I can’t remember ever attending a literature festival and finding myself sandwiched between Captain Ahab, Huck Finn, Winston Smith and Yossarian in the queue for coffee. At comics festivals, better known as ‘comicons’, I would be disappointed if I wasn’t rubbing shoulders with Tintin, V, Emma Frost and at least one Stormtrooper in the scrum around the condiments stand. More delighting is if, present in my everyday apparel, some bounding youth confuses me for Doc Brown (and I don’t mean the rapper), as happened a couple of years back at the Nottingham Comic Convention.
Originating in Japan, ‘cosplay’ has become as integral an element of comicons as the stalls, talks, panels and signings, and something that players are prone to spending small fortunes on. More than the challenge of creating the look or the fun of embodying your favourite comics hero for the duration, cosplayers are members of a self-confessed geek community (much like historical re-enactment bods) that imbue conventions with a thrill, excitement and colour that staid book festivals could certainly take a lesson from. When the eyes of youngsters light up on spotting The Joker, you know the comics world has just recruited a life-long fan.
Nottingham Comic Convention proves that literature festivals can be enormous fun, thoroughly rewarding, extremely democratic, full of surprises and a nice lil’earner for a few worthy causes
But comicons are certainly not strictly for the young and nerdy. Organisers are simply better at catering for a much broader age range of readers than their prose cousins. From Nottingham’s last convention I walked away with a classic edition of Will Eisner’s The Spirit I’d been coveting for decades, a signed copy of Tim Lane’s extraordinary Abandoned Cars, and a wad of indie or self-published comics and zines, many of them brilliant, definitely not for kids and unlikely to ever grace the shelves of Page 45, Mondo Comico or Five Leaves. I happily spent far too much, but along the way was treated to a flash lesson in how to use the Procreate app, talked to publishers interested in my ideas, listen to writers with track records confess that if they hadn’t found comics they’d be banged up by now, and rapped with the last people I would expect to bump into at a comics gig, like a professor of ancient Spartan history! The music was pretty damn good `n all.
This is the fifth year of the Nottingham Comic Convention, and it has grown exponentially. Originally organised by Kevin Brett and his wife and business partner, Kelly, our city’s only comicon sprang out of their frustration at continually failing to get a pitch at the nation’s biggest convention, Thought Bubble in Leeds. They started small, but from the off have ploughed their profits (click for entry fees and discounts) into local and national charities. To date, they have distributed over £5,500.
Talking to previous stallholders, Kev and Kel set a warm, friendly and accommodating tone to proceedings that is attracting more and bigger names to partake, both sides of the tables. This year’s guests can be found on their website, but I’m looking forward to cornering Harvey and Eisner awards winner Roger Langridge and twisting the arms of The Awesome Comics Podcast bods on behalf of Nottingham Does Comics (NDC). Local creatives Steve Larder, Sally Jane Thompson (who’s talking at the September NDC) and Kit Draws will have pitches, and I’m hoping one of the mainstream outlets will proffer a cheap(er) copy of The Outfit, the second in Darwyn Cooke’s remarkable series of Richard Stark’s gritty Parker adaptations (and if that means nothing, it was a long-term New York Times bestseller… on their literature listings!).
In short, the Nottingham Comic Convention proves that literature festivals can be enormous fun, thoroughly rewarding, extremely democratic, full of surprises and a nice lil’earner for a few worthy causes. Take the little ones with you. There are plenty of activities for them, aside from gawping at clones of Dr. Who.
Nottingham Comic Convention 14th October Nottingham Conference Centre, Trent University, Goldsmith Street £8 (children under 12yrs free) All-day event. http://www.nottinghamcomiccon….