Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bristol International Comic & Small Press Expo 2010

I've been attending the 'Bristol Comic Expo', in it's various guises and at a couple of different venues, for the past 5 years or so and it's fair to say that it's become the highlight of my 'comic year'.

This year the event was once again held across two venues - The Ramada Jarvis Hotel and The Mercure Hotel, both just a short walk from the city centre - and taking into account the excellent four-star hotel venues, the format of the show (I'll explain what I mean ...), the range of exhibitors and quality of the guests meant that for me this years Bristol International Comic & Small Press Expo was not only the best 'Bristol' show I've attended but quite possibly the best comic event that I've ever had the pleasure of attending.

First up, the venues - or to be accurate I should say venue as I managed to spend all day, from 10am to 5pm at the Ramada Jarvis 'Mainstream & International' Expo and didn't have time to get across to the 'Independent, Small Press & Manga' Expo at the Mercure Hotel. When the Expo was held at the exhibition hall at Temple Meads railway station it was, for me, a case of get in, do a couple (maybe 3 laps of the hall) and get out: all in 3 hours or so - there was very little space to sit and rest, or to enjoy some refreshment. Situated at the four-star Ramada meant this year I was able to do a couple of circuits of the main hall then take a break in the hotel bar, then head off to one of the signing rooms before once again returning to the bar for some lunch and refreshment ... and so on. The hotel itself was well prepared for the 'invasion' of hundreds (thousands?) of comic fans, exhibitors and creators with reasonably priced hot and cold drinks on tap and with an excellent 'lunch bag' available again at a very reasonable price. As you'd expect for a 4-star hotel the level of customer service from the staff was excellent.

Next, the format of the show. In previous years - certainly 4 or 5 years ago, the show felt like a 'comic jumble' (and I don't mean that as a criticism just an observation): loads of exhibitors selling current and back issue comics, a good range of toys etc, and a number of creators signing, sketching and selling artwork. This year I felt there was a change of emphasis towards the creator and, if I'm right, this was a change that I welcome ...

As much as I enjoy routing through boxes of back issues for a bargain or hidden gem most of my back-issue buying these days is done online from the comfort of my armchair and as such I've lost a little patience for the physical battle that is sometimes required to seek out and find (or maybe not find) that elusive copy of Nightwing. I know many of my friends feel the same and while I wouldn't want the show to lose the 'comic jumble' element it seemed to me that this year the creator spotlight had grown with more writers, artists and publishers than ever before.

Again, whether the format was slightly different or I was just more aware there also seemed a greater emphasis on 'panels' and these also seemed more popular than ever with at times quite long queues forming ahead of the start times. The range and quality of the guests was certainly very impressive - quite rightly justifying the 'International' tag whereas in the past Bristol has felt very much like a 'local and national' event.

Great venue, staff, exhibitors and guests ... all for just £7 entrance charge: great value for money as well.

So, that's Bristol over for another year. Thinking ahead to next year, what if anything would I do differently?

From the organisers - nothing, absolutely nothing: they've found a superb format and I'd like more of the same please!

From me - I think I need to go for a weekend ticket as this year, for the first time for me, there felt so much to see and do.

Well done and thanks to everyone involved.

In part two of my Bristol Expo wrap-up I'll post a couple of the sketches I was lucky enough to pick up and talk about some of the creators that I met.

Fantasy Events UK - organisers of the Bristol Expo - have announced that next years event will take place on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 May at the same venues, while later this year they are organising the Comic Expo Exeter at the Southgate Mercure Hotel in Exeter city centre on Sunday 19 September.

Photographs featured in this post are courtesy of Simon Breeze and are used with his permission.