“I like my coffee on the dark side,” reads the slogan of a Darth Vader embossed travelmug, which my kids got me one father’s day. Much as I might slate commercial merchandising, I’m a sucker if it’s Star Wars related. Though I don’t use the item in question, because ergonomically it’s a poorer design than my exsisting travelmug, which has the advantage of a lower lip, ensuring less spillages.
Attempts to reason the functional qualities of the travelmug outweigh the aesthetic to my daughter were as futile as resisting a Borgg assimilation when she spotted one on a stall at the Bath Comic & Gaming Con on Saturday. Maybe I would learn to adapt to the higher ridge if I used it more often, but as a plethora of adolescents there made reference to my Star Wars t-shirt as “old skool’ I can take a hint, and add something about old dogs and new tricks.
This aside, for my point is, there it was, a travelmug you can buy in any supermarket, on display at a comic con. Just because it has Darth Vader on it doesn’t make it some religiously obsure artifact, and herein my inability to new tricks and changing faces of events in the face of popularity and commercialism. I came away from the convention with mixed opinions and a bag of Funko pops.
The kids had a brilliant time, their first comic con, and my priority is to relish in their enjoyment. If I’m to give my tuppence of this event, that much is paramount. Though you should be aware, as a self publisher of an outrageously rude comix in a previous era, in which comic cons were a lifetime in both punting and making contacts with likeminded lost souls nieve enough to think their photocopied rag of knob jokes would exhilarate them to a contract with Dark Horse, I’m also reflecting from this angle too. And for this much I could potentially come over all Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, and bellow, “worst comic con, ever!”
For these aren’t the type of comic cons independently organised by true fanboys themselves, rather a commercial enterprise which roams the country staging similar events. And for this to work, I accept, honing in on what will make bods part with their money is the main directive, as opposed to a comic industry insiders business meeting.
Making a comic con more related to movies than comics has to be your first port of call, and organisers UK Comic Con & Gaming Festivals certainly utilised that, though in their defence, these days, so does everyone. Need I succumb to the notion if it’s good enough for Disney it’s good enough for me, or can you excuse my fogie rant?
I’m also nudged by the preconception I’d be mugged off at every available opportunity by halfwits in vapid cosplay, and I’m glad to say this was only partially true. Parking at the Uni, for instance, was claimed to be free for ticketholders, and was, though knowledgeable Bath traffic wardens operate militia, there was no signage to suggest they’d adhered to their promise and had it not been for the kindly advise of the alter-ego of Marvel hero Moon Knight, changing in the carpark, the system would’ve allowed me to unnecessarily pay!
Grateful to Moon Knight, we strode in, safe in the knowledge we’d not succumb to “noobisim” while a superhero was watching over us. I mean modern and retro video-game consoles were free to use and in abundance, there was plenty free activities, even origami, while others, like the chance to bash each other with extended torches in what was deemed a lightsaber combat school affordabley cost; swings and roundabouts.
There stood a couple of known actors, and a chat with the down-to-earth Clive Mantle was great while the kids shopped for merchandise. Further along the mighty hall was bustling with stalls and props for photo opportunities, which were free to pose by. All in all, the sense of being ripped off declined, and I comend the organisers for a fun and enjoyable day.
The intersection of the hall was for truer to comic fanboys, and it was good to chat with Bath’s leading comic shopkeepers American Dream Comics, on Walcot Street, who both enlightened and entertained my Marvel-obsseed daughter while chatting deeper into comics of yore with me. Though if I highly rate them for anything more, it was they had in sealed unit for a snip at £149, the first edition of Marvel UK’s Star Wars comic, that my dad threw out when we moved to Wiltshire. If I only had a suitable transplant patient in tow, I’d have bitten out a major organ for it!
Also through the inner workings, I perchance to meet about three tables flogging small press material. Artists there were not professionals in the comic industry, as often guested at other events, rather fan artists selling their wares independently, and this was great, though if you can have actors you could also get a few Marvel or DC artists sketching too. And there’s my grump, for actual comics it was lacking against a wall of Funko pops and other toys and merchandise; you could’ve been fooled into assuming the UK never had a comic industry, there was no sign of a Beano or Dandy, there was no sign of even contemporary UK comics such as The Phoenix. It would’ve been a better balance to have seen DC Thompson artists like Lew Stringer or Laura Howell doing their thing there.
Calls the event was cynical, and imbalanced toward American adventure and superhero genres, considering the entirety of the ninth art, is a tad unjustified as a complaint to the organisers persay, as this is the new norm, and what’s commercially viable. Like adadting to the higher ridge of the Darth Vader travelmug,
getting over myself perhaps I could, but I would like to have seen a wider spectrum of comics as a whole; of manga or small press, I saw mininal, of French BDs and UK funnies, I saw nought, I did kiss a demogorgon though, and met Lightening McQueen, so all was not lost!
This was an enjoyable family day and well organised, and defeated my preconceptions of being ripped off, it was affordable and spritely, and I would go again, should Dad’s wallet live to see another day.