Glasgow Comic Con 2012 Report

Created on July 3, 2012 and written by
Category: The Standard - Comic Book Column

I’ve talked before about how much I was looking forward to Glasgow Comic Con this year, about how I attended last year as a fan, and returning as a pro this year felt like a homecoming.  Certainly, Glasgow Comic Con was an event I was eagerly anticipating.  But even I had no idea just how great a con it was going to be.

One of the criticisms of last year’s con that, with everything crammed into a single venue at the Mackintosh Church, things got pretty cramped.  With all the retailers and small press professionals all exhibiting together, and signings in the same area, there was very little space to move around in the dealer’s hall, or indeed to linger at any tables that caught your interest.  That shortcoming was addressed this year with the addition of another venue, Queen’s Cross Hall, situated across the street from the main building.  The hall was bright, spacious and airy, and I have to say opening it up for use was a great move.  This is where I was located, and I loved it.  In fact, I ended up spending most of the weekend there and very little time in the Mackintosh Church itself.  As a result, I can comment very little on the pros and cons of the convention as a whole.  For a great, comprehensive overview of the event, check out the report from Comics Anonymous.  All I can say is that, from the perspective of a professional  selling my wares, and from talking to other professionals, Glasgow Comic Con was a massive success.

Things started off a bit slow on the Saturday morning.  Nobody was coming into the hall, and I was momentarily panicked that perhaps the seperate venue meant there would be no passing trade.  I needn’t have worried, however.  It turned out that most people were attending the opening panel for the first hour or so of the show, and with that over people began filtering into Queen’s Cross Hall.  I was pleased with the layout of our tables, with me sharing my Standard table with the Glasgow League of Writers’ GLoW 1 anthology, Colin Bell and Neil Slorance’s Jonbot VS Martha and Neil Slorance’s Nine Lines of Metro, and the table next to us shared by Gary Chudleigh and Graeme Kennedy with Villainous and Gordon McLean with No More Heroes, so it was like our whole side of the hall was “the GLoW wing.”  The real hot seller for the first half of the day was GLoW 1, which made me happy as we were initially worried about whether the demand for the book would be enough to justify the price we were selling it at.  Major credit must go to Luke Halsall, who was a selling machine all weekend, shifting anthologies like no one’s business.  But as the day went on, sales for The Standard, Volume 1 – the graphic novel collecting issues 1-3 – began to really pick up steam.  By the afternoon, Queen’s Cross Hall was jumping with people, and our table was so busy that I had the unusual experience of signing sold copies of The Standard while pitching the book to more interested con-goers, and simultaneously signing copies of GLoW 1 being handed to me.  I just have to give major kudos to the Glasgow comic reader community.  They arrived at the con with an active interest in finding new comics to try, keen and receptive to good pitches, and eager to support local talent.  Some sales were as simple as, “Can I interest you in my comic, The Standard?”/”Sure, how  much?”

With things going so well, I was riding on too much of a wave of adrenaline to leave my table much.  But I did get away on a couple of occasions.  Once for a Frank Quitely signing, where I got my copy of Absolute All Star Superman (previously signed by Morrison) signed by the acclaimed artist.  And later in the day, I attended the Grant Morrison signing, which seemed to take quite a while longer as the legendary writer seemed to enjoy having lengthy wee chats with most of the folks in the queue.  I got my Deluxe Edition of We3 (previously signed by Quitely) signed, and the always-engaging Morrison was keen to chat for a wee bit and pose for a photo.

But as enjoyable as my encounters with the world-renowned superstars of the comic industry were, the real pleasure was getting to meet and hang out with my friends on  the independent comics scene.  As previously mentioned, I was sharing a pair of table with Gordon McLean, Graeme Kennedy, Gary Chudleigh, Colin Bell, Neil Slorance and Luke Halsall, and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer bunch of folks to spend the con with.  Special thanks also go to GLoW compatriots Sam Read, Jane Sayer and Iain McGarry for taking shifts at the table assisting us in selling our wares, and Fraser Craig and Stuart Ritchie for frequently stopping by to check in.  I got to spend a little time chatting to some of my artistic collabotors.  Garry McLaughlin – who I worked with on GLoW 1 short The Awesome Doggy Boy and will be drawing Black Leaf, the upcoming horror graphic novel I’m writing – stopped by for a while, and the legendary Iain Laurie stopped by to give me a copy of his brilliant Horror Mountain and discuss possible future projects.  I spent quite a bit of time chatting and hanging out with Chris Connelly, who wrote and drew the SICBA-nominated Reality War, which I fortunately bought a copy of before it sold out.  And in the Grant Morrison queue I got to spend some time talking to Ross Leonard, writer of another SICBA-nominee, Maximum Alan, which I also picked up later in the show.  It really feels great to be part of such a vibrant, passionate creative community as the Glasgow comic scene, full of incredibly talented, and more importantly, incredibly nice people.

By the end of day 1, I had sold through almost all of the stock of The Standard, Volume 1 I’d brought with me.  In one day at Glasgow Comic Con, I had made more from sales than I did over the whole weekend at Kapow Con in London.  I was amazed at how successful a day it had been.  But things were set to get even better.

As a nominee, I was invited to the SICBA awards party at the Citizen M Hotel.  The swanky city centre venue was a major shift upwards from the previous year, where the event was simply held in the dealer’s hall.  This year felt more like an official awards ceremony, and as we got clearer to the time for the winners to be announced I was surprised to find myself getting nervous!  We began with the Outstanding Contribution to Comics award, presented by last year’s winner Alan Grant.  This went to Dave Alexander, someone who has been working hard in the British comics scene for some 30 years and perhaps never quite got the widespread recognition he deserved.  He seemed genuinely surprised and humbled by the award, and I was happy to see him get it.  Next up was the award for Best Cover, which went to well-deserved winner James Devlin for his fantastic cover to School of the Damned #1.  And then the nerves really set in, as it came to the first category I was nominated for: Best Writer.  The tension was ramped up even more by a comically overlong process of announcing the nominees, with some confusion about who the runners-up were.  But finally, it was time to announce the winner…. and it was me!

Walking up to claim my award and give an acceptance speech was an incredibly surreal experience.  And having Jim Starlin sitting a couple of feet away from me didn’t make it any easier!  I stumbled through a speech – opening with a clunker of a joke that no one laughed at and saying “Umm” too much – but everyone was very polite and clapped at the end, and when I returned to my table on a total high.  I was over the moon, and so happy and proud.

Up next was the Best Artist award, which once again went to James Devlin for School of the Damned.  I did record the announcement and James’ gracious acceptance speech (the plan was to record all the speeches that night) but with apologies to Mr. Devlin, I must admit I accidentally deleted it.  The final award of the night was Best Comic Book/Graphic Novel, the second category The Standard was nominated in.  During the applause for the nominees, the vibrations shook my award off the table, and the base broke off!  But a couple of days later, some superglue seems to have fixed it up adequately.  But back to the awards… taking home two awards would have been incredible.  But in the end, we got perhaps an even better result: No More Heroes won.  And so we had two different members of the Glasgow League of Writers sharing in the glory at this year’s Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards.

Between the massive sales and the SICBA triumph, Saturday was absolutely amazing.  I knew going in that Sunday was never going to quite match it.  Still, the second day of the con still went rather well.  I had to bring in my remaining stock of graphic novels with me, the stock I’d been planning on keeping aside for Thought Bubble in November, in order to replenish the depleted stock after Saturday.  Sunday began with a pre-con breakfast with a few of my GLoW cohorts – including Gordon Robertson, who made a welcome appearance after being unable to attend on the Saturday – before we headed over to Queen’s Cross Hall to get back into selling mode.  The big story of the day was GLoW 1 completely selling out within the first couple of hours.  Things got off to a slower start for The Standard, Volume 1, but as the day went on I steadily picked up steam and I made a decent number of sales, and by the end of the day I only had a handful left.  Perhaps my proudest achievement of the day was being able to sell a copy to Batman, who had to remove his gloves and retrieve some money from his utility belt to buy the book.

By the time we finally closed up shop at 5pm, I had made even more from The Standard in 2 days at Glasgow Comic Con than I’d made over the whole four days of New York Comic Con last year, which is far more than I dreamed of being able to sell.  A few members of the Glasgow League of Writers wrapped up the weekend with a post-con dinner at Lucky 7 and a trip to the Insane Championship Wrestling show at The Garage, but to be honest, I went through it all in a daze.  I was exhausted, the adrenaline high that carried me through finally wearing off, but I was totally content and happy with my amazing weekend.

What I loved about Glasgow Comic Con this year was that it really felt like a celebration of Scottish creators.  Even amongst the big-name guests, for most there was a Scottish connection there.  And it seems many of the big success stories of the show in terms of sales were independent, creator-owned comics from local creators.  Rather than trying to be a mini-version of a huge American con, Glasgow Comic Con was quite proudly the GLASGOW Comic Con, and the attendees seemed to respond to that.  As a creator with a table, I didn’t just feel like one of a sea of exhibitors, but rather I felt like part of a community.  A great vibe, that I hope can be replicated for years to come.  A big thank you must go out to con organisers John Farman and Sha Nazir, who helped me have my most successful con ever.  And thanks must go to everybody who came along and supported The Standard and other local comics.  Looking forward to seeing you at Glasgow Comic Con 2013!

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