eurovision halfway seriously these days, while we send stuff like this.) I have MP3s from an Austrian TV broadcast if anyone wants, which generally sound better than the studio album.
Voting was no-surprises political block stuff, Western Europe getting little look-in, with Terry sounding more pissed bitter and tired this time around. I'm not sure what the attraction of the Serbian entry was, and even the fairly wide diaspora of the Serbian language would be unlikely to net that many non-rigged votes.
Bill Bailey for 2008, if not in Australia at the time: