The other weekend saw the first ICE Birmingham event – filling the long-vacant gap of a solid Birmingham comics show. It’s certainly been the first time since 2011 that I’ve sold my sequential wares in the city. ICE was a single-day event and took place at the very smart and modern Studio right in the centre. Two floors of this were given over to guests and exhibitors and lower in the building there was a large related conference taking place called Comics Uncovered – where professionals and aspiring professionals were invited to seminars, workshops and one-on-one meetings with comics bods.
There were plenty of pro comic creators from both the big publishing companies and the smallest publishers, including Roland Boschi, Mike Collins, Rufus Dayglo and Steve Rude, to name but a few, with the aim of exposing visitors to a wide variety of comics from the most exciting new superheroes to the coolest indy and small press books.
One of the main highlights of a con for me is chinwagging with fellow sellers. My chin wags a fair bit. The line-up of exhibitors there was utterly stunning including glowing comics ninja Nich Angell, professional octopus Mike Garley with artist of Kill Screen (reviewed last month) Josh Sherwell, loud-jacketed Time Bomb publisher Steve Tanner debuting the deliciously square Longship graphic novel, enthusiastic horrorhounds Hellbound Media, that ever-lovin’ Razarhawk duo Dani & Ian, Futurequake Press chap and comics guru Bolt-01, the rarely spotted and hyper-productive Neil McClements with David “The Lloyd” Lloyd behind the Aces Weekly table and the award-winning Jim Alexander of Planet Jimbot.
ICE exhibitor favourites from the impartial and mysterious Psychedelic Journal co-editor Geoffery Crescent include the brilliant Constance Armitage, the hilarious David O’Connell and the amazing Anastasia Catris.
On the slightly less self-published end of the spectrum was Master Aldous of the everglorious Cinebooks table (my wallet weeps in its presence) and the real buzzy book of the con for me was the huuuge hardback World War One anthology To End All Wars from Soaring Penguin which features many of the great and glorious of the small press and much that is incredible – they also had a handsome and massive volume of Regis Logel’s collected Peter Pan albums which was…. oh it was smashing. With Soaring Penguin right next to Cinebooks I feared for the punters. I feared for their wallets.
However, the effect of the busy-but-inclusive conference downstairs meant that very few attendees ventured up and there were sadly not many pure convention punters so for the majority of the day the rooms were decidedly underpopulated. A sign on the door promised a discount for cosplayers but I saw only two at the whole event which was a bit of a shock especially after LFCC. The few punters we did see were remarkably engaged and lovely but the last few hours of the day were as dry as a bone which was a real shame – I collected one-word con reviews from some fellow exhibitors and I received such sentiments as “sparse” and (most hauntingly) “bereft”.
It’s hard to fault organiser Shane Chebsey who was a refreshingly involved convention figurehead – rushing about the shop and making regular announcements. He has since promised more involved advertising for a hopefully greater turn-out next year (dates already up!) and I hope it works as the attendees and guests seemed genuinely enthused for this potential regular Birmingham fixture.
• The next International Comic Expo will take place on Saturday 5th September 2015. Booking Information here – until 30th September 2014 you have the chance to buy 2015 tickets at 2014 prices and also the first 150 of you will get free goodie bags exceeding the value of your tickets
Owen Watts is a small press editor, artist and colourist. He currently co-edits The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel – a twice-yearly small press anthology featuring over 15 different emerging creators every issue. He has recently helped colour Ben Dickson & Gavin Mitchell’s Santa Claus vs. The Nazis for Aces Weekly which is due out as a single volume with Borderline Press later in 2014. He also runs the 2000 AD forum art competition, reviews small press comics and becomes a hippo every second Thursday.