1 March 2011

Con Report: Cardiff International Comic Expo 2011

A brand new convention! The first Cardiff International Comic Expo was occurring at the weekend. Alexi was there and thought it went tremendously well. He was therefore also very pleased to hear rumours that it would be returning next year.

Brought to the world with help from the folks behind the Bristol International Comics and Small Press Expo, it was an opportunity to put Wales on the comic convention map - and Alexi is glad that it seems to have done just that. The more comic events around the UK, the better it will surely be for everyone involved in comics here.

It was a one day event, but it packed plenty in and did a great many things right. It was conveniently located all in one place (the swish Cardiff Mercure Holland House hotel), it had a fairly large dealer room (well-lit and airy), a good sized panel room (with raised stage and event staff on the door to provide info and ensure latecomers could come in quietly), good signage and organisation (announcements reminding people about panels about to start), worthwhile evening entertainment (decent local band 'Jam with RoBina') and basically had a really good vibe all the way through.

If Alexi had to criticise anything about CICE, it was only that it almost tried too hard to do a bit of everything and ran the risk of spreading itself too thinly - for example the panel schedule included panels about animation, film storyboarding, wargaming, and TV special effects. However, Alexi thought this was (a) completely understandable given that it's a new event that wanted to maximise its potential audience, (b) actually quite nice as it contributed to both the sense of scale and the sense of inclusivity, and (c) there was still plenty of stuff focused on the kind of thing Alexi was most interested in (i.e. comics).

Local podcasting heroes (and thoroughly nice chaps) the Sidekickcast led the way in the panels, starting with their own speciality 'Secrets and Lies' panel (a bit like 'Call My Bluff', based around assessing whether various possibly-spurious comic-related 'facts' are true or false), wacky fun which pitted teams of writers versus artists versus the audience - and you can listen to the whole thing right now HERE!

They later followed this up with an in-depth discussion panel where Barry Nugent and Steve Penfold talked about adapting Barry's novel Fallen Heroes from prose to comic form and the many and varied hurdles they jumped to get to releasing the first issue (which had already had a fantastic morning of sales, to the point that it had sold out before the panel had started!). Seeing how the project evolved, dealing with: going self-published after the orginal publisher collapsed, the comic-to-prose adaptation process and the geographical diversity of the creative team, it was interesting and heartening to see such commitment and Alexi wishes them well with the comic (and looks forward to seeing more of it).

Alexi must admit that he is not really into Doctor Who, but was pleasantly surprised by the Doctor Who panel. Focusing on comic and audiobook adaptations, the writers and artists discussed their takes on this enduring brand and how they had to work to adapt the characters that had already been seen on television into their own original stories whilst ensuring it all stayed within continuity.

In terms of the comics for sale in the dealer hall Alexi was pleased to see a fair bit of Welsh gear (including 10thology, Swansea Comics Collective, and European translation reprint specialists Dalen Books) and bought a decent stack of stuff.

The general boozing and yakking had a really nice inclusive feeling throughout the day into the evening which Alexi enjoyed very much (the usual greetings and mad props to all the good people who put up with his inane blabbering).

So, in conclusion, CICE 2011: great, roll on CICE 2012!