Comic Artist Alan Langford reports on the recent Portsmouth Comic Con, back after a two-year absence, as one of many creators there… All photos by Vernon Nash, with thanks to Portsmouth Comic Con
I have visited the Portsmouth Comic Con only once before, and that was as a visitor not an exhibitor, during those pre COVID-days, which seem like another world when we reflect on how uninhibited we were concerning our proximity to our fellow human beings.
I was thoroughly impressed, and made up my mind to hire a stall for the next one.
Well, as we all now know that ambition, due to the coronavirus pandemic, would have to be postponed for quite some time.
However, recently on the 7th and 8th May 2022, it was back – and its return was greeted with huge enthusiasm and excitement, from both visitors and traders alike.
Held at the Portsmouth Guildhall, the austere statue of Queen Victoria presided over the gathering of towering hairy Wookiees, Storm Troopers and Darth Vaders, amidst the throngs of visiting fans. Who were for the most part children accompanied by their fascinated parents and grandparents.
The kids appeared to be in a state of astonished euphoria, mouths agape staring at convincingly costumed super heroes dressed as Iron Man, Judge Dredd, Batman, Wonder Woman etc. These costumes looked totally authentic and must have cost their proud wearers a small fortune. Some of the realistically convincing weaponry had been devised by the wearers themselves, created on 3D printers in sections and glued together.
The Guildhall itself was completely taken over by the Comic Convention, room after room, floor after floor, with the basement exhibiting a stylish Steam Punk gathering of Victorian fashion enthusiast. With their costumes seamlessly wedded to burnished Gothic machinery, purposely resembling ingenuous antiquarian armour and prosthetics. Weird, but it works.
The upper floors were occupied by tightly positioned traders stalls promoting and selling their extraordinary products which included horrifying latex masks, fantastical costumes, mechanical props and of course the numerous comic stalls displaying old and new comic books.
One trader I recognised as Martin, who I had met at a previous Comic Con in Totton, about a year previously. Martin must have been collecting comics for decades, his display composed of clearly labelled divisions of various titles, some dating back to the 1960’s and earlier.
My stall was in a large carpeted marquee in the Guildhall grounds. I had to park outside the Guildhall entrance and carry my wares from my car with repeated trips to my allotted table. Fortunately, I was aided by a cheerful Scott, Barry Lumsden, who volunteered to give me a helping hand. Barry had that earnest friendliness typical of many of his nation.
He, like myself, is a self published illustrator and author promoting his Iron Wolf series, based on the archaic mythology of neolithic Scotland.
My son Joe arrived, and we set about decorating our table with signed prints, cards and my two books. My main product was my graphic novel The Secret of the Aesir, which had taken me almost three years to complete. My other publication was Welgora, a very condensed illustrated autobiography published by Little Knoll Press.
Fortunately Joe managed to demonstrate to his technophobic Dad how to use the Sum-Up device, which must have made a positive difference to our sales.
Some years ago, I had taken the prototype of my graphic novel, two portfolios of photocopies to a local comic con and met Marvel artists Paul Fry and his wife, Claire. I presented my bulging portfolios to them, explaining it was a project that I was working on.
Paul and Claire couldn’t have been more encouraging. They praised my artwork passionately and recommended a publisher. So, when I realised that they were part of the exclusive Artists Alley at the Portsmouth Comic Con, I decided to give them a copy of my graphic novel, in gratitude of their earnest encouragement. They recognised me instantly and were delighted that I had finally finished and published my book.
On the stall next to us, two young technical engineers had developed an Iron Man helmet that worked automatically at the push of remote controlled buttons, raising the visor and articulating the shape of the helmet. It looked completely convincing, as if it had come from the engineering work shops of the Stark Corporation.
Because Joe and I spent most of the time supervising our stall, taking it in turns to briefly visit the alternative exhibits and entertainment of the comic con, there must have been a great deal that we had not seen.
I’m afraid this review is limited to our view point as exhibitors. However judging from what we did see, the recent Portsmouth Comic Con was an extraordinary memorable and successful experience and I strongly recommend it. Even if you are not an ardent comic or fantasy enthusiast there should be enough there to stimulate the imaginations of almost anyone.
I’m genuinely looking forward to the next one.
• Alan is among many guests at Fighting Fantasy Fest on Saturday 3rd September 2022 University of West London
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