Bristol Expo 2012

15th May 2012


So last weekend (the 11th to the 13th) I was down in sunny sunny Bristol.

Originally I wasn’t going to go to Bristol, I wasn’t too fussed and having a comic that is currently only available digitally means cons are more of a social/awareness raising thing for me. My boundlessly enthusiastic friend and colourist Andrew Tunney was dying to promote and sell his newly acquired (an gorgeous by the way) printed versions of his self published debut comic Girl and Boy. He proceeded to ply me with alcohol until I agreed to go. In all fairness what I had heard of Bristol from friends and acquaintances was that it was a good solid con to attend.

I packed up a bunch of promo stuff including my new custom eater cult hoodie (lovingly created by my girlfriend’s mother) and we set off to the Southern lands.

Rolling out

The first contact we had with a member of the con staff was at the Ramada (which is a lovely hotel with a cool Twin Peaks-esque dining area). He announced that we couldn’t pick up our exhibitor wrist bands because he had forgotten to bring them to the hotel and mumbled some bizarre analogy about herding cats before disappearing to do something else.

We met up with Adam Cadwell and Marc Ellerby (creators of Blood Blokes and Chloe Noonan respectively and co founders of the Great Beast publishing collective) and had a wee tipple with them before retiring for the night.

I’ll get into the meat of what I thought was odd with the con in a bit. First of all I would like to say that I personally had a good time. I made a little money but I wasnt expecting to make the cash I spent on getting there and paying for the table back at all, like I said cons are mainly social events for me and this was a very good social experience.


We got a good area for the table, just across from the bar (weird eh?) and had generally good foot fall on the Saturday

The cultist hoodie may look more gangster than I intended...

We were on a table  next to the incredibly talented David Millgate and his brother Andrew who were both super nice guys who seemed equally as perplexed about the random maids and storm troopers kicking around. Speaking of storm troopers I nearly got into a fight with one who was intent on staring at me across the table and asking me if I was a Jedi.

I got to talk to the super cool and mega talented Lorenzo Etherington of The Etherington Brothers fame. Even though he was mad busy with sketching he took the time to chat to me about composing images and inking, particularly his sparse but great use of spot blacks. I picked up one of his limited edition sketchbooks which is a god read and really inspiring

I met D’Israeli another inspiring artist and picked up a copy of Scarlet Traces from him.

There was the comics power couple of Nanaiibim and Will Kirkby who were great to see again.

There was also the truly bizarre exchange with had with a super enthusiastic guy who turned out to be non other than Simon Bisley! Slaine-The Horned God is an awesome book so needless to say when I realised it was Bisley I headed over to pick up some of his stuff. I was informed that he would sign anything put in front of him so as well as the book I got off him he signed my beer bottle too.

I believe that The Biz is actually medical grade alcohol

Needless to say meeting him made my day and man could that guy drink!

Then later on that night we had some food with Cadwell and Ellerby again then headed off to the Ramada where oddly the Saturday night party was supposed to start at 18.45 (the con closed at 18.00) meaning all the creators (us included) simply ignored the official time and rolled up around 8 or 9

That night I met Jimmy Aquino who is an absolute dude who we proceeded to get riotously drunk on scotch with. After that Jimmy introduced us to Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery authors of Kill Shakespear who are both fantastic guys. We ended up doing drunken Brooklyn accents and jigs with them till the wee small hours.

Sunday rolled around and it was a pretty quiet day though Tunney managed to sell a good few of his comics. We chatted to the people we met the previous night and then packed up around 5 to head on home listening to Jeff Wayans War of the Worlds all the way!


Comics Bros!

So that was the good side of the con, the social experiences we had but there was another side of the con that was kind of hard to ignore.

Now I’ve read a few reviews from other people on Bristol and a unanimous complaint has been the general staffing and organisation of the whole con. There are some horror stories as well about a £20 charge on the door to get in (which if it’s true is absolutely disgusting) and unbelievably a banner being stolen from the Comics Book Alliance’s booth!  These however are things I didn’t experience so in all fairness I should leave the people that stuff happened to to talk about it and concentrait on telling you of what I observed whilst there.

Both Tunney and I were introduced to the con organisers odd attitudes during breakfast on the Saturday where they loudly announced the fact that they were roaringly hungover.  Not only that but they were all in cosplay. Now I don’t want to bash cosplay, sometimes it’s awesome but I don’t think it’s appropriate if you are in charge of an event and expect to be taken seriously. At the event I saw a woman who I presume was the main person in charge dressed as a maid running up and down the con floor, what if something had happened in the event? What if the police needed to come out? Could you imagine them asking for the person in charge to find that she’s dressed as an anime maid? There was old guy with a stocky looking dog walking around, I believe he was security of some kind but was he licenced? I’ve never seen a comic convention with what I presume must have been an attack dog. Then confusingly the group of very young looking cosplayers I had seen hanging around the event were all of a sudden on the door acting as security.

On the Sunday the staff decided to dress normally (though there were some cat ears on heads) but there just didnt seem to be that many of them around. They were hard to pick out from the crowd and non of them (except some adorable cosplaying maids from the cafe in the corner) came by the table to ask how anything was or see if we needed any help with anything.

To top that off there didn’t seem to be any program of events. I was informed afterwards that there was one on the website but without a wifi connection it made it difficult to actually find out what the hell was going on. I thought that the hastily thrown together presentation area next to the toilet was where all the talks were happening!

The cost for what the con turned out to be was very steep, there were barely any of the big names there which in turn meant that  there just wasn’t enough people being drawn in. I don’t really care about having Marvel and DC there but there was a lot of big British talent that either weren’t asked or I’m guessing simply didn’t bother showing up.

Thoughtbubble was the first con I did and it was bloody excellent and that’s the kind of quality I expected from Bristol especially if they want to charge the same as Thoughtbubble.

I met some awesome people at Bristol and I’m glad I went but I doubt I’ll be going back. It didn’t make a great impression on me and with bigger shows like Kapow literally a week after Bristol I just cant see the viability of going there.

 Note- Edited after I calmed down a bit.


Mark Penman is a UK based freelance illustrator and comic book artist. Works include self published comics, anthology contributions, tutoring, workshops, and commissioned illustrations for publication.

Mark’s current project is the comic series Peabody & D’Gorath produced by SLG comics.