BTB Awards: Best Convention

This was, in all honesty, about the toughest category that we’ve had to face in the process of putting these awards together. Before launching Moon earlier this year, Steve and I’s experience with comic cons could at best be described as “limited” and the past 12 months have been something of a culture shock. We’ve had some great experiences and some not-so-great ones (though it should be said that on the whole it has been almost entirely positive). The UK convention scene is incredibly varied and knowing how to go about ranking these events has proven to be something of a challenge. The two events that we’ve chosen to recognise are about as far apart as its possible to get but in their own ways I think they both demonstrate some of the best aspects of what conventions have to offer.

Winner – Thought Bubble

Thought Bubble is a week long sequential art festival which is held in Leeds every year. The comic con portion of the event runs for two days across two convention halls. Very much a fan run convention rather than a commercial venture, Thought Bubble focuses on the artistic aspects of comic books and tends to lean more towards Indy books and UK publishers. That isn’t to say that TB lacks big name creators, this year saw appearances from the likes of Gail Simone (Batgirl, Secret Six), Kieron Gillen (Uncanny X-Men) and Adam Hughes (Catwoman).

The odd thing about our love for Thought Bubble is that we very nearly didn’t go. Beyond The Bunker is London based and while that’s great most of the time (I can actually see the Excel Centre from my window) it means that trekking up to Leeds for a weekend is quite an expensive venture. They say that publishing Indy comics isn’t about the money and, while that’s true to an extent, it’s also true that you only get to print your next comic if you make a profit on the last one. Blowing a chunk of our summer’s profits on an adventure up north seemed like a risky play so close to the print bill for Moon #2.

In the end what convinced us to take the plunge was the astounding amount of goodwill towards the con that flowed from almost every creator we met. At every con we visited we bumped into people who raved about Thought Bubble at every opportunity and, having now attended it ourselves, I can see that they were exactly right to do so.

Me holding down the fort in between sprinting into town for more change

What makes Thought Bubble so good is the way it flawlessly balances scale with intimacy. At two days in length and two halls in size, Thought Bubble is just as big as its London counterparts and its guest list is easily as impressive (more so in many cases as the London cons tend to focus on film and tv guests). You could quite happily skip every other con and walk away from TB with a comprehensive convention experience. At the same time though, the event still feels like an intimate social experience where you share a pint with the creators, attend panels on niche subjects and discover a range of incredible Indy books. It is this combination of size and soul that make Thought Bubble such a joy to attend both as an exhibitor and a fan and it’s a worthy winner for this award.

Runner Up – Kapow!

At the other end of the scale lies our runner up, Kapow! The Mark Millar backed mega-con held its debut event this past April at the Business Design Centre and promised to bring the San Diego experience to the UK.

Kapow certainly lacks the intimacy of Thought Bubble. It is (by its own admission) entirely focused on big names and big companies with small creators offered almost nothing in the way of incentives to attend. But what it lacks in small town charm it makes up for in raw star power and polish. With the likes of John Romita Jr, Frank Quitely and Jonathan Ross in attendance as well as booths for several major publishers and studios, Kapow absolutely delivered on its promise to provide something new. While many cons this year had a great atmosphere, nothing could match the sheer excitement and electricity that permitted the air at Kapow.

Kapow 2011 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London

Sure, there were teething troubles – a somewhat unbalanced guest and badly managed queues succeeded in putting a few noses out of joint – but given how ambitious the project was, these are perhaps acceptable niggles for a first show.The thing that Kapow really shares with Thought Bubble is in how vocal its supporters are. While there seems to be no shortage of people who were happy to write off the con in absentia, I have yet to meet somebody who attended it and didn’t have a great time. Much like its surrogate father, Mark Millar’s convention isn’t subtle but it sure as hell kicks ass.

Check back tomorrow for another BTB award!

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Kapow Comic Con Line Up Announced!

The official site for Kapow Comic Con 2012 went live today and with it came not only this rather groovy trailer but also some details of the first round of guests. Fans who make their way to the Business Design Centre in North London next May will be able to rub shoulders with the likes of Frank Quitely, Dave Gibbons, (Marvel head of talent) C.B. Cebulski and many more. Kapow spokesman Mark (Kick Ass) Millar has promised an even bigger show next year which, given how good this year’s show was, is a big promise.

There’s already some negative buzz starting to circulate regarding the lack (or rather total absence) of female creators on the initial bill but with the full line up not due to be announced until February, there’s plenty of time to rectify that. the real challenge for Kapow this year will be how it’s supposedly gold standard guest list fares against Super Comic Con’s impressive line up.

Needless to say, Beyond the Bunker will be there. So if you are thinking of giving Kapow a go (and you should, it’s fantastic) then be sure to drop by and say hi

For full listings, check out the KAPOW WEBSITE!

See you there,

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Moon Returns to Kapow Comic Con!

We’re very happy to announce that Beyond the Bunker will be returning to the Kapow Comic Con next May!

Launched by Kick Ass/Ultimates writer Mark Millar earlier this year, Kapow has already secured its status as one of the UKs top comic cons. It’s a grand day out and (unlike some other cons) is designed to appeal to both hardcore fans and casual fans alike. It’s a fantastic event and we’re really excited to be a part of it.

The Kapow website is in the process of being updated ready for the event but keep one eye right here on the bunker for updates on the guest list and other Kapow related news!

Kapow 2011 at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London

See you there!

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What is The Super Comic Convention?

Ever since we got word that a non-MCM event would be taking up residence in the Excel Centre next February there’s been a lot of speculation about the identity of the newcomer (I say a LOT of speculation, in all honesty the topic has been mentioned once or twice and then dropped again because there was no new information to go on). We knew it was going to be comics focused, we knew Harry Markos (of UK publisher Markosia) was involved and that MCM were a bit peeved. Now though, with tickets on sale, the organisers have started to offer up a little more information. In an interview with Bleeding Cool the mysterious group of anonymous backers came clean on some of the events goals as well as tackling the question of why it exists in the first place.

“London Super Comic Convention is being organised by a number of people that have been brought together for the express purpose of providing what the UK has been lacking – a comic convention with not just 2 or 3 American guests, but with a substantial amount of American creators spanning the decades, from 60’s through to present day. As such and given the enormity of the task, the collective encompasses individuals from both the UK and US, who have both financial acumen and experience in different fields, with one common denominator – All are comic fans, who want nothing more than to have a UK show that can go toe to toe on a guest list basis with the larger American Shows, and have a show that truly rivals its American counterparts..”

If that statement sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost the exact same statement that Mark Millar made when he announced Kapow! back in 2010…it’s also very similar to some of the claims made by MCM in this year’s publicity. It seems that if you want to sell a comic con to a British audience then you better damn well make it as American as possible.

So how does the new kid rack up against it’s competitors? Well for all the similarities in marketing, there are some key differences between Kapow! and SCC. For a start the newbie is about 4 times the size of Kapow in terms of raw floor space (though anyone who’s been to the Excel will tell you that just because they have the space, doesn’t mean it’s actually filled with anything).Secondly, while Mark Millar revelled in the film and game aspects of Kapow, SCC’s organisers have promised 100% comics and nothing else. This of course raises the question, are there enough convention going comic fans to justify filling the entire Excel with them? I hope so, but I suspect that they’re going to have dip into the Manga market quite heavily in order to do the numbers they want. Finally, if the SCC cabal are to be believed, they have a budget at their disposal that would make other comic cons weep. For all it’s killer line up Kapow did suffer from having very few American creators (Leinil Yu and John Romita Jnr apparently paid for their own flights to attend the con) and while it’s perfectly possible to produce an A list line-up without going abroad, there’s a lot of people who would pay good money to meet the likes of Brian Bendis and Matt Fraction.

Oddly enough, despite sharing a venue, MCM may well suffer less than a lot of people think from the encroachment of the new dog. For a start MCM isn’t really a comic con (shock horror). Sure it has a comic section, a very nice comic section, but it’s far from the focus of the event. MCM is about Manga, Cosplay and gaming and the comics are there as an icing on the cake rather than any kind of major jammy filling. Secondly the MCM events take place in May and October, well clear of SCC’s February show. If anything we should be sparing a thought for the poor Cardiff Comic Con who have suddenly found themselves with a juggernaut of a con taking place on exactly the same day as them!

The MCM and the SCC target crowds do overlap, but I’m not sure it’s quite as big as some people are making out. Despite fears that Kapow would dilute the attendance rate for existing cons, 2011 is shaping up to be a bumper year for convention attendance across the board. With geek culture on the rise, I don’t see the market as being at saturation point just yet. If anything the addition of a major con in the normally bare spring may help to stir up interest for events throughout the year.

So what about SCC’s own merits? Well the lineup so far is solid (but the first names announced always are) however the continuous references to “stars of the silver age” sets of a few alarm bells for me. Getting in the guy who drew Superman 30 years ago is fine if those were landmark Superman comics, getting him in because you can’t afford the guy who draws Superman now, not so much.

But that’s speculation. Right now the presence of a major con with apparently bottomless pockets seems largely positive to me. If done right it will draw in new fans, offer another chance for creators to get their books noticed and force the other cons to stretch for new levels of success. If it fails, well there’s still a whole year of cons to enjoy.

As for whether we’ll be attending, that will have to wait and see. Exhibitor prices haven’t been released yet, but once we know those, we’ll have a better idea of whether we can expect to see Moon kicking in the doors and demanding the shady council of SCC unmask…or more likely, buying novelty T-Shirts.

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Moon Fan Art

One of the things that really amazed us about Moon is how much people love doing their own doodles of him. Almost no convention goes by without some exhibitor or other handing us a sketch of ol globehead and over time we’ve amassed a small but wonderful collection of them. Since we’re having a little summer break from conventions we thought it was high time to share a few of our favourites from the last few months.

Sketch given to us at Kapow! Comic con in April. To my shame, I can't remember who it was that drew it, but I love the scruffy look of the shirt.

A somewhat vintage looking sketch from the stunningly talented Nusha Amini

Matt from Moo & Keo was drawing superhero themed lion cubs at LFCC and decided to add Moon to the lineup

This one's actually by Steve, just to prove that he does do convention sketches from time to time.

We’ll try to throw up another collection of fan art later in the year. If you have a pic of Moon that you’d like to share, send it to us at btbcomics@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to post it up!

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Kapow Diary 3: The Isle of Wight Burlesque Stick of Rock, the art of queuing and Steve Dillon

At one point during the weekend as I was sat at the table and having worked my way through a not inconsiderable cup of coffee I was offered a piece of Isle of Wight rock. It was sort of dirty orange and maroon or blood coloured in whirly strips. I was feeling a little sideways at the time as I am not nor ever have been particularly stable on coffee. The other issue was that I had been up at 5.30am – something Dan blames me for for living outside London – as if there’s an invisible barrier around the city outside of which nothing relevant could potentially take place. Anyway – I’d fallen out of bed at 5.30am and made my way steadily in – but in the pursuit of sleep there was no time for eating. I’d taken a coffee on nothing, something I did at LCSPE and started tripping. While this was less severe I was getting the odd rush and feeling pretty uneasy.

In this malais, no doubt I was spotted by a sort of stout girl wearing an uneven black dress with a memorably immense cleavage offered me a stick of rock. This took me by surprise as I was in a really good mood but she insisted and I took it. It turned out she’d got this stick of rock from a burlesque dancer from the Isle of Wight festival which mostly made me wonder if the Isle of Wight festival was what I’d pictured it as. Anyway, I accepted it – because it was weird and weird always gets me through the day. It turned out that she was a child minder, though she was quick to insist she rarely dressed like a gothic steam punk tea lady when she was at work.

Meanwhile, on my travels – trying to work off the first coffee – I went to take a look and see if I could skip the queue for a Steve Dillon autograph. It wasn’t for me it was for some guy who was overly enthusiastic when he came to the table. He’d mentioned the coke in his bag several times with a knowing air that suggested he had something that wasn’t limited to coke in his bottle. He waggled it insistently under our noses until, without much pushing, I took a swig. Dan eventually had a crack too having seen that I hadn’t spontaneously shat myself and fallen over sideways. It was rum and coke. It lacked the shock appeal that his own piss would’ve offered but it was preferable in taste. My explanation that in Australia they sell Rum and Coke ready made in bottles was enough for the lads in question to consider buying tickets. That was enough for me – I liked these guys. They were deliberate idiots (in a good way), embracing every new experience as if it wasn’t something that wasn’t fairly plausible and had no doubt been done many times before – something I try myself on slower days. They were talking about a copy of Ultimate Avengers I think they’d bought that was drawn by Steve Dillon (cover unsurprisingly by Leinil Yu).

I offered, because I was high on coffee and because they suggested it and I’d bought a little too much into their psychology, that I’d see if the flimsy blue plastic band around my wrist that identified me as an exhibitioner would give me access to Steve Dillon who was signing on the far side of the room, in the corner. I tried. Steve Dillon sitting at a table with a queue numbering in the hundreds looping around the outside looked like easy pickings. No obvious signs of security. This was Steve Dillon, not George W Bush. The only person between me and him was a rather pretty organiser with blonde hair and a flowery dress and a badge that said Staff. But this was Dillon. Artist on Preacher. Surely it’d be artistic irony to pop the young lady in the nose and walk over to Dillon’s table as if nothing’s happened like Jesse Custer after the word of God. But I just walked over to the lady and she answered politely, clearly wondering why someone my age would think this wasn’t an obvious situation, that ‘it wouldn’t be fair on the hundreds of other people waiting.’ This I had to concede as I knew it all ready and I sidled off doing my best to let her know I’d clearly thought so.

On the way back I found a man with ginger hair sitting at a table on the end of an aisle. It was a perfect position and laid out in front of him was my artwork on the cover of Fallen Heroes and more importantly in the identification of the man in question a set of piles of Burke and Hare; the book written by Martin Conaghan – who is adapting Fallen Heroes. This made him Will Pickering, the master draftsmen of the title. If you haven’t already, you should pick up a copy of Burke and Hare when you get the chance – its better than the film and not particularly related to it as its based on the facts for a start…. Will’s a nice guy but in this particular case he was struggling with an issue it was hard to see a solution to. Wrapped around the table was a queue for JRJR, John Romita Jr, one of the biggest names in comic book art. Fear that the queue would move on without them had gripped the people inside it as they were now close to the man in question so no sales were being done at all. This is the nightmare scenario as you’re blocked off by the people you’re supposed to be trying to sell to. MyseIf and Dan were concerned briefly about the DC stand opposite for basically the same reason but this was entirely another level. I had a speedy chat with Will and returned to the table.

The lads were on their way away from the table at this point and I pulled them back to buy a copy – the effort I’d gone to alone justifying the sale. But I still had the stick of rock. I hadn’t put much thought into it but it became clear it wasn’t normal. Friends of the Bunker came by to see how we were getting on and I offered it to them. They refused on the grounds that it looked weird and ‘like it had blood in it’. The ongoing tale of Isle of Wight Burlesque rock was beginning to look like it wasn’t going to go any further and get left under a table in Islington. What perhaps didn’t help was that I discovered it was a little bendy. As a result nobody wanted it at all. The day progressed and I had of course unceremoniously arranged to go for a pint with a famous person on the grounds that he drank with a mate of mine in Edinburgh – thereby creating a presumably inescapable bond in my head for those brief moments. As the day drew on and the Rum and Coke and coffee was allayed by a lovely delivery of food and drink (another coffee) by Dan’s parents who were surprised and impressed by how normal the whole thing was, I came to realise that short of pursuing Frank Quitely around the building and making arrangements with him by asking him where he was going and what he was doing and with who – it was unlikely that I would be going for a pint with him. This meant that I stopped thinking too hard about what we were going to do after the shut down on Saturday night and more obvious options presented themselves.

As everyone packed up for the day – putting everything under our table or in a clear indicator of the futility of this act simply putting the table cloth up over it, I noticed that Will was packing his things and was getting ready to head out. He’d had a tougher day than me – most likely, though not definitely without access to rum and coke or a second coffee as his parents were most likely in Scotland, and certainly because of the immense queue around him the whole day. I thought… how to cheer him up and we started making for the door. Suddenly I remembered something and ran back to the table to collect something that might sort him out. As he threw his bag over his shoulder I reappeared, beaming and handed him the Isle of Wight Burlesque Rock that looked like it had blood in it. He duly accepted it and I suspect probably threw it in a bin outside.

When Artists Collide: Moon line work to colour (Penfold to Matilla)

Ivanna Matilla enhanced massively the artwork in Moon 1 and is ready for more. Iv doesn’t need to work with us at this stage as she’s beginning to get the commissions she deserves. I was pleased to get good critiques on my pencil and ink work from comics editor for Clint Magazine, really great bloke with genuine interest in the scene – who even bought a copy of Moon to add to his collection. In many ways I’ve been aware since Iv’s reactions to some of my line work (constructive of course) that there was room for improvement and I’m stepping up for Issue 2 – you can see a style change and sharpening of the line work by the end of Moon 1, something that was confirmed by Frank Quitely as he flicked through his own copy.

BE BACK HERE ON THURSDAY FOR MASSIVE FALLEN HEROES NEWS! NEW CREATIVE TEAM AND NEW TITLE ANNOUNCED!!

Kapow Diary 1: View from the desktop.

We arrived at Kapow comicon early ready to set up and were presented with a full scale building front featuring Hal Jordan (photos on their way). I’d been in the hangar that is the Business Design Centre, Islington before for a job interview for a creative recruitment consultant position at a neat little place at the back of the hall. Its an enormous hangar space with windows running across the ceiling and the business centre placed in rectangular office spaces at its centre. While there was IGN gaming stands at the front – and a massive red balloon – the convention proper took place on the top of these office spaces underneath the curved hangar roof. Talking about it now we’re pretty sure – given the success of the weekend – it’ll likely upgrade to Excel at some stage but this was the best venue I’ve stood inside for a long old time. The difference was that this time we had a convention under our belts and more than a hundred sales. Kapow was where we were going to prove that Moon can shift against the best of the best – lined up against Gosh! and Markosia et al this weekend was our testing ground – and its fair to say it went well.

Not faultlessly. While Dan was his usually damn organised self I was still me and while I did the things I do best – I also made sure – in order to keep things even- that I create a little weird. In a weekend in which a famous director would refuse to sign our book because it wasn’t his, in which I got a stick of rock I couldn’t get rid of and created a distinctly awkward air around some of my heroes, its fair to say there was an incredible amount of weird. Finding my name on the front of a book I had nothing to do with was a highlight. Over the week I’ll fill you in on what my weekend was like…. I was planning a straightforward single blog but I’ve listed them down and I’ve got a surprising amount of material. A lot of it involving Frank Quitely. Sadly for him. Poor bastard.

But taking to table 72 we were facing the DC stand – I wasn’t aware of a Marvel one. While I sidestepped out pretty much for all of Saturday thanks to my low threshold on caffeine and my attention deficit issues, Dan sat manfully slowly losing his mind to the gods of unreleased gaming. On the opposite view screen, between a table selling fairly lacklustre and pretty unmemorable DC images and a fairly grim looking plastic Superman statue which we began to think was staring us out, was playing three trailers – totalling no more than 5 minutes material in total – on repeat. For the sake of completeness and in order, partially, to drive Dan even more mental I’ve posted the three up below. Trailer for Arkham City (already posted here by Dan), an in game footage preview of Arkham City and the CG trailer for the Green Lantern game.

While all three (the Arkham trailer) in particular are a work of CG art, advancing the cinematic further than its ever been before – if me or Dan see one of these again we are going to take whatever its playing on and send it stone age. We like you IGN but more hour and a half trailers please in future – with musical interludes. Maybe episodes of the Muppet show. Just a suggestion.

The view from above at the Business Design Centre, Islington. Photo by Mitch Layden from Glasgow.

Day 1 of Kapow: Lesson Learned. Leave Frank Quitely alone.

Day 1 of Kapow came and went very well frankly. I have decided to leave Frank Quitely alone tomorrow and I will allay my suspicions that Dave Gibbons stole my pens. My suggestion that Brendan McCarthy doesn’t look much like his picture was a master stroke in introductory conversation. I will now appear in a Marvel comic book (by tomorrow) on a page with Dave Gibbons (artist on Watchmen) as well as The Guinness Book of Records (whenever that’s out). I was given a stick of rock by a child care assistant in a low cut top who got it from a burlesque dancer from the Isle of Wight. I gave it to a Scotsman. Oh, and we sold some books.

That is all.

GIVE ME BACK OUR PENS, GIBBONS!!

(None of this will make any sense until Monday when all will be revealed – possibly with pictures but needless to say its all going very well.)

Prepping up for Kapow!! Things that might be available at Kapow!

Look - badges!! (possibly)

Now you might well think that we were just going to wander up to Kapow with a box full of books and try to push them off onto any unsuspecting soul walking by. But no – we plan (hope) to offer choice!! CHOICE!! That’s right. Not only the heady goodness that is a copy of Moon 1 but you can (perhaps) buy badges of various designs AND the First Beyond the Bunker DVD – a collection of mine and Dan’s short films (mostly Dan’s if I’m honest – I was drawing things). 6 of the best from the BTB Film collection no less with The Devil’s Fork, Cock, the newly minted Wild Watch – fresh from success at the 2 Days Laughter short film competition – some children’s television entertainers sanguine too with Edd: Ducking the Past, (Box):Fresh and the film that spawned the legend – The Day the Moon got too Close. All on 1 DVD! Plus extras! Plus I think there’s a trailer on there somewhere- WOOHOO!! (Ahem).

However, the badge company have informed us there are delays to the delivery and the DVD covers are currently with an unnamed supporter of the Bunker who is risking all to complete them all and get them back to us tomorrow night… so we’ll have to see what happens…..

But who cares because we have Moon 1 and Fallen Heroes will be available to all comers (limited supply of FH 1 so get in quick at the Fallen Heroes table!!).