Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Manchester Comic-Con: Bigger & Better!

Outside the Manchester (G-Mex) Central venue
Blimey that was good! Accent UK are all smiles after another incredible comics weekend, this time on 'home turf' at the MCM Manchester Comic-Con! This was the 4th show here, the first over two days and again attendance records were broken, despite Saturday's poor weather. Local paper, the Manchester Evening News reports that just under 40,000 people attended, 23,000 the first day and 15,000 the next which I think is double last year, justifying the move to two days.

The new signing area, taking queues away from the main hall
With more room for impressive costume displays
The new chillout & catering area

Inside there was a noticeable difference to previous shows as the event now extended into Manchester Central's conference facilities rather than just the distinctive railway shed. This provided extra space for seating, catering and a separate hall for media signings, props and costume displays, effectively moving the queueing areas away from the main hall. There were still bottlenecks here and there but the movement was generally comfortable and manageable, not something you could have said about previous years, so a major improvement.

The rain didn't dampen the crowds too much

There were still some problems 'outside' with Saturday's pay on the door entry taking up to 4 hours to enter, in the rain! After my own experiences in London last weekend, those poor folk had my sympathies and admiration for sticking it out. In contrast to London though, come 4pm, the event organiser's starting letting those who had waited so long in for free so at least they got to enjoy the last 2 hours of the show. This seemed to help keep tensions down and I heard little complaints from those I spoke to.

Whatever ticketing problems that there were seem to have been resolved on the Sunday with people quoting only minimal queueing times, so well done to the organiser's for taken steps to ensure a smooth entry to the show.

Inside the main hall

And what of the show you ask? well once inside it was the usual MCM explosion of colour, costumes, displays, gaming, manga, anime, movie props, special guests and more. This time though it was less frantic given the extended floor area, making for a more enjoyable experience all round.
Col & Dave strike the obligatory table pose

Gary strikes a pose - note WesterNoir banner & Jemma behind!

Of course Dave and I spent most of the time behind the Accent UK table in the comic village but managed our usual wandering to catch up with friends and fellow exhibitors. This was easier on the Saturday when team Accent UK was complemented by top artist and salesmen Gary Crutchley, (read his own report Manchester here), who is always a delight to spend time with and of course Scott and Jemma, fresh from their Glasgow stint.

Steve Tanner & Colin's turn to pose

We had been joined this trip by Steve Tanner of Time Bomb Comics, making his regular sortie North for the show and had a decent chance to spend time together rather than the usual short 'snatched' conversations we usually have. It was a real delight to catch up with Steve and share thoughts, experiences and ideas on the UK comic scene - not sure Dave and I are quite ready to share Steve's taste in loud shirts though! Steve and Time Bomb have some exciting plans ahead including the imminent launch of Longship at the forthcoming Birmingham ICE show, (which sadly commitments mean we can't attend), so be sure to keep a lookout for them.

Scott & Jemma take their usual turn at the table

Very good to also catch up with show regulars, Jeremy Biggs, David and Art Goodman, John Maybury, Siobhan Hillman, Adam Cadwell, Dave Bulmer, Abby Ryder, Lyndon White, Rudra Purkayastha and the ever busy Jenika Ioffreda - this was something like her 14th show of the year compared to our 7th! Also pleased to chat to 'longtimer's' Martin Eden (of Spandex and O-Men fame) and Laura Howell (of Beano and Gilbert & Sullivan fame!) whom we'd not seen for a long time. Laura was actually one of our table neighbours and its always nice to see a familiar face, on the 'other' side we'd the talented Jack Baker and Tom Stephens who I don't think I'd met before but they've made a few appearances since making their comic debuts in the last year or two. That's whats often good about the MCM Comic Village layouts that you meet new people and discover new comics even when you're not able to escape your table!

One familiar face was that of Barry 'Baz' Renshaw and his family. Baz, as some may recall, was along with Dave and I, the founder of Accent UK back in the day and of course the driving force behind the indie comic press magazine Red Eye. It was therefore particularly good to catch up with him and hear about his own comic plans which we wish him well with.

Baz & daughter Amy enjoying the show

Cap & friends dropped by

This guy talked & walked!

These were a great group of cool steampunk cosplayers

Sales-wise, the extra floorspace and duration of the show meant for a more relaxed affair with a steady flow of customers to the Accent UK table, some new, some returning and many great comments on the books. Robots, Zulu (again, last couple of packs!) and Dave's Strange Times sold out and all four issues of WesterNoir proved very popular, (as did Gary's sketches!). Thankfully though the recent pattern of these shows was repeated with the whole of our back list receiving interest so all books including old favourites, Wolfmen and Man of Glass enjoying decent sales. Adding up afterwards we were pleasantly surprised to find that MCM Manchester was indeed bigger and better with overall figures surprisingly rivalling that of the recent London show!

We seem to be enjoying a bit of a purple patch at the moment but being cautious chaps we won't get too excited just yet.We are now though having a short break from exhibiting with family and other commitments meaning no more shows until September when we have a very special trip indeed lined up, watch this space!

You will buy Accent UK comics!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

London Film & Comic Con (sort of) report!

Now for the show that wasn't, the London Film and Comic Con! Accent UK didn't have a table for the show but Scott wanted to visit it and I was intrigued to see a show from the punter's side, something I've not done for gosh, maybe 12+ years!.  Well I'm sorry that I can't tell you anything about the show as we didn't get in! This is despite setting off at 7 in the morning from Manchester, and queueing at the Earl's Court venue for 3.5 hours!

The LFCC queue about 2 hours in! The folk on the left are in the same queue!
The same queue looking behind us - snaking all the way behind Earls Court and back again, don't forget that the folk on the right are in the same queue and theres more people behind them yet! 

There were huge, huge queue's and with the advance pre-paid tickets the venue was virtually full as soon as the doors opened. Of course there was no information to tell you this it was only after 2.5 hours or so that rumours started to spread that the venue had closed its doors for health & safety reasons and were now operating on a "one in one out" policy! The organisers had gone to ground and there was no way of confirming the rumour and in the meantime the queue behind us had grown to gargantuan proportions, all of this in the baking heat of one of the hottest days of the year!

2 1/2 hrs in, towards the front of Earls Court but not even 1/2 way in the queue - note folks still arriving on the left!

Well, Scott zipped off for some much needed water and did some investigating to discover that we were no better that maybe halfway in the queue and likely faced another 2 hours to maybe get in, that was enough for us so we finally did the sensible thing and gave up. Not before I should add, our very good friend Chris, (who was helping at Lucky Target's table inside) collecting and coming outside to deliver Scott's pre-ordered Stan Lee funko figure which was one of our main reasons for visiting.
The Q around 2pm just as we'd had enough
The same Q behind us and stretching at least 2 1/2 hrs behind!

The show was attended by Excelsior himself, Mr Stan Lee, in his last European show and this together with a huge list of Dr Who and media stars had caused the huge turnout and apparently caught the organisers on the hop, not helped by their own website encouraging people to turn up on the day as tickets would be available!

And it was one of the hottest days of the year with no refreshments available !

There's already been quite a bit of reportage on this with Bleeding Cool having a video report of the queue and chaos and The Beat having their own report and there are numerous horror stories if you search online. Needless to say there's definite lessons to be learned and although I didn't get to experience the show I can now sympathise with punters who have queued at shows we've exhibited at in the past and hope all was worth it once you got inside.

Photo of Scott to prove we were there

Having said that, Scott and I were determined not to let it spoil our day too much and in between catching up with Chris, made a wee visit to the nearby Natural History Museum and back into town to visit Accent UK comic stockists Orbital Comics, chatting with Camila and Chris and a wizz round a few other places before having a well deserved burger n pint before travelling home.

Happy to see Chris and head off for a cup of tea, 3 1/2 hrs in and not setting foot in the venue!

Thankfully there's not much travelling involved for us next week, making our third appearance at the extended MCM Manchester Comic-Con, which promises to be another well attended event. Its just been previewed in a full page spread in our local Manchester Evening News paper and online, so we'll see. Hopefully the queues will be manageable for all concerned and like our trips to Belfast and Glasgow be a worthwhile one for comics?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Glasgow Comic-Con!

Hannah Berry's Glasgow Comic-Con artwork

Glasgow Comic-Con was a great excuse for us to make a family weekend of it with several relatives travelling from other parts of Scotland for a get together for Mrs M's birthday and a great time we had too. Dave's prompt show report is here, we were again bowled over by our reception, with the Dundee shows and last year's MCM Glasgow, this was now our 4th Scottish show, but easily the biggest in terms of comics hungry fans. Sales were steady throughout the first day and very healthy the second resulting in only a handful behind the near-record Belfast figure, so pretty chuffed. 

A view of the CCA and prominent Accent UK table!
And from above, note no Col or Dave!

The Glasgow comic-con in its wonderful quirky arts centre setting had a great vibe and atmosphere to it and again folk were so friendly with most new to our books. My limited Zulu packs again sold out on the first day as they had also done in Belfast (and London and Birmingham before!), leaving me with a dilemma whether to carry on selling the last 1/2 dozen copies I hold or to keep these for posterity. I'm chuffed they've still found an audience but desperate to complete something new.....In fact all books sold well in Glasgow as they have in fairness at all recent shows. Its gratifying that the quality of even the older books still stands up and attracts people.

GCC crew and organisers Ish & Sha model the very creepy 'Laptop Guy' dummy eek!

We were delighted to catch up with guests and old friends Leah Moore and John Reppion at the show along with the likes of Jim Alexander, Ellie Winter, Ed Murphy, Sumyra and Darren of Lucky Target Comics, Daryl Cunningham, the delightful Hannah Berry, Owen Johnson, Guillermo Ortego, the Dundee Uni crowd and many more!

Adam and Scott man the stand

The show was spread around three local sites and across three floors of the main CCA and from past experience of 'split-venue' shows we were a bit concerned but amazingly (to us!) this actually enhanced rather than hindered the show. There were few crowd bottlenecks, the talks (and queues) were well attended and managed and there was plenty going on for punters to wander about or to sit, chill and grab a coffee or beer, the perfect comic show really!

The CCA's bar, cafe and guest signing area - can you spot Gail Simone & Howard Chaykin?

An ariel view of the guest signing area, now also featuring Peter Milligan & Erik Larsen!

From an economical point of view, the tables weren't cheap but the crowd, while only a fraction of the MCM ones, were serious comic fans, keen for new discoveries and happy to buy books. One particularly fine fellow we'd spoken to on the Saturday duly kept his promise to return on the Sunday and bought virtually our whole range of books! It was just that type of show and also one where when going for a wee wander you'd bump into someone and have a chat as you went along, something you can't really do at the big bustling shows. I'd almost go so far to say that it had the same relaxed, vibrant atmosphere as we enjoy on our Danish trips, high praise indeed!

The West's about to team tag the Mathieson's!

Oh and the reason Dave and I managed to wander about was that for a little while on the Saturday we were able to leave Scott, Adam and Jemma in charge and very capable they were too. The next generation of Accent UK is shaping up nicely I'd say, giving us older fella's a deserved rest!

A rare sight - all Mathieson Men manning the Accent UK table!

Despite the wandering I sadly didn't really buy much, (I usually do my buying on the Sunday and the kids had gone by then - no stamina!), but my one must buy was Sally Heathcote:Suffragette!  I'd been holding off buying this until I got the chance to catch one of the talented creators and luckily for me, artist Kate Charlesworth was there and what a lovely lady she was too, very funny and down to earth. She was signing with top Scottish crime writer (and Girl with Dragon Tattoo graphic novel adaptation) Denise Mina. The pair were obviously good friends, enjoying each others company and a riot to chat too. I'm halfway through Sally Heatchcote and really enjoying it, historical action well done, just my cup of tea! (check out this great new interview with Kate by Padraig O'Mealoid).

Denise Mina and Kate Charlesworth share a joke

So congratulations to Sha, Mark, Jack, Ish and all the Glasgow Comic-Con crew for a great show and one, along with MCM Belfast we hope to return to next time.

GCC crew member Jeremy who Dave & I stared at all w/e, given his uncanny resemblance to old friend, Phoenix artist Neil Cameron - we made poor Jeremy draw a dinosaur to prove that he finally wasn't Neil!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Belfast 'catch up' comic report

Okay been busy, busy these last few weeks and sadly no room to properly catch up with many of the fun things we've been up to, so I'll stick to the recent comic shows attended, starting with Belfast!

A Belfast view from City Hall

The trip for the new MCM show there was amazing, I didn't expect Belfast to be such a great wee city nor the people to be so friendly and really into their comics. It's strange as, despite being fairly well travelled, Belfast just wasn't on my radar at all and if it wasn't for the MCM show I doubt I'd ever think about visiting. That's me being honest as growing up in the 70's you have a negative view of the place which, now having been there, I feel really guilty about. I'm sure, like most cities, it still has problems but don't let that put you off visiting its got much to offer.
Colin n Dave try to hide the fact they'd not packed the AUK banner!

Dave, as always, did a timely report on the show here, so I'll just add that, yes we did have fantastic sales, second only to the recent MCM London, so were pleased to discover a new audience. Special mentions to MCM regulars Jenika and Jeremy Biggs for also making the trip and being good company and also new friends, Leeann Hamilton, Danny from Uproar Comics (The Voice of Derry!), 2000AD's own P J Holden and Patrick Brown, whom I've long admired his work since his Tamara Knight days and was chuffed to catch up with his long running historical series, The Cattle Raid of Cooley and many more. It seems there's a really healthy indie comic scene in Northern Ireland, although maybe more creators were from Derry than Belfast?

Paddy Brown himself!
Jeremy Biggs surveys his dwindling stock...
The talented Cool Bean lady herself - Leeann Hamilton

Special thanks to our old friend (the original) Jeremy Briggs who had flown home to his native Belfast for the show and cordially gave us an informative tour of the city and introduced us to the delights of its Red Panda Chinese restaurant - see Jeremy's Down The Tubes reports here & here.

When Jeremy's collide - Jeremy Biggs meets Jeremy Briggs!!
Several titles sold out including these last copies of Zulu!
The show had a great atmosphere with many families in attendance and everyone seemed so upbeat that Belfast finally had its own big comic show. Exhibiting there had a great sense of comradery that you don't always get at the bigger shows (although with over 16,000 attendees this was clearly still big!). There was lots of banter amongst punters and exhibitors themselves and both Dave and I found ourselves moonlighting at other folk's tables to gave them a break and there was much sharing of food and coffee runs etc. It reminded Dave and I of the early Bristol shows when you pretty much knew everyone and supported each other and its a credit to both the organisers and the people of Northern Ireland that this big show had the same fun informal feeling. We'll be back!

Dave moonlighting at Jeremy's Subversive comics table
Col moonlighting at Leeann's Cool Bean table
My Belfast haul - all books not just Irish creators but Irish based stories!