Until this past weekend, I’d never been to a comic convention.
That’s almost an achievement, given that I’m a 35-year-old comic enthusiast of some vintage but I think the reasons come down to the logistical (i.e. working a lot of weekends, Cons clashing with gigs, not having spare money, more recently having kids) and a certain trepidation, because let’s be honest… cons are a bit scary to the uninitiated.
In any case, I’d resolved to go to this one and decided to take my wife and kids (two boys, 2 and 3 years old) with me, so that meant we were trotting round with a double buggy. That’ll make things interesting…
We joined the queue about ten minutes past opening (only half an hour later than I’d intended, which isn’t bad going with two toddlers) and it’s already around the corner, so we’re waiting about a half hour to get in because of bag searches and the fact that comic fans like to pre-order tickets and save a few quid. Not a big deal.
I guess I’ll talk about what it’s like attending a con with young kids first and then go on to enthuse about my personal impressions.
The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall like most theatres isn’t the most accessible of venues but we made it up to the second level where the convention was taking place using the lifts with a minimum of fuss.
It was quite a tight fit to get between the vendor tables with the buggy as we’d expected it might be, so as often as not my wife and I took turns watching the kids in a more spacious area while the other took a look around. In any case, when we did have to squeeze through places folks were understanding and nice, with other attendees, con staff, creators and vendors cooing at our boys.
There was also a kids activity zone, which is an awesome touch even if it was really aimed at bairns a tad older than our boys, but they did get a pair of Minion balloon animals made up and their photo taken with Batman, so they did pretty well out of it.
By and large, cons aren’t the ideal place to take young kids in buggies because of lots of folk and tables in close proximity – I did have my heart in my mouth a few times when my 3-year-old reached up towards a table with merch or carefully arranged prints on it – but based on today’s experience, it’s far from a deal breaker and that’s fantastic. The addition of things like Kids Zones means that once kids are of school age, it’s an even more accessible and pleasant experience and it was nice to see such a wide range of ages in the convention.
With the dad stuff out of the way, I can enthuse about how the experience felt as a comic fan and a writer.
It was bloody wonderful.
First of all, I got to meet Pat Mills – one of the 2000AD stalwarts and writer behind Nemesis the Warlock, ABC Warriors and Slaine amongst others – who’s work in the aforementioned titles has been a huge influence on me since I was about eight (I got introduced to 2000AD at an unseemly young age…) and I even got him to sign my Nemesis issue #1 that I bought about 12 years ago for 50p in a second-hand shop. They say you should never meet your heroes, but he was exactly who I expected him to be. I might have fanhumaned just a bit.
If that wasn’t enough, I got to speak to Neil Slorance, Alison Sampson and Kieron Gillen, watch Amy Reeder and Marguerite Sauvage draw, check out loads of comics and artists that I’d never heard of and speak to creators and fellow comic fans.
That’s the thing that sticks with me, the sense of all this creativity and positivity slammed into one room so tight that it’s almost tangible, like electricity in the air. It’s inspired me to read more comics but also to work harder on my own stories and see if they transfer into the comic medium, so that maybe in a few years I’ll be one of those folk sitting at a desk enthusing about their work to strangers…
Sadly, I did miss both Frank Quitely’s signing and all the panels because we’d brought the kids, but if I’d not been so encumbered (not complaining, love them to bits) I’d have loved to meet Frank and get my All-Star Superman signed, go to the panels – of which there was an awesome programme, from indie creators talking about LGBT+ representation in comics, Marvel & DC insiders, Gillen & McKelvie talking about the Wicked + Divine and a 2000 AD double header – and hang around to watch the cosplay competition.
Massive props have to go to the organisers of Glasgow Comic Con for both the lineup they assembled and the running of the event as well as all the guests, artists and vendors – with a special shout out to Gordon Street Coffee for providing free and much-needed coffee – for all playing their part in creating such an awesome, inclusive atmosphere.
I genuinely found that a lot of my former misgivings about cons were unfounded – it’s not an exclusive thing where folks play at being ‘more geekier than you’ or a place where vendors are just shilling to get money out of you. It’s a celebration of a vibrant, diverse art form and it was truly heartwarming to see comic fans of all ages and races mingling together and creators – even the big names – chatting away to people rather than just getting through their line of signings as quickly as possible or pushing people to buy something.
Despite not quite getting the full experience, I found my day at Glasgow Comic Con to be both great fun and inspiring and I’d recommend anyone with even a passing interest in comics, storytelling, art and/or dressing up to go to the next con in their area.
Do it, and remember – be pure, be vigilant, behave.