Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A rather NICE convention

NICE comic convention, 
Bedford Corn Exchange, 
13th/14th September 2014

I'm back home from the NICE comic convention, having survived the horrors of the M6 motorway, service station sandwiches and my own poor lane discipline.

It was a complicated weekend. My oldest daughter, Chloe, was moving down to London to begin studying at the University of Westminster, so I was helping her move in too. I dropped John Watson off in Bedford on the way down, stayed Friday night in London then left my wife and daughter to settle in, drove back up to Bedford for the Saturday, stayed over for the con Saturday night, then after my last panel on the Sunday I drove back down to London to pick up my wife, then drove back up to Bedford to pick up John and then home. People had come to the con from Eastern Europe and done less driving than me. For more info on the organisation and smooth running of this expedition, see John's blog when it goes up which will almost certainly use the words fail and epic several times.

If by some miracle you're still reading this after that fascinating insight into my travel arrangements, I owe it to you to about the convention. This was the third outing for the NICE comic-con and the second time at the Bedford Corn Exchange. I didn't see any actual corn exchanged, but plenty of comics & pieces of art changed hands. NICE is a smaller convention than the London ones I've been at recently, but in this case less really was actually more. If your circumstances only allow you to do one or two comic conventions in a year, the smaller ones are where the joy is.

NICE Comic Convention Bedford
NICE comic con - Main Hall
The guest list was as good as, if not better, than many much larger cons. Imagine the difference between seeing your favourite band at an intimate gig in a small, exclusive club, standing right in front of them, chatting to them in the bar afterwards, and seeing the same band at a massive stadium gig where you queue for 4 hours to get in, you're sat so far away the band are tiny specks in the distance, you pay £47 for a warm Fanta and you end up watching most of it on the video screens. NICE was the small, exclusive club, up close and personal with your favourite artists and writers, no massive queues and the Fanta was reasonably priced and ice cold.

After missing the Saturday morning, I got there just after midday. Chris Thompson (of was doing the majority of the panels, I had the last panel at 3 with Kieron Gillen, Dave Kendall, Mike Carey and Jamie Delano talking about Satire in Comics. I imagine a video of it will surface at some point and you can watch as we explain how to overthrow an oppressive regime using some A4 sheets and a marker pen. It was a good discussion and interesting to have a subject to talk about that was a step above “Who'd win Thor or Hulk?”. I caught most of the Carlos Pacheco Career Retrospective panel and was glad I did. Panels were announced via a tannoy that had obviously been borrowed from British Rail, but Jeff went old school and just whistled VERY loudly to get everyone's attention, which seemed to do the trick.

Chris Thompson talking to Carlos Pacheco
Chris Thompson talking to Carlos Pacheco
Also had a nice chat with Jamie Delano, well known for writing comics in the 80s, he now has a couple of novels out and runs his own independent publishing house - Lepus Books 

Jamie Delano, John Watson and Russell Payne
Jamie Delano, John Watson and Russell Payne
The evening meal at the Bedford Rowing Club was arguably even better than the con itself , the organisers put on some great food, a band played (COSMIC RAYS featuring Charlie Adlard, Phil Winslade, and Shane Chebsey – they have an album out soon!) and stayed up until the early hours chatting about comics with a bunch of artists and writers. Had a very early morning chat with Steve Dillon about old movies, then gave up and went to bed at 4am and spent 10 minutes trying to get my keycard to work before reception re-activated it for me. I hate keycards, what happened to keys? By 4:30am I was sound asleep.

I ended up sharing a hotel room with Chris, which made a certain amount of sense since we were both doing panels, but it's always a bit dicey sharing a hotel room with a relative stranger, especially at a comic convention. You never know if you're going to wake up to someone talcing themselves down before trying on a rubber cosplay outfit or be kept up the whole night arguing about what the final episode of Quantum Leap really meant, but Chris was good company and had awesome stories about meeting Will Eisner and Jim Sterenko. Unfortunately for Chris someone woke Chris up in the early hours (about 4:30am) snoring, but despite this he still managed to be alert and professional the next day.

Three Judges

Sunday was quieter, not dead, but quieter. Not too many cosplayers either, although there were three Judges wandering around keeping things under control. The Barry Kitson Retrospective panel was great, really enjoyed chatting to Barry about his career, I just sat back and listened really while he talked about how he started out in comics and the tons of titles he's worked on over the years. Hopefully some videos will surface soon of all the panels, they were being recorded by a few different cameras, I'll post links if I spot them.

I left John at the hotel while I drove down to London to pick up my lovely wife, telling him I'd be back to pick him up at 7:30, by which, of course, I meant 9:00.

Thanks to Jeff and Bub Chahal and all the convention staff for one of the most enjoyable comic conventions I've attended. If you get the opportunity to go to NICE 2015, I'd recommend you seize it.

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