An Embarrassment of Riches: A forward look at Comic Conventions of 2016

We are already seeing a surge in convention activity for next year as teams around the country begin to prepare their conventions – which should really come as no surprise to many event organisers, whose planning for their next comics happening begins even before their current one ends.

When I was so much younger than I am now, I would be green with envy at the mere mention of a convention for anything. And the odd mention of these events in the few US comics that I had read filled me with wonder at what could they be like and what treasures would they hold?

Events such as signings were scarce on the ground in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, but some enterprising comic shop owners would organise the marts and bring in a mate or two to sign a few comics or even just to chat with the buyers at each mart. I know that my first event was the Revolver signing at the Science Fiction Bookshop in Edinburgh in the summer of 1990.

Surprisingly, that also appears to have been the year of the first sucessful comic convention in Scotland. Looking through the internet and chatting to my sources, we did have Eisnercon before this, but it looks like that was more limited to the guys in the business with only a few fans knowing about it. Which is a shame as it looked exactly like the kind of event I would have loved to have attended in 1986.

The Glasgow Comics Art Convention seems to have been born out of Glasgow being selected as the European City of Culture in 1990, and some at the United Kingdom Comic Art Convention (UKCAC) saw it as a chance to raise their profile and maybe make a profit as well. Whatever the reason, Scotland got its’ first full blown comic convention and it looks like it lasted a few years – so well done guys. If I’d been living in Scotland then I’m sure I would have attended.

Jim Baikie 1968

However, if I widen my remit and examine comic conventions in the UK, I find that there has been a comic convention annually in the UK since the year of my birth. The first British Comic Convention was in Birmingham and was organised by Phil Clarke in 1968. Looking through the organisers of this convention through the years, it reads like a who’s who of comic creators and artists! And the UK convention scene has evolved through being the British Comic Con to UKCAC to the Comic Expo that is currently in Bristol and has had some events spin off from these. I even managed to attend one or two of these such as the 1997 UKCAC which celebrated 20 years of 2000AD, Dredd-Con in Oxford and a couple of Comic Expos in Bristol.

Fast forward to 2013 and once again living in Scotland, I was pleased to find two events that I could and would look forward to attending. The first one was Glasgow Comic Con which I was alerted to through social media. And considering that the legend that is Carlos Ezquerra was attending, there was no way I was going to miss this one! The other was the Dundee Comics Day and I have linked to the article that my friend Jeremy Briggs wrote about the day. Good thing too, as I was far too busy losing decades as I got to meet and talk with Ian Kennedy. And I am hard pushed to remember anything apart from I got to meet Ian Kennedy!

In 2014, we had the inaugural Edinburgh Comic Con that sputtered more than it fizzed and the MCM Expo which sorted out its Control of Entry issues which had plagued it in 2013. DeeCon continued to grow to such an extent that the event needed extra floorspace. And this was all while my wife and I ignored any events happening south of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

In 2015, we had planned to attend five events, DeeCon, Granite City Comic Con, Edinburgh Comic Con, Glasgow Comic Con and Dundee Comics Day. But as a brother of mine hit a milestone birthday and I had not seen all my brothers together for over 2 years, that had to take precedence over old Aberdeen. We had hoped to attend the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, but I will leave our esteemed editor and Jeremy to attend that festival and make me jealous of all the panels, displays and exhibitions that I will miss. And this is not including the 60 plus other events that have been scheduled for 2015. A fuller but not exhaustive listing can be found at the Comic Conventions 2015 website – and of course we also document comic happenings on our own calendar here on downthetubes.

And even though, we are only in August 2015, I am in shock at how many events are already planned for Scotland alone in 2016. Here’s a run down of those that we know of already:

27 – 28 February 2016: Capital Sci Fi Con

5 March 2016: Dunfermline Comic Con

2 – 3 April 2016: Edinburgh Comic Con

TBC April 2016: DeeCon

29 April – 2 May 2016: Granite City Comic Con

2 – 3 July 2016: Glasgow Comic Con

TBC August 2016: Film and Comic Con Glasgow

TBC September 2016: Inver-Con 2015 (I-Con)

TBC September 2016: Moniaive Comic Festival

TBC September 2016: MCM Scotland Comic Con

TBC October 2016: Dundee Comics Day

As a fan, I am over the moon at the amount of opportunities I will have to meet so many of the artists and writers. But I can already feel my wallet wincing as I work out how many miles I am going to have to drive, let alone the cost of so many family tickets.

And I dread saying it, but I am beginning to think with events starting in February with True Believers Comic Festival at Cheltenham and running until December with the Wigan Comic Con, with over 70 events in between, that we could be reaching saturation point in the UK market. I hope that all these events continue to grow, but for once I am less than my usually exuberantly optimistic self when it comes to comics regarding the longevity of all these events.

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