Tuesday, 26 February 2013

“Better Second Time Around?” – London Super Con 2013

A report by Chris Dingsdale...

There is an old phrase that things are better second time around I believe. Of course there is the opportunity to learn from one’s mistakes. From my own experience us humans do anything but that, so how would the organisers of the Super Con fare?
Personally it was a very welcome chance to visit our wonderful Capital City, catch up with some valued old friends plus attend the Con with Accent UK. Triple strike. I mean what could possibly go wrong?
At the time of the inaugural Con in 2012 I was working in London. Near the Ex-Cel venue in fact. Nice of the organisers to place the event so near to me and I hoped they would repeat the favour this time.
Clearly darkest Cheshire is a step too far. (I would probably agree with them on this point).
A couple of days pre amble in our capital involving old friends and some rather good food ended when I was summoned to Euston Station to welcome the Accent UK contingent on Friday afternoon in order to escort them to the venue.
I really have no objection to this in principle but I am at a loss to understand why Accent CEO “Deadly” Dave West insist I wait on the Station holding a large card with the words;
” London and it’s Citizens Welcome Eagle Award Winning Author Dave West”.
(And don’t get me started on the Chauffer’s Uniform and Cap. Looks bloody stupid on the underground I can tell you).
Anyway arrive they did with Colin and his son Scott carrying Deadly’s luggage and asking people to move out of the way as he walked across the station. Obligingly I doffed my Chauffer’s cap and off we went.
We subsequently crossed London via Tube and DLR and checked in at the Hotel. Worryingly I was sharing with Dave. Not a big issue but then Deadly does insist on complete silence  as he goes through his extensive daily “ Doc Savage” like training regime of meditation, physical and mental exercise.
It can make for a long day and frankly Dave looks a bit odd sat cross legged in his Chinese robe.
We went out to the Westfield Shopping Centre at the Olympic Park in Stratford to eat in the evening. I remarked that the Chauffer’s cap was becoming itchy whereupon Colin declared that he would be happy to don it for the entire weekend.
Colin has a thing for dodgy hats worn at what he terms; “A jaunty angle”.
Thankfully no one else does however, so I declined as I needed to return it to the hire shop along with the rest of the outfit and boots.
Saturday morning arrived. We all had breakfast and walked across to the Convention Centre noting that we were sharing the Ex-Cel with “Mother and Baby” and “ Health and Beauty” Events. I worried that attendees would be confused so similar were our respective audiences.
Luckily my concerns were unfounded as we noticed a queue forming about the entrance to the con.
Dave did his usual “Don’t you know who I am?!?” routine (it’s becoming tiresome now I have witnessed it so often), the Marshalls parted like the Red Sea and in we went.
The Accent UK table was quickly set up and the best part of exhibiting at a Con began i.e. getting in the Hall before almost everyone else. Last year yielded some tasty bargains and an amusing encounter with the wonderful Bob Layton (check the Accent UK blog for details). So off I went.
(Actually Dave asked me to accompany him, ensuring that I walk 3 paces behind at all times and be prepared to carry any purchases that he may make).
This year’s Guest of Honour was the incomparable Neal Adams, Comic Art God and the definitive Batman artist as far as I am concerned. I had brought along a couple of Hardback Archives for (hopefully) him to sign.
I have learnt from experience at these events to eschew the useful British reserve and approach these guys directly. My now legendary good looks, winning smile and engaging manner almost always wins the day.
But  Neal Adams? The guy has a “rep” apparently.  My biggest challenge to date?
Any how we found Neal’s large stand titled “Introducing Neal Adams” and I overtook Dave in a manoeuvre worthy of Lewis Hamilton on the finishing strait.
“Morning Neal, welcome to the UK – it’s great to meet you!” I gasped.
Mr Adams smiled warmly, (resisting a sarcastic look and comment about my uniform and cap) shook our hands and began to chat to us about his week. He had been in London for a few days by then. Cryptically he revealed he had visited a film studio the previous day. He didn’t give away the movie title sadly (we knew that “Guardians of the Galaxy” was setting up shop in London – so maybe??).
Deserved bad reputation?  No, lovely guy.
I mentioned that I had some books for him to sign and he said “Yeah, no problem, bring ‘em over right now.” 
One of his assistants then reminded him that there was a charge sadly (but hey, it’s Neal Adams).
I fetched said books and he took his time signing and dedicating them for me – relating several points about each tale and answering all my questions and comments e.g. “Superman Vs Muhammed Ali” sold far better in Europe and the rest of the world than North America.
Similarly I pointed out one of my favourite pages of a Batman story with my comments as to why it worked so well.
“ That’s great because that page took me ages to figure out and it’s nice to know someone gets it after so many years!” he laughed.
We exchanged some further pleasantries and parted company.
Top guy. It’s always good when your idols live up to your expectations.
Moving on through Saturday, the Accent Guys carried on selling books and I wandered around aimlessly mostly trying to resist spending money and failing miserably. I even found two masterworks that I didn’t have enough cash on me to buy - ha that’ll sort it then!
“Yes but we take credit cards and I will do the two for £... AND throw in that rare back issue” said the nice man from Kent Comics.
And so on.
The Saturday panel (for me anyway) was “50 Years of Marvel Comics” with Roy Thomas, Herb Trimpe and Brits Mike Carey and Frazer Irving moderated by Duncan McAlpine  (remember him?).
Generally good stuff, Roy is an engaging guy with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Comics History, Herb seemed just a nice guy and the UK contingent provided a nice counterpoint to the proceedings.
Roy’s comments on the original Marvel Trinity of Lee, Kirby and Ditko were interesting ie they were all essential in their own way. His own time at Marvel was covered including his mandate to “sell Comic Books”. Sometimes I think we fans forget this, I really do.
The day eventually ended. Accent revealed they had not sold as many books as last year despite having more new titles available.
During the evening we discussed this as well as the fact that we thought the Con lacked well, “something” but what was it?
The discussion was hampered somewhat by Dave going through a particularly difficult Martial Arts “Kata” routine in the corner of the bar which ended in a furious display of whirling samurai blades accompanied by a blood curdling war cry. He really needs to tone things down, I can stand the Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu outfit he insists on wearing but that red headband is not a good look.
We did eventually come to a conclusion with the assistance of food and alcohol. I will return to said conclusion later.
Sunday arrived we had breakfast with some difficulty as the hotel seemed full of various event attendees and exhibitors including ourselves and Bob Layton (hope you have got over your flu Bob!).
Eventually we left for the Convention centre after Deadly had finished his “Doc Savage” inspired  exercise routine. Quite why he has to dress in canvas shirt, jodhpurs and riding boots for this puzzles me but that’s Dave I guess.
I reckon the other people in the breakfast room thought similarly.
Sunday passed off in a similar manner albeit noticeably quieter for all concerned. I tried not to spend any more cash and failed once again.
My Sunday panel of choice was “Geek Speak” – basically a trivia show which though mildly entertaining seemed a bit of a waste of the panellist’s time. Hats off to the moderators (Geek speak) who worked hard to make something of a poor concept I think.
The Accent chaps said it was quieter to no one’s surprise and I eventually left with Dave to travel back to Euston for the trip North.
Actually I carried his luggage and walked the requisite 3 steps behind which proved difficult as I knew the way across London but respect is due and all that.
On reflection there were many improvements on last year, organisation, dealer variety and presentation, queuing, even the audio visual quality of the Panel Room was a huge step forward in quality.
Some of the Cos Players were fantastic. (Red Sonja, if you are reading this then let me have your Phone number please).
So all in all the Con seemed a slightly quieter event but still immensely enjoyable but what was that “something” we all felt it lacked as mentioned earlier?
Well it was Stan Lee, we decided.

Okay this seems like “Ministry of the Bleedin’ Obvious” time but allow me to explain.
Stan is Stan, whatever you think of the guy he is a show man.
What he gave the inaugural event last year was a fantastic “feel good” factor that is difficult to replicate and that is not a slight of any of this year’s guests who were all fantastic.
Accent even reckoned that this translated into sales as people spilled out from the various “Stan events” i.e. signings, photo opps, panels etc . They were buzzing and spent money accordingly it seemed.
Clearly Stan cannot be there every year and I don’t know what to suggest as a solution but I hope the event continues to evolve and grow in subsequent years. The Organisers really deserve credit for taking the plunge.
As a fan I certainly appreciate their efforts.
Thank you guys and hopefully see you next year.
( Oh the uniform made it back to the hire shop intact. Colin I believe is trying to find a similar hat as I write this).

Friday, 22 February 2013

London SuperCon this weekend

Accent UK have a table at the Super Comic Con in London tomorrow and Sunday. Find full details and links over at strangestoftimes.blogspot. Hope to see you there, the guest list is amazing.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Accent UK have a table at the Dundee Comics Expo...

Our first Scottish Con, giving Colin a chance to sell comics in his home country. He can't wait, shame it's just for the one day.
You can find oout more at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dundee-Comics-Expo/300792306691116.