Saturday, 9 May 2009

Small Press Expo 2009

Anyone who's been following the news on the UK comics convention scene will be aware that the regular Bristol International Comic Expo had to relocate to a much smaller location this year (the Ramada hotel) and that as a result, not only were the number of exhibitors much reduced, but also the number of attendees. Pre-order tickets were rapidly sold out, and there were no tickets available to buy on the door.

A lot of the Small Press publishers who make up a significant proportion of the regular Bristol exhbitors were left out in the cold, until Fallen Angel Media stepped in to set up SPExpo (in partnership with BICE) at the nearby Holland Mercure hotel. As a result, Zip Gun Comics, a lot of regulars and some new faces were back in the convention game, at least for one day.

SPExpo 2009

The Ramada hotel bar was practically deserted on Friday night, compared to previous years. There were several people around, but it wasn't a dense wall of noise and comics folks (fans and creators).

SPExpo, I think, had the nicer venue. The Forest suite was a nice big, bright room on the top floor of the hotel. The aisles were spacious and there were windows. We also had proper, laminated lanyards instead of the BICE paper tickets. What we didn't have was the foot traffic. The day was quiet compared to other years in the big hall of the Train Shed.

Compared to previous years, sales seemed slow. Passersby seemed rare, we didn't see many of our regular customers and there were very few families with children (I was also suprised at the distinct lack of Rorshachs wandering around). Part of the appeal of the previous Bristol events is that it is open to the public and many of the attendees are passersby who aren't necessarily comics fans. Maybe they're there for Doctor Who or the Beano, but they also get a chance to look around the rest of the UK comics scene, including all of us in the Small Press. While SPExpo had tickets available on the door, the restriction on BICE tickets may have put many regular attendees off coming altogether.

The Saturday night Ramada bar was back to its usual self. The bar staff were even in costume, including 2 Iron Men, a Joker, a Cowgirl and Indian, and a female-to-male crossdressing Pirate (with mustache and drawn-on hairy chest). Sadly, I didn't take photos. We saw the Joker delivering a tray of food upstairs and thought he was just a costumed fan taking his dinner back to his room until we saw him behind the bar. We amused ourselves by imagining the reaction of a regular hotel guest on finding their room service being delivered by an overly-theatrical psycopath.

Sunday was a strange day for us. We didn't have to get up early and we didn't have the refuge of a table to retreat behind. BICE was so small this year that I'd seen all of it I wanted to see on my flying visits on Saturday. I'm very much of the alt/indy/small press side so the 2000AD/DC/Marvel artists didn't really appeal to me that much.

So on Sunday afternoon, we decided to leave much earlier than we normally would, especially as there would be several changes to make on the way back.

So that was our Bristol convention for this year. Good in some ways, but disappointing in others. Time to prepare for the next one.