Originally named D-Con (as a contraction of Dundee Convention) it was run in DUSA by a group of university students from 2009 to 2011 when that original group graduated. In 2012 when a different group tried to continue the tradition under the same name, complaints from the original organisers lead to the 2012 event being subtly renamed from D-Con to Dee-Con. To prevent any issues in 2013 the event changed name again to Doj-Con, however 2014 saw the name revert back to Dee-Con which it has retained this year.
Dee-Con has always been separate from the university’s other comics event the Dundee Comics Day (which also had name changes in its earliest years, albeit non-acrimonious ones) which has traditionally run on the last Sunday in October. The Dundee Comics Day organisers added the smaller Dundee Comics Expo to their calendar in Easter 2013 but it was not held on the same day as that year’s Dee-Con and it had considerably fewer attendees that its more established cousin. 2014 saw the Dundee Comics Expo held on the same day as Dee-Con, though not in the same building, however 2015 saw the integration of the two events in a very packed DUSA building.
The overarching experience of Dee-Con this year is that it needs its name changed again – to Queue-Con. It was like this last year as well but if anything this year the queues were worse. Arriving 1.5 hours after the event opened there was still a short queue to get into the main doors. Once in you had the choice of joining the queue to go into the lower sales area or joining the queues on the stairs to go up. I went up to find the stairs queue lead to a shoulder-to-shoulder queue outside the upper sales area going in one direction to allow you join the shoulder-to-shoulder queue going in the opposite direction that would get you into that sales area, a sales area which from the outside was simply a mass of people who didn’t seem to be moving.
As we were to discover later, that queue was outside one of the talks rooms and was only separated from it by a glass door. With no microphones in the talks the guests were often drowned out by the noise coming through the closed door. As in previous years the majority of Dee-Con attendees showed little interest in the talks – one of the rooms had around 40 seats and was never full any time I was in or near it. Now part of the reason for the lack of interest was that the majority of the talks were about comics rather than the anime/manga/cosplay that Dee-Con is mainly about and it showed off the difference between those there for the main Dee-Con and those like me who were there for the Dundee Comics Expo section. Comics talks included writer John Ferguson on his Scottish superhero series Saltire; Montynero (above) on taking Death Sentence from a small press offering to a hardback book and an ongoing monthly series; Dundee lecturer Phillip Vaughan (below) on his new series for Aces Weekly, Bantah Six; Commando editor Calum Laird on the general problems of editing 104 issues a year and in particular dealing with non-English speaking artists; and writers John Richard Farman and Jim Alexander doing separate comics workshops.
Oddly the two talks rooms were scheduled so that they never started at the same time which in practice meant that if you wanted to hear Montynero you missed both John Ferguson and Jim Alexander’s separate talks (or you walked in/out half way through). That basic bad planning could have been easily resolved but all those queues are a much bigger problem.
Dee-Con is really a victim of its own success. It is free so it attracts a large crowd, yet a big part of the reason it is free is that it uses university facilities, namely the DUSA Student’s Union, a building that appears to have no great logic to its internal layout and which can cope with several hundred people through its doors but severely struggles with the several thousand that Dee-Con draws in. There was little joy for me trying to walk around the main part of Dee-Con this year, and yet outside through the ‘back door’ of the lower sales area was a marquee which was where I really wanted to go.
The majority of the Dundee Comics Expo sellers were in that marquee – that cool, bright, spacious marquee – yet nowhere in any of the pre-publicity, or the maps on the day, were attendees told that that was where the Expo sellers would be. Yet there was the university’s UniVerse publishing with their latest book Anthology Five, Dundee alumni Panels Comics with their new titles such as Sosmonaut the Cosmonaut, Kathryn Briggs (no relation I would add) with her painted Story(Cycle), George Lennox of Cult Empire Comics with his Vietnam Zombie Holocaust, as well as talks guests Montynero, John Richard Farman and Jim Alexander. I would have liked to have known beforehand that they were there, it would have severely reduced that fruitless queuing.
Anthology is the now annual publication which features the comic strip work of the students of the University of Dundee MLitt in Comics Studies and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) Animation, Graphic Design and Illustration course’s Comic Art and Graphic Novels module. Published by the university’s own UniVerse imprint, Anthology Five runs to 128 pages behind a Dan McDaid cover and features work by Cameron Mitchell, Aisling Larkin, Eva Strautkalne, Catriona Laird, Deian Georgiev, Robyn Glendinning, Helen Robinson, Paul Wilson, Magdalena Radoch, Victoria Stephen, Nathan Langridge, Letty Wilson, Rebecca Horner, Ewelina Mlodawska, Sarah Holliday, Adam Balson, Erin Keepers and Norrie Millar
As Dee-Con is run by the DJCAD students many featured in Anthology Five were there on the day. Catriona Laird had a table selling prints and her mini-comic entitled Tova and Christopher which featured a vignette of a boy meeting a dragon-like creature in the woods at night. Despite its small size and short length, as the initially hostile feel of the story warms into friendship, the art slowly warms from black and white wash to colour as the sun rises in this impressively realised tale.
Of course there is more to Dee-Con than just the half-day of sales tables, cosplay and talks, the evening is given over to an 18+ party, pub quizzes and dancing that emphasises the social aspect of the convention and its mainly young attendees. However as the sellers shut up shop old fogies like me just went home to get something to eat, put our feet up and watch the first episode of Thunderbirds Are Go on TV.
A cosplayer review of Dee-Con 2015 is here.