Monday, December 18, 2006

Brumcon - Ian's Report

Well, it's been a week since the first ever Birmingham International Comic Show and it's way past time that I put up a report on the weekend.

Cher and I set out from Medway fairly early on the Friday morning as we had to catch a train from Marylebone to Birmingham at around mid-day. We left with what we thought would be plenty of time to get there, but as we hit London the traffic slowed to a crawl and our driver for the morning (thanks Dad!) announced that there was no way that we could catch our train if we continued by road. So, when we reached the Oval, we jumped out of the car and embarked upon a mad dash across London by tube, making it to Marylebone with scant minutes to spare before the train left.

As we neared Birmingham it became apparent that we had a choice of two stations that we could disembark from the train at. Not wanting to just randomly guess, I hit upon the cunning plan of texting native Birminghamite and good chum, Derek Hartley, and asking him which of the two stations would be nearest our ultimate destination, The Thistle Hotel. In a classic move, perhaps on a par with his telling Alan Davis that Alan Davis wouldn't be attending a certain panel at the Bristol Comic Expo, Derek did, in fact, advise us to leave the train at the wrong station. Thus, rather then leaving the train at the station which is almost directly next to the Thistle Hotel, we instead left the train at the station which is, indeed, on the other side of Birmingham. Still, my fault for not looking at a map before we left, I guess.


Still, what's a convention trip without a little adventure on the way, eh? So, after a short hike across the centre of Birmingham (familiarising ourselves with the various sights, sounds and smells of Brum) we finally arrived at our luxury four star hotel, threw open the bedroom curtains and were greeted by the truly impiring view of a multi-storey car park. Welcome to Birmingham! Okay, sure, we did get a great deal on the room, and, really, I wasn't expecting a breathtaking vista in the centre of what is generally regarded as one of the grimmest cities on earth...but....really....a car park? Add to this the main lights deciding not to work on the second night, and the loud music to the wee small hours due to it being Christmas Party season and...well...let's just say I don't think we'll be enjoying the hospitality of the Thistle Hotel again.

Once we'd settled into the hotel and asked at recpetion for a map of the city centre (so we were no longer reliant on Derek's oh-so-accurate directions) we headed towards the Radisson Hotel, home of the "official hotel bar" of the Birmingham International Comics Show. With enough space to seat four underweight midgets, and Coke at £3 a glass, one has to assume that the convention organisers had never set foot inside the Radisson Bar before the event. Suddenly I found myself appreciating the wide open spaces and morely unreasonably high priced drinks of the Ramada bar at Bristol. Nevertheless, we were joined for the evening by a host of charming and delightful people, and Dan Boultwood. Seriosuly, though, we met up with James Reddington of Portent Comics fame and were shortly thereafter joined by the dodgy-direction-giving Derek Hartley while we drooled over the goodies in the window of Nostalgia and Comics which was pretty much next to the hotel. Upon entering the bar we found a rather lost and lonely looking Budgie, whose finely honed accounting instincts were clearly rebelling at the bar's innovative pricing structure. We didn't have to wait long for the dapper Mr Tony Lee to appear and amuse us all by reading out the increasingly nonsensical texts he was receiving from artistic genius and general cad and bounder, Dan Boultwood, who was slowly making his way towards London in the company of a bottle of something sweet and evil, and an increasingly large retinue of elves, pixies and gnomes. Oh, and Alan Davis was sitting directly behind Derek at one point...and he didn't notice...which caused us all much amusement...hee hee....

And so to Saturday morning, and the convention itself! As you can see from the accompanying picture, some people were so overwhelmed by the smallest convention dealer's room on earth that they could do nothing but dose gently on the convention floor, while the "madness" resolutely failed to happen around them. To be fair, that's a little harsh. There was a genuine buzz about the room all day, but attendance was poor and at times it felt like the creators and dealers outnumbered the general punters two to one. As such, the weekend had a really nice "get together" kind of vibe. People were just generally hanging out and chatting, and I got to meet up with several people that, so far, I've only encountered online. Great folk like Mick Trimble and Jim Bott. Hi guys! It was also great to catch up with the guys from Markosia!

The highlight of the day and, indeed, the entire convention, was The Kyptonite Factor. Hosted by the legendary Budgie, The Kryptonite factor was a comic book quiz in the style of Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Have I Got News For You. No obvious joke was left uncracked with such howlers as "Rob Liefeld really can't draw very well" and "Alan Moore's a bit of an odd hairy bloke, isn't he?" keeping the audience laughing throughout. Just like the TV shows that inspired it, however, The Kryptonite Factor didn't shy away from such controversial and potentially inflammatory joeks as "John Byrne really can't draw very well." It's funny because it's true...

Saturday evening saw more fun and frolics as we went out for pizza with the Brodie's Law guys, James Reddington, Jim Bott, Derek and his friend Lloyd, and an assortment of hangers on and fanboys (just kidding, guys!). Cher took the opportunity to create one of her innovative pieces of salad art, something which is becoming a bit of a convention tradition for us. I wouldn't have mentioned it, but it gives me an excuse to post this fairly random picture of her salad, which I thought might amuse people. Personally, I'm always slightly confused by her inclusion of apple in these salads as, quite frankly, I feel that apple has no business being in a salad, but I digress.

After a short trip back to our hotel room to dump the hoards a swag that we'd had thrust upon us during the day's activities, we headed towards a local bar where the enigmatic Mr Tony Lee had learned the Birmingham University Goth Society were hosting a bash. Ironically, just two weeks before, I'd been in Birmingham for Memorabilia, dressed from head to toe in black PVC...with not a Goth club in site. Now I found myself in baggy beige trousers and a very, very white Slam Ridley T-shirt, talk about feeling like a pork sausage at a bar mitvah! However, Cher came to the rescue with her handy dog-collar-with-blue-spikes, which, oddly enough, made me feel slightly less stupid...which is probably a first. As you can see from the picture, the mischievous Mr Tony Lee couldn't resist fashioning a makeshift lead for me out of his tie. The fact that he appears to be offering the lead to the pixie hallucinating Dan Boutlwood is, frankly, mildly disturbing. All in all, it was a great evening. The highlights being singing "Sweet Transvestite" with Cher, Budgie and Tony, and just generally dancing 'till 2am with the delightful Miss Cher.

Sunday saw the heavens open and the already fairly poorly attended convention became almost entirely devoid of people. Although...it's possible that they were actually all eaten by this dragon. I suppose I should say a little about the Custard Factory, the venue for the weekend's events. The Custard Factory is undoubtedly a nice place. That said, it was entirely unsuited to the needs of a comic book convention. There being no central large hall, the dealer's room was split into two tiny rooms. This created the effect of people entiring the convention, going to the first room and thinking "Oh, is this it?"...discovering the second room...getting their hopes up...and then thinking "Oh, is this it?" And this time, yes, that was it. It was possible to see everything in about 30 minutes. That's assuming you paused to talk to a couple of people on the way. All this for the same price as Bristol? Ummm...ok... I can't complain to much as I got in for free, but had I been paying, I think that I would have felt slightly ripped off. I'd love to see the event return next year, but for it to work, I think that the organisers need to seriously consider an alternative venue. They also need to promote the event more in the city centre too.

One of the high points of the convention for me was getting to meet Phonogram creators Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. I may not have mentioned it on this site before but Phonogram is, quite simply, the best comic you will ever read. I'm afraid I probably gushed like a rabid fanboy, and to add insult to injury, it turns out that Cher had chatted to Kieron for ages at the Bristol Expo and she'd had absolutely no idea who he was. Of course, I wonder how many people would be sad like me and get excited about meeting their favourite PC Gamer columnist? Nevertheless, I guess I must have managed to remain a modicum of self respect as I did get to take this rather nifty pic' of Keiron modelling his very own Slam Ridley badge. Although, as Cher has pointed out, he's not so much pointing towards the Slam badge here as his own nipple, but I guess you can't have everything...

And, that was Brumcon...two days of fun and frolics...

All there was left to do after all that was...

...this...









By the way, I've just realised that I forgot to draw attention to the fact that we've reached 3000 hits! Woohoo!

2 comments:

mick said...

I think you're right about the con- the Custard Factory is too small for it. I don't want to slag it off too much as I know how much work James and Andy (two of the organisers)put in. The hall I was put in was very slow- everyone I talked to complained trade was slow. I can't comment about Sunday as I was in bed shaking like a shitting dog! If nothing else though, it was good to catch up with all the faces I hadn't seen since Bristol.

Cher said...

Oo, the fundome!
I'll probably post my Report up here, once I'm done LJing it.