Kev’s Comic Expo

The 2000AD panel at the Expo, which included an appearance by Tharg. Photo: David Baillie (no, not that David Bailey)

Kev Sutherland, who began the Bristol Comic Festival back in 1999 but is now better known for his comics workshops for schools and other organisations and his work with the Falsetto, kindly agreed to let us run his report on this year’s Comic Expo in Bristol.

For a very different view of the event, read David Baillie’s report on the main downthetubes web site

Firstly, I need to say I didn’t get to the Expo itself on Saturday at the Ramada Hotel – although I did get into the Small Press event at the Mercure. The main Expo itself which was sold out in advance so, according to the website, nobody was going to be able to turn up and get in on the door. I also hadn’t been sent an invitation as a guest, which I’d kind of got used to expecting (apart from enjoying 21 years in the business as a professional comic writer and artist, I was also the reason the Comic Expo takes place in Bristol in the first place, having created it as Comics 99 and run or co-run it until 2004).

Frankly, I couldn’t face the possible indignity of having to face a stranger at the front desk and run the risk of coming out with the phrase “don’t you know who I am?” so I gave the daytime event a miss.

The impression I got at the bar that evening was that I hadn’t missed much. The photos of the exhibitors seemed to be familiar publishers from the previous year, but fewer in number. The most exciting material had always been on the Small Press tables, and those I’d already enjoyed round the corner at the Mercure. But it seems that the down-sizing of the event, losing (through circumstances beyond the organisers’ control) the Empire & Commonwealth Museum hall has had a very damaging effect. Without the bulk of traffic that comes with an event open to browsers, and without the Small Press benefiting from proximity to the big boys and vice versa, most people sold less stuff. I wait to be corrected on this, but certainly every person I spoke to who was trying to sell their wares sold less of them that at any previous Bristol show.

[Editor’s note: Some small press publishers such as Orang Utan Comics report they sold more of their books than at any other past Expo]

Other items, like the Charity Art Auction and Awards ceremony, were also missing, but maybe I’m the only one who thought they were needed in the first place.

In terms of comic finds I bought (or was given) a few comics, the very best of which was Laura Howell’s Tales From The Crust: she’s a genius of whose talent I am actually jealous. The Goodman Brothers’ Square Eyed Stories 22 and The Banal Pig Landscape Anthology came a close second, the rest were all brilliant – because all comics are in some way or another.

Anyway, as always, the Saturday night’s drinkathon with fellow comics professionals proved the high point and this year, apart from the aforementioned brief visit to the Small Press event, comprised my entire con. I spoke drunkenly and endlessly with far too many people to recount. Possibly my favourite conversations were with Simon Bisley (possibly the first time we’ve ever spoken, what a brilliant bloke) and Glenn Fabry (one of those very drunken “you’re my best mate” conversations that everybody loves), and I confess I got a little buzz from those people who would insist on mentioning how much better it was in my day (selective memory is a great thing, much of my event-running left a lot to be desired).

As Britain’s longest-running annual UK comic convention, which has taken place in Bristol since 1999, the fact that this was the event’s 10th anniversary, this sadly went uncelebrated. There’s also more bad news: the continuing poor economic climate means next year’s event will not have the benefit of being in the Commonwealth Museum hall, either.

I’d imagine would this year’s exhibitors who might think twice about paying for a table again if they face the prospect of such low sales, effectively making the Expo more of a mini-con than a Con, I fear.

It seems our ambitious plans to make Bristol as big and expansive, perhaps as impressive as the French Angouleme Festival, are all over. Birmingham, the baton passes to you…

• You can comment on this article by clicking the “Comment” button below or joining in with the chat on the downthetubes forum (membership required)

• The next Comic Expo will take place 22 – 23rd May 2010 at both the Ramada and Mecure hotels, Bristol
Official Web Site

• More Expo Rports

For a very different view of the event, read David Baillie’s report on the main downthetubes web site

Cheryl Morgan
Video interview from Bristol of Geek Syndicate by Cheryl Morgan –
Some David V for Vendetta Lloyd artwork:
• Comic Expo Bristol song by The Socks:
Insomnia Publishing:
In the Red Eye Of The Storm


Scattering of pictures from the Bristol Comic Con by Danacea
Mike McKone sketching Blink at Bristol
Andie Tong sketching at Bristol

The Huzzah! artists say hello
Jock sketching for Ang

Categories: Events

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6 replies

  1. I think kev is remembering his own organisation of the event through rose coloured glasses although he deserves great credit for bringing the event to my home town.

    Every year Mike Alwood does his best to put on a good show and this year was no exeption. Dan Didio panels alone were worth the entrance fee.

    The reduced size was a realistic reaction to economic circumstances and did’t detract from what is always one of the high points of my year.

    I’d encourage anyone thinking of attending next year to do so you won’t be disappointed.

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